Atlantis Alumni

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Case Of The Stolen Dog Bed

"Hey, I LIKE this new dog bed!"

Poor Bradley. He doesn't know what to do when Nikko steals his new bed. He's too timid to chase the cat away, so he goes into Dan's room when his bed is occupied. The "children" are a hoot sometimes.

Today's New York Times is full of hard hitting commentary on the state of our country. Read Paul Krugman on the two different universes that are the major political parties in America today. Of the Republicans he writes: "the G.O.P. is still controlled by a conservative movement that does not tolerate deviations from tax-cutting, free-market, greed-is-good orthodoxy." And don't forget the kowtowing that all the Republicans do the nut case fringe fundamentalist Christian right. Read Roger Cohen on how the disastrous and now in shambles American foreign policy in Pakistan contributed to the death of Benazir Bhutto. Finally, be sure to red the lead editorial for a scathing recap of the horrendous Bush presidency post 9-11.

Perhaps in 2008 we will see some national course corrections. Let's hope so.

Happy New Year!

Jim

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Doggie Comfort

Santa brought Bradley a comfortable, fluffy, new dog bed. He likes it a lot. Someone else in the house discovered it. Stay tuned.

Our good friends Richard and Tom treated us to a lovely dinner last evening at "Knock," a trendy new restaurant in downtown Philadelphia. We had a great meal and a great time. Thanks Richard and Tom!

Jim

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Bigoted Ban Against Gay Men Donating Blood


High on the list of things that make my blood boil, pun intended, is the archaic and bigoted lifetime ban on giving blood directed at any gay man who has ever had sex with another man.

This ban is totally discriminatory and a relic of the past. In these days I hear pleas for blood donors on a daily basis. The science does not support an arbitrary lifetime ban on gay men in light of the fact that other even higher risk groups are not excluded, and all donated blood is tested. Before the ban I was a regular blood donor. This policy hurts innocent people who could benefit from blood donations by people such as myself.

I have just read and signed the petition: "FDA: Stop Banning Gay Men From Donating Blood"
Do you believe gay men should have the right to donate blood? Please take a moment to read about this important issue, and join me in signing the petition. It takes just 30 seconds, but can truly make a difference. Please sign here:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/395725675

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Jim

PHOTO: Philadelphia's Boat House Row beautifully illuminated for the holidays with all new hi-tech LED lighting (click on the photo to enlarge it)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Countdown To 2008

No blogging yesterday, as I was seriously "under the weather" and spent most of the day in bed. It was one of those things going around, I guess.

The clock from the Macy's light show reminds me that time is running out in 2007. There are just s few short days left until 2008. It was a pretty good year for us, I think. We did some foreign travel and enjoyed summer very much. The holidays were fun. Let's hope that 2008 is another good year.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto continues to be in the news. The turmoil that is occurring could escalate into something worse. The Bush policy of propping up Musharraf and hoping for democratic elections is in shambles. We continue to pour money into Pakistan ostensibly to help Musharraf fight terrorism, yet some observers feel that there is no oversight coming from us and that the money is actually going toward arming Pakistan against India. We're focused on Iran, which does not have nuclear weapons, while Pakistan, that does have bombs, is in danger of melting down. Speaking of 2008, I hope we can get through the last horrible year of George Bush's presidency without something else terrible happening. (Is that better, Dan?)

Jim

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas falls this year on a Wednesday, which leaves plenty of time this week for the presidential campaigns to get back into gear. I missed the entertainment during the Christmas break. After all, the cast of characters is just so "interesting." We had a quiet holiday here, with our actual exchange of gifts delayed until today because Dan wasn't feeling well yesterday. He's much improved today. As for gifts, I got lots of goodies including new shoes and a light jacket, and a Harry Potter train set, which I'll promptly take downstairs later and get it going on my layout. Only a few days are left in 2007. It'll be time for Auld Lang Syne soon.

PHOTO: Rudolph at Macy's

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Scrooge Is Still With Us In The Guise Of Corporations

Today's New York Times has an interesting lead article on the efforts of the governors of three states, California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, to expand health care coverage to all in each of their states. The efforts came up short all around due to opposition from insurance companies and business interests. That's no surprise. What is a surprise is just how far this country has slipped into corporate control; and the extent to which profit for the shareholders is more important than anything else, even the general welfare of the citizenry. Charles Dickens would recognize what has happened to America as it has regressed back to a society ruled by corporate Scrooges. What kind of shock will it take to break the iron grip of the vested interests?

Photo: The Nutcracker and Clara from the Macy's holiday light show.

Jim

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Grand Court

This is the Grand Court at Macy's Philadelphia. The store is housed in the lower three floors of the great Wanamaker building. During the holidays, the store literally lays out the red carpet for shoppers. This allows visitors to sit on the floor to watch the light show. This indoor space is one of my favorite downtown stops at any time of the year. There are daily organ recitals all year long. Years ago there used to be benches near the famous bronze eagle that you could use to take a break, but they were removed. Nevertheless, its still a great place to meet in downtown Philadelphia.

Jim

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Celebrating The Solstice

Here's another view of the interesting holiday display at the Bellevue Stratford hotel in downtown Philadelphia. Yesterday was the winter solstice, the event and the day that I like to say is my December holiday to celebrate. Dan and I marked the day with a most enjoyable trip to New York City. I saw "Edward II" off Broadway, which was terrific, and Dan attended "War And Peace" at the Metropolitan Opera. I took in the Rockefeller's Center tree and the stores along Fifth Avenue, and after our matinees we met at Grand Central Station, where we enjoyed the holiday light show and the Transit Museum Store with its' toy train displays. Finally we had dinner at one of our favorite Japanese venues in Manhattan. Now that's the way to celebrate the holidays!

Jim

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Senile Return To Religion

"Far from strengthening the case for the existence of God, it rather weakens the case for the existence of Antony Flew" - New York Times book reviewer Antony Gottleib commenting on a new book in which renowned British philosopher Antony Flew reveals that after six decades of atheism he has "found god." I didn't realize god was missing. Why is it that many old people who were non-religious or even professed atheists suddenly return to religion and churches late in their lives? Oh sure, I suppose that maybe some of them need comfort or security or maybe they fear the prospect of oblivion. But is that a reason to chuck logic and rationality out the window? Perhaps the best thing, or at last the most memorable thing I have read about dying is from one contemporary philosopher (can't remember the name at the moment) who wrote that non-existence didn't bother him before he was born, so why should it matter after he dies? At least that's rational.

PHOTO: A great holiday display at Philadelphia's Bellevue Stratford hotel.




Jim

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friends Of The Wanamaker Organ Holiday Concert

The Friends Of The Wanamaker Organ sponsored a holiday concert at Macy's Philadelphia last Sunday. Featured was a soprano singing along with organ accompaniment. This lady, whose name I do not know, had a very pretty voice. The beautiful sounds filled the Grand Court.

Jim

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Macy's' Phila. (Wanamaker) Holiday Light Show

Macy's has spared no expense in revamping the historic Grand Court Light Show. Here are some excerpts featuring new narration by Julie Andrews, showing the new LED lighting and the new stuctural framework that enambles Macy's workers to more easily install and take down the display.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Music At The Holidays

Here's the last in the series of fun holiday windows at Macy's Philadelphia. The store is a joy at the holidays especially with the daily organ concerts featuring the Wanamaker organ, the largest pipe organ in the world. Speaking of organ music, last evening we attended a concert at Verizon Hall that featured members of the brass and percussion sections of the Philadelphia Orchestra and an organist. Music is the essence of the holiday season for me, so I try to max out on my listening at this time of the year.

Jim

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gay Conservative Republican Endorses Ron Paul

Gay and Republican? Gay and conservative? I've never understood how you can be both of either of these at the same time. I guess I'll never understand how someone like Andrew Sullivan can be both gay and conservative and a Republican, but he is. The latest from Andy is his endorsement of Republican/Libertarian presidential hopeful Ron Paul for president. I suppose that if you have to pick among the crop of Republicans he does represent the lesser of the evils, but a cursory look at his positions on a number if issues is enough to send me running. Paul is anti-abortion, would define life as beginning at conception, and opposes a woman's right to choose. Paul would repeal the Brady Bill that attempts in a modest fashion to control guns, and appears to favor no restrictions whatsoever on gun sales and ownership. Some of his other positions do have appeal to those with libertarian tendencies, but I would not want to live in a country headed by President Ron Paul. But then, I'm not happy living here under "Dubbya" either.
PHOTO: The next to the last in the series of Macy's Philadelphia holiday display windows.

Jim

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Holidays Are Upon Us

It seems like the holidays are rushing toward us. We have a lot to do this week including trips to see relatives. The winter solstice is on Saturday. Winter arrives at 1:08 AM Saturday morning. It feels like winter out there this morning, actually. Here's the fourth in the series of holiday windows at Macy's downtown. Yesterday I attended the "Friends Of The Wanamaker Organ" concert in the Macy's store. This is always fun. The great organ sounds wonderful any time of the year, but I particularly enjoy listening to it around the holidays. Yesterday's concert featured a soprano singing with organ accompaniment. The sounds that filled the great center court in the historic store were fantastic!

Jim

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Catholic Fanatics Are At It Again!

So, the latest from the religious fanatics on the right comes from the Catholic League, which is calling for a boycott of the movie "The Golden Compass." According to a report I watched on local TV news this morning, the Catholics are upset in part because "the movie promotes atheism." Well, the last time I checked we were still a pluralistic society, so I don't see anything wrong with promoting atheism. The Catholics promote Catholicism all the time. Why shouldn't we atheists be able to promote atheism?

Author Philip Pullman, who wrote the book on which the movie is based, has this to say about Catholic League chief nutcase William Donohue:
"Why don't we trust readers? Why don't we trust filmgoers? Oh, it causes me to shake my head with
sorrow that such nitwits could be loose in the world."

Nitwits indeed!

PHOTO: The third in the series of Macy's Phila. holiday windows.

Jim

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hooray For New Jersey!

New Jersey just voted to eliminate the death penalty, thereby joining the majority of civilized political entities that recognize that state murder is always wrong. Good for them.

Jim

PHOTOS: The second in the series of Macy's Philadelphia holiday store display windows. CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO ENLARGE.




Friday, December 14, 2007

Macy's Philadelphia Holiday Store Windows

The great John Wanamaker Department Store building is now mostly occupied by offices, but the bottom three floors are still retail space that is currently occupied by Macy's. Macy's has installed a series of holiday windows on the Market Street side of the building. Here is the first. Be sure to click on the pictures so that you can read the story.

Jim

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Christian States Of America, Part III

Yesterday I wrote that the Europeans must be shaking their heads trying to figure out presidential campaign politics in America, which now, at least among Republicans, seems to be more like a contest about religion than about what the country needs in terms of leadership and change. Other commentators have noted that the Republican Party is now, after Bush-Rove an overtly Christian fundamentalist religious political party. Make no mistake about it: Republicans want change, but the change they want is to make America a Christian religious state. This directly contradicts the intent of the Founders, who were men of faith but realized that the new republic must be secular precisely because that is the only way to preserve liberty for all.

In today's New York Times., columnist Roger Cohen comments on Mitt Romney's religion speech:

Religion informed America’s birth. But its distancing from politics was
decisive to the republic’s success. Indeed, the devastating European experience
of religious war influenced the founders’ thinking. That is why I find Romney’s
speech and the society it reflects far more troubling than Europe’s vacant
cathedrals.
Romney allows no place in the United States for atheists. He
opines that, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Yet
secular Sweden is free while religious Iran is not. Buddhism, among other great
Oriental religions, is forgotten.
He shows a Wikipedia-level appreciation of
other religions, admiring “the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims” and
“the ancient traditions of the Jews.” These vapid nostrums suggest his innermost
conviction of America’s true faith. A devout Christian vision emerges of a U.S.
society that is in fact increasingly diverse.
Romney rejects the “religion
of secularism,” of which Europe tends to be proud. But he should consider that
Washington is well worth a Mass. The fires of the Reformation that reduced St.
Andrews Cathedral to ruin are fires of faith that endure in different, but no
less explosive, forms. Jefferson’s “wall of separation” must be restored if
those who would destroy the West’s Enlightenment values are to be
defeated.



If the Republicans get their way, and a Huckabee or a Romney is elected president, we will have a cultist as president. If this happens, the United States will then be held hostage to a cult, the Christian cult. Alarm bells should be sounding in the minds of all Americans who treasure freedom. If this drift toward making the country a Christian cultist bastion is not stopped, we will lose the freedoms that made this country great. These Christian cultists must be stopped.

Jim




Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Christian States Of America, Part II

Foreign policy, health care, the environment, crime...are these the issues that are in the news in connection with the campaign for the next U.S. president? No, whether or not the devil is the brother of Jesus...that's what's in the news.

Just imagine what the Europeans must be thinking about the United States. We criticize the Arab states over their fundamentalist Muslim believers. Yet, here at home we have fundamentalist Christians running for president who openly declare that their religion is what guides them and will guide them as president.

No wonder the Arabs fear another crusade!

PHOTO: Philadelphia's holiday tree located at City Hall Plaza

Jim

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Not Liberal Florida Horror Story!

Our Friend Barbara writes:

"I am relieved to find your blog and so agree with all of it. I am living in a red state until I can figure out how to get back to NY. In the short course of my employment here I found out that Florida, land of the chad,is also an"at will" work state which means that individuals have no rights.As far as I can tell "At Will" "work is a polite descriptor for contemporary institutionalized slavery and is the creation by the same people who believe in outsourcing our work to countries who do use slaves to make goods. Now I can tell you this is an oxymoron: workers have no rights here and can be kicked out of work for any reason whatsoever with the exception of discrimination at the state level but I can tell you having been let go recently after two months of working for a company here in Florida that companies can make up any reason and throw the baby out with the bathwater. I was clearly discriminated against because I am an advocate for gay rights and suggested they create a support group for gay men in their facility.What's worse like a typical child sex abuse perpetrator I was told not to tell anyone or I would not get my severance pay. I had to sign a document that stated that I gave up all of my civil liberties under the law. This all in the context of a substance abuse treatment facility that wants the NY market! Can you imagine! In addition there is a move to create a Christian workplace in this facility as well. This is all mostly unspoken and happens underground since the company takes public monies. Each area of it has a Christian minister who presides over it overtly and not and I suspect weeds out those people who are not Christian or who are not invested in their agenda. I was fired because someone perceived me to have an interest in creating a "gay movement" on campus. "Don't talk, Don't tell" permeates the culture and workplace here.Make no mistake about it West Palm Beach is NOT a gay friendly place no matter how you look at it and if you have money Florida loves you but if you are a worker who needs work "fogetaboutit"."

Barbara Ann Levy
Barbaraannlevy@aol.com

Barbara, we're sorry that Florida didn't work out for you. Hurry back to New York.

I'm not surprised at this story. The town in Florida with the highest concentration of gay and lesbian people, Ft. Lauderdale, has a rabidly homophobic mayor (Naugle) who has joined with conservative fundamentalist religious leaders in a campaign to demonize gays. There's no way we're moving to Florida or even considering visiting again anytime soon.

Jim


The Wide Open Presidential Race

It seems as though none of the presidential candidates, Democrat or Republican, have caught on to the degree that they can claim a commanding lead. Hillary used to be the "inevitable" winner on the Democrat side, but she has lost that status in recent weeks. None of the Republicans seem to be able to inspire their own rank and file. The fact is, the American public seems to not be too thrilled with anyone running for president this time around. All of the Republicans are running as if Dubbya Bush was a successful president, which he wasn't, and the Democrats with any real experience and principles (Dodd, Biden, Kucinich) are way back in the polls. Here's columnist David Brooks analysis of the race from today's New York Times:

My guess is that this race has a few more twists and turns. Something
terrible could happen in the world, in which case the wartime mentality would be
back in spades. Obama and Huckabee could beat Clinton and Romney,
respectively, in the early states, only to fall victim to their own weaknesses
later on. You laugh, but this thing could still spin into the lap of Fred
Thompson or John McCain, Chris Dodd or Joe Biden.

Actually, that would be refreshing. It's time to really shake up politics in this country. However, none of these candidates (Thompson, McCain, Biden, Dodd) represent the kind of change that we need.

PHOTO: The beautiful holiday tree at Philadelphia's "Love Park."

Jim

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Christian States Of America

Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudolph Giuliani...will one of these Christian or Mormon religious bigots be our next president? If so that will mean that our country will become a Christian religious state. This is not what the Founders wanted.

Here's what Andrew Sullivan believes we are becoming:

"Theodemocracy: the blending of government with a universally Christian
populace in which faith is the prerequisite of public office. This is the vision of America that Romney is proposing. He has behind him the power brokers of the Protestant right, the theocons of the Catholic right, the Mormon church and the vested interests of a Republican party elite that, in the wake of George W Bush, wants to extend the theodemocratic principles of an antisecular movement.

Now, add to that the detestable Huckabee, who stands by his determination to quarantine people with AIDS, and Rudolph Giuliani, who said yesterday that gays are not sinful but their actions are.

What has happened to America?

PHOTO: At Liberty Place in downtown Philadelphia, daily holiday concerts.

Jim

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mitt's Religion Speech - No JFK He

“J.F.K.’s speech was to reassure Americans that he wasn’t a religious fanatic...Mitt’s was to tell evangelical Christians, ‘I’m a religious fanatic just like you.” - author and authority on Mormons Jon Krakurer as quoted by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

PHOTO: One last beautiful fall 07 shot of these fiery maples along the path of our morning walk in Fairmount Park.

Jim

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Democrats Screw Us Again

The "Matthew Shepard Act," legislation that would add sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes statues and would help protect gays and lesbians, has been scuttled in the U.S. Senate - by DEMOCRATS. Aren't we so glad that the Democrats won control of Congress? Well, what should we expect from what is basically a center right party, the less nutsy branch of the Demorepublican U.S. national political party?

PHOTO: Bradley enjoys the carpet of gold provided by our favorite tree. This year the tree dropped its leaves during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Jim

Friday, December 7, 2007

Romney Is A Horror

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has changed his position on just about everything in order to garner the political support of conservative extremists, yesterday gave a speech designed to get him in good with Christian conservative fundamentalists. I'm like you, Romney wanted them to know, and by the way, all Americans of faith are on the same side against the unbelievers. This blatant attempt to pander to right wing religious conservatives runs completely counter to true American values, particularly, the freedom to believe or not to believe, and the separation of church and state, a core concept of fundamental importance to our system of government. This man Romney is truly a disgusting individual. That he is seriously in the running for president shows just how far this country has sunk.
PHOTO: My favorite tree along our private path. I think it's an oak. I don't know why it grew on such a slant. In the fall its leaves turn golden yellow before falling to the ground where they form a golden carpet for a few delightful days.
Jim

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The United States: A Conservative Bastion

I had a spirited exchange at dinner last evening with a younger friend who believes that the U.S. is more liberal now than it was decades ago. He pointed to more tolerance of gays and Jews to back up his argument. Unfortunately, I had to strongly disagree with him. If it is the case that there is more tolerance of certain minorities today, I do not believe that the tolerance is universal...you would not find it in Des Moines or Paducah, for example, nor do I believe that increased tolerance of minorities that you find in parts of the "blue state" areas is a result of any shift to the left in this country. I think that the tolerance that does exist in certain relatively small areas of the country has happened in spite of our overall national shift to the right over the past four decades.

The last great liberal era in the U.S. occurred almost 45 years ago, when important civil rights legislation was passed and Medicare was instituted under Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society." With the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, we embarked upon our national journey to the right. Most notably, under the "Great Communicator," Mr. Reagan, the progressive income tax structure that was in place was gutted, adding fuel to the growth of economic inequality that today is nothing short of disgraceful. Right wing Republican presidents have predominated in office since Nixon, interrupted only by Jimmy Carter's failed presidency, and Bill Clinton's eight years of "centrist" governance that was marked notably by the destruction of welfare, called "welfare reform," which threw many poor people into the streets. "Dubbya" Bush, with the complicity of Democratic lawmakers, passed yet another tax cut for the rich during his first term and tried to destroy social security during his second term. Social Security, of course, is the most important lasting liberal program remaining from F.D.R's "New Deal," which was the great liberal era previous to LBJ's "Great Society."

On the social front, right wing politicians now universally demonize "illegal" immigrants to the point where hate crimes against them are on the increase. Attempts have been made to pass a national constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a blatant attempt to actually write discrimination into our constitution for the first time in our history. A few "blue" states treat gays and lesbians better, but only one allows marriage and thirty some states have written discriminatory provisions banning gay marriage into their constitutions.

As for our stature as a respected citizen nation of the world, that has been destroyed by our illegal war and occupation of Iraq. We refuse to sign the Kyoto Agreement, the treaty that encapsulates the international movement to protect our environment. We, along with China, are the two worst polluters in the world. We have renounced the Geneva Conventions and we have engaged in the torture of detainees. We have gutted key provisions of our own constitution, removing the great habeus corpus protections that have been the hallmark of democracy and individual rights for centuries, and we are engaged in spying on our own citizens. The current president is a liar, war criminal, and a law breaker.

No, we are not "more liberal" now. We have, in fact, dangerously drifted far to the right both in terms of domestic and foreign policy. If this trend is not reversed soon, there are observers that think we could actually degenerate into a fascist state.

Who out there now running for president would reverse this shift to the right? Not Ms. Clinton, who recently voted for what is essentially another blank check that would authorize Bush to attack Iran. All of the Republicans would continue in the mold of the current president. Liberals like Kucinich or Dodd have no chance to be elected.

We live in a very conservative, backward country. I fear for the future.

Photo: Another colorful view of our "private' path trough the park.

Jim

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Our Own Private Park

Bradley and I have our own private little pathway and park just across the street from the house. The leaves on the trees looked great a couple of weeks ago when this shot was taken. It's nice to have your own private little park. Of course, it's not ours alone but I often think of it that way.

Jim

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Whining About Godless America

This time of year there are usually those who whine about the commercialization of Christmas. It happens like clockwork. This year a commentary by one Ben Stein, which apparently aired recently on network TV, is now making the rounds on the net. Mr. Stein, a Jew, is upset about what he feels is the way we have removed god from the public sphere in this country. He believes that we can trace our problems as a nation to things like removing prayer from public schools.

Give me a break, Mr. Stein. The problems in America today stem not from removing prayer from the schools, rather, in large part they stem from the negative and overbearing influence of Christin fundamentalists on our leaders(Bush) and our political system. Few make the claim that America is an atheist nation, but far too many make the claim that it is a Christian nation. The intent of the founders was religious liberty for all, not the establishment of a Christian state.

As for Christmas, Christians simply appropriated the pagan celebration of the solstice and have tried to made it their own. So excuse me if there's no Jesus in my holiday celebrations. He wasn't there thousands of years ago when humans first celebrated the wintertime change of seasons. So I'll be having a nice commercial solstice celebration. Have some fun around the holidays and don't worry about god and prayers. There are already too many religious fundamentalist fanatics out there who praying enough for everybody. Unfortunately, many of them want their god to grant them something that the rest of us wouldn't be too thrilled with.

PHOTO: The Graff Monument, which stands outside the Graff mansion at the historic Philadelphia Water Works.

Jim

Monday, December 3, 2007

Imus Behaves

Well, Don Imus apparently managed to get through the first show without any derogatory references to African Americans, gays and lesbians, or any of his usual minority group targets. See Imus, you CAN do good radio without putting people down because of who they are!

Jim

IMUS Returns

So, Imus is back on the air. We get the "RFD" channel on our satellite service, so I'm able to tune in. Imus made a conciliatory statement during the first hour. He claims to be a changed man and promised no more statements by himself or by anyone else on his program similar to the one that got him in so much hot water last April. He still has the same cast, though, including the virulently anti-everybody producer that started the fracas in April. However, he now has one or two African American cast members that he has added to "balance" out the group. So we'll see. I'll watch and listen. It will be interesting to see which of his former guests come back on. It seems like many will, including people like Senator Christopher Dodd, which surprised me.

PHOTO: This great Art Deco building from the 1920s is just around the corner from our house. It has been turned into a wing of the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, and it is now known as the Perelman Building.

Jim

Saturday, December 1, 2007

HRC And The Log Cabin Republicans - Ugh!

I've always been leery of accomodationists and assimilationists within the gay community - those people who feel that the best way to make progress on gay rights is to try to get along with our enemies or become like them. That's why I don't support the Human Rights Campaign with my contributions, and why I think the Log Cabin Republicans are seriously deluded. Richard Rothstein, who is never shy about expressing himself and is no fan of HRC, The Log Cabin Republicans, and the Clintons, puts it this way on his "Proceed at Your own Risk" blog:

Joining forces for a worthy cause, no matter how worthy a cause is still lending credibility to those who stand against us. What's next, a partnership between hen house manufacturers and the National Association of Hungry Foxes? Hillary, whose husband is responsible for Don't Ask, Don't Tell,
dances with Rupert Murdoch and Joe Solmonese sleeps with The Log Cabin
Republicans. Politics surely does make for strange bedfellows.
And yes, I know, many of you will say that at the time this DADT policy seemed
progressive. That's horse shit. At the time Hillary's vote to invade Iraq
seemed right to her as well. I remember that in both circumstances, many
Americans, including myself, looked at this new "progressive" DADT policy and
the call to war against Iraq in response to 9/11 and said "what the
fuck?"HRC and the Log Cabin Republicans in partnership? What the
fuck?

PHOTO: The newly reconstructed steep walkway that leads from the Schuylkill Banks path to the Art Museum's rear plaza.

Jim

Friday, November 30, 2007

Krugman Hammers Obama Again

Noted economist and New York Times Op-Ed columist Paul Krugman keeps on hammering Barak Obama. A couple of weeks ago Krugman wrote that Obama used right wing talking points when he declared that there is a Social Security "crisis." Now, Krugman thinks that Obama is using the same tactics in the health care debate - using right wing rhetoric to buttress his health care plan, which Krugman thinks is sub-standard and not as desirable as the health care plans being offered by Obama's rivals Hillary Clinton and John Edwards:

I recently castigated Mr. Obama for adopting right-wing talking points about a
Social Security “crisis.” Now he’s echoing right-wing talking points on health
care.
What seems to have happened is that Mr. Obama’s caution, his
reluctance to stake out a clearly partisan position, led him to propose a
relatively weak, incomplete health care plan. Although he declared, in his
speech announcing the plan, that “my plan begins by covering every American,” it didn’t — and he
shied away from doing what was necessary to make his claim true.
Now, in the
effort to defend his plan’s weakness, he’s attacking his Democratic opponents
from the right — and in so doing giving aid and comfort to the enemies of
reform.

Is Obama the new Bill Clinton? By that I mean, is he trying to placate both sides on every issue? This could be. Remember, he invited an anti-gay singer-preacher on a recent campaign tour, even though he claims to be a strong supporter of gay rights. He can't have it both ways on all the issues.

PHOTO: Boat House Row on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. These boat houses serve as the headquarters for the "Schuylkill Navy," the rowing teams from the various local high schools and colleges.

Jim

Thursday, November 29, 2007

UGH! The Republicans, Again

I watched the Rockefeller Center tree lighting festivities on TV last evening, which was not all that entertaining. Some of the guest artists do not appeal to me. Some didn't even sing holiday songs. However, I enjoyed it when they finally actually lit the tree at the end of the program.

After the tree lighting show, I flipped the channels and came across the CNN/YouTube Republican debate, which I watched for as long a I could stand it, around ten minutes. The blogosphere seems to think that religious nut case Huckabee actually won the debate. Why should that surprise anybody? Bush and Rove have firmly wedded the Republican Party to the religious far right. The next American president will be a Christian fundamentalist, or under the sway of the religious far right, if he is a Republican.

PHOTO: The Water Works restaurant on the banks of he Schuylkill River, housed in an historic water works building.

Jim

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Previously Unknown Lasting Impact Of The U.S. Civil War

Is it time to give Mr. Bush credit for his effort in Annapolis to forge a Middle East peace? Maureen Dowd doesn't think so:

After subverting diplomacy in his first term, now W. does drive-by diplomacy, taking a playboy approach to peace. He wants to look like he’s taking
the problem of an Israeli-Palestinian treaty seriously when his true motivation is more cynical: pacifying the Arab coalition and holding it together so that he
can blunt Iran’s sway.

So that's what Bush is up to! Silly me, I thought for a minute that had Dubbya had actually changed and has finally realized that U.S. presidents are supposed to use their power to help make peace in the world, and not start new wars.

Now, I've always wondered why socialist ideas have never had much of a chance here in America, in spite of all the inequality that has existed in various eras. I think that the band aid approaches that have been applied at various times in our history, e.g., during the Progressive era and the New Deal, have managed to keep any possibility of socialist reforms at bay. However, here's a new theory that is certainly novel:

I believe that the American Civil War, with its huge number of casualties, left
a collective cultural sense that tended to place beyond the pale views that
departed much from the middle. For example, although no doubt there were many
reasons why socialist ideas never made much headway in this country, I’m
inclined to think that an important obstacle was that a great many Americans saw
them as “extremist,” or even “un-American,” a view that in time played into the
hands of demagogues like Joseph McCarthy.


This is from noted political scientist Robert Dahl, writing in a book review in today's New York Times. Humm, the Civil War is responsible for cementing the American anti-progressive mindset, and even for the rise of demagogues like McCarthy...and, by extension, what we have as president today, a fellow who thinks he's on god's mission to save America and the world. Sheesh!

PHOTO: The Philadelphia Zoo's observation balloon aloft.

Jim

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

They're Using Our Own Money To Buy Our Banks

With Wall Street officially in "correction" mode, the good news for investors this morning was that "Arabs" have purchased a large stake in CitiGroup, one of the banks in the news recently in connection with the so-called "credit-crunch." I said to Dan, "They're only using our own oil money to buy into us." Dan replied, "We have to pay for our oil." This is true, but we don't have to make them rich because we can't control our oil consumption at the same time that we share with China the dubious distinction of being the two worst polluters of the environment in the world.

On another front, rumors are flying on the net that the reason Trent Lott is retiring from the U.S. Senate is because he has been caught up in a scandal involving a male hooker. The story is just an unsubstantiated rumor at this point but it would not surprise many people if it were true, would it?

Senator Clinton finishes behind all of the front running Republicans, according to a new poll (Zogby) just released. That's what happens when you have what are called "high negatives." As one commentator said on TV this morning, the Democrats must be beside themselves wondering what to do about this. Too bad they can't nominate a candidate with real principles instead of Ms. "triangulation," the wife of Mr. "triangulation."

PHOTO: A soilitary rower passes near the Connecting Railroad Bridge on the Schuylkill River one misty Fall morning.

Jim

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Economy Is Broken And It Will Be Tough To Fix




Fall seems to have arrived all at once last week. The change of the seasons, marked by the colors of the leaves on the trees in Fairmount Park, exploded upon us finally, and all at once seemingly. I suppose that the unusually warm weather in October is responsible for this. In any event it was a joy to walk and take photographs around Thanksgiving. The rains today will no doubt knock off the majority of the colorful leaves that were so pretty just last week.

If the economy is so good then why are Americans pessimistic about it when they are asked? Paul Krugman, writing in today's New York Times, thinks that the good times enjoyed by the wealthy are simply not trickling down to the masses. Workers' salaries are not keeping up with inflation. This, combined with the worsening health care situation, is why we are not feeling good about the economy. Krugman thinks this will be tough to fix no matter who is elected the next president:

The next president won’t be able to deliver another era of good times unless
he or she manages to tackle the longer-term trends that underlie today’s
economic disappointment: a collapsing health care system and inexorably rising
inequality.

Of course, the Iraq debacle is also part of the problem. We spend enough on that war to fix health care, I believe. By the way, the recent reports that "The Surge" is working should not make us feel good about an illegal war that should never have been started in the first place. It ought to end now by the start of a full withdrawal of American troops. It's about oil, and we should address the oil problem responsibly and not by invading other countries.

Jim

Sunday, November 25, 2007

US Health Care Is Expensive Because We're Wealthy

...says the New York Times. That's nice. They are short on solutions to the problem, however, and they do not favor a single payer plan, what they term "Medicare For All." But this is the way that other countries have tackled the problem. Sure, there are issues in those systems, but at least no one is left totally without coverage.

Some states are not waiting for the federal government to act. Maybe some solutions will come out of the states. Nothing much good ever comes out of Congress. That's thanks to the "genius" of the Framers, who were afraid of too much change.

PHOTO: Philadelphia's Academy Of Music. This beautiful mid-nineteenth century opera house is one of this city's architectural and artistic gems. We'll be there this afternoon for a performance of "Hansel And Gretel," the wonderful Humperdink opera that is so well loved especially at the holidays.

Jim

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bush Thinks Small

The great holiday tree is up at my favorite downtown Philly spot to take a break, catch a bite to eat, and do some people-watching: Liberty Place at 16th & Chestnut.

The New York Times lead article today notes that, with his "BIG" domestic ideas blocked - wonderful things like destroying Social Security - Bush is now thinking small and doing basically meaningless little things like opening up an air traffic corridor for the holidays. He's finally hit his stride. Keep it up Dubbya...as you told "Brownie"..."you're doing a heck of a job!"

Jim

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday 2007

I always go downtown on Black Friday. It's festive and fun, and I get a kick out of mingling with the shoppers. Everyone's mood is usually better than normal, the effect of the holiday season that we all wish we could extend to the rest of the year. So I'll have lunch downtown and immerse myself in the holiday shopping madness.
I enjoyed cooking yesterday for Thanksgiving. On the menu here besides the roast turkey breast: mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce (Ocean Spray,) buttered rutabagas, sweet potato, corn bread dressing or stuffing, gravy, salad, sliced avocado, and pumpkin mousse for desert.
I watched "Home Alone" after dinner. This 1990 treasure grows on me each time I see it. As with many other of my favorite movies, each time I watch them I see something that catches my attention. This time I particularly enjoyed the scenes with the wonderful John Candy, one of my favorite film comedians, who died several years ago. He just had a way of playing the comic-tragic little guy, even though he was as big as a house.
PHOTO: This great clock stands outside the Reading Terminal Head House. Actually, this is an exact reproduction of the original clock that stood in the same place for close to a century. I have a picture of that one that I took a long time ago around here somewhere. I'll have to dig it out.
Jim

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I'm Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving!

With yesterday's better than 200 point sell-off on Wall Street, the Down Jones Industrial Average is now down just over ten percent from the high it reached in October. One hopes that this is just a correction, however, with the price of oil set to hit $100.00 a barrel very soon, and Bush's horrible policies across the board that have destroyed all confidence in America, this may be just the start of something much worse. So I'm thankful today that we only have a little over a year left to endure Bush's presidency.

PHOTO: This colorful mural is located inside the Reading Terminal Head house.

Jim

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

McClellan: Bush Lied To Me

One of the big news stories this morning was about former Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan's book, which will be published next year. In the book McClellan says that Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Dubbya misled him about the Valerie Plame case. As a result, he provided misinformation to the country. Golly, what a big surprise. We were provided misinformation by Bush administration officials, and the President was involved. We're so used to lies from Bush & Co. that this hardly rates more than a shoulder shrug. So what else is new, Scotty? You expect to sell a lot of books with this revelation? That's like trying to sell a newspaper with the headline that the sun will rise tomorrow morning.

Also in the news: scientists can produce stem cells from skin cells. That's apparently good news to the religious nut-case set, who oppose any embryonic stem cell research for their nut-case, life-begins at conception, etc., reasons. Now, can you produce brain cells from these skin stem cells for the whack job religious fanatics and their champions like Dubbya?

PHOTO: The historic Reading Railroad "Head House." This massive building, located downtown on Market Street in Philly, used to be the portal to the once great Reading RR tracks, which were housed in a huge train shed just behind this structure. The tracks are gone, but that shed now houses part of the new Convention Center.

Jim

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Fragmentation Of Rock Music

David Brooks in today's New York Times:

"...cultural history has pivot moments, and at some point toward the end of
the 1970s or the early 1980s, the era of (musical) integration gave way to the
era of fragmentation. There are now dozens of niche musical genres where there
used to be this thing called rock. There are many bands that can fill 5,000-seat
theaters, but there are almost no new groups with the broad following or
longevity of the Rolling Stones, Springsteen or U2. People have been writing
about the fragmentation of American music for decades. Back in the Feb. 18,
1982, issue of Time, Jay Cocks wrote that American music was in splinters. But
year after year, the segmentation builds. Last month, for example, Sasha Frere-Jones wrote an essay
in The New Yorker noting that indie rock is now almost completely white, lacking
even the motifs of African-American popular music. Carl Wilson countered in
Slate that indie rock’s real wall is social; it’s the genre for the
liberal-arts-college upper-middle class."

Interesting. The age of the super-group is gone. I suppose that's not a bad thing because there is such a variety of musical expression out there. There is something for everyone, even me. I am not a Springsteen fan, or a U2 fan, or for that matter, I've never been a great fan of the Rolling Stones. I like a lot of the music of the Beatles, but I suppose I've never been much of a fan of the super groups. I've always tended to like the less wildly popular, more unusual rock bands. The only exceptions I can think of are Chicago, which I liked a lot in their early days, and more recently, Brian Wilson, who does seem to be able to pack large houses when he performs. Brooks seems to be unhappy that indie rock is completely white, or upper middle class. But rap is almost completely black, isn't it? So what? Each to his own.

Jim

Liberty Place In Philadelphia

Here's another look at the inside mini-mall at Liberty Place in downtown Philadelphia. The food court is very large and boasts a great variety of eateries including a couple of Japanese food stands. I like the one that specializes in sushi. My usual lunch is a "Dragon Roll," a tasty concoction made with cooked eel and avocado.
Jim

Monday, November 19, 2007

Saint Ronald Reagan: Not!

I lived through the two terms that Mr. Reagan served in the White House. He was horrible. His tax cuts favoring the rich were obscene, especially when combined with his equally obscene military spending increases. He refused to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic while thousands contracted the disease and died. He is given credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union, but he did nothing tangible to bring that about. It would have happened without him. He was good at Republican bullshit - thus his moniker as "the great communicator." That's about the best thing I can say about him. Republicans revere him today. I'm glad he's gone.

In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman points out how Reagan used the so-called "Southern Strategy" to effectively polarize the country along racial lines and to help get himself elected. This is the same strategy that is still in place today. That's why none of the front runners for the Republican nomination showed up at the debate in front of an African American audience. The Republicans are despicable.

From Krugman:

Ronald Reagan was among the “some” who tried to benefit from racial
polarization. True, he never used explicit racial rhetoric. Neither did
Richard Nixon. As Thomas and Mary Edsall put it in their classic 1991 book, “Chain
Reaction: The impact of race, rights and taxes on American politics,” “Reagan
paralleled Nixon’s success in constructing a politics and a strategy of
governing that attacked policies targeted toward blacks and other minorities
without reference to race — a conservative politics that had the effect of
polarizing the electorate along racial lines.”

Nothing has changed. Giuliani and company are still doing the same thing today!

PHOTO: The roof grid of the indoor mall at Liberty Place in Philadelphia. I often go to this delightful indoor space to window shop or have lunch.

Jim

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Return Trip From Hell

We had thought that our new way of commuting to New York City, via New Jersey Transit and SEPTA light rail, was the answer. Sure, it takes a little longer than the bus, but it's more comfortable. Well, the NJT train out of Penn Station yesterday evening took almost two hours to get to Trenton, so we missed our SEPTA connection. So much for the idea of taking the two light rail trains. Now it's back to letting Greyhound do the driving. What's wrong with this country when it comes to our trains? In Europe the trains run exactly on time. Don't tell me, I know. The trains here are for the Hoi Polloi...the affluent are rich enough not to have to use them, and the middle classes still drive everywhere, for the time being. The rest of us are stuck. As usual, the USA sucks on another front, mass transportation. That's right, just continue to devour what oil is left, while heating up the planet. Stupid.
PHOTO: The Schuylkill River is clean enough now to have fish in it once again, and hunting birds like this cormorant. It's fun to watch them dive and come up minutes later yards away.
Jim

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Zoo's Observation Balloon

This is the Philadelphia Zoo's excursion balloon. Zoo visitors can go aloft for a panoramic view of the city and the Schuylkill River. The balloon is tethered, so it goes straight up a couple of hundred feet, stops for a while, and then descends. I haven't had the pleasure of riding it yet. Maybe I will someday soon.

Jim

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lady Liberty's Welcoming Message

Huffington Post blogger Ian Gurvitz thinks we need a new motto for the plaque affixed to the Statue Of Liberty. Here are a few of his suggestions:

"Thank you for your interest in the United States of America. Unfortunately, at the moment we're not seeing any new people. Leave your resume with the receptionist and we'll get back to you should our staffing needs change."

"Keep your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send us your supermodels and soccer players. Ok, keep the soccer players."

"Light of freedom, my ass. It's a blowtorch. So just turn the boat around..."

My suggestion:

"America, the land of the manipulated and the home of the yahoos. Enter at your own risk."

Jim

What's Wrong With Obama?

Blogger Ed Kilgore sums it up pretty nicely:

"the lingering concern a lot of folks on the Left have with Barack Obama: his policies are
suitably progressive, but his framing of those policies, from his constant
invocation of bipartisanship to his occasional violation of progressive taboos
(e.g., lecturing teachers about their opposition to merit pay, and bloggers about their
"incivility", and consorting with anti-gay gospel singers.)

Bi-partinship my ass. Is Bush bi-partisan? I don't want the next president to be bi-partisan, I want him or her to be very partisan, to reverse the damage done by Junior. Obama's rhetoric is dangerous. For example, Obama refers to the Social Security "crisis," which is not a crisis at all if you read intelligent analysts on the topic. See Paul Krugman's op-ed in today's New York Times. What that kind of rhetoric does is to play into the hands of the Bush crowd who tried to destroy Social Security two years ago.

Obama is not ready for prime time, and not just because he panders to the wrong elements like the anti-gay gospel singer he welcomed to his recent campaign tour.

PHOTO: Here's a look at the return path back towards home on my daily morning walk along the river drive.

Jim

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Barak Offers The World Hope


Which presidential candidate would send a signal to the rest of the world that America will change its ways and can still be the beacon of truth, hope, and justice that it once was? New York Times columnist Richard Cohen thinks Barak Obama is that candidate:
Obama...has been most forthright in sketching a globalized community — “the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people” — and pushing hope over fear. I see nobody else who would represent such a
Kennedy-like restorative charge at a time when America often seems out of sync
with the world.
I think he is right, at least when considering only those candidates who have a chance to win. As I have heard said about Hillary, she "talks like a dove and votes like a hawk." The Republicans are all busy being Republicans, i.e., they would pretty much continue down the destructive path charted by Bush junior. I'm not an Obama supporter, but he does offer some hope for a better America to the world community.
PHOTO: The turn around point on my morning walk where these lovely sculptures ("Angels," by Carl Miles) adorn the Schuylkill River bank.
Jim