Atlantis Alumni

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Great Night For The GOP???

That's how blogger Andrew Sullivan sums up last night's Democratic Party presidential debate at Drexel University here in Philadelphia. Here's his take:

The winner was clearly Edwards. He was concise, aggressive, completely right
about Clinton and always on point. He seemed unafraid to take her on, while Obama was still playing a too-careful defense. If I were to give an instant sum-up of the debate - and I'm a blogger so it's my job - it would be that Clinton's profound weakness as a general election candidate was pretty badly exposed. And the main alternative just about survived as a credible presidential candidate. In other words: a great night for the GOP.

I think that's pretty much accurate, although I think Senator Dodd also came across strongly, especially when he nailed Hillary for answering the same question on immigration, the now infamous "driver's licenses" question, two different ways in the same response. His poll numbers, though, are not good.

I think Obama comes across too meekly and too reserved. Edwards comes across as the trial lawyer that he is: very strong. Hillary was finally bloodied after two hours of pounding from Edwards, Dodd, and Obama. They nailed her on her high negatives - the "electability" issue, pointing out that she is the one Democratic candidate that could unite the Republicans against her.

Well, where do we go from here? Iowa will tell the story for the Democrats.

PHOTO: Happy Halloween! Our Jack 'O Lantern deisgned by Dan and carved by Jim


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On the subject of two parties disagreeing....

As I look through all of the posts of both mine and Jim on this blog, it occurred to me that either:

1) Nobody is reading this stuff.

2) People don't want to put themselves out there for scrutiny.

Apparently many people disagree with both Jim and Myself; for various reasons unknown. Or maybe there is no reason, using the current blind obedience and hatred methodology fueled by fear and ignorance, nobody sees the need to argue a point with us in public.

I see it occassionally in my own blog as well. Thousands of visitors with no voice. Voyeurs really. But I wonder how so many can think with no voice. I think of the Occam's razor theory ( "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one.") Could it be fear? Could it be anger with divergent opinions and ideas? I am curious, what is it simply that scare people away from a reasonable discussion? One thing is for sure, the comments section of this blog seems to read zero; so nobody has the guts to get up on a soapbox and express an opinion?


Our Home Grown War Criminals Put On Notice

Former Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently travelled to Paris for a conference or some such. Well, several human rights groups have filed a complaint against him with French authorities citing war crimes he authorized (torture, etc.)

From the Center For Constitutional Rights web site:

October 26, 2007, Paris, France – Today, the International Federation for
Human Rights (FIDH) along with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and the French League for Human Rights filed a complaint with the Paris Prosecutor before the “Court of First Instance” (Tribunal de Grande Instance) charging former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with ordering and authorizing torture. Rumsfeld was in Paris for a talk sponsored by Foreign Policy magazine, and left through a door connecting to the U.S. embassy to avoid journalists and human rights attorneys outside.

Read more here.

We now have a government whose top officials will not be able to travel internationally without being charged with war crimes. Perhaps George Bush will have this as his legacy: he'll have to stay at home or risk being put on trial.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Special Tribute to a Great American

City Opera's Joyce Castle speaks of her long association with Ms. Sills.

(below) The lobby of the New York State Theater , Saturday, October 27, 2007, filled with Beverly Sills' family, friends, associates, and City Opera audience members for a special tribute to Sills.

Maestro Julius Rudel.

Jim and I attended a sparkling performance of Massenet's rare yet delicious opera Le Cendrillon yesterday at the New York City Opera. Only a few days before the event we found out that the public was also invited to a memorial for the important American soprano Beverly Sills, after the matinee. Sills died this past year, and there have been tributes to her in many places.

Sills was not only one of the most famous singers developed by the company, but after her retirement she also became the Director of New York City Opera. Then, she served as Chair of the Lincoln Center Board and still later, as President of the Metropolitan Opera Board. Yesterday's moving memorial started out with a live performance, on stage, of the final chorus, "Make Your Garden Grow" from Bernstein's Candide. Sills was the director who introduced that work to the City Opera repertory, just as she brought super-titles to this country.

After the poignant live performance, spoken tributes and viewings of photos and staged performances took place in the upstairs lobby at the State Theater. The mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle served as the main host, and told some humorous stories about working for Sills. The DVD clips included some wonderful excerpts from Barbiere di Siviglia and Manon, sung at the height of Beverly Sills' career. Maestro Julius Rudel, who often worked with Sills, gave an explanation of why the soprano's rising comet in the 1970s meant so much for the company, for the first time placing it in the international rank of top-notch opera companies.

On a personal note I remember, with great pleasure, having seen Beverly in Manon, Julius Caesar, Le Coq d'Or, Louise and Fledermaus at the City Opera in those balmy years when Rudel ran the company. Sills and bass Norman Treigle were top opera stars at the time, along with several others who rivaled anyone the Met could offer audiences. Beverly Sills had a clear, bright voice and a superbly articulated coloratura technique, but she was also capable of lyric singing in a touching manner.

Beverly Sills' last performance of Manon--one of her favorite and best roles--took place in Philadelphia, at the Academy of Music. In that Manon I was an extra, or 'super,' as such walk-on parts are called in opera. In the wings I complimented Ms. Sills on her performance and when she heard I was a super, she said, "Ah, a super-duper." As many people said at the memorial yesterday, Sills was always cheerful, 'up' and friendly. The other comment that came up again and again by those who knew her started out with the words, "Thanks to Beverly Sills, I became a singer/a vocal coach/an opera fan, etc." Beverly Sills was a unique person and she will be sadly missed in New York and everywhere in the music world.

As Jim and Marc often note in this blog, the political scene in our country currently offers few heroes or even responsible politicians. Yet I'm still proud to be an American for the leading lights we have contributed in such fields as the arts, education and sciences. As the memorial yesterday proved, we have made great contributions to music. Hail and Farewell, dear Beverly Sills!


Frank Rich "Must Read" In The Times

You have to read Frank Rich's latest column in the New York Times. He talks about the waning power and growing irrelevance of religious right nut case leaders like James Dobson and Tony Perkins.

Here are two wonderful lines from the article:

They must choose mammon over God if they are to maintain the many values
rackets that make up their various business empires.

Whichever candidate or party lands in the White House, this much is
certain: Inauguration Day 2009 is at the very least Armageddon for the reigning
ayatollahs of the American right.

Are the bible bangers finally waking up? Rich thinks so. I hope so.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Seasons Are Changing

This is the entrance to one of the beautiful old boathouses along Kelly Drive in Philadelphia's famous boat house row. Most days we pass by the row of quaint nineteenth century structures on one of our daily walks.

We've had a few days of much needed rain. It's been a dry early Fall. Hopefully, we'll still be able to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves, since that occurs here later than it does further North.

Halloween is on Wednesday, but the stores downtown have already begun installing their holiday decorations. Time flies.


Friday, October 26, 2007

The GW Bush Tally

I am getting in the end of year spirit and I was just thinking about all that we have lost under our current regime. My Dad always used to say that I have to walk into any situation with a good attitude otherwise the outcome will be less than satisfactory for any party involved. I'm having trouble walking into dealing with our government in 2008 largely because of the death tally the Bush Administration has racked up in the last few years.

Here's a partial list:

The death of Habeas Corpus
The rise of the Corporate Government
Dead US Soldiers
Dead Iraqi Civilians
Secret Energy negotiations
Death of Valerie Plame's Career and of countless potential life-saving Intelligence Resources and assets
Death of the CIA as a meaningful resource for intelligence and counter-intelligence.
The murder of the SCHIP program.
The death of a national budget surplus.
The frequent and attempted killing of gay rights.
The attempt to overthrow the 1, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 11th Ammendments to the Constitution (those are the one's I've kept track of).
The nullifcation of the voting populace by a propaganda machine.
The dumping of billions of our taxpayer dollars into corporate coffers and the subsequent gluttony of the many corporate pigs at the Government trough.
And so on. I could go on but the Republicans that might (stress might) read this won't believe a word of this anyway. They'll poo poo me and prattle on about the glory that awaits the US when we vanquish the evile Iranians. Kind of laughable since we already have multiple quagmires in process.
So come on America, give me back a good attitude! Can we at least agree that we need to elect some smart people that are more than sabre rattlers? Or more than actors and lawyers?
I want my good attitude back. And more importantly, I want a country that builds things, that is tolerant of other peoples thoughts and ideas and solves problems with brains and not with guns.

Oil Prices Continue To Rise, So...?

...when will the run up in the price of oil have an impact on the economy and on our pocketbooks? If this were June, with the summertime driving season ahead of us, the price of gasoline would probably be approaching $4.00 a gallon. You can't convince me that these prices are not manipulated by the big oil companies with the tacit approval of politicians like Bush. What will happen to the price of home heating oil and natural gas in the next few months as winter sets in? It's anybody's guess, but I wouldn't be surprised to see record prices. We'll pay because we have no choice. We have to heat our homes.

Oil at almost $100.00 a barrel is going to have an impact somewhere soon. Our only national energy policy is to let market forces work, as long as corporations reap the profits, that is. What we really need is an emergency national plan to deal with the energy crisis that we are facing. We need a plan like we had in WWII, that will require forced sacrifice and conservation and in all likelihood, eventual rationing. But that's not what we'll get. Instead, we'll all be forced to pay higher an higher prices for our energy needs until the price of gasoline, electricity, and home heating breaks the back of our economy. For some, the cost of energy already consumes so much of their family budgets that they cannot afford to heat their homes in winter. More and more people will fall into this category if something is not done soon.

PHOTO: One of the boat houses on Philadelphia's boat house row. We walk by these beautiful houses on our daily walks. Local high school and college rowing teams use these houses. The Schuylkill River is just on the other side of the house. When the ice caps melt, all of this will probably be under water.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lemon Hill Mansion

Here's the picture I tried to post earlier. Driving or walking long Philadelphia's "Kelly Drive" through Fairmount Park, you can catch a glimpse of "Lemon Hill," one of several Fairmount Park mansions. The mansions can be visited, and they are usually decorated around the holidays. Maybe this year we'll get to visit them in December.


No Bigots Allowed

Blogger continues to have problems with images, so I can't share a picture today. Hopefully, it will be corrected by tomorrow. Meanwhile, Barak Obama is taking the heat for inviting an anti-gay personality on his campaign tour. In the latest plot to try to diffuse the situation, Obama has added an openly gay preacher to the lineup and he personally called the head of the Human Rights Campaign to make amends. Still, there is no way that an anti-gay personality should be on the platform with any presidential candidate who wants to get the gay community's support. The notion of "balance" doesn't apply. You can't balance bigotry. You have to reject it outright.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bush And Rumsfeld's Dirty War Fought With "Contractors"

Not that most Americans give a damn about what this country has become laterly, but do they even realize that there are about as many "civilian contractors" in Iraq as there are soldiers? More importantly, do they care that about 50,000 of these "contractors" are hired guns that answer to no one and have no rules of engagement, and can slaughter Iraqi civilians at will?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good Bye, Barak

According to the Washington Post, "Donnie McClurkin...has detailed his struggle with gay tendencies and vowed to battle "the curse of homosexuality."

McClurkin wrote on a Christian Web site in 2002 that he struggled with
homosexuality after he was molested by male relatives when he was 8 and 13.
"I've been through this and have experienced God's power to change my
lifestyle," he wrote. "I am delivered and I know God can deliver others, too."

Now Barak Obama has indicated that this guy, a "reverend" and singer, will be an on-stage participant in his campaign tour. Evidently, Obama feels the need to pander to some of the homophobic right wing black religious voters. Needless to say, many gays and lesbians are reacting strongly to this. It would seem that Obama has determined that he doesn't need the support and votes of the gay community. I think I can foresee a spike upward in Hillary's lead. Good bye, Barak.


What Would You Do?

One of my friends is reading a self-help book currently. One of the items he related to me about the book is a question that the author suggests that readers pose to themselves: "If you were guaranteed 100 percent success at something, what would you do?" I suppose the object of his thought experiment is to prompt the reader to examine what they really want out of life. This is a good exercise, but if your answer come up as something radically different from what you're actually doing, then I suppose that's something of a major problem. My first reaction upon hearing the question was that I wouldn't want to pick something that, if I did it, would screw up my current life. So I guess either I'm somewhat on the right track and happy in life, or I've just set my goals and expectations too low. I think both apply to me, actually.

PHOTO: One of the newest in the series of boathouses along Philadelphia's famous boat house row. This one houses concessions, bathrooms and a large indoor basketball court.


Monday, October 22, 2007

America: Great No More

Here is our current domestic policy on "illegal" immigrants, according to the New York Times:

Catch the few you can, and harass and frighten the rest. Treat the entire
group as a de facto class of criminals, and disrupt or shout down anyone or any
plan seen as abetting their evildoing.

Not only are we engaged in an illegal war and occupation abroad and torturing prisoners, but here at home we are demonizing millions of people who came here seeking the promise of a better life that has always been what America has stood for, that is, until recently.

What has happened to our country?

PHOTO: Abe Lincoln memorial statue...what would he think about what we have become?


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Colbert On Meet The Press

On my daily morning walks these days, one of my first sights is this monument to Abraham Lincoln. This statue used to sit out in the middle of a traffic circle at the intersection in the background. it was moved a few years ago when the circle was eliminated. The location is Kelly Drive, just where Philadelphia's famous "boat house row" begins.

There was not too much excitement on today's political shows. Steven Colbert was Tim Russert's guest on "Meet The Press." Colbert is running for president, he says. He was wacky and slightly amusing but his comedy is funnier on his own show.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Heading Home

A fun activity: taking a kayak out in the surf. This is something I enjoy on those occasions when the wave height is not too high and other conditions (water and air temperature, wind) are favorable. These guys went out at around 5 PM last weekend in Cherry Grove.

The big toy train meeting in York ends today so I'll be heading home. The unusually warm weather was pleasant even if it didn't feel like Fall and that time of the year when people in the toy train hobby gear up for the holiday season. I'm sure the cool weather will be upon us before long.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Still On The Road In York, PA

What beautiful summery weather we continue to enjoy in October! It's about fifteen to twenty degrees warmer than it should be this time of year. The big semi-annual Train Collector's Association meeting is the reason I'm here in York. The meet opened yesterday at noon and will continue all day today and tomorrow until 2 PM. When we're not at the meet, a groups of us gather socially to chat or to go out to dinner. Tonight I'm fortunate to be invited, courtesy of my good friend and room mate Ted, to a special private get together of very knowledgeable collectors. They meet first in a hotel room for cocktails and a "show and tell" featuring rare and unusual toy trains and other items. Then the group has dinner together. This will cap off the event very nicely for me because it will be an interesting and enjoyable evening.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush Can't Behave

I can't go out of town for one day without Bush threatening WW III with Iran!

Out here in York, PA we had a beautiful summer day - sunny and 80 degrees. Can't be October!


Time For York

I'm off to a toy train convention in York., PA. It looks like the weather will be beautiful. That's good because part of the activities are out of doors.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh No! IMUS IS Back!

Starting December 3, 2007, Don Imus will return to the airwaves on WABC in New York City. This station is the home of Rush Limbaugh, Paul Harvey, John Gambling, and makes no pretense about being balanced. It's a right wing bastion. According to Rev. Al Sharpton, the station has not made any overtures to the Black Journalists Association, which is what Sharpton feels should happen if the revived Imus show is not to contain the same sort of racist material as led to Imus' firing in the Spring. Some things never change, or maybe they will. Let's see which of his former cronies and guests return. Will Tim Russert, Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, and a whole host of liberal politicians who were once mainstays on the show return in December? It will be interesting to watch this play out.


Our Morning City Routine Starts Here

Back in the city, my early morning walk with Brad starts out with this view looking downtown. The huge new skyscraper will be the tallest building in the city when completed. In the distance is Philadelphia's beautiful old City Hall complex with a statue of William Penn on top at 500 feet, saved from the wrecker's ball decades ago only because it would have been too costly to demolish it. Now it's one of our treasures. The street is Pennsylvania Avenue. A hundred and ten years ago there were five or six active railroad tracks at street level at this location. About a hundred years ago, the tracks were buried below in a large tunnel. The tracks and trains are long gone save a single track that is used for freight, but the tunnel remains directly underneath this scene. Just to the right out of camera range is the Philadelphia Museum Of Art. It's about a three minutes walk from this point to Fairmount Park, the largest park in the country within the limits of any city.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Must Professors Be Apolitical In The Classroom?

Here's a comment that I posted to the New York Times in response to an article by Stanly Fish, who writes about PC on campus and the "liberal bias" in academia:

My question is…can professors be apolitical? I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone can totally check their beliefs at the classroom door. Not even professors. Nor should they. The students, all of them old enough to think for themselves, are smart enough to recognize what they are presented with from the podium. Of course, grading students on ideological conformity or stifling or ridiculing students for their views are clearly wrong, but stimulating thinking, discussion, and learning based upon on rational arguments is desirable even if those arguments are politically charged. Fish insists that professors must be apolitical or else outside forces (courts, legislatures?) will “clean up” academia somehow. Methinks he frets too much. That is a fight that academia would take to the finish. Where’s the beef, anyway? The right wing has been accusing academia of left wing bias for a long time. Let’s look at how that horrible lefty bias has affected us. We’ve had but two Democratic presidents in the last 39 years. The current Supreme Court includes a majority of five sitting right wing ideologues including the Chief Justice. Half of our population doesn’t vote, and half of the half that does vote gave George Bush two terms. Yes, the left wing bias of academia has had a devastating effect on the right wing in terms of political and electoral successes.

One of the best comments posted in response to the Fish opinion piece comes from someone named "EdK," obviously, a college professor. Go and read the whole exchange if you're interested.

If, as has become commonplace, the right is upset that most academics are
‘left leaning’ and that many academic discussions tend to discredit deeply held
right wing beliefs, perhaps the right would do better to come up with coherent
positions and arguments for those positions that can stand up to attentive
rational scrutiny. As long as they fail to do so, most academics, who are
committed to the principle that beliefs should be rationally justified, will
most likely — one would hope, at least, that they would — continue to reject the
right. In response, the right continues to try to suggest that the academy has a
political agenda, thus showing how deeply they misunderstand both the rational
basis of academic discussion and how little they care about it.
And I find
the idea that we need to police ourselves or avoid drawing intellectually
significant conclusions from our own discussions within the academy, or shield
our students from these so that they aren’t subject to some kind of ‘political’ discourse,
to be tantamount to abandoning *the* distinguishing foundation of academic

This is a very sophisticated way of saying that the right wing is full of it.


We "Good Americans"

When indeed, will we cease being "Good Americans," and demand that this
country return to the standards of decency that we have always claimed to
represent as a nation?

- Jim Kelly, Hard To Port Blog, October 4, 2007

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our
war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those
“good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to
wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration
policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they
want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s
good name.

- Frank Rich, The New York Times, October 14, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Just A Thought

This photo, taken yesterday, captures the beauty and serenity of Fire Island on an early Fall October afternoon. I'm going to miss this place.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Latest ENDA Maneuver

The Dragon Fly and sea shell motif of this Tiffany style chandelier really suits the beach house well. This fixture hangs over the dining table at our Cherry Grove home.

The Democrats are going to move forward with a vote on the "T"-less version of the Employment Non Discrimination Act. To soothe all the groups that oppose this strategy, Speaker Of The House Pelosi is promising a vote on a full version "when the votes are there to pass it." This is noting but another ploy. Of course, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has endorsed this approach. What do you expect from a group that is so much identified with mainstream Democratic Party politics?

Dropping transgendered protections from ENDA in order to get it passed is ethically wrong. No one should be left behind in a rush to get something passed so that one political party can crow about a "success." Would Martin Luther King have accepted a civil rights bill that didn't cover all African-Americans in the country? The answer is no. Nor should we agree to a bill that does not protect all members of sexual minorities.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Say "No!" To ENDA "Light!"

Barney Frank is sticking to his guns and plans to push for a vote on the Employment Non Discrimination Act with protections for transgendered people removed. He says that those who oppose his ploy of leaving the "Ts" behind "Can't Handle The Truth," the truth being that we just don't get Washington politics. Actually, it's Barney that can't handle the truth - that the GLBT community has roundly and forcefully rejected his political ploy that would bring protections for some while leaving some of our most vulnerable community members behind. He's stuck with a lot of backward fellow Democrats and wants somew of us to pay the price so he can trunpet a victory. Shame on you Barney!

Here's what some of our organizations are saying about Frank's bill:

Lambda Legal:

Our analysis shows that the new bill that includes sexual orientation only would be weaker for everyone.

Matt Foreman, NLGTF Director:

The freedom to express ourselves and be ourselves is at stake when any one of us is punished and persecuted for stepping outside the rigid rules of gender conformity. Lesbians, gay men and bisexual people historically engage a whole range of dress and behaviors that challenge the traditional gender code. Women who are too masculine and men who are too feminine often suffer job discrimination and harassment at work, just as our transgender sisters and brothers do.

Just say NO! to Barney Frank and his ENDA "Light."


What's Happened With The Recording Industry?

I went into Borders yesterday to buy a Handel CD to listen to and to add to the music library out at the beach. The selection of classical CDs was meager, and most of them were priced extremely low: $5.99, $7.99, etc. I found some nice bargains including a couple of CD featuring Holst as well as the Handel I was looking for. However, I was alarmed at the paltry selection and the low prices. What has happened to the whole idea of purchasing and owning music in some hard format other than digital?

Tower records went out of business recently. A few years ago I would have thought that Tower would never go under. I used to love to browse in their stores and buy CDs from time to time. Recenly, the Recording Industry group, RIAA I think, sued a woman for something like a quarter of a million dollars for sharing copyrighted music on the internet. They won. A rock group recenly announced that you could pay what you want for their music, or not pay at all for it, presumably.

What will be the effect of all of this? I worry about the future availability of music, particularly classical, jazz, and the other less wildly popular types of music. Is the record business caput? If so, what will that mean for artists, orchestras, etc.? Or, is digital somehow going to ride in and save the day?


Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Hobby Video

When I was back in Philadelphia earlier this week, I got to play with some of my favorite trains. Here's a video I made yesterday.


Road Trip

I've been on the road today with Bradley. We drove up from PA to New York. No real rain to speak of, just some light drizzle from time to time. It sure did get cool all of a sudden! Time to tune on the Vermont stove in the beach house.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Transition For A Long Time Good Friend

I've known my friend Rich for over 40 years. We met when we were in high school. Rich is a percussionist, and I play trombone. We both had the same music director at our respective high schools, the remarkable Dr. Donald S. Reinhardt. "Doc" as we used to cal him - was a terrific teacher and musician, and a great human being. Rich and I worked together as musicians for many years.
This is Rich's family's summer home in Ocean City, New Jersey. Rich and his family were so kind to so many people over the years in sharing their house and their warm hospitality. I have many, many fond memories of the old house, so I share with Rich the fondness for the old place even as he is in the process of building a wonderful new home on the lot. Rich and his family have all of my best wishes for much happiness in the new house. They deserve the best because they're great people. I'm fortunate to have Rich as a friend.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

12 Angry Men

The Great Lee J. Cobb In 12 Angry Men

I always watch this movie when it comes on. This is the climatic scene and features Lee J. Cobb as the lone hold out juror as he finally comes to terms with his own demons and changes his vote to not guilty. The movie was a flop in 1957 when it premiered. Today, well, they don't make them like this anyomre. What a great ensemble cast.


Monday, October 8, 2007

McCain's Pandering To Evangelicals Goes Too Far

Senator John McCain stated recently: “The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

Really Senator? And just where in the Constitution does it say that?

Newsweek Editor John Meacham, a Christian himself, debunks this outrageous statement. Writing in the New York Times Meacham notes:

The only acknowledgment of religion in the original Constitution is a
utilitarian one: the document is dated “in the year of our Lord 1787.” Even the
religion clause of the First Amendment is framed dryly and without reference to
any particular faith. The Connecticut ratifying convention debated rewriting the
preamble to take note of God’s authority, but the effort failed...In the 1790s,
in the waters off Tripoli, pirates were making sport of American shipping near
the Barbary Coast. Toward the end of his second term, Washington sent Joel
Barlow, the diplomat-poet, to Tripoli to settle matters, and the resulting
treaty, finished after Washington left office, bought a few years of peace.
Article 11 of this long-ago document says that “as the government of the United
States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” there should be
no cause for conflict over differences of “religious opinion” between countries.
The treaty passed the Senate unanimously. Mr. McCain is not the only American
who would find it useful reading.

A Christian Nation indeed!


A Summery October

The water is still warm, the breeze is light, the temperatures well above normal, and so the beach was still delightful this Columbus Day weekend. I spent a few nice hours on the beach,, met with friends, and Braddy and I went for many long walks and two swims each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I write down the first and last dates that I'm able to swim in the ocean, and this year it looks like October 7 will be the end date, unless conditions still permit a dip next weekend.

Here's a nice piece of undeveloped land, one of the last in any community on Fire Island, that is included in the Federal and New York State Dune District or Coastal Erosion Hazard Area. It's never been built on but now it is for sale. Some of us are opposed to development, but, according to Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Mike Reynolds, Fire Island is under siege by developers. Will environmental and other community concerns triumph over development?


Sunday, October 7, 2007

An Autumn Altar

Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. The days grow shorter, there is a chill in the air, and there is much anticipation of the busy and joyful holidays that will be upon us all to quickly. In the evening at the beach these early autumn days, good music and sake by candlelight is soothing and warming after a late afternoon swim in the still relatively warm Atlantic waters. Soon the ocean currents will turn too chilly for swimming, so I treasure these last few opportunities to enjoy the ocean and the beach.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

ENDA: Barney Frank Vs. Mike Signorile

Pam's House Blend has the audio tape of Mike Signorile's chat with Barney Frank yesterday. Frank defends stripping transgendered protections from the Employment Non Discrimination Act for tactical political reasons. Listen to the interview here and make up your own mind. I still think it's wrong. If the Democrats had anything like the party discipline that the Republicans have, they'd pass a full ENDA with no problem. But because they don't, transgendered protections lose out. That's crap.


Lincoln Center Activities

PHOTO: New York State Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Fall means a return to the arts for Dan and I. We're big opera goers. We saw our first opera of the season, New York City Opera's production of "Margaret Garner," at the State Theater a couple of weeks ago. It was excellent. We'll be returning for many more performances both at City Opera and at the Met. We'll also be attending Met operas in "HD" format that are shown at local movie theaters, a most enjoyable format that saves the wear and tear of commuting.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Gays And Bi Folk Are Transgendered

The battle within the gay and lesbian community over Barney Frank's decision to strip protections for transgendered people out of the Employment Non Discrimination Act continues to heat up. Yesterday Frank issued a press release critical of Lambda Legal, which opposes his political ploy, and today Lambda Legal shot back at Barney Frank.

To me, stripping the "Ts" out of ENDA to make it more palatable for some Democrats so as to get their vote is abhorrent. However, a number of gay bloggers and activists, notably John Avarosis and Rex Wockner, argue that the "Ts" are not gay folk and that we should take the ENDA bill we can get without protections for transgendered people and leave them behind. They want us to throw the "Ts" out of the LGBT movement. The least powerful sexual minority would then be left to fend for themselves.

The best argument I've read in favor of continuing the fight for a fully inclusive ENDA is made by Gabriel Rotello. Rotello points out that gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals share an important characteristic: we all fall outside of accepted norms when it comes to gender identity. We all have traits, sexual for all of us as well as non-sexual for many or most of us, that go against "straight" norms of behavior.

Now, however, 21st-century research has produced a new concept: That the
root of our difference is not merely how we make love, but the larger fact that
we exist between the two genders in a variety of gender-atypical ways, some
sexual and some not.
This idea has immense implications, because if the
ultimate cause of our oppression is gender transgression, then shouldn't it also
be the focus of our identities and our movement? Shouldn't we stop being the
les-bi-gay-trans-whatever movement, with a new syllable added every few years,
and simply become the trans movement? I think we should. ...Yes, sure, all the
other arguments against the removal of transgendered people from ENDA are valid,
foremost among them that we are sacrificing the most vulnerable among us for the
political expediency of getting a bill passed. But if you look at LGBT people as
all, in a sense, transgendered, such a bill is not merely sacrificing the rights
of one sexual minority within our movement. It's betraying and denying the
strange, wonderful, mysterious and very human thing that makes us what we

Read Rotello's essay here.

PHOTO: A boatload of "trans" people: gays, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals, invades the Pines on July 4, 2007. Don't throw anyone overboard when it comes to ENDA. Photo by Bob Russell


Bush: "We Don't Torture"

Ah, what was Abu Ghraib? ...And the secret CIA prisons?



Bradley Plays Catch On The Beach

Here's Bradley, who is now six years old, enjoying a game of catch on the beach. Brad loves the beach and hates the city. It will take him weeks to adjust to being back in town. He'll have a few more opportunities to enjoy the beach before I close the house for the Fall.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

CIA Secret Prisons: What Was Done On Our Behalf

Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International, USA, in a letter to the New Yorker (Sept. 17):

The interrogation methods within these prisons were carefully designed to cause immeasurable
suffering, violating the Geneva Conventions and a battery of human-rights
standards. Whatever confessions they resulted in should not, and likely will
not, stand in a court of law. The abuses...are shocking, but what is unknown is
how long it will take all of us to demand that Congress and the Administration
deliver the United States back to the ranks of nations seeking to uphold human
rights rather than violate them.

When indeed, will we cease being "Good Americans," and demand that this country return to the standards of decency that we have always claimed to represent as a nation?

PHOTO: Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean...a Fall phenomenon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Jury Duty In A Criminal Case

I just got home from jury duty. I was interviewed by a judge for a panel on a criminal case. It's unlikely that I could ever serve on such a case again, given my negative experiences with the police and the criminal justice system. The judge was smart and didn't go there in front of other potential jurors when he talked to me. Instead, we had a private chat and that was the end of that. Some police are corrupt. The adversarial judicial system is prone to certain abuses. Attorneys can care more about winning than in seeking justice. Unfortunately, I've experienced these sorts of abuses first hand.


Is Hillary Inevitable?

A poll in today's Washington Post has Hillary ahead by 30 percentage points over Obama. She is also winning the fund raising race. Is it already over? Is Hillary our next president?


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

But what about the Children???

Apparently George W and Dick would like children to pray to this guy for health insurance (to the left).

SCHIP seems to be on the chopping block and even Rush, Sean, BillO and Ann can't defend taking kids off of health care.

Knocking kids off of one of the most successful healthcare programs in history isn't the first enormous mess GW and crew has pulled our country into. Somehow though, we have to get across to the people that still go to Church every Sunday and don't feel effected or that this is even a problem that SCHIP IS a big deal.

I'm not sure how to appeal to common sense or decency. Seems like we're past that as a country. Too much of our country is ignorant. They have no idea what SCHIP is. People of voting age don't know where New Orleans or Iraq is on a map. Funny thing, many of our high school children actually think the United States fought alongside Germany to defeat Russia! Too much of our country has opted to be spoon fed propaganda. Asking questions and getting educated is hard. It's work. Getting lazy and vomiting up answers before the questions are complete is easy. It's come down to a decision of doing what's right versus what's easy.

Ignorance elects people that are proud of ignorance and it gets us less insured children and more insured Haliburton Executives. By the way, at the moment I put defense contractors and Haliburton Executives a whole bunch of notches below the tobacco industry (if you can believe it). They are truly pigs at the trough of ignorance.

So GW is going to pull insurance away from children and pouring more money into killing people in Iraq. Is ignorance bliss?


Pass A Full Transgender Inclusive Version Of ENDA

RE: ENDA: The Employment Non Discrimination Act - It seems as though openly gay Congressman Barney Frank made a calculation that the only way it would pass, even with Democratic Party control of the House is if they stripped the "T" (transgender) out of the bill, so he split the bill up into two bills, one that protects lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, and the other that protects transgendered people. The sexual minority community revolted at this with some 90 organizations issuing statements or sending letters opposing such a move.

Barney Frank has made a number of silly statements and has done some whacko things, but this one truly is revolting. Even if both houses of Congress were to pass his "stripped down" ENDA, Bush would veto it and he has enough Republican support to sustain such a veto. So why abandon some of the people who need protection the most? So that the Democrats can claim some sort of limited victory? The outpouring of opposition to Frank's plan has forced the Democratic leadership in the house to cancel their plans to adopt his ridiculous strategy. ENDA needs to protect all members of sexual minorities. They need to go back to the original bill and work to pass that again and again until it is signed into law. No thanks, Barney, we don't want your half-assed bill.

PHOTO: We think of our summer cottage as being located in sort of a beach version of "Brigadoon," since it sleeps in the off season and comes to life once again every year in the Spring. This friend's house has closed its eyes for the winter.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Police State; War State?

I heard several startling statements on the Sunday morning political talk shows yesterday. The one that sticks with me the most has do do with US prisons. The population of the United States is 3% of the world's population. However, we have 25% of the world's prisoners in our jails! What this says about our society and our values is troubling, to say the least. The overwhelming majority of our prisoners are members of minorities. Some of the reasons for this are the lack of job opportunities, combined with the ill effects of broken families on our young people, and our ridiculous drug policies that criminalize the use of "soft" drugs like marijuana. Where are we headed when two of our biggest expenditures are for our wars and our prisons, to the tune of a quarter of a trillion dollars a year?