Atlantis Alumni

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
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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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 you told "Brownie"..."you're doing a heck of a job!"


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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."


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.


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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hand Guns: Philadelphia Shooting Gallery

For the fifth time in the last three weeks, Philadelphia Police officers have been shot in the line of duty. Two plain clothes narcotics squad cops were shot last night while attempting to serve a warrant against a drug dealer holed up in a North Philadelphia crack house. Last week, a Philly cop was buried after being shot and killed on Halloween while trying to stop a robbery.

Last night the Mayor and Police Commissioner held a news conference and decried the easy availability of hand guns in the city, something that is a problem all over the country. When Giuliani was mayor of New York City, he had an aggressive campaign to stem the tide of illegal firearms entering the city. Now that he is running for president, I wonder if he is still interested in controlling guns, or has he abandoned that in favor of pandering to the National Rifle Association?

Every time we have a killing or wounding of cops, or a high school or college shooting spree, there are renewed calls for tougher gun controls. Then little happens, it seems. Mayor Street called on state and federal officials to do something. I wonder how many more cops, or kids, will die before we bring some sanity to the gun issue in this country?

Photo: The "Railroad Connecting Bridge" that carries Northeast Corridor rail traffic over the Schuylkill River. Our Fairmount Park walking path goes underneath this bridge. This is about the third bridge that has existed at this site. The original bridge dates to the mid--ninteenth century, when independent railroads came together to "connect" and thereby provide service from the Philadelphia area to the North.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Here Comes The Pope

The news today includes a warning that Herr Pope will be visiting the States soon. Gosh, I can't wait. I think there will be demonstrations when he is here, and not the kind he is likely to be happy with. This person has a long history of virulently anti-gay writings and pronouncements. He should not get a free pass on that, and he won't.

PHOTO: One of the beautiful vistas that we enjoy on our daily river walks.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Americans Need To Watch Al Jazeera

There's a must read article in today's New York Times penned by Roger Cohen on the topic of Al Jazeera, the Arab news network. Cohen believes that the English language version of Al Jazeera news should be widely available in the U.S. because Americans need to see and hear what the rest of the world can see and hear, namely the news from that particular viewpoint. We don't realize the degree to which Americans are insulated and isolated from the world community, Cohen seems to be saying. As our power and influence wanes, we had better wake up and wise up. The world is changing around us in ways that we may not like and can no longer control. However, keeping our heads buried in the sand doesn't help. Of course, the current president and his administration would not want Americans to have access to this information even though Bush's approval ratings can hardly go much lower. They're afraid of Al Jazeera English language newscasts, with good reason.

PHOTO: Geese are ever present on the river banks here in Fairmount Park


Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's Unanimous!

Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, the New York Times editorial board...they all agree today: the Democrats continue to roll over and play dead by allowing George Bush anything he wants, including a new Attorney General that refuses to say that torture is illegal. In the last six years, since 9/11, Bush has done to America what the terrorists tried and failed to do: he has destroyed all that was great about the U.S. and the values that we once stood for as a nation. The worst part of all of this is that there's no knight in shining armor on the horizon who could come riding in to help restore America's greatness. We're on the wrong path and no matter who gets elected next year, we'll continue on the same wrong path. This is tragic.

PHOTO: Here are some rowers to go along with the pictures of the boathouses that I've been posting.


Friday, November 9, 2007

One Way To Conserve Energy...

...would be to reinvigorate our passenger and freight railroads. In Europe, rails are a prime method of transport. In this country, railroads, especially passenger service, have been trashed due to Americans' love affair with the automobile. That will have to change.

If you do any amount of highway driving, you probably have had some scary moments with trucks. On the New Jersey Turnpike, there are car only lanes in the Northern part of the road, thankfully. I'd like to see less trucks on the road and more use of rail for transport of both freight and passengers.
Read the following to see how railroads can help with our energy problem:

If 25 percent of truck traffic were shipped instead by freight trains, by 2025
the following benefits could be achieved:
• The average person traveling
during peak periods would save 44 hours per year (equal to more than to five
8-hour work days) as the reduced truck volume eased traffic congestion. In the
most congested urban areas, annual savings could exceed 100 hours. Nationally,
we would save 3.2 billion hours of delay.
• Fuel consumption would be
reduced because of faster speeds and more fluid traffic flow on the less
congested roadways. Diesel and gasoline fuel consumption in 2025 would be an
estimated 17 billion gallons lower than it otherwise would be - equivalent to
more than 250 gallons annually per motorist.
• The savings in travel time
and fuel would yield significant economic benefits. A typical household would
enjoy $620 per year in reduced congestion costs, equal to $44 billion overall,
in urban areas nationwide.
• Air quality would improve thanks to an
estimated 900,000 fewer tons of air pollution, including lower levels of carbon
monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide (NOx).

This is from the "Go Rail" website, which can be found here.

Once again, where are our political leaders when it come to advocacy for his sort of thing? Probably, they are securely in the pocket of trucking industry lobbyists.

PHOTO: One of our historic boat houses has its own attached lighthouse!


Thursday, November 8, 2007

What Ever Happened To Energy Conservation?

It used to be something we heard about all the time: the need to conserve energy. What happened to that idea? It's not like we all of a sudden now have plenty of oil. What has happened is that we elected a corporate hack as our president, someone who is more concerned about his fat cat oil buddies and their companies making big profits than what is good for the country. We still need to conserve energy - now more than ever, and our leaders should be hammering this idea home. Instead, we hear virtually nothing from Washington, while the price of oil skyrockets and the stock market begins to teeter. Wall Street gets it about what we're facing. The 300 point plus drop yesterday may be just the beginning. Washington is missing in action. What is Bush doing?

We were told of the need to conserve gasoline decades ago. So how are we doing? This if from today's New York Times:

If gasoline prices are causing motorists to drive less over all, it is not
evident in the national statistics. Americans have consumed an average of 9.3
million barrels of gasoline a day so far this year, an increase of 0.6 percent
from last year, according to the Energy Department.

This country is on a collision course with the reality that cheap and plentiful energy is a thing of the past. Meanwhile Washington is asleep at the switch. I hope our economy doesn't crash and burn when the energy s*** hits the fan!

PHOTO: Another in the series of boat houses here in Philadelphia


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Oil: What Is To Be Done?

A reader has posted a comment to my previous post wherein he mentions the amount of energy used in pleasure boating and flying private aircraft. He also advocates nuclear power and burning coal to produce electricity.

I thank him for the thoughtful post. He makes some good points about the fuel use involved in recreational boating and private aircraft. The problem there is that the rich don't care - they have plenty of money to go boating, flying in their private planes, and to continue to drive their gas guzzlers down the highway. That's one reason why I would favor much higher taxation on the initial purchases of pleasure boats, small planes and SUVs.

On nuclear power, however, I am not convinced that it is the way to go. I still consider it too dangerous and ecologically problematic.

Should we burn coal to generate power? Can we do it without contributing to greenhouse gases and global warming? I doubt it. We must face the harsh reality that we have to wean ourselves off of our dependence on foreign oil, and we must find ways to reduce our use of fossil fuels before we destroy the planet.

Our national leaders may not be able to control the price of oil, but there is a lot that they could do to foster conservation and the development of alternate forms of energy, both of which have been ignored under "Dubbya."

Americans are in for a rude awakening and a shock that might make the energy crisis of decades ago, with the large lines at the gas pumps and purchases limited to several gallons, pale in comparison.

The president should address the nation now on the looming crisis, to start with, except that he doesn't care as long as his big oil buddies are raking in the profits. I've written before that we need a "Marshall Plan" focused on our energy situation, but we'll never see it with Bush. He is a disgrace, and our do-nothing Congress is no better.


Do You Heat Your Home With Oil?

If so, your home heating bill will increase by a whopping 24 percent this winter, according to a report I just watched on the Today show. Natural gas is expected to increase in price by 6 percent. All of this is tied into the astounding increase in the price of oil recently, which is up about $25 dollars a barrel - up by a third - this year.

Question: where is our fearless leader in Washington, (or for that matter, any of our leaders on either side of the aisle,) on this issue? The increase in the price of oil and the economic impact that this will have on average Americans and on our economy is a national disaster waiting to happen. Already I've heard dire reports about the effect that rising energy costs will have on consumer spending during the holidays. Something big is coming and it's not going to be pleasant, and our political leaders are missing in action on this. This is not the first time I've sounded the alarm here about energy costs. I hate to think about what will happen when gasoline reaches $4 (or even $5) a gallon. It's not a question of if, only when.

PHOTO: Another beautiful boat house along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

To Vote Or Not to Vote

Today is election day. I looked over the endorsements of the Philadelphia Gay News and I was impressed with the pro-gay credentials of many of the candidates who are running for mayor, council and judgeships. I felt like going out and voting or some of them today, but I probably won't.

I used to never miss voting on election day. I used to feel that voting was an important civic duty. However, as I have aged and observed the corrupt nature of politics in this country, I have become discouraged about voting. For many years, when faced, as I often felt I was, with no real choice at the ballot box, I used to vote for third party candidates that had principled positions on the issues that I agreed with. But, some of my friends would tell me that I was throwing my vote away. Actually, they were right, but not for the reason they think. My vote was worthless anyway, so why not throw it away. If this sounds too negative and defeatist, that's because it's the way I feel when it comes to politics in this country.

PHOTO: Boat House Row, Philadelphia, PA


Monday, November 5, 2007

Another Foreign Policy Disaster

Now we're stuck propping up General Musharraf in Pakistan as he enforces Marshall Law and throws his opposition into jail. Yep, as usual we will end up looking like the bad guys in this. Our terrorist enemies will be empowered. Bush's plan to democratize Islamic countries takes another hit. Could we be any more inept at conducting foreign policy? Stay tuned.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Who Would The Democrats Most Prefer To Run Against?

This is an interesting question that was posed this morning on one of the network political talk shows. The answer: Mitt Romney. There are at least three good reasons for this: 1. Romney has a reputation as a flip-flopper on issues; 2. Giuliani would be more formidable as a candidate generally; 3. Romney's Mormon religion is tough for the Republican right wing fundamentalist rank and file to swallow. The third of these reasons is the most interesting. There is even talk of Romney giving a John Kennedy-like speech stating that he is an American first and that he would not let religion interfere in the way he governed if elected president. In some respects, I am sympathetic to Romney's plight in this. I don't think a person's religion, or lack of it, should make a difference when it comes to whether or not they deserve your vote. Religion is far too pervasive of an influence in American politics, thanks in large measure to the Christian Evangelicals and their Republican lackeys. Dubbya, of course, is the prime example of the negative influence of right wing religious nut cases on our politics and government.


Another Road Trip

PHOTO: The ceiling at the great Howard Gilman Opera House, AKA the Brooklyn Academy Of Music (BAM.) We've seen a few memorable performances in this hall including baroque opera, contemporary music and modern dance.

I'm on the road again this morning to the outskirts of Wilmington, Delaware to attend a small toy train show. I Hope to be back in time to watch the Sunday morning political talk shows, AKA, the "Sunday Funnies."


Saturday, November 3, 2007

Democrats Enable Bush - Again

Two Democratic senators have now said they'll vote in favor of Bush's nominee for Attorney General, in spite of the fact that the nominee will not state his position on waterboarding (torture.) Once again, the Democratic Party fails the nation by not insisting that any nominee for Attorney General clearly renounce torture. It's another sad day for this once great country.

Read the review of Sufjan Stevens' "The BQE" in today's New York Times.

PHOTO: One of the joys of visiting the Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York City are the floral displays that are always present in the entry hall. This autumn arrangement graced the main desk on Thursday.


Friday, November 2, 2007


PHOTOS: "The BQE" at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music, Thursday, November 1, 2007. Five performers with Hula-Hoops, and overhead visual projections accompanied the 30 piece chamber orchestra with Sufjan Stevens and his band. The 30 minute orchestral piece contained a wealth of new melodic material. The program contains an essay explaining the significance of the Hula-Hoops, including the obvious connection to the wheel and motion, staples of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Sufjan Stevens on stage at the conclusion of "THE BQE"

A Great Concert AT BAM

The photo is a little dark (click it to enlarge,) but it gives you the idea. Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens brought his band and a 30 piece chamber orchestra to BAM to perform a commission entitled "The BQE." Stevens is at the piano in the photo. The 30 minute orchestral tone poem, done with overhead projections showing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, traffic, and neighborhoods, and also accompanied at times by five performers, two guys and three women with Hula-Hoops, was sort of a "Koyannisquatsi" for Brooklyn yuppies. In fact there are many echoes of Philip Glass-like minimalism in Steven's music. The house was packed and the audience roared its approval. After an intermission, Stevens and all the musicians performed selections from his previous albums, including the wonderful "Illionise." I had to leave a few minutes early to make my bus connection back to Philadelphia, but the trip was surely worth it. Stevens is a true musical genius.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sufjan's "BQE" In Brooklyn

This afternoon I'll be heading up to Brooklyn for a concert featuring singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. I'm a big fan and have been for about the past two years. His music is hard to describe. It's an eclectic blend of folk and rock with classical influences and more. Tonight's concert feature a 30 minute composition entitled "BQE," which focuses on the roadway by the same name that cuts through the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. Here's some of what the Brooklyn Academy Of Music has to say about the work, which BAM commissioned:

BAM presents singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens
in the world premiere of the 25th Next Wave
commissioned work The BQE—a 30-minute
symphonic and cinematic exploration of New York
City’s infamous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
A controversial roadway since its inception in
the 1930s, the BQE tears through 11.7
miles of Brooklyn and Queens, severing neighborhoods,
pillaging industrial yards, and contouring waterways with the brute force of modern urban planning.
I'm sure it will be a fantastic concert. All three performances have been sold out.