Atlantis Alumni

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Health Care "Reform," NOT!

We shall see what comes out of the negotiations that will take place on the final bill. While there are some good provisions in the Senate bill, the fact that US healthcare would remain still a fully private, for-profit enterprise means that profits will come before quality health care for all, and cost containment. That is the primary objection that progressives have. When news of the Senate compromise hit, stocks of health care providers (Aetna, etc.) vaulted to 52 week highs. They know that the Senate bill will be good for their businesses.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Another Reason The Senate Health Care Bill Sucks!

From Pam's House Blend Blog:

The discriminatory "gay tax" on employer-provided health benefits for same-sex spouses or partners would continue under the version of health care legislation formulated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and accepted by all 60 Senate Democrats over the weekend.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Great Analysis Of The Failed Obama

A MUST READ by Emory Professor Drew Westen.

I did not vote for Obama( he opposes gay marriage) but my refusal to vote for him is of little comfort to me now. There is a lot of truth to the argument that people saw in him what they wanted to see and voted for that, rather than carefuly examining his positions and his record and basing their vote on who he really is. Professor Westen's essay is spot on. Obama has angered and disappointed both the liberal base and the moderates/independents. I see a devastating loss next election time...one or both houses of congress will return to Republican control, and Obama may well be a one term president. Should this come to pass he has no one to blame but himself.

Health Care Reform Joke

From FireDogLake:

How bad is the bill?

Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations -- whether you want to or not
If you refuse to buy the insurance, you'll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS
After being forced to pay thousands in premiums for junk insurance, you can still be on the hook for up to $11,900 a year in out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Massive restriction on a woman's right to choose, designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court
Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-ays

Many of the taxes to pay for the bill start now, but most Americans won't see any benefits -- like an end to discrimination against those with preexisting conditions -- until 2014 when the program begins.

Allows insurance companies to charge people who are older 300% more than others
Grants monopolies to to drug companies that will keep generic versions of expensive biotech drugs from ever coming to market.
No reimportation of prescription drugs, which would save consumers $100 billion over 10 years
The cost of medical care will continue to rise, and insurance premiums for a family of 4 will rise an average of $1000 a year -- meaning in 10 years, you family's insurance premium will be $10,000 more annually than it is right now.


Many progressives are working to kill this monstrosity.

Sign the petition: the Senate health care bill must be killed. http://action.firedoglake.com/page/s/killthisbill?source=email&subsource=122109

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Record Philly Snowfall!



We got 22.9 inches of snow. That's the highest December snowfall in 100 years.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Storm December 19th





I haven't felt much like blogging lately. I'm disgusted with Obama and the Democrats over Afghanistan, health care "reform," their total lack of action on gay rights, their being in bed with Wall Street, etc., etc. Progressives may have finally learned that the Democratic Party is not their political home, much like the far right "Teabaggers" feel about the Republican Party. If we see the emergence of a progressive political party, that would make me happy. I'm done with Democrats, although I was done with them before the past year of betrayals of most of what they promised. I didn't vote for Obama, but that's little comfort now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bonusmas

Go out and take a look at Mark Fiore's new cartoon, Bonusmas. It's so fitting. Without going into too much detail, I have some experience with all of the companies he's mentioned and he couldn't be more spot on.

http://www.markfiore.com/

Some people's holidays will be "merrier" than most everyone else's.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

OBAMA: Afghanistan 2 + 2 = 5

Analyst Richard Bremmer over at Huffington on Obama's Afghanistan speech:

As for the speech itself, there is no point is dissecting further this exercise in sophistry. If Americans are so disengaged from reality and so credulous that they're ready to believe that 2 + 2 = 5, that war is peace, that the very essence of America is at stake in the Hindu Kush, then no commentary can change things.


Barak Bush...what more is there to say?

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Letter To Obama On Afghanistan

From Michael Moore...

Dear President Obama,

Do you really want to be the new "war president"? If you go to West Point tomorrow night (Tuesday, 8pm) and announce that you are increasing, rather than withdrawing, the troops in Afghanistan, you are the new war president. Pure and simple. And with that you will do the worst possible thing you could do -- destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you. With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics. You will teach them what they've always heard is true -- that all politicians are alike. I simply can't believe you're about to do what they say you are going to do. Please say it isn't so.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That's the way General Washington insisted it must be. That's what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. "You're fired!," said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in' hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).

So now you feel backed into a corner. 30 years ago this past Thursday (Thanksgiving) the Soviet generals had a cool idea -- "Let's invade Afghanistan!" Well, that turned out to be the final nail in the USSR coffin.

There's a reason they don't call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan's nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires." If you don't believe it, give the British a call. I'd have you call Genghis Khan but I lost his number. I do have Gorbachev's number though. It's + 41 22 789 1662. I'm sure he could give you an earful about the historic blunder you're about to commit.

With our economic collapse still in full swing and our precious young men and women being sacrificed on the altar of arrogance and greed, the breakdown of this great civilization we call America will head, full throttle, into oblivion if you become the "war president." Empires never think the end is near, until the end is here. Empires think that more evil will force the heathens to toe the line -- and yet it never works. The heathens usually tear them to shreds.

Choose carefully, President Obama. You of all people know that it doesn't have to be this way. You still have a few hours to listen to your heart, and your own clear thinking. You know that nothing good can come from sending more troops halfway around the world to a place neither you nor they understand, to achieve an objective that neither you nor they understand, in a country that does not want us there. You can feel it in your bones.

I know you know that there are LESS than a hundred al-Qaeda left in Afghanistan! A hundred thousand troops trying to crush a hundred guys living in caves? Are you serious? Have you drunk Bush's Kool-Aid? I refuse to believe it.

Your potential decision to expand the war (while saying that you're doing it so you can "end the war") will do more to set your legacy in stone than any of the great things you've said and done in your first year. One more throwing a bone from you to the Republicans and the coalition of the hopeful and the hopeless may be gone -- and this nation will be back in the hands of the haters quicker than you can shout "tea bag!"

Choose carefully, Mr. President. Your corporate backers are going to abandon you as soon as it is clear you are a one-term president and that the nation will be safely back in the hands of the usual idiots who do their bidding. That could be Wednesday morning.

We the people still love you. We the people still have a sliver of hope. But we the people can't take it anymore. We can't take your caving in, over and over, when we elected you by a big, wide margin of millions to get in there and get the job done. What part of "landslide victory" don't you understand?

Don't be deceived into thinking that sending a few more troops into Afghanistan will make a difference, or earn you the respect of the haters. They will not stop until this country is torn asunder and every last dollar is extracted from the poor and soon-to-be poor. You could send a million troops over there and the crazy Right still wouldn't be happy. You would still be the victim of their incessant venom on hate radio and television because no matter what you do, you can't change the one thing about yourself that sends them over the edge.

The haters were not the ones who elected you, and they can't be won over by abandoning the rest of us.

President Obama, it's time to come home. Ask your neighbors in Chicago and the parents of the young men and women doing the fighting and dying if they want more billions and more troops sent to Afghanistan. Do you think they will say, "No, we don't need health care, we don't need jobs, we don't need homes. You go on ahead, Mr. President, and send our wealth and our sons and daughters overseas, 'cause we don't need them, either."

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do? What would your grandmother do? Not send more poor people to kill other poor people who pose no threat to them, that's what they'd do. Not spend billions and trillions to wage war while American children are sleeping on the streets and standing in bread lines.

All of us that voted and prayed for you and cried the night of your victory have endured an Orwellian hell of eight years of crimes committed in our name: torture, rendition, suspension of the bill of rights, invading nations who had not attacked us, blowing up neighborhoods that Saddam "might" be in (but never was), slaughtering wedding parties in Afghanistan. We watched as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were slaughtered and tens of thousands of our brave young men and women were killed, maimed, or endured mental anguish -- the full terror of which we scarcely know.

When we elected you we didn't expect miracles. We didn't even expect much change. But we expected some. We thought you would stop the madness. Stop the killing. Stop the insane idea that men with guns can reorganize a nation that doesn't even function as a nation and never, ever has.

Stop, stop, stop! For the sake of the lives of young Americans and Afghan civilians, stop. For the sake of your presidency, hope, and the future of our nation, stop. For God's sake, stop.

Tonight we still have hope.

Tomorrow, we shall see. The ball is in your court. You DON'T have to do this. You can be a profile in courage. You can be your mother's son.

We're counting on you.

Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com

P.S. There's still time to have your voice heard. Call the White House at 202-456-1111 or email the President.

Picasso's Guernica

As the horrors of war in Afghanistan continue thanks now to Mr. Obama, here is a sober artistic reaction to a past wartime atrocity... in 3D.

Barak Bush To Escalate The War In Afghanistan

While 36 million Americans are now on food stamps in order to stay alive, our president has decided, aqpparently, to send over 30,000 more troops into our modern day Vietnam: Afghanistan. Does Obama expect progressives to vote for him ever again?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sullivan On Palin's Book

...the book is emblematic of late degenerate Republicanism, which is based not on actual policies, but on slogans now so exhausted by over-use they retain no real meaning: free enterprise is great, God loves us all, America is fabulous, foreigners are suspect, we need to be tough, we can't dither, we must always cut taxes, government is bad, liberals are socialists, the media hates you, etc etc.

My Note To Senator Casey On Afghanistan

Senator Casey,

I am opposed to any further escalation of our military presence in Afghanistan. The target of our efforts should be terrorists in Pakistan, not the Taliban. The Afghan people must have self-determination, aided by regional powers, but not by US forces propping up a corrupt government in Kabul. US troops must be withdrawn. It is not the task of the United States to nation build everywhere in the world. When will we finally learn the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq and do only what is truly in our national interests? No more troops should be sent to Afghanistan.

Monday, November 9, 2009

AmericaBlog Launches Boycott Of DNC

Why stop contributing to Obama and the Democrats?

Can you give examples of how the President and Democrats have not been fierce advocates for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans?

Asking a religious right activist who claims to have been “cured” of his homosexuality to headline campaign events in South Carolina. Then letting the anti-gay bigot spend half an hour, on stage, haranguing gays at the Obama event.
Refusing for months to interview with LGBT newspapers during the campaign, while his opponent did repeatedly.
Flubbing question on whether gays are immoral.
Inviting anti-gay activist Rick Warren, who helped pass Prop 8 in California, to give the invocation at the inaugural.
Inviting a gay bishop to the inaugural festivities, then not beginning the TV broadcast until the gay bishop has finished and left.
Refusing to appoint an openly gay Cabinet member.
Abolishing the LGBT outreach position at the DNC and never reinstating it.
Refusing to re-establish the White House Office of LGBT Outreach and the White House LGBT Liaison (which was a Special Assistant to the President at one point).
Continuing to discharge two gay servicemembers a day, even though he could stop it immediately by issuing a stop-loss order immediately.
Asking for a study on “whether” repealing DADT would hurt national security, rather than a study on how to repeal it, as promised.
Deleting his gay civil rights promise from the White House Web site.
Changing his commitment to “repeal” Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to “changing DADT it in a sensible manner.”
Repeatedly defending DOMA in court, including just a few weeks ago, even though he didn’t have to.
Making jokes about marriage equality, which President Obama claims he doesn't support, even though he once did.
Comparing gay relationships to incest and pedophilia in a Justice Department brief.
Joking about gay protesters upset about the DOMA brief.
Refusing to provide health care benefits to the partners of gay employees, and then claiming that DOMA precludes it, when it does not.
Refusing to meet with gay legal groups to discuss how to provide such health benefits within the confines of DOMA.
Claiming that health benefits for partners of federal employees were new, then being caught in a lie.
Showing visible discomfort when asked about gay civil rights.
Suggesting he won’t get to DADT, DOMA or ENDA until his second term, if ever.
Refusing to suspend implementation of anti-gay laws, like DADT and DOMA, while suspending laws that hurt others.
White House staffers worked against amendment proposed by Rep. Alcee Hasting (D-FL) to defund Don't Ask, Don't Tell investigations
Saying won’t repeal DADT until wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have finished.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid had to beg President Obama to help on DADT repeal.
A White House official referring to gay civil rights advocates, marching on Washington, as part of “the Internet left fringe” whose opinions don’t matter.
Saying he won’t touch DOMA in his first term.
Refusing to release list of gay attendees at hate crimes reception.
Refusing to mention Maine or Washington state, or anything of substance, in his speech to the Human Rights Campaign dinner.
Saying gays are “na├»ve” for wanting the president to keep his promise.
Refusing to issue a statement specifically opposing anti-gay ballot measures in Maine and Washington state.
Attorney General Eric Holders flubs question on Maine, twice -- once while in Maine.
DNC/OFA emailed supporters in Maine and Washington state, but didn't ask them to vote against anti-gay ballot measures, then lied about it.
Senator Durbin (D-IL), a very close ally of Obama, says Senate probably won’t repeal DADT in 2010, as promised.
Senior DNC official accuses gays and lesbians of “helping Republicans” by simply asking Democrats to keep their gay civil rights promise.
Refusing to publicly endorse marriage equality for gays.
Continuing to dawdle over DADT.
Refusing to this day to interview with the gay press
.
Refusing to apologize for any of these slights.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

DavidMixner.com: Election (Part Two): What Now

DavidMixner.com: Election (Part Two): What Now

Posted using ShareThis

Gay/Progressive Rage At Obama

A sampling from RIchard Rothstein:

A majority of American voters opposed the abolition of slavery, a woman's right to vote and control her own body, interracial marriage and war against Hitler's Germany--to name but a few ballot box disasters. And, yesterday, once again, American voters demonstrated their uncanny inclination to put bigotry and fear above constitutionality, human rights and common decency. But the truth of what really happened was a spectacular failure of national leadership.

Human slavery was abolished, women earned the right to vote and control their own bodies, Barack Obama's parents were allowed to legally marry and Nazi Germany was defeated because of brilliant, moral and courageous leadership--something very much lacking in the hypocritical, inexperienced and dishonest con artist who now occupies the White House, lacking in the leadership of the Democratic Party and agonizingly lacking in the executive offices of the gay advocacy movement.


From Geoffrey R. Stone - Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago posted over at Huffington Huffington:

What is most missing now in the movement to achieve equality in America is courage among our political leaders. Even the leading contenders for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination were unwilling to say that they supported same-sex marriage. This is shameful. And it is especially shameful that our President remains silent. Barack Obama the politician may find it expedient to hedge his position, but Barack Obama the man knows, he must know, that this position is morally wrong. It is time for him to say so, and it is time for him and other political leaders across the nation to step up on this issue and lead. That, after all, is what leaders do.


Andrew Sullivan:

"...better for us to stop hoping he'll help. He won't."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Love The Fall




Decorating the house for Halloween...enjoying the fall foliage on my walks...what a lovely season!

Jim

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Is Really Wrong With Obama

From the New York Times:

“He knows this march is happening, and he can’t even acknowledge it?” said Robin McGehee, 36, a co-director of the march. Ms. McGehee took issue with people she believes are giving the president a pass.


Obama is oblivious to the real gay youth movement out there, that is not willing to accept his lip service or amorphous promises that something good will happen "eventually."

Two Friends, Cindy & Patrick Marry



Barbara (standing) pays tribute to her sister Cindy



Jim, Cindy, Dan, and Partick
photo taken by Allitia DiBernardo



Yesterday we observed our friend's Cindy's & Patrick's wedding, which started in a beautiful Baptist church, full of Byzantine gold arches and even a small dome. The marrying couple observed some of the traditional format, since there was a minister presiding and saying the usual vows. Yet they also were innovative. There were two musicians, a vocalist and pianist/organist from the famed Curtis Music School. The man played a Chopin nocturne and the soprano sang selections that included Mozart opera arias from "Marriage of Figaro" and Franck's sublime "Panis Angelicus." Friends and relatives read not only Biblical passages, but also a poem by Edna St-Vincent Millay and Delmore Schwarz. There were no bridesmaids, or best man, and Cindy wore a beautiful gold dress embroidered with countless sequins, a treasure she found on the web. Patrick wore a suit, not a tuxedo. On the ecological side, the audience of friends and relatives blew bubbles at the couple (instead of throwing rice) before they sped away in their classic Chevy 1956 car, painted a bright orange.

The reception at the restaurant Trio included a cocktails period and plentiful Asian type hors d'oeuvres (shumai, Beggar's pouches, etc.) Dinner was a choice of filet mignon, duck, shrimp or mahi-mahi. All the desserts were very good including the wedding cake. There was no dancing, but an Irish folk music trio of two fiddlers and a guitar played tunes from the Emerald Isle. Patrick encouraged others to make speeches before the dessert and coffee course. There was also a fellow who had studied Gaelic with Patrick many years ago (the groom had lived in Ireland) and that friend sang an eight-verse song in Irish for the assembled guests, who joined in on the choruses.

So it was a very unusual and enjoyable wedding.

Dan

Obama Disappoints...Again



The Barberini Palace in Rome

Blogger John Aravosis on Obama at last nights HRC soiree:

All in all, the evening was a disappointment, but not unexpected. President Obama doesn't do controversy, and we, my friends, are controversy. So, the bad blood between this administration and the gay community will remain, and continue to worsen. It's unfortunate, but at some point you have to have enough dignity to say enough is enough. The Obama administration doesn't respect our community, and doesn't respect the seriousness of our cause. It's our job to hold them accountable.


At some point the The HRC set has to stop being Obama's gay house niggers. The rest of us recognize what's going on...mere lip service from a president who has failed to keep his campaign promises to the gay community. The time for campaign sppeches is over. The time for action is here and past. Issue the stop-loss order to end discharges of gay and lesbian service members NOW. Provide a time frame and a legislative action plan for the repeal of DOMA NOW. Enough of the feel-good rhetoric. DO SOMETHING.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Obama Goes Before The "HRC Gays" On Saturday



One of the "Four Fountains" in Rome

I call them the "HRC Gays"...conservative clean cut types with money who think they can buy equality with schmoozing and contributions. But that strategy hasn't worked out well for them, or the rest of us. The only winner has been the Democratic Party's treasury.

Saturday evening, the day before the gay "Equality March" on Washington, Obama goes before the HRC gays once again. It will be a pretty speech, but will the sentiments be backed up by a firm timetable committment for action on ENDA, DADT, DOMA, etc?

I'm not optimistic.

Neither is gay activist Wayne Besen:

Let's hope that Obama does not mirror the usual banquet food at such events, looking great on the menu, while turning out to be a rubber chicken. A milquetoast presidency will likely mean he's toast when he runs for reelection. He can either be history by appeasing a far right that will never support him, or do what is morally right and make history with an unforgettable speech at the HRC dinner.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wayne-besen/-obamas-big-gay-speech_b_311964.html

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Fall Of The American Empire



San Carlo at the Four Fountains in Rome

Atlantic Monthly correspondent Robert D. Kaplan writes in today's New York Times:

Everyone keeps saying that America is not an empire, but our military finds itself in the sort of situation that was mighty familiar to empires like that of ancient Rome and 19th-century Britain: struggling in a far-off corner of the world to exact revenge, to put down the fires of rebellion, and to restore civilized order. Meanwhile, other rising and resurgent powers wait patiently in the wings, free-riding on the public good we offer. This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.


Kaplan believes that China and Russia get the real benefit as we continue our fruitless land war in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, he argues for an increase in troops because to do otherwise would demoralize our troops, show that we can't be counted on, and that we lack resolve. This is crazy. I think a few of our war mongering generals would be demoralized, but the troops would probably be glad as hell to get out of there. As for our resolve, we should have the resolve to do the right thing for ourselves rather than be trapped in another Vietnam-like land war. It is true that we can no longer be counted on to be the world's policeman and nation-builder extroadinaire. Our feckless president shold take command and get us out of Afghanistan as quickly as he can while shifting the focus to defeating terrorists and keeping America safe. Injecting further troops into a nine year old unwinable land war in Afghanistan is not the way to go.

Jim

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Polanski Media Circus



S.Maria della Vittoria, Rome

Considering the many crooks who continue to go unpunished (including Wall Street tycoons, prominent politicians, war profiteers, torturers of innocent people, and racist hatemongers) — most of whom continue to be rewarded and validated by the same press and the same self-righteous “moralists” who are now calling for Polanski’s head — it seems hypocritical to express so much outrage and bloodlust against Polanski at this point... This represents yet another way of evading the far more urgent issues that most of us are faced with on a daily basis.


Film critic and author Jonathan Rosenbaum gets it right in the New York Times.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Who cares?



Inside S.Maria della Vittoria, Rome

Who cares...

...if Bill Clinton now tepidly supports same sex marriage? He couldn't be faithful to his own wife, yet signed DOMA preventing loving gay couples from having their marriages recognized. He is a scoundrel.

...30 years later enough to arrest Roman Polanski? The girl, now woman in question doesn't. Let him go already. Go arrest George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. They are real criminals.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Orangutan and the Hound

Animals are complex, feeling creatures that deserve better than the treatment they receive at the hands (and in the stomachs) of many humans.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No We Can't



A great Baroque church in Rome...Bernini's
S.Maria della Vittoria.

Bill Maher continues to complain about Barry Obama's presidency so far:

I don't care about the president's birth certificate, I do want to know what happened to "Yes we can." Can we get out of Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. Fix health care? No. Close Gitmo? No. Cap-and-trade carbon emissions? No. The Obamas have been in Washington for ten months and it seems like the only thing they've gotten is a dog.


Read more at Huffington...click on the title above.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Art Must Communicate



A late season sand castle in Cherry Grove

“We are against art which cannot and does not have any human content and desires to be merely a mechanical demonstration and a cerebral puzzle...A logical chain binds the past and the future – the romanticism of yesterday will again be the romanticism of tomorrow.”

- Part of a document issued by Ottorino Respighi and nine other Italian musicians in 1932

Is this too severe? Does abstract art or music communicate or is it no more than a mechanical demonstration or a cerebral puzzle?

I tend to come down on the side of romanticism.

Jim

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn Altar




Two of my favorite holidays are the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. Today is the first day of fall, which arrived yesterday afternoon. I had my own little celebration. It's time to light the candles as the days grow shorter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fires In The Grove




I heard one alarm at around 1:30 AM. Then I heard a second alarm a few minutes later, so I went to look and could see smoke and the glow of fire in the direction of the center of town. I walked down toward the Ice Palace. Guests were evacuated and standing outside on Ocean Walk. I walked around and stood by the Island Breeze and watched our fire department volunteers pour water on the fire at the Hotel. Later I learned from a fire fighter that there were two separate fires...the first in a trash can on Gerard Walk, and the second at the Hotel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Last Day Of Summer



We hosted our good friends Richard and Tom this past weekend. On Sunday Tom took my kayak out on the Great South Bay. After some basic instruction Tom went off and looked like a real pro out there. We had a fun weekend especially since Dan and Nikko were here at the beach too.

Well, fall arrives early tomorrow morning and the seasons change once again. Fall is probably my most favorite season. I'm looking forward to all of the holiday festivities that occur during the next several months.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ten Years In Cherry Grove



This month marks our tenth anniversary in Cherry Grove. It was September of 1999 when we finally took possession of our cottage “Liberty Bell,” and took up part time residence on Fire Island. Looking back on these past ten years it has been, for the most part, truly enjoyable living here on Fire Island, living at the seashore. For me it has been a dream comes true.

I have always loved the ocean and seashore. The pure joys of walks along the beach and of swims and romps in the waves are one of the great pleasures of this place. The natural beauty of Fire Island cannot be over exaggerated. I enjoy the plants and animals here through the changes of seasons, from spring to fall. The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. The sea is always beautiful in its many colors and appearances. It’s a beautiful place to live.

However, you can live at the seashore in a big place like Atlantic City or Rehoboth Beach, or in a remote desolate spot somewhere in coastal Maine, or you can live at the beach in a small town like Cherry Grove. Each of these types of living has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your own individual likes and dislikes. While I enjoy living on Fire Island, I have found that the small town environment is not to my liking. In a small town you are thrust in among a small group of people whose life styles and values you may not share. Yet, you are expected to go along if you want acceptance. Small towns are fine to live in as long as you fit in and as long as you subscribe to the accepted social program and conform to community norms of behavior. Small towns are not for independent thinkers, those that do not fit in easily, or those unwilling to conform. This I found out gradually of the course of the last ten years as I tried but failed to be accepted, and to be a part of various community organizations, groups, and cliques. This part of living here on Fire Island has not worked out as I had hoped.

In the final analysis, from a social perspective I prefer to live here as though I were either in a big city or in a desolate spot, either lost in the crowds, or isolated from them. I focus my enjoyment of living here on nature and the environment, and share the beauty here with my life partner, animal companions, and a few select friends. There are others who live here this way, detached from the small town goings on. They are my role models. Life here is good as long as I keep my focus on the beauty of this special place.

Jim

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September Sunrise



For Dan...

Well, it's a long, long time
From May to December.
But the days grow short,
When you reach September.
And the autumn weather
Turns the leaves to gray
And I haven't got time
For the waiting game.

And the days dwindle down
To a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days
I spend with you.
These precious days
I spend with you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bill Maher's Frustration With Obama Boils Over

Bill Maher over at Huffington writes:

Crazy evil morons make up things for Obama to do, and he does it...

The Democrats just never learn: Americans don't really care which side of an issue you're on as long as you don't act like pussies. When Van Jones called the Republicans assholes, he was paying them a compliment. He was talking about how they can get things done even when they're in the minority, as opposed to the Democrats, who can't seem to get anything done even when they control both houses of Congress, the presidency, and Bruce Springsteen.

I love Obama's civility in the face of such contumely, his desire to work with his enemies, it's positively Christ-like. In college, he was probably the guy at the dorm parties who made sure the stoners shared their pot with the jocks. But we don't need that guy now. We need an asshole.

Mr. President, there are some people who are never going to like you. That's why they voted for the old guy and Carrie's mom. You're not going to win them over. Stand up for the 70% of Americans who aren't crazy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Same Old, Same Old

What did Obama's speech on health care really mean?

David Brooks in today's New York Times writes:

For whatever reason, President Obama ...has decided to expand the current system, not fix it. His speech on Wednesday, and the coming legislative changes, make it much more likely he will achieve his goal.


Marshall Auerback at New Deal 2.0 writes:

The paucity of imagination of the proposals themselves were completely at variance with the President's soaring rhetoric, something which is unfortunately becoming a recurrent theme of the entire Obama Presidency.


Real health care reform, which would include the public option, is dead.

"Change you can believe in" has become the same old, same old.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama's Flawed Presidential Character

That we won't get real health care reform, or much action on gay equality is squarely the result of Obama's flawed presidential character. He is what political scientist Dr. James Barber describes as a passive-positive type:

"Passive-positive is a receptive, complaint, other-directed character with a life searching for affection as a reward for being agreeable and cooperative rather than personally assertive."

Barber cites the example of James Madison:

"The fourth president was James Madison, “Little Jemmy,” the constitutional philosopher thrown into the White House at a time of great international turmoil. Madison comes closest to the passive-positive, or compliant type; he suffered from irresolution, tried to compromise his way out, and gave in too readily to the
“warhawks” urging combat with Britain. The nation drifted into war, and Madison wound up ineptly commanding his collection of amateur generals in the streets of Washington. General Jackson’s victory at New Orleans saved the Madison administration’s historical reputation; but he left the presidency with the
United States close to bankruptcy and secession."

Sound familiar?

Basically, progressives are screwed with Obama in the White House. The only real change we'll see is that we now have a liberal push over seeking "bi-partisanship" at the helm instead of an active positive ram-things-through ultra conservative. George W. Bush always played to his base: Obama ignores or offends his.

We elected the wrong candidate, I'm sorry to say. I was no fan of Hillary, but hindsight is 20/20 and she is looking mighty good right now.

Gay March On Washington In October



Me ca. 1977

There is a national march on Washington for gay equality planned for October 11.

I marched in 1979, I was arrested at the Supreme Court in 1987 protesting Bowers v Hardwick...but marches after that were little more than parties, an excuse to dance and feel good about ourselves. No hard political work was done at these marches since 1987. Is this going to be yet another fluff get together? Where is the plan to close down DC with mass non violent civil disobedience? Where is the anger...and the determination to shake things up? No more party marches for me.

Jim

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Last Excursion



Patti LaPone entertains aboard the Celebrity Solstice



At the port in Naples



The spectacular Amalfi Coast



We came to Sorrento!

After a day at sea, the ‘Solstice’ arrived in Naples. We had not visited the third largest city in Italy for twenty-five years. At the harbor the ship was close to the Castello Nuovo (or New Castle,) an old Medieval fortress which is one of the landmarks of Napoli. But we did not re-visit any sights in Naples, instead having opted for a tour along the costiera Amalfitana or Amalfi Coast. On a long drive, our bus took us first to Positano, a jet-set town on the sea. It was crowded and full of shops, but set in a beautiful series of cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. The bus then headed to Sorrento, in an equally beautiful natural setting, and even more crowded with tourists hunting the innumerable shops. Our tour guide Margot insisted that although the French had the Cote d’Azur, the Amalfi Coast is more spectacular. It is on higher cliffs, but both seem equally beautiful to me.

The highlight of Sorrento was a leisurely lunch in the most famed hotel in the town, the Hotel Grand Excelsior Vittoria. In 1921 Enrico Caruso died in this hotel, and it was fascinating to see its Victorian grandeur. We dined in a separate dining room with amazing views of the Bay of Naples. First we ate a salad with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese, then pasta with zucchini and white sauce, followed by a sea bream in a light tomato sauce, accompanied with roasted potato nuggets, all washed down with Prosecco, white and red local wines from Campagna, and mineral water. These courses were followed by a plate of fresh fruit alongside a slice of mocha cake drenched in amaretto. As one might imagine, many fell asleep on the bus after such a repast. But I struggled to keep my eyes open; after all, how many times will I visit that gorgeous coast?

By mid-afternoon the bus reached Pompeii. Jim and I had visited the ancient city 25 years ago. But it seemed larger than ever, and there are reports that excavations continue. Though unable to visit some of the finest villas, due to time constraints, we did see the training ground of the gladiators, the forum, the brothel, and a market place surrounded by paintings. It was amazing to see the remains of such a vibrant civilization that existed and thrived over two thousand years ago. Dust swirled up from the ground, but the wind made the ruins seem less hot than some spots we had visited when in Rome. Saddest of all were the plaster casts of those who perished in the explosion of Vesuvius all those centuries ago. They included a slave with a belt bearing his owner’s name still around his waist, and a contorted dog: these were vestiges of ancient Roman life. Those who did not escape Pompeii in time were suffocated by the poisonous fumes from the volcano.

Currently Vesuvius is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and the geologists expect it to explode again. Yet many farmers living nearby will not move, despite offers of cash from the government. Our guide told us they consider Vesuvius to be their ‘big brother.’ Some brother!

After a last dinner on board the ship, we rose extremely early the next morning and took our bus transfer from Civitavecchia to Rome’s Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport. Soon we will fly back to Philadelphia and resume our normal lives. But we will remember our Mediterranean trip and the new friends we met aboard the ship. Thanks to Jim’s photos we’ll also have fond memories of this extraordinary trip.

Dan

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Of Donkeys, Cable Cars, and a Volcano







For our last day in Greece, we arrived in the morning at Santorini. This is the island built on the rim of a volcano. The white houses and colorful churches extend for many kilometers and look down on the sea and a dormant volcano. There are three ways to get from a small landing area to the town of Fira—by donkey, foot or a cable car. Some of our fellow passengers took the donkey, which sped to the top. If you walk, you have to avoid the donkey dung, but no one can avoid the smell of the hoofed beasts. We chose the cable car, and then meandered through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Fira. The shops featured everything you can imagine, including stuffed, plush donkey marionettes who dance when their strings are pulled!

The last time we were in Santorini, we visited the archaeological dig at Akrotiri, but it is currently closed to tourists, because a wooden roof covering the excavation collapsed.
I’m not sure how many people live in the town, but suspect there are more than at Chora on Mykonos. Though Mykonos has around 5,000 year round residents, the island greets 900,000 guests every year. One suspects the figures are similar for Santorini. The view of the ship from the top of the island was incredible. Though Santorini’s setting is spectacular, I still find Mykonos more beautiful. Santorini was our last stop in wonderful Greece, and today we are the way back to Italy.

Dan

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Return To Mykonos



The beautiful Elia beach



Paraportianis church



Though we’d been there together a couple of times previously, it was a delight to return to Mykonos. The island is one of the most beautiful anywhere, with its white houses perched on low and sere mountains that jut right out into the sea.

We had signed up for a transfer from the ship to the beach at Elia. On the way, we passed through the picturesque town of Ano Mera, said to be largely unspoiled by tourism. Yet despite the fact that there are more shops in Chora, the capitol of Mykonos, we still found the town a delight.

The beach at Elia boasted, like the other beaches on Mykonos we’ve been to, a setting of rocks and sand right on the edge of the incredibly blue sea. We were early enough to find chairs and a thatched umbrella, to project me from the intense sun. I heard German, British English, French and most of all, Italian, all spoken by the bathers on the Elia Beach. We spoke to fellows who lived in Hoboken, NJ, and also a man who lived near London, but who was not on the Solstice. After an hour or so, we headed to a smart restaurant right on the beach. We toasted each other with Retsina, and enjoyed typical Greek food: an onion pie, spanakopita (if not as crispy as our friend Carole’s), a moussaka, and a grilled seafood platter. Both of us swam in the sea, and Jim spent more time in the water than on the land. But, I’ve always known he is half sea creature.

In the afternoon our transfer bus picked up the group from the ship, and we took a tender from Chora –or Mykonos Town—back to the ship to shower, rest and dress. We returned to Mykonos for drinks at the Kastro Bar, which is in ‘Little Venice,’ right on the water. During drinks there, we talked to a group of seven fellows who travel together, and were also on the Atlantis cruise. Then we walked out, past the marvelous Paraportiani church, to our favorite restaurant, Niko’s. We devoured more treasures from the sea, including lobster, crayfish and –unique for us—spiny sea urchins. After wandering around the harbor shops, we returned to the ship. Today we continue to sail through the sea to our next Greek island.

Dan

A Visit To Rhodos



The Walled City Of Rhodes



Street Of The Knights



Palace Of The Grand Master

Kali Mera from Greece! Yesterday we returned to Rhodes. Though we had been to the big island in the Dodecanese before, it was always on cruise ships that docked there at night. So this time we had signed up for a walking tour, to see some of the historic buildings. Yes, they are there if you search beyond all the souvenir shops. Our tour guide Irenie showed us the Archaeology Museum, which was formerly the hospital of the Knights of St. John who controlled Rhodes for a few centuries. The Knights were not a good thing for the island, but like many others who came to power—the Romans, Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Turks—realized the economic potential.

Walking up the street of the Knights we reached the Palace of the Grand Master, which also features some ancient treasures (such as Roman mosaics) and is a huge fortress that dominates the town.

This morning we are sailing to our next island, and the seas are clear here, so we can see many islands in the chain known as the Cyclades. The beauty of Greece, with its crystalline sky, always amazes one, and we are very happy to return.

Dan

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Day In Egypt



The Sphinx







The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

10:03 AM Athens Time August 2, 2009
Celebrity Solstice En Route To Rhodes Somewhere in the Mediterranean

Yesterday the ship “Solstice” arrived very early in Egypt. By 7:35 different groups of passengers were disembarking and going through customs in Alexandria. Our tour bus left around 8:00 AM and wound through the city on its way to the major highways. This was our first visit back to Africa since an extensive bus tour of Morocco many years earlier. It was interesting to see the huge numbers of dusty buildings in the cities, and the throngs of people walking the streets, even though it was Ramadan. Numerous mosques were decorated with strings of bright colored lights, like Christmas trees. Everyone fasts from sun up until sun down, and then the citizens both pray and eat and party until fasting starts all over again at 4 AM the next day. Or so we were told by our guide Reem, a woman who filled us in on ancient and modern Egypt.

After two and one half hours we reached Giza, on the edge of Cairo. We were there to see the great pyramids, including the largest of all, that of Chefren. Jim said that he thought the pyramids were larger than he expected, and they seemed larger to me than what my memory recalled from my last visit to them 30 years ago. With our San Francisco buddies Bill and Wes we walked around the pyramid of Cheops, all the while being urged to ride one of ‘ships of the desert,’ the weird-looking and strange-sounding camels. Jim took innumerable photos before our tour bus drove to the nearby Sphinx. Though carved from a single block of now-damaged stone, the Sphinx still watches all and has the inscrutable features of the Pharoah Cheops, who built it.

For lunch we dined at the elegant Mena House Oberoi, a huge hotel/conference center which is located near the pyramids. Its carved wooden interiors are still beautiful and the tour groups enjoyed the buffet repast.

Then our bus driver had the difficult task of driving into downtown-Cairo to reach the large Egyptian Museum. Though still dusty and with poorly labeled display cases, the museum contains certain unique treasures, such as the golden ones from the tomb of the famed King Tut-ank-amun-ra. Our guide explained several major works. Then for a few shipmates I gave a brief explanation of the ‘Palette of Narmer’ the oldest major relief, which established the style. Probably because the statue is so small is the reason why it’s never dwelled on by guides. The Narmer stele is a document too, as it recounts pictorially the unification of upper and Lower Egypt in the first dynasty.

After the Museum, there was a long drive back to Giza to persuade the tourists to buy souvenirs at a Papyrus shop. We had ordered t-shirts and Jim also bought a silver chain with a ‘cartouche,’ or his name in hieroglyphics. Then we took the long drive back to Alexandria and the port, which lasted for almost three hours. Though a long excursion, this was ‘bottled Egypt’ in a brief tour, and all our fellow shipmates agreed that the trips were well worthwhile.

After dinner and the Bruce Villanch comedy show, we crashed around 12:30, which is extremely late for us, as our friends know(!) Today the Solstice will dock at Rhodes, our first Greek island.

--Dan

Monday, August 31, 2009

From The Celbrity Solstice



The outdoor pool area.



The latest in fashions for the gay male...a designer jockstrap...was featured in yesterday's episode of "Project Runway"



The "Dog Tag Tea Dance" is a very popular event on every Atlantis cruise.

We’re now sailing somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea en route to Alexandria, Egypt. We arrive there tomorrow morning then travel by motor coach to Cairo to visit the Pyramids and the Egyptian museum. We’re enjoying the Celebrity Solstice very much. We’ve made some new friends and cocktails and dinner are a lot of fun with our group. The ship is beautiful. It’s only about a year old. Here are some photos I took yesterday.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

At Sea!

We're on the Celebrity Solstice just now off the coast of Sicily. The ship is beautiful. Hope to have pics later.

Jim

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Almost At Sea



We're off to board the Celebrity Solstice this morning. It sails at 6 PM. We'll be two days at sea before we reach Alexandria, Egypt. This is one of the great Caravaggio paintings inside the Church of St. Maria del Popolo. St. Peter asked to be crucified upside down out of respect for Christ, as the story goes.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Our Last Day In Rome



Galleria Borghese



Adrian, Jim, Harvey, and Dan at the Piazza Popolo in Rome

The main highlight of the last full day in Rome was our visit to the Galleria Borghese, set in a large and lovely park generally called the ‘Villa Borghese.’ Cardinal Scipione Borghese started this magnificent collection in the 17th century with some ancient Roman sculpture. He expanded it further with great Baroque masterpieces by Bernini and Caravaggio, and such Renaissance gems as Raphael’s “Deposition” and “The Lady with the Unicorn”, or Titian’s luxurious ‘Sacred and Profane Love.” Our shipmates Harvey and Adrian, and Wayne and Steve joined us for this tour. The last time we had been in Rome the museum was closed, so it was a thrill to again see the 6 Caravaggio paintings and the amazing statues of Bernini, including his “Daphne and Apollo.”

We walked through the park after the museum visit, and marveled over two large Caravaggio altarpieces in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. These works were “The Conversion of St. Paul” and the “Crucifixion of St. Peter.” With their amazing diagonal compositions and dramatic lighting, they clearly showed the best of the artist who created the unique Baroque style of painting.

We showed Harvey and Adrian the Pantheon and the church of St. Agnese by Borromini, and seeing them a second time one noticed new details of those great buildings. After a jolly lunch near the Piazza Navona, we toured the gigantic Palazzo Doria Pamphili with the fellows from New York, before taking a taxi back to the hotel. Tonight we’ll search for another restaurant near the Piazza Navona, for our last dinner in Rome. Tomorrow we take a transfer bus to the port at Civitavecchia to board the ship “The Solstice” for our cruise on the Mediterranean.

–Dan

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rome: Day Three



Dan prepares to enjoy the famous chocolate tartufo at the restaurant Tre Scalini located at the Piazza Navona



View of the Roman Forum from the Capitoline heights



The main altar in St. Peter's basilica...St. Peter is believed to have been buried below.



St. Peter's Basilica

Thursday morning we slept in—a well deserved rest—and then headed out to the largest Christian church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica. Though originally designed by Bramante in the 16th century, the Pope’s main church was later modified by many others, including della Porta, Vignola and Michelangelo, who crowned the great edifice with his magnificent dome. The spectacular interior includes such impressive sights as the Baldacchino of Bernini, over the high altar, and Michelangelo’s famed “Pieta,” one of his earliest sculptural masterpieces. Unfortunately, due to the maniacs who have tried to damage the marble statue, it is now located far from spectators behind plastic screens.

After leaving San Pietro, we took a cab to the Capitoline, or Capitol Hill where the 16th century Palace that houses the mayor is located. This building, and two others, were designed by Michelangelo at the request of one of the Renaissance popes. The unity of the three buildings is beautifully matched by the pavement stones and gigantic stairs, also planned by the great Renaissance master. Inside of the Capitoline Museum are such treasures as Caravaggio’s sensual “St. John the Baptist”, a Titian “Baptism of Christ” and many ancient Roman statues. They include the gigantic equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in bronze, the small bronze of the Spinario (a boy removing a thorn from his foot), the bronze she-wolf nurturing Romulus and Remus (the legendary founders of the city) and the gigantic head of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine.

Before lunch we visited the French church in Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi (St. Louis of the French.) It features a lavish Baroque interior, but its crowning glory are the three paintings that made Caravaggio a famous artist in Rome. The great inventor of the Baroque style of dramatic painting created three masterpieces on the life of St. Matthew for the Contarelli Chapel. Most famous is “The Calling of St. Matthew” which quotes a pose of Michelangelo, and combines realistic and mystical spaces and figures within the same masterpiece. Being the eternal innovator, Caravaggio made his St. Matthew a believable tax-collector, as he was before he became an Apostle. And in the painting, he is surrounded by young men and other tax collectors dressed in clothing from the time of Caravaggio’s 1601 Rome. Opposite these figures are Christ and St. Peter, dressed in ancient Roman togas. They seem on one level, to appear from another world, and Christ stretches his hand to call Matthew into his next life. A strong use of light and dark, or chiaroscuro, highlights all the figures and an extremely dramatic diagonal thrust of light from an unseen window. It’s an unforgettable masterpiece, a painting to rival those of Michelangelo and Raphael. The other two paintings in the series show other scenes from the life of St. Matthew. In one he is seen writing his gospels, inspired by a curvilinear angel. In the third painting Caravaggio depicts the martyrdom of the saint, when all the prisoners surrounding the apostle are astonished by an angel bearing his reward, a palm frond symbolizing martyrdom.

As a reward for traipsing through the hot streets of Rome, we treated ourselves to a lavish lunch at the Tre Scalini Restaurant in the Piazza Navona. We had just visited Borromini’s elegant church of St. Agnes, and we dined on crustaceans, various pastas, grilled fish, a white Sicilian wine and the restaurant’s signature offering, the tartufo. The tartufo is a rich chocolate ice-cream concoction filled with chunks of dark chocolate and cherries, topped by fresh whipped cream. You might wonder why we weren’t counting the calories, but after all our walking for the past three days, didn’t we need to replenish our tummies and tired feet? Ah well, such is the life of tourists in Roma.

- Dan