Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New Blog

It seems I've lost not only my head-er, but the host for said same, as well.

Oh well. It was time for a makeover, anyway.

Please visit the new blog, Forte Etude. You'll need to change your links. Sorry. 

I just realized ...

... that I've lost my head. er. I've lost my header, right? You guys can't see it? It's just a big square with a question mark in the middle, right?

This explains a lot ...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Calling all Atheists, Agnostics, Brights, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Skeptics

George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd.

There's an online survey at Atheist Nexus for you. 
It is a descriptive and exploratory survey on "coming out" and living as an atheist.
Click here to take the survey. It takes about 20 minutes, and the results will be posted on Atheist Nexus as well as other, related sites. It is completely anonymous. I hope you'll take it and pass it on to others of your friends and family who are atheists. Thanks!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

When you care enough to hit send

I love this site: Some eCards
"When you care enough to hit send."

Check them out, and send one today!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Wonder

I wonder ... do you suppose this bailout "emergency" is the Administration's "October surprise?" I've been expecting them to come up with some sort of emergency to ensure a Republican victory in the upcoming election, but I actually expected either an attack on Iran or some sort of imminent  "turrurist" threat. However, when Dumbya came on prime-time television tonight to speak to the nation about the imminent financial threat which *must* be dealt with *immediately,* it dawned on me that this could be it - the October surprise. Only, it may have backfired.

As you know, they wanted Congress to adopt Paulson's bailout bill, as written, within 24 hours. When that didn't happen, they sent Cheney in to try to strong-arm the Republicans into supporting the bill. When that didn't work, they started making small concessions to Sen. Dodd's recommendations, and now they've trotted out the Prez to try to get the public's support (no, I do not know what they were smoking when they thought that would work.)

Meanwhile, McCain is SO concerned that he's passing up the chance to debate Obama (what a trooper!) so he can "lead the fight, because that's what leaders do" (his campaign spokeman's words) and handle this "urgent crisis." 

I wonder if their plan was that Obama and the rest of the Democrats in Congress would protest the Paulson bill, but it would get passed anyway - by Friday, mind you - because this is so urgent, and then keep pounding the message from now 'til election day that if it wasn't for the Republicans passing the bailout bill, the American taxpayers would be in the crapper for sure. They didn't count on the taxpayers already knowing what the crapper smells like because they're IN it, not to mention resenting the hell out of a bailout, nor was the Administration prepared for the revolt within its own party. 

When both parties in Congress started saying wait, let's take a good look at this bill and not be rushed into anything, lo and behold, the market held steady - thus, no immediate crisis. This whole thing just might have backfired. And wouldn't that be nice?

Except, that does still leave Iran on the table, doesn't it?

Monday, September 22, 2008

How did it come to this?

Our country is in danger of continued religious bullshit oozing from the White House, into the Supreme Court, and what's left of our personal freedoms. I thought we'd had enough of this already.   

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Kids Are Alright

We went to see the Dallas Theater Center's production of The Who's Tommy last night, a surprising season opener for this conservative venue. It brought the house down, as they say. Thunderous Standing O.

Signs warned of "loud rock music." Someone behind us said this was the first time she'd ever been handed ear plugs at the theater. When the local band, Oso Closo, opened up full blast, I thought, "You call this loud? Hah! I saw the original Tommy performed by The Who back in the 70s when Keith Moon was still alive. You don't know what loud is!" (Which, incidentally, is why composer Pete Townshend, whom I've actually met, is almost completely deaf now.)

I couldn't have been more pleased with the band's performance. Truly first-rate. I love the fact that not one of the band members or actors was born when Townshend wrote this first-ever rock opera back in 1969. The Kids Are Alright, indeed. 

There were a couple of departures from the original story:

In this version, Tommy's father, Captain Walker,  kills Mrs. Walker's lover, not the other way around. The actor who plays Captain Walker, Nehal Joshi, has a phenomenal voice not to mention the ability to act.

Also in this version, Tommy is assassinated, which when you think about it, is just the thing that usually happens with messiahs in general, so it makes sense. 

Cedric Neal's adult Tommy was good, certainly, but imo lacked the necessary charisma for "the new Messiah." As for stage presence, he might as well have been part of the ensemble.

The performances of Liz Mikel (the Acid Queen/Gypsy) and Gregory Lush (Uncle Ernie) were exceptional.

The best part of the whole production was the way the band interacted with the cast. In fact, the band was part of the cast, made possible by wireless technology. I loved this aspect of it, and I know we're going to be hearing a lot more of Oso Closo.

Click here to see pics from the production and to read more about Oso Closo. 

Friday, September 19, 2008


This is my new baby, Miss Augustina Olympia. "Auggie" for short. She's an Italian Greyhound that was left at a shelter. A friend's daughter was fostering her when Scruffybutt died. We really didn't think we wanted another dog so soon, but ... just look at her. Awwwww... 

Here's a pic of Auggie with Spot, the kitten we had for a too-brief time. 

How's your sugar level now?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hello Again

I really appreciate the emails and comments I've received during my absence from the blogosphere! You guys look great - did you change your hair?

In our last episode, this blogger was going to do some extensive revisions on her Japanese historical novel and start the hunt for an agent. The revisions are done and I'm now on the query-go-round. One agent asked to see the full MS, so that's very exciting. After a month, I got an email from her assistant saying that they "are in the process of reviewing" my MS, and to let her know if I had any questions. That was two weeks ago. Seems like forever. Waiting to hear something, anything, is nerve-wracking. The pros say to go on to the next project. I've tried, unsuccessfully.

One thing I did was sign up for this year's NaNoWriMo. I have no idea what I'm going to write, but I figure anything that will make me put butt to chair every day for a month is good. 
Sad news. My darling little terrier mix, Scruffybutt, died in her 14th year on August 4th. 

I miss her so much.

We also just lost a kitten that we had for about a month. He was adorable. Named Spot, or sometimes Spoticus. (Look closely for the little dark spot on his forehead.) He had a terrible disease called FIP. It's fatal and very quick. He was just six months old, so he never got a chance to grow up. Poor little guy. We miss him.

I hope to get around to visiting everyone's blogs. I know it's impossible to catch up with everything, but I'm looking forward to being back in touch with you. Rock on.

Oh, and -


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dear Bloggie Friends

I tried blogging once a week, which isn't too difficult, but it's impossible to keep up with all the wonderful bloglets you post all week long - that needs daily attention, and I'm just going to have to give this up for an indefinite period. There's so much to read and ponder from each of you, and so much to say about what's going on here in our corner of the blogosphere. Once a week doesn't do it justice.

I need to devote much more time to my historical novel. Maybe I'm just bad at time management, but I know I'm spending more time blogging than writing and editing. I feel the clock ticking and I want to get this MS in the best shape I can. I'm 58 years old. My mother died at 63, my father at 65, my brother at 49. No, I don't feel impending doom or anything, it's just that I know the only way to finish polishing this manuscript is to get it done, now - not "someday."

I believe in this story. It's a good one. I want to tell it in the best way I possibly can, the way it deserves. That means spending a lot of time learning the craft of writing, which I've been doing. The more I've learned, the more I realize the need for serious editing and rewrites. Also, after meeting today with the critique group at our local Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, it may be that this novel is more suited to the adult market than the Young Adult. I've wondered about that before, but after talking with people today - people who have had dozens of books published - I finally feel free to write the story in a different genre.

I love you guys - you know that, right? But I can't promise to visit as often, and it pains me because I know I'll be missing out on some very tasty bloggie bits.

So, Chapterhouse won't be active for a while. I don't know how long. I'll leave this up, though. If you want to email, please do! My addy is on the Profile page.

((HUGS)) to all!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh Noes!

In another a rare fit of stupidy, I switched my comments thingy over to Haloscan, completely forgetting that it would wipe out all my precious Blogger comments! Woe is me. Woe, I say, and thrice woe! I was only trying to get rid of evil spammers, not all of your wonderful, sweet, precious comments.

I sorry. Please comment me. Please? I won't disappear them no more.

Friday, April 18, 2008

This Week on Chapterhouse

This just in:

Cindy McCain's Old family recipe


1/2 dozen crow breasts
1 qt. sauerkraut
1/2 dozen strips bacon
1/3 c. chopped onion

In skillet brown the crow breasts, then place them on a 1 1/2" layer of sauerkraut in bottom of a casserole. Cover each piece of meat with a strip of bacon and sprinkle the onion over them. Cover the breast with another layer of sauerkraut and pour sauerkraut juice over it. Bake two hours in oven heated to 350 degrees.

The Kanzius Machine: A Cancer Cure?

This headline sounds hokey, doesn't it? Like a scam, like someone's trying to bilk people out of money for yet another phony "cure" for cancer. Look again. This could be the real deal. They're not even asking for your money.
(as seen on 60 Minutes)

This weeks gifts:

These are for YOU! All of you! I went on a little virtual spending spree. With 3 trillion dollars!

Candace bought the following gifts for you at, the web site that gives you 3 trillion dollars - the money American tax-payers are spending on the Iraq war - and use it in a virtual shopping spree for your friends and family.

And, so can you! You could give all of this,

...or you can spend the money occupying Iraq and killing over a million people!

Universal Health Care for Every American (300 million of us)
1 purchased for $920,100,000,000.00 each

1 purchased for $1,000,000.00 each

therapeutic healing for veterans
1 purchased for $104,000.00 each

End the Animal Shelter issues in this country and neuter all homeless animals
1 purchased for $20,000,000,000.00 each

cure for alzhiemers
1 purchased for $3,000,000.00 each

Reform penal system - rehabilitation instead of retribution
1 purchased for $1,000,000,000,000.00 each

1 purchased for $1,000,000,000,000.00 each

Restore Habeas Corpus for All
1 purchased for $1,500,000,000.00 each

Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine
1 purchased for $50,000,000.00 each

Reinstate the Constitution
1 purchased for $50,000,000.00 each

Plant 1,000,000 trees
1 purchased for $10,000,000.00 each

Permanent Vacation
1 purchased for $30,000,000.00 each
(this is for me)

New Clothing, Shoes, Coats, and School Supplies for Ten Million Children
1 purchased for $10,000,000,000.00 each

God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (for every household on the planet)
1 purchased for $27,151,600,000.00 each

Free, Fair, and Unbiased Media
1 purchased for $2,500,000.00 each

US Constitution, Pocket-Sized Edition, in 50K lots
1 purchased for $33,250.00 each

Apple MacBook Air MB003LL/A 13.3" Laptop (1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, 2 GB RAM, 80 GB Hard Drive)
1 purchased for $1,794.00 each
(um, okay, this one's actually for me, too)

Non-Violent Leadership Training (1 yr) for 10 Million Leaders
1 purchased for $300,000.00 each

A Brand New House for my family & other relatives
1 purchased for $20,000,000.00 each
(also for me)

1 purchased for $20,000.00 each
(for me)


What will you put in YOUR shopping cart? (you can even suggest items of your own)
There's been so much talk about this week's debate between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama, I thought you might enjoy imagining these questions being asked of Sen. McCain:

10 Debate Questions John McCain will never be asked

1. Do you agree with Pastor John Hagee that war with Iran is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy?
In February, you shared a stage with Pastor John Hagee and said you were "very proud" to have his endorsement. You also called the Reverend Rod Parsley, a man who said of Islam "America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed", your "spiritual guide." Do you believe America's mission is to destroy Islam? Do you join Pastor Hagee in believing the United States must attack Iran to fulfill the biblical prophecy of Armageddon in Israel in which 144,000 Jews will be converted to Christianity and the rest killed? Is that why you joked about "bomb bomb Iran?" If not, why will you not renounce the support of Hagee and Parsley?

2. Doesn't your legendary temper make you too dangerous to be trusted with the presidency of the United States?
Your anger, even toward friends and allies, is legendary. You purportedly dropped the F-Bomb on your own GOP colleagues John Cornyn and Chuck Grassley. In the book, The Real McCain, author Cliff Schechter claims you got into a fist-fight with your fellow Arizona Republican Rick Renzi. Allegedly, you even publicly used a crude term, one which decorum and the FCC prohibit us from even saying on the air, to describe your own wife. Which if any of these episodes is untrue? Don't your anger management problems make you too dangerously unstable to be president of the United States?

3. Doesn't your confusion regarding basic facts about the war in Iraq, including repeatedly citing a nonexistent Al Qaeda-Iran alliance, make you unfit for command?
On four occasions in one month, you confused friend and foe in Iraq by describing Sunni Al Qaeda as being backed by Shiite Iran. Then you showed a misunderstanding of the U.S. chain of command when you claimed you would not back shifting forces from Iraq to Afghanistan "unless Gen. [David] Petraeus said that he felt that the situation called for that," a decision which Petraeus himself told you and your Senate colleagues only the week before rests not with him but with his superiors. Doesn't your lack of understanding and judgment when it comes to basic facts of America's national security disqualify you as commander-in-chief?

4. Given your past adultery, should Americans consider you a moral exemplar of family values?
You are the nominee of a Republican Party which claims to support so-called "family values." Yet you commenced an adulterous relationship with your current wife Cindy months before the dissolution of your previous marriage to your first wife Carol. Should Americans consider you to be a moral exemplar of family values?

5. Doesn't your flip-flop on Jerry Falwell being an "agent of intolerance" show your opportunistic pandering to the religious right?
In 2000, you famously called the late Jerry Falwell "an agent of intolerance," a statement which may have cost you the decisive South Carolina primary. But as you ramped up your next presidential run in 2006, you embraced Falwell and gave the commencement address at his Liberty University. When Tim Russert asked that spring if you still considered him an agent of intolerance, you said, "'no, I don't." Why shouldn't the American people consider you a flip-flopping opportunist who cynically courted the religious right to further your 2008 presidential ambitions?

6. Given your wealth and privileged upbringing, aren't you - and not Barack Obama - the elitist?
You have called Barack Obama an elitist. Yet you recently returned to your exclusive private high school, one which now costs over $38,000 a year to attend. Your wife is the heiress to a beer distribution company, reputedly owns 8 homes and has a net worth well over $100 million. Your children all attended private schools, academies which also happened to be the primary beneficiaries of funds from your supposed charitable foundation. Shouldn't the American people in fact view you as the elitist, and a hypocritical one at that?

7. What is your religion, really? And has the answer in the past changed as the South Carolina primary approached?
I want to ask about your seemingly ever-changing religious beliefs. In June 2007, McClatchy reported, "McCain still calls himself an Episcopalian." In August 2007, as ABC reported, your campaign staff identified you as "Episcopalian" in a questionnaire prepared for ABC News' August 5 debate. But as the primary in evangelical-rich South Carolina neared, in September 2007 you said of your religious faith, "It plays a role in my life. By the way, I'm not Episcopalian. I'm Baptist." But in March 2008, Pastor Dan Yeary of your North Phoenix Baptist Church refused to comment on why you have refused to finally undergo a baptism ceremony. Congressional directories still list you as an Episcopalian. In the past, you've said, "When I'm asked about it, I'll be glad to discuss it." So what is your religion? And couldn't Americans be forgiven for assuming your changing faith is tied to your changing political needs?

8. Didn't President Bush betray you with his signing statement on the Detainee Treatment Act? You claim to be against torture, but aren't you a hypocrite for voting "no" on the Senate waterboaring ban?
You've said that "we can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured". And in December 2005, you famously reached a compromise with President Bush on the Detainee Torture Act banning cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees. But just two weeks later, President Bush issued a signing statement making it clear he would ignore the compromise you just reached. Then in February 2007, you voted "no" on a Senate bill banning waterboarding. Isn't it fair to say President Bush betrayed you with his December 30, 2005 signing statement? And isn't it fair to say you caved to the right-wing of your party on the issue in order to win the Republican nomination?

9. Why did you flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts you twice opposed? Why do you now support making them permanent for the wealthiest Americans who need them least?
You twice voted against the Bush tax cuts. Now you support making them permanent. In 2001, you said, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief." Now, according to the Center for American Progress, your tax plan would cost more than $2 trillion over the next decade and "would predominantly benefit the most fortunate taxpayers, offering two new massive tax cuts for corporations and delivering 58 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers." Isn't it true that you flip-flopped on the Bush tax cuts? Isn't it fair to say that you now favor a massive expansion of the federal budget deficit in order to fund a tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans who need it least?

10. With the economy tanking, shouldn't Americans be concerned over your past statements that "the issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should?"
Americans consistently report that the economy is the issue that concerns them most. Yet more than once, you proclaimed your ignorance when it comes to the economy. In November 2005, you told the Wall Street Journal, "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." Then in December 2007, you admitted, "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." Shouldn't the American be worried about President McCain's ability to lead the United States out of recession? Given your past statements, shouldn't the American reject out of hand your claim that "I know the economy better than Senator Clinton and Senator Obama do?"

Happy weekend!

Friday, April 11, 2008

This Week on Chapterhouse

You know, atheists really are in the last closet.

Rep. Monique Davis of Illinois, a (say it isn't so!) Democrat,* opines that atheism is dangerous, so dangerous that children shouldn't even know it exists. This YouTube clip starts with Keith Olbermann's Worst Person of the World segment, followed by Rob Sherman's comments, and concludes with the audio of Rep. Davis's tirade.

"Get out of that seat!" she yells at Rob Sherman, an atheist activist, actually ordering him to stop testifying. Can you imagine the outcry if she had said the same thing to a Baptist preacher? A Rabbi? A Muslim?

(click to embiggen)

*it's even more disappointing to hear such bigotry coming from a Black woman.

Speaking of race, Stuff White People Like is one of the funniest (and most uncomfy) sites I've ever run across!

I mean, how white can you get:

“Wil Shipley, a Seattle software developer, uses his iPhone at the Whole Foods fish counter to check websites for updates on which seafood is the most environmentally correct to purchase. He quizzes the staff on where and how a fish was caught. Because he carries the Internet with him, “I can be super-picky,” he said.”

Fellow Anglophiles Pooks and Grace, the artist, were over yesterday to watch The Barchester Chronicles DVD Tomcat gave me for my birthday in January. Just look at the young Alan Rickman, here in his breakthrough role as "the odious Obadiah Slope."

Isn't he hawt? (not, of course, that that was the reason we wanted to see this.) As Pooks would say, "Squee!"
This week's gifts:

For Dan:

Check out Disapproving Rabbits!

And for Garnie (Abbey), because she needs a new calendar she'll pay attention to!

The writers' meeting this week was excellent. We have two great new members (from Pooks' class-always the best source). Both are writing Sci-Fi novels. One of the original members started a new project, an erotic techno-thriller. I don't think attendance will be a problem.


Until next week! (((HUGS)))

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Do yourselves a favor

Do yourselves a favor and read Hoss's b**g today. (Hell, read it every day - it's great.) But today there's advice on dieting, on what to do if there's no lock on the restroom door, and - oh yeah, a little soft pRon.

[stepping quickly aside to avoid being trampled while everyone rushes over to Hoss's place...]

You're welcome.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

This Week on Chapterhouse

I know, I know - last Saturday I said I would only post once a week, and then I put up two more posts. This is what happens when you try to go cold turkey, people. I'll try to stick with the plan this week.


Chapterhouse was given the coveted Excellence Award by Let's Talk God! How cool is that?

Thanks very much, Larry!
Speaking of awards:
The Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco
came up with an ingenious way to memorialize Dubya's presidency. They are collecting signatures to place this on their November ballot:

"Should the City and County of San Francisco rename the
Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Facility
The George W. Bush Sewage Plant?"

Click on the word "honorable" in the sentence, "... eight years of honorable service ..." when you go to their site. It takes you to The 14 Points of Fascism, which is rather terrifying, in case you haven't seen it before.

Why didn't I think of this back when I was battling the Book of the Month Club because they kept billing me for books I never ordered, even though I had backup emails showing I had declined their selection(s) IN a timely manner? I could have mailed them bricks every time they sent me a bill! Hey, maybe it's not too late.
Last week I had a gift for Randal. This week, let's see ...

How about this for 1138:

I'll miss Clarke, too. Now I really wish I hadn't put so many books in storage.
(Keep scrolling down, 1138 - there's another gift for you.)

And this one's for Snave's noted Feces in the News feature:

You're welcome.

Finally, this one is for both 1138 and Mandlebrot's Chaos, should they choose to use it:

Can't we all just get along?
As far as writing goes:

This week, I've done more research, rearranged the sequence of several events in my post-war Japan novel, written one new scene and made notes for two more, plus created a storyboard:


This Week's Word to the Wise:
Never forget the immortal words of renowned commenter Richard:


Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

13 Minutes

Take just 13 minutes to watch this amazing video. It will uplift you for the rest of the day. Maybe forever.

from The Daily Kos.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Another Stumble find:

Headlined on 3/29/08:
Saudi Newspaper: Prepare for radioactive fallout from US nuclear attack on Iran


Now this, recently published in the Center for American Progress Action Fund's The Progress Report:

ADMINISTRATION -- ECHOING BUSH AND CHENEY, HAYDEN SAYS IRAN PURSUING NUCLEAR WEAPONS: CIA Director Michael Hayden is the latest high ranking Bush administration official to claim that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Asked by NBC host Tim Russert last Sunday if he "believe[s] the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear program," Hayden said, "yes." While he did not offer any specific evidence of his "personal belief," his comment contradicts a key finding from the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran -- that the Iranians halted its efforts to develop nuclear weapons in 2003. Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report has said that Iran is only enriching uranium to a level consistent with a civilian nuclear program. Recently, President Bush falsely claimed that Iran "declared they want to have a nuclear weapon," and Vice President Dick Cheney also stated that Iran is "heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons grade levels."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kitchen Sink

People, I spend so much time surfing the tubes and stuff that I'm not getting much writing done. Something has to give. So, I've decided to post a bloggie of my own and catch up on your bloggies once a week.

Here's another gem from Russell's Teapot:

This just in from Richard Dawkins:

"Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged India's most "powerful" tantrik (black magician) to demonstrate his powers on him. That was the beginning of an unprecedented experiment. After all his chanting of mantra (magic words) and ceremonies of tantra failed, the tantrik decided to kill Sanal Edamaruku with the "ultimate destruction ceremony" on live TV. Sanal Edamaruku agreed and sat in the altar of the black magic ritual. India TV observed skyrocketing viewership rates.

"Everything started, when Uma Bharati (former chief minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh) accused her political opponents in a public statement of using tantrik powers to inflict damage upon her. In fact, within a few days, the unlucky lady had lost her favorite uncle, hit the door of her car against her head and found her legs covered with wounds and blisters.

"India TV, one of India's major Hindi channels with national outreach, invited Sanal Edamaruku for a discussion on "Tantrik power versus Science". Pandit Surinder Sharma, who claims to be the tantrik of top politicians and is well known from his TV shows, represented the other side. During the discussion, the tantrik showed a small human shape of wheat flour dough, laid a thread around it like a noose and tightened it. He claimed that he was able to kill any person he wanted within three minutes by using black magic. Sanal challenged him to try and kill him.

"The tantrik tried. He chanted his mantras (magic words): "Om lingalingalinalinga, kilikili…." But his efforts did not show any impact on Sanal – not after three minutes, and not after five. The time was extended and extended again. The original discussion program should have ended here, but the "breaking news" of the ongoing great tantra challenge was overrunning all program schedules.

image description"Now the tantrik changed his technique. He started sprinkling water on Sanal and brandishing a knife in front of him. Sometimes he moved the blade all over his body. Sanal did not flinch. Then he touched Sanal's head with his hand, rubbing and rumpling up his hair, pressing his forehead, laying his hand over his eyes, pressing his fingers against his temples. When he pressed harder and harder, Sanal reminded him that he was supposed to use black magic only, not forceful attacks to bring him down. The tantrik took a new run: water, knife, fingers, mantras. But Sanal kept looking very healthy and even amused.

"After nearly two hours, the anchor declared the tantrik's failure. The tantrik, unwilling to admit defeat, tried the excuse that a very strong god whom Sanal might be worshipping obviously protected him. "No, I am an atheist," said Sanal Edamaruku. Finally, the disgraced tantrik tried to save his face by claiming that there was a never-failing special black magic for ultimate destruction, which could, however, only been done at night. Bad luck again, he did not get away with this, but was challenged to prove his claim this very night in another "breaking news" live program.

image description"During the next three hours, India TV ran announcements for The Great Tantra Challenge that called several hundred million people to their TV sets.

"The encounter took place under the open night sky. The tantrik and his two assistants were kindling a fire and staring into the flames. Sanal was in good humour. Once the ultimate magic was invoked, there wouldn't be any way back, the tantrik warned. Within two minutes, Sanal would get crazy, and one minute later he would scream in pain and die. Didn't he want to save his life before it was too late? Sanal laughed, and the countdown begun. The tantriks chanted their "Om lingalingalingalinga, kilikilikili…." followed by ever changing cascades of strange words and sounds. The speed increased hysterically. They threw all kinds of magic ingredients into the flames that produced changing colours, crackling and fizzling sounds and white smoke. While chanting, the tantrik came close to Sanal, moved his hands in front of him and touched him, but was called back by the anchor. After the earlier covert attempts of the tantrik to use force against Sanal, he was warned to keep distance and avoid touching Sanal. But the tantrik "forgot" this rule again and again.

"Now the tantrik wrote Sanal's name on a sheet of paper, tore it into small pieces, dipped them into a pot with boiling butter oil and threw them dramatically into the flames. Nothing happened. Singing and singing, he sprinkled water on Sanal, mopped a bunch of peacock feathers over his head, threw mustard seed into the fire and other outlandish things more. Sanal smiled, nothing happened, and time was running out. Only seven more minutes before midnight, the tantrik decided to use his ultimate weapon: the clod of wheat flour dough. He kneaded it and powdered it with mysterious ingredients, then asked Sanal to touch it. Sanal did so, and the grand magic finale begun. The tantrik pierced blunt nails on the dough, then cut it wildly with a knife and threw them into the fire. That moment, Sanal should have broken down. But he did not. He laughed. Forty more seconds, counted the anchor, twenty, ten, five… it's over!

image description"Millions of people must have uttered a sigh of relief in front their TVs. Sanal was very much alive. Tantra power had miserably failed. Tantriks are creating such a scaring atmosphere that even people, who know that black magic has no base, can just break down out of fear, commented a scientist during the program. It needs enormous courage and confidence to challenge them by actually putting one's life at risk, he said. By doing so, Sanal Edamaruku has broken the spell, and has taken away much of the fear of those who witnessed his triumph.

"In this night, one of the most dangerous and wide spread superstitions in India suffered a severe blow.

"The whole program is video-recorded and is available. If you want a copy, please contact:"


And finally, this is for Randal:

I'll be back too - next week!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Obama too intellectual to be president?

John Dean (yes, that John Dean) raises the question in his FindLaw article, Barack Obama's Smart Speech "A More Perfect Union": Did It Reveal Him To Be Too Intellectual To Be President? Dean used the Flesch-Kincaid readability test by grade level (used by librarians) on Obama's recent "A More Perfect Union" speech, and found it scored at the 10.5 grade level, "which by current standards is in the stratosphere." Compare that to inaugural addresses by Bush II at 7.5, Eisenhower's second address 7.5, Nixon at 7.6, LBJ at 7.0, FDR's fourth 8.1, and Clinton's two addresses at 9.4 and 8.8, respectively.

Okay, we knew the guy was smart, but smart don't win votes. Or at least, it didn't used to. Dean tells of case studies showing the effectiveness of anti-intellectualism in politics. Smart candidates who hide their brain power tend to get more votes. Eisenhower sat back and let Adlai Stevenson take the "egghead" label. Bill Clinton, a Rhodes scholar, played the hayseed while stumping when necessary to garner votes. Dean says he's "noticed
Senator Clinton has been showing less and less of her own conspicuous wonkiness and brain-power" since the Ohio and Texas primaries.

I hope Obama will be the exception that proves the rule. He has not, so far, hidden his light under a bushel. And so far, he's getting the votes.

I liked having a smart person for president - of course I'm speaking of Bill Clinton - but he was such an idiot in his personal life. Having a stupid person in the office for the last seven years would have been merely embarrassing, had the consequences not been so tragic.

Dean concludes, "As Senator Obama campaigns, he can truly change America by simply refusing to play dumb. That strategy, if Obama continues it, may turn out to be not only courageous but also wise, for it is very possible that, after so many years, Americans are tired of having their innate intelligence insulted by their presidential candidates."

After Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech, Jon Stewart said, "At 10:53 a.m. on March 18, 2008, an American politician spoke to us about race as if we were adults."


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Cost of War

Full Text of Obama’s Speech “The Cost of War”
The Cost of War
University of Charleston
Charleston, West Virginia

Thursday, March 20, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery

Five years ago, the war in Iraq began. And on this fifth anniversary, we honor the brave men and women who are serving this nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. We pay tribute to the sacrifices of their families back home. And a grateful nation mourns the loss of our fallen heroes.

I understand that the first serviceman killed in Iraq was a native West Virginian, Marine 1st Lieutenant Shane Childers, who died five years ago tomorrow. And so on this anniversary, my thoughts and prayers go out to Lieutenant Childers’ family, and to all who’ve lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The costs of war are greatest for the troops and those who love them, but we know that war has other costs as well. Yesterday, I addressed some of these other costs in a speech on the strategic consequences of the Iraq war. I spoke about how this war has diverted us from fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and from addressing the other challenges of the 21st Century: violent extremism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

And today, I want to talk about another cost of this war – the toll it has taken on our economy. Because at a time when we’re on the brink of recession – when neighborhoods have For Sale signs outside every home, and working families are struggling to keep up with rising costs – ordinary Americans are paying a price for this war.

When you’re spending over $50 to fill up your car because the price of oil is four times what it was before Iraq, you’re paying a price for this war.

When Iraq is costing each household about $100 a month, you’re paying a price for this war.

When a National Guard unit is over in Iraq and can’t help out during a hurricane in Louisiana or with floods here in West Virginia, our communities are paying a price for this war.

And the price our families and communities are paying reflects the price America is paying. The most conservative estimates say that Iraq has now cost more than half a trillion dollars, more than any other war in our history besides World War II. Some say the true cost is even higher and that by the time it’s over, this could be a $3 trillion war. But what no one disputes is that the cost of this war is far higher than what we were told it would be. We were told this war would cost $50 to $60 billion, and that reconstruction would pay for itself out of Iraqi oil profits. We were told higher estimates were nothing but “baloney.” Like so much else about this war, we were not told the truth. What no one disputes is that the costs of this war have been compounded by its careless and incompetent execution – from the billions that have vanished in Iraq to the billions more in no-bid contracts for reckless contractors like Halliburton.

What no one disputes is that five years into this war, soldiers up at Fort Drum are having to wait more than a month to get their first mental health screening – even though we know that incidences of PTSD skyrocket between the second, third, and fourth tours of duty. We have a sacred trust to our troops and our veterans, and we have to live up to it.

What no one disputes is that President Bush has done what no other President has ever done, and given tax cuts to the rich in a time of war. John McCain once opposed these tax cuts – he rightly called them unfair and fiscally irresponsible. But now he has done an about face and wants to make them permanent, just like he wants a permanent occupation in Iraq. No matter what the costs, no matter what the consequences, John McCain seems determined to carry out a third Bush-term.

That’s an outcome America can’t afford. Because of the Bush-McCain policies, our debt has ballooned. This is creating problems in our fragile economy. And that kind of debt also places an unfair burden on our children and grandchildren, who will have to repay it.

It also means we’re having to pay for this war with loans from China. Having China as our banker isn’t good for our economy, it isn’t good for our global leadership, and it isn’t good for our national security. History teaches us that for a nation to remain a preeminent military power, it must remain a preeminent economic power. That is why it is so important to manage the costs of war wisely.

This is a lesson that the first President Bush understood. The conduct of the Gulf War cost America less than $20 billion – what we pay in two months in Iraq today. That’s because that war was prosecuted on solid grounds, and in a responsible way, and with the support of allies, who paid most of the costs. None of this has been the case in the way George W. Bush and John McCain have waged the current Iraq war.

Now, at that debate in Texas several weeks ago, Senator Clinton attacked John McCain for supporting the policies that have led to our enormous war costs. But her point would have been more compelling had she not joined Senator McCain in making the tragically ill-considered decision to vote for the Iraq war in the first place.

The truth is, this is all part of the reason I opposed this war from the start. It’s why I said back in 2002 that it could lead to an occupation not just of undetermined length or undetermined consequences, but of undetermined costs. It’s why I’ve said this war should have never been authorized and never been waged.

Now, let me be clear: when I am President, I will spare no expense to ensure that our troops have the equipment and support they need. There is no higher obligation for a Commander-in-Chief. But we also have to understand that the more than $10 billion we’re spending each month in Iraq is money we could be investing here at home. Just think about what battles we could be fighting instead of fighting this misguided war.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and who are plotting against us in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We could be securing our homeland and stopping the world’s most dangerous weapons from falling into terrorist hands.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting for the people of West Virginia. For what folks in this state have been spending on the Iraq war, we could be giving health care to nearly 450,000 of your neighbors, hiring nearly 30,000 new elementary school teachers, and making college more affordable for over 300,000 students.

We could be fighting to put the American dream within reach for every American – by giving tax breaks to working families, offering relief to struggling homeowners, reversing President Bush’s cuts to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and protecting Social Security today, tomorrow, and forever. That’s what we could be doing instead of fighting this war.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to make universal health care a reality in this country. We could be fighting for the young woman who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford medicine for a sister who’s ill. For what we spend in several months in Iraq, we could be providing them with the quality, affordable health care that every American deserves.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to give every American a quality education. We could be fighting for the young men and women all across this country who dream big dreams but aren’t getting the kind of education they need to reach for those dreams. For a fraction of what we’re spending each year in Iraq, we could be giving our teachers more pay and more support, rebuilding our crumbling schools, and offering a tax credit to put a college degree within reach for anyone who wants one.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be fighting to rebuild our roads and bridges. I’ve proposed a fund that would do just that and generate nearly two million new jobs – many in the construction industry that’s been hard hit by our housing crisis. And it would cost just six percent of what we spend each year in Iraq.

Instead of fighting this war, we could be freeing ourselves from the tyranny of oil, and saving this planet for our children. We could be investing in renewable sources of energy, and in clean coal technology, and creating up to 5 million new green jobs in the bargain, including new clean coal jobs. And we could be doing it all for the cost of less than a year and a half in Iraq.

These are the investments we could be making, all within the parameters of a more responsible and disciplined budget. This is the future we could be building. And that is why I will bring this war to an end when I’m President of the United States of America.

But we also know that even after this war comes to an end, the costs of this war will not. We’ll have to keep our sacred trust with our veterans and fully fund the VA. We’ll have to look after our wounded warriors – whether they’re suffering from wounds seen or unseen. That must include the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – not just PTSD, but Traumatic Brain Injury. We’ll have to give veterans the health care and disability benefits they deserve, the support they need, and the respect they’ve earned. This is an obligation I have fought to uphold on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee by joining Jay Rockefeller to expand educational opportunities for our veterans. It’s an obligation I will uphold as President, and it’s an obligation that will endure long after this war is over.

And our obligation to rebuild our military will endure as well. This war has stretched our military to its limits, wearing down troops and equipment as a result of tour after tour after tour of duty. The Army has said it will need $13 billion a year just to replace and repair all the equipment that’s been broken or lost. So in the coming years we won’t just have to restore our military to its peak level of readiness, and we won’t just have to make sure our National Guard is back to being fully prepared to handle a domestic crisis, we’ll also have to ensure that our soldiers are trained and equipped to confront the new threats of the 21 century and that our military can meet any challenge around the world. And that is a responsibility I intend to meet as Commander-in-Chief.

So we know what this war has cost us – in blood and in treasure. But in the words of Robert Kennedy, “past error is no excuse for its own perpetuation.” And yet, John McCain refuses to learn from the failures of the Bush years. Instead of offering an exit strategy for Iraq, he’s offering us a 100-year occupation. Instead of offering an economic plan that works for working Americans, he’s supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest among us who don’t need them and aren’t asking for them. Senator McCain is embracing the failed policies of the past, but America is ready to embrace the future.

When I am your nominee, the American people will have a real choice in November – between change and more of the same, between giving the Bush policies another four years, or bringing them to an end. And that is the choice the American people deserve.

Somewhere in Baghdad today, a soldier is stepping into his Humvee and heading out on a patrol. That soldier knows the cost of war. He’s been bearing it for five years. It’s the cost of being kept awake at night by the whistle of falling mortars. It’s the cost of a heart that aches for a loved one back home, and a family that’s counting the days until the next R&R. It’s the cost of losing a friend, who asked for nothing but to serve his country.

How much longer are we going to ask our troops to bear the cost of this war?

How much longer are we going to ask our families and our communities to bear the cost of this war?

When are we going to stop mortgaging our children’s future for Washington’s mistake?

This election is our chance to reclaim our future – to end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for good jobs and universal health care. To end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for a world-class education and retirement security. To end the fight in Iraq and take up the fight for opportunity, and equality, and prosperity here at home.

Those are the battles we need to fight. That is the leadership I want to offer. And that is the future we can build together when I’m President of the United States. Thank you.