Criminals of a Different Feather

It was news that on Monday, there were no reported shootings or stabbings in New York City. Maybe the inactivity of Congress (a different breed of criminals) is setting an oddly positive example.

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More on the Great Global Warming Hoax

Wow, this is interesting. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we’ve had 332 consecutive months of above-average temperatures (compared to the average for the 20th Century). The last month with a colder-than-normal temperature was February 1985.

So, if you are 27 or younger, you have never experienced a month that was colder than normal.

During the past year, every land mass across the globe experienced warmer-than-average temperatures except for two places–Alaska, and the eastern tip of Russia.

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Time Lapse of Every Nuclear Explosion since 1945

This is a mesmerizing time-lapse map of the 2053 nuclear explosions–all but two of them tests–since 1945. It really picks up in the 1960s. You see an icon for each country as they begin testing–first the US, then Russia, followed by England, France, China, and finally Pakistan–with a running total for each country (about half of the explosions were done by the US). It’s about 15 minutes long, but fascinating. You see where each explosion occurred (lots in the South Pacific by the US and France).

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Greetings from Maryland. Please Send Us $40.

Pam got a letter from the State of Maryland. Seems that earlier in November, somebody driving her car was speeding–going 42 in a 30mph zone. The automated speed trap on this busy four-lane road, with no construction in sight, took four photos of the vehicle. One clearly shows the license plate number. Another shows an unidentified guy driving the car, a guy who, upon close examination, could be…me.

Yes, in the dark of night while driving in an unfamiliar city on the edge of Washington DC, I stumbled into a cowardly speed trap. In so doing, I ruined my wife’s heretofore perfect driving record. Fortunately, the citation said it wouldn’t affect points or insurance. All they wanted was $40…which, as speeding tickets go, is pretty cheap.

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College Football Humor

I like rivalry jokes. These ones are crafted around university football programs. For many of them, you can insert the name of whatever college you dislike. Enjoy.

Q: Why do Tennessee fans wear orange?
A: So they can dress that way for the game on Saturday, go hunting on Sunday, and pick up trash on Monday.

Q: Why do Oklahoma fans keep their diplomas on their dashboards?
A: So they can park in handicap spaces.

Q: What does the average Alabama player get on his SATs?
A: Drool.

Q: What do you say to a University of Miami football player dressed in a three-piece suit?
A: “Will the defendant please rise.”

Q: How many Michigan freshmen football players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. That’s a sophomore course.

Q: If three Florida State football players are in the same car, who is driving?
A: The police officer.

Q: How can you tell if an Auburn football player has a girlfriend?
A: There’s tobacco juice on both sides of the pickup truck.

Q: What do you get when you put 32 Arkansas cheerleaders in one room?
A: A full set of teeth.

Q: How do you get a former Ohio State football player off your porch?
A: Pay him for the pizza.

Q: What are the longest 3 years of a Louisville football player’s life?
A: His freshman year.

Q: How many LSU football players does it take to change a tire?
A: One, but he gets 3 credit hours.

Q: Why was O.J. trying to escape to Indiana?
A: Police would never look for a Heisman Trophy winner there.

Q: Why do Colorado football players like smart women?
A: Opposites attract.

Q: What does the “N” on the helmets for the University of Nebraska stand for?
A: “Nowledge.”

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Leviticus 20:13 says, “A man who lays with another man should be stoned.” Which explains why states passed ballot initiatives on both gay marriage and marijuana.

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Religious Make-up of the New Congress

Some interesting stats about the religious make-up of the new Congress from CNN’s Belief Blog.

  • 87% of Congresspesons are categorized as “Christian,” compared to 70% of the general population.
  • Among members of Congress, 69% of Republicans are Protestant, compared to 43% of Democrats.
  • Protestants are over-represented in Congress. They make up 48% of the general population, but account for 56% of Congress.
  • 36% of Democratic Congressmen are Catholics, compared to 25% of Republicans.
  • 20% of Americans claim no religious affiliation, but only one Congressman (Krysten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona) is a “none.” So the religiously unaffiliated are extremely under-represented
  • 15 members are Mormons–12 Republicans and 3 Democrats.
  • 31 of the 32 Jewish members of Congress are Democrats
  • All of the Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist members of Congress are Democrats.
  • Compared to the general population, Democrats have a disproportionately high number of women and members of minority religions.
  • Compared to the general population, Republicans are disproportionately Protestant and male.
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Disappointed by the Martin Luther King Memorial

During our October vacation in Washington DC, Pam and I visited all of the memorials on the National Mall. The World War 2 memorial was new since our last visit in the 1990s, and it was quite impressive. Also new was the Martin Luther King memorial, which was dedicated in October 2011, just a year before.

I’m a great admirer of Martin Luther King. I’m an not an admirer of the MLK memorial.

The idea of a memorial to King was authorized in 1996, a groundbreaking was held in 2006, and building for the final project began in 2009.

The setting itself is beautiful, spanning four acres overlooking the Tidal Basin. As a bird flies, it’s between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. All of the other major monuments to people recognize presidents–Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt. The Martin Luther King Memorial is the only one recognizing a non-president. And I would consider it deserving. King was truly a transformative figure.

You enter the memorial through a stone “mountain.” The ends of the mountain are on either side of the gateway. The middle slice is located further in, and this slice bears a sculpture of King emerging from the stone. The granite slab says, “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” which is a line from the “I Have a Dream” speech. So you pass through the Mountain of Despair to reach the Stone of Hope. The sculpture of King, staring across the Tidal Basin, is 30 feet high; the statues of Jefferson and Lincoln are just 19 feet tall (though Lincoln is sitting).

Behind the Stone of Hope is a 450-foot wall containing 14 excerpts from some of King’s sermons and speeches. I read them all. They are good quotes, chosen to stress four primary messages of King: justice, democracy, hope, and love. That’s what I read later, anyway. As I read them that night, with darkness fast approaching, I saw two themes: justice, and the poor.

What struck me was that racial themes were totally missing. They chose not to include what is my favorite King quote, and perhaps his most famous: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I suppose they wanted to focus on more timeless, universal themes (justice, democracy, hope love), which will continue to be issues long after racism is, uh…eliminated? I didn’t like it. King’s crusade was focused on issues of race and discrimination. I considered it a serious error to omit mention of these issues at a monument dedicated to his memory.

So that was one disappointment.

Another disappointment was reading that the King family received $800,000 in a licensing deal for permission to use King’s words and image in fundraising materials for the memorial. That’s scandalous.

And then there’s the sculpture itself.

First of all, it didn’t look like any photo I’ve seen of King.

Second, it looks like a white person (since they used white granite).

Third, the sculptor was Lei Yixin, an artist from China who had previously sculpted Mao Zedong. As it turns out, the Chinese government contributed $25 million to the $120 million project. So this major monument on the National Mall, recognizing an American, was Made in China. They even used Chinese white granite, which was probably mined by Chinese workers in unsafe conditions. Scandalous again.

So I was severely disappointed. The silly mountain metaphor. The use of Chinese materials and a Chinese sculptor. The out-of-proportion size of King’s figure. The lack of resemblance to King himself. The demeanor they gave him–serious, authoritative, and way too reminiscent of statues we’ve seen of dictators in other countries. What were they thinking?

I read that they considered using “water” as a metaphor, based on King’s words from the “Dream” speech “let justice run down like waters.” I like that idea. The concept called for using fountains, with sheets of water flowing over quotations in a meditative setting. But they went with the monstrous Stone of Hope.

Maybe I was being picky. Maybe most people come away from the monument inspired. I just found it severely lacking.

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“The System Worked for Us”

Last week in Dallas I met a guy from Nebraska who runs a restaurant at a country club. His wife was attending the same convention my wife was attending.

He told me his father died of a heart attack at age 46, leaving his mother to take care of 11 children. That’s right–11. They scraped by on, I believe he told me, about $500 a month, depending a lot on government assistance.

“The system worked for us,” he told me. “Maybe that’s why I’m a Democrat.”

Today, he said, he and his siblings are adults with good jobs, paying their taxes and contributing to society. But at one time they desperately needed society’s help–and because they live in America, they got it.

We hear a lot of anecdotes, most of them negative. Add this one to the mix.

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Random Thoughts Prompted by Morning Joe

This morning, Joe Scarborough, on “Morning Joe,” pretty much retroactively endorsed Jon Huntsman for president. And most of the other panelists chimed in. Huntsman, he said, had the most conservative governing record of the Republican candidates, solid foreign policy credentials, and a much-needed populist streak.

But, they agreed, in addition to running a bad campaign, his downfall was that he was also compassionate. To win the nomination, you needed to be angry, vitriolic–and Huntsman wouldn’t play that game. (Plus, Huntsman was a moderate, believed in climate change and evolution, and had worked for the Obama administration–reasons why I was anxious to vote for him, but which sunk him with the Tea Party base.)

Scarborough also, several times, derided what he called the “right wing entertainment complex” for contributing to the Republican defeat. He was obviously referring to conservative radio (Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity) and FoxNews in general. Romney had to pander to these media, running so far to the right that he alienated a large chunk of the electorate. And Scarborough alluded to ways coverage of the campaign by the right-wing media was confusing and often obsessed with trivial matters. In addition, I would add, the Tea Party is as much a media creation as a grassroots movement, and once created, it took over the party’s message (and has cost them the Senate).

I got a kick out of a comment from war historian Thomas Ricks, who was at FoxNews Wednesday morning after the election. He wrote on his blog, “There clearly was some head-scratching going on. Like, ‘Hey, perhaps the Republican Party shouldn’t have dissed women, Hispanics, the poor, and the rest of the electorate so much?’ I wonder if the jig is up for Fox: On election night, they looked like they couldn’t decide whether they were a political party or a news network.”

This right-wing entertainment complex definitely obsesses with stereotypes. Whenever they refer to latinos, they see only illegal immigrants–not Americans who live next door, at every economic level, and work in every aspect of the economy. When they talk about blacks, they seem to see only the ghetto. When they talk about single women, they see Sandra Fluke and “Sex in the City,” sex-obsessed women who crave birth control and abortions…as opposed to the quite ordinary single women you and I know. To appeal to these groups, the candidates and the right-wing media must get beyond these stereotypes…but I’m not sure the Republican base will let them.

Now, interestingly, lots of Republican voices are savaging Mitt Romney and his campaign, especially after Romney’s simplistic excuse to donors that people who voted for Obama were basically bought off (that certainly wasn’t the case with Obama supporters I know). Scarborough was incredulous that his party had nominated “Thurston Howell III,” referring to the millionaire on Gilligan’s Island who was clueless about ordinary people.

I agree with the comments being made, and hope the Republican Party can get its act together. It’s the party I grew up with, but which has renounced moderates like me. But power still resides with angry white people who take their cues from the right-wing entertaining complex. When the Republican primaries roll around in another three years, I suspect–and lament–that little will have changed. The moderate voices we’re hearing now will not prevail.

I’m a big fan of “Morning Joe.” It’s a show that political movers-and-shakers watch (as opposed to “Fox & Friends,” which incredibly still draws more viewers–a sad commentary on conservatives), and a show on which politicians like to appear. I think all of the Republican primary candidates showed up there (though I can’t remember Mitt Romney). Although Scarborough’s conservatism is front and central, everyone gets fair treatment, and Scarborough has no qualms about criticizing his Republican colleagues. It may be the only show on a commercial network where people can spend 20 minutes discussing a serious issue, with no spin and no ads.

“Morning Joe” seems totally out of place on the increasingly liberal MSNBC, but it could never exist on the highly partisan FoxNews. Every political player of every ideology wants to come on the show, and the list of guests every day is impressive. For me, it’s must-see TV…at least, until I need to go to work.

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