Somebody is Watching You

Hummingbirds are always hungry, but they are also curious. I watch them when they come to feed at the window feeder, and they take a long look at me through the window. The camera remote allows me to stay out of view while I snap the photos.

Advertisements

The Snowman

Forget about Waldo. Where’s Edward? He has been so very hard to find lately, especially for a guy known to hang out at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. And it all may well be a pointless concern at a number of levels.

Sheremetyevo Airport photo from Wikipedia

1. Any damage he was prepared to do to this country has already been done or will be done regardless of whether Edward Snowden returns to face trial and punishment. If he took anything material of interest to foreign powers, they have it by now. The Chinese may have treated Mr. Snowden cordially during his short and embarrassing stay, but former agents of the Soviet KGB are not known to be so nice. When they say, “Give me what you’ve got,” you give them what you’ve got.

2. There is the distinct possibility Snowden does not have much more materially than what he has already disclosed: The NSA is monitoring communications traffic in American and foreign markets.

3. The aforesaid information should not have been news to anybody. Prior to Snowden’s dropping a dime on the NSA I could have told the Manchester Guardian that we were monitoring everybody’s communications. And I have said so before. Of course, coming from somebody on the inside, Snowden’s story carries more weight than my idle musings. As it is, Snowden can now say anything he wants to, true or not, about United States monitoring activity, and nobody can deny his statements without revealing the actual nature of the operation. And that is something that cannot be done, because that would require  disclosing classified information, just the thing Snowden is facing charges for.

4. Leaving Snowden to dangle in the hands of Russian intelligence or to languish in some backwater country would give me, and should give the government, greater satisfaction than would bringing him back to prosecute and incarcerate. For one, it would save us all a lot of money, and for another the longer he festers among some of the world’s least agile proponents of civil rights, the less credibility he retains. Beyond a point, disconnected from his previous sources of information, the less of what he has to say is pertinent or believable. And he would be able to take a life example from the fictional Philip Nolan character.

Snowden’s father has, through a lawyer, petitioned the government to accept Snowden back on terms: Snowden to remain free prior to his trial, no gag order, a trial venue of Snowden’s choosing. None of these conditions the United States government is likely to accept. Meanwhile, Snowden’s situation seems to be slipping further from his control.

PORTOVIEJO, Ecuador (AP) — Edward Snowden is “under the care of the Russian authorities” and can’t leave Moscow’s international airport without their consent, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa told The Associated Press Sunday in an interview telegraphing the slim and diminishing possibility that the National Security Agency leaker will end up in Ecuador.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has distanced himself from the case since Snowden arrived in Russia last week. But Correa portrayed Russia as entirely the masters of Snowden’s fate.

Putin insists the 30-year-old former NSA contractor remains in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and that as long as he has not legally entered Russia, he is out of the Kremlin’s control.

However, the Kremlin also said Sunday that it will take public opinion and the views of human rights activists into account when considering Snowden’s case, a move that could lay the groundwork for him to seek asylum in Russia.

How many different ways are there to spell “exile?”

Here is what is interesting. I would think that for all his claims about being the protector of our civil rights and exposing the evils of the world he should get more support from the liberal public and media. That does not appear to be the case.

My Facebook “friends” are a collection of conservative and liberal advocates, and from both sides I regularly see the most posts of wildly extreme claims. To date none of my “friends” have posted in favor of Snowden. It could be that, because the alleged activity of the NSA was proposed by a Republican president and further endorsed by a liberal Democratic president and has been endorsed by Congress and has not been successfully challenged in any court, then Snowden is beginning to look like the odd man out. Philip Nolan may soon have company.

Standing Pat

I just love Pat Robertson, I really do. I love him so much. I would be terribly disheartened if the Lord took him from us, because he is such a source for us all. Source of what is another matter, but he is especially a source for me. Here is what he had to say recently:

Robertson warns on LGBT marriages: God could do something ‘drastic’ like Sodom and Gomorrah

Televangelist Pat Robertson on Thursday reacted to two landmark Supreme Court decisions favoring same sex marriage by suggesting that the court’s swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, may have law clerks “who happen to be gays.”

Of course I knew what was coming, because I am psychic. OK, I am not psychic, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn once. Predicting how Robertson will react has become gum ball machine reliable. Some of the fun has gone out. Well, not all of the fun.

Robertson had more to say:

“Unfortunately it’s been cast as a civil rights struggle, and once you say civil rights, you look back to Martin Luther King and the others and say we’ve got to stand for the oppressed,” he shrugged. “So ladies and gentlemen, your liberties are in danger because read the Bible about Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s where the term comes from, Sodom.”

“Look what happened to Sodom. After a while, there wasn’t any other way, and God did something pretty drastic.”

Last year, Robertson told his viewers that homosexuality “is somehow related to demonic possession.”

I think I have this straight. This is the person making the foregoing comments:

Robertson has a distinguished career as the founder of several major organizations and corporations as well as a university: The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the International Family Entertainment Inc. (ABC Family Channel), Regent University, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), the Founders Inn and Conference Center, the Christian Coalition, a Boeing 757 Flying Hospital, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation, and CBN Asia. He is a best selling author and the host of The 700 Club, a Christian News and TV program broadcast live weekdays on the ABC Family Channel via satellite from CBN studios, as well as on channels throughout the United States, and on CBN network affiliates worldwide.

That is a lot of stuff accomplished by somebody just ten years older than I am. And he has not yet caught on to the fact demons are mythical beings and that Sodom is a mythical place?

The historicity of Sodom and Gomorrah is still in dispute by archaeologists, as little archaeological evidence has ever been found in the regions where they were supposedly situated. Strabo states that locals living near Moasada (as opposed to Masada) say that “there were once thirteen inhabited cities in that region of which Sodom was the metropolis”. Strabo identifies a limestone and salt hill at the south western tip of the Dead Sea, and Kharbet Usdum ruins nearby as the site of biblical Sodom.

Wait, I have something to more to say about this. The primary reference to a place called Sodom is in the Book of Genesis, well known to be a fictional narrative. The story that gives Sodom its significance is bizarre beyond belief.

GENESIS 19 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said,  “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References) (Kindle Locations 1633-1651). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

So, the story is that two angels (mythical beings) came to Lot’s home in Sodom, and he put them up for the night. But, before anybody could get comfortable all the men (and boys) of the town came to Lot’s home and demanded he send out the two stranger so they could bugger them. Well, Lot would hear none of that, because the two men (mythical beings) were guests in his home, and he would not submit to their being buggered by all the men and boys in the town. But, Lot had a better idea. Lot had two daughters who had never been screwed, and he offered them to the men and boys of the town if they would leave hist two guests (mythical beings) at peace.

Of course, you know the rest of the story, and the Lord warned Lot to take his family and flee the town of Sodom, because the Lord was going to rain fire and brimstone down on it and destroy it and all the buggers living in it. And the Lord warned Lot that nobody should look back after leaving the town, but Lot’s wife, being as wives are, could not help but look back, and the Lord kindly turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, for which Lot had no use.

So, that left Lot alone in the wilderness with only his two daughters, so he ended up screwing them, instead. And I guess the Lord was OK with that.

And that’s a great story, and that’s the basis for the existence of Sodom. And Pat Robertson takes it at face value, and that’s why I just love Pat. If Pat did not exist I would have to create him, because I need somebody, I desperately do need somebody, to hold up as an example of what an otherwise healthy mind can come to.

Readers, take a lesson from Pat, and don’t let this happen to you. You think Lot’s wife got a raw deal? Take a look at Pat.

The Grand Alliance

I am reading Winston Churchill’s book The Second World War, and the third volume is The Grand Alliance. The tale is told by a person who was there and who took an immense part in this historical episode from the very beginning. Churchill’s view during the war was necessarily restricted to his own part, but following the war the entire workings of the Third Reich fell into the victors’ hands. Churchill made much use of this documentation, which included private correspondence between major players of the axis powers.

Post war revelations from these documents laid bare for the world what could only be conjectured during the events, and they exposed a level of perfidy and back dealing that would be the envy of any modern criminal gang. That people like these came to such power in major nations at the time is one aspect that makes the history of the Second World War such fascinating reading.

England and France declared war on Germany in 1939 due to the German invasion of Poland. Previously German Chancellor Adolph Hitler had successively broken portions of the Treaty of Versailles and had made aggressive moves against neighboring countries. Each time the victors of The Great War had backed down, not wanting to start another war with Germany. Poland had been the final straw and England and France belatedly began to prepare for military conflict. It was too late, and in 1940 Hitler struck at Norway and Denmark, then a month later at The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, all without any prior warning. France was quickly invaded and subdued, and England fought on alone, the sole major power to continue to oppose Germany. The United States remained neutral. No American politician could get elected without declaring American neutrality in the war.

When England would not accept peace terms with Germany, Hitler launched air attacks on England with the idea of a cross-channel invasion to follow. However, England won the air battle and gave German forces their first setback of the war. Then England went on the offensive. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini pitched his lot in with Hitler and began a grab for French, Balkan, Greek and African territory. The English went on the offensive and dealt the Italian army in North Africa a severe and embarrassing defeat. The year 1941 dawned with the opposing powers preparing their next moves.

In The Grand Alliance Churchill presents the text of a letter Hitler sent to Mussolini on the last day of 1940. The letter runs to several pages and has numbered sections. Hitler deals with different aspects of his current outlook, and the section pertaining to Russia (the Soviet Union) is most interesting:

Russia. Given the danger of seeing internal conflicts develop in a certain number of Balkan countries, it is necessary to foresee the extreme consequences and to have ready machinery capable of avoiding them. I do not envisage any Russian initiative against us so long as Stalin is alive, and we ourselves are not victims of serious setbacks. I consider it essential, Duce, as a premise of a satisfactory conclusion of this war that there should be in existence a German army sufficiently strong to deal with any eventuality in the East. The greater the strength of this army appears the less will be the probability that we shall have to employ it against an unforeseen danger. I would like to add to these general considerations that our present relations with the U.S.S.R. are very good. We are on the eve of concluding a trade treaty which will satisfy both parties, and there is considerable hope that we can resolve in a reasonable manner the remaining points at issue between us.

Churchill, Winston (2010-07-01). The Grand Alliance (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 308-314). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

What is so interesting are the last two sentences. Relations with the U.S.S.R. are good, and Hitler is negotiating a trade treaty that will be beneficial to both parties. Really? Hitler’s duplicity was something he could not share even with his partner in crime, Mussolini. The truth is that nearly a month prior, on 5 December, Hitler had already approved plans for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion and destruction of the Soviet Union.

On 5 December 1940, Hitler received military plans for the invasion, and approved them all, with the start scheduled for May 1941. On 18 December, Hitler signed War Directive No. 21 to the German High Command for an operation now codenamed “Operation Barbarossa” stating: “The German Wehrmacht must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign.” The operation was named after Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire, a leader of the Third Crusade in the 12th century. The invasion was set for 15 May 1941. The plan for Barbarossa assumed that the Wehrmacht would emerge victorious if it could destroy the bulk of the Red Army west of the Western Dvina and Dnieper Rivers. This assumption would be proven fatally wrong less than a month into the invasion.

If Mussolini was deceived, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was doubly so. The Brits had access to a person, whose identity has never been discovered, who knew of the invasion plan. Stalin, the cold blooded killer and consummate schemer, refused to believe the warnings about his German co-conspirator until German forces opened fire at the Soviet border in the predawn hours of 22 June 1941.

If there is any consolation to all this, both parties quickly experienced deep regret. Stalin suffered enormous military and civilian losses before he was able to turn the tide. “The German invasion of the Soviet Union caused a high rate of fatalities: 95% of all German Army casualties that occurred from 1941 to 1944, and 65% of all Allied military casualties from the entire war.”

Hitler’s blunder was an enormous contributor to the Allied victory in the European theater of World War Two.

DOMA and Dumber

That’s about what it was. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was a crude attempt by a conservative element in this country to stick a finger in the eye of people who were not straight like them. The fact that from time to time some of these straight people turned out to be not so straight is beside the point. But I will make this side bar.

First examine former Senator Larry Craig from the state of Idaho:

The American Conservative Union rated Craig’s 2005 voting record at 96 out of 100 points, while the Americans for Democratic Action rated him at 15 points. Craig supported the Federal Marriage Amendment, which barred extension of rights to same-sex couples; he voted for cloture on the amendment in both 2004 and 2006, and was a cosponsor in 2008. However, in late 2006 he appeared to endorse the right of individual states to create same-sex civil unions, but said he would vote “yes” on an Idaho constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages when pressured to clarify his position by the anti-gay rights advocacy group Families for a Better Idaho. Craig voted against cloture in 2002, which would have extended the federal definition of hate crimes to cover sexual orientation. This legislation was passed in 2007 in both the House and the Senate as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. Craig voted against the measure. The LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign issued guides to candidates’ voting records in 2004. The Human Rights Campaign group gave him a 0 rating.

Well, that pretty much shows which side of the fence Senator Craig is on when it comes to the “Gay Agenda.”

On August 27, 2007, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call revealed that Craig had been arrested for lewd conduct in the men’s restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on June 11, 2007, and entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct on August 8, 2007. Despite firmly stating that he was not and never had been gay, Craig announced his intention to resign from the Senate at a news conference on September 1, 2007, but later decided to finish the remainder of his term.

And that pretty much does it for the duplicity of some of those opposing the “Gay Agenda.”

Let me give you Ted Haggard. Take him, please.

In 2006, Haggard and his church supported “Amendment 43” to the Colorado Constitution. It provided, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.” Although Colorado law already defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, Haggard and other gay marriage opponents sought to enshrine the prohibition in the state constitution, so that the Colorado Supreme Court would not have the power to declare the statute unconstitutional. In the movie Jesus Camp, Haggard says, “we don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible.” Haggard initially opposed same-sex marriage, but supported civil unions for homosexual couples. He later came to support same-sex marriage as a civil institution, saying that while he still believes it is forbidden under Biblical law, he feels that “we need to be careful not to inculcate [biblical law] into civil law.”

Under Haggard’s leadership, the NAE released “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” in late 2004, “a document urging engagement in traditional culture war issues such as abortion and gay marriage but also poverty, education, taxes, welfare and immigration.” The NAE has stated that “homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures.”

Obviously this country needs more people like Ted Haggard to protect our national morality and to protect the sanctity of marriage. Really?

In November 2006, escort and masseur Mike Jones alleged that Haggard had paid him for sex for three years and had also purchased and used crystal methamphetamine. A few days later Haggard resigned from all of his leadership positions.

After the scandal was publicized, Haggard entered three weeks of intensive counseling, overseen by four ministers. In February 2007, one of those ministers, Tim Ralph, said that Haggard “is completely heterosexual.” Ralph later said he meant that therapy “gave Ted the tools to help to embrace his heterosexual side.” On June 1, 2010 Haggard announced that he intended to start a new church in Colorado Springs. In the February 2011 issue of GQ, however, Haggard said “…probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.”

And that pretty much does it for relying on our religious leaders to protect the national morality and the sanctity of marriage. So, who do we turn to? The courts, maybe?

Photo from onlineparalegalprograms.com

I got involved in this back in 2008, and did I ever step into a minefield. It came about this way. Some local governments in California took it upon themselves to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If you have ever been married (and there are fewer of you all the time) you will have glanced at the application form. I recall there is a place for the name of the husband, and there is a place for the name of the wife. Nobody said it hundreds of years ago when these forms were first drafted, but it was presumed the husband would be a man (biologically), and the wife would be a woman. Only they forgot to say so.

Citizens of California became alarmed. This must not be allowed. So the citizens (OK, some politicians) drafted Proposition 8 and submitted it to the electorate for ratification. California is one of those states that rules a lot by citizen referendum. Proposition 8 passed, and same-sex marriage became de jure disallowed. The gay rights crowd in California became incensed over this result, as did gay activists across the nation. There was a big push to overturn Proposition 8.

That’s when I weighed in.

One of my liberal friends circulated an e-mail urging a call to arms to support the repeal. My blunt response was that I thought Proposition 8 was a dumb idea, and the push for repeal was equally dumb. Of course, the shit hit the fan.

Since this was a mass mailing I received a lot of response, none of it complimentary to me. My liberal friend, for whom I have great respect, responded to me saying something to the effect that Proposition 8 prevented homosexuals from getting married.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but I have a great aversion to facetious arguments. No, I responded. It is not illegal for homosexuals to get married. I could have pointed to the married Larry Craig and the married Ted Haggard, but in fact I personally know a homosexual man who married a woman. So it was not before, and it is still not illegal for homosexuals to get married.

My friend immediately sought to set me straight (no pun intended). No, no, no. The law prevents homosexuals from marrying each other. Although I have no counter examples, I unwisely pointed out that two homosexuals could marry each other, provided that one was a man, and the other was a woman.

About this time my friend compared me to a creationist, and the dialog broke off. Being compared to a creationist is the one insult I will not tolerate, but that is not why I broke off the dialog. The temperature was just getting too high for what should have been a rational discussion of the issues.

Others on the e-mail list insisted that marriage was a constitutional right and made similar arguments. One recounted how the rights of homosexuals have been abused by the government in the past. The Stonewall Inn raid was mentioned.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. The Stonewall Inn, at the time, was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

This was mentioned to me as though I were unaware of it. In fact, I had heard of this episode in American history, but I did not know it to the detail my correspondent obviously did.

Anyhow, I restated my position that denial of same-sex marriage does not rise to the level of a civil rights issue on par with voting rights and those freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights. Putting same-sex marriage at the level of the Stonewall raid would have the effect of taking this abuse of power down a notch rather than elevating same-sex marriage rights.

Also, I mentioned, I am also opposed to heterosexual marriage rights. Since when does the government feel the need to get into the marriage business? I have long had an issue with this.

I served some time on an aircraft carrier at sea. It’s not an easy life. If you are married it is doubly not easy. I was single, so I was in a better position than some. A few in my division were married. And here is what I noticed. Married guys (no women on the ship) got a little extra in their paychecks because they were married. It was called something like a marriage allowance. I did not get this money. The government obviously thought the married guys worked longer, harder, better than I did, and deserved more. No, the government just took pity on married guys and paid them something to compensate them for their misery.

Well, maybe that statement is a little extreme. Later in life I noticed extra benefits of being married. At various times in this country there has been an income tax benefit for being married. Sometimes being married was worse.

The marriage penalty in the United States refers to the higher taxes required from some married couples filing one tax return (“married filing jointly”) that would not be required by two otherwise identical single people with the exact same income. Multiple factors are involved, but in general, lower to middle income couples usually benefit from filing as a married couple, while upper income couples are often penalized. The percentage of couples affected has varied over the years, depending on shifts in tax rates.

Then there is the inheritance benefit.

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013), is a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York’s decision in Windsor v. United States, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, as it defines the term marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” and spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife”.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in December 2012 and heard oral arguments on March 27, 2013. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Windsor on June 26, 2013, striking down Section 3 of DOMA and declaring the provision unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment.

That brings us up to today. The Supreme Court has gutted DOMA and has also ruled against petitioners in support of Proposition 8. After Proposition 8 in California was ratified, the political climate changed, and the state government quit enforcing the law. Today the Court ruled against supporters of Proposition 8, effectively nullifying it.

A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed the decision that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. The stay has remained in place as the appeals continued to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on March 26, 2013.

On June 26, 2013, in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that supporters of the measure did not have the legal standing to appeal the lower court’s ruling, clearing the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Today gay rights activists are celebrating this double victory in the Supreme Court, and we can expect same-sex marriage to eventually become legal across the land. The reaction has been predictable. Here is my take.

Gay activists are using phrases like, “Now you can marry the person you love, regardless of sexual orientation.”  No, now you can marry another person regardless of their sexual orientation and regardless of whether you love them or not.

The law cannot give you love. The law can only give you material benefits. Edith Windsor had to pay $363,000 in taxes when her love interest died. If they had been legally married, she would have had to pay no taxes. That’s a substantial material benefit. She correctly pointed out in a TV interview today that if she had met Mr. Spyer and married him the day before he died instead of having met Ms. Spyer and living with her for 40 years, she would have had no tax bill. Something seemed unjust about the whole business. The government, by getting into the marriage business, was denying a tax benefit purely for sexual reasons. Anyhow, that is no more. Edith Windsor is about to get a tax refund.

Gay activists say that now their lifelong commitments are going to be recognized by society, and they will be able to cast off the stigma of living in sin. No they will not.

If you are homosexual Senator Craig is still not going to like you and neither is Ted Haggard. Their own lifestyles notwithstanding, people like Craig and Haggard have been raised to believe homosexuality is wrong, sinful, an abomination, and a disgrace in the eyes of the Lord. And it’s not just Christians. Muslims cast a squinting eye on homosexual activity. In some places homosexuality carries the death penalty. The parish priest is not going to give you holy communion and Tim Wildmon is not going to invite you to his Christmas party.

We are deeply saddened by today’s decision to not only allow but encourage same-sex marriage in our country—a country that was founded on biblical principles. We mourn for America’s future, but we are not without hope . . . Our next line of defense is to vigorously protect our religious liberty. The homosexual lobby and agenda is running rampant across America, and is even pervading our elementary schools. . .

On the other hand, if I hear it correctly from the Religious Right, defeat of DOMA will spell the doom of traditional family values. It will be the end of one man, one woman marriage.

No it will not. I have news for these guys. The end of one man, one woman marriage was thousands of years ago. The earliest Christians were Jews. That’s not a contradiction. Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew. Anyhow, that’s another story. Jews were polygamous as was the offspring Christian sect. When the Christians edged into the Roman Empire, the Romans put an end to that. Romans are notorious for doing a lot of sleeping around, but on marriage, for inheritance and property law purposes, they insisted on one man, one woman for marriage. And Christians were largely monogamous from that time on. Until…

Until even quite recently. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints embraced polygamy, which makes recent politics that much more interesting. Enter ostensibly Religious Right presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney labeled Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe”, and asserted that preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability should be America’s “highest national security priority”. Romney stated his strong support for Israel. He planned to formally label China a currency manipulator and take associated counteractions unless that country changed its trade practices. Romney supported the Patriot Act, continued operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and use of enhanced interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists. Romney opposed same-sex marriage and civil unions, although he favored domestic partnership legislation that gives certain legal rights to same-sex couples, such as hospital visitation. In 2011, he signed a pledge promising to seek passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. [My emphasis added]

Of course, Romney is a Mormon, and spectators at the most recent election experienced great delight in watching him defend DOMA on religious grounds, said religious grounds being about as stable as a bed of quicksand.

Romney’s family tree is rife with polygamists on the paternal side, though there is no indication of polygamy on the maternal side of his family. According to a research by The Salt Lake Tribune, Romney’s ancestry harbors six polygamous men with forty-one wives. Romney, however, is a confirmed monogamist and polygamy has been absent in his family background for more than two generations.

The idea that the death of DOMA will end “traditional” marriage seems absurd on the face of it. I am married (to a person of the opposite sex) and intend to remain so. However, this afternoon I am going to drive downtown and see if there is a long line of people waiting to file for divorce in light of today’s Supreme Court rulings. Just kidding. I am going to take a nap.

Motorcycling Excitement

Forty years ago I used to write a column for a local TV listing. The publication was called TV Preview, and the publisher wanted something in it besides TV talk, and I was supposed to provide that. Anyhow, the column was called Motorcycling Excitement, hence the title of this post.

Motorcycling Excietment

That was so long ago, and there is not so much excitement in my life. I have not been to a motorcycle race in over three years, and I don’t even have a motorcycle anymore. What is still exciting these days is what today’s riders are still doing after all this time but with the newer and faster machines.

So, to get you interested, here are a few clips from You Tube. The first seems to be a mix of Ulster Grand Prix (Northern Ireland) and Isle of Man TT, mostly the Northern Ireland race. It’s hard for me to tell the difference just looking at the scenery, but the best way to know you are not at the IOM TT is if you see a bunch of riders together. The IOM race is really a session of time trials, with riders starting singly a few seconds apart. I am sure this is to eliminate any track congestion, which would prove fatal on the narrow country roads of the IOM.

The Ulster Grand Prix is run on the 7.4-mile Dunrod circuit, of course on the streets and country roads of Northern Ireland. It’s supposed to be the fastest motorcycle race in the world. Anyhow, here is the first clip. One thing I like about this is the cute song that’s played over the action.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU-ynRoqDEs

This next clip is entirely the IOM TT. The clip opens with a view of the famous Manx coat of arms. The course is about 37 miles around. It starts in the port town of Douglas and heads down Bray Hill, thence to the small village of Union Mills and around the island’s country lanes. It passes through Ramsey, then up through the mountain section. You are going to see a couple of sequences of a bike sliding off the course along the mountain road. Supposedly the rider did not get killed in this adventure, but others have not been so lucky. They have been running this event for about 100 years, and over 200 riders have been killed. Another clip I will show later notes that one year seven people were killed, three riders and four members of the public. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxHzwWndtvk

Putting The Shine On

The item is right. The price is right. It’s time to make a deal.

Any exchange of goods and services for money can be agreeable to both sides. I enjoy finding just what I want for what I am prepared to pay. Sellers like this confluence, as well. Often times there is something more to throw into the deal. Something extra. The deal is already attractive. Let’s make it even more attractive. Let’s polish it up a bit. I have a term for this extra added gloss. I call it “putting on the shine.”

Here’s why sellers like “the shine.” It may cost them little or nothing. The added profit is something else. If an item is being offered at a very thin margin, then putting on the shine can wonderfully swell the profit on the deal.

I see this a lot, and I typically recognize this extra is nothing but shine, and I pass it over. Money changes hands, and I am out the door. Sometimes I don’t pass it over, and sometimes it makes an interesting story. This is my story.

It was not a dinette set we were looking for. We had plans to replace a living room sofa that had proved unsatisfactory after a couple of years, and we were in Star Furniture on I-10 in San Antonio. We saw an attractive sofa, but it was not time to buy. We decided to think about it and to look some more. Then we saw the dinette set.

There are few times the spouse and I agree on anything, and this was one of those times. The table has an inlaid travertine stone top, and the chairs have a matching panel in the backs. Colors, style, materials—everything matches with our kitchen, where we want to replace the glass top table. It was on sale! The deal was quickly done.

And the sales woman offered to put a little shine on the deal. To protect the chair seat fabric from future stains, the store would treat the fabric and provide a warranty for five years. With the special fabric treatment, if within five years we experienced a stain we could not clean, then the store would make it right. Only $110. And if after five years we had no need for recourse to the warranty, then we would be able to apply the $110 to a credit at the story. A nice bit of gloss.

Being an engineer and being very practical, I was thinking, “The fabric is not already treated at the factory?” Also, “What kind of fabric treatment costs $27.50 per chair seat?” The spouse was in charge, and I stood back, as I often do. This way I avoid any home side conflict, and also I sometimes get a good story out of it. Such as now.

So a few days later we picked up the dinette set at the store where it had arrived from the warehouse in boxes. Some assembly required. We took the purchase home and set about assembling. Did I mention I was a mechanical engineer in a previous life?

I started pulling pieces out of the boxes, and one of the first things I noticed was that the seat cushions were still in their factory sealed plastic bags. I discussed this with the spouse. At what point in the process did these chair seats get a $110 dollar stain protection treatment? What was it we had paid $110 for? We were beginning to think the $110 was a wager with the store against some future unpardonable stain. Maybe nothing more. And if we lost, and the store never had to make good on repair or replacement, then we would be enticed back to the store with a $110 credit. Repeat business. A very nice bit of shine.

First of all the spouse and I were not pleased at paying extra for an application that came with the chair seats from the factory. A quick phone call to the store got a determination to make the situation right. On appointment a man from the store would come and, while we watched, would treat the chair seats. On Saturday the door bell chimed.

The man from the store was very pleasant, and he spread a protective covering on our living room floor and took the chair seats in turn, which we had not yet bolted to the frames. He took out a spray bottle and squirted each seat, and the deed was done. And the man from the store was gone.

The interesting thing was the man from the store only squirted some liquid from his spray bottle on each seat. I observed there were areas of fabric that did not get any of the spray. How was this going to work? We wondered at this, and the idea for a great blog post came to mind.

A follow-up phone call to the sales woman at the store obtained the assurance that the chair fabric was now well-protected. Absent our satisfaction, we could get the $110 refunded. That we did today at the loss of any shine on the furniture transaction. But a great topic for a blog posting. Which is what this is.

Bad Joke of the Week

So, just how many dogs does it take to change a light bulb? That depends on the breed:

Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, and you’re inside worrying about a stupid burned out bulb?

Border Collie: Just one. And then I’ll replace any wiring that’s not up to code.

Dachshund: You know I can’t reach that stupid lamp!

Rottweiler: Make me.

Boxer: Who cares? I can still play with my squeaky toys in the dark.

Lab: Oh, me, me!!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Huh? Can I? Pleeeeeeeeeze, please, please, please!

German Shepherd: I’ll change it as soon as I’ve led these people from the dark, check to make sure I haven’t missed any, and make just one more perimeter patrol to see that no one has tried to take advantage of the situation.

Jack Russell Terrier: I’ll just pop it in while I’m bouncing off the walls and furniture.

Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? I’m sorry, but I don’t see a light bulb!

Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the dark.

Chihuahua : We don’t need no stinking light bulb.

Greyhound: It isn’t moving. Who cares?

Australian Shepherd: First, I’ll put all the light bulbs in a little circle…

Poodle: I’ll just blow in the Border Collie’s ear and he’ll do it.. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.

.