Friday, June 25, 2010

Ancestor Love, Part One

This was my religion long before I ever chose to associate myself with any sort of "official" religious point of view or denomination. It grew out of a general inquisitiveness and a specific need to know about my father's family; because, unlike my mother, he appeared to have landed from another planet (one I would later find out was called "Chicago").  Up in Maine (my world was the suburbs of Buffalo at the time), I had grandparents, aunts and uncles, and what seemed like oodles of cousins.  I knew this, of course, because we visited them and they visited us regularly.  My father's parents, I was told, were long dead...but I was to think of my great-uncle and -aunt as grandparents.  (This didn't fly once I got old enough to know the difference.)  There were some cousins out in Chicago that I knew about -- one even came to visit -- but they were older and the distance was great.  I asked my father repeatedly about these people and could not begin to understand why he couldn't or wouldn't share more information.  My whole world was my family at that age (7 or 8?) could it not be the same with him?

So, I concentrated on my mother's side.  Descendants of the Mayflower and the others who soon followed, their American past had long been documented for the likes of me to discover anew. The genealogical collection at the Main Branch of the New York Public Library is filled with family histories tracing these early families through 7, 8, 9 generations as they scattered across New England, the Mid-Atlantic and eventually the Midwest -- usually coming up to the very beginning of the 20th century.  I only needed a couple of generations to connect myself to these various lines, and that's where my great-great-uncle Dexter came in. When he caught the bug, it was all about connecting oneself a) to the Pilgrims and b) back to Europe in the hopes of unearthing some royal blood.  It was all about snobbery, which is very funny because the Pilgrims seemed like very annoying annoying that they had to come to the middle of nowhere to find any peace.  (Think Utah.)

For me, it had nothing to do with snobbery.  It had everything to do with figuring out my origins; and, if I couldn't get any traction with my father's side, I could at least find out everything that was knowable about these New England folks -- the good, the bad, and the downright embarrassing.  And I got it in spades.

It was also a chance to kindle an interest in history.  Following my mother's ancestors as they left Massachusetts and New Hampshire for Connecticut, Maine and New Brunswick, Canada (Loyalists!), is like watching the larger story of the American colonies (the Northern ones, at least) unfold.  Maine, where I spent my teenage years and college, is particularly interesting.  Younger sons, who would not inherit land back in an increasingly-crowded Massachusetts, would slowly colonize Maine (then a district of Massachusetts), creeping farther up the coast and inland, generation by generation.  Richard Gowell -- whose surname my mother would inherit almost 300 years later -- began his time on these shores around 1660 near the modern-day state line between Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine.  His great-grandson would know Berwick, some 20 miles to the north, and Lebanon, another 10 miles to the north.  His great-great-grandson (my gr-gr-gr-gr-grandfather) would grow up in Auburn (like me), a whopping 70 miles to the north and east.

Other lines went even farther inland, but they all share the same characteristic of bleeding across the land like an ink stain or a spilled glass of red wine.  It can't have been an easy life.  It rewarded the hearty (many of these ancestors lived to a ripe, old age), killed many long before their time, and severely tested those with frailties or other limitations.  If you were so inclined, it could make you a real ass.

Take Stephen Douglas Alden, my great-great-grandfather.  He was born in 1863, so clearly his first and middle names were no Lincoln-lovers, his parents.  His surname Alden, he inherited as a (gr x 6)-grandson of Pilgrim John Alden.  He was born in an area along the Androscoggin River that would come to support many milltowns with its falls and rushing water.  The Maine Aldens had been farmers up to this time, but the industrial age was pushing many into the mills, including Stephen.  It must have been something of a shock, and he doesn't seem to have been made the better for it.  He later would marry another descendant with a famous New England last name -- Elsie Edith Whitney.  But, these were the poor, country cousins and apparently Stephen wasn't (by then?  ever?) a very nice man.  The marriage ended just shy of the turn of the century, which I can only imagine was quite a scandal.  I've been told my great-grandmother never forgave him and would later shut her own door in his face.

So, here's the rub.  To a teenager, eager to learn about his ancestors, "Stephen Douglas Alden" sounds like quite a catch. After all, he's named after a prominent political figure of the time; he carried the surname Alden; he marked the moment an agrarian society enters the industrial age!  Then the adult learns this seemingly storied ancestor was an absolute cad.  But the bubble didn't burst; it simply got more defined.  And it made what came after him in the form of family drama -- even to my day -- more understandable.  I don't have to like Stephen, but he's undeniably part of my puzzle.  And my sister's.  And my cousins'.  Forever. And, for that, I do have to love him.  And now, after years of searching, I know he (and his 3rd wife!) are buried near New Haven, CT, where I'll soon visit his grave (and forgive him).

I don't have a picture of Stephen, but here is his son Arthur Francis Alden, who was later killed in France during World War I. Handsome, no?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy 216th Birthday, Bowdoin!

216 years ago today, the charter was signed by Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams in Boston creating a new college in the then District of Maine.

Click here for a fascinating timeline the folks at have put together showing images from the history of the school.  My favorite would have to be this:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Childish Jeb Bush calls Obama childish

If I were Jeb Bush, I wouldn't touch my brother's administration with a ten-foot pole.  (I also wouldn't be writing this because I'd be rich and have much better things to buy stuff and travel, etc.)  This is the smart Bush who was supposed to be president, who -- one imagines -- still entertains loftier political goals.  Why on Earth would he start defending his brother -- the one person who will scuttle any chances of another Bush living in the White House -- especially when he knows full well that his brother's administration is still (and will remain for quite some time) very much to blame for where our country finds itself today!?

Conventional, inside-the-beltway wisdom says a new administration can only blame the previous one for so long before sounding whiny.  Fine, but how exactly is our current situation "conventional"?  Two wars, an economy in tatters, record foreclosures, sustained unemployment, an ocean filling up with oil...all with George W. Bush's fingerprints on them. Reminding people that Obama didn't create any of this -- and further is doing his best (with varying degrees of success) to clean up the mess -- isn't whiny or "childish" as Jeb says, it's stating an obvious fact.

Childish is whining about the fact that people are being mean to his brother.  Give me a break!

[Hat tip:  Politico; photo via this blog.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book of Common Prayer in 4 Minutes

I'm well aware that many of my readers are of different or non-faiths.  As a non-orthodox kind of guy, I actually like this...however I'm happy to provide something that I think -- in an amusing sort of way -- gives a picture of what I believe and what I am about.  So, without further ado, I give you:



Even better than a pie in Anita Bryant's face!

Finally, the Left is remembering how to be funny.  Jon Stewart can't possibly carry the burden all by himself!

[Hat tip:  Americablog.]

Gen. McChrystal has really stepped in it this time!

Just like the "fake cable news" (The Daily Show) is a thousand times better at meaningful analysis than the "real cable news" (CNN, FOX, MSNBC), "fake internet political website" (Wonkette) is better than just about everyone other than Ezra Klein.  Hands down.

Read here, where they expertly distill the bigwig brouhaha brewing in the Situation Room.

Personally, I hope Obama fires his ass.  (Can you imagine what the general would do if the roles were reversed?)

[Photo:  AP by Pete Souza.]

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mike Huckabee thinks gay marriage is icky...

...reports Talking Points Memo here, quoting from a recent profile by The New Yorker.

This is rich coming from a man who posed for this Christmas card picture:

Apparently, ick is in the eye of the beholder.

[Photo via Wonkette.]

Thank you, Nancy.

From "Nancy Pelosi Slams Senate Dithering on Jobs" at HuffPo. (See, Mom...she's not so bad.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Our First Father

Full disclosure: this is fluffy and cheesey, but I really don't care. Despite myriad disappointments, I'm still very glad Barack Obama is our President (especially when I'm reminded of the alternative). These images -- apolitical, the lot of them -- remind me about some of the reasons I like and trust (with verification) this guy.

Say what you will about him, it appears that he loves his girls...and they love him. So, Happy Father's Day, Mr. President!

[Hat tip and image from HuffPo.]

I ♥ Joe Biden

[Hat tip: Daily Dish; Source: YouTube.]

Friday, June 18, 2010

Canterbury to Jefferts Schori: Hold Your Tongue!

Yesterday, I stumbled across Diana Butler Bass' excellent summation of Mitregate via her Twitter feed.  (I "follow" her there, and you should too; she's terrific.)  For uninitiated, the Presiding Bishop of The [American] Episcopal Church is Katharine Jefferts Schori -- our equivalent of an any other name, the head of our national church and local province of the Anglican Communion and a co-equal to Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.  She was in England this last Sunday, where she preached and was celebrant at London's Southwark Cathedral. However, in compliance with a "statement" from Lambeth Palace (home to the A. of C.) that she not wear her mitre, she chose to carry it.

As Butler Bass describes, the mitre is "the pointy hat that bishops wear as a symbol of their office and authority".  Think:  Barack Obama, as host Head of State, making a statement that Queen Elizabeth II, a visiting Head of State, was not to wear a crown or tiara at a White House State Dinner.

It was a big, ole diss.

Jefforts Schori, being a class act, obeyed the request of her host, no doubt knowing that, in doing so, she would embarrass him no end on the brouhaha that was sure to follow.  Score one for America.

However, human -- dare I say, worldly -- feelings aside as well as the politics of Jefferts Schori's femaleness (women bishop are not done in England) and her support for openly-gay clergy (ditto), there's a bigger reason the Archbishop should be ashamed of himself.  In addition to representing the bishop's office and authority, the mitre also represents the tongue of fire given to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit so that they could communicate the Gospels to all people in every human tongue.  This was Williams' real slight.

How ironic that two Primates (another fun term for the heads of national churches within the Communion), already "separated by a common language", would be symbolically hamstrung yet one more level by the English host telling his American guest to hold her tongue!

[Image via Canterbury Tales blog.]

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Oval Office Address that could have been.

This will make you feel better.  Or worse.  Or both, simultaneously. At least somebody gets it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fox News vs. the "Lamestream Media"

Hi Sarah!  Have you noticed anything similar between your network and the rest of what you call the "lamestream media"?  No?  Really?

Allow me to enlighten you.  Fox isn't the only news outlet trashing the President -- others include MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, etc.

How could this possibly be?  Unlike Fox, MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, etc. are in the pocket of the Left, right?  We're all just playing the same game, right?  Right!?

Poor Sarah.  She doesn't understand editorial independence or integrity.  She only understands being bought and paid for.  She only understands a news outlet that has no daylight between its news content and a particular party's platform.  How disconcerting it must be for her to digest the fact that "the lamestream media" might almost universally criticize "its own President".

You know she's trying to do the math...but can' know, because it's hard.

In Louisiana, "Gulf" means oil and gas

Pity poor Barack Obama.  The man is getting fruits and vegetables thrown at him from all directions, from friends and enemies alike. True, some of the reaction is self-imposed -- last night's much-touted but ultimately flaccid speech being the latest example -- but, at the end of the day, our President finds himself smack dab in the middle of a crazy conundrum:  Louisiana's oil and gas industry is as Cajun as its crawdads.

Anyone who grew up or has lived in the Northeast is familiar with Gulf gas stations; they're ubiquitous.  They're also aptly named.

To me -- and I imagine most Americans -- Louisiana conjures up images of Spanish moss, bayous, Cajun music and gumbo. However, this list is missing something:

[Image via USA Today.]

Perhaps this explains why the great majority of people in Louisiana still support offshore drilling -- 77% according to a recent poll by Public Policy Polling.  [Hat tip:  TPM.]

One -- especially a non-local -- might reasonably ask if they are not completely nuts.  It's one thing for a non-resident to blithely support a polluting industry far from their own backyard, but these are their waters -- the same waters where they fish for their -- and our -- seafood.  Why are they so happy to risk it?

[Image via]

Pity poor Barack Obama.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ohio + Iowa = ?

Ok, here's a question for my mid-western friends, of whom I am blessed with many...all my life and particularly -- nay, disproportionately so -- from Ohio and Iowa.

Seriously, what's the deal??

Let's review.  Both places are solidly in the mid-west (though a case for Iowa being in the Plains States is certainly well-founded...but, considering the rest of the country cannot tell the difference, it's really just splitting hairs, no?) Both States have four letters total, three of which are vowels, two of which are "o" and "i". Both States, when pronounced, have three syllables:  o-HI-o and I-o-wa.

Additionally, I can report that people I know from these two States are smart and amusing.

Corn is, indeed, good, but it ain't everything!  What's going on!? Am I really expected to believe this is all some great coincidence!?!?

Please help me understand.

[Image via]

"Grow up, Mr. President."

-- Joan Walsh from her article yesterday at "Protecting the Obama Brand".

I don't know which interns are assigned to read, digest and occasionally report up [?] the White House food chain the thoughts and analysis of incredibly-perceptive and articulate folks like Joan Walsh, but I sincerely hope someone is, because she is voicing an accelerating growth in frustration by people who were and need to remain friends and allies of this President.  To be cynical and honest, none of this surprises me...and I warned my Obama Bobby-Soxer friends that they were in for a disappointment.  Not that I didn't or don't now admire the man and his talents; I do.  But I worried that this guy was too cool for school, and I wanted the real pitbull with lipstick:  Hillary Clinton.

To the party faithful, Obama said all the right things during the campaign, while simultaneously energizing newcomers with the old chestnut of "changing how Washington works".  Everyone heard what they wanted to hear, except it wasn't the newcomers who naively believed; it was the battle-tested party faithful. Obama apparently meant it when he said he wanted to be post-partisan, which is fine for him and his brand, but it leaves his Party -- the Party he ostensibly leads -- hanging in the breeze.  I suspect Nancy Pelosi isn't the only one on The Hill who would like to give him a quick knee to the groin right about now.

The President needs to decide on which side his bread is buttered, and fast.  His team -- not he -- is up for re-election this Fall, and one assumes (correctly?) that he would prefer his team to remain in control of both houses of Congress.  So how does he plan to help make that happen?  For someone often referred to as "No Drama Obama", he engenders a heap load of drama in the hearts and minds of his supporters as they wonder and wait when Mr. Cool will finally engage.

[Image:  Reuters, via]

Friday, June 11, 2010

Jesus, Take the Wheel!

We're all Swedes now!

One imagines this to be the rallying cry of all Britons as they learn that, in addition to Tony Hayward, the chief executive, there is also a chairman of BP...a certain Carl-Henric Svanberg.  It's hard to estimate how thrilled the Swedes must be tonight to realize they, too, can feel self-righteous indignation at the perception of being impugned by the likes of Barack Obama and his minions!

I'll stop now.  Promise.

[Hat tip:  Times Online.]

"Rude Brittania"

Fear not; no British-bashing, this!  Quite the's an ode, and a wonderful way to round out the day's unforeseen Anglo-centric focus.

Thanks to The Independent, I've learned of an exhibit at the Tate Britain that is sure to tickle the funny-bone of the prurient and puerile among us [yes, please!]  Sharing, for a time, the marquee with sculptor Henry Moore [one eyebrow, decidedly up] is "Rude Brittania -- British Comic Art", running from now through the beginning of September.  Lest you think this begins and ends with Benny Hill, the exhibit reaches back to the likes of William Hogarth and Jonathan Swift and bounces along to the present, or near-present.  With no travel plans to the U.K. in the offing for the Summer, I -- and perhaps you -- can make due with the very amusing and informative article in The Independent by John Walsh.  Read it in its entirety here.

[Image:  Cartoonist Martin Rowson's postcard from Britain.  Hat tip:  Daily Dish.]

Britain haz a sad -- Part Two.

Perhaps what I wrote before would be a little less diplomatically-problematic coming from an actual Brit.

I therefore give you:  Ian Leslie.

[Hat tip:  Daily Dish.]

Britain haz a sad.

The British people -- especially its leaders and press -- would like their American cousins to know that they have had quite enough of this "anti-British rhetoric", thank you very much.  They are exceedingly aware that the whole business in the Gulf is beastly, but would like to inform us that all this "BP Bashing" is causing BP's stock to crash in a way that rather hurts their pocketbooks.


Well, I suppose there is that angle to the story, but it hardly seems to be the most pressing issue at the moment.  And, whereas most reasonably-minded Americans would place varying degrees of blame on our lax regulatory system, there is still the small issue of BP's safety violations overwhelmingly dwarfing those of American companies.  The Conservatives seem to be doing to most chest-thumping, but at least one Labour MP suggested that:

yes, it was a British company that made this mistake, but if they were subject to a regulatory regime in the UK they wouldn't have been able to do that and the world's insatiable appetite for oil was the cause of this, not British pensioners.

If I'm reading this correctly, this no doubt well-informed person seems to be arguing that BP, fully cognizant of what is expected of it in its home country, is apparently incapable of self-policing in less-stringent regulatory situations...and, well, capitalists will be capitalists [wink, wink, nudge, nudge].  Are we talking about an oil company, here, are a band of soccer fans roughing up some stadium on the Continent!?

And can we please leave Gran out of it?  Presumably, non-Britons of all ages own BP stock.

The truth is: there is plenty of blame to go around with this mess on both sides of the ocean, but the rising tide of umbrage in the corridors of power in London is silly.  Can you imagine what the reaction would be if an American company were responsible for befouling [insert place-name here]?  I know the company's name actually has the word "British" in it, but it's been a completely privately-held concern since the Thatcher days.  Perhaps the British have gotten too used to the Americans being the "bad guys"...they've been lulled into that pleasant feeling of not being hated all the time, like the Danes or the Portuguese.  Whatever the reason, I hope David Cameron doesn't let himself get brow-beaten by his Party's pride of lions or the rabble-rousers on Fleet Street into getting on Barack's bad side so soon after taking office. That would surely be counter-productive.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Best. Graph. Ever.

[Hat-tip:  Daily Dish.  Brilliant image via GraphJam.]

Sally Kern, meet Brittany Novotny.

Talk about chickens coming home to roost!

As reported by Tulsa World via HuffPo, Sally Kern, a Republican State Representative from Oklahoma City, who made a national name for herself by publicly declaring any current or future societal decline on the increasing acceptance of the "homosexual agenda" or the "gay lifestyle", has a new challenger for her seat this Fall -- someone who is already getting national attention herself.

Brittany Novotny is an Oklahoma City attorney who was raised as a male, who, as an adult, decided to legally and surgically transition to fully female -- a heterosexual one, at that.  It is not stated whether she was born anatomically, fully male or if, as a result of being born a hermaphrodite, her parents opted to assign a sex for the baby.  It's an interesting distinction that should in no way matter, but -- considering Oklahoma is one of the country's more conservative places -- I imagine people would have less trouble understanding how someone born a hermaphrodite (or intersex, a more preferred term) wanted to correct a sex assignment made in infancy that is at odds with one's own personal gender identity versus someone born fully male opting to become fully female.  The fact that, either way, it is merely a desire to bring one's sex into synch with one's gender identity should erase any distinction, but I believe many people would make it nonetheless.

But I digress.

Regardless of the nuances of sexual and gender identities involved, Ms. Kern's seat now has the attention of a lot of people outside her district who cannot vote but can make a lot of news and send a lot of money.  But, as Ms. Novotny suggests, Kern brought this on herself by choosing to focus on stereotyping rather than dealing with the everyday problems her district and state face.  Instead of making a name for herself by solving any number of problems a city like Oklahoma City might face, she decided to call homosexuality a bigger threat to our country than terrorism -- and this from a lady whose city is the site of the Murrah Building bombing!  In 2009, according to Tulsa World, she decided that a good use of her time was to sponsor "a signing of a morality proclamation that declared that the country's economic decline was a result of a decline in moral values."  Somehow, I don't think she was talking about the declining moral values of Wall Street here, do you?

Kern says she will take the high road and not bring up her opponent's transition, but she won't need to; plenty of others will (including me, apparently).  But here's the delicious irony: Novotny isn't gay.  It would be so much easier to set up the "them" vs. "us" banners if she were; it would be so much easier to stereotype type her (and the "agenda" she would surely represent) if she were; it would be so much easier to point an accusatory finger at her "lifestyle" if she were.  But she's not, so Kern can't. Others will try, but at the end of the day what we have is two straight women with very different political views squaring off against each other.  And what the voters of Oklahoma City will have to decide -- and the rest of us, vicariously, from the sidelines -- is:  what constitutes "difference", to what extent does it matter, and who is the best person for the job.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Please Hold For the President....

[ring, ring...ring, ring]

Sarah Palin:  Ya?

Oval Office:  Gov. Palin, please hold for the President....

Palin:  [under her breath] Oh my gosh!

Barack Obama:  Gov. Palin!  Barack Obama, here.  Thought I'd take you up on your offer to call and get some of your thoughts and insights about how best to deal with the situation in the Gulf.

Palin:  [silence]

Obama:  Gov. there?

Palin:  Sure am, Mr. President.  Ummm, well gosh darn it...this is kinda embarrassing...I really don't have any thoughts or insight.

Obama:  Mmm.

Palin:  I was just revivin' up that base, you know...givin' 'em some of that red meat they like so much, also.

Obama:  [click]

Palin:  Mr. President?


[Image via Getty Images]

"Labor is not your bitch"

-- Jane Hamsher of Fire Dog Lake.

This volley was deftly backhanded to the too-smug-by-half "anonymous Senior White House official" who decided that it would be wonderful politics to rub big labor's nose in Blanche Lincoln's run-off defeat of Bill Halter last night in Arkansas.  As reported by Ben Smith of Politico, this official was quoted as saying "organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise."

Them's fightin' words...and what a dumb fight to pick.  And, for her part, Jane is having none of it:

Labor is not your bitch, and their money isn’t yours to direct.  They’re supposed to take what, another six years of black eyes from Blanche Lincoln just because you say so? If their $8 million buys derivatives legislation and limits the damage that the Masters of the Universe can do to the world economy in the future, it’s not only a bargain, it also means that a bunch of nurses and janitors have done more to rein in the banks than you and your entire pack of servile, visionless Wall Street lackeys has done since you took office.

Oof...that's gonna leave a mark.

This is just part of her reaction today at the entire piece here.

What I don't understand is why the Democratic Party establishment was so keen on keeping Lincoln around; she's never a safe vote. Halter would have been a more reliable ally, and it's not like the administration doesn't have some fences to mend with big labor after the health care compromise.  In Pennsylvania, the administration quietly walked away from a foundering Arlen Specter, so why not here?

Regardless, the White House moron thumbing his nose at his own base better come to understand that the Party will need those same people to be energized come November if there is any chance to stem the projected midterm losses.  The Republicans are doing their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but with White House officials shooting themselves in the foot, the Democrats still have a chance to muck it up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Behind the Scenes at The White House

Talking Points Memo has a wonderful collection of some behind the scenes moments with the Obamas (and the Bidens, to a lesser extent) that are humanizing and playful.  I challenge anyone, no matter the political stripe, to say otherwise.  I'm sure I saw something similar during the 2nd Bush administration, and I know I would've reacted similarly.  We Americans live in such a polarized world, where we sadly question the patriotism -- or even the morality -- of those with whom we disagree.  It's not what the Founders envisioned; they were reacting against a king after all. We're all in this together, and our political enemies are not Nazis; they're other Americans, with whom we vehemently disagree.  If and when people bleed over into fascism, that's another thing altogether.  Barring that, we need to ratchet down the rhetoric [I'm talking to you, Sarah and Newt] and celebrate our commonality.  When people start denying others' humanity, we're on a slippery slope to sadness.

So, here they are.  Remind yourself that they are human, no matter what your Party or the Press might say.

[Image is an Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.]

BP -- tellin' it like it is

[Image by Mark and Vicki Cipolle via The Maddow Blog.]

Israel exists.

And the last time I checked, Israelis are not planning to go anywhere.  Neither, of course, are the Palestinians.  Everybody got that!?

Check out this great comment on Talking Points Memo from reader "SG".  It's a refreshing splash of reality.

Maker's Mark has a bouncing baby bourbon brother!

Never mind that they were born 52 years apart.

I learned today via HuffPo that Husband's and my favorite bourbon -- Maker's Mark from Loretto, Kentucky -- has added to its stable of products by 100%.  They used to have one product, and now they have two.  "Maker's 46" is the new addition.  The difference is the introduction of seared French oak planks for an additional 2-3 months of ageing, during which the bourbon takes on stronger hints of the flavor we've come to expect.  The new bourbon goes to 11, if you will.

Naturally, we will have to check out this new-fangled creation in person one day soon.  In the meanwhile, however, it gives me a welcome opportunity to share some images from our last visit to the distillery in 2007!  [They're not the best quality, but they still communicate the essentials.]

Getting there is half the fun.  Once you get past the anti-abortion billboards in town, you enter winding roads through beautiful hills.  This drive would have been much more enjoyable in something other than the U-Haul truck with its car-hauling trailer attached...but, then, we were on a mission.

It's safe to say we were the only U-Haul in the parking lot...perhaps ever?

I loved the color scheme of the campus.  I wouldn't necessarily want to be in this storehouse on a hot August day, but otherwise it totally works for me.

You'll note the bourbon bottle silhouettes in the signature "red-wax"-red-painted shutters.  Nice.

The pristine source of the distillery's water.

The mash.  It tastes a little sweet at this point.

The distilling process creates this clear liquid called "white dog", which I think might be a euphemism for "moonshine".

And now we wait...about 6-7 years.  You do not want to be in this building during an earthquake.  Then again, you might.

The tasting room, where you also get a chance to try your hand at the still-completely-done-by-humans task of dipping each and every bottle in molten red wax.  It's a fluid dip-twist-extract motion that is a lot harder than it looks.  Of course, we had to try!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Goodbye Helen Thomas

Her long career in the White House press pool ended with regret and sorrow.  Is anyone seriously surprised!?

Let's review the facts:  the woman is 89 years old.  Ageism has long since ceased to be an least for those who wanted to keep her there for their own reasons, whatever they might be.  And she was only happy to oblige, considering this was her very life! Perhaps others thought it was cute; perhaps her handlers were psyched to have a veteran reporter-turned-columnist have a dedicated chair in the briefing room; perhaps the White House figured she would mellow with age and be there to lob softballs in her dotage.  Anyone paying attention would know they'd all be wrong.  Here was a lady who was going to use up every last single moment she got...and it came back to bite her (and them) in the ass.  While the rest of Washington was busy humoring her, she actually had some thoughts that she made public -- something she no doubt would have assiduously NOT done in her prime.  The fact that she is no longer -- and hasn't been for years -- in her prime needs no further elaboration.


As adults, we like to make much of what comes out of the mouths of babes.  Equally, we like to talk about "shit my dad says"...the mouths of our elders.  Isn't it funny that Helen Thomas has been essentially enabled for years by a White House press office wanting to cajole her into being the nice, old lady they thought she was.  Oops!  Turns out she was definitely old, but not so necessarily nice.  Even if they had stopped taking her seriously, it appears she was very much still taking herself seriously...and was quite ready to speak her mind.

Score one for the elderly.

Her motives are her own.  The fact that her parents came from Lebanon -- though Christians -- may have been a factor.  Or, perhaps, she really felt for the plight of the Palestinians.  Or, perhaps, she's a horrible anti-Semite...we really don't know. Regardless, she -- by design or by virtue of her advanced years -- simply "let fly".  Critique it as you will, but it's still fascinating as a trail-blazing doyen of the press world deciding to comment as opposed to her normal calling to report.

It might be a little late, but I wish her a good retirement.  I doubt it'll be happy, but I hope it can be.  Eventually.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Gulf Spill is the fault of...Environmentalists

You didn't see that coming, right?  Drilling Expert Sarah Palin did, though...and said as much on her mouthpiece Facebook account:

Radical environmentalists: you are damaging the planet with your efforts to lock up safer drilling areas. There’s nothing clean and green about your misguided, nonsensical radicalism, and Americans are on to you as we question your true motives.

Hmmm...what could those "true motives" be?  Clearly, environmentalists hate America...but why??  Don't they know, like Sarah, that low gas prices please The Lord?  I mean:  why did He give us Manifest Destiny if not to travel at will across the great expanse of our continent on fossil fuels in our minivans, RVs and Hummers?  Is it not the Native Americans' fault that they didn't develop the combustible engine?  Is that not Darwinism?  Oh wait...uh...nevermind about the Darwinism.  The Lord likes it thus. That's all we need to know.  So, Drill, Baby, Drill...'cause Momma needs a new set of wheels!  (You don't get out of Alaska by wishin'!)

The Unemployed Need Not Apply

Every weekday morning, I get up to peruse the doings and goings on of my fellow human beings as reported by the various sites I make a point to check on a daily basis.  I never know what will strike me as humorous or interesting or odious enough to want to share and comment on, but I do know something will.  Call it a faith I have in humanity.  Well, humanity produced a humdinger for today's post.

And you can file this under odious.

Laura Bassett at HuffPo writes to inform us that the newest craze in job postings is to announce that unemployed applicants will not be considered.  Check out this ad for an engineer in Texas via the friendly- and inclusive-sounding recruiting website The People Place which includes this little nugget:  Client will not consider/review anyone not currently employed regardless of the reason.

Morality aside, how is this even remotely legal?  At a time when everyone is looking to arguably the most employed person in America -- President Obama -- to bring down the unemployment numbers, you have got these people in Texas making an a priori decision not to even consider someone who might be the best candidate just because they had the bad taste to currently be out of a job.  Reminds me of this WPA-era image:

Hmmm, should we then suppose that the nice folks advertising through The People Place are simply trying to take care of their own first?  That would be sad, certainly...even misguided, but understandable, right?  Let's see what the human resource representative had to say to HuffPo:

"It's our preference that they currently be employed," he said. "We typically go after people that are happy where they are and then tell them about the opportunities here. We do get a lot of applications blindly from people who are currently unemployed -- with the economy being what it is, we've had a lot of people contact us that don't have the skill sets we want, so we try to minimize the amount of time we spent on that and try to rifle-shoot the folks we're interested in."

OK, first, if someone is "happy" where they are, why would they want to switch teams to a) now have the least seniority [read: the first to be laid-off] and b) work for a company that wouldn't hire them back should new lay-offs ever be necessary?  Do HR people really think the rest of us are this stupid or have swallowed the kool-aid...or is it that they are simply this stupid or have swallowed the kool-aid?  Or is it that they want us to know they're lazy and don't appreciate having to, you know, do their jobs by checking out the resumes they receive?  Perhaps they could get on with the "rifle-shoot[ing]" if they simply set absolute minimum requirements -- like actually being an engineer -- instead of potentially shooting themselves in the foot by missing a perfect fit who was unemployed. Just a thought.

There's a reason why the phrase gorgons at the gate still exists.

The real problem here, however, is not that some dumb company in Texas is shooting themselves in the foot; they're shooting our economy in the foot as well.  Continued unemployment means continued lack of income, which means continued lack of purchasing power, which means continued sluggish sales, etc., etc.  Instead of haughtily passing over those deemed unworthy or perceived as damaged goods, it should be the (if not moral) patriotic duty of every American with a job to offer to give extra consideration to someone who needs a job, assuming they are qualified.

Whoever thought it would be necessary to add "current employment status" to the still growing list of thou-shalt-nots when it comes to hiring practices?  We are truly a nation of loopholes -- and here is yet another hole that needs to be plugged.  Fast.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rowan Williams doubles down, and Katharine Jefferts Schori continues to impress

No push-over, she!  In answer to the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentacost letter to the Anglican Communion, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori (Primate of the Episcopal Church) basically tells him to go pound sand.

The American province of the Anglican Communion continues to peeve the rest of the Communion by respectfully refusing to acquiesce to a "request" to stop ordaining gay people, in particular elevating gay people to level of bishop.  The most recent refusal came May 15th with the consecration of Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool, now the Church's second out and partnered bishop.  Archbishop Williams doesn't believe that's "cricket" and suggests in his Pentacost letter that, if the American Church will not submit to the wishes of the rest of the Communion, it should not continue to fully participate in ongoing "ecumenical dialogues".

How's that for a rap across the knuckles, eh?

For her part, Jefferts Schori (who, by the mere fact that she is the only Primate who is a she, herself peeves the Communion no end) is unmoved and lobs back a little history lesson to someone who should know better:

We live in great concern that colonial attitudes continue, particularly in attempts to impose a single understanding across widely varying contexts and cultures. We note that the cultural contexts in which The Episcopal Church's decisions have generated the greatest objection and reaction are also often the same contexts where women are barred from full ordained leadership, including the Church of England.

As Episcopalians, we note the troubling push toward centralized authority exemplified in many of the statements of the recent Pentecost letter. Anglicanism as a body began in the repudiation of the control of the Bishop of Rome within an otherwise sovereign nation. Similar concerns over self-determination in the face of colonial control led the Scottish Episcopal Church to consecrate Samuel Seabury for The Episcopal Church in the nascent United States – and so began the Anglican Communion.

Then, twisting the knife, she continues:

We are distressed at the apparent imposition of sanctions on some parts of the Communion. We note that these seem to be limited to those which "have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion." We are further distressed that such sanctions do not, apparently, apply to those parts of the Communion that continue to hold one view in public and exhibit other behaviors in private. Why is there no sanction on those who continue with a double standard? In our context bowing to anxiety by ignoring that sort of double-mindedness is usually termed a "failure of nerve." Through many decades of wrestling with our own discomfort about recognizing the full humanity of persons who seem to differ from us, we continue to work at open and transparent communication as well as congruence between word and behavior. We openly admit our failure to achieve perfection!

But this is probably her best line:

We believe that the Body of Christ is only found when such diversity is welcomed with abundant and radical hospitality.

Read the whole letter here; it's worth it.  When you see the now familiar sign saying "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You", you can rest assured that there is no asterisk alerting you to the fine print.  Jefferts Schori is helping us live up to and be worthy of this welcome we profess.  Her continuing ability to demonstrate how uniquely qualified and well-placed she is at this moment to lead the American Church is only further highlighted by Rowan Williams' demonstration of the opposite.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Israel and Gaza

I'm still working out my own feelings about what happened on this latest attempt to break the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza.  This was the 9th attempt since 2008 (according to the BBC) to break the blockade, but the sad outcome was apparently lamentable enough for Egypt to change its mind and open its border once again with Gaza.  This strikes me as awfully convenient, but I'm still wading through the particulars, so no judgment just yet.

There are plenty out there who need no excuse to hate Israel, and they are loathsome.  That said, Israel is currently led by a man who any American would recognize as Dick Cheney.  Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is a man who never met another he did not distrust.  And, just as Americans couldn't be defined by W. and Cheney in office, Israelis cannot be defined by Bibi as Prime Minister or -- worse yet -- Soviet-born hawk Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The experience of the last couple of days shows how trigger-happy the Israeli government has become.  As always, this is surely not without reason, but....  In our 24/7 news cycle, however, reason gets lost in the drama.  Instead of Hamas being the story, it becomes the horrible, fascistic Israelis wreaking havoc on the woefully-besieged Gazans.

Make no mistake:  the Gazans are being held hostage by Hamas as much (if not more) than the Israelis, and Palestinian President Abbas is powerless to do anything about it.  This fact should tell us a lot.  The Gazan people are suffering to be sure, but, if we think "the Jews" are the only bad guys, we're not paying attention.