If it is it doesn't matter

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Another distraction - like I needed one

Well, I will be trying to get back to this blog as well as "100 Camels" but there's a lot going on. The examination of the Qur'an IS important, doctor trips and the Mets are intervening, and there are a lot of tv shows to watch. (I STILL haven't discussed DR. WHO. I'll get to it, but the difference in the improvement in this and that in the reworked BATTLESTAR is that the original BATTLESTAR was a LOUSY show. DR. WHO was, despite the chessiness of the effects, a very good one. But both are so much better in the new versions that they are major shows on the 'must watch' category.) Then there are all the blogs with discussions so interesting that I have to put my 3 1/2 cents worth in. (Not conceit, inflation.)

So the last thing I needed to do was visit the branch of the Brooklyn Public Library over by my doctor's office on my way to visit him. The BPL has a book sale in every branch, and the prices are usually great, $1.00 for hardbacks, $.50 for paperbacks -- even large sized ones. Every so often, especially at that branch, they have a super-sale, with hardcovers at $.25 and pbs at $.10. And when I stop by the pile has been picked through enough that I frequently leave with nothing but thanks from my wife for not adding to the clutter and chaos that already fills the house. (3,000 books take up a lot of space, and no, I'm not the best at getting things reshelved.)

This time I was early enough. I only spent $2.55, but that meant 5 hardbacks and 13 pbs. Well, it does mean I'll finally be adding mystery reviews to this.

Sleep, what's sleep?

Baseball: No Soda in April

But the Mets are "7 UP" over both the Braves and the Phillies as of April 30th. Some of my other predictions are, well, needing of revision -- I didn't think the Pirates were still this bad, and it looks like the Reds finally got pitching and may be a factor in the race (but I still think the Giants will collapse of old age and too much investment in crooked Bonds). The real race seems to be in the American League East. All five teams are good ones, none are outstanding, and we'll have to see what happens when they start playing more out of division.

BUT THE METS FINALLY HAVE THE MAGIC AGAIN. AMAZIN' AND I DO BELIEVE. (They may even be better than 86, the only year when their pennant was not more or less a fluke.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reprint of Meet the Family 1 -- Poo

Leilouta, rather than sending you into the archives (or figuring out how to index this -- HAAAALLLPPPP anyone) I'll reprint the bio of my oldest cat, then if I get a chance, complete the series soon.

Meet The Family: 1 (Poo)
The family includes five cats, one wife, and me -- and I assure you Em would want the cats listed first too. Rather than introduce them all at once, -- they can be a bit overwhelming in a group -- I figure I'll let you meet one at a time, hopefully every other day or so.The first one -- I'm going in order of seniority here -- is Poo, our feisty old lady, who actually has been here longer than I have. We aren't sure whether she is 19 or 20. She was an adult cat 18 years ago when Em's then roommate, Roz, found her chained up outside a store on Chambers Street and rescued her, and she's been with Em ever since.She doesn't show her age much. Occasionally she'll have a 'senior moment' when she stands around looking confused, wondering what she was doing, but I've been having those sorts of moments myself for about 50 years. She looks frail and delicate, but she's got the best appetite of any of the group, and when her plate is finished she'll pick the nearest plate and start finishing that.Oh, she loves to eat. She's always been bossy, but she's refined it through the years. Now, if I'm a little late with a meal, she lets the whole house know it. If I'm more than a little late, she lets all of Midwood -- my section of Brooklyn -- know it. I try and tell her that I know she's lying when she insists that she hasn't been fed for three whole days -- it's usually closer to six hours since the five cats get fed three cans a day plus dry food -- but she gets even more insistent.And her 'frailty' doesn't stop her from being part of the 'sparring matches' that our cats have made part of their pre-meal ritual. But it does win her a few special privileges. Our house -- actually we have the bottom floor of the house Em grew up in, we got it when her folks moved permanently to Florida -- can get chilly, so Poo is taken out to the living room couch at night and tucked in with blankets surrounding her. And there are certain 'people foods' that she automatically gets a share of, tuna, other fish, or chicken.She's not as mobile as when we first moved in here four years ago. The move was a very good thing for her. In our old apartment she was a little too crowded and had some trouble with the younger cats -- she's always been a problem in one way. Somehow, even as a young cat, she never got the page in the cat manual about covering up after bathroom trips, and some of our cats are very formal and would get annoyed at her. To the point where she was spending almost all her time on the kitchen table. (Surprisingly enough, the cat that caused the most trouble for her when she was on the floor was the one who would sleep there with her, you'll meet Kittenz in due time.)But here she had more room, eight rooms rather than three, and she was freer to wander around without getting into trouble, and the cat room -- we have turned one room completely over to the cats, for their dining room with a closet for their bathroom -- meant she had less trouble. But she still now limits her excursions to the living room, the radiator in the parlor and her own chair in the hall outside the cat room -- even if Em is stiing on it, when she wants it, she gets it.She no longer comes and sleeps on my ankles, though she's sleep on Em's chest when she's lying on the living room couch, and her purr is a lot weaker. But she's still a loving and much loved member of the family.

(I was going to post pix, but that is another thing I'm still trying to figure out, and hopefully will have newer ones soon.)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My new blog

People have, rightly, complained that this blog has been too focused on Islam, to the point where too many of the other posts I have made have gotten buried, and to the point where I simply wasn't talking about the things I started blogging to talk about, American politics, baseball, mystery stories, tv, and, most of all, cats. So I have opened a new blog: "100 Camels Times X" http://jrbentn.blogspot.com/ where I will be discussing Islam and its various ramifications, and keeping this blog for general conversations.
(I'm even going to make it more of my business to actually post here on close to a daily basis -- I hope.)

I'll be moving some of the posts I have already made to the new blog, working on blogrolls, and the like. So if you want to argue Islam with me, go there, if you want to talk cats or Dr. WHO or the Mets -- or the idiocies of the current Administration -- come here.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Enough is enough and THIS is too much

Now it's a Press Secretary for Homeland Security trying (allegedly) to seduce a minor on the Internet.

Let's face it. It was Monica Lewinsky that elected George Bush. Oh, there was Katherine Harris, and the Supreme Court, and Al Gore's underwhelming performance that helped to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But none of these would have had a chance if it wasn't for Monica. It gave the Republicans the glorious issue. "Let's bring morality back to the White House." And didn't they play it? Didn't Bush use every opportunity to remind people of his Christianity, of his 'family values,' of his firm opposition anything that his radical Christian support thought of as immoral. And it worked, at least enough to bring him close enough for the rest of the factors to come into play.

And isn't Washington just swimming in morality? Both Republican Majority Leaders under investigation, and one forced to resign. Bush denying he knew Jack Abramoff, and hoping that Abramoff doesn't prove he was lying. Duke Cunningham going from a fairly obscure Congressman to the Guiness Record holder for bribes received by an American. The Vice President's old firm bribing various countries, overcharging the Pentagon, etc. Homeland Security money going to states far removed from threats, while New York is still wondering where all the help Bush promised is coming from. The management of American ports being turned over to a company -- forget the question of the country involved -- whose former executive, David Sanborn, was named to the Maritime Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, directly before the deal was announced. (And when there was bipartisan opposition, our Moral Leader threatened to veto any bill that would block it.)

But that's just part of the new influx of morality. After all, we have the pictures of Abu Gharaib to look at and admire. We have the President and Vice president explaining how, in the war on terror, these noble ends justify the means of torture and wiretapping. But after all, we already know that the end of removing Saddam Hussein was a justification for leaving Colin Powell hanging as the lies he was fed were exposed. And if the memo of the Bush-Blair meeting is accurate, it would have justified assassination of Saddam Hussein, or painting a US plane to look like a UN plane so it could be shot down. (Even I have a problem believing that one.) Of course, I keep on having these vague memories of Republican speakers insisting on the evil of moral relativism -- and misusing the phrase to apply to an idea that 'the end justifies the means.'

And yet, somehow, the little things are even more annoying. I was around during Watergate, and remember how, during the early days of the exposure of Richard Nixon, suddenly it came out that the Vice President too was crooked and a liar -- and he had made quite a good use of 'moral rhetoric' as well. But it was somehow more shameful that his crimes were simple, cheap 'slip a couple of hundred dollars in an envelope and pass it to me' bribery, made worse because of the pitifully small amounts involved. It was as if he didn't even have a sense enough of his position to at least 'sin big.'

And so we have the little things that add to the overwhelming stench of Bush morality. George Deutsch, the 24 year old put in charge of censoring government scientists, striking a blow for that Old Time Religion by demanding that they declare the Big Bang 'just a theory,' like evolution, and then resigning when it was found that he had been so busy working for the Bush-Cheney campaign that he hadn't bothered to go back to college and go through the formality of graduating, despite his claim on his employment forms.

Then we have Claude Allen, Domestic Policy Advisor in the White House. Claude Allen, who first came to notice in the Jesse Helms campaign for his homophobic remarks, who led the fight for 'abstinence only,' who was the liason to the Religious Right. Such a fine, upstanding, Christian shoplifter. (And not the type that sticks something in his pocket and walks out the door. There are good grounds for believing that type is suffering from some sort of disease. But the deliberate use of the 'return con,' buying something, taking it to the car, then picking up another of the same item from the shelf and taking it to the return desk. That's a LITTLE different.) Of course, even though the White House knew of the investigation, they didn't throw him out the door. The New Morality of George Bush's White House seems to mandate lying, so they insisted that he was 'resigning to spend time with his family,' and, I guess, hoped that no one would check the police blotter.

And now we have Brian J. Doyle, Deputy Press Secretary to Michael Chertoff, apparently and allegedly soliciting someone he thought was a 14-year old girl on line, using as 'chick bait' his status as an employee of DHS. (What is it about that office that gets guys horny? According to the Washington Post:
Another Homeland Security official -- Frank Figueroa, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Tampa -- faces trial this week on charges of exposing himself to a teenage girl last year at a mall. Figueroa, who has been suspended, pleaded not guilty.
I don't know anything about this one, just came across it now when I was writing this.)

(I'll admit, this is one that has no suspicious tracks back to our Moral Leader. Unlike with a major figure like Allen, I'm sure that if the White House had the slightest hint this was going on, they would have thrown Doyle to the wolves or the fishes. It just happened on the watch of the man who was bringing a new sense of morality to the government.)

The White House is awfully big on praying in public buildings, and displaying the 10 Comandments. As a believer in the separation of church and state, I always opposed this. But maybe I was wrong in one or two cases. Maybe the commandements should have been posted in the White House and the Executive Office Building, the Senate and the House. And maybe those of us who do believe in prayer better start praying hard for the country. We've still got two years and 9 months of the moral leadership of George Bush to get through.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Why Feingold?

As I said way back here
http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=22177206&postID=113969114783486825
I am a proud liberal who feels the only chance the Democratic Party has to regain its soul and to conquer the cascading falsehoods about what it is and who liberals are is to nominate and elect someone who isn't afraid of his own principles, and who will stand up for them. (And I don't mean people like Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich.) Feingold's willingness to attempt to bring Bush to account, and to force the Senate to take a stand on the unconstitutional and ilegal invasions of privacy was one thing in his favor, as was his fighting for serious campaign reform, even though his bill was far from perfect. And today i have learned he is willing to take a stand in FAVOR of Same-Sex marriage.

I have grown bloody sick and tired of Democrats who run screaming from the idea of being called liberals, who hedge and duck and Clintonize every issue. (The idiots don't seem to realize that the Republican lie machine will still try and accuse them of the very positions they are ducking away from, but because they are so busy ducking, they never have a chance to actually DEFEND these positions. I think I would require every candidate running on the democratic ticket for state or national office to take plenty of anti-nausea pills and spend a couple of hours reading Debbie Schussell. Then they might get the idea that if they are going to be condemned and lied about whatever they do, they might as well take strong stands on what they believe in, because it can't hurt them.)

Meanwhile, the Republicans get the reputation for being 'people who say what they believe' and who take strong positions whether they are popular or not.' (Yeah, RIIIGGGGHHHHTTTT.) And they get votes, plenty of them, from people who disagree with them on important matters. The American people support abortion, support gay rights, oppose the war, oppose theocratic experiments, but they still give lots of votes to Republicans, because Democrats so hedge their positions that they aren't trusted. They don't win support from the uncommitted by hedging, because everybody sees they are, and they lose support from the committed because they imply that they will back off under pressure.

I don't think that Russ Feingold needs to be told any of this. I think he's a popular, charismatic, and honest candidate, one who has been elected repeatedly in a borderline 'Red State" (despite its history of Progressiveism). And so, I say again

RUSS FEINGOLD IN 2008

As usual

I'm ridiculously behind on this blog. I'm giving up promising to get to various things. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier, but we'll see -- the trouble is still that i get lost in comenting elsewhere then get called away to domestic duties.

But I have one comment to make, that I will discuss in the next post.

RUSS FEINGOLD IN 2008.

I have become convinced he has both the courage and the sense to handle the job, and is head and shoulders above the other people in the race. (I could easily support Wesley Clark, though I'd love a Feingold-Clark ticket, and probably could go for Bayh or even Edwards without holding my nose.) Hilary would be a disaster as a candidate, even if I saw her as a potentially good President -- she's the only candidate who would surrender all the benefits of the Republicans' unpopularity. Gore is almost as bad, people still see him as a clown. And Lieberman is simply unthinkable. (If I wanted to voite for a Republican, I'd vote for Hegel or Giuliani, someone who'd call himself what he was.)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

That Other League

Okay, so I've been a National League fan since I was a kid, and Claire, my 'other mother,' had St. Jude backing up the infield for the Brooklyn Dodgers. (I wasn't a Dodger fan. Loving underdogs, I was a Pirates fan, which was fine until the original Mets came along. People who weren't born then 'remember' the 62 Mets. I remember the 63 as well, when Tim Harkness and Larry Burrright were supposed to anchor the right side of the infield and wound up hitting about .415 combined, and couldn't field either, despite their reps.)

And I STILL hate the Designated Hitter!

But there should be some good races in that league too.

AL East: I've been expecting the Yanks to get old all at once the way they did in the late 60s, but something tells me it won't happen this year. their pitching is fragile, Sheffield is vulnerable to the steroid investigation, and Damon is no Bernie (in his prime) in center. But the Red Sox have also dropped off, and i think it will be a battle between the Yankees and Blue Jays. I'll go Blue Jays, BUT, if it comes down to the last series of the year, with them playing each other, you have to pick the Yanks. That's the type of game they can always win. Boston should be a solid third, though both other teams are likely to be competitive, Tampa Bay on the strength of some very good young talent -- watch out for them next year if they spend money for pitching -- and Baltimore on the strength of Mazzone as pitching coach. I wouldn't be surprised to see either of them slip into 3rd, sorry Boston.

AL Central: The division winner and the Wild Card should come from the White Sox and the Indians. I think Indian hitting will nudge out White Sox pitching, but two great managers will be jockeys spurring their horses on to a close finish. Minnesota is falling off, and unless Mauer and Morneau are even beter than their reviews, they shouldn't be a factor -despite Johan Santana, who may be the best pitcher in baseball, certainly the one I'd want in one important game. Detroit is slowly improving, but shouldn't challenge Minnesota for third. And, at the end of the season, Kansas City should have played close to 162 games (if you can't say anthing nice...).

AL West: Always the hardest division to call. Every year there is one team out of it (the Mariners this year) and the other three are standing around to see which one lighting will strike this year. And it never seems to be a matter of judgement, just pure luck. I think this might be the Rangers year. They don't have enough pitching -- but they never do. Their outfield will shuttle back and forth to the disabled list -- it always does. But with Ian Kinsler (maybe Rookie of the Year) replacing Soriano, this might be one of the greatest infields ever, hitting and fielding. The Athletics have pitching -- they always do, not enough hitting -- as usual, and could explode or implode. Mike Scioscia should keep the Angels from imploding (have you notice I think managers are important?) but might not win this years spin of the roulete wheel.

I'll make some predictions on individual awards sometime during the week, but the game is starting -- or a tornado is, the weather is VERY iffy.

Life Begins on Opening Day

And since it does, and today is it, I figured I should start spending some time on this discussing a topic I have been following longer than I have Islam, religion, politics, or even sex. I'll try and get at least one post a week here on baseball, and shouold really start with my own predictions. Given me, I could probably fill a long post on each team, even though I haven't paid as much attention as I usually do to the off season. But I'll give you a break and just discuss the divisions.

National League East: After last year, everybody says don't bet against Atlanta winning it's 15th straight division championship. But I think the loss of Rafael Furcal, Julio Franco and most of all, Leo Mazzone as pitching coach means that my Mets have a good chance of taking the division at last. They are a little thin in starting pitching, and I could stand an upgrade at 2nd Base if Anderson Hernandez hits as badly as he has in the minors. The Phillies might move ahead of the Braves as well, but I can't see them challenging the Mets for the division. The Nationals will play better than their talent makes you expect, as usual with Frank Robinson, but the problems of not having an owner and the loss of Ayala and Lawrence will keep them out of the running. Don't be surprised if the Marlins look competitive over the first fifty games, but don't be fooled. They'll have a long way to look up to see the Nationals in 4th by the time the season ends. This time they didn't get much for their fire sale.

NL Central: The Cardinals could run away with the division again, but if Carpenter's Cy Young season proves to be a fluke they could some back to the pack. Then it will be a real dog fight. The Astros have talent, but probably not quite enough. The Pirates have great kid pitching and could sneak away with it. But my pick is the Brewers. Ned Yost is a great manager in the mold of his teacher, Bobby Cox, and gets the best out of his players. Only the most fanatical Cub fan can see them as a factor, and they might not succeed in holding off the Reds.

NL West: Another dog fight, but with real dogs. The Padres almost became the first division winner to have a losing record, and they've gotten worse this year. The Dodgers should have enough talent to take it all, but they might get a strong challenge from the Rockies. The Padres free fall might drop them below the DBacks who aren't really a challenger but might be slowly rebuilding into a good team. And while the Bonds mess might make enough noise to keep the members of baseball's Old Age Home awake -- those guys are so ancient that if I went to the clubhouse half of them would be calling me 'kid' -- but they'll need a different medicine. Lots of aspirin. Cellars are damp and not good for arthritic joints.

Let's put the American league in a separate post so I can get away and feed some very demanding cats. Yes, Poo, Sprout, I'm coming.

Response to Ali and LouLou

I got several important responses to my questions from both of you. Particularly here http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=22177206&postID=114314175910216253

I'd like to look a little closer at what each of you said here, and then maybe take another post to respond to your other comments.

Ali, your comments are interesting and important, but not fully responsive. While I did mention the problem with civil authorities moving against 'barbarous practices' my complaint was far more that Islam has not succeeded, or attempted, to extirpate them in the process of Islamizing a society. Here, i will use a comparison to Christianity. Christianity has shown itself remarkably flexible and able to absorb certain types of local customs and to "Christianize them." (Christmas, for example, local pagan heroes turned into Christian saints, and many other examples.) But I can think of very few places where they would permit a newly Christianized pagan society to retain 'local customs' that were, in Christian eyes, immoral and against the basic principles of Christianity. To take an extreme example, certainly no society would have been permitted to maintain human -- or even animal -- sacrifices. Some people would argue that Christianity was too strict in abolishing pagan customs of dress, of sexuality, the classic picture of the tribe dressing in muumuus instead of, as previous, having little shame about their bodies. Yet Islam, despite a tendency in many places to extirpate a culture's preIslamic history, has never attempted to proclaim such practices as haram. Pork is haram, alcohol is eliminated (supposedly), but honor killings are not, and in fact, as I pointed out, actions like these, like female genital mutilation, like slavery, like forced marriages, like the idea that being raped is shameful, are in fact, protected by the clerics. (Some civil authorities HAVE attempted to wipe them out, but over the stong and usually successful opposition of Islam as expressed by the local clerics.)

Why has Islam, in this and so many ways, simply failed to 'make men better'? Christianity, with all its faults HAS done this in many ways. Few of us would enjoy living in a true pagan or barbarian society -- despite the occasional romantic fictions about such places.

Loulou, you make much the same case, with a number of interesting additions. (Btw, I was under the impression that the 'millet' system referred to groups of 'people of the book' such as Christians and Jews who were allowed to exist as separate societies within Islam -- provided they paid the requisite tax -- and not to tribal or ethnic groupings.)

You make a number of othe rimportant comments, but those will have to wait until (hopefully) tomorrow to discuss, since it is getting late, I lose an hour to daylight savings, and i'm losing coherence as well.