Monday, February 19, 2007

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign...

OK, maybe this isn't "blockin' out the scenery," but it sure is "breakin' my mind"! [1] I was just sitting here peacefully listening to Rachel Maddow's Air America Radio show from last Friday (I listen by podcast, so I'm always one weekday behind). In the course of discussing who did and didn't vote against the recent anti-Iraq War resolution in the House, Rachel mentioned that the Washington Post website, which she uses to check congressional vote roll calls, offers readers the ability to display votes sorted by astrological sign! Huh?!? Well, I had to see it for myself, and sure 'nuff:

Alright, I don't know whether to be more discouraged by the idea that people who care enough about politics to look up vote totals actually want to know about legislators' signs, or by the fact that WaPo would cater to their bizarre superstition. Either way, I think I have to make this a short post, so I can go pour cool water over my steaming brain....

[1] If this reference is too ancient/obscure for you, look here.

UPDATE: I e-mailed PZ Myers, Rationalist-in-Chief at Pharyngula, about this and he very flatteringly linked to this entry. A couple of commenters noted that the intention was just to have some lighthearted fun and attract readers to the (admittedly very cool) Votes Database. Well, that makes me feel better... but only a little bit better. I used to be firmly in the it's-harmless-fun-as-long-as-you-don't-believe-it camp regarding astrology and such, but I'm increasingly concerned that even such benign bemusement gives aid and comfort to the all-too-numerous inhabitants of the demon-haunted world we live in.

Besides, are astrology believers really the voters we want to be enabling?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Al Franken For Senate!

Former (sadly, as of today) Air America radio host Al Franken has announced his run for the Minnesota U.S. Senate seat now held by Norm Coleman (and before that, by Franken's political hero, Paul Wellstone). I don't live in Minnesota, of course, but Franken has been a tireless voice for progressive issues and in opposition to the current right-wing regime, so his run is of interest to us all. Besides, his Midwest Values PAC supported Democratic candidates all around the country in 2006, including our very own Joe Courtney and Diane Farrell... so I, for one, plan to return the favor. Here's Al's announcement video:

Here is Franken's campaign website, where you can contact the campaign, read Al's bio, or contribute.

I have contacted the campaign to find out what out-of-staters can do to help; I'll let y'all know what I find out.

When I posted an earlier version of the above as a diary at the Connecticut progressive blog My Left Nutmeg, a commenter quickly replied that Al Franken "is pro-war," and that progressives should hope for a better Democratic candidate, linking to two articles (here and here) by one John Walsh, posting at CounterPunch, a self-described "bi-weekly muckraking newsletter."

I admit I'm not familiar with John Walsh, but a quick scan of the articles to reveals an extreme POV: Anyone who thinks Sam Seder, Janeane Garafalo, Randi Rhodes, and Rachel Maddow are insufficiently antiwar, or that the network that put them all on the air is "little more than a mouthpiece for the DNC" is just not going to be satisfied with any feasible candidate!

I've listened to virtually every Franken show for more than 2 years, and I can say without hesitation that Al is the polar opposite of pro-war! I defy anyone to listen to the show (at least some of the podcasts are still archived, though you may need to join Air America Premium to get them) with anything even vaguely approaching an open mind and conclude that Franken can be fairly called "pro-war."

John Murtha, whom Walsh claims Franken doesn't support, is actually something of a hero to Franken... so much so that he almost had an on-air falling out with regular guest Melanie Sloan when she called Murtha on his ethics issues. I've never heard him say anything bad about Murtha. Al supports the "soft partition"/redeployment-to-Kurdistan plan advanced by Peter Galbraith, et al., which may not be identical to what Murtha proposes, but it's similar in spirit... and certainly not a stay-the-course position. One thing about Franken is that he's willing to listen to other people's ideas (are we to believe this is a bad trait in a legislator??)... but I've never heard him agree with, or express support for, anything that could be called pro-war or pro-escalation.

It's also true, as Walsh notes, that Franken has covered corruption, fraud, and incompetence in Iraq contracting: Tom Ricks' Fiasco, which Franken calls "indispensible" is something of a bible for the show. Does this make him pro-war? Because the war itself is immoral and evil, we're supposed to give crooks and war profiteers a free pass? The mind boggles!

Franken has also covered veterans' issues and troop equipment issues (e.g., the founder of Operation Helmet has been a frequent guest), and every year he goes on USO tour in the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres. Do these things make him "pro-war"? Many, if not most, liberals and progressives have taken the position that they oppose the war but support the troops; few... perhaps none... have honored both ends of that proposition as completely as Al Franken.

And the Al Franken show has also covered issues not related (or at least not directly related) to the war (e.g., the DeLay, Cunningham, et al., scandals). Does this make him an unacceptable candidate for Senate in 2008? think about it for a moment: If elected, Franken won't finish his first term until 2014. I pray to all that's holy that the Iraq war won't still be the primary issue of the day by then; if it is, we're doomed in any case. Among all the other tragedies of this war, one is that it's distracting us from all the other ways in which the right-wing regime has hosed up our government. While the war is clearly the most critical moral challenge of our time, it is not the only challenge facing our government; we elect representatives who focus on the war to the exclusion of all else at our peril.

You may be able to think of reasons (though personally I cannot) not to support Al Franken... but the notion that he's pro-war is not one of them.

IMHO, of course... ;)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Click Your Congresscritter

OK, I've already posted this on blogs that people actually read, but I thought I'd put it up here, too, just in case:

In the Fall of 2001, my daughter was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Through the miracle of modern medicine -- including 14 hours of surgery and more than a year of chemo and radiotherapy -- the wonderful doctors and nurses at Connecticut Children's Medical Center saved her life, and today she's happy and healthy.

I can't say exactly how directly federally funded research contributed to her recovery, but I'm sure it was instrumental. One organization that was a tireless advocate for children with cancer was the National Childhood Cancer Foundation, now called CureSearch.

CureSearch has put out an alert regarding threats to federal cancer research funding. If you feel so moved, I urge you to use their online tool to send letters to our members of Congress, and then follow up with a personal e-mail to your representative.

We're all concerned with the war, of course, but even in the midst of crisis, life -- and the hard work of saving lives -- goes on.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fly Me to the Moon

A quick post tonight. I have recently purchased an "electronic eyepiece" for astrophotography (astrovideography, really). It's essentially a webcam packaged to be used with a telescope in place of the normal visual eyepiece. I'm not very good with it yet (and I need to build a new mount for my scope), but I did manage to get this shot of the moon last Monday:

...and this one just tonight:

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My $100 Tennis Racquet

Well, obviously I've been neglecting this blog for more than half a year, during which time I've worked on the successful Joe Courtney campaign for the Connecticut 2nd District seat in Congress, going on a Thanksgiving weekend tour of New England college campuses with my daughter, having a (quite unexpected) case of whooping cough, taking my daughter and her friend to a Harry Potter themed Yule Ball concert, visiting family in Florida for Christmas. In all that time, somehow, I fell out of the habit of updating this chronicle. Oh, during the election season I contributed to other blogs (mostly My Left Nutmeg), but nothing here.

I apologize for the silence.

When I was (much) younger, I played tennis... but I found that, owing to the busy life of a young college student, sometimes weeks or even months would go by without me finding time to hit the courts. This frustrated me because I really wanted to play regularly. One summer I went out and spent $100 dollars -- a lot of money in those days, for me at least -- on a top-quality racquet. It wasn't so much that I needed a fancy racquet -- I was never that good anyway -- but that I wanted to make some act -- in this case a nontrivial monetary investment -- that would force me to take the activity more seriously. Now I've done something similar: I've started including a link to this page in my profile at other online sites, including my Facebook page, my My Left Nutmeg profile, and, most recently, on the newly refurbished 2nd Congressional District blog.

I hesitate to promise any set frequency of posts. I'm going to try to post something short fairly often, even when I don't have a full-length rant in me (or don't have time to do it justice). In any case, I won't abandon this blog again, so please keep checking back!

(BTW, the Unit of the Day will no longer be a feature of every post... but I'll still post one whenever I see a unit that strikes me as engagingly peculiar.)