And wonders never cease

I have never seen a flock of robins. I have seen individual robins, and I have seen flocks of seagulls and starlings and crows, but I have never seen a flock of robins.

I was working at my computer when I noticed the shadows moving across my desk, and looked out on a transformed landscape: tree after tree full of robins with bright orange vests. They covered the holly tree that’s right next to my window and sat on the window sill and around the edges of the window and everywhere I looked, were robins.

I grabbed my camera and I ran down to the deck and I stood there in the icy cold with bare feet as birds flew all around me, even being so bold as to stop at the edges of the deck, wary eyes on me, and I’m standing still trying not not ruin the moment.

I know the mundane tale of migration from the southern states to the north, and St. Louis being just one stop along the way, but I’d rather not hear about reasons or science. Just let me sit here at my window, as I watch the birds fly back and forth, and laugh at my poor cat cowering under the table because there are too many birds even for her.



Just as suddenly as they came, they were gone, leaving at the first flake of new snow. But not before having eaten all the red berries on the holly tree.


Your opinion and the relevance of things

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

A few weeks back a person who I hadn’t talked to on the phone for some time called me and we were chatting away. While talking, he got another call and excused himself for a moment to check who it was. He then came back on the line to say so-and-so was on the line and he’ll call me back.

He did call back and we had a conversation but at the point, the conversation was strained. The reason why is that no matter how important the other person was to my friend, I, also, am an important person — to someone somewhere. If the other caller was someone who my friend hadn’t heard from, or the issue was critical, the story would have been different. But it was just one of many calls the two exchange during the day.

Later that night, in an email to my friend, I wrote basically the following (names and stuff edited):


You’re a terrific person and my friend. but when you call me and we’re talking and another person calls through, even the person you love, the decent thing to do would be continue your conversation with me and tell the other person you’ll call them back. Love does not give anyone the right to make another person feel second-best.


Exposing ourselves daily on these ‘boards’ as we do, sometimes we think that this gives each of us the right to tell our ‘weblogging friends’ where they’re going wrong, and what they need to do to go right. But you know, none of what happens here gives anyone this right.

We ask for opinions, and we should accept these gratefully, regardless of the opinion. But sometimes we just talk, just talk, and what we say is nothing more than what we’re thinking or even feeling at the moment. It’s then we have to rely on something that’s so old it seems as if can never be fashionable again. But as with so many other things on the Internet, the old can be made new again, and this applies to courtesy as much as to anything else.

I heard from another friend last night who had been ‘publicly de-linked’ from another weblogger’s blogroll because of what she had been writing. I’m not linking to either of them, not because I’m denying them “link juice”, but because in some ways the ‘public de-link’ isn’t really the issue, courtesy is. (Apologies to them both and if they want me to link to their posts, I will.)

None of us is perfect, and only the most shallow person can write in such a way as to please all people at all times (or should we say, not displease all people at least some of the time). Courtesy dictates that if a person isn’t writing about a subject you’re currently interested in, you move to another weblog until they do, or you don’t ever come back. But you don’t chastise them because they’re writing on topics that don’t interest you. It’s not weblogging etiquette or something silly like that. It’s courtesy.

Now, if we express strong opinion, we’ll get strong opinion back. And if we write about controversy, expect comments. That should be accepted. My last few postings were nothing if not expressions of strong opinions, and I should be willing to accept as good as I get. None of us writes in isolation.

Expressing disagreement is not a discourtesy. Only when the argument becomes condescending or personal has the act gone from opinion to discourtesy. When you respond to another’s post, do you say “You’re wrong because of…”, or do you say things such as “I’m disappointed in you” or “I didn’t expect this coming from you”. There is difference. The former allows me my opinion, the latter does not.

You see, I am not here to please you, or to seek your goodwill. I thank you for your respect, appreciation and liking; but only as a gift freely given, not a payment for services rendered.

Am I rambling? I think I am, so I need to bring this back around full circle.

Before you think I’m again on my high moral horse, looking down on all you sinners, think again. I screwed the pooch twice this last week — once in Jonathon Delacour’s comments and once associated with Halley’s Alpha Male posting.

In Jonathon’s comments, I was just plain rude. I let the topic of copyright irritate me, I felt he took the high ground, and reacted thoughtlessly as a result.

As for Halley’s postings, I didn’t want to write about them, so instead I found myself going to different weblogs, dropping noises of disagreement about the posting in the comments of those webloggers who liked what Halley wrote for purely personal reasons. Disagreement isn’t necessarily a ‘bad thing’, but when I got to the second instance of leaving a comment I should have held back and wrote the posting I ended up writing, rather than chastise the other webloggers — Tom Shugart and Jeneane Sessum — for writing what was a personal expression of appreciation.



“This was nicely written and I appreciate the sentiment.”

“What’s to appreciate. She said this and this and this and this.”

“Stop appreciating it!”


I know when to give opinion and when to shut up.

I think this is, indirectly, my way of apologizing to Jonathon and Tom and Jeneane for my discourtesy in their comments. And I’d like to say I won’t do it again, but I’m sure I will, because I’m human, and I make mistakes, and I screw up. And I am counting on their understanding of this fact to offset my discourtesy.

As understanding as I should have been with my friend.


Thoughts on the State of the Union

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I watched the State of the Union speech last night.

Some thoughts:

Health Care:

The most reaction during the speech occurred when the President mentioned health care reform. Unfortunately, his introduction didn’t follow through with any effective solutions.

Rather than extend Medicare and Medicaid with a prescription drug plan, the President instead wants to give seniors who need help with prescription drugs the opportunities to go into HMOs. I would suggest you find a senior and you ask them why they would prefer not to go into an HMO.

HMOs operate at a profit. To make this profit, they control costs in many ways, including restricting access to physicians and rewarding physicians for keeping costs down. These plans discourage long-term treatments, and categorize many procedures as ‘experimental’ and therefore not covered. In addition, its more cost effective to treat as many patients as possible with nurse practitioners rather than with doctors directly. NPs aren’t paid as much.

This works contrary to the needs of the elderly, who prefer and need to go to their own physicians, rather than being seen by a nurse practitioner or a different doctor on every visit. In addition, the elderly can require long-term expensive care as well as medical procedures that may be fairly new, or still undergoing research. Alzheimer’s treatments come to mind when I say the latter. HMOs work best with younger, relatively healthy families who suffer from the usual bumps and bruises, flus, and maybe an occasional heart attack or broken bone. HMOs do not work well with the elderly.

(After the speech, NBC had an interview with the governor of Ohio, a Republican, who thought that the President was adding a drug package to medicare. He was quite happy about this. The governor is in for a nasty surprise when he finds out that the President has no intention of adding increased prescription coverage to Medicare.)

However, the increased business for the HMOs should help several of the larger corporations who are invested in this type of medical care.

The President’s other ‘improvement’ for the health care system was to suggest a reform of the medical litigation system. I agree that our current litigation system needs work. I think we’ve become a rather sue-happy country. But I also think we need to look at this issue from both sides.

Many of the lawsuits in this country have been against the HMOs, hospitals, drug companies, in addition to those against doctors. Many of the lawsuits have been brought about to try and force the HMOs to cover medical expenses these same companies have declined to cover as ‘experimental’. Much of the medical litigation in the last several years has been against drug companies for drugs that have caused incalculable harm because of side effects; the same side effects that should have been discovered by these same drug companies.

(It’s interesting because the homeland security bill also included a measure to limit liability against drug companies because of vaccines.)

Regardless, I fail to see how reforming medical litigation is going to help the 50+ million Americans, such as myself, who have no medical insurance and cannot get medical help when we need it.


The President’s Clear Sky initiative aims to cut emissions from power plants. Sounds good. Unfortunately, the President has also weakened the Clean Air act through legislation relaxing the enforcement of many industrial clean air rules — legislation that just passed January 23rd of this year.

The President also discusses his Healthy Forest Initiative. I talked about this previously. The plan is to allow local control over federal forests, which ultimately will allow more lumber company access to prime timber. In the interests of preventing fires, you see.

We’ve been over this and over this for years and years. A healthy forest is not a tame forest full of a few carefully nurtured trees. It’s wild, it’s brushy, it has lightening blasted tree stumps, and ground clutter and sick trees among the healthy. This is a ‘real’ forest. The ground clutter provides food and shelter for the creatures in the forest, and the dying trees provide nutrients for new growth such as wild mushrooms, which also act as a food source.

A part of the ecosystem necessary to sustain these forests is fire. Occasionally these forests get naturally occurring fires, which help to control the undergrowth, to eliminate some of the sicker trees, and to allow new growth to occur. Unfortunately, now, too many fires now are caused my humans rather than through natural causes. In addition, we’ve allowed building to erode into the forests and this plays absolute havoc with the fragile, balanced eco-system.

A true “Healthy Forest Initiative” is one in which we leave the forests alone, and let them grow as they have grown for centuries.

Another of the President’s environmental intiatives is increased energy production in this country. We know where this is heading — drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wilderness Refugee.

It’s interesting to read this online newsletter put together by people concerned about the oil company efforts already in the area. Didn’t the President mention something about corporate accountability? Doesn’t sound like it’s being applied with BP in Alaska.

The most we would get from ANWR in oil is about 6 months supply. Enough to make a goodly profit for an oil company, but not enough to solve a long-term problem. And this leads to the President’s last initiative, which is funding for hydrogen powered cars. This was an ear opener for me, until I spent a bit of time chewing on the statement.

Regardless of the war in Iraq and drilling in ANWR, we’re running out of oil. Years ago I remember a teacher discussing the fact, fact mind you, that scientists estimate we’ll run out of petroleum reserves in about the year 2025 — give or take a few years. This isn’t political, this is the fact of life of a world that is too efficient in its consumption of natural resources.

The automakers in this country have long been aware of this, but hesitant to spend money on research for alternatives. After all, research as well as plant re-tooling cuts into profits. Now here comes the President giving the automakers the funding to do this research, without touching their existing profits.

Don’t get me wrong, this research is needed. But I don’t necessarily trust that the impetus for this act is based on altruism.

Taxes and Economic Stimulus:

The President proposes pushing up the implementation of the income tax breaks as well as new income tax cuts. With these, he thinks the economy will improve because we’ll all spend more money and this will encourage growth.

Of course, one must have a job to benefit from these tax cuts.

The economy is stagnating because this country doesn’t know if we’ll be going to war or not. Contrary to the myth that war is good for an economy, it isn’t. Due to modern advances in production, only a handful of companies and industries will benefit from any ‘war’. This isn’t the 40’s anymore, and we’re not talking about fighting Hitler. War is not good for an economy.

In uncertain times people do not spend. Regardless of the few dollars they’ll receive from these tax breaks, the American public is deeply worried now, and when we’re worried, we stash our money, we don’t spend it. The most the tax breaks will do is help the wealthy get wealthier, and add to a growing deficit that will only increase, dramatically, when we start paying for this war against Iraq.

For the individual breaks themselves, I suggest you read what Loren wrote about the dividend tax cut and the inheritance tax cut. As for the elimination of the marriage penalty and the tax breaks for children, this fits nicely into President Bush’s social programs.

Social programs:

In some ways, I found the President’s social programs to be the most disturbing part of his speech, and the one that I’m sure will receive the least press. When the President mentions a mentor program for the children of those in prison, and drug rehab programs, he’s talking about ones based on faith. And this is the most dangerous problem facing our country now because it demonstrates a growing erosion of the freedoms we say we hold dear. The dividing line between church and state has never been more periously thin then it is right now.

We only have to look at the Magdalene Launderies to see how well religious ‘compassion’ mixes with social reform. As Joni Mitchell sang:


These bloodless brides of Jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then they’d know and they’d drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
They’d like to drive us down the drain
At the Magdalene laundries


We only have to look at our own country to see the abuse of freedom when religion seeks to ‘reform’. The Boy Scouts organization and its continue bigotry against gays, the ripping of indian children from their families at the turn of the century (to overcome their heathen ways), the never-ending sex scandals associated with the Catholic church, the death of many due to ‘faith’ healings, the continue lack of effective sex education in our schools, the bombings of abortion clinics, and so on — the mix of religion and power in this country has never been successful.

Religion works in this country when the only power given to the religious is the power to practice their own faith.

Foreign Policy

I appreciate the monies for Aids assistance in Africa. I only hope that the money goes to help the people, without attaching any moral strings. I only hope it reaches the people rather than enriches the infrastructure in this country on the way. And I only hope that the reason we’re helping the Africans is because we feel it is the right thing to do, not because the majority of Africans are black, and the Republicans are in deep trouble with the black community at this time.

As for Iraq: We’re going to war in Iraq and nothing I or you can say will prevent this. We have no rights, nor any say, in this issue. Not until two years from now when we can vote again, and then it will be too late.

We allowed our fear because of the Twin Towers to lead to this. We are responsible. We may blame the President, but we are responsible. Whatever blood is shed, it is on our hands.


I am not a political analyst, nor am I an economic, foreign policy, or environmental expert. I’m not going to make any pretense of being any of these — something that happens all to often in weblogs. I am a citizen of the country giving my views and opinions of what I heard, based on what I know.

I am beyond anger and frustration. I am even beyond being discouraged because I know that the die is cast for the next two years. The most I can do is help contain the effects as much as possible, and I must work very hard from this point on to even achieve that.