Jones of the Nile

Monday, October 31, 2005

Rick Santorum and Bill Clinton have something in common?

Don't worry, the sky isn't falling. What Bill Clinton and Slick Rick Santorum have in common, according to Pennsylvania political science gurus G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young, is that they are historically known as "Comeback Kids." This article from Politics PA spells it out.

But before us anti-Rick folks get all torked up, this article is quite good. It shows how, despite the fact that Slick Rick likes to portray himself as an underdog in every election, he's actually lying. In his last two elections, Rick Santorum faced candidates the equivalent of Forest Gump. (Which is ironic, now that I say that, because Teresa Heinz Kerry once called Rick Santorum 'Forest Gump.' But I digress...) He was never an underdog, yet despite his weak opponents, Santorum closed badly and only won by a few points.

This time, as the gurus write, Santorum doesn't have the luxury of campaigning against a no-name yokel. He's campaigning against a Casey, and the only name more famous than "Casey" in Pennsylvania is "Penn."

So I take a lot of stock in this article. And it's from G. Terry Madonna, who is the Don Corleone of Pennsylvania political science. Here's the best line:

"Santorum is not a closer. He regularly fumbles big leads or stumbles in the clutch. To some extent he also does not wear well with voters as the campaign runs on. Much of his electoral success has been based on running up big leads and then hanging on to win what becomes a close race."

Why is that line so important? Because Santorum, who has all the advantages of incumbency (name recognition, money, etc.), is already 16 points behind Bob Casey in polls. If the Senator can't close, and he's not racking up his big lead, then what other road can he follow other than the road to defeat?

It's going to be an interesting year for this campaign. Oh, and if you needed another reason to hate Wal-Mart, or one reason to stop shopping at Urban Outfitters, check out this site,, which shows that Slick Rick has received campaign money from these two retailers and their founders.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

We are family

Earlier this week we celebrated United Nations Day. Not that anyone actually celebrated it. In fact, in "Militia Country," also known as that vast space of land in Pennsylvania between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (also known as "Pennsyltucky"), groups of AM radio listeners gathered to burn the U.N. flag. Thankfully, the power of Militia Country, PA has diminished over these past few years - hence the reason Pennsylvania has gotten more blue instead of red.

Though our country (and many others) piss all over the United Nations, I still find hope in its intentions. So did the late theologian Robert McAfee Brown, who wrote this eloquent statement to celebrate U.N. Day:

"There must not only be a vision of the global family, but a sufficient sense of belonging to the global family so people will undertake risks on behalf of that broad family."

I'd guess there's lots of room for misinterpretation in this statement. The key word in there for me is broad. Brown isn't urging us to take risks on behalf of the American family, or the Western family, or the White family, or the Judeo-Christian family, but the broad family. Where would we be as a world if vision like this was the dominant paradigm?

I'm reminded of another quote, by another religious guy, Charles de Foucauld: "The absence of risk is a sure sign of mediocrity." And in addition to a culture of cronyism and corruption in our world and country, I'd say we're knee-deep in a culture of mediocrity, too.

Which is all the more reason to remember the things in this world, like the U.N., that were created out of a culture of optimism and hope, rather than cynicism and dominance.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The sound of silence

Emily Dickinson once said that "Saying nothing...sometimes says the most." I'm not sure if she was talking about silence as a form of reflection on war, poverty, HIV/AIDS, "name your social issue here," etc. If she was, then she'd be the perfect spokeswoman for Two Minutes of Silence, a campaign by to get people to take 'two minutes of silence' on November 11, 2005, to reflect on all the chaos in our world.

I used to think things like this were ridiculous. People who "fast for peace," "turn off the TV for a week," "light a candle each morning for an end to war," or whatever. I mean, the world doesn't get less violent just because Joe Blo turned off his television, or because he lit a candle. And there's always the thought that feel-good campaigns like these do only that - make people not suffering from war, violence, hunger or disease feel like they've made their contribution just because they skipped breakfast. In other words, campaigns like this don't delve into the systemic reasons for why we have such widespread disease, why wars are fought, or why poor people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti eat less than the Smith family of Sylvan Lake, Michigan.

But lately I feel a little different. As days go by, as my own life experiences continue to get richer and deeper, I find myself longing for periods of contemplation. As a Buddhist once told me, "Meditation teaches us that peace of mind -- or its absence -- essentially depends on whether or not we contemplate the events of life in a spirit of reflection and open-mindedness."

And under that light, maybe events like Two Minutes of Silence can have a stronger impact than many give them credit for. If indeed people actually take two minutes to contemplate the events of life in a spirit of reflection and open-mindedness, then maybe we are turning the wheel toward the creation of a more nonviolent, healthier world.

So I'll be taking part. If you want to join me, sign your name here. As the campaign says, "Now we are faced with a global conflict that is so nebulous, so ill-defined and ill-conceived, that it may never end. All we are told is that there is our side, and there is the other side. That our way of life is at stake, and we must triumph at all costs. As the coffins multiply, we grieve our own losses. But the horror of neverending war brings with it the chance for a truly global resistance."

Friday, October 28, 2005

The spirit of Rosa Parks

If I'm going to let the likes of Geena Davis, Harriet Miers and Andy Rooney grace this blog, I ought to be pummeled if I don't give space to someone who actually deserves it: Rosa Parks. She died this past week, though as Rosa herself once said, "Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others."

Here's an article written by Coretta Scott King and Bernice King, Rosa Parks, a spirit 'sent to us by God'. If God sends us spirits, I sure hope one gets sent to replace this woman.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel a vacancy of truly prophetic leadership these days. And I'm not talking about politicians, who by the very nature of politics have their prophetic-edge stripped from them in their first days in office. I mean the people like Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Shirley Chisholm - who speak not from academia or public opinion polls, but people who speak from the heart because of life experience.

Is Cindy Sheehan as good as it gets these days?

RIP, Rosa. And have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Guidelines to remove gay priests

For years the Catholic Church has been looking at ways to purge the homosexual population in its seminaries - particularly U.S. seminaries (for which gay people make up nearly 99% of the student body!). Under Pope Benedict XVI, this campaign has intensified, and led to recommendations being made to U.S. seminaries on how they can control their gay problem. Cause it's not like there are a million other issues (war, poverty, economic justice, racism, immigration...need I go on?) that the Church could actually pay attention to.

I digress...a colleague of mine forwarded me this today, which are the "real" guidelines sent from the Vatican to seminaries. Indeed, this should cut down on the gay boys extensively! Enjoy...

From: The Association of Formerly Gay Seminarians
Re: Investigation of Homosexuals in the Seminaries

Date: October 2005

Dear Vatican,

Thank you for undertaking this very worthwhile project to remove homosexuals from our seminaries. Since most seminarians will probably answer "no" when you ask them directly if they are gay, you will need to devise alternative methods to identify the deviants. We suggest the following:

1.) Check his music collection.
If he has more than 2 CDs by Streisand, Cher, or Madonna, boot him.

2.) Check his vocabulary.
If before entering they knew the meaning of "baldachino," "humeral veil" or "Spencer Abbey," boot him.

3.) Ask him about cooking.
If, from memory, he can concoct more than three recipes that require gureyere, arrugala, or caramelizing, toss him.

4.) Find out what he wears at the beach.
If he wears Speedos for purposes other than lap-swimming, throw him out.

5.) Dig deeper into the cooking issue.
If he knows the difference between parsley and cilantro, and REFUSES to cook with the former, get rid of him.

6.) Ask him about his room in the seminary.
If he refers to its curtains, drapes, blinds, or shades as "window treatments," dismiss him.

7.) Learn about what keeps him awake at night.
If has ever lost sleep because he thinks the altar flowers would really be prettier if they had just a little more baby's breath, throw him out.

8.) Investigate the contents of his song memories.
If he knows the lyrics to the entire score of any Broadway play that won the Tony award for the best musical during the years 1963-1987, throw him out.

9.) Watch how he enters a room.
If he immediately goes to the lamp in the corner and turns the shade so that the seam faces the wall, he is history.

10.) Ask him about his decision-making ability.
If he has ever spent an entire weekend painting a seminary prayer space honey dew melon only to decide on Monday that it isn't quite right and spends the entire NEXT weekend repainting the chapel mint #377, throw him out.

11.) Find out what distracts him in prayer.
If he has ever been bothered by recurrent concerns about cilantro and window treatments while in prayer, throw him out.

12.) Research his sense of history.
If he recalls exactly where he was when Lady Dianna crashed, but cannot recall how he learned of the Pope's death, show him the door.

13.) Listen for hints of his understanding of New York.
If the mention of "The Mets" gets him talking about the Opera and Museum rather than the baseball team, throw him out.

14.) Learn about his ambitions.
If he would ever want to investigate the presence of gays in the seminary, throw him as far away as you possibly can.

She should start a blog in her freetime

Now that Harriet Miers has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court, she's going to have a lot of freetime. I suggest she create a blog for people who's faces are succumbing to the power of gravity. Or maybe all that creasage is what happens when dealing with the stress of being one of George W. Bush's cronies.

Whatever. She was mediocre to begin with, and now Bush can replace her with a real conservative zealot to appease the right-wing wackos who had it out for Miers' head. Here's what the White House is saying:

"Miers notified Bush of her decision at 8:30 p.m. (Wednesday), according to a senior White House official who said the president will move quickly to find a new nominee."

No shit he'll move quickly, Sherlock. After all, he needs something to deflect the indictment coverage that will be 24-7 starting soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Speak your peace

This is geared more for people younger than me (at 26, I guess I'm no longer considered a spring chicken), but thought I'd share. It's a poetry contest sponsored by the I Will Not Kill campaign, an initiative started by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (and a number of other co-sponsoring organizations). The campaign works to affirm the right of conscientious objection and oppose any future military draft, specifically educating high school and college-aged youth.

I can't write poetry worth a nickel. When I was in college, I wrote some ghastly piece comparing myself to 'a wrinkle in time, in need of an iron.' I thought it was the shit at the time, of course, but I also thought Natalie Imbruglia was a creative genius back then. Thank God I've come to my senses.

So for those born circa 1980 and after, the poetry contest wants "to hear what youth have to say about peace, war, the draft, military recruitment, violence and conscientious objection." Hopefully it's more than:

Peace is boring,
I'd rather play Grand Theft Auto Vice City.
Or see Jessica Alba,
bare her left tittie.

I am lame. But for those who have actual talent when it comes to poetry (or some wit, which I must be lacking this morning if I have to delve so low as to reference Jessica Alba's breast!) you can send your poems to Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Today we hit the 2,000 mark for U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. I've never quite gotten comfortable with how easy it is for folks to focus on numbers. Obviously 2,000 is significant, but I'm equally disturbed by the fact that we watch the news and look at casualty numbers as if they were rising gas prices. 1,997, 1,998, 1,999...2,000. Even worse, there's more outrage over rising gas prices than there is over this war.

I don't know when that will change, or what will cause it to. But to put aside feelings of outrage for one minute, to remember 2,000 individuals who have lost their lives - who are more than just numbers reported on cable news - seems important. Truthout is doing a series this week where they are publishing interviews with family members of the 2,000 soldiers who have died - reminding us that the fallen are more than just numbers, they are mothers, fathers, brothers, volunteer firefighters, neices, and more.

Lastly, some words from Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and author, on the potential of humanity. Wiesel actually supported the Iraq war, purportedly, but no matter. He's right on about this...

"I have learned two lessons in my life: first, there are no sufficient literary, psychological, or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings."

My favorite family value: Torture

You wouldn't think something as gruesome and repugnant as torture would be a family value. Sure, my mother used to torture me when I was little, forcing me to watch "Little House on the Prairie" with her instead of playing Nintendo. But, there's a big difference between that and forcing people to simulate sex while wearing a hoodie.

Despite the almost universal agreement that torture is a bad thing, our family values President and his crew in Congress have held up an anti-torture measure drafted by REPUBLICAN Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Why? Because Bush and his trainwreck think the measure will infringe on their capacity to govern during wartime.

There's so much hypocrisy here, you'd need a machete to cut through it. These same people who fire religion from their gunholders anytime someone questions their decisions can't see the connection between torture and social justice. This President offered religion as a justification for the nomination of Harriet Miers, but doesn't have the spiritual depth to offer religion as a reason to condemn torture. Instead he balks at a measure (literally a piece of paper) that says the U.S. "would prohibit 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment' of prisoners in the custody of the U.S. military," all because he thinks the measure infringes on his turf - war policy. Perhaps Bush and the nine Christian senators who voted against this forgot that the Jesus they worship died of, what else, torture.

If Bush vetoes this measure (which was added onto a larger defense bill) it will be the first thing he's vetoed since taking office in January 2001. What a great message that will send to the rest of the world, and really, to all of humanity that this President will lend his signature to support bills to construct bridges to nowhere in Alaska, but won't get behind a measure condemning torture.

I disagree with Sen. McCain on many fronts, but on torture, this man speaks from authentic experience, having been tortured for years during the Vietnam War. Here's his justification for the measure, both as an American and as a person of faith:

"We are Americans, and we hold ourselves to human standards of treatment of people - no matter how evil or terrible they may be...this isn't about who they are. This is about who we are."

Here's a great editorial on the torture issue from the Dallas Morning News. Here's one from the San Antonio Express. And if newspaper editorials aren't adequate, check out the Torture Abolitionists and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) International. These folks may have the most legit point of view, given that their coalition is made up of people who have survived torture, and know the damning effects of it - from being denied food, denied sleep, to be beaten, and to suffer the nightly dreams and visions of captivity for the rest of their lives. Authentic politicians and people of faith could learn a lot by just listening to the folks who have suffered most from this sad, sad issue.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The immorality of the word immoral

Today was my first day back at work in more than two weeks, and I've been so unplugged from the real world that I hardly could tell you which celebrity has a secret baby, or which Congressional leader has a nasty mugshot. So, rather than scour the web for something newsworthy, I figured today I would just leave you all with a quote on the word immoral from "Wicked," a novel by Gregory Maguire. It's from the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, who in the novel is a real jackass. But I liked this excerpt, so I thought I'd share.

"I do not listen when anyone uses the word immoral," said the Wizard. "In the young it is ridiculous, in the old it is sententious and reactionary and an early warning sign of apoplexy. In the middle-aged, who love and fear the idea of moral life the most, it is hypocritical."

I think I once told a reporter who called my line at work that the Iraq war was immoral. I wonder if he thought I was ridiculous, or hypocritical! Or both.

Friday, October 21, 2005

EXTRA! EXTRA! Blog gets updated!

You'd think ABC was paying me money for keeping Geena Davis the top spot on my blog for almost 10 days. Sadly, they were not. They did cast me in a new show starring opposite Jason Alexander, though! But then it got cancelled. And that was only in my dreams.

My parents have been in town, and I've also been moving into a new apartment (technically a house, but there's no basement or attic, so it's like an apartment. I mean, I know that's kosher in Florida, but up here in the midwestern part of Pennsylvania, we heart our basements and attics). So that's where all my energy has been these past few days.

But starting Monday, and continuing through November 30, I'm going to post to this thing every single day, even if it kills me. If it does, I'll name a successor. I wonder what Harriet Miers will be doing...

Anyway, talk to you all on Monday. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Geena Davis is not Hillary Clinton

Between you and me, I might prefer Geena Davis in office!

But nonetheless, leave it to the folks at Focus on the Family to draw parallels between Geena Davis' character on "Commander-in-Chief" and Sen. Hillary Clinton. But they don't draw the line at parallels...nope, they actually think Geena Davis' character's name (Mackenzie Allen) sounds subliminally like "Hillary Clinton." And this is AP reporting.

Here's the excerpt (also available on The Washington Monthly's Web site):

    James Dobson's Focus on the Family, in its daily alert to supporters, said yesterday that Geena Davis's character name, Mackenzie Allen, "sounds remarkably, poetically like" Hillary Clinton, which apparently is proof that the show is conspiring to help HRC in 2008.

I'm no linguist, nor do I play one on tv. Sure, I'd pretend to be one to sleep with someone, or I'd pretend I'm having dinner with a linguist to get out of talking to my parents on the phone. But I don't think it takes a linguist to see that Mackenzie Allen doesn't sound remotely close to Hillary Clinton. That's like saying Jesus Christ sounds like George Bush.

Which I'm sure a lot of people might agree with...but I digress. One other you like how Focus on the Family refers to Hillary Clinton as "HRC"? Ah, the power this woman holds over these nut jobs.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lodged in the material world

All of a sudden I'm singing Madonna in my head...

Sorry I haven't posted much this past week. I'm technically on vacation, though the next few days can hardly be considered vacation. My parents are coming into town from 900+ miles away, and I'm also frantically looking for an that doesn't smell like cat piss, or is located above a gaggle of children. I'm set in my ways...

So I'm reading "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire for a new book club I've joined, and am finding it's take on evil to be pretty amusing. My favorite line so far: "Woe is the natural end of life, yet we go on having babies." I laughed, because I remember telling a co-worker some odd months ago that I couldn't see bringing children into this world, when there's so much that's bad. The following line in the book made me laugh even harder..."We only have babies when we're young enough not to know how grim life turns out." Cynical, yes, but ain't that the truth?

I don't know. Lately I've found myself not paying enough attention to the spiritual, and when that happens, I tend to get a little crabby. (I think I also get some bags under my eyes, too. Twenty-six year olds shouldn't have bags, should they?) Maybe I'm also paying a little too much attention to politics. That tends to drive up the cynic levels in everyone.

So from "Wicked" I got to reading this article from Psychology Today that talks about caring for your soul. In fact, it's called Care of the Soul. Its point is that the soul is the seat of our deepest emotions, the fiber of who we are, the spot that generates our worldview...and when we neglect its growth, we suffer individually and as a community. I found this paragraph particularly relevant to me...

    We have a spiritual longing for community and relatedness and for a cosmic vision, but we go after them with literal hardware instead of with sensitivity of the heart. We want to know all about people from far away places, but we don't want to feel emotionally connected to them.

Something is in that paragraph that gets to the heart of some of my sadness lately. Is it that instead of feeling emotionally connected to people, I find myself dwelling on the latest article from The New York Times, or some task at work? Here's the next paragraph...

    "Therefore, our many studies of world cultures are soulless, replacing the common bonding of humanity and its shared wisdom with bytes of information that have no way of getting into us deeply, of nourishing and transforming our sense of ourselves. Soul has been extracted from the beginning, because we conceive education to be about skills and information, not about depth of feeling and imagination."

Maybe that gets at it better...I don't feel like much is getting into me deeply, except for rage at our incompetent President and his circus. But that doesn't make me a better person; it just makes me angry. And probably results in the bags under my eyes.

Anyway, this isn't the most articulate entry I've ever posted. But it's sort of a cathartic reminder to myself of my need to feel connected, to be rooted a little more spiritually. Hope everyone has a good night.

Have I told you lately that I love Sen. Russ Feingold?

This man is a Senator from Wisconsin, and I want him to be President in 2008. Have I said that enough? I think this is only my third or fourth entry on him.

There are two reasons I like him. One, he looks a lot like my dad, only 10 years younger and with less silver hair. I'd like a President that looks like family.

Two, because he has a plan for Iraq, the sandstorm in a blender that Bush has gotten us into. Yowsa. That's a bad analogy. But really, here's another article (this one from the Boston Globe) that says he's the only Democrat with some courage when it comes to talking about Iraq. You'll notice he didn't vote for something before he voted against it. He's always been against it, and against the Patriot Act, and against the Central American Free Trade Agreement...yes, he did vote to confirm John Roberts, but nobody's perfect.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Even Andy Rooney is against this war!

He's complained about loud music, revealing swimsuits, call waiting, and now finally even Andy Rooney is pissed off about the war in Iraq. If you click here, you can read Rooney's cranky review of the current war, with a shout out to Dwight Eisenhower, who gave one of the most prophetic quotes I've ever seen about the United States' dependence on war...

"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist..." - Dwight Eisenhower

Want to know where the money for Katrina is? Check out our war budget. Last year, Japan spent $42 billion on their military; Italy spent $28 billion; Russia only $19 billion. The U.S.? We spent $455 billion, and counting.

Who's reaping the benefits of this? Certainly not our soldiers...they can barely get enough armor to cover their vehicles. And it's definitely not your or you feel any safer, knowing that since 9/11 we've been spending this kind of money on the military?

Nope...the ones that reap this benefit are the Haliburtons, or the Bechtels, or the Lockheed Martins, who collect billions upon billions for contracts that our crony-loving President and his administration set up. But of course, Bush isn't the reason we have a military industrial complex. He's only exacerbated it.

Well, I can't leave you on a depressing note, especially after I went nine days without writing, and the entry that remained up top was a sad story about exploiting poor people in photographs. So here's a picture of Andy Rooney's face, superimposed onto Napoleon's body. Sexy. *rowr*

Hope everyone has a great day!

Monday, October 03, 2005

The best article about today's Supreme Court news...and it's not even about Harriet Miers

The title: Susan Lucci in Judicial Robes. It's by Timothy Noah at Slate, and it's a funny-as-hell tale about the life and times of Edith Jones, perrennial talked about nominee to the Supreme Court. Turns out she's been on the short list since 1987, but has never been able to crack that glass ceiling.

Guess we'll have to change the cliche to "Keeping up with the Miers'". But come on, nobody wants to spell 'meirs' that way. Where's the "EYERS," oh sequel to Sandra?

And is anyone else puzzled as hell about Bush's choice? And why is it that anyone who chairs a 'selection committee' in the Bush administration ends up being the selection themselves? Dick Cheney, Harriet Miers...I sense a trend...or just a weak president looking to help one more crony before he becomes a lame duck.