Archive - 2007
The 8+ inches of snow we got last night and today canceled church. With the unexpected snow day, we decided to put our Christmas tree. This year I decided to break out of the usual micro-managing mode and let the boys do all of the ornament hanging. They enjoyed it but couldn't wait to get back to watching football with dad.
Here are some photos from today (more are on Picasa):
Last week I took the boys to get their holiday haircuts. When we got home, they took off their hats, and we were inspired to get out the gel and hairspray...and take a few photos. We also googled Harry Connick, Jr. so that Elliot could see the resemblance. Some photos (more on Picasa):
A couple of the TV picks from The Week magazine for next week:
Hard as Nails
Justin Fatica, an unordained Catholic preacher in upstate New York, has drawn attention and aroused controversy with his Hard as Nails youth ministry. This lively profile captures the 28-year-old firebrand as he employs his attention-grabbing techniques, which include haranguing troubled teenagers and having them haul wooden crosses. Monday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m., HBO
In God’s Name
French filmmakers Jules and Gedeon Naudet survived the collapse of the World Trade Center, an experience they chronicled in the Emmy- and Peabody-winning film 9/11. Since then, the two brothers have traveled the world seeking perspective from spiritual leaders on such issues as intolerance, terrorism, and war. This documentary features interviews with an array of religious leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, the Dalai Lama, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as their counterparts among Jews, Hindus, Muslims both Shiite and Sunni, Sikhs, Shintoists, Lutherans, Baptists, and Russian Orthodox—faiths whose combined followers number more than 4 billion. The film presents a unique opportunity to meet 12 people of extraordinary influence and hear their insights into the very meaning of life. Sunday, Dec. 23, at 9 p.m., CBS
A couple stories with a common theme caught my attention last week.
First, from the December 6 installment of The Writer's Almanac:
And it was on this day in 1917 that an accidental explosion destroyed a quarter of the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was the height of World War I, and Halifax was serving as an important port city for many of the ships carrying supplies for the battlefront. One of the ships coming into the port that day was a French supply ship called the Mont Blanc, carrying 200 tons of TNT, 2300 tons of other explosives, as well as ten tons of cotton, and thirty-five tons of highly flammable chemicals stored in vats on the ship's upper deck. On its way into port, the Mont Blanc collided with a Norwegian freighter, which started a fire, and the crew of the Mont Blanc piled into lifeboats and then paddled frantically away.
The fire on the Mont Blanc drew a crowd of onlookers along the shore of the channel. The docks filled with spectators, trams slowed down, people stood at office windows and on factory roofs to see the blaze. Then, a few minutes after the fire had started, the Mont Blanc exploded. It was the single most powerful man-made explosion at that point in human history.
The blast wave of water hit the shore, sweeping away buildings, bridges, roads, vehicles, and people. City streets split open. Houses, churches, schools, and factories collapsed. Virtually every building in the city had its windows broken. About a quarter of the city, was completely destroyed. More than 2,000 people were killed and more than 9,000 were injured. It was the worst disaster of any kind in Canadian history.
One of the only people who had known about the cargo of the ship was a dispatcher at the yardmaster's office. As soon as he'd realized what was happening, he began telegraphing warnings around the city, and he kept sending out warnings even though he knew that an explosion could come at any minute. He died at his post.
It was the dispatcher that caught my attention. He knew about the explosive cargo, knew an explosion was imminent, but chose to stay at his post where he died while warning others about the danger.
Then I read a story about a 7-year-old girl in Detroit who put her body between her mom and an enraged gunman and took 6 bullets while shielding her mom from harm.
Alexis Goggins, a first-grader at Campbell Elementary School, is in stable condition at Children's Hospital in Detroit recovering from gunshot wounds to the eye, left temple, chin, cheek, chest and right arm.
"She is an angel from heaven," said Aisha Ford, a family friend for 15 years who also was caught up in the evening of terror.
The girl's mother, Selietha Parker, 30, was shot in the left side of her head and her bicep by a former boyfriend, who police said was trying to kill Parker. The gunman was disarmed by police and arrested at the scene of the shooting, a Detroit gas station. Police identified him as Calvin Tillie, 29, a four-time convicted felon whom Parker had dated for six months.
A benefit fund has been set up for Alexis.
These stories, of course, reminded me of the verse from John 15:13:
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
It made we ponder whether or not I, if placed in that sort of situation, would be paralyzed or if I could on the spur of the moment give my life for a family member or a stranger. I don't know, but I thought these two serve as great examples.
I wrote previously about why I'm so cynical about politics. The occasion then was how the new Democratic congress was going back on all their promises about how they were going to bring courtesy back to the capital, etc.
My feelings have only been reinforced this week:
From an article titled "Hoyer Is Proof of Earmarks' Endurance" by Mary Beth Sheridan in The Washington Post:
Even as House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has joined in steps to clean up pork-barrel spending, the Maryland congressman has tucked $96 million worth of pet projects into next year's federal budget, including $450,000 for a campaign donor's foundation.
Hoyer (D) is one of the top 10 earmarkers in the House for 2008, based on budget requests in bills so far, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, an independent watchdog group.
Earmarks are spending items inserted into bills to benefit designated companies or projects, often in the sponsoring lawmaker's district. They make up a small percentage of the federal budget. But because the grants often aren't subject to competitive bidding or much scrutiny, they can go to projects that are wasteful or reward campaign contributors, watchdog groups say.
Republicans had come under fire as earmarks tripled during their 12 years of congressional control, to nearly 13,000 in 2006. Some projects, such as a $223 million bridge to a sparsely populated Alaskan island -- dubbed a "bridge to nowhere" -- stirred public ridicule.
Since assuming control of Congress, Democrats have taken some important steps to clean up the practice, watchdog groups say. Lawmakers are now required to disclose their earmarks. And House and Senate leaders have agreed to cut earmark spending by 40 percent in the 2008 budget bills, most of which are being wrapped into a giant package to be presented this week.
"We made very substantial progress in making sure that earmarks, which I support, are transparent," Hoyer said in an interview.
And yet, pet projects can still be slipped into bills with little scrutiny.
From an article titled "Clinton rolls a sizable pork barrel" by Tom Hamburger and Dan Morain in the LA Times:
From the beginning of her Senate career, Clinton saw earmarks -- which enable lawmakers to bypass the normal budget process and insert narrowly drafted spending provisions directly into legislation -- as a key to funneling aid to a depressed area and building political power among normally Republican-leaning voters.
Since taking office in 2001, Clinton has delivered $500 million worth of earmarks that have specifically benefited 59 corporations. About 64% of those corporations provided funds to her campaigns through donations made by employees, executives, board members or lobbyists, a review by the Los Angeles Times shows.
All told, Clinton has earmarked more than $2.3 billion in federal appropriations for projects in her state since her election to the Senate, much of it for public works projects funded in conjunction with fellow Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer and others in the New York congressional delegation.
Clinton is not the biggest earmarker in Congress; senior congressional leaders and members of the appropriations committees can and do write many more such provisions into the huge spending bills they draft. But Clinton does significantly more earmarking than most others with her relatively low level of seniority.
Her record stands in contrast with others in the Senate seeking the presidency, particularly John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). McCain, who has long opposed earmarks, does not write them. Obama has used the device, but now declines to earmark funds for private companies; he uses earmarks only to secure funds for government projects such as road building and hospital construction. Other senators seeking the presidency provide earmarks to home-state constituents and collect donations from recipients of the federal largesse. But The Times review found that Clinton does it on a different scale.
From an article by Matt Kelley titled "'Earmark' cash aids Dem freshmen" in USA Today:
A year ago, Democrats won control of Congress in part by criticizing billions of dollars spent on pet projects. Now, freshmen Democrats are benefiting from the same kind of spending, a USA TODAY analysis shows.
All 49 of the new Democratic lawmakers sponsored or co-sponsored at least one project — known as an "earmark" — inserted into the House and Senate spending bills, the analysis found. Freshmen Democrats were the sole sponsors on projects worth $351 million, an average of $7.6 million. Republicans got approval for projects worth $65 million, or $5 million each.
The analysis found that some of the most vulnerable freshmen Democrats in next year's election were among those who got the most money: Eight of the top 10 House freshmen earmark sponsors defeated Republican incumbents, and five won in districts carried by President Bush in 2004.
Democratic candidates criticized Republican incumbents last year for abusing earmarks. Patrick Murphy attacked then-representative Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., during a debate for failing to make the "tough decisions" on a transportation bill heavy with earmarks, the Bucks County Courier Times reported. Now a representative, Murphy sponsored $11.8 million for local projects and businesses — fourth-highest among House and Senate freshmen.
And, finally, from an article titled "Muscle Flexing in Senate: G.O.P. Defends Strategy" by David Herszehnorn in the NY Times:
Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense, blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority that they are increasingly able to dictate what they want, much to the dismay of the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and frustrated Democrats in the House.
In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.
For the Democrats, it was a perfect example of why they have taken to calling the G.O.P. the “grand obstructionist party.” The Democrats send out daily tallies of the number of Republican filibusters, which the Democrats say will set a record.
It also explains why so little is getting done in Congress right now. With a crush of legislation pending ahead of the Christmas holiday recess, it should be one of the busiest times of the year.
This is why I'm intrigued by Obama and his promise to be a transformational candidate, through whom we could leave all of this B.S. behind.
Update 13 Dec 07:
From an article titled "Democrats Blaming Each Other For Failures" by Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane in The Washington Post:
When Democrats took control of Congress in January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) pledged to jointly push an ambitious agenda to counter 12 years of Republican control.
Now, as Congress struggles to adjourn for Christmas, relations between House Democrats and their colleagues in the Senate have devolved into finger-pointing.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) accuses Senate Democratic leaders of developing "Stockholm syndrome," showing sympathy to their Republican captors by caving in on legislation to provide middle-class tax cuts paid for with tax increases on the super-rich, tying war funding to troop withdrawal timelines, and mandating renewable energy quotas. If Republicans want to filibuster a bill, Rangel said, Reid should keep the bill on the Senate floor and force the Republicans to talk it to death.
Reid, in turn, has taken to the Senate floor to criticize what he called the speaker's "iron hand" style of governance.
Democrats in each chamber are now blaming their colleagues in the other for the mess in which they find themselves. The predicament caused the majority party yesterday surrender to President Bush on domestic spending levels, drop a cherished renewable-energy mandate and move toward leaving a raft of high-profile legislation, from addressing the mortgage crisis to providing middle-class tax relief, undone or incomplete.