A Day in the Life

For better or worse, here’s my photographic record of what may turn out to be a pretty boring Leap Day. I’ll update as the day goes on…

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Watching “Are You Being Served?” while laying in bed slightly tipsy from a party I attended.

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Reading the paper on my laptop in bed, finding plenty of fodder to blog about.

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An hour later, I’ve exhausted the opportunities inherent in laying around in bed, but Diego is still enjoying his comfortable spot.

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Off to the Apple Store to find gadgets and gizmos for my iPod. They don’t open ’til 12, so I spend my money at Crate and Barrel instead.

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Lunch time at Five Guys, the best hamburgers on the planet. Although I’m not sure if they’re worth the 20 minute wait — it was busy today.

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Cleaning the stove. It’s one of those flat-top stoves that you wax, like a car. Wax on… wax off. A kind of Mr. Miyagi thing, you know?

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Cleaning up the backyard and putting up my hammock. Chances are now that I’ve got the thing up, it’ll go back to being too cold to be out here.

Wow — I should do this photo thing more often. I’m getting a lot done around the house, trying to appear more productive than I usually am.

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I was tired of being productive, so Diego and I lay on the hammock, listening to some Enya and watching the clouds roll by above.

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Working on a video for Universal Living Wage.

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Cleaning the bathroom.

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It’s a new episode of “Monarch of the Glen” tonight!

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I’m getting hungry.

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Oh, Angelina — some of us are watching in high definition. Couldn’t you have picked a dress that covered those bizarre tattoos?
Does anyone else notice that the “theme” music of the Oscars this year seems to be a weird arrangement of the “All Things Considered” theme?

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Full circle… Diego’s ready for bed, and so am I. A boring day? Perhaps. I guess boring is in the eye of the beholder.

Opinion round-up

Well, I’ve already posted 4 times this morning — pun intended — while reading the newspaper. So, instead of a bunch more entries, here are some excerpts from Washington Post opinion pieces this morning that I particularly liked.

Sometimes you fight to keep rights you have. And sometimes you fight for an ideal.

A Fight for Hope
After President Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage, a heterosexual friend stumped me with this question: “Why are you fighting to prevent people from taking away rights you don’t have?”

It’s one thing to be born into discrimination, to grow up with it. It’s one thing to have discriminatory laws on the books for so long that you just sort of take them for granted. But it’s another thing to watch legalized discrimination coming.

The Constitution is the seat of America’s soul. It is the symbol of our freedom, a living, breathing testament to the consciousness of fairness and justice. To see some Americans shaking the spray can to paint anti-gay graffiti on the Constitution is almost too much to bear.

Or maybe it’s because we’ve all held out a subconscious hope that the Constitution would do for us what it did for women, African Americans and other minorities — end legalized discrimination.

Now the document that became the life-support system for some groups is about to have its air supply cut off for another.

“Sound science” in the Bush administration simply means “Sounds like science.”

Beware ‘Sound Science.’ It’s Doublespeak for Trouble
When George W. Bush and members of his administration talk about environmental policy, the phrase “sound science” rarely goes unuttered. On issues ranging from climate change to the storage of nuclear waste in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, our president has assured us that he’s backing up his decisions with careful attention to the best available research.

Dig into the origins of the phrase “sound science” as a slogan in policy disputes, and its double meaning becomes clearer. That use of the term goes back to a campaign waged by the tobacco industry to undermine the indisputable connection between smoking and disease. Industry documents released as a result of tobacco litigation show that in 1993 Philip Morris and its public relations firm, APCO Associates, created a nonprofit front group called The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) to fight against the regulation of cigarettes. To mask its true purpose, TASSC assembled a range of anti-regulatory interests under one umbrella. The group also challenged the now widely accepted notion that secondhand smoke poses health risks.

Since then, other industry groups have invoked “sound science” to ease government restrictions. …In April 2001, Vice President Cheney’s energy task force urged the Interior Department to open up more of Alaska for oil and gas drilling based on “sound science and the best available technology.” Last October, Allen James, president of Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, a group of manufacturers and suppliers of pest management products, urged the use of pesticides to kill disease-carrying mosquitoes in a letter to the Post. “As a citizen, I expect my elected officials to consider sound science in making decisions that affect my health and the health of my neighbors. Sound science says pesticide sprays are safe and effective,” he wrote.

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services, citing the need for “sound science,” challenged a World Health Organization report linking obesity to soft drinks, junk food and fast food. “Only by employing open and transparent processes that are science-based and peer-reviewed can the WHO . . . produce a credible product,” HHS said.

Is religion simply a self-help course, or should the faithful work not for themselves, but for the world?

I Want My Congregation to Look Outside Itself
Everywhere I turn these days, I hear about “The Purpose-Driven Life,” the mega-best-selling book by a California minister named Rick Warren. Members of my church are asking me about it, nearby congregations are running the 40-day spiritual program based on its precepts, and because of all the interest, I’ve decided to use it for my own daily reflections in this Lenten season.

But as I think about the book’s message and its huge impact — more than 11 million copies sold last year — I admit I’m a little confounded. The book challenges people to focus on personal change. It promises people that discovering their purpose in life will reduce their stress, simplify their decisions, increase their satisfaction and prepare them for eternity.

Personal change is an admirable objective. Yet I look around and see a world in flux — war in Iraq, the disruptions of globalization, the societal changes brought by immigration — and I wonder if a focus on the personal is what we ministers should be emphasizing. Is it enough to preach sermons that center on individual struggles and offer guidance along the path to a more meaningful and fulfilling personal life? I can’t help thinking this is a time when we should be challenging our people to move beyond the personal to the public — indeed, the political — and commit themselves to transforming the world.

Today, religious leaders generally tend to concentrate on private, not public, life. Even Christian activists such as Pat Robertson or James Dobson focus chiefly on the family or on issues, such as abortion or gay marriage, that touch people in the realm of their private lives, rather than talking about using theology to shape a better world. Most of us are pastors, quietly tending to our flocks and their internal needs, rather than prophets, challenging our people to look outward and commit themselves to creating a more just society.

The “compassionate conservative” says one thing, but their amendment says another.

The Amendment Speaks for Itself
Proponents of the Federal Marriage Amendment — the leading candidate for a constitutional ban on gay marriage — claim that it would permit states to recognize civil unions. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), the amendment’s original sponsor, maintains that it “allows for civil unions if they are enacted by state legislatures, but they cannot be imposed by the courts.” After President Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that the president agrees with Musgrave’s claim, while stopping short of endorsing the specific wording of her version. And a variety of media outlets have repeated the same assertion as though it were fact. It is not.

On the contrary, the language in the Musgrave amendment would render civil unions — as well as domestic partnerships — meaningless.

Here’s the text: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

The amendment says that state law can’t be interpreted as granting to unmarried couples the “legal incidents” of marriage — that is, the legal rights that traditionally accompany marriage — which is precisely what a civil union does.

… Instead of clarifying the text, Musgrave (along with former judge Robert H. Bork, one of the drafters) has fallen back on arguing that the courts can figure out what Congress and the voters intended. Apart from the deep ironies in this argument (why rely on the courts if the amendment is meant to rein in “activist judges,” and why are conservatives, who have long asserted that statutory interpretation begins and ends with the text, advocating murky inquiries into legislative intent?), it’s odd to opt for vagueness over clarity in drafting a constitutional amendment.

An entry from the future

This week’s Style Invitational invited entries from the year 2032, the next time that Leap Day falls on a Sunday:

Second runner-up: Lead news story of Feb. 29, 2032: Hundreds Dead in Segway Pileup (Art Grinath, Takoma Park)

First runner-up, the winner of the Piddlers instructional toilet targets: Lead news story: Washington (AP) — “no LOL 2day,” sez prez, “bcz bird flu kilt 200k!!!!” (Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls)

The winning Style Invitational entry of Feb. 29, 2032:
Use a person’s name as an acronym for an appropriate quote:
President. Ambassador. Representative. I’ve served honorably in life, triumphing over naysayers. (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

Post Issues Historic Print Edition After Third Day of Internet Blackout (Peter Metrinko, Plymouth, Minn.)

Cincinnati Oceanfront Property Values Soar (Robin and Paul Parry, Arlington)

Demi Moore Romances 50-Year-Old! (Russell Beland)

The highest-flying company: Downjohn Pharmaceuticals, maker of the Viagra antidote (Bob Wallace, Reston)

The best-selling self-help book: Heather Has Three Mommies and One Happy Daddy (Jeff Brechlin)

In Washington, Don’t Tell

A wonderful essay this morning by Sally Quinn makes some good points about how difficult it is for Washington to make a move on social issues. Being a political town, it’s impossible here to admit what you really think for fear of losing your job, both elected and appointed. Gee, you’d think that the politicians would be more empathetic toward gay people just on that one point!
She also rightly makes mention of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” — what happens to this ridiculous rule if same-sex marriage does eventually become common?

At the beginning of the Clinton administration, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was instituted in the military. My father, a retired general, was discussing the issue one night with several other generals. They all agreed that allowing gays in the military was out of the question. Pounding the table, they decried the specter of gays in foxholes and proclaimed that gays would destroy American military might and leave us defenseless against our enemies. All the while, dinner was being served by two gay corporals who could barely contain themselves.

Today gay linguists in Arabic are being discharged from the military because of their sexual preference as a sop toward conservative constituents of Washington officials. Doesn’t the president keep reminding us that we’re at war? Meanwhile, women soldiers are being raped by their colleagues and women cadets by their classmates.

I’ll bet this isn’t going to be the case much longer. For one thing, young people see gay marriage as a non-issue. “What’s the big deal?” is their general response. For another, the gay issue hits close to home for everyone, young or old. Everybody is related to, or at least knows, someone who’s gay. Now that gays are not forced to be invisible, the issue has become one of civil rights. Said one recent college graduate: “How does Washington tell the American people they have to accept gay marriage? Simple. The same way Abraham Lincoln told them they don’t get to have slaves.”

There’s also a great quote from Barney Frank:

Says Barney Frank: “I believe once it has happened it will be a non-issue very soon. Three years after civil unions in Vermont, nobody cares. It’s boring.”

In the end, he says, “It will help a lot of people and hurt nobody. Same-sex marriage doesn’t alter anything for anybody but the participants.”

Conspiracy theory #72

Hmmm. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d wonder about this article, considering other rumors that surfaced this week:

President Bush has approved a plan to intensify the effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the New York Times reported Saturday on its Web site, quoting senior administration and military officials.

It said the plan would apply new forces and new tactics to the task of hunting down bin Laden, and take advantage of better intelligence and improving weather along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The force is gradually shifting its resources to Afghanistan to step up the search for bin Laden, accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and the ousted Afghan Taliban leader, Mohammad Omar, it said.

First off, if the rumors are true and bin Laden has already been captured, this is a way to ramp up the “Bush is a hero” story before they announce it. If the rumors aren’t true, which is likely, I wonder why it’s taken years to “gradually shift resources” to find him? What in the hell have they been doing all this time? Why has the administration shifted their attention to Iraq and called that the war on terror? Is it because they know they could defeat Saddam Hussein and feel powerless over bin Laden?

Maybe they should read the vows

You know, I’m reading a wonderful article about Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, the two pioneering women who were the first to marry in San Francisco, and near the end there’s a segment describing a wedding — and it occurs to me that the words of the ceremony, whether in a church or a city hall, are very telling. They don’t mention any of the cynical reasons for marriage that the right wing claims they want to defend. Instead, they say things like:

Do you promise to love and comfort each other, honor and keep each other in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, for better or for worse, and be faithful to each other as long as you both shall live?

Now, a sample Biblical vow with definitely fundamentalist undertones includes a smarmy little line indicating that the woman must “submit” to the man, but still says nothing about requiring children:

I, _____, take you, ______, to be my wedded wife. With deepest joy I receive you into my life that together we may be one. As is Christ to His body, the church, so I will be to you a loving and faithful husband. Always will I perform my headship over you even as Christ does over me, knowing that His Lordship is one of the holiest desires for my life. I promise you my deepest love, my fullest devotion, my tenderest care. I promise I will live first unto God rather than others or even you. I promise that I will lead our lives into a life of faith and hope in Christ Jesus. Ever honoring God’s guidance by His spirit through the Word, And so throughout life, no matter what may lie ahead of us, I pledge to you my life as a loving and faithful husband.

That last page has 13 sample vows for ministers. Not one of them mentions that marriage was devised by God to ensure procreation, etc. etc. etc. Not one even mentions children at all. Nothing new there, the right wing always comes up with spurious arguments. Perhaps the next step is to re-write the bible entirely. “We just discovered a new translation!” they’ll trumpet.

Not an exciting day

Tomorrow — well, only a half-hour from now — is Leap Day, and one of those Internet memes we all love, where people chronicle their day in photos. I figured that I would join in this year, but laying here in bed I realized that the first image of my day will likely be me laying in bed watching a British sitcom, and that the rest of my day would consist of me doing laundry, working on a video, cleaning the kitchen, and other menial, boring images. I might start out doing it, but decide in the end that it’s so incredibly boring that it’s hardly worth posting. We’ll see…

Not a pretty day

It’s in the 60s here in Washington, and I took a little time to go out back and hang a hummingbird feeder, just in anticipation of the warm months when I can look out of my kitchen window and see the birds.
Then, when I looked beyond my backyard to the grassy area beyond, I saw her. The squirrel that died last week. She was laying a few feet away from the spot where I left her. The landscapers who came through this week disturbed her, and left her laying on the surface. They just left her there. She looked the same as she did when she died — it’s been chilly all week.
So, I dug the deepest hole I could this time, and buried her. I hope for the last time.

He could have waited for the DVD

The syndicated entertainment news show “Access Hollywood” put a surprised Mel Gibson on the phone with Arch Bonnema, the Plano, Texas, man who purchased 6,000 tickets at a price of $42,000 to Gibson’s film, “The Passion of The Christ” so that fellow parishioners at his local Baptist church, theology students and other could see the film.

Gibson, who had not yet heard about Bonnema’s $42,000 ticket purchase, said it was “amazing” that someone would do something so selfless.

Of course, Mel was not quite selfless enough to not take the man’s money.

A galactic disappointment

The more photos we get from space probes, the more… unimpressive it gets. This latest photo from the Cassini probe is the most detailed look at Saturn we’ve seen, yet it looks disappointingly like a perfect CGI image, an artist’s conception. It’s so perfectly what we expect. Gorgeous, yes. Unexpected? No.
The images coming back from Mars are so ordinary — a desolate plain strewn with rocks. It could be somewhere in New Mexico.
It turns out, as many have predicted, that our solar system (and possibly our entire galactic neighborhood) are pretty boring, all things considered. I hope that when we start landing probes on more distant planets and moons that we don’t find more of the same.
These places are beautiful from afar, but far from beautiful.
On the other hand, it really does impress upon me the incredible beauty of our own planet, and the astonishing diversity of life here. Earth rocks, man! We are totally the best planet in our neighborhood.

He said, he said

Several foreign news sites are reporting the capture of Osama bin Laden:

TEHRAN, Feb. 28 (Xinhuanet) — Osama bin Laden has been captured in a tribal region in Pakistan, the IRNA news agency quoted Iran’s state radio as saying on Saturday.

   The radio’s external service, broadcast in Pushtu, said US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s trip to Pakistan on Thursday had been made in connection with the capture.

   “The capture of the al-Qaida leader has been made sometime before, but (US President George W.) Bush is intending to announce it when the American presidential election is held,” the radio said.

   Contacted by IRNA, an Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) announcer at the Pushtu service confirmed the news, saying that they had got it from a “very reliable source” in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The U.S. government denies it:

A senior U.S. defense official denied the report, telling Reuters it was “another piece of stray voltage that’s passing around out there.”

The Iranian correspondent responsible for the report told Reuters the radio had also reported bin Laden’s capture a year ago. But said a new source had told him Friday the al Qaeda leader had been seized “a long time ago.”

“It could be one month ago, it could be one year, but he has been arrested,” he said.

While declining to reveal his source or how his source knew of the capture, he said: “My source said it and he knows it.”

He said the reason U.S. officials had denied the report was so that they could time the release of the news of bin Laden’s capture to help boost President Bush’s chances of re-election at presidential polls in November.

It could be worse

Despite the ugly rise of intolerance and discrimination in our country later, things could be worse. Like it is over with our great “ally,” a state run by great friends of the Bush family and homeland of most of the September 11 hijackers:

Saudi religious police have arrested dozens of men at a “gay wedding” in the holy city of Medina, a pro-reform organisation said yesterday. Same-sex acts are illegal in the kingdom and the maximum penalty is death.