Friday, December 30, 2005

Fox in henhouse

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi has assumed direct control of the powerful oil ministry as crude exports grind to a halt due to sabotage attacks and logistics problems, officials say.

Mr Chalabi, who has been improving relations with Washington after previously falling out with the US administration, was appointed acting oil minister after the incumbent Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum was given leave, the officials say.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Seasonal daze

I haven't disappeared.

My kid has Christmas money burning a hole in her pocket, a long "want" list, and no car. It's still in the body shop after the incident with the deer.

Her best friend, who would happily drive her around wherever she wants to shop, is out of town.

It's easier for me to take her places rather than listen to the whining, so I've been playing chauffeur in between work duties and Christmas stuff.

But for your after-Christmas reading pleasure, I present the New Fundagelical Version of Luke 2:8-16 (possibly something everyone but me has already seen, but I enjoyed it) -
8 And there were in the same country children keeping watch over their stockings by the fireplace.

9 And lo! Santa Claus came upon them, and they were sore afraid.

10 And Santa said unto them 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that is for all people who can afford them.

11. For unto you will be given great feasts of turkey, dressing and cake; and many presents, wrapped in bright paper,

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the presents lying beneath a tree adorned with tinsel, colored balls and lights.

13 And suddenly, there will be with you a multitude of relatives and friends, praising you and saying,

14 'Thank you so much, it was just what I wanted'

15 And it shall come to pass as the friends and relatives have gone their way to their own homes, the parents shall say to one another, What a mess to clean up! I'm tired, let's go to bed and pick it up tomorrow. Thank goodness, Christmas only comes once a year!

16 And they shall go with haste to their cold bed and find their desired rest.
Christmas is nice, but I hold verse 15 firmly in my heart.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Whatever

I'd like to wish a very merry "whatever" to everyone who has been kind enough and patient enough to drop by Collective Sigh in the two-plus years it's been in existence. I hope Santa brought you everything you want, or at least more than you deserved.

My only "profound" thought on this Christmas morning is inspired by an article in the Toledo Blade discussing the decision of some churches to close their doors this morning:
...Christmas, more than any other day, is a time when the faithful should be celebrating Jesus' birth -- not paying homage to Santa Claus, convenience, and the commercialism that permeates the holiday in modern American culture.


(Rev. Hazel) Templeton, associate pastor of St. James Holiness Church "The Armory" -- which will be open for worship on Christmas Day -- said Jesus' birth is the sole reason for Christianity's existence. "And now," she said with displeasure, "the No. 1 place where He is to be celebrated [the church] is closing its doors on His birthday. I am just amazed."


The Rev. Philip Jones, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Maumee, is another cleric who is concerned by the closings.

"Many pastors oftentimes whine about how hard American culture makes it to be a Christian, and here we are pulling the plug on probably the most regular tradition in any church," Mr. Jones said.

He said it does not surprise him that many nontraditional churches will be closed, since those churches are founded on the purpose of being "culturally driven."

They are more concerned with telling others how to conduct their personal lives than celebrating one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar in church.

Our minister, a very conservative man, had some good insight into the "war on Christmas" ruckus. If Christmas is ever "defeated", if Christianity ever dies, it won't be the fault of a Target "Happy Holidays" sign or a public school choir singing about the winter weather or Santa Claus...it will be the fault of those who find it "inconvenient" or "not cost-efficient" to celebrate a holy day in church.

Our church? We're a moderate-sized Quaker meeting, with a meeting room ('sanctuary') that seats 400 comfortably.

We were packed; the pews were completely filled, as was the balcony, with ushers setting up extra chairs in the back.

Christmas won the war today, at least in our little church. Not because of the way we greeted each other or the songs we sang, but because we cared enough to be amongst "a company of believers".


Saturday, December 24, 2005


Thursday, December 22, 2005


Michael has tagged me with a goody, so here goes:

Seven Things To Do Before I Die

1. Pay off my debts.

2. Do a historically-oriented tour of Great Britain

3. Pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

4. (seconding Michael) Watch George W Bush's impeachment trial on CSPAN. While drinking a fine bottle of champagne. And laughing my arse off.

5. Continue with the drinking and laughing as I watch Bush’s cronies hauled off to jail.

6. Volunteer with Habitat For Humanity

7. See my kid graduate from college

Seven Things I Cannot Do

1. I can’t wink my left eye – which, unfortunately, is the one causing my current problems.

2. I can’t whistle. Not a good, loud whistle or even a nice melodic whistle. All I cna manage is a wimpy little hissing sound.

3. I can’t listen to bombastic, fundamentalist, pulpit-pounding, screaming preachers.

4. I can’t vote for a Republican.

5. For the life of me, I can’t utter the name of our former Republican senator, whose name rhymes with Messy Realms.

6. I can’t even look at a picture of a snake without going into hysterics.

7. I can’t abide bigotry.

8. (yeah, I'm cheating) I love watching college basketball, but I can't abide Dick Vitale...BAY-BEE.

Seven Things That Attract Me to...Blogging

1. Mr. Andante gets tired of listening to my rants and wisecracks.

2. Andantette gets tired of listening to my rants and wisecracks.

3. There’s a scarcity of like-minded individuals in my area; it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

4. I can write about anything I please.

5. It’s free…at least on Blogspot.

6. Reading other blogs. There’s no better way to increase your knowledge of, well – anything.

7. I adore getting comments!

Seven Things I Say Most Often

1. Oh, sh*t.

2. Please tell me I didn’t do that.

3. Holy Mary Mother of God.

4. Use the damn papers! (to the Chihuahuas)

5. Yes, you told me that already (to my mother)

6. Yes, you told me that already (to Mr. Andante)

7. Why? (and “Why not?)

Seven Books That I Love

1. The Lord of the Rings

2. Anything by Agatha Christie

3. A Matter of Honor

4. The Hobbit

5. Anything by Dick Francis

6. Sunne in Splendor

7. Conversations With Rabbi Small

Seven Movies That I Watch Over and Over Again

1. Pirates of the Caribbean

2. West Side Story

3. Patton

4. The Longest Day

5. Star Wars (episodes IV and V)

6. Saving Private Ryan

7. Star Trek; The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home

Since I've already cheated by listing two episodes from Star Wars and Star Trek, I must include A Man For All Seasons with Paul Scofield. And on a seasonal note - White Christmas

Seven People I Want To Join In Too

1. Jim

2. Lab Kat

3. Wanda

4. Jeff

5. Doggerel

6. Anya

7. Houston


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dear NSA, FBI, and anyone else spying on me:

I was so pleased to hear my government is watching over me! Since all my secrets are an open book to you, I hope you’ll use them constructively.

As long as you're doing this data-mining, spying, eavesdropping - whatever it is - you might as well use it for some sort of good.

As you probably already know, I’m having very troublesome, painful problems with my eyes, which make it difficult to look at a computer monitor for any length of time, or drive during daylight hours. Could you arrange a ride for me to the doctor on Friday? My appointment is at 3:30 p.m. (oh, heck – did you already know that?!), and it’s a “work-in”, so we may have to camp out in the waiting room.

While you’re at it, I could use some help with paying for the appointment and treatment.

You also know I haven’t yet gotten a Christmas present for one sister-in-law. You’ve probably been listening to her phone calls – has she mentioned anything she’d particularly like?

If you read the e-mail to my old high school buddy, giving her my mother’s Sooper-Dooper Secret recipe for the best lemon meringue pie in the world, would you please keep it under your hat?

If you don't know it already, let me save you some trouble - I have the English version of Al Jazeera bookmarked. And the ACLU. And the American Friends Service Committee. Plus a whole host of other bleeding-heart liberal, tree-hugging, peace-warrior websites.

You probably already know I've been pondering George W. Bush's words to to a Joint Session of Congress in September of 2001:
They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
That never made too much sense to me, but it's becoming much more clear who he meant by "they".

Just a bit later in the same speech, Bush gave new meaning to the expression "shooting yourself in your own foot" -
" These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends."
Feel free, my eavesdropping friends, to note that I believe not every atrocity is committed by brown foreigners of the Muslim persuasion, but atrocities are also committed by rich, powerful white men who slink through the halls of power.


Friday, December 16, 2005

NY Times GOP chapter

Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny.
Any terrorist with half a brain would assume they were under scrutiny.

Any newspaper with half a brain should have known the administration's main worry was re-election.

Holiday cartoon of the day

(and Friday Pet Blogging)


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas crunch

I'm in the annual holiday rat race for the next several days (at least); any blogging will be very sparse.

But check back daily for the Holiday Cartoon of the Day...


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Move it

Read this, then tell me if it wouldn't be a good idea to move the nation's capital from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans.

And pass a law mandating everyone in the executive and legislative branch live there full-time.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

I feel so much safer

From the same folks who sent truckloads of Katrina-relief ice to Maine -
Mini course a 'terror target'

San Jose - City officials are still wondering how a miniature golf course landed on a federal list of the most attractive terrorist targets.

Local officials said on Thursday they were shocked to learn that Emerald Hills Golfland, a 1.2ha theme park with two miniature golf courses, had been placed on a homeland security watch list.

"The moment we realiased it was on the list, it was taken off," said San Jose police officer Rubens Dalaison, who handles "critical infrastructure assessment" for the department.

"I myself took it off."

But the list remains secret, and even San Jose congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who is the ranking minority member of a house sub-committee on terrorism risk assessment, said she did not know whether it was still listed.

"We had a sub-committee hearing with department officials before Thanksgiving and I asked: 'What's going on with the list?" and they couldn't answer," she said. "I do not know if Golfland is on the list today or not. It's so embarrassing."


Friday, December 09, 2005

No distinction between "Christmas" and "Holiday"

At least the baby Jesus had a stable (or according to some, a cave):
Life and death of the forgotten

Winter's rain, cold are all tent dwellers can see

For months, William Hayes and his wife have been scrounging for food and sleeping in a tent behind a storm-battered doughnut shop in Waveland.

Hayes said his wife, who was more than five months' pregnant, got sick this week when the temperature dipped into the 30s. Rain poured into their tent, it was cold, and his wife needed a doctor.

The couple was expecting a baby girl, but when Hayes got his wife to the hospital, his nightmare got even worse. The baby was dead.

"Nobody cares that we're living in this mud puddle right here," he said. "This ain't living; man, this is one hell of a mess."

Hayes, currently without work, and a few other families are living in a small lot behind DaddyO's restaurant, less than 100 yards from FEMA's Disaster Relief Center. He goes there often to check his trailer application's status.

The people here are among the dwindling number of Katrina-displaced persons residing in tents, sleeping under wet blankets on South Mississippi soil.


Lowry has been taking sponge baths since October, but the recent cold weather has put a stop to that.

I haven't taken one in about a week, because it's been so cold," he said.

Hayes said he, and others still in tents, have already been forgotten by the system.

"We've been lost for a long time," he said. "I'm not sure anybody gives a damn about us, at least not anymore."
Just guessin', but I suspect he doesn't give a hoot if someone wishes him "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays".


Thursday, December 08, 2005

'Tis the season

I've been SO REMARKABLY ORGANIZED this Christmas, er, holiday, er, whatever season. Most of the presents were purchased or made by Thanksgiving, and wrapped by December 1st.

The tiny, overcrowded living room is rearranged to accomodate a NODWISH tree.

Decorating has begun, or at least I know where it all is.

Cards are ready to be addressed and mailed.

The annual Christmas Carol Service is nailed...the choirs and instruments are so well-rehearsed they could do it from memory.

Ain't life grand?

Until your kid hits a deer and the car has to go into a body shop.

And you have to find time to ferry her to and from college.

And then you hit a monster pothole and bust a brand new tire.

And you can't find the title to the kid's car, which is necessary for the insurance paperwork.

And the weather is fixin' to turn really, really stinky and icy.

And your favorite relative (besides yourself) dies.

And the refrigerator freezes up.

Is Christmas over yet?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

No Medal of Freedom for you

Barbour blasts House over Katrina aid
Congressional failures to approve emergency funding for roads, schools and housing construction have stalled Mississippi's efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, the state's Republican governor testified Wednesday.

Without such help, Mississippi businesses are unable to decide where to relocate and rebuild -- potentially costing the state jobs and chilling its economy, Gov. Haley Barbour told a House panel investigating the government's Katrina preparations and response.

"We are at a point where our recovery and renewal efforts are stalled because of inaction in Washington," said Barbour, a strong ally of House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Republican National Committee chairman.
I love it when Republicans have to admit personal responsibility, heterosexuality, tax cuts for the rich, and Jesus sometimes aren't quite enough.

A day that will live in infamy

December 7, 1941

The Bush administration will no doubt be bringing up plenty of references to September 11, 2001 today.

Ed Rampell makes the reality-based, infamous comparisons.

(Date corrected - thanks, Michael)
Victory in the 'War On Christmas'

All those enemies of Christmas can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and have turned the corner.

Who knew the megachurches would be the first to surrender?

Some megachurches closing on Christmas
This Christmas, no prayers will be said in several megachurches around the country.

Even though the holiday falls this year on a Sunday, when churches normally host thousands for worship, pastors are canceling services, anticipating low attendance on what they call a family day.

Critics within the evangelical community, more accustomed to doing battle with department stores and public schools over keeping religion in Christmas, are stunned by the shutdown.


Monday, December 05, 2005

As Albert Einstein said

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

And as I say...."I am not making this up".
EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Virginia Voiers thought she was taking part in a rambunctious holiday custom, but a carriage driver thought differently and called police when he saw the 70-year-old grandmother stealing the baby Jesus from the city's nativity scene.

Jesus is back on display after an Arkansas grandmother snarred the statue in a holiday custom of taking the statue, intending to return it.

Voiers was ticketed for misdemeanor theft by an officer who quickly caught up with her van after she foisted the statue.

"It was a lark, it wasn't any serious stealing," Voiers told the Lovely County Citizen newspaper of Eureka Springs. "My granddaughter commented that no one had taken the baby Jesus this year and said, 'Grandma?' I said, 'Oh, what the heck.'"

Usually, the baby Jesus is returned by the thief. Voiers said her Saturday caper was the first time she'd taken anything from the nativity.

"I didn't know we had a tattletale downtown," said Voiers, who is also a Sunday school teacher at a Methodist church. She said she told her pastor what happened.

"He said, 'Bless you, child. Go and sin no more,'" she said, and added that he asked, '"You didn't tell them you are a Methodist, did you?'"

Voiers was caught because the Beta Sigma Phi sorority, which erects the nativity scene, accessorized this year's edition with a security camera that is monitored at police headquarters.

A dispatcher saw Voiers taking the statue and put out a call to officers. Carriage driver Thomas Tharp heard the broadcast on his police scanner and cantered to the nativity at Basin Park. He relayed the van's license number to police, who pulled over the vehicle that held Voiers and several family members. In all, three police cars were at the scene.

Police Chief Earl Hyatt said he is taking the theft seriously. The charge carries a possible penalty of a year in jail and $1,000 fine.

"Yes, I've been a bad girl," Voiers said. She said she would have returned the statue.
A seventy-year-old grandmother and Sunday School teacher steals the baby Jesus which is monitored by a security camera erected by a sorority and a carriage driver gallops to the rescue.

Now I've heard it all.


Friday, December 02, 2005

The "War on Christmas"

That 'secret plot' to destroy Christmas gets a boost from the White House -

At the top, a scripture quotation (Psalm 26:7) and "With best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness. 2005"

Someone should get Bill O'Reilly onto this.

(larger version here)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

O Tannenbaum

You might expect Agape Press would be right there in the thick of the “Liberals are destroying Christmas" fray, and you wouldn’t be disappointed.
The spineless declare that we cannot say "Christmas" because that would insult all of the non-Christian world. Well, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I say it is time, and beyond time, that we insult them!
Christians have been insulting non-Christians since, well, the time of Christ - with not much noticeable improvement in membership rolls.

Maybe it would help if the Christian Taliban concentrated more on the meaning, and less on the symbols of "traditional" celebration.

Quoth House Speaker Denny Hastert :"If it's a spruce tree adorned with 10,000 lights and 5,000 ornaments displayed on the Capital grounds in December, it's a Christmas tree, and that's what it should be called."

Actually, Denny, it’s a remnant of Germany’s pagan past and if we really wanted to celebrate in a traditional manner, we’d gather ‘round the tree, fall down on our knees, and worship it and St. Boniface, too.
The fir tree has a long association with Christianity, it began in Germany almost a 1000 years ago when St Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity, was said to have come across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree. In anger, St Boniface is said to have cut down the oak tree and to his amazement a young fir tree sprung up from the roots of the oak tree. St Boniface took this as a sign of the Christian faith. But it was not until the 16th century that fir trees were brought indoors at Christmas time.
Ah, who amongst us yearns for the good old days when we worshipped our oak trees and flung poop on anything Christianity related?

Like it or not, our "traditional" Christmas symbols belong to a pagan yesteryear; shoving them in non-Christian faces isn't going to bring in the converts.

This annual whining from the Taliban wing of Christianity is really getting tiresome. The last time I looked, Christmas and an assortment of other holidays were alive, kicking, and bringing plenty of cheer to retail merchants.

Not to mention plenty of activities at Christian churches of all stripes, holidays for students and most workers (or extra holiday pay).

You'd be hard-pressed to find an individual who has no time to observe Christmas in some fashion, or any who is barred from doing so.

Which reminds me - Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. It will be interesting to see how many people actually show up for morning worship services, how many elect to stay home and play with what Santa brought, or how many choose to spend their holiday on the ski slopes or Caribbean beaches.

The real complaint? It’s not that someone says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” or objects to overt, in-your-face evangelism – but that every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth isn't a born-again Christian.

With profound apologies to Shakespeare -

"The fault, dear fundagelicals, is not in others, but in yourselves, that ye are underlings."

Poll: Most doubt Bush has plan for Iraq victory
Among poll respondents, 55 percent said they did not believe Bush has a plan that will achieve victory for the United States in Iraq; 41 percent thought he did.
What has become increasingly obvious is that Bush's only 'plan for victory' was his own reelection.

Aside from reelection, the only plan that HAS worked was the public relations disinformation plan garnering support for a war.

Those two plans went pretty well, so I guess those 41% aren't completely nuts.

A new customer

Walgreens just gained a new customer, though I may have to drive a bit further to get there.
Walgreens places 4 pharmacists on leave

Walgreen Co. said it has put four Illinois pharmacists in the St. Louis area on unpaid leave for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception in violation of a state rule.

The four cited religious or moral objections to filling prescriptions for the morning-after pill and ''have said they would like to maintain their right to refuse to dispense, and in Illinois that is not an option," Walgreen spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce said.
There are ways I don't make my living because I consider them immoral.

It's that simple - if the job or parts of the job are against your moral and/or spiritual beliefs, you need a new career.

Period, end of story.


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