Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Thursday, March 31, 2005

And in charge of distributing 'justice' is...

Tom Delay. Oh Tom, sometimes I tell myself that you can sink no lower. But, you rascal, you always prove me wrong don't you?

"This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change," the Texas Republican said. "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another."

Sadly Tom, in the a little world that some of us live in that I like to call REALITY, it happens to thousands of people and thousands of families everyday. Faced with deciding what their loved one would have wanted in the absence of an advance directive, these people struggle with reconciling the reality of what they see, and the hope that miracles do happen for some.
Well I, for one, am glad that Tom Delay is on the case of bringing justice to 'the men responsible for this..'. Because, I can think of no other leader who has his moral compass so finely tuned as to be able to deliver justice to anyone (said with tongue planted firmly in cheek). For those of us who believe God had his say 15 years ago when this tragic fate befell Terri Schiavo, its hard to imagine that there are people out there to whom justice must be brought.
Oh, to be sure, there are plenty of situations in this country alone where justice must be delivered--um, how about right to Tom Delay's doorstep.
As a sidebar, how come I get a skeevy feeling everytime Tom Delay says 'God'. When it comes out of his mouth it's tarnished with vanity, egomania and self-righteousness. I wonder if God feels the same way?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Two sides of the same coin

This just in--Camden, NJ is the most dangerous city in the country. I'm a little wary knowing that I live a scant 15 to 20 minutes outside this notorious place. Why, you ask, would I live so close to Camden? For those of you who don't know, Camden is surrounded by everyday suburbia. In fact, the town directly next to Camden, Cherry Hill, is one of the most affluent towns in South Jersey. Camden is also the place I prefer to see most of my the wonderful Tweeter Center. Camden is also home to the Battleship New Jersey and the home of the Camden River Sharks at picturesque Campbells Field. Home of Rutgers University, the renowned Cooper Hospital and much, much more. So how can Camden, NJ be the most dangerous city in the world?

"The southern New Jersey city of just nine square miles, which neighbors Philadelphia, is ranked worst in six categories of crimes. With 41 murders -- 10 times the national average -- 56 rapes and 974 aggravated assaults, according to the latest statistics from 2003, it is America's most dangerous city".

Camden is a beautiful city on the waterfront--next to affluence, across the water from affluence (Philadelphia's trendy neighborhoods)--that hopefully will be able to bounce back.
Lets hope the plan mandated by the State will do some good and hopefully bring jobs and responsible citizens back to Camden. Too often, suburbanites forget about towns and cities like this because they don't ever have to go near them, in them or around them. Not so with Camden. South Jersey needs to help Camden bounce back, for our own safety as well as for our community. South Jersey can no longer sit idly by while North Jersey garners all the attention (read: money). We need to reclaim our communities. Here's hoping this is a wake up call. NIMBY (not in my back yard) just got a whole new meaning.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Meet the Press

In case anyone missed it, Meet the Press was actually a gem on Sunday. See the transcript here. An actual intelligent, civilized discussion on faith in America and its role in government.
Some snippets (emphasis mine):
MR. RUSSERT: I want to read something that you said to The Washington Post in 2003: "Catholics have no right to impose their views on others. Even if they say homosexual conduct is unfitting for a Catholic, they have no right to impose that on the nation."
If you believe that homosexuality is immoral or that abortion is the taking of a life, or that you believe very strongly that Terri Schiavo should remain on a tube, are you not honor-bound as a political figure to try to, in effect, bring about that result, if it's a firmly held motional belief?
REV. DRINAN: Yes and no. Go back to Vatican II. Three thousand bishops agonized over this, and at the end of the day, they said that the church should never seek to impose its views. They should not have any shadow of coercion, renouncing 20 centuries of the church dominating the scene. So I think that it's a different world, and we respect everybody else and there's lots of things that are immoral that should not be illegal.

And Reza Aslan (a Muslim):

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Aslan, when you hear "Christianity and freedom"--let me allude to something you wrote and said. "As a Muslim American, you belong to two communities. ...Your first allegiance is as an American citizen. You belong to the community of the United States. However, Muslims also belong to a second community as well, the community of worldwide Muslims."
Are they ever in conflict?
PROF. ASLAN: Sure. Of course they are. I mean, think what de Tocqueville was saying is not only absolutely true, but it also is the foundation of some of the conflicts that are taking place right now between the Western world and the Muslim world. We do absolutely equate Christianity and freedom so completely that the two become almost identical. And so when the president talks about bringing democracy and freedom and liberty to the Muslim world, especially to the atocracies in the Middle East, too often that comes off as bringing Christianity to the Muslim world. And this is something that I think Muslims are very sensitive to, particularly because of the colonialistic experience. And this was an era only 100 years ago in which some 90 percent of the world's Muslim population was living under colonial oppression, which was very clearly expressed, not just as a quote-unquote, "civilizing mission," but also as a Christianizing mission. That sensitivity is still there, and so I think it's very important.
Nobody doubts the quality of freedom. Nobody doubts that democracy is a good thing and that it should be spread through the world. But I think that it's important to understand that there are more than one way to do so.
MR. RUSSERT: When Americans hear reports coming from the Muslim world about infidels and "We will destroy the infidels," do you believe that the Islam has been hijacked by radicals? Or, the thesis of your book, that there truly are reforms coming in place which are going to show the world that Islam is a much more peaceful religion than people have heretofore thought about it, at least in recent years?
PROF. ASLAN: Yeah, absolutely. I think from the American perspective, we can look at the events of September 11 and the aftermath as perhaps initiating some sort of clash of civilizations, to use Samuel Huntington's ubiquitous term. But from the Muslim perspective, what is taking place in the Muslim world is an internal battle between Muslims, a battle between those Muslims who, for the past century, have been struggling to reconcile their faith with the realities of the modern world and those Muslims who have been reacting to those realities by reverting to a "fundamentalist" version of their faith. And by the way, we see this across the board in all religions, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism. It's a natural reaction to secularization and modernization.
We are now living in the twilight of the Islamic reformation, and it's a reformation that is inevitable. Reform cannot be stopped. It can be slowed down. There can be obstacles placed in the way, and I think since September 11, there have been some obstacles and there has been a galvanizing of these fundamentalist forces, but the tide of reform is inevitable.

As they say, read it all. Smart panelists, reasoned disussion...for once you could actually learn something. Lets hope more of these types of discussions are in our future.

The right amount of reverence

As I was watching the unending coverage all weekend of the Terri Schiavo case it struck me how much reverence some politicians have for the government of the United States. Namely, not that much.
To me, when people talk about separation of church and state, its really a discussion of being able separate what you might consider wrong--morally, ethically, hell...mathmatically--from what is not wrong according to the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Americans. This touches on every 'values' issue now facing America. Whether it be abortion, Terri Schiavo, gay marriage, etc.
I have respect for people's values--even if I don't agree with them. What I dont have respect for is when people try to take their values and shove them down other people's throats. Politicians must have the same respect for the United States as they have for whatever religion they are a practicing member of. I have no problem if your religion has given you the basis of your morals and values, but if you can't separate the two, then you should not be in public service. End of story.
If you can't separate the fact that you believe that gay marriage--or homosexuality in general--is wrong, from the fact that denying an institution to a group of people is discriminatory, then I can't understand why you would ever be in public service.
If you can't separate the fact that for some people, a six week pregnancy is nothing but a bunch of cells and not a soul, you should not be in charge of crafting the laws of the United States.
Of course there are gray areas to these issues and I'm not saying they don't warrant discussion, activism and a healthy debate in the public arena. What I'm saying is that if someone can't distinguish between what might not be allowed by their God and what should be allowed under our guaranteed freedoms, then they should not be in public service.
Why--for some politicians, does the United States take a back seat to their religion. I am not saying that we should elevate our goverment to the status of God, what I am saying is that if you can't separate the two, and have at least the same amount of respect for each, then you don't belong in public service. Try changing the world in a different aspect. Try changing the culture of the United States through other means. By denying people rights, freedoms or frankly the freedom to do nothing, you are only creating a country where freedom is limited to what a majority of people deem morally correct, and that was not the ideals of the founding fathers.

Cool Pictures

I was watching a show yesterday, I can't recall which one, one of those Sunday morning shows and they previewed the upcoming GQ magazine where GQ has accumulated pictures from regular soldiers over in the Middle East. Take a look at some here. These pictures are between the tragedies and triumphs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hindsight is 20/20

The other day while writing about the Terry Schiavo case, I wrote a concluding sentence that went something like this:
"Congratulations to Tom Delay for managing to insert himself into a case so that he can deflect all the negative press he's getting for his ethical lapses--We won't forget those Mr. Delay".

Well, that was the gist of it anyway. In a fit of self-censorship I deleted the sentence because I thought maybe that was just a bit too cynical. Oh, how I was wrong. As the Bull Moose notes, Delay sinks even further (emphasis mine):

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State."This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

Normal, rational people might ask, "How can you equate attacks against the conservative movement with 'attacks' against Terry Schiavo?". Someone a bit more knowledgable might even ask, "How can you equate attacks against the conservative movement with attacks against Tom Delay?"
Delay has become a caricature of himself and the attacks against his ethical lapses aren't partisan attacks but the result of his own greedy and self-aggrandizing nature.
He is political opportunism at its best (worst?).

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Right to Die?

As everyone else on the blogosphere, I've also have been reluctant to comment on the Terry Schiavo case. This case has gotten a bit more play in my neighborhood because Schiavo is from suburban Philadelphia, my neck of the woods. The more I hear of this case, the more irate I get.
First of all, how dare protesters picket outside of her rehabilitation center? Where does anyone find such a 'high and mighty' horse to get on that they feel that they can have an opinion on one family's struggle with determining the fate of their loved one. To those ridiculous protesters I say--mind your own business.
I also don't understand why the Republicans (and some Democrats) in Congress have gotten involved and made this a 'right to die' case. Schiavo's case is not about 'right to die' or euthanasia. It is the same as the thousands of people everyday in this country who are being kept alive by mechanical means (i.e. respirator). The so-called 'pulling of the plug' on these people does not garner national attention or protesters or 'right to die' activists. No, it garners the attention of loved ones and family. The only difference in this case is that Schiavo is kept alive by a feeding tube and not a respirator; and of course, her parents belief that she can be rehabilitated (court appointed doctors say that she can't). Schiavo is not trying to commit physician-assisted suicide and her husband is not trying to commit physician-assisted murder.
I don't understand the governments involvement in this personal issue. How far are we going to intrude in everyday citizen's lives in order to promote the 'culture of life'. Anyone that supports the governments intrusion needs to imagine a day when they might possibly have to make a tragic decision for a loved one who is incapacitated.
Lets hope that they realize that the only opinion they won't be interested in hearing is George Bush's, Tom Delay's or anyone else in Congress.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Misguided? No, just different.

Environmental Republican thinks I'm misguided (and!), but I just think we have two different views on the world. I understand the thinking behind being able to afford and then subsequently purchase your H2 Hummer (while looking like a complete moron with a small penis) and drive around getting 8 miles to the gallon (or whatever ridiculous number it is), I just feel that Americans should be more responsible world citizens when it comes to energy conservation. He is somewhat misguided on my choice of cars though...I drive around in my small car all the time, for work, play and everything in between. The only time I've used otherwise was if I had to transport something that couldn't fit in my car.
I just feel that Americans (and America can do more). I don't think its a Republican/Democrat thing, I feel its a responsibility thing. We should be on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to energy conservation, whether 10 years ago with Clinton (can't get through that conservative post without a little Clinton criticism) or Bush or anyone else. We should be fostering this kind of development--not giving tax breaks to companies for purchasing SUVs. I do applaud the tax breaks for individuals for purchasing hybrid cars, I just feel that we could be doing more. And by more, I don't mean drilling in ANWR. That is not a solution to the problem.

Way to go!

Way to Go Knights! Although the outcome was the same, my alma mater, FDU, made those damn Fighting Illini work for it!
The Knights had been promising all week they would make Illinois work and they were true to their word.
They converted three offensive rebounds and a steal into points to erase an early 17-10 deficit and grabbed a 20-19 lead with 7:30 to go in the first half. Then after the Illini dropped three consecutive 3-pointers and took a 30-20 lead, the Knights outscored them 11-2 the final 4 minutes of the half.
"I think we earned the rest of the country's respect," Peterson said. "But a loss is a loss and we really wanted to make history tonight."
Illinois orange dominated the RCA Dome crowd of 26,804 and Illini fans started cheering when the pep band arrived during the Texas-Nevada game. Fairleigh Dickinson averaged only 1,239 fans per home game this season and had only a few hundred faithful in the stands, but they won over several neutral spectators and were getting plenty of noise as they made Illinois earn its win.

Way to make the students and alumni proud by fighting in that game and not just giving up. Can't wait to see you next year!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Proponents of drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge achieved a huge victory today. What I'm struck by is that proponents don't seem to realize the irony in their position. They say we need to drill in ANWR because we need to reduce our dependance on foreign oil supplies. By all accounts, we won't be recieving any of the oil produced from drilling in ANWR for upwards of 10 years. This is regardless of the fact that we do not possess the technology to obtain the oil in ANWR at a rate that will have any affect on our domestic oil consumption. Sure, there are a gazillion barrels of oil in ANWR, we just can't get at them. But the real irony is that proponents are willing to put a band-aid on the foreign oil dependance problem, rather than to tackle the real issue of energy conservation.

The only way to reduce our dependance on foreign oil supplies is to begin conserving energy, to support measures that utilize renewable energy sources and for God's sake stop driving around in gigantic monsters of automobilies that get 10 miles per gallon!

Also, my crazy tree hugger alter-ego also laughs at the assurances that drilling in ANWR will have no affect on wildlife and habitats. But, thats just the cynic in me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Think of the children

Its gone too far now. There are movements in over 19 states currently to challenge, amend, replace or flat out not teach the theory of evolution in public schools. Thats right, PUBLIC schools, funded by your tax dollars. Why you ask? Because religious conservatives would like to 'open the debate' about evolution, intelligent design and creationism so that they can 'challenge' the controversy of evolution. I wasn't aware there was a controversy in this day and age, but apparently, emboldened by President Bush's win, there is. We'll get to their real motivation later, but first, lets examine the arguments.
I think everyone is familiar with the theory of evolution and natural selection. In fact, most of us have probably seen pictures, videos and possibly exhibits of ancient human relatives--Bog boy, Java man, homo erectus, Neanderthal man, John Ashcroft (I kid!) etc. Archeological finds have been able to establish these early human relatives and also carbon date and place them in their order in the theory of evolution. I think most scientists, while believing in evolution, also acknowlege that evolution is a theory. There are many holes and many extrapolations that need to be made in order to complete the chain of events up to and including modern man. However, I think the problem with creationism or intelligent design for scientists is that they have brought much to the table while creationists bring the Bible and think its enough.
I personally believe that everything in this world was created by God. I do not imagine that I will ever understand His plan or how he went about that creation. I certainly do not imagine that I will ever be able to prove that God created the earth and man. I believe because I have faith. I never went to private/Catholic/Christian school and spent all my educational years at public school.
Creationists don't belong in the debate because they don't have a debate. The Bible isn't proof of anything, that is why Christians all over the world must have faith. It is the central theme throughout all of Christianity (and most religions I suspect). Actual scientific, archeological specimens are available to see early human relatives and from this, Darwin was able to establish a theory, a widely accepted theory, that man evolved from primates. This theory will never be fact until specimens of each link in the chain have been found, dated, catalogued, and studied. Most likely, this will never happen, so evolution will always remain a theory. But to not teach our children evolution, or to muddy the educational waters with what creationists term 'debate' is ridiculous. It can only be debate if you have facts on your side as well. The Bible is not fact. In fact, in public school, the Bible might not even be the book of choice for a percentage of the students. I propose the real reason for the current debate. Creationists think that in the current political climate, they will be able to push through changes that will benefit their religious right agenda, their Christian agenda, without much opposition. Take Terry Fox for example, Southern Baptist minister, and his explanation in a Washington Post article (emphasis mine):

Fox -- pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the Midwest, drawing 6,000 worshipers a week to his Wichita church -- said the compromise is an important tactic. "The strategy this time is not to go for the whole enchilada. We're trying to be a little more subtle," he said.
To fundamentalist Christians, Fox said, the fight to teach God's role in creation is becoming the essential front in America's culture war. The issue is on the agenda at every meeting of pastors he attends. If evolution's boosters can be forced to back down, he said, the Christian right's agenda will advance.
"If you believe God created that baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby," Fox said. "If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die."
Like Meyer, Fox is glad to make common cause with people who do not entirely agree.
"Creationism's going to be our big battle. We're hoping that Kansas will be the model, and we're in it for the long haul," Fox said. He added that it does not matter "who gets the credit, as long as we win."

Well, as long as we are thinking about the children right??!! Lets think about our children who are already at a disadvantage compared with other modern nations when it comes to science and technology education. America is the best country in the world and our students should be the best and brightest. Christians, if you want creationism or intelligent design to be taught in public schools, then establish a theory and bring some facts to the table, as evolution/Dawinism has. Holes in evolutionary chains are not proof of intelligent design and are not enough for you to base a theory on. Until then, you don't have the right to teach implicitly religious doctrine in public schools. Parents, if you want your children to believe that God created the earth and man, then teach your children this, send them to private school, home school them. Stop expecting the public school system to do your job. If you want your children to pray, sit down and pray with them, stop expecting the public school system to do your job. Religious education can not EVER come from public schools, so if your children are in public schools, for whatever reason, then it is your job to provide them religious education. It is not the public school system who has to account for their lack of religious education.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Social Security and You!

I can do no justice to the current Social Security debate however, of course, I'd like to put my two cents in. Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has devoted his blog almost exclusively to this debate the past couple of months. I've mentioned before that Republican efforts on Social Security long ago left the world of 'substanative debate' and entered into the world of 'whatchyou talkin' bout Willis'. The new line of attack is that if Democrats don't come up with a plan of their own, they are simply obstructionists and have no interest in real reform. Republicans are trying to paint Democrats as simply opposing the reform as a partisan tactic, thereby making that opposition seem unpopular and unsound. President Bush's approval rating on Social Security is at an all time low of 35% so it isn't only Democrats who don't support this reform. Opposing an idea on the basis that its a crappy idea is enough for me. As much as Republicans want to cry about Democrats bringing nothing to the table to bargain with, they won't bargain without private accounts. A very convincing case is made that private accounts will bring about the end of social security, and that is independant of all the other arguements of why private accounts aren't desireable (some people could be left high and dry, etc). I'm no economist and I freely admit I have to rely on other people's analysis and opinions on this issue, but it seems to me that whenever an idea has no merit, it can't survive on its own and must be pushed using other tactics--like smear campaigns and creative wording. That alone is enough to make me think that even Republicans can't come up with enough good reasons for private accounts.

Can anyone say 'upset'??

Well, the NCAA brackets are out and my alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson, has a first round meeting with the number 1 team in America, the Fighting Illini. DAMN!
The last time the Knights won the Northeast Conference was in 1998, my senior year, and that bought them a ticket to the dance. I can honestly say this was one of the highlights of my college years. Three or four busloads of students trekked all the way down to Washington D.C. to watch our Knights battle eventual champions UConn. With 3 minutes left in the game, FDU was still in it (I believe only behind by 4 or 5 points), but sadly we eventually lost. When we came back to campus, friends that had stayed behind said our section of the bleachers was so loud that sometimes you couldn't even hear the commentators. No less than Dick Vitale singled out an FDU player for playing a great game.
Good luck Knights and kick some ass!!


I know I've been neglecting my blog over the past week. Its amazing how one week out of the loop puts you so far behind in current events I still feel as though I'm not caught up. I'm sure my thousands of readers are clamoring for more news!
Anyway, a quick link to an amazing website. Watch the bald eagles nurture their newly hatched young. Check out their blog for information on the eaglets and the state of the camera. Unfortunately, recently the camera was moved (either by wind or an eagle) and our view of the center of the nest is obstructed. But hopefully soon they will be able to get up there and reposition the camera. In the mean time, they comb through the pics and pull out some really interesting ones. Its amazing to watch how these majestic birds take care of their young and to see it right before your very eyes.
Check it out!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Updates to come

I just got back from vacation, so I'm still catching up with current events. More posts to come.

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