"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man."
~~Benjamin Franklin


"There are two ways of meeting difficulties; you alter the difficulties, or you alter yourself to meet them."
~~Phyllis Bottome



If you saw the post, a week or so ago, with a picture of Greg's wrecked car , you know that he needed to get a new one. He was fortunate enough to find a used 2008 Prius, at the local Toyota dealer. He and Jen each test drove it, and then bought it. It's a very cool green color. Emy wanted that particular color because "green is one of her four, very favorite colors."


"I am only one. But still, I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still, I can do something."
~~Helen Keller



"Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me."
~~Anne Morrow Lindbergh



By Robert Scheer, in a column on June 26, 2002:
"Has the war on terrorism become the modern equivalent of the Roman circus, drawing the people's attention away from the failures of those who rule them? Corporate America is a shambles because deregulation, the mantra of our president and his party, has proved to be a license to steal."

Zztopdog's note: Robert Scheer is author of a new book, "The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America."


"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."
~~Robert Louis Stevenson



From Anne McCrady, of InSpirity:
"(Dear) Conservative America,
"I know many people are stunned by the loss of presidential candidate John McCain, and his running mate Sarah Palin, and the victory of President-elect Barak Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden. Many 0f you may think we 'liberals' are dangerous. You may even feel your country is in deep trouble. In angry and fearful voices, some are already saying, 'They will never take away our guns…our rights…our freedom…our wealth!'
"If you are one of those worried about what this election means for America, here’s food for thought on some important issues:
*Politics - Don’t worry…unless you think our country belongs to someone besides its people
*Security – Don’t worry… unless you care more about your safety than the safety of the whole world
*Foreign Policy – Don’t worry… unless you value violence over the power of words and ideas
*Wealth – Don’t worry… unless you disagree with rewarding honest work and ethical investment
*Healthcare - Don’t worry… unless you believe there are people who don’t deserve a doctor’s care
*Education – Don’t worry… unless you think some children should have to follow their dreams without an education
*Energy – Don’t worry… unless you would rather have cheap gas now than energy resources in the future
*Environmentalists - Don’t worry…unless you don’t really care about the Earth we give our children
*Guns – Don’t worry… unless you would be willing to use a gun to get your way
*Religion – Don’t worry… unless you want to take away someone else’s God
*Race - Don’t worry…unless you believe your family heritage is superior to all others
*Elitism - Don’t worry…unless you have your own sense of being better than someone else
*Morals - Don’t worry… unless you support people who don’t have any
"If this election didn’t go your way, if you feel angry or frightened or sad, open your hearts to this: Barak Obama is calling us to face down our fears, resist the temptation to hate, draw on our faith in each other and be our best selves as Americans! This is a historic time for us–all of us. Let’s believe that no matter how much we disagree, we can have a conversation. Let’s try to understand that the things that upset us can also teach us. Let’s embrace the politics of possibility and, like Esther in the Old Testament, who was called to lead her people, believe that we were 'made for such a time as this!'
"When We Rise to the Occasion, We Can Be a Blessing!"


"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace."
~~ Agnes M. Pahro



"Democracy is an objective. Democratization is a process. Democratization serves the cause of peace because it offers the possibility of justice and of progressive change without force."
~~Boutros Boutros-Ghali



"He was a person who, if he did not exactly love change, had learned to welcome it, to stand in the shifting winds with a continuous alert curiosity about whatever might come next. I think this is the secret...of a different sort of youthfulness...."
~~Mark Doty



By Richard Eskow, on A Night Light:

Zztopdog's note: Originally written for Thanksgiving, this message seems equally appropriate for Christmas and the new year.

"A lot of subjects flashed through my mind when I was invited to write a Thanksgiving piece for the Huffington Post. The slow, corrosive effects of greed. The holiday celebrations of Wall Street CEOs, golden parachutes rippling in the wind, and those of Americans who can't find work through no fault of their own. The generosity of the Native American who took in a group of dying settlers, saving them and losing his land in the process.
"Or the story of a family that, like so many squatters and relatives, took over a house that they were only meant to occupy for a short while. Pretty soon they started acting like they owned the place, like they could do whatever they want with it - change it around, share it with their friends, leave a mess for others to clean up ...
"You know. The Bushes.
"Then there's the irony-rich first set of pardons the President issued this week. I mean, he actually pardoned someone convicted of ... killing bald eagles. What writer wouldn't give thanks for material like that?
"But now doesn't seem like the time for negativity, or sarcasm, or snark. We're facing a crisis whose proportions we have yet to fully comprehend. As hackneyed as it may sound, this seems like a time for thinking positively. It seems like a time for putting aside old resentments and rivalries, a time for doing all we can. And like the old Elvis Costello song says, I'm not angry anymore.
"So I thought about positive topics. John Lennon, for example, or the land that nurtures us (and which too many of us forget to thank.)
"Or Gary Snyder, the poet laureate of this continent. In 1968 he called the single-family house 'a box to capture the biped in,' and this crisis shows how prophetic that comment was. A hundred million Americans enslaved to their mortgages. On a recent road trip I drove through Bakersfield, one of the hardest-hit real estate markets in California. 'We have cash buyers,' one billboard said.
"There's a lot of human misery behind a sign like that. I thought I might give thanks for those who warned us that misery was coming, and who might show us the way out of it.
"Then there's General Carter Ham. This four-star commander had the courage to admit publicly that he suffers from PTSD. Hopefully that will encourage more people in the military to come forward and seek help. Maybe it will help others in society do the same. Mental illness is stigmatized in a way that physical illness isn't, and that's wrong. That stigma's the result of our failure to understand that mind and body are a continuum, a matrix, an interconnected whole. It's an artifact of outmoded Manichean beliefs. Thank you, Gen. Ham.
"It's also worth giving thanks just for the extraordinary privilege of being alive, for the chiarascuro unexpectedness of this existence and all its endlessly fascinating facets. You name it, we've got it: spiral galaxies and Art Deco and film noir and Boltzmann brains. We've even got 70's era garage-rock and country music from the Golden Triangle of Burma. Who could've thought up Lashio Thein Aung, the "Burmese Texan"? Or any of the other stuff we come across every day, if we bother to look?
"That's the great thing about reality: it's endlessly inventive.
"(Boltzmann brains are a theoretical possibility - living intelligences that appear randomly from the fluctuations of the universe, look around for an instant of self-awareness, that disappear back in the flux of existence.)
" 'The way to know God is to love many things,' said Van Gogh. I'd thank God, but I don't believe in an anthropomorphic deity. Another kind? Maybe. I use the word 'God' sometimes, but I'm just as happy to address my thanks to Her, Him, or Current Occupant. Or None of the Above. And I'm especially thankful for the beauty of mathematical laws. Want to say a prayer of admiration and thanksgiving to the universe? Here's one way: First, solve for x ...
"What epitaph would you put on your tombstone? I think I might like this one: 'Wow, that was interesting.' Because it is pretty damn interesting, even if our allotted span isn't all that much longer than a Boltzmann brain's.
"I can't shake the feeling that something big is happening in the world right now. Something really big. I don't know if it will be bad or good - or maybe it will be bad at first and then be good later. It works out that way sometimes. Or maybe I'm wrong, and a bunch of small things will keep happening one after another like they've been doing all along. But however it plays out, it will be interesting. And it will be a privilege to play whatever small part I'm assigned in dealing with it, shoulder to shoulder with everybody else. Because we'll be facing it together, in our common humanity and common membership in the web of living things.
"That includes all of us, even those CEOs and the family in that big house.
"So here's my shot of gratitude to you, Interconnected Universe. Or God, if I may call you that. If that doesn't work, I'll just direct this to 'what is.' Names don't really matter, and maybe I've got no business talking about this stuff anyway. I certainly can't claim any special insight. But on this 27th of November in 2008, for the record, and to whom it may concern: Thanks."


"The Universe has a plan to make sure we don't ever stop learning, not only in our minds, but also in our hearts."
~~Pam Houston



I'm thankful for Toyota's attention to safety in the design and manufacture of its vehicles. After a rear-end crash, at highway speeds, Swanny's Rav 4 took the beating; Swanny's body did not. Swanny was taken to the hospital, but walked out on his own with only a cut on top of his head. Unfortunately, the Rav 4, is a loss. But Swanny is not.
And for that, we are all very thankful.



"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."
~~Kris Kristofferson



From a not-quite-four-year-old drama queen with Pink Eye:
"While Emy was brushing her teeth tonight she said,
'I don't think my eyes will be white ever again!' "



From XKCD - A Webcomic


"Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition." ~~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966


From Cynical-C:
Wikipedia’s giant list of common misconceptions.

Zztopdog's note: Be prepared to spend hours once you look at this fascinating list.



By Tom Tomorrow, from This Modern World:
"Rush Limbaugh, who spent much of the primary season urging Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton in order to prolong uncertainty among Democrats (he called it 'Operation Chaos'), is now complaining that John McCain became the Republican candidate due to Democrats and Independents voting in the Republican primary."


From Salon.com


"The important thing is not to stop questioning."
~~Albert Einstein



"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
~~Albert Einstein



"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, wheather sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
~~Dwight D. Eisenhower
By James Glanz and T. Christian Miller in The New York Times:
"An unpublished 513-page federal history of the American-led reconstruction of Iraq depicts an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country, and then molded into a $100 billion failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basic elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.
"The history, the first official account of its kind, is circulating in draft form here and in Washington among a tight circle of technical reviewers, policy experts and senior officials. It also concludes that when the reconstruction began to lag — particularly in the critical area of rebuilding the Iraqi police and army — the Pentagon simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up the failures.
"In one passage, for example, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell is quoted as saying that in the months after the 2003 invasion, the Defense Department 'kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ '
"Mr. Powell’s assertion that the Pentagon inflated the number of competent Iraqi security forces is backed up by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of ground troops in Iraq, and L. Paul Bremer III, the top civilian administrator until an Iraqi government took over in June 2004.
"Among the overarching conclusions of the history is that five years after embarking on its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan in Europe after World War II, the United States government has in place neither the policies and technical capacity nor the organizational structure that would be needed to undertake such a program on anything approaching this scale."
Read the rest of this article here.



"The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their 'vital interests' are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the 'sanctity' of human life, or the 'conscience' of the civilized world."
~~James Baldwin



By Joby Warwick, The Washington Post:
"A bipartisan Senate report released today says that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials are directly responsible for abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and charges that decisions by those officials led to serious offenses against prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.
"The Senate Armed Services Committee report accuses Rumsfeld and his deputies of being the principal architects of the plan to use harsh interrogation techniques on captured fighters and terrorism suspects, rejecting the Bush administration's contention that the policies originated lower down the command chain.
"'The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own,' the panel concludes. 'The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.'
"The report, released by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John McCain (R-Arizona) and based on a nearly two-year investigation, said that both the policies and resulting controversies tarnished the reputation of the United States and undermined national security. 'Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority,' it said.
"The panel's investigation focused on the Defense Department's use of controversial interrogation practices, including forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and use of dogs. The practices, some of which had already been adopted by the CIA at its secret prisons, were adapted for interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and later migrated to U.S. detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
"'The Committee's report details the inexcusable link between abusive interrogation techniques used by our enemies who ignored the Geneva Conventions and interrogation policy for detainees in U.S. custody,' McCain, himself a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in a statement. 'These policies are wrong and must never be repeated.'
"White House officials have maintained the measures were approved in response to demands from field officers who complained that traditional interrogation methods weren't working on some of the more hardened captives. But Senate investigators, relying on documents and hours of hearing testimony, arrived at a different conclusion.
"The true genesis of the decision to use coercive techniques, the report said, was a memo signed by President Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, declaring that the Geneva Convention's standards for humane treatment did not apply to captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. As early as that spring, the panel said, top administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, participated in meetings in which the use of coercive measures was discussed. The panel drew on a written statement by Rice, released earlier this year, to support that conclusion.
"In July 2002, Rumseld's senior staff began compiling information about techniques used in military survival schools to simulate conditions that U.S. airmen might face if captured by an enemy that did not follow the Geneva conditions. Those techniques - borrowed from a training program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE - included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and were loosely based on methods adopted by Chinese communists to coerce propaganda confessions from captured U.S. soldiers during the Korean war.
"The SERE program became the template for interrogation methods that were ultimately approved by Rumsfeld himself, the report says. In the field, U.S. military interrogators used the techniques with little oversight and frequently abusive results, the panel found.
"'It is particularly troubling that senior officials approved the use of interrogation techniques that were originally designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies against our own soldiers and that were modeled, in part, on tactics used by the Communist Chinese to elicit false confessions from U.S. military personnel,' the report said.
"Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that 'SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.'
Defenders of the techniques have argued that such measures were justified because of al-Qaeda's demonstrated disregard for human life. But the panel members cited the views of Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the head of U.S. Central Command, who in a May 2007 letter to his troops said humane treatment of prisoners allows Americans to occupy the moral high ground.
"'Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right,' wrote Petraeus, who at the time was the top U.S. commander in Iraq. 'Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy.'"


"To look up and not down,
To look forward and not back,
To look out and not in -
To lend a hand!"
~~Edward Everett Hale



"That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you're not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong."
~~F. Scott Fitzgerald

From the blog, People Reading:

Taking a break from work, Reading Blindness, by José Saramago. A friend had recommended it as a really great book. He's only just begun, but agrees!His favorite authors -- Jane Austen and Michael Chabon. It was Michael Chabon who got him reading again and Jane Austen, he admires. He admires that she lived at home with her parents and he admires the women in her stories who fight against marriage.Before this he was rereading Michael Crichton books--the author passed away from cancer at age 66 last month. He really liked Chrichton's earlier books, but put down State of Fear about 2/3 of the way through--he disagreed with the premise that our fear of global warming is bogus.
What authors do you admire--their lives, not just their books?

Zztopdog's note: If you have not checked out the People Reading blog, do so; it's facinating.



What is more hilarious than a big, black wig on a little 6-month-old boy?
Absolutely nothing!

Many thanks to his sitter for the wonderful picture!



Ratio of Americans who die from tobacco-related illnesses each year to the number who are murdered : 17:1 .
~~September issue of Harper's Index
From Who Hijacked Our Country:
"Everyone’s having a field day with the Indian Navy’s little blooper. They thought they were sinking a Somali pirate ship, but it turned out they had actually just sunk a Thai fishing boat that the pirates had seized. Heeheeheeheehee.
"Now, as long as we’re having fun with military bloopers and blunders committed by third world governments, here’s a real kneeslapper: (Technically, the following unnamed country isn’t part of the Third World. They have the largest, most advanced and most omnipresent military force in the world. But in terms of infrastructure, education, competence level among government leaders — we’re talking Third World all the way.)
"Anyway, on September 11th, 2001, this country suffered an unprovoked, brutal attack by a gang of terrorists. The country planned its retaliation very carefully and deliberately. The government spent a year and a half collecting intelligence, analyzing data, finding out which country most of the attackers were from and which country was the most closely aligned with the attackers’ organization. And then — they attacked the wrong country!"



"When you are kind to someone in trouble,
you hope they'll remember and be kind to someone else.
And it becomes like a wildfire."
~~ Whoopi Goldberg



A message from Michael Moore:

"I drive an American car. It's a Chrysler. That's not an endorsement. It's more like a cry for pity. And now for a decades-old story, retold ad infinitum by tens of millions of Americans, a third of whom have had to desert their country to simply find a damn way to get to work in something that won't break down:
"My Chrysler is four years old. I bought it because of its smooth and comfortable ride. Daimler-Benz owned the company then and had the good grace to place the Chrysler chassis on a Mercedes axle and, man, was that a sweet ride!
"When it would start.
"More than a dozen times in these years, the car has simply died. Batteries have been replaced, but that wasn't the problem. My dad drives the same model. His car has died many times, too. Just won't start, for no reason at all.
"A few weeks ago, I took my Chrysler in to the Chrysler dealer here in northern Michigan -- and the latest fixes cost me $1,400. The next day, the vehicle wouldn't start. When I got it going, the brake warning light came on. And on and on.
"You might assume from this that I couldn't give a rat's ass about these miserably inept crapmobile makers down the road in Detroit city. But I do care. I care about the millions whose lives and livelihoods depend on these car companies. I care about the security and defense of this country because the world is running out of oil -- and when it runs out, the calamity and collapse that will take place will make the current recession/depression look like a Tommy Tune musical.
"And I care about what happens with the Big 3 because they are more responsible than almost anyone for the destruction of our fragile atmosphere and the daily melting of our polar ice caps.
Congress must save the industrial infrastructure that these companies control and the jobs they create. And it must save the world from the internal combustion engine. This great, vast manufacturing network can redeem itself by building mass transit and electric/hybrid cars, and the kind of transportation we need for the 21st century.
"And Congress must do all this by NOT giving GM, Ford and Chrysler the $34 billion they are asking for in "loans" (a few days ago they only wanted $25 billion; that's how stupid they are -- they don't even know how much they really need to make this month's payroll. If you or I tried to get a loan from the bank this way, not only would we be thrown out on our ear, the bank would place us on some sort of credit rating blacklist).
"Two weeks ago, the CEOs of the Big 3 were tarred and feathered before a Congressional committee who sneered at them in a way far different than when the heads of the financial industry showed up two months earlier. At that time, the politicians tripped over each other in their swoon for Wall Street and its Ponzi schemers who had concocted Byzantine ways to bet other people's money on unregulated credit default swaps, known in the common vernacular as unicorns and fairies.
"But the Detroit boys were from the Midwest, the Rust (yuk!) Belt, where they made real things that consumers needed and could touch and buy, and that continually recycled money into the economy (shocking!), produced unions that created the middle class, and fixed my teeth for free when I was ten.
"For all of that, the auto heads had to sit there in November and be ridiculed about how they traveled to D.C. Yes, they flew on their corporate jets, just like the bankers and Wall Street thieves did in October. But, hey, THAT was OK! They're the Masters of the Universe! Nothing but the best chariots for Big Finance as they set about to loot our nation's treasury.
Of course, the auto magnates used to be the Masters who ruled the world. They were the pulsating hub that all other industries -- steel, oil, cement contractors -- served. Fifty-five years ago, the president of GM sat on that same Capitol Hill and bluntly told Congress, what's good for General Motors is good for the country. Because, you see, in their minds, GM WAS the country.
What a long, sad fall from grace we witnessed on November 19th when the three blind mice had their knuckles slapped and then were sent back home to write an essay called, "Why You Should Give Me Billions of Dollars of Free Cash." They were also asked if they would work for a dollar a year. Take that! What a big, brave Congress they are! Requesting indentured servitude from (still) three of the most powerful men in the world. This from a spineless body that won't dare stand up to a disgraced president nor turn down a single funding request for a war that neither they nor the American public support. Amazing.
"Let me just state the obvious: Every single dollar Congress gives these three companies will be flushed right down the toilet. There is nothing the management teams of the Big 3 are going to do to convince people to go out during a recession and buy their big, gas-guzzling, inferior products. Just forget it. And, as sure as I am that the Ford family-owned Detroit Lions are not going to the Super Bowl -- ever -- I can guarantee you, after they burn through this $34 billion, they'll be back for another $34 billion next summer.
"So what to do? Members of Congress, here's what I propose:
1. Transporting Americans is and should be one of the most important functions our government must address. And because we are facing a massive economic, energy and environmental crisis, the new president and Congress must do what Franklin Roosevelt did when he was faced with a crisis (and ordered the auto industry to stop building cars and instead build tanks and planes): The Big 3 are, from this point forward, to build only cars that are not primarily dependent on oil and, more importantly to build trains, buses, subways and light rail (a corresponding public works project across the country will build the rail lines and tracks). This will not only save jobs, but create millions of new ones.
2. You could buy ALL the common shares of stock in General Motors for less than $3 billion. Why should we give GM $18 billion or $25 billion or anything? Take the money and buy the company! (You're going to demand collateral anyway if you give them the "loan," and because we know they will default on that loan, you're going to own the company in the end as it is. So why wait? Just buy them out now.)
3. None of us want government officials running a car company, but there are some very smart transportation geniuses who could be hired to do this. We need a Marshall Plan to switch us off oil-dependent vehicles and get us into the 21st century.
This proposal is not radical or rocket science. It just takes one of the smartest people ever to run for the presidency to pull it off. What I'm proposing has worked before. The national rail system was in shambles in the '70s. The government took it over. A decade later it was turning a profit, so the government returned it to private/public hands, and got a couple billion dollars put back in the treasury.
"This proposal will save our industrial infrastructure -- and millions of jobs. More importantly, it will create millions more. It literally could pull us out of this recession.
In contrast, yesterday General Motors presented its restructuring proposal to Congress. They promised, if Congress gave them $18 billion now, they would, in turn, eliminate around 20,000 jobs. You read that right. We give them billions so they can throw more Americans out of work. That's been their Big Idea for the last 30 years -- layoff thousands in order to protect profits. But no one ever stopped to ask this question: If you throw everyone out of work, who's going to have the money to go out and buy a car?
"These idiots don't deserve a dime. Fire all of them, and take over the industry for the good of the workers, the country and the planet.
"What's good for General Motors IS good for the country. Once the country is calling the shots."

Michael Moore


"Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily."
~~Sally Koch


From The Bob Edwards Show blog:
"Christiane Amanpour is my guest on Thursday's program to draw attention to "Scream Bloody Murder," her riveting documentary about genocide--and also to celebrate her 25 years of going to the worst places in the world on behalf of CNN. Christiane is a brave, dedicated and indefatigable journalist who has covered wars, famines, and disasters all over the world. A person seeing her arrive in his or her town must figure calamity is imminent.
"Christiane is also on TV, and people on TV are easily caricatured. She is an international"star," a celebrity for whom heads of state would cancel important meetings just to meet her. She is attractive--men all over the world desire her and some women want to BE her. She is paid extremely well, gets the best tables at restaurants, airlines upgrade her, cabbies will not take her money, there are freebies and perks aplenty. Yet I would not dream of trading my life for hers.
"I have one of the cushiest jobs in all of broadcasting. I don't make Christiane's dough, but I'm doing more than all right. I work with a staff of smart, talented, funny colleagues whose company I enjoy. Sirius XM executives do not tell me how to do my job. My working environment is sheltered from the elements and despite its location in a changing neighborhood, I've not yet been under fire. There was a time 35 years ago when I might have sought adventure, then I got married, had children and turned chicken. I wanted no part of war when I was in the army, why should I pursue it as a civilian? Other journalists do and we are all in their debt.
It is the responsibility of journalists to bear witness. Very bad things happen when journalists are not around. No journalist witnessed My Lai or Abu Ghraib, but word leaked and journalists caught up with the facts. How many My Lais or Abu Ghraibs have there been when the word didn't leak? How many atrocities were averted because someone knew a journalist was nearby? Journalists also need to be there to record the bravery of our men and women in uniform and the positive work that they do.
"To get those stories, many other brave Americans--journalists--risk their lives. Daniel Pearl wanted us to know more about the war on terrorism and became one of its victims. Ernie Pyle, one of the most famous war correspondents of all time, was killed on Okinawa. Robert Capa survived the Normandy beach only to step on a land mine in Vietnam. George Polk was a U.S. soldier in World War II and later was hired by Edward R. Murrow at CBS to cover the civil war in Greece where he was assassinated. The list of news people killed covering wars is a very, very long one. It nearly got longer last weekend.
"My former colleague, NPR's Ivan Watson, was doing interviews for a story on security in Baghdad. Returning to his car parked at a marketplace, Ivan and his Iraqi staff were pulled away by Iraqi police officers who'd received a tip that a bomb had been attached to the car. Then the car exploded---and fortunately no one was hurt. Ivan not only was spared, but he certainly learned something about security in Baghdad.
"Many other of my NPR comrades have been in danger. Neal Conan was Saddam Hussein's prisoner in the Persian Gulf War. Deborah Amos and John Hockenberry had very close calls in Iran. NPR reporters were under fire or under detention in Central America in the 80's. Anne Garrels was one of the very few American reporters to stay in Iraq when the U.S. started bombing prior to the invasion. She risked her life to hide a forbidden satellite telephone so she could talk to me each day on Morning Edition. Sylvia Poggioli and Tom Gjelten saw things in Bosnia that no human should have to endure--and journalists there were major targets of snipers who didn't want that story reported. Reporters put themselves in danger so that we would know what was going on. They put themselves in danger so that I wouldn't have to do that job and I could be comfortable in my air-conditioned studio.
"For all I know, CNN might have a dozen or so commandos whose job is to keep Christiane Amanpour alive--to protect CNN's investment. I probably should have asked her that question when I interviewed her, but no matter. She still goes---she's there for every example of man's inhumanity to man--and God bless her for that. Whatever they're paying her, it's not enough."



From Badtux, the Snarky Penquin:
"Helicopter Ben has been printing money with all the fervant abandon of a Weimar Republic finance minister. Anybody see anything that looks like economic recovery anywhere in sight?
Pushing on a string, folks. Pushing on a string. If the money isn't making it into the pockets of people willing to spend it (i.e. ordinary people who need jobs), you're just pushing on a string. Money that just sits in bank vaults (or 1's and 0's in their computers nowdays) ain't doing diddly to keep people employed and keep factories rolling."


"The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things - the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and genuine to the bad and counterfeit."
~~ Samuel Johnson



By Kira Craft, on The Huffington Post:
Last week, Black Friday heralded the unofficial kickoff of the 2008 winter holiday shopping frenzy. Despite the economic chill in the air and the Ghost of Christmas Future in our peripheral vision, determined consumers gathered to snag special deals from anxious retailers who opened stores as early as 12:01 a.m. for these stoic souls. While it appears that sales have gotten off to a robust start, analysts warn holiday buying enthusiasm may fade once doorbuster deals peter out. Hallelujah!
Call me Scrooge if you want, but I think that no one should buy holiday presents this year. Materialism has been on a rampage for too long in this country- it deserves a time-out and we deserve an extended vacation from it. There's something really wrong with how the holiday season has been transformed from communal celebration into gift competition. Is there anything more valuable in life than our time and what we choose to do with it? The last thing I feel like using mine up on is running around searching for presents that are supposed to prove my love.
This year my goal is to be present instead of giving presents. My focus for the holiday season is to have fun and connect with loved ones instead of worrying about what to buy everyone. There isn't a single material thing I've ever received that could compare to time well-spent with friends. Though I've been nurturing this philosophy for years it's a particularly gratifying belief right now because it's become so socially acceptable. As the economic downturn affects us all there has been a perceptible shift in American sentiment towards acquisition. This year it's finally cool to give from the heart instead of the wallet, and I say hooray!
A shining example of promoting a return to tradition was Oprah's "Favorite Things" episode-- her focus was on bringing real meaning back to the holidays. While some people grumbled that the thriftiness of the show was depressing, I found it refreshing that she challenged people to actually think about meaning and authenticity. And check out a website called www.NoChristmasGiftsThisYear.com- it helps you create fun, customizable e- cards to send to friends and relatives that offer them the gift of time instead of money.
This year Americans are planning to spend an average of $431 on gifts for the holiday season. This is down almost 50% from 2007, an indicator of just how tight times are getting. So why not declare a no-gift Christmas/ Chanukah/ Kwanzaa, etc. and save your money for a better use than presents which decorate the basement? The act of emphasizing creativity, thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit this holiday season is a win/win situation: it yields both great personal dividends and helps keep your bank account positive.