Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Veritable Cornucopia Of Polysyllabic Utterances

First, I want to thank Colin Powell for being so forthright regarding what everyone should have already known about one of the main reasons for the problems with our European allies in the last couple years. Rumsfeld, it's about RESPECT, and by not giving any, you made the Iraq war more difficult, and you gained us untold enemies within countries that we need to be able to work with. Even if you did correctly have questions about their motives, it is incredibly stupid to handle it like that. I have my doubts about the war, but the jury is still out on the final results. Maybe it will work out in the long term, and maybe it won't, but it has definitely been harder because of the pathetic display of "diplomacy" toward Western European countries. W, you should have listened to Powell more. He was the only moderate you had.

Just as I am writing this, I read that Terri Schiavo has just died. May she rest in peace. Now people in our country can finally stop beating each other up about it, and soon the conservatives that have been bleating for weeks about murder and some sort of a "precedent" should be proved wrong by the autopsy and by the lack of other cases like this that become such a huge issue, respectively. All of the armchair doctors, speculators, pundits, and protestors can go home. It's over. Stop pretending you knew better than all of the doctors and judges.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Where We Hide Our Thoughts

Sometimes I need to be reminded that the brains of most people that I see shuffling around from day to day are not really dead. With all of this talk of death in the news, it's a refreshing fact to know. Johnnie Cochran is dead, TS is still 99.9% dead, and the country is still tearing itself up over what to do with the other .1%. The Pope has to be about 99% dead at this point. He has a feeding tube now. How ironic is that? Jerry Falwell is apparently also about 98% dead. If he goes, I'm not sure to whom I should turn for confirmation if I suspect some children's show character is gay, or a cross-dresser, or otherwise "not worthy"?

As I was saying, I'm generally an optimist, and so I know that these blank stares aren't going to walk around with their hopes and fears on their sleeves, but I know that these hopes and fears exist, and that they are therefore fully alive in there. This blog that I found seems to give me the confirmation that I need for today. I guess this is where the double-edged sword of blogging comes in. It's great for sharing your life with others, and saying "Hey, check out my vacation pictures!" as I often do on my German blog, however it makes it impossible then to share my very deepest thoughts, because I like to keep them private. Actually, no, that's not exactly true. I would like to make them public for many to see, but only for people that are not already so close to me in reality. It seems that there should be one person besides me that knows the link between this blog, the public me, and the "anonymous" me, that is not already a real life friend or family member. At least one other person needs to understand my reality in total. However...

It's not for guidance. I know where I'm going.
It's not for validation. I am already confident.
It's not for therapy. I'm quite sane, thanks.
It's not for encouragement. I'm not depressed.
It's just for the proverbial tree falling in the woods. I need someone to hear me, and be heard.

I don't have especially deep dark secrets or thoughts compared to anyone else. They do exist though, and they beg to be expressed.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Our Cat, Snowball!

A blogger friend of mine mentioned something about cat blogs, and so I thought I would introduce you all to Snowball. Snowball is a cat that we bought in November 2001. We got her from a place called the "Four Paws Rescue Team". She was only a year and a half old or so when we got her, and she had already had two full grown kittens when we got her! How's that for "babies having babies"? Yes, she was quite an early bloomer apparently. Snowball isn't a lap cat, and she only tolerates being picked up for a pretty short time usually. On the other hand, she loves being around people, being petted, and even having her belly rubbed, which many cats don't like, and she doesn't put up too much of a fuss when her toenails are clipped! She doesn't usually sleep on the bed at night, but sometimes she will for awhile. She prefers her little kitty bed in the computer room, or the guest bed which she gets all to herself. Her favorite perch is a chair at the small table in the kitchen where she can look out the window at the cars, people, and animals at our townhouse development. Her favorite toys are the little mice made of rabbit fur. She can definitely tell the difference between the real fur and the synthetic fur. She loves kitty treats, and will meow in her funny "creaky meows" as we call them, every time we come home from anywhere, until we give her some treats. She doesn't like most human food. However, she does like hard-boiled eggs, cold cuts of turkey or chicken, little pieces of cooked fresh fish if it isn't spiced, refried beans, tapioca, and avacado of all things! She turns her nose up at pretty much everything else that we eat. She's a strange one.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Liberal and Conservative Litmus Test?

I have been wrestling with this one for awhile. I will get into debates with people on various issues, and sometimes they will call me a "liberal", usually when they have run out of coherent arguments. I'm the type of person that believes that both political extremes are very unwise to follow, especially since most of the population is a proverbial "stone's throw" from the middle. That got me to thinking. What is a liberal exactly? What do they believe, and how is it different from a moderate Democrat, as I describe myself to be?

I have often thought that some of the difference between moderate Democrats and liberal Democrats can be measured in terms of tactics, and can also be extended to moderate and conservative Republicans as well. The most liberal and the most conservative people tend to be the loudest in their opposition to the other side. I think that they also tend to see the opposing party as being more radical, since they are further from the opposing view than moderates. There is a well-known principle of social psychology that states that people see the group that they are in as more diverse than the group that they oppose. One side sees different people with similar but diverse views and backgrounds coming together under their own "big tent", while the other side sees these same people as a flock of sheep following their party's directives, but I digress. There tends to be more name-calling, more good versus evil imagery, more anger, and more demagoguery the further right and left you go. While this can be an interesting and sometimes effective method of spotting extreme views, it does not describe or explain the differences between the extremes and the middle in terms of issues, and that is the only way to really do it systematically. Here is a better way.

First, there is the problem with how we define the differences within a party, because so many issues are binary. You either believe X or you believe Y, and there sometimes isn't much of a Z. Certainly issues have in-between views, especially economic issues, but many "variations", on social issues especially, are on a specific facet of an issue, and therefore are just an X and Y of a different but related issue. For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on social issues, but it certainly applies to many economic issues as well. What does all this mean in terms of categorization and a litmus test? It means that Democrats of all types are going to tend to agree with each other on both the most contentious issues (the ones where it is at least close to 50/50 split in the general public, 40-60 percent agreeing we'll say), and ones which "favor" them overall (where say, the public favors the Democratic idea, 60-100 percent agreeing). For these issues, the liberal view and the moderate view probably will not differ very much, and therefore with issues like first trimester abortion where most Dems, many independents, and even some Republicans agree, it can't be used as a "liberal test". The same is true in reverse for the Republicans when it comes to full marriage rights for gays as a "conservative test", since many independents and many Democrats agree with most Republicans. This leads us to the conclusion that the fewer moderates agree with a particular position, the more liberal or conservative that position probably is. When you lose nearly all moderate support and some of your own party's support for an issue, it drifts into the thirtysomething percent or less approval zone, and it tells you that most of the support is now coming from only the core left or right. Keep in mind that this does not make the position automatically "wrong"! It also does not mean that doing the most popular thing is always best either. It just means that view is further toward one end of the political spectrum, and therefore more liberal or more conservative.

My conclusion is that there actually is a "pretty good" rule of thumb that you can use. If you want to find out how liberal or conservative someone is, you ask them about some issues that most moderates, and therefore a solid majority of the public, tend to agree with their opposing party on. There are fewer of these issues than you think, since many of the biggest issues of our time are split closely along party lines, so choose carefully! You then put all of that together, and can at least get a general idea.

Make no mistake, I do not think that people have to be categorized at all! I just think that if you are going to call someone a "liberal" or a "conservative", at least know why you do so, and what one is.

Friday, March 25, 2005


The extra "F" is for your imagination. Fantastic maybe? We are having a goodbye happy hour at a nearby bar for Danny, a long-time co-worker of mine today, starting in just minutes. He started here in April 1999, a month after I started. It's actually been six years for me. That's eighty percent of my entire professional career! He's going to work for Visa. We're all happy for him.

Random, unrelated note, but I recently found one of my favorite commercials from this year's Super Bowl online. It's really funny, but it helps to know who the people in it are.

So last night, I got a phone call from a somewhat dippy-sounding young woman who was giving her pitch a mile a minute. Something about a free chiropractic exam. I was perplexed. Ever since getting on the national "do not call list", we have never gotten a sales call. We have gotten other calls, but I'll get to that later. So anyway, I asked her, "Do you use the national "do not call list", because we are on it". She was prepared for this. I could hear her pick up a sheet of paper and start reading. With a hint of salf-satisfaction, she began reading. She said, "We are not salespeople. We are calling to schedule free medical exams, so we are not required to..." and on and on. I asked her politely to just put us on their own do not call list. She said that she would, and the call ended. Does anyone know if what she said is true? I could look it up myself, but honestly it's not worth it to me. If it happens again though, I will be checking for sure!

The calls we still get are of course calls from political campaigns, charities, and market research companies. The last political one I got was from our Virginia state delegate Gary Reese. His recorded message seemed very interested in my views on abortion, which I answered for the recorded voice, (pro-choice), as well as a couple other more run-of-the-mill issues, including transportation which is a big deal in the traffic-choked DC suburbs where I live. The recording didn't mention political affiliation, but on a lookup I found he was Republican. As for charities, the INOVA blood donor service or whatever it is has been hounding me on both my home and work phones a couple times a month to give blood. That is getting irritating. You just have to give blood once or twice, and they are all over you, forever. My blood type is A+ so it's not even like it's especially useful to them compared to others. It's a distant second in terms of how common it is. If I were O- (universal donor), or O+ (the most common blood type), then I could understand, and about half the population is O something. The other people that call constantly are Fraternal Order of Police "charity" people. Interestingly, they are always middle-aged to older males calling, unlike most other charities. Do not ever give to those FOP callers, by the way. Go online and research what percentage goes to the charity, and then give directly that way. Most of the telemarketer FOP groups (there are hundreds of different ones) give a woefully low percentage to the actual charity. The rest goes to overhead. If you want to give to the police or anyone else, do some research first online. There are comprehensive sites for this. I will answer questions for research people when they call. It feels like it's somehow in the interest of science, and I like to be able to put my views or preferences into the mix. It makes me feel represented, if only in a small way. Plus one time a few years ago I was called and happened to fall into the demographic they were looking for, and I got one hundred dollars for going to a market research firm building in a two hour focus group kind of thing. It was for AOL, and it was about home networking services for broadband. Easiest hundred dollars I ever made in my life I think.

That's it for now! Tomorrow I am going to tackle something a little more meaty.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Just Like a Norman Rockwell Painting!

So it continues. Yes, just another day in "divided America". This time though, I think the far right has bitten off a bit more than they can chew. Heck, even Bill O'Reilly says that they grossly overstepped. They are spending their "political capital" quicker than Clinton in '93. I have always predicted that what is shown in these polls would happen eventually. When the party in charge gets way too comfortable, they start to think that they rule the world. It's all about getting "their way", and woe be to them that tries to thwart their plans! I actually don't consider it to be a partisan trait at all though. This is basic human nature, and nobody, least of all politicians from any side, are immune. I have no idea if this is going to carry over at all into 2006, but let's hope so. I would be happy with at least a bit more balance.

I heard about a movie that they aren't showing in some parts of the south. It has no nudity, no violence, and practically no professional actors at all actually. It has no political content either, and no "off-color humor". They aren't showing an IMAX film in some theaters in the south (no, not southern China, or southern Iran, it's the southern *United States*, *yes*, in 2005...), because of a reference to evolution. It's called "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea". Apparently it might offend some people who don't like even the suggestion of evolution. Never mind that most Christian sects, even Catholicism, officially accept that evolution is a possibility, and not incompatible with Christianity. To be sure, there are many people that hold tightly to the believe that evolution is incompatible with their faith, but what I find funny is that I think many that feel this way are unaware that their sect accepts it. I also believe that the people that are not showing the movie are greatly over-estimating the number of people that would be actively offended by it. I remember when "The Cider House Rules" came out, theaters in Auburn, New York where I grew up, a small heavily Catholic city in upstate NY, would not show it at first because they were afraid of some kind of backlash. They showed it a couple months later when it got nominated for Oscars, and you know what? Nothing happened. People either saw it or they didn't. I think the same thing would happen in this case. It's a sad form of self-censorship.

I see a couple of my German friends from my other blog which is in German (it's where I get to practice it most), Karin and Andreas (Andi), showed up to say hi! Welcome Germans! Speaking of which, I have to put up a funny picture that I put on my German blog awhile ago. It was taken by the grandfather of a friend of mine, just after World War II. Needless to say, things have changed a lot in the last 60 years, and I fraternize with as many Germans as possible, not to mention Swiss, Austrians, and so on.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


...but don't stare at it. It's like the sun. You look, just to get a sense of it, and then you look away!!! Sorry, Seinfeld reference, and not dead-on, but close. I will let someone else explain. This post is mostly for my own amusement, sorry. On second thought, no I'm not sorry. It's my blog, right? I posted an invite to my German/Swiss/Austrian blogging friends on my other blog to come here and comment, but none have yet. It's funny, most of them speak and especially write English very well, especially younger people, but they tend to be very shy about it. I don't really share that shyness when it comes to German. On the other hand, most Americans don't really bother to learn other languages, so even if my German were worse than it is, Germans are impressed with it. It's seen as less essential. It makes more sense why it's more important there when you figure that Germany has the largest population in Europe aside from Russia at about 81 million people, and it's slightly smaller than the state of Montana. How's that for scale? I find that stat fascinating.

I am watching the minutes tick down before I go home. 17 minutes left. This entry will need to be done before that. I was tired of talking politics today, so I generally steered clear of the blogs. Much too depressing, plus I had my normal work to do. My younger sister and only sibling, Katie, is getting married the first weekend in June, near where she lives in Jensen Beach, Florida. There are a couple things kind of funny about that. My wife is Christina, but she goes by Chris. Katie's fiance also goes by Kris (short from Kristopher or Kristofer I assume). They were both born and raised in different parts of New York State, but they met in Florida. The wedding will also most likely be the first time that I've ever met him! I've talked to him on the phone a couple times though, and he's definitely a talker like me, which is good. He also has the Long Island accent. He sounds so much like the other guys of Italian heritage that I went to college with at State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo. It's quite funny. Anyway, two minutes left, time to wrap it up and head home!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

We've Been Here Before

Last post for awhile on Schiavo. I am growing tired of it. The courts, the law, the doctors, and public opinion are all very much looking like they are for finally allowing this poor woman to die. It's time for religious conservatives to stop the posturing. I know you're true believers, and that's fine, but you don't make the laws.

Here's a snippet. Sound familiar?
"She is oblivious to her surroundings and will remain so. Her body twitches only reflexively, without consciousness.. The areas of her brain that once thought, felt, and experienced sensations have degenerated badly and are continuing to do so. The cavities remaining are filling with cerebrospinal fluid. The "'cerebral cortical atrophy is irreversible, permanent, progressive and ongoing.'" "[She] will never interact meaningfully with her environment again. She will remain in a persistent vegetative state until her death." Because she cannot swallow, her nutrition and hydration are delivered through a tube surgically implanted in her stomach."

That was not about Terri Schiavo. It was about Nancy Cruzan, who was in an identical persistent vegetative state, and was written by Supreme Court Justice Brennan in 1990.

Here's another snippet, also about the Cruzan case.
"While I agree with the Court's analysis today, and therefore join in its opinion, I would have preferred that we announce, clearly and promptly, that the federal courts have no business in this field; that American law has always accorded the State the power to prevent, by force if necessary, suicide -- including suicide by refusing to take appropriate measures necessary to preserve one's life; that the point at which life becomes "worthless," and the point at which the means necessary to preserve it become "extraordinary" or "inappropriate," are neither set forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine Justices of this Court any better than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory; and hence, that even when it is demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that a patient no longer wishes certain measures to be taken to preserve his or her life, it is up to the citizens of Missouri to decide, through their elected representatives, whether that wish will be honored. It is quite impossible (because the Constitution says nothing about the matter) that those citizens will decide upon a line less lawful than the one we would choose; and it is unlikely (because we know no more about "life and death" than they do) that they will decide upon a line less reasonable.... "

The author? Justice Antonin Scalia.

The first federal judge already denied the request to replace the feeding tube. This is all but over. All this indignation about her being starved is projection of cognitively functioning people onto her. Time that is days to us is nothing to her. According to most doctors that have seen her, she is feeling no pain. Let her die in peace.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Life, or Something Like It

So, it looks like Terri Schiavo will live to see at least another week. She can now live the dream of being in a "persistent vegetative state" for maybe 10, or 20, or 30, or more years on top of the 15 she already has under her belt. Excellent. Yes, this is what many people are actually happy about today, ecstatic even. They are breathlessly talking about their "respect for life" and praise God that they got to "choose life", and congratulating themselves on a job well done. I just hope for Terri's sake that this is what she wanted, but judging by what most people feel about being in her state, it seems unlikely.

That being said, I can certainly see why the case got to this point, and there are significant issues that are raised. They just have little to do the reasons that those that want her to keep living in her condition are citing. There was no written wish to not be kept alive in her current state. The law does not require this however, contrary to common belief. If it did, the case would have been long since resolved in favor of the parents. This should be addressed, and this is certainly a point worthy of debate. Also worthy of debate is the issue of whether feeding tubes are a part of a right to die case, and what category that puts people in.

This article shows what Republicans are thinking in the bigger political picture. Keep playing to that base, it looks like they are saying behind the scenes. They are probably right, and most Democrats are wisely steering clear of a showdown, though many I'm sure harbor the same misgivings about the reasoning and precedent that I do. With the political scene dominated by raw emotion these days, people have little use for objective examination.

Doug Bandow, of the Cato Institute, elaborates on that, and had this to say: "Republican grandstanding. Without doubt, many Republican politicians believe that an injustice has been done to Terri and her family. Yet they are not above using the issue for political advantage. A memo distributed to Republican senators characterised the case as "a great political issue", especially useful in winning support from conservative Christians. It "is a tough issue for Democrats", exulted the memo writer. Ironically, while governor of Texas, Bush signed into law a bill allowing hospitals to end life support if the patient had no means to pay for further care, and further care was thought to be futile."

That last bit floored me. I looked it up, and it's true! In 1999, Bush signed a law in Texas that said that there are circumstances where the hospitals get to decide what happens to people in states similar to Terri's. Sure, this law may have been created with life support patients in mind, but as the religious right always says "Shouldn't we err on the side of life?" Funny how that works.

Bandow further talks of the next set of issues that will come up: "What will federal judges do? Lawsuits have ranged up and down Florida courts for years. The federal fight could be equally bitter. Terri's parents will seek to reinsert the feeding tube until the case is decided. Michael will push to void the law as unconstitutional. If the court sustains the law, it is likely to hold a hearing on her parents' claim that removing the feeding tube violates her rights. The losing party then will inevitably appeal, as in Florida."

This won't be over for a long time. I just hope like hell that those that are so sure that she would want to live are right, and that she is the exception when it comes to what people want for themselves. Otherwise, you've just sentenced this woman to decades of suffering, or at least a hazy stupor from which there is no escape. A fate worse than death? I fear so.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Allow myself to introduce...myself...

My name is Erik Grow. Nice to meet everyone! I expect that this is the first step on an interesting journey for me. My "about" page is actually mostly complete, so you can read more there as well. I will figure out how to put more of that on the front page at some point soon.

This is actually my second blog. I started my first one about a year ago, and it is located at I created it to practice German, and I have met lots of friends there. I expect that this will be somewhat similar, aside from this one actually being in my native language. I also have a regular rarely-updated homepage at I was born and raised near Syracuse, New York, and have been living in a northern Virginia suburb of Washington DC since Fall of 1997. Six months after moving here, I met my wife, and we have been married since Fall of 2000.

I decided to start my own blog in English after having some debates on two other blogs. First was Tom McMahon on, whose blog contains all sorts of interesting thoughts. I originally commented on the Schiavo case in his blog. Tom seems to be a little on the conservative side, but not scarily so. He makes a lot of good observations on the state of the world. Second, but more frequently, I have been debating a woman that goes by the name "Right Wing Sparkle" on who despite her much more vehement and activist Texas conservatism is still an interesting person, and generally a worthy debater.

This blog is NOT going to be all political by any stretch, but since that is what a lot of my recent blogging activity has been about, I will elaborate here. As the "about" page indicates, I am a moderate Democrat. This is to say that my views generally fall along the lines of the "average" middle-class Democrat. I am not a purple-haired protester, and I do not care a bit about what Hollywood types have to say. These people, while they are *sometimes* correct in my view, are generally correct only by accident. I don't care to be correct by accident. To me, a moderate Democrat means somewhere between center to *somewhat* but not far left of center on social and fiscal issues. For me, as with anyone, it of course depends on the issue. You will find this out in time. Thank you for reading, and I hope you learn as much from me as I am sure I will learn from you.
-Erik Grow