September 22, 2004

off to Lancaster

We're off to Lancaster PA tomorrow for an extended weekend in the country. Last week's anniversary celebration at a Broadway show was scrubbed due to complications at work, helped just a little bit by bad weather that blew through making for unpleasant traveling.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

Observations on Ivan's aftermath

I didn't think Ivan would affect New Jersey much, but I was wrong (though the effect was much less severe than what hit Pensacola). There was severe flooding along the Delaware River, just a couple of miles from where I work. On Monday, I drove across the Washington Crossing bridge into Pennsylvania, and looked over at the area where I often sit and read the Bible while eating a brown-bag lunch. It was under water, and on a normal day, the area is about six feet above the level of the river. I went back today, and the park benches were visible, but the ground was just gooey mud, almost completely covering all the grass that was growing there, and it was thick heavy grass. I'd guess about three new inches of topsoil have been added to the banks of the Delaware in this spot.

Looking back on my personal experience with hurricanes, the one time I think I was the most scared was when Floyd came through here several years ago, in 1999 I think. Amy was a student at the University of the Arts then, and she had gone in to Philadelphia to work on some projects (she's a potter). I had gone to Somerville to a special work-related training class. The rain started coming down around 10 am, and before noon they told us to go home. The problem was, Somerset county was flooded. I had to take many detours before getting out of there, and chose to go to my mother-in-law's house in Princeton instead of going home to East Windsor, since Princeton is closer to the train station where I would be picking Amy up later. Once arriving, I tried to call her on the cell phone, message service picked up on first ring - her phone's turned off. Turn on the phone Amy!! I call the university switchboard, they give me the number of the Merriam theater which the University runs. They don't know how to contact Amy, they're several blocks away. Over and over and over I call - turn on the d*** phone! Don't you know there's a hurricane coming through! Get home now! After several hours, news of flooding everywhere, Amy calls me about 3:00 in the afternoon from the Princeton Junction train station. God only knows how the train got through, one of the news reports showed police evacuating people from homes in Trenton in canoes, just a couple of blocks from the train station. I go pick her up, the water is way over the curb, no sidewalks are visible, the street has turned into a lake, and I wouldn't dare be out there except that I'm picking up my wife, who should've ....well, calm down, there she is, and we're going home now. I'm glad she's ok, we find a way home, and enjoy the rest of the watching movies. God was surely looking out for us then, and we weren't even Christians at the time.

UPDATE: Just thought of this - I grew up in West Texas where tornadoes were a common occurence. Tornadoes are certainly deadly, but not nearly as destructive as hurricanes, but don't tell that to my family - we've had many bad experiences, including deaths (not in this generation thankfully), due to them. I remember sleeping in the basement on many occasions, sometimes even spending my afternoons after school down there. Ironically, during the one tornado that wiped out a couple of streets in our town, the sirens didn't blow until all the damage was done. Miraculously, even though many homes were destroyed, there were no deaths.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:40 PM | Comments (1)

Lilac Rose is back!

I am very happy to be notified that Susan b., Lilac Rose, is back blogging again after surviving Ivan. You had us scared there Susan, welcome back!

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 08:43 PM | Comments (1)

September 18, 2004

Amazing -- Sickening -- Thrilling: Kerry Collapses Into Black Hole

Up until July, Senator Kerry appeared to have a strategic advantage over President Bush….

But now it’s obvious: Kerry doesn’t have a strategy; Bush does.

Before August, the incumbent was the issue. Kerry’s vagueness could work for him because he didn’t have to explain what he would do if elected; he only had to plant questions in the electorate’s mind that questioned the President’s policies and credibility.

“Kerry’s Wager” appeared to be the underlying premise: bet on the existence of hidden dynamite within the voters that’ll set off explosions with your deft touch. Suspicion -- in the electorate’s mind -- is the secret weapon; it was created by the Bush Administration’s inability to explain the lost weapons of mass destruction (Bush hadn’t been forthright about the “real reason for the war”). Booby-trapped to this was a deeper angst in the voters’ souls: fear of a long war with an implacable foe. And rigged to that -- the deepest fear of all: we’re losing.

Along the way Democrats betrayed their one true love -- the one who would have given them an honest and satisfying campaign, ending with an honest and satisfying defeat -- and gambled instead on the tall lanky stranger (they didn’t really like) who promised something grand: a “win” based solely on his military record long ago. (They didn’t know much about him.)

Howard Dean was the boy next door. John F. Kerry was the handsome “Mister Gray” with the diamond cane -- haughty but smooth -- who rode into town on a carriage.

Well, all’s fair in love and war….

It turns out the general election voters know the difference between authentic commitment to victory and the mere claim of loyalty.

Still, the gimmick appeared to work for a while: from January to July while the missing WMDs were declared and the Abu Ghraib scandal raged, the Republicans and the President appeared before the nation exhausted, inarticulate, hesitant -- unable to explain their policies. Kerry’s voice seemed to rise and soar.

When the GOP convention arrived, however: Republicans attacked with a blast that broke like the first thud on a new battlefield. They were unanimous in their strategic formation. Their aim was true.

As Kerry supporter Peter Beinart (aka “TRB”) sadly explains in his 9/17/04 article “Character Acting” at New Republic Online:

“What…[Bush] wants, I suspect, is to make this election a referendum on ‘character’ -- the same issue that helped him so much in 2000. It's just that, after September 11, foreign policy is the easiest way to do that….[Bush] largely ignores the substance of Kerry's critiques of the Iraq war. Instead, he turns the variation in Kerry's critiques into an indictment of his opponent's character. Rather than asking voters to make a judgment on the wisdom of the war, Bush poses a choice between Kerry's ‘flip-flops’ and what he called last week in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, his ‘clear moral purpose.’”

What’s interesting is how every major speaker at the GOP convention followed this exact same strategy (look up the speeches).

Of course, one can question Beinart as to what extent the “substance of Kerry’s critiques” are clear and compelling -- I find them murky and ambiguous, myself -- but still, Kerry’s apparent “strategy” at his convention seemed obvious and sound (at the time): offer a policy view of Iraq that differed little from the President’s (getting the war, itself, off the table); attack the President because of what the missing WMDs and the “worsening” situation in Iraq says about Bush’s character, and create the space to talk about domestic issues.

But this approach was abandoned within days. The plans scattered at the sound of the GOP convention’s first shot.

If Kerry’s going to keep the war off the table and stress Bush’s “characterless” leadership -- then he must be disciplined in sticking to the Democratic convention strategy. OR: if he wants to bring the war to the table -- then Kerry’s “critiques” of the war have to be consistent and clear and contain a definite point of view (for or against).

Instead, Kerry ignored the original “convention” strategy -- and led with war critiques that are smoky in their equivocation. Kerry is trying to please ALL factions of the Democratic Party and anyone else out there who’ll listen. But the Democrats are divided on the war. He can’t please everybody. His pronouncements have become a blur. This isn’t a strategy.

In fact, we can now see that most likely: KERRY REALLY HAD NO GAME PLAN TO BEGIN WITH!

Karl Rove may be right when he said recently of Kerry: "The problem is not his staff, it's him."

Dick Morris makes this point in his New York Post column of 9/17/04 -- “Why Shakeup Won’t Save Kerry” -- where he says: “Kerry's basic problem is that he has no overview of how he's going to win. His consultants and staff confuse a pile of ammunition with a strategy.”

And Robert Novak notes in his Chicago Sun-Times article of 9/16/04 -- “Kerry’s Left Turn Scares Democrats” -- that Kerry’s campaign is throwing anything it can get its hands on helter-skelter at Bush without an organizing principle:

“Last Friday, Sen. Kerry abruptly returned to the safely buried gun control issue by decrying President Bush for permitting the assault weapons ban to end. On Saturday, he addressed the Congressional Black Caucus with a liberal harangue. On Sunday, Kerry rested. On Monday, Kerry was back boosting gun control, scolding Bush for letting the assault weapons ban expire at midnight. Only two explanations are possible….Kerry could be making a conscious, though counterproductive, decision to reassure his liberal base. Or, he could be trapped by the calendar of events -- talking gun control because a deadline had been reached and talking civil rights because the Black Caucus invited him. Democratic strategists are particularly concerned by the latter explanation, suggesting a mindless campaign….If John Kerry's course last weekend was determined by events that happened to be on the calendar, he has no victory plan.”

Kerry’s directionless chaos is swallowing him up.

Posted by Rick Penner at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2004


I feel like those kids in the classroom near the end of Apollo 13, when the astronauts went through reentry and there was radio silence for several minutes. No one knew whether the module would survive, so the silence was terrifying.

Susan b., at LilacRose, who weathered Ivan in Pensacola FL, has not posted for over 24 hours. I hope it's just because of a lack of available power, but I saw the news last night, and Pensacola looked like it got hit the hardest. I'm praying and hoping she's ok. I bet a lot of other people are too.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

September 16, 2004

I Never Get Tired of Eric Hoffer

I’ve been reading Eric Hoffer recently (again) -- an American social/political author (1902-1982) who wrote The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951) as well as 10 other books, including a book of aphorisms titled The Passionate State of Mind.

He was born poor in the Bronx and moved to California when his father died in 1920; he became a migrant worker and Longshoreman. He had little formal education; educating himself in public libraries.

On 9/27/77 he established the "Eric Hoffer-Lili Fabilli Essay Award" at the University of California, Berkeley, with the following letter:


Dear Mrs. Bloomberg,

Wordiness is a sickness of American writing. Too many words dilute and blur ideas. An average American book is twice as long as a British book on the same subject. The same is true of articles. (Compare Commentary with Encounter.)

There is not an idea that cannot be expressed in 200 words. But the writer must know precisely what he wants to say. If you have nothing to say and want badly to say it, then all the words in all the dictionaries will not suffice.

Do not count a, of, the, and, etc. Averaging the number of words in a line is O.K.

Warm regards,

Eric Hoffer


This web site provides an introduction to his works.

The following are some of his aphorisms at the site; I’ve chosen these because they express his MAIN psychological/social/political idea; one he repeats in different forms throughout his writing:

"Our quarrel with the world is an echo of the endless quarrel proceeding within us."

"We all have private ails. The troublemakers are they who need public cures for their private ails."

"Every extreme attitude is a flight from the self."

"The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater is our desire to be like others."

"Only the individual who has come to terms with his self can have a dispassionate attitude toward the world."

“You accept certain unlovely things about yourself and manage to live with them. The atonement for such an acceptance is that you make allowances for others -- that you cleanse yourself of the sin of self-righteousness."

"The end comes when we no longer talk with ourselves. It is the end of genuine thinking and the beginning of the final loneliness."

"When we leave people on their own, we are delivering them into the hands of a ruthless taskmaster from whose bondage there is no escape. The individual who has to justify his existence by his own efforts is in eternal bondage to himself."

"The devil personifies not the nature that is around us but the nature that is within us -- the infinitely ferocious and cunning prehuman creature that is still within us, sealed in the subconscious cellars of the psyche."

"We run fastest and farthest when we run from ourselves."

Posted by Rick Penner at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

Wedding Anniversary

Ten years ago, on September 17, 1994, Amy and I were married. I'm going to take the rest of this week off the blog so I can focus on some work issues (dealing with this thing, which I have to help prepare for automated software distribution) and take Friday off to take Amy to dinner and a Broadway show in New York City.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)

Rosh Hashanah

Dennis Prager, at What American Jews need to think about this Rosh Hashanah (plus some closing words for us Gentiles as well).

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

Reactions to 9/11

9/11 hit me real hard - I used to work in New York City, and I often took the PATH train home from that location. In the winter, when it always dark when I went home, and I walked into the WTC from the WFC, I loved to look up at the lights going up into the sky. It is one of my favorite memories of working in New York.

But here's something else I remember. I had just become a Christian in June, yet there was this simmering resentment toward someone living on my block with whom I had trouble getting along, actually their whole family. About the end of September, I was walking over to our neighborhood shopping center, past their house, and I noticed the father of the household outside working on his house. I approached him and told him this, "What happened to us recently is so much important than our fighting with each other. I'm sorry for what I did to you. Let's bury the hatchet." He shook my hand, expressed something similar though I don't remember his words. I'm glad to say that we are on friendly terms to this day. When we adopted Rebecca, Laura, the mother of that household was very happy for us. So this is just a little testimony that some good came out of 9/11. I hope everyone takes time to remember what happened on that day and how it affected them. And to Laura and Manny and your children, the family at the end of my block, thank you for your friendship.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

Military Service

Was talking with a Kerry supporter last week, and the story of the National Guard came up. She said that it was a shame that Kerry's patriotism was being smeared while our President shirked serving his country.

I wish I had asked this question: "Why did you vote for Bill Clinton?"

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 10:11 PM | Comments (5)

September 09, 2004


Donald Sensing says no one would put CYA in the subject line of a memo, so he doubts the authenticity of the Bush memo presented on 60 Minutes.

I used to work in the defense industry, but it's true everywhere: you can speak it, but don't ever put it in writing: The three little letters CYA (I'm assuming all adult readers know what they mean) indicate a failure to do one's job, and an effort to whitewash that fact. They would never be written in a memo which could be seen as evidence of incompetence or wrongdoing.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:51 PM | Comments (2)

The Same God?

Mark Shea (Catholic and Enjoying It) wrote an excellent (and long!) post on whether Christians and Muslims worship the same god.

A long time ago I argued the opposite way. Mark confronts my previous viewpoint effectively, saying they are the same God, in that whenever anyone worships one God, they are worshipping God - but they may not understand everything about God.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

Religious Left Political Hypocrisy

If a Democrat gives a political talk in a church, he or she is a concerned American citizen wanting to preserve American Values. If a Republican does it, he's a fascist Taliban out to destroy America by usurping the "separation of church and state".

Two links on a political speech by President Clinton in Riverside Church in NYC. Replace President Clinton's name with President Bush's or John Ashcroft's, and you would have the ACLU, AUSCA, and Unitarians taking this to the courts to have the church's tax-exempt status stripped.

Undivine Double Standard, by Paul Kengor, in National Review Online. Kengor argues that Clinton invoked God much more often than President Bush in his speech.

All the Bias That Fits, by Michelle Malkin, commenting in the Washington Times.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:54 PM | Comments (3)

China, abortion, and choice

People holding a pro-choice viewpoint often talk with praise of China's one-child per family policy. I've always thought that policy was hideous - what business does a government have telling people how big a family they must have? A long time ago, I heard a talk (at a Unitarian church no less, but a very small, libertarian one, the kind they don't have anymore) about family planning, and the speaker said population growth wouldn't be a major problem because population growth would stabilize before Paul Ehrlich's predictions (in The Population Bomb) would come true. This has indeed occured; none of Ehrlich's predictions of catastrophe caused by overpopulation ever came true, and population growth has slowed. In other words, people would solve the problem themselves, without any tyrannical government interference. I thought the speaker had a good point. Trust the people.

Here are two comments I've read on the Internet recently about China and their one-child policy:

China's Missing Women, by Wendy McElroy, for McElroy discusses the unintended consequences of China's policy, and how such consequences always arise whenever government tries to control how people behave.

The Forgotten Women, by Steven Ertelt, in National Review. Ertelt criticizes the pro-choice movement for supporting a program which denies choice to its women.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 09:34 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2004

Back again

Back from the Poconos again.

On Friday morning, I read that President Bush was going to be appearing at a campaign stop in Lackawanna County, less than a half-hour away from where my wife's mom owns the property we use as our summer getaway. Oh how I wish I had taken an extra day so I could have attended that rally! It was well written up in the newspaper the next day, so I got to read all about it. Major emphasis on stopping medical malpractice abuse, and a word of support for the Second Amendment! Yea!

We go to several baseball games at that stadium each year, and know that area well, except for downtown Scranton, where we got lost Saturday looking for the Italian festival. Got there eventually, and it was really cool to see all the folks wearing their Bush-Cheney t-shirts and buttons (I wore the one with W branding the donkey, plus a Bush-Cheney balloon for Rebecca). There were quite a few Kerry supporters, but I think if Scranton voters had their way, President Bush would have PA's votes this November. Of course, Scranton isn't the biggest city in Pennsylvania, so it is a big-time battleground state.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2004

Thoughts on Terrorism

Some other quick thoughts, then I'm out of here:
La Shawn Barber is angry with the media, including us bloggers, for not reporting the terrorism incident in Russia, where Islamist terrorists have taken children hostage. I'm guilty too, due only to light blogging, and maybe a bit of (I'm ashamed to admit) - it's over there, so why worry? I'm wrong to think that, cause too much of that type of apathy will only result in it happening over here too. So I mention the story now. Thanks, La Shawn, for your rebuke. La Shawn covers the story well in a later post.

Here's a way to make such acts of terrorism less likely: arm our teachers, as Israel and Thailand have done for several years now.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 01:38 PM | Comments (2)

One last post before packing it in...

I want to write my thoughts on President Bush's speech before going up to the Poconos today, so a quick blog from work during lunch (which I'm forgoing so I can eat on the road later).

The President gave a good speech, but it left me a little disappointed. It sounded pretty much like a State of the Union speech. I like his vision of an ownership society with people owning their own retirement, their own medical savings plans. I wish he would have spoken up louder for the benefits of free enterprise on a global scale as he has done earlier in his presidency. When he spoke of a health center in every community, my immediate reaction was "How are you going to pay for that?"

The major issue for me though is the Global War on Terrorism. President Bush nailed it when he said, "I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people. If America shows uncertainty and weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch." Indeed, it is not just the most solemn duty of the American President, it is also the most solemn duty of the government. Zell Miller spoke at length on Wednesday on a certain Senator's handling of that duty.

Senator Kerry complains that speeches like Senator Miller's are questioning his patriotism. What a crock of soup. No one at the convention is questioning Kerry's patriotism; they're questioning the soundness of his voting record. Here's some things I heard: Kerry called the Reagan years eight years of "moral darkness" (from Bush's speech), opposed Reagan's support for the Nicaraguan Contras, made broad sweeping (and unproven) accusations of war crimes in Vietnam, wrote a book called "The New American Soldier", where he said, "We will not quickly join those who march on Veterans' Day, waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands who died for the greater glory of the United States. We will not readily join the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars." So he contemns our veterans in a post-Vietnam book, refuses to retract any of his remarks, and deals with the controversy by seeking to remove that book from circulation, and the book published by his critics, "Unfit for Command" (the irony! He does all this while complaining about John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act).

UPDATE: Bill Hobbs says it's all about liberty (Hat tip to Donald Sensing, One Hand Clapping)

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 01:29 PM | Comments (1)

September 02, 2004

Thoughts on the RNC

Apologies for light blogging. Our TV and computer are on opposite sides of the house, and we haven't gone wireless yet, so it's always been too late to blog when I turn off the TV.

That said, let me say what I think of the convention so far:
Fine speeches by everyone I've heard (I missed Monday night, but read Rudy Giuliani's speech later).

Arnold Schwarzenegger's speech was fantastic. I'd like to own that one on video. Zell Miller's and Dick Cheney's too, though Senator Miller upstaged the Vice President. I'm sure he won't mind in November.

I was reading a critique of Miller's speech in The Nation this morning. They make a comment that Miller lied about Kerry's post-war testimony, that he wasn't attacking veterans, but rather the Pentagon. Yeah, right.

Laura Bush gave a fine speech, but I can't remember any of her lines. Her speech was excellent for the grace and dignity she portrayed. She makes me proud of my Texas heritage. The Bushes are former "neighbors" of mine - I grew up in Hereford Tx, and they're from Midland, about 200 miles south. When I was in college at Texas Tech, George Bush ran for Congress in my district.

No blogging till next week. Have a wonderful Labor Day.

Posted by Joel Fuhrmann at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)