Renaissance Ruminations

A smorgasbord of erratic thoughts on parenting, politics, grilling, marriage, public speaking, and all the other things that make life interesting.

Location: Burke, VA, Northern Virginia, United States

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I just cannot take it... we are going to give WordPress a try before heading to the pay to play blogs.

Please come visit at

I hope to hear from you soon!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blogger Beta Update-Still Sucks

After a long time period to allow the tryptophan to wear off, I come back to blog and discover that even if I post in the afternoon much of the WYSIWYG features of blogger are still not working. Even the links for "post options: and "show all" are disabled.

The Blogger Beta still sucks, and I will begin searching for other options.

Bwana out...


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

To the denizens of the blogosphere, have a Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy yourself today, embrace the oncoming food coma, and if you go shopping on Black Friday remember this: Don't drive around trying for the perfect place, grab the first parking slot you see!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Michael Collins Lives On...

I was reading the WaPo coverage of another attack in Iraq against civilians, this time a group of trainee policemen. And as I have done numerous times over the last three years, I thought to myself "Michael Collins lives on."

Much of what Americans might know of Mr. Collins comes from the movie Michael Collins, but that gives an incomplete picture.

Michael Collins was the defacto leader of the Irish Independence movement after Eamon de Valera went to the USA to raise funds. His innovative guerilla tactics ulimately brought the British government to the negotiating table, where the Irish Free State was created. This step caused an estrangement between Collins and de Valera, who would accept nothing but Irish independence as opposed to the near dominion status created by the agreement. After the Irish legislature accepted the treaty, de Valera and his followers broke off and began the Irish Civil War. Collins ultimately led the government forces to victory, but was killed shortly before the end of hostilities in an ambush in County Cork at the crossroads of Béal na mBláth.

There are numerous books and websites that provide the details of Mr. Collins life and impact far better than I can in this blog. What continues to captivate me is how his tactics have survived and proven effective for almost a century. The Israeli guerilla leader Yitzhak Shamir, used "Michael Collins" as his code name in fighting the British, and the conflict to establish Taiwan (in the face of the Communist revolution in China) was called Operation Michael Collins.

The tactics? First, his men did not wear uniforms. Earlier generations of guerillas of all counties in revolt (including colonial america) saw themselves as being part of a national army and were uniformed as if in an army. Collins felt being able to move unnoticed was of far greater value tactically than claiming national pride in a uniformed force. In fact, the British did not have a verifiably accurate photograph of him until Collins was sent to England with Archie Griffith to negotiate with Winston Churchill over the creation of the Irish Free State. Today this tactic is such an accepted point that no one thinks to question it...but Collins was the first to do it.

The second and more pertinent tactic was silencing sources of information. Collins realized the British were able to track down IRA figures adn Dail politicians was that they had impeccable sources of information stemming from their work with the Irish police. Collins created an assassination team called the Twelve Apostles. This team first warned potential targets to stop collaborating with the British, then killed those who continued to do so. This group also carried off the Bloody Sunday executions of fourteen British intelligence offers sent to Ireland to eliminate Collins and his team. This spread fear among potential informers and cut off the flow of information to the British, who then found it difficult to operate.

This interdiction of intelligence is the tactic that he founded, and the fruits of it are seen to this day.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Blogger Beta Update

Still not what it could be. It seems that half the time that when I blog in the afternoon there is an what was called the "edit HTML" screen and a preview link, but not a "compose" the morning there is a notepad type editor with out the editing icons of the "edit HTML" screen, there is no preview link, and-of course-there is no "compose" tab.

As yet, beyond the options of labels and the much faster publishing of blogs, I am seeing no compelling reason to have made the change.

Stay tuned for future developments...

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California Says Bloggers Free from Certain Libel Claims

MSNBC reports that the California Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that bloggers cannot be sued for libel for printing the words of others. This protection covers ISP's and users of their services, including bloggers and bulletin board posters.

The Court said: "Subjecting Internet service providers and users to defamation liability would tend to chill online speech".

The case does not address the matter of suing bloggers for words they have themselves written.

The court also said while the ruling may have some "some troubling consequences", that "Until Congress chooses to revise the settled law in this area" people who contend they were defamed on the Internet can seek recovery only from the original source of the statement, not from those who re-post it."

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If They Would Only Listen: Why the GOP & the Dems are in Trouble

I get that folks tend not to listen to me. I have great ideas, great concepts, but they are not everyone's cup of tea. My wife is kind enough to listen, but heavily filters-and, frankly, rightly so. My boss listen's half way, but typically doesn't hear. My kids don't hear me at all until the third time I say something.

Still, when you say something that is so clearly correct and the target is non-responsive...well, that is bothersome.

A year ago in the wake of the Kilgore 2005 loss, many GOP types were extoling the need for a convention to select more electable statewide nominees. I offered up this post rebutting the idea, and said:

"The real key to winning elections is parties that stand for something. The key lies with candidates who promise not just to lead but offer real and achievable ideas that will better the lives of all the citizens that candidate wants to represent and workable plans to make those ideas reality. The key lies with candidates who excite and motivate the party base to work and persuade the undecided voters to believe."
The GOP clearly did not do this in 2006, and were further hampered in Virginia by an Allen campaign that found new ways to stumble. Compare George Allen's reaction to the "macaca" incident to Michael Richards, who after a horrible racial epithet loaded run-in with a heckler in LA immediately went on David Letterman to apologize. This is right out of the Kennedy playbook-screw up, apologize immediately, cauterize the wound, stop the bleeding, and move on. Nonetheless, the reason why this was able to happen was because the GOP has lost its way and has moved far away from either Goldwater-Reagan convservatism or the cut government tenets of the 1994 "Contract with America". Instead, the GOP was seen as being primarily interested in staying in power so as to keep power for the sake of having power. Exceptions like Frank Wolf scored comfortable victories in the face of a Democratic wave because they stand for something.

But the Webb campaign was not much better. While it was a tactical masterpiece of running a campaign and taking advantage of every opportunity, it didn't really make a case for what the Democrats would do, only that they wouldn't do what the GOP did. Jim Webb ultimately ran as not being George Allen or George Bush, and his lack of issue definition now has some bloggers wondering how complete his dedication to the Democratic Party is. At the national level, the Congressional Democrats are still a blank slate, and we really don't know what they will do...even though after a campaign such as we just endured one might think that voters would be able to say with complete confidence what was going to happen.

Why is this the case? Because neither party really stands for anything beyond not being what the other guy is. There is no high level, guiding concept of what either party is grounded in. Both parties seek to protray the other as the sum of it's most extreme parts.

I will say it here, and mark my words this statement will come true:

The first major party that is able to establish an identity for itself will run the table in 2008. It is not a matter of position papers, blogs, websites, study groups, or even individual legislation passed. It is a matter of showing the country a studied view of where the country needs to go, an explanation of how to get there, and a logical and unified concept of governance that ties it all together.
With that, Reagan 1980/84 type victories, even landslides. Without that, neither party can either hope to establish electoral dominance...or even effectively govern for the long haul.

Until they do this, the Republicans and Democrats are in trouble.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Funny how folks react...

You may recall how during the recently ended US Senate campaign in Virginia the Washington Post chose to focus on George Allen's attire, and to judge by the LTE section that was all well and good-nothing was published to suggest that WaPo was focusing on style over substance, and led to lots of notes to the Ombudsman.

Maybe times have changed.

Today's Letters to the Editor includes several comments on the WaPo writing about the fashion style of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker elect of the House of Representatives, and criticizing them for focusing on Mrs. Pelosi's wardrobe and not her political skills and positions.

Wow...maybe in publishing these letters the WaPo is showing us the paper recognizes it should focus on substance and not style.

Of course, it helps that Pelosi is a Democrat. I am sure once a GOP candidate attracts their attention with fashion stylings good or bad that they can make fun of, they will be back to their old tricks.

Anything for an Edge

I had always heard that Bo Schembechler would do anything for an edge against Ohio State, but I thought he would draw the line at death.

Understand, I am not a Big Ten guy. I am born and bred to the ACC clubhouse, and I blame Bo and Woody for that. Those two guys made the game boring, plus their hoopsters often seemed more like thugs than players. The way that Woody went out, slugging a Clemson player on the sidelines during the 1978 Gator Bowl, just made the preference more clear.

Bo Schembechler was different, and that is what makes his death yesterday at 77 different. Gruff but articulate, he never lost his temper or his cool under fire, moved to AD after 21 years as Wolverine gridiron coach, and left his mark on the University of Michigan and the state of Michigan in a way that few educators-yep, I use the word educator-have done. His graduation rate was high, and he tolerated no funny business as AD. I mourn his passing.

His death on the eve of the biggest college football game of this season surely will give an emotional lift to the wolverines. While he hated Ohio State, and always sought an edge, I thought there would be a limit to how far he would go. Maybe not...

However, I have never worn the Wolverine colors or bled for the maize and blue, so I leave the final word to a friend of mine who grew up in Ann Arbor and was a scholarship athelete at Michigan. Yesterday I emailed him my condolences over Bo's death, and here is his reply:

"I feel a bit guilty. I was talking to my buddy Todd when Bo was in the hospital and I said, tongue-in-cheek, why can't he hurry up and die so we can go out there and win one for Bo on Saturday.

In the words of Patton (George C. Scott) I pity those God I do. We're not just going to kill 'em, we're going to murder them by the bushel. We're going to grease the treads of our tanks with their guts. We're going to grab the buckeye by the tail (yeah, Huns don't have tails either) and we're going to kick him in the ass... Bo always seemed like Patton to me, our field general.

The Washington Post even mentioned his Pattonesque dismissal of Bill Frieder, "A Michigan man will coach Michigan, not an Arizona State man." The image of him presiding over a crowd of Michigan students from the balcony of a fraternity, the night before the Ohio State game, and of him explaining why would beat Ohio State just brings tears to my eyes, "because we're Michigan." I loved that son of a bitch."
Now as I said, I am an ACC man. But just this once...

Go Michigan! Hail to the Victors!

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Just When I Thought Things Would be Civil

The WaPo reports that Speaker Presumptive Pelosi is trying to strong arm democrats into voting for Murtha for Majority Leader. Democrats are angered that Pelosi forces are allegedly urging folks who have committed to Hoyer to vote for Murtha, noting "it's a secret ballot". Committee appointments

Many are upset that Murtha, with his questionable ethics past, was recently heard demeaning the Democrats legislative ethics package that ultimately he will be in charge of getting passed.

In other news, that Tower of Ethics Charles Rangel (D-NY), fresh from insulting the State of Mississippi, now says his extensive praise for Hoyer in a recent interview was not really an endorsement.

As I noted previously, Pelosi's support of Murtha speaks highly of her sense of loyalty (or of her hatred of Steny Hoyer). However, the manner by which she has evidenced that support has been ham handed, and will apparently guarantee bad feelings one way or the other. As Robert Novak suggested:

This is a no-win situation for Pelosi. If Murtha wins today, she will be accused of personal vindictiveness in derailing Hoyer, who is more popular in the caucus and better qualified for leadership. If Murtha loses, as is much more probable, she will be seen as bumbling her first attempt to lead the new Democratic majority. Pelosi could have avoided this dilemma by standing aside as Newt Gingrich, then the presumptive speaker, did when he voted for his ally Robert Walker as majority whip but did not ask members to oppose Tom DeLay.

Pelosi's mistake confirms long-standing, privately held Democratic apprehension about her abilities. Such concerns do not reflect the Republican indictment of her as a reflexive San Francisco liberal. Some of her most trenchant congressional critics are on the left wing of the party. These colleagues worry that her decision making may be distorted by personal considerations.

And all this is before you get into the matters of Alcee Hastings and Jane Harman.

Pelosi is a Democrat, but her initial moves seem to be spreading discord and confusion among her troops and could benefit the GOP...which does not speak well in the short term of her ability to lead the congressional party.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Few Considerations Prior to the Vote for Leader

A few things to share prior to the vote for Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives...

Steny Hoyer is a better choice for the Democrats and for the country. His attributes were ably laid out in an endorsement by the Washington Post. The ethics case against Jack Murtha is capably described by Ruth Marcus. Jack Murtha will create a far more partisan atmosphere in the House than will Hoyer, and will create a tone that is contrary to all that Pelosi and Reid has laid out to date.

Now I am a sucker for an amazing success story, and Hoyer's is unique. He was the Boy Wonder of Maryland Politics, elected to the State Senate at the age of 27 and President of the Senate by age 35. He joined the Blair Lee ticket in 1978, but was defeated in the Democratic primary. All seemed done...until US Rep. Gladys Spellman fell into an incapacitating heart attack shortly before the 1980 general election, at which she won easy reelection and then resigned shortly thereafter. Hoyer won the nomination for the seat in a crowded field, and then won the seat...where he has stayed ever since. Not a logical reason to pull for him, but there it is.

Now some call the Murtha choice a gamble. I think it is a win-win for her. If Murtha wins, she has her pal by her side. If he loses, she has demonstrated unshakeable loyalty to her friends, which will serve her well in future congressional negotiations.

I think the key to being a good Speaker of the House is to realize you are not just a national leader, but effectively the mayor of a small town full of powerful people, and you have to keep your people happy. Nancy Pelosi is well schooled in the needs of being a mayor. Her father Tommy D'Alesandro was a congressman (MD-3) and the Mayor of Baltimore. She knows you have to reward those who help you, because then they will help you again...not to different from a mayor making sure his supporters get jobs.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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Democrats Wishful Thinking about Wolf

It seems that Democrats have transitioned from supreme confidence they could beat Frank Wolf in Virginia 10 to engaging in some supremely silly wishful thinking.

A story appeared at the Swing State Project diary, which then got picked up by the Daily Kos, which lead to a WTF? type of post at the Richmond War Room.

Someone has the idea that Congressman Wolf is on the verge of retirement, and lists Virginia 10 as a possible democratic pickup as a result.

H,mmm...there is a term for's coming to me...wait for it...

Oh, yeah! It is called Wishful Thinking!

Having just won a very strong victory against a well funded opponent in a heavily democratic year, one would not likely think of Congressman Wolf as a likely retiree. In a lengthy discussion in a Raising Kaine diary it was conceded even by democratic partisans that Wolf is a difficult opponent because he is clean as a hounds tooth and great with constituent service, and that the seat is likely his until he retires...which is not the same thing as saying he is about to retire!

I understand why they think Dennis Hastert will retire. He is in the minority, and as a result is no longer Speaker of the House. He chosen not to run for GOP Leader in the new session, and has really shown no passion for any issue beyond the accumulation of GOP power. Hastert retire? Good call.

Congressman Wolf is cut from a different bolt of cloth.

A)In the minority? So what? He spent the first half of his time in Congress in the minority.
B) Issues involvement? His passion for human rights is real and unquenchable. His introduction of a bipartisan "Iraq solution" commission is indicative of a man who is in office to find solutions...and who can best find those solutions by staying in office.
C)Intangibles You have got to want to serve in public office. The intrusions into your public life and the personal sacrifices that occur mean that you cannot be an effective elected official unless you want to be there. Frank Wolf has said numerous times it was his childhood ambition to serve in Congress. He has called it his "dream job". He has never once shown an interest in running for statewide office-he holds the office he wants to hold.

Call me crazy, but this does not sound to me like a man who will be retiring any time soon.

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