I was sorry to hear that Dede Scozzafava of New York’s 23rd district dropped out of the race for the House of Representatives today. This race has received much national attention and was deemed as the race which might determine whether or not the Republican party of the future will be a more inclusive party or whether it will continue its current move to the right.

Scozzafava was chosen by the Republican chairs of the eleven counties in the district because she knew the district, understood the issues at hand and they felt she could best represent the district in Congress. Hoffman on the other hand does not even live in the district.

The problem with Scozzafava as a candidate was that she did not represent the national Republican party values. She was pro-choice, she supported gay marriage and she was for the Employee Free Choice Act which assists employees in forming or setting up a union if they wish. Yet she still held some Republican points of view in a recent debate where she disagreed with president Obama’s point of view on Afghanistan and Healthcare.

The party heavyweights who will most likely be running for president on the Republican side in 2012 such as Palin, Pawlenty and Thompson threw their support behind Hoffman and with that support came a ton of money. Scoozafava was not able to weather the storm.   

A local newspaper endorsement put it best when they said Scozzafava’s answers to questions about the district she was going to be respresenting to have “both breadth and depth unmatched by her opponents” and that Hoffman the national party candidate “drew blanks”.

So I will be watching Tuesday night election returns to see who the voters of the 23rd district decide to elect, but it’s too bad that whoever they choose it’s not going to be the most qualified candidate for the job !

Dissecting The Statistics

Here’s an interesting analysis on the most recent Gross Domestic Product numbers, the job creation data released by the White House, and what it all may mean for the economy as it tries to work slowly out of the current recession.  The key question is whether we are seeing any real economic growth, or just the impact of one-time, here-and-gone programs like Cash for Clunkers and first-time homeowner tax credits that may simply be shifting purchases from later period to earlier periods in response to government incentives.  The article concludes that the current answer to that question is uncertain, to say the least.

Hitler And The Holocaust

It is hard to imagine that, nearly 65 years after the end of World War II, there are many new secrets to learn about Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.  Nevertheless, historians think they might learn something new from the memoirs of Fritz Darges, who died recently at age 96.  Darges was Hitler’s last SS adjutant, serving from 1940 to 1944, and was present for all major conferences on the war during that time.

What I found surprising about this article is that some revisionist historians apparently have argued that Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust.  Therefore, there is interest in whether Darges’ memoirs will confirm that Hitler in fact was aware of the Holocaust.

It is hard to believe that a compelling case can be made that a rabid anti-Semite who was the absolute leader of a totalitarian regime could be completely clueless about an operation on the magnitude of the Holocaust, with its specific purpose of addressing the “Jewish problem” that Hitler himself had repeatedly discussed.  How could Hitler be unaware of a program that involved the construction of multiple work camps and death camps, the organized round-up of millions of Jews throughout occupied Europe, the use of dedicated trains to transport Jews to Auschwitz and other hellish locations, and countless other indications of organized murder on an unprecedented scale?  Does anyone really believe that the Nazi officials directly involved in planning and executing the Holocaust did not boast of their activities to the Fuehrer whose crazed writings and speeches on the subject demonstrated that he would be a receptive and enthusiastic supporter of what they were doing?


Internet and Apollo

Today is being celebrated as the 40th birthday of the internet.  Forty years ago today an intrepid team of researchers at UCLA succeeded in getting one of their computers to “talk” to a distant computer — which promptly crashed after the first two letters of a three-letter word were transmitted.  Obviously, the internet has come a long way in 40 years, to the point where pointless blather like the Webnerhouse blog can be easily prepared and made available to any bored internet traveller, anywhere in the world, who might be inclined to visit and see what we have to say.

Coincidentally, this year also is the 40th year of the first Apollo program lunar landing.  Although the internet has progressed tremendously during that 40-year period — going from a clumsy method that crashed before even a single word was transmitted to a communications medium that is found in millions of households and allows for instantaneous access to undreamed off amounts of information — the same cannot be said for the space program.  Indeed, one could argue that manned space exploration has regressed as far and as quickly as the internet has progressed during that same 40-year span.

Since the Apollo program has ended, there has been no serious manned space exploration, and none is on the horizon for the foreseeable future.  Imagine for a moment, however, what might be the reality if manned space exploration had progressed to the same extent as the internet has progressed in the 40 years since 1969.  Where would humans find themselves?  Living in Martian colonies?  Conducting mining operations on Titan?  Aboard spacecraft visiting Alpha Centauri, or the nearest solar system with planets deemed capable of supporting life?

The mind reels at our missed opportunity.

When The Universe Was Very Young

Scientists have detected gamma rays that they attribute to a massive stellar explosion 13.1 billion years ago — “only” about 660 million years after the “Big Bang.”  Their theory is that a huge star collapsed into a black hole and emitted gamma rays as a result.

This news is fascinating on two levels.  First, it is amazing that our technology has developed to the point where we can detect actions that occurred so extraordinarily long ago, when the universe was in its infancy.  Second, it is surprising that, only 660 million years after the Big Bang, a star could have coalesced out of the exploded remnants of the Big Bang, ignited into fiery life, and then collapsed into a black hole.  660 million years seems like a long time, but Wikipedia, for example, estimates that the age of our Sun is almost 4.6 billion years.  Obviously, it could blow at any minute!  I don’t want to think that tomorrow afternoon I might see a bright flash and then observe the sun’s photosphere hurtling my way at close to the speed of light.

An Even Smaller Mouse

I’ve previously posted on the tiny amount of job creation that has been attributed to the massive “stimulus bill.”   Now it turns out that even the 34,000 jobs that the government claimed were “saved or created” by stimulus spending is itself an inflated figure.  An AP report states that the reported number of jobs “created or saved” is overstated by thousands of jobs, with some jobs double- and even triple-counted and others just invented.

Taxpayers legitimately should ask whether the stimulus package, which was supposed to have an immediate impact on the economy, is worth its near trillion-dollar price tag as we view the employment results some 8 months later.  It is hard to avoid the conclusion that our elected representatives viewed the stimulus package as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reward political supporters and cronies with government contracts, to no apparent purpose.  Having sown the wind with their crass and purely political uses of our tax dollars, I hope those wretched politicians who wrote and voted for the stimulus package someday reap the whirlwind.

“Bad Candy” And Guilty Feelings

I admit it — I loved Halloween and trick or treating when I was a kid.  When I was little, we lived in a great neighborhood for maximum candy collection — lots of small houses cheek by jowl in orderly, rectangular blocks.  We then moved out to the suburbs in a neighborhood that was a bit removed; we trick or treated at the 15 or so houses in the neighborhood and that was about it.  By the time we moved to Columbus, I was a teenager and thought I was too cool to trick or treat. 

During the heady Orlando Avenue days in Akron in the early ’60s, the trick or treating rituals were clear and inviolable.  You went out and ran from house to house as quickly as your parents would let you, carrying a pillowcase and looking to accumulate as much candy as possible.  Houses where people left a bowl of candy because they weren’t home were quickly identified and all candy confiscated.  The word spread like wildfire about houses that had “good candy,” like Butterfingers, or Snickers, or Peanut M&Ms, or houses that were passing out “bad candy” — like caramel apples, Chunky, suckers, “hard candy” or, God forbid, toothbrushes. (One of our neighbors was a dentist.)  Trick or treating routes were adjusted accordingly.  Then, when we were sweaty and exhausted and our costumes had begun to fall apart, we would go home, dump the contents of our pillowcases on the floor, and sift through the booty, separating the good from the bad and maybe giving a piece or two to a sister who was too young to go out with us.

I recall there was one house on Orlando where an elderly couple lived.  They always passed out homemade popcorn balls, wrapped in colorful cellophane and tied with ribbons.  We had to go there because they were neighbors and Mom made us.  We would take the popcorn balls, say thank you, toss them in our sacks, and then put them in the “bad candy” pile when we got home.  I didn’t like popcorn balls at all.  They were dry and dusty tasting, and nowhere near as succulent as, say, an Almond Joy.

Now, I kind of feel guilty about not eating those popcorn balls.  I imagine the kindly old lady slaving in the kitchen to make the popcorn balls, beaming with pleasure at the thought that neighborhood tots would savor every bite.  And her courtly husband carefully cut the cellophane and wrapped the popcorn balls, ignoring all the while the pain it caused his no doubt arthritic fingers.  How could I be such an ingrate?

Of course, no parent worth his salt these days would allow his child to eat homemade treats like popcorn balls, anyway.  But when Halloween rolls around I nevertheless think of those folks and carve a pumpkin in their memory.  Now Kish and I are the neighborhood couple with no kids in the house — and we make sure we have “good candy,” just to be sure.