Wednesday, November 26

Wow. Just... wow.

Sometimes I read something, and say, I just can't believe we got this guy elected. How awesome is that?

Be sure to read the whole thing, (I got it over at Daily Kos), but I'll just quote a little from the press pool report from this afternoon:

The First Family-to-be were positioned at the start of the food line; their job was to hand out white plastic bags filled with fresh chicken. Recipients then moved down the line to receive bags of potatoes, apples, loaves of bread and large boxes of staples including macaroni and cheese, tomato sauce, peanut butter, canned corn, oatmeal, Miracle Whip, mixed fruit and other items.

Obama called out: "We're ready, let's go, bring 'em on in," and the distribution began.

Clearly, those lining up for food hadn't been told they had an importangt guest helping out. this day. Many of them lit up; some shrieked with delight and hugged one or more of the Obamas. One elderly woman bowed; all seemed very appreciative. One and all were greeted with handshakes, hugs, and hearty "Happy Thanksgivings."

The daughters behaved like troopers for a half hour or so before the cold caught up with them, and they retired for a few minutes to warm up.

One sixty-something neighborhood resident named Daryel Namdan was asked how it felt to have Obama there. "It makes me feel very special," he said, before choking up.
After shaking hands with the food bank volunteers, he [Obama] came over to the pool and had this to say:

"The number of people who are getting food this year is up 33%. It gives a sense times are tough - and I think that on Thanksgiving it's importat [sic] for us tpo [sic] remember there's a need for support.

"These folks were already oftentimes having a tough time, and it gets tougher now." He encouraged all Americans of means to help out however they could. "This is part of what Thanksgiving should be all about," he said.

Asked why he'd brought his daughters along, he replied: "I want them to learn the importance of how fortunate they are and to make sure they're giving back."

I mean, think about it. Can you even *imagine* any of our Republican presidents (or the nominees) from the last two decades doing this?


Thursday, November 20

Julie Waters e-notes: Thu, November 20, 2008

Just to update everyone on what's going on in my life: I think last time I did an update I was talking about a new cd project. That's still in the works, but everything is on hold right now.

The short version is that I have a medical problem which put me out of commission for the better part of six weeks. The good news is that I now have a definitive diagnosis and know exactly what the problem is and how to treat it. The bad news is that the problem requires at least two surgeries (one of which is done, the 2nd of which is scheduled for early October) and when it's all said and done, I may be left with only one kidney.

That said, I am doing surprisingly well given the circumstances; still doing music and photography while I try to figure out what's coming next.

For those of you interested in the photography end of things, I've decided to start selling prints of some of my works. You can see the whole list at:

In addition, I can do up pretty much any of the light drawings in all sorts of sizes. Please feel free to drop me an e-mail ( if you're interested in purchasing one.

Hope everyone is well. I know I will be soon enough, but in the meantime, I'm doing my best to keep up with everything.
More info:

Julie's photography:
Upcoming events for Julie Waters
Sunday, December 14th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Sunday, January 11th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Monday, November 17

For the Birds

As some of you know, I've been into birding for some time, and photography for a bit longer. Now that the election is (mostly) over, I'm going to do another one of those diaries where I share some of my favorite bird photos and talk a little bit about the photos themselves. There will probably be some overlap here, as some of my favorites I've probably discussed before.

I'm going to start with the one showed: a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird feeding off of a bleeding heart.

This is a different version of this photo than I've shown before: it's a wider shot, as I've found a nice way to present it as a gallery work (10"x15"), but I think it works nicely.

This shot was a combination of preparation and dumb luck. I had been mowing the lawn all morning and was exhausted. I sat down on the porch, really unable to do much of any damned thing, but I did have my camera with me (when I mow, I set it up on a tripod, near the feeders so if I spot something interesting, I can take a break and check it out).

So suddenly I see this flicker of motion and realize what it is. One of the hummingbirds has swung over to the front yard. They love the bee balm plants, but I'd never seen one go after the bleeding heart. I grabbed the camera, took as many shots as I could, and... well, wow.

This next photo I haven't shared here before, I don't think, though it's one of my favorites. Snow geese sometimes populate the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Western Vermont. I had often tried to get photos of them, but it was always from a great distance. This particular day, I'd had a morning meeting in Burlington and had the rest of the day to myself. I decided to go the long way home and swing by Dead Creek (it takes me an extra two hours or so). When I got there, there were no Snow Geese to be found, and suddenly I spotted these ones on a nearby field. I pulled over, grabbed the camera and started to take pictures. They were all on the ground at that point. Sometimes I will take a photo, edge a little closer, take a few more, etc., which is what I did in this particular case. Eventually, I made the mistake of getting a little two close. The entire flock started to take off and then started flying in circles, more or less surrounding me. It ended up with me getting this photo:

While I love this shot (and when you see it blown up, you get some incredible textures), I think I like it even better like this:

It seems to come down to 1/3rd preferring the b&w to the color and 2/3rds preferring the color.

This hummingbird shot, though, is one of my favorites as well:

It's a very lucky shot. I had the camera pointed at the feeders to see if any cool looking hummingbirds showed up, but I'd rarely seen two at once. Once I realized there were two of them the trick wasn't getting *close* enough. It was zooming out quickly enough that I'd get them both in the same shot. I managed to pull it off, just as they hit the dive bombing position.

This Rufous Hummingbird:

was a real joy to photograph. I'd never seen one of these before (we really only get the ruby-throated hummingbirds in New England), but in November of 2007, we got word that one was hanging out at a feeder in Westmoreland, NH. Westmoreland isn't that far from where I live (and we've traveled a lot further to find rare birds) so we figured we'd check it out. It was on someone's property, which is always dicey, but this woman had given permission for people to stop by her porch and hang out to look at it. She was really into it, too, it turned out. She came out to say hello and asked us to make sure we sign her guestbook.

But the best part was that it took *minutes* before we saw the bird. She had hummingbird feeders all over the area, and the porch looked out on several of them, so we figured, well, we'll get a decent look and maybe I can get a nice photo from here.

But no, the rufous was interested in the feeder *on the porch*. The one that was only about eight feet away. So we sat there for about half an hour watching it come and go while I photographed it, figuring out *just* how close I could get where it would use the feeders without being so close I'd scare it off (turns out about 6'6" is about the magic distance) and voila, instant life bird.

Speaking of traveling to find birds... this January was our first big birding trip. We went to Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, and had a real trip finding all sorts of new birds. But the real treat was the Sandhill Cranes. This shot in particular:

is one of my favorites from the trip. There's something wonderful about that moment just before flight; all that energy built up and ready to go, at that moment where the bird transfers from awkward and gangly to magnificent in flight.

I will also say something else about snow geese here. I mentioned before getting to see Snow Geese at Dead Creek. Seeing them at Bosque is a whole different ball game. If you get to the viewing platform before dawn, you can be part of probably the most amazing thing I've ever experienced as a birder.

There is this large body of water where many of the birds roost all night (roosting in water makes them much less vulnerable to predators, such as coyotes, which *will* try to get their paws on the geese and the cranes). If you get there at the right time, you will see the ones gathered in the water, plus all the other geese gathering in to join them. It's *thousands* of snow geese, coming together in the middle of this pond, making all sorts of racket. This can go on for an hour; sometimes more; sometimes less.

But then there is this point where all of a sudden (and there is *no* time to prepare for this) it gets *silent*. This lasts about as much time as you have to breathe in and then out again and everything else is just dead quiet.

And then...

...the geese take off. For about five seconds, all you hear is wings. It's loud enough to sound like a tornado going directly over your head. The first time you experience it, it's like nothing you've ever been through before. The second time you think you've already seen it once so you're prepared for it. You're wrong. It's every bit as intense.

There's something about being surrounded by birds that just makes my heart leap. I hope writing this up has been nice for some of you as well.

For those of you who enjoyed these photos, you can see tons more at
As usual, feel free to use this as an open birds and birding thread and post your own photos.

Tuesday, November 11

Your Guide to the Coming Republican Civil War

Many of you have heard reports about the coming Republican Civil War, which I will henceforth be referred to as THE WAR TO END ALL REPUBLICANS ("WEAR," for short)

But most of this has been discussed merely as a split between the camps of John Sidney McCain and Sarah Louise Heath Palin, specifically focusing on matters of the approach to the campaign.

But, in reality, there are several factions competing for the "soul" of the Republican Party, or at least the closest thing to a soul the party could dig out of a deep, dark, recess that's best not described in polite company.

So I've written up this handy little guide to help us all better understand who the various factions in the Republican party are, and what sides we can expect them to be taking in the upcoming WEAR.

First, let's start with the obvious broad categories:


Their likes are deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthy, making a lot of money no matter who or what it hurts, complete lack of accountability and offshore accounts to hide certain kinds of profits from the IRS.

Their dislikes are corporate responsibility, people who write them letters and anyone who attempts to regulate any aspect of their business.

They favor Republicans because Republicans are eager and willing to take large donations and, in turn, just sort of look the other way when they, I dunno, don't bother paying taxes on public property for forty years.


Their likes are smug superiority, people like them, amendments banning same-sex marriage, the death penalty, gays who attack other gays and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Their dislikes are gays, Muslims, people who look like Muslims, people who aren't like them, people who dare to criticize them, elitists, vegetarians, Wiccans, abortion, people who are sane Christians, people who act too Jewish, gay or catholic.

They favor Republicans because they think Republicans will eventually overturn Roe v Wade and because Republicans pretend to like them in exchange for their support.


Their likes are war, violence, and anything which makes them think America is superior.

Their dislikes are France, Europe, France, any country that's not the United States, France, Canada, and peacenicks.

Their likes are anyone who likes war as much as they do, especially if they're dark-skinned enough and crazy-sounding enough to justify us going to war with them. This means *you*, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

They like Republicans because Republicans are consistently thrilled to talk up war and violence, even when it's not in their best interest to do so.


Libertarians like very small government and freedom. They hate excessive spending, big government and waste.

It is often unclear as to why they like Republicans.


Their likes are people who look like them and anyone who helps them justify their bigotry. Their dislikes are *everyone else*.

They like republicans because Republicans make them think they're not really racist.


Their likes are people who say the right kind of thing, regardless of their actions. Their dislikes are anyone who tries to correct their understanding of the world.

They like Republicans because they use catchy buzzwords and because they are idiots.

There are, of course, other categories we could discuss, but these will serve as basic categories for the discussion. There are plenty of people who overlap in this group. John McCain, for example, would fall into the *Warmonger* category, but he'd also fit directly in with *Big Business*. Many of his supporters fall into those categories as well as the *Useful Idiot* category because he can talk a good game about veterans issues, but actually does very poorly with them.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, fits in easily with *Religious Nutcases*, *Racists* and *Useful Idiots*. In fact, assume that everyone I mention here includes that last group in some capacity from this point on. I'll focus instead on the other two: she's loved by religious nutcases because she *is one* and she's loved by racists because she gave them so much great rhetoric during the campaign so as to make them think that their racism and xenophobia was, on some level, acceptable.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is all *Big Business* and *Family Values*. My suspicion about Romney is that he is less someone with convictions then someone who was so sure that he needed to say certain things to get elected that he's actually convinced himself that he believes them. But he's got a strong base of support, just not strong enough that he didn't need to fund his own campaign with a *whole lot* of his own money.

But how about Mike Huckabee? He's clearly loved by the *Religious Nutcases* but seems to be anti-racism, at least in his rhetoric. He's hated by big business but somewhat in the libertarian category, except he believes in universal education. In other words, one of the popular Republican candidates has some campaign issues more in favor with Democrats than Republicans.

Which brings us to Ron Paul, who represents an entirely different aspect of the Republican party, with the vast majority of his support coming from *Libertarians* and *Racists*, and definitely not the religious nutcases nor the warmongers.

With the exception of John McCain, there is a good possibility that all these individuals will be running for President in 2012 and this is where the WEAR comes in.

There are lots of rumors spreading about what happened behind the scenes in the McCain/Palin campaign, which helps set the stage for the upcoming battle. I.e., Romney camp spreading Palin stories?, Palin aide strikes back at McCain camp, etc. Most of you have seen much of this, so I won't bother reiterating.

But this is the basic dynamic: people from the Romney, McCain and Palin factions seem to *really* have it in for one another. Romney's appeal to the Family Values nutcases is damaged by the fact that he's a Mormon and most Family Values nutcases don't like *anyone* who's not a Christian (or, at the very least, an acceptably conservative Jew) and most assuredly do *not* think of Mormonism as "Christian." McCain's people pretty much hate Romney and now they seem to *really* hate Palin. They blame her for having hurt McCain's chances and being an all around crappy candidate and for "going rogue" from time to time. And then there's the whole Palin/underwear thing (which has *nothing* to do with Romney).

But the real gold here is that this scatters those categories I listed above. Libertarians are already finding problems with the Republican party, which has largely *increased* spending during their tenure and made government a *lot* bigger (and a lot more anti-freedom). Big Business will support anyone who helps them out, and turning the economy into a great big sinkhole really doesn't help big business all that much.

The religious nutcases are now split, with some going to Obama and most still preferring Republicans but willing to sit the election out if someone who's not sufficiently evangelical gets nominated. Granted, there are still plenty of racists, and they probably (if possible) like the Republicans a little more than they used to, but probably think of them as weak little sissies if they cooperate on Obama with anything.

So most of what's left for Republicans are useful idiots. And the great thing about useful idiots is that they're stupid enough to start chasing *each other* around with baseball bats rather than *us*. So when big business starts blaming religious nutcases and religious nutcases start blaming warmongers and warmongers start blaming libertarians who, in turn, blame everybody, well, hijinx ensue.

To me, this is going to be sort of like "Glengarry Glen Ross" crossed with a Keystone Cops movie.

Grab your popcorn, folks. This is going to be fun.

Saturday, November 8

Wayback Machine: John Stewart's first opening monologue after September 11, 2001

"The Sun Will Not Rise Tomorrow"

One of my favorite books is Terry Pratchett's "Hogfather."

The quick summary: the Hogfather has disappeared on Hogswatch Eve. As Death (yes, that Death) explains, if the children do not receive their Hogswatch gifts, they will cease to believe in the Hogfather and "The sun will not rise tomorrow."

So Death takes over for the Hogfather, delivering gifts to all the children, while his granddaughter tries her best to track down the Hogfather and return him to his post.

At one point, she asks Death if it's true that the sun wouldn't rise the next day. He says yes, it's true. When she asks what would happen instead, he explains that merely a flaming ball of gas would illuminate the sky.

This is kind of how I feel about Obama's victory, and I know this is oddly sentimental, especially for me, but there's something about what happened that was, to me, magical. I know that logically there was strategy, planning, and an immense amount of hard work, and I don't mean to discount that.

But when we went to bed Tuesday night, I turned to Cyndi and said "it's a whole new world." I didn't mean that literally, but I meant it in the sense that suddenly everything seems really different.

Racism isn't over, not by a long shot, and we're still in a hell of a mess as far as this country goes, and I mean one hell of a mess. Nothing's changed, really, except we've decided to put someone smart in the white house.

But if things had gone differently, and we'd nominated Edwards (and he hadn't turned out to be a bit of a horndog) and ended up with a President Edwards, I would have been happy. I would have been very pleased.

But I wouldn't have felt like it was a whole new world. I would have just seen the next day as another day with a gaseous ball of fire illuminating the sky.

Now the sun's rising on a whole new world and I'm looking to the future with real optimism for the first time in quite some time.

Friday, November 7

Vermont: where do we go from here?

I had started to write this up as a comment, but I think it deserves its own entry. As far as Democrats "vs" Progressives go, we have a lot of work to do, but it doesn't need to be statewide on every level.

On the local race level, we're fine. I.e., State Senators, State Representatives; I don't see any reason to change the way of doing business. Both parties are doing well in that regard.

Even on some of the statewide races, having both progressives and democrats involved in the races have not been a bad thing. I think Jerry Levy, for example, brought some good issues to the debate about the auditor's race in 2006 and added some interest in it that Salmon didn't. Martha Abbot, if she could get traction, would probably make a very good state treasurer and she brings good ideas into the race.

I think the big problem is the two top tickets: Gov and Lte Gov. I think the problem is twofold: Democrats running terrible candidates (not terrible people, but good people who make lousy candidates) and Progressives running candidates that have no realistic chance of running to the point where they sometimes help Republicans. I think that some form of compromise needs to be arranged between the parties, and I don't think it has to be something that makes everyone happy as long as it's something that everyone can respect as fair and reasonable.

If, for example, both Democrats and Progressives agreed to run a single candidate as an independent and have both parties back that candidate with their own resources, I think that would be a fair and reasonable approach. It would take some real coalition work to do so and it wouldn't be easy, but I could get behind a member of either party who was willing to wage a serious challenge to Douglass from the left, provided that candidate did the *real* work of spending some time courting both Democrats *and* Progressives.

Alternately, the parties themselves could meet together and put resources into recruiting a candidate acceptable to both.

We talk about finding some way to create a coalition party (i.e., Progressive Democrat party or some such thing) and while that's plausible, that sounds like a decade-long process. If we truly want to go that way, we can, but I'd like to see us focus on finding some way to deal with the Governor's race in 2010 and finding a serious challenger to Douglas that we can all agree is a decent choice.

In the meantime, I have one suggestion about IRV: let's bundle it with something Douglass really wants: try to get a bill passed which mandates IRV but also one that provides for a 4-year Governor's term to begin with 2012. I know a lot of people aren't fond of 4-year terms, but I think they actually allow a governor to get something done. If we have IRV, it might be an opportunity for the gov to get things we *want* done. There could even be a clause that triggers a special election in two years if the governor fails to get 50% of the vote. I.e., 4 year terms with a full majority, two year terms with a plurality.

Thoughts? Comments? The throwing of rotten fruits and vegetables?