Thursday, December 01, 2005

Don't get all excited yet

I don't know if I'm going to be able to bring myself to do this more frequently now than I have been over the last couple of months (i.e. not at all), but I'm going to make the effort. I'm still intensely interested in politics, and have probably bored my poor father to tears, since I talk about nothing else, really, when I call him. Well, politics and movies. So I have a feeling that's what my focus will be. Not so tightly on politics as before, because that was untenable. Maybe I'll start putting up movie reviews every now and then.

But for now, a post unrelated to either of those topics:

The Jimmy Buffet

Eli, Steve and I had an idea for a restaurant where everything was named after celebrities. It would be called, of course, the Jimmy Buffet. You could drink Brian Seltzer, or garnish your dish with Elvis Parsley. We came up with a lot, and there's more and more every day. I just get the idea that it would end up being quite an.....eccentric menu, let's say.

Oatmelio Estevez
Chili Bob Thornton
Sloppy Joe Pesci
Quicher Sutherland
Pizza Rose
Robert Brownie, Jr.

We have more, but I figured I'd whet your appetite, so to speak, with those.

Oh, and we also have names for the silverware, for some reason:

Harrison Fork
Burl Knives
George Spooney


Friday, October 07, 2005

An Uphill Battle

I had heard (along with a few of you readers, probably) that there was a poll that showed that 19% of Americans thought that they were in the top 1% of earners, and that 20% more thought that they would one day be in the top 20%. In looking up some information about it, I found that this was the specific question asked:

As you may know, Al Gore has claimed that George W. Bush’s proposed tax cut will largely benefit those with high incomes, who he claims are the top 1%. Thinking about your own situation, do you think that you are in the top group that would benefit from Bush’s proposed tax cut now, do you think you will be in this group that will benefit in the future, or do you think you will not benefit from Bush’s tax cut?
The question is sloppy at best, but that's not what I'm here to argue. The 19% and 20% figures probably aren't correct, at least in the interpretation given above the quote. Some of that 19% could be folks that didn't agree with Al Gore's interpretation that only the top 1% will benefit. Stanch conservatives would have voted that they would benefit, whether they considered themselves in the top 1% or not.

It seems more likely that the 20% figure is accurate as commonly interpreted. For folks who don't think they'll benefit now but will benefit later, they've got to be either firm believers in trickle-down economics or very optimistic about their future income prospects.

Regardless, though, it seems obvious to me that people are misinformed about the nature of wealth in the United States, and how they personally fall in the grand scheme of things. More people think that they're "rich" than actually are, and more people embrace the increasingly ludicrous notion of the "American dream," that hard work can get you anywhere you want to go. But conservatives have capitalized on this idea, and it's convinced at least a few people to vote against their best economic interests, because they truly believe that those won't be their economic interests forever.

So what are reality-based liberals to do? Tell it like it is? That would be nice, but I don't think that running a successful campaign would be possible based on the "Vote for us because your ideals are unrealistic and you'll more than likely never achieve them" slogan. Conservatives have oversimplified the issue to the point where bringing folks back down to reality isn't a successful vote-getting strategy.

And that makes me sad.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Very Long Engagement

I was at a meeting this morning, and it started to drag, so I began to write a sort of stream-of-consciousness to pass the time. Here it is, in all its unvarnished glory (and names have been changed):

At my meeting I got bored, so I wrote the alphabet, in both upper- and lowercase letters. I enjoy my handwriting. Then I wrote the numeral "3" in two different ways. One of the numerals looked mean, and one looked kindly.

Is this keeping me awake right now, writing this? I don't know.

Must remember to look up every once in a while, so they think I'm writing something about work.

I could have sworn that this meeting was over when striped Bill thanked Ted, but short-sleeved Bill just keeps talking. And Lord, is that man ever loud! Everybody keeps interrupting everybody else. Talk louder for long enough and you win, right? Right. But all you are is a winning douchebag.

I come to these meetings and I do nothing. Anything I may have gotten out of it, that may have been valuable to me, ended an hour ago. Naps should be acceptable at that point.

I was a little surprised to see Bob taking notes in a Dragonball-Z notebook. Way to go, Bob.

This table is so much bigger than is necessary for five people. We should get some more people up in here. And a bartender. What if there was a two-drink minimum for these meetings? I souldn't even feel it, since we're a full two hours in.

They say you can't bullshit a bullshitter. That may or may not be the case, but this meeting proves that bullshitters can bullshit with bullshitters. I call it co-bullshittery.

False ending number two and.....go.

Ted has the power to end this. He already said he's late for someplace else. Please, Ted, do what you know in your heart to be right. Do me the kindness of cutting me loose. I can see that striped Bill also wants to go. Let him go, too.

And also, just because you laugh very loud for a long time, that doesn't retroactively make funny whatever it is that you're laughing at.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Some good news!

Eight Democratic governors are requesting an inquiry into the excessive profits being made by gas companies in the post-Katrina days.

Good for them. There's no reason that, in the wake of a natural disaster, everybody in the country should be a little worse off economically, while Exxon and Shell post record profits.


Monday, September 19, 2005


Here's what Brownback said, that I was referring to in my last post:

All the members of this body know a young man with Down's Syndrome named Jimmy. Maybe you've met him, even. He runs the elevator that takes the senators up and down on the Senate floors. His warm smile welcomes us every day. We're a better body for him.

He told me the other day -- he frequently gives me a hug in the elevator afterwards. I know he does Senator Hatch often, too, who kindly gives him ties, some of which I question the taste of, Orrin...


... but he kindly gives ties.

HATCH: It doesn't have to get personal...


BROWNBACK: And Jimmy said to me the other day after he hugged me; he said "Shhh, don't tell my supervisor. They're telling me I'm hugging too many people."


BROWNBACK: And, yet, we're ennobled by him and what he does and how he lifts up our humanity and 80 to 90 percent of the kids in this country like Jimmy never get here.

What does that do to us? What does that say about us. And I would just ask you, Judge Roberts, to consider -- and probably you can't answer here today, whether the individuals with disabilities have the same constitutional rights that you and I share while they're in the womb.

Again, what a naked, despicable ploy by Brownback. To surreptitiously claim that all children aborted would be happy, huggy elevator operators is ridiculous.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Roberts Hearings

I just heard the most ridiculous thing in the world on the television today.

Basically, Senator Brownback made the argument that because of abortion, there are less people to hug people in elevators. There were a lot more words to it, but that was the thrust of it.


Monday, September 12, 2005

This Makes Me Happy

I don't have much to say about this story, except that it makes me so happy to see.

Boone Pickens, a Texas oil tycoon, has sponsored a flight to go through the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina and pick up the pets that were stranded. They saved about 80 animals, though they had wished to get about 200.

The article concludes by saying that about 200 animals have been reunited with their owners in Houston. In a time of such sadness, I can't think of a thing that would make me happier than to find my dog (hypothetical, since I don't have one).


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hilary's wedding

I was in Williamsport over the weekend for my cousin's wedding, and it was really nice. Here's a picture that I thought was pretty cute.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reason vs. Faith

Right off the bat, I'm pretty firmly agnostic. By that, I mean I don't go to church, I don't have pretensions of knowing the hows, whats, and whys of the universe, and the issue of God doesn't have an effect on my daily life. I'm not atheist because as a logical thinker, I realize that I cannot logically disprove His/Her/Its existence, but neither can I logically prove His/Her/Its existence. So I don't really let it weigh on my mind, unless I'm arguing/debating with somebody.

But here's what really gets my goat, so to speak. An argument you might hear from a fundamentalist Christian, against the Big Bang, might go something like this:

It's more likely for a tornado to sweep through a junkyard and leave in its wake a fully assembled 747 than for the Big Bang to have randomly created the universe we all know and love.
Basically, the thrust of the argument is that if the chances of something are slim enough, we can conclusively rule out the probability of its ever having happened. I'd take issue, and say "highly improbable" doesn't equal "impossible," but we'll leave that for now.

Here's another argument you might hear from a fundamentalist Christian, in favor of Jesus' being the Messiah:
There are 456 prophecies that Jesus had to fulfill to conclusively be the Messiah. Scientists have determined that the likelihood of his fulfilling just 48 of those 456 prophecies is 1 in 10^157. The likelihood of this is so small that Jesus must be the Messiah.
Do you see the disconnect here? In one case, they use statistical improbability as proof against something's having happened, and in the other they use statistical improbability as proof positive of something else's having happened. This is the kind of shoddy intellectualism that results when religious folks cling tenaciously to their beliefs in the face of science to the contrary.

Just thought I'd throw that out there.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Guess Who's Back?

OK, so I don't know if this means that I'll be writing furiously like I did there for a while, but I'm here now, and that should count for something.

The big event, which allows me to be writing this right now, from my room, is that after a year and a half, I finally have a working computer again. Being able to write blog entries from home should take some of the strain off, since I keep trying to think of things to write from work and can't really come up with anything.

My posting has waned recently, as y'all have noticed, largely because of my intense interest in politics waning. Er, scratch that. The interest in politics is still there, and the interest in political discussion is still there. It was the interest in the partisan hackery that is the political blogosphere, left and right, that waned. I couldn't take being held accountable for things I never said, or watching otherwise reasonable people be made unreasonable by opinions ascribed to them by dint of their partisan leaning. I've had extensive conversations with my dad about this. He's probably tired of hearing about it.

I gave my first professional briefing at work today, and it went swimmingly. Everybody involved said it was very good, very informative, and I wasn't even too nervous. Hooray for me.

So this is kind of boring, huh? I guess maybe I'll try to think of something more exciting to write next time.


Thursday, August 25, 2005


***Post edited due to discretion***

Sorry, I guess it was a limited engagement.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Abby Woodhall

I haven't been in touch with the school that I used to teach at for a while. I stopped there two years ago, and while I visited in January 2004, the last time I talked to anyone there was almost a year ago.

Today one of my former students IMed me to tell me about Abby Woodhall. Abby was an English teacher at the school, the daughter of the Head and Founder of the school, and my neighbor (we shared a house, though with no communicating doors between apartments). She was in her 30s, and she had a son who is probably about 5 now.

Abby and I had our share of misunderstandings. More than our share, actually. And to call them misunderstandings is putting it nicely. She didn't like me and I didn't like her. She didn't like that I was living in her house, and I didn't like living in her house. No matter how quiet I was being, she always called to tell me to be quieter. She wrote me a scathing faculty review that directly contributed to my wanting to leave.

Well, I found out today that Abby died in April. She had brain cancer, which we all knew even when I was there. And no matter what my feelings were about her, it's a sad thing like crazy. Nobody deserves that, and never at such a young age.

So I'm sorry for all the bad feelings, Abby, and I hope you're at peace.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Satan's Belly Button

Well, I didn't believe it, but the Washington Post has confirmed for me that Andy Milonakis, star of MTV's The Andy Milonakis Show, is indeed 29 years old.

My bad.



According to this poll, math is the most hated subject in school. It's also, however, tied for the most loved subject in school. I'm in the second category, obviously (otherwise I'd be some kind of masochist, right?). I find it all fascinating. And really, the feeling you get when you work on a hard problem for a while and can't find an answer, and then suddenly it comes to you, in a flash of inspiration...nearly indescribable.

In college, my junior year, we had a problem. Let me give you a little background. There is a sequence of numbers called the triangular numbers. These are pretty easy to understand. The first one is 1, the second one is 1+2=3, the third one is 1+2+3=6, the fourth one is 1+2+3+4=10, and so on. The sequence goes 1,3,6,10,15,21,28,36,45,55,66,78,91... and so on, to infinity. It turns out that there's a very easy formula to find the "nth" number in the sequence of triangular numbers. Say you want the fifth number in the sequence. Then you have: 5*(5+1)/2. That's it. 30/2, or 15. Go look in the sequence, if you don't believe me. In general, to find the nth number, you have: n*(n+1)/2. There's a simple way to derive this formula, but I don't have the notation and you don't have the interest.

Anyway, the problem in college was this: We had to come up with a formula for the tetrahedral numbers. Just like the nth triangular number is the sum of all of the integers up to and including n, the nth tetrahedral number is the sum of all the triangular numbers up to and including the nth one. It's just like putting another layer on the problem.

Well, I struggled and struggled, and I played with things, and nothing seemed to work. I was disappointed in myself, and a little dejected. My class was the next day, and I'd have nothing to show for it. I decided to take a shower. But while I was in the shower, my mind was still working on it, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere (that I could tell), it was there! I had it! I thought on the first couple of examples, and it worked! I finished showering, went to my room, and wrote down: n*(n+1)*(n+2)/6. It's really just an extension of the formula for the triangular numbers. Look at the sequence of triangular numbers again: 1,3,6,10,15,21,28,36,45,55,66,78,91... From that, we can get that the sequence of tetrahedral numbers ought to be: 1,4,10,20,35,56,84,120,165,220,286,364,455... So we can use my formula to see if, say, the fifth one is right. It ought to be 35. So 5*6*7/6=35. It worked!

If you didn't understand any of this, that's OK. I just wanted to explain what it was like to have a real moment joy in mathematics. That moment when the formula came to me was just indescribable, it was so neat. Like for just a second, I'd been allowed to tap into some intelligence much bigger than myself, or something. Or into reservoirs of intelligence that I normally don't get to use. Something. Anyway, it was pretty cool.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Intelligent Falling

I love the Onion. That is all.


The Aristocrats

So I just went to see The Aristocrats last night.

For those of you who don't know, this is a "documentary" by Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) and Paul Provenza about one of the most famous dirty jokes ever. It goes like this:

A man walks into a talent agent's office and says, "Pardon me, could I have a minute of your time? I've got a family act that you're just going to love." The agent says, "You've got two minutes. Let's hear it."

*unspeakable obscenity, including, but not limited to, bestiality, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, coprophilia, etc.*

The agent says, "That's quite an act. What do you call it?" The man says, "The Aristocrats!"

It's a bad joke. The punchline isn't really funny, except in how inappropriate it is, being attached to such a depraved "family act." But this is showbiz's most famous backstage joke, and the joy is in the middle part. Several comedians in the film (there's over 100) describe it as almost like a free-form jazz thing. You know the beginning, you know the end, and you make up the middle as you go along.

That all having been said, there were several moments in this film that had me clutching my stomach from laughter. From George Carlin's overly detailed opening version of the joke, to Howie Mandel's entirely deadpan telling, to the Smothers Brothers two man routine, to Billy the Mime's version, to the animated South Park version, to Gilbert Gottfried's telling at Hugh Hefner's roast, to the climax (in my opinion) of Bob Saget's hopelessly depraved telling, we see a few things.

One, there are as many variations of this joke as there are people who tell it. There are a couple of "inverted Aristocrats" jokes thrown in (same setup, except the guy describes a completely innocent, happy family act. Agent says, "What's it called?" Guy says, "The Cocksucking Motherfuckers."), and a couple of variations on the theme (a hilarious one told simultaneously by Drew Carey and Robin Williams, and versions told by Andy Richter and Doug Stanhope to their infant children). Each telling is unique unto itself.

Two, more than just the details being different, the joke really plays into what each individual comedian finds funny. Carlin clearly revels in the deadpan revelation of disgusting details, as does Howie Mandel. Saget is right at home with the most disgusting stuff you've ever heard (and can't stop laughing through the telling of it). Drew Carey emphasizes a little flourish at the end, which he feels "makes the joke." With each person, the emphasis is in a different place. Sometimes it's all sex, sometimes it's all violence, sometimes it's all excretory stuff, most of the time it's all three.

If you like a good dirty joke, I'd guess you'd like this film. To me, it's worth it just to hear Saget request a copy of his version to send to the Full House girls.


Double Murder

I always knew those Power Rangers were up to no good. Evidently this guy, his wife, and a couple of Crips were trying to steal a yacht from a wealthy couple. They tied them up and threw them overboard, where they drowned in the ocean.

Dammit, upon further investigation, it looks like this guy was an extra on Power Rangers. CNN, why have you so misled me? They made it seem like this was the damn Yellow Ranger or something. Skylar Deleon is not even credited on IMDB.

I'm still a little wary of those Power Rangers, though. This does nothing to stop that.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I don't think I'd ever written anything in here about Six Feet Under, so I'll see where my mind takes me and just write. Sorry I don't have an outline, or anything specific in mind. I'll do my best.

I started watching Six Feet Under while I was teaching high school at The Woodhall School. We didn't have HBO, but I got ahold of the episodes on the recommendation of my father. It was into the third season by the time I started watching, and through the wonders of the internet, I'd caught up by the summer of 2003. I watched the entire fourth season On Demand in a day and a half in September, 2004, and the fifth (and final) season is just wrapping up next week.

I've shared my dad's love for this show ever since I first saw it. I thought it was novel and gritty and real, even in the face of what sometimes seem like absurd plot twists. Basically, I think of it as a soap opera with cursing, occasional nudity, a big budget and amazing acting. I could take you through Nate and Brenda's relationship, and it could have been something out of Guiding Light or As the World Turns, but for the incredible writing and acting.

On Sunday, July 31, I felt like I lost somebody I've known for a long time. It disturbed me a little bit, to see how close I'd gotten to a television show and its characters. I shed more than a few tears the next week, watching an episode that felt as much like a memorial service for the viewers as for the characters. I knew that what happened would happen (or I'd strongly suspected it, anyway), but that didn't make it any easier to accept when it happened.

I'll be sad when the show's done, but it's also nice, at the same time, to see a show's producers quitting when they're ahead. The show was great, and it had a good run, and it's going to end on its own terms this Sunday.

Now for the frustration. With Six Feet Under ending, and Sex and the City gone, you'd think that HBO would have the good sense to hang onto an amazing show like Carnivale. But no, they cancelled it unceremoniously, saying that they thought they'd told the story they wanted to tell. That, my friends, is bull, pure and simple. Watch the show, and you tell me if there's resolution of any sort at the end of the second season. What makes me sad is that there's virtually no chance of it getting picked up again, so we'll never know what happens.

I also have been watching Freaks and Geeks, which my roommate purchased and I'd never seen. This is a great little show, and again, there's no reason why it should have been cancelled. It's clever, it's well-acted, and there's something for people from ages 13 to 60 in it. In a way, I'm glad I never got into it when it was on, because I just would have been disappointed when it was gone. Same with Futurama, to tell you the truth. A show from the creator of The Simpsons, more clever than The Simpsons on its best day (which really is saying something), and with virtually limitless possibilities, killed in its prime by a network that thought Skin and Temptation Island were better bets. Thinking about the fate of Futurama makes me almost as sad as watching the episode "Jurassic Bark," and for those of you who know me, that's saying something as well.

My guilty pleasure, so far as television is concerned, is Smallville. I've always been fascinated by comic book mythology, even though I've never in my life read a comic book. I've read books about comic books, watched movies about comic books, and read websites about histories of comic book characters, but I've never had the stones to get into comic books. For all of its similarities to Dawson's Creek, and all of its cliche "villain-of-the-week" episodes, there's something about Smallville that really shines through. It's great to see the origins of a character like Superman. We all know where the story comes out, but the writers have all sorts of room to play around before they get there.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Intelligent Design...

...makes me angry. Its proponents pretend it's scientific, but there's nothing to prove or test about it. It's a metaphysical thing, a philosophical thing. They don't demand standards of proof for belief in ID, because you can't prove anything about it. But at the same time, they demand impossibly high standards of proof for belief in evolution, and say that if you can't provide those standards, then the only thing you can logically believe in is ID (which, as I mentioned before has no proof behind it).

I look at it like this. It's like you've got a bunch of data points on a plane, and you want to make a guess at what kind of curve links them all. So you make your best guess, based on what points you have, and you work from there. All of a sudden a data point comes along that doesn't fit on the curve you projected, so you modify your guess. That's science. Flexible and self-critical. That's evolution. It's the best fit they have for the data that they have. Intelligent Design is nothing but a collective throwing up of hands in the air, saying, "It's too complicated!"

Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that science, and what should be taught as science, should be subject to the whims of a populace which is terribly uneducated on the subject. We wouldn't go asking John Q. Public about whether he thinks his children should be taught about irrational numbers and functions in class, or whether he believes in them, because that would be junk math. Why do we think that the public should be able to force junk science into the classroom?

Nobody can logically disprove the existence of a Creator, or an Intelligent Designer. The idea cannot be considered by any to be completely dismissed, at least with any logical consistency. There's always the possibility. But science studies what we can measure, what we can observe, and what we can conclude from these measurements and observations. An Intelligent Designer would have to live outside our observable universe (otherwise, he/she/it would necessitate his/her/its own Intelligent Designer), and as such, we cannot ever hope to observe or measure anything about him/her/it.

Philosophy classes are the places for such discussions, and I'd encourage them to take place there. It's an interesting topic, but one that's ultimately not viable as a scientific topic.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Random Question, to Some

I was wondering if anybody could help me find a way to get reliable information about the descendants of Louis B. Mayer. Particularly, I'd like to see if he had any children other than the two daughters I've read about in the limited biographies I've been able to find.

See, here's the thing. There's this girl that I know that claims to be the granddaughter of Louis B. Mayer. She has the same last name as he does. That, I guess, is supposed to be part of what makes us believe her. Oh, and she's rich. Rich people don't lie. But on IMDB's biography of Louis B. Mayer (for those of you who don't know, he's a huge movie magnate, one of the three founders of MGM), it says that he was born in 1882 and died in 1957, at the ripe old age of 75. What's more, the Wikipedia biography says that his two children, from his first marriage (which ended in 1947) were both daughters. They were Irene and Edith. Irene was married to David O. Selznick, the legendary producer of Gone With the Wind.

Here's my point. This girl could not have retained the Mayer name directly through Louis B. Mayer. It's not possible, because he had only daughters who married and took the names of their husbands.

Here's the slightest bit of doubt, though. Mayer was married again in 1948, according to IMDB. According to my own research, this girl's father graduated from college in 1970, which would have meant he would have been born in 1947 or 1948. The only possible scenario I can imagine where this man could be the son of Louis B. Mayer is if Mayer had a tryst between his two marriages wherein he impregnated a lady that he did not go on to marry, but who gave the baby Mayer's name anyway.

If anybody can help me get the final details to close this case once and for all, please let me know.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Remember when...?

I wish things would go back to how they were when...

Things were so much simpler then...

Nostalgia. It seems to be part of the human condition that we all must necessarily pine for the ease, simplicity and joy of the past. It's in everything. It's in the "retro" phenomenon, where the past is deemed cool. It's in our speech, when things get tough. Most insidiously, in my opinion, it's in the minds of a lot of religious folks who want lawmakers to restrict what we get to see.

You see, folks, the past wasn't this rosy, sunny land of milk and honey. It feels like the religious right wants to drag us back into the 1950s, when language hadn't become so foul, sexuality hadn't become so open, and evolution was just something that those pesky scientists were using to try to get under the skin of the true believers. They watch Leave It to Beaver and Lassie and pine for those simpler times. It's escapism.

But you know what? It was escapism then, too. That world never existed. In the 1950s and 1960s, there were race riots going on, there was a presidential assassination, there was a Cold War, and there was a "red scare" being led by Ann Coulter's "indispensable Joseph McCarthy." Just as those family-friendly shows (and others today, like Seventh Heaven and anything on the PAX Network) offer conservatives shelter from the storm of the perceived immorality of the present, so they offered everyone shelter from the massive problems that were going on in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nostalgia is pointless. It's looking at the past through an unrealistic filter. I look at it this way: When somebody says something like, "They don't make 'em like they used to," in all likelihood, they still do make some of 'em like they used to. It's just that the only ones (of whatever we're talking about, whether it be cars or movies or houses) that we remember, the only ones that have held up over time, are the ones that were made well in the first place. Every era in history has produced its fair share of crap, but that crap has been mostly lost in the mists of time, and we only see what stood tall enough to show past those mists.

My point? Embrace the changes in society. There's nothing better or worse about a particular time period in history. Every one has its problems, and every one has its advances. Trying artificially to push us into a past that never existed can only be harmful.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ben Folds!!!

Tonight I'm going to my first concert in over two years. Who's playing? Same guy that I saw a little over two years ago.

The concert's at Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn, NY. I'll be taking the train in from Morristown, NJ, which will be a nice little trip without the unbelievable hassle of driving in the city (if you've never done it, please, never do). I'll let y'all know how it is when I get back.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I guess we can all be thankful that we're not living in North Korea, at least if we're talking about the media. North Korean propaganda reports that Kim Jong Il scored 11 holes in one in the first round of golf he ever played.

I'd rather go with Mitch Hedberg's assessment, golf-wise:

I played golf... I did not get a hole in one, but I did hit a guy. That's way more satisfying...You're supposed to yell "Fore!" I was too busy mumblin', "There ain't no way that's gonna hit him."
R.I.P., Mitch.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Of Problems with Cars

Let me run down a little chronological list of problems I've had with my car in the three years that I've had it:

  1. In August 2002, a belt snapped and it overheated, blowing the headgasket and warping a lot of stuff. Big repairs.
  2. In early 2003 I got a flat tire that they couldn't plug, since it was in the sidewall. Had to buy a new tire instead.
  3. In September 2003, I got in an accident wherein my entire front bumper was ripped off. I had to have a rental for a full 30 days.
  4. In February 2005, I had to get my catalytic converter replaced, along with my front brakes and rear sway bar bushings (whatever those are).
Yesterday as I was driving home from work, my A/C compressor seized up, so the pulley attached to it stopped turning and caused the belt attached to that pulley (and two others) to smoke like crazy before snapping. I can live without A/C, but those other two pulleys need to work for the car at large to work. It cost an exorbitant amount of money for me to get towed to the garage (I think I'll be investing in AAA when I can), and they told me that it would cost $841 to replace the A/C compressor.

After a bunch of pleading and near-hoplessness, telling the mechanic that I don't have the money to fix that right now, he conceded that he could attach a working pulley to the compressor. The A/C won't work, but I won't have to pay for the whole part, which I simply can't do right now. In the middle of moving, in between pay periods, it couldn't have come at a worse time.

Hey, at least my travails with this car aren't as bad as with my last car (they include getting a clutch replaced, brakes replaced, sway bar bushings replaced (what the hell are those things?), a tire replaced, getting hit by a bus, and having a tree fall on it).


Frist and Stem Cells

Wow, this is pretty amazing. Bill Frist is citing his experience as a physician in a matter of Congress, and it actually makes sense.

Frist is breaking with Bush to support increased federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. For an attendee of "Justice Sunday," in close association with the radical fundamentalist right, this is a huge development. Frist says that his new position is consistent with his experience as a physician and his opposition to abortion. He says that embryos that would otherwise be discarded ought to be considered for stem cell research, and I wholeheartedly agree.

In the Middle Ages, "respect for the sanctity and dignity of human life" held medical research back like crazy because people did not want to let doctors dissect cadavers which otherwise would merely have rotted in the ground. Such research, though, advanced the field considerably. So if we have a resource which would otherwise be destroyed, why would we not take full advantage of its use?


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Youth and Pornography

This title is probably going to net me some more perverts searching for kids having sex, but whatever. There's a story on MSNBC about how some online pornography sites actually target children. They say, "These companies," says Cowan, "are embedding phrases like ‘Disneyland’ and ‘Pokeman’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ into their Web sites, specifically to lure in children."

Now I know that this isn't a funny story or anything, but I just wanted to point out that "Pokeman" probably does legitimately belong on some pornography site.



There was recently a study done that shows that cats don't have one of the two necessary proteins to create "sweet" receptors on their taste buds. So cats can't taste sweet things.

I love the stuff that they can do with science. I love that they can boil stuff like this down to proteins, so that they can tell what cats can and can't taste even without being able to ask them in any real way.

The last bit of the article says that this could have some significant effects on the study of how diet affects evolution, and on obesity. They say that indulging a sweet tooth alone is not enough to cause obesity, since there are some very large cats, and they can't taste sweets at all.


My Obsessions

There are a lot of things I'm interested in, but those interests tend to come and go with time. For instance, right now my interest in politics is waning, though that's largely due to the coarseness of the public debate. But there are a few things in which my interest has only intensified over the years.

  1. Minesweeper. Yup, the Windows game. I've been known to play for hours at a stretch, and I can tell you all about strategies, what kind of mouse is best, etc. I can play Minesweeper while talking on the phone and retain full concentration on both the game and the conversation. I've probably done that very thing with several of the readers here. It's much less frequent that I'll beat a high score, but I keep striving, every day.
  2. Movies. Can't get enough of 'em. I love going to the theater, even if there's nothing that I particularly want to see. I saw The Island this weekend, just because my buddies were going and it was something to see. I didn't particularly want to see it, but I did. Now that Blockbuster has started its MoviePass deal, and we've got On Demand cable, I've got more movies to watch than ever. Sometimes I'll put one on even when I know I'm going to fall asleep. Sometimes I'll put on a movie that I've already seen a thousand times, and I'll enjoy it as much as the first time (for example, High Fidelity, The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fight Club, The Shawshank Redemption, etc.). The more movies I've seen, the more movies I want to see. I've seen about three quarters of AFI's 100 Greatest Films list, and I believe that anyone who claims to be a fan of American cinema would do well to use that list as a starting point.
  3. Stephen King. I think the first King book I read was probably sometime in 1991, though I don't remember specifically. I do remember borrowing It from the library while I was in middle school (and needing to renew it twice to finish it), and I remember starting to read the Dark Tower series with the paperback publication of The Waste Lands in 1992. King's books have always been exciting and engaging for me, no matter how many times I've read them. I must have read the first three books of the Dark Tower series about 5 times, if not more, between 1992 and 1997, when the fourth book came out. And I must have read the first four books of the Dark Tower series about 6 or 7 times between 1997 and 2003, when the fifth book came out. And still, over all of those readings, all that familiarity, my ability to recall the most trivial details of the books from memory, they never got old. They're still arresting and urgent and a pleasure to read. I'm sure I'll keep on reading them into old age.
Those are the big ones, the ones that I feel belong at the top of this list. Most of my other interests have faded in and out, some more quickly than others, but these ones have stayed, and will likely continue to do so.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Movies: A Question

Here's a question I like to pose to people every once in a while: If there were a movie being made about your life, which actor would play you? Age is no consideration, and neither is whether or not the actor is alive or dead. It is, I think, the spirit of the thing that matters with this question.

Sub-question (and this is one I've never asked before): Who would direct the movie? Whose directorial style do you think fits your life the best, at least as you see it? This can be quite different from your favorite director, by the way.

For me? My answer for the first question has always been John Cusack. Whenever I say that, most people say, "Huh, yeah, I can see that." After Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind there's a case to be made for Jim Carrey, but he doesn't have the track record yet, I don't think. So I'm gonna stick with Cusack.

As for a director, I may have stumped myself with that one. The Coen Brothers do some of my favorite movies, but I don't think that their tone quite fits my life, per se. Maybe Spielberg, circa E.T. Again, with Eternal Sunshine (can you tell how much I love this movie?) I'd be tempted to say Michel Gondry, but the track record just isn't there yet. So I guess I'd have to say Spielberg. God, that feels so obvious. I'll think about it.

This is a post where I want you to comment away, so y'all had better.


The Power Company

Let's try to understand this together, shall we?

Yesterday I got home, right around 5:00, and the power had been out for about an hour and a half. I called the power company, and they told me that it was the first they'd heard of an outage in our area. Then I went out and talked to the neighbors, who had both called the power company already. One was told that we might not get power back until midnight, and one was told that we might have it on in as little as a half hour. And all the while, there was a power truck a few dozen yards up the street working on something.

I think that PSE&G has to do something about its information systems or something, to get all of its operators in line with one another. Unless, that is, the operators were just deciding to screw with everybody who called, and made up a different story for each one. We used to do similar stuff when I was working the drive-thru at McDonald's during high school. But I imagine that they've probably got more rigorous quality control on the customer service lines at PSE&G than they did at McDonald's in dinky little Stafford Springs.

What am I even writing about anymore? Oh yeah, the heat. It was insanely hot yesterday. I sweat a fair amount normally, but yesterday I was dripping as I carried stuff out to my car. It was like I was in the shower, only getting dirtier. That's why it was such a big deal that the power (and thus all means of refrigeration) was out.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Muslim Condemnation

There are a lot of people out there who keep on trumpeting the talking point that nobody in Islam is doing enough to condemn the attacks by Islamic fundamentalists. They say that they condone by their silence. Maybe this is the silence they're talking about.

It's more than just condemnation. It's a targeted effort by a prominent American Muslim group to make Muslim youth know that violence is not an acceptable means of anything in the name of Islam.

I guess everybody just missed that, huh?



I recently started tutoring again. I realized, when I thought about it, that I've been teaching or tutoring pretty much solidly since I graduated from college, now a little over three years ago. I taught high school for a year, then I had a teaching assistantship while I attended graduate school for a year, and then I had a side job tutoring for the last year. Now I've got a different side job tutoring, where I'm getting paid quite a bit more than I was at the old one, which is a very good thing.

I was talking to Oliver about it last night, though, and it's something that I just plain like to do. It's fulfilling in a way that a lot of other work isn't. You can see the impact that you're having right there. When you see comprehension blossom in someone's eyes, and it's because of you, you know you've done something good. When a student comes in for another session holding a test on which they scored a B instead of a D, you know you've done well. That's fulfilling in a way that money can't touch.

The money is nice, though.



Moving sucks. I mean, it really, really sucks. I can't get myself excited about packing my stuff up just to take it to another place and then have to unpack it. Can't it just go there itself? I mean, that's what I have to do. The least that my bed could do is find its own way to the new place so that I don't have to worry about getting it there.

It's about time furniture started carrying its share of the weight in this relationship.


Monday, July 25, 2005

Ten Lessons from the Weekend

  1. Ocean water has enough sand floating in it to fill up your pockets even if you never touch the ground.
  2. A digital camera will still work with sand in it, but only for so long.
  3. "Limited warranty" means they don't replace the camera for having sand in it. Dammit.
  4. They may be short, but jockeys can play some damn good volleyball.
  5. Johan doesn't know how to lob a baseball when we don't all have mitts (reference my aching right hand).
  6. Ladies in cowboy hats are generally not to be trusted.
  7. Marmite, the British version of vegemite, is disgusting.
  8. Durian, a fruit from Malaysia that's considered a delicacy, is also disgusting.
  9. The Island has taken product placement to a new low.
  10. Vietnamese food is awesome.

If you'd like me to elaborate on any of these, drop me a line or a comment.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Not Mine, but Damn Funny

My dad recently sent me this link, which has a bunch of screenshots from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. But it's from the Chinese version, with English subtitles that had been translated back from the Chinese translation. Go check it out, it's one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Highlights include inaccurate subtitles over the opening crawl while it's still on screen, and "Jedi Council" being translated to "the Presbyterian Church."


Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Matrix

Here's something that I guess would fall into the "musing" category. A lot of people will have heard this one before, but it's something that always bugs me.

In The Matrix, the names that they adopt outside the Matrix correspond to what would be their screen names in the Matrix. There's Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, Cypher, etc. They're all cool names. But here's what bugs me: there's only so many cool names to go around. So how come, in the sequels to The Matrix, we never meet up with somebody named "pokemonluvr80," or "RedSoxsRool"?


Toilet Qu'ran

So I got the Harry Potter book on Monday, and I was reading some here and there at work on Tuesday. I brought it along to the bathroom (because I felt like it, that's why!), and I was in the stall reading it when it slipped from my hands and tumbled to the floor. As I was reaching down to pick it up, a voice called to me from two stalls down.

"You readin' the Qu'ran in there?" I paused for a moment, not really knowing what to say.

"No," I replied, continuing to pick up the book. There was a long pause.

"Bad Gitmo joke, huh?" I chuckled nervously, finished up my business and made my way out.


Shifting Focus

As y'all have no doubt noticed (the three of you that read this blog, anyway), I haven't written anything for a while. The last entry I made was a week ago, and it wasn't very substantial.

To tell you the truth, I've grown weary of the political blogosphere. I've grown weary of writing in and about it, and I've grown weary of reading it. It has a way of turning otherwise-reasonable people into dyed-in-the-wool partisan hacks, and I despise that.

As such, I'm gonna be backing off of the politics in here for a while. If I find something interesting to write about it, I'm gonna write about it. But I don't have anything substantial to add to the discussion about Rove/Plame/Wilson, or about the nomination of John Roberts, and it would appear that nothing else has happened in the world for the last two weeks, London bombings notwithstanding.

Maybe I'll write some movie reviews or something, book reviews, anecdotes, musings, whatever. Maybe I'll let Johan write something every once in a while.

Fair warning.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Intelligent Design

I don't normally do this (put up posts that are basically nothing but links to another blog post), but I nearly fell out of my chair reading my friend Paul's post about Intelligent Design. Go check it out now. It's funny, but quite serious at the same time.


Do Yourself a Favor...

...and try to catch last night's Daily Show on reruns today. They play it at 8:00 pm and at 11:30 pm, after tonight's episode. The segment before the first commercial is kind of weak, but the guest is Bernie Goldberg, and Stewart spends two whole segments ripping him and his book (100 People Who Are Screwing Up America) apart. It's glorious, and really spot-on.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The New Daily Show

I don't know if anybody reading caught The Daily Show last night, but they've moved to a new set, and with the change of locale, it looks like they've had a subtle shift in their focus as well. The guest was the author of a book called God vs. the Gavel, and the interview was considerably more serious than even the serious interviews on The Daily Show have historically been.

It was only one episode, so it'll bear some watching, but I feel like Jon Stewart & co. may be starting to consciously take advantage of their prodigious influence.


An Important Comment

I can't take credit for this one, because it belonged to my dad:

If you look around, you can find plenty of spokespersons for the Muslim community all around the world condemning the London bombing and all jihadist violence. Even on Aljazeera.

You're just not going to see it on Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC. They're too busy covering Natalee Hollloway.


The London bombings have got me thinking about global terrorism, and the "war" we're fighting on it. To all my readers, I extend my sincerest apologies if I ramble.

First of all, I hesitate to attach an "-ism" to terror. It's a tactic, not a rigid system of thought or conduct. Communism, fascism, Nazism, those all make sense, but to put "terrorism" in their company seems to liken it to them, when terror has none of the hallmarks of those larger systems of thought. Terrorists merely employ tactics to cause fear and confusion in their target, but that tactic doesn't in any way describe their belief structure. Timothy McVeigh, the IRA, Hamas, all of these have been "terrorists," but they sure haven't all subscribed to the same school of thought. We can talk about Islamic fundamentalist terror, and that's what most people mean when they say "terrorism," but we've got to make sure to keep the distinction clear in our minds.

After seeing that London had been bombed, my initial thought was a question: What have our efforts in the military arm of the war on terror done to stop the people in England who planned that bombing, and people like them who are doubtless setting up all over the world? The answer came depressingly immediately: nothing. Those guys in England (or, pre 3/11/2004, those guys in Madrid) were there with a mission. They had already committed to their courses of action, I'd assume, and the military action in the Middle East wasn't stopping them from operating in England.

The problem is that we're fighting a decentralized enemy when we're fighting Islamic fundamentalist terror. They're not attached to one state or another. They operate where and when it's convenient, and they export willing collaborators to lie in wait and strike when the opportunity presents itself. Military action against a state where terrorists are operating may shake them up, but they don't necessarily depend on the state for the sustenance of their operations. Again, to bring Timothy McVeigh back into the picture (appropriate, as his was the greatest example of domestic terror until 9/11), he was not at all dependent on a state for his operations. His was an ideology taken to the extreme, and he employed the tactic of terror for effect.

My depressing conclusion this weekend is that there's nothing we can do to stop those already committed to the path of terror, short of catching them in the act. Not all Iraqis are terrorists, and not all terrorists are Iraqis. These are, often, citizens of the countries in which they carry out their acts of terror. They're exploiting globalization to full effect, and quite well. We've got to be vigilant, but their very nature makes it impossible to root out all of them.

The war on "terror," though, must be fought in the hearts and minds. We've got to be able to know that an ideology will not be able to override the abhorrence of the concept of killing innocent civilians simply to cause fear. If the tactic is seen as viable and effective, and worth it, they'll keep using it. People in general (and this one includes all of us) need to respect the primacy of human life over their petty political and religious squabbles.

I don't know what the solution is, but I know for sure that it doesn't involve dehumanizing your enemy (again, this applies to either side) or isolating yourself from the rest of the world. Sorry to have rambled so much.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Watch out...

I won't have it ready this afternoon, but tomorrow morning sometime I'm going to have a post up with various musings on terrorism in general. The London bombings got me thinking, and I've got some things to say about it. It'll be a long-ish post, so for those of you who've been craving content, sit tight.

Also, I found an apartment, and pending a phone call this evening, I'll be all set to move at the end of the month. Load off my mind.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Burning

I doubt I'll post today, beyond this one. I'll be pretty tied up keeping track of this London business. Sorry.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My Response

If you haven't read J.A. Gillmartin's post, then please do. This won't make terribly much sense to you otherwise.

First, I'd like to respond to this:

Moral Equivalency Most egregious is the effort to make "Tom Cruise's bizarre diatribe" morally equivalent with the extremely sensitive efforts of the religious right (not just evangelicals but Mormons, Jews, Catholics, and Muslims) to speak out on a prominent cultural issue of our day. The public rant by an entertainment icon is hardly similar to an organized effort by cultural activists whether they be religious or otherwise; to attempt to make them so is illogical, to attempt to single out a religious conspiracy when none exists is disingenuous and borders on bigotry.
My intention in mentioning Tom Cruise was not to assert moral equivalency. It may seem like a lame attempt at an excuse, but it was really just a lame attempt at a segue into the main body of the post, using an easily recognizable bit of pop culture "news."

But upon retrospect, for Tom Cruise, a man with no formal psychological training, to say that he's done the research and come out with a conclusion that's antithetical to the tenets of mainstream psychology (i.e., "there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance") isn't all that different from religious groups rejecting the conclusions of the American Psychiatric Association on the basis of what they want to believe to be true. Tom Cruise may have done research on psychiatry, but given his beliefs, it's likely that he went into that research looking for an answer. Scientologists don't believe in taking drugs of any sort, and they believe that illnesses, mental and otherwise, are caused by "body thetans." We don't have to get into Scientology in depth right now. Suffice it to say, Cruise went into his "research" with a bias toward what he was going to believe, and he latched onto the fringe groups who agreed with him and used them as a basis for rejecting whatever he liked of mainstream psychiatry.

The religious right (including all of the groups mentioned above by John), sensitive though some of its members may be (though I'd disagree with you about people like Fred Phelps), have gone into the public debate about homosexuality with a conclusion already in their minds. They believe that homosexuality is a sin. A perversion. But you have to be able to make the choice to sin or not sin, so homosexuality, if it's a sin, must be a choice. So those who believe that homosexuality is a sin already come to the table with a bias toward views that are going to claim homosexuality is a choice, regardless of what various psychological outlets say about it.

Factual Support Another is the failure to support facts claimed: e.g., "Psychology is under assault from all sorts of crazies lately" (who, where, why, when??); a link to Cruise's outburst on "The Today Show" would have been helpful for the reader; and the fact that homosexuality was for years classified as a psychological disorder by the APA itself, should have been mentioned but wasn't.
Again, I addressed the Tom Cruise reference. And here's a link, just for posterity.

But I really have to take issue with the assertion that I should have noted homosexuality's longtime classification as a psychological disorder. The nature of science, as opposed to religion, is that sometimes we realize that we were wrong, and we revise our scientific hypotheses because the old ones were no longer valid. A discussion about the solar system would not require me to mention that for years people thought the sun revolved around the Earth, because that theory was rejected as no longer valid and subsequently revised (though, interestingly enough, there are a number of modern geocentrists, motivated by certain biblical passages).

Exaggeration "How do they know this? Were they gay, and cured of it? Of course not! Never speak of it!" Fargus, my young friend this simply is not true. For at least a dozen years we've (the "gays can change" crowd) presented case after case of homosexuals who've been cured (we were and are ignored by the secular and gay communities; in this case cases were provided in the MSNBC report cited in your own post). We've written books (ignored), provided testimonies (ignored), and established ministries to support those suffering under gay bondage (ignored). The truth is - it is the homosexual community and its supporters who've not provided evidence of it being a genetic phenomena.
The term "cured" is pretty loaded. It presupposes that homosexuality is a mental disorder, which I think I already covered with the link to the APA page above. But allow me to quote from the APA concerning "conversion therapy":
Some therapists who undertake so-called conversion therapy report that they have been able to change their clients' sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Close scrutiny of these reports however show several factors that cast doubt on their claims. For example, many of the claims come from organizations with an ideological perspective which condemns homosexuality. Furthermore, their claims are poorly documented. For example, treatment outcome is not followed and reported overtime as would be the standard to test the validity of any mental health intervention.
The reason it's so important that most of these conversion therapy groups come from an ideologically biased perspective is simply that it's antithetical to the scientific method. If one wanted real, unbiased views of whether homosexuals could change orientation, one would not conduct such research in an environment where the test subjects were being told that one outcome was fundamentally wrong. This would inherently bias the subjects, through fear and intimidation.

As for the point about not presenting evidence of homosexuality as a genetic phenomenon, psychologists think that it's a complicated mix of genetic, cognitive and environmental factors (from the APA page linked above). But there have been studies that show there is a fundamental difference in brain chemistry between straight and gay men, at least in how they respond to the pheromones present in male sweat.

Dissimulation "On the foundation of the Bible, Dobson and his cronies are able to dismiss years of mental health science as irrelevant simply because they don't agree with it." Now this is amazing. Fargus, on the basis of "years of mental health science" you dismiss six millenia of biblical science (studies) as irrelevant simply because you "don't agree with it"! Now friends that is known as projection by the APA.
I think I already addressed this point earlier, talking about "research" with the conclusions already in mind, but I guess I'll hit on it again. Science, my friend, makes observations and tries to fit a theory around those observations. If one theory doesn't fit, then it's back to the drawing board. With religion, it's exactly the opposite. You start with a theory (in this case, that homosexuality's a choice, though there are many other examples, most notably creationism, at least lately), and then try to make your observations fit that theory. If the observations don't fit the theory, then it's assumed that the observations must have been wrong, because the theory is infallible. Now I respect your right to believe how you want to believe, and to disagree with me, but let's not go into this thinking that religion in any way resembles science.

Phew. I need a nap.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Critical Response

J.A. Gillmartin, author of The Sheep's Crib, has rightly called me out on a somewhat sloppy post of mine about homosexual conversion. Just to be clear, I say that he "rightly called me out" because I was indeed sloppy, in my post, in most of the points that he mentions. I do not say "rightly," though, to imply that I've changed my mind about any of the fundamental issues that I talked about in that post. Expect to see a much better-sourced follow-up tomorrow morning or so.


A Good One


95 Theses

This is a long one, and I apologize, but it's a good one. It comes via wasp jerky.


Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed on the internet, under the presidency of the Peter Ludlow. Anyone wishing to debate with us, may do so by e-mail at

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said "love thy neighbor", willed that believers should show *compassion* toward others.

2. This word cannot be understood to mean mere lip service ("I love them, but I hate their sin"), but genuine concern for the welfare of others.

3. Yet the Religious Right has forsaken compassion for a doctrine of institutionalized hatred and violence.

4. Specifically, the Religious Right has taken the Word of God and wrapped it in the flag of Right Wing Politics, replacing God's message of redemption for the entire world with a narrow message endorsing right wing American politics.

5. Item: the Religious Right has neglected the teachings of Jesus in the gospel of Luke, where He instructs that we are to show compassion for the poor.

6. In place of God's words, the Religious Right has substituted a right wing political doctrine in which the poor have only themselves and their alleged laziness and moral weakness to blame.

7. For example, the Religious Right has rejected the needs of poor children of unwed mothers.

8. The Religious Right has rejected the cries for help from the children of impoverished families in the inner cities.

9. The Religious Right, has advocated fewer resources for the elderly poor and for the millions of children now living in poverty.

10. In place of giving to the poor, the Religious Right has advocated political doctrines specifically designed so that individuals may acquire vast sums of money.

11. The Religious Right has thus seized on a contemporary economic ideology as an excuse to ignore the teachings of Jesus.

12. Item: the Religious Right has ignored God's injunction that we are to be caretakers for the Earth.

13. In place of God's injunction, the Religious Right has advocated policies in which the natural resources of God's creation are stripped from the earth and given to wealthy corporations without replacement.

14. In place of God's injunction that we are to be caretakers for the creatures of His creation, they have advocated policies through which these creatures may be extinguished forever.

15. The Religious Right has rejected laws designed to protect God's creation from pollution, claiming the "rights" of property owners are to be paramount.

16. In each case they have ignored the message of the Bible that this is God's creation, and they have substituted a doctrine in which God's creation may be partitioned and sold to the highest bidder.

17. Again, God's message has been cast aside for a message that supports a narrow economic message with its roots in right wing American politics.

18. Item: the Religious Right has neglected the teachings of Jesus that "he who is without sin should cast the first stone."

19. In place of God's words, the Religious Right has substituted a doctrine in which perceived sinners are to be persecuted.

20. Gays, for example, are persecuted because of their alleged sins. In some cases, leaders of the Religious Right have encouraged acts of physical violence against gays.

21. While the Religious Right has been eager to persecute others for their alleged sins, they have been blind to their own.

22. While the Bible counsels that a rich man can no more enter the
Kingdom of Heaven than a camel can pass through the eye of a needle, many in the Religious Right have celebrated the acquisition of wealth.

23. While the Bible enjoins us against pride, the Religious Right appears to be flush with pride in it's holier than thou stance.

24. While the Bible asks that we be slow to anger, the Religious Right is quick to anger -- indeed it appears to revel in anger and in fanning the flames of anger in others.

25. While the Bible counsels that we are not to be "revilers," key members of the religious right have consistently and aggressively reviled their political enemies as well as those who are perceived to be sinners.

26. It seems then, that the Religious Right picks its sins selectively, ignoring the clear Biblical message against avarice, pride, and anger, and emphasizing selected “sins” that have little to no Biblical basis.

27. Item: While the Bible counsels that we are not to bear false witness, the Religious Right has engaged in smear campaigns against numerous political foes, often telling outright lies about “liberal” political leaders.

28. Worse yet, these smear campaigns have often been carried out in the house of God, sometimes in the form of inserts in church bulletins, and sometimes directly from the pulpit.

29. But the Religious Right has not merely spread its lies within the Church; they have done so outside the Church as well.

30. The Religious Right has used its financial resources not to spread the word of God, but to spread lies in the populace.

31. Item: Religious Right has failed to see that God's call to help our neighbors also extends to our international neighbors.

32. International aggression is not a Christian doctrine.

33. Where the Bible calls us to be peacemakers, the Religious Right claims that we have no business trying to bring peace to troubled areas but rather counsels that we should use military might to secure our business interests.

34. Where the Bible, through the story of the good Samaritan, instructs that we are to help our international neighbors -- indeed, even our enemies -- the Religious Right counsels "America First".

35. But "America First" cannot be a true Christian Doctrine.

36. The Bible gives no special status to political entities like the
United States of America, and any suggestion to the contrary is to simply lie about the content of the Bible.

37. God does not bless nation states, and if He did, He surely would not bless them for practicing international internal intolerance, and propping up corrupt kingdoms and military juntas that traffic in institutionalized poverty and violence.

38. Item: the Religious Right has claimed that abortion is immoral, yet there is no Biblical basis for this claim

39. Rather, the doctrine appears to be driven by a medieval philosophy of the person, which they have imported into their theology.

40. Why has medieval philosophy taken precedence over the Scriptures? Perhaps the Religious Right never took the Scriptures very seriously in the first place.

41. This is highlighted by the frightening extremes to which they have taken this political dogma.

42. Victims of rape and incest are not to be allowed abortions. What could the Biblical basis of this possibly be?

43. Even when the mother's life is in danger, they would reject the possibility of abortion. Thus once again God's message of love and redemption is tarnished by advocates of a political doctrine of hatred and cruelty.

44. More troubling than their anti-abortion doctrine, however, is the tone with which that doctrine is advanced.

45. Here they use they weapon of hatred, encouraging the harassment of women, the bombing of clinics, and in some cases the taking of human life.

46. Their rejoinder that abortion is the taking of a human life has no basis in Biblical authority.

47. Their anti-abortion campaign is merely a political campaign dressed in the clothing of religion.

48. Item: The Religious Right has failed to distinguish its political message from what is left of its genuine religious message, leading Christians to conflate the two.

49. The Religious Right has engaged in a form of idolatry -- idolatry of certain patriotic symbols.

50. They have wrapped the Bible in the American flag. Indeed, one can find Bibles that contain documents such as the United States Constitution and pictures of the presidents.

51. Such Bibles arguably defile the word of God.

52. The American flag is not a symbol to be worshipped; yet the Religious Right has argued that it should be a crime to "desecrate" the flag. But what religious basis is there for such advocacy?

53. What basis is there for putting the American flag in the front of a church, next to the altar and the cross?

54. There can be no Biblical basis for placing such symbols in the house of God, nor for the undue reverence paid to them.

55. The Religious Right has failed to grasp the full power of God, supposing that spiritual growth for Christians can only come in the wake of political change in the
United States.

56. On the contrary, God is perfectly capable of creating spiritual revival without the help of the Republican Party, and certainly without the help of an organizations that espouse doctrines that are antithetical to the teaching of God at almost every turn.

57. Item: the Religious Right has preyed on people's fears -- their fear of crime, of other races, of the future, of the unknown.

58. Rather than say "fear not, for God is with us," they have used fear to sow the seeds of hatred and violence.

59. They have led their congregations to fear people of other races.

60. They have led their congregations to fear people of other sexual orientations.

61. They have led their congregations to fear our own judicial system.

62. They have led their congregations to fear the teachings of science.

63. They have led their congregations to fear anyone and anything different from their narrow conception of what they consider to be normal.

64. Worse, they have fanned this fear into hatred, encouraging their congregations to despise those who are different.

65. Item: The Religious Right has paid lipservice to the moral development of children, yet their doctrines are antithetical to the interests of children.

66. They appear to believe that moral development can be accomplished solely through discipline and censorship -- censorship of thought-provoking materials and censorship of the findings of science.

67. Yet, as a group, the members of the Religious Right have failed miserably as parents.

68. Jesus said, "suffer the children come unto me," yet members of the Religious Right have physically and psychologically abused their children.

69. They have advocated corporeal punishment, and have carried out acts of indoctrination on their children which, truth be known, are as severe as those of any fringe religious cult.

70. They have made children to be ashamed of and hate their bodies, when they should be proud that those bodies are the temples of God.

71. They have lied to children about the nature of God's creation, teaching them to ignore the great beauty God has revealed through the biological sciences.

72. In place of that beauty, they have taught their children a theory in which God's revelation through nature is ignored, and an ugly doctrine of fiat creation is espoused.

73. They have taught their children to be intolerant of others, to be hateful of gays and persons of color.

74. They have failed to instruct their children in God's message of love and redemption and have substituted for it a message of exclusion, suspicion, and contempt.

75. They have failed to raise their children according to the teachings of the Bible.

76. They have utterly failed as parents, yet they presume to dictate how we should raise our own children.

77. Item: The Religious Right, caught up in its hypocritical attacks on others has utterly ignored the solteriolocial aspects of Christianity.

78. Gone is the message that Jesus dies on the cross to save us from our sins.

79. Gone is the message of salvation, of hope and redemption.

80. In effect, the one core fact of Christianity, it's very reason for being, has been lost in the Religious Right's orgy of hatred and accusation.

81. How many souls will be lost because of their campaign of hatred?

82. At what price do these political triumphs come? Are they really worth the loss of the core message of Christianity?

83. Item: the Religious Right pays lip service to the authority of the Word of God, yet that Word plays little role in the treating of the Religious Right.

84. In place of the message of God's Grace and our redemption, they have substituted a purely political doctrine with no grounding in the Scriptures.

85. Rare are the references to passages of the Bible in the sermons of the Religious Right.

86. Those references that survive, are taken out of context and are merely used to justify preestablished political doctrines.

87. For example, there is no Biblical support for their views on abortion.

88. There is no Biblical support for their right wing economic theories.

89. There is no Biblical support for their campaign of abuse against their own children.

90. There is no Biblical support for their "America First" doctrines.

91. There is no Biblical support for their treatment of persons of color.

92. There is no Biblical support for their treatment of homosexuals.

93. In conclusion: the Religious Right has desecrated the house of God, taking a place of worship and treating it as a soap box in the service or the Right Wing of the Republican Party.

94. The Religious Right has likewise desecrated the Word of God, attributing to the Bible doctrines that are hateful, cruel, and entirely antithetical to the actual contents of the Bible.

95. Christians are to be exhorted to speak out against the Religious Right, as it is a vile heretical movement, wholly outside the teachings of the Word of God.

Feel free to redistribute freely, says the author. I bolded a bunch that I thought were particularly important. I'm not a religious person, and this is more geared toward Christians who feel that their religion has been hijacked by the Religious Right, but it's a good read for all, I think.


Filibuster Redux

Remember that big nasty filibuster battle that was fought not too long ago? If it was a movie, I'd say that it was pretty exciting. The ending sort of sucked, but at least they left it open for a sequel.

My take on it is pretty simple. I'd be fine with seeing a compromise candidate who doesn't agree with me on everything, but doesn't agree with Dobson on everything, if it only meant that there would be a nice, easy confirmation process without all the strife that goes along with all things political these days. But that's my stance on the whole thing lately. Would I like to see everything I believe in enacted? Yes, of course. But I grow so weary of the fighting, and the bickering, that if a compromise were able to stop that fighting, I'd be all for it.

But we all know that that won't happen. A compromise wouldn't be seen by either side as a positive thing, but as a loss. A win for the other side, even. Each side will think that too much has been compromised, as happened with the Gang of 14 in the prequel to this Supreme Court battle.

So as much as I'd like to see a compromise, it won't help tone things down, and it won't make anybody happy. So bring on the fight.



The day after the Fourth of July, and I had a thought. Cranford's fireworks were really good, and attended by at least a few thousand people. The thought is this: I talk about a lot of "serious" stuff on this blog, whether or not anyone's actually listening. But it makes me happy that there are things like fireworks, which are like the opposite of "serious" thinking. They exist for no other reason than to look pretty and make people forget about everything else as they stare up at the sky and smile.

I'm not talking about escapism, either. Just that I'm happy that there are things like this that are entirely untainted by politics, by bickering, by fighting. For those few minutes, it doesn't matter at all who you are, or who the other people around you are, and that's a wonderful thing, I think.


Friday, July 01, 2005

O'Connor retires

And so it begins.

Prepare for an all-out commercial assault on the public for this issue on which the public has no say whatsoever.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Love Won Out

Psychology is under assault from all sorts of crazies lately, isn't it? First Tom Cruise's bizarre diatribe about its history on The Today Show, and now the religious right is getting into the act. Well, "getting into the act" implies that this is a new thing, which it's not. But they're certainly always stepping up their assertion that homosexuality is a psychological disorder to be cured. How do they know this? Were they gay, and cured of it? Of course not! Never speak of it!

God told them that it's a sin, and as such, it must be a choice. As a choice it must be something that can be reversed. Voila. On the foundation of the Bible, Dobson and his cronies are able to dismiss years of mental health science as irrelevant simply because they don't agree with it.



An Odd Experience

I'm a bit lazy. I haven't yet taken the John Kerry '04 bumper sticker off of my mid-sized foreign sedan yet. Well, somebody noticed that yesterday while I was on my way home from work (and, as you might guess, he was in a ridiculously big SUV, maybe a Yukon or a Suburban). He was behind me for a while, and then he made a big show of passing me. Except he didn't pass. He pulled up even with me on the left until I looked over at him.

When I did, he held up a Bush/Cheney '04 pin with one hand, pointed at it with the other (I guess the steering wheel was taking care of itself, and looking at me was more important than looking at the road at 70 miles per hour), and started screaming. I couldn't tell what he was screaming, because both of our windows were closed, but it didn't seem to me to be a sentiment where the specifics were too important.

This wasn't an impetuous youth. This wasn't a crazy hippie. This was a guy who looked to be in his early 50s, with gray hair, probably with grown kids of his own, around my age. He was probably coming home from work, where he does some respectable job in some respectable manner. But seeing that bumper sticker set him off, I guess, and boy did he ever show me!

This is the kind of thing, once again, that's so wrong with our public discourse. It's usually not this literal, but usually it consists of pointing to your candidate and screaming, whether or not anybody's listening.


Slightly New Look

So you may notice that I changed the background image on the sides, I took away all the too-busy profile and poll stuff up top, and most importantly, I got a banner instead of the plain text title. Thanks to Will from for the banner.

Maybe I'll make some more changes in the near future, if I'm feeling ambitious. I was always thinking I'd like to have sidebars on both sides.....


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Impending Supreme Court Vacancies

What do they mean? Well, for most people, who couldn't care less about the ins and outs of politics, they simply mean that we'll be barraged with ad after ad from conservative and liberal groups alike. Liberals will claim that the right to an abortion is at stake, and conservatives will claim that their religious rights are at stake. In other words, everybody will be playing their emotional cards from the get-go.

As always, Mark Coffey at Decision '08 is a good source of information on this (and many other things). Read through some of his more recent posts to catch up on some of the Supreme Court speculation.

As for who will be nominated, there's plenty of speculation there as well. Many think that Alberto Gonzalez will be nominated as the court's first Latino Justice. Many on the right think that Owen, Brown or Pryor should be nominated, since they already have been passed through the "extraordinary circumstances" test posed by the Senate's notorious "Gang of 14." There are a lot of other people that you and I have never heard of who are under consideration as well, and I'm about to direct you to a bunch of people who know a lot more about all this than I do.

I'd like to see justices passed through who would agree with what I would want. Who wouldn't? I'd like to see justices passed through who would view bans on gay marriage as unconstitutional. I'd like to see justices passed through who wouldn't overturn Roe v. Wade. I'd like to see justices passed through who understand and respect the wall of separation between church and state. But all that is too much to hope for.

At this point, I'll just be happy if someone nominated to the Supreme Court pisses off James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, etc.

Whatever's the case, though, the politics and strategy and nastiness will likely surpass anything we've seen recently, even with how nasty it's already gotten.


LINKS: 43rd State Blues on Harry Reid's pre-emptive bipartisan strategy.
KarensKorner has a Gary Bauer article beseeching the President to fill vacancies with Scalia-like nominees.
The Narrow thinks Alberto Gonzalez is too soft on abortion.
Civil Commotion liked the Ten Commandments decision as well, but is scared that the likes of Dobson are trying to ratchet up believers for the coming vacancy.
Election Law warns about the imposition of special interest groups on judicial nominations and elections.
Jeff Gannon (yes, that Jeff Gannon) thinks that Democrats won't be in a place to strongly oppose Supreme Court nominees after the brouhaha over Bolton.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Valerie Plame

Well, Miller and Cooper have been denied their appeal to the Supreme Court, and they face jail time and fines for not revealing their sources in the now-infamous outing of Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson, as a CIA agent.

Now I might just be a little confused here or something, but why is Bob Novak not also being prosecuted for failing to reveal his sources?


LINKS: Wind 'n Sea agrees, and Bread and Circuses thinks Novak should be facing jail time. The Peoria Pundit is stumped, as is WashingtonRox. The Lion and the Donkey waxes philosophic about the larger implications of the case, and Live Free or Blog can be forgiven cynicism in this case. The Talent Show wonders why Miller and Cooper were covering up for the source.

Ten Commandments

In case you hadn't heard, the Supreme Court issued two decisions yesterday on two similar cases involving public displays of the Ten Commandments. They gave what appeared to be mixed messages, ruling one display constitutional and one display unconstitutional, but when you view the two decisions together, what they're really saying is that these things have got to be decided on a case-by-case basis. In other words, the Supreme Court isn't going to get into the business of having a rigid policy specific to the Ten Commandments. I think that's a smart idea.

As I've thought about it, I agree with the decisions, at least constitutionally. I'd prefer for there not to be any Ten Commandments displays on public property, as it fuels the arguments of those who would assert that this is a Christian nation founded on Christian ideals, but the two decisions issued yesterday seem to me to be a nice compromise. The display in Texas was seen as constitutional since it was there with other monuments, placing it in a historical context. As I said, I wouldn't agree on a personal level, but I can see where they're coming from and I'm fine with it.

The display in Kentucky, on the other hand, was viewed as specifically endorsing religion (in fact, the county in question passed a resolution lauding America as a Christian nation while this was all going on, not helping their case). As such, the Kentucky display was ruled unconstitutional.

I don't think that America is, as the religious right has been saying over and over again, a "Christian nation." There's nothing in our Constitution talking about Christianity, and since they're such strict "originalists," as it were, you'd think that would be enough. Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom to establish your own religion. It means freedom of religion for all men.

My personal take on the Ten Commandments on public display is that they send a message. They send the message (unless, like in the Supreme Court's frieze, they're in the context of thousands of years of examples of laws) that the Judeo-Christian worldview is going to be the preferred one. I think that a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or an atheist would have reasonable cause to think that, if he professed his faith (or lack thereof), the opinions of a court with such a display would automatically be biased against him.

Judges are elected and appointed to uphold the laws of the United States of America. Displays of the Ten Commandments (especially like in the case of Alabama's Roy Moore) assert that there is a law higher than that of the United States. Judges are free to believe that, but to place "higher laws" in the context of their positions as adjudicators of the laws of the United States is directly contrary to what they're in office to do.


LINKS: Dean Stephens sees the split rulings as totalitarian.
Half Sigma thinks this is an invitation for Christian groups to put up Commandments displays willy-nilly, and Julien's List agrees.
The Hedgehog Report is dismayed by Breyer's swing between the two cases.
HoyStory gives us the requisite conservative talking points.