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.