Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Six-Grand Canyon?

I've posted about my religious beliefs before, so my reaction to this story should surprise absolutely nobody:

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”


In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale at park bookstores of Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a book claiming the Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters and members of Congress that there would be a high-level policy review of the issue.

According to a recent NPS response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PEER, no such review was ever requested, let alone conducted or completed.


“As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan,” Ruch added, pointing to the fact that previous NPS leadership ignored strong protests from both its own scientists and leading geological societies against the agency approval of the creationist book. “We sincerely hope that the new Director of the Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job.”

Any emphasis up there is my own.

I don't want this to be some kind of divisive religion vs. science post, but I don't see how it can't be. It seems that in our modern world, in order to get mainstream recognition, all you have to do is disagree with somebody and then point to the disagreement that you just expressed as evidence for why you should be taken as seriously as the people with whom you disagree. Example:
Scientist: Species developed over the course of millions of years, through the process of natural selection.

Creationist: I disagree. I think God did it all.

Scientist: The scientific community overwhelmingly backs my position.

Creationist: Why not just teach the controversy? There's definitely controversy. Please refer back to 10 seconds ago when I disagreed with you. See? Controversy. Are you just afraid of views that differ from your own?
That's, like, the template for how to get the media scared of denigrating your position, and how to ratchet your idiotic minority to the top of the media heap, all without having to exhibit one shred of evidence. Here's a site that goes more in-depth on the logical fallacies used by these people, and how to spot them.

This all puts me in mind of this very, very funny Mad Magazine spoof:

If only its humor weren't rooted so deeply in reality.


Saddam's Death

Last night Darren and I walked over to the diner to meet Oliver and Eli, who had been drinking. Oliver called me up and told me that we should be loud and make a scene as we walked in. You know, just be in an argument over something. And given the news that we'd just received, and the images playing incessantly on the TV in the diner, it was easy to decide that that scene would be about.

Our "scene" didn't last long, and nobody really paid us any attention. It was already loud in the diner in the first place, and everybody was either drunk or weary of drunks. Not the best atmosphere in which to be noticed. But the argument that Darren and I were staging is one that, in retrospect, would be worth having for real. I was arguing the anti-death-penalty side, Darren was arguing that Saddam should have been tortured for a few months before being executed. The extreme positions, obviously, for maximum effect.

But really, in the grand scheme of things, what good does Saddam's death do? Does it prove the strength of the Iraqi government? Not at all. The U.S. had to hold onto Saddam until the end of the whole thing, giving him up to the Iraqis only on the eve of his execution. Does it prove that the Iraqi government is civilized and now has a justice system based on the rule of law and not on revenge? Consider this:

The first picture, obviously, is of Saddam being fitted with his noose (you can watch video at consumptionjunction already, which I'd figured). The second is of the unfortunate American contractor Nick Berg awaiting his beheading. It's certainly not just me who noted the similarity between the "executioners" in these two cases. Add to that the fact that one of the executioners reportedly exclaimed, "Long live Muqtada al-Sadr!" (incidentally prompting Saddam's last words, a derisive, mocking "Muqtada al-Sadr") and this whole thing is nothing but one more death in the steady stream of carnage that's been issuing from Iraq for years now. This one's more high profile and more televised, but the fact that it bears such similarity to the criminal militia groups' executions, the fact that it was carried out under Saddam's execution rules, the fact that sectarian epithets were hurled about on the gallows, and the fact that the execution was evidently held on a date that maximized Sunni/Shiite strife, all of these things make it a sham at best, and a travesty at worst.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sam/Eagle '08

When I read Republicans seriously entertaining the notion of the nomination of Rudy Giuliani for President in '08, much less the notion of his standing a snowball's chance in hell of winning, this is all I can think of:

Because that's all Rudy Giuliani is. He's a symbol. A symbol of 9/11, which God's Own Party would love to continue exploiting. And a symbol of...well, come to think of it, that's it. Republicans would not only have to ignore his notoriously liberal stances on such issues as gun control, abortion or gay marriage (not to mention marital fidelity, though it's arguable whether or not those sorts of personal indiscretions should enter into things); they'd also have to convince themselves (as many seem to have already done) that Giuliani's leadership of New York City after 9/11 gives him enough national security credibility to be taken seriously as a candidate.

Honestly, it's laughable. It's laughable to imagine the man getting past the social conservatives, but it's also laughable to imagine his getting passed through as the authority on national security simply because of his (admittedly good) leadership of a city after a terrorist attack.

Uncle Sam has been unwavering in his support of the military since 1812, and the Bald Eagle has endowed the country with its quiet dignity ever since it was co-opted to do so. I think they, together, make just as solid a ticket as Rudy and anyone else.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Congressional Response

I haven't posted in a long time, and I'm sorry for that. Just thought I'd toss this up there. Here's an e-mail I sent to both of my senators, Lautenberg and Menendez, about 2 months ago:

Senator Lautenberg,

I would like to know how you justify, in good conscience, voting in favor of a bill that grants the President the sole power to "interpret" the Geneva Conventions, denies the Courts the rights to consider the Conventions in civil proceedings, and strips prisoners of the rights of habeas corpus so long enshrined as part of our nation's foundation.

This bill is repugnant not just to me, but to the ideals which we profess, as a nation, to hold. I am deeply disappointed that both of the senators that reprsent my state would have voted for this atrocious legislation.

Tim Fargus...

For Senator Menendez, I simply changed the name. Anyway, I recently received an e-mail response from Senator Lautenberg, and I'll reproduce it here in full:

Dear Mr. Fargus :

Thank you for contacting me about the Military Commissions Act (S. 3930). I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue.

The United States has apprehended hundreds of terror suspects, and President Bush has kept them at secret CIA prisons and at a military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay , Cuba . In November of 2001, President Bush unilaterally issued an order setting up a flawed system of military trials for these suspects.

Not surprisingly, in June 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the trial system set up by President Bush in 2001 violated military justice law and the Geneva Conventions, and that any future attempts to authorize these trials will need an Act of Congress. Unless and until that occurred, detainees at Guantanamo Bay would remain without charge and without trial.

In September 2006, President Bush sent Congress another flawed proposal to establish military tribunals. Many Senators, including John McCain (R-AZ), John Warner (R-VA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), opposed the Administration's proposal, as did I. After weeks of negotiations, a new measure was drafted. While far from perfect, this new version provided a framework that could move these cases to trial and avoid a continuation of the current state of limbo that has kept detainees at
Guantanamo without a trial.

The primary objective of the Military Commissions Act is to set up the framework under which detainees can be charged and brought to trial. The military commissions will include elements of the law and rules of evidence used in general courts-martial by the military, in addition to specific requirements laid out in the legislation. I supported several amendments to the bill on the Senate floor. For example, I sought to restore the right of habeus corpus to allow detainees to challenge the factual and legal reasons for their detention. I was disappointed that this amendment failed by a vote of 48-51; however, I anticipate the Supreme Court will review this provision in the bill expeditiously.

The Military Commissions Act also clarifies what interrogation methods can and cannot be used against detainees. In 2005, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act (the "McCain Amendment"), which applies to all detainees under the control of the United States. It prohibits cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, as those terms are defined by our U.S. Constitution.

The Military Commissions Act specifically clarifies what our obligations are under international law. These obligations are governed by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which set out minimum standards for the treatment of detainees. The Act explicitly bans nine offenses, including torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, and intentionally causing serious bodily injury. These are considered "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions and are punishable in the United States by death or imprisonment for life or a term of years. The President must also publicly declare what the Administration deems to be "non-grave" or lesser offenses under the Geneva Conventions. This mandate will require the President to spell out what interrogation standards are being used at Guantanamo, which will be a major step toward accountability for this Administration.

This legislation is not perfect, and I regret that efforts to amend it on the Senate floor were unsuccessful. But it has been more than five years since 9/11, and hundreds of detainees are being kept at Guantanamo Bay without charge and without trial. It is time to set the rules and move these trials forward. I will vigorously monitor how this and future Administrations apply this legislation and the requirements it sets forth, and I will not hesitate to speak out when the executive branch strays from the requirements of the law. In addition, I intend to work with my colleagues in the 110th Congress, which begins in January, to conduct strong oversight of this program and consider changes to this law to address any deficiencies.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me, and I hope you will continue to do so in the future.

Sincerely, Senator Frank Lautenberg

My thoughts? Well, first off, I appreciate the response. I know it took a while, but I'm sure the volume of requests coming into Congressional offices must be huge, especially since the advent of electronic media.

Now, I can understand the Senator's reasoning here. He's talking about the act being better than nothing, and that taking baby steps is better than doing nothing. I can understand that and could even almost get behind it, if it weren't for the provisions in the bill that give the President the authority to redefine the Geneva Conventions.

I'm a little more hopeful that the Senator's choice will be vindicated in the coming months with the Democratic majority in Congress, but all the same, I would like to have seen this act scuttled, and Senators Warner, Graham and McCain exposed for the political opportunists and showmen that they are.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

John Mayer's Blog

I was reading an interview with John Mayer on, I believe, and it was a pretty neat article. He's interested in doing stand-up comedy and sneaker design, of all things, but he doesn't want to do it based on his success as a musician. He wants to earn those things, which is extra cool in my book. When asked if he was thinking about acting, he said that if he did, he'd want to do four years of stand-up first, so that he knew he wasn't some ungrateful musician taking the acting job of somebody who'd put himself through the paces.

Anyway, there was a link to his blog, which I've found quite amusing and interesting. It's here, and though there's a lot of technical music stuff there, if you sift through it, there's some neat musings, as well. The music video for his new song, "Waiting for the World to Change," is there, and I like it quite a bit. I like that he's felt comfortable branching out from pop into the worlds of blues and hip-hop, and that he's been willing to grow as an artist.

And for any of you who haven't seen it, go to YouTube and watch this video right now. It's friggin' amazing.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Validity of Opinion

I often hear two statements bandied about that are taken by most as equivalent. They are:

Everyone has the right to his/her own opinion.

Everyone's opinion is as valid as everyone else's.
The first is something with which I strongly agree. The second is something with which I couldn't disagree more.

Let me explain.

I don't think I have to spend too many words to let you all know why I think that everybody has the right to an opinion, whatever that opinion is, and however repugnant it may be to some. Freedom of expression is fundamental to our ideals as a nation, and to mine as a person. But beneath that freedom of expression is the freedom to hold whatever opinion it is you want to express. For some, maybe that goes without saying. That's probably true. I just wanted to make it explicit.

As for the second claim, though, that everyone's opinion is as valid as everyone else's, I don't just disagree with it. I don't think that anyone agrees with it, regardless of whether or not they say it. Everyone necessarily priveleges certain opinions over others, in their view, by adopting them as theirs.

For instance, it's my opinion that High Fidelity is one of the best movies of the last decade. Now, people certainly have the right to disagree with me, and think that High Fidelity was a big steaming pile of crap, but from my standpoint, I don't have any obligation to consider that opinion as equally valid as my own. I have considered all of the same evidence as the person who despises one of my favorite movies, and I've come out on the opposite side. If I truly think that High Fidelity is one of the best movies of the past decade, it would sure weaken my argument to concede as equally valid an argument that High Fidelity is one of the worst movies of the past decade.

I don't by any means advocate disrespect, or mischaracterization of others' positions. I don't advocate character attacks, or false inferences drawn from opinions of others with which I don't agree. For instance, if I said that somebody who didn't think that High Fidelity is one of the best movies of the past decade is the 21st century equivalent of those Nazis in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s who burned the great books of our past, I would be dead wrong, and I would deserve to be called on it.

What I do advocate, though, is a forceful expression of opinion, without the need for concession to opposing opinions with which you truly don't agree. Every time somebody starts an expression of their opinion with something like, "I understand why some people would think High Fidelity is the worst movie of the past decade, but..." the whole argument is undermined. It may seem like it's a bit thornier with more serious issues than movies, but it's really not. All I'm saying is that we have to have the courage of our convictions, and we have to express them with poise and confidence.

To do any less would be a disservice to ourselves and to those whom we would seek to convince.


Losing [My] Religion

My last post was a setup for this one. I hope you've had time to absorb it a bit.

With this post, I wanted to outline my own religious views, as they've been shaping up for the past few years. It's something that I've been quite up front with myself about, and increasingly so with people outside of the online arena, but because of the associations most people have with the words involved, I've been a bit hesitant to vociferously self-identify in this way. But you know what? I've decided it doesn't really matter what people think of me. I'll go into that a bit more in the next post. For now, though, on to the main event.

I consider myself a weak atheist and a strong agnostic. For those of you who don't feel like scrolling back down to the last post, here's what that means: I lack belief in a God or gods, but I don't make the positive assertion that they don't exist. That's the weak atheist part. As for the strong agnostic part, I think that it's not just unknown whether or not God exists, but that it's fundamentally unknowable, by the very definition of the word.

You may notice that I'm very careful to not say that I'm outlining my beliefs. I don't say that I disbelieve in God, because that would be strong atheism. Lack of belief is not at all the same as active disbelief, and I'd like to be very clear with that distinction.

Some strong atheists would question my weak atheism. That is, they would question why I stop short of asserting that God doesn't exist. For me, it's purely a question of logic. Just as it's illogical to assert without evidence that God exists, it's also illogical to assert without evidence that God doesn't exist. That is, both require at least a small "leap of faith" to jump from the evidence to the conclusion.

That is not to say, though, that because something's existence cannot be disproven, that is reason enough to believe in its existence. I could rattle off, literally until my dying breath, any number of concepts that could not be disproven, each more ridiculous than the last. But there would be no basis for belief in any of them simply based on the fact that they cannot be disproven. In fact, I would have constructed them specifically so that they could not be disproven by logical means, in the same way that the idea of God cannot be disproven by logical means.

This is where I get into the strong agnosticism. In fact, it's completely tied up in that place where weak atheists and strong atheists differ. As soon as you define something whose existence is fundamentally unprovable by any means that would convince somebody else absent a revelation of faith, then we've gone into the realm not just of the unknown, but of the unknowable.

* * * * *

I don't expect this to change anyone's mind or anything. Far from it. I just wanted to get it out there and see what y'all thought of it, if anything. I've been talking about posting about my convictions on the subject of religion for some time now, and I figured that time had come.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Primer on Atheism and Agnosticism

Most people, when they hear the word "atheist," have a definite picture that forms in their minds. The picture is what more nuanced people would probably call a "militant atheist," and more likely than not, that person is probably tearing up a bible, or maybe spitting on a crucifix.

But atheism is a much more subtle beast than that, and comes in more varieties than most people realize. I'm gonna try to lay out the four major overlapping divisions of atheism here.

Implicit Atheism

Only those who define atheism in the broadest sense (as I tend to do) really recognize implicit atheism as a type of atheism at all. Put simply, implicit atheists are those who lack theistic belief without consciously rejecting it. By this reasoning, somebody who was born, lived his whole life, and died with no exposure to religion, and who didn't formulate religious beliefs on his own, would be an implicit atheist. He quite obviously lacked theistic belief, but he didn't actively reject that belief, since he was never given the opportunity. Those who buy into the concept of implicit atheism then say that everyone on the planet is born as an implicit atheist.

Explicit Atheism

Given the definition of implicit atheism, the definition of explicit atheism is obvious. An explicit atheist is one who consciously rejects theistic belief. This probably sounds closer to that picture that forms in most people's heads when they hear the word "atheist," but we're not quite there yet. There are two more subdivisions of atheism that overlap with those that I've already laid out here.

Weak Atheism

A weak atheist is someone who lacks theistic belief, without the positive assertion that deities do not exist. This may seem the same as implicit atheism, but there's one important difference: A weak atheist can have consciously rejected theism, but not adopted the viewpoint that deities definitively do not exist. Thus, all implicit atheists are weak atheists, but weak atheists can be either implicit or explicit atheists.

Strong Atheism

Again, here's a definition that follows directly from the one before it. A strong atheist is someone who lacks theistic belief and also positively asserts that no deities can exist. As you can see, if you've been paying attention, a strong atheist is necessarily an explicit atheist, since his viewpoint includes a positive assertion, and not just a lack of belief. But again, not all explicit atheists are strong atheists. Truly, it's the vocal fringe of these strong atheists who make up the pictures that pop into most people's heads when they think of atheists.

* * * * *

Astute readers will at this point notice that such a broad definition of atheism doesn't necessarily exclude atheists (weak atheists, anyway) from being agnostics as well. Let's jump into a brief definition of two differing types of agnosticism here, just to be perfectly clear.

Weak Agnosticism

A weak agnostic says simply that the existence or nonexistence of deities is currently unknown. A look at the etymology of the word makes this clear. The prefix "a-" means "without," and in Greek, "gnosis" means "knowledge." Hence, "agnostic" literally means "without knowledge."

Strong Agnosticism

A strong agnostic believes, like the weak agnostic, that the existence or nonexistence of deities is currently unknown. More than that, though, the strong agnostic asserts that not only do we not know whether or not deities exist, but that it is impossible for us to know whether or not deities exist. Whereas the weak agnostic leaves the door open for mitigating evidence at some point down the line, the strong agnostic asserts that the existence of deities is, by their very definitions, unknowable.

* * * * *

So where am I going with this? I'll get to that in my next post. You're welcome to guess in the comments, though.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Die, Die, Die, My Delta

Yesterday afternoon, my roommate Jason came downstairs with a proposition.

"Hey, Fargus, you wanna go to London?"

Without hesitation, I replied, "Yes. When?"

"Um, I was sort of just kidding," Jason replied, a bit taken aback at how quickly I answered. "Delta's running a special deal where tickets from JFK to London-Gatwick are only $99 each way."

"I say again, yes. When are we going?" I stared him down.

"Well, I don't want to go, I was just kidding," Jason said.

At this point I immediately went upstairs to my room and started researching the trip. Sure enough, there on the Delta website, were tickets to London for only $99 each way. The applicable dates were November 15, 2006 through April 20, 2007, excluding the period from December 15, 2006 through January 7, 2007. The only stipulation was that you'd have to stay over a Saturday night.

The other stipulation was that the tickets had to be purchased by Tuesday, September 12, 2006. Tomorrow.

I immediately got on the phone, trying to find out who would go with me. I figured I could probably count on Oliver and Eli, and that we might be able to find another person or two. Sure enough, Dan, Oliver and Eli said that they'd be up for going over the Thanksgiving holiday, maybe sometime like the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to the Sunday afterwards.

I went to the website and went to book tickets, just to double-check the prices, and I was surprised to find that it was giving me prices of $525 or so for the round trip. I called up the online help line, and the only thing they could offer me was that the special fares were sold out. There was nothing on the website about there being a limited number of special fares, or about their having been sold out. It appeared that the offer was still good until tomorrow, and I'd assume that it still appears so right now.

So we're not going to London for Thanksgiving, so far as I know right now. But now I've got the travel bug, and I'd like to go somewhere for Thanksgiving. If anybody's got any suggestions for places that might be cheap and fun to travel, I'm all ears.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tonight, Tonight

Tonight I'm at Darren's, and I finished the bottle of Captain Morgan's rum that I started last night. Our lives aren't very exciting when they consist of drinking some rum and playing bad video games, but don't judge me. The video games may be bad, but Ryan got them for free.

We spent a little bit of time abusing a service that was instituted for a noble purpose. The concept of internet relay calling is really a noble thing, and allows people who can't otherwise hear people on the phone to carry on conversations, however labored and awkward they may be. Dan and Oliver discovered this service years ago and used it to make operators say terrible things to me. Anyway, I think it makes it better that I feel a little bad about it now.


Friday, September 08, 2006

A Near-Death Experience

It's been a while since I've posted (8 days shy of three months, to be exact). I'm not quite ready to get back to where I was before, where I was posting exclusively about political things, and a couple of times a day. I don't think I'll ever want to go back to exactly that.

Instead, I'd like to have more of a mishmash of topics in here. Anecdotes, stories from my youth, political postings sometimes, religious postings others, etc. This one will be a story from my youth, and though my recall of it is likely a bit fuzzy, I'll tell it as I remember it, and maybe my dad can help me out with the details.

I spent the first eight and a half years of my life in southern California. My mom, dad and I lived in Orange County for a while, and then in various spots around the San Fernando Valley. One thing that my dad and I used to do every weekend was to go to the Sherman Oaks Park (this is one of those details I might be wrong on, Dad).

I don't remember exactly how old I was, but one day the two of us were on the Ventura Freeway, driving home from the park, when a car went to cut us off. My dad swerved to get out of the way, and that was when the car began to go out of control. We started fishtailing down the freeway, and despite my dad's efforts, the car kept going further and further out of control. The fishtails got wider and wider, and as I recall, I think we even spun completely around once or twice.

I was glued to my seat. There was a knot the size of my head lodged in my throat, which made it pretty difficult to even consider breathing or swallowing. My life didn't flash before my eyes, and I didn't have any grand revelations, but I do very clearly remember thinking that I was probably going to die.

Then, THUD!

All of a sudden we were slowing down, and we weren't spinning anymore. We pulled off to the side of the road, along with the car that we'd hit, to inspect the damage. Somehow, neither my dad nor I was hurt at all. The car that we'd hit was white, but I don't remember what make or model. There were two girls in it, and they weren't hurt either. Remarkably, when we looked at the damage on the cars, we found that their bumper had a dent in it, and our bumper had a crack in it. That was it.

I didn't know about all of the details that went on, while my dad talked with the driver of the other car. All I remember was that I didn't have any shoes on, and the girl who was the passenger in the other car gave me piggy back rides by the side of the road so that I didn't have to walk on the hot asphalt.

Anyway, there's probably some details there that are missing, and some that are inaccurate, but that's how that story's stuck in my head for the last 20 years, give or take. Maybe my dad'll come along and offer up some clarification in the comments.


UPDATE (9/14/06): Here's what my dad had to say in the comments, if you don't feel like clicking through:

Wow. I haven't thought about that for a long time. You got it essentially right as I remember it. I learned to drive on rear-wheel-drive cars and drove in snow in the winter for the first 8 years of my driving experience, and the main thing I remembered about driving in the snow and ice was that you steer in the direction of your skid. In other words, if your back end is skidding to the left, you steer to the left to regain control.

Well, I was driving a front-wheel-drive Honda Accord that day, and as my life flashed before my eyes, I remember trying to steer in the direction of the skid but it kept getting worse and worse as we fishtailed down the freeway at 60 mph, and I couldn't understand why (I later figured out that it doesn't work with front wheel drive). I know we eventually did a complete 360-degree turn, and the drivers all around us were trying to stay out of our way and beeping at me as if I was doing this on purpose.

When we finally stopped, I remember it more as a gentle bump rather than a THUD, but nonetheless, we were shaken but alive.

Friday, June 16, 2006


I'm just trying out the new Flock web browser, that integrates photo uploading and blogging using my existing accounts. Seems pretty badass.


My First Gig

I guess it's not true that the wedding I'm going to in 8 days is my first singing gig, but it certainly feels like it. I sang a lot in high school and college, but those were for audiences made up of Billy and Susie's parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles. I didn't know Billy and Susie, let alone their families, so those kinds of engagements weren't very difficult. I only had to worry about family and friends, really, and most of those friends were probably performing with me.

But this upcoming wedding is a little bit different. Half of the audience will be made up of old friends. But not just any old friends. I've had old friends who have seen me embarrass myself in karaoke bars in China, and I didn't give it a second thought. These are old high school friends. I'm 25 years old now, and I haven't seen most of these people for at least 6 or 7 years. The Fargus they knew is gone in most senses of the word, and this is one hell of a nervewracking way to introduce them to the new Fargus.

Do you think it's frowned upon to have a couple of drinks before the wedding to loosen up?


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Great Wall

I don't know what all I want to put up about my recent trip to China on here. Maybe some reflections, maybe a transcription of some of my travel journal, I don't know. But for now, I'll just give you one of my favorite pictures from one of my favorite stops on the trip: The Great Wall (I'm the one furthest to the right).

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


The Westboro Baptist Church

You all know these wackos. They're the ones who've gotten an undue amount of press because of their picketing of soldiers' funerals. The membership of the Westboro Baptist Church is under 100 people, and most of those are members of the family of Fred Phelps, the church's founder.

This group of lunatics has absolutely no association with any mainstream church, and the main thrust of their beliefs, or at least what they're choosing to highlight at present, is that God is passing righteous judgment on the United States for being too accepting of homosexuality. That's what the picketing is about. They claim that United States soldiers are being killed in Iraq because their country is too tolerant of homosexuality. These people are disgusting, delusional, and dangerous.

But think about this: but for the focus of their enmity, how do they substantively differ from such influential mainstream nutjobs as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson? Both of those men said, in the wake of September 11, that the terrorist attacks were a righteous judgment from God on a country that was too tolerant of, among other things, what they viewed as sexual lewdness. Same goes for Hurricane Katrina. My point is this: the Westboro Baptist Church's beliefs differ from those of Falwell and Robertson only in degree, not in kind.

Some might take issue with my citation of Falwell and Robertson as mainstream. I'd disagree, but for the sake of argument let's leave them aside. Let's look at the platform of the Republican Party, and in particular, the push for a Federal Marriage Amendment. These are people who believe that allowing homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals will cause society to crumble. In other words, they believe that there will be direct negative consequences visited on America for too much tolerance of homosexuality.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

The Westboro Baptist Church isn't directly dangerous. They number too few, and they're crazy. They have no support for their insane views. The true danger of the Westboro Baptist Church, though, is that it creates a foil for those who fundamentally believe the same things as they do about homosexuals. Republicans get to support troops, get credit for opposing an anti-gay group, and then still turn around and vote to restrict gay rights. The Westboro Baptist Church is nothing but a distraction. They're a group that is so extreme that it allows people to imagine that they're being tolerant while they let themselves turn a blind eye to (and legitimize) their own prejudices.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Zhong guo

I don't understand why we translate country names. I'm in China, and here they call their country "Zhong guo."

So where did we get China from? And if we are going to get into the business of translating the country's name, couldn't we realize that this one actually means something? It means "Middle Country" or "Middle Kingdom." So whose job was it to come up with "China," and where did he or she (probably he, I guess) get it from?


Monday, May 22, 2006

PRC, baby

So as many of you know, I'm headed off to China on Thursday for about two and a half weeks. I'm really excited and nervous about it, having never been that far away from home, or for that long.

It should be a lot of fun. Nick arrives the day after we do, and we're meeting him at the base of the big obelisk in the middle of Tiananmen Square. Just thinking about that makes me excited.

And no, not in a Freudian way. Perverts.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I think...

...that Subway should be forced to change the name of its "Veggie Delight" sandwich, due to the extremely misleading nature of the second part of the name.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Thank You for Smoking

Last night I went to see Thank You for Smoking with my friends Jason and Dave, and it was amazing. Funny, relevant, well-written, tasteful, all of the above. It's not in wide release, so you've got to search a little bit to find it, but do yourself a favor and seek it out. It's well worth it.


Tags: ,

A Clear Winner

There's not much to say about this:

The Senate Democratic leadership says it has found a wedge issue to strengthen the party’s position on abortion rights, which top strategists think has become a liability in recent years.

The wedge is legislation expanding access to contraceptives and sex education, which polls show a majority of Americans support but which Democrats are betting will be difficult for social conservatives in the Republican base to accept.

Go read the whole thing. It's very interesting, and seems like a clear winner to me. If Democrats start presenting themselves as the party that's serious about women's rights and personal responsibility when it comes to preventing abortions, rather than the supporters of wholesale abortion-on-demand that the Republicans have been trying to portray, then they're bound to pick up ground in the middle.


Tags: ,

The Politics of Personal Destruction

This issue is being hammered all over the liberal blogosphere, but I felt compelled to say something about it, because it's so representative of the vile crap that's done in politics all the time.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) has no shame:

Sitting in the oncology ward at Children’s National Medical Center on Jan. 19, retired Adm. Joe Sestak and his wife, Susan, awaited the doctors’ verdict about the condition of their 5-year-old daughter, Alexandra.

She had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last summer and given three to nine months to live. The Sestaks lived for four months in the ward. They watched as their daughter survived three surgeries, and as she endured chemotherapy.


Weldon attacked Sestak’s decision to continue owning a home in Virginia while only renting in Pennsylvania and questioned why Sestak did not move back to Pennsylvania when he was working at the Pentagon. Weldon commutes from Pennsylvania each day.

Weldon also suggested Sestak should have sent his daughter to a hospital in Philadelphia or Delaware, rather than the Washington hospital. Sestak said that as soon as doctors give his daughter the all-clear, he’ll buy in Pennsylvania.

This is maybe the lowest, basest attack I've ever seen from any politician against a political rival. It's as though the fact that Sestak is running against Weldon gives Weldon carte blanche to say whatever the hell he pleases. There have been attacks that were less factually correct, but this one isn't a matter of facts. It's a matter of a slimeball bringing a 5-year-old with brain cancer into his crosshairs in the hopes of scoring some cheap political points. It's disgusting, and it makes me a little disappointed that I've ever set foot in the district that he represents.

Atrios has the whole roundup, and has added Joe Sestak to the Eschaton community list. Sestak's ability to weather this kind of attack with grace and dignity should show us all that he's already twice the candidate than Curt Weldon has ever been.

Of course, this looks all the worse in light of Tom Delay's recent condemnation of his opponents for using the politics of personal destruction, doesn't it?


Tags: , ,

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


A lot of things have happened since last I blogged regularly on political issues. I stopped because I got the feel that it was somewhat futile, and like I was just adding my voice to an already unnecessarily large preponderance of blogs. But I've decided to write again for me, so that's that.

Here's my take on illegal immigration: If it didn't benefit the immigrants to come here illegally, they wouldn't do it. There are people making money hand over fist on the backs of illegal immigrants, and they're passing the savings on to us. If we were to build a wall, or kick out all of the illegal immigrants, or both, two things would happen. One, companies that employee illegal immigrants would no longer be able to support the prices they'd been charging for their products. In order to remain profitable, they'd have to raise prices, and that would hit every consumer in the country in the wallet. Two, the amount of money it would take to raise a wall along our whole southern border (because let's face it, when most people say "illegal immigrants," what they really mean is "Mexicans"), as well as to staff an increased border patrol would either force higher taxes upon us, or would force us as a country ever deeper into the already crippling, almost 14-digit debt that we've already accrued.

So what to do? So far as I can tell, what really gets people's goat about the issue (those who aren't closet racists, that is) is the illegal part. So make legal immigration easier and more attractive than illegal immigration. And punish companies that are found to employ illegal immigrants. That'd do it, wouldn't it? I guess it wouldn't address the oft-cited concerns about "preserving our American culture," but we all know what that really means, don't we?

As for the guest worker program, it's not an original thought on my part, but I happen to agree with the line of thinking that it's a horrendous idea, and would create a permanent underclass of resentful non-citizens, and we do not want that in the slightest. It's largely because of that that I applaud the Democrats for sticking up to Frist and the other blustery bullies in the Senate. Aside from the actual provisions of the proposed bill, with which I strenuously disagree, the Democrats' actions show me that they're interested in business, rather than in endless debate that doesn't result in a bill. They've set up a cloture vote on the bill proposed in committee (effectively barring the attachment of amendments until the vote is held), which makes perfect sense, because if the bill won't pass as is, it's unlikely to pass with a bunch of amendments attached to it.

It gets repeated often enough that it means basically nothing by now, but this country was built on the backs of immigrants, and it's being sustained on the backs of immmigrants. To throw that away because of some xenophobic commitment to whatever's meant by "American culture" is not just shortsighted; it's morally reprehensible.


Tags: , ,

Tom DeLay

I'm not a religious man, and that's a subject I'll address in an upcoming "reflection" post. I don't have a reason to take offense to the man co-opting what I feel to be my religion, but for some reason it still turns my stomach to see the man claiming to have been doing God's work, and to get the support of the insanely un-Christian Religious Right.

It's probably just the pomposity, combined with the stubborn insistence that he did nothing wrong, and the slanderous accusations of this all being the result of some liberal conspiracy to take him out of the power structure. I'm not offended on behalf of Christianity. It's just that there's this self-righteous air about him every time he opens his mouth that makes me want to throw my head back and scream.


Tags: , ,

Monday, April 03, 2006


Anybody know quickly how to fix the IE formatting problem that JP pointed out? I could probably figure it out, but it would take some time, and I don't feel like doing it. I feel like having it done for me.

You know what? I barely even feel like searching the internet for the solution that I could probably find in ten seconds flat. I just felt like writing a post to put up a couple of Technorati tags and see how they work for the first time.


Tags: , ,


This probably isn't the best place to ask about how to get readership up, since not too many people will read this, but I'll ask anyway. What should I do? For a while I was leaving trackback links all over other sites when I'd link to them. Maybe that's something that I should do again, whenever I write posts on political issues, or issues dealing with current events.

But a lot of blogs have stopped using trackbacks, so I don't know if that would work as well. Maybe I can ping all the sites that I reference that do use trackbacks.

Another thing I can do, I guess, is to comment frequently and substantively on other blogs, and leave my own URL. Every time I do that, especially over at Decision '08, I notice a trickle of traffic coming in.

But beyond those two things, does anybody have any idea about what to do? Any ways that anybody knows of that I can whore myself out for traffic will be much appreciated.


Keep that good news comin'!

I guess this is just another example of the media loving to report on things that make it look like things are going badly in Iraq.

BAGHDAD -- A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary health centers across Iraq is running out of money, after two years and roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.


In January, Bowen's office calculated the American reconstruction effort would be able to finish only 300 of 425 promised electricity projects and 49 of 136 water and sanitation projects.
No chance that, you know, things might actually be going badly in Iraq, huh?


A Deepening Resolve

Those of you who know me know that I'm not a huge sports fan. I don't follow any sports religiously, and in general I don't really care much about them, but for the same reasons that Josh Marshall notes, the idea of being a fan of the New York Yankees has never been even remotely appealing to me. Since I was born in the Los Angeles area, I've been a fan of the Dodgers above any other team. I remember watching the 1988 World Series between the Dodgers and the Athletics, and I remember Kirk Gibson's amazing home run finishing Game 1 of the series. That was an amazing moment to be a Dodger fan. Hell, it was an amazing moment to be a doe-eyed little boy in love with the game at all.

But now I live in north Jersey, and allegiance here runs, I'd say, about 90% to the Yankees. That's why, during the 2004 ALCS, I decided that I'd support the Red Sox as well as the Dodgers. When I was in Boston in October, I bought a Red Sox hat that's been my cap of choice, when I wear one. But I wasn't prepared for the depth of feeling that goes along with being a Yankee fan in Jersey. Every time I wear my hat to my second job, I get several comments from several different folks about how it's disgusting that I'd wear it, or that I need to take it off, or just that Boston sucks. Some are in jest, and some have a little bit of sting to them. Yesterday I even got a little bit of water poured on me for wearing a Boston hat on opening day.

So I've decided that I've got to become a total Red Sox fan (unless the Dodgers decide to pick it up and actually, you know, do something). I'm still not that interested in baseball, and I won't go home and watch all the games, but the idea of rankling the Jersey folks appeals to me.

Now I've just got to find the materials to make a Derek Jeter voodoo doll to leave at work this week.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

New Haven, Old Friends

I spent the night in New Haven on Saturday night, visiting with some old friends from high school. It's funny how the conversation can consist about eighty percent of sentences beginning, "Hey, remember when..." but it still doesn't get old.

I had seen a few of these folks a couple of weeks ago, but my best friend from high school was there last night, and I hadn't seen him for about three years. It was really nice to hang with him again, and entertaining in more ways than one. I've told some folks about the conversational highlight of the night, and since it would probably not be appropriate for.....well, for anywhere, I won't write it here. Suffice it to say that it shocked me, and that's not easy to do.

I don't really have a point to this post, per se; I only mean to emphasize that it's a wonderful feeling when you can fall back into stride in five minutes with people you haven't seen for five years.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Pacific Time

I went out to a bar with some buddies last night to see a band play. The bassist for the band was a friend of my buddy Kevin, so that's how we knew of the gig. The place was...well, it was interesting, let's say. It was called The Rail, and only a chain link fence separated it from the nearby NJ Transit station, and the intermittent roar of the trains.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a midget playing video poker. Though it's something you don't see every day, there was nothing wrong with it. It was just a little odd. Right after the midget, though, I saw an old man, with a full head of white hair, desperately making out with a girl who I'd guess was about two-fifths of his age (I'd guess he was in his mid-60s, she was in her mid-20s). Eli was convinced that the girl was a prostitute. It was quite unsettling, and we chose our seats well outside viewing range of those two. But it didn't matter, since throughout the night they decided to reposition themselves all over the bar. It was as if he said to her, "Now that we've made out for 20 minutes at Position A, let's move to Position B." It was awkward and sad and uncomfortable and wet, and I didn't like it at all.

Jon-Paul and I went to order some beers, and a guy sitting at the bar suggested that we try some Heineken Light. We're no slouches, so it became pretty quickly apparent that this guy was an employee of Heineken, paid to sit in the corner and suggest Heineken Light to people as they order drinks. We humored him, and for our trouble he gave us free t-shirts and keychain flashlights. Hell, that woulda been worth the $3.50 even without the beer!

Kevin's friend's band was supposed to play at 10:30, so we made sure to get there in plenty of time. We had had a big dinner at a Costa Rican restaurant earlier, and we got to The Rail right around 10 or so, I'd say. To make a long (and boring) story short, the guys didn't end up going on until about 1:30, by which time most of us were pretty much done being in the mood to sit around, drink beer, and listen to bands we didn't know (at least they weren't cover bands, though).

All in all it was a fun night, though. There was this one guy walking around the bar trying to surreptitiously slip his straw into people's drinks with a very obvious, "Hey, look over there!" line. It was all in good fun, though, and the guy was pretty interesting. He had at least 10 facial piercings, including two-inch long clear plastic spikes straight through each cheek. He told us that he was a fire eater, and that he could have put my arm down his throat, not unlike sword swallowers at carnivals. When Eli remarked that he would have laughed if that happened, the guy said (and I quote), "That's not your friend. Your friend would have got your arm out of my mouth."

Good times.


Friday, March 31, 2006

Every other Friday

I work two jobs. One of them has very regular hours, and I even am afforded the opportunity to take every other Friday off (today is one of those Fridays). The other job is sporadic, stressful, and sometimes rewarding, and it usually has me working one job or the other every day of the week, but it pays quite well. The combination of these two jobs has taken me to the point, though, where I feel that getting every other Friday off isn't just a perk, it's a necessity. With as much decompression and relaxation as is on my schedule today, I just can't imagine what I would do if I had to work today.

As such, the pure pleasure that I used to take as a child in having a day off of school isn't something that I feel on my SDOs (Scheduled Days Off). It feels more like just a necessary step in refueling for the next two-week cycle, and that's vaguely unsettling to me.

But on the other hand, I can't really complain. My second job has treated me exceedingly well financially. If I hadn't been working the second job, I would still have some bills not paid off, I wouldn't have been able to get my new computer, and I wouldn't be able to go to China in less than two months. At this point, complain though I may, I've got no choice but to conclude that the stress is more than worth it for the financial and material comfort that it's brought. Financial stress is its own beast, and I'd rather be tired and whiny about a job than financially unstable.

Also, below is what I would have looked like if I was in the music video for "Take On Me" by A-Ha.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Personal Irresponsibility - Blame the Media

Don't like how the war in Iraq is going? Well, there's a simple solution to that! Don't blame the Administration who brought us there. Blame the media for not reporting what you so desperately want to be true!

Snarky and sarcastic, I know. Apologies all around for that. But really, how desperate is the Republican base to absolve Bush of any responsibility in the war that he started? In the war that he was ready to deliberately provoke and mislead in order to start?

"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

It also described the president as saying, "The U.S. might be able to bring out a defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam's W.M.D," referring to weapons of mass destruction.
This is a man who, despite his assertions to the contrary, was desperate to have this war, for some reason. He ejected the weapons inspectors that he had pushed the U.N. to let into Iraq, and he was willing to get an Iraqi to publicly testify about weapons he already knew didn't exist. This is a man who, almost three years ago, stood proudly under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished." Meanwhile, troops are still dying, Iraq is mired in a civil war (which is still a civil war, by any other name), and there's no clear exit strategy.

You all know all of this. If you're a liberal, it outrages you. If you're a conservative, you've likely bought into the lie that we went into Iraq to "free the Iraqi people," and not because of the pressing threat that the WMDs posed to the United States. If you're reading this, you've likely got an opinion one way or the other.

Here's my point, though. If you think the war was a shortsighted, ill-advised farce that has undermined our country both domestically and internationally, you probably want Bush to live up to his credo of personal responsibility. That position makes sense. What doesn't make sense is when Bush's followers have to attack everybody but the President for the handling of the mistakes for which he is and should be ultimately responsible.

If we can't trust the media to bring us the truth from Iraq, then who can we trust, if we're to adhere to the conservative talking points about the liberal media trying to undermine the war effort? Do we listen to the Administration, which certainly has a vested interest in selling the war as anything but a failure of epic proportions? Do we listen to right-wing bloggers who've never set foot in Iraq and never will? Do we trust members of Congress, like Howard Kaloogian, who use blatant misinformation to try to pull the wool over our eyes about the nature of the situation in Iraq?

Pardon me, but none of those options seem very personally responsible.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Maybe not triumphant, but a return all the same

I'm not gonna promise anything, but now that I've got a computer at home that works really well, I'd really like to get back into the blogging game. This will likely involve some kind of overhaul of the layout and such, as well as a rethinking of the overall gist of the subject material.

Last time I stopped blogging regularly, it was because the subject matter got to be stressful enough to me that I just didn't feel like writing about it every day anymore. I've stayed informed over the last six months, and I've kept up conversations on message boards and with my father, mainly, about current events and such, but I just don't have the energy in me to devote this blog solely to such pursuits again.

Here's what I'm thinking, then. I'll toss some movie reviews in here. If something funny occurs to me, I'll try my best to remember to put it up. I'll blog some about current events, and hopefully get some conversation going in the comments in that way. But the biggeest thing that I'd like to add is a semi-regular reflective-type feature. I might muse one week on religion in my life, favorite movies the next, and Futurama the next (everyone who knows me knows that I could go on for days on that topic alone).

Hopefully I haven't alienated everyone, and hopefully I can settle into a format that will keep me adding content regularly.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My New Computer

I got a new computer today. It's a pretty big departure from my old computer in two important ways.

1) It works quickly and well.
2) It's a Mac.

I know about all the vitriol directed toward Macs by otherwise reasonable people all over the place, and you can all save it. I like it, and I like what it can do. I like the way it looks, and I like the way it feels. I like that everything's built in. I like everything about it so far.

I'm not going to promise some stunning return to blogging, but I just thought I'd let y'all know what was up.

Monday, March 20, 2006


There's not enough time for me to get into the whole thing right now, even if I wanted to (which I don't). Let it be said, though, that the verdict on my Miami vacation is one thumb way up, one thumb way the hell down.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I wrote this to my dad about 5 minutes ago, and I thought it would make a good blog post:

The fact that everybody feels the irrational need to put a caveat on the Abramoff story is really getting to me. Every time they talk about how all of these Congressional Republicans are in it pretty deep, and that there's tangible proof of their corruption, someone has to pipe up and say something like, "Yeah, well, Democrats do it, too." Totally unsubstantiated, and it's insane to think that that's what people's conception of "fair and balanced" really is. When there's mounting piles of evidence about GOP wrongdoing, it's dishonest and unfair to the viewing public to say things like "Democrats do it, too," because that puts in people's minds that the legitimate evidence that they're seeing against the Republicans exists against the Democrats as well.

Don't get me wrong. If there are Democrats who are complicit in this, they should be tossed out with the rest of the trash. But in a system where folks are supposedly innocent until proven guilty, the truly guilty are getting a lot of leeway while the nominally innocent are forced to shoulder a lot of that burden of guilt.