Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Buena Park FL Pastor to Rick Warren: "You're not enough of a Douchebag to get into Heaven"

A lot of hay has been made about Obama's selection of gay-bashin', bible-thumpin huckster Rick "I-love-hommasexuals-but-they're-all-pedophiles" Warren to give the inaugural invocation. Though I would love to see this empty practice abandoned, there are unfortunately many shallow, ritual-obsessed people in this country that would go into collective apoplexy if it were.

This man, however, takes things to a new level. He's publicly promising that God will punish Warren for invoking his name and blessing an Obama presidency.
"I pray He is kind to you in this punishment that is coming," Drake wrote in a widely-released e-mail. In it, the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park pastor criticizes Warren's "recent plan to invoke the presence of almighty God on this evil illegal alien," a reference to Obama.

Drake, who made last November's ballot as a vice-presidential candidate for the American Independent party, is a party to a lawsuit claiming Obama was born outside of the U.S., and is therefore ineligible to serve as president. Obama has a Hawaiian birth certificate, which Hawaiian officials have said is genuine.

You can read more about the American Independent Party here. Nothing I can write on this blog conveys their inanity as effectively as their own statements do.

HT: Guy P. Harrison

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kiva Micro Lending: Practical Charity, Measurable Benefit

Recent years have seen a new means of helping third-world populations better their living standards: micro lending, of the type done at Kiva. This is an easy and practical way to make a positive difference in the lives of people living in the world's poorer regions.

Basically, you open an account with the organization, and then peruse their list of applicants and select those to whom you would like to lend. These are generally people who have small businesses and are looking to expand or upgrade equipment. The amounts needed are small by our standards, but allow the applicants to improve their situations.

You make loans of as little as $25, and as the applicant repays the money (there is no interest), you can lend your balance out to others. The beauty of this process is that you can take a couple of hundred dollars and use it over and over to help out many people. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Drug War: Yeah, it's Working Alright

Glad we're wasting so much time and effort, not to mention ruining so many peoples' lives, on this crap.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I guess Summer's Over

23 F right now, on our way to 16. Icky.

The Homosexual Agenda: Have these People no Boundaries?

Well, I guess the religious right was correct after all: gays are trying to take over the world, and will stop at nothing in their evil pursuit of conquest. The latest salvo in their attempts to pervert us all?

Lesbian Koalas.

Yes, these cute, cuddly little mascots of Down Under land have been recruited in the effort to infect your children with Teh Gay. Imagine: you take the younguns to the zoo for a day of fun, and what are the tykes confronted with? Up to five female koalas hanging from poles and canoodling.

The humanity!

Great American Smokeout: Snuff That Butt!

Normally, I try to avoid getting all preachy about smoking: I like to think that people should make their own decisions about their behavior, as long as that behavior doesn't harm others. Hell, I used to smoke pot, and I drink more than I should. I don't care for people lecturing me about those vices.

But as a former smoker who had a nearly 2 pack a day habit, once in a while I have to ask those of you who still light up a question:

What, exactly, are you getting out of it?

Booze and weed create a buzz. Intoxication is a tangible function, though the value of that function can be debated. But cigarettes? They cut your cravings for carbohydrates, but so do a lot of other things: I find a brisk bike ride does the same, without the cancer and addiction. Some say smoking clears their heads and calms them down, but is that relative to a non-smoking existence, or simply relative to being in nicotine withdrawal? I certainly don't feel more on edge or muddle-headed since quitting years ago.

Cigarettes are now, depending on where you live, somewhere between $4.50 and $10.00 a pack. For someone with a pack a day habit, you'll drop an average of $2650.00 a year. That's a lot of money, folks.

Why not give quitting another try?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cheney and Gonzalez Indicted - Yeah, Good Luck With That

This story in the Huston Chronicle seems to be drawing a lot of attention in the blogosphere today. Seems a DA in Texas has convinced a grand jury to issue indictments of our Vice Felon and his former piss-boy on complicity in the abuse of an unspecified number of convicts in a private prison there.

I don't see the abuse argument going anywhere. The DA in the case seems to be a bit of a whack-job for one thing, and it seems to be stretching it a bit to claim that someone who invests in a company that then invests in another company which helps run a private prison is somehow guilty of abuse committed in that prison.

If we're going to go after these assholes for prisoner abuse, let's start with the torture and illegal detention at Gitmo.

How Not to Advocate Gay Rights

A recent Ed Brayton post described a protest by a Gay-Rights group at a mega-church outside of Lansing, MI, in which the protesters went beyond civil demonstration and infiltrated and disrupted Sunday services. I agree with Ed's take on the incident, but on checking out the group's web site (which I won't link: Google 'Bash Back' if you wish to check it out), I've just got to shake my head in disappointment. This sort of nonsense is not what the gay rights movement needs:
Bash Back! Olympia Trashes Mormon Church

Last night, under the veil of fog, we visited the Church of Latter Day Saints. We left their locks glued with anarchist messages scrawled in spray paint over their boring veneer.

We did this to show our solidarity with all who are resisting heterosexism everywhere, hopefully to spur them into action
This is just the sort of thing that is picked up by the conservative echo-chamber and used to paint the entire gay community as a group of radical, deluded ass-hats (which the members of Bash Back obviously are). Unfortunately, a great many Americans listen to that echo chamber and put far too much credence in its claims. I hope that the folks in the gay community are as vocal about condemning this idiocy as they are about condemning Prop 8, or groups like this will always hold them back.

Thoreau on Living in California

Over at UO, a funny:
Every year during California’s fire season we inevitably get crap from people who want to know why Californians would build in fire-prone areas. What they don’t get is that we do it because we know the fires can only burn for so long. In a few weeks the rains will come and mudslide season will start, and then all those people who criticized us for building in fire-prone canyons will have egg on their faces, won’t they?
One of the reasons I love that blog. And two why I wouldn't want to live in CA.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ted Haggard is Really Totally Un-Gayified

Old Ted "Buttocks-and-Meth" Haggard is back on the pulpit, apparently.
He gave a pair of sermons at a small church in Illinois where the pastor is an old friend of his.
Hey, another reason for me to dislike Illinois!

That people actually sat there and listened to this hypocritical jagoff just illustrates the depth of evangelical Christian stupidity. I love this part:
"There I was, 50 years old, a conservative Republican, loving the word of God, an evangelical, born-again, spirit-filled, charismatic, all those things," he said. "But some of the things that were buried in the depths of the sea from when I was in the second grade started to rage in my heart and mind."
No, Ted: there you were, a closeted gay man, loudly advocating venomous bigotry against other homosexuals, but you couldn't bury your own sexual nature any more than you can heal through prayer.
"There came a moment in my life when we were so alone and there was so much despair that I was suicidal," he said. "And I'd figured out how I was going to kill myself and rid the world of the horrible curse of Ted Haggard."
My ass you were going to kill yourself. If there's one characteristic that all con artists like you share, it's an unshakable belief (and a correct one, unfortunately) that there's always another mark just around the corner. I look forward to your next scandal, Teddy.

Today's Comic

Friday, November 14, 2008

Former Milwaukee Archbishop Admits Secretly Relocating Abusive Priests

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an article and video footage of Rembert Weakland's testimony regarding how allegations of sexual abuse by Milwaukee area priests were handled while he was Archbishop. It's noteworthy in that it's the first case I know of wherein one of the Bishops involved in perpetuating the institutionalized child abuse has just come right out and admitted it point-blank. Among the low-lights:

-Weakland never discussed accusations of abuse with the accused priests

-Timothy Dolan, the new Archbishop, never sat down with Weakland to discuss abuse-related issues and what Weakland and others may have known (video 1:10)

Note: for those who grew up in the Milwaukee Archdioces, especially for those who knew this man, the video might be a little disturbing.


I was particularly angered at the following exchange, at about 6:30
If you would have informed the parishioners of the known risk of a priest like Wadera, you never could have assigned him to that parish, 'cause the people wouldn't have it, right?

W: Right, exactly.

And so what the practice was, was to not tell the people, and assign 'em, hoping that they would not re-offend.

W: Hope is.. uh.. too modest a word. (smiles slightly)

Making the choice to take the risk that they would not re-offend

W: With... with safeguards.

Is the Doctrine of Manifestation of Conscience, in your view, an admonition against asking somebody like (Accused priest Franklin) Becker "Did you abuse kids?"

W: Yes, it would be: he would not have to have answered that in the affirmative, to his bishop.

Would it be some kind of violation of norms, protocols, or laws for you as the Archbishop to have asked your priest that question?

W: As far as I know, it would have been contrary to what a bishop has a right to ask of his priest.

Contrary how? Your first duty is to the congregation, asshole. I was in sixth grade when you placed Becker where he could get at kids. I can only thank providence that you didn't place him at my parish.

I consider myself fortunate that I was never victimized by the predators this man sheltered. While I can't say that all of the priests I knew growing up were nice guys, they were all, AFAIK, decent and committed clergy. Many of them were wonderful men and good friends.

But what really appalls me is that this man, had you asked me my opinion before the scandal broke, would have numbered among those I admired and considered good people. I knew him. He confirmed me. I may have received first communion from him (I'm not sure on that one, though). That he was, during the time I knew him, abetting these jackals, makes me shudder. I could have been one of the children he threw into their clutches.

Exoplanets Observed Directly for the First Time

Science reports today that astronomers have finally observed extra-solar planetary bodies directly.
For 13 years, astronomers have inferred only the presence of planets circling other stars. Now, they have finally spotted them with their own eyes. In two papers published online today in Science, researchers report imaging four planets circling two other stars. Experts say this direct view could shed light on planet formation--and eventually even provide signs of alien life.

This is outstanding. It was cool that they were detecting exoplanets by analyzing the wobble patterns of the host stars, but this advance means that we can observe the planets without the need for time-consuming monitoring and data analysis. I'm sure the technology is only suitable for gas giants at present, but hey, it's a start!

HT: Newshoggers

Catholic Priest to Obama Voters: You're All Going to Hell!

Per the AP, Catholic Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Parish in Greenville, SC has instructed his parishioners that if they voted for Obama, they must receive Reconciliation before they can take communion.
The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.

"Our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president," Newman wrote, referring to Obama by his full name, including his middle name of Hussein.

"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."

So, Rev, what about supporting a candidate who sees nothing wrong with dropping bombs on 5-year old children? We do plenty of that in Iraq and Afghanistan, and apparently McCain & Co. had no particular qualms about doing the same in Iran. 'Course, those are just dirty brown Muslim children, so that's alright, yes?

This man is not an anomaly in the Catholic church in the US.
the nation's Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights.

So Obama will be "forcefully confronted". Yet, all of the statements made by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Iraq war have been qualified such that no real condemnation of the innocent lives lost was made. I'll take inconsistency of message for 2000, Alex.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quantum of Solace Review: Good, Solid Action Flick.

I got to go see the new Bond flick early, as a friend of mine got tickets to a preview showing.

Quantum is not as good as Casino Royale was, but I wasn't expecting that it would be: that's a fairly high bar to hit. It was a good movie, though. Good chase and fight scenes, decent plot movement, good show generally. It ran 1:45, not nearly as long as its prequel.

If I had a bitch about it, it would be that the chase and fight scenes are filmed so close, and at such a frenetic pace, that it can be hard to follow what's happening. Back off and cool down a bit. People will enjoy it more.

National Holiday for Obama? Joseph Farah Goes off the Deep End

Over at WorldNutDaily, Joseph Farah took a break from serving as one of Rush Limbaugh's hemorrhoids to chirp the following:
A civil rights organization in Kansas has launched a campaign to designate Nov. 4 as a national holiday, commemorating the election of Barack Obama as president.
Of course, Drudge picked up on it, Malkin chimed in, and the right-wing web community went into collective apoplexy.

And over what?

One loopy guy who calls himself "Bias Busters of Kansas" has been holding court in a downtown McDonald's in Topeka for some time, and had the hair-brained idea to lobby for November 4th to be declared a national holiday in celebration of an African American being elected president. Yes, the notion of a holiday in honor of a sitting president is silly. But the hysteria of the right is breathtaking. One random fool with a single follower (judging by the video here) does not equate to "a civil rights organization", much less the vast left-wing conspiracy the in-house harridan of PajamasMedia seems to see.

Try to maintain a bit of composure, folks.

Mark Lilla on the decline of Intellectual Conservatism

Honestly, I'm going to have to start paying Ed Brayton a finder's fee for hunting down good articles for me to read.

Over at the WSJ, Mr' Lilla has an excellent article on the fall of intellectual conservatism and the GOP. Worth a read. He describes the fall, as many have in recent months, as culminating with the selection of Sarah Palin as the VP nominee. His argument is that a re-emergent populism and the demonizing of intellectual prowess resulted in the low-brow conservative echo chamber which now controls the right's campaign machine:
So what happened? How, 30 years later, could younger conservative intellectuals promote a candidate like Sarah Palin, whose ignorance, provincialism and populist demagoguery represent everything older conservative thinkers once stood against? It's a sad tale that began in the '80s, when leading conservatives frustrated with the left-leaning press and university establishment began to speak of an "adversary culture of intellectuals." It was a phrase borrowed from the great literary critic Lionel Trilling, who used it to describe the disquiet at the heart of liberal societies. Now the idea was taken up and distorted by angry conservatives who saw adversaries everywhere and decided to cast their lot with "ordinary Americans" whom they hardly knew. In 1976 Irving Kristol publicly worried that "populist paranoia" was "subverting the very institutions and authorities that the democratic republic laboriously creates for the purpose of orderly self-government." But by the mid-'80s, he was telling readers of this newspaper that the "common sense" of ordinary Americans on matters like crime and education had been betrayed by "our disoriented elites," which is why "so many people -- and I include myself among them -- who would ordinarily worry about a populist upsurge find themselves so sympathetic to this new populism."

The die was cast. Over the next 25 years there grew up a new generation of conservative writers who cultivated none of their elders' intellectual virtues -- indeed, who saw themselves as counter-intellectuals. Most are well-educated and many have attended Ivy League universities; in fact, one of the masterminds of the Palin nomination was once a Harvard professor. But their function within the conservative movement is no longer to educate and ennoble a populist political tendency, it is to defend that tendency against the supposedly monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes. They mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders. They ridicule ambassadors and diplomats while promoting jingoistic journalists who have never lived abroad and speak no foreign languages. And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them.
This basically encompasses all of the grave missteps of the right over the last 2+ decades. The withdrawal from open fora and retreat to the rhetorical cocoon of talk radio and conservative think-tanks/web sites, the glorification of intellectual mediocrity and the offhanded dismissal of educated classes, the proffering of academia as inherently antithetical to conservative causes.

This sort of thing is now being openly said all over the media. Amazing how things can change in just a few weeks. Question is, will conservatives do anything to correct it?

If this woman is a source of their ideas, I'm thinking no.

Obama to Close Camp X-Ray, End Millitary Commissions

From Time, via Dispatches from the Culture Wars:
President-elect Obama's advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison
And with that, he's justified my vote. But there are aspects to this I'm not entirely sold on yet. He's closing the prison, which is awesome. He's releasing or moving into the Federal Court System most of the detainees, which is excellent. But then we get this:
A third group of detainees — the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information — might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks.
A special court designed to handle "sensitive national security cases". There's a red flag for me, right there. That seems to be a step right back toward the secret courts we have now. How would this court be different from the regular court system, one might ask? Well, the article goes on to state the reasons for having a special court, so one might glean a hint or two there:
"It would have to be some sort of hybrid that involves military commissions that actually administer justice rather than just serve as kangaroo courts," Tribe said. "It will have to both be and appear to be fundamentally fair in light of the circumstances. I think people are going to give an Obama administration the benefit of the doubt in that regard."

Though a hybrid court may be unpopular, other advisers and Democrats involved in the Guantanamo Bay discussions say Obama has few other options.

Prosecuting all detainees in federal courts raises a host of problems. Evidence gathered through military interrogation or from intelligence sources might be thrown out. Defendants would have the right to confront witnesses, meaning undercover CIA officers or terrorist turncoats might have to take the stand, jeopardizing their cover and revealing classified intelligence tactics.
So they have to be "fundamentally fair", while admitting evidence that would normally be deemed inadmissible, and preventing the defense from vigorously challenging testimony offered against the accused. This is progress, how? I mean, it's nice that we'll no longer be water-boarding innocent farmers along with the (very) few actual terrorists we pick up, but the above items are two of the 3 biggest problems with the commissions. If we are not capable of extending true due process in these cases, should we be trying them at all?

We have had a functioning civilian court system for 200+ years. It has dealt with sensitive material and testimony numerous times. I see no compelling reason to set up a new, quasi-opaque system just to deal with a few terrorism suspects. Our courts worked for the Mafia, they should work for terrorists. Unless, of course, the objective is to provide the government with the means to circumvent the law.

If your case can't pass muster in front of the court, the problem probably isn't the court: it's probably your case. Just sayin'.

Back again

Had to take a break for a while, got burnt out there. Glad the country survived the election: I guess the right's hysteria about the nation collapsing in the aftermath of an Obama victory was... slightly exaggerated?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wow. Just... wow.

Obama's speech was brilliant.

I also thought McCain's concession speech was excellent, and will always believe that if he had maintained his principles and not sold his soul to the GOP machine, that this election would certainly have gone much more favorably for him.

Fuck you and goodbye, Rove.
Fuck you and goodbye, Dobson.
Fuck you and goodbye (soon), W.

On Grandmas and Memories and Rectangular Poultry

Over at Margaret and Helen, there's a thread running off into infinity about grandma stories, due to the passing of Toot. I didn't want to post too extensively there, as there are currently close to 400 comments.

I remember very little about my paternal grandmother, who we called "Mama". My father grew up in Macon, but moved up to Milwaukee after a stint in the Navy to take a jobs with Allis-Chalmers. We visited her several times during my early childhood, and she and Papa came up to Milwaukee, too, but I was very young when she passed away. My memories are fragmentary, half a bespectacled face here, they warm, dry feel of her hand holding mine there, but little of a coherent nature. I remember a huge down bed in her house that my sisters and I played on, but was too tall for me to climb into: my oldest sister had to boost me up. I remember a broad boulevard in front of her house, or maybe just somewhere near, where I flew balsa wood planes. And I remember a small park nearby which to my delight had, as Bill Cosby put it, "one of those things, I don't know what they call it, but you sit on it and four of your friends spin you 'round and 'round for five minutes, and... then you throw up".

I was much more fortunate when it comes to my maternal grandmother. My mother's family was from here, and her parents lived just a few miles away.

Two things generally pop into my mind when I think of her. The first is a mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals: turkeys and hams and stuffing and gravy and pies and cakes and presents and lights - sort of a melange of Rockwellian dinners. I always assumed as a child that my grandmother was directing the kitchen work, and that my aunts were there to basically provide labor. That's how it's always done, right? Everyone's grandma is the best, most "from-scratch" cook they know.

Well, then I learned about "Square Chicken". It turns out that unlike most people's grandmothers, mine was not a kitchen virtuoso. The phrase was the prospective title of a book my mother and her siblings thought of compiling after she passed away, of some of her more, shall we say intriguing culinary exploits. It appears that one night she was thawing a block of chicken parts in the oven, and forgot she had put them in there. Hours later, noticing the oven light on, she opened the door to discover a solid, rectangular mass of chicken, well past it's prime. Don't know what she wound up serving that night, but the incident stuck in people's memory. Well, bless her, no one can be good at everything.

The second thing I think of is an image, a still frame, really, from when I was about six. I was up at my grandparent's lake home near Tomahawk, WI. It was the fourth of July weekend, and Grandma was being a pyro. She was born on the fifth, I gather that as a result her childhood birthday parties always involved a fair amount of ordnance. And she got "the good stuff" as we would say back then (now, almost anything is fair game in WI, but 30 years ago, all you could get legally were sparklers, smoke-bombs, small cones and fountains, etc). She had just lit the fuse of a "firecracker" - a cherry bomb by today's standards - and was running to get clear of the blast radius. She'd placed an empty tin can on it to see what damage she could cause. The look on her face is one of such fierce, unbridled, maniacal glee, it makes me pump my fist in the air just to think of it.

She was a loving, funny, intelligent, well-read, warm, highly educated, intriguing person: a conservative, devout Catholic housewife who could also spin hysterical stories about how she and her friends got around prohibition. She and my great aunt, her sister, knew where every speakeasy (umm... and whorehouse. Never asked how they knew that) in the city was, and most of the passwords you needed to get into them. She was wonderfully contradictory.

Miss you, grandma.

Election Day '08: After 2 Years, It's All On Us

The world is watching, people: go kick the GOP's ass:



My experience was a breeze: in and out in 5 minutes. I still wish Wisconsin did mail balloting like Oregon, though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Margaret and Helen: My Newest, Bestest, Favoritest Blog!

Read it. NOW.

The New GOP (or, Distillate of Retard)

As the powers driving the Republican party work feverishly to alienate any remaining intellectuals in their movement, they give us a glimpse of its future makeup:

Honestly: are there really that many bigoted ass-hats left in the US, or is the RNC trucking these people from site to site to make it look like they still have some support?

A Belated Happy Blogoversary

To Digital Cuttlefish, poet laureate of the science blogosphere. Check his site out: it's worth reading.

This Actually Made Me Cry

Video of an Obama campaign voluteer who lived throu the depression and recalls FDR.

It's really, finally going to be over? Dare we hope?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Llosa on the Conservative Revolt Against the GOP

Alvaro Vargas Llosa has written a brilliant summation over at The New Republic on the growing chasm between the old intellectual right and the Neo-con Religious Right alliance which currently controls the GOP. He runs through the laundry list of right-wing minds who have come out recently against McCain-Palin and the direction the GOP is heading, and the GOP faithful's reaction to these supposed betrayals. He explains the rift as a result of the deviation of the GOP from the principals of intellectual conservatism, and describes thusly:
This deviation expresses itself in different ways. First, in the confusion between Jeffersonian populism -- a salutary mistrust of economic power allied to political power--and class-based populism, which is what Republican leaders promote when they scorn America's coastal and big-city culture. Second, in the contradiction between a low-tax, low-spend policy and an interventionist foreign policy that, by definition, is costly--as every empire in the history of mankind eventually and painfully found out. Last, in modern-day Puritanism, which started, perhaps understandably, as a reaction against the cultural excesses of the 1960s but ended up turning into what H.L. Mencken described decades earlier as "grounded upon the inferior man's hatred of the man who is having a better time."
These fundamental deviations from conservatism crystallized in the Bush administration. The result was the biggest growth in government since the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, a loss of international prestige and, in purely political terms, the alienation of millions of people who could have been attracted to the Republican Party had its libertarian roots been preserved in dealing with social issues.

Hear, hear. And the Palin pick was the clearest illustration the Party could have given of the anti-intellectualism which has become so pervasive among the religious right and movement conservatives.

Read the whole article. Good stuff.

Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain's New Tax Plan: Sheer Brilliance

From Politico:
As part of a plan to reinvigorate his flagging campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is considering additional economic measures aimed directly at the middle class that are likely to be rolled out this week, campaign officials said.

Among the measures being considered are tax cuts – perhaps temporary – for capital gains and dividends, the officials said.

Pardon me while I spin around in my chair and go "Wheeeeee!!!!!!!"

Let's see: I'll save money on all those capital gains and dividends I'm earning right now...

HT: Obsidian Wings.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain/Palin Rally in Waukesha

McCain Palin held a unbridled orgy campaign rally in Waukesha, WI yesterday (I was wondering why those black clouds suddenly rolled in from the southeast and blotted out the sun). We 'Sconnies had our own, local look at the insanity that the GOP crowd has become.

The candidates whipped the drooling masses into a frenzy warmed the crowd up with charges of demon-worship and witchcraft harangues against the moldy old Ayers issue and some blather about ACORN, then proceeded to "take questions from the angry mob audience". That didn't quite work out. The crowd was not so much interested in asking questions as they were in giving advice and making demands. They want McCain/Palin to hit Obama harder with negative ads and attacks.

My first thought was "Harder? These people seem to be completely out of touch with what's been going on for the last month. What's harder than going 100% negative? What's harder than accusing him of being a terrorist and a traitor, and giving your followers your tacit approval when they scream out things like 'Kill Him!' during rallies?"

The only way he could get nastier with Obama would be to start taking these accusations up in his media interviews and the last debate. And I'm sure Obama would like nothing more than for McCain to do that. It would be the last nail in the coffin of the GOP campaign.

John McCain cannot win a war of guilt-by-association in any arena where people who read the newspaper and know anything about his history are to be found. He brings up Bill Ayers, an old, irrelevant, forgotten and failed 60's revolutionary who Obama only knows in passing, and Obama comes back with Charles Keating, who McCain actively abetted in the former's attempts to subvert thrift regulation. McCain brings up Jeremiah Wright, Obama counters with John Hagee. McCain brings up ACORN, and Obama can again counter with the Keating Five.

I'm not particularly surprised that people who would attend a McCain/Palin rally would think that this strategy would work. Between the media isolationism the right has been indulging in in the last 2 decades, and their more recent war on intellectualism, the GOP has been working very hard to produce an electoral base of mindless robots. They got what they wished for, bless their little hearts. And I do mean little.

Taking this tack would be suicide for McCain. And while McCain has had a notable talent for blunders recently, I don't think even he is clueless enough to commit this one. But he could yet prove me wrong.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oh: That's How McCain/Palin Will Fix the Financial System

From the Washington Post, a report on a McCain/Palin rally yesterday. The following opening prayer was used:
Even the opening prayer was politically charged. "O God, we are in a battle that is raging for the soul of this nation," the preacher said. "You, O God, have raised up Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin for such a time as this." The preacher went on: "Help them, O God, to strengthen our economy, to keep our taxes and spending low . . . and grant them the privilege of being elected the next president and vice president."

Well, at least he's announced his fiscal policy. "If I'm elected, everybody pray".

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sarah Palin on Ayers and the Economy

From Faux News, Palin was asked by her travelling press corps about whether she'd keep beating the oh-so-dead Ayers horse for the next month in the face of the prominence of economic issues:

“Americans are caring about the problems in the economy of course And wanting to know what those long term solutions are that our ticket can provide and what the other ticket is proposing so when you talk though about what it is that we are proposing and what it is that Barack Obama is proposing again it is relevant to connect that association that he has with Ayers–not so much he as a person Ayers, but the whole situation and the truthfulness and the judgment there that you must question if again he’s not being forthright in all of his answers as to how did you know him, when did you know him, why would you continue to be associated with him?” Palin asked, “It makes you wonder about the forthrightedness, the truthfulness of the plans that he is telling America in regards to the economic recovery because that is first and foremost on Americans’ minds.”


I'm sorry, Ms Fey, but not even you can top that.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sarah Palin Debate Flowchart

Palin Manages not to be Awful

She gave no solid answers, clung to her predetermined talking points, and generally chirped manically at the camera for an hour and a half. She never did an actual rhetorical face-plant, but she clearly didn't have a clue as to what she was talking about.

McCain doesn't have a chance.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Latest Daily Read: Eunomia

Gotta Hand it to David Larison at The American Conservative. There are precious few conservative bloggers who hold to the tradition of considered, reasoned discourse. He's worth a regular stop.



Update: Oops: Larison, not Larson.

LOLPalin

The Very Best of Sarah Palin

The Little Veep that Could:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sarah Palin on Climate Change

In the final installment of Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Curic. I had to snigger a bit at the climate change portion of the conversation:
Couric: I want to start with climate change, if I could. What's your position on global warming? Do you believe it's man-made or not?

Palin: Well, we're the only arctic state, of course, Alaska (ed: it's awfully nice that she's made us aware of this). So we feel the impacts more than any other state up there, with the changes in the climates. And certainly it is apparent. We have erosion issues and we have melting sea ice, of course. So what I've done up there is form a sub-cabinet to focus solely on climate change. Understanding that it is real.

Couric: Is it manmade in your opinion?

Palin: You know ... there are man's activities that can be contributed to ... the issues that we're dealing with now with these impacts. I'm not going to solely blame all of man's activities on changes in climate. Because the world's weather patterns ... are cyclical. And over history we have seen changes there. But kind of doesn't matter at this point, as we debate what caused it. The point is it's real, we need to do something about it. And like ... Tony Blair had said ... when he was in leadership position, he said, "Let's all consider the fact that it is real." So instead of pointing fingers ... at different sides of the argument as to who is to blame, and if nature just to blame, let's do something about it. Let's clean up our world. Let's reduce emissions. And let's go with reality.

That first section in the second response is a doozy. Pure water-treading. She'd better have it more on the ball than that tomorrow night.

That said, I have to admit that I'm somewhat heartened that she at least acknowledges that climate change is occurring. But exactly how is it that she thinks we can mitigate it if we didn't cause it in the first place?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Delisting of Wolves in the Midwest Overturned in Federal Court

Some people should just be spanked. This from today's Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel:
A federal judge on Monday overturned a decision that removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

The ruling immediately halts the practice of killing wolves that threaten livestock and pets in the three states.

OK, that's bad enough. Wolves have rebounded beautifully in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the upper midwest, and poulation pressure is forcing them into more heavily populated areas, placing them into close contact with farms and residential areas. But I love the judge's reasoning:
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington, D.C., said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could not remove wolves from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes region while wolves remained endangered in other parts of the country.

That is utter horseshit. It is absolutely possible to have a surfeit of an animal population in one area, while having a shortage in another (animals don't know from borders, your honor: they go where the food is).

Of course, the Humane Society, who brought the suit that led to the decision (BTW: the HS is qualified to speak on issues of wildlife management how?) is feeling smug and self-righteous about the decision:
Karlyn Berg, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States, said her organization was pleased by the ruling.

There are instances when problem wolves need to be killed, but she said, “people want to continue to go back to the old way of management that humans have to kill a certain number of wolves to make everything hunky dory.”

No, sweet little deluded darling: the old method was to kill any wolf on sight. The current method is to let them breed until they're up to our eye-teeth.

We we want to try a new way of management: maintaining populations at a sustainable level.

This is why I believe that in any case when wildlife management is under question, animal rights activists and most environmentalists should be patted on the head and led off into a corner somewhere to play with their dollies and blocks. It's all a Disneyesque, touchy-feely question for them. No brain cells allowed.

Now, I love wolves. I'll never forget the first time I heard a pack calling in northern Wisconsin while I was camping a few years back: it was a blustery early October night: cold, with snow flurries flying. Suddenly, the howls drifted into our campsite. The pack sounded very close, perhaps only a mile or two away. It was deliciously spooky.

But I don't let my admiration for the species overwhelm my judgment. These animal populations are no longer in a natural balance, and will never return to that balance as long as human civilization is present. We obliterate that balance simply by dint of our need for space and food. Until we control our own population, we have a responsibility to take an active hand in managing animal populations. Unfortunately, managing animal populations is not a one-way street. Expecting natural processes to control animal population growth is unrealistic in the extreme. A few years ago, sand hill cranes were all but unheard of in Wisconsin. Now we're hip deep in them. A few years ago there were almost no bald eagles here. Now we have over 1100 nesting pairs and they're dumpster-diving behind McDonald's.

Animal populations rebound, folks: and when they do, they often rebound hard (especially if the animals become acclimated to the presence of humans). We failed to move quickly enough to rein in the Canada Goose, and they are now actively pests in every urban area in the upper Midwest.

Maybe we should enlist the cat-people. Tell them that the wolves eat kitties, and those morons will go to war against PETA and its ilk. That'd be fun to watch.

Attack on Mosque Day-Care "Not a Hate Crime" According to Keystone Dayton Cops

"Nothing to see here, move along".

A mosque in Dayton, OH, was attacked Saturday, in an act that was obviously motivated by hatred and triggered by the distribution of the DVD "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West", an anti-Muslim screed promoted by McCain campaign supporters. Obviously, that is, to anyone but some clueless twit on the Dayton Police force.

Now, I oppose the idea of attaching extra penalties to a criminal act if the perpetrator is motivated by hate. Punishing someone more for doing something because they felt passionate about it rather than dispassionate doesn't make sense to me. But if you're going to have these types of laws on the books, exactly what is it about launching a chemical assault on children and infants based solely on their religious affiliation that doesn't apply?

Oh, and the careful word selection in the stories is not surprising, either. It's chemical "irritant", not agent or weapon. The men "sprayed a chemical into the mosque", they didn't "attack the mosque". And, of course, the word "terrorist" would never be used.

Imagine if a 10-year old Christian girl were sprayed in the face at church by two Arabic men during Advent. How much howling and outrage would there be? What kind of flashy graphics and 24-hour update crawls would accompany our newscasts for the next week?. Of course these are just little brown Muslim people: they don't count.

HT Pharyngula

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Washington Mutual Collapses, is Siezed by the OTS and Sold to JP Morgan-Chase

"The bailout came after the thrift suffered deposit outflows of $16.7 billion since September 15, the [Office of Thrift Supervision] said."

Holy fuck.

I worked for Washington mutual for 5 years, after they acquired my previous employer, Fleet Mortgage. They shut their Milwaukee site down last year after they dumped their entire government-backed mortgage portfolio on Wells Fargo. They kept the ARMs and other weird loan products.

Oops.

In the past couple of weeks, I've fielded several calls from my old employers, who were feeling me out to see if I'd be willing to come back on. Apparently, the people they hired to replace me at the new site weren't exactly working out as planned (not my fault: I trained them as well as I could in the time I was given). I told them I'd be happy to help out, but only if I could work from Milwaukee: I wasn't going to move to Florence, SC to work for a struggling company in a struggling industry, with no job security, for the same money I could make by staying where I am. It also only made sense for them: they'd save money by having me telecommute.

They were curiously reluctant to agree to my suggestion. I wonder if this didn't have something to do with that.

McCain-Palin Lied About Rick Davis and Davis Manafort

Via Newsweek, the lobbying firm Davis-Manafort listed Rick Davis as a corporate officer as recently as April of this year, and reported him as such in routine information disclosures to the Virginia Government. So much for him having severed his ties with the firm in 2006.

When informed of this state of affairs, according to Newsweek:
The McCain campaign Wednesday sought to clarify Davis's affiliation with his firm, but insisted that the new information contained in the corporate filings in Virginia didn't alter their basic points. "Rick Davis is functionally not affiliated with the firm," said (Jill) Hazelbaker, the communications director. "That is to say that, since he left, he in fact has not done any work for Davis Manafort or its clients, and he has not taken a salary or received compensation since 2006. Furthermore, he will not receive any deferred compensation."

Why am I skeptical towards this statement? Maybe because of the vehemence of the campaign's claims regarding his continued ties to the firm? Maybe because of the way they tried to smear the news outlets that reported on it in the first place?

It just blows my mind that these people think that they can bullshit the public and press and not get caught. As Andrew Sullivan opines, their lies are demonstrably lies, but this doesn't deter them from doing it. It's mind-boggling.

The GOP campaign is coming apart at the seams. I thought a month ago that the Palin pick was going to deep-six McCain's chances, but it looks like he and his handlers are doing a pretty thorough job of that without her help.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Federal Bailout Plan: You think I Should Respond?

Just got this email out of the blue:


SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

DEAR AMERICAN:

I NEED TO ASK YOU TO SUPPORT AN URGENT SECRET BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP WITH A TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF GREAT MAGNITUDE.

I AM MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY OF THE REPUBLIC OF AMERICA. MY COUNTRY HAS HAD CRISIS THAT HAS CAUSED THE NEED FOR LARGE TRANSFER OF FUNDS OF 800 BILLION DOLLARS US. IF YOU WOULD ASSIST ME IN THIS TRANSFER, IT WOULD BE MOST PROFITABLE TO YOU.

I AM WORKING WITH MR. PHIL GRAM, LOBBYIST FOR UBS, WHO WILL BE MY REPLACEMENT AS MINISTRY OF THE TREASURY IN JANUARY. AS A SENATOR, YOU MAY KNOW HIM AS THE LEADER OF THE AMERICAN BANKING DEREGULATION MOVEMENT IN THE 1990S. THIS TRANSACTIN IS 100% SAFE.

THIS IS A MATTER OF GREAT URGENCY. WE NEED A BLANK CHECK. WE NEED THE FUNDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. WE CANNOT DIRECTLY TRANSFER THESE FUNDS IN THE NAMES OF OUR CLOSE FRIENDS BECAUSE WE ARE CONSTANTLY UNDER SURVEILLANCE. MY FAMILY LAWYER ADVISED ME THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR A RELIABLE AND TRUSTWORTHY PERSON WHO WILL ACT AS A NEXT OF KIN SO THE FUNDS CAN BE TRANSFERRED.

PLEASE REPLY WITH ALL OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, IRA AND COLLEGE FUND ACCOUNT NUMBERS AND THOSE OF YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN TO WALLSTREETBAILOUT@TREASURY.GOV SO THAT WE MAY TRANSFER YOUR COMMISSION FOR THIS TRANSACTION. AFTER I RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, I WILL RESPOND WITH DETAILED INFORMATION ABOUT SAFEGUARDS THAT WILL BE USED TO PROTECT THE FUNDS.

YOURS FAITHFULLY MINISTER OF TREASURY PAULSON



Dunno, this sounds sort of familliar...

HT: Unqualified Offerings


Update: the original source is actually Angry Bear.

Large Hadron Collider to be Down 5-6 months

Well, that didn't take long: the folks at CERN already broke their new toy. Per Daily Tech, the repairs on the transformer that blew have revealed that the coolant for one of the superconducting magnets has leaked into the tunnel, and the process of warming the magnet back up, making the repairs, and cooling everything back down would take some two month. As the LHC shuts down every November to avoid the expense of winter-season electricity, there will be no further testing of the collider until next spring. So much for all of that QA testing they did in August.

That's why we can't have nice things!

Breaking News: Palin Aware She's Running for Office

In a stunning display of political savvy, Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin has become aware that she is running for national office, we learned today.

Foreign policy adviser Stephen Biegun, in responding to questions regarding Palin's meeting with Afghani President Hamid Karzai, stated that "Gov. Palin in these meetings is cognizant that she is a candidate for office".

Wow! She's got my vote!

Palin also met with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: the meeting with him "stretched from its scheduled 30 minutes to more than an hour". This could be due to one of two factors:

1) Kissinger had to repeat everything twice, or

2) it just took Palin a bit longer than expected to cut out and devour his heart in order to absorb his power.

Not sure which is the case, but Palin was seen to be wiping blood off of her chin when departing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sam Harris on the Palin Nomination and "Elitism" in Politics

Over at Newsweek, Sam Harris has published an excellent article on the Palin nomination as it relates to the odd aversion American voters have to "elitists" in high office. Definitely worth reading.

Sarah Palin Information Clearinghouse

DailySource.org has put up a special section containing all of the information its producers have been able to glean on Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. It contains a lot of the info that has been bouncing around the web for the last month, and a lot of stuff that hasn't really been circulated. Seeing as how the McCain campaign is bending over backwards to hide her from us, I think we all need to look at what little information is available so that we can make an informed decision in November.

Check it out.

At Last: Movement on the Great Lakes Compact

According to the New York Times, Congress has begun final debate on the Great Lakes Compact, a measure intended to prevent the large-scale diversion of water from the Great Lakes to regions outside of its watershed. It's been some dozen painful, contentious years in the making, and it's good to see that decade of effort bearing some fruit. Living, as I do, in Milwaukee, WI on Lake Michigan's western shore, the issue of water diversion is one near and dear to me. I'm an outdoor enthusiast, and a great deal of my leisure time is spent out on the water. The idea of pipelines being sunk into the Lakes to feed the irresponsible usage seen in places like L.A. and Vegas is one that people in my region have been uneasy about for some time. Hopefully, this will stymie such efforts and protect an invaluable resource.


Update: According to the Great Lakes Law blog, Rep Bart Stupak of Michigan has used procedural manipulation to delay passage of the bill. Stupak has been a dogged and irritating obstacle to the compact, not because he opposes conservation, but because he is a purist who refuses to support anything that doesn't give him 110% of what he wants. Congress adjourns next week, so swift movement on this issue would really be a good thing.


Update 2: The House has passed the bill, and Bush is expected to sign it. A good day for the Great Lakes

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sarah Palin - Gravitassiness!

Via Octegenarian, we see that our perky, scrappy, airplane-hunting, super-powered, budget-cutting, government-reforming, earmark-fighting VPSIMLTF (Vice President Someone Insane Might Like to Hey!!) is going to address concerns about her foreign affairs inexperience by MEETING WITH HENRY KISSINGER! Yes! All of that foreign affairsiness that Kissinger trails around behind him like a cloud will be absorbed by the Little Engine That Could and will turn her into executive material!

And next week, George H. Bush will travel with her to Japan and teach her about world trade issues by having her puke in the lap of the Prime Minister!

Bravissimo!

A GOP Bailout Copout?

Via Andrew Sullivan, some republican voices are of the opinion that Republican legislators should oppose the bailout plan being put together by the Bush administration and Democratic congressional leaders. Their reasoning is so profoundly cynical, I scarcely believe it's sincere. They don't oppose a bailout because it's unwise (which could be argued, if one is a hardcore free-market capitalist), or that the proposal as it stands is unwise (which could definitely be argued regardless of your views). They think GOPhers should oppose it simply to have their opposition on record: so they can come back and claim that they were championing fiscal conservatism.

Now, being of a generally libertarian/free market bent, I'm ambivalent about the proposal: I don't think that it has been considered carefully by people who can understand it and either support or oppose it on an informed basis (I certainly wouldn't trust much of our Congress to understand its potential impact). I don't know that a bailout is necessary, period: long term economic health may be better if we just let this house of cards fall (disclosure: I have worked in the mortgage servicing industry for 15 years, and as such would see my employment prospects damaged as a result of allowing the mortgage industry to founder).

And I simply don't like the idea of passing legislation that has this much impact on us in an environment of panic. That's how we wound up with the USA PATRIOT Act. So I'm not exactly enthusiastic about the plan.

But to simply oppose it as campaign fodder is petty and irresponsible. The bailout, if one must occur, should be carefully considered by all legislators. If one sees an area of weakness that can be improved, it is the responsibility of every legislator to get involved and create the best possible outcome. These people are proposing that sitting legislators with obligations to this nation absent themselves from the process of governing in order to create a talking point.

So much for putting the nation first.

The Woman Who Would Be President

Washington Post has an article up regarding the efforts of the McCain campaign to shield his new squeeze his pick for veep from scrutiny by the American electorate. She has given only one "interview", a heavily scripted and edited mess of softballs from Charlie Gibson, and has otherwise courted the press like Bill Donohue courts PZ Myers (I won't dignify that oral-sex session with Sean Hannity by calling it an interview). The article states, in part:

Mr. McCain's selection of an inexperienced and relatively unknown figure was unsettling, and the campaign's decision to keep her sequestered from serious interchanges with reporters and voters serves only to deepen the unease. Mr. McCain is entitled to choose the person he thinks would be best for the job. He is not entitled to keep the public from being able to make an informed assessment of that judgment. Ms. Palin's speech-making skills are impressive, but the more she repeats the same stump speech lines, the queasier we get. Nor have her answers to the gentle questioning she has encountered provided any confidence that Ms. Palin has a grasp of the issues.


Queasiness, indeed: it was obvious at the outset that this was a simple demographic-based selection: but the campaign is obviously terrified of what Palin would do to their chances if the media were allowed to challenge her. This does not bode well for the impact on this country (and the rest of the world, for that matter) should Palin rise to the office of President.

I'm becoming a one-note trumpet, I know: but I haven't had such an uneasy feeling about a candidate since I first became eligible to vote. I guess I wouldn't object to her so strenuously if McCain had a better health history: but there is a significant chance that McCain will die before serving out his term. And the idea that someone who isn't even familiar with the Bush Doctrine, perhaps the single biggest watershed change in American foreign policy since the Teddy Roosevelt administration, might wind up commanding our military and determining the course of global politics, should make everyone queasy.

Imagine that Dan Quayle had become president (disclosure: I voted for H, and still think history gave him a raw deal). Think about it. President Quayle. Now make him a naive yokel who has had zero exposure to the rough and tumble of national politics.

Bit of a gut check, no?


Update: added a link to the WaPo source article.

Sarah Palin: No Elaboration Needed



via HERB

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

New Favorite Sports Columnist

Ben Smith, of the Fort Wayne, IN Journal-Gazette. Funny stuff.

Been There So Long, I Got to Callin' it Home

Back from the cottage again: it's getting on time to close it up for the season. Last few nights were downright chilly. Nice weekend, though: aside from the one huge downpour. Most everyone has packed it in already, so I pretty much had the place to myself.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sarah Palin is Damned Scary

If McCain is elected but doesn't live through his term (a distinct possibility for a 76 year old man with a history of cancer), this is what we get for a president. These are the people she associates with, befriends, spends one day out of seven with:



Jesus Christ on a carousel. Are Americans really stupid enough to give this twit the reins of power?

In Which I Smugly Declare That The Green Bay Packers Can Win Behind Aaron Rodgers

Ha!

HA!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

That was a fun goddamned game. Fuck the Vikings and their shit-talking. And fuck the idiots who have been whining about Favre. The Pack will be just fine.

Oh, and Jared Allen: fuck you, too.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fun With Casey Luskin and the Discovery Institute

Oh, am I ever envious. But I have to admire what intelekshual over on Enemy Combatant Trailmix Appreciation Club and a friend of hers did recently: got buzzed up and crashed the Discovery Institute. They were treated to a tour by none other than the Disco's furious attack gerbil, Casey Luskin. What a hoot! She posted the experience in four parts:

Part One


Part Two

Part Three

Denouement

If Luskin wasn't such a slimy little liar, I'd be tempted to feel sorry for him. But he is a slimy little liar, so I don't. I just wish I had thought of it (Not that it would have done much good, since I'm about 1200 miles from Disco Tech).

Palin for President! Just not Sarah.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

McCain Vs. Bush

This must be seen by everyone possible:



I love Stewart.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Skippy's List: A Must-Read For Anyone Needing a Laugh

I remember coming accross this blog once before, I know I've seen the Cephalopod Surprize story: but I lost track of it until just recently. Skippy's List is an hysterical look at life in the millitary (and elsewhere). The crew that posts there looks like quality. Highly recommended as a regular stop.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Tim Minchin

Continuing on my somewhat maudlin mood for the day: a Tim Minchin clip that I had not previously seen.

Today, I am No Longer Catholic

I've tried: lord, I've tried.

I was raised in a fairly moderate Catholic family. No idiocy like that which has surrounded Crackergate, or the story coming out of the UK about how demons cause STD's and are spread by in-vitro-fertilization. No belief in trans-substantiation (though the same cannot be said of my grandparents), demonic possession, or hell. In short, fairly open-minded, middle-of-the-road white-bread Christianity. My mother's family are very conservative Opus Dei, John Bircher types, but both of my parents are fairly mellow.

But is there any particular point in being such a Catholic? I can't find one anymore. I simply can't accept that God would send himself down to Earth in order to sacrifice himself to himself to try to convince himself not to punish every man, woman, and child that has ever lived for non-sins that were never committed by two people who never existed. That a being capable of creating the cosmos would take a deep and abiding interest in what parts of our bodies we rub on whom. That there is value in sacrifice, or suffering, or the rote performance of sacraments. If one cannot accept these things, is there a point in remaining a member of such a faith group?

I used to find value in the performance of the rituals, the taking of the steps themselves whether or not one accepted the dogma. Kind of like doing yoga or Taiji Chuan without believing that you have invisible energy lines running through your guts (Qi). But the older I've gotten, the more pointless it all seems to be. If there is a God, how could such actions or such belief possibly be of any value to it?

I started drifting away from the Church over two decades ago, in high school (a Catholic, Jesuit high school, before anyone starts babbling about how secular public schooling leads to a loss of faith). The Jebbies taught us to question our faith: that doing so was a healthy part of one's spiritual development. I guess I just questioned a little harder than they intended.

So I really haven't been much of a Catholic for some time, but I guess the garbage that's been coming out of Church leadership and out of loose cannons like Bill the Perpetually Offended has pushed me over the edge. I just can't have any respect for the Church as an institution, as a philosophy, or even as a theraputic set of rituals. I give up. I quit.

I don't think that I can call myself atheist or even agnostic at this point: giving up on the comforting idea that there might just be a guiding purpose behind the universe is something I do find myself shying away from, though I'm not entirely sure why this should be so. I guess I'd test out as a Taoist Deist, if one were to examine my remaining beliefs. But I think I'll stop describing myself as having been "raised Catholic" when people ask about my religious beliefs, as I have been doing for years. I like many others, answer this way to avoid starting religious conversations with family and others which we would rather not have. From now on, it's just "I don't belong to any church".

Of course, the Catholic Church would contest me on that. They marked me at my Baptism like a dog spraying a bush. There's an invisible mark on my soul, and as a 16-year old I dutifully and without significant consideration reinforced that mark by going through Confirmation, like all good Catholic boys did at that age.

But so what, says I, If I no longer believe in invisible marks (or souls, for that matter)? Just another bullshit article of faith on the pyre.

Turtles All the Way Down: Why Mt Vernon, Ohio Will Learn No Lesson from the John Freshwater Mess

In perusing the interwebs today, I came across a couple of articles which rather succinctly illustrate the forehead-smacking futility of trying to deal with hard-core theists on the subject of religion in education. Both are from the Zanesville Times Recorder Opinion page. The first, by managing editor Len Lacara, explains the situation as both sides see it: from the point of view of Freshwater's supporters, and his detractors. He provides links to web sites defending the teacher's actions (or attempting to), and then explains that the defenders are wrong.

Enter concerned citizen Jeff Fraunfelter a few days later. I won't bother with a fisking of Fraunfelter's letter, as a casual perusal of it's content should be sufficient for any reader to see that it neither addresses the content of the original editorial, nor does it offer support for any cogent argument: it is merely a string of tired creationist tropes, from the label 'liberal' in the first sentence, to the 'why don't you go pick on Islam' gripe to the 'only a theory' saw. Not impressive.

But this illustrates the core problem: one side of this argument is just not interested in learning anything. He has been handed a set of talking points by the religious leaders he trusts and is simply asserting them as unassailable truth. Anyone who might provide information contradicting his claims is dismissed as 'liberal', 'secular-humanist', 'anti-Christian', or 'a member of the elite'.

One of the unfortunate results of the internet age is that religious conservatives, particularly creationists, have created a virtual reality of their own, a misinformation network in which they make bald assertions, and then refer to each others' assertions as 'evidence' in later writings/arguments. The phenomenon started with talk radio, which allowed them to ignore the newspapers and television, and spoon-fed them filtered Truth
. Now that we have the Web, they've got the WorldNutDaily, One News Now, Answers in Genesis, Conservapedia, and so on.

Which, of course, only drives home the argument that we need quality science education so we can drag these poor kids out of the morass of ignorance their parents live in. To do otherwise is not only to turn our backs on them, but to seriously hobble our future and that of our own children. And I don't give a rat's ass if that makes me an anti-Christian liberal commie pinko fascist Nazi atheist Satan-worshiping member of the homosexual agenda, or whatever.

Tim Minchin on Being Open-Minded

This blog is in danger of turning into an appendage of YouTube, but I had to share this: I love Tim Minchin's comedy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Arkansas Sen Mark Prior: " Maybe Snakes Can Talk"

A clip from Bill Maher's upcoming movie "Religulous". The look on Maher's face at the end is priceless:



As the saying goes, sometimes the jokes write themselves.

McCain: "The Invasion of Czekoslovakia is Off"

At least, that's what I'm taking away from this clip:

On Fundamentalists and Anonymous Blogging

Anyone familiar with the blog Atheist in a Minivan (aka Possummomma) knows that someone who admits to an absence of religious faith on the internet can draw some pretty intense and unsettling attention from the God-botherer crowd. The blogger, Possummomma, has been harassed by email and at her home, had her daughter stalked by a preacher on her way to and from school, and been subjected to other "spreading of the good news" which she is understandably reluctant to discuss. This, of course, is entirely irrespective of the endless parade of religious whackaloons who traipse through her blog and try to reclaim her for the Zombie Messiah. She is not alone in this: others, such as Prof. PZ Myers, have received death threats.

A few weeks before this post was written, an atheist blogger who had been going by the name William J. Isom revealed himself as Craig A. James and issued a call for others to "come out". He states in essence that previous civil movements promoting equality for minorities succeeded because of people who stood up and rattled the cages of the established powers that be.

While I'm entirely in agreement that this was appropriate in the case of the womens' and civil rights movements, I'm not sure I buy his argument as it applies to non-believers. The rights movements of the 20th century were able to succeed because the mistreatment was based on factors which the abused did not consciously choose: you are born female or black. Those of us who abandon religion, however, do so out of choice. This does not carry the potential for empathy which physical factors beyond one's control can draw out. In essence, the populace at large doesn't give a damn about non-believers, because our situation is seen as one of our own making. This is, I think, a big reason why abuse of atheists and agnostics does not make the news: no one really gives a shit. Non-believers are on their own.

Hell, look at what society does to homosexuals, because of the FALSE perception that being gay is a "lifestyle choice". Our decision is TRULY a choice: what fucking chance do we have?

So, I think I will remain anonymous, thank you very much. While I have no fear for my own safety (I actively practice my second amendment rights), I don't trust that some well-intended but bat-shit insane god-botherer from the boonies won't shine around and harass my family to try to use them as leverage to "bring me back to Christ".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Latest on Crackergate: No Expulsion for Webster Cook

The insanity never dies: but there's at least one positive development: the UCF students at the heart of it all will not be expelled.

Now, one would think this would be a given: it's a public university, and any disagreements a student might have with a local religious group should not affect his status, unless he attacks someone or something (and NO, mishandling a host does not count as an attack on someone). But apparently the school's rules provide that if a complaint is raised using certain channels, the University has to hold a hearing and review the issue. This they have done.

As kind of a appertif' to the whole frenzy, Sastra weaves a rather apt analogy over at Pharyngula which is worth a read.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

StrangeBedfellows, or: a Bit of Sanity Returns to American Politics?

I'm admittedly a bit behind the curve on this one: I've spent most of my summer at a lake home I've rented outside of town, and haven't had Interweb access (or even much in the way of TV).

There's a new Left/Right political coalition forming in the US, based on citizens' exasperation with the repeated attacks by government on our civil liberties. BreakTheMatrix, an organization started by some of the folks involved in creating the Ron Paul "Money Bombs" of last fall, is raising money for the Accountability Now PAC. This PAC, which grew out of left-wing activism but now incorporates a lot of centrist and conservative elements, is dedicated to supporting candidates, regardless of party, who advocate the repeal of the measures the last few Congresses have passed that gut our freedoms and empower the imperial presidency.

The Art of the Possible has a couple of posts covering the effort, and I have to admit I'm both intrigued and heartened. I'm a big fan of the American Freedom Agenda (surprise) and the associated American Freedom Agenda Act, and the idea that people out there on both sides of the aisle are interested in actively and seriously pursuing a civil-liberties political agenda after years of partisan nonsense is refreshing, to say the least. I'll be watching these folks closely: should be interesting.

Via Unqualified Offerings, belatedly.

Aaron Rodgers Looks Solid in Debut - or, Can We Stop Moaning About Favre NOW?



The interception on the second drive was unfortunate, but not Rodgers' fault: the ball was tipped. Other than that, I think he put in a solid performance: his passes were on the money for the most part. Yes, two were overthrown, one of them badly: but we're used to having that out of old #4. He used to throw it into the stands his first couple of years.

I think this will be a good season for Green Bay. Even though the Packers' schedule is pretty tough, with a five-game stretch in the first half of the season including Dallas, Tampa, Seattle, and the Colts, I could see them taking the division and getting a game or two into the playoffs.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Preacher Kills Wife, Rapes Daughter: No One Cares

I'm hardly the first person to be posting on this story, I know. But there's a rather odd aspect to it I just don't get. Anthony Hopkins (obviously no relation), a charismatic preacher in Jacksonville, Alabama, had a problem. He was whiling away the evening molesting his daughter (surprising in clergy, I know), when his wife walked into the room and caught him in the act. For some reason, she was upset about this state of affairs (sorry), and kicked him out of the house.

After wheedling his daughter into letting him in through a window, he killed his wife and stuffed the body in a freezer chest.

Now here's the problem: he's a preacher, and both he and his wife are well known in local parishes. For her to suddenly disappear without a trace might raise some suspicion in some circles, no? So how does he explain it away? He claims she died as a result of the birth of their most recent child and prays that no one notices that he never had a funeral for her, (or, at least, never invited any of his friends to it).

Turns out he needn't have worried. The other clergy and parishioners seem to have been singularly incurious about her fate. His pastor, after inquiring about it, was suspicious, but not enough that he notified police. Neighbors said nothing. If she had friends outside their home, they said nothing.

WHO THE HELL ARE THESE MORONS?

These are all supposed to be god-afearin', caring, old-time family and neighborhood folk. Maybury types. Watch out for one another and such. And no one lifts a finger regarding this woman's disappearance for 4 blasted years. Meanwhile, I highly doubt that the sexual molestation stopped.

Is this what Jesus would do?

Spit Check!

Titled: "Frustration".


Thanks, XKCD!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Selwyn Duke Gets it Wrong on David Davis - Part II

The first thing about Duke's preposterous screed on the Gillman decision that tripped my trigger is his claim that students do not have the right to voice dissent.
I can’t think of anything more laughable than describing students as “dissenters.” Governments have dissenters; politicians have dissenters; political parties and organizations have dissenters; but schools’ charges are children, individuals over whom they have dominion while class is in session.
Bzzt. Wrong. Try again, Mr. Duke. Had you read the full decision on Gillman, and were you honest about familiar with the applicable precedent, you would be aware that in Holloman v. Harland SCOTUS found that First Amendment rights to free speech "unquestionably exist in public schools".

Next we have his argument that they shouldn't be granted First Amendment rights:
The problem with arguing for any kind of student expression based upon the First Amendment is that we don’t ascribe to children an adult set of rights. Minors may not vote, join the military, drive, buy alcohol or cigarettes, or enter into contracts, for instance. Likewise, students don’t really have free-speech rights in school (see Bethel School District v. Fraser, for instance). If I want to pepper a schoolteacher with profanity and tell him off, that is my right. But if I were 30 years younger and in his class, a trip to the principal’s office would be in the offing.
I see several problems with this statement. Firstly, the idea that because we don't extend full adult privileges, that children have no First Amendment rights. This is preposterous on its face. There is ample legal precedent extending First Amendment rights to minors: for instance, decisions upholding students' rights to freely exercise their religious views in school (albeit outside the classroom). Would Mr Duke agree that students shouldn't have a right to form prayer and bible study groups in their schools, or "meet at the flag" groups, should the local school board or the school administration deem them innapropriate? Somehow, I think not.

Secondly, his citation of the Bethel decision. Once again, Mr Duke is lying through his teeth being disingenuous. The judge in the Gillman case, Richard Smoak, specifically mentions Bethel in his decision. Bethel's controls are on speech that is "vulgar, lewd, obscene, or plainly offensive". His finding was that the speech in question is pure student expression, and so Bethel doesn't apply. The proper precedent is Tinker, which asserts students' rights. Incidentally, the Holmes County School Board actually agreed that the students actions, clothing, and speech were not offensive, vulgar, etc.

Lastly, exactly where does "pepper a schoolteacher with profanity and tell him off" come into play here? Selwyn seems to be referencing a case entirely divorced from Gillman. At no point was any schoolteacher verbally abused by a student. In fact not even the principal, who really rather asked for some verbal abuse, received any. Whose ass did he pull that out of Where did that statement come from?

These students are about to enter society at large. Stifling the few liberties they enjoy will not teach them to be responsible citizens, to protect their freedoms and participate in the political process. To quote the Tinker court (via the Gillman decision):
The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools. The classroom is peculiarly the ‘marketplace of
ideas.’ The Nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to that robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth ‘out of a multitude of tongues, (rather) than through any kind of authoritative selection'.
'Course, Duke's blather wouldn't be a true right-fringe rant without the following:
Of course, some may not like the values inherent in Principal Davis’ actions. My response to them is that they don’t have to live in places such as Ponce de Leon, Fla.
"If you don't like George Bush, whyoncha move to Eyeraq, damned libruls".

I can only say that I hope that some of the students involved in this fiasco remain in Holmes County, FL and try to insure that future generations of students aren't treated the way their generation has been.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Selwyn Duke Gets it Wrong on David Davis

Ooh, dear: Selwyn Duke is unhappy that a man was punished for abusing his students. Further, he is outraged that any high school student might be allowed to publicly voice opinions which are contrary to the opinion of the mob. In an article in the Birchers' newspaper fallaciously titled " Principal Fired for Pushing Anti-homosexual Agenda" he writes:

A judge ruled that a Florida principal violated his students’ free-speech rights by squelching pro-homosexual messages. He blasted the educator for misunderstanding the First Amendment, but who is truly ignorant of it?

If there ever was an example of inmates running an asylum, it’s the modern government-school system. Thanks to numerous court rulings, students can now buck authority with the freedom to wear clothing and espouse political and social messages that their school – perhaps reflecting the wider community’s standards – deems objectionable.

Oh, dear Bog! They might wear clothing espousing objectionable views! They might... gasp! THINK!

Well: we can't have that.

I should mention that the article's title is inaccurate because he was not removed from the school system: he was removed from the office of principal and demoted to a teaching position. Duke was unquestionably correct in that Davis was pushing an anti-homosexual agenda. Actually, an abusive and hateful agenda, homosexuality related or no.

But, while I feel a great deal of trepidation about an idiot like this teaching American Government class, at least he's no longer abusing his administrative authority to grope his female students. Something that people like Selwyn Duke don't seem to find objectionable.

More on this tomorrow: I'm for bed.

Gillman Vs Holmes County School Board

Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, a decision has been handed down ( read it here) in the Florida case of a school principal who went on a one-man witch hunt against student political expression at his school. David Davis, in responding to a complaint by a 12th grade student that others at the school had harassed her for being a lesbian, ridiculed and condemned her rather than taking action against her aggressors. He then called her parents and outed her to them (which nearly resulted in her being kicked out of her home), and drove her out of his office in tears. Real nice guy.

But that was only the start. Other students got wind of what happened and tried to simply show their support for her by wearing messages on their t-shirts and indulging in other mild forms of self expression (there was talk of walking out of an emergency "Morality Assembly" that Davis called, but nothing ever came of it). Davis called this activity membership in an "illegal/secret organization", and suspended several students for a week. A student named Heather Gillman, a friend of the original victim and cousin of another of Davis's targets, complained to the School Board, which basically told her to take a hike. So she sued, and won. Handily. The decision went entirely against the school board.

But all this has been covered elsewhere. The little tidbit that made me go "WTF?" can be found on page 4 of the complaint:
Following the assembly, Davis began investigating what had come to be known as the “Gay Pride” movement at the school. He interviewed approximately thirty students, interrogated them about their sexual orientations, and questioned them about their involvement in the planned walk-out of the assembly and their activities in relation to the movement. During those meetings, Davis instructed students who were homosexual not to discuss their sexual orientations. He also prohibited students from wearing rainbow belts or writing “Gay Pride” or “GP” on their arms and notebooks. He required students to wash “GP” or “Gay Pride” from their arms and hands and lifted the shirts of female students to verify that no such writings were present on their bodies.
So we have an adult male in an authority position, during a disciplinary process, singling out female students and partially disrobing them. And the Board didn't feel that this warranted any attention: not even a phone call to Davis to clarify what happened. I don't think either the investigation or the law suit went far enough here: this guy is not someone I would want around my daughter.

Update: Oh the irony. I never saw this part (HT: Pam's House Blend). According to Davis, it's OK to wear a Confederate flag. A symbol of a group of people who tried to destroy this nation isn't divisive or offensive. Supporting a friend, however, is.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again in the future: if homosexuals spent one tenth as much time thinking about gay sex as evangelical Christians do, homosexuals would never get anything done.