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.