Saturday, March 31, 2007

Chocolate salty Jesus

Please please please PLEASE someone tell me this guy does not speak for the majority of Christians out there (I'm referring to Bill Donohue, of course). I almost feel sorry for Donohue in the clip of him on Anderson Cooper--he can't seem to get the artist, Cosmo Cavallaro, to sink to his level. "You're talking like a 5-year old."

The artist has a right to create art as he sees fit, and Donohue has a right to make an ass of himself. I have a right to wonder why on earth someone would want to make a Jesus out of chocolate and why someone would think it is somehow blasphemous. I mean, leaving aside issues of free speech and such, what is the big deal here? Is it the chocolate? What's wrong with chocolate? Is it that he's nude and anatomically correct? I can't quite figure it out (I also haven't been to church lately, so maybe they've changed some things.) I know that we're supposed to be ashamed of our genitalia, so it could stand to reason that we should pretend Jesus didn't have any. I don't recall a Biblical proscription on chocolate--had it even been invented when Leviticus was written? Anyway, Donohue is a dick.

While you're at it, lay off of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

The latest from the United Nations:
Islamic countries pushed through a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday urging a global prohibition on the public defamation of religion _ a response largely to the furor last year over caricatures published in a Danish newspaper of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
That's a great idea. I assume, of course, that the final global prohibition will prevent anyone from defaming any religious belief. Will Muslims be encouraged to stop calling non-Muslims "infidels"? Will Christians be encouraged to stop using the word "crusade"? Will everyone be encouraged to stop using "godless" as a synonym for "evil"? If the whole world is required to respect (or at least not defame) all other religions, the same must apply to the lack thereof. I'd better not hear anyone making fun of Zeus and Apollo. No more calling Thor a "homo" either.

This really is a great idea. How will the UN enforce this--economic sanctions? Canadian peacekeeping forces to prevent further insult-hurling? Perhaps a joint Malaysian and Ghanaian peacekeeping force could be deployed to Copenhagen to prevent further newspaper cartoons. Could a UN-backed global prohibition be all we really need to put an end to sectarian violence once and for all? And would it mean and end to quality programming like this:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

At last, some good news

And a great headline:
Dear Bush: Suck It. Love, Senate Republicans

Live action anime!!!

I know it's not nice to pick on kids, but I think there's an exception if they are also Paris runway models (and yes, I realize this is my second post today about fashion models--it's not becoming a trend.) Anyway, I found this here, via Cruel.com. Apparently these are really her eyes:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Check out the original site. It's disquieting. Just thought I'd share.

No they didn't...

Truth be told, I have never seen a single episode of America's Next Top Model, and before reading about this today, I already would have said I never will. Now I'm too dumbfounded to even find the TV remote.
Ain’t nothin’ hotter than a dead girl. That’s the take-away message from this week’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, in which Tyra “I care so much about my girls” Banks & co. created the most brazen bit of ad-industry misogyny ever to grace the reality TV genre: an entire episode presenting a gaggle of underfed model wannabes as the mutilated, mangled and murdered epitome of beauty.
The story has a link to the pictures, along with comments from the show's judges about how beautiful the girls look pretending to be dead and mutilated (several also have fake bruises--in the sense that the bruising probably caused the death.)

As I have stated before, I do not have a problem with people doing what they want, so long as there is informed consent all around and no one gets hurt. I will assume, for the sake of argument, that all models depicted herein consented to have fake blood and brain matter splashed on the wall behind them and so forth. I'm more troubled by the fact that this is considered "beautiful" or "entertaining" at all. I have my doubts that this little presentation is any more likely to lead to more violence against women than the average episode of CSI (dead showgirl of the week). This is more like a slightly-higher-concept Friday the 13th--array a bunch of hotties, provide little emotinal connection, then knock them off in a series of unoriginal and dramatically unsatisfying ways. How many people genuinely find this entertaining?

I am somewhat reminded of the Coliseum scenes in Gladiator ("Are you not entertained?")--after the film I recall remarking to a friend that our culture is still in decent shape, at least compared to what Romans found entertaining. I'm less sure now.

I guess this is one right we do have! - UPDATED

At least this person still believes in some part of the Constitution:
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' liaison with the White House will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, citing her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

"I have decided to follow my lawyer's advice and respectfully invoke my constitutional right," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' counsel and White House liaison, said in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Of course she has that right, and of course Congress is not supposed to draw any directly negative inference from her refusal to testify.

Still, I have to wonder...if, in Alberto-world, there is no express grant of the right of habeas corpus despite this language in the Constitution...
The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
...then how do we really know that this grants us the right to protection from self-incrimination?
No person shall be...compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.
Of course, I'm being sarcastic, and I wholeheartedly disagree with the Alberto-world way of seeing things. I suppose I should be grateful that his peeps occasionally do see rights inherent in the Constitution.

UPDATE: Here's a pretty good analysis of the Fifth Amendment and the circumstances under which a witness is permitted to refuse to testify--in short, you can't take the Fifth to protect someone else from incrimination, and you can't do it to avoid committing perjury (which is a pretty lame excuse anyway).

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ewwwwww

Here's an urban hazard few saw coming:
TAIPEI - Residents of Tainan learned a lesson in whale biology after the decomposing remains of a 60-ton sperm whale exploded on a busy street, showering nearby cars and shops with blood and organs and stopping traffic for hours.

The 56-foot-long whale had been on a truck headed for a necropsy by researchers, when gases from internal decay caused its entrails to explode in the southern city of Tainan.


REMAINS FROM WHALE THAT EXPLODED
Damn.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hold on a second...

From the Dallas Morning News:
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., one of the country's pre-eminent evangelical leaders, acknowledged that he irked many fellow conservatives with an article this month saying that scientific research "points to some level of biological causation" for homosexuality.

Proof of a biological basis would challenge the belief of many conservative Christians that homosexuality – which they view as sinful – is a matter of choice that can be overcome through prayer and counseling.

However, Dr. Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was assailed even more harshly by gay-rights supporters. They were upset by his assertion that homosexuality would remain a sin even if it were biologically based, and by his support for possible medical treatment that could switch an unborn gay baby's sexual orientation to heterosexual.
Far be it for me to say what's what on matters of faith, but I gotta say that Dr. Mohler can't have it both ways. Either it's a lifestyle choice, in which a remarkable number of people have chosen ostracism (and fabulosity!); or it's a biological defect, in which case we're darn lucky to have someone like Dr. Mohler to repair God's gigantic fuck-up.

As I have often wondered, now that we've solved the gay problem (clearly proscribed in Leviticus 18:22), when are we going to deal with all those men who "cut the hair at the sides of [their] head or clip off the edges of [their] beard" (Lev. 19:27)?

Jenna Fischer

The thinking man's hottie. Enough said.

Scrutiny's a bitch

I stumbled across an unintentionally hilarious bit from Michael Medved just now, in which he addresses why liberalism has momentarily surpassed conservatism. I now offer a little of what people on the right fear most, scrutiny.
Conservatives will return to decisive victories only if we come to terms with liberalism’s visceral appeal. The best way to overcome our ideological adversaries is to understand their approach to major issues.

While conservatives obsess over distinctions of right and wrong, and insist that inevitable consequences must flow from good and bad behavior (see last week’s column), liberals focus on differences of another sort entirely.

The rhetoric of today’s left shows that they see society divided between the privileged and the powerless, the favored and the unfortunate, victors and victims.
Liberals feel an irresistible instinct to take sides with the less fortunate.

While the right wants to reward beneficial choices and discourage destructive directions, the left seeks to eliminate or reduce the impact of the disadvantages that result from bad decisions. In place of the conservative emphasis on accountability, the left proffers a gospel of indiscriminate compassion.
First of all, he draws a distinction between distinctions made by liberals and conservatives (there's a mouthful) that is no distinction at all: Liberals distinguish between victors and vitcims; conservatives between right and wrong. There is no comparison to be made here--one distinction involves people, the other values.

Leaving that aside, he offers nothing whatsoever to back up his assertions, i.e. real-world examples. The second you look at the real world, his assertions become laughable.
[C]onservatives obsess over distinctions of right and wrong, and insist that inevitable consequences must flow from good and bad behavior...the right wants to reward beneficial choices and discourage destructive directions.
These statements are true, provided you define "wrong" to exclude anything done by current and former Republican officials, and define "destructive directions" to exclude ill-conceived wars and botched disaster relief efforts.
[T]he left seeks to eliminate or reduce the impact of the disadvantages that result from bad decisions. In place of the conservative emphasis on accountability, the left proffers a gospel of indiscriminate compassion.
I guess I don't know for a fact that he is presenting this is a bad thing, but the overall context would support that interpretation (Townhall being a somewhat conservative website). I will skip over all the ways that "the conservative emphasis on accountability" cause me to laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh, and move on to "the left proffers a gospel of indiscriminate compassion." First of all, isn't compassion a key goal of the current administration? Second, what exactly is indiscriminate here? He alleges that liberals in America play against type by offering such wholehearted support for our terrorist enemies:
[T]he odd liberal sympathy for Islamo-Nazi terrorists, whose radically reactionary (indeed, medieval) ideology should make them anathema to enlightened opinion in the West. How can militant feminists applaud the anti-American rhetoric of Islamist crazies who want to keep all women in burkas as the property of their husbands, and how can gay activists identify with jihadi killers who endorse the execution of homosexuals? The widespread activism on behalf of the fanatical internees at Guantanamo remains one of the most spectacular displays of lefty lunacy in recent years.
Of course, he neglects to name a single "militant feminist" applauding burka rhetoric, nor a single "gay activist" who identifies with "jihadi killers." He offers no examples of any such arguments being made. He does not seem to consider that common cause with jihadis (pause for bemused laughter) might not be the only reason to oppose the detentions at Guantanamo--for example, some may take issue with the fact that not a single Guantanamo detainee has yet been convicted of a crime, and the administration's track record on prosecutions ain't so good. It has not even been established that many of the detainees are suspected of all that much, so his characterization of them as "fanatical internees" is not particularly honest (more bemused laughter). I don't suppose he is actually out to convince anyone of anything, though, and he only has straw man arguments left to support his points. It is an article of faith to some that liberals hate America, so therefore no proof is actually needed. Fortunately, it seems as though the utter dishonesty of all of this is becoming more and more apparent to people, thus reducing the ramblings of people like Medved to the intellectual circle jerk they deserve to be.

OK, I like jazz now

On an altogether unserious note, I now have more than ample reason to like jazz. And England.

Interview with God

Interesting...

Interview with God.

I'm only linking because it automatically plays when it's embedded.

Here's an amusing one about an Old Testament story.

Polar bear fun

Follow the adventures of Knut, the German-born polar bear cub being raised in a nontraditional setting (not just the zoo part of the raising).

Awkwardly translated into English (thanks Babelfish!) here.

√úbersetzt nicht an allen, hier.

Couldn't the free market take care of this even better?

I had to read this several times to really believe it. Texas State Sen. Dan Patrick has introduced a bill that would basically authorize the state to pay women to give their babies up for adoption:
Under Patrick's SB 1567, AKA the Texas Baby Purchasing Act of 2007, women would qualify for a $500 payment from the state within 60 days of signing away all parental rights to their newborn children.
The full text is available here.

Lest you wonder if the Sen. Patrick is asking the state to engage in an illegal form of baby brokering, he has covered all the bases. The bill provides: "Section 25.08, Penal Code, does not apply to the grant or acceptance of money under this section."

Penal Code Section 25.08 provides as follows:
§ 25.08. SALE OR PURCHASE OF CHILD.
(a) A person commits an offense if he:
(1) possesses a child younger than 18 years of age or has the custody, conservatorship, or guardianship of a child younger than 18 years of age, whether or not he has actual possession of the child, and he offers to accept, agrees to accept,
or accepts a thing of value for the delivery of the child to another or for the possession of the child by another for purposes of adoption; or
(2) offers to give, agrees to give, or gives a thing of value to another for acquiring or maintaining the possession of a child for the purpose of adoption.
(b) It is an exception to the application of this section that the thing of value is:
(1) a fee or reimbursement paid to a child-placing agency as authorized by law;
(2) a fee paid to an attorney, social worker, mental health professional, or physician for services rendered in the usual course of legal or medical practice or in providing adoption counseling;
(3) a reimbursement of legal or medical expenses incurred by a person for the benefit of the child; or
(4) a necessary pregnancy-related expense paid by a child-placing agency for the benefit of the child's parent during the pregnancy or after the birth of the child as permitted by the minimum standards for child-placing agencies and Department of Protective and Regulatory Services rules.
(c) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree, except that the offense is a felony of the second degree if the actor commits the offense with intent to commit an offense under Section 43.25.
Now I have no idea how much of a shortage there is for adoptable children (although here are some statistics), but there is something downright creepy about this. Leaving aside the issue of abortion as a possible alternative to the baby being, uh, placed through the Adoption Incentive Program, how is this different from selling one's baby into adoption in a way that does violate the above-quote Penal Code section? Well, the answer is because Sen. Patrick (and possibly the Texas Legislature) says so. Here's another question: how does this fit in with Republicans' general preference for privatization? Republicans want to limit spending, downsize the government, and turn as many functions over to the private sector as possible (at least, you say so in your 2004 party platform, pp. 22-23). I mean, really, in for a penny, in for a pound, right? How about we create baby rescue societies? It has worked as a means of relieving the burden on our publicly-funded animal shelters. Those tend to be nonprofit ventures, though, providing no incentives for providing the merchandise to the organization (in this case, dogs, but it could be anything, really).

Of course, you want to make sure an adequate market exists for all the new babies you will be acquiring. One of the most important rules of business is to never acquire inventory you don't know you can move. Maybe it is time to loosen some of those restrictions on who may adopt. Heck, if we get lucky, maybe the state of Texas will be collecting perpetual royalties from its very own Truman Show!

On the other hand, I may be full of shit and SB 1567 may be a terrible idea. Besides, who wants to run the risk that the biggest cutomer might be this guy?

What blogs are for

Ever since I started writing here, I've been wondering exactly what the hell I'm doing. While at times it is very cathartic to get things off my chest, I sometimes wonder if this isn't just getting me even more keyed up. A post from Glenn Greenwald at Salon helped put some things in perspective for me:
The point here -- as always -- is to try to force the media to write about the stories it covers in a more critical and factual manner, to compel them to abandon the cheap and lazy cliches that otherwise frame everything they write. That is one of the most critical functions of blogs, and it is one of the goals that is realistically attainable by bloggers and their readers working together.
I have no illusions that anyone in the mainstream media pays any attention whatsoever to this blog, but someone out there is reading it (I think), so at least I'm getting to put my own warped take on things out there in the stream of consciousness. I will not stop until I have wiped out idiocy in its entirety. Or until I come up with something better to do.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A final note to SXSW hipsters

After spending the last few days dodging lanyard-clad pedestrians in my car as I slogged through newfound downtown traffic, a few questions occurred to me.

1. Is musical talent somehow incompatible with the use of soap and/or deoderant?

2. Do you honestly think the green hair looks good, or is this just your way of pointing out the essential shallowness of our materialistic culture in the most attention-grabbing way possible?

3. Seriously, what's up with the B.O.?

4. Thank you for staying out of my neighborhood. You can have downtown for a few days, I suppose, but leave my neighborhood alone.

5. Thanks again for leaving. Smell ya later (seriously).

No, Tom, I am not a patriot

Thank you, Tom DeLay, for more pearls of idiocy (via Huffington Post):
Tom Delay on Meet the Press, 3/18/07, on the redeployment of troops:

"It is surrender. This is hard so I want to surrender. That's exactly what it is."

Later, he questioned the patriotism of those who would protest the war in Iraq:

DELAY: "It is my opinion that when you go to war we ought to all come together. You can debate going to war, that is a legitimate debate, but once you have our soldiers and our young people dying on the battlefield, we should all come together. And we shouldn't have what we had yesterday on the mall in Washington D.C., those are not in my opinion patriots, that are talking about impeaching the Commander in Chief."
RUSSERT: Is setting a date for withdrawal...
DELAY: I think it's aiding and abetting the enemy. When you tell the enemy what your strategy is, that is aiding and abetting the enemy, because they can use that strategy to come back and harm your soldiers.

Tom Delay, in 1999:

"Clinton's bombing campaign has caused all of these problems to explode." He "only has two choices, occupy Yugoslavia and take Milosevic out" or "to negotiate some sort of diplomatic end, diplomatic agreement in order to end this failed policy."
[I support legislation] "directing the president ... to remove U.S. Armed Forces from their positions in connection with the present operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."

Tom Delay, in 1998, on calling for the impeachment of a Commander-in-Chief:

"Shall we follow the rule of law and do our constitutional duty no matter unpleasant, or shall we follow the path of least resistance, close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking, forgive and forget, move on and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system? No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country."
Also, thank you Michael Seitzman, for saving me the trouble of tracking down those quotes. This has been bothering me for some time.

If being a "patriot" means unquestioning fealty to a Commander in Chief who has done little to earn my trust, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means supporting a puported effort to defend my "freedoms" by politely declining to use those very freedoms and sitting idly by as they are eroded by the very people claiming to protect them, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means supporting those who ignore the advice of experienced military leaders when it does not conform to the pre-conceived notions of a group of people who have never served a millisecond in combat (and huntin' don't count, Dick), then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means supporting leaders who lie through their teeth, again and again, then try to tell me they never said the things they are on record saying again and again, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means accepting the maxim that "9/11 changed everything" at face value without asking what, exactly, changed and why it necessitates the actions they have taken, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means unquestioning support for a war launched when the Commander in Chief did not know the difference between Sunni and Shiite, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means absolute fealty to the sovereign, something you seem to expect, even though our ancestors once fought a war about it, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means accepting without question the cognitive dissonance that arises from the oft repeated claims that terrorists will strike us again, and only Bush can keep us safe, but they will strike again, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means allowing political figures to claim that a Democratic victory is a victory for the terrorists, then ask with a straight face that we stop all the partisan bickering, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means ignoring the fact that the only reason Bush has not yet committed impeachable perjury a la Bill Clinton is because he has refused to testify under oath, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

If being a "patriot" means that I would stop typing a litany of complaints about the way that you are destroying American society for any reason other than that I have other things to do and my hands are tired, then no, Tom, I am not a patriot.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Petard check - Part II

Don't have time to get into this too in-depth right now, but in the world of blog comments, it seems as though what's good for the goose ain't good for the gander...or something like that.

Just read the dang article. It's worth the time.


"For 'tis sport to have the engineer/ Hoist with his own petar...."
Hamlet, act III, scene 4, lines 206 and 207

To rip off Dr. Freud, sometimes a crappy blockbuster is just a crappy blockbuster

I went to see the new movie "300" last weekend, and pretty much decided I was going to put it out of my mind as quickly as possible. Then the inevitable conversations, analogies to current events, etc. ensued, so now I have to write something down to get it back out of my head.

My favorite review (for its not-quite-intentional hilarity), is this one from Ben Shapiro:
The Spartans of "300" are brutal. The opening scene of the movie depicts a Spartan soldier, standing on a cliff overlooking a valley of skulls, inspecting a baby to make sure it is hardy enough. If the baby is too weak, we are told, it will be left for dead. This isn't exactly civilized conduct.

But the Persian hordes make the Spartans look like members of a British tea club. Xerxes is an androgynous giant of a man with more body piercings than Christina Aguilera. His camp is full of decadent bisexual promiscuity. He seeks worldwide dictatorship and threatens Sparta with mass murder of its male citizens, rape of its female citizens, and use of women and children as slaves if Sparta fails to submit to his rule.

The Spartans, by contrast, say they are fighting for "freedom." In which case, "300" is an old-fashioned battle between the forces of freedom and the forces of oppression.

And the left doesn't like it at all. Many reviewers have panned "300" not on artistic grounds, or even on grounds of inanity, but on the grounds that the Spartans in the film are a bunch of jackbooted thugs; that the tyranny they fight is less tyrannical than Sparta; that good vs. evil is too simplistic. "His troops are like al Qaeda in adult diapers," writes Kyle Smith of the New York Post. "Keeping in mind Slate's Mickey Kaus' Hitler Rule -- never compare anything to Hitler -- it isn't a stretch to imagine Adolf's boys at a "300" screening, heil-fiving each other throughout and then lining up to see it again." A.O. Scott makes the obligatory racial point: "It may be worth pointing out that unlike their mostly black and brown foes, the Spartans and their fellow Greeks are white."
First off, the reviewer here states that "the Left" doesn't like this movie "on the grounds that the Spartans in the film are a bunch of jackbooted thugs" and that "that good vs. evil is too simplistic." He quotes two other reviewers (one from the N.Y. Post!), neither of whom say anything about these claims--one seems to be making the opposite, that the right would like this movie (Nazis were right-wing, after all), and a rather obvious racial comment. So how do we have any idea at all what the "Left" thinks, at least based on his selected quotes? What we do know, however (POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT), is that the Spartans kill newborn infants deemed to be "unfit," that the Persians have threatened to kill or enslave all Spartans if they do not submit, and that the Spartans' claims to be fighting in defense of "freedom" are not especially credible. In fact, the Spartans are ultimately betrayed by an "unfit" Spartan who would have been killed at birth had his parents not hidden him, and who grew up to resemble a Gollum and Quasimodo hybrid. He is shunned by the Spartans (although not at all rudely or unreasonably) and is wooed by the Persians' kick-ass parties. Still, it begs the question of why he had to wait until adulthood to even ask for the right to exist from his own people. The Spartans of "300" are only the "good guys" if you seriously shut out and ignore most of their culture (then there's the whole Council of Sparta subplot that makes no sense at all, but I'll leave that aside.)

Calling this a classic "good vs. evil" story is really stretching it. Calling it a high-tech visual masterpiece with little or no substance is more accurate. Really, very few good stories perfectly state a good vs. evil dichotomy. "The Lord of the Rings" films were hailed a few years ago for their depiction of good vs. evil, but even those films presented the theme with a distinct lack of simplicity. (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT, ALTHOUGH IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIES BY NOW I DOUBT YOU CARE) The little-discussed fact of that story is that the hero, Frodo, actually failed in his quest. At the critical moment, evil won out, and he refused to destroy the Ring. It was only destroyed because Gollum was (a) even more under the sway of its evil, and (b) clumsy. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the greater power of good, but a more believable story in many ways (if you accept the existence of trolls and such).

But going back to "300," if I have to choose between a despotic city-state that was safeguarding the cradle of Western civilization and a despotic empire that had goat-headed lute players and the villains from Stargate SG-1, I guess I'd have to side with Sparta. But don't ask me to feel all noble about it. After all, they practice eugenics and take their marching orders from pederastic lepers. Just enjoy the dang movie, to the extent possible, and save the politics for the blogs.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

You two-faced swine...

Check this out:

Photo
Liu Shuping, a farmer specializing in raising pigs, presents a newly-born piglet with one head, two mouths, two noses and three eyes, for photographers in Xi'an, northwest China's Shannxi Province March 6, 2007. Experts attributed it's [sic] condition to genetic variation, local media reported. Picture taken March 6, 2007. CHINA OUT REUTERS/China Daily (CHINA)
Not to diss on the pig-raising specialist, but either something got messed up in the genetic mix or this farmer's got quite the sense of humor.

Good news = opportunity for sarcasm

Here's some more on the global-warming-as-somehow-anti-Christian front--I consider it good news:

The board of the National Association of Evangelicals has rebuffed leaders of the Christian right who had called for the association to silence or dismiss its Washington policy director because of his involvement in the campaign against global warming.

Prominent Christian conservatives like James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, had sent a letter to the association’s leaders this month accusing the policy director, the Rev. Richard Cizik, of “using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time,” which they defined as abortion, homosexuality and teaching children sexual morality and abstinence.
Yes, because as we all know, hordes of gay commandos are at all times massed at the Canadian border, waiting to loose their gay all over everyone, stop all the breeding, and offer fact-based sex ed to the nation's teenagers (with a catchy techno backbeat). Gay is most commonly transmitted through phlogiston, a little-known fact. Gay also causes hurricanes, tornadoes, and microphone feedback. The Minoan civilization was destroyed by a giant explosion of gay. Thank goodness some people still understand that this is the greatest crisis America now faces.

Say, did anyone notice Baghdad is on fire?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Not sure I should even go here...

Fair warning, this post deals with some prurient stuff.

As I was perusing ABC's tabloidesque "Primetime" earlier this evening (okay, fine, I Tivo'd it after seeing a promo last night), I couldn't help but wonder if the show was being a bit unfair. See, they interviewed a woman by the name of Sunny Lane, who I will pretend to have never heard of before today, and discussed how her parents work as her business managers...for her career in adult entertainment. If you watch the whole episode (not available on ABC's website, near as I can tell), the interviewer almost seems frustrated that he can't get her to seem more tortured or ambivalent about the whole thing, thereby defying the axiom that adult entertainment deadens the soul. Maybe she just hasn't been doing it long enough, but she comes across as too cute and bubbly to be all that depressing:



I'm somewhat fascinated by the psychology of the whole business--i.e. what gets people to do this sort of thing, are said people really as screwed up as their stereotypes, and so forth. The whole thing with the parents on the ABC show is a bit strange (or a whole hell of a lot strange, who knows). I do think porn should stay out of the spotlight, if for no other reason than because it might otherwise lose its cachet--I think the market will keep it around for a long time, even if no one can agree on how much money the industry makes. Anyway, it's very late at night.

Monday, March 12, 2007

New this week: Starbuck apparently still dead

I still don't accept it, though.

I was wrong to meddle with the forces of darkness, and I realize that now...

This is too good to be made up:
Deceased Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who died in captivity in Haag last year standing on trial for War Crimes in a UN War Crimes tribunal, still seem to haunt the Serbian nation.

Recently his grave in the eastern Serbian town of Pozarevac was desecrated in a bizarre incident, when Serbian vampire hunters in accordance with old folklore and tradition wanted to make sure the late president remained dead, and drove a three-foot wooden stake into the grave and through his heart.
Those crazy Serbs!

Oh, snap!

Max Cleland on Dick Cheney:
"Where the hell were you in the Vietnam War? If you had gone to Vietnam like the rest of us, maybe you would have learned something about war. You can't keep troops on the ground forever. You gotta have a mission. You gotta have a purpose."
If this is the only way to get a message to the VP, so be it, I guess. The only way it would have been better is if he could have said it to Cheney's face. But I doubt that will ever happen. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I long for the day when those who still wholeheartedly support the war will actually explain themselves face-to-face with someone who disagrees.

Thank you, South By Southwest conference attendees

There are few things in this world I love more than the fair city of Austin, my home for the better part of the last eight years. This time of year, though, a feeling always comes over me...a feeling that maybe the price of hipness is too high. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the many SXSW conference attendees who have descended on my town this week.

Thank you for allegedly bringing $38 million to the local economy.

Thank you for helping to put Austin on the map of important venues for the entertainment industry.

Thank you for demonstrating how crippling body odor and hair colors that do not occur anywhere in nature can actually be a mark of overbearing hipness.

Thank you for reminding me, several times each day, that the conference badge you are wearing really does mean that those "walk/don't walk" lights all over downtown do not apply to you.

Thank you for affording me the opportunity to reflect on my home state by frequently beginning questions with "Why is it that in Texas..."

Thank you for comparing everything to how it is back in LA or New York, so I'll know what we need to do to be more like you.

Thank you for helping to create such a paradoxical love/hate relationship with the whole SXSW shindig.

And finally, thank you for leaving at the end of the week.

It's been real. See you next year. Remember, some of us may be armed.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

That was, uh, unexpected

Did not see this coming:





You'll die from a Drug Overdose.

You will die in a haze of ecstacy. Or heroin, who knows. It will be beautiful.





'How will you die?' at QuizGalaxy.com

At least it will be "beautiful."

Thursday, March 8, 2007

86%!!!

I am 86% religiously literate, according to this USA Today test. Interesting stuff:
Sometimes dumb sounds cute: Sixty percent of Americans can't name five of the Ten Commandments, and 50% of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, isn't laughing. Americans' deep ignorance of world religions — their own, their neighbors' or the combatants in Iraq, Darfur or Kashmir — is dangerous, he says.

His new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn't, argues that everyone needs to grasp Bible basics, as well as the core beliefs, stories, symbols and heroes of other faiths.

Belief is not his business, says Prothero, who grew up Episcopalian and now says he's a spiritually "confused Christian." He says his argument is for empowered citizenship.

"More and more of our national and international questions are religiously inflected," he says, citing President Bush's speeches laden with biblical references and the furor when the first Muslim member of Congress chose to be sworn in with his right hand on Thomas Jefferson's Quran.

"If you think Sunni and Shia are the same because they're both Muslim, and you've been told Islam is about peace, you won't understand what's happening in Iraq. If you get into an argument about gay rights or capital punishment and someone claims to quote the Bible or the Quran, do you know it's so?

"If you want to be involved, you need to know what they're saying. We're doomed if we don't understand what motivates the beliefs and behaviors of the rest of the world. We can't outsource this to demagogues, pundits and preachers with a political agenda."

Scholars and theologians who agree with him say Americans' woeful level of religious illiteracy damages more than democracy.

"You're going to make assumptions about people out of ignorance, and they're going to make assumptions about you," says Philip Goff of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University in Indianapolis.

Goff cites a widely circulated claim on the Internet that the Quran foretold American intervention in the Middle East, based on a supposed passage "that simply isn't there. It's an entire argument for war based on religious ignorance."

"We're impoverished by ignorance," says the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches. "You can't draw on the resources of faith if you only have an emotional understanding, not a sense of the texts and teachings."
There's more, but that gives you an idea.

Somebody please explain this to me in small words...

I have a nagging questions about a quote from "conservative comedian" Evan Sayet at CNS News, which I found on Cruel.com:

Liberals are wrong about everything and have the mentality of kindergarteners, in the view of conservative comedian and commentator Evan Sayet.

"The Democrats are wrong on quite literally every issue," Sayet said at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., on Monday. "They are not just wrong. They are as wrong as wrong can be.

"It's not just domestic policy. It's foreign policy. It's every policy," he said, adding that liberals are "diametrically opposed to that which is good, right and successful."

"The modern liberal will invariably side with evil over good, wrong over right, and the behaviors that lead to failure over those that lead to success," Sayet said.

"How could you possibly live in the freest nation in the history of the world and only see oppression? How could you live in the least imperialist power in human history and see us as the ultimate in imperialism? How can you live in the least bigoted nation in human history ... and see racism lurking in every dark shadow?" he asked.

The comedian attributed the trend to a "rejection of all fact, reason, evidence, logic, truth, morality, and decency."
Sayet also argued that liberals "have the mentality of five-year-olds."

He said the 1986 Robert Fulghum book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," "reads like the bible of modern liberalism and the playbook of Democratic Party policy."

"'Don't hit' has just become 'War is not the answer,'" Sayet said.

"If we're going to save America, we must take back the schools, the universities, the media, [and] the entertainment industry," he said.

Maybe it's selective quoting by CNS News, but I don't get, from this at least, why he gets to be called a "comedian." The article continues:
The Democratic National Committee did not respond to invitations to comment for this article, but Toby Chaudhuri, communications director for the liberal Campaign for America's Future, told Cybercast News Service that "Sayet is a comedian with a cross to bear."

"He hasn't been able to think of any new jokes for over 30 years. Maybe that's why he gets laughs even before he opens his mouth," Chaudhuri said.

"Even a kindergartner knows that the right is wrong," he said.

"Conservatives have had their way, and they failed," Chaudhuri added. "The catastrophic conservatism of George Bush and the DeLay Congress has collapsed, [and] the GOP coalition is splintering."
Maybe I've been watching The Daily Show too much, but the humor is lost on me. It just sounds like a set of observations. I may not agree with Dennis Miller on everything, but at least he's witty.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Not all Christians are scary...

In fact, the vast majority of Christians don't scare, bother, annoy, or irk me. In fact, they're generally great people. If this sounds strangely backhanded, I honestly don't mean for it to be. Perhaps it is unfair that I pick on an entire belief system because a small handful of nutbars keep getting a national stage--I could also blame that on a market-driven infotainment system that generally finds putting nutjobs on screen to spew crap gets better ratings than an actual reasoned discussion of faith (sad but true, and I'd rather be watching the Sci Fi Channel, anyway). Perhaps it is my own rather unpleasant history with the faith that makes me get a bit of a thrill from being mildly provocative (not sure who I'm provoking, but a guy can dream).

Anyway, my point is that this guy scares the crap out of me. And he works out of my hometown. And I sure hope he does not represent the mainstream of Christian (or any) thought.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Why is this a religious hot-button issue???

From the Washington Post:

Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson and other conservative Christian leaders are calling for the National Association of Evangelicals to silence or fire an official who has urged evangelicals to take global warming seriously.

In a letter this week to the board of the NAE, which claims 30 million members, Dobson and his two dozen co-signers said the Rev. Richard Cizik, the NAE's vice president for government relations, has waged a "relentless campaign" that is "dividing and demoralizing" evangelicals.

Cizik has been a leader in efforts to broaden evangelicals' political agenda beyond abortion and same-sex marriage. He says Christians have a biblical imperative to protect the environment, which he calls "creation care."
Is there a Biblical basis for doubting global warming? Is it scientific? (That would raise more questions, potentially.) Is it political? Seriously, I'm curious.

Give Audhumbla her due, seriously

Interesting bit from the Washington Times:

A Tennessee lawmaker is demanding answers about the creation of the universe from the state education commissioner.

State Sen. Raymond Finney sponsored a resolution to ask Education Commissioner Lana Seivers whether the universe "has been created or has merely happened by random, unplanned and purposeless occurrences."

Mr. Finney, a Republican, said he wants the department to say there's no scientific proof for the theory of evolution and to let schools teach creationism or intelligent design.

"Is there a creator? If yes, why are we afraid to teach creationism?" Mr. Finney said Tuesday. "And if the answer is 'well, we can't tell,' then why are we prohibiting an alternative theory?"
Excellent, excellent point. Let us teach our children the alternative theories of how life has come to be. There are, after all, quite a few conceptions of the Demiurge. Now, explain to me why all of the following theories shouldn't be given equal weight:

Intelligent design: Life has aspects that possess irreducible complexity. Therefore, they cannot have originated naturally. Therefore there must have been a Creator, but let's not actually call said creator God. Now, what's on TV?

Creationism (also here): God created the world in seven days. Genesis says so, in two different chapters with quite a few differences between them. They're both true. If you disagree, you will go to hell. (Yes, I know I'm paraphrasing with liberal bias.)

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (or Pastafarianism, also here): The world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Honestly, it's not any more inherently ridiculous than most other creation stories.

Norse creation (but not here):

According to the Scandinavians, the beginning of life starts out with only fire and ice. It began with the existence of only two worlds: Muspellheim and Niflheim. When the warm air of Muspellheim hit the cold ice of Niflheim, the outline of the Thurses Ymir and the icy cow Audhumbla were created. Ymir's foot bred a son with the other and a man and a woman emerged from his armpits. Thus he would be the father of an entire host of the cruel creatures known as giants. As Ymir slept, the continuing heat from Muspellheim made him sweat. He sweat out Surt, a flaming giant who went to Muspellheim, whose fire made him feel welcome. Later Ymir woke and drank Audhumla's milk. And while he drank the cow licked on a salt stone. The first day a mans hair appeared, on the second day the head and on the third day the entire man emerged from the stone. His name was Bure and with an unknown giant he fathered the three gods Odin, Vili and Ve.
Anyway, they went on to somehow create Yggdrasill, the giant tree where we all live.

Greek creation (also not here):
The most widely accepted account of beginning of things as reported by Hesiod's Theogony, starts with Chaos, a yawning nothingness. Out of the void emerged Ge or Gaia (the Earth) and some other primary divine beings: Eros (Love), the Abyss (the Tartarus), and the Erebus. Without male assistance Gaia gave birth to Uranus (the Sky) who then fertilised her. From that union were born, first, the Titans: six males and six females (Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys, and Cronus); then the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handers. Cronus ("the wily, youngest and most terrible of [Gaia's] children")castrated his father and became the ruler of the gods with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort and the other Titans became his court. This motif of father/son conflict was repeated when Cronus was confronted by his son, Zeus. Zeus challenged him to war for the kingship of the gods. At last, with the help of the Cyclopes,(whom Zeus freed from Tarturus), Zeus and his siblings were victorious, while Cronus and the Titans were hurled down to imprisonment in Tartarus.
I think Tartarus was also home to the God of Fried Seafood, but I may be mixing my theologies.

Anyway, if we don't know who the "creator" in intelligent design is, how do we know we don't actually live on Yggdrasill and may wind up spending eternity hanging with Sisyphus?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Starbuck cannot possibly be dead

I refuse to believe it.

For those who don't know what the hell I'm talking about, Starbuck's Viper apparently blew up at the end of last night's Battlestar Galactica episode.

There's going to be a twist. There just frakking has to be.

Petard check, part I

See Max Blumenthal's adventures at CPAC here--they include confronting Michelle Malkin with a picture of a Japanese internment camp and asking Tom Tancredo supporters about white power. I guess that's the best we can hope for in political dialogue from now on.

"For 'tis sport to have the engineer/ Hoist with his own petar...."
Hamlet, act III, scene 4, lines 206 and 207

Sunday, March 4, 2007

What we can learn from orangutans and tigers

Sometimes you have to sit back, take a deep breath, and notice what our animal pals can teach us.

Photo

Photo

From the Associated Press:

A pair of month-old Sumatran tiger twins have become inseparable playmates with a set of young orangutans, an unthinkable match in their natural jungle habitat in Indonesia's tropical rainforests.

The friendship between 5-month-old female baby primates Nia and Irma, and cubs Dema and Manis, has blossomed at the Taman Safari zoo where they share a room in the nursery.

After being abandoned by their mothers shortly after birth, the four play fight, nipping and teasing each other, and cuddling up for a shared nap when they are worn out.

"This is unusual and would never happen in the wild," said zoo keeper Sri Suwarni, bottle-feeding a baby chimp on Wednesday. "Like human babies, they only want to play."

The four have lived side-by-side for a month without a single act of hostility, she said.

Indonesian tigers and orangutans are both endangered species, threatened by rapidly shrinking habitats.

Conservationists estimate there are fewer than 700 Sumatran tigers still alive, while fewer than 60,000 orangutans remain in the wild. Around 90 percent of the jungle has been destroyed by illegal logging, poaching and cut-and-burn farming practices on Borneo and Sumatra islands.

The exceptional friendship will likely be short-lived, said veterinarian Retno Sudarwati, because as the animals grow up their natural survival instincts will kick in.

"When the time comes, they will have to be separated. It's sad, but we cant' change their natural behavior," she said. "Tigers start eating meat when they are three months old."
Aside from the part where the tigers might eat the orangutans, that is one of the cutest things I've seen in some time.

Update to "America is awesome"

The NYT editorial page has a "must-do list" of tasks to reverse some of the more troubling trends of the current administration:

Restore Habeas Corpus
Stop Illegal Spying
Ban Torture, Really
Close the C.I.A. Prisons
Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’
Ban Extraordinary Rendition
Tighten the Definition of Combatant
Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively
Ban Tainted Evidence
Ban Secret Evidence
Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence
Respect the Right to Counsel
The editorial expounds on each of these, and they are all worth looking at. I strongly believe, in keeping with the notion that we are a "nation of laws, not men," that a grant of executive power should consider the extent to which such power could be abused by an executive, rather than trusting the currently-serving executive to not abuse it. After all, the American Revolution was at least in part inspired by an overbearing, unaccountable government.

America is awesome

I have seen a bumper sticker frequently around town that says "I don't have to love Bush to love my country." As Americans were so often reminded during the Clinton impeachment affair, we are a nation of laws, not men. Now that seems to be changing.

Cenk Uygur has an excellent post on this topic today (also found here):
I wasn't born a Republican. I chose to be one because I believed in the things the party stood for. But when the party changed from the New World Order to preemptive strikes against countries that did not attack us, and when it changed from being the party of law and order to the party of ignoring the rule of law, I was able to see that they weren't right for the country anymore.

This is not the Republican Party I grew up in. This is not a conservative philosophy that treasures our constitution and our form of government. This administration has become an embarrassment. They never believed in the greatness of this country and the strength of its principles.
I coinsidered myself a Republican until the evening on January 16, 1991. I was a 16-year old peacenik at the time, but I still stand by my decision. I talked about this in depth in an earlier post.

We are often told by our leaders that "9/11 changed everything." This quickly became a rationale for changing all the rules. These, however, are the rules that have made America as great as it is. We are, to the best of my knowledge, the second-oldest functioning democracy in the world (behind San Marino, which was founded in AD 301), and may very well have inspired democracy elsewhere. We have endured through any number of crises and several secession attempts (of various degrees of seriousness and success). We only rank 17th on The Economist's Democracy Index of 2007, but that's still top 11% (17 out of 167--North Korea ranked last, Sweden first, in case you're curious).

If I had enough time and bandwidth to summarize de Tocqueville and add in a few million words of my own thoughts, I could fully lay out my thoughts on this matter, but my overall point can be summarized as this: 9/11 did not change enough to make it worth throwing away 220 years of such a successful constitutional track record. America has been around for almost 231 years, 220 with our current constitution. We may not have the longevity of the Byzantine Empire (approx. 1100 years)--at least, not yet. International terrorism has been around for decades, if not centuries or millenia. 9/11 wasn't even the first time it directly affected the United States. What made 9/11 different from all terrorist attacks before it was its brazenness and the extent of damage it caused. Again, to the best of my knowledge, no one had set out to cause such a huge amount of damage before, although there had been mass hijackings and plans to use planes as missiles before. This is not to diminish the severity, tragedy, or reprehensibility of the 9/11 attacks--the 9/11 attacks were incomprehensible, unjustifiable, and unforgivable--in that the perpetrators (who are still at large, I might add) deserve all the FUBAR-ing we can give them. But I still don't see how a large-scale revamping of our system of constitutional checks and balances is necessary (again, see how the 9/11 perpetrators are still at large). What actual benefit have we received from, say, warrantless wiretapping that couldn't have been derived from tapping the same phone lines with FISA court approval? What actual benefit has the shadowy treatment of Jose Padilla achieved? I don't doubt that there have been shady goings-on within our government since at least the start of the Cold War (although I stop short of X-Files-style conspiracy theories.) What exactly about our system that has worked so well for so long is no longer applicable now that a terrorist attack that has been envisioned and attempted before, but never before succeeded, has succeeded on American soil? Which laws, to draw from John Adams' phrase, are no longer as important as the men who run the country?

We have often been told that 9/11 occurred because there are people out there who "hate our freedoms." Yet now we see a concerted effort to chip away at those very freedoms, an observation I have made before.

Let's face it: al Qaeda is probably not an imminent existential threat to America. They can cause damage, and lots of it, but they cannot conquer and hold territory on our soil. They can, however, sow fear. After the Oklahoma City bombing, I remember a conversation with a friend where we discussed how, if there is a threat to the continued viability of the United States, it would be a threat from within. I'm not necessarily talking about homegrown terrorists or militias--we may just change our system enough, and slowly enough, that America ceases to be America anymore, and no one notices until it is too late.

America is too awesome to let that happen.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

He also said: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Wise man, indeed.

Here are some smarmy videos to lighten the mood:



Saturday, March 3, 2007

I'm not letting the HPV vaccine issue go

The more I read about Rick Perry and Merck, the more I get suspicious about graft & such, but doing the right thing for the wrong reasons still involves doing the right thing. And opposing the right thing for the wrong reason (when there are better reasons) is still...you get the idea.

From Bill Maher, courtest of Salon.com:

March 2, 2007 | New Rule: If you don't think your daughter getting cancer is worse than your daughter having sex, then you're doing it wrong. Last year, science came up with a way to greatly reduce cervical cancer in young women. It's a vaccine that prevents women from getting HPV, which is a sexually transmitted disease that acts as a gateway to the cancer. And the vaccine is so good, it could wipe out HPV. I keep a stockpile near my hot tub, and I can tell you, that tingling sensation means it's really working. And I'd say that even without the endorsement deal.

Now for the bad news: Not everyone is pleased with this vaccine. That prevents cancer. Christian parent groups and churches nationwide are fighting it. Bridget Maher -- no relation, and none planned -- of the Family Research Council says giving girls the vaccine is bad, because the girls "may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex."

Which is really a stretch. People don't get the vaccine for typhoid and say, "Great, now I can drink the sewer water in Bombay." It's like saying if you give a kid a tetanus shot she'll want to jab rusty nails in her feet. It's like being against a cure for blindness because it'll encourage masturbation. It's like being for salmonella poisoning in peanut butter because it'll discourage weirdos from spreading it on their ass and calling the dog.

And yet, the anti-vaccine folks seem to think that if a teenage girl feels a little prick, she's gonna want to feel a whole lot more. But HPV shots don't cause promiscuity. Tequila shots do. Everything your kids buy is sold to them with sex. The vaccine doesn't make them want to screw: MTV does. And hormones. And having moron parents they want to escape from. Hey, when you're 15 years old, breathing encourages sexual activity.

But let's be frank: These Christian groups aren't just against the HPV shot; they're against family planning and condoms and morning after pills -- they want to make sure sex is as dangerous as possible, so that kids know, if they sleep around and get an STD, that's God teaching them a lesson. And the lesson is, you should never have tried out for "American Idol" in the first place.

There's only one kind of medical science that excites Christians, and that's anything that proves life begins earlier and earlier in the womb. If you could use stem cells to prove that life begins at foreplay, the pope would turn the Vatican into a lab. These people don't really want to see a cure for anything, except homosexuality.

But as a parent, if you're so obsessed with abstinence you'd risk your kid's health, there's a word for what you are, but it's not "follower of Christ." It's not "moral." It's not "Christian." It's not even "logical." So just admit it. You hate sex. It's OK to say you hate for the sake of hating. It hasn't hurt Dick Cheney.

I hate to tell you this, Mrs. Maher, and anyone else who thinks a vaccine gives your girls a "license to have sex": Your daughter knows she doesn't need a license for sex. She's already on the Internet exchanging bondage fantasies with a German boy she met on MySpace. Forget HPV; she's already on to S/M. We all know, there's only one 100 percent proven method to make a woman abstinent -- marry her.

Worst pick-up line ever???

I still don't quite get the nature of the controversy--perhaps there's just a limit to how much prurient exploitation our culture is willing to accept (dissing your singing is fine, but racy photos, no matter how private, maybe ain't)--but it is a controvery nonetheless. Now Glenn Beck takes the opportunity to hit on a cute journalist (who has never posed for racy photos and is at least somewhat of a professional, I might add):



That may be the most uncomfortable silence I've seen in some time.

Apparently he's done this before, too.

There has been some backlash, but I can only begin to imagine the chilling effect this will have on people's ability to take racy pictures of themselves. What are digital cameras for, anyway?

Seriously, though, Glenn, if you want to take racy pictures of a girl, there are places you could find them. Just saying.

Trouble in the Alps - Some news just seems to slip through the cracks

With all that's going on in the world, it's easy to forget about the neutral countries.
What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into neighboring Liechtenstein.

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers wandered just over a mile across an unmarked border into the tiny principality early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion.
I've never been to Liechtenstein (it's not Luxembourg), but it's great to see them in the news every so often.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

A few clarifications

Some excellent points were made about some recents posts of mine, so I'd like to make a few clarifications.

First of all, I tend to post only when I'm worked up in a frenzy of blog-fueled rage. Not at all an excuse for any half-baked arguments, more a setting of context.

With regard to my comments on Al Gore's alleged electrical hypocrisy, I don't have an inherent problem with people making information available and letting the public draw their own conclusions, ever. And I have to conced that it's probably impossible for anyone to present information without some sort of bias--if you look hard enough, you can find traces of spin anywhere. I do have a problem with people making information under the guise of an official-sounding organization that may or may not exist--for me, it's an honesty thing. People are free to draw their own conclusions--I happen to fail to see the relevance in this particular instance, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be said.

That wasn't the intended point of my post, though. The proper treatment for dishonest/deceptive/hateful/whatever speech is more speech. That generally isn't what happens in these situations. I invoked the Swift Boat analogy because this situation reminds me of that situation: a group made a number of allegations that were capable of being disproven by numerous records and witnesses, yet the Kerry campaign didn't say squat back in 2004. A lot has happened since then, and it would be nice to see someone with more credibility and a bigger audience than me offer some sort of counterpoint to what people and groups like the Tennessee Center for Policy Research have to say. Like, say, Al Gore. And he did.

A quick note on the relevance issue--the argument seems to be that (a) Al Gore addresses the severity of global warming; (b) Al Gore uses electricity at a level above the national average; therefore (c) Al Gore is a hypocrite. The problem is, (c) doesn't say anything at all about (a); it just attacks the messenger.

With regard to the Discovery documentary on Jesus, again I have no problem with anyone presenting information or opinions. I draw my own conclusions and my own opinions. Personally, based on what I have seen so far, I think the documentary is full of crap--it is an interesting premise but has about as much historical weight as the Da Vinci Code. I don't blame Mr. Wildmon for trying, either, but if that is the best he can do, I kind of feel bad for him. My point is that if watching the documentary shakes someone's faith to the core, you really can't blame the filmmakers for that. My objection here is similar to my issue with the Gardasil debate: valid arguments against a proposal that are grounded in science, history, logic, etc. supercede arguments based only in faith. Object to the documentary because it's bad science, bad archaeology, bad statistics, and so forth. If someone publicizes information that contradicts the foundation of someone's faith, and that information is objectively flawed (e.g. not based in sound science), why not make that your first argument? My understanding of Mr. Wildmon's argument is something like this: (a) the Bible states that such and such happened; (b) a new documentary may present evidence that contradicts the Bible; therefore (c) Christianity is under attack.

In retrospect, my statement "I am not out to offend or denigrate anyone else's religious beliefs" was not entirely accurate. I do not intend to denigrate religious people. There is a difference, subtle though it may be, between crticism of a system of beliefs and criticism of the believers. I may not agree with someone's beliefs, but I do not intend to disrespect the person. And I have a very hard time respecting a lot of religious beliefs. I could probably write a book on that issue (and I might), but if anyone is offended by what I have to say about religion, it's honestly kind of flattering because it implies that the person is placing my words on a rhetorical level with the Bible or whatever book they follow. Well, that's how I look at it, anyway. I can't help how people interpret what I, or anyone else, say. All I can do is try to be honest and rational--I'll admit it doesn't always work (although I still think it did this time.)

I also stand by my characterization of faith, which was pretty much based on the definition at dictionary.com:
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
6. A set of principles or beliefs.

The difference between faith and science is that science (assuming you are dealing with an honest practitioner), has to change in the face of contradictory evidence. Faith does not. Yet they can co-exist for most people just fine, most of the time.

If I do have any particular bias creeping into posts of this nature, it is my frustration that agnostics (I prefer the term apatheist, but I'll go with a more recognizable one) are so often misunderstood and disrespected on a personal level. That must be a topic for another day, however.