February 28, 2005

That Which Makes a Tax System Fair

from - smijer

I've been involved in a discussion in the comments of a Bill Hobbs post. Bill, from what I can tell, is kind of a "movement" conservative: the sort who wears the title "capitalist" like a badge of honor. Any way, we had a little tiff about whether the Tennessee constitution forbids an income tax or not. We didn't manage to sway one another's opinion, but there is no doubt left that anyone reading can understand what the basis is for each of our opinions. The other side of the discussion was whether a regressive, flat, or progressive tax is most fair, and/or best for the interests of the state. I'm going to try to explain:

1. Why I think a regressive tax is terribly unfair.
2. Why I think a progressive tax is more fair than a truly flat tax.
3. Why I think complete reliance on sales, usage, and other consumption taxes is harmful, for several different reasons.

1. This should be obvious. The people who need the money the most, who gather the least benefit from our economy, and who earn their money through work rather than investment should not be saddled with a greater tax burden than the wealthy. It just doesn't make sense to charge the guy who is working two jobs to support a family near poverty level a higher percentage of his income in taxes than the guy who gains wealth by playing golf while his investments gain value. Just to give you an idea of just how regressive Tennessee's tax structure is, have a look at this chart (that I've posted here before) of taxes as a percentage of income for various income levels. For the sake of comparison, have a look at how much differently the same chart looks in a state where the taxes are more evenly distributed:

taxes as percentage of income

That's very, very regressive. If it isn't obvious to you why it is unfair to make the poor pay more than the rich, then... well don't waste your time with the rest of this post.

2. Many conservatives, "movement" or otherwise, say that they think the most fair approach is a "flat" tax - everyone pays the same. While there can be no doubt that a system that is flat over-all beats the hell out of Tennessee's system, I would make the case that a progressive tax is more fair. But, first, I have to point out a simple fact: sales taxes are inherently regressive. If they are in place (and they always will be), then the only way a "flat" tax structure can be accomplished is by including some corrective system. Oversimplifying for the purpose of discussion, the one big option for this is the inclusion of a progressive income tax to counter balance the sales tax. Other solutions have been proposed, including one that suggests "cost of living" refunds on sales tax, for people of lower income. So, if someone says "same tax rate for everyone", then make sure they are either talking about a system that has no sales/usage taxes, or has some off-setting mechanism. If they are just talking about the same base rates of taxation on sales, then ask them how they correct for the inherent regressiveness? They must either off-set it, or restructure the tax code to apply tariffs to luxuries bought out of state or on the internet, and tax services and investments at the same rate as tangible goods. If they are doing neither, then it is not a flat tax.

Now, that said about what constitutes a truly flat tax, here is why I think a progressive tax structure is more fair. There are two main reasons. First, is the law of diminishing returns. The general principle is that the $100,000th dollar has less value than the $100th dollar, and therefore a 10% tax on $100 hurts more than a 10% tax on $1000. For an ordinary working class person, 10% of their income may the difference between having reliable transportation to work, or having to invest increasing proportions of their income on repairs for an unreliable automobile, or having to take a lower paying job because of transportation difficulties. For a billionaire, 10% of income may be the difference between one yacht or two yachts. 10% of income is a greater proportion of the livelihood of the lower income person than the higher income person, since the higher income person uses a lower proportion of his income on keeping up his livelihood.

The second reason that a flat tax is less fair than a progressive tax, is that the wealthy person, generally, does not use significantly more effort than the working class or poor person to generate a much greater amount of money. Taxes "hurt" not only because they affect livelihood and luxury buys, as discussed above, but because they take away the rewards we get for our labor. The farm-worker may put in 60 hours of strenuous effort and receive $500 per week for it. 10% of that represents 6 hours of strenuous labor. The wealthy person may generate $500 per week just in interest accrued on his investments. Taking 10% of the $500 earned that way doesn't rob the person of any of the fruits of his labor - that 10% represents only a portion of a small financial risk taken by that person. It's a case of apples and oranges, and it's difficult to make a comparison between the lower income taxes on labor and higher income taxes on, interest, status, or skill for purposes of fairness. Nevertheless, you can safely say that by taxing the lower income brackets at the same rate as the higher ones, you are taking more of the lower income person's actual labor.

There's also another way of looking at it, in terms of who is actually taking the larger advantage from the government services offered; whose neighborhoods are routinely patrolled by police, whose homes are made safe by routine enforcement of building and fire codes; whose fortunes depend on the nation's defensive strength; who depends on the SEC to protect investors; etc. It's difficult to say how progressive a tax structure should be to be fair, but it isn't difficult to conclude that a progressive tax structure of some kind is necessary to avoid having a greater proportional real burden and smaller proportional real benefit to lower-wage earners.

3. Remembering that we are still discussing the state tax structure... a high sales tax drivers consumers out of state for many purchases. This tends to depress the local economy. In addition, a higher tax rate is necessary to compensate for the sales that are lost to neighboring states and the internet or telephone business, which feeds the cycle that forces spending out of state. At some point, because people simply cannot afford it, our tax rates max out at the highest level that the poorest among us can afford, leaving state revenue at a level a reflection of our poverty, rather than our affluence. When the state has so little revenue at its disposal, it does a poor job building and maintaining the infrastructure it needs to create a strong economy and a quality standard of living for its citizens. As a result of this practice in Tennessee, our schools are among the lowest ranked in the nation, our communities, parks, and health-care services all suffer. We attract less desirable businesses to our communities, because we cannot provide our share of well-educated individuals. This further depresses the economy, and creates a vicious cycle that ultimately drives down revenue even further. The inefficiency of such a system should, by now, be obvious.

Naturally, these economic effects would be less pronounced with a *truly* flat tax, but maximum tax efficiency can be obtained by using an income tax and collecting a greater percentage of the dividends earned by the wealthy to invest back into the state and make it a place where work earns a decent living and the industrious can more efficiently create new wealth.

That's it, for now. Now tell me why I'm completely wrong...

Posted by smijer at 07:11 PM | Comments (3)

February 27, 2005

Hunter Thompson RIP II

from - Buck

Fred gives us a good final say on Hunter Thompson.

The times brought their epiphanies. I remember being gezonked on mescaline in a pad in Stafford, Virginia, and realizing that existence was the point of execution in a giant Fortran program. So it’s all done in software, I thought. I was floating in the universe. In the infinite darkness of space the code stretched above and below in IBM blue letters hundreds of feet high that converged to nothingness: N = N * 5, Go To 43, ITEST = 4**IEXP. For an hour I was awash in understanding. The stereo was playing Bolero, which was written by a Do-loop, so it all fitted.


You can see why he ate his gun. Everything he hated has returned. Nixon is back in the White House, Rumsnamara risen from the dead, bombs falling on other peoples’ suburbs. The Pentagon is lying again and democracy stalks yet another helpless country. This time the young are already dead and there will be no joyous anarchy. The press, housebroken, pees where it is told. But he gave it a hell of a try.

I guess the best any of us can ever do is give it one hell of a try.

Posted by Buck at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)


from - smijer

Peter Benenson is dead since Friday, February 25. The sadness of his passing is compounded by the way human rights concerns are being cheapened by their use as political cover for the waging of unjust wars. May he rest in peace, and may we be able to carry his legacy forward with strength and resolve, putting human rights ahead of our own greed, and before our own fears, and ahead of every negative sensibility that tempts us to abandon our moral principles.

Posted by smijer at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

Carnival of the Godless#5

from - smijer

This week is the fifth anniversary of the Carnival of the Godless, and what abundant Godless Goodies we have! Let's jump right in...

The opening act comes from Hank Fox, who declares that Not everything that gets into your head ... ... is knowledge. Matter of fact, according to he, a fair bit of it may be "anti-knowledge". He suggests that the "No True Atheist" argument, applied to the "good" atheists, is one of those bits of "anti-knowledge". Hank's weblog is www.HankFox.com.

Wolverine Tom shares his experience with campus religious groups who happen also to be anti-science as he spends a while passing by the religion table again. Tom's weblog is Wolverine Tom: A Geologist... like Randy Marsh.

Ophelia Benson posts about a peculiar custom in Iran that keeps down incidences of extramarital sex. The post is entitled When Fariba Met Habib. Notable Quotable: "No sex outside of marriage! Yay! Of course, the place is full of dirt-poor women being treated like toilets by their hahahaha 'husbands' all the same, but who cares about that?! Everybody in Iran who has genital-to-genital contact is spliced! That's all I give a rat's ass about!" Ophelia's weblog is Butterflies and Wheels.

George Peterson asks, somewhat incredulously, "Believing in God is Prudent?" He then proceeds to say that, however prudent one might think it to believe in God, there is little prudence to be found in the religious myths that have grown up around the idea of God. His weblog is the Dirty Greek.

Kevin argues that reason is fundamental to morality, in Reason, Religon, and Morality. Notable quotable: "Only if you create and maintain a rational set of rules can a moral system or legal system or any other such thing function." Kevin's weblog is Above Us Only Sky.

Pat Hayes explains why it is true that mainstream Christians get the short end of the religion stick in Why Fundamentalists and Biblical Literalists Loathe Mainstream Christians. I think that he would agree with my view that secularists and free-thinkers should find moral, and sometimes even intellectual solidarity with the more liberal-minded religious types. Pat blogs from Kansas on Red State Rabble.

Peter Fredson is represented by three different entries in this Carnival. His first entry declares that there's nothing wrong with the people of Alabama that a good dose of religious deprogramming won't cure: Down In Alabama is posted at his new weblog:
Alabama Home.

In Instigation and Stealth, he also takes umbrage with the apparent strategy used by those who would impose their brand of religion on everyone else: namely, if you can't cram it in the front door, sneak it in the back. This post is at his eponymous weblog, peterfredson.diaryland.com

In Under the Christian God, he makes clear which God is being referred to by those who mandate the invocation of God's name in the pledge and on our currency. This is a guest post on Stupid Evil Bastard.

Fair warning for those reading who are religious, and are sensitive to perceived sacrilege. Mark Twain once said, "Blasphemy? No, it is not blasphemy. If God is as vast as that, he is above blasphemy; if He is as little as that, He is beneath it." Well, this next entry, from Michelle Arnold, AKA Mutant Cat pushes the boundaries of sacrilege, suggesting the possibility of remaking the Bible into an even racier genre. Her post, Bible Porn is found on her weblog, Mutant Cat.
{irrelevant aside: I suspect Michelle would enjoy the scene in The Magic Christian where Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) brainstorms with his adoptive son (Ringo Starr). Soon after it is concluded that words don't corrupt, or at least the word "nipple" doesn't corrupt Agnes, he comes upon a sure-fire hit: "The Bible: Can You Make it Better?"}

DarkSyd shares with us how he thinks he would behave under circumstances different from his own, in If I Were Christian. I know a few Christians who could definitely profit from his advice. I'll also have to say that I have known a couple who, to their credit, have some things in common with DarkSyd's parallel universe self. DarkSyd is a regular contributor to Brent Rasmussen's Unscrewing the Inscrutable.

Ruthie-Annie tells of her experience with what happens when an atheist visits a Christian debate board in her post, If Choy Lee Mu were a Christian. (Do I detect a pattern here? What could be the reason?...) Ruthie-Annie's blog is Ruthie-Annie, Honest to God: Thoughts from an Unconvinced Quaker Psychologist.

The Retropolitan discusses some instances of people just making shit up in Swayze Was the Best One. Spoiler alert: I was disillusioned to discover that the spirit of JFK really doesn't inhabit Phoebe's guitar. This and other disappointing truths were posted on The Retro's weblog, Tales to Astonish.

Jason Kuznicki, against all reason, insists that I would make a lousy cheetah. lays to rest the old canard that evolution somehow implies or justifies racisim in his post, The Excellent Amoebas. Jason's blog is Positive Liberty.

Nick Barlow takes on a British organisation with apparent affinities for American style theonomy and eschatological pronouncements in Down among the demented men. This is truly very scary stuff. Nick's blog is What you can get away with.

Richard Chappell refutes charges that naturalism implies nihilism, and disputes the notion that God is necessary to provide life with its meaning. His post is Avoiding Nihilism. Richard blogs at Philosophy, et cetera.

Ron reminds the unwary that correlation does not always imply causation in Religion - whatever that is - is "in" with the teens. Ron's blog is God Is For Suckers.

Goddam-Liberal turns the unforgiving light of skepticism on psychic fortune-tellers and their victims on I See Stupid People. G-D-Liberal blogs at No More Mr. Nice Guy!

Now, if I'm counting right, that's eighteen posts for one Carnival of the Godless, and that ain't bad at all. Since the contributions for this week were so rich, I've elected not to post an entry of my own. I would, however, like to mention another web-log that I have recently discovered, which I find to be very timely, important, and touching. The issue of abortion is one that often divides the religious from the irreligious, the conservative from the liberal, and all too often, the good-hearted from the good-hearted. Too many times, those who favor choice become hardened in their views by the ongoing conflict, and find themselves with sympathy only for the woman. Too many times, those who oppose choice become hardened in their views and find themselves showing compassion only for the fetus. At Abortion Clinic Days, the authors are abortion providers who share their stories and struggles with utter compassion for women, their families, and their pregnancies. If more people on all sides of the debate could feel, show, and act upon this kind of instinct for compassion, then the discourse about abortion and reproductive rights would be raised to the level on which it deserves to be held.

I will include a few brief excerpts in the extended entry.

Previous Carnivals:
Carnival #1, at Unscrewing the Inscrutable
Carnival #2, at Pharyngula
Carnival #3, at Science and Politics
Carnival #4, at Philosophy, et cetera

Next week, the Carnival will be hosted by The Raving Atheist, so be sure to tune in! Send your submissions to cotg-submission@brentrasmussen.com.

The promised excerpts from abortion clinic days....

so, she said, although she never ever imagined that she would consider abortion, she finds that it's best for the children she has because she has been told that to continue this pregnancy could put her health in further jeopardy. she said she regrets that she is again pregnant, had been using condoms because she knew that she did not want to be pregnant. unfortunately, she, like many others, became pregnant while using contraception.

her faith in god's understanding came out a deeply held belief that she was god's child and that he would not want to see her children without her, sent off to foster homes. she said that she did not even have to think very much about it, that it was just "the right thing to do". -god understands

oh, if only parents coulld see the anguish i see every day in women who have "violated the pledge". it is quite different from the women whose birth control failed. neither is happy to be having an abortion, but those whose very sense of themselves is crushed have a longer road to self forgiveness.

it's easy to say "well, then she should just not have the abortion" but obviously she had considered that herself. her decision to discontinue the pregnancy was not one of convenience. being a contemplative young woman, she pondered deeply and then had to confront her smug assumption that of course adoption was an easy answer to the problem. she kept repeating "i didn't know it could happen to someone like me".

maybe it's always easier to decide what others ought to do. maybe it's always hard, hard, hard to figure out your own life, your own choices, but working in women's health for so long, this is the one thing that i hear every day that changes when it's you, your life. - you never know 2

"Six months before I became pregnant, I marched the streets of Washington, D.C. Every January 22nd, the anniversary of Roe V. Wade, thousands of ‘pro-lifers’ from all over the country pour into the streets to protest. The year I turned eighteen, I was one of them. How could I have known that in less than a year I would become one of “those women” against whom we were marching?" - quoted in crossing over
She goes on to raise some compelling questions. Is it helpful to concentrate solely on legal arguments when moral imperatives are so much a part of the equation for many people? Is it useful to refuse to consider the emotional pull of the fetus even as we conclude that the rights of the mother ultimately take precedent? Is there a dangerous disconnect between our public positions and our private sentiments, a disconnect the public suspects is dishonest?

Kissling makes some excellent arguments in support of legal abortion, in which she believes deeply. To the charge that a culture in which abortion is permitted will devalue respect for all life, she counters with the example of Romania under Ceausescu, where abortion was forbidden yet children were abandoned in record numbers. But she also takes note of how troubling some potential allies have found the seemingly automatic support for later procedures, writing, "Is there nothing, they ask, that concerns pro-choice people about abortion?" - quoted at abortion clinic days, from Newsweek

As soon as I can, I will be adding this blog to my own blog-roll. If anyone reading knows of a pro-life blog that shows as much insight and feeling as this pro-choice blog does, please drop me a note. I would be more than happy to link to the more caring and even-tempered voices on both sides of this difficult and uncomfortable debate.

Posted by smijer at 12:00 AM | Comments (6)

February 26, 2005

Lyrics Du Jour

from - smijer

Just finished listening to Neil Young Rockin' the Free World. There's a strange catharsis to just hearing a rant from someone who looks at the same world you do, and sees the same ugliness. I guess it's just knowing you aren't alone in thinking those things are ugly. Maybe it's the feeling that - with people singing it so soulfully - yourself and others will be moved to do something about it. Anyway, lyrics are copied in the extended entry for those who wish to sing along...

"Rockin' In The Free World"

There's colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin' their feet
People sleepin' in their shoes
But there's a warnin' sign
on the road ahead
There's a lot of people sayin'
we'd be better off dead
Don't feel like Satan,
but I am to them
So I try to forget it,
any way I can.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away,
and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life,
and what she's done to it
There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
got roads to drive.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

Posted by smijer at 12:58 PM | Comments (2)

February 25, 2005


from - smijer

There is a fantastic article in the UUWorld magazine about the power of "microcredit" - small unguaranteed loans to third-world craftspeople - to create economic opportunity and social justice in places that we sometimes think of as "impossible". Go have a read: The microcredit revolution. Some excerpts:

In fact, lending money to people living in poverty is good business. Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development Program, says repayment rates of up to 97 percent in some developing countries have been the envy of big banks and other financial institutions. “Indeed,” Brown says, “we should not forget that most businesses everywhere start with just one or two people and grow from there—transforming economies all over the world.”


Morrow recalls a woman who was part of one of the first banks All Souls funded. She made beautiful dresses for little girls, which she then sold in the local market. Each dress took her a week to make, and she was constantly struggling to make ends meet. With the sewing machine and additional supplies she bought with her loans, she can now make twenty-five dresses a week. The money she earns has helped her family move out of poverty.


Each week they could produce six dozen pairs of shoes, earning $500 per year, far below the country's average annual income per person of $904. Cáceres heard about a local FINCA community banking group called Milagro de Dios, or Miracle of God, from a neighbor and decided to join. Her first loan was $74. She repaid and borrowed four more times, buying important assets for her business: two industrial sewing machines, a polisher, and a used vehicle to travel to the market. Each time she was able to repay her loan and save, enabling her to borrow more the next time, for a total of $1,650 over five cycles. Cáceres's shoemaking business now has ten full-time employees, and her annual income has risen to $4,000.

It's nice to see a glimmer of hope in a world full of despair.

Posted by smijer at 03:37 PM | Comments (4)


from - smijer

Has Pharyngula been disabled by a DOS attack for daring to point out the obvious about that fellow from Powerline? (nope) If so, I hope the perps are caught and put under the jail. Just sayin'. If anybody has news, I'd be interested to hear. (Nothing like straight from the horse's mouth... glad to hear it's not vandalism, and you aren't going away!)

Posted by smijer at 11:47 AM | Comments (1)

Smart Kitties

from - smijer

Mrs. Smijer went to her study group Wednesday and brought back documentary evidence that the brilliance of her host's cats was the force behind the excellent grades earned on Thursday's exam. Ms Piddy and Mr. Doody are a little camera shy this week, so may I present....



and, Libby:


and, both together:


TGIF... Go see the baby duck, and all the other critters in Steve's Friday Ark.

Also, if there are any readers who are interested in TN income tax law (or Bob Corker's senate campaign), join the discussion in the comments at Bill Hobbs Online. I have updated my Corker Post to reflect the new information I gleaned from the post. In the comments section of Hobbs' post, I dispute some of his claims about the income tax.

Posted by smijer at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2005

Go Where The Fish Are

from - smijer

Hey, Buck! Looks like somebody is stealing your ideas! Thought you'd like to know...

(In case somebody out there missed his suggestion)...

Posted by smijer at 02:28 PM | Comments (1)

My knees are knockin'

from - Buck

Neal and Newt are hawking Newt's latest book this morning. I guess we can look forward to seeing and hearing from Newt all over the television and radio as he makes known what page and which chapter of his book you can find the answer to any question you might have.

I had to chuckle when Newt and Neal started one of those "LET'S SCARE THE MINDLESS OUT OF THEIR WITS" conversations and then tried to insure the listeners that Al-Queda is the greatest threat the world has ever seen. Why, did you know that one Al-Queda member is reported to have said that it was going to be necessary for them to kill at least 10,000,000 Americans?

I don't know who this Al-Queda member is (or was) and what kind of Chinese water torture he was being subjected to when he made his proclamation but I hope he realizes that in order to reach that lofty goal he is going to need about 13,400 fully fueled 747's. He will need roughly 67,000 suicide bombers. Don't forget 30,000 box cutters and 3,350 major targets.

Personally I prefer the Social Security scare argument over the Al-Queda scare argument. After all, haven't we already killed or captured 70% of Al-Queda's vaunted leadership?

Posted by Buck at 10:43 AM | Comments (2)

Short Posts and Smackdowns

from - smijer

2005 has been a good year, so far, for on-line wars of worlds. Somehow, I managed to fall behind on reading Pharyngula this week. When I checked in last night, I discovered I had missed so much. I could join the snark chorus over the humiliating smack-down PZ Myers of Pharyngula handed Hindrocket of Powerline, for mouthing off about that of which he lacks the least understanding. But that wouldn't be very adult of me. Instead, before I run off to give the wheel a spin, I'll play another one of those awful thingies. Gosh, I hope this doesn't become a habit...

1. What animal cartoon character would you most like to be real?
2. If every species had a “were” form (like werewolves), what type of critter would you least mind being bitten by?
3. If your dog or cat (living or long-gone) were to suddenly gain human intelligence, what would you most like to say to him or her? Give the animal’s name and breed.
4. If it were scientifically proven that animals had feelings and a sense of self just like humans, what animal-derived food would you STILL be reluctant to give up?
5. If you died while camping alone in the wilderness, would you rather your body be recovered and buried in a cemetery, or remain undiscovered and be eaten by wild animals?

1. Speed Racer was the first to come to mind, because he is my earliest cartoon memory who brought an emotional thrill with his appearance on the television stage. But, really, I'll have to go with Marvin the Martian. Something about his single-minded pursuit of the destruction of earth. I think its a purity thing. Caveat... this only applies if, in real life, he fails as miserably and regularly as he does in the cartoon world.
2. That's easy. A black bear. If only full-moons could last all winter...
3. No, too ewy-gooey emotional. I try not to go there when I'm playing blogger games. The point is that it's supposed to be silly and fun.
4. Honey. I would consider buying my honey fair trade so as to avoid exploitive labor practices in the bee world.
5. Dang! No option for becoming instantly mineralized and preserved in polished stone? Oh well, I guess I'll have to ask to be found and buried. News flash to anyone that doesn't already know - funerals and graves are for the living. Most of my loved-ones are more traditionally minded than romantically minded. They could mourn better a corpse or an urn full of ashes, than a carcass devoured by coyotes and crows. On the other hand, if I was the last to go, I think it would be more fun to imagine the face of the ecosystem light up as it discovered this un-looked-for harvest of society-farmed food to enjoy through all of its diverse cycling mechanisms, from scavengers who go for the fleshy parts, down to microbes who process the final scraps to make mineral nutrition for the trees and underbrush.

Time's up...

Posted by smijer at 07:57 AM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2005

Ramblin's & Meanderin's

from - smijer

Some days are more coherent than others. This is one of those that is less. So put on your life vest and jump into the stream of consciousness. Don't worry, it being my consciousness, there shouldn't be much in the way of rapids...

Brainwise likes me! More importantly, he likes my doggie. Turns out I like him, too... not least of all for linking to this fantastic post about the craziness of missile defense. Whoever this Kung Fu Monkey is, he is adept at capturing the essence of absurdity. So any way, Prophet or Madman, the blog of Brainwise, goes on the blogroll. Kung Fu Monkey guy doesn't go on the blogroll because I just don't care so much about animation or screenwriting. But I couldn't help notice his post about the need for better villainesses. I have a few ideas from my personal experience that could help with that kind of character development...
And, hey! Did you know that there is a unicyclist blog? I don't know about you, but I find the freestyle videos rather intimidating...
Mrs. Smijer e-mailed me a link to this wacky nursing web-site (which she has added to the links on her blog)... along with a more specific link to this most excellent story.
If I'm slow posting the rest of the week, it's because I'm hosting this week's COTG (anyone else who needs an e-mail link for COTG entries... try letters@smijer.com), and I need some time to prepare both the Carnival and my own contribution to it. And because I'm supposed to be working on some other internet-related projects at the same time...
And I want to try this, but I don't want to add it to the template... so...
Who Links Here...
Wow... There's the full length of my stream of consciousness. I bet you didn't even get wet.

Posted by smijer at 12:10 PM | Comments (2)

Just Bullet Points, I'm in a hurry....

from - smijer

  • If you, like many, are in a hurry and don't have time to educate yourself and form enlightened opinions, yet you want to be sure your opinions are always the best, you may be among those who have found a shortcut. Doubtlessly, many have discovered the ease of reading or listening to Neal Boortz, and adopting the contrary to his position on whatever issue he discusses. While this guarantees an individual the best possible and most educated-seeming opinion in most cases, there are exceptions. So, a tip from me to you: you should side with Neal Boortz on eminent domain abuse. This case before the Supreme Court will have a big impact on property rights.
  • My enemy also flushes his toilet when he is done urinating. That must mean he is grudgingly admitting his approval of my actions to burn down his neighborhood.
  • In this segment Neal asks, "After all, now that North Korea has nukes what are they going to do? Use them? Hardly." This is his admission that he has never heard of deterrence. Elsewhere in the same segment, he indicates that Bush has shown his "sincerity" in terms of willingness to launch an unprovoked assault on other nations like Iraq, and presumably North Korea. Fortunately, unlike Boortz, I believe that Bush does understand the nature of a nuclear device as a deterrent. Unfortunately, he may find himself tempted to rid himself of New York or Tokyo by invading North Korea. Next week, we will explain "profit motive" to Neal Boortz, in terms of what Kim Jong Il might do with a nuclear device. We may also remind him that it was while Bush had our military busy trying to occupy a nation that we invaded that the DPKR managed to acquire nukes.
  • Never assume that Dear Leader and his flunkies cannot find weasel room enough to leave plausible doubt about their honesty. At least in the minds of their worshippers.
  • They have Neocons in the southern hemisphere, too. Not crazy enough to start the wars, but definitely those who enjoy being on the bandwagon.

And that's all the Nuze that isn't.

Posted by smijer at 07:51 AM | Comments (1)

It's News to me

from - Buck

After reading World Net Daily's 10 most underreported stories of last year you have to ask yourself where these people get their news if they think these stories were underreported!

Posted by Buck at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

Quick Laughs

from - smijer

"The most busted name in news." - XRLQ, found at Uncle's Place.

In other news, Republican Senator Joe Lieberman is showing rather shaky support for the Bush privatization plan for social security. We could use a few cross-over votes from the other side of the aisle on this one...

Posted by smijer at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

Riddle Me This, a week after Valentine's day

from - smijer

What has more wheels than a submarine, and goes *squeak, squeak, bang!*? Hint: My valentine ordered one for me for Valentine's day. See the extended entry for the answer...


Happy Valentine's Day!

Posted by smijer at 07:24 AM | Comments (3)

February 21, 2005

Something Else I'm Behind On

from - smijer

Apparently, after the AARP played fluffer for Bush's medicare gift to big Pharma, they have outlived their usefulness and are being bent over (almost literally) by the same quality individuals that brought you Swift Boat Liars. Talk about instant Karma. I say screw 'em. They sold their soul to the Bushies, and now I'd be quite glad to see them drift into irrelevancy. It's time a group with a backbone and the best interest of Americas seniors steps up to the plate. I don't think the AARP qualifies. Good luck fighting off the smear merchants, guys... you won't have my help.

Posted by smijer at 09:28 PM | Comments (1)

I'll take that back

from - smijer

I have more than one thing to say. I just got finished reading the Nuze, and I just can't hold back a couple of brief comments.

  • I find myself in one of those rare moments of agreement with theGator mouth. Hillary is basically right - election day is worth some national recognition. She's right that people who have done their time should be restored the right to vote. But Neal is right that the best way to make sure election day is a success is to keep the polls open 24 hours.
  • But, he continues to play stupid about Social Security. I know he's smarter than that, so this has just got to be rank dishonesty.
  • Ditto on Gannon-gate.
  • Bush should have known that you can't trust a friend of the Bush's. I think it's funny how, recently after Bush hiked his leg and pissed all over the gay community in a cheap and effective bid to use bigotry as a campaign strategy, this tape is released from five years ago where he worries out loud about the reprocussions from his friends in the radical religious right for his unwillingness to piss on the gays. Am I the first to think "flip flop"? Any way...
  • What, shallow platitudes will not earn us back the respect of the European community? Shock. What, we breed anti-American sentiment when we piss on our allies and start aggressive wars? Awe... Aw shucks, that its.
  • What, unprincipled Republicans who are only "conservative" when it suits their elitist agenda? Horrors! Who would have thought, in George Bush's America?
  • In the reading assignments, more efforts to paint Howard Dean as a liberal who will chase the moderates out of the Party. I guess they are hoping that's going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Personally, I think they are worried that someone's at the helm who won't turn and run at the first sign of the GOP Wurlitzer. I think they have heard the shout of "damn the torpedoes!" and they're starting to get a little bit worried. Good.

I'll shut up now.

Posted by smijer at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

One thing to say

from - smijer

Gosh. I haven't had time to breathe, lately, much less blog. But I would be remiss if I didn't address the blog news d'jour - the suicide of Hunter S. Thompson. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Better him than me.

Although I know not everyone will agree with me on that point.

Rest in peace, Hunter S. Thompson.

Posted by smijer at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

Gannon/Guckert again

from - Buck

Boortz gives his take on the Gannon/Guckert affair.

Of course I personally enjoyed Raimondo's take on it a little more.

What are the credentials that make Gannon/Guckert "a serious journalist"? This is a serious question and I am not trying to be a jerk. I am just too lazy to look them up.

Posted by Buck at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2005

The Carnival is Up

from - smijer

Carnival of the Godless
This week's idolatrous COTG is hosted by the eloquent and stylish Philosophy, et cetera.

Next week, lord willin' and the creek don't rise, the COTG will be hosted right here. Anyone who cares to participate can e-mail me, or you can send your submission to cotg-submission@brentrasmussen.com, and he will happily forward them to me. Either way, I'll get them and I'll string them together into a festive sort of carnival type format the best I can.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Posted by smijer at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

Ethics, Prejudice, and Theology

from - smijer

Carnival of the Godless

Armies of Bible scholars and theologians have for centuries found respected employment devising artful explanations of the Bible often not really meaning what it says. - J.S. Bullion, Jr., courtesy of Pharyngula

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and [that], when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son [is] stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; [he is] a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. - Deuteronomy 21:18-21

To the godless, one thing is quite clear about "fundamentalist" Christians. It's clear to nearly everyone about liberal Christians. That thing is that they do not really base their practices and beliefs on the Bible. Other religious groups who ostensibly take their doctrine from "received" scripture similarly put other influences ahead of scripture in determining doctrine.

If you ask a conservative Christian why they do not follow the Biblical edicts declaring murder to be required form of punishment for everyone from unruly children to "witches" to adulterers, they will likely give you a theological smokescreen worthy of a National Guard tear gas brigade... Inevitably its status as part of the "Old Testament" will be included in their reasoning for rejection of murder as discipline, and kosher on the dinner plate. But, they will continue to wag their fingers about those who violate the Ten Commandments or who ask to have them removed from a court house. Their preachers will still make the weekly fund-raising pitch out of Old Testament scripture, and to most of them, the Old Testament creation story is still to be taken quite literally. No such smokescreens are raised about the features of the Old Testament that they like.

I don't say this by way of criticism. In fact, I think its great when the thing that comes ahead of scripture is conscience, and I really don't mind if parishoners choose to put convenience ahead of scripture... though I hope that they will have conscience enough to put convenience ahead of scripture more on things like what's for dinner, and less on things about feeding my sheep. Furthermore, I think its wonderful that the more liberal congregations are conscious of the fact that they are putting other considerations ahead of scriptural dictates. They may justify this to themselves by suggesting that God is the force behind conscience, and that it is therefore proper to put that particular consideration first, but however they justify it, the fact remains that they are not allowing themselves to become morally corrupt on account of Iron Age ethics.

What is a problem is the conservative smokescreen. The reason is this: the conservative preachers, commentators and theologians argue that it is improper to put anything ahead of scripture. They take their own smokescreens about the old testament "dietary" or "customary" laws seriously, and continue to insist that conscience, when it conflicts with "scripture", is in error. At the same time, even they refuse to prescribe capital punishment for unruly children. The result is that they not only put conscience (in a few cases) ahead of scripture, but they also put prejudice there, and sometimes even more so. It is one thing to consciously pick and choose the scripture that you feel will help you make the most of life. It is quite another to pick and choose scripture without admitting that this is what you are doing, and to use your chosen scriptures to bolster your personal prejudices and to preach to your congegation that these scriptures that suit your prejudice are absolute and must be believed and followed, while quietly ignoring "feed my sheep". Personal prejudice is often nothing more than bigotry against a minority, or disdain of people whose station in life challenges you in some way.

This has been a mini-critique of conservative Christianity. I mean it not so much to tell anyone something they didn't already know about the fundies, but to lay a cornerstone for an eventual argument that the ethical godless should find reason to show solidarity with liberal Christians (and the liberal manifestations of other religions). I also mean it as an answer to the conservatives who would use such solidarity as a club with which to beat down the liberals in their religion. I grew up a member of a conservative religious family, and I distinctly remember the denunciations from the pulpit of "liberal" Christians as being in league with the evil "secular humanists". I didn't understand it then, but I think I do now. And I hope that we can help educate conservative laity about the phoniness and worthlessness of such attacks, and therefore help them resist the efforts their preachers make to convince them that their Bible should come before their conscience.

Posted by smijer at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2005

Me Too!

from - smijer

I normally don't do these thingies, but it just so happens that the book nearest is a way cool book. I didn't preview the sentence, but I bet it's a great one... Instructions:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

The Book is Weaveworld by Clive Barker... Now, let's see here... Page 123 is a chapter divider, so under the time honored tradition of blog time-wasters we turn instead to page 124 and find the fifth sentence...

It smelled of the Mersey; of silt and salt.

Dang... I was hoping it would have been one of the more artful sentences like...

The threads can always be traced back to some earlier tale, and to the tales that preceded that; though as the narrator's voice recedes the connections will seem to grow more tenuous, for each age will want the tale told as if it were of its own making.

Yeah... and if you have never read Weaveworld read it. And if you have never read Clive Barker, read Weaveworld before you read any of the others. Matter of fact, don't bother with the others, except maybe Imajica.

Posted by smijer at 06:58 PM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2005

Say what?

from - Buck

Just when you think things cannot possibly get weirder you find

this about Democrats


this about Republicans.

I did note that the 1.5 billion dollar price tag for an Embassy in Iraq has been slashed to about 648 million.

I guess not all news is bad.

Posted by Buck at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

How Much is that Doggie Under the Door?

from - smijer


As always, TGIF & check the Ark... I'd say more, but I'm running late again!

Posted by smijer at 08:10 AM | Comments (3)

February 17, 2005

Long Dead, Fully Decomposed, its elements incorporated into something entirely unlike itself, and that thing also quite dead... such is the state of irony

from - smijer

President Bush on Thursday warned Syria and Iran against menacing peace in the Middle East, while pledging to use diplomacy to avert developments that could threaten stability in the region.
- link

Those tears? Are they from laughter or sorrow?

Posted by smijer at 08:23 PM | Comments (1)

Wouldn't It Be Nice

from - smijer

(Wouldn't it be nice....) if we had two Civil Rights Parties? If people like John Cole have their way... it could happen. Kudos for taking the high road, John.

Posted by smijer at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

Fishers of Men

from - Buck

Neal Boortz is out of the office again. Of course I am SURE it is a WORKING vacation. After all, those high achievers NEVER relax.

But he has checked in and he is a little miffed this morning about the fact that some military recruiters had bottles thrown at them while visiting a college campus. Those poor babies. Maybe they should take a plane to Iraq and see what gets thrown at them there.

Boortz then poses the probing question asked by Hannity on last nights Hannity and Colmes show.

"Is it proper to throw bottles and other objects at the heads of military recruiters, or anyone visiting your campus?"

Ain’t Hannity brilliant?

How about this one.

“Is it proper to invade and occupy a country on false pretenses, kill tens of thousands of civilians and bring more instability to the Middle East than there has been in a generation?”

The military should reduce their visits to college campuses and increase their visits to churches. For the most part the church pushes the war while a college is more apt to discuss it and the more it is discussed the more ridiculous it seems.

The rationales for this particular war are more readily accepted if the potential recruit takes the same position for them that Tertullian took concerning the Resurrection

Credo, quia absurdum

I believe it because it is absurd.

It should be much easier to reel in those flag waving, cross bearing myrmidons as they leave Sunday school than it is to hook a young man or woman who has been exposed to both sides of the argument and is capable of some independent thought.

When you fish it just makes more sense to go where the fish are.

Posted by Buck at 09:37 AM | Comments (8)

I think I just saw Bruce Banner Turn Into the Hulk

from - smijer

Righteous indignation defined.

My usual disclaimer... Uncle Tom wasn't a real person - he was allegory. We don't need to be in the business of digging into the personal (note I said personal - not business) lives of hypocritical righties. We should be above that. There are those on our side that have showed us multiple times in the past that they are willing to stoop that low. The case of Jeff Gannon falls well outside that category for numerous reasons that I and others have enumerated. That said... holy cow, can you not just feel the righteous anger from John in DC?

Posted by smijer at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)


from - smijer

1.) My friend, Neal Boortz finds irony in the commissioning of the nuke sub "Jimmy Carter" here. He says:

For someone who favors negotiating with terrorists and buddying up to thugs like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, military action isn't high on the agenda.

I cannot help but wonder what his reaction would be if they named something after Ronald "Iran-Contra" Reagan. Do you think he would feel the defining moment of Reagan's presidency was negotiating with terrorists, and actively aiding thugs like the Nicaraguan Contras? (Or am I quoting one of Neals associates?)

2.) Synchronicity: I was just thinking about something like this last night. I was listening to a news report about the Kyoto protocols going into effect. My thoughts were, "what if some of the good old blue states took the lead in the U.S. to implement their own anti-global warming strategy... {blank}" (you can see I didn't follow that train of thought very well).

3.) Via Civic Forums, a good piece on the Chattanooga Mayoral candidates here. The Pulse endorses Coulter here. At one point, I e-mailed Joe proposing a joint blog-interview with the candidates, but I never followed through. Maybe he, and/or other Chattanooga bloggers will take the lead on that before the March election. I guess I'm not up to it.

Posted by smijer at 07:59 AM | Comments (1)

February 16, 2005

One worth keeping

from - Buck

Keep this in your scrapbook.

It will come in handy when those free-spending Democrats regain control and discussions about Republican fiscal sanity start to come up again.

Posted by Buck at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)

Soldiers must understand

from - Buck

that our enemies become our friends in the blink of an eye.

Government lawyers have insisted, literally, on "no amount of money" going to the gulf war POWs. "These resources are required for the urgent national-security needs of rebuilding Iraq," McClellan said.

In other words, this money is best spent on companies like Halliburton.

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

Posted by Buck at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

Money is Power; Power Corrupts; Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

from - smijer

It's the threat that liberals may create an effective check on the political and economic power that comes from economic success that prompts the generation of talking points decrying liberals as socialists or worse. It's the threat that economic power will usurp political power and roll back protections for individuals, workers, and consumers that keep liberals focused on an agenda that can be colored by the TV and radio pundits as anti-business. But we're right. Case in point: Walmart. Link 1; Link 2. (Links via Atrios).

Another recent case in point is the war on frivolous asbestos and class action... Link 1; Link 2

That's all for now. I'm running late to work. I hope my Ford Pinto doesn't explode on the way. (just kidding)

Posted by smijer at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2005

What Next?

from - Buck

This is not good.

I am still somewhat confused as to why we would recall our ambassador without first knowing who actually killed the former Prime Minister. The government of Syria may not have had anything to do with it. It was an act of terrorism and who knows where the terrorists came from?

It seems to me that we should work to keep the channels of communication between the United States and Syria open.

But obviously open dialogue and civil discourse are not the primary ingredients of our current zeitgeist.

Posted by Buck at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

Let Me Help

from - smijer

Dear missiles,

This is what a box-cutter looks like:


Hope that helps.

Posted by smijer at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

It's About Aunt Toms, Stupid

from - smijer

I have spoken out repeatedly against the practice of "outing" closeted gays in the Republican party. (here, and here). I continue to stand by my words. But I have a few things to say to those folks on the right are suddenly horrified about the "outing" of a male prositute who apparently played a medium-sized role in the Bush media take-over.

First thing is the title of this post: it's about the Aunt Toms, stupid. The Republican party in the last few years have made a stand in favor of apartheid for gays. If and when gay people support Republican candidates who are active in pushing the pro-apartheid agenda, they are liable for criticism on the grounds of aiding in the repression of their own people. That's pretty simple. I don't feel it's right to go after the individual instead of going after the apartheid, but don't pretend we are talking about the politics of personal destruction here. There's a word for that: facile. Another word is dishonest.

Second thing is that (as one commenter put it in John's comments) - the Gannon/Guckert scandal isn't just about outing a gay person. It's about outing a hooker. As far as I'm concerned, when the Party of Moral Purity is enlisting hookers of any variety to participate in their media coup - that's news. The fact that he is a man-on-man hooker is just another turd in the face of James Dobson's party.

Third thing is that this isn't just about whether he's a hooker. It's about the fact that he was never a journalist, until McClellan needed a life-line. He had no business in a press room. He wasn't a journalist. He's a hooker-not-a-journalist.

Fourth thing is that the White House bent and/or broke the rules to help him conceal his identity to keep their Dobson worshippers from figuring out that their media plant was also a man-on-man hooker. Women who are married and legally have their husbands' last names are not allowed to be credentialed under their maiden name, even if that is the name they use professionally. That's how seriously the White House takes the rule that you must be credentialed under your own name. Gannon/Guckert was credentialed under a complete alias. If nothing else, routine security had to have unearthed this simple fact.

Fifth thing - I almost forgot (thanks to "none" in John's comments again) - JG was involved in some way in the criminal outing of an undercover CIA agent. What way? Who knows. We aren't likely to find out any time soon, either. It remains an issue.

So, please, please, please, quit trying to persuade people that this is about whether he is gay or whether he is conservative. It's dishonest, and it's only going to work on stupid people. Do you guys really want to be the party of liars and dummies?

Posted by smijer at 07:45 AM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2005

Justice is Blind

from - Buck

And now I know why

Posted by Buck at 01:34 PM | Comments (1)

Go Read Somebody Else's Blog

from - smijer

Specifically, Chris's blog, Philocrites.

While the Editors were right that there is virtually no anti-torture voice currently among the Republicans, Chris points out a couple of more cases where conservatives are demonstrating a conscience on this issue, while reminding us of the very ugly spectre of religious persecution as part and parcel of the torture process. I agree with Sebastian Holtzclaw that it would be nice to divorce Islamic terrorism from the notion of martyrdom, despite the fact that the notion is completely unrealistic. Unrealistic as it is, it is in fact impossible as long as we persist in actually martyring and persecuting people for their religion.

Another great post from Chris shows how more people are waking up to the fact that conservative religious morality can be ineffective at best. A tie-in, via the Editors, is a despicable demonstration of how conservative religious morality can be very harmful.

Posted by smijer at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

Wove, Twue Wove

from - smijer

On Valentine's Day, millions of men give millions of women flowers, cards, and candy as a heartfelt expression of the emortion that also motivates men to observe anniversaries and birthdays: fear.
- Dave Barry
Posted by smijer at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

Patent Not Thy Neighbor

from - smijer

Via Philocrites, have a look at this whole can of worms.

Running late this morning. I'll try to check in with a Boortz or something later on.

Update (Related): I'm going with the theory that Say Uncle is Libertarian Girl. Now, I wonder if he isn't also Catallarchy.

Posted by smijer at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2005

Sunday Carnival

from - smijer


I've just finished browsing this week's Carnival of the Godless over at Science and Politics. It's a somewhat smaller collection, but still a good one. They included my pitiful attempt at humor with my Interview with God post. I guess I need to stick with straight writing.

I chuckled at Bob's post. Friends and family who are Christian and easily feel insulted: please do not click the link. I'll just sum it up for you. Bob take's umbrage over those who express the sentiment that God is specially watching out for them when they avoid a tragedy (that others were devastated by), or that God heals football players' legs in time for the Superbowl while leaving children in wheelchairs all over the world. Anyway, it reminded me of an e-mail I got from a friend at work... I'll reproduce the e-mail here:

Saved From a Fiery Furnace

By Debbie Harper and Tim Branson
The 700 Club

CBN.com – The fire was still 15 miles away when Bill Walton first saw smoke rising over the ridge of his 80-acre ranch in Trinidad, Colorado.

"The fire department's answer to us was that they had a crew, it was under control, and there was no danger. They said the house was far enough away and that we were in no danger."

But Bill felt differently.

"As I was tying my shoes, I just felt God speak to me, 'Bill, you need to evacuate. You need to get everything out of the house.' I was just going on what was in my heart, what I felt like the Lord had told me."

pic1.bmpBill's feelings were confirmed when his wife, Natalie, felt the same way. Together they agreed to get all their belongings out of the house.

"I got clothes, pictures, and baby things that were precious to me," says Natalie, "and I just shoved them into the car."

Using a horse trailer, cars, and trucks, Bill, along with his brothers and friends, started packing the house. The fire kept getting closer. By the time they finished loading everything, the fire had crossed the ridge and was moving toward the house. The fire department came, but it was too late. The fire started crowning, and the volunteer firefighters had to evacuate.

"The firefighter explained fire was going from treetop to treetop burning down, and the heat gets up to 2000°F. That's what was happening when we evacuated," says Bill.

The fire gained momentum and came down through the canyon. Bill and his father went to the top of the ridge to see what was going on. While they were up there, they got a phone call that said the house was gone.

At the same time the flames raged through their property, a group of children from their church in the Colorado Springs area stopped and prayed:

"Dear God, help Pastor Bill's house."

"Dear Lord, You said there is great power in the name of Jesus."

Bill had called Kevin Moore, senior youth pastor of New Life Church. Pastor Moore explained Bill's absence to the children.

"The reason he's not here is because a fire is threatening his home, and he asked that you guys would pray, " Pastor Moore told the children.

One by one, the children earnestly prayed for Bill and Natalie:

"Dear Lord we know you are in control of all things."
"Just put your angels around, put a hedge of protection."
"Please pass by his house in the name of Jesus."

pic3.bmpAfter the fire cleared the area, Bill went back to the house, driving through the charred land. As he drove down the driveway and came around the corner, he saw the most unbelievable sight… their bright yellow house was still standing.

"It was so amazing. The house was still there -- untouched! There was just such joy."

The fire had miraculously stopped at the house and hadn't touched it. From all reports, the house should have been consumed, like everything around it.

A firefighter told Bill the last thing she saw.

"She said it looked like gas was being poured on the roof, flames were everywhere, and she knew we had lost the house."

Bill showed CBN just how close the fire had come -- just a few feet away on all sides.

"When the flames came down, they consumed everything and burned the retaining wall, which was just a few feet away from the wood siding on the house. The heat was 2000°F only five feet away."

Firewood only a few feet away from the blaze remained uncharred. The flames were that close on all sides. And the heat was so intense that it melted a lamppost.

Could it be possible that a few prayers could stop such an inferno? This family believes it is possible.

"We are modern-day Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We believe God still has fire-retardant power," says Bill.

Natalie's first thought was for her unbelieving parents. " 'See what prayer does.' "

Bill and Natalie believe this testimony of God's power will inspire people's faith, including the faith of the children who prayed.

"Their prayers made the difference, in that their prayers are very special to God, and God hears them and wants to answer them. He wants to encourage them and build them in their faith in the area of prayer," says Pastor Moore.

Adds Bill, "What we have seen happen, as a result of this miracle, is that people's faith is being inspired to believe God for even greater miracles. It's a great testimony that God's hand is still moving."

Since this wasn't a chain letter, but something my friend (he's a preacher) had picked up off the internet and thought would be nice to send to me, I didn't give it the chain letter treatment. I did reply, though... in the spirit of Bob's post. Here's what I said, verbatim:

I love this. It reminds me of the story of the little boy who was praying that his dad would stop beating him and his mother… and he did! Just after his mom died of an accident with the iron, the daddy went away to live somewhere else.

'Course, I'm very happy that this home was spared. I've never personally endured a loss of a home from fire, but I have known several who have, and each of them testifies that it is a terrible ordeal. So it's good that their home was spared, but somehow I don't think this same congregation is praying so hard for all the other families whose homes will be lost this year, nor does anyone really believe they could stop those losses if they did.

Before I go, one other fun quote from the Carnival:

I just hope that after the fundamentalist Christians defeat evolution that they go after entomology next. I’m tired of all these bugs.

- Hank Fox

Next week, Philosophy, et cetera hosts, and the following week, it's my turn! Hooray!

Update: In what can only be a sign from Bob, it turns out Alice has another housefire story which I just read after completing this post, in which she and her husband play a role in limiting the scope of a tragedy. Great job Alice & Greg!!

Posted by smijer at 09:57 AM | Comments (1)

View From A Mud Puddle

from - smijer

This morning, I awoke face down in a figurative puddle of mud. I gazed up from my lowly vantage and searched the horizon. My wagon was nowhere to be seen. I suppose my experiment with the Scotch was one of those catastrophic successes. Any way, I've got to go run and catch up with the wagon, and make it a point not to try dropping just one leg off again.

Posted by smijer at 09:10 AM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2005

A(nother) Interview With God

from - smijer

I had this interview with God, see? Here's how it went.

Me: God, let me just start by saying what a pleasure and honor it is to have this opportunity to speak with you in person and hear your thoughts on a few things. To begin with, maybe I'm the only one who really wants to know this, but I'm just dying to know what you think about unbelievers. I mean, does it bug you that there are people out there who deny your existence? Don't you ever feel like just shaking them, and saying, "Hello! It's me! I'm real!"?


Me: Ok... Uh... Let me try a different tack here. Can you give us your thoughts on evil? I mean, we all know you're against it, but I mean like, can you get rid of it? Some folks say that its inevitable as long as there's free will. So, are you going to get rid of free will? What's the big picture, there?


Me: Ok, then. Let's just jump right into the meat & potatoes questions. Big one: End of the world? When? I mean, I know you can't tell us what day or anything, but like, I mean within a decade? Hundred years? I know all the readers are very interested to learn more about when, or how, or whatever you care to share with them.


Me: How do you think people should treat each other?


Me: For instance, the Golden Rule... I really like that one by the way... one of my favorites... I mean, should we carry that to extremes? I mean, like, if a straight person wants respect and dignity and wants to be able to express his own sexuality in any socially acceptable way, without shame, or legal discrimination... shouldn't he want the same thing for gay people? Does it work that way?


Me: Interesting... Ok, I'm glad that we're getting to talk about this whole "how to treat people thing." Some people have just taken it upon themselves to go out and make up some rules for how people should treat each other, without even asking you. This is a great opportunity to let us know how you stand on their ideas. How did they do?


Me: Great answer! Ok... bear with me on this one... kind of frivolous, I know, but I've really been wondering this. Take something "wrong"... you know, like lying, or stealing, or whatever... Could you make it OK? I mean, can you do stuff like that?


Me: If you don't mind, I'd like a follow-up on that. Murder - it still kills the guy, and his wife & kids still grieve & everything... but it could still be OK if you said so?


Me: Interesting. Next question: Boxers or briefs? Ha! Ha! just kidding, of course. Really, what I'd like to know is... Is there a "true" religion? Is it like the Bible says, "No man cometh to the father but by me"... like that? Or like the New Agers, "all the different paths eventually lead to the same place"? Can you shed any light on that?


Me: Ok. Great. Uhh... Hell: what's the deal with that, anyway?


Me: I mean, burning people forever? Is that your gig?


Me: I'll just put "refused to comment." Let's see if I can get you to open up with something like this... What surprises you the most about humanity?

[Laughter... mine]


Me: Which came first, the barnacle or the crab? What about those other designed biological systems? I mean, what's up with that?


Me: On a related note, can you wiggle your ears? Are those who can(not) do so also made in your image?


Me: Absolutely fascinating. It's been a real pleasure. Thanks so much for your time!


Well, needless to say, I picked one of God's more reticent times to do the interview. Bad luck. It's ok, though... because I'm pretty sure I can fill in most of those empty blanks. And, we may not always have 100% assurance of getting it right, but I think anyone with a consience and a willingness to stretch their minds out a little bit can satisfactorily answer just about any important question without recourse to books or interviews where people claim to speak for God.

Update - those reading from the Carnival of the Godless might want to check out my post from today. I have a story that dovetails with Bob's excellent post.

Posted by smijer at 07:40 AM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2005

A Single Malt Scotch Whiskey For Around $19.99

from - smijer

Ok, so here I am... still on the wagon... nearly three months now... dutifully making a run by the package store for wine for my wonderful Significant Other, and I decided just to take a peak at the scotches before I checked out. What should I find? Ten year Speyburn, priced $19.99. "What the heck?" thought I. Here it is, on my desk, easily within arms reach.

What now? I'll let you know what I decide.

Update: Dang, that tastes good. My plan to keep one leg on the wagon is to limit myself to weekend only, and 1-2 glasses per weekend day only, and no more after this bottle is gone.

Posted by smijer at 09:32 PM | Comments (2)


from - smijer

He was a good 'un.

Posted by smijer at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)


from - smijer

Doo Doo is his name, but his friends call him snuggle-doggie. Here's a sample of why.

Upside-down snuggling with eldest step-child:

Upside-Down Snuggling

Favorite snuggle - momma:


Giving a Foot Mustache to yours truly:


In a pinch, will snuggle with the non-snuggly doggie:


And, the Friday Ark just keeps getting better & better. You cannot miss the Cotton-top Tamarins, but they're all treasures, really.

TGIF, and may all your days be snuggly.

Posted by smijer at 07:50 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2005

Thursday mini-roundup

from - smijer

Just two items:

1) Boortz is bearer of good news, in what appears to be a win-win situation for the residents of Jonquiere, Quebec. If you need me I'll be at the Tiftonia Wal*Mart... trying to organize the employees.

2) Nice discussion of the oft-demonized ACLU in the comments over at US Chatter. I thank Bob for the ACLU. And religious folks ought to be thanking their God for them. The ACLU is one of very few places in America where principle still trumps partisanship.

Personally, I can't get my mind off that advertising space.

Update: Oooh... Damn! Fantastic post.

Posted by smijer at 11:49 AM | Comments (1)

I predict

from - smijer

Using my supernatural powers of predictive prophecy, I predict that certain individuals will claim that the Bible saw this coming thousands of years ago. Even though it didn't. Tune in next week for winning lottery numbers.

Posted by smijer at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

Eason Who?

from - smijer

Kos takes on the micro-scandal around "liberal media" exec Eason Jordan, and contrasts it with the Bush administration propaganda machine as most recently exposed in the person of Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert. He concludes (and I agree) "we win." Only really, it's just evidence that we (as in ...the people...) lose.

Posted by smijer at 07:49 AM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2005


from - smijer

What would you pay $15G to put in her cleavage?

(Bikini Tip - Off the Kuff)

Posted by smijer at 09:11 PM | Comments (1)

The Saga Continues...

from - Buck


Bumper sticker seen in Washington, DC

Posted by Buck at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

Where's My Guitar?

from - smijer

Funny... it turns out I'm a yardbird. Gosh, I hope I'm Jimmy Page. Or Clapton. That would be cool.

Posted by smijer at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

A Distinction, and the Beginning of a Discussion, Maybe

from - smijer

The Republicans have been fairly successful at claiming and defending the territory of religion and morals. The Democrats are in the process of trying to find their own turf in the new landscape of American politics. There's all this talk about the "religious left" coming out, in what appears to be a bid to compete with the Republicans for the religion and morals ground. I think there is a useful distinction we can draw, and a better perch for the Democrats to set up shop upon. Let the Republicans be the party of religion and morals. Let the Democrats lay claim to the essentials that are associated with religion and morals in the public imagination and which impart to them their reflected desirability: ethics and conscience.

We already have quite an historical advantage in this regard. We were (and are) the party of civil rights. We forced our presidential candidate to take a stand against unprovoked war. We have, historically, been the ones to fight to reduce poverty. We have, historically, supported education, and other issues important to children and teens. We are the logical party to continue a tradition of conscience. We do need work on our systematic thinking, though.

Currently, the Republicans are sporting a very dismal record on ethical thinking - particularly with regards to overseas adventuring. Many have abdicated conscience because of political pressures to vote with the President on the confirmation of Gonzales and similar matters. So, while they are building monuments to the ten commandments and ranting about the impending destruction of Christmas by secular progressives, we have a golden opportunity to start laying down a foundation of systematic ethics to guide our thinking. We have a golden opportunity to base our political actions on considerations of conscience, in a way that will naturally attract the sincere to the cause... without resorting to the preachiness or hatefulness of Focus on the Family.

The one big obstacle that makes it difficult for us to frame the debate on ethics and conscience is the issue of reproductive rights. Ethical thinking about this subject is extremely difficult. Opportunities to get side-tracked abound. I don't mean this post as a three paragraph introduction into more navel-gazing about reproductive rights, or context for an approving link to this post from left2right in the "Letting Roe Go" series. Because there are any number of issues that can be sorted out in terms of systematic ethics and conscience. But we owe it to ourselves to do some very hard thinking about this set of issues. I don't necessarily endorse David V.'s precise angle on why, short of "right-to-life" arguments, we should consider whether greater abortion restrictions are appropriate. But I think his angle does expose one of the most pertinent and least talked about aspects of the debate. Although it's one element, jumbled in amongst many, abortion opponents and advocates of choice do easily get hung up on the appearance of the fetus. It has ten little fingers, and ten little toes. Abortion opponents experience that as something precious, to be protected. Advocates of choice experience that as short of person-hood, and therefore valueless. I suspect both sides are allowing themselves to get hung up at this point instead of following through with some real tough thinking on the matter. There are a few avenues that we need to tread down as a group... all of us. There's no time for it this morning, but I will return to this subject. It's by far my least favorite subject for discussion, but I think it's important. So I will return to it. In the meantime, reflect on the thoughts David has introduced, and try to resist the temptation to jump to a conclusion before the thought process is finished.

Posted by smijer at 07:41 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2005

Guilty Pleasure

from - smijer

I really shouldn't be enjoying this so much. But I just can't help it. Maybe Goldberg should get on the radio so he can pull the other guy's mic when he starts getting it handed to him.

Posted by smijer at 12:33 PM | Comments (5)

Academic Freedom?

from - Buck

Boortz is totally incensed by Ward Churchill and his offensive statements but is just as incensed today at the possibility of students being offended by professors.

I guess it all depends on what offends them, right Neal?

Posted by Buck at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

How to Be a Good Liberal: Be Wrong

from - smijer

Last night, I found myself reading from the 101st Fighting Keyboards and other war-bloggers, and I ran across this post at Ipse Dixit (who is a veteran of the armed-services**), praising a Chicago editorialist for acknowledging the possibility of a successful democratization of Iraq. The central point this Chicago liberal made was expressed this way:

By now, you might have even voted against George Bush -- a second time -- to register your disapproval. But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?

This is only a sample of what was said, and in context of the remainder and the apparent success of the Iraqi elections, I can sympathise with the writer as well. I wouldn't go so far as to say any of this, though:
I've said all along that the Republic's health demands two vibrant, active parties competing in the marketplace of ideas. Yours has been malingering for the last few years and will need a lot more of this kind of reasoned - and eminently reasonable - medicine before it's ready to take up the role of the loyal opposition it hasn't yet accepted is the one it's supposed to be playing.

It's a trend I've noticed that, in order to receive accolades from the right, the left need only be wrong on some relatively minor point, and make an expression of good will toward the right with that one point as a basis. Which is a shame, because it should be possible, in theory, to have a healthy debate without departing from ones' principled and stand, and logical basis.

What makes this Chicago editorialist wrong is the same thing that makes every right-wing celebrant of apparent advances toward "freedom" in Iraq wrong: the simple moral principle that the ends do not justify the means. I've noted to myself, with all the talk about how "freedom is on the march" coming from the administration, that its proponents' rhetoric almost makes you think that they take that institution more seriously and treat it with more respect than just a place-holder for third or fourth place in a list of excuses to go to war. But that irony does seem to be lost on many, including both right- and left- wing editorialists and bloggers. That tells me that we are not doing a good enough job reminding people of the administration's close ties to and support for authoritarian regimes, and how it gives the lie to their pro-freedom rhetoric. But I digress.

Returning to the point at hand, I answer the editorialist's question: "What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?" The answer is that the result is already known. Bush was not right, and we were not wrong. I share with you the doubts about whether Iraq will ever be free, especially as a result of our nation's invasion. But even if freedom came tomorrow. Even if Al-Zarqawi, Al-Sistani, Al-Sadr, and every insurgent leader woke up in the morning and had the conversion experience that I know every fundamentalist Christian in the U.S. is constantly praying for them to have*, and even if all fighting ends tomorrow, and Iraq moves immediately to a true Constitutional democracy with equal rights for all... even then, Bush was wrong, and we were right. Bush made clear the conditions for war. "Disarm," he said, "or we will disarm you." Over and over, he made it plain, that disarmament was the reason for war. There was never an ultimatum that Iraq move toward "freedom" in order to avoid war. There may have been many issues, including human rights and the spread of democracy, that Bush used to make a propaganda case for war, but there was only one ultimatum: disarm, or be disarmed. Yet, Iraq was already disarmed, and Bush never bothered to find out.

We were right. The ends do not justify the means. We all hope that the end in Iraq will be a peaceful and free regime, but we all must know and acknowledge that agressive warfare is not an acceptable first resort for bringing about such a situation. War is terrorism. War kills and maims the innocent along with the guilty. War destroys lives. We cannot live in a world where agressive war is seen as an acceptable means to an end. The only end that war can serve is defense against, or protection from agression. This war does not qualify. It was wrong.

It looks grim now, but there is some chance that the end will include a positive result for the regime in Iraq. That end cannot miraculously change the moral case for war. It looks grim now, but there is even a remote chance that the end will include a positive security result for the U.S. - it was not worth the gamble, and that security result could have been better guaranteed by a security, human rights, and democracy-minded diplomacy applied consistently.

*What, no? Ha! I caught you guys being realists!
**To my embarassment, I did not take notice in my original post that the blogger at Ipse Dixet is a veteran of the armed services. He sets me straight in the comments, so I should acknowledge that in this update.

Posted by smijer at 07:57 AM | Comments (5)

February 07, 2005

Yea or Nay?

from - Buck

OK Deaniacs and Democrats, is this good or bad news?

Posted by Buck at 04:38 PM | Comments (3)

American Hubris in 20 Words or Less

from - smijer

Boortz sums it up:

Do you want an Iran with nuclear weapons? If so, then the argument ends there.

No consideration of what we are capable of, or what consequences a military action will bring. No consideration of what moral rights we have. It's only a question of what we want. I think that explains a lot of the politics of the last four years.

Posted by smijer at 07:35 AM | Comments (2)

February 06, 2005

Super Stroll Through Memory Lane

from - smijer

Well, here it is Super Bowl Sunday. We have a blue-state matchup, with the pluralistic Patriots from John Kerry's home state playing Philadelphia's individualistic Eagles. I'll be rooting for the Eagles because of their underdog status, and because I just can't help admiring Don McNabb and feeling like his time has come. But the Titans won't be playing, so I'm guaranteed to be personally no unhappier at the end of the day.
I wasn't always a Titans fan. I remember being a kid in the late seventies. Then, I was a Steelers fan. I was for the Steelers for the same reason I was for the Braves: because when I asked my Daddy who we were for, he said (and I can still hear his voice saying the words), "Why, the Steelers, of course."

Time went on, and the only football I ever got interested in watching was the Georgia Bulldogs and Herschel Walker. I never played for the school, but front- or back-yard football was an institution in my neighborhood. We lined up with whoever we had, and ran until we were sick. Some days, the game quickly degenerated into "Pitch Up and Smear"... Being a little fella, I tended not to be the sucker who would catch the pitch-up. I found it claustrophobic on the bottom of the pile.

Today, I don't follow sports closely at all. The teams I do root for have one thing in common - they are, where possible, the "hometown team". I know it doesn't mean much in an era when players move thousands of miles to play for a State University or pro ball squad half a continent away, but I do it anyway, for the same reason I rooted for the Steelers when I was eight years old... I learned it should be that way from Daddy.

The Titans are out tonight. For that reason, I can say, with good conscience, and in solidarity with Atrios...

Iggles... Go!

Posted by smijer at 01:25 PM | Comments (0)

In Which I Shamelessly Pimp My Other Project

from - smijer

The Carnival of the Godless is up at Pharyngula, and it looks to be a real treat. Without thought to propriety, I submitted two pieces, one of which appears on my daughter project, The Chain Letter Project. This should make for a good day's reading up to and after the Super Bowl... maybe even in to tomorrow. And you folks who have a God or a few, you might have a look, too. You never know when a Godless person might stumble on something important that you need to know!

Posted by smijer at 12:53 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2005

Will we really ever know?

from - Buck

It will be interesting to find out the exact number of voters that turned out during the elections in Iraq. I recently read in an article that 8 million Iraqi's voted at a total of 5,000 locations. If you assume a 12 hour voting period that means that every person took less than 30 seconds to vote and have their finger dipped in the inkwell.

That is an amazing feat when you take a look at that ballot and consider what they were considering.

One ballot contains candidates for a 275-member National Assembly, and the other has candidates for the voter's provincial legislature. Voters in the Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq will receive a third ballot with candidates for the self-governing region's parliament. On each ballot, a voter will choose one list of candidates, rather than individual names. The number of candidates elected from each list depends on the percentage of votes the list receives nationwide.

I wish it took less than 30 seconds to vote here in my hometown. Hell, I have waited 15 minutes before with only 5 other people in front of me.

Maybe the Iraqi's could teach us a thing or two about voting but I guess people would get in and get out rather quickly if they were concerned that an RPG might follow them into the booth.

Posted by Buck at 01:17 AM | Comments (1)

February 04, 2005


from - smijer

Farewell Ernst Mayr.

Posted by smijer at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

In Good Hands

from - Buck

Well, now that Gonazales is in charge of Justice and it looks like Chertoff is going to be in charge of Security the Bush Doctrine will march on.

I find myself becoming more and more interested in exactly who is going to be chosen in 2009 to clean up the economic, diplomatic and domestic messes that have been made after George the Son goes back to dragging brush in Crawford, Texas.

To help ease the pain that the next four years will bring perhaps we should take the advice of Jon Stewart

for a fun second-term drinking game, chug a beer every time you hear the phrase, 'contentious, but futile protest vote by Democrats.' By the time Jeb Bush is elected, you’ll be so wasted you won’t even notice the war in Syria.
Posted by Buck at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

OPP Friday

from - smijer

Thought we were due for a break from Doo-Doo and Ms. Piddy. Oh, come on, now. They've been on every Friday since November 26. I'm sure you'll all get along one week without them. No, really.

For the interlude, may I present... erm.... Polly. This is the Sun Conure that belongs to, and was named by, Nephew B1. Here, he poses atop the shoulder of younger step-son, shortly after giving him a lesson in grooming:


And, here Polly dines on the quintessential parrot food, atop yours truly. Photo by Mrs. Smijer:


Get the rest of your Friday Fauna Fix at The Modulator. My favorites so far are Athena, Zoe, and my secret but perennial Basset fetish, TBogg's dogs.

Posted by smijer at 07:43 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2005

Shame On Us

from - smijer

The U.S. has renounced all claim to conscience on matters of human rights.

I'm starting to think that it may really be time for people of conscience to consider forming an independent union separate from the United States. Since we are a minority, I suppose we can let the red states keep the name. It's tainted any way.

Does anyone know of any real estate available in Washington State?

Posted by smijer at 05:56 PM | Comments (3)


from - smijer

Applicable, in our times. Thanks, Screwy.

Posted by smijer at 02:45 PM | Comments (1)

Sieg Heil!

from - Buck


Retired Army Colonel Robert Killebrew, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) September 7, predicted that elections will be followed by a civil war

Perhaps the answer to an ink stained index salute will soon be the blood stained birdie?

Posted by Buck at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

It's a Party!

from - smijer

The Volunteer Tailgate Party is up, and this time I'm on board. Go have a look what the rest of the Big Orange Bloggers have on their noggins. Thanks to Michael at Half-Bakered for the great job hosting.

Oh yeah. I didn't watch. I hear that we're liberating the activist judges next. Is that right?

Posted by smijer at 06:53 AM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2005

SOTU 2005

from - smijer

Should I watch, or just ask someone to drop me a note if it is announced who will be Democratized next, and/or with what army? Here's my drinking game: Take a drink (or a deep breath in my on-the-wagon-case) every time you think to yourself "You Don't Own Their Courage". Full text below the fold.

You do not own their courage.

The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide. They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.

You do not own their courage.

They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies. They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own. They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.

You do not own their courage.

Posted by smijer at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

We have all been here before

from - Buck

I can't believe that I amost missed this one.

A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.

This historical "vote" took place about 4 months before the Tet Offensive.

It keeps me wondering how many other golden nuggets of information are floating around in cyberspace.

So much information, so little time.

Posted by Buck at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

Little Toy Soldiers

from - Buck


By far, my favorite news event of yesterday.

After the posting of this nonsense the military stopped everything and did a 150,000 soldier head count. Probably contracted Halliburton to do the job for them at a cool five hundred million dollars.

Don't miss the follow up.......Mother pleads for sons life.

Somewhere Osama's smile widens just a little bit.

Posted by Buck at 12:11 AM | Comments (1)

February 01, 2005

Make a Stand

from - smijer

The vote on Gonzales' confirmation is coming up soon. For that reason, I'm reiterating my earlier appeal to all bloggers: conservative and liberal alike, to ask their readers to call their senators and ask for a "no" vote. This is not a red-state, blue-state issue. Ricky... what do you think?

Also for that reason, I am going to try to answer some objections to the proposed course of actions, in hopes of changing a mind or two. Powerline doesn't see the problem with Gonzales. Specifically, Hindrocket says:

This morning, Robert J. Delahunty and John C. Yoo, the authors of Justice Department memos concluding that the Geneva Convention does not apply to captured terrorists, addressed that issue in the Los Angeles Times. Their theme is that the Geneva Convention was designed for wars between nation states, and applies poorly to the current conflict, which mostly involves trans-national terrorist groups and what Delahunty and Yoo classify as "pseudo-states." They do a pretty good job of making that basic point, but I don't think they convey as clearly as they could how obviously correct it is that the Convention has no application to captured terrorists. As a legal matter, this conclusion is inarguable.

To suggest that Gonzales is somehow unsuited to be Attorney General because he agreed with an unassailable legal position is a tough argument to make. But we have no doubt that the Democrats will try to make it.

There are three problems with this argument:
1) It is wrong. As I pointed out in a comment before, the Geneva conventions are not limited to state sponsored soldiers:

Article 4
A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
6. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

2. We don't have any captured terrorists. We have captured people whom we suspect of terrorist activities, and we have prisoners of war. The presumption of guilt is anathema to the American way.

3. (Most importantly) The argument misses all of the most important points:

  • Torture and prisoner abuse is against U.S. law as well as the Geneva Conventions.
  • Gonzales' re-definition of torture to include only such harm as could cause death or permanent injury is indefensible.
  • Gonzales' legal claim, which he failed to denounce during hearings, that the President is above the law in regards to anti-torture laws that he "believes" amount to unconstitutional limitations on Presidential War Powers, is also indefensible.

The Gonzales nomination is a chance for every Senator, every blogger, and every citizen to answer a call to conscience. We can oppose confirmation and show the world that we do not promote those who try to craft legal protection for torture and abuse, or we can do nothing and show the world that we truly believe ourselves to be above the law. Call your senator today, and encourage others to do so as well!

Republican Senators can join Lindsay Graham:

Sen. Lindsay Graham is the lone Republican to blast Gonzales. His boyish face comes paired with a kindergartner's hyperactivity, as he impatiently rocks his chair while waiting for his turn. During Gonzales' answers to others' questioning, Graham sometimes wears a look of confusion mingled with disgust. "I think we've dramatically undermined the war effort by getting on a slippery slope in terms of playing cute with the law," Graham, a reserve Air Force JAG officer, says. He adds later, "And I think you weaken yourself as a nation when you try to play cute and become more like your enemy instead of like who you want to be."

Gonzales senses that Graham has made a mistake and seizes on it. "We are nothing like our enemy, Senator," he protests. They behead people, like Danny Pearl and Nick Berg. Graham notes that this is a pretty low moral standard for America to aspire to. I agree that we're nothing like the enemy, he says. "But we're not like who we want to be and who we have been." (During Graham's second round of questioning, Gonzales tells him that government lawyers did the very best they could when they wrote the memo. "Well that's where you and I disagree," Graham retorts. "I think they did a lousy job.")

Posted by smijer at 09:09 PM | Comments (0)

Scalia (Does Religion Make You Dumb?)

from - smijer

Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia appeared before the Knights of Columbus to reassure them that they shouldn't be afraid to... (I'm tempted to say "make fools of themselves"!) ... appear foolish to "educated circles". He was seeking to reassure them that religion does not make you dumb.

I think he was basically correct on his central point. After all, some religious people are dumb, but some are very smart. The set of religious people includes all sorts. Including, no doubt, those smart people who are good at rationalizing things they came to believe for not-smart reasons... as Shermer once said. No matter how right Scalia may have been, though, I just couldn't help notice the incredible irony about how he attempted to make his point. Now, bear in mind that Scalia is a brilliant man. Very smart. Everybody - friends, enemies, and colleagues - all agree that he is one of the brightest legal minds out there. Corrupt? Maybe. Partisan? Definitely. Dumb? Never.

So, how can one of the brightest legal minds out there possibly misunderstand the nature of eyewitness testimony badly enough to say this?

“Intellect and reason need not be laid aside for religion,” he said. “It is not irrational to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses who had nothing to gain. There is something wrong with rejecting a priori (deductively) the existence of miracles.”

Now, miracles are tricky class of events, and their status will certainly depend upon how you define them, so I won't challenge whether it is proper to use deductive means to rule out the possibility of them. The real problem is that the guy poised to be the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America has trouble distinguishing between eyewitness testimony and hearsay!

The simple fact is that there are only a couple of passages in any text anywhere that include a claim to be an eye-witness to Jesus' time on earth. Of those very few passages, some are very much in dispute as to meaning. Others are disputable as to the validity of the claims. And none of them but the very questionable John 21:22-24 testifies to any of the miraculous events Scalia referred to. This passage states:

Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what [is that] to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what [is that] to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

It's impossible to tell if the author of John is claiming to be the "wandering Jew", or if he is claiming to have gotten his story from him. Even if the author is claiming to be an eye-witness himself, he certainly wasn't witness to the virgin birth and several other miraculous events. Furthermore, there is no way to authenticate his possible claim to eye-witness status.

Furthermore, Scalia should recognize that eye-witness testimony is all but useless unless there is some mechanism by which to cross-examine the witness. Since the witnesses in this case (if any) are long dead, and cannot even be reliably placed near the events that they claim to describe, their testimony really counts for no more than legend.

Now, Scalia could have just as well said "religion doesn't make you dumb, and there is nothing wrong with believing in things because of religious traditions." Instead he effectively said - "look, religion made me - an otherwise very smart man - dumb."

Posted by smijer at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

And the winner is.......

from - Buck


How best to win the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

You can start by losing 9 billion dollars.

Reckon how much of this money is being used now to fund the "insurgency"?

Posted by Buck at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

Extremism at the Vatican

from - smijer

Vatican praises cancer victim.

"She was aware that if she gave birth she wouldn't have had any hope of surviving," the Vatican newspaper wrote. "Despite that she went through with her choice, the choice of welcoming new life even at the cost of her own death."

Besides Federico, born after six months of her pregnancy, she left two children, ages 10 and 12.

I, too, respect the spirit in which she made her choice, and I would never take that legal choice away from her. However, her sacrifice was not only her own. Did she have a moral right to take away the mother of two children, someone's wife, someone's child, in order to save a fetus upon whom no-one depended?

How many more will follow her example because of praise from the Vatican, and how many more children and families will suffer as a result? Extremism is rarely healthy.

Posted by smijer at 09:35 AM | Comments (1)


from - Buck

Is it fair to call Iraq and or Afghanistan a quagmire?

I guess that is a matter of opinion. I do not know what an acceptable length of time would be before you admit you are in a "a difficult, precarious, or entrapping position"

After the United States helped to overthrow the democratically elected ruler of Iran back in 1953 it was 26 years before the seeds of that decision brought forth fruit. And I believe it is safe to say that the decision to invade and occupy Iraq will still be having grave implications even 26 years from now.

We are in the process over there of exchanging one Saddam with another. We are training policemen and soldiers in the fine art of stifling political dissent. We will not leave until we are sure that the population can be properly held in check.

Saddam had policemen already. Saddam had remnants of an army. Saddam used them to destroy internal opposition. How will the actions of the new government differ from the actions of the old government?

As Smijer has already said

Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss

Posted by Buck at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)