May 31, 2005

Taking Lessons from Bush on Amnesty's Condemnation Is Like Taking Lessons from Bush on the English Language

from - smijer

And you can do both, here.

On Amnesty:

I'm aware of the Amnesty International report, and it's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that is -- promotes freedom around the world. When there's accusations made about certain actions by our people, they're fully investigated in a transparent way. It's just an absurd allegation.

On the English Language:

It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of -- and the allegations -- by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble -- that means not tell the truth.

... People who hate America and went through the "extra-legal" internment camp, held without charge, even though many were innocent, and in the company of whom were over a hundred that died under interrogation... Sheesh... they should love America and quit "disassembling" about everything.

I get this via the Moderate Voice, who also criticizes the Amnesty report for not properly contextualizing American offenses against human rights. Well, I disagree. I think they are merely missing the context. The Soviet Gulag was a place for political prisoners who were held without charge by one of the most powerful superpowers on the planet. The context is America as superpower. Camp X-ray, Abu Ghraib, various detention facilities in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan (not to mention Syria, Iran)... these are abuses of Absolute Power. Stalin was vile when he purged the Party of dissenters. But the Stalag was not just Stalin's... it was an instrument of a burgeoning Soviet empire...

So, maybe America's offenses don't stack up numerically to those in Korea and in which Americans had no hand in Syria or Iran... yet. Amnesty is telling a hard truth about American abuse of power. We would do well to listen to them, instead of listening to Bush "catapult the propaganda".

That would go, also, for the propaganda you might hear from Dick Cheney or the Cheerleading Master.

Next week, see Bushco and Boortz go after the Red Cross. It seems there's Blues under every bed.

Posted by smijer at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

I was hoping for Poppy Bush

from - smijer

Oh, well.

Posted by smijer at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

Opening Salvo

from - Buck

John McCain got an early boost out of the starting gates for his 2008 run for the White House. A&E treated the public (on Memorial Day no less) to the story of the POW years of McCain. Faith of my Fathers makes clear that there is a fine line between a military academy and a POW camp. I guess the lunacy of one is to prepare you for the lunacy of the other. There was plenty of “yes sir” and “no sir” and “anything you say sir” along with the obligatory running in the rain with your weapon held high above your head and then dropping to do push ups in the mud. Whatever it takes to make one a bona fide ward of the state. Courage, Integrity and Valor. Yep. Just the three words I would use to describe just about every politician I know. I anxiously await the next McCain movie, “McCain: From Keating Five to Magnificent Seven”. That should help me make my Presidential decision.

Posted by Buck at 08:13 AM | Comments (2)


from - smijer

Born Again Democrat has posted about liberal intolerance, and he's more or less on-target. Christian Fundamentalism is a threat to be dealt with. Christianity itself is a relatively innocent bystander. So, I agree that liberal or secular intolerance of "traditional working class" Christians is a growing problem.

I strenuously object to the notion that, because of the fundamentalist viewpoints of some of those "traditional working class" Christians, gays must find their homes in big-city ghettoes:

Big cities are not enough; they are not fit places for chidren to grow up in, and it is just silly to suppose that, for example, gay lifestyles should be as acceptable in suburbs and provinces as in the metropolitan hubs. How can the Ivy League turn out such historically naive elites? Where do they think we came from?

Ummm... if your suburbanites and provincials are too good for "gay lifestyles" to be "acceptable" there, who exactly is the historically naive elite?

Posted by smijer at 07:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2005

Happy Memorial Day

from - Buck

Soldiers fight to expand the sphere of influence of their respective governments. Lofty sounding words like “freedom” and “liberty” make the pill easier to swallow for the people that are going to do the bleeding and those who will be left to mourn their deaths at a later date. But never convince yourself or let any others convince you that the military exists to “protect your liberty and freedom”. It exists to do the will of Washington, D.C. on Earth. Memorial Day is a great day to remember those who gave their lives for this dubious cause but it is also the perfect day to remember that for every soldier killed there was a multitude of civilians left dead, maimed or homeless. That was what I tried to keep in mind as I ate my fried chicken and watermelon with Old Glory flapping in the wind.

As Leo Tolstoy once said,

In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.

As of today 1,661 of our men and women have died in Iraq.

But do you really think that it is our freedom and liberty that they are fighting and dying for?

Posted by Buck at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

Memorial Day

from - smijer

In northern Alabama (at least), people still honor all of their dead on "Decoration Day" on Memorial Day. They "decorate" the graves with flowers. I've lost no one to war, but many have. This day is for remembering and honoring them. And, I don't think it's a bad idea to remember all of our lost loved ones on this day, too.

Posted by smijer at 07:31 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2005

Creation Vs. Creationism

from - smijer

No, not evolution vs. creationism, a debate that has no subtext of use to the aspiring ecumenicalist. Instead, I mean Creation - a religious or philosophical doctrine meaning that God created the universe and all life in it. I contrast that notion with Creationism, by which I mean any of a variety of doctrines that struggles against certain scientific views about natural history, out of a religious or philosophical aversion to accepting the conclusions of scienc, often coupled with an aversion to honest admissions of ignorance.

First, a word about Creation. This docrtine, in isolation from any others, will be acceptable, but usually inadequate for most members of Western religions. I admit, I struggled unsuccessfully to broaden that doctrine so that it would include the viewpoint of those members of Eastern religions who believe that the universe is illusory, or that it is an artifice of deceipt. If any such persons are reading, you're invited to share suggestions for ways to improve on my formulation so that westerners and easterners can have meaningful discussions that revolve on this term.

If there are any Unitarians or others who will view this effort as misguided, it will likely be my fellow atheists, or perhaps those who disapprove of God of the Gaps theology. From the former, I ask only indulgence. To the latter, I swear my utmost to avoid turning this viewpoint into such a dubious theological viewpoint. An atheist, wishing to avoid theological misuse of his statement, would have difficulty sincerely stating belief in Creation as I presented in the first paragraph. It is an inescapable reality, though, that the origin of the universe, and even to a degree, the life that lives on Earth and humanity itself, lies within the domain of "Greater Mystery". Going back to my first post, I proposed - for reasons of facilitating discussion, that even those without a belief in God can agree on that tiny kernel. So, substituting the ecumenical usage of the term "God" for "Greater Mystery", I hope that there will be occasion even for us to agree to the doctrine of Creation, though we must be careful not to do so in a way that would leave the false impression that we agreed to a particular religious view of God.

But, don't get the impression that I believe atheists should do all of the compromising on this point. In fact, I'm afraid I must ask the people of faith to do the lion's share. I must ask them to give up any and all form of Creationism that they may cling to. Many already have.

To explain why, I will start with a word about scientific certainty. Scientists and their advocates usually try to be careful to convey the notion that science doesn't provide absolute certainty, and this is a very important and accurate observation, about which many people are unfortunately confused. But, one shouldn't go away with the impression that science is always terribly uncertain either. In fact, science done rigorously and extensively can put some matters far beyond the realm of doubt. Most non-scientists have difficulty relating to that level of certainty without comparing it to things about which they feel absolutely certain (but about which they still, honestly, are not). A trained cosmologist knows that the age of the universe is twelve billion years with about the same certainty that a first-time flyer in the modern world knows that their airplane will transport them to their intended destination: fairly certain, but not absolute. On the other hand, a trained cosmologist knows that the age of the universe must be measured in the billions of years with the certainty an experienced air traveler knows that there will be metal detectors at the airport. But, the well-trained and honest cosmologist knows that the age of the universe is greater than 6,000 years with the same certainty that the air traveler seated in the cabin of the plane has of his knowledge that he is not filming an action movie in Hollywood. That level of certainty is very stark.

Now, that level of certainty about the age of the universe doesn't belong to me. I'm not a cosmologist. It doesn't even belong to an expert solid state physicist, necessarily. Most scientists, and probably most lay people, agree to defer to the experts on the matter of the age of the universe. They recognize that it would be arrogant and foolhardy to insist the age of the universe must be closer to 6,000 than twelve billion. Not so for the young-earth creationist (YEC). The YEC has studied the Bible, about the truth of which he feels absolute certainty. He has used the hermeneutics and exegesis that he is most comfortable with to arrive at the younger age of the universe from his interpretation of the Bible. At this point, he has done no greater crime than to possess more than his share of hubris. But, if he makes a living by finding authentic-sounding arguments and selective data to make his point of view seem "scientific", then he is also guilty of fraud. And, if his insistence on his personal view becomes a wall that must be crossed by those less arrogant or better informed, then he cannot engage in constructive dialogue with the rest of us. This path leads to fundamentalism, and away from a loving and neighborly community - both values that are ostensibly important to most western (and eastern) religions and ethical systems. To the best of my knowledge, none of the Scriptures of the various religions command arrogance of the kind that leads to creationism and fundamentalism, but most of them do exhort their followers to be good neighbors.

YEC's are not the only creationists. Many people, well-enough schooled in cosmology or geology to have glimpse of how certain the antiquity of the universe really is, but without much understanding of biology, subscribe to Old Earth Creationism (OEC)... I believe that OEC, (and some YEC attitudes), result from an unhealthy unwillingness to say "I do not know". If these same folks had the same glimpse of certainty about the bedrock principles of biology as they have about cosmology and/or geology (or the same as most of us have about Newtonian physics within limits of accuracy in familiar regions of our environment), they would drop OEC like a hot rock. But, since they aren't experts, and they are unwilling to defer to those whose work is to study biology, they insist that the universe is old, but that life was created as their interpretation of the Scripture suggests. The ecumenical approach would be to abandon OEC in favor of a statement of honest uncertainty. "The experts believe A, but my interpretation of the Bible is B, and I just can't say for sure." Same goes for the proponent of "Intelligent Design" creationism (ID, or IDC). They are familiar enough with the science that they have to acknowledge the likelihood (or at least possibility) of an old universe, and they have to acknowledge the same for the broad strokes of biological evolution. Yet they insist that the origin of cellular mechanisms, as yet glimpsed only dimly by science, must be the product of God's direct tinkering with cell chemistry. It's the same disease - "I don't know, but I'm working on it" is too unambitious when "scripture, according to my interpration, knew it all the time," is available.

A side note: many YEC's and OEC's adopt the ID moniker, with hopes of catching a ride on that particular bandwagon into the science classrooms of public schools. Not everyone who wears the ID badge is well aware of the science of evolutionary biology, geology, or cosmology. For the record, I'm not prepared, in this post, to defend the notion that "alternative theories" should be excludeded from the science curriculum. I am, however, committed to this view, and I believe and hope that my fellow ecumenicalists who are willing to renounce creationism in favor of the Creation doctrine will also be inclined toward this view, at least upon reflection.

I don't ask lay creationists to give up their theological views about creation, or change their interpretation of scripture to fit with what science has revealed. I ask only that they refuse to put up a "wall of certainty" that insists their view must be superior to the views of the scientific consensus.

At this point, I and my ecumenical friends may have numerous areas of disagreement left about origins... as questions about the origins of such things as sin, sickness, scripture, and of religion itself are still very much up in the air. But, perhaps we've taken that crucial first step, and perhaps we can move forward from there. What do you think?

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

Springing Up All Over

from - smijer

Epstein, 28, offers a more seasoned take. Just as believers can learn from humanists, he says, "I do think that there's a tremendous amount that we can learn from religious people. I'm particularly appreciative of the way that they take care of one another . . . I believe that there's a word, the human 'spirit,' that does signify something that we do believe exists, which is an emotional desire to live a good life and to search for sources of inspiration and empowerment."

Cutler acknowledges feeling hostility toward conservative evangelical Christians, but also says: "They were in the Sudan and advocating for intervention in the Sudan long before almost anyone else. I don't think the humanist community can assert itself, unless it's willing to take action."

Go read

Posted by smijer at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2005

Decisions, Decisions

from - smijer

I won't have time to write a post for The Ecumenical UU column until tomorrow evening. In the meantime, if you have a preference on topic please let me know. I'm deciding between Creation vs. Creationism and an Ecumenical Approach to Origins, and Beware the Pharisees. Thoughts?

Posted by smijer at 10:46 PM | Comments (1)

A Small Friday Night Irony

from - smijer

Condi Rice, in support of a "strong" (however you read that word) voice to the U.N. remarks on the need for reform there:

"When you have a commission on human rights and Sudan is on it, nobody can take it seriously," Rice said, referring to a country the Bush administration has accused of engaging in genocide.

"We need to send a strong voice for reform of the United Nations to the United Nations," Rice said.

Rice is absolutely correct in saying that noone can take a UN commission on human rights seriously when Sudan remains on it. They should have been kicked off long ago. On the other hand, via Hippy Dave, Amnesty International reports that, well, there's some difficulty taking a UN commission on human rights serioulsy when the U.S. is on it.

As flagrant as it is, the U.S. record on human rights pales by comparison to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, but the simple fact is that the last few years have cost us quite a bit of credibility on human rights diplomacy. Will a "strong voice" pointing American fingers at the U.N. really do much to change the culture of that organization?

Posted by smijer at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2005

Deep Thoughts, with smijer

from - smijer

If you are on the telephone, and you hear the other person using the bathroom, a fun thing to say is, "I hear water music!" When they start to admit that it's true, interrrupt them and tell them it sounds like it is in the key of "P".

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

Could it happen here?

from - Buck

More alleged tales of torture and death but this time in an American prison.

It is a fascinating story. 10 years old and the first time I had ever heard it. (be sure and scroll down to see the postmortem photo's of this suicide victim)

Posted by Buck at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

Friday Baby Blogging

from - smijer

Well, Buck... the Friday feature is back... And now it appears that you have gone into hiding... What's up with that?

This week, we had a couple of new additions to our household. We are the proud parents of little Ms. Goliath, the tiny fuzzy dog (I'm told she is a "Chinese Miniature Hamster Dog", but I'm not good at diagnosing such things myself, so I cannot verify). She would have been snake food if not for the intervention of a crack team of snake food adoption specialists:


Her pet store brother is Little John:


My brother-in-law has a new doggie of the Heinz 57 variety (pictured in the hands of our 14 year old baby):


And, since we're doing babies, here's one of Mr. DooDoo's baby pictures. He's always had identity issues, and even at this tender age, he thought he was a bookmark:


And a baby Ms. Piddy, in a vidcap from a string-chasing session:


Happy Friday... Go often and watch the Ark fill up. Also, get your Acme Personal Helicopter and go have a look at Bubba's photographic capture while travelling Route 66. He also got some other Pics on Route 66. I like the wheatfield.

Posted by smijer at 07:11 AM | Comments (2)

May 26, 2005

Ward Crutchfield, Others Arrested

from - smijer

Say Uncle (at home & at Knox News' Michael Silence blog) has the complete roundup (no pun intended).

Posted by smijer at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

Lotta Catching Up To Do & Links With Your Eye Boogers

from - smijer

I didn't take the free kick penalty that everyone else in the blogosphere got when the Koran Flushing church sign went up. John Cole did.

Speaking of John Cole... I disagree strongly with him on the justification and need for the war in Iraq. I am on the other side of issues of entitlement from him. But, I really, really admire the strength and vigor with which he addresses matters of conviction to him, even when it means crossing party lines and calling out his own leadership. People who read my blog understand that I tend not to weigh in when my party, or people who are trying to preserve rights important to me, do something really wrong. For instance, I never said a word about the dumbass school in Pennsylvania that told a mom she couldn't read the Bible to her son's kindergarten class when parents were invited to read from their "favorite book" for the class. If I had, I would have been quick to point out that she probably would have also been censored from reading anti-religious polemic just as well. Nevertheless, the school was unforgiveably wrong, and I let it pass without comment. That's not the MO for John Cole. If "his side" does something stupid, you'll hear it from him first. I really must applaud that attitude on his part. Of course, "his side" is in power right now. It makes sense that usually, you get the real dirt on any party or group from their critics rather than their cheerleaders, and while the nation is controlled by conservatives of various stripes, it's more important that their side be scrutinized more closely. There's a big difference in relevance between the boneheadedness of a President, Secretary of State, a Senator, or their Focus-on-the-Family puppetmasters and the boneheadedness of a comedian on HBO or Arianna Huffington. One group has power, the other has rhetoric. But, I sincerely hope that when (if) the left comes back to power in the U.S., I will be as conscientious at calling out their power grabs and unthoughtfulness as John Cole is with the right. And, speaking of which, he's been on a role this week. Some samples:

On the Filibuster:

This was about power, pure and simple. Not, as some would have you believe, the Constitution.

Again, on the filibuster:
I found Republican attempts to market this as the 'Constitutional' option to be not very persuasive at all, particularly considering this is the same Senate that passed McCain-Feingold as well as legions of other bills of dubious merit. If Republicans wanted to persuade me about their concern for the Constitution, they should have tried to do so years ago, when judges were being blocked by the blue slip rule and other mechanizations. What about an up or down vote for them?
What Hugh and others fail is that the Republicans won because they wrap themselves up in the moderation of the centrists, presenting themselves as all cozy and warm and as 'compassionate conservatives.'

In other words- Bush is President in large part because moderates voted for him. It was Arnold Schwarzanalphabet and Rufy Guiliani and John McCain who were the most effective campaigners for Bush in 2004. I didn't see Dobson speaking at the GOP Convention. Republicans control the Senate and House because of moderate support. Try to organize a Republican leadership without the moderates. It fails.

He also links the article about the APA urging legal recognition for same-sex marriage. From his link, some common sense:

The statement supports same-sex marriage "in the interest of maintaining and promoting mental health."

It follows a similar measure by the American Psychological Association last year, little more than three decades after that group removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

The psychiatric association's statement was approved by voice vote on the first day of its weeklong annual meeting in Atlanta. It cites the "positive influence of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all family members."

The resolution recognizes "that gay men and lesbians are full human beings who should be afforded the same human and civil rights,"

On the original Koran Flushing story:

Add ot that all the other circumstantial evidence and facts, to include the confirmed and documented reports of actual torture and the documented other acts of abuse of religious principle (see menstrual blood and other psyops interrogation procedures that have been documented), all of which would lead a reasonable person to believe that desecrating the Koran by putting in the toilet JUST ISN'T THAT [...] EXTRAORDINARY A CLAIM.

Remind me next time there is a round of web awards coming out....

Moving on, with your eye boogers... Via Body and Soul, a glimpse into Mr. Rogers' spirituality... and no, he wasn't a sniper in WWII.

Left2Right has a nice piece on the historical context of secular humanism, concluding:

First, Christians rejected the Calvinist idea that the only route to the truth was through God and put in its place the Lockean idea that humans could, through the use of their capacity to reason, arrive at the truth on their own. This was heresy, but it was as nothing compared to the second idea that Christian ministers started espousing: Through the exercise of their moral senses, humans could also arrive at morality on their own. Oh, yes, of course, God gave us reason and a moral sense, but there was no gainsaying what had happened to Christianity in the eighteenth century. It had been secularized. Infected, some would say, by the principles of the English and Scottish Enlightenments.

If that's the "religion" that shaped the Revolution, the enemies of secular humanism are still not off the hook. Now for the punchline...

The wave of evangelicalism that swept the United States beginning in the 1790s was not really a "second" Great Awaking at all. It was not a continuation of the earlier failure. It was something else. What, precisely? Well, nothing "precisely," but a lot of things. And one of the things that evangelicalism was in the "New Nation," I suggest, was a reactionary assault on the secular humanism of the Revolution.

It still is.

Not in My Bible:

General Douglas MacArthur said...

It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.


Tennessee Guerilla Women has some quasi-local wisdom from Rep. Chris Clem, a close neighbor of mine from Lookout Mountain. He believes that there is no "entitlement" to health care, and says so in no uncertain terms in an e-mail to Lori Smith. He says, "the state giveth, and the state taketh away":

TennCare is not an entitlement. This is a free handout. Not a single person is entitled or owed free healthcare. Accordingly, there is nothing wrong with reducing such entitlements. If the state decides to give out anything the state should be allowed to limit such free treatment in any way.

In more local news, I've discovered another Chattanooga blogger worth mention: Barry Graham, author of the award winning Book of Man. I'll update my blogroll shortly.

And some real news... there's a brand new Scrutiny Hooligan. Congratulations!

Posted by smijer at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2005

Spirit of Life

from - smijer

Fear that not. Be not awed. Know it to be the embodiment of thine own intellect. As it is thine own tutelary deity, be not terrified. Be not afraid, for in reality is it the Bhagavān Vairochana, the Father-Mother. Simultaneously with the recognition, liberation will be obtained: if they be recognized, merging thyself, in at-one-ment, into the tutelary deity, Buddhahood in the Sambhoga-Kāya will be won. -The Tibetan Book of the Dead

I'm in the middle of a kind of conversion experience. Last year, reading this blog, you would have found me expressing a scrupulous antagonism toward all things religious. Today, I find myself increasingly interested in reaching out to people of faith, hoping to find common ground, and help build a cultural ethic that is respectful of religion without the unethical, immoral, violence, political fractiousness, and anti-intellectual baggage that religion sometimes brings, and with a shared commitment to such values as reverence (for life, and also for a mysterious something larger than any one person's individual experience), humility, compassion, brother- and sister-hood, family, and community that many (though not most) religious traditions strive for.

Part of this change is politically inspired. I see my nation increasingly fracturing along religious fault lines. I've been guilty (GUILTY!) of practicing oppositional and confrontational politics and religion, which I've slowly learned does little more than to build walls higher, and alienate people from one another. Certainly, my guilt is a forgivable reaction to the purposeful divisiveness coming from politically powerful religious and political figures who are striving to shut out those who have progressive and secularist views from the national debate. But, by butting heads with them at every opportunity, using the same intemperate language and tactics as they, I discover that I am doing more to assist them in shutting the rest of us out than I am to keep the doors of productive discourse open.

I believe there are unexplored opportunities for reaching out to others - moderates, and those who are extreme because the only "spiritual" leadership they know comes from radicals. I have hope that we can find a common ground with many of our evangelical brothers and sisters, and people of all faiths and none, and build a better society.

One of the first stumbling blocks is language about God. It is so difficult to reach consensus when we do not share even a kernel of shared core beliefs and a common language with which to talk about them. That means that there is a need to add a new dimension to our lexicon of religion...

The first step to achieving this is to find what we can agree on when discussing "God". Being an atheist, if someone mentions to me that "God" wants so-and-so, my first instinct is to grab my wallet and remind them that they have no evidence of God. But, perhaps a more productive approach would be to talk to them about the tiny kernel we agree upon. God, like every other idea, belief, or even fact, is - at the end of the day - an abstraction in our minds. I have a mental concept of a building to which I will be driving in about an hour, where I will sit down at a desk and work in front of a computer terminal. Those things are real, but they are also mental images tied to a set of ideas that imperfectly represent them in my mind. So, whether God is real or not, God is also a set of mental images and ideas imperfectly represented in the mind of the believer.

And, though I don't have a belief in any of the theological concepts that go together in the mind of the believer to form their concept of God, I do have to acknowledge that I can concieve and believe in the fact that the universe I live in is much larger than my individual experience can comprehend. That "Greater Mystery", could - without doing violence to the term - be an understanding of God that even the atheist can share with the believer. After all, believers universally think of God (or the Dharma, or whatever) as just such a greater mystery.

I want to reshape my "Sunday Sermons" for the future from the starting point of shared values and earnestly shared ideas of "God". From now on, I intend for my Sunday post to go in the new blog category of "The Ecumenical UU", and to serve the purpose of building bridges within our culture that will serve traffic no matter what direction it is coming from. I would like to see evangelical types be able to sing with Unitarians the wonderful anthem (with a beautiful and simple melody) called Spirit of Life, and for everyone to sing together - with their own individual ideas about what the Spirit is, but also in celebration of a kernel of commonality between us all in reverence for that Spirit. The lyrics:

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea; move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free; Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Update: By coincidence, Philocrites has news of Christians moving to embrace philosophical humanism... I hope they will consider folks like me allies.

Posted by smijer at 07:41 AM | Comments (5)

May 24, 2005

Thoughts on the Senate Compromise

from - smijer

When I heard about the Senate filibuster compromise late last night, I took a while to chew on it before forming an opinion. Victory? Loss? For whom? Upon reflection, I find I am glad that there were enough grown-ups in the Senate to reach a compromise in an attempt to preserve the collegiality of the Senate against what surely would have been a rancorous and divisive dispute. I'm also glad to hear that James Dobson is displeased. But, I can't really embrace the deal. Here's why.

The compromise fails to solve some of the most important problems that the Senate and judiciary face. First, the two of the most activist, uninterested in individual and civil rights, and corporatist justices will be added to the bench. Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown will be on the appellate courts, using their power to ignore the law and create rulings against workers and minorities, and for the "rights" of corporations to wield as much influence as they like using their deep pocketbooks.

Next, and more importantly... I haven't spoken much about the "nuclear option", but the biggest threat to the Senate's function from all of this was the idea that a slim majority could vote - not to confirm a judge, not to change the rules - but to ignore (by "reinterpretation") the very clear senate rules that require a 60 vote majority to end debate and bring the matter to an "up or down" majority vote. No matter how one feels about the rest of the issues that revolve around this debate, everybody should want to see the Senate playing by the rules. The tactic of just setting the rules to the side by "precedent" is just plain unethical. The compromise includes no guarantees that future Senators will avoid the "nuclear option", or any other unscrupulous tactics to work around rules they feel are inconvenient. It is the "ends justify the means" mentality that is so prevalent and destructive in our current political climate, and this compromise acknowledges the legitimacy of the threat by giving in to it and leaving it on the shelf for later.

Finally, the philosophical issue will now remain murky. Can a slim and partisan majority be truly said to represent the "consent" of the Senate? To my eye, the answer should be no. The proper role of the senate should be to provide temperate and above all, unifying leadership. Giving ultimate power to a slim and partisan majority is as good as sending the rest of the senate, and all the millions of people they represent, packing for a vacation until the next election. By leaving large minorities completely out of the process as simple majority votes do, a free pass is given to powerful factions within the small minority to create a radical environment in the Senate that gives no respect to "the other half" of the nation. I strongly believe that every voice should count, and that Senate tradition should be respectful of that. This compromise pays only lip-service to that philosophy.

Oh, one other thing - this "gentleman's agreement", when (not if) broken, will lead to more rancor, vitriol, and division. We could really use a break from that about now.

A better solution, to my mind, would have been some actual rule changes concerning cloture and Senate process. The first, and most important, would be a rule change that eliminated anything like the "nuclear option", where a slim majority could simply opt to ignore the Senate rules and set precedent. In other words, changing an interpretation of Senate rules should require a "supermajority" of some sort. Next, to insure that Senate business serves both the majority of Americans, and the most important interests of the rest of Americans, a change to the cloture rules is in order. An acceptable change might be to allow cloture with a simple "majority" vote, but only when a certain threshhold of caucuses present are included in that simple majority. For instance, 51 votes might close debate, but only if at least 1 of each caucus that has at least 15 members represented in the Senate are among those votes. Two votes could be required from a caucus of thirty, and three if the caucus reaches 45 or more. This would effectively make every cloture at least minimally bi- (or tri-, or quadri-)partisan. So the rest of the Senate wouldn't do just as well to go home and raise money for the next election when these votes come around. At least some of their constituents will have a representative in the cloture process. Furthermore, it has the attractive side-effect of giving an incentive to open the process of growing viable alternative parties. If the Constitutional Party or the Greens want a say in government, then their constituents have the motivation to elect at least fifteen of them to the Senate, which is a goal they can realistically pursue. At the same time, 51 votes really can bring the matter to an "up or down" vote, just as the Dobsonite Republicans wish for. It simply cannot be a homogenous 51 votes.

This protects the judiciary from the entrenched activism and radicalism that result from passing majorities' efforts to "stack" the bench, protects the sanctity of the Senate rules from being arbitrarily broken, and provides for a fair and Democratic process for Senate to exercise the will of the majority. What do y'all think?

(P.S. I'd like to get some feedback on this post, so I'm going to leave it at the "top" for the rest of the day... newer posts, if any, will go behind this one.)

Posted by smijer at 11:00 PM | Comments (2)


from - smijer

Go Laugh

Posted by smijer at 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2005

Blog Radio - Chattanooga

from - smijer


Posted by smijer at 12:49 PM | Comments (1)

Links With You Eye Boogers - Back Under The Saddle Edition

from - smijer

The main reason it is difficult for me to blog during vacation is that if I did, I would do little or nothing else. I didn't have an out of town vacation (we continue to be poor). Here's what I did and didn't do, referencing my pre-vacation checklist:

  • Birthday Party Clown for Nephew - Better than I expected, not as well as I had hoped.
  • Church - twice. Better yesterday than the previous Sunday.
  • Visit the new extension of the Tennessee Aquarium with family. - didn't make it.
  • Visit new extension of Hunter Museum of American Art with family - only one stepson on this trip. I'm not sure we are "art people." We forgot to try out the new glass-bottom bridge.
  • Go see A Lesson Before Dying - didn't make it.
  • Visit Grandma, parents, sister. - Missed one grandma, but got a few minutes with the other.
  • Help plan, and/or attend a Chattanooga blogmeet?! - Interest was expressed. When Alice returns, perhaps she, Joe, other 'Nooga bloggers and I will get this show on the road.
  • New member BBQ at church was fun. Pictures will be up in the Gallery soon.
  • Visited some local medical facilities with Mrs. smijer, who has an ongoing and undiagnosed health problem lately.
  • Got sunburned, helping to assemble a swingset, while visiting Scott and Tonja.

Details of each event are available by request.
I also ran across quite a few interesting blog entries and news items. A very small sampling, with your eye boogers:

  • New Rocky Top Brigade update at the usual place. Welcome to all, especially John Jay Hooker.
  • Brent Bozell gathers a mini-encyclopedic about popular culture humor at the expense of religion. His point is to make sanctimonious comparisons between religious satire in the American media and the intentional religious persecution of Muslim detainees in military camps that has been alleged to have taken place since Perpetual War has been declared. Nevertheless, he's got some pretty funny tidbits. Samples:
    In a January 2004 episode of "The Simpsons," the daughter Lisa tells the son Bart, "The Mount Builders worshipped turtles as well as badgers, snakes and other animals." Bart replies, "Thank God we've come to our senses and worship some carpenter that lived 2,000 years ago."
    One has to be capable of a small perspective shift to enjoy the humor. Bart's seeming incapability of such a shift of perspective perfectly satirizes the religio-centricism common in our modern culture.
    Fox brought their old show back to Fox on May 1 with another Mel Gibson-as-kooky-Catholic-Nazi satire. The lead characters go on a second honeymoon in a Gibson hotel room, where they discover a secret film titled "The Passion the Christ 2: Crucify This," a buddy-cop picture with the tagline: "This July, let He who is without sin kick the first ass." Jesus even replies to a buddy-cop who claims he's crazy: "That's what my ex-wife said."
    Bozell manages to miss the humor. Or, maybe he just hasn't seen Lethal Weapon.
    Peter, the lead character, protests ("That's all we need, more Mel Gibson Jesus mumbo-jumbo") and pledges to "save the world from another two hours of torture on behalf of Jesus, Scooby and the other beloved children's characters." His wife, Lois, worries that it's one thing to take Gibson's "towels, bathrobes and Nazi paraphernalia," but not the movie. A duo of Gibson's priest henchmen kidnap Lois and fly her to Gibson's house on the top of Mount Rushmore. The cartoon Gibson later falls to his death off the famous sculpture. Peter says it's because "Christians don't believe in gravity."
    This one is funny 'cause it's true. Of course, it is another major scientific cornerstone that (some) Christians "don't believe in", rather than gravity, but the point is made so succinctly that Bozell doesn't get it - and that makes it even funnier.
  • John Cole talks prisoner abuse. Don't let anybody tell you there is no such thing as a good Republican.
  • Is this REALLY what Jesus would do? (Answer - probably not)
  • The Elephant in the living room everybody is talking about - warning: graphic images.

There were many, many more items of interest, but I didn't bookmark them or leave them open on my desktop, so I can't share them with you now.
Now, get to work.

Posted by smijer at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2005

No Friday Ark

from - Buck

I miss Smijer especially now that it is Friday. He always has those nice Friday posts that give us glimpses into his personal life. The animals are always fun to see and the beautiful flowers and nature scenes have a way to calm you down and make everything right with the world. As for me, I am a little more private when it comes to me and my wife and our home life but for just this once I thought I would allow a peek into my world.

Here we are working on finances. My wife is at the table and of course I am on the couch.

Ya’ll all have a nice weekend.

Welcome back Smijer. Hope you had a good vacation.

Posted by Buck at 08:54 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2005

Trickle-Down Economics

from - Buck


Posted by Buck at 01:50 PM | Comments (1)

A "George" I can live with

from - Buck

George Galloway is basking in the glory brought on by his performance in front of a Senate committee that received the thrashing that it so richly deserved.

"I did a bit of sanction busting," he said, brandishing a cigar. "I smoked a Havana cigar just like this one. I smoked it inside the Capitol building, I even blew the smoke at the White House."

Here is a small snippet of his testimony and I highly recommend finding 47 minutes in your day to watch it all. Needless to say many members of the Senate were furious at his performance but as Lew says over on his blog it was probably because he refused to salute Caligula's horse.

If you can’t watch the video at least read the transcript.

There are times when the pure, unvarnished truth is told in the halls of government and when that happens it always goes over like flatulence in church. It very well may turn out that Galloway is a thief, a crook and a liar but he can sure hold his own against his fellow thieves, crooks and liars that make up government as we know it today

Posted by Buck at 08:49 AM | Comments (1)

May 18, 2005

Oil for Food

from - Buck

Why can’t we have a few politicians like George Galloway?

"The biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians," Galloway said. "The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government."

No doubt. If the oil for food scandel is investigated long enough we will find a few businessmen from Texas standing on top of the dung heap.

The member of Parliament, George Galloway, said that the Republican administration built the case for war around "a pack of lies" and now sought to divert attention with "the mother of all smokescreens."

Read the entire article. To say it is refreshing is an understatement.

Posted by Buck at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

The Riots in Afghanistan

from - Buck

I have been fascinated by the riots in Afghanistan that were supposedly triggered by desecration of the Koran by the guards at Guantanamo. I knew I had heard those allegations long, long ago before the Newsweek article and wondered why it was creating such a problem now. I found an original report from back in 2003 that made similar allegations.

For example, the British detainees state that they were never given prayer mats and initially were not provided Korans. They also complained that when the Korans were provided, the guards “would kick the Koran, throw it into the toilet and generally disrespect it.”

This blog also helped me to understand that the riots are not necessarily the result of a desecrated Koran but stem from frustration caused by the slow pace of reconstruction, the presence of American troops in Afghanistan, the governments war on the drug trade, the upcoming elections and other factors.

It made no sense to me that the Newsweek story would cause such an uproar considering the myriad of other reasons that the people of Afghanistan have to be upset about.

Maybe the government is in the beginning stages of an argument for the need of censorship.

Learn to keep your mouth shut or else we may be forced to shut it for you!

Posted by Buck at 07:22 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2005

Well Deserved Smackdown

from - smijer

If Christian politicians aren't allowed to keep discriminatory legislation on the books, then Christians everywhere will suffer persecution as a result. This idea of "tolerance" is an insidious one. If the laws must be fair and non-discriminatory, the next thing you know, preachers will be forced to do the same. Instant persecution of the Christians.

That's the logic of the anti-gay activists we find on the right these days. Case in point: Red States. An exceprt:

For tolerance, when enshrined as a guiding dogma, must become an oppression. Tolerance knows no principles outside itself; there is nothing within it to check its own action. A Christian aspires to extend charity to his opponents, because his Savior commanded that he love even his enemy; a Muslim seeks to extend tolerance to his fellow man because he feels deeply the awesome equality of man before God; but Tolerance knows not love or charity or the brotherhood of man. If a thing — a sentiment, a belief, an argument, a man — is judged to be intolerant it deserves no quarter. It is antithetical to the guiding dogma: an insufferable heresy, in the strict definition. To countenance it is to renounce Tolerance as a dogma.

The first couple of rounds fired off in the comments received some return fire, but by the end of the comments section, it was clear who won the debate. The first mortal wound came when someone posting under jip2003's moniker replaced "black" with "gay" and found that the article's reasoning still applied - and that it was specious in many ways:

But the trends in jurisprudence, especially in those nations just a few short steps ahead of the United States, belie this reassurance. Writing in Touchstone, Rory Leishman provides a detailed catalogue of the harrying scrutiny, harassment, and finally, legal penalties to which Canadians are subject if they publicly deviate from Liberal orthodoxy on blackness. A mayor fined $10,000 for refusing to proclaim a black Pride Weekend in her town, and ordered to issue the proclamation, her freedom of religious expression being emphatically subordinate to the equality of blackness; a print shop owner fined $5,000 for refusing, in his private business, to print materials for a black organization, and duly ordered to print the materials; a school teacher ordered to stop writing letters to the editor denouncing blackness or lose his job; a citizen and a newspaper editor each ordered to pay $4,500 in damages for publishing a newspaper ad which included biblical versus condemning blackness; a Catholic high school ordered to allow a 17-year-old to attend a dance with his partner; civil marriage commissioners (as well as "virtually everyone else engaged in the provision of secular services for marriage ceremonies") ordered to marry blacks or lose their jobs, their personal beliefs notwithstanding; and so on. Meanwhile in Europe, a nominee for justice commissioner was rejected because, being Roman Catholic, he cleaved to Catholic teaching on human slavery.

Point: your religious rights end where another's begin. Even if your religion preaches discrimination and intolerance, you may not impose that through public institutions on others in violation of their rights. One righty attempted a rejoinder: "Most blacks truly resent having their struggle for freedom equated with homosexuality." I would have replied, "Umm, tough doodie." Someone else replied, "This means something?" Just as good.

As though this exchange didn't already effectively illustrate the nonsense of the opening post, commenter "eastlake", continues on with this incredible salvo - to make sure the nonsense is really dead:

1. No one will force a church to marry two men.
In the long history of the United States, no one has ever forced a church to perform any wedding that it was not willing to perform. Ever. Period. Lots of churches won't marry inter-religious couples. Lots of churches won't even marry couples who don't belong to their specific church. There is no marriage-on-demand law in the United States for anyone.

2. No one will infringe upon your right to hold and speak your beliefs about the nature of homosexuality.
Jim Crow has long been banished and yet groups like the KKK are still legal and can still say whatever they want to say. I'm sure Westboro Baptist Church will still be allowed to picket the funerals of people who have died of AIDS with signs like "Fags Burn in Hell."

The arguments put forth in the case of Canada are based on Canadian law, which is different from American law (being a different country and all). If you want to make the argument that freedom here in the United States will be abridged because somehow the government is planning to force you to tolerate homosexuals, can't you at least point to cases involving American law? Surely there must be an instance of forced tolerance somewhere in the United States, right?

Where are the forced tolerance laws when it comes to race and gender, two issues that have a long history of struggle here in the United States? The Catholic Church is still free to prevent women from becoming priests. There are small Nazi churches that are free to keep black people from joining. Churches are not being forced to accept tolerance of anyone and it is absurd to advance the idea that there will be some kind of change in that policy simply because gay people can get married.


Nails in coffin keep coming:

Message: Practicing tolerance is hard and dangerous, so it's not worth doing. Why do all conservative arguments rely on the slippery slope. You desperately want to protect our 50 percent divorce rate? And look at the divorce stats and teen pregnancy stats etc..., a majority are coming from conservative states. Don't blame homosexuality


In regards to matters involving public officialdom: since when have we allowed such people to use their personal beliefs to overturn public policy? A judge who refused to apply the death penalty, or a governor who commuted every death sentence in his state out of private moral principles, would come in for a great deal of (justified) criticism here. And what would someone say to a teetotaling official who refused to issue a liquor license to a qualified business, or a clerk of courts who refused marriage licenses to divorced persons out of loyalty to Roman Catholic moral precepts? Or to use a really egregious example: a pacifist soldier who refuses to participate in warfare. Individuals whose moral principles do not permit them to function in a public role according to the law of the land do not belong in such a role.


The "tyranny of tolerance" is intolerant of other's intolerance.

Canadians do have a somewhat different political tradition, and in particular I think we have more speech protection than they do. I'm not sure how a similarly phrased anti-discrimination law would operate under our system.

The Canadian Charter on Human Rights is a pretty tough taskmaster. Were the roles reversed, if a gay mayor refused to have a Christian pride week, I would expect the outcome to be identical. If a gay printer refused to print Christian writings, the Christian would have a cause of action. Just about everything I read in the article's little parade of horribles dealt with public officials, public acts, and, in one case, the market. Different than interference with private decisions to believe and worhsip as you please.

Does anyone have a handful of dirt to toss into the fresh grave of the "Tolerance is eeeeevil" meme?

Well done, commenters at Red State.

Posted by smijer at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

Need a Ride?

from - Buck

Halliburton must have started a cab company in Baghdad.

Posted by Buck at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)

Different yet the same

from - Buck

"In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the five fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress."

Booker T. Washington

Posted by Buck at 07:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2005

A Thought for the Day

from - smijer

I'm madder about this than I am about this.

P.S. - The weekend went pretty well. It's lucky the kids were too young to see how chintzy the show was. And, it's hard for me to blog while I'm on vacation, so don't fret if you don't see me around here. Buck may have to pick up some of my slack.

Posted by smijer at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2005

Free Speech or Tax Exemption

from - Buck

I was playing disc golf with a friend of mine Sunday morning and we started discussing the East Waynesville excommunication. My friend classifies himself as an agnostic and is definitely in favor of the separation of church and state. However he brought up an interesting point. He asked me if I did not think that by threatening to take away the tax exempt status of a church the government was not, in effect, denying them their freedom of speech. My personal opinion is that my freedom to speak is more important than any tax exemption I might be offered. But I guess if I were a business instead of an individual then tax exemption would be more important to me. The Constitution supposedly guarantees freedom of speech but it does not guarantee exemption from taxes. Maybe the reality is that if you offer anybody enough money they will be willing to keep their political opinions to themselves.

Posted by Buck at 11:24 PM | Comments (2)

May 13, 2005

Just a reminder....

from - Buck

Jose Padilla : U.S. Citizen Imprisoned Without Trial or Charges for 2
Years and 339 Days

Jose Padilla may be a traitor and a terrorist. But he was not captured in Afghanistan with a gun in his hand. He was arrested at Chicago O'Hare airport. If Jose Padilla can be held without criminal charges, strictly on the say-so of the President, then any American can be. That is tyranny. We must put an end to it
Posted by Buck at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

Friday Naps

from - smijer


The Ark

Posted by smijer at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2005

Military Economics

from - Buck

By closing military bases it has been calculated that the country will recognize a 48.8 billion dollar savings over a 20-year period. That means we will be saving 2.44 billion dollars per year. But we are spending over 1.5 billion per week spreading liberty and freedom in Iraq. We will spend more in 9 months in Iraq than we will save in 20 years under Mr. Rumsfeld’s plan. If you really want to save money then do the right thing. Support our troops. Bring them home.

Posted by Buck at 02:43 PM | Comments (2)

TVA Blows

from - smijer

Six TVA coal plants named among nation's dirtiest

TVA is implementing a $6 billion program to curb air pollution at its coal plants but still had plants in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee cited for being among the biggest polluters of the nation's 359 power plants.
Posted by smijer at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

Planning Ahead

from - smijer

I'm going to be off work next week... I figure I'll start planning here.

Any other bright ideas?

Posted by smijer at 11:35 AM | Comments (6)

May 11, 2005

Megalomania And Evolutionary Reflux

from - Buck

The only good thing that can be said about Democrats is that, when they are in power, the Republicans are not.

Fred is his usual hilarious and thought-provoking self today.

He always offers me a safe place to hide from a real world that seems to constantly be in upheaval no matter who is in charge or what the plan of action. Laughter is not only the best medicine. Sometimes it is the only medicine.

Posted by Buck at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

(Another) Sad Day for America

from - smijer


  • Our country's experiment in Iraq continues to go poorly, with sixty more violent deaths.
  • It doesn't appear that the grenade found yesterday near President Bush was an assassination attempt, as I first thought when I began this post. Had it been, I would have shared my opinion that assassination is, like aggressive warfare, never an appropriate means to an end. It's really just another kind of unlawful killing.
  • American political and military leaders have been guilty in the past of assassination attempts against foreign rulers, notably including Fidel Castro. One of our allies in this cause was a fairly notorious terrorist, named Luis Posada Carriles. His terrorism included the airplane bomb, attempted assassination of Fidel Castro, hotel bombings, and activity with the Nicaraugan Contra terrorists. Now, he is in the U.S. seeking asylum, and Venezuela is seeking extradition. The article claims that, "US officials say they have no evidence that Posada is in the country and would deal with any asylum application from him as they would with any other." Which would certainly be more believable if the U.S. sponsor of the Nicarauguan terrorists didn't have his own show on Fox News.
  • Via Scrutiny Hooligans, Army recruiters resort to threatening and harassment of potential recruits... you can hear it for yourself. And this isn't the first time military recruiters have crossed the line. One Good Move has records of recruiters who ask a recruit to forge a high school diploma and help him procure pills to help him beat a drug test. In short, the integrity of our recruiting system is in the gutter, while recruiting shortfalls continue to weaken our already overextended military.

So, anybody know any good news?

Posted by smijer at 10:33 AM | Comments (2)

May 10, 2005

Much Hilarity

from - smijer

How Lightsabres Work...

The big advantage of using a lightsaber, of course, is that you can both cut and toast the bagel in one stroke.


Reheating coffee

via Les Jones.

Posted by smijer at 06:48 PM | Comments (0)

Ring them Bells!

from - Buck

And so Bush has bedded down with Gosh, who for his part is happy to swap a minor league privateer like Osama for a big-time state terrorist with unlimited resources. Gosh was flown to Washington for high-level "consultations" with his new partners in the CIA -- just as the Sudanese government was announcing that "abundant" oil reserves have been found in Darfur, the Sudan Tribune reports. At the same time, Bush moved -- secretly -- to gut legislation that would freeze financial assets of the genocidists and increase international protection for Darfur's people, The New York Times reports. Happy coincidences all around!

Nobody can say it like Chris Floyd can say it.

Posted by Buck at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

Blood... Thicker than Venom?

from - smijer

Here's a real life story that takes me past sad, and perilously close to depression. A family that is close to me nearly became victims of the divisive politics being practiced by the media and politicos these days. I won't divulge the precise relationship, but for purposes of distinguishing the two individuals I will refer to "he" and "she". After the media opened a window into the private lives of Terri Schiavo and her family, "she" was persuaded by the media case that Schiavo was still aware, and that the doctors and judges who had the unhappy job of deciding her case were wrong. "He" felt it wrong to second-guess the doctors and judges without having the training, experience, or first-hand knowledge of the case necessary to understand what was going on and to make a competent decision. "He" also decried the aspertions and condemnations cast by the media and certain politicians upon Michael Schiavo. "He" felt that "she" was wrong and misled to take sides with the media and politicans, and he expressed that he felt ever-so-slight bitterness over the arrogance he perceived in her demeanor, and that he was sometimes gruff in his conversations with her as a result. At this point in the story, it appears as nothing more than a standard-issue family political squabble. Sure, I agree with "him" and disagree with "her", just as you may disagree with "him" and agree with "her". But, it's certainly nothing that should create any long-term disharmony within a family, right? After all, shouldn't both "he" and "she" recognize that the other's viewpoint is informed by concern for the welfare of the people involved? Shouldn't they both recognize that, no matter how wrong-headed or even arrogant the approach of the other, the fact remains that each is responding to what the media has chosen to present to them in the best way they know how, and with a desire for the best possible outcome?

Well, "he" received a note recently, signed by "her". "She" informed him that, during that time, she had considered breaking off all ties with him. Since then, she had reconsidered. She offered a reason for the reconsideration, but it didn't make much more sense to him than her reasoning for considering that to begin with.

I guess what is so frustrating and discouraging about this is that there isn't much advice I can give to "him" or to "her" that would do any good. I would like to tell her that emotions, unguided by reason, are dangerous and harmful... but it's quite doubtful that she would ever see the truth in that. All we can really do is sit back and hope that we can keep our own heads level when heated disagreements over politics arrive... Even when the media and politicians have zeroed in on a very "personal" seeming story - one that we can place ourselves "inside" of and feel a part of, we have to remember that this seeming intimacy is an illusion. We have to remember that it is our own families that we truly know intimately, and can truly understand the circumstances of.

And when politicians, pundits, or news anchors try to divide us, we should remember that the end of division is destruction...

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

"We must all hang together, or we will all hang, separately."

"There is really no crisis except an artificial one...If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the trouble will come to an end."
- Abraham Lincoln, February 15, 1861

"The time for compromise has now passed, and the South is determined to maintain her position, and make all who oppose her smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel."
- Jefferson Davis, February 16, 1861

Join me in hoping that cooler heads prevail this time around. It's not a good sign that the politicians are able to come so close to splitting up families over things like this.

Posted by smijer at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2005

No news is good news?

from - Buck

I am a little surprised that this story has not made any ripples yet. Maybe it is because there is a strong move afoot to revive the nuclear power industry in this country.

The leak is not a danger to the public

Where have I heard that before?

Posted by Buck at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)


from - smijer

This came in my e-mail today. At first, I thought that Jonah Goldberg had actually answered the call.

Jonah Goldberg.JPG

But, now I think it's just a cute and furry hamster carrying a toy gun.

Posted by smijer at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

Religion to Science: Hide Your Light Under a Bushel, Please

from - smijer

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says "no" to science...

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wants students to be skeptical toward much of modern psychology and to look first to the Bible for guidance -- a major shift for a school that pioneered the integration of theology and psychology decades ago.

Make no mistake - people will be harmed by this.

Posted by smijer at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2005


from - smijer

Happy Day to all you mothers out there... especially mine and my stepkids'. Have a great day.

Posted by smijer at 06:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2005

Religious Persecution in East Waynesville, NC

from - smijer

Reckon these folks have relatives in Toccoa, GA? (If you haven't already, see Buck's post here about small minds in a small town)

And if any of these ex-Baptists are looking for a more tolerant and accepting home, well, they ought to look here.

Posted by smijer at 11:48 AM | Comments (2)

Conflicting Ideas

from - Buck

Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite.
John Kenneth Galbraith
Posted by Buck at 10:20 AM | Comments (2)

Lots O' Animals - Friday

from - smijer

I couldn't pick... So here's an assortment:

A pair of dwarf hamsters someone brought to work:



Some sort of salamander, found in the neighborhood creek near my niece and nephew's home. We enjoyed carrying it home to show the rest of the family.


They were afraid the flash would blind its little eyes...


But it didn't.

A pretty white heron, that wouldn't come within a decent range of my inexpensive camera... in the pond next to the walking track at work. I accidentally got a far-off turtle in the same shot. Not wanting to leave him out, I moved him to the top right of the crop.


Same pond, same day, similar distance from the inexpensive camera... different heron.


Same pond, same day, a furry little muskrat carrying some freshly cut grass back home. I thought I had several others, since he was in the grass just next to the track when I first started shooting, but the little fellow stayed behind too many tall blades and I didn't get a good shot of his furry cuteness still dry...


Happy Friday, and Congratulations, Mrs. Smijer, who is getting "pinned" today upon completion of the nursing program. Hoorah!

And by the way, hello Friday Ark!

Posted by smijer at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2005

I Still Think it Was Reagan

from - smijer

In this case, it looks like the truth is somewhat less strange than fiction, but it was still pretty close.

Via Philocrites.

Posted by smijer at 07:51 AM | Comments (3)

May 04, 2005

Just Because It's Been Too Long

from - smijer

I haven't done my duty and fisked Neal Boortz lately. Part of that is just that he's gotten so looney, there's almost no reason to. It's said that you can't reason someone out of what they weren't reasoned into... and anyone who gives Boortz the least bit of credibility certainly wasn't reasoned into it. But I would be remiss if I didn't occasionally pop off about him.

Boortz complains that the "anti-Bush media" (most of whom appear to be on Bush's direct payroll) don't play up the positive angles enough, and keep doing realistic stories on what amounts to a reality that sucks in many ways. A humorous aside: he labels the November election as a "landslide victory" for Bush... Anyway, the real irony is that reality even sucks when Boortz has to talk about it, as evidenced by the fact that he follows this blurb that complains about negative reporting on the war in Iraq among other things with... get ready for this... his very own negative reporting on the war in Iraq, among other things. Specifically, the next point on his page is headlined U.S. MILITARY STRETCHED THIN. He follows up with AL-QAEDA STILL A THREAT AT HOME, and then moves on to a story about Abu Ghraib, featuring this uplifting scene:

Yes, Neal... you're officially a member of the anti-Bush media.

A further point... I do agree with Neal's suggestion that the military up its recruiting by paying soldiers the salaries they are worth. Unfortunately, this will never happen, because spoiled, rich Americans won't ever give up a penny in taxes where they can find a politician willing to cut them. And it is tax-dollars, after all, that have to be used to pay soldiers. With all of our credit cards maxed out already, Bush would have to give back some of those tax cuts for the rich to increase military paychecks significantly. Ain't gonna happen.

And, the fact that we are in this mess in the first place tells you that America and it's political leaders have their priorities sadly and badly out of order.

Posted by smijer at 06:22 PM | Comments (3)

May 03, 2005

Hometown Controversy

from - Buck

When you live in a county that has a total population of 20,000 you can get very wet when you rock the boat. Up until recently I regularly posted on our local newspaper’s Vent page using the moniker Bigblue. Well, a couple of weeks ago I posted the link to the web page of a company that is hosting an “Alternative Wednesday night” at our one and only nightclub here in town. That post helped to ignite a controversy in our community the likes of which I have not seen around here in quite some time.

The DJ that hosts the Wednesday night get together has even tried to calm things down a bit

Thankfully the owners of the nightclub have emailed me and assured me that they did not hold me personally responsible for the nightmare they are experiencing here. It is ironic that they say they moved here a few years ago in order to raise their children in the warm, nurturing environment of Smalltown, USA.

Small towns are a knife that cuts both ways. I would have never dreamed that what has happened here could have happened.

There have been calls for the newspaper to shut down The Vent. Judging by the newspaper’s editorial today I have a sneaking suspicion that they will do just that in the not so distant future.

I would hate it if that happened. The Vent has allowed people in our community who would have never had the courage to say what they think the opportunity to speak their minds. In small towns there are valid reasons for remaining anonymous.

What is happened to the Marsteller’s is just one of those reasons.

Meanwhile, the saga continues....

Posted by Buck at 10:13 PM | Comments (5)

Rocky Top Update

from - smijer

Well, there's another new Rocky Top Brigade Update at Bubba's place. It's definitely time for me to make a change to the blogroll... From here-on-in, you will have to click the Tennessee Flag to get the full Rocky Top Blogroll, hosted at I will keep a few often- or daily- reads under the RTB blogroll, and the rest will only be a click away. Now, for the newcomers:

Ain't No Rodeo Queen, motto: "I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it." - Garrison Keillor

Empty Nest could celebrate Mother's Day next week, without having to leave the comfort of the Rocky Top Brigade.

geotenncare possibly authored by Governor Bredesen... not.

In A Mays is a Chattanooga blogger! We really must arrange a blogmeet for Chattanoogans.

juliepatchouli... if that don't beat everything... "Spiritual animal lovin' liberal hippie chick just recently married to a sweet handsome huntin' fishin' conservative fundamentalist and living the American dream."

Masses of Everything... one look, and I felt compelled to leave a comment! You can construe that as an endorsement if you like...

Ramblin Man: Dispatches from the Leisure Side, seems kind of Knoxcentric.

Right Minded blogs from Lebanon, Tennessee, with an ever so slight rightward tilt, as evidenced by declarations such as this: "Never forget that the emergence of a new, democratic Iraqi government began on September 11, 2001."

Tales of Tadeusz appears to be a political conservative and a novelist. The novelist part sounds good, anyway...

Tennessee Rants blogs with an ever so slight rightward tilt, as evidenced by declarations such as this: "When I got home, I found this story on Michelle Malkin's blog to help me remember to thank the Lord for allowing my family the privilege of homeschooling."

The Nonattainment Zone is written by a tree-hugger. I like tree-huggers.

Voluntarily Conservative matured under the tutelage of He Who Must Not be Named... oh what the hell, it was torture advocate Glenn Reynolds. Seems also to be an admirer of Senate Candidate Ed Bryant.

And that's it... Welcome, one and all!

Posted by smijer at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

Google Search Du Jour

from - smijer

Anybody have advice for the fellow who did this search? Although a page from here is first on the results page, I don't think it helped him much.

Posted by smijer at 06:03 PM | Comments (1)

Links With Your Eye Boogers - Tuesday

from - smijer

Still not Links With Your Coffee, but here goes:

Armando at Kos gets all scholarly & stuff about the nuclear option.

Via Hippy Dave, Democrats for Life propose to dramatically reduce the number of abortions performed, without criminalizing the procedure.

And, Wayne Adkins tells the Truth About God. A sample:

Suppose that you were buying a building and you were told that the roof didn't leak. You walk in and find a puddle on the floor. "That came up through a crack in floor" you are told and assured that the roof doesn't leak. You find another puddle and are told that the water blew in through an open window. Upon finding another puddle you are told that the water fountain leaks, but the roof is impervious to leaks. The next puddle is explained as a spill and yet another is explained as recent mopping. Then drops sart falling on your head. "Condensation from the air-conditioning ducts," you are told. But as you look up you see water running down the rafters above the ducts. "Oh, that could be from my kids playing with their super soaker water canons in here, it didn't come through the roof." Plausible explanations are made for each little puddle of water you find, but as you survey the building, the floor is covered with water and the seller is standing there telling you the roof doesn't leak. How can you buy that?

Finally, Rick DeMent quotes a famous communist leader, with a lesson some could do well to remember today.

Posted by smijer at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2005

It was a long weekend

from - Buck

Stability in the Middle East seems to be as hard to find as those Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Come December we will begin to withdraw troops if you believe the military and why anybody would believe the military concerning anything is beyond me. Supposedly December is when we will start to hand the responsibility for security over to Iraqi forces. The question that begs to be asked is who in the hell is in charge of security now and would it be possible for anybody to do a worse job providing security than the job that is now being done?

For those still even vaguely interested we have lost 154 of our guys since the much-ballyhooed purple-fingered election three months ago. I am sure we can lose 50 guys a month from now into perpetuity without stirring up much protest. Well, maybe not forever but for at least 50 years according to this 3 year old study.

After all, our country is currently wrapped in a far more riveting story now. For most Americans the tragedy of Iraq is happening to someone else somewhere else.

And that is the saddest part of it all.

Posted by Buck at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

Quote of the Day

from - smijer

I would never write another word about James Dobson, Randall Terry, or any of them if they would end their war on fags and focus their energy instead on the wholesale slaughter of Christians in Africa.

- John Cole, rapidly becoming my favorite Republican

Posted by smijer at 01:50 PM | Comments (1)

May 01, 2005

Flower Communion

from - smijer

Today was flower communion... Before & after:

Before (what I brought):


After (what I took home):


Very nice day, and a nice ritual.

Posted by smijer at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)