June 30, 2005

To Atrios on Kelo

from - smijer

The following is in response to, and crossposted in the comments of this post, from Atrios:

The fifth amendment ends with these words:

nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The first half of this clause makes clear that the founders intended that a person should not be deprived of private property, except as restitution for an offense against the law, and then only with due process. The second half recognizes that private property may be taken by the government for public use - not private, and then only with "just" compensation.

The niggling question is what constitutes "just" compensation. I believe it is unjust to pay only "fair market value" when the value to the public is greater than "fair market value". But court precedent disagrees with me. That precedent is, IMHO, due for a change.

But the bigger issue is black and white. The founders were clearly making an effort to identify the only appropriate avenues (outside of the separately identified war-time considerations) wherein the government is allowed to deprive individuals of property. Taking for private use was clearly not among them.

Court precedent should not override the very clear restrictions provided in the constitution. It's uncostitutional, and it's wrong. If the state or municipality seizes property, that property should be considered public use. Those who disagree with Kelo should organize and begin to treat that property as public use... Go to Pfizer. Go into the manager's office. If and when you are forced to leave, sue... all the way to the supreme court.

This is a federal issue because it is addressed in the federal Constitution.

This is an issue for Democrats, because the abuse in Kelo abuse represents the benefit of the rich and powerful at the expense of the unempowered.

Let's all get on the right side of this thing.

Posted by smijer at 09:26 PM | Comments (1)

Reagan Friend Elected President

from - smijer

This is absolutely unbelievable.

It will be interesting to see how the world reacts to this, especially the Cowboy In Chief.

Posted by smijer at 05:53 PM | Comments (0)

News of the Wierd: Big Catfish

from - smijer

big catfish.jpg

It weighs in at a trifling 646 lbs.

A substantial majority of this site's traffic comes from search engine requests for big catfish that land folks on this post. I really never would have guessed that so many people would be so captivated by big catfish. But my philosophy is "give 'em what they want", with apologies to the 10,000 maniacs.

Posted by smijer at 10:30 AM | Comments (1)

June 29, 2005

It Ain't Just Fox, Y'all

from - smijer

Booman Tribune's susanhu has a nice spread with lots of good links on the fake news epidemic. There's an answer to this thing. It's called "the off switch". Newspapers at least have the courtesy to put "Advertisement" in fine print at the top of a column imported from an outside company's PR department.

Posted by smijer at 06:46 PM | Comments (2)

News of the Weird: Zombie Dogs

from - smijer

Ok, so maybe this is a hyped report of a press release, but best I can tell, the story represents actual research done at the University of Pittsburgh Safar Center, funded by the Navy. Unless I'm falling for a big old hoax, they have managed to resuscitate some dogs after three hours of suspended animation/clinical death.

I'm also reading a nice treatment of mass, via 3 Quarks Daily. Over my head, maybe... but it's enough to whet the appetite.

Posted by smijer at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

Late for Work Again

from - smijer

...so I'll just take a minute to pass this on. Via rats in a cage, check out buyblue, where one can learn how to vote with one's checkbook.

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2005

Ain't comin' back no more

from - Buck

The Threat

This lady means business but if I am the business owner I think it would be safe to assume that she does not have that many dinners left in her.

Posted by Buck at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)


from - smijer

The Rocky Top Brigade just got bigger. Inside the update:

Chattababy: "The age old tale: 2 poor, drunk, college kids take a naked nap and wake up in suburbia, sober and with child."

Question: could I possibly draw any other conclusion than that we have more 'Noogans? Can anyone verify?

Hamilton County Democrats are blogging now, and have even been kind enough to let me do a guest post there.

adrienne - also from here!

In other news, merciless ethics advocates have staged a bloody coup at the erstwhile Chattanooga-Hamilton County Civic Forums.

And... eh... Oh. It must be time for work.

Posted by smijer at 07:52 AM | Comments (1)

June 27, 2005

The Serenity Prayer: It's Not Just for Theists Any More

from - smijer

You know, it's harder than it looks being the Ecumenical UU - reaching out to people of various faiths and none, to try to find that ever-elusive common ground of values and understanding. It doesn't help that the post of EUU is a self-appointed one. Just who the heck do I think I am, anyway? Isn't it a little presumptious of this x-year old, uneducated nobody, only recently converted from the ranks of those who view all religious activity with more distaste and suspicion than is necessarily healthy, to think that I can help unite people of values, regardless of their faith, behind a common, life- (and spirit-?) affirming agenda?

Well, yes. It would be very presumptious if I really thought of myself as the Ecumenical UU, or thought that I had some grand role to play in this thing. Fact is, I fully recognize my limitations, and the need for smarter and more able people than I to work on the problems that our spiritual and/or enlightment-era ancestors have handed down to us. Even the moniker "The Ecumenical UU" is more of a statement of aspiration than actuality. I fully realize that these problems are institutional, and are much more grand than I will ever wrap my head around. In short, my expectations for my tiny part in the process of bringing people together around good ideas and good thinking are very small. That doesn't keep me from feeling discouraged when I happen across something like this

'agreeing that, among other things, Hell is a place where “all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.”'

Okay, I know we're supposed to be all tolerant and respectful, we're supposed to shut up about people's pious 'devout' beliefs, we're supposed to refrain from telling them that they're lost in the fog. But - but there's a limit. There's a limit, and with the drooling sadism of the Rapture novels and with 'statements of faith' like the above, I reach my limit.
[...]Why aren't they all curled up in little balls sobbing and screaming? Why doesn't that thought blight their lives? Why doesn't it give them nightmares? Why doesn't it torture them so much that they look for a way out and realize it's all a pack of lies?

I've wondered about this myself, before, back in my pre-UU days. Finding OB's stark rendering of those same questions set me to it again. I once again felt a world of separation from the people who believe like the folks at Patrick Henry... and even from the people who are too uncertain of their own moral position to commit themselves to the contrary position - that 'Hell is not a place where “all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.”' That feeling is kind of hopeless. There is a spiral effect... the next thing you know, you wonder if anyone is completely sane.

But, you know, there are a lot more ideas and attitudes than just these that defy explanation. I suspect that many people who live under the doctrine of eternal torment in Hell manage it with the help of some variation of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

My variation of the serenity prayer leaves out the supernatural references, and no small part of the fatalism. But I ask myself a question just as legitimate as OB's, and taken in parallel with hers: Knowing that there are so many people in our culture who think and feel this way, why am I not curled up in a ball, sobbing and screaming... why does this thoughtlessness or heartlessness of my fellow humans not give me nightmares, and blight my life?

The answer is that you can't live in this world without trying to change the things you can, to accept the things you can't change, and at least to have the wisdom to tell the difference some of the time, even if it is only after years of hard experience. Whether it be granted from "above", or learned with maturity, that kind of serenity is necessary to anyone who covets their own sanity. The serenity prayer - with or without its supernaturalistic appellations - is a necessity for me, and I imagine others benefit from some formulation of it, too. So, there's some common ground between myself and those of the religious bent that allows them to approve eternal conscious torture. Just so long as they don't fancy themselves as God's personal dungeon-masters.

Posted by smijer at 10:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2005

Conservatives, Preparing for War

from - smijer

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war. Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.

-Karl Rove, June 22, 2005

White House Situation Room: 9/11/2001 21:30

President George Bush: Ladies and gentlemen, we've been savagely attacked. We conservatives meet here tonight to prepare for war. We have credible evidence that those who attacked us have training facilities in the nation of Afghanistan. I have issued an ultimatum to the controlling party in Afghanistan, the Taliban. That ultimatum presented them with two choices: turn over Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, or face the full force of the United States military and our allies. Am I clear?

Senior Advisor, Karl Rove: Yes, sir. All of us conservatives are with you 100%. Even the liberals are voting to authorize the use of force in Afghanistan, even though their hearts aren't in it. I believe they are hoping we will lose and have to withdraw. Same for the French.

Bush: Excellent. Any other remarks on our preparation for war with the Taliban?

Idealistic Young Staffer: Yes, sir! I would like to resign my post in the government and enlist with the armed forces right away! I'm proud to serve my country!

Rove: Now, now son. Don't get carried away. We've got plenty of young men already trained and ready to serve. We need our best conservatives right where they are. We've got a war right here at home to fight, and the enemy is far more dangerous than Al Qaeda. We're fighting the liberals at every step of the way. What's going to happen when the liberals get wind that we've captured Al Qaeda operatives? Why, they're going to be preparing indictments and therapy for our attackers. We have to stop them. We like to think of ourselves as the "Homefront Marines."

Bush: Hoo Hah! Heh heh.

Staffer: I never looked at it that way. It will be an honor to serve the Homeland!

Bush: Now, that's more like it. If we are finished with Afghanistan, we can start talking about a time-table for Iraq. Don?

Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld: Hit 'em fast and hit 'em hard, sir.

Chief of Staff, Andrew Card: After the midterm elections, of course.

Rumsfeld: Of course.

National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice: Mr. President, I have the war preparation checklist you asked for.

Bush: Good work, Condi. Can you run give us a brief run-down? This always gets my blood pumpin'.

Rice: Yes, sir.
1. American people called to do their patriotic duty: keep shopping.
2. Extra little yellow ribbons for our motorcades.
3. Blogger infantry ready for action...

Bush: Those folks are real heros.

Rice: Yes, they are, sir.
4. Alberto instructed to take care of technical problems with Project Jumper Cable... that's our Terrorist Detention and Interrogation system.
5. 'Mission Accomplished' banner.
6. Airlift of flowers and candy to ensure adequate supplies for the Iraqis to greet our troops.

Rove: Nice touch.

Rice: Thank you, Karl. Mr. President, we've decided to delay action on the flag-burning amendment until the 2005-2006 cycle. Of course, this list is just preliminary. We haven't even talked about briefing our Fox News war room, yet. Mr. Casey, I believe you had something to add?

Director of Central Intelligence, William Casey: On a cautionary note, one of our analysts who is an expert on Middle East affairs worries that our action in Iraq could foment a civil war and stretch our military readiness.

Bush: What's foment?

Rove: Now, Billy. Think about what you are saying. I think the Clintons have been rubbing off on you. "Expert on Middle East affairs"? What the hell is that? You sound like those liberals. [Makes gesture with limp wrist] You tryin' to understand our attackers, boy?

Casey: With all respect, we're talking about Iraq now. Not Afghanistan.

Vice President, Dick Cheney: Bill, we're talking about war, now. We don't need to show our enemy any weakness. Do you understand? Or shall I address you as Mr. ex-Director?

Casey: Absolutely clear, sir.

Cheney: Very good, then. What's our certainty about WMD's in Iraq?

Casey: [Wiping beads of sweat from forehead] It's a slam dunk, sir. They got 'em.

Cheney: That's more like it. How's work coming on my office at Halliburton... eh.. I mean the undisclosed location?

Casey: It's ready to go, sir. We're just waiting on the final shipment of Columbo movies.

Bush: Anyone else on Iraq before we move on to Syria?

General Eric Shinseki: [coughs, mutters under breath] Eh, we could use another couple of infantry divisions, some interpreters, and some Kevlar.

Rumsfeld: What do you think this is, Shinseki? Pennsylvania Avenue School for Girls? We're conservatives here, son. We don't need your candy-ass pansy bullshit. We have to show the enemy how tough we are.

Bush: Yeah, tough. Hey, how do I look? [grimacing]

Card: Very tough, sir. Resolute, even.

Bush: Heh heh. Nothing like getting the conservatives together on a Thursday afternoon to prepare for war, heh? Let's go give out some tax cuts, so the Citizen Soldiers will be ready to do their patriotic shopping duty!

[cheers all around]

Posted by smijer at 07:47 AM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2005

The Homosexual Agenda

from - smijer

Cole has stumbled upon the homosexual agenda, nicely summed up:

1.) Spend more time with friends and family
2.) Be treated equally.
3.) Buy milk.

Posted by smijer at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2005

What are we Mr. Zehr?

from - Buck

I wouldn't call it fascism exactly, but a political system nominally controlled by an irresponsible, dumbed down electorate who are manipulated by dishonest, cynical, controlled mass media that dispense the propaganda of a corrupt political establishment can hardly be described as democracy either

Edward Zehr

Posted by Buck at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

Friday Doggies

from - smijer

This one's kind of old. It was taken the same evening this one was. Sorry nothing newer...


'Course, if you want newer, there's always the Friday Ark.

Posted by smijer at 07:17 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2005


from - smijer

Any help I can get recommending my latest Kos Diary post, or promoting the idea it suggests... well, it would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by smijer at 09:04 PM | Comments (3)

Judicial Activism - For Real

from - smijer

This gives me the creeps: real, real bad. This basically tells me that the City of Chattanooga can force me to sell my house to Wal*Mart for "fair market value." Excuse me, but no. Wal*Mart is not "public use". It's private. Who can come and go, and what they can do there is decided in Bentonville, AR.

My suggestion is to take the Supreme Court at their word. If a private business acquires land under this new interpretation of the 5th amendment, then we should turn their parking lots into RV campgrounds, and their aisles into homeless shelters. That'll show 'em what "public" means.

Wal*Mart can afford to purchase their land at the prices for which its owners want to let it go, and they can afford to find somewhere else to build if the owners don't particularly care about selling.

Update: For liberal perspectives, check out the comments in this Kos diary. Lot's of good liberals see it the same way I do - a bad decision Constitutionally, and a bad decision for people affected. Others are positively gleeful. The discussions are very interesting, and you're liable to learn a thing or two.

Posted by smijer at 05:56 PM | Comments (1)

And the hits.....

from - Buck

just keep on comin'!

What a helluva time for William Powell to decide that The Anarchists Cookbook needs to be taken out of print.

I guess we should get a copy "while they last!"

Posted by Buck at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

Flag Burning and Banning it: Both Unpatriotic

from - smijer

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.

- Mark Twain

It should infuriate true patriots when opportunistic politicians put on a star-spangled show to demonstrate what noble Americans they are by rushing to the defense of a flag that needs none. What it embodies simply can't be destroyed by a match.

But what can be undone by an act of Congress is a constitutionally protected right to free speech that gives citizens the liberty, among other things, to protest through fliers or flag burning, regardless of how reprehensible the latter may be to most of us.
And the hard reality is American men and women have died to uphold that right to speak freely and demonstrate passionately.

- Toledo Blade

First, it's worth pointing out that the amendment to ban flag burning is quite close to being passed by the senate, and would almost certainly be ratified by the states. This isn't just an abstract argument - this is something that may very well happen unless some attitudes are changed.

Proponents of the amendment say that we opponents are "out of touch" with public sentiment. Maybe some of us are. Not me - I know that public sentiment is violently against flag burning, and not apt to realize that banning flag-burning is even more unpatriotic than flag-burning itself.

Opponents should fight against passage of the amendment, but we should also work on getting the general public thinking more clearly about the issue.

One point is that an amendment banning flag-burning will result in more flags burned. But more important is that the freedom that the flag represents will be diminished. A flag, as the Toledo Blade editorial points out, is just cotton and dye. If we undermine the freedom and justice that we see represented in the flag, then burning it is no different than burning an ordinary piece of cloth. If we allow our government to stifle free expression, then the flag becomes worth less.

It's a symbol, and if it is to have value as a symbol, then we must make the nation that it represents worthy of our respect. Banning expression we disagree with is a major step toward doing the opposite.

We should not be so cowardly and small that we cannot tolerate expression with which we disagree. We allow the KKK to assemble peacably, not because we admire the KKK or think their cause is just - we allow them to assemble peacably and express their views because we are strong enough, and secure enough in our own beliefs about justice and in our own cause of equality, that we do not need to ban the expression of the other side. Our cause stands on its own merit, not because we outlaw expression of the other views.

The same should be true of our respect for the flag - otherwise our respect for the flag is superficial and empty.

Update: Via JayG, a list of conservatarian bloggers who agree. I enjoy finding ground for agreement with people like Say Uncle. It's kind of scary when that happens with Little Green Footballs.

Posted by smijer at 08:05 AM | Comments (1)

June 22, 2005

Stranger things have happened

from - Buck

This worries me more than anything else happening now in America. As the numbers of those opposing the war continues to grow the greater the likelihood of another terrorist attack inside our own borders.

A few hundred dead Americans would be just the ticket to convince the Homeland that our cause is just and our reasoning sound. I do not believe that we would blame Osama or Zarqawi because the obvious question would be, “Why haven’t we caught those SOB’s yet?” We would just reach in to the terrorist deck of cards and pull out another “top lieutenant” and splash his face all over the television sets and start yet another global search. The offenders would probably be identified as Iranian or Syrian.

Probably Iranian. According to some the war with Iran has already started.

Posted by Buck at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

Party Revitalization, steps 1 and 2

from - smijer

1. Wait for the world class a-holes to leave the party
2. Run somebody good in their place.

Could be a plan.

Posted by smijer at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

Probably Not Al Gore - Bob Corker Edition

from - smijer

In many ways, Corker is an unknown quantity in the 2006 Senate primary. I did a brief round-up on his pros and cons earlier... However, he has no voting record, or even position record to judge him by, as the other three candidates do.

He's a Republican. His reputation is as a moderate, but his website advertises him as being a staunch supporter of other Republicans and the GOP agenda. Would he repeal the estate tax? Would he oppose or support civil rights for gays? Would he join the chorus calling for of censure of Dick Durbin, or would he join the chorus calling for censure of prisoner abuse, illegal detention, and torture? Would he take the side of auto manufacturers and oil companies, or the side of stewardship of resources, global climate, and energy sources? Would he bolster the power of mega-corporations at the expense of the working class? The only answers I have, at this time, are the suppositions that come from the "R" next to his name. More evidence may not come in until after the 2006 senate race is over

Still and all, he governed well in Chattanooga - mostly. I did a mini-opposition research on him this morning, and found very little to criticize. His most stringent critics are in the radical rightist TeamGOP faction, that mostly supports Ed Bryant's candidacy.

I had planned to talk about why Corker lacked stature - why he was "no Al Gore". I'll have to put that on the back burner. I suspect that he will sell out to the radical factions of his party in an effort to gain and hold the Senate seat, but he still has plenty of opportunity to prove me wrong. If he surprises me and comes out with a better platform than Harold Ford (not much of an accomplishment, really), then I may choose to support him in 2006. Time will tell.

Posted by smijer at 06:52 AM | Comments (1)

June 21, 2005

You've probably already heard it...

from - Buck

But it is funny enough to hear again

What is the difference between Iraq and Vietnam?

Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam.

Posted by Buck at 01:25 PM | Comments (2)

Good, Big Doggies

from - smijer


Posted by smijer at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

They're All Terrorists Anyway

from - smijer

... Except the ones who aren't. Besides those who are completely innocent, or are guilty only of taking up arms against an invading army, there has been at least one incident where a U.S. soldier was abused at Guantanamo. And it's ugly.

He suffered a brain injury, and sometimes had as many as a dozen seizures a day.
No one has ever been punished for the assault. An internal investigation in 2003 concluded that no one was liable because the injuries were a "foreseeable consequence" of the drill.
Baker didn't have to do anything other than be labeled uncooperative to be beaten up. The Army saw no need for an inquiry because the MPs were simply doing what they were trained to do.

Even some of the red-staters are starting to ask some serious questions, like what would an adult do?

We know that dozens of prisoners have died in American custody, with a shameful proportion being probable homicides. We also know that many prisoners have been released from Camp X-Ray, apparently not terrorists after all.
These are mitigating facts if you fixate on rhetoric in a vacuum, studiously ignore the constellation of American prisons other than Guantanamo, and pretend that rap music, shackles and uncomfortable air temperature is the extent of the problem.

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

June 20, 2005

But Who's Watching the Watchers?

from - smijer

The Chattanooga Police Department being what it is, this cannot be a good thing.

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

A Common Enemy

from - Buck

It seems that both Donald Rumsfeld and Al-Zawqari hate Aljazeera.

I guess that means that Aljazeera truly is “fair and balanced”

Posted by Buck at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

Trouble in Paradise

from - Buck

It has been refreshing to see calls for an exit strategy from Iraq coming from even administration friends in high places.

I guess over 1,700 dead and 13,000 wounded Americans is the point at which a sizeable portion of our population begins to wonder why and when people start wondering politicians start worrying.

John McCain advises us that we will be in Iraq “at least a couple of more years”, a time frame that he clearly pulled out of his ass. Or maybe he reasons that we should be willing and able to sacrifice 1,530 more dead and 11,463 wounded before he gets worried.

Condi is loyal enough to continue parroting the administration line that leaving is somehow tied to Iraq’s ability to take care of their own security. I have asked it once and I will ask it again. Who is taking care of their security now? Would their security actually be worse if we just up and left? Keeping Iraqi’s secure is not exactly what we signed up for but hell, what we signed up for is a moving target anyway.

Iraq is a tragedy that will only get more tragic and even Afghanistan is beginning to look a little less like the utopia we have been led to believe that we turned it into.
Things could really get interesting if we allow the politicos to send our sons and daughters into Iran and Syria. I feel sure that this is what the current administration is working towards and if we do not want that to happen we had better start raising some hell and raising it now.

Posted by Buck at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)

Interesting Side Note

from - smijer

dKos has a Presidential straw poll up. At this time, Wesley Clark has a 3-1 lead over Hillary, while Feingold and "Other" also beat out the Senator from NY. I voted for Clark.

Posted by smijer at 07:30 AM | Comments (2)

No Al Gore - Harold Ford, Jr. Edition

from - smijer

Harold Ford is the Democratic hope to take the Senate seat being vacated by Bill Frist in 2006. Unlike the Republican candidates who we have discussed so far, Ford has no choice but to reach out across party lines to garner support. Unfortunately, he does so without vision, choosing the most useless, or worst, elements of the GOP platform to embrace. His vision for Tennessee and America is the same as his GOP competitors - containing little more than himself in a seat of power.

Two noteworthy defections of Ford's were his politically ill-advised embrace of Bush's Social Security privatization package, and his decision to undercut Howard Dean. His criticism may have had validity, but it was appropriate to a private discussion, not a public denunciation - at least from a Congressman from Tennessee.

His other ill-considered efforts to "cross over" are reflected in his unimpressive positions and voting record, which is not so different from those of Bryant and Hilleary:

  • Voted YES on restricting bankruptcy rules. (Jan 2004)
  • Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
  • Voted YES on protecting [sic] the Pledge of Allegiance. (Sep 2004)
  • Voted YES on constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration. (Jun 2003)
  • Voted YES on Amendment to prohibit burning the US flag. (Jun 1999)
  • Voted YES on Bankruptcy Overhaul requiring partial debt repayment. (Mar 2001)
  • Voted YES on allowing school prayer during the War on Terror. (Nov 2001)
  • Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels. (Aug 2001)
  • Voted NO on allowing suing HMOs, but under federal rules & limited award. (Aug 2001)
  • Voted YES on deploying SDI. (Mar 1999)
  • Voted YES on repealing the estate tax ("death tax"). (Jun 2000)
  • Voted YES on authorizing military force in Iraq. (Oct 2002)

Ford has consistently failed to provide leadership on important environmental issues (what small record he has on the environment seems mostly acceptable). He has some good positions, too (particularly on criminal justice reform), but he has never taken ownership of any important issues and showed that he is willing to take risks to accomplish something important.

My vote will most likely go to Ford, but it will be as the lesser evil, and for the extra caucus vote. It is my hope that a honest-to-God statesman will enter the primary on the Democratic side and give me a reason to want to vote.

Posted by smijer at 07:24 AM | Comments (1)

June 19, 2005

The Planet of the Hats

from - smijer

This is better than Tralfamadore. Vonnegut would be proud.

Posted by smijer at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2005

More Apologies Needed - Durbin, Gingrich, Cheney, Conyers, Frist

from - smijer

I began this post as an answer to Ricky's call for a lefty to step up to the plate and denounce Senator Durbin's remarks that compared the actions of some American Soldiers to the actions of soldiers in repressive regimes. From there, it evolved and branched out. I really should do this as multiple posts instead of trying to group everything together under "apologies needed". But here I go anyway, because it has been that kind of week.

First: nearly anybody can be a Nazi. Go read. We all want to believe that we and the people we care about are different, and those thoughtful enough take pains to be different. But that belief is flawed. We love and support our soldiers, and in many ways they are, as a group, exceptional. But, some percentage of them, given the right orders - or the right winks and nods - from "above" can be just as vicious as any soldier who happened to be working in Auschwitz in 1944. To react to a Senator's comments about the actions that go on in Camp X-Ray as though they are some ridiculous and unconscionable insult is to close one's eyes to reality.

To compare his comments, meant to raise the awareness of events that should raise the ire of every American, with comments made by Trent Lott, which served nothing but to ingratiate himself with his southern constituents, is impossible. To expect a similar reaction to his comments is also impossible. Durbin's core point: that, as many have said, we are currently not different enough from the Nazis, is far too important to be ignored or lost in the controversy over his statements.

That said, Durbin was wrong to make the statement as he made it. He should have taken great pains to make clear that his criticism was not of the soldiers, but of the policies and orders that the soldiers acted under. He should have taken great pains to make clear that most American soldiers, at Camp X-Ray and elsewhere, are not guilty of any atrocity. He should have made clear, above all, that the abuses at Camp X-Ray were not on the scale of Hitler's or Pol Pot's, but rather that they were a step in that direction. His failure to do so is inexcusable. Apart from that, as John Cole said, so eloquently,

And, I might add, all it does is queer the debate. Instead of discussing long-term options for Gitmo (and no, I don't know what to do with the detainees, either), all the partisans on the left are now explaing that while not quite Nazi's, our behavior is Nazi-ish, and all the partisans on the right are now linking to the Gitmo cookbook or pictures of Buchenwald.

Thanks for elevating the debate, Dick.

... and that's not to mention the PR damage done to the Democratic Party, which John Cole also mentions.

A cogent and high-minded reprimand from all sides, and an abject apology are both in order for Durbin. This is my reprimand. Enough of that.

After Durbin, Cheney. Cheney's remarks on Durbin and Gitmo, characterizing all of the unconvicted detainees as "terrorists", and characterizing our treatment of the detainees as gloriously kind, and free from abuse - despite the facts everybody knows - are dangerous propaganda. His remarks are blatantly dishonest, and designed only to paper over the rotten truth of the matter. We cannot afford that kind of "leadership" in a free and humane country. One example of his condemnation of Durbin and glorification of Gitmo can be found here. This is my reprimand to Cheney - he owes us an apology. Enough of that.

Newt Gingrich owes Durbin, the Senate, and the rest of us an apology. Read why, but John Cole, as usual, says it better.

John Cole (I tag him now as much as I once tagged Oliver Willis) also brings up the John Conyers debacle. Disgusting, all the way around. First, there is not enough evidence, even with the Downing Street Memo, to convict Bush before a fair jury. Talk of impeachment is no more justified now than it was in Bill Clinton's case - though the alleged crimes are far more heinous. It does no one any good to attack this way. When the Republicans did it, Howard Dean rightfully called them out for trying to undermine fair and proper election results. That's the case now. Perhaps an impeachable case could be made against Bush - surely he has dishonored the Office. But the Downing Street Memo would not serve as evidence enough to convict anyone in a court of law. It shouldn't be used as a standard for an impeachment crusade. That is just an effort to undermine a fair election, and it will, like the attempt on Clinton, be a loser at the polls in 2006. Plus, it makes Conyers (normally a bold and well-spoken gentleman) look like a spoiled child - and the rest of the Democratic party by association.

And, those bastards that Cole was really talking about who handed out anti-Israel (and probably anti-semetic) literature owe us all an apology, too. As usual, Howard Dean has the gonads to call out the wrong-doers, no matter what price he may pay in loyalty from extremists in his party. If only Karl Rove could have that kind of integrity.

Finally, before we end our apology talk, it's worth putting on record that Senator Bill Frist (R-TN, sadly) chose to lie rather than apologize. Sad.

Posted by smijer at 07:56 PM | Comments (4)

June 17, 2005

Everybody's Got a Pigeonhole

from - smijer

Sometimes it's a square pigeon in a round pigeonhole, but even I have one to fly home to...
You scored as Paul Tillich. Paul Tillich sought to express Christian truth in an existentialist way. Our primary problem is alienation from the ground of our being, so that our life is meaningless. Great for psychotherapy, but no longer very influential.

Paul Tillich


Charles Finney


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Jürgen Moltmann




John Calvin


Karl Barth




Jonathan Edwards


Martin Luther


Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Via Boy In The Bands.
Posted by smijer at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

No Al Gore - What's to Say About Ed Bryant Edition

from - smijer

I expect Bryant to be the eventual GOP nominee. He appears to have more political smarts than Van Hilleary (getting beat by Lamar Alexander is slightly more impressive than getting beat by Phil Bredesen, in my book). He had enough sense to get behind Alexander after narrowly losing that primary, with the result that Alexander's base is happy with him.

He, also, is lacking in stature, from the perspective of leadership. His postions and voting record are nearly identical to Hilleary's. Dismal, as I noted yesterday about Van's.

Bryant is again lacking in signature issues. He distinguished himself in Congress, not by taking leadership on an important issue, or by driving bargains across the aisle, but by interviewing Monica Lewinsky.

Like Hilleary, his name is all over past efforts to ban flag-burning at a time when flag-burning is about to become another national wedge issue, another effort to elevate symbolism over substance in the race for patriotic fervor.

Like Hilleary, he has no position on important environmental issues.

But, he is smart. He is a comfortable bedfellow with the religious right, and he has a good chance to win.

Should I do my next segment on Ford or Corker?

Posted by smijer at 07:21 AM | Comments (1)

June 15, 2005

You Watch So I Don't Have To

from - smijer

Will someone please watch this video from truthout.org, and please tell me if there's anything in there I need to know... The title, "Enron II" just sets my neck hairs on end. I can't bear to watch it myself.

Posted by smijer at 08:55 PM | Comments (2)

Terri Schiavo Apology Watch

from - smijer

None at BlogsAgainstTerri'sWishes, though a priest says the facts don't mean anything, if that helps.

Matter of fact report of the autopsy results at Justice From Terri Schiavo's Parents' Perspective. The only comment at this time seems to be a bit of sour grapes.

Terri Schindler-Schiavo Wasn't What She Called Herself mentions the priest. No apology.

The rest of the pretend-doctor-and-make-believe-detective-o-sphere seems to be silent for now. I'm sure they will append their apologies just after Bill Frist takes the Senate Floor to make his own.

Update: None yet at the ironically named Apologies Demanded. Gosh... you'd think they'd be the first one out...

Udpate#2: Prolife or reasonable facsimile thereof Blogs has a roundup of (non-) apologies from various interested parties. (This blog has apparently deleted my trackback ping)

Update#3: An actual apology, found amongst the links rounded up above. This apology only extends to the Florida Press. I do not think that the author explicitly condemned Michael Schiavo as many others have done, so he need not apologize on that point. On the other hand, he allowed himself to be used by the religious right's propaganda to assist the effort to interfere with Michael's attempt to carry out his wife's wishes, and therefore owes them both an apology. Curtis still labors under the mistaken belief that Terri was never tested for PVS while living. In fact, she was and was so diagnosed.

Update #4: More at "Justice"... Surprisingly, the parents "don't believe" the autopsy report. Who'd a' guessed it? Plus, a commenter who still hasn't figured out the extent to which he or she has been duped asks, innocently, "How is it that the autopsy report states she was blind when she was able to track a balloon?"... Honey, the answer is that she wasn't able to track a balloon. The appearance that she did, along with many other false appearances were the result of very carefully edited video. Don't worry, though - You're in good company.

Posted by smijer at 03:37 PM | Comments (13)


from - Buck

Well, I guess what we have here is a heart surgeon with egg on his face.

Posted by Buck at 02:49 PM | Comments (1)

No Al Gore - Van Hilleary Edition

from - smijer

The race to replace Bill Frist begins next year. At the present time, the field of candidates is decidedly lacking in stature...

Van Hilleary has an interesting sounding name. He is a standard issue southern Republican, whose "vision" includes nothing more than "smaller government" and conservative social stances. He has no big issues to attract interest from a broad spectrum voters and constituents. He has not attempted to appeal to moderates. His voting record and position statements are just terrible:

{some items omitted}
  • Voted YES on banning human cloning, including medical research. (Jul 2001)
  • Voted YES on Constitutional amendment prohibiting Flag Desecration. (Jul 2001)
  • Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)
  • Voted YES on Amendment to prohibit burning the US flag. (Jun 1999)
  • Supports anti-flag desecration amendment. (Mar 2001)
  • Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons. (Jun 2000)
  • Voted NO on maintaining right of habeus corpus in Death Penalty Appeals. (Mar 1996)
  • Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder. (Feb 1995)
  • Voted YES on prohibiting needle exchange & medical marijuana in DC. (Oct 1999)
  • Let schools display the words "God Bless America". (Oct 2001)
  • Supports a Constitutional Amendment for school prayer. (May 1997)
  • Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels. (Aug 2001)
  • Van Hilleary on Environment: No stance on record.
  • Voted NO on $156M to IMF for 3rd-world debt reduction. (Jul 2000)
  • Voted NO on 'Fast Track' authority for trade agreements. (Sep 1998)
  • Limit punitive damages;[...] (Sep 1994)
  • Voted YES on deploying SDI. (Mar 1999)
  • Voted NO on strengthening the Social Security Lockbox. (May 1999)
  • Voted YES on eliminating the Estate Tax. (Apr 2001)
  • Limit welfare to 2 years & cut welfare spending. (Sep 1994)

The League of Conservation Voters has this comment:
"When it comes to the environment, the congressman hasn't found a common-sense health and safety protection that he likes."

Ed Bryant, Bob Corker, and Harold Ford are also not Al Gore, but I'm out of time this morning, so I will explain why in future editions.

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

June 14, 2005


from - Buck

Peter McWilliams

Unfortunately things have only gotten worse with the passing of five years.

Posted by Buck at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

Who Says?

from - smijer

I'm building this post because I expect to have to refer back to it often in the future. Rather than working through this issue every time it comes up, I want to be able to post a link back to here each time I mention it, no matter what the context.

Who said, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled"?

If you are a Christian, you probably believe that Jesus said these words. He may have. You may even believe that his disciple, Matthew, recorded them in the Gospel that bears his name. Possibly, though there is no good evidence that this was the case - the Gospel of Matthew didn't come with a name. The church traditionally ascribes it to him because of some "second century statements of Papias and Iranaeus", however it is apparent that Matthew depends largely on the Gospel of Mark.

So, to a Christian who believes that the Bible is the word of God, there is a strong case that Jesus said those words, based on the testimony of the Bible. The case for Matthew having recorded them is much weaker. The Bible doesn't say so, and church tradition may very easily be mistaken.

You can see that I am getting at the possibility that someone besides Jesus said the words ascribed to him in Matthew, but I want even the most conservative Christian to approach this possibility with an open mind. Knowing how difficult that can be when you are convinced that you already have an authoritative statement from God affirming that Jesus did say them, I want to make one more point before I move on. To the Christians reading this, I want you to consider the possibilty that your belief that the Bible is God's word doesn't stem directly from a faith in God. It is faith, yes. But, there is no direct link between God and the doctrine that the Bible is God's word. No matter how you slice it, the belief that the Bible is God's word comes from humans. Yes, it is possible that the Creator of the Universe could choose to use humans to record his message to the world, and preserve that message over the generations. But the belief that the Bible is an artifact of that event comes from humans. Yes, there are a few passages in the Bible that say that God is the author, but they are only as authoritative as the doctrine that everything in the Bible is true. Again, this is a human belief. I don't expect that anyone reading this has had a direct revelation from God about this doctrine. Still, I'm not trying to dispute the truth of the doctrine. I'm not asking you to give it up. I'm just asking you to bear in mind that it comes to you through human tradition, and approach alternative possibilities with an open mind, which you may be able to do better if you realize that your faith about the Bible is a faith in fallible humans rather than a faith in an infallible God.

Now, I'm going to open this up a little. I'm going to ask a question that parallels the opening question of this post: Who said, "Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game. So what's the big deal? It's not like somebody is up there reading the entire book of Acts. They're just talking to a God they believe in and asking Him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game"?

If you don't know, it's probably because you haven't received a popular e-mail chain letter that has made its way around the internet many times. According to that chain letter, it was Paul Harvey who made these comments. Or, according to an alternate version of the e-mail, Samuel Thompson wrote it. In fact, Nick Gholson, columnist for the Wichita Falls Times Record wrote those words. Yet, so prevalent is the notion that they belong to Paul Harvey, that an editor of a popular women's magazine published them and attributed them to a Paul Harvey broadcast.

Yes, the error has been found, and has been posted at popular fact-checking sites like TruthOrFiction.com, and Snopes - not to mention the world famous Chain Letter Project. Despite this, most of the people who continue to propagate this e-mail by forwarding it along to their friends and co-workers, continue to think that Paul Harvey said these things, and continue to propagate the false claim through cyberspace.

This legend probably doesn't have the staying power that others do, and will probably die out soon enough. But, if the words of that e-mail survive as part of a tradition, the chances are much greater that they will be attributed to Paul Harvey than to Nick Gholson. And, if an archaelogist happens to find printed copies of the words from today - less than a decade after the words were originally penned - she will be very unlikely to discover the truth behind it. As many copies as she finds dating to today, the likelihood is that they will all bear Paul Harvey's name. Despite the fact that it is extremely easy in the internet age to check the veracity of Harvey's authorship, it is unlikely that the people most interested in those words - most likely to forward them to a friend - most likely to agree with them, will know the truth behind them. And, they were penned in 1999. Six years ago. And, Paul Harvey is still alive.

The oldest surviving manuscript copies of the Gospels date to the second century - about five decades after the Gospels were first written, and about seven decades after Jesus died.

We don't have to ask ourselves why the Gospel authors would lie to acknowledge that we just don't know who really said, "blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled". We don't know how Paul Harvey's name got attached to Nick Gholson's letter - Paul Harvey is a popular and beloved figure in many American households, and it is easy for one who agrees with those sentiments to imagine them said in Harvey's loveable sing-song voice. It doesn't really matter how it happened - we know that it happened. If it can happen now, when discovering the truth is as easy as browsing to the Snopes web page... if an editor from a popular women's magazine fails to do his due diligence and misleads his readers that he "picked up on" the words in a Paul Harvey Broadcast (instead of an internet chain letter), and not get "caught"... how much more easily could it happen when "the words of Jesus" were being disseminated by word of mouth, with virtually no means of fact-checking?

Does it mean that Jesus didn't create the beatitudes? Of course not. It's at least as likely that he did as he didn't. The point is that we should not feel very certain that he did. The point is that no one has any better reason for certainty on that matter than their faith in the human doctrine of Biblical inspiration. And, that goes for any of the words and deeds of Christ found in the Bible. Or, for that matter, the words and deeds of the Buddha in the Pali Canon.

In fact, Robert Price has collected several instances of elaborate legends about the life, work, and words of various historical persons that arose during their lifetimes and persisted after their death, sometimes despite the persons' own efforts to disavow the legends. The fact that these legends died out (in most cases) is an accident of history. The fact that the historical record preserves some efforts to lay them to rest is another happy accident. There are certainly no guarantees that this will be the case. The origins of many such legends are lost to history, altogether.

Again, this doesn't mean the stories of Jesus (or the Buddha, or Mohammed) aren't true. It just means that one should be careful not to be too dogmatic in one's beliefs about them. Those of us who lack faith in the human doctrine of the Bible as God's word have no particular reason to be convinced that Jesus said and did everything that is recorded about him in the Bible. Yet, some of us may see value in some of the teachings ascribed to him... like the Golden Rule... or "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." With that in mind, we can look for common ground about the value of the Bible without getting too hung up in our disagreements about the human doctrines.

Posted by smijer at 07:42 AM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2005

And The Question Is.....

from - Buck

Does the President of the United States have the power to seize U.S. citizens in civilian settings on American soil and subject them to indefinite military detention without criminal charges or a trial?

I guess the answer for now is a resounding "yes!"

Posted by Buck at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

Downing Street Memo

from - Buck

Part 2

along with some analysis by Ghandi

I assume this information will get the typical YAWN from the press and the general population but it is interesting nonetheless.

Posted by Buck at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

Terrible, Crappy Weekend

from - smijer

I won't bore you with the details of just how terrible and crappy it was. I managed to fulfill one commitment, and did almost nothing else that I wanted or needed to do. Monday is starting off no better. I've already pulled a "crick" in my neck. 'Nough complainin'. At least I'm not interned in a re-education camp, discreetly reporting every incidence of "campy" behavior I happen to witness.

I'm sorry I didn't finish the eUU yesterday. I'll get around to it. Unless next weekend is as bad as this one.

Posted by smijer at 07:56 AM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2005

Playing Devil's Advocate

from - smijer

Before I begin with today's installment of the Ecumenical UU, I want to share a thought for the day that was shared with me this morning. The Ecumenical UU found himself waiting ecumenically in the parking lot of the First Centenary United Methodist Chuch, and enjoying a conversation with a very pleasant gentleman who was a parishioner there. It was a long wait, and we had an opportunity to get to know one another a little. My first impression of him was very positive. During the course of conversation, he shared with me a little about his grandchildren, and the kind of world that they were inheriting. He quoted this to me from a calendar, and it struck me as humorous and true at the time. Now, it serves as a good introduction to the eUU column because. Like the subject of today's column, this thought was wise, but not entirely true:

There's nothing wrong with kids today that twenty years won't fix.

I've certainly been an exception to that rule. Nearly twenty years out from being a kid myself, I find that I still think I know it all, I'm still chronically unthoughtful, and I still behave in unnecessarily reckless or dangerous ways. On the other hand, I've improved quite a bit in all of those areas during the last couple of decades. Maybe in another ten years, I'll get there, too.

Certainly, I've also seen a fair number of others who carry relics from their youth through middle and into old age: arrogance, bitter attitudes, dangerous habits, what have you. But there is still wisdom in the saying. The gentle countenance and kindly manner of the man sitting next to me in the church parking lot, probably living through his seventh decade, reassured me that people really do mellow with time and experience, at least some of the time. That's a comfort to know.

My intention all week was to talk about the teachings of Jesus found in the Gospel, and to refute the notion, originated by C.S. Lewis, that one could only acknowledge the value in some of those teachings if one submitted to the doctrine of Christ's divinity. But, I'm not up to doing that. I've had a tough weekend, and I don't have the energy and focus to put into a topic like that. I did, however, come across this discussion at One Good Move, borrowed from the famous Butterflies and Wheels, about whether the epistemic or consequentialist question belongs "first" in a discussion of religion. Should one settle the "truth" of a proposition about religion before worrying about its "consequences"?

I expect that people's answers to that question will lie on the side of "truth" when they are more radical - be they fundamentalist Christians or be they militant atheists... and that this group will tend to take the narrowest view of what is "true". I think that people of a more moderate bent, be they nice gentlemen from the parking lot of First Centenary UMC or be they ecumincal UU's who have no belief in the supernatural at all, will take a broader view of what is "true" and try to recognize the consequentialist value even in what is false.

And, I'll say more about this tonight, after I've mentally reviewed my notes and reflected on the subject over the course of the day today.

(to be continued...)

Posted by smijer at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2005


from - smijer

Lucy is a Giant Schnauzer who belongs to a member of my church. She joined us to support AIDS research and treatment by walking with us on the Strides of March. She's absolutely beautiful, gentle, and very affectionate. It was mentioned last week that she is having a severe health crisis and isn't likely to be with us much longer - she may already be gone. Today's Friday blogging honors her:


More in the Ark. I particularly enjoyed this week's Basset bassinet. And, you can't miss Darksyd's Brief History of the Cats. Amazing stuff there.

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

June 09, 2005

File Under: Wicca Under Constant Attack

from - smijer

I know it's old news... but I just noticed Brainwise doing a post on it, and I thought this would be a good way to keep it in the archives. The Christian Majority in Charge of the Government is under attack because sometimes a school board or judge makes the wrong call on issues of separation of church and state... We need an archive of all the other people who are "under attack" when something like that happens.

Judge rules parents cannot teach their own religion to child.

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

A judge who tries to tell me what religion I can teach my children is just itching for a fight. I hope he's disbarred.

Posted by smijer at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

Real or Parody? You Decide

from - smijer

Evidently, the hatred has been healed, peace has been restored, and the perpetrators of this unimaginable crime have been brought to justice. It sure is good to know it all must've turned out all right. It's like they say: No news is good news! Right?
The Onion
Posted by smijer at 06:27 PM | Comments (0)

Gimme that Old Time Religion

from - Buck

Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.

~ H.L. Mencken

Posted by Buck at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

I know I feel safer...

from - Buck

Can you imagine going all the way to Afghanistan to learn how to do this? Can’t you do that on most public playgrounds?

Yes those dreaded Al Qaeda training camps. The funniest thing is that Halliburton probably helped build the originals and charged Allah only knows what for a couple of sets of monkey bars and a few whirlygigs.

Sorry Neal but considering the billions we are spending on Homeland Security our guys are going to have to do a little better than arresting a few family members in Lodi, California before I figure I am getting my money’s worth.

Posted by Buck at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)


from - Buck

I received this one from a cyberspace acquaintance yesterday

The denominations showing growth included the deeply conservative Southern Baptist Convention, a collection of 41,514 churches, whose overall growth rate was 5 percent. The traditionalist Presbyterian Church in America (as opposed the mainline Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) experienced an impressive 42.4 percent increase, while the Christian and Missionary Alliance rose 21.8 percent. Meanwhile, the Evangelical Free Church was up 57.2 percent, and Pentecostal denominations also boomed. The Assemblies of God, with 11,880 churches, saw 18.5 percent growth, while the Church of God, with 5,612 churches, saw growth of 40.2 percent.

With no sense of irony this writer for the pro war National Review ends the article with this quote from a former member of the Pol Pot regime

"When I was a soldier I did bad things. I don't know how many we killed. We were following orders and thought it was the right thing to do. I read the Bible and I know it will free me from the weight of the sins I have committed."

Maybe this was a backhanded way to assure our guys and gals in Iraq that they need not worry much about raping, robbing, pillaging, killing and destroying. After all, full-flavored God not only has the power to fix parking tickets but He will also forgive us for the sins we commit at the behest of the State.

Posted by Buck at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)

Wake Up!

from - smijer

It's gotten quiet at the project next door. To liven things up a bit, I've posted an e-mail chain-letter that doesn't need a sarcastic rejoinder sent back up the chain. I was reminded of it by ChristianLibrul at Not In My Bible. It's the Letter to Dr. Laura Schlessinger which makes the rounds every now and then. Enjoy. And send in some chain letters of the other sort for us to deconstruct, huh?

Posted by smijer at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2005

Hindsight is 20/20 but...

from - smijer

Alternate Titles
What Patriotism Means These Days
Who says Republicans Don't question the Patriotism of people who refuse to Worship at the Altar of George Bush the Second Coming?

Donald Sensing is not a raving right-wing lunatic... at least by reputation he isn't. He's supposed to be an intellectual and moderate voice in the right-wing blogosphere. His post on the D-Day Invasion is a pretty accurate assessment of the stakes involved in that single allied offensive, and manages to shed light without too much of the concommitant heat.

Contrast with his whiny tone about the "patriotism" of the sickeningly hawkish mainstream media of today:

In my post about Normandy yesterday, reader Corrie commented, “One wonders how things might have gone had today’s New York Times and Newsweek been covering the story rather than the patriotic press of 1944.”
{quoting rightist Bill Hobbs} The big difference? Back then, the American press wasn’t ashamed to be on our side.
The state of unreadiness for war of the US armed forces on Dec. 7, 1941 seems breathtaking to modern professionals, who have generally served in ready-to-fight units their whole career. So Ens. Hopkins was thrown into battle able to take off and land and that’s about it. And his experience was quite typical for the first year of the war.

Now, consider the Pulitzer Prizes for photography this year (for example) and imagine how the media of 1942 would have reported Midway or Normandy if they had the same biases as the media of today (related commentary here). {embedded links not included}

Now, overall, the press have been wonderful cheerleaders for this war in Iraq. The New York Times rushed to print with every allegation anyone in the Bush administration or his Iraqi expatriate friends saw fit to raise. CNN dropped Wolf Blitzer into a safe part of Kuwait, handed him the pom-poms and let him go to work. More recently, the media ignored the Downing Street Memo, and helped laugh Amnesty International out of the public discourse because they made an apt, but unfortunate comparison, in a speech about their report on U.S. human rights abuses.

Nevertheless, they have had the audacity to report troop and armor shortages that result from the Bush administration's failures, and a small fraction of the newsworthy revelations of American human rights abuses - and that is tantamount to a refusal to kneel at the altar of Bush. For that, Sensing and his cronies have called the press "unpatriotic". So when Republicans puff their chest out and indignantly claim that they never question their chosen political opponent's patriotism... remember they are full of it.

But, you know, there's another angle on this "patriotic" thing... I mean, these guys are chucking the word around as though it really does mean "doing a happy dance about aggressive war." Is that what Patriotism really means these days? Maybe I'm not a patriot after all...

I also left a couple of comments on Sensing's post, about why the press is not "patriotic" (translate - war-hungry, pro-torture, pro-Bush) enough for them...

FDR did his best with what he had. He perceived a crisis, and he convinced Americans that it was necessary that they had to fight - that it was the only way to stop the aggression and preserve freedom. He convinced them that it was worth a heavy price: not only in lives of volunteer military staff, but the lives of themselves or their own children. He convinced them that the crisis was of such enormity that they would have to sacrifice a lot of every day comforts. Food, fuel, and other war materials were rationed. Taxes were raised. And, FDR had little control over the timetable for war. If the U.S. was to meet the threat, it had to do it before all of Europe and Asia was overrun. So, maybe the media was a little bit forgiving when some of the troops suffered from being under-prepared, under-funded, and under-equipped. The stakes were enormous and we were doing the best we could with what we had, hand in hand with our allies.

Fast forward to today. Instead of fighting the aggressors, the U.S. is the aggressor. Instead of being forced by a crisis of global proportions to act immediately, we sent in the bombs and boots "at the time of our choosing." We had ample time to prepare and equip, and ample resources. And we aren't doing everything we can to equip and prepare our troops. Taxes are being cut, not raised... We are gorging ourselves on food, fuel, and other war materials, and we are told to "shop" and "support our troops". We have troop shortages abroad, and able bodies at home, and talk of a draft is practically toxic. Why?

Because American's aren't really that war-hungry. We were cheerled into the war in Iraq with false promises that our troops would be met with cheers and flowers, and would be home soon. We weren't advised of the costs. And we still haven't figured out exactly why we are there. Suppose Bush had done the right thing. Suppose he had asked Americans to sacrifice for this war. Suppose he had raised taxes, raised recruitment pay, armored the humvees, and rationed or taxed fuel. What would have happened?

Well, the U.N. weapons inspectors would have had time to tell the world that the U.S. was unable to provide them any intelligence about WMD that they could confirm on the ground. People would have started talking about the fact that doomsday wasn't upon us, and the likelihood that Saddam wasn't actively stockpiling chemical weapons.

People would have gotten worried about the cost of aggression. They would have not asked themselves, "would I like to see Saddam get his comeuppance?" ... instead they would have asked themselves whether seeing Saddam get his comeuppance was worth the cost in lives, increased taxes, a reduction in their quality of life, and the enmity of our former allies.

And they would have said "no" to a war of aggression.

So quit blaming the dadgum media.

Posted by smijer at 06:55 PM | Comments (7)

Drawing a Blank With Your Eye Boogers

from - smijer

Yesterday, I "put off" blogging a couple of posts, because I didn't feel I had time to write them. This morning, I have blogger's block... Nothing to say, and all this empty space to say it in... I'll try to at least feed you a couple of interesting links, but first a question:

Is this comment spam? I think that it is. I cannot e-mail its author for verification... but the link target (follow it from the comment - I won't link to it on the front page) is to a blogspot page full of the sort of content that normally gets forwarded to me in e-mails from friends at the office. There is one pop-up ad, as far as I can tell. I think that "Howdy" may be posting pre-digested stuff from around the net on a blog page and getting ad revenues from his hits... but at least his page doesn't immediately redirect you to a porn or poker site, right? Should I blacklist it? Or is this the beginning of the evolution of a more tolerable variety of comment spam, and should I open this pages gate to that sort of promotion, provided that the spam comment count remains very low?

Please share your thoughts in the comments... Now a couple of links with which to digest those eye boogers:

Felbers chronicles the emerging Spin Race, in which the U.S. is emerging once again as the pioneer of a new technology, leaving the amateurish and defunct Soviet Union in our dust...

Say Uncle talks (again) about breed bans. He also has a photograph of PiC dog with Junior. Be sure to disconnect your cuteness meter before viewing, to avoid accidental damage from overload of it's delicate circuits.

Red China publishes porn (Rated R). If I'm not mistaken, and I may well be, Xinhua News Agency is the state approved English language news outlet in China. The associated news report is nice and racy, but the photography... well... maybe there's hope for the decadent west in the New China after all.

That's it for today, unless actual news breaks and I am compelled to comment.

Posted by smijer at 08:04 AM | Comments (1)

June 07, 2005

Some things never change

from - Buck

Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

~ Hermann Goering, Nazi Reichsmarschall

Posted by Buck at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

For Old Time's Sake... Fisking the Fiskable Neal Boortz

from - smijer

How long has it been since I've really hurt your eyes with a Best of Boortz column? Not long enough? Huh... well, I've been working so hard on being nice lately, I need a few minutes where I can, in good conscience, just tear someone a new body cavity useful for the elimination of solid waste. And who has more solid waste stored up inside than Neal Boortz? Let's throw gentility to the wind and rake him over the coals, shall we?

Neal Boortz, the (upper) Class Warlord
Today Boortz confuses an editorial page by Bob Herbert with news reporting. Specifically, he says:

The New York Times is reporting with great fanfare that the gap between the rich and the poor is rising. They seem aghast that the top .1 percent of income earners are raking in an average of $3 million a year. Furthermore, That's only about 145,000 taxpayers. So much money in the hands of so few..they must have stolen it!

Ok, so maybe he just doesn't understand the difference between opinion and news. Possible? According to him, only if he was educated in public schools. From September 29, 2004:

Meanwhile, my challenge stands. Write me an email ... give me a call ... send me some snail mail detailing any right wing bias in the reporting of the news on Fox News Channel. For those of you who went to government schools and who, accordingly, vote for the big-government party ... expressions of opinion by commentators is not considered to be "reporting the news."

Yeah... check those big letters just above the headline... the ones that say "Op-Ed Columnist". By the way, I have e-mailed one answer to Neal's "Fox News Challenge", which was never acknowledged. Of course, Boortz is preaching to a pretty out of touch choir, in any case. Everybody knows that every aspect of Fox News programming contains at least some right-wing bias. One would have to be blind from the Elephant Koolaid not to notice. Yet, in March of this year, Boortz lied outright and claimed that no one had met his challenge.

Anyway, back to the meat and potatoes, or in Boortz' case, the pâté de foi grois and crème broulee of this post. He rails against the New York times editorialist for pointing out that income disparity really does continue to rise. Sure, the Bush tax cuts have something to with that. How can they not? But Boortz doesn't buy it. He honestly (ha!) thinks that income disparity comes from the moral fibre of the rich and the degeneracy of the poor... No, really:

If rich people are getting richer, that means they're producing more profit or earning more money. We'll call them the achievers.[...]Poverty is a mental disease at worst and a behavioral disorder at best. The rich keep getting richer because they keep doing the things that make them rich. Ditto for the poor. Everyone is where they are in life as a direct result of the decisions they have made to put them there. If they've worked hard, they can be rich.

He closes with this unintentionally ironic twist: "Unless, of course, you're a Kennedy and get rich by default." ... hmmm... you mean you can be born rich? Maybe that's why Boortz campaigns against the estate tax, huh?

'Course, there are a lot of factors that figure into the income gap. As was pointed out not too long ago, it's expensive to be poor... especially in Tennessee. And then there is the pervasive corporate cronyism (pdf) which ensures executive salaries go up even when profits go down. So, no... it's not really that rich people are just great achievers and poor people are all bums. It's also the fact that wealth is power. It's the fact that work and achievement are among the least successful means of producing wealth available. So, when Boortz snorts that '[the poor] aren't going to make the sacrifices necessary to become rich like them', remember that his chief sacrifice is to sit on a comfortable chair in a studio and talk about things he knows next to nothing about.

If we can't lock them up indefinitely without charges or trial and abuse them in the meantime, we might as well let them go.

Quote number one:

Apparently Amnesty International doesn't know what real human rights abuses are. So why are they attacking us?

Ouch. Funny, a lot of people seem to think that exact thing. I suppose Boortz can be forgiven since he only got into this "freedom" and "human rights" thing fairly recently, when he needed a pom-pom to shake with his war cheers, but honestly... I suggest that Neal read up on Amnesty.

So, what to do with these 500 or so 'jihadists' that haven't already been returned to their home countries because of their innocence?

Senator Joe Biden says we should shut down the Gitmo prison. What would he have us do with the 500 or so jihadists we have imprisoned there? Perhaps we should put them all up for adoption? Send them around to live with liberals in a terrorist exchange program. Then people could learn the "root causes" of terrorism and try and reason with these bloodthirsty animals, which of course would never work.

No... we could never do that. I say we dig a hole under Camp X-Ray and dump them in there. Or, and I know this is going to sound radical, but what if we took them to a detention center where the Red Cross and Amnesty International were allowed to monitor their treatment. Then, we could charge them with war crimes, let them consult with their attorneys, and hold a trial. Ok, ok... I know that may sound kind of UnAmerican, but it could work!

I could go on, but I'll spare us both...

Posted by smijer at 07:08 AM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2005

The Trial of Saddam

from - Buck

As we approach the trial of Saddam Hussein it is necessary that we at least familiarize ourselves with the flipside of the arguments that will be used by the prosecution. You may have to commit these “facts” to memory because in all probability you will hear none of it during the trial.
When it comes to "crimes against humanity" I cannot think of a major political leader throughout all of history who did not commit at least one.

Posted by Buck at 08:52 AM | Comments (4)


from - smijer

I'm sorry there's no addition to the Ecumenical UU archive from yesterday. Unfortunately, I was too busy being a UU all day to bloviate on the blog about ecumenicalism. I have, however, been having a discussion with Ron Shank about his support for the Ford Boycott, in which I have been doing my best to maintain a high level of discourse and an ecumenical attitude. Ron, for his part, has been delightfully courteous as well. And, speaking of Ford... I got a reply from Ford Foundation:

Dear {name deleted},

Thank you for your email, and your interest in our programs. The Ford Foundation is an independent organization, with its own board, and is entirely separate from the Ford Motor Company.

Office of Communications

So, I guess that one fell on deaf ears. I suppose I should try again, but the Ford Motor Company website doesn't seem to want to come off an e-mail address.

Speaking of e-mail, I got one from the inestimable Alice concerning plans for the blogmeet. Nothing's settled yet, but discussions are under way. We're gonna do this.

Sans feedback, I have a couple of links, if you have at least two eye boogers:

I can't wait to see Scott and Morgan in their matching Dr. Who scarves. I hope I can get permission to post photographic evidence of this thing right here at smijer & Buck.

No permalinks on Barry Graham's blog, but if you click over and scroll down soon enough, you'll find his June 3, entry which tells about his relationship to Zen Buddhism. I find it remarkable in that it reflects many testimonies of "changed lives" that I hear from the Christian community:

[...]I am stupid, intolerant and brutish, a creature of rage, of awful destructiveness and violence. That this is not obvious is entirely thanks to the practice of Zen. Any kindness, any decency, any wisdom I might manifest comes not from me, the small self, but from the Buddha.

I am accustomed to seeing similar testimonies from Christians. What seems remarkable to me is that there seems to be a near-universal need to find the guidance and self-confidence to repair one's own life in a religious tradition. I can even personally attest that UUism continues to help me smoothe out my own rough edges. I guess this is just my way of saying that it's maybe a little bit more than just "safety in numbers" (although I suspect it's quite a bit less than a universal positive influence of religion).

Have a nice Monday.

Posted by smijer at 07:55 AM | Comments (18)

June 05, 2005

The Greater Mystery

from - Buck

"As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as the result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together...We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter."

Max Planck

Posted by Buck at 08:00 AM | Comments (1)

June 04, 2005

The Openest Thread of All

from - smijer

Not really - just a regular open thread that will stay at the tip-top of the page until it gets too congested, which could take some time. Disclaimer: I will personally refrain from commenting in this thread, unless someone specifically asks me by name for my thoughts. So, if you post something looking for a reaction from me, let me know that's what it's for. Otherwise, enjoy the soap-box.

Posted by smijer at 11:59 PM | Comments (10)

June 03, 2005

Tryin' to figure it out

from - Buck

If not Poppy Bush (?) how about Poopy Bush?

Posted by Buck at 09:09 AM | Comments (2)

Friday Doggie Library

from - smijer

The littlest fuzzy doggies in the library I lovingly assembled for them. I can't say I'm satisfied with the photography, but LJ & Goliath seemed to enjoy exploring the library itself. This was Monday. Tuesday, I constructed a new and expanded library, but LJ wouldn't come out of the DogHouse, and Goliath wanted to just curl up inside the first good book she could find:


More and better in The Ark.

Posted by smijer at 07:34 AM | Comments (1)

June 02, 2005

Open Letter to the Ford Foundation

from - smijer

I sent this today to office-of-communications@fordfound.org

I have read of the Ford Company's commitment to organizations promoting equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgendered people.

Although I know you are aware that opponents of civil rights for gays have organized a boycott against the Ford company, I hope that you will stand firm on your principles. I wish to offer encouragement by reminding you that many people are very appreciative of the Ford Motor Company and the principles that it advocates.

I realize that the Ford Foundation is the charitable arm of the company, I hope you will convey this message to those who operate the business arm as well.

Many thanks,
{name deleted}
Chattanooga, TN

cc: smijer.com/blog/

Posted by smijer at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

A Few Things

from - smijer

I got up at three in three in the morning to use the potty. I went in, sat down, and the next thing I remember is looking up from the floor trying to focus my eyes on Mrs. smijer, who was informing me that what happened was a seizure. The second in three years that she has witnessed.

I'm about to leave for work, late, after spending some time to rest and recuperate... Grand Mal seizures leave you hurting and drained.

Notes of interest on church/state separation:
Daily Kos documents the efforts of the Ohio Restoration Project, an attempt to further place the evangelical church into the service of the Republican Party, and provides a blistering rejoinder from a thoughtful Presbyterian pastor:

This is not America's mission. This is frightening, diabolical stuff for non-Christians and Christians alike. It is blasphemous to claim that any earthly kingdom is God's kingdom. The theological foundations of this movement are vacuous. They are set on the sands of opportunism, self-righteousness and greed. [...]
The media must investigate and show this movement for what it is. Courageous preachers must help their congregations understand what is at stake. Silence is not an option.

Coincidentally, I was reading an interview at BeliefNet last night with Max Lucado, who gave the benediction at the Republican National Convention last year. He, too, seems to have a much more tempered attitude toward the role of politics in the Evangelical church:

One of the things that amazes me about Jesus is that when he had a moral difference with somebody, he drew near to that person and they dialogued about it. There’s the story about little Zaccheus, the tax collector; the guy was a crook, but he could legitimately justify his income through the way he interpreted the law--but it was wrong. Jesus hung out with him, and as a result there was a change in Zaccheus’s life.

I wish there could be some way in which people who have a preconceived notion of the church, of religious people, could hang out with church-going people for a while. I think that they think every time we’re in church we’re beating the abortion drum or bashing gay people. We’re not doing that—most people are not doing that. We’re struggling like everybody else, trying to figure out what we’re supposed to be doing in life. So I wish there could be some way that blue states could kind of intermingle with the red states.

And then vice-versa, I wish we could come to a better understanding of the struggle that a homosexual has and why abortion seems to be such a threat to so many people who are pro-choice. There’s not that dialogue taking place right now.

Actually, I take issue somewhat with the implication that our notions of the church are "preconcieved"... I do hang with church people to a certain degree, have attended a variety of evangelical churches, and really have tried to understand them. And yes, the church experience is deeper than just gay-bashing and beating the abortion drum... but you'll still have to sit through quite a bit of both if you go to one of theirs. The Ohio Restoration Project is closer to rule than exception. Nevertheless, Lucado's attitude seems a very much healthier one than, for instance, James Dobson's.

For more temperate thoughts from the Christian side, see this piece on stem cell research by the executive director of the Baptist Cetner for Ethics.

A couple of notes of interest on the Ongoing War In Iraq:
Don Rumsfeld has been let out of his closet again and immediately goes to rattling sabres at nations that might assist Al-Zarqawi:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned Iraq's neighbors today not to give medical treatment or safe haven to Iraq's most-wanted insurgent, Jordanian fugitive Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Well, excuse me. If Zarqawi shows up on my doorstep asking for medical treatment, I'm going to try to get it for him. Of course, I'll also notify the proper authorities and have him arrested, but the problem isn't with providing medical treatment - it's with providing him safe haven. I, personally, still believe in "innocent until proven guilty," though I'm afraid I may be alone in that regard.

But what is Rumsfeld accomplishing by threatening nations that give Zarqawi safe haven? I don't know about you, but if I'm Syria, with the U.S. military stretched to its breaking point, and unable to uncover the simplest intelligence of what I may be doing, I'm more afraid of terrorism from Zarqawi's people than I am of irritating the Holy American Empire. I think there is room to worry that the U.S. really will become the "Paper Tiger" that Republicans warn you against the Democrats creating.

What do you think?

Posted by smijer at 11:56 AM | Comments (4)

Intelligent Design?

from - Buck

“students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.”
Okay. You guys are going to have to enlighten me. Exactly how many different theories of evolution exist? And is there a problem with pointing out weak links in a theoretical chain? I am steadfastly against throwing the baby out with the bathwater but if the bathwater needs changing by all means, throw it out. This is always in the baby’s best interest.

While reading “Master Planned” in the New Yorker I was reminded of the story Ben Franklin told in his "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America"

According to the accounts,

Franklin described a Swedish minister who lectured a group of Susquehanah Indians on the story of the creation, including "the Fall of our first parents from eating an Apple, the coming of Christ to repair the Mischief, his Miracles and Suffering &c." The Indians replied that it was, indeed, bad to eat apples, when they could have been made into cider. They then repaid the missionary's storytelling favor by telling him their own creation story. The missionary was aghast at this comparison of Christianity with what he regarded as heathenism and, according to Franklin, replied: "What I delivered to you are Sacred Truths, but what you tell me is mere Fable, Fiction and Falsehood." The Indians, in turn, told the missionary that he was lacking in manners.

I get the feeling that I am not rightly separating creation and evolution. But since I see creation as a dynamic and not a static process I have never had any real trouble incorporating evolution into my own personal creation myth.

Intelligent Design may be “junk science” but I have heard scientists say the same about global warming.

What’s a man to believe?

Posted by Buck at 09:03 AM | Comments (3)

June 01, 2005

God Help Us

from - Buck

God Help Us All!

Posted by Buck at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

End in sight?

from - Buck

With the death toll rising in Iraq and the military begging for more troops our excursion into the Middle East looks more and more like a fool’s errand. Not to worry. Cheney says it will be over in 2009.

If it ends in 2009 it will be because McCain orders a withdrawal and I don’t see that happening. With Cheney back in the saddle at Halliburton I have a feeling that the continuation of the war will be right up his alley. After all, how many life-long public servants do you know with a net worth estimated to be between 30 and 100 million dollars?

Posted by Buck at 12:42 PM | Comments (0)

Links With Your Eye Boogers

from - smijer

I hope you only have a couple of eye boogers, because I only have a couple of links, and only a couple of minutes to post them:

If you aren't reading Hippy Dave, you should be. Go now. While you're there, follow his links to John Edwards' Being Poor is Expensive, and Kristof's powerful piece on Sudan.

John Cole talks sense about the regrettable (unforgivable really) prosecution mistakes that led to the Supreme Court doing the only thing it could do: overturn Arthur Andersen's conviction.

Sean Carroll makes us despair for the future of public discourse, with a list of books Conservative "thinkers" consider dangerous... You know: Mein Kampf, the Kinsey Report, Feminine Mystique, the Descent of Man... Lord.

Ummm.. and that's it. Have a nice Wednesday.

Posted by smijer at 07:49 AM | Comments (2)