August 31, 2005

Death to the Looters!

from - Buck

Neal advocates the shooting and killing of what I am sure he considers the rabble in New Orleans.

Now I am against stealing as much as the next guy but the death penalty for petty larceny? That seems a bit extreme to me. That sounds damn near Islamic. Maybe subconsciously Neal has a love-hate relationship with that religion.

And Neal. Who is guarding the guards? What are the chances that a person might get shot by a policeman just because he has what the policeman wanted first?

It seems that some of the rabble have good government jobs with benefits. They also come equipped with guns, clubs and a license to kill. When it comes to looting these guys are definitely dressed for success.

Of course Neal also has to make the obligatory connection with his precious war-gone-awry.

Immediately after Saddam was toppled the looting began. The coalition forces did little, and the violence continued to this day. Many think that if the liberating forces had taken out a few looting teams the history of the last few years might have been quite a bit different.

Oh yeah Neal. I am sure that would have made all the difference in the world. Kill a few of the ragheads running off with those mattresses and the situation in Mess-o-potamia would be radically different.

Funny that there was no looting at the Oil Ministry during that traumatic point in time. I guess where there is a will there is a way.

Shoot to kill first and ask questions later. No wonder Neal is so starry-eyed when it comes to the current administration. Just give us a gun and we will make everything right.

How’s that working out for you so far guys?

Posted by Buck at 12:34 PM | Comments (17)

A "Good" Cup of Coffee

from - smijer

How do the guiding principles of your church stack up to the guiding principles of Starbuck's Corporation?

TGW has the story, relevant quote:

"Embracing diversity and treating people with dignity is one of the guiding principles of our corporation,"

To help evaluate, use this handy guide:

  • If your church opposes these principles, or attacks those groups who support them, then it's time for some soul big-time searching.
  • If your church speaks out of both sides of its mouth, saying love the "sinner", but hate the "sin", and then spends most of its time hating the "sin" without regard for the real-life consequences of the "sinner", then maybe its time for reform. After all, what church wants to be upstaged morally by a coffee company?
  • If your church is truly guided by such principles, then it's time to sing a round of the Hallelujah Chorus. (Check the extended entry for the story of why that author feels that the UU is a truly "spirit-filled" church.)


My road back began at age fourteen when a friend, the son of a minister, told me about Jesus' love for me. Naturally, having grown up unloved, this message had a profound impact on me. I dedicated nearly a decade of my life, thereafter, to Christianity, remaining active in church, attending a Baptist University, and maintaining a brief enrollment in seminary. Oddly, however, during those years I found this same religion that, for the first time in my life, found me worthy of love and acceptance, was teaching me to reject others because of shallow differences in belief and lifestyle.

It wasn't until I came near the end of my college career that my life's circumstances forced me to take a good look at this disturbing paradox. It seems my younger sister, after a negative encounter with the law, was forced into counseling. It didn't take long for her court appointed counselors to figure out she had been molested by my father. Well, the family cat was out of the bag! My father was arrested and my older sister also admitted years of being tormented by his sexual abuse. My mother, who it turns out, was aware of my father's behavior all along, found her life in shambles. She was completely devastated with no where to turn, so, she decided to turn to me, the member of the family studying the ministry. "Todd," she asked, "What do I have to do to become a Christian?"

After telling her she needed to believe Jesus died for her sins and accept him into her heart, she responded, "Oh." then turned and walked away with the same broken, empty and devastated look she had when she asked the question. Just a couple years later she escaped her suffering by eating herself up with cancer.

But Mom didn't die before having a profound effect on me. You see, she came to me looking for salvation and I gave her nothing. It was apparent that she was the same miserable woman after my answer to her question as she was before. So I began asking myself, What's so good about the good news? What, if anything, was there about Christianity that could change lives? During a process of many years, I began to look beyond the stories of Jesus' miracles, and even began ignoring may of his beautiful teachings. Instead I focused my attention on his encounters with the people whose lives he is reported to have changed. I noticed one commonality with them all, he accepted them unconditionally. As you know, he was constantly criticized for associating with social outcasts, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes and the like.

I love the story of Zaccheus, the short little tax collector, despised by his own people for betraying them to the Romans, who climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus through the crowds. Jesus, to his surprise, approached the tree and said, in effect, "Hey Zaccheus, come down here, let's do lunch." This had a profound effect on Zaccheus. It transformed him! He gave back everything he had ever stolen and them some, not because Jesus told him he had to if he wanted to be saved, but simply because Jesus accepted him for who he was. This was definitely good news for the tax collector.

In another story Jesus asks a Samaritan woman, gathering water from a nearby well, for a drink. This was more than unusual because Jews didn't speak to Samaritans, men didn't speak to women in public, and holy men didn't speak to known adulteresses, which happened to be the case with this woman. Here was Jesus, not only speaking to her, but asking her for a drink of water from the same unclean cup that muct have touched her unclean lips a thousand times. To the Jews eating and drinking was a form of intimacy, which, I think, was Jesus' whole point in asking the woman for a drink. He wanted her to know that he found worthy of love and acceptance.

In another example, a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus to be judged. The law said she must be stoned to death. But Jesus instructed her accusers, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." After the crowd quietly dispersed and this frightened and embarrassed woman was alone with Jesus, he asked her, "Where are your accusers?" In other words, there were only two people present, and Jesus didn't consider himself the woman's judge. He accepted her.

Although I don't consider myself a Christian today, at least not in any orthodox sense, I must admit my liberality has grown out of my understanding of Jesus, summed up in the lyrics of the simple children's song, "Jesus love's me, this I know, cause the Bible tells me so."

I have found this same simplicity of spirit here amongst the Unitarian Universalists. Although many of us have come here for different reasons—some, like myself, from fallings out with orthodox Christianity, or others coming from different faiths entirely, perhaps, Buddhism, New Ageism, even Atheism—we all share this same spirit, the spirit which I consider the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Divine Spirit.

Unitarianism is the doctrine that God is one. This doctrine was born out of the cruel execution of Michael Servitus, burned at the stake by John Calvin for heresy, simply because he didn't think the idea of the Trinity, three in one, made any sense. As a result, Unitarians tend to place less value on strictly adhering to church doctrine. They are naturally, more accepting and tolerant of other ideas. In the 1950's the Unitarians joined with the Universalists, a similar group, who opposed Calvinism's doctrine that only a chosen few would be saved, the doctrine of predestination. Instead the Universalist believe everyone is salvageable, everyone has something to offer. Unitarian Universalists speak the universal tongue of love and acceptance. In so doing we demonstrate the Spirit of God. We really are a church filled with the Holy Spirit.

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

August 30, 2005


from - smijer

New 'cast.

Posted by smijer at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

Why Couldn't I have been born in 1968?

from - smijer

Via Hippy Dave

Go here, and type your high shcool graduation year (1998 for me) in the search function. Choose the "100 Top Songs of 19XX", and then look through the songs - make those that you like bold, underline your favorite, and strikethrough the songs you hate.

1. Hold On, Wilson Phillips
2. It Must Have Been Love, Roxette
3. Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O'Connor
4. Poison, Bell Biv Devoe
5. Vogue, Madonna
6. Vision Of Love, Mariah Carey
7. Another Day In Paradise, Phil Collins
8. Hold On, En Vogue
9. Cradle Of Love, Billy Idol
10. Blaze Of Glory, Jon Bon Jovi
11. Do Me!, Bell Biv Devoe
12. How Am I Supposed To Live Without You, Michael Bolton
13. Pump Up The Jam, Technotronic
14. Opposites Attract, Paula Abdul
15. Escapade, Janet Jackson
16. All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You, Heart
17. Close To You, Maxi Priest

    18. Black Velvet, Alannah Myles

19. Release Me, Wilson Phillips
20. Don't Know Much, Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville
21. All Around The World, Lisa Stansfield
22. l Wanna Be Rich, Calloway
23. I Remember You, Skid Row
24. Rub You The Right Way, Johnny Gill
25. She Ain't Worth It, Glenn Medeiros Featuring Bobby Brown
26. If Wishes Came True, Sweet Sensation
27. The Power, Snap
28. (Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection, Nelson
29. Love Will Lead You Back, Taylor Dayne
30. Don't Wanna Fall In Love, Jane Child
31. Two To Make It Right, Seduction
32. Sending All My Love, Linear
33. Unskinny Bop, Poison
34. Step By Step, New Kids On The Block
35. Dangerous, Roxette
36. We Didn't Start The Fire, Billy Joel
37. I Don't Have The Heart, James Ingram
38. Downtown Train, Rod Stewart
39. Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson
40. I'll Be Your Everything, Tommy Page
41. Roam, B-52's
42. Everything, Jody Watley
43. Back To Life, Soul II Soul
44. Here and Now, Luther Vandross
45. Alright, Janet Jackson
46. Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice
47. Blame It On The Rain, Milli Vanilli
48. Have You Seen Her, M.C. Hammer
49. With Every Beat Of My Heart, Taylor Dayne
50. Come Back To Me, Janet Jackson
51. No More Lies, Michel'le
52. Praying For Time, George Michael
53. How Can We Be Lovers, Michael Bolton
54. Do You Remember, Phil Collins
55. Ready Or Not, After 7
56. U Can't Touch This, M.C. Hammer
57. I Wish It Would Rain Down, Phil Collins
58. Just Between You and Me, Lou Gramm
59. Something Happened On The Way To Heaven, Phil Collins
60. Black Cat, Janet Jackson
61. Can't Stop, After 7
62. Janie's Got A Gun, Aerosmith
63. The Humpty Dance, Digital Underground
64. I'll Be Your Shelter, Taylor Dayne
65. Free Fallin', Tom Petty
66. Giving You The Benefit, Pebbles
67. Enjoy The Silence, Depeche Mode
68. Love Song, Tesla
69. Price Of Love, Bad English
70. Girls Nite Out, Tyler Collins
71. King Of Wishful Thinking, Go West
72. What Kind Of Man Would I Be?, Chicago
73. Get Up! (Before The Night Is Over), Technotroic
74. Here We Are, Gloria Estefan
75. Epic, Faith No More
76. Love Takes Time, Mariah Carey
77. Just Like Jesse James, Cher
78. Love Shack, B-52's
79. All Or Nothing, Milli Vanilli
80. Romeo, Dino
81. Everybody Everybody, Black Box
82. I Go To Extremes, Billy Joel
83. Whip Appeal, Babyface
84. Oh Girl, Paul Young
85. C'mon and Get My Love, D-Mob With Cathy Dennis
85. (It's Just) The Way That You Love Me, Paula Abdul
87. We Can't Go Wrong, Cover Girls
88. When I'm Back On My Feet Again, Michael Bolton
89. Make You Sweat, Keith Sweat
90. This One's For The Children, New Kids On The Block
91. What It Takes, Aerosmith
92. Forever, Kiss
93. Jerk Out, Time
94. Just A Friend, Biz Markie
95. Whole Wide World, A'me Lorain
96. Without You, Motley Crue
97. Swing The Mood, Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers
98. Thieves In The Temple, Prince
99. Mentirosa, Mellow Man Ace
100. Tic-Tac-Toe, Kyper

'90 wasn't a particularly good year for music. Grunge hadn't really set in yet, and a lot of the pickings were '80's left-overs... Still, there were a couple of nuggets in the pan.

Posted by smijer at 08:21 PM | Comments (4)


from - Buck

Jude Wanniski

I loved this guy even though he did list Abraham Lincoln as his favorite President.

He wrote some thought-provoking stuff.

I'll miss him.

Posted by Buck at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

Five Minutes to Post: Links with your Eye Boogers

from - smijer

The clock is ticking... I have five minutes to post and get out of here.

Eye boogers ready?

Short, mostly copy & pasted conversation at Jeff Blogworthy, worth reading. I never remember that his comments use UBB instead of html, so forgive the formatting errors in my comments.

Evolving motors, trés cool.

Wesley Clark on Iraq.

Times up. Best wishes and sympathy to any victims of Katrina, least of which, but closest to home, is the hood of Ms. smijer's car, which got between a tree branch and the Earth's center of gravity.

Posted by smijer at 07:42 AM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2005

Chattanooga Events

from - smijer

I'm only able to take a moment or two to plug some upcoming events in Chattanooga that just happen to be going on at my church...

The UU's Autumnal Equinox concert will feature the Lovell Sisters Band, a trio of very youthful and talented bluegrass performers. Samples here - I recommend number 6, Lonesome feeling. Tickets are $18/each and proceeds support the church. Call the church office during business hours at 423-624-2985 for reservations. This is going to be a great show. I hope to see some of you there.

The Exonerated is a dramatic presentation of the true stories of six death row inmates who were later exonerated by new evidence. I expect to be helping in the production in some capacity, and if the audition went well last night (blush), I may even have a part in it. The play will run October 21-23 at the church, and if I understand correctly, will have a follow-up for two evenings at the Chattanooga Theatre Center (but don't hold me to that).

For info on some death row inmates who haven't (yet) been exonerated, see Hippy Dave's post, and don't forget the West Memphis Three.

And now, as usual, I'm late for work.

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (3)

August 26, 2005

Babies With No Names

from - smijer

Good Friday Morning. smijer & family have had a couple new additions to the household. No names for them yet, unless we can get enough votes to override the wifely veto on "Squirt" for the light gray one. New Baby Doggies in 3... 2... 1...




As always, more You-Know-Where.

Posted by smijer at 07:45 AM | Comments (4)

August 25, 2005

The Problem

from - smijer

The problem is that I don't want to get Alzheimer's or quit daydreaming.

Posted by smijer at 07:29 AM | Comments (0)

Come Back, Little Sheba

from - Buck

''So long as I'm the president, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror,''

So I guess this means that even if the Iraqi’s stand up we have no intentions of standing down? A statement like that helps me understand and appreciate the need for term limits. As long as George the Son is in office we will be in Iraq. Let that sink in for a moment. George and his cronies intend to milk this cash cow for every drop. You admire their resolve until it suddenly dawns on you that they are using your blood and money.

Speaking in Idaho to a fist pumping audience dressed in camouflage George was in his glory. After all, this state with its 4 electoral votes is certain to play a prominent role in the next election. To hell with the electoral votes. The state has wonderful biking trails and is just the place for a guy who is just going on with his life.

Meanwhile the Shi’ites are fighting the Shi’ites (no, that is not a typographical error) maybe because they have gotten tired of fighting the Sunni’s and the Kurd’s just keep smiling their autonomous smile. For now.

A staunch Republican general in God’s army apologizes for saying what he once said he did not say and the world just gets more and more bizarre.

If the United States did come up with a plan to kidnap Chavez exactly what do you do with him after you have him? We’ll have to ask Pat during the next telethon.

I’ll be so glad when the President’s vacation is over. Things get so boring while he is away.

Posted by Buck at 06:37 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2005

Pat Robertson, cont.

from - Buck

You've gotta love this!

"I said our special forces could take him out. Take him out could be a number of things including kidnapping," Robertson said on his "The 700 Club" television program. "There are a number of ways of taking out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted," Robertson added.

And while we are at it, did you see Buddy Don's poem today?


Posted by Buck at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

Livin' in America!

from - Buck

The video is telling but be sure and read the story that tells it all.

These are just dress rehearsals folks. We have funded and outfitted the goons and now all they need is their marching orders.

And believe me, the guys at the top get some kind of weird gratification just for the opportunity to give those orders.

Just last week I was watching the news out of Atlanta and they showed films of 21 SWAT team members surrounding an apartment in Cobb County because they had gotten a 911 call that there was a man there holding his daughter hostage.

SWAT kicks the door down, snatches the child and cuffs the alledged kidnapper. It turns out that the guy is just a father babysitting his own child and there was not even a gun in the house.

The 911 call was a prank and the father is damned lucky to be alive.

Is this the kind of country we want to live in? Is this the kind of government that we want to export?

We are sitting on a powder keg and it is only a matter of time before it goes off and there is nothing we can do about it.

Posted by Buck at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

Links, General Wierdness, with your Eye Boogers

from - smijer

Iraqi Constitution being written in English, translated to Arabic later? Huh? Also, enshrining Muslim law... While I was reading this and other comments about the terms of the Iraqi constitution, I couldn't help but think that... 200 years from now, after Iraq has healed, and maybe grown up, there will still be Iraqi's own fundies there telling everyone how "Iraq was founded as a Muslim nation." (Yes, they will say it in English, then translate it to Arabic). And they'll have a much better case than our own fundies do about America and Christianity.

Via atrios, Eugene Volokh continues to be a turd. I remember when he was the calm, reasoned voice of moderation on the right. That was right before the torture thing. Silber sums it up:

This is not simply an academic debating exercise for me, even though I have tried to address the substantive issues in previous posts. And it is not a debating exercise for gays and lesbians in general. You’re talking about our lives—and many of those lives have held a great deal of pain, in large part because of prejudices and ignorance of the kind revealed in this latest episode.

Follow along with PZ on the NYTimes ID series....Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Joe comments on the shadiness of Phil Driscoll. Unlike him, I kind of enjoyed his music when he played at my church during my teens. The weirdness is the Chattanoogan's write-up on Driscoll's arrest. It includes the full bio from Driscoll's web page about how touched by God he is. Was it meant to be a defense of his Godliness? A hit on how self-proclaimed Godly people are at least as bad as the rest of us? Just throwing it out there to let the ambiguity speak for itself? And, did Driscoll really kick the cocaine habit? Seemingly broken addictions are often lost to recidivism, even without a "Godly ministry" to propu up, it can be very tough to admit it. He has my sympathy personally, but only my scorn professionally.

Lastly, no - it doesn't appear to be satire. Teach your kids McCarthyism early.

Have a nice Wednesday. I'm late for work.

Posted by smijer at 08:11 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2005

Assassination: Cheaper than Starting a War

from - smijer

Where was Pat Robertson two & a half years ago?

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator*," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with." [...] and I don't think any oil shipments will stop. {rim-shot}

*In case you didn't click the link, Robertson is speaking of democratically elected Hugo Chávez, not strong-arm dictator Saddam Hussein. I was confused for a minute myself.

Love him or hate him, Chávez is the legitimate representative of the people of Venezuela. I'm no big fan of extrajudicial killing, but I might have been happy looking the other way if the policy on Iraq was to send in the Delts and take out the Three Thugs Hussein. After all three vigilante killings are better than tens of thousands... especially of civilians and Americans. Where was this kind of thinking in 2003?

Posted by smijer at 07:43 AM | Comments (5)

August 22, 2005


from - Buck

The United States yesterday finally abandoned the fading dream of turning Iraq into a beacon of secular democracy in the Middle East, as it backed demands for the new constitution to enshrine Islamic religious law.

Like I have said before. The National Socialists Peoples Republic of Islamic Theocracy.

I guess we can add freedom and democracy to the list of things that this war is not about.

And since the United States taxpayer loses $1.50 everytime a gallon of gas is sold in Iraq even I sometimes wonder if it is a war for oil. Maybe it was a war for the people who sell oil.

That is all that makes sense at this point.

Posted by Buck at 03:00 PM | Comments (4)

ID - it's How Not to Plug the Gaps

from - smijer

Let's start with an apology and explanation for the recent slowdown on my side of the table. School has started for the kids, changes at work leave me with no down-time, and the world, as usual, goes on at a crazy pace leaving me to stare bewildered as its fleeting images pass by without ever fully registering in my consciousness...

Oh, and I've exchanged my very few minutes free blogging time for a debate in the comments at the Jeff Blogworthy blog on the subject of "Intelligent Design".

And, I don't have much to add to the subject. I'm not a scientist by any stretch; my education in biology is limited - in fact, it approaches zero. But that doesn't keep the right side of the blogosphere from opining on the subject, so I won't let it stop me, either. If you are looking for good commentary on the subject, I highly recommend you leave this post immediately and go fishing at The Panda's Thumb blog, at Pharyngula blog (here it will be sandwiched between mollusc porn and liberal political commentary), Chris Mooney's blog, or the ever helpful website.

Still here? Don't say I didn't warn you. Ok, not even its proponents will take issue with the characterization of ID as a criticism of the Darwinistic mechanism - essentially a conviction that gaps in our knowledge about the evolution of various biochemical systems could not have evolved by currently understood Darwinistic mechanisms, and that "only intelligent design" can explain their existence. So, basically, ID is a "God of the Gaps" argument. X does not (and cannot explain Y), so God did it.

What is unscientific about this approach is that Intelligent Design, aka the Hand of God, isn't treated as a theory meant to explain Y, aka "specified complexity" in biochemical systems, with specific predictions that could be used to test the theory. It is, instead, a default position. If we can prove that the task would have been too hard for Darwinian mechanisms, then we must accept that Design is behind it. Which leads to one standard criticism of ID - that the ID movement has yet to prove that any specific task is really too hard for the standard darwinistic explanations including natural variation and selection. In fact, the systems put forward by the IDists as being key "evidence" for design are, in fact, probably evolved by just those mechanisms, though their history is too ancient and left too little evidence for us to be able to show conclusive evidence of that at this time.

But, for the sake of argument, I want to talk about another system that puzzled "evolutionists" mightily for a long time, and for the sake of argument, I want to suggest that the IDists could have proven that they did not evolve through a gradualistic, darwinistic, pathway - as in fact they did not. I am talking about the eukaryotic cell structure. If Behe, Denton, Johnson, and Dembski had been around at the time, this might have made excellent fodder for their ID arguments. They might have pronounced "Darwinists" willingly blind to the inability of their mechanism to produce the cell structure of eukaryotes, with its complex and specialized division of labor from their relatively simple prokaryotic ancestors.

So, while our hypothetical 1970's IDists would have been telling us that the eukaryotic cell structure was a significant challenge to certain tenets of the neodarwinian synthesis (it was), that scientists refused to acknowledge it (they didn't), and that it was evidence for Intelligent Design (it wasn't), Lynn Margulis was busy solving the problem, brilliantly and beautifully. The answer was endosymbiosis. It is reminiscent of the adage that, "those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are busy doing it."

A common ability of eukaryotic cells is "phagocytosis", the ability to eat things by pulling them in, engulfing them, and letting their cell membranes become bubbles around them ("food vacuoles"). The contents are then digested by having digestive-enzyme-containing lysosomes fuse with them. After the digestion is finished and desired molecules absorbed, this bubble can be pushed toward the cell membrane and its contents released ("exocytosis").

Many protozoans (animal-like protists) eat by phagocytosis, and various animal immune-system cells, called hemocytes in invertebrates and phagocytes in vertebrates, also do this.

But consider the fate of a victim of phagocytosis that escapes being digested. It can live inside its "eater" and even proliferate, as the likes of Buchnera and Rickettsia do. And it is only a small step from there to a closer relationship.

Origin by phagocytosis also explains the double membranes of mitochondria and many chloroplasts; the inner membrane is the organelle's original membrane, while the outer membrane is the original food-vacuole membrane.

This is what happens when people take scientific challenges seriously, rather than using them as grist for a political effort to get God back into schools.

And this is why those who believe in a great God should not try to shrink their Deity down to the size of a gap in scientists' knowledge... because that does not only diminish God by the shrinking, eventually it will further diminish the Lord of the Universe as scientists' knowledge expands... And this is why the rest of us should not shrug our shoulders and say "God must have done that" every time we run across a puzzle that just doesn't seem to make sense according to our current understanding of science.

The end.

Posted by smijer at 08:10 AM | Comments (1)

August 21, 2005

Friends in Low Places, Indeed

from - smijer

I always did enjoy his music, but I won't be buying any of it any more... Well, maybe used at McKays...

Posted by smijer at 02:20 AM | Comments (1)

August 18, 2005

Cindy Sheehan……

from - Buck

In her own words.

It is important to get as much information as you can straight from the horses mouth. It is so easy to take a sentence or two that someone has said and either canonize them or demonize them.

Cindy Sheehan has started a movement that is now bigger than she is. As soldiers continue to die the movement will continue to grow. The growth of the movement does not mean there will be any kind of change in policy. It took hundreds of thousands of protesters to stop the mindless war in Vietnam and I see no reason why it will not take hundreds of thousands to stop this one.

If by the mid-term elections the number of dead American soldiers is pushing 3,000 and the Iraqi’s still have less electricity and potable water than they had during the Saddam days the heads of some politicos may begin to turn. But I would still not bet the farm on it.

The ideologues in charge believe strongly that the best way to spread baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet is via force and violence. They have always believed that and will always believe that. The spirit that drives them is as old as mankind.

Boortz is particularly unkind to Cindy today.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Cindy Sheehan is deranged. The fact that she lost her son in Iraq may have been a contributing factor, but it does not mitigate the fact that she is a certified lunatic. She has now become a tool of not just one, but several movements. Among them the "I hate Bush because of 2000" crowd, both anti-war crowds, that connected with tired old socialists and communists, and that associated with people who lack the understanding that it is sometimes necessary to fight to preserve freedom and your way of life; the America haters who want to see this country weakened; and those who openly support the goals of the Islamic jihadists.

I do not know whose freedom the war in Iraq is supposedly preserving but it certainly is not mine. And anybody interested in seeing this country weakened should be thrilled with our current administration. There is more to strength than bombs and bullets. It is a sad state of affairs when being called anti-war is considered a slur.

The country is beginning to wake up. The scary part is that if some lunatic from East Timor decides to blow himself up at a pizza parlor somewhere in SmallTown , USA then the Presidents approval rating will go back up to 80% and he will have all the support he needs to nuke Iran.

We live in a crazy world.

Posted by Buck at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

When it Rains, it Pours

from - smijer

An update from yesterday... As if by magic, the Cafe Press store I mentioned yesterday suddenly has a 11-07-06 section up. Great job. Now I can shop, if I can ever get a positive bank balance going again.

They say good fences make good neighbors. That's why my brother-in-law is out back now with the chainsaw while I'm inside getting ready for work and telling you about it on the internet... It seems the old gray maple came down night before last in the mini-hurricane that swept through here, taking down two corner sections of our back fence, and a side of the neighbors. What a mess.

Oh... and funny

Sources close to the Devil say that his appearance at the event was prompted by a much simpler reason: the prominent place of sodomy on the evening’s agenda. “It’s rare for him to find a group of people that are as fixated on sodomy as he is,” says a Satan spokesperson.

(HT - one good move)

Posted by smijer at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2005

Whatever you say, Dear

from - Buck

Well, here it is!

The excuse we have all been waiting for.

Take it home to Mama.

But don’t let Mama read “Fakin’ It” by Richard Cohen. She will not be amused.

Posted by Buck at 02:32 PM | Comments (2)

Shoot first, ask questions later

from - Buck

What a shame.

When you consider that this man walked to the station and even stopped to get a newspaper you realize that he had no idea that death was only moments away.

A man sitting opposite Menezes saw a man boarding and firing his first shot from a handgun at the Brazilian's head from 12 inches away, according to the report obtained by ITV.

The report also said that, while Menezes was shot eight times, three other bullets were fired but missed.

The men who killed him were working undercover so there was no indication that they were policemen. The man died thinking he was being mugged.

When you shoot a man in the head from 12 inches away, what purpose do the other 10 shots serve? Maybe target practice. Since the killers missed with 27% of their shots at point blank range it certainly seems that they needed practice.

Maybe they should stick with billy sticks.

Posted by Buck at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

First Smijer Blogad (sorta)

from - smijer

I haven't had time to even think lately... that really never stopped me on posting to the blog before, but I haven't had time to type either... so my apologies for the quiet since the weekend, and my continued quiet today....

But I saw a blogad that looked more clickable than most while reading the echo chamber this morning. I liked it enough to give a free sample discount link to this CafePress store.

I like the bumper stickers because they have this nice, clean hopeful optimism about the exercise of Democracy... I'm hopeful, too... if still a little skeptical. But I won't put one on my car until the 2006 elections are settled... Don't want to put too much focus on 2008 when 2006 is going to be very nearly as important - and it comes first.

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

August 16, 2005

Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming...

from - Buck

The situation in Crawford, Texas could very easily turn very messy. As more and more people join Cindy Sheehan in her protest I do not think it is unreasonable to predict another Kent State. It is very hot in Crawford. Tempers and tensions are already rising almost as fast as gas prices. The Administration could start getting nervous and this is not exactly the most rational administration we have ever served under even in the best of circumstances.

Crawford could become the next Waco.

Time will tell.

Posted by Buck at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2005

Dog Days; School Days; Podcast

from - smijer

Nothing much to report... Only the boys started school again today. Let's hear the whisper of those fingers crossing out there. And it's hot as three hells here. Oh... and there's a new podcast over there, as of Sunday.

Posted by smijer at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

Sheehan: In defense of my own consistency

from - smijer

No one has brought it up to me, but if anyone is paying attention to little old me, and they are watching to see if I object as strenuously to the Cindy Sheehan media circus as I did to the Terri Schiavo media circus... well let me explain.

We must concede there are glaring similarities between the two cases. Cindy and the Schindlers were both grieving parents who transformed that grief into political activism against the perceived cause of their grief. Both were co-opted by political activists who hoped to further their agenda, and in some cases consolidate their political power behind these grieving parents.

John Cole said...

After a conversation with someone via email, I feel exactly the same way about the people using Cindy Sheehan every day that I did about Frank Pavone, Randall Terry, and their ilk when they used poor Mr. and Mrs. Schiavo [sic, meaning Schindler] as their political pawns back in March. The Schiavos [sic] and Cindy Sheehan, I can understand them speaking out, I can understand them doing what they are doing (even if, in both cases, I disagree with them). The people using them to advance their own agenda? Beneath contempt.

Well, I agree that the actions of those who put the Schindlers to such use were beneath contempt. But not just because they co-opted the grieving activism of a distraught parent. Maybe that's part of it. It certainly wasn't the part of it that had me tied up in knots, though.

Part of what bothers me, and it is a relatively small part, compared to the whole, is that the parents in each case - understandably, perhaps - refused to acknowledge the role of the free choices of their children in deciding their own fate. Surely, the courts took on the burden of choosing to remove Terri S.'s feeding tube, but just as surely, they did so on the basis of the best possible determination of her own wishes. Surely president Bush sent Casey S. off to a meaningless war and death, but just as surely, he volunteered for service and chose to go and fight rather than to desert. In each case, responsible adults made responsible determinations with knowledge of the risks involved. This shouldn't be glossed over.

But the most dreadful aspects of what happened with the Schiavos are not present in the Sheehan case.

The advocates for the Schindlers, and sometimes Terri's siblings themselves, chose a full bore media smear campaign against an innocent, private individual trying to make the best decisions for his family. Advocates for Cindy Sheehan have directed their attack against the person who sought and gained the highest public office in the land, who sets policy for the entire nation, and who voluntarily took our nation to an aggressive war... Perhaps he thought he was making the "best decision" for America, but even then he also took it upon himself to make decisions for tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families, too. While it may be his place to make the "best decision" for America, absent an imminent threat from abroad, he overstepped his authority when the decided to make decisions for Iraq. In short: Bush and the neocons voluntarily chose the public role of bringing death where it was not asked for. Michael Schiavo, facing a real crisis, took a choice he could not avoid and made it, privately, to the best of his ability. Bush chose to put his reputation on the line when he campaigned for President, and again when he gave the order to invade. Michael did no such thing. Yet, the smears against Michael were no less vociferous and no more forgiving than the attacks against the president.

The other unconscionable element in the Schiavo case was the factor of deception. No quack doctor had to convince her that her son had been killed in Iraq. It's the simple truth.

No daily line up of news commentators, politicians and unqualified or unprepared "experts" have had to convince as many Americans as possible that the war in Iraq was a voluntary choice, not a reluctant response to dire threat. If anything, it has been the other way around. It's the simple truth that there has been never been clear and consistent signal from the White House about the reasons for launching an aggressive war at that particular moment in history (rather, say, than after the weapons inspectors had finished their job... or after an ultimatum concerning human rights and democratic reform). There is a lot of partisan disagreement, and cases of deception on both sides. But there has been no orchestrated, systematic deception from Cindy S.'s advocates, as there was from people like Bill Frist who mis-diagnosed Terri S.'s condition from the Senate floor, based on a few minutes of highly edited video.

Finally, Casey's dignity is quite intact. The images we see put forward by Sheehan and her allies are, when they feature him at all, of Casey as he was when they were proudest of him. While this goes on, he is quite dead, not languishing in a persistent vegetative state, imprisoned in his own body, while the media constantly flashes images of his crippled body and his vacant facial expressions. His body is at piece, and demonstrators are camped out in the brush outside a Texas ranch, not in the parking lot of a hospice care center, where Terri and Michael can find no privacy, and where others trying to visit dying loved ones have to make their way through a three ring circus to reach their bed.

So, I really think that Cindy deserves to have her say, and the media should responsibly report on it and move on... not just feed their ratings by endlessly beating the story to death. But I don't see cause for the kind of outrage that I expressed a few months ago.

And also, I think that Cindy's critics should bear in mind the nature of her protest when they offer their opinions on the matter. Rather than attacking her personally, or trying to distort the words she spoke a year or two ago to make her position seem inconsistent, they should say why they think she is wrong, in a way that is respectful to a grieving mother... and let it go. As it stands, her critics are doing nearly as much to feed the media frenzy as she and her advocates are. And that's a shame, too.

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (4)

August 14, 2005

Our Science... Could Use a Little Mercy Now

from - smijer

Pharyngula, on anti-science Republicans (big surprise, huh?).

Jeff Blogworthy, on anti-science scientists anti-biology academics, including an actual biologist or two, and people from other disciplines, including mathematician William Dembski, astronomer Guillermo Gonzales, Historian and philosopher Steve Meyer, philosopher and theologian Jay Richards, and English Language professor Jonathan Witt. {as an aside, I'm not sure who the 400 anti-biology "PhD scientists" are in Jeff Blogworthy's post title, but of the contributors to the new anti-biology blog, they manage to carry only two biologists and only one Steve}

Posted by smijer at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2005

Pardon Me While I Rip Off This Entire Post: Believing Whatever You Want To

from - smijer

When I have to explain the UU church to someone new, I'm always a little uncomfortable with describing our non-creedalism. This fantastic post from Jeff Wilson takes care of that.... Listen:

There's a mighty big myth about Unitarian-Universalism that has been circulating for years. It's the idea that in UUism "you can believe whatever you want." That's not how I understand it at all. Truthfully, in UUism "you have to believe what you really do believe, whether you want to or not." Followed authentically (dare I say "religiously"?), this is potentially a far harder, more spiritually refining course than creedal religion. UUism isn't for slackers.

I have never been able to believe "whatever I want." I want to believe that people are always good, that things are getting better, that there is justice in the universe, that I don't have to work at improving the world, that there is a design to the world, that love conquers all. But wanting has nothing to do with belief. Who can believe what they want? In UUism we are called to believe what we believe: to test our beliefs and those of others, to replace fantasy with truth, even when fantasy seems infinitely preferable to truth. If I could believe whatever I wanted, I might well be a theist, since it's much more comforting to think that there is a deity watching out for us, with some sort of plan that makes all the apparent crap in the world make sense. I might want to believe in karma, that all the blessings I've received in my life came because I deserved them through some effort of my own. I might want to believe in the soul, that I'll continue forever in some form and therefore I don't have to be afraid of death or broken-hearted over the loss of loved ones. I want to believe these things. But being a UU, I can't. Because as a UU, I'm committed to living my religious life with complete sincerity, and sincerely, I'm not convinced that any of these things exist.


When I encounter theist UUs, I never think "Oh, he just wants to believe that there is a God." When I encounter Wiccan UUs, I never think "Oh, she just wants to believe in magic." I assume that he has struggled with his beliefs and found that he can't deny the existence of God. I assume that she has wrestled with how the world works, and can't discount that our intentions impact the world and what we put out into the universe comes back to us many times over. I assume these UUs believe different things as UUs because they can't escape the fact that they believe them, not because they merely wish them to be true or find such beliefs fun. That's why even though I don't agree with either perspective, I give both UUs genuine respect.

Let me just wave my hands in the air excitedly and tell you, "that's exactly right!!!"

Then, though I hate to ruin the mood, I have to quibble with what follows:

Believing what you really do believe can be a very harrowing path. It also means that you must allow a certain level of criticism. For example, I have no way of proving that my Universalist convictions are correct. It may be that Hell is real and many people are damned. I could be wrong that complete reconciliation is the end-point of the religious journey. The fact that I cannot prove my intuitions means that I must accept criticism from those who do not share them. If other UUs wish to argue against Universalism, I am committed to hearing those criticisms and to acknowledging that my religious understanding at times rests on faith, not proof. But don't mistake this faith for a stubborn refusal to face reality. It isn't a shield or a comfort: I am a Universalist because I truly believe in Universalism, even if there is evidence to the contrary, even if my non-theism might disqualify me from normative Universalist circles, even if it doesn't make sense. Because I am a UU and must believe what I believe, I must admit to a belief in universal salvation, and admit that I cannot fully support it. Thus to be a UU is to be vulnerable in your conviction and to accept that vulnerability as part of the price of acknowledging your true beliefs.

What does this mean? Is it a mixed signal? How can one believe, much less be firmly committed to, an idea which is contradicted by available evidence, or that doesn't make sense?

I am universalist myself in a sense... I believe that there is hope for the reconciliation of everyone.... even Charles Manson and George W. Bush... But that is because I feel that the balance of the evidence supports that idea; and because it seems sensible that, since their problems result from broken minds and broken ideas, both can be made whole through clinical therapy or critical thinking. In that sense, I'm universalist - tentatively, of course... the evidence isn't absolutely convincing that everyone can come to a place of sound social and psychological being, if only we had the technology. But I feel that the evidence is, on balance, in favor of universalism or near-universalism. Otherwise, I wouldn't believe it.

Where Jeff says that he must acknowledge that his religious understanding is sometimes based on faith, not proof, I don't quite understand this either. Is it a religious understanding if it is based on "faith" in the traditional sense? And if, as it often is with me, his religious understanding is informed more by hope than knowledge... well, what's wrong with calling that "hope" instead of "belief"?

So much for the quibbles. Otherwise... job well done, Jeff. Hope you don't mind me ripping off nearly your entire post...

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

Not a problem

from - Buck


I always get a real kick out of Boortz as he assures his listeners that the price of gasoline is far, far below the highest it has ever been and that we should just all move along because there is nothing to see here when it comes to the price of gasoline.

Sometimes I try to imagine, using the Boortz logic, just how damned cheap gas must have really been before the oil barons took over the White house.

Neal assures us that before it can get as bad as it has ever historically been the price of gas will have to go to over $3.00 per gallon.

Well Neal. For some folks in this country it is officially as bad as it has ever historically been. The rest of us may not be that far behind.

If we reach a point when 58,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq and gas is selling at $4.50 per gallon I can’t help but wonder what excuses this libertarian will be making for his Republican party.

Posted by Buck at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

Honesty is the best policy

from - Buck

Two and a half years ago if you even insinuated that the Gulf War was about American hegemony and imperialism you were labeled as a one of those long haired, hippy-type pinko fags.

Well things have changed and at least now the idea is not considered one emanating from the lunatic fringe.

In fact, some are even very proud of it.

If America is to survive and flourish, Americans must realize that empire isn't a choice: It's a duty.

A duty imposed on us by who or what Ben?

And Erik Rush gives new meaning to the phrase “taking up the white mans burden”.

But all in all, when it comes to invasion and occupation I would much rather deal with honesty instead of mindless buzz words like “freedom”, “liberty” and “justice for all”.

At least I don't feel like I need to take a shower after the conversation.

Posted by Buck at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Water Doggie

from - smijer

Ms. Smijer took Younger to a birthday party recently. She photographed the family dog enjoying himself in the water...



I do so hope to come back as a doggie next time 'round...

More in the the Ark...

Posted by smijer at 07:18 AM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2005

Fun Weekend

from - smijer

I and four teenagers... that's two couples, including the younger stepson and his very sweet girlfriend... took a nice trip to the riverfront this previous weekend. We saw a lot of nice sights, and had a lot of fun.

I enjoyed these doggie sculptures:


We couldn't resist scratching a belly or two.


The label for this piece of sculpture said something else, but these are clearly lolipops, or lolirocks, if you will:


And, oh my goodness at the live performance of the hammered dulcimer by Dan Landrum...



More on the dulcimer on the most recent podcast.

As always, I'm running late for work, so I'm out of time. Have a nice Thursday.

Posted by smijer at 08:05 AM | Comments (3)

August 10, 2005

Never Trust a Home Health Nurse from Tennessee

from - smijer

... or her husband...

Truly stranger than fiction.

Posted by smijer at 09:29 PM | Comments (0)

It's a Race! Part II

from - smijer

Jeff Blogworthy has added his second installment of leftist propaganda. This one is about the misleading nature of NARAL's opposition ad on Judge Roberts. It isn't anything like the Swift-Boating of John Kerry, Paul Hackett, or the scurrilous attacks current against Cindy Sheehan, but it does seem that the intent of NARAL's ad was to mislead about Roberts' work on behalf of Michael Bray and Operation Rescue in a 1991 court case. So I'll count it as propaganda.

In response, I give you one name: Paul Cameron. If you've found in a chain letter e-mail, heard reported from a trusted preacher, or seen reported in your favorite religious right newsletter or web publication, the claim that "Scientific studies" have shown that the life expectancy of a gay man is just 43 years, the claim probably originated with Paul Cameron. Although the more "respectable" institutions of the religious right have distanced themselves from Cameron and his groups, without the help of the religious right's promotion, it's doubtful that his false statistics would have ever become so widespread to begin with... to the point where right wing gambling luminaries like Bill Bennett is repeating them.

Your turn, Jeff B.

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

August 09, 2005

The Church of What's Happenin' Now!

from - Buck

It may be against the rules to have a Sunday Sermon on Tuesday morning but the good Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers let's it all hang out at the Mayflower Church in Oklahoma City.

Come and worship with me if you will.

These guys pass a plate that I would not mind dropping a dollar or two into once and awhile.

Posted by Buck at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

No Al Gore - Rosalind Kurita Edition

from - smijer

It's been a little while now that Rosalind Kurita has been running for the Democratic nomination for the 2006 U.S. Senate seat, so it's time I did a mini-workup on her. She does have a campaign website, but she doesn't have much record to talk about, having only served at the local level and as state senator. What I do know can be broken down into pro's and con's:


  • She was a registered nurse before entering politics. Ms. Smijer can tell you I have a soft spot for RN's. Plus, she is on record as supporting more generous health care.
  • Spoke out promptly against the recent Supreme Court decision against property owners, via Bill Hobbs.
  • Takes a strong stance on ethics in government at a time when many Tennessee Democrats are running scared from ethical accountability. See the piece she wrote in this month in the Chattanoogan. This is perhaps a good reflection on her candidacy as a whole, as it reinforces her stated commitment to representing the needs of the people as opposed to special interests.
  • Is "against" Social Security privatization.
  • "Supports the troops" by pushing for fair combat pay and benefits.

  • Voted against, and is positioned against a progressive income tax.
  • Position on Iraq war unclear.

I know there are more Cons, but I am running out of time (I may update this post later). I'll just sum up with my own perspective, and one other. As a Democrat who is not pleased with Harold Ford's positioning, I'm glad to see another candidate who appears more in tune with people like me in the running. That's not an endorsement yet, but it is a strong leaning. Then there is this glowing endorsement from River City Mud Company.

Posted by smijer at 08:07 AM | Comments (9)

August 08, 2005

Close to home

from - Buck

As talk increases about the removal of troops from Iraq the question becomes once again, “who will be the last to die for a mistake”. But ultimately you are just as dead whether you die first or die last.

I stopped counting the number of times I heard Iraq referred to as a “balancing act” on Sunday morning by the many esteemed congressmen and experts offered up by the media as after-breakfast assurance that all is well and going pretty much as planned over there.

And I guess “balancing act” describes it. We are walking a tightrope without a safety net and the sooner we get across the chasm the better. The only problem is the other side is worse than the side we started from.

I am amazed at those who continue to believe that the Middle East is more stable and less dangerous than it was before our foray into Iraq. It saddens me that they cannot see it my way or that I cannot see it theirs.

The horror of this nonsense hit particularly close to my hometown recently.

The look of grief on this mothers face and the actual grief in her heart must be multiplied tens of thousands of times in order for us to even begin to understand the consequences of military solutions.

And I fear things will get much, much worse before they get better.

Posted by Buck at 05:12 PM | Comments (1)

New Podcast up

from - smijer

Put in your earplugs and go listen.

Posted by smijer at 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2005

It's a Race! I Hope I Win!

from - smijer

Who can deny that there is propaganda war going on in this increasingly politically and religiously polarized society? I mentioned, in passing, the work of "the religious right's propagandists" in the comments of this post at the Jeff Blogworthy blog. That comment inspired Jeff Blogworthy to begin a whole series of posts about leftist propaganda, to show me that the propagandists of the religious right are not acting in a vacuum. From this post:

Welcome to the new Leftist Propaganda series. Readers have Smijer to thank, because of his passing crack about religious propagandists of the right (paraphrase). "You wouldn't know real propaganda if it hit you upside the head," I thought to myself. Well, I decided to show him. What an inspiration you are, Smijer. I intend to post a minimum of 10 examples of outrageous Leftist propaganda - and I may do more. There are so many to choose from, after all. When the Left does propaganda, they do it big.

Just a couple of clarifications:

  • I made a crack in passing. I never pass crack. ;-)
  • I'm actually pretty adept (if I do say so myself) at recognizing propaganda. One of the first examples I remember being exposed to was the rebranding by Reagan of the Nicarauguan Contra terrorists as "freedom fighters", equivalent to America's founding fathers. I remember as a child hearing a close family member coming home from church to speak sincere praise of the Nicaraguan "Freedom Fighters". I remember witnessing terrible indignation among my own family at the prosecution of Colonel Oliver North, the "American Hero". Readers of smijer & Buck know that I do my best to apply a smell test and do due diligence before I post anything to my own blog to be sure that my posts reflect my own values and conform to objective fact as closely as possible in this medium.
  • I preferred my own phrasing to JB's paraphrase of my remarks. My own phrasing was to deal with a specific bloc of political and religious operatives known commonly as "the religious right". It is the propagandists of that bloc to whom I was referring, and I feel that my phrasing keeps the focus of my comments clear. Furthermore, lefty though I may be, I don't particularly like being lumped in with "the Left" for purposes of critique, unless the critique is specifically limited to the mainstream, modern, Western left. It's not hard to critique the "right" in general by taking shots at Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, or Adolph Hitler. But, it isn't helpful. Likewise, it isn't helpful to take shots at the "left" in general by airing grievances against Jane Fonda, Che Gueveras, or Chairman Mao. You can make just about any kind of accusation against "the left" or "the right", if you cast your net wide enough.

So, anyway... I learned something from Jeff's post. Previously, I had not heard of Rigoberta Menchu or her fraudulent autobiography. I may be in a minority on that, so I won't snark about the relative ineffectiveness of leftist propaganda. And I am truly distressed by seeing people on "our side" weakening our case by making us more susceptible to charges of dishonesty. In fact, I'm discouraged to see people on "our side" - or anyone for that matter - trying to deceive others. Life is hard enough without having to figure out when you are being lied to.

The reason I post is that I'm going to try to go head to head with Blogworthy. I intend to present an example of propaganda from the religious right, or possibly even the American right in general, each time he presents one from "the left". That way, both of us will have a shot at seeing how this propaganda looks from the other side. It should be enlightening for all concerned. So, Jeff, I see your Rigoberta Menchu with National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, who publishes a Bible curriculum and textbook for use in public school systems. The NCBCPS claims that 284 school districts in 35 states use its curriculum. With those numbers it can surely be said, "when the religious right does propaganda, they do it big."

The Texas Freedom Network asked religious scholar Mark Chancey to review the curriculum for overall appropriateness to the public school classroom. What he found was truly startling. Here's the link (PDF).

The simple purpose of this review was to determine if the curriculum passes constitutional muster as a non-sectarian text. Clearly, it does not. But, that's just the tip of the iceberg. The curriculum is not only fraught with religious doctrines portrayed as fact, it is also generously peppered with egregious errors of fact, poor research and outright plagiarism.

Here, we have layers of propaganda. Before we get into the actual propaganda going into our students' classrooms, I'd like to share a bit of about the methods of the NCBCPS itself. One propaganda technique, seemingly becoming a favorite of American conservatives, is that of doublespeak. The NCBCPS bills its curriculum as non-sectarian and will waste no time reassuring us of this. From their response to Chancey's review (PDF), we have these words:

As the TFN report concedes, the curriculum does not suggest, and the NCBCPS does not recommend, that any public school teacher ever take a personal position regarding the truth or falsity of any Biblical passage, nor commentator’s positions about such passages. The NCBCPS carefully instructs teachers of the course that public schools must remain objective and neutral in their treatment of religion.

Any course material, in any classroom or subject area, is subject to abuse by a rebellious instructor. NCBCPS recommends that this elective be periodically monitored for constitutional compliance.

Very noble, and non-sectarian... if only the curriculum itself did not take a position regarding the turth or falsity of Biblical passages, and the Bible as a whole.

Another note of propganda - demonizing the opposition, poisoning the well: this response is posted on NCBCPS' web-site under the heading, "NCBCPS RESPONDS TO ATTACK BY ANTI-RELIGION EXTREMISTS". Who are these "anti-religion extremists?" Well, they are the Texas Freedom Network whose executive summary of Chancey's report begins with this extremist language:

As a national debate rages over the proper place for religion in public education, more and more public schools are adding elective courses in Bible literacy. When taught with credible materials and from a nonsectarian perspective, such courses are an appropriate and even laudable way to help students learn about history and literature. This report, commissioned by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, reveals that what may be the country’s most aggressively marketed and widely used Bible curriculum fails on both counts.

In further describing the Texas Freedom Network, Director Elizabeth Ridenour says these things:

NCBCPS noted that it should come as no surprise that a small group of far left, anti-religion extremists like the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) is so desperate to ban one book – the Bible – from public schools. “It is ironic that a group which claims to be against censorship is now attempting to become the biggest censor in the State of Texas,” said Elizabeth Ridenour, president of NCBCPS. “At its root, TFN’s real objection to our curriculum is not the qualifications of our academic authorities, but the fact that we actually allow students to hold and read the Bible for themselves, and make up their own minds about its claims. This is something no other Bible curriculum does, and TFN can’t stand it,” Ridenour added.

“TFN is actually quite fearful of academic freedom,” Ridenour stated, “and is trying to deny local schools and communities the right to decide for themselves what elective courses to offer their citizens. This is not freedom, it is totalitarianism.”

What she fails to do is give a single example of an actual word or action from the TFN that would support her depiction of them. We must take her word for it... something which I will not willingly do, having seen the blatant disregard for truth and accuracy manifested in her Council's curriculum, especially knowing that she has a large financial stake in keeping her product in the classroom.

Of course, the real culprit here is not the TFN, but Mark Chancey, who compiled the report. Surely he is the real anti-religious extremist? No... From the report, about the author:

Dr. Mark A. Chancey teaches biblical studies in the Department of Religious Studies in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern
Methodist University in Dallas. He attended the University of Georgia, where he earned a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Religion (1990) and an M.A. in Religion (1992), and Duke University, where he received a Ph.D. in Religion with a focus in New Testament studies and early Judaism (1999). His research interests include the Gospels, the Historical Jesus, archaeology and the
Bible, and the political and social history of Palestine during the Roman period. He is a member of the Society for Biblical Literature, the Catholic Biblical
Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the American Schools for Oriental Research.

From Chancey's own introduction:

I write from the perspective of someone who is a proud product of public schools and who has fond memories of reading Job and Genesis in my
high school English class. I was first introduced to the academic study of the Bible at a public institution, the University of Georgia, and am a staunch supporter of public schools. I am also a professional educator who specializes in biblical studies and a person of faith who currently attends a United Methodist Church. This background and my experiences inform my belief that Bible courses
taught in a nonsectarian manner by academically qualified teachers can be an enriching part of a public education.

Maybe not a Bible-thumping fundie, but certainly no anti-religious extremist. But that's enough of the propaganda that targets adults... let's talk about the propaganda that targets children for a minute.

The report is rich in detail, and I would encourage you to read it in its entirety to see the scope of the propaganda directed at public school kids. But it's worth pointing out a couple of the more outrageous examples. Here goes:

The Cyrus cylinder, a sixth-century BCE clay cylinder with an inscription, is described in the curriculum as “confirmation of one of the most astonishing events in the pages of Scripture,” Ezra 1:1-3. This biblical passage asserts thatCyrus, King of Persia, announced that the god of the Jews had commanded him to allow captured Jews in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. The curriculum asserts that the inscription proves that Cyrus was a “moderate and God-fearing monarch” (p. 179). [The inscription on this cylinder does indeed corroborate Ezra’s account that the Persian king Cyrus treated some of his subjects well, though it does not mention the Jews, Jerusalem, or the temple. The cylinder also does suggest that Cyrus was god-fearing — but the god it mentions is not the Jewish god but Marduk, a Babylonian god.38]

Not much to add to that one... just ... "Ahem..."

The curriculum presents an urban legend as a scientific finding, claiming that scientists have confirmed the accuracy of the famous story in Joshua 10 of the sun standing still so that the Israelites would have sufficient time to defeat the Canaanites. Page 117 suggests that the class “note in particular the interesting story of the sun standing still in chapter 10. There is documented research through NASA that two days were indeed unaccounted for in time (the other being in 2 Kings 20:8-11).” Both this page and page 116 provide the address for a Web page that presents this “interesting story” and NASA’s alleged discovery of a “missing day” as facts.50 Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand has documented the evolution of the rumor that scientists have found a missing day, tracing it from the original claim made by an army officer in 1890 to the updated version cited above, which emerged in the 1960s in the early heyday of space exploration. Brunand’s study verifies the nature of this claim as an urban legend with no basis in fact, as does a Web page posted on a NASA Web site.

To which I can only say "Holy cow!" I've known this was an urban legend since the first time I found a version of it in my e-mail and checked Snopes. And now, tens of thousands of students are being taught this as fact? Another question: what are they going to think of their leaders in the religious right if and when they discover they were lied to?

“Read ‘The Magnificat’ [Luke 1:46-55, not 1:48-55 as specified in the curriculum] and Hannah’s ‘Song’ in I Samuel 2:1-10. Compare and consider the simple monosyllabic words used by Mary to those of Old Testament poetry. How is this typical of the Hebrews?” (p. 138)

[The words in these passages may be monosyllabic (consisting of one syllable) in English translations, but they are quite different in Hebrew and Greek. How English syllabification provides insight into the ancient Hebrew mindset is not explained.]

Ok... these are just samples... examples abound. I'm not certain if this was the same curriculum, but my own stepsons brought home xeroxed assignments from their Bible Studies elective in middle school. I glanced through them and found that more than one question was "loaded" with a sectarian viewpoint, and - if I remember correctly - there were factual errors implied in one or more of the questions as well. At the time I thought it was just because we lived in Podunk, Tennessee, and the teachers didn't know any better. I certainly didn't take it upon myself to correct them. It's more important to me that the boys be able to work through a math problem, or understand their science. But the fact is that the propaganda from the religious right is so pervasive as to almost seem like background noise at times.

The good news is that I should be able to keep up with Jeff Blogworthy's leftist propaganda column pretty dang well...

Until then...

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

August 05, 2005

Sideways Doo-Doo Doggie

from - smijer


Fill 'er up at the Modulator's Friday Ark.

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

August 04, 2005

Fair Tax War - post #1

from - smijer

I wish I had gotten in on this a little earlier... it seems that yesterday, Neal Boortz went ballistic on an Amazon reader who had the temerity to place a negative review about Boortz' new book. Which is kind of funny in and of itself... that one negative review can get so firmly under his skin, when there have been critiques of the "Fair Tax" plan making the academic rounds, and posted on the internet, for years (for an amusingly contrarian review from a "starve-the-beast" Grover Norquist conservative, see here). But, let somebody make a critical remark on Amazon, and you'll see a tiny mushroom cloud over Atlanta.

Anyway, the reviewer has posted again (claiming that his original post was removed). Here's the product page. I can't link to the review, but since it's so juicy, and possibly apt to disappear, if Boortz' Dittoheads rate it down too much, I'll reproduce it here:

Amazing. I write a negative review about The FairTax Book on Neal Boortz then trashes me the next day on his radio show and his website claiming I never read his book. I email Boortz and offer to debate him on the air, but he doesn't respond. Then my review gets mysteriously deleted off the Amazon site. All in the space of 24 hours. Like I said, amazing.

Well, I did read the book. (It's not exactly rocket science, it only takes about an hour.) What's more, I've followed the FairTax debate for about 10 years now and am constantly amazed at the lengths FairTax proponents will go to deceive the public that their plan is so wonderful. But I'm even more amazed at the number of ordinary people that will willingly allow themselves to be deceived without ever asking the most basic of questions.

I won't repeat my earlier critcisms of the book (since you can probably still find them on Neal Boortz's website, along with his rebuttals), but for you folks that REALLY WANT TO BELIEVE in the FairTax, please ask Boortz a few basic questions next time you call his show.

1. How did you come up with the 23% rate? The authors claim that our entire federal tax system can be abolished and replaced with a national retail FairTax of 23% (on, what they call a "tax inclusive" basis, which the rest of us would consider a 30% tax on a "tax exclusive basis) (see p. 153). Moreover, they claim that this rate will be revenue neutral -- that is, the FairTax will raise just as much revenue as our current system does.

Sounds great! The only problem is: They don't show one calculation or cite one source to show how they arrived at that rate. Think about that for a moment. They write an entire book claiming that this 23% tax will do all of these wonderful things, but DON'T CITE A SINGLE SOURCE to support that claim. The best they can do is say that a "group of Houston businessmen" hired a bunch of "researchers and analysts [that] concluded that we would need an inclusive sales tax rate of 23 percent." (p., 148). SO WHY DON'T YOU CITE ONE OF THEM SO THAT YOUR CLAIM CAN BE SUBSTANTIATED?

On the other hand, there are numerous sources out there that say the 23% rate is a crock. Look at William Gale's articles at the Brookings Institution website. He claims the rate would need to be 60% (on a tax exclusive basis.) Bruce Bartlett, writing for the National Review, said the Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation had calculated that the tax exclusive rate would be 57%. (Look up his Aug. 9, 2004 article on I just found those studies today while surfing the web. I'm sure there are other studies, but you won't find ANY cited in The FairTax Book. Don't you wonder why?

2. How do they know retail prices will decline under the FairTax system? The crux of the authors' argument is that goods and services already contain an "imbedded tax" of about 22% which will magically disappear as soon as the FairTax system is put in place. So, amazingly, pre-tax prices for goods and services will drop by almost exactly the same amount as the new 23% tax rate. Thus, you won't be paying anymore for goods and services under the FairTax system than you currently are now.

How do they know this? Well, they devote an entire chapter (nine whole pages -- see Chapter 5) on this very issue. And they actually cite a study on this topic. The only problem is, the study is eight years old and was PAID FOR by the Americans for Fair Taxation (see, p. 59, fn. 1), which is the same group that advocates for the FairTax. Not exactly an impartial source. Let me ask you, if a university professor produced a report eight years ago stating that cigarette smoking was good for you, and that report happened to have been paid for by the tobacco companies, would you consider that report credible? Come on Boortz, can't you cite at least ONE NEUTRAL REPORT to back up your claims?

3. Is there such a thing as a free lunch? The authors claim that: (a) virtually everyone's income will rise (since we won't be paying any income taxes or payroll taxes); (b)we'll all get free money back from the government (i.e. "prebates" of around $6000/yr. for a family of four (p. 85)); (c) prices won't rise (they might even come down!); and (d) the government will still collect the same amount of tax revenue each year. Hallelujah! It's a MIRACLE! (It's also mathematically impossible.) Come on ye followers of the Church of the Painful Truth: You know already that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

4. Last question, and it's the real kicker: Who's taxes will go up under the FairTax system? Hmm. It won't be the poor; Boortz says their taxes will be eliminated (because of the "pre-bates"). It won't be the rich (because they tend to spend a smaller percentage of their incomes on taxable goods and services than everyone else, so their taxes will drop big time). So who's left to make up for the tax revenue lost from the poor and the rich? Oh yeah, the middle class. Shafted again! Who'd a thunk it?

Folks, before you start sending me hate-mail again, please ask Boortz or Congressman Linder these basic questions. And when they start spouting off that there are "numerous studies" that prove this and that, ask them WHY THEY DIDN'T PUT ANY IN THE BOOK SO THEIR CLAIMS COULD BE VERIFIED? Hey, we all want a simpler, fairer tax system - even us evil liberals want that. Unfortunately, the FairTax just isn't it.

Kind of rings a bell... I once said something very similar:

I've noticed something about Boortz. Sometimes, when his source is the Weekly Standard or World Net Daily, he will divulge to his audience where he got a piece of information. Other times, he won't tell. I've finally discovered the pattern. Can you guess? The times that he refuses to divulge his sources are the times when they include information he doesn't want you to find out about.

I cannot wait to see how this plays out. Buck, please let me know how hysterical Neal gets on the program today: I'll be unable to listen. And, though I have a very busy day ahead of me, I'll do my best to provide some further commentary on this little tempest as it develops, and as I have time to address the substantive points concerning the "Fair Tax" scheme.

Posted by smijer at 07:04 AM | Comments (1)

August 03, 2005


from - smijer

"Forward," he cried, from the rear, and the front line died.

Posted by smijer at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

Public Servant Perks

from - Buck

Until now, probably no modern president was a more famous vacationer than Ronald Reagan, who loved spending time at his ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif. According to an Associated Press count, Reagan spent all or part of 335 days in Santa Barbara over his eight-year presidency -- a total that Bush will surpass this month in Crawford with 3 1/2 years left in his second term.

The August getaway is Bush's 49th trip to his cherished ranch since taking office and the 319th day that Bush has spent, entirely or partially, in Crawford -- nearly 20 percent of his presidency to date, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio reporter known for keeping better records of the president's travel than the White House itself. Weekends and holidays at Camp David or at his parents' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, bump up the proportion of Bush's time away from Washington even further.

I guess this dispels the right wing myth that those indispensable high achievers are 16 hour a day, 7 day a week workaholics.

Well, maybe not.

Posted by Buck at 08:36 AM | Comments (0)

Links With Your Eye Boogers; Wednesday

from - smijer

  • Very nice discussion about intelligent design prompted by Bush's latest comments on the matter. Love him or hate him as President, you don't want him on your local school board. Links:

    10,000 Monkeys and a Camera

    Pharyngula has a mega-roundup.

    John Cole is outraged.

  • Another Face of Terror

  • Neal Boortz is promoting a new book on the "fair tax". Hippy Dave makes a good start toward an argument against a "fair" national sales tax. Here is what a tax that is fair might look like, at least in Tennessee.

  • For now, at least, smijer's Podcasts have arrived. HTML Index, or RSS 2.0 feed. Enjoy... Or tell me to shut up. Either way.

More later, if time permits.

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (2)

August 02, 2005

Light at the end of the tunnel

from - Buck

Remember back when Smijer said he loved the British?

Well Amen Brother! Here is all the more reason to love them.

Blears said the government and Muslim communities must cooperate to fight the spread of militant ideologies.

And speaking of David Gilmour

Haven't you heard, it's a battle of words?

Realizing this it seems that now at least some people are beginning to act like civilized human beings.

How long will it take before some right-wing talk show nut mentions Neville Chamberlain?

Good can triumph over evil, but it must first put down its guns. It is much easier to make war than to make peace but the extra effort is worth it. Maybe the British will start to create a coalition worth joining.

We can always hope.

Posted by Buck at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2005

Good intentions

from - Buck

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

H.L. Mencken

Posted by Buck at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

Listen Here

from - smijer


This is an mp3 Audio File (not to be confused with audiophile).

Posted by smijer at 08:06 AM | Comments (2)