March 31, 2006

Thy Will Be Done

from - smijer

In some cases, apparently, praying doesn't help. Maybe the better answer is more research into GM hogs. I don't know. A priest had this to say:

The best prayer probably is, 'Thy will be done.'

This seems to be essentially telling God to do whatever He wants. Why he needs to be appealed to for this, I don't know. I guess that's why I'm not a priest.

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

March 30, 2006

blood:water mission

from - smijer

A dear friend went to a benefit concert in Chattanooga last weekend for blood:water mission. This organization was founded by the contemporary Christian band, Jars of Clay.

Blood:Water Mission takes a community-centered approach to AIDS that includes establishing basic conditions necessary for health, providing vital medical care and clean water, working toward social equality, addressing the constraints of poverty, and empowering communities to take ownership of their own long-term healthy development. This kind of integrated approach is essential to winning the battle against AIDS.

bloodwater doesn't seem to be indexed on CharityNavigator.org, so I don't know much about it - but it certainly appears that their hearts and heads are in the right place. Salut!

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

March 29, 2006

Perspective

from - smijer

WHO AIDS program not doing so well... mainly due to lack of money:

Each year, more than 570,000 children younger than 15 die of AIDS, most of them having acquired it from their mothers at birth, according to the report.

An estimated 3 million people die of acquired immune deficiency syndrome each year, and WHO officials believe that the "3 by 5" program prevented as many as 350,000 deaths in 2005.

"People have died and continue to die of what is a treatable disease," said Dr. Kevin De Cock, director of the WHO's HIV/AIDS Department.

The program was launched by the WHO and UNAIDS on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, 2003, with high hopes that the drug benefits achieved in industrialized countries could be quickly spread to the developing world.

But within a year it was clear that the 2005 goal could not be reached, primarily because of insufficient money, the high cost of drugs and the poor health infrastructure in many of the most affected countries.


Tragically:

Nearly 2,000 babies are born with HIV each day because their virus-infected mothers do not get the treatment needed to stop transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

The Money Quote - from the LA Times:

Global spending on AIDS totaled $8.3 billion in 2005, up from $4.7 billion in 2003. Nearly half of that sum came from the United States through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

But the report predicts an $18-billion shortfall in funding for 2005-07. If treatment coverage is to continue expanding, it says, at least $22 billion a year will be required by 2008.

Now, for the perspective. That $22 billion per year is less than the cost of four months of having us a war in Iraq.

One more time... 2000 babies per day vs a "Peance, Freance" Iraq.

Posted by smijer at 07:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2006

No Thanks

from - Buck

The Manogram.jpg


Posted by Buck at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

My Civic Duty

from - Buck

Well, I have jury duty this week. I spent 4 ½ hours inside a holding tank with about 72 other people yesterday. I was released for today and will have to report back tomorrow.

The wheels of justice turn slowly and there is never a time when that is more obvious than when you have jury duty.

I guess it could be worse. I could be the one on trial.

Posted by Buck at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

Apologies to Pete Waldron

from - smijer

Sorry, Pete. Looks like you got a bum rap, including from me. I've updated my original post to reflect the new info.

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

March 27, 2006

joke

from - smijer

It's bad - I warn you in advance.

I hd vawole mvomenet.

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

Why Not Just Take Their Tired, Their Poor, Their Huddled Masses, Yearning to Breathe Free?

from - smijer

It's the immigration legislation that is in the news now. Normally, I would ignore it simply because I've never developed much of an opinion on it. Part of the reason for that is that it's a tough issue to get into. So, let me just ask a stupid question. Why not negotiate with our neighbors a "free market" for immigration? Put another way, why not allow and document immigration for anyone who wants it? Here is a brief list of the "pluses" for such a scheme, as envisioned in my imagination:

  • Opens an option to would-be immigrants to avoid such unpleasantries as dying in the desert or on the back of a truck.
  • Avoids the perpetuation of an American underclass who lack wage and labor protections, opportunities for education, etc. Also, reduces crime rate which results from said underclass.
  • Border patrols and immigration services could police for a relative few "hard-core" cases - workers who have some motivation to come in undocumented and give up minimum wage and other labor protections. They could then screen more extensively among undocumented entrants for potential terrorists.
  • Once job market is saturated, motivation to immigrate to U.S. should decline, and emigration to other markets - particularly those with healthy economies - should increase. Problems associated with illegal immigration should decline in turn. At the same time, a "free market" for international labor would help keep American labor pool strong.
  • Fewer moral issues with deporting undocumented workers. Those not deemed security threats could, in fact, be offered a chance to document under a probationary scheme.
  • $$ in tax revenue, currently lost, would be recovered.

What am I missing? What down-sides to such a scheme make it, apparently, unthinkable under U.S. policy?

Posted by smijer at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

RIP, Red America

from - RSA

I'd never run into Ben Domenech on the blog circuit, but his rise and fall at the Washington Post is all the rage. His defense against accusations of plagiarism is on the front page at redstate.org now. Basically, he presents alternative explanations for the alleged incidents. For each incident in which Domenech's material was substantially similar to someone else's writing,

...it was concidence, since the other writer was covering the same event.

...he had permission, even if it didn't appear explicitly in the piece.

...he didn't do it; it was an editor.

And--oops. Here's the best comment to Domenech's post so far:

I knew you would step up and take responsibility for your actions, rather than blame others without admitting any misdeeds yourself. Lefties can always pretend nothing's their fault and pass the buck, but if "conservative" means anything ethically, surely it means unflinching honesty and willingness to confront our own errors.

But the redstate.org moderators have already removed this comment, due to Anderson (nice job!), in the time it took me to reach this point in my post. Must have message control!

Posted by RSA at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

Never say never

from - Buck

Five years ago, when we purchased the house we are now living in, I told my wife that this should be the last time we have to borrow any more money for anything. I told her that I was getting too damned old to keep stringing payments out for the benefit of the bankers.

This afternoon I will meet yet again with the bankers. With two weddings coming up within the next year and a half and a roof that desperately needs shingles not to mention two daughters still in college I had no choice but to suck a little equity out of the place in order to stay afloat.

I know we need a roof so I can accept that with dignity.

But Godamighty! Have any of ya’ll had to pay for weddings yet? I had no idea that the friggin’ flower and cake businesses were so lucrative. Now I understand the feelings of Mr. Banks when he said, “A cake, Franck, is made of flour and water. My first car didn't cost this much!”
I know that the amount one spends on a wedding should be considered discretionary but believe me with a wife and two daughters glaring at him a man would have to have the personality of Pol Pot to piss on that parade.

And after the girls are gone I am still going to have to live with their mother. I have accumulated enough stuff for her to throw up into my face over the last 25 years. I don’t need to add to that pile.

So this afternoon at about 3:00 PM I will limp, emasculated, into a room with moneylenders and legal experts. I will sign on countless dotted lines while everybody in the room, my wife included, smiles. Even I will put on my losers grin and shake hands with everyone when it is over and agree that borrowing money is a wonderful privilege.

And there is no way that I will even entertain the notion that this will be the last time it will ever happen.

Posted by Buck at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2006

New Digs for Hippy Dave

from - smijer

Very nice new look, and new URL at the mindful mission, formerly Big L's Random Ravings. Congratulations, Dave!

Posted by smijer at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2006

Oddities

from - RSA

One of the nice things about having a digital camera, especially for someone as disorganized and absent-minded as me, is that you can take pictures of frivolous stuff and see what it looks like, pretty much immediately. Here are a few of my recent snaps.

My wife took a trip to Guatemala last summer and brought a bunch of toys for the kids. This was one, a sabertooth cat, in an action pose:

0.jpg

My wife has lots of equipment for embroidery, including this stand. I thought it looked vaguely dinosaurish, though the camera calls me a liar:

1.jpg

Outside my building there's construction going on. Before the rebar or whatever it is went up, this wall looked a lot like an earth-tone quilt:

2.jpg

I have what I think may be the most expensive homemade bird house anywhere:

3.jpg

Posted by RSA at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

Questions about Murder

from - smijer

Via Tim F., Alas a Blog! presents Do they really believe that abortion is murder?

I think some "pro-lifers" - or even most of them - sincerely believe that abortion is murder... And yet the majority of them answer the questions in Amp's chart as though they are more concerned with having women held responsible for the consequences of sexual congress than with preventing murder.

I don't look at this as proof that pro-lifers are misogynistic. I look at it as a wake-up call.

First, it is a challenge to review what it means to believe that abortion is murder. How do you believe it? Do you believe it the same way you believe that the sun will come up tomorrow? The same way you believe that your spouse loves you? That your children are "good" (or bad)? Do you believe that abortion is murder the same way that you believe it is murder to put a gun to the head of a child and pull the trigger? Or is it the way you believe it is murder to withhold medical treatment for a child for religious reasons (or that it is evil to give medicine to a sick child, if you are Christian Science)? Or, do you believe that the same way you believe that "we are living in the end times"?

Second, it's a challenge on whether you have the courage of your convictions. If you believe that abortion is murder, will you demand the same criminal penalties for aborting doctors and women as are applied for other murderers? Do you believe it so strongly that you would imprison a woman or doctor for life if they are found guilty of abortion? Do you believe it so strongly that you are willing to stake the lives of your woman family members and doctor friends on it?

Third, it's a challenge on whether you will oppose conservative "pro-lifers" when their policies are inimicable to the prevention of murder. Are you willing to push contraception and sex education - even if it may mean giving implicit permission to kids for illicit sexual congress - in order to prevent murder? Is prevention of murder not a more pressing concern to you than hanky-panky? If you answer yes, but your GOP leadership is pushing legislation in the second column - don't you think it's time to be putting some pressure on them for change?

prolifebeliefchart.gif

Some things to think about when considering whether fertilization magically endows an egg with "human life".

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

March 21, 2006

The competence thing

from - RSA

From AP:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Budget constraints are forcing some FBI agents to operate without e-mail accounts, according to the agency's top official in New York.

...

Spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan said e-mail addresses are still being assigned, adding that the city bureau's 2,000 employees would all have accounts by the end of the year.

Words (almost) fail me. What next?

"Traffic police in Washington, DC, will be issued patrol cars by the end of the year."

"Firefighters in Los Angeles will be equipped with hoses by the end of the year."

"Soldiers in Iraq to receive body armor by the end of the year."

Oops. A bit too much reality at the end, there.

Posted by RSA at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

The high cost of travel

from - RSA

So I have to go to Italy next month. (My students laugh when I say that: "Oh, you have to go?" I travel often enough that I try to avoid trips more often than I try to make them, these days; I sent one of my students to Sydney last month because I was just too busy with other things.) I'll be flying into Milan and driving to Trieste. Okay, so I need a car. I check out the rates online. Not bad! It's possible to rent an economy car for a week at a base rate of about 33 Euros. So, I move to the checkout page: Base rate plus taxes and fees equals 276 Euros. What? Did I misread 33/Euros per day as 33/Euros per week? Nope. Here's what I also have to pay:

14.00 PCT AIRPORT SERVICE CHA   26.20 EUR
70.00 FEE PHYSICAL DAMAGE WAI   70.00 EUR
20.00 FEE ROAD TAX   20.00 EUR
70.00 FEE THEFT PROTECTION   70.00 EUR
20.00 PCT VALUE ADDED TAX   42.67 EUR
Taxes and fees total 228.87 EUR

Wow.

Posted by RSA at 12:31 PM | Comments (0)

Chickenhawks and me

from - RSA

More long-windedness on the politics of Iraq: I have a question for any readers who might be thinking more clearly than I am about the war in Iraq. For some time it's been common for lefty bloggers to refer to some right-wing bloggers as chickenhawks, in that they support the war in Iraq, they are able-bodied and of the right age, and yet they do not enlist. I believe that on the right this is considered pure name-calling, a slur on the patriotism of a war supporter.

My impression, however, is that there's a well-founded rule in ethics, along the lines of the Golden Rule, that says, "Don't ask someone to do something that you wouldn't be willing to do yourself." Does such a generally accepted rule exist? It's easy to think of analogies: I wouldn't say to someone, "Could you go grab my knapsack over there on the ground? It might be sitting on quicksand, and I don't want to get sucked in." Or "Could you grab these two wires? The electricity might still be on, and I don't want to get electrocuted." (As a side note, it's always struck me as a bit incongruous to talk about our leaders in modern warfare: they don't lead their troops into battle, the way that the heroes in classical Greece did; instead they lead from the safety of the back lines, or even thousands of miles away. Exempted are those who started in the trenches, so to speak, like Kennedy, Bush I, Rumsfeld, Kerry, and others. They put their lives on the line when it counted. W. and Cheney, not so much.)

One common answer is that there is no such rule in ethics, and that an analogy to police officers, firefighters, and Secret Service agents is appropriate. We don't think of ourselves as cowards simply because we rely on others for protection. We all certainly respect the men and women who take on those jobs. Chickenhawks might simply say that, in general, soldiers play a similar role, and that there is no shame in relying on soldiers for protection. I don't find this analogy especially compelling--but why?

Originally I'd hoped to write a brief, high-minded philosophical discussion of general ethical issues related to chickenhawkery, but unfortunately I don't have the background or inclination to do this. In the end, I think my opinions of the chickenhawks are based more on distrust than anything else. Consider Person A who says, "It's absolutely essential that someone do X. (It happens that this someone is not me, but it could equally well be me under other circumstances, and I'd be willing to do it then.)" Person B says, "It's absolutely essential that someone do X. (I don't care who it is, as long as it's not me.)" Is there anything that can distinguish Person A from Person B if their parenthetical statements are switched? Basically, Person A is willing to put his money where his mouth is, in principle, while Person B is not. We respect Person A, again in principle, while we say Person B is a scoundrel (old-fashioned words are sometimes best for old-fashioned moral failings).

Now, I'm not distrustful of all war supporters. Military veterans, for example, have demonstrated, by their actions, their status as Person A. What might incline me to distrust the rest? Perhaps a focus on ideals such as democracy and freedom combined with a refusal to consider that tens or even hundreds of thousands of people (mostly faceless foreigners) might die in pursuit of those ideals. Perhaps talk about compassion and shared sacrifice, along with support of policies that involve a good amount of sacrifice but little compassion and no sharing. Perhaps the support of leaders who sought draft deferrals during a past war. Perhaps the support of politicians who let others do their dirty work in political campaigns. Perhaps a rejection of the possibility that the failure in Iraq might be due to its poor execution, its poor planning, and its poor initial conception.

Or maybe I'm just not trusting enough.

Posted by RSA at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

Checklist

from - smijer

March 17, Doctor Who premiere: Watched. Pretty good. Will take time for new Doctor to grow on me, but he has promise.
March 18, Iraq anniversary: Did not attend. Migraine.
March 19, church: Did attend. Var nice.
March 19, Ed Johnson Remembrance: Did attend, and was grateful for the chance. Was surprised to see several others whom I knew from other places - 3 UUs, one cast-member from the Exonerated.

To all whom I missed Saturday - I'm sorry - I was looking forward to seeing you... I was quite miserable that I couldn't make it.

Posted by smijer at 07:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2006

Futile protests

from - RSA

John Cole, in a post titled The Futility of Anti-War Protests, asks what the point of protests is. (John's site, Balloon Juice, is where smijer and I first became acquainted.) I began to respond in the comments section, but realized that I had more to say than would be appropriate there.

So, some background: It's been forever since I've been active in protesting for or against a political cause. I was arrested in DC back in the early '80s during a protest against apartheid, along with probably a hundred other people, but in general I've done no more than act as an occasional bystander/spectator at events I support. There are good reasons for protesting the war in Iraq, even if you think that it can have no immediate effect on the government's behavior. Here are a few, aside from pure self-expression:

  • Bursting (or at least deforming) a bubble. The Bush administration pays lip service, in superficial contrast to the Clinton administration, to ignoring polls. Public disapproval for the war in Iraq is harder to ignore than dry percentages.

  • Global communication. How much support does the war in Iraq have in Europe? Read any polls lately? I haven't, at least none that have made an impression recently. Protests in other countries, on the other hand, can have much more of an impact. For casual observers outside the U.S., similarly, the actions of our government would ordinarily speak louder than (polled) words of the public, but protests within the U.S. can act as a visible counterbalance.

  • Changing opinions. We'd all like to think that everyone rationally evaluates political options and chooses the best. Of course, we all also realize that this isn't the case. Many people seem to be comfortable going with the flow, perhaps thinking, "Well, no one seems to think [whatever] is worth opposing." A protest has visibility that in itself may carry some weight.

  • Fighting the appearance of inevitability. John Cole comments that Bush's approval numbers are in the toilet (my words, not his) and that a U.S. withdrawal will not stop the war in Iraq. On the first point, many protesters doubtless believe that Bush's incompetence goes much deeper than his decisions concerning the war, and that demonstrating their disapproval on this issue may raise others' awareness of his many failings. Could Bush's approval rating go lower? Possibly, and it's worth trying to convince other people that it should. As to the second point, it's an open question whether our withdrawal would worsen the conflict in Iraq. Many war supporters believed that removing Saddam would improve the lives of Iraqis, but in the short term, by many measures, this has not happened. The cost of our withdrawal should be compared with the cost of our staying (a comparison that was carried out very poorly for the invasion in the first place). Specifically, we need to consider that eventually, at some point in the future, U.S. forces will leave Iraq. Better now, or better later? "Stay the course" presumes that later is better, but we see no accounting of the accumulating costs of this policy.


Posted by RSA at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2006

V for Vendetta

from - Buck

Make it a point to go and see this movie!

When I read the tagline, "The people should not fear the government. The government should fear the people" I had a feeling I would enjoy it.

The television ads promoting the movie suck. I went in hoping I would like it and came out absolutely loving it.

Do not draw any conclusions about the movie unless and until you see it. Damn all of this blather by movie critics.

See it for yourself!

Posted by Buck at 02:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2006

You need to be very careful about what you say.

from - RSA

Yet another self-serving, ass-covering idea seems to have taken hold in the conservative blogosphere: If the U.S. fails in Iraq, it will be due to liberal commentators and reporters who have convinced the American public that we're losing the war, a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Actually, many express this view in terms of blaming the liberal news media, but of course someone has to write the articles.) This seems implausible on the face of it. How many battles are won by newspapers rather than by military forces? But let that pass. Let's assume for the sake of argument that if the U.S. fails in Iraq, the news media and commentariat will share some responsibility for that failure.

If this is true, then it's worth exploring how this view can be applied to the Bush administration itself. Why are we in a pre-emptive war in Iraq in the first place? One reasonable answer is that it is the result of a failure of diplomacy. And what led to that failure? Given that the majority of Americans seem to have believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Saddam and bin Laden had an operational relationship, and that Iraq was significantly to blame for 9/11, the people who pushed those views (even if they were sincere but mistaken, just as the media might be viewed) must hold some responsibility for our going to war, and thus for the failure of diplomacy. If conservatives want to hold "the liberal media" responsible for talking down the war in Iraq, they should also hold Bush responsible for talking down diplomacy and talking up the war in Iraq before it even started.

I think that this is especially important in view of Bush's recent comments about Iran. If talk is so important in establishing the difference between victory and defeat, shouldn't Bush be just a bit more careful about what he says?

Posted by RSA at 02:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2006

Klaatu barada. . .necktie

from - RSA

I've recently come into some funding for research in artificial intelligence and robotics, so I tend to pay attention to how robots are presented to the public. The NYTimes has an article on The Shape of Robots to Come, which is interesting enough, except that the gadgets they describe don't really seem to be robots in any meaningful sense. For example, the article describes a Scoty as follows:

Chief among [Scoty's functions] are managing a personal computer's communication and entertainment abilities, finding and playing songs by voice request, recording television shows, telling users when they have e-mail and, again by voice request, reading the e-mail aloud. It takes and then sends voice-to-text e-mail dictation. It takes pictures, and gives the time when asked.

So how exactly is the Scoty different from my laptop, loaded with appropriate voice recognition software? It might rotate itself to take pictures, but that's not mentioned, and in any case would add no more value than a computerized tripod for a modern camera. The article later describes a real (though simple) robot, the Roomba, but for the most part it's just talking about computers in unconventional housings, perhaps with a few servo motors that let them rotate in place. I like robots, and want to see more of them, but not if that means hearing, "Don't call it a Debbie Diaper-Wetter doll; it's a robot."

Posted by RSA at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

Jones

from - RSA

Last night I was reading a collection of P. G. Wodehouse stories, published in 1940. On the back flap of the dust jacket, where a biography of the author would ordinarily be found, is the following:

Jones

Jones isn't one man--he's a lot of people. He's you and me. He works in a steel mill and on a big farm. One Jones I know is a shipbuilder. His last job was on one of those sleek new destroyers. There's a chap named Jones who drives a bus and another who operates a drill press. Jones is the Air Raid Warden who patrols your block and he's your doctor who is doing double duty these days. Mrs. Jones is working hard too. She walks or bicycles to the grocery store. She drives an ambulance and is growing a victory garden, and all the time she is hard at work on her biggest job--raising America's future generation.

Whatever our job, we're working harder than ever before--with our hands, our minds, and our dollars. We're not wasting our extra dollars--we're investing them. Every week, out of salaries and incomes, the Joneses are buying United States War Savings Bonds and the Jones children, who always did save stamps, now specialize in United States War Savings Stamps.

We're all chipping in, saving our money, putting it to work so the American Army, Navy, and Marines can have the best food, the finest planes, tanks, and guns in the world; putting it to work to lick the Axis; to win the war; to fight inflation; to protect our homes, our liberty, and our very lives.

I quote this not to make fun of the sentiment expressed; far from it. It's clear that it's written for an audience of a different time (for example, I don't think Mrs. Jones would be happy with the description of her biggest job these days). What struck me is that the single most important theme in this blurb is one of shared sacrifice. "We're in a war; here's what we're doing, all together, to win it."

Here's a 2006 version:

Jones

Jones isn't one man--he's a lot of people. He's you and me. He used to work in a steel mill, until it closed down, and on a big farm, where he goes by the name of Hernandez. One Jones I know works on an automobile assembly line. His last job was on one of those sleek new SUVs; maybe if he works enough overtime he'll be able to afford one. There's another chap named Jones who drives a car with a magnetized "Support Our Troops" ribbon on the bumper. Jones is even the President, who gives speeches before his invited fellow war-boosters, and who any day now may make his first appeal to people to enlist in the armed forces. (Heck of a job, Jonesie!) Mrs. Jones is working hard too. She drives her SUV to pick up her son at school, first stopping on the way to put $75 in the gas tank, and then goes to the grocery store, where she buys organic produce. And she is hard at work part-time on her biggest job--earning money in real estate, to help pay the mortgage.

Whatever our job, either our daytime job or the second job we've taken on to make ends meet or to afford a few luxuries, we're working harder than ever before--with our hands, our minds, and our dollars. We're not wasting our extra dollars--we're spending them. Every week, out of salaries and incomes, the Joneses are buying plasma TVs and computers; the Jones children, who used to save stamps, now specialize in Sony Playstations and cellular telephones.

We're all chipping in, putting our money to work so we can go to war with the Army we have (perhaps one day even the Army we would like to have), donating money to help our soldiers buy the armor they need, winning the war against small sharp objects being brought onto airplanes, and fighting against taxes and a balanced budget (we'd certainly buy savings bonds if we were saving any money at all). In the end, we will be free of the fear of terrorist bombs in the suburbs of small midwestern towns, the fear of being able to hold private telephone conversations with our grandmothers, and the fear of fundamentalist religious views that differ from our own fundamentalist religious views.

Are we in a war? For those of us who have friends and relatives in the armed forces, certainly; for everyone else, not so much.

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

Slow Learner

from - smijer

Sadly.

Posted by smijer at 07:08 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2006

Nothing new under the sun

from - Buck

"The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilise savage and senile and paranoid peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells."

John Flynn, 1944

Posted by Buck at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

Cowboys

from - RSA

Buck's recent post pointing at cowboy pictures prompted my post. I never watched Westerns on TV when I was a kid, and I've never been a huge fan of Western movies, aside from Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns. (I know, I know, I'm missing out on some of the best movies ever made, John Ford's work in particular--but if someone asks, "Why don't you like broccoli?" how can I answer?) In any case, I caught a rerun of Bonanza the other day on TV. Tell me if you've seen this one:

Little Joe is in a dispute with a stranger. They get into a fist fight, and other man draws his gun. Little Joe is forced to shoot him.

Oh, wait, I think I'm confusing that episode with different one:

Little Joe is in a dispute with an acquaintance. They get into a fist fight, and other man draws his gun. Little Joe is forced to shoot him.

Or maybe it was this one:

Little Joe is in a dispute with a neighbor. They get into a fist fight, and the neighbor draws his gun. Little Joe is forced to shoot him.

Some of my old-fashioned friends occasionally reminisce about the good old days of television--little sexual innuendo, clear divisions between good guys and bad guys, and happy endings. What's funny is that in the real world, the good guys would not have the reputation of being wholesome upstanding citizens; on the contrary, in the neighboring towns that Little Joe has not yet depopulated the locals would whisper, "There goes Little 'Mass Murderer' Joe," or "Watch out for Little 'Serial Killer' Joe," or "Little Joe is a made man in the Cartwright family--the sheriff can't touch him." In the world of the TV western, a good guy can shoot someone one day, socialize with his friends and family the next day, as light-hearted as can be, and no one ever says, "Little Joe, you killed three guys last month and permanently crippled two others. Ever think about working on your personal relationship skills?" Of course, a comment like that is probably a good way to get yourself shot.

Posted by RSA at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

Keep not running!

from - smijer

Continuing from before...

Post 16 from Mageth:


If you see a nuclear explosion, pull off the road and take some snapshots.


18, Mageth:


If you're a @#&! a radiation mutant with a deformed hand, remember to close the window. No one wants to see that @#&!.


19


Remember when the government couldn't access your personal information without a warrant? Well, no more, bucko.
Not bad prescience for February of 2003, huh?!


20, Mendicant


- In event of emergency, exit in every direction at once to confuse the enemy.



-- If you hear the Backstreet Boys, Michael Bolton or Yanni on the radio, cower in the corner or run like hell.



If your lungs and stomach start talking, stand with your arms akimbo until they stop.


21, ju'iblex... sorry - the image is lost.


Another prescient bit in 22, from Mecha_Dude:


Note: If you work for the FBI or CIA, put the paperwork that described the preceding attack weeks before it happened into a briefcase that looks like a first aid kit and run like hell


23, Sakpo:


Remain calm: Even in the event of a new wave of terror attacks Swatch (honory member of the New Europe) will continue to provide the American people with a wide selection of quality suitcases and travel bags.



A quick family snapshot in front of the latest scene of a terrorist attack may became a treasured family keepsake that will preserve precious memories for years to come.



Distance: The farther away you are from the radiation the lower your exposure. Who woulda thunk it?



A state of emergency and widespread panic is often a great chance to loot desirable consumer goods.



Hey, while you're at it, we need some new clocks.


"Wash your hands" of traditional long distance providers. Verizon has a new plan made specially for people like you.


24, The Lone Ranger:



The middle of a terrorist attack is not an appropriate time to catch up on your reading or paperwork.


In the event that terrorists remove your lungs and stomach, please remain calm.


If you actually need to be told that birds dropping out of the sky and fish going belly-up in the streams is a bad sign, then please remain right where you are. We don't need you taking up precious space in the shelters that could be occupied by people with functioning brains.


Unfortunately, a flashlight makes a very poor lightsabre.


Swinging it around and making "whoosing" sounds won't help.


No pyromaniacs admitted.

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

March 14, 2006

Et tu, Neal?

from - Buck

Neal hints at cutting and running

At some point we just have to cut them loose and find out. We can't spend the rest of the century holding their hands and occupying their country.

And then he says

So by 2007, we will have tossed them the keys and told them to make a go of it.

We'll check on that in about 9 months Neal.


Posted by Buck at 05:02 PM | Comments (0)

Sharing the pain

from - Buck

I get about 20 of these a week. It's a long story.

Check it out.

Now I know why cowboys wear boots. The depth of the bullshit requires them.

Posted by Buck at 12:18 PM | Comments (0)

More Chattanooga Haps... (and some also national)

from - smijer

Get out your calendar. Yeah... now...
Ok ready? Mark down this Saturday, March 14. Chattanooga Peace March. If you are a half-hearted protester (like me), or disdainful of them altogether, come out any way. Think of it, if you must, as an opportunity to express by your presence your commitment to peaceful, democratic cooperation around the world. I attended last year, and was blessed by the experience. The closing vigil, candlelit, and with each person harmonious in prayer or remembrance for the victims of the Iraq war and their families, was a powerful and moving moment. I hope to see you there. I should also mention that this is going on in many cities... If you aren't lucky enough to be a Chattanoogan, find a local city that is having a similar remembrance on the calendar and go! Let me know how it was.

Next, depending on your location, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life will soon be held near you. Help raise money and awareness to treat and cure cancer by finding and supporting the event near you. You can use the event finder on this page, if you like. My family will be participating in the Red Bank relay on June 2, 2006. My wife and I are looking for business sponsors for this project, so feel free to drop me a note if you are interested!

This Sunday, Remembering The Man, Ed Johnson, 4p.m. at Bessie Smith Hall, followed by The Peace Walk from the African American museum to the Walnut Street Bridge. Speakers include LeRoy Phillips, James Mapp, Ron Littlefield, and Bernie Miller. This is the centennial of the lynching of Ed Johnson from the Walnut St. Bridge - a historic case in many regards.

Note:
See also this list from a couple of weeks back, and this side-note if you are interested in live music.

Posted by smijer at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2006

Greater Love Hath No Man Than This...

from - smijer

In memory of Tom Fox... Also via HippyDave, Fox's blog.

We took the Unitarian youth to visit the Quaker church on Sunday - I did not realize before, but he was a member of the Quakers/Friends. He was also a former Chattanooga resident. I guess it's a small world.

Posted by smijer at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

Menu musings

from - RSA

While eating out the other night, I had a few thoughts about a politically themed restaurant. Here are the notes from my imaginary review:

Starter: George W. Bisque. Although the "cowboy" flavor started out strong, it quickly wore thin, being based on cornpone rather than more robust ingredients.

Main dish: Duck Cheney. Bunker-raised game, accompanied by a secretive sauce. While the flavors were direct and assertive, the entire conception is somewhat out of date.

Side dish: Condoleezza Rice. This had a surprisingly strong Russian flavor, with no hint of Middle Eastern influences.

After dinner: A selection of Donald Rums. Alternately smooth and fiery, but somehow just wrong for the entire meal.

All in all, a disappointing experience. I won't be back.

Posted by RSA at 03:22 PM | Comments (1)

The Butler Act

from - Buck

hellin.jpg

On March 13th, 1925 Tennessee passed the Butler Act.

Which of course led to the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Eighty one years and the debate still rages.

Posted by Buck at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

Holy Joe and DPI World

from - smijer

I wish I could get vicarious enjoyment from watching the President having it handed to him on the Dubai port deal. And, I could... this was yet another display of stupid, cronyist incompetence on the part of the Bush administration - as far as how the deal was pursued. But I cannot glory in its defeat, because I've come to the conclusion that the deal - itself - was (probably) a good one, and that its violent, knee-jerk rejection was mainly an expression of American intolerance of all things Arabic or Muslim.

Sure, there were security concerns that needed to be looked at ... and negligence (at best) on the president's part bordering on the criminal. But, DPI and the administration finally came around (at least partly) on fixing those problems - under intense Congressional pressure. So, what was gained by skirting the 45 day review, and nixing the deal outright - before it was shown that any harm would come from it? I can't find anything. By all appearances, this was a pander to American xenophobia and intolerance. The Congressional response was at best immoderate. And the worst thing you can do... in terms of keeping the moral (if not political) high ground... is to abandon moderation over a radically problematic opposition.

I despise Holy Joe... Just as much as anyone else... But he is right. Hear him tell it:
Here (QT link: here).

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

March 10, 2006

Choose your watch carefully

from - Buck

Timex or Rolex? Anything but a Casio.

The fact that wearing a Casio can be used against you in a court of law was at first funny to me. But then I thought about the fact that it is anything but funny to those swept up in the “watch profiling” of our intelligence agencies.

The U.S. military cites the digital watches worn by prisoners when they were captured as possible evidence of terrorist ties.

Now that is what I call reaching for a reason.

"I have a Casio watch due to the fact that they are inexpensive and they last a long time," the 34-year-old detainee told a tribunal. "I like my watch because it is durable. It had a calculator and was waterproof, and before prayers we have to wash up all the way to my elbows."

They take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’!

"The problem for military intelligence in a war like this is determining who is the enemy," said Mark Ensalaco, an international terrorism expert at the University of Dayton, in Ohio

We have met the enemy Mark. And he is us.

In the 1996 trial of Ramzi Yousef, the alleged mastermind of the first attack on the World Trade Center, a prosecutor described how a Casio attached to a timing device using 9-volt batteries became the "calling card" of Yousef's Philippines-based terror cell

How long do you think it will be before we have to present identification before purchasing a 9-volt battery?

The watch maker, a division of Casio Computer Co., Ltd. of Japan, declined interview requests, but said in the statement that it is aware of the concerns. "Casio continues to work closely with all government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security to help limit any potential threats and deal with security concerns," the statement said.

First we offer up our ports to the Arabs and now the Japanese are supplying our watches. Shouldn’t we just blow the yellow man back into the stone age?

Even if Casios were pulled off the market worldwide, terrorists could easily switch to other commonly available products to make timers for bombs, Williams said. "You give me a half-hour in a supermarket and I can blow up your garage."

God created man equal. The supermarkets help keep him that way.

Ya’ll have a great weekend.

Posted by Buck at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2006

Doing the numbers

from - RSA

The pro-life movement has consistently argued that abortion equals murder, and now we're beginning to see some political movement on the issue. (See smijer's post on the controversy, below.) I'd like to look into the concrete implications of the pro-life argument.

From countless re-runs of lawyer-driven TV shows, we all know that there's no statute of limitations on the crime of murder. If abortion really is murder, then what the past 34 years since Roe v. Wade have given us is just a lengthy period of delayed justice. What can we expect to happen if abortion is recategorized as murder? One answer is that people will start going to jail. A lot of people. Here are a few back-of-the-envelope calculations, guaranteed not to be accurate, but sufficient to give the big picture.

The National Right to Life organization has it that 47,282,293 abortions have been carried out in the U.S. between 1972 and 2004. (This seems high, but it's not unreasonable to use pro-life numbers when arguing against their case.) By now, this number should have reached an even 50 million.

In many cases, a single abortion will be all that a woman will ever have. Kevin Drum references an article in TNR that says the prevalence of repeat abortions has not been studied in detail, but if it's true that every year about half of the abortions carried out are repeats, then we can reasonably estimate that there have been 25 million first-time abortions carried out since 1972.

How many of these 25 million woman are alive today? A woman who was 40 years old in 1972 would now be in her mid-70s today, so we have to imagine a very large percentage: 80%, perhaps? That makes 20 million women. Some number of these women were married at the time of their abortion. Let's conservatively put the number at 15%, to encompass all those who talked the procedure over with their husbands: 3 million men who actively participated in the planning. We could add the number of doctors who have performed abortions over the past few decades, but let's stop at this point: 23 million people who decided an abortion should take place.

There was a big splash in the news a few years ago, when the size of the prison population in the U.S. topped 2 million. That's about 701 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. Those who sincerely believe that abortion is murder are arguing, whether they realize it or not, that the number of people in prison should be increased by a factor of 11. That's a 1150% increase. We'd have not 0.5% of our population in prison, as is the case today, but over 7%. One out of every 15 people. The most repressive societies in history have never approached this number.

So, what do we think? If abortion really is murder, are we ready to face the consequences of that view?

Posted by RSA at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2006

Where's Soros When You Need Him?

from - smijer

One report on Monday's Supreme Court ruling regarding university policies on recruitment and discrimination and the federal response... I'll explain, with running commentary.

Most prominent law schools, because of their respect for the law and the principles behind it, require a written pledge from those organizations who wish to recruit their graduates that they will not discriminate... including on the basis of sexual orientation.

Good so far. Now, as we all know, the military cares more about "hating teh gay" than, you know, keeping America secure. So, under the policies of most prominent U.S. law schools, the Universities will not allow them to recruit on campus... good for them!... except, they do. Because they receive (and require) substantial federal funding, which depends on them allowing military recruiters on campus. So, they have made an exception, since the eighties, to allow military recruiters after all, however they do not provide military recruiters the same assistance in terms of communication and advertizing to their students as they do employers who do not have openly bigoted hiring practices.

So that's good. But now (and I'm not clear whether this is based on new law or old), the military is pulling funding on the basis that their recruiters are not provided the same services as other recruiters. So a group of law schools (including Georgetown, and I'm not sure who else) have sued the government under the first amendment. And this is where it gets complicated.

The cause of action is under the established legal doctrine that to tie federal funding to the exercise of protected speech is unconstitutional. The doctrine is, I believe, legally sound. But, the application is weak... even the Court's remaining "liberal" justices rejected it. Chief Justice Roberts put it ... well... admirably, in writing the decision:

In his opinion on Monday, he outlined how First Amendment protections of free speech and association weren't jeopardized by what Congress did.

"The Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything," Roberts wrote. "Law schools remain free under the statute to express whatever views they may have on the military's congressionally mandated employment policy, all the while retaining eligibility for federal funds."

He noted that the law might require schools to send e-mails or post notices about military recruiters because they do it for other businesses. But he said such "compelled speech" was only incidental to the requirement that military recruiters be treated equally.

Comparing that situation to similar ones the court has faced, Roberts wrote: "Compelling a law school that sends scheduling e-mails for other recruiters to send one for a military recruiter is simply not the same as forcing a student to pledge allegiance, or forcing a Jehovah's Witness to display the motto `Live Free or Die.'" He said it "trivializes" constitutional protections to suggest that the law schools face similar burdens.

Roberts said law schools aren't "speaking" when they aid students in the recruitment process.

That isn't to say I like the idea of any organization - military or otherwise - using college campuses to recruit into a system of mandated discrimination. But I agree that the first amendment challenge is weak. .... Now, please bear in mind that this is running commentary as I describe the situation .... I'm not "building" to anything here....

I do think, however, that there is a flaw in the application of the law... It would (probably) be within the rights of the government to tie funding to a University's practices regarding recruitment in the sense of making specific demands on what the University must do in order to gain said funding, I don't think that the Universities should lose funding based on the actual law, which says they must provide the same services to military recruiters as to other recruiters. The challenge, then, should be made on the basis of the application of the law, rather than on the perceived violation of the amendment number 1. See, the law doesn't prescribe that specific services must be provided by the university - only that the same services be provided as are provided to other recruiters. And, the university does provide the same services as are provided to other recruiters - it uses campus resources to advise students when employers who meet their recruitment standards, regardless of who they are are recruiting on campus. The military does not meet their recruitment standards. They are treated better than other organizations who do not meet their recruitment standards - they are allowed on campus. The university's advertizement program is not "one size fits all" - they advertize based on the organization's individual merits. And the same standards apply to the military as apply to any other recruiter. So, under the law, they should not lose funding.

So, the challenge was wrong - and a very legitimate one was available - one which should have succeeded, and should have left Congress in the position of having to pass very specifically bigoted legislation in order to achieve their desired end regarding military recruitment on university campus.

Next point... this is an opportunity. Many representatives of the law schools in question view this decision, as it was written, as an invitation to more aggressive protest of the military's policies of elevating hatred over security. That's true and good. But there's a bigger point waiting to be made, too - if the courage and the money exist to make it.

Because, as I've mentioned numerous times previously, the military does value bigotry over security... but few people have thought about it enough to perceive that fact.

So what happens if the universities decide to take the financial hit and ban miliatry recruiters, per their own high-minded policies? Well, the military loses access to a very valuable pool of recruits at a time when they are already facing very tough recruiting challenges. The government has a choice.... they can be seen to be abonding this pool of recruits and threatening an already threadbare security force - or they can change their discriminatory policies. Which will they choose? Who will support them in their choice? If they choose to abandon campus recruiting and trigger a situation where numerous prestigious universities are de-funded, then they will be seen by the public to have no interest in the most vital asset any nation can have - a well-educated populace. If they stay to the hardline, they will most certainly be voted out and replaced by people who care about education and security over gay-bashing.

And that's where George Soros comes in... because no one could ask the American university system to commit suicide. And that's what would be happening if the universities gave up funding en masse. We need a safety net for them to make it possible for them to take a principled stand... And then, we need a lot more money and organization to rally behind that principled stand - so that during the next elections there will be a clear national referendum on the relative importance of maintaining a culture of hatred and keeping our nation secure and well educated. As attractive as that culture of hatred is to so many people, when the choice is clear, the balances will tip in favor of security and education. And, if it doesn't... maybe we don't deserve to remain a first world nation, anyway.

Posted by smijer at 06:14 AM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2006

The war is over, now what?

from - Buck

I don't know if you guys have had this one appear in you inbox yet but you will. Here it is, in its entirety with my initial thoughts in parentheses.

WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR ANY U.S. PRESIDENT, DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH? (well, at least they have become non-partisan now)

My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the defeat of Iraq regime has been completed.
(hasn't that been true since May of 2003?)

Since congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq is complete.
(and until Congress gets tired of spending the money the mission will never be complete)

This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq. This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now to begin the reckoning.

Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short. The United Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed there.
(now that is one hell of a coalition ain't it?)

The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the world's nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening.

Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war.
(am I to assume that the Iraq war cost only about 11 billion dollars?)

The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world Hell-holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption.
(am I to assume that Israel is a third world hell-hole?)

Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France.

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth.
(isn't it that attitude that got us into this mess?)

Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France, or maybe China.

I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France, Germany, and Russia. Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well. Bon chance, mes amis.
( and exactly how would that be in our best interest?)

I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many UN diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed. I don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beamers and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York
(what is it that makes us so anxious to ignore treaties?)

A special note to our neighbors. Canada is on List 2 Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change.
(I don't think I hear Canadian knees knocking)

Mexico is also on List 2. President Fox and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple extra tank and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put em? Yep, border security. So start doing something with your oil.
(I don't think I hear Mexican knees knocking)

Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty - starting now.


We are tired of the one-way highway. Immediately, we'll be drilling for oil in Alaska - which will take care of this country's oil needs for decades to come.
(the oil from Alaska will supply our oil needs in about the same way as foreign aid will pay for the war in Iraq)

If you're an environmentalist who opposes this decision, I refer you to List 2 above: pick a country and move there. They care.
(after looking at list one it becomes obvious that list two has some pretty spectacular places to live so I don't hear any environmentalists knees knocking)

It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, "darn tootin."
Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in America. It is time to eliminate World Cup Soccer from America. To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thanks guys. We owe you and we won't forget. To the nations on List 2, a final thought: You might want to learn to speak Arabic. God bless America. Thank you and good night. If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier.
(sometimes there are things you can read that make you wish you were not able to read)

Please forward this to at least ten friends and see what happens! Let's get this to every USA computer! (you have been warned)

This stuff can be scary sometimes.

Posted by Buck at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)

What is Abstention? Two Angles...

from - smijer

The abortion debate carries a very large number of complex and difficult questions and controversies, but it very frequently revolves around the notion (from the pro-life side, mainly) that people women and infants should have to live with any negative consequences of an unintended pregnancy - if they (the women, that is) should wish to avoid those consequences, then they should choose not to have sex. Of course, some pro-lifers back down from that position when the negative consequence is death (not lifelong disability, or any of the myriad other possible "natural consequences" of pregnancy) for the woman. It is acceptable, apparently, to some pro-lifers for a woman to choose to have sex, but then avoid the consequence of that choice if it happens to be death. That position seems at odds with their philosophy that "personal responsibility" is the foundational value, to which all other values must be subordinate, but there you have it.

But that's beside the point... The point is that from one perspective, including Digby's, the "personal responsibility" gig boils down to this: don't want to impoverish your family, or leave your offspring to the tender mercies of the state foster care system? Then close your legs.

Now, to me, telling adult human beings to "not have sex" is just ridiculous on its face. It's like telling songbirds not to sing. But the notion that sex is a luxury commodity like chocolate, that can and should be avoided unless you the woman is fully prepared to deal with the natural consequences of it - up to, but not necessarily including, death - remains pervasive... And while one cannot settle the abortion debate as easily as convincing people that your view on "not having sex" is the right one... it doesn't hurt to get your message out. So, for those of you who think sex is chocolate, here are two perspectives on what the rest of us think... The first is a pragmatist one.

Amanda: Sex is like the gruel served at the nursing home... that is, you had better eat it!

* Abstain until marriage * Start having children straightaway when you marry * If you have a job, quit it to raise your children like a good mommy * When you’ve had as many children as you can handle, tell your husband that you won’t be having sex with him anymore. * Nothing will happen to you when you do this. We swear. Certainly nothing like finding yourself trying to get a job for the first time in 20 years while your ex-husband tells his new girlfriend that you wouldn’t even have sex with him anymore.

I imagine that most women reading this who still want sex to be chocolate are middle class or better ladies with an internet connection, 2.5 children, and a physician who can extract even the most difficult pregnancy with a minimum of risk and discomfort... In other words, I imagine that they are unconcerned enough about the possibility of an additional pregnancy, that - with the aid of a contraceptive patch provided by their high-dollar insurance plan - they feel no need to stop having sex, and are comfortable enough about "suffering the consequence" of a 3.5th child in the family that the notion that stopping sex for the remainder of their lives seems foreign... They cannot walk a mile in the shoes of a woman to whom the above applies.

So, I've engineered another analogy for what sex/abstention amounts to, which turns away from the expectations our society does, could, or should hold toward women, and brings a different view... There is another activity that can, and does have apparently unavoidable negative consequences. But we can no more ask people to avoid it or be forced personally clean up those consequences than we can with sex. Religion. I know I put myself at odds with the more hard-line anti-religious folk (with whom I once identifed more strongly), by saying that we can't expect people to give up religion merely because it is the right thing to do... But the fact is that many or most people need (in the psychological sense) religion every bit as much as many or most people need sex. And, just as I think people who have sex should maintain as much responsibility as possible in the practice - use protection, avoid multiple partners, arrange for the care of offspring where possible - I don't think they should be forced to take individual responsibility for every negative consequence when there are legitimate options for avoiding those consequences. Likewise, I think preachers, disciples, and evangelists should take responsibility for cleaning up the messes that religion causes... but that doesn't mean they should be forced to fight the religious wars against their will should they arise... I don't think they should be forced to travel to Africa and personally rescue the abandoned, abused, or murdered children that result when they send their missionaries there to prosyletize to a culture they do not understand. You get the idea? Just call this perspective "sex is like religion"... and if you don't want Richard Dawkins telling you that you have to give up religion, then maybe don't tell the women of this country that they have to keep their legs closed. Does that make sense to you?

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

Forever Bluegrass

from - smijer

The family and memorializers of Boxcar Pinion are the source for those "Forever Bluegrass" bumper-stickers seen all over Chattanooga, and spotted sometimes all around the country. You can get a free one by mailing them, but it's much more fun by getting it as a bonus with your ticket to the annual Boxcar Pinion Memorial Bluegrass Festival. Put it on your calendar - May 4-6... Quite a treat for our little town.

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

March 03, 2006

If You Have Set Yourself On Fire, Do Not Run

from - smijer

I was a frequent lurker at the internet infidels discussion forums a couple of years back. I stumbled on this thread only a few days after it began, and entertained myself reading it. In fact, my wife & I kept ourselves in stitches reading it... It's better taken in doses of as many posts as you can stand.

But, last year, the DHS ruined it all by changing the location of the images on their server. Now most of the jokes are broken, lacking images.

So click here to see the original post (which still has images intact, thanks to the fact that it was not hotlinked), by user Oxidizing Material (who apparently has since been banned from the site - not an easy thing to accomplish, itself)... and then have a look at some of the posts as I try to reconstruct them by matching the still-extant images from the DHS website to the captions...

Check this site out. It's the US government's attempt at scare mongering using the old "duck and cover" advice you learned after the war.

The fun thing is that these pictures are so ambiguous that making your captions can be fun! - Oxidizing Material, February 22, 2003

Back? Good.... Here goes:
Post number 2, a oneliner from elwoodblues:


In case of nuclear radiation, stand directly behind your door, but do not open the door, even if the radiation knocks.
... If the image is still out there somewhere, I'll try to find it and put it here... I'll leave this one to your imagination:

Post number 4, from Slavik91:



If you are sprayed with an unknown substance, stand and think about it instead of seeing a doctor.



Watch TV, surf the net and listen to music 'round the clock.



Your telephone may be a practicing physician.



With these simple ingredients, you too can be a terrorist!


Stand in radiation for exactly 5 minutes and 12 seconds a day for a healthy, glowing complexion.



Radiation lives in fallout shelters.



On your knees before God smites you!


Post 5 is short, but the first bit is one of my all-time favorites. Thank you to user oriecat, whose brief input was surely part of the impetus that pushed this thing to 36 pages and 885 posts ...



Use your flashlight to lift the walls right off of you!



Don't go in the first aid tent if you're hurt. We want to keep it nice and white.

Post 6, again from elwoodblues...


Circumsized arrows are terrorists. Do the Walking Man as you pass them.



Michael Jackson is a terrorist. If you spot this smooth criminal with dead, dead eyes, run the @#$! away.



In case of flames bursting out around door, do NOT leave it shut. Always open flaming doors.



Don't get trapped under stuff.



If your dumb ass does get trapped under stuff, amuse yourself in your final moments with shadow puppets.



The '#' keys on your telephone and keyboard are highly radioactive



Missouri has three cities, all of which will be Designated Whipping Boys in the event of war. The armed forces will use these cities to calibrate their missiles.



In the event of emergency, find a 3-story, 10-foot-high building. The midgets inside will be sure to help you. Remember, just follow the enormous red arrow protruding from your crotch.

Moving right along... Post to post 11 by Wizardry...


In this time of war, real Americans eat red meat only! Fish and poultry may be terrorists.



Hurricanes, animal corpses and the biohazard symbol have a lot in common. Think about it.



In the event that a terrorist strikes your closet, go immediately to your other closet.



Be on the lookout for terrorists with pinkeye and leprosy. Also, they tend to rub their hands together manically.



The proper way to eliminate smallpox is to wash with soap, water and at least one(1) armless hand.



To get away from a terrorist attack quickly, take the stairs once in a while, fat ass!



If a door is closed, karate chop it open.



Pose for a picture with your faceless family!



Your garage is a mess. Clean it out.

I'm going to leave out Mageth's post# 12...
feel free to click the link and use your imagination....

Post 13, from Buddrow_Wilson is pretty good... I'll wrap it up for today with this one... This rescue effort is a lot of work, but these things are well worth being preserved... I'll try to throw one of these in at least once a week, and eventually make a category page for them so they can appear together in all their magical glory.



note to stoners: These items are poor choices for bong-making material



When the looting begins remember to consider the weight/value ratio. Here we have a few example of high value, low effort



Try to absorb as much of the radiation as possible with your groin region. After 5 minutes and 12 seconds however you may become sterile



After exposure to radiation it is important to consider that you may have mutated to gigantic dimensions: watch your head



Only the coolest irradiated citizens will be allowed into the 'underground' club



It may be comforting to perform felatio on yourself in your final moments

Be sweet, and don't forget to visit the Friday Ark!

Posted by smijer at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2006

Civil War?

from - Buck

Not only does George Bush deny that there is a civil war currently going on in Iraq he even believes there is not going to be one.

I wonder if George thinks that before there can be a bona fide civil war the Sunni’s will have to dress in blue and the Shi’ites will have to dress in gray? Do you think he believes that all civil wars are Napoleonic in nature?

In the near future the excuse will be the administrations favorite. Just like nobody could have ever conceived of airplanes being used as weapons and just like nobody could have ever predicted that the levees in New Orleans would not hold we will be told that nobody could have ever known that civil war in Iraq was a possibility.

But we don’t have to believe that.

There are people who were aware of all of those possibilities. Warnings were sounded in every instance. They were just ignored and then denied.

2008 seems like it is an eternity away and what kind of choice will we have even then?

Posted by Buck at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

Weird Stuff

from - smijer

Monday night was the first time since before I turned 18 that I was made to go to church... So who makes a 33 year old man go to church? Well, in my case, it was my employer. And, it wasn't technically church... it was on the Southern Belle, and the preacher (and ex-NFL player) was billed as a "motivational speaker". In addition to the preaching, there was a nice dinner, and there were opportunities to have interdepartmental mingling and mixing.

I am only writing this today, even though it happened Monday, for the simple reason that this raised my eyebrows in so many ways that I couldn't figure out how to even approach it... So, I'm just going to throw in all the juicy bits in whatever order I can... But, first - a word to educators, parents of public school children, and those concerned with such matters: this info is of interest to you! If you are a concerned citizen, then spread the word... If you are an educator or parent of a public school child, then you should know this before you consent to have this "motivational speaker" appear at your school's event!

So what raised my eyebrows Monday night? First in order of mention, but not chronologically, was that I was sent to a mandatory conference, the central point of which was to hear the evangelism of a Christian speaker. Don't misunderstand me... some, who are particularly sensitive to such things, might hear a blessing said, or the name of God or Jesus spoken, and proclaim an entire event "church", when really the central issue was elsewhere. I am not he. At my company, many large meetings start with a prayer and continue with mentions of God's will for the company... and I've sat quietly through every one of them... This was church. The man talked briefly about his football career, then spent the remainder of his time giving his testimony and exhorting us to a better Christian life. Another clarification - I wasn't offended... at least not by the fact that I was made to go to church. This type of event is once-per-year, and I can live with it. It makes the company brass feel warm & cozy. They, in turn, are not motivated by malice - they are simply oblivious to the fact that the company includes Unitarian atheists, people who prefer a little less church (or a little less of this particular variety), and Jews. Where I was a little miffed, I'll explain as I go along...

Ok... so the speaker was Herman Weaver... known at one time as "Thunderfoot"... When he took the microphone, he began by reading a longish list of cutesy maxims and quotations... And now we come to the first raised brow: He read the story of the reporter and Abe Lincoln concerning whose side God was on during the civil war. He remarked that, in his opinion, God favored the south... This despite having at least two blacks in the crowd, and several on the boat staff who were listening as well. Pretty dumb... You'd think, having made a second career in public speaking, he would know better than to glorify the south (which is indeed a wonderful place to live, in many ways) by implying that God condoned slavery. So, this was either very stupid, or he's a racist. I won't try to guess which.

The next brow - again in order of mention, not necessarily chronologically, was when he explained to a room full of conservative southerns just what qualified them as "true Christians"... yikes!

But what really made my hair stand on end whas what he told us about his missionary work to the public schools. But, I'm getting ahead of myself... First, I want to tell you about Herman's life-changing miracle, and why it's weird. See, when he was a backslidden Christian, his daughter fell from a tree, and was hurt very badly. So he took her to her grandmother's home (?!), where she continued to be hurt very badly... so he took her to the hospital. The doctors there told him she had broken her back - that she may never walk again. This is where it gets weird... She had to have a full body cast for up to a year, you see, but for some reason this had to be done at the Children's Hospital. So the doctor gave him the x-rays, and told him to take her there... in his car. It becomes anticlimactic at this point, I'm sorry to say, but the story must be finished. He drove her to the Children's Hospital, gave the x-rays to the doctor, and after the examination, the doctor proclaimed that "it must be a miracle", because there was nothing wrong with her. Shortly after, she was able to do a little walking. So there's the miracle... Naturally, I suspect that no doctor actually said that her back was broken, or any of the rest of it... I suspect the doctor at the first hospital said something else entirely, and either Mr. Weaver misunderstood completely or has later exaggerated, distorted, or lied about the experience. I won't speculate about which... but here's a further element of weirdness about the case. Later in his talk, he informed us that he had told students during his presentation that if anyone could "prove that there was even one lie in the Bible", he would change his beliefs. I don't know about you, but if God cured my baby girl of a broken back, I don't think I would abandon Him on the basis of one falsehood in the Holy Book... So, yeah... I suspect Weaver doesn't really believe his own story... or that he wasn't being all that truthful about his willingness to give up his religion in the face of opposing evidence. And that's the weirdness of the miracle.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story isn't so weird. It's remarkably normal in these United States. You may have gathered that this company meeting was more like a tent revival than business session. Well, a lot of what Mr. Weaver said was about how he gave precisely this same talk to school children in the public school system. A lot of it was about the students', parents', and teachers' reaction, and how he dealt with that. And, let me tell you - he doesn't take well to criticism. You see, according to Herman Weaver (who apparently has an inside line on Divine preferences), "God doesn't care about the separation of church & state". The kids need a little dose of church during school, because God forbid their parents have any say in when and where they get their church. So Herman Weaver has made it his personal business to make sure they get church when God wants them to. Weaver boasts that being an NFL star gives him access to places where it's hard for other people to get in... Apparently, he means the auditorium at City High.

Science teachers don't fair well with Mr. Weaver... After his talk a teacher came to him. To quote, "He didn't like that I told the kids they were created. He said, 'no they weren't. They evolved.'" Either he encountered one of the least literate science teacher critics of creationism out there, or he's bending the truth out of all proportion. I won't speculate which. In any case, the science teacher was (like most of his critics) "little", and not worth much bother. In fact, this was the case with almost every teacher or administrator that got in the way of his self-appointed task of God's liason to the public schools.

Have you noticed by now that Mr. Weaver came off - to me, anyway - as arrogant? That's the last eyebrow that I'll mention. Whether he was talking about his football career or his career in evangelism, the subject was himself and his achievements. God gets credit for the weird miracle... and a coach gets some credit for special punting training... The rest is a litany of "Thunderfoot's"
super-star talents.

In short, the dude is an boor, and has no respect for students or their tax-paying parents with regard to how he approaches them at school. I would like to ask him one day, if God cares so little for the separation of church and state, then maybe he wouldn't mind the government sending teachers in to his church to teach the kids a little science. I'm sure it couldn't hurt. I might remind him, then, that Allah doesn't care too much about the separation of church and state, either.

Herman Weaver's Homepage
Sports World, the organization that dispatches Weaver to his engagements.

Posted by smijer at 07:15 AM | Comments (0)