Friday, April 29, 2005
Gerald Allen, a true moron from Alabama, has proposed a bill that would not allow public school libraries to buy new copies of books that were written by gay people, or that have gay characters in them. (One wonders if this includes the Bible...) Now, that's enough to make you groan and wonder about Mr. Allen's mental stability. But get this: this is a watered-down attempt at a bill he had introduced earlier.
His first bill, the "Ayatollahs of Alabama" bill, would have banned all books that were written by gay authors, had gay characters in them, contained acts (homosexual or heterosexual) that violated Alabama sexual or sodomy statutes and any textbooks that said the homosexuality lifestyle was acceptable from school and public libraries. (You can go here to read the bill yourself - there is a download required for some reason, and it will be in .pdf form, but if you want to, search for bills sponsered by Allen and then look at HB 30) No funds could be used to purchase them, and any books that met this broad criteria would be removed from the shelves. Mr. Allen had a suggestion for what to do with them: ""I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said." I'm just shocked he didn't include books that had the letters "G", "A" and "Y" in close proximity to each other - just to be sure, ya know.
I think it's a shame Freud and Gerald Allen never had a chance to meet.
Update: Color me wrong - it's just as bad as the original bill, as PolySciFi points out. Gerald Allen, Yahoo supreme. (Soon he'll change his first name to make sure his intials never spell GAY again.)
Thursday, April 28, 2005
DEMS: a Nadler amendment allows an adult who could be prosecuted under the bill to go to a Federal district court and seek a waiver to the state’s parental notice laws if this remedy is not available in the state court. (no 11-16)
GOP REWRITE:. Mr. Nadler offered an amendment that would have created an additional layer of Federal court review that could be used by sexual predators to escape conviction under the bill. By a roll call vote of 11 yeas to 16 nays, the amendment was defeated.
DEMS: a Nadler amendment to exempt a grandparent or adult sibling from the criminal and civil provisions in the bill (no 12-19)
GOP REWRITE: . Mr. Nadler offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution under the bill if they were grandparents or adult siblings of a minor. By a roll call vote of 12 yeas to 19 nays, the amendment was defeated.
DEMS: a Scott amendment to exempt cab drivers, bus drivers and others in the business transportation profession from the criminal provisions in the bill (no 13-17)
:GOP REWRITE. Mr. Scott offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution if they are taxicab drivers, bus drivers, or others in the business of professional transport. By a roll call vote of 13 yeas to 17 nays, the amendment was defeated.
DEMS: a Scott amendment that would have limited criminal liability to the person committing the offense in the first degree (no 12-18)
GOP REWRITE:. Mr. Scott offered an amendment that would have exempted from prosecution under the bill those who aid and abet criminals who could be prosecuted under the bill. By a roll call vote of 12 yeas to 18 nays, the amendment was defeated
DEMS: a Jackson-Lee amendment to exempt clergy, godparents, aunts, uncles or first cousins from the penalties in the bill (no 13-20)
GOP REWRITE. Ms. Jackson-Lee offered an amendment that would have exempted sexual predators from prosecution under the bill if they were clergy, godparents, aunts, uncles, or first cousins of a minor, and would require a study by the Government Accounting Office. By a roll call vote of 13 yeas to 20 nays, the amendment was defeated.
You know, I've been struggling not to use 1984 references too much in these discussions, but it's getting harder and harder - doesn't this make anyone think of Winston Smith's job in MiniTruth?
Keep that in mind as you read this column, which is just this side of hysterical. Which side of hysterical is still debatable, though. Look at some of the evidence this man shows as proof that libraries need to be monitored under the Patriot Act 2:
- asking for a good restaurant
- being facile with computers even though you come from a poor area
- Kaczynski ordered "tons of stuff" on L. Sprague deCamp
- Heriberto Seda, the "Zodiac Killer", checked out books by Aleister Crowley.
Call me crazy, but these aren't exactly overwhelming arguments. One could argue with just as much justification that strip clubs should be monitored since two of the 9/11 hijackers frequented them often. His argument that the hijackers used the libraries to send e-mails may have some merit to it, but I'm not willing to go allow all-out monitoring of the untold millions who use library computers for the chance that some of them may be hijackers. I wonder why he didn't suggest monitoring gun shops, since that would be a likely place for a hijacker to frequent. Or, hey, how about monitoring all the churches out there, since one of the followers may be the next Eric Robert Rudolph? I mean, in the first case there would be a much more likely chance of using the premises with an illicit purpose in mind, and in the second there's just as much chance of one of the many people using it being a terrorist as there is for the library. Heck, let's go all out and place traffic cameras in every room in the US! Better safe than sorry.
Mr. Murdock also states that libraries haven't been affected by the Patriot Act provisions. As Media Matters points out, that may not be true - how would we know when they can't SAY they've been affected?
Having a fondness for deCamp shouldn't be taken as proof of terrorism by itself - at worst it may be an argument for geekiness. And while it may be amusing to imagine Goths across the nation rounded up for reading Aliester Crowley, overall the net benefit would be close to zero.
Then he shakes his finger at the libraries for being zealous about privacy. What he appears to be saying is that since there is some chance that some person using the library could be a terrorist, there should be no privacy right whatsoever in the library. I repeat my earlier argument - why not say the same for gun shops, churches, mosques? At the least, they would seem a bit more likely. And when it comes to my privacy, I'm all for zealous. Heck, give me downright fanatical devotion.
Perhaps Mr. Murdock is still scarred from some traumatic reading experience in high school that's made him lash out at libraries in retribution. I suggest to him he buy the Cliffs Notes and get over it.
It's come out that Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council (who organized the anti-Democrat "Justice Sunday") and active practicer of holier-than-thou-ness not only addressed the Council of Conservative Citizens (which is to the Ku Klux Klan close to what Sinn Fein is to the I.R.A.) as recently as 2001, he also paid $82,000 for David Duke's mailing list back in 1996, when he was running a Republican Senate campaign in Louisiana. That's the David Duke who is an ex-Grand Wizard of the KKK, by the way.
Not only is Mr. Perkins apparently both sympathetic with racist views and eager to court people who have racist views, he also doesn't have the courage to admit any of this. Asked later on about this issue, he said he never had anything to do with Duke, even though he had signed the purchase order for the mailing list. I guess he just signs purchase orders worth $82,000 so much that one more just didn't register with him.
So, you people who follow the Family Research Council...need to scratch?
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
An AP article today mentions that - once again - the search for WMDs in Iraq has ended. It actually ended around January 12th, but now Charles Duelfer has finished inspecting the remaining documents and the like. What did he find?
Nothing. None of the Iraqi drones that were poised to attack the U.S., none of the "mobile biological labs", not even any of the weapons Rumsfeld pinpointed with stunning accuracy via map dowsing, apparently. No real evidence of the last hope for the "one-armed WMD" people, that the missing weapons were transported to Syria before the war. In other words, the whole WMD issue was, at the least, seriously overblown. Like a force 5 hurricane is, at the least, a reason to cancel a picnic.
That doesn't matter to many people, who say that the Iraqi war was justified for other reasons, namely Saddam's brutal dictatorship. This may be true - however, this was not how Bush and the war's supporters pitched it. In the Joint Resolution, the main issue is Saddam's supposed weapons buildup, with human rights and UN sanctions being a distant second and third. In speeches again and again, the weapon issue was hit hard and often, with abuse stories playing the roles of understudies. The truth is America knew Saddam was a bastard and an inhuman man who made Caligula seem like Mr. Rogers since at least 1991, if not before - and mostly didn't think this reason was enough to go to war. It was after 9/11, and after the President and his staff began saying Saddam was armed to the teeth (and not incidentally implying over and over that Iraq/Hussein was also involved in 9/11, something completely unproven) that the invasion became palatable to the public.
Simply put - the WMD issue is what the Iraqi war was mainly about, and now that's it's been shown to be wrong, there should be consequences. You don't treat argument for going to war like an Oreo cookie, splitting apart the wrong facts and only ingesting the right ones. If nothing else, the intelligence failures must make us very nervous about Iran and North Korea, vis-a-vis nuclear power. Do we have the right information, do we have the wrong information, can we just say that they're dictators and therefore it doesn't matter about anything else? It does. I have no doubt that Saddam's evilness was on the minds of Bush and company. But if you're told your house is infested with termites and must be destroyed, and after you find it wasn't, you wouldn't accept an excuse of, "Well, the home's value was going down anyway."
Again, Bush and company cannot dodge the blame for the mistakes they made on the grounds that they did some good things. However, Bush and company shouldn't be condemned for the good they did because they made some mistakes.
The elections in Iraq were an inspiring time - and it should shame us that people here kvetch about bad weather and skip voting while Iraqis risked attacks to do so. The fact that Iraq may - and I do emphasize may - became a democracy should be hoped for and encouraged. And Bush and company should get the credit for that. Again, you don't just take the parts of the argument YOU agree with, like the cream in an Oreo, and ignore those annoying other parts you don't prefer. Accept it all - there were mistakes made and there were successes done. People who demand total exoneration or total excoriation are completely wrong.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Mr. Baxley has some good points - no student should ever earn a grade based on anything but their work in the course. (Even athletes, my mind wonders? How will Miami and Florida field players?) Now, who could argue that? No one.
But then he takes it right over the cliff, stating that students have "...a right to expect that their academic freedom and the quality of their education will not be infringed upon by instructors who persistently introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to the subject of study and serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose." And his example of "controversial matter" that "has no relation to the subject of study" and "serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose"?
"Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” [Rep. Dennis] Baxley [R-Ocala] said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue."
So, if a professor refused to teach Intelligent Design - a proposal seriously derided by most, if not all, biologists and generally regarded as Creationism Lite by most scientific people - he should be sued. Galileo said "E pur si muove" in vain in Florida - I can see some person suing over the Copernican theory soon.
A danger sign was when David Horowitz helped write this bill. David - who never sees something bad that he can't blame liberals for - is on a crusade, and like Don Quixote, keeps on seeing monsters where windmills placidly turn. Mr. Horowitz has trumpeted bias in two cases - one in Northern Colorado and one in California - that have turned out to be far from accurate. The Northern Colorado one differed widely from what he claimed, and the California one - well, I'll link to the essay in question, and let you decide whether or not it deserved an "F". Here it is.(*) After you read it, keep in mind that Horowitz thinks the ONLY reason the student failed the paper was b/c of a pro-American bias, and ask yourself if this man is one you can trust on these claims. David would scream conservative bias if a Republican failed for writing a paper in French for a Spanish test.
To end on a depressing note, Texas appears to be joining Florida as states with their elbow firmly on the scientific pulse. Tennessee v. Scopes 2 - The Return! coming soon to a court near you.
(*) - If this link doesn't work, use the link inside the Media Matters article. I had copied that link over but on trying it I get a "Page Not Found" message, whereas the one inside the MM article still works. Sorry for the confusion.
Take a look at his site - it's a good one.
You've probably heard of the "nuclear option" being tossed about by REPUBLICANS. In case you haven't, this is the REPUBLICAN response to Democratic filibustering of certain judicial nominations - 10 out of 250 or so (.04%), much less than the REPUBLICANS blocked during Clinton's term, but I digress.
Anyway, the REPUBLICANS have threatened that if the Democrats don't let the nominations go through, they will rewrite the rule book that guides the Congress and eliminate filibustering in toto. This has been dubbed the "nuclear option", as per the REPUBLICANS terminology. In fact, Trent Lott, a REPUBLICAN, is the one who came up with the term.
However, that term is getting pretty bad press. It's not a polite, tea-and-crumpets term, and apparently the REPUBLICAN pollsters started seeing signs that it was turning off voters. So what have they done? An Orweillian rewrite of history - it's not the REPUBLICANS who called it that, it's the opponents! On talking shows, on interviews, on press releases, the REPUBLICANS now say they call it "constitutional option" or various other names. Kinda reminds you of the "privatization" label, doesn't it?
So, how dumb do they think we are?
Apparently, in the press, they are pretty dumb. Several papers have been printing their claims that the REPUBLICANS didn't use that term, the opponents did - without mentioning this is a bold faced lie. Screw "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is," this is, "I never said 'is' at all." And the press - that biased liberal press - isn't doing a thing about telling the truth.
Biased? Nah. Incompetent? Yep.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Smokey has fitted in pretty well after about three weeks of being out and about in the house. She's a young cat, so she loves to sneak attack the others (and our feet when we sleep, doing that kittenish "waitwaitwait, now lean back and POUNCE" move!) Shadow takes it well and will play with her, Robin takes it or leaves it, and Casper - who until Smokey came was the smallest cat here - seems to enjoy watching someone smaller than him try to fight. Ziggy, though, has still not quite decided Ms. Smokey is on the up-and-up, and unleashes a truly fearsome hiss whenever he sees her. This is not helped by the fact that Smokey is a bit of a greedmoe, and has tried to shove Ziggy - who probably outweighs her three-to-one and is at least half again as big as she is - out of the way of his food dish.
This went over about as well as the KKK guy who crashed the Black Panther meeting in full regalia. Only with less hissing and swatting. I don't foresee Ziggy and Smokey cuddling up together anytime soon.
Call for the disenfranchisement of courts that rule in ways you don't like. The reliable lapdog DeLay is already spouting similar themes, saying "We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," in a Q and A w/reporters.
Dobson and Perkins seem to have a real hatred for the courts. Dobson said regarding the Schiavo case, "Every Florida and federal judge who failed to act to spare this precious woman from the torment she was forced to endure"..." is guilty not only of judicial malfeasance — but of the cold-blooded, cold-hearted extermination of an innocent human life." And Perkins, not to be outdone, also stated, "In Terri's case, the courts have shown that they are suffering from a persistent state of arrogance,"... "Her death is a symptom of a greater problem: that the courts no longer respect human life." Now, to me, these comments are only a few steps of sanity away from people who swear the Judge/Courts/Entire Legal System is out to get them b/c they insisted on little things like parole requirements or not driving drunk, but then again, I'm not a power-mad preacher. Apparently self-appointed holiness gives one special exemptions from rationality.
So Perkins and Dobson are now saying, in essence, that courts that rule contrary to how they feel should be disbanded. Scroll to "The Inmates Are In Charge of the Asylum" to see my views on that suggestion. The Ayatollahs are in the hiz-ouse, baby!
I will close this entry with an unknown prayer that gets more relevant to me every day:
"Dear God, protect me from your followers."
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I think we know who was the model for the detective: John Cloud. This is the man who wrote the hagiographic article on Ann Coulter in Time's 4/25/05 issue, in which he stated with absolutely no irony or hint of competence: "Coulter has a reputation for carelessness with facts, and if you Google the words "Ann Coulter lies," you will drown in results. But I didn't find many outright Coulter errors." The rather loud CRACK
Here are two sites that contain not a few, not some, but many, many, many of Ann Coulter's errors. Just in case you'd like some more, here's a no longer running site that also details her perpetual propensity to prevaricate. (One of the people who ran Spinsanity has another site now - http://www.brendan-nyhan.com/blog/ - that I check daily, as well The Daily Howler, linked above. I also receive e-mails from Media Matters. While Spinsanity was and Brendan Nyhan's blog is neutral, Daily Howler tends to be liberal with occasional shots at liberal news coverage, and Media Matters is an organization made to show conservative errors and bias. However, I find their posts well researched and backed by facts, so I recommend them in spite of the bias.)
Ann Coulter is like Michael Moore. I would love to have these two meet one day, to see if there's a such thing as political antimatter. And if they both should happen to explode, discourse would take a quantum leap upward in factual content.
By the way, I'm happy I don't subscribe to Time. In this case, a stopped clock is not only wrong, it's downright fictional.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
"I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offences among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower... In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1% of priests are guilty of acts of this type...The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the Church. It is a logical and well-founded conclusion."
...and I think that this can be seen with little exaggeration as a slap in the face towards the abuse victims. Also, apparently, Ratzinger believes in the Vast Media Conspiracy (VMC) along with various out-there liberals and conservatives. Good company to be in.
Be that as it may, we'll have to see what happens. A long time ago - about four years - I predicted that there would be a schism in the Catholic Church within ten years. I said this at the time because I felt there was a broad support for things like letting priests get married and having women priests that were being tamped down by the Cardinals and the Pope. After that, the rephrensible sex scandals hit. When I heard that Ratzinger was a leading candidate, I said this might be the wedge that splits the Church open. Now he's Pope. Especially if we find out that Ratzinger did indeed treat the monsters more fairly then he treats, say, gay people who want to get married, I wonder how many Catholics will leave the church or if they will indeed decide to make another one. I could be wrong - Ratzinger may turn out to be the Papal Justice Kennedy - but I have to say I'm not too hopeful right now.
For what it's worth...
Yes, he was a Hitler Youth and "fought" for the Nazis. However, he joined in 1942, and it was legally mandated to be a Hitler Youth since 1941. (Also, in sort of the same way, all members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party weren't in it because they liked graft, torture, and really neat secret decoder rings, but because not joining it insured a life on the outside of good jobs and possible advancement.) As for the fighting, Germany was impressing teenagers and elderly men to fight for the Nazis as the war was ending, and Ratzinger manned an anti-aircraft gun in front of an aircraft engine factory, claiming he never fired the gun. I don't like Ratzinger, but I don't hold the Hitler Youth membership against him unless proof comes out he was a fervent follower, and the "fighting" I also can understand. Now, he could have done more, i.e. joined the Resistance or fought back, but that would be a "sin of omission" thing. From what I can tell, he's not guilty of a "sin of commission."
So why don't I like him? Basically, religion should be inclusive in my views. The single most important verse in the Bible is, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." People that I don't see as sinners - gays, divorced people, people who have abortions in cases of rape, incest or risk to mother's life - are condemned by this man and in very strident terms. So I cannot bring myself to like him. You can argue all he's doing is following doctrinal views, and that's fine - I still don't have to like the fact he's following and not, in my view, improving them.
* - According to The Observer, then-Cardinal Ratzinger asserted the rights to hold secret hearings and to keep evidence hidden for ten years after the victims reached adulthood in the sex abuse scandal. Letting out any evidence (breaching the secret) carries many penalities, one of them excommunication, for the priest that does so. If this document is true, Pope Benedict XVI is guilty of at the very least a cover-up of child abuse. Just the kind of man we need at the head of the Catholic Church.
If you really like to read, you'll want to check out an author named Jasper Fforde. He's written a series of books that star heroine Tuesday Next that deals - well, how to describe it? It's another world, where Shakespeare collections are mandatory in hotel rooms. Where literary crimes like forging and bad translations have their own investigative bureau. Where little literature in-jokes are made constantly that readers will howl over. There are four books in this series so far, and his website will help you spot some jokes and even offers "book upgrades".
Check the books out.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
One of the tossed-about arguments against Michael Schiavo was that he abused his wife. There was little to no evidence of this, mind you - a bone scan that showed damage that couldn't be traced at all was the only physical evidence anyone had, and the public testimony showed a lot of doubt about that. Of course, that didn't stop the particularly riled people from claiming that a.)Michael was killing Terri to hide abuse/because he had put her in the hospital in the first place and b.)his abuse was ongoing and continuous - ask Carla Sauer Iyer, for example.
The AP has a story today that says Florida's Department of Children and Families investigated 89 complaints of abuse and exploitation and found no evidence of either. Eighty-nine times they were called to investigate abuse or exploitation by either Michael or Terri's family (who were accused of, among other things, selling videotapes of her online) and eighty-nine times they found no evidence. You would think even the most incompetent people, after getting eighty-nine swings at a ball, would managed get a piece of it. Add the eighty-nine investigations to the long list of oversight that people seem to ignore when they argue about this case.
So, as I posted before, do you think any of the people who made such claims will step up to the plate, be mature, and apologize for their gross inaccuracies/lies? Or do you think we'll get more statements like this from the Schindler's lawyer, David C. Gibbs:
“The third leading theory — and as you can see, the first two seem to be sort of eliminated — is that there was some form of foul play, that some form of strangulation or violence occurred, and again at the hand of the husband possibly, that actions were taken that caused her for about five minutes to not have oxygen reach into her brain.”
“Terri Schiavo was as alive as any person sitting here tonight…,” he told the crowd. “I mean, completely animated, completely responsive, desperately trying to talk.”
Lies, damned lies, and lies told to further your cause while having no shame. And this is from the so-called religious people, who say you need a God to have ethics. They claim to believe in God - where are their ethics when they tell these lies?
This truly places an ugly spin on the attempted seizure of Terri Schiavo from her nursing home on the orders on Jeb Bush. Without any reason, he tried to circumvent a court ruling by force, and the only reason there wasn't shooting was because the local police let it be known they would refuse to back down. I also note that not too many people have called him on this attempted kidnapping. I know a lot of people have been screaming about imperial judges, but what the heck would you call this action then - rule by fiat? Martial law? It's bad when one side makes its own law (which it didn't) but it's okay when MY side does, huh? Hypocrites.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Fox News host: Repeat after me
If the conservative guests on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes" sound especially on-message, that's because they're being coached by the best:
Sean Hannity himself.
On the March 31 installment of the shouting-head show, the guests included two of the late Terri Schiavo's former nurses, Trudy Capone and Carla Sauer Iyer, arguing that their patient wasn't brain-dead.
Between commercials, according to an off-air audiotape obtained by investigative comedian Harry Shearer for last Sunday's episode of his weekly radio program, "Le Show," Hannity coached the women on exactly how to respond when liberal co-host Alan Colmes cross-examined them.
"Just say, 'I'm here to tell what I saw,'" Hannity can be heard instructing his guests. "No matter what the question, 'I'm here to tell you what I saw. I'm here to tell you what I saw.'"
Hannity adds helpfully: "Say, 'I'm not going to be distracted by silliness.' How's that? Does that help you? Look into that camera. Look at me when I'm talking."
On the air, Iyer performs beautifully. "I don't have any opinions or judgments. I was there," she declares
After the segment ends, Hannity gushes off the air to the nurses: "We got the points out. It's hard, this isn't easy. But you did great, both of you. Thank you, guys. Those nurses are powerful, aren't they?"
On his radio show, Shearer injected: "Yeah, especially when they do what you tell 'em to do. Very powerful when they follow instructions from the host!"
A Fox News flack didn't respond to Lowdown's detailed message yesterday.
Carla Sauer Iyer has some credibility issues, so she could use a little coaching. When you add this moment to the discredited "Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine" nominated doctor being pushed by Hannity, you almost start to think there's some bias being shown by him, to the point of pushing doubtful facts and lies as solid evidence. To quote Captain Renault, "I am shocked!"
The organizer of this teleconference is Mr. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. In a message on their web site, he writes:
"A day of decision is upon us. Whether it was the legalization of abortion, the banning of school prayer, the expulsion of the 10 Commandments from public spaces, or the starvation of Terri Schiavo, decisions by the courts have not only changed our nation's course, but even led to the taking of human lives. As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism.For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU, have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms. Federal judges have systematically grabbed power, usurping the constitutional authority that resides in the other two branches of government and, ultimately, in the American people."
Bill Frist apparently thinks this rhetoric is okay and fine. He doesn't worry that a judicial jihad call could possibly be a bad thing. This is exactly the kind of man you want in charge of the Senate, isn't it?
Let's look at these claims voiced by Mr. Perkins.
"Legalization of abortion" - okay, so you feel Roe v. Wade was wrong, apparently. Does this mean you want no abortions at all?
"Banning of school prayer" - obviously, Mr. Perkins prefers hyperbole to fact. You are allowed to pray in school - pop tests have proven this time and again. What can't happen is a teacher-led prayer or praying that causes a disruption to the class. Now, I will admit that some schools have pushed the definition of disruption to an extreme, but I will also state that many pro-prayer people are pushing to the opposite extreme by demanding teacher-led prayer. (I wonder if they'd compromise - I'll allow school prayer to be teacher-led as long as it's a prayer to Allah. Or do you think that maybe they're pushing for just Christian prayers? Couldn't be that, could it?)
"the expulsion of the Ten Commandments from public places" - I think he would mean Alabama's case mainly, since the others are still in litigation. I can state with certainty that in Alabama the Ten Commandments monument - Roy Moore's two ton ego trip - was removed after several court orders, and even the lawyer representing the Bush Administration in other Ten Commandment cases in Texas and Kentucky says his display "probably does cross the constitutional line." What you don't hear is that Governor Bob Riley later unveiled an exhibit at the Capitol that also had the Ten Commandments with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, making it not just a religious homage. The only protest about this display came from Roy Moore himself, who claims that to surround the Ten Commandments w/other documents of law secularizes it. (At least he's upfront about his agenda.) But in this case, not all displays have been expelled. So, again, hyperbole ho!
"starvation of Terri Schiavo" - as stated in a previous entry, the law was followed. If Mr. Perkins has a problem with the law, he should be blaming the legislature who passed said law instead of the judges who ruled in accordance with it. Of course, that would nullify the political taint here.
So here we have the unholy combination of religious froth with political power seeking. Not done by a fringe group, but by the major people in the Republican party itself. It's moving more and more towards an actual theocratic party, and this has got to be disturbing to some people in the Republican party itself. The Republicans are increasingly showing themselves to have all the characteristics of a person driven by religious mania to proselytize people on the street to the point of harassment - and just a small step away from attacking those people who don't agree with their particular brand of fervor. It's a small step from being persuaded you're right to believing that everyone who doesn't agree with you is wrong, and an even smaller step from there to demonizing the people who don't agree with you. "Democrats are against people of faith" has to be one of those steps. There are some questions about some of the nominees that aren't religious - for example, Alberto Gonzales himself has criticized some of Priscilla Owen's opinions, calling them "activist". (This will surely become the "L word" for judges.) In some cases, there are questions about if their strong religious views would affect them in their rulings and actions - for example, Richard Pryor (who got a recess appointment to a judgeship) assisted Roy Moore in his Ten Commandments case by appointing private lawyers to help him for as long as he could before being forced to order the removal. On the one hand, that does show Pryor will follow the law - on the other hand, it also shows that if he doesn't agree with the law, he won't until all avenues of argument has been exhausted. I would call this something that needs to be explored, not because I'm anti-religion, but because it's a legitimate question. (The links above are to a site that is against most of Bush's appointees, but I believe the facts are still correct.)
Just because you wonder if people can follow the law/do their job when their religious views are against it in no way makes you a priori against people of faith. Consider the pharmacists who are refusing to fill prescriptions if it goes against their beliefs - does protesting against their acts make you anti-religious, or pro-them doing the job they were hired to do? I know that if I was told a person wouldn't fill one of my prescriptions because it conflicted with their beliefs, I would recommend they get another job quickly AND that they fill the prescription anyway - their beliefs aren't mine and I shouldn't be held to them. Would that make me against people of faith?
This is just the latest step in the Republicans becoming a party that wants to use religion in its politics, or even for its politics, and is getting closer to labeling people who don't agree anti-religious even if religion is only a peripheral issue. They're moving away from the podium and towards an altar. I think it's a dangerous step, and wonder how many other Republicans feel this way as well.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Well, he does have a point that no right/position is truly and utterly unbound. Speech has prohibitions on slander and fighting words. The press cannot print libel knowingly. You can't gather willy-nilly but can be required to get permits and only gather at certain times. Polygamy is banned, as is drug taking, so some religious rituals aren't legal. Therefore, saying you are for "free speech" or the like does not equal no restrictions, but simply free "whatever" as it has commonly been defined in public and the laws. So yes, simply admitting that a "whatever" has exceptions does not mean you have become a hypocrite for holding for "whatever" before.
But how far down does it go before you do become a hypocrite? To use his example in the second paragraph, I'm for free speech but would vehemently oppose any law that allowed someone to publish my private information. Not a hypocrite. But what if I supported one that disallows certain songs to be played b/c they're felt to be obscene? Or what if I felt that during times of war there shouldn't be any critical jokes about the President? Or that a certain obscenity or racial term shouldn't be used? I think it's pretty obvious that there is a line there; and at a certain point you do become a hypocrite for accepting an exception to a belief.
So, there is a line. Simply stating there are exceptions to all positions does not make one a hypocrite, but at the same time it does not exempt them from being one either. It's the degree to which the exceptions are allowed. So now we look at the Schiavo case and federalism.
Basically, many Republicans are on records as being for state's rights, which is generally taken to mean the federal government should allow the states to run themselves as long as they follow the U.S. Constitution overall. (Yes, yes, there's more to it that that, but I don't want a 16 page long thesis before I argue the A.I. post!) The states are independent units, allowed to run themselves.
Along comes the Schiavo case. This case was tried many, many years in many, many Florida courts. It was appealed from state to appeals and from appeals to the Florida Supreme Court many times over many different areas. The case dragged on for over ten years before the federal government, at the demands of Frist and DeLay and other Republicans, got involved. What they did - insinuating the federal government into a state matter - is generally taken as a repudiation in this case of the usually held view of federalism. Stuart Buck argues that's not necessarily so. I have to disagree.
Again, simply because the usual state's rights people felt that the case was powerful enough to warrant intervention doesn't excuse the charge of hypocrisy. In this case it actually solidifies it. Ten years of hearing, many courts, many judges. This wasn't a fly-by-night, quickie, hidden case. It was in the open and in the news. It had been tried and retried. So what did DeLay and Frist and others think warranted federal intervention? It couldn't have been a suspicion that the case was tried wrongly by the law - surely someone would have noticed an error in law in lo those many trips through the system. Nothing was noticed. It seems to have solely been that they didn't like the way that the Florida courts had ruled. And that is hypocritical. It's saying, "We believe in state's rights unless and until you do something we don't agree with." Substitute "free speech" or "a free press" in there, and the hypocrisy comes out. It's free - until we feel it shouldn't be.
World Peace Starts, A4/Aliens Make Contact, See A6
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Since my wife kicked some major butt on her GMAT, we celebrated by getting some unsung TV shows on DVD. One of them was the Cartoon Network's "Home Movies" - a jagged little animation that she found late one night trying to get our son to sleep and became quickly addicted to, and then hooked me on. It's one of those shows where the simple description - "A boy who likes to make home movies and how he deals with life" - just doesn't do it justice. If I recall correctly, it's also mostly unscripted, a la Spinal Tap, where the actors know what needs to come out in a scene but how they do it is up to them. It's very funny, and the first season's out on DVD now, with season 2 in May. It's also on at some insomniac hour on Monday morning - 1:30, 2 AM, something like that.
Another one we got was the very short lived series "Popular." The person who created this also created "Grosse Point Break" and now does "Nip/Tuck" on F/X. It's like a more snarky Gilmore Girls set mostly in high school, with good writing and great little toss-off lines. It also can be surprisingly serious at times, dealing with bulimia and racial issues in a way that wasn't too heavy-handed to forget the humor. That being said, it's still basically just a funny show to watch.
Although this next one has the buzz, it doesn't have the ratings, and that could spell disaster for "Arrested Development." I know you've heard about this show, and I promise you it is as good as you've heard. I will also confess that for a long while I was hit-or-miss on it. I loved it when I saw it, but if I missed it I could live. Contrast that with, say, "Scrubs" or "Gilmore Girls" or "Joan of Arcadia", where I set the home schedule around it; dinner has to be done so I can watch it, for example. Which was odd, because it was my kind of show - it has little jokes everywhere, and if you pay attention you end up laughing twice as much; for example, in one episode a character was walking along to the "Charlie Brown Christmas" theme, and just on the edge of the screen was a doghouse with a dog on top of it. Now I'm hooked on it too. We've got the first season on DVD, and the second season may be its last, so enjoy it while you can.
As noted above, other shows we watch on TV are "Scrubs" (living proof the Emmy's are out of date, that they've never won anything while shrill one-joke shows like Will & Grace do), "Gilmore Girls" (gotta love a show that references Oscar Levant in a put down), and "Joan of Arcadia" (another show on the bubble). I also like "The Shield" on F/X, but find it a little hard to watch now that Xander is old enough to wonder about some of the acts on there. Believe me, this is not a light show to watch, and it earned its TV-M rating. But it's still excellent, with the acting being superb. Glenn Close just joined the cast, and she doesn't show anyone up - THAT'S how good the acting is. We watch Law and Order now and again (since we have TNT it's impossible to miss it) but now prefer Law and Order, Special Victims Unit. I have to say I think L&O the original has peaked - they couldn't do anything w/Elisabeth Rohm's character, and she can act, as she proved on Angel when she was there. That's a sign the writing is starting to give way. But SVU is still excellent, and will probably become the standard bearer soon.
So, if you're looking for something to watch, give these a try. Of course, I have been accused of being more than a little strange, so these may not be to your taste. Caveat emptor.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Ziggy's our first and the oldest. We got him after my mom and dad had brought him home to replace a cat of theirs who had died. (I get my ailurophileness genetically, it seems.) Problem was, the other cats in their house didn't take too kindly to Ziggy, who then and now has strong opinions he doesn't hesitate to share; chief among them being that he's the ruler. So mom and dad called me to check him out and we kept him.
We weren't planning on getting two cats, but then Casper came. I used to work night shift at a bed-and-breakfast that had its own mascot cat. One early morning - around 2 AM - I got a call from the night shift maid who said that there was an awful yowling and howling outside, and could I check on it? I walked out and found the mascot cat busy expressing her opinion to a tiny, wide-eyed kitten who just stared at her and didn't move. He didn't seem afraid, mind you, just calmly sitting there until the harangue was done. I picked up the kitten to move it, and it snuggled in my hands - it fit in the palm of my hands, was how tiny it was - and purred so hard I felt it all the way through my shoulder. Okay, how could I not keep him? Of course, this little kitten managed to have the escape capability of a feline Houdini, getting out of the boxes I placed him in. "Yes, will this be on MasterCard or Visa, and can you catch that kitten please?"
Robin came by on his own. We were living in apartments, and some bastard who was moving out across the way decided a cat was too much effort for their overworked brain cell to take care of, so they pitched him out just as winter was starting. Lovely man. I hope he gets reincarnated as a mouse. Anyway, Robin went door to door scratching, trying to get in somewhere. We missed him one night - I got to the door too late to find out what the heck was going on - but the next night he came earlier, and when I opened the door to see what the noise was, Robin strolled on in. He still believes in taking matters in his own hands/paws - if he wants under the covers, he'll scrape them up until he can get under, even if you're next to him and can help. Now, I was going to do the right thing and give Robin back, until the manager told me that the person who pitched him would just do it again, and when she asked about the cat, he informed her that it had been hit right in front of his eyes by a car in the parking lot and he felt he should get a discount on rent for his suffering. Chutzpah is one thing, effrontery is another.
Okay, three cats now, and we're thinking time to ease off. Except, well, we're moving to a house soon, and there's this jet-black cat I've been feeding and trying to catch before we leave. I can't, so I try to put it out of my mind. I still go back to the apartments - the manager likes me and especially loves my son, who IS adorable (takes after mommy), and one day there's a jet black cat wandering the complex just after a big storm blew in. Didn't have a choice there, had to catch him. Of course, poor Shadow then had to stay at the vet's for almost a month, as they found he was FIV (HIV for cats) positive. However, a vaccination would have resulted in the positive result, and so a retest was done and sent in Canada. By the way, DHL services makes Bush's initial post-war plans for Iraq seem like the Lend-Lease program. They screwed it up every which way they could - we finally had to call the people ourselves to find out Shadow was okay. (The fact Shadow was vaccinated does show he was taken care of, but other people at the apartments confirmed that he had been hanging around for at least a few weeks, if not from the time I had been feeding the original jet-black cat, and getting thinner and thinner, so the general consensus is that if he was a house cat, he had been pitched out.) So now there's four.
We really didn't intend on five, but again, Bast decided to seek us out. My wife works at a place right next to the airport, which has a fire department. The fire department adopted a cat (their second) to help with the mice. Smokey liked to wander and often hung around my wife's workplace, where she was very tame and liked to sleep on cars. This offended some people, who began to make threats. She also wasn't used to being outside - I had to move her from behind a car that was trying to back up while she was rolling away behind it. The people making threats then began to say they'd take matters into their own hands - which must truly be a sign of low-self esteem to threaten a cat (Hello Wisconsin!) and so my wife and I decided to catch Smokey and bring her home before she got hurt by being too nice or by being a target.
So now we have five - and we truly intend to stay at five. Unless Bast decides different, of course.
(Of course, she's smart yet crazy, since she's stayed with me for over sixteen years! I guess it's true - humor does count for a lot in a marriage. Sometimes I even make her laugh when I'm trying to.)
Monday, April 11, 2005
It is beyond appalling to have Cardinal Bernard Law having a vote in who gets to be the next Pope. The man who was forced to resign from the Boston diocese after court documents showed he allowed pedophile priests to abuse kids - even commended them as they were abusing kids - is now one of the major voices in deciding who will be the next leader of the Catholic Church. Had he not been a Cardinal, I think he would have quite probably been tried for aiding and abetting the abuse of kids - instead, he gives funeral Masses for the Pope. He has an apartment at the Vatican and is the Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, instead of his deserved location of a jail cell and the title of Inmate#AJS6351.
There's usually a point in the rise and fall of institutions where you can see the rot has passed the point of healing. A sign of this point is allowing loathsome, lawbreaking, in some cases evil people as heads of the institution without condemnation, reprimand, or even mild censure. The Republicans were edging close to that point with DeLay, although now some people are stepping up and calling him out. (And how bad do you have to be to lose support from Rick Santorum?) The Catholic Church is letting a man who facilitated the abuse of kids to stay in power and pick the next Pope. They may want to read their Bibles, paying close attention to Matthew 18:6: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." I know translation is always an iffy thing, but surely that last part isn't: "better that he be moved to Rome and kept in his position of power, even unto picking the next leader of the Church.."
Skin that article, and be very scared at what they're saying. People who don't agree with your views are guilty of bad behavior in office, and should be impeached. (Said views being that juveniles should be allowed to be executed.) That off-the-wall comment came from Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly. Edwin Viera opines that Justice Kennedy's philosophy - and please note this is a direct quote here - "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law." Wow - Marxist AND Leninist? I guess Mr. Viera just couldn't get those two to skootch over a touch to include Trotskyist as well. Satanic as well, because Justice Kennedy struck down an anti-sodomy statute, which I assume was Lawrence v. Texas. "Love thy neighbor" in Mr. Viera's Torquemada-shaded view must have the codicil, "...unless they know show tunes a little too well." But Edwin isn't done yet! He adds a quote from the man whose very principles Kennedy genuflects to: "He (Stalin) had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,'" As Dana Milbank points out, the whole quote is ""Death solves all problems: no man, no problem." "Love thy neighbor...unless he knows show tunes a little too well or likes people who knows show tunes a little too well." Mr. Viera's Bible must have about 100 extra pages from all the add-ons he needs.
Now, before you think that this is the usual nutjobs prevalent on both sides of the aisle, look at who was both at the conference and supposed to attend the conference. Alan Keyes was one, the perennial bridesmaid at the Republican Presidential primaries. Roy Moore, the judge from Alabama who made a name for himself by using the Ten Commandments as political theater. And Tom DeLay himself - the Leader of the House - was supposed to attend this conference, before being called away to the Pope's funereal. These are not just fringe people - these are people who are front and center in the Republican Party now. Did you hear anyone condemn these sayings, perhaps say they were a little too much and a little over the top? I haven't. Guess the liberal media took the day off or something.
These people are basically saying that when the law happens to interfere with their beliefs, the law is wrong. See Terri Schiavo for example, but here Mr. Michael Farris makes his wishes known in a way that has the Founding Fathers spinning in their graves. He would allow Congress to vacate court decisions. So, if the law is followed exactly as written and there is no problem in the case itself, but these latter day Ayatollahs feel it's wrong, the law is wrong
These people want to filter the Constitution, federal laws and state laws through a religious barrier and are calling for the drastic rewrite of the separation of powers idea to gain that power. I have not heard one Republican condemn these ideas yet. This is religion as politics in its most overt and frightening form, and they have some major people in the Republican Party who feel like they do. If any Republican happens to read this site, might I suggest it may be time for a splinter group in your party?
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Well, it comes out in the news today that contrary to claims from several conservative sites and papers, that repellent and non-shocking Schiavo memo was indeed belched forth from the Republican side. There are still some questions about the story itself, but the faked document claims are now shown to be tissue thin. Don't hold your breath waiting for an en masse retraction - I've only seen Snarkbait.com issue anything close to a real apology. The usual response is more akin to Power Line's "Yeah, but..." view. (Note to anyone interested - those are my first hyperlinks in a blog! Pop the champagne, if they work.)
Some thoughts on this whole deal:
Yes, it was a political maneuver equivalent of a $10 hooker, but why was it so shocking? I abhor it, but I'm not surprised. Politicians are almost by definition looking at any event and seeing how it can help a.)themselves and b.)their party, usually in this order. Someone just took what several people thought and wrote it down and let it get out. So be appalled, but don't be taken aback - which is another way of saying, hey, you elected these guys knowing them to be bastards, so don't come crying to me when they overachieve in that area. And any Democrats feeling smug should watch out - there's probably a "How Schiavo's death helps Ward 3 incumbent" guide out there.
As I said above, the responses I've seen from many people who had been pushing conspiracy theories with all the zeal of Kennedy assassination revisionists seem to focus on the current problems of the reporting of the memo, and not the fact that they were wrong in their accusations. Now, there are some problems with the reporting still - Power Line lists them, and they have a case in some areas. But pointing out the problems NOW doesn't exempt you from being wrong about other facts THEN. A simple, "We blew it, but here's some issues we have" would have been nice - a mature apology and some information as well. But when people swear eternal allegiance to one side and eternal enmity to the other, apologies are hard to come by. On a related note, if the autopsy of Terri Schiavo shows her brain to be mostly liquefied, should I sit by the TV, waiting for all the people who said she was fine - and even speaking - to offer their sincere regrets? While I'd love to see Randall Terry choke out a mea culpa, I don't plan on dying (without life support, Mr. DeLay and Frist) by the TV while waiting.
The press certainly isn't clean in all this either. Some of the original facts were either misstated grossly or wrong - for example, it wasn't a Talking Points Memo distributed to the leaders. And it was all the missteps from before - Rathergate, Gore's "I invented the Internet" urban legend, Tailwind, etc. etc. ad infinitum - that allows doubt to creep in and solidify. Before, claims of the press being taken in by faked memos may have been believed in the extreme edges of both parties (where MY side is always right and YOUR side is always wrong, forever and ever amen) and shrugged at by the rest. But now, even people who aren't so welded to a viewpoint can have doubts. It's not going to be easy to recover all the lost trust, and more incidents like this will surely happen.
(Since I started this blog after Mrs. Schiavo had died, I'll state my views on her case. While Michael Schiavo is not the most sympathetic person, I do feel the case was handled rightly. It had been through the courts several times for several reasons, and no one has ever found a legal reason to overturn it. You can hate the way she died - I do - and think the law needs correcting, but Judge Greer and the many people above him followed the law.)
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
I'm married, which probably comes as a shock to many former classmates in high school, and have one son. I also have five cats, four guys and the newest one a gal, who sits in my lap as I type this, giving me a golden-orange editorial eye. I love to read, to the tune of over 4100 books, and have too many favorite authors to name, although hopefully at some point I'll recommend some and link to them as well when I get my blog legs under me. I also love many kinds of music as well, ranging from Warren Zevon to Nine Inch Nails, the Beatles to Green Day, and Led Zeppelin to Bruce Springsteen. Okay, not bold and daring, but wide ranging.
In politics, I try to stay independent from both sides, but tend to agree more with the Democrats. However, I find both sides tend to be well represented by the single-digit IQ people and stay independent to try and keep some self-respect by not admitting that my side has people like Tom DeLay or Ted Kennedy. (There may be no "i" in team, but for these guys and several others, "me" is certainly paramount.) You'll find out more of my leanings as time goes on, since I usually end up outraged at something political once a week or more and feel the need to vent, usually to my long-suffering wife or the uncaring cats.
This C.V. is pretty much an outline; just a starting point. After all, you find out more from people when they're in conversation than when they're on a resume. While it's more than you usually discover on a first date, I'll stop with the listing and start with the posting, which will be more revealing anyway.
Welcome to the inaugural post of Owned By Cats, a blog that will tell the thoughts and feelings of yours truly. It will touch on several topics, like politics, cats, books, cats, music, cats, home life, cats, and humorous stuff. Oh, and feline things as well.
My name is Brian, and I'll confess right off that I'm pretty much new at the whole online public diary deal, so forgive any mistakes in links and the like. Any corrections offered will be appreciated, any comments will be welcomed, any arguments will be, well, argued, and any offers of an illicit nature will be printed for late-night laughs or late-night instructions for my wife and I. Assuming, of course, the cats haven't claimed the bed.
Hope to see you again, in the cyberworld sense.