Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The wages of sin are often a private jet 

brat at dave's birthday party

Gordon Bigelow challenges the dominant neoclassical school of economic thought in the May 2005 edition of Harper's. In "Let There Be Markets", he writes,

The problem is that the story told by economics simply does not conform to reality. This can be seen clearly enough in the recent, high-profile examples of the failure of free-market thinking - how media giants have continued to grow, or how loose accounting regulations have destroyed countless millions in personal wealth. But mainstream economics also fails at a more fundamental level, in the way it models basic human behavior. The core assumption of standard economics is that humans are fundamentally individual rather than social animals. The theory holds that all economic choices are in fact authentic, unmediated selfhood, rational statements reflecting who we are and what we want in life. But in reality, even our purely "economic" choices are not made on the basis of pure autonomous selfhood; all of our choices are born out of layers of experience in contact with other people. What is entirely missing from the economic view of modern life is an understanding of the social world.

Bigelow illustrates his point by offering an example in the extreme,

If you bought a Ginsu knife at 3:00 A.M., a neoclassical economist will tell you that, at that time, you calculated that this purchase would optimize your resources.

The article continues on to place the roots of modern economic theory in the early 1800's Christian fundamentalist belief that God created an orderly and rationally knowable universe and when the free-market failed the impoverished, it was a designed spiritual condition - part of God's orderly Creation - not a problem in need of fixing,

In the 1820s evangelicals were a dominant force in British economic policy ... their first major impact was in dismantling the old parish-based system of aiding the poor and aging, a policy battle that resulted in the Poor Law Amendment of 1834 ... The Poor Law nationalized and monopolized poverty administration. It forbade cash payments to any poor citizen and mandated that the only recourse be the local workhouse. Workhouses became orphanages, insane asylums, nursing homes, public hospitals, and factories for the able-bodied. Protests over the conditions in these prison-like facilities, particularly the conditions for children, mounted throughout the 1830s. But it did not surprise the evangelicals to learn that life in the workhouses was miserable. These early faith-based initiatives regarded poverty as a divinely sanctioned payment-plan for a sinful life.

The article concludes that economists ought to let go of thinking of markets as governed by scientific laws and standing as a perfect self-regulating system, divinely mandated or not,

The first evangelicals fought for free trade because they thought it would encourage virtuous behavior, but two centuries of capitalism have taught a different lesson, many times over. The wages of sin are often, and notoriously, a private jet and a wicked stock-option package. The wages of hard moral choice are often $5.15 an hour.

The whole issue of this Harper's is riveting, particularly if you're interested in the current influence of American fundamentalism in politics. The issue is also given enthusiastic props by I cite, Mahablog, MyDD, Consolation Champs, and Liberal Rapture.

Also, don't miss the brilliant 5 page adaptation from the English translation of the Czech Europeana: A Brief History Of The Twentieth Century by Patrik Ourednik, which begins and ends,

The Americans who fell at Normandy in 1944 were tall men measuring 68 inches on average, and if they were laid head to foot they would measure 24 miles. The Germans were tall, too, but the tallest of all were the Senegalese, who measured 69 inches, and so they were sent into battle on the front lines in order to scare the Germans ... And in 1989 an American political scientist invented a theory about the end of history, according to which history had actually come to an end because modern science and new means of communication allowed people to live in prosperity and universal prosperity was the guarantee of democracy and not the contrary, as the Enlightenment philosophers had once believed. And citizens were actually consumers and consumers were also citizens and all forms of society evolved toward liberal democracy and liberal democracy would in turn lead to the demise of all authoritarian forms of government and to political and economic freedom and equality and a new age in human history but it would no longer be historical. But lots of people did not know the theory and continued to make history as if nothing had happened.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 30 

lowering sun glistening on the water

April 30, 2005 - Yesterday, the cool weather and mostly cloudy sky kept most people away from the lake. Same today.

Today's "lake" picture shows two American Coots and ripples left by a third that had just gone diving for a fish.

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minneapolis minneapolis
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water water
lake lake

Friday, April 29, 2005

Rectangles and scales 

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 29 

minneapolis through a tree

Yesterday, it was partly cloudy, as it was today. But today, I first noticed the absence of American Coots on the lake.

It's usually easier to notice the presence of things than their absence.

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bench bench
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water water
ice ice

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 28 


Yesterday, it was spitting tiny raindrops. Today, there were swarms of tiny white bugs and the lake shimmered like warping glass.

Today's picture of Minneapolis across the lake was taken without the wide-angle and gives a better idea of what the city looks like from the far side of Lake Calhoun.

footbridge footbridge
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tunnel tunnel
water water
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lake lake

Good day 

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

I ate chicken three suppers in a row, the Captain is still quacking about Iraqi WMD 

chicken, yam and broccoli

Captain Quack is still hoping to find Iraq's nonexistent WMD,

The data remains inconclusive, and that's all. ISG could not go into Syria, nor into the Bekaa Valley that until this week was controlled by Syria, to determine if any kind of transfers took place. The only conclusion they could reach is that official transfers never took place, meaning that Saddam's files contained no records of any such movement of materiel between Iraq and Syria.

The president's Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction leaves no room for such doubt,

The Intelligence Community fundamentally misjudged the status of Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical programs. While the Intelligence Community did accurately assess certain aspects of Iraq's programs, the Community's central pre-war assessments - that Iraq had biological and chemical weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program - were shown by the post-war findings to be wrong724.

The doubt is removed in footnote 724 (emphasis added),

724Some reporting indicated that Iraq may have moved biological and chemical weapons stockpiles to Syria just prior to the start of the war in March 2003. CIA, Title Classified (Dec. 13, 2004) (citing one classified intelligence report (March 2003) from a foreign service). The security situation along the border between Iraq and Syria prevented the ISG from conclusively ruling out the possibility that such weapons were transported across the border. Interview with Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence Charles Duelfer (Oct. 13, 2004). It is important to note, however, that, given the overall findings of the ISG, there was nothing left to move by March 2003, save possibly some pre-1991 CW shells. Therefore, the conclusion that militarily significant stockpiles of CW or BW could not have been moved to Syria just before the war necessarily follows from the ISG's overall findings about the state of Iraq's WMD programs after 1991.

Lake Calhoun several days ago ago on April 27 


Before, it was warm enough to go biking in shorts. Today, I wore jeans and everything was very colorful from the rain and the spring.

Keeping in the swing of things brings comfort to a troublesome existence.

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water water
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lake lake
playground playground

Today's lines 

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Republican fillibuster, right-wing liars 

A gem from From Our Man in the Dark, Mark Levin,

[The left-wing has] to lie, they cannot debate truthfully on the substance, nor will they. But what's the truth? The Republicans have never filibustered against any judicial nominee ever. Period.

From the Senate's historical minutes 1964-present: In 1968 Republicans filibustered Abe Fortas, President Johnson's nominee for Supreme Court Chief Justice. Levin can't debate truthfully on the substance. Nor will he. He's in the dark.

More Republican filibusters of judicial nominees ...

I ate some chicken yesterday 

popeye's chicken

I noted last September that major al Qaeda attacks increased after Bush launched his "war on terror". New data show the number of terrorist attacks tripled in 2004 from the record number in 2003.

I ate some chicken legs 

chicken legs

And President Bush called for democratic reform across the Middle East everywhere except in the autocratic Kingdom of the Crown Prince who called for the reforms along his side.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A few lines 

I've been drawing lines. It relaxes my mind.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Lake Calhoun about a week ago on April 22 


Mid last week, I had not yet gone over the edge. This week, I'm on quetiapine, paroxetine and zolpidem to tame panic disorder.

Keeping track of day to day changes did not fix me on it's own: modern pharmacology helped too.

- Erik

footbridge footbridge
path path
bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
water water
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lake lake
playground playground

Monday, April 18, 2005

Uninsured absense 

I've been in the hospital since Thursday. Back soon with great stories!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rush Limbaugh is with the terrorists. Sean Hannity, with the terrorists. The Wall Street Journal, with the terrorists. 

So, this right-wing freakazoid Richard Miniter wrote a book popularizing the lie that Sudan offered the Clinton administration bin Laden's head on a plate but the administration repeatedly refused the offer. The lie is one concocted by the Sudanese government.

Yes, that Sudan - the same Sudan that's on our list of state sponsors of terror. Yes, the same government that recently murdered millions of it's own citizens in Darfur.

But Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, the Wall Street Journal and a bunch of other right-wingers think Sudan's outrageous claim makes pretty good material. One cannot take these people seriously. What the hell?

Bad picture of an interesting meal 

I forgot to turn on the flash. Here is what I want to say: in America, most of us are conditioned to feel more lucky than compassionate.

Yes we are lucky to have been born here, but more people are less fortunate elsewhere. My meal was unusual in two ways: in it were an artichoke and chorizo sausage. First time in my 37 years I've cooked either. Yum.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 12 

texture looking down

Yesterday, there were only a few people around the lake probably because it was raining. Today there were few people maybe because it was brisk. I thought the people I saw wearing both shorts and gloves were dressed oddly. Maybe they thought it was odd that I would dress the same as if was 90 degrees.

Keeping one's body in motion keeps it warm and doing so every day also makes one's mind work better.

footbridge footbridge
bench bench
swing swing
water water
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lake lake

Monday, April 11, 2005

Could I service you sexually? 

This is really great real-life theater from a phone number one digit away from a pizza delivery joint's. (via the Apostropher who also a decade ago forwarded me "Ways to order a pizza" which I expanded to "101 ways to order a pizza.") An example from the mp3s, if you're into it already maybe it's a better choice to go listen to them starting from the beginning,

Pizza guy: Pizza, can I help you?
Customer: I'm calling, I just called uh, uh your restaurant -
Pizza guy: Yes?
Customer: And I got some very inappropriate talk on the phone.
Pizza guy: Oh, is Ashley giving you a hard time?
Customer: Excuse me?
Pizza guy: Did you speak with a lady?
Customer: I don't know who I spoke to, but I, it was totally, I'm having the call traced.
Pizza guy: Oh.
Customer: Totally inappropriate.
Pizza guy: Oh ...
Customer: They told me they had pizza with nipples on it, cursed me out.
Pizza guy: Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. We've been having some problems, we just got a new employee and he does not know what the, what he's doing, he's just - I'm so sorry.
Customer: Well why are you, I don't understand if you know this, why is he there?
Pizza guy: Well, eh, unfortunately, he's handicapped and the law dictates we can't fire him. I mean he's got to do something that's really - you know, he's got to screw up big time before we can fire him.
Customer: Well I think that's totally sc-, messed up.
Pizza guy: Well that's just state law for you, I don't agree with it either, he's one of our worst employees, but, eh, is there anything I can do to rectify the situation 'mam, can I give you a free pizza?
Customer: No, I am, I am, I am totally disgusted?
Pizza guy: Is, is there anything at all I can do ...
Customer: Uh, there is, I'm a person that would be very reluctant to do business with you.
Pizza guy: Is there anything at all I can do for you 'mam?
Customer: Um, I wanted to order a pizza.
Pizza guy: Can, can I give you a pizza, like, on the house?
Customer: Um ...
Pizza guy: Or, or perhaps could I service you sexually?
Customer: Excuse me?
Pizza guy: I'm sorry, could I get you a pizza on the house or service you sexually?
Customer: Excuse me?
Pizza guy: Could I get you a pizza on the house to make up for it or service you sexually?
Customer: Uh, I think that you need to go to jail.
Pizza guy: I'm sorry it seems that, you know, you need some hard c*ck.
Customer: OK.
Pizza guy: You seem kinda uppity.
Customer: Is the manager there?
Pizza guy: Yes he is, would you like to speak with him?
Customer: Uh, yes.
Pizza guy: OK.
Manager: This is Dave, can I help you? Hello, this is Dave, can I help you?
Customer: Uh, Dave, what kind of business are you running there?
Manager: It's a pizza business, we make pizzas and then we deliver them to different houses. People can call in and order the pizzas and then we'll drive them to their house. And then you pay us.
Customer: That's, I would never have you drive me anything to my house.
Manager: Then what the f*ck are you calling for?
Customer: You're talking, you're being recorded.
Manager: I know I'm being recorded!

These episodes reminded me of this weekend's edition of what is probably my favorite radio show, This American Life, Mind Games - the first installment of the episode is as or more fascinating than the wrong number pizza recordings.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 11 

minneapolis at rainbow's end

Yesterday, Minneapolis was the end of a rainbow. Today, it was drizzling.

I am glad there were loons other than I enjoying the lake in the rain!

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minneapolis minneapolis
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lake lake

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I am now a ramen partisan 

ramen soup

I find soup a delicious, nutritious, quick and easy meal to make - particularly when cooking for one. I used to nearly always start by using a can of chicken broth as base and adding vegetables and sometimes rice or rice noodles.

Several months ago, I saw a friend using instant ramen to prepare a dish with canned tuna and olives, cabbage, onions, garlic, carrots and maybe a couple other things. It hadn't occurred to me to buy instant ramen since college when I did so mainly because I was living on a shoestring budget. Yes, it's cheap, but cheap can also easy and good! So I've recently been using instant ramen instead of canned broth.

More instant ramen probably means I come closer to getting the recommended daily allowance of sodium.

I made what is pictured above by boiling a cubed yam for 10 minutes and setting it aside, bringing 2 cups of water to a boil with a cubed onion in it, then adding the ramen noodles, a cubed yellow squash, waiting for it to return to a boil and then throwing in a cubed tomato and the ramen flavoring pack and waiting for it to boil again - just 20-30 seconds. All over high heat. All in one pot.

Liberal minded pro-lifer describes compassionate conservatism 

sumo ornament

Prudence enumerates ideas she embraces as a "compassionate conservative",

expect personal responsibility of others

This point doesn't seem to mean anything. You can derive no goals or policy by "expecting personal responsibility" of people. One can't even inform one's own actions by "expecting personal responsibility of others."

we have a social responsibility to others

I understand this to mean that we ought to help others who need help. OK.


Anti-abortionist. Check.

education so as to prevent unwanted pregnancies

I think I can assume this means education by government, in other words social engineering. Check.

How does a compassionate conservative believe government ought to help people avoid unwanted pregnancy? Have the school nurse teach kids how to use condoms? Believe in the abstinence-only fairy-tale?

being against the death penalty

Being against the death penalty. Check.

there are people in this world need our help, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently

Pro-welfare. Check.

In the Congo, for example, aid cannot even reach them because the of the fighting. They need military support to just get the basic needs to the people living under extremely dangerous conditions

Being an internationalist. Check.

shift from big government to more localize[d] government

Likes strong local government, dislikes big national government. Check.

I won't even mention the environment, for it is getting late

An environmentalist. Check.

So we have here a description of an ideology that includes being,

Summary: being a compassionate conservative means being a pro-life liberal. What is wrong with saying one is a "pro-life liberal"?

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 10 

Here is an archive of all daily photos of Lake Calhoun.

waves breaking on rocks

Yesterday, the lake was turbulant. Today, it was rather still following the thunderstorm which must have sent a lot of people home. They may have missed the rainbow.

Riding my bike around the lake each day helps me focus and makes me happy.

path path
minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
ice ice
lake lake

It's hard to not sometimes be superstitious! 


In the early hours of the day, I wrote about superstition, rebirth, togetherness and that the most consistent change I can observe is in the sky. Today on my bike ride, I saw a rainbow. It's tempting to feel that the rainbow was sent for me, but rational to understand that it's my mind giving the rainbow significant meaning - not the other way around.

Changes in the sky, changes in me 

I believe in nothing superstitious nor anything supernatural, but I believe we can choose to make people who happen to cross our paths important. And we can also choose how wide we make our paths. It is hard, but I'm trying to make my path wider. Part of that is being more willing to say "Hi!" to a stranger.

Spring, everybody agrees, is a time of rebirth. This spring, I am choosing to do at least two things in this new life I've been granted.

I wish to do more for people who are in less fortunate circumstances than I. To this end, I've pledged to financially support humanitarian relief efforts in some proportion to the luxuries I afford myself. Right now, the people who I wish to help most are the hundreds of millions who do not have clean water, a luxury I take for granted.

I also wish to recognize the uniqueness and importance of each and every day of my own brief life. To this end, I am paying unique attention to each day by taking pictures which I share with others of changes near a lake near where I now live.

I realized yesterday that the most consistent change I can observe each day is in the nature of our sky. I'm now intensely watching it every day.

sky one

sky two

Particular thank-yous to my friends and teachers who have helped me come to these realizations, too many to name. And extraordinary thank-yous to those who I have not yet crossed paths.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

This guy needs some proportional representation 

a few colors of peppers

From the NY Times,

Arthur J. Finkelstein, a prominent Republican consultant who has directed a series of hard-edged political campaigns to elect conservatives in the United States and Israel over the last 25 years, said Friday that he had married his male partner in a civil ceremony at his home in Massachusetts.

Mr. Finkelstein ... said in a brief interview that he had married his partner of 40 years to ensure that the couple had the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples.

I don't know anything about Finkelstein, but I see the facts related in the article as a good example of a flaw in our system of government: it's difficult to impossible for minority voices - like gay republicans - to have much of a say about their issues. When only two parties are vying for more votes than the other, it's not easy for any minority viewpoint to be heard without a splintering off from dominant parties - which has happened as a result of the abolitionist and temperance movements. And some say it may be happening now concerning the way the Texas GOP has been trampling hog-wild over the Republican party as a whole.

I think we'd be better off with a House of Representatives in which at least a portion of the seats were at-large and determined by proportional voting: if a party gets 5% of the vote, 5% of the seats go to that party, they get 25%, the party gets 25%. This is how most nations elect their legislative branch - including Iraq. I think it's a better system: it would give real representation to all sorts of views coming out of our melting pot - like those of conservative gays - as well as help to keep the Republicans and Democrats honest.

Pope catfish, raw vegetables and instant-runnoff voting 

pope catfish

In most places in the U.S., whoever gets the most votes in any given election wins. Period. This requires candidates only to be the least worst which encourages negative campaigning. It also results in elected candidates who less than half of voters want in office. In Minnesota's 1998 gubernatorial election: Jesse Ventura won with 37% of the vote. And in 2002, Tim Pawlenty won with 44%. Minnesota hasn't had a governor who was the choice of more than half for years.

Although the electoral college throws in an added layer of complexity, the recent presidential election resulted in the first time since 1988 that the White House has represented a majority of American voters. In 1998, George H.W. Bush won with 53% of the vote, but since then, Clinton won with 43% in 1992 and 49% in 1996 and Bush won with 48% in 2000. The spoiler in 1992 was Ross Perot who threw the election to the Democrat, the spoiler in 2000 was Ralph Nader who threw the election to the Republican. Both Democratic and Republican candidates have recently been literally minority party candidates even though they always win barring extraordinary exceptions such as when Jesse Ventura - an Independence Party governor and Bernie Sanders, the single member of the U.S. House of Representatives who isn't a Republican or Democrat.

Voting for minor party candidates can be a good - Instant-runoff voting is one solution: voters rank candidates in order of preference and the votes are counted like this,

The candidates are Mrs. Pink, Mr. Black, Mr. Green, and Mrs. Brown. First, voter's #1 choices are tallied - if any candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, they win, but in our illustration, the votes for #1 choice are,

Because nobody received a majority, the candidate with the least number of #1 ranked votes, Mrs. Brown, is eliminated and the #2 choices on those ballots are distributed to the remaining candidates. In our example, the #2 choice of voters ranking Mrs. Brown was their #1 choice are Mrs. Pink, 10%, Mr. Black, 3% and Mr. Green, 2%. The ranking now is,

Still no majority. So the last place candidate is eliminated again and the #2 choices on those ballots redistributed. In this case, the 26% of voters who ranked Mr. Green #1 consists of 24% of voters who ranked Mr. Black as their #2 choice, 1% to Mrs. Brown, and 1% to Mrs. Pink. The tally now is,

Mr. Black wins with 53% of the vote.

I like the idea - it results in elected officials who always have majority electoral support, encourages voters to vote for and not against candidates, and makes "spoiler" candidates inconsequential towards candidates who have broad support as people's #1 choice.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 9 

shoe bobbing on the shore

Yesterday there was a red shoe in the waves gently breaking on the lake's western shore. I looked for the shoe today but didn't find it. There were sparcly scattered cumulous clouds in the sky.

Many people enjoied the lake today, just as I did.

footbridge footbridge
bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
ice ice
playground playground

Christian polytheists 

I have trouble understanding how Christianity is understood by many to be a monotheistic religion. I believe my trouble lies in the fact that many Christians aren't monotheists, but just claim to be.

Luke 12:10 quotes Jesus as describing the Holy Spirit and Son as separate and distinct entities - blaspheming one is forgivable, blaspheming the other is not,

And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

I don't see how a belief in one god can rationally be squared with a belief that the Bible should be read while understanding the meaning in the simplest way possible - as Christian fundamentalists believe. A belief in a "three-in-one" trinity god is a theological cop-out in general and outright fraud if one also claims Luke 12:10 should be read literally. One can say that there are many names for or ways to refer to a singular god, but once one says there are distinct ways to understand separate gods, one is a polytheist and "but these three are one in a way human's can't understand" is childish prattle.

A second item which can be pointed to is the belief of many Christians that a jealous God said, "You shall have no other gods before me." What would use would that commandment be if there was only one god? And who would a singular omnipotent god be jealous of? I suggest such people cannot explain their belief in a singular god in a logical way.

A third point is that many Christians believe that there is an evil deity, Satan, independent from the good deity, the Lord, and who has all the powers of the good deity: that he can intervene in worldly events, know people's thoughts, etc - but to a lesser degree than the good deity or is constrained when the good deity wishes to restrain him. Right there, you have a belief in two deities. Choosing to worship one of two deities is not monotheism.

Most Christians are polytheists.


I find the short descriptions of various forms of monotheism in this Wikipedia entry quite thought-provoking,

I suppose there may be as many forms of monotheism as there are monotheists.

Last supper ad 

Here is an ad parodying Da Vinci's Last Supper, linked to a larger version of the same,

the ad

Here is a reproduction, linked to a Sixteenth Century reproduction that is today in better condition that the original, linked to a larger version of a Sixteenth Century reproduction that has better weathered time,

the last supper

I have previously noted the ad has been censored in France and Italy - now the French ban has been upheld by a higher court.

I suggest the ad is great art in itself. I promised in that previous post to later explain why I believe so; the reason I didn't note my observations about the ad immediately is that the art itself is in an individual's realizations of the differences between the original and the parody - along side the change in women's roles in society across several centuries,

venus butt crack

Here are a few more parodies of da Vinci's famous painting.

They can run, but they can't hiderocket 

In the wake of humiliating exposure and embarrassment over their wild speculation regarding the GOP Schiavo memo, the Powerline bliars have dropped their anti-hero identities of Hindrocket, The Big Trunk, and Deacon and adopted the identities of John H. Hinderaker, Scott W. Johnson, and Paul Mirengoff.

Powerline bloggers before exposure as fraudulent GOP tools

Powerline bloggers before

Powerline bloggers after indisputable exposure as fraudulent GOP tools

Powerline bloggers after

They can run, but they can't hiderocket. Here is the poetic ad showing now showing up next to Hinney's revised identity,

Powerline has bad credit

... blah blah blah.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 8 

algae in a still lake

Yesterday, the lake was glassy and the sky clear. Today, I rode later than I intended as I forgot about a flat tire. There were cirrus clouds in the sky and the lake was a bit turbulent, but I felt no chill blowing off it as I had previous days.

Visiting the lake brings good fortune.

path path
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minneapolis minneapolis
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water water
lake lake

How would Betty Simpson like to be thrown to the lions? 

ramen with tuna

A while ago, I had bookmarked a story with a quote in it by a Betty Simpson which illustrates fallacies far too often put forth by a small contingent of contemporary American Christians. I think that today amid the wall-to-wall coverage of the Pope's funeral is a good time to highlight her delusions,

"We as Christians are tired of sitting back and not having our voices heard. We're listening to the liberal media, who says that we can't mention Jesus, we can't mention Christ, and we can have nothing to do with the Ten Commandments. Yet, what are our laws based on if it's not right and wrong?"

Things to think about when evaluating such nonsense,

Hindrocket is such an idiot 

Hinney is so dumb it's impossible to get angry about his ineptitude. After charging that the Republican Schiavo talking-points memo circulated by Sen. Martinez' office was a "democratic dirty trick", he blurts about aimlessly for a full 1600 words then blames his own stupidity on Sen. Harkin - the Democratic senator who leaked the memo to the press after Martinez distributed it, and also claims to have been misled my the media,

The disclosure of Senator Harkin’s role in the story raises further questions. Where has Harkin been for the last two and one-half weeks? ... To our knowledge, no one has asked Harkin to explain his weeks of silence.

While the creation of the "talking points memo" didn't turn out to be a Democratic dirty trick, the media’s treatment of the memo was misleading at best.

Heh, "further questions". He's a maschochist.

Mediamatters documents how widely saturated media was with unfounded claims that the memo was fake or produced by Democrats. Damn liberal media.

Here are a glass of cheap red wine and the numbers 

glass of cheap red wine

Max has numbers quantifying the gigantitude of Bush's lie that flipped me out yesterday (my freak out),

$639 BILLION. That's how much in "worthless IOUs" our President has given to the Social Security Trust Fund (FY2002-2005), in exchange for your payroll taxes. Over the next five years, our President proposes to add another $1,061 billion to this crime spree. (President's Budget, Summary Table S-10)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Salad and you may have read it here first 

a salad

Rathergate didn't intimate me into being unreasonably hesitent concerning a Republican memo in which I saw convincing evidence of the GOP being danced like a marionette by radical "pro-life" special interests who claim that 10-20% of Americans constitute a majority. Maybe it intimidated others.

Sen. Mel Martinez' office is now "investigating how" a staffer, Brian Darling - who has has already been fired - circulated the memo. How does one normally circulate a memo? I think the answer lies therein: hand it out, email it, stuff like that. Martinez also says he "inadvertently" handed the memo to Tom Harkin on the Senate floor. This is the same Sen. Martinez who recently lied when claiming he'd never heard of the memo until reports of it surfaced in the media. Liars liars liars. If one were not used to Republicans lying, one would become angry. Here is a Republican documenting the dishonesty of his own party. Americablog has a rundown of the less wise rhetoricians with eggs on their faces - those who fabricated ludicrous conspiracy theories like "Democrats circulated the memo". The Politburo documents the subset of such eggy bloggers who seem not to have heard - or listened to - a Kenny Rogers #1 hit.

I wasn't the first to offer speculation that the "Schiavo is a great political issue" memo may have come from Mel Martinez' office. In fact, I didn't suggest it at all. I probably wasn't the first to recognize several of the talking-points were identical to those in a Traditional Values Coalition memo, although I discovered it independently by doing the obvious: googling for other sources that may have used the same incorrect punctuation contained in the memo. And I found several.

I still haven't seen anybody else notice the breadth of same punctuation and grammatical errors regarding "Terri's Law." Elementary mistakes are duplicated,

The last item was posted to the web three days before Rep. Weldon or Sen. Martinez introduced a grammatically correct version of the bill to the House and Senate. Another fact I've not seen highlighted. Or mentioned. Web geeks, check out the last modified date.

I didn't before make explicit what I believed these observations obviously may imply; I'll do so now, noting it's just speculation based on the facts presented in my previous post,

The National Right to Life Committee - possibly in concert with the Traditional Values Coalition and maybe even Terri Schiavo's parent's lawyer - may have written the grammatically botched version of "Terri's Law", the press releases, and the alleged memo. These may have been given to Sen. Martinez and/or Rep. Wilson who's staff cleaned up the language of the proposed legislation but otherwise took their marching orders from NRLC and/or TVC. The other "may have" is less plausible: all these separate entities independently made the same elementary grammatical errors.

I sent my observations to the idiots at powerline and everyone on my "A-list" of bloggers. Nobody seemed to notice or care. Maybe all these grammatical mistakes originated from this one "rogue" staffer, Martinez passed them on, nobody else corrected them and it ends there, although I find that unlikely. I think the legislation was originally written by the same party who reproduced the same errors in the memos and talking points - probably the entity who posted the grammatically botched version of the law to their website days before it was introduced to Congress. Go look - it's still unmodified since March 4th. Three days before it was introduced to Congress.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 7 

ice floating by the shore

April 7, 2005 - Yesterday, there was still a bit of ice on the western shore and some floating near the southern shore. Today, I saw no ice and the lake was very still and the sky very clear.


rocks rocks
footbridge footbridge
path path
bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
ice ice
lake lake
playground playground

Wing-nuttery explained and defined 

Beth from comments here made a post on her new blog objecting to the use of the term "right-winger." She writes,

The left constantly does not like to be labelled, like its a sin or something. Yet, my friend on the left has no problem throwing around the name "extreme right wing" all the time, obviously in a derogatory way. What's good for the goose is not good for the gander.

I'm very specific about what I mean my "right-winger": people who enthusiastically espouse a particular set of lies concocted by ultra-conservative think-tanks. On the other hand, right-wingers use the word "liberal" to mean "something I disagree with or someone who disagrees with me."

Right-wing views are largely homogenous. For instance, if one hears another say, "Clinton had bin Laden's head handed to him on a platter but refused it," that other is very likely to also disavow global warming, believe Reagan won the Cold War by outspending the Soviets, and believe Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet. There is, of course, not a 100% correspondence, but I'm sure I could devise a two or three question test and if a person's answers indicated "right winger", I could predict with near-perfect accuracy a few dozen more beliefs that person has.

I've delineated a few of these core right-wing beliefs in the posts, "What you must believe to be a right-winger" Part I and Part II.

Conversely, these same right-wingers use the term "liberal" to describe everything and everyone in opposition to their homogenous beliefs. As a specific example, Sean Hannity agreed that the Pope was a "wild-eyed liberal loon" when confronted with the fact Pope John Paul II opposed the invasion of Iraq. Hannity is a right-winger: he has a homogenous right-wing set of beliefs and labels everyone who disagrees with any of those beliefs "liberal". The Pope was not a "liberal" in any general sense: he was a guy who vocally opposed the invasion of Iraq. For that, Hannity labeled him a "liberal". The reality is that people who oppose fringe right-wing ideology are very diverse and can even be quite conservative.

Postscript. I may have to make a new term to refer to Mark Levin style right-wingership, as he adds a layer of gratingly psychotic non-logic to the mix. It would be unfair to lump the minority of Americans who just believe a particular set of lies into the same group as people who don't require those lies to be plausible nor make a lick of sense.

Mark Levin: the gift that keeps on giving easy posts 

Thanks to Beth for pointing to this Mark Levin press release in comments,

Levin, also author of the New York Times bestseller on the Supreme Court, Men in Black, sent a letter today to Kennedy with examples of irresponsible and reckless rhetoric that he and others in his party have used to attack the courts and judicial nominees.

Levin added, "Accusing judges or judicial nominees of supporting back alley abortions, being an embarrassment, subverting the popular vote, and being Frankenstein is hit-and-run rhetoric of the worse kind. Kennedy has done enormous and unjustifiable damage to the public's perception of the judiciary's role. I ask that he cease his irresponsible behavior."

Landmark is a public interest law firm founded in 1976, with offices in Kansas City, MO and Leesburg, VA.

Dear Senator Kennedy:

I am deeply concerned that your comments, and those of certain of your colleagues, have helped create an environment of disrespect and hostility for the federal judiciary ...

Teh. I would at this time like to acknowledge I am adopting for my own use a term, "gun nuts with skinny sideburns" from P.J. O'Rourke's essay, Redheaded Eskimo.

Here is my response to Levin's press release: not even gun nuts with skinny sideburns are going to take seriously a press release "Demand[ing] Kennedy Stop Assault on Judiciary" issued by a man who wrote a book titled Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America.

One more from Saint Ronnie 

The following stuck out to me from Reagan's 1983 SOTU address, a speech which I also referred to in my immediately previous post,

I will adjust our program to restore America's defenses by proposing $55 billion in defense savings over the next 5 years. These are savings recommended to me by the Secretary of Defense, who has assured me they can be safely achieved and will not diminish our ability to negotiate arms reductions or endanger America's security.

Contemporary right-wingers would have you believe that Reagan "won the cold war" by forcing the Soviet Union to keep up with U.S. Defense spending. Even if Reagan hadn't suggested reducing defense spending, it would still be not so.

When Republicans suggest defense spending cuts, right-wingers say it's sound policy but when John Kerry votes for defense spending cuts it's wishing for the destruction of America. Go figure.

I'm absolutely certain that in two more decades, right-wingers - if they have not extinguished themselves by trying to prove that smog is good for you too little dioxin exposure is a health risk - they will be claiming liberals got us into the Iraq mess and tremendously increased national debt during the Bush administration.

President Bush lies about Social Security, the Constitution, and Ronald Reagan's legacy in one demon-winged swoop across West Virginia 

Isn't contradicting Saint Ronald treasonous?

There was a time when I suggested it was wrong to claim Bush lied about Iraq and WMD - as in knowingly misrepresented what he believed to be true. Well, I was wrong. Today, I can say Bush is a charlatan eager to trample all over laws and tell lies to terrorize America.

The other day, he stood for a photo-op holding up a U.S. Treasury Bond and claiming it was worthless - that it represented no value. Look and read,

THE PRESIDENT: See, what's interesting is a lot of people believe that the Social Security trust is -- the government takes a person's money, invests it, and then pays it back to them upon retirement. It doesn't work that way.

Now read Amendment XIV of the Constitution of the United States,

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions ... shall not be questioned.

Yup, our president stood there to get photod up questioningthe validity of the public debt. Not as an offhand comment, but as a staged opportunity designed to scare trusting Americans into thinking the U.S. government was fraudulently issuing Treasury Bonds. If one wishes to be hyper-literal about the Constitution as many conservative "textualists" are, Bush clearly violated the Constitution by questioning the public debt's validity. Bush later in the same day explained his photo-op was propaganda to get Americans to lose trust in their government,

I went there because I'm trying to make a point about the Social Security trust. You see, a lot of people in America think there's a trust, in this sense -- that we take your money through payroll taxes and then we hold it for you, and then when you retire, we give it back to you. But that's not the way it works. There is no "trust fund," just IOUs that I saw firsthand.

If that's not enough to make you sweaty with anger, it ought at least make you raise an amused eyebrow.

Bush went on to say the money to honor the bonds has to come from somewhere - future taxes, cuts in other government spending, whatever. No joke, George. That's how monetary value has worked for centuries - trust that the issuer will make good on his debt when it's called in. One can take out "real" currency from one's wallet and read it: "U.S. Federal Reserve Note", etc. It represents nothing beyond the good faith of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank - the heavily regulated yet private central bank of the United States. Similarly, the U.S. Treasury Bonds Bush held up for a photo are worth nothing beyond the good faith of the U.S. government and the constitutional promise that the debt will be honored. That is both "all" they are worth and "what" they are worth: the good will of our government.

Writing in today's LA Times, Michael Hiltzik reminds us that what Bush was painting as a worthless system is in fact the result of Ronald Reagan's 1983 Social Security commission, headed by Alan Greenspan,

Bush's purpose in Parkersburg was to portray this mechanism, which was painstakingly designed by a 1983 reform commission headed by Alan Greenspan, the current chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, as a fraud. The trust fund is basically fictional, he suggested; it's just a bookkeeping device that conceals Social Security's true fiscal crisis. By suggesting that Social Security has less money on hand than it seems to, he's hoping to win support for his highly unpopular plan to privatize the system.

Accordingly, he staged a photo-op pilgrimage to the four-drawer cabinet in the Parkersburg facility in which the trust fund's bond certificates are filed and briefly riffled through the pages. Then, smirking inanely for an audience of handpicked supporters, he ridiculed the idea that "the retirement security for future generations is sitting in a filing cabinet.

I mean, in some corners, contradicting Saint Ronald is treasonous, isn't it? Reagan claimed to have solved the same problem Bush is claiming to be trying to solve once again - the burden on SS caused by many baby boomers retiring. Here is what Reagan had to say in his 1983 State of the Union Address about his plan which Bush was calling fraudulent in his 2005 horror-story photo-op,

Just 10 days ago, after months of debate and deadlock, the bipartisan Commission on Social Security accomplished the seemingly impossible. Social security, as some of us had warned for so long, faced disaster ... Through compromise and cooperation, the members of the Commission overcame their differences and achieved a fair, workable plan. They proved that, when it comes to the national welfare, Americans can still pull together for the common good ... And, in supporting it, we keep an important pledge to the American people: The integrity of the social security system will be preserved, and no one's payments will be reduced.

... The Commission's plan will do the job; indeed, it must do the job. We owe it to today's older Americans and today's younger workers. So, before we go any further, I ask you to join with me in saluting the members of the Commission who are here tonight and Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and Speaker Tip O'Neill for a job well done.

Atrios reproduces some words of Rep. Peter DeFazio on the House floor from yesterday (copied over in part here),

[T]he President did say today something extraordinary, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and suggested something unconscionable. The President said, "There is no trust fund.'' And then he went on to suggest that our Nation might not honor its debt to Social Security. This is what the President said does not exist.

Let me read from this. This is a Social Security Trust Fund bond, considered the best investments in the world, U.S. Treasury Bond. This is the most privileged of Treasury bonds issued to Social Security, redeemable at any time at full face value, unlike any other bond that they issue. These are the most privileged of their bonds. The President says it is nothing but an IOU. Well, here is what it says: This bond is incontestable in the hands of the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. The bond is supported by the full faith and credit of the United States. And the United States is pledged to the payment of the bond with respect to both principal and interest.

The President questions that? He is questioning whether we are going to repay our most privileged debt to Social Security. We have $7.9 trillion of debt. He is adding to it at a record rate, borrowing $1.3 million a minute. Who is he saying we are going to repay and not repay?

Are we going to repay the Chinese but not the Social Security Trust Fund? Are we going to repay President Bush, he happens to have some U.S. Treasury Bonds in his personal portfolio, but not the Social Security Trust Fund? Are we going to repay other wealthy investors around the world and in the U.S., but not the Social Security Trust Fund? We are going to selectively default on our debt.

Suggesting something like that, if the bond markets believed the President, the dollar would drop to near zero tomorrow, and there would be an economic catastrophe, but they do not believe him. They know this is just politics and rhetoric on his part. There is no intention of the Government of the United States defaulting on its debt.

Good thoughts all. But it's beyond "politics and rhetoric": Bush knows we will and can not default on our public debt, yet Bush claimed otherwise. That is lying by any definition. It's a desparate lie - in which I do find some comfort: Bush is saying "Well, maybe Social Security isn't going bankrupt. But if it doesn't we'll just bankrupt it by declaring some Treasury Bonds invalid." He's desperate. (Note: I do think a government administered investment fund is a good idea, but not as a solution to any hypothetical problems with Social Security).

On things big and small, Bush is just a liar. Here a small one from his same propaganda-talk where he claimed there was no trust fund,

I recently traveled the country on some stops with former Democrat Congressman Tim Penny, a Democrat from Minnesota, who has some good ideas.

Lie. Penny was a Democrat ten years ago when he served in Congress. He's been a member of the Independence Party (Jesse Ventura's party) since at least 2002 when he ran as the Independence candidate for governor of Minnesota. Or maybe he's just someone who will whore himself out to the sweetest talker. Whores and liars.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sweet Jesus! Pope not embalmed! 

From Der Spiegel (via A man could stand up),

For the last four generations, the Signoracci family has been responsible for embalming the pope. They would like the tradition to continue. But this time, the Vatican hasn't called yet. In fact, the pope's body hasn't yet been preserved at all.

The BBC and Newsweek have more.

Mark Levin's woe: "Everyone's attacking me and nobody understands me. Ted Kennedy forments violent attacks on judges." 

ramen, tomatoes, asparagus and yellow squash

For a while I've dealt with some guilt over choosing to pick on this Mark Levin guy - doing so is rather like narrating the actions of a grown man crawling around under a kitchen sink drinking everything. "Mark no! That's hydrochloric acid, you don't want to ... ooooh, ouch! That's gotta hurt! Lord! Now he's going for the Drano ... I can't watch." I have to remind myself that he is indeed a best-selling author at the moment and someone does let him on a real radio station for a couple hours every weekday.

Mark Levin claims to be a constitutional scholar. He's not. He also claims he's not responsible for violent threats on the judiciary. He just may be. Certainly, he contributes to the type of sentiment that causes organization of citizen militias ready to storm a Florida hospice in response to 21 judicial rulings: lack of respect for the rule of law.

On Monday, Our Man in the Dark convulsivly bestowed upon himself much self-importance in reaction to Dahlia Lithwick's dismissive review of his book, Men in Black. Lithwick dedicates a large part of her review to explaining why no serious law scholar is bothering mentioning the book: the review is subtitled The New York Times best seller no one is talking about. The tenor is along the lines of lines of, "This is not a serious scholarly work - far from it, it's a joke. The book does not even present a cohesive argument,"

Men in Black never gets past the a.m.-radio bile to arrive at cogent analysis. Each of the first three chapters ends with the word "tyranny." Absent any structure or argument, this book could just have been titled Legal Decisions I Really, Really Hate.

Levin began his berserk response by claiming to have been named the "intellectual foundation" of the recent spate of violent courthouse attacks, ("Mark continues and proclaims ...),

Now I am under attack as being the intellectual foundation for this position. I am under attack, I'm being told that these threats to these judges are Mark's responsibility. And people who listen to him like Tom DeLay and Rush - or share my views like Rush Limbaugh or Sean or somebody. Can you imagine that?

No, I can't imagine that. Nobody ought to suggest Mark Levin is "intellectual" in any sense, it's simply not true! Dahlia Lithwick certainly did not - she practically apologized for writing a review in the first place. Myself, I suggest Levin is the opposite of an intellectual: he's a irrational reactionary with a shrill and squeaky voice. I encourage the reader to listen to some of the clips available at Mark Levin Fan - his voice is grating like rattling a very thin gauge of rusted away sheet metal - and is rather befitting of the content of his monologuing.

Our honking sopranista went on to shriek that not he, but Ted Kennedy inspires violent attacks on judges,

Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer and their pathetic ilk, they've been attacking the Supreme Court on the 2000 election decision. They attacked Robert Bork. They attacked Clarence Thomas, that Harry Reid did. Scalia's been attacked, including by Biden. They've attacked scores of Bush's nominees. And yet I'm the one inspiring this? You cannot possibly read this book and come to that conclusion.

Follow the logic? I hope not. It's perhaps the most commonly used right-wing fallacy: 1) Take a position 2) Rant about liberals, making sure not to say anything in support your own position 3) Claim your position has been vindicated.

Unhappy with fabricating just a single attack on his own person, Levin made up another. This one so painful for him to talk about, he speaking of himself in the third person. One can imagine him holding a doll explaining where the bad liberal touched him,

And yet there's another attack on me. By the hard left. The elitists who love government by the judiciary. Well, Mark doesn't make sense they say. Says he's opposed to an activist Court and then he says the Court should have struck McCain-Feingold laws like that.

Again, nobody's really attacking Levin as much as they're derogating or outright ignoring him. When Levin speaks of people who have noticed that he's inconsistent regarding McCain-Feingold, maybe he's thinking of the conservatives who made that and similar observations in the reviews of his book on Amazon. For example, some excerpts from a review by Ann Coulter fan Scott Ryan,

What he claims to be showing us in this book is that we have a runaway Supreme Court that, via 'judicial activism', is practicing 'judicial tyranny' and tearing the U.S. away from its Constitutional roots. What he actually shows is that the federal government has done some things Levin doesn't agree with.

... Given his focus, you'd expect his targets to be strictly judicial matters. Yet he devotes entire chapters to problems that touch only tangentially on the judiciary -- and therefore are far from showing 'How the Supreme Court [as opposed to, say, Congress] Is Destroying America'.

For example, we get a full chapter on the McCain-Feingold Act, a campaign-contributions law that, on Levin's view, violates the First Amendment. Okay, I agree. But Congress passed it and President Bush signed it; all the SCOTUS did was refrain from striking it down

Even more incredibly, he spends a full chapter complaining about the allegedly extraconstitutional 'right to privacy' without ever once mentioning the Fourth Amendment ...

For a 'strict constructionist', he also seems unaccountably surprised that the SCOTUS interprets the word 'person' in the Fifth Amendment to mean person.

These shortcomings are too bad, because there really is some worthwhile material in this book. The problem is that so much of it is polemic masquerading as legal scholarship. I like right-wing polemic; Ann Coulter is one of my favorites.

Wow. That's really bad when an Ann Coulter fan pans a right-wing book. Levin then whined for sympathy, wailing that nobody understands poor Mark - my emphasis on his freudian slip,

Because they don't understand people like me. We believe in the three branches of government. We believe they should operate properly. We don't oppose a judiciary, we pose a rogue judiciary. So if the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts are going to give judicial review to certain issues, judicial review's not in the constitution. If they're going to assume that authority, they absolutely, positively must do so with restraint, with respect for the people and their elected representatives.

As I've before mentioned, it's rather taxing to try to address everything wrong with what Levin says or writes as his words are so rich with idiocy. So maybe just a bulleted list in this case,

Lithwick did say that in the light recent death threats and attacks on judges, it may be unwise to ignore Levin's book just because it makes no sense,

But ignoring this book won't keep it from tearing up the best-seller list; and it's unwise to write off everyone who reads it as a Swift Boat lunatic. In the past weeks, we have seen a quiet sea change with death threats to - and actual attacks on - judges becoming disturbingly common. To refuse to acknowledge the call-to-arms behind Men in Black, as the press and most of the legal academy has done, can feel like intellectual integrity. But it also represents a failure to take part in a national conversation that may have very serious long-term consequences for the courts.

That Levin turned the review into an accusation of being some sort of "intellectual foundation" for courtroom violence raises an important question: Does Levin believes it's possible to intellectualize physically violent attacks on judges? Regardless of whether we view Levin's own ravings as intellectual, seems he does believe such violence can be intellectually founded. If he thought it was not intellectually justifiable, he would not have read that into Lithwick's review - or he would have simply said, "There's no justification for threatening a judge." Further, if he thought such violence was not intellectually justifiable he would ha have accused Ted Kennedy of being responsible for providing a justification for courtroom violence.

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 6 

ice floating by the shore

Yesterday, there was quite a bit of ice floating on most of the lake. Today, what was left of it had blown within several dozen yards of the southern shore.

Thank you!

rocks rocks
footbridge footbridge
path path
bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
ice ice
lake lake

Why would God send a person to hell for not understanding math? 

Last night in the wee hours of the day at an after-party-party, I asked someone I just met if he had any spiritual beliefs. He said he was raised Catholic and frequently attended services and then made an analogy I found fascinating - paraphrased,

I have it 100% figured out for myself: Jesus is my personal savior. But I can't say that ought to be the belief of anyone but me.

Here is what I'm talking about: Some people understand math, others don't. God created man to understand math, but yet some people don't, even though others and maybe even they have that ability.

I don't think God would condemn souls to hell for understanding anything differently than others do.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Lake Calhoun yesterday on April 5 

ice gathered up

Yesterday, there were big chunks of what had been sheet ice gathered up by the wind on the western bank of Lake Calhoun. Today, it was nearly all gone. A whole lot of melting going on.

rocks rocks
footbridge footbridge
path path
bench bench
minneapolis minneapolis
swing swing
ice ice
ice ice
lake lake

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): maybe murdered judges asked for it 

While making my previous post on alleged "judicial activism", I had not yet read of Sen. Cornyn's outrageous musing that maybe a crazed suspect on trial for rape charges in Atlanta overpowered a deputy and murdered Judge Rowland Barnes, a court reporter and court deputy because he was pissed about Roe v Wade or something. I wonder if Cornyn was aware he was apologizing for murder on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's murder,

I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence.

I wonder if Cornyn speculates that Rev. King may have caused-the-effect of his own assassination.

Just about everybody has something to say.

Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, and the Houston Chronical too.

Senators ought to be able to tend to their mouths better than Cornyn did yesterday. I mean, DeLay is saying God will smite judges and now Cornyn is suggesting the courtroom murders we've seem are some sort of karmic payback. What more evidence do we need that insanity has gripped the TX GOP en masse? Thank goodness Cheney is rising above by at least noting there's a reason judges have lifetime tenures.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Michael Dorf makes important observartion, loopy goofball right-winger just lies 

eggs, beans, cheese, rice, vegetables

I came across a couple essays from a while ago, that I thought were interesting. First, from 2000, Michael Dorf points out that throughout American history, people have accused justices of "judicial activism" whenever they've been at odds with the Supreme Court,

For conservatives, "judicial activism" is epitomized by the leading liberal Supreme Court decisions. The most prominent, of course, is Roe v. Wade, recognizing abortion rights.

... [But in] the first half of the Nineteenth Century, defenders of southern, agricultural interests decried the nationalizing, pro-commercial impulses of what they saw as an activist Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall. In the second half of the Nineteenth Century, abolitionists railed against what they saw as the Taney Court's activist invocation of the Constitution to extend protection to slavery in the territories. From the late Nineteenth Century through the first third of the Twentieth, Populists, Progressives, and finally New Dealers challenged what they saw as the Court's activist view that the Constitution required laissez-faire capitalism. After a very brief post-War quiescence, in 1954 Brown v. Board of Education fully launched the period of the liberal Warren Court's "activist" decisions.

The second essay is by David Limbaugh from 2003 and is a great example of how right-wing media luminaries plain old lie to their audience. This too, is about "judicial activists". Limbaugh wrote,

Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry said last week that he is concerned that if President Bush is re-elected he will appoint pro-life judges to the federal bench. That, he says, demonstrates Bush's "unwavering commitment to refashioning the court in the ideological image of the far right."

So we now have a powerful senator, a major player seeking the highest office in the land, going on record saying that anyone who supports the unborn's right to life is "far right." Translation: Those who support human life are extremists.

Kerry did not attempt to deny that he would attempt to block the nominations of all judges who are pro-life. Up to this point, most Democratic politicians have talked around the issue, vigorously opposing pro-life nominees, but denying they were engaging in a de facto litmus test to that end. With Kerry out of the closet, it will be more difficult for the left to deny its anti-life judicial agenda.

I don't know about Republican Party honchos and the quarterbacks of the Bush re-election effort, but I'm ready to take this fight to the American people. I think the voters need to understand that a vote for Democratic presidential and congressional candidates aids the cause of the radical feminist movement and the militant pro-abortion lobby.

I think a majority of Americans, these days, are pro-life, especially in view of recent and ongoing scientific data supporting the obvious reality that the unborn are live human beings, entitled to dignity, respect and, yes, life.

David Limbaugh "thinks" a majority of Americans are pro-life. I don't think he does - he may wish a majority are pro-life, but he is lying when he says he "thinks" a majority of Americans are pro-life. If he really "thought" that, he could explain why. He's entitled to his opinion, but it's not worth much if he can't explain it.

Maybe he could have pointed to a poll. He wrote in October 2003. In that month, CNN/Gallup/USA Today found that only 17% of Americans thought abortion should always be illegal. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had months earlier found that only 9% of Americans thought abortion should be always illegal, with 88% believing it should at least be legal when the life of the woman is at risk and in cases of rape or incest.

Did David Limbaugh accurately rephrase Kerry's thought that pro-lifers wanting to ban abortion are extremist? Yeah, probably! Was Kerry right? Yeah, probably! Being that those identifying themselves as anti-choice were somewhere around 9-17% depending on how the question is asked, I believe that segment could be accurately called "extremist" - one out of every six or ten people constitute a group at the extreme end of a scale.

Conversely, referring to a group of 9-17% of Americans as a "majority" is just a lie or an act of ideologically driven incompetence. But oh yeah, I just remembered - right-wingers don't believe polls. Now we know why: they don't always fit into their fairy-tales.

It also seems wildly unreasonable for Limbaugh to accuse the vast majority of Americans of aiding "the cause of the radical feminist movement and the militant pro-abortion lobby". That's just over the top. If 80-90% of Americans support something, it's looney to call that something "radical." Unless you're a right-wing media commentator. Then it's simply effective propaganda.

And all that "ongoing scientific data supporting the obvious reality that the unborn are ... entitled to dignity, respect and, yes, life"? To what does Limbaugh refer? Certainly he's not speaking of scientific polling data. He seems to simply have made up a ludicrous claim that legal rights are somehow subject to the scientific method and labs have determined that human embryos have legal right to life. Or maybe that science has discovered the soul and found it is present from fertilization onward. What a goofball.

Maybe he's asserting that scientists know fertilized eggs are live human beings as opposed to live box turtles or live chrysanthemums. This science does indeed know, but it lends nothing to the debate over whether or when a fetus has rights distinct from the woman carrying it.

Pictured above are Kuner's jalepeño black beans with lime juice. I put a layer of Monterey Jack cheese over them while they were heating over low heat in the pan. Awesomely tasty. Also pictured is some of my Y2K jasmine rice, which as the name indicates was purchased to temper my transition back into the stone age.

A message from Dick Cheney and me to Mark Levin: Good God, quit embasassing yourself 

Dick Cheney, quoted in the Washington Post,

I may disagree with decisions made by judges in any one particular case. But I don't think there would be much support for the proposition that because a judge hands down a decision we don't like, that somehow we ought to go out -- there's a reason why judges get lifetime appointments.

Whether they know or acknowledge it, people who complain about "judicial tyranny" are just wigging out over a court deciding a case differently than they would have themselves. And as the people usually complaining are extremist right-wingers, they do wig out quite a bit.

I've not heard of a realistic solution offered by people who bellow about our nation allegedly being run by judges ... or even a description of the purported problem much more specific than "the judges are tyrants!" I am reading Mark Levin's Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America in which he devotes 8 pages out of about 250 to a chapter called "Restoring the Constitution." Most of the chapter is additional shrieking about Democratic presidents and the like, but he also tepidly offers a solution,

Probably more potent and practical than the removal of individual judges and justices is Congress's power to limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction.

Of course, Levin recently supported Congress increasing the federal judiciary's jurisdiction when he felt that may result in a ruling more to his liking,

Article III specifically empowers Congress to determine the jurisdiction of the federal courts, which is all it did today. It authorized a federal court to determine whether Terri Schiavo's due process rights and the right not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment were properly protected by a state court.

They have no solutions, only complaints.

Park at night 

heated frozen pizza

Experiencing an unhealthy dose of irrational panic yesterday, I tried to stay physically active - going on two long bike rides and visiting the part of the Twin Cities' huge interconnected park of trails and lake, part of which is just a few blocks from my home.

On my walk in the beautiful 55 degree weather, I found terrifying images: signs blatantly reminding me I was "here", an image of a man split in two halves, mysterious life-giving water I would never consider diving into, leaves being liberated from months of captivity within ice, a bathroom for all races labeled "women" in both black and white. It's these types of thoughts that makes heartburn from frozen pizza go to my head. But as I was not only thinking about these things in the prison/prism of my mind, but observing and interacting with them, my anxiety was pacified while the interaction lasted. I'll try to appear less pretentious by prefacing the photographs (click on images for large versions) with some Queen lyrics,

Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see ...

i am here i am here i am here
duality duality duality
separation separation separation
freedom freedom freedom
theology theology theology
closer closer closer
life life life
living living living
harmony harmony harmony

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Spelling out second means awsome catfish recipe 

A page on this website turns up as the first good image of John Paul II when you search for images about the Pope with "II" spelled out as "second". So I'm getting tons of hits to this satirical post. Most are to a monthly archive page which means people will have to scroll by what I feel is the best recipe I've ever concocted: something I make mainly from catfish and spinach. So I now have a proper name for the dish:

Pope Catfish

Pope Catfish

Heat oil in a frying pan, add the salt, stir, then add the rest of the ingredients except for the spinach - put 12-15 drops tabasco sauce in there. Cook over medium-high heat until all the fish has changed color. Add the spinach. Heat it up and eat it up. Makes two servings.

PS. I also have the #2 spot for google searches for "faith healer" Issam Nemeh and the #1 result for Schiavo cult member Mary Porta. Lots of search engine traffic.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Imagine no pope and a bloody mary with lots of horseradish 

bloody mary with lots of horseradish

In The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, a description is given of the theological and political struggles between early Christians which resulted in the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy. The second chapter One God, One Bishop tells of how the "Orthodox" Christians believed in one God, which leant to support to the idea that a singular God should lead to a singular earthly representative of God, the Pope. The Gnostics believed in separate gods - the "creator" god who made an imperfect world of pain and suffering, and a higher god to whom the creator god was subordinate. The Gnostics believed that the Orthodox mistook this lower creator god as "the Father", when actually "the Father" was the god who had delegated authority to the Creator. Following are some thoughts either presented in or inspired by the second chapter in Pagel's book.

Clement, one of the first "popes" felt very strongly that he alone had the divine right to tell everybody what to believe and how to act. From his first letter to the Corinthians, known as I Clement,

They therefore who do any thing contrary to the seemly ordinance of His will receive death as the penalty.

Ye see, brethren, in proportion as greater knowledge hath been vouchsafed unto us, so much the more are we exposed to danger. The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the appointed order.

... Remember the words of Jesus our Lord: for He said, Woe unto that man; it were good for him if he had not been born, rather than that at he should offend one of Mine elect. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about him, and be cast into the sea, than that he should pervert one of Mine elect.

And of course, Clement felt that he was one of "Jesus' elect" who could issue the death penalty to anyone going against what he claimed God's will to be. There's no other passage in any early Christian writing having Jesus say what Clement quotes him as saying. There are passages in Matthew 26 and Mark 14 where Jesus says it would be better for someone not to have been born than to betray Him - as he predicted Judas would do at the Last Supper,

But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.

There are also passages in Matthew 18 and Mark 9 where Jesus says if a person causes a child to sin, it would be "better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

But there's nowhere apart from Clement's Second Century report that records Jesus threatening punishment for not following the edicts of human religious authority. It appears Clement was either mixed up or making things up.

The Gnostic Christians rejected the idea of a structural human religious authority - in fact, they were who Clement wrote of in the excerpt above. The Gnostic writing, The Apocalypse of Peter quotes Jesus as saying,

And there shall be others of those who are outside our number who name themselves bishop and also deacons, as if they have received their authority from God. They bend themselves under the judgment of the leaders. Those people are dry canals.

The Gnostics rejected the idea of a fixed earthly spokesperson for the divine. They cast lots in order to have an organized religious meeting, believing the will of God was reflected by how the lots fell. Pagels describes what a Gnostic worship service was like by summarizing the description offered in the 2nd century by the Orthodox St. Irenaeus in his Against Heresies,

Irenaeus tells us that when they met, all the members first participated in drawing lots. Whoever received a certain lot apparently was designated to take the role of priest; another was to offer the sacrament, as bishop; another would read the Scriptures for worship, and others would address the group as a prophet, offering extemporaneous spiritual instruction. The next time the group met, they would throw lots again so that the persons taking each role changed continually.

It seems to me that if Gnostic Christianity would have caught on rather than "Orthodox" Christianity and the idea of fixed human religious authority was rejected, westerners also may not have accepted rule by hereditary monarchies for so many centuries.

In honor of Pope John Paul the Second, I ate a plate of nachos and drank a bloody mary 

Pope nachos and bloody mary

Thank you for all the good things you did.

I hope John Paul II is remembered for things like trying to build bridges between Roman Catholicism and other religions and apologizing for some of the horrible wrongs of the Church such as the Crusades and neutrality towards Nazism.

He left a clear path for the next Pope to follow: one towards equal rights and respect for all people, including homosexuals, women, victims of pedophilia and spousal abuse.

Friday, April 01, 2005

In which I sort of castigate my friends to the left and chuckle at Tom Delay 

I believe three of the four bloggers on my "A List" are making an error in understanding, Josh Marshall doesn't really get it, Atrios is doesn't seem to get it and Oliver Willis doesn't see it either. After reading comments from m a n y  o t h e r  b l o g g e r s, I've not found one that sees DeLay was using religious hell-fire language in his widely criticized remarks,

Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo's friends in this time of deep sorrow.

The part I and many others have made bold has been widely taken to indicate a threat made by and to be carried out by DeLay. That's not how it sounds to the religious right - it goes with the next sentence - the religious things Delay does think will happen today as opposed to what is left to a day of God's choosing. To Old Testament Bible thumpers also keen on Revelation, the bold part speaks of the LORD's raining down of burning sulphur, visitation of sins upon seven generations, and lake of fire style vengeance. It's already well established that the religious right feels we should have a theocratic government secondary to the will and providence of God.

Check out what one protester, Richard Jacobson, said upon learning of Schiavo's death,

"She is a martyr -- for Christ and for our nation and for the world," Jacobson said. "Through God, he will do a miracle and raise her up."

No, that's not a misquote - the guy was really saying he thought she would be raised from the dead - he told another reporter,

"God will raise her from the dead, and all the world will see it."

That is the type of person DeLay was addressing in the press release. Given the hot water he's in, it's understandable that he would be eager to appeal to the Highest Authority. But Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has gone as far as suggesting DeLay's comments may be criminal. Ted Kennedy seems to have the only level-headed response I've seen (via Americablog). Kennedy has asked Delay to explain what he meant to be sure he wasn't threatening violence and that a DeLay spokesman has issued a statemnent,

"I'm not sure what Mr. DeLay meant when he said 'the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior,'" the Massachusetts Democrat [Sen. Kennedy] said in a written statement. "But at a time when emotions are running high, Mr. DeLay needs to make clear that he is not advocating violence against anyone.

Dan Allen, DeLay's spokesman, said the majority leader was merely referring to potential future action in Congress. He said one possibility was for the committee that issued a subpoena designed to assure nourishment for the brain-damaged woman to investigate why its order had been ignored by the courts.

Let Delay claim heaven is going to open the floodgates of divine retribution all he wants, let Delay look foolish and open up investigations to try to take the focus off of his own corruption. I feel sorta safe in that I don't think it's going to rain poison dart frogs any time soon - not on me nor the judiciary. And Delay opening up an investigation into someone else is downright comical. People ought to focus on the real Delay corruption and shrug off his apocalyptic language as typical.

The Moderate Voice has some thoughtful comments on Delay's press release (via UnCoRRELATED),

This is more of the same attempt to define those with whom DeLay disagrees in the worst emotional light, more of the politics of division and more of an attempt by DeLay to push the policical p.r./defense line of "Hey', I'm a good guy ideologically and anyone who opposes me is doing it for my positions - not questions raised about my ethics."

Indeed, DeLay is now so confident the he has organized conservatives to defend him no matter what - because he went for bat with them on this one he now feels assured that they will move heaven (which he clearly think he has locked up) and earth (that one needs some more work) to keep him in power no matter what allegations are made or proved about his ethics - that he even issued a taunting "bring it on" to critics:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) challenged his liberal critics yesterday to "bring it on," as major conservative groups organized a formal defense against questions about DeLay's ethical conduct...

UPDATE: General JC Christian gets it.

Americans are quitting smoking and getting insanely fat 

Subway sandwich

I just got a sandwich from Subway. There were no obviously overweight customers among those I saw.

I completely forgot to mention that last night was the first night of the various smoking bans in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. I once was against the idea of government smoking bans in privately owned establishments, however I changed my opinion once it was pointed out to me that those eating and drinking establishments are workplaces for the employees. If we are going to say it is proper for government to set minimal workplace safety standards, there is no reason why cigarette smoke should be an exception.

The smoking bans are a reenforcing result of many people having already kicked the habit. However, people are smoking less and eating more. I believe these two trends are at least partially related: Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and many people who kick one bad habit simply replace it with another.

There are lots of people in the bad habit of obsessively eating. I mean, how often is it necessary (or even useful) for someone to replenish their body's nutrients while driving by sucking down a bag of Bar-b-que potato chips and a Coke? How far is it possible to drive in a daytime urban setting without seeing a driver working on increasing the natural fleshy padding provided by their hips and butt? Two or three blocks?

A friend sent me this a few weeks ago: way fat people are dragging the whole nation down with them,

An analysis of 2000 data show that 10 percent of all healthcare expenditures in the US that year, a total $56 billion, were somehow linked to excess body weight, according to study author Dr. David E. Arterburn and his colleagues. Twenty percent of those costs were incurred by the nearly 5 million men and women considered to be morbidly obese.

... Morbidly obese individuals have a higher risk of sickness and death from diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer and various other chronic health conditions.

The prevalence of morbid obesity is increasing twice as fast as obesity. As of 2000, 2.2 percent of the US population was morbidly obese, up from 0.78 percent just 10 years earlier.

Yes, some people are overweight because they are genetically predisposed to be hefty. But looking at that last sentence abot the rapid increase in morbid obesity shows that one just can't blame many individual weight problems on bad genes: in 10 years, the number of morbidly obese individuals increased threefold. Those are people with the same genes they had ten years ago getting wildly fat. It is the group's behavior - not genes - that have changed. And look at this,

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that 23.7 percent of 1,027 Virginians surveyed by telephone qualified as obese. That's up from 9.9 percent of 170 respondents in 1990, and gives the state the nation's fastest growing waistline.

The percentage of obese people in Virginia has doubled in 15 years!

According to the CDC, in 1974, about 37% of Americans over 25 years old smoked - that percentage dropped to under 22% by 2002. That's a lot of over-eating that could partially be the result of ex-smokers who became overeaters. It would be interesting to see a study that seeks to confirm or disprove the hypothesis that there are a greater percentage ex-smokers among the obese than there are among the non-obese.

Terri Schiavo: the most important person in our nation's history 

Mark Levin recently commented on Terri Schiavo,

I read the Florida statutes before I left on Monday I feel Terri Schiavo should have gotten at least the same treatment as a rabid dog. Is that asking too much?

Well, generally, you take rabid dogs out back and shoot them in the head, gas them, or otherwise euthanize them. What that even has to do with Florida laws which were followed to a "T" is unclear.

For that matter, it's not necessarily immoral to kill healthy dogs. Doing do in research settings has helped save and extend countless human lives.

The Terri Schiavo case was afforded extraordinary treatment and given tremendous consideration - in ways, more consideration than any other individual in the history of our nation. I can't think of another person who's case has made it to the Supreme Court five times and been of intense interest to Congress, the Florida Legislature, the Governor of Florida and the President of the United States. Granted, there is no Terri Schiavo postage stamp ... yet.

WMD report, another show? 

I've only read the cover letter to yesterday's WMD commission report (3 MB PDF) ... starts out good,

We conclude that the Intelligence Community was dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

But then,

After a thorough review, the Commission found no indication that the Intelligence Community distorted the evidence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. What the intelligence professionals told you about Saddam Hussein's programs was what they believed. They were simply wrong.

I'm sorry, I just don't buy it. I'm just a regular guy sitting in Minneapolis with an Internet connection, and from that, my assessment of Iraq's WMD programs was for the most part right and "the intelligence community's" official assessment was wrong: I thought we'd surely find some banned materials that were misplaced during the 1991 war but nothing else. We found some missiles with a range about 10 miles greater than what was allowed and nothing else. The "Intelligence community" claimed we'd find massive stockpiles of terrible chemicals and bio agents, a huge and sophisticated uranium refining program, a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, a bunch of dirty baby bottles and unwashed diapers ... I just refuse to believe "they were simply wrong". It was all a show to boost support for an ideological invasion.

Although I've only read the cover sheet, it seems like this report may suffer the same problem as the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate - the summary describing something different than what is actually in the report - from the Washington Post,

[A] senior intelligence officer warned then-CIA Director George J. Tenet that he lacked confidence in the principal source of the assertion that Saddam Hussein's scientists were developing deadly agents in mobile laboratories.

... That was one among many examples -- cited over 692 pages in the report -- of fruitless dissent on the accuracy of claims against Iraq. Up until the days before U.S. troops entered Iraqi territory that March, the intelligence community was inundated with evidence that undermined virtually all charges it had made against Iraq, the report said.

Kella's birthday 

A few shots from Kella's birthday celebration ... my first bike ride of the year was down to Kikugawa tonight, so the evening was special in that way too. There, I met (L to R) Lydia, Michael Paul and Kella,

Lydia, Michael Paul, Kella

And Chris and Chris,

Chris and Chris

The male Chris speaks and reads fluent Chinese and has done three stints of teaching English in China. He encourages me to do the same ... and tonight was able to tell us what Kikugawa means, "chrysanthemum river". Our server clarified that the chrysanthemum part meant more another meaning, "yellow". Here was what I ordered, chef's choice of 8 pieces,

special dinner

Yum. Afterwards we went to Bobino's Starlite Lounge, a bar I didn't know existed. The Bobino martini was the best of all the kinds everyone sampled, all agreed - fruity, but not too sweet as there others were. (The bar was out of ginger infused vodka, so nobody was able to try the ginger martini). There, Lara, Nick, Ang (or however you spell what is short for "Angie") and Noel joined our party. I'd not before met Ang or Noel. I don't know Lara too well, and because of that was able to ask her if she believed in divine miracles - a privilege that ironically seems to be given between people that don't know each other very well; such questions seem strange when asked out of the blue of people one does know well. Lara said she did believe they sometimes probably happen and there is probably something like a divine being that takes a special interest in humans, but that they weren't particularly important items as one can never know with certainty that such beliefs are valid.

Michael Paul spoke to me quite a bit of electricity, his favorite topic, and a bit about unions, which seems to be a good candidate for his second favorite topic. I learned some interesting facts about Niagra Falls - that the Falls are geologically unique in that in just a blink of geological time they have carved out a 22 mile crevice due to the combination of the type of rock in the region and the tremendous volume of water flowing over it. That the river's flow has been slowed has also slowed the erosion, but it's still a potentially huge long-term problem being that the land around the falls has been so heavily developed.

Lara and Ang are both nurses and I spoke to them about that a bit. They were all for the idea of me pursuing a nursing degree as they felt more male nurses would mean an increase in pay for them as female nurses. I mentioned that part of the reason I thought it may be a good idea was so I might go to Africa and help people use condoms, immunize children, etc. They noted I'd still have to have a year or so experience here before I could do that. True. Later, everybody danced,


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