Sunday, June 29, 2008

God Loves a Busy-Body

"I think God is going to destroy this nation, not just ... California. Look at all our jobs, our jobs are going overseas. God is judging this nation. It's going to get worse."
Born-again Christian Bill Hampsmire
Because everyone knows that given all of the things that America has done throughout its history it's this one thing that would get God's attention, and that He prefers Pagans and the stridently anti-religious to Christians who simply have better things to do than meddle in their neighbor's love lives...

Sachiel: Mankind has founded a new nation, America, and say they will devote it to God.
Zeruel: Great news!
Sachiel: Yes, truly. I shall observe them, and see how they progress.
God: As you do so, Sachiel, tell me of their doings.

Sachiel: It seems that they are bent on removing the native population from valuable land, using force or disease on those who refuse to leave.
God: Let them be. That is nothing to be concerned with. The Natives do not revere Me. It is better that the righteous have the land.

Sachiel: They have adopted the practice of wholesale enslavement of their fellow humans, buying and selling them like cattle, and destroying their families.
God: I fail to see the problem here, as they have removed those enslaved from a pagan continent and introduced them to My worship.

Sachiel: Now they have developed horrific weapons of war, harnessing the power of the atom, and deployed them against the civilian populations of their enemies.
God: Such is the way of things. Shinto is a tool of the Adversary*.

Zeruel: Hello, Sachiel! You seem to be in a better mood today.
Sachiel: Things are looking up. America has abandoned the acts of their past, and is starting to grant its people the freedom to love who they will, and recognition of their unions.
God: How dare they! I shall punish them sorely for this affront. They shall be unemployed, their livelihoods given over to pagan Hindus and anti-religious Communists.
Sachiel: Sigh. Friend Zeruel, have you Lucifer's e-mail address? I should see if he's taking résumés.

* This was the position of the Portuguese, who set out to eradicate Shinto, seeing its superficial resemblance to Christianity as proof that it had been created by Satan to lead the Japanese astray.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Keep and Bear

The Supreme Court's ruling that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects individual citizens from blanket firearms bans seems to have placed half the nation into an uproar. The gun-rights crowd is hailing it as a great day for liberty, anti-handgun crusaders are pronouncing dire warnings of blood in the streets and the Europeans are convinced that we're all violent sociopaths.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
The Second Amendment to the Constitution
A lot has been made of the "well regulated Militia" clause, in holding that the "people" referred to in the amendment are actually collectives - namely the states and the nation as a whole. In light of American history, however, this seems odd. Up until the Civil War, and perhaps beyond then, it wasn't uncommon for men to enlist in the army, or their state's militia, with their own weapons - a practice that the writers of the constitution likely supposed that the nation would continue to rely on. The argument that the United States no longer needs to rely upon individuals responding to call-ups with their own weapons is a very valid one.

But I suspect that the answer to that is to amend the Constitution again, rather than creating an expiration clause where one doesn't otherwise exist.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Best. Headline. Ever.

"God accused of selling cocaine near Tampa church"

Must need the money to pay off the lawsuits from the clergy sex abuse scandal. I guess that selling indulgences just wouldn't provide the revenue stream.

The Third Ear

The most recent column from George Will is titled "Liberalism likes victimization narratives." I don't know that this is an unfair characterization. If the guiding force of Conservatism is that: "The world is inherently fair, and it is primarily the interference of government that makes it unfair," the guiding principle of Liberalism would be that: "The world in inherently unfair, and the primary role of government is to redress that injustice." (For the record, I have trouble with both camps, believing that "fairness" neither occurs naturally, nor can be imposed by any human agency.) Personally, I have a hard time characterizing anyone who gets the short end of the stick as a "victim," but some folks do, and the stereotypical Conservative response is to mock them for it.

The column starts out with Will's contention that: "Listening to political talk requires a third ear that hears what is not said." Upon which basis, his column takes a sharp right turn into what are unfair characterizations. Apparently, hearing what is not said allows one to put words in the mouths of others - positive words when you want them, and negative words when you need to attack someone. Will creates a number of phantom strawmen, attributing them to things his ever-listening third ear heard Senator Obama say, and then hacking them to bits with a few deft tangerines-to-oranges comparisons. (Will is smart enough to avoid the far more obvious apples-to-oranges comparisons.)

Example: When I was in college, it was understood that more Black men went to jail than went to college. The 4-or-5 to one ratio of black women to black men at the college that I went to seemed proof enough of that. Will quotes Senator Obama as saying a year ago "more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities." Will counters with: "Actually, more than twice as many black men 18-24 are in college as there are in jail." But go back and read Will's snippet of Obama's speech again. Where does Obama say that there are more black men IN prison than IN college? You could just as easily read his point as that more young black men GO to prison than GO to college. It is Will's third ear, and a slightly altered parsing of a phrase, that creates a lie where perhaps none existed before.

This, I suspect, is part of the way that the next several months will go - on both sides of the political divide, with third ears carefully hearing what no-one has said, in the search for ammunition to use against political opponents.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

GOP Cartoonists For Hillary

Chuck Asay's take on why Senator Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination. One of the things that I find interesting is the "Affirmative action" reference, a nod to Geraldine Ferraro's contention that Obama's success relied more on his race than anything else. If you read Asay's other cartoons, it's pretty obvious that he's a Republican, so you'd think that he wouldn't care all that much about the Democratic primary. I suspect we'll see more overt GOP sniping at the Obama campaign over the Hillary issue as time goes on.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shills in Snipes' Feathers

John Dickerson, over at Slate, has penned an interesting article claiming that the disaffected Clinton supporters who are now planning to cross party lines aren't as powerful as they're being made out to be. He likens the search for them to a snipe hunt - albeit one in which your quarry seems to be everywhere rather than nowhere.

Personally, I suspect that the "I'm so pissed that Senator Clinton didn't get the nomination so I'm going to vote for McCain" voter isn't as numerous as they're made out to be. I'll bet they're actually a fairly rare bird, if for no other reason than many of them are really Republican voters in the first place.

Dickerson is likely correct - the anger and hurt feelings over Obama WILL fade. So someone needs to stoke the fire. And on the internet, no one knows that you're a Republican. Let's face it. If someone were to come across the weblog at random, as far they're concerned, I could be Howard Dean as easily as I could be Karl Rove. Or, for that matter, John Dickerson. Would you really know any more about some random person who sets up (No, it's not intended to be a real link. I made it up.)

As movements begin to shed members, a snowball effect begins. As it gets lonelier and lonelier, the exodus gets faster and faster. But if you have a number of people keeping the lights on, and making sure that there's always someone home, you can slow the rush for the exits.

This isn't to say that everyone who stomps around complaining about Hillary not getting the top spot or being chosen as VP is actually a Republican. I suspect that there really are some people who are so mad they can't see straight and are willing to open up a can of worms that will be very, VERY difficult to close later on. Just like I suspect that there really are people who see Senator Obama as hopelessly unqualified, and honestly believe that Senator McCain will do a better job for the nation. After all, despite all the flack that Nader took in 2000, it was Democrats for Bush that put him over the top in Florida - they outnumbered the Nader voters. And not all Democrats voted for Kerry/Edwards, either. Anyone willing to cross party lines in 2004 is likely to be perfectly willing to do so now.

But the GOP would be a bunch of idiots not to throw some resources towards ensuring that as many Clinton partisans remain disaffected as they can. It's what negative campaigning is all about. And here you have a ready-made negative campaign, and a constituency that is already receptive to it. They don't really need them to vote Republican in the fall; they'll likely be happy just to have them stay home, and hopefully browbeat family members into doing the same. Those that do actually cross over are a bonus. A few thousand votes in one or two battleground states could make all the difference. And the costs are minimal. It's not like Senator McCain is going to have to turn pro-choice as payment or anything. And if it works, it becomes the gift that keeps on giving. Clintonistas that think that after four more years of a GOP White House that all will be forgiven, and the feelings of betrayal will be submerged "for the good of the party" have half the sense Dog gave a cabbage. Many of the young people who went crazy for Obama are likely to have simply been turned off, and the Obama die hards will likely have no problem doing onto others.

In light of all that, just because it looks like a snipe, walks like a snipe and grouses like a snipe - I'd think twice before claiming to be sure that it's a snipe.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

No Crisis Yet

A very good article on Slate, explaining that yet again, we're unlikely to hear anything substantive about how either candidate is going to fix what's wrong with the economy or with the governmental deficit that we're running. Neither candidate is going to touch the adjustments, sacrifices and pain that we're going to have to go through with a ten-mile pole. We all know that eventually, there is going to be a crisis, and that's when someone will finally start seriously dealing with the problem. Of course, by then, all of the choices for dealing with the mess are going to be bad ones...


Syndicated columnist Marianne Means took her turn today, making the case that Senator Hillary Clinton is owed the #2 spot on Senator Barack Obama's presidential ticket. She gets starry-eyed at the thought of "dream-ticket," all the while calling Senator Obama churlish, cowardly and foolish for considering other choices, and his supporters ignorant idealists. It reminded me of the Letters to the Editor that begin: "You're too much of a coward to print my letter, but..." If this is what the Democrats have to look forward to for the next five months, I think that we're better off calling the race for Senator John McCain now, and saving everyone the hassle.

One of the readers who responded to the column in the Soundoff, one TravisB, made one of the best points that going largely unheard. There are some VERY good reasons for Senator Obama to pick Senator Clinton as his running mate - and Means touched on exactly none of them. Instead, she penned a hurt and bitter screed, angry at those people who had the gall to support someone other than the person that she decreed should have won the nomination. This is the problem with dealing with people who feel that they are entitled to something - they forget that the best negotiating position offers a strong "win-win." But people who feel that you have something that belongs to them seldom see things that way. Convinced that theirs is the only legitimate position, they make demands that leave no room for compromise, feeling that the smallest concession is an insult.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Counter-Terror Short Bus

Because you never know when terrorists are going to steal/hijack a bus.

Through the computer hookup, the dispatcher can slow the bus and block it from being restarted, allowing cops to catch up and intervene.
"If we just stop the bus suddenly, maybe he sets off a bomb and kills 50 people," said Gary Pard, DeCamp's vice president of operations. "It's our objective to give a terrorist time to rethink their position."
Because everyone knows that a terrorist on a moving bus is just that much more determined.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Should It Have Been Obvious?

In a race with two candidates both making history at once, but coming from different constituencies:


  • Both candidates are superficially qualified for the position.
  • The constituencies from which both candidates were drawn have a history of being property, second class citizens and/or consistently marginalized.
  • Each candidate belongs to the group that the other constituency sees as the agents of oppression.
  • There can only be one winner.


  • Partisans for the loser were going to feel that the cards were deliberately stacked against their candidate, or that "people weren't ready" for their candidate to win?
  • There were going to be sore losers among the loser's partisans?
  • The most strident boosters of either candidate operated from an overblown sense of their candidate's qualifications, and the other candidate's lack thereof, that became functionally indistinguishable from chauvinism?
  • Some number of the supporters of each candidates were going to succumb to a clear sense of political entitlement, visible to everyone but themselves?
  • Partisans for both candidates were blind to favorable chauvinism, and hypersensitive to the appearance of unfavorable?
  • There were going to be ungracious winners among the winner's partisans?
  • Partisans for the winner were going to discount factors outside of their candidate that worked in their candidate's favor?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Oh, Is THAT All?

I LOVE how the British can manage to understate anything.

[Coroner Paul] Knapman said: “[Kevin Greening] was found dead having indulged in unorthodox sexual behavior involving restraint equipment and illegal drugs.”

I can pretty much guarantee you, whatever visual that conjures up for you, it doesn’t begin to describe it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Looks Right to Me...

Senator Barack Obama has been a household name for more than a year. Why does the Blogger spell-checker continue to flag his name (first and last) as misspelled?

I finally went ahead and added them to the dictionary myself, but you'd think that Google would have changed the default spell-checker by now... I mean, "Alabama?" Seriously?

The Hillary Card

So I find this greeting card with a picture of Hillary Clinton on the front of it. She's sitting behind a desk, with flags to either side of her, with a positively sinister smile (Or is it a smirk?) on her face. A placard in front of her reads: "President Hillary Clinton." Inside, the card reads: "See? There are some things scarier than turning a year older. Happy Birthday!" On the back of the card, is a picture of the Capitol building, in Washington D.C., surmounted by a giant birthday cake candle, which tells me that there is a series of politically-themed cards.

So... was this the only card that the store stocked? Or were the Obama and McCain cards long sold out...?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sex and the Committee

One of the things about living in Washington State, as opposed to Washington, D.C., is that we've reverted back to hearing about the primary campaign as if it were taking place on another planet (not that shipping this entire mess off to Neptune on the next NASA flight would be a bad idea). Catching the punditry that surrounds the election requires either getting up early on Sunday, or watching Fox News (or another cable news outlet), neither of which is really on my agenda these days. The net result of all of this is that most of the complaining that the Clinton crowd has been doing about the media's treatment of her gender has been largely abstract.

But I was reading today's papers online, and this caught my eye.

"One woman, wearing a blue 'Team Hillary' shirt, shoved a man in a suit and tie with a small Obama button on his lapel. 'We just blew the election!' another woman shouted. 'McCain in '08! McCain in '08!', a woman yelled from the back of the room. 'No-bama! No-bama!'"
"Dems seat delegates, but ignite new anger"
It doesn't take a hardcore feminist to get the feeling that someone has a problem with loud-mouthed, "uppity" women - or to get the idea that readers might wind up thinking that the only shouting was coming from female Clinton supporters. The idea that the meeting was such a one-sided affair didn't make any sense to me, even with the understanding of the culture of political entitlement that has grown up around Senator Clinton's candidacy. (Mainly because I find it hard to believe that there isn't a similar, if less vocal, culture around Senator Obama's candidacy.) So I jumped over the he Seattle Times crosstown rival, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, to see if they used the same story, or had a different perspective. It turns out they went with an Associated Press story instead.
"'We just blew the election!' a woman in the audience shouted. The crowd was divided between cheering Obama supporters and booing Clinton supporters."
"Florida, Michigan delegates will get half-votes"
Okay, that's a little better. At least you get the idea that the Obama supporters were something more than passive punching bags.

In addition to a photograph of one "Joh Winkleman of Sunnyside, N.Y.," with his fist in the air, both articles have this in common. You never see references to men shouting or being disruptve - it's either a "woman" or an "audience member." Mr. Winkleman was apparently the only man in attendance with something loud to say - although we aren't told what it was.

I have some difficulty believing that it was that difficult to pick disruptive/angry men out of the crowd. And it's not like this would be the first time that women have had something to say about something (which would somewhat justify the exclusive focus on them). I doubt that anyone in an editorial position (at the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, Seattle Post-Intelligencer or the Seattle Times) would concede the presentation of the stories is, if not overtly sexist, easily mistaken for such. On the other hand, yes, I find the stories somewhat sexist - but I'm a guy. Perhaps women would look at these stories and say: "Sexism? Where?"