Friday, December 31, 2004

File Under "This Oughta Piss Ya Off"

In the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Inspector General is charged with the job of keeping the rest of the Department honest, fiscally and operationally. Clark Kent Ervin took the task very seriously, pointing out where the Department fell short. He called the TSA to task for spending half a million of our tax dollars on an employee party, while not necessarily making airport security better. He published reports that criticized the Border Patrol for huge gaps along the Mexican border. In the past year, he has developed a reputation among both Republicans and Democrats as a diligent and decent public servant.

So, naturally, Bush fired him.

Theodicy 101

The tsunami disaster is rapidly approaching a point of diminishing returns in terms of our ability to comprehend it. By the time this is said and done, the dead- whether from the wave itself, or from the plagues and famine likely to follow- will be in the hundreds of thousands. September 11th, heretofore the largest scale disaster I had ever witnessed (via TV, anyway) was miniscule in comaprison. But this is unfathomable. One second, Banda Aceh was. One second later, Banda Aceh was not.

Some people blame God (at least, when it affects other people). (Curiously, some people blame Clinton.) God does not cause earthquakes, nor tsunamis, nor drunk drivers who run school buses off the road, nor the reelection of warmongering Texans. God does not participate in the daily monotony of commuting to work, nor of the sex lives of Starbucks baristas, nor of the tectonic motion of the Pacific plate. This is probably a Deistic attitude, and (despite the assertions of Red Staters) it was the prevalent theology in my country at the Founding.

My wife, who does not believe in God, frequently asks me why I do believe. Let me explain something- I was raised in The Church, meaning the Roman Catholic Church, but I realized some time ago that I didn't really belong there. I experimented with Wicca, and found many great things there. I flirted with Bhuddism- and I definitely found much in its philosophy that inspired me. But when I need church, it has to be a catholic (note small c) church, preferably the Episcopalians (who recite the Mass without any of the other horseshit I find so distasteful about Catholicism). As a catholic, I place no greater emphasis on Jesus than I do on God- that's an Evangelical thing.

More than any other Christian worship system, catholicism permits a certain amount of theological exploration. It is, at its heart, a thinking person's church (although most of the rank and file attend more out of obligation than deep conviction). The church that gave us Augustine and Aquinas surely wants an engaged congregation.

None of which explains why I believe, but the framework is necessary. God exists in pi, in Avogadro's Number, in the Golden Ratio. God exists in the Big Bang, in evolution, in poetry, in the Japanese alphabet, in the curveball, in the Lotus 7, in the First Amendment. Where some people human works, or scientific laws- I see God. I believe in God because I sense Him/Her/It everywhere I look.

I do not, however, expect God to give a rat's ass about me, or George W. Bush, or whether the Steelers win the Superbowl, or whether Banda Aceh exists or not. For one thing- God is not a person. God has no will; God neither creates nor destroys. God is- to use computer terminology- the operating system. Without the OS running in the background, the machine can do nothing. And even with the OS running, sometimes the machine will crash.

This philosophy bears no resemblance to the Catholicism of my youth, nor even of the catholicism I profess to practice (a rare occasion, it only occurs when I need a sense of the divine). It is much closer to the Buddhism or Wicca that I toyed with over the years- neither of which fits with my sense of "worship." Then again, who says that "worship" and "belief" are necessarily synonymous. There is no one true faith, as if Mormons were saved and Lutherans bound for hell (not that I believe in heaven and hell, either).

God bears no responsibility for this tragedy. The ground shifted, causing the ocean to swell. Scientifically speaking, it's not much different from the ripple left by a stone thrown in a pond, just bigger. This is little comfort to those who've lost people, or homes, or even entire cities. Let me ask you this- if God held a press conference, and announced that, yes, He caused the waves, and He was really, really sorry about it, would that be comforting to those people? I suspect not.

I once asked my wife why she did not believe, and she said, "Because I prayed for good things, and nothing happened." I replied, "What right do you have to ask God for anything in particular?" When I pray, it's little more than a short thank you for all that I have, and all that I do not have. So do not blame God, if for no other reason than it will get nothing accomplished when so much needs to be done.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Happy Hope Day!

My nephew called me tonight- well, actually his mother called me, but... whatever- to let me know about a new holiday he invented. He wished me a Happy Hope Day, and when I wished him a Happy Hope Day, I heard him scream with delight as he turned to his mother and told her, "He said it!"

I like the idea of Hope Day. Ever since Election Day, everyone I know who cares at all about the state of the world has been filled despair. We could use some hope right now, staring down the barrel of four more years of Texas oppression.

Then I subscribed to Salon. After the better part of a year of sitting through insufferable interstitial ads, $35 seemed like a bargain. (Plus they threw in full subscriptions to a number of print mags, one of which I even read!) In any event, I began to feel refreshed and emboldened- there are people out there like me, who feel like they don't have a say in the way things will be done for the foreseeable future. Who will do something about it.

Then Zach called to wish me Happy Hope Day. New years provide new opportunities for change. If I make a small one with me, I've done all I can.

So I wish you all Happy Hope Day, and a Happy New Year too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Morning Roundup

I'm home today, nursing a cold that has left me without a voice- speech is a necessary skill for lawyers, y'know- so I have abit of an opportunity to do a full rundown of the days events again.

File Under "Maybe They Can Count The Ballots From Ohio Now" It would seem that the largest Sunni party in Iraq has decided to take a pass on the upcoming elections. No big deal, just the credibility of our hand picked puppet is at stake! Forgive me if I seem somewhat incredulous that these elections will be anything other than a PR stunt. If the White House wants the world to take the elections seriously, they'd poison somebody.

Speaking Of Which The loser in the Ukraine debacle vows to go to court. Speculation is that Antonin Scalia will storm the chamber with a flurry of sarcastic dissents.

File Under "Can I Apply?" Apparently, tonight is the deadline for refugees to seek asylum in Canada. I think if I started driving now, I could make it to Niagara Falls in time for LOTR. I could even buy a Smart!

An Excellent Piece A story I missed for the better part of a week turned out to be the most wonderful piece of true journalism I've read in some time. AlterNet reports on the UCC commercial flap. As you might recall, NBC and CBS refused to run an ad for the United Church of Christ which implied that they don't turn anyone away. Including (if you can infer from two men holding hands) gay people. Imagine the moral indignation that a church should be able to let someone know that they don't think you're perverse. The real flap is not, of course, a matter of membership policy, but rather the split between literal and metaphorical thinking- as if Christ actually turned a couple of loaves and fish into a literal feast, or whether one may find "nourishment" in His company.

I am a believer, but I am not a Believer. I don't subscribe to the One True Faith meme. In fact, my most religious experiences have always occurred on the golfcourse, and not in church. That I was raised in a joyless Catholic diocesan parish (as opposed to a parish run by an order, who usually have a different take on spirituality) readily explains why I am standoffish toward blind faith. But if the President can go on TV and make a pitch why gays and lesbians do not deserve equality, a small Blue State church should be able to make a pitch why they do, at least at their own altar.

E.J. Dionne Gracious- Didn't He Get The Memo? Finally, Post columnist E.J. Dionne replied to his hate mail from the past year with a wink and a nod; a no hard feelings pat on the back; and a bit of humour (see, I could live in Canada!!!).

Monday, December 27, 2004

File Under, "Oh Sweet Jesus"

Nothing snarky tonight- just prayers for the victims of the tsunamis. The devastation is unreal- not quite as surreal as 9/11 for want of video and proximity, but perhaps harder to digest in the long run. It may come to pass that the fallen will have it easier.

Godspeed, fellow humans, rest well.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

This is not an actual post. I am testing new editing software. News to come tomorrow.

Peace out.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Holidays!

Nothing newsy to report today, just holiday wishes for you and yours! I hope everyone's Christmas was nice as mine- my wife got some bling, and I got an iBook (which is like bling for guys). I also got a rare, microdistilled whiskey from Oregon- made from imported Scottish peated barley (if it was distilled in Scotland, it would have been Scotch). Regrettably, it also burned like a yule log- only aged three years, it was decidedly not smooth. Oh well, pricey whiskey relegated to a life of sour mix.

Anyway, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Rummy in Iraq- Oddly Flashes Peace Sign

Rummy made a surprise visit to Iraq, "to thank the troops and wish them a Merry Christmas."

And to make himself seem a little more human, and sensitive, and maybe even not a total sonofabitch. But then again, you go to war with the SoD you have, not the one you might wish to have.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Shouldn't The Liberal Media Be All Over This?

Wonkette reports that a Republican staffer in the House was arrested recently... for trying to steal a plasma screen TV from a hearing room. Okay, maybe staffer is downplaying it a little- emails circulating the Hill say that the culprit was the Chief Economist on the Small Business Committee.

Actually, it makes me feel better to know that this guy was working for us, the American people. As an economist, he is a unique position to understand that "free" is preferable to "not free."

As an aside, take note of the story immediately preceding the TV thief. Yup that is Loretta Sanchez lookin' oddly hot. Hmmmmmm. Smokin'........

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I Thought "Negotiating With Yourself" Meant Something Else?

The President held a press conference yesterday, in which he managed not to confer with the press. He adroitly passed the buck to a number of underlings on a number of topics-
  • On Social Security: Now, the temptation is going to be, by well-meaning people such as yourself, John, and others here, as we run up to the issue to get me to negotiate with myself in public; to say, you know, what's this mean, Mr. President, what's that mean. I'm not going to do that. I don't get to write the law. I will propose a solution at the appropriate time, but the law will be written in the halls of Congress.... Don't bother to ask me. Or you can ask me. I shouldn't—I can't tell you what to ask. It's not the holiday spirit.
  • On Bernard Kerik: We've vetted a lot of people in this administration. We vetted people in the first, we're vetting people in the second term, and I've got great confidence in our vetting process. And so the lessons learned is [sic], continue to vet and ask good questions and get these candidates, the prospective nominees, to understand what we expect a candidate will face during a background check -- FBI background check, as well as congressional hearings.
  • On Rumsfeld (on personal offense at not having personally letters of condolence): Listen, I know how -- I know Secretary Rumsfeld's heart. I know how much he cares for the troops. He and his wife go out to Walter Reed in Bethesda all the time to provide comfort and solace. I have seen the anguish in his -- or heard the anguish in his voice and seen his eyes when we talk about the danger in Iraq, and the fact that youngsters are over there in harm's way. And he is -- he's a good, decent man. He's a caring fellow. Sometimes perhaps is demeanor is rough and gruff, but beneath that rough and gruff, no-nonsense demeanor is a good human being who cares deeply about the military, and deeply about the grief that war causes.

What emerges from all this, of course, is the simple truth that the President doesn't like being called to the carpet. To a man who believes that disagreement is disloyalty, however, that should be self-evident. I am at a loss for words every time I see or hear this simpleton speak. And then I think of Churchill, who said that democracies get the governments they deserve.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Long Absence---

So Sorry, there has been a lot going on in my personal life that required my attention. In my defense, there has not been much political news of late, if you don't count Kerikgate.

On another note- I am tired of attaching "-gate" to the end of any political scandal. I believe we should instead use the suffix "-pot Dome." Kerikpot Dome. Nice.

Very briefly, as I have to buy a tree today (personally, I want us to get an artificial tree, but the CFO- that's Chief Familial officer- will not hear of it).

A judge in Washington has granted a Republican request to block the counting of a number of recently discovered King County ballots. I don't know what is more disheartening- the fact that Republicans only want GOP votes to count, or the fact that a bunch of ballots could go missing until 7 weeks after Election Day.

Friday, December 03, 2004

File Under "Faith Based Nonsense"

God bless, Henry Waxman. He has recently released a report critical of abstinence only sex-ed. I know, old news and hardly shocking- but then I read the report. If the Red Staters get their way, our children will be taught that:
  • Condoms are only 69% effective against HIV (according to a study, which they conveniently fail to mention has been completely discredited).
  • Condoms have a 15% failure rate in preventing pregnancy (if you don't use them properly).
  • Touching someone else's genitals can get you pregnant (that one is so absurd it doesn't need a snappy retort).
  • Sex within marriage "is the expected standard of human sexual activity" (oh, really- is that Rush Limbaugh got divorced three times?).
  • Blastocysts, a ball of about 200 cells, "snuggle" into the uterine wall (hey, I'm always trying to snuggle into the uterus- just ask my wife).
  • That a woman's most important need in a relationship is financial support, and a man's most important need is domestic help (was this stuff written in 1946?).
  • Chlamydia cause heart disease! (You can hump bacon?)
  • You can get HIV from sweat and tears (actually, I think it's highly probable that someone has gotten HIV while listening to a Blood, Sweat, and Tears album, and these people just misunderstood).
  • And my favorite... a 43 day old fetus is a thinking person! (As opposed to most Bush voters.)

Thanks to The Daily Outrage for the link.

Abso-friggin-lutely Right On Point!

Couldn't have said this any better myself...

Halle states that “gays and lesbians are the true defenders of tradition in this country.” One might ask if that’s really a role gays and lesbians want to take on, considering the institution of marriage these days. To some gay couples, the phrase “traditional marriage values” conjures up images of what one might see on the controversial former FOX network show “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” These couples do not want to emulate the idealism that so many heterosexual couples have about the institution of marriage that so often leads to violence or divorce. However, this decision should not detract from the right for gay couples to marry, individuals always have the right not to wed.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sorry for the absence...

This blog is not a personal blog- I do not ramble on about my day, or about the state of mental health, or my foot fungus, or whatever. Let me just say this- this week has sucked to the utmost. Car accidents, money troubles, ill friends- I've had it all, he said not too sarcastically. In other words, going through the daily papers has been kinda far off my radar. Just a couple of notes today.

Great. Just friggin' great. The Times notes how the Senate will be much friendlier to anti-choice measures. Even though the Republican majority is increasing only slightly, they have traded some abortion moderates for abortion hawks. In other words, anti-choice true believerism will be on the rise.

File Under "Don't Let The Door Hit Your Ass On The Way Out" The Post reports that a senior administration official says that Treasury Secretary John W. Snow "can stay as long as he wants, provided it is not very long." Thomas Friedman had a little fun with that, as you can imagine.

Yo, Mr. Secretary, I'd say someone in the White House wants you gone! If I were you, I wouldn't renew any leases for more than a month at a time - or buy any really green bananas for the office. And those books you checked out of the Treasury library? Could you, like, maybe return them in the next few days? You know, just in case. I mean, it all depends on what the meaning of "long" is.
Of course, this is all part of the President's agenda to rid the administration of everyone who does not think in lockstep with the President himself, by which I mean Karl Rove. A President needs as many different points of view as he can get. Instead, this President gets as many yes men as he can muster, because facts that do not supports his "instincts" are promptly and readily ignored.

When the facts do not support the gut, apparently you go with the gut.