31 December 2006

Happy New Year Folks!!!

See you all in 2007! Wish everyone a safe and happy night and all the best in the new year! Hopefully I'll have more interesting thoughts when it gets here...haha.

27 December 2006

Holiday Thoughts

Being home for the holidays is always wonderful. It was an incredible long weekend with friends and family. Did a little drinking, a little hunting, a bit of story telling and a LOT of laughing, but I started off the weekend by reading these thoughts from Mama Philosopher and I felt compelled to pass them along:

Isn’t what we really need this time of year one more sweatshirt with Santa falling off his sleigh? The other day I was on hold to speak with someone at Sam’s Club to answer a question about a gift for my husband. The gentleman helping me had a distinct accent and so we spent a few minutes trying to understand each other. Finally, I was put on hold, or at least he thought I was on hold, but, actually, I was overhearing another poor sap talking to another Sam’s employee with another foreign accent trying to purchase that perfect gift. Finally, when I was put on hold, I spent another ten minutes listening to the most beautiful Christmas song about the babe Jesus. It was a moment in all the many moments that lead up to the celebration of our Savior’s birth. Not sure what the feeling was I was experiencing while listening to the song; sort of an eclectic mixture of emotions. Mostly what I felt was shame, guilt and longing.

The shame, I believe, came from the realization that somehow in all the preparations what I really spend the least time preparing is my heart. My heart knows what to do, my mind leads me astray somehow each holiday season. My hear feels heavier this time of year; the poor look poorer; the homes needing repairs somehow look even more needy. The stories I hear day in and day out in my practice as a counselor somehow seem sadder. My heart is trying to be heard. I do my giving tree bit. I don’t pass a bucket without dropping some bucks, and there have been times during the season when I give to my clients, anonymously of course, because God knows I wouldn’t want to be unethical or allow tem to know I have a heart at all. Always in the back of my mind during Thanksgiving and Christmas is this vision of me and mine working at a shelter or handing out food to the homeless. But somehow I know we would get there late ‘cause no one would want to get up, or it may intrude on my kids’ plans to party with their friends, or, God forbid, there might be a football game on at the same time.

The guilt I felt listening to the Christmas song while on hold probably has to do with the reality I choose to repeat year after year…the same routine of preparations. I bake the cookies even though we are overweight with high cholesterol and borderline diabetes. I buy the gifts even though all through the year I and those I love get what we need or want when we need or want it. My guilt is acknowledging it is not others, not my family keeping me from changing the way I prepare for Christmas, it is me and my need to keep it going. Nostalgia takes over and I obsess about doing it the way I did it last year and the year before and the year before that. My kids are not kids anymore; they are 19 and 23 and I still find myself counting to see if they both have the same number of gifts under the tree. Do I do this for them or me? This may be the important question. When it comes down to it, it is easier, less awkward, less risky to keep repeating what was done before than to try something new. I would risk seeing some disappointment in their faces if there were no gifts on Christmas morning. I would certainly hear a few whines if the food was not on the table. So the earthly needs would go unsatisfied. But if we did the things I dream of doing as a family, take an active role in providing for others, sharing our blessings…how satisfied our hearts would be.

The feeling of longing I felt listening to the story of the baby Jesus’ birth probably had something to do with hope someday I will have the courage to do it right. Someday I will listen more to my heart and less to my head. Someday I will choose to take the risk of disappointing family, abandoning tradition, and instead listen to the little voice inside of me. The little voice kept quiet for too long.

Note: This would have been longer but the timer on my oven sounded and I had to get another pan of cookies out before they burned. And the doorbell is ringing, maybe another box from QVC…

23 December 2006

Happy Festivus!

Today, take the time to set up an alluminum pole(note: pole must be alluminum because of its high strength-to-weight ratio and must be undecorated because tinsel is really freaking distracting) in your living room, complain to all of your friends about how they've wronged you over the past year, and end the day with a wrestling extravaganza... and do it all in the name of Festivus, the holiday created the father of Seinfeld writer Daniel O'Keefe. The holiday, which gained fame in the Seinfeld episode "The Strike" about ten years ago could be just what this country's looking for this holiday season: a non-denominational, uncommercialized excuse to relax, drink, eat, and be jolly all while not stepping on anyone's toes.

So, instead of bickering about whether you should say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or Merry Saturnalia let's all come together and celebrate the Miracles of Festivus.

21 December 2006

A Little Christmas Cheer?

I was doing a little Christmas trivia research (by the way, it was, in the original anonymous printing, Donner and Blixem then Donder and Blitzen, and, finally, Donner and Blitzen...something to do with German vs. Dutch spellings, but no matter how you spell it they translate to Thunder and Lightening) when I came across this classic. Thought you might enjoy:

A Visit from Saint Nicholas
(In the Ernest Hemingway Manner)

by James Thurber
Issue of 1927-12-24
Posted 2003-12-15

This classic New Yorker holiday story, from 1927, appears in the anthology “Christmas at The New Yorker,” which was published by Random House.

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren’t even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.

The children were in their beds. Their beds were in the room next to ours. Mamma and I were in our beds. Mamma wore a kerchief. I had my cap on. I could hear the children moving. We didn’t move. We wanted the children to think we were asleep.

“Father,” the children said.

There was no answer. He’s there, all right, they thought.

“Father,” they said, and banged on their beds.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“We have visions of sugarplums,” the children said.

“Go to sleep,” said mamma.

“We can’t sleep,” said the children. They stopped talking, but I could hear them moving. They made sounds.

“Can you sleep?” asked the children.

“No,” I said.

“You ought to sleep.”

“I know. I ought to sleep.”

“Can we have some sugarplums?”

“You can’t have any sugarplums,” said mamma.

“We just asked you.”

There was a long silence. I could hear the children moving again.

“Is Saint Nicholas asleep?” asked the children.

“No,” mamma said. “Be quiet.”

“What the hell would he be asleep tonight for?” I asked.

“He might be,” the children said.

“He isn’t,” I said.

“Let’s try to sleep,” said mamma.

The house became quiet once more. I could hear the rustling noises the children made when they moved in their beds.

Out on the lawn a clatter arose. I got out of bed and went to the window. I opened the shutters; then I threw up the sash. The moon shone on the snow. The moon gave the lustre of mid-day to objects in the snow. There was a miniature sleigh in the snow, and eight tiny reindeer. A little man was driving them. He was lively and quick. He whistled and shouted at the reindeer and called them by their names. Their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.

He told them to dash away to the top of the porch, and then he told them to dash away to the top of the wall. They did. The sleigh was full of toys.

“Who is it?” mamma asked.

“Some guy,” I said. “A little guy.”

I pulled my head in out of the window and listened. I heard the reindeer on the roof. I could hear their hoofs pawing and prancing on the roof. “Shut the window,” said mamma. I stood still and listened.

“What do you hear?”

“Reindeer,” I said. I shut the window and walked about. It was cold. Mamma sat up in the bed and looked at me.

“How would they get on the roof?” mamma asked.

“They fly.”

“Get into bed. You’ll catch cold.”

Mamma lay down in bed. I didn’t get into bed. I kept walking around.

“What do you mean, they fly?” asked mamma.

“Just fly is all.”

Mamma turned away toward the wall. She didn’t say anything.

I went out into the room where the chimney was. The little man came down the chimney and stepped into the room. He was dressed all in fur. His clothes were covered with ashes and soot from the chimney. On his back was a pack like a peddler’s pack. There were toys in it. His cheeks and nose were red and he had dimples. His eyes twinkled. His mouth was little, like a bow, and his beard was very white. Between his teeth was a stumpy pipe. The smoke from the pipe encircled his head in a wreath. He laughed and his belly shook. It shook like a bowl of red jelly. I laughed. He winked his eye, then he gave a twist to his head. He didn’t say anything.

He turned to the chimney and filled the stockings and turned away from the chimney. Laying his finger aside his nose, he gave a nod. Then he went up the chimney. I went to the chimney and looked up. I saw him get into his sleigh. He whistled at his team and the team flew away. The team flew as lightly as thistledown. The driver called out, “Merry Christmas and good night.” I went back to bed.

“What was it?” asked mamma. “Saint Nicholas?” She smiled.

“Yeah,” I said.

She sighed and turned in the bed.

“I saw him,” I said.


“I did see him.”

“Sure you saw him.” She turned farther toward the wall.

“Father,” said the children.

“There you go,” mamma said. “You and your flying reindeer.”

“Go to sleep,” I said.

“Can we see Saint Nicholas when he comes?” the children asked.

“You got to be asleep,” I said. “You got to be asleep when he comes. You can’t see him unless you’re unconscious.”

“Father knows,” mamma said.

I pulled the covers over my mouth. It was warm under the covers. As I went to sleep I wondered if mamma was right.

Quote of the Day

Yesterday, Oxymoronic Philosopher wrote of a War on Christianity. While the idea of a well planned, serious onslaught against Christianity and Christmas seems highly improbable, the notion that many right wing nutjobs, ranging from pundits to politicians, are seriously waging a war on Islam seems a whole-hell-of-a lot less far-fetched. And these guys aren't necessarily attacking the sort of radical Islam espoused by our real enemies (lest we forget who those guys are... you know, the ones who attacked us, the ones went after and blew our chances to get in Afghanistan). No, far from it. They're taking jabs at honest, hard-working Americans who choose to exercise their First Amendment right and practice the teachings of Muhammad.

Take Minn. Rep. Elect Keith Ellison, who, about a month ago, requested to be sworn in using the Quran. He's become the target of the right-wingers simply for staying steadfast in his beliefs, something Christian Conservatives seem to favor when it comes to members of their own flock but tend to oppose when it comes to followers of a different persuasion. The message seems clear: 'Christians, hold your beliefs no matter what. You're right, and there's no debatin' that. Never let the media, government, etc. challenge those beliefs. Everybody else: freedom of religion only applies to us. Screw you!'

So many members of the Conservative media have told Rep. Elect Ellison "screw you" that it's ridiculous. Remember back in November when CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck told Ellison, "what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.'"? Comments like these aren't limited to idiots like Beck, though. Just a few days ago Virginia Congressman (yes, a congressman. an elected leader who's supposed to uphold the Constitution) Virgil Goode wrote a letter to his constituents about the need for a complete overhaul of the current immigration policy, which leads us to the long-awaited and much anticipated (work with me, people) return of my Quote of the Day.

In the letter Goode wrote, "When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Quran in any way.

"The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Quran... I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary..."

Having the greeter at the local Wal-Mart say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is one thing. It's a petty argument for an so-called war that doesn't really exist. Having a U.S. Congressman, a guy who's supposed to defend the Bill of Rights in every situation, attack the Quran and essentially undermine the legitimacy of a Muslim-congressman is an entirely different thing. That, my friends, is a well-calculated war on a religion that has been overshadowed in the mainstream media.

20 December 2006

A War on Christianity

Sitting at work this morning and an email indicator pops up in the bottom corner of the screen…I double click, and this is what I see:

Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If Scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.

Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offense; it's a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.

For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.

We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.
It's "inappropriate" to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such "judgments" do not belong.

We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.

It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!


Now, I’m not as crafty as SteveG, so I won’t put my own twist to this tale, but I do want to contemplate it for a just a moment. What got us to this point…where trite poems about the persecution of Christians intrude on our mailboxes on a daily basis? Is it that we have become so secular, so entrenched in reason, logic, and science that we are simply appalled by appeals to religion…by the prayers of others? Come on…if we’re living in a reality-based society where reason has defeated all comers, why are we still in an ill conceived war? Why is it that the majority still claims to be religious? Why is it that most charitable giving still comes from the low-income population and through religious channels? No, reason hasn’t won out on this one.

In fact, we’re dealing with just the opposite. The pressure against religion in public life is reactionary. It is a reaction on behalf of the religious minorities in the face of some of the greatest churchgoing and evangelizing that this nation has seen. It’s done in different ways now than in the past…with light shows, video screens, TV and radio broadcasts, but the Christians of this country are far from persecuted. The mechanisms have always been in place to remove the religious gestures from public life, but the impetus to do so was never there until the minority began to feel threatened. Then…the push from both sides began.

The question left unanswered, though…is this the solution we ought seek or is this yet another symptom of the continuing polarization of American society? Is it not just a reaction, but an overreaction that we see coming from both sides of this issue?

The Decision Is In...

No casino in Gettysburg:

Pa. gaming board awards 5 slots licenses in historic session

12/20/2006, 12:06 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — State gambling regulators on Wednesday awarded five slots licenses for casino projects in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem and the Pocono Mountains, while rejecting bids that included a proposal for a slots parlor near the historic Gettysburg battlefield.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board awarded two Philadelphia licenses to groups led by billionaire developer Neil G. Bluhm and by Connecticut-based Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. In Pittsburgh, the board awarded a license to Detroit-based casino developer Don H. Barden.

Las Vegas-based casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. won a license for a Bethlehem casino and businessman Louis A. DeNaples won one for a Pocono Mountain resort.

The gaming board can award as many as 11 permanent slots licenses, each allowing as many as 5,000 machines. Six licenses are earmarked for the state's horse-racing tracks, while 13 applicants competed for the remaining five stand-alone licenses.

Among the applications the board rejected were:

• a hotly contested proposal by a group led by Connecticut-based Silver Point Capital LP for a casino near the Gettysburg battlefield;

• an application by Donald Trump's Atlantic City, N.J.-based casino company for a casino in Philadelphia;

• a proposal by St. Louis-based casino operator Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. for a casino in Pittsburgh; Isle of Capri had promised to build a new $290 million arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins without using taxpayer money.

So far, two racetracks — Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and Philadelphia Park — already have opened slots parlors under conditional licenses, while racetracks in Chester and near Erie are expected to open slots parlors in the next two months.

Gov. Ed Rendell rejuvenated a 25-year drive to legalize casino-style gambling in Pennsylvania by promising that slots revenue would help reduce property taxes and revive the state's declining horse-racing industry. The law passed in 2004 authorized up to 61,000 slot machines at 14 sites.

19 December 2006

The First Day

I, as I’m sure many do, often find myself thinking about my beliefs and convictions, both spiritual and intellectual, and how well the way I actually live my life coincides with them. I usually come to the conclusion that the overarching theme of my life displays well the beliefs I hold about the way a good life should be lived, but I’ll be damned if I’m not still a hypocrite the other 49% of the time.

One of the most outrageous examples of this disjunct in belief and practice surfaces every year between the Monday after Thanksgiving and mid-January. This is the time of year that I take to the woods in that most primal endeavor, that coming of age event of the Western PA youth…yes, my friends, the Oxymoron continues, I am a hunter. Though occasionally pursuing small game and birds, the Pennsylvania whitetail is my prey of choice. Grant it, I haven’t taken a deer in the last two years…I said I was a hunter, not a killer. Often the adventure is more about taking my gun for a long walk in the woods than anything else.

So what is it that draws me to this “sport?” I hesitate in daily life to squash a fly or step on a spider. I swerve to miss squirrels in the road and feel terrible when I step on the tail of my 15 year old cat. I despise causing harm or bringing pain upon anyone or anything…for the most part. But, for some reason, I can’t think of hunting in these terms. There are the common defenses, with which I agree, given by hunters and outdoorsmen: population control, crop protection, if we don’t kill them you’ll hit them with your car, there are so many deer that they will starve to death if not controlled. But there’s so much more to taking to the woods during this time of year. There’s a culture and a tradition built up around it that I am, quite simply, not ready to forego. This is one time of year when I make the entirely conscious decision to live in discord with my beliefs.

The tradition…it starts in September when the time comes to buy a license and send in applications for additional tags. The emails and phone calls start escalating. Who’s seeing deer where? Where’s the big buck this year? Where are you hunting? Should we move our stands? Have the regulations changed? Remember where they took that big one in the Valley last year? It builds and builds…my dad, my uncles, my closest friends all chatting it up over the coming season.

Then…Thanksgiving weekend. Some of the guys have already been out for archery; they’ve seen the deer and have tales of tails to tell. The night before the holiday is always a night out on the town talking with old friends, singing, telling stories, and reminiscing. Thanksgiving day is for football and feasting and drinking some beer. But then comes Black Friday; while many take to the malls my friends and I take to the woods. We clean our guns, prepare our gear, check all our treestands, blinds, and other spots. Make sure the paths are clear and shooting lanes open, then trek back to the cabin for a couple of beers. Sunday is the final preparation. Pile the gear in the basement, double check your ammo, make some sandwiches with the leftover turkey, and go buy a pair of gloves because you definitely lost yours from last year…oh, and batteries for the flashlight…how are they ALWAYS dead? Nobody really sleeps on Sunday night.

The serenity…the alarm wakes me at 4:30 AM. Breakfast and a cup of coffee with my dad, and we bitch about how the newspaper is never there on time on the First Day (we capitalize it in PA b/c it’s a holiday there). I glare out the window at the crisp, dark morning hoping for some snow that just won’t come. Pile on three layers of clothes…maybe four…and mom gets up to say, “Good luck!” Load the gear in the truck, grab your thermos of coffee hit the road.

In the woods before sunrise finding your way with a flashlight, the stands must have moved since Friday…honestly, where can they be…by the big pine, or was it that big pine? Small talk ceased when we left the truck, now it’s walking in silence. Finally, I’ve found my tree and climbed the stand…strapped myself in and loaded my gun. My walkie-talkie is still off and this is my favorite part of the day. Watching the sun slowly peek over the horizon, the pinks and oranges of the morning light flicker off the glistening branches of the winter trees. The woods start to come alive. Birds chirp. Turkeys fly from their perches like feather covered rocks falling from trees. Woodpeckers start about their day. I sit in silence…just watching, listening. It’s the perfect place to be a philosopher…to contemplate and meditate. I’ve written papers in the woods before, all in my head. Made life decisions there, too. Hours pass slowly but steadily. A rustle behind me, and I turn slowly thinking it may be a deer. Just some squirrels playing, chasing each other through the leaves. Damn do they get annoying after a while, always keeping you at nerves end. But then, distinctively, the sound of a deer…maybe two…moving through the woods. They’re swift and light on their feet, but still I can hear them coming…behind me. I wait…let them move closer, then slowly turn…so slowly. Out of the corner of my eye…she’s there…just a doe. What beautiful creatures…majestic…this is their wood, where they belong. She walks, then eats, then walks. I turn to get a better look, still moving gingerly. She hears me. She looks at me then looks away as I hold my breath. Then…unexplainably, she spooks. As she runs, I see her suitor. The powerful buck that had been just out of my field of view gives chase.

The adrenaline…my heart starts to pound profusely, breathing becomes sporadic as I raise my gun and find him in my scope. I can’t hold him there, my hands tremble. A DEEP SLOW BREATH…and they steady. He has enough points…find his front shoulder…slowly squeeze…

Aha…drag him back to the cabin and let the stories begin over a sandwich, a cup of coffee and a frozen candy bar. No sandwich is better than the one that’s been smashed under your thermos all morning. No cup of coffee tastes as good as the hot cup in the cold woods. And frozen Snickers are a gift from heaven.

No…I’m not ready to give this up. I can’t reconcile it with my beliefs or justify the killing of an animal with any intellectual or spiritual certainty. But…sometimes traditions are just that way. Sometimes the tradition consumes you and is simply inexplicable…and I like that…sometimes.

Applications: COMPLETE

FINALLY! I just sent of the final 3 packets of supplementary materials today and the ball is officially out of my court...for now. What a great feeling...knowing I've done what I can to this point and now have the constant weight I've been feeling for the last few months relieved. I ended up applying to seven grad programs pretty much across the spectrum. Six PhDs and one MA; a few large research institutes and a couple of smaller programs; from strong Continental programs to pluralistic/eclectic programs, to the highly analytic department at Pitt. It will be interesting/fun to see how this all plays out (not to mention a little nerve wracking). So everyone please keep your fingers, toes, eyes....and whatever else you got...crossed for me!

04 December 2006

Lack of Posts

It's been a week since the blog's been updated, and even before that, postings were few and far between. For our readers (there are a few readers, right?... maybe?), I think this deserves an explanation.

While the Oxymoronic Philosopher has been busy with work and grad. school applications, I've been busy writing papers, studying for exams, and wrapping up my fall semester. Thus, as of late, posts have been sporadic and, to some degree, without much thought. We just haven't had the energy to put any real thought into writing anything, and that's sad. Hopefully at some point we'll get back to putting the time needed into maintaining a thoughtful, earnest blog. Until then, keep checking in from time to time, as I'm sure that random posts will continue to appear.

Happy Monday,

27 November 2006

Charitable or Cheap?

So I was buying a new hoodie at a sporting goods chain the other day, and as I waited for my receipt, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate to the American Red Cross. Noticing my indecision, the cashier politely said that donations could be as little as a dollar. After the immediate hesitation, I said that I would donate. And when asked how much, I quickly responded "a dollar."

Normally I wouldn't think twice about donating to a charity. Some pocket change, a dollar, or even more: I tend to give money to organizations when asked or on my own terms. However, this situation was weird for me. It seemed like I was bombarded by the question and really had no choice but to say yes. I was forced, or almost guilted, into donating-- not that that's necessarily a bad thing. It's probably a very good thing for the charities benefiting from such practices.

Then, once I made it clear that I was giving the minimum amount-- a dollar-- I couldn't help but feel like a cheapskate. There I was spending some forty bucks on a new hoodie, yet I couldn't shell out more than a dollar for the Red Cross? What's more is that I didn't even immediately decide to give anything. Was my early indecision just a result of the fact that I felt bombarded by the question?

Why do I feel so weird about this? I mean, I did make a donation. Was I charitable or was I just plain cheap?

17 November 2006

Weekly Report Card

From the NFL to Capitol Hill, here's how the world the fared this week.

Last Sunday, my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers got a much-needed win, besting the New Olreans Saints 38-31. To this point in the NFL season, my Sundays, which were days of pure joy last season as the Steelers went on an improbable run to the Super Bowl, have been mired in the stench of defeat. It's been disgusting watching a battered Ben Roethlisberger, who was once hailed as the saviour of Pittsburgh football, look like a hapless, has-been type quarterback. And it's been even more disgusting watching the injury-ridden Steelers limp to a 2-6 record just a year removed from a Super Bowl Championship. Sunday's win, in which the Steelers didn't turn the ball over and reverted to a trusty, smashmouth, Steeler-esqe running game, was a much needed one for Roethisberger and the Steelers as well as for irate fans like me. Grade: B+

Tuesday, CNN's Glenn Beck put Representative-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, in a really akward situation, saying, "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Beck added: "I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way."Not only is Beck a complete idiot, but I also think (and hope) that he's grossly misrepresenting the feelings of most Americans. Grades (for Beck and CNN for allowing such trash to be aired): F

Wednesday, Republican Senate leadership elected Trent Lott as the Senate's new Minority Whip. Lest we forget that Lott is just four years removed from these comments at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party: "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." Great. You're proud that your state voted for a segregationist candidate in the 1948 election. What problems might Thurmond have cleared up? That terrible ruckus made over civil rights? Memo to Republican Senators: your party has enough problems, adding a racist to the ranks of your leadership cannot be a good thing. Grade: F

Thursday, MSNBC reported that Fox has agreed to an interview with O.J. Simpson about his new book, If I Did It. First, jeers to Simpsons, who is already creepy enough without writing a book about how he "would have" murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend. Second, jeers to Fox and Judith Regan for giving O.J. airtime to plug the book, which was published . O.J. should be ashamed. More importantly, Fox should be ashamed. Oh, that's right, this is the same network that lets the likes of O'Reilly and Hannity act as newsmen. This is the same network that brought us quality TV with shows like "Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance". This network shows no shame. Grades: F

10 November 2006

This Is Just Too Cool

Check out this computer interface of the future. I want one now!!! How cool is this thing?

09 November 2006

A Touching Tribute and Other Post Election Ramblings

Last night, the Colbert Report put on a touching tribute (click the video called "Special Memories") to the Republican majority, reminiscing about some of the greatest leadership our country has ever seen. Ah, the good old days... nearly brought a tear to my eye.

Moving on, who else is happy that election season is over, if only for the fact that we don't have to be constantly bombarded with crappy TV ads for a few more years? If I had to watch Rick Santorum punch out a pro wrestler again, I think I'd lose it. It's great to see that Rick's attempts to get the pro wrestling fan vote weren't enough to save his Senate seat.

On a more serious not, I just read that George Allen is set to concede the Virgina senate race today, avoiding what could have been a really messy, ugly re-count. I'm pretty shocked by this, as I really thought that leading Republicans would go to great lengths to re-count those votes and somehow make up for the some 7,ooo votes Allen is currently trailing by. It's very unlike Republicans (hell, it's very unlike Democrats, as well) to simply give up a race that's as close as this one wihtout any sort of fight, dirty or not. Could this be a sign that these guys are more down and out than we thought? Did the Democratic defeat drain most of the energy out of the Republican party on a national level?

That's all for now, just thought I'd weigh in on some stuff that hasn't yet been hashed to death.

08 November 2006


Post here and headline here, but not much news on it yet. Supposedly, Shrub will announce a replacement at 1 pm press conference. More thoughts later.

UPDATE: Bush nominating Robert Gates, former Director of the CIA and current Texas A&M President to the post.

From the Horse's Mouth: Bush said, "I thought we were going to do fine yesterday. Shows what i know!" during today's press conference...our fearless and well-informed leader.

06 November 2006

PA Election News

Courtesy of reader onmyway: http://www.keystonepolitics.com/Article4758.html.

It appears that Slick Rick has got a pollster in his corner now. Now I have no empirical evidence to back these thoughts (though I'm sure someone out there knows of some studies done), but it seems to me that polling data could effect voters in a number of ways:

1. Data that shows a closing gap in a heated election such as this should increase voter turnout for both sides. Those who oppose Santorum should be moved to the polls to bolster the opposition, those who favor should be energized and excited about the opportunity for a win. Will this be a null effect or will there be a greater effect for one side or the other? I don't know.

2. The bandwagon effect. Some people just want to be on the winning side. Will undecided voters jump the Democratic ship as they see the incumbant gaining momentum? You see it in sports as the playoffs dwindle to a few teams...all the sudden everyone's a Cowboy's fan. Does this effect exist in politics as well? I'm sure it does to some degree.

3. Disenfranchised Democrats. Will Casey backers lose steam as at the sight of poll numbers showing the gap closing? This is in opposition to the first point, but both are plausible reactions within different groups of voters. Will some begin to think that a chance at ousting Rick was a pipedream?

I'm sure there are other possibilities I'm not hitting on, but these are some thoughts. Polls seem like prophecies that can be self-fulfilling. Bad poll numbers, as this article insinuates these may be, could plausibly have a real effect in the election.

02 November 2006


If this story is true...pure hypocrisy. A self proclaimed male prostitute claimed on a local Denver radio station this morning that he has been accepting money for sex from Rev. Ted Haggard. Haggard, the President of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life church in Colorado Springs has stepped down from both positions while an investigation is undertaken. Haggard also has the ear of the President as he participates in weekly conference calls with White House staffers. Oh, and did I mention, he's a vocal proponent of a Colorado ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. If this allegation is true, it's simply serves as another glaring example of the hypocrisy of the Christian right. If it's not, it should at least make for good theater.

UPDATE: Pastor Ted has admitted to calling Mike Jones "for a massage" and purchasing meth from him, though he never used it. B/c, you know, we all buy meth from our masseuse...and it's something we all like to keep lying around the house just in case.

"Apologize, Mr. Bush"

(Part 2)

I've been waiting to comment on the much debated John Kerry remark/botched joke/Republican talking point, holding back as the backlash continues to reveal itself. Keith Olbermann, however, provides a much more nuanced response than I could ever conceive of, so I point you in his direction, care of last night's Special Comment.

"There is tonight no political division in this country that he and his party will not exploit, nor have not exploited; no anxiety that he and his party will not inflame."

That line is so utterly true. As always, Republican spin doctors seized this flubbed joke, which if you read within the context of the entire speech it clearly was, (off topic, but, who else is shocked that John Kerry screwed up the timing of a joke?) as an opportunity to paint the Democrats as elitist, unpatriotic ass-holes. A week before election day, Republicans, with their backs against the wall, focus on some made-up idea that Vietnam vet John Kerry and other leading Democrats don't support our troops rather than pointing to their own accomplishments. (Oh, that's right, they haven't accomplished anything.) These guys play on something, real or not, that tugs at the heartstrings of Americans instead of pointing to substantive issues, about which their views are clearly out of touch with the way this country feels. Uggh, the pattern of deceit continues.

31 October 2006

Sex is the Devil

Ok, so Bitch beat me to the punch, but I still gotta say something about this (I know, I know, it’s USA Today, but that’s where I saw it while waiting in line at the deli for lunch. Sorry). Shrub's folks have decided that targeting abstinence only education at middle and high schoolers just wasn’t getting the job done. No sir, no way, no how…we’ve gotta aim for the ones that are having all of these babies out of wedlock, after all, and it’s not the high school crowd. Federal grant guidelines for 2007 are aimed to funnel millions of dollars to the states for abstinence only programs for 19-29 year olds!!!! You can buy cigs, drink booze to your hearts content, pick up a Playboy, and even die for your country…but for God’s sake, DON’T HAVE SEX!

Give me an effin’ break! Come back to reality folks. What’s the first thought you have when I say don’t eat candy? Damn, I could go for a Snickers…that’s what it is. High schoolers are gonna have sex. College kids are gonna have more sex. Post college…well…it could be better, but we’re still trying. The point is, teach them how to do it safely. Teach them how to avoid disease. Teach them how to not end up with little bundles of joy that they’re not ready to care for. Teach them to use a condom. Teach them about birth control. And, for crying out loud, come to terms with the fact that they’re gonna have sex no matter what you say.

Happy Halloween

What better way to scare yourself on this All Hallow's Eve than by watching this Rick Santorum attack ad that equates Rick's Democratic challenger Bob Casey with Kim Jung Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while implying that Casey supports terrorism. Ghouls, goblins, terrorists, and Bob Casey. Scary, huh?

30 October 2006

Not So Liberal Democrats

Heath Shuler is a former star football player at the University of Tennessee. After a brief and unimpressive stint in the NFL, Shuler went back to college, finished his degree, and became a real estate mogul in Knoxville. The 34 year old Shuler is also an evangelical Christian who opposes abortion rights and gun control. And why am I writing about a has-been quarterback with socially conservative tendencies? As you might know, Shuler is the Democratic candidate for congress in North Carolina's 11th district.

The Times has pretty good read about Shuler and other moderate to conservative Democrats running for congressional seats across the country. The Democratic leadership is turning to these types of candidates in hopes of winning seats in socially conservative, often evangelical, rural areas that have been ransacked by Republicans in recent years. While these so-called New Democrats, or Blue Dog Democrats, might more closely fit the profiles of their districts, is it really worth supporting them since many of their views are so far removed from those of the party's base?

To be honest, I don't know. These candidates have the best shot at winning in conservative districts, but what's the point of winning an election if you're going to, in effect, maintain the status quo. A conservative under the guise of a Democrat, a candidate who will not support abortion rights, who will not be a true progressive on other social issues, and who will side with the Bush administration on hugely important debates, is not much better than a conservative Republican. Is it?

29 October 2006

A Contradiction

I want to talk about a contradiction in reaction to reader Evan’s comments a couple of weeks ago and to a post by Spaz about the neo-con hijacking of feminist arguments (followed up by some great comments by humbition and SteveR). Liberalism entails a certain allowance for a difference of opinion over many subjects. We don’t have to agree to get along. We should be able to debate and find a middle ground in which we can both work. The certain contradiction that’s bothering me lately, and I haven’t yet come to terms with, is the disparate beliefs that we should at the same time allow, by our belief in religious freedom, the practices, beliefs, myths, and experiences of other religions, whatever they may be, and yet morally condemn certain of those practices, beliefs, etc.

Spaz points out in her piece that the neo-cons are pimping feminist arguments to bolster support for imperialist actions in Muslim nations. This is a legitimate criticism, and, as humbition pointed out, a move that has often been a part of imperialist arguments. But shouldn’t someone be trying to change the way women are treated (or better, work toward equality for women) in these traditional Muslim nations? Humbition believes it to be the right/duty (I’m not sure exactly) of the women in these countries to take up this battle themselves. However, is it always that case that the oppressed know that they are oppressed and that there is a way out? And do they always have the means to fight their own oppression? We have a moral obligation; it seems, to intervene when we see a wrong being done; to offer our assistance. Now, this does not mean that I in any way condone imperialist moves in this type of situation. I am simply pointing out here what I see as an obligation.

But why do we allow ourselves this contradiction. I can say that I believe that all religions should have equal right to carry out their practices, rituals, etc. In the next breath, I can say that I despise the Muslim practice of forcing women to wear the burqa or some other practice that puts women in the place of another class of citizen. But because of the first, do I prevent myself action on the second? It doesn’t seem to be the case domestically. We all, as liberals, seem to be willing to fight for equality for women, gays, races in spite of religious beliefs held by other groups within our borders. We will openly condemn the Catholic church for not allowing gay marriages or women priests. We will point out all their hypocrisies. It seems, though, that when we try to transplant those same beliefs into another cultural realm, somewhere outside our borders, we fail to be able to act. We prevent ourselves from fighting for the rights of the individuals, the basic human rights.

It occurs to me that this is a case of affording cultural relativism too much power. When the rights of the culture (or the nation, or the religion) trample the basic rights of the individual as a human being, we are required to intervene. Not through force, not by military action, but with argument, with dialogue, and maybe with economic pressure. Freedom is not realized by exporting democracy; by transplanting a one-in-a-million-shot political system to the rest of the world, but by working for the rights and freedoms of the individuals; and by placing those basic rights above cultural, social, and religious customs.

I’d really like to hear some other thoughts on this…as it’s something I’m working through continually in my head. Anyone got anything for me…maybe even some direction toward some good reading?

25 October 2006

Betting on Global Warming

This piece came on while I was driving home this evening, and I wasn’t quite sure how to react. Now that’s it’s had some time to sink in, I’m pretty flabbergasted by it.

KAI RYSSDAL: We begin more than a thousand miles straight north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, on the western shore of Canada's Hudson Bay. Marketplace's Stephen Beard set out from the Sustainability Desk for Churchill, Manitoba.
STEPHEN BEARD: Darren Ottaway is in his element — tramping through the snow around Churchill, the tiny, frozen outpost that he used to administer in Northern Canada. In the 10 years he was the town council's chief executive, Darren learned to listen to the snow:

DARREN OTTAWAY: You can tell the temperature by the sound of the snow. So this is sort of a . . . You know, when you're walking and you hear a bass sound, it's because the snow is wet and it's starting to melt, so it has a different sound. When it's minus 40 out, it's a sharp, crisp sound that you can hear under your feet. It makes a completely different noise.

He doesn't hear that sharp, crisp sound as often as he used to. The snow melts earlier in the year. The ice that once covered Hudson Bay until August now melts a full month earlier. The signs and sounds of global warming are everywhere. But Darren Ottaway is not complaining:

OTTAWAY: You know, nature's going to respond to global warming. It'll adapt on its own. What global warming really represents is an economic issue. That's really what it is. How do we adapt to changing weather and climate? And how do we capitalize on that economic opportunity? And this is really, I think, where we're going to come ahead of the game because we're not looking at it as being a negative impact. It has a lot of positive impacts.

This small, rather ramshackle town of 1,100 people has been declining for years. But now it's putting its hopes in the revival of its port.
Vince Pirelli, the port's operations manager, is supervising a shipment of canola grain. At the moment the port is ice-free for only four months of the year, but that's one month more than a decade ago. Ships are making it through the Arctic waters earlier each year. The shipping season could get longer still, says Pirelli:

VINCE PIRELLI: There's global warming, they say, that's going to help Churchill.
BEARD: Do you think it will?
PIRELLI: I could see it one day happening. I could see it happening. If the global warming is really going to happen, I could see Churchill being open eight, nine months out of the year.

At the moment Churchill is still a small operation, shipping every year about half a million tons of Canadian grain, peas and canola to Europe and Africa. That's a small fraction of the cargo handled by the Atlantic ports — like Halifax or New York. But Churchill could have a big future:

ROB HUEBERT: Anyone who looks at a globe, and anyone who flies, knows that the shortest distance between North America and Europe is, of course, over the Pole rather than the long way across the Atlantic.

Dr. Rob Huebert, an expert on the Arctic. He says that the current owners of Churchill — a rather secretive American railway company called OmniTRAX — bought the port specifically in the hope that it would benefit from global warming.

HUEBERT: What OmniTRAX sees — and why OmniTRAX has been so attracted towards Churchill — is that what Churchill provides, if this ice diminishment continues, is a new Arctic shipping link that is going to join Northern Canada to Northern Europe.

Russia might use it to ship oil and minerals into North America. European exporters could be interested too as a way of avoiding the congested Atlantic ports of New York, Baltimore and Boston. Churchill could in time generate revenues of $100 million a year. Not bad, says Dr. Huebert, when you consider that OmniTRAX bought it as a derelict facility from the provincial government of Manitoba for just $10.

HUEBERT: The provinical government, I think, will look back at one point and go: Ooo, we made a dumb decision on that!

But the people of Churchill are not complaining. They are happy that OmniTRAX spotted the port's potential. And they welcome climate change for the higher standard of living it could bring. Even though, says Darren Ottaway, other places further south may suffer:

OTTAWAY: Since the port was built back in the 1920s-30s, we've been the underdog. So, I think that it's our . . . you know, it's our turn to take the opportunities that really are ours. And I don't think we need to apologize about doing that.

Churchill needs a boost. On the local radio station they're playing a well–worn, scratchy old 45. A local favorite: "The Churchill Blues."

"When I came here, I got off the train. It was the coldest day of the year. I picked up my bags, I stepped outside. I almost froze off my ear."

It's not the acute cold here that gets people down. It's the chill winds of economic decline. Global warming will mean floods and storms for much of the planet. But here it's considered benign.
In Churchill, Northern Canada, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

"I got nothing to lose. I'm in Churchill with the Churchill blues. . . ."

From today’s Marketplace.

I think what strikes me the most about this segment is the “Churchill-centric” attitude of some of the interviewees. It’s one thing to observe that this small, northern-Canadian community may actually see economic benefit as an effect of global warming, but it’s wholly different to say “it’s our turn.” Saying it’s our turn implies that, the rest of the world be damned, we’re going to finally make a living up here. It ignores any semblance of a world community…of humanity, and places the well-being of this one tiny 1,100 person town above the good of the globe as a whole. Nations cavalierly go about business with this type of worldview, but it’s not what I’d expect of a frontier town. I would have expected naturalists, worries about the environment and how the melting snow and ice could negatively impact the land on which they live and the world in which they live. But economics changes all of that…corporations change all of that…capitalism changes all of that. The show-me-the-money attitude of this little town truly frightens me.

The other aspect that I find interesting here is that a shipping company has bet on global warming. Forget Kyoto, this is capitalism gone way awry. There’s no incentive to stop global warming, so we’ll make a bet that it’s going to happen and try to make some money off of it…again…all others be damned. Any thoughts?

24 October 2006

Quote of the Day: Rush Limbaugh

It was only a matter of time until quite possibly the biggest creep of them all, Rush Limbaugh, crept his way into my little quote of the day segment. Alas, that time has come.

Eric Alterman's blog at Media Matters pointed me in the direction of this incredibly insensitive and disturbing comment about actor Michael J. Fox from the king of conservative talk radio: "... he was either off the medication or he was acting. He is an actor, after all."

Of course, Rush is referring to those new ads for Senate hopeful Claire McCaskill that show Fox, swaying back and forth because of his Parkinsons, lending his support to McCaskill because of her support of stem cell research, unlike the Republican candidate running against her.

That quote is completely ridiculous. Why would Fox exaggerate his symptoms? Why would he not take his medication and allow himself to suffer even worse than he already does? In the words of funny man Al Franken, Rush Limbaugh really is a big, fat idiot.

23 October 2006

Obama in '08?

Sunday morning, Senator Barack Obama told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that he has "thought about the possiblity" of making a bid for the White House in 2008, contradicting his previous statements about his lack of interest in the position. The Senator, however, said that he would wait until after the November 7th midterm elections. So, if Obama runs, is he the Democratic frontrunner?

I'll answer that question with a decisive "maybe."

This guy has been the Democratic posterboy since bursting on to the scene at the 2004 Democratic Convention, where he delivered that rousing keynote address that sent the Boston crowd into a frenzy. Since then, his stock has sky-rocketed. The Senator's well-liked, incredibly charismatic and passionate. Not to mention the fact that he's never endured any sort of ethical scandal or had his character called into question some pretty valuable attributes for a viable presidential candidate.

But is charisma, alone, enough for Obama to win the candidacy? Again, in this wide open race, I have to say maybe, although he has some major obstalces ahead of him. While some of his stands provide nice alternatives to those of fellow Democratic contenders, particularly Hillary Clinton, his experience is kind of limited; he's only been on the national scene since 2004, only a senator since January of '05. Additionally, I can't write a piece about the possibility of an Black presidential candidate without mentioning the fact that no major party has ever nomiated an African-American as its candidate. I know, I know, it's 2006 and it's terribly sad that skin color is still an issue, but it is.

In spite of those hurdles, that aforementioned charisma, that seemingly ubridled enthusiam and optimism, sort of sets Obama apart in a world filled with stonefaced politicians, who, at times, seem aloof and out of touch. Having endured Dubya' for eight years, that charisma, that message of hope that he set forth back at his address to the Democratic Convention, could be exactly what this country is looking for. I know it's something I'd love to see.

19 October 2006

Funny... and true

I don't know if any of you have seen this new (I think) commercial from the September Fund, a 527 organization "established to communicate with the public on issues of national and local importance in the 2006 elections." Aside from being pretty damn funny, it's poignant and definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

That's all, just thought everyone could use a little laugh.

18 October 2006

Quote(s) of the Day: Michael Savage

I normally don’t pay too much attention to conservative talking heads. Pundits like O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity are nothing more than stubborn, unyielding media bullies who knowingly blur the line between factual journalism and biased commentary. They really have nothing of value to say, and therefore don’t warrant my attention.

I did, however, stumble on these utterly disturbing quotes by Michael Savage, host of the hugely popular syndicated radio show The Savage Nation, thanks to Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

After a Eurocentric tirade about the inability of immigrants from non-European, non-Christian countries to assimilate into American culture, Savage says, “there's been no Middle Ages for the Muslims coming into America. It's insanity to be bringing in millions of people who have no Middle Ages yet, they haven't even gone through the Middle Ages. They're never going to be compatible with America.” No Middle Ages? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Not compatible with America? Islam is the fastest growing religion in the U.S. and has become the country's 2nd largest religion. Seems to me like Muslims, in large, are doing quite well here.

Savage didn't stop there. Oh no, he just kept running his mouth, making a claim so preposterous that it doesn't even warrant any sort of response: "It will happen overnight, and it could lead to the breakup of the United States of America, the way the Soviet Union broke up."

Was he done after that zinger? By no means as he finished his October 13th broadcast with the following terribly misguided comments about gays in California: "California, unfortunately, is in the hands of the far-left homosexual mafia. They unfortunately don't even understand what's good for them. They don't understand that voting on the left side of everything is actually in their disinterest, not in their interest -- that if they gay community ever understood what's in their interest they'd become conservatives, by and large. But they are also very confused, as anyone could figure out by their death-style." Please, Mike Savage, explain how it would be in the interest of the "homosexual mafia" to back conservatives? Simply look at the voting record of most conservatives on Capitol Hill and tell me how your statement is not utterly false.

It's remarks like those that remind me exactly why I dont pay much attention to Savage, O'Reilly, and the like. They really could care less about the content of their comments, as long as they grab some attention, build their egos, and climb the latter to being a made man in Godfather Bush's neo-con mafia.

17 October 2006

Madonna, Adoption, and the Fight on Poverty

This article by Simon Hooper at CNN.com brings up some interesting issues in the debate over the value of celebrity adoptions of 3rd world children.

In the wake of Madonna's recent efforts to adopt a 13 month old boy from Malawi, one of the least developed and AIDS stricken countries in Africa and all of the world, I can't help but question the motives of celebrity adopters. I can't doubt that they love the adopted children and provide nourishment and care that far exceeds the type of treatment that the kids could've received in their homelands, but doesn't this growing trend seem more and more like an effort to get positive press, bolster a global image, and appear like a major player in the fight against global poverty? It seems to me like these children are taking on the role of glorified accessories, as sorts of living status symbols.

If celebrities were truly interested in fighting poverty, wouldn't it make more sense for them to donate large sums of money that could, if managed properly (which in and of itself is a tough task), possibly save thousands of impoverished, malnourished children instead of only 1?

Any thoughts?

13 October 2006

Go Feminism!

Yesterday while picking up my daily cup of coffee at the chain that will one day rule the world I noticed the cutest little girl playing with her mom out front. She was probably about two with beautiful golden blonde curls. She an her mom weren't playing with barbies or baby dolls...no, this little girl was laughing and joyfully and excitedly playing with a Tonka truck! It warmed my heart :-)

12 October 2006

Scrupulous Fun

Let’s chat a little bit about language today, specifically the chasm between the meaning and the intent or connotation of certain utterances. Veiled compliments… “You’re very astute,” does that mean I pick up on things quickly, am a keen observer, or did I just get called a dumbass? I suppose in that case context is everything. If a teacher tells me that I’m probably taking it as a compliment. If my old frat buddy tells me that after I make an obvious observation…not so much. The difference is pretty easy to see.

But what of this situation: a good friend today was told by her boss that she is “scrupulous.” The context was fairly mundane…they were discussing the work of some coworkers and my friend said she would have a talk with them about their performance. Her boss told her that’s a good idea “you’re very scrupulous.” Is this a compliment? The word by definition means adherent to a strong sense of right and wrong or being precise and accurate. Not bad things. One would definitely take it as an insult to be called “unscrupulous” or told that one “has no scruples.” But is the inverse necessarily true? It seems to me that the connotations associated with this word have dissociated it from this original meaning. In our game of common discourse to call someone scrupulous has become quite akin to calling them a tight-ass, a stickler for the rules, and one who is a slave to minute details. A scrupulous person probably wouldn’t be much fun to grab a beer with.

We collectively get to decide when the intent of the words we use change. They’re not static and a dictionary definition can never fully capture them. So is this a word that has? Or maybe it’s stuck somewhere in the middle. Maybe it hasn’t yet become its own antonym. After all, in this context it seems to be if not a compliment, at least a reinforcement of why my friend should have the talk. Her coworkers are missing the details, and her boss knows that she pays attention to them. However, the fact that she came away from the dialogue thinking about whether it was an insult or not implies some underlying shifts taking place in the game. The word, if not fully dissociated from its meaning, at the very least triggers a reaction that its original form did not intend. It’s interesting to think about these little anomalies…after all, language is fun!

Or maybe I should just get this stick outta my butt and stop being so scrupulous…

05 October 2006


Just found that great picture courtesy of the O'Reilly Factor. Now that's bringing spin to an all new level.

Republican strategy for handling Foley fallout:
Step 1) Ignore it... make it a non-story
Step 2) Make excuses... "He's an alcoholic."
Step 3) Blame everyone but Republicans
Step 4) Keep blaming everyone but Republicans
Step 5) If steps 1-4 fail, deem the culprit a Democrat

Seriously, though, what are the chances that the cronies at Fox created that caption on purpose?

Beer Blogging

Tried a new brew tonight at what could quite possibly become a regular watering hole in downtown Silver Spring. The Quarry House Tavern is a local dive bar tucked down in a basement below a Chinese restaurant. It’s been around since the mid-30s, with wood paneled walls, a low ceiling, and classic beer memorabilia all around it’s a great place for a few friends to gather for a few brews and some great bar food.

Tonight I went with a few coworkers and tried some beers from their extensive menu. A classic Belgian style ale / cherry lambic blend from the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY, Three Philosophers definitely pleased my palate. A very dark, almost creamy ale with hints of dark chocolate, cherries, and malt, this brew also packs a punch with a 9.5% ABV. So if you’re ever in the mood for a good after dinner beer or need something to wash down a roast, check out Three Philosophers…you’ll also get a kick out of some witty labeling.

Anyone try anything good lately?

04 October 2006

"Back at you, Santorum"

Brian McGory at the Boston Globe had a great column in yesterday's edition that's definitely worth the read.

He takes direct aim at everyone's favorite senator from Pennsylvania, aiming particularly at Slick Rick's 2002 comments in the internet journal Catholic Online: "Priests, like all of us, are infected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element of it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."

McGory writes that "he (Santorum) is probably the best lesson in what goes around, comes around. Santorum seemed to be all but gloating when he blamed Democrats, liberal academics, and everything Boston for pedophilic priests. Yesterday, White House spokesman Tony Snow was urging all parties to allow investigations to proceed, rather than, in his words, to say, ``OK, how can I get political advantage out of this?"

Oh, how the times have changed.

03 October 2006

Science in the Community

Female Hormone May Help Heal Brain Injuries

I’m just not sure what my reaction should be to this piece from Morning Edition on NPR. Dr. Art Kellerman has published a piece in the Annals of Emergency Medicine relaying results of an initial study into the use of the female hormone progesterone as an emergency treatment for brain injury patients. It appears that progesterone, being a steroid, acts as an anti-inflammatory and protects brain cells. This first round of testing has shown the results to be significant and promising. Obviously, this wonderful news for emergency medicine and for all of us who come to rely on it from time to time. To this point, there has been no really promising treatment for traumatic head injuries and they kill thousands every year.

The problem for me arises in the race and gender issues that Dr. Kellerman was forced to work through before he could consider carrying out his tests. It wasn’t enough to leave the decision to the families of victims; Kellerman felt compelled to turn to the community at large for permission. Why? In the Doctor’s words: “This is a female hormone being used to treat a condition that occurs primarily in men; men get hurt critically much more often than women do…what in the world are they doing at that hospital?” Saving lives? Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that what we ask them to do? To think that the fact that progesterone is a “female” hormone could have potentially prevented groundbreaking medical science from moving forward is disgusting to me. How are these gender stereotypes still so engrained in our collective psyche? Kellerman feared the community reaction. Will this treatment “feminize” these young men of our community? Is the implication here that it is better for these young men to be dead or maimed than to be “feminized?”

And then the racial angle…Because this study would be carried out in a trauma unit in a hospital that serves a predominantly black community the Tuskegee experiments had to be raised. We’re talking about good science done out in the open by respected researchers working with a respected university; should they feel the need to get political and community approval before conducting their research? “Well in the black community you just don’t mix male and female hormones,” said Rev. Timothy McDonald, when asked of his first reaction. This line is still drawn. He didn’t say he was worried of the reaction or worried of the consequences of giving progesterone to a male patient. He said “you just don’t” do it “in the black community.”

But then I have to ask myself, is my gut reaction the scary one? Do I sometimes give “good science” too much credit? Shouldn’t science that affects the lives of people have to answer to the community? I think, to a degree, it should. If science is striving to find explanations and answers to make the world a more livable place, it should take into consideration the culture, the community, the atmosphere in which the experiments are being conducted. Dr. Kellerman indeed made a bold move in asking permission first, as there was a good chance he would not get the answer he sought. But in making that move, he enlightened the community to the science behind what his ideas. He broke down some barriers and he made some new allies.

What do you all think? Should science have to answer to the community in this way? And if it should not, would you agree that it might be helpful if it chose to do so?

30 September 2006

Modus Ponens Gone Wrong...

Stale bread is better than nothing.
Nothing is better than a big juicy steak.
Therefore, stale bread is better than a big juicy steak.

Not in my book...but it's a fun trick used in by the "revolutionary re-educators" in Land of the Blind which I just happened to watch tonight. If someone can please explain to me what revolution this movie is supposed to be referencing, I'd be eternally grateful. It was definitely interesting, but incredibly confusing...and I think the best lesson I could pull out of it was the classic, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

27 September 2006

They Want Us Out

A poll recently conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org found that seven out of ten Iraqis want the U.S. to commit to a withdrawal plan and be out of Iraq within the year. The same study found that a vast majority of Iraqis feel that U.S. military presence actually provokes more insurgency than it prevents (something that doesn’t seem too farfetched to me) and that if the U.S. created a plan for withdrawal, the Iraqi government would actually be strengthened

Those are some very interesting findings that present some even more interesting questions. We’ll start with this one: since it’s pretty clear that the Iraqis want us to leave, should we finally come up with a decent plan and get the hell out?

The Bush administration would certainly say the answer to that question is no. We’ve made the mess and we’ve got to “stay the course.” We’ve got to see Iraq through its early stages of democracy like a parent walks behind a child just learning to ride a bike. Eventually, as the Bushies see it, Iraq’s going to be like that little kid on the bike: everything will click and the kid, err Iraq, will ride off into the sunset as a thriving democracy.

As valid as some of those points are, the people of Iraq want American troops out, so shouldn’t we grant them that wish and just leave? To this point, we’ve already messed things up pretty badly for them. Some forty thousand Iraqi civilians have fallen to American or insurgency fire. Countless more have lost their homes, and the fear of car bombs and suicide attackers has supplanted that of the unyielding dictator now facing trial for crimes against humanity. On top of that, the American death toll keeps growing. And while the administration says that there is unseen progress in Iraq, progress that the U.S. cameras don’t see and don’t want to see, it doesn’t seem like things are getting much better. So we can leave now, save some American lives, make the Iraqi people happy, and hope from afar that the prediction that American withdrawal will lead to a stronger central government comes true.

That leads perfectly into our next question: if we choose option two and pull out, if we pull the old cut and run (what’s that even mean?), and the situation in Iraq continues to worsen, who shoulders the blame? Would the U.S. be in the wrong simply because we made the mess and didn’t stick around long enough to clean it up? Would the Iraqis be at fault because they wanted us out, claiming that we actually did more harm than good and that they could do a better job themselves?

Looks to me like we're in a lose/lose situation.

26 September 2006

Pat Buchanan Strikes Again: Quote of the Day

Last night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, former Presidential candidate turned political pundit Pat Buchanan gave Americans yet another reason to be thankful he failed at his three attempts at the presidency. Plugging his new book on immigration, State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, Buchanan told Stewart, look at the Indians, Jon, they had a liberal immigration policy. Look what happened to them.”

Wow... what more can be said?

20 September 2006

Are you ready for some football?

Apparently, the city of New Orleans is. In less than a week, the Saints will be back at home in the Crescent City, playing a real home game for the first time since Katrina ravaged the team’s playing field, the Super Dome, over a year ago. Having spent a year playing home games in San Antonio and Baton Rouge, the return home, the return to a sense of normalcy, is a much welcomed one for Saints players and countless football fans in New Orleans.

The National Football league seems to be quite excited about the return, as well. The league has scheduled the home opener in a prime-time spot on Monday night. And it’s attracted big-time musicians U-2 and Green Day to be a part of pre-game festivities that will benefit Music Rising, the group dedicated to bringing music back to the Gulf. For the NFL, getting the Super Dome rebuilt and football back to New Orleans was a huge deal, and this game represents the culmination of their efforts.

So fans are happy, players are happy, and the league is happy. The Saints will provide a much-needed rallying point for New Orleanians, an escape that takes their minds and energies of all the crap they’ve been dealing with. And the return of football will surely provide a little boost to New Orleans’ struggling tourism sector. Then what’s wrong with this whole situation?

It’s yet another example that government officials are, in a sense, turning the other cheek to the city’s poor and much of its former population. While the city’s tourism-rich areas have redeveloped, the ninth ward and other areas lay in ruin. While businessmen and women and many white-collar workers have returned to the city, thousands upon thousands of musicians, artisans, and people that made New Orleans so unique are displaced around the country because they have no homes to go home to. While the Super Dome, home to about 100 highly paid athletes and cherished by fans willing to shell out top dollar for tickets, is rebuilt, countless hospitals, schools, and other buildings that serviced the city’s entire population are things of the past.

Bringing football back to New Orleans is definitely a nice story. And when people watch the game on Monday night they will without a doubt hear some incredible tales of survival and perseverance. However, what they will not hear is that the return of the Saints and the rebuilding of the Super Dome has been used to overshadow the city’s real problems on the rocky road to recovery.

The New Guy

To my two or three loyal readers (I hope there are at least that many), I'd like to introduce a new cohort. Since it’s become glaringly apparent that I have trouble keeping up w/ posting on a regular basis I’ve invited a friend to join me at the Oxymoronic Philosopher. I’m excited to see a new perspective…and it should be interesting as he’s a current college student at a big university with a lot of interesting thoughts to put out there (no pressure, kid). His interests are in politics and sports…and anything else he decides to tell you himself. And, let’s not forget, he’s taking his first philo class ever this semester! So give a nice warm welcome to Ping when we hear from him sometime over the next few days.

19 September 2006

We Missed the Pontiff's Point

I’ve been wanting to comment for a few days now on Benedict’s comments at the University of Regensburg last Tuesday and the Muslim fallout that followed, but decided to wait until I had a chance to read the entirety of the Pontiff’s lecture (can always count on NPR and the BBC) before chiming in. While Benny probably should have been a little more careful with his choice of quotes, a charitable reading of the transcript conveys a hopeful message for true dialog and makes some very pertinent points.

What we’ve all heard…THE sound bite that seemed to escape from the context of the address:

…he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship of religion and violence in general saying: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and then you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith that he preached."

What we missed was the careful criticism of forceful evangelizing. Though he may have erred by focusing criticisms toward Islam and not looking back an acknowledging past wrongs of his own faith, the Pontiff espouses the central reason why faith must not be “spread by the sword.” From the Gospel of John: “In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was God.” Logos is the Greek used by the author in this passage and it means both Word and Reason. “In the beginning was Reason, and the Reason was God.” The nature of God is reasonable, Benedict claims, and to spread faith by force is not; therefore it goes against the very nature of the Divine. The claim he is really making is that God is not so all-powerful and all-knowing that we cannot even use the greatest capacities endowed on us to understand what is truly good. He is saying that we cannot expect killing and maiming one another to be a reasonable means to any good end, because it is against the very nature of God.

God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf.

Reason, not blind faith, is the way to God…a pretty extraordinary claim from a man of faith??? Not really, but that’s another story.

Benedict then goes on to make a call for dialog between Islam and Christianity, but more-so between Reason and Religion…or what he has seen Reason become. The Pontiff scolds the academia of the West not for becoming too reasonable (as Spaz claims) but for too narrowly defining what reason is. We are prone to defining reason, Benedict claims and I concur, as only that which can be defined with the “certainty resulting from the interplay between mathematical and empirical elements.” We have moved theology, questions of mysticism and divine experience, and even morality and social (soft) sciences to the fringes of reason or beyond. This narrow definition makes it difficult, if not impossible, for dialog to blossom. How are people of faith, mystics, moral thinkers supposed to speak if they cannot come to us with the scientific rigor we demand? They have tried, in the past to change their language to that of the sciences (Aquinas), but in doing so they lose their message and their heart and soul. The answer is on the side of reason. Reason must once again open her doors and welcome perspective from outside of the mathematic and empirical if we are truly to talk and, more importantly, listen to one another. Truth with a capital T is not only truth derived from scientific experimentation nor is it only truth derived from mystical experience. Truth with a capital T is Truth that arises out of a dialog of all human experience and Truth that leads us to acceptance and cordiality among one another. For what is it really that separates scientific knowledge from knowledge of faith but a simple decision of where one chooses to stop asking for verification of claims? The boundary of the games are different, the people playing the games must still live together.

18 September 2006

"It's unacceptable to think!"

QTime or WMV via Crooks and Liars

Another great "Special Comment" from Olbermann. Dubya is getting just plain scary... A CEO, when s/he gets out of control and loses sight of the big picture has a board to rein them in or throw them out...where's Congress when we need them...for that matter, where's the angry American public? A blowjob nearly costs a decent President his job, but continuous tantrums and endless wars...eh, we're ok with that. I'm not the first to say it, but I'll say it again. Somethin' ain't right here.

13 September 2006

If you haven't listened already...

Check out Frank Deford's commentary from morning edition this morning: Sports Obsession Holds Boys Back in College. It's poignant, but it's also a hoot.

Dolan May Need an Excedrin...

Big Pharma…I know it’s an old topic, but it’s in the news again today. Peter Dolan, CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb, stepped down today amid a federal investigation into some shady business dealings undertaken to keep a generic version of big-seller Plavix off the market. The FBI even came knockin’ at (actually, knockin’ down) the door of his NY office. Here’s the background: Bristol’s biggest money maker is a heart pill called Plavix. Something like 1/3 of their profits are derived from this drug alone. The company expected its patent to remain safely in their hands for another couple of years, but recently a generic drug maker announced it would release a version of Plavix this year. Dolan scrambled and put together a deal to pay-off the generic drug maker to keep their version off the market. This, if you haven’t figured out, is not really the way the Feds like to see business run.

Drug makers are simply incapable of innovating (read finding new ways to dupe consumers) fast enough to beat the expirations of their big money patents. They can only invent new diseases…ehem, excuse me, drugs…so fast. I heard the argument made by a few analysts today that the problem is in the “old guard CEOs.” Drug companies, they say, need new blood…they need risk takers and innovators heading up the ranks. This makes sense from a market perspective; drug companies are profit driven. But does it really make sense as part of the big picture? We’re operating under the assumption, here, that markets are a sufficient and efficient motivator for the correct type of innovation…yet we see time and again that the innovation they motivate manifests itself as shady business and marketing ploys to sell drugs to people who don’t need them…not to mention creating drugs for diseases that no one really knew were a problem until the drugs arrived.

Why is the motivation misdirected? Why does the market, with so many obvious pressures toward profit, not guide drug makers toward the altruistic ends intended for medicine? It’s quite simple, really. The people who need the most help, who suffer from the most diseases, who have the highest death rates, who live with the most ailments are also the people with the least purchasing power. There is no profit to be realized in helping them. Profits are to be found in clever marketing to the middle and upper classes of society. Those with less ailments, but with money to pay to cure those lesser ailments. When a drug is developed that could help the downtrodden, it’s so outrageously priced that very few can find a way to afford it…of course, this is because R&D is so expensive and it takes so long to develop a new drug (i.e. – we must protect our profit margin and keep our investors happy…if the stock price falls, I’m out of a job). The simple truth is this: incentives of a free market align terribly with the altruistic goals that medicine should cling dearly to.

So what’s the answer? I’m not sure really. Would non-profit drug makers more efficiently meet the needs of a wider range of consumers? Probably not, because some incentive is better than none at all…relying purely on charity and good-will is scary, and drugs still are expensive to make. Should drug companies be part of the government sector? Well, we’ve seen how good they are at R&D and providing for the common good…it’s questionable. Anyone have any ideas to bat around? We know it won’t ever happen, but it’s fun to think about…is there a more efficient incentive structure than the free market to drive drug makers to act toward the common good?

06 September 2006

The American Caste

This sad but oh so true commentary from Tuesday evening’s Marketplace:

BETH SHULMAN: At one time, education was our great equalizer. Children got an equal chance to rise based solely on their own potential, regardless of their family background. But today, education is deepening the economic divide.
Rising costs at public and private universities are outpacing student aid. Meanwhile federal tax breaks for college actually help wealthy students more than poor ones.
It turns out that families with incomes of at least $92,000 get more tax breaks for college than families making less than a third of that. Tax breaks simply don't help the poor the way they do the rich. They often don't make enough to qualify. And studies show that financial aid for college goes increasingly to wealthier students.
That doesn't bother institutions of higher learning. In fact, they're skewing their dollars towards helping affluent children on purpose. They want to show that they've bet on horses that win instead of helping people equally at the starting gate. This way, the gap between the educated haves and have-nots keeps growing.
Since 1980, the earnings gap between college entrants and high school graduates more than doubled. Enrollment rates of the rich at four-year colleges, the ticket to higher pay, increased by 20 percent in the last decade.
But poor students' enrollments are actually falling. Any increase in postsecondary education among the poor has been mostly at two-year colleges.
This shouldn't surprise us. Tuition's an expensive, up-front investment. Many students can't afford to borrow the amounts needed for higher education as costs go up.
If we want to claim education as the great equalizer again, we need to put our money where it needs to go, to the children of everyday working Americans.
If not, instead of giving every child a chance to excel, we face an America that simply keeps children in their economic place.
RYSSDAL: Beth Shulman is author of "The Betrayal of Work."

Coupled with this commentary on the disappearance of the “American Dream” from last Thursday this is just a recent representation of a scary but not-so-new trend of American society. Call it what you want…a caste system, apartheid, the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat…there is and has been a growing gap between the haves and have-nots that has been ignored for far too long. Why is it ignored? Because America, despite all our checks and balances, our talk of meritocracy, our belief in the “common good,” our calls for personal freedom and responsibility, is a class society. In a class society, the ruling class, no matter it’s good intentions in providing for the good of all will not...cannot…give up its power.

There has always been a sort of ruling class in American politics, but the beauty of the system established from the very beginnings of Revolution out of principles of the Enlightenment is that it has always facilitated upward mobility. The ruling class was not a closed class (except to women those of a skin tone other than white…but that’s for another post). One could be born the son of a farmer in a one room log cabin and find himself President of the nation one day. The sons and daughters of coalminers and mill workers were given more-than-adequate educations in public schools and provided opportunities to go on to higher education. There was a time when you didn’t just hope and dream that your children would be better off than you yourself…you expected it. You expected to be repaid for your hard work and perseverance; after all…this is America.

But America, as these pieces illustrate, has failed her working class. One can no longer pick herself up by her bootstraps and fight for a better life. We make it impossible for the sons and daughters of blue collar labor to get a college degree. Not to mention the fact that the blue collar labor that once meant a hard working job in a mill or factory that provided the family with benefits and a pension now means a job flipping burgers or stocking shelves at Wallyworld for meager pay and little or no healthcare. But what has led us into these precarious waters? Is it a fault of the system? Maybe…if we look to Marx we find capitalism playing out in just this way: a growing proletariat becoming more dissatisfied by the day eventually overthrows the whole shebang. Is it a fault of the people? Most definitely, for we define the system and the institutions. We created the laws that now allow corporate giants to create the laws. We’ve allowed families to maintain fortunes far beyond necessity…because if you earned it you get to keep it, right? Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “What is the most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands. In that way there are rich men, but they do not form a class.” In this we have failed and failed miserably. We have allowed a class to emerge and now they act as any reasonable ruler would…they protect their power and hoard all other power available. They band together and grow their fortunes. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll trickle down, but I doubt it.