Friday, December 31, 2004

Blame Cathy

She asked for it.

to Emily Dickinson

a gap yawns sudden wide --
open breaks the world --
the blue air floods inside
the silk-spun dam -- and hurls
the Wind the timbred songs
of leaves -- wings still furled
now twitch, begin to long
to stretch out, ride the light --
breathe, O Wind -- wide-flung
kindred ride the light,
from isles of brilliance call --
drying wings taste flight
in Sun-Wind -- rise and fall,
flutter -- rhythm more
than magic -- Lord of all
breathes again -- soar!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

It's an attempt to answer, but it's the wrong question

The friendly folks at the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement have attempted to answer a question that I've been wondering about for a long time.

Just for some background, I once saw a bumper sticker that said, "Save the planet. Kill yourself." It seemed like the end (telos) of the radical environmental movement, and I've found it alternatively amusing and disturbing, as well as memorable.

Well, today I ran across the VHEMT website (h/t: James Taranto), with its frequently asked questions.

PHILOSOPHY & RELIGION: Q: What good is a healthy biosphere if there are no humans around to enjoy it?

The same good it was before we furless beach apes came along.

A human-centered world view only values other species by what they can do for us, or for "our children's children." We're collectively so centered on our own species that nothing matters except in relation to ourselves.

It's like our ancient view of the universe with Earth at the center: it took a long time for people to accept that our planet is just one of many orbiting a star, which is also just one of many in a galaxy, which is also just one of many in the universe.

An Earth-centered world view sees Homo sapiens as one of tens of millions of species in Earth's biosphere. We are exceptional in many ways, and so are the other life forms we share this rare and wonderful place with.

By envisioning Earth's entire biosphere, acknowledging the intrinsic value of every life form, our voluntary extinction begins to make sense.
Unfortunately, the question that VHEMT still didn't answer is this: If there's no consciousness (they don't believe in God, obviously, and they've declared humans including the VHEMT FAQ answerers better extinguished), then what is the "intrinsic value of every life form"? Value to whom? or to what? Why is this place wonderful? On what basis is a biosphere superior to an empty rock floating in space, or, for that matter, no rock at all?

And if the VHEMT people don't have an answer to that question, then there's no reason not to try to solve our environmental problems instead of voluntarily extinguishing human life.

Which brings us back to the bumper sticker.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A brief note to American retailers

Dear Retailers --

For the past few weeks I've heard again and again that you've become afraid of Christmas. Lileks calls it "the holiday that dare not speak its name." Schools have outlawed red and green decorations; the Post Office issues stamps for Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Eid and "Traditional Holiday" (h/t: Lileks), Target has chased off the Salvation Army bell-ringers, Macy's has forbidden its clerks to mention the dreaded "C" word, and the Nordstrom's Winter Holiday windows downtown look like something out of a 19th-century bordello.

You owe Christmas. When your " holiday shopping season" isn't stellar, then your bottom line sinks. The other winter holidays are not inherently gift-giving events, are only gift seasons in reaction to Christmas.

We've suffered through your three months of holly and greenery, two months of overplayed and irreverent "Winter Holiday" music, your clueless advertising and your advocacy of debt, debt, debt. We can even find meaning in the new clothes, the gifts, and even Santa Claus.

The truth is, you need Christmas, but Christmas doesn't need you.

A lot of what we buy during this the run-up to the "Winter Holiday" is stuff that we would buy anyway -- necessities that coincide with Christmas and end up under the tree. But a lot of it is crap that no one would ever miss--white elephant gifts, ties that the recipient doesn't like and never wears, that exotic little useless object for the person who has everything. When these things are given with true Christmas spirit, they are a physical incarnation of our love, and even useless objects can carry a great weight of love.

We get that from the story of Christmas -- about God becoming a helpless baby in a family needing shelter, by his birth uniting divinity and mortality and by his death uniting sinful man with holy God.

But your Winter Holiday carries no such story. It carries no consciously developed story at all, unless it's a fat jolly man borrowed from Christianity and put in charge of a toy factory. Divide that man from the Christmas story, and he becomes a marketing tool, one more long line to stand in with the kids, and finally just a Grumpy Santa.

The Winter Holiday story, as far as I can glean it from the advertisements, the "Winter Holiday" songs, the cultural paraphernalia that replaces Christmas, is this: "I am special. I deserve to have what I want. The Holidays are coming, a time when all the other people in my life want what they want. Also the office has a party that I have to attend. And my family gets together for the holidays, and we re-experience the trauma of growing up dysfunctionally. Other people have wonderful, meaningful holidays, but I never do. I have to send out Winter Holiday cards and attend Winter Holiday school pageants and decorate my home for Winter Holiday. And I have to buy stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. I have to drive to the mall and face the crowds and get what my friends and family want so they'll get what I want, or at least so I can take it back afterwards and get what I want. And afterward, I can shop the after-Winter Holiday sales and rest until next year."

There is nothing compelling about this story. All the elements, when contained within the Christmas story, are capable of profound depths. Divorced from Christmas, they are C.S. Lewis's X-mas rush without the "-mas." Rushing for the sake of rushing. How long till people say, "Fine, whatever. I think I'll skip the Winter Holidays."

In the meantime, people who celebrate Christmas don't need the retail "Holiday Season." We got along just fine without it for the better part of 2,000 years, We can give simple gifts, necessities, charitable donations, gift cards that support our local Christmas-celebrating schools. So cancel the office Winter Holiday party; that'll free up more time to focus on Advent. If the schools don't like red and green or the Christmas songs, then they have have a first-semester concert in late January. It will be more appropriate to sing about Frosty the Snowperson and Winter Wonderland later in the winter anyway.

You can throw out Christmas, but you have nothing to replace it. We Christmas-celebrators haven't lost anything.

But you have.

Oh, and by the way, Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

What element are you?

No, it's not one of those nifty quizzes. At a writers' workshop a while back, the leader, Cricket Pechstein, gave us an exercise, asking to classify ourselves accordiwg to the four elements--earth air, fire, and water. Well, different people took it different ways, and none were wrong, of course, but I landed on a scheme that made sense to me then and still does.
  • Earth--concrete detail

  • Water--"flow" of language, line, melody; what's aesthetically pleasing, easy on the eye or ear, pleasurable to behold

  • Fire--emotion

  • Air--philosophy, ideology--the "ethereal"
A successful work of art will contain these elenents in a balance appropriate to itself. Different artists will to emphasize one element or another.

James Joyce is water; Dostoevsky is fire; Faulkner is fire and water; Henry James is fire; Steinbeck is earth; Tolstoy is air. Feel free to argue this list or add to it. I am mostly earth. I have a deep hunch that truth shines through the details.

What brought this to mind was a chat with a woman the other day. She told me she was an artist. When I asked what kind of art, she said, "Feminist. I read a lot of philosophy, and my paintings are about the fragmentation of modern life." Earth, meet air. I was asking about the medium.

Reminds me of a poem I wrote once, "To emily dickinson." I showed it to an English professor. He read it and asked what it was about. It was about three feet wide and sixteen lines long.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Getting in touch with my inner geek

The New York Times has an article about how the Mozilla Firefox browser is eating into MS Explorer's market share. Scott Ott at Scrappleface has hit on the same theme.

From the NYT:
With Firefox, open-source software moves from back-office obscurity to your home, and to your parents', too. (Your children in college are already using it.) It is polished, as easy to use as Internet Explorer and, most compelling, much better defended against viruses, worms and snoops.
I even turned away from Safari, which comes loaded on the Mac OS X and whose brain is similar to Firefox's, for the extensions and add-ons that are available for Firefox.

Ironically, at the top of the NYT article in my Firefox window is the following message:
Firefox prevented this site from opening a popup window. Click here for options...
That's my doggie.

UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I got Firefox for free.

H/T: Topic Drift

Friday, December 17, 2004

Random ramblings

War stories are the best part of learning a new job. We had our Christmas party at school last evening, and after a half-hour of jollity went back to our workstations to continue learning the theory of realtime transcription (it's hard to express that without any brand names). As frequently happens at such events, we had a hard time actually getting back to work, and some of the more advanced students sidetracked our teacher into the sort of job knowledge you don't get from books.

Like the time the reporter, an attorney and the witness in a phone-conferenced deposition were all named Dave, and so every time someone on the other end of the wire said, "Hey, Dave," three people answered.

Like the time a deposition question about the witness's adult beverage of choice veered into a social discussion of, "So, what do you like to drink?" After a couple of minutes of this, the reporter reminded them all that they were still on the record and wondered if that was OK with them. With the approval of both attorneys (either one could veto the decision), he backed up to the original question and answer and deleted the chitchat.

Like the fact that some court reporters have declared themselves offended by the language and subject matter that goes into depositions and refused to record it. To tell the truth, suspecting that I would be likely to be offended by the subject matter of TV is one reason that closed captioning is low on my list of applications for my new skill. What happens in court proceedings is real life. It somehow falls under the "I'm just repeating what so-and-so said" exclusion I learned in grade school.

One thing I was concerned about, going into this, was that a lot of depositions would be blah, blah, blah, 47%, $50,000, blah, blah, party of the first part, etc. But our teacher says that most depositions bring something new every day. Some people are jerks, he says, which, to my mind, makes them blog material. But by and large the conversations are educational and surprising ("Divorces are fun," he said, which makes me think he must be a writer at heart).

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Highway people -- the hawk

The red-tailed hawk sits on a tall light pole overlooking I-84 in east Portland. Beneath him, a stream of cars creeps along a maze of over- and underpasses through a district of light industrial, warehouses and railroad tracks.

The hawk sits tall and dignified, with his wings folded. Maybe he's watching for prey or maybe he's only gazing sleepily at the dirty metal river that flows beneath him.

I've seen him before--or one like him--a few miles south, hunting on the median strip of I-205. He hovered as if frozen in mid-air, talons extended. I didn't see his prey, but he saw it. Suddenly as I watched, he dropped like a stone. The river carried me away before I knew what he hunted or whether he caught it.

These creatures are a doorway into another world, where life and death are exchanged minute by minute. No wonder he watches us so smugly: we are encased in metallic bubbles, bobbing along the current, inured and blind to the predation and rapture around us. Does he know that we are dangerous, both for him and for each other? I fear the day I see him lying dead beside the road.

I don't think he nurses any such fear for me.

UPDATE: Maybe I should point out the irony that I did my first draft of this post on a Palm handheld, steering with my knee, as I negotiated the traffic.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Real St. Nicholas

If scientists in Manchester, England, are correct, Arius may have hit back.

The reporter calls Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop of Myra in Lycia (now a pile of rubble in Turkey), "saint with a broken nose":
An anatomist was given access to his tomb by the Vatican half a century ago when repairs were being carried out to the crypt in the church at Bari, southern Italy, where his remains are kept.

Computer technology was used to build the image of the saint’s face. Experts then studied paintings of religious leaders on Orthodox icons and decided to add a white beard trimmed to 4th century fashion. What emerges is the face of a man aged 60, 5ft 6in tall and with a heavy jaw.
A very good read, but ignore the advice in the lead:
BEHOLD the olive-skinned man with the broken nose and shock of white hair. Find him in your front room at 4 am in 13 days’ time and you might be forgiven for hitting him over the head with the sherry bottle.

Don’t. It is Father Christmas as you have never seen him before.
Actually, go ahead and hit him with the sherry bottle. If he's in your house on Christmas morning, it's probably a heavy-jawed burglar. Everybody knows that St. Nicholas comes Dec. 5-6 (18-19).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bus people 10, Singing with the Rainbow Man

It was a long ride in to work this morning; traffic was bumper to bumper, and my bus ride that normally takes an hour was more like an hour and a half. It was OK: I polished my weather post and started next week's Onion Dome piece as the skies cleared and the sun came out and the bus rumbled past cars that had overheated in the stop-and-go traffic.

Nonetheless, when I arrived downtown for the bus switch, my mind had turned to Songs about Schedules:
This old engine makes it on time,
Leaves central station ’bout a quarter to nine,
Hits river junction at seventeen to,
At a quarter to ten you know it’s travlin’ again.

Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey jones is ready, watch your speed.
Trouble ahead, trouble behind,
And you know that notion just crossed my mind.
At the last stop before leaving the downtown Fareless Square, a remarkably dressed man got on the bus -- 300 pounds or so, wearing rainbow-hued, tie-dyed T-shirt, leggings and Birkenstock clogs, with his modesty preserved by a pair of black shorts. He wore a gold necklace with a glass bauble around his forehead like Zona, Princess of Venus, and many rings on his fingers and the last two fingers of both hands painted metallic pink. His hair, dyed blond, had a pink forelock.

He saw me singing and advised me to sing louder. "You should always let your voice be heard," he said.

Nah. I'm not going to inflict the music flowing through my brain on a captive audience, who might be processing their own reality with their own tunes. But I have to hand it to the Rainbow Man that he practices what he preaches.

What we do when we're not up to politics

Everybody go over to StephenEsque right now. Baldwin is blogging the alphabet.


He got on the elevator wearing Oregon business casual, which is not the chinos and polo shirts of other places' business casual, but blue jeans, nice shirt, denim jacket. He had the tan face and wide jaw and high cheekbones of someone who might be an Indian, and his wavy hair, pure white, had been pulled back into a pony tail.

"How do you like this weather?" he asked.

Now most people consider that an easy question. It was a December evening, pitch black at 6 p.m., temperature in the mid-40s, and raining. Most people have an opinion about weather like that, and it's not positive.

But the question stumped me. I have trouble having opinions about weather. It's like having an opinion about gravity. It shapes me more than I can shape it, and whether it's at any given moment convenient or inconvenient for me is of no consequence in the grand scheme of things.

The other thing, and this is perhaps a dirty little secret, is that I like rain. Western Oregon is a green place, and the rains are the life-giving nurturers of our evergreens and spring flowers, the moss that grows on the trunks of trees and the roofs of houses, the ferns and lichens and ivy, the fruits and vegetables that we'll enjoy next summer. Against a gray sky, the greens are brilliant and many-hued.

I also don't mind being in rain. I don't like water splashing my face, but when my glasses are protected from the raindrops making little plock! sounds as they hit the brim of my rain hat, I notice how remarkable it is that water falls from the sky.

When my Southern California nephews (now adults) were small boys, they came to visit, and on a rainy day, they ran to a puddle and shouted, "Circles!" Those young men may have forgotten circles (I haven't asked them recently), but I still see the circle, because children pointed them out.

So the man got on the elevator and asked me my opinion of the weather, and I couldn't think of anything to say. He looked at me as if I'd driven an SUV into the building and said he'd been out in it all day. The door opened, and he got off.

I left class at 10 p.m. and drove through the rain-washed streets of downtown Portland, which reflected the Christmas lights as bright as day, ablaze with the promise of the Incarnation.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Highway people

A 1970s-vintage Honda Civic (they looked a little like Gremlins, only smaller) preceded me off the I-205 exit yesterday. As we slowed to the left turn, I noticed something odd about the car (yes, beyond its being 25 years old with an aluminum engine block). It had hay scattered on its bumper, hay that wasn't going anywhere, even though the car was just exiting a 55 MPH speed limit highway. You don't see hay on the backs of tiny hatchbacks, even in Oregon City -- pickups maybe, but hatchbacks no.

Looking closer, I saw a bale of hay stashed in the back.

I wonder about that. Why would someone carry a bale of hay in the back of a 1970s-vintage Honda Civic? Does he haul really tiny horses? Is he taking the hay from the farm to the house's house in Gladstone (local reference: Gladstone is a middle-class residential area, pretty tightly settled)? If not horses, then what?

I never saw the driver in more detail than a silhouette against the front windshield, but I have to admit now that highway people can be every bit as perplexing as bus people; we just can't see them as well.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Bus people 9

The Loud Family gets on at a bus stop in West Linn where we usually pick up zero to one person: 11 people with the gross mass of about 18 and with a combined IQ of about 900. They carry on their conversations, about Mom's shoes, Sis's socks, marriage regulations in Utah (whether or not Mormons are permitted polygamy), and other disconnected family concerns (Gasp! "We left the phone off the hook!"), while the other big sis sings "Silent Night " off-key to a babe in arms.

The two who sat further back in the bus carry on a loud conversation about the Star Trek multi-racial world.

Their garrulous volubility raises such an intrusive hubbub that I can focus on nothing but them.

The big sis with purple toe socks sitting in front of me lifts her arm to stretch it across the seat back, and I have to open a window to let in some fresh air.

Sometimes blogging is the best revenge.


After finishing the post, I gladly and quickly got off my bus downtown to wait for my next ride out to work, and who should come lumbering up the street but the Loud family again.

Now I've learned about Mom's springy shoes and her diabetic condition and the gun and combination bow collection of the one who carries all the bus passes for the whole family. Also about their dolls and their early life in a cabin with no indoor plumbing and fire-powered irons.

When I got to work, I learned that a man had called from England, hopping mad because he gets wrongly addressed e-mail. My work website is one letter different from his website, and therefore, it's our fault if he gets mail addressed to him that is not intended for him.

He's been mad at us for two years about this, mad enough to phone from England.

I need a button that says, "I've had my daily allocation of crazies. You take the next one."

A psychiatrist explains BDS

Dr. Sanity explains Bush Derangement Syndrome:
This psychological defense mechanism is referred to as 'displacement'. One way you can usually tell that an individual is using displacement is that the emotion being displaced (e.g., anger) is all out of proportion to the reality of the situation. The purpose of displacement is to avoid having to cope with the actual reality. Instead, by using displacement, an individual is able to still experience his or her anger, but it is directed at a less threatening target than the real cause.

H/T: Blue Goldfish

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Tracking the wily Evangelicals

Portland's alternative weekly ran a feature story on Evangelicals this week. Its slant was "They're here, they're having an effect, and we'd better get to know them."

The writer, Zach Dundas, came across like an anthropologist studying a strange and foreign race, but at least he accepted them as being of the same species as himself. (This is not entirely usual among practitioners of the "a secularist introduces the evangelicals" genre.) By and large, it was a good and fair piece of writing. The writer didn't claim to be exhaustive; he acknowledged the diversity within the Evangelical community and within the Christian community at large. He didn't demonize or marginalize or criticize or harmonize (sorry, I got to channeling Bob Dylan for a second). Anyway, he treated it as a foreign culture, which it is for many people, but as a culture worth considering. He kept the snark level to a minimum.

He even started with a definition of Evangelicalism -- a good, if difficult place to start in such an effort. He failed to distinguish among Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and "born-agains," but I don't want to be like the guy in the Gary Larson cartoon who looks out at his dog, pushing the lawnmower in crazy lines around the grass, and shouts, "Bad dog, Rex! You call that mowing the lawn?"

An unfortunate association

What do you get when you drag $165 million through a trailer park?

A new presidential library that looks like an enormous single-wide mobile home on stilts.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Bus people 8

He climbed on the bus with a slow gait, walking with a cane, lumbering up the steps of the bus, which knelt for him at the stop. He was in his 70s, I think, quite fat, too heavy for his muscles to carry. He wore a black beret at a rakish angle, and carried a good-sized backpack. In the rainy chill, he wore a fluffy coat, also outdoorish.

It wasn't until he got off the bus, waiting at the door for it to kneel for him again, that I saw that he was also wearing Bermuda shorts, khaki colored, and knee-high socks with his hiking boots. He turned and walked backward out the bus, climbing down the steps as if it were a ladder. As he hobbled away down the street, he looked like a Swiss mountain guide who had been mugged by Time.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

I'm back

I didn't know I was going to take a vacation when I pushed "Publish Post" last Monday, but that's what it turned out to be.

The odd thing is, the longer I stayed away from blogging, the less I had to say. It will be a few days before I work myself back into the illusion that I have anything worth blogging about.

In the meantime, there's a new Onion Dome up.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Kill Tinkerbell

Our dog Sadie has a thing about light. When the sun on a watch dial sends light glimmers dancing across the wall, Sadie jumps for it. We call the game "Kill Tinkerbell," and it has afforded us a lot of cheap entertainment.

Well, last week, our daughter hung the St. Nicholas stockings and plugged in flashing white lights across the mantle, giving a merry glow to the living room.

At 11:30 p.m., Sadie woke me up with her, Danger! Danger! Danger! bark. She can't sleep when there's Danger! and so she would come upstairs -- "Bark! Bark! Bark!"-- and try to lie down, but it was TOO DANGEROUS!, and so she would get up again. The only way to calm her down at times like this is to go and see what the problem is.

I followed her through the kitchen, and she looked around the doorway into the living room, every nerve trembling. "TINKERBELL IS BACK! AND SHE'S BROUGHT TINKERRAMBO!"

I had to unplug the lights so that Sadie could go to sleep.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

'Wishing upon a star'

In a review of Finding Neverland, Frederica Mathewes-Green points out an insidious trend in children's literature:
When Sylvia dies, Barrie instructs her son Peter (Freddie Highmore), "She's on every page of your imagination. You'll always have her here. She went to Neverland and you can visit her there any time you like." Peter asks, "How?" and Barrie continues, "By believing, Peter. Just believe."

Well, this is pure, double-filtered, lemon-scented hogwash. No grieving child should be loaded up with such malarkey -- burdened with the obligation to materialize his own dead mother through mental exertion, burdened to think that the inevitably fading or fluctuating memory is his fault because he failed sufficiently to "believe." Contrary to popular opinion, believing don't make it so. There is a reality about life after death, a "so," that exists whether we believe in it or not. We don't know much about it and can prove even less, but that doesn't mean imaginary projections will constitute reality if we squeeze the sides of our head hard enough. Believing in belief is a useless, superficial exercise. Real human conviction and experience travel in less predictable patterns -- as real playwright J. M. Barrie knew.

Disney has been telling kids to believe in believing at least since "When you wish upon a star / Makes no difference who you are / Anything your heart desires will come to you" (in a film that distorted the message of an Italian children's novel about the Prodigal Son).

Neverland isn't Disney, though, and the message that you can do anything you dream has filtered through the culture as the only "faith" message allowed in the secular world. It's true that children can, with effort and diligence, do more than they think they can. It's also true that God can do anything, but the middle message, that children can do anything, with just a wish and a dream, is "pure, double-filtered, lemon-scented hogwash."

The Orthodox Church

The classic overview of Orthodox history and theology, by Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, is online.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

I didn't know Dave Barry was Orthodox

But he must be if he has this intimate an acquaintance with tofu:
Of course not everybody is comfortable with the idea of eating turkeys, which are, let's face it, living organisms, like dogs or celery. You may wonder: Is there a more humanitarian option that you can serve for Thanksgiving dinner? There is. It's tofu, a semi-foodlike substance secreted by soybeans as a defense mechanism. Tofu can be used as a high-protein meat substitute, as well as a denture adhesive or tile grout. In its natural state, tofu is tasteless and odorless, but if you form it into a turkey-shaped lump, season it well, add gravy and bake for two hours in a shallow pan at 350 degrees, you can also use it for minor driveway repairs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Funny or disturbing?

The Littlest Prisoner at Abu Ghraib
Your child will be the hit of the neighborhood costume parade in this recreation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal's most indelible image. As an added bonus this easy-to-make costume will remind everyone on your child's trick-or-treat route of our national shame! Simply roll a cone from a sheet of 24"x38" black cardstock, making sure to cut out a hole for the face. Drape with two yards of black felt, and add leftover wires from your last lamp-rewiring project. Voilà! So easy, so quick, and so terrifying!
Total cost: Under $20.
Total time: Under two hours.

And how do you explain the costume to inquisitive little Johnny? "Oh, that's our national shame!" Care to go into any more detail?

Don't these people realize that if they don't teach their kids idealism before cynicism, the kids will grow up thinking nothing is worth defending?

Another costume, made of garbage bags and milk jugs, was "Jenna Bush's liver." Part of the instructions: "Rifle through the help's recycling bin for an empty Bud can and bottoms up!" The help? Who's got help? John and Teresa? They're teaching you how to make Halloween costumes for, in this case, under $5, and they think you've got "help."

But what made it worth blogging was this: I was looking around the site to find out if it is satire, and found an editorial proving that the editors of the site have discovered federalism. You've got to read past the bile to the ideas. The piece advocates letting the Red States stew in their own juice. They want abortion illegal? Let them have it and die! They want less restrictive gun laws? Let them have them and die! They want to pay fewer taxes, change clean air and water laws, and so forth and so on . . . ?, well, you get the idea. (Never mind the fact that people supporting those ideas don't believe they would have those outcomes.)

The Blue-Staters have been using the courts to push their agenda onto the Red States for at least 30 years. Now that the situation looks like it might turn, the editors of have discovered the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. At this rate, they may be Republicans by 2008.

h/t to Seraphim, who came down on the side of "disturbing."

Bus people 7

The gaggle of women stand at the bus stop downtown, one of them yelling, her tone echoing down the canyon of the street, but her words lost in the roar of traffic. When the No. 19 arrives, my bus, they get on it.

There are five of them, finished with a Twelve Step meeting, and the one who had been shouting goes to the back of the bus, but the others stay up front. One is a mountain of a woman with a face like Jabba the Hut. Another is a rotund woman with wide-set eyes, holding a boy about a year old. The third never quite makes an impression on me, because the fourth is a woman in her thirties, whom a Jane Austen heroine might have called "lively." She's pretty in a way, though her skin shows the effects of tobacco.

She sits in one seat, then flings herself into another, then into yet another. She pulls from her pocket a lighter that someone gave her, with the word "love" on it. The others reply that the same man gave them things, too, but she keeps saying it's got the word "love" on the front, until the Jabba woman gets the point and says, "Oo, looovvve."

Then she flings herself into the seat in front of me and sings the old Tom Jones tune, "L-O-V-E," loudly and self-consciously with big gestures. She begins playing peek-a-boo with the baby, her loud "Peek!" echoing through the bus, her long dark hair flying.

The other women tell her how boring it was when she wasn't there.

She answers a question with the words "I don't like women," and continues to repeat, "I no like women," in some generic foreign accent until the bus comes to their stop, stopping only once to clarify, "I like men."

Monday, November 15, 2004

A woman not to be messed with

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will be nominated to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state.

Do you think we'll get to see her whup Kofi Annan? If anybody can do it, she's the one.

I guess the NFL will have to wait.

UPDATE: Lileks says he wants to see her go to Saudi Arabia, where the first words out of her mouth will be, "I'll drive." Yeah. Like that.

Is this a conflict of interest or what?

Pardon me for beating this dead horse, but I can't resist it.

In the midst of a long piece on what went wrong with the Kerry campaign (short answer, John and Teresa) Howard Kurtz about how the mainstream networks actually work:
In early September, CNN commentator James Carville said in a meeting with campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill and the newly hired Lockhart that if Cahill didn't give Lockhart effective control of the operation, the ragin' Cajun would go on "Meet the Press" the next day "and tell the truth about how bad it is."
OK, he's a commentator, not a reporter, and a Clintonista, and everybody who watches him will know where he butters his bread, BUT he's using his position in the media to direct the Kerry campaign.

Do the networks even realize how weird and out of touch they are?

The campaign is over, but CNN is still broadcasting, and the Democrats are planning for '08. We need to file this stuff in some accessible place in our memory, because it's going to be important again and again and again.

Speaking of post-modernism

Chomsky's got a brand new bag.

h/t: Karl

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Thanks for clarifying that

New to my blogroll is Grace at Orthodox & Heterodox. In a brilliant post titled "Red state, blue state, me state, you state," she offers a contract from the blue staters expressing what they expect from red staters:
We, the bold, free-spirited peoples of the Diverse Lands of Blue America, hereby contract with you, the safe, ordinary drabs of the Nearly-contiguous Lands of Red America to exist peaceably and amicably in the manner to which we've become accustomed.

Read the whole thing. It's as funny as it is inspired.
h/t: The Coughing Centurion.


A professor came to our parish to discuss post-modernism in the 21st-century church. It's hard to get a handle on what we learned, and maybe I'll collect my thoughts for another post.

As an introduction, our priest ran a couple of clips from the movie (or should I say "film"?) Derrida, a biography of the French deconstructionist philosopher who recently found out whether there's any reality outside himself. The presentation was happening in our unfinished parish hall, which has abysmal acoustics, and it was played on a 14-inch TV, which used to be OK in our former space, but is too small to be seen at any distance. It was emblematic of post-modernism all by itself: talking heads speaking mostly in French (or English with a thick French accent), inaudible in the echoing chamber, with subtitles so small as to be unreadable.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Bloggers inherit the Paine legacy

Times Online compares the blogging revolution with the rise of the pamphleteers in the early 18th century.
Like their paper predecessors, blogs are also often catastrophically wrong, a magnet for cranks, conspiracists, partisans and propagandists. Many, if not most bloggers, churn out pure pap; for every latter-day Jonathan Swift writing in cyberspace, there are thousands of teenage girls mewling inconsequentially about their boyfriends, acne and pop music. Ordinary people writing unpaid about things that matter to them may mark a crucial change in the information landscape; it can also be skull-crushingly dull.

But the best blogs are also the most widely read, precisely because other bloggers spot them and link to them; by a process of natural selection, the fittest blogs survive. The same was true of pamphlets in their heyday: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was the most widely-distributed pamphlet of the American War of Independence, a truly revolutionary tract not only for its content, but also because it was copied and pirated on a massive scale. Within weeks of publication in 1776, seven editions of Common Sense appeared in Philadelphia alone, while other cities produced their own rival editions and imitators; this was the 18th-century version of the über-blog with countless hyperlinks.

Worth a read.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The bitter truth about the Mordor War

Aragorn was selected, not elected. No blood for oil. Can you prove a connection between Saruman and Sauron? How do you know the orcs are bad, that it's not just a misunderstanding? How would you like your son to be the last man to die for a mistake? Where was Aragorn during the Battle of Helm's Deep? Why doesn't Aragorn's son get drafted along with the simple peasants and shit-scoopers? Who's listening to that fundamentalist wizard Gandalf the Gray?

Fellowship 9/11 rips the lid off the war for Middle Earth domination. See it now, and your view of the attack on the Sauron regime will change.

h/t: Neb

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Blogroll please! Arma Virumque

The name sounds like a centurion clearing his throat, and reading it always makes me wish I lived closer to New York. Where, other than the New Criterion's weblog, will you read a letter from a mad mullah explaining why his faith requires him to be agnostic on the lunar landing. The rest of that nonsense, about the earth revolving around the sun, the sheikh was not prepared to countenance. The Coughing Centurion plans to send him some books by Copernicus and Gallileo.

But don't just read the articles. The blogroll is where I found StephenEsque, who started the a Blog train I posted a song about a couple of days ago (good thing I'm not audioblogging; I'd have had to come up with a tune).

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Another thank you, this time sincere

To John Ashcroft, for putting up with four years of being caricatured and demonized, by sharing with Bush the distinction of being the living person most frequently compared to Hitler, for putting forward a surprisingly restrained Patriot Act, given the situation we're in and past responses to dangers at home and abroad.

I don't know if I'd have the courage or generosity to stay in such a thankless job when I could go home to Missouri and sit on the porch.

Difficult pronunciations explained from Australia helpfully informs us that in the future "Arafat to be pronounced 'dead.'"

No word on whether the spelling will change.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bus people 6

He's dressed in black, with a black ponytail, and he smells of cigarettes. He's looking at his cell phone as he boards the bus and finds a seat in the front, side-facing seats. I'm in the front front-facing seat (my favorite, because of the good laptop space).

It's Election Day, and after a word about the failed candidacy of John Edwards, he tells me that he works in biometrics. The retina scan makes for good movies, he says, but there's a danger of long-term eye damage.

On the other hand, there are seven points of the human face that don't change, no matter how fat or how thin or how old we grow, and that can be used for surer identification than a fingerprint.

He said there's a plan out there for identification using a combination of a fingerprint and a card with a 10-digit passwords. You go to the bank and touch a finger to the screen, then put in the password that appears on this key-chain sized card. Bingo. You're in. The passwords are distributed by satellite and new ones are randomly generated every minute. Once you use it, that password is no good anymore. If someone threatens you, stomp on the card. Now your fingerprint is of no use, and you can buy a new password card later for about three bucks.

Fingerprints aren't as good for identification as faces, he says, because the number of data points you use to get a unique match is too many for our current level of computing power. Most law enforcement offices use 18 data points. Some are moving to 33. To be really accurate would take more than 300, but then a speck of dirt between two ridges could throw the whole thing off.

He tells me he created the TransitTracker software that Tri-Met uses to post to the web progress of its buses and trains. The idea came to him one icy evening when he waited an hour and a half downtown for a bus only to find out that the last bus left two hours before. He went home and knocked out a little program over the weekend, worked out the glitches and gave it to Tri-Met. Now he can track the bus's exact location on his cell phone and decide if he wants a brisk or leisurely walk to catch the bus.

His teacher told him when he was a little kid that everything you see could be summarized by mathematics. At the time, he didn't believe it. Now he knows it's true.

Days later, I see him on the bus again. A young man greets him and reports that his software will be distributed in beta version next week. He congratulates him, shakes his hand. He reports that he's invented the fastest hard drive west of the Pecos. They drift into techie jargon, and I drift into my screenplay, but when I look up to collect my stuff, there's a college-age girl with bright, impassioned eyes sitting across the way and listening.

He might be a genius; he might be a lunatic (I can never quite tell on the bus, and it doesn't really matter), but whoever he is, his enthusiasm is infectious, and even my screenplay seems to hold more promise because he's so excited about his projects.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Just for the record

I wasn't link-fishing (or linke-fishinge) when I added The Misspent Life and Blimpish to my blogroll. I put blogs on my blogroll because I like to read them myself.

I found both of them by way of Outer Life, which I found by way of Stephenesque, which I found by way of Armavirumque, which is coincidentally up next in my "Blogroll, please!" series.

Which puts me in mind of a song that somebody ought to write:
Blog train comin', comin' your way.
Blog train comin'. Read it every day.
Got no time for workin'; got no time to play
'Cause the blog train's comin'. Read it every day.

Refrain: Everybody get on the blog train!
Woo Woo! Get on the blog train!
Or not.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The future of the Republican coalition

Michele at a small victory is asking a variation on a question I've been wondering the past few weeks: what happens to the Republican party after the election?
"I've already seen the fallout starting, with people questioning my (and others) dedication to the Republican party because I'm not swallowing the pill whole. Politics is not an all or nothing proposition. I'm a some from column A, some from column B kind of person. The fact that I'm an atheist with socially liberal tendencies is clearly giving some people pause for concern, as if I am going to now become a detriment to the party. They got what they wanted from me - in my vote - and now they can discard me because I won't follow the fold all the way down the line.
As are Pejmanesque and Roger L. Simon. Hugh Hewitt touches on it in relation to the Sen. Specter question. Terry Mattingly refers to the 10 Commandments voters.

We won an important election with a coalition of pro-lifers, traditional marriage advocates, 9/11 Democrats and social liberals who support the war on terror. How can we keep our victory from destroying us?

Here's my vision, speaking as a social conservative, pro-lifer, Orthodox Christian, who doesn't want to live under Shari'a.
  • On religion. We don't have to agree. Let's talk. All I want from government is for it to stop pretending that religion has no place in people's public lives. If I don't want to pray at a football game, I don't have to make everybody else stop. If someone feels that his religious freedoms are being curtailed, then let the courts hear the case--but as interpreters of laws that the people have approved, not as black-robed kings.

  • On life issues. Believing that the unborn are human beings, pro-lifers have no choice but to try to save them from being murdered. Some of the most effective methods shouldn't cause any but the abortion industrialists offense--crisis pregnancy centers, homes for unwed mothers, abstinence education. I'd like to see a Human Life Amendment--not imposed by judicial fiat (we see how badly Roe v. Wade has performed in the public square)--but by the long and tedious process of persuasion. In the meantime, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the result would not be the end of legal abortion in America, but the return of the question to the individual states. Oregon legalized abortion in 1969, and undoubtedly it will be among the last to make it illegal. Other states had abortion forced on them, and given the opportunity, they will quickly make it illegal again. Allowing the states to choose for themselves will provide more information for both sides to use in future persuasion; it will give a safety valve in both directions until we work out the issue. For our coalition members who disagree on this issue but are willing to work with us, to hear our arguments and give us theirs, I hope we pro-lifers keep looking for common ground.

  • On marriage. OK, I don't believe you can change the definition of "marriage" to be a relationship between two men or two women any more than you can change the definition of "yellow" to "red." If you want to talk about civil unions, about some means of simplifying the legal aspects of property and power of attorney and so forth, then let's open the discussion. I don't know what the ramifications would be. But don't have it imposed from some black-robed god (or in the case of Multnomah County, Oregon, by a couple of county commissioners reinterpreting the Oregon Constitution in a secret meeting that not even all the commissioners are invited to). I don't have much patience with the idea that the job of the state is to affirm people's love, nor with people who need the state to do that for them.

  • On social liberals in the Republican Party. In 1992, Gov. Robert Casey, a pro-lifer with impeccable Democratic economic credentials, was not permitted to speak at the Democratic convention, revealing how completely the Democrats had fallen into the ditch. Now Gov. Schwarzenegger has helped us win the White House, even though he supported the embryonic stem cell research measure in Gollyfornia. What to do? A little gratitude doesn't violate our principles. And considering who's likely to advance long-term gains in the core agenda is important.
What the Republicans offer at this point, to social liberals and social conservatives alike, is an emphasis on freedom, pushing the authority downward as much as possible to states, cities, neighborhoods, families, private persons. We'll argue over who those persons are and how to balance the needs of the community aaginst the individual. Those are fair questions. But as long as we respect each other and work through our disagreements honestly and civilly, there's no need to shrink the tent.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Greeks sue Macedonians for trademark infringement

Bear International News Service

SKOPJE (BINS exclusive) -- In a case destined to make world litigation history, Greece has hired the Microsoft team of lawyers to sue Macedonia for trademark infringement.

Until recently, Macedonia was called the Former Republic of Yugoslavia That Thinks It Can Get Away with Being Called Macedonia (or FRYTTICGAWBCM), and it made the case that "Macedonia" was only 7 percent of its name, so the Greeks didn't pursue litigation.

Now, in the aftermath of the U.S. election, and with a renewed mandate for "simplisme," re-elected President George W. Bush has directed his administration to start calling the small Eastern European country "Macedonia."

"I'm a simple man," the president said, "and it takes longer to say 'FRYTTICGAWBCM' than it took Macedonia to get its troops into the field in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Greece objects to the name because it has a province called "Macedonia," and because Alexander the Great was from Macedonia. "Our control of the trademark 'Macedonia,'" said a spokesman for the legal effort, "is a keystone to Greece's claim on domination of world culture. We are counting economic damages in the billions, plus loss of world reputation and self-esteem."

The World Court in The Hague, Belgium, agreed to docket the case as soon as the Milosevic trial is over.

American trial attorney John Edwards, currently unemployed, has been approached to lead the litigation effort. No word yet on whether he will take on the case.

Political junkies: one last fix

The UK Times tells a story that might have saved Republicans a lot of anguish. Do you know how close we came to presidential chaos?
JOHN KERRY constantly squabbled with his difficult and hypochondriac wife, ran a campaign team riven by internal feuding, and repeatedly begged the Republican senator John McCain to become his running-mate, according to a riveting inside account of his doomed presidential bid.
It seems to be a summary of a Newsweek article, which I don't find online.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bus people 5

They're cute, they're young, they're high-school students. The blonde tells her friend that she's giving up coffee, because she only makes $400 a month, and she spends $100 a month on coffee and another $100 on junk food. She's only got $200 in the bank, she says, and she owes her parents $260.

She peppers her sentences with "like" and "you know?" and ends every sentence with the inflection of a question.

She wants to volunteer for a domestic violence project.

The red-haired girl is a good listener.

The head begins to clear

Outer Life is advocating a return to normal perspectives after the election. Good advice, whether we're disconsolate or not.

I half expected a friend at work to be on suicide watch. It was funny in a way, until I remembered how upset I'd be if it had gone the other way. Now it's over, and Kerry was more gracious than I've ever seen him, and we move on.

I'll have to think of something else to write about.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Big thanks, Larry!

And in a last-minute bit of campaigning for the president, Larry Flynt promised to leave the country if Bush is re-elected.

Thanks, Larry, and don't let the big door hit you on the way out.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

What's up with me

I got home tonight after my 6 p.m.–10 p.m. class to find that Bush was leading in the popular vote and on the verge of being declared the winner in Ohio, which would put him up to 269 in the electoral college, with New Mexico apparently close in queue. Now I need to practice my gracious smile to use around the Kerry supporters who have been annoying me over the past few months. Dare I hope for a subdued quiet?

About that class: I'm going back to school to become a court reporter (my boss says, "You're enough of an introvert and enough of a voyeur that that might be just the thing for you"), so I'm looking at a minimum of two years of classes three nights a week.

I don't see how my 4 a.m.–10:30 p.m. days can fail to affect the blogging, but with the election over, and the bus people still riding the bus, and the undeniable fact that I actually like to blog, I'll still post--and aim to post every day--but whether I'll succeed is something I'll have a better idea about in a couple of weeks.

To my readers who are Bush supporters: Yee-haw!

To my readers who are Kerry supporters: Um. Well. Hmm. Uh. Yeah. Uh. How about those Red Sox?

Monday, November 01, 2004

Bus people 4

A guy in his 20s sits in the back of the bus exchanging crime stories with two white-haired women, twins and identically dressed. Sitting toward the front of the bus, I hear his voice spinning yarns about his brothers' and sisters' run-ins with the criminal element, and the women respond with stories they've read in the newspapers and their opinions: On hearing that the jail was too full, one said, "They ought to stack them like cord wood."

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Stassen revisited

The American Thinker has more on that Olympian theologian, that ethicist from Ephesus, that son of Dionysius the Areopagite, Glenn Stassen, Lewis B. Smedes professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Southern California.

When we last checked in with Prof. Stassen, he was trying to persuade pro-lifers to vote for Kerry, because, he implies, Democratic social policies produce fewer abortions than Republican restrictions on such activities as tax-paid funding of abortion and the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. What we found was that Prof. Stassen misrepresented his pro-life bona-fides, juggled preliminary figures and based his reckoning on economic statistics that didn't even have a clear correlation with abortion, much less proving causality. After researching my post, I learned that reached the same conclusions (and in greater depth).

In our continuing saga, Prof. Stassen has now descended from Mount Olympus to give us deep thoughts on how war is not healthy for children and other living things. Fortunately for all of us, Jim Arlandson at The American Thinker has thoroughly fisked Prof. Stassen on this topic as well.

Being an honest partisan is an honorable pursuit: stating one's reasons for supporting a candidate, making the case, seeking to persuade. But Stassen is not an honest partisan. For one thing, he is not honest. Beyond his arguments thought, trying to hide his partisanship behind a facade of the wise theologian who looks down from above all those petty political concerns, he actually lowers himself to the level of a political hack.

I don't care if Fuller has a leftist for its ethics professor, but Michael Moore might be about equally balanced.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Trick or treat from Osama bin Laden

So Osama bin Laden thought he'd give the American electorate an October surprise. I suspect that it won't turn out the way he wanted.

Apparently, Osama couldn't pull off a train explosion, as his minions did in Spain, so he gives us a threatening video tape. Will it work? He said, "I don't mess with your security, but if you mess with my security, I'll mess with your security." Will anyone in the United States forget that we didn't mess with his security before 9/11?

So who gets the October surprise? I hope it's Bin Laden.

Kerry's 'conscience'

In "Abortion: the swing issue?," Paul Kengor, author of God and George W. Bush, lays out the differences between Bush and Kerry on abortion.

He gives a rundown on the Bush record on abortion, including some facts I could have guessed but didn't know.

Then he compares Kerry's adamantly pro-abortion position--pointing out that Kerry says he is guided by his faith on poverty, the environment and "equality and justice," but not on abortion.

And then he drops a little gem from Kerry that I had never heard:
"Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town [, he told the Senate in 1994]; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure...."
If you read the code words, you have Kerry promising an assault on the conscience clause, which means that medical providers who object to abortion may yet be forced to perform it. Recently Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman was on the same track when she launched a broadside against applying conscience clauses to hospitals, including Catholic hospitals. She complaining about a House measure to protect medical workers from being required to perform or refer for abortions. Naturally, Goodman is outraged, because for her it is incomprehensible that anyone would object to killing a child before birth.

But Kerry looks smarmily at the camera and says, "I repect your belief. Look. I was an altar boy. . . , but . . . ."

But the abortion lobby has a stranglehold on the Democratic Party and has been systematically chasing pro-lifers from its ranks. Pro-life candidates cannot even get a hearing on a national level in the Democratic Party.

Until 9/11 abortion was the defining issue of our time. Since 9/11, national security has risen to the top in urgency, but the abortion wound festers--an issue as fundamental to who and what we are as a nation as slavery was. The slavery issue was finally resolved by a long and bloody war. The Leftists' anti-Bush animus may be, I believe, more about abortion than war, since Clinton's wars never bothered anybody, but Bush has made real inroads against abortion.

The Blogroll Please! Anna's Inklings

Anna's Inklings is a new Orthoblog by Carrie, wife of longtime Orthoblogger Karl T. She's a new mom (baby not yet born) and involved in the new Sophia Academy, the Orthodox school in Portland. She's already shown a facility for starting cross-blog conversations, so I'm looking forward to future discussions.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

I don't know how they did it

But those wily guys at Adeimantus got in on a conference call with Kerry, Rather, Pinch and little Johnny.

Very enlightening.

At least his rights aren't being trampled

Some people should be in Guantanamo.

The man on the ABC terrorist tape speaks English with an American accent:
US intelligence officials believe the man on tape may be Adam Gadhan -- aka Adam Pearlman, a California native who was highlighted by the FBI in May as an individual most likely to be involved in or have knowledge of the next al Qaeda attacks.

According to the FBI, Gadahn, 25, attended al-Qaida training camps and served as an al-Qaida translator.

The disturbing tape runs an hour -- the man simply identifies himself as 'Assam the American.'

HAT TIP: James

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Too holy to vote

I've run across a number of Christians who proclaim themselves unwilling to vote for either major presidential candidate, because neither comes up to their standard of holiness. It might be that Kerry is pro-abortion and Bush is pro-war or pro-capital punishment or a Protestant (a Catholic woman I know has this objection to him), or that Kerry is pro-abortion and Bush is actually a big-spending liberal who doesn't obey the Constitution either.

To these people, I say with all due affection and respect, get over yourself. Jesus Christ has never run for office in the United States and never will. I know quite well that the perfect candidate is one that will agree with me on every issue, but I don't expect to find one.

We are facing the most important election of the past 50 years and people are willing to throw away their votes on the Constitution party or the Libertarians (I'm not complaining about the people who vote Pacific Greens or Ralph Nader; that's Kerry's supporters' problem).

The 1972 Libertarian candidate for president has endorsed Bush. He says:
"There is a belief that's common among many libertarians that there is no essential difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties – between a John Kerry and a George W. Bush administration; or worse: that a Bush administration would be more undesirable. Such a notion could not be farther from the truth, or potentially more harmful to the cause of liberty."
What sent me off on this rant was running across the laughable Constitution Party candidate for Oregon State Treasurer (formated as much as possible like the original):
Carole D. Winegarden
Occupation: Wife; Home-school mother; business owner

Occupational Background: Treasurer; Accountant; Licensed Tax Preparer; Carpenter

Educational background: David Douglas H.S.; Mt. Hood C.C. [Community College]; Portland C.C.; B.C.T.I. [whatever].

Prior Governmental Experience: voter


As your state treasurer I will uphold my oath to both the Oregon and United States Constitutions. Therefore, as an elected official honor bound to this oath, I could not in good conscience sign a check to fund abortion, as is now being done. All other expenditures, such as programs that benefit illegal immigrants, would be reviewed and funding cut off, if found to be unconstitutional. [She doesn't mention it, but she's apparently running for Justice of the State Supreme Court at the same time.]

I am a candidate that serves and obeys the Lord Jesus Christ, and with His help will strive to glorify His name as State Treasurer.
The idea that this woman thinks she can be treasurer of Oregon because she managed the family checkbook is almost as amusing as it is maddening.

But wait, her husband is running for U.S. representative: His prior governmental experience is "disappointment."
If you don't vote for what you believe in, you'll NEVER get what you want!
It's the Jiminy Cricket political creed: If you just wish hard enough, your dreams will come true. You don't have to try to persuade anyone who doesn't already agree with you. You don't have to get trained in the field; you don't even need to acknowledge the need for training--being disgruntled is qualification enough. Just throw your money and your vote away on lost causes, and then you can feel righteous that you've never "compromised," never supported anything less than perfection.

As if God is keeping copies of your ballots, and if you vote for an achievable improvement, you'll get a stick in the eye at the last judgment. No wonder so many people think Christians are idiots.

Spare me the righteous.

Bus people 3

He's a black man in his late 30s, six feet four, 280 or more, wearing a gray and red Columbia Sportswear jacket and an Oakland Raiders watch cap, with hoop earrings.

He carries on a loud conversation with the bus driver about where to get a good steak.

He whistles the Ray Charles song, "You Don't Know Me," beautifully but sporadically, as if it's playing in his head and sometimes burbles out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Blogroll please! The Alto Section

Ann Campbell is an Orthoblogger, a friend who lived in Portland for a year or two? (I have problems with time) before she moved away to work on her master's degree at St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York.

Ann is theologizing about what it means to be a woman in the cosmos and in the Orthodox Church. She's not one of these fish-without-a-bicycle people, so her ideas depart from the polarized no man's land of most of the current debate and wander into some new territory.

I am proud to say that I suggested that she blog. I am even more pleased that she took me up on my suggestion.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The 'pro-life' Kerry vote

Carrie asks, Isn't it Ironic....: "Many of my Christian friends (who are pro-life) are voting for John Kerry. When asked about how they can justify voting for a candidate whose voting record in the Senate clearly shows a pro-abortion stance (he voted against the ban on partial birth abortions and voted against legislation to enact a 'Lacy Peterson law' which would charge criminals who kill a pregnant woman with 2 counts of murder) my friends reply 'well, the president will never be able to overturn Roe v. Wade anyway, so I'm not going to make it a central issue'."

If the election were less important, I would be inclined to toss the observation into the large box labeled "Go Figure." But it is important. I don't think it's an overstatement that this may be the most important election of the past 50 years. And the right to life is part of why.

First, I agree with Carrie's--and my--pro-life friends that abortion is not going to be made illegal nationwide in the next four years, regardless of who is elected. I would like to see the unborn protected under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. That isn't going to happen, probably not even in my lifetime.

Nevertheless, there is a possibility that Bush will appoint the Supreme Court Justices who eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. There is zero possibility that Kerry will. And with several justices approaching retirement, the next four years with a Kerry pro-abortion litmus test will set the agenda for at least a couple of decades.

It's not a sure thing, and justices chosen by pro-life presidents, such as Souter and O'Connor, don't lead pro-lifers to optimism. Optimism is not necessary for hope.

And if Roe v. Wade is overturned, what then? More work. Because abortion will return to each state legislature, to allow, ban, regulate. Mississippi will look very different from Minnesota, and California from South Carolina, and Missouri will become a test case looked at by Montana. Oregon legalized abortion in 1969, and if Roe is overturned, pro-life Oregonians will still have a long road of argument, persuasion, activism and politicking. Welcome to government of the people, by the people and for the people.

But at least, if we have a president who believes in judicial restraint, in the original role of judges, we might get some who will let laws stand in the states where the legislatures write them, instead of finding a "right" to abortion in emanations of the penumbra surrounding the Bill of Rights.

Otherwise, we may as well disband the legislatures, fire the president and place crowns on the heads of the black-robed regents who know better than the voters what's good for us.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Blogroll, please! Allah Is In The House

With Allah we enter the ranks of the Mighty Bloggers.

Allah is one of a handful of bloggers who have raised satire to an art of ironic role playing, and Allah, the creator of worlds, is also the master of Photoshop, with an awareness of what's going on in the political scene that makes him seem omniscient. (Does Allah have a day job?)

But I found, when I e-mailed him about using a post for an editorial idea at my day job, that though his blog is an awesome blog, the mysterious Allah himself was more grateful than amused. Humility seems to run rampant among the bloggers I've had contact with, even the Mighty.

I supposed I should point out, for the linguistically faint-hearted, that Allah sometimes uses words formerly not allowed on the radio.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Blogroll please! Adeimantus

Adeimantus is a team blog started by a Houston attorney.

Posts range from WSJ-quality social commentary to classic Photoshop and satire.

They've accomplished a lot with their a blog, which has been around less than six months. I check in with them several times a week and always find something unique and bracing.

I wish I knew how to pronounce the name, though.


Blogiversaries are a good time for reflection, time to ask ourselves what we're doing here in front of the keyboard in our pajamas (OK, sometimes it's true) while the floors go unswept and the to-do lists grow longer. Mine is coming up on Oct. 29, and on my first day, I wrote "This is an experiment, to find out if I have anything to say." I changed the blog name after that (I'll stick with this one), the design sometime later (it'll change again if I ever get time), and the abiding topic a number of times after that.

I've done the quizzes, cast about for topics, gone link-fishing; I've written posts that I thought were important contributions to the discussion (of one thing or another) and others that I expected just to be an off-site storage for something I wanted to keep. I've learned some HTML and some Photoshop and have written for publication more or less every day. Overall, what I've gained from blogging is more valuable to me than the time I've put into it that I "should" have used for other things.

I've been interested in my readers, all 6,048 of them -- where they come from, why (if) they come back, whether they find my stuff too long, too short, too boring, too time-consuming, too ponderous, too frivolous, too pious, too irreverent (probably alternately all of the above) -- what they're looking for and whether they find it. Some are my face-to-face friends who want, for some reason, to know what I'm thinking about today. Others are in distant cities and check in frequently, and their return is more of a compliment than I can describe.

I got my first comment spam last week and deleted it with real pleasure; it was the passing of a milestone (for bigger bloggers, managing spam comments is probably more like the passing of a kidney stone, but I'm not there yet).

But the left side of this site--the blogroll--gives me more day-to-day pleasure than the right, so over the next week or few, I'll introduce the bloggers I read and why. I'll go alphabetically, so as not to miss anyone.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Elvis factor

Professional optimist and Kerry supporter Thomas P.M. Barnett opines that Bush will win because, "I have said it before and I will say it again: the more optimistic candidate wins national elections." (He says it longer and in more detail--a worthwhile read.)

This is akin to my friend Susan's "Elvis factor": In every presidential election, either the Republican wins or the candidate with the highest Elvis factor. What exactly is the Elvis factor? Well, if you have to ask, I'm not sure I can explain it, but for my occasional visitors from Pakistan (that's a joke--Pakistanis probably know more about Elvis than Berkeleyites), I'll lay out a couple of the essentials--it's a down home, manly quality, with an edge.

Clinton had it. Andrew Jackson had it. Nixon had zero, but he was a Republican. Between Ford and Carter, Carter had slightly more of it. Go through the list. It works all the way back to the earliest days of the Republic.

Back to the present: between Bush and Kerry, who has the Elvis factor?

I'm afraid to be too optimistic (it's a private superstition of mine--that if I expect an outcome too complacently, it won't happen), but Bush seems to lead in both optimism and Elvisism.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Bush hit piece aimed at undecided pro-lifers

Here's a piece that deserves a thorough fisking: Why abortion rate is up in Bush years.

This piece is appearing all over the media and the Internet and purports to show why pro-life voters should support abortion extremist John Kerry.
I, Glen, am a Christian ethicist, and trained in statistical analysis. I am consistently pro-life. My son David is one witness. For my family, "pro-life" is personal. My wife caught rubella in the eighth week of her pregnancy. We decided not to terminate, to love and raise our baby. David is legally blind and severely handicapped; he also is a blessing to us and to the world. Gary Krane is an investigative journalist.
Stassen is a longtime proponent of abortion rights within the Southern Baptist denomination. He signed a 1977 document, "A Call to Concern," which called for Southern Baptists to oppose "legal abolition of any and all abortion." He signed onto the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights in the late '70s. At the American Academy of Religion meeting in 2004, he presided over a program on ethics, religion and social services titled "Celebrating the Work of Larry Rasmussen," the same Larry Rasmussen whose book Ethics for a Small Planet was published by The Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health & Ethics and had an introduction written by Rosemary Radford Ruether, a founding director of Catholics for a Free Choice.

"Investigative journalist" Gary Krane is a Democratic operative who went looking for a Flash animator recently. He wrote: "I am an investigative journalist whose team has recently discovered that in contrast to the Clinton years when abortion rates dropped every year almost 2% per year, they have leveled and in some states gone up significantly. This is a bombshell that could decided this election, because about 50% of undecided voters are pro-life! We want to get this bombshell out as fast to as many people as possible, but of course have no funds. Will you help??"

I've got questions about their statistics, but right now I'm just point out that these are not the dispassionate observers that they pretend to be.
We look at the fruits of political policies more than words. We analyzed the data on abortion during the Bush presidency. There is no single source for this information -- federal reports go only to the year 2000, and many states do not report -- but we found enough data to identify trends. Our findings are disturbing.
It's true that the data are sketchy. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, goes only to 2000, as does the information at the Centers for Disease Control, both showing downward trends to 2000.
Abortion was decreasing. When President Bush took office, the nation's abortion rates were at a 24-year low, after a 17.4 percent decline during the 1990s. This was a steady decrease averaging 1.7 percent per year. (The data come from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life using the Guttmacher Institute's studies.)

Enter George W. Bush in 2001. One would expect the abortion rate to continue its consistent course downward, if not plunge. Instead, the opposite happened.

We found four states that have posted three-year statistics: Kentucky's increased by 3.2 percent from 2000 to 2003. Michigan's increased by 11.3 percent from 2000 to 2003. Pennsylvania's increased by 1.9 percent from 1999 to 2002. Colorado's rates skyrocketed 111 percent. We found 12 additional states that reported statistics for 2001 and 2002. Eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6 percent average increase), and four saw a decrease (4.3 percent average).
I found the site Krane was working from: William Robert Johnston has done fine research into the question. As Stassen and Krane said, most states do not have figures past 2000.

Johnston says, however, "For U.S. states, abortion ratios and percentages are based on abortion figures from different sources with different completeness; the mixed figures are not reliable time series."

Undaunted, the authors continue their political hit:
Under Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.
Note the year. If I remember correctly, something important happened in 2001 that affected the U.S. economy quite strongly, and it was not caused by the presidential administration. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate for 2002 ranged from 5.6 to 6.0 percent, lower than in 1990, when the abortion rate was at its historical plateau.
For anyone familiar with why most women have abortions, this is no surprise:

Two-thirds of women who have abortions cite "inability to afford a child" as their primary reason (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life). In the Bush presidency, unemployment rates increased half again. Not since Herbert Hoover had there been a net loss of jobs during a presidency until the current administration. Average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed.
Yes, the unemployment rates increased from their bottom in April of 2000, but they are still in range with the rates of the Clinton administration, and lower than much of that period. Bush is not responsible for a recession that began before he took office, nor for the effects of 9/11.

But we were talking about abortion. Children beyond birth are also expensive; would the authors justify their murder as well?
Half of all women who abort say they do not have a reliable mate. And men who are jobless usually do not marry. In the 16 states, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions. As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises.

Women worry about health care for themselves and their children. Since 5.2 million more people have no health insurance now than before this presidency -- with women of childbearing age overrepresented in those 5.2 million -- abortion increases.
As interesting as these women's reporting is, it has limited pertinence to determining social policy, because there's no way of knowing whether their assessment is correct. Would they have enough money? Would they have enough support? Could they find adoptive parents for their children? They don't know because they didn't try. How much does rationalization enter the picture? How much ignorance?
My wife and I know -- as does my son David -- that doctors, nurses, hospitals, medical insurance, special schooling and parental employment are crucial for a special child. David attended the Kentucky School for the Blind, as well as schools for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. He was mainstreamed in public schools as well. We have two other sons and five grandchildren, and we know that every mother, every father and every child needs public and family support.
If public support a la John Kerry is what is required to reduce the abortion rate, let's do a quick and dirty look at that bastion of sophisticated social policy: Canada. Johnston reports a Canadian abortion rate of 24.3 percent in 2000 (so we don't know what the Bush Administration did to the Canadian abortion rate either), compared to--hold your hats--24.4 percent in the United States. There's plenty of reason to implement a Canadian social-welfare system.
What does this tell us? Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Rhetoric is hollow, mere tinkling brass, without health care, insurance, jobs, child care and a living wage. Pro-life in deed, not merely in word, means we need a president who will do something about jobs, health insurance and support for mothers.
It tells me that the authors are a couple of shills for the Democratic party who don't give a rip about the innocent unborn.

The smarmy self-righteousness of the ethics professor takes the cake though: "Congratulate me on not killing my blind son." Congratulations, Prof. Stassen. I wonder how the boy would feel about being used to promote the candidacy of a man who opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion and who has promised his pro-abortion supporters that any judge he appoints will keep the "right" to abortion in place.
Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, Calif. He can be e-mailed at

Krane is an independent investigative journalist in Philadelphia.Readers can write to him at 151 Tulpehocken, Philadelphia, PA 19144 or

I'm sure the authors would be happy to hear from us. Oh, and Gary is looking for a chick to go canoeing with after the election is over. He's going to need a break.

Monday, October 18, 2004


Either of these two reasons would be sufficient to vote for George W. Bush this year. Together they drown out every other pro or con.

  • The life issues:

  • Kerry is in favor of abortion without any restriction, including puncturing the baby's head with scissors and sucking the child's brains out.

    Bush is opposed to killing for the sake of convenience. He has ended government funding of abortion, signed the partial-birth abortion ban and held the line against government funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

  • Safety and security:

  • After 9/11, most of us understand that we have an implacable enemy -- ruthless, brutal and determine -- that wants to destroy our people and our culture. Kerry thinks the best way to fight this enemy is with international summits, waiting for the next attack so that Le Monde will say, "We are all Americans!" and then dispatching Inspector Clouseau to find Osama bin Laden so that Kerry can kill him with his bare hands. Kerry's zigzagging between UN symposia and Rambo rhetoric lurches between useless and delusional.

    Reasonable people might disagree with Bush's decision to take the fight against terrorism first to Afghanistan and then to Iraq, but reasonable people haven't come up with an alternative. Bush gives a hopeful, even inspiring, vision of human rights and freedom taking root around the world, beginning with people who have been under some of the most repressive regimes around. Will we win? I don't know, but I know that with Kerry we will certainly lose.

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    On history and stories

    Our priest gave a sermon today about the difficulty of ascribing meaning to specific events in history, whether national or personal, especially events of loss. Why does a child get cancer? Why do terrorists destroy the Twin Towers? Why does America declare war on Iraq? Why (not his example, but I doubt he would disagree with it) do four hurricanes hit Florida within a month?

    The answer is in how we tell the story. My friend Barb observes that judgment is the flip side of grace, and that observation is related to the fact that in the Hero's Journey, the archetype at the core of every story, victory lies at the other side of death. I was thinking about the sermon and stories and history in the Liturgy today, when the words popped out at me: "remembering the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven and the second and glorious coming . . . ." That action, remembering those things, is the key to finding God's work in every instance, good or bad.

    To say that the way to Resurrection is through the Cross is not to say that the parents of a dead baby deserve their pain, nor is it to say, "Cheer up and get over it. Everything's hunky dory." The cross is the cross, and if the suffering is not real, then it's not suffering. The sufferer stands at his own crossroads--choosing the way of life (which passes through death to life) or the way of death (which passes through denial into bitterness and delusion and comes to a dead-end outside the wall of paradise). And the message, the route of that choice is the story.

    The story, however, comes afterward, at the appropriate time. It's a rare parent of a dead child who can see the glimmer of the resurrection in the midst of it, and it's a heartless "comforter" who expects the grief-stricken to do so. In fact, only a person who doesn't want to enter into the suffering--to experience "compassion"--would ask the sufferer to buck up and move on immediately. The Church gives a period of 40 days for the most intense mourning. In fact, the Church gives 40 days for all kinds of transitions--for mourning, for a mother to stay at home with a newborn, for the repentance of Lent, for the preparation of Advent--and 40 days seems to be a number written deep into our being: on a nature show about wolves, scientists observed that a wolf pack mourned about six weeks for one of its beta males who had died.

    At some point, the story is written--whether literally written or the oral history of a family ("Your older brother died before you were born, and now he's praying for you") or the private inner story each of us tells ourself each morning on the way about our day ("I survived that trauma, and this is the strength I bring to the world because of it"). Or the opposite: "What I owned was taken from me, and now the universe owes me recompense for my loss."

    America's slaves used to draw strength from the story of Moses and the Exodus; they appropriated that story as their own. The story put their suffering in context; it helped preserve the perception of their human dignity (not that the dignity could be lost, but its perception is important); the outcome of the Exodus gave a possible outcome for their slavery; and when a novelist took up their story and put a slave in a Christ-role, Uncle Tom's Cabin helped fire a movement that would lead to their freedom. By putting their story into that context, they were ennobled, and we all are, by the strength, dignity, culture and yet more stories that come out of it.

    Hosea lived the story of God's abiding faithfulness, but he lived it and illustrated it through humiliation and suffering. By living the story, he offers another iteration of the story for the next person who finds himself in a similar situation and wonders, "Why does God let this happen to me?" Looking to Hosea doesn't answer the "why?," but it can answer "how?" How can I live with this? How can I find meaning in the midst of it? In fact, that meaning may be exactly the answer to the "why," rather than something along the lines of "because you're such a schlemiel that you deserve it."

    We haven't found our story for 9/11 yet. We don't know the end of it--whether a new birth of freedom in the Middle East or the dark night of Sharia imposed throughout the West. We know a few stories--"Let's roll!", the NYFD heroes, private persons who either escaped or died in the attacks. But we haven't finished the big story that will explain it all for our children. Maybe it will take 40 years instead of 40 days. But the answers, when they come, will take the form of a story.