Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
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Location: Illinois, United States

The peaches, apples, plums and pears are guarded by ferocious bears.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

30 July 2005

Saturday Comics Blogging

27 July 2005

Five Reasons I Love the Public Library

I love the public library. That probably makes me a Socialist. Chicagoland has a particularly great system. There are several large, well-stocked libraries within a few miles of our apartment. A couple are within walking or biking distance. And as a Chicagolander, I can check anything out from any library in the area. Usually this is a problem for me because I can't go in one without checking out half a dozen things, which means I don't read the books I already own, many of which I haven't read yet. At any rate, this is what's in the pile right now:

1) Public Enemy #2 : An All-New Boondocks Collection - Aaron McGruder

2) Jame's Dobson's War on America - Gil Alexander-Moeggerle

3) Six Feet Under - The Complete Third Season

4) Ice Haven - Daniel Clowes

5) Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment - Harold Schechter

As an aside, I should point out that our village's library employs a security guard, the only security guard I've ever seen in a library. I'm not sure why. Mostly she just sits around or talks to the librarians, older women who scowl all day long.

26 July 2005

Interviewed by Mystifer

I don't look at myself in the mirror 'cause I'm a narcissist. I simply like to watch myself exist. — Sage Francis

So I'm participating in another meme. This one is a bit different, in that instead being tagged to participate, this one requires that you tag yourself.

The rules are as follows:

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying "Interview me." "Blow me" or "Eat me" are not acceptable substitutes.

2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different. I'll post the questions in the comments section of this post.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. Got it? You have to ASK to be interviewed, and I promise I will try and be clever. Unless I'm in a pissy mood.

So, yeah, this is an exercise in utter self-inflation and narcissism. No one cares what I think about these topics. But that's the entire point of blogging, I guess. Anyways, via Feminism Loves You, off we go:

If you could remove one person (and the damage/accomplishments made by them) from american history, who would you choose?

I’m not sure. The easy answer would be George W. Bush, but it’s hard to say how much influence his presidency will have later on. True, Islamic insurgents will hate us for generations now. And the economic impact of his foolish decisions will be felt for a long time. And thousands of Iraqis are dead because of us. And his inaction in the realm of global warming and weaning the United States off its oil addiction may be severe. Even so, the United States’ love for the corporation is probably doing more harm to this planet than the president, although it’s hard to say how it would be possible to reverse that by eliminating one person.

What specific thought or event motivated you to start a blog?

I don’t think there was any one specific motivation. I was familiar with blogging long before it became the national pastime, but I didn’t really start reading them until last year. I was prompted to do so in the months before the 2004 election when I was feeling like the only Christian in the world to think of George W. Bush as an incompetent president and an insipid, theologically-impotent, warmongering antichrist. It was really refreshing to discover Fred at Slacktivist and, through him, many more people of faith like myself who were fed up with the policies of this administration, and the state of Christianity in the United States. So my motivation for starting my own probably has to do with attempting to join that community. I also partially write for a living, so blogging is a good outlet for the old adage that writers should write every day.

What is your all time favorite movie?

I have three films that I really consider favourites: Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko (I prefer the director’s cut) and P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia.

I love Magnolia because of its sprawling mess of intersecting characters and its recurring themes of God, destiny, chance, forgiveness, hope, anger and love. It’s about hard choices, coming to terms with your past, and looking past the haze to find the sun. I love Requiem for a Dream because of its uncompromising look at the price of obsession and the nature of humanity. It’s bleak and practically hopeless, but it's beautiful all the same. Aronofsky is an amazing director and Clint Mansell, who wrote the score, may be the greatest composer alive. Donnie Darko is another mess of a movie of which I can’t get enough. It’s a thought-provoking story about a paranoid schizophrenic teenager who may be receiving messages from God or people of the future, and who may or may not be a superhero or the messiah. Combining elements of science fiction, comedy, teen romance, horror, and 80s retro, the film manages to bleed all over the place, and still rein you in. It’s a headfuck requiring multiple viewings with an amazing 80s soundtrack and is an incredible directorial debut for Kelly.

How do you like Illinois, and how does it compare with the new sufjan album?

I like Illinois a lot. It’s very different from the Eastern part of Tennessee, which is where I grew up and spent my first 24 years. The South I’m familiar with is very suspicious of anyone not like them, whether it be differences in ethnicity, sexuality, education, class or even regional background. It’s very resistant to change. And it’s the Bible belt and a very Red state, with a lot of Baptist churches that reflect that mindset. Those are generalisations of course. But they reflect my experience. I miss the good stuff, though, the mountains and the Disc Exchange and McKay’s Used Books and Sundown in the City and Boomsday and the cheaper cost of living and the amazing Knoxville music scene.

Illinois is generally more open minded and more open to progress. We live in the suburbs of Chicago but it’s far more multi-cultural here than East Tennessee. The winters are ridiculously cold, although my sources tell me that the past couple of them have been mild. The price of living is very high, one thing that may ultimately prevent us from settling here. There’s generally more to do here in terms of cultural activities, museums and that sort of thing. Public transportation is pathetic compared to Europe, but it’s much better than what Knoxville has to offer. My wife and I also attend a church here that we actually like, one committed to working with and feeding the poor, working with those suffering from addictions and emotional pain, and other things that the church is supposed to do. Pound for pound, I probably like it better here. But, in the words of slam poet Daniel Roop, “God knows I’m not a patriot ‘cause every place is special.”

As for how Illinois stacks up to the new Sufjan Stevens album, I don’t really know the state well enough yet to judge that. I’ve also just begun listening to the album. But Sufjan seems to capture the diversity and beauty quite nicely.

Would you rather die heroically or peacefully?

I’d rather die peacefully. But I’d prefer to die heroically.

Gratuitous Bush Jokes

McSweeneys has some gratuitous Bush jokes up. Laugh at his expense. Go on...

25 July 2005

Holy Comics

Up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. No, silly mortal. It's Captain Miracle:

By speaking the name of God, young Billy Batista is transformed into Captain Miracle! With super powers granted by the Almighty, Captain Miracle fights the forces of evil:

Gaia Rites
a Pagan lesbian who values the earth more than men
Prof. Atheos
a Humanist whose inventions defy God's providence
Sodom al-Mohammed
an Islamic terrorist slaughtering American soldiers
The Anti-Miracle
the Captain's devil-powered counterpart
a mysterious being who appears to be unstoppable!

This is either the work of a sincere and truly frightening fundamentalist or the most brilliant parody I've seen in quite a while. I love that I can't tell which.

23 July 2005

Saturday Comics Blogging

In London Town Part 2

I don't think Osama bin Laden sent those planes to attack us because he hated our freedom. I think he did it because of our support for Israel, our ties with the Saudi family and our military bases in Saudi Arabia. You know why I think that? Because that's what he fucking said.—David Cross

It’s been fascinating in the aftermath of what’s been transpiring in England these past few weeks to compare and contrast former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments about September 11 with recent reactions from London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

During the 2004 election campaign, Giuliani was addressed the Republican National Convention, saying:

“Terrorism did not start on September 11, 2001. It started a long time ago. And it had been festering for many years.
And the world had created a response to it that allowed it to succeed. The attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics was in 1972. That's a long time ago. That's not yesterday.

And the pattern began early. The three surviving terrorists were arrested. And then within just three months, the terrorists who slaughtered the Israeli athletes were released by the German government -- set free.

Action like this became the rule, not the exception. Terrorists came to learn time after time that they could attack, that they could slaughter innocent people and not face any consequences….

Terrorist acts became like a ticket to the international bargaining table. How else to explain Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize while he was supporting a plague of terrorism in the Middle East and undermining any chance of peace?
Before September 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of our world, much like observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate the Soviet Union through the use of mutually assured destruction.

President Bush decided that we could no longer be just on defense against global terrorism, we must also be on offense.
Now compare that with the words of Livingstone:

“I think you've just had 80 years of Western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of the Western need for oil. We've propped up unsavoury governments, we've overthrown ones we didn't consider sympathetic. And I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s... the Americans recruited and trained Osama Bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians and drive them out of Afghanistan. They didn't give any thought to the fact that once he'd done that he might turn on his creators….

If at the end of the First World War we had done what we promised the Arabs, which was to let them be free and have their own governments, and kept out of Arab affairs, and just bought their oil, rather than feeling we had to control the flow of oil, I suspect this wouldn't have arisen….A lot of young people see the double standards, they see what happens in Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there isn't a just foreign policy.”
The difference here could not be greater. Giuliani follows the same line of reasoning as the Bush administration. For them terrorism is about people who hate freedom. It’s about evildoers. It’s about the good guys and the bad guys. And, naturally, we’re the good guys.

That the United States might be sowing the harvest that they have reaped through their corrupt actions and policies abroad is unthinkable. That anyone could be justified in despising the United States is unthinkable. That there could be a historical context for this seething hatred is unthinkable. Our leaders are narcissists, spoiled children who think the world revolves completely around them, who see the world in stark black and white.

This saddens me. I shouldn't have to worry about suicide bombers just because my president is a bully who does whatever the hell he wants.

19 July 2005

Fruits of the Spirit—Hyperbole

Back in June, my wife and I spent the majority of the month in Europe. We stayed the first week and a half in Hungary at a conference for Christians who live in Europe. I work for the organisation that put together said conference. To help with the conference, we brought along a team of 20 volunteers, one of whom was my wife.

While we were at O’Hare in Chicago preparing to fly overseas, one of our team members discovered that he had lost his passport. This occurred somewhere between the security checkpoint and our gate.

Naturally this was a problem. You can’t leave the country without a passport. And if you somehow manage to do so, you won't make it far once you've landed.

After this rather sticky problem manifested itself, we retraced the volunteer’s steps, notified the airline, and all the other sorts of things one does in this kind of situation. We also prayed, as one of our more obnoxious volunteers took this time to loudly approach the throne with boldness.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, of course (beyond Jesus’ injunction not to pray in public). That our volunteer would think to pray first and ask questions later is kind of humbling. That she would strongarm everyone else into doing the same is another matter.

After this initial prayer meeting, several of the volunteers went to look for the missing passport. Several minutes passed with nothing to report. Some began to worry. Arrangements were made for our passportless volunteer to find a way home from the airport. Finally, in desperation, our prayerful volunteer cried unto the Lord once more, asking that the passport be restored to its rightful owner, so as to strengthen his faith.

And then a curious thing happened. Not five minutes later, an announcement was made over the airport loudspeakers. And so the passport was found, having found its way into the wrong traveller’s pocket. This traveller noticed the passport when boarding his own flight and turned it in. Simple as that.

But not quite. Having had her prayer answered so quickly, our volunteer extolled the miracle that had occurred on her watch. No, I’m not kidding. A miracle.

This is why I have a hard time liking certain Christians. And why I don’t fit in with them. A man being raised from the dead after three days is a miracle. Water being turned into wine is a miracle. Healing the sick with your bare hands is a miracle. Someone noticing that he had the wrong passport and speaking up about it is not a miracle. It’s fucking common sense.

16 July 2005

Saturday Comics Blogging

14 July 2005

Worst President Ever?

The always wonderful South Knox Bubba has some interesting perspective on the Karl Rove issue. As I already pointed out yesterday, this is hardly the biggest Bush scandal on the market. South Knoxville Bubba has been kind enough to give us a Cliff Notes version of just what the administration has done. The list is so good that I've pretty much left it intact. And what a list it is:

  • Rigged an election in conspiracy with brother Jeb in Florida to take office.

  • Appoints administration made up of former executives and government officials who helped Saddam develop WMD, were involved in illegal arms sales, traded with the enemy in violation of U.S. law, and whose companies now profit from war.

  • Stonewalled GAO and Congress request for documents relating to Enron influence of Federal Energy Policy.

  • Representing party of smaller government and less Federal spending, creates largest non-defense bureaucracy in U.S. history and signs largest entitlement spending program in U.S. history.

  • Although recovering now, presided over a 30% loss in Dow Jones Industrial Average, nearly a 50% loss in NASDAQ, and a 33% loss in S&P 500, wiping out trillions in wealth.

  • Presided over an increase in consumer debt to all time record high of over $2 trillion and an increase in personal bankruptcy filings to an all time high of 1.6 million households in 2003.

  • Despite taking over after the longest and largest economic expansion in U.S. history, presided over the loss of three million jobs, with the highest unemployment in a decade and nearly nine million people out of work.

  • Presided over the largest trade deficit in U.S. history, a record $489.4 billion in 2003, while the value of the dollar has reached an all time low against the Euro and the Yen.

  • Presides over illegal arrest and detention and physical abuse of criminal suspects, who are held in secret without benefit of counsel without any charges.

  • Signs "Patriot Act" that limits civil liberties and violates the Bill of Rights contained within the Constitution he took an oath to protect and defend.

  • Despite inheriting an $80 billion surplus from the Clinton administration, turns it into a $2 trillion deficit with tax cuts, war, and out of control spending.

  • Bush tax cuts could pay for hiring all nine million people out of work and pay them $40K for two years instead of benefiting wealthy.

  • Gutted clean air regulations, allowing utilities and factories to continue polluting the atmosphere, calling it "Clear Skies".

  • Rolls back environmental reviews and opens national forests up to the logging industry, calling it "Healthy Forests".

  • Rolled back wetlands protection, reducing or eliminating regulations prohibiting pollution of wetlands, calls it "Clean Water Act".

  • Rolled back wilderness protections, opening up wilderness areas to logging, mining, other development.

  • Promotes school vouchers to take taxpayer money away from public education and give it to wealthy families to send their kids to private and mostly religious schools.

  • Adopts the Project for a New American Century's strategy paper on Rebuilding America's Defenses as the official U.S. National Security policy, a policy that calls for imperialist expansion in the middle east and hopes for a national catastrophe "on the scale of Pearl Harbor" to awaken the public to the dangers posed by not adopting this policy. Hires most of its authors to run the Pentagon and develop defense policy.

  • Worst terrorist attack in history, and the worst foreign attack on U.S. soil occurred on current administration's watch, and Bush undermines efforts to investigate mounting evidence of numerous warnings that could have prevented it.

  • Made speeches and signed laws promising more funding for shipping container inspections at U.S. ports to look for nukes and other WMD, then eliminated funding from budget.

  • Allowed North Korean sale of Scud missiles to Yemen.

  • Made deal with Iranian terrorist organization.

  • Conducted preemptive unprovoked military invasion of sovereign state resulting in hundreds of military casualties and thousands of civilian deaths, deceived Congress and UN Security Council using "sexed-up" intelligence to justify.

  • Claims two trailers used to make hydrogen for balloons, a vial of botox in some guy's refrigerator, and some junk buried in some guy's rose garden are "proof" of Iraqi WMD "programs", or as they are later termed in his State of the Union, "weapons of mass destruction related program activities".

  • When U.S. weapons inspectors cannot find 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, tens of thousands of chem/bio warheads, and an advanced nuclear weapons program in Iraq and say that in fact they probably never existed despite Bush telling Congress and the American people they posed a "grave danger" and Rumsfeld saying "we know where they are" and Powell showing the U.N. pictures of them, Bush says "What's the difference?" and blames it on faulty intelligence.

  • Proposes sweeping cuts in veteran's benefits, instructs Veteran's Administration to deceive veterans with regard to benefits available.

  • Dressed in fighter pilot costume and flew military jet to aircraft carrier for stunt landing and political fundraising/campaign event despite having ticket pulled and being grounded for failing to take required physical and drug test and being curiously absent from his post during the Vietnam conflict.

  • Declares victory in Iraq, yet soldiers die in Iraq every day, half the country has no electricity or water, attempts to install democracy failing miserably, WMD cannot be found, neither can Osama.

  • Has destroyed American respect and credibility around the world. Unable to get assistance from France, Germany, or India to provide troops for additional security and peacekeeping in Iraq. But "don't forget Poland." Except they are pulling out their troops.

  • When his Secretary of State openly criticizes U.S. policy in Iraq and abruptly resigns, appoints woman who told the American people that we must invade Iraq before the "smoking gun" is a "mushroom cloud" over American cities and who admitted before a Congressional hearing that Bush had received a briefing at his ranch in Crawford before the 9/11 attacks with the title "Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S." which expressed concerns about attacks similar to those that occurred. She offered no explanation why she as National Security Advisor, or Bush, ignored the warnings.

  • After two years of war and 1800 U.S. casualties and thousands more wounded and tens of thousands of civilian casualties, no weapons of mass destruction have been found and Bush now says the reason for war was to spread freedom and democracy, which is not what Congress voted to authorize or what the American people were told.

  • When internal memos from the U.K. surface proving that intelligence was being manipulated and the facts were being "fixed around the policy" of invading Iraq and that in fact the war started before Congress authorized it, sends out operatives to claim the memos are fake and are forged documents.

  • Administration under investigation for illegally leaking the name of a covert CIA agent in retaliation for her husband exposing lies about Iraq's nuclear weapons program. The CIA demanded an investigation after Bush's denials. Bush then said it was a serious criminal matter and that he would fire anyone in his administration who was involved. When it is revealed that his longtime friend, handler, and now Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is one of the leakers, Bush stonewalls the press and the public, refuses comment, and refuses to keep his word.

  • Proposes development of tactical nuclear weapons in violation of 1992 Senate ban which Bush worked to repeal.

  • Begins privatization of Medicare disguised as prescription drug benefit.

  • Lied to Congress and the American people about the cost of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, intimidates government employees to cover it up.

  • Tax cuts would fund health insurance for all 43 million uninsured Americans, including nearly ten million uninsured children.

  • Pushes legislation to eliminate overtime pay for up to eight million American working people.

  • Pushes legislation to limit medical malpractice claims to $250K, even if an incompetent doctor kills your wife or cuts off your legs instead of removing your appendix.

  • Installs new Senate majority leader with ties to health care industry to shepherd through legislation benefiting corporate insurance and pharmaceutical pals.

  • Pushes legislation to limit bankruptcy protections for consumers targeted by predatory lenders, but proposes no reforms for rogue corporations such as Enron that blow off creditors, employees, and investors at pennies on the dollar.

  • According to a biographer, believes that he was selected by God to lead America and had preachers come to the Governor's mansion in Texas to "lay hands" on him and pray for his future during his campaign.

  • Appoints as U.S. Attorney General a fundamentalist Christian who believes he receives divine guidance directly from God and anoints himself with Crisco and who was defeated by a dead man in his failed U.S. Senate election campaign.

  • When his fundamentalist Attorney General resigns in disgrace, appointed a man who wrote a legal opinion for the White House claiming that the United States was not bound by the Geneva Conventions and justified torture and abuse of prisoners. That man is now being discussed as a possible appointee to the Supreme Court.

  • Pushes legislation to fund faith based social programs, Congress rejects it, Bush issues executive order to allow Federally Funded local and state programs to hire or fire based on religion or ideology and to promote religion as part of delivering services.

  • Declines invitation to NAACP convention, but addresses Southern Baptist Convention by satellite, calling them faithful servants and praying for them, while they adopt a policy that "homosexuals can find freedom from this sinful, destructive lifestyle" by accepting Jesus as their savior.

  • Comments on Supreme Court homosexual rights decision, declares "marriage should be between a man and a woman", proposes constitutional amendment in State of the Union address to eliminate civil rights for an entire segment of the population.

  • Sends letter to Supreme Court urging them to strike down Affirmative Action programs, celebrates Strom Thurmond's "remarkable life" and says he was a friend.

  • Allows cabinet member in charge of education to call American teachers "terrorists" and get away with it.

  • Promises not to use 9/11 for politics, releases campaign TV ads showing firemen carrying remains of victims from ground zero.

  • Looked the other way while his political operatives mounted an unprecedented, despicable smear campaign against his opponent, a decorated war hero and Vietnam veteran who volunteered for combat duty while Bush was hiding out in an Alabama mailroom, claiming that his opponent was instead a coward and not worthy of the medals he received and lied about his service and his combat duty. The media played along, and repeated the lies and defamations over and over.

  • Proposes to phase out Social Security, one of the most successful social programs in the history of civilization that has helped millions of seniors live out their lives in dignity, for the benefit of his pals on Wall Street.

  • Wants to renew controversial provisions of the Patriot Act that are in violation of the Bill of Rights and were set to expire, and wants to expand it to include broader police powers.

  • Flew back from vacation in Crawford to sign emergency midnight bill of attainder demanding judicial intervention forcing doctors to continue providing life support for a woman in a permanent vegetative state, after signing legislation as governor of Texas that would allow hospitals to pull the plug on patients with no ability to pay. Also will not support stem-cell research that could save millions of lives.

  • Refuses to account for or even investigate more than $8 billion in U.S. taxpayer cash that has gone missing in Iraq.

  • Despite being at war around the world and under constant threat of terrorist attack at home, Bush has spent 27% of his presidency on vacation, taking more vacation days in his first three years than Clinton took in seven years.

  • Spent more than $200 million to get re-elected against challengers the GOP said were unelectable. Despite this, the Democratic candidate gets the second highest number of votes of any candidate in U.S. presidential election history.
  • 13 July 2005

    The Playbook

    Via Washington Rox I learned that Raw Story has obtained a copy of the Republican Party's talking points on the Karl Rove issue. If you don't know what I'm talking about, see here. Short version: Karl Rove quite possibly outed an undercover CIA agent as political payback for the exposure of the Bush White House's lies about Iraq. This isn't even close to the biggest scandal cooking in the Bush White House. But I'll take it.

    Oh, and those talking points? You're looking at 'em:

    11 July 2005

    Random Strangeness and Charm

    Streak links to a story about the Tulsa Zoo, which has added a display detailing the Genesis account of creation. But it doesn’t end there. There’s also a natural history museum in Arkansas that takes a creationist perspective on all things Jurassic.
    • For those of you into deliciously good musician Sufjan Stevens, there’s a nice interview with him here.
    • If you missed Live 8, you can catch Quicktime Video of most of the acts that mattered here.
    • Over the weekend, I discovered KPFA 94.1 FM, a radio station that broadcasts in Berkeley (and also in Fresno on KFCF 88.1 FM). The station has an amazing lineup of music, ranging from gospel to Hip-hop to jazz to world music to Americana to, well, you can pretty much name it. There are also a lot of fine looking talk shows. One of them is Cover to Cover, which features interviews, conducted by Richard Wolinsky, with all sorts of writers. Fairly recent interviews include Thomas Frank (What’s the Matter with Kansas?), Roger Ebert (Great Movies II), Anne Lamott (Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith), and Marilynne Robinson (Gilead). You can listen to those shows, and plenty more archived ones, right here.
    The Shaved Ape Chronicles may be the weirdest blog around. Written by cartoonist and writer Patrick Spacek (The Parking Lot is Full), a Canadian currently living in Korea, Shaved Ape Chronicles is like a twenty car pileup. You have to stare. You can’t not stare. There’s socio-political commentary, cult film goodness, comics, and news of the truly bizarre. Check it out. But be warned. It’s not for the chillins.

    Saturday Monday Comics Blogging

    Which is more blasphemous? This comic? Or the Bush Fish? We report. You decide.

    Judge Dread

    It will be disturbing in the next few weeks to see who Bush attempts to appoint as a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor. I say disturbing because this battle will be about far more than abortion and homosexual marriage. Oh, those will be the key issues. For now. But O'Connor’s replacement will likely tip the court to the far right for decades. Just think about what key decisions have been made since O’Connor was appointed. And think about all the other things the far right would like to do to this country. Think about civil rights. The environment. The death penalty. The poor. The First Amendment. Unions. The minimum wage.

    As People for the American Way President Ralph Neas put it recently,
    "A Scalia-Thomas majority would not only reverse more than seven decades of Supreme Court legal precedents, but could also return us to a situation America faced in the first third of the 20th century, when progressive legislation, like child labor laws, was adopted by Congress and signed by the President, but repeatedly rejected on constitutional grounds by the Supreme Court."

    Just what’s at stake? Here’s a list of 5-4 decisions in which O'Connor’s swing vote was instrumental:

    • Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) affirmed the right of state colleges and universities to use affirmative action in their admissions policies to increase educational opportunities for minorities and promote racial diversity on campus.
    • Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation v. EPA (2004) said the Environmental Protection Agency could step in and take action to reduce air pollution under the Clean Air Act when a state conservation agency fails to act.
    • Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran (2002) upheld state laws giving people the right to a second doctor's opinion if their HMOs tried to deny them treatment.
    • Hunt v. Cromartie (2001) affirmed the right of state legislators to take race into account to secure minority voting rights in redistricting.
    • Tennessee v. Lane (2004) upheld the constitutionality of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and required that courtrooms be physically accessible to the disabled.
    • Hibbs v. Winn (2004) subjected discriminatory and unconstitutional state tax laws to review by the federal judiciary.
    • Zadvydas v. Davis (2001) told the government it could not indefinitely detain an immigrant who was under final order of removal even if no other country would accept that person.
    • Brentwood Academy v. Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (2001) affirmed that civil rights laws apply to associations regulating interscholastic sports.
    • Lee v. Weisman (1992) continued the tradition of government neutrality toward religion, finding that government-sponsored prayer is unacceptable at graduations and other public school events.
    • Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington (2003) maintained a key source of funding for legal assistance for the poor.
    • Morse v. Republican Party of Virginia (1996) said key anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act apply to political conventions that choose party candidates.
    • Federal Election Commission v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (2001) upheld laws that limit political party expenditures that are coordinated with a candidate and seek to evade campaign contribution limits.
    • McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) upheld most of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, including its ban on political parties' use of unlimited soft money contributions.
    • McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005) upheld the principle of government neutrality towards religion and ruled unconstitutional Ten Commandments displays in several courthouses.
    And there’s more. Family and medical leave could be at stake. And, given Bush’s previous attacks on birth control (the regular, non-morning after kind), that could be gone, too.

    In London Town

    Wouldn’t it be so wonderful
    If everything were meaningless?
    But everything is so meaningful
    And most everything turns to shit.
    – Pedro the Lion

    I guess it’s only natural that London be on my mind a bit this week, given what happened Thursday. And given that my wife and I were in town five days beforehand, riding one of the very lines that was bombed at around the very time the bombings later occurred. But sometimes coincidences are just coincidences. Sometimes we look for meaning in the oddities and coincidences and thank-God-we-weren’t-there-five-days-laters, when really sometimes shit just kind of happens for no apparent reason at all. Should Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane see underlying meaning in the fact that he would have died on one of the flights that slammed into the World Trade, had he not overslept his plane because of a hangover? Did he just get lucky? Or is every little detail part of some master plan? Where are you when we need you, Owen Meany?

    Anyways, as my wife already mentioned, in some ways this is far more sobering than New York and D.C. I’ve been to D.C., but not New York. I never saw the World Trade up close. I’ve not been to the Pentagon. But I’ve been in London. I’ve walked the bustling streets late at night during the midst of Live 8, Wimbledon and the countdown to an Olympics decision. I’ve ridden the notoriously late tubes and gazed at Big Ben from the London Eye. I have friends in New York, but I’ve got some in London, too, some that I just met. I hope they’re alive and safe. Then again, I didn’t have news organisations putting disturbing footage on constant loop to manipulate my emotions this time either. Maybe they did. I don’t know. I’ve stopped watching FoxSNBCNN.

    But there are so many other things to think about when something like this happens. Things that seem a bit trivial, but which should be examined anyways because, really, somewhere things like this happen every day.

    It was interesting to see how different news agencies handled the news online, for instance. Just a few hours into the aftermath, Yahoo! News was reporting 40 deaths. Yet it was much later before BBC News raised casualties to above three. Why? I can only guess. Perhaps the BBC News isn’t as sloppy. Perhaps they scrutinise their facts more closely, instead of, say, misreporting who won a presidential election and then repeatedly having to backpedal. (And we won’t even get into whose first cousin was working that night at Fox News, the organisation that first called the election for you know who.)

    We can also rest easy knowing that the U.S. will probably never make significant strides at upping public transportation now. While I was in Europe, I visited seven cities in seven countries. Not once did I drive a car. In the States, I would be lucky to make it to the next town using mass transit. And it’s at least partially that ironic dependence on oil that will keep Middle Eastern terrorists hating us for decades to come.

    Also noteworthy is what the news isn’t reporting at all. Like, for instance, an Israeli report stating that Scotland Yard had intelligence warnings of the attacks a short time before they occurred. Or that in 1996 Britian’s MI6 paid an al Qaeda cell in Libya £100,000 to assassinate Muammar Qaddaf, royally botching early attempts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. And I suppose we won’t hear about the consulting agency with government connections that was running an exercise that revolved around the London Underground being bombed at the exact same times and locations as happened in real life on 7 July (similar to the eerily coincidental training exercises that were being run on the morning of 11 September, 2001, in New York).

    Perhaps, like Seth MacFarlane’s hangover, those things are all just coincidences. Let’s hope so.

    04 July 2005

    Happy Independence Day

    Sir Mix-A-Lot's "National Anthem" Lyrics

    Huey B. Newton shot in cold blood in west Oakland
    Oliver North receives community service hours
    for selling weapons to known terrorists
    Tawana was brutally raped, but two fools said she did it to herself
    A six hundred million dollar stealth bomber fails to fly successfully
    And you say I should be proud of this song
    Think about it America

    I'm living like hell in a world of death
    Protectors of the people wear bullet-proof vests
    Your little nephew, flipped him a Uzi
    Took to the streets, shot em up and then "Who me?"
    Locked in a trunk by Republican villains
    Pinstripe suits, experts at killin
    Civil war, but some want out
    Trapped in a box called the ghetto we shout
    Headin for the strip cuz the squares ain't hip
    Sell a couple keys, make the home boys trip
    The president is a dope man's friend
    The governments strong but the dope got in
    Punish the accused, but the trial was short
    A black man's dogged in a all white court
    The jury dismissed, prosecutor says, "Can em"
    Now I'm ashamed of my national anthem

    The pentagon had a plan for a rescue
    They said intelligence never makes miscues
    The thirty-first was a day of death
    Lieutenant Colonel Higgins, you know the rest
    No negotions with a terrorist force
    But Iran's still buzzin' offa Oliver North
    The Ayatollah's dead but the hearts not gone
    The burning of the flag in Iran goes on
    Anti-American, we're loved by few
    We pay big money to the ones that do
    The Christian militia, they give us big knowledge
    But the pentagon messed up and wouldn't acknowledge
    Ollie took orders from the number one man
    But the crap hit the fan and superiors ran
    Democrats tripped, the committee said, "Can em"
    Now I'm ashamed of my national anthem

    Am I a Communist? No. But my brain ain't slow
    Not long ago, Mix-a-Lot was po'
    Never helped out by the ones with clout
    I was mad at the world cause I felt left out
    Stealin hub caps, stereos, anything to get paid
    I realize I'm a modern day slave
    Posse downtown, the sight was set
    I saw my home boys mother with a buggy and a bag
    People walk by, laughin at poverty
    I looked in her face and I soon saw me
    College educated, but she can't get a job
    The american dream once again got robbed
    Vietnam vets on the street, that's a shame
    Fight for the man, and the man plays games
    Dogged by the hippies, dope smokin' critics
    You blame it on the soldier, but your government did it

    My national anthem
    My national anthem
    You gonna teach me now about the care and feedin of politicians

    Bolivia, Columbia, the CIA
    Any similarities, I won't say
    But the dope gets in, uncut like P-Funk
    Headin over borders in a scent-free trunk
    Coffee over dope, but the dog can't sniff it
    Remember that lady that was broke, she's widdit
    Started with a key, clocked 17 G's
    Then got another shipment, pure D
    Headin for Brumlen, the money was betta
    Rollin in a Porsche, in a cashmere sweater
    Crime, revenge, I'm tellin' you this
    The people that laugh are the people that knows
    Her community complained, callin the police
    But where was the community when she was in the street
    Dope's comin in, it's killin em at random
    And I'm ashamed of my national anthem

    My national anthem
    My national anthem
    My national anthem
    I'm ashamed of my national anthem

    The New 95 Theses

    Via Leiter Reports I discovered a new set of 95 theses, aimed at the Religious Right, written by University of Michigan Philosophy Professor Peter Ludlow.

    1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said "love thy neighbor", willed that believers should show *compassion* toward others.

    2. This word cannot be understood to mean mere lip service ("I love them, but I hate their sin"), but genuine concern for the welfare of others.

    3. Yet the Religious Right has forsaken compassion for a doctrine of institutionalized hatred and violence.

    4. Specifically, the Religious Right has taken the Word of God and wrapped it in the flag of Right Wing Politics, replacing God's message of redemption for the entire world with a narrow message endorsing right wing American politics.

    5. Item: the Religious Right has neglected the teachings of Jesus in the gospel of Luke, where He instructs that we are to show compassion for the poor.

    6. In place of God's words, the Religious Right has substituted a right wing political doctrine in which the poor have only themselves and their alleged laziness and moral weakness to blame.

    7. For example, the Religious Right has rejected the needs of poor children of unwed mothers.

    8. The Religious Right has rejected the cries for help from the children of impoverished families in the inner cities.

    9. The Religious Right, has advocated fewer resources for the elderly poor and for the millions of children now living in poverty.

    10. In place of giving to the poor, the Religious Right has advocated political doctrines specifically designed so that
    individuals may acquire vast sums of money.

    11. The Religious Right has thus seized on a contemporary economic ideology as an excuse to ignore the teachings of Jesus.

    12. Item: the Religious Right has ignored God's injunction that we are to be caretakers for the Earth.

    13. In place of God's injunction, the Religious Right has advocated policies in which the natural resources of God's creation are stripped from the earth and given to wealthy corporations without replacement.

    14. In place of God's injunction that we are to be caretakers for the creatures of His creation, they have advocated policies through which these creatures may be extinguished forever.

    15. The Religious Right has rejected laws designed to protect God's creation from pollution, claiming the "rights" of property owners are to be paramount.

    16. In each case they have ignored the message of the Bible that this is God's creation, and they have substituted a doctrine in which God's creation may be partitioned and sold to the highest bidder.

    17. Again, God's message has been cast aside for a message that supports a narrow economic message with its roots in right wing American politics.

    18. Item: the Religious Right has neglected the teachings of Jesus that "he who is without sin should cast the first stone."

    19. In place of God's words, the Religious Right has substituted a doctrine in which perceived sinners are to be persecuted.

    20. Gays, for example, are persecuted because of their alleged sins. In some cases, leaders of the Religious Right have encouraged acts of physical violence against gays.

    21. While the Religious Right has been eager to persecute others for their alleged sins, they have been blind to their own.

    22. While the Bible counsels that a rich man can no more enter the Kingdom of Heaven than a camel can pass through the eye of a needle, many in the Religious Right have celebrated the acquisition of wealth.

    23. While the Bible enjoins us against pride, the Religious Right appears to be flush with pride in it's holier than thou stance.

    24. While the Bible asks that we be slow to anger, the Religious Right is quick to anger -- indeed it appears to revel in anger and in fanning the flames of anger in others.

    25. While the Bible counsels that we are not to be "revilers," key members of the religious right have consistently and aggressively reviled their political enemies as well as those who are perceived to be sinners.

    26. It seems then, that the Religious Right picks its sins selectively, ignoring the clear Biblical message against avarice, pride, and anger, and emphasizing selected “sins” that have little to no Biblical basis.

    27. Item: While the Bible counsels that we are not to bear false witness, the Religious Right has engaged in smear campaigns against numerous political foes, often telling outright lies about “liberal” political leaders.

    28. Worse yet, these smear campaigns have often been carried out in the house of God, sometimes in the form of inserts in church bulletins, and sometimes directly from the pulpit.

    29. But the Religious Right has not merely spread its lies within the Church; they have done so outside the Church as well.

    30. The Religious Right has used its financial resources not to spread the word of God, but to spread lies in the populace.

    31. Item: Religious Right has failed to see that God's call to help our neighbors also extends to our international neighbors.

    32. International aggression is not a Christian doctrine.

    33. Where the Bible calls us to be peacemakers, the Religious Right claims that we have no business trying to bring peace to troubled areas but rather counsels that we should use military might to secure our business interests.

    34. Where the Bible, through the story of the good Samaritan, instructs that we are to help our international neighbors -- indeed, even our enemies -- the Religious Right counsels "America First".

    35. But "America First" cannot be a true Christian Doctrine.

    36. The Bible gives no special status to political entities like the United States of America, and any suggestion to the contrary is to simply lie about the content of the Bible.

    37. God does not bless nation states, and if He did, He surely would not bless them for practicing international internal intolerance, and propping up corrupt kingdoms and military juntas that traffic in institutionalized poverty and violence.

    38. Item: the Religious Right has claimed that abortion is immoral, yet there is no Biblical basis for this claim

    39. Rather, the doctrine appears to be driven by a medieval philosophy of the person, which they have imported into their theology.

    40. Why has medieval philosophy taken precedence over the Scriptures? Perhaps the Religious Right never took the Scriptures very seriously in the first place.

    41. This is highlighted by the frightening extremes to which they have taken this political dogma.

    42. Victims of rape and incest are not to be allowed abortions. What could the Biblical basis of this possibly be?

    43. Even when the mother's life is in danger, they would reject the possibility of abortion. Thus once again God's message of love and redemption is tarnished by advocates of a political doctrine of hatred and cruelty.

    44. More troubling than their anti-abortion doctrine, however, is the tone with which that doctrine is advanced.

    45. Here they use they weapon of hatred, encouraging the harassment of women, the bombing of clinics, and in some cases the taking of human life.

    46. Their rejoinder that abortion is the taking of a human life has no basis in Biblical authority.

    47. Their anti-abortion campaign is merely a political campaign dressed in the clothing of religion.

    48. Item: The Religious Right has failed to distinguish its political message from what is left of its genuine religious message, leading Christians to conflate the two.

    49. The Religious Right has engaged in a form of idolatry -- idolatry of certain patriotic symbols.

    50. They have wrapped the Bible in the American flag. Indeed, one can find Bibles that contain documents such as the United States Constitution and pictures of the presidents.

    51. Such Bibles arguably defile the word of God.

    52. The American flag is not a symbol to be worshipped; yet the Religious Right has argued that it should be a crime to "desecrate" the flag. But what religious basis is there for such advocacy?

    53. What basis is there for putting the American flag in the front of a church, next to the altar and the cross?

    54. There can be no Biblical basis for placing such symbols in the house of God, nor for the undue reverence paid to them.

    55. The Religious Right has failed to grasp the full power of God, supposing that spiritual growth for Christians can only come in the wake of political change in the United States.

    56. On the contrary, God is perfectly capable of creating spiritual revival without the help of the Republican Party, and certainly without the help of an organizations that espouse doctrines that are antithetical to the teaching of God
    at almost every turn.

    57. Item: the Religious Right has preyed on people's fears -- their fear of crime, of other races, of the future, of the unknown.

    58. Rather than say "fear not, for God is with us," they have used fear to sow the seeds of hatred and violence.

    59. They have led their congregations to fear people of other races.

    60. They have led their congregations to fear people of other sexual orientations.

    61. They have led their congregations to fear our own judicial system.

    62. They have led their congregations to fear the teachings of science.

    63. They have led their congregations to fear anyone and anything different from their narrow conception of what they consider to be normal.

    64. Worse, they have fanned this fear into hatred, encouraging their congregations to despise those who are different.

    65. Item: The Religious Right has paid lipservice to the moral development of children, yet their doctrines are antithetical to the interests of children.

    66. They appear to believe that moral development can be accomplished solely through discipline and censorship --
    censorship of thought-provoking materials and censorship of the findings of science.

    67. Yet, as a group, the members of the Religious Right have failed miserably as parents.

    68. Jesus said, "suffer the children come unto me," yet members of the Religious Right have physically and psychologically abused their children.

    69. They have advocated corporeal punishment, and have carried out acts of indoctrination on their children which, truth be known, are as severe as those of any fringe religious cult.

    70. They have made children to be ashamed of and hate their bodies, when they should be proud that those bodies are the temples of God.

    71. They have lied to children about the nature of God's creation, teaching them to ignore the great beauty God has revealed through the biological sciences.

    72. In place of that beauty, they have taught their children a theory in which God's revelation through nature is ignored, and an ugly doctrine of fiat creation is espoused.

    73. They have taught their children to be intolerant of others, to be hateful of gays and persons of color.

    74. They have failed to instruct their children in God's message of love and redemption and have substituted for it a message of exclusion, suspicion, and contempt.

    75. They have failed to raise their children according to the teachings of the Bible.

    76. They have utterly failed as parents, yet they presume to dictate how we should raise our own children.

    77. Item: The Religious Right, caught up in its hypocritical attacks on others has utterly ignored the solteriolocial aspects of Christianity.

    78. Gone is the message that Jesus dies on the cross to save us from our sins.

    79. Gone is the message of salvation, of hope and redemption.

    80. In effect, the one core fact of Christianity, it's very reason for being, has been lost in the Religious Right's orgy of hatred and accusation.

    81. How many souls will be lost because of their campaign of hatred?

    82. At what price do these political triumphs come? Are they really worth the loss of the core message of Christianity?

    83. Item: the Religious Right pays lip service to the authority of the Word of God, yet that Word plays little role in the treating of the Religious Right.

    84. In place of the message of God's Grace and our redemption, they have substituted a purely political doctrine with no grounding in the Scriptures.

    85. Rare are the references to passages of the Bible in the sermons of the Religious Right.

    86. Those references that survive, are taken out of context and are merely used to justify preestablished political doctrines.

    87. For example, there is no Biblical support for their views on abortion.

    88. There is no Biblical support for their right wing economic theories.

    89. There is no Biblical support for their campaign of abuse against their own children.

    90. There is no Biblical support for their "America First" doctrines.

    91. There is no Biblical support for their treatment of persons of color.

    92. There is no Biblical support for their treatment of homosexuals.

    93. In conclusion: the Religious Right has desecrated the house of God, taking a place of worship and treating it as a soap box in the service or the Right Wing of the Republican Party.

    94. The Religious Right has likewise desecrated the Word of God, attributing to the Bible doctrines that are hateful, cruel, and entirely antithetical to the actual contents of the Bible.

    95. Christians are to be exhorted to speak out against the Religious Right, as it is a vile heretical movement, wholly outside the teachings of the Word of God.

    03 July 2005

    Guess Who's Back, Back Again?

    So then, my wife and I returned to the States yesterday from Europe. A marvellous time was had by all. I'll be sure to fill you in in due time. For now, we're off to do all sorts of things that come with being out of the country for a good while: grocery shopping, laundry, deleting spam, blah blah blah. More soon.