Monday, January 30, 2006

Album of the Day

Blow by Blow, by Jeff Beck (1975): To be honest, I'm not overly familiar with Jeff Beck's work. I ended up with this disc because a while back in Guitar Player they had a "50 Essential Guitar Albums" list (or something similar) and I tried to pick up as many as I could, particularly those in the Columbia House mail order catalog. This was one of those discs. I don't listen to is often, but it is a fairly good slice of mid-70s jazz-rock. Beck's axework dominates, of course, but there's lots of tasty electric piano on most tracks, too. I could do without the strings on the last cut, tho'.

The War On Your Rights

Over at the Sixth Circuit Blog, one of my colleagues from the Middle District of Tennessee has a provocative rundown on the current sad state of the Fourth Amendment titled "The Drug Exception to the Fourth Amendment." In the context of discussing the Sixth Circuit's Fourth Amendment cases from last year, he provides a good overview of the state of the law, with particular attention to how the War on Drugs has systematically eroded our Fourth Amendment rights.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Album of the Day

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), by The Beatles: No, I don't think this is the best album of all time. Hell, it's not even my favorite Beatles album (Abbey Road takes that honor). But it is a landmark in rock/pop music and (quite possibly) the jumping off point for progressive rock. It certainly inspired lots of those guys, if not influenced directly.

Happy Birthday, Wolfie

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart. Understandably, cities all over Europe and the United States are celebrating in various ways. I've never been a particularly huge fan of Mozart's work - I prefer more modern orchestral music. But his genius, influence, and staying power cannot be ignored. And the man did give the world its first clarinet concerto, with which I wrestled for many years (I lost).

God's Law, Man's Law, and Teaching

If you have an hour or so over the weekend and want to have your brain stimulated, I highly recommend a forthcoming Harvard Law Whitepaper that's available over at the Social Science Research Network. Written by law professors David Skeel, Jr. (Penn) and William Stuntz (Harvard), Christianity and the (Modest) Rule of Law is a fascinating read. It basically argues that God's law (as set forth in the Christian scriptures) is designed to be an all-encompassing guide to living, while manmade law, when properly set up, has a much more limited scope. As a practical matter, Skeel and Stuntz argue, criminal laws enacted to "teach a lesson" or advance a particular moral position generally fail in the implementation. They particularly skewer the bevy of Federal criminal laws passed by Congress in response to the crisis-du-jour but that don't really do anything except provide underworked Federal prosecutors with more hunting tools. Interesting stuff.

Ann, You Ignorant Slut

Ah, that daffy she-male Ann Coulter is at it again. Apparently cracking under the strain of trying to justify each of Dubya's petty atrocities, Ann made a helpful suggestion to forward his Supreme Court packing dreams. While speaking at a college in Little Rock, she bloviated:

'We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee,' Coulter said.
In typical Coulter fashion, she quickly backpedaled:
That's just a joke, for you in the media.
That's right, any time she says something completely out of whack that implies violence against those with whom she disagrees, Ann hides behind "satire" and "humor." If only what she said was funny, she might have a chance.

For a regular cataloging of the eliminationist rhetoric on the right, check Dave Neiwert's blog, Orcinus. Dave, of course, has something to say about Ann's latest trick.

Fuck Fuckity Fuck Fuck Fuck

Over at Concurring Opinions, Dan Filler has a post about profanity and blogging. He argues that legal blogs tend to have less profanity on them than some others, but that a well dropped F-bomb is a good thing now and then. In explaining his fondness for cursing, Dan writes:

I must concede that my sympathies lie with the swearers. Perhaps I was a free-range child, but I grew up cursing and loving it. Then I happened upon a job in a public defender office. Let's just that say that when it comes to the use of lewd and profane language, those proverbial sailors and truckers will have to take a number.
Speaking as someone who has spent most of my 5+ years practicing law in one PD office or another, I can only offer a hearty "fuck yeah!" to Dan's observation. :)

Houston, You (Apparently) Have a Problem

MLS’s new city now has a name to go with it’s club. The former San Jose Earthquakes (themselves formerly the Clash) will now be known as Houston 1836. The date is a reference to the year the city of Houston was founded, aping the trend of some German teams of putting the year of their founding in the club name (i.e., Hannover 96 or FC Shalke 04). While it’s neat that Houston went a different direction than other MLS clubs, the new name isn’t pleasing everyone. The Houston-area Mexican community is not pleased, as 1836 is also the year that Texas broke away from Mexico in the first place. Whoops.

Album(s) of Yesterday

Car Caught Fire (2001) and Live (2002), by The Bears: I picked two albums for yesterday (Blogger died mid-post), because they are related in a couple of ways. For one, I got them both for Christmas this year (thanks Mom & Dad!). For another, they cover a lot of the same material, as Car . . . was the reunion studio album for the band and Live chronicles the ensuing tour. The Bears are a twisted little pop band feature Adiran Belew that was originally active (I think) between the time Ade worked with Zappa and he joined King Crimson. They were largely dormant 2001. In spite of the shared material, there's enough to distinguish each disc. The live version of "Success," for example contains some extended Belewness that raises it from great to kickass, while Car possesses my favorite new tune, "Safe In Hell," which doesn't show up on the live disc.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Album of the Day

Asia, by Asia (1982): A lot of times, our reaction to a piece of music or a movie is so tainted by our expectations that it's hard to get a clean read on it. I'm sure that was the case with Asia when this album came out in 1982. The spawn of three major-league proggers (and Geoff Downes), it could have been (should have been?) a great prog super group. Given that neo-prog in the form of Marillion, IQ, and Twelfth Night was on the rise, such a thing wasn't beyond the realm of possibility. Instead, you got a pretty mainstream AOR-type album. As much as a disappointment as it was for what it wasn't, the fact is Asia really isn't that bad for what it is. Certainly, it went downhill quickly thereafter (1992's Aqua wasn't even worth the cut-out price I paid for it). But try and put your expectations aside and listen to the music on it's own terms. It might make a difference. Or it won't.

Dumb and Paying For It

Business 2.0, which works in connection with, recently released its list of last year's 101 Dumbest Moments in Business. They're all fairly amusing, but these stood out to me:

31. Next up: the caramel crown of thorns.
In March, Russell Stover unveils its new Easter candy: 6-inch chocolate crucifixes. The Roman Catholic diocese in Bridgeport, Conn., denounces the confection, saying that an edible version of the cross on which Jesus Christ died is not an appropriate Easter-basket mate for marshmallow chicks and chocolate bunnies.

33. It'll be even clearer when the accents are from Bangalore.
Several McDonald's outlets in the Pacific Northwest begin outsourcing drive-through functions to remote call centers staffed by 'professional order-takers' with 'very strong communication skills.' Says CEO Jim Skinner, 'If you're in L.A. and you hear a person with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you'll know what we're up to.'

73. Oxymoron alert: Erotic City/Boise.
The proprietors of the Erotic City strip club in Boise, Idaho, attempt to circumvent a local law banning nudity except for performances of 'serious artistic merit' by distributing sketch pads and pencils to customers for twice-weekly G-string-free 'art' nights. Local police raid the club, issuing misdemeanor citations.

87. No interview, no cry.
On the heels of a popular documentary about the Queen rock anthem 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' BBC television decides its next subject will be the Bob Marley classic 'No Woman, No Cry.' An e-mail is duly dispatched to the Bob Marley Foundation, requesting an interview with the reggae star, since the documentary 'would only work with some participation from Bob Marley himself.' The e-mail also says producers would like for Marley to spend "one or two days with us" at his convenience: 'Our schedule is flexible.' Marley is less flexible. He died in 1981.

93. No joke here. Just suffice it to say that the literal translation of the Spanish word cajeta is 'little box.'
With the help of Latin pop sensation Thalia Sodi, Hershey introduces Cajeta Elegancita, a new candy bar for the Hispanic market. Though the wrapper features a picture of Sodi, apparently she neglects to fill her Yanqui partners in on a subtlety of Spanish: In Mexico, 'cajeta' can be used to mean 'nougat.' Elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, however, it's slang for female anatomy.
Tee hee.

Look, Up In a Tree . . .

I've heard of married guys spending a night on the couch, or even in the dog house, but this is ridiculous. A man in India had an argument with his wife, probably over child care duties. Still pissed (or really scared), he snuck off in the middle of the night and climbed into a tree - where he's been for the past 15 years!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Album of the Day

Au-dela du delire, by Ange (1974): Until last week, this was the sum total of French prog that I owned. I had a hard time getting past the really melodramatic vocalist, who often sounds as if he's about to spit up a hairball. But today, for some reason, I did overlook those and was more impressed by the music that I had been previously. For one thing, there is gobs and gobs of juicy Mellotron on this disc. For another, there are several tasty guitar solos. Still not a prime slice of symphonic prog, but it's taken a step up in my esteem.

14 Dead Miners? Sorry, I Gotta Meeting

Yesterday, the US Senate began hearings investigating our two recent fatal coal mine accidents here in the state. In a typical display of arrogance from the administration, MSHA head David Dye walked out of the hearing about halfway through, after giving testimony. In other words, he left before he had to listen to any critics. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate committee doing the investigation, was not impressed:

Senator Specter responded with frustration:

'I can understand your pressing other business. It may well be that some of the senators here have pressing matters, too. We don't think we are imposing too much to keep you here for another hour.'

After Mr. Specter added, 'That's the committee's request, but you're not under subpoena,' Mr. Dye got up and walked out.

'I can't recollect it ever happening before,' Mr. Specter said of the departure. 'We'll find a way to take appropriate note of it.'

But why should we be surprised? Unchecked arrogance is nothing new from Dubya and his crew.

Two More Weeks of This?

Oh boy. I'm a long-time Vikings fan, but living within earshot of Pittsburgh for seven years means that I tend to root for the Steelers, too. So I've enjoyed watching the Steelers run to the Super Bowl, particularly with the whole "let's make Bettis's last game the Super Bowl in his home town" story. Sadly, sports fanaticism does strange things to people who should really know better. Like a high school teacher in Beaver Falls, PA, who singled out a student for humiliation in class last week because he was wearing a Broncos jersey. All this, which took place during the mid-term exam for the kid's "ethnicity class" (what the hell is that, pray tell?) and served a purpose:

'If he felt uncomfortable, then that's a lesson; that's what [the class] is designed to do,' Kelly [the teacher] told The Denver Post. 'It was silly fun. I can't believe he was upset.'
Wait a second - pick one. Either it's uncomfortable and meant to teach a lesson, or it was just silly fun. I'm thinking more along the lines of stupid fun, at this kid's expense.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Album of the Day

That's right, kiddies, it's that time of year again! Each year around this time I endeavor to listen to every CD in my collection while at work. Last year I went through the racks chronologically, but this year I'm going back to the classic (and much easier to manage) alphabetical route. So, for the next few months, I'll discuss, highlight, or ridicule one album that I listened to that day. With that background, away we go!

Megalazottak es Megszomoritottak, by After Crying (1992): A new year brings a new disc to start things off (sorry, All Too Human fans!). Literally - I just picked this up last week. After Crying are an Hungarian group that takes a decidedly different approach to prog. I'm reminded, in terms of instrumentation, by Universe Zero, about which I asked at one time "is this even rock music at all?" Heavy use of strings, trumpet, and winds gives the album a modern chamber music feel. However, there is just enough drum and synth on Megalazottak es Megszomoritottak to keep things more in the symphonic prog vein. The tunes here are very moody, tho' not "dark," per se. Definitely need to be in the right mood for this one (not an "in the car" disc!), but well worth it once you're there.

On Munich,the Cycle of Violence, and Justice

This weekend, the girlfriend and I had a chance to see Munich, the latest Spielberg opus. For those who don't know, Munich tells the story of a five-man Israeli team that is sent out to kill 11 members of the Black September terrorist group that attacked, kidnapped, and killed a group of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. The film has come under attack (see, for example, this this this and this) on a couple of different fronts. One is that Spielberg and his screenwriters (including Angels in America's Tony Kushner) have taken great liberties with the truth of what happened in the wake of Munich. That may or may not be true - I'm not familiar enough with the historical record to know. To be fair, however, the film is "inspired" by real events and does not present itself as history (any more than, say, Julius Ceasar or Macbeth do).

The other major critique is that the film does a disservice to the "war on terror" in general, and Israel's waging of it, by suggesting that the mission of the team - to kill those responsible for the atrocity that was Munich - was destined to fail, in the long term. It humanizes the terrorists, equates the justice seekers with them, and thereby provides (in some small way) aid and comfort to the enemy. Based, admittedly, on only one viewing and with my particular point of view, I simply can't fathom where these criticisms come from.

I suppose the flim does humanize the targets of the Israeli team, although I'm not sure that means sympathizing with them. The fact that the first target taken out is a literary scholar who just finished an Italian translation of the story of Scherezade could be seen as trying to give him some "pros" to weigh against the "con" of his role in Munich. Or, alternately, it could be seen as showing how the terrorists involved in the attack were not just young, misguided, angry kids lashing out at the world. That, to me, is ultimately more frightening than a one-dimensional, black-hat-wearing "bad guy." It also counters the standard wartime trend of using propogand to brand your enemy as less than human, thus making them easier to kill (for a fascinating discussion of this during World War II read War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War, by John Dower).

But the more misguided criticism is that the film equates, on a moral level, the Israeli hit team with the terrorists they are hunting. I don't really think it does. Nobody really argues that those involved in the Munich attack didn't deserve to be hit or that they should be allowed to get away with their crime. And the Palestinian justifications for the violence simply aren't persuasive. Where things start getting sticky is when, from a practical standpoint, the Isreali thirst for vengeance bears little fruit. Yes, some of those responsible for Munich are killed. But they are replaced in the organization quickly and efficiently (so efficiently, in fact, that the team takes out a replacement, too). And the executions are hardly cost free. Aside from the psychological and physical toll it takes on the Israeli team, there are innocent bystanders wounded and possibly killed during their mission. And, of course, there are reprisals from Black September in retaliation for the hits. In the end, it appears that the two sides are engaged in a deadly dance that neither one is ready to end.

And I think that is Spielberg's point. He is not arguing, as some critics seem to imply, that the only two options in the wake of a Munich or 9/11 are to either kill those responsible or let them live on without consequence. It's that in deciding how to respond to terrorists acts we must put aside the gut instinct to just strike back and carefully consider how to proceed. Recognition of potential unintended consequences and whether any action, in the end, will actually make us safer, should dictate our course of action.

In the wake of 9/11, I wrote this in an Email to a friend:

Hopefully (hopefully), anything we do will be accurate and well reasoned.
Was it? Knocking the Taliban down in Afghanistan and, eventually, deposing Saddam can be classified as "good things," but, in the long run, has either one made us safer? The Taliban is regaining strength in Afghanistan, while Iraq is now a cesspool of terrorist activity in a way that it wasn't before Dubya's invasion. I dunno. But I'm not providing aid and comfort to anybody just by asking the question.

Euphamism Defined

One of my favorite George Carlin bits is one in which he picks apart euphamisms to show how they dilute the impact of impolite concepts and distance the speaker / listener from the reality of the subject. In that spirit, I present this peculiar turn of phrase I discovered this weekend. I spent Saturday evening at Pullman Square, a sort-of-mall but not really a mall in Huntington. It's set up to mimic a main street type setting, which leaves the parking building in the back of the whole deal. It was only while eating dinner that I noticed the name of the parking building:

Nick J. Rahall II Intermodal Center
Intermodal Center? I know it's a tough realization that if you're a Congressman from West Virginia all the good stuff is named after Bob Byrd but, c'mon, it's still just a parking garage!

Friday, January 20, 2006

DOJ Covers for Dubya (Take Two)

Apparently the letter that the Department of Justice released a few weeks ago providing legal cover for Dubya's domestic spying operation didn't take. So, yesterday the DOJ released a 42-page brief (in essence) fleshing out the arguments. There are no new arguments in there, only more in-depth discussions of the arguments made in the initial letter:

The basic thrust of the legal justification was the same - that the president has inherent authority as commander in chief to order wiretaps without warrants and that the N.S.A. operation does not violate either a 1978 law governing intelligence wiretaps or the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches.
As you might expect, not everyone is convinced:

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero criticized the release of the new legal review.

'Any opinion coming from the Justice Department has to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, given Attorney General Gonzales' involvement in the warrantless spying as White House counsel,' he said in a written statement. 'The fox may now be guarding the henhouse, which is why we need an independent special counsel.'

Let the hearings commence!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

21st Century Windows Man?

Well well, maybe I'll have to upgrade from Windows 98 after all. Microsoft, preparing for the launch of Windows Vista has recruited none other than King Crimson guru Robert Fripp to create some noise for the new OS. Literally:

A Microsoft Web site posting shows a dark, 25-minute video clip of Fripp recording ethereal sounds that, the posting says, could be used for the audio cues found in Windows.

'So, what was he (Fripp) doing on campus? Recording the various sounds we'll all hear in Windows Vista,' Robert Scoble, a Microsoft technical evangelist and prominent employee blogger, wrote in text accompanying the posting.

Sounds more like Fripp's soundscapes that "Larks Tongues in Aspic," unfortunately.

9 Years for a Finger?

OK, I'll admit - I did not pay any particular attention to the whole "finger in the Wendy's chili" incident when it happened last year. I was dimly aware that it happened, that it was hoax, and that the folks who pulled it were charged with a crime. Now they, a husband and wife team, have received 9 years in prison and a hefty restitution for their efforts (the hubby got several more years for other offenses, too). Am I the only one who thinks that sounds a little like overkill? The only damage to anybody from this BS was economic, and I refuse to believe that people avoided Wendy's locations all over the country (world?) because of this story. Maybe the one store in San Jose, but all over the country? Causing millions of dollars of loss for Wendy's? I just don't buy it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Death Triumphs Over Ashcroft

As we're now in January, the juicy Supreme Court decisions will slowly start to trickle out. The biggest so far is Gonzalez v. Oregon, which dealt with whether the Attorney General could, in effect, shut down Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. The Court, by a 6-3 vote, sided with Oregon and rejected an attempt by former AG John Ashcroft to eliminate by fiat the right to physician-assisted suicide that a majority of Oregonians had supported (twice). In spite of that weighty result, the decision itself is a fairly dry battle of theories of statutory interpretation. The decision did not say that Congress lacks the power to prevent the use of controlled substances in physician-assisted suicides, only that the Controlled Substances Act as currently written does not give the AG the power to make that call. Given that holding, it's not surprising that the "pro-life" camp is mobilizing for Congressional action.

Have They Lost Their Balls, or Do They Just Not Care?

Ever since Dubya rose to power, I've waited for Congress to step up and assert its authority as a co-equal branch of Government. Unfortunately, given GOP control of both Houses and a weak and spineless Democratic oposition, that hasn't happened. That the president has continually seized more and more power at the expence of Congress is, of course, not a new development. As this Boston Globe article demonstrates.

Legal Eagle Racing - Autocross Update

Many SCCA regions in our neck of the woods wait until March or April to get their autocross season underway. Not the SWVR - we're not smart enough for that. So we begin our season in January, regardless of weather (for the most part). Thankfully, the weather was just right for our opening event of 2006, the Deep Freeze autocross (organized by yours truly). It was cold, but sunny, as 51 folks showed up for the event. This was the debut of the Legal Eagle Racing Civic Si in H/Stock:

LER Civic Si

We had 12 cars in my class, including last year's class winning car, a Mini Cooper, on Kumho V710 autocross tires. The car was sold over the offseason, but I still figured I'd get beat, since my car is (still) bone stock. But no! The new owner of the Mini had some trouble coming to grips (so to speak) with the car, while I got consistently quicker as the day went along. In the end, with a best time of 49.320, I won the class by about 8/10ths of a second. That was good enough for 26th overall on raw time and 9th overall on PAX. I was pretty pleased, on the whole. If I'd had a set of v710s myself, I think I could have taken the PAX. Something to shoot for in February (assuming it doesn't snow!).

Of course, when guys like this come by and hang out, if only for a few minutes, people don't care too much about little 4-banger quasi-minivans. :)

Yellow Gallardo

Fun With Telemarketers

I generally don't hate telemarketers the way most people do - I just answer the phone, let them start the script, politely but firmly say, "I'm not interested," and hang up. But this weekend I got one that apparently wasn't ready to deal with my demographic.

*ring ring*

Me: Hello?

TM: Hello, I'm calling on behalf of the Dove Foundation. May I speak to the lady of the house?

Me: There is no lady in this house.

*long pause, maybe 25 seconds*

TM: OK, are there any children or grandchildren for which you care in this home?

Me: Nope, just a 32-year old single guy.

*another long pause*

TM: Well, sir, I, um, well . . .

Me: Thanks, but I'm not interested.
I've never gotten one of them so far off their game like that! For the record, from what I've read elsewhere, the Dove Foundation is a group dedicated to promoting "family friendly" entertainment by providing reviews of movies, video games, etc. to protect impressionable youngsters from scary things. Like life.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Creative Gubernatorial Politics

I suppose once your state has elected a professional wrestler as governor (not to mention a former defensive tackle as attorney general and supreme court justice), the oddities are bound to come out around election time. So it's appropriate that tomorrow, on Friday the 13th, Jonathon Sharkey will announce his intent to run for the governor's seat in Minnesota. Sharkey's nickname is "The Impaler," for he plans :

to execute -- by impalement in front of the State Capitol -- terrorists, rapists, drug dealers, child abusers, repeat drunken drivers and anybody who preys on the elderly.
And that's not the weird part, for Sharkey is a practicing vampire:
For starters, he describes himself as a 'sanguinary vampyre ... just like you see in the movies and TV, I sink my fangs into the neck of my donor (at this time in my life, it is my wife, Julie), and drink their blood,' he said in an e-mail.
My, what a lucky woman Julie is! But two things confuse me about this candidate. For one thing, wouldn't the arch enemy of a vampire be "The Imapler?" I know that was Vlad's (i.e., Dracula's) nickname, but it seems mismatched. For another, I've seen lots of TV vampires and I don't recall anyone on the receiving end of the fangs of the undead being accurately described as a "donor!"

Oh yeah, and he is a professional wrestler, to boot.

This Is Just Cool

I very rarely read a news story and say to myself, "damn, self, that's pretty cool." But here's one, from today's USA Today. It's about NASA's Stardust spacecraft which is ready to deposit it's "cosmic booty" on Earth. Last year, Stardust, which launched in 1999, flew within 149 miles of a comet, collecting samples of dust and debris in the comet's tail. Here's the plan:

On Sunday, the spacecraft will eject the capsule and fire its rockets to swing past Earth. The capsule will hit the atmosphere at 28,860 mph, the fastest re-entry ever of any man-made object. The target for the landing is the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

If all goes well, the capsule's parachute will deliver 1 milligram of comet dust, about one-thousandth of the weight of a paper clip. It represents only about 1 million particles of comet stuff, but to scientists, it's 'nearly an embarrassment of riches,' NASA says in press materials on the mission.

Ain't that cool?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Talk About Special Editions

Sometimes you read a news story that is just so weird there is no comment to is. Like this one, from the Boston Globe:

Brown University's library boasts an unusual anatomy book. Tanned and polished to a smooth golden brown, its cover looks and feels no different from any other fine leather.

But here's its secret: the book is bound in human skin.

A number of prestigious libraries -- including Harvard University's -- have such books in their collections. While the idea of making leather from human skin seems bizarre and cruel today, it was not uncommon in centuries past, said Laura Hartman, a rare book cataloger at the National Library of Medicine in Maryland and author of a paper on the subject.

An article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from the late 1800s "suggests that it was common, but it also indicates it wasn't talked about in polite society," Hartman said.

I can only imagine.

Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Old to Die?

Poor Governator. First he has to deal with the clemency petition from "Tookie" Williams, now he has to deal with another unusual clemency request. Clarence Allen is scheduled to be executed in California next Tuesday because of four murders for which he was convicted in 1982. The twist? Allen is now 75 years old and not long for this world, execution of no execution:

The 75-year-old Allen, involved in the murders of four people, is diabetic, legally blind and confined to a wheelchair outside his cell. He has had two heart attacks and a stroke and is too weak to grant interviews, one of his lawyers says.
In other words, is there anything to be gained by executing someone who is barely two steps ahead of the grim reaper in the first place?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Jesus Thinks They're Just Weird

Sometimes on the radio as I drive to work they'll have these weird news stories about some whacko religious ceremony, usually conducted in India or Thailand or some other far off place. It's not really nice to laugh at such things, I think, as their culture values that kind of thing just as much as our culture values our little rituals. In that vein, I hope some wacky morning show in New Delhi picks up this story, from the Wall Street Journal, about three ministers who "blessed" the doors of the room in which the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings take place. They were prohibited by police from blessing any further. Or were they?

Insisting that God 'certainly needs to be involved' in the Supreme Court confirmation process, three Christian ministers today blessed the doors of the hearing room where Senate Judiciary Committee members will begin considering the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito on Monday.

Capitol Hill police barred them from entering the room to continue what they called a consecration service. But in a bit of one-upsmanship, the three announced that they had let themselves in a day earlier, touching holy oil to the seats where Judge Alito, the senators, witnesses, Senate staffers and the press will sit, and praying for each of the 13 committee members by name.

'We did adequately apply oil to all the seats,' said the Rev. Rob Schenck, who identified himself as an evangelical Christian and as president of the National Clergy Council in Washington.

How were these loons able to get into the room in the first place? Well, because "hearing rooms typically aren't locked because 'they're not of interest to anyone,'" according to police. In spite of their "blessing," the oil-stained ministers insist they're not pulling for an Alito confirmation:

The three ministers insisted they weren't taking sides in the Alito debate. "This is not a pro-Alito prayer," insisted the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. With abortion, public prayer, gay marriage and right-to-life issues among those topping public debate, however, "God…is interested in what goes on" in the nomination hearing, Rev. Schenck said.
Uh, sure. Sounds neutral to me.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Good Cause + Good Tunes = Buy Now!

Since I harangued everyone to give money to the Katrina relief efforts last year, the least I can do is clue everyone in to a very cool musical project to benefit Katrina victims. Chad Hutchinson and Rob LaDuca, the guys behind NEARFest, have put together a 2-disc benefit album called After the Storm. For only $20 (plus shipping), you'll get two hours of music, much of it previously unreleased, from some of the brightest lights in progressive rock: echolyn, Mike Keneally, The Flower Kings, Djam Karet, and more and more. If you're a prog fan, this is a no brainer. If you've ever thought "hey, I might like to hear some of that prog stuff," this is a perfect opportunity. And even if you hate all of it (a highly doubtful proposition), you'll still have done a little good for the folks still suffering the aftereffects of Katrina.

Place your order today!

Jesus Thinks He's a Jerk - Again

Wherever world leaders are in ill health, Pat Robertson will strike. After Israeli PM Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke which effectively ended his political career (if not his life), Robertson went on the air to declare that God was punishing Sharon for his role in the peace process. Apparently the Lord doesn't like people messing with His stuff:

God says, 'This land belongs to me, and you'd better leave it alone,' [Robertson] said.
Implicit in that is the obvious "or else" that ends the sentiment. Of course, one might wonder if an all-powerful creator might more effectively regulate the use of His stuff by some kind of grand deific proclamation (sky writing, perhaps?) rather than striking down one political leader at a time.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Habeas Christus

Things are about to get interesting in an Italian courtroom, where a local priest will be forced to prove that Jesus Christ actually existed. Father Enrico Righi must accomplish that feat because an Italian atheist and apparent muckraker (and I say that in the most positive way!) has filed criminal charges against Righi for "abuse of popular credulity" and "impersonation." Luigi Cascioli wrote a book called The Fable of Christ in which he argues, not surprisingly, that Jesus never existed and is a fiction created for the gospels. Father Righi took exception to that claim, as one might expect, and denounced Cascioli's work in the parish newsletter.

While part of me is interested to see how this turns out, am I the only one who is flummoxed that "abuse of popular credulity," based on statements in a parish newsletter no less, is a criminal offense in Italy? Or anywhere, for that matter?

Nightmare Scenario

You think the prospect of another two years of Dubya is frightening, what about a third term? In today's New York Times, a pair of college professors argue that the traditional second term terrors that various presidents have endured is due to their inability to run for another term. The idea is that without any political future to worry about, presidents lose the ability to effectively deal with Congress (which, of course, is in a constant state of reelection) and even his own party. In other words, "lame duck" isn't just a cute phrase. I'm not sure I agree. Seems to me that it's the overt politicization of the office and inherent partisan political warfare that ensues that leads to the slumps. Maybe the answer is one longer term (6 years, maybe) with no chance of a repeat?

Jezebel Boy

I have nothing against religious people who live their lives in a very strict "moral" way, assuming they don't condemn me for living my own life. In that vein, I simply love it when one of the public Bible-thumping morals police gets caught doin' things he shouldn't ought. Like Lonnie Latham, executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention who was arrested in Oklahoma City last night, not just for soliciting sex from a prostitute/undercover cop, but from a male prostitute/undercover cop. That's right, the man who:

has also spoken out against same-sex marriage and in support of a Southern Baptist Convention directive urging its 42,000 churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them that they can become heterosexual 'if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle.''
His excuse when caught? "I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police." OK, he may very well have been set up, but "pastoring to police?" Is that what the kids are calling it now?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

ID Is Dead

At least in Dover, Pennsylvania. The newly reconstituted school board followed up last month's intellectual destruction of "Intelligent Design" by a federal judge by formally rescinding the policy that led to the litigation.

He's a Moonchild . . .

The march of human rights progresses! Apparently, in the state of Maryland, to moon someone may be tacky, but it's not a crime. How did this come up? Because at the end of a long-simmering dispute with a fellow member of his home owner's association, Raymond McNealy dropped his drawers as a final rebuttal (*rimshot* - I'll be here all week, try the veal). Also present was the target's 8-year old daughter. McNealy was prosecuted for indecent exposure, but was acquitted after a bench trial. The trial judge let it be known in no uncertain terms what he thought of McNealy's debating technique:

[The judge] made clear his disdain for the defendant, calling the alleged act "disgusting" and "demeaning." The outcome could have been different, he suggested, if the man had been on trial for "being a jerk."
Thank goodness. If being an asshole were a crime, we'd have to double the size of our office! But hey, at least someone's having fun with this:
James Maxwell, one of McNealy's attorneys, said yesterday's ruling should "bring comfort to all beachgoers and plumbers" in the state.
Har har.