Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Not-So Golden Age

Conservatives and Christianists are always nattering on about the Golden Age of the 1950s. Everything was wonderful in the 1950s. WASP males ruled the world, with their exclusive privileges and perogatives enforced by law and custom. Drinking and smoking were universal. Nobody cussed (except the Good Ole Boys in their exclusive boardrooms). Sexuality was repressed...as, indeed, were virtually all other human emotions. Everybody went to (Christian) church, and collection plates were overflowing. To hear the Conservtives and Christianists speak, the 1950s were Heaven. And the wrold would be much better off if we returned to the values of that era.

Odd, then, that they never mention one more fact of life in that Golden Age.

Throughout the 1950s, the top income tax rate was 91%.

Wonder how many Conservatives think we should return to that?


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Monday, December 20, 2004

This Yahoo story says that "Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according to a nationwide poll."

According to this survey by Cornell:

44 percent favored at least some restrictions on the civil liberties of Muslim Americans. Forty-eight percent said liberties should not be restricted in any way...27 percent of respondents supported requiring all Muslim Americans to register where they lived with the federal government. Twenty-two percent favored racial profiling to identify potential terrorist threats. And 29 percent thought undercover agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations to keep tabs on their activities and fund-raising.

Folks, this is exactly why you can't put the civil rights of minorities up to vote. It's why we let "activist judges," rather than mob rule, decide questions of civil rights.

Some day, some pollster is going to think to ask if people support restrictions on speech by fundamentalist Christian groups. I'm guessing that a majority of the population would answer "yes."

And when that day comes, the Ivory Madonna will be waiting to hear impassioned choruses of "Let the voters decide!"

...but she won't be holding her breath.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Homegrown Democrat

The Ivory Madonna has been reading -- and savoring -- Garrison Keillor's Homegrown Democrat. This marvelous little book is a meditation on Democratic values, and the nature of the Republican threat to the United States.

Here's a reflection on riding the bus:

In the new privatized low-tax minimal-services society the Republicans are striving to lay on us, public transportation will offer no pleasure whatsoever. The bus will be for losers and dopes. The driver will sit in a bulletproof box and there will be no conversation with him. The bus will be full of angry and sullen people who have lost hope that their kids can rise in the world and have a better life, which is the hope that makes it possible for me to turn to you and say something about the weather. Civility leads to civilities. In Republican America, you will not enjoy public life period. The public library, that great democratic temple, will become a waiting room for desperate and broken people, the alkies, the wacked-out, the unemployables, and the public schools will become holding tanks for children whose parents were too unresourceful to find good schools for them, and politics will become so ugly and rancid that decent people will avoid expressing an opinion for fear of being screeched at and hectored and spat upon.

I don't know about you, but from where the Ivory Madonna sits, that last part is already entirely too real....

Here's another quote:

America is not a religious country, no matter how many Americans say they believe in God. I've been in religious countries and this is not one of them. There is no Sabbath, no fasting or prohibitions, every day is a feast day. You can buy liquor on Sunday almost anywhere, find pornography in any Marriott or Wal-Mart, say any ugly, profane thing on the radio or anywhere -- we're fat and sloppy and as disciplined as a battalion of cats, an impulsive, dreamy people walking around eating ice cream cones and eyeballing the girls' sweaters and dreaming of a big hit in the lottery. If God is looking for a nation to carry out His will on earth, it isn't this one. And it wasn't leftist professors who led us into the sins of the flesh: it was capitalist entrepreneurs. If the Pharisees really wanted to make this a God-fearing nation, they'd be taking up their cudgels against fellow Republicans.

In this connection, my friend Don Sakers has posted this reply to a Republican Party letter asking him to change his affiliation from Democrat of Republican.

The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Delivering the State

Let us suppose – just hypothetically – that one is a political fundraiser who has pledged, in the next election, to deliver a certain state for a particular candidate. How would one go about this?

First and foremost, it is vital that there be absolutely no evidence of irregularity. Were such evidence found, it could prove fatal to one’s chosen candidate.

Therefore, a voting method that leaves no paper trail would be ideal. Some sort of electronic device, one which creates invisible ballots that are tallied by secret software within the machine.

Once the desired machine is deployed, delivering votes for one’s candidate is simplicity itself. Decide what margin of victory you want for your candidate. Pick a number comfortably larger than the anticipated number of absentee and provisional ballots, so there will be no uncertainty and no reason for a pesky recount. (We’re assuming that polls show the election very close to begin with, preferably a statistical dead heat.)

Just picking numbers out a hat, let’s say we want a margin of victory of . . . oh . . . let's say 150 thousand votes out of 5.4 million cast. Program the voting machines in the following manner. Change every 17th vote cast for your candidate’s opponent, into a vote for your candidate. Make this adjustment AFTER the voter has confirmed his/her vote.

That’s it. Change every 17th vote, and you will deliver the state for your candidate. If someone demands a recount, it’s simple - just press the button, and the same exact numbers will come out. It’s a computer, you see, so the answers MUST be right. There’s no paper trail, no record of votes outside the machine, so how can anyone prove your count wrong?

Only one discrepancy will remain to point the way to what you’ve done: any exit polls will be mysteriously off-target. This is inevitable, because exit polls are based on asking real live voters which way they THINK they voted. The way the machine TOLD them they voted . . . not the way the machine actually reported their vote.

Exit polls are usually among the most accurate of public-opinion polls. So if you see a state, maybe a battleground state which used electronic voting machines, in which the exit polls disagree with the official tallies…then perhaps someone programmed the machines to alter the results.

Or perhaps not. After all, there’s no paper trail, no physical evidence, no way for anyone to prove vote tampering.

Of course, this is just a hypothetical situation . . . .


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Creating Jobs in PA

The Ivory Madonna has just returned from a multi-state driving trip in the U.S. Northeast, and she noticed something interesting.

There's an awful lot of road construction going on in Pennsylvania.

The Ivory Madonna drove on many Interstates: 83, 81, 84, 90, 495, 95, and probably a few she's forgotten. In Pennsylvania in particular, she was on 83, 81, and 84 twice, about a week apart.

No road construction in New Hampshire. None in Massachusetts. A smattering in Connecticut. A tiny bit in New York. None in Maryland. But Pennsylvania...goodness!

Come down the long hill on I-84 from New York into Pennsylvania. On the approach to Port Jervis, the road is terrible...but there's no construction. But cross the Delaware, and as soon as you're in Pennsylvania, bam! Road construction.

Road construction on the way into Scranton. Road construction on I-81 south of Wilkes-Barre. LOTS of road construction north of Harrisburg. Road construction on I-83 around York. Scattered road construction across the whole eastern half of the state.

Why Pennsylvania? Why Interstate Highway road construction?

Hmmm. A swing state with a depressed economy.

A very close swing state that has lost a lot of jobs.

Road construction paid for by the Federal government.

An election coming up.


Lots of Federal money flowing into a close swing state, creating temporary jobs. Very little Federal money flowing into neighboring non-swing states.

Now, Liberal fiscal theory says that if people are out of work, the government should create jobs for them in order to stimulate the economy. Conservative fiscal theory says that if people are out of work, the government should cut taxes to stimulate the economy. Unless, apparently, it's a close swing state...in which case the government should create jobs for people.

Temporary jobs, which will cease to exist after the election.

Contracting jobs, which don't pay benefits.

Hey, one must stick to one's principles. Unless, of course, one is in danger of losing the election. Then, of course, anything goes.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Lines on a Map

T'other day the Ivory Madonna heard a particularly inane comment on the radio. The commentator said, "At the moment, the United States is the only glue holding Iraq together. If we pull our troops out, Iraq as a nation will cease to exist. It will be replaced by three or more smaller nations."

The United States is the only glue holding Iraq together.

And what, pray tell, is so imperative about Iraq staying "together"? Why is it so bloody important that the artificial construct we call "Iraq" remain a single sovereign nation? ("Nation" itself is another artificial construct, but let's not get into that right now.) What's wrong with three or more smaller nations?

Lines on a map, drawn by the British in 1920. Lines that are so meaningless that they will quickly dissolve unless enforced at gunpoint. Lines that bind together peoples who desperately want to be separate.

That's what soldiers are dying for. That's why violence rules Iraq, why civilians are killed and maimed by the thousands. That's why the U.S. must stay in Iraq. Because of some artificial lines drawn 84 years ago.

Perhaps some lines are worth dying to preserve.

These aren't.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Quote for the Day

Quote for the day:

"People can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. ...All you have to do is tell them the're being attacked and denounce the pacifists for a lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

I don't think anything more need be said.

Oh, right. The author of the quote above?

Herman Goering.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Liberal Media

Conservatives and Christianists love to complain about "liberal bias" in the media. A lot of media organizations are quick to take exception. On yesterday's Diane Rehm Show on NPR, for example, both Diane Rehm and guest Terry Gross (host of NPR's Fresh Air) went to great lengths about the pains that they and other NPR people take to make sure that their programming is fair, balanced, and inclusive of all sides.

...Which, you see, is just the problem. Fairness, balance, and inclusion are themselves liberal notions. As soon as you decide to be fair, to give all sides equal time, to include all points of view -- right there, you are displaying a liberal bias.

To the Conservatives and Christianists, the opposite of "liberal bias" is not "fair and balanced"...the opposite of "liberal bias" is "conservative bias." That's what they want in all news programming, not just Fox News and its ilk, but everywhere. And any media outlet that doesn't provide a conservative bias, is automatically guilty of "liberal bias." For them, there is no middle ground of "fairness." There is only bias, conservative or liberal.

Yet when they hurl the charge "liberal bias," everyone takes them seriously. News media, even NPR, take conscious steps to address the issue. Why?

There is only one reason that this tactic succeeds for the Conservatives. That's because for the American people, by and large, fairness is a good thing, a desireable state of affairs. For most Americans, the opposite of "liberal bias" (or "conservative bias") is "fairness." An accusation of "liberal bias" is taken seriously because, to most Americans, it is an accusation of "unfairness."

And if there's one thing the American people can't stomach, one virtue that nearly everyone agrees upon, it's fairness. Everyone should get to play, and everyone should have a fair chance in the game. That's the American way.

I think the Democrats are losing a big opportunity here. They should be casting issues in terms of fairness/unfairness, rather than liberal/conservative.

Most people don't care if their taxes are high...as long as they perceive that the tax burden is spread fairly. People get upset with taxes when they see rich individuals and corporations getting away with paying less than their fair share.

Most people are uncomfortable with using the word "marriage" for unions between same-sex partners...but they are equally uncomfortable with same-sex couples not getting the same legal benefits as opposite-sex couples. People want things to be fair.

Most people will support any stupid thing a President does (i.e. invading a foreign country)...as long as he doesn't lie about the reasons. People want the President to play fair.

I could go on and on. Medical insurance, Social Security, the budget deficit, immigration, voting machines, the Electoral College...no matter what the issue, most people in the United States support whatever seems most fair. They know that life isn't fair, and that we'll never achieve a state of perfect fairness...but they believe that fairness is a virtue, something to strive for.

The Democrats should be pushing that message constantly, pointing out how the Conservatives and Christianists want things to be unfair, to preserve bias, to shut certain people out of the game.

And that's my unbiased, balanced, and fair opinion.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Assorted Bits of Advice

Memo to Floridians: The Ivory Madonna is sorry about your losses due to Hurricane Charley. She wishes to express her sympathy with the victims of Hurricane Georges in 1998, Hurricanes Erin and Opal in 1995, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Agnes in 1972, Betsy in 1965, Cleo in 1964, Donna in 1960, and hundreds of other lesser hurricanes and tropical storms that have ravaged Florida over the past three centuries.

She also wishes to remind Floridians that there is absolutely no law against moving to a safer state.

Memo to Republicans Who Are Disenchanted With Bush: The Ivory Madonna feels your pain. The economy is in the toilet. The United States has lost what few friends it had in the world. Both the Federal Budget Deficit and the Trade Deficit are at the highest levels ever. The rich keep getting richer, the poor keep getting poorer, and the middle class are sinking lower and lower. Civil liberties continue to vanish under Yellow Alerts, Orange Alerts, Red Alerts, Chartruese Alerts. Almost a thousand U.S. troops have died in Iraq, all because of Weapons of Mass Destruction that weren't there and an alleged connection between Saddam and al-Queada that doesn't exist.

And yet you just can't bring yourself to vote for Kerry.

The Ivory Madonna understands. Her first suggestion is that you consider casting a protest vote for Nader. Many other Republicans are doing the same.

Yeah, the Ivory Madonna hears you. Nader? Yuck.

There is hope. The Ivory Madonna reminds you that there is absolutely no law requiring you to vote. You don't want to vote for Bush, you can't vote for Kerry or Nader. So stay home this time. It's okay. Really.

Memo to Virginians: You don't have to stay there. Honestly. There's no law that says you can't move.

The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Homeschooling On the Rise

So homeschooling is on the rise, with over a million students being homeschooled last year (link). Thirty percent of parents said they chose homeschooling for "the flexibility to teach religious or moral lessons."

Translated: "Public schools refuse to teach my kid the ridiculous superstitions, absurd myths, and social prejudices that my religion espouses. I am aware that none of these beliefs could possibly survive comparison with other, more rational streams of thought -- therefore, I do not want my kid exposed to any other opinions. Besides, I don't want my precious, purebred child to associate with people of different racial/social/economic backgrounds, in case he/she might bring one of them home. Therefore, I will keep my kid out of public school, and indoctrinate him/her myself."

One hears unspoken words echoing in the background. Words like "evolution," "blacks," "Jews," "ho-mo-sexuals."

One has to wonder...when that kid grows up, and gets a job working with people of diverse backgrounds -- what's going to happen? How will the poor kid know what to do?

I suppose these parents feel that they are rich enough that their kids won't have to work.

Pity it's the kids -- not the parents -- who will suffer.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

The Darfur Airlift

So the UN has begun airdrops of food and other relief supplies into Darfur (link). About bloody time.

Now wouldn't that be a magnificent use of the United States's military power and air superiority? Wouldn't it be great if, instead of smart bombs, we could be dropping smart aid packages?

Oh, but wait, the US military is tied up in the disastrous aftermath of an unprovoked war.

Ah, well, who cares? Not only does Darfur not have any oil, but they're just a bunch of dahkies anyways....

Is it any wonder that everyone in the world hates us?


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Who's Gagging Speech?

Opponents of gay rights are quick to raise the specter of free speech being gagged. Part of the Gay Agenda, they say, is to classify opposition to gay rights as "hate speech," and to punish those who speak their minds.

Well, here's a case of "A church choir director [who] was fired after church officials took issue with a newspaper opinion piece he wrote urging support of gay marriage." Dennis Adam Ray, choir director at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Sebring, FL, was fired after he expressed his pro-gay opinions in a July 22 guest column in a local newspaper.

Punishing those who speak their minds is not part of the Gay Agenda...but apparently it is part of the Christianist Agenda.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Full Moon

One of the Ivory Madonna's co-workers just dealt with a particularly obtuse customer. Returning to her station, the co-worker muttered, "Must be a full moon."

She refers, of course, to the old bit of folklore that claims people are especially crazy around the time of the full moon.

The Ivory Madonna heartily agrees with this theory. Based on years of observation, she firmly believes it, and has worked it out to an exact statement, which she will now share with you:

During the period two weeks before and after each full moon, people behave like stark, raving lunatics.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Berger and Files

So Sandy Berger removed sensitive documents from the National Archives, and he's being accused of trying to hide embarrassing secrets related to 9/11 (link).

What is it with Republicans and trying to hide embarrassing secrets?


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Cutting the Grass

What is it with this society's abnormal preoccupation with cutting the grass?

The Ivory Madonna currently presides over about half an acre of ground. Before her arrival, this half-acre was a vast wasteland of grass, with a nice line of cedar trees along one border. Just the sort of place that would make a nice, native-growth meadow.

Harumph. Tell that to the Lawn Nazis.

Yes, the Ivory Madonna's local government has an entire department of the bureaucracy devoted to the sole task of forcing people to cut their grass. Every month or so, when the neighbors call the Lawn Nazis upon her, the Ivory Madonna receives a threatening letter from this department, telling her that if her plants are not trimmed to below six inches, they will send a crew out to do so, and then charge her for the service.

Then down come the daisies, the coneflowers, the wild roses, the ornamental grasses, the waves of amber grain. Away flee the bunnies, the birds, the butterflies and dragonflies, and all the other happy animals whose habitat has just been slashed to the ground.

Meanwhile, in a nation that is suffering from a shortage of petroleum products, countless gallons are wasted in weekly mowings. Greenhouses gases pour into the atmosphere from millions of lawnmowers. A positive haze of ozone and other pollutants hangs over the world. Not to mention the thousands of person-hours lost in this constant grass-cutting.

Why? To satisfy conformity. To provide lawnmower dealers with a guaranteed income. And (it's no secret) to personally annoy the Ivory Madonna and her entourage.

This nonsense must cease.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Activist Judges

Things aren't looking good for the radical right and fundamentalist Christianists on the gay marriage front. It's been two months since gay couples started getting legally married in Massachusetts, and somehow God hasn't sent down fire and brimstone (maybe He has more important things on His plate). Civilization has not collapsed. Yesterday's humiliating defeat of the Federal marriage Amendment shows how out-of-touch these people are.

But hate and fear spring eternal, and now they're going after "activist judges" (link). The new mantra is "activist judges should not be allowed to write laws, like they did in Massachusetts. The legislature should write the laws."

Hey, folks, quit beating up on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (MSJC), okay?

The MSJC did everything in their power to let the legislature write the laws. The legislature just didn't co-operate.

Here's what the MSJC said, paraphrased by the Ivory Madonna: "Hey, Legislature! You know, we've got a bad situation here. Our marriage laws are in conflict with our Constitution. We'd like to point this out to you, so you can do something about it.

"So here's the deal: we won't do anything immediately. We'll give you six months to write laws to eliminate this conflict. Maybe you could take a look at existing marriage laws, re-examine the whole concept of marriage and what it means? The field is wide open, you can make any laws you wish, as long as they're consistent with the Constitution. Please take advantage of this period, and write some good laws. That's your job, not ours. That's what you were elected for.

"Really, guys, we're serious here: Please give us some laws that are consistent with the Constitution. Because if you don't, we'll do what the Constitution says, and give everybody equal treatment under the law. But we're confident it won't come to that, becuase you Legislature guys are just as serious about your responsibilities as we are, and we know you'll do your job."

The Legislature pissed away several months doing nothing but bitching and complaining. After a while, they said, "Hey, MSJC, we know you said the Constitution requires 'equal treatment,' but we figured 'unequal treatment' would be fine instead. Is that okay?"

At which point the MSJC said, "Uh, guys? 'Equal treatment' means 'equal treatment.' That's what it says, in black and white. Don't you think you should get busy writing some laws? You've only got a month or so. Please, please, don't put us in the position of having to act because you didn't do your job."

At the last possible minute, having piddled away six whole months, the Legislature decided to begin the process of changing the State Constitution.

The six month deadline came, and the Legislature had not changed State marriage laws by so much as a single comma. So the MSJC did what they said they would, and ordered that existing laws should be administered so that everyone gets equal treatment, the way the Constitution says.

Suddenly, everyone started screaming at the MSJC, for doing exactly what it said it would do if the Legislature didn't do its job.

The Massachusetts Legislature had the opportunity to take a hard look at the whole concept of marriage, to have the difficult discussions and come up with a way to balance religious beliefs, social justice, and equality. They could have taken a leaf from the French, and set up an institution of "civil union" for all citizens, leaving "marriage" to the churches alone. They could have scrapped "marriage" entirely, and created brand new institutions that would fit the 21st century and not conflict with tradition. They could have done anything. Instead, in the words of John Adams in 1776, they "piddled, twiddled, and resolved."

"Activist judges," phooey. What we need are activist lawmakers who will do their job and write laws to correct injustices, rather than pissing away the time they have in futile bitching and moaning.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Securing Polling Sites and Stealing Elections

Well, the Ivory Madonna is back from vacation and feeling feisty. And along comes this AP story (link) headlined "Ridge Warns of Election Terror Plot."

The key part is this:
"...authorities have begun working through the process of how to secure the thousands of polling sites that will be used around the country this fall, said another senior intelligence official..."

Oh, have they, now?

The Ivory Madonna supposes that this is advance justification for stationing armed and uniformed police (or military) at all polling places nationwide. Guards with the authority to do on-the-spot searches, without warrants.

Which will certainly deter many from voting. The poor, blacks, gays, underclass people in general...all of whom have various reasons to distrust and/or fear the cops. Anyone who doesn't want to take the chance of being detained, questioned, searched, or worse.

Hmmmm. Whom will this disenfranchise more, Republicans or Democrats?


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Trust Democrats

Here's a story (link) titled Kerry hints he'd review "don't ask, don't tell" if elected, which says:
If he is elected president, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry hinted he might review the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military. Kerry commented on the thorny issue in an article published in Monday's edition of the Army Times and its sister publications Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Times. "It seems to me we are losing a lot of talent for our nation in interpreters, in intelligence, in a lot of different things," Kerry said in the interview. "There must be a way for those people to serve somehow."

Don't you believe it.

Clinton came into office with great promises of allowing gays to serve in the military. Just like every other politician, he broke those promises at the first hint of difficulty. And Kerry will be the same way. Gays have been burned by this pattern often enough to know. Besides, Kerry (who publicly opposes marriage rights for gays) is not a friend of the gay community. In fact, like most Democrats, he is anxious for gays to support him, without having to give back anything of substance in return.

Now, don't get me wrong. Gays, along with everyone else of any pretension to intelligence, should vote for Kerry in November. Not because of any Kerry promises, not because of anything Kerry says or does, but for one simple reason: Kerry is not Bush.

The Ivory Madonna finds herself singularly unimpressed by John Kerry. But Bush and his cronies horrify her.

Once Bush and his administration are out of office, and the Republicans no longer control Congress...then there will be time to attempt to re-make the Democrats, or find some viable alternative. For now, as Arianna Huffington says, the house is on fire, and it's no time to worry about redecorating.

The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Answering the Non-Fanatic

In an article titled "The non-fanatic case against gay marriage" (link), Geov Parrish says: "...as gay unions, in whatever form, draw closer to being a legal and cultural reality, a more nuanced, moderate opposition is gathering force. Secular opponents have raised questions that advocates must answer."

The Ivory Madonna applauds Mr. Parrish for attempting to discuss marriage for gays on a secular and non-fanatic basis. He says, "For better or worse, proponents of gay marriage need to understand and be able to respond to those concerns," and he deserves an answer.

So the Ivory Madonna, in the spirit of secular non-fanaticism, will now go through Mr. Parrish's article and address the points he raises.

First, Mr. Parrish wisely discounts the "slippery slope" argument that marriage for gays will inevitably lead to polygamy, bestiality, and marriages between people and household appliances. Like most "slippery slope" and "domino theory" arguments, this one is absurd.

However, says Mr. Parrish:
...the underlying point is worth examining. What does it mean if marriage is taken out of the church, taken out of its traditional limits, and derives its legal basis instead solely from contract law? It has implications for alimony and custody of children in divorces; for the finances and real property of common-law marriage; for the tax code; and much more. All must fundamentally change if the logic of gay marriage is followed. Imagine, for example, common property statutes -- or child custody -- if a half dozen pairs of people have various interlocking relationships.

Ahem. Marriage has been "out of the church" since the first Justice of the Peace married the first couple in a civil ceremony...at least a few centuries. Marriage has been a matter of "contract law" longer than the United States has been a country -- for as long as civil marriage laws have existed, in fact. At a guess, at least since Ancient Rome.

As for the specter of the legal chaos that would result from "a half dozen people [with] various interlocking relationships"...Mr. Parrish, have you looked at the current state of marriage and parenthood in the United States? Are you aware of how many children have multiple sets of parents, step-parents, custodial parents, birth parents, and ex-parents? Heterosexual marriage and divorce has already created the situation you seem to dread. It's hard to see how throwing a few homosexual marriages and divorces into the mix could "fundamentally change" the system of serial monogamy that now exists.

So...point number one is that marriage for gays will produce a situation almost exactly the same as what now exists. Sorry, Mr. Parrish, that's just not a very scary possibility.

Second, there's the "Promoting homosexuality" argument:
The most obvious objection, and hardly limited to avowed homophobes. The concern is simply that with the rearrangement of so much law to accommodate it, and stamp of “normality” attached, more and more people will try gay sex, or (gasp!) “become” gay. Reasons why this is seen as a bad thing, without considering any biblical sanctions, range from the traditional (yuck!) to issues of procreating for the species and public health with unsafe sex and multiple partners.

Let's see...allowing gay people to marry would produce more unprotected sex and multiple partners than exist now? Er...exactly how is that going to happen? Does marriage make heterosexual people engage in more unsafe sex and multiple partners?

As if heterosexuals don't engage in unsafe sex with multiple partners. Mr. Parrish, have you been to any high schools or colleges recently?

And are you aware that our world is seriously overpopulated? That today, with all the "permissiveness" and toleration for gays, there are more people alive than at any time in history? Believe me, "procreating for the species" is not a problem.

And, of course, there's the traditional "yuck" factor. Hate to tell you, Mr. Parrish, but a lot of people think that what heterosexuals do in bed is "yucky." If the "yuck" factor were a legitimate reason for legislation, then brussels sprouts would be illegal.

The Ivory Madonna can't quite take seriously the claim that once people try gay sex, they will instantly convert to homosexuality. Huh? The Ivory Madonna can tell you, it's not like nicotine or heroin. One sample does not get you "hooked for life." Science tells us, in unequivocal terms, that homosexuality in humans is a trait present from birth or very early infancy. One doesn't suddenly "convert" to homosexuality the way one suddenly converts to born-again Christianism.

And besides -- if we're postulating a world in which there is little social stigma to being gay...in which gays are seen as "normal" or "just like straights" -- then where's the harm if people do "decide to turn gay"?

Third, Mr. Parrish raises what he calls Undermining "family values":
Conservatives worry about the social impacts of removing the norms that have traditionally accompanied marriage, particularly gender and monogamy. If marriage is seen as simply a legal contract, such vows might be easier to dishonor, or ultimately break, than when it is seen as a once-in-a-lifetime union under God. Society has already been moving in this direction for decades, with rising divorce rates and the dissolution of the traditional two-parent family as the prevalent model in America. Gay marriage, opponents fret, is more dirt on marriage’s coffin.

Again, Mr. Parrish seems to be under the delusion that we live in the 1950s. No, because the real 1950s weren't such great shakes...rather, let's say that Mr. Parrish seems to be under the delusion that we all live in the world of "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Donna Reed Show."

Someone is going to have to explain slowly, in very small words, exactly how the bonds of marriage could possibly be easier to "dishonor, or ultimately break" than they are now. Let's try a thought experiment. If gays really are 10% of the population (a generous estimate), and if every gay couple in the nation got married tomorrow, and if every one of those couples got divorced right away...then the divorce rate would go up by a maximum of 10%.

Mr. Parrish, this particular horse escaped from this particular barn a couple decades ago.

If conservatives were truly worried about "the dissolution of the traditional two-parent family as the prevalent model in America," then they would be working to prohibit divorce and make adultery illegal. Mr. Parrish, the sad fact is that keeping gay couples from marrying has no effect on heterosexual divorce rates. (As a matter of fact, divorce rates have risen during all the time that gay marriage has been illegal. Obviously, not allowing gay marriage makes more heterosexuals divorce. The sensible thing would be to try legalizing gay marriage and see what happens.)

And what's with this "dirt on the coffin" analogy? Is Mr. Parrish suggesting that it makes any sense to say, "Out of respect for the deceased, we cannot allow you to throw dirt on the coffin?" Mr. Parrish, have you ever been to a graveside funeral service? Throwing a handful of dirt on the coffin is the traditional thing to do. I thought conservatives loved "traditional" ways?

Mr. Parrish's last argument goes like this:
Finally, opposition to gay marriage also comes from more radical gays who worry about the opposite influence, and reject what they consider a fundamentally straight institution. While a more popular criticism a decade ago, it’s still out there: why should people who’ve spent a lifetime rebelling against society’s sexual norms suddenly aspire to embracing its most fundamental institution?

To which the Ivory Madonna can only whip her head around with a bemused expression and cry out, "What?!"

Mr. Parrish, no one is suggesting that marriage should be compulsory for gays (or straights). Any radical gays who want to reject marriage as a straight insitution, are perfectly free to do so.

One might just as well propose that, since some people don't care for peach ice cream, then peach ice cream should be illegal.

...Oh. In the final analysis, that's what all Mr. Parrish's secular, non-fanatic arguments boil down to: Gays should not be allowed to marry, because some people don't like the idea. Call it waht you want, it still boils down to the "yuck" factor.

Well, I'll tell you what, Mr. Parrish. The Ivory Madonna doesn't much care for the idea of other people having sex at all. It's one big "yuck" factor for her. Therefore, let her propose a Constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage for those who have sex...straight sex, gay sex, any kind of sex. Yuck!

...unless it involves the Ivory Madonna herself. Of course.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I Say Patata, You Say Potatl

The Ivory Madonna has always been an advocate of multilingualism. Educated adults, she has always believed, know more than one language. (It has often been said that one doesn't truly know one's own language, until one learns another.) One of the Ivory Madonna's biggest regrets is that she went to school during the unfortunate period when Latin was not taught, even as an elective. And now, here is a BBC article (link) offering evidence that being bilngual has positive benefits: "...those who were fluent in two languages rather than just one were sharper mentally." Researchers suggest that bilingualism, by keeping the brain active, can actually protect against senile dementia.

The Ivory Madonna has never supported the "English-only" or "Official English" movements that seek to define English as the sole language of the United States. If nothing else, it is supremely ill-mannered to deliberately make things difficult for visitors and immigrants who do not speak English. Besides, the whole thing will become moot within a decade or so...on-the-fly computer translation will be commonplace, so people will be free to use whatever languages they wish and still understand & be understood by their neighbors.

HOWever...all that being said, the Ivory Madonna wishes to take to task those parts of the Hispanic community that strongly agitate for increased use of Spanish in government and society.

Now, the Ivory Madonna, being part of the dominant culture, suffers from her own share of cultural guilt for offenses in the past, as well as those that continue in the present. She agrees with these parts of the Hispanic community, that minority populations should not be forced to give up their own culture and use the dominant culture, whether it's language or anything else. She agrees that there should be no discrimination against those who do not speak the dominant culture's language. She agrees that minority cultures should be respected and honored, not eliminated.

...Which undoubtedly explains why there are so many speakers of Mayan languages in Latin America. Why Mayan is taught in schools, and there is no discrimination against Mayan speakers.

The Ivory Madonna is as susceptible as the next person to White Guilt. However, she finds it odd for Hispanics to be claiming the moral high ground on this particular issue. All those native cultures in Latin America did not just fade away into nothing by themselves. The Spanish-speaking descendants of Spanish settlers in Latin America, in the Ivory Madonna's opinon, bear just as much guilt as the English-speaking descendants of Northern European settlers in North America.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Ashcroft Named "Worst Attorney General in History"

If you don't read Paul Krugman's editorials in The New York Times, you're really missing a treat. (His book The Great Unraveling, which is a compilation of past columns, is wonderful.) In today's column (link), he states:
No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history.

To which the Ivory Madonna can only say: Right On!

Back in 2001, when Bush nominated Ashcroft for the post of Attorney General, the Ivory Madonna wrote to her Congressfolk predicting that if Ashcroft became Attorney General, the nation would regret the day. Instead of voting against him, most Democrats rolled over and did what Massa George wanted them to. And now the nation rues the day.

Sigh. As a wise person once said, "There are very few problems in this world that could not be solved if people would do as I say."

Note to Congress: Next time, listen.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Friday, June 11, 2004

US Intelligence

Everyone, from the 9/11 Commission on down, seems surprised and astonished at the way the various US intelligence agencies dropped the ball on terrorism and Al Queada.

The Ivory Madonna wonders why.

US intelligence missed the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.

Sputnik was a completely surprise to US intelligence in 1957.

In 1961, due to CIA failures, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a total failure and an embarrassment to the US.

Forty years afterwards, unanswered questions still surround the JFK assassination. Intelligence agencies missed the other spectacular assassinations of the period, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.

In 1975, faulty intelligence sent the would-be rescuers of the U.S.S. Mayaguez to the wrong island. 41 US combat deaths resulted.

The 1978-79 revolution in Iran, which overthrew the Shah and began the Hostage Crisis, came as a surprise as far as US intelligence was concerned.

No intelligence agency gave any warnings of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

Throughout the Cold War, US intelligence consistently overestimated the size and capabilities of the Soviet Union, to the point of showing the population of Moscow twice as large as it really was. Endless documentation that came to light after the USSR dissolved, shows that US intelligence about the USSR and the Eastern Bloc was mistaken on a spectacular scale.

In 1993, the FBI screwed up massively and famously in Waco, Texas. The same year, Ramzi Yousef and his people bombed the World Trade Center...with no advance warning from US intelligence.

No intelligence agency was able to predict the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

US intelligence missed Pakistan's surprise nuclear-bomb detonations in 1998.

The Ivory Madonna could go on and on, but she's not going to waste her time or yours. Suffice it to say that US intelligence failures regarding 9/11, or Afghanistan, or Iraq come as no surprise to her.

What does astonish her, is how the government (any government) keeps trusting what these jokers say.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Making the World Safer...er...More Dangerous (oops)

This Associated Press story (link) says:
The State Department acknowledged Thursday it was wrong in reporting terrorism declined worldwide last year, a finding used to boost one of President Bush's chief foreign policy claims — success in countering terror. Instead, both the number of incidents and the toll in victims increased sharply, the department said.


The original (incorrect) report was released on April 29. At that time, various Bush Administration officials waxed enthusiastic about how it proved that their policies were working to win the "war on terror." Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State, said, "Indeed, you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight."

The Ivory Madonna wonders if the same officals will now acknowledge that, according to the exact same logic, these new (correct) figures show that they are losing the fight, and making the world a more dangerous place?

Of course, the Ivory Madonna also wonders if little piggies will sprout wings and take to the air.

She doesn't hold out much hope for either....


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Islamists and Islamism

In the New York Times (link), Thomas L. Friedman uses an interesting verbal formation in his discussion of the current situation in Iraq.
We are up against some really evil, cynical forces: die-hard Baathists, Qaeda-inspired Islamists and criminals. They continue to kill large numbers of innocent Iraqis without ever spelling out a political demand. That's because their only interest is that America fail. They have no coherent vision for Iraq. Their only vision is that America must fail. Because if the U.S. succeeds in tilting Iraq onto a more progressive track, Baathism and Islamism will be diminished everywhere.

"Islamists." "Islamism." How is "Islamist" different from "Islamic"? How is "Islamism" different from "Islam"?

Alhtough Friedman doesn't say, one assumes that "Islamists" are those super-crazy, ultra-fundamentalist Muslims who want to see Islam supplant all other belief systems. "Islamists," the Ivory Madonna guesses, are Islam supremicists. The ones who want to impose their own religious beliefs on the rest of the world.

What a useful formation! Particularly when it is extended to other areas of the world.

In India, we see Sikhists and Hinduists. In Israel, there are Hebrewists.

And here at home, Christianists.

Sure, they call themselves "Christians." And I'm sure that Friedman's Islamicists call themselves Muslim. But now, we have a real name for them.

Thanks, Thomas L. Friedman.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Reagan on Currency

And another thing about Reagan...

The Ivory Madonna is seeing all these proposals to put his picture on various denominations of currency. The quarter, the ten-dollar bill, the twenty-dollar bill, probably the American Eagle gold piece.

Here's an idea. Put Ronnie on the thousand-dollar bill. Then, all the rich conservatives and highly-paid lobbyists (who were the only people he cared about, anyway) will be able to see him whenever they want. And the rest of the country won't have to put up with him...because when are any of us ever going to have a thousand-dollar bill?

That's the way Ronnie himself would have wanted it....


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Stem Cells

The Washington Post says (link) that scores of Senators, including 14 Republicans and several die-hard anti-abortion Democrats, have asked the Bush Administration to change its rules on embryonic stem cell research. This surprising turnaround is a result of Nancy Reagan's appeal on behalf of her late husband.

Interesting. Up until now, these Senators have opposed stem cell research out of moral conviction that abortion is murder, and that destroying any embryo to obtain stem cells (evan an embryo that would be destroyed anyway) is morally repugnant, if not downright stinking evil.

No matter that the research might ultimately help millions -- destroying embryos is abortion, and abortion is evil, and once we start down that slippery slope there is no stopping until we see polygamous unions between men, goats, and assorted household appliances. (No, wait, that's the other slippery slope.)

Unless...unless it's a matter involving the health of Saint Ronnie. Then, of course, all moral imperatives vanish. If stem cells could save a poor single mother with Parkinson's, no no no! But if stem cells might possibly have extended Saint Ronnie's crotchety life for another few months -- then hell, yes, what are we waiting for!?

Pfah! The Ivory Madonna is glad to see such a clear example of exactly how much these Senators' heartfelt moral convictions are worth.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Education Mess

Just finished reading Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs (link). The author makes many excellent points, and the book is well worth reading, and a lot of fun besides.

One of the things Jacobs talks about is the rise of credentialing in place of education. She says:
Credentialing, not education, has become the primary business of North American universities. This is not in the interest of employers in the long run. But in the short run, it is beneficial for corporations' departments of human resources, the current name for personnel departments. People with the task of selecting successful job applicants want them to have desirable qualities such as persistence, ambition, and ability to cooperate and conform, to be a "team player." At a minimum, achieving a four-year university or college degree, no matter in what subject, seems to promise these traits. From the viewpoint of a government agency's or corporation's department of human resources, the institution of higher learning has done the tedious first winnowing or screening of applicants. For the applicant, this means that a resume without one or more degrees from a respected institution will not be taken seriously enough even to be considered, no matter how able or informed the applicant may be. The credential is not a passport to a job, as naive graduates sometimes suppose. It is more basic and necessary: a passport to consideration for a job.

Jacobs talks of college or university education; in elementary and high-school education, the situation is similar. A high-school diploma, which is a basic qualification for even low-end menial jobs, is a sign to the prospective employer that here is an applicant who has demonstrated a minimum level of obedience and conformity. Someone who will follow orders, no matter how ridiculous they seem. Someone who will show up and leave at whatever hours are demanded.

The Ivory Madonna is aware that there are, in every school system, devoted teachers who genuinely strive to give their students the best education possible, often against overwhelming odds. She is also aware, from many friends (both current and former members of the education system) that schools are increasingly populated by "educators" (both administrators and soi-disant "teachers") who are themselves the drone-like products of mere credentialing factories. People with little imagination, native intelligence, or spark of passion. People who chose the education profession because "everything else was too hard." These are the villains of the current education system. And if what the Ivory Madonna's friends tell her is remotely true, these "educators" are driving good teachers out of the system in droves.

Even in the Ivory Madonna's time, high school and middle school seemed ideally designed for credentialism, in curriculum and in both official and unofficial social atmosphere. And today, things are worse. Those who do not follow orders and rules, those who do not conform, are disciplined, ground down into submission or discarded, forced to drop out. Independent thought is discouraged, independent imagination punished, independent creativity stunted. The goal is to produce obedient employees, unquestioning consumers, and pliant cannon fodder for the military.

[Once again, not every school, not every teacher. But, sadly, most.]

At the worst extremes, in the poorest schools serving minority populations that the corporate world considers disposable, schools become mere warehouses where children learn, from each other, destructive behaviors and cannibalistic social codes. These, too, serve the needs of the corporate Establishment: since dirt-poor people can't participate in the sonsumer economy, better that they eliminate one another (through death or by going into prison) rather than become a drag on the economy.

One must not hold the school system or the educational establishment to blame for this situation. The schools are only doing what we ask of them. The "educators," the ultimate products of their own system, are only doing as they are told, only following orders.

And yet we in the larger society refuse to recognize that education has taken a back seat to credentialing. We demand that schools do a better job of educating children, then we continue to elect pro-corporate, pro-consumerism government "leaders" who encourage schools to do more credentialing at the expense of education.

The Ivory Madonna has sat through hours and hours of debates between experts on how to improve education, and never has she heard anyone mention the problem of credentialing...or even acknowledge that it exists. Instead, they propose new testing regimes, new teaching methods, new textbooks, new computer programs, a million schemes to educate better. And all of these schemes fail, because education is no longer the first mission of our schools. The first mission of our schools is credentialing, discipline, preparing kids "to get a job."

Until we start attacking the assumption that credentialing comes first, we will never improve the process and results education.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Sexual Assaults in Army on the Rise

The Washington Post reports (link) that:
Allegations of sexual assault in the U.S. Army have climbed steadily over the past five years, and the problem has been abetted by weak prevention efforts, slow investigations, inadequate field reporting and poor managerial oversight, according to internal Army data and a new report from an Army task force.

Well, what do they expect? That's what happens when you keep kicking gay people out. What more proof do we need, that gay people serve as a necessary stabilizing influence in society? A straights-only society quickly becomes a playground for sexual predators.

The answer? Obviously, stop throwing gay people out of the Army. Welcome them with open arms.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Why We Have a Constitution

Dahlia Lithwick has a great article in Slate (link) which comments on the Bush Administration's handling of the Jose Padilla case.

After mentioning several of the justice-related provisions of the Constitution (the right to face one's accuser, no self-incrimination, speedy trial, habeus corpus), Dahlia says:
We sometimes forget that the purpose of these and other constitutional protections is not only to let guilty guys roam free (attractive though that prospect may seem), the purpose is also to protect the quality of the evidence used in criminal trials. A conviction based on a tortured confession isn't justice. It's theater.

It's hard to see what the Administration wants to gain from the revelation that their case against Padilla is based on illegally-acquired evidence. Apparently, they think that we are all pathetically stupid enough to believe that whatever they say is true, without even the appearance of proof. (I remind you of the Ivory Madonna's rule-of-thumb: Absolutely everything the Bush Administration says is a lie.)

Maybe they think that the Supreme Court will agree with them. And maybe it will. Having severed its connection with truth and reality in December, 2000, the Supreme Court may still be off in La-la Land.

I hear the weather is awfully nice in Toronto this time of year. Perhaps it's time to think about moving....

Manwhile, Dahlia Lithwick's article is well worth reading.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

One Down...

CIA Director George Tenet has resigned (link).

That's one down, dozens to go....


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Microsoft Double-Click (TM)

Here's an article (link) saying that the US Patent Office has granted Microsoft a patent (#6,727,830) on the double-click.


Excuse me, but didn't Xerox develop the double-click with the original Alto? If not, it was Apple with the Lisa/Macintosh.

The Ivory Madonna usually admires arrogance and shameless chutzpah, but she admires the truth more. Microsoft always goes too far...


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

To Hell with Pennies

In the New York Times (link), William Safire argues persuasively for a long-overdue bit of currency reform: discontinuing the penny.

I couldn't agree more. Pennies are a bother and an absurdity in today's world. They pile up, filling jars and tins and gathering dust. They are useless in commerce; just about every store has one of those "leave-a-penny, take-a-penny" dishes by the cash register.

Unfortunately, as Safire points out, pennies are made of zinc, and there's a very powerful zinc lobby. The Ivory Madonna doubts that Congress will abolish the penny soon (if ever).

If Congress won't act, we must take the situation into our own hands. The Ivory Madonna has taken to telling clerks to keep pennies in the till; if her change is, say, $2.67, she'll hand back the two pennies with a distasteful-but-ladylike frown. She is contemplating taking the next step: handing the clerk extra pennies to exchange on a nickel. For example, if her change is $2.98, she may hand the clerk 2 additional pennies and say, "May I please have a nickel?"

If we all do this, then pennies will pile up in bank vaults until there is a crisis. And then, Congress will act.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Bush Administration Rule-of-Thumb

A Washington Post article titled "From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity" (link) says:
Scholars and political strategists say the ferocious Bush assault on Kerry this spring has been extraordinary, both for the volume of attacks and for the liberties the president and his campaign have taken with the facts. Though stretching the truth is hardly new in a political campaign, they say the volume of negative charges is unprecedented -- both in speeches and in advertising.

The Bush Administration taking liberties with the facts? The Post is shocked, shocked. Say it isn't so!

Here's a simple rule-of-thumb for evaluating pronoucements from the Buch Adminsitration, a rule that the Ivory Madonna learned long ago and has applied since, to her great benefit and vast amusement:

Absolutely everything that the Bush Administration says is a lie.

You may recognize this as a paraphrase of Dave Barry's rule about evaluating the veracity of the electronic media: "Absolutely everything you see on television is wrong." That particular rule is still as valid as ever.

I post this law in order to help poor innocents like the Washington Post to avoid being taken by surprise in the future.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Global Warming and REAL Scientists

Here's an article from the Independent (link) about global warming and James Lovelock (the guy who came up with the Gaia hypothesis). After looking at hard data and recent trends, Lovelock is convinced that there's not enough time left to piddle around with renewable energy such as wind, solar, tides, etc. In Lovelock's opinion, the only thing that will slow global warming is for us to convert to nuclear fission power, the quicker the better.

Of course, all the environmental idiots are up in arms, because to them, "nuclear power" is the worst of all naughty words. Never mind that nuclear fission is far more environmentally friendly than the coal, oil, gas, etc. that it would be replacing. Never mind that hydroelectric power has killed many more people and done much more damage than nuclear, by several orders of magnitude. Never mind that one of the greatest minds in environmental science says that the choice is nuclear power or worse environmental damage through global warming. None of that matters. Better that the world should go to hell, than that we should build even one additional nuclear power plant.

Pshaw! They sound exactly like members of the Bush Administration. Never mind the facts, never mind sense, make all your decisions according to doctrine.

Now, doctrine is one thing in politics...makes it fun to watch, if nothing else. But I wish these fools would keep their doctrine away from science. Knee-jerk reactions and preconceived opinions have no place in science.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

If the Shoe Fits

In this story (link), "Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson has apologized for remarks at a campaign rally in which he compared a segment of the Republican Party to the Taliban."

The story goes on:
Johnson said the remarks were directed at an outside group that attacked the senator's patriotism and "compared me to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden" in a television ad during his 2002 Senate campaign.

Why on Earth should Johnson apologize? (Other than because he's a gentleman, and that's what gentlemen do when other people claim to be offended.)

After all, it's only slander if it's not true....

(Oh, I get it. Johnson should've apologized to the Taliban.)


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Good Start...

This AP story (link) quotes Al Gore calling for resignations:
Al Gore delivered a fiery denunciation Wednesday of the Bush administration's "twisted values and atrocious policies" and demanded the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA director George Tenet. Raising his voice to a yell in a speech at New York University, Gore said: "How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace! How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison!"

Well, don't keep it to yourself, Al...what do you really think?

Of course, I agree with Al, up to a point. I just think he stopped too soon. Cheney and Bush should resign, as well.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Let the Voters Decide...Unless We Don't Like It

An AP story (link) says that a federal appeals court has backed Oregon's assisted suicide law.
Ruling on the nation's only law that allows doctors to assist in hastening the death of a patient, the court said U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft cannot sanction or hold Oregon doctors criminally liable for prescribing overdoses, as the state's voter-approved Death With Dignity Act allows.

Gee, when it's gay marriage, all we hear is "Let the voters decide."

But here, when the voters have decided, that's not good enough, and Ashcroft has to bring the full power of the Justice Department to stop the law from being observed.

After all, it is "compassionate" conservatism, not "consistent" conservatism.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Three Runs on One Hit

An AP article titled "U.S. Eyeing Ways to Boost Gas Supplies" (link) starts off:
The Bush administration is considering removing environmental requirements for a multitude of gasoline blends as one way to increase supplies of gasoline and fight soaring prices, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said in an interview with The Associated Press.

You have got to admire the Adminsitration. Three benefits for the price of one. First, high gas prices mean oil companies get to make a lot more money. Second, the Administration gets an excuse to eliminate some more bothersome environmental regulations. And third, when Prince Bandar keeps his word and the Saudis ramp up oil production, gas prices will fall right before the election.

Expect increasing pressure to allow drilling in ANWR, using high gas prices as an excuse. That would make it a grand slam for the Bush Administration.

Couple this with a new terrorist attack in the weeks leading up to the election, and the "surprise" capture of Osama bin Laden in late summer/early fall, and President Bush has got to feel really secure about winning the election.

And hey, even if the voters don't fall for it, there's always martial law to deal with "the emergency."


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Watch out, Ralph!

Another story (link) about Bush's declining popularity in the polls.

You know, if this keeps up, come election time, Bush may be a serious threat to Nader....


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Iraq's WMD Found!

An AP story (link) says that tests have confirmed the presence of sarin nerve gas in an artillery shell used in a roadside bomb in Iraq. Fortunately, since the shell was used as a bomb rather than being fired as artillery, only small amounts of sarin were produced and dispersed into the atmosphere. Had this shell been used in artillery, and had it landed in a populated area, dozens or even scores of people might have been exposed to sarin, and subsequently died agonizing deaths.

I do not think that the liberal media are paying enough attention to this story. Think of it...with the existing artillery that Saddam Hussein had, this shell could have been fired miles into an adjoining country. Smuggled into the United States, it could have been dropped from the top of the Empire State Building, menacing hundreds of cubic yards of New York sidewalk. In a worst-case scenario, casualties could easily have approached one hundred.

Why are the news people trying to bury this story? President Bush has told us all along that he knew Iraq had WMDs (Weapons of Minimal Destruction). Now, he is vindicated. Only unpatriotic idiots can still question whether our successful mission to counter this threat to a hundred American lives, is worth the 800+ American soldiers, and over 5,500 Iraqi lives, that have been sacrificed so far.

And we got rid of Saddam Hussein, too, and he was really, really a Bad Guy.

Oh, well, that's the liberal media for you.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Dead Men Tell No Tales

An AP story (link) titled "Nichols Prosecutors May Seek Death Penalty" ends up with the words:
Nichols' lawyers have argued that McVeigh had set up Nichols to take the blame for other, unidentified coconspirators heavily involved in the plot.

Well, I guess we'll never know, because we went and killed McVeigh.

Now, let me make one thing clear: I am not against the death penalty, as such. I happen to think that it's too merciful, over too soon, and relatively painless -- especially for heinous crimes on the level of McVeigh's. I don't believe that the death of the criminal can give any real comfort to the survivors of the victim. However, if that's what the survivors think they want, I'm willing to go along with the bleeding-hearts who want to impose a merciful death instead of lifelong suffering.

HOWEVER...in the McVeigh case, there were plenty of unanswered questions, particularly about possible co-conspirators. I think it was a huge mistake to rush the death of the one person who could have given us some answers. To the extent that Nichols might know anything, I think it's a mistake to rush to kill him, as well. After all, dead men tell no tales.

See, if the death penalty has a...well, fatal...flaw, it's that death is so permanent. In computer terms, it's not undoable. If you find out later that you got the wrong guy, or that there were questions you wanted to ask, it's too late.

Keep the guy around, until you're absolutely sure you don't need him anymore. There's always time to kill him later.

My opinion is more of an aesthetic reaction, really. I just hate to see things wasted....


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Visible and Inferior Treatment

An article in the Dartmouth Online (link) talks about a debate on marriage for gays. One of the panelists, Steve Swayne, a Dartmouth music professor, advocates Civil Unions instead of marriage.
As a black man, Swayne attended segregated schools, and noted his unhappiness with the civil rights analogy. "Until we see visible and inferior treatment of persons joined in civil union, I think it's more than a stretch to use the language of separate but equal. It is an insult," he said.

Well, partners in a Civil Union are denied more than 1,000 Federal benefits that are automatically granted to married couples. (A list of 1,049 is available at http://www.gao.gov/archive/1997/og97016.pdf)

One thousand forty-nine benefits for which Civil Union partners are not eligible. Is that "visible and inferior treatment" enough for you, Mr. Swayne?

Or is this just another case of someone with privilege saying, "I've got mine, screw the rest of you"?

Let's talk about insults, Mr. Swayne.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Won't SOMEone Think of the CHILdren?

I ran across a really annoying article (link) on something called IntellectualConservative.com. This one's by Sarah Alexander, and it's titled "This One's For the Children - On Gay Marriage." I'm reminded of nothing more than Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons. If you're not a Simpsons fan, Helen Lovejoy is the Pastor's wife, at the front of every protesting mob with the shrill cry of "Won't SOMEone think of the CHILdren?"

Sarah starts off:
She smiles, she dances for today; just for today, it is a happy day. The day her Mother is getting married. Or should I say Mothers? As I scanned through articles covering the first gay marriage in Massachusetts, I am saddened. Saddened to be living in a world that seems to have gone mad. Do they not see what they are doing to our children?

"What they are doing to our children"...uh, letting them grow up in secure homes with two legal parents, rather than the insecurity of one "real" parent and another adult, unrecognized by the state and with no legally-sanctioned parental rights? Why should this sadden you, Sarah?

Helen...er, Sarah...goes on:
The Bible says in Proverbs that we are to “speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. For the weak and defenseless.” In this article, I want to be a voice for the children.

Well, guess what, Sarah? The Bible also says "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over the man, but to be in silence." (1 Timothy 2: 11-12) So shut up, okay? Because if you don't, you're breaking God's law.

Sarah, heedless of God's law, forges on:
Consider what Pitirim Sorokin, founder and first chair of the Sociology Department at Harvard, says about marriage: “The most essential sociocultural patterning of a newborn human organism is achieved by the family. It is the first and most efficient sculptor of human material, shaping the physical, behavioral, mental, moral and sociocultural characteristics of practically every individual. …From remotest past, married parents have been the most effective teachers of their children.”

Uh, Sarah? Honey? That's why we all think it's a GOOD thing for gay parents to be able to marry.

After a little hysterical blather, Sarah then says:
Do you know that over the past 20 years, there has been a huge outbreak of children needing psychologists and counseling? People today have a huge need for emotional healing. Over the past 20 years, divorce rates have sky rocketed...

Uh, Sarah? Dear? Whatever has caused this "oubreak" and "sky rocketing" over the last 20 years, it isn't married gay people. Because you know what, Sarah, sweetie? Gay marriage hasn't existed over the past 20 years. Not in North America, not even in Europe except in the past four years. Have you been away? On another planet, maybe?

Or maybe Sarah just has a poor grasp of the concept of "causality." Maybe Timothy knew a lot of women like Sarah, which is why he wanted them to stay silent...

Sarah goes on to say: "My prediction is that if two lesbians raise a little girl/boy, the child will have a very high chance of either committing suicide or turning homosexual himself." Hmmm. All the statistics we have, say that little girls and little boys raised by two Lesbians grow up to be living, well-adjusted heterosexuals...and those who grow up to be gay, are living, well-adjusted gays. (I admit, we don't have very many statistics about "girl/boys" raised by Lesbians...or by straight couples, for that matter...because hermaphrodites are so rare, which is because our society has this really weird thing going on about intersexuals, but don't get me started on that.) So your "prediction" is, as we say in the business, WRONG.

About this time, Sarah finds it necessary to give the standard Politically Correct disclaimer:
In this article I have addressed a very sensitive issue. I apologize if I have offended anyone. I don’t hate homosexuals. I only wish that they could see that there is a way out of the lifestyle.

You know what, Sarah? I don’t hate Christians. I only wish that they could see that there is a way out of the lifestyle. ( I apologize if I have offended anyone...which apparently makes it okay to tell a bunch of lies and say a bunch of nasty things about people.)

Sarah drivels on:
Homosexuality is wrong. When you are driving and see a stop sign you need to stop. If you don’t, chaos could occur. It is the same with God’s laws. He placed his law there for the benefit of mankind. When we don’t obey God’s law, chaos will happen.

"Let your women keep silence in the communities: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law." (1 Corinthians 14:33-34) (Emphasis mine.)

Notice, I'm not even going pursue the question of whether Sarah eats pork and/or shellfish, or labors on the Sabbath (her article was dated 5/23/04, which was a Sunday...but the Sabbath is actually on Saturday, according to God's law, and besides I don't think Sarah really put a lot of labor into her article), or wears garments of two fabrics woven together. She's already run the stop sign by violating God's law.

Sarah, lamb, if you want to keep God's law, that's all very well and good. But if you're going to break God's law to insist that other people follow it, then there's one more bit of Scripture that you should pay attention to:

"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Luke 6:42)

In the Bible, Jesus doesn't say one single thing about gay people. But he makes it abundantly clear how he feels about hypocrites: He doesn't hate them, but he sure wishes that they could see that there is a way out of the lifestyle.

Or are you saying, perhaps, that you have the power to pick and choose among God's laws, to decide which ones you will obey and which you will ignore? That, in effect, you are wiser than God?

Isn't there some kind of Commandment against blashpemy? Isn't it...oh, yeah...the very first one?

Anyone standing next to Sarah, I suggest you step away quickly. 'Cause it would seem there is a thunderbolt with her name on it, headed her way....


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Representative Democracy

The May 2004 issue of Harper's Magazine (link) features an essay by Richard N. Rosenfeld called "What Democracy? The Case for Abolishing the United States Senate." Mr. Rosenfeld seems to come from the two-paragraphs-fill-a-page school of writing (of which Ayn Rand was a graduate), so it's far from easy to follow his arguments -- but as far as I can tell, he thinks that the founding principle of the Senate (each State gets two votes, regardless of size) has outlived its usefulness. In (mercifully-brief) pull quotes, he says "The less populous States have extracted benefits from the nation out of proportion to their populations" and "The purpose of a second chamber was to protect the wealthy from the demands of a democratic majority."

Well, okay, that's probaby true, as far as it goes. But I was also taught that the whole point of representative democracy, as opposed to direct democracy, was to insulate government decisions from fads of the moment and knee-jerk public reactions like the one that had a great majority of the people in this country supporting George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. (Okay, okay, representative democracy didn't help in that case...the theory is still sound.)

Nevertheless, Rosenfeld has got me thinking that, yeah, maybe the rather-arbitrary geographical division into States may not be exactly the best way to divide up power and votes.

Which brings me to an idea of my friend Phil Meade. Phil proposed a third house of Congress, one based on a non-geographical scheme: interest groups.

Phil puts his idea in the form of a Constitutional Amendment, among whose clauses are:

2. The Chamber of Ministers of the United States shall consist of one
Minister from each National Ministry, and each Minister shall
have one vote. A Minister's term shall be one year.

3. Each Minister must be a bona-fide member of the interest group
which he/she represents. Ministers shall be chosen by majority
vote of all bona-fide interest group members. The time, manner,
and place of such elections shall be determined by each interest
group, as provided by law by the Congress, in such a manner as to
allow all member citizens full and fair opportunity to register their

4. Once each five years, the number and nature of the National
Ministries shall be determined, under supervision of the Census
Bureau, so as to fairly reflect the interests of all American citizens.
Every National Ministry shall be supported by petition of no fewer
than one percent of the total adult population of the Nation, and
no interest shall be represented by more than one National
Ministry. The total number of National Ministries shall not exceed
five hundred and one. The Supreme Court shall resolve disputes
over the number and nature of the National Ministries.

5. The Chamber of Ministers shall initially consist of no fewer than
fifteen Ministries in the following areas: Agriculture, Commerce,
Defense, Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development,
Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, Labor, State,
Telecommunications, Transportation, Treasury, and Veteran's
Affairs, plus whatever other Ministries are determined under
clause 4 of this Article.

6. No citizen may cast votes as a member of more than six individual
interest groups under the provisions of this Article.

Now, obviously this isn't going to happen anytime soon. But it's an interesting thought experiment, and such an arrangement would certainly change the dynamic of "special interest group" politics in today's United States.


The Ivory Madonna's story is told in Dance for the Ivory Madonna by Don Sakers.

Almost A Week...

Hmm. It's been almost a week since Massachusetts started performing legal same-sex wddings. And somehow, the sky has not fallen. Somehow, heterosexual couples who were married on Sunday are still married today (except for those who got divorced in the interim.)

There's a great article on Slate (link) about the idiocy of the "slippery slope" argument against gay marriage. Well worth reading.


Nancy Pelosi Grows a Backbone

In this CNN article (link), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is quoted as saying:

"I believe that the president's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience in making the decisions that would have been necessary to truly accomplish the mission without the deaths to our troops and the cost to our taxpayers."

Finally, a leading Democrat has the backbone to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. (No, really, she actually said "The emperor has no clothes.")

Hooray for Nancy Pelosi. I hope this is a sign that the Democrats in Congress (many of whom voted for the war to begin with) will start to do what an opposition party is supposed to: Oppose.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Fanatics & Fools

Arianna Huffington is an interesting person. In recent years she's gone from conservative Republican to thrid-party Populist to Progressive Democrat -- all without changing any of her beliefs. These are the political times we live in.

I've just finished her current book, Fanatics & Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America. The woman's words are pearls.

Listen to her on the pre-2000 political landscape:

...[N]either major party was addressing three key issues facing us: 1) the painful truth that we've become two nations, separated by an ever-widening economic gulf -- not just in income but in educational opportunities, access to health care, even in the quality of the air we breathe and our statistical chances of living to an old age; 2) the way money is corrupting our politics and campaign contributors are buying public policy; and 3) the nation's failed $40-billion-a-year war on drugs, which has turned into a war on the poor and minorities.

You GO, girl!

So how did this Nader-supporting Populist come to the point where she's supporting John Kerry? Here's what Arianna herself says:

I didn't have a problem with Ralph Nader's running in 2000. But that was then and this is now. Now we have seen George Bush's true colors. We have seen what has happened in Iraq. We have seen what has happened to the goodwill we once enjoyed around the world. We have seen the results of his regressive economic policies. We have seen who benefits and who loses in the world according to George Bush. It's folly to pretend that it doesn't make a difference whether Bush or his Democratic opponent is in the White House. It's like trying to unring the last three years' carillon of alarms.

It's all well and good to dream about how wonderful it would be to remodel your home, but when your house is going up in flames, your first priority must be putting the fire out. Our collective priority for the near term must be to evict the Crawford squatter from the White House. Only then can we set about remodeling our democratic home.

Well, I could certainly argue about Nader in 2000. I saw Bush's "true colors" in 2000, and I've never had much patience for the people who run around crying about how they feel betrayed, he didn't keep his promises. So George W. Bush lied...that's kinda like complaining that the Pacific Ocean is wet.

However, I applaud Arianna for coming around to the anti-Bush side, and I'm glad to have her aboard. She's a clever, amusing voice of reason, and I think she's doing more than her part.

Now this is about the time everyone starts talking about John Kerry, and saying "But M, Kerry seems to agree with Bush on just about everything...how can you support him?" And I have to confess, I have about as much enthusiasm for John Kerry as I have for scrubbing out garbage cans or watching American Idol. Now Howard Dean, there was a candidate to get excited about...before the vested interests realized what a danger he was to them, and decided to get rid of him.

Doesn't matter. Sure, Kerry represents a return to the politics of pre-2001, and will do precious little to address the three major problems that Arianna cited above. Doesn't matter. Like Arianna said, the house is on fire. The world under George W. Bush makes the politics of pre-2001 look like heaven.

I don't have to have enthusaism for Kerry, and neither does Arianna, and neither do you. Because Arianna and I have all the enthusiasm we need against Bush. I have often said that I would vote for Satan himself, if he were willing to call himself a Democrat and run against Bush. Hell, I would vote for the Pope, I would vote for Jack Valenti, I would vote for Little Bo Peep and/or any of her sheep if they ran against Bush. Voting for Kerry is a no-brainer.

Read Arianna's book. You'll enjoy it. If you know anyone who has half a brain and is still on the fence, give it to them to read. You won't be sorry.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Log Cabin Republicans

Here's a story (link) about the North Carolina chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans. Apparently, the LCR were turned away from the state Republican Convention.
The North Carolina chapter of the LCR purchased a table at the North Carolina state convention on behalf of Log Cabin in early April. But just days ahead of the convention, North Carolina GOP Chairman Ferrell Blount returned the money, along with a stinging letter, which read, "Homosexuality is not normal," and informed the group it would not be allowed table space.

"The North Carolina Republican Party and the Log Cabin Republicans do not seem to share the same agenda," the letter also read.

Every time something like this happens, the Log Cabin Republicans seem to be surprised (and somewhat hurt) that the Republican Party is rejecting them. With President Bush supporting a Constitutional Amendment to deny gays both marriage and civil unions, the LCR is even "considering" the drastic step of withholding their endorsement from Gerorge W.

Well, DUH.

Wake up, folks! The Republican Party has made it abundantly clear that they don't want you, don't like you, and don't consider you a part of their Party. They have made it clear that "Republican" equals "Anti-gay." By continuing to deceive yourselves, you are only making yourselves look increasingly more ridiculous, and giving the general public the notion that gays are outrageously clueless. (When it's obvious that it's only Republican gays who are outrageously clueless.)

This story goes on to say " The National Stonewall Democrats, a group of GLBT Democrats, promptly invited the LCR members to share table space at district Democratic conventions in North Carolina this Saturday."

The LCR declined, saying that they "remain dedicated to making change within the Republican party."

...as soon as they're finished making pigs fly.