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. 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

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 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?, 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 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." soon as they're finished making pigs fly.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Nader Revisited

Okay, I take back what I said about Ralph Nader dealing with the Bush camp. For now. I've realized what his game plan is.

He wants to be Kerry's running mate.

Or at least, a Cabinet post.

It will be interesting to see how this works out.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Purpose of Marriage

Here's a report (link) that "A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless - they weren't having sex."

A clinic spokesman said, "We are not talking retarded people here, but a couple who were brought up in a religious environment who were simply unaware, after eight years of marriage, of the physical requirements necessary to procreate."

Guess no one told them that the purpose of marriage is procreation, eh?

To my mind, this situation makes a travesty of marriage. That a married couple could be childless for eight years, is a repudiation of the sacred institution of marriage. We need a Constitutional Amendment making it illegal for childless couples to marry. Otherwise, Western Civilization will collapse!


The Times, They Are A-Changin'

The BBC brings news (link) that geologists have added a new period to the scheme of time.

The new Edicaran Period covers 600 million to 542 million years ago (give or take a few millennia), and encompasses the beginnings of complex multicellular life on Earth.

It's been 120 years since the last new geological period was named, so I guess it's about time...


The Next Terrorist Attack

Hmmm. US News & World Report says (link):
White House officials say they've got a "working premise" about terrorism and the presidential election: It's going to happen. "We assume," says a top administration official, "an attack will happen leading up to the election." And, he added, "it will happen here."

The story goes on to say, "Unclear is the political impact, though most Bushies think the nation would rally around the president."

Yeah, that sounds about right. Another terrorist attack would almost certainly be good for Bush. If only someone in the Adminsitration had influence in a country that supplied most of the terrorists in the last attack...oh, wait, they do.

My only question is: will the next terrorist attack come before or after the "surprise" capture of Osama bin Laden?


Monday, May 17, 2004

Something Good About Religious Believers

In the Boston Globe's coverage of today's first legal same-sex marriages, here's a refreshing article (link) about the response in some churches -- including some who are most rabidly anti-gay.

The response has been surprisingly compassionate and rational (well, as rational as religious believers can ever get.)

Here's a quote:
At Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, another church whose leader has been an outspoken critic of same-sex marriage, the pastor focused on cautioning parishioners not to get involved with any groups that foment violent or inflammatory protests. "Regardless of how you feel about this issue, those kinds of groups I want you to stay far away from," said the Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown. "This is not a way to react. . . . We ought to pray there be civility and some measure of sense in the midst of all this."

Now this is an excellent example of what religion does best...appealing to the best in us, and challenging us to live up to our ideals.

One parishoner said, of same-sex couples: "We're going to love them, we're going to accept them. They're human and we're human and just have different views. And God has his eye on the whole situation, anyway."

To which I say, Amen.


The Music Industry

An interesting article in USA Today (link) shows how the music industry is set up to cheat its artists.

This article gives the math showing the royalties that one artist received on a CD that sold half a million copies. When all was said and done, the artist recevied a grand total of $40,250 -- which, in case you don't have your calculator handy, works out to slightly more than 8 cents per album.

Eight cents per album. On a CD that retailed for $18.98. And that's before managers and agents take their cut, before taxes, before any of the artist's personal expenses.

Just in case you're having as much trouble as I am believing that figure, let me state it again:

Eight cents.

It's no wonder that some bands say they are better off when people download their music for free, than when people buy their CDs issued by the music companies.

Janis Ian has a great article (link) on the music industry, intellectual property rights, and related issues. Take a look at what she says (and while you're on her site, buy some music from her!)



There is a very hate-filled man from Topeka who makes it his business to go about the country protesting against the existence of homosexuals. Among other things, this man (and his followers) appeared at the funeral of Matthew Shepard (the gay man who was crucified in Wyoming) waving signs proclaiming that Shepard was in hell because god hates gays.

Every time this man performs one of his acts of hate, the press -- and particularly the gay press -- goes crazy, and a big deal is made. Today, for example, he's in Boston trying to ruin the weddings that some people have waited a lifetime for; and the press is already giving him lots of coverage.

Toward this man and his ilk, I think we should be guided by a truth that we've all learned only fairly recently: that silence equals death.

If we want this man's hateful ideas to die -- then we should treat them with silence. Do not answer them, do not argue them, do not publicize them, do not acknowledge them. Simply be silent, and let them die a well-deserved death.

For decades, silence was used as a weapon against the gay community...a very effective weapon. Now, the gay community should start using that weapon against its own enemies.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

The "Q" Word

Let's see. Except for Ralph Nader, everyone pretty much agrees that the United States can't leave Iraq. Meanwhile, our troops continue an increasing struggle there. The President wants more money for the war effort, and many in the government and military are calling for more troops.

Hmmm. We're stuck, we keep struggling, and the more we struggle, the deeper we get.

Certainly sounds like a textbook definition of "quagmire" to me....


Friday, May 14, 2004

"Excluded By Their Own Choices"

An article in the Associated Baptist Press (link) about amending the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage presents the following quote:
"Gays are not excluded from the benefits of marriage by others; they have been excluded by their own choices," said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), the chief House sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, in a May 13 hearing on the proposal.

Well, to begin with, Musgrave's contention rests on the counter-factual idea that homosexuality is a choice, not inborn. But even if you accept that premise, Musgrave's statement is still idiotic.

Suppose one were to propose a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting marriage between Baptists. Would it make any sense at all to say "Baptists are not excluded from the benefits of marriage by others; they have been excluded by their own choices"? Religion, after all, is clearly a matter of individual choice.

Sure, freedom of religious choice is presumably protected by the First Amendment, but we're talking here about another Amendment. It could easily be written in such a way as to acknowledge and trump the First. But let that go, too. Instead, let's ban marriage between Ford drivers, or people who live in yellow houses, or those who own dogs. If Musgrave stood up and said, "Those who drive Fords are not excluded from the benefits of marriage by others; they have been excluded by their own choices," she would be laughed off the House floor (I never knows).

Of course, without picking on Musgrave personally, I have known plenty of religious believers who would see nothing wrong with banning marriage for other denominations. I certainly know Catholics who would vote tomorrow for an amendment banning Baptist marriages...

And just this morning the local NPR station was doing a "Brown v. Board of Education" retrospective. They interviewed an old geezer in Virginia who was the president of the school board at the time. This man had closed all public schools in the district rather than integrate. When asked why, he said that he was concerned that the black teenagers and the white teenagers would be sexually attracted to one another, and it would lead to interracial marriage. One could almost see him spit as he continued, saying that he still doesn't think interracial marriage is right.

They're always trumpeting polls that say 60% (or 70%, or 92.7% -- pick a number) of Americans are against gay marriage. I wonder what results we'd see if pollsters asked about interracial marriages, or marriages between people of different religious faiths? I'm betting that the numbers would be a lot higher than any of us would care to predict. All of which is irrelevant, other than to show why questions of social justice cannot and should not be resolved by majority vote.

I've just finished reading Gay Marriage: Why it is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America by Jonathan Rauch. The book makes some great points, particularly when talking about the fundamental question of what "marriage" means and what it's for. After examining several concepts (childbearing and rearing, economic advantage, sex), he argues persuasively that in today's society, the sine qua non of marriage is two people promising to take care of one another. As evidence, he offers the following familiar quote:
" have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part."

Pretty damned definitive, eh?

Fortunately, marriage for gays is coming, and nothing Musgrave or anyone else can do will stop it. And in fifty years, when Musgrave is a bitter old geezer sitting in her Colorado home, she will probably tell an NPR reporter that she still doesn't think gay marriage is right. And the audience will shake their heads, almost unable to believe that someone so pathetically stupid had ever held a position of responsibility in society.

I hope I'm there to see it.


God's Will

I am always amazed at how little faith many religious people have in the power of their God.

Take the death penalty. The Christian Right is adamant in its support of the death penalty. After all, it's so Biblical...eye-for-an-eye and all that.

But if they really believed in the power of their God, they would leave the matter in His hands. Believe me, if an omnipotent God wants someone dead, then that person will die. (Look at Father John Geoghan, for instance. The State put him in prison; apparently God wanted him dead, so he died.)

Take abortion. The Christian Right, the Catholic Church, and others assure us that abortion is contrary to the will of God.

But again, they show a remarkable lack of faith in God. If God wanted that fetus to live, then it would live. Simple as that.

Here are people who profess to believe in an omnipotent God who has performed some of the most amazing miracles: Noah's Flood, the Plagues of Egypt, splitting the Red Sea, raising the dead, multiplying loaves and fishes. They profess to believe in a God who, someday soon, will bodily lift thousands into the heavens, and then start on a course of miracles that will dwarf the greatest Hollywood special-effects movies. And yet they also believe that this omnipotent God is so feeble that He needs help to kill a murderer, or to save the life of an unborn child.

Why do these people think that God needs their help? That, in fact, He can't do His job without their help? Isn't that more than a little hubristic, claiming that they can do God's job better than He can?

It is God's power and privilege, they tell us, to mete out life and death. By claiming God's power for themselves, aren't these people setting themselves up in the place of God? Don't their Ten Commandments have something to say about that? Does the word "blasphemy" ring a bell?

Of course, by the same logic, God must not be very upset with these folks. If He were, then He'd stop them doing what they're doing. Apparently, God is ignoring them.

Good idea, God.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

"At Least We Don't Behead People"

Maureen Dowd has a great editorial in the New York Times today (link), in wich she talks about the U.S. in Iraq, prisoner abuse, and such. Among many cogent statements is this one:

The Bush hawks, so fixated on making the Middle East look more like America, have made America look un-American. Should we really be reduced to defending ourselves by saying at least we don't behead people?

Ever since the Sixties, some of us have been saying that war is an atrocity -- not so much because of the death and destruction, but because of the way we human beings behave in war. Or, as someone has surely said, it's not what war does to the defeated, as what it does to the conquerors. In this case, in Dowd's phrase, this war has made America look un-American.

If we are to go to war (and I do believe that there are circumstances under which war is justifiable and even necessary), then at least let it truly be a last resort, and let us remain always conscious of the potential of war to turn us into monsters, and guard against that potential.

When will they ever learn?


What To Say To Kids

Today the Boston Globe has an article titled "What to say to kids about Iraq images" (link)

Ah, for the simpler days, when all one had to explain to kids was oral sex, alternate uses for cigars, and other consensual adult behaviors. Now it's physical abuse of prisoners, psychological torture and humiliation, rape...and assurances of worse to come.


Great Line for Presidential Debate

I have a great line for John Kerry to use during a Presidential election debate. I leave it to Mr. Kerry to decide when to use it.

"I suppose you'll be wanting a Constitutional Amendment for that, too."


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Soros Book

Currently reading The Bubble of American Supremacy by George Soros.
This is a very intelligent man, and his words are pearls of wisdom. In fact, he gives voice to the very same ideas and opinions that are circulating through the greatest minds of our time, namely yours truly. In his preface, Soros says:
I contend that the Bush administration has deliberately exploited September 11 in order to pursue policies that the American public would not have otherwise tolerated. The Bush dream of American supremacy is both unattainable and in contradiction with the principles that America has traditionally stood for. It endangers our values as well as our security. And it endangers the world because America is so powerful.

And Soros might just as well be talking in the Ivory Madonna's own voice when he succinctly makes one of my favorite important points:
The government of the most powerful country on earth has fallen into the hands of extremists who are guided by a crude form of social Darwinism: Life is a struggle for survival, and we must rely mainly on the use of force to survive. This is a distorted view: The survival of the fittest depends on cooperation as well as competition.

I've been telling you people the same thing for years, but does anyone ever listen to me?

Soros doesn't just carp and complain, he lays out a rational and effective framework for taking the USA and the world in a better direction than the one we're on.

Good book. Important book. Read it.


Ralph Nader

From AP today (Link)
Nader Wins Endorsement From Reform Party
WASHINGTON - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has been endorsed by the national Reform Party, giving him ballot access in eight states, including Florida and Michigan, party leaders announced Wednesday.

One wonders -- exactly what is Nader receiving from the Bush camp as his payoff?
And why does he think that they'll keep their promises, once he's won them the Presidency?



What We've Become

On Sept. 11, 2001, the United States suffered an unprovoked attack, upon our own soil, which left over three thousand civilians dead. The criminal mastermind behind this attack remains at large.

In response, the U.S. has conducted an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, upon Iraqi soil, which has left over three thousand civilians dead. The mastermind behind this invasion remains in the White House.

In the name of fighting monsters, George W. Bush and his cronies have turned the U.S. into the same kind of monster.