July 30, 2004

John Kerry and stuff

I haven't blogged in a while. We were out of state for my grandmother's memorial service. It was a good thing, though fraught with other emotional family issues. Still glad I went, but came back completely exhausted.

Missed most of the DNC convention, which is just fine with me. As my friend Anglican notes, these conventions have a weird vibe to them. A little too reminiscent of revivals and other crowd manipulations. But I have read a bit about speeches here and there. Liked Clinton's acknowledgement that he is now a millionaire and has benefitted greatly from Republican policies. Nice touch. Like everyone else, was impressed with what I saw of Obama's speech. Like others, I am increasingly disgusted by the media and their inability to cover anything. Jon Stewart had a great bit the other night on how the media covered the Sharpton speech--including Howard Fineman charging that Sharpton was alienating black people. It was just stupid, and you realize just how horrible it is that these media people are celebrities. Hell, give me some of the celebrities. I am far more interested in hearing what John Cusack thinks than what Chris Matthews thinks.

So, Kerry. I watched it last night. First speech I have watched from beginning to end. I loved it. I thought he said all the things I wanted to hear. I liked that he said "reporting for duty" at the beginning--a clear reference to Bush and his "drinkfest through the National Guard." He was engaging, animated, and intense. And articulate. Is it too much to want a president who values reading? Who can put an argument together? Who is interested in ideas?

July 20, 2004

Positive Liberty: The Question: "At just about every cocktail party I've ever attended with non-historians, I get.... The Question:

'So, what do you do?'

'I'm a historian,' I say.

They make a face. It could hardly be worse if I'd said I was a dentist.

'I hated history so much in high school. And you know? I didn't have to take history at all in college.'"

Ah yes, the question. Otherwise known as the preface to the "what can you do with a history degree" question. In my experience, the revulstion expressed above is less common than the feigned interest followed by the lecture on some point of history. I remember an exchange with a family member on some historical issue.

[Me] "and the historical consensus is such and such."

[relative nodding head thoughtfully] "I don't know if I buy that."

It isn't that the Ph.D. makes me above reproach or means that I know everything. God knows that I don't, and I am more aware of what I don't know than what I do. But what makes non-historians so aware of the issues that they can either accept or reject? Do they talk to the cell biologist the same way? The engineer? Do they engage system administrators on the differing effectiveness of Solaris v. Linux?

Why are they so very ready to reject my interpretation of the American West?

July 19, 2004

BillOReilly.com: Articles - The Price of Freedom: "And the verbal violence on display daily by partisan fanatics is growing more despicable by the moment. Michael Moore and his acolytes hide behind the 'dissent' label, but they are not dissenters, they're destroyers. Moore has been quoted as saying capitalism is 'diabolical,' even as he trucks his millions to the bank. By the way, did you know that associates of Hezbollah want to help distribute Moore's movie in the Middle East? What does that tell you?"

Hmm, Bill. I believe that these same people loved Mel's Passion movie too. Hmm. Does that make Mel Gibson part of the Fifth Column? I never trusted that guy.

The truth is that America is a great country striving to protect itself in an ungrateful and dangerous world. We, the people, have sacrificed blood and money so others could have a chance in life. Yet many teenagers in Canada are convinced we are an evil nation. The powers-that-be in Canada should be ashamed that their young people are so ignorant but I know they are not. Ignorance, you see, is most often a contagious disease."

You all know people like this. They are never responsible for anything. The people who dislike them are just jealous and ungrateful. People like O'Reilly make America that kind of bully and jerk--the guy who pushes everyone around and then is shocked, SHOCKED, when someone doesn't like him.

The sad truth is that we are a great nation--despite people like O'Reilly and his buddies at the F-word network. We do a lot to help people around the world and can do even more. But we have also made some pretty serious errors in judgement and have succombed to greed and arrogance more than once. Some people undoubtedly hate us because they are jealous, but many hate us because we have bombed them or exploited them.

July 17, 2004

Lancaster Online.com: News : Bush quietly meets with Amish here; they offer their prayers: "At the end of the session, Bush reportedly told the group, “I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.’’"

This bugs me. I don't have a problem with politicians having or expressing their faith. But believing that as President, God speaks through him strikes me as problematic. Or worse.

July 16, 2004

oh good god

This is where a lot of the anti-gay stuff comes from, I am sure. so
glad the guy relies on teh Family Research Council for his facts. It
has "research" right there in the name, after all.


> The common thread that ties these studies together is that not one
> produced any result that established a biological link to sexual
> orientation. What has been shown is that the most prevalent common
> denominators in homosexual orientation are dysfunctional relationships
> with the same-sex parent and early childhood sexual abuse. Three
> facts about homosexuality are indisputable:
> * There is no scientific evidence that supports the conclusion
> that homosexuality is inborn or that it is unchangeable.
> * A person can be seduced into the homosexual lifestyle.
> * A person can leave the homosexual lifestyle and live a fully
> productive and fulfilling heterosexual life, albeit not without
> difficulty, as with any life-altering addiction.

Really? One might add that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that homosexuality is learned behavior either. At least not that I am aware of. I am also not sure that the scientific lit supports the third claim that people can actually not be gay. The second point is probably correct, at least partially, in that youths who are sexually ambiguous and confused might "experiment" and so they might be the people that are used to support claim three. But those who are gay from birth aren't changing.

the historical stuff here is really inadequate as well. Sexuality is such a complicated idea, and for this numbnuts writer to say that because the word homosexuality was used in such and such a manner and didn't come into usage until the 1930s means that homosexuals don't actually exist, is ridiculous and stupid. And ignorant. and stupid.

There is a lot of stuff written on this subject, and the historical scholarship seems to suggest that the line between gay and straight was far more blurred in the 19th century--especially for women. Lot of evidence of women (with families and husbands) expressing love for other women in ways that would be clearly assumed as gay now, but was not then. It is in the early years of the 20th century when people started freaking out about the family that the lines become more rigid. And that family freakout occurred for a lot of reasons--immigration, birth control, changing roles for women, etc.

July 15, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Butler condemns 'flawed intelligence': "Mr Blair today accepted Lord Butler's conclusions in full and admitted to the house that the evidence against Iraq was 'less certain, less well founded than stated at the time'. He accepted full personal responsibility for any mistakes made in good faith.

Mr Blair, who has previously admitted that WMD 'may never be found' in Iraq, said: 'It seems increasingly clear that at the time of the invasion Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy.'

However, he added: 'I cannot honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all. Iraq, the region, the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam.'"

I am not sure I accept Tony Blair's last statement, but believe he believes it. I am struck by the way that he admitted that he probably oversold the intelligence. Hmm. I wonder what his counterpart in the US did? You think he will say that he might have been less than rigorous? Or maybe overstated the threat? Highly doubtful.

July 14, 2004

ABCNEWS.com : Red Cross Fears U.S. Is Hiding Detainees: "The international Red Cross said Tuesday that it fears U.S. officials are holding terror suspects secretly in locations across the world.

The Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare require the United States to give the Red Cross access to prisoners of war and other detainees."

So what gives here? Does anyone really believe that this administration a) is above doing this and b) will respond to requests from the IRC? I imagine something like this going on:

[Administration lackey staffer]Mr. Vice President, the IRC is requesting assistance finding some prisoners that they haven't seen and don't know where they are.

[Vice President Cheney] Fuck the Red Cross pansies. Who are they to question us about anything? They should keep to ringing bells outside department stores.

[Lackey] That might be the Salvation Army.

[VP] Yeah? Well, they can fuck off too.

July 9, 2004

Hell if I know

Feeling a bit melancholy tonight. Not sure why. Maybe it is the reality of watching someone close to you go through a horrible experience--one that is mostly their fault. This is someone that 10 years ago, I would have called you a liar to your face if you had predicted this. Hard to tell about life.

Was on my own tonight. Made myself some dinner and watched a film: The Station Agent. This is a really good film. I don't know how to describe it and this isn't a review, but I really liked this film. About dignity, seeing life in a different way, and about suffering the indignity of stupidty. The main character is a little person, and one of the most compelling and interesting characters I have seen on film.

Life is a weird mystery. Watch this film. Connect to those around you.

July 7, 2004

the government

Was reading some blogs this afternoon. Brad DeLong has an ongoing discussion on why we deserve a better press corps. This morning, he talks about Grover Norquist's ability to push out the anti-tax message that says that we are working for the government until some made-up date. Delong points out that that government provides the police and fire and ems that protect all of us. That government provides roads, hospitals, libraries, etc. We don't work for them, they work (in a very positive way) for us.

I know that you all know that. I also had coffee with a colleague this morning and we talked about Reagan's funeral and legacy. He mentioned that one of Reagan's most negative "contributions" was this all-out attack on government. We all understand (and even agree) that government can be incredibly bloated and inefficient. I don't know anyone here who would like to see the government make cars, guns,
planes, etc. We all understand that the private sector, while having its own problems, is much better suited at creating goods at competitive prices and qualities. But the problem with the Reagan legacy is that he really downplayed and demeaned public service. I don't think that is a good thing for our democracy. I really am not comfortable with the idea of our best and brightest only going to serve in the private sector to make the highest return.

Anyway, I hope we can find a middle ground--one where we note the benefits of public service and even the good that government can do, while recognizing its limitations.

July 5, 2004

Tivo, Bush and Parliament

I have a Tivo now. For some reason last night, it decided that I might want to watch the House of Commons show on CSPAN. Who am I to question the wisdom of Tivo? Well, anyway, I watched. I had seen glimpses of it before, but never sat down and really watched. Amazing. Blair sitting down on the floor, receiving question after question--from health care to education, to prisoner rights in Gitmo, from AIDS to elections in Indonesia. He was masterful. He responded with clarity and on every occasion demonstrated that he knew what was going on in his government.

I couldn't help it. I imagined a Trading Governments show on the Learning Channel. Bush having to switch roles with Blair, and the show would be amazing too. I know, I know. It isn't fair to criticize Bush for being inarticulate. Blah, blah. He is smarter than he appears. Well, he would have to be, wouldn't he? Take away Blair's obvious charm and speaking ability and just imagine Bush having to answer detailed and confrontative questions from the House. Imagine him not being able to act insulted whenever someone doubted his intentions or questioned his policies. Imagine him having to counter with more than platitudes about "loving freedom," and "war footing."

It made me feel sad. It is as if we have returned to the monarchy days when the leader of our country is beyond reproach or question. One must not question him or hold him accountable. One should only believe that he has our best interest at heart. It felt sad that Britain had a better demonstration of democracy than we do.

July 1, 2004

Both of them

Or, aka, the braintrust behind this blog. Pictures of them makes me far happier than anything in the news.
Originally uploaded by streak541.
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Link to streak541's Flickr profile Posted by streak541 from Flickr.


Obsidian Wings: Bringing in the Sheep: "I abhor mixing religion and politics. There are few things on this earth less spiritual than politics in my opinion and the closer the two come together, the more those in the church make bad decisions for their congregations."

I thought this was a good statement of why mixing church and state is so problematic. And we are seeing this--that the mixing doesn't really help either side. It confuses political situations when a ruthless thug like Tom Delay can be credited for being Christian--and it hurts churches who can't see the difference between their politics and their faith.