Monday, January 31, 2005

Dobson puts his metaphorical foot in his mouth...


If you believed the media after having heard me and read my books for years, the question I would ask is, "Why?"

Uh, because you're a liar?

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Panda's Thumb Picks up the Opinon Journal Piece - & Newsweek Speaks a Truth....


And apparently there's a fair and balanced Newsweek piece, too!

Eighty years after the Scopes trial, in which a Tennessee high-school teacher was convicted of violating a state law against teaching evolution, Americans are still fighting the slur that they share an ancestry with apes.

Slur? I guess the apes would be insulted at sharing an ancestry with humans, but...?

This time, though, the battle is being waged under a new banner—not the Book of Genesis, but "intelligent design," a critique of evolution couched in the language of science. And in this debate, both sides claim to be upholding the principle of free inquiry. Proponents of I.D., clustered around a Seattle think tank called the Discovery Institute, regard it as an overdue challenge to Darwinism's monopoly over scientific discourse. "To say, as Darwinians do, that everything has to be reduced to a chemical reaction is more ideology than science," asserts Discovery's John West. Opponents, led by the Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Science Education, regard I.D. as an assault on a basic principle of the Enlightenment, that science must explain nature through natural causes. "Intelligent design is predicated on a supernatural creator," says Vic Walczak, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging Dover's introduction of the concept into biology classes. "That's not science, it's religion."...

A 2002 resolution by the American Association for the Advancement of Science called I.D. "an interesting philosophical or theological concept," but not one that should be taught in science classes. In fact, the Discovery Institute doesn't call for teaching I.D. in school either, only the "controversy" over Darwinism. But most scientists don't believe there is one. The institute's "Scientific Dissent From Darwinism," whose operative sentence reads "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life," has been signed by about 350 scientists. (AAAS has 120,000 members.) Scott's organization has circulated a countermanifesto asserting that "there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is [the] major mechanism ... " As a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, they signed up only scientists named Steve. At last count they had 528.Behe points out that while most Christians accept a God who set the universe in motion according to natural laws, evolution raises more difficult existential questions. People want to feel that God cares for them personally. British biologist Richard Dawkins has written that Darwin's theory "made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." But that's not what most Americans want for their children. Margaret Evans, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, has studied religious beliefs in children and seen the appeal of creationism. "We are biased toward seeing the world as stable and purposeful," she says. "I don't know what to believe," one parent told her. "I just want my child to go to heaven."

(Emphasis mine)
It comes down to not accepting what seems to be, if only tentatively, but rather whining for what one wants, apparently.

Now I am reassured...

Michael Jackson Calls Pre-trial Leaks 'False.'

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Check out Brent Rasmussen's blog

Because it's reality based.

I'd also second his sentiments here...

Iraq is screwed up strategically, tactically, morally, and there's very little chance that anything good will come out of the elections, but I do wish them a more peaceful and better life than they've known since at least the Mongols visited.

Collapse...The NYT "PC" Review..


These conservatives seem to get everywhere. I'd always been intrigued, but have never read, Jared Daimond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel." I though it was somewhat obvious and high level, judging the book by the cover...

Anyhow, the NY Times Reviews Diamond's next work, "Collapse" today...but first reviewer Gregg Easterbrook tells us why "Guns Germs and Steel" was postmodern, therfore baaad...

Diamond's analysis discounts culture and human thought as forces in history; culture, especially, is seen as a side effect of environment. The big problem with this view is explaining why China -- which around the year 1000 was significantly ahead of Europe in development, and possessed similar advantages in animals and plants -- fell behind. This happened, Diamond says, because China adopted a single-ruler society that banned change. True, but how did environment or animal husbandry dictate this? China's embrace of a change-resistant society was a cultural phenomenon. During the same period China was adopting centrally regimented life, Europe was roiled by the idea of individualism. Individualism proved a potent force, a source of power, invention and motivation. Yet Diamond considers ideas to be nearly irrelevant, compared with microbes and prevailing winds. Supply the right environmental conditions, and inevitably there will be a factory manufacturing jet engines.

I'm just a simple Buddhist Ph.D. engineer with wife and child, but even I know that China's history is dictated by its geography (lots of open borders with hostile barbarians, earthquakes and floods).

China hit upon a recipe to try to be robust against catastrophe (that is, conditions impacted ideology), of which they'd know plenty. Unfortunately the robustness against catastrophe led to ideological mummification.

If Easterbrook is ignorant of as simple a thing as how Confucianism came to be and came to be maintained, what is he doing reviewing a history book?

What he said...


Bill Gates, the world's richest person with a net worth of $46.6 billion, is betting against the U.S. dollar.

``I'm short the dollar,'' Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., told Charlie Rose in an interview in front of an audience of about 200 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``The ol' dollar, it's gonna go down.''

Gates's comments reflect the same view as his friend Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has bet against the currency since 2002. Buffett said last week that the country's trade gap will probably further weaken the dollar, which fell 21 percent against a basket of six major currencies between January 2002 and the end of last year.

``It is a bit scary,'' Gates said. ``We're in uncharted territory when the world's reserve currency has so much outstanding debt.''

This seems to be "I don't often agree with..." day... but I don't and today I do...

Interesting link on


Say what you will, but don't say secular organizations don't do charity, at least now.

The Strange Case of Richard Sternberg and His Apologists

Sorry folks, but this needs to be said, and I can't seem to get conditional tags to work properly...they sort of

Once again, Joe Carter's shilling "intelligent" "design" again, and attacking scientists (and some of his commenters are attempting to deny that engineers aren't applied scientists.)

Carter thinks there's this big conspiracy in "science" to suppress "radical" "new" "ideas" like "intelligent" "design."

He has - in the name of his beliefs- descended into baseless attacks on scientists, engineers, that is, the people who basically brought the world out of poverty, misery, disease, and dirt.


Kevin T. Keith gives a good assist over at Carter's post. Especially of interest is the article from The Scientist he quotes; which essentially corroborates what I've said below the fold. What I also suspected, but didn't write is pointed out there too: this publication is a little-read biology publication. It appears this is an element of the "wedge" strategy to take control of the editorial process of a research journal, in the same manner that school boards were taken over by stealth methods. It's a pretty damning indictment of the ethics of those involved, or should I say lack of ethics.

I also thank the other scientists and engineers who've responded to Carter's diatribe.

Click here for more!

Carter cites the case of one Louis de Branges, who claims to have a proof for the Riemann hypothesis. The proof, if it is one, can be found here.

I am just a poor Buddhist Ph.D. in engineering with a wife and child; I'd have to read two books in topology and devote a great deal of time to study de Branges proof, but it is, on a cursory reading, quite badly written. Proofs should be "perspicuous," that is, the structure and flow of the proof's ideas should be graspable in large measure, and the over-arching ideas should be strung together with a series of lemmas to make the proof easy to follow in broad and detailed examination. Unfortunately, de Branges' work doesn't do that. Furthermore, the fact that he'd previously been claiming to have "proofs" when he didn't hurt his case.

So, Joe Carter: de Branges is not a good example to use. You should educate yourself before making sweeping generalizations.

But the meat of Carter's post is concerned with this "Opinion Journal" piece, which in its Orwellian way, is describing a witch hunt against scientists who dared to question how Richard Sternberg snuck into a journal on taxonomy a "review" of "intelligent" "design," evidently so they could say they finally, at long last, have a "peer-reviewed" paper on the subject, even if they have never gone near answering the copious charges made by scientists against this pseudo-science.

Anyone can see the article here. This article's lack of an abstract is a giveaway- evidently this was to be a stealth activity, since abstracts are published online and separately for this journal (and for pretty much all academic journals). This is so the article can be referenced by other researchers. But that wasn't the point of this article. This article- by its own words a "review" re-hashes articles previously brought up by those folks like Behe and Dembski, and conveniently ignore the charges made against them.

Sternberg did bad science - those marks are evident here and he should be the one under investigation for theft of services, making false reprorts, etc.

Panda's Thumb reviewed the article here. It seems that Carter has been shilling this "research" before, judging from that post.

And Joe Carter owes the scientific community an apology.

The New Intolerance...

I don't often link to a Counterpunch article- they're often quite far gone- but in this case, I thin they're dead on:

Do you consider intolerance a bad thing? A sin or a hostile trait, perhaps? Something that sounds like the opposite of Jesus' loving, thoughtful attitudes and behaviors as he talked, feasted and prayed with prostitutes and shady characters? Did you take from the parable of the Good Samaritan the lesson that you should be tolerant and accepting of, even go out of your way to help, those who don't believe as you do?

If you answered yes to these questions, you're in for a rude awakening. Conservative Christianity has morphed into Old Testament rigidity and eternally enforced morality, not guided nor even tempered by the interpersonal acceptance, tolerance of social outcasts, and deeper spiritual understanding that Jesus taught and modeled.

Rather than throw up our hands at this ominous glorification of intolerance in conservative churches, sometimes preached on a spiritual level but nearly always enacted at the physical/political level, we'd better discover and understand how their leaders are persuading people to promote curbs on freedom and perpetual "culture war". Only then can we appeal to the moderates within those churches who've gotten swept up into a tide of political antagonism with which they're not really comfortable.

There's a new code for intolerance, and it's not always in-your-face the way James Dobson so often is. Here's an example from the promo for a book by his son Ryan (whom I always pitied after reading about the terrible whippings he endured at the hands of his father, who whipped their tiny dachshund with a belt, as well): Featuring an angry-looking white man on the cover, it's titled simply, Be Intolerant:

Are there times when Christians shouldn't be tolerant? Dobson says yes---if "tolerance" means "willing to accept any version of right and wrong because there is no absolute truth." Find out why this impassioned youth speaker believes Christianity and moral absolutes go hand-in-hand---and why the church must communicate this to the up-and-coming generation.

This is behind their attacks on science: when science contradicts their "absolute truth," their recourse is to attack science.

It's sick.

座禅 中


Friday, January 28, 2005

Merger Mania

Procter Reaches $57 Billion Deal to Buy Gillette

Molson Shareholders Vote for Coors Merger

Dial M for Merger...

If SBC Communications buys AT&T, the reunion of two players in the old Bell system could set off a round of mergers in the rapidly consolidating phone industry.

Now for a blog trend...Auschwitz vs. "Merger."...

"Scientists are witches!"


First they came for atheists, saying they were a religion. Then they came for "secular humanists," claiming they were a religion.

Now, they're coming for scientists...

From Bartholomew: the past four years religious conservatives across the USA have learnt a lot about how to present their case: methodological naturalism is just “bias”; this is a battle of democracy against “elitism”.

Let's give equal time then to psychics-on-psychic-hot-lines, snake-oil salesman, and creationists.

It turns out that this sickness seems to be spreading. Check out Macht's comments on this post on Evangelical Outpost. The willingness to deny that there exists a scientific method is extremely dangerous for Americans.

書道: Jan 28

"Happy New Year."

A good one from Brad de Long


It's not "your" money they "confiscate" in your witholding taxes.

I've always had another argument: what you agree to as your "salary" includes what is already "confiscated" by the government.

So, no you're not "entitled" to it, you negotiated it away as part of your employment package...

Irony/Hypocrisy alert...


One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column,"Ethics & Religion," [emphasis mine] appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed [emphasis mine].
Click here

Responding to the latest revelation, Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS, announced Thursday that HHS would institute a new policy that forbids the agency from hiring any outside expert or consultant who has any working affiliation with the media. "I needed to draw this bright line," Horn tells Salon. "The policy is being implemented and we're moving forward."...

...McManus, who could not be reached for comment, was paid approximately $10,000 for his work as a subcontractor to the Lewin Group, a health care consultancy hired by HHS to implement the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, which encourages communities to combat divorce through education and counseling. McManus provided training during two-day conferences in Chattanooga, Tenn., and also made presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences. His syndicated column has appeared in such papers as the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer.

But wait! There's more:

With this column, I complete 20 years of writing ''Ethics & Religion.'' This is a good time to quote some of my critics, and try to answer them.

Richard Brownlee, General Presbyter of South Louisiana was offended by a column that said his denomination took ''steps toward apostasy'' at its General Assembly. He asked me for my ''credentials.'' ''Who authorized you to speak? To whom are you accountable?''

Those are fair questions. He went to a seminary and is far more qualified academically than I, who never went to a seminary. No one authorized me to speak. I am accountable to the newspapers who can cancel this column with only 30 days notice.

Ultimately, I am accountable to you, the readers.

I am a journalist who began my career 40 years ago as a reporter for small papers and was a TIME correspondent. In 1977 I began writing an economic and political column. While doing so, I heard a sermon in which my pastor asked, ''What are you doing to serve the Lord? Consider taking your talent and experience that makes you unique as a person to serve Him.''

That prompted me to consider starting Ethics & Religion. At first, I dismissed the idea because I had not been to seminary. Nor had I covered religion. It seemed arrogant to start a column with no training and no experience. But I had been a reporter covering complex national issues for two decades and I had gone to a good church, which inspired me to serve the Lord.

After 20 years, I feel qualified to judge apostasy. Webster's defines it as ''an abandoning of what one has believed in.''

Prisons are built with the Stones of Law, Brothels with the Bricks of Religion- William Blake

The fear of the "intelligent" "design" crowd...

A blog called Ex Nihilo circles around the "intelligent" "design" vs. evolution issue that really lurks in the back of the conservatives' minds: the ol' Nieztchean Thus Spake Zarathustra stuff about the death of god.

The idea that there can be a morality, and an ethic based on what we know and don't know, where we are, seems to evade these folks.

And the subtext is clear: if there's no i.d., then they should not believe...

But also buttressing that belief, it seems is the belief that with them personally and with society as a whole all hell will break loose if their religious construction proves to be faulty.

I would humbly suggest to them that they try harder.

(via Carter).

Social Security Privateers Rely on Innumeracy

I can't believe that we need an economics Ph.D. like Paul Krugman to point this out:

This week, in a closed meeting with African-Americans, Mr. Bush asserted that Social Security was a bad deal for their race, repeating his earlier claim that "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people." In other words, blacks don't live long enough to collect their fair share of benefits....

Mr. Bush's argument goes back at least seven years, to a report issued by the Heritage Foundation - a report so badly misleading that the deputy chief actuary (now the chief actuary) of the Social Security Administration wrote a memo pointing out "major errors in the methodology." That's actuary-speak for "damned lies."

In fact, the actuary said, "careful research reflecting actual work histories for workers by race indicate that the nonwhite population actually enjoys the same or better expected rates of return from Social Security" as whites.

Here's why. First, Mr. Bush's remarks on African-Americans perpetuate a crude misunderstanding about what life expectancy means. It's true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years - but that doesn't mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years - not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men.

Second, the formula determining Social Security benefits is progressive: it provides more benefits, as a percentage of earnings, to low-income workers than to high-income workers. Since African-Americans are paid much less, on average, than whites, this works to their advantage.

Finally, Social Security isn't just a retirement program; it's also a disability insurance program. And blacks are much more likely than whites to receive disability benefits.

Put it all together, and the deal African-Americans get from Social Security turns out, according to various calculations, to be either about the same as that for whites or somewhat better. Hispanics, by the way, clearly do better than either.

By assuming that every statistical outcome is the same as the mean outcome Bush and his friends rely on the ignorance of Americans in math and statistics

Incidentally, William Dembski relies similarly on the innumeracy of his audience and is a bit less honest about, in my opinion (see here and here.)

Yep. The Social Security "reform" and "intelligent" "design" crowds use the same lack of reasoning.

Atrios, cut the guy some slack, even if he is a war criminal...

I generally like Atrios, and think he's dead on most of the time.

This one, however, I've got to say, is too much.

Cheney visited Oswiecm. Cheney dressed warm (or maybe forgot to dress warm and was given air-force issue parka warm clothes.) Cheney did not dress as formally, in Atrios's opinion as others.

I'm willing to say Cheney's not an anti-Pole, anti-semite for the followng reasons:

1. Formal wear can be horrible at thermal protection.

2. Poland can be damned cold in the winter.

3. Cheney has a health condition.

I'd say the same thing about Clinton.


He should have probably been more etiquette concious- as one commenter pointed out, Poles are big on etiquette.

But, I still have to say, if given a choice between ditching etiquette or freezing, I'd do the former, still.

I still hope it's not ironic...

Atrios points to a letter of apology from Billie Miller here.

She was the subject of one of my blog entries here.

I still hope it's on the level. But, I woke up on the wrong side of bed this morning and I'm not so sure. Was this a set-up to generate a storm of pro-tolerance letters? And if so, was that a good thing or a bad thing? I'm tempted to think it's on the up-and-up, though you can't really tell. Ah, the old problem with literalism raises its head. We cannot tell if Billie Miller was satirical, ironic, or on the up-and-up, and even now we can't.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Blog trends of the day...

James Dobson, "Intelligent" "Design" and Social Security

Even though there might be attempts to shift the focus of the conversation, Iraq and Social Security should be front and center.

And here's a shocker, at least to me:

Condoleeza Rice vs. Alberto Gonzales

"Reality Based" vs. "Delusion- Based"

I think "faith-based" insults people of faith, actually...

Call for contributions
Folks, if you have any to add, please do. I'll add as many as you got. Oh, and delusion-based folks? Don't worry, we'll get it right...

Reality Based Delusion Based
Iraq: No WMDs Found WMDs Found
Social Security is more sound than the budget Social Security is in crisis
Evolution is a science "Intelligent" "design" is a science
Global warming is real Global warming is an enviromentalist fantasy
No link between abortion and breast cancer Link between abortion and breast cancer
SpongeBob is a cartoon character SpongeBob is the bearer of an "insidious agenda"
Making federal tax cuts permanent will cause deficits for the forseeable future Making tax cuts permanent (and spending cuts) (and ignoring all expenditures for the War On Terror[tm])will halve the budget deficit in five years
Diverting Social Security taxes into private accounts will either bankrupt the program or require benefit cuts and only enrich Wall Street with management fees.
Diverting Social Securty taxes will increase the benefits paid to retirees because the stock market always goes up.

The "miracle" of Chile


Under the Chilean program - which President Bush has cited as a model for his plans to overhaul Social Security - the promise was that such investments, by helping to spur economic growth and generating higher returns, would deliver monthly pension benefits larger than what the traditional system could offer.

But now that the first generation of workers to depend on the new system is beginning to retire, Chileans are finding that it is falling far short of what was originally advertised under the authoritarian government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

For all the program's success in economic terms, the government continues to direct billions of dollars to a safety net for those whose contributions were not large enough to ensure even a minimum pension approaching $140 a month. Many others - because they earned much of their income in the underground economy, are self-employed, or work only seasonally - remain outside the system altogether. Combined, those groups constitute roughly half the Chilean labor force. Only half of workers are captured by the system.

Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts - burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment - are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.

Dagoberto Sáez, for example, is a 66-year-old laboratory technician here who plans, because of a recent heart attack, to retire in March. He earns just under $950 a month; his pension fund has told him that his nearly 24 years of contributions will finance a 20-year annuity paying only $315 a month.

"Colleagues and friends with the same pay grade who stayed in the old system, people who work right alongside me," he said, "are retiring with pensions of almost $700 a month - good until they die. I have a salary that allows me to live with dignity, and all of a sudden I am going to be plunged into poverty, all because I made the mistake of believing the promises they made to us back in 1981."...

Over all, Chile has spent more than $66 billion on benefits since privatization was introduced. Despite initial projections that the system would be self-sustaining by now, spending on pensions makes up more than a quarter of the national budget, nearly as much as the spending on education and health combined....

The problems have emerged despite what all here agree is the main strength of the privatized system: an average 10 percent annual return on investments. Those results have been achieved by the pension funds largely through the purchase of stocks and corporate and government bonds - investments that helped fuel an economic expansion giving Chile the highest growth rate in Latin America over the last 20 years...

Among the complaints most often heard here is that contributors are forced to pay exorbitant commissions to the pension funds. Exactly how much goes to such fees is a subject of debate, but a recent World Bank study calculated that a quarter to a third of all contributions paid by a person retiring in 2000 would have gone to pay such charges...

overnment officials like Mr. Larraín and Mr. Scolari acknowledge that "commissions are high and need to come down." They say that "more competition is needed" to foster lower fees. But existing regulations frustrate the creation of new funds - something that seems just fine to pension funds that have become a powerful political and economic force.

"The dynamic of the market," Mr. Larraín said, "is one of consolidation and concentration."

Somebody else said it in a different context, I think, but it's certainly true. What Mr. Larrain is saying is that privatized Social Security would only work if capitalism doesn't work.

Talk about confidence schemes...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

While some folks are still rah-rahing the USA after Iraq...

Yet more evidence that we are falling apart.

This is beyond the pale...they really don't like the 14th Ammendment...

I came across this editorial in the NY Times today...

If you're going to call a book "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History," readers will expect some serious carrying on about race, and Thomas Woods Jr. does not disappoint. He fulminates against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, best known for forcing restaurants and bus stations in the Jim Crow South to integrate, and against Brown v. Board of Education. And he offers up some curious views on the Civil War - or "the War of Northern Aggression," a name he calls "much more accurate."

The introduction bills the book as an effort to "set the record straight," but it is actually an attempt to push the record far to the right. More than a history, it is a checklist of arch-conservative talking points. The New Deal public works programs that helped millions survive the Depression were a "disaster," and Social Security "damaged the economy." The Marshall Plan, which lifted up devastated European nations after World War II, was a "failed giveaway program." And the long-discredited theory of "nullification," which held that states could suspend federal laws, "isn't as crazy as it sounds."

It is tempting to dismiss the book as fringe scholarship, not worth worrying about, but the numbers say otherwise. It is being snapped up on college campuses and, helped along by plugs from Fox News and other conservative media, it recently soared to No. 8 on the New York Times paperback best-seller list. It is part of a boomlet in far-right attacks on mainstream history that includes books like Jim Powell's "FDR's Folly," which argues that Franklin Roosevelt made the Depression worse, and Michelle Malkin's "In Defense of Internment," a warm look back on the mass internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II....

Most ominously, it makes an elaborate argument that the 14th Amendment was "never constitutionally ratified" because of irregularities in how it was adopted. This, too, is a pet cause of the fringe right, one the Supreme Court has rejected. If it prevailed, it would undo Brown v. Board of Education and many other rulings barring discrimination based on race, religion and sex. But Mr. Woods does not carry his argument to its logical conclusion. If the 14th Amendment was not properly ratified, neither, it would seem, was the 13th, which was adopted under similar circumstances, and slavery should be legal.

I was kind of shocked at this, because yesterday, I had asked a conservative if he had problems with the 14th ammendment I was shouted down by the predictable chorus of "oh, how could you say we conservatives racists" or similar I did some searches... and you know what?

Evidently at least some conservatives think this is the case... and so by their logic, I guess slavery is legal, you can discriminate... uh, but at the same time anybody can call themselves a US they better watch where they go with this stupidity.

Think that's an outlier?

Here's another link

(The author of that book has written for, too.)

And another...

And another

These people are scary...

So, I guess conservatives, at least those buying that book, and those who tune into Fox News, really do approve of this:

Jesse Washington
Spectacle lynching--Burned Alive Waco Texas 1916
Souvenir Postcard sold for ten cents

The awful truth about Social Security

It comes as no surprise to those of us in the reality-based community that some folks are touting pseudo-science from high places; these are, after all, the same folks who brought us pseudo-forensics (Colin Powell's masterful performance before the UN), and pseudo-diplomacy (Iraq in general).

The latest pseudo-science concerns Social Security.

There are those who say "Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme," thinking that the only way this program can be paid for is the income of workers' FICA checks.

Well, folks, please allow me to introduce you to that bastion of Socialism Itself, the very den of iniquity, the devil's playground, the Social Security Act, as it currently stands.

Now note something: there is, absolutely postively no stipulation as to how this is funded. It just states how money will be disbursed.

To find out how the money's allocated, you've got to go here.

Note the following:

The actual laws for collecting taxes and for determining benefits are different. One could be changed completely independently of the other. If there is another relationship between the 2, I haven't found it yet. I'm still looking for how the budgeting is done, though.

So, it's not necessarily a Ponzi scheme.

The Federal code is an interesting place to surf. You can pick out a law- any law, and debate it...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I agree: "No" on Gonzales.

I don't like torture. To me, the over-riding theme of Republican administrations since at least McKinley who knows when has to do with war crimes, undermining the rule of law, and favoring violence, death squads, and the like.

We have to speak out and say, "no."

I don't like the stuff about Bush's DUI.

I agree with Kos.

Blog Trends for Today...

1. "Notes in Samsara" vs. "Mossback Culture."

2. James Dobson vs. Social Security

3. Social Security vs. SpongeBob

Now, about that Social Security "crisis"...

More antics from James Dobson and friends


WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The move came as Senate Republicans vowed on Monday to reintroduce the proposed amendment, which failed in the Senate last year by a substantial margin. Party leaders, who left it off their list of priorities for the legislative year, said they had no immediate plans to bring it to the floor because they still lacked the votes for passage.

But the coalition that wrote the letter, known as the Arlington Group, is increasingly impatient.

In a confidential letter to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, the group said it was disappointed with the White House's decision to put Social Security and other economic issues ahead of its paramount interest: opposition to same-sex marriage.

The letter, dated Jan. 18, pointed out that many social conservatives who voted for Mr. Bush because of his stance on social issues lack equivalent enthusiasm for changing the retirement system or other tax issues. And to pass to pass any sweeping changes, members of the group argue, Mr. Bush will need the support of every element of his coalition.

"We couldn't help but notice the contrast between how the president is approaching the difficult issue of Social Security privatization where the public is deeply divided and the marriage issue where public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side," the letter said. "Is he prepared to spend significant political capital on privatization but reluctant to devote the same energy to preserving traditional marriage? If so it would create outrage with countless voters who stood with him just a few weeks ago, including an unprecedented number of African-Americans, Latinos and Catholics who broke with tradition and supported the president solely because of this issue."

The letter continued, "When the administration adopts a defeatist attitude on an issue that is at the top of our agenda, it becomes impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings."

Some Senate Republican leaders were not optimistic on Monday about the amendment's prospects this year.

"I think if we had the vote right now we'd come up short," said Senator Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican who is a member of the leadership and one of the amendment's most vocal backers in Congress. "We'd like to bring it up when we have the best possible chance of getting it passed."

The members of the coalition that wrote the letter are some of Mr. Bush's most influential conservative Christian supporters, and include Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist Convention, the American Family Association, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich.

Several members of the group said that not long ago, many of their supporters were working or middle class, members of families that felt more allegiance to the Democratic Party because of programs like Social Security before gravitating to the Republican Party as it took up more cultural conservative issues over the last 20 years.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, declined to talk about the letter, but said, "The enthusiasm to get behind his proposals is going to require that he get behind the issues that really motivated social conservative voters."

So, in other words, a quid pro quo: these folks are saying "You give us a ban on gay marriage, and we'll give you a raid on the Social Security system. Even though some old folks will wind up eating dog food who otherwise wouldn't, banning gay marriage is more important to us than seeing that the elderly live in dignity."

I cannot but be disgusted by this.

Pot calling the kettle black department...


Israel claimed Monday that in addition to Iran, Egypt, Syria, and Saudia Arabia are developing nuclear programs.

Meir Dagan, chief of The Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, made the claim as he delivered a review on the security of Israel to the country's Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Israel has made even more pointed charges against Iran, which it claims is deceiving the IAEA, and is building a nuclear reactor in Bushehr. Degan said Iran was receiving assistance from Russia...

International experts believe Israel itself is a world nuclear power but the nation with a population of 6.2 million refuses to discuss publicly its programs. Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, as such, is not subject to inspections.



Mordechai Vanunu worked at Dimona Nuclear Power Plant in Israel from 1976 to 1985 as a technician and learned about Israel's secret production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. In 1985 Vanunu believed it was his responsibility to inform the citizens of Israel as well as the rest of the world that nuclear weapons were being built and stored in Israel.

On October 5, 1986, the London Sunday Times newspaper headlines boldly announced, "Revealed: The Secrets of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal." The startling story, based on interviews with Vanunu and the 60 photographs he provided showing Israeli plutonium spheres used for triggers in nuclear warheads, revealed that Israel was fast developing nuclear weapons.

In detail, Vanunu's data showed that Israel possessed over 200 bombs with boosted devices, neutron bombs, F-16 deliverable warheads, and Jericho warheads. The boosted weapons shown in the Vanunu photographs revealed a sophistication that inferred the requirement for testing. Vanunu revealed for the first time the underground plutonium separation facility where Israel was producing 40 kilograms annually, several times more than previous estimates. Photographs showed sophisticated designs which scientific experts say enabled the Israelis to build bombs with as little as 4 kilograms of plutonium. [Source: Farr]

Vanunu never saw the newspaper because five days prior to the release of the story he was lured to Rome and kidnapped there by Israeli secret agents

The fact that they've acted guilty in their behavior with Vanunu of course, doesn't mean that they are guilty...but it always amazes me how we don't get tough on Israel.

Meet the New Boss ....Same as the Old Boss


One of Poland's best known newspaper editors has been fined $6,500 (£3,457) for ridiculing Pope John Paul II.

A court in Warsaw found Jerzy Urban guilty of insulting a head of state by writing a satirical article on the eve of the pontiff's 2002 visit to Poland.

Mr Urban, 71, said he was exercising the right to free expression.

Earlier, the press freedom group Reporters without Borders said a prosecution would set a "dangerous precedent" for an EU state.

In the early 1980s Mr Urban was spokesman for the last communist government of Poland, which cracked down on the Solidarity freedom movement.

He is now better known as the editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Nie - "No" in English.

In his article, titled Walking Sadomasochism, Mr Urban referred to the Pope's frailty, describing him as "the Brezhnev of the Vatican" and an "impotent old man".

When published ahead of the Polish-born Pope's last visit to his homeland in August 2002 it provoked numerous complaints.

"The court has no doubts that intending to ridicule the church, Jerzy Urban ridiculed and derided the pope," the verdict said, according to the Associated Press.

Opponents of Mr Urban, who attended the trial, shouted "too little" when the fine was announced, the agency reports. Prosecutors had requested a 10-month suspended prison sentence.

Poles seem to have a history of being in a really good position every now and then, despite being in a historically vulnerable location and screwing it up. Warsaw's a great city, one of my favorites in Europe, but these folks could screw up their really cool place in a heartbeat.

How should non-Christians deal with Christian "apologists" and proslytizers?

I have over the years, came to see Christian apologists as a kind of snake-oil salesman. Christian proslytizers often seem like medicine men peddling cures for which there is no disease.

Too often the viewpoints of non-Christians are misrepresented, and too often only one kind of Christianity is represented as "the" Christianity. To me, then these folks are basically pureyors of false witness against everyone but their own viewpoint, and their mission seems to be to suppress other views.

This has been the case for a long time. The first Japanese Zen Buddhist monk in America, Soyen Shaku experienced it:

Friends in America have sent me a number of the Chicago Tribune, dated Monday, January 13, 1896, which contains the report of your second Haskell lecture, delivered at the Kent Theater in the Chicago University. The subject is "Christianity and Buddhism," and I anticipated a friendly and sympathetic treatment of Buddhism at your hands, for I do not doubt that you desire to be just in your judgment. Your utterances are of importance because they will be received as an impartial representation of our religion, since you, having been Chairman of the Religious Parliament, are commonly considered to have the best of information about those religions that were represented at this famous assemblage. I was greatly disappointed, however, seeing that you only repeat those errors which are common in the various Western books on Buddhism. You say, "The goal which made Buddha's teachings a dubious gospel, is Nirvâna, which involves the extinction of love and life,as the going out of a flame which has nothing else to feed upon." Now the word Nirvâna means "extinction" and it means the eradication of all evil desires, of all passions, of all egotism, so that the flame of envy, hatred, and lust will have nothing to feed upon. This is the negative side of Nirvâna. The positive side of Nirvâna consists in the recognition of truth. The destruction of evil desires, of envy, hatred, extinction of selfishness implies charity, compassion with all suffering, and a love that is unbounded and infinite. Nirvâna means extinction of lust, not of love; extinction of evil, not of existence; of egotistic craving, not of life. The eradication of all that is evil in man's heart will set all his energies free for good deeds, and he is no genuine Buddhist who would not devote his life to active work, and a usefulness which would refuse neither his friends nor strangers, nor even his very enemies.

You say that "human life does not breathe, in Buddhism, the atmosphere of divine fatherhood, but groans under the dominion of inexorable and implacable laws." Now, I grant that Buddha taught the irrefragability of law, but this is a point in which, as in so many others, Buddha's teachings are in exact agreement with the doctrines of modern science. However, you ought to consider that while the law is irrefragable, no one but those who infringe upon it groan under it. He who understands the laws of existence, and especially the moral law that underlies the development of human society, will accommodate himself to it, and thus he win not groan under it, but in the measure that he is like Buddha he will be enlightened, he will be a master of the law and not a slave. In the same way that the ignorant savage is killed by the electric shock of lightning, while an electric engineer uses it for lighting the halls and streets of our cities, the immoral man suffers from the moral law, he groans under its inexorable and implacable decree, while the moral man enjoys it, and turning it to advantage glories in its boundless blessings.

This same moral law is the source of enlightenment and its recognition constitutes Buddhahood. This same moral law we call Dharmakâya, which is eternal, omnipresent, and all-glorious. We represent it under a picture of a father, and it was incarnated not only in Gautama-Buddha, but also in all great men in a higher or lesser degree, foremost among them in Jesus Christ, and, allow me to add, in George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other great men of your country. Allow me to add, too, that Buddha's doctrine, far from being skepticism, proclaims the doctrine that man can attain enlightenment and that he attains it not only through study and learning, which, as a matter of course, are indispensable, but also and mainly through the earnest exertions of a life of purity and holiness.

There are many more points in your lecture which I feel tempted to discuss with you, but they refer more to Christianity than to Buddhism, and may imply a misunderstanding of Christian doctrines on my part. I am anxious to know all that is good in Christianity and the significance of your dogmas, so that I may grow in a comprehension of truth, but I have not as yet been able to see that mankind can be benefited by believing that Jesus Christ performed miracles. I do not deny the miracles nor do I believe them; I only claim that they are irrelevant. The beauty and the truth of many of Christ's sayings fascinate me, but truth does not become clearer by being pronounced by a man who works miracles. You say that, "We can explain Buddha without the miracles which later legends ascribe to him, but we cannot explain Christ--either his person or his influence--without granting the truth of his own claim that he did the supernatural works of his father." We may grant that Jesus Christ is the greatest master and teacher that appeared in the West after Buddha, but the picture of Jesus Christ as we find it in the Gospel is marred by the accounts of such miracles as the great draft of fishes, which involves a great and useless destruction of life (for we read that the fishermen followed Jesus, leaving the fish behind), and by the transformation of water into wine at the marriage-feast at Cana. Nor has Jesus Christ attained to the calmness and dignity of Buddha, for the passion of anger overtook him in the temple, when he drove out with rope in hand those that bargained in the holy place.

How different would Buddha have behaved under similar conditions in the same place! Instead of whipping the evil-doers he would have converted them, for kind words strike deeper than the whip.

Now to me, it's interesting that Soyen Shaku made this appeal to science, since it showed that he was a man bound by his times and by attaching science to Buddhism he no doubt thought he was scoring points (although to me minduflness parallels the tentative and phenomenological nature of the scientific method).

But it's clear that in Soyen Shaku's mind, answering Christian "apologists" and proslytizers was important because non-Buddhists "ought to know the real teachings of Buddha," and because it would "make possible the way for a better understanding between all the religions of the world."

Where I differ with Soyen Shaku, though, is I doubt that such folks as encountered today uniformly "unknowingly misrepresent the doctrines of the Tathâgata." I think that many of these folks knowingly choose to remain ignorant, because it would undercut their arguments and, in their minds, impair their ability to snag converts. Too much information is available today to give these folks an excuse which passes the giggle test.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Too Funny....

I'm usually not a fan of World O' Crap, but this entry today is laugh-out-loud funny.

From the creationist tripe, to the Ryan Dobson quotes. This is blogging at its very best.

It does not- repeat does not- castigate Ryan Dobson over his marital issues...

More antics from the CofCC

Atrios asks us to evaluate whether they "make an issue" of race or not...

From their "FAQ On Race"... (I don't have a FAQ on race...maybe...they think alot about race...)

The fact is that race influences politics, society, and culture. The great explorations, scientific discoveries, inventions, literature, art, and architecture encompassed by Western Civilization have no rival anywhere in the world. The C of CC recognizes that European Christian heritage is essential for the survival of our standard of living and way of life. There is no superior replacement for the civilization that has evolved through the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Anglo-Saxons.

The words "White Supremacy" come to mind...

The word racism was concocted by a communist ideologue in the 1920's. The purpose of racism was to instill guilt and shame in the minds of white people and to inflame racial hostility among blacks. This word play succeeded beyond all expectations. Of course, the word racism has no meaning unless whites react to it. Because racism defines nothing, but instead generates dubious connotations, the C of CC refuses to be held hostage by what the word implies at any given moment. It is normal for white people to be proud of their race and heritage. Is that racist?

Normal? Proud?


The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, issued a report last fall that said at least 38 current federal, state and local office holders in several states had attended CCC meetings since 2000, with most giving speeches to local chapters. It said 23 are from Mississippi.

State Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, said he's scheduled to speak at the CCC gathering Thursday. He said he'll talk about issues to be considered during the current legislative session.

Moore said he didn't know anything about the group's position on race.

"If I find out for certain they are a racist organization, I am going to confront them," he said.

"You hear that the NAACP is racist, but that wouldn't keep me from talking to them," Moore said.

He said he had never looked at the CCC's Web site, but he sat with an AP reporter and scrolled through it. After looking at the question-and-answer section on race, Moore said: "I didn't get any indication from this that they were racist."

Uh, they're racist.

James Dobson: Is he evil?

My reading of M. Scott Peck shouts "yes."

Irony alert....

Does Neal Boortz read what he writes?

Is he pro-democracy?

Or anti-democracy?

Oh, he only wants freedom for people who he thinks are responsible.

Like folks who pay taxes, but not folks who have no earned income from labor?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Requiescat in pace

Frank Rich got it right years ago about Carson

Like nearly everyone else in America, I have tuned in Johnny Carson after the following events:

A phone does not ring. The person you were hoping to hear from doesn't call, so you turn to the reliable voice in Burbank instead.

A door is slammed. Someone in your house is angry, maybe you, and you need a parental stand-in to calm you down.

A party is over. But the buzz lingers, and you need another party, someone else's party, to help you wind down.

A child cries inconsolably. Until the unexpected sound of late-night laughter chases the demons away.

On these nights, and on so many others for almost three decades, Johnny Carson has been the last man America sees before it goes to sleep. So why is he never in our dreams?

One other question, now that the end is near.

Is the "Tonight" show the last thing Johnny Carson sees before he goes to sleep

Besides that, he a) refined the art of telling a bad joke, and b) was firmly on the David Letterman side of the Letterman-Leno battle.

Restaurant Review: Applebee's...

Nobody reviews restaurants on their blogs, especially, to my knowledge not Atrios or Kos or anybody like that. Not Hugh Hewitt. Not Instapundit. And so, maybe it's time - every now and then, for a restauarant review. And so few bloggers have reviewed restaurants from a viewpoint influenced by John Berger's Ways of Seeing and Dogen, so why not?

A lot of people probably eat at Applebee's, I suspect. It's one of those corporate owned restaurants that have lots of stuff on their walls. <>Does anyone know where they got the idea to start putting junk on their walls?<>

Applebee's walls are particilarly oddly junky; at least the one in Vancouver WA is where I ate thanks to a gift certificate. Its walls on walking in feature a memorial to a couple killed in a car accident, in collage against lots of sports stuff from the area. The couple's meaning or relation to this isn't obviously clear. Were they dining at an Applebee's prior to their demise? Did they quaff one too many at their neghborhood bar?

Inside the restaurant, more of the same stuff on walls: here's a street sign denoting "Hopalong Cassidy Lane," there's a Texas License plate, over there's a movie poster for the Wizard of Oz. Towards the men's room there's pictures of movie stars such as they might give out. In a NY or CA restaurant they'd be signed. Here they seem to say, "None of these people would get within 50 miles of this place." I have no idea why they're in the restaurant nor near the men's room.

Their men's room does not easily accomodate 3 year olds that like to try 'em out for a spin, as it were. But then most restaurants don't, really. I always thought the ADA should be used by small kids, who are far more discriminated against than handicapped people. OK, I didn't always think that, just since I had a kid, and only when the bathroom was really dirty.

I do know that Applebee's is a chain of restuarants that atttempts to appear local. They're traded on the NASDAQ.

The service? OK.

Oh, the food? You want to know about the food? Ah, OK...

They are nice enough to put their menu on line.

First of all, they have "Weight Watcher'sTM" menu items. Sorry, folks, "Eatin" right tastes far better at my place.

Ah, they make an OK to plus OK burger. Their spinach dip is a spinach dip. They Quesadilla's overly greasy with some unidentifiable grease taste.

I must be really jaded. Give me the oddly strange service and name but impeccable food of "Wong's King" any day.

Blog Trend of the Day...

Applebee's vs. The Iron Chef. Cuisine Allez!

The results surprised me...

OK, one more word on Dobson, too...

Thanks for the memory, David Sarasohn!

That's what set off Dobson, Focus on the Family and another right-wing group, prompting them to label it a "pro-homosexual video" that urges tolerance of different "sexual identity."

The video -- which begins, with unsettling inclusiveness, "Family, people, monsters, lions, bears, dinosaurs, mice, chickens, aardvarks all coming together. Let's sing together" -- never mentions sex. But it does refer to a tolerance pledge, elsewhere on the "We Are Family" Web site, saying, "I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."

The pledge won't be included in the material sent to schools, but still, that's enough. After all, we all know what "respect" means.

Explained a Dobson aide, "we see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids. It's a classic bait and switch." Some people, of course, might not think excessive tolerance for differences -- among races, families and dinosaurs -- is the key problem for our kids.

(Also, in referring to someone who lives under the sea, there's a question of sensitivity in using the word "bait." Cartoon characters have feelings, too.)

But to Ed Vitagliano of the American Family Association, "A short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality."

With the results of the last election, and certain groups' perceived roles in the Bush victory, Americans are in for a lot of these efforts at purification, aimed at figures animated and otherwise.

We'll especially hear from the rising power broker Dobson, who said of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., "I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people." Later, when asked about it by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Dobson responded loftily, "George, you think you ought to lecture me on what being Christian is all about?"

James Dobson is a "person of the lie" in the sense of Christian psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who, judging from his book People of the Lie, would quite likely characterize Dobson as evil.

I can't really disagree.

The last word on Sponge Bob


Dan Martinsen, aspokesman for Nickelodeon... "It's a sponge, for crying out loud. He has no sexuality."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Blog Trend for Today...

Jesse Jackson, Michael Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson...

It's unfortunate, but Jacko does seem to illustrate the fact that bad news sells better than solid careers such as Samuel L.'s.


Hmmm...James Dobson and Sponge Bob... seem correlated lately... which isn't surprising. Not like Hugh Hewitt and Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf...OK, they aren't really correlated yet...

But evidently Sponge Bob's still more popular in the blogosphere than James Dobson.

Is that why Dobson's apoplectic about a fictional animated sponge?

"Faith-Based Extortion"


This is another issue that's way over-due for exposure in the US media. Finally, an outlet in the United States publishes a viewpoint that the locals have known about for centuries.

...attempts at proselytizing are angering local Christian leaders, who worry that they could provoke a violent backlash against Christians in Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country that is already a religious tinderbox.

Last year, Buddhist hard-liners attacked the offices of the World Vision Christian aid group and vandalized or threatened churches and pastors 75 times. They accuse Christians of using money and social programs to cajole and coerce conversions.

Most American groups, including those affiliated with religious organizations, strictly avoid mixing aid and missionary work. But scattered reports of proselytizing in Sri Lanka; Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim; and India, with large Hindu and Muslim populations, are arousing concerns that the good will spread by the American relief efforts may be undermined by resentment.

The Rev. Sarangika Fernando, a local Methodist minister, witnessed one of the prayer sessions in Sri Lanka and accused the Americans of acting unethically with traumatized people. "They said, 'In the name of Jesus, she must be cured!' " he said. "As a priest, I was really upset."

The Americans in Sri Lanka belong to the Antioch Community Church, an evangelical church based in Waco, Tex. Two members of the church were arrested, and accused of proselytizing, by the Taliban in Afghanistan in August 2001. When the United States invaded the country several months later, pro-American Northern Alliance forces freed the women, who church officials say did speak with Afghans about their personal "relationship with Jesus."

So these folks are the same folks that sent those girls over that attempted "suicide by proslytizing." Nice.

Me thinkest they protesteth way too much...

Joe Carter and Hugh Hewitt are in a snit about the well-deserved attention the media is finally giving to Koo-Koo for Cocoa Puffs TM James Dobson.

Joe and Hugh:

1. Get thee to a google page and search for the archives of the Institute for First Ammendment Studies. You'll find that Dobson's been associated with the looniest of far right organizations, such as the Constitution Party folks.

2. Dobson's been a cheerleader for the Coral Ridge Ministry 10 Commandments Scam.

3. Dobson's a fraud, as can easily be seen on his website. He pretends to be a "child care expert," but he's really a Protestant religious bigot. I can't put it in any other terms. His website regularly posts lies, slanders, and misinformation about any other type of religious belief other than his own.

4. Dobson's interference in his employees lives (as chronicled in the James Dobson's War on America), and the slapstick "John Paulk is an ex-gay" incidents shot Dobson's cred long before he ever heard of Sponge Bob.

5. I still think the real reason Dobson hates Sponge Bob is because he regularly trounces Fox in the ratings.

6. Dobson's webpage may state (link from Carter's page seems to broken, that) "Dr. Dobson is concerned that these popular animated personalities are being exploited by an organization that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth." Dr. Dobson is concerned that some folks may have to accept someone else's private behavior as someone else's private behavior. That's one absurd aspect of this. The other absurd aspect of this is the "exploitation" of fictional animated personalities. This is psychotic thinking.

7. Oh, and I forgot: Dobson's shameless self-shilling to me speaks of a narcissist. The man oozes psychological problems. I wouldn't let his advice near my kid, even if some of it is sensible. Much of it clearly is not; there are more than a couple of reviewers of his books who attribute their high psychotherapy costs directly to Dobson. IMO, the guy is reason number 1 against tort reform: he should be, if wrong can be demonstrated, subject to a class action suit from the children of parents who followed his "advice."

Dobson's why you folks are marginalized. Don't try to pass him off as something he's not.


The Reality Based Nation, which I found via Atrios, gives us Focus on the Family's "animated wardrobe malfunction moment."

These folks at "Focus" seem to have serious sexual issues- there's no two ways about it.

They also seem to have theological issues, too: how can you have a frog church? Why is Tad (Pole)(????) engaging in inter-species relations?

James Dobson apparently hasn't even seen the video, but was "briefed." Yeah.

But you can see the video here.


Tessai Tomioka's writing "incense"

Friday, January 21, 2005

No, Hugh Hewitt. Blogging is not the "Reformation."

It's deconstruction.

I can juxtapose Hugh Hewitt with Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf. Both of them are radio personalities.

This means that blogging is, instead of everyman's means for nailing 95 theses on the door of a cathedral, a means for millions of people to nail 95 images of Salvador Dali onto pictures of Jell-o. Not that I can see why millions of people would want to do so per se, but they can.

On the other hand, it's occurred to me that blogging can be a tad more than just a rant page.

Why should corporations troll blogs to see whether or not we like the latest Budweiser ad?

Why can we not have fun with the concept?

In so doing, we can deconstruct traditional modes of information transmission and interpretation, which is kind of a reformation, but, unlike what Hewitt might want, it goes further. We can subvert or privilege what we want if we organize. Now I'm again not saying this because (nor in spite) of the fact that I would favor one political viewpoint over another. I say it because the usability of this tool is evident.

Anyhow, I plan to encourge the blogosphere to have fun on Superbowl Sunday, and to strengthen the association- if only memetically- between Hugh Hewitt and Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf.

Leveling the Playing Field between Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf and Hugh Hewitt...

This is Hugh Hewitt. He is a radio personality. According to one description, Hewitt
...served six years in the Reagan White house as Assistant counsel, is a practicing attorney, law school professor, author, social commentator and political cultural junkie. Mr. Hewitt is the author of books "Christianity and Society", " The Embarrassed Believer", "Resurrecting Christian Witness in the Age of Mockery."

This is the late Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf. He was not only a radio personality, but he was a radio personality featured on the most popular radio program in its time slot. Hank overcame his physical challenge (but not his drunkeness) to bring happiness to countless people. One year in an on-line poll- I forget whether it was conducted by Time Magazine or USA Today- Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf was nominated for man of the year.

One only wonders whether or not if Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf hadn't died so unexpectedly whether he would have a blog, and if he did, would he be more important than Hugh Hewitt.

Just wondering

I hope it's ironic...

Atrios points to this letter which expresses the deep love of some folks ...

I just can't understand why more good conservatives haven't spoken out against the dangerous opinions of rabble-rousers such as Phyllis Lilly, Linda Robin and that R C Johnson person. Why does The Daily Independent print the degenerate views of poisonous Liberals who hate freedom?

As Mr. Scott points out, the glorious Constitution is there to protect the rights of Christians to profess their faith. This country was founded by good Christians and the Constitution guarantees our right to express our religion.

It just is completely beyond me how we have allowed Liberals to deny us this guaranteed right.

Oh, they raise ridiculous arguments like other (false) religions would be "upset" if they were forced to pray alongside the righteous in schools or council meetings.

Surely those others would appreciate the opportunity to be saved. As God's chosen people, we Christians have the right to express our religion and praise tolerant, patient and merciful God, and I don't want to read any more letters from Liberals suggesting non-believers should be allowed to express their superstitions just because we Christians can express ours.

This is related to my earlier post on tolerance.

I hope it's ironic. Evidently at least some of the readers of that paper don't think so:

In answer to Billie Miller's burning question "Why does The Daily Independent print the degenerate views of poisonous Liberals who hate freedom?" Allow me to explain the reason.

The Daily Independent prints everyone's views because the First Amendment to our great Constitution does NOT read " Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech except for those that in Billie Martin's opinion are the degenerate views of poisonous Liberals who hate freedom."

Billie Miller should be grateful that the DI is willing to print everyone's views. If not, I might not have had the pleasure of reading Miller's point of view that is so far right, it has made a complete circle to the left.

Here's another:

This is in response to Billie Miller's question "Why does The Daily Independent print the degenerate views of poisonous Liberals who hate freedom?"

Perhaps if you read the Constitution you should love you wouldn't need to ask the question.

It's conservatives like you that make me glad to be a liberal.

Clearly that newspaper has readers that aren't all anti-American.

Blog Trends for Today...

Surprisingly enough to me, global warming is some 3 times or so more blogged about than "intelligent" "design" (when averaged by eye).

I'm surprised at this because it seems that the "intelligent" "design" folks seem more vocal.

And, maybe this is less surprising, but Hugh Hewitt is blogged about almost infinitely more than Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf.
How soon we forget! How true that is...

One More Trend

According to the Truth Laid Bear website, this blog ranking is (I think) number 7628.

Not bad considering there's 6 million or so blogs out there...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

What liberal media???


Remember, 48% of Americans who voted went for Kerry.

Blog trend for today...

In the blogosphere, "vomit" is a surprising 6 times or so more mentioned than "feces" and about 2.5 times more popular than "urine."

Bush's inauguration..

I'm not one of those folks who don't recognize the reality of the current political climate in the US.

We may have a continuance of the strange, dark, times of the last four years. But I am hopeful that the current flirting with proto-fascism that we see in the US will dissipate.

I am hopeful that when the feces hits the fan, Americans will do what is needed.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

OK, the "Blink"- based book counter challenge.

It's based on excerpts...

Yep. It's not judging a book by its cover, but by the Amazon content snippets contained on their website.

This is based on Pseudo-Polymath's "Challenge to Non-Believers." He requested responders to read one book; in return he'd read a book.

So my counter is: give me an excerpt, and in return you'll read some of my excerpts...

The reason I've come up with this counter to him is as follows:

1. I don't have time to buy books- that someone else recommends. I don't have time to read the ones that I want to read.

2. The stuff is free.

3. The content is very quickly read.

True, the exchange will be more USA Today than Harvard University's philosophy post- grad school, but OTOH, it will be more feasible, and suited to the nature of this medium, I think.

Here's some books I recommend, for starters:

The Politics of Experience by RD Laing.

Moon in a Dewdrop, by Eihei Dogen

The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika by Nagarjuna, Jay L. Garfield

Wild Ivy: The Spiritual Autobiography of Zen Master Hakuin, translated by Norman WADDELL

I have others...

(HT to Mr. Carter...)


The Talking Cure by Mike Feder...

That guy Feder can tell a story...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Mumon's Introduction to Tolerance (Part I)

Jordan Scopa asks:

If we truly believe in our truest hearts that our way of life is morally superior to the way of life of other people, then do we not have the right or duty to suppress their way of life in favor of our own?

Well, first of all, how do you distinguish your truest heart from your more false ones?

Secondly, I'm not sure that my "way of life" is morally superior to others, and regardless of whether or not it is, if they adopted my way of life, it wouldn't be my way of life. And if I adopted Scopa's way of life, it wouldn't be Scopa's way of life- nor my life. In fact, my way of life cannot be imposed. As for others' ways of life? We might be able to suppress another's way of life, but I don't think we can actually encourage successful imposition of another's way of life. Look how well doing this has worked in Africa, India, Ireland, ... If you want to promote insincerity and "bad faith" in the existential sense, Scopa's hit on the perfect plan for that.

I'm reminded of Rilke's remark about why he didn't want to be psychoanalyzed: He said if his demons were to leave him, his angels might, too. Given the history the attempts in this regard, usually the angels leave and the demons stay. Best to leave people to themselves to own their way of life. You'd think that would be a "conservative" position. It actually is in some places. But it's increasingly a "liberal" position today. Regardless, we should stand for tolerance because we know what happens when we don't: buckets of blood are involved.

Joe Carter shills for intolerance, too, here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

You can see this one a mile away....

I like to visit Joe Carter's blog because his worldview is so counter to mine...anyway, Mr. Carter, in an otherwise admirable post calls Malcolm Gladwell's new book "Blink" "intriguing."

While we Zen folks do a great deal of thinking non-thinking, thinking without thinking, to me, sounds like a ready made recipe for a post-hoc justification of those managers from hell who basically don't use information to make decisions. OK, George W. Bush comes to mind (is it a coincidence that David Brooks reviewed this for the NYT?), I admit it, but the pointy-haired manager in Dilbert is the real horror for whom Gladwell is going to create fodder for years. Can't you just see it?

Manager: I just made a snap decision. Your budget is cut.
Sub-manager: But with the amount I requested we will have a guaranteed increase in revenues of 300%.
Manager: My snap decisions are usually correct. Did you read Gladwell's new book? You shouldn't question "think slicing."

I remember there was ONE really good business book like this years ago. It basically had the theme that all those business books- like Ken Blanchard's "One Minute Manager," "Who Moved My Cheese?" like that other book Gladwell wrote (about stickiness and Tipping Points) etc. were all garbage, every last one of them. Team-building, "Bright-sizing," all those jargon-filled "new" ways to "manage," "lead" "effect change" - all nonsense. There was even hard data on this.

The trendiness of these kinds of things has a life-cycle shorter than the trendiness of research trends, with the exception that good research can't be subverted by ignorance and stupidity.

Better to just pay attention and do your best.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

And we should rely on Hugh Hewitt for???...

I'm sure it's not his first "mistake," but this bit is reprehensible.

Is it any wonder that moderates and progressives don't rely on self-labed "Evangelical Christian conservatives" to tell you something that coincides with reality?

And what's Hewitt doing on O'Reilly's show anyway, doesn't he know the man has had problems with female assistants and sex????

Social Security- the topic of today in the NYT...

Paul O'Neill gets it right about everyone needing to save, but gets the moral wrong:

In a civilized society we have a responsibility to take care of our own needs so as not to be a burden on others.

No, in a civilized society we structure our economy, culture, and social relations to avoid anyone being a burden on anyone. When we can't take care of our own needs in Paul O'Neill's "civilized" society, we become a burden to others, but if that burden is unnecessary because we could have structured society and the economy differently, then Paul O'Neill's society is simply cruel and barbaric.

Still, his idea is actually somewhat interesting, although it still has the drawback that O'Neill's nest egg:

... would then be invested in broad-based index funds with an objective of matching the overall rate of return for all investments in the United States. These funds typically have very low costs because they're not actively managed. That means there would be no windfall profit for stockbrokers in this system.

What that means, still, is that the working-slob rats would be nailed to the mast of US investments, and incumbent investors would get a free ride as a bevy of new capital flowed in. Until the inevitable happened- that is, until the rate of return for US equities was reached...that is, the whole process could make a bubble which would burst.

No foreign investments Paul? I think Chinese real estate has another 15 years in it at least.

The Magazine gets it right:

The campaign to privatize has not only been about ideology; it has also focused on Social Security's supposed insolvency. Moore's book calls Social Security a ''Titanic . . . headed toward the iceberg'' and a program ''on the verge of collapse.'' A stream of other conservatives have bombarded the public, over years and decades, with prophecies of trillion-dollar liabilities and with metaphors intended to frighten -- ''train wreck,'' ''bankruptcy,'' ''cancer'' and so forth. Recently, a White House political deputy wrote a strategy note in which he said that Social Security is ''on an unsustainable course. That reality needs to be seared into the public consciousness.''

The campaign is potentially self-fulfilling: persuade enough people that Social Security is going bankrupt, and it will lose public support. Then Congress will be forced to act. And thanks to such unceasing alarums, many, and perhaps most, people today think the program is in serious financial trouble.

But is it? After Bush's re-election, I carefully read the 225-page annual report of the Social Security trustees. I also talked to actuaries and economists, inside and outside the agency, who are expert in the peculiar science of long-term Social Security forecasting. The actuarial view is that the system is probably in need of a small adjustment of the sort that Congress has approved in the past. But there is a strong argument, which the agency acknowledges as a possibility, that the system is solvent as is.

Although prudence argues for making a fix sooner rather than later, the program is not in crisis, nor is its potential shortfall irresolvable. Ideology aside, the scale of the fixes would not require Social Security to abandon the role that was conceived for it in 1935, and that it still performs today -- as an insurance fail-safe for the aged and others and as a complement to people's private market savings.

Funny that the same folks who'd want to crucify Dan Rather are silent about the Bush administration's lies on Social Security and the propagandizing of this false crisis funded by their own tax dollars!

Where is the outrage?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Doesn't look like they can only make killer chocolate.

Good questions

If Osama bin Laden does, in fact, head a vast international terrorist organization with trained operatives in more than forty countries, as claimed by Bush, why, despite torture of prisoners, has this Administration failed to produce hard evidence of it?
  • How can it be that in Britain since 9/11, 664 people have been detained on suspicion of terrorism but only seventeen have been found guilty, most of them with no connection to Islamist groups and none who were proven members of Al Qaeda?
  • Why have we heard so much frightening talk about "dirty bombs" when experts say it is panic rather than radioactivity that would kill people?
  • Why did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claim on Meet the Press in 2001 that Al Qaeda controlled massive high-tech cave complexes in Afghanistan, when British and US military forces later found no such thing?


Up, Down, Big and Small

Friday, January 14, 2005


Or, きんえんどう...

It seems some folks on Daily Kos are using the current political climate to give up smoking.

Good for them.

With careful attention to body and breath, it is possible, and mesasuably better for one's health than continuing to smoke.

Pentagon reveals rejected chemical weapons


THE Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.

Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.

Didn't a similar idea come about in the 1960's with that famous "Get Smart" film, "The Nude Bomb?"

Shoudo blogging painting Spring


Master Dogen, addressing the assembly, said:

My late master, old Buddha (T'ien-t'ung Ju-ching), said, "The original face has no birth and no death, Spring is in the plum blossoms and enters into a painting." When you paint Spring, do not paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots, but just paint Spring. To paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots is to paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots - it is not yet painting Spring. It is not that Spring cannot be painted, but aside from my late master, old Buddha, there is no one in India or China who has painted Spring. He alone was the sharp, pointed brush who painted Spring. This Spring is Spring in the painting because it enters into a painting. He does not use any other power, but lets plum blossoms activate Spring. He lets Spring enter into a painting and into a tree - this is his skillful means. Because my late master, old Buddha, clarified the Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, he correctly transmitted it to the Buddhas and ancestors who assembled in the ten directions of past, future, and present. In this way, he thoroughly mastered the eyeball and opened up the plum blossoms.

This was written on the sixth day, eleventh month, first year of Kongen, 1243, at Yoshimi Monastery, Yoshita County, Echizen Province. Deep snow, three feet, all over the earth.

Master Dogen is one of the spiritual giants of history and one of the greatest religious teachers of Japan. He was an incredible poet, mystic, and philosopher, compiling many of his major works while in his thirties. This translation of "Plum Blossoms" is another of the sections of his master work, Shobogenzo: Treasury of the True Dharma Eye...

"When you paint Spring do not paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots, but just paint Spring." What is Dogen talking about when he says, "just paint Spring?" What is Spring? He says that "Spring is in the plum branch covered with snow." In that withered-looking single branch sticking out from under the snow at thirty-below-zero, there is Spring. Why can't we see it? Why can't it be seen? "Even though the attainment of realization is immediately manifest, its intimate nature is not necessarily realized. Some may realize it and some may not." Just paint Spring....

At that time, Zen literature and koans were written in classical Chinese, which very few Japanese could speak or read. Also, the study of these koans required a profound understanding of Chinese poetry. So, Kamakura masters redid the koans to make them more Japanese, more understandable.

One of these koans is called "Painting the Nature." It deals with Ichu, a famous painter and Zen teacher, the seventh master of Jifuku-ji. One day Nambutzu, a great warrior, came to see him and asked whether he could paint the fragrance described in a famous line of poetry: "After walking through the flowers, the horse's hoof is fragrant." Ichu drew a horse's hoof with a butterfly fluttering around it. Then Nambutzu quoted the line, "Spring breeze over the river bank," and asked for a picture of the breeze. Ichu drew a branch of waving willow. Nambutzu cited the famous Zen phrase, "A finger directly pointing to the human mind; see the nature to be Buddha," and asked for a picture of the mind. Ichu picked up the brush and flicked a spot of ink onto Nambutzu's face. The warrior was surprised and annoyed; Ichu rapidly sketched the angry face. Nambutzu then asked for a picture of "the nature." Ichu broke the brush. Nambutzu didn't understand, and Ichu remarked, "If you haven't got the seeing eye, you can't see it." Nambutzu asked him to take another brush and paint a picture of the nature. Ichu replied, "Show me your nature and I'll paint it." Nambutzu had no words. There are test questions for this koan, including: How do you show the Nature? Come, see your nature and bring proof of it! Say something on behalf of Nambutzu!

In this koan, needless to say, the questions and the way the master responded to them are at a very different level of understanding than what Dogen refers to when he speaks of his teacher, T'ien-t'ung Ju-ching. "It is not that Spring cannot be painted, but aside from our late master, Old Buddha, there is no one in India or China who has painted Spring. He alone was the sharp, pointed brush who painted Spring." Painter, brush, canvas, image, subject - they are not many. The painter is the brush, the image is the painter, the subject is the object, the canvas is the paint. Those things only separate themselves when we separate them by the way we use our mind. Whether you are speaking of a painting, Mu, a tree, a Buddha, or a plum branch - how you see it, how you relate to it has to do with how you live your life, with the question of life and death itself. "To paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots is to paint willows, plums, peaches, or apricots; it is not yet painting Spring." How do you paint Spring? "This Spring is the Spring in the painting because it enters into a painting. He does not use any other power, but lets plum blossoms activate Spring. He lets Spring enter into a painting and into a tree, this is the skillful means." How do you manifest the sharp, pointed brush that paints Spring?

The Chinese and Japanese masters took certain arts and "zenified" them, and so we have (as Japanese names) shodou (calligraphy as Zen practice), chadou (the tea ceremony), kyudou (archery as Zen practice), kendou (sword practice) etc.

In all of these practices, the aim is to become skillful and perfect what is done in the practice. There is something in good Zen calligraphy that fosters harmony and peace in the viewer. Likewise, if you have not been served tea by a chadou master, I suspect you have never really been served in a way that is pure service. Nothing else I've experienced comes close. If I ran nursing schools, chado would be a required course of study.

The Mountains and Rivers Order, the Soto Zen folks from whom the above quote comes the idea that some of these Zen arts can be adapted to the West and new ways of expression; so, for example John Daido Loori uses his photographic skills.

So I think Zen blogging might need be a good thing to try out.. Like shodou, the actual writing takes preparation. Despite the final form of the picture looking like it was hastily drawn, the setting up of the brushes, the preparation of the ink, etc. can take hours. There are understood modes to blogging (which I normally violate- the length thing. I have a problem with Blogger getting the switches to work.) But I do strive for the method.

Moreover, as Joe Carter suggested, blogs should be about "micro niches." While there are many political blogs, there's pretty much no political American Buddhist blogs except for this one. Likewise, while there's blogs such as Brad de Long's that make me feel like I'm reading an economist's words, and James Wolcott, who makes me think I'm reading some New York media guy, and Carter makes me think I'm reading an Evangelical who tries to think, there is no blog that is meant to induce harmony in the way shodou does.

Atrios has his salty take on the nasty politics of the day. Much of the right wing blogosphere is, for better or worse, talk radio in print. Kos has created an army of lefty voices. But nowhere is there a blog that can induce the harmony and equanimity of the tea ceremony, or the simple one perfect killing cut of kendou, or the bulls' eye of kyudou.

It might be a good experiment.