Oct 31, 2004

tricker treat

Why not? If they're going to come begging to your door, expecting a handout, give them what they deserve: a sermon on the virtues of freeloading. Make them take a Kerry/Edwards sticker, too, or no candy.

Oct 29, 2004

hasta la something

I'm leaving the election behind this weekend--I already voted--and focusing on something less ire-raising: creating future pundits through speech and debate. Tournament season, once it rolls around, lowers my stress level as the great work of preparation decreases exponentially.

No more popping Tums like candy corn.

Chew on this.

Oct 28, 2004

shot pot

In Slate's Fray, locdog writes,
we need to remember because that's what leadership is. anyone can take pot shots from the cheap seats, but bush was on the field when it counted. he saw this country through the worst disaster in our history. that's not to say we wouldn't have pulled through had he not been in office. americans survive. but he made us stronger at our weakest moment. i cannot imagine the burden laid upon the shoulders of a man in such incredible circumstances, but when many would have crumpled, bush stood firm, and had strength enough left over to share with us all. that's leadership. it's leadership not merely when things were at their worse, but when things were worse than any of us had ever imagined they could be. bush looked the worst terrorist attack in history in the eye and didn't flinch, faced something of a scale no president or world leader had ever faced before, and in so doing, forever etched his name among the greatest of them all.
Bush was strong immediately after 9/11, and for that this nation should be grateful. But to claim that 9/11 is "the worst disaster in our history" and "of a scale no president or world leader had ever faced before" is beyond belief. History teachers, weep for this man.

that's report-aaazsh

Read the big story, the source, and The Truth. If you haven't guessed it by now, the RNC is pretty damned weasely.

reporting for reporting for reporting for duty

This is hilarious.

[via pharyngula via talentshow]

Oct 27, 2004

we are all Gnostics now

Been readin' Tertullian, thanks to my brother, who started the whole thing by mentioning that some of his students are closet Gnostics--and they don't even know it. (Read up on Gnosticism here, if you're so inclined.)

My brother's recapitulation of Tertullian's arguments against Marcion is coherent and fair.
...the "spiritual body" seems akin to the "spiritual man" of 1 Corinthians 2, the "man who lives through the Spirit." Given all of Romans 8 and Paul's use of "spiritual" in 1 Corinthians (as well as his statements about the body being a "temple" of the Spirit, the most natural meaning of "spiritual body" in 1 Corinthians 15 is "a body that is under control of the Spirit."
(Compare this with Tertullian, Chapter LIII.)

Christians ought to believe in the resurrection of the body. But does failing to believe in the "literal" bodily resurrection--or to understand the subtleties, semantics, and implications of Tertullian's position--make them Gnostics?

The argument fails on lack of evidence and oversimplification.

First, the primary evidence is hastily generalized (from a group of sixteen students who either misunderstood the resurrection of the body, or held no positive belief on the subject, hardly making them "Gnostics"), and insufficiently warranted. That the evangelical church ignores spiritual disciplines may be true, but that the cause is Gnosticism is assumed rather than proven. The same is true of the supposed forgetting of the "corporeality" (body-focus) of worship. Closing eyes to pray, kneeling, standing to sing, raising arms, clapping, singing itself, or taking communion... these are all bodily activities, as corporeal as they come, barring calisthenics.

Hence, I asked for a survey of Christian belief--is there any sort of correlation between wishy-washy belief in a bodily resurrection and lax spiritual discipline, or "corporeality" in worship? That would solve the question, in my mind, whether these borderline heresies actually make a difference in religious practice. As I noted before, using the practice as proof of belief may not always work; my brother even admits that Gnostics and Christians might both fast, for example, for entirely different reasons and with different attitudes. He makes the argument, though, that a Gnostic Church is different from a normal Church in three main respects; this brings up the second problem of oversimplification.

1) Worship: The historical Christian church has always incorporated movement in their corporate worship services. Also, "sensory input" (I'm not sure what the word would be) has played prominent roles in numerous traditions (see incense, icons, rosaries, etc.). A Christian that does not think the body important will neglect the richness of these aids.
Gnostics, as noted below, see the body as "important," but essentially un-good (if not outright "evil"). How Gnostic worship looked (or would look today) I have no idea. But I can't imagine it would involve floating in sensory-deprivation tanks. I could be wrong.

2) Disciplines: The historical Christian church has also advocated "spiritual disciplines" as means of developing one's relationship with God. Ironically, these "spiritual disciplines" are often very physical (see fasting, solitude, silence). Personally, I experienced a much richer prayer life once I began praying on my knees and have also experienced significant spiritual growth while fasting. If the body is not viewed as an intrinsic part of our salvation, then it is difficult to see why these disciplines would "work." Yet I have the testimony of 2000 years of Christian tradition (and personal experience) informing me that they do.
Gnostics have their own spiritual disciplines; this point is moot, as noted above.

3) Sexual ethics: See 1 Corinthians. This was the whole problem. They didn't consider the general resurrection to be physical and subsequently thought they had license to act (sexually) however they wished. This was also Jonathan's point in the comments to my first post.
Gnostics have differing opinions on the matter of sex. Also, the sexual problems in Corinth may have had nothing to do with the attitude toward the resurrection; Corinth was a crossroads of all sorts of religious and philosophical systems. As Daniel B. Wallace writes,
The problem of the identification of the opponents is that they were no doubt a mixed bag, an amorphous entity of several factions. This can be seen by the very nature of Corinth itself, a rather cosmopolitan city which was constantly having an influx of new ideas. The church at Corinth is analogous to any church in southern California in the 1960s/1970s: the “land of fruits and nuts” involved such a diverse influx of ideas, fads, and avant garde heresies that to pin down any unified group as the opponent of the church would be like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall!10 In other words, Paul’s opponents at Corinth were Jews, proto-Gnostics, libertines, ascetics, ecstatics, realized eschatologists,11 anti-resurrectionists, and more! It may be an overstatement to call all of these “opponents,” but it is obvious that several factions existed in Corinth (cf. 1:10-17) and the problems needed to be dealt with seriatim.12

In short, Matt mischaracterizes Gnosticism, conflating contradictory (and competing) strands. Again, from Wikipedia:
Some Gnostic sects were Christians who embraced mystical theories of the true nature of Jesus and/or the Christ which were out of step with the teachings of orthodox Christian faith. For example, Gnostics generally taught docetism, the belief that Jesus did not have a physical body, but rather his apparent physical body was an illusion, and hence his crucifixion was not bodily.

Most Gnostics practiced celibacy and asceticism, on the grounds that the pleasures of the flesh were evil; a few however practiced libertinism, arguing that since the body was evil they should defile it. This led to further distrust, and was an accusation leveled against other groups who did not follow this practice.

Without accurate data, we're left with the "affirming the consequent" fallacy. We have:

Gnostics deny the corporeality of worship, and are lax in spiritual discipline. (Note that this premise itself is questionable.)

The church shows signs of both.

Therefore, the church is falling prey to the influence of Gnosticism.

Matt should ask his students whether they believe Jesus did not have an actual physical body; this would be a clearer way to judge if they're really nascent Gnostics, or--more likely--just theologically ill-informed. I would argue that the latter is far more relevant to the discussion of the watering-down of Christian rituals or disiciplines. If I'm to hastily generalize from my own former religious experience, the problem isn't heresy; it's anti-intellectualism and, relatedly, utter disregard of early Christian history.


Slate has an interesting column listing whom their contributors and staffers will (or would) be pulling the lever for next Tuesday, including some surprises (Hitchens is for Kerry!). Eric Umansky's paragraph is worth quoting in full:

Many of those who support President Bush talk about his "grand vision": The "transformational power of liberty," as the president says, which is the "the best antidote to terror." I support that vision. If only Bush did too. With the partial exceptions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the president has not taken strong stands for democracy. Not in Pakistan, not in Libya, not in Egypt, not in Tunisia, not in Uzbekistan, and definitely not in Russia. To be fair, there's only one country in which I'm confident Kerry would actually push to improve things like governance, transparency, and accountability: the United States. That's good enough for my vote.

I'm almost sorry I already sent in my ballot.

Oct 26, 2004

d' oh?

If you, like some uninformed liberals and wishful-thinking conservatives, think George W. Bush is an evangelical Christian, think again.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson, Bush said he believes that both Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

"I think we do. We have different routes of getting to the Almighty," Bush said. "But I want you to understand, I want your listeners to understand, I don't get to get decide who goes to heaven. The Almighty God decides who goes to heaven and I am on my personal walk," he said.
Bush should have read what Pat Robertson has to say.

Besides, you should have known it all along.

Oct 25, 2004

back from the brink

Yes, it's the boys (men, really) of Mere Orthodoxy, opining on all things philosophical, religious, and baseballish, again. Perhaps it's the retro-rockets blasting on the descent to oblivion--but I'd rather think it's the start of a reborn, resurrected blog. And yes, I'm talking in code.

Boston baked bull

Now that everyone's a Red Sox fan, Charles Pierce has to play the loyal iconoclast.

back in the spotlight again

Which, as Tom Franks points out, is the worst possible thing for everybody's favorite conservative, Alan Keyes.

Really... why is he running? What purpose does his campaign serve? Anyone?

Oct 24, 2004

guilty, guilty

Nothing to make you feel slimy like a walk through an auto dealership. The wife and I were out "just looking," and we really were, honest. I hate to waste salespeoples' time. I used to sell computers on commission for a Big-Box Retailer That Will Not Be Named*, so I know how what little tricks salesmen** pull, and I know the rules commissioned salesguys follow. First and foremost: whoever talks first to the customer owns the customer. Secondly: once your customer, always your customer. Third: once your customer, always your customer.

Not surprisingly, most of the salesmen we encountered were brusque and aggressive. A typical exchange between a salesguy and [the two of us]:

Hi there!

[Looking away, trying desperately to avoid eye contact, glancing at the sky, the cars around, neighboring victims]

Great weather we're having!

[It's been raining off-and-on; sure, okay.]

You're here to buy today, aren't you? Because my children are starving, and yours are crowded in the back seat of a tiny sub-sub-compact, aren't they?

[Actually, we don't have kids.]

I love kids, they're great! What are you looking for, then, a big SUV? A Lexus?

[Umm... we're not sure. We're just looking. Just starting out. Haven't even researched yet. Don't talk to us, because we're going to waste your time.]

Okay, then, have a look around... We got some great cars here, new and used, uh-huh, yeah, my name's [Fred, Chuck, Joe, Jim, Freddie, Chuckie, Joey, Jimmy; I can't remember] and I'll be right over there, sulking and skulking, and waiting to descend like a vulture when you make a move toward any particular model. Okay?

[Glancing at each other, nodding. We walk around the lot for a little while, don't see anything we like, and begin to walk back toward our car. All of a sudden a new salesman descends from the pack huddled by the office, and attempts to strike up a conversation.]


[Um... hi. We're just looking. We already spoke with someone.]

MY NAME'S RYAN (extends a sweaty palm; receives from me a halfhearted handshake)

[Honestly, we already talked to someone, and we're just looking.]


[awkward pause]

(Salesman begins to glower, brows furrowing, hands balling up into fists)

[quick-stepping to the car, beating a hasty exit]

The guy takes personal umbrage at the fact that we have already been pestered, and aren't ready for more. Never mind that he's a predator, stealing his coworker's customer. As we drive away, the manager steps out toward the car, looking like he wants to talk to us, see if maybe there's something wrong, or perhaps to defend his sales lummoxes. We don't stop.

Oh, and the dealership that creeps us out: All-Star Ford, on the east side of Olympia, for what it's worth.

*Sadly, they don't any more; their employees are just as crappy and hard-to-find as anyone else's, in my last few experiences as a shopper.

**In the world of computer and car sales, that's what gender you're dealing with, overwhelmingly.

Oct 22, 2004

fits and snorts

Joe Carter has cobbled together a list of stupidisms by a master of the genre, Pat Robertson. (He was inspired by this article, which nearly caused me to spew coffee all over my laptop when I first saw it the other day.)

Forget writing in Jon Stewart. Pat Robertson: a Mickey Mouse candidate again.

Oct 21, 2004

dumbing down

Paula Cohen reviews Diane Ravitch's The Language Police, noting its balanced portrayal of both conservative and liberal moralistic bowdlerism of today's textbooks. It's a subject that teachers coming out of today's ed programs are fairly familiar with; and many of them share the distaste for textbooks that I do. Not one of my English classes uses a textbook at the center; all rely primarily on books, short stories, essays, and articles, often of the students' choosing.

Only one paragraph struck me as off-kilter:
Perhaps the best alternative to bad textbooks is no textbooks. The Language Police has an appendix containing a list of primary readings for grades three to ten. This is a good idea but an impractical one. Using primary materials, especially in the early grades, poses logistical and pedagogical problems that most American schools are not prepared to handle. Thus, textbooks are likely to remain with us. One can only hope that Diane Ravitch's book will help bring about a revision of the sanitized texts that are currently breaking our children's backs and dulling their minds.

"This is a good idea but an impractical one." Why? Because of "logistical and pedagogical problems American schools are not prepared to handle." What are these problems? Because of their bulk and their snazzy color formatting, textbooks are outrageously expensive; trade paperbacks can be bought and turned over every few years for about the same price. If schools aren't prepared for it, they should prepare for it, not just complain that it's too difficult.

And what might the pedagogical problems be--that teachers would have to create meaningful lesson plans, instead of using worksheets and handouts pre-formed by the textbook company? That's just sloppy, irresponsible teaching. Students might not be at the same reading level? Same problem with textbooks. What about the vast library of knowledge called The Internet? Sure, it's not uniformly valuable, but teachers and librarians are supposed to be professionals.

If American schools aren't prepared to do away with textbooks, it's because they're not really trying.

Oct 20, 2004

a little Dylan. Thomas, that is.

For the Yankees

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Hot bats should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though umpires at their end know left is right,
Because their calls have forked like lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Pitchers slump and scowl, crying how slight
The strike zone has become, and in their way,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Catchers who tried to guide the pitch in flight,
And learn, too late, they erred, it flies away,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Skippers, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes of umpires have the final say,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, announcer, there, from your sad height,
Curse, bless us now and cheer us on, we pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



Whoa there, fundamentalist podnuh.

[thanks to The Obscure Store]

enough already

Why do pundits care at all for national polls? Our electoral college system is not a national referendum; each state race polls independently. You can win the popular vote and lose the election, and vice versa. This is a "duh" point which every voting American should already understand, and yet Hugh Hewitt seems to think that because Bush leads in overall polls, he'll win the election. Same for Kos and Kerry. There is no "national zeitgeist" when it comes time to vote. Duh. Duh. Duh.

Oh, and duh.

Oct 19, 2004

take off the masks

In some of my classes, we've been discussing the election, writing our own campaign platforms, forming political parties, and preparing to square off in debates and give speeches. As an activity, I had students read campaign platforms of the candidates on the ballot in Washington state--but with names or other obvious clues to the party's identity blotted out, so they'd have just the issues to consider.

The results were fascinating, and only somewhat surprising (at least, to me). Remember, these were high school students who have been studying the election for two weeks, have seen much of the debates, have viewed some of these platforms before.

Workers World Party

They work towards building a society which puts people’s needs first, not profits. They support a $15/hour minimum wage, jobs, childcare, housing, education and healthcare for all, and the right of all working people, including immigrants, to unionize.

These candidates oppose racism, sexism, and all discrimination and bigotry. They oppose the Patriot Act, the death penalty and police brutality, support reproductive choice for all women, and full rights of lesbian/gay/transgendered people, including marriage.

They say no to the Iraq war and occupation and want the troops brought home now. They call for slashing the huge military budget to create living-wage jobs with benefits, to rebuild cities, expand social programs and fund all human needs.

Parker and Gutierrez say it’s time that working people and all who face discrimination, unemployment, poverty, have their own party—one that represents their interests, and not those of big business and the super-rich.

Students' answer: John Kerry


We seek an end of corporate control of government and a government that is truly "of, by and for the people." They seek to shift the power to workers, consumers and tax payers and put the necessities of people before corporations including health care for all, earning a living wage for themselves and their family, authentic consumer protection, environmental protection, labor law reform, a jobs program to rebuild U.S. infrastructure, ending poverty, an energy policy that breaks U.S. addiction to fossil and nuclear energy and creates jobs building sustainable clean energy as well as efficient buildings and motor vehicles. They support education, from pre-school through college, affordable for all Americans with developed civic skills. They protect the Constitution by repealing the Patriot Act, ending the failed drug war and restoring justice. They would shift the burden from work to wealth and to things we like least, e.g. pollution, gambling, addictive industries and stock speculation more than things we like, e.g. food, books, clothing.

Students' answer: Kerry (mostly); Nader (a few)

Socialist Workers

The immediate, unconditional withdrawal of U.S. and other imperialist troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Korea, Haiti, Colombia and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

For a massive federally funded public works program to put millions to work at union scale.

For the extension of social security to cover universal, federally funded, lifetime health care for all.

Defend and extend affirmative action in employment, education, and housing.

Fight cop brutality, abolish the death penalty.

Defend a woman’s right to choose abortion.

Students' answer: Kerry


* Stop the undeclared wars which are daily costing American lives and billions of tax dollars;
* Stop reckless spending, including foreign aid, and take care of America’s domestic needs;
* End debt financing of the Federal government;
* Get rid of the Federal income tax, and restore a tariff based revenue system;
* Immediately terminate international trade agreements such as NAFTA, WTO, the proposed CAFTA and FTAA, and stop sending high paying American jobs to foreign countries;
* Uphold God-ordained marriage and defend America’s moral and family values;
* Protect the right to life of all unborn innocent children;
* Get the Federal Government out of the Education business and allow parents to control the education of their own children;
* Uphold Second Amendment rights; and
* Restore a debt free, interest free money system;

Students' answer: George W. Bush

We talked about why they might confuse Kerry for Che Guevara, or Bush for Pat Buchanan, and how the two-party system, for better or worse, excludes voices on the margins. All in all, it was a lively discussion.

add it up

I've been wasting too much time at The Evangelical Outpost, because Joe Carter's interests are as eclectic as mine are, even though we come at the issues from different slants. EO is constantly thought-provoking, funny, and dogmatic. It's also a "haven of civility in the blogosphere."* At any rate, I'm adding it to the blogroll.

*A designation that also fits Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Oh, and "I often quote myself. It adds spice to the conversation." --G.B. Shaw

Update: Welcome, readers of Evangelical Outpost. Here are some Carter-related posts of Decorabilia past.

Befriending the Colon: Carter's Rule of Entitlement
any excuse to bash Kinkade
Jesus the logician?
bestest posts of 2004
always right?
historical views of personhood

Oct 18, 2004

where the buck stops

I didn't liveblog the last "debate," nor have I yet commented on it. I've been letting it steep and stew in my mind, mulling over the various gaffes and missteps, counting the ducked questions, the evasions, the distortions and fabrications.

I had only one "aha" moment upon reflection. It was this: Bush, right or wrong in his actions, has a skewed vision of leadership. Although he claims that good leaders show firm resolve, and send clear messages, he has missed another key aspect: leaders take responsibility, especially for mistakes. As a friend in the Marines once put it, "The complaints go up, not down." As Harry Truman put it, "The buck stops here."
You said that if Congress would vote to extend the ban on assault weapons, that you'd sign the legislation, but you did nothing to encourage the Congress to extend it. Why not?

BUSH: Actually, I made my intentions -- made my views clear. I did think we ought to extend the assault weapons ban, and was told the fact that the bill was never going to move, because Republicans and Democrats were against the assault weapon ban, people of both parties...

My biggest disappointment in Washington is how partisan the town is. I had a record of working with Republicans and Democrats as the governor of Texas, and I was hopeful I'd be able to do the same thing.

And we made good progress early on. The No Child Left Behind Act, incredibly enough, was good work between me and my administration and people like Senator Ted Kennedy.

And we worked together with Democrats to relieve the tax burden on the middle class and all who pay taxes in order to make sure this economy continues to grow.

But Washington is a tough town. And the way I view it is there's a lot of entrenched special interests there, people who are, you know, on one side of the issue or another and they spend enormous sums of money and they convince different senators to taut their way or different congressmen to talk about their issue, and they dig in.
I had these big dreams for Washington, and they were dashed on the rocks of partisan reality. Golly gee, I didn't know that Big Money ruled Washington--'cause out here in Texas, that sorta thing just doesn't happen. Uh-huh. When I succeed, it's me, with a little help from the conservative senator from Massachusetts. When I fail, it's other people, the "entrenched special interests." When I admit even one mistake, it's the people I appoint who don't do exactly what I want. When my war plan falls apart, it's because we succeeded too quickly. When I send troops into battle without sufficient body armor the first time, it's because of Kerry's symbolic protest vote the second time.

Jon Stewart for president.

Oct 16, 2004


Yep. George W. Bush is a pawn of the Antichrist. But don't take my word for it; trust Michael Evans of WorldNetDaily.
When President Bush was at a nadir in the polls, when he was being brutally attacked by the liberal media, the war in Iraq was at its lowest point, and when the 9-11 commission was attempting to undermine his integrity, with character and courage, he made a biblically based, moral decision to stand with the nation of Israel. I believe this decision by President George W. Bush was prophetic, and will echo throughout eternity.
Why? Because Israel's existence is a necessary precondition for the (brief) reign of soon-to-arrive Antichrist, the Son of Perdition, The Beast, Apollyon, The Great Deceiver--and yes, they're all the same guy. It's all in the kooky book of Revelation, the most misinterpreted, misunderstood, misused book in the New Testament.

So if peace is achieved in the Middle East any time soon, thank George W. Bush, head for your bunker, and whatever you do, don't take the Mark.

Orwell spins

Timothy Sandefur points us to this article on a brand-new phenomenon: an atheist summer camp. John Ashmen of Christian Camping International, quoted in the article, wins the Meaningless Babble Award for the week.*
"Using the camp setting for different ideologies is not unusual," Ashmen said. "All of the stimuli has been changed and new bonds are built, old walls are broken down, and that's why you have such an impacting opportunity."

Yikes. We have verb number problems ("stimuli has been changed"), empty phrases ("new bonds are built"), and nouns-as-verbs ("impacting").

Congratulations, Mr. Ashmen. I'll mail you a copy of Simply Speaking (by every conservative's favorite speechwriter!) if you happen to read this.

*Yeah, I've never awarded it before today. Maybe I'll start it "for reals."

Oct 15, 2004

the horror

Amanda Fortini says what I've been saying to myself (and to my wife, bless her) since I started seeing women dressed up in the worst fashion trend since Hammer pants.

Although it seems like a perfect excuse to reify Elaine's only-imagined urban sombrero...

Oct 14, 2004

loosening screws

Sometimes teaching drives you crazy.

[thanks to the obscure store]


One of my promises is going to be Social Security reform, and you bet, we need to take a trillion dollars out of that $2.4 trillion surplus. Now remember, Social Security revenue exceeds expenses up until 2015. People are going to get paid. But if you're a younger worker, if you're younger, you better hope this country thinks differently, otherwise you're gonna be faced with huge payroll taxes or reduced benefits. And you bet we're gonna take a trillion dollars of your own money and let you invest it under safe guidelines so you get a better rate of return on the money than the paltry 2% that the federal government gets for you today. That's one of my promises. But it's gonna require people to bring both Republicans and Democrats together to get it done. That's what it requires. There was a chance to get this done. It was a bipartisan approach, but it's been rejected. I'm going to bring them together
That's George W. Bush concluding the debate, back in 2000.

Whither bipartisanship? After all, as the soon-to-be president continued, "A promise made is a promise kept." Flash forward to 2004:
BUSH: My biggest disappointment in Washington is how partisan the town is. I had a record of working with Republicans and Democrats as the governor of Texas, and I was hopeful I'd be able to do the same thing.

And we made good progress early on. The No Child Left Behind Act, incredibly enough, was good work between me and my administration and people like Senator Ted Kennedy.

And we worked together with Democrats to relieve the tax burden on the middle class and all who pay taxes in order to make sure this economy continues to grow.

But Washington is a tough town. And the way I view it is there's a lot of entrenched special interests there, people who are, you know, on one side of the issue or another and they spend enormous sums of money and they convince different senators to taut their way or different congressmen to talk about their issue, and they dig in.

I'll continue, in the four years, to continue to try to work to do so.

My opponent said this is a bitterly divided time. Pretty divided in the 2000 election. So in other words, it's pretty divided during the 1990s as well.

We're just in a period -- we've got to work to bring it -- my opponent keeps mentioning John McCain, and I'm glad he did. John McCain is for me for president because he understands I have the right view in winning the war on terror and that my plan will succeed in Iraq. And my opponent has got a plan of retreat and defeat in Iraq.
Iraq. That's where bipartisanship disappeared. Right there. Bush, like Kerry, wants it both ways: to unite the country while dividing the electorate.

Campaign promises either wither in the heat of urgency, or get stuck in the halls of politicking, or vanish amid the confetti of victory celebrations. They're cotton candy. Dandelion seeds. Dust bunnies.

Forget the debates. Everything changes after the election.

Oct 13, 2004

a bug in your ear

This is just too weird to believe.

Or is it?

Watch for the Matrix bulge in the last debate. If it's not there, put on your tinfoil hat.

[thanks to Jason Kuznicki]

Update: Now there's a contest: spot the bulge, win a Salon subscription!

Update update: All Things Earwig!

Oct 12, 2004

Oct 11, 2004

trundle on over

Add to the blogroll Jason Kuznicki's Positive Liberty, if not for its "classical liberal perspective," then for its emotional honesty, erudition, or eccentricity.

(Thanks to Ed Brayton, via whose blog I found Kuznicki's in the first place.)


Timothy Noah of Slate, fearing that he'll sound like a conspiracy theorist, does a little Googling and discovers that yes, in fact, Bush talkin' bout Dred Scott = Bush talkin' to the evangelical base.

Come on.

I mean, anyone who's ever listened to Alan Keyes knows that.


Never mind.

three--no, two cheers--for democracy

Do as I say, not as I do.

More here.

However this shakes down, the prospect is more than a little unsettling. Blogger beware.

two--no, three cheers--for democracy

So the Afghan elections are going well, so far, and the primary challenger to Hamid Karzai has rescinded his call for a boycott, as long as the results are monitored by an independent panel. What this bodes for the future of Afghanistan is anyone's guess; but nascent democracy is better than no democracy at all. History, as any Popperian would warn, is too contingent, too chaotic to predict. (Look at the differing outcomes in post-Communist Poland and Russia for a comparison case. Life is especially tough in the latter.) But that's not what interests me, really. What I noticed immediately upon hearing the news was that the results won't be in for two weeks.

Two weeks!

Donkeys, helicopters, planes, trucks, and trains are carrying the results in to be counted. The potential for fraud is enormous, but that's still not what interests me.

It's the two weeks.

We live in a relatively stable democracy, where we vote over two months before the new candidate is sworn in. But I remember certain political pressure to render a quick decision in Florida four years ago, and I remember calls for "the nation to move forward."

And yet Afghanistan won't even have certifiable results for a fortnight.

If our upcoming election is as close as the last, and it could be (again, I'll be a tentative Popperian), anyone who calls for a quick recount will be dismissed from my already-small list of politicos I admire, or at least begrudgingly respect.

Democracy takes time. Every vote counts. We can't let Afghanistan upstage us, when we're the ones evangelizing democracy in the first place.

Oct 10, 2004

paging Autumn Conwell

Spam generates the weirdest random strings. You've seen them, so I won't bother dredging up examples. But recently, I've noticed that scores of the ads littering my Junk Mail folder (where your email lands, if you're not on the right list) are addressed to a certain Autumn Conwell.

A quick Google (and alltheweb) search reveals that there is not one single web page in the world that contains that precise phrase. No American phone listing, either. Autumn Conwell, as far as the Internet is concerned, just doesn't exist.

Until now.

So, Autumn Conwell, whoever you are, I'll be hoarding your spam, waiting for you to come forward and claim it, at least until the fourteen days are up and Hotmail banishes it to oblivion.

Yours truly,

Not Autumn Conwell.

I spy with my little eye

Over on Tapped, Garance Franke-Ruta asks,
WHAT ABOUT ANTHRAX? There was just a question about how there have been no further terrorist attacks since September 11. But what about the anthrax attacks of fall 2001? Have we forgotten all about them? No one talks about them any more. But they happened, happened in America, and if they weren't a terrorist attack, I don't know what is. Problem is, we're even less clear on how to catch their perpetrator than we are Osama bin Laden. So no one talks about them any more.
Uh, Garance, do a little research. Maybe it's just the blogosphere that's remained silent.

what a series

J.D. Drew knocked in Rafael Furcal, so Atlanta will send Smoltz in to face the Killer Bs in the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead and the series on the line. Baseball doesn't get any better.

Update: Berkman hits a single, so it's first-and-third with one out. Tums. Where are my Tums?

Update update: Double play. Smoltz shuts 'em down again, and we're back to Atlanta for game five. I'll sigh with relief when my heart starts beating again.

Oct 9, 2004


Psychics, especially the tabloid variety, depend on three factors for their continued existence: outrageous claims, ambiguity, and their audience's short memory. Who, other than James Randi, goes back through a psychic's predictions to fact-check for accuracy? Psychics don't have a batting average.

Horoscopes are the same way. Even more vague than psychic predictions, their bromides, filled with "perhaps" and "maybe," are either so vacuous as to fit anyone, or so tentative as to be meaningless.

More absurd, and certainly more audacious, are annual horoscopic forecasts. I looked mine up the other day during a heated argument with an astrological believer, who, among other things, said "Maybe it doesn't work for you because you don't believe in it." That's right: it's a cosmic placebo.

I discovered that it's quite fun to read the annual forecast in hindsight, especially if you're a nerd and have a blog you can reference to dig up incidents that might otherwise be forgotten. (Confirmation bias, the prime trick of the clairvoyant trade, relies heavily on the selective and conflating habits of memory.)

So, let's go down the forecast for Pisces, month by month, thanks to Yahoo.

The miracles you started working during the holidays are alive and well in the New Year. Take it slow and be reasonable -- setbacks during the first week of January are nothing personal. Until the 21st, it's all in your mind; after this point, start talking.

The lame boy who leapt out of his wheelchair and the doughty old grandmother with encephalitis, who both recovered with a heavy dose of radioactive iodine and five well-placed quartz crystals, sent me lovely Christmas cards and large checks. The setback must have been the FBI investigation, but the charges were dropped. I started talking about it, but there's little point when no one's listening.
February brings a much-needed reality check. You're basically right, but feedback helps your fine-tuning. Starting on the 20th, your sincere passion turns you into a verifying, vindicating machine, and after March 7th, you're ideally positioned to spell it out for nonbelievers.

Turns out the radioactive iodine was unnecessary. After a quick chat with Ramtha I learned that the quartz crystals themselves can access all the quantum states of healing, and the iodine in fact causes a bit of superfluous spiritual interference. The high-school physics teacher who called my techniques "a base fraud" and "charlatanism" eventually came around when I offered her a forty percent partnership.

If spring upstages you in the last week of March, hold your own as a costar.

Spring didn't upstage me (there's that cautious "if"), and I maintained my control over the healing franchise. Letters poured in from all over the country as disciples brought a message of hope and healing to the masses. Even at five percent commissions, I put enough aside for a Caddy.

By April you're proving yourself through confidence, not insecurity. You're excused for focusing more on ego than spirituality, and it's okay if vanity colors your renewed purpose after the 20th.

"It's all about you," said my partner-turned-life-partner, who now shared one hundred percent of my heart, and fifty percent of my finances. I bought her gold-dipped roses and an Escalade, and cured her nagging eczema.

By May 5th, everyone gets the joke. But the 17th brings questions about fundamental issues and truths, and a downhill slide begins. You might even lose your sense of humor between the 21st and June 10th -- don't worry, it's not forever.

They got the joke alright, and indicted me for mail fraud. I sat in a white-collar prison for two months, writing letters to my adherents, like a modern-day Martin Luther King, except I wasn't fighting for everyone's civil rights, just my own. When the divorce papers came in, I went on a hunger strike for eight hours.

On June 22nd, you can find the energy that you thought might be all gone; then the 29th pulls you back into a healthy awareness or embrace. Life is upbeat and carefree until the end of July, when some heavy expectations drag you down.
She came back for me. She had run off with a Harley-riding thug in the West Coast Choppers, but she grew tired of his flowing locks whipping her in the face as they blazed across the Nevada desert. I was released on bail, saw the sunshine, and then she told the truth: she was expecting. A little Chopper.

Ready or not, big projects are on deck for August, and rejecting help between the 10th and 23rd just intensifies the pressure. Then raw inspiration and brute force save you. By September 2nd, you're almost as clearheaded and accomplished as you were six months ago.
I threw those problems to the wind and escaped this dreary life, hopping on a refugee boat to Cuba, with five other liberal dissidents who had grown tired of American oppression. We started up a cabal to overthrow Castro, and in a few weeks had enough weapons (thank you, CIA!) to put the plan into action. We waited for an opportune time. I cured one of the Marxist professor's warts.

But there's a price as autumn begins: You have to listen from late September through mid-October, whether or not you agree.

And I didn't agree with my advisors, who said that a full-on assault on Castro's presidential palace was too risky. I knew that with the proper crystal preparation, we'd be invincible to bullets, but those faithless cowards... but, like a good leader, I bided my time.

Friends rescue you on the 24th, escorting you through a fantastic Halloween. Uninvited guests start bending your life out of shape in the second week of November. By the 22nd, it's clear that your holiday season is spinning out of control. Stop fighting and don't stress. The first half of December proves just how broad your tastes are, and the coming of winter joins happy endings with promising beginnings.

Here is where the future meets the present. What good things are in store? Who are these friends, and will they rescue my coup, or rescue me from the coup? Will the fighting be in the field, or in a new relationship? Will I reunite with my ex and her new dumpling--is that the promising beginning? Our fault, dear friends, is not in us, but in our stars.

Oct 8, 2004

say cheese

Mt. St. Helens is at it again. So far, the volcano's provided fantastic photo ops, unease among its neighboring population, and national recognition for the Evergreen State. But no real eruption, yet. And that "yet" grows more yet-ish every day.

Oct 6, 2004

the Great Google

While researching Jay Gatsby, hero of Fitzgerald's classic, I came across this article by Allan Wood about a possible connection to a real-life Austrian baron (or, possibly, a different "poseur bootlegger").

Notice, though, that the article's no longer free; The Globe and Mail wants your dough. But Google, subversive at times, offers hope: their cached copy is right below the link. Free to all.

Thank you, Google. Thank you.

(The article's interesting, too. Literary research isn't entirely dull.)


Hawks, for years, have claimed that politicians lost the Vietnam war. If only the generals had been given total control on the ground to wage the offensives that were needed to wipe Charlie off the map....

Now, thanks to this summation of recent revelations (a la William Saletan), we finally know that no matter how much we believe in George Bush's philosophy of democratic beaconism, his bungling, stiff-necked leadership has let us down--hopefully not for good.

Reason to vote for Kerry? Maybe. But then, as the Swift Boat vets will tell you, this election is about whom to vote against.

picture = 1000 words

Calm down, everybody.
That picture's from 1980.
The party's over.
Earthquakes on Mount St. Helens increased slightly today after a marked stillness overnight, but the quakes are still so slight that scientists here believe the volcano has entered a lull after more than a week of building eruptions.

But how long that lull will last is anybody's guess.

sit down debate; lie up storm

The American Prospect has an interesting catalog (so far) of Cheney's distortions in last night's debate. I had no idea his "factcheck.com" stunt would backfire so loudly; the first thing I thought was, "Why does he want people to visit factcheck.org, when at least half the mistakes, miscalculations, and misrepresentations listed are from the Bush campaign?" Argh... the voters might make an informed choice!

Oct 4, 2004

random observations

The Zithro made me do it.

First, read William Saletan's take on Kerry's "global test."

That John Kerry's "global test" is even considered a gaffe demonstrates the divide between realpolitik and politics. Kerry's bland position, that pre-emptive action has to be justifiable not only to the folks at home but, by default, to the folks around the globe, is controversial only to the severest jingoist, the uber-patriot who dismisses the fact that a superpower may need extra troops in the field. Bush must understand this fundamental fact, having taken both time to appear before the U.N. with flimsy evidence, and to build a coalition of the (no-longer) willing, Poland at the fore.

International alliances, fragile as they may be, and impotent as they are, find fans on both sides of the political aisle. Globalists believe the world can genuinely cooperate; their view of nation-states suffers from blinkering indifference to actual human nature. Realists, on the other hand, know that even a tottering alliance can be exploited for one nation's own interests. Any moral or global good is a spandrel.

Bush leans toward the latter. His camp senses that a large portion of the electorate fears the U.N., the World Trade Organization, and all other organs of the New World Order, or globalism writ obvious; this sentiment is held intuitively, deeply, and unswervingly. Bush feels no need to explain his reasoning while misrepresenting Kerry's more nuanced statement; the idea that Americans should (or even could) be held accountable by any other nation flies in the face of most Americans' values. His statements about the International Criminal Court perfectly epitomize the double standard. When the war criminals are Serbian, the World Court has every right to prosecute. When war criminals are American, only America can bring them to justice. Teddy Roosevelt's big stick never swings backward.

This sort of pragmatic unilateralism blends strangely with Bush's utopian democratism. He notes, correctly, that free nations don't attack each other--yet free nations have long, difficult paths toward freedom, often involving civil war; representative government is not the natural inclination of the human species.

Three years ago, isolationism and globalism both collapsed in plumes of fire and ash. In their place, Bush has erected unilateral democratism, the anti-realist philosophy of the electorate.

deja view

Calling the ghost of Harry Truman...

Oct 1, 2004

debate, yo

First, here's why it wasn't a real debate:
[MR. LEHRER:] Candidates may not direct a question to each other. There will be two-minute closing statements but no opening statements.

Then there was one of several dodges:
MR. LEHRER: New question. Mr. President, two minutes. Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2nd would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to win, because the American people know I know how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to lead. I have -- I understand everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions that I've made. And I've made some tough decisions.

Then there was the revision of history:
[MR. BUSH:] [The enemy] showed up in Afghanistan when they were there because they tried to beat us and they didn't, and they're showing up in Iraq for the same reason. They're trying to defeat us. And if we lose our will, we lose; but if we remain strong and resolute, we will defeat this enemy.

Then there were the name-drops, with the subtle Oedipal dig:
[SEN. KERRY:] I'm proud that important military figures are supporting me in this race. Former chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili. Just yesterday, General Eisenhower's son, General John Eisenhower, endorsed me. General -- Admiral William Crowe, General Tony McPeak, who ran the Air Force war so effectively for his father, all believe I would make a stronger commander in chief.

The zinger, and the angry reply:

[SEN. KERRY] And it wasn't until former Secretary of State Jim Baker and General Scowcroft and others pushed publicly and said, You got to go to the U.N., that the president finally changed his mind -- his campaign has a word for that -- and went to the United Nations....
[PRESIDENT BUSH] So I went to the United Nations. I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to the United Nations, I decided to go there myself.
I don't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap and -- anyway, that's for another debate.

The talking points have been hashed out already. Really, what can be added? John Kerry won on style, though he waffled away his main point. If the war on Iraq is a "colossal error in judgment," isn't it also true that American troops have "died for a mistake?" ("No," Kerry blurted, contradicting himself.) But Bush lost the opportunity to demonstrate his resolve, instead appearing battle-weary, or, worse, uninterested, flustered, and frazzled.

If there is no big Kerry bounce, it is because the majority of Americans have already decided; the debates are an echo chamber for political prejudice. Kerry's facade of determination, his intelligent demeanor, his masterful oratory matter only to his supporters, who sigh in relief that their candidate handled himself well against a formidable opponent.

Kerry's best zinger came from the DeGaulle anecdote. The word of the president is supposed to be enough; Bush has taken that word and stripped it of meaning with the zeal of a used car salesman.

If anything, Kerry is as resolute as Bush prides himself in being. He is staunchly political, and he does contradict himself, and marches onward as if no one will notice. Which flip-flopper ought to win the White House?

major revelation

I, too, watched the debate.