the minor premise

the minor premise

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bill of Fare: Easter Friday

Somewhat Blue Egg Salad on Bread with Fresh Garden Lettuce
(Gotta use that fresh garden lettuce before the heat moves in and wilts it.)

Carrot and Celery Sticks


Fruit Juice or Milk

Dessert: Choice of Chocolate Egg, Marshmallow Peep, or Small Cup Mixed Jelly Beans


To Do: Try to put off grocery run until Saturday.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gramma Gets the Hammer

"It's a political move; he was in free fall in the polls."--D
"Well, what can one say of someone who would do that?"--C
"That he's the kind of guy who'd sell out his own grandmother for political gain?"--D

I haven't gotten on my high horse about anything on this blog in quite a while. I haven't had the time to trawl news sources for things that get my dander up, and I really haven't had the inclination. It's much more entertaining to find the ridiculous and laugh at it than it is to lose one's temper over ugliness beyond one's control, anyway.

Well, the time has come. I'm saddlin' up.

I, along with what seems to be an awful lot of conservative writers great and small, have a bee in my bonnet about the Barak Obama saga currently playing out in the news. My bee doesn't seem to be tickling nearly as many ears as some of the more outrageous aspects of the story, though.

Oh, I've gotten the overview of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's hate speech (I haven't watched the Youtubes, by the way--they crash my computer.) And I am quite convinced that it is hate speech. Applying the reversal test to some of his statements (i.e., what if a conservative white preacher were caught on tape talking like that, particularly if nonwhites were the target of his wrath?) should disabuse any thinking person of the delusion that it isn't. On NPR, I even heard the argument that the Rev. Jeremiah's remarks amount to a twentieth-century Jeremiad. If that's the case, does it make Fred Phelps the Ezekiel of our time? Should we heretofore address Pat Robertson as "Hosea?"

Obama's part in the whole matter is something else, entirely. If anyone cares to read ten random posts of mine on this blog, it should be patently obvious that my politics are not his. I wasn't going to vote for him anyway, even before his church affiliation became an issue. I doubt, moreover, that many among those who think him the greatest thing since JFK will defect over this; those whose thoughts I've read seem to consider his much-touted speech on the matter a masterstroke. I think it's a bit of an obvious dodge, myself. (I have read it all, by the way--but again, no Youtube.)

Either Obama worshipped under the Rev's tutelage for years, having found him a kindred spirit, or he joined the church--and became a major contributor--because the membership was somehow expedient. In the latter case, it's entirely plausible that Obama's church attendance was infrequent enough that he was unaware of some of his pastor's nuttier views (although who gives $20,000 to an organization they don't know inside and out?) But that possibility also raises problems. He presumably joined a church, as most Americans do, because he agreed with the things that were being preached there. That church claimed Christianity while ignoring some of Christianity's most fundamental tenets (love thy enemy notable among them) and preached a profound racially-based hatred of the country that enabled its existance. Thus Obama would have to be presumed a radical racist and probably a less-than-ideal choice for leader of a large heterogenous nation. Alternatively, he joined the church for the networking possibilities, or the ready-made political infrastructure, or the image enhancement that accompanies churchgoing in these United States; attended infrequently; paid little attention while there. That would indicate he is merely an opportunistic religious hypocrite. Neither option denotes a man who ought to be vested with the degree of power inherent in the U. S. Presidency.

But none of these matters are what drove me to the keyboard. What did was this remark:

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

If this isn't the first time since beginning his run that Obama has mentioned his white grandmother, it's certainly the first time the media have taken much notice of it. And what does he do? He publicly disses her. An 86-year-old woman. The 86-year-old woman who raised him from the age of ten to adulthood, I might add; who took the trouble to ensure he got the top-notch education that likely launched his subsequent endeavors. He does this on hazy enough information to boot: it's unclear whether Grandma is afraid of all black men who pass her, or only certain ones who appear treatening or thuggish. It's likewise unclear whether certain white men produce the same effect. As for "stereotypes," in the absence of examples it's impossible to determine whether Obama refers to malicious slurs or minor faux pas.

Sure, old folks can be crotchety at times, and people from his grandmother's generation weren't necessarily as racially enlightened as we all like to think we are today. But what kind of adult makes a woman in her declining years the new national poster child for subliminal white racism? What sort of person publicly humiliates an old lady for occasional lapses in decorum? Furthermore, what sort of absolutist sanctimonious jerk equates privately-shared ignorant remarks his grandmother seems to have occasionally let slip with the sort of rhetoric Rev. Wright delivered publicly from the pulpit on a regular basis?

Obama is only about a year or so older than the hosts of this blog. While the Hawaii he grew up in has long been more ethnically mixed (and politically and socially liberal) than the Blue Ridge Mountain towns of my youth (but probably not much more than D's northern Virginia haunts even then) I doubt that it was an entirely color-blind society in the 1970s. Interracial marriages were less common than they are today, and consequently so were biracial children. Less common too were grandparents raising children, particularly when there were parents alive and able to do so themselves. That Obama's grandmother undertook the raising of her grandson when she really didn't have to says volumes more to me about the woman's character and racial attitudes than does the knowledge that she has occasionally been taken in by a stereotype. That she almost certainly, as the guardian of a biracial grandchild, had to deal intelligently and graciously with many ignorant, mean-spirited, or downright hostile attitudes from others speaks even more highly of her.

Obama's approach to this whole matter, which has included (thus far) denial, pretended ignorance, attemts to deflect, and comparing his pastor to a crotchety uncle, strikes me as bordering on cowardice. Using his grandmother as a negative example strikes me as blatant ingratitude with a veneer of sanctimony. Self-righteous ingratitude is not unexpected (though plenty annoying) in a rebellious teenager or overconfident twentysomething. But we generally expect a 46-year-old man who has experienced some of the joys and trials of raising children of his own to have the maturity, or at least the sense of shame, to display a modicum of respect for those what brought him up.

Policy, schmolicy. Private behavior is indicative of public trustworthiness. Obama's behavior in the face of this week's revelations, the lack of respect for the hand that fed him in particular, indicates an appalling lack of character. This man should not be trusted with the presidency.

Postscript: As several days have elapsed since the speech, it stands to reason additional insights are out on the ether. D came across this post which linked to this story which included the following:

610 WIP host Angelo Cataldi asked Obama about his Tuesday morning speech on race at the National Constitution Center in which he referenced his own white grandmother and her prejudice. Obama told Cataldi that "The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know (pause) there's a reaction in her that doesn't go away and it comes out in the wrong way."

Puh-leeze, Mr. Obama--somebody on the street that she doesn't know?


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

...Oh Yes, There Is!

Several posts down, D presented a Muppet Show song parody he'd encountered in a discussion of puppet Masses. A Jim Henson fan from childhood, he felt he ought to give suitable homage to Henson's most famous persona in his title.

But how to tie in the spindly-limbed Green One to the matter at hand? A patronage would seem to be the most obvious means. But is there really a St. Kermit, or isn't there? We wouldn't want to put out misleading information, after all. A search of Catholic Online's Saints & Angels database seemed to put the question to rest. No St. Kermits anywhere. Thus was born the title, "There Is No St. Kermit..." Certainly words to live by, should one ever be tempted to attempt a Puppet Mass.

Unfortunately, we had forgotten the First Rule of Celtic Spelling, which is that no word will ever be spelled remotely like it's pronounced (case in point: legendary Irish king Conchobor is pronounced "Connor".) So it was inevitable that the facts of the matter would come back to bite us. On a subsequent search, they did.

According to the
Dictionary of Patron Saints' Names
by Thomas W. Sheehan (Our Sunday Visitor, 2001), of which a lucky few pages including the K section for male saints are reproduced at Google Books:

*There are at least eight Sts. Kermit.
*In ancient Ireland they spelled the name Diarmaid (that would explain why we couldn't find them under K at Catholic Online. How about a cross-reference, guys?)
*St. Kermit the Just (feast Jan.10) served as abbot of Inis Clothran, Longford and is remembered for composing a psalter.

The contributions of the other seven Sts. Kermit were not mentioned.

Interestingly enough, a weekly podcast by the name of St. Kermit broadcasts out of the Boston, MA area. Its website features the slogan, "A podcast inspired by the patron saint of green," and a logo of the Frog himself's trademark green scalp and ping-pong ball eyes with a halo above.

So there is a Saint Kermit, after all. Several, in fact.

But I'm positive there are no Saints Piggy, Fozzie, or Gonzo!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rose & Mose

Two unrelated news items noticed in the past few days:

Lila Rose Rides Again

The pro-life UCLA Advocate, under the leadership of editor-in-chief Lila Rose, have busted Planned Parenthood yet again. (Links to previous investigations conducted by this intrepid young cub may be found here and here.) Targeting Idaho, a state in which it is legal to secretly tape a phone conversation, the Advocate had an actor pose as a prospective donor with an unusual request:

Donor: Wonderful. I want to specify that abortion to help a minority group - would that be possible?

Kersey: Absolutely.

Donor: Like the black community for example?

Kersey: Certainly.

Donor: OK, so the abortion I can give money specifically for a black baby, that would be the purpose.

Kersey: Absolutely. If you wanted to designate that you wanted your gift to be used to help (an) African-American woman in need, then we would certainly make sure that that gift was earmarked specifically for that purpose.

Donor: Great. Because I really face trouble with affirmative action, and I don't want my kids being disadvantaged, you know, against black kids. I just had a baby; I want to put it in his name, you know.

Kersey: Mmhmm, absolutely.

Donor: So that's definitely possible.

Kersey: Oh, always, always.

Donor: So I just wanna - can I put this in the name of my son?

Kersey: Absolutely.

Donor: Yeah, he's trying to get into colleges, and he's going to be applying, you know, he's just ... really faced troubles with affirmative action.

Kersey: Mmhmm.

Donor: And we don't, you know, we just think, you know, the less black kids out there the better.

Kersey: (Laughs) Understandable, understandable.
Um, David, let me, if I may, just get some sort of specific general information so we can set this up the right way. You said you wanted to put it in your son's name, and you would like this designated specifically to assist (an) African-American woman who's looking to terminate a pregnancy.

Donor: Exactly, and yeah, I wanna protect my son, so he can get into college.

Kersey: All right. Excuse my hesitation, um, um, this is the first time I've had a donor call and make this kind of request, so I'm excited, and I wanna make sure I don't leave anything out.

The full story and transcript may be found at The Idaho Statesman. Hat tip for the link to the Susan B. Anthony List (named for American history's best-known pro-life feminist.)

The Advocate also has tapes from several other states, but is waiting for responses from Idaho and Ohio (from whence they released a similar exchange) before releasing them.

Old-fashioned investigative reporting. I love it!


Moses' Long Strange Trip

Psychology professor Benny Shanon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem went on a trip to the Amazon, where he went on another sort of trip entirely: one produced by a local hallucinatory plant potion. Since then, he's used the stuff hundreds of times and written a book about the plant. Why do I envision something along the lines of In a Gadda Da Vida or maybe those plays that Tennessee Williams turned out during the 60's that never see the stage anymore?

At any rate, Shanon's long strange trip "enlightened" him to posit a hypothesis about the religious experience of Moses and the Children of Israel at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, which he subsequently published in the philosophy journal Time and Mind. He suggested that the ancient Israelites may have used Middle Eastern desert plants (in particular, wild rue or acacia) in religious ceremonies and that these may have produced the events described in the book of Exodus:

And all the people perceived the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the voice of the horn, and the mountain smoking.

Which leaves me wondering: does one really need hallucinogens to see thunder and lightning, perhaps followed by smoke if the vegetation up there was dry, on an isolated mountaintop?

Shanon is a proponent of the religion-has-its-roots-in-the-use-of-psychotropics school of anthropology, presumably because no one could ever have a religious experience while stone cold sober. He figures the burning bush story is evidence Moses was trippin' years before he led the Children to the Promised Land as well.

Aside from the obvious issue of why the Children would follow some stoner across a desert through forty years of misery, I'm absolutely disinclined to buy this one. Moses wasn't chasing spiritual jollies when he encountered that bush, he was busy watching his father-in-law's sheep. I'm no aggie, but it seems to me that getting high while trying to hold off predators and keep together a herd of beasts not known for their intellect is not good animal husbandry.

It's no accident that many cultures which were known to use psychotropics in worship or fortunetelling kept the use limited to a select few on specific occasions. Life was pretty darn dangerous for primitive people: having large segments of the population or individuals critical to community survival one toke over the line could have spelled disaster.

The full story is here.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Rendering Political Service

Absurdity and politics go together so well, and this political season is no exception. Even when the candidate is not the one you support, you hate to see stupidity be the thing that brings him down, especially when the issues should be enough to do him in. Therefore, in reaction to a political absurdity, the parody department has put together this politcally absurd poem based on the "Cremation of Sam McGee":

"The Selection of Dems' Nominee," by Dminor and Cminor
with apologies to Robert W. Service

There are strange things done on the bandwagon
of the folks who would be Prez.
The campaign trails have their secret tales
candidates won't confess.
The camera lights have seen queer sights,
but the one that makes me insane
Is the fuss that is made by a fools' parade
o'er the middle name "Hussein."

Now Barack O, as candidates go,
was different than most.
Just in his first term, he felt an urge burn
to be the White House host.
From Illinois on to Washington,
in a Senator's seat
Through procedure votes and dull anecdotes
he felt ambition's heat.

He was young: two score and six, and no more;
a handsome, smiling face
And a manner that would knock 'em flat
should anyone mention race.
His politics were liberal for sure,
Democratic left-wing.
All the leftist blogs and bandwidth hogs
his praises would loudly sing.

But another sought that for which he fought,
a challenge so weighty.
The White House she made, in the last decade,
her home as Bill's first lady.
It was destiny, for her, thought she,
and so she would do her worst.
"And when I am done and November's won
I will be quite a first!"

So through primary and state caucus she
battled him tooth and claw.
Super Tuesday's vote, the pundits all wrote
resulted in a draw.
Republicans had their man and were glad
(except for 'Cons like Coulter),
But in March the Dems were at loose ends
with Barack the edge holder.

A trick was needed, victory speeded.
November was in sight!
To play on a fear might just save the year
if it comes from the right.
Candidates have got their own weak spot,
a trump they don't want played.
The one who found that; pulled it from a hat
would find she had it made.

And so a big fuss was laid out for us
over his parents' taste
In giving a name of Muslim fame
to a kid with whom they were graced.
So policy flaws are ignored because
trivia rules the day.
The prize much sought may never be caught.
Pettiness steals it away.

There are strange things done on the bandwagon
of the folks who would be Prez.
The campaign trails have their secret tales
candidates won't confess.
The camera lights have seen queer sights,
but the one that gives me pain
Is the abject fright of pundits Right
of the middle name "Hussein."

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