the minor premise

the minor premise

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dancing Around the Subject

Sometimes after I have looked at a YouTube video, I will scan the "Related Videos" section to see if there is anything further on the subject that is interesting.

I was looking at an ad, "Bad News," on YouTube, and I ran across a video claiming to show Sarah Palin singing. A quick look showed that the video was a poor joke put up by an anti-Palin hack. The video also appears on Sam Harris' blog on the site "Brave New Films," but is not claimed by Harris.

So from where did the video footage really come? A video titled "Walk in His Steps," copyrighted 2007 from The Way, International.

The original video is unremarkable -- typical gospel TV fare. The Palin send-up is weak, and is uninteresting the moment you realize that it is not authentic. The fact that copyright law was trampled is not lost on me. If I were the poster, I might be more careful, especially if I were in show business.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

See, I Said Bang Your Head on the Keyboard Day Was Coming Up

PETA has written Ben and Jerry's proposing that they substitute human milk for cow's milk in their ice cream. They promote this mainly as a health measure, although I'm sure concern for those contented-looking Holsteins on the green Vermont hills depicted on the packaging was a powerful motivator.

Having lactated myself, all I can say is, "Moo." That and I'm sorry I didn't devise an official award for Stupidest Environmental Idea back when Greenpeace was commissioning that Noah's Ark replica.

Fortunately I stumbled across Hampton Roads Online (I spent a few years in that area, and used to read the Virginian Pilot and Ledger Star when I could.) and found that many of the commenters in the story's combox had plenty to say. A sampling of some of the more amusing remarks from the first page:

*'s my suggestion... Nipple Ripple

*I have a great idea for the newly-minted mom baristas that work the espresso machines in Starbucks: "Cappuccino latte materno". With a twist, of course!

*Humans are the only species that consumes another animal's milk.
[Citation from PETA's letter]
Tell that to my cat when he gets Elsie's best twice daily. Not to mention the plethora of wild animals I've fed cow's milk to.

*I had my share of breastmilk when I was an infant and though I have breastfed 2 of my children and am currently breastfeeding my youngest, I have no desire to partake in Cherry Garcia made with something my body secretes to nourish my young. Nor am I interested in consuming the breastmilk of other women.

I guess PETA didn't take into account that mammals don't as a rule continue to drink the milk of their own species into adulthood. Since they've taken an interest in promoting typical mammalian behavior, that is.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's a Travis-ty We Can Ill Af-Ford When Strapped for Cash

When times get tough, the minor premise turns to . . . parody.
The parody department resurrects a Tennessee Ernie Ford Classic, and then promptly puts it into the ground again. The result is dedicated to the common man --with a 401K-- and to the taxpayers who will, at least in the short term, foot the bill.

Sixteen Funds
by DMinor
(Apologies to Merle Travis, or perhaps to George S. Davis)

Some people say a man must own his own house
With two-odd kids and a trophy wife spouse --
House and wife and cars and yard
A paycheck a-week and a credit card.

You buy sixteen funds, what do you get?
Another man's mortgage and second-hand debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go;
My IRA plan's down a really big hole.

I awoke one mornin' and the radio said,
The darn banking system had a-ended up dead.
I watched my sixteen funds of financial gold
Turn to paper junk: "Well, a-bless my soul!"

You buy sixteen funds, what do you get?
Another man's mortgage and second-hand debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go;
My IRA plan's down a really big hole.

I awoke one mornin', in a financial pain --
Fightin' and trouble without any gain.
Rhetoric in the campaign by an Obama hack
Cain't make-a flat-broke banker give my money back.

You buy sixteen funds, what do you get?
Another man's mortgage and second-hand debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go;
My IRA plan's down a really big hole.

All you CEOs, better step aside:
No golden parachute, if you have some pride.
Your sub-prime loans have emptied the till--
If the right wing don't a-get you
Then the left sure will!

You buy sixteen funds, what do you get?
Another man's mortgage and derivative debt.
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go;
My IRA plan's down a really big hole.

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Coming Tomorrow: Bang Your Head on the Keyboard Day

All right, last night and this morning when my browser dashboard came up the lead story (note to D: can we get the dashboard to display real news instead?) was Clay Aiken: 'Yes, I'm Gay'.

I visited Civics Geeks, where I found Zach had posted the following headline from today's edition of his alma mater's student newspaper:
Students work to learn in big lectures

Then, I ran across this mention on The Ironic Catholic of a Time Magazine story on a "green" Bible:

[Time]Green runs through the Bible like a vine. There are the Garden and Noah's olive branch. The oaks under which Abraham met with angels. The "tree standing by the waterside" in Psalms. And there is Jesus, the self-proclaimed "true vine," who describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed that grows into a tree "where birds can nest." He dies on a cross of wood, and when he rises Mary Magdalene mistakes him for a gardener.

[IC] Yeah, here's a clue, Time--there was no electricity back then. Of course the ancient world was green.

Positively eerie.
I can only conclude that Congress declared Keen Insights Into the Obvious day and forgot to inform most of us about it. Small wonder their approval rating is where it is.

So here I am, behind the curve again on things. Though it's a bit slapdash, I have, in keeping with the spirit of the day, thrown together a few humble insights of my own:

*Gee, whillikers, this mortgage bailout is going to cost us a bundle.
*What a horserace the election is turning out to be, eh?
*If I don't pick up that absentee ballot application for Hon Daughter #1, she's gonna miss the election entirely.
*It's Indian summer in Georgia, and the ragweed is in bloom...
*I have really, really got to vacuum this floor today.
*Gosh, Dog Bud really smells. He cannot go another week without a bath.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

And More Pinsplitting

Part II of the post below

Out of nine reported incidents listed as of yesterday on the Voter Suppression Wiki:
*7 involve a left charge slant , 1 right (2), 1 unclear (6).
*2 involve left reporting slant, 3 center/left, 1 center/probably left, 2 center, 0 right.

So D's suggestion that the Wiki links do not evince a nonpartisan or bipartisan approach is actually fair. The majority of charges made came from left-of-center organizations or individuals, and media coverage came from either mainstream news sources (most of which lean left although I didn't tag them that way) or left/progressive/Democrat blogs. Recognized right-of-center sources do not appear at all among the incident report links.

With regard to the charge slant,the decided imbalance suggests that Democrats/progressives make suppression claims disproportionately compared with Republicans/conservatives. There are two possible explanations for this:
1. Democrats are the victims of voter suppression more often than are Republicans because Republicans often use voter suppression as a weapon, while Democrats do not.
2. Democrats find voter suppression claims an expedient tactic for reasons that have little to do with the accuracy of such claims and Republicans do not find such claims expedient.

Some possible explanations of media slant:
1. Left-leaning news sources are more likely to report on voter suppression because right-leaning news sources are interested in covering it up. (This fails to explain why right-leaning sources don't appear at all, however, as it would be expected that they would post rebuttals to charges of suppression at least occasionally. Certainly they would be expected to post the rare charge of suppression against Republican voters.)
2. Left-leaning news sources are more likely to report suppression because Democrats bring charges against Republicans far more often than the reverse, and they are more likely to view these accusations as credible.
3. Left-leaning sources have a vested interest in promulgating suppression stories regardless of credibility, whereas right-leaning sources do not.
4. All news sources report suppression stories; the links on this Wiki reflect the reading choices of either the site administrators, or of most submittors to the site, or both. This could signify a prejudice in favor of these sources, or merely a lack of awareness of sources reporting the opposing view.

Now for the suppression count:
*3 involve situations probably worthy of further investigation (1,4,9.)
*2 involve probable clerical errors that could be easily dealt with without investigation (2,6) [these, note, both involve Republicans shooting themselves in the foot; thus despite my own slant I'm not cutting them any slack.]
*3 either do not involve suppression or involve unverifiable allegations (3,5,8)
*1 seems to involve a haphazardly managed legitimate attempt to clean up voter rolls by a public official who hopefully understands now why he should have recused himself from that party job (7.) But as there is at least a whiff of compromise to it, let's add it to the further investigation column.

It appears to me that for every incident report that might warrant further investigation (which is not the same as saying they automatically constitute suppression) there is at least one report that probably shouldn't be there or that at least shouldn't be reported as suppression. This has the effect of creating the perception of widespread suppression even when that is not the case. I think it's noteable, by the way, that as links to stories increase, increased numbers are blog posts that offer nothing in the way of new information: just reiterated opinions and invective. 5 is a prime example of this. You could easily end up with reports backed by dozens of "sources" that don't actually add anything but the perception of referencing, just because a story is often repeated.

What procedure does the Wiki have in place for reporting corrections and false leads or for limiting submissions to the newsworthy?

I can't see how anybody referring to this site would not come away with the perception that voter suppression is either a predominantly Republican tactic or a stick used very effectively for beating Republicans. In fact, a number of the blogs linked on the site, and at least one video linked on report 5, express vehemently (and with a nice professional-looking news show set to lend that air of newsworthiness, in the case of the video) the view that "Only Republicans suppress because they can't win without disenfranchising people." (Does that mean Democrats cheat by overenfranchising? Hmmm.) I think it betrays either overwhelming naivete or overwhelming political cynicism to promote this opinion as common knowledge. If I learned anything from history, it's that no one party has a monopoly on corruption: please recall that the worst political machines of the 20th century (Nixon's excepted) were almost all firmly entrenched in the Democratic party; a few are still there.

My concern with voter suppression muckraking of the kind done at the Wiki boils down to two things: the intent of the exercise, and the eventual result of the exercise. These may or may not be mutually exclusive.

The intent of promoting fair elections through vigilance and education is an admirable one, but fairness will evaporate quickly if all are not held to the same standard. No cheating means no cheating; how you go about it doesn't matter. An intent of creating the impression that occasional pockets of corruption (when have we not had those?) render the entire system rotten is considerably less noble, and perpetuates a falsehood. It also threatens the freedom we have to choose our leaders by persuading many that their choices count for nothing. Which of these cases reflects the Voter Suppression Wiki crew? Only they can say for sure.

The best of intentions will not necessarily prevent a bad end, however. The Wiki has already posted a random accusation (5,) an article in which the data don't really support the conclusion (3,) and an article in which legitimate attempts to regulate voting are presented as suppression (8)--and that's a third of the list. These are listed alongside reports with some legitimacy as if they were equally credible and important. If this continues, the end result is likely to be an enormous list that is substantially dross being given as much weight as anything of value. An incentive will be created to score political points via spurious accusations; thus the overall quality of incident reports (and the value of the site as a legitimate research tool) will decrease. Voters who consult the site (or just catch a critical analysis-free news blurb on it) are likely to be swayed by volume rather than taking the time to actually analyze the data for themselves; thus the election will be less about issues than about which side can make the other look ugliest before the bell rings.

Finally, the creation of a widespread perception that the whole electoral system is beyond repair (which can happen with even the best of intentions if the site admins aren't extremely careful about factchecking and checking their own prejudices) can actually have a detrimental effect on voting in general and educated voting in particular. That way lies the eventual breakdown of the electoral system, not its salvation.

Muckrake if you must, guys, but muckrake honestly. Read all submissions, and be sure you understand what they really mean. Don't create muck where it didn't exist in the first place. Don't place all muck on the same level, and don't place all sources on the same level either. In both cases, some have more credibility than others. Learn to tell the difference. Categorize stories by verification status; make it absolutely clear to the readership which stories you actually endorse, and which you do not. accomplishes this with a simple red/yellow/green dot system; something like that might work for your site as well. Don't look to one side for all your information; if that's where all your information is coming from, assume you have a problem. Dig up the other side. Read their sources. Given the number of right-leaning news sites out there, I doubt nobody's published anything on any of your "incidents." Recruit a rightwinger or two for balance, if you haven't already got some. Some of them are quite nice.

If you're going to undertake major political reform, make sure it's necessary, and make darn sure you know what you're doing.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Would that be tenpins, or duckpins? An exercise in pinsplitting.

Two posts down, D mentions his encounter with the recently erected Voter Suppression Wiki and his inclination to doubt its self-described "nonpartisan" status. One of the site's administrators, Jon, dropped by and took issue, in a nice way. Whatever his personal politics may be, it's nice to note that civil discourse hasn't entirely gone the way of the horse and buggy. From our starving student days to the present, D and I have always enjoyed a spirited discussion of the issues with good friends across the political spectrum. We've even managed to stay good friends with them.

Jon pointed us to a commenter on Democratic Underground who alleged that the Wiki is actually a Republican site intended to confuse voters. I can't say I'm surprised; in life and especially on the Internet expressing an opinion often gets one hammered from both sides and suspected of treachery by the more-papist-than-the-pope segment of one's own party. It's happened to us, and it happens all over.

The DU commenter notwithstanding, however, I'm inclined to side with D. I'm saying that having taken Jon's advice and left the RSS feed D copied behind, and gone straight to the Wiki's Incident Reports page. Thus far, there are only nine reports posted, Election Day still being six weeks away.

While I can't predict what the future will bring, I think I can form some opinions based on what is there currently. An overview, with my best assessment of the content, follows.

Some may object to my labelling of organizations and news sources. I base these labels on what information I have available, and don't claim infallibility. Basically, I tag mainstream/commercial sources as nonpartisan. This doesn't mean I don't think they have a slant, and I am well aware that some are pretty darn partisan. However, these publications do have a fiscal bottom line and do have an incentive to maintain at least the appearance of nonpartisanship in order to be taken seriously by their readerships. I tag blogs based on the language of their authors (most bloggers aren't reticent with their opinions) and the slant of the majority of links and advertisements they contain. I tag organizations based on stated purpose and affiliations. It's not intended to be a measure of fairness or accuracy, mind --some sources will have the advantage of others in these areas and trying to assess that would take me more time than I have.

In any case, I have attempted to categorize each incident by charge slant (the person or organization actually making the charge) and reporting slant (the list of posted sources) as left, center, right, or some combination thereof. While this may be simplistic, I think I have made all reasonable efforts to avoid undue subjectivity.

Please realize that this assessment constitutes a "slice in time." New links could conceivably alter the slant of some of these incident reports later on, and new information could result in them being either verified or demonstrated false.

Now, for the incidents:

1. National: Veterans Administration blocks voter registration
*Affects: Probably bipartisan.
*Charge slant: Left [Veterans for Peace , who sought to register wounded warriors in VA hospitals in San Francisco, brought the complaint.]
*Reporting Slant: Left [Links: , 2 left of center--Bradblog, Alternet; 1 mainstream/commercial--The Nation]
*My take: Could be suppression, could be bureaucratic foot-dragging (this is the VA, after all.) According to one linked article, mil recruiters are required to offer registration help to enlistees, so it's possible that registration is high among veterans anyway.

Veterans for Peace's involvement is interesting to me, as I don't think that organization is remotely interested in signing up the "Stay the Course" crowd in the military. Their concentration on wounded warriors in VA facilities indicates a slightly ghoulish interest in building up a representation in a demographic they may view as vulnerable to their prosletyzing. That's not to say that they should be arbitrarily excluded if other partisan organizations are allowed in VA facilities. But I can see the VA's rationale in not wanting anybody and everybody traipsing through their facilities, especially if it's someone likely to raise the tension level for the patients.

In any case, soldiers are not being blocked from registering to vote. Many are already registered. They can write off (or email) for ballots from their home districts, or their family members can have materials sent. And the VA does have some (though it's claimed to be insufficient) staff to help those who need it. What is being interfered with here is the ability of one particular partisan group to stage its own voter drive on VA premises in a given location.

*Last known status: Some relaxation of restriction and federal legislative action, according to Wiki 9-22.

2. Ohio: Absentee ballot application causes invalid Republican applications
*Affects: Republicans
*Charge slant: Right [Repubs made the mistake of putting a check-boxed qualification statement on absentee ballot apps. Dem. Sec. of State says she legally cannot accept unchecked cards though there is no state req requiring statement or checkbox. Repubs cry foul.]
*Reporting Slant: Center/left [3 mainstream/commercial--Cincinnatti Enquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer,; 1 left--Ampersand, Alas! blog]
*My take: Strikes me as a tempest in a teapot. Can't the state just check off submitted absentee ballots against a roll of registered voters? Besides, there's still time to straighten things out.
*Last known status: suit in progress.

3. South Carolina: Elections officials lack knowledge of voting rules for felons.
*Affects: Nominally bipartisan, though I'd be willing to lay cold cash on ex-cons trending Democrat.
*Charge slant: Left [Survey by ACLU, supported by SC Progressive Network.]
*Reporting slant: Center [1 mainstream/commercial-- Associated Press.]
*My take: Suppression? Hardly. The article linked merely cites an ACLU phone survey that indicated that election officials in 40 of 46 SC counties had adequate understanding of felon voting rights in the state. The fuss is because just over half knew how to deal with a felon convicted in another state or for a federal offense. There is no report of anybody having been disenfranchised as a result, however. A spokesman from the state election commission said some questions appeared confusing and he wasn't sure about the methodology of the survey.

4. Alabama: Republican Party stops legal voter registration in prisons.
*Affects: Nominally bipartisan. See my comment on 3.
*Charge slant: Left [Organizer acknowledges being a Democrat.]
*Reporting slant: Center/Left [1 mainstream/; 2 left--Huffington Post opinion piece, Left in Alabama blog.]
*My take: Suppression? Possibly, but by the time the drive was cancelled (on the last day) there was likely little left to do. Felons can request materials on their own.

5. Michigan: GOP Threatens To Use Foreclosure Lists To Challenge Votes
*Affects: Democrats, presumably working-class blacks who have recently lost their homes.
*Charge slant: Left [Accusation by writer on left-leaning news site. She accuses county Repub Chair of threatening to block persons from foreclosed addresses from voting. He denies it.]
*Reporting slant: Center/Left [2 mainstream/commercial-- Lansing Daily News (reports denial) The Atlantic (reports on continued back and forth between national parties); 3 left-- Michigan Messenger (leftist online news site,) Daily Kos (opinion-heavy letter by John Conyers) The Washington Independent (it may call itself independent, but it sure looks left to me.)]
*My take: It's a he said/she-said--if he said it, she's apparently the only person who heard him. Why he'd be giving away company secrets to the opposition, I can't say.

6. Wisconsin: incorrect absentee ballot applications
*Affected: Probably random--no indication a given group was overrepresented.
*Overview: McCain campaign sends out a mailer to voters in MI. Mailer includes absentee ballot application. Some applications had the wrong clerk's address on them. Two complaints, one identified in article as Democrat.
* electionsonline view: Bet on a mistake.

7. Wisconsin: AG sues to force database check of voter registration
*Affected: Probably bipartisan, though linked article calls the suit partisan. There is no indication that a specific demographic is targeted. Municipal clerks protest that attending to the new req will prevent them from processing absentee ballots from deployed meilitary.
*Charge slant: Left [WI AG is Republican; Suit filed by dir. of One Wisconsin Now, a left/progressive organization.]
*Reporting slant: Center/left? [1 mainstream/commercial--Wisconsin State Journal; 1 probably left--U Penn's School of Law pub.]
*Overview: AG attempted to require crosschecking of all new voters' DL and SSN records back to 06. Those removed might be required to file a provisional ballot.
*My take: AG also involved in McCain campaign, which strikes me as imprudent. I heard an NPR report on this story Sunday morning, however, which gave me the impression that WI's voter rolls are a mess and probably should have been cleaned out already. I'll have to see if I can find it at NPR's site.

8. Virginia: College students discouraged from registering
*Affected: Transient students at VA Tech. Possibly trending Democrat, if story is accurate.
*Charge slant: Left [Obama campaign named in article]
*Reporting slant: Left [1 left--Alternet blog]
*Overview: Transient students at VA tech who have attempted to register their on-campus addresses as residences in order to vote have been notified that their actions may affect scholarship eligibility or tax filings and will obligate them to change car registrations and DL to new address.
*My take: I don't think requiring students to register at their permanent addresses constitutes suppression. More on this later, if time allows.

9. Florida: Vote caging in 5 counties
*Affected: Older voters, urban voters, probably Democrat (as cited)
*Charge slant: Left [Complaints levelled by Democrats]
*Reporting slant: Center [2 links, one to article, one to author biog=1 mainstream/ Petersburg Times.]
*Overview: RNC fundraising mailer asks voters to check "unconfirmed" party affiliations, saying "We have you registered as a Republican." Article indicates the mailer targets Democrats. Card includes an incorrect 9-dig voter id number. Dumb move and a little creepy if that's accurate.

Some Democrats suspect ulterior motives: postcards have a "Do not forward" instruction. The theory seems to be that the party can collect undelivered addresses and challenge votes based on this.
*My take: If I were Republican party chair in these counties, I wouldn't be laying myself open to charges of this sort, I gua-rahn-tee! There could be nefarious motives here, or the powers that be behind the campaign could be trying to do a little unofficial polling in a not very smart way.

All of this amounts to a heck of a lot of material. Thus, I think I'll leave off here and wrap things up on the next post.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Importance of Listening Earnestly

A five-minute video from Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on misconstrued words, and Presidential appeals to the Almighty.

While Newt is not an impartial source, the video gives a good lesson.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Setting Up the Pins?

Ensuring that every vote counts is a noble endeavor. Why, then, am I having trouble believing this site, the Voter Suppression Wiki is non-partisan? From the site [Emphasis below is mine.]:

* This site is designed to be a hub of information and action around efforts to suppress votes in the 2008 U.S. elections
* This is not a partisan effort and is not being done on behalf of any candidates for office

[from an RSS Feed... -- may no longer be on the site]
voter suppression - Google News

* Demand McCain Denounce Disenfranchisement of Foreclosed Voters In ... - OpEdNews
* Competition for your vote heats up -
* RepublicansTrying to Block Foreclosed Homeowners from Voting - MWC News
* Can Obama's Ground Game Beat GOP Vote-Robbing? - Huffington Post
* Dems Sue GOP For Voter Suppression, Republicans Answer With Claims ... - Huffington Post


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Drawing from the Community Chest

While I understand the need, the 80% nationalization of AIG makes me nervous. This is in spite of the possibility that the government might even turn a profit in the long run, once the companies assets are sold.

Who will be next to draw from the Community Chest?


A Pause For Worship

Hon. Daughter #1 picked up a short story class over the summer, and somewhere along the lines (I think it was the final paper on A Good Man is Hard to Find) we had a conversation about Flannery O' Connor. Hon. D. remarked that Flannery often put herself--and not necessarily a flattering portrayal, either--into her stories. Certainly overeducated adult women (occasionally men) who still live with their mothers (or other older relatives) crop up frequently in the Flannery canon. But other characters in the stories can also function as Flannery stand-ins. And Flannery can be as merciless with her stand-ins as with the meanest of her nonautobiographical characters, making her stories a sort of confessional of the typewriter.

I hadn't read any Flannery since college, but of late circumstances, not the least of which is that I'm now living smack dab in Flannery country (I could visit her old haunts of Milledgeville or Savannah in a few easy hours of driving) have been pulling me in her direction. The images she created are still palpable along many a secondary road, where teetering sharecroppers' shacks and farmhouse chimneys peer through kudzu and ramshackle towns that the interstates passed by dot the largely rural landscape. In short, Flannery's been tugging at my consciousness for some time now. So I picked up a collection of her short stories a few weeks ago and have since been reading through them.

I'd read A Temple of the Holy Ghost years ago, so it's been in my mind since the conversation. In a few stories, most notably this one, the Flannery/main point of view character is an intellectually precocious girl on the brink of adolescence, who is frequently impatient with the lack of perceptiveness of the older people around her. In Temple this character is summed up in a self-deprecating sentence that has become a stock in trade of the Catholic blogosphere: "She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." (Ohh, does that hit close to home!)

At any rate, figuring out the child/Flannery was the easy part. There's another character of sorts (of sorts because he/she exists only in a brief description given the child by a teenaged cousin and subsequently in her vivid but not necessarily realistic imagination) whom I hadn't associated with Flannery before rereading: the Freak. The Freak is a carnival sideshow hermaphrodite (though that word is never actually used in the story) whose description springboards the child's imagination into a more profound understanding of the workings of the Holy Spirit and the human connectedness with God therein. (All of this is of course, completely lost on all the "adults" in the story, for whom the Freak is merely a prurience-enabling occasion of sin.)

Now I'm sure that a search of literary journals would show me thoroughly unoriginal in my assessment, but that by no means takes the fun out of the realization for me. It's not much of a stretch, because most of us feel like a freak at one time or another. I imagine that Flannery, struggling for most of her adult life with the lupus that eventually ended it prematurely, experienced that feeling as well. I think she voices her acceptance, and her determination not to let the thorn in her side dissuade her from spreading the Good News, in the preaching of the Freak as envisioned by the child. She's tough on herself, mind you, and on her audience. Speading the Good News is no job for sissies, she seems to say. But it is our calling; so buck up there, you.

I think it's a worthwhile meditation for all of us, especially when we feel overwhelmed by our own afflictions. To that end, I close with it here:

"God made me thisaway and I don't dispute hit," and the people [said,] "Amen. Amen."
"God done this to me and I praise Him."
"Amen. Amen."
"He could strike you thisaway."
"Amen. Amen."
"But he has not."
"Raise yourself up. A temple of the Holy Ghost. You! You are God's temple, don't you know? Don't you know? God's Spirit has a dwelling in you, don't you know?"
"Amen. Amen."
"If anybody desecrates the temple of God, God will bring him to ruin and if you laugh, He may strike you thisaway. A temple of God is a holy thing. Amen. Amen."
"I am a temple of the Holy Ghost."

Coming up next, we return to our regularly scheduled rant already in progress.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

No Cause for ConCERN

There was recently some buzz over a little science project over in Switzerland called the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC takes protons, sends them in opposite directions on a circular track at amazing speeds, and collects data on them as they collide head on. I am sure Gomez Addams must be one of the sponsors of this project.

Some feared that the operation of the collider, would destroy the world. (Others believe the U.S. election results will accomplish the deed). And some just had fun at the nervous Nellies' expense.

Part time rapper and full time science writer Alpinekat (a.k.a. Katherine McAlpine, the e-News Coordinator for the Atlas Project at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) provides an explanation of just exactly how the LHC is supposed to work and what it is supposed to accomplish.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Church and State

In a comm box in the blog Civics Geeks I was asked "Do you think the Church should be a model for the state?"

Certainly an interesting question. Given that the question was asked in a Catholic context, I will assume that the Church indicated is the Roman Catholic Church.

As Catholics, we believe that the Church is the best means for carrying the teachings of Jesus forward to succeeding generations. Given the large number of the faithful, it also serves as an instrument of organization in the temporal world. Its members, while diverse in background and experiences, profess to believe a set of central truths, and claim to govern themselves by those truths. Also, there is nothing to stop someone in modern society, conscience and persuasion notwithstanding, from separating him or herself from the church. Membership in the church is an act of free will.

A state, any state, is made up of people of varying beliefs and backgrounds. Some may even not be in support of the state at all. Lack of patriotism does not cancel citizenship in most states. Citizen or no, it is more difficult to remove onesself from the purview of the state. Usually, one must physically move outside the geographic boundries of the state. This relocation is subject to the acceptance of the government of the destination state, as well as the level of means (funds) of the relocating individual.

Although both require governance, the Church and the state are not similar entites. And while Church governance is derived from state governance of a bygone era, for the purposes of the state it is not as good as representative democracy. The sticking point lies in the fallibility of humans. Given the power of the state over its citizens, there must be checks and balances against the failings of the rulers. Representative democracy, especially with term limits, ensure a periodic renewal of the rulers by the ruled. Bad apples can be weeded out in an orderly fashion over time.

In addition to periodic renewal, an independent judiciary is also a necessary check. I believe an executive branch, separate and distinct from the legislature, balances power between two institutions with some conflicting requirements.

Any system created and manned by fallible humans will have failings: no earthly system is immune. I am sure we all have our favorite examples of a Representative Democracy making a wrong move. However, I believe no system has a more civilized way of dealing with errors.

I think it is no accident that when it comes to governing the state, we render unto Caesar in a manner appropriate for Caesar, all the while being informed and guided by that which comes from God.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Don't Force It

The difference between cooption and coercion is the same as --
the difference between donation and taxation;
the difference between volunteer service and draft;
the difference between altrusism and burden;
the difference between being responsible for one's own actions, and "just following orders;"
the difference between freedom, and something less.


A discussion I have had in the comm box of the blog Civics Geeks regarding the definition of "political community" reminded me of an idea that is central to my political thinking. That in all cases, cooption is preferable to coercion. That is not to say that cooption can be used in all circumstances, but that it is the preferred state.

A person who gives time, talent and treasure of his own free will derives spiritual benefit from the act. One who has those goods coerced from him will often feel unjustly deprived, no matter how good the cause.

I believe the Church is the ultimate coopting organization. Members of the Church are voluntary members, and can separate themselves at will. Membership in the Church, at least in the United States in the 21st century, is an exercise of free will.

In the political arena, I want a candidate who is less likely to coerce me into doing the right thing, and more likely to attempt to convince me to do the right thing, even though the latter is the harder task.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Pop Culture Observation of the Day

I love a good oxymoron. Found this one at First Things in The Tattoo Fashion by R. Reno

In my perplexed state of mind, I consulted a younger friend (who has some tattoos). It wasn’t long ago that tattoos were for Marines, sailors, and guys on Harley Davidsons. Now, women in graduate school doing dissertations on Elizabeth Gaskell are getting tattoos. What gives? “Well,” she said, “I guess it’s just a way to express your individuality. Everybody’s doing it.”

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Things I Learned From Reading and Listening to News Sources Over The Weekend

1. Race and gender are not acceptable criteria for judging a candidate's fitness for office. Hairstyle, dress, and cocktail party skills will suffice for that.

2. Evangelical Christian women are required to be subservient to their husbands. Sally Quinn said so, so it must be true.

3. When a politically liberal female leaves her kids with a nanny to pursue a high-powered career, it's the realization of the feminist ideal. When a politically conservative female leaves her kids with Dad to render public service, it's neglect.

4. It's fine, well, no, not really--but it's an acceptable choice to give birth to a Down's syndrome baby. But if you knew it was coming, you really should have considered the alternative. If you weren't going to consider the alternative, why did you bother to find out what was coming?

5. But it's only acceptable to carry a Down's syndrome baby to term if you are full prepared to drop everything else and spend eight hours a day doing aggressive home therapy with him.

6. Trailer trash get pregnant out of wedlock and have babies. Sophisticated Georgetown types presumably get pregnant out of wedlock and have it taken care of discreetly.

7. Conservative, pro-life women who are in the public eye from sunup to sundown can be relied upon to fake pregnancy in order to cover for an inconveniently pregnant daughter. This ruse will fool all their neighbors, who after all are just dumb hicks.

8. Them redneck girls out in the hinterlands have the capacity to defy the natural limitations of human reproductive physiology and promptly get pregnant again immediately after a birth, presumably while everybody else is distracted with the newborn.

9. Christian parents shouldn't be allowed to prevent their teenagers from getting birth control or an abortion, but they are expected to dog the kids' every step lest they momentarily forget their upbringing and decide to have sex.

10. When a seventeen- and eighteen-year-old make a baby together, the fault obviously lies with the religious-nut parents who, three years earlier, wouldn't let some dumb jock high school coach show them how to put a condom on a cucumber.

11. An eighteen-year-old can vote and enlist in the military, and should be allowed to buy beer, because he's an adult. Unless, of course, an eighteen-year-old fathers a child. Then, suddenly, he's just a dumb kid who can't handle fatherhood and family life without the aid of a team of social workers.

12. When pro-lifers fail to act in accordance with pro-life principles, they're hypocrites. When pro-lifers act in accordance with pro-life principles, they're hypocrites. They are too dense to realize this. What's wrong with these people?

13. A candidate with three decades' political experience and life experiences that have exposed him to the utmost depths of human depravity can be so rattled by an opponent's glib performance that he will throw caution to the winds and nominate an obscure public official he hardly knows and has subjected to little scrutiny.

14. The press always exercises the utmost caution in reporting unsubstantiated rumors. Reports produced by Daily Kos and HuffPo bloggers, however, are presumed credible even in the absence of supporting evidence.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

...And Another Thing...

Somewher in the course of the now-missing Kos posts I mentioned yesterday, I noticed the blogger produced "expert" obstetric analysis calling Sarah Palin irresponsible because, in consultation with her doctor (I thought that the decisions of a woman and her doctor were sacrosanct for this crowd) she made an eight-hour flight home with an amniotic leak. ("A woman with ruptured membranes who has given birth four times can be expected to give birth within eight hours," asserted the cited talking head. [Of course, the whole point of flaying Palin over this at the time was the intention of "proving" that her daughter, not she herself, gave birth to her son Trig.]

Well, I'm tellin' ya, when I had my youngest at 32 with three prior births--the latest one just under three--not six--years before, which makes a difference--I had a slow leak that went on for over three hours before going gusher, went to bed in labor, got up the next morning, dropped the kids off with friends, visited the doctor, had an ultrasound, and it still took me two oral Pitocin tablets and a couple of hours of walking for a total labor of over sixteen hours before that baby came. If that was an accelerated labor, I'm glad I missed the long version.

Oh, I mustn't forget, our blogger-turned-obstetrics expert also asserted that "ruptured membranes increase the risk of infection," --yeah, if your medical provider hasn't got the sense to keep his hands out of where they shouldn't be in the first place! Is it any wonder Palin didn't want to take potluck with the resident at an unknown hospital in Texas? Given my labor history, I'd risk an eight-hour flight to give birth where I was comfortable and had trusted help.

One reason I'm sorry the Kos got rid of those posts is that such an impressive amount of research went into "proving" a hypothesis that turned out to be utter schlock. Of course, just abot all the "evidence" the research turned up was circumstantial or highly questionable, not that the blogger let that stand in his way. It could have been a great lesson in how not to write a research paper.


Proposal For Drinking Game:

Tune radio to NPR station. Every time a reference is made to Sarah Palin's pregnant teenage daughter, have a beer. To bring on merciful oblivion faster, also have a beer every time Sarah Palin's special-needs infant is brought up. Have two beers if Palin's ability to meet her family's needs while serving in public office is questioned.

Once you're good and sloshed, Google Barack Obama's remarks during the Illinois Born Alive Infants' Protection Act hearings and see if they make more sense that way.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Putting the "Cuss" in Media Circus

...Which is about what I've felt like doing this weekend as I've watched the various rumors regarding the Palin family unfold. If I determined to journal everything I thought about the situation I could be at it for hours, so I'll stick to a couple of points. If I have time later, or somebody really riles me, maybe I'll add a few more.

1. This weekend, I noticed that a Daily Kos blogger posted a couple of scathing essays accusing (not merely insinuating) Sarah Palin of having faked her last pregnancy to cover for her teenage daughter. The essays were a piece of work, so after coming across them this weekend, I decided to look them up again this morning and make copies.

Surprise, surprise--they're not there! Comment strings in the thousands, all that work--gone! I wonder why?

2. Have any of the pundits, journalists, and bloggers out there accusing Palin of sacrificing her pregnant teenage daughter to her political career considered the possibility that the girl might very well be able to speak for herself and let her mother know what her feelings are re the nomination? Are they unable to conceive of a family in which major job decisions are discussed? What makes them assume that Palin is dragging the rest of the family along without regard for their preferences?

Isn't it remotely possible that Palin talked the matter over with her daughter and was encouraged to accept? Or is it just easier to assume that all conservative women are heartless harpies who have kids about whom they don't really care?


Monday, September 01, 2008

The Hundred Books Meme

I've seen a few versions of this around. The Ironic Catholic posted it last week and, as I haven't posted anything in a while, I decided to play. Besides, I was curious to see how I'd do.

Bold--I've read it.
Italics--I want to.
Nuttin'--I don't care.
Dripping with blood--you give it to me, I'll burn it instead.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible (Have read most of it)
7. Wuthering Heights --Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman (Wouldn't burn it, and am mildly curious, but wonder if all the hype is merely because of the thinly-disguised atheist prosletyzing
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (But it's been a while)
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott(Ditto)
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (Selection for HS senior lit class)
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (Checked the Table of Contents on my copy and worked out that 17 plays, the sonnets, and The Rape of Lucrece are under my belt already!)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (Sorry, not familiar)
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - (Sorry, I guess I'm a modern fiction illiterate)
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot (Read about a third of the way in, years ago)
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (I'm in Georgia--had I not read it already, I think it's required by law)
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (Not sure I want to. Generally use it as a metaphor for any exhaustingly long written work.)
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (Along with the various sequels.)
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh (At eighteen. Want to read again as I think I missed a lot of the religious aspects.)
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Hon Daughter #1's a Dostoyevsky fan and assigned me The Grand Inquisitor last spring.)
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll –(A favorite)
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (Parts, if not all)
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen (Made daughters watch the movie. Should have made Son #1 watch it too, before he started fancying himself a matchmaker.)
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (Read & liked A Thousand Splendid Suns, but my bro tells me this one is a bit two-dimensional.)
37. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres – (Not sure if I want to--the title is intriguing.)
38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (Several times)
40. Animal Farm - George Orwell (Though I guess it's a period piece now.)
41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (Mildly curious because of the hype & the fact that I've encountered too many people who actually consider it historical.)
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Got about halfway in, once. Suspect that a better knowledge of South American history or at least Cliff's Notes would make it easier to follow.)
43. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
47. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (Somewhat curious, but it would probably make me mad.)
48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding (I've read part--but it's been a while.)
49. Atonement - Ian McEwan
50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
51. Dune - Frank Herbert (Another period piece.)
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (Nice Holmesian hat tip, though.)
59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (Another HS assignment.)
61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (Somewhat curious; don't think I could stand the subject matter)
64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (Years ago)
65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
67. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
68. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville (Read several chapters as a kid; couldn't get through the long days at sea. Would like to try again.)
70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (Read Classics Illustrated version as a kid.)
71. Dracula - Bram Stoker (You have got to be kidding!)
72. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
74. Ulysses - James Joyce (Did read Dubliners in college, though, which was all right.)
75. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
77. Germinal - Emile Zola
78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
79. Possession - AS Byatt
80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (Read, seen play, used gallons of Final Net on daughter's hair to form ringlets for darn play--really love the Muppets' version best, though.)
81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (Probably ought to.)
85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
86. Charlotte's Web - EB White
87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (Intriguing title.)
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Have read some of the stories.)
89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (Will need to be duct taped to a chair and have eyes held open with toothpicks before I watch Apocalypse Now, though.)
91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
93. Watership Down - Richard Adams
94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole (Bro recommended it--but then he sent me Straight Man by Richard Russo for Christmas.)
95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (But it's been a while.)
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
98. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (Ought to--but oh, my, is it long!--Read the Classics Illustrated as a kid and saw the musical. Will that do?)
9. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain (HS)
100.The Outsiders -S. E. Hinton, I presume. (Upper ES)

I note that nothing here got marked in red. That's partly because I'm not that technically savvy, but partly for philosophical reasons. While I wouldn't recommend every book out there indiscriminately, there is little I'd torch (to include much that is badly written and badly researched.) It's good to know your enemy, and what better way to gain info that to read what he/she writes?

Few read this blog, but if you happen upon this feel free to play.