Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More prehistoric hilarity

Maybe you had to be there

Having mastered the art of just phoning it in, cartoonist Johnny Hart is now adding the subtle in-joke to his repertoire. The January 30, 2007, installment of Hart's B.C. comic strip has a dog-whistle punch-line that only the highly attuned can catch.

Well, damn me for a heretic and call me apostate! I got the joke! Did you?

Permit me to apologetically explain the likely—ahem—genesis of this joke. I suspect Mr. Hart was taking his ease, calmly contemplating his complete lack of a gimmick for his next strip. As he pondered his plight, his wandering eye lit upon a convenient copy of the Bible. (I assume that Hart has these scattered about his domicile and his work studio. It seems a safe bet.) He decided to do a Bible joke. But how?

Lots of Bibles have extensive glossaries, especially those editions intended as study Bibles and those that use old-fashioned language in need of clarification (King James, anyone?). Noticing that his Bible included a big, fat glossary, Hart knew that God had answered his silent prayer for an idea for a witty comic strip. (God moves in very mysterious ways, you know.) The cartoonist dashed off to his drafting table, and the January 30 strip was born.

I'll admit, though, that I didn't catch the joke upon a first reading. You may not have realized that B.C. rewards a second or third reading, but this was indeed the case. Perhaps you'll forgive me for not being quicker. Being quite unchurched and irreligious, I was initially misled by the glossary reference, the very punch-line of the entire joke. You see, I immediately seized my copy of Colleen McCullough's The First Man in Rome, which I have been reading for several days. It contains a glossary of 117 pages! Naturally I began to think in terms of fiction bestsellers. For some reason, I was then reminded of the Bible. Suddenly I understood the B.C. comic strip and laughed merrily.

For verily I say unto you, Johnny Hart is the biggest joke of all.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kennedy still left behind

Preacher prefers life on earth

D. James Kennedy says that heaven is a great place, but he's spent the past month struggling not to go there. All things considered, he'd just as soon spend some more time on earth:
Update on Dr. Kennedy’s Health
Wednesday, January 24
From Brian E. Fisher, Executive Vice President,
Coral Ridge Ministries

As of Wednesday, January 24, Dr. Kennedy remains hospitalized. Please continue to pray for him and his family.

As has been reported earlier, Dr. Kennedy suffered heart arrhythmia leading to cardiac arrest on Thursday, December 28. He was given CPR and admitted to the hospital. On Wednesday, January 3 he underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator.

We are so thankful for your prayers and encouragement! Please continue to intercede on Dr. Kennedy’s behalf. We are very grateful for your emails, cards, well-wishes, and prayers. You are a continual source of joy to the Coral Ridge Ministries family.

Brian E. Fisher, Executive Vice President
Coral Ridge Ministries

Although Kennedy has vigorously condemned many aspects of contemporary life and denounces modern science for its godless materialism, I've never heard him say that pacemakers are a tool of the devil. It's probably okay that he consented to take advantage of the latest medical devices, although no doubt many evolutionists were involved in their creation (and perhaps even in the surgery that preserved Kennedy's life).

Why didn't Kennedy refuse all treatment and sprint toward the bright light? Brian Fisher has reported in his television updates on his boss's condition that Kennedy “would like nothing better” than to return to his ministry. Since Kennedy ostensibly believes that eternal bliss awaits him on the other side, his dedication to his ministry is extraordinary. (Or does he hesitate just a little on the brink, wondering if there's really anything there?)

Unlike Robert H. Schuller, whose son smoothly moved into the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral during Schuller's illness, Kennedy has no heir apparent. His has been the only face that Coral Ridge Ministries shows to the public. When life or health runs out for D. James Kennedy, who will step into his shoes? What will happen to the organization built around Kennedy's cult of personality? We can only wonder.

Their plans are certainly big. We know this from fundraising pleas that run on The Coral Ridge Hour, some including plugs recorded by Kennedy before his illness. Coral Ridge is amassing funds to extend its reach “in ways yet undreamed of” (a telling quote from an early Coral Ridge videotape). The plan calls for some 300,000 radio and television broadcasts to become available by means of an on-line media-on-demand library. As described in the Coral Ridge pitch, their media archives include sermons, lectures, and training sessions, the legacy of 30 years of broadcasting. Kennedy's operation plans to expand its digital presence and become a primary resource for home-school curricula (no godless evolution, I'm sure) and evangelism training (often indistinguishable from political lobbying seminars). Speaking of political lobbying:

Kennedy will be either absent or a reduced presence at this year's big event: Reclaiming America for Christ 2007, a conference meeting in Fort Lauderdale on the weekend of March 2. Although Kennedy's name is sprinkled throughout the conference schedule, his current infirmity probably means more podium time for the other speakers, including such notable extremists as pseudo-Christian Ann Coulter and anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly (who really ought to be at home taking care of her family). As an experienced platform performer, I'm sure that Coulter will manage not to snigger during the solemn prayers that open each session. No doubt she'll sign many books and push plenty of product.

There's a link on the Coral Ridge Ministries website for people who want to send Kennedy a get-well message, but I probably won't take advantage of it. I do not wish D. James Kennedy ill, but I do wish him failure. May he recover his health and live quietly and comfortably in his beloved Florida. And may all his schemes to conquer America for Christ come to rack and ruin.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Dilbertian conundrum

Everything I say is false

The eternal intern Asok is given a thankless task (that's quite a departure) in today's Dilbert comic strip. He quickly turns it into a paradox.

The pointy-haired boss wants a trophy case for the corporate offices. However, his company has not earned any awards to place in such a case. That is not a problem for a creative manager. He instructs Asok to obtain a trophy case and stuff it with items purchases from a trophy shop. Problem solved!

But Asok's creativity creates a potentially unresolvable situation. He orders a trophy with the inscription “Best Unethical Filling of an Awards Showcase.” It's not specified whether the citation honors Asok or his pointy-haired boss, but that's not the problem. It seems to me to be a legitimate award. Surely the pointy-haired boss's scheme is an excellent example of an unethical solution—perhaps even prize-worthy—as is Asok's creative implementation. Is it still correct, therefore, to consider the trophy case a sham?

Fortunately: yes! As we can see in the last panel, Asok acquired many prizes that must be bogus—unless that scamp managed to come up with truthful inscriptions for all of them. In that case, uh oh!

Friday, January 26, 2007

You don't see her every day

Only Tuesdays and Thursdays

At first I didn't believe it. Although I had an elegant and parsimonious explanation for the observed phenomenon, it was too pat, too unlikely. And it required an unusual amount of obtuseness on the part of my student. A huge amount of obtuseness. This was something I had to check out.

It all began on a Tuesday. Thanks to various holidays, state requirements, staff development days, and the wisdom of our administrative managers, a Tuesday was the first day of spring semester classes. As usual at the beginning of a new term, I called roll during the first several days. For one thing, I want to learn names; for another, I need to deal with no-shows and walks-ins.

Student AC was present on that first Tuesday when I took roll for our early morning algebra class, a five-unit class that met for an hour every day of the school week, but there was no answer from her on the second day. Fine. It's best for students to figure out early that a class does not suit them. However, she was back on Thursday. Okay, maybe she's vacillating. She had not left me an e-mail or voice message about her absence on Wednesday, but it often takes a while before students get serious about checking in when they miss class.

She was missing again on Friday, missing Quiz 1. Again, no message. That is, she did not send me any messages about her absences. AC did, however, send me an e-mail that weekend about her prerequisites for the algebra class, so she was still exhibiting signs of life:
This is your new student AC.I got the transcript which you asked on Tu,&Th for class.On Th i was loking for you after class we had but I coulldn't find you.I wanna tell you that i will show it to you on Tu just don't drap me from class.i wanna take this class.Thank you

No mention about the absences, but at least she was following through on documenting that she satisfied the prerequisites for beginning algebra. Funny, though, that she was promising to bring her transcript on Tuesday. Why not Monday? Well, I had plenty of other things to worry about.

AC was missing on Monday. Sure enough, she showed up on Tuesday with her transcript, I checked off that her prerequisite was satisfied. And she got to take Quiz 2, seeming unfazed by the implicit revelation that Quiz 1 had been administered during the time she missed class. Unsurprisingly, she did not do well.

When AC missed class on Wednesday, the alternating pattern in my gradebook jumped out at me. She was coming to class on Tuesdays and Thursdays—and only Tuesdays and Thursdays. Was it possible? Could it be?

Did AC think she was in a Tuesday-Thursday class?

Nonsense! She had a syllabus that contained homework assignments for every day of the week. Had she not looked at it? (Hmm. Possible.) When I wrote “Exam on Monday” on the board, did she not notice? (Perhaps she heaved a sigh of relief and thought, “Thank goodness that doesn't apply to me!”) The very idea was absurd. No student could possibly think that she was getting five units of credit for a class that met for only two hours per week! And had she never heard me say “See you tomorrow!” or “Recall that yesterday...”?

Too ridiculous.

But true. I caught her after class on Thursday (Thursday) and asked her if she was going to be able to attend class more regularly. AC was nonplussed. “Don't we meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays?” (“Exam Monday” was on the board behind me.) “Yes, we meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays—but also Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This is a daily class.”


No, I didn't “drap” her from class, but her improved attendance since that discussion has not been accompanied by an improvement in her course work. It's as though she overlooks some of the most basic things.

Ah, yes.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Friend of a friend

Christians gone wild

In 2000, Alexandra Pelosi was not yet the daughter of the Speaker of the House. In fact, Nancy Pelosi was still two years away from becoming minority leader, so Alexandra was able to tag along with George Bush, camcorder in hand, without the burden of being seen as the spawn of Bush's future Democratic nemesis. She was just Alexandra Pelosi, an NBC television producer who was cobbling together a little documentary titled Journeys with George. She caught the future president in unguarded moments during the 2000 campaign, giving viewers of her video a glimpse of Bush's natural folksiness and a peek at the insipidity we have come to know so well.

Pelosi's latest venture is now airing on HBO. Friends of God is a look at part of President Bush's hardcore base. Mick LaSalle, movie critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, says that Pelosi's documentary on America's conservative Christians is a bit short on analysis, but generous in its survey of the peculiarities of the religious right:
Cozying up to Christians, camera in hand

By Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic
Thursday, January 25, 2007

Alexandra Pelosi's “Friends of God,” about the evangelical movement in America, has some of the strengths and weaknesses of her debut film, “Journeys With George,” which followed the 2000 presidential race from inside the Bush campaign: Pelosi allows herself to be charmed by her subjects, which is not a position of strength for a journalist. However, because her subjects end up trusting her, they open up and we get to see what they look like when they're not on their guard.
Most commentators are talking about the role played by Ted Haggard in Pelosi's documentary. Now that Haggard has been disgraced, outed by a male prostitute who claims to have provided the preacher with drugs and sex, it's understandable that his appearance in Friends of God provides a bit of titillation. Haggard, however, is not the focus of LaSalle's review. He is more interested in the political impact of the extreme religious right, not the peccadilloes of its failed leaders.
To blue-state America, the movement against the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution seems like a bizarre sideshow. But Pelosi shows that this is a major issue for many in the religious right. Kids are gotten to early, with the message drummed into their heads that evolution is an evil lie, or “from the devil.” Pelosi's just-the-facts approach doesn't invite the deeper questions: “Why is evolution considered such a threat?” and “What is behind the goal of replacing evolution with creationism in the schools?” We are left to speculate: Perhaps it's a way of sneaking religion into the schools under the cover of science. Perhaps it's also a way to persuade members to obey by accepting doctrine and not thinking. If a movement can get you to deny science, it can get you to deny facts of any kind.
LaSalle has a point: evolution is a test of faith. However, the Christian leaders who abhor evolution are correct to believe that it is a challenge to their dogma. Biblical literalism cannot survive direct contact with evolution—they are completely incompatible. The promoters of creationism feel that they must succeed in their fight against evolution, for the alternative is the collapse of their cozy worldview and the loss of their privileged place in the universe. They feel that they are in a struggle for survival. (Of the fittest?) In this sense, they are correct.
What Pelosi touches on—I think she could have hammered it—is that this is essentially a political movement, or that it's at least a religious movement being manipulated and distorted for political ends. Voter guides are given out in churches and worshipers are all but told that God wants them to vote Republican. They're told to take everything on faith, not just their religion, but also their science and politics. It's virtuous not to think, and it's evidence of disobedience or doubt to think too hard.
LaSalle is right: thinking too hard is a sin to these people. No wonder that George W. Bush is their God-anointed leader.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Monday, January 22, 2007

A GOP scam?

Less than meets the eye

When Media Matters first drew my attention to the goofy presidential biographies at the Presidential Coalition website, my reaction was simply one of amusement. Only Republican presidents are featured at the Presidential Coalition, whose declared mission is “to educate the American public of the value of having principled conservative Republican leadership at all levels of government.” Since the Coalition includes Harding, Nixon, and Bush the Lesser in its roster of “principled” leaders, one might suspect it's a parody site, but it seems its sponsors are serious—even if not very skilled at using the English language.

I asked Mark Liberman at Language Log what he made of such weird locutions as Bush's supposed effort to “beseech accountability” while providing “improved betterments.” Liberman guessed that the writer's original language might be Martian, although the omission of articles gave the prose a somewhat slavic tang. He asked Language Log readers to offer their suggestions, eliciting a generous response. I'm including some excerpts here, although you'll need to go to Liberman's article for the whole thing.

One common thread was the thought that someone had gone crazy with a thesaurus:
Liberman: The misuse of words might even be a native speaker with a poor vocabulary over-using the thesaurus—I see that from time to time in student essays.

Suzette Haden Elgin:I suspect that the author's native language _is_ English, and could provide you with additional examples in the same register, collected from local newspapers. Sequences like these come from people who are not academics but have as their goal the production of sizable stretches of Academic Regalian all the same. Their technique is simple but effective: Write the stuff in ordinary human-being English; take a thesaurus and choose a more AR-sounding word to replace as many of the ordinary human-being English words as possible; make the substitutions and send the result to the “Letters to the Editor” section of a newspaper. Matters such as meaning and appropriateness are not part of the process, and the authors are _very_ proud of the results.

Paul Bickart: My guess is that the management of the web site was outsourced to some Mumbai jobber, although the syntax reminds me rather more of Chinese-produced VCR manuals...
These comments and others were all very interesting, and even amusing, but then Liberman presented a correspondent's startling flash of comprehension:
The key insight, in my opinion, came from Mae Sander:
I'm not a linguist at all—though I'm a fan of Language Log. But I think the most revealing page of GOPpresident.org is the donation request page.

This page wants you to fill in all your possible credit card info, your employer, etc. So I think the native language of the GOPpresident.org is SPAM. They just tried a little harder than some spammers—maybe. Some of their bios of presidents verge on the incoherent or irrelevant, as well as revealing clues of nonnativeness.

Could she be right? Is the Presidential Coalition just a magnet for spam fodder? As Liberman notes, she could be on to something here. This may be simply a Republican scam operation.

There's more, thanks to a little background check by Liberman:
The site responseunlimited.com (“Mailing Lists and Creative Services for Evangelical and Conservative Mailers”) has a page for The Presidential Coalition, but this only tells us that they're willing to sell their mailing list (which is said to number 122,054 donors). At campaignmoney.com, they think that the “Republican Presidential Coalition” is a duly registered “527” Political Organization, with a contact person named “Matthew J. Palumbo”....

Back at compaignmoney.com's page for “The Republican Presidential Coalition”, the listings of contributions and of expenditures are both empty. So could it be that some spammers set this site up, registered a 527—and then took the money and ran?
One more postscript to this odd little story: Liberman received a message from Stephen C. Carlson, who offered him this tidbit:
According to Bob Novak, the (Republican) Presidential Coalition is an organization by a former congressional staffer David N. Bossie that is intended to go after Hillary (“Pelosi goes over the heads of energy, environmental committee chiefs”, Chicago Sun-Times, 1/21/2007)
This, of course, brings us full circle, since it was Novak's syndicated column that first drew the Presidential Coalition to the attention of Media Matters.

Yes, it's vast right-wing conspiracy time again. Those GOP scammers really do seem to be everywhere.

P.S.: Don't miss Liberman's follow-up post: The Presidential Coalition biographies may be examples of plagiarism.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

George Bush in Englishese

What language is this?

According to a recent report by Media Matters, turncoat Clinton advisor Dick Morris has decided to work in concert with the Presidential Coalition to smear Sen. Clinton and thus derail her campaign to return to the White House. What is the Presidential Coalition? Yet another GOP front organization. As noted in the Media Matters post, the Coalition serves up some nice and bland presidential biographies (of Republican chief executives only!). These are so insipid as to skirt discreetly and silently around such tiny matters as Nixon's resignation in disgrace and the notorious corruption of Harding's administration. As for George W. Bush? Here it is in the Presidential Coalition's own words:
George W. Bush followed in his father’s footsteps to Presidency and was elected in 2000. In his first term, Bush made it his duty to advance the works of public schools, beseech accountability, and make local control stronger, and also signed tax assistance, improved betterments and income for the U.S. military, and works hard to ascend Medicare and Social Security. Then, after the September 11th irruptions, he announced war on terrorism, and with that made victory and proceeded individual opportunity and his Administration’s precedence. We look forward to four more years with Bush in the White House, and no one will ever forget “Dubya” or his greatest achievements.
Okay, admit it. You had no idea—did you?—that President Bush “made victory and proceeded individual opportunity.” When you add his support of “improved betterments” and his program to “ascend Medicare,” you have to admit his accomplishments are of rare quality. I hope he will continue to “beseech accountability,” since that has been in short supply in his administration.

On one point there can be no doubt. We all agree with his English-as-a-third-language biographer that no one will ever forget “Dubya”—no matter how hard we try.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The climate change conspiracy

Teenager refutes reality

The Sacramento Bee has a feature called Sidetracks that appears on its weekend Teen News page. The January 20, 2007, installment of Sidetracks presented a variety of student comments on the phenomenon of climate change. One young woman knows exactly what she thinks about all that nonsense:
What global warming?

All this talk about the hot-button issue of global warming is a complete crock. Global warming is a theory that has never been proved, and I have yet to believe it.

Global warming is simply a natural phenomenon and is the natural process Earth goes through over time. I don't deny that the temperature is rising and that it is causing the polar ice caps to melt and the sea levels to rise, but this is not the result of humans; this is the result of the ebb and flow of the Earth.

There is a widespread fluctuation in temperature over time, and there are scientific graphs to prove it. People are making way too big of a deal about global warming and are thinking that changing their lifestyle habits will reverse this process, but it won't, and that is shown through history.

The Earth goes through periods of change in temperature and will return to normal eventually. There is no way for us to stop it.

—CC, Horizon Charter School
Our young scholar is confident that the historical record bears out her contention that the earth is immune to humanity's excesses. In a way, she does have history on her side. In the past there were never enough people doing enough things to have more than a locale impact on the environment. Human-induced global change would indeed be an entirely new phenomenon. Since it's never occurred in the past, why should we believe it could occur today?

Perhaps because today's circumstances are new, never having occurred in the past. New circumstances produce new results. More people than ever inhabit the globe. More nations than ever are burning fossil fuels at prodigious rates. Climatologists, who know more about these things than your average high schooler (or your average blogger), understand that the composition of the atmosphere has changed in recent decades in ways never seen before (as documented in thousands of years of ice-core records). Since the fraction of carbon dioxide is a significant factor in global temperatures, and since the evident source of the extra CO2 is human activity, we have reached the unprecedented status of being able to mess with the earth's environment.

This is not an appeal to authority. It's a reference to carefully compiled evidence produced by scientists, a trove of data that grows every year. What we need is a chart showing the steady growth in the percentage of climatologists who perceive global warming as representing a human-induced environmental crisis. The consensus is real among those who have worked hard to understand how we arrived at today's circumstances.

When CC blithely says it's merely natural variation, she is parroting something she heard from others—like the Competitive Enterprise Institute or Senator Inhofe—not something that she knows for herself.

I don't want to spend too much time berating naïve youngsters for foolishly accepting the excuses and rationalizations that they might hear from equally misinformed adults (or from shills in the pay of the energy companies). I did enough of that already with the young creationists who won the Answers in Genesis essay contest. However, we have here yet another example of how the anti-environmentalist noise machine reaches down even into our high school population, where young people who don't know any better soak up the message that we may as well give up and enjoy our sunny future. CC gets to live in the future that we conjure up today, and I'm afraid she's decided to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Thank you, Little Miss Sunshine.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hillary gets serious

So much for mainstream media

Folks seeking alternative news sources enjoy many choices from outside the mainstream. It's difficult to beat Town Hall, National Review Online, NewsMax.com, or WorldNetDaily for reporters who have exempted themselves from all of the restrictive canons of journalism. We know that fact-checking can kill a good story, and what could be more important than a good story? Right? (Extreme right.)

Nevertheless, even the far-out news media can on occasion miss a huge story, the kind of scoop that any one of them would have died to get first. This week the alternative media were outmaneuvered by the fearless Weekly World News, a tabloid that is alternative even to the alternatives.

The news is that Sen. Clinton is prepared to reveal her choice of running mate as a dramatic coup de théâtre that will shake up the 2008 presidential sweepstakes. Hillary is looking to link up with Bigfoot in a powerhouse ticket that will crush Republican hopes to retain the White House. As the Weekly World News blurb says, “Republicans scramble for candidates when news of the former first lady and her hard-hitting running mate's bid for the Oval office is announced!” Indeed.
Hillary/Bigfoot to run in ’08!


HOMER, N.H.—A member of Hillary Clinton's campaign team couldn't suppress his excitement when he recently confided to Weekly World News that the New York Senator is not only running for president, but has selected a running mate in the 2008 race.

“Leading Republicans have threatened a ‘wild and woolly battle’ in the upcoming election and we've got just the guy to help meet that challenge,” said Clinton advisor Don Key.

The ‘guy’ is none other than a towering wild man well known to readers of Weekly World News. We don't mean Bill Clinton: we mean Bigfoot. “Bigfoot doesn't intend to bully people,” Key went on. “His style will be a no-nonsense, get-it-done approach similar to Teddy Roosevelt—with a slightly altered motto of ‘Grunt softly and carry a big club.’”

When told of the still-secret news, G.O.P. spokeswoman Ellie Funt ridiculed the idea.

“Good grief, how can someone run for Vice President when he doesn't even exist! No one ever sees him except hunting prey in the wild or battling equally imaginary foes!”

Reminded that this is how most people saw Dick Cheney, Funt stayed on message.

“Running Sasquatch is just another stupid stunt by desperate Democrats,” she continued. “Besides, the public won't vote for someone who stinks like a billygoat. Who'd come to those rallies?”

“The ‘red states,’ most likely,” remarked Don Key.

While shocking to many, the choice is not entirely a surprise. Political observers first became suspicious when they read about Bigfoot getting into shape. (“The Bigfoot Diet,” Weekly World News, Jan. 1, 2007). It was obvious that his workouts and dieting were a preparation for some type of public appearance.
Watchers of the political scene always recognize dieting as a reliable indicator that a politician is preparing to run for office. Whenever Ted Kennedy slims down, it's inevitably the case that an election is in his immediate future. By a curious coincidence, the Weekly World News was fortunate enough for its diligent reporters to have published details on Bigfoot's diet program a mere three weeks before breaking the news of his likely candidacy for the vice presidency. This is a tabloid with a track record.
Democrats are mostly enthusiastic about the potential candidate. Typical is Washington state delegate Ernie Fuhrman.

“I'd be proud to vote for the ol’ boy,” he said. “We got a lot in common. We live in the same area, we both hunt deer, and neither of us are much for goin’ to barbers. I even forgive him for stealin’ my wife back in ’65. After all, that was a hard winter and it can get lonely up in the mountains.” Fuhrman laughed. “I guess that would make him a natural politician, right?”

Still, the Clinton camp knows there is much work to be done.

“Bigfoot will have to stop shunning crowds, kicking dogs who come sniffing his leg and learn to be accepted into polite society,” admitted Key. “When he nearly crushed my knuckles, I knew we had to begin by teaching him a proper handshake. And we may have to rule out kissing babies—not because he scares them but because he attracts them like a big, live teddy bear. The last thing we want is video of a bunch of tots clinging to his fur while their moms scream in terror.

“Fortunately; once she's had a hot shower and a leg wax, his companion, the former Mrs. Beatrice Fuhrman, will make a charming co-campaigner to her common-law mate.”

Objective political scientists disagree about whether Bigfoot will help the Democrats' chances in the election.

“The public is tired of the same old sound bites and party lines,” said Dr. Will Farestait of the Green Mint Think Tank. “They want an outsider to represent them. Since we've seen how a lumbering, semi-human creature with few verbal skills can attain elected office these days, Bigfoot should be a shoo-in.”

Not so, said sociology professor Frank Benjamin.

“Bigfoot has no credentials. No track record, unless you count muddy footprints in a marsh. He doesn't have a snowman's chance.” Benjamin added, “There's also a problem with his legislative agenda. I've heard he thinks that litterbugs should be torn limb from limb. I'm reasonably sure that language will not be accepted by certain liberal legislators—though, ironically, the conservatives may warm to it.”
It cannot be denied that Bigfoot would be a formidable campaigner. His animal vitality would enable him to log many hours on the hustings without tiring. And just imagine his ability to intimidate his rivals during debates. While Lloyd Bentsen contented himself with merely humiliating Dan Quayle with rhetorical barbs, Bigfoot would certainly favor actions over words.
Of course, the big unanswered question remains: Why would this normally shy creature agree to step into the spotlight?

“We first approached him with a banana and a platform that is heavily environmental,” stated Key. “Turns out he's very concerned about our vanishing wilderness, forests sickened by acid rain and polluted waters. He's saddened that his once-pristine home environment is degrading rapidly.

“I truly believe he'll rule the Senate in a positive way for eight years in a Clinton administration—then go on to serve as our president for two terms,” predicted Key. “Can you imagine him negotiating nuclear weapons control with North Korea?

“I can even see the campaign slogan now," Key said. “‘Give ’em hell, Hairy!’”

Bat Boy was approached for a statement, but his people said he was deeply disappointed by Sen. Clinton's decision and would release a formal statement at a later date.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bugs Bunny endorses evolution

Anti-creation entertainment

Creationism has already lost the culture war in Hollywood and on Broadway. It's sad. Movies, cartoons, and musicals all stand arrayed against the literal young-earth interpretation of Genesis. What is a fundamentalist to do?

In Carl Kerby's case, he writes articles for Answers magazine, the quarterly publication of Answers in Genesis. In the January-March 2007 issue (Vol. 2, No. 1), Kerby presents That's Entertainment ... Or Is It? Kerby explains to a no-doubt hands-wringing readership how he has to keep interrupting videos of The Incredible Mr. Limpet and My Big Fat Greek Wedding so that he can catechize his children on creationistic concepts that are being disrespected by these movies. Watching DVDs with Kerby must be one long thrilling stop-start ride.

The writer is especially upset at how unfair the competition is for the hearts and minds of the nation's young people:
“There are 400,000 churches and 6,000 first-run theaters in the USA; which, do you think, impacts our country more?”

Sadly, the answer is always the same—theaters.
It follows, I think, that churches are doing a lousy job. For me, this was the high point of the article. However, Kerby is generous. In addition to the article itself, the writer took the trouble to compile a bulleted list of examples of the insidious influence of evolution on popular entertainment:
Evolution—It's Everywhere!

Examples of evolutionary references are not hard to find. Often these references are subtle, but they show how widespread and accepted the lie of evolution has become. We must train ourselves and our children to be alert to these lies.

  • In the Bugs Bunny episode entitled “Prehysterical Hare,” Elmer Fudd is chasing Bugs Bunny when Bugs discovers a film—a documentary in Cromagnum Scope Color by Neanderthal Color—and watches it. In the film, Elmer Fuddstone is hunting the saber-toothed rabbit. While watching the film, Bugs jokingly says, “Get a load of that snaggle-tooth aboriginally. Could he be one of my ancestors?”

  • In the movie Fantasia, Mickey Mouse tells the story of evolution from single-cell organism to man.

  • In Finding Nemo when Marlin (Nemo's dad) and Dory are racing through the mass of jellyfish, Dory says to Marlin, “Give it up, old man. You can't fight evolution; I was built for speed.”

  • The evolutionary reference in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding occurs when Toula's fiance attempts to say “Happy Easter” in Greek to her father. The dad is not impressed and says back to him in Greek (shown in subtitles), “When my people were writing philosophy, your people were still swinging from trees.”

  • In SpongeBob Squarepants, you'll find evolution under the sea. The following is from an episode called “Ugh!”: “Dawn breaks over the primordial sea. It is here that millions of years ago life began taking its first clumsy steps out of the darkness, opening its newly formed eyeballs to stare into the blinding light of intelligence.”

  • Evolutionary content is even in a preschool program like Bob the Builder. In the episode titled “Scoop's Stegosaurus,” Bob digs a hole and finds a bone. He says it must be a dinosaur bone. Lofty is frightened, but Bob reassures her by saying, “It's all right, Lofty; the dinosaurs lived millions of years ago.”

  • In Peter Pan, the song “What Made the Red Man Red?” states, “Let's go back a million years to the very first Indian prince.”

  • Commercials that promote everything from auto insurance to high-speed internet contain allusions to evolution. A FedEx commercial that aired during the 2005 Superbowl depicted a primitive caveman who tied his package to the leg of a pterodactyl, which was eaten shortly after by a T. rex. In spite of the commercial's humor, the subtle evolutionary message reinforces the idea of molecules-to-man evolution, not the truth of creation found in Genesis.

I do believe that Kerby has made his point: evolution is indeed everywhere. It permeates the culture.

That's because it permeates reality.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

God is discreet

Cards close to the vest

The more suspicious among us may think that biblical obscurities are there for a purpose. If a passage can be interpreted in many different ways, then more people will be able to embrace it. Specificity carries great risks.

On the other hand, you'd think that people receiving dictation from an omniscient God should have been able to transcribe eternal verities of compelling clarity. To wit:
The heavens opened and the angels proclaimed, “Fear any literate man, capable of impressive facial hair, who is comfortable on boats, has a thing for finches, and is named Darwin, for he is basically an unrighteous phony. So it is said in the very literal Kingdom of God.”
Now that is specific and should have been embedded in Genesis if God had been serious about heading off evolution. God, however, did not inspire this particular bit of revisionist scripture. It is, rather, the mortal handiwork of David Ng (long may his name be praised). For a while, though, I though the text's “literate man, capable of impressive facial hair,” might be PZ Myers, to whom I am indebted for the link to Ng's revelatory writings.

Mortal discretion

A reticence similar to that of the scripture writers is exhibited by Dr. Henry Morris III, grandson and namesake of the old Flood geologist himself, in a commentary published in the January 2007 issue (Vol. 36, No. 1) of Acts & Facts from the Institute for Creation Research:
New Year, New Rulers, New Resolve

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

This month the 110th Congress will convene on Capitol Hill. New leaders will be elevated to posts previously held by the other political party. Many are fearful of what these changes could mean for our country.

Post-election pundits predict that previous economic accomplishments, such as lower taxes and sustained economic growth, will be overturned. Others see a battle mounting against President Bush on morality issues like abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell cloning, and the definition of marriage. However, regardless of the uncertainty of the coming months and years, I am reminded of three larger truths:

The election results did not surprise God. Romans 13:1 says that “there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” In the Old Testament, God raised up Cyrus, a pagan king, to carry out His greater purposes. “For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me” (Isaiah 45:4). God is sovereign.

The shift in policy will not last. In 2008, the citizenry will make their will known once more. But apart from that afar greater change is coming. Christ will return in glory as the King of kings to rule the world in righteousness. II Corinthians 4:17 assures us that “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us afar more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” God's truth abides.
Now if only God had been smart enough to dictate some prophecies to David Ng, instead of wasting all of his time with that Isaiah guy, we could have had some catchy verses concerning events today, instead of all that bother about long-gone Cyrus and company:
For Nancy my servant's sake, and America my elect, I have even called the president a big fat loser: I have supplanted the blasted Bush with a Democratic Congress, for thou hast screwed up big time. (David 1:1-2)
See? That's much better!

Dr. Morris may warn us not to put our trust in princes, but he does seem to rest quite a lot of his hopes on the next elections in 2008. Sensing, however, that 2008 may not go exactly as he hopes, he hastens to remind us that Jesus is coming again soon, whereupon he will swiftly make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Yes, any moment now. (Impatient Christians are still wondering how to reconcile a two-thousand-year wait with the promise in Matthew 24:34 that “this generation will by no means pass away”; the folks who heard Christ say that are dead, you know.)

I take this as good news: Dr. Morris thinks the Democrats may be in charge till Jesus returns. Listen to the prophet!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lee Rodgers shows his expertise

My ears hurt

Listening to two hours of the Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Show on KSFO is more than any sane person should endure, but today is the day of their special act of desperation, the “no-holds-barred broadcast” intended to answer their critics. Since I'll be at work and unable to listen to Rodgers and Morgan attack the liberal bloggers who called them to account for their on-air hate speech, I decided I'd catch some of their regular drive-time show. Rodgers was in fine form.

Attacking liberal bloggers as “lying bastards” for supposedly taking audio clips “out of context” (endorsements of torture and summary execution are much more palatable in context, you know), Rodgers opined that we are pathetic creatures who lurk in basements, “playing with themselves.” Sorry, Lee, but speaking only for myself: I don't have a basement and therefore cannot play with myself there. In fact, I prefer the spare bedroom where the computer is. When I play with myself in the computer room, I tend to favor Spider Solitaire, which is pretty cool. (I cannot say what Lee is thinking of when he fantasizes about bloggers playing with themselves.)

Lee was particularly critical of bloggers who use pseudonyms. We're cowards, you see. After delivering that pronouncement, he promptly began to talk about the sad plight of conservatives in the liberal Bay Area, such as right-wing school teachers who fear retaliation and loss of employment if their colleagues were to find out about their political leanings. “I can't give their names, of course,” said Rodgers. Yeah, Lee, they want to remain anonymous, huh? You forgot to call them cowards. (By the way, if they're public school teachers, their support for KSFO is like chickens giving their endorsement to Colonel Sanders. They could be too dumb to be teachers.)

None of that was my favorite moment, however. That came during the 7:00 hour when Rodgers denounced Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for rescinding his directive allowing state police to turn over illegal immigrants to immigration agents. Rodgers declared that this meant Romney had completely lost credibility with Republicans by this egregious surrender to the pro-immigration lobby. One tiny detail, Lee: Romney is no longer the governor of Massachusetts. Didn't you notice the recent inaugurations of the governors elected last November? We even had one here in California. The governor of Massachusetts is Deval Patrick, and he is the one who rescinded his predecessor's directive. I do, however, agree that Gov. Patrick, a Democrat, has no chance of winning the Republican nomination for president.

Lee Rodgers: the consummate conservative political analyst.

By the way, Rodgers cited Fox News as his source for the item about Romney. Either Fox was wrong (totally possible), Rodgers misread the item (certainly conceivable), or they both screwed up (most likely of all!).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Melanie Morgan shrieks for help

An urgent appeal!

Right-wing propagandist Melanie Morgan is feeling the pressure. The toxic talkers of KSFO radio in San Francisco have been losing advertisers ever since those advertisers started hearing what Morgan and her cohorts actually say on their programs. Once Spocko began drawing attention to the high-spirited racism and sadism of KSFO's talk show hosts, Visa and other major corporations decided that they would rather not be associated with such vileness. It's a free market, folks, and no one has to advertise in a cesspool!

Today Morgan fired off a message to her minions. Halfway There has a copy of this e-mailed call to arms, by means of which Morgan hopes to inspire an outpouring of love and support for her and KSFO's hate talk. (Love and support from people who have prune-sized hearts like that of Montgomery Burns? Excellent!)
From: Melanie Morgan<Melanie@RMRWest.net>
Subject: Trying to Silence Me – URGENT URGENT!
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2007 13:37:11 -0800

*Please read and see the Action Item about how your help is needed below…

A smear campaign by liberal bloggers is currently underway to silence the conservative opinions offered by myself and other conservative talk radio hosts at one of the highest-rated conservative talk radio stations in the nation. (KSFO 560 AM).

It began when one liberal blogger tried to get us fired. When that didn’t work he began an anonymous campaign to intimidate advertisers to not support “hate speech.”

Now liberal bloggers are calling for our firing. They are also pushing for implication [sic: she means “implementation”] of the Fairness Doctrine to force liberal radio programming down the public’s throat. (They tried to compete in the free market with “Air America” and that failed miserably, so now they are using these tactics to silence conservative radio voices). [sic: the period belongs inside the parentheses]

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

*ACTION ITEM: To respond to growing pressure from these ruthless liberal bloggers and political activists to silence us, we are going to do something unprecedented. We are opening up our airwaves, cancelling our normal programming and having an open forum where the public, news media, bloggers, critics and friends alike can call in and address any issues surrounding this matter.

I am asking you to call in and voice your support!

We will do this from 12:00 Noon ­ 3:00 PM Pacific (or longer if need be!) which is equivalent to 3:00 PM ­ 6:00 PM Eastern.

The media will be covering this event live, and I want to make sure you are invited to weigh in on this matter. We will give out the phone number to call in during the special program.

I’d ask that you FAX in letters/notes of support to:
(415) 954-4013

You can also send email to our station here:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

A final note…

I want you to know the lengths these people are going to smear us and to try to silence us. They’ve gotten reporters to say that I’ve called for targeting Nancy Pelosi for assassination because of the following comment.

1. I want you to go here and play this clip (on the liberal Media Matters website of all places) and see for yourself how these people are engaging in a shameless effort to misrepresent our comments:

2. There have been times when I have regretted making a comment or felt I was insensitive in characterizing a situation. When such incidents have occurred, I have been forthright in offering a retraction and apology. Here’s one incident from December 2006.

And related to a similar incident here was the comments made by my co-host Brian Sussman:

I am sharing these clips with you so you can know that I take my efforts to fight for conservative causes very seriously. I would never sink to levels of advocating violence or other such inappropriate comments.

I hope I can continue to count on your support.

— Melanie
Melanie and her radio buddies have started making apologies, have they? How it must gall them! And now they have to resort to ginning up support like a PBS station during a pledge drive. Maybe she can call up some friends at KQED to help her out manning the phone lines—if only she had any friends at KQED.

One more item: Melanie forgot to tell us when the KSFO love-in broadcast will be held. It's Friday, January 12. If you're free tomorrow afternoon, try to record the show. I'm sure there'll be plenty of examples of sweetness and light! (But keep a barf bag handy, just in case.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The excommunication of Speaker Pelosi

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic state

Al Smith lost in a landslide. The 1928 Democratic presidential nominee may have been governor of New York, but he was also a Catholic. Smith garnered only 41% of the popular vote and a minuscule 16.5% of the electoral vote (most of that, ironically, from the deeply Protestant states of the Deep South, still solid for the Democrats in those days). To many people, the choice of a Roman Catholic presidential candidate made the Democratic Party the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion” all over again. Governor Smith's more paranoid opponents charged that he would, if elected, open a tunnel from the basement of the White House all the way to the Vatican, so that the pope could more conveniently run the affairs of the United States.

The lesson was not lost on John F. Kennedy. An ambitious young politician as well as a Roman Catholic, Senator Kennedy knew that many Protestants still regarded his church as the antithesis of church/state separation. During the many centuries when the only form of Christianity in western Europe was Roman Catholicism, popes were not shy about exercising temporal as well as religious authority. The Church fancied itself as the God-ordained superior to all civil governments and in many cases could make that stick by threatening excommunication or interdicts denying the sacraments to the subjects of rebellious princes.

That all changed when Christianity splintered into innumerable rival sects after Luther's rebellion against the authority of Rome, but Catholicism survived as the largest single sect and the single most influential religion in many nations. Its displeasure could result in the defeat of politicians and the frustration of social legislation. In the predominantly Protestant United States, Catholic politicians had to tread lightly, as Senator Kennedy proceeded to do, briskly but cautiously, in his encounter with the Greater Houston Ministerial Association. Kennedy explained that he and the Protestant ministers shared many of the same concerns and sought the same goals for the nation:
But because I am a Catholic and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured—perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again—not what kind of church I believe in for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote—where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference—and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
Kennedy's speech occurred in September 1960 and was designed to defuse the religion question in the election that was less than two months away. It was certainly one of the keys to his narrow victory over Richard Nixon. (In such a close race, all factors can be regarded as crucial. Today most people remember the televised debates, since a candidate's personal religion has faded as an issue of contention.)

A change of context

Kennedy's presidency seemed to make moot the issue of Roman Catholicism. Senator Muskie's religion was not cited as a problem in his 1972 campaign. Kennedy's brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, ran for president in 1976, but it was a weak campaign rather than his Catholicism that caused Shriver to fall short.

But the issue has been coming back to life. In the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI condemned all forms of chemical or prophylactic contraception (only “natural” avoidance of pregnancy by means of periods of abstinence was allowed). In the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the nation's abortion laws. As contraception and abortion became the focus of great political controversy, the Catholic Church found itself disappointed in its adherents. Many Catholics styled themselves “pro-choice” rather than “pro-life,” and the hierarchy insisted that such Catholics were embracing false doctrine. The authority of the Church is increasingly exerted toward influencing the political behavior of Catholics in the U.S., although that path is fraught with danger. It awakens Protestant and secular fears.

The Roman Catholic Church is on a mission in the United States to outlaw abortion (and, if it had its way, contraception, too). Still, it moves slowly, partly out of caution and partly because it is a big and somewhat clumsy institution. The pope husbands his resources and it is often the lesser prelates who first take the initiative. We've seen this recently with the lectures of Cardinal Schönborn, who wants the Church to step back from John Paul II's pronouncement that evolution is “more than a theory.” (Schönborn is a friend of intelligent design creationism.)

Although he never ran for president, New York governor Mario Cuomo was for several years regarded as one of the strongest possible candidates for the Democratic nomination. Like his predecessor Al Smith, Cuomo espoused the Catholic faith. With the attention being paid to Church teachings on life issues in general, and abortion in particular, Cuomo took the opportunity at a Notre Dame University forum in 1984 to address the role and responsibilities of the Catholic politician:
[T]he Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy, a Catholic who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims and atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics, bears special responsibility. He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones, sometimes even contradictory to them; where the laws protect people's right to divorce, their right to use birth control devices, and even to choose abortion....

We cannot justify our aspiration to goodness as Catholics simply on the basis of the vigor of our demand for an elusive and questionable civil law declaring what we already know, that abortion is wrong. Approval or rejection of legal restrictions on abortion should not be the exclusive litmus test of Catholic loyalty. We should understand that whether abortion is outlawed or not, our work has barely begun: the work of creating a society where the right to life doesn't end at the moment of birth, where an infant isn't helped into a world that doesn't care if it's fed properly and housed decently and educated adequately, where the blind or retarded child isn't condemned to exist rather than empowered to live.
Although Cuomo's talk was widely criticized by conservative Catholics for defending the independence from Church dogma of his political judgment, many Catholics felt he had the weight of reason on his side. It was, after all, a clear echo of the position that John F. Kennedy had taken. But Governor Cuomo's absence from the presidential primaries and general election tempered the controversy; it simmered and did not come to a boil. The next round would play out on a regional stage rather than in a national arena.

A test case?

In the pro-life cause, one of the first overtly political actions was taken in 1989 in San Diego, where Bishop Leo Maher announced that he would refuse to give communion to Lucy Killea, a pro-choice Democratic assembly member who was running in a special election for state senate. Killea was a Catholic and Bishop Maher announced that her position on abortion rights was “in complete contradiction to the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.” The bishop's action was counterproductive. Killea won a clear victory in a race that had been expected to be very close. Some commentators suggested that the bishop's intervention had secured the election for Killea, who went on to serve a couple of terms in the California state senate.

Perhaps the Killea episode taught the Church that it had overreached, but in 2004 ecclesial authority was exercised as never before in opposing the candidacy of a Roman Catholic for president. Cardinal Ratzinger—better known today as Pope Benedict XVI—issued a private letter to Catholic bishops in the United States on denying the eucharist to politicians who did not adhere sufficiently closely to the Vatican line. Titled Worthiness to receive Holy Communion—General principles, the document clearly prompts American clerics to refuse the sacrament to candidates like Senator John Kerry:
Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist....

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.
There was no mistaking its intent. This time the intervention worked. Although Vice President Al Gore (a Baptist) had carried the Catholic vote in 2000, American Catholics in 2004 turned their backs on their co-religionist and voted instead for Bush. The Vatican chalked up a win.

Pelosi in the hot seat

The stakes are continuing to rise. As Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is now the highest ranking Catholic in the federal government. She is also resolutely pro-choice, supports same-sex unions, and otherwise departs from strict adherence to the Church's political platform on social issues. The nuanced approaches of John Kennedy and Mario Cuomo are all but forgotten. Pelosi will have no honeymoon with the Vatican or its American representatives. They are stalking her. Indeed, they have already broken cover:
Pelosi's Catholicism

Editor—Regarding “Pelosi's new image as Italian Catholic mom—more than a ‘San Francisco liberal’” (Matier & Ross, Jan. 7): What a joke! If Nancy wants to reclaim her Catholicity, she had best start by reviewing Catholic teaching. She said that she considered herself a conservative Catholic, but nothing is further from the truth.

She supports too many positions the church is against, beginning with pro-life issues: embryonic stem-cell research, gay adoptions, partial-birth abortion, funding contraception and U.N. family planning, same-sex marriage. She favors allowing minors to have an abortion without their parents' knowledge. She is against making it a crime to harm a fetus while committing other crimes. She is against allowing funding for health providers who do not provide abortion—which would close Catholic hospitals.

She is not a Catholic in good standing with her church.

Rev. John Malloy
SS Peter & Paul Church
San Francisco
Pelosi's defenders were quick to swing into action, including some of her co-religionists. Here's one from the January 10, 2007, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Casting stones at Pelosi's Catholicism

Editor—I find Rev. John Malloy's attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's faith (Letters, “Pelosi's Catholicism,” Jan. 9), describing her as “not a Catholic in good standing in her church” because she refuses to legislate Catholic doctrine into U.S. law, untoward and a little bit frightening.

While a religion can preach anything it likes, and its adherents are free to follow it to the last tenet, politicians who foist that faith on the rest of us have no business being in the government—and it's hoped the November election proved that.

It boggles the mind that the good reverend doesn't seem to understand that people may follow a faith, believe in its values for themselves, but understand that our pluralistic government should never legislate that faith or any other into our body of law.

That's the kind of person of faith I admire. Someone such as Pelosi, a Catholic grandmother, literally. I'm appalled that our local church is so blatantly political, and suggest that it has more in common with the fundamentalist fanatics that are destabilizing the world than the tolerance, understanding and forbearance for which San Francisco is famous.

It also shows a shocking disregard for our inviolate separation of church and state. Kudos to the speaker for a pitch-perfect swearing-in. She does our great city proud!

Eric Diamond, San Francisco
Thrust and riposte. The duel has been going on a long time and the end is obviously not in sight. Will San Francisco's bishop decide he has to make an example of Speaker Pelosi by formally reading her out of the Church? If he does, what will occur? Will Pelosi's political career be crippled or will she be strengthened?

Killea or Kerry? Which example tells us the future?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I don't like name calling

So stop it, jerk face!

Tommy and Larry are relatives of mine whom I've known all their lives. On my mother's side of the family, they are first cousins to each other. A few decades ago, when they were quite young, Larry made the momentous discovery that “Tommy” was not his cousin's given name. It was “Thomas.” This revelation delighted Larry, who then inaugurated a long sequence of questions and comments addressed to his cousin, each one containing at least one painstakingly exaggerated pronunciation of Tommy's given name:
  • “Hi, Tom-ass, how are you?”
  • “Sure is hot today, Tom-ass.”
  • “Hello, Tom-ass. Nice to see you!”
  • “You know, Tom-ass, I was just thinking that ‘Tom-ass’ is kind of a dumb name to give a kid. Wouldn't you agree, Tom-ass?”
I'm sure you get the idea. After some half-hearted attempts to spin Larry's name in a similar way (and “Larry,” not “Lawrence,” was indeed his name), Tommy gave up and resorted to the silent treatment. Larry eventually tired of the game.

That's the kind of behavior you expect from children. When they indulge in such activities in the presence of adults, at some point the adults have their fill and order the kids to cut it out. Unfortunately, childish behavior of this kind is standard practice in our nation's political discourse, and there's no sign that the adults are about to say that enough is enough.

The opening of the 110th Congress was the occasion of some attempts at civility. Even Republicans who spent the campaign shrieking about Nancy Pelosi's “San Francisco values” managed to suppress most of their baser instincts as she became the first Californian and the first woman in history to attain the position of Speaker of the House. Her opposite number, minority leader John Boehner, nevertheless promptly pulled a boner in his otherwise gracious concession speech when he referred to his rival in the “Democrat Party.”:
Today, the Democrat Party assumes the challenge and opportunity of majority power in the people’s House. Republicans will hold the incoming majority accountable for its promises and its actions, but we also want to work with the incoming majority for the good of our Nation that we were all elected to serve.
Boehner is so steeped in the standard Republican practice of misstating the Democratic Party's name that he cannot avoid the childish mislocution even when he is trying to be nice. Even the president of the United States toes the line. It's sad.

Anyone who says “Democrat Party” is not your friend. This is an infallible dog-whistle test for Democrats.

I have never liked political name-calling. Although I am perfectly willing to heap invective on those with whom I disagree (for example, I can call the president a liar because he traffics in falsehoods), I quickly grow weary of vandalized vocabulary. Thus I refrain from such misbegotten misconstructions as “Rethuglican” (although I'll happily cite GOP members whom I regard as thugs: e.g., Tom Delay, Virgil Goode, and Tom Tancredo). Heck, I've come to think of the unadorned term “Republican” as an insult all by itself. As it should be, given their penchant for slurs like “Dhimmicrat.”

Just this week I heard radio propagandist Melanie Morgan stumble over Governor Schwarzenegger's name. “Oh, no,” she said, “we nearly said it right!” Indeed. Morgan and her talk-show partner Lee Rodgers have a policy of snidely referring to California's governor as “Schwarzen-Kennedy” See how funny that is? He's married to Maria Shriver, after all, and he's a RINO (Republican In Name Only) because of his centrist politics, so Rodgers and Morgan call him a Kennedy. This is priceless political wit at the exact intellectual level you would expect from KSFO.

No wonder I don't want to do it myself. I would be lowering myself to the level of Malady Morgan.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The search for Spocko's Brain

He's back! And he's not alone!

Blog warrior and scourge of right-wing radio, Spocko is back on-line. Spocko's Brain has been resuscitated and is once again the logical command center of the siege against KSFO, the hate radio affiliate of ABC/Disney.

Spocko's story has electrified the blogosphere ever since ABC/Disney obtained a cease & desist order to shut down his original site. The accusation? While alleging that Spocko's use of audio clips from KSFO broadcast violated the company's copyright (although it was readily defensible as “fair use”), the real problem was that Spocko was sharing with KSFO's advertisers the actual content of the programs being supported by their advertising dollars. Once the advertisers heard the venom and bile spewing from KSFO's talk show hosts, they began to pull their spots. Given the contempt that KSFO expresses for its advertisers, it's a wonder that it took so long.

If you're not up to speed on this story, the most efficient way to get a grasp on the whole thing is to listen to an animated compilation of highlights from the KSFO clip files, posted at YouTube by upwithfairuse. Then you'll know just how egregiously KSFO panders to eliminationist extremists. Now go visit Spocko's Brain and join the good guys.

Posted by upwithfairuse at YouTube:

Saturday, January 06, 2007

God is in the details?

I thought it was the Devil

Creationists fancy themselves to be scientists, but very few of them actually are. One of the rare exceptions is Jason Lisle, who holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics. It's not easy to remain a young-earth creationist in the face of our vast universe, but Lisle's biblical blinkers are working very well so far. In addition to writing the creationist astronomy book Taking Back Astronomy, Lisle has penned an article for 2007's first quarterly issue of Ken Ham's new Answers magazine.

Lisle is on the lookout for evidence supporting his creationist point of view. He claims to have found some. In mathematics!

In an article titled Fractals, Lisle says,
Numbers have existed from the beginning of creation, yet researchers have only recently discovered the hidden shapes that the Lord placed within them. Such beauty defies a secular explanation but confirms biblical creation.
Hmm. I hope there's more to it than that. Though so far it's typical. In the absence of credible evidence, “proof by assertion” is a popular rhetorical device in creation apologetics. But let's cut Dr. Lisle some slack. Surely he was exposed to the scientific method while earning his doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Let's see what else he has to say, this time about the specific fractal known as the Mandelbrot set:
Where did this incredible organization and beauty come from? Some might say that a computer produced this organization and beauty. After all, a compuer was used to produce the graphs in the figure. But the computer did not create the fractal. It only produced the map—the representation of the fractal....

God alone can take credit for mathematical truths, such as fractals. Such transcendent truths are a reflection of God's thoughts.
Well, that was weak. Not that I'm particularly surprised. It's all part and parcel of the “I can't really understand it, so God must be behind it” argument favored by creationists (and, one might add, intelligent design advocates, too).

Lisle's not quite done. He needs to invoke another hoary creationist device.
Evolution cannot account for fractals. These shapes have existed since creation and cannot have evolved, since numbers cannot change—the number 7 will never be anything but 7. But fractals are perfectly consistent with biblical creation.
Shucks and darn! He's got me there! Evolution does not have an explanation for fractals. What a terrible flaw!

I feel an inspiration coming upon me. I'm sure that I can generalize Dr. Lisle's brilliant argument. For example, bricks cannot change, so they must be evidence of creation, too! On the other hand, bricks have been known to crumble, so perhaps that's evidence for evolution. I must try harder. Since numbers are an abstract notion, maybe I should seek something a little more conceptual.

Hey, how about love? That's really abstract. And love is eternal, right? What would evolution have to say about that, huh?

Well, I suspect evolutionists would say that love is an epiphenomenon related to the biological drive to reproduce, without which there would be no succeeding generations on which natural selection could operate. Yeah, those crafty evolutionists wouldn't be daunted by love. I probably went too abstract. Let's find an example that splits the difference.

I've got it! How about the length of a meter? We can apply it to physical measure, but the notion of a specific length is an abstraction. And the length of a meter cannot change. It's always 100 centimeters! Evolution has nothing to say about that, does it? Once again, evolution is defeated. Poor evolution! (I realize some may argue that length changes with respect to velocity, but that's based on Einstein's theory of relativity, which lots of creationists view askance. Don't go there!)

Now that Lisle has proved that there's evidence for creation in mathematics, what can we expect next? Some evidence from biology? (Probably not; that approach has not worked very well for creationists.) How about anthropology? (Nope: even worse.) Should we consider physical education? (Not a chance. That's very survival-of-the-fittest, isn't it?) Maybe accounting? (Actually, that may be one of Satan's infernal devices.) No, no. None of those.

I've got it! Political science.