Friday, April 29, 2005

Bush A Fan Of "Splash Day"?

This story gave me a chuckle. Is the president under the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy? Below is just the text of the story in the link. Happy Friday!

GALVESTON, Texas — President Bush drew laughs from his audience Tuesday when he asked whether the Galveston area still hosts "Splash Day." The annual beach party that dates to the 1950s does live on -- but now as an unofficial gay and lesbian event. In town to speak about Social Security, Bush told the crowd: "I want to thank the mayor for being here -- Lyda Ann Thomas greeted me coming in. I said, 'Do you still have Splash Day?'" The crowd laughed. "You have to be a baby boomer to know what I'm talking about," Bush said. The crowd laughed again. Splash Day once marked the end of school and the beginning of summertime fun. The city backed off from it many years ago when it turned a little too wild, says Christy Benson of the Galveston Chamber of Commerce. It later became a party day for gays and lesbians. Drawing another round of laughter, Bush said: "I'm not saying whether I came or not on Splash Day. I'm just saying, 'Do you have Splash Day?'"

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sic Semper Tyrannus

Just seems like a good random title for today. The state flag of Virginia says that on it, and it means something like "Thus ever to tyrants". See the pic for context.

The new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe movie looks very funny. I have of course only seen the trailer, but it does show a lot of promise! If you don't have Quicktime, just go to the official site and get it in another format there. John Malkovich, pictured below, plays "Humma Kavula".

I will preface the clip from the story below by saying that this link is from Fox News, before my conservative friends can bleat another claim of dreaded "MSM bias". Yep, looks like someone finally checked the polls to see what the American public thought of this. You can argue about the usefulness of polls all you want, but sometimes they are the only thing that will convince "the people in charge" of their errors. (The bold print is mine.)
House Speaker Dennis Hastert persuaded fellow Republicans fearful of political fallout to retreat from a fight over ethics rules Democrats insist were written to shield Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The 406-20 vote Wednesday night to return to the old House ethics committee rules opened the way for a probe of the Texas Republican by that panel. With DeLay fast becoming the poster child for bad behavior, the move was seen as an effort by Hastert to limit political damage.

On a related note, is it just me, or is Dennis Hastert looking more like Ted Kennedy every day? Maybe he's hitting the sauce due to all of this pressure? He's almost got the "Boris Yeltsin glow".

I am currently reading a book called "Spam Kings" that I borrowed from a friend. It's pretty interesting how these people work and just how socially awkward many of them are. These people should have all of their toenails ripped off.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Speaking Of Texas...

Here's a joke for "y'all"... It was sent to me by someone that considers himself "part Texan" since he lived there for a few years as a kid, so don't accuse me of being anti-Texan. It's funny partly because I can just imagine someone actually trying this!

Only a Texan could think of this....from the state where drunk driving is considered a sport, comes this true story.

Recently a routine police patrol parked outside a bar in Bandera, Texas. After last call the officer noticed a man leaving the bar so intoxicated that he could barely walk. The man stumbled around the parking lot for a few minutes, with the officer quietly observing. After what seemed an eternity and trying his keys on five different vehicles, the man managed to find his car which he fell into. -- -- He sat there for a few minutes as a number of other patrons left the bar and drove off.

Finally he started the car, switched the wipers on and off (it was a fine, dry summer night) -- -- flicked the blinkers on, then off a couple of times, honked the horn and then switched on the lights. -- He moved the vehicle forward a few inches, reversed a little and then remained still for a few more minutes as some more of the other patron vehicles left. At last, the parking lot empty, he pulled out of the parking lot and started to drive slowly down the road.

The police officer, having patiently waited all this time, now started up the patrol car, put on the flashing lights, and promptly pulled the man over and carried out a breathalyzer test. To his amazement the breathalyzer indicated no evidence of the man having consumed any alcohol at all! Dumbfounded, the officer said, "I'll have to ask you to accompany me to the police station. This breathalyzer equipment must be broken."

"I doubt it," said the truly proud Texan. Tonight I'm the designated decoy.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Is The Civil War Completely Over Yet?

Some of you laugh to scorn the idea of bloodshed as the result of secession, but let me tell you what is coming....Your fathers and husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the point of the bayonet....You may after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence...but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of state rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction...they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.
-Sam Houston, Governor of Texas, 1861, speaking against Texas joining the Confederacy

Prophetic words. He was very soon removed from office after the Texas legislature overwhelmingly voted to secede, and Houston refused to pledge loyalty to the Confederacy. I don't know about the "climate" angle, but other than that it seemed to go as he predicted. While the southern generals certainly were much better than the northern generals, at least in the first half of the war, the Union Army was always far larger. After the Battle of Antietam in 1862, which was basically a draw with the Union holding the field, but where General Lee lost 10,000 men, it was hard to recover. It was a quarter of his force at the time. There was still a lot of fight left in them and a lot of northern battle tactic ineptitude prolonged the war, but the losses in the western states and along the Mississippi River eventually took their toll on the Confederate effort as a whole. The biggest threat to the Union side was that Europe was considering coming in on the side of the south because they needed cotton. That threat went away with the Emancipation Proclamation. Europe had always sort of tolerated slavery because it was convenient to their ends of getting cotton, but once the war became more about slavery than it was in the beginning as a more purely states-rights issue, Britain and France backed off, not wanting to back the pro-slavery side.

Anyway, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been watching Ken Burns' "The Civil War" every time I work out recently, and it's quite fascinating. It's interesting that as I watch it, I actually "root" for the Union in my mind, as if it were happening now and that I could somehow will them to victory. The south really did fight brilliantly at many junctures, but it just wasn't enough. I have a lot of admiration for both sides in terms of bravery and selflessness. I think it was very well captured in the documentary.

I sometimes am curious about why some people have the Confederate flag on their cars or pickup trucks. I know that sometimes it's a matter of heritage and that perhaps they had ancestors in the war on the southern side. I know it's rarely done as a symbol of hate, because certainly the southerners didn't see it that way at the time. What I am curious about is what the others that display that flag are stating by displaying it. Is it a statement of state's rights? Is it more like a "don't tread on me" kind of statement? I never ask because I don't know anyone that displays it, and the issue can be so passionate that I don't want to ask a stranger a potentially angering question. Perhaps some of my readers have ideas on it? I know some of you are from the deep south. Maybe you know?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Two Bad Bills Going Down

This story on the contents of the "Energy Bill" will warm the crockery of your heart, especially if it runs on fossil fuels. It's not even the ANWR drilling part that I am most concerned about. If they did that carefully, they could manage not to ruin the place. The hydrogen cell funding provisions are actually a very good idea, because it is a step toward reduction in demand for oil. It's the enormous corporate welfare and pork provisions in it that I think are just crazy.

"The bill calls for $8.1 billion in tax breaks over 10 years, most of it going to promote coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas energy industries."

Great, so 8.1 billion with a "B" is no problem when we are running an enormous deficit and energy companies are posting record profits, according to Republicans? Like we aren't going to use gas any more if we don't have them "promote" their services? Of course, this bill is apparently DOA in the Senate anyway, thank goodness. There are enough Republicans that also think this is a bad idea that it is apparently not going to be passed. It may be close though. Stay tuned.

There aren't enough foster families to go around for kids that have had screwed-up things happen to them in their lives, so now some enterprising bigots errrrr, I mean "concerned citizens" in Austin want to make it so gay couples can't be foster parents, so there can be even fewer homes to care for them. Fortunately, it appears that there is enough Republican opposition to that provision of the bill to stop it, as well as the Republican governor saying that he doesn't want the issue to interfere with overall passage of the bill either way. It's amazing to me that while most people wouldn't dream of discriminating on the basis of race, some of these same people will say that doing so on the basis of partner choice is fine. It's called bigotry, and I'm sorry that there isn't enough lipstick to put on the pig to call it something else. The people that support that bill should really be ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I Take That Back

You know what, I think I do want Delay to hang around until at least 2006, and maybe longer. He had more to say today about those wacky "judicial activists" (this term means people that disagree too often with conservatives). This term is supposed to mean: "An interpretation of the U.S. constitution holding that the spirit of the times and the needs of the nation can legitimately influence judicial decisions (particularly decisions of the Supreme Court)." No, this does not mean they can decide whatever they want! It just means that if there is ambiguity in the Constitution on a matter (there is plenty in a document that old), then they are allowed some interpretation. Yes, I know there will be thoughts of "it should be left to the states then like it says", which I tend to agree with, but we all know that not everything can work like that, and even most strict constitutionalists know that. Anyway, back to the matter at hand, I think Delay's obvious lack of any regard for where the American people are in this debate is just going to continue to hurt and split his party. He is vastly overestimating how conservative the country is. If 2006 turns out to be a meltdown year for Republicans, I can see maybe a defection or two happening, over to the Dems. There are several moderate Republicans that I would love to have on board, since they would also push the party slightly more to the center. There is a lot of time between now and then, but I like what I see so far.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Rides, Both Real And Virtual!

It was a good weekend for acquisition this weekend, and to that end, I, well we, made two. The first I will describe, and the less important of the two, was a virtual one. As I mentioned before, I play World of Warcraft. I was playing on Friday night and I was looting my last two solo kills before bed. On one of the bodies of the Naga Explorers, I found an item called "Boots of Avoidance". I saw that the writing was in purple. Now this was going to be a big find! In WoW, equipment in gray text are non-magical, and are of course pretty common. They are usable, but very basic. Then there is green text. "Green" equipment has some magic in it, and is often pretty useful. It is not very common, but common enough so that the typical character is mostly "green". (No, that is not the actual color, it's just the text description.) The next Plate armor, so I couldn't use them myself, being a Hunter, a class that can't wear plate. The next step is blue. I am level 44 of 60 and I have actually gotten only two blue items or so, maybe three at the most, plus one from a quest. They are around, but they are rare. Then there are "purple" or so called "epic items". This is what I found. In the course of gaining levels to level 44 I had been able to accumulated just over 50 gold. I sold the item for 90 gold in the in-game auction house on Saturday. Training to be able to use a mount and then buying it costs 90 gold, and is a sign that you've "made it" to the higher end of the virtual coolness ladder in World of Warcraft, not to mention that it makes travel faster and more fun. On Sunday I bought my new ride, a giant white ram. Yes, my character is a dwarf, that now rides a white ram. You don't have to understand. Just be happy for me! Here is a picture of a dwarf on a ram from the game, but obviously not me or mine, since my ram is white and my beard is bluish-black and more neatly kept than this guy's.

Now for the real ride. On Saturday, my wife and I went to Carmax to browse cars. We knew that we needed to get a car for her soon because they are discontinuing the bus route that used to take her to the Metro (DC area subway system), into DC. We could no longer get by with one car (a blue 2001 Volkswagen Passat we bought new) he had already set up a very good financing rate through E-Loan. We had a nice young guy from South Africa named Irwin helping us. We looked at some cars, and Chris really loved a 2004 Mazda 6 that was on the lot. Carmax has an interesting business model. Their salespeople are not on a percentage commission. They are on a per vehicle commission. This allows them to focus on what the customer needs, which is great. The other thing is that there is no haggling. This could of course be a very bad thing, and I was a little skeptical about it, so whatever the price was I wanted to make sure that we were getting good value for the money. We went back home and I checked online on Edmunds to make sure it was a reasonable price. It was, so we went back and got it. Below is the actual car. You like it?

Wir haben einen Deutschen Papst!

(We have a German Pope!) So it is finally done. Ratzinger was kind of the odds-on favorite I guess. I don't really have a lot to say on the subject, except that I would imagine that some Germans are less happy about it than you think, since Ratzinger is a strict traditionalist, and many Germans had wanted someone a little more reform-minded. Well, it's their religion. They will take it where they want it to go I suppose. I hope he is as much a goodwill ambassador as JPII, but I doubt he will be. He's actually not much younger than John Paul II when he died. Time will tell, but I don't see a lot of change coming from this Pope. Guess I'll just watch the show.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Netflix And The Civil War

I wonder if anyone alive back in 1861 could have imagined that I would be able to get DVDs of a history of the Civil War delivered to my house on little plastic disks. Probably not, but this is what I am doing. I signed up for Netflix on Wednesday evening, and already in Friday's mail I received DVDs. One was disk one of five of Ken Burns' "The Civil War". I watched the first hour of it while working out on the exercise bike this morning. My normal workout is half an hour. I can see this having an extra side effect of getting me in better shape. (Oddly, at 31, I'm probably in the best shape of my life.) There is so much I had forgotten since watching "The Civil War" in 1990 when it came out on PBS. General Lee was personally offered command of the entire Union Army by Lincoln, but because he was from Virginia and they had just seceded, he felt more loyalty to them than to the Union as a whole. He was very much against the idea of secession during most of the run-up to the war, but eventually went with his home state. I also had forgotten just how stacked things were against the Confederacy from the beginning. The north had 21 million people, and the south had 9 million, 4 million of which were slaves. The entire industrial output of the south was about a quarter that of New York alone! It's amazing that they did so well. Of course they did get a lot of the most competent West Pointers at the time, plus the sense that they were fighting for freedom, and fighting a lot on their own soil. All of that helped them be competitive. One of my relatives actually died in one of the battles of Bull Run, near modern-day Manassas which I coincidentally live some single-digit miles from now. I could join the "Sons of the Union" society or whatever that is, and actually Sons of the Revolution apparently too, but it seems a little odd, and I doubt I will ever do it.

I've been badly neglecting my German blog. I just put the first post up yesterday in almost two weeks. So much easier to write in English. It's tougher to get motivated when I know it takes so much longer to express my thoughts. Hopefully my German-speaking friends will forgive me, and also visit here more! So to my German friends I say: Bitte kommentier! Was ist los? Sei nicht verlegen über den Sprache! *Lach*

This weekend will be garden planting weekend. We have a townhouse, and most of the back is a deck, with just a 2.5' by 15.0' area for me to plant in. You would be astounded by the amount of productivity I can get out of a small area. Click here to see a picture of last year's garden. You can see that some things grow very well, and others not well at all. It is our third summer in the house, so I hope to have a great crop. I'll be growing some corn this year too! I use Burpee seeds, and have since we had our yearly "Enormous Garden" as a kid. I'll be growing the usual zucchini, beans, snap peas, and carrots. Canteloupe and cucumbers are on the bubble. I'm not sure if I will try them again, as they never seem to thrive. Any other green thumbs out there?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Why Bush's Economic Policies Are Flawed

I actually posted this in Rightwingsparkle's blog as a comment, and realized it was a topic that I have wanted to bring up here for awhile, so here it is, slightly modified.

One of the big reasons is the borrow and spend program that he has been on. I would rather the pain not be so back-loaded for the next couple presidents to deal with. Who would have thought that Democrats would end up being the fiscal conservatives in many ways? Making the tax cuts permanent will ensure that we run a deficit for years to come. It's fine to cut taxes a bit to give the economy a bit of a boost, but to then not let it go gradually back to levels where we will be solvent again just to appease his base seems foolish. Yes, I would rather pay somewhat higher taxes now so that we don't get into more debt, cause the dollar to lose value, and other trouble that goes with it. I would rather pay more now than be socked with a bigger bill later as the money the government takes in goes a shorter way because of the debt financing.

Capital gains tax cuts that Bush supports, as well as this new estate tax law, seem geared toward rewarding wealth over work. It's very easy to make money with money as it is. Do we really need to make the tax code encourage this still more, and at the same time be against raising the minimum wage? To me, leaving the minimum wage low seems like it is just helping inefficient businesses stay afloat instead of making way for better run businesses that pay better. Isn't this back-door corporate welfare?

The middle class is shrinking because health care, housing, and secondary education expenses are running at a few times inflation and have been for years. This particular problem was not caused by Bush at all, but he also seems to not be addressing it with policy changes, aside from tort reform which I think is a good idea, but the impact is overrated. Just reversing some of the tax cuts that were made for the wealthiest Americans could be used to incent home-buying or secondary education to a higher degree, getting more people from the lower to the middle class, increasing consumer spending, thus business, investment, and so on to actually end up helping the rich in the long run as well! This is *not* income redistribution, and it would *not at all* have to be done in a way that squelches business or the rich. I hope to be rich one day, and if I am, I guarantee I won't complain about paying extra to help keep the system running that helped vault me into success.

Money needs to flow through the system in order to keep the middle class strong and the overall standard of living high. Bush is making it easier to stay rich and allowing it to get harder to go from lower to middle class, and that I believe is deeply wrong for the economy, and for all Americans.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Moral Relativism And Moral Absolutism

This is a philosophical topic that I have been meaning to tackle here for awhile. Some of these terms have been badly butchered by those with agendas, or those that lack understanding of what these terms mean in theory and in practice. First, what moral relativism does not mean: It does not mean that you do whatever you feel like doing. That is by definition amorality, or lack of any morals. It is also not hedonism. That is doing whatever is most pleasurable.

Moral relativism is the idea that ethics are a social construct. Only the purest form of moral relativism believes that "right" is whatever the society believes. It never works that way in practice. There are always a certain number of "non-negotiable" baselines in practice. Killing and stealing are a good example of these. Of course, even right there at what would seem to be the most basic level, you will have problems getting agreement. Some will say that abortion is killing. Others will say that illegal immigrants that use health services are stealing in some way. Put all that aside though for now and think about it in terms of areas where everyone can agree. A moral relativist in practice will have certain areas where they could be considered a moral absolutist, but not as many as a moral absolutist.

Moral absolutism is the idea that morals are inherently and inarguably right or wrong. They are seen as having a fundamental source. This source for most of the strongest absolutists is religion, but can certainly be other things that guide behavior. It is the opposite of moral relativism, and so this is why sometimes conservatives will call liberals moral relativists as a derogatory term. Like relativism, absolutism also has extremes, but most people are a combination of both.

Then you have value pluralism, which is sort of an in-between, which I would say that many people are some shade of. This means that differences in morals are accepted, but only to a point. Sometimes they can be seen as wrong, but not wrong enough that those practicing it feel that they must stop it, but sometimes they do. (This can be the case with the other two as well.)

This essentially divides people into a few camps on every issue, and as with the liberalism/conservatism post I did a couple weeks back, you have to do it on a per-issue basis. Almost nobody is purely one or the other for every issue. You must decide what code of ethics you have, drawn from what source if any, and how flexible you are to allowing the actions of others that believe differently.

This is very much a defining point of who we are, so we would all do well to examine it within ourselves.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Que Pasa?

As goes West Virginia, so goes the rest of the country? It looks like they made English the official language in West Virginia. I live only an hour from the state. Yes, I have been there, and actually it is very pretty country out there, but I'm afraid some of the stereotypes about West Virginians are true in places. I'm actually not particularly incensed one way or another about this issue, except that it feeds a common conservative fallacy that immigrants don't want to learn the language. Sure, you can point at some people that don't and say "see!", but if you saw how full the adult ESL classes are around here, you would know otherwise. The kids most certainly know how to speak English, often very well.

As for immigration in general, that is something that I am a little torn about. I am actually on the conservative side in saying that I think we can and should make the borders much, much tighter for those trying to get across illegally, like slowing it from a flood to a trickle. Obviously there is a level at which it gets prohibitively expensive to cut off that last one or two percent, but we are clearly nowhere near that level of effort now. We have a lot of work to do, but Bush is worried that he will lose business votes that like the cheap labor, and Bush as well as Democrats are worried about losing Hispanic votes. I was a little concerned that the Minutemen volunteers might be a little trigger-happy, but not too much so. It seems that there was no reason to be concerned, and they did what they wanted to do pretty effectively as far as I can tell. On the other hand, I agree with the liberal side in saying that I don't think it's wise to cut off the help that many immigrants already get that are here. If we cut off the border like we should, and how some conservatives want to, the problem with funds going toward these programs would drop off amazingly quickly. Then we wouldn't have to be as concerned about the money aspect of it, as they assimilated into mainstream society, and still be a compassionate country as we can be, yes even to people currently here illegally. It's too late and unnecessary to turn back the clock on them if we follow this plan.

Along with that, once the illegal crossings are largely shut down, we can have greater control and security over who we let in. A guest worker program that is large and comprehensive can take over, so that businesses can get the labor that they want as well. Many fewer undocumented immigrants around, less of a burden on the education and health care systems in short order, business gets what they want, and we are more secure as a country. What's not to like here?

I also have a much longer post about moral relativism and moral absolutism in progress, but it's not finished yet. Look for that tomorrow.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Embarrassing Songs And China's Myopia

Are there songs that you really like but would never listen to with anyone else around? Maybe some 80's hair metal songs, or sappy love songs? I will list of few songs that would be on my list here. First, one that I recently rediscovered after hearing it on an episode of "Cold Case" is Oasis with "Don't Look Back in Anger". Very sappy, which is redundant to say since it is Oasis. The second British invasion? Thank goodness the invasion was largely repelled in the 90's, but I still like this song dammit! Another would be "At Last" by Etta James. The song was made well before I was born, and is again a very slow sappy song that people love to play at weddings, but she does have a great voice. The third one, let's see...ah, here's one. "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard. Totally 80's hair band. Rock on! I haven't actually heard this one in a long time, but it remains to this day one of my very favorite 80's tunes. So can you name three? Don't be shy now, just because people may question your manhood or good taste because you revealed them...

I found this story interesting. So let me get this straight. Lots of Chinese people are upset because Japan wants to be a permanent UN Security Council member, because they violated the human rights of Chinese people 60 years ago and are not proclaiming it strongly enough to this day. Did I get that right? However, it's still OK that their own government arrested and kills non-violent dissenters from time to time? The Chinese government seems to be distancing themselves from the protest, but if it's a protest in China, doesn't it always have to be approved by the government? I wonder if they will be just as concerned if China invades Taiwan and kills tens of thousands or more of their people and/or starts "World War III", or rather, "most of the rest of the non-neutral world vs. China".

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Take Your Sports Seriously?

You know, I always have heard from Texans that they take their football very seriously, but this story really pushes the envelope. They still aren't sure exactly why he did it I guess, but theories abound. When in doubt, I like to blame it on the water. I wonder what he'll blame it on? The coach probably wouldn't let his son play enough. There was actually a South Park about that last week, where Stan's Dad was getting in fights with the opposing Little League dads. Why did almost never happen twenty years ago, and now we hear multiple stories about it every year? What kind of insanity is gripping people? Can the water really be that bad everywhere?

I generally like the idea when corporate execs take voluntarily cut their own salaries as a statement of loyalty to their companies. The only problem is, the people that do it are not usually the people that deserve to make one dollar a year. It's the Googles and the Apples of the world it seems, and not the Enrons and the Tycos of the world. Those Google people and Steve Jobs at Apple deserve all the rewards they want because they do a great job of running their very profitable companies, and they treat their employees well. It looks like the Cisco CEO took a similar cut when the business was doing poorly though, and I have to give him credit for that. Of course I know that their regular salary is only a part of their earnings, a small part even, but it's more than a symbolic gesture.

Who knew that beanbags could kill you? I still like the trend toward effective non-lethal force in cases like this though. Police like it, the community they serve likes it, everyone is happy. When Gomer is coming off a bender and waving a butter knife at the police from a hundred feet away, he probably doesn't deserve the death penalty. Unfortunately for Gomer, he probably won't be any brighter after he sleeps it off in jail.

Friday, April 08, 2005

My Life If I Were Single And Unemployed

As noted in a previous post, my wife is in Phoenix right now at a conference and won't be returning until Saturday afternoon. I took today and Friday off just to unwind by myself. I had quite a day. I worked out on the exercise bike and took care of some domestic stuff in the morning, like laundry, and taking care of cat needs that Chris usually handles (yes, she does have a name besides "my wife", it's short for Christina). I ate the rest of the Easter candy, which consisted of about ten pink marshmallow Peeps, and a couple Cadbury caramel eggs. I played a lot of World of Warcraft, for hours actually. I left some comments on some other people's blogs in between there too. I microwaved a frozen dinner for lunch, even though there was plenty of other stuff to make around the house, and I'm certainly a capable if unspectacular cook.

Around 4:30 in the afternoon I went to the store and bought some wine, Ecco Domani pinot grigio, a package of ten blank CD-ROMs, and a couple cans of coconut water which I have recently discovered and had a craving for. Many clerks still give my license a bit more than the cursory glance that you would expect at 31, and the polite middle-aged Indian lady that helped me today seemed to do that also. I always wonder what they would have thought of me ten years ago. I'm used to looking young, and I'm really trying to believe everyone that says it's great. I spent too many years struggling against it to be appreciative still. Sure, looking about 25 for me at 31 now is great. Looking 17 at 22 is a bit less of a treat, trust me. I got home, played some more Warcraft, and then decided to order some Chinese food. The first place I called, I asked if they had Chow Foon. The woman on the other end of the phone informed me in almost completely incomprehensible English that they were located at Sully Place. I already knew that. I asked again, and she said they didn't have it, but they "cook it differently". Whatever. I said I would call back maybe when my wife got home. She agreed, and I hung up as quickly as possible. I called another place that I actually had a menu for, and that seemed to go more smoothly, besides that she asked me to confirm my street address twice, and insisted on spelling it. Don't they have mapquest? When my food got delivered, shrimp lo mein and combination sweet and sour, with two egg rolls (hey, gotta have leftovers you know), I had become bored with Warcraft, so I watched a CSI that I had recorded on the DVR that we recently got from the cable company. I have the DVR tape all CSIs. It's one of the few shows that I find consistently entertaining. That, Cold Case, South Park, NFL football, and Alias which I watch with Chris because she loves it. Ever since they stopped making her beloved X-Files, it has been her "next-best thing".

I drank about half of the bottle of wine with my dinner. Then I opened my fortune cookies, after watching a CSI episode, and a South Park episode. The first one said, "You have much skill in expressing yourself to be effective." OK. That made a little sense, though the translation could have used some work. The second fortune cookie. What little tidbit of wisdom might that one have? "You are going to have some new clothes." Brilliant. They're sort of right though, I guess. I am going to "have some new clothes" in a minute. They're called pajamas. Goodnight!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I Wonder Which Blogs Will Cover This Story?

OK, you can all stop the tinfoil hat speculation that it was the Democrats that distributed this memo, so until the next conspiracy, please think, and get all the facts before you leap. Let that be a lesson well learned. Dan Rather learned it, and now the Republicans that were quick to proclaim another Rathergate have learned it too.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Nailing Their Own Coffins

Stories such as these are giving me a great deal of hope that the next Congress will be a lot more evenly split than this one is. When one party is in power too long, and they get too comfortable, they start getting crazy and overestimating their support. Then the American people "throw the bums out". It's too early to say for sure, but I'm definitely heartened.

By the way, am I the only one that's puzzled that a crack in an external space shuttle fuel tank is "not considered a major issue"??? That seems a little frightening. I just hope they know what they're doing.

Those of you that smoke, here's another sobering story. Peter Jennings is fighting lung cancer, and that is of course one of the deadliest cancers there is. He smoked for many years, and quit twenty years ago apparently, but it still wasn't enough.

In unrelated news, my wife is at an LMA (Legal Marketing Association) conference in Phoenix from today until Saturday, and I took Thursday and Friday off to play computer games, garden, and just generally relax by myself. I'll have plenty of time to think of issues for my blog as I play World of Warcraft. (My name is Zaun, and I play Alliance on the Earthen Ring server for my primary character, currently a 42 Dwarven Hunter.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive, Pilgrims!

This is for Two Dogs, Snuffy, my RL friend Nicnerd, and others that are trying to make politics in America a completely binary proposition, with no in betweens. (I know conservatives dislike shades of gray, but come on guys, some realism please?) Before I start, I want to direct your attention to my previous post about what these terms mean to me *first*, or you may not fully see the big picture of my argument. Yes, on those issues were nearly all Democrats from both wings of the party are united, I am probably behind them, like abortion, minimum wage, Social Security, and so on, but on issues that tend to split the liberal and moderate wings of the party, I am usually on the moderate side.

So, Two Dogs and others wanted examples of where I disagree with the generally accepted "liberal positions" on some issues. I'll happily entertain that. First and foremost probably at the moment is the war. This has been a very complicated and contentious issue. Liberals have tagged the very existence of the war as one of the main issues over which they hate Dubyah. I have not. As I mentioned here, I have significant issues around the war as far as general hubris and arrogance. Was there some deceit? I don't know for sure. Certainly not out of the question, but that's not my main concern. Saddam is gone, and that's good. I *do* wonder if sacrificing a couple thousand of our people is going to be worth it in the long run or not, but it's way too early to say. The people that protested the war beyond those first couple months are kind of a motley bunch, no not a Mötley Crüe...

Second, on gun issues, most liberals believe that guns should be strictly controlled. I do not. I am for only the very most basic of laws in this regard. Unless it's a bazooka or a flamethrower or something, as I always say, then people should probably be able to own one. If it's a gun that can kill dozens of people in less than a minute, that should probably require a license, as I believe most of those types do already. I didn't like the "Assault Weapons Ban" because it banned a bunch of guns that are not at all "assault weapons", as Nicnerd pointed out when we were at lunch one day. There were many handguns included in the ban, and some odd stipulations with components that seemed strange. It was a good point. Also, this nonsense about suing gun makers is total garbage. Unless the product is defective, or if the company was *covering up* a known danger (like the tobacco industry, and as some auto makers have done at times), then they should be immune. Same for fast food restaurants. Nobody forced you to eat all those burgers, and unless the restaurant is lying or covering up nutrition info, they should also be immune. This segues nicely into the next point.

Third, I generally like tort reform. Liberals do not, mostly because they see it I think as "the man" keeping them down or something. I believe that medical malpractice and otherwise should cover *real* damages as normal of course, but that punitive damages should be capped per person. It should be a high enough cap to make anyone think twice about being unethical, but not so high that an insurance company loses a month's worth of profits on one case. These kinds of double-digit millions in punitive damage settlements are what makes the rates increase, and makes medicine and everything else more expensive for everyone.

Fourth, and last for this post anyway, but there is much more, is how issues are approached. (I didn't even mention economic issues in this post by the way, and I tend to be very centrist on those as well, probably slightly right of where I am on social issues.) As I mentioned in the earlier post about it, I'm not sure if this is a valid way of measuring it, but how I present my case and what I think about the other side is different from my liberal relatives in the Democratic party. This one can very much apply to conservatives as well. Many liberals and conservatives see the other side as immoral, evil, or worse. There is a lot of colorful language thrown around, with lots of name-calling, and "the sky is falling" hyperbole. This is not to say that I am not passionate about many things, because I am, but I also am not an alarmist or a doomsayer as extremists all tend to be.

So there you have it, you asked, and you received, my conservative sparring partners. Now don't tell me I never gave you anything!

Monday, April 04, 2005

How Big Is Your "Big Tent" Policy?

The obvious middle school joke aside, how big is it actually? I often wonder about organizations, social, political, religious, and otherwise, and at what point people that disagree with them are seen as functionally no longer part of the group because their beliefs differ from the "traditional views" of the group. Eventually, if a certain "reform" (in the eyes of the beholder of course), gains enough steam, then it is adopted, and the organization continues with a new rule or value. I wonder what Catholics specifically think of this new poll of Catholics. Yes, of course polls can be flawed, but they can certainly give some idea of the membership. My guess is that the traditional Catholics will read that and say that those that are for these reforms are not really Catholics, or not "good" Catholics, and that doctrine doesn't change just because of public opinion. Then those that are *for* the reforms may realize they are in the majority and force the issue or the organization will lose members, as the Catholic Church has been for years in the West. All organizations change with the times to an extent, even those that claim to be unchanging, and while there will always be those that don't want change, a generation later, most in the same group would not dream of going backward. For example the reforms of Vatican II, desegregation in a variety of institutions, greater role for women in the military (more recent, so still some opposition), and so on. I find it interesting how that works. Time rolls on, and views change. Eventually, Catholics may decide to make official in public doctrine what most already believe or practice in private. A new interpretation could be adopted, and the church will continue, perhaps much stronger for the experience. I wonder if Catholicism is headed for some change, beyond just a new Pope? Time will tell.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Will You Make That First Step?

In Illinois, their Governor signed a law that makes it so pharmacists can't cause delays giving medications based on their personal views. This is a good sign. An excerpt from the article: "Steve Trombley, CEO for Planned Parenthood in Chicago, praised the state's efforts. "When medical professionals write prescriptions for their patients, they are acting in their patients' best interests," Trombley said. "A pharmacist's personal views cannot intrude on the relationship between a woman and her doctor." Hey, wait a minute, that was a quote by someone from Planned Parenthood. A question for pro-lifers, which just came to me... If they are so concerned about "getting their abortion money", shouldn't they be upset that people are going to have guaranteed full access to the most effective method of contraception that exists in the world? He didn't seem upset to me. I know there will be plenty of reasons that can be given, like "he was lying", or "he makes lots of money already". Assuming he believes what he says though, it would mean that their goal really is to help people have the family that they want, when they want. I believe most of what pro-life people say is said on principle, even though I believe they are wrong. Are you capable of taking anyone from Planned Parenthood at their word, or is the hatred for what they stand for too strong? That is not a rhetorical question actually, no offense intended. I am sure that some can, but I wonder if you, if you are a pro-life reader, can. I am genuinely curious. Note: I don't want to turn this into a debate on abortion itself. I just wonder about this one issue.

You know, scratch that. You can answer that question too of course, but let's make it even more personal now. Without the first baby steps taken toward humanizing each other, the country will fall deeper and deeper into partisan hatred. It is partly to that end that I blog here. I spend several times as much time on Republican-friendly sites than I do on Democrat-friendly sites simply because I want to understand the other side better. In the process, I can perhaps be an ambassador of goodwill, however insignificant, to let people know that their "enemies" are not the people they believe them to be. "We value our lives and yours as much as you do." I would like to hear more people on both sides say that. I just started it off by writing it, without qualification or caveat. Are you willing to write it, now that I have made that first step? I invite you all to comment, regardless of party or persuasion, and either take that step and write those sentence I put in quotes, or explain why you will not.

The Pope's Final Hours

The Pope is "near death" at this hour. By the time this post is complete, he may well be dead. As religious leaders go, I would have to say he was one of the most true to his beliefs, and much more compassionate than most. I don't agree with quite a bit of Catholic teaching, but I respect him immensely for trying to build stronger ties between the very diverse sects of Christianity, and with other religions. Only unnecessary death comes of hatred between religions, and Pope John Paul II understood that. He also cared in the general sense, and that is as important as it is rare.

This of course leads to speculation about his successor. I have heard a lot of different rumors, everything from that an African Cardinal could be chosen, to a German Cardinal that wants to make the church even more traditional if he is made Pope, like Mel Gibson traditional I guess? It's all early for that anyway though, and regardless, there is plenty of time for that when he dies. I hope his suffering is as minimal as possible, and that the next Pope cares about his followers just as much.

Conservative Ideology Trumps Medical Facts Again

It looks like the administration is using "faith-based medical science" to come up with utterly non-scientifically supported conclusions to put on official government websites. By the way, this story doesn't include the actual website used, so I am going by the blurbs in the story, but assume they are accurate for now. Does anyone know where the actual site is? Apparently gay kids need to be given therapy, which is assuming that people have a choice in their orientation. There is absolutely no science anywhere to support that, that I have ever seen. Bush and other conservatives believe that people have a choice, not because there is any science behind it, but because it makes it easier for them to stomach their own views on the matter. Like being gay isn't difficult enough for a kid, then you tell them that they are somehow mentally broken. This "gay therapy" nonsense is really just therapy for ignorant parents.

Then there is the abstinence only issue. Do teenagers REALLY end up abstaining because they are not told about birth control? No, they don't, and in fact there is convincing evidence that it is harmful not to give them this information. I understand that many people would like the world to be a certain way, but in trying to make it that way, you are actually hurting kids. Don't sugarcoat information. Don't withhold information. Don't spread disinformation. Teach your kids the values that you want to teach them, but don't teach them lies. It just ruins your credibility as a parent when they find out your lies.

Yet more high-profile death, and not the Pope yet either. Well, maybe not high profile, but a somewhat famous guy anyway. Frank Perdue just died. "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken." Well said, Frank. I had a Teocalli Thai Chicken Burrito for lunch.