Hooray for California

When former Secretary of State Shelley got caught up in a scandal earlier this year and had to resign, Arnold got to choose his successor. I was dreading it, based on Arnold's track record.

It looks like Arnold got one right, and you know me--I'm all about giving credit where it's due.

After possibly the most extensive testing ever on a voting system, California has rejected Diebold's flagship electronic voting machine because of printer jams and screen freezes, sending local elections officials scrambling for other means of voting.

"There was a failure rate of about 10 percent, and that's not good enough for the voters of California and not good enough for me," Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said.

If only we could get that kind of interest in fair and honest elections here in Florida. All the more reason to make sure that Nelson wins re-election in 2006 and that we elect a Democratic governor as well.

An open suggestion for Salon

I've been a subscriber for about four years now, and I've almost never regretted it. I think you give great value for the price, and some of your columnists are daily reads for me--King Kaufman is the only sportswriter I read regularly anymore, for instance. I loved the free six month subscription to Wired you gave as a premium for a membership last year, and if I had time to actually read another magazine, I'd still be getting it.

So this may seem to be an odd suggestion, but I'll make it nonetheless.

One of your premiums is a four month subscription to the digital version of the New Republic. I sign up every time on the off chance that there will be something I'll want to read, or more accurately, won't piss me off, and I may find an article or two in every four month period that doesn't.

But if you're going to team up with another magazine, how about one that's truly progressive instead of one that's been coasting for the last couple of decades? How about the American Prospect, for instance? I love their blog, and read it every day. I get a lot of good info from their Daily Prospect short articles as well, and would like to check out the rest of the magazine. Maybe a little partnership?

It isn't so much about the premiums as it is the partnership, when it comes right down to it--The American Prospect isn't very expensive, and I'll probably sign up for it when I start drawing a paycheck again. I like you, Salon, and I'd like to see you team up with a better quality of magazine than the New Republic.

I mean, the New Republic? They endorsed Joe Lieberman for president, for Christ's sake.

Randy Hammer understands what America is all about.

Wal-Mart doesn't. Not that that's any big surprise, mind you.

You can't buy the Pensacola News Journal at Wal-Mart anymore.

The store ordered us off their property, told us to come pick up our newspaper racks and clear out.

So we did.

Why, you ask? Was it because the Pensacola News Journal had written some lies about Wal-mart or had engaged in some questionable journalism? Nope.
Mr. Hart, (one of the local upper-level managers) however, said he and his stores couldn't tolerate a newspaper that would print the opinions of someone who was as mean and negative as Mark O'Brien. But, you know, Mark's not nearly as ornery as that left-wing rabble-rouser Molly Ivins, whose column the newspaper also publishes. At any rate, Mr. Hart said he wanted the newspaper to get its racks off his lots. But he also said that if I fired Mark, we could talk about continuing to sell the newspaper at his stores.

Now Wal-mart has every right to determine what they will and won't sell, but I have every right to tell them to jam their low prices, and that's precisely what I've done for the last two years.

Besides, Wal-mart's prices aren't really lower than everyone else's, except on a few high-profile items. I'd rather shop at Costco, where the CEO cares more about his employees than his stockholders.

The Job Begins

For the first time in my academic teaching career, I get to choose a text for one of the classes I'll be teaching. I'm looking for a poetry anthology that not only covers a range of poetry from around the world--they're all English-centric, but I'd like at least some representation from other languages--but also has pointers on how to write about poetry. I've ordered desk copies from three publishers and have a couple of old ones from my graduate/undergrad days to peruse as well. I have a couple of weeks to make a decision, so if blogging is light around here, it's because I'm immersed in reading textbooks (in addition to catching shirts as they emerge from an oven.)

At least the pretense is gone

John McCain may have had some honesty and honor at one time in his career as a politician. I certainly thought so in 2000 when he was running for President--I was hoping against hope that he would be the Republican candidate and I was disgusted by what Rove and Bush (and their conspirators in the media) did to him in South Carolina. But whatever reputation he had as a straight talker or as a maverick or as the kind of Republican that a Democrat could support, if it wasn't washed away by McCain's subservience to the status quo in 2004, should be gone now. The video that link takes you to is from This Week this morning, and it's online thanks to Crooks and Liars. Sorry, there's no transcript available from the This Week website, so I'll just rip off the transcript from DailyKos diarist QWQ.

On This Week, McCain was confronted with video of the following statement from Larry Johnson at Friday's hearing:

I wish there was a Republican of some courage and conviction that would stand up and call the ugly dog the ugly dog that it is.

But instead, you know, I watched last night, John McCain on Chris Matthews' "Hardball," making excuses, being an apologist.

Where are these men and women over there with any integrity to stand up and speak out against this?


McCain's response:

[nervous smile] Thank you, Larry . . . Rove was trying to knock down what he thought were some inaccuracies.

There's lot's of things I don't understand . . . I trust the President's judgment. . .

[asked about the non-disclosure agreement, which explicitly prohibits negligent disclosures] I don't know what the definition of negligent is. . . .

I think [the President] is under constraints from his lawyer that he can't do anything . . . .

I'd love to see everybody involved come out and say exactly what they did . . . but that isn't how the system works.
Of McCain's five statements, we get one RNC talking point and four evasions (unless you want to count the "I trust the President's judgment" as a sycophantic suck-up).

The idea that McCain was a moderate was always a bad joke--he's always been a rock-ribbed conservative--but he talked a good enough game as an independent that you wanted to believe that he wasn't just another party hack. Any doubt about that should be long gone now.

Happy Birthday to Walrus

Now, for a birthday present, if anyone in northern California needs a recent film school grad, Walrus could use a job.

As to the Supreme Court

Amid all the speculation as to what will happen when Roberts comes up for confirmation--remember, this won't actually matter for a couple of months at least--all I could think today when I was folding shirts and sweating my ass off was "Gee, I'm sort of glad I'm not online today trying to wade through all the Roberts nomination crap."

Am I alone in thinking that the Democrats and the media played directly into the Bush administration's hands on this? A day of speculation as to who will be nominated, a wild goose chase, and then the frenzy to make sure everyone on the left thinks Roberts is the ultimate douchebag and everyone on the right thinks he's the savior of the damn republic. And what gets missed?

Rove

The Downing Street Minutes

Rove

Death in Iraq

Rove

Every other damn thing

Rove

Starting to see a pattern emerge? Me either.

Eyes on the prize, people. We have at least two months to try to figure out just how bad this guy is and how to lose this battle to our advantage. Because make no mistake--we will lose this battle. Bush is sufficiently weakened that he was unable to put a open wingnut up for the post, and we all know that we weren't going to get anything resembling a moderate anyway. This is Bush we're talking about here.

But what we can do during this debate--when it finally happens--is find a topic, define it, and then hammer it home on this nominee. Here's what I mean--let's take the right to privacy, which covers everything from the right to choose abortion to the right to purchase contraceptives if you're single and a whole lot more, and let's hang it around Roberts' neck during the confirmation hearings. Pummel him on that point, because the early indications are that he's not such a big fan of it, and then use that to make the point to the public that elections have consequences, and if you're worried about your privacy, you better damn well elect Democrats in 2006, because if Bush gets another shot at the Supreme Court, Roberts will look like Breyer or Ginsberg compared to the next wingnut he sends up.

Elections have consequences--that needs to be our motto. We have a couple of months to get ourselves ready to start pounding that drum.

Can we get some clarification?

When Bush changed his stance on the leaker from "I'll fire the leaker" to "I'll fire anyone who committed a crime," did he mean that he'd wait until Fitzgerald actually got a conviction, or that he'd pardon anyone who was even indicted, so as to avoid having to actually fire anyone?

Too funny to pass up

I'm working in a sweat shop right now, waiting for the school year to start so's I can start my gainful employment. I'm catching silk-screened t-shirts as they come out of an oven, and I caught this one today. I've cropped it because I don't know if the group that hired us to do this shirt would appreciate what I'm about to say, even though I swear I'm not being malicious. Just the image--no identifying text.



I couldn't help but think of the Southpark episode Christian Rock Hard, especially the bit where Cartman's band's commercial is on tv, and we hear Cartman singing "I wanna get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus! I wanna feel his salvation all over my face!"

Happy Birthday to my Sweetie

Wally and Eliot say Happy Birthday as well, though I imagine they'd claw my eyes out in my sleep if they knew I'd posted this picture, indeed, if they even knew that I'd taken it in the first place.

We're going out with friends tonight, and hopefully drinking lots of good German beer and eating lots of heavy, tasty food.

How Not to Make a Documentary

So I've been working my way through my Netflix queue, and this afternoon I watched a film I've had so long that it came with me from California. It's on a subject I absolutely love--Robert Johnson--and the description of it was interesting. The filmmaker traveled through Arkansas and Mississippi, talking to people who actually knew Johnson, trying to uncover some of the mystery that surrounds one of the last legendary figures in American folklore. (I'm using legendary here in the sense of there being actual mystery in the manner of his life, death, and career.)

The film does some interesting things--there are interviews with musicians who were contemporaries of Johnson, like Johnny Shines, and with two women who claim to have been former girlfriends of Johnson, but there's one major problem with the film, and it utterly destroys whatever enjoyability that exists.

It's John Hammond's ego.

At the start of the film, Hammond bills himself as a blues musician and son of noted Jazz writer John Hammond (someone I've become familiar with recently since I've been watching Ken Burns' terrific Jazz series). He seems pretty uncomfortable in front of the camera at the beginning, at least as the narrator and head truth-seeker, but put a guitar in his hands and suddenly he's in a music video. The scenes where he's playing are painfully contrived, especially the scene in Helena, Arkansas where he's ostensibly in a cutting contest with Johnny Shines. There are lots of long shots of Hammond driving down dusty Mississippi roads, and by the end of the film, you can imagine Hammond telling his camera people, "Okay, you set up here at the top of the hill, and I'll drive toward you, and it'll look so cool!"

But what's most painful are the missed opportunities. At one point, Hammond interviews Claude Johnson, a man who claims to be the illegitimate son of Robert Johnson, and Claude's son and grandson are brought into the shot. Hammond has no question to ask, and so we're left with this painfully awkward silence, and three people feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera. Hammond may have felt this was a profound moment--I don't know--but it was horrible to watch.

I'd only recommend the film as a primer for what not to do when making a documentary. I got more out of a five minute segment on Eric Clapton's "Sessions for Robert J" where he's describing what Johnson did musically on a single song and that it's so difficult that Clapton can't copy it himself--he can only approximate--than I did out of this entire film.

Cat-blogging

Because I finally have cat pics on my computer and I'm far enough behind the cat-blogging curve that it's no linger cliche to do it for the first time, I present Eliot.

Sorry Matt, but you're wrong on this one

I like Matt Yglesias--usually he's spot on in his assessments, and he's probably a hell of a lot smarter than I am, but in yesterday's Tapped, he makes a suggestion that scares the hell out of me. He says

Most commentators who've been urging Democrats to move right on cultural issues seem to assume that abortion is the best place to start. All the evidence, however, indicates that it would be the worst place to start and that, in fact, liberal views on the separation of church and state are much more unpopular. Fortunately, these issues are also less consequential in the real world, and if you're looking to compromise, basically symbolic issues are the best place to do it.


Now that may be correct as far as it goes, but it's still a crappy strategy, not to mention insulting to a number of segments of the voting populace. The issues involving the separation of church and state may be less consequential to Matt, but they aren't to the people who actually have to live in places where the American Taliban would bring back stoning if they could. He's got to understand that if that wall comes down, it won't be the Unitarians melding with government--it'll be the Robertson/Dobson wing of the First Church of the Sacred Wingnut calling the shots, and they won't be satisfied with a couple of courts hanging copies of the Ten Commandments or some statues in the rotundas of government buildings. It'll be all Jesus, all the time, and it won't be the hippie, let's love everyone Jesus. It'll be the Old Testament, smiting the pagans with fire and sulphur version.

And the pagans this time will be liberals, Jews, atheists, Muslims, and anyone else that dares disagree with the Great and Powerful Dobson.

Besides, compromise on that issue is just wrong. People accuse Democrats of never standing for anything--well this is the kind of issue that we ought to take a stand on, because if we really are the big tent, then damn it, our tent needs to be big, and we ought not to be tossing atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. overboard in search of a few votes.

We ought to make the case to Christians that we'll defend them as strongly as we defend any other religious or areligious group, and remind them that the only way that breaking down the wall between church and state benefits them is if their church is the one that wins the takeover battle. Point out that if their church doesn't win, then they'll be at the mercy of whoever does, and how willing are they going to be to entrust their rights to whatever church leader is ruthless enough to actually get that sort of power?

Update: I think this story makes my point more effectively than I ever could.

Hope they're right

Researchers are reporting that damage from Alzheimers may be reversible, according to this article from MSNBC.

Tests on mice suggest the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease may be at least partly reversible, researchers reported Thursday.

Their genetically altered mice regained the ability to navigate mazes after the genes that caused their dementia were de-activated.

This suggests that the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s is not permanent, they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.


That would be nice. My dad currently suffers from Alzheimers and it killed his mother, my grandmother. You might say I have a vested interest in this kind of research.

Happy Birthday Payton

Payton is my nephew, and he's five years old today, which is about three years older than most doctors gave him a chance of ever becoming. Payton has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic nerve disease which leaves him unable to move his body, except for slight movements from two of his fingers on each hand. He's able to communicate with his eyes and he can talk some, but that's about it.

His intelligence is not affected--he's a smart little kid and a pleasure to be around. You can read his story here, and if you have a couple of bucks to spare, you could toss them toward his charity. The Payton's Pals annual benefit will be in just over three weeks, and if you're in south Florida, we'd love to see you. Ticket information is available at the Payton's Pals website.

Wolcott's on fire.

Okay, Wolcott is always on fire, and if I were ever to attempt to make a go of being a witty essayist instead of a seventeenth-tier blogger, Wolcott is who I'd like to be when I grew up. But some days he's better than others, and this is one of those days.

He's dissecting Mickey Kaus among others on the right-wing side of the blogosphere over their screeching that Oscar-winning-director Oliver Stone is going to be directing the first big studio film about the 9/11 attacks and aftermath. Kaus's argument, to use the term loosely, is this:

"This is the first big Hollywood movie about 9/11. It will be sent around the world. I do think Paramount has some cosmopolitian and humanitarian--if not (God forbid) patriotic--obligation not to put it in the hands of someone who has to be kept 'on a very short leash' because of his previous dumb, left, conspiratorial hostility to the U.S. government."

Wolcott's reply is devastating:
Just to be clear, is being "left" an automatic disqualifier for this most thorny of contemporary subjects, or will any combination of "dumb," "left," and "conspiratorial" do? And if Stone were to graciously or grudgingly step aside on this project and let another director sit in the canvas chair and helm the movie, to use a Variety verb--would he be acceptable as a studio director on the second, or third, or fourth major 9/11 film. Or is he blackballed into perpetuity?

It's also dead-on.

Kaus and Instapundit and the other various right-wingers who are crapping themselves over this are much like the Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass: "All ways are my ways." In other words, if the director of the first, second, third and all future 9/11 films isn't a "redblooded / lousy with pure / reeking with stark"* (read, theo-con) American, then Kaus et al will be dissatisfied and it will be yet another bit of proof that Hollywood is a decadent, 5th column out to destroy America.

But after disposing with Kaus and Instapundit, Wolcott turns his guns on slightly bigger game, and scores a palpable hit.
There are thousands of 9/11 stories, no single one will ever be definitive, and not even the worst tendentious hack can do a better job of blaspheming the memories and tragedies of that day than Dick Cheney does by simply unlatching the side of his mouth on Meet the Press.

That, my friends, is something "something authentic and delirious / you know something genuine like a mark / in a toilet."*

*Quotes are from the e. e. cummings poem "let's start a magazine"

Want an Air America station? Here's how to do it.

From diarist hbyronk over at the Daily Kos:

This could serve as a template for Progressives around the country in convincing radio broadcasters to make Air America available on their airwaves.

* Diaries ::
* hbyronk's diary :: ::

Ms. Lancaster writes:

We had a lot of good advice with regard to our efforts to bring progressive talk to BR. We first found all the commercial radio stations in BR and got their Arbitron ratings. We found a Clear Channel station that was floundering and changing formats with no success. So we went to the regional VP of Clear Channel armed with marketing info about Air America and articles on the success of progressive talk radio and we asked CC what would it take for them to switch one of their stations to progressive talk. We were told - get 1000 names and contact info - we did it and put the info in an Excel data base - and CC kept their word. Don't ever let anyone tell you a few committed individuals cannot make a difference. We are now working on getting Democracy Now (independent news) aired in BR.


Don't ever let anyone tell you a few committed individuals cannot make a difference.

And, by "a few committed individuals," Ms. Lancaster means, literally, a few. Six people circulated the petition, gathering 1,500 signatures, to convince Clear Channel to place Air America on its low-rated AM country station in Baton Rouge. They understood that, no matter the political leanings of its top management, Clear Channel is business to make money. If they believe that there is an audience for Progressive talk, they will take a chance on it. They would rather do this than continue to lose money running country music on an AM station that nobody is listening to. It is just common sense.

Now, I live in south Florida, where I can choose between the Miami AAR station and the West Palm Beach AAR station, but Air America is still only on about 65 stations nationwide, so there's a lot of ground to cover. We're a far cry from the first rocky months of the network, where there was serious questions as to whether or not the network would make it, but there's still a lot to do. We have a template, so let's go get some radio stations to switch over.

On a very personal, but very happy side note, my girlfriend and I were both offered teaching positions at a local university today, and we accepted them. Hooray for gainful employment!

He won't last long, I'll bet

Seems we're not all that popular in Central Asia.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - This country's newly elected president on Monday questioned the continued presence of U.S. troops at a military base they have used since the war to oust the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev's comments were in line with those of other former Soviet Central Asian countries that last week called for U.S. troops to fix a date for their departure from their bases.


Now Bakiyev goes on to say that “Afghanistan has held presidential and parliamentary elections and therefore the situation there has stabilized,” which is only half true--I leave it to the reader to discern which half I'm talking about--but his overall rhetoric seems to be in line with much of the rest of the world.

He's telling us--you guys are more trouble than you're worth, and it's time for you to go.

Not so very long ago, we'd have simply toppled someone who talked like that. I don't imagine times have changed all that much.

I'm sure there'll be some lovely filth afterwards

Dennis is heading for the gulf coast, and he's one bad mother.


I'm watching this one with more than just a passing interest, even though it missed me--I'm east of it--because my daughter gets to fly into the aftermath on Tuesday. Right now it looks like the eye will pass her home on the east and will hit the Pascagoula/Mobile/Pensacola area again. Take care of yourselves, people.

Just briefly, I'm going to give Jeb! the benefit of the doubt and say that I think he's trying to channel the emotions of his citizens instead of being a whiny little bitch when he said, "I think there is a legitimate feeling, 'Why me? What did I do wrong?'"

Friday Random Ten

Haven't done this in a while, but I glanced at my iTunes and saw an interesting mix, so what the hell.

Van Lear Rose--Loretta Lynn
Sail Away Ladies--Spider John Koerner
The Train--Lord Buckley
Intermission--Tool
All the Pretty Girls go to the City--Spoon
Wouldn't Mama Be Proud--Eliot Smith
Truce--The Dresden Dolls
Lie In Our Graves--The Dave Matthews Band
Let's Call the Whole Thing Off--Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald
Two Clowns--The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir

What's yours?

So I'm actually British?

Who knew?


Judith Miller's in jail and I really don't care.

Miller has gotten precious little support from many in her line of work, which is telling, in my view. I happen to think that her defense is pretty shitty, and that the government has done pretty much all it can to get at the information she has without compelling her testimony, which is a damn sight more than they'd do for me or most other people who don't work for the paper of record.

Part of the reason for my apathy comes from the fact that Miller has been practicing precious little journalism for the last few years. She was a mouthpiece for the administration and for Ahmad Chalabi during the run up to the war and in the aftermath (an unrepentant mouthpiece, I might add), then switched gears and went into the Oil for Food scandal in a similarly hacktackular way. It's not journalism when you don't do any investigation--I only worked for a college paper and I learned that much. Miller seems to have decided long ago to turn in her credentials as a journalist in return for access and the ability to source people anonymously with impunity.

But here's why I don't really care that she's in jail.

Her few supporters--Armando from Daily Kos among them--have argued that jailing her will put a chill on people who want to come forward and act as whistleblowers, and that even though Miller isn't protecting a whistleblower, the principle is the same. And Armando may be right in the vague, hazy overall view. But that doesn't matter.

Because part of the deal that comes with whistleblowing is that the issue has to be so big, so important, so massive that the whistleblower is willing to risk personal and financial destruction, is willing to risk reputation, is willing to risk jail in order to get the information out there. You don't become a whistleblower thinking there won't be any blowback--you have to know there's a chance that you're going to get killed and know that it's important enough to do it anyway.

And the same goes for journalists in the position of protecting sources. If you're going to depend on dirty politicos for access, if you're going to sell your journalistic credentials for a spot at the table, then you'd better either be ready to sell them out when the law comes after them or to go to jail to protect them.

Miller made her choice a while back. Her source better hope she likes jail.

In case you haven't seen it yet

Tom Tomorrow does a number on 18 to 22 year old Republican Think Tank Interns.

What's a satirist to do?
Okay--I'm not really a satirist. I'm more of a loud-mouthed snark machine with a healthy sarcasm reflex. But even I can recognize the challenges a full-on satirist would have with this group.

I kept looking around their site in a vain hope that they were a parody, like Landover Baptist Church, but apparently they're a serious group, complete with appearances on the G. Gordon Liddy Show and with Sean Hannity, Ralph Reed and Zell Miller at a mall in Atlanta.

I scrolled through their lyrics after coming across their site thanks to Heather at Here's What's Left, and while I was touched by I Want to Live, written in the voice of a fetus, and You Can't Racial Profile, which takes dumbassitude to a whole 'nother level, I think my favorite of the bunch was probably The Illegals

The Illegals
Written by: Aaron Sain/Frank Highland
Lead vocals: Frank Highland

Well, if I went down to Wal-mart
And decided to steal something off the shelf
They’d arrest me and say, "That’s illegal boy
We’re gonna have to throw your butt in jail"
But those illegals sneak across our borders in numbers we can’t believe
They’re not worried about breaking our laws
That’s just for citizens like me

Chorus
Tell me why do we allow the illegals
After all they're illegal
So why do we allow the illegals to keep on coming in

Well, I know we’re a nation of immigrants
If you think I’m against them that’s not what I meant
I just wish they’d come here legally
And maybe try and learn the language a bit
It just doesn’t seem fair to me to the ones who’ve done it right
We might as well tell them obeying the law is a waste of time

Repeat Chorus

Yep--there's nothing like a bit of good old xenophobic racism to get the patriotism flowing through my lower gastric system and right on to my nut-sweat stained, skidmarked Old Glory boxer shorts.

The Fifteen...Ten, Ten Commandments!


The Bible is a terrific book--a wonderfully amazing book full of philosophies that affect our daily lives to this day. What it isn't is consistent, which this terrific Newsweek article so terrifically points out. As this article is destined to be underpromoted thanks to the Fourth, the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor and the Rove/Plame connection, I'll try to get it out in the limelight a bit.

It begins, of course, with the recent Supreme Court decision on the Texas monolith.

July 11 issue - You may think that the Supreme Court ruled last week that the state of Texas could continue to display a Ten Commandments monolith on its capitol grounds in Austin. But you'd be wrong. Look at the monolith—you can find it at tspb.state.tx.us/spb/gallery/monulist/ 10lg.htm—and you'll notice that it doesn't contain 10 commandments. It has 11. And if you count "I am the Lord thy God" as a commandment, which Jews do but Christians don't, the Supreme Court has approved a Twelve Commandments monolith, rather than the traditional Decalogue.

This monolith, sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, was part of a PR campaign for "The Ten Commandments," Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 Biblical epic starring Charlton Heston. Yes, the Supreme Court was ruling on the legality of a Hollywood promotion. The Eagles' grand secretary, Bob Wahls, explained to me last week that the text is a compromise drawn up by Jewish and Christian clergy to respect everyone's beliefs. So rather than bearing Ten Commandments that are the Word of God, the monolith bears 11 or 12 commandments that are the Word of a Committee.
The first thing I wondered when I read this was whether a single wingnut anywhere who praises the public display of the Ten Commandments has any clue about the backstory of this particular piece. They must not because I guarantee you, they'd hold it up as blasphemous and demand that it be replaced with an accurate one.

But that's the problem. There really isn't an accurate version of the Ten Commandments--or rather, there's more than one version.
But while it's one thing to be in favor of ethics and morality in public life, it's a whole different thing to think—as I suspect most Americans do—that there is one single Decalogue. The complex textual history of the Commandments suggests that the more you study the Bible, the less certain you become of your ability to divine the precise Word of God. That's a useful lesson in this divided time.

I'm going to go off on a little tangent here and discuss another part of the problem. It has to do with translation, and why it's an art rather than a science. I'm going to hazard a guess here and suggest that most people in the US who believe in the infallibility of the Bible can't read an ancient language, be it Hebrew, ancient Greek, Latin or something else. I'll go a step farther and suggest that many can't speak or read with a high degree of fluency, a language other than English. That's a pretty safe bet because most Americans can't do it, their belief in the Bible notwithstanding.

But if you can, then try this little test--take a short piece of text from another language, preferably somthing old, the older the better, and something that you can find other translations of to compare your work against afterward, and try to translate it as accurately as you possibly can. A piece of a story or novel, a poem perhaps. Then do your comparison, and if you can get multiple translations, check them all, and notice the variations between them. Ask yourself if those variations are logical or reasonable. Chances are, they are.

Then realize that the Decalogue has not only gone through millenia of copying and recopying, but that it's also undergone at least two translations before it made it to English, and then start to wonder about just how accurate the English is. Ever play that game where you run a sentence through the Babelfish translator a few times, from language to language and then back to English?

But back to the article. What the author points out, and rightly so, is that there isn't a single Ten Commandments, no matter what the christian tradition pushes, and that the vast majority of people who claim the mantle of christianity don't know it (just like they don't know there are two versions of the creation myth).
Most public displays of the Ten Commandments, including the ones in Texas and Kentucky that the Supreme Court dealt with, are based on Exodus 20, verses 2-14, where God speaks directly to the Israelites. But if you grew up as I did, studying the Bible in its original Hebrew, you know that there's a second, equally valid version in Deuteronomy 5:6-18. And the two versions differ. In Exodus, God says to remember the Sabbath because he created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. In Deuteronomy, Moses recounts that God told the Israelites to observe the Sabbath because the Lord liberated them from Egyptian bondage. So which is it? The traditional Jewish answer is that God uttered both versions simultaneously, but fallible human ears heard it two separate ways. So how can you post one version or the other and declare it the Ineffable Word of God? You can't.

Well, you can if you're a wingnut, but then again, if you're a wingnut, you can use the Bible to argue that Jesus was a capitalist who believed in private property and free markets, a la Pastor Ted.

But Sloan (the author of this wonderful piece) is right--you can't do it logically, nor can you wish away the differences in translation between, as he notes, the prohibitions against killing and taking the Lord's name in vain in Exodus versus murder and swearing false oaths in Deuteronomy.

Then again, maybe Jesus understood the contradictions inherent in the old Hebrew tradition, which is why he tried to simplify it for everyone when he said "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." That's from Matthew 22:37-40, a part of the Bible that the wingnuts ignore far too often for my taste.

Why pot is better than booze, reason #52

From the SF Examiner, we learn that Pot clubs outnumber fast food chains in The City two to one.

There are two medical marijuana clubs for every McDonald's in The City — that's roughly 40 clubs to only 20 restaurants. Even adding the number of Burger Kings leaves fast-food franchises short of cannabis dispensaries. Only the ubiquitous Starbucks chain tops pot clubs, with a total of 71 coffee shops.

God, I miss San Francisco.

Patriotism, bitches!

Because nothing says "I love the USA" like rubbing your sweaty nutsack all over it.





Just so you know, I don't consider the flag sacred, and I really don't care what companies do with it in order to sell their products. What does chafe me, however, is that blowhards in Congress--including some who claim to be progressive (Marcy Kaptur, Tom Lantos, I'm looking at you among others)--are ready to prohibit what many consider the ultimate expression of dissent with one's government, and yet apparently don't think there's anything wrong with marketing the flag as a haven for skidmarks. I mean, I expect that kind of crap out of asshats like Sensenbrenner and DeLay, but I was really hoping for something more out of the Democrats.

On a side note, I'm glad to see that Dennis Kucinich, who voted for the amendment in the past, decided not to do so this time around.

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