Haven't we been here before

Via this diary on Kos:

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote :
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

According to the commenters in the diary, Lexis/Nexis only goes back to 1980, but you can find (and purchase) the original article either from the NY Times archives or from ProQuest historical newspapers, should you wish to verify that the article is legit.

The freepers have been feeling their oats on the left blogosphere for the last day or two--I even got one yesterday, and if a blogger as low on the totem pole as I am is getting boneheaded remarks, then you can imagine what's happening at the big boys' places. Lots of people, even many on the left, are glad to see what happened yesterday in Iraq--or at least they're mouthing platitudes about it. It's really hard to say exactly what happened in Iraq as far as the election is concerned other than to say that it looks like the overall turnout numbers were good for a wartorn country.

Now, what do we actually know about those numbers? Do we know who actually voted? For instance, MSNBC's story speaks in vague generalities:
The electoral commission said it believed, based on anecdotal information, that turnout overall among the estimated 14 million eligible Iraqi voters appeared higher than the 57 percent, or roughly 8 million, that had been predicted before the vote. But it would be some time before any precise turnout figure was confirmed, they said.
Emphasis mine. That's two points to make--their estimates are based on anecdotal evidence, and that they're talking about overall turnout. There's no breakdown of who voted where--and let's not even get into the potential for fraud here.

Before the election, lots of people, both on blogs and in the news media, talked about the danger of the Sunnis staying home. They're the big losers in this situation anyway, since they're the former ruling class under Hussein, and are a numerical minority. So how was their turnout? From the same article linked above:
While in some areas of the Sunni heartland north and west of Baghdad, including the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah, many lined up through the day to vote, in other towns, such as Baiji, Ramadi and Samarrah, almost no voters showed up.

Sunni participation was considerably lower than other groups, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. That raised fears that Sunni radicals who drive Iraq’s insurgency could grow ever more alienated.
I'm sure that to many of the people of Iraq, yesterday was a significant day, and I'm glad for them, even though looking on from the outside, I don't think it means much, if anything, has changed in the overall scheme of things. Just remember, four months after that election in South Vietnam some 37 years ago, that election that was supposed to be proof that nation-building in the south was working, the North struck back with the Tet Offensive.

Firefox kicks ass

Got my issue of Wired yesterday, and their cover story is on Firefox. I hadn't thought much about switching from IE, but it's the fact that it's now become the default and that it didn't suck too badly that kept me with it. But my girlfriend downloaded it earlier today and loved it instantly, so I decided to give it a try. I can't imagine using IE again anytime in the near future. Firefox is faster and easier to use, and that opinion comes after about 3 hours of use while recovering from the below-mentioned wisdom teeth extraction.

Give it a try--it's a small download, and a really quick installation. Open source has certainly gotten it right with this one.

Oral Surgery Time

I should have had my wisdom teeth out years ago, I suppose, but a lack of funding/insurance has held me back until now. So Friday afternoon, I will submit myself to the tender mercies of the kind students at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry. I'm fairly certain I won't be in any shape to write on Friday, and that may extend to Saturday, depending on my pain level and/or the efficacy of the drugs they prescribe.

What I'm basically saying is that I'm not responsible for any retardness that may show up here in the next couple of days. It's the Percoset talking--that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Update--the surgery went just fine, and I got Vicodin instead of Percoset. And it's working just fine too.

Just a note on homosexuality

This goes out to my vast, right-wing evangelical audience, all of whom hang on my every pronouncement as though it came from the top of Mt. Sinai. Listen carefully.

Gay and lesbian people are not going to disappear. No matter how much you try to "protect" your little schnookums from their dastardly influences, no matter how much you try to pretend like they're demons sent from the netherworld to turn your precious little hetero children into butt-fucking (or strap-on using) sex fiends, gays and lesbians aren't going away. They've been around for many, many millennia, and I don't imagine that evolution is going to suddenly select them out now, just because you've gotten your panties in a twist over the issue. So let's stop with the censorship crap, okay? The sooner your kids realize that there are people in the world who don't think and act exactly like they do, the better off we're all going to be.

The latest sign of the Apocalypse

Not political, I swear.

How can this possibly be any good at all?

ST. LOUIS - Going against the grain in courting the young cocktail crowd, beermaker Anheuser-Busch Cos. is launching a new "brew" to go head-to-head with classic mixed drinks — traditional suds spiked with caffeine, fruit flavoring, herbal guarana and ginseng.

The world's largest brewer's nationwide rollout this week of B-to-the-E — the "B" standing for beer, the "E" for something "extra" and shown as an exponent of B — came as beermakers look to piggyback strides liquor companies have made in luring young consumers to flavored and mixed drinks.

Now, I've long known that there is nothing sacred for macrobreweries, and I will admit to being a beer snob since I work for a very well respected regional brewery, but where's the line here? And what's with that name--B to the E? I'd like to see you order that in some of the places where I used to tend bar. I believe you'd get your ass kicked for ordering that. It's like ordering a Zima with grenadine for crying out loud.

Go Lions!

To say that sports was not an emphasis where I was an undergraduate is an understatement. Entry into any and all sporting events when I was there (we didn't have football at the time) was free, and it was hard to get even moderate interest in the games unless we were playing LSU. And you know it's bad when you can't even come close to selling out an arena when you're not charging anything. Why has this come up? Because according to King Kaufman, SLU is now in third place for one of the more useless streaks around--the home winning streak. And we're only five games out of first! Woo Hoo! Go Lions!

Couldn't have said it better myself

Danae speaks truth to power:

I'm in
From The Daily Kos.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. In this case, we, the undersigned bloggers, have decided to speak as one and collectively author a document of opposition. We oppose the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States, and we urge every United States Senator to vote against him.
As the prime legal architect for the policy of torture adopted by the Bush Administration, Gonzales's advice led directly to the abandonment of longstanding federal laws, the Geneva Conventions, and the United States Constitution itself. Our country, in following Gonzales's legal opinions, has forsaken its commitment to human rights and the rule of law and shamed itself before the world with our conduct at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The United States, a nation founded on respect for law and human rights, should not have as its Attorney General the architect of the law's undoing.

In January 2002, Gonzales advised the President that the United States Constitution does not apply to his actions as Commander in Chief, and thus the President could declare the Geneva Conventions inoperative. Gonzales's endorsement of the August 2002 Bybee/Yoo Memorandum approved a definition of torture so vague and evasive as to declare it nonexistent. Most shockingly, he has embraced the unacceptable view that the President has the power to ignore the Constitution, laws duly enacted by Congress and International treaties duly ratified by the United States. He has called the Geneva Conventions "quaint."

Legal opinions at the highest level have grave consequences. What were the consequences of Gonzales's actions? The policies for which Gonzales provided a cover of legality - views which he expressly reasserted in his Senate confirmation hearings - inexorably led to abuses that have undermined military discipline and the moral authority our nation once carried. His actions led directly to documented violations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and widespread abusive conduct in locales around the world.

Michael Posner of Human Rights First observed: "After the horrific images from Abu Ghraib became public last year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the world should 'judge us by our actions [and] watch how a democracy deals with the wrongdoing and with scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes.'" We agree. It is because of this that we believe the only proper course of action is for the Senate to reject Alberto Gonzales's nomination for Attorney General. As Posner notes, "[t]he world is indeed watching." Will the Senate condone torture? Will the Senate condone the rejection of the rule of law?

With this nomination, we have arrived at a crossroads as a nation. Now is the time for all citizens of conscience to stand up and take responsibility for what the world saw, and, truly, much that we have not seen, at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. We oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, and we urge the Senate to reject him.

Fortunately, I live in a state where at least one Senator (Boxer) and hopefully both will vote no on this nomination.

At least we're getting it out of the way early

According to UK psychologist Cliff Arnall, today, January 24, is the most depressing day of the year.

Arnall, who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes into account numerous feelings to devise peoples' lowest point.

The model is: [W + (D-d)] x TQ
M x NA

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

It'll be hard to top Jan. 20 for me.

Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine

Rep. Louise Slaughter has introduced House bill 4710, which would reinstate the Fairness doctrine and require the FCC to enforce it. Now contrary to what you'll hear Ruch Limbaugh say, this would not mean he'd get kicked off the air, nor would it mean that stations would be forced to air liberal voices around the same time as Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity and Savage are regurgitating whatever talking points Rove has written up for them that day. What it would require would be accurate and balanced coverage of all sides (presumably more than two at times) of important issues. Now, to be certain, what is considered an important issue and what is considered accurate, balanced coverage from multiple perspectives is a bit subjective, but compared to what we have today...

And there's a way to get the right-wing nutjobs on our side on this as well (distasteful as that might seem). Aren't they the ones who always bitch about how "liberal" the media is? Isn't their favorite argument justifying Fox News's obvious bias that "yeah, but you've got ABCNNBCBSMSNBC, the New York Times, and NPR on your side?" I know--their arguments are crap, but just the same, if they truly believe that, then a reinstitution of the fairness doctrine should be wonderful for them, right? No more shoving the liberal side of things down their throat without equal time for the conservative viewpoint, right?

I know--they'll never go for it, at least their elected officials won't, and neither will the broadcasters. Why? Because if we actually have a fairness doctrine, one that's enforced, then that removes the "liberal media" bugaboo from their arsenal. They couldn't claim to be victimized any longer--they'd have to admit that they're intellectually empty and rhetorically challenged.

It's the same thing with abortion. The last thing that the right wing politicians want is a Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. That takes an arrow out of their quiver. It's one less issue to bash the left with, one less way to raise money and guarantee votes from a segment of the population that has nothing else to motivate it.

But with the fairness doctrine, we would actually benefit from having it back in place. Companies like Sinclair (and perhaps even Fox News) would no longer be able to give in kind donations of airtime to the Republican party. And that's got to be a good thing.

Note: this is where I first read about the bill to restore the fairness doctrine. Chris Bowers has a good explanation of exactly what a reinstatement would do to our current media situation, and there's also a history of the fairness doctrine's removal from law, the various attempts to keep it from being recodified, Limbaugh's role, and a link to an interview with Rep. Slaughter conducted by Bill Moyers. Enjoy!

Phear the Hasselhoff!

Where are you going? Come back here!

Christian, my ass.

I know that the article says this is an exception, and not the rule, but it certainly can't help the cause of religious peace worldwide to deny starving people food because they won't convert.

Jubilant at seeing the relief trucks loaded with food, clothes and the much-needed medicines the villagers, many of who have not had a square meal in days, were shocked when the nuns asked them to convert before distributing biscuits and water.

Heated arguments broke out as the locals forcibly tried to stop the relief trucks from leaving. The missionaries, who rushed into their cars on seeing television reporters and the cameras refusing to comment on the incident and managed to leave the village.

Disappointed and shocked into disbelief the hapless villagers still await aid.
Now as I recall from my reading of the Gospels, Jesus didn't ask for a profession of faith when he was feeding the crowds with the loaves and the fishes, and the people he fed weren't victims of a natural disaster. Maybe that church group ought to come to the states and preach the evil of Spongebob instead--they'll do far less damage to the credibility of Christianity that way.

Fox News gets sucker-punched

It happened during their coronation love in, and I wouldn't have known anything about it, except for the fact that Oliver Willis caught the video footage and posted it. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Black is the color of mourning

And so, on this the day of the coronation of King George the Lesser for the second time, I have decided I will wear black for the next thirty days (at least).

Ten Tunes

Can't really think of anything else to write about, and I saw this on a number of other blogs a few days ago, so what the hell. Here's the next ten randomly selected songs from my computer's media player.

1. Autumn Leaves--Diana Krall
2. Jazzin' With Joe-Bob--David Grisman Quintet
3. Shake It--Tom Waits
4. I'm So Alive--Lova and Rockets
5. Bright Future in Sales--Fountains of Wayne
6. She Lets Me In--Big Smith
7. Seven Spanish Angels--Willie Nelson
8. Last Supper--Radim Zenkl
9. Behind Closed Doors--Charlie Rich
10. Same Thing Happened to Me--John Prine

Numbers 2 and 8 are from a cd I picked up from the student run radio station where I used to be a dj--KXUA, Fayetteville, AR. It's called 100% Handmade Music, Volume 1, and I have no idea if it's available anywhere, but it's pretty damn good.

Speaking of things musical, I'll be sitting in (again) with the brewery band, The Hysters, at the Celebrator's Battle of the Brewery Bands. I guess I didn't completely embarass myself at the Christmas party.

White Christmas

That's not a big deal for a lot of people--I had my share while in grad school at the University of Arkansas and thought they were a bit overrated (I don't like snow and ice).

But when one comes along about once a century (snow on Christmas day), then they feel a bit special, I imagine. My friend Lynette sent me these pictures from New Orleans, and it's given me a whole new outlook on the city. Enjoy.

Canal Street

A grave in a Metairie cemetary

The St. Charles Ave. Streetcar

For once, I agree with George W. Bush

I don't expect it to happen again anytime soon.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

So while I take issue with the idea that "the American people"--as though they were some amorphous blob of humanity and not a severely divided electorate--support Bush enough to have elected him, I will give him this much: he and his campaign did get a majority of the people who voted to give him a pass on the following:

The unnecessary deaths of over a thousand US soldiers

The unnecessary deaths of uncounted Iraqi soldiers and civilians

The illegal imprisonment and torture of thousands of people of all nationalities, including American citizens

The loss of the US's (undeserved) status as a moral leader of the world

His ignoring of the clear warning signs in the months leading up to the attacks of 9/11/2001

That's just the foreign policy stuff--and the list is far from complete. So he's right--if you can sucker enough people into voting for you when you've done such a godawful job so far, then accountability be damned.

Except as far as this is concerned--I said, way back on November 4, 2004 or thereabouts, that not only George W. Bush, but every person who voted for him or supported him is now accountable. Every US soldier that dies in Iraq, every Iraqi citizen who dies as a result of the turmoil, every person in the world who dies as the result of a terrorist attack where that terrorist was recruited or trained in Iraq because of our actions there--their blood is on your heads. You had a chance to say to the world that George W. Bush did not reperesent American values, and you chose to give the world, and your own soldiers, the big, fat, middle finger of assholery. There are no excuses left--you knew who you were voting for this time, and you chose Bush. I'm not a religious person, but there are times like these where I really hope there's a vengeful God, complete with hellfire and torment.

It's not a joke

Willie really is into biodiesel now, and his company is working with Love's Truckstops to start distributing nationwide. The best part about this venture is this:

The fuel, called BioWillie, is made from vegetable oils, mainly soybeans, and can be burned without modification to diesel engines.
When I go on vacations, I tend to drive, and now I have an easier decision to make when I'm looking for a place to refuel, even though I don't have a diesel. I'll stop at Love's just because they're willing to give an alternative fuel a try, and if enough people do it, we can import a little less oil.

Dean's in the race

I'm ecstatic about it, although I can hardly say I'm surprised. He had to do this--running for President in 2008 against the current party establishment wouldn't be allowed to happen. Think they knifed him in Iowa last time--that would be a polite request to get out of the way compared to what they'd do to him next time. So if Dean was going to have an effect on the party, he's got to do it this way, and I say more power to him.

Some people are worried about his baggage. They like him on the issues, but they're worried about well, I'll let Ezra say it himself:

Dean has baggage. Lots of it. And while I'm confident in his ability to quickly silence the final sniggers at his scream, I'm more concerned about his potential to feed negative storylines. Assume Dean wins the race and, despite our best efforts, we lose seats in 2006. It's damn possible, we've got an unfriendly map and a rash of upcoming retirements. With the Great Liberal Hope occupying the top spot, the newspapers and Third Way'ers will have more than enough ammo rerun -- and even amplify -- the narrative of a fringe Democratic party long separated from the mainstream. That'll give the party's conservative wing more power and further alienate our progressive base. Worse, it increases the likelihood that the Party actually will actually engage in another ill-advised lurch to the right.

Here's what I think. While it's true that having Dean lead the party is no guarantee of success, having some numbnuts like Roemer lead it is a guarantee of failure, and perhaps even will bring about the death of the party. Why should progressives stay with a party that spits on them? I'd rather go down trying to build a replacement party.

Sure--Dean is a gamble, but hey, it's not like we've had anything remotely resembling success doing what we've been doing. In fact, when you compare Dean to Roemer/DLC/asshats central, Dean's a pretty safe bet.

By the way--I've got no major gripe with Simon Rosenberg, other than to note that he's a compromise candidate, and I'm in no mood to compromise right now.

A little note to Democratic candidates

I know I don't donate a lot of money (mainly because I don't have much), but if you ever want to see a dime of it, don't you dare hire these guys. And here's an early warning to whoever winds up being the Democratic nominee in 2008--if Bob Shrum is anywhere near your campaign, I will personally find you and kick you square in the nuts. Hard. Twice. I'm not kidding.

Kentucky Republicans

I guess the law and the courts don't matter, not when there's naked political power to be had.

Senate Republicans voted yesterday to resolve a disputed Louisville election by seating one of their own, despite impassioned warnings from Democrats that they were setting off a constitutional crisis.

In a stunning response, one Republican senator, voice quavering, declared that he was going to resign. After appeals from colleagues and meetings with the Senate president and Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah said he might reconsider.

But even the vote to award the 37th District seat to Dana Seum Stephenson instead of Democrat Virginia Woodward didn't end their two-month fight. Woodward raced into Franklin Circuit Court two minutes before it closed yesterday, seeking orders to stop Stephenson from performing any duties. A hearing was set for Monday morning.

Stephenson, 32, finished first in the Nov. 2 election but was declared ineligible because she had not lived in Kentucky for the constitutionally required six years.
So here's the basics--the Republican party ran a candidate who was ineligible, according to the Kentucky state constitution, to hold the office, and when the courts noted that fact, the Senate decided that it was okay to give their court the finger and seat who they wanted to in the first place. If you're going to do that, why have an election at all?

I don't know how well the Republicans in the Kentucky Senate will take to a swarm of letters from the liberal parts of the country, but hey, I don't care. I'm writing them anyway. Sometimes, you just got to call people out when they spit on democracy.

Gonzales makes his mark on the AG's office

From Jesus' General

I thought the nipple clamp was a particularly nice touch. I mean, there were any number of places where that jumper cable could have gone (Gonzales' scrotum leaps immediately to mind, and it's not often you'll read a phrase like that around here).

Tubbs' and Boxer's stand
In the end, it was more a symbolic stand than anything, but I'm still glad they took it. Most of the media will play this off as a publicity stunt, or sour grapes, or something equally inane, and I'm sure Limbaugh et al will be in a pseudo-righteous huff over the audacity of libruls to question the tactics of the Republican party in general and Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell in particular, and it certainly wasn't going to change who was living in the White House for the next four years, but if there's one thing the Democratic party needs to understand, it's that symbolic stands are at least as important to take as those which effect substantive change.

I've been reading a lot of Joseph Campbell lately, and I think one of the major points he touches on in Pathways to Bliss is that because we as a generation (and this encompasses everyone from the boomers to my kid) have lost touch with the myths that defined our society in the past, we're now floundering. And as a result of that floundering, we see an increasing number of people looking for solace in fundamentalist groups, despite the fact that much of what those groups teach is scientifically ludicrous (the earth created in 6 24-hour days, etc.). Subconsciously, they're looking to reconnect with those myths that have sustained us societally for generation after generation, and the Republican party has hitched their wagon to them for electoral purposes.

So how does the Democratic party combat this? A lot of people have noted that we need to reclaim those myths and their underlying values, i.e. link progressivism to Jesus, which is a good idea as long as we stick to the Jesus part of the teaching, and not all the misogyny that Paul and the subsequent church fathers brought in later. Another option is to build our own set of myths, but as any writer can tell you, that's easier said than done.

But the thing I think we need to remember, no matter what we do, is that the myths we embrace or create ought to work toward making us better people in the end, and not in a "God cares where I put my penis" way, but in a "the greatest commandment is this, that you love one another just as the Christ loved you" way. They ought to extend the in-group of human society to include as many people as possible--anyone left outside should be there only because they choose to be there.

And in the end, I think that's what Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Barbara Boxer were doing when they made their challenge--they were arguing that the in-group was unfairly kept smaller than it was supposed to be, smaller than our laws require it to be. They wanted it noted for the record that whatever decision the Congress came to as far as the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was concerned, the Congress had been told that it had failed in its duty to include every citizen who wished to take part in the election and who had the right to do so, and that anyone who refused to examine the case fairly was an accessory to that act. They made the case that the Republican party as a whole, and particularly the Ohio Secretary of State's office, had done what it could to exclude people from the in-group of citizenship, rather than include the greatest number.

On a side note, could the SCLM have covered this story less? It's already gone from most major websites, and never got more than a handful of paragraphs of the most lightweight coverage possible. It should have garnered curiosity coverage, if nothing else. There's that liberal media hard at work again.

Three little words
for the Democratic party. Don't do it.

CNN Cans Carlson, Cancels Crossfire

Okay, I admit it--I've always wanted to write an alliterative headline. So sue me.

I don't imagine this will change CNN's media-whoredom any, but it's a start nonetheless.

NEW YORK - CNN said goodbye to pundit Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, and with him likely the "Crossfire" program that has been the granddaddy of high-volume political debate shows on cable television.

CNN will probably fold "Crossfire" into its other programming, perhaps as an occasional segment on the daytime show "Inside Politics," said Jonathan Klein, who was appointed in late November as chief executive of CNN's U.S. network.
It's about time. Crossfire has been crap for a long time, even since before they decided to try to outFox Fox, but in the last couple of years, it has really descended into the crapper. If you want to see what Crossfire used to be, then take a look at this clip from 1986 starring Frank Zappa. There's one connecting thread--No Facts Novak is on both shows, and he sucked as much in 1986 as he does today.

Okay, that's not fair--he's had almost 20 years to perfect his suckitude, so he sucks more today than he did then.

Congressional Rules

So the Republicans got something right when they decided not to change most of the rules concerning ethics violations. They did make one bad change, namely requiring a majority vote instead of a tie in the ethics committee to start an investigation, but if the Democrats ever manage to get back into the majority, I'm sure we'll hear some squealing about the need for that to change.

But I'm not talking about the ones that everyone else has been hammering on. I'm talking about this change.

Tinkering with a tradition that goes back to Thomas Jefferson, House members in the new Congress will be able to refer to senators by name on the floor -- as long as they don't get too personal.

They will no longer have to speak of "the other body" or face admonishment from the chair when they slip up and utter the word "Senate" or name a senator.

One of my guilty pleasures in the past has been watching PMQ on C-SPAN. Britain's Parliament is just beautiful in the way they call each other out on the floor of the House of Commons. Our Congress is way too stodgy, and that allows some of the more wingnutty members of both houses to hide behind a decorous facade while acting in a decidedly different manner. I figure, if our elected representatives are going to be assholes while passing legislation, then they ought to be allowed to be assholes while they're discussing it as well.

Saints don't make it

I'm really having a tough time figuring out the tiebreaker system in the NFL playoffs right now. It ought to be simple enough--Saints beat the Rams earlier this year, so they ought to be the 6 seed right now, ready to get their asses handed to them next week at Lambeau Field, but thanks to some quirk in the three-way tie system, the Rams will instead be the team taking the beating on the frozen tundra.

Edit: My bad--the Rams will be playing the Seahawks next week, while the Vikings will be having their asses handed to them on the frozen tundra. It's not that I think the Packers are that great--it's the "dome team playing in the elements" factor for me. The "winner" of the Rams-Seahawks matchup will go to Philly and play in the elements.

Whatever--I can't get too worked up about this. If the Saints had closed escrow on a couple of games earlier in the season, it would never have come to this, so it's their own fault they were relying on a convoluted tie-breaker system to get into the post-season.

So here's my predictions for the playoffs, for what they're worth (which is nothing, if my track record is any indication).

NFC Championship: Green Bay v. Philly
AFC Championship: Indy v. Pittsburgh
Superbowl: Philly v. Indy
Champion: Indianapolis Colts

Too much education?

Not quite a week ago, just before the news cycle and every editorial page in the world was swamped (and rightly so) with the earthquake/tsunami story, Common Dreams ran this story by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst about an overheard conversation between two students at a religious university. Here's the short version, and then I'll share my own experience.

"The only trouble with David Lipscomb (a conservative Christian college nearby) is that old man Lipscomb apparently didn't like football. So we don't have a football team, but we have a great faculty."

"But you do have to be careful about one thing," he said more quietly, coming closer and speaking in hushed tones, "My professor-I have this great professor-told me that you have to be careful not to get too much education, because you could lose your foundation, your core values."

The neophyte nodded solemnly, his eyebrows raised with worry.

"If you get a bachelors," the seasoned student reassured, "you'll probably be okay. But my professor said that when you get a master's, and definitely if you go beyond that, you can lose your values. He said that college students have to be watchful because if you get too much education, you could turn LIBERAL. He's seen it happen to a lot of good Christians."
The seasoned student is correct--it happened to me.

Just over ten years ago, I was a Jehovah's Witness--had been all my life. I'd served as a full-time minister, had done temporary volunteer work at the world headquarters in Brooklyn, and had attended an intensive two-week school for full-time ministers (pioneer school). I was married and struggling to support my family, often working more than one job, largely because I had no education beyond high school and no sort of training in a trade. That severely limited my job options, even in the eighties.

The Witnesses weren't very high on college education, for much the same reasons the seasoned student gave above--secular thought does tend to poke holes in the received truths that fundamentalist religions need in order to keep their flocks in line. While I was in high school, college wasn't even an option--it was a sure-fire way to find yourself pulled away from God's people and into the clutches of Satan.

But then, in the early nineties, the Witnesses modified their attitudes a bit. They acknowledged the difficulties that many in the church were having with employment opportunities, and the possibility that some might wish to improve their prospects with higher education. They never came out and advocated college, but they stopped discouraging it as much. The one thing they came out and warned against--in writing, in The Watchtower--was that students would be faced with teachers who would teach things in direct contradiction with church teaching, and that it would be imperative for Witness students to insure that they didn't allow their teachers to cause their faith to waver.

I started college in the spring semester of 1995, studying chemistry, and it only took until my first set of midterms to realize that the natural world the Witnesses described was far from the world of scientific reality. That caused me to start to question some of the other things I had been taught--the archaeological accuracy of the Bible, the very infallibility of the Bible, which was the underpinning of my entire faith. I suddenly began to question everything, and that, my friends, is the death of any fundamentalist system.

Fundamentalists depend on the unquestioning obedience of their members to maintain their coherence as a group. They enforce that obedience by threatening to shun anyone who dares to question the authority of the church authorities, even family members. It happened to me.

By the end of that first semester, I'd stopped attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and by the end of the summer semester, had stopped identifying with the Witnesses altogether. I'd separated from my wife for unrelated reasons, and so started an entirely new life as a secular non-Witness. Two years later, I was officially cast out from the church, and my parents stopped communicating with me for the most part (I got a card from them last week, which was encouraging).

Here's the thing: anyone who honestly seeks to learn at an advanced level can't help but become more progressive in their thinking. That's the nature of education--the constant seeking for new avenues of thought and new ways of looking at the world. Conservatism is by definition less concerned with the new and more concerned with the past--it can't be progressive. It is useful in holding back the flightier fancies of progressive thought, and is good at consolidating the gains of progressive groups, but it's never going to lead the way into the future. It can only lead us back to the past.

It should worry us that fundamentalist thought is trying to take over the educational system, for the very reasons that Dr. Whitehead enumerates in her essay. Fundamentalists are far more concerned with control than progressives are--it's their very nature. But we can't afford to lose this battle, not unless we want to return to a world where we find out if people are witches by dunking them until they drown and burn them if they survive.

A bad idea?

We're talking about the Man in the Iron Mask kind of stuff here, and the best we can get from the Senate is "it's a bad idea?"

A reported U.S. plan to keep some suspected terrorists imprisoned for a lifetime even if the government lacks evidence to charge them in courts was swiftly condemned on Sunday as a "bad idea" by a leading Republican senator.

I mean, congrats to Senator Lugar for being so forceful as to say it's "probably unconstitutional" and "a bad idea." I mean, I wouldn't want the US to be mistaken for a country where people the government takes into custody don't have due process, even when the Supreme Court has said they do. Jeez.

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