Thursday, May 31, 2007

Nature is not One-Sided

This amazing amateur video gives you a view on life in the wild I would wager you have never seen. Watch as the "king of beasts" learns what happens when one stands up to a bully.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Run Fred Run! (right to the dermatologist)

As has been suspected for some time, it's looking like actor Fred Thompson is ready to announce his candidacy for President. But here is his major problem...he looks like hell! I caught him on "Real Time with Bill Maher" last week and he didn't just have bags under his eyes, he had a matched set of steamer trunk, overnight valise and makeup tote. I'm not saying his worn-out appearance makes him unfit to be President, I'm saying it makes him unelectable. He's only 65, but on Maher's show, he looked like 80. The American Voter is very picky about things like that, and I just don't see how he can fight off handsome Mitt Romney, the uber-manager Rudy Giuliani or war hero John McCain.

Getting Off the Bottle

It was my sister who first told me about a movement to reduce the consumption of bottled water, with the reason being the environmental impact of creating all those plastic bottles, filling them, packaging them, shipping them and, most important, disposing of them. After all, we have a pretty efficient distribution and delivery system already in place. It's called "plumbing."

Today I read that several restaurants, including that trendsetter Chez Panisse, are eliminating the sales of bottled water in favor of tap water that is house-filtered -- and sometimes even house-carbonated.

I never order bottled water when I'm out. But that's because I'm frugal. It drives me bats that restaurants make most of their money on the profits from drinks that offer almost zero added value (cocktails are a bit different, but how much skill does it take to bring a bottle of water to a table, or even open and pour a bottle of wine?), while they lose money on the food, which takes tremendous skill to prepare. I guess I'm happy, all those people who order $8 Voss waters and spend $40 for a bottle of wine you could get for $7.49 at BevMo are partly underwriting my meal!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Because Good Help Is So Hard To Find

British authorities are rethinking their ban on creating chimeras, or biological entities that are part human-part something else. Money quote: "...human-dog drudges trained to cook omelets and happily perform useful tasks around the house, like changing the light bulbs."
(I searched for a photo to go with this post, but the best one I found was just too weird/disturbing to include!)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You Need Help to Suck THIS Badly

George W. Bush has become -- in the opinion of many people, myself included -- the worst president we have ever had. As Bill Maher says in this piece in Salon, "Nixon got in trouble for illegally wiretapping Democratic headquarters; Bush is illegally wiretapping the entire country. Nixon opened up relations with the Chinese; Bush let them poison your dog. Grant let his cronies loot the republic, but he won his civil war. For some inexplicable reason Republicans have taken to comparing Bush to Harry Truman -- a comparison that would make sense only if Harry Truman had A) started World War II and B) lost World War II."

So how does such incredible incompetence happen? You can't fuck up this badly, not on your own, not with a system of checks and balances in place. First, he needed the help of the American people, who failed (or refused) to see what a sniggering, self-righteous chimp he was and re-elected him. Then, the media joined in the fun by spending time covering Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith, giving Bush the cover he needed to engage in torture and suspend habeous corpus. Worst of all, we had a bunch of overprivileged, bribed, corrupt legislators who let his get away with all that shit. Even former presidents aren't using their remaining access to the media to call our national criminal to to the carpet. I used to have respect for Jimmy Carter (even met him once, in Geneva), but after showing a spine of tapioca after backing down from his "worst ever" quote like a puppy who peed in the wrong place and looked up and saw just how scary that rolled-up newspaper looked.

America needs help. We need to save ourselves FROM ourselves. Of all the culprits named above, the biggest is missing: the power players of the religious right. The ones who invoke a higher power and play on the superstitions (and hope and faith) of millions of otherwise good and honest (but frightened) Americans. Falwell is gone, at last, but Dobson and Reed are still in place. And what about the tens of thousands of ordinary preachers, the ones who don't make it on TV, but who have still fallen to their knees in obeisance of a criminal cabal simply because they mouth their prayers in the public square like modern-day Pharisees.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Conflating The Big Gs

If you want to see the spirit of God at work, staring into crimson sunsets or gazing up in wonder at the velvet belts of the Milky Way may not do the trick. No, if you want a fool-proof glimpse of the power of God (or at least that of His believers), the place to look is the American political scene, which is in great danger of being subsumed by a cabal that is using morality as a tool to manipulate people of faith into abandoning rationality to obedience.

For many people, their faith truly sustains them. It helps them deal with the chaotic, random nature of the world. For those people who are thus sustained, I say bully. To quote the philosopher John Lennon, "whatever gets you through the night, it's alright." In times as dark as these, when we seem on the brink of a permanent night (terrorists wreaking havoc in our world, mothers drowning their children, bees abandoning their colonies by the billions), having a benevolent personal god who knows the falling of the sparrow and sends angels to look out for you is a most compelling illusion.

Unfortunately for us, Karl Rove and his ilk realize this, as well, and have used it to their advantage. By seizing the mantle of morality, they use fear -- of atheism, homosexuality, equality (they will say they are all for equality, but only so long as you share the belief that their god is more equal than others) -- to win the support of people of faith. They have conflated one big G (God) with another big G, (George W. Bush). For many, belief in one is trust in the other, and vice versa.

That's why you'll find so many of the Bush core constituency walking in lockstep on issues such as torture and global climate change. In both those cases, I think the commonsense Christian position would be the opposite of what is seems to be: to oppose torture in all instances and to choose a path that exhibited proper stewardship of the planet they believe God created.

These people are only 20-30% of us, yet they have a stranglehold on power, simply because they are so committed to their faith. They love having a higher power to defer to, and now they have two: one G who talks to them, and reassures them, and the other G who they believe listens to them and cares for them. (And who the first G also talks with, according to his own statements.) This makes them a very formidable roadblock on the path to a more perfect union and liberty and justice for all.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why This Blog is Called "The RATIONAL Feast"

Because it's about my hope that reason can one day achieve a position of prominence in American civic and political life, as Lincoln proposed: "Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason—cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason—must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence."

Al Gore lays out a similar proposal in his new book, discussed in part here by Andrew Sullivan.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Let 'Em At Each Other

Callous as it sounds, I'm not sure I disagree with this post.


As I stepped outside tonight, just at sunset, I looked up in the sky and saw...well, you've guessed by now. Bats. I love bats. Love watching them. Think they are fascinating, helpful creatures. I remember when I was a kid, lying on the top deck of the houseboat at Trinity Lake, watching the bats come out as the sun went down. (One of my brothers, on the other hand, occasionally got out his shotgun and killed the buggers.) I remember a night in Kyoto, Japan, sitting between two bridges on the river and watching a quite spectacular bat emergence. And now, here they are, right outside my home. Very exciting.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Great One from My New Favorite Blog

From comes "Ten Reasons to Believe in God.

My fave might be number four: "Heaven. It’s not just about the restaurants, the shows, the fishing, the BBQ’s God hosts, or the unfettered access to the lives of those on Earth. You’ll get to spend your days hanging out in a perfect jungle with Dad, where He’ll turn you into random animals and let you play around in their bodies, and your evenings will be spent with Noah, who is so freakin’ hilarious you’ll wonder why you didn’t just drink and drive to get here sooner."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Scenes from Cyberspace

Following is part of an exchange from an ongoing debate on the discussion board at The Golf on same-sex marriage. The statements in quotes are from one of the cadre of the faithful of the religious right. The replies are not.

"Throughout the ages homosexuals have been shunned in just about every decent society. Many were put to death for this act of shame. "

It used to be that left-handed people were shunned. Some were put to death for being under the influence of the devil.

That bigotry remains in our langugage today -- "gauche" and "sinister" both have deeply negative connotations, and both mean "left." As recently as the last century, teachers would tie a child's left hand in a vain attempt to make them right-handed. (A left-handed person CAN force himself to write right-handed, just as a gay person can force himself to live a heterosexual lifestyle -- doesn't make the leftie a rightie or the gay man straight.)

I think we should be proud of ourselves that we are leaving behind discrimination based in ignorance.

"where the name "God" is now shunned in many areas of our daily life."

In most aspects of civil life, I think it's right to keep God out of it. I mean, really, don't you think it demeans Him that His name adorns our currency? God -- at least the one I read about in the Bible -- is SO not about money. I think the power of God in people's lives would be INCREASED if kept more in sacred places and less in public places.

But you're free to buy space on a billboard if you like and shout your testimony or raise your hosannas in letters eight feet high, if you like. And many do. As well as filling multiple television networks with 24 hours a day of Christian content, and publishing thousands of books and populating millions of web pages (and discussion boards like this one) with messages about faith. Not to mention all the invocations of His name during cold and flu season.

So this idea you have that the name of God is "shunned in many areas of our daily life" is patently ridiculous.

If you're saying that God doesn't get the respect He used to, that may be true. When the track record of Your professed advocates here on Earth is what it is (let's start with Copernicus, move to the Inquisition and end on Swaggart and Haggard - you can fill in the centuries between), you're going to have to expect these sorts of things. When you say "God says the sun revolves around the Earth" - and then stick to that position in the face of pretty overwhelming evidence to the contrary, You'd be an idiot not to expect that people might then wonder whether the position many of your churches take -- that homosexuality is an evil choice some people make and not one of the many variants of human behavior that is inborn -- is correct or not.

That doesn't mean we have to be any less ethical, nor should we stop teaching our children the Golden Rule just because we've realized no Lake of Fire exists. We can create our own hell right here on Earth -- and one quick way to do that is to judge individuals based on the stereotypes (often true, that's how they get to BE stereotypes) associated with a group to which they belong, and to treat those groups as second-class citizens because of something that is fixed at birth.

If you want to preach against homosexuality and call it "sin" or even remove yourself from the company of homosexuals when their presence is made known to you, fine. Knock yourself out.

But when it comes to matters of civil liberty and equal rights, I hope we can all behave like Americans and truly stand for liberty and justice for ALL.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

Our National Crime

I read that waterboarding was first used in the 1500s, during the Italian Inquisition. For some reason, I can't figure out why that makes me so sad. Is it because we're using a torture method that is medieval? Or that it's obviously been proven effective over centuries of testing, so no matter how much people try to minimize it ("If it takes dunking a terrorist in water, we're all for it, if it saves American lives."*), it's clearly torture.

Part of the problem with waterboarding is that it works. To a certain extent. Apparently, if you have something someone wants to hear, Saran wrap your head, tilt back and have water poured over you to simulate drowning...and you'll give it up. Because of this, agents do get some of what they are after. Valuable information. The problem is...well, first of all, the problem is IT'S TORTURE! and therefore wrong and illegal...but the other first problem is that while you get valuable true information, you also get the significantly less valuable false and/or useless information. Information that might seem important because it was revealed only after the application of "enhanced interrogation techniques."

It must be a fascinating (if macabre and creepy) dance between victim and torturer: the torturer assumes the victim is witholding. The victim knows the torturer expects him to withold. How much does the victim try to endure so that when he finally breaks, he can hope the torture will stop? If he gives in too early, does the torturer go on, certain there must be more valuable information to be had? Of course, if he gives in too late...

And from the torturer's point of view: how much do you continue to push after you've heard what your victim is claiming is everything he knows? After all, he's trying to keep things from you. But if you push too hard, you know he'll just start coming up with plausible information to get you to stop.

Maybe I'm off-base here. Maybe waterboarding never results in false or manufactured intelligence. Maybe it's so horrifying an experience no one can lie under its influence, and the terror of the victim is so great that any decent torturer can tell when the bottom of the well has been reached.

But ultimately I think what is making me sick is the core fact that we torture at all. That we have sunk so low as a nation. That I am actually writing about this and it's not fiction. In years to come will there be a time when I feel the need as a citizen of my country to apologize for the way we behaved during this war? How can I look at what Americans under the command of George W. Bush did at Abu Gharaib (and only imagining what went on where it was trained CIA officers and not Army grunts, as in the prisons of rendition) and not feel shame for even my miniscule role as a citizen who could not prevent his election or re-election?

It makes me sick at heart that my country would behave in this fashion - and that our president has, at the very LEAST, justifed the behavior, and quite possibly approved/ordered it.

*Actual quote.

More Evidence on Global Climate Change

Click here for a story from the Times of London.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Marriage Proposal

OK, religious right, let's say you're right, and marriage is a sacred institution established by God. So you shouldn't have any problem with taking it out of government’s hands altogether then, right?

Here's my thinking:

Create a civil union law that is designed solely to provide civil benefits and responsibilities: taxation, survivor benefits, etc. Oh -- and shared financial responsibility. That one's important. When you marry a person, their debts are your debts. Make sure that is a part of civil unions, too, for it’s a strong motivation to keep an eye on each other, to make sure one’s spouse is mostly making wise decisions and taking positive actions. People who have made this commitment have someone to watch over them -- and vice versa. Isn't this one of the main reasons society rewards marriage? Because it promotes social stability? That’s especially helpful for families who choose to raise children – which gay people also happen to do. Not as regularly as heterosexuals, but it’s certainly not unusual. Society benefits from all relationships being more stable, even the ones that don't participate in creating the next generation.

As the Constitution provides, let the states work out the details. If South Carolina decides civil unions are for male-female couples only, let them have that. (At least until the Supreme Court steps in and declares that unconstitutional. Then, if they want to secede again, we’ll deal with that in the appropriate way at the appropriate time.)

Some states might make these unions available to any two people. Say two sisters have retired, share a house and want to receive the benefits of a civil union – I say let them, as long as they are willing to take on the responsibilities of same. Not only the debts, but the fact that you can partner with only one person at a time and ending a union is not easy or cheap. If civil unions are about civil benefits and responsibilities, I see no reason to deny them to any two people willing to follow the strictures.

This precedent is being set already. The Rev. Gene Robinson has decided he and his partner will have two ceremonies, one to satisfy the civil union requirements in New Hampshire, and a religious ceremony to celebrate their partnership in the eyes of God.

I imagine many churches would hold to the one man, one woman rule. Others might allow same-sex ceremonies but deny two sisters who thought their relationship ought to get not only legal, but spiritual blessings, as well. Others might say, “hey – if you’re willing to commit to such a deep level of mutual support, God can get behind that,” and let any two people marry. Again, each church sets its own rules.

If we get the government out of marriage entirely, and let them instead oversee civil unions which relate solely to civil rights and responsibilities, this would leave “marriage” as a totally religious act. How much more sanctity could they ask for?

They Hate Us For Our Hypocrisy

I remember when we were the good guys, the nation that stood above others in the way we dealt with prisoners of war. No longer. Now we might as well include ourselves in the "Axis of Evil," given the fact that we not only approved torture at the highest levels, we denied it at the highest levels. The fact that we, the most powerful nation that has ever existed on the face of the planet, have resorted to such despicable behavior literally sickens me. What's more, our leaders (and perhaps our next president [please, god, no], for only McCain among the major Republican candidates has come out foursquare against torture) have failed to recognize one of the lessons of history: that torture doesn't work. Torturing our enemies may bring some useful information, but it will also bring us false information that sounds like the truth. More important, our acts of torture will ultimately only harden the enemy, and assist him in his recruiting plans. They don't hate us for our freedom, they hate us for our hypocrisy. They hate us because we venture off into the rest of the world pitching freedom and justice (and don't get me wrong, I love democracy and think it ought to be embraced everywhere in the world), yet when it suits our purposes, we're all too ready to justify and deny sadistic behavior or the suspension of human rights. I'd be pissed, too.

In this piece in yesterday's Washington Post, you can read what the former commandant of the Marines Corps and the former commander-in-chief of CentCom have to say on the issue.

PHOTO: Two billboards on a major highway in Tehran, Iran. The people of the Islamic world are well aware of what we have done, how our president has reacted to what we have done -- and I can't imagine they are happy about it.

Hitch Goes Off on Falwell

The new blogger software won't let me link directly to YouTube videos anymore, but here's a link to the always erudite Christopher Hitchens telling Anderson Cooper what he really thinks about Jerry Falwell.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Making Hate Crimes Laws Truly Equal

With all the uproar over the recent hate crimes legislation and President Bush's threatened veto, I wonder if there might not be a truly equal solution for the problem.

Instead of establishing certain protected groups, why not define a "hate crime" as any crime of violence for which the primary motive is the victim's being part of an identifiable group of people? Doesn't matter if you are black, gay, Asian, white, left-handed, a San Diego Chargers fan, a federal judge...if the attacker was motivated less by anything you as an individual did and more by the fact that you are part of a specific group, then a special sentencing guideline would kick in.

This solution appropriately punishes crimes motivated by hatred of a group, yet excludes no one. Most hate crimes would likely still be perpetrated against gay people and people of color, but judges and juries would have additional options for dealing with cases like the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict, when some black people went on a rampage and took out their anger on white people simply because they were white, and they were at hand.

Seems fair to me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Support the Kids

Last month in New York I had the privilege of seeing composer Jason Robert Brown in concert at Birdland. Several of the songs he performed came from "Songs for a New World," something that is called a musical, but is really more of a song cycle, loosely based around the idea of discovery: of one's heart, of others' secret motives, even the discovery that Mrs. Claus has some serious issues with her jolly husband. (In the delightful "Surabaya Santa," a Weill-esqe lament of the lady left behind.)

Brown's show is currently being staged at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco by Ray of Light Theatre, a local production group. Although I have nits to pick with the show, overall it's well worth your time. There are some terrific songs in here, and the ticket price is low, so it's hard to go very wrong. My nits? The girls are stronger than the boys in terms of singing, and the band seems a bit clunky and heavy-handed in their playing. And the lighting design is almost non-existent.

On the positive side, Jessica Coker is delightful, a zaftig belter with a tremendous sense of comic timing. (It helps that she has two of the best, funniest songs, the aforementioned "Surabaya Santa" and "One More Step," an acid little number featuring a woman on a ledge, threatening to jump just to spite her cheapskate husband who won't come through with the fur she desires.) Lindsay Hirata has a lovely tone, expressive and emotional. Plus, she can act. (There is no dialogue in the show really, but her physical scenes, especially with Robert Lopez, are wonderful.)

Of the two men, Lopez is much weaker vocally than his stagemate DaRon Lamar Williams. Williams has a big voice (Lopez is certainly on pitch and in time, but his sound is thin and insubstantial, especially in his upper register) and isn't afraid to use it. Problem is, he seems to return to the same gospel-tinged inflections over and over.

I'm not going to criticize the score itself, but I will say it's a rather odd little show. It sounds like a collection of pretty good songs intended for some other show. "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" seems like it was pulled directly from "Little Women," or could be intended for any number of spunky Nellie Forbush-type characters.

Bottom line -- go to the Eureka Theater and support a group of young people who are working hard to create an entertaining evening, and mostly succeeding.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bishop Gene Robinson Makes the Right Point

The Rev. Gene Robinson (whose selection as the first openly-gay leader of the Epsicopalian Church has caused a tremendous uproar) has decided that when he marries his partner after civil unions become legal in New Hampshire, they plan to have two weddings: one to satisfy the legal requirements of the state and gain the civil benefits which accrue therefrom, and a church service where their union will be celebrated and solemnized.

I think that's smart. I think that's the right way to position ourselves on this front in the battle for civil equality. It's OK for there to be a separate form of union, as long as EVERYBODY who wants to get married has to do it. That's truly separate but equal. If you want to secure the civil rights and responsibilities of marriage, you have to file paperwork with the state and speak your commitment in front of an official of the state. If you want to then go on and have a church wedding, that's between you and God. Maybe if you want a church wedding, you can do them both at once. The minister has to ask an extra question perhaps so you can tell the difference between a dual civil-religious ceremony, and one that is completely religious. (And that way, if people wanted to feel their church marriage wasn't available to just anyone, they could keep the state out of it entirely.)

I think it would be easier on everyone involved if they just opened marriage to any two people who want to live up to its legal responsibilities, but this feels like equality, too.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hate Crimes Hit Home -- Literally

As some of my readers know, for the last two weeks I have been spending most nights at St. Mary's Hospital, staying with Bob to help him through his recuperation from double total knee replacement surgery. Every two or three days or so, though, I go home to bring in the mail and check on things at the house.

When I pulled into the driveway this afternoon, however, I was greeted by this:

What you see is painted in some blood red substance on our garage door. It occupies a space approximately 2.5 by 3.5 feet. When I first saw it, my initial reaction was that it was some sort of code, that PG&E had marked the house "1-A9" for some odd reason. While I was trying to parse out what that reason could possibly be, the true meaning suddenly became clear: FAG.

In the 14 or so years that I have been out, I have never, until now, felt any overt hatred or homophobia. Even when evangelicals were protesting outside the Bette Midler show I went to in Oakland, it didn't even feel like hate; they sincerely thought they were trying to help us. So I've never had anyone treat me like a second-class citizen because of my sexual orientation. (Or at least no strangers; one of my brothers has some issues, but that's another story.) Until now.

When the realization dawned on me of what that juvenile scrawl meant, it was like a punch to the gut. I felt suddenly sick. Someone, probably someone in my neighborhood, vandalized my home to send a message that I was hated simply because of who I am. It may look like a prank, but it doesn't feel like one. It feels like hatred. Like ostracism. (And this happened in liberal Marin County -- imagine what gay people in Mississippi or Ohio have to go through!)

Before I came back into San Francisco, I spoke to three neighbors, each of whom voiced support for us and anger that this happened. My Iranian-born neighbor was especially incensed, probably because he can imagine what it's like to be despised simply for being who you are.

It's fascinating to me that my last two posts have been about hate crimes legislation -- which I generally oppose -- and now I find myself the victim of such a crime.

I reported the incident to the Marin County Sheriff's Office, and they took a report. I will update you with any additional news or information.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Muzzled at the Pulpit?

In my most recent post, I talked about President Bush's planned veto of a new bill coming from Congress that would create a new federal hate crimes law that includes sexual orientation, gender and disability, as well as the more traditional categories of race and religion. In that post, I mentioned that the Rev. James Dobson was in favor of the veto, saying the law would "muzzle" ministers from preaching against homosexuality.

Dobson stated that “the Hate Crimes Act will be the first step to criminalize our rights as Christians to believe that some behaviors are sinful," and that “pastors preaching from Scripture on homosexuality could be threatened with persecution and prosecution."

To which I say, Fred Phelps and his congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church (which is composed mostly of his extended family) regularly appear in public (lately at military funerals) and scream "God Hates Fags" -- without being prosecuted for hate speech. The First Amendment protects him pretty well, and I see nothing in this legislation that would prevent that in the future. So I have a hard time imagining why James Dobson (who must be at least marginally intelligent) would think this is even a minor possibility.

Then I read a quote from the assistant editor at CitizenLink, a Focus on the Family ministry, discussing the same issue: “It attempts to place sexual orientation on par with race, enshrining homosexuality in federal law as a civil rights issue.” Now it all comes clear -- if the bill passes, it could be seen as federal recognition that sexuality is fixed at birth and not a choice, as the Christianists profess. And that scares the shit out of them.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

President Bush Joins in Gay-Bashing

I'm no fan of hate crimes laws. I'm of the belief that violent crime is repugnant, regardless of the motivation of the perpetrator. However, I agree (as usual) with Andrew Sullivan, who agrees with me, but also feels a coherent position can be taken in favor of hate crimes laws. He puts it this way: "The other coherent position is the view that hate crimes somehow impact the community more than just regular crimes and that the victims of such crimes therefore deserve some sort of extra protection under the law. The criteria for inclusion in such laws is any common prejudice against a recognizable and despised minority. The minority need not be defined by an involuntary characteristic - religious minorities are so protected - and they choose their faith. Nor need the minority be accurately idetified. If a gentile is bashed because the attacker thinks he's Jewish, the hate crime logic still applies. I disagree with this, but I can accept its coherence."

It is ridiculous, however, to deny hate crimes protections on the basis of sexual orientation, especially since such crime can effect both gay and straight people. If a straight man is mistaken as gay, and beaten or killed because of it, the motivation of hate is still there. If a member of the KKK mistook me for a Jew (not likely, but work with me here), the crime could still be punished under hate crimes law, regardless of the fact that I am Gentile.

President Bush, however, doesn't see it this way, and has threatened to veto a bill passed by the house extending hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation, gender and disability. Why? The administration gives no truly logical reason, stating that "All violent crimes are unacceptable, regardless of the victims, and should be punished firmly." I'd like to ask the president that, if that's so, would he be in favor of the repeal of existing hate crimes law which allow for harsher punishment for crimes based on race or religion.

The Chicago Tribune's story on the threatened veto states that, "Under the legislation, a group of conservative House Republicans said in a letter to Bush, "religious leaders promoting traditional morality could be made subject to compulsory legal processes -- and forced into court -- simply because their religious teachings may have been misconstrued by a deranged criminal, particularly as prosecutors blur the line between what constitutes a 'hate crime' and what they deem as hate speech."" So if I claim to head a church that believes being born Asian is a sin against God, and I were sued for inciting hatred that led to a specific act of violence, I could also seek protection under the First Amendment right to free speech? I mean, just because your God says I'm a sinner doesn't give you the right to incite hatred or to seek protection for your hateful speech. And that's what these Christianists seem to be saying. James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family says the "true intent of the legislation," is to "muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality."

Back to Larry Kramer: what have we done to make you hate us so?

My Thoughts Exactly

Well, almost exactly.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tacoma Here I Come

I've been wanting to get back up to Seattle; I love the city, and love seeing my niece and her husband and two boys even more. What's more, the Broadway-bound musical "Young Frankenstein," based on the Mel Brooks movie, is doing its out-of-town tryout at Seattle's Paramount Theater.

Tacoma, on the other hand, is a place I merely pass through on my way from the airport. I've heard the glass museum there is pretty amazing, but I've never made the trek. Now, with the imminent opening of Chambers Bay Golf Course (pictured above), I can hardly wait to get to Tacoma. This new Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course is getting some great early buzz, and it's managed by the same group that manages the courses at Bandon Dunes, which are the most amazing I've ever played. Here's more about the course.

(I wish the image were higher res, but it's all I could find. Hit the link above to see better pics.)

Need to learn something? Take a nap.

This article references some fascinating work on how the conscious and subconscious mind work at the tasks of learning and decision-making. I found this quote especially interesting:

"People often make better shopping decisions, at least when it comes to complex products, when they rely on their unconscious brain. Instead of consciously analyzing all of their options, consumers were most effective when they practiced "deliberation without attention," and let their unconscious brain digest the information while they were busy doing something else, like watching television or sleeping."

Ap Dijksterhuis, the researcher who published his work last year in Science magazine, summarizes the implications of his research:

"Use your conscious mind to acquire all the information you need for making a decision--but don't try to analyze the information. Instead, go on holiday while your unconscious mind digests it for a day or two. Whatever your intuition then tells you is almost certainly going to be the best choice."

Timetables are bad...except when they're good.

Two quotes from George W. Bush in 1999, when the then-candidate was criticizing President Clinton for not setting a timetable for the exit of US troops from Kosovo:

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." 4/9/99

"I think it's also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn." 6/5/99

Glad you cleared that up, George.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wall of Hair

Oh my god -- what happened to Phil Spector?

Has he been put to work in the prison static electricity generating plant? Or, perhaps more likely, he is in contention for the live action version of "The Simpsons." Question is, which character is he trying for? Sideshow Bob?:

Or Marge's sister, Selma Bouvier?:

Two Things

First, why can't more American cities (besides New York) have extensive, reliable subway systems, the way most European cities do?

Second, why can't they look like this?

These images are from the Stockholm subway system. Apparently, when they excavated into the bedrock, they decided to leave the bare rock exposed. I'm glad they did.

You can see more images here.

The Tantrum That Became a Nightmare

Although the author of this article from Salon engaged in some bad behavior, it certainly didn't warrant a two-month stay in one of Britain's most notorious prisons. What's worse, reading the journal, I think he left out some of the most horrific bits.