Friday, December 31, 2004

Party anyone?

Jeff of Tusk and Talon has a good New Year's resolution.

Whoaaa, Dude, that was Awesome

On a lighter note from Haaretz:

A British tourist in Sri Lanka claims that he actually surfed the weekend's tsunami.

Gary Wolf is one of a large group of British tourists that is currently sleeping on mattresses in the conference room of a Colombo hotel. He told Haaretz that he was out on a surfboard when the tsunami hit.

"Suddenly I saw that the rocks near the shore had simply disappeared," he recounted. "At first, I didn't understand what was happening and I concentrated on surfing. When I finished surfing, I discovered that I was on the highway, about half a mile from the beach where my room was. Fortunately, the waves pulled me and my surfboard into shore instead of out into the ocean."

Wolf is a professional surfer who regularly enters international competitions.

"Had I known what was going on, I might not have left the water," he said. "I might have tried to continue enjoying one of those moments that will never recur."

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Had to Giggle

Archaeological Dig Uncovers Ancient Race Of Skeleton People


By the way, there's a TTT meeting at the Coralville Vine sometime around 9:00 or 9:30.

Taxidriving as an Alternate Career?

What Pulp Fiction Character Are You?

You're a hardworking individual enshrouded by an overwhelming sense of mystery, beauty, and intrigue. Though always on the go, you keep focused, helping -- often rapturing -- those you meet.

Take the What Pulp Fiction Character Are You? quiz.

Hey, finally one of us is not Pumpkin.

From Matt.

Dead Pool Revised

I've got my revised picks for the Dead Pool in, now that Jerry Orbach died earlier than I'd anticipated. Attention very old and/or seriously ill celebrities: Hang on. You can make it until 2005. It's only another 48 hours. If you haven't got your picks in, there's still time. Make sure you mention whoever referred you - there's a side contest going on, and it seems to be pretty close.

Hey, given the year I've had, I'm allowed to be morbid.

Moving on -

Can't leave that depressing bit of bad verse at the top of my blog going into this weekend. It's my birthday tomorrow!! That's right, everybody celebrate.


You know you want to.

For anyone who cares, I'm going to be eating awesome food and dancing off the calories at the Abbey in Davenport:

The surrounding enclosed gardens

and spectacular view

allow guests to enjoy the timeless luxury

of gracious hospitality and true serenity.

Situated atop a bluff,

overlooking the Mississippi,

this magnificent Romanesque structure

was for many years

a cloistered Carmelite monastery.



An Assortment of butler passed Hors d'oeuvres


Butternut Squash Bisque with toasted Pumpkin Seeds,

drizzled with a sweet Port glaze


Mixed Field Greens tossed with a Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette,

Gorgonzola Cheese and sliced Pears


A Duet of Filet of Beef and Rosemary Shrimp

accompanied by Duchesse Potatoes and sautéed Seasonal Vegetables

(Vegetarian selection available)


Sweet Table filled with an Assortment

of delicious Abbey Desserts

Midnight Champagne Toast

Served with freshly baked Abbey bread & butter, coffee,

decaffeinated coffee, and tea.


Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Forgive the abstractedness, and the terrible verse. I don't feel up to much else today.

A shadow on the lung, they call it.
As if a black cat slunk in, settled purring on his chest.
Cancer - the big C
Literary terms for death
keep the creature placated,
at arm’s length.

I recall the cat.
Sadistic, stalking.
It seized my grandfather.
My mother’s brother, fourteen.
My father’s brother, eighteen.
All eaten alive before I was four years old.

The cat fed fully before
curling up in a corner, claws sheathed,
sleeping with one eye open.
Lulled, deluded, we.
Hoping it had eaten its fill, left us alone.
An adopted family, after all –
flawed genes flowing elsewhere, in other’s blood,
no clarion call to beckon the claws.

Then the creature woke.
Sluggish, languishing.
Nibbling at the corners.
A bit of breakfast,
a little piece of lung from our father.
The sacrifice:
take the lung to leave the life.
Placate, lull, respite.

Then jungle cat springs from behind.
Stealth, surprise.
Jaws snap, slow bleeding into the brain.
Mother, mommy, pedestal, rock.
The earth collapses,
clawing empty air,
nothing matters but regaining your foothold,
your strength gone forever.
We caught it too late, they say,
as if catching, caging, were options open.

Now the cat’s come again.
Scratching, stretching, it sniffs
the scent of blood in a shadow on the lung.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

No fair

Ellen and Mike left today for Isla Mujeres. No fair!!!

I want to wake up with the breeze from the beach playing softly through my hair, throw on a suit and leave the room, bypassing the pool in favor of a light breakfast in the cafe down the street just past the main square.

To wander through the shopping district and then down the palm-tree lined 'main drag' to the beach and my swing at the bar. To order a cerveza en rocas con limon from Chucho, then head out to a beach chair to alternately lie lazily in the sunshine, read my book, and splash in the aqua blue water. Once I've had enough sun, I want to sit on my bar swing and watch the daytrippers troop back to their boats as the afternoon winds down. To head back for a change of clothes, then out to dinner at Rolandi's or Jax or Bamboo - or maybe I'll finally try that French bistro. To top the night off at Fayne's to hear the band, then on to La Pena for the after-hours party - though I've now heard they have a new late-night hot spot, Nitrox. That clientele might be a little on the teenager side, though. Tomorrow I could handle some scuba diving or look into the whole "swim with the dolphins" thing, but that's what I'd be doing today. It's the dead of winter, when Christmas is over so the cold serves absolutely no purpose, and my bikini is calling my name.

No fair.

Okay, here it is

My obligatory Iowa City theater "Phantom of the Opera" musical critique post.

All I really wanted to say has been done in the Onion:

Psychiatrists in select cities nationwide have reported a surge in Post-Melodramatic Stress Disorder cases following the Dec. 22 release of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera.

The book is melodramatic, the movie will be okay so long as viewed in the same vein. Cats was a nightmare, one of those things that you sit through because you should like it, because after all it's live theater and you liked most of the poems and . . . why is there no plot? I didn't like Moulin Rouge much, either, despite the hilarious can can scene. Into the Woods was cute, but not much there.

As far as the rest goes, I'm sorely undereducated in musicals, being (as you all know) fairly unqualified to be in one, but here are my favorites, in no particular order, which coincidentally largely overlaps with the list of musicals I've actually seen:

1) My Fair Lady

2) Fiddler on the Roof

3) Little Shop of Horrors

4) Sweeney Todd

5) Les Miz (though recent productions have gone way downhill).

6) Does the movie version of Wizard of Oz count?

7) Chicago

8) West Side Story

9) How about the Blues Brothers?

10) Man of La Mancha

I've not seen The Producers, Rent, 42nd Street, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and many others, so I think my list will change as I take in more shows.

What's Black and White and Red All Over?

Then there's this plan to reduce littering, jaywalking and such in Bogota: hiring mimes to mock miscreants.

Dave Barry points out that Miami mimes would be dead in minutes.

I think I'd add Chicago to that list.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Maybe Not So Much

A new play touts loving a fat person as "the last taboo." Nope, I think there are a few more around. In the words of Enigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."


It's going to be a great year for my "mindless reading" list, at least through the first half of 2005.

To kick off the new year, there's been a new Nicci French thriller out that flew right under my radar:
Miranda Cotton has an ideal life in London, doing work she loves with no current love interest but lots of dating opportunities. Then a short, nasty liaison with a man who calls himself Brendan Block rips her comfortable world apart. She dumps Block when she discovers him reading her diary. But then he shows back up - dating her sister. A charming and dangerous psychopath, Block wormed his way into the Cotton family claiming that he dumped Miranda. The trouble is that nobody believes Miranda. When a member of her family dies, Miranda feels that Brendan must be involved. But can she prove it before he kills her? Studded with sharp insights into the strange compromises involved in modern relationships, this novel could be the horror version of Bridget Jones's Diary. And the authors are so subtle at bringing Brendan and Miranda to life that readers might even begin to doubt that what she's telling us is the whole truth"until a stunning climax in which all sorts of secrets and lies are revealed.

Some of the couple's books are hit and miss, but Land of the Living was outstandingly chilling, and I'm hoping they've hit their stride. Reviews are mixed. (NOTE: if it involves thumbs and eyeballs one more time, though, I'll have to start re-evaluating their work. It's been done in two prior books. Once is enough.)

A new Amelia Peabody mystery is due in March, and I still haven't bought Amelia Peabody's Egypt. I guess that will take care of February. (New hardbacks are so freaking expensive, I try to limit myself). My favorite thing about this series, other than the cheesy romantic subplots and Victorian era melodrama, has to be the trivia on Egyptology inserted by the author, who under her real name of Dr. Barbara Mertz holds a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

In May, Caleb Carr is going to try a Sherlock Holmes thriller, with the permission of the Conan-Doyle estate. The only thing I could find about the plot so far: "Now Sherlock Holmes is going to investigate a pair of gruesome murders at court. The Conan Doyle estate has given its approval to a novel called The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist, in which two royal servants die, with echoes of the murder of a confidante of Mary, Queen of Scots 300 years earlier." I don't usually take kindly to people messing with the canon (exception: Laurie King, as I discuss later), but Caleb Carr is always a must-read for his meticulous attention to detail in historical settings. I recall reading the Alienist and being impressed when he got the M'Naughton rule right, knew the history of dactylography and the Bertillion System, and a gagillion other details that made the book a must-read for me.

Speaking of Holmes, Laurie King is rolling out with the next installment in the Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series in June. I never thought I'd get hooked on a series that messes with the canon, but she's a good read and has developed a set of characters well beyond the Conan-Doyle original parameters into a unique cast all her own. And while the Peabody series is primarily fun, Laurie King puts a bit more into the plot, a la Dorothy Sayers.

In July, of course, there's the new Harry Potter. Yep, I read 'em. Usually in one sitting over a "lost weekend". If she starts making them any longer, I'll have to take off work.

I know I've got to fill April: I'm hoping my backlog of chick-lit catch-up will go on the $5-$8 table:

To Have and to Hold

Playing with Boys, etc.

Now all I need is a new Amy Tan and I'd be set.

Odd Yahoo Searches

Someone found my website doing serious research: "Did Seymour lure Mr. Mushnik into Audrey II's range?"

Go see the play.

Wikipedia observes that the play is basically a Faust adaptation with Audrey II as Mephistopheles.

More Inane Blogginess

In the spirit of non-thought that permeates all but my required, work-related, do-this-if-you-still-want-a-paycheck activities:

The grilled-cheese madonna morphs into the hot-pocket satan. And somebody's paying $56 bucks for it. And they think our politics is the primary force behind the stereotype that Americans are stupid? via Dave Barry.

I'll bet it was a tossup on the headline for this article - either "Five Custom Gadgets You Can't Buy" or "People Who Have Way Too Much Time On Their Hands." Looks like the geeks won the war. Saw it on Slashdot. The cryogenic mouse thingy is cool, BTW.

The Australian version of the celebrity defense "I'm too Beautiful for Jail."

On the LOTR front: A medical diagnosis of Gollum and a Nitpicker's Cheat Sheet. As if a person who interrupts the movie every five minutes to say "But in the book, . . . . " isn't annoying enough without artificial assistance.

Of course, I generally limit it to twice per movie.

Did you know we're close to parachuteless skydiving?

I want to know how I missed getting on the Spamalot legal defense team.

The history of Boxing day from the Urban Legends Reference Pages.

And in another British tradition - if you're not on strike against serious thought, and actually want your brain to bleed, check out the King's College Annual Quiz. NOTE: Answers are not posted until January. If you're one of those who must see correct answers immediately, try the 2003 quiz with the answers here.

Friday, December 24, 2004


Feeling Nostalgic?

TV Cream ranks the top 100 toys from the 70's.

More Christmas Fun

Diving penguins. My high score so far is 29.4 out of 30. I keep having trouble with the entry. A not-so-sober santa. Anything giving me 231 points first try is just too easy. And if you don't like diving penguins, you can always whack them. I've gotten 251.

UPDATE: Okay, my last three penguin-whackings sent the darn thing into perpetual motion. Apparently this is intentional according to the (I kid you not) website on the history of the penguin whacking game:"Penguin minus gravity. As with the other versions, you'll have to hit the penguin very low to get the high scores. This penguin will bounce for a long time, so go eat a sandwich, read a book, and do your taxes while waiting for your score to pop up." For a more sane version, try this. My Part 1 high score so far: 302.5.

Fa who for-aze, Da who dor-aze

Some lawyer in Texas files a motion to compel and tries to get the judge to order opposing counsel to cancel his Christmas vacation. In response the other lawyer files this. Sweet.

BTW, I had to look up the actual spelling of the first two lines of the Whoville Christmas song. I'm a decent speller, but I ain't that good.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Things that really make you go "hmmmm. . . "

Then go hmmm all over again. Just got this excerpt from the Cedar Rapids Pennysaver emailed to me:

(I think the big picture was a bit too long in loading, if you want it in more detail go here.)

I don't know as I'd consider an adult store the most, um, sanitary place for a family Chrismas dinner.

Interesting Quote of the Day

Regarding the alleged cougar in Iowa City:

"Mountain lions should not be shot just because we don't feel protected ("'Mountain lion hysteria' envelops Iowans," Nov. 26). They were here first. They are very afraid of humans, so they won't cause any killing or hurting people.

If we still don't feel protected, we should make a boundary and build a fence. If any human gets killed or hurt by a mountain lion, then we should really talk and think about the issue." Youngbin Song, Iowa City

Okay, so if Youngbin Song is being mauled by the cougar, everybody stand around and talk and think about things. Sing some songs, light a candle or two.

Me, I'd prefer you shoot it while I've got all my limbs, much less my life.

I'm all for reasonable efforts - track it down and ship it out to a zoo or Montana or something. But when it comes down to me or the wild, I vote for me, thanks. As the "they were here first" remark: are you quite certain the modern version cougar evolved upon the continent of North America prior to the earliest homo sapiens? Or would you like to go back to the lower levels of primates vs. felines? Either way, it seems a rather silly basis on which to build a comprehensive conservation policy. I don't recall them calling "dibs" on the whole planet. As far as this particular mountain lion goes, given that they only live 8 years, I'm pretty sure that I was here first.

The Red and the Green

It's kind of a Christmas theme. I said I'd stay away from news absent a "major screw-up by a politician or the media, or a legal opinion setting new precedent (or with a reaaaallly weird fact pattern)". I should've added "or another really stupid editorial in the Press-Citizen designed to placate the public into accepting the fake rainforest in Coralville." Here's the fisk:


Chief project administrator David Oman said that next year critical goals should be met, including detailed plans for the caterpillar-shaped structure, the securing of at least a portion of the roughly $90 million yet to be raised and a projected groundbreaking and start of construction mid-year.

"We're at a key point now where time is as important as finances," Oman said Tuesday. "It will be a red-letter year for the project."

Mr. Oman, are you certain you want to juxtapose the words "red letter" and "finances?"

Particularly in light of your stated "critical goal" in the first paragraph: securing "at least a portion of the roughly $90 million yet to be raised."

By my calculations, you've raised nothing beyond pork-barrel grants from various governmental entities and $10 million from the project founder. Not one solid outside commitment for cash, though the project's been in the works since before 2000.

Yep, So long as you have a solid $5 commitment from somebody other than government committees or project leader Ted Townsend, you'll go forward and d*mn the torpedoes.

So it looks like we're actually going to break ground on this $180 million, 18-story metal and glass caterpillar, undulating along I-80 to amuse and mystify truck drivers and commuters; tourists who stare out steamy car windows at the strange monolith on their journey to places like Disney Land, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, and the Henry Doorly Zoo rainforest only hours away in Omaha.

Of course, theoretically, you should be able to pay for the thing if you're going to build it. And not with ethereal dollars derived from project estimates that require over 50,000 people per day to voluntarily enter into the belly of the big glass worm.

The project, planned for the southeast corner of Interstate 80 and First Avenue, will stretch three football fields in length and rise 18 stories high. Inside, visitors will find a 4.5-acre rain forest and a 1.2 million gallon aquarium as well as teaching and research space.

Twenty members of the Environmental Project's board of directors met Tuesday to plan the next steps for the project for 2005 including getting the next set of construction drawings.

These would include specific dimensions and materials for the project and a solid budget for the outer walls and structure of the enclosed rain forest. Oman said engineers should finish the plans by the board's next meeting in February, although the initial timeline had called for completed plans by the end of 2004.

Also Tuesday, a group of about six scientists met for the first time to start discussing the research possibilities of the project. Next year, the project team also should address the logistics of making the rain forest grow and flourish under its dome.

Please tell me you didn't design what is essentially a large, unusually-shaped greenhouse without figuring out what conditions the plants needed to grow first. You know, temperature, lighting and other pesky critical design details?

'Cause that's just way too easy. I like a challenge. This is like picking on a brain-dead puppy for not being able to fetch.

The science design team ultimately will make recommendations about what research should be included and how to tie in full-time staff scientists with education.

Benjamin Beck, director of conservation at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, led the team of scientists, which is likely to expand.

You can't figure out how to integrate science and teaching? Okay, some of us have got these strange things called "teaching hospitals" scattered all around the country. There are also many other types of museums where people study things and the public comes to be educated at the very same time.

Oman also said that in a few months, several million more dollars should come into the project, which reached the halfway mark at $90 million in January.

He said project officials hope want to at least have a ceremonial groundbreaking in mid-2005, even if not all the money is secured. Oman said a groundbreaking could encourage the last of the funding to come through.

"You don't need to have every dollar in the drawer before you ... begin construction," he said.

Yep, that $5 contribution from somebody else isn't even critical for groundbreaking. You're going to go forward and waste our tax dollars whether or not you've been told by private investors to jump off a very big cliff because the project is, well, stupid. You're hoping that if you speak slowly and wave shiny objects in front of our eyes, we won't notice this.

Oman said the project is working with corporations, individuals and foundations in securing more funds for the project. He said the project is in fifth meetings with some of the companies, most of which are out of state and some are sizable. He mentioned that project officials had made recent trips to California and New York to try to secure funding.

You keep harping on all this travel you're doing to meet with potential donors, yet you haven't come up with zip in the years this ugly monolith has been in the "design phase." Glad you at least get to see New York and California while you're at it.

E-mails from project to Coralville officials, obtained by the Press-Citizen through an open records request, have mentioned General Electric, Ford, John Deere and Hewlett Packard as potential partners.

Bob Ray, the project's board chairman, said he sensed optimism in the board of directors meeting.

"I think the board is more excited than I've seen them at any time previous," he said.

Of course you're optimistic. You get to go back to California for more "meetings" while the rest of us are stuck in the snow.

Some still are skeptical about the project's probability of success, however, including Coralville city councilor Tom Gill. On Nov. 11, Gill said he wanted to see private funds in 60 days, even though other councilors did not share his view. As Jan. 11 approaches, Gill said he stands by his position.

He said he would oppose giving land the city has obtained to the project until all of the funding was secured. He said he supports the idea of the project but said funding hasn't progressed in a year.

"You can design and design and the money keeps going away, and we keep sitting on land that's not generating tax dollars," Gill said.

He said he had hoped the board would announce private funds Tuesday.

"I don't really want to knock the project," he said. "I thought they would come out with some kind of splash."

I'm sorry, Mr. Gill. Please don't hold your breath on this one. They've been telling us for a year that they're going to break ground and start spending money for our "education" whether or not they get a solid dime from outside sources. I agree it will be educational.

You're on the right track, but you do need to step up to the plate here. Require this project to be fully paid for by private funds, at least to the tune of the other $90 million, before we break ground and they've got us where they want us: "Come on. You've already spent $90 mil, you going to just let this rot half-finished?"

It is in the hands of the Coralville City Counsel to stop the insanity. The rest of us can only b*tch about it, shake our heads in disbelief at the surreal level of acceptance when the community figuratively bends over to say "please, Sir, may I have another?"

Abbreviated Legal Blogging

Latest Iowa Court of Appeals Opinions are up. I strikes me as kind of cruel to affirm life sentences and things the week of Christmas. I mean, can't you wait a couple of days and at least give them hope through the holidays?

There are lots of cases on consecutive vs. concurrent sentences, but nothing so earth shattering as to force me to break my ban on serious thought.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Visit From St, Nicholas

A la legalese.

Say again?

Another off-topic post. Skimming the news, I see this story:

Iowa Youth Pastor Surprised To Share Name With Stripper

Carrie Bare is a youth pastor and soon-to-be new wife, so she was surprised when her future mother-in-law talked to her about something she'd seen at a local gentleman's club. A poster for the Glenwood, Iowa, Playhouse -- a "performing arts center" that features nude dancing -- shows Carrie Bare as a featured performer. The youth pastor by the same name knew nothing about the stripper using the same moniker until her fiance's mother spoke up.

Okay, so the first thing I'd do if I were in Ms. Bare's shoes is to ask my future mother-in-law "And what were you doing in a 'gentlemen's' club?"

I'm just saying.

Okay, it's not Christmas, but it is fun.

Make Evel Cownievel jump the tractors. My pet peeve: I get her over the tractors, but she goes too far and misses the other ramp.

A Visit From St. Nicholas

A la Hemingway.

From the land of omigoddidhereallysaythat

Okay, I'm bending my "no politics" rule here, but it's good - Andrew Sullivan brings us the quote of the day from Daily Kos.

For that Holiday Spirit

Iowa Geek points to a gigglingly snarky website: Go Fug Yourself. Devoted to posting fugly fashion choices of the rich and famous and critiquing them, but with an actual sense of humor, unlike others.

This is old news, but

In case you didn't see it, you can go here to operate the christmas lights of some guy in Lafayette, CO. via the internet. The site's a little confusing, but I'm told the links will work once it gets dark over there. Flash the lights on and off, annoy the neighbors, that sort of thing.

This is what you get

When you google for stupid Christmas stuff.

Snowman poop??

Best Chocolate Cake Recipe Ever

Got it right here. No lie, as people who've been to my now-defunct annual tree-trimming party can testify.

Cool Game

Snowcraft's Snowball Fight. Online in shockwave - and even my stupid filter lets it through. Nyah Nyah. I've long since mastered the one or two tricks needed to play indefinitely, but it's fun regardless.

More Xmas Stuff

The Bleat's got some fun with frosty up.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Coming Soon . . .

At last Friday's poker game, Matt, Dweeze, Glorious Nonsense, Greenman, Danny, and I discussed doing a joint poker blog based on our favorite taunt: "Are You Going to Let Him Push You Around Like That?" Don't go there yet, nothing's been posted, but I just got my invite and joined right up. Meanwhile, his Dannyness has a post up about his loss to Fauser. I was in the running for a while, but Dweeze and Matt basically wiped me out at about 1:00 am. It was not entirely a bad thing, given my 45 minute drive home. But I always say that, and generally end up staying until 2 or 3 in the morning. Now, if it had been down to me and Fauser . . .


Oooh! Oooh! Cool template and a first post.

Stupid Christmas Quiz I

Via Glorious Nonsense:

You Are a Self Help Book!

While your advice is not always welcome...

It's always right on target.

Fun and Unusual Presents

To kick off the holiday weirdness, a few last-minute gift suggestions:

Maxi Pad Chrismas Slippers.

A pope costume for your kid's pet hamster.

Your very own personal muse. Who apparently likes to hang out in graveyards.

The kit to knit your very own hand-grenade purse.

Devices to turn your cell phone into a "personal vibrator".


Art painted with menstrual blood.

And for a festive holiday theme, a Christmas tree made of memory sticks.

(most links from Dave Barry or Who would Buy That)

Holiday Blogging

Given the season, I think we've all got enough serious extended family issues to deal with, without the added stress of subjecting ourselves to brain-bleed-inducing analysis. Absent a major screw-up by a politician or the media, or a legal opinion setting new precedent (or with a reaaaallly weird fact pattern), I'm going to do all fluff posts, stupid quizzes, holiday trivia, and such this week. I'll probably repeat the pattern next week in honor of my birthday - New Year's Eve, no less - so don't harbor any expectation of serious thought from this corner until at least 2005. In fact, let's just all avoid any harboring whatsoever.

Friday, December 17, 2004

What the??

Just saw this link on Iowa Geek to this piece by Michael Moore, equating blue voters to battered women:

"Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the ‘new’ language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"

And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

They will tell you: Every single day.

The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence."

Before I go further, I should stipulate that I did not vote in the last election, through unavoidable circumstances. While I was a fence-sitter, I actually tended to agree with Kerry on more subjects than Bush. That said, here is my response.


Dear Mr. Moore:

While I enjoy a creative analogy as much as the next person, I find this particular bit of invective inaccurate and offensive.

You conveniently frame the issue as "Why did they beat us?" as if Republicans physically entered voting booths and bitch-slapped otherwise liberal voters into submission.

The issue is more accurately, "Why don't they like us?" and the answer is apparently far more complex than your dogmatic belief system can absorb. It varies from voter to voter and state to state, and it is the key - the only key - to winning elections for the foreseeable future.

I could take the analogy and run further, likening your diatribe to the whine of a faded beauty queen after yet another desperate one night stand: "But why doesn't he call?" It would be funny, creative, yet ultimately unhelpful.

Because adding to the frenetic partisan discord only widens the perceived intellectual and emotional divergence between the natural allies for the political future: blue and red voters who hold realistic, moderated versions of the right and left wing extremist ideologies. These voters are actually quite closely aligned on most issues, and they are are tired of diatribes, whether tinged red or blue.

They are weary of being accused of prejudice, ignorance, or malice simply for choosing the candidate who aligned most closely with their views; voting for the "lesser of two evils" despite their reservations on the more extremist positions taken.

If they choose to reject their freeloading fringe parasites and align into a moderate party that reflects the viewpoints of the vast majority of Americans, neither your MoveOn crusaders nor the Christian Coalition fundies will be able to win a seat on for class treasurer of Solon High School, much less the presidency of the United States.

But I have a deeper reason not to descend your level of rhetoric: it crudely exploits yet another stereotype of female victimization, and I resent the hell out of that.

I know battered women's syndrome. I worked for three years as part of a rural domestic abuse response team, prosecuting the kind of asshole who breaks a partner's ribs, or bends a woman forcibly over a chair to "check" her vagina for signs of infidelity if she spends an extra half hour at the grocery store. Some people respond to this traumatic stress by becoming classically depressed, repressed, and self-blaming. Others are angry at the alcohol/drugs/abusive background that they think drive the abuser's choice to dominate them and use violence to enforce their superiority. There are myriad responses to the intense stress of an abusive relationship. But to exploit survivors to make a political point is atrocious. I believe you owe them all an apology. Particularly the abuse survivors who voted red - intelligently, willingly and NOT because of they are anybody's victim.

Ultimately, your rant will fulfill it's intended purpose. Your fans will eagerly email it back and forth, with things in the subject line like "Hell, yeah," and "What he said." The red voters will either respond in kind, or simply add a few more bricks to the mental walls that protect them from unprovoked attacks. And you will become just a little more famous. Not that you would stoop to blatantly exploiting people for profit or anything.

What it won't do is win the next election.

You propose this solution to regroup for 2008:

"You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back. Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you've learned, and that you aren't going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell."

I would modestly propose that the answer to your problem has nothing to do with the 57,288,974 people who voted for Kerry this election cycle. You can commiserate all you like, but if you do nothing else, you will still be in the minority on the next election, and you will still lose. The issue is rather what to do about that portion of the 60,608,582 who voted for George Bush who really didn't want to do so, but felt you gave them no alternative. What to do about the 406,924 people who voted for Nader. And, most importantly, what to do with the other 176,147,503 people who either didn't vote or chose none of the above. A hint: I don't think they'd appreciate being called abusive or told to go to hell. Just a guess.



FYI: while the analogy is adopted by MM, it originated with the article posted here.

What the?? Part II

Hmm. . . I thought Blogger ate my post. Heck, it did eat my post. Then I rewrote it, and suddenly both posts appear. Okay, so I'm deleting the first one and editing the best bits into the second one. If you saw them both and were somehow instantly attached to the first version and can't live without it, I've still got it saved and can email it to you.

Legal Stuff

The new Iowa Supreme Court opinions are up.

Holliday v. Rain and Hail Services reinforces the idea that in this state, we really do allow companies to void insurance contracts for fraud or misrepresentation. According to the opinion, the Hollidays purchased crop insurance from the defendants. As is logical, rates and the benefits for lost crops are derived on an estimate of the crops' value, based on yields from prior years. But the Hollidays didn't report these values accurately:

"During the 1998 planting season, the Hollidays had yet to harvest their 1997 crops. Some of those crops remained unharvested into the summer and fall of 1998. Crops on four of the Hollidays’ farms in Wayne County that were planted in 1997 were never harvested in 1997. Nor did the Hollidays plant crops on those farms in 1998. Notwithstanding these facts, in March 1998 the Hollidays certified 1997 yields on two of these farms although they did not harvest crops on those farms and made no appraisals of their yields.

In June 1998, the Hollidays submitted acreage reports in which they certified their 1998 planting dates. In these reports, the Hollidays certified that they had planted crops on the Wayne County farms when in fact they had not done so. In addition, testimony from eyewitnesses disputed the planting dates certified by the Hollidays on eight other farms."

So they showed an artificially high amount of crops, causing their harvest to be overinsured, and as the court indicates they were "unable to produce records to support their claim of a potential yield loss they reported to Rain and Hail for the 1998 crop year." The insurerer voided the policy for intentional concealment or misrepresentation of material facts. The Hollidays sued. The Court upheld the verdict for the insurer.

An odd side note, this quote struck me as humorous: "Rain and Hail L.L.C. (Rain and Hail) is the managing general agent for CIGNA Property and Casualty Insurance Company (CIGNA). (Hereinafter we refer to Rain and Hail and CIGNA collectively as Rain and Hail unless otherwise indicated.)"

Ummm, yeah. That's so much more efficient than referring to them as, like, CIGNA.

State v. Reinders examines a consent to search issue. In last week's State v. McConnelee case, which I blogged on here, the issue was consent to searching a vehicle in a routine traffic stop in which the officer observed a "leafy material" on the console. The officer determined that it was, as the defendant had indicated, tobacco. However, the officer then proceeded to search the rest of the car and found a marijuana pipe in the console between the front seats, and baggies containing green, leafy plant material, baggies containing a white powdery substance, a baggy containing a white powder residue, a large digital scale, and other drug paraphernalia in a black back on the passenger seat. The issue was whether the permission to check the leafy substance, combined with a gesture toward the car, was in fact permission to search the entire car. NOTE: there was a side claim that the defendant had verbally said the officer could search the whole car, but the videotape didn't clearly show that. The court found that the scope was limited, and the search illegal.

In this week's Reinders case, Urbandale officers stopped the defendant because he'd been wandering around Hickman Road at about 2:30 in the morning. He didn't seem to be jogging, all the businesses were closed, and there had been a string of break-ins in the area. So the officers stop to chat. He gives them a false name. When asked whether he has any weapons, the defendant admits to having a kitchen knife, and starts to get it out of his back pocket. Officer Meskimen tells him to stop, that the officer will kindly remove it for him with his permission. The defendant gave permission. Officer Meskimen took out the knife, and "since Reinders had consented to a search of his pockets, Meskimen reached in a second time and pulled out some foil that contained a powdery substance later identified as methamphetamine." While Officer Pettit maintained the defendant had given specific permission for a continued search, Officer Meskimen and Officer Dobbins' statements seemed to contradict that.

In this circumstance, the Court upheld the search:

"The defendant contends he did not consent to a search of his person. He argues Officer Meskimen told the defendant that Meskimen would remove the knife, and the defendant then raised his arms to facilitate the officer’s retrieval of the knife. But the testimony of all three officers was to the contrary. Although their recollections varied as to whether Officer Meskimen asked the defendant if he could search the defendant before or after removing the knife from Reinders’ pocket, they all testified Meskimen asked for permission to search the defendant and the defendant gave the requested permission. The district court found this testimony to be credible and we defer to that court’s assessment. Therefore, we, like the district court, conclude the defendant consented to the search of his pocket. Consequently, his Fourth Amendment rights were not violated by the warrantless search."

So it appears the distinction is in the permission. In one case, the defendant gave permission to check the leafy substance, not permission to search the car. The officer took that as permission to, among other things, search through a bag in the passenger's seat. In the other case, the defendant apparently gave a non-specific, blanket permission to search him, which the officers interpreted a tad more broadly than he would have wished.

Finally, State v. Smith provides insight into the bane in the of a defense attorney: stupid clients. Of course, the bane for the rest of us could be people who trust felons not to be stupid.

What happened? The defendant showed up for his OWI 3rd sentencing. He must have been told this is a felony. He must have been advised there was an extremely good, 99% chance he was going to prison, or at least jail, that afternoon. He was supposed to have made all his arrangements and be prepared to go. So he's sentenced and, no surprise, he gets prison time. In Iowa, sentences start immediately. Instead of forcing the defendant to wait, summoning a sheriff to drag him handcuffed out of court, the judge allows the defendant to walk to the jail in the company of his attorney. It's a non-violent crime, so while in hindsight it was a lousy idea, it's not a heinous or uncommon thing to do. They start downstairs, but the lawyer is summoned to another hearing - immediately. He takes his client over to the court attendant, and asks the attendant to call a deputy to escort the defendant, sinch he has to go. He heads into the courtroom, and the defendant walks away.

Eventually, someone catches him and he's charged with Escape. His arguments? Well, he had two. The first one actually had some merit - he claimed that his lawyer and the court attendant weren't officials as under the meaning of the law, and he wasn't physically restrained, so he wasn't "in custody" in the first place. The Court disagreed: "The court’s order, however, ordered Smith to report to the sheriff, a “public officer” “to whom the person has been entrusted.” Smith would have been subject to immediate physical restraint at the time he fled, and therefore, for purposes of the escape statute, he was in custody under the Breitbach test." The second argument is much more, um, creative. In fact, the Court said:

"Smith’s second argument surely must be tongue-in-cheek. He argues that the district court, in the earlier OWI case, had abused its discretion by allowing Smith to be accompanied from the courthouse by his lawyer, and this somehow justified his escape."

To echo the sentiments of the opinion: nice try.

You took advantage of the misplaced kindness of the court, and you've added another serious charge to your record, particularly one that will basically guarantee the increase of pre-trial bail to new financial stratospheres. Congratulations, dude.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Police Harassment

Brent has the exposé.

Justice? Not so Much.

Crim Law blogs about a client who, from what I can see, got convicted without any mens rea whatsoever.

"On the 7th of October my client rented an automobile. The automobile was to be returned on the 9th of October at 12:30 p.m.

Client was arrested on the morning of the 9th. The capias was actually served on him at 9:05 a.m. which means he had already been in custody for some time prior to that. Obviously, the car didn't get returned and Client was charged under this statute:

If any person comes into the possession as bailee of any animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel, and fail to return the same to the bailor, in accordance with the bailment agreement, he shall be deemed guilty of larceny thereof and receive the same punishment, according to the value of the thing stolen, prescribed for the punishment of the larceny of goods and chattels. The failure to return to the bailor such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel, within five days from the time the bailee has agreed in writing to return the same shall be prima facie evidence of larceny by such bailee of such animal, aircraft, vehicle, boat or vessel."

While I agree it's not a specific intent crime, you need to have some basic level of mental guilt - kind of like speeding. Fees and penalties for a late rental are one thing, but a criminal conviction shouldn't stand. Nothing to do with ability - sometimes judges are just wrong.

Becker and Posner

I know I already linked them, but everytime I go over there I'm intimidated impressed by the level of the discourse. Example: go here to watch really smart people discuss the moral parameters and relative merits of preventative war. Of course, you've got to giggle at Howard Bashman's comment:

"At this point, all that separates them from a full-fledged blogging addiction is for someone to teach the Nobel prize-winning Becker how to add a hyperlink."

(I looked at this week's entries on pharmaceutical patents. Nope, he can't use a weblink.)

Another Stupid Internet Quiz

Via Matt:

You Are a Visionary Soul

You are a curious person, always in a state of awareness.

Connected to all things spiritual, you are very connect to your soul.

You are wise and bright: able to reason and be reasonable.

Occasionally, you get quite depressed and have dark feelings.

You have great vision and can be very insightful.

In fact, you are often profound in a way that surprises yourself.

Visionary souls like you can be the best type of friend.

You are intuitive, understanding, sympathetic, and a good healer.

Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul

What is it with the Japanese?

When they brought us the "boyfriend pillow" - letting you snuggle the night away in the arms of a stuffed, kind-of-male-looking balloonish arm, sans any other part of the anatomy, I thought it was, well, kind of sad.

Now they've come out with a version for men - the lap pillow. I guess Japanese men like to "spoon" with a different part of the anatomy.

Person of the Year?

Instapundit discusses the idea of "bloggers" being named Time's Person of the Year.

Vodka Pundit, Will Collier goes a step further, nominating Glen Reynolds in the "Most Blatant Plea For An Instalanche, Ever".

So if the Blogfather is nominated, will we all have to kiss his ring? Show up for his daughter's wedding? And because I know my audience: don't even think about suggesting "going to the mattresses."

Paper Fodder

I wish I was back in undergrad so I could justify taking the time to write a paper on "Everybody's Little Buddy: Gilligan's Island and the Pervasiveness of Western Culture."

A major source - this article:

"Consider this: Some years ago, actress Dawn Wells visited one of the remotest islands in the already remote Solomon Islands; she was, in fact, the first non-native woman to set foot there. The chief's wife stared at Wells in surprise when she came out of her hut. "Mary Ann?" she asked in amazement."

Link via Instapundit.

Yeah, what he said.

Dave Kopel guest-blogs for Glenn, dissecting the Daily Kos "red state girls are sluts" post that I critiqued back on December 6th.

Key quotes:

"Under the Kos rankings, a birth to a married 19-year-old is counted as a contribution to social decay, whereas a birth to an unmarried 25 year-old is not. The Kos method is therefore skewed against states where young people marry early, and have children early. For example, Utah ranks 32nd in teenage birth rates (what Kos measures) but is dead last (and therefore best) in illegitimacy rates. . . .

Red states predominated in every category (both good and bad), apparently because there are more red states than blue states. If we’re being competitive, then we would have to say that blue states are the winner. The good:bad ratios for blue states were notably better than the same ratios for red states.

But it's a much more mixed picture than the one presented by Kos, in which blue states are almost the only good states, and red states are almost the only bad states."

BTW, while Kos used it to slam 'values' voters, I've also seen this type of stuff used to imply blue America could die a slow death, being outbred by the reds.

BBTW I'd love to go back to calling leftists "red" but the thing's gotten so entrenched by now that I think we've switched colors. I'd also love to know which network executive(s) knew so little about political historic symbolism as to make the decision to show the republican states red on the graphics.

Global Warming Issues

Finally getting around to linking this piece on global warming from the Yin Blog. If you're into such things, make sure you scroll through the comments.

What if there was a strike and no one noticed?

The Daily Iowan has this article about the NHL strike. I talked to a guy the other day - one of those "I'll watch competitive peanut-butter-spreading if no other sports are on" types. He had no idea they'd been on strike. He just figured the season hadn't started yet. I take this as evidence they might becoming irrelevant? Perhaps the investors and players should consider spending the money they're arguing about on marketing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More on Genetics and Social Issues

In reviewing this, it's a freaking long post. Sorry.


Once again, Royce put up several thoughtful comments on my earlier post that should be addressed outside the Haloscan boxes:

Question - do you see a similar connection between human evolution/culture and homosexuality?

When humans' secondary survival directive (after staying alive) was to make more humans, I suspect that homosexuals lived a "normal" life - making babies - and got their fun on the side. Even “casting your seed on the ground” was frowned upon. This taboo only began to dissolve about 30 or so years ago.

. . .

Another question - do you see homosexuals pushing themselves into a genetic dead end by ceasing to live facade lives as "breeders"?

As I understand it, you're asking: 1) Whether the repression of the past years was actually a genetic benefit to the homosexual community by protecing the procreation of the gene; and 2) Whether now that the stigma has been removed, it is possible that homosexuality will naturally die out.

To plunge right in and political correctness be damned: I think it all depends on the nature, nurture, and technology, but I doubt that homosexuality will be "Darwined" out. (There I go again making up that same verb. I think it's been permanently grafted into my vocabulary. I think I'll just officially adopt it and take the quotes off. It's just too handy when compared with "removed from existance via the process of natural selection as outlined by Darwin.")

If homosexuality is a genetic mandate hard-wired into the genetic DNA, then logically as society's values change to accept the practice, leading those with homosexual genes to forego child-producing sexual encounters with the opposite sex, the gene would naturally die out. That is one argument in favor of your first point; that the stigma that made it necessary to engage in sham marriages protected the gene from extinction. As far as the future is concerned, it is another matter. We're not constricted by nature anymore. It is quite probable that gay men would choose to donate semen for artificial insemination, in order to acquire a child of their own genetic makeup. That would perpetuate even a strictly inherited gene despite the lack of heterosexual intercourse.

If homosexuality is a genetic mutation of sorts created by conditions in the womb, i.e. temperature, exposure to certain substances, etc., then the gene will not die out even if homosexuality is accepted to the point that the gay population feels no compulsion to have genetic offspring, so long as unborn children are exposed to that condition. Then the stigmas of the past and sham marriages logically made no difference in the homosexual population, and no stigma or lack thereof will change the future population rates.

Finally, if homosexuality is a product of nurture rather than nature, you would expect the converse: it would multiply as the practice became more accepted and more children were raised in openly gay households. In societies that discourage homosexuality, there is great pressure to keep it hidden. Sham marriages such as you cite above are one result of that pressure, but even that requires a self-realization of homosexuality. If I recall correctly, I believe denial is another result: the inability to recognize one's own sexual proclivity. The upshot is that there would be a limited, highly restricted and selective amount of "nurturing" going on in a state of repression. Finally, in areas in which homosexuality can be openly expressed, the exposure to it would range beyond the home, making the statistical likelihood of some exposure to it more likely. Of course, these are the primary arguments used by those who oppose any support for the homosexual lifestyle. The gay community has fought for years against the idea that it is somehow contagious. I've not followed the research closely, but if there are any long-range studies that support the contagion theory, I'm not aware of them. I believe there are some that negate the theory. I'd say if we had a difinitive long-range study on gay population fluctuations that could be said to accurately reflect past trends, we might be able to provide at least a theoretical answer to the nature/nurture side of the debate. But I'm not certain how one would get an accurate head count of an insular trait, during a time when no one wants to admit to possessing it.

Finally, it could be that homosexuality is simply a choice. Another option in the spectrum of sexual behavior. Then it wouldn't be affected at all.

So, the conclusion is that no matter what the source of homosexuality, it's unlikely to be Darwinized. (Hah, NOW I'm getting creative).

How is making a value judgment against obesity different from making one against homosexuality? If homosexuality becomes "curable" through biotechnology, would you support, encourage (force?) gays to be cured? Do you see gays countering this by screaming for the survival of “gay culture” as the deaf community has? Hey, I can't get that cochlear implant and hear the f*&$ing world; it will rip me away from my "culture"!

I am utterly pro-freedom on this, as I am the deaf issue, obesity and just about everything else. I mean, I understand the theory. If there is a certain trait that society views as detrimental, and if that trait is difficult to change, then the logical alternative is to change society's attitude from condemnation to acceptance. But to do so requires you to condemn those who are able to alter the trait, whether it be obesity or deafness or homosexuality or whatever, and to portray the act of changing it as a capitulation to societal repression akin to brainwashing. The problem I see with this is that it infringes on a person's right to make a self-determining decision.

In the case of obesity, could you imagine the kind of backlash against dieting and excercise that is seen in the cochlear implant issue? Parents openly confronted for placing their children on programs that infringe on the "natural" obesity of their offspring, by members of the obese community who feel their culture is threatened by that? I'd resent the h*ll out of being told that I have a moral duty to be a size 16 instead of a 2. Similarly, I'd have a few words for anyone who tried to prevent me from hearing again if I were deaf, seeing if I were blind, or walking if I were paralyzed. Presuming there was a safe surgical way to do so, I'd change my metabolism in a heartbeat. Then watch me eat a gourmet pizza for lunch with a real, classic Coca-Cola and chocolate cake for dessert, instead of a salad with no calorically-rich toppings, baked Lays and a diet soft drink. I don't think I'd vote any differently for homosexuality. If it were detemined once and for all it was some sort of medical condition and if there were a simple safe procedure to change one's switch from hetero to homo or back again, I think it's up to the individual what they want to be.

A passing thought: I wonder how many heteros would go the opposite way just to avoid having to deal with the opposite sex.

Finally, Ampersand has follow-up posts on the issue here and here.

The first equates discrimination against obesity and homosexuality with repression:

"I've never heard anybody defend quite so passionately the notion that employers ought have a "right" to screen job candidates for blood pressure and cholesterol levels before deciding whether or not to employ them. But suggest, even in the mildest of tones, that perhaps discriminating against a fat applicant might be inappropriate, and people get very passionate indeed! Why? Why is that?

. . . .

It strikes me as intrinsically connected to both misogyny and homophobia, this. The terror that fat seems to inspire, the moral terror, seems rooted in the same fear and loathing that has traditionally been reserved for the promiscuous woman. She is not obeying. She is "out of bounds"--much like the fat that oozes over the sides of the airplane seat. Her problem is a surfeit of appetite--which is the reason that no matter what medical studies might actually show, people will continue to frame the problem of obesity wholly in terms of eating and of appetite.

It is also very much the way the religious right views those who dare to break gender boundaries. Queers are disobedient, they are in "moral rebellion." They are encroaching on our public life. Those who support them must have a "recruitment agenda." They lack the will-power to restrain their nasty urges. They are not only weak, but also insatiable.

As it becomes less and less socially acceptable to try to regulate sexual behavior, we turn to the subject of eating instead. Whether eating habits really have all that much to do with obesity is irrelevant. We must define obesity in terms of voluntary appetite for it to serve the same social function that sex once served.

Eating is the new sex. Anti-fat hysteria is the new Puritanism."

I find it ironic that a trait that is discriminated against as being unappealing sexually - and across the board, hetero and homosexual - is touted as the "new sex". It sounds more like the "new sexual substitute".

I don't have a problem with people who choose to be obese. The fat oozing over the line of the airport seat is another matter, as a gross infringement on my personal space. I'd probably change seats.

Listen, just because we find obesity unappealing now doesn't mean we always will. You can cling to your Rubens paintings for the comforting thought that all is cyclical. But similarly, remember that there will always be a certain look that is considered unattractive or out of style. For those who have it, particuarly if it's not easy to change, it really sucks. But that doesn't make the fashion itself somehow evil or conspiratorial, or even personal. My grandmother always wanted to be petite - five foot two, eyes of blue. I always wanted to be taller than my five four. I also wanted be built with the odd juxtaposition of c to d-cup breasts with a size 2 body. In the end, it was one or the other, unless I want implants. I also wanted higher cheekbones and hair that was a kind of shiny copper brown with gold highlights. Does that mean I have some evil prejudice against natural blondes? Okay, maybe. (Just kidding, Deone).

And, in the end, that's the difference between obesity and homosexuality. The last time I am aware of homosexuality being embraced by a culture as a lifestyle choice is the ancient Greek society. Since then, not so much. In fact, lots of people have been tortured or killed because of the practice over the centuries. I don't recall to many fat people being dragged out for public execution. Thinness is a fad, nothing more. We're already trending more toward larger behinds since J-Lo. As I'm so often told, Marilyn Monroe would have never made it as a model these days, though it's only an urban legend that she's a modern size 16.

The second discusses the genetic component of homosexuality:

"Is being gay a choice? I guess that's going to depend on individuals and exactly what is meant by "choice." But in the end -- why should it matter? Should the woman who makes a concious decision to become a "political lesbian" be deemed more worthy of discrimination than the girl who "knew she was a lesbian" at the age of 5? Should the bi-sexual who "chooses" to fall in love with another woman be less worthy of protection from discrimination than the bi-sexual who "chooses" to fall in love with a man?

In the end, we may never know if there is some sort of "gay gene" -- and even if there is, there will still be people who may "choose" to live a "straight" lifestyle even with the "gay gene," and those who may "choose" to live a "gay" lifestyle even without the "gay gene." It really doesn't matter.

The same goes for fat people. There are, without a doubt, some people who are fat because of a genetic predisposition to being fat. There are some who are fat because they eat too much. There are some who are fat because they've "dieted" their way up to their current weight (oh yes, they do exist). There are extremely unhealthy fat people and there are extremely healthy fat people -- and you cannot tell just by looking at the person which one s/he is."

On that issue, I think the only reason it is being discussed is to refute the idea that homosexuality is somehow contagious, and the corresponding implication that if you let "them" mingle freely with the rest of society we'll somehow catch it.

Conversely, if the homosexual community can claim it as an immutable characteristic (unchangeable, overt, and historically discriminated against) they've got a much stronger argument for protection under the Equal Protection Clause than they would have if it were simply a choice. Employers are allowed to discriminate - choose - what types of people they hire, for example, so long as they don't discriminate against a protected class. An employer can require employees not have piercings, not dye their hair blue or even have naturally blue hair. So long as it isn't a handicap, a race or color, gender, etc., it is generally okay to discriminate. It's a doubly hard argument for homosexuals, because homosexuality isn't even an appearance thing. It's an action, a behavior. Arguably, the employer isn't discriminating against the person for who they are, it's how they act. Much like they could refuse to hire someone who picks their nose compulsively or strips on the countertops.

Having gayness be considered trait, and an immutable one, is a constitutional necessity for the homosexual community. The alternative is to argue that no one can ever discriminate against anyone for a behavior or "choice." Yeah, sure. The NAACP has to hire that sheet-wearing Klan member. That kid with seventy tatoos, nineteen piercings (that you know of) a meth habit and the personal goal to get laid every half hour no matter where or with whom? She's going to be babysitting your kids. That'll fly.

So there are my utterly politically incorrect views, with a bit of legal, logical and historical background. Feel free to discuss. I promise not to post anything of this length on the issue again unless a truly revolutionary theory is brought up.

Click N' Feed

Jack Bog's Blog will donate $1 to the food bank for every unique visitor today, up to $1250. For a good cause, click here. It looks like a cool site, too, from what I've seen.

BTW - If anyone gets the media thingy he made to play, please let me know what it does. I'm blogging via dialup here and there's no way I'm going to get 16MB of anything to load.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More Photoblogging for Dad

Last Saturday would have been my mom's 60th birthday. My brothers, sister and I got together with my nephews and decorated the tree, just as her family always used to do on her birthday. Here are some pics for Dad, who's stuck in Jersey on a temporary job.

The Tree, partially decorated.

Me and the boys start off the ornament hanging. The tree is not one of those designer-matchy things. We've got paper chains from the 50's, the old kind of lights that you can melt tinsel on, garland from when I was a kid, and every ornament any of us ever brought home from school, no matter how sad looking. It's very, shall we say, eclectic? But it's a great kid tree.

Daniel without shirt. He said his sweater itched, and he wanted to take it off. We tried to get him into a t-shirt, but he claimed it itched as well. So we let him go without for the all of five minutes it took until the puppy jumped up to lick him, and he discovered that claws scratch much more on bare skin. Much crying ensued - the kind where he doesn't think he's getting quite enough sympathy for his major wounding. He agreed to let me cut the tags out of the t-shirt, then we were good to go.

Jon and boys decorating.

The boys.

Nepi. This puppy thinks the tree is the shiniest, brightest new toy we've ever brought her.

Jon hanging ornaments.

Michael proudly sporting Santa gear.

Daniel wants to be Santa, too. His quote of the day: "Merry Christmas to you!!" (Pointing at random person in room). He's really getting the concept this year, and excitement is building. This is the peak time: old enough to get the idea of Santa, young enough to believe utterly.

Karie, Rod and the boys. Daniel was singing his "hanging ornaments" song. Just a kind of repetition: "ormanents, ormanents." He only liked the ones with hooks on them, no ribbons.

Daniel decorating.

Everybody decorate.

Daniel's version of tree decorating is quite similar to his father's. When I was about seven or eight, two-year-old Jon kept stringing sixteen ornaments on one branch. I'd tell him to cut it out, take fifteen of them off, and put them elsewhere - only to come back and find he'd strung another bunch right back on.

Michael narks on Daniel for hanging all the candy canes in one spot. He's way more laid back about it than I was. Somebody take away his "first born" certificate until he can prove he's sufficiently neurotic.

The obligatory "standing in front of the tree" shot. Of course, Mom would've moved the ornament box out of the sight line, but hey. . .

Obligatory standing in front of tree shot #2. Nope, we haven't caught on to the 'moving the box' thing yet. Thank goodness for crop tools.

Monday, December 13, 2004

You Will be Assimilated

Just updated the blogrolls - again - to welcome his Dannyness' fiance, who's succumbed to the blog bug. She's got Glorious Nonsense for you.

I Love the Attitude

From the Volokh Conspiracy:

Judge Carter in the C.D. Cal. (Santa Ana) has staged a wonderful constitutional joke.

Outside his courtroom he has a Christmas tree and a menorah next to a table with a coffee set-up. The menorah and Christmas tree are very close. He also has strung some Christmas lights along the floor to set a little path into the courtroom. On the opposite side of the path are two reindeer, one of which is wearing sunglasses. The distance from the Christmas tree to the reindeer appears to have been carefully measured, perhaps to test the outer limits of the reindeer-proximity rule. There also is a Frosty the Snowman near the display, the tree, reindeer and snowman forming a roughly equilateral triangle. Overseeing it all is a hovering flying pig, perhaps a comment on the foolishness of most Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

Clearly a great deal of thought went into this. I am mightily impressed.

Too cool.

What I'm Reading

I've noticed a lot of 'what I'm reading' posts lately, so here's my list:

On Thursday, I splurged at Barnes and Noble. I bought Wicked, the Silmarillion, and the Secret Life of Bees.

I also wanted to buy Playing with Boys, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Amelia Peabody's Egypt and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, but they'll have to wait.

I finished Wicked on Saturday, it is an incredible book. The first time through anything I read for enjoyment, just to find out what happens next. Then I go back and look at the levels, the symbolism, and how the tale is pieced together. I love how the author turned familiar scenes on their head by a simple 90 degree shift in perspective. I know there's a ton more to mine out of this one, once I brush up on Baum's originals. I read the Wizard of Oz a gagillion years ago, but missed the others. Still, it's highly recommended. Matt's got more on it here.

I'm about a quarter of the way through the Silmarillion now, mainly because there are enough names and places to keep straight that I have to keep flipping back and forth rather than doing a straight read-through. I'm learning a lot of detail about the LOTR background, but the stories read more like exerpts from biblical texts than a novel. Good stuff so far, but not for the casual peruser.

I've also got a couple of classic mystery collections lying out right now, which include versions of the original Psycho (Norman was bald?!) and Double Indemnity, and such. And the latest issue of Glamour.

I think that's it right now.

Oooops, nope. Ellen (Not the Moonbat) says I've got to check out Devils Knot by Mara Leverett. From what she tells me, it sounds fascinating.

Ummm, yeah.

How Appealing notes: "Justice Antonin Scalia "lacks judicial temperament": That's what Howard Dean said today on "Meet the Press."


What if . . .

How Appealing also links to a couple of articles on the recent rulings regarding military recruitment on campus: "Don't ask' policy impairs military recruiting." The caption sparked a thought: haven't you ever wondered how recruiters would handle the whole "don't ask" rule? If you force the issue, how do they duck it? Do they just not say anything? Try to come up with an excuse? I've just got a weird scene running through my mind where the recruiter is trying desperately to come up with some veiled euphymism to express that the military life might just not be a viable option to a planted "recruit" in drag and a tiara, who plays deliberately stupid . . . .

Odd Legal Suits

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which promotes itself as a seller of clean music, deceived customers by stocking compact discs by the rock group Evanescence that contain the f-word, claims a Maryland couple that wants $74 thousand for their damaged sensibilities. Via Overlawyered.


Meanwhile, from Slashdot:

'The American Chemical Society yesterday filed a complaint against Google, claiming the new Google Scholar infringes on its own product, called SciFinder Scholar.'

So they're claiming to have trademarked the word "scholar?" OOOOkkkaaay. The complaint if posted here in PDF format.


The First Church of Bob Saget via Dave Barry's blog.

Genetics and Social Issues

Ampersand at Alas a Blog posts a two part article on "What fat people and gay people have in common," here and part 2 here. The articles discuss the idea that being fat, like being gay, is genetically determined. The implication is that society should be changed to accept obesity much in the same manner that it should be changed to accept homosexuality. I'd like to propose a counterpoint to that theory: what if we're on the edge of a Darwinian alteration in environment, in which caloric efficiency is shifting from an asset to a liability?

The conclusions drawn in Ampersand's second article are broad:

"In theory, any fat person could become thin, if they only kept up what the New England Journal of Medicine called "extreme measures" - extreme low-calorie diets and tons of hard exercise - for the rest of their lives. (One formerly fat person who commented on the earlier thread, said that she exercises four hours every day).

By the same token, any lesbian or gay person could "not be gay," in the sense of repressing their real desires and marrying a person of the opposite sex. (Historically, how many lesbians and gays lived their entire lives like this? There's no way of knowing, but hundreds of thousands seems like a reasonable guess).

So in theory, every fat person and every queer person could choose "not to be." Just choose to eat as little as an anorexic, and exercise four hours every day, for your entire life. Just choose to repress your core sexual identity. Whatever it takes.

But in practice, some choices are so difficult that they can't reasonably be called choices at all.

And that is what fat people and gay people have in common."

The evidence in both articles is drawn from legitimate medical sources:

William Bennett, editor of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter, reviewed empirical weight-loss studies going back to the 1930s. He concluded that not one had been shown to produce long-term weight loss for more than a tiny minority of dieters (and most of the few who did lose weight, lost too little weight to turn an obese person into a non-obese person).

Data on the dietary treatment of obesity have been accumulating since 1931. Nothing in the chronicle suggests that worthwhile progress has been made by pursuing efforts to teach people more effective ways to restrict their food intake. There is now enough information to permit the prediction that results will be mediocre in the short run and after several years will be less than acceptable. ...

An important element of behavior modification is giving the client a model of his or her problem, one that focuses on eating behavior as the target for correction. An essential component of this model is the claim that it will be effective if the client believes it and acts accordingly. The model that appears to form the heart of most such programs, however, is at the very least seriously incomplete; there is good reason to assume it is simply wrong. In any case, the model has not produced results that would support claims of effectiveness. ...

The ethical questions that can be raised about research efforts also must be asked about the dietary programs for weight control that are carried on outside a research setting - commercial, hospital, or clinic-based, or self-help. Many such programs proffer treatment as though it were established as effective and safe. Nothing in the results published by research programs authorizes anyone to make such claims.

From an article in The New England Journal of Medicine:

Many people cannot lose much weight no matter how hard they try, and promptly regain whatever they do lose....

Why is it that people cannot seem to lose weight, despite the social pressures, the urging of their doctors, and the investment of staggering amounts of time, energy, and money? The old view that body weight is a function of only two variables - the intake of calories and the expenditure of energy - has given way to a much more complex formulation involving a fairly stable set point for a person's weight that is resistant over short periods to either gain or loss, but that may move with age. ...Of course, the set point can be overridden and large losses can be induced by severe caloric restriction in conjunction with vigorous, sustained exercise, but when these extreme measures are discontinued, body weight generally returns to its preexisting level.

There's a question so often asked in queer-rights rhetoric, it's become a cliché: "Why would anyone choose to be gay? The point is, being a widely despised minority is not fun. It's not easy. It involves a lot of suffering, for many people. It's not something that most people would choose. (Although, thanks to the lesbian and gay rights movement, it is now easier for many lesbians and gays than it used to be).

By the same logic, why would anyone choose to be obese? Fat people are discriminated against in jobs, are widely seen as lazy and unattractive, and are taught a truly stunning level of self-hatred. It's not something most people would desire for themselves.

Peer-reviewed studies show that 92-96% of weight-loss plans fail over the long run - and those studies count anyone who takes off 10% or 15% of their weight as a "success." The failure rate would be a lot higher - I'd guess more like 99% - if the measurement of "success" for fat dieters was "this person is no longer fat." It's clear, I think, that weight-loss treatments don't work.

I accept the basic points proposed by Ampersand: that there is a level of genetics involved in one's weight "set point." I also agree that while with rigid control of diet and excercise obese individuals, absent certain medical conditions, can force their body to lose weight, but they will never turn themselves into "high metabolism" people.

But is that where the story ends?

It is apparent to me that we have traditional eating habits based on the active lifestyle of our recent ancestors. Three square meals a day, eating a hearty breakfast, these concepts are remnants of a time when the amount of work it took just to maintain a house and/or a farm was phenomenal. Catch and hitch up horses instead of turn the key on the car, beat rugs instead of run a vacuum cleaner, scrub, dry and hang your laundry by hand, walk the mile to the store, and see what kind of calories you burn. Look at the Amish studies for an official example. A second point: until modern times, if times turned hard it was difficult if not impossible to get help. Isolation in farm settlements, the lack of a government welfare system, and the negative view of "charity" all conspired to keep starvation a real possibility in earlier times. So the ability to burn calories efficiently, to make do with less, was a considerable asset.

In the last hundred years, we've had a radical shift to a sedentary lifestyle. Instead of getting our workouts naturally, we have to intentionally find time to exercise. We can't exactly go back to the Amish days, as I don't know anyone who has the time to do laundry by hand. Getting on the d*mn treadmill is the most time-efficient thing. But it requires conscious effort, and takes up the time we could be using to catch up on sleep, take care of kids, finish that the boss has been whining about, and so on.

The world in which we live has changed drastically toward a sedentary lifestyle, and it impacts those with a slow metabolism first. Where they used to have a genetic leg up, they now are disadvantaged. They've become obese, plagued with health problems, so we die earlier. They're viewed as unattractive and are therefore less likely to breed, put in the crudest terms.

Now, here's my radical conclusion:

In the end, WHO CARES?

There is a genetic component in weight loss, making it more difficult - but not impossible - for some people to lose weight. Why and how it happened is irrelevant, whether it's a darwinian shift or an inherent part of nature. When faced with a set of circumstances, there are really only three choices: accept it, ignore it, or change it.

Where did we ever get the idea that acceptance was the best option? That if we just accepted everything about ourselves, it would somehow solve all our problems? Some people are born with less intelligence, some with serious health problems. I got low metabolism. All that means is I need to find my own rules regarding exercise and caloric intake, and obey them. I could transform American society into a cult of the Rubenesque, and still have serious health issues to deal with, no matter how blissful I was with my french fries and chocolate ice cream. So I choose discipline, not because I'm brainwashed or prejudiced, because I am objectively healthier and have a h*ll of a lot more fun. You might think of it in terms of being deluded by the oppression of a thin-oriented society. I think of it in terms a rational response to a definable problem.