Friday, December 30, 2005

Heading into 2006

THE END IS NIGH!! At least the end of 2005 is nigh. It seems like only yesterday that I was trying to explain why the so-called millennium bug wasn’t going to cripple civilization and now we’re heading into 2006.

Rats. The vacation I always take at the end of the year is coming to a close and I’m looking forward to returning to work less than usual, a LOT less than usual. I seriously need to figure out a way to retire.

Oh well enough of that silliness. So what can we look forward to in 2006? Well, January brings us both the NFL playoffs and the confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito.

I’m predicting Indianapolis and Chicago in the Super Bowl.

As for Judge Sammy, it seems like every scrap of paper available with Alito’s name on it is being released to the public by somebody, but to be honest I haven’t seen anything that shed significantly new light on the question. Did anyone really expect a lawyer working for conservative administrations to be taking liberal positions?

I will admit that I'm nervous about rumors surrounding his abortion access position as well as hints relating to his position on the separation of church and state and I really would like to know more about both.

I’m looking forward to the Senate Judiciary committee hearings. They should be interesting. I’m pretty sure Alito will end up being confirmed, then we’ll see how things progress. I still have hopes that he won’t turn out to be another Scalia.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Giants at Redskins

All I can say is RATS! Redskins 35, Giants 20. Good game though. If it wasn't for a highly debatable holding penalty which erased a Giants touchdown with 6:50 to play, it might have gotten interesting late in the game. That call probably cost the NFL half the watching audience.

So we go into the last week with a number of things still up in the air. Although the Giants are assured of a play-off berth with the Minnesota loss, the NFC East title is still up in the air. A Giants loss to Oakland opens the door for the Redskins against the Eagles. Hehe, fat chance. I'm betting the Eagles knock the Redskins out of the play-offs.

As of now things are lining up like this:

AFC: Indianapolis, Cinncinatti, New England, Denver and Jacksonville are in. The last spot will probably be Pittsburgh who hosts Detroit. Kansas City is a long shot. The Steelers would have to lose to the Lions and the Chiefs would have to beat Cinncinatti neither of which is terribly likely.

NFC: Seattle, Chicago and New York are in but the Giants will either be a conference winner or a Wildcard. Either Tampa Bay or Carolina has to win the NFC South. I'm betting on Tampa Bay who is in with a win over New Orleans while Carolina heads to Atlanta.

Predictions, predictions, who makes it to the Super Bowl? I think I like Chicago in the NFC because we're talking about an old fashion bruise'em up Chicago defense. In the AFC I have to stick with Indianapolis. Yes New England is a big danger now that they're healthy, but I'm going to stick with Peyton and company.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Is ID Science?

Incredibly the U.S. District court in the Dover case addressed the question as to whether ID is science. I’m more than a little surprised by this as I was certain that the court would not address this question.

It states that it does so because:

“…after a six week trial that spanned twenty-one days and included countless hours of detailed expert witness presentations, the Court is confident that no other tribunal in the United States is in a better position than are we to traipse into this controversial area.”

And because:

“…in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.”

While I have to agree that the court is in an excellent position to make the determination, I’m certain, unfortunately, that this isn’t going to prevent the future waste of resources.

The court found that on the question as to whether or not ID is science, ID fails on three separate levels “any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science.”

1. ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation.
2. The argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism (to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed) that doomed creation science in the 1980's.
3. ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

I agree with the judge's conclusions in #1 and #2 but I'm not so sure about #3. It could just be really, really BAD science and still have all of its attacks upon evolution refuted.

“Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum.”

Touche! It just ain’t science and doesn’t belong in a science classroom!

“Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard.”

In other words, at best only misleading, and at worse a fabricated lie. Canard is a polite word for bullshit. I’ll have to remember that one.

This decision is an absolute unmitigated disaster for the ID movement and I’m certain that we will be hearing howls of indignation and complaints of persecution and censorship but it just ain’t so.

ID is total nonsense and anyone with better than a 9th grade education and an IQ above 90 should be able to recognize it as total nonsense. Judge John E. Jones has had the courage to call a spade a spade. I’m impressed as well as surprised. I can’t wait to hear the reaction from the Christian Right. They'll probably call for Jones' impeachment.

The Decision in Dover

This is copied from "Knights of Darwin." Now that things have quieted down a little, I think I'll go back to including evolution related stuff here as well.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones absolutely unloaded on the ex-Dover School board in particular and Intelligent Design in general. About the only thing he didn’t do was give the Dover electorate a gold star for voting the school board out of office last November.

A few of the choicer quotes from the decision include:

"Although proponents of the IDM (Intelligent Design Movement) occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the IDM, including Defendants’ expert witnesses."

Yes your honor, but you have to understand that these bozos think we’re all idiots!

"A significant aspect of the IDM is that despite Defendants’ protestations to the contrary, it describes ID as a religious argument. In that vein, the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity."

Again, these guys think we’re all idiots unable to see through the flimsiest camouflage. Actually, I think its more like they hope that Conservative Republican courts will see through the camouflage, but vote in their favor anyway.

"The Wedge Document states in its 'Five Year Strategic Plan Summary' that the IDM’s goal is to replace science as currently practiced with 'theistic and Christian science.'"

Yeah, but nobody paid any attention to “Mein Kampf.” I'm glad to see that people are taking the "Wedge Document" seriously because it calls for nothing less than the demise of science in the United States.

"…the Dover School Board members testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath…"

Ouch. Even though this was obvious to even the most casual observer, I never in a million years expected the judge to be this blunt about it.

"…an educator reading the disclaimer is engaged in teaching, even if it is colossally bad teaching."

“Colossally bad teaching” about sums up the best you can say about ID. Well, at least for the moment the angels have won, but this is just the opening skirmish. Kansas is next on the agenda.

Kansas City at Giants

"Tiki Barber, Tiki Barber, Tiki Barber!" I wonder what it's like to have 75,000 people chanting your name in praise! I have never seen ANYBODY do what Barber did on Saturday. It was by far the greatest performance by a running back that I have ever seen from quite possibly the greatest running back in Giant's history. It wasn't only the 220 yards rushing it was the way he got the yardage. Running around, over and through the Chiefs. Final score, Giants 27 and Kansas City 17.

With Dallas losing to Washington, the drama is set for another NFC East showdown next weekend between the Redskins and Giants. Personally I'm not looking forward to taking on the Redskins in Washington. If the boys from the capitol run the table, they can still win the conference title if the Giants fall to Oakland.

Elsewhere, as predicted, San Diego ended the Indianapolis undefeated season. It's a good thing I was right on that prediction because I'm not doing all that well anywhere else. Looks like Denver isn't going to have any problems and Kansas City, with two consecutive loses to Dallas and New York, is looking a bit sickly at the moment.

The big game next week will be what I predict will be the Super Bowl preview between Indianapolis and Seattle. I'm going with the Colts in this game. We'll see about the rematch in the Super Bowl however. I'm not ready to make that call just yet.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Giants at Eagles

To be honest, I thought he missed it. It’s always hard to tell on TV but I thought Jay hooked it to the left. Luckily it managed to squeak through and the Giants had a 26-23 overtime win.

Let’s face it, this is not a really good team. They’re too inconsistent and Manning has a ways to go before he’s a full blown NFL QB. Still, they’ve already exceeded my prediction of 8 wins by winning their 9th. This has been a cardiac season. Saying that there have been lots of really exciting games would be a gross understatement. I can’t handle it, I really can’t.

The Dallas-Kansas City game was another heart stopper with a defensive holding penalty on a 4th and goal with less than a minute to go giving the Cowboys another life plus a 41 yard FG miss by Kansas City that would have tied the game. Washington also won. The Eagles were officially eliminated.

The Cowboys (8-5) pack their bags for Washington (7-6) and the Giants (9-4) have their last home game against Kansas City on Saturday. Washington, with home games against the Cowboys and Giants and then a season closer at Philadelphia is still very much in the hunt. If they run the table they will have the best division record which could turn out to be the tie breaker.

Dallas will be in serious trouble it they lose to Washington regardless of what the Giants do against Kansas City. A loss would give them a 3-3 division record and they would be on the short end of tie-breakers against both Washington and New York. If Washington runs the table, they will control the tie-breaker situation and the Giants would have to beat both Kansas City and Oakland.

A Washington win coupled with a Giants loss would set up a show down between Washington and New York. Given the way the season has gone so far, I can almost guarantee you this is what will happen.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


I went to see the movie Rent last night. I found it very well done, but to be honest, it didn’t quite completely translate from the off Broadway production which I had seen several years before.

Somehow the simplicity of the theater sets and the intimacy of the theater made you feel like you were having a life experience. The movie, which appears to have been filmed on location in the East Village, made you feel like, well, like you were watching a movie. Of cause being in a suburban New Jersey movie theater, complete with spoiled suburban adolescents, rather than in an off Broadway theater complete with peeling wallpaper might have had some effect as well.

A number of the reviews I had read panned some of the staging. I remember in particular one review which found the choreographed sequence in a subway train unrealistic. I’ve seen a lot weirder stuff than that in the NYC subway.

My last trip up from downtown during the summer found me a) sharing an aluminum pole with three gay journalists discussing the status of the next edition of their magazine and b) donating my loose change to a trio of acrobats that had just performed a tumbling routine INSIDE the moving subway train. In the past I’ve been treated to guitar, sax, trumpet and sitar concerts, plus poetry and impromptu Shakespeare readings on the subway. So don’t tell me a bunch of folks singing and spinning around the poles is unrealistic. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see that going on in the NYC subway.

On the way out I noticed something strange. Rent, a movie which contained references to Aids, drugs and homosexuality, was rated PG-13. The latest Harry Potter movie was also rated PG-13. I had to think about the implications of that for a while.

I finally concluded that it was a good sign. The drugs and sexuality which got Rent its PG-13, while critical to the plot, were incidental to the theme. Similarly, the scary images and fantasy violence which got HP its PG-13, were also incidental to the theme. I don’t think it would have been all that long ago that Rent would have earned an R rather than a PG-13 for its incidentals. I look upon that as progress and a sign that maybe, just maybe, some portions of American society are maturing.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

The movie opens tomorrow and I expect it to be very successful. It’s hard to believe that Walden Media and Disney could possibly screw this up. Besides I understand that many church groups are organizing private showings and that pastors around the country are ecstatic about the film WITHOUT EVEN SEEING IT!

That sort of tells me to beware. Personally I’ll wait until it gets to cable before checking it out. Knowing that its theme is a Christian Allegory designed to “prepare” children for accepting the truth of the gospels will probably ruin the movie for me. I suspect I’ll be rooting for the White Witch and having me clapping and cheering at the wrong times in the theater would be a real bummer for the kids.

GO JADIS!!! Errr, I mean, oh never mind.

Walden Media has a free Educator’s Guide to go with the books. I downloaded it for a quick look see. Included are 5 activities supposedly appropriate for grades 3-6 each of which cover two 45 minute sessions. All of them struck me as pretty much useless. I mean, how about we worry about the kids being able to READ before we worry about them doing any Narnia set design as in Activity 5 or creating Narnia costumes as in Activity 4.

Hey wait, here’s a radical thought, how about we teach them some SCIENCE! Bah, at least we have Harry Potter to balance things out.

Allow me announce the formation of the Black Wolves, bodyguard of Jadis the White Witch. Applications are now being accepted. Drop me a line with a short description of your qualifications.

“Faith Healers,” Divine or Deceptive?

No, I’m not asking the question as it’s going to be pretty obvious where I stand on a question like this. This is another treatise from the Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine, but this one has some good stuff in it that anyone, that’s thinking about going to a "Faith Healer" or supporting a "Faith Healer" with a donation, needs to heed.

The good pastor starts by pointing out that many people in history, Christian and non-Christian, have claimed healing powers. He then begins a winnowing process by asking a series of questions.

“Are all who claim to be healers, both so called Christian and non-Christian, of God?”

There’s no need to put on your thinking cap, the questions are purely rhetorical and the good pastor proceeds to immediately answer this one.

“…many people realize, myself included, that heathenish healings are fabricated stories based upon superstition or at best illusions of Satan.”

Note the definitiveness of the answer. Never does it enter into the good pastor’s mind that God might have a reason to instill this gift in a pagan.

The good pastor then continues.

“Are some, instead of all, so called Christian healers and healings of God?”

Note the “No Admittance” sign to the idea that perhaps NONE of the so-called Christian healers and healings are of God. This isn’t a possible response based upon how the question is phrased. One can only answer “some” or “all.”

Again the good pastor provides us with the answer.

“I do not think anyone would be so naive as to imagine that all "Christians" who claim to have the gift of healing really have it.”

I’m certainly with you on this one so let’s not quibble over the question of whether ANY of the “Christians” who claim to have the gift of healing really have it. Besides, now we get to the good part.

“This brings us to the question which this article has been written to answer, Has God given us a pattern in His Word, which will clearly show who does and who does not possess this gift? I believe that He has.”

Badda bing, badda boom! The good pastor, check that, I mean the Good Pastor, has made a study of all of the 42 healings in scripture and come to this remarkable conclusion.

“The Biblical standard for healers is very plain. If a man has this gift of God, he will always meet the following Biblical requirements.

(1) He will meet the Biblical example and heal everyone that comes to him for healing.
(2) He will heal any form of sickness known to man.
(3) He will heal any illness completely.
(4) The total healing will take place instantly without regard for the depth of the afflicted person’s faith.”

I am certainly NOT going to argue with the man. This Good Pastor has taken the time to provide us with EXTREMELY valuable information. If someone, ANYONE, claims the gift of healing, then based upon scripture he needs to be able to meet these four criteria. The Good Pastor then warns against false healers.

“The false healer will immediately reject this standard. He will seek out exceptions to the rule and twist Scripture till he conjures up one. This conduct proves he is a false healer!”

The Good Pastor also adds some special emphesis on the fourth requirement.

“The claim by many modern "faith healers" that the reason they do not heal everyone is because the sick person does not have enough faith is simply a smoke screen to cover the ‘healer’s’ deception. Not one single place in Scripture do we find that someone could not be healed because they lacked faith.”

BINGO! You have it straight from the horse’s mouth. Even I’ll tip my cap to anyone that can meet the Good Pastor’s four requirements.

Every pastor in every congregation should read this treatise at least once a year. Maybe then we can put these charlatans, who pray upon those in the greatest need, permanently out of business.

Who Killed Goliath in Your Bible?

This is the WINNER from the Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine.

This paper, written by someone identified as a pastor, addresses the differences between modern, 20th century, English translations of the bible and the King James Version. Included is the minor problem of who killed Goliath? David right? Probably, but there is at least one place in the Hebrew text that seems to contradict that.

The Hebrew text of 2 Samuel 21:19 says “In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod.”

Hold it, wait a minute. Who’s this Elhanan dude and what about the story of the shepherd boy and the sling and all that good stuff as told in 1 Samuel? Good question, especially considering that 1 Chronicles 20:5 doesn’t contradict 1 Samuel and says “In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver's rod.”

If one looks carefully at the verses surrounding 2 Samuel 21:19, and compares them with the verses surrounding 1 Chronicles 20:5, it appears that this is simply a scribal boo-boo. 2 Samuel 21 mentions three Philistines. Saph, killed by Sibbecai in 21:18. Goliath, killed by Elhanan in 21:19 and “a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot” killed by Jonathan, son of Shimeah, in 21:20-21.

But in 2 Samuel 21:22 it says “These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.”

Two problems with 2 Samuel 21:22. First there are only THREE Philistines mentioned and none of them are said to have been killed by David. Only David’s men are given credit for kills.

1 Chronicles 20 however DOES mention four. Sippai, killed by Sibbecai in 20:4. Lahmi, the brother of Goliath, killed by Elhanan in 20:5, Goliath, whom we were already told was killed by David himself in 1 Samuel 17, and “a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot” killed by Jonathan, son of Shimea, in 20:6-7.

Therefore based upon the preponderance of the evidence in 1 Samuel 17 and 1 Chronicles 20, it would appear that the omission of “Lahmi, the brother of” in 2 Samuel was the equivalent of a typo at some point in the copying history of the Tanakh.

Now for the fun part. However, the King James Version of 1611 CORRECTS the error in the Hebrew Masoretic Text or is based upon a source that corrected it. In the KJV 2 Samuel 21:19 says “And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver's beam.”

Virtually all of the modern translations stay true to the Hebrew text but add a footnote to the effect that Chronicles indicates that Elhanan slew the brother of Goliath and not Goliath himself.

So what’s the problem? Well, according to this paper “God promised His preserved words are pure” so how could there be such a blatant error? Obviously there can’t be so the KJV tells “the truth about Goliath and Elhanan” and “had this figured out way back in 1611” therefore one has to ask “Why do the modern Bibles lie when they record this well-known Bible fact?”

Although the paper promises to answer this question later on, it never really does. It simply provides additional examples of what it calls “the flagrant changes made to the words of God by modern 'scribes' and 'disputers'" and then quotes scripture about God making foolish the wisdom of this world which is what the inerrant bible tribe always quotes when scholarship comes up with anything that appears to contradict their cherished positions.

I guess this is an example of KJV Onlyism which sort of takes the position that the KJV is the ONLY reliable English translation of scripture. Some people even go further than that, and claim that the KJV is the only accurate bible, even more accurate than any of the ancient Greek manuscripts!

Notice how a simple decision to stay true to the Hebrew texts gets translated into lying. How about it was simply a bad decision? A lie implies that one KNOWS what he is saying is false and is attempting to deceive. Well clearly the modern translators are not attempting to deceive because they openly acknowledge the discrepancy in the footnotes.

As for some of the other “flagrant changes” identified to the New Testament, such as 1 John 5:7-8, the famous Johannine Comma, they are the result of (1) relying more upon the older Alexandrian type face than the Byzantine type face and (2) applying a critical text analysis to derive a common Greek New Testament rather than a simple majority text analysis.

While one can argue about the correctness of such decisions, it’s a little strong to declare that “the modern Bibles stand opposed to the pure words and nature of Almighty God.”

There are more than 5,000 whole and partial Greek manuscripts of the New Testament books and NONE of them match. Some process had to be used in an attempt to reproduce the original autographs as God appears to have NOT taken any effort to preserve them now has he?

The real problem of course is that after declaring the KJV the literal, inerrant Word of God for more than 300 years, it’s a little tough to realize that, while the language is gorgeous, the translation may in fact have a number of errors brought to light through the availability of older Greek manuscripts and modern scholarship.

The Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine

I’ve struck GOLD!! It was a pure fluke that I tripped over this web site. Let me tell you it’s a Gold Mine. There is enough stuff here to keep me busy until Jesus does come back The site is thoughtfully provided by the Baptist Pillar newspaper in Manitoba Canada and all of the treatises appear to be authored by members of the Baptist clergy.

I don’t know what to do? Keep reading or write about the papers I’ve already read! I guess the first thing to do will be to tuck away the web page for future reference.

The Topical Index of Baptist Doctrine

Ok, now that’s done I think I will go back to searching for THE most absurd paper. So far the one that says ALL modern bible translations LIE is in the lead. Uh-oh, I just found out there are about 20 papers in the same vein!! So many absurdities, so little time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Holidays from Dubyah

The Washington Post reports that the President walked right into the “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas” question by sending out holiday cards that wish his supporters a happy “holiday season.”

I haven’t received mine yet. Do you suppose the Post Office lost it? Could it be that Dubyah doesn’t appreciate me calling him a disgrace to the oval office or is it just that the members of the meandering herd are too far below the radar of important folk like Dubyah?

Predictably a number of demagogues on the Christian Right have gone ballistic over the “happy holidays” sentiment being used in lieu of “Merry Christmas.” If the intent behind including a verse from Psalm 28 on the cards was to prevent an uproar, it didn’t work.

Since I doubt there were too many non-Christians on Dubyah’s list, this strikes me as a pretty dumb move. A spokesperson for the White House justified the neutral greeting, unsurprisingly, by saying that the greetings are sent to people of many faiths but, also unsurprisingly, this didn’t mollify the conservative Christians moaning about attacks on Christmas.

I think the basic problem is that the Christian Right doesn’t recognize the concept of religious equality. They see their brand of Christianity as being inherently superior to all other religions and won’t rest until it’s treated that way. And if you don’t accord it the special recognition that they think it deserves, that’s the same thing as persecution because you’re denying their religion its rights.

What I find really comical is that if you took all the complainers on the Christian Right about the “happy holidays” thing, they would probably not be willing to consider each other’s brand of Christianity as being equal either. I especially laugh at those idiots of the Catholic League that haven’t figured out yet that Conservative Evangelical Protestants on the Christian Right consider Catholicism the religion of the Anti-Christ!

On a side note I’m having some problem figuring out which verse from Psalm 28 would have been even vaguely appropriate. The only one I can imagine would be verse 7, “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”

If they put that on the card they might as well have said “Merry Christmas.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Prophesy of St. Malachi

According to Malachi, Benedict the XVI may be the next to the last Pope. Or at least the next to the last Pope that Malachi predicted.

Legend has it that St. Malachi had a vision in the 12th century about the remaining popes, identifying each by a characteristic. Then the prophesy got lost for about 400 years re-emerging around the time of the election of Gregory XVI. A Jesuit scholar in the 17th century declared the prophesy a forgery and a number of critics have pointed out that while the descriptions of the 16th century popes are very accurate, things get much more general after 1590 or so.

However how accurate a three or four word descriptive title may be is more than a little subjective and some folks find the descriptions of the last four popes right on target. In other words the Woo-woo crowd is getting nervous.

John XXIII - Pastor et Nauta (pastor and marine) - prior to his election he was patriarch of Venice, a marine city, home of the gondolas.

Paul VI - Flos florum (flower of flowers) - his arms displayed three lilies.

John Paul I - De medietate Lunae - (of the half of the moon) - Albino Luciani, born in Canale d'Ogardo, diocese of Belluno, (beautiful moon) Elected pope on august 26, his reign lasted about a month, from half a moon to the next half...

John Paul II - De labore Solis - (of the eclipse of the sun, or from the labor of the sun) - Karol Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920 during a solar eclipse. He also comes from behind the former Iron Curtain. He might also be seen to be the fruit of the intercession of the Woman Clothed with the Sun laboring in Revelation 12 (because of his devotion to the Virgin Mary).

I consider this roughly equivalent to shooting an arrow and then drawing a bull’s eye around where it lands. If you throw out a wide enough net, birthday, birth place, birth family, previous position, you can probably find something to hang these descriptions on so I’m not terribly impressed.

For instance. let me try to apply them to myself.

pastor and marine - my last name is related to fishing, a marine occupation.

flower of flowers - my mother's maiden name was "Flora," flower in Italian and the original family name was "Di Flora," of flowers.

of the half of the moon - I may have been born, got married, been baptised, been confirmed, graduated high school, graduated college, or had some other event in my life occur at the half moon. As a matter of fact I guarantee I could find something or more likely several things.

from the labor of the sun - I come from the east coast where the sun labors to rise.

As for Benedict XVI, the description is Gloria olivae (glory of the olive). How does this relate to Benedict XVI? Well, the Order of Saint Benedict had a branch called The Olivetans.

How would it relate to me? My mother was Italian with olive skin so I could be a "glory of the olive."

Even if you want to believe in the prophesy, a number of people have pointed out that it doesn’t specifically say there are no more popes between Gloria olivae and Peter the Roman, who will lead the Church during the end times and the tribulation, it just may not mention them.

I call that insurance against the next Pope (a) NOT being a man that could be, by any stretch of the imagination, Peter the Roman and (b) there being another pope after that one.

So here’s the deal either (a) it’s really a forgery and we can ignore it, (b) it’s not a forgery but it’s as much nonsense as all other prophesies, (c) it’s true but there are lots of other popes between Gloria olivae and Peter the Roman so there’s no need to panic yet or (d) THERE’S ONLY ONE MORE POPE AFTER BENEDICT, REPENT YE SINNERS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, THE END IS NIGH!!!!

Yeah right, excuse me while I get all scared and everything. I vote for (a) or (b).

Who will meet at Armageddon?

Armageddon, the name rolls off of the tongue so smoothly. Armageddon, where the last battle will take place. Armageddon, gives you shivers doesn’t it?

Armageddon really means the hill at Megiddo and Megiddo is the site of an ancient city in northern Israel in the Jezreel Valley at what was once the intersection of the most important roads in the near east. There is evidence that the city itself may have been destroyed and rebuilt some thirty times. Megiddo was a place of bloodshed, war and death. As recently as 1917 the British and the Turks traded blows at Megiddo.

Now abandoned, the site at Megiddo is fueling disagreements about biblical archeology and whether new discoveries are confirming or contradicting the accounts in the bible. Opinions vary on this question from virtually everything discovered confirms the accuracy of the bible to archeology indicates that the bible is, at best, exaggerations and, at worst, pure mythology.

What I find interesting is that where you appear to be in the spectrum depends upon your degree of faith to begin with. Men of faith interpret everything as confirming the truth of the bible while men of little faith interpret everything as contradicting the bible with a compromiser or two in between. Not terribly surprising when one considers that there has to be a lot of interpretation in archeology.

I’m not going to express an opinion on this controversy other than to say it seems that the majority of scholarship appears to be on the side of the bible may be exaggerating in some cases and on the side of the bible may be surprisingly accurate in others.

A recent article in the Religion & Ethics (how’s THAT for two opposites!) Newsletter highlighted a conversation including one archeologist from each position. I found the quotes from each interesting.

From Dr. Bryant Woods, a man of faith – “Well, I think that scholars are undermining the Bible in trying to show that it is not historical -- that events did not happen.”

“Trying to show?” Is the implication here that the objective is to undermine the bible? Come on Doc, you should know that supposedly one goes where the evidence takes you.

From Dr. Israel Finkelstein, a man of less faith – “That is the bad part of biblical archaeology, you know. Rushing, roaming the field with the Bible in one hand and a spade in the other. And that is passé in a way, and that was wrong. And that led us astray for almost a century, if you are asking me.”

And now here’s Doc Finkelstein accusing the other side of the same thing. I might point out that there is nothing inherently wrong with starting with a hypothesis and then looking for evidence to substantiate it.

The rubber hits the road in how honestly one interprets what one finds relative to that hypothesis. Sounds to me like both archeologists are implying that pure objectivity isn’t always the basis of interpreting the discovered information. This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. We all interpret information in ways that favor our preconceptions.

It only becomes a problem when the interpretation becomes strained or unreasonable or evidence is suppressed in order to protect a cherished point of view.

Dr. Bryant Woods – “I think for the most part a person's faith is based on personal experience more than what some scholar says at some university. But on the other hand, they do influence mainly students, I would imagine. And some professor begins to tell them, ‘You know, the Bible is full of myth and folk stories.’ They might accept that, and that would turn them away.”

If it’s the truth, shouldn’t they be provided the information regardless of the potential consequences? This almost sounds like students shouldn’t be given accurate information if it might cause a reassessment of their faith. Does faith in something that is false have any value? Why must one assume that showing that the bible may not be 100% accurate undercuts other aspects of faith?

Dr. Israel Finkelstein – “I don't want to make anybody nervous; this is not my goal. I mean, I think that there must be a complete distinction between the scientific world and faith.”

There are several implications in this short sentence. First the acknowledgement that undermining someone’s faith is not the agenda. Providing an accurate historical description, regardless of the consequences, is the agenda. Second, there is the old idea that one can compartmentalize science and religion. You can both search for scientific truth and accept religious dogma. Not that long ago I would have agreed with this observation. I no longer agree with it. A man can’t have two masters. Each of us must choose between science and religion and the day is coming, if it’s not already here, when undermining faith WILL be the agenda.

From Dr. Ami Mazar, a compromiser – “It depends on the point of view. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

Nice compromise Ami baby. Sometimes this is right and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes one side is just plain wrong and the truth isn’t “somewhere in the middle.”

Dr. Bryant Wood – “The Book of Revelation says there is going to be a great final battle there -- in the end of days.”

Well, interestingly enough, I learned the other day that the bible doesn’t actually say that. It says that the armies of the Beast are gathered at Armageddon. Revelation 16:16 says “And he (the Beast I assume) gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”

As to where the battle actually takes place it’s not all that clear. It may actually be at Jerusalem.

The Moderator – “And the battle will be fought between the believers and the nonbelievers.”

Quite possibly, but if that’s the case, then the battle has already begun.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The 1,000th Execution Update

It wasn’t Virginia but North Carolina that held the 1,000th execution on December 2nd 2005. The governor of Virginia commuted the sentence of Robin Lovitt, who would have been the 1,000th, to life in prison without parole due to concerns that Lovitt could not pursue new DNA testing on crucial evidence that might have proved his innocence.

The 1,001st execution followed on the same day in South Carolina which brought the total so far in 2005 to 57. Four more are scheduled during December in California, Mississippi, Maryland and Pennsylvania. There are already 17 executions, including 10 in Texas, scheduled for the first 6 months of 2006.

Cowboys at Giants

Vengeance is sweet ain’t it? The Red clad Giants topped the Cowboys 17-10 at Giants stadium yesterday as we all waved our free towels from the NYSE. A good game all around with the only sour note being another clutch FG miss by Jay Feely in the 4th quarter that would have made the last couple of minutes less of a heart stopper. I think the kid’s confidence is completely shot now. Let’s see if Coughlin can figure out a cure.

The only problem is that both Philly and Washington are looking for a little revenge of their own in the next couple of weeks. Like I said last week, this thing is far from over.

The offense was good enough and it was the defense, again, that was spectacular holding the Cowboys to 4 net yards passing in the first half. The only TD given up was after a Manning interception which gave the Cowboys a 1st and goal at the 7 yard line.

In the meantime Washington beat St. Louis to stay in the hunt and the Eagles will host Seattle, who has now clinched the NFC West title thanks to the St. Louis loss, tonight. I would say this is a must win for the Eagles, another NFC loss would really cook their goose.

It’s about to get wild in the NFC East as the Giants (8-4) head down the New Jersey Turnpike for Philadelphia (6-6 or 5-7), Washington (6-6) heads for Arizona (4-8) and Dallas (7-5) hosts Kansas City (8-4).

Elsewhere around the league things are looking like this.

NFC North – Chicago (9-3) has a 2 game lead over Minnesota (7-5) and I suspect Chicago will win the title. I don’t expect Minnesota to qualify for the playoffs.

NFC South – Carolina (9-3) has a game lead over Tampa Bay (8-4) and a two game lead over Atlanta (7-5). This is a bit of a surprise. I really thought Atlanta would win this division. I still think things are up in the air. Big game next week as Tampa Bay heads for Carolina.

NFC West – Seattle (9-2) is in as division champion. No one else will make the play-offs.

AFC East – New England (7-5) with a two game lead over Miami (5-7) should win the division. No one else will make the play-offs.

AFC North – Cincinnati (9-3) with a two game lead over Pittsburg (7-5) will win the division. Pittsburg has a Wild Card shot, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

AFC South – Indianapolis (12-0) has clinched a play-off spot and has a three game lead over Jacksonville (9-3). Indianapolis wins the division and Jacksonville gets one of the Wild Card spots.

AFC West – Denver (9-3) has a one game lead over both Kansas City (8-4) and San Diego (8-4). Time to stick my neck out. San Diego wins the division including an upset over Indianapolis in Indianapolis and Kansas City gets the second Wild Card spot as I have a bad feeling about Denver going into the last four games just like I have a bad feeling about the Giants going into the last four games.

So, you heard it here first. It will be New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Diego, and Kansas City in the AFC and Seattle, Chicago and four other teams in the NFC. How’s that for a courageous NFC prediction?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

ACLU Newsletter for December

Un-huh, always an interesting read to say the least. Keeping in mind that the ACLU has been known to exaggerate from time to time, we look at the four headliners this month in the newsletter.

ACLU Argues Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood Before the Supreme Court

This is a challenge to a New Hampshire law requiring 48 hours notice to the parents of a child under 18 prior to an abortion. The challenge is not to the 48 hour notification but rather to the lack of a medical emergency exception to the notification requirement. The law was struck down by a lower court because of the lack of the exception.

This should be a slam dunk as Supreme Court precedent clearly requires exceptions to notification requirements when the health of the woman is involved. The fact that it’s not considered to be a slam dunk indicates how serious things are. This will be the first real indication of how Roberts will affect the future of the court.

Patriot Act Update: Don’t Believe the Spin

Dubyah tried to pull a fast one on the Patriot Act reauthorization and, basically, got nailed. Clearly the ACLU is rabidly opposed to the Patriot Act and there appears to be good reason to be suspicious of the current bill. To quote Ben Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

President Bush is Lying to Public About Torture Practices

Yup, Dubyah got caught in another lie and one almost as bad as the WMD lie. This whole fiasco reminds of a tongue in cheek debate I saw on the Bill Maher show a while back as to whether Dubyah was ignorant but not stupid or stupid but not ignorant.

Same sort of question here. Did Dubyah know and lie or was he too stupid to realize what was going on. Either way, how could anyone in his right mind have voted for this disgrace to the oval office.

Oh yeah, that’s right, Evangelical Christians voted him into office because they admired his position on “moral values.” I refer these people to the 8th commandment (9th if you’re Catholic).

Bush Staffers Silenced Denver Town Hall Participants

This one is fairly pathetic. According to a law suit filed by the ACLU by two people booted out of a Dubyah Town Hall discussion in Colorado, they were removed because of a anti-war bumber sticker on one of their cars.

According to White House event staffers, there is a White House policy prohibiting people from attending Dubyah public events if they hold a viewpoint other than that of the President!

Now the interesting question is why? Is it because Dubyah doesn’t want to hear about conflicting opinions or is the White House staff protecting him from knowing there are conflicting opinions!

Either way, this kind of stifling of public opinion and free speech is a disgrace. Uh-oh, what’s that knock on the door? Nah, I’m sure they’re only concerned when the press is around.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

South Africa OKs Gay Marriage

The Associated Press reports that South Africa's highest court has decreed that it is unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. The Constitutional Court has given the national parliment one year to change the definition of marriage so that it no longer is restricted to one man and one woman.

The South African Constitution, created in 1994 after the end of Apartheid, had banned discrimination based upon sexual orientation but heterosexual couples had a number of rights that weren't shared by gays. The court's decision will end that.

Wonderful. South Africa extends full rights to gays less than a month after Texas voters ok a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage for all time. Wouldn't it be nice to live in a land of freedom for everyone like South Africa?

Too bad I live in this country which, under the influence of your local Christian Church group, is accelerating it's march back into the Middle Ages.

Bailing out of DEFCON

This post is copied from Knights of Darwin. DEFCON stands for Defense of the Constitution and is a group that opposes the Religious or Christian Right. Part of their charter is to "respect" people of faith and their beliefs which I tend to have a hard time with, so...

I got into a bit of a disagreement with these folks. They seem to think I'm too "disrespectful" of people of faith and that I tend to "belittle" and "demean" their beliefs in my posts.

Yeah, that sounds about right. I plead guilty to that one.

DEFCON's strategy is apparently to form a broad coalition to protect against the more extreme elements of the Christian Right and this coalition is to incude "people of faith" so clearly I don't fit in. I'd probably have a hard time accepting some of the folks they would like to have as allies and I don't have anywhere near the diplomatic skills not to make it obvious. Continuing to post there with my "disrespectful," "belittling" and "demeaning" attitude isn't going to help them or me.

Oh well, their success is certainly not going to be affected one iota by what I think. I'm sure no one will miss me posting comments on their blog. While I'm suspicious of their methodology, I sympathize with their objectives and wish them luck.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gays in the Priesthood

The Vatican has released its long awaited pronouncement on the ordination of gays. Now all they need to do is issue an explanation of what the hell it means!

According to the Vatican if you've got "deep-rooted homosexual tendencies" or practice a "gay culture," then you can’t be ordained. However if you have "transitory" homosexual tendencies, which you have "overcome" for at least three years, then you’re ok.

Huh? Let me make sure I understand this. Errr, no, never mind, I admit I don’t understand it! If homosexuality is in fact genetic, as some people believe, this policy makes absolutely no sense. How does one “overcome” a genetic characteristic? That’s like asking someone to change their eye color from blue to brown.

The only way I can make sense out of this is if you’re still in the closet, come on down, but if you’re out of the closet, don’t bother. But all priests are supposed to be celibate aren’t they? So if you’ve had no sex for three years does that mean you’ve “overcome” your “transitory tendencies?” Do straight seminary candidates have to refrain from heterosexual sex for three years before entering the seminary? I’m confused as only the church can confuse you.

Then again, maybe one needs to look under the surface. Perhaps this is just the Vatican’s way of misdirecting the blame for the juvenile abuse scandal it’s been enduring by implying that it was those gays with "deep-rooted homosexual tendencies" that caused all the trouble and now we’ve resolved it. The only problem is that “gay” does not imply “pedophile” nor does it explain why it took so long for the church to face up to the problem.

So is this progress or a retreat into medieval thinking? If the Vatican is convinced that homosexuality is purely voluntary and the “tendency” can be “overcome” like a tendency to overeat can be overcome, then I vote for a retreat into medieval thinking.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Do we keep Jesus in the holdiays or succumb to the march of Political Correctness? It seems that there is a stronger than usual grumbling in the land among Christians about the former being replaced with the latter.

Yet secularism marches on. reports that even Wal-Mart, bastion of Red State America and the decline of good taste in general, has officially instructed its employees to use “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

I remember in my formative years thinking that Chanakkah was THE major Jewish holiday rather than a minor celebration on the Jewish calendar. “Merry Christmas” was the standard greeting since you assumed everyone was Christian, except those few you knew for a fact were Jews. No other religions counted because there were no other religions in the neighborhood and Kwanzaa hadn’t been invented yet. It was also common knowledge that atheists never celebrated anything worthwhile and didn’t exist in places where God fearing folks lived so they could be safely ignored.

Sending “Christmas Cards” got a bit tricky when you expanded your circle later on and couldn’t be 100% certain about religious affiliations. Under those circumstances “Happy Holidays” was a safe alternative. I’ve since solved that problem; I never send any cards around the holidays.

Needless to say this secularization on top of the rampant commercialization of Christmas has some folks, read that Conservative Evangelical Christians, up in arms. Now I tend to agree with the Evangelical Christian population in this country on absolutely nothing but this time they sort of have a point. Despite the fact that there are more Pagan traditions associated with Christmas today than Christian traditions, it is a Christian religious holiday isn't it? Isn't it bad enough that Jesus gets lost in the shopping spree without losing sight of why there is a shopping spree to begin with? Oh yeah, that’s right, there’s a shopping spree because the Romans used to give each other good luck gifts for the festival of Saturnalia, a tradition which the Church decided to tame and convert into a celebration of the birth of Jesus rather than abolish because it was so popular.

Well then, what about the sanctity of the day Jesus was born? Oh yeah, that's right, no one really knows what time of the year Jesus was born. December 25th was the date of the birth of Mithra and was also absorbed by early Christianity as a convenient date to celebrate the nativity. Oh yeah wise guy, well they only celebrated Mithra's birthday one day, what about the 12 days of Christmas? Oh yeah, that's right, that started in Mesopotamia with the festival of Zagmuk which was celebrated for 12 days before the New Year in order to assist the god Marduk in his struggle against the monsters of chaos. Yes, that's the same Marduk that supposedly dictated the Code of Hammurabi "so that the strong might not harm the weak."

Ahhh, but the sentiments of "Peace on Earth, Good will toward Men" are Christian and that's what Christmas should be all about right? Well, actually, the words may come from the Gospel of Luke but the sentiments also come from the Roman pagan winter solstice celebrations. By tradition, during the festival of Saturnalia, the courts were closed, the dispensing of punishments was suspended and, like with the Olympic Truce, even wars were halted during the celebration. The tradition of a "Christmas Truce" extends back to well before the birth of Jesus.

Ok, let’s face it, Christmas is never going to be a solemn Christian celebration ever again (assuming it ever was one to begin with). So does that mean the Christmas Season of happy memory should be totally absorbed by a secular Holiday Season? Instead of Christmas we have the combined holidays of Christmas, Chanukkah and Kwanzaa?

What the hell is Kwanzaa anyway? I had to look it up and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure I agree with all of its principles. I’m especially suspicious of Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) and Imani (Faith). The former strikes me as more than a tad clannish, always fraught with peril in a pluralistic society, and the latter strikes me as calling for unlimited faith in “leaders” which is always a bad idea. Besides, phrases like “the victory of our struggle” always cause me to raise an eyebrow or two. Bottom line, some of the Kwanzaa principles don’t strike me as particularly workable in a 21st century melting pot sort of country.

So where does that leave us? I sort of sympathize with Christians but I’m not particularly ready to promote the singing of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” at public school assemblies nor the putting up of 15 foot crèches, to the exclusion of other religious and secular symbols of the season, in front of the town hall. On the other hand, if a town that is 99.9% Christian decides to put up only a crèche, I wouldn’t necessarily be ready to sic the ACLU on them either. There is usually both a crèche and a menorah on display in my town. Although I don’t recall any Santas or Frostys contributing any secular content, I’m ok with that display as it is.

Simple courtesy says “Happy Holidays” is the way to go, but simple courtesy has never been a strong point of the average Evangelical Christian. So I guess this is another case of “do what you want” but don’t expect me to “do what you want.” Unfortunately that’s a message they don’t seem to get on any other question so there’s no reason to expect they’ll get it on this one.

Personally I tend to reverse my childhood strategy, now it’s “Happy Holidays,” unless I’m certain it’s a Christian I’m speaking to that would prefer “Merry Christmas.” Just for kicks, I think I’ll keep track of which people, and places, use which terms this year.

The 1,000th Execution

The 998th, 999th and 1,000th executions, since the resumption of the death penalty in 1977, are scheduled for the last week of November and would bring the number of executions in 2005 to 56.

The 998th is scheduled to occur in Arkansas, which would be the state’s first this year; the 999th is scheduled to occur in Ohio, which would be the state’s fourth in 2005 and the 1,000th is scheduled in Virginia which would be the first this year in that state and the 95th since executions resumed. Only Texas, with 355 executions, has executed more folks in the modern era than Virginia.

Fourteen states have executed someone this year and five are scheduled to perform their first execution of the year in the five weeks left in 2005. Some Holiday spirit.

If all of the ten executions scheduled between now and the end of the year occur, there will be a total of 63, an increase of four from the 59 last year. We’re going in the wrong direction.

Connecticut performed its first execution in the modern era, the fourth in the Northeast and the first in the Northeast outside of Pennsylvania. The prisoner executed in Connecticut was what is known as a “volunteer,” which implies that he waived some or all of the available appeals. In other words, for whatever reasons, he chose to die. All of the executions in the Northeast have been volunteers.

I harp on the Northeast because I find the disparity in the application of the death penalty between the South and the Northeast prima facie evidence that the administration of the death penalty is totally screwed up. There just can’t be that many more criminals deserving of the ultimate penalty in one region of the country as opposed to another region. It just ain’t freaking possible!

Even the healthy difference in the murder and violent crime rates doesn’t explain how the hell there have been 816 executions in the South since 1976 and only 4, yes that’s right FOUR, in the Northeast. Will someone please explain this to me? Assuming the three scheduled executions occur, 818 of the 1,000 executions will have occured in the South. For those REALLY bad at math, that's 81.8% of the executions!

The Supreme Court has decreed that the death penalty is to be reserved for only the most heinous crimes and the most culpable criminals. How the hell can there be that many more heinous crimes or culpable criminals in the South than in any other region of the country? I don’t care how you slice it or dice it, there is no way in pluperfect hell that this is “equal protection” under the law.

Live Lingerie Models?

Ok I confess, I check the Court TV website. It’s not that I enjoy wallowing in the depraved side of human nature it’s just that, well, hmmm, maybe I do enjoy wallowing in the depraved side of human nature. See, you learn something about yourself every day.

Anyway, Court TV reports that a store in Augusta Maine is raising some eyebrows by using live lingerie models in its window. I could have accepted New York or Los Angeles maybe, but Augusta Maine? Reactions range from “it attracts more customers” to “it’s morally reprehensible.” Well, I think calling it “morally reprehensible” is a tad strong, but where does one draw the line? Complaints to the police have been ignored because, it turns out, that there's nothing illegal about it. The town fathers, and mothers, of Augusta never, in their wildest dreams, ever thought that this might someday be an issue.

Ok, look, I’m no prude, but somehow the image of scantily clad ladies strutting their stuff in the store window while the family is strolling by on their Holiday shopping doesn’t do it for me. The image just has a sour taste about it. The story doesn’t say, but do you suppose the store window is also decorated merrily in the spirit of the season?

I’m sorry, while it may not be “morally reprehensible,” it’s sure in bad taste.

Giants at Seattle

What can I say? Oh Jay, OH JAY!! It must have been a really long trip home for Feely & the rest of the Giants yesterday. Three chances to win the game and Jay comes up empty on all three. Now that was a really awful way to lose.

When you're paid to do one thing, it would be nice if you could do it when the chips are down. To miss three straight game winning field goals of 40, 54 and 45 yards is pretty damn bad especially when prior to that you'd only missed three all year! Ok, the 54 yarder was a mistake to even try, but the other two you have to make. Then there was Holgram having the smarts to call time out on Shockey's bobbled catch to give the replay booth time to review it. Pretty slick.

So the special teams get the goat horns again this week while both the offense and defense got the job done. Amani's fantastic catch for the last second touchdown and a two point conversion to tie the game wasted. Final score, Seahawks 24, Giants 21.

The Eagles were the only winners in the NFC East this week as the plot thickens. All of the other teams lost in overtime games. I'm beginning to think God is an Eagles fan.

So it's the big game next week with Dallas coming into Giants Stadium. Unfortunately the game is occuring too early in the season. A lot can still happen in the four games to follow but let's play it one game at a time.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Legio XIII Gemina

I finally got around to looking up the 13th Legion or, more properly, the Legio XIII Gemina. This is the official title of the 13th Legion, of HBO’s Rome fame. The Legion was formed by Julius Caesar for the campaign in Gaul sometime around 57 BCE and was with Caesar at Alesia.

The 13th was in fact the sole Legion with Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon in 48 BCE. The legion, as Livy put it, with which Caesar assaulted the world. It was also with him at Pharsalus. After the defeat of Pompey the legion was pensioned off and decommissioned.

The 13th was reformed in 41 BCE by Octavian for a campaign in Sicily against Sextus Pompeius the son of Pompey the Great. One article claims that soldiers of the 13th saved Octavian’s life in Sicily. The 13th is also rumored to have been with Octavian at Actium.

Well, well, that’s encouraging. We can start off next season with Octavian reforming the 13th Legion and having Vorenus take command. I’m trying to imagine Pullo as a Centurion. Nah, it would never work.

After Actium the 13th got its title “Gemina” when it was reinforced from other disbanding legions. The legion appears to have remained active along the northern border of the Empire, primarily in the province of Dacia, until around 400 CE, when it appears to have simply dissolved as pay and supplies stopped coming from Rome. The symbol of the 13th was the Lion. History is silent about the fate of the Eagle of the 13th Legion.


Hmmm, well, I said I was going to be disappointed, and I was right. I will admit, while I saw diverting Vorenus by telling him about Lucius’ real parentage coming, I never in a million years thought they would kill off Niobi. I’m crushed. While she wasn’t anywhere near one of my favorites on the show, she was a bedrock that could be relied upon. Like I said, I’m crushed.

Will had Caesar say et tu Brute but not HBO. Unfortunately Brutus doesn’t strike such a heroic figure at the assassination waiting until the very end and looking for all the world like he was uncertain about what he was doing. Not the stuff that legends are made from.

Elsewhere, Antony didn’t look too thrilled, but he didn’t take any action either. Probably a good move on his part although I suspect he could have taken all of them out right then and there. Servilia gets a tremendous amount of pleasure explaining to Atia that Caesar’s gone to meet the gods and how she’s going to make Atia suffer. Threatening people is always a bad idea. If you’re going to nail them, then freaking nail them, don’t give them warning. Never telegraph your blows. In this particular instance Servilia has managed to make an enemy of Octavian which, although there’s no way she could know it, was a really bad idea.

Then there’s Pullo and Eirene. Eirene goes from holding a dagger to the throat of Pullo, to spitting in his porridge to, in the final scene, walking down a country lane with him hand in hand.
So when the hell do we get the second season? I can’t wait until next September! This is cruel and unusual punishment! What’s going to happen? Certainly we get the next round of civil war and, I would suspect, at least the start of the love affair between Antony and Cleopatra.

Historically, with the death of Caesar, the story should center on Octavian and his sister Octavia. Octavia ends up married to Antony by Senatorial decree and then discarded by Antony for Cleopatra.

I can just imagine how well received a marriage between Octavia and Antony would be received by Atia so that should be fun. So should watching the building conflict between Antony and Octavian. If they just follow the historical line, there’s enough drama to make everyone happy.

So far they've stayed only with the sketchiest outline of historical events. For instance Octavia's first husband was of Consular rank and they had three children. In the show, her first husband appears to have been of lower rank, and they had no children. Nor did they bother to have Caesar adopt Octavian and they skipped the Veni, Vidi, Vici Battle of Zela against King Pharnaces so it's hard to say how close they'll follow what actually occured.

As far as time frames are concerned, the assassination occurs in 44 BCE, and the battle of Phillippi in 42 BCE. Antony hooks up with Cleopatra around 38 BCE and the battle of Actium occurs in 31 BCE so there's plenty of time here. The first season ran from just before the crossing of the Rubicon (Iacta alea est!) in 48 BCE to the ides of march in 44 BCE. So if the second season runs about 4-6 years as well it could end with the beginning of the Antony and Cleopatra affair.

Oh yeah, we could have the Senatorial decree forcing the marriage of Antony and Octavia, Antony's funeral oration (Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!), Antony settling Cicero's hash, and another reversal of fortune between Atia and Servilia. The very thing soap operas are made of.

As for Vorenus and Pullo, who knows? I’m still hoping that Vorenus, Pullo and Timon hook up with Octavian for the coming conflicts, first with Brutus, and then with Antony. I will give the show credit for one thing. Brutus is shaping up as the sole sympathetic character. Or at least he would be if he showed a little more backbone.

So far no sign of Lepidus or Agrippa. Lepidus isn't terribly necessary but Agrippa is. I wonder if the show would dare replace Agrippa with Vorenus? What's a little additional rewriting of history?

Oh, I can’t wait. I’m so excited. When are the DVDs going to be available? I’m a certified Rome junky. Yeah right. Oh well, it was fun, while it lasted.

Eagles at Giants

Ugly as sin, but anytime we beat the Eagles, I’ll take it. Both teams looked sluggish and meandering with the exception of Mike McMahon who looked like a man who had something to prove. I’d say he proved it. Final score Giants 27, Eagles 17.

Yeah but it was a lot closer than a 10 point game. Even with only 23 seconds left I’m glad the Eagles missed that field goal especially given the weird ways the Giants have lost to them over the years.

Again the defense looked good, the special teams were solid this week, after the disaster last week, and the offense sort of yucky through three quarters, and then kaboom, fourteen points in the last quarter. Is it that they have to tire the opposing defense out? I don’t get it. If Eli and company can ever start putting whole games together they way they play the 4th quarter, they’ll be dangerous.

Two weeks ago, after the T.O. suspension, I said the next two games could make or break the Eagles season. Two wins and they would be back in the hunt and two loses and they would be just about finished. They lost both but certainly weren’t blown away in either game. That reflects well on the players and coaching staff. After all the hullabaloo, and now with McNabb out, to still give both Eastern Conference rivals a run for their money was impressive. That being the case, even though they lost both games, I’m not quite ready to write them off although its a long, very long, shot.

The Giants have a tough last six games. Four of them are on the road including two on the West Coast, one at Philadelphia and the other at Washington. That’s no bed of roses and the two home games are Dallas and Kansas City. Dallas isn’t much better off with both Denver and Carolina on their schedule.

Assuming things stay close, the last weekend could be interesting. The Giants play Oakland on Saturday, New Years Eve at 8 PM. Philadelphia hosts Washington at 4 PM New Years Day and Dallas winds up the season against St. Louis at 8:30 PM New Years day.

The big problem Philly has is that the Giants and Cowboys play each other in two weeks and somebody has to win. At least I think somebody has to win. If there are two teams that could figure out how to both lose, these are the two.

Then there’s always Washington…

Friday, November 18, 2005

What to do if you miss the Rapture?

As I’ve said before, every once in a while you run across a web site that is, to say the least, "interesting."

Following a trail from DEFCON about the Vanity Fair article on Tim LaHaye, the author of the “Left Behind” series, I got to the page of an associated ministry entitled “The King is Coming.” One of its subpages is entitled “What to do if you miss the Rapture?”

Since they appeared quite serious about this, and I really wanted to know what kind of advice they were going to give, I decided to check it out.

What a gyp! They didn’t tell me what to do! They just hit me with the same tired story about how God is going to spirit away all the Christians just before things start going all to hell and then they tell me to send away for their free booklet about “What to do if you miss the Rapture?”

Oh well, how about we consider some of the information on the page.

“When will this amazing event (The Rapture) take place? It will take place at the onset of a terrible 7-year period of time the Bible calls the Tribulation.”

So it’s going to happen just before the Tribulation. And when is the Tribulation going to occur? Why just after the Rapture.

“During those gruesome days, over half the population of the world will die amidst wars, natural catastrophes, plagues, as the result of economic manipulation, and especially at the nefarious hand of an evil world ruler known in the Bible as the Antichrist.”

How the hell does one die “as the result of economic manipulation?”

“Are we close to that event even now? Well, if you are a Christian, the answer is ‘Happily, yes!’ The Bible is full of signs that indicate the approach of the Tribulation. Globalism, a united Europe, interlaced economies and mounting technology all point to the nearness of that time.”

Sigh, of course none of these signs are in fact in the bible. For example it doesn’t say when the “European Economic Community is formed,” rather it warns against things like a ten headed beast which in reality doesn’t make any more sense today than it did in the 2nd century. Come to think of it, it probably makes less sense today.

Notice that Christians are supposed to consider the end of the world a GOOD thing.

But never mind that, what I want to know is if God is going to save all the Christians from the Tribulation, why do you have a booklet about what to do if you’re left behind? You figure God might make a mistake?

“However if you are not a Christian, the answer for you is 'Sadly, yes!' Sadly, because if you do not move quickly and come to believe in Jesus as Savior before the Rapture, you will be left behind after the Rapture to take your chances with the Antichrist and the world of his oppression.”

Notice the assumption that “belief” is a choice. The fact of the matter is that I can no more control what I believe than I can control the color of my eyes. Let’s see now, since I really can’t control what I believe, I guess I’m going to be stuck in a world with no more Christians. ALRIGHT!!! The party is at my house!

“Your chances of survival will be less that 50/50, and most of those who will survive will be forced to join the new Satanic world economic system. But beware, the Bible says that joining that economic system (called the Mark of the Beast) will involve aligning yourself with the Antichrist, which will erase any chance you have to come to salvation.”

So is this a form of the unforgivable sin? According to Jesus, in Matthew 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

Let me make sure I understand this properly. Assuming I manage to survive, I’m going to be FORCED to align with this Antichrist dude, and that means I lose all chance of salvation. Being FORCED to join the “economic system” of the Antichrist is tantamount to a blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? What the hell kind of “economic system” could this possibly be?

This would have been a good spot for a quote from scripture to demonstrate that the bible says any such thing. The "Antichrist" and "The Mark of the Beast" comes from Revelations which is such gibberish you could convince yourself it says almost anything you want it to. The synod must have been either drunk or hung over when they decided to include John's Apocalypse in the canon. The fact that they thought, incorrectly, that the author was the Apostle John probably was a factor too. So much for the idea of infallibility.

I can’t believe that there are people out there that actually believe this crap. The folks sponsoring these web pages don’t believe it, because on virtually every page they unabashedly ask for donations, so it’s easy to figure out where they’re coming from.

This is hucksterism at its worst. First you try to scare the hell out of someone who’s too ignorant to realize what you’re up to, then you hold out salvation and then you ask for money. This con game as been going on since the day after the first hooker opened up shop.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Denying the Holocaust

Let’s get one thing straight right off the top, I think anyone that denies that the Holocaust, the murder of some 6 million Jews by the Nazis in WW II, is either seriously misguided, a fascist or an idiot.

That being said, I’m absolutely stunned by a report in the Associated Press that David Irving, a sort of rump historian from the UK, was ARRESTED in Austria and charged with denying the Holocaust!

In seems the Austrians have a law against that and Irving could face up to 20 years in prison.

This is Political Correctness run amuck. I have my problems with Irving’s apparent admiration for Hitler as well as the position he takes in his book “Hitler’s War” that Hitler may have been unaware of what his underlings, especially Himmler, were up to, and that the extent of the Holocaust was less than believed, BUT I’m not about to throw him in jail for it!

On the plus side, there is some doubt as to whether there are sufficient legal grounds for continuing to hold Irving so many years after the “crimes” occurred. Read that, he wrote the damn book over a decade ago.

Excuse me while I go curl up with my copy of the 1st Amendment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Christmas Taste

Or, rather, the lack of it. The local Stop & Shop has a nice salad bar that I walk over to in order to get lunch. A while back, they got in a shipment of 8 foot tall soft plastic Christmas Snow Globes which I assume are for lawn ornamentation. They had a Santa and an elf inside and tiny styrofoam spheres being blown about to simulate snow.

They set one up on display and, I mean, IT WAS TRULY HIDEOUS LOOKING. To make matters even worse, they had a price tag of $149.99. There were about 20 of them to begin with and, believe it or not, just about all of them are gone. There’s only three left and they’re still selling for $149.99. It’s not like they were reduced to $10 or anything.

Why the hell would anybody want something like that? I can think of a lot of good stuff I could buy for $149.99! Somebody is actually going to put this thing on their lawn? Can you get a ticket for poor taste? Give me a break! I’m sure you can do a lot better than this!

Christmas distaste in alive and well and living in the vicinity of Clifton New Jersey.

Church Sign Generator

Every once in a while you run across a truely delicious web site. On this one you can generate your very own church sign and then, for a modest fee, even get it made into a magnet.

You can waste hours playing with this Church Sign Generator.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Birmingham News Changes Death Penalty Stance

The Birmingham News has now declared itself as opposed to the death penalty. The newspaper gave a number of reasons, both practical ones, and ethical ones. In terms of ethics, which the newspaper declared as the foremost reason, the News declared “this newspaper's editorial board is committed to a culture of life. . . . We believe all life is sacred. And in embracing a culture of life, we cannot make distinctions between those we deem 'innocents' and those flawed humans who populate Death Row.”

The News went on to cite numerous issues with the manner in which the death penalty is administered including “disturbing questions about the fallibility of our justice system,” and the arbitrariness of death sentences.

This is an important declaration from an influential newspaper, in a death penalty state, in the region of the country which applies the death penalty most often. Of the 994 executions in the United States since 1976, 813 have been in the South, and 34, including 4 this year, have been in Alabama.

I can’t fault the logic of the Birmingham News. The justice system is fallible, perhaps even more fallible than usually with respect to the death penalty, and even a cursory look shows that the application of the death penalty is arbitrary. Not only does it vary by region of the country, it varies by state, by county within a state, by race of the victim and even by the personal inclination of the prosecutor.

Due to the high profile nature of death penalty cases and the pressure to obtain convictions, there have been repeated instances of prosecutorial and police misconduct associated with capital cases including withholding exculpatory evidence, coaching witnesses and using illegal means to obtain, often bogus, confessions.

This isn’t justice, its freaking chaos.

How the hell can anybody justify a penalty that has been exercised, since 1976, 813 times in the South, 115 times in the Midwest, 62 in the West and only 4 times in the Northeast, 353 times in Texas and NEVER in New York. To make things even worse, all 4 of the executions in the Northeast have been of so-called “volunteers,” people who refused to appeal their sentence for one reason or another.

Are people that much more evil in Texas than in New York? What makes southerners so much more likely to execute people than folks in other regions of the country?

It’s the South that yells about “moral values” and the “sanctity of life” yet has the highest murder rate, the highest execution rate and the highest violent crime rate in the country. Is the word “hypocrisy” coming into anyone’s mind?

Ok, enough South bashing, at least the Birmingham News is facing up to the unpleasant facts and has the courage to change it’s position based upon those facts.

Of course saying that they "believe all life is sacred" probably means we disagree on the question of abortion access, but we'll fight that one out some other day. Today the Birmingham News gets a Good Guy star.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Worrying about Alito

Ok, I’ll admit it, my early wait and see attitude toward Judge Samuel Alito was probably based in large part upon my relief that Miers was out of the picture. While I was perfectly aware that this might have been precisely the strategy, after an initial review of Alito’s decisions, while it was clear he was conservative, I didn’t see any evidence that he had much of an agenda.

Now the AP report on the contents of some papers written by Alito during the Reagan administration has me a bit concerned. Actually it has me more than a bit concerned. Alito is quoted by the AP as saying “I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion,”

Coupling this statement with the AP's report that Alito told a group of senators in a private meeting “that he had ‘great respect’ for the precedent set by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion, but he did not commit to upholding it,” implies a lot more than his dissent in Casey that Roe v. Wade might be in big trouble with Alito on the bench.

Maybe he has promised his aging mother to overturn the case.

Even more troubling are reported statements to the effect that he supported “the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values” and disagreed with Warren Court decisions in the area of the Establishment Clause.

I’d for damn sure like to know WHAT Warren Court decisions in the area of the Establishment Clause he disagreed with and why as well as what is his definition of “traditional values?”

#2 daughter reports that in private assessments, rather than public pronouncements, some of the faculty at Seton Hall is saying that while Alito is a nice guy, he’s SO conservative that he thinks poodle skirts and bobby socks are the height of risqué fashion.

Here’s hoping our hero, Sir Russell of Feingold, shall, shining armor all aglow, advance to do battle with the Alito! Hazzah Sir Russell! Nah, only kidding, I’m still keeping an open mind here, but I am a lot more nervous now than I was before and I'll be watching the performance of the Judiciary Committee with fingers crossed that they do the right thing by the American people. We don't need another justice with a personal agenda like Thomas and Scalia.

Is it possible that Alito is a WORSE choice than Miers? No, I don’t believe that as I’m sure Alito’s qualifications are a lot better than simply admiration for Dubyah’s special brand of incompetence. The idea of a Supreme Court Justice going around saying “Oh George, you were simply the bestest governor and now you’re simply the bestest president in the whole wide world” made me nauseous.

Feingold in 2008!

Russell Feingold of Wisconsin is my early favorite for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008. Why you ask? Because there is NO QUESTION about where this man stands on things and he's a maverick who’s not afraid to go against the flow when it’s necessary.

Let’s get down to specifics shall we.

This is the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. I’ll bet a lot of Democrats would like to make that claim now. Russ has said “the Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society.”

Ben Franklin said one time, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. “

Russell Feingold appears to understand that.

On Civil Rights Feingold says "America was founded on the principle of freedom for all people, and I strongly believe that the civil rights of all individuals should be vigorously upheld regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, genetic make-up, or sexual orientation.”

That’s what I call giving it to you right from the shoulder. There’s nothing tentative about this guy.

“Upholding the rights of all citizens has proven to be a struggle throughout our history, but nothing worthwhile is achieved without a struggle.”

Like Thomas Paine once said, the harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.

Moving on to the death penalty, Russ says, “I oppose the death penalty in all cases.”

That’s pretty damn clear. Are we sure this guy is really a politician? Isn’t there a rule about senators establishing clear cut sensible positions? Aren’t they supposed to be more wishy washy?

On the environment, Russ says, “I will continue to work hard to protect our public lands, ensure safe drinking water and breathable air, end environmentally harmful subsidies, and preserve the quality of Wisconsin's environment."

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, which consists of 84 hunting and trapping organizations in the state, and the National Wildlife Federation presented Senator Feingold with the 2004 Conservation Service Citation for his efforts to protect water quality and fight for wetlands protections. The National Parks and Conservation Association has recognized Senator Feingold’s perfect 100% voting record for supporting legislation to protect and conserve our national parks AND the senator was a volunteer ranger at Devil's Island on Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

I’d say this guy puts his money where his mouth is on the ecology. I assume he would extend his concern for the environment to the whole country as President. What a concept! A President who actually wants to do good things for the American ecology!

On education, the senator says, “I am dedicated to improving educational opportunities for every American at every level, from preschool and beyond.”

Citing that every district is unique Feingold has opposed federal testing standards and supports maintaining local control.

Federal testing standards make absolutely no sense. Not only is every district different but every child is different too. We need more teaching not more testing and it's the local level that's best qualified to know the best way to make this happen. The Federal Government should send money when necessary but otherwise keep it's inefficient nose out.

The senator has also worked to expand the availability of Pell Grants to help insure access to a college education for those perhaps less able to afford one.

On the issue of choice, Russ says, “I support the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade to uphold a woman's right to reproductive freedom, and I believe that abortions should be rare, legal, and safe.”

Rare, legal and safe PRECISELY matches my thoughts on the subject. I just never heard it expressed that well before. Sorry Russ, but I'm stealing that way of expressing a position on abortion. I'll give you credit occasionally, when I remember.

And the senator says, “Equal pay for equal work is the law of the land, but that promise remains unfulfilled for many…unfair wage disparities continue to be a problem.”

There’s only one area where we disagree. He only has two daughters while I have three.

Clearly it’s way too early to know how corrupted Feingold will become if things really get serious, but, at least for the moment, Feingold’s my man.

The senator is on the Senate Judiciary committee so I'll be tracking any interchanges with Samuel Alito rather closely. Feingberg, correctly in my opinion, supported Judge Roberts. Should be interesting to see how he reacts to Alito.

Want to learn more about Russ? Go here, Senator Russell Feingold.

Wrongful Life?

CourtTV reports on a case in Australia where a permanently disabled woman is suing the doctor that “allowed her to be born.” The plaintiff is asking for the expenses associated with a lifetime of being “mentally retarded, spastic, deaf and blind.”

Allegedly the doctor misdiagnosed a case of rubella in the first trimester of the mother’s pregnancy. The mother claims if she had known, she would have opted for an abortion rather than give birth to a potentially seriously disabled child.

It’s the child, now 24 years old, that has brought the case, or perhaps more accurately, a guardian has filed the case on her behalf. A statute of limitations prevents the parents from suing.

Well, well, what does one make of this? Interestingly the article says that this isn’t the first case in this vein and discuses three others, a second Australian case, one in New York and another in California. Only the case in California appears to have had any success. There, reports CourtTV, “an appeals court found a testing laboratory responsible for the medical costs associated with the care of a child whose parents were not informed of the potential for a certain genetic disease being passed onto the fetus.”

I guess I can understand folks suing under these circumstances. If they had been given the proper information, an abortion might have been an option which raises an interesting moral question. Under these circumstance, how is preventing the fetus from developing any different from infanticide once the child is born?

They’re different only because one is legal and the other isn’t. I would imagine this would be the line of the Right to Life Tribe. But what kind of quality of life are we talking about? Doesn’t that matter?

Of course it does. I don’t see condemning the unborn child to a lifetime of misery as particularly taking the moral high ground.

HBO’s Rome, Episode 11

Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! Blood and guts and veins in my teeth! Go 13th! Wow, the arena stuff was simply brutal even for HBO, but you notice how the sex and nudity has just about disappeared. Very strange.

Only one episode left and things are coming to a head. The Ides of March are right around the corner, but I’m having lots of trouble figuring out where we’re going after that. Octavian tries to help Pullo out, which at least demonstrates that he has some sense of loyalty, but it’s Vorenus that rescues Pullo, despite the fact that Pullo is an admitted murderer several times over. I got a kick out of Timon’s antics in this show. Here’s hoping he plays a bigger role in future shows (assuming there are any future shows).

So, Brutus has decided to play hero of the Republic (duh, surprise, surprise), Antony is back shacking up with Atia and Cleopatra is still lost to the world. I’m wondering if the interchange with Caesar’s veterans isn’t an indication that Vorenus may still have a key role to play with the army, not to mention the antics in the arena where Pullo and Vorenus uphold the honor of the 13th Legion. You’ll notice none of the legionaries guarding the arena tried to stop them from leaving. The final scene with Posca and Erastes makes it plain that Caesar is in fact a tyrant hiring murderers in the night, but Vorenus owes allegiance to Antony and Pullo to Octavian.

Hmmm, the best ending would find Brutus and Cassius fleeing Rome after the assassination of Caesar and Antony, Vorenus, Pullo and Octavian joining forces to avenge Caesar’s death. Antony would be accepting Octavian just to keep Atia happy not considering him to be much help or any threat, but happy to have his name. Perhaps Antony could even assign Vorenus and Pullo as Octavian’s personal guards. Then we can watch Octavian develop into Augustus next season.

But, the critical question is, will Niobe develop some fashion sense? Tsk, tsk, apparently the dress she wore to Caesar’s party wasn’t at the cutting edge of fashion at all.

I’m sure I’ll be disappointed in the finale next week and if they have another season, by the time it comes around, I’ll have forgotten this one but it’s been fun. I wonder when the DVDs will be available?

Vikings at Giants

OH MY GOD WHAT A DISASTER!!! Talk about weirdness. The Vikings became the first team in NFL history to return an interception, a kick-off AND a punt for touchdowns. At the start of the second half, after the kick-off return, the Vikings had more than twice as many points, 14, as they had offensive yards!

And then, the topper, after holding the Vikings to zippo all day, the Giant defense lets them mount the winning drive in the last minute of the game. Like I said, talk about weird.

Final score Vikings 24, Giants 21. I give up on giving ratings. It’s a hell of a lot harder than it looks. Aside from rating the Special Teams AWFUL, how does one rate an offense that was miserable the entire game but came through in the clutch to tie things up, and a defense that was spectacular the whole game but caved in the final minute? Clutch and Choke? Like I said, I give up.

Yup, yesterday was one for the books. Too bad we came out on the short end of it. Here’s hoping this isn’t the beginning of another total collapse. I said that 8-8 would be a good year and, looking at the remaining schedule, I’m still thinking 8-8 or 9-7 is about the best we’re going to do.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Florida and Narnia

A statewide contest to encourage reading scheduled to coincide with the release of a major motion picture? Sounds like a great idea! So why are these people complaining?

CourtTV reports on a brewing controversy in Florida. The state has set up a reading contest around C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” which is scheduled to be released as a motion picture on December 9, 2005. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) has pointed out that the Narnia series is widely viewed as a Christian Allegory intended to convey the fundamental truth of Christianity and therefore the contest violates the principle of “religious neutrality” in schools.

The AUSCS is not asking the book be removed from the contest, simply that other books be made available. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian advocacy group, has said they will support in court any school threatened with a legal claim free of charge.

A spokesman for the ADF is quoted as saying "I am dumbfounded how they believe students shouldn't be reading this book in the contest. It violates freedom of speech."

The same spokesman is also quoted as saying that numerous books encouraged to be read in schools have religious undertones, including "The Lord of the Rings," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Oh boy, where to start with this one. I guess a couple of observations.

First of all the ADF, since I’m certain they can comprehend the English language, is clearly being dishonest when it implies that the AUSCS wants to prevent anyone from reading the book. The AUSCS has no problem with the book being part of the contest it simply is asking for alternate choices. What the hell is the problem with that? The “numerous books” with “religious undertones” especially “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Diary of Anne Frank” strike me as a pretty good list of alternates!

Not that I agree that these books are in the same class as the admittedly Christian Allegory of C.S. Lewis. “The Lord of the Rings” does include a weak pagan fantasy mythology that I would hardly call a “religious undertone” and any “religious undertones” in the “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “To Kill a Mockingbird” are INCIDENTAL to the story and not a central theme.

If there isn’t a Christian Agenda here why is the ADF getting involved? I could understand if the AUSCS wanted to censor the book or have it removed from the contest, but that’s not the case. It simply wants other choices. Why not include Harry Potter? The next HP movie is due on November 18.

This strikes as another example of Christianity claiming rights for itself that no one else has. It’s ok to push a Christian allegory in a public reading contest and no one has the right to complain. I’m still looking for an explanation as to WHY adding other books would be a problem if the sole purpose is to encourage reading? Wouldn’t a LARGE selection of quality books do a better job of encouraging kids to read?

While I believe the legal case is a bit shaky as there is clearly a secular purpose here, the state of Florida and Jeb Bush could be a little more aware that even Florida is a plural society and not everyone believes Christianity is a good thing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Victory for Choice in California

In another election result, the good people of California, in addition to telling Governor Arnie where to get off, defeated, by a healthy margin, an Abortion Notification measure which would have required the notification of the parents of girls 17 and under getting an abortion. California would have been the 35th state with such a notification law.

Generally the American public approves of Abortion Notification measures especially where minors are concerned. Exactly why the California measure was so soundly defeated is open to debate. It could indicate a shift away from favoring notification measures. Another possibility is that the strong language in the measure defining abortion as an act that causes "the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born," which is very different from the more neutral language used in statutes elsewhere, might have been too much for Californians to swallow.

Or perhaps, while voting NO on all of Arnie's propositions, some California voters got in a rut and voted NO on this too. Let's hope that wasn't the case and the measure was rejected due to its lack of merit.