Monday, October 31, 2005

Her Ladyship

In fairness, since a while ago I did a piece on the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s only proper that I say something about her ladyship, the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

While his noodleliness is a fairly recent, though growing, theology, her ladyship has been a source of comfort and admiration for many years. In a recent internet survey comparing the two, there appears to be an even split between the new and the traditional.

The Invisible Pink Unicorn, blessed be her holy hooves, is unlike any other deity as she is founded in both science and faith. The science states that she MUST be invisible because no one can see her. The faith part comes in because we know, in our hearts, that she doesn't exist.

Or at least like most (all?) goddesses, she's highly unlikely to exist. However, there is much argument as to her exact color, her shape and size, and other properties of her nonexistence. There no reason to let nonexistence ruin the chance for a good argument.

Her symbol has “been specifically designed not to directly offend people that have theistic beliefs.” This of course assumes that those people are both stupid enough to be offended by an atheistic symbol but not too ignorant to recognize it. Besides, who cares? What is it about religious beliefs that make even intelligent people want to walk around on tiptoes?

We condemn the KKK because its intolerance is based upon race, but we have to “not offend” by denouncing the intolerance against gays based upon Leviticus?

We loudly criticize a factory which pollutes a river out of greed, but have to “not offend” by labeling as irrational the disregard for the ecology driven by a belief in Dispensationalism and a desire to accelerate the arrival of the end times?

We correctly refuse to “teach the controversy” associated with Holocaust Revisionism but we have to “not offend” by identifying attempts to “teach the controversy” relating to evolution as ignorance because the source of that ignorance is the bible?

What is it that leads people to accord religion some type of special place in the scheme of things? Irrational or dangerous beliefs are irrational or dangerous regardless of their source and ignorance is something to be eliminated not nurtured.

All hail her Ladyship.

Hmmm, I wonder what you would get if you crossed a Flying Spaghetti Monster with an Invisible Pink Unicorn?

Here’s Justice Alito!

Dubyah’s replacement nominee for Supreme Court Associate Justice is Samuel A. Alito of the 3rd District Court. Alito is from New Jersey, a Roman Catholic and has what appears to be rather solid Conservative credentials. The Republican Right should be thrilled, and the Democrats are already foaming at the mouth.

Apparently this guy’s nickname is “Scalito” since his philosophy is considered to be a clone of Scalia’s, but I’m not so sure.

I read a summary of some of his recent opinions and, yes they’re conservative, but they don’t strike me as dogmatically so as Scalia’s do. The AP quoted former appellate judge Timothy Lewis who said, although he has ideological differences with Alito, “There is nobody that I believe would give my case a more fair and balanced treatment. He has no agenda. He’s open minded, he’s fair and he’s balanced.”

I’m not certain that, given the right wing slant of the administration and congress at the moment, one could ask for much more than that. At least given that he’s a Catholic and from New Jersey, it’s unlikely that he’ll be driven by religious dogma as I’m convinced Miers would have been. Then again Scalia and Thomas are no gems in that respect.

I could be wrong, and I may live to regret it, but I feel much more comfortable with Alito than Miers. The fact that the Democrats seem to be reacting precisely the opposite makes me wonder where the hell they’re coming from? They had to KNOW they were going to get a hardened conservative, but I at least find Lewis’s input encouraging.

Should be interesting to see what happens. You think we can keep O'Conner on the bench until after the next Presidential election? As you can see, I'm ever the optimist, thinking, hoping (praying?) that the Democrats manage to get their act together by 2008. I'd even vote for Hillary Clinton over Bill Frist (and I can't stand Clinton!).

HBO’s Rome, Episode 9

The boys are back in town and all kinds of mean nasty things are going on! Let’s see, where to start? Vorenus runs afoul of the local “mafia” type guy Erastes and just when I thought he and Pullo were going to make short work of the boss and his nine or ten henchmen, Caesar shows up to talk politics. He convinces Vorenus to run for magistrate which appears to have upset Pullo.

Pullo, in the meantime, has his attention on the slave girl Eirene so I was right, she is his love interest. Apparently the reason she hadn’t talked before is she didn’t speak the language. Unfortunately for Pullo, she didn’t appear too thrilled at the attention.

They skipped the whole African campaign except for the suiciding. Exit Cato and Scipio, stage left. Octavian was back and up to not nice things at all. First, he blabs about Evander to Octavia as she’s trying to uncover Caesar’s “affliction” at the instigation of Servilia and then, and then, he allows himself to be seduced by Octavia while she’s still trying to uncover Caesar’s secret. We finally made it to incest! Nudity, fornication, adultery and homosexuality weren’t good enough, we got all the way to incest! That was too much even for Atia who got Timon and company to waylay Servilia, murder off a number of her servants, cut off large chunks of her hair and generally humiliate her on the streets of Rome.

Things aren’t going well for Servilia. Aside from being dumped by Caesar, assaulted at the instigation of Atia and apparently losing her gay lover Octavia, her relationship with her son Brutus is a bit strained. What I was confused about last week is explained this week, perhaps Servilia would have preferred that Brutus returned on his shield rather than pardoned by Caesar.

No sign this week of either Cleopatra or Antony, BUT, I did pick up on something at the tail end of Episode 8 this time that I missed the last time, the suspicion that Caesarion is actually Pullo’s son and not Caesar’s.

I got a good laugh out of Octavian’s theological viewpoint. In a conversation with Octavia he flatly states that “there are no gods”, a statement which I’m sure sent up red flags all over the place. In what was an obvious “patch,” he then quickly goes on to say something to the effect of there may be a “prime mover” (read that monotheistic Christian God) but nothing resembling the Roman Pantheon. You really needn’t have worried about it folks, I doubt anyone that would have been offended by the “there are no gods” statement, given the sexual content of the show, was watching.

Now for the really bad news, there are only three episodes left! That means a total of 12 in all. Is that it? Is that the end? What will I do for a bad influence without Rome? How will I make it until next season? Will there be a next season? Will the DVDs of the first season be out in time for Christmas? Will anyone think to buy them for me for Christmas? So many questions, so little time.

Redskins at Giants

And the wind swirled and the quarterbacks were dismayed. The famous Meadowlands swirling, gusty winds wrecked havoc with the passing game but Tiki Barber gained 206 yards and Clinton Portis didn’t. End result, a old fashion, back behind the barn, butt whipping 36-0.

While both Mark Brunell and Eli Manning had a tough time with the wind, at least when Manning managed to get the ball near a receiver, they caught it. Brunell wasn’t that lucky. I think this is one Mark will just try to forget.

And where did that defense come from? They looked like LT & Co. instead of the 2nd worst defense in the league. They actually pitched a shutout 36-0 while holding the skins to a dismal 125 yards in offense for the day. I have the distinction of being at both games in which a Joe Gibbs coached team was shut out. The last one was 17-0 at Giants Stadium in the 1986 NFC Championship game.

Offense: Good
While it may sound strange to rate an offense which put up 36 points only “Good,” a lot of those points came from opportunities handed to the offense on a silver platter. Way to many missed TD opportunities. Luckily for them, they kept getting more chances.

Defense: Excellent
With only yielding 125 yards in offense and a goose egg on the scoreboard what other grade could you give them? If the truth must be told, it wasn’t nearly as close as the statistics indicate. Almost half of the yardage came on a 4th Quarter drive led by Pat Ramsey that stalled on a 4th and goal at the Giants 5 yard line.

Special Teams: Very Good
It would have been an “Excellent” except for some of the adventures on punt returns by Chad Morton. The man is starting to make me nervous. What we need on punt returns is a nice, safe, conservative approach. Beyond that, another very solid game especially from Jay Feely with 5 field goals. He missed his first, a 51 yarder in the first half. Given how 50+ yard field goals roll off this guy’s foot with some regularity, the crowd was almost surprised when he missed that one.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The National Alliance Against Christian Discrimination

When one runs into a classic web site, it is necessary to take a moment and ponder. This web site, the NAACD, states its mission as: “The principal objective of the NAACD is to ensure social, legal, educational, religious, and political equality among the Christian citizens of the United States. This is in accordance with the original intent and interpretation of the First Amendment.”

Notice “Christian citizens” as opposed to “citizens” and this provides a hint to the site’s position. According to the NAACD, the US was founded upon “Christian principles” but now the enemies of Christianity have introduced “escalating Christian intolerance and persecution of those of faith; Christian bigotry; Religious hatred and discrimination; Christian purging or cleansing of religious beliefs; Ridicule of the Church; Namecalling, defamation, and mockery (especially toward those now labeled "The Religious Right"); and the attempt to legally remove religious freedoms from our nation.”

Phew, this is SERIOUS stuff. Who are these evil people? How dare they! Well, luckily, the NAACD has compiled a list of these evil organizations on its “Opposition” page. What I find interesting is that this is a list of groups which, for the most part, DISAGREE with the moral positions of conservative Christian groups like NAACD. So “disagreement” becomes equated with “persecution.”

American Atheists – Yeah, I can sort of believe this one.

American Civil Liberties Union – Uh-uh, yeah, ok. I guess one has to understand the fundamentalist Christian attitude toward civil liberties which is Christians have them, but no one else does. Keeping creationism out of public schools isn’t protecting the rights of non-Christians (because they don’t have any), it’s persecuting Christians.

American Humanist Society – Obviously disagreeing with the NAACD is the same as persecuting them.

American Library Association – The American Library Association? I suppose this is what they get for refusing to censor all those books, such as the satanic Harry Potter series, that right wing Christians find so offensive.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State – The NAACD believes that this principle is a distortion of the original intent of the 1st Amendment. They state this position with a straight face too despite little things like the accumulated papers of Jefferson and Madison.

Anti-Defamation League – According to the NAACD anyone defending their rights against Christian encroachment is guilty of Christian bigotry. How dare they not let us trample upon their religious beliefs? Besides, they killed Jesus didn’t they?

Freedom From Religion Foundation – I guess I can understand why the NAACD would be unhappy with the Internet Infidels! But again, this is a case of anyone who disagrees with me is persecuting me.

Gays and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation – Ok, I’ll bet these guys even support Gay Marriage. What’s the matter with them, haven’t they read Leviticus, Deuteronony and Paul?

Human Rights Campaign – Another group trying to secure gay and transgender rights which the NAACD would hate like poison.

The Interfaith Alliance – I would assume because they teach tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others, something the NAACD would find deeply offensive.

National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League – Obviously.

National Education Association – I’m slightly uncertain about this one. Could it be because they support the teaching of evolution?

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force – Obviously.

National Organization for Women (NOW) – Gotta keep them women folk barefoot and pregnant just like in the old days. Besides I’m certain NOW supports a woman’s right to choose.

People for the American Way – Like the ACLU, this group’s understanding of constitutional principles and freedom of religion is not limited to the rights of Christians only.

Planned Parenthood – I guess they’re even against birth control. Talk about being on the right wing lunatic fringe.

What really kills me is that these yahoos don’t explain WHY they list these groups as “opposition,” rather they simply provide a link and say “if you don’t believe me, go look for yourself.” I guess the assumption is that anyone sympathetic to this fascist outlook is sure to find something unpalatable about these groups and since DISAGREEMENT = PERSECUTION, the case is made.

I’m surprised they didn’t list Bill Maher and HBO given the way he ridicules the Christian Right.

What a bunch of jackasses.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Miers Withdraws

Harriet Miers withdrew her name from nomination to the Supreme Court today citing concerns about having to maintain confidentiality about White House transactions. Dubyah "reluctantly" accepted her withdrawel.

A number of thoughts immediately come to mind.

1. What kind of White House legal transactions are going on that need to be kept confidential from Congress and the American people? The mind boggles. What have you two been planning? Going to rat out another CIA agent or are you thinking of blowing an FBI agents cover just to try something different?

2. What does Dubyah do now? I suppose he has two choices. Either he can choose a right wing extremist judge and hope the Republican majority sees him through or he can go for another individual with a resume similar to Justice Roberts. Let's hope he goes with the latter course.

3. Is it possible he can find someone worse? Oh it's possible all right, especially when you consider he appears to have surrounded himself with political hacks rather than qualified advisors. I have a radical thought, how about asking the American Bar Association for advice?

Maybe, just maybe, Dubyah's current political vulnerability will force him to do something marginally intelligent, but I doubt it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Broncos at Giants

Seems like forever since I’ve been to a game but it was worth the wait. You get a game like Sunday’s once in a blue moon so it’s usually a good idea to enjoy the win, especially after having one go the other way against Dallas.

The 4th quarter was something of a wild ride as the Giants pulled it out with 5 seconds left on a 2 yard pass from Manning to Amani Toomer. It was also Toomer that caught the pass when the Giants knocked off the undefeated Broncos a few years ago.

The NFC East is shaping up to be a really weird one this year. If Dallas had won Sunday, they would have been in first place at 5-2. Since they lost, they’re in last place at 4-3. I’m still betting on Philadelphia to take the marbles in the division.

Now for the grades.

Offense: Good
Overall I can’t really fault the guys too much. The offense was a little sluggish but came through big time late in the game with 2 TDs.

Defense: Good
The defense was soft as usual, but somehow managed to stiffen just enough to keep the game close. A big stop resulting in a missed 45 yard field goal by the Broncos in the 4th quarter after Manning gave up an interception turned out to be the turning point in the game.

Special Teams: Very Good
A 51 yard field goal by Feely, another solid punting job by Feagles, darn good coverages on the kicks and another solid game of kick returning from Ponder. This year, at least so far, I have nothing to cry about on special teams.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Religion = Dysfunction?

An article in the “Journal of Religion and Society” entitled “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look” comes to some interesting conclusions.

The abstract states:

“Large-scale surveys show dramatic declines in religiosity in favor of secularization in the developed democracies. Popular acceptance of evolutionary science correlates negatively with levels of religiosity, and the United States is the only prosperous nation where the majority absolutely believes in a creator and evolutionary science is unpopular. Abundant data is available on rates of societal dysfunction and health in the first world. Cross-national comparisons of highly differing rates of religiosity and societal conditions form a mass epidemiological experiment that can be used to test whether high rates of belief in and worship of a creator are necessary for high levels of social health. Data correlations show that in almost all regards the highly secular democracies consistently enjoy low rates of societal dysfunction, while pro-religious and anti-evolution America performs poorly.”

In other words, the more religious a society, THE HIGHER THE LEVEL OF DYSFUNCTION such as high violent crime rates, high murder rates and all that nasty stuff. Tom DeLay not withstanding, maybe evolution is PREVENTING more Columbines.

As perhaps further corroboration, in the poorly performing US, the most secular region, the Northeast, consistently has a lower violent crime rate and a lower murder rate than the most religious region, the South.

So, not only is religion perhaps the opiate of the people, it might also be the source of societal dysfunction too? Tsk, tsk.

Now we can have a new slogan. REDUCE CRIME - TEACH EVOLUTION!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Still in Iraq in 10 Years?

We could still be in Iraq 10 years from now. That's what Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations committee. The Senators warned Rice that the administration needs to play it straight about Iraq or risk losing support for the war.

WHAT support for the war? I don't see any support for the war around here. Then again, there wasn't any support for the war around here before there was a war!

Trust me Condy baby, YOU'LL be long gone long before 10 years have passed and with any luck, the next administration won't be stupid enough to continue the failed policies of this one.

How can anyone trust someone with the name Condoleezza anyway? I think if I was a President with a National Security advisor that told me there were WMDs and it turned out there weren't, the last thing I would have done was promote that advisor to Secretary of State. A solid boot out the door strikes me as more appropriate.

Since that didn't happen, I can only conclude that Bush knew all along the WMD story was nonsense so why is this man still in the White House?

FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2004

The FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2004 has been released. I always find it interesting to dig through this stuff. What I find most interesting are the Violent Crime statistics which include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The UCR covers the entire country, region by region, state by state and city, over 10,000, by city. Last year they also had information on towns under 10,000 and Excel files with the basic data. This year I don’t see the towns under 10,000 and I’ve only found PDF files.

Anyway, some numbers and rankings.

Overall violent crime has dropped in the US from a rate of 475.8, incidents per 100,000, in 2003 to a rate of 465.5 in 2004. Murder dropped from a rate of 5.7 to one of 5.5. Rape dropped from 32.3 to 32.2. Robbery dropped from 142.5 to 136.7 and assault dropped from 295.4 to 291.1.

The Northeast had the lowest violent crime rate at 390.7, followed by the Midwest, an eyelash higher, at 391.1 (in 2003 the Midwest beat out the Northeast 399.5 to 401.9). The West was third at 480.7 and the South had the worst rate at 540.6.

The Northeast also had the lowest murder rate at 4.2, followed by the Midwest at 4.7, then the West at 5.7 with the South bringing up the rear with a rate of 6.6.

You were least likely to be robbed in the Midwest with a rate of 116.8, followed by the West with a rate of 136.5. The Northeast was third with a rate of 143.6 and, you guessed it, the South bringing up the rear again at 145.6.

You had the least chance of getting beat up in the Northeast with a rate of 220.6 followed by the Midwest with a rate of 233.2. I’m sure by now you know that the West was third with a rate of 305.4 and, last again, the South at 354.3.

The lowest incidence of rape was in the Northeast at 22.4, followed by the West at 33.2. The South finally wasn’t last, it was third at 34.1 and the Midwest brought up the rear in this category at 36.4.

The state with the highest crime rate was South Carolina with a whopping rate of 784.2. The state with the lowest crime rate was North Dakota with a rate of 79.4. North Dakota had the distinction of being the only state with a violent crime rate under 100. The next best was Maine with a rate of 103.5.

The state with the highest murder rate was Louisiana with a rate of 12.7. Louisiana was the only state with a murder rate above 10. The next worse was Maryland with a rate of 9.4. The states with the lowest murder rate were North Dakota, Maine and New Hampshire, all with a rate of 1.4.

The state with the highest incidence of rape was Alaska with a rate of 85.1!! The next highest states were New Mexico with 54.6 and Michigan with 54.2. The state with the lowest incidence of rape was New Jersey at 15.3, followed by West Virginia at 17.6 and New York at 18.8.

The top 10 states in violent crime are South Carolina-784.2, Florida-711.3, Maryland-700.5, Tennessee-695.2, New Mexico-687.3, Louisiana-638.7, Alaska-634.5, Nevada-615.9, Delaware-568.4 and California-551.8.

Illinois, home of Chicago, was ranked 11th at 542.9. Texas, the home of Houston and Dallas, was ranked 12th at 540.5 and New York, the home of New York, was ranked way down at 21st with a rate of 441.6.

Looking at cities is always a little problematic since the UCR simply supplies raw data for cities and towns of population 10,000 or greater. I extracted and calculated the violent crime and murder rates for 36 U.S. cities. Urban areas are typically, but not always as we’ll see, MUCH higher than other areas.

Of the 36 cities, the city with the highest violent crime rate was St. Louis with a rate of 2,057.9, followed by Atlanta at 1,842.0 and Baltimore at 1839.4. The city with the lowest rate was San Diego with a rate of 528.7. There are 12 STATES with a higher violent crime rate than the city of San Diego!

The city with the highest murder rate was New Orleans with a rate of 56.0, followed by Baltimore at 43.5 and Detroit at 42.1. The city with the lowest murder rate was Seattle with a rate of 4.2! There are 29 STATES with a higher murder rate than the city of Seattle. Hell, the NATIONAL murder rate at 5.5 is higher than the murder rate in the city of Seattle!

The city with the highest incidence of rape was Cleveland with a rate of 112.5, followed by Minneapolis at 102.1 and Cincinnati at 97.5. The city with the lowest incidence of rape was New York City with a rate of 17.6! Incredibly 48 of the 50 states had a greater incidence of rape than New York City! Only New Jersey at 15.3 was lower. West Virginia had the same rate of 17.6.

Of the three largest cities in the country, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Chicago had the highest violent crime rate at 1,253.2, followed by Los Angeles at 1,107.3 and New York, way down, at 687.4. Four STATES had higher violent crime rates than New York City!

Chicago also had the highest murder rate of the three at 16.9, followed by Los Angeles at 13.4 and New York at 7.0. There were six STATES with a higher murder rate than New York City. You had a higher chance of being murdered in Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Mississippi, Nevada and Arizona then you did in New York City!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

HBO’s Rome Episode 8

Toot, toot! Make way for the express! Arrival in Egypt, settle the dispute between Ptolemy and Cleopatra, get it together with Cleopatra, Caesarion is born, get ready to head back to Rome.

One episode, slam, bang, badda bing, badda boom. Whew, moving right along aren’t we?

Again the title of the episode has historical significance, but little or nothing refers to the babies name in the show itself. Not that it matters all that much, but I just find it a little strange.

Similarly, I wonder what happened to Cornelia and offspring? I guess the writers didn’t think it important enough to tie up that loose end. Still, I happened to enjoy this episode perhaps the most since the first one. I thought the portrayal of Cleopatra was first rate. I can’t wait until she gets together with Antony. What a pair they’re going to make!

I loved the heads on the spikes approach. It seemed appropriate somehow. Octavian was missing for a second episode in a row and about the only thing going on back at the ranch was the affair between Octavia and Servilia. I didn’t quite get the implications of the reunion between Brutus and Servilia. I’m sure the director was trying to send some type of message, but I missed it completely. Guess I’ll have to wait and see what developed.

Two weeks until the next new show. HBO is going to have all 8 episodes scheduled during the week and Sunday I believe the last three will be broadcast. I’m not certain if I want to see everything again. I’ll see how things work out.

Giants at Dallas

Alas, I’m too broken up over the loss to say anything!

Nah, just kidding. So much for the highest scoring team in the NFL. A loss in OT 16-13 to Dallas hurts, but like I’ve said before, 8-8 would be a good year. The defense still strikes me as the big problem but the inability of the offense to cash in on the turnovers didn’t help much either.

I really wonder about the wisdom of calling time-out before a big field goal by the opposing team. It would seem to me that this just gives the guy a chance to talk himself into making it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Note from a Stranger

I got one of those chain e-mails last night. I recognize neither the name supplied by Hotmail nor the name in the e-mail and the idea that someone (anyone) would send me something with this kind of content is so ludicrous I can't resist analyzing the silly thing.

"This morning when the Lord opened a window to Heaven, he saw me, and he asked: 'My child, what is your greatest wish for today?'"

So, tell me, you hear voices often? You really need to get that checked. That have pills for that now you know.

"I responded: 'Lord, please take care of the person who is reading this message, their family and their special friends. They deserve it, and I love them very much'. The love of God is like the ocean: you can see its beginning, but not its end."

Hmmm, I don't even KNOW you so what's all this mumbling about love?

"This message works on the day you receive it. To some, it may sound dumb, but the person who sent this to me was impressed with the time. Let us see if it is true. Angels exist, but sometimes, since they don't all have wings, we call them friends, such as you. Pass this on to your true friends. Something good will happen to you today at 11:11 in the evening. Something that you have been waiting to hear. This is not a joke. Someone will call you by phone or speak to you about something that you were waiting to hear, or an angel will give you a message in your dreams."

Yes, it does sound dumb. Considering I was out cold by 11:11 (I assume that was 11:11 EDT), it must have been an angel in my dreams. Nope, not that I can recall.

"Do not break this chain – send it to a minimum of 7 people."

Uh-oh, I broke it. Does that mean I'm doomed? Excuse me while I begin to worry about the impending consequences of my foolish action (or rather lack of action).

Monday, October 10, 2005

HBO’s Rome, Episode 7

Wow, the 7th episode already? Seems like only yesterday I was wondering what the plot of the show was going to be. Oh yeah, IT WAS yesterday!

This episode was a major disappointment. I didn’t get the whole get shipwrecked, miss the battle of Pharsalus, make a raft out of bodies, float to the mainland, find Pompey and then let Pompey go! Speaking of Pharsalus, ya think maybe they could have made a tad more fuss over it. It was the Battle of Pharsalus! I don’t even think the name was mentioned although it was the title of the episode. Can't have the public learning any history now can we?

And I told Pompey, don’t go to Egypt, you’ll regret it, but does he listen to me? No, he doesn’t. Ahh well, knowing the general history of the events does take some of the suspense out of the show. So now I guess we meet Cleopatra and Ptolemy. Let’s hope they don’t screw this up.

In the meantime, back on the ranch, Octavia is in a lesbian affair with Servilia. I didn’t see that one coming until at least two minutes into the episode. I wonder how Octavian is making out? He was missing from this episode. Historically I believe he joins Caesar in his second Spanish campaign, but since they skipped the first Spanish campaign, who knows? I would think they could spend three or four episodes in Egypt if they wanted to, but they seem to be in some kind of hurry. I wonder why?

I’m enjoying the show, but I think it could have been a lot better. Everything seems compressed. They’re not taking time to develop situations like they could. Even the relationship between Brutus and Caesar isn’t really being developed and I think Caesar could have been a little less thrilled to see Brutus and Cicero after the battle. I know historically that Caesar tended to not pursue personal vendettas, but I’m sure he used his advantage to gain a concession or two.

Oh well, we’ll see how it goes next week. I wonder how many episodes there are going to be? Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BCE ("iacta alea est"). The battle of Pharsalus occurred in 48 BCE, but of course they skipped Caesar’s campaign in Spain. We still have the Cleopatra episode and I assume the chasing down of Cato in Africa. Then perhaps the second Spanish campaign before the ides of March in 44 BCE. So they COULD spend years on this thing or we could be at the Battle of Actium by Christmas.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Dubyah denies he claimed Divine Inspiration

The White House has issued an official denial of claims to be broadcast on an upcoming BBC three-part series about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and to get the Palestinians a state.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and then-foreign minister Nabil Shaath claim that at a meeting in June 2003 Dubyah told them:

"God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did. And then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... ' And I did."

"'And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And by God I'm gonna do it',"

Abbas recalled how the president told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said "That's absurd. He's never made such comments."

Absurd? From the man that thinks the way to convince people of the qualifications of his Supreme Court nomination is to talk about her faith in God? Absurd? From the man who declared a "Jesus Day" when he was governor of Texas? Absurd? I think not.

You have to admit that things have come to a pretty sad state of affairs when I believe two Palestinians over the President of the United States. That's because this president is the biggest disgrace to ever sully the Oval Office and that INCLUDES Tricky Dick.

Beware ye who tread on this web site!

Ooops, I guess its all been decided for me now. The featured web site is I'm an which proclaims when you arrive:

"By visiting this Web site you have announced to the world that you are an atheist! This announcement is permanent and irrevocable -- our automated system has already sent notification of your godlessness to both the Library of Congress and your mother. We will mention you to the Pope the next time we see him.
Remember: as an atheist, you are bound by the list of Atheistic Rights & Responsibilities.
If you visited this page in error, we're sorry -- what's done is done."

Oh well, you didn’t really want to get raptured anyway did you? It sounds awfully painful.

I also enjoyed the list of Atheist Rights & Responsibilities as well as the disclaimer.

"1. Have no god
2. Don't worship stuff
3. Be polite
4. Take a day off once in a while.
5. Be nice to folks.
6. Don't kill people.
7. Don't fool around on your significant other.
8. Don't steal stuff.
9. Don't lie about stuff.
10.Don't be greedy.

Remember, theists will condemn you for living by this code because you are doing it of your own free will instead of because you're afraid that if you don't a supreme being will set you on fire."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs

In an article talking about an upcoming three-part series entitled "Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs", the BBC documents statements from the Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and his Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath about their first meeting with President Bush in June of 2003.

According to Shaath President Bush told them “I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …’ And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East. And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

Ok, nice president, nice Dubyah. Psst, quick, get the white coats! If this doesn’t scare the living daylights out of you what the hell will!! I wasn’t thrilled when I knew that Dubyah spent an inordinate amount of time talking TO God, but he thinks God talks back? He hears voices telling him what to do? Isn’t this a classic symptom of schizophrenia? We have a nutcase nutcase as well as a religious nutcase in the White House? Amsterdam or Wyoming? Amsterdam or Wyoming? So many decisions, so little time.

Mazen, in addition to confirming Shaath’s recollections claims Bush told him "I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."

I’m not too concerned about Dubyah thinking that he has a MORAL obligation to the Palestinians, and peace in the Middle East would certainly be a good thing, but what the hell does he mean when he says a RELIGIOUS obligation?

This is absolutely terrifying. A man once said, "anyone that thinks God is on their side is dangerous as hell!" What does that say about someone who thinks God is giving him instructions and he's carrying them out! Who does he think he is, George of Arc? Anyone check Dubyah to see if he has a bicameral brain?

Of course on the other hand, Mazen and Shaath could be exaggerating or inaccurate in their recollections. So why do I have this REALLY bad feeling that this is exactly what Dubyah said?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

More Thoughts on Harriet Miers

Ok, I plead guilty. I’m definitely on the liberal left side of center on social issues but I tend to be fiscally more on the conservative side. To some extent I share some of the blame for the mess we’re in because up until rather recently I considered “conservative” different from “religious right.” I’m still not certain how the former came so much under the control of the latter, but that certainly seems to be the case at the moment. The traditional conservative concerns of fiscal responsibility, smaller government and a strong economy seem to have been eclipsed by attacking science, attacking the separation of church and state, attacking a woman’s right to choose and anti-homosexuality.

As far as Miers is concerned, as an Agnostic Deist, I have to look with suspicion upon anyone that might be committed to religious dogma ahead of rational thought. I’d rather not take that kind of risk.

Most Christians don’t look at things that way and are quite ready to question the views of their church with respect to modern social issues with Catholics and Episcopalians leading the way. Even if they feel they must follow the dictates of their church themselves, they're willing to accept that others may have different views.

But in the fundamentalist, the bible is the literal truth, crowd, minds are both closed and set. They do not even appear willing to “live and let live,” There seems to be an absolute drive to force their views on all the rest of us. This crowd also appears to believe that the end justifies the means if the end is furtherance of what they consider to be "the word."

Can anyone explain to me how any rational society would even consider placing someone committed to the literal truth of Genesis on the highest court in the country? I don’t believe she will subjugate her personal religious views to enforce the law one bit.

Let’s all go back to the Scopes Monkey Trial when supposedly all the educated people in the world were appalled at William Jennings Bryan defending the literal view of the bible. Now we have a Supreme Court nominee that probably would have been cheering Bryan on and holds the same views! Worse, she appears committed to missionary work. How can anyone believe she won’t engage in a little missionary work in her court decisions? How about she goes preach in Africa somewhere and we get another nominee.

I don’t have a problem with a strict, but secular, conservative, as I'm not terribly certain where in the constitution some of the court decisions come from, but this lady scares the daylights out of me.

The Harriet Miers Nomination

When Dubyah initially announced Harriet Miers as his nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Conner my initial reaction was "WHO?" After hearing some of the howls of disappointment from some on the Right, including Pat Buchannan, I thought for a second or two, "hey, maybe this won't be so bad." Then I remembered who nominated her.

Todays article in the Washington Post entitled "Church ties could shed light on Miers’ thinking:
Faith in Jesus has shaped court pick’s personal values"
REALLY scared the hell out of me. As a member of the Valley View Christian Church, she is committed, as a matter of religious faith, that abortion is murder, homosexuality is evil and that the bible is the literal truth.

What this could mean to YOU is:

1) A repeal of Roe vs Wade
2) A return of the anti-sodomy laws and forget gay marriage or civil unions
3) Creationsim being taught alongside evolution in the public schools
4) The display of Christian religious icons in public buildings and schools
5) Your tax dollars supporting parochial schools and other religious organizations

Ratification of Miers for the high court, given the current precarious balance, could be a catastrophe for the separation of church and state in this country. Miers is probably of the opinion, also as a matter of religious faith, that the separation of church and state is WRONG in a "Christian Country." Now we're not supposed to be anything but secular, but this appointment would be a big step toward a Christian Theocracy in this country that, by the way, will only have room for a certain brand of Christianity. If you're Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Liberal Protestant, I wouldn't expect any of those tax dollars to come your way and I'd begin worrying about Freedom of Religion too. At least YOUR freedom of religion. You can be sure that the Valley View Christian Church brand will do quite well.

As for me, an Agnostic Deist, I'm checking out employment and housing opportunities in Amsterdam. I figure I'll be lucky if I don't get burnt at the stake.

Monday, October 03, 2005

HBO’s Rome, Episode 6

I have a feeling the authors of the show wish they didn’t have to follow the general history of the events. I could almost feel the desire to have Antony betray Caeser which of course they couldn’t do.

I’ve not all that certain much happened last night other than Octavian getting a little experience. So the 13th Legion is off to Greece with Vorenus and Pullo looking like they’re getting ship wrecked. I wonder what the point is going to be behind that twist? And Octavian is off to an academy. He didn’t look too thrilled at leaving Rome but at least Pullo seems to have taught him the basics.

On the home front Pullo tells Niobe’s sister Lyde he heard Evander had run afoul of the wrong kind of people due to gambling debts and she should get on with her life.

The big surprise is Antony suddenly displaying a touch of integrity or was it that he figured the odds? Atia, on the other hand, can’t seem to decide which plot to hatch. She sends Octavia to try and patch things up with Servilia. And what happened to Pullo’s slave girl? Was that it? Is she out of the story without so much as a word of dialogue? Very strange.

So Antony is looking for Caeser, Vorenus and Pullo are shipwrecked, where remains to be seen, and Octavian is heading away from home in the company of that horse trader Timon, that means even more fracturing of the story line!

We have Pompey & company, we have Caeser, we have Atia, we have Servilia and now we’ll have Antony trying to hook up with Caeser, Niobe at home, Pullo and Vorenus trying to rejoin the 13th and Octavian on the road. That’s about 5 minutes per subplot right? Should be fun.

Giants and Rams

Wasn’t there even though the game was home so I can’t say too much, but, it’s shaping up to be the Offense and Special Teams trying to survive the Defense kind of season. Never thought I'd see that kind of Giants team.

With Manning going 19-35 for 296 yards and 4 TDs with no interceptions and Tiki running for 128 yards things are looking good on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side, hmmm, errr, not so sure. Granted a lot of Bulger’s 40-62 for 442 yards were, as the sportscasters said, empty yards, still that’s the 3rd 400+ yard game in a row.

Can you imagine 97 pass plays in a regulation game? No wonder the game took 3 ½ hours to play.