Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The Passion of the Jew

I've never been much of a South Park fan, but I've been watching a few episodes lately, and it's just a strange combination of stupid toilet humor that's worthy of a junior high student, and stuff that absolutely cracks me up.

I can't decide which is my favorite line from this episode:

[Upon leaving The Passion] It guilts you into believing!


Cartman: If Mel Gibson was here right now, I'd be on the floor licking his balls."

Who among us wouldn't, Cartman?

2004 or 1984?

Since 1980, the Civil Service Reform Act has protected gays and lesbians employees and job applicants against discrimination. Until two weeks ago, that is. Scott Bloch, the new head of the Office of Special Counsel, has reinterpreted the law and says that it no longer protects gays and lesbians.

But there's good news! In a case of hair-splitting that normally would require a microtome, he says that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not covered by the law, but discrimination based on sexual conduct is covered.

You see, we're not firing you because you went to this year's Pride parade, and we're not firing you because you had a commitment ceremony with your partner last weekend, we're actually firing you just because you're gay. That's legal.

So what the Mr. Bloch is saying is that you can't discriminate against a man because he has sex with men, but you can fire him because he wants to have sex with men.

Thoughtcrime. I'm not one to invoke the ghost of Orwell often, and I'm not prone to "the government is out to get me" conspiracy theories. But what this reinterpretation basically does is discriminate on the basis of how you feel not what you do. That's just a reprehensible idea.

Is this what "compassionate conservatism" looks like in action?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Lest we forget

From Meet the Press, September 8, 2002: [emphasis added]

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of Iraq. You have said that it poses a mortal threat to the United States. How? Define mortal threat.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: ... What we found on September 11 is that the danger now is an attack that’s launched from within the United States itself, not from some foreign territory, as happened with respect to the hijackers on 9/11. Also that, in this particular case, it was backed up by a cell, terrorist cell, operating in Hamburg, Germany. You have to completely recalibrate your thinking in terms of how you deal with that. Now, if you start with that as background, then you deal with Saddam Hussein and his 11 years, now, since 1991, since the end of the war, his refusal to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. If you look at the extent to which he has aggressively sought to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, over the years, the fact that he has previously used them-he used chemical weapons both against the Kurds and against the Iranians during the 1980s-the fact that he has twice invaded his neighbors. He’s launched ballistic missiles against four of his neighbors over the years. There’s a pattern and a track record there that one has to be concerned about.

Now, the more recent developments have to do with our now being able to conclude, based on intelligence that’s becoming available, some of it has been made public, more of it hopefully will be, that he has indeed stepped up his capacity to produce and deliver biological weapons, that he has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon, that there are efforts under way inside Iraq to significantly expand his capability.

[...] So we find ourselves, on the one hand, with the demonstrated greater vulnerability of September 11; and, on the other hand, with the very clear evidence that this is a man who is resuming all of those programs that the U.N. Security Council tried to get him to forgo some 10 or 11 years ago. And increasingly we believe that the United States may well become the target of those activities.

[...] And what we’ve seen recently that has raised our level of concern to the current state of unrest, if you will, if I can put it in those terms, is that he now is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium to make the bombs... Specifically aluminum tubes.

[...] It’s also important not to focus just on the nuclear threat. I mean, that sort of grabs everybody’s attention, and that’s what we’re used to dealing with. But come back to 9/11 again, and one of the real concerns about Saddam Hussein, as well, is his biological weapons capability; the fact that he may, at some point, try to use smallpox, anthrax, plague, some other kind of biological agent against other nations, possibly including even the United States. So this is not just a one-dimensional threat. This just isn’t a guy who’s now back trying once again to build nuclear weapons. It’s the fact that we’ve also seen him in these other areas, in chemicals, but also especially in biological weapons, increase his capacity to produce and deliver these weapons upon his enemies.

This was more than six months before the invasion of Iraq, and eleven months after the invasion of Afghanistan. Note the continuing mention of 9/11 in the context of Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Why, howdy there, Britannia

I am, of course, a nerd. You'll notice at the bottom of the menu there is a little hit counter courtesy of There are a number of free counters like that one, but I liked StatCounter because it let me see a lot of other info other than just the sheer number of hits.

Today I noticed that I've had my first non-US hit. And it didn't originate from just anywhere, but judging from the point of origin, from the UK House of Parliament. Most likely some intern goofing off, but I like the idea of Tony Blair or even the Queen herself visiting my humble site. (Do you think the Queen has a static IP for when she surfs, and do you think her web surfing is relayed through Parliament?)

I just thought it was cool. Hi overseas-type people.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

I doubt that it's going to come here, though.

The Corporation is a cool-looking documentary about the development of the corporation as a legal entity. It's a legal construct, yes, but it also has the legal standing of a "person." From the movie's website:

Self-interested, amoral, callous and deceitful, a corporation’s operational principles make it anti-social. It breaches social and legal standards to get its way even while it mimics the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism. It suffers no guilt. Diagnosis: the institutional embodiment of laissez-faire capitalism fully meets the diagnostic criteria of a psychopath.

I think anything that twisted is a must-rent movie.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


There was a template problem which wasn't making the site look right. The difference a "=" makes instead of a ":". It should be fixed now, except I'm taking the borders off some of the quotes, since I can't figure out how to get a margin to wrap around a floated element. I think of of the archive pages looks a little funny, but oh, well. I'm sure you can deal.

And the smear campaign goes on...

a.k.a. today's Quotes of the Day.

I'll admit, it's not fair to take fairly short soundbites from two different people and compare them like this, but it sure is fun! From Dick Cheney's interview on Rush Limbaugh's show:

Well, he wasn't -- he wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff. And I saw part of his interview last night, and he wasn't --

-- Vice President Dick Cheney

Which was shortly followed by this comment by Condoleezza Rice in an interview given to a number of AP reporters:

I would not use the word out of the loop. He was in every meeting about terrorism. He was not in the President's daily briefing with George Tenet. What the President did was to reestablish his principal conduit for intelligence information on everything, including terrorism, to be his DCI. But he was not -- he was in every meeting that was held on terrorism, all the deputies' meetings, the principals' meeting that was held, and so forth -- the early meetings after September 11th. When the President went to Camp David, he went with his closest advisors on September 15th. It was a time when he wanted people in the room with whom he had a particular relationship --

-- National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice

So which is it? He can't be both "out of the loop" and "in every meeting about terrorism." I am curious whether Clarke was on this trip to Camp David or not, that is, whether he had this "particular relationship" with the President or not. It's not clear from her statement.

What is becoming clear, however, is that this administration has had a hard-on for Iraq from day one. It wasn't a matter of whether to invade, it was a matter of time. The only question was under what pretext.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Fun Political Tool

There is a fun little tool over at You can see who has contributed in your area to what political campaigns, and search by zip code. I was amused reading the list for my zip and thinking, "I know him, and him, and him, and.... Kucinich? Who are you kidding?"

Monday, March 22, 2004


Last Wednesday, when this whole Rhea County silliness hit the fan, I sent Tommy Kilby an email asking if he had any comment on their actions. I got a reply today, nothing big, just a two-line response pointing out that they've rescinded their resolution, but it was an actual response.

Just think about that for a minute. I'm in Illinois; he's in Tennessee, and not a US senator, the state senator. I'd never heard of him before, shot off a message to him in ten minutes, and got a response just a few days later!

I know I'm a nerd, and get excited about these things, but can you imagine doing this before there was an Internet? It really is a revolutionary communications medium.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Sometimes I think the monkeys are smarter than us

A follow up to a previous entry.

In a stunning display of moral cowardice, second only to the holier-than-thou attitude that spawned the resolution in the first place, Rhea County commissioners voted Friday to recind their previous decision to try to ban gays from their county. According to Gary Fritts, the county attorney, the original intent of the bill was just to ban "gay marriage."

This ridiculous claim is, of course, an attempt to cop out of their own bigotry. There's no way that this resolution was intended to ban gay marriage. This resolution was at attempt to amend Tennesee's criminal code to ban "crimes against nature." In an AP article, J. C. Fugate was reported as saying, "We need to keep them out of here." He also asked Fritts what the best way was to pass a law that would ban homosexuals from living in the county.

Where in this did anyone mention marriage?

If Rhea Country truly believes that the scourge of homosexuality is bad enough that they can stand up and try to pass a law keeping them out of their oh-so-holy county -- as they apparently did -- they should have the moral fortitude to stand up and say so. And if there was an outcry from the entire civilized world telling them they were a bunch of inbred rednecks -- as there was -- they should have the similar fortitude to admit they made a mistake. Not try to cover up the issue by covering it with another hotly charged one that our society is currently grappling with.

According to seventh-grader Caitlin Kinney says she doesn't want homosexuals living in "her" community. "It's not a Christian thing," said Kinney. Wonder what would happen if a Jew or one of them thar Oriental folk tried to move there.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Wishful (if shallow) thinking

I caught Will and Grace this evening. Hey, I was bored and nothing else was on. Anway, Bobby Cannavale plays a gay cop. According to TV Land, he'll be on next week as well, when he and Will go out on a date. It will of course, go badly, because Will is gay, and second dates can lead to things that we can't have in a sitcom, like men kissing.

Cannavale played a gay fireman in The Guru. A cute piece of fluff, but worth watching. (The movie, not him.) In it, his line "My little firebug," just made me melt all over the couch. I had to run it back and watch it a few times, then go shower. And his little firebug, Dash Mihok isn't hard on the eyes, either.

IMDB says he's married, but this trend of him playing gay, and gay in uniform, is one I can totally get behind.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

People who should be sterilized before they can breed...

County commisioners in Rhea County, Tennessee passed a resolution to ask their state Congresscritters to introduce a bill that would allow them to criminally prosecute homosexuals. In this stunning example of inbreeding, the resolution passed unanimously. Apparently, the idea is to prevent 'those people' from sullying the sanctity and purity of the county that brought us the Scopes monkey trial. I guess news of the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down sodomy laws hasn't filtered down to Tennessee. Or maybe they just haven't found someone literate enough to read it to them.

Details of the resolution are scarce online, but the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the desired legislation would allow officials to "[charge] homosexuals with crimes against nature." Commissioner Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the motion, must be unfamiliar with the countless examples of homosexual behavior found in nature, outside the human species. But when did anyone let something as trivial as fact get in the way of a good prejudice? It is not clear if those making use of agriculture, medicine, or language would be charged with similar 'crimes against nature.'

It is also not clear what, specifically, Rhea County officials want to outlaw. The vague wording of what I've been able to find online about this doesn't make it clear whether they're trying to outlaw homosexual acts (i.e. sodomy, which would be covered under the recent Lawrence vs. Texas Supreme Court case) or just homosexuals in general. It is clear, however, that the intent it to prevent those nasty homosexuals from living there. "We need to keep them out of here," stated Commissioner Fugate.

A "Faggot, don't let the sun set on you in Rhea County" sign must have been considered too gauche.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Nothing, really

I don't have much to say today. There are a couple of big rants on gay marriage and some political stuff roiling just below my oh-so-calm surface, but they haven't quite formed yet. I expect they should erupt in the next day or so. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Quote of the Day

As reported at

...if you're in a burning building with a freezer full of hundreds of pre-implanted embryos and with a 2-year-old child, and you had to pick one or the other, which would you save?

-- William F. May,

member, President's Council on Bioethics

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Quote of the Day

Reported in the Toronto Star, March 8, 2004.

Please, my dear brothers, let your wives and sisters go to the voter registration process. Later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go.

-- Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Somehow, I just don't think Mr. Karzai quite gets the idea of "democracy."

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


Now that I have your attention... (No, don't go all pouty like that; this entry really is about sex.)

This is a bit preliminary, but Peter Bearman and Hannah Bruckner are presenting a study at the 2004 National STD Prevention Conference that shows that "virginity pledges" do delay the onset of sexual behavior, but those that take them show the same STD infection rates as those that do not. The reason being that the pledged virgins are less likely to use condoms when they actually do have sex.

This study hasn't been published yet, and the conference is still on-going, so I can't find much on this particular study. However, in a previous paper of theirs, they make some very interesting points:

  1. Pledging does significantly delay the onset of sexual behavior, although it depends at what age the pledge is taken.
  2. Pledging only works when it is "non-normative," i.e. when there are not very few or very many pledgers.
  3. Those that break the pledge are less likely to use condoms.

I found the second point the most interesting. One would think in a community where everyone was pledging to remain a virgin until marriage, it would be very effective.

The big finding from the study they are presenting today seems to be the fact that STD rates for pledgers and non-pledgers are about the same. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Abstinence-only education stresses that condoms do not prevent STDs, or that they are ineffective (the claimed degree of ineffecacy depending on the program) at doing so. They typically claim that the only method that is 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy or STDs is abstinence. [1]

Abstinence-only education is not fault-tolerant. As any engineer knows, everything fails. Parts break. Steel corrodes. You can never eliminate human error. And as any software developer knows, it is important for a complicated system to fail gracefully. That is, you must plan for a failure in critical systems. That's why we have backup systems, uninterruptable power supplies, and emergency stairwells. Not planning for predictable failures is not just careless, it is negligent.

Life long celibacy is not likely to happen for most people. And 88% of virginity pledgers are not virgins on their wedding night; that number goes up to 99% when we're not talking about pledgers. Therefore, it is reprehensible for any sex education system not take into account the fact that every one of its students will eventually have sex, and most likely before marriage. That's why abstinence-only education is a sham. Its purpose is not to keep kids safe or out of "trouble," but to push forward what is essentially a religious agenda. They're not trying to keep kids safe, they're trying to keep them from sin.

I'm not saying that sex education shouldn't teach abstinence. I don't think that 13 year olds should be having sex. We should, as a society, encourage kids to put off sex until they are physically, socially, and emotionally capable of handling it. But when they do -- and virtually all of them will -- they need to be armed with all of the tools necessary to do so in a safe and responsible manner. Seat belts aren't 100% effective, but I still wear mine when driving. Why is a condom so different?

To quote Mary Jo from Designing Women:

I think it really shouldn't matter what your personal views are on birth control, because we're not just talking about preventing births anymore. We're talking about preventing deaths. Twenty-five thousand Americans [2] have died, and we're still debating. Well, for me, the debate is over. More important than what any civic leaders, PTA, or Board of Education thinks about teenagers having sex, or any immoral act that my daughter or your son might engage in..... the bottom line is I don't think they should have to die for it.

For me, too, Mary Jo, the debate is over.

[1] I'm making the big assumption here that virginity pledgers are more likely to take part in abstinence-only education. That's an assumption; I haven't been able to find much on Bearman's study. But it seems likely.

[2] That was in 1987. That number has now grown twentyfold, to 500,000.

Monday, March 08, 2004

News That Isn't

It really irks me when the TV press runs news stories over and over on stuff that just isn't, well, news. Lately, this has included:

  • Martha Stewart's trial
    Yeah, ok, maybe this does deserve some coverage, she's a big, famous celebrity. But we really don't need minute-to-minute coverage. She shouldn't have lied to investigators, yes. And she should be punished for doing so. But it's just not as big of a deal as the press is making it out to be.
    • Enron: $60,000,000,000 of shareholder value lost
    • Worldcom: $50,000,000,000 possible goodwill damage
    • NYSE: $155,000,000 cost to investigators from NYSE failure to stop improper trading.
    • Martha Stewart: $240,000 in improper trades

    Think about the scale of the different here. For every dollar Martha made on her ImClone trade, Enron shareholders lost two hundred and fifty THOUSAND dollars. Holy crap.

    And remember, Martha was never indicted for insider trading, just for lying after the fact to investigators

  • Howard Dean
    No, not his policies, the press never covered that. Policy is boring. Soundbites and short, 10-seconds clips are "newsworthy." A guy has one undignified moment on TV, and it's played non-stop on the airwaves.
  • Laci and Scott Peterson
    Yeah, this is sad. It's tragic. And if he's guilty, he deserves to be sent to prison for a long, long time. But it's not the only murder that's happened in this country in the past year. Would we be seeing this much coverage if Laci hadn't been pregnant? Or if she hadn't been pretty and white?

The problem is that news coverage and tabloid coverage are converging. CNN, etc. are covering the stories that make for sexy, easy, and photogenic coverage. Think about it, we're coming up to a Presidential election right after coming out of a war. (And whether we're out of the war is even debatable.) When was the last time you actually saw a comparison of the candidates' stands on any of the serious issues? Not a panel show with the usual arch-conservative and liberal talking heads. (Or in the case of FoxNews, arch-conservatives and moderates.) I can't think of one.

Five Word Movie Review: Under the Tuscan Sun

For: Under the Tuscan Sun
I'm moving to Tuscany immediately.

Enjoyable as this movie was, I think I'm off romantic comedies for a while. The last thing I need to see is rich, beautiful people living in gorgeous locations falling in love with rich, beautiful people, and watching them live their perfect lives. It's like getting smacked in the head with a big bag of Gee, Doesn't Your Life Just Really Suck.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Five Word Movie Review: Alex and Emma

Alex and Emma
Occasionally amusing. Well-acted crap.


Just surfing around, I came across a rather sobering blog. (Plus the subsequent entries.)

Whatever your political feelings are towards the war in Iraq or our current political administration, I think we sometimes all need a reminder that this sort of thing isn't just something that CNN covers for the hell of it. This war is more than a soundbite in a political ad, or a headline in the newspaper. These are our own people a long way from home fighting and dying.

And an bomb in Iraq can send shrapnel halfway around the world.

Friday, March 05, 2004

A New Dictionary Entry

porn·tif·i·cate (porn-'ti-f&-"kAt), intr. v.

  1. To have naughty thoughts when viewing a picture of a celebrity in a state of undress.
  2. Imagining a celebrity in a state of undress.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Waste Management

I was a few minutes early for a meeting today and sat down to read an article on colloidal metallic nanoparticles. The back of the journal had an interesting editorial.

From Roland Clift. "What a waste!" Materials Today. 7. (2004):

[Recycling glass] is one of the worst forms of 'profligate environmentalism' -- doing things which give you a warm, green glow even though they damage the environment. In this case your car is likely to emit more CO2 than is saved by recycling the glass."

And then later says we should "stop pretending that there is such a thing as a zero-waste economy" and points out that such a thing is even thermodynamically impossible.

He has a great point. Bush is pushing a hydrogen car, an idea which will do little to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. I'm all for the environment. But I'm also for spending my time and money wisely. We must always make sure that our efforts are spent on something that will give us tangible, measurable progress towards a goal, not just something that makes us feel good. A sense of satisfaction about doing something good, when we haven't really made any real progress, is only counter-productive.


Normally, I'm of the opinion that online polls are worthless. That being said, they're also kinda fun. So go vote at this USA Today poll.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It's a bird ... it's a plane ... it's Super Tuesday

Uh, oh. Entry number two, and I'm already getting political. You have been warned. Women and children first.

There are ten Democratic primaries today. Although the results aren't entirely in yet, it looks like Kerry is going to take the ticket. In fact, that has been pretty clear for a couple of weeks now. The only question remaining is whether Edwards will prove himself to be popular and charismatic enough to make sense as Veep. If either Sharpton or Kucinich think they have a snowball's chance in hell of getting the nomination, he needs to up his lithium.

I am, it seems, not a very good citizen. I didn't even know until today that Illinois's primary (my state) was on March 16. New Jersey and Montana's aren't until June 8th. Why even bother? New Jersey's primary probably consists of Lou and Ethel Frogstein pulling out a rubber stamp and mailing the paperwork off a week late.

After today, the race will be over and forty percent of the states still haven't held their primary election. My vote, plus that of everyone in Illinois, Texas, Florida, etc. will be irrelevant. So I'm not even going to bother.

I'm not suggesting we have all the primary elections on the same day. But it's not like the candidates are having to waste a lot of time riding the railroad from one state to the other campaigning. With the wonder of television, a couple of national debates between all the candidates would be sufficient. Spread the process over three weeks; one-third each week. There is no reason for the entire process to take six months. Six months!

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I was completely behind Dean. He excitied me. He was well-reasoned, rational, and practical. He seemed to me to be someone that could make the necessary, tough, and possibly even unpleasant choices when necessary. Kerry bores me. He's a great Senator, I'm sure. But a President is not a Senator. Long, pontificating speeches are not what he's there for. Edwards is too young. Sharpton and Kucinich are really there for comic relief. Dean got me fired up. Interested. I actually cared about what was going on. But the press and the pundits never took him seriously, and after The Night of Embarassing, Red-faced Yelling, it was all over. Sigh.

This is shaping up to be an ugly election year. Bush is already pandering to the Christian ultra-right. Kerry is giving a speech, but I fell asleep a while ago. And this is what it's going to be like until November.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Event One

Ok, slow down. A little slower. Almost. Here I go. (Jump.) *Thud*

As probably the last human being to jump onto the blogging bandwagon, I'd like to say hello to my fellow passengers, publishers, and participants.

I sort of see this endeavor as a way to just spout off about random things I find interesting, pontificate generally, and occasionally rant. (Or, perhaps, more-than-occasionally rant.) It's sort of my message in a bottle. I wonder if anyone will pick it up and see it.

Contact info will be: narciblog (at) mindspring (dot) com. (Slightly spam-protected. I'm sure you can figure it out.)