Friday, February 29, 2008

Nanny-states are good... for students

I was reading over at IlliniPundit suggestions on how to deal with Unofficial. One commenter suggested that the police deliberately harass bar patrons. Another suggested the bar entry age be raised to 24 or 25. Both are of questionable legality, I suspect. Several other commenters suggested the Mayor use his powers as Minister of Alcohol (or whatever) to force the bars to close for this weekend.

Judging from the smoking ban brouhaha last year, I guess we can conclude:

  1. Government interference into the lives of bar patrons who choose to legally drink: Good
  2. Government interference into the lives of bar patrons who choose to legally smoke: Not just bad, but a sign the United States is turning into a Communist country

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Did anyone catch Torchwood a few weeks back? You know the episode with the giant space whale in the warehouse? Worst CGI monster since the Sci-Fi Channel's last movie of the week. But there was this little moment I found amusing. It's framed too perfectly in the shot for it to be a coincidence.

The episode was called "Meat" and that's what it was about.

Friday, February 22, 2008

On the normalization of torture

As more timely bloggers than I have pointer out, Supreme Court Justice said the other day: would be absurd to say that you can’t stick something under the fingernails, smack them in the face. It would be absurd to say that you couldn’t do that.

I just want to point out the complete moral turpitude of what Scalia is saying. He's not even bothering to participate in the legal sophistry so popular among Republicans these days that waterboarding isn't torture. He's flat-out saying that the US can torture detainees. He's talking about putting splinters under people's fingernails, for crying out loud.

That's where this issue has brought us. It used to be that the United States could claim to be a moral authority in the world. Now a member of the highest court in the land is claiming the US has the legal authority to torture captives and it barely even makes the news.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Too close for comfort

For those not local, it turns out that this week's shooting at Northern Illinois University was done by a UIUC graduate student. I just found out that he lived in the same apartment complex from me, just on the other side of the parking lot. Whoa. Freaky.

I don't really have anything to say on this, but can we wait just a little while before blaming this on Illinois's lack of concealed carry laws, media violence, removing God from the public schools, video games, or the homosexual agenda? Just 72 hours before it starts getting used as ammunition for your choice of political argument. Is that so much to ask?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Love came so softly I didn't even hear it

While I was visiting the parental units over Christmas, we watched Love Comes Softly. It was an odd choice and no one could remember why it had been in the Netflix queue. It probably was one of those "Since you liked X, you'll like Y" things.

It wound up being pretty predictable, made even more so by the fact that the opening credits let us know that the movie was distributed by Faith & Values Media. Oh, boy. Katherine Heigl plays a pioneer woman moving West with her husband, who dies five minutes into the movie, the day they arrive at their homestead. A couple of days later, at the funeral, Dale Midkiff proposes marriage, ostensibly since the preacher is leaving the very next day. Not "real" marriage, mind you, but she needs a place to live and he needs someone to care for his small children. He even says he'll sleep in the lean-to outside the house. The rest of the movie is fairly predictable at that point: she learns to be a good homemaker, bonds with his tomboy daughter, convinces her to wear a dress, discovers she's pregnant by her late husband, is witnessed to by her new husband, and at the movie's climax, discovers she's in love with the new guy. The movie's title comes from a conversation Heigl has with her only female friend, who also, it turns out, entered into a marriage of convenience only to discover she loved her new husband. Love in a marriage, you see, is an optional thing that sometimes "comes softly," rather than being something you start with.

Marriage is therefore sometimes a thing you do because it is useful or practical and not out of sentiment. That's a pretty radical idea for this day and age.

Remember that this is a movie made by a "family values" business and broadcast on the freakin' Hallmark Channel. Normally, I don't believe that making a movie is an endorsement of what happens in a movie -- you can tell a story without advocating its events -- but remember that this production company has made "good values" the very differentiating factor in its business model. I can only conclude they are, on some level, holding up this example as something to be emulated.

It's the sort of thing that makes me want to point out to all the "protect traditional marriage" types that this is what a traditional marriage is. Before about the mid-1700s, you got married for economic, political, and practical reasons, not for love. It was expected that some degree of fondness would develop, but it was never central to the institution. Not only was the kind of soulmate-finding, all-consuming love we idolize in our popular media not expected in a marriage, but it was actually considered improper for much of Western history. This Christian attitude towards marriage reminds me of the creepiest thing I've ever seen on the Web.

Other than this sort of creepy aspect, I didn't hate the movie. I didn't love it, but it wasn't awful, either. Some one else must have agreed, because they didn't just make a sequel, they made five.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Those naughty partisan Democrats

There's a thread over at IlliniPundit about McCain winning Florida. In it, the Pundit himself complains about the unwillingness of Democrats to be bipartisan and compromise with Congressional Republicans:

...many Democrats want to see the end of partisanship by having Republicans adopt Democratic positions. I have not seen any Democrats who lament partisanship urge Democrats to adopt Republican positions, nor have I seen anyone urge Democrats to compromise to move closer to Republican positions.

I almost laughed out loud at the idea that the lack of bipartisanship in Washington is due to the intransigence of Democrats. Glenn Greenwald pointed out this week what "bipartisanship" means in Washington. Here's a few examples:

To support the new Bush-supported FISA law:
GOP - 48-0
Dems - 12-36

To compel redeployment of troops from Iraq:
GOP - 0-49
Dems - 24-21

Declaring English to be the Government's official language:
GOP - 48-1
Dems - 16-33

The Military Commissions Act:
GOP - 53-0
Dems - 12-34

To renew the Patriot Act:
GOP - 54-0
Dems - 34-10

Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq:
GOP - 48-1
Dems - 29-22

The moderate position is not the midpoint between the two extremes, as TheSquire pointed out a couple of weeks ago with reference to the Overton Window.

Greenwald concludes with:

On virtually every major controversial issue -- particularly, though not only, ones involving national security and terrorism -- the Republicans (including their vaunted mythical moderates and mavericks) vote in almost complete lockstep in favor of the President, the Democratic caucus splits, and the Republicans then get their way on every issue thanks to "bipartisan" support. That's what "bipartisanship" in Washington means.