Friday, April 30, 2010

Gimme a freakin' break...

Sarah Palin has apparently thrown her support behind Tom Emmer, one of the Republican gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota.  From the supportee:
"It's a significant endorsement," Emmer said. "Sarah Palin is the gold standard of grass roots politics in this country."
Errmm...  Gold standard?  Spare me.  This from the guy who has lately praised Arizona's recently enacted "immigration reform" law (read, racial profiling law).  Sigh...  These people make me tired.

Work takes over...

It's been a mad, mad week at work, and it's generally sucked away all my hours.  I've had lots to say, but no time to say it!  Happily, the week's end is nigh, so I'll (hopefully) be getting caught up in the next couple of days.  Cheers, and happy Friday!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Evidence-Based Health Care

Crommunist posted a thoughtful piece last week in which he considers who should be in charge of an individual’s health care – the individual, or the physician. This got me thinking about the subject of evidence-based medicine. Crommunist examines the specific topic of a new and relatively untested method of treating multiple sclerosis; I will take a general tack, and add just a few additional thoughts.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fear and Loathing, just generally…

Found a great article this morning by Dahlia Lithwick off my Slate feed. In a nutshell, two entities – the Christian Legal Society (a student group at U.C. Hastings) and U.C. Hastings are currently before the SCOTUS arguing respectively for the right to free association, and the right to deny funds and other benefits to a student organization the university feels is discriminatory.

What I find most interesting about the case is not the wrangling of the heavy and difficult constitutional questions found in the arguments (those are, though, very interesting in and of themselves - plus, there's just so much subtext in this case...). No, what’s of primary interest to me, I think, is the idea that the two parties butting heads here couldn’t come together on this issue without consulting the high courts. Lithwick writes:
It's clear from today's argument that exposure to radically different viewpoints doesn't always result in greater mutual understanding. Watching the court work today, it seems maybe forced exposure to people unlike us promotes even more fear and resentment.
To me, this sounds precisely like the larger problems we’re facing at the moment. We’re in the process of dividing ourselves into ideological groups. We can see the other groups; we hear what their saying, but we only become more incensed with the opposing message. Ultimately, the fear and anger generated by this standoff would seem to preclude any hope of coming to a compromise. And that’s when things really get frightening…

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reason Wins!

A smart ruling came down yesterday from a federal judge in Wisconsin that finds the National Day of Prayer (or, wishful thinking as I like to call it...) unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

"In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.
I’ve no doubt that this will be overturned on appeal, but it’s very gratifying to have another ruling like this on the books. Hope remains…
Oopsy.  PZ beat me to the punch.  Of course.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More dangerous numbskullery from the vatican...

The pope's Underboss made a disturbing statement yesterday, apparently in an effort to deflect criticism with regard to the recent surge in abuse allegations aimed at the vatican. Says he:
"Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia," he told a news conference in Santiago.
Blame homosexuals.  That's just lovely.  Ignorant, stupid, and criminal.
"This pathology is one that touches all categories of people, and priests to a lesser degree in percentage terms," he said. "The behavior of the priests in this case, the negative behavior, is very serious, is scandalous."
Yeah, no kidding, it's serious.  And please provide those percentages.

It's not a hard task to condemn the catholic church when they so willingly condemn themselves.  I think the question that should be asked is why the church attracts criminals?  The obvious answer is that the church harbors and protects them.  Hell, it's a criminal organization from the top down.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tea Party?

My take on what they must be thinking:
Amerka. I tell you what, I shore wish nothing would change. Ever. I wish things were EXACTLY the way they were at the moment the Constitution was signed. It’s really a damn shame ‘bout the slavery thing going away. I also miss smallpox. Too bad about all them paved roads. And why do they have to plow ‘em in the winter? And clean drinking water too – what a waste of money! I shore wish I could pee, poop, and puke in a outhouse ‘stead of a warm bathroom. Stupid wastewater treatment plants and sewer mains have rooned everything. Bummer about the CDC, USDA, FDA, FAA, FCC, USPS, Social Security, Medicare, the armed forces, etc. Damn socialist organizations. Shore wish there wasn’t any stupid groups like the state police or the local police or the fire department. Wish I HAD to wear six-shooters when I walked out the damn door every day. And damn that pesky public transport and rail system. Who needs it – any of it?! Oh, for the days of yore…

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I absolutely detest labels. It is the bland generalization of a label that disturbs me so. I’m not talking the label on your frozen burrito or jar of pickled pig’s feet. I’m talking about the labels we place on our human selves – black, white, male, female, married, single, liberal, conservative, pragmatist, idealist, gay, straight, christian, atheist – these are some big ones. These code words are so limited in their description of a person, even in combination with other labels. Why do we abide this practice of labeling? To be sure, these words are descriptive; perhaps even necessary (male, female) when describing oneself or another. There seems, however, to be a general willingness to let a word or two in combination suffice as basis for a full description of an individual. What’s worse is that some labels connote something particular to you, and something particular to me. There’s no true consensus. This causes problems.

On the other hand, labels make things easier for us. For instance, I could tell you that:
I’m a male human of Irish, German, Italian & Romani descent. I’m sexually attracted to female humans, but have an appreciation of the beauty in both the male and female human form. I have been with the same partner for nine years, but we have yet to sign a contract formalizing our partnership. I am at times an artist, a musician, and always an aficionado of the creative spark. I have a strong work ethic, and believe that if a person needs to work to support oneself, that person should work! I typically vote democrat, but reserve the right to pick whoever I deem best for whatever position is in contest. I strongly support things like marriage equality, green and conservation initiatives, health care reform, and higher taxes for improved services. I attempt to live a life based on reasoned observation of the universe I inhabit. I require evidence for phenomena I cannot explain with simple observation; therefore, I have no belief in the supernatural (but I still like reading ghost stories…).
Or, I could say:
I’m a single white straight male liberal atheist.
And, damn! That’s much easier. It just doesn’t give the full picture. But neither does the longer-winded description.

So, this is really a long way of saying that though labels are irritating, limiting, and occasionally offensive, in our world, we need a simple indicator to tell us how to proceed. That’s the function of these types of words. It pays, though, to look past the word and find out what’s behind it. Sort of the, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” idea.

Having now given myself permission to use labels as needed, I have to say, the wingnuts were out in force in my home state of Minnesota last night.

[Jerry Holt / Minneapolis Star Tribune]

Please, please, please, oh denizens of my beloved Minnesota, vote with your minds and not with your hearts. Get rid of the stupid once and for all!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How Do You Work This Thing? And Why Would You Want To, Anyway?

This is my first personal expedition into the blogging world. So, forgive me if it’s a slow start. I consider myself relatively tech-savvy, but I know nothing about HTML, page layout, or any of the other technical aspects of this type of endeavour. I expect I will learn some of this as I move along here. Kind of like life.

Oh! The vanity! (here begins the part of the program where I shall deny and dismiss as irrelevant the very thing I intend to do) There’s some part of me that feels exceedingly sheepish about creating a blog. Above, I already ask forgiveness from a visitor – any visitor – for technical hiccups that may occur. For shame... The egotistical presumption that anyone should have any interest whatsoever in anything I have to say is simply scandalous. But here I am... And that’s the thing. I bump into loads of blogs that I find interesting and/or entertaining. Heck, occasionally I even learn something. So, yes, perhaps there’s a little vanity occurring here, but there’s also a desire to entertain and inform and communicate. We shall see…

The other part of this is that I’ve let many things lapse in the last few years, not the least of which is my writing. I graduated with a creative writing degree in ’07 (late bloomer…), and promptly moved to Maine. It took two months to find work (the longest I’d been unemployed since I was eighteen), and during that time, I was fairly vigilant in keeping up with writing and sending pieces to literary magazines, etc. After starting work again, the writing went into a slow decline. I haven’t written anything since last fall, and that was an unsuccessful attempt at memoir for a friend’s anthology project. I’m hoping that a little regular practice might get this creaky machine moving once again.

What will I write about; what is the focus here? Good question. I don’t rightly know at this point. I’m interested in many things. I think a lot about politics, science, philosophy, and religion. How do these things affect my existence? I currently live in a state that has recently juggled with the topic of human equality - with deeply troubling results. These are the types of things that concern me, and I suspect related items will show up in the blank spaces on these pages. On the lighter side, I’m working on rekindling my passion for cooking (another lapsed item), so we might find here some items on food. Maybe pictures! Maybe recipes! Music, books, art, work, life, life, life, and life. Some or all of those things, I reckon, will appear.

So welcome! You and I shall move through this experiment together. I hope it will bring fruitful results to all. If you are compelled to say something, please do, the comments are open.

There it is, then.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Generally Dissatisfied?


The two-word phrase, “Generally Dissatisfied” popped into existence in my life one afternoon ten years ago during the course of a conversation with my cousin and friend. He was, in simple terms, describing the current state of his toddler son. As I recall, the young fellow was particularly squirmy and whiny in that moment. For some reason, it has stuck with me due to its clear perfection in describing a state of being in which nothing in particular is disturbing; rather, everything is.

In this context, it’s not necessarily a negative. For, to disturb something means simply to upset its settled state. And this, I think, is intellectually necessary if we wish to continue growing as thinking individuals.