WickedEye's Quotient

12/19/2005 at 12:14

Paramount among the responsibilities of a free press...

...is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people.
-Justice Hugo Black, New York Times Co. v. United States, 1971

How art the mighty fallen.

The quotation above comes from the Supreme Court's opinion on a case in which the NY Times sued the U.S. Government over its right to publish the Pentagon Papers (on the origins of the Vietnam War), and won. The Court upheld the plaintiff, and in so doing declared that “any attempt by the Government to block news articles prior to publication bears a heavy burden of presumption against its constitutionality” (NY Times, July 1, 1971).

The Times just squandered its victory.

Why this should be shocking to me I have no idea, except for the fact that I held the (admittedly unexamined) belief that the NY Times, because of its wide readership- and its history of fighting for the right to free speech- was somewhat immune to the immense pressure (not to say threat) which the Bush White House has repeatedly exerted in order to quash stories unfavorable to it. On such a reputation, in the past, has the Times built the authority it holds today.

Well, as recorded below, the Times' authority has taken a blow- its dereliction of duty in this case is extreme and unjustifiable:

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article… After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted. [emphasis added] (NY Times, December 16,2005)

How on earth did the Times’ editorial board justify such a delay to themselves? “We need a year’s worth of data to determine exactly how many domestic wiretaps the government does per annum”? Bullshit. Even Congress has to jump through hoops to get those numbers.

A year for "additional reporting"?

No free newspaper should wait a year to report that it's uncovered evidence that the United States government has repeatedly and flagrantly violated both the Fourth Amendment and its own laws- even the totalitarian Patriot Act does not entitle the government to randomly conduct searches at will, which is precisely what these roving wiretaps constitute. Hell, no non-government-operated newspaper should wait a month to break that kind of story.

JHFC. I can’t write any more on this right now; further comment on this- delinquency- is going to strain my ability to keep my invective semi-civilized.

From the same newspaper, however, comes a faint glimmer of integrity that has not (yet) been garroted.

There is a profoundly disturbing story on
child pornography via webcam on the Times site. I mention it not only because it brings up distressing questions on a number of levels (seeing a person be co-opted into collaborating in their own victimization makes my gut roil), but because the author (who is one of the Times’ star reporters), actually convinced the subject of the story to stop what he was doing, and to talk to a federal investigator.

Essentially, the reporter pressed for and made possible a federal investigation that has already resulted in the indictments of child pornographers, and has the potential to result in the indictments of hundreds more.

That’s investigative journalism. That’s what a free press is supposed to do. And it’s becoming increasingly rare.


12/17/2005 at 21:29

With Silence Favor Me -Horace (c. 65-8 BC)

He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak.
-Ausonius (c. 310-395 AD)

I like to watch people’s responses to a lull in noise. What do they say when there is no sound? What do they turn on when the world around them drops to stillness? Music? A television?

For me, the answer is- nothing.

Silence is underrated.

I very rarely get it; my workday is spent in close proximity to 3 other women, and there’s an enormous crane right outside my window, and, and, and… fill in the blanks. Be sure to continue ad nauseum.

There is the cessation of noise, and then there is silence- an utter hush that sings in your ears because it is so still that your own breathing produces a seashell whoosh.

I’m sitting in a calm almost like that at this moment- but of course there’s the clicking of the keys and the hum of the monitor and the high tone of the power cord to my computer…

But it’s close enough. Closer than I’ve been in a long time.

The embrace of silence is almost drugging. Almost- ecstatic. Elusive. Addictive. Seductive.

Soon it will be gone again, and I’ll crave it hopelessly for a long, long time, occasionally hearing a brief, teasing pulse of it amid the clamor of my days.

Elusiveness. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the most alluring qualities a person or object can have? It need not always be conscious or deliberate.

Silence is one of the things I desire most.

But moving toward it moves me away from- everything else.

12/16/2005 at 07:09

Love Song For A Narwhal

I stated below that I worship and adore the scientific method, but now seems like a good time to explain why.

They’ve just discovered what the narwhal’s tusk does.

It’s amazing. Incredible. This is an object that has been sought and sold and beatified and bought, that has had theories and tales and legends and lies form around it for more than a thousand years. During all that time, no one has known what purpose it served.

But now we know. And we know because of scientific research on the narwhal.

I first read about narwhals when I was 7. I was glutted with the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen (another of my hobbies is collecting myths and fairy tales) and Charles Perrault; we had an entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, so I looked up unicorns. And after reading that “unicorn horns” were really narwhal tusks, I looked up narwhals. Even at 7 I was mystified and intrigued by the fact that no one really knew what purpose their horns served, but after I delved more deeply into evolutionary theory, I more or less dismissed the whole thing as the whale version of a panda’s thumb.

Not so. The narwhal’s tusk is a sensory organ of extraordinary sensitivity, with an atypical configuration (nerve exposure to extreme Arctic conditions, lessening of nerve density from tip to base) that is uniquely adapted to convey a great deal of information. Theories about its sensitivities include salinity measurements, sound wave detection, and electrical sensing through a piezoelectric effect generated through the unique dentin structure of the horn. Fabulous- and unguessed at, until now.

To deviate from the flow of this discussion for a moment, I’ve always said that everyone has a religion- a way they explain the world to themselves and make it make sense. In that sense, I consider science- the scientific method- to be the only religion I have.

The scientific method is actually laughably simple- far simpler than many other religions I’ve encountered. It specifies that, in studying a given phenomenon, you must:

Observe and measure that phenomenon as accurately as possible.

Form a specific and limited hypothesis about the cause or effect of the phenomenon. The hypothesis must propose the simplest mechanism- consistent with known fact- possible (Ockham’s razor).

Formulate a prediction, drawn from the hypothesis, which is concrete and capable of being proven wrong (falsifiable).

Design and perform an experiment designed to test the validity of the prediction. Results produced must be capable of being replicated by other scientists when they conduct the same experiment.

Rinse and repeat.

That's it. Simple. Not easy- some of the theories and information and experimental setups arising from this theory are mind-bogglingly complex, but- and more on this later- nowhere is it written that the results of this very simple method should be easy to comprehend. Sometimes they are; more often they are not; those results range over the breadth of the universe and have the specificity of subatomic particles, but they are not easy. (Again, more on this at another time.)

If your theories do not fit all of the above criteria, then what you are doing, thinking, theorizing, writing, speechifying on, is not science. (On these grounds alone, the Intelligent Design crowd is a pack of liars. Not a single premise of theirs is falsifiable, and therefore it is not science. If it is not science, it does not belong in a classroom. Quod erat demonstrandum.)

See where this fits? My Blogger profile says that I believe science to be the best tool for evaluating the world. It is far, far more than that. It is the method that has produced more results, more knowledge, than any other in the history of humanity. It is the single greatest factor behind our technological- and organizational- progress.

It is, in short, our greatest accomplishment as a species.

And, as a devout Pastafarian (no, that’s not a contradiction- see link at right), I’ll end this paean of praise properly:


12/14/2005 at 08:37

Excerpt From Current Chat

I don't like being wrong, but still less do I like continuing to be wrong and knowing it.

12/13/2005 at 12:47

Stimulating Advice

I’d meant to post yesterday but was barely awake enough to comment on other blogs, much less compose a coherent entry for this one. This led me to a level of desperation I haven’t reached since college- specifically, the level reached on the third day of a 72-hour waking stretch (my skills have declined depressingly since)- and drove me to a trick I haven’t tried in 7 years. Ready for it?

I brewed tea in coffee.

Specifically, I soaked 4 teabags in a cup of coffee (the coffee’s not hot enough to get the bag to effuse properly, so you have to up the dosage for that and a few other reasons- more below) for 7 minutes, then drank the result.

“Argh” is an understatement. It does, however, wake you up.

The explanation of why this works much better than drinking double the amount of coffee is this: Only about half the stimulant properties of tea are due to caffeine; the other half are due to far smaller quantities of a stimulant called theophylline, which is in the same family as caffeine but is a much stronger physical (as opposed to neural) stimulant. Mixing the two, in other words, provides you with a helluva charge. If you mix them in the correct proportion, it comes as close to being the perfect stimulant (again, notes on this caveat below) as is legally possible without a prescription.

The “correct proportion” (from my experiments- rather subjective, but I do have notes) is approximately 1 part theophylline to 15 parts caffeine. Considering that a normally-brewed teabag will yield about 3-4 mg of theophylline, that a normal cup of coffee has 150-175 mg caffeine, and that the temperature of a fresh cup of drip coffee isn't high enough to extract the full 3 mg from the teabag, the 4-teabag to 10-oz mug of coffee trick works well.

For those of you saying “why doesn’t she just mix the tea and coffee?”- it’s because this family of chemicals is better absorbed and thus more immediately effective in more concentrated doses; and because, when you do that, you are diluting your intake of the active chemicals. You’re getting enough caffeine, but not nearly enough theophylline. Even insanely strong tea mixed with half a cup of coffee doesn’t work- you’re lessening the amount of caffeine that way. You just get “yuck” and (almost) no bang for your buck. (Sadly, yes- I did mean for that to rhyme.)

Which brings me to the numerous cautions involved with doing this- my disclaimer:
1. Don’t do this if you plan on tasting anything for the next half hour. It will take that long for your tongue to recover.
2. Don’t do this on an empty stomach. It will nauseate you and could cause diarrhea.
3. Don’t do this if you’re already taking smooth-muscle relaxants or neural stimulants of any kind. These include, but are not limited to, over-the-counter cough/cold medications, medication for congestive heart failure, any kind of anti-psychotic or anti-seizure medication, and asthma medication.
4. NEVER do this more twice in one day, regardless of whether you are or aren’t on any medication. Undiagnosed conditions are common, and shocking your system in this fashion is very decidedly not good for you. Which leads me to the final rule:

Which I was.

And now that I’ve finished adding my bit of corrupting information to the world, I need to get back to work.

12/11/2005 at 14:18

Not Even Wrong

New link on the right to Not Even Wrong, an outstanding physics blog by Peter Woit, who’s a theoretical physicist and Lecturer at Columbia's Math Department.

The title of his blog references a famous comment by Wolfgang Pauli, formulator of the exclusion principle and the theory of spin. When asked for his opinion on a young physicist’s paper, he said furiously, “This… This is not right… It is not even wrong!”

On Woit's site, the phrase often refers to the current state of string theory. I'm not sure I agree with this, but his observations are so cogent and well-presented, and his respect for the strict application of the scientific method (which I worship and adore- probably more on that later) so profound, that it's very difficult to oppose his views.

at 12:17

For We Shall Not See His Like Again

Richard Pryor is dead.

I didn’t know until today; I found out by reading Chris’ blog (HHH, link at right). It shook me, even though the last time I saw him on TV almost 10 years ago, he looked raddled and emaciated.

Pryor- along with Lenny Bruce- redefined what standup comedy is, and in so doing shifted our entire social landscape. The two of them extended its reach far beyond anything anyone had ever before dreamed it could do.

He- they- made standup comedy an art form.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not belittling people like Henny Youngman or Bob Hope or the Godfather (or, depending on what you’re watching, just God), George Burns; but their brand of comedy is all but extinct. The slapstick vaudevillian antics of Milton Berle, for example, still show up once in a while; but now, it’s extraordinary- something most of us don’t normally even think of as belonging in standup.

Of course all comics criticized the social norms and happenings of their day; from its inception comedy performance has been a mirror held up to the world. But that mirror once signaled only in Morse code- brief, one-liner flashes of brilliance that momentarily illuminated issues and attitudes before flashing away again.

Pryor and Bruce switched from Morse to English. They combined the personal sway and humor of vaudeville comics with caricature beyond anything that had previously been attempted- they merged what was seen as strictly a performance art with the kind of stinging social satire that had previously been the exclusive province of authors, from Jonathan Swift to S.J. Perelman.

In short, their acts were a narrative- a prolonged and comprehensive parody of the pieces of the world which they wished to highlight. By weaving their jokes and biting insights into longer pieces of absurdity, they compelled from their audiences a level of attention which only the very top names of previous ages had been able to command- and even then, only for moments at time.

By changing the ways in which comedians interacted with their audiences- by requiring an audience to pay close attention in order to get the joke- Pryor and Bruce also changed the status of the comedian. The standup comedy act became the main focus of an evening out- not like the comics (even the legendary Henny Youngman)- who were hired to make people laugh every once in a while as they dined or drank.

Pryor and Bruce, by giving comedians a longer time in which to tell their tales, gave them an enormous set of tools which simply were not available to comics of an earlier era- and required of their audiences the kind of thought and attention to detail which has become the norm in comedy.

As an example, pull one line out of a Robin Williams or George Carlin rant, or an Eddie Izzard meditation, or a Lewis Black explosion, and see whether or not it’s funny. Oh, chances are it’ll have the faint echo of humor, but in order to howl and clutch your sides, you’ll need to listen for five or ten minutes- an exponential expansion of what used to be the comedy audience’s attention span.

That span continues to extend- the ripples of Pryor’s enormous splash will continue, far further than most of us can ever hope or even think to go. We may not remember him well, or credit him for all he has done, but his legacy is there all the same.

The little boy from the brothel made it big. Boy, did he ever.

And the influence of his work will keep us laughing- and thinking about it- forever.

Richard Pryor, December 1, 1940- December 10, 2005
Rest in Peace

at 10:56

Words Are the Soul's Ambassadors

Words are the soul's ambassadors, who go
Abroad upon her errands to and fro.
-James Howell (c. 1594-1666)

The quotation above stopped me dead in my tracks today; it’s an aspect of logophilia I hadn’t really considered carefully, until now.

I’ve always told people- those close enough to me to ask the question, anyway- that the reason I am so careful with- no, obsessed by- words is that they’re a form of magic.

They always have been. From the very earliest days, humans have been careful about who knew their names, for names have power. Words have power. They capture the essence of a thing, fix its existence in a world which changes, atom by atom, in every second. Prison it with breath and flesh.

Make it real.

We are what we think. And because the vast majority of us think in words, it is words that make us what we are, that fix us in reality, shaping us to their meaning and price.

That’s what I used to tell people who asked me about my fixation. But the quotation above, though tangential, is one that’s particularly relevant as I publish thoughts that anyone may access.

This page is a cry, as is every word I utter to the people around me. Even my polite banalities are breaths of who I am and how I feel- a reflection of the world of my mind. I am careful with what I say- well, I try to be, and mostly succeed- but even with my acknowledgement of the world-etching nature of language I seldom acknowledge that communication from me is an attempt to draw other people into the circle of my thoughts and definitions and being.

Words shape reality, and our inner reality flows outward from us on a stream of words.

Orson Scott Card sums that interaction perfectly. He once wrote a character who described the sum of human research and knowledge as a cry of “Know me. Come live with me in the world of my mind.

An invitation I continue to issue. As do all of you.


12/10/2005 at 15:33

HH High

Stopped by Hubert Humphrey High (linked at the right) and found new entries. Chris is thoughtful, honest, a fellow cynic (we’re not pessimists, ya’ll- the word is realist), and, best of all, posting again. Check him out.

12/08/2005 at 14:39

There is no more effective form of censorship

Reproduced from another email in the same series as that below:

>>>There is no more effective form of censorship than lack of interest.

I've been working off that theory for several years now- and the bigotry, narrow-mindedness and fear all around me grow all the time in the face of silence from those who think differently. I'm just tired of it, M. I'm tired of intolerance and fear and sheer self-interest justified as patriotism. I'm tired of watching all those things be exploited by those who stand to gain most without anyone commenting or objecting.

I'm tired of being afraid that I could get hauled off to jail someday with no recourse, no defense, and no release- by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or being accused of something I didn't do- even though I'm a natural-born citizen.

All evil requires is the silence of good. That may sound melodramatic- and I'm sure it is- but I'm tired of taking things silently and hoping they'll pass. I love this country and all the wonderful, incredible principles it's stood for and stood by despite so many kinds of corruption. I'm not going to stand by and watch all that be thrown away.

And what that means is making sure that I stand up and say something. Even here.


at 14:11


Below is an email I sent in response to one of the "if-you-don't-like-it-then-leave" puddles of vitriol splashing about shortly after September 11. The points I made are valid and still under contention, though more subtly, now; so I decided to publish the text of the email (including the text of the original, for context) below.


Guess you might have known that I completely disagree with this blatantly false and nauseatingly jingoistic rant. If you have questions about the facts I cite, references are provided at the end.

>>>After hearing that the state of Florida changed its opinion and let a Muslim woman have her picture on her driver's license with her face covered this is an editorial written by an American citizen, published in a Tampa newspaper. He did quite a job; didn't he? Read on, please!

>>>IMMIGRANTS, NOT AMERICANS, MUST ADAPT. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.
I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely made up of descendants of immigrants.

Well, that's damned condescending of the Tampa him/her/it. In point of fact, unless you live on an Indian (Native American) reservation or have some very close relatives there, you and your family are (relatively recent) immigrants.

>>>This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

He/she/it either completely forgot what he/she/it wrote in the previous paragraph, or doesn't understand the basics of the English language of which he/she/it thinks so highly. This country IS a multicultural community, whether he/she/it likes it or not. The statement that "Our population is almost entirely made up of descendants of immigrants" is merely a rephrasing of that fact.

>>>We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language!

I beg to differ on this matter. Who exactly is "we"? The oldest [European] immigrants here? As a statement of fact, "we"- the population of this country- speak all the above languages, and many more.

If he/she/it wishes to express a preference for the English language (which, by the way, Americans- I include myself- DO NOT speak- we have OUR OWN DICTIONARY of "American" English {1}) based on the fact that it is the language in which American laws and statutes are written, and believes every person in this country should speak fluent English, so be it- as long as he/she/it realizes that this is a personal preference, not a fact. Stating wishes as though they are facts isn't just arbitrary and misleading, it's dangerous and terrifically prejudicial (I use the word in its literal sense, as in "leading to premature judgment or unwarranted opinion" {2}) as well.

>>> "In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented.

Wrong again! Where is he/she/it getting his/her/its so-called "facts" and "documentation"? Most of the Founding Fathers were deists, not theists. Even the myth of George Washington's ardent Christianity (created by his most influential biographer, who also made up the story about the cherry tree and was, oh-so-coincidentally, a Christian minister) is shattered by Washington's own faithfully kept journal, which shows that he rarely attended church and never referred to any spiritual matters or thinking. (He was, however, a dedicated Freemason- and therefore a deist- like many of the other Founding Fathers; inducted into the order at the age of 20, and a member until he died.) {3}

Here are some quotations from other Founding Fathers regarding Christianity:

THOMAS JEFFERSON: "I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology... Millions... since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites..." {4}

JOHN ADAMS: "The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity." Adams signed the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of that treaty states: "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." {5}

THOMAS PAINE: "Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity." {6}

JAMES MADISON: "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution." {7}

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN: "...Some books against Deism fell into my hands... It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist." {8}

Whether the Tampa he/she/it chooses to agree or disagree with these men and their beliefs is certainly his/her/its privilege. Lying about their beliefs, however, is not.

As far as his/her/its assertion that "We adopted this motto because Christian men and women... founded this nation...", I cite the U.S. Treasury Department's website:

"The motto IN GOD WE TRUST was placed on United States coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the United States recognize the Deity on United States coins... it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861... It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, and read: [quoted] You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered… Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation?... This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism...

The Congress passed the Act making "In God We Trust" our national motto on April 22, 1864. This is- obviously- quite a bit after the founding of this country, or the establishment of its fundamental principles and bases in English Common Law. {9}

>>>It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.

Again, an apparent misunderstanding of some fairly simple words: "Separation of church and state." This principle has been entrenched in American traditions of common law and subsequent legal precedent from the very earliest acts and government of this country. James Madison, "Father of the Constitution", defended that separation repeatedly, and most explicitly in his written opposition to a bill which would have authorized tax support for Christian ministers in the state of Virginia (sound familiar, anyone?).

Many of the other Founding Fathers, including Jefferson and Franklin, also wrote repeatedly on this principle and the importance of its inclusion in American law and government. {10}

>>>If Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from.

Wow. Are you sure he/she/it is from Florida and not Tennessee, Alabama, or Mississippi? What an extreme and uncalled-for statement.

Once again, I object to his/her/its use of the word "we". He/she/it, and all other like-minded beings, have a perfect right to state whatever beliefs he/she/it sees fit to proclaim. However, the megalomaniacal thinking inherent in proclaiming these thoughts to be the thoughts of every American is cretinously stupid at the least, insulting- and, frankly, disgusting- at the worst.

>>> This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle. Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great American freedom, THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.

Here is the text of the famous First Amendment in its entirety:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. {11}

Nowhere within it does one find any specific prohibition on (to quote him/her/it from Tampa) "complaining, whining, and griping". However, it and the legal precedent laid down upon it do in fact support open and free speech in criticism of government or any institution thereof.

This criticism is a right so vigorously protected by legal precedent that it is actually EXEMPT from the single longest-standing tradition of common law- that of standing to sue:

"As a corollary, the Court has altered its traditional rules of standing to permit- in the First Amendment area- ‘attacks on overly broad statutes with no requirement that the person making the attack demonstrate that his own conduct could not be regulated'... Litigants...are permitted to challenge a statute not because their own right of free expression are violated, but because of a judicial prediction or assumption that the statute’s very existence may cause others not before the court to refrain from constitutionally protected speech or expression.” -Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White (emphasis added) {12}.

As an American, I take great pride in the fact that I have the right to challenge a law because it may inhibit others' freedom of speech. Besides, that freedom is there for a reason. If no one has a right to point out the flaws in a system, how can that system become better?

>>>If you agree-- pass this along; if you don't agree-- delete it!

Why delete it? So that this palpable tissue of lies, misstatements, crass bigotry and deliberate misrepresentation of historical and current fact and law can continue to be read by people who may or may not look up the- actual, documented- facts for themselves?

{1} Webster’s New World Basic Dictionary of American English
{2} Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
{3} www.earlyamerica.com
{4} The Memoirs, Correspondence, and Miscellanies from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 4 vols. Ed. Thomas Jefferson Randolph
{5} www.postfun.com
{6} The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine
{7} Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments, James Madison
{8} The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
{9} www.ustreas.gov
{10} www.stephenjaygould.org
{11} caselaw.lp.findlaw.com

12/07/2005 at 06:23

How Bush Defines Torture

"His spokesman, Scott McClellan, refused Tuesday to discuss how Mr. Bush defines torture..."

How Bush defines torture. How Bush defines torture. How Bush defines torture?

Who *^%$@#! cares how Bush defines torture? His definitions, like his spelling, ain't worth shit.

Nobody but the U.N.- no head of state, no government agency- has the right to define what is torture and what isn't. That question has already been answered, thank you, by the "U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment":

Torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

Hear that, cretin-in-chief? You don't get to say what torture is. No statement along the lines of, "We've provided guidelines for the application of electrical burns to genitalia in Section 96.3.451 of the U.S. Code Annotated," will make such activities legal.

Once again, Naked Emperor, regardless of what your toadies and the brainwashed media tell you, you cannot arrogate the power to rewrite international law or the conventions to which all civilized peoples are signatories- you cannot rewrite reality to suit your narrow, uneducated, megalomaniacal, machismo-poisoned (and I use the next term very, very loosely) mind.


12/02/2005 at 13:25


Who would accept produce from a snake? THIS is the form Lucifer took when offering that apple. Poor Eve- she never had a chance. (I hear he calls himself Jonathan Rhys-Meyers now.) Posted by Picasa


at 12:46

Get To Know Me! (You Poor Fool...)

Third and last "lazy blog" of the day.

It occurred to me that, if anyone ever reads this, I may come across as- well- slightly less than sane and balanced. I am, of course. Less, that is. But just to confirm the impression, below is a sort of get-to-know-you-by-asking-mostly-irrelevant-questions email survey I received a few months ago.

Let the inconsequential revelations begin!

1. What time did you get up this morning? 7:00 am
2. Diamonds or pearls? Pearls, preferably black ones
3. What was the last film you saw at the movies? Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
4. What is your favorite TV show? Anything interesting and funny that I happen to see while walking by on the way to a bookshelf or a computer
5. What did you have for breakfast? Too much blood in my caffeine system- replenished it with coffee

6. What is your middle name? Lisa Miriam
7. What is your favorite cuisine? All kinds of Italian, but Northern’s the best
8. What foods do you dislike? Anything bland or synthetic-tasting
9. What is your favorite chip flavor? Plain blue corn tortilla with salt
10. What is your favorite CD at the moment? Douglas Adams’ Salmon of Doubt on CD
11. What type of car do you drive? 2001 Nissan Altima
12. Favorite sandwich? Cold grilled portobello mushroom with buffalo mozzarella and aioli
13. What characteristic do you despise? Certainty with no or inadequate information
14. Favorite item of clothing? Mephistopheles vs. Michael t-shirt
15. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation? While I’m fantasizing- Cairo, Luxor, Istanbul, Baghdad, Jericho and Jerusalem, without worrying about being shot
16. What color is your bathroom? Deep clay, with forest green, maroon, and terra cotta accents
17. Favorite brand of clothing? No favorite brand- favorite designers are Lanvin, Sui and Gaultier
18. Where would you retire to? An island in the Pacific that I own (again with the fantasizing)- probably somewhere in the Southwest
19. Favorite time of the day? Midnight to 1 am on a starry night
21. Where were you born? Washington, D.C.
22. Favorite sport to watch? Basketball or any game a friend is playing
23. Who do you least expect to send this back to you? I plead the fifth.
24. Person you expect to send it back? What do I look like, a mind reader?
25. What fabric detergent do you use? Sun or Arm and Hammer
26. Coke or Pepsi? Orange juice
27. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Night by preference, but only if I can sleep late
28. What is your shoe size? Yergh. 10.
29. Do you have any pets? Do dust bunnies count?
30. Any new and exciting news you would like to share with family & friends? Finished editing my poetry for publication
31. What did you want to be when you were little? An astronomer/astrophysicist or a neurosurgeon or a marine biologist or a (you get the idea)…


at 11:54

Intelligent Design, A La New Yorker

Okay- second post for the day. Looked through my humor archives, and couldn't resist sharing this. Thanks, Cindy.

If, after reading this, you feel inspired to explore more of Intelligent Design's (ahem) creative possibilities, check out the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster here: http://www.venganza.org/index.htm (it's also linked on the right-hand utility bar).


Day No. 1:
And the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light. But then the Lord God said, “Wait, what if I make it a sort of rosy, sunset-at-the-beach, filtered half-light, so that everything else I design will look younger?”
“I’m loving that,” said Buddha. “It’s new.”
“You should design a restaurant,” added Allah.

Day No. 2:
“Today,” the Lord God said, “let’s do land.” And lo, there was land.
“Well, it’s really not just land,” noted Vishnu. “You’ve got mountains and valleys and— is that lava?”
“It’s not a single statement,” said the Lord God. “I want it to say, ‘Yes, this is land, but it’s not afraid to ooze.’ ”
“It’s really a backdrop, a sort of blank canvas,” put in Apollo. “It’s, like, minimalism, only with scale.”
“But—brown?” Buddha asked.
“Brown with infinite variations,” said the Lord God. “Taupe, ochre, burnt umber—they’re called earth tones?
“I wasn’t criticizing,” said Buddha. “I was just noticing.”

Day No. 3:
“Just to make everyone happy,” said the Lord God, “today I’m thinking oceans, for contrast.”
“It’s wet, it’s deep, yet it’s frothy; it’s design without dogma,” said Buddha, approvingly.
“Now, there’s movement,” agreed Allah. “It’s not just ‘Hi, I’m a planet— no splashing!’ ” “But are those ice caps?” inquired Thor. “Is this a coherent vision, or a highball?”
“I can do ice caps if I want to,” sniffed the Lord God.
“It’s about a mood,” said the Angel Moroni, supportively.
Thank you,” said the Lord God.

Day No. 4:
“One word,” said the Lord God. “Landscaping. But I want it to look natural, as if it all somehow just happened.” “Do rain forests,” suggested a primitive tribal god, who was known only as a clicking noise.
“Rain forests here,” decreed the Lord God. “And deserts there. For a spa feeling.”
“Which is fresh, but let’s give it glow,” said Buddha. “Polished stones and bamboo, with a soothing trickle of something.”
“I know where you’re going,” said the Lord God. “But why am I seeing scented candles and a signature body wash?”
“Shut up,” said Buddha.
“You shut up,” said the Lord God.
“It’s all about the mix,” Allah declared in a calming voice. “Now let’s look at swatches.”

Day No. 5:
“I’d like to design some creatures of the sea,” the Lord God said. “Sleek but not slick.”
“Yes, yes, and more yes— it’s a total gills moment,” said Apollo. “But what if you added wings?”
“Fussy,” whispered Buddha to Zeus. “Why not epaulets and a sash?”
“Legs,” said Allah. “Now let’s do legs.”
“Are we already doing dining-room tables?” asked the Lord God, confused.
“No, design some creatures with legs,” said Allah. So the Lord God, nodding, designed an ostrich.
“First draft,” everyone agreed, and so the Lord God designed an alligator.
“There’s gonna be a waiting list,” Zeus murmured appreciatively.
“Now do puppies!” pleaded Vishnu. “And kitties!”
“Ooooo!” all the gods cooed. Then, feeling a bit embarrassed, Zeus ventured, “Design something more practical, like a horse or a mule.”
“What about a koala?” asked the Lord God.
“Much better,” Zeus declared, cuddling the furry little animal. “I’m going to call him Buttons.”

Day No. 6:
“Today I’m really going out there,” said the Lord God. “And I know it won’t be popular at first, and you’re all gonna be saying, ‘Earth to Lord God,’ but in a few million years it’s going to be timeless. I’m going to design a man.”
And everyone looked upon the man that the Lord God designed.
“It has your eyes,” Zeus told the Lord God.
“Does it stack?” inquired Allah.
“It has a naïve, folk-artsy, I-made-it-myself vibe,” said Buddha. The Inca sun god, however, only scoffed. “Been there. Evolution,” he said. “It’s called a shaved monkey.”
“I like it,” protested Buddha. “But it can’t work a strapless dress.” Everyone agreed on this point, so the Lord God announced, “Well, what if I give it nice round breasts and lose the penis?”
“Yes,” the gods said immediately.
Now it’s intelligent,” said Aphrodite.
“But what if I made it blond?” giggled the Lord God.
“And what if I made you a booming offscreen voice in a lot of bad movies?” asked Aphrodite.

Day No. 7:
“You know, I’m really feeling good about this whole intelligent-design deal,” said the Lord God. “But do you think that I could redo it, keeping the quality but making it at a price point we could all live with?”
“I’m not sure,” said Buddha. “You mean, what if you designed a really basic, no-frills planet? Like, do the man and the woman really need all those toes?”
“Hello!” said the Lord God. “Clean lines, no moving parts, functional but fun. Three bright, happy, wash ’n’ go colors.”
“Swedish meets Japanese, with maybe a Platinum Collector’s Edition for the geeks,” Buddha decided.
“Done,” said the Lord God. “Now let’s start thinking about Pluto. What if everything on Pluto was brushed aluminum?”
“You mean, let’s do Neptune again?” said Buddha.


at 11:06

Blighting the Blogosphere

Blogs intrigue me, really; the idea of a public diary is rather- exhibitionistic- of all of us. Then again, that sort of self-consciously private display seems to be emblematic of popular American culture. I’ll share my secrets with you- whisper the thoughts of my soul to you- and you- and you- and you…

Seriously, though, I must create some sort of disciplined writing schedule, or I’ll never be able to string my thoughts together in a way that allows me to feel comfortable with expressing them. My writing- my essays, specifically- have been, in the past, my greatest (though by no means my only) verbal gift. (Oh- I should tell you that I don’t believe in modesty. Humility, yes; knowing one’s place in the big scam of things is not just useful but necessary to a well-balanced life. Modesty- the deliberate underplaying of one’s talents or characteristics- is both counterproductive and annoying. Just something you should know before you decide to read any further.)

I’ve let all of that go; my recent perusal of papers I wrote as an undergrad- mostly unedited- tells me that I’ve let my skills slip more than I knew and definitely more than I should’ve (and let’s not even talk about the poetry- JHF Christ, I don’t even want to think about that- and another thing you should know is that my parenthetical contributions are as long or longer than my ordinate clauses- and also that my love of subordinate clauses runs to the utterly ridiculous; my grammatically correct record, achieved on my Harlem Renaissance final, was nine- and my teacher gave me extra credit when I pointed out the sentence, again, parenthetically).

This is not to be a political blog, regardless of the first entry- made after the 2004 election- which appears below. It will be a random, topical, sometimes ludicrous, occasionally shallow, slightly edited stream-of-consciousness- and gods only know whether it’ll all be written consciously or not.

Enough for now; I should actually try to get some work done. More- hopefully- later today.


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