31 December, 2005

Why Drive Drunk?

Okay, folks. We all know that it's New Year's Eve. And we all know that, this night being what it is, many of you are going to go out and get absolutely plastered tonight.

So you're drunk off your assets. You've got your car. And you're starting to think about getting behind the wheel.

And that's where you should stop. And pick up the phone.

For you folks here in the Denver/Boulder area, here's two companies that will get both you AND your car home. And for less than the combined cab-ride and parking ticket and towed vehicle costs. (Last year in LoDo, a parking ticket was $35, and getting your car out of the tow lot was averaging $55.)

No DUI Denver - 877.NODUIDEN (877.6638433)
RideClub - 888.RIDE.CLUB (888.743.3258)

Regretfully, the company I once worked for, NightRiders, is no longer of going concern. However, this year, I will personally be behind the wheel with some former co-workers over at No DUI Denver. So if you're checking the blogs before going out tonight, give us a try.

And seeing as how most of you probably aren't in this area, here's the Official Left Off Colfax List Of Designated Driver Services:

Los Angeles, CA : Home James
Las Vegas, NV : Designated Driver Incorporated
Columbia, SC : Designated Driver of America
Atlanta, GA : Zingo!
Louisville, KY : CityScoot

And for you folks that don't have something listed above, here's a googling for you.

A DUI is never a good thing to have, and it's even worse on the first morning of the year. And seeing as how there won't be an open courtroom until sometime Tuesday, there'll be little opportunity to get yourself out of jail in time to catch the bowl games.

And speaking as someone who has been hit by a drunk driver (on the morning of Mother's Day, at that), who has had friends get hit by drunk drivers, and had a friend kill someone after driving drunk, I beg of you. Don't drive drunk. It just is not worth it.

After all, I would hate to lose any of my readers. All three of you.

29 December, 2005

Bored Geeks: The New Terrorism

Via Ezra, this one just made me spit root beer all over the monitor. Not to mention the cat sitting on top of said monitor.
Not long ago, I walked by the desk of software engineer JJ Furman, and saw that he had made an interesting addition to his desk: a large blob of Silly Putty, about the size of a grapefruit. Intrigued, I asked how he'd gotten so much of the stuff. The answer? A bulk order directly from the manufacturer! Of course.

I knew then that I wanted some, and it dawned on me that I probably wasn't the only one. So I set out to place a really, really big bulk order. An email went out to cohorts. Their orders came in. Three weeks later, I had an eighth of a ton of Silly Putty delivered to my desk.
Now there's a dangerous mind. Anyone that has the sheer boredom to desire that much Silly Putty has got to be dangerous.

Oh, and it doesn't stop there. Not satisfied with simply possessing 250 pounds of Silly Putty, he had to go and put it in a big pile...

Go and read the rest, folks. And them wonder why the NSA isn't monitoring the communications of such dangerous people. [/snark]

27 December, 2005

To Debunk Or Not To Debunk

Yet again, I was stuck listening to talk radio at work today. (The place I work has horrid FM reception, even during the evening hours.) And yet again, I heard one of the things that make me go "Hmmmm..."

While listing off the weekend's movie totals and reviews, Reggie McDaniel mentioned something that I hadn't heard about yet: the ACLU tried to organize a boycott of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Say what?!?

Not even those highly-plugged-in folks over at RedState have anything along this line. A 4 hour period spent googling for it turned up nothing. The ACLU website turns up squat. Not even Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilley have anything on it, and you'd think that this kind of story would be right up their rhetorical alleys.

But no. The only things I've found so far:
  • A story about Pierce County Democrats protesting the film, which was blogged by The Narrows. To bryanm's credit, he posted a retraction 8 days later after noting that the story had absolutely no basis in reality.
  • A press release from the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church decrying the crass commercialism that is bound to surround a successful movie.
  • And jack-all else.
Really. Is this a case of a local talk radio personality letting his rhetoric run faster than the facts? This isn't even close to as benign of a case as the Gunny Bob story I wrote about last week, where he simply has a different interpretation of the facts than I have. That type of thing is perfectly acceptable, and part and parcel of political debate. Yet this one appears to have been simply made up on the spot as a snarky talking point used simply to bash away at the left-leaning social libertarians out there, a.k.a people like Your Humble Resident Blogger.

So if you know anything (factual!) about this issue, please feel free to post it in the comments.

Oh, and as an aside... When I heard Mr. McDaniel's statement, I wrote a little note to remind myself. And at the end, I have "If true, snark the hell out of the bastages!" So seeing as how I have no basis to snark the hell out of the ACLU, good ol' Reggie gets both barrels.

23 December, 2005

That's One Way To Get Out

Well, seems to be an interesting development in the "Who Lit Vail Mountain" story over the last 36 hours.

A man suspected in the 1998 Vail Mountain firebombings killed himself in his Arizona jail cell Thursday, while a federal judge in Oregon denied the release of a woman linked to the same eco-terrorism strike.

William C. Rodgers, 40, labeled the "mastermind" of radical environmentalists who left a nationwide swath of firebombings linked to the Environmental Liberation Front, was found dead early Thursday in his single cell at the Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff, authorities said.
A deputy sheriff rousing Rodgers about 6:15 a.m. found him with "multiple plastic bags, like grocery bags, wrapped around his head," said Deputy U.S. Marshal Brenda McLaughlin. She said prisoners who are not on suicide watch typically are given such bags to carry toiletries and other belongings.

I guess whether or not he's one of those that lit the Vail fires is mostly immaterial to him now. The only ones that his guilt or innocence could affect now are his alledged accomplices, such as Chelsea Gerlach, who is currently awaiting trial in Oregon on an unrelated but remarkably similar set of charges.

But for me, the most telling thing about the story is that Rodgers apparently committed suicide the very same day he was scheduled to be shipped off to Washington state for trial. That, to me, does not sound like the act of an innocent man. Nor does it sound to me like the act of someone who, as a spokesperson described him, "lived a life of great reverence of others and the world around him." It sounds to me like the act of a desperate man who did not wish to face his just punishment.

And yet... Something doesn't square right here. Just how does someone wrap their head in something akin to a plastic grocery bag, even multiple ones, and allow themselves to suffocate? As much as I would love to put him in the category of Death By Suicide, there's something about this that I can't put my finger on. For a person to manually smother themselves would take an amazing amount of willpower, not to mention the foresight required to insure that the bags didn't slip off after they'd rendered themselves unconscious. And that doesn't jibe at all well with the thought of him taking the coward's way out.

But then again, I don't know the man at all. All I have available is a couple of news clippings and a spokesperson's statement. That isn't hardly enough to get to know the recently deceased and how he would think. After all, just before the part I quoted above, the spokesperson was cited as saying that he "took great strength at feeling free" and that could have been just the degree of despair required to push him over the edge.

And what does all of this mean? Quite frankly, it means that it's drattedly difficult to do amateur psychoanalysis based off of news clippings! I've just about exhausted what I remember from my Psych of Development class.

Well, all of this means one more thing. Gerlach is definately going to have an additional problem if/when she is charged for setting the Vail fires: one less witness to use when she tries to establish an alibi for the court.

... Doomed To Repeat It

With all the flap about the NSA's activity recently, I've come to appreciate more and more the wisdom of a single man.

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Benjamin Franklin

Just as with the Abu Gharib scandal, when this country sacrifices the ideals it was founded on for the sake of the moment, this country dies. Not a full death, but the death of a thousand paper-cuts, self-inflicted wounds to the honor of this nation. And Atrios linked to this article in the Washington Post, I fear that America's honor has been wounded yet again.

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text," Daschle wrote. "This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

The President wanted free rein to use the powers granted to him by Senate Joint Resolution 23 to not only pursue terrorists outside of our borders, where they are quite possibly in the planning stages of more attacks on our soil, but also here, in the land of the free.

Now, I firmly recognize that I am one of the "civil liberties absolutists" that Jeff Goldstein is talking about. In fact, I'm rather proud of being in this category. And as such, the fact that the President of the United States wanted, officially by joint resolution of Congress Assembled, the power to act as if in time of war within the borders of the United States... Well, there's something about that thought that makes me so fundamentally scared that I want to get on a plane to New Zealand and renounce my citizenship. (But I can't. No passport. Much to the probable dismay of those that feel that the only good Democrat is a non-American Democrat.)

And as David J., aka TBFKAZ, pointed out after his deconstruction of a certain Queensryche album, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an American President establishing a program for the express purposes of collecting intelligence on foreign nationals, particularly those with ties to terrorist organizations. Absolutely nothing. That is an expected power of the Executive, and one that this Democrat has zero difficulty comprehending. But wanting the same power for those within the United States, and quite probably citizens of the United States, who may have had some casual contact with someone who is the sixth-degree-from-Kevin-Bacon from a known or suspected terrorist? That goes too far, even by the shortest yardstick ever created.

(Free plastic wrapping from an iPod Nano for the first person to explain that to the studio audience. Restrictions apply. See store for details.) (And free rants on the topics of choice for a full year for the first person to buy me an iPod Nano, or any other 10+ gig MP3 player, just so I'll have the wrapping to give out. Yes, you can be the editor of Left Off Colfax, with the full and complete power to boss me around, on my own blog, for a calendar year. Restrictions apply. See store for details.) (Sheeesh, am I cheap or what! Most folks would at least hold out for cash!)

For those that have forgotten their history classes from high school (or just slept through them like I did), let me remind you that one of the few reasons the Constitution was finally ratified way back in 1789 was due to the (eventually planned) inclusion of the Bill of Rights. If it wasn't for those ten little amendments, there would not have been enough support among the states to get this country started, at least not as we currently know it. The right of an American citizen to not be subjected to an unwarranted search, which is precisely what the recent NSA flap is all about, is one of the bedrock concepts of the American society. And for the President to ask for it, particularly when we are not legally at war and within a resolution that is not a formal declaration of war, disturbs me beyond the point where my vocabulary can express. Well, at least not without descending into base vulgarity.

Now, there are those that seek to justify the President's actions by saying "Wait! Clinton and Carter did the exact same things! And for worse reasons, at that! How can you Democrats complain about Bush's actions when your guys have done it!" I'm sorry to disappoint those attempting that argument, but it just doesn't fly with me. On the one hand, unless major laws and regulations were changed between Bush's inauguration and 9/11, it would be just as illegal for a President to do such actions when they were President as it would be for Bush to do so. And on the other hand, such a statement should be included as a textbook example of the Appeal To Common Practice fallacy, and as such, carries little water with me, particularly when it is being said by those who tend to offer expansive logical arguments.

Simply put, the base liberties of Americans are more important than the Armed Conflict Against Terrorism And Violent Extremism, or whatever it's being called. And as Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."

20 December, 2005

We Are Not At War

WARNING! Long and convoluted legal arguments ahead. Please consume coffee or other caffeinated beverage of choice before reading.

I was listening to talk radio while at work earlier, and I heard something that really bugged the crap out of me. Gunny Bob Newman, a former Marine, was talking about the New York Times article from Friday. You know the one I'm referring to, as it's pretty much been THE topic of conversation around the blogosphere over the weekend.

Gunny Bob seems to have suggested that the Times, by virtue of revealing classified information in their Friday article, should be investigated for and found guilty of violating this statute, specifically delivering defensive information to the enemy in time of war and this statute, disclosure of classified information (both of which fall under the general heading of Espionage). I've bolded the high points of the first law to make it easier to scan through the blockquote, as it is quite a tedious read.

(a) Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life, except that the sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury or, if there is no jury, the court, further finds that the offense resulted in the identification by a foreign power (as defined in section 101(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) of an individual acting as an agent of the United States and consequently in the death of that individual, or directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information; or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy.

(b) Whoever, in time of war, with intent that the same shall be communicated to the enemy, collects, records, publishes, or communicates, or attempts to elicit any information with respect to the movement, numbers, description, condition, or disposition of any of the Armed Forces, ships, aircraft, or war materials of the United States, or with respect to the plans or conduct, or supposed plans or conduct of any naval or military operations, or with respect to any works or measures undertaken for or connected with, or intended for the fortification or defense of any place, or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

Okay, got that? And yes, you are very welcome for saving your eyes unnecessary strain for trying to pick apart Section 794. I couldn't do it if it wasn't for a more than generous supply of quality coffee. Also, please note that I purposefully placed an emphasis on the words "in time of war" up there in that mass of blockquote.

In Monday's show, the Gunny read out from Senate Joint Resolution 23, which was passed a few days after the 9/11 attacks. This is the primary document for the whole "War on Terror" which led us into Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet there is one piece of the Joint Resolution he failed to mention:

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

So in other words, Sen. J. R. 23 was not a declaration of war, but the authorization the President is required to have via the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Oh, and the War Powers Resolution has an additional emphasis buried down in Section 8 (a)(2)(d):

(d) Nothing in this joint resolution--
(1) is intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President, or the provision of existing treaties;

Which means that the War Powers Resolution specifically reinforces the constitutional authority of the Congress as being the only ones with the power "To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water" as shown in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution.

And all of this is simply a long-winded way of reinforcing the title of this post. We. Are. Not. At. War. Not in the legal definition. If we were in a true state of war, that Joint Senate Resolution would have a completely different title: "A Declaration Of A State Of War." And that hasn't been seen here in the United States since that little folderol known as World War Two.

We are in a state of armed conflict. Yet, for some strange reason, I'm under the impression that the slogan of "A State Of Armed Conflict Against Terror" doesn't really scan all that well, and would be a real pain in the hoo-ah to fit in a newspaper headline. So we shorten the "state of armed conflict" to what the dictionary tells us is the closest synonym, a.k.a. war. As Hank Zyp of the Western Catholic Reporter (and very weird name) simplified it: "The difference between "war" and "armed conflict" is that wars need the approval of Congress, but armed conflicts can be initiated by presidential decree." That was written in 1999, well before the current set of crises even began.

So please, for the love of all that is deemed holy, if you are going to call it a war, do not let your choice of semantics alter the reality of things.

Should this have been a war, as declared by Congress under the Constitution, the rules would have been vastly different. In the current situation, the rules remain the same. There is little difference between the legal options of the United States in times of peace versus in time of armed conflict. That is not the case in time of war.

And I would think that a man that retired as a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps would be able to understand the difference between the two.

18 December, 2005

Igniting The Firestorm

Well, this seems to be getting a wee bit of text, even though I haven't seen anything about it on my blogroll yet. Not even Jeff Goldstein, who I figure would think this right up his alley for an angst-filled (and probably humorous, knowing him) rant regarding the Moonbat Left. And speaking of the Moonbat Left, not one of the Daily Kos diarists has clued in on this one, which suprises me even more.

Oh yeah. Just what is this that I'm talking about? Simple.

The Guardian:

One of six people arrested in a string of ecoterrorism attacks in the Northwest is also suspected in half a dozen other cases, including the 1998 firebombing of a Colorado ski resort that caused $12 million in damage, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.
[Chelsea] Gerlach, 28, was among six people arrested in five states last week on indictments alleging they set fires and damaged property between 1998 and 2001 in Oregon and Washington. The Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front took responsibility for the crimes. [Ed: Added first name for clarity.]

Yup. They think they found one of those that set that big fire in Vail 7 years ago, even though the federal Public Defender assigned to Gerlach says the evidence is "sketchy." And it was definately an eco-crime, even in the opinions of other ecoterrorist organizations like Earth First! and the Animal Liberation Front. And, to read what they said about it, one that set their agendas back by a few decades.

I would rather see Vail Resorts, through all their duplicity and greed, destroy the Two Elk Roadless Area, than have some cowardly actions and threats erode the growing opposition to Vail's rapacious plans and the increasing support for protection of Colorado's forests and its wildlife.

--- Earth First! member Mike Lewinski [link]

Well, far be it for me to disagree with an EF! member.

This, and many other actions like it, are the reason why the word "environmentalist" has become such a negative buzzword for Republicans. For that matter, it's a negative for just about anyone who is not an environmentalist. Anything this side of the generally genteel activism depicted in this book will be detrimental to any attempt to be a mainstream environmentalist in this country. Extremism, of just about any stripe imaginable, tends to turn the majority against it through their actions.

Want an example? Good. I have one ready-made for such a question.

Tell me if you'd really heard much about this guy before a certain day in September, 2001? Unless you were a severe international relations geek, the odds are quite slim that you were even a tenth as educated about him as you are now. Indeed, the odds are quite slim that you even knew he existed. And now, he is the most wanted man that the United States has ever known.

Sort of brings things into perspective, doesn't it. Just as this March, 1999 article in Mother Jones magazine said:

"If the individuals who did this can somehow hear me, I say, 'Get the hell out of Colorado! Indeed, vanish altogether! Just go away!'" Berman told the group, which included several TV and newspaper reporters. "Your actions have only created sympathy for Vail Resorts at a time when they are undertaking one of the largest logging operations in Colorado."

It's a fact of life. Victims are always the ones that recieve sympathy from the undecideds out there. No one in the mainstream of American society paid any attention to the World Trade Organization until those anarchists made a collective decision to riot in Seattle, did they? (Yes, the oxymoron was intentional.) And now support of the WTO is still one of the positive hot-button issues for the GOP, precisely the opposite effect that the anti-WTO crowd intended. And for a much smaller issue, look at the support of the breed-specific bans out there since two pit bulls mauled an Aurora boy last month. The stories had always been out there, but few people gave it much thought until it happened in their own back yards.

Yes, I am an environmentalist. Even though I smoke tobacco, eat meat, and wear a leather jacket, I can say that with a straight face, much to the probable dismay of any dyed-green eco-nauts out there. Part of the reason why I love living here in the Front Range is that I can breathe the air without getting my FDA-recommended supply of 12 essential minerals and toxins like I had to do back in the armpit of the L.A. Basin. (Admittedly, I could do without the mind-numbing cold that goes along with the clear air here, but I'm desert-bred.) I considered it to be among the top 5 issues for determining my political affiliation way too many years ago. (Yes, I tried the Green Party at one point in time, and considered them nuttier than last Christmas' fruitcake and got out before the guys in white coats showed up.) (And yes, I'm still feeling my birthday, thank you very much, and I can't stop waving the candles from my cake in front of my face.) And I believe strongly that we need to preserve what examples of Nature we have left, whether via the Endangered Species Act or the National Park Service or Insert Government Service Here, for future generations of Americans. (One of the few reasons why I'm not actually a big-L Libertarian, seriously, is my belief that more-than-absolute-minimum-government is a good thing.) So yes, I am a small-e environmentalist rather than a big-E Environmentalist like the ones suspected of setting the Vail fires.

And as a small-e environmentalist, I can only hope that, should Gerlach be one of those that set that $12 million blaze back in '98, she is found very guilty and have the book thrown at her, even though I doubt that ecoterrorism was grandfathered into the tougher antiterrorism legislation passed after 9-11. She, like many others that monkeywrench their way across the Pacific Northwest and central Rockies, do more harm to the basic environmental movement than they have done good, regardless of the political calculus involved. Violence rarely solves anything, regardless of the justifications. All it does is a) make those doing the violence feel better and b) generally piss everyone else off.

Consider me one of the latter in this case.

08 December, 2005

Religion, Philosophy, And Long-Winded Ramblings

Embattled Christian used my birthday post as an inspiration earlier this week, which is only fair seeing as how I've used EC as inspiration of my own in the past. Yet one piece of her ponderings nailed me right in between the eyes, and just in time for my roommate's laptop to finally understand that Blogger is an actual website.

In the marketplace of ideas over the millennia, what was it about Christian doctrine that made it catch on and spread and be widely embraced? (And widely debated, Greek philosophized, diluted and demonized.)

To those of us who are believers it may seem obvious though not easy to verbalize. If we don't ponder our own commitment and spiritual connection to Christ prayerfully and often, it will fossilize instead of always being a growing and living energy for us.

The battle starts within our hearts. In dealing with ourselves as well as with our fellowman, only loving persuasion will bring lasting victory.

I must say this one. It is not that I do not believe in Jesus Christ. It is that I do not believe in Christianity itself, particularly in the current manifestations out there. He is perhaps one of the most important figures in all of human history, and certainly one of the wisest, and we would all do better if we could simply live by His words instead of trying to interpret them to our benefits.

In fact, one day, I took his words to heart. And rarely the words that people mean:

For where two or three people come together in My Name, there I will be with them. -- Matthew 18:20 (KJV)

Most people use this verse as the one that dedicates their church, whether it be grand building or a table in the park, yet what really does it mean? Some folks, like this guy use it as an explanation for how God, through Jesus, picks our congregation for us.

Yet that has never been my view of worship. One does not need walls of stone, benches of velvet, or cups of silver to worship. The only thing that is required is that you open your heart and mind to Him. After all, it's there in the Bible...

Jesus said to her: Believe me, the time is coming when you won't worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. -- John 4:21 (CEV)

One day, sitting in my former church, listening to the pastor rain fire and brimstone down upon the heathens and pagans outside the walls, a small voice kept telling me "No, this is not The Way." Week after week, listening to the same sermon dressed up in different words, I kept hearing "No, this is not The Way." One Sunday morning, just when the pastor revved himself up to full volume, it came to me again. "No, this is not The Way." But this time I was ready, and asked, "So what is The Way?"

"Go and seek it."

Fat lot of good that advice was, but I took it anyways and went to find The Way, whether it was in all capitals or not. I have spent significant amounts of time within the halls of every single major religion (Western and Eastern, young and old), a vast majority of Christian sects/denominations, and quite a few sit-downs with various folks of the cloth: some so real you can see God in their eyes and some so fake they make P.T. Barnum look like a used-car salesman. And yet, I still heard that voice saying that it was not The Way, that ever-elusive "personal relationship with God" that some people insist is out there.

One day, I was walking through the mountains of Southern California. It was an old habit of mine, which probably started from my Scouting days, to walk through forests (or even the middle of suburbia) whenever a large question was weighing on my mind, and it still is to this day. This time, I had headed towards Fish Creek Meadows, probably one of the most... Well, beautiful doesn't begin to describe it, and perfect goes too far. (Should you find the chance to visit that area, I would insist on visiting it to anyone that enjoys time in the woods, but it is not for the novice.) And, on one of the few handy rock outcroppings, I sat and said, into the wind coming down from Greyback, "So what is the way?" I didn't expect an answer, but I got one anyways.

You see, the way is our own, and our "personal relationship with God" is just that: individual and personal. You cannot simply adopt someone else's beliefs and call them your own while declaring that you have found that "personal relationship with God", regardless of how good they sound and how well they fit your beliefs. That is not finding God; that is finding Man.

[controversial statement]
Even the Bible, for all the good it has within the pages, is not just God's Word, but also Man's Word, even though I have already cited it twice in this post. You see, the Bible has been changed many times between the time of the Nazarene and the ever-moving time of Now. With over 20 different "authorized" versions of the Book, not counting straight translations into non-European languages, how could it be anything but the combination of God's Word and Man's Word? So to say that there is nothing within the Bible that is not solely of God Himself... That is being blind to the fact of human existence.
[/controversial statement]

And to pry the differences apart is not the task of an amateur such as myself, and thus I refuse to try. Hence my distrust of the modern Christian denominations. Should I have to rely on an intermediary to tell me how to find The Way, then is it actually my Way? How can something be truly personal if it is given to you by someone that is not you?

And so I have read the other books, some sacred and some not. The Torah and Talmud. The Qu'Ran. The words of Kwan Fu-Tse and Lao Tsu and Siddhartha Gaurama. (For those that are wondering, those are the founders of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. In that order.) The Kojiki and Rokkokushi, two of the texts that Shinto springs from. Even Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland, probably the most fundamental writers of neo-paganism, did not pass by my desk unread and unstudied.

In them all, I saw it: that something that reaches deep within the soul and plucks the strings, turning us towards Him, in whatever manifestation we choose to see Him, who is greater than us mere humans. And that lead to the simple conclusion...

The reason there are so many religions out there is not because there are many Gods. There are simply many ways for us humans to mess things up. That is the basic fundamental fact of humanity, described in the old idiom "To err is human; to forgive divine." The simple act of humans getting involved in the interpretation of God will muck things up to the point where fact and fiction become indistinguishable. For me and my path, the only way to God is to use the four ways to measure truth we have available. We've heard references to these all of our lives, at least here in the States, but what are they?

First, the truth of the heart. When people say that they know it "in their heart," this is what they are referring to. It is a basic reference to the seat of emotions and feelings. So when something is true to the heart, it fits with our emotional state.

Second, the truth of the mind. Logical reasoning, concentrated internal discussions, the firing of neurons in random sequence, call it what you will. To know something, anything at all, is to understand the truth of the mind.

Third, the truth of the gut. The best way to think of this is the instinctive responses that we all use in varied and random times throughout the daily life of western civilization, up to and including the basic survival instincts that our species has developed over (insert length of time here).

And fourth, the truth of the soul: the entire being of a human. I've tried many ways to understand the soul, even delving into the deepest philosophical minds ever to set pen to paper, and they've all come up short, even though they put much thought into their systems of truth. Finally for me and my outlook, I've come to an explanation that is much more simple: the truth of the soul is when the other three centers of truth agree; heart, mind, and gut. And only when they are all in agreement could I say that I know it in my soul.

Is Jesus the Son of God? Yes, I believe that in my soul. Is Mohammad a true Prophet? Yes, I believe that in my soul. Do a vast majority of the world's religions contain, somewhere within their beliefs and practices, the essence of God? Yes, I believe that in my soul.

And can I be completely and totally wrong about all of this? Yes, I also believe that in my soul, for no mortal man can completely grasp the true concept of God. All we can see is a small portion of what He truly is, regardless of how far we look and how hard we think. And the fundamental fact of human existance is that we often err. And should I be found wrong, then I am prepared for whatever punishment awaits me after this life.

And that is why I will never condemn someone for their religious views, not even bin Laden. The relationship between a human and God is between them and them alone, just as mine is between me and Him. To judge someone for their beliefs and morals is to take the place of God Himself, and I am not able to put myself in His place.

27 November, 2005

They Say It's Your Birthday

O, do not forsake me, my indolent friends
O, do not forsake me though you know I must spend
All my darkest hours talking like this
For I am one thousand years old
--- They Might Be Giants

Yesterday was the official birthday of myself, the mind behind Off Colfax. And, of course, things have been going horribly wrong for the last two weeks in preparation for this alledgedly blessed celebration of mine. For one thing, my monitor decided to blow up on me, just as I was getting ready to send off my resume to a much better place than the hellhole I work in now. Before that, I'd gotten two write-ups in four days, neither of which I could've avoided, which sparked the sudden desire to start sending out resumes again. And before that, my usual Pre-Birthday Depression kicks in, making me essentially miserable for the entire month, which probably laid the foundation for getting written up twice in quick succession.

I have rarely had a good birthday. In fact, in my 29 (again) years, I think I've had exactly two memorable ones, and the rest simply fade off into the distant haze of Yet Another Day Land. And, as such, just as soon as Hallowe'en fades into the past, I can pretty much expect that crushing despair will come soon. I don't know why I can't seem to shake this off, nor do I know how to completely avoid it, as it generally begins while laying in bed waiting for sleep to finally come. One minute, I'll be laying there peacefully with a cat curled up in my arms. And the next, WHAM-O!!! my cat keeps glowering at me for getting her fur all soaking wet.

[And yes, folks, I know I probably need help. You don't need to tell me that. And yes folks, I know I need Jesus. You don't need to tell me that either. Only problems are that a) I don't have the spare cash lying around to even get a used monitor from Craigslist and b) I have a severe spiritual and philosophical disagreement with most Christian sects, with the sole exception being the Unitarians. Oh, sorry. Christianity doesn't have sects. Christianity has organized philosophical niches, many in direct philosophical divergence with many other available niches. Only other religions have sects.]

But in the area of this blog, the main problem has been with Aggregate Levels of Sucktitude. Most of the time, I think about a topic and reach for the nearest keyboard to shove the stream of consciousness directly into clean text. Yet, at least 10 times over the last two weeks, I've started up a draft on something, like the white phosphorous mess or the myth of the Democratic base or the further developments on the WGIG or just random comments about life in general. And each of those times, the second I hit the Preview button, I realize that everything I've typed in over the last few hours or so happens to be absolutely pathetic. So I try to change words around, use different paragraphs to blockquote, rewrite; all to reverse the climb of the Aggregate Levels of Sucktitude rating. Finally I just give up on the thing and delete it and, with the self-confidence of whale crap at the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench, wonder if Atrios had ever had days like this. Or Kos. Or Luis. Or the myriad of Andrews. Or the big three Johns. Or the two Coles.

But the evil B-day has past me by, with the usual real-life Aggregate Levels of Sucktitude that I've become used to over the years, and the Pre-Birthday Depression has (mostly) gone to rest up for next year's torture session. So, at least once I can find a monitor for cheap and scrape together the odd funding for it by selling plasma on my day off, I'll be back to my highly long-winded ways on random topics that either only I think about or I care enough to comment on.

And before you ask, I'm 29. And I've been 29 for quite a few years, thank you very much. On the last day of my first run-through of 29, I swore that I would remain that age until I finally got it done right. And, at the rate I've been going, that'll be around the time for me to stay 39 for a full ten years.

18 November, 2005


You know, with all the falderol going on out there, I'm just going to put up a few brief comments before running off to work.

First white phosphorous is not, I repeat not a chemical weapon. Sorry guys, but you're barking up the wrong tree here. Do just a teensy bit more research before making the blanket accusations next time, m-kay?

Colonel Murtha deserves everyone's support. Not just for being a retired Marine. For that he deserves respect. But support him for having the testicular fortitude to say in public precisely what we've been saying in the blogosphere for the last couple of years.

I'm still not buying any CDs manufactured by Sony, regardless of what this band-aid does for other people's opinions.

Saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night and, while I was not disappointed, I found this to be the funniest thing I've seen in a while. I don't ever remember laughing my way all the way through a trailer before.

17 November, 2005

Another Wierd One

Aside from the possibility of getting the National Convention here in 2008, only one thing in today's news has really made me sit up and start yelling at the monitor.

This one.
Allysan Isaac, 24, was held nearly a year in work release for something that a judge said Tuesday was not even illegal.

"You were incarcerated for a case that was not a crime," said Mesa County District Judge Brian Flynn, who presided over the case.

Flynn, the prosecutor and Isaac's defense attorney were unaware last year that the offense she was charged with was not a violation of the law.

No one had noticed that a prescription drug found in Isaac's possession, an anti-anxiety medication called Buspirone, is not a controlled substance.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he had "no idea" why Isaac had been charged with and convicted of something that wasn't a crime.

The defense attorney who represented Isaac in the first case was also baffled. "I don't have an answer," assistant public defender John Burkey said. "Nobody caught it. The police were saying it was a controlled substance."

Get this one? Someone getting jail time for carrying around a prescription medication that is perfectly legal? And no one even checking to see if the drug actually was illegal to possess, even with a prescription?

Seriously, folks. The drug policy in this country is highly messed up. Between Allysan and Richard Paey alone, it's easy to see that.

There is a definate need to reassess the concept of the "War On Drugs" on all levels of society. When someone suffers from crippling pain gets 25 years just for getting his prescription filled and another gets tossed in jail for possessing a non-controlled substance, it's obviously gone wonky.

[Turn signal: Resurrection Song]

12 November, 2005


Well, seems like I've made it to post number 50 and visitor number 300 on the same day! How odd that it worked out like that.

So instead of doing serious stuff, I decided to have fun with Google.

For some reason I have yet to fathom, my post here is number one brought up by this search string...

Only problem is that it's Google Taiwan. Well, not really a problem, but it sure as hell made me wonder why I was getting hits from the Republic of China.

But that's okay, I'm making inroads to the US as well, as the same search string brings me in at number three for the exact same search.

Only took me 3 1/2 months to come up on top of something. And I'm hoping that the next 300 readers will come a lot faster than the next 50 posts.

11 November, 2005

In Honor

Instead of simply blockquoting a vast majority of an article like I always do, this time I'll just be linking to it.


Simply, it's a must-read. Period. The entire piece.

So read it.

Regardless of how you feel about the conflict in Iraq, this is the best article I've ever read. It doesn't simply talk about how these Marines died, but the more important parts...

How they lived. And how they are honored in death.

And those with the toughest job of them all: the ones that, when the call comes, must inform and give comfort to the families of the fallen.

For all the men and women out there, somewhere in the world, that are serving in uniform, my only request is that you do your jobs with honor and come back safely to those that love you.

10 November, 2005

NEWS FLASH: Homer Had Sex! (Film at 11)

Yesterday, NewMexiKen pointed towards something interesting.
According to the study of 1,000-plus hours of programming--excluding news, sports, and kids shows--across the four major broadcast nets, several top cable nets and a couple of stations, 70% of shows had some sexual content, averaging 5 sex scenes per hour.
Now, I had to ask... What exactly do they call "some sexual content?" Fortunately, a little bit of time and effort brought me to the host of the study. And that's where the real problems begin. Or at least, they do for me.

Here's what they call "some sexual content" for the study:
  • For this study, sex is defined as any depiction of sexual activity, sexually suggestive behavior, or talk about sexuality or sexual activity.
  • Sexual dialogue, or what we term “talk about sex, ” involves a wide range of types of conversations that may involve first-hand iscussion of sexual interests and topics with potential partners, as well as second-hand exchanges with others that convey information about one’s prior, anticipated, or even desired future sexual activities.
  • The lower threshold for sexual behaviors measured by the study was physical flirting, which defers to behavioral actions intended to arouse sexual interest in others[.]
Other things include intimate kissing, any public display of affection deemed likely to lead to more intimate situations, even a parent-teen talk about safe sex and the investigation of a sexual-based crime... They're all included in this survey as "some sexual content" regardless of severity, level of intimacy, or other context.

Which says to me that the good folks sponsored by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation were determined to use as wide a brush as possible when setting their definitions for this study.

Oh, they threw out the bone on the "kiss of greeting between two friends or relatives" as not being listed under "some sexual content." But aside from that, anything and everything was considered fair game for the researchers. And they used it.

Shows with the designation of "some sexual content" came in at 70%, even after the definition being so wide as to cover most displays of public affection. Yet look at Table 5 more closely, folks... Real close, as shows with only "talk about sex" came in at 68%. That's 97% of the shows that fall under the scope of the study now, isn't it? They give no indication of severity, language, or context of the "talk about sex" but instead lump it all together. Which, to me, makes the moral point that any reference to sex, at any time and in any fashion, is inherently evil... Makes me wonder what moral viewpoint the Kaiser Family Foundation is coming from, no?

Yet go down to the next grouping. "Any sexual behavior" comes in at 35%. That's half of the "some sexual content" the study was braying out loud about, isn't it. And if you bring in the number of scenes between the total number of "some sexual content" and compare it with the scenes indicating "any sexual behavior," you bring it down to a total of 23%. And if you extrapolate the initial "some sexual content" scenes to the percentage... Well, that brings it down to a paltry 16.% percent.

Guys, what we have here is a study that tries very hard to prove that sexual content is a constant force on the television. And what it does, in essence, is prove that there's not quite as much sex going on, literal or suggested, as there was in the previous years of the study. Unfortunately, they will still get the job done, as evidenced by this little post by Embattled Christian:
I didn’t need a study to tell me this. I can tell because of the growing list of television shows I longer watch because there is literally nothing else in the show: no creativity, no intelligent dialogue, nothing fresh and interesting. My son’s comment yesterday before the big breaking news about sex in television: “ESPN is the best station on television. ”

Well, let's not tell the son about the National Cheerleading Competitions that are on ESPN2, shall we? Might get him to turn off the television entirely... Oh, and those half-time shows, too. Not to mention gymnastics, particularly the floor routines. Very little combines sensuality and sports like a women's gymnastics floor routine...

Whoops. Am I painting with too broad a brush again?

And to those that will wave this study around, stating that this is proof positive that more is needed to be done on the issue of sex and the media, I just have this to say.

You were the ones that lobbied for the V-Chip. Use it. It'll block out all this stuff that you don't want to see, or more likely that you dont' want your kids to see, and all without any real effort on your part, just like this post on MommyCool.com that links to a study by the RAND Corporation on television viewing and adolescent sexual behavior. You don't need to turn off the TV, much less run for the fuse-box. Just turn on your V-Chip.

And as for me, this study means very little, as I can't afford cable right now. Oh, and the reception is so bad in this apartment that I can't even pick up the over-the-air television stations, either. Not to mention that I don't even have a partner of any kind right now, so my sexual activity is pretty much nil.

Oh wait. Scratch that. That might be used to prove their point, won't it.

06 November, 2005

Coming Unglued?

Le sigh... Only from Boulder, huh?

"They left me there, going through all that stress," Dougherty told The Daily Camera, of Boulder. "They just let me rot."

The lawsuit, filed Friday, said Dougherty was recovering from heart bypass surgery and thought he was having a heart attack when he got stuck at the store in Louisville, Colorado, on the day before Halloween 2003.
Paramedics unbolted the toilet seat, and Dougherty, "frightened and humiliated," passed out as they wheeled him out of the store, court papers said. The toilet seat separated from his skin, leaving abrasions.

"This is not Home Depot's fault," Dougherty said. "But I am blaming them for letting me hang in there and just ignoring me."

For those that don't know, the denizens of Boulder have a certain reputation within the Denver area. Anything wierd, wacky, or otherwise headshake-causing that happens in Boulder, or to someone from Boulder, will simply get shrugged off as being the local in-joke. Hells, even Boulderites seem to think that at times, judging from the reactions I saw when I was working for the Boulder-based company NightRiders, Inc. (Alas, that company is no more. I'll have to put up a post about the fun times at some later point in time, not to mention the good and decent service they were providing.)

It's just one of those really goofy things that make you wonder sometimes. Well, that and I didn't feel like adding to the bloviation regarding Alito, Scooter, pit-bull bans and whatever else that my fellow left-hand bloggers are nattering about.

You many now return to your other random bloviations.

04 November, 2005

Simply Unacceptable

Guys, particularly any black Democrats in Maryland, this kind of thing simply needs to stop.
Black Democratic leaders in Maryland say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican.

Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an "Uncle Tom" and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log.
But black Democrats say there is nothing wrong with "pointing out the obvious."

"There is a difference between pointing out the obvious and calling someone names," said a campaign spokesman for Kweisi Mfume, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

State Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a black Baltimore Democrat, said she does not expect her party to pull any punches, including racial jabs at Mr. Steele, in the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

"Party trumps race, especially on the national level," she said. "If you are bold enough to run, you have to take whatever the voters are going to give you. It's democracy, perhaps at its worse, but it is democracy."
And this is a bunch of Democrats they're talking about, not a bunch of wackos from the American Independent (read: KKK) Party. You know, Democrats? The party that's supposed to be about inclusion despite the color of your skin?

Apparently, the Maryland Democratic Party hasn't gotten the memo. Instead, they and their supporters are pretty much doing what Jeff Goldstein is inferring (read: flat-out stating):
Given the opportunity to howl about such a fairly straightforward assessment, many progressives I’m sure would proudly showcase their indignation by obdurately justifying the righteousness of their tactics: because conservatives are anti- (pick your aggrieved identity politics group), forcefully pointing such out is almost a moral or ethical imperative—or, at the very least, is necessary and proper insofar as it demonizes them as a way to warn others in the “identity group” who might think about engaging in nonsanctioned, heterodoxical thinking.
I may not be a progressive (Indeed, maybe because I'm a declared moderate rather than a progressive!), but I consider this to be just as horrifying as if it was a bunch of white folks treating a black candidate like this.

And really, that's my test for when something crosses the line beyond all hope. When you would condemn something that a plain ol' Caucasian would do as being racist, yet turn around and forgive/condone your own ethnicity saying and doing the exact same things, that is simple hypocracy in action and should be universally condemned as such. Instead, we have the spokesman for Kweisi Mfume saying there's nothing wrong with "pointing out the obvious" and a large number of prominent Maryland Democrats joining in on the race-baiting as if it's nothing but harmless fun. Or worse, just the darker side of politics. And I didn't even include some examples of what they're saying about and/or doing to Steele that made me wince in sympathy.

You know, I seem to recall stories about some "good ol' boys" down in the deep South saying something about it just being harmless fun after being interrupted by a policeman or deputy in the middle of a lynching. Yet the target of that "harmess fun" sure wasn't having any fun, would they? Or think it harmess, for that matter?

Perhaps this is why they're so afraid of the Steele candidacy? Via a "by-the-way"-style link from In The Agora comes Paul Cella's excellent insight:
There is not much more that can be said here. We should denounce this cruel vitriol in no uncertain terms. We should wish Mr. Steele well, admire his perseverance, and hope that his example might inspire more like him: that this dreary, depressing episode might one day be a thing of the past, like so many of the other episodes where race threatened to break America. (emphasis mine)
They are afraid that a successful African-American (Ye gods, do I hate these qualifiers that have been drummed into my speech patterns since childhood. Why can't we all be Americans and allow all the racial thinking to simply disappear? But no, we have to insert the damn hyphenated words at every opportunity to foster the sense of Us Versus Them, apparently.) who also happens to be strongly conservative might encourage the up-and-coming generation to break ranks with their fellows and become Republicans instead of loyal Democrats like their insert-number-and-signifier-of-generations-here before them.

I don't think encouraging the hypocritical thinking shown by those in Maryland does much to prevent that. Instead, it might backfire and end up encouraging any random free-thinkers of whatever race out there, those that the system haven't forcefully dragged back into the fold yet, to go their own political path (if only in the privacy of the voting booth) simply to spite those who condemn with one hand and encourage with the other.

While normally I would cringe in horror at the mere thought of praying for the resounding defeat of a Democratic candidate anywhere, this time, and for this specific reason, I'm hoping for it.

This type of thinking needs to be firmly stomped on. Preferably with a few metric tons of concrete travelling at relativistic velocities. Otherwise, it will simply encourage more of the same.

Which is probably the last thing the Democratic Party needs. More ammunition for the Limbaugh-esque wingnuts to pelt us with all across the country.

02 November, 2005

Split Decision

Well, the votes have been counted. The blood has been mopped up. The chickens have come home. And the fat lady has sung.

Off key.

According to the Denver Post, Referendum C passed by a comfortable 4 point margin, while the companion bill of Referendum D failed by 1.2 percent. Which is how I voted myself, incidentally.

From the moment I moved to this state 4+ years ago, I could see that TABOR was a millstone around the government's neck, dragging it down towards bankruptcy. Yet I have this reflective knee-jerk response against any measure that proposes a bond for anything other than education. If the state doesn't have the money, then they shouldn't build up half-billion dollar projects all at the same time, which is exactly what Referendum D was proposing.

So yes, I call this a split decision, even though Colorado Luis is under the impression that D was simply an add-on to keep Gov. Owens happy. Not so, in my view. They were marketed together, whether the marketing was for or against them. They were almost incestuously intertwined from the word "go". And they were designed to go along together, even to the point of D stating that if C failed then D would never come to pass, and reserving a specific percentage of the "additional revenue" from C into the bonds of D. Therefore, they were part and parcel of each other, and this is now a split decision.

But what makes yesterday really interesting, and may have affected Luis' logic, is that the three major city-(and county-)level de-Bruceing measures (so called as a salute to the godfather of TABOR, El Paso County Commissioner Doug Bruce) known as Denver 1B, Castle Rock 2A, and Boulder 1A both passed by very confortable margins. And oddly enough, the highly Republican Castle Rock's measure passed by a wider margin than the much-derided People's Republic of Boulder, yet not by as much as in the well-known liberal territory of Denver City And County. Odd how that works, isn't it?

So the arguments regarding taxation and state-level spending is far from as wide and convincing as folks like Jon Caldara's Independence Institute would have had you believe. A vast majority of us have services that we depend on the state to perform, whether in the areas of education or law enforcement or firefighting. And this time, a majority of Coloradans saw it that way and voted to preserve them so that we don't have to pay still more down the line.

29 October, 2005

I Wonder Sometimes

Today, while at work, I was perusing the dead-tree version of the Rocky Mountain News when I came across this article. Apparently, there are 8 people (vile, vicious, and among the worst of the worst, in my opinion) that are probably going to walk free after a court reporter failed to properly transcribe their trials. Definately not good news for anyone who doesn't like child molesters and murderers running around their neighborhoods.

So I come home, flip on the computer, and run through my blogroll just like I always do. Lots of stuff about Fitzmas, the (I-can't-believe-this-is-still-an-)on-going Miers flap, random top-tens, and cats taking unscheduled trips to France. Just another day in the life of the blogosphere.

Except for this. Which really made me do some serious thinking.

Apparently there's a guy named Richard Paey in Florida who is parapalegic, suffers from multiple sclerosis, and (from reading between the lines) a victim of possible malpractice. He needs his morphine prescription filled, but it is in such a high dosage that most doctors and pharmacists won't touch it. So he goes back to his old doctor in New Jersey, who proceeds to authorize the script and later reverses said authorization. Which gets poor Richard in deep water with the local DA's office, ending up with him being charged with possession with intent to distribute narcotics.

There's a saying among some people in this country that goes along the lines of "No jury in the world will convict me if..." We pretty much all have heard it at some point in time, as did Mr. Paey who insisted on his right to a jury trial. And said jury not only convicted him, but sent him to a medium-security prison for twenty five years.

Now, compare this to a sampling of the pond-scum that is about to be released from Arapahoe County due to what amounts to a clerical error writ large:

Darkhanbayar Tumentsereg, 30, was convicted on Nov. 29, 2001, of four counts of sexual assault and received a prison sentence of 16 years to life.

Richard Carmichael, 38, was convicted on Oct. 15, 2001, of sexual assault on his 13-year-old niece. He received a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Clevia Firethunder, 31, was convicted on April 23, 2002, for stabbing and killing her live-in boyfriend in Aurora in 2001. She was sentenced to five years in prison.

James McNurlen, 49, was convicted of sexual assault against a child on March 18, 2002. He has been out on bond pending his appeal.

Notice anything odd about this? Sexual predators and murderers get less time on their prison sentences than a guy who was just trying to fill his prescription, all because the size of said prescription put him over a certain statutory mark for possessing a controlled narcotic.

Seems to me that our country seriously needs to re-examine our priorities and policies regarding drugs, legal or illegal. I don't like people that use illegal drugs. I happen to believe that they are weak, but they damn well shouldn't get more jail-time than either child molesters or stone-cold murderers. Period.

[Side note = As for me, I have only three addictions: caffiene, nicotine, and chocolate. The day I need a fourth crutch is the day one of those three goes the way of (not)Justice Miers, and that ain't going to happen anytime soon. In fact, the phrase "cold dead hands" comes to mind.]

25 October, 2005

Hammer Down?

By now, we all know way too much about the minutae of Tom DeLay's legal troubles. I know I do, and I'm getting tired of the excessive bloviating whenever the country's third most-powerful elected official takes a half-second-deeper-than-normal breath these days.

Yet this survey caught my eye. Literally. I sat there juggling the numbers in my head for at least 15 minutes before coming to a firm conclusion: DeLay is in serious trouble.

Even if his political carreer survives the trial itself (not necessarily a foregone conclusion) he has to survive an electorate that is increasingly tired of him. His pos/neg numbers, when divided by party affiliation, tell the tale. No incumbent, not even in a district that is so heavily aligned to their own party, can survive the alienation of 36% of his own party, not to mention well over half the independents out there. For this analysis, just forget the Democrat column. They were going to go 90% against DeLay anyways.

The only thing that could save the Hammer's career is that a) he makes it through the trial with either the charges being dropped or a not-guilty verdict and b) he then pulls together the top shelf of the GOP spin machine to run his campaign. Anything less and he goes from holding almost absolute power (which is actually kinda neat, according to one quote) to either jailbird or all washed up.

And I really don't care which. He's been a pimple on the assets of the GOP since 2001, and only the amount of power he had a death-grip on has kept him in the driver's seat. (And anyone that doesn't think that Blunt is purely DeLay's creature yet... Well, I've got a mountain in Florida to sell you. Cheap.)

[Turn signal: Sam Rosenfeld]

23 October, 2005

Thank God For Legal Manuevers

Now this is really obnoxious of them.
High school Superintendent Mark Masterson and faculty adviser Joe Magno are scrambling to keep WAVM, the school radio station, at the long-familiar 91.7 FM.
The new owner of the frequency is a network of Christian broadcasting stations the Federal Communications Commission has ruled is a better use of the public airwaves.
"People are furious," Magno said.
The network granted the frequency was identified as Living Proof Inc. An Internet search found a group by that name in Houston, Texas. Phone calls to Living Proof were not returned.
WAVM, which has been broadcasting from the high school for 35 years, found itself vulnerable when it applied to increase its transmitter signal from 10 watts to 250 watts.
According to Magno, that "opens the floodgates for any other station to challenge the station's license and take its frequency."
Using a point scale that considers such factors as audience size, the FCC ruled the Christian broadcasting network the better applicant for the frequency. WAVM is given 30 days to appeal, which has been done. If the FCC refuses to overturn its decision, WAVM will fall silent.
"The little guy does not stand much of a chance. Legally, we don't have a leg to stand on," Magno said.
Five years ago, WAVM finally applied for an increase, which led to this week's ruling.
Along with the application to upgrade, WAVM also planned to share its frequency with the University of Massachusetts Boston radio station, WUMB. UMass-Boston and Maynard arrived at the shared arrangement when WUMB also applied for the 91.7 frequency.
The two stations agreed that if Maynard was awarded the power increase, they would share the frequency when the time came.
Roos said the agreement is derailed because the FCC awarded 91.7 FM to Living Proof Inc.
"As far as I know at this point, they (WAVM and WUMB) are not actually sharing frequencies at the moment," Roos said.
They cannot share it until the proceedings are over and the FCC rewards joint ownership to the stations.
Although WAVM applied for the power increase five years ago, the group just heard about the outcome of the application process and were told the frequency was designated to another applicant.
"The FCC has a set of regulations on its books. In terms of this particular decision, they have simply followed their own rules, which they are bound to do," Roos said.

Not only does Living Proof Inc. not answer their phones, but they have what seems to be no web presence whatsoever, which makes life difficult indeed for the average amatuer researcher and blog writer. (Namely, myself.) If the MetroWest Daily Herald, with an open Lexis/Nexis account can't find much about them, I don't feel bad about when my little googling fails miserably to find something. However, I did find the posted decision by the Federal Communications Commission (pdf).

Basically, I hate this concept. Since when is a multi-station religious conglomerate more important than an established high school public affairs station, and one that already broadcasts religious services, in addition to providing valuable work experience to the students, some of whom have gone off to highly successful broadcast media careers? The service to the local area is vastly important. They do good work. And they get an education at the same time.
So, what should we do? Take this lying down?

Oh hell no. Blow up the Commission's e-mail addresses with a constant barrage of messages demanding that they change the ruling. Send your elected Congresscritters emails at the same time. And send the victims here as much support as you can. Let them know that we're behind them eight hundred and fifty percent. And if they still lose, then...

Game on.

[Turn signal: Fiat Lux]

18 October, 2005

A Newt-Less Democratic Party

I was cruising around the blogroll a few days ago when I came across the "thank you for..." post by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson over at WaMo. Fairly standard stuff, but when I came to their last bullet point, my brain started to go into that wierd overdrive mode. Some of you know what I'm talking about: time seems to slow, every movement of the air around you becomes crystal-clear, and your vision tunnels down to the point of interest. Emphasis mine.
The focus of our book is on where the GOP’s organizational and institutional advantages came from and how they are exploited to pursue extreme goals and protect incumbents. We don’t focus on what agenda Democrats should present. In fact, we largely agree with Jon Chait’s excellent piece this summer, “The Case Against New Ideas," that the importance of the specific ideas, or even their tone, tends to be exaggerated. We should make clear that we do think ideas matter (thanks, "cmdicely," for the call for clarification), particularly for governance, and indeed one of us has been arguing for making economic security a key Democratic theme for a while. Still, the crucial challenge for the Democrats over the next year is to work in as unified a fashion as possible. It was the creation of that unity, after all, that was Gingrich’s greatest contribution to the GOP’s success—in 1994 and since.
Now, what does this mean, exactly? Does it mean we need a Newt-like political creature of our own? If it does, we are all up that nameless creek after leaving our paddle at the dock, as there are no Democrats that would fit the mold that Gingrich created. Nor is it possible to use the GOP plan for our own political success.

First to the Newt-less point. Show me one House Democrat that is capable of real leadership. Any one will do. And I'll have to wait around for someone to come up with someone that will even hold a candle to the GOP leadership of the last decade.
  • Nancy Pelosi: Even today, I consider her the biggest appeasement that the Democratic Party has ever put up. Listen to her remarks on the Crooks and Liars clip of the "Shame! Shame! Shame!" affair. And after doing so, I challenge any of you to come up with a less-convincing orator for the party. Nancy is far from possessing the smooth tones of Gingrich, which is what made him such good copy for the media and, therefore, highly effective in the driver's seat of 1994.
  • Steny Hoyer: The little-known House Whip (which, admittedly was Gingrich's position before the '94 Revolution) has little known about him outside of his own district, with the most recent item of high google-rank being his "failed leadership" on the Bankruptcy Bill. That's not necessarily the highest profile person we can send up now, is it? That and he's considered to be well into the Moderate side (antithetical to the Newt-standard rabid partisan) and, from the above example as well as others, not trusted fully by the mainstream Democratic media voices. (More on this point to come.)
  • Robert Menendez: Again relatively unknown outside of the 13th New Jersey district. Aside from the occasional press release, he doesn't have much to go on for an opinion. I haven't heard his appearances on the weekly address, nor have I ever caught him on C-SPAN. Possible candidate, but doubtful. His voting record is far to the populist side, according to these guys, and while that is the direction the party should run (much to the dismay of my libertarian side), he would need a major appearance overhaul to appear as being the standard bearer for the New Democratic Party.
  • Many many others: Sorry, but no. Just as with Hoyer and Menendez, you need to be well known outside of your own district. Perhaps the younger of the Brothers Salazar will have the opportunity once he gets some seasoning in him.
As for the second point, there have been many attempts to "redefine" the Democratic party over the last few years. And nowhere have those been more prevalent than over that the Daily Kos. Of all the attempts I've read, the one by Black Maned Pensator happens to be the closest, even if he still uses the buzzword of "manifesto" for it. (Step 1 when writing a piece calling for a new path for the Democratic Party: Avoid all uses of the word manifesto. It is a negative buzzword that can and will be twisted around like a wet towel by the conservatives and Republicans. Trust me on this.) Scroll down to Section 3 of his (Ye gods, this is what I call a long one!) diary and you'll see his attempt. (Her attempt? Ah well, you can't tell these days, can you.) Now open THIS link in a new window.

See the difference yet?

The Republican version is short, concise, and to the point: consistant, brief sentences that said exactly what they wanted them to and little else. The only way the authors could've made the points shorter would be to leave out the punctuation.

I highly doubt that we can do that. And why is that?

Because we're Democrats. By nature, we hem and haw and debate our way into making our official publications 20 times larger than they really should be, even without the seriously verbose natures that some bloggers have. (Myself included. Or at least, I better be included.) We seem to have this institutional need, almost a pathological weakness, to open the tent as wide as possible. And this is a good thing, this drive towards diversity, but in doing so, each and every single one of those diverse groups will want their own list, if only the top 5 or so, tacked onto the big release. And that will make it highly unwieldy for the average voter, not to mention the average citizen that sees no reason to vote.

And for a second twist on the point, one of the main reasons the RCFA was so highly successful, and resonated so well, with the voters was not the simplistic nature of the document. Instead, it was the effectiveness of the public relations campaign that pushed it over the top. Print media, broadcast media, internet media; the "unofficial" wing of the GOP was in full shriek well before the Contract came out. This gave them plenty of practice in the art of public relations in all its glory before time came for the big push, and they used their experience expertly.

Where is the Democratic version of the noise machine? Almost non-existant.

Sure, we've got the blog-writing powerhouses of Josh Marshall, Duncan Black, Markos Zuniga (Sorry, Kos. Don't know how to make Blogger do the emphasis mark over the "u" up there.). And we have the loyalties of countless, quality newspaper editorialists and reporters out there. But we're still missing something. And I know how to describe it in just two words...

Rush Limbaugh.

Where's our version of him? Franken? Hell no. Riley? Nein. Malloy? Nyet. ANYone on Air America? Non, negative, and no chance in hell. Oh, they're good (at least some of them) and they're learning. But they need to go up against the major leagues here, and they just aren't up to facing down a Limbaugh.

So for all those hoping to see the Democratic Manifesto For America turn around and bite the Republicans in the tuckus next November, think again. We've got a long way to go, just in the prep work alone, before we can touch them with a whamm-o like that.

17 October, 2005

And They're Off

For those who want to know the starting lineups for the race to replace Beauprez in the Fighting 7th of Colorado, check out my inaugural post over there on OurCongress.org. In the interests of being fair and balanced (snark!), I will not be giving out any personal preferences over there.

That's what this place is for!

16 October, 2005

Holy Toledo!

Yikes! Just sat back down to the computer, and see what I missed. Riots in Toledo. And all due to our good friends (read: hurry up and DIE already, you anachronistic morons!) of the KKK.

Admittedly, there was justifications given on both sides of the issue. The city couldn't stop them from marching, thanks to the Skokie, IL case. The cops couldn't protect them when things got nasty. And the Klukkers couldn't get out of Dodge fast enough when things went south on them (Pity, that. I need new bedsheets. And a good flamethrower should take that atrocious symbol right off.)

Unfortunately, the city council will still get a good chunk of the blame from the local citizenry, at least if this quote is any indication.
Keith White, a black resident, criticized city officials for allowing the march:
"They let them come here and expect this not to happen?" said White, 29.

And I have to stand by the city on this one. They could not keep the Klan from marching, regardless of how utterly wrong and pathetic their cause is. Why? That little thing called the Constitution. Specifically, the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It protects us all, from me to you to the scared Klukker who just pissed their bedsheets just like Mommy always told him not to.

Just as the ACLU had to come to Limbaugh's defense when he got hit with an illegal warrant, I'm coming to the defense of a city that had no choice but to let the foolish folks with pointy hats walk, carrying their stolen ideological symbol high, down the streets least likely to view them with tired amusement and most likely to view them through the sights of an automatic weapon.

Don't blame the city. Blame the Klan. They chose to walk that street, so let them reap the whirlwind of their decisions.

[turn signal: Wash Park Prophet]

UPDATE: Okay, I made an error. The march was done by a group of American Nazis rather than the KKK. Same perjoratives apply.

15 October, 2005

By The Beans of Java

One of my favorite signature lines (e-mail, AIM, or message boards) ever refers to coffee.

It is by coffee alone I set my mind in motion,
It is by the beans of java that thoughts acquire speed,
The hands acquire trembling, the trembling becomes a warning.
It is by coffee alone I set my mind in motion.

And with that in mind, here is the newest find of mine. Fortunately, it's been around for a while, so there's plenty in here.

The Mile High Buzz: Denver Coffee House Blog!

Le sigh. Talk about finding something to do on your days off, no? I don't know how long it'll take me to hit all those spots, but damn if I won't try.

[Turn signals: Wash Park Prophet via Colorado Luis]

13 October, 2005

The West Shall Rise?

An old idea is being bounced around again: namely, the concept of a Western Primary day, bringing the 8 intermontaine states together as a single bloc. Only this time, I think it's got some muscle behind it.

This interests me. Just the concept behind it would be enough to make anyone that is interested in politics sit up and take notice. (Well, make that anyone that isn't part and parcel of the organized parties, that is.) So I've done some digging over the last couple of days.

The idea started in 1998 with this concept paper from the Western Governor's Association:
The West has had the least amount of impact historically on the presidential primary process because many of the states have smaller numbers of delegates at stake and that several of them have primary or caucus dates late in the process. As a result, Western issues are rarely mentioned by candidates, and candidates spend little time campaigning in the region. The presidential primary process has been essentially an east to west phenomenon starting with Iowa and New Hampshire, followed by the New England states, and then Super Tuesday in the South. By the time the race reaches the West, voters are merely endorsing the candidates that have already locked up their parties' nominations.

To remedy that situation eight western states created a Western Presidential Primary Task Force to discuss creating a regional presidential primary. Participating states, including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, met on November 16-17, 1998 to discuss whether and when the interior western states should hold a coordinated regional primary. As a result of the meeting and subsequent discussions, the Task Force has agreed to recommend to their legislatures that each state move its presidential primary or caucus to March 10, 2000. By national party rules, the legislatures have until July 1, 1999 to change their state's primary or caucus date for the 2000 presidential election.
Well, that was all well and good for back then. So what's happened in the meantime? From a Utah Daily Herald editorial:
If Utah Gov. Huntsman and his New Mexico counterpart, Gov. Bill Richardson, have their way, Western states will have a greater say in the 2008 presidential election by holding primary elections on the same day.

Huntsman, a Republican, and Richardson, a Democrat, are seeking to revive the idea of a Western states primary for the presidential election.

So far, Utah and New Mexico are the only states seriously on board, while Montana, Colorado and Arizona have expressed interest. We hope they sign on, along with Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming.
And the "Unofficial Voice of the Utah Senate Majority" gets this:
Huntsman was accompanied in his trip to New Mexico by Republican and Democratic legislative leaders from Utah as well as the chairmen of the state's Democratic and GOP parties.

He and Richardson expressed confidence that at least three states -- New Mexico, Arizona and Utah -- will hold their presidential contests in early February 2008.

"That to my mind is critical mass," Huntsman said. "That's enough to do it outright. But if we can add to that another two or three, that would be icing on the cake."
From Michael Stratton, the recently appointed member of the Presidential Nomination and Scheduling Commission:
"A regional primary would change the system so that western issues and values would be front and center," Stratton added. "It would give voters in Western states more say in the process and a louder voice in our democracy . It would also give more focus and attention to the growing Hispanic populations--which are very important to Democrats--in western states such as Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada."
The idea's also gotten tacit approval from the Commission on Presidential Reform.

Because the races for the presidential nominations in recent elections have generally concluded byMarch, most Americans have no say in the selection of presidential nominees, and intense media and public scrutiny of candidates is limited to about 10 weeks. Moreover, candidates must launch their presidential bids many months before the official campaign begins, so that they can raise the $25 to $50 million needed to compete.

The presidential primary schedule therefore is in need of a comprehensive overhaul. A new system should aim to expand participation in the process of choosing the party nominees for president and to give voters the chance to closely evaluate the presidential candidates over a three- to four-month period. Improvements in the process of selecting presidential nominees might also aim to provide opportunities for late entrants to the presidential race and to shift some emphasis from Iowa and New Hampshire to states that more fully reflect the diversity of America.

Now, those guys aren't just intellectuals and high-brows. The CFER has James Baker III and Jimmy Carter as co-chairs, so it's not simply a partisan analysis. Nor is it strictly a West Region concept, this need to overhaul the primary system, as seen on this chart by the National Conference of State Legislators. A good chunk of states have overhauled their primary and caucus systems as a trial run for the 2004 elections. This not only saved the states money, but also increased voter turnout by a few percentage points as well.

And with that, the CFER went a bit further than most, reccomending that the various Secretaries of State "create four regional primaries, after the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, held at one-month intervals from March to June.The regions would rotate their position on the calendar every four years."

Now, some of you are going to say "Wait a moment! Why do Iowa and Hew Hampshire get to keep their slots and the rest of us get to rotate?" Well, my stubborn friend, the Commission understands that Iowa and New Hampshire are fully ingrained into the political mythos of the country. Anyone and everyone interested in a run for the White House sends both themselves and their operatives to those two states in order to test the waters over 18 months before the two states even cast a ballot.

Now, this concept isn't universally supported. Not by a long shot. This editorial by the Standard-Examiner (again, those wacky Utahns) rakes Governor Huntsman over the coals for even thinking about picking up the torch that Mike Levitt started carrying. And a commenter over at Charging RINO thinks that "ALL states need to hold their primaries at the same time, to give all states a say on who they want as a candidate." And this is just a small sample of the polite ones. You don't want to even read the impolite ones. Trust me on this.

So what do I think with all this blather going on? This is probably one of the best ideas to come down the pike in a very long time, and is highly overdue. Time after time, the nominees are decided long before some states even hold their primaries, and with a rotating schedule, no one region will be left out of getting first crack at the candidates.

Of course, there are significant logistical hurdles to overcome, not to mention the resistance from those states that will damn-all want to be first. But it will be worth it, if only for the fact that every 16 years, every voter in the country will have first crack at thinning out the herd. The concept is inherently fair for the country and should be adopted.

Probably won't have a chance of happening before 2008 rolls around, though. I'm too much of a realist to think that all these intense negotiations will be completed before July of 2007 (the congressional deadline for changing the primary/caucus day). However, we can get a good running start for 2012.

Ladies and gentlemen, game on.

[turn signal: Colorado Luis]