Exiled from the Underworld

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sorry, Pope, your HMO won't cover that

From this evening's online Washington Post:

Pope Undergoes Emergency Surgery

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 3, 2005; 5:21 PM

ROME, Feb. 24 -- Pope John Paul II underwent an emergency operation to ease his breathing Thursday night after he was rushed to a Rome hospital for treatment of ailments related to a relapse of influenza.

WOW! Look at the time stamp below the byline: Thursday, March 3, 2005; 5:21 PM. "Yeah, but it's today, Mudhead." And today is........ 24 February 2005. Maybe the Pope sent Daniel Williams into the future to get a better perspective on health care concerns at the Vatican.

Maybe the Pope is worried that others in the Vatican will cut out his health care, and thought that advancing his story into the future might provide a little additional protection.

Why would the Pope need to worry about his health care?

Because other Vatican personnel complained last Thursday about health care consumption.

"While millions of people in the world struggle to survive hunger and disease, lacking even minimal health care, in rich countries the concept of health as well-being figures in creating unrealistic expectations about the possibility of medicine to respond to all needs and desires," said Rev. Maurizio Faggioni, a theologian and morality expert on the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life.

"The medicine of desires, egged on by the health-care market, increases the request for pharmaceutical and medical-surgical services, soaks up public resources beyond all reasonableness," Faggioni said at a news conference.

He spoke at a news conference before a debate to be held at the academy next week on politically hot issues such as the right to life and medical care.

Someone's going to have to start rationing the Pope's health care, and soon, unless the Church wants yet another opportunity to display wanton hypocrisy. John Paul II has consumed at least his share of resources. By the Associated Press's tally:

- Feb. 24, 2005: Pope undergoes successful operation to insert a tube in his throat to relieve his breathing problems, hours after he was rushed to the hospital with flu-like symptoms of fever and congestion, the Vatican says.

- Feb. 10, 2005: Pope discharged from hospital.

- Feb. 1, 2005: Pope rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties and inflamed throat while battling the flu.

- Jan. 31, 2005: Vatican announces pope has "mild" case of flu, forcing cancellation of appearances.

- Sept. 24, 2003: Pope skips weekly general audience due to an intestinal problem.

- June 15, 1999: Flu, with slight fever, keeps pope from celebrating Mass in Krakow, Poland, for 1 million people during pilgrimage.

- February 1997: Pope cancels general audience because of flu with fever.

- Oct. 8, 1996: Pope hospitalized for operation to remove an inflamed appendix.

- Aug. 15, 1996: Pope cancels general audience because of what Vatican calls an intestinal ailment accompanied by fever.

- March 13, 1996: Pope cancels Mass after Vatican says he is stricken by a similar ailment.

- Dec. 25, 1995: Overcome by fever and nausea, Pope interrupts Christmas message in St. Peter's Square and is bedridden with flu.

- April 29, 1994: Taken to hospital after breaking leg in a fall in his bathroom. Undergoes hip replacement surgery. Discharged May 27.

- Nov. 11, 1993: Dislocates right shoulder in fall down steps at Vatican audience. Undergoes operation and leaves hospital after overnight stay.

- July 15, 1992: Operation for benign tumor on colon. Leaves hospital July 28.

- June 20, 1981: Hospitalized for infection linked to injuries sustained in attempted assassination more than a month earlier. Undergoes operation Aug. 5 and is discharged Aug. 14.

- May 13, 1981: Pope shot in abdomen and hand in shooting attack by Turkish gunman in St. Peter's Square. Spends 20 days at Gemelli after undergoing surgery.

There have been other incidents of poor health as well:

September 2001:
YEREVAN, Armenia -- Pope John Paul II, looking frail and tired, broke off in the middle of a speech shortly after arriving Tuesday for a three-day visit to pay tribute to Armenia's ancient Christian church.

August 2004:
(CWNews.com) - After accompanying Pope John Paul II (bio - news)on a weekend pilgrimage to Lourdes, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Brussels told a Belgian daily newspaper that the Pope's health is "seriously weakened," and hinted that the trip to Lourdes may have been the last major event in the life of John Paul II.... During his visit to Lourdes, where he celebrated the feast of the Assumption, Pope John Paul showed distinct signs of physical weakness, frequently slurring his speech and at times seeming to gasp for breath.
April 2001:
Concern is growing this Easter weekend over the Pope's health. Yesterday, for the first time in over 20 years, Pope John Paul 11 sat out the traditional Good Friday carrying of the cross ceremony in the Roman Colosseum.

If you have time, you can Google numerous other references to the Pope's faltering health. My bet is that he did not go without medical attention during any of his illnesses.

I don't wish the Pope any particular harm, nor do I take pleasure in anyone's suffering, but these people are smug beyond belief (and I say that as a devout agnostic, nearly beyond all belief myself).

So, why should the Virginia legislature hurt only heterosexuals?

A news release from Agape Press begins intriguingly:

...The head of a Virginia pro-family group is angry that a lesbian was allowed to pray for "gay rights" in the House of Delegates, where the name of Jesus is not allowed to be spoken. Debra Peevey, an openly homosexual pastor, recently used her invitation to pray in the House to condemn lawmakers who opposed granting special privileges to homosexuals.

More details follow:
The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- whose jurisdiction covers Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina -- ruled that the name of Jesus could not be mentioned during a state-sponsored prayer. Joe Glover of the Family Policy Network says he believes there is a double standard when Jesus cannot be mentioned but a lesbian can pray for a sinful lifestyle to gain acceptance. "But in the same Fourth Circuit ... one cannot pray a prayer seeking the righteous, holy face of God, who condemns such sin, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ," says Glover. "This is a double standard; the court was wrong in making this decision -- and hopefully at some point the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn that wrong-headed decision."

The last sentence in the release identifies the "special privileges" sought by the Reverend Peevey:

In her prayer, Peevey prayed that lawmakers do not "use their power to harm gays and lesbians."

I agree-- why shouldn't gays and lesbians be subjected to the Virginia Legislature's power to harm? They have a lot of power, and do enough harm to spread equally among all Virginians.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Why every adult (and mature minor) needs a living will/advance directive

Miami Herald online story: Judge extends stay keeping brain-damaged Terri Schiavo alive two more days.

MITCH STACY Associated Press

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A judge Wednesday extended a stay keeping brain-damaged Terri Schiavo's feeding tube in place, saying he needed time to decide whether her husband, who wants to let her die, is fit to be her guardian.

Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer extended until Friday an emergency stay that was to expire Wednesday afternoon. He said he also needs more time to determine whether Terri Schiavo needs more medical tests to determine if she has greater mental capabilities than previously thought.

Terri Schiavo's parents have been in a long, bitter struggle with her husband, Michael Schiavo, to keep her alive. She collapsed 15 years ago Friday, when a chemical imbalance possibly triggered by an eating disorder caused her heart to stop beating and cut off oxygen to her brain.

Terri Schiavo has been bio-supported for 15 years. I refuse to say that she has been on life support because she retains only the most limited of biological functions. Her nutrition and hydration are currently under artificial support. Although she can breathe independently, she experienced such massive brain damage after her heart stopped that she cannot otherwise function in a meaningful way. She has no hope of recovery under current medical knowledge, nor is there a real likelihood of any new or emerging procedures that might offer her relief.

Not even, ironically enough, from stem cell research.

Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson interrupted his busy schedule (attacking cartoon characters again) to let the world know that he was still dissatisfied.

"The same judge who may eventually sign Terri Schiavo's death warrant today issued a temporary reprieve allowing her feeding tube to stay in place for at least two more days. This decision is not overly comforting, however, as Florida Circuit Judge George Greer has consistently proven himself to be no friend of Terri Schiavo, her family or of human life when you consider his history of rulings in this case. Thankfully, he has today seen fit to give her more time to live and her parents more time to defend her right to life.

"The courts, including Judge Greer's, have no moral authority to cause a vulnerable, disabled person like Mrs. Schiavo to die due to dehydration - which will be the result if her feeding tube is removed. Today a crisis has been averted, but only for 48 hours. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is to be applauded for his promise to defend Mrs. Schiavo's life. We pray that he, and those who stand with him, will be successful."
Poor Terry Schiavo cannot die in peace in Florida because her parents get pumped up with false hopes by persons and organizations driven by belief and ideology. Scant evidence exists to lead me to think that the "right-to-life" factions are actually driven by compassion for Terry.

Beating more irony into the tragedy, yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear the Bush administration's challenge to Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. The issue in the SCOTUS case, Gonzales v. Oregon (neé Oregon v. Ashcroft), No. 04-623, is whether doctors who prescribe drugs for committing suicide violate the federal law and are subject to revocation of their federal prescription license.

Oregon's statute still would not address Terry's case, because patients in Oregon must still be able to self-administer the medication, but at least it is a step away from the idea that suicide-- assisted or otherwise-- is invariably evil, or that biological functioning must always be extended to its outermost limit.

Of course, Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Department of Children & Families are both trying to intervene on behalf of Terry Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, and against her husband. WKMG -TV reported that the Governor was exploring options to block the removal of the tube:

Bush's actions are being closely watched because in October 2003, he pushed through a law allowing him to intervene six days after Terri Schiavo's feeding tube had been removed. That law was struck down as unconstitutional.
"I can assure you, I will do whatever I can within the means, within the laws, of our state to protect this woman's life," Bush said Wednesday. "I won't go beyond that."

In the meantime, Florida State Representative Dennis Baxley introduced HB 701--drafted precisely to cover Terri’s circumstances-- into the Florida legislature on 4 February 2005. The proposed law would amend existing state law by

declaring that an incompetent person is presumed to have directed health care providers to provide the necessary nutrition and hydration to sustain life; prohibiting a court, proxy, or surrogate from withholding or withdrawing nutrition or hydration except under specified circumstances; providing that the presumption to provide nutrition and hydration is inapplicable under certain circumstances

The bill further declares that the act "supersedes existing court orders otherwise applicable on or after the effective date of the act."

Terry Schiavo, Michael Schiavo, and Robert and Mary Schindler are all caught in a tragedy that will end with Terry's death. I cannot believe that anyone benefits by drawing this out longer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

This will probably not sell well in the new "freedomized" Iraq

The headline tells most of the story: "Japanese create toilet entertainment centre ".

A Japanese company has invented an entertainment centre to make going to the toilet a more enjoyable experience.
Toto Ltd's Z Series Neorest toilet, offers the worlds first auto fragrance release system and stereo music system, providing different scents and music depending on the season of the year.
The Z series is priced at £1,600.

Under today's exchange rate, £1,600.00 = $3,057.85. I'll ask my butler to count the bathrooms here in the castle to ensure that we order enough to replace our older models.

["Z series"? What about the A through Y series?]

Todo was an early innovator in low-volume flush toilets. Among Todo's current product offerings are three models of the Washlet, which combines toilet and bidet functions into one efficient porcelain dream machine. All three Washlet models have heated seats, self-closing lids, and heated water with temperature and pressure controls. The two most expensive models offer oscillating massage cleansing (!) and air-jet dryers. I suppose that the next frontier for vanity will be blow-dry styling for pubic hair.

The company claims to have sold 20 million Toto Washlets (seats start at $727) since 1980. A company in the United States, Brondell Inc., announced that it would market a competing bidet/toilet seat called the Swash (not to be confused with the Swatch, which usually adorns one's wrist).

Todo also sells the Travel Washlet. The product information for the Travel Washlet states:

TOTO’s Travel Washlet lets you carry along the high-tech hygiene technology you’ve become accustomed to at home. From the office to the airplane, you can enjoy the luxury of warm water cleansing at the push of a button.
The Travel Washlet is easy to use. Just fill the water reservoir and extend the wand. Two different washing modes—regular and soft—allow you to find your own comfort zone.
The Travel Washlet is available in Pink or Blue.

MSRP $128.00
Unfortunately, the website offers no suggestions on how to explain this device and its purpose to airport security personnel.

"Designing Public Restrooms for the Muslim Culture", an article reprinted from the January 2002 issue of BathroomToday (posted on the Restrooms of the Future website), suggests architectural considerations when accommodating Muslims in public restrooms. One of the six organizing topics, "Entering":
The Qur’an states that one should enter the restroom with left foot first while saying a prayer of protection. It is not permissible to enter a restroom while carrying anything that bears the name of Allah, such as the Qur’an, or any book with the name of Allah in it, or jewelry such as bracelets and necklaces engraved with the name of Allah. Muslims should keep silent when in the restroom. Thus, talking, reading, greeting others and answering greetings are not to be done inside the restroom except for risky situations, like guiding a disabled person.

This bit of advice, coupled with the admonitions ("It is permissible to listen to music which is not fit for diversion and play") of the Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani, indicate that plumbing salespersons in the "liberated" Iraq probably won't be stocking many Z Series Neorest models.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Meme transmission

I have no iPod, so I cannot participate in the tea-leaves-reading called "Friday iPod Scramble." However, I read lots of books, so when Pharyngula posted this I bit:

We are all lemmings, we bloggers
I obey the ProfGrrrrl:

Grab the nearest book.
Open the book to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

Pharyngula got it from Profgrrrrl, who attributed to The Chronicles of Dr. Crazy, who in turn linked back to Feministe,who referred to media girl at Feminist Blogs, who discovered it from Lab Kat, who received it from Mustang Bobby, who found it at PSoTD, who learned of it at Redd Turtle, who got it from Feministe. The meme thus created a circle, even as it spreads outward.

Here's my dilemma: there are two books equally within reach my desk. I'll play with both.

1. Homebody/Kabul by Tony Kushner. The sentence (and I play game this verrryyy loosely, because most of this dialogue is not cast in sentences): "Not visa." This line is spoken by a character named Mullah Aftar Ali Durranni.

2. From Gates of Injustice by Alan Elsner: "Thirty-five percent had been raped by their partner." This sentence is from Chapter 7, "Women behind Bars."

I think I'll quit now and go listen to some fun music.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Virginia is for lawyers

Virginia is on track to winning the looney state title away from Oklahoma. Here is the text of a bill that passed the Virginia House of Delegates by a 60-34 vote on Tuesday:



(Proposed by the House Committee for Courts of Justice on February 4, 2005)

(Patron Prior to Substitute--Delegate Howell, A.T.)

A BILL to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 18.2-387.1, relating to indecent display of below-waist undergarments.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 18.2-387.1 as follows:

§ 18.2-387.1. Indecent display of underwear.

Any person who, while in a public place, intentionally wears and displays his below-waist undergarments, intended to cover a person's intimate parts, in a lewd or indecent manner, shall be subject to a civil penalty of no more than $50. "Intimate parts" has the same meaning as in § 18.2-67.10.

(Thank-you to the Roanoke Times for the bill's text).

Also known as the "Droopy Drawers Bill", its purported intent is to stop (mostly) teenage boys from "sagging", and (mostly) teenage girls from displaying the tops pf their thong underwear above the waistbands of low-rider/hiphugger pants.

Let's see... where to begin...

Vagueness? How does one go about displaying one's below-waist undergarments in a lewd or indecent manner? Is it enough that one intentionally wears and displays the undergarment? Or must the wearing and displaying be intentionally lewd or indecent? What is indecent? How is it lewd?

Arbitrary and capricious? One is permitted to display her or his above-waist undergarments, regardless of whether the display is lewd or indecent. Bra-ha-ha!!! The proposed statute would not penalize wearing two pairs of "regular" pants and sagging only the outer pair-- which would give the same visual effect to the observer, but would escape the underwear stipulation.

Of course, the obvious way for kids to evade the law would be to sag to the lowest limit of the law, but do so while underwear-free. Would that lead to a reduction in sales of underwear? Would Virginia or teenagers get the credit/blame for undermining the undergarment industry, as did Clark Gable after 1934?

Funny anecdote: When I started law school in 1997, one of the brightest 1Ls was a young man from Arkansas who looked and acted just exactly like a stereotypical grind (pale, slightly soft, very intense), except that that his personal sartorial style included wearing ball-caps brim-backward and sagging his pants. Kind of "Fayetteville ghetto". He graduated as one of the top 10 in our class, and last I heard he was working in a white-shoe law firm doing corporate stuff.

Just the kind of riff-raff Virginia would nail with this law.

"Yanni, Britney, and Neil Diamond"

"Name three musicians cleared to perform at the Abu Ghraib prison."
[Thank you, Carnac the Magnificent.]

In his Monday (7 September 2005) posting, Professor Juan Cole discussed the theocratic implications of the recent election in Iraq, and the influence of the major power players on constitution creation. He noted that the New York Times headline, "U.S. Officials Say a Theocratic Iraq Is Unlikely," reflected some of the current confusion -- if not intentional misrepresentation--regarding the use of terms.

If it means a clerically-ruled state, then I agree with Vice President Dick Cheney that a) you have to look at what Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani wants, and b) that Sistani does not want clerics to rule the country as in Iran. But the main goal of political Islam in the past few decades hasn't been clerical rule. It has been the replacement of civil law with shariah or Islamic canon law. This was done by the non-clerical government of Sudan, e.g. And that is where Iraq is headed. The only question is how wideranging the substitution will be. Will it just be personal status law (marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony, etc.), or will it be in commercial law and other spheres of society?

Cole wrote later in the article, "At the national level, the Shiite religious parties have begun making it clear that implementing Islamic law is among their highest priorities." [Emphasis added]

Want to know what Iraqi life would be like under Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani? Go to his website, "sistani.org", for a preview of Shia life.

Music would be allowed, but not if it's enjoyable. (It might be acceptable to use unenjoyable music for other purposes, such as torture.)

No: 1 Question:Can a Muslim Listen to music?
Answer:It is permissible to listen to music which is not fit for diversion and play.

No: 2 Question:Please specify if any music is allowed in Islam?
Answer:Music other than diversion and play is allowed.

No: 3 Question:Is music haram to listen to for Muslims? If yes why please explain?
Answer:It is Haram to listen to music special for diversion and play.

I can't tell if Botox is allowed, but those implants are fine.

Question:Please could you let me know if a plastic surgery is permissible in Islam?
Answer:It is permissible.

The Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani approves of televised sports, and apparently favors cricket. If you bet on the games, though, you'd better do so only with the intent that the purse goes to charity. Horse-racing is fine; archery is fine.

Question:I am really confused and having hard time explaining the difference between betting in:
1- Horse racing & Archery
2- Lottery
Why is the first permissible and the second impermissible?
Answer:Lottery is a sort of gambling and there is nothing one may do to deserve the property. But horse-racing and archery are for a purpose which is called "Self-defense". However, this is the order (hokm) of Allah and we are but to follow it without asking for reason.

No: 1 Question:Is playing cricket forbidden? And what about watching cricket and other sports on television?
Answer:There is no objection in it.

No: 2 Question:I work at an exchange office but they also make me sell lottery. Is it permitted to sell lottery in this case?
Answer:Selling lottery cards is not permissible. Yes, it is permissible to take the property with the intention to contribute in a charitable project such as building a mosque or a bridge not with the intention of earning profit or a prize.

NO CHESS. Nada. None. Don't ask.

Question:Is playing a chess allowed?
Answer:It is absolutely unlawful.

Question:Chess is Halal or Haram?
Answer:Chess is absolutely forbidden.

If you're thinking of giving your husband a pinky ring, you'll need to set that diamond in platinum or silver.

Question:Is it admissible using of gold and silver cuff-links, pins and tie pins?
Answer:It is forbidden for man to use gold ornaments.

You can forget the gaudy dinnerware, too.

Question:Why using of gold and silver dishes, forks, spoons and knifes is haram?
Answer:According to Islamic Sharia, eating and drinking liquid in gold and silver dishes is forbidden. It is not so important to know the reason or know not.

I bet you could have guessed the next one:

Question:What is an orgy?
Answer:It's forbidden.

Here's an interesting facet of shariah family law:

Question:Why are we not allowed to adopt chidren if we cannot bear one of our own?
Answer:It is permissible to adopt child, but he is not legally considered one’s son; it has no inheritance rulings, Mahramiyyah (intimacy) and the like.

Do you think that someone promised to grant you some property after his death? Bring witnesses. Note: One woman is an insufficiently credible witness. However, four women might be.

If a person claims that the deceased had willed that a certain amount should be given to him, and two Adil men confirm his statement, or if he takes an oath, and one Adil man also confirms his statement, or if one Adil man and two Adil women, or four Adil women bear witness to what he says, the amount claimed by him should be given to him.
And if only one Adil woman bear witness, 1/4 of the amount claimed by him should be given to him, and if two Adil women bear witness, 1/2 of that amount, and if three Adil women bear witness, 3/4 of it should be given to him.
Also, if two non-Muslim males from amongst the people of the Book, who are esteemed as Adil in their own religion, confirm his statement, and if the dead person was obliged to make a Will while no Adil man and woman was present at that time, the amount claimed by that person should be given to him.

Before signing up with a cell phone provider, check out the company's owners.

Question:Is purchasing Nokia mobile allowed or not?
Answer:His permissible in it say.
But if the prvfic gues to Israel, it is not allowed to purchase it.

Although there is no instruction regarding downloaded ringtones for cellular phones, I think that you are safe to use your favorite tune. No cell phone ring is "fit for diversion and play."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Champion of castration

The story of Oklahoma State Senator Frank Shurden's campaign to reintroduce cockfighting into our state made the news last week, from New Zealand to NPR.

Shurden wants to dress the fighting cocks up in little elecronic sensor-wired vests and put tiny boxing gloves on the cocks's spurs. The vests would record hits and help keep score.

Cockfighting was outlawed in Oklahoma by State Question 687, passed on the 5 November 2002 state ballot. [The cockfight proponents appealed; the measure was upheld by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Edmonson v. Pearce, 2004 OK 23, 30 March 2004.]

On 28 November 2002, the senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States of America, Wayne Pacelle, appeared on "Crossfire" to debate the issue of cockfighting with hosts Robert Novak and James Carville.

It's pretty easy to guess how the "debate" went. Try this:

...PACELLE: Well, [a cockfight] is certainly not my idea of fun, Bob. It is two roosters that are bred for aggressive characteristics, pumped up with stimulants, and they have knives or ice pick-like devices called gaffs that are affixed to their legs, and they're placed in this pit where they can't escape. They're forced to fight to injury or death, all for amusement and illegal gambling. This is not some novel idea. A majority of states banned cockfighting in the 19th century.

NOVAK: Well, a lot of states banned boxing in the 19th century as well, and we were smart enough to change those bans.

PACELLE: None of these bans have been repealed in any of states.

Novak, and later Carville, drove the debate over to the completely different issue of animals as food:

PACELLE: And again, we're talking 48 states out of 50 [banning cockfighting]. We're not talking about some new experiment that is going on. Forty-eight out of 50, 96 percent of states, and voters do it by overwhelming margins.

CARVILLE: But Bob, let me give him credit here. He makes a good point. If I'm going to be upset about this, I am not going to be upset at Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday, I made a chicken and sausage jambalaya. The rice didn't come from an animal, but it was damn good ...

Later, Novak revealed both his capacity for empathy and his deep knowledge regarding biology and animal physiology:

NOVAK: Do you personally know any chickens? You seem to be able to psychoanalyze them. They have a little tiny brain. They don't feel anything.

A little later, Novak-- unprotected by his aluminum-foil hat-- released "The Problem with This Country." Novak has a habit of releasing previously-classified information.

NOVAK: Here's a quote from Tillman Hammonds, he is a breeder in Oklahoma. He says, "That is what they are bred for," -- that is cockfighting -- "Why, I've bred them for 40 years -- their gameness and fighting ability."

That is their only purpose on earth, is to fight. That's what they are bred for.

PACELLE: You could say that about pit bulls. You could justify dogfighting with the exact same arguments. Is it OK to set two dogs and have them engage in a three-hour fight, to tear each other to death just for amusement and illegal gambling?

NOVAK: What would you do with the animals?

PACELLE: They're being bred for the specific purpose of injuring and maiming each other for human amusement.

NOVAK: What is wrong with that? They're animals.

PACELLE: Animals matter. We have 50 anti-cruelty statutes in this country.

NOVAK: That's the problem with this country.

PACELLE: Well, I don't think so.

CARVILLE: What's the problem with this country? Anti-cruelty statutes?

NOVAK: Too many -- that's right.

PACELLE: This is incredible. This is mind-boggling.

CARVILLE: America needs more cruelty. That's the one thing that people have to have. Kids need more cruelty. They need to learn about cruelty, right?

So, if we repeal anti-cruelty laws, we need not waste any time worrying our little heads about childabusehumanrightsimmigrationcleanairadequatehousingnationalsecurity-- or any of the other issues that have distracted us from the Problem with This Country. Why isn't this man our King?

By the way, cockfighting was illegal in Oklahoma from before statehood until 1963, when the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that fowl were not animals, therefore the state animal cruelty laws and the laws forbidding other animal fights were inapplicable to this "sport". Among the decisive legal sources incorporated into the decision (Lock v. Falkenstine, 1963 OK CR 32) was the Bible, specifically the book of Genesis. We Okies have a rich anti-science heritage.

Back to the present.

In the New Zealand article, Sen. Shurden said that we should reinstitute cockfighting because the ban had wiped out a $100-million business. What other industries and businesses should flourish in this state without any tax benefit returning to the people? I must admit, Shurden is... uh, creative in his arguments. How about legalizing prostitution, meth and cocaine sales, or child pornography for the same reasons?

At any rate, The Economist covered this story this week (3 February 2005 print edition) in its "Diversions" section. The story did not add much to the other previously available information, except that Sen. Shurden has "only seen a brochure for the equipment, patented by a Californian lawyer."

The final two paragraphs are truly funny.
Animal-rights activists are not convinced. “Even if fitted with muffs, these roosters will deliver blows that will knock out eyes, break bones and possibly even kill,” says Cynthia Armstrong of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Cockfighting. Mr Shurden admits there could be some face-pecking, but insists the sport would not violate the chickens' rights: “We're just letting them do what comes natural to them.” Odd words, perhaps, from a long-time champion of castration for sex offenders.

Mr Shurden also faces practical problems. For instance, Oklahoma's cockfighting ban after the 2002 vote also made training fights, in which muffs are used, a felony. Meanwhile, his roosters-in-slippers version of cockfighting may be a little tame for the state's cockfighting lobby. Unabashed, Mr Shurden is planning to stage a demonstration in the statehouse. “We'll get 'em down in the rotunda and let 'em fight.”

Fortunately, that's illegal now.

"Will the circle be unbroken..."

From this morning's Washington Post:
Iran-Contra Figure to Lead Democracy Efforts Abroad

Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress in the Iran-contra affair, was promoted to deputy national security adviser to President Bush.

Abrams, who previously was in charge of Middle East affairs, will be responsible for pushing Bush's strategy for advancing democracy.

...Abrams has served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Near East and North African affairs since December 2002. He will continue work on Israeli-Palestinian affairs in concert with Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Abrams's 1991 plea stemmed from the congressional inquiry into the Iran-contra affair during President Ronald Reagan's administration. On Oct. 10, 1986, Abrams, then a State Department employee, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he did not know that Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North was directing illegal arms sales to Iran and diverting the proceeds to assist the Nicaraguan contras.

Abrams was pardoned by Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush.

His name surfaced last year as part of the investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA operative whose husband publicly disputed Bush administration claims that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Africa. White House spokesman Scott McClellan has said that Abrams denied responsibility.

There's a better home a-waiting in the sky, Lord, in the sky.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Unholy Rodent Worshipping Day

Groundhog Day is nearly over, and we have survived another unholiday. I like the foolishness of the observance, but I find the Punxatawney Phil celebrity bit wearying. The market has no shame. Rampant commercialization of superstition.

The truly observant Groundhog Day celebrant can sing Groundhog Day hymns , although I cannot determine at which point in the liturgy they belong. Perhaps there exists somewhere a Groundhog Day Haggadah.

Hark! The Herald Groundhog Speaks
Tune = Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
© 1999 by Don Halley

Hark! the herald groundhog speaks
Spring will come in six more weeks
He's unearthed for us today
Gathered round to hear him say
Just this morning he did rise
Wiped the sleep out of his eyes
Then he looked for his shadow
Found it at his feet below
Hark! the herald groundhog speaks
Spring will come in six more weeks

On the other hand, I find it curious that the religious conservatives don't rise up in righteousness against the whole concept of a rodent whose conduct can alter the natural order.

Instead of watching the State of the Union address tonight (and risking serious brain and liver damage by participating in this drinking game), I think I'll try to find the passage in the Bible that allows us to observe theis blessed day.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Putting the "tin" in "abstinence"

If it weren't for the fact that some nice kids are going to suffer real consequences of pregnancy and/or sexually-transmitted diseases (and the subsequent consequences of both conditions), it would be fun to laugh at this headline:

Texas Teens Increased Sex After Abstinence Program
The first paragraph is completely misleading:

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Abstinence-only sex education programs, a major plank in President Bush (news - web sites)'s education plan, have had no impact on teenagers' behavior in his home state of Texas, according to a new study.

Wrong answer. Those programs may have been at least partially responsible for a rise in the number of sexually-active teens.

Despite taking courses emphasizing abstinence-only themes, teenagers in 29 high schools became increasingly sexually active, mirroring the overall state trends, according to the study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University.

Those radicals down in College Station are trying to undermine delusion in the interest of science.

Abstinence-only programs --and Bush's support for those programs (along with their international counterparts in the anti-HIV campaign) have been pure gold for the President and the Republicans. The consistent message-- that non-marital sex is bad-- has helped to solidify the support and funding of social and religious conservatives.

Need another reason to shrink government? There are more radicals in Texas hiding in the bureaucracy. Probably "evidence-based" heretics.

The study was delivered to the Texas Department of State Health Services, which commissioned it.

The money usually goes back to the social conservatives, though. They design the programs.

The federal government is expected to spend about $130 million to fund programs advocating abstinence in 2005, despite a lack of evidence that they work, Pruitt said.

Here is the nub of the study.

The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex.

Boys in the tenth grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.

So the gold circulates from social and religious conservatives to campaign coffers, while tax dollars make the journey back to the conservatives and their abstinence-only programs. The rest of us don't get our education tax dollars' worth, and our teenagers get the cheap stuff.

As Dr. Buzz Pruitt, the study's director, said, "These programs seem to be much more concerned about politics than kids, and we need to get over that."

We need to "get over that" quickly, before we end up with a bunch of wooden nickles.

Happy 23rd Birthday!

Happy 23rd birthday to Channing Hott Abbott, a/k/a "Wonderdog", "Channerd", "Dr. Deedle", and other names designed to delight and to misdirect. When I last heard from him, he and the Cyclown Circus had left Italy for Turkey, traveling through Greece. I love him and miss him terribly-- and marvel at his life.

See him with his accordion here, here, here (I especially like the picture of Channing playing the accordion while riding his unicycle and passing between the fire jugglers); one-foot unicycling and playing; and tall-bicycling (here and here). [Note to Craig Huber and to Christine de Pierro: thank you for your photos and all the other marvels you produce!]

Disclosure: Channing is my first-born, eldest brother to Avery and Calder (whom you will encounter in March, if not before). How lucky is this world to have such fine people in it as my children, and how immeasurably proud of them am I! (My boasting includes my stepsons, Russell and Justin, half-brothers to Channing, Avery, and Calder.)