Friday, December 31, 2004

Now, That's a Little Better

Just moments ago, CNN reported that the U.S. has announced that it will increase its aid package to south Asia to $350 million.

In response to the anonymous comment on my previous post below, all I can say is I just wanted to point out that in the wake of this mind-boggling disaster, our initial offers of help came to less than we were planning to spend on a party next month. No wonder people call us stingy.

I shouldn't even really respond to the charge that us liberals don't have any ideas for solutions to the world's problems, that all we do is whine. If the poster took, oh, 5 seconds to search the internet to read such lefty journals as The Nation, The Washington Monthly, Alternet or the Village Voice you'd find more articles filled with suggestions and proposals than you could shake a freedom fry at.

But, in the interest of fairness, I concede that I didn't offer any suggestions in that last post. So here's one: cancel or dramatically scale back the inaugural festivities (there are nine different balls to go to this year) and donate the money to the disaster, thereby more than doubling the aid package. (Now that the proposed aid amount has increased tenfold, this is a moot point, of course.)

But, thanks for reading and thanks for your comment, whoever you are.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A Few Numbers

116,000 dead and rising in south Asia and Africa.

$15 Million: the U.S. government's initial offer of aid.

$35 Million: our increased offer after a U.N. emergency relief coordinator called the aid efforts of western nations "stingy."

$40 Million: The cost of next month's inaugural festivities for President Bush.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Pale Male Update

Well, the renovations at 927 Fifth Avenue have been completed; yesterday the scaffolding was taken down, and within 45 minutes, both Pale Male and his partner Lola returned to the site where their nest was to check it out. That's a very good sign!


Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Sorry I've not been a good blogger lately. I have the flu. I'm slowly feeling better. Other than that I really have nothing to say.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

LOTR update

The Fellowship of the Ring leaves Rivendell at dusk.


Monday, December 20, 2004

Whatever Happened To...

Remember suave, genial Sesame Street game show host Guy Smiley? Apparently the popular host, whose real name is Bernie Liederkrantz, is now an attorney in Rockland County.

Subway Madness

It was 13 degrees this morning, so I passed on my usual 20 minute walk from Columbus Circle to my temporary office and instead rode the subway all the way to work, which involved two transfers.

I got off the A express train at 59th Street/Columbus Circle, and from there I had to transfer to either the B or the D train, which I ride one stop to 7th Avenue, and then transfer to the E, which I ride one stop to 5th Avenue. If that sounds slightly ridiculous, I agree...but if the connections are smooth, it saves 10-15 minutes timewise. Did I mention it was 13 degrees this morning?

Now, above 59th Street, the D is an express train and the B is local. However, below 59th, the B and the D make all the same stops. So this morning while I was waiting on the platform, the Brooklyn-bound B train arrived first. Everyone got on. But then a Brooklyn-bound D train pulled in on the opposite track. Now, remember, these trains go exactly the same places. But all these people suddenly bolted off the B train and ran across the platform to the D. On an uptown train, I could understand, because the D goes nonstop from 59th 125th. But downtown, there's no difference.

So then a dispatcher announces over the loudspeaker that the B train will be leaving the station first. Naturally, everyone comes hurtling off the D train back on to the B. So many people are fighting to get on the B train that the doors are unable to close; naturally the D train closes its doors and sails out of the station.

When will people learn that sometimes being patient is the fastest way to accomplish something?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

ADDIO, DOLCE SVEGLIARE ALLA MATTINA: Renata Tebaldi, 1922-2004. Posted by Hello

Friday, December 17, 2004

Denial Ain't Just a River in Africa

Okay, we have someone making a "gay" case for George Bush:

Why Bush’s win is a victory for gays

You have to be kidding me, right?

First of all, Bush's statement that he supports the idea of civil unions was made in exactly the same offhanded, spontaneous way that he said the war on terrorism was unwinnable and in which he defined himself as a "war president." (Or when pressed by Diane Sawyer into admitting Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, he responded, "What's the difference?") It was an unguarded, brief candid glimpse into the inner mind of George W. Bush. I think it's quite possible that George Bush the man is just fine with civil unions.

George W. Bush the president, however, is another story altogether. This is a man who called a news conference -- something he's done far more rarely than any president in modern history -- specifically to announce his support for a Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. He has publicly vowed to defend the "sanctity of marriage," and repeatedly used the phrase "activist judges." But this author tries to argue that Bush's "stance" on the gay marriage issue is support for civil unions. Hogwash. He tries to say that Bush's official policy was indistinguishable from Kerry's.

There's so much here worthy of debate, but let me just say this: I am not a one-issue voter. The gay marriage thing, while obviously of some importance to me, is not on my front burner. George W. Bush is an economic and diplomatic disaster of catastrophic proportions. I have no doubt that the name George W. Bush will be remembered by historians with a shameful shudder.

Even if their policies were completely switched on this one issue -- say, for argument's sake, that John Kerry ran exactly the same campaign he did but actively supported a gay marriage ban and George W. Bush ran the same campaign he did but was openly in favor of same-sex marriage, I would still have voted for John Kerry.

While thousands are dead and dying in the middle east, here at home our economy has been set adrift on an iceberg in an ever-warming ocean. The problems directly attributable to Bush's administration are legion. Just because he once casually expressed support for civil unions is no reason to celebrate.

Random Thoughts on a Friday Afternoon

  • Donald Rumsfeld needs to resign. You know you're in trouble when both Senators McCain and Lott agree that you're incompetent.
  • The missile defense program needs to die. The Pentagon tried to claim that Wednesday's failed test wasn't a setback. Hi, your rocket didn't launch. How is that not a setback? There have been nine -- count 'em, nine -- tests of this system. Only nine. Five of them, under "controlled" circumstances (i.e., the target missile basically had a homing device in it to attract the anti-missile-missile), were successful. Three of them were not, and then there's yesterday's no-go. The last test, which was conducted two years ago, missed its target by "hundreds of miles." Additionally, a Pentagon spokesperson today said that the rocket that failed this week was one developed under the Clinton administration. Uh-huh. It's always Clinton's fault, isn't it? By the way, these nine tests so far have cost us $85 billion.

    Lest you think we are still in the "experimental" phase, Bush claims that the system is operational, based on the six missiles in Alaska that are ready to go. Assuming they can leave the silo.

    Launching an intercontinental ballistic missile is beyond the capabilities of most terrorist organizations, and a missile -- even one that can actually fly -- can't stop a car bombing in Washington or a sarin attack in Chicago. We would do better to take these financial resources and help secure nuclear weapons in the former Soviet countries. The priority is all wrong. (Oh, and, it doesn't work anyway.)
  • My tin roof rusted! The rural dwelling that was reportedly the inspiration for the B-52s' hit "The Love Shack" has apparently burned to the ground. I want my juke box money back.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Andy Writes to The Village Voice

To the Editor:

I object to James Ridgeway’s 12 Days of Christmas, where he wrote, “The holiday season offers Christians an opportunity to consider the different gifts they have brought to Iraq,” and then lists everything that has gone wrong with Bush’s war.

I am a Christian, but do not support the war in Iraq. I have written letters to my representatives in Congress, I have protested, I have given money to anti-war political candidates, and I have prayed my butt off over this catastrophe. There are millions of Christians in America who were opposed to the invasion, and many others who consider it a valid war of choice but who are appalled at the way the occupation has been managed.

The chronic shortages cited in today’s piece are not the fault of the Christian community. They are the result of an administration more concerned with rewarding its wealthiest supporters through tax cuts instead of spending what is necessary to protect our children overseas; an administration so pre-occupied with promoting an image of infallibility that they refuse to acknowledge miscalculations; an administration that claims to value the “sanctity of life” and yet deploys weapons of mass destruction on urban areas, endorses torture and withholds from prisoners international basic standards of legal rights.

I do not accept his blame.

And Sometimes You Win

The co-op board of 927 Fifth Avenue has agreed to allow the red-tailed hawks to return to their building, after the nest was destroyed last week. The steel anti-pigeon spikes that held the nest in place will be restored. Additionally, improvements will be made to the cornice to reduce safety concerns about bird waste or parts of the nest falling to the sidewalk below.

My thanks to all of you who wrote in protest! And a special round of applause to ultra-cool Mary Tyler Moore, who is my new favorite person.



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Is there a Fact-Checker in the House?

The amiable CNN commentator Mark Shields tossed his two cents into the ante this week, encouraging Democrats not to lose faith because, after all, "Since the beginning of the Civil War and the election of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln -- with the exception of the sainted Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- only two Democratic presidents have won a majority of the nation's popular vote, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and Jimmy Carter in 1976."

He summarizes, "Elected Democratic presidents Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton all failed to win a majority of the popular vote. "

Well, that might be an encouraging thought -- even if it didn't make the Electoral College seem even more ridiculous than it is -- except that it is wholly untrue. In fact, four Presidents have been elected despite losing the popular vote, and Shields only got one of them right. They are, in chronological order, John Quincy Adams (who was before Lincoln so he wouldn't have been in the list anyway), Rutherford B. Hayes, Cleveland, and George W. Bush.

How did such a blatant error find its way into print? Is anyone at all home at Did Shields do even the most basic fact-checking Google search?

Bring the King Home Tonight!

Public service announcement: the Extended Edition DVD version of The Return of the King is available in stores today. Fifty minutes of new material!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Liberal = Terrorist

"It's like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn't want to go. I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country somewhere we don't want to go."

-- State Representative Cynthia Davis of Missouri

To: Representative Cynthia Davis,
Subject: Liberals are not hijacking America, thank you

Dear Representative Davis,

As a resident of Manhattan, I am writing to you to express my objection to your sentiments that were quoted in today’s New York Times, comparing the liberal vision for America to the September 11 hijackings.

I was here that day, and will never forget the horror. How dare you trivialize such terror? I cannot imagine that you or any other social conservative feel anything even remotely akin to the panic the residents of New York and Washington suffered that day, let alone that of the helpless souls trapped on the doomed aircraft, when you worry about progressive goals. Do not speak so lightly of such things. Do not use this tremendous tragedy as an allegory fit for a cheap political soundbite.

What is this liberal direction in which you do not want to travel? It is one that values the rights of the private individual. It is one that values the environment and recognizes that the true worth of the planet cannot be measured in corporate profits. It is one that holds that education and health care are basic, fundamental rights. It is one that believes in fair taxation. It is one that favors global cooperation over military dominance. It is one that respects the dream of America that the founding fathers set forth over 200 years ago. Would the realization of these goals be a worse fate for you than crashing into a skyscraper at 600 miles per hour?

In fact, “liberal values” means having the freedom to live your life according to your personal beliefs. If anyone is being forced to go in certain directions against their will, it would be the 49% of Americans who voted to reject the Republican agenda last month.

You owe American liberals a public apology for comparing us to fanatical murderers of innocents. Your resignation will suffice.

New York, NY

Friday, December 10, 2004


For crying out loud, people.

Apparently there's a new "angle" to this week's Rumsfeld fiasco.

It turns out the now infamous question asked by Army Spc. Thomas Wilson was "prompted" by a reporter embedded in Wilson's unit.

The New York Post went so far as to opine today, "Rumsfeld was set up."

Aw. Poor, poor Donald "Hell, I'm an old man" Rumsfeld. My heart just goes right out to the poor S.O.B.

That damn liberal news media. (The reporter in question is from that hotbed of lefty thought, Chattanooga.) I bet the other 2,300 soldiers present for the Q&A were also "prompted" to cheer at the question.

It's really an outrage that the architect of this war has to face questions like that. If this reporter had really done his homework, he would know that:
  • 25% of Humvees deployed in Iraq aren't armored.
  • The most secure are factory-armored Humvees, and the Pentagon has received only 5,910 of the 8,105 that commanders say they need.
  • 90% of the 4,814 medium-weight transport trucks have no armor.
  • 85% of the 4,314 heavy transport vehicles aren't armored.
  • Two armor-making companies said the Pentagon has declined their offers to pick up the pace of production.
  • The Pentagon's proposed budget didn't include money to armor trucks.

But if you read the Post, you would know that it's really only an "alleged lack of adequately armored vehicles," and that "at the end of the day, soldiers need to make do with what they have."

The Joy of Subway

Today was one of those days where I fantasized about chucking it all away and buying a dairy farm in Idaho, so that my commute would consist of pulling on some rubber boots and slogging across a muddy field to the barn.

The A train was already pretty much full when it pulled into my stop this morning. Now, pardon me for stating the obvious, but people don't stand when there are empty seats available. So if you can see through the windows that there are lots of standing people, it's a pretty safe bet that there are no seats. I say this only because this kind of logic seems not to have dawned on some of my fellow riders, notably the hobbit-sized old lady this morning who literally put her right elbow in my ribs trying to push past me onto the train; then she stands just inside the door and looks left, then right, then left again, scanning the train to see if there's any seats that the 50 or so standing people might just have happened to miss.

As I mentioned in a previous post, in winter subway riders swell up to three times their normal size, so even leaving 181st Street heading downtown, after making only 4 stops so far, it's pretty tight. The next two stops are the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal and then 168th Street, which is where the Presbyterian Hospital is, the Columbia med school, and the connection to the Broadway local subway. Leaving 168th Street you could barely breathe.

Then we sit in the tunnel for about 5 minutes, not moving. "Attention ladies and gentlemen, due to congestion up ahead, we're being held by dispatch." You wonder, after waiting 10 minutes for a train in the first place, and then proceeding at the speed of a tortoise, how on earth you've caught up with the train in front of you.

Alas, the previous train has "gone out of service." I'm not sure how many people you can actually get on a subway car at its most crowded, but I would venture to guess it's probably around 125 or so; in a ten car train, that's well over one thousand people. So we lumber into 145th Street on the local track (screech, screech, thud, wobble) and now you have 100 people per car or so trying to squeeze on. You can bet some of these people were late to begin with and the fact that their train got stuck only made it worse. They are determined, come hell or high water, to get on this train.


"Stand clear of the closing doors please."


Cursing. Sound of doors thudding unsympathetically against flesh and backpacks. Ding-dong.

"Ladies and gentlemen, there is another A train directly behind this one, if you cannot get on this train, please wait for the next one."

Yeah, right. I fell for that once. Miraculously the doors managed to close, leaving a few stranded people behind. Then at 125th Street we repeated the whole process.


Finally we reached Columbus Circle. Even if New Yorkers were inclined to politely step out of the way to let people off, the train is so crowded there's nowhere to move. You end up literally climbing over people. You don't have a choice. "Jesus Christ!" spat a woman angrily as I stepped on her foot on my way out the door.

My sentiments exactly.

UPDATE: See today's New York Times editorial. (Riding the subway while inebriated is prohibited? the hell am I supposed to get home???)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Gay Rights Movement: Quo Vadis?

A front-page article in today's New York Times examines the struggle within the gay community to figure out what, if anything, it should do next in the wake of the 2004 elections, when 11 states passed anti-gay same-sex marriage legislation and the country re-elected a president who wants an anti-gay constitutional amendment. (Groups Debate Slower Strategy on Gay Rights)

There is a fear that we've been overreaching and that the backlash has been or will be insurmountable; that by pushing for full marriage rights while a significant proportion of the country remains uncomfortable with the concept, we have forced the hand of the religious right and mobilized them into enacting laws that set us back. Some wonder if we shouldn't aim just a little lower for now.

I think we need to look back at the effective civil rights campaigns of the past. I'm trying to picture Susan B. Anthony or Martin Luther King, Jr., telling supporters that their goals are unrealistic.

Yes, we need to examine our tactics. Be honest about what worked and what didn't. But let's also not put all our eggs in one basket. There is a place for measured, pragmatic, step-by-step legal techniques and social outreach programs, and it's right along side in-your-face activism.

I categorically reject any suggestion that we shouldn't shoot for the moon. In the short term, we're gonna lose some battles, especially if Bush gets to replace three or more Supreme Court Justices. Given the success of the 11 recent state initiatives, there will likely be more. But these are just laws. Laws are not permanent. Laws are interpreted, amended, and repealed. Sometimes they are judged unconstitutional. And none of the laws that are being enacted now change the daily reality for any of us. They take away rights we don't even have. Practically speaking, nothing is different today than it was six months ago.

Increasingly, however, public opinion is on our side. And that is where the final victory will be won, in the court of public opinion. Trent Lott was hounded out of his senate leadership position when he made casual remarks at a private function that fondly recalled the promise of a pro-segregation presidency. He didn't break any laws. When we can move society to the point where Rick "man-on-dog" Santorum incurs the same outrage, whatever laws passed today will be meaningless and not long for the books.

Specifically, I think we need a more aggressive public relations war. Call every bluff. Publicize every discriminatory remark. Challenge every assertion. Push all the science we can get our hands on. Recently it was exposed that 99.8% of the indecency complaints received by the FCC this year were filed by one organization. There's no reason we can't go after Fox News, the 700 Club and other mouthpieces for the amoral minority and tell the government we're offended.

It's going to be a long, hard fight, and we shouldn't look for any significant victories with Bush in the White House and Republicans controlling both arms of Congress. But we can't be so shortsighted. Looking back over history, the long term trends globally are decidedly in our favor. For the next four years, at least, we'll have to run to stand still. But if we don't, we'll have that much farther to go later.

UPDATE: Fabulous Dumsfeld Quote

From today's New York Times:

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced it. "Now, settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Ronald Dumsfeld

So, stop me if you've heard this one.

Rumsfeld, who puts the deaf in SecDef, was in Afghanistan recently for the swearing-in of newly-elected President Hamid Karzai, and then stopped in Kuwait afterwards for a pep-talk with U.S. troops. Afterwards he opened up the floor to questions.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" [Army Spc. Thomas] Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld apparently couldn't hear the question and asked for it to be repeated. Then he responded, "You go to war with the army you have."

"You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can be blown up," Rumsfeld said.

Now, let's see...we sent our troops to Iraq in March of 2003. You'd have to accept that this was a war of imminent necessity, which almost no one nowadays believes; we rushed to war before we had time to fully prepare our troops with the equipment they would need. And now, 20 months later, they still don't have it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Rumsfeld here seems to be saying that "all the armor in the world" won't protect you, so why bother? One would think that the more armor you've got on your vehicle, the more powerful a bomb would have to be in order to do some damage. That offers some protection right there. Furthermore, even with a very powerful bomb detonating under a fully-armored truck, isn't there the possibility that some lives could be saved?

Let's send Rumsfeld for a joyride down the road to Baghdad International Airport in an unarmored transport and see how confident he feels then.


And now for the good news: Howard Dean gave a speech today in which he outlined his vision for the future of the Democratic Party.


Okay, I hereby officially confer upon the residents of 927 Fifth Avenue The Last Debate's first annual SCROOGE AWARD.

For ten years now, a family of red-tailed hawks has lived in a nest built on a cornice on top of a luxury building in the middle of Fifth Avenue's swanky Museum Mile area, across from the boat pond in Central Park. These glorious, graceful, regal -- and endangered -- birds could frequently be seen soaring over the park.

The birds had a small army of adoring fans who observed them faithfully from the benches opposite the pond. In summer, they often set up a video monitor for tourists focused on the nests so you could watch the baby hawks in this unusual environment.

Full details here (NY Times registration required).

These rare birds were really celebrities, and were even the stars of a PBS documentary. While it is unclear if any law has been violated (there are federal protections in place prohibiting the destruction of migratory bird habitats), it was definitely a heartless thing to do.

As it so happens, one of the residents of this building is Mary Tyler Moore. "I am so outraged that they would do this without so much as a by your leave," she told the Times.

Please write to Ms. Moore and ask her to convey your anger to the management and other residents of her building:

Ms. Mary Tyler Moore
927 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

It's About Frickin' Time!

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has announced he will run for governor in 2006. Finally the democrats have a real candidate! An end to the Pataki era!

Questions for Discussion

While floating around the web today I came across this year-old essay by Jeremy Marks of the ex-ex-gay organization Courage. I just wish those "love the sinner, hate the sin" bigots from the "Christian" right could take a break from fear-mongering for just a moment to ponder the ideas contained herein and have the courage to sit down and have a mature discussion about it. Here are the highlights.
  • After ten years, however, six spent running residential discipleship courses, followed by years of weekly group meetings, it was increasingly clear that however repentant people were, and however much dedication and effort they put into seeking change, none were really ‘successful’ in the long term in ‘dealing with the deeper issues’. This is not to say that people gained no benefit! Many matured greatly. A few married (though their same-sex attractions remain an ongoing issue for them). But the kind of change everyone really hoped for – to re-orientate and reach a point where their struggle with being gay was over – remained elusive. We never saw the fruit we longed for.
  • I saw that those who began, on their own initiative, to embrace the possibility of a gay relationship, benefited greatly. Common to all was an underlying longing for companionship and intimacy – a heart-longing, not merely a craving to pursue gay sex! So I realised that to dismiss erotic intimacy between gay men merely as the pursuit of lust was to seriously misjudge the situation. Gay relationships, entered into sincerely, with mutual commitment, provide value and a sense of belonging.
  • Besides, why did Jesus call us to follow him, if there is no hope of finding a way forward, if celibacy is the only option? Why bother to study the Scriptures, or seek God in intercessory prayer, if there is nothing more to be said on the matter? In any case, what criteria do we have for judging committed love between two people as sinful, except for adultery?
  • Biblical law was given at a time when people saw nothing wrong with a man having many wives. We do not accept polygamy today – presumably because we believe this runs contrary to God’s creation plan. So why did the Bible not unequivocally forbid it?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Christians are Pagans, Too

You know, sometimes the Christian community needs to step back, take a deep breath, and think about the things they are thinking and doing.

I was reading this article in the New York Times this morning about a controversy going on in Denver over the city's annual holiday parade.

"This was always just supposed to be a cutesy parade, for the kids," said [Downtown Denver Partnership] president, Jim Basey. "The purpose was to get bodies downtown."

Now, I ask you: what the hell is wrong with that?

"We just wanted to come out and show them the love of God and what Christmas is all about," said Laverne Gillespie, who was leading the line with a thermos of chocolate.

It seems to have started when the Denver mayor's office decided this year to change the banner that hangs from the City and County Building to read "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." So here you have a gesture that was intended to be sensitive and respectful to people who like their Xmas without the Christ, and naturally the Christians are offended, even though "Happy Holidays" certainly includes them, too.

It's not as if Denver banned religious association with the holiday. If you want to show people what the love of God is all about, you have 365 days in the calendar year to do it. Let's just let people have their secular holidays, okay?

Secular? Am I nuts? you must be asking. Look people, scholarly research indicates that in all likelihood, Jesus was born in the fall. It's almost certain that December 25 was chosen as the day of observance to replace the annual pagan winter solstice festival which, in the Roman calendar, was celebrated on December 25. While the church fathers almost certainly chose the date to replace celebration of the solstice, many of the traditions persisted. For example, the Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and placed evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits. Medieval Germans decorated their homes in winter with evergreen boughs to remind themselves that spring was coming back. (Trust me; having spent a winter in central Europe, you do begin to wonder if you'll ever see the sun again.) Ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice by decorating with the color green and exchanging presents.

Every year we see a news story or two about some yahoo objecting to Halloween because of its pagan origins. Frankly, the people who worry about this sort of thing have no faith in their children, their parenting skills or the power of the Lord. But isn't it odd that you don't see Christians picketing Christmas tree lots or burning holly bushes? Far from it. Most churches put up a tree or two, and the advent candles are always incorporated into an evergreen wreath.

For that matter, no one warns against the evil of Easter Eggs, boycotts the Paas company or melts down rabbit idols made from chocolate. No one reacts in horror to a bride swathed and veiled in white bearing a bouquet as they toss fistfuls of rice in her direction.

And why not?

Because no one worships a Christmas tree. It's that simple. People are able to enjoy it, even during a religious holiday, with out attributing some sort of power to it. It's just something pretty.

Look, winter sucks. The days are short, dark and cold. The weather can be downright dangerous, when it's not just merely inconvenient. It can have such an effect on our emotions that psychologists have identified an actual syndrome called "Seasonal Affective Disorder." It's well-known that suicide rates are highest during the holidays. Christmas is a break from the routine. If winter drives you insane, then Christmas is the chance to go a little crazy without anyone noticing. Is there any other reason for people to go out in the frigid cold in the dark and stand on the corner singing? You get to give and receive presents, visit with family you don't normally get to see, and put up decorations around your home to mark a special occasion.

Christians need to ask themselves if it really matters what day of the year Christ was born. We should celebrate the Gospel every day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a secular holiday. This is not to say that we should not try to keep the Christ in Christmas, but merely to suggest that we put things in perspective.

What makes you angrier: that there's a secular holiday parade in Colorado, or that, by the Government's own ungenerous standard, 36 million Americans are living in poverty this Christmas?

What would Jesus protest?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Jerry Falwell's Tough Choice

I can't take any credit for this, I'm stealing it right off the surfergirl column in Slate. Her full post can be found here, but I just wanted to share this portion of a transcript of a recent Jerry Falwell appearance on MSNBC's Hardball where he discusses whether homosexuality is a "choice."

Matthews: Did you choose to be heterosexual?

Falwell: I did.

Matthews: You thought about it and you came up with that solution, that lifestyle?

Falwell: Well, put it this way, I was taught as a child that that's the right way to be.

Matthews: But did you feel an attraction toward women?

Falwell: Oh, of course.

Matthews: But when people are born and they find themselves having an attraction to somebody from the same sex, do you think that's a choice?

Falwell: I think you can experiment with any perversity and develop an appetite for it, just like you can food. […] I don't think anybody is born a bank robber […]

Matthews: How old were you when you chose to be heterosexual?

Falwell: Oh, I don't remember that.

Matthews: Well you must, because you say it's a big decision.

Falwell: Well, I ... I started dating when I was about 13.

Matthews: And you had to decide between boys and girls. And you chose girls.

Falwell: Well, I never had to decide, I never thought … (laughter) [emphasis mine]

Missing something

Lately I've had this feeling that something has been missing from my life. A recurring sense of emptiness, a sensation like a small hole in my chest where something has been torn out.

I think I figured it out. I miss Paul Krugman. Hurry up and finish your textbook, Paul! I need you to come back and make sense of my world for me again.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Answering Your Questions

I send out so many emails during the day -- mostly about nothing -- that my friends often write back and say, "Gee, you must not be very busy" or "What exactly do you do at this job?"

Today has been a fairly typical day for me here. Starting the moment I arrived this morning, I carefully noted everything that they asked me to do during the day. Here's what I recorded:

8:27 a.m. Arrived
8:35 a.m. Deleted 66 emails
9:26 a.m. copied a magazine article
11:08 a.m. boss decides she wants 10 copies of article
1:09 p.m. went to lunch
1:42 p.m. back
4:18 p.m. began to work on blogpost*

[* Obviously this part was not part of my job.]

For this work, I am paid $16/hour.

Today they asked me if I could be available to stay through January.'s time to get cracking on finding a real job. I can't take this much longer.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

still here

To my loyal and faithful readers, I apologize that I have not been a very active blogger lately. For the moment, I've run out of things to talk about. (I know, right?)