Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memphis Judge: "It Would Be Easier Just to Kill Him"

From the AP, via Nashville Is Talking:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A state criminal court judge on Tuesday refused to allow DNA testing on crime scene evidence that sent condemned killer Sedley Alley to death row almost 20 years ago.

I cannot understand how any right-thinking judge would refuse to allow DNA testing in a capital case, especially in a case that originally was tried before DNA testing was a viable option. A state with any policy allowing it to kill anyone is already on shaky ground morally. The state should at least use the best methods available to confirm the guilt of any person the state plans on executing.

I understand that Sedley Alley (pictured) confessed to the murder he was convicted of. Unfortunately, coerced confessions are not unusual in many states' criminal justice systems. For example, New York death-row inmate Douglas Warney was recently acquitted of a murder he confessed to but didn't commit after spending 10 years in jail. DNA evidence saved Warney from eventually being shot up with poison. (The New York Times article mentions Alley's case.)

Frankly, allowing DNA testing is the only moral thing to do in this situation.

Related: Unless Someone Steps in, Tennessee Will Kill a Man Next Week (May 9, 2006)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Militant Islam Is the New Communism

During the Cold War, the United States was willing to align itself with any political group that was ideologically opposed to communism; in addition to assisting legitimate freedom fighters, our government befriended despots, death squads, and drug lords. As long as these despots, death squads, and drug lords hated commies, they were OK.

Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, our foreign policy hasn't really changed. Communists have just been replaced by Islamic extremists. Any political group, no matter how shady, that wants to fight Muslim fundamentalism gets our support. But while these Islamic militant groups are indeed dangerous—being a good liberal, I should also point out that these groups are not representative of Islam as a whole—our policy for containing and defeating them is nonetheless flawed. Our enemies' enemies should not necessarily be our friends; and sometimes our enemies' enemies are just as violent and corrupt as our enemies are.

Two recent stories illustrate why we need to be more discriminating when choosing allies:

From Harper's, May 24:

A year ago this month,security forces in Uzbekistan killed hundreds of protesters in the town of Andijan. Human rights groups and journalists reported that the crowd was overwhelmingly unarmed and had come out to protest corruption and poor economic conditions. . . . The regime of Islam Karimov sought to justify the carnage by saying that the demonstration was organized by Islamic militants seeking to overthrow the government.

Karimov's apologetics are supported by S. Frederick Starr, once an advisor on Soviet affairs to Presidents Reagan and Bush (the first one) and now a professor at Johns Hopkins' Central Asia Caucasus Institute (CACI). CACI works closely with the current administration, for whom the institute helps justify relationships with despotic regimes in Central Asia. (Read more.)

Meanwhile, in Somalia (Reuters):

A top U.S. official handling Somalia has been transferred from his job after criticising payments to warlords that are said to be fuelling some of Mogadishu's worst-ever fighting, diplomats said on Tuesday.

In this case we are supporting war lords simply because they oppose radical Islam. Unfortunately, backing these war lords has not been fruitful:

At least 320 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the anarchic city since February in battles between the warlords, who dubbed themselves the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, and Islamist militias. . . .

Various other diplomats involved with Somalia, including those from Washington's allies, have expressed frustration at U.S. aid to warlords which they say has undermined Somalia's weak interim government, seen as the best hope for peace there. . . .

Analysts say Washington's widely believed links with the warlords have had the contrary effect of rallying Islamist groups and increasing support for them among Somalis, who are not usually strong supporters of radical Islam.

The world today is too complicated for nations and political groups to form alliances based solely on common enemies. A regime or militia may be eager to help us fight our never-ending war, but that same regime or militia could, in the future, become our primary enemy. (Consider, for example, Saddam Hussein or the Taliban.) A black-and-white globe (or one of those Cold-War-era red-and-blue maps) cannot be the basis of our foreign policy. "With us or against us" is just not a viable political philosophy in our complex world. We need to see the world in full color and in four dimensions; we need to introduce more variables into our foreign policy equations. Otherwise, we will inevitably end up supporting those who fiercely oppose the values we claim to cherish.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Senator's Warped Priorities

My senator, Dr. Bill Frist, appeared on FOX News Sunday this morning and was asked to defend his obsessions with banning flag burning and gay marriage, both of which are subjects of Constitutional amendments that will be debated on the days when our senators aren't on vacation. Frist argued that his emphasis on these issues has nothing to do with pandering to the conservative base (a base growing frustrated with the President and Senate Republicans) and is all about what's important to the "heart and soul of the American people." My heart and soul, for one, is more concerned about the rising costs of healthcare and energy and the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Recent polls suggest that my heart and soul aren't alone. (And, frankly, Constitutional amendments have historically been used to guarantee or grant rights, not to deny them. The one exception was Prohibition, and that didn't work so well.)

Since his election as Senate Majority Leader three years ago, Frist has acted entirely in the interests of the Republican Party and his own presidential ambitions, not in the interests of the American people, let alone the people of Tennessee, let alone their hearts and souls. This November, when Tennesseans elect Frist's replacement, let's be careful that we choose a representative, not a politician.

Think Progress has more, including the transcript.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Weekend Links

  • Stop killing meat and start growing it: Slate writer William Saletan deals with carnivore guilt by offering the following suggestion: "We can't change our craving for meat, but we can change the way we satisfy it. How? By growing meat in labs, the way we grow tissue from stem cells. That's the great thing about cells: They're programmed to multiply. You just have to figure out what chemical and structural environment they need to do their thing."

  • Tennessee Death-Row inmate is eager to die: I've been busy fathering and am way behind on this story. Stephen Hugueley killed his mother then, while in prison, killed a prison staff person to assure a death sentence for himself. Hugueley is vocal that he has no remorse for these crimes and that he wants to waive his remaining appeals and be put to death. While I feel strongly that the state should not kill anyone and that no person is beyond God's grace, I don't exactly feel compelled to write letters pleading for this guy's life.

  • Cole Wakefield contributes to "Corrupt Generation": Cole is the first outside contributor to my "God blog," Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation. Hopefully more will follow. Cole reveals his true feelings for the Baby-Boomer generation and the impact they've had on the United States.

  • I'm glad someone was able to use the name "Homeskillet Records": Back in the nineties, my band, Drywall, and two other Indianapolis-based rock groups, The Lids and Siphon, begat the loosely organized Homeskillet Records label. Homeskillet put its name on two full-length albums, two EPs, one three-EP compilation, and a handful of demos and promoted several shows, but never became a "real" record label. A slightly more real label named Homeskillet Records, which seems to be based in Alaska, is currently promoting nine acts. Good luck, Homeskillet, and thanks for keeping the name alive.

  • Trailer for Pac-Man: The Movie: From You Tube. Don't worry, Pac-Man isn't a real movie, but the trailer is entertaining.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Hey! I Was Quoted in the City Paper Four-and-a-Half Years Ago

I remember talking to a freelancer, who was doing a piece for Nashville's City Paper, in the fall of 2001 at the strip mall where I get my hair cut. I just never realized that anything I said actually ended up in print. I egosurf fairly often and have never before run across this when Googling "Josh Tinley." Anyway, here's what I said in the December 19, 2001 edition of the City Paper:

Most Bellevue neighbors agree with Bishop. Others wonder if there are already too many Starbucks in the area. “I guess I am bothered when new places, new strip malls are built,” Bellevue resident Josh Tinley said. “But it’s good to fill space that’s already existing.

“On the other hand, there is an overabundance of Starbucks around here,” Tinley added.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

When Can I Take Meyer to the Movies?

I clearly remember the first two movies I saw in the theater: The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Both movies were important in shaping my childhood, and I still love Star Wars and the Muppets today.

I often wonder when Meyer, my two-year-old son, will be mature enough to see a movie in the theater. Personally, as much as I want to take Meyer to the movies, I think we should wait until next summer. But if the right movie were to come along—a movie of cultural significance that will have a positive impact on a young boy's life.

Now I'm starting to wonder, "Is Nacho Libre that movie?"

Visit Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation . . .

. . . to learn the story behind this picture.

Monday, May 22, 2006

1 Kings 19:11-13 for the 21st-Century Mainline Church

Below is my rewrite of 1 Kings 19:11-13. Read the explanation at Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation.

1 Kings 19:11-13 (paraphrase)
He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great fight about the place of homosexuals in the church, so strong that it was splitting denominations and breaking hearts in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the fight over homosexuality; and after the argument about homosexuality an outcry about a statement made by a bishop, but the Lord was not in the outcry; and after the outcry charges of apostacy leveled against a prominent but controversial church leader, but the Lord was not in the charges of apostacy; and after the charges of apostacy a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Brother and Sister

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Life on Paternity Leave

I'm about halfway through my two-week paternity leave, and I feel pretty good about life right now. Ashlee and I were able to get our home and garden in order shortly before Kate's birth—putting together new bookshelves, staining and sealing the deck, and so forth—and I've been able to complete some minor projects in my time off—reorganizing our CDs, arranging Meyer's large outdoor toys around the swingset to create a makeshift playground in the back yard, finally fixing the door to the laundry closet, and so on. As someone who isn't terribly handy and got burned out on the outdoors during my years as a Boy Scout, I take a great deal of pride in my meager home improvement and gardening endeavors.

During the past week I've also benefitted from what I haven't done. I've spent little time working in my vegetable garden while on leave, yet my first peppers and tomatoes appeared this week. (Granted the tomatoes are still really tiny.) This past week has been one of my most successful weeks at work since I began my current job over three years ago, and I haven't spent more than a few hours on work-related business.

I had hoped to use my time off to catch up on my reading and writing during my time off. My plan had been to finish Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips and to read in its entirety Anne Lamott's newest book. I will fail to meet this goal. I had also hoped to revisit my hapless attempts at fiction writing and to work out the lyrics to a song I've been toying with for months. Thus far I have done neither.

I can honestly say that being the father of two is not (so far) as difficult as I thought it would be. On the other hand, being the father of two small children is far more time consuming than I ever imagined. The Tinley household now consists of two adults and two children (along with four cats). In other words, we have a one-to-one child-to-adult ratio; so each adult always has the responsibility of watching one child. Watching a child puts constraints on what kinds of work one can do. For example, I can pull weeds while Meyer is playing outside or make dinner while Kate sleeps in her swing or carseat. Finding extended periods of time to sit in front of a computer is more difficult.

I suppose paternity leave brings both blessings and challenges, but I'm as happy as I've been in years. In this state of bliss I struggle to get worked up about the political skirmishes and religious disputes that provide me with much of my material, so forgive me for the inevitable lack of provocative content on my blogs in the coming weeks. My passion for Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation has likewise waned, but I'm sure it will return as I get used to being the father of two and discover that there is still room in my life for cynicism and disgust. But at the moment, I'm at peace with my world.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We Have Reproduced, Again

Resha (REE-shuh) Kate Tinley (we call her "Kate") was born Sunday evening at 9:43 p.m. She weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces and was 21-inches long. Below (left to right): with Cousin Sophie (Kate is on the right); with Big Brother Meyer. (Pictures taken by grandma; click on thumbnails to see full-size images.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

How the Grinch Stole Mother's Day

From KNBC in Los Angeles:

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Happy Mother's Day ... guys.

Thanks to a lawsuit filed by a Los Angeles psychologist who claims last year's Mother's Day promotion at Angel Stadium amounted to age and sex discrimination, this year the first 25,000 fans 18 or over of either sex will get free tote bags, said the Angels' Tim Mead.

Last year the free bags just went to women 18 and older, and not to Michael Cohn, who filed a lawsuit alleging the promotion was sexist and ageist.

He claims that thousands of male fans and those under the age of 18 are entitled to $4,000 in damages because they did not get "a free unisex Angels tote bag" last Mother's Day, according to the complaint filed last Thursday in Orange County Superior Court.

That's just silly.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Elevator Song

"Elevator," not "Alligator"

By Meyer and Josh Tinley

chords shown in brackets


[F] Elevator, [F] elevator, [B flat] elevator, [F] elevator,

[B flat] Elevator, [F] elevator, [C] elevator, [F] elevator,

[F] Elevator, [B flat] elevator, [F] elevator, [C] elevator,

[F] Elevator, [B flat] elevator, [F] elevator, [C] elevator,

[F] Elevator, [F] elevator, [B flat] elevator, [F] elevator,

[B flat] Elevator, [F] elevator, [C] elevator, [F] elevator.


[B flat] We ride on the elevator [F],

[B flat] We like to press the buttons [C],

[B flat] We ride on the elevator [F],

[C] And look out on the kids below . . .

(And they're [B flat/C] singing . . .


* Inclusion of the bridge is disputed. Meyer does not consider the bridge part of "The Elevator Song."

Friday, May 12, 2006

I'm Down

I feel as though I'm constantly working but have little to show for it. I used to play rock music; I used to get articles published and write mediocre works of fiction; I used to do a radio show; I used to ride my bike through the green hills of middle Tennessee. I'd like to think that my neglect of such projects is due to an effort to give myself more fully to my household and my work, but I don't know that it is. I have partially set aside my obsessive-compulsive commitment to keeping a clean house and even find myself saying, "No, Meyer. We can't go out and swing right now." I've been lazy about keeping fresh litter in the cat boxes and still haven't sealed the deck. Not that either is terribly important, but in recent months I've failed to meet my reading and exercise goals as well.

I'm not sure what I do, but I'm always busy, and I'm usually tired andor anxious. I also don't understand why I put so much pressure on myself to be productive or why I define productivity the way I do. Given that my wife is nine-months pregnant, I feel guilty for complaining about any of this; but I'm worn out, and I need to vent.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Name Is Meyer. These Are My Monkeys

My two-year-old son tells of the challenges of raising six monkeys.

Unless Someone Steps in, Tennessee Will Kill a Man Next Week

Capital punishment is bad public policy. It is costly for revenue-strapped states; it has never been proven to be a deterrent to crime; death sentences are handed down capriciously; and there's always the kindergarten wisdom that two wrongs don't make a right. The manifold inherent problems with the death penalty are exacerbated by prosecutorial misconduct and ill-equipped public defenders.

Next week in Tennessee, if needle-happy Attorney General Paul Summers gets his way, we will kill Sedley Alley (pictured). I oppose executing Alley regardless of whether he is guilty. But, as is usual in the cases of poor people on death row, serious questions have been raised regarding Alley's trial. From the (granted, not unbiased) National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP):

The state of Tennessee is scheduled to execute Sedley Alley for the 1985 abduction and murder of Suzanne Collins near Naval Air Station Memphis in Millington. The execution has been scheduled despite serious concerns about the reliability of his conviction.

Evidence withheld from the defense at trial indicates that police had Alley under surveillance at the time of the homicide. The coroner’s report indicates that the Ms. Collins died no earlier than 1:30 a.m. on the morning of July 12, 1985, yet police had arrested Alley at 12:10 a.m. that same morning and had kept him under surveillance after releasing him. This evidence, which had been withheld for 20 years, seriously calls into question Alley’s guilt, since the police’s own records show that he was not present at the time of the victim’s death.

No governor has ever heeded my pleas to commute a death sentence, but I suppose I should write Governor Bredesen a letter anyway. If you live in the Volunteer State, you should too. Visit the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing or the NCADP for contact information.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Vigilante Justice: Disturbing, but Impressive

James Spring comments on my recent post about responding to annoying customers:
That's simply not destructive enough for a stupid customer. I once threw a fire extinguisher threw a man's back window who started to drive off with $55 in gas.

Read the full story.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Am I the Only One Who Thinks It Would Be Cool to Live in a Bilingual Nation?

I don't know a lick of Spanish. (I have a decent knowledge of French, which I took throughout high school and college; I'm not sure whether knowing French is more or less unpatriotic than knowing Spanish.) Still, I do not feel at all threatened by the language's recent surge in usage in the United States. I understand that the rise of a second primary language in a relatively short period of time causes logistical problems involving commerce and public services. But, so far, I think that both our public and private sectors have responded effectively to the demographic shift; and I don't mind having to select "English" on the credit card machine at Kroger. Bi- and multilingual nations are not unprecedented. Switzerland and Canada, for instance, both adequately do business in more than one language, as do several African and Asian nations.

On a related note, I think that the debate over whether our national anthem should be sung in Spanish is possibly the most unnecessary controversy of the cable news/Internet/talk radio era. Over the years "The Star-Spangled Banner" has been translated into several languages, giving non-English-speaking persons an opportunity to express their devotion to the United States in a familiar tongue. Why is this suddenly a big deal? Because the Senate is considering immigration legislation? Because it gives talk radio personalities and bloggers (including idiots like myself) material they can use to kill time and bytes? And why is the President's grasp of Spanish—considered an asset during the 2000 campaign—suddenly a political liability?

Friday, May 05, 2006

If the Administration Speaks Out Against the Killing of Gay Iraqis, Will It Hurt Republicans in November?

Or is there a better reason no one is saying anything? From The Independent:

Human rights groups have condemned the "barbaric" murder of a 14-year-old boy, who, according to witnesses, was shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay. . . .

Campaign groups have warned of a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and religious militias following an anti-gay and anti-lesbian fatwa issued by Iraq's most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. . . .

A number of public homophobic murders by the Badr militia have terrified Iraq's gay community. Last September, Hayder Faiek, a transsexual, was burnt to death by Badr militias in the main street of Baghdad's al-Karada district. In January, suspected militants shot another gay man in the back of the head.

We've spent hundreds of millions of dollars and tens and thousands of lives to bring democracy to Iraq. Can we at least clarify that the assassination of homosexuals by public servants is unacceptable? Or will taking such a stand upset James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and the conservative base they claim to represent?

Working Fast Food Can Be Miserable, But . . .

. . . employees should never throw hot grease on a customer.

PHILADELPHIA -- A fast-food worker in Philadelphia has lost her job and faces criminal charges for allegedly throwing hot grease on a customer.

According to a police report, a relative of the burned customer had spit on the worker. The 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated assault.

I spent seven summers as a fast-food employee, and I know just how demanding, annoying, smug, abrasive, condescending, frustrating, and cold fast-food customers can be. But hot grease definitely crosses the line.

Reading this story made me ask myself, What was my worst reaction to a customer complaint? Off hand, I remember a customer—who had already complained about me joking with a co-worker instead of taking her order—coming to the counter to complain that the French fries in her son's Kid's Meal were cold. I reached in the bag, took out a fry, ate it, and said, "They taste fine to me." I was written up for that.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Nashville's Hume-Fogg Is #43 on Newsweek's Stupid "Best High Schools" List

I congratulate Hume-Fogg on this achievement. Since moving to Nashville six years ago, I have come to know several Hume-Fogg students and have worked with some of them in academic settings. Based on my experience I would agree that it is an excellent school. But I still don't like Newsweek's now-annual list. as I wrote last year when this list came out, Newsweek's methodology is ridiculous. So that I don't have to write it out again, I'll cut and paste:

Newsweek's Best High School List uses a ratio, the number of Advanced Placement (AP) and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken by all students at a school in 2004, divided by the number of graduating seniors. (My boldface.)

Newsweek describes its tests-taken-over-grads statistic as "one of the best measures available to compare a wide range of students' readiness for higher-level work" but does not, to my satisfaction, explain why. The magazine also fails to explain why it did not take into consideration extracurricular offerings, after-school study programs, parent-teacher networks, use of technology, vocational offerings for non-college-bound students, and so forth. Newsweek's statistic is also driven only by the number of AP/IB exams taken and does not reflect how students actually performed on these tests. Moreover, because the ratio's denominator is the number of graduates, a school's score rises if students who are not performing at an AP/IB level drop out before graduation.

I would suggest that Newsweek's study says less about the schools themselves and more about whether schools' incoming freshmen enter high school prepared to take advanced-level courses. Magnets and other specialty schools have an obvious advantage in Newsweek's ratings, because these schools have admissions standards and curriculae geared toward college-bound students. A student at one of Newsweek's top-rated schools (School A) could possibly get a better education at a school that scored much lower according to the magazine's sole indicator (School B). School B could have excellent offerings for high-performing, academically minded students, while also making an effort to address the needs of students interested in trades or vocational education or lower-performing students who are willing to work their way into college, but who may never take an AP or IB course. But, because School B is committed to educating a more diverse student body, it would not make Newsweek's list.

The Best Sentence I've Read in Years

From my former Christian Dissent Live co-host Joey Hood:

When Big Daddy P-Rob starts making sense on the illegal immigration issue, you know for a fact that Satan has traded his Chinese baby-stomping boots in for a pair of ice skates.

Actually, before this goes too far, I want to take credit for coining "P-Rob" as a moniker for Pat Robertson. I came up with the nickname on Thursday November 10, 2005.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Taking a Break From Democracy

Tennessee people: Did anyone vote in yesterday's county primaries?

If you answered "yes," did you know anything about any of the candidates on the ballot? For that matter, what qualities to you look for in a local general sessions judge?

Ignorance kept me away from the voting booth. The television spots told me that just about every judicial candidate promises to be tough on crime and that candidate Mike Brown goes to church with one of the ladies interviewed on his campaign commercial.

Thus I was incapable of making an informed decision and did not vote. I don't feel good about sitting out this election, and my guilt was regularly rekindled yesterday every time I saw someone wearing an "I Voted" sticker.

Then again, I can't be the only one feeling guilty. Yesterday's election drew one of the lowest voter turnouts ever.

Meyer Loves His Unborn Baby Sister

Monday, May 01, 2006

Introducing: Rockbass

I had the fortune of joining a trio of my former bandmates to play a few songs Saturday for a worship service at Hillcrest United Methodist Church in Nashville. While the four of us (myself, Brian Fuzzell, Zach Collier, and David Dewese) had all played in bands with one another for years, this particular quartet had never before performed live. Since none of our former or current band names appropriately described the lineup, we decided on calling ourselves "Rockbass"; "rock bass" is Meyer's name for daddy's bass guitar. Rockbass did two songs that I wrote, and that all of us helped record, for the Claim the Name Multimedia Teaching Tools CD-ROM ("Grace!" and "Fruit of the Spirit"); both songs were enhanced by accompanying PowerPoint® shows. Rockbass is not looking to book future gigs, but Saturday evening a good time was had by all.

My wife Ashlee has just informed me that she found one of my picks in the dryer; that hasn't happened for several years.

With or Without "Rodham"

CNN looks at how Hillary's future political ambitions might be tied to whether or not she uses her maiden name.