Friday, June 30, 2006

Blogging Burnout

I'm not so much burned out on blogging as I am on the subjects I normally blog about. Politics and the politics of religion just don't get my gooch right now. I'm getting cynical about being cynical.

Honestly, what I'd like to do more than anything right now is host a sports talk radio show. If I have time (and I probably won't for the next couple decades), I'll work on that.

In the meantime, I'm sure I'll keep blogging. Just be warned that thoughtful analysis of current issues will probably take a back seat to pictures of my kids, cats, and garden vegetables.

Timberwolves' Griffin Turns to the Dark Side of Multitasking

From the Pioneer Press:

While the Timberwolves were introducing their 2006 draft picks at Target Center on Thursday, current center Eddie Griffin was served with a civil suit accusing him of crashing his SUV into a parked car because he was drunk and watching a pornographic DVD. . . .

Griffin told the Pioneer Press a day after the accident that he crashed his car because he was reaching for a cell phone that had fallen off his lap. The complaint, filed in St. Paul District Court, alleges the crash occurred because he was "under the influence of alcohol" and masturbating while watching pornography on a TV set in his dashboard.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thursday Links

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sedley Alley Executed

Executions are creepy; and I can't understand why some people find them so satisfying, especially when there is some doubt surrounding the guilt of the person being killed. From TCASK:

The official cause of death listed on the death certificate of a person who has been executed reads homicide.

“The murder of Suzanne Marie Collins was a tragedy. Her family members are the survivors of a homicide victim, and our hearts go out to them,” said [TCASK executive director Randy] Tatel. “But, by its actions tonight, the state of Tennessee has made Sedley Alley’s two innocent children, David and April, survivors of a homicide victim as well.”

Related: The Chicago Tribune this week ran a series about Carlos De Luna, a man killed in 1989 by the State of Texas for a crime he did not commit.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Prayer Service and Vigil Tuesday Evening

From the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing:

Event: Interfaith Service Opposing the Executions of Sedley Alley and Paul Dennis Reid

Date: Tuesday June 27th, 2006; 7:30–9:00 p.m.

Where: Holy Name Catholic Church, 521 Woodland Ave., Nashville, TN

Contact: Randy Tatel, 615-473-2950 or 615-256-3906

A visible vigil will begin at 10 p.m. at Riverbend Maximum Security Prison located at 7475 Cockrell Bend in West Nashville. You may begin arriving on-site at 9 p.m. TCASK will maintain its vigil until either the state stands down or carries out one or both executions.

More details.

New Family Pics

On the left: Children and nieces (left-to-right—Sophie, Morgan, Meyer, Kate)

On the right: Daddy and Baby Kate looking rough

Autism Movement Takes Pride in Misunderstood Condition

A growing number of autistic persons reject and resent classifying their condition as a disability. By contrast, they say, autism is an integral part of who they are. From NPR:

[Jim] Sinclair [who is autistic] says [those in the autism movement are] responding to people who tell them autism is something that needs to be cured. They're asking -- instead -- to be accepted just the way they are.

"What the rest of the world needs to know about autism is that it's not something that can be separated out from the person, it's part of the person," explains Sinclair. "And so you cannot meaningfully say I love my child but I hate the autism.

"That's like saying I love my child, but I hate that she's a girl and I'd like her to be a boy instead. So when you're saying all of these things about how terrible it is that you've lost a child and how much your child is a disappointment to you, and how much that you wish you had a different kind of child, we're hearing that. And what we're hearing is that you don't want us and you want someone else instead."

We could all learn from the autism movement: Don't accept that some aspect of your being is bad or defective just because some people(or several people, including many medical professionals) tell you it is. Granted, many conditions do need to be cured and oftentimes a person's attitude or behavior does need to change. But we need to question our assumptions before we label certain persons ill or disabled.

Anyone Know What's Eating My Backyard?

Click here for picture.

I'm having a bug problem on a couple plants in my backyard. I don't know if they're aphids, mites, or something else; I haven't been able to identify them with certainty. Right now, the plants they are destroying are ones that I could stand to part with. (They have grown against my wishes in a hard-to-whack part of the yard.) But I'd like to stop the infestation before these pests attack other plants or find their way into the hair of small children. Any thoughts?

Pray for Tennessee

sedley alleyThis Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning the State of Tennessee will execute two persons: Sedley Alley, whom I have blogged about in the past, and Paul Reid, who has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. Regardless of the details of the men's individual cases, it saddens me that my state is willing to employ such a barbaric means of punishment.

As I have mentioned before, state-sponsored killing is very expensive and has not been shown to be a deterrent for violent crime. But my primary reason for opposing capital punishment was best articulated by Jesuit activist Alex Wiesendanger on the radio show I used to do: "To kill is to say, This person is beyond God¹s redemption. And no person, in my belief, ever has the right to say that."

paul reidThe Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing has more:

Nashville: In the past forty-six years, the state of Tennessee has executed only one man. Now, in one day, it plans to execute two. Both Sedley Alley and Paul Dennis Reid are scheduled to die in the early morning of June 28th and both cases reveal critical flaws in Tennessee’s broken death penalty system.

“This double execution unquestionably reveals more flaws with Tennessee’s administration of the death penalty,” said Randy Tatel, Executive Director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing (TCASK). “In the Alley case, we have a 20-year old unreliable conviction where the state is so afraid of the truth that it refuses to release physical evidence for DNA testing. In the case of Paul Reid, we are preparing to execute a severely mentally ill, delusional individual. It shows, yet again, that Tennessee’s death penalty system is broken.”

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Trio of Clowns Says, "No Nukes!"

Don't analyze this story; just appreciate it for what it is:

On Tuesday morning [June 20], a retired Catholic priest and two veterans put on clown suits, busted into a nuclear missile launch facility, and began beating the silo cover with hammers, in an attempt to take the Minuteman III missile off-line. Seriously. . . .

The activists used bolt-cutters to get into the E-9 Minuteman II facility, located just northwest of the White Shield, North Dakota. "Using a sledgehammer and household hammers, they disabled the lock on the personnel entry hatch that provides access to the warhead and they hammered on the silo lid that covers the 300 kiloton nuclear warhead," the group said in a statement. "The activists painted 'It's a sin to build a nuclear weapon' on the face of the 110-ton hardened silo cover and the peace activists poured their blood on the missile lid."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Rep. Joe Pitts: Save Our Country From Video-Game Playing Poor Children

Last night's The Daily Show on recent House committee hearings about video game violence:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Minimum Wage Increase Fails

The Senate today failed to pass a measure raising the minimum wage above the current level of $5.15 per hour, which is about half of a living wage in many cities. This is the ninth time Senate Republicans have blocked an increase in the minimum wage since 1997. The ratio of CEO salaries to those of the average worker have increased tenfold in the past forty years; meanwhile, the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation and real wages for workers have remained stagnant. Why is there such resistance to raising wages?

In other news from the Hill, since the Senate is having so much trouble permanently repealing the estate tax (a move that would only benefit a small percentage of the nation's wealthiest families), House Republicans have offered to put into the bill a $900 million tax break for timber companies to entice legislators from Arkansas and Washington to switch their votes, effectively passing the bill and making the estate tax repeal permanent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Support the Minimum Wage Increase

I'm not a big fan of Ted Kennedy, but I'm thankful that he has put so much energy into sponsoring and advocating for an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. (I'm also not a fan of amendments to legislation that have little to do with the subject of said legislation. But the U.S. so urgently needs to raise its minimum wage that I'm willing to play along.)

I'm familiar with the arguments against raising the minimum wage, but I'm not convinced that asking employers to pay workers $7.25 per hour will wreck the economy. Given the cost of living in this country, $7.25 really isn't that much. While free market competition inevitably raises wages in some sectors, many Americans remain in poverty.

A lot of people work very hard, doing very important jobs, for very low wages. The minimum wage has not kept up with the rate of inflation and cannot reasonably cover one's basic expenses. My inner Republican tells me that the best way to stimulate the economy is to put more money in people's pockets. So let's put a few extra bucks in the pockets of the Americans who need it most.

Click here to contact your senator.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Baby Kate Comes Alive


One of the unsung benefits of having children:

Broccoli, Fresh From the Tinley Garden

Cooked in margarine and Mrs. Dash.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Movie Review: Nacho Libre

Tuesday night, I got to see the sneak preview of Nacho Libre for free with a media pass. (Don't get excited; the media pass has nothing to do with this blog.) Honestly, I'd probably pay full price to see the movie a second time.

The idea that a major motion picture studio, in a season normally dominated by predictable action flicks and dull romantic comedies, would release a film about a friar working as a cook in a Roman Catholic orphanage who moonlights as a luchador is itself refreshing. Throw in Jack Black, who neither has the body of a wrestler nor is remotely Mexican, as the title character and director/co-writer Jared Hess (of Napoleon Dynamite fame) and you have (at least in my opinion) a can't-miss summer movie.

Sure, Nacho's plot is formulaic and unbelieveable, but this film is not driven by its plot: It is driven by its absurdity, the highlight of which is Black's ridiculous Mexican accent—which manages to be ridiculous without being offensive or even entirely unrealistic. Ignacio (the title character's real name) and his tag-team partner, Esqueleto, are as bizarre and loveable as Napoleon and Pedro; and the movie's unusually innocent love story (a nun is the love interest) is charming.

Now that I am nearly 30 and am the father of two, I appreciate that Nacho manages to entertain without relying on strong language, graphic violence, or crude sexual humor. (I know; I've become a prude.) Nacho is one of those rare movies that scores high on a purity test but nonetheless leaves audiences satisfied.

I'm sure I'm overstating Nacho Libre's greatness. I suppose I mostly loved the film as a refreshing break from an otherwise stressful week. But we all need movies like that—movies that make us laugh without asking us to invest mentally or emotionally in the story. Go see Nacho Libre. You won't regret spending $8.00.

Rating (in radians—one complete revolution, 2π, being the highest possible score, 0 being the lowest): 13π/8

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What Is the Most Effective Way to Oppose Capital Punishment?

From my other site, Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation:

Whenever an execution date rolls around in Tennessee, a debate about that particular case ensues: Could he be innocent? Did he get a fair trial? Is he mentally ill? But Tennesseans have largely avoided the more fundamental debate over the morality and efficacy of state killing in general, preferring instead to discuss individual cases. That capital punishment is even a possibility in this state is an affront to key biblical principles (grace and redemption, for instance) and ethical maxims learned in kindergarten ("Two wrongs don't make a right"). We have no evidence (in Tennessee or anywhere else) that the specter of execution had reduced violent crimes; and capital punishment is very costly, especially for something that has no discernable benefit.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Education and a Lifetime of Debt

I found this recent USA Today article somewhat assuring. It turns out that Ashlee and I are not the only young couple whose finances have been wrecked by crippling student-loan debt. We have plenty of company.

According to the article, the average college graduate this year left school with $19,000 in debt; in 2004 nearly 8% of graduates had debts of $40,000 or more; and a growing number of young adults are heading out into the real world with six-figure student-loan debts.

But at least one member of our generation has figured out how to avoid student-loan debt altogether: 1) Date a future president's daughter. 2) Drop out of college to work on this future president's campaign. 3) When your guy is elected, get paid $95,000 per year as this president's gopher. 4) Get accepted into a master's program at Harvard Business School even though you haven't earned a bachelor's degree. (More at

Tuesday Links

Monday, June 12, 2006

Meyer's Latest Work

On the left, "Toothpaste on Bookshelf"; on the right, "Toothpaste on Chair."

Stretching the Limits of American Sport

The A&E Network right now is showing the Rock, Paper, Scissors Championship® ("RPS," for insiders). As far as I can tell, it isn't a joke.

SCOTUS Allows DNA Evidence in House Case

The Supreme Court today ruled that Tennessee death-row inmate Paul Gregory House can use DNA evidence to demonstrate his innocence.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the court, . . . said that inmate Paul Gregory House could proceed with a lawsuit in federal court claiming innocence for the murder of Carolyn Muncey, a young mother of two, in Union County, Tennessee, in July 1985.

Twenty years after his conviction, DNA testing revealed that semen found on the murder victim's nightgown and underwear belonged to her husband, not House.

"This is not a case of conclusive exoneration," Kennedy wrote on behalf of himself and four other justices.

More at

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Does Your Congressman Have a Healthy Fear of Killer Robots?

Brad Sherman (D-CA) does. Check out what Rep. Sherman said in a recent meeting of the House Science Committee:

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) did not propose an amendment, but wanted further discussion and perhaps a report on a particular aspect of future supercomputing research. Sherman said that, based on the opinions of experts, there is reason to believe that in about 25 years a supercomputer will be built that “exceeds human intelligence.” Sherman said he hopes that some of the future researchers that the bills would cultivate will be steered toward the potentially emerging field of making sure that the super-intelligent computers “avoid self-awareness . . . and ambition,” he said.


But if you think our Congress is bad, check out what Canada's House of Commons just did:

June 6 (Bloomberg) -- The Canadian government's C$227 billion ($204 billion) budget was passed in the House of Commons after opposition lawmakers accidentally failed to stand up to debate the spending plan. . . .

Legislators were supposed to hold a debate and final vote on the spending plan after Parliament's finance committee completed its review. By remaining seated in the House of Commons, opposition lawmakers allowed the bill to pass ``in a matter of minutes,'' said Libby Davies, the New Democratic Party member responsible for legislation.

Why I'm Upset With My FOX Affiliate

Two reasons:

  • Nashville's FOX affiliate, WZTV Channel 17, has made the unfortunate decision of replacing back-to-back reruns of Seinfeld at 6:00 on weekdays with back-to-back reruns of Friends. Frankly, the worst episode of Seinfeld is better than the best episode of Friends. I cannot imagine why the people at WZTV would think that Friends makes better after dinner television than Seinfeld.

  • Tuesday night, during spots informing viewers of what would be coming up on the 9:00 news, anchor Laura Faber twice referred to the estate tax as the "death tax." I understand why those in favor of permanently repealing the estate tax have given it this nickname, and I think their reasons are somewhat valid. (I personally feel that the estate tax is important to our country and that it should not be repealed, but that's a post unto itself.) But for a TV news anchor to use, without qualification, the tongue-in-cheek nickname "death tax" is simply sophomoric and unprofessional.

The people at WZTV need to shape up if they want me to watch So You Think You Can Dance this evening.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Should I Consolidate Blogs?

I'm questioning my decision to maintain two blogs, one about religion and one about other stuff. What do you think?

If I were to consolidate the sites, should I call the resulting site Josh or Save Yourselves From This Corrupt Generation?

Let me know.

Federal Marriage Amendment Follow-Up

The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) today failed to garner the 60 votes in the Senate needed to be brought up for a vote. It got 49 votes; I more than it did in 2004. At this rate, if the Republicans keep introducing the FMA every two years, the debate will end and the amendement will finally be voted on in 2028. It will be 2042 before it actually passes the Senate; that is, if all the senators who vote for cloture also vote for the actual amendment. (Robert Byrd, for example, voted for cloture but said he would have voted against the amendment if it had been brought up for a vote. Of course, he'll be dead long before 2042.) Then again, the 2042 date assumes that enthusiasm for an amendment banning same-sex marriage will grow steadily in the Senate and among the electorate over the next 36 years. According the the polls I cited Monday, public opinion appears to be headed in the opposite direction. Freshman Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is nonetheless optimistic. From the AP:

"We're building votes," said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., another new supporter. "That's often what's required over several years to get there, particularly to a two-thirds vote."

During the debate Vitter said, "I don't believe there is any issue that's more important than this one." Banning same-sex marriage is apparently more urgent than helping the millions of people in Vitter's state who are still recovering from Katrina. Nice.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) used a visual aid during the debate: a giant picture of his family. Inhofe is proud to say that, "in the recorded history of our family, we've never had a divorce or any kind of a homosexual relationship." In the recorded history of my family, we've never had a professional athlete of any kind; but I don't think a constitutional amendment banning professional sports is necessary. (Did taxpayer money have to pay for the poster of Inhofe's family?)

Proponents of the amendment have also cited several statistics about the effects of same-sex marriage in Scandanavian countries. I'm not an expert on Scandanavian sociology, but Slate has a different take on these stats.

In Denmark, for example, the marriage rate had been declining for a half-century but turned around in the early 1980s. After the 1989 passage of the registered-partner law, the marriage rate continued to climb; Danish heterosexual marriage rates are now the highest they've been since the early 1970's. And the most recent marriage rates in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are all higher than the rates for the years before the partner laws were passed. Furthermore, in the 1990s, divorce rates in Scandinavia remained basically unchanged. . . .

In my own recent study conducted in the Netherlands, I found that the nine countries with partnership laws had higher rates of unmarried cohabitation than other European and North American countries before passage of the partner-registration laws. In other words, high cohabitation rates came first, gay partnership laws followed.

It should be obvious by now that the Federal Marriage Amendment will in no way benefit American families, and that, even if it did, it will never pass anyway. Nonetheless, the House will debate the amendment next month. Somebody tell me why. Even if the FMA had a chance to pass the House, which it doesn't, it has already failed to pass the Senate (or even come close). So the House has decided that it needs to use the limited time it has to debate legislation that is already dead. Good.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Why the Federal Marriage Amendment Is a Waste of Time

When you spend twice as much time on vacation as you do working, you need to set priorities so that your most important work gets done. The U.S. Senate has decided that debating the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) is a better use of its limited time than responding to ever-rising energy and healthcare costs or working out viable immigration legislation. The President and the Senate's Republican leadership are clearly using the gay-marriage debate to pander to the party's base and to distract voters from more pressing issues.

The Senate took up this divisive proposed amendment two years ago. The cloture motion to force a direct vote on the FMA garnered only 48 votes, 12 short of the 60 needed. Actually passing the amendment through the Senate would have required 67 votes. The FMA would then have needed to be approved by two-thirds of the House and three-fourths of the states; but let's stick with the Senate:

The FMA needs 19 more yea votes to pass. By my count only 10 seats have turned over since the amendment was debated in 2004. Unless several senators have changed their minds in the past two years, the FMA has no chance of passing. But, just for kicks, let's look at the 10 seats that have changed hands:

  • Colorado: Salazar (D) replaced Campbell (R). Campbell opposed the FMA; Salazar likely will as well.

  • Florida: Martinez (R) replaced Graham (D). Graham voted against the amendment; Martinez will probably vote for it. 1 additional "yea" vote.

  • Georgia: Isakson (R) replaced Miller (D). Miller favored the amendment and so will Isakson.

  • Illinois: Obama (D) replaced Fitzgerald (R). Fitzgerald voted "yea," but Obama will almost certainly vote "nay." 1 additional "nay" vote.

  • Louisiana: Vitter (R) replaced Breaux (D). Breaux opposed the FMA; Vitter will likely vote for it. 1 additional "yea" vote.

  • New Jersey: Menendez (D) replaced Corzine (D). Both are Democrats, and both oppose the FMA.

  • North Carolina: Burr (R) replaced Edwards (D). Edwards abstained in 2004; Burr will likely vote for the amendment. 1 additional "yea" vote.

  • Oklahoma: Coburn (R) replaced Nickles (R). Both are Republicans, and both favor the FMA.

  • South Carolina: DeMint (R) replaced Hollings (D). Hollings voted "nay" in 2004; DeMint will probably vote "yea." 1 additional "yea" vote.

  • South Dakota: Thune (R) replaced Daschle (D). Daschle was a "nay"; Thune will be a "yea." 1 additional "yea" vote.

John Kerry, who was busy campaigning in 2004 and didn't vote on the FMA last time around will probably vote against the amendment this time around. Arlen Spector, who voted for the amendment two years ago, today spoke against it.

By my count, 52 senators will vote to force a direct vote on the FMA; 48 will be opposed. Again, the amendment has no chance of passing.

Of course, FMA proponents could argue that a net gain of four votes signifies a trend and that, by bringing the amendment to the floor every two years, they will eventually have enough allies in the Senate to pass the FMA. (Then they'll just have to work on the House and the states.) But the American public's distaste for same-sex marriage is waning. Repeated Pew Forum polling over the past decade shows opposition to gay marriage steadily declining (65% in 1996; 51% now). In 1996 only 27% of those polled favored same sex marriage; that number is now at 39%. (It is worth noting that a plurality of Americans did not favor interracial marriage until 1991, 24 years after the Supreme Court struck down miscegnation laws in the U.S.) Moreover, 66% of high school seniors in 2001 were OK with same-sex marriage and most polls show that opposition to gay marriage is directly proportional to age. In other words, younger generations don't have nearly the problem with two-groom and two-bride weddings that older generations have.

So, the FMA will not pass this year (or even come close), and its future is not promising. More and more, Americans are figuring out that same-sex couples pose no threat to anyone's well being and that the debate over gay marriage is nothing more than a distraction. The Senate is wasting its time.

Stephen Colbert's Commencement Address at Knox College

Here's a highlight:

There are so many challenges facing this next generation, and as they said earlier, you are up for these challenges. And I agree, except that I don’t think you are. I don’t know if you’re tough enough to handle this. You are the most cuddled generation in history. I belong to the last generation that did not have to be in a car seat. You had to be in car seats. I did not have to wear a helmet when I rode my bike. You do. You have to wear helmets when you go swimming, right? In case you bump your head against the side of the pool. Oh, by the way, I should have said, my speech today may contain some peanut products.

Read the rest.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Links to Start the Week

Isn't It Gorgeous?

I think this is the largest, best shaped, most beautiful pepper I have ever grown. (And just wait until I waste your time and bandwidth with this season's tomatoes and broccoli.)