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Job Update
Friday, April 15, 2005 - 5:15pm cst:

I finally got a new job with TCF Bank in Minneapolis. It'll be nice to be working again. Now I'll have a better alibi for not writing more often. Help yourlseves to more cake.

 

The Coming Theocracy
Friday, April 15, 2005 - 5:01pm cst:

If one thing has become evident since the 2004 elections, it's the theocratic right's almost complete takeover of the Republican Party. Now they want more than their pound of flesh, and it's deeply troubling for anyone who treasures American democracy.

The coming battle over Bush's judicial nominees and the threat of the "nuclear option," ending the Senate fillibuster, is the main front. Today's NY Times offers some telling details:

As the Senate heads toward a showdown over the rules governing judicial confirmations, Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, has agreed to join a handful of prominent Christian conservatives in a telecast portraying Democrats as "against people of faith" for blocking President Bush's nominees.

Fliers for the telecast, organized by the Family Research Council and scheduled to originate at a Kentucky megachurch the evening of April 24, call the day "Justice Sunday" and depict a young man holding a Bible in one hand and a gavel in the other. The flier does not name participants, but under the heading "the filibuster against people of faith," it reads: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

This, of course, comes after Republican threats against judges in the wake of the Terri Shiavo affair, including Tom Delay and numerous right wingers (the notorious "no man, no problem" line originally attributed to Stalin). We have the usual assaults on science, assaults on gays (the rediculous notion that letting gay people marry would somehow harm your marriage). Now we see efforts to erode our system of checks and balances.

This notion of runaway judicial activism is little more than a front for a political class that seeks unlimited power. At least, that's my observation of the matter. And they have successfully manipulated the genuine religious faiths of people by making them believe the GOP is "the party of God," and offering and endless array of scare tactics. This is more than absurd, this is dangerous. It's the same as assaults on the seperation of church and state. We're seeing a corrupt political class in its bit for permament power, and it threatens the very foundations of the republic.

Remember when Republicans believed in a republican form of government? When they were supporters of federalism? Remember the idea that America was a nation of laws, for all people, not a theocracy for a fundamentalist perversion of Christianity?

 

Happy birthday to Me
Friday, April 15, 2005 - 4:21pm cst:

Yippie, hooray, whatever. You can imagine how much fun birthdays can be when they fall on tax day. But, hey, life is short, so grab some cake. Yokatta.

 

Doctor Who Episode 3 - The Unquiet Dead
Sunday, April 10, 2005 - 4:21pm cst:

Episode 3 of the new Doctor Who is a gothic "past" episode, featuring ghosts, haunted mansions, and a compelling performance by Simon Callow as Charles Dickens. It's a very good story, but very much a by-the-numbers affair that's over too fast. But this is an early episode, and the writers are revisiting the many themes of Classic Who.

Speaking of which, I've spent the past week revisitng the original series, so if it seems I'm a bit harsher on the new show, it's because of masterful serials like The Robots of Death, Genesis of the Daleks, and The Curse of Fenric. A bit unfair to compare Christopher Eccleston to the best Doctor Whos (Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy), I know. But at its best, Dr Who was unbeatable.

 

Doctor Who Episode 2 - The End of the World
Saturday, April 2, 2005 - 10:45pm cst:

This week's episode of the new Doctor Who has aired on the BBC. "The End of the World" is a futuristic episode with inventive aliens and special effects, and promises to be great.

Update (Sunday - 6:10 pm) Wow! After episode 2, consider me hooked. This Doctor Who is very modern, and the show writers (led by Russel T. Davies of "Queer as Folk" fame) are clearly trying to invoke the spirit of the original show while avoiding its many embarassing flaws.

This episode puts far greater emphasis on well-rounded characters, specifically the culture shock of teenage hottie Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper. The experience of travelling into the distant future, meeting strange aliens, and nearly getting killed proves very traumatic. Christopher Eccleston's Doctor also shows a more serious, mournful side. Doctor Who has seriously grown up.

How Davies could pack so much into a 45-minute show is beyond me. The episode just flies. It's loaded with funny pop riffs on iPod, Michael Jackson, and Brittney Spears. There are some thrilling cliffhanger moments, some wonderfully crazy aliens, and a revelation at the end that will send the old-skool fans reeling.

This is a terrific show. Watch it. Now.

 

Attacks on Abu Graib Wounds 44 US Soldiers
Saturday, April 2, 2005 - 10:31pm cst:

As Iraq remains shuffled off American television screens, the fighting continues. And the abuse and torture of Iraqi civilians will only continue to fuel the insurgency, and hurt our soldiers in turn. From the New York Times:

Forty to 60 insurgents attacked the prison from opposite directions, but were repelled by the Americans in a pitched battle that lasted for 30 to 40 minutes, the officials said. They added that they knew of only one insurgent who had been killed, but said it was almost certain the guerrillas suffered additional casualties.

The assault was so intense that the American troops at the prison called in three Apache attack helicopters and a Marine infantry company, the colonel said. The marines quickly secured the area around the prison. Of the 20 Americans hurt, 18 had only minor wounds, Colonel Rudisill said.

Update (Sunday - 6:35 pm) The number of American soldiers wounded has clibed to 44. Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attacks. More bad news.

 

105 Dollars a Barrel?
Saturday, April 2, 2005 - 10:15pm cst:

How does the thought of oil breaking $100 a barrel sound to you? It may very well happen in the near future:

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose and gasoline and heating-oil surged to records on signs that U.S. refineries lack capacity to make enough fuel and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts predicted that oil could touch $105 a barrel.

Record prices have failed to curtail surging fuel consumption, the Goldman Sachs analysts said in a research note. The firm's upper limit was $80 previously. U.S. supplies of gasoline and distillate fuels, such as diesel and heating oil, fell last week, according to an Energy Department report yesterday.

``Concern is growing that there will barely be enough fuel to meet growing global demand,'' said Michael Fitzpatrick, vice president of energy risk management at Fimat USA in New York. ``The world had cheap oil for years and the chickens are coming home to roost. Investment was deferred and China and India are now major users, which isn't going to change.''

Sooner or later, we have to confront our dependence on oil. Global production is expected to peak sometime this decade, perhaps as soon as 2006. We must confront this problem now, before the costs - environmental, economic - become too great. And that means consumption, kids.

 

Pope John Paul II Has Died
Saturday, April 2, 2005 - 4:05pm cst:

And so John Paul II has finally passed. I'd like to say a few things, but I've found that, even after several days' preperation, I am at a loss for words.

The Pope was certainly a controversial figure, but he was most certainly a titanic figure. He transformed the papacy, revolutionized it. He engaged the world with open arms and a bold step. I remember his early years, as he travelled the globe, connecting with millions as The Vatican had never done before.

I remember his tremondous energy and spirit, his vitality and sense of purpose. Here was a man on a mission. No doubt The Vatican did not know what they were getting into when they elected him in 1978. Surely no one could have predicted that the world would have completely changed under his tenure.

For that, John Paul II deserves enormous credit. His fervent oppositon to Soviet Communism, his support for his native Poland and its Solidarity movement, can never be overstated. He was a key figure in ending the Cold War, and in doing so brought his moral strength to the struggle for human rights.

And yet, he rejected capitalism and western culture almost as boldly. It's important to notice that as America slides away from its obligations to the poor and working classes, and towards something far more sinister, John Paul was still a voice for the voiceless.

I was particularly impressed by the strength and dignity with which he faced his final years. His body slowly broke down, reducing this youthful, energetic priest into a weakened old man. He has become almost unrecognizable; and yet, he still possessed that fire that refused to die out. His final illness this year serves as a model for us as we face the end of our lives, and I believe the Pope knew that.

John Paul II made great strides to reconcile the Church's terrible history with Jews and Muslims. His statements of regret for anti-semitism and the Holocaust may not have seemed strong enough for some, but it was a tremondous shift for The Vatican and its doctrines. He rightfully recognized that Christians, Jews, and Muslims share the same spiritual heritage, and have much to learn from one another.

Compare this to the fundamentalist extremism of Osama bin Laden, of Wahhabism, of Fallwell and Robertson and Trinity Broadcasting and Left Behind. It speaks for itself.

I've found myself strongly disagreeing with the Pope on many issues, such as role of women and treatment of gays and lesbians. In these doctrines, the Catholic Church continues to seem outdated, clinging to dogma for its own sake. The opposition to birth control, in the age of AIDS, is almost impossible to comprehend.

Worst of all is the abuse and rape of children by priests. These monsters and predators were allowed to retain their posts; priests were shuffled around in silence, and The Vatican resisted justice at every step. These crimes are a terrible stain that will take lifetimes to overcome, and it happened on John Paul's watch.

It remains to be seen where Rome will go from here. It's commonly assumed that the next Pope will be more conservative, more traditional. The danger is that The Vatican would withdraw from the world, and hide once again behind ancient walls and ancient doctrines. The Church must conintue the work of Karol Wojtyla, and fight for the poor and oppressed around the world. Theology that does not evolve is doomed to extinction.

Will this papacy be regarded by as an aberration, or a permament shift in the Catholic Church's history? We likely won't know that answer for several decades. I certainly don't think we will see another like John Paul II in our lifetimes.

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