The Ming From Mongo Show

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. - 1Thessalonians 5:12

The Body Politic by Jonathan D. Moreno
Reviewed for LibraryThing's Early Reviewers:

The tension between science and society has grown louder (along with everything else) in the Information Age. For those who like to back up their ideas instead of just screaming them at perceived enemies, Jonathan D. Moreno has written The Body Politic. He begins with a concise summary and history of the intersection of science and political philosophy in America. Science and progress have always been a part of America's political thought, the country itself being an ongoing experiment. Currently, many of the debates about science are about biological ethics. Stem cells, abortion, chimera, cloning, these things all have stirred strong passions in many people, both for and against. Moreno walks his reader through the ideas on each side, providing information in areas where propagandists usually work. The book is just under 200 easily read pages, yet an interested reader should not expect to put it down quickly. I found myself re-reading passages as I challenged my own ideas and honed my arguments, better preparing myself to participate in these debate as an informed citizen.

How Arizona can fight charges of racism
In all the furor over Arizona's new immigration law, it seems to me that there is a simple way for the state to prove that the law isn't racist in intent.

Check Steve Nash's papers before every Suns game.

The law provides penalties for officials who act in bad faith in not asking for proof of legal residency. Someone needs to be US Airways Center for every game, making sure that that Canadian is just as harassed as any Mexican, or there could be lawsuits.

UPDATE 05/05: Los Suns are awesome. They just became the new favorite team of Latinos and civil libertarians everywhere.

Metal Machine Music Remastered
I'm not sure how I feel about this.

My take on the eternal debate over Metal Machine Music is that it is both an elaborate prank designed to get its author out of his recording contract, and a brilliant piece of art. Lou Reed, creative genius/asshole that he is, could pull off that mean feat, sure. I figure it was an idea he'd had and played around with for a while before recording it. It didn't take its final shape until the issues with RCA arose - then it became double-album length because, well, RCA was due two more albums. As a prank, it's no "(Let's Dance) The Screw" or "Cocksucker Blues," since RCA moved 100,000 units, but as a piece of avant-weirdness someplace between La Monte Young and Brian Eno, it works.

I have a near mint copy of the original vinyl stored away and mp3s ripped from a CD on a disc or hard drive somewhere; I'm not sure the remastering & repackaging was necessary (although it was probably inevitable). I imagine that I'm going to find out though - Mr. Reed's probably going to pocket some of my money (Oooh...vinyl and Blu-Ray...).

The funniest joke ever
My three-year-old niece told me a joke the other day.

Ellie: Knock, knock!

Me: Who's there?

Ellie: Cow!

Me: Cow who?

Ellie: BANANA!

Well, she thought it was the funniest thing ever, and laughter, especially that of children, is contagious, so I was forced to agree.

He'll backpedal and turn it into a plea for money....
I'm no religious scholar, so I'll just have to take Pat Robertson's word for it: God is punishing Haiti.

"They were under the heel of the French...and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' They kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other."

Now of course, Robertson does not believe in superstitious mumbo-jumbo like curses; it's all part of God's plan to deal with non-believers. In 1791, 200 slaves performed a Voodoo ritual in hopes of expelling the French and gaining their freedom. See, the French had God on their side. You could tell that by just looking at them. Eventually, the Haitians did win their freedom and independence, things usually seen in a favorable light, but not this time because, you know, Haitians are different. And God's been getting even ever since.

Thanks for clearing that up, Pat.

As I said, I'm no religious scholar, but I can read. Exodus 20:5-6, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9-10 all mention "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons to the third and fourth generation." It's been 218 years since the Bois Caiman ceremony; today's Haitians should be off the hook for that one. And Exodus and Deuteronomy follow up with "mercy to thousands of those that love Me and keep My commandments." Haiti is almost entirely Christian. Way to play by your own rules there, Jehovah.

Boo fucking hoo, Mark McGwire (asshole)
Mark McGwire finally admitted what we all knew: he used steroids. But he wants us to know that he's just a victim. He wishes he didn't play during the Steroid Era, He took steroids for health reasons, they didn't improve his performance (which came from God); admitting what he did was the hardest thing for him. It's the lawyers' fault he wouldn't answer Congress' questions. He couldn't admit anything before because he was protecting his family from a criminal investigation (the best way to do that is to not be a criminal, jerk). What a fucking cry baby.

He apologized - to everybody in major-league baseball, his family, the family of Roger Maris, and Bud Selig. But not to baseball fans, whose money he took. He cried when his PR firm told him to. He made his pitch for induction into the Hall of Fame. He tossed the word 'God' around. And now those who make money from baseball are rushing to support him. Bud Selig used this opportunity to explain what a great job he's done as Commissioner and how we shouldn't talk about a "Steroid Era" because it's insulting to those who didn't use (and damaging to what may remain of Bud's credibility). Tony LaRussa slipped easily from defending his former meal ticket based on willful ignorance to respecting McGwire for admitting what he's done now that he wants a job.

Mark McGwire is a fraud. He's not against steroid use, he's against getting caught. He paid lip service to the Marises, but insists that he and God would have hit all those homers without the added strength that other users get from steroids, but he somehow didn't. He seems to think that the Steroid Era was something that happened to him, not something he did. We should feel bad for him, he's suffered so. Hey he made a choice - he gladly risked his reputation for millions of dollars. There's no getting the reputation back now. He's an asshole and will remain one forever.

More on this:

McGwire’s feckless admission is too late

The How-To of an Admission in the Steroid Era

Ban McGwire from baseball

How not to write a headline
Excursion continues to find Noah's Ark

Really? So they've already found it? Obviously, it should read "Excursion to find Noah's Ark continues," or "Paid vacation for Liberty employee to continue." I wonder how may people in Falwellandia will skim or skip the article and believe that their local paper reported that the ark is real and has been found. What will those who read "But Price said since then, he’s faced pressure from a political group in Turkey that is forcing him to keep his excursion very hush-hush." make of it? More proof of the persecution of Christians, or cover story for the expedition's failure?

Can concussions lead to bigotry in ex-NFL players?
The potential long-term effects of head injuries in football have been in news a lot of late. The NFL is moving forward to change its multi-billion dollar violence-based buiness to protect its employees. It's even conducting a study “expected to be published in several years,” if they can find someone to complete it, that will be the definitive word on the subject.

(That's snark, btw. Click on the links.)

But hey, there's a PSA, and a new rule, which will only allow those players who lie about their symptoms back into games. So the NFL has at least acknowledged that causing dementia in their players might be a PR problem.

Unfortunately, all this progress comes too late for former Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks linebacker Ken Hutcherson. Dr. Kenneth L. Hutcherson is now the senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington, where he has made quite a name for himself by hating on the gays, lying about his connections with the Bush White House, and being a thorn in Micrsoft's side.

It also seems that Rev. Hutcherson has appointed himself Minister of Deciding What Can Be Called a Civil Rights Issue. In a recent editorial at WorldNetDaily, Hutcherson declared that Christians are the New Negro. In this essay, he claims that the horrible persecution Christians face everyday is comparable to what African-Americans once faced, and he doesn't appreciate having to fight for his freedom twice. This is different from the actual discrimination faced by homosexuals, because gay rights are not civil rights according to Hutcherson. ”Gays are not the nation's new African-Americans”.

Hutcherson's logic in these essays is twisted. Gays are not comparable to African-Americans because homosexuality is not as obvious as the color of one's skin. “As an African American, I can never expect to have the choice of, "Don't ask, don't tell," he says. And he is correct on that point, as far as it goes. He uses this point to deny that gay rights are civil rights; “this is not a civil-rights issue, it is a sexual-behavior issue.” Also the severity of discrimination is more important than the fact that it exists; “The comparison of the plight of the gay community to slavery is a stretch; remember, gays were never called "three-fifths" human.” So gays have no civil rights issue because they haven't suffered enough. But in his newest commentary, he points out the following civil rights withheld from Christians: Carrie Prejean is no longer Miss California, “We are no longer able to celebrate Christmas in schools,” “state legislators allowed an Atheist Manifesto to be put up right next to the Nativity scene,” and Sarah Palin “has been attacked for no other reason than her Judeo-Christian values, just as African Americans were attacked for no other reason than their skin color.” He also claims that the use of the greeting “Happy Holidays” is akin to “separate but equal.” Shouldn't Hutcherson then believe that that is not a civil-rights issue, but one of ignorance? Christianity is no more obvious than sexual preference, certainly less so than skin color. Christians weren't enslaved, either. If the criteria for what is a civil rights question is the inability to control what it is about oneself that others attack, then Rev. Hutcherson has it backwards. Homosexuality is not a choice, ignorance is. Christians like Sarah Palin and himself could open their minds and catch up to the Enlightenment, but they choose not to. So according to Hutcherson's own weird logic, the fight for gay rights is more similar, not less, to the struggle for African-American civil rights than anything experienced by Christians.

Other symptoms have been linked to concussions sustained during an NFL career. Perhaps Ken Hutcherson's problems stem from too many blows to the head. That's actually more a comforting thought than to believe he has full control of his faculties when he spits out his ignorance and intolerance.

What if gays weren't counted?
In response to a post about Texas' ban on same-sex marriage at Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist blog, a commenter called Vas said “Maybe next Texas will decide that gay people are only 3/5ths of a person, or not even human.” That set the wheels in my head to spinning.

The 3/5ths reference is, of course, from Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution:

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

The 14th Amendment changes that:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

So, let's say that since states have made laws abridging the privileges of lesbian and gay citizens, denying to them equal protection of the law, and since states cannot do that to persons, then lesbians and gays are not persons and should not be counted when apportioning Representatives to the states. Exceptions could be made in those states which do not abridge the privileges. Or we could say that homosexuals are in rebellion, because that sounds cooler, in those states where they are treated unequally and again they don't get counted toward the apportionment.

I wondered if this would make a difference. Not that fucking with the census is a good idea, but it's an interesting thought experiment or an entertaining flight of fantasy. Here's the criteria: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Vermont allow same-sex marriages, New Hampshire will beginning January 1, 2010. Oregon and Washington have domestic partner laws which afford all the rights of marriage, but call it something else. I'm not going to get hung up on the word. New York recognizes same-sex marriages but does not perform them (That has to be the stupidest of all possible positions on the subject – recognize their rights, but make them spend the money for a wedding elsewhere.). These states count everyone; the rest count only the straights.

I took a Census Bureau estimate of 2010 population from here.

I got estimates of LGB population from The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA.

The Census Bureau also gave me the rules of apportionment.

I calculated the apportionment using the Census Bureau's projections for 2010. These numbers aren't likely to be accurate to how things will shake out after the census, but they're the numbers I had. Then I calculated again after subtracting the percentage of population estimated to be LGB by the Williams Institute. The change was minor, but appreciable. Four seats changed; California lost two seats due to its large uncounted population*, while Texas and Georgia each lost one. The states that gained these seats were Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Washington, all of which were allowed to count every head.

So in the world I've created for this experiment, where representation is based on the number of those represented, there would be a small shift of power toward the states that extend equal protection of the laws. So then we can see that in the real world there is a power shift toward states that abridge the privileges of its citizens.

I don't think my experiment showed me anything new, just another reason why unequal rights is a noxious idea. Something I can bring up when talking politics with friends. But adding to the discussion of rights can only be a good thing. It also kept me busy for a while. I'll call it a success.

* In this experiment, California's gay population accounts for a swing of three seats. If Prop. 8 had been shot down, California and Massachusetts would have gained the seats lost by Texas and Georgia.

Fucking Yankees
Why did they bother to celebrate on the field? The fix was in; the fix is always in. MLB is designed so that once in a while a collection of underpaid young players assembled by a smart team may be competitive, but that the big money teams will always be. I know each spring that my favorite team, the Cleveland Indians, has almost no chance of winning. They're somewhere in the middle when it comes to revenue, but they've made a few mistakes (ahem, Travis Hafner) when it comes to spending. It can take years for a team to recover from a couple of bad contracts. Unless, of course, we're talking about the Yankees or the Red Sox, or one of the other chosen teams. The Red Sox were able to throw away $7 million to see if John Smoltz could pitch for them (he couldn't). Very few teams have that luxury.

I love baseball. It's a great game. I do not spend money on baseball. Not Major League Baseball, anyway. Until MLB actually shares revenues between teams - there are two teams on the field at any time; why does only one get the TV money? - I don't expect that I'll purchase tickets, caps, souvenirs, anything. Not that I expect to be missed. Except for the competitive imbalance and the lingering taint of steroids, MLB seems to be doing alright. The favored teams, anyway. My team lost $16 million this year.

that's my congressman!
Eric Cantor, the Republican House Whip dessert topping, was caught stroking his BlackBerry during President Obama's speech last night. He claims that he wasn't being rude; he was reading along and taking notes as the president spoke. He then complained that the president had not provided a copy of the speech to Congress beforehand. Huh? Then what was he reading while he was ignoring the president? He says he carries his BlackBerry with him at all times, making him just another phone-addled idiot who has no clue when it comes to common courtesy. It would be rude of him to interrupt a conversation with me (and I'm just a constituent) to check his phone; doing so during the president's speech is inexcusable. If whatever was on the BlackBerry was more important than being a congressman, he needs to give up the job. That way, the 7th district of Virginia could be represented by someone who can pay attention to the job at hand and Mr. Cantor could free himself for whatever is more important to him.

Here's the story.

ugly car marketing
I caught a glimpse of a commercial for the new Cube, the lopsided-toastermobile that Nissan is marketing to what they perceive as hipsters. In it, the vehicle surrounds a group of young, beautiful people as they travel to some hot spot where mere mortals who don't own the newest, ugliest car on the market are not welcome. The car doesn't actually take them there, however. A la Jamiroquai's Virtual Insanity video, the road moves underneath the car, carrying it and its occupants along. The vehicle does no work; we only see what it looks like. That's in opposition to all those commercials that show what a car can do. It's about appearances, not performance. But the best part of the commercial is the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen:

Professional driver on a closed road. Do not attempt.

That's right, you should not try to make the street you live on move your car for you. Brilliant.

I didn't provide a link to the commercial because Nissan's not paying me to. I don't have a TV, but I've seen the ad; I'm sure you'll see it soon, if you haven't already.

Scientists study organic food; no one reports it correctly
Reuters got it wrong.

ABC News ("it was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use") got it wrong.

CNN also.

These articles were written by people who make their living using the English language, yet they all made the mistake of replacing the word 'nutritious' with the non-equivalent word 'healthy'. Ben Hirschler & Matthew Jones, Amanda Gardner, and Jack Cafferty all did their jobs poorly.

Here is the abstract of the article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The Conclusion states "On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs. The small differences in nutrient content detected are biologically plausible and mostly relate to differences in production methods." While it is good that a study was undertaken to confirm this, it is no surprise. No one eats organic food because they believe that they'll get more vitamins and minerals than from "conventionally produced" food. Organic food is purchased and eaten because consumers want fewer chemicals in, on, and around their food. Less of the bad, not more of the good. But that isn't what was studied. The team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine discovered that a tomato covered in pesticides still has as much nutrition as a pesticide-free tomato. No judgment about which tomato was healthier was made. A tomato injected with botulism and covered in asbestos still has lots of vitamin C; I wonder if the authors of the articles referenced above would still call it healthy.

Mommy, what's a Judeo-Christian?
My congressman, Eric Cantor (R-VA), spoke Monday night to Christians United for Israel, part of an evening of fun that also included Michael Medved and Randy Travis (I'll bet the walls of the room were beige). During his speech, he called for U.S. foreign policy to be set in the "Judeo-Christian" tradition. Here's the quote:

"Reaching out to the Muslim world may help in creating an environment for peace in the Middle East, but we must insist as Americans that our policies be firmly grounded in the beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which this country was founded."

How many ways did he get this wrong?

  1. He said this to a group that believes that Israel must be in Jewish hands because otherwise Armageddon cannot begin.

  2. He said we can't do what will lead to peace if it goes against certain religious beliefs.

  3. Our country wasn't founded upon any religious tradition.

  4. What the fuck is a Judeo-Christian anyway?

Four. I count four ways.

Here and here are some other comments about this.

My Congressman's websites
A while ago (March 9), I posted here a comment about the Republican response to the lifting of the ban on federally-funded stem cell research. Specifically, I brought up House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's appearance on TV and his lame attack on the president. During the time I was doing the little bit of research my post required, I trolled around Rep. Cantor's website a bit. Since he is my Congressman, I entered my e-mail addy into the space where the site said I should in order to "Get all the latest information, updates, invitations to events." I checked the web site a few times over the next month without seeing any changes, and then gave up on the idea of getting any information from Rep. Cantor. Or at least from his website. His Whip position and weak attempts to "rebrand" the Republican Party keep his name in circulation a bit. Meanwhile, I have received zero e-mails.

I thought maybe I should try again, so today I went to the website again. The "Latest Headlines" have changed, but not much else. The same Flash player with the same links to months-old information, the same Swine Flu "update". But there is a link to "his blog". It's not his blog like yours or mine - we write ours (and thanks for reading mine, btw). But the blog attempt to look hip to the new tech that his staffers handle for him is part of another website for Office of the Republican Whip. That's where all the info and updates are. One needs to be interested in Eric Cantor as an official of the Republican Party, not as the Representative of the 7th district of Virginia in order to find out what he's up to in Washington.

That's uncool. Not least because this party website (and the other sites for party officials, both Republican and Democratic) is paid for by tax dollars. I wonder if I'll start to get e-mails if I enter my address to "Join The Whip Team."

Also uncool is the legislative calendar available at the Whip site. The header reads "John Boehner Republican Leader | U.S. House of Representatives." Uh, no. John Boehner is the leader of the Republican members, not the Republican Leader of the House. The leader of the House is called the Speaker of the House of Representatives and that position is currently filled by Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

These are minor things to be sure. Politicians always have and always will do much worse than use poor grammar or misspend our money to self promote. I point them out to support this idea - These things do not help Eric Cantor's attempts to create a new image for his party and woo independent voters. Not this independent voter anyway.

Writer's Block: The Little Things I Do for Our Planet
What little things do you do every day to take care of our planet?

Every day I get one day closer to being recycled.

Nigel Tufnel, BBC programmer
I was perusing the BBC News website today, catching up on world events. While watching a couple of video items, I noticed that their Flash player, which they call the BBC Media Player has a distinguishing feature. The volume control goes to 11! Well, it's one louder, isn't it?


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