Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)


This can't be good

I happened to catch a snippet of the "Scud Stud" talking with the Chief Minion of Evil from Fucking Up the Family. As the telly warmed up, Dobson was attempting to pontificate on the meaning of Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

According to Dobson, that supposedly means that Congress has the power to tinker with the courts however it wishes. He specifically argued that it gives Congress the power to make and remake courts (he used the example of the Ninth Circuit in California, one of few remaining liberal bastions in the federal judiciary), presumably to restock them with more reliably conservative members. That section also, at least in Dobson's warped little mind, gives Congress the authority to allocate (and revoke) jurisdiction on a whim.

Equally disturbing was Dobson's response to a question from Blitzer about whether he was angry with the Bushes (Jeb! and Dumbya) for not being more politically activist in the Schiavo case. Dobson replied that no, he wasn't angry with either of the Bushes--just the "activist judges" like the ultra-Republican Judge Greer for usurping the politicians' role to "tell us who we are as a country."

Jeebus, that man is scary. But I really wish he'd said he was pissed with the Bushoviki. It would have made it that much easier to wipe the floor with them in next year's elections.



Ah, the joys of spring

Though it looked for quite a while as if we weren't going to see any warm weather at all this month, the last three days have been very pleasant: highs in the upper 60s or low 70s, plenty of sunshine, spring breezes. I saw my first robins yesterday.

And now today, another sure and certain sign that it's spring in northern Illinois: our first tornado watch of the season. According to our in-house meteorologist, we have a moderate risk for severe weather across the area this afternoon. Saith he:

A broken squall line of storms is expected...with supercell (rotating) thunderstorms expected on the south end of any breaks in the line, or with any more discrete/isolated cells ahead of it. Moisture is still lacking for strong, long-lived tornadoes...but upper level dynamics still support isolated tornadoes this afternoon that can cause substantial damage. However, it must be emphasized that due to dry air aloft, the main threats will be microbursts producing straight-line winds in excess of 80 MPH with any storm...with a lesser threat of hail up to 2" in diameter...

Good thing I scheduled my doctor's appointment for this morning. It was windy enough driving across the backcountry this morning, and the wind is already appreciably stronger. I think I'm going to keep an eye peeled for the Weather Channel and any e-mail updates from our severe storms list. Blogging will probably be light as a result.



Pharmacists to the Taliban

Conservative pharmacists have been refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. Now that several states have passed, or are considering passing so-called "conscience clauses" allowing the practice, these conservative activists have been getting bolder.

The funny thing is, I can't quite work out exactly why these (or any) pharmacists should have any reason to exercise their consciences on other people's lives. They are, of course, perfectly free to make moral decisions for themselves. But I'm hardly the only person who wishes they'd butt out of trying to make such decisions for me.

My faith teaches me that my salvation (or lack thereof) is a matter entirely up to me and God to work out. I can request advice and counsel from others (or they can offer it), but I am not required to take or follow it, and the people I consult can't be held responsible for my actions.

Of course, of course. These "conservative" pharmacists are probably operating out of a desire to witness to their faith and be their brothers' (and sisters') keepers. Tough beans, say I. Their faith would be better served if they concentrated on their own righteousness (including living up to their obligations to their professions) and left others to worry about themselves.

Moreover, I'm wondering how a "conscience clause" would fit with pharmacists' professional codes of ethics. I had a look around at several of them this morning, including those of the American Pharmacists' Association (the same code is also endorsed by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists [PDF link]), the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (PDF link). They all included some kind of a statement about how the pharmacist was supposed to respect the "relationship between the patient and pharmacist", the "autonomy and dignity of each patient" (APA), not denying "services on the basis of race, religion, gender, disability, age or national origin" (IACP), or "to ensure that their priorities are the safety, well being and best interests of those to whom they provide professional services" and "to respect the rights of individual patients to participate in decisions about their treatment" (FIP).

The pharmacist's duty is to compound or to dispense the medications that the patient's physician has prescribed, and to ensure that the patient understands how to take them, and what their side-effects might be. No more, no less. There's nothing there about butting in to a patient's relationship with his/her doctor (and his/her conscience). If somebody can find the provisions in any or all of those ethics codes that allows that type of behavior, I'd be happy to retract that statement. But I doubt I'll have to make good on that promise.

These pharmacists, I feel justified in saying, would quite likely tell me that as a gay man I'm perfectly free to marry--so long as I marry a nice woman and not the man of my dreams. So I feel perfectly justified in applying the same logic to them. Of course they can be pharmacists, as long as they're willing to go against the dictates of their consciences and uphold the ethics of the profession they claim to love. Sauce for the goose, after all.


Bloody lovely

Fags aren't welcome in the Boy Scouts. But aficionados of child porn are just fine. Unfortunately for the BSA, no self-respecting fag would have anything to do with kiddie porn.



What are "extraordinary" measures?

This post has been coming on for a while. It was the Terri Schiavo mess that caralyzed it, but that's hardly the only reason it's been on my mind. This has not been a great spring for me, for my family, or for my circle of friends. My friend and spiritual director lost a seven-year battle with cancer in February, just weeks after my stepfather had to have double bypass surgery, and subsequently suffered a very small stroke. And just before Easter, a friend of mine who was Fr. Stephen's primary caregiver (and probably his best friend) had to take her husband to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a 100% blockage of his left anterior descending coronary artery (a condition known in the trade as "the widowmaker" which is usually detected only at autopsy).

Fortunately for all concerned, the two latter gentlemen both underwent successful surgeries and are recuperating nicely (although one of them is definitely, and the other is possibly, getting on his wife's nerves). But all the time I've spent in hospitals and nursing homes, or hearing stories of how other people close to me were spending time there, has definitely brought a few end-of-life issues to my mind.

I already have both a living will and a limited medical power of attorney on file. I felt it was a reasonable precaution to take before I made my second pilgrimage to Israel in 2000, given the fact that the second intifada had started barely a month before we left. And since I was going to see my lawyer to update my will anyway, I was able to kill three sets of legal documents with one set of visits.

Something the Schiavo case brought up, however, and which was briefly touched on in NPR's report this afternoon on the linkage between Schiavo's situation and that of the pope, was exactly what constituted "extraordinary" lifesaving measures. The distinction is a fairly important one at least in Catholic moral theology, because a Catholic is only permitted to refuse the extraordinary measures. Ordinary or routine matters are non-negotiable.

The pope, it is alleged, has determined that the provision of food and water, even if through a feeding tube, constitutes a routine measure and cannot legitimately be refused (or removed, if the practitioner is Catholic). It is worth noting, however, that while I have seen and heard this allegation several times, no one has ever provided a citation for the document in which the pope's claim was made, or referenced the speech or allocution in which he made it. I haven't been able to find it in the Vatican's online archive of papal documents, though I also haven't been looking for it very hard lately--too many other things on my mind.

If the reports are in fact an accurate summary of the pope's position, it may turn out to be yet another thing on which he and I will have to agree, charitably, to disagree. I cannot dismiss his reasoning out of hand: I have to read it first, check his sources, and devote some thought and some prayer to the issue, at a bare minimum, before I can begin to think about dissenting. That's also standard Catholic doctrine, though understandably not one beloved of His Germanic Eminence Josef Cardinal Ratzinger.

From my own perspective, as a person of faith who is also trained in logic and reasoning (and who has a fair background in medical science as well), it is difficult for me to see how the pope could legitimately classify the artificial provision of food and water as a routine measure of care and not an extraordinary one--at least in any case where the artificial provision of nutrition and hydration was the only way the patient was ever going to be able to receive it.

We can start by noting that the kind of permanent feeding tube that was removed 10 days ago from Terri Schiavo requires a surgical intervention before it can be used. Other extraordinary measures, such as artificial respiration or electrocardiac shock, do not. (Though it is usual to perform a tracheotomy, such as was performed on the pope last month, when the patient is going to be on a respirator for a prolonged period of time, this is not a requirement to start the therapy.)

Second, if food and water are classified as basic necessities of life (which they are, in the normal course of affairs), it is hard to see how cutting off a patient's oxygen or air (as is done when a ventilator is turned off) could legitimately be deemed a morally permissible act (which it is). Of food, water, and air, the one that is most necessary to life is undoubtedly air. Cut off our air supply for even a few minutes and we shuffle off this mortal coil. It takes days or weeks to die from a lack of water or food.

There can be no question that a feeding tube constitutes an artificial life-support measure in a person such as Terri Schiavo who is in a permanent vegetative state. One consequence of the tremendous damage to Schiavo's brain is that she lacks control over most (if not all) voluntary functions--including the act of swallowing. Once the food or water has been swallowed, the autonomic or involuntary nervous system takes over the job of moving it down the esophagus, into the stomach, through the intestines, and then out again. But to get the process started requires a conscious act. Less than a century ago, when a person got to that stage, s/he was done for. There was no way to prolong his or her life past the point where the kidneys shut down or the body wasted away after consuming its own resources.

Granted, this is 2005, not 1915. We can do tremendous things with medical science, even routinely, that would have been considered virtually miraculous back then. But the $64,000 question is whether we are morally obligated to do something, especially something that unquestionably constitutes an artificial intervention in a natural process (i.e., dying), simply because we can.

I would have to argue, and the Catholic Church would normally agree with me, that because we can is never a morally sufficient argument for doing anything. We can, after all, destroy the world through self-inflicted nuclear holocaust. I haven't heard anybody arguing that was all of a sudden a moral imperative. Why should the provision of a feeding tube be any different? (Not that I'm making a facile equation of the two, mind you, but the principle is the same in both cases.)

It seems obvious to me that the provision of nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube is both morally permissible and morally required when the paralysis or inability to eat normally is only temporary, or as long as there is some reasonable hope that recovery is possible--assuming, of course, that the patient had not specifically directed that such treatment was not to be undertaken in the first place. But once it becomes obvious that the condition is not temporary, or that recovery is no longer reasonably to be hoped for, it should also be morally plausible to suspend the treatment.

There are a number of bases from which to conclude that the removal of a feeding tube under such circumstances is morally permissible. The first and simplest of these is the principle of the double effect. The removal of the feeding tube will of course inevitably result in the death of the patient, who is unable to take nourishment on his or her own. But so long as this is not a directly intended end, the action is morally permissible.

Another plausible base on which to build a case is the question of limited resources. Full-time nursing care for someone in a permanent vegetative state does not come cheaply: circa $80,000 a year for Terri Schiavo alone (at least that is the figure that has been bandied about the blogs these last few days). If we had infinite resources, we could of course provide for those needs and we would have a moral obligation to do so. But we aren't even close to having infinite resources, and the money is only the last and least of the resources in question. We don't have adequate facilities for long-term care, we don't have an adequate pool of highly trained staff to operate the facilities we already do have, let alone all the ones we would need to do an adequate job for everybody who needed this kind of intensive care.

I would never dare to suggest that lack of wherewithal (financial or otherwise) could constitute a morally sufficient reason to withhold or remove medical treatment automatically. That is the bugaboo the Weepublicans (and some Catholics) brandish before the public whenever people start talking about end-of-life issues such as refusal of extraordinary measures or euthanasia), but it is the reddest of red herrings. If resources can be found to cover the costs of such care, and its provision is not otherwise removing scarce medical resources from the pool available to treat others in need of those services, by all means, let the treatment continue. But do we really want to legislate or moralize ourselves into a situation where we as a nation (or we as individuals, whether alone or in groups--in such things as insurance pools, for example) are going to be required to provide absolutely any medical procedure any patient needs, for as long as the patient needs it? Because if we go down that road, my friends, there are going to be an awful lot of other things we're going to have to give up (like all those billions of dollars we don't actually have in the till that the Maximum Doofus is sending over to Iraq every day).

Of course, the simplest solution to the problem is to have as many people as possible make advance directives for their care if they should ever wind up in a situation analogous to that of Terri Schiavo. That's one of the rare silver linings inside the dark cloud that hangs over the poor woman's last few days on this earth: by all accounts, filings of wills and living wills and medical powers of attorney are significantly up all across the country. People are talking about the case--and expressing their own feelings on being kept alive through artificial means--at dinner tables and in offices, with friends and family, on a level probably never seen before, and perhaps never to be seen again.


Oh, fuck!

This is seriously not a good thing. About half an hour ago, an earthquake measuring 8.5 (preliminary estimate) on the Richter scale struck near northern Sumatra in Indonesia, at 2.3 N, 97.1 E. According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center bulletin just issued, "This earthquake has the potential to generate a widely destructive tsunami in the ocean or seas near the earthquake.

Like they need another one.



These wheels have exploded...

...right off the Bushovik cart. And methinks we'll see the cart itself in flames before very much longer, especially if recent trends continue.

According to Sunday Morning Talk's recap of the gabfests today:

As Dubya starts to see his numbers slide, This Week reported that the Bush administration are starting to distance themselves from Republicans on Capitol Hill, leaking that Bush didn't even want to return to Washington to sign the Schiavo bill last Sunday. In the spin wars, it's now clear that while the Democrats might have ran [sic] for cover last week, their storyline of the Republicans politicizing a family dispute in Florida has had traction in the polls.

Un. Be. Fucking. Lievable.

In one week, they've gone from wrapping themselves in the "culture of life" flag to trying, like Heracles, to rip this latest incarnation of Nessus' robe off their backs. I wish them as much luck as Heracles himself had with it.

Meantime, I'm befuddled and bemused at precisely what to make of this latest revolting development. Obviously, it's one of the most brazen, craven acts of Bush's tenure--and that's saying something. The unnamed flack is either going to find him/herself out on the street tomorrow morning, looking for a job and an eight-figure book advance, or Bush is going to be in serious trouble with his "pro-life" base, even more so than he already is now. I have a hard time believing that even these people, not known for being the sharpest set of knives in the drawer, are going to be able to keep blindly supporting the man who has blatantly used them for his own political gains, while accomplishing none of theirs. And while G. Dumbya may not care anymore, since he no longer has to face the electorate, his party may find itself caring very much, and in little more than a year's time, when they will be counting on as many of the fundagelical wingnuts as possible getting out to vote in the mid-term elections, to counteract the probable Democratic avalanche that is otherwise likely to envelop the Weepublicans.

In fact, I think the Doofus-in-Chief has painted himself into a corner. His actions, and those of Tom DeLay in particular, in the Schiavo matter were obviously and blatantly self-serving, and this cowardly attempt on Bush's part to swim away from the vortex before the S.S. Culture of Life sinks forevermore beneath the waves of indignation on all sides is only going to highlight that fact. The fundagelical "pro-lifers" are a vital component of the Weepublicans' base, and their most reliable weapon in off-year elections. They can almost always be counted on to turn out in droves for candidates who talk the right talk and who have walked at least some of it, enough to convince this voting bloc of their sincerity. I have a hard time seeing how Bush Rove is going to be able to pull that card out of the bag of tricks in 2006 after the way the Schiavo case has backfired on them (and its degrading dénouement in particular). It will be difficult, if not impossible, to gain their trust with words alone--and if it proves to be possible (and even if it does not), the kind of words it would take, to say nothing of the potential actions the Bushoviki might choose to lend their hollow words the ring of veracity, are equally likely to fire up the Democratic opposition as to mobilize the Weepublican base.

I believe we may at least consider getting the forks out of the drawer, my friends. It may not be completely done as yet, but I do think the Bush goose has at least begun to cook.



Good Friday random 10

In keeping with the feast, I thought I'd do a second Friday random 10 post, but this time limiting the set to the tracks in the "Religious" genre on my Dell DJ. Here they are:

  1. Heinrich Isaac, Sanctus from the Missa prolationem (Voices of Ascension, From Chant to Renaissance)
  2. Thomas Tallis, Hear the Voice and Prayer (The Tallis Scholars, Thomas Tallis: The Complete English Anthems)
  3. William Byrd, Gaudeamus omnes (The Cambridge Singers, Ave verum Corpus: Motets and Anthems of William Byrd)
  4. Sergei Rachmaninov, The Great Litany (The Kansas City Chorale, Rachmaninov: Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
  5. Marty Haugen, The Storyteller (Spirit of Malia)
  6. Marty Haugen, Speak, Lord, from the Mass of Remembrance (Shepherd Me, O God)
  7. David Haas, Sing Our God Together (No Longer Strangers)
  8. Ingegneri, Tenebrae factae sunt (Voices of Ascension, From Chant to Renaissance)
  9. David Haas, Saints of God/I Know that My Redeemer Lives (I Shall See God)
  10. Gabriel Fauré, Offertoire from the Requiem Mass (Knox College Choir, 2002 Compendium)


Friday random 10

The rules: Take out your iPod or other musical device. Put it in "random" mode. Hit "play." Write down the first ten tracks that come up--and no fair putting in ones you think will make you look cool, or omitting ones that make you look like a total dork.

Without further ado, here are mine for today:

  1. Finale: Allegro molto (fourth movement of Beethoven's 'Eroica' symphony, no. 3 in E-flat major; John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique)
  2. Shoe Box, album version (Barenaked Ladies, Shoe Box EP)
  3. Old Horatius Had a Farm (Knox College Choir, European Tour 1999; it's a version of "Old MacDonald" in Latin, and I love it!)
  4. Something to Do (Depeche Mode, 101, disc 1)
  5. Giovanni Gabrieli, Salvator noster (Vespro della Beata Vergine, the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra)
  6. Eye to Eye (Asia, Alpha)
  7. Exile (Enya, Watermark)
  8. In Old Mexico (Tom Lehrer, An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, disc 2 of The Remains of Tom Lehrer)
  9. Witch in the Ditch (Erasure, The Innocents)
  10. Hosanna to the Son of David (Orlando Gibbons, from the Cambridge Singers' album Faire is the Heaven: Music of the English Church)



An encouraging sign

The proof will of course be in the pudding. But I'm heartened to learn that Jimmy Carter has been tapped to lead an election reform commission charged with examining "problems with the U.S. election system." Carter was the obvious choice to head up the bipartisan panel. He has enough rectitude for three ordinary politicians (if not more), and since leaving office he's made it a point to help secure elections and prevent fraud around the world. He knows from experience what to look for, and he can't be bought.

I'm less thrilled to see that Tom Daschle has also been appointed to the panel. But even more distressing than the appointment of a spineless loser is the fact that the commission is only going to hold two public hearings (one in Washington, D.C. next month, and the other in Houston in June), and "aims to produce a report to Congress" on its findings by September. True, by that time we'll be just over a year away from the midterm congressional elections, and a fair amount of lead time will be required to implement any recommendations the commission may make.

On the other hand, the problems with our present electoral system go far beyond the "disputes over recounts and voter eligibility" mentioned in the Reuters story. It's going to take much longer than five and a half months to dig into them and come up with effective remedies--to say nothing of the amount of time it's going to take to browbeat the anarcho-conservacon leadership of this Congress into doing anything to change the very system that let them usurp power.

I'll be watching this process closely, and hoping for the best.


A book meme

Courtesy of Zac Attack (even though he didn't tap me as one of his three bloggers), I'm participating in another book meme.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be? First off, I've never read F451 (I don't like Bradbury; so sue me!), so I'm not exactly sure if there's a subtext behind this question. And I'm not sure I want to be any book. I'd much rather be a character in one, and there are dozens that I could name.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? I can't say as I have, no. There are certainly actors aplenty that I like looking at (too many to list here), but when I'm reading I don't really visualize the characters enough to get all hot and bothered about one of them. Though, again, there are plenty of fictional characters I've seen or read about that I wouldn't mind being, at least for a brief stint.

The last book you bought is? There were four, actually. Got 'em just about 10 days ago: Tamara Sonn, A Brief History of Islam; A. J. P. Taylor, The First World War: An Illustrated History; John Keegan, Face of Battle; and Michael Thad Allen, The Business of Genocide: The SS, Slave Labor, and the Concentration Camps.

The last book you read was? Depends on how you define "read." If you mean "read" in the sense of "finished," that would be Patrick O'Brian's final Aubrey-Maturin novel, Blue at the Mizzen. If you mean the last book I opened and read part of, that would be Rogers Brubaker's Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, at lunch today.

What are you currently reading? Oy. Again, depends on how you define "currently reading." The ones I'm actively working on right now are Sonn and Brubaker; Barton J. Bernstein, The Atomic Bomb: The Critical Issues; Asma Afsaruddin, Excellence and Precedence: Medieval Islamic Discourse on Legitimate Leadership; Code de la nationalité: Code civil et textes annexes; Marie-Joseph Bopp, Ma ville à l'heure nazie: Colmar, 1940-1945; and the galleys of a forthcoming book by my M.A. research adviser (she lent me a proof copy to use in my research work, but since it's not out yet I'll hold off on mentioning the title, in case it changes). As for what I've started and come back to now and then when I have time, the list (which wants updating) is in the sidebar at the left.

Five books you would take to a deserted island? No way I could limit it to five books. Five crates would probably be pushing it. The printed word has long been at the top of my list of drugs of choice.

At this point, I'm supposed to pick three other bloggers whom I "nominate" to answer the same list of questions, but I've never liked the "chain-letter" kind of posting. If you liked this one and feel inclined to do so, put your answers in the comments, or post it to your own blog and trackback that post here. If not, hey, that's cool, too.


Consummatum est

The Supreme Court has refused to grant certiorari in the Schiavo case...for the fifth time. And since the Florida Senate showed a little sense this morning and refused to pass the latest emergency bill that Jeb! had urged on them, it would appear that Terri Schiavo will finally get her wish to die with as much dignity as the media circus that is swirling around her will allow.

God grant her the grace of a happy and painless death...and the opposite to all the ghouls who have tried to use her to advance their own peculiar political purposes.

Update, 13:45: Judge George Greer has rejected Jeb!'s attempt to have Schiavo made a ward of the state, saying that the request appeared to be brought solely "for the purpose of circumventing the court's final judgment." Unfortunately for Judge Greer, that decision, though correct, will probably see his hate-mail quotient increase by an order or two of magnitude.



I'd love to see a bill like that

Jeb Bush said he would "continue to call on the Florida Legislature to pass legislation to honor patients' decisions about end of life care [and] protect all vulnerable Floridians..."

Of course, I did a little selective editing there. What Jeb! actually meant was that he wanted the Florida legislature to allow him to meddle, yet again, in the Terri Schiavo matter. (The words represented by the ellipsis in the preceding quote were "...and spare Terri's life.")

Apparently Jeb! missed that day in school where they talked about irony. (And possibly the day when they talked about logic, as well.) Because if we take him at his word, he's asking to have his cake and eat it, too. If he wants to intervene to keep Schiavo alive, he's going to have to disregard her decision about end-of-life care. And if he wants to honor that decision, well, then he's not going to be able to spare her life.

I'm sure the residents of Florida would very much like some legislation to protect them. But I'm equally sure that Jeb! didn't mean anything like spending more money on police protection for battered women, or on supplemental assistance for people who can't make ends meet, or a realistic plan to offer insurance to those who can't get it from their employers (or the elderly, who are thick upon the ground in Florida). He's not talking about adequate funding for education, or teaching abstinence-plus in the Florida schools.

No, what I'm sure Jeb! meant by "protect all vulnerable Floridians" was "criminalize abortion." And probably "speed up executions," "ban gay marriage and adoptions," and "prohibit euthanasia or anything even remotely like it." Because Jeb! is all about the culture of [Republican] life.

The colossal prick.


And the answer is...

The answer to yesterday's Bloggers Quiz Bowl question: the passage in question was written by Mohammad Khatami (the president of Iran), in Islam, Liberty and Development (Binghamton, NY: Institute of Global Cultural Studies, 1998), p. 73. I found the quote in Tamara Sonn's excellent A Brief History of Islam (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), p. 86. If you click on the link, you can buy it from Barnes and Noble online.

(Bryan: Were you reading over my shoulder while I typed it in, or did you just get lucky?)



Bloggers' quiz bowl

Since I had such luck with my first edition awhile back, I think I'm going to try another. Read the following quote and see if you can guess (a) the religion, if any, of its author, (b) his/her identity, and (c) about when it might have been written:

In the ...world ...whenever oppressed people have risen against tyranny, their activism has been channeled through religion. People have always witnessed the fiery and bloodied face of religious revolutionaries who have risen to fight oppression and despotism.

Our social conscience is replete with memories of the clash of true believers with hypocrites who have used religion to justify people's misery. Our part of the world has witnessed the historical antagonism between truth- and justice-seeking religion and the oppressive and misguided views of religion that have been the tool of oppressors.

Is it not true that in ...history ...religion has opposed religious and secular tyranny?

Answers tomorrow.


Check it out

The image at left is of the desk where I spend most of the day, Monday through Friday. And today is a relatively neat day by comparison. I can neither confirm nor deny that blogging activity takes place from this location.

Note, please, the framed photo at the upper left. That's the first print that my fellow LC blogger N. Todd Pritsky sold from his new endeavor, Winding Roads Visual Arts. You'll also notice their graphic in the sidebar at left. I support NTodd when I can, and I hope you, my legions of faithful readers, will do the same. He's prompt, his prices are reasonable, and there's no denying he has the eye of a photographer.

And besides, as I told him myself, he's taken the advice I've given to dozens or hundreds of people in the past and followed his bliss. If I failed to support him in that, after telling other people to go and do likewise, I'd be a bigger hypocrite than G. Dumbya "Culture of Life" Bush--and I don't want to go there. So, like the ad copy says, if you've got the blues and want a little visual pick-me-up, go check out NTodd's work and send him some coin if you have it to spare.



G.O.P.=Ghoulishly Opportunistic Panderers

Or "Gigantically Obstreperous Prostitutes." Or "Grossly Overreaching Piss-ants." Or "Gutless Obstructionist Pricks."

Alas, I cannot cast aspersions only at the Weepublicans for skulking away under cover of darkness after passing a private bill to allow yet another judge to meddle in the case of Terry Schiavo. There were 47 Democrats voting "Yea" on that bill in the House--and five Republicans who had the guts to buck the leadership and vote "Nay."

I didn't bother listening to the shouting heads on NPR this morning when this bill's passage came up on "Morning Edition." I've heard all the arguments before. Absolutely nothing has changed since yesterday, when I wrote this:

This has nothing to do with respect for life. It has everything to do with grabbing power, placating the fundagelical base, and, I suspect, with diverting attention from the spectacle of Tom DeLay and his legal problems.

I was pleased to hear Juan Williams (filling in for Cokie Roberts this week as the Monday morning Weepublican apologist) acknowledge the fact that DeLay is in trouble up to his dewlaps--and the tide is rising. But that doesn't excuse this latest act of idiocy on the part of the Shrubbery. "Culture of life," my ass!

These people wouldn't recognize the culture of life if it came up to them on the street and kicked them in the 'nads. George W. Bush was proud of his record as a hanging governor in Texas, and publicly mocked one woman who appealed for clemency on the grounds that she had been born again. That's supposed to wipe the slate clean of George's drinking problem and alleged cocaine abuse, and all the other bad behavior that went with those substance abuse problems--but it didn't work that way for Karla Faye Tucker. Tom DeLay used to make his living killing bugs--and he seems to think that many (or even most) human beings who don't happen to be white, male, powerful, wealthy, Protestant Christian, and Republican qualify as "bugs" as well. Bill Frist made much of his credentials as a physician: where was that side of him when he was whoring himself on behalf of the preznit's plan to wrap a ginormous giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry in the guise of a Medicare prescription benefit? Or when Bush decided to cut federal funding for the EMS equipment (and the training that goes along with it) needed in ambulances to keep infants and children stable until they can get to the hospital? Where were all the Weepublican legislators when it came time to raise the minimum wage to something that the average working family could actually live on? Or when it was time to keep after-school programs up and running?

The list could go on and on and on. Just like the hypocrisy of the Shrubbery and its minions in this case. God grant them all and only what they deserve.



Initium finis

The beginning of the pope's end is now officially underway. As I've previously noted here, there is an age-old tradition in the Catholic Church that the pope is never ill until the pope is dead. But when the pope--and especially this pope, who has a tremendous love for the liturgy generally and for Holy Week in particular--is forced to forego the public celebration of the Eucharist during the holiest season of the liturgical year, well, that's pretty hard to ignore.

So hard to ignore, in fact, that non-Catholic media like the Chicago Tribune have started to comment. And I'm inclined to agree with their analysis:

The final act of Pope John Paul II's pontificate is difficult to watch, but he is determined that the whole world see it.

The drama will be played out again this Holy Week, the most important week of the liturgical calendar, as the pontiff, barely able to speak or stand, struggles to demonstrate that he is able to lead his flock of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics.

The Vatican has promised only that on Easter the pope will offer a televised blessing from the papal apartments. By lowering expectations the papal handlers seem to be calculating that any words or appearances beyond that will be interpreted as a sign that the pope's health is improving.

But the reality, obvious to all, is that the 84-year-old pope is dying, and in the act of dying he is adding yet another chapter to a legacy that already is larger than life.

The Parkinson's disease that eats away at his vitality has left him hunched and immobile. His hands tremble uncontrollably. His great Slavic head slumps to his chest; his face, drained of color and expression, is a mask of pain. His words are unintelligible. He drools, and a bevy of aides attend to him with tissues.

His most recent appearance, via live video on Thursday, lasted less than a minute. He appeared gaunt and did not speak.

In a global culture that worships youth and beauty and politely averts its eyes from the wrinkled and infirm, the pope is an anomaly.

"When public figures get old and start to decay, they tend to step off the public stage," said John Allen, author of several books on the papacy and Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. "When we hear the news of some old celebrity's death, most of the time we say, 'Gee, I didn't know he was still alive.' That won't happen in the case of John Paul II."


The pope's inner circle works hard to create the impression of a fully engaged pontiff leading his church. Each day, dozens of documents go out under his name, a workload that would stagger a man half his age.

The reality is quite different. This has been an emeritus papacy for several years. Critics point to the Vatican's slow response to the recent pedophilia scandal in the U.S. and the muddled signals it has sent on its relations with other faiths as indicative of the lack of clear leadership at the top.

There is speculation that John Paul, like his predecessor Paul VI, has prepared an abdication document that would become effective if he were to become permanently disabled. Although John Paul replied "Did Christ come down from the cross?" when asked if he would ever consider retiring from the papacy, the act is not without precedent--though the last time a pope resigned his office was 711 years ago (Celestine V, who resigned barely five months after being elected to office in 1294). And I have to think that, for all his desire to make his death a public act, as he said, uniting his "own sufferings with those of Christ," this pope has too much respect for the office he has held this quarter-century and more, and cares too deeply for the Church, to let it linger overlong with an incapacitated shepherd at its head.

The poor man has visibly gone downhill--considerably--in the four and a half years since I saw him in person at a general audience in the Piazza San Pietro during the Great Jubilee. At that point he could hardly walk on his own, and his speech was so slurred that I had difficulty understanding a good half of what he was saying in Italian, much less being able to translate it into English. But he was the picture of health then, in comparison to the man I watched celebrating Christmas Mass on television last year--the man who couldn't even hold his own head upright, let alone stand unaided, and whose speech was so impaired that if I hadn't known from other cues (and the persistent blathering of Archbishop Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications--i.e., the Church's press secretary--who always yammers over every broadcast of a Vatican ceremony televised in the United States, as if the Catholics who were watching wouldn't know what the Sanctus was) that it was time for the final blessing and dismissal, I would never have been able to figure out that the syllables he was trying to utter were intended to be the Pontifical Blessing in Latin.

My suspicion is that the "flu" for which the pope was recently hospitalized was something considerably more serious. The fact that his doctors have let him go home to the Vatican may mean that he is in fact on the mend, or it may mean that there isn't anything else they can do for the poor man and felt it was better to let him die in peace at home. It would not surprise me in the least to wake up some morning soon to the news that John Paul II had been gathered to his everlasting reward.

And I disagree with Gregg Easterbrook that there is nothing to grieve over when that announcement is finally made--though I will not, personally, grieve this pope's passing overmuch. I disagree with the pope on a number of major doctrinal issues, and I think his long and faithful service, and his patient acceptance of his sufferings over the last decade and more, have more than merited a rest. I cleave more to the opinion of John Donne, who noted (Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, xvii), "any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."


You have GOT to be kidding me!

Via NTodd at Dohiyi Mir (go buy one of his prints while you're there) comes this from Frank Rich in today's edition of the Paper of Record:

USA Today reported this month that the Department of Homeland Security, having failed miserably to secure American ports and air transportation from potential Al Qaeda attacks, has nonetheless shelled out $100,000-plus to hire "a Hollywood liaison": Bobbie Faye Ferguson, an actress whose credits include the movie "The Bermuda Triangle" and guest shots on television schlock like "Designing Women" and "The Dukes of Hazzard." She will "work with moviemakers and scriptwriters" to give us homeland security infotainment - which is to actual homeland security what the movie "Independence Day" is to an actual terrorist attack.

George W. Bush: The Potemkin President. (Or should I say "Worst. Potemkin. President. Ever."?)

Whatever. I'm going back to bed, I'm pulling the covers over my head, and I'm not coming out until this bunch of loons is history. Assuming they haven't gotten us all nuked to Kingdom Come first.


Ipocriti maledetti!

Ed Kilgore, who's filling in at TPM for the honeymooning Josh Marshall, perfectly expresses my disgust at the Weepublicans' hijacking of the Terry Schiavo case:

During a long drive today, while trying to find a basketball broadcast on the boombox that provides radio in my very old car, I happened upon the voice of Tom DeLay pontificating on the Schiavo case, and it made me physically ill. His claim was that what's happening to Schiavo would be illegal if it happened to a dog.

The cynicism and hypocrisy of that line of reasoning is breathtaking, even coming from Tom DeLay.


The only unique thing about this case, of course, is the extended legal battle between Schiavo's husband and parents, and the media notoriety that has made it so ripe for political opportunism.

Do DeLay, his supporters in Congress, and those Men of God so conspicuously on display down in Florida really propose to picket every intensive care unit, nursing home, and hospice in America to ensure that no family facing Schiavo's situation is allowed to let their loved one die? Is Congress really going to legislatively ban natural death so long as some theoretical means is available to continue it? Oh no, says James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and DeLay's prime enabler in this weekend's grandstand play: the "emergency" legislation is "narrowly targeted" and not designed to set a precedent.

In other words, this is pure political exploitation of a private family conflict that's become a media sensation, even though it involves a very common, if, for the people involved, agonizing event.

As such, the GOP's Schiavo intervention is of a piece with other cynical efforts by Bush and his supporters to signal support for a "culture of life" without much regard for logic and consistency. It's a whole lot like the Bush position on human embryo research, as a matter of fact. Many thousands of human embryos are created each year in fertility clinics; it's only when it is proposed that these certain-to-be-discarded embryos be used for life-saving research that the Hammer comes down and Congress is asked to take a stand for life. Wouldn't want to inconvenience or embarass possible Republican voters utlilizing those fertility clinics, right?

Kilgore nails it: this has nothing to do with respect for life. It has everything to do with grabbing power, placating the fundagelical base, and, I suspect, with diverting attention from the spectacle of Tom DeLay and his legal problems.

Because if the Weepublicans really cared about human life, they would be doing more to enhance the quality of that life for everyone--not "narrowly tailoring" an unconstitutional law to apply only to a single particularly tragic family situation. Where is the law guaranteeing health care to everyone who needs it, not just a particular white woman in a persistent vegetative state? Where is the law creating a program to educate people about end-of-life issues, or encouraging people to create advance directives so they won't end up in Terry Schiavo's situation? (And while we're at it, where's the money to provide legal assistance to people wanting to fill out such directives but who can't afford to pay the lawyers to do so?) Where is the incentive program to address the critical shortage of nurses (especially in nursing homes, hospices, and long-term care facilities? It seems the Weepubs are too busy ladling out the largesse to their corporate masters and producing propaganda for dissemination to the masses to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of running the country--and actually promoting the "culture of life" they spend so much time talking about (when they're not rushing prisoners off death row and into the execution chamber, that is).

Hat tip to Mustang Bobby.



Tom DeLay is a fucking ghoul

If there were any possible remaining doubt about whether Tom DeLay even knows the meaning of the word "shame," his actions today would have removed it. So desperate is DeLay to move the media spotlight off of him and his myriad legal troubles, he will grasp at any straw, make for any port, try any tactic.

His latest attempt at a power-grab? Yet another unwarranted (and illegal) intervention in the matter of Terry Schiavo. DeLay and his fellow Weepublican ghouls in Congress have hauled their members back for a special session tomorrow to consider a Senate bill that would allow a federal judge to become the 16th to rule on the Schiavo case. Apparently blithely unaware of the irony, DeLay had this to say for himself:

We are confident that this compromise addresses everyone's concerns.

Yeah. Everybody's concerns except those of the people most intimately connected with this decision: Terry and Michael Schiavo.

By any right standard, in anything even remotely similar to a just world, Terry Schiavo would already be lying peacefully in her grave these many years. But her parents, desperately clinging to any sliver of a glimmer of a scintilla of hope, have mounted a decade-long campaign to keep her alive--a campaign that has grown to involve Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida; the Florida legislature; and now, the United States Congress.

My advice to all these would-be heroes blathering about their tremendous respect for the so-called "culture of life" their policies are supposedly aimed at creating is this: Butt. The. Fuck. Out. It's none of your fucking business. It was never any of your fucking business. There is no legal, constitutional way to make it any of your fucking business. And if there were any justice in the world, your very tongues would cleave to the roofs of your mouths if you so much as tried to talk about the "culture of life."

The Weepublicans' "culture of life" only seems to apply to fetuses in the womb and women in persistent vegetative states. Otherwise, God help you--because the Weepublicans sure as hell won't. Once that kid pops out of the womb, she can go screw for all they care: they won't pay for adequate day care, decent schools, crime-free streets, reasonable opportunities for higher education, decent jobs that pay a living wage, health care, pensions, retirement benefits, or long-term care in old age. They're too busy kissing the asses of their corporate masters to worry about trivialities like those. Hell, they aren't even willing to do anything to help foot the $80,000-a-year cost of keeping Terry Schiavo alive in one of the few hospice beds available in the state of Florida God's Waiting Room South.

Those pious platitudes falling from the lips of DeLay and his fellow Repugnacons are a hissing in the dark. This is such an obvious political ploy, with so many ulterior motives behind it, that I wonder any reasonable person could hear them flapping their jaws and not laugh in their faces.

Fucking ghouls. May they get no more than what they deserve.


Lenten music request

Last night in a comment on my Friday Random 10 post, my LC fellow blogger andante from Collective Sigh asked me to list my favorite Lenten music. Since I have a hard time saying no to a lady, I'm granting that request with this post.

I should note, however, as I told andante in comments last night, that there's not a lot of Lenten music per se in the Catholic tradition. The major changes we make this season, liturgically speaking, are omitting the Gloria from the opening ritual of the Mass, changing the usual color of the vestments and paraments to purple, and eliminating the Alleluia before the Gospel in favor of an acclamation without that joyful noise in it. Otherwise, the music continues to be chosen (or should be) with an eye toward the readings for the day and the feast being celebrated. There is specialized music for the Paschal Triduum (the generic name given to the three days leading up to Easter, which we will celebrate at the end of next week: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday), but that doesn't really count as "Lenten" music. (Still, that's not going to keep me from listing some of it in what follows.)

So, in no particular order, here is some of the music for this general season of the liturgical year that I like the best, and why:

  • Liam Lawton, The Silence and the Sorrow (This is one of Lawton's best, and he doesn't have many off-days. The text is heart-rendingly beautiful, and the music is perfectly adapted to it.)
  • Dans nos obscurités/Within Our Darkest Night, Taizé Community (A simple ostinato anthem that goes very well with Tenebrae services. I've loved this one since the first time I sang it, at a Lenten Taizé service some years ago. It acquired even greater poignancy when I was privileged to sing it in the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem, built over the traditional site of the rock in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before his arrest.)
  • Jesus Remember Me, Taizé Community (Another Taizé anthem, very simple, with lovely harmonies, often used as a recessional anthem as the Blessed Sacrament is transferred to the altar of repose on Holy Thursday night, and also as an anthem during the veneration of the Cross the next day.)
  • The Exsultet (This is an ancient chant of praise, traditionally sung by a priest or a deacon, but which can be appropriated by a layman if there's no clergyman capable of doing it justice. It's sung during the Vigil Mass for Easter, after the new Paschal Candle has been blessed and lit, and the candles of the faithful have been lit from it. I've done it both in the original Gregorian version in Latin, and in English, both chant and adapted versions.)
  • Steven C. Warner's adaptation of Julian of Norwich's text "All Will Be Well" (It took me a while to warm to this piece, but after doing it half a dozen times I finally got the eerie tenor harmony part down.)
  • Ave verum Corpus, either Mozart's or William Byrd's (You've got to have a little Latin in your Lent, and both of these composers did superb jobs. This is one of the classics for the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, as the veneration of the Sacrament commences at the end of Mass.)
  • Confitemini Domino / Come and fill, Taizé Community (Another lovely ostinato chant from Taizé. I like both the music and the text on this one: Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus, literally "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good," but the adapted English text for the music is also nice: "Come and fill our hearts with your peace, You alone, O Lord, are holy.")
  • Dan Schutte, How Long, O Lord? (A wonderful meditation piece, and nobody does it as well as my singin' buddy Jan.)
  • John Michael Talbot, I Am the Bread of Life (Simply gorgeous; a great anthem for Communion any time, but also for veneration of the Sacrament on Holy Thursday. It was the second Communion anthem we sang at Fr. Stephen's funeral the first Friday in Lent this year.)
  • Steven C. Warner, I Have Been Anointed (I should hate this song, since it was a major part of the repertoire for the 1998 Trip from Hell to Israel, but it's too good. The Notre Dame Folk Choir have recorded an awesome version of this piece.)
  • David Haas, I Thirst for You (A setting of one of my favorite psalms--42--to an Irish traditional melody. I fell in love with this one when three of the four female singers in Still Pointe sprang it on us as a surprise just before we left for Israel in 2000.)
  • Rory Cooney, Jerusalem My Destiny (I remember when this song was brand new, back in 1990. We used it as a Lenten anthem that year at the Once-and-Future Parish, and it was good. But it took on a very special meaning for me in 1998 when we adopted it as our anthem on the Trip from Hell--and doubly so when we reclaimed it as our own in 2000, singing it standing beneath an ancient pine tree in the Garden of Gethsemane and watching the sun set over the ramparts of the Old City as the pilgrims received their pilgrimage crosses at the start of the journey.)
  • Suzanne Toolan, Jesus Christ, Inner Light (Another Taizé-style anthem, which I've sung at dozens of prayer services. And the text, suggested by Brother Roger of Taizé, is simple and beautiful: "Jesus Christ, inner light, let not our own darkness conquer us. Jesus Christ, inner light, enable us to welcome your love.")
  • Jesus Christ is Risen Today (Yes, it's a moldy oldie, but I look forward to singing it as the recessional at the end of the Easter Vigil each year.)
  • Lord Jesus Christ (Another Taizé piece, with a similar text to that of "Jesus Christ, Inner Light": "Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let not my doubts nor my darkness speak to me. Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let my heart always welcome your love.")
  • Francis Patrick O'Brien, You Are All We Have (A lovely responsorial psalm that can also be used as a meditation piece. One of my all-time favorite solos, and also one that Fr. Stephen loved to hear me sing.)
  • Marty Haugen, Triduum Hymn (A difficult piece to learn, but once you get it, it's sensational. An extended meditation on the traditional hymn "Wondrous Love.")
  • Michael Joncas, We Come to Your Feast (A great piece to use for the ritual redressing of the altar at the Easter Vigil, since all the verses except the last begin with the words "We place upon your table..." A nice calypso beat helps get people awake again after sitting quietly for the better part of two hours, much of it in the dark.)
  • This Joyful Easter-tide (A 17th-century Dutch traditional melody. I fell in love with this piece when I sang it as a sophomore in college, I believe it was.)
  • Take, O take me as I am, Iona Community (Another simple, meditative tune with a beautiful text: "Take, O take me as I am; summon out what I shall be; set your seal upon my heart and live in me.")
  • Bleib mit deiner Gnade / Stay with us (Another Taizé anthem: "Stay with us, O Lord Jesus Christ, night will soon fall. Then stay with us, O Lord Jesus Christ, light in our darkness.")
  • Scott Soper, Song of Moses (A forceful sung response to the Exodus story--the only one of the prescribed seven readings for the Easter Vigil that cannot be skipped. It goes very nice with finger-cymbals.)

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but those are the pieces that stick out the most in my memory. Hope that helps, andante!

Correction: While there's nothing wrong with Haugen's "Wondrous Love," it isn't the one I was thinking of--just the one I happened to have music for. The fiendishly tricky piece of his that I had in mind is "Song at the Empty Tomb," a meditation on and adaptation of the ancient Gregorian sequence Victimae Paschali laudes. The time signatures are all weird--like 13/9--and change about every five bars. But once you get the timing down, it's a tremendous piece. It's on his Wondrous Love CD, available from GIA Publications.



Friday random 10

The rules: Take out your iPod or other musical device. Put it in "random" mode. Hit "play." Write down the first ten tracks that come up--and no fair putting in ones you think will make you look cool, or omitting ones that make you look like a total dork.

Without further ado, here are mine for today:

  1. Their sound is gone out (Händel, Messiah, Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert)
  2. When I Win (Gaelic Storm, How Are We Getting Home?)
  3. An Cailin Deas Rua (Gaelic Storm, How Are We Getting Home?; I'm beginning to wonder if maybe my Dell DJ is having a bit of a Celtic hangover from St. Paddy's Day yesterday!)
  4. La, la la, je ne l'ose dire (The King's Singers, Madrigal History Tour)
  5. Longe da te, cor mio (Claudio Monteverdi, Il quarto libro dei madrigali)
  6. In ieiunio et fletu (Voices of Ascension, From Chant to Renaissance)
  7. Allegro vivace (Beethoven, Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, third movement; John Eliot Gardiner/Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique)
  8. Behind the Wheel (Depeche Mode, Music for the Masses)
  9. Cross that Line (Howard Jones, Cross that Line)
  10. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park (Tom Lehrer, The Remains of Tom Lehrer)



Hypocrisy reaches new high

OK, it was bad enough when it was just Jeb! and the Florida legislature that were trying to horn in and score a few basis points with the base on the Terry Schiavo case. Now the Weepublicans have taken the show on the road to Washington:

WASHINGTON, March 17 - The Republican leadership of Congress thrust itself into the politically charged case of Terry Schiavo today, pressing for federal legislation that would prevent the removal of her feeding tube on Friday. The White House indicated that President Bush would sign the measure, if it passed, but it was uncertain whether any bill would reach his desk before doctors acted.

Democrats today blocked Senate consideration of two bills that would move the case of Ms. Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman, into the federal courts. A bill passed by the House on Wednesday was a broad measure that could be applied to many such cases; the Senate measure is confined strictly to the Schiavo matter.


At the White House, the president's chief spokesman, Scott McClellan, said the proposed legislation fell within Mr. Bush's desire to "build a culture of life."

At least the Democrats in Congress have apparently read the Constitution and understand that it specifically prohibits them from passing an ex post facto law--a lesson the Weepublicans could stand to learn. And if there were any justice in the world, the spokes-hamster's head should have spun around on his shoulders and his nose grown about a foot in length for even daring to mention the words "culture of life" in the same sentence with G. Dumbya Bush.

Why is it that the Weepublicans wrap themselves in the pro-life mantle so often? More importantly, why is it that people believe them when they do it?

The only lives these people seem to care about (apart from their own, of course) are those in other women's wombs and those on life support. Once the kid draws his first breath, assuming he's not in a persistent vegetative state, he can go screw for all the Weepublicans care. Fuck paying for schools, effective sex education, condoms, clean needles, a decent jobs program, quality health care, renewal of our inner cities: what's really important is to make sure that nobody has an abortion or pulls the plug on a respirator. Never mind that paying for all that other stuff migh mean there would be fewer abortions to prevent and fewer respirators to unplug, to say nothing of fewer people sucking up government resources in prison.

Oh, wait, I forgot. The Weepublicans like to celebrate their noted "culture of life" by executing people. A lot of people. Very quickly. And sometimes without bothering with all the fuss and bother of the legal formalities. Can't have anything that might interfere with the execution factory, can we?



A cure for our corporate ills?

In a column that will appear this weekend in the New York Times, Frank Rich takes on Enron:

His trial is still months away, but there [Ken Lay] was last Sunday on "60 Minutes," saying he knew nothin' 'bout nothin' that went down at Enron.


The enduring legacy of Enron can be summed up in one word: propaganda. Here was a corporate house of cards whose business few could explain and whose source of profits was an utter mystery - and yet it thrived, unquestioned, for years. How?

I have a couple of suggestions on how to deal with future Enron situations. First, we outlaw the "Sergeant Schultz defense." If you're CEO (or CFO, or COO, or on the board) of a company, it's your fucking job to know what's going on there. It's possible that somebody might be lying to you, but they don't pay you the big bucks just to sit in a fancy corner office and look pretty on the cover of the annual report. You're supposed to notice when the numbers don't add up, and have a nose for when people are lying to you. If you're any good at all, you won't hire the kind of people who'd lie to you in the first place. And if you're not that good, well, then you don't really have much business running the show, do you?

And I'm going to steal a page from Lewis Black. On his album Rules of Enragement, he offers the following advice for avoiding another Enron--and addresses the very question that Frank Rich raised at the end of the segment I've quoted above:

If you have a company and it can't explain in one sentence what it does, it's illegal.

That strikes me as pretty doggone reasonable. That one sentence shouldn't have to go into all the finicky technical details--but it should be enough information that the average person would be able to understand what the company does and how it makes its money. If they can't explain that, then they can't do business. It's that simple.


A cure for our corporate ills?

In a column that will appear this weekend in the New York Times, Frank Rich takes on Enron:

His trial is still months away, but there [Ken Lay] was last Sunday on "60 Minutes," saying he knew nothin' 'bout nothin' that went down at Enron.


The enduring legacy of Enron can be summed up in one word: propaganda. Here was a corporate house of cards whose business few could explain and whose source of profits was an utter mystery - and yet it thrived, unquestioned, for years. How?

I have a couple of suggestions on how to deal with future Enron situations. First, we outlaw the "Sergeant Schultz defense." If you're CEO (or CFO, or COO, or on the board) of a company, it's your fucking job to know what's going on there. It's possible that somebody might be lying to you, but they don't pay you the big bucks just to sit in a fancy corner office and look pretty on the cover of the annual report. You're supposed to notice when the numbers don't add up, and have a nose for when people are lying to you. If you're any good at all, you won't hire the kind of people who'd lie to you in the first place. And if you're not that good, well, then you don't really have much business running the show, do you?

And I'm going to steal a page from Lewis Black. On his album Rules of Enragement, he offers the following advice for avoiding another Enron--and addresses the very question that Frank Rich raised at the end of the segment I've quoted above:

If you have a company and it can't explain in one sentence what it does, it's illegal.

That strikes me as pretty doggone reasonable. That one sentence shouldn't have to go into all the finicky technical details--but it should be enough information that the average person would be able to understand what the company does and how it makes its money. If they can't explain that, then they can't do business. It's that simple.


Up is down, part DCLXVI

The long line of fundagelical wingnuttery just keeps getting longer:

(Helena, Montana) Legislation to include gays and lesbians in Montana's human rights law is discrimination against Christians foes of the measure have declared at a House committee hearing.

"It's an abomination in God's sight," Peter Merkes of Helena said of homosexuality at a House Judiciary Committee which was holding public hearings on the bill.

"You're asking Christian people to support with their tax money something that is diametrically opposed to God's word," he told the committee. "We cannot go there. God's going to hold you accountable."

It seems that Mr. Merkes needs to be reminded of what Senator Chuck Grassley said on the use of the Bible in political discourse:

The Constitution does not provide for a theocracy. I can't listen to Christian lawyers because I would be imposing the Bible on a diverse population.

Why is it that these yobbos can vote, without ever having had to read the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, at the very least?

Updated to correct the spelling of the spokesman's name. My bad!



Scary, if true

On the other hand, perhaps it means an easier victory for the eventual Democratic nominee in 2008. Say what you like about the man's politics, but Mitt Romney has made a living out of making bigotry look good. Indications are that he's going to be throwing his name into the hat for the Republican presidential nomination next time around, primarily because the polling in Massachusetts suggests that he hasn't got much of a chance of getting another term as governor there.

But his embryonic presidential bid may just have hit a little hiccup back in his home state of Michigan. Seems the local honcho at the American Family Fascists Association thinks ol' Mitt is too librul:

LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) As the son of late Michigan Gov. George Romney, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems a likely favorite with Michigan Republicans as he pursues a possible presidential bid.

But his appearance Wednesday night at a state GOP Senate fund-raiser caused American Family Association of Michigan President Gary Glenn to send a letter to senators warning of what he called Romney's liberal record on abortion and gay rights.

"While it is certainly the prerogative of the GOP caucus to provide a forum for speakers who hold a diversity of public policy positions ... we also hope you will not allow your event or your hospitality to be used in any way to validate or legitimize Governor Mitt Romney's support of legal abortion-on-demand or his endorsement of homosexual activists' political agenda,'' Glenn wrote.

Frankly, I don't know which is weirder: the idea that Mitt Romney stands a chance at winning the presidency, the idea that Mitt Romney stands a chance at winning the Republican nomination for president, or the idea that Mitt Romney is a liberal who likes fags and dykes. But I'm leaning heavily toward awarding that last one the prize. If Romney is indeed a supporter of gay rights, he's certainly managed to keep it a secret from his own constituents, what with his trying to impede the Supreme Judicial Court from ruling on Goodridge in the first place, then calling a constitutional convention to try to circumvent the ruling after it was issued. Even to call Romney a closet gay-rights supporter would be a stretch. He'd have to be so deep in the garment bags it would take him years just to find a way to the closet door. Hell, when he was hoovering up every dime not nailed down in Michigan, he was bragging about trying to get a mini-hate amendment added to the Massachusetts constitution.

But none of that apparently counts with the AFA clown:

But Glenn said Romney has been endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a national gay advocacy group, and has appointed gays to his administration.

Crikey, that's all you have to do to be counted as a liberal on gay rights? The Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed every Republican candidate for president since they were founded--except for George W. Bush, and they really had to think about that decision. Comes to that, I'm sure Georgie-poo has appointed the odd fag or dyke in his administration. Big Dick had his lesbian daughter working on his campaign: does that mean Cheney is now "too liberal" for the Republican Party?

Somebody get these people a good logic filter and a sense of proportion. Stat.


No wonder people think Bush is a "good Christian"

The American media are increasingly sucky when it comes to presenting news--or any factual data, for that matter--as opposed to personal opinion or the latest blast fax from the RNC. But if I had to pick a particular arena in which they sucked the worst, it would have to be religion.

American reporting on religion, almost entirely without exception, stinks on ice worse than the Chicago Blackhawks--or a three-day-old corpse. Ken Woodward of Newsweek and Bill Moyers of PBS are the only two exceptions I'd care to make to that blanket statement, and both of them have had significant lapses in excellence.

I could hand out dozens of dunce hats for bogus religion reporting without even breaking a sweat. But the biggest one (at least this week) would have to go to Gregg Easterbrook of The New Republic. (And a bonus booby prize to TNR itself, for putting the meat of this column behind a subscription wall: Easterbrook's stuff is certainly not something you'd want your children to read, but how on earth do they expect us to be able to pick it apart as it deserves if we have to pay their sorry asses to read it?)

Easterbrook would have us believe that grief at someone's death (he uses the looming demise of the pope as his exemplar) is somehow inconsistent with Christian doctrine:

If Christianity is true, there is no need to mourn the natural death in old age of any believer, much less a future saint. When a Christian lives a full life and dies a natural death in senescence, there is nothing to be sad about--if Christianity is true.

If you ask me, that quote suggests that Easterbrook has been sniffing a little too much incense, or else he's been dipping too deeply into the sacramental wine. I will pass over the hint at the end of his first sentence, that John Paul II may one day be canonized--he might be right, though I hope I won't be around to see it happen--and focus on the second, which is bunk from start to finish: and particularly with respect to Roman Catholicism, which just happens to be the pope's religious tradition.

It is certainly true that one of the more common Mass prefaces used at funerals states, unequivocally, "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling-place in heaven." It is equally true that the angels pointedly ask the grieving women who have come to the tomb of Jesus to anoint him in Luke's Gospel, Ti zēteite ton zōnta meta tōn nekrōn; (Luke 24:5), "Why are you looking for the living one among the dead?"

But it is also true that Jesus himself wept at the news of the death of Lazarus his friend (John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible). And the second of the Beatitudes reads Makarioi hoi penthountes, hoti autoi paraklēthēsontai (Matthew 5:4), "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

I follow John Shea in thinking that Jesus did not mean to suggest that there was anything particularly good about being in mourning, such that a Christian should embrace it or seek to enter into that state. But neither do I think that a Christian should shun it, and the fact that Jesus lifted it up as an example of blessedness (i.e., a state or a condition in which God is present in a special way) tends to confirm my thinking in that respect.

If memory serves me, Gregg Easterbrook is himself Catholic. If so, he should remember that Catholics have for centuries paid devotion to the Mother of Sorrows, the Mater Dolorosa. If he has ever set foot in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, he should have noticed the side chapel on the right-hand side of the nave just past the Holy Door, in which Michelangelo's sublime statue of the Pietà is displayed. And he should remember that the last of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary is the Crucifixion. Indeed, the Marian anthem Stabat mater, in wide use by the end of the 14th century, celebrates Mary's grief at the foot of the Cross: Stabat mater dolorosa / Iuxta crucem lachrymosa / Dum pendebat filius, "The sorrowful Mother stood / Weeping near the Cross / As her Son hung dying."

Besides being theologically inept, Easterbrook's contention that there's no reason for a Christian to be sad at anyone's death in old age is off-the-charts pastorally insensitive. There is every reason to grieve at the loss of a friend or a loved one, at any age. First and foremost, while we may believe--as our faith teaches us--that the person has been born into a new and better life than the one s/he has left behind, we still grieve that the body of their "earthly dwelling lies in death" and we can see them no longer among the living. We may miss their friendship, their counsel, their comfort, their love, their laughter, the stories they used to tell, the cookies only they knew how to bake, the mittens or comforters they used to knit, and so on, and so on, and so on. Our belief that their sufferings have ended and that they are in the Blessed Presence forevermore may lessen our sadness, but it does not remove it: a fact that Catholic funeral ritual acknowledges. Both the prayers at the vigil or wake service, and the opening segment of the Mass of the Resurrection speak of consolation for those who mourn the loss of the deceased.

Is Easterbrook really trying to suggest that all of that centuries-old practice, liturgical and pastoral alike, is misplaced or mistaken? Is he going to argue that the Pietà is a heretical work that should not be on display in a public place of worship? Is he even going to try to rewrite the Sermon on the Mount? Or is he just the latest of a long line of American media types who truly suck when it comes to reporting on (or understanding) religion? I lean toward the latter conclusion.

(Hat-tip to Ezra.)



Warning: Take Compazine before reading

If there were any remaining doubts about his sanity or his principles, Joe Klein removed them all with his column yesterday in Time magazine. It starts off badly, and goes downhill from there.

In his first sentence, Klein has the gall to suggest that the preznit was preaching "liberal idealism" last week at the National Defense University--as if the Doofus-in-Chief would be caught dead anywhere within spitting distance of either liberals or idealism. But it's the last sentence that's guaranteed to make you reach for the Pepto-Bismol:

And [Bush] will surely deserve that woolliest of all peace prizes, the Nobel

I think I just blew the fuses on all my irony circuits. And Klein should be beaten to death with a suitably dilapidated copy of Voina i Mir--after first being forced to read all 90-odd volumes of Balzac's Comédie humaine in the original French. Without a bathroom break. Or a dictionary.


That wasn't so hard, was it?

I was intrigued to hear Gary Solis, a visiting professor of law at the United States Military Academy and described as an expert in the law of war, in an interview with Jackie Northam on "Morning Edition" this morning, say that trying to define what constituted torture these days was:

kind of like defining "orange" or defining "obscenity."

Well, shucks. If that's all we've got to do, then we've got it made:

Orange: a color occurring between red and yellow in the visible spectrum, covering roughly the wavelength range from 620 to 585 nanometers.

That definition only took a fairly obvious Google search and two clicks to find. And if I'd wanted to bother with it, I could have run downstairs to the science library and pulled a copy of the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics off the shelf and found it in there, but I figured online would be easier.

As to obscenity, well, I'll admit that one's a little tougher. But I'm willing to ride along with Justice Potter Stewart who famously observed, in 1964's Jacobellis v. Ohio:

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it...

I'm distressed to find that someone who is supposedly an expert in the laws of war is unable to do even basic legal research and apparently doesn't know how to use Google. Because when you get right down to it, defining "torture" is no harder than defining either the color orange or the concept of obscenity. Once you've seen any of them, you know what it looks like and can recognize it again in future.

The United Nations has even done a little spadework for Professor Solis, if he'd care to avail himself of it:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

(Article I of the 1985 U.N. Convention Against Torture)

And since his biography indicates that he has held an adjunct appointment at Georgetown University's law school since 2002, and held another adjunct appointment in 2004 at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, I think we should reasonably be able to infer that Professor Solis might have some familiarity with Catholic teachings on the matter. One such teaching is to be found in Paragraph 27 of Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, adopted in 1965 during the Second Vatican Council, which reads in pertinent part:

27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity,(8) so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.(9)

In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception. and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, "As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matt. 25:40).

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury.

(My emphasis.)

Clearly, anything we saw in the vile photographs taken at Abu Ghraib a year ago, and anything else like that, falls outside the pale. An interrogator may attempt to intimidate a subject, lie to him, bribe him, reason with him, and the like. But anything that gets close to threatening him (or his friends, fellow prisoners, present or former colleagues, or family members), punishing him, withholding food, water, or sleep, anything like refusing him bathroom privileges, mocking his religious beliefs (or worse, forcing him to behave or to observe others behaving in ways that are forbidden to him) is not kosher.

I simply don't see how any reasonable person (and perhaps that's the problem right there) could maintain that there is any significant difficulty in determining what constitutes permissible "pressure" on a person being questioned, as opposed to what constitutes impermissible "torture." That ought to be a no-brainer that any effective training cadre ought to be able to bust through in an hour or less and which any reasonably well-trained soldier should be able to remember. It's not anything like as complicated as the arcana of military courtesy, to say nothing of the care and maintenance of our more advanced weapons systems. If we can train our soldiers and sailors and airmen to do those things, we should be able to train them to distinguish between permissible and prohibited actions to take with respect to prisoners in the custody of the United States.


A little night poster-blogging

At the request (well, technically, I volunteered and he said "OK, go for it") of fellow liberal blogger Bryan at Why Now?, I indulged myself in a little creative PhotoShopping last night. The image you see below is the result:

The test at the top of the poster reads, I'm told (I don't know more than about six words of Russian, and none of them appears on this poster), "Under the Banner of Bush Toward the Second Four Year Plan." And, credit where credit's due, the original idea (and the original poster) came via Digby at Hullabaloo.


We hold these truths to be self-evident

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I don't play one on TV (though I've watched a lot of legal-themed programs on TV). And the last time I stayed at a Holiday Inn of any sort was the first week of January--in France. So you should take what I'm about to say with at least a couple of crystals of sodium chloride.

The unholy alliance of various religious groups, fundagelical organizations, and soi-disant "conservatives" who have predictably crawled out of the woodwork "fuming in spite" (to borrow a phrase from Thomas Tallis) over yesterday's California court ruling (PDF link) that found no rational basis for the state's prohibition of same-gender marriage is fighting what will probably be the last (or one of the last) rearguard action it can mount before it goes down to defeat permanently. Yes, of course they will appeal this ruling. And the California Supreme Court will agree to hear their appeal. But I suspect they aren't going to like the results of that appeal, given that the only reason the court overturned San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom's issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples in that city a year ago was that he lacked the statutory authority to do so under the very law that yesterday's ruling struck down as unconstitutional.

I feel reasonably safe in asserting that the unholy alliance will appeal their loss in California to the U.S. Supreme Court, at which point it becomes six-to-five and pick 'em. I'm not even sure the high court will take the case, at least at this point. They might feel it was premature to rule when only two states had (at that future point in time) legalized gay marriage, preferring to wait until the emerging consensus of opinion had clarified itself. Or they might decide that marriage really is a matter for the individual states to hash out on their own, exactly as some in the Shrubbery have begun, belatedly, to argue. Or they could look at their own precedents in Loving v. Virginia and Romer v. Evans and say, effectively, "The California court correctly applied the appropriate constitutional yardstick," and rule that all prohibitions against same-gender marriage (including the odious federal "Defense of Marriage Act") were prima facie unconstitutional.

Because that's clearly the state of law toward which we're heading. And I have to agree with Judge Richard Kramer, who said:

While many aspects of history, culture and tradition are properly embedded in the law, Judge Kramer wrote, the prohibition against same-sex marriage is not. "The state's protracted denial of equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional violation has become traditional," he wrote.


"Simply put, same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before," the judge said.

One of the first things I remember being taught in my management classes in library school, years ago, was that "We've always done it that way" is among the most commonly encountered phrases whenever any change in operations or organizational structure is proposed. So it is hardly surprising to hear it brought forth in this case. But it's a bogus rationale in the business world, and even more so in our legal system.

Yes, of course, stare decisis and all that. But precedent is never sufficient reason, in and of itself, for maintaining a law or a state of affairs that is in itself unjust. If it were, we'd still have slavery in the South, women wouldn't be allowed to vote, and for that matter, our national anthem might still be "God Save the Queen."

The key words in the decision are "rational basis." That is the lowest possible level of constitutional scrutiny, the bare minimum that any law must have if it is to escape being stricken from the statute books: and according to Judge Kramer, the State of California doesn't have such a basis for continuing its policy of discriminating against gay and lesbian couples when it comes to getting hitched. So the unholy alliance really doesn't have a legal leg to stand on, unless a higher court decides that Judge Kramer erred in reaching that finding--and I can't see how they could rationally do so.

Just to pre-empt any of the fundagelical trolls or other wingnutty types who might stop by and read this, let's be very clear on something. This ruling will not force any church to perform same-gender marriages. The state has no authority to do that, and that was never even on the table. But the flip side of that same coin is that no church, or group of churches even, has the authority to prohibit the state from treating its gay and lesbian citizens equally under the law and allowing them to contract civil marriage through the appropriate legal process. Neither can such a church prohibit other churches with more open minds and broader interpretations of the scriptures from marrying their gay and lesbian congregants if they're so inclined. And if such churches do perform such marriages, the state has no choice but to recognize them--just as it does the marriages they perform between one man and one woman.

In Skinner v. Oklahoma, way back in 1942, and again in Loving, the Supreme Court found that marriage was one of the "basic civil rights" that human beings possess, calling it "fundamental to our very existence and survival." Granted, both courts were undoubtedly referring (especially given that Skinner involved a case of criminal sterilization) to the procreation of children in heterosexual marriage when they made those statements. That is also one of the most common arguments thrown around by the unholy alliance folks: "Will no one think of the children?"

Horse hockey. Gay and lesbian couples can (and many do) have children, whether through artificial insemination or adoption, or sometimes from a prior heterosexual relationship entered into before they discovered or acknowledged their true sexual orientation. Moreover, if the state is going to argue that the procreative function is paramount in marriage, then it is going to find itself in the unhappy situation of having to prohibit marriages between two people who are physically incapable of having sexual intercourse, who are infertile (whether individually or together), who are past the age of childbearing, or who simply don't want to have children.

And since the state is manifestly not doing that, it cannot then rely on procreation as a basis for continuing to discriminate against an entire class of its citizens. That was the fundamental point in Romer v. Evans, as Justice Kennedy noted in the very first paragraph of his majority opinion:

One century ago, the first Justice Harlan admonished this Court that the Constitution "neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens." Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 559 (1896) (dissenting opinion). Unheeded then, those words now are understood to state a commitment to the law's neutrality where the rights of persons are at stake. The Equal Protection Clause enforces this principle and today requires us to hold invalid a provision of Colorado's Constitution.

The conclusion of that opinion is equally on point in the California case:

We must conclude that Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws.

Another argument typically offered by the unholy alliance is that gays and lesbians are perfectly free to marry under the current laws of the land: they have only to find a suitable opposite-sex partner and do the deed. They are correct in that point: the law is indiscriminate in its discrimination. But a stake was driven through the heart of that argument in Loving:

Because we reject the notion that the mere "equal application" of a statute containing racial classifications is enough to remove the classifications from the Fourteenth Amendment's proscription of all invidious racial discriminations, we do not accept the State's contention that these statutes should be upheld if there is any possible basis for concluding that they serve a rational purpose. The mere fact of equal application does not mean that our analysis of these statutes should follow the approach we have taken in cases involving no racial discrimination ....In these cases, involving distinctions not drawn according to race, the Court has merely asked whether there is any rational foundation for the discriminations, and has deferred to the wisdom of the state legislatures. In the case at bar, however, we deal with statutes containing racial classifications, and the fact of equal application does not immunize the statute from the very heavy burden of justification which the Fourteenth Amendment has traditionally required of state statutes drawn according to race.

If the state cannot justify an invidious racial classification on the basis that it is uniformly applied, it is difficult (at least for this educated layman) to see how it could do so with an invidious gender classification or one involving sexual orientation. And Judge Kramer's ruling has already found that California's law doesn't even meet the rational-basis test, much less the considerably more difficult strict-scrutiny standard.

And whatever the legal arguments might be, we have time on our side. All the polling suggests that the longer these arguments drag on, the greater the likelihood that the unholy alliance will lose, as public opinion shifts slowly but perceptibly in favor of gay and lesbian citizens and their civil rights. I have to believe that at least some of the vehemence with which that unholy alliance is pursuing its agenda is due in part to a recognition that their days are numbered. They want to do as much harm as they can before the sunlight of justice penetrates to the dark corners in which these vampires skulk and plot their mischief.

We've got the garlic and the holy water, though. They don't stand a chance.

Update: You should also go and read what Bryan has to say on this subject over at Why Now? And while you're at it, check out my fellow TLC bloggers' takes on the subject: Mustang Bobby at BBWW and NTodd at Dohiyi Mir.


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