Sunday, August 31, 2008


When I'm seriously annoyed with more than one person at a given time, I generally assume that the problem is me and look to my own behavior to see if I'm being pissy in a way that is causing other people to act in annoying ways, or, indeed, if I'm being oversensitive.

Also, when I feel I owe someone an apology, I usually wait until I can apologize with no qualifiers. I don't go for the "Well, I'm sorry I reacted that way, but if you had just..." brand of apology.

Neither of those strategies is working for me at the moment.


CC gets new perspective on the CSO's Mom

My mother-in-law and I have had our issues like any other mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, but I have to say that I'm pretty sure that if I were on a major party ticket and she was unsure about how she was going to vote, she wouldn't tell the newspapers.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lust for Power

1. What is it?

2. Does it differ from feeling you're the one who can see what the problems are, and you're the one to fix them your way?

If so, how?

3. Is it a negative quality in a politician, or a job requirement?

and yes,

4. Do we notice it when people we like have it?

I'm asking these questions primarily because, yes, I saw a politician accused of lusting for power and it made me think. But I also ask because I feel like UUs have a weird relationship to power. I get the sense that a lot of other UUs both hate the idea of power and want power. There's almost a knee jerk denial that power can be anything but corrupting and evil, yet at the same time a strong expressed desire to change the world and power is certainly required for that.


Whose answers are:

1. It's the feeling that you know best how to fix the world* and should be in charge.
2. Only as a matter of perspective.
3. I think there are two kinds of politicians: those who openly want power and good actors. There are so many effective, non-power-focused ways to change the world for the better that I would say that anyone who chooses politics as a career path has to want power. I don't see wanting power as a bad thing inherently, though the excesses of power, like the excesses of almost anything else, can be negative.
4. I think if we do, we call it something else, but lust for power is an easy thing to spot in a politician we don't like.

But I am asking the question because I am willing to be talked another way on it.

* "Fixing the world" doesn't necessarily mean to everyone what it means to you. Lots of whackjobs have thought they were fixing the world when ultimately they were just being pointlessly destructive.

Things I don't like about Palin's selection

1. It makes it obvious that a whole lot of people on the Republican side think that the entire point of having Hillary as a candidate was that she was female and that Clinton supporters will vote for any old set of ovaries. Clinton's degree from Yale law? Unnecessary. A woman with a journalism B.A. from University of Idaho is close enough.

2. A really old presidential candidate* who has been repeatedly treated for cancer just picked the mayor of a town of 9000 to be his weak heartbeat away from the presidency. I think that kinda nips the experience argument in the bud. This may seem like a good thing, but keep in mind that the most experienced presidential candidate of the 20th century was Al Gore. The American people generally don't like the experience argument and don't listen to it. So I liked that McCain was making it over and over.

3. It was bad enough when the people making the sexist jokes were mostly people I DISAGREED with politically. The blow-up doll/Barbie doll/VPILF jokes have already started from my own friends and I know it's only going to get worse.

Do you really need a list of reasons to criticize this woman? If so, let's go over them again: Against Gay Marriage, pro-big business, pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-science... In a sense, she's really another Dick Cheney in that she's shoring up the conservative base. See? Lots of good insult material right there.


If you are commenting at all on her looks, you are making the choice to do so and probably at the expense of more substantive criticism. Please make a different choice.

4. The whole Harriet Miers kerfuffle was annoying enough the first time.

5. I really don't want to listen to the whole "Can a woman with five kids have time to lead?" discussion.

6. Randi Rhodes has just been given a whole new woman in power to use the C-word about.

7. I really, really hate the "I'm governor of a state sort of near other countries, so I have foreign policy experience" argument. Hated it when George W. Bush made it. Hated it when Howard Dean made it. Hate it now.

My route to school takes me literally through the Pentagon's parking lot. Doesn't make me a fucking general, m'kay?

8. It indicates that McCain really and truly has sold out on the pork-spending issue. Because Palin did support the bridge project. (OK, arguably it was her job to do so, but she's supposed to be this maverick.)

9. And this is a minor one if you're not me, I really, really hate Ted Stevens and Don Young. They have been my two least favorite politicians FOREVER and I think high Republican voter turnout in Alaska has been assured on election day now.

10. OK, and one thing I like. Mitt Romney has apparently been working his ass off for McCain for months and just got overlooked for someone who has pretty much done nothing for McCain and whose state looked like it might go to a Democrat for the first time since the Johnson administration. He has to be pissed off.

And anything that pisses off Mitt Romney is a good thing.


* The man is 23 years older THAN ALASKA.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I thought that was great.

10 percent chance of change. Ha!

Twas awesome.

He made a lot of excellent points.

Oddly enough, he addressed an issue I've long had with him in that so many of his past speeches had an "above all that petty politics" quality where he seemed hesitant to get into fights about issues and, well, sound like a politician.

No question, this works well in a primary and did much to contribute to the sense that his supports believed, in the words of Rebecca Traister, he was “built entirely of altruism and hope and, I don't know, puppies.”

But I (a) thought it was really annoying and (b) hadn't been sure he was going to be able to adapt his style into the "Vote for me, not him" dynamic necessary for the general election. And when it comes down to it, those petty political fights are about real issues that affect real people and I think if he'd kept the "above all that" style people would have seen it as a copout.

I stand corrected. He took the gloves off and gave a great, and unabashedly political, speech.


This jersey cracks me up

At first, I honestly thought it was a clever prank by a cowboys fan.


I'll give my brother one thing

These seem like good seats.

Tailgating fascinates me.

Hey want to play a semi-amusing game about ancient Romans?

I'm guessing you don't, but if I'm wrong, click here

home for the third day in a row and getting desperate for amusement

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


In the July 29 issue of Christian Century, Carol Zaleski of Smith College, under the title "Eminent Victorians" (borrowed from Lytton Strachey) turns from the tiresome recent attacks on religion by modern atheists to the vigorous and spirited discussions of the Victorian period, exemplified by the mathematician W.K.Clifford (1845-1879), the clergyman and geologist/naturalist William Buckland (1784-1856), Buckland's student Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (1805-1873, well trained in mathematics), and the biologist T.H.Huxley (1825-1895).

The famous debate about evolution between the latter two took place at the meeting of the Oxford Meeting of the British Association on Saturday, June 30, 1860. Zaleski quotes Wilberforce's peroration to an unqualified critique of evolution addressed to Huxley as "Is it on your grandfather's or your grandmother's side that you claim descent from an ape?" This version of the question does not quite agree with the phrasing which is given in T.H. Huxley's "Life and Letters" (by Huxley's son Leonard Huxley) and the "Life and Letters" of Charles Darwin by his son Francis Darwin, but the main point is clear and well supported by contemporary witnesses.

Zaleski's version of Huxley's response tells what he denied saying but not what he did say. She writes "Huxley denies having replied that he would rather be an ape than a bishop", which appears to come from Huxley's letter of Sept. 9, 1860, written to correct widely disseminated inaccurate versions of his response. An example is that of the "Guardian" newspaper as cited in Adrian Desmond's biography of T.H.Huxley (1994, p.680), about the sad day "when Professors lose their tempers and solemnly avow they would rather be descended from apes than Bishops".

The version of Huxley's response which was considered most accurate by T.H. Huxley and his son Leonard is found in a contemporary letter by the student John Richard Green, who was present at the debate:
"I asserted - and I repeat – that a man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man – a man of restless and versatile intellect – who, not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice."

A reporter from MacMillan's Magazine who was also present and reported on the meeting wrote to Leonard Huxley that "I cannot quite accept Mr. J.R. Green's sentences as your father's, though I didn't doubt that they convey the sense." The word "equivocal" is certainly not authentic. The reporter for Macmillan's Magazine summarized Huxley's response as "He was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth." A third account by the Oxford chemist A.G.Vernon-Harcourt, quoted by Leonard Huxley, confirms this general content, as does that by W.H.Freemantle published in his biography of Darwin. T.H.Huxley wrote to Francis Darwin on June 27, 1891 that "I should say that Freemantle's account is substantially correct, but that Green has the substance of my speech more accurately."

What was the point here? One point was the correctness of Darwin's version of evolutionary doctrine, which was well supported although it conflicted with the contemporary interpretation of Genesis. Another was Huxley's anger at the scientific amateurism exemplified by Wilberforce, an able man of conservative views and administrative talent who in fact did have great ability and educational advantages. One of the life-objectives of T.H.Huxley, who was largely self-educated, was to make science a possible profession in England at a time when learned and scientific activity was on the whole an amateur enterprise. On this occasion, the issue of professionalism was probably much more significant than any conflict of religion with science; such a conflict is not even alluded to in Huxley's response. On the other hand, Huxley was opposed to the Victorian church as an institution, as Desmond (1994) makes clear.

Another reason that we should not picture this debate as essentially a conflict between science and religion is that by no means all Victorian churchmen refused to accept evolution. As an outstanding case, F.J.A.Hort (1828-1892), the greatest British scholar of the text of the Greek New Testament, was also well trained scientifically; he took a First Class in the Natural Science final honors examination at Cambridge University in 1851, and later served as one of the examiners. Hort was an immediate admirer of the "Origin of Species", about which he wrote to his collaborator Westcott in early 1860 that "In spite of difficulties, I am inclined to think it unanswerable." Hort's modern biographer Graham Patrick (1988) provides a valuable discussion of how in his posthumous book "The Way the Truth the Life" (1893) Hort treats of the relations of science and religion, partly in the text and partly in appended notes. Hort writes "It is not too much to say that the Gospel itself can never be fully known till nature as well as man is fully known; and that the manifestation of nature as well as man in Christ is part of His manifestation of God." (p.83 in my 1894 copy). Some aspects of Hort's religious views I cannot share, but for many years I have had profound respect for him as someone who combined deep scholarly and scientific awareness.

Carol Zaleski is certainly right that the Victorians raised vigorous and interesting arguments

In place of actual content today

Here's a video of Milton Berle and Statler and Waldorf insulting each other.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Call the election.

It seems like before the primary ended, I kept hearing "But Obama HAS to be the nominee, only he can beat McCain!"

Now an increasing number of people commenting here are saying sadly that they don't have much hope for Obama.

Just curious, who do you think is going to win?

who genuinely thinks it's going to be Obama.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I love my hometown

I just had the following conversation.

(cell phone rings, I pick it up)

Caller: Hi, I'm Tom and I'm with the Barack Obama campaign. I was calling to see if you'd like to join us for a house party on Thursday night.

CC: Oh, sorry. I've got Skins tickets for Thursday.

Caller: Really? AWESOME!

I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but...

Here are the snarky interpretations of the Myers-Briggs types

I may write more later today. But maybe not. I keep sneezing.

and Egghead married to an Outside Contractor

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Latest weird dream

The CSO and I are at a county fair. (CC loves county fairs.). We walk
around, get some ice cream, play some games, etc.

We're in the animal barns, and I notice that the animals look sort if
old and the barns are quite weatherbeaten. We turn around and the
animals have disappeared.

We go outside and see the fair aging and rotting away in front of us,
like Miss Havisham's wedding cake. Bits of cloth get increasingly
tattered, mildewed and torn. Wood wears away, sometimes rotting,
sometimes breaking. The carosel's roof falls down, expelling horses
out the sides.

He takes my hand, and we stand there, watching.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, August 23, 2008

And you can take that as a standing recommendation

"So, I hear it's Biden?"

The youth director said, sitting down across a picnic table from me.

"Biden?" a youth said from inside his tent. "Man..."

Sent from my iPhone

Biden? Really?

The word that comes to mind is "meh."

Ok, arguably "meh" isn't a word.


Sent from my iPhone

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stupid Stuff CC has made out of duct tape 1

A sling to keep a can of soda cool.

ZombieKid quote of the day

"we're playing a combination of star trek and star wars, should we
call it 'star weck' or 'star trors'?"

Sent from my iPhone

CC going on a retreat this weekend.

So posting will be erratic, if it happens at all.

who loves her some Christine Baranski.

How feminists are made.

Are US women so angry that they would allow McCain to take the Presidency? a post on another UU blog asks breathlessly*. He goes on to explain that women who don't like Obama, by, you know, not supporting a candidate they don't like, are "playing into an age-old trick of stereotyping strong women as insane."

Clearly these foolish women should be showing how sane they are by supporting the guy that the blogger wants them to. Then they wouldn't be playing into anybody's tricks at all, right? Right?

The thing is, despite years of pressure and some might argue indoctrination from the ChaliceRelative**, I didn't particularly see myself as a feminist until this campaign season began. I still don't like some of the hills mainstream feminism often chooses to die on, especially the linguistic ones, but I am more and more coming to get that society completely sucks when it comes to these issues and people really do accept and repeat crazy ideas about women without giving them the slightest rational examination.

(And I know using this campaign to make racism/sexism comparisons is pretty tired at this point, but do you really think that if Hillary had won, Slate would be printing articles about angry, irrational black people?)

The blogger seems to be getting this stuff from a Slate column by Dahlia Lithwick (whom one assumes is an Obama supporter, so you can trust in her sanity despite her apparent strength and apparent ovaries) writes a long column about "PUMAs" or, as she puts it "Hillary Harridans." She compares their image to that of Cruella DeVil and Lady McBeth, and, of course, Snow White's wicked stepmother and she makes lots of dramatic declarations like that they are "embracing the same she-devil stereotypes they once claimed to resent."

Lithwick, whom I suspect had this column nearly written before she turned up this article, is at least honest enough to link to a Columbia Journalism Review article that explains that poll numbers don't actually support the conclusion that these women, you know, exist in statistically significant numbers***.

Or, to give it to you in the words of the Columbia Journalism Review:

But back in June, when the primary wounds were the most raw, a Washington Post/ABC poll made a startling finding. Yes, 37 percent of Clinton supporters were considering voting for McCain or staying home on election day. However, this was not because anger about the campaign’s gender dynamics. “Obama is not disproportionately weaker among Clinton supporters who comprised her core groups, such as women, seniors and working-class whites,” it found. “Instead he’s losing those who value strength and experience over change, who doubt Obama’s qualifications and who see him as a risky choice—mirroring his challenges among all adults more broadly.”

And again, this was back in June when the Hillary supporters were most pissed. (For example, June is when I wrote this.)

The CJR article sums up their findings succinctly with:

But the angry-women-will-sink-Obama myth is yet another example of the media confusing activist opinion with public opinion in general. And public opinion generally defies such a simple—if dramatic—storyline.

But hey, that's not nearly as much fun as the "crazy bitch Hillary Clinton supporter" stereotype, is it?

I don't particularly expect more from the media.

I do expect more from UUs. (Which I probably shouldn't, after all, UUs are human and subject to the same culture everybody else is. But we are supposed to be refining stuff through reason and thinking things through and to me the "huge numbers of Clinton supporters are determined to sink the election" stuff doesn't even SOUND plausible to me.)


*I'm going on a rant here, so I will spare this guy a link. You're a smart person, you can find it if you care so much. He more or less parrots what Lithwick says and I do link to her.

**The Chalicerelative uses "you're a bad feminist" as an insult totally without irony, and has done so since I was a little kid.

***Though I swear to God sanctimonious Obama supporters are tempting me. No, I'm not going to retract my declaration that I'm voting for Obama and go become a PUMA. But I do feel that by making Hillary supporters' inferiority such a natural assumption, people like Lithwick and the UU blogger are contributing to a sense of learned helplessness that might not unreasonably lead one to a conclusion that if one is going to be thought crazy anyway, one might as well play the part.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Check out the awesome spaceship cake I made for TheGnome

Slave Reparations?

I've heard some people talk about this like it's a good idea, so I'm curious.

I'm pretty solidly against the idea personally, but I'd like to hear from some smart people who are for it so that I can understand where they are coming from.

Slavery was a terrible thing, but almost all of our ancestors lived pretty terrible lives by modern standards. TheCSO has been known to point out that his people were so poor that mine owners hired them to work in the mines instead of slaves because slaves were too expensive to risk doing such dangerous work. (As someone who has some familiarity with modern workers compensation law, it amazes me that it used to be that a generous employer was one who paid you for the day that you maimed yourself in an accident, given that you hadn't worked the full day.)

I'm not saying that this was worse that slavery, I bet both ways of life were awful and I certainly don't know enough to rank them even if I wanted to. But it seems weird that we would draw an awfulness line that would make some ancestors lots sufficiently awful to rate reparations and some not.

Plus the economic impact on people today. I can't imagine the reparations would be good for the economy and I can't imagine how the calculations of what decades of suffering are worth will go. How much is sufficient if it was your whole family? How much if you're related to only one slave? If your ancestor figured out a way to buy his or her freedom, do you no longer get a check?

Plus the moral question. Will throwing money at the issue heal society's wounds?(The answer "No, but it's the best we can do," is, of course, not unreasonable. WASPy girl that I am, throwing money at the problem is often my solution for things, I will be the first to confess.) But is "the best we can do" good enough to merit all of the problems the mere act of giving reparations may cause?

Anyway, explanations and arguments are welcome. I'm just trying to understand the ideas.


Oh, yeah, I did write that.

Some months ago, an old friend of mine who works in the PR department of my undergraduate school asked me to write a piece about the class I took over winter term where we all spent several weeks in India.

I had written a blog post about my India trip before, so I pulled it up, spent fifteen minutes reworking it and sent it off to her. When I got the alum magazine in the mail several months later, I flipped through it, didn't see me in it and assumed what I'd written had been too anecdotal or too weird or maybe my old professor didn't like it or what have you. I've been rejected by classier publications that the St. Andrews Alumni News, so I didn't think another thing of it.

I guess I missed it. Just got an email from someone I went to college with. She closed her email with "I screamed when I saw your story in the Alum mag! I LOVED what you wrote about the trip to India!"


So I pulled up the publication online and checked. Yep, I'm on page 5.

who also took the photograph that illustrates it and honestly has no idea how the PR office got a copy. Those PR folks are sneaky that way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If you're thinking of starting a UU blog...

you've been advised to answer the following questions.

I'm going to answer them with the Chaliceblog in mind. Bear with me. I'm making a point.


What is the purpose of your blog?

I've written something nearly every day of my adult life and my husband suggested I find a central place to put it all.

Who is your intended audience?

Whoever cares. My stats inform me that hundreds of people I've never met read it every day. My own mother rarely bothers, even when she knows I've written about her. If a certain kind of post gets lots of comments, I'm likely to write more posts like it, but I mostly write to please myself and perhaps an inner circle of half a dozen people, most of whom never comment.

Who will own your blog?

I do in a general sense, but I grant posting rights to anybody I feel like, sometimes on a whim. And far from everyone I've offered posting rights to has taken me up on it. I've been working on Katy-the-Wise for years. Jana-who-creates, too.

I own and several variants, along with and If I ever need to, I will move the Chaliceblog off of blogger, but blogger seems easier for most people to deal with.

Frequency of Posting

How often will you post to your blog?

Whenever I have something to say. When I don't post for more than a week, I get mail, when I post many times a day people have trouble keeping up and the quality of the comments suffers.

But I've done both and everywhere in between.

Tone and Impact

What tone will your blog have and how will that make readers feel?

Well, for the first year and a half The Chaliceblog was bright red and had a cartoon of Death on it that apparently only I liked, but nobody told me this until I got rid of it. The gratitude just poured in when I made it more readable, though, and I will admit that my readership quickly doubled.

The style I write my blog in is pretty much exactly the one I talk in, and I talk different tones about different subjects. I don't have a consistent tone or feeling I'm looking for and don't want one. When I write something sad, I'd like people to feel sad. When I write something funny, I'd like it if people laughed. I'm often sarcastic about things, but my more on-the-ball readers get that I'm a complicated person and that there's a pretty thoughtful and sensitive nature beneath the snark.

And the on-the-ball readers are the only ones I honestly care about.

To answer the question about how I make people feel directly, I've been told I made someone laugh hundreds of times, moved someone to write me a nasty email in the low dozens of times, been told I made someone cry a few times and two different people have reported that posts I wrote made them throw up.

Not bad for almost two thousand posts.

I've been called a "bleeding heart elitist" before and that's the closest thing to a consistent tone I have. But I could point you to plenty of posts that don't remotely meet that description.

That said, the worst posting statistics I've ever had were the time I gave up Snark for Lent, so it is fair to say that snark is an important part of what I do here.


How will you make sure your blog is a safe space for you and for participants?

For years, my policy was "It's the Goddamn internet. You can't promote volunteerism without somebody insulting you. Get over it."

But a few factors, not the least of which observing how quickly a few bitchy people can kill a good discussion in's comments, had me relent a couple of years ago. Now I won't kick a post for being pointless and I won't usually kick a post for being over-the-top insulting, but I occasionally kick posts for being both. By "occaisionally," I mean I've done it maybe half a dozen times, usually on another commenter's request.

BY FAR the majority of posts I kick are posts where the author emails me and says he/she has changed his/her mind on what he/she wrote and doesn't know how to remove it himself/herself.

What kinds of information about yourself and about others will you need to keep confidential?

I generally keep real names and anything I know to be a secret out off the Chaliceblog. I don't say anything about anyone that I wouldn't loudly say in a bar. I don't make my workplaces recognizable and I almost never write about co-workers. I write all the time about belonging to a large church near Washington DC, though I tend to be a little coy about which one of the half-dozen or so local 500+ member churches I belong to. Doing so gives me the freedom to VERY OCCASIONALLY write about something that has happened in church.

That said, having Chalicechick in your congregation was not in the job description of any of my ministers and they shouldn't have to be worried that if they say something I disagree with in church they will get trashed on the internet. (I doubt this would keep them up nights anyway, but still...)

I do my best to never let my YRUUs be identifiable at all, ideally not even to people within the group. But I don't write about them often, so that's easy.

My policy on my own name, as people have noted in the comments, is considerably more lax. Most people, even some people who like to mess with my head, know my name. I tend to assume if you don't know my name, it's because you don't care. I always kind of liked that just about everyone knew Wonkette's real name, yet she kept her blogging persona separate. I like the same thing in the guy who writes Waiter Rant, whose name is also public information. Like with Wonkette and The Waiter, however, a quick google will give you plenty of information about me, also my real name is doubly obvious to Facebook members.

If anybody doubts that I'm just as tough on John Edwards and/or anyone I'm arguing with in person when they know my name, they have my invitation to ask theCSO about that one. I find the idea that I would be less confrontational if people knew my name a little strange. If I backed down from controversy in person, law would not be the career for me, and indeed, in my current job I deal with people who hate my firm and everything we stand for all the time.

Honestly, CC differs from the woman who writes her the most in that CC is less afraid to be vulnerable when she writes about sad things. As a kid, I wasn't encouraged to express emotions even though I was unhappy a lot of the time. I find it easier to do so in writing and most of my posts about my family are me working on how I feel about the situation. (Which probably makes it terribly hypocritical of me to make fun of livejournalers. Ah well...)

At the same time, I know from experience that if I'm too depressing, I don't get comments, so I try to keep sad posts few and far between. Also, my readers don't like it when I write about sex and don't comment. It's possible you think I'm funny looking, but I prefer to imagine you are safegaurding my employment prospects by encouraging me to be more dignified.

I said I had a point, and I do. After years of blogging, I can answer all of these questions. But the answers aren't what they would have been a few years ago and in some cases are answers I could not have articulated before I set down to answer the questions half an hour ago and really thought about them.

I started a blog because I wrote a lot and because I felt like it and I have hundreds of readers a day and have been no slouch at the UU blog awards. I've made amazing friends and have awesome commenters and as far as I can tell no small amount of whuffle in the UU blogger community.

Blogging is an art, not a science, yo. If you have something to say, don't let "Oh, but I haven't developed a commenter policy" or "But I hear video blogging is the next hot thing and I would have to have a free written blog that I update from the public library" stand in your way.

Here's my advice for starting a UU blog.

1. Read lots of blogs. Respond to what people say. If you have been commenting at the Chaliceblog and I think you're good, I will pimp posts of yours I like and your blog in general if I realize you've started one because I want thoughtful, cool, voices to be heard. Commenting on other people's blogs is I believe the only marketing I've ever done for the Chaliceblog, though of course that various aggregators list me helps, too.

2. Write about what you care about. Make us care about it too. If you write with thoughtfulness and passion, we will. Subject matter is WAY less important than you think it is. As far as I'm concerned, the greatest novel of the 20th century was written about an incompetent hot dog vendor who also couldn't make it as a file clerk at a pants factory. (If you had to click, you owe it to yourself to buy the book. CC cried buckets and laughed some, too, and in reading it came to some serious insights about the world.)

3. Write about what you think and feel about things in balance. Too much think is boring, too much feel is Livejournal.

4. Don't be afraid to be wrong. My "being wrong" policy is "If I'm wrong and you can convince me of it, I will apologize and either correct the post obviously or write a whole new post. If I'm wrong in the comments, I will correct it in the commnets" I've done it plenty of times. Most of us are wrong a lot. The people who you have to watch out for are the people who never admit it. Either they don't say anything much, they are dishonest, or they can't see their own wrongness.

5. Go to*. Sign up. Write. It really is that simple. If you need to, make yourself write every day in the beginning until having an interesting thought and thinking "Hey, I could blog this" is second nature.


*Yes, there are lots of different places one can start a blog. But blogger is very easy for a beginner and you can always move your blog later.

Robin Edgar's good idea.

Robin wrote in response to my post about the UUA ad: If you like this ad so much CC why don't you make a substantial donation to help pay for it?

So I did. And you can too by clicking on this link.

Ok, what's "substantial" for me isn't going to buy any ads on its own, but I gave enough that I thought twice about giving that much.

FWIW, the UUA is finally taking American Express and you get a nifty thank-you note immediately after you donate. You also get a chance to send them comments. I made it clear in my comment that the non-pandering tone was a major reason that I was donating and that further ads with a similar message would elicit further donations from me.

So, yeah, if you like this ad and want to see more ads like it, send the UUA a bit of change to let them know they did a good job. Even if you can only give five bucks, you're contributing to their fundraising numbers and letting them know that their ad got a response from the membership.

who worked in political fundraising for a bit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I kid you not, this is a real game.

Response from Janet Hayes re: Post-Christian

Reprinted from an email with permission, though Hayes requests that if there are further comments for her, people contact her directly.

So I guess she's not looking to become a Chalicesseur.

Ah well.


Dear (CC):

If spokespeople had editing rights on all published news articles, reading the morning paper would be a very different experience.

In the 20+ interviews I did after the Knoxville shootings, I spoke mostly with reporters who knew very little about Unitarian Universalism, and nearly all of them wanted a yes-or-no answer to the question, “Is Unitarian Universalism a Christian church?” My usual response is something like the explanation included in the Post article: "We include the teachings of Jesus and we appreciate the wisdom of the Bible, but we don't limit our sources of inspiration to the Christian faith." When there’s a reasonably in-depth discussion, as there was in this interview (it lasted nearly an hour), I can add more information about our theological history and current diversity. But I can’t control what gets printed. And, to be fair, a reporter can’t control how her copy gets edited after she submits it. So PR people learn to be very forgiving. In this case I explained that, while we have individuals and congregations who identify primarily as Christian, the Association as a whole is no longer under the Christian umbrella, although sociologists often include us among “post-Christian” religious groups. The term is technically accurate and relatively useful in that it communicates our Christian heritage, but it’s not as meaningful, in my opinion, as the more nuanced explanations we prefer (sadly, news writing is rarely friendly to nuance).

So, even though the reporter didn’t get that one point precisely right, I’m grateful to her for including the lengthier and more revealing explanation. She also did several things that add tremendous value to an “earned media” placement. She interviewed a UU theologian, covered a local event, included recent GA resolutions on social justice issues, quoted Bill Sinkford, and refused to play Sophomore Journalism by seeking a contrary opinion from “the other side” (usually a representative from a group hostile to UUism or its values). Most importantly, she was genuinely engaged in the topic, and my office is developing a good relationship with her.

This may not seem like much to someone outside the profession, but it represents far more work and effort than go into the vast majority of news articles. Most of the 400+ stories published about the UUA’s response to Knoxville simply snipped a few lines from our press releases -- which is why we write press releases in the first place, so that’s fine. But we’re thrilled when a reporter goes so much further.

I always tell UUs that the best public relations work comes from individual Unitarian Universalists. In the end, it’s not about finding the right category to define us, or what words I do or don’t use in an interview. It’s about how UUs all over the world are living and representing our faith. Many UUs have responded to the Knoxville tragedy with letters to editor, op-eds, and invitations to reporters to visit their congregations. I hope you’ll consider doing something similar by reaching out with your own message to your local community. The more voices we lift up, the more complete our message will be.

If you have other questions, please feel free to call me to discuss them.


Janet Hayes
Public Relations Director
Unitarian Universalist Association
25 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108

Hey, you West Coast folks...

Chalicechick's IRL pal Lisa-the-Foodie is on the west coast for a year and is hanging out and reviewing restaurants.

Check her blog out. It's nifty.

And feel free to buy me that large sculpture of a cone of french fries that she saw in Fremont. It would look pretty spiff in my yard.


Nice New York Times ad, IMHO

I finally got a look at the UUA's New York times ad about Knoxville and I like it.

It's nicely non-victimy in that its message is pretty much "we're going to keep doing what we're doing and if you like us you're welcome to join us and if you don't, oh well." I'd say this is a pretty good membership message in general. It's more or less the one that recruited me.

I hate it when we pander. The whole "We're the church for you, really, really, we are!" message bugs me and I get nervous when we start talking about recruiting certain demographics of people, even and perhaps especially when those demographics include me.

As I've mentioned before, my ideal church ad campaign is the one the methodists ran several years ago. It had a very similar sort of "we're doing awesome things over here. If you want to join us, our doors are always open" tone. I hope we can keep this tone for other ads.

Good stuff.

I've had some arguments with individuals, but on the whole I'm proud of my church and the UUA and how we've responded to this. For a church with some groups that really like to play the victim, there has been very little self-labeled victimization*. I haven't seen the UUA Washington office using the shootings to make political points. (And honestly, I really expected to.)

My faith in Unitarian Universalism as a concept never really flags. But I'm feeling a lot better about the UUA these days.**


*But then, I'm pretty sure that the Knoxville church was targeted because it had been accepting and done good. (Either as far as homosexuality or as far as the ex-wfie is concerned, I tend to think the latter.) It's hard to feel like a victim when you know that the violence has just strengthened your resolve to keep doing good for other people. Victims make the violence (and indeed, themselves) the center of their experience. Non-victims take awhile to recognize what has happened, try to fix things, but ultimately move forward.

There's not much fixing to be done here in my opinion, though I get that that's what the "blame O'Reilly" folks are trying to do despite my huge disagreements with them.

Ultimately, we need to mourn those killed but move forward, and I think this ad is a perfectly reasonable step in this direction.

**Of course, it's easy to have faith in a theoretical ideal. Keeping faith in an organization made up of actual falliable people is harder.

CC starts her own holiday.

Rev Ricky has kindly pointed out that August 16 is Madonna's birthday, the day Elvis died and now it is Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi's wedding anniversary.

I hereby decree August 16 to be "Awesome Day," a day where we should all pause and celebrate all that is Awesome.


Ps. It's also Rev Ricky's birthday.

Monday, August 18, 2008

May nothing Evil cross our doors

There's a church in Fairfax County that doesn't lock its doors.

It never has, as far as I know.

I was introduced to it about fifteen years ago. I was a teenager, questioning my faith and very depressed, and a boy took me there in the middle of the night to sing hymns. (This probably sounds a little precious to you, but I can assure you that to a teenage girl, it was great stuff and it helped me out a lot. I hope I made out with him in a serious way after we left the church. I'm sure I did.)

I've never forgotten that this church is unlocked. It's not a UU church, but it's a church just the same and I've been there a couple more times in the middle of the night in what felt like desperate circumstances and I've always found peace there, not so much for praying as for thinking in an environment conducive to looking beyond one's own problems and taking the long view.

Every time I've ever been, I've written an anonymous thank-you in the guestbook indicating that I was there in the middle of the night and that I was grateful that the church had been unlocked when I needed it.

By contrast, I've heard a lot about security measures at UU churches recently. People want to lock the doors during the service, to check packages, to let nothing evil cross our doors. A Chalicesseur actually attended a service yesterday where the church was locked from inside during the service.

I get the temptation.

But please, please don't.

I probably should have written this a couple of weeks ago as I did see this coming*.
But I was hoping that the "random whackjob wanting to hurt his ex-wife" explanation would be the commonly accepted one rather than the "holy war against liberalism" explanation.

Either way, locks and security won't keep evil from our doors if evil really wants to get in, but they will eat away at our feeling of safety with each other, our feeling that the church is a place we can come to that will be available for us.

I get that all churches can't be like my beloved church in Fairfax County. Indeed, with the world we live in, the "always unlocked" policy must be terribly controversial within the church itself. I am fairly confident that I will need that church again some awful night, and not at all confident that I won't find the doors soundly locked.

But we can't be locking people out on Sunday mornings.

If we start, those shootings will have damaged us in a much more widespread and serious way than merely killing two of our number.

And Evil will have won.


*Us Washingtonians know a bit about threats and the way people react to them.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Can't help lovin' that man of mine

TheCSO and I were having dinner in a trendy local restaurant* when the following conversation occured:

CC: We totally need to find him a girlfriend. I just feel bad for him.

TheCSO: Yeah?

CC: Yeah, as far as I can tell, he wakes up, eats, works, goes for a run, has dinner talks on the phone for awhile, then sleeps.

TheCSO: We could liven up his life significantly even without a girlfriend.

CC: Really?

TheCSO: Oh yeah, at the end of the day he could be like "Dear Diary, today I woke up, went to work, chased rabid squirrels out of my office, worked, went for a run, talked on the phone, got my utilities reconnected, then went to sleep." That would be a much more exciting day.

CC: You're an asshole.

TheCSO: Nah, if I were an asshole, he'd also have to convince the DMV that he wasn't dead.

CC: I think this is why people don't come to you with their personal problems very often.


*This is a total lie. We were at Red Lobster.

Lick it, Lips!

As a public service, I'd like to inform you that there will be a Rocky Horror Picture Show Convention in Atlantic City the weekend of September 28.

I'm so tempted to go just to people watch.

who, with Joe-the-Math-Guy, theCSO and a bunch of her college amigos once forced the Rialto theater in Raleigh to impose a limit on the number of rolls of toilet paper one person could bring in after we brought in a dozen rolls apeice. (WalMart had a sale.)

Ah, the halcyon days of my misspent youth.

CC's turn to state what she thinks is the obvious

Longtime commenter Kim C., who almost never completely agrees with me but has been reading this blog since I've been writing it, likes to mention that logic courses should really be tought in the public schools.

I'm seeing the need for that this morning.

It's come to my attention that in a thread on Radical Hapa that I wasn't reading because I thought nobody was posting to it anymore, somebody has taken my statement:

“Or to put it another way, if he was going to shoot up a symbol of liberalism, the local offices of the Obama campaign would have made more sense. My guess is he wanted to shoot up someplace where his ex-wife had been happy and found support, and scrawled some concerns about politics to give his actions greater meaning. ”

to be an actual endorsement of shooting up the Obama campaign office.

Put in symbolic logic terms, this looks like

"If L, then O" is being taken as an endorsement of the "If L, then O" course of action. This is a fallacy. I'm not recalling if is has a name, and if it does, I'm not sure what that name is.*

But let's look at some equivilent examples:

"If you're going to let your seven-year-old play with that grenade, don't let her pull the pin" is not an endorsement of letting your seven year old play with the grenade.

"If you're going to have sex with Charlie Sheen, at least wear a condem" is not an endorsement of having sex with Charlie Sheen.

Now what I actually wrote was a little more complicated, in that I was using the fact that he chose to shoot up a church rather than a campaign office to speculate on his motives in what I think was a pretty clear "Goodness knows I don't know what this guy was thinking, but this makes sense to me" frame of mind.**

Equivilent examples:

-If the PETA activist had intended to murder Anna Wintour, he probably would have thrown something more deadly than a pie. My guess is that his motivation was not to murder her, but to embarass her in front of the press.

-If she had intended to commit check fraud and steal money, she probably would have written her check for more than five dollars. My guess is that her bouncing that check was just an accident.

Now, just so we are completely clear, in making those statements, I have neither endorsed murdering Anna Wintour nor committing check fraud.

This is interesting to me because this particular type of fallacy comes up a lot in politics where, for example, a common argument against comprehensive sex education is "Telling the kids to use condoms if they are going to have sex encourages them to have sex."

who is probably going to get seriously nitpicked on the logic parts of this post, but thinks she's substantially correct.

*CC's last logic course was about ten years ago. But she did get an A.

**Item: Had I phrased this as a declaration of a definitive truth, that would have been me making a fallacy of my own, sort of a contrapositive affirming of the consequent. But it was clearly phrased as speculation and what made sense to me.

(Oh, and hat tip to Steve Caldwell for linking to the thread and reminding me it was there.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Against her better judgment, CC saw Mamma Mia

By myself, because the only person who wanted to see it was Cubit and she has been out of town.

I have to say that I agree with Peacebang's take pretty much fully.

I'd like to add that there was sufficient Christine Baranski. (I had been wondering about this.)

One note, as I watched the movie I was totally, TOTALLY, wanting Christine Baranski and Julie Walters to hook up. I was really hoping that "Take a Chance on Me" was being saved for that. How much cooler would that scene have been if it had been Christine Baranski walking across those tables toward Julie Walters?*


*I always do this. I'm such a Yenta for movie characters. I had high hopes for James Marsden and Queen Latifah in "Hairspray". There was chemistry there, kids.

Masters of the Obvious

I've been participating with great enthusiasm in the debates about UUA spokesperson Janet Hayes' use of the term "Post Christian" to describe us in the Washington Post.

Over at Infidelity, the Administrator was asking what the deal was as he/she saw it as a legitimate description, and I answered as follows:

I’m of the camp that no matter the theological accuracy of the term, it sounds really snotty.

The comparison I used at Radical Hapa was the word “Niggardly.” Now “Niggardly” comes from Norwegian, means “stingy” and is a perfectly grammatically correct term to use if you want to describe, say, Uncle Scrooge.

That said, it is a term that SOUNDS offensive to the average audience and spokespeople shouldn’t be using the term because it distracts from the message by drawing a lot of attention to itself because it sounds like it means something offensive even though it doesn’t.

Much like you can say “niggardly” all you want in Oslo, the term “post-Christian” is perfectly OK in theologically educated company that knows what it means. (There are smart people on both sides of the question of whether it applies to UUism, but it is, at least, something that can be argued.)

But if you’re using the term, say, in an interview with reporters, and not explaining it, you are likely needlessly pissing people off and if you’re a spokesperson, you shouldn’t be doing that.

Steve Caldwell pointed out that Hayes had given the term the following explanation:

“We include the teaching of Jesus and we appreciate the wisdom of the Bible, but we don’t limit our sources of inspiration to the Christian faith.”

And the frightening thing is, a lot of people who go to our churches probably do see that as sufficient justification for giving ourselves a new name, e.g. "post Christian."

The fact that looking beyond the Christian faith for inspiration is really freaking obvious even to (non-post) Christians seems to go unnoticed. I mean, my Dad is a serious Christian, but if you had asked him to name five inspiring things, I can guarantee you that he would've responded with five peices of music.*

Along similar lines, I am constantly urging UUs not to answer "what do UUs believe" with the seven principles. Because the seven principles are, well, obvious to most people who are even remotely relgiously liberal. I again invoke my parents and the Chalicerelative, because I know their take on Christianity pretty well. None of them would bat an eyelash at the Seven Principles.

Looking over the seven principles, once you get past the "What does inherent dignity mean and are you sure Hitler has it?" discussion that everybody always wants to have, the only point I can see as being even remotely controversial is "use of the democratic process within our congregations," and that's only controversial in churches where the polity really differs from ours.

Some people really like the seven principles, but I'd say they are pretty meaningless as definitions go.

My answer to "What do UUs believe?" varies with my perceptions of the audience but is usually along the lines of "I can't tell you what all UUs believe, because we believe different things. I can tell you what I believe, and I can tell you that UUism isn't so much a belief system as a system of arriving at and exploring belief by refining it through reason."

And then I wait for the "Well, do you believe in...?" questions to begin because people never quite get that on the first hearing.

But returning to the intended central point of this post, I am flummoxed by how often people will define us in these loose, weird ways and by stating beliefs that are really pretty self-evident.

I've observed in the past that sometimes really smart people have a poor grasp of what's obvious to the rest of us. One of the smartest people I know once very carefully and slowly explained the concept of what was essentially "immortality through one's work" to me as he'd thought of it himself and he wasn't sure I could get it. I mentioned Woody Allen's take on the issue* and it seemed to surprise him that the idea was popularly understood.****

But I don't think us all being too smart to get what's obvious is really the issue.

Any ideas on what is?


*When he could talk, but that's another story

**Also, because the seven principles are an ideal that we don't live up to. I don't have a problem with UUs not always living up to their principles, I haven't ever run across a religion where everybody did, but I tend to like to answer questions from outsiders within a more reality-based framework.

*** "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying."

****This can also work the other way. LinguistFriend and the future Mrs. Linguistfriend once slipped into German at the breakfast table, not noticing the flummoxed expressions on the faces of everyone else at the table. It was adorable.

Nice Quote from PG in the Comments

Joe the Math Guy's post a few posts down is still getting a small trickle of discussion, and PG said something I found particularly apt:

Civil disobedience without a willingness to spend a night in Birmingham jail isn't particularly admirable.


who argued this one out at Ogre's blog at some length a few months ago.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My last John Edwards post for awhile (Work safe, but barely)

I might have been looking at all of this the wrong way.

I've been running under the assumption that there would be a mass outpouring of sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards after the nation found out that John Edwards had cheated on her cancer-stricken self.

Last night a friend of mine pointed me to This story, which is that Rush Limbaugh's comment on the matter was "What could have John Edwards' motivations been to have the affair with Rielle Hunter, given his wife is smarter than he is and probably nagging him a lot about doing this, and he found somebody that did something with her mouth other than talk."

Now, I think this is an understandable confusion on Rush's part. Can I see a show of hands from the Chalicesseur ladies? How many of you have given head to Rush Limbaugh?

Me neither. So he may just be overapplying his own experience and assuming that no other guys are getting any either.

Now, in all fairness to Elizabeth, I should point out that even if she was, umm, doing her marital duty in this sense, I find it very unlikely that John Edwards was doing his. I mean, guys who are overly concerned about their hair don't tend to be very good at it, when they try at all.

OK, I'm done.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gah. John Edwards.

I should clarify that, again, I'm not that interested in the "cheating on his wife" aspect, except as it relates to the election. I am not completely without sympathy to either the Edwardses having had "an arrangement" (which I doubt) or John Edwards just plain wanting to fuck somebody who wasn't dying, and indeed, in doing so affirm life (seems more likely), I really think the American people wouldn't sit for cheating on the cancer patient and it would have cost the Democrats the election had he become the nominee, particularly as he was running as a values candidate and a (snort) "women's candidate" in a way that Clinton didn't.

I can see wanting to run for president and getting people to believe in you. I can see wanting some pleasure when looking at your wife just depresses you. I just think you need to pick one because if you try to do both, you're asking the people who support you to risk a lot on your ability to keep things hidden and you really have no business doing that.

I've noticed that whenever a politician has an affair, I'm never pissed about the affair itself. Indeed, Clinton pretty much got a pass from me because the Starr report makes it so very clear that Monica came on to him over and over and that he really seemed to do his best to try to be responsible about it, all things considered. (Having read the Starr report makes so many of the assumptions people make about how L'affaire Lewinsky actually happened fascinating. My favorite is when people call him a "sex addict." Lewinsky freely admits that Clinton only got like something like four orgasms out of the whole affair. Know any alcoholics who only have four drinks a year?)

But Clinton aside, whenever a politician has an affair, there seems to be some extra kick of selfish asshole behavior that always gets me. Spitzer doesn't want his hooker to wear condoms*, Giuliani steals from the poor to fund getaways with his mistress, and yes, now Edwards has to do it right before he runs for president, having to know that his wife's cancer means that if the information ever gets out he's screwing over the people who believed in him.

But THIS just plain sucks if it's true. (If I find out it isn't true, I will retract this post or at least put up a correction.)

I'm trying not to make too much of this, despite the fact that I to some degree feel like I saw it coming because I got such a self-serving shmuck vibe from Edwards.

It's pretty difficult to truly disgust me, yet I feel disgusted by the whole thing.


*Yes, I know that pretty much no man wants to wear condoms. But this is a HOOKER we're talking about! And your wife is awesome!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On proper use of the word "Zen"

James takes me to task, and justly so, in the comments on my previous post.

He writes: I realize this is an exercise in futility, particularly against the cultural weight of the Daily Show's "moment of Zen," but I am saddened to see my religious tradition trivialized by this precious term being reduced to mean non-sequitur...

Or not...

My intention with using the word "Zen," was to nudge at how the game was pointing at a simple kind of self-exploration and examination of what one desires (and in my case that all I really know about Alan Rickman is that he's a nice looking actor with a rich and sexy voice, and anything else I might crave in him is something I put there with my own perceptions,) with the "or not" as a reminder that this was, after all, a Honda website I was looking at and a game at that.

At the same time, it was still trivializing and I've used it even less correctly before as my circle of friends tends to use "I'm pretty zen about not getting the promotion" to mean "I have dealt with the inherent badness of not getting the promotion and have attained a sort of balance and mental peace with the idea that I'm not getting promoted."

But that's still misusing and trivializing and I will try not to use it badly again.

Sorry about that.


That's, like, zen, or not.

"Do you crave Pizza?" the google ad asked.

"Not really," I thought.

"Whatever you're craving, the Crave Reader can figure it out. Try it!"

Ummm... OK. I thought. I was needing a break from the tedious thing I was doing anyway.

So I clicked. It made me watch a little video about the Honda CR-V, then we settled down to business.

Is what you're craving "Animal, Vegetable or Mineral, other or unknown?"

Well, I thought, Alan Rickman is certainly an animal.

"Does it like to run?"
He doesn't look like a runner to me, but he is in good shape. Unknown

"Is it larger than a microwave oven?"
Heh. Yes.

"Is it furry?"
Judging by the video where he takes his shirt off, No.

"Does it bring joy to people?"
Hell, yes.

"Can you control it?"
Umm... Well, what Mr. Rickman and I do behind closed doors is nobody's business but our own, I'd say. But yeah, I'd say he can be controlled Sometimes, most people can.

Is it larger than a country?

Can it be used for transportation?

Can you dress it up?
I think, of course, of Neville imagining Snape in the old lady dress in Harry Potter 3. Yes

Does it hop?
Alan Rickman doesn't strike me as a hopper. No.

Would you find it in an office?
Well, Snape has an office but the Sheriff of Nottingham didn't. So, Sometimes.

Does it like to be petted?
Who doesn't? Yes.

Is it worth a lot of money.
Yes, most movie stars are.

Is it brown?
Well, he tans nicely, but I'm going to say No.

Can you stretch it?

Is it commonly used?

Is it usually colorful?
No. He plays pretty drab characters.

Is it subject to interpretation?
Yes. Isn't everything?

Is it a wild animal?
Heh. I always imagine him that way. But I'm going to go with a literal interpretation of that question and say "no."

Does it play music?
I think I've seen him do so in one movie or another, so, "sometimes"

I think I've got it, the website says. Fabulous, because I was getting bored.

What you crave is... YOURSELF!

It shows a picture of a CR-V with a mirror in the back.

I think of Robertson Davies' line "I don't think he means it quite that way. When he talks about Sweden, I think it is a mystical rather than a geographical concept. When he talks of Sweden, he means himself, whether he knows it or not."

And I click away.

who had to go through that whole thing again to write this.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Postcard from CC

Having a wonderful time, wish you were here. Ok, perhaps not all of
you. It's a small museum


Why did the dinosaur cross the road?

Because the chicken hadn't evolved yet!

Who has a major soft spot for nerdy kids

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Guest Post from Joe-the-Math-Guy

I read up on a few 1st amendment cases on which the Supreme Court has ruled, and I thought I would comment on this free speech thread. I am getting some of the information on these cases from Wikipedia, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.

The "clear and present danger" language that PG uses apparently comes from the case that fausto referred to: Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919). During World War I, Schenck had distributed literature opposing the military draft to men eligible for the draft. The Federal Government held that this violated the Espionage Act of 1917. The Supreme Court upheld Schenck's criminal conviction unanimously, with Holmes writing the opinion. Holmes' "clear and present danger" standard reads as follows:

"The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

The "substantive evil" in this case is obstruction of the recruiting or enlistment service during a time of war. I read through the opinion and could not find a general criterion for determining which things these "substantive evils" are. I may be being somewhat unfair to Holmes and the other justices, but to me the content of this seems to be: your freedom of speech can be curtailed whenever, in the view of the government, your speech would lead to bad results.

I am very sorry for the innocent people who were killed, but in my view the 1st amendment must have more force than that.


The Supreme Court's interpretation of the 1st amendment has been considerably liberalized since the Schenck ruling. As far as I can tell, PG's interpretation is indeed the interpretation currently in force, but that is a fairly recent thing. The key here is "imminent lawless action," not "clear and present danger." The key case was Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).

Clarence Brandenberg was an Ohio KKK leader who had been convicted of advocating violence under an Ohio Criminal Syndicalism statute.
During a KKK rally, Brandenburg had called for "revengeance" against "niggers," "Jews," and those who support them. The Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, reversed the conviction. Justices Black and Douglas wrote concurring opinions. The view here was that inflammatory speech could not be punished unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action. I think that the "imminent" aspect gets at what PG was referring to when she indicated that the victims have to be concretely specified and available at the time the speech is occurring.

This is just about the most absolutist interpretation of the 1st Amendment I could imagine. I am delighted at the thought that this is not some fantasy of the way our country might be run, or should be run, or maybe somehow someday could be run, but rather simply the rules down on paper for how it is to be run right this minute. Most certainly we should not give this up for a security that surely would be temporary and illusory.

If it is saddening to think that the 1st Amendment protects the likes of Hannity and Coulter, please keep in mind that it might well be the single most substantial piece of legislation protecting you--from them.
Joe the Math Guy

(JTMG put this in the comments today and I liked it and asked him if I could make it a guest post.  He kindly agreed.  He's an old friend of mine and wicked smaht.)

"Friends? Hah. These are my only friends. Grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal.  And HE's kissed more boys than I ever will."

--Lisa Simpson

Become a misanthrope—Get a SmartCar

As I sat in the parking lot of the Calabash, North Carolina Hardee’s, changing a tire as half a dozen people watched me and asked questions, I realized my SmartCar was seriously making me start to hate humanity.

And I don’t know what to do about it.

I realize I do own a red convertible. That said, I’m not intentionally being the person who exhibits attention-seeking behavior, then complains about the attention. I suppose some comparison in this direction is inevitable, and maybe I deserve it a little bit. But I like small cars and I’ve always wanted a convertible. TheCSO insisted we buy a red or yellow car because SmartCars are, well, really really small and he wanted me to be as easy to see as possible. I really didn’t buy a SmartCar to meet people.

But meet people I do, constantly.

And I really hate it. I’ve started to look at the world with a suspicious eye. When people approach me in parking lots, I’m already thinking “Don’t ask about the mileage, don’t ask how much I paid for it and for the love of God, don’t make fun of it.”

I mostly drive with the top up, in part because when people know it’s a convertible, they talk to me about it all the more

I can be, I think, a pretty nice person. I do a lot for other people and a lot for my friends. I am fond of almost everyone I know.

But I am seriously starting to dislike strangers.

I’m chubby and fairly plain with nice, even features but on the whole am not particularly impressive physically. When I was younger, I fantasized about being really, really, beautiful and how wonderful it would be. As I got older, I started to suspect that I would find the attention would get old. Now I’m certain I would despise it. I can’t even take people fussing over my car.

This all hit an apex this afternoon, when a tire that had a slow leak suddenly went completely flat. I noticed it in the parking lot of a CVS. There was a Hardee’s two blocks away. I had postcards to write and I just didn’t feel like I could deal with the flat tire this very second. So I drove the car two block and parked it behind Hardee’s, flat tire facing away from the restaurant.

I went in to Hardee’s, got a soda and wrote my postcards. Perhaps half a postcard in, one of the employees comes up to me.

“Does that thing run on water?”

“Huh?” I said. I always play dumb when people ask me about my car. Might as well make the conversation a little annoying for them, too.

“Is that your red car?”


“Is it one of those cars that runs on water?”

“No,” I said. “It runs on gas.”

She went away. Half a postcard later, she was back.

“Does it cost twenty dollars to fill the gas tank?”

“More like thirty,” I said.

I was almost done with the postcards when she came back again. “My manager was taking out the trash and he said you have a flat tire.”

“I know. I’m going to take care of it now, I just wanted a drink first.”

“Ok, because the tire is flat. He saw it when he was taking out the trash.”

“I’ll take care of it.” I said. At this point the lady really was trying to be nice, but I really, really wanted to be left the fuck alone. I threw out the soda, stuffed the postcards in my pocket and headed for the door.

I have a full-sized spare and could have changed it there, but I just wanted to be out of there, so I pulled out the tire pump, a little machine that attaches to a bottle of fix-a-flat-type-stuff. As I attached the pump to the tire and to the cigarette lighter in the car, the lady who worked at Hardee’s and a guy who I assumed was her manager came out to watch. They were soon joined by a couple who had been in the Hardee’s and some teenagers who had been walking across the parking lot.

“It’s such a cute little thing.”
“What’s she doing?”
“Pumping up the tire.”
“I could never fit my kids in that car…”

I couldn’t get to 36 psi fast enough. Finally, it was done and I unhooked the pump and threw it into the passenger’s seatwell. The crown dispersed, I drove away.

But I was left with a sense of unease about the whole situation. Sure, it was annoying, and it would have been nice if someone had actually offered to help, but this IS appreciation, right? I mean people fuss over my car because they think it’s cool.

I tell myself this over and over.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Quick notes from the road

- Boy am I ever cheesed off at John Edwards. IMHO, not much could straight-up give McCain the election right now, but if Edwards had been the nominee, him having to admit that he cheated on his cancer-stricken wife would have done it. Yet he was running anyway. I feel justified in every bit of my prior snark about him. His seeming willingness to risk handing the election to the Rs seriously pisses me off. Did he REALLY think he could get away with it? Was he REALLY willing to risk four years of the presidency over it? Did the poor folks he claimed to care about, who will surely suffer under McCain REALLY actually mean that little to him? His entitled asshattedness appalls me.

You want to fuck someone who isn't your cancer-stricken wife? Fine. But don't fuck over the people who believe in you.

- Clarifications of the previous post.

1. I am a firm believer in Gary Larson's image of God having jars of people labeled "black people," "white people," "brown people," "Jerks," though the sort of person who shoots up a church certainly deserves a harsher term than "jerk."
IMHO, it's not an accident that school shootings have gone up as lynchings have gone down. I'd say that there are always violent fuckups in the world and when it is societally acceptable to some degree to call their actions part of some sort of ideologically-based war, they are happy to do so, but they would have been just as happy to claim another purpose as long as they got their evil little rocks off.

2. If Hannity et al are calling for actual violence against specific people, give me a torch and I will join the mob and/or you can save us all some lighter fluid and call the cops. Barring actual threats of violence, I don't see the "fire in a crowded theatre" connection. Could someone provide me with some specifics on what exactly these folks have said that could theoretically have moved somebody to violence? I don't think calling liberals evil or comparing them to despots qualifies, or if it does, we need to take a hard look at ourselves.

OK, back to vacation.

Noting that she writes a lot of things in a sort of modified outline form these days. It'e like she's a law student or something...

Almost there

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ann Coulter and the TVUUC

Part of me loves and appreciates posts like these.

At the same time, I worry about the anger toward the right wing. I'm no fan of Ann Coulter, but frankly, everything I've ever heard about this guy has had me thinking about that I don't like Mondays woman. I really doubt that the shooter's ex-wife's church became the focus of his anger by much more than chance. Yes, we're liberal, but this guy certainly sounds like he could have just as easily started fixating on her bowling alley.

Or to put it another way, if he was going to shoot up a symbol of liberalism, the local offices of the Obama campaign would have made more sense. My guess is he wanted to shoot up someplace where his ex-wife had been happy and found support, and scrawled some concerns about politics to give his actions greater meaning.

Yeah, he liked Sean Hannity. But there are a hell of a lot of people who like Sean Hannity who don't shoot up our churches and I don't think this incident should be used to paint them all with the same brush, much as I disagree with them.

I know, most people are making some distinctions here, but I'm still worried about what I'm reading. People of all faiths and all political perspectives have been reaching out to us. I don't want our worries about what's on their bookshelves to keep us from reaching back.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sweet mother of all that's swell, my tags are caught up!

I devoted a lunch hour to catching up my tags.

As always, I've only tagged posts that I thought were worth tagging. If my post was only a link or a photo or I just decided I didn't like it very much, I didn't bother.

I added some new categories, too and will at some point go back through and update some of the old posts to add new tags.

As always "Livejournal-Esque" is my narrative tag and tracks my more narrative posts.

"Padawans enlightened" is about YRUU.

I think the rest are pretty self-explanatory.


By oddly, I'd say, popular request

Here's a closeup of the robot

No, seriously, I've gotten at least three e-mails on the subject.


Dr. Steven Hayne is toast, wahoo!

I don't know that I've written about him, but for quite some time I've been following this guy's career and becoming more and more appalled at what a universally recognized fuckup he seems to be, despite the fact that prosecutors kept calling on him to perform autopsies because they know he's their bitch.

For the full story on this shmuck and why his firing is a blow for justice check out Radley Balko's story about him in Reason



Monday, August 04, 2008

XKCD rocks mightily.


I played this song for Joe-the-Math-Guy and he loved it.

I apologize for the utter crappiness of the picture quality. It's the best that YouTube had.

This is the bootleg version of the video of Bree Sharp's "David Duchovny" that the X-files cast and crew made for Duchovny's birthday. It has a fuckton of celebrites including Alex Trebek, Jeanine Garafalo, Melissa Etheridge and Sarah Michelle Geller. And Kiss.

Trust me, this thing is so awesome it's like sex and a pizza wrapped up in a burrito and served by Mr. T*.

who wants the Chaliceblog to be everybody's source for ridiculous YouTube videos about moody, sexy actors.

*Simile stolen from somebody else. But worth repeating.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Today in church, we did something really great.

We prayed for the guy who shot up the congregation in Tennessee.

I don’t pray often, to be honest. My conception of God is that God is a force not at all unlike gravity, pulling at us all the time and changing the way things behave in ways that are so seamless with our reality that we can be forgiven for missing God’s presence. (Yes, you can argue this one out with me if you wish, but that’s not really the point of this post.)

So when I do pray, I’m pretty aware that I’m talking mostly to myself.

I’m also aware of Robertson Davies’ comment “Prayer is petition, intercession, adoration, and contemplation; great saints and mystics have agreed on this definition. To stop short at petition is to pray only in a crippled fashion. Further, such prayer encourages one of the faults which is most reprehended by spiritual instructors -- turning to God without turning from Self”

But I think I can be aware that I’m talking mostly to myself while at the same time trying to remove myself from selfish concerns. But am I motivated to try to remove my thoughts from selfish concerns by Pride or by wanting to feel good about myself for having done so? Eh… Dunno. Either way it seems like a good practice. And besides, we can’t ever completely leave ourselves out. We can look beyond ourselves to some degree, but we’re kind of stuck in the perspective we’re in. A dog who loves one still expresses his affection as dogs express affection.

Still, even among people who do pray as a regular thing, I don’t think praying for those who attack us is very common, even though the bible pretty much straight up says we should pray for everyone. (Ok, that’s the way I read I Timothy 2: 1-4*, given what jerks most of the biblical kings were.) It has given me great pride in Unitarian Universalism to hear about how forgiving we have been and how we have been reaching out in all directions spiritually, not just the easy ones.

Even though I’m a humanist who doesn’t pray much, I see it as crucial for our own dealing with this tragedy to look to the shooter with compassion in any way we can, prayer included**. When we reach out, to heaven and to one another, and call out to those whose personal concerns are well beyond our own, by the very nature of the act we are increasing our own awareness and growing spiritually. Will compassionate thoughts lead to compassionate action, leading to compassionate acts and feelings on the parts of others, setting off a chain of events that makes the world suck less?

Maybe not, but, hell, let’s give it a shot.


*1I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

2For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

3For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

**Ok, if prayer straight up doesn't work for you spiritually, you don't have to pray. Note again that I stretching the concept of prayer somewhat. But the ideas are still worth contemplating on and considering.