"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bug Art

This is just too cool. Sort of throws a whole new monkeywrench into the "What is Art?" issue.

There's something very Chinese about this one.

By all means, check out this site. (And yes, he's very careful of the bugs.)

You Can Tell When They're Really Afraid

If it hadn't been something that's happened before, particularly with Bush's "town meetings," this, from Steve Benen, would simply note one of those WTF? moments.

This is America for crying out loud. Somebody expects me to take a loyalty oath to a political party?

Get real.

Tasers, Brownshirts, and the Like

A lengthy and sobering post by Arthur Silber on tasers and how they reflect the worst trends in contemporary American society:

In brief: tasers can kill people, or cause very serious injury; tasers are "commonly used...to gain compliance" -- from people who are usually unarmed and who pose no serious threat whatsoever; and tasers are frequently used on suspects who have already been subdued and immobilized.

I don't really have a lot to add to this, but if you can get past the shrillness of some of the rhetoric (and keep in mind that Silber at his worst is sort of the left-wing equivalent of Malkin on a normal day), there's some interesting information. It's part three of a multi-part series, and just happens to be the one I stumbled across.

One thing that really jumps out, and it should be no surprise: every incident Silber discusses is marked by poor judgment, arrogance, and bullying on the part of the police. It's no secret that police and other paramilitary organizations tend to be attractive to a certain personality, those whose guns and nightsticks substitute for the penises they're afraid they don't have. There is also way too much of a club atmosphere in their dealings -- too many of the inquiries have exonerated the officers when the evidence is quite clear that they were overreaching, or even completely out of line.

And yes, this is relevant:

Last night Joe Klein sat in on one of Frank Luntz's focus group sessions for the Republican debate. It was one of those deals where each participant got a "dial" that allowed them to register instant approval or disapproval of what each candidate said. Klein's report:

In the next segment — the debate between Romney and Mike Huckabee over Huckabee's college scholarships for the deserving children of illegal immigrants — I noticed something really distressing: When Huckabee said, "After all, these are children of God," the dials plummeted. And that happened time and again through the evening: Any time any candidate proposed doing anything nice for anyone poor, the dials plummeted (30s).

The other big loser: John McCain saying we shouldn't torture people. In fact, it was an even bigger loser. It turns out that the only thing these GOP voters hated more than helping the poor was being told that it's wrong to torture people.

The UN, by the way, has declared tasering to be torture.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Love It When Wingnuts Debate

From Andrew Sullivan, this tidbit:

[Duncan] Hunter basically said that the military is a Judeo-Christian institution and therefore should keep gay service-members permanently under threat of being fired. At least Hunter is principled: when you are part of a religiously-based organization, the GOP, and believe that religion should define public institutions, including the military, of course, there needs to be an enforcement of religious moral norms in public service.

"Hunter is principled"?? 'Scuse me? This is why I think Sullivan is subject to fits of brainlessness brought on by too much navel-gazing. This is a man running for president of the United States, which not only declares religious freedom as part of the basic rights of every American, but also specifically states that there will be no religious test for any public office, who baldly states that our military is a "Judeo-Christian organization" and should maintain the religiously based moral norms inherent in that idea. Sullivan is willing to give Hunter the benefit of the doubt, apparently, by caving to his definitions. To me, a statement like that takes Hunter out of the realm of the principled immediately.

The disturbing part is thinking about how many of our top brass agree with Hunter. And I think I would limit that to upper brass -- a reader at TPM has this to say:

Are the Republican hopefuls really that naive? I'm an active duty officer currently in Korea. If they believe that the military is a Christian-right, conservative institution they need to spend a few nights in the "ville" around a military base here...they would be "shocked!" by what they saw. After 17+ years in the military, most of it overseas, nothing amazes me anymore. It would make most people's heads spin what goes on, on a daily basis, at bars and clubs here.

Although with the right-wing tolerance for cognitive dissonance, I'm sure the goings-on would fit within the category of "boys will be boys."

For color commentary on the rest of the debate, see this post from Down With Tyranny!

Support the Troops Note:

From Tapped:

In a breathtaking moment for us queer folk, a question submitted by an openly gay retired brigadier general was aired by Anderson Cooper, who is rumored to be gay. The general not only challenged the "Don't ask, don't tell" military policy; he did so by turning the tables. Why, he wanted to know, did the candidates not trust the professionalism of American soldiers to work with gay men and lesbians?

As it turns out, the good general was in the audience, and when Cooper gave the elderly gentleman -- who served more than 40 years in the military -- the microphone, Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr (ret.) was booed by an audience of Republicans. There's your patriotism for you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Somewhat Unfocused Post on Marriage

Mostly because I'm a little unfocused myself. Do you suppose it's from living on root beer, ginger ale, and vitamin C for a week?

However, this this somewhat puzzling post by Bean at LG&M generated some very interesting comments. Bean takes off from an OpEd by Stephanie Coontz which is largely an outline of the history of marriage as an institution that these days somewhat awkwardly straddles religious-governmental-private territory. However, I think Bean's comments miscast Coontz' piece:

Here's the nub of Coontz's argument:

Perhaps it’s time to revert to a much older marital tradition. Let churches decide which marriages they deem “licit.” But let couples — gay or straight — decide if they want the legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship.

I am with her 100%. When I suggested as much in my property class during my first year of law school, during a discussion of marital assets, people were shocked and appalled by the idea that marriage should be a religious institution and the state should be in the business only of civil unions for all couples, gay or straight. I would like to think that Coontz's piece is a sign that notions are changing. But then again, that law school discussion was only two years ago.

First off, Coontz' reference to "licit" marriage refers specifically to the Church's decision that only marriages performed in a church were licit, but that couple married outside a church were still married.

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

This obviously has nothing to do with whether "licit" marriages should alone carry the "married" status, as Bean seems to imply. Bean seems to be reinforcing the idea that the word "marriage" itself is essentially a term with religious connotations and that the churches should have exclusive authority for its use, which, as you well know at this point, I think is poppycock. In fact, one of the commenters points out:

As an anthropologist, I have to tell you that in the overwhelming majority of cultures in the world marriage is a secular and not religious institution. This, by the way, includes Islamic societies. Under Sharia (Islamic holy law) marriage is a civil contract negotiated between the parties. There are really only a handful of non-Judeo-Christian societies where marriage is a religious sacrament (including Hinduism and the Hopi). Even in the West, marriage remained a largely secular affair until the late Middle Ages when the Catholic church hijacked it.Kind of punches majaor holes in your argument. Marriage is, and should remain, funadmentally a secular social relationship which regulates the care and assignment of children, the disposition of property, and the division of labor, among other things.

That accords pretty well with my understanding of the role of the state, the church, and the individual. The comments, as seems to be the case generally with left-wing blogs (at least, the left-wing blogs I read), are generalyl intelligent and well informed. It's just that the initial post is so vague.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In the Land of the Blind

The One-Eyed Man is as likely to be set upon by an angry mob as to be made king.

From Andrew Sullivan:

"A headline last Sunday about a Muslim man and an Orthodox Jewish woman who are partners in two Dunkin’ Donuts stores described their religions incorrectly. The two faiths worship the same God — not different ones," - The New York Times, November 25.

Of course, any idiot realizes that. Except the likes of Gen. Keith "My God is Bigger than His God" Boykin. (Angry mob? Follow Sullivan's link to John Hinderaker's comment at Powerline for a free chuckle: Hinderaker calling NYT "arrogant." Sorry -- there's enough foo shit there for everybody.)

About That Infinite Universe

This is so cool:

From IT Wire:

The Mersini-Houghton team, however, says it is another universe at the edge of our own. They looked at string theory for the explanation. In string theory, [10 to the 500th power] [sorry for that, but Blogger can't handle some not-very-complicated functions, such as superscripts] universes (or string vacuums) are described, each with unique properties. They contend that the largeness of our universe is due to its vacuum counterbalancing gravity. This counter-gravity of the vacuum keeps our universe very large (rather than shrinking due to gravity)—larger than the other multitude of universes. The team says that smaller universes are positioned at the edge of our universe, and because of this interaction they are seen by us.

The team predicts that another giant void will eventually be found. The already found void is in the northern hemisphere. They contend another one will be found in the southern hemisphere.

One of the more exciting parts of this story is that they're already prepared to make a prediction on the existence of others.

Here's a report on Space.com from this summer.

Thanks to AmericaBlog.

From the Pulps to the Pentagon

I wonder if anyone in the military reads science fiction. If they did, it might save them from some really embarrassing gaffes (remember the "gay bomb"?) and produce some constructive inquiries like this:

A 2004 "universal needs statement," obtained by DANGER ROOM and signed Lt. Gen. Jan Huly -- then the Marines' Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations -- asks to "accelerate" the development of "self-powered, controllable, wearable exoskeletal machine system" that will "increase the speed, strength, and endurance of Marines. . . ."

According to Pentagon budget documents, a project to build a "personal combat vehicle," allowing a soldier to "carry 150 pounds while feeling only a small part of the load" is making its way from the blue-sky technologists at Darpa to the Army's more practically-focused engineers.

Exo-suits, known also as "zoot suits," are at this point a staple of science fiction, particularly military sf. I think Robert Heinlein started that ball rolling (as he did so many others), in Starship Troopers. They get most play in military sf because military sf tends to be gadget-heavy.

Of course, the concept has gone far beyond that. (Anyone remember Robocop? Or -- 'scuse me -- Star Wars?) For some interesting background -- and a good take on how science fiction does permeate our collective whatever, see this article from Answers.com. It's pretty amazing. It also reminded me of something I'd almost forgotten: the obverse of the big, bulky powered-body-armor kind of suit is the "skinsuit" concept, used by Dan Simmons and David Weber (and I'm sure a few others).

OK -- I really am back

It's that point after a bad fever, when it finally breaks and you look around and everything's in focus. Just don't ask me what I've been doing for the past week, because I'm not really sure.

(Gad! A week's a hell of a long time to be sick -- I can't imagine having something that takes an extended recovery. I'd go nuts.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

He Lives!

I think. This is the first time I've been out of bed for an extended period since Wednesday. I seem to have suffered no ill effects from yesterday's mashed potatoes, so I may treat myself to a jelly doughnut this morning -- I can't quite nerve myself up for a cream-filled Bavarian. I have this real hankering for sweets. I must need quick calories (the mashed potatoes were the only solid food I've had in three days). Maybe pick up some bananas, too.

And some broth.

I'm still a little tight around the middle, but I think that's just from lying in bed not moving for 72 hours. You think?

Strangely enough, politics isn't so interesting today.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Well, that was a bust

Thanksgiving, I mean. Came down with a really vicious intestinal bug on Wednesday afternoon and have basically been in bed ever since. It seems to have cleared up, pretty much, but my middle is still sore from the muscle spasms, and I'm afraid to eat any solid food.

I certainly hope your holiday was better.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Conservative Agenda

Andrew Sullivan seems to have a good take on it.

If you follow the link to Hugh Hewitt, you discover that he is still an idiot. Actually, reading through the comments, the real idiot is the commenter Catmman, whose ignorance is simply breathtaking. I would have left a comment, but TownHall wants too much information before they'll let you post. I'm certainly not giving Hugh Hewitt my home address.

Wounded Vets

OK -- I thought bureaucratic screw-up on this story until I read this sentence:

At the forefront was a bill introduced last week and sent to committee that targets a Defense Department policy preventing eligible soldiers from receiving their full bonuses if discharged early because of combat-related injuries.

This is not a screw-up -- this is policy. And I thought the general negligence at Walter Reed was an atrocity.

How does a military like this expect to win a war? Oh, wait. . . .

Here's a story on the bill from Jason Altmire's website. He's the congressman who introduced the legislation, and -- he's a Democrat. Funny how that happens.


Thinking on this a bit more, have you noticed that the so-called "conservative" attitude toward "supporting the troops" translates into unquestioning obedience to foolish and misguided policies and complete disregard for the human beings involved? This story is of a piece with those about wounded vets receiving bills for their hospital care and those drummed out of the service under DADT being expected to repay any monies paid for school. Much as we might like to think so, no bureaucrat who is that stupid (and there are some -- I've met them) ever gets into a position with that kind of authority.

But then, what can you say about an institution that actually adopts policies like these? Consider, as I feel I must at this point, also the fact that the military is disproportionately composed of evangelical and conservative Christians (if we are to believe reports), and that the president, who keeps reminding us that he is the Commander-in-Chief professes himself to be a born-again Christian, and you really have to wonder what Christianity has become, at least in some parts of the population. Do you really want these people running the country?

That's a really scary picture of our future.

Update II:

I notice at GovTrack that Altmire's bill has 35 cosponsors -- of whom 4 are Republicans.

Let's see, now -- who was it who was supporting the troops?

Tim Kaine

An interesting article in WaPo on Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine. I don't necessarily agree with his specific positions, but I like his approach. It strikes me as pragmatic and reality-based, unlike the agenda of his Republican-controlled General Assembly. On abstinence-only programs:

"The research shows programs that are abstinence-only are not successful," Kaine said. "The budget will not have funding for abstinence-only programs. If the people look at the research, the answer is pretty clear."

Kaine points to a congressional study released in April that concluded that students in abstinence-only programs did not have fewer sexual partners or wait any longer to have sex than those who did not participate in the programs. Conservatives say the study was flawed. . . .

Because the Bush administration restricts sex education grants to groups that teach only abstinence, Planned Parenthood is calling on states to refuse the federal matching grants. Virginia would become the 14th state to do so.

People always think that studies they don't agree with are flawed. I haven't seen the congressional study, but it seems consistent with other results that I've seen summaries of. I haven't seen a credible study that concludes that abstinence-only programs actually work. Maybe it's because the only reference they make to sex is "don't".

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see how Virginia works out over the next couple of years. I especially liked this comment:

Even so, conservatives now feel on the defensive.

That's music to my ears.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quote of the Day

It couldn't come from anyone but Michael Medved.

MICHAEL MEDVED:…And this clearly just weakens the whole institution of television.

From being the "Great Wasteland," TV has become an "institution." Who knew?

I really was of two minds -- should this be a "Quote of the Day" or a "Joke of the Day"? But I don't think Medved did it on purpose.

(Sidebar: As for the WGA strike -- maybe the studios will outsource scriptwriting to Bollywood.)


I've run across a couple of references to this story in the past day or two, and, as you might expect, it does lead to some not-so-tangential thoughts, including one on synchronicity -- I just happened to have gone back to this post. Yes, in the world of Hunter at Random, these do fit together.

Let's start with the nonsense of Richard John Neuhaus' desperate defense of Catholic dogma regarding homosexuality. Among its other virtues (ahem), it illustrates very well the tendency of Christian apologists to objectify human emotional relationships, especially those of which they don't approve. Actually, thinking about that, it's not necessarily an "especially" -- note the insistence on the idea that sex is purely for procreation and that marriage is the validation -- the social permission -- to engage in sex. Even within marriage, non-procreative sex is immoral. And at the same time, although not, as I recall, explicit in Neuhaus' ramblings, is the idea that the love between a man and a woman is somehow special, and that only Church-approved sex -- i.e., making babies -- can encompass this love. If that's not schizoid enough for you, this comes from an institution that has, historically, been dubious about the natural materialism of science -- the idea that the only acceptable data is that which can be studied and measured objectively and that all natural processes can be described as mechanisms that operate only within the natural, empirical universe. And yet its first reaction to the complexity of human desire and emotion is to reduce it to a bodily function (all the while decrying those such as Richard Dawkins and Edward O. Wilson who suggest that there might be a biochemical basis for all of it).

At any rate, the Christian position can easily be summarized, in a somewhat minimalist but not necessarily inaccurate way, as "people are breeding stock." It's the sort of trap you fall into when you start with the idea that there is -- there must be -- a purpose to everything.

Now, to the Colorado initiative. (And I wonder why it is that Colorado, which is, after all, a fairly cool state, is the one that keeps coming up with the completely anti-American ballot iniatives -- remember Amendment 2? Of course, that's the state that gave us Marilyn Musgrave.) At any rate, a representative of one of the sponsors of a measure that is very clearly designed to outlaw abortion -- and most likely a number of birth-control methods, particularly the morning after pill -- says:

[Kristi] Burton said the initiative would simply define a human.

"It's very clearly a single subject," Burton said. "If it's a human being, it's a person, and hey, they deserve equal rights under our law."

First of all, the gall of trying to define a human being is, while breathtaking, not beyond the capabilities of those who have a hammerlock on The Only Truth. But look at their definition of a "person" -- a fertilized egg.

That's certainly a reductivist view of humanity, now isn't it? A fertilized egg -- which stands something like a 40% chance of never being more than that -- is your equal and deserves all the rights and privileges that you, as a grown-up, thinking, productive member of society expect. (Except those of you who are gay -- it deserves more rights and privileges than you do.) I really wonder how a fertilized egg is going to exercise its right to peaceably assemble.

Barbara O'Brien has this comment about the Christianist tendency to objectify people. She's only one of many to comment on this particular video, and like most, is focusing on the objectification of women, brought about by the unfortunate metaphor employed (I seem to remember that in my high-school days, the accepted non-dirty slang word for vagina was "box."):

Today many people are posting this anti-abortion video and noting the subliminal message — that women are just objects, not people.

The point is, people are just objects. All of us. It's the same thinking -- if you define a fertilized egg as a person, you've elevated an egg to human-being status. You've also reduced the rest of us to the level of a fertilized egg. Women exist to bear children. Gays have sex only for pleasure. Any sex that does not produce children is immoral. It's a purely mechanistic view of humanity.

Needless to say, believing as I do that there is an element of the divine in everything, I can't buy this. That's quite aside from knowing first-hand that men are as capable of loving other men and completely and fully as any man ever loved a woman, and that I am something more than a cock. In fact, I'm a lot more than a cock.

Climate Change

As we're calling it these days. Here's one for the "the science isn't settled" crowd:

Georgia's on my mind. Atlanta, Ga. It's a city in trouble in a state in trouble in a region in trouble. Water trouble. Trouble big enough that the state government's moving fast. Just this week, backed up by a choir singing "Amazing Grace," accompanied by three Protestant ministers, and 20 demonstrators from the Atlanta Freethought Society, Georgia's Baptist Gov. Sonny Perdue led a crowd of hundreds in prayers for rain. "We've come together here," he said, "simply for one reason and one reason only: to very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm." It seems, however, that the Almighty -- He "who can and will make a difference" -- was otherwise occupied and the regional drought continued to threaten Atlanta, a metropolis of 5 million people (and growing fast), with the possibility that it might run out of water in as little as 80 days or as much as a year, if the rains don't come.

FEMA doesn't want to think about it, apparently. Of course, we knew this administration can't handle the disasters it's created, much less the ones that happen by themselves.

It's not just the Southeastern U.S. It's worldwide. Read the article.

One: I'm very glad I live in a city that draws its water from the Great Lakes.

Two: This is not happening just this minute. The last time I was in North Carolina, which is at least five years ago, we went up Little Buck Creek (where my mother grew up, and where I spent chunks of my childhood). The creek was running at about half its normal flow. I wonder if there's any creek left. It was sobering, to say the least. The photo above is of a river in Virginia.

Even here, where two years ago we had a drought, while the summer was fairly rainy, we haven't had any appreciable rain for weeks -- during what is normally the rainiest time of year. We didn't really have all that much snow last year, either.

There are a lot of contributing factors here, but the one that I've always seen as the root cause is overpopulation.

But let's just go ahead and outlaw birth control, which is the ultimate aim of the right-to-lifers. That'll help a lot.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jim Neal

Jim Neal is running for the Senate from North Carolina, which is a weird state. Pam Spaulding has written several posts on his candidacy, and I think this one lays out the points very well. Quoting from The Charlotte Observer:

Schumer and the national Democrats, who boast of their party's inclusiveness, effectively ignored Neal, who is openly gay. After he announced his campaign in October, he telephoned Schumer. The call wasn't returned. Neal was the first Democrat to step up to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Instead, Schumer, of New York, called Hagan, who had taken herself out of the race, and encouraged her to jump back in. She later did.

...Neal, however, falls into a coveted category of candidates: self-funder, someone who will sink a chunk of his own wealth into the race. Such candidates typically get at least a courtesy meeting from their party's national political committees, particularly in the state where former U.S. Sen. John Edwards showed that an unknown with a lot of money can succeed.

Neal, 50, and others suggest that the fact that he is gay drove the actions of the Democratic Senate committee and other leaders of a party that criticizes Republicans for their anti-gay rights platform.

...A former staffer at the national Democratic Senate committee said he was surprised Schumer didn't at least meet with Neal. The gay community has reliably contributed to Democrats, said the former staffer, who asked not to be identified because he still deals with committee staff.

I have been less and less confident in the Democrats' support for gay issues and gay candidates -- in fact, I'm not so sure of their support for real Democrats -- and it looks like another case of the Rahm Emanuel strategy: field candidates who will reliably vote against the party and call them Democrats anyway. It's quite obvious that the DSCC is worried about backlash, but I'd like to point out one thing: North Carolina is probably less monolithic than most other "Southern" states, from the Bible-thumpers in the hills (my relatives) to the hotbeds of liberalism in Chapel Hill and Charlotte. It's a rapidly growing state, and the major populations centers are not filled with rednecks. I know a number of artists and dancers who have migrated to NC because the cultural climate is very supportive, which to me translates into a much more diverse and open society than the DSCC is willing to credit. North Carolina routinely elects Democrats to statewide office.

Of course, the DSCC doesn't seem to be much in touch with anything outside of the Beltway anyhow. And I start to think that what bothers them about Neal is not only that he's gay, but that he's not a yes-man. For that reason alone, I think people all over the country should be supporting his candidacy, and not just gays.

Hey, at least half of me's from North Carolina -- we don't respond well to authority.

A Nation Divided

A bit from Crooks and Liars about the PBS special Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, about Kitzmiller vs Dover School District. The program has been getting a lot of play in the blogosphere (well, on the left, anyway), but this struck me:

. . . it literally pitted “friend against friend, and neighbor against neighbor” within the small community that serves as a microcosm of an America still divided over evolution.

For some reason, the phrase "divided over evolution" just stuck out. I sit here asking myself "How can that be?" Of course, it's not so hard to figure out: those who oppose the teaching of evolution represent an ideology that renounces empirical evidence in favor of belief, and the belief is itself an element of obedience to outside authority. I don't really understand that -- my dad was a science teacher, and you'd better believe I got a full dose of thinking rationally when I was a kid. He's also a major sceptic. (All things considered, it's odd to think of my father as a product of the Enlightenment, but there you have it.)

The anti-science crowd makes a big deal about evolution being "a religion," and a doctrine promulgated as "orthodoxy," which is, of course, specious. Science is a self-correcting system of thought that bases its laws and theories on what we know objectively. Scientific orthodoxy is simply the result of overwhelming evidence. It's subject to change as new evidence comes to light, which is why we can never say that a scientific theory is "proven." You can't prove anything in science, you can only disprove its opposite -- there's always the possibility of new evidence. That's what makes science so exciting.

In the case of Kitzmiller, it's instructive that the creationists' "expert witnesses" admitted that ID is not science. The thinking seems to be -- spot me on this -- that their beliefs should trump everything else, which in a pluralistic, secular nation is a little bit beyond arrogant.

Of course, it doesn't help that this kind of unthinking, incurious obedience is being exploited by a group of politicians disguised as "religious leaders" simply in order to accumulate political power. I think their followers should be ashamed of themselves for being so gullible, if for no other reason.

But I still find it incredible that the country can be "divided" over evolution. We might as well be divided over gravity.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Speaking of Orchids

which have been added to the sidebar, there's this news from Yosemite -- a new orchid species. It is reported by one source to smell like sweaty feet.

Nature has her own standards of beauty.

The Sidebar

I've finally managed some additions and updates to the links in the sidebar. Check them out.

Creative Copyrights

There's been a huge outcry in recent years about American copyright law, sparked, I think, by the emergence of music downloads and the ease of burning CDs (and fueled by the ham-handed reaction of the RIAA), but affecting everything that is subject to copyright. I've not actually paid much attention to copyright law for years. My own work is copyrighted under the terms of existing law, but I've just begun investigating Creative Commons. It looks interesting, but from my own standpoint, I don't know that it's going to work for me. Any income I derive from my work -- the photographs, mainly -- is predicated on sale of physical prints or reproduction rights. It appears as though a Creative Commons license will impact this in some way, but I'm not sure. (Wading through the FAQ even as we speak.)

For example, if I sell a print, I sell only the physical object; I retain all other rights, including reproduction, so that if someone contacts the owner of the print asking to use it as an illustration, the owner has to refer them to me. I'm the only one who can legally grant permission. It appears as though a Creative Commons license will keep that intact, and doesn't affect the sale of prints at all.

Actually, as I read more, it starts to look doable. I may license all the work at a/k/a Hunter under a CC license.

Intellectual property law is something that, as you might expect, concerns me a great deal. I'm not convinced that current law is as dysfunctional as the "total access" side claims -- after all, it's my work, and I don't see any reason why I shouldn't make money from it. A lot of the instant-public-domain arguments seem to be coming from those who want to make money off someone else's work. I've never found the licensing requirements of copyright law all that restrictive, although that can be dependent on who holds the rights.

Another research project. Just what I needed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


That's how many posts I've had on this site. I'm sure there's some symbolism there -- in fact, in a way it has to do with the substance of this topic:

A couple of commentaries by Andrew Koppelman related to same-sex marriage.

The first is post at Balkinization on the state of same-sex marriage/domestic partnerships in California, in light of the Governator's second veto of a bill legalizing marriage for same-sex couples vis-a-vis the current suit pending before the California Supreme Court. Koppelman calls the court battle a "bad strategy" and predicts that it will energize the opposition. The comments are, as usual, mixed and intelligent on both sides of the issue (the issue in this case being whether the strategy is bad or only to be expected). My own reaction is pretty much the same as it was with ENDA: this is what we have. This is what we have to work with, so let's stop arguing about whether it's the best way to go about it and get to work. (I know -- it's such a pain when reality intrudes on principle, but that's life.)

(There are those who argue against incrementalism and bring up the racially-based civil rights laws of the sixties, but those aren't the best analogies -- once you determine that racial bias is not a positive social characteristic, people can make the jump from Black to Asian to American Native to whatever. That's pretty much a no-brainer. Making the jump from gay man to transsexual is not so easy, because most people (including many gays) don't see the congruence there.)

To pull back because movement relies on the courts is simply to buy into the specious mantras about "judicial activism," which is another one of those bald assertions that partake of Reaganspeak: If you say it often enough, it's true. It translates simply as "I don't like this decision."

As one or two of Koppelman's commenters point out, a favorable decision by the court will energize the right-wingers. An unfavorable decision will not stop them -- they will simply go after some other rights currently guaranteed in California. You have to remember that marriage is not the whole agenda: their goal is to delegitimize gay people and get them back in the closet, if not worse. Anything else is camouflage.

This article (pdf), which he cites in his blog post, begins with a scathing look at the contemporary Republican agenda. Of particular note is his summary of the "New Natural Law" argument against SSM on page 13 (which I am not able to copy and paste because the PDF is secured, apparently). There is a huge caveat in this argument that is thrown into sharp relief with his quote from John M. Finnis that begins "A proposed destroying, damaging, or blocking of some basic aspect of some person's reality. . ." and concludes "But . . . such a commensurating of goods is rationally impossible."

The flaw here is that the basis of the argument is revealed to be essentially arbitrary, predicated on the emotional and ideological preferences of Finnis (and others who have advanced this argument) and thus, suspect. The argument against homosexual relations, according to Koppelman's summary, is similar to the arguments for against contraception (note this argument borrows heavily from Roman Catholic dogma): life is an intrinsic good, and sex exists to create life, so any sexual activity that does not create life is bad. Pleasure for its own sake is not intrinsically good. Both of those basic criteria are certainly arguable, since neither has any rock-solid basis in fact.

There is also the fact that Finnis and his ilk deny the possibility in this argument that gay couples may enter into relationships for any other reason than bodily pleasure, which is utter poppycock.

As Koppelman goes on to describe the argument, the more ridiculous it becomes. Koppelman begins the destruction on page 17. As the demolition continues, it becomes evident that the argument against same-sex marriage (and homosexual activity in general) is completely circular, in a very strained and awkward way.

Koppelman does the same sort of deconstruction on the "Declining Family" argument as advanced by the likes of Maggie Gallagher (who from what I've seen isn't bothered much by reality) and Stanley Kurtz (whose arguments, which make use of misapplied and manipulated statistics have been so thoroughly debunked that I'm surprised anyone pays attention to him any more. Well, I'm not, but I am. If you know what I mean.). Again, an exercise in solipsism on the part of the anti-gay crowd. (Koppelman does say that the Kurtz-Gallagher argument is immune to empirical disproof, which in Kurtz' case, at least, is not true. His foundations can easily be refuted because they rely on specious conclusions from manipulated and in some cases untrue data.)

It's an extraordinarily thorough article that, I think, really gets to the heart of the intellectual and moral poverty of the anti-marriage arguments. I do recommend that you read it.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Read his books.

My review of 9Tail Fox is up at Green Man Review, and I'm working on the three Arabesks, also known as "the Ashraf Bey mysteries." Someone called him something like a post-cyberpunk Raymond Chandler, which is close, but the novels hover between that and pure slipstream (if there is such a thing). They actually start to approach the "hysterical realism" of Thomas Pynchon, but they're nowhere near that scale -- they'e quite intimate, actually.

Torture, With Some Thoughts on Ideology

I've not said much about the Bush torture regime, except to note that you can't really expect better from a man who thinks it's fun to feed firecrackers to frogs. I skimmed over this post by Sebastian Holsclaw at Obsidian Wings yesterday (trying madly to catch up) and then Andrew Sullivan highlighted it today.

One thing that strikes me is that there is common ground between the left and the right on certain issues. Torture should be a no-brainer for any thoughtful citizen, and the idea that we have to parse the definition of torture is one of the signal defeats of civilization by the wing-nut right. Distrust of government is, perhaps, a conservative position. My own feeling is that it should be an American position. This bit reflects my own thinking precisely:

The hypothetical has nothing to do with the discussion of whether or not we (the United States) ought to be torturing people. One of the key things that conservatives ought to remember (and which we notice all the time in liberal proposals) is that INTENTIONS DO NOT EQUAL OUTCOMES. The government is horribly incompetent at all sorts of things and we ought not abandon that insight when analyzing proposals of people who allege that they are our allies (the idea that Bush is a conservative ally is something I'd like to argue about on another day--but my short answer is that he isn't).

As with limitations on free speech, I don't trust the government to be able to fairly and nimbly navigate the rules that would be necessary to make certain that it only used a legal right to torture when it was the right choice. Sadly this is no longer a hypothetical question. In actual practice, we find that Bush's administration has tortured men who not only didn't know anything about what they were being tortured about, but weren't even affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Let me say that again. Bush's administration has tortured men who were factually innocent.

The hypothetical posed is, of course, loaded in favor of the "yes" answer -- yes it was worth it, but only because the questioner has set up the question so that no other answer is possible. Life doesn't set up questions like that, and as Sebastian points out quite clearly, we cannot rely on the judgment of one man -- a man whose judgment is plainly open to question -- to determine whether torture is "worth it." And anyone who thinks that one man is actually making that decision on a case-by-case basis is dreaming. The reality is even worse: that one man, who has little, if any moral sense, has authorized underlings to make the decision to torture "suspects" as a matter of national policy.

Got that? Torture is official American policy.

Sullivan, in a later post comments on the enthusiasm of the right for torture -- just listen to anything Rudy Giuliani has to say on the question. This is a matter of terminology again -- which are the true "conservatives"? This is one reason I will no longer admit to "conservative" positions. I do have them -- almost libertarian, in some areas, but the labeling is such that I won't put myself in the same boat as Giuliani, Bush, Romney, Dobson, Sheldon, the pope -- that whole bunch of self-serving cheap politicians who routinely play to the lowest common denominator with a script developed from misrepresentations and outright lies.

Actually, the more I think about this, the more I find myself approaching questions of ideology -- political philosophy -- from the same mindset that I use for moral questions: it's nothing so simple as a set of tribal taboos handed down from generation to generation. It's a matter of basic principles (hence the "first causes" of this blog's subtitle) applied as consistently as possible to real issues in daily life.

I may even elaborate on that as time goes by.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quote for the Day

I realize you can argue that if you’ve touched off Malkin’s ire, you must be doing something right. But Malkin lives in perpetual snit mode, 24/7. She can no doubt be sent into a flying rage over the color of toothpaste. Her opinion is irrelevant.

Barbara O'Brien, at Mahablog.

This is actually a hypothetical, but I think it encapsulates the reality of the right-wing blogosphere. (Of course, you could say that about the left-wing blogosphere, I suppose -- if you're Michelle Malkin.)

O'Brien is actually talking about a really stupid protest in Washington state that got out of hand. She's right -- those people are idiots.


It's become obvious that the police and airport security are not fit to have weapons like tasers available to them. I've just read too many reports like this one. Airport security is probably worse, since they're not as well-trained and not as effectively screened -- sort of a domestic Blackwater.

ENDA: When Leaders Don't Listen

John Aravosis has a bizarre report on the recent poll of gays about passage of ENDA. He quotes from a seriously wrong-headed editorial in Between the Lines, Michigan's gay weekly:

First, as a community we know that principles should never be subject to polls. As a movement we have all struggled hard to fight majority tyranny. Here in Michigan we recentlty felt the impact of such a tyranny in 2004 when the majority of voters in Michigan passed Proposal 2, the anti-gay marriage amendment to our state Constitution. One of our key arguments was that it was patently unfair to vote on minority rights. Why then, should we be expected to embrace the results of the HRC poll as anything other than the majority of LGBT people "voting" away the rights and the very voices of a minority community within the larger LGBT community? We shouldn't accept that, and we don't.

I have to wonder at anyone actually publishing anything this fuzzy-minded to start with. The HRC poll asked the gay community about a gay rights bill. The community, credibly enough, wants the bill passed. The editorial uses the alphabet soup designation to try to persuade us that here is, in fact, a community that includes lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transsexuals/transvestites/etc. (The real community here is the leftist/activist community within the gay community. It almost sounds as though what they're really complaining about is the denial of their right to make our decisions for us.)

This editorial from one of my home-town papers, Chicago Free Press, is even worse:

It is beyond belief that Democratic leaders in Congress were so politically blind that they didn’t foresee the damage that would be caused by their unilateral decision to exclude gender identity and dramatically broaden exemptions in the bill.

Even more sobering is that officials at the Human Rights Campaign gave them the OK to do it. HRC, after all, gets a lot of money from the GLBT community—some $25 million a year—precisely to represent us in Washington. That implies that HRC officials would understand GLBT community politics and sentiments and be able to convey those things clearly and forcefully to our allies in Congress.

It is obvious that they lack the expertise to do any of that. When an organization such as HRC cannot get a single GLBT group—not one—to agree with their position on an issue of such monumental importance as ENDA; when, in fact, more than 300 GLBT community groups take a public stand opposing HRC’s position, it’s obvious that something has gone very wrong at HRC headquarters in Washington.

I have long had objections to the Free Press' knee-jerk, standard issue movement stances on a lot of issue, and this editorial just sort of sums it all up. HRC finally listens to its actual constituency, but according to the movement, it's wrong because it didn't fall into line with the activist organizations.

It occurs to me that the gay press, to a certain extent, has fallen into same trap as the mainstream press, except rather than catering to . . . well, now that I've started to write it down, there's no "except" involved. Catering to the attitudes of an entrenched power elite is something that's probably veyr human, but not very democratic, and I am sitting here thinking that's what's happened in the gay community. So we're asked to believe that unless we put off the goal we've been working toward for two generations so that yet another letter of the alphabet can be included, we're all reprehensible. That flies in the face of reason, emotion, and history.

No, this is not a bunch of outsiders passing on the rights of a minority. It is a minority expressing its desire to have its rights confirmed in the law. What's so hard about that?


I have to point out that we're probably fighting biology here. People are social animals, and as such seem to have a pattern of hierarchical thinking built in. There are the leaders, their lieutenants, and then the broader constituency. There is often a group of opposition figures. You can find this in chimpanzees as well as seats of government. The issue as I see it is that the leaders, if they are to stay in power, must be responsive to the constituency. You start running into serious problems when the leaders begin to manipulate the consitutency, as has been the signature Bush strategy, and now seems to have been adopted by the LGBT "leadership." HRC had the good sense to commission the poll and pay attention to the results. The other groups just keep repeating the same mantra if principle and purity, expecting the rest of us to fall in line: it's a given, at this point, that if you repeat something often enough, it's true.

I still have to see a cogent, persuasive argument for ditching trans-exclusive ENDA, the same as I still have to see a cogent, persuasive argument against same-sex marriage. The mere repetition of the same choices and beliefs just doesn't do it.


For once, I have to disagree sharply with hilzoy. She's either not aware of the history here or is choosing to ignore it. I'm speaking specifically of the Title VII precedents that do protect transgenders but don't protect gays and lesbians.

OK, this is hilzoy again. Following Sullivan's link to the clueless Rex Wockner, I find this quote:

"In the end, Barney and I and HRC and NGLTF and Lambda Legal and the rest don't really have a lot of power to make sure more congressmen and women become more familiar with transgender people. It is up to transgender people themselves."

Is it really? Why? Most of us who are not transgendered are, after all, adults and free citizens. We presumably do not need to wait for other people to educate us. We can do that for ourselves, and we should. Especially in this case. As I said earlier, transgendered people have enough on their plate as it is. We can take up the slack, and we should. If that requires actually trying to understand why someone might want to undergo gender reassignment, then making that effort would be worth it.

This whole thing strikes me as incredibly naive. Sure, in an ideal America -- like the one the Founders envisioned when they stipulated freedom of speech and a free and independent press -- people would take the time and make the effort to educate themselves about all sorts of issue. Guess what? This is Bush's America, where the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have been defining the discourse for decades. If people were, as hilzoy says, ready to "do that for ourselves," we wouldn't have had to fight for thirty years to get ENDA as it stands. We can easily see that most people won't make the effort to understand those who are different. This is not even differentiating between conservatives and liberals -- it's just noting that actually thinking about issues is not hard-wired, and not something that any "education president" has ever encouraged. (Nor does our educational system at large. The whole "back to basics" movement in education was in reality a movement away from learning to think, and no one in power in this country actually wants an educated, thoughtful citizenry. Even universities are turning into trade schools.) As for referring to Rex Wockner as "clueless," that's really just a demonstration of hilzoy's ignorance -- Wockner has a long history as an intelligent and incisive commentator on gay issues, and is really one of the people worth paying attention to on these sorts of things.

* Note: the fact that both of the people I cited are openly gay does not mean that I think gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have a special obligation to do this educating. I don't think anything of the kind -- I'm straight, and I'm trying to do my bit. It's just that Aravosis and Wockner, like Sulivan, are people whose posts have made me think: why all this public bafflement, rather than an attempt to inform and persuade, or to fix the problem they're bemoaning? I imagine it's no accident that all three are members of the LGBT community; or that most straight bloggers haven't written on this at all. I'm not too happy about that one either.

This one, I think, is coming into the conversation halfway through. I'm familiar with the posts from Sullivan and Aravosis that hilzoy refers to, and the point is, they were in response to specific comments and positions by trans activists and the national gay rights organizations. This has been a family squabble, which is not the time when you try to educate non-family. I've taken a position in line with both Sullivan and Aravosis on this, and I also support equal rights for the transgendered, and I'm happy to do my bit, but not right this minute. I, like they, are dealing with different facets of this question right now.

I commented thus (actually referring to a post by hilzoy):

I suspect that if we in the gay and lesbian territories weren't feeling a little used and abused by those who style themselves our leadership, we'd be able to focus a little bit more on what's really necessary here -- education, education, education: the same thing that has worked for us.

That's really been the discussion here -- the relationship of the national rights organizations to the rank and file of the gay and lesbian community. I repeat my basic question: what, other than a political alliance, makes "LGBT" a "community"? No one's come up with an answer.

Here are some other related posts (I mean, it's not like I haven't thought about this a lot):

Getting What You Can Get
ENDA Wrap-Up
ENDA: The New Strategy
A Seat at the Table
Alphabet Soup: A Digression
ENDA and Alphabet Soup
ENDA, Again
All, or Nothing at All

Thursday, November 15, 2007


It only took two weeks and two days for a technician at Earthlink to get me online again.

And now I'm almost completely out of the habit.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


It's amazing how quickly I have gotten used to getting up in the morning and actually doing things rather than surfing and commenting. (I've even started working out again, now that I have all this time. Oh, the pain! It feels so good when I stop.) This blog may become a lot more sporadic -- at least, that's the plan.

Of course, I don't have the Earthlink/Internet disaster solved yet. I begin to think that everyone at Earthlink studied customer service at Dell.

I also find that my state of mind is better without my daily dose of outrage. Something to be said for that.

I can't believe we're still fighting about this.

But then, if we didn't fight about everything, we wouldn't have a community at all.

Andrew Sullivan links to this post by Rex Wockner that seems to sum up the whole controversy fairly well. Money quote, as Sullivan would put it:

In politics, you get what you can get when you can get it and then you go back and try to get more of what you want. That is really simple too.

In the realm of hypothetical virtue occupied, it appears, by so many "activists," on the other hand, if you don't get what you want, then no one should get anything. I have to follow along with Sullivan's analysis in all essentials:

I support enthusiastically the right of transgender people to live their lives as they wish and to be free from government discrimination. But that question is logically separate from gay rights, and always has been. Many transgender people are heterosexual; most gay people have no internal conflict with their own gender. It remains important to insist that, just because so many in the gay world have been browbeaten into repeating the concept of an "LGBT community", that doesn't mean it exists. I don't really believe there is even a "gay and lesbian community" as such. There are common interests in violating heterosexual norms, but the experience of being a gay man and being a lesbian are often experientially more different than the contrast between many straight women and lesbians or between many straight men and gay men. Gender is often a more powerful identifier than orientation.

An added comment on my own: Sullivan notes the pernicious term "LGBT," based on an assumption and an assertion (or, more likely, merely an agenda). I'd like also to call attention to the term "transgendered," which, as I've stated before, I can't assign a meaning to. As far as taxonomy goes, I'm generally a lumper. I got my taxonomy training trying to figure out the relationships among various species of orchids, with a view to beginning breeding. If the major difference between two related species is simply that they occupy habitats a hundred feet apart in elevation, and thus express their genetic makeup slightly differently, I'm willing to consider them subspecies. But, if you're going to lump two species together, there have to be significant similarities. As far as I can tell, "transgender" is a political device meant mostly to fuzz the boundaries between female impersonators, drag queens, transvestites, transsexuals, diesel dykes, fairies, and anyone else who transgresses the commonly accepted gender role stereotypes. (And no, female impersonators and drag queens are not necessarily the same thing. It's the difference between Charles Pierce and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.)

Sullivan quite rightly makes the point that in this realm of categorization, my experience as a gay man is much more likely to mirror the experience of my straight counterparts than it is that of a transsexual or a lesbian.

As far as ENDA and its politics, let's take a look at what gays and lesbians, aside from the activist organizations, really think. John Aravosis reports on the latest poll:

[T]his is important data because up until now there was no real data as to how the community itself, rather than activists, felt about the issue. Now we know. And when the number is nearing 70%, in our community, where divisiveness nears a virtue, that's a pretty large mandate.

Unless, of course, you're a Beltway insider. Or an alphabet soup activist.


To get back to the real issue, which is simply that, like everyone else, transsexuals deserve to have equal rights, see this post by hilzoy. I suspect that if we in the gay and lesbian territories weren't feeling a little used and abused by those who style themselves our leadership, we'd be able to focus a little bit more on what's really necessary here -- education, education, education: the same thing that has worked for us.

Monday, November 05, 2007

About Those Democrats

And the votes in the Senate that have basically given Bush everything he wants -- and sometimes more.

Has it occurred to anyone that the Democrats are figuring that the next occupant of the White House will be one of their own? They have absolutely no desire to roll back presidential power.

None at all.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Dialogue

I'm not completely banned from the internet -- just have to catch things on the fly.

Speaking of which, I noticed this post by Andrew Sullivan from a couple of days ago, referencing this one from the Daily Irrelevant on the court decision against Phelps's Raiders. Sullivan's simplistic comment is "Sometimes, you have to defend free speech even if it also means defending 'an asshole of metaphysically transcendent proportion.'"

There's a conceptual gap here that Sullivan, as usual, doesn't bother to investigate.

The Daily Irrelevant goes on:

Although they appear to deserve it, this may be a bad precedent for Free Speech.

How far away from the funeral home would they have to be in order for privacy not to be invaded? Would it be invaded if their protest was on an internet forum instead of a sidewalk?

Whose privacy was invaded? How closely do I have to be related to the deceased in order for my privacy to have been invaded?

Being an asshole is not equivalent to invading privacy. Even if, as in the case of Phelps and his ilk, you are an asshole of metaphysically transcendent proportion.

And if you don’t stand up for the free speech of people that you disagree with, you don’t stand up for free speech at all.

These are all valid questions, in the context of the specific case (someone finally sued the Phelpsburgers -- and won), but there's a piece missing, and it's one that's more significant than you might think. The poster in this case gives the impression that these are rhetorical questions (although in the comments he insists they were meant seriously). But the fact is, the debate has always been about the limits of free speech. To accept blindly Phelps's assertion that limiting his protests in any way infringes on his free speech and freedom of expression rights is silly. That's not the case at all, but the left has become so hypersensitive on this sort of thing (not without good cause, considering the current regime) that we've lost sight of the fact that it is quite legitimate to take those assholes to court and determine where those limits are in this case.

Or, as The Gay Recluseputs it:

Those who latch onto to the Phelps case as an example of government excess are really doing themselves an injustice, unless it is their desire to present themselves as unthinking morons.

Sure, you stand up for everyone's free speech rights (or freedom of conscience, or freedom to do whatever) as a general principle, but in specific cases you have to determine whether that exercise is, indeed, legitimate. (There's quite an impassioned post at Pam's House Blend on this one that is totally wrongheaded.) This has impact far beyond Phelps and his children/brothers/sisters/cousins (if they can figure out which are which). It ties in directly with the Big Lie from the anti-gay right, that any acknowledgment of the rights of gay men and lesbians to live as full citizens on this country infringes on their freedom of religion, and that any disapproval of their misrepresentations and falsehoods is an infringement on their rights. And people buy it, because "freedom of religion" and "freedom of speech" have become buzzwords. I have yet to hear of any instance in which someone stood up to James Dobson or James Hartline or Tim Wildmon in a public forum (probably because they'll only address friendly audiences -- wonder if they got the idea from Bush or vice-versa?) and asked them point-blank how their freedom of religion is being abridged by my having equal rights -- and demanded a clear answer. (Hint: You won't find any member of the press doing this.)

I'm reminded of the pious sentiments that we should be prepared to engage in dialogue -- that's the obverse of this particular coin. In that vein, Jim Burroway came up with this little tidbit, quoting Jim Rudd of the Christian Street Preachers Alliance:

Civil officials have a God ordained duty to execute sodomites.

And the politically correct in this country want me to sit down and talk to this guy? With a sawed-off shotgun in my lap, maybe.

My point being that you cannot reflexively accept anything that the anti-gay, so-called "Christian" right says about anything. They are, as a group, documented liars, and have managed to move the center in this country so far to the right that those of us who grew up before the Moral Majority don't recognize the place any more simply because no one has publicly challenged them. It makes no difference that they are completely unhinged -- and if you don't believe me, read this quote from Lou Sheldon, via Box Turtle Bulletin:

Lou Sheldon: But remember, homosexuality could strike you! It could strike this man here taking pictures…

Max Blumenthal: How could it strike me?

Sheldon: Because you could go into a gender identity confusion because it is a psychological imbalance. Something happens in a person’s life. It’s not only… It becomes a spirit…

"Gender identity confusion"? "It becomes a spirit"? WTF? I can't believe Sheldon is still spouting the same line. Actually, what I can't believe is that he does it and no one laughs in his face.

Loudly and often.