Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Rockstar INXS

So I haven't posted on Rockstar INXS in a while yet I continue to be oddly attracted to the show. Don't know why. Did I mention that it is hosted by the lovely and delightful Brooke Burke?

At any rate, last night was yet another installment of the show where a group of singers are auditioning to replace the prematurely departed Michael Hutchence. Several have left the show and we are now down to the final six. Last night each contestant was tasked to sing a particular, "classic" and the results were muddled at best.

Suzie's song was the horrid "Bohemian Rhapsody" by the stunningly bad super group Queen. Remarkably, Suzie who arguably has the best pure voice of the group, had trouble hitting several of the song's notes, but none-the-less gave one of the night's best performances. The band seemed to like what she did, and I would not be surprised if she was tapped to give tonight's encore.

Most surprising though was the popularity of of Bohemian Rhapsody with the group of would be INXS lead singers. Most of these folks are in their twenties and to a person professed themselves to be "huge" fans of the song. What gives? While I'll admit that hearing Suzie have trouble with song gave me a new found appreciation of Freddie Mercury's vocal talents, the song itself is horrible.

First you have the lyrics. "Mama, just killed a man, put a gun up to his head, pulled the trigger, now he's dead"? Combined with the over the top musical production, a Queen trademark, and you have a tune most of us kids in the 70's found ridiculous. Worse, we couldn't get the bloody tune out of our minds! This, despite the fact that we were wearing bell bottoms, kiana shirts and had a roach clip stuck to our rear view mirror (right next to the prom garter). There was clearly some bad judgment going on, but not even a generation as stylistically confused as we were could muster respect for this song.

Also presented last night was John Lennon's dirge like ode to communism. Yup, Jordis received the "honor" of singing "Imagine". I won't waste time reviewing the numerous points on which this song is truly awful, but to be completely candid I would just as soon never have to hear it again.

Jordis' performance was not bad, but like so many of her performances in this competition, she leaves the listener with the feeling that she could do so much more with her voice. There is little doubt that from a vocal point of view Jordis possesses immense talent, but all of her presentations so far have for me, lacked passion, and rock without passion is......well it's whatever you call Brittany Spear's music.

That said, following her performance Jordis introduced some wildman from the audience as her father. Now this guy had passion! Outfitted in some cool Africanesque gown and hat with a white beard and specs, all I could think was that the 70's Pursuit described above would have "wanted to party with that dude".

Fellow Chicagoan, and one of the standouts of the show, Marty, turned in a fine performance of Pink Floyd's "Wish you were here". Doubly poignant, since the song is about a missing band member, Marty teared up at the end of the song and there was much discussion about "almost crying among the band members. Good grief! What is all this male crying about anyway? It is like some sort of epidemic, what with men from the odious Dirk Durbin to respectable hipsters such as Marty blubbering up from coast to coast.

I mean, I've got a heart, I know the band misses their friend, but a little stoicism is called for here, particularly from Aussies. We lost the American male long ago, yours truly excepted, and I had hoped my pals from down under would be able to resist the whole feminization of males trend, but alas we're getting close to a tipping point it seems. Worse of all, a Chicagoan (Da Bears!) was leading the sob session last night! Maybe I can get Da Mayor to ban Marty from returning if he doesn't shape his weeping act up.

All in all a pretty good show, and Mig who apparently PD1 wants to run away with, rocked the hardest with his version of "Live and Let Die". I've long felt Mig will ultimately win this competition, and last night further solidified this thought.

Oh yeah, and Brooke looked fantastic with her hip high white boots.

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Monday, August 29, 2005


This really was too easy, but Jeff G got a chuckle from me. Enjoy.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The World's Greatest Waffles

There are certain moments in life that for some reason just stand out in the memory. There are the obvious moments of course; weddings, graduations, the birth of a child certainly remain as cherished times. I'm not talking about those moments though. What I am referring to are those seemingly pedestrian moments that when they occur don't strike one as special, yet years later we can relive the moment almost exactly as we experienced it the first time. All the old feelings return.

For me these moments seem to span my experience, and I haven't been able to find a common thread. I remember the day I was at Soldier Field in Chicago and saw Walter Payton gain 275 yards in one game against the Vikings. I remember the Monday morning in 1975 or early 1976 when my friend Scott walked up to me in the hallway with a badly recorded tape, and the look of the converted in his eyes. To this day every time I hear anything from "Toys in the Attic" I remember Scott's distant gaze and the thrill of hearing those tunes. I remember the moment I met this new trainee at work, in her gray '80's business suit, complete with shoulder pads, ruffled neck line shirt and gold brooch. I don't really know if love was instantaneous, but I did know in that instant my world had changed.

I suppose then the one connective thread that runs through all these moments was that in some way, no matter how trivial it may have seemed to others, my world was rocked. Walter's running was like nothing I'd ever seen a combination of grace and determination. Steven Tyler's voice cutting through Joe Perry's guitar work was gritty and beautiful at the same time. Mrs. P, of course, really did change my life.

Which somewhat uninevitably leads me to waffles.

Readers here know I really enjoy food in all its styles. I couldn't care less if it is the product of a 3 day preparatory extravaganza, or just some really excellent French fries. Food well done is an experience that can rock your world. Which is why waffles are so important. Of all the breakfast foods waffles more than any other hold the power to thrill, but more often than not disappoint. Hastily prepared by indifferent hash slingers, the waffles we usually get served end up as undifferentiated piles of soggy dough. Even worse are the poor dupes who have been convinced that a really good waffle is one that is heaped with jellied fruit, whipped cream, and other condiments too horrible to imagine.

So my friends, today I do you a great service. Below I have provided what I assure you is the world's greatest waffle recipe. As with the great moments above, I remember the day my pal Joe called me on the phone and asked, "did you try the waffle recipe in Sauver?" Something about the tone in his voice made me aware that he had tapped into the mother lode of waffles.

So I grabbed my copy, read the recipe and set out to try then for myself. Incredible. Simply incredible. Made correctly, which is not hard, this recipe will produce waffles of a unique and glorious texture. A crispy exterior, and warm moist interior that yields a yeasty flavor in the mouth. They manage to be both exquisitely light and entirely satisfying. You can add some spice to them, perhaps a little nutmeg, cinnamon or mace, but be forewarned: Do anything else and I shall forsake you as an internet pal.

The real beauty thing about these babies is that most of the work is done the night before. In fact, I can attest to the fact that preparing the waffles in the, ahem glow, ahem of a multiple bottle of wine night with friends is perfectly doable, and arguably necessary for recovery from the inevitable morning blahs the next day. Just be a bit careful around the Kitchenaide mixer!

So print this baby off and try 'em on your family tomorrow. I guarantee that they will be vibrating with joy in the morning.


Makes 8 waffles


1 7oz pkg of dry yeast
2 Cups warm milk
8T butter
1t salt
1t sugar
2C flour
2 eggs
1/4t baking soda

The night before:
Proof yeast in 1/2 C warm water. After 8-10 minutes add milk, butter, salt, sugar and flour. Beat with a mixer on medium for 2-3 minutes. Cover in plastic, let stand overnight at room temperature.

In the morning:
Heat waffle griddle. Wisk eggs and baking soda into the batter. Pour 1/2C batter on the griddle, let set for 30 seconds, and then lower the top. Cook until golden brown and repeat as required. I find that with makers that make a single waffle at a time it is best to serve each person immediately instead of sitting around and waiting until all waffles are cooked.

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"I'm An Idiot.....Not A Con-Artist"

This is a pretty incredible story about a con that has been running in Southern Illinois for the past two years. Apparently, the SIU newspaper, The Daily Egyptian (I wonder when the NCAA is coming after this name), has been running a series of letters by a little girl whose father was supposedly serving in Iraq. The problem is, it turns out the story isn't true.

The quote above is from the student reporter who "broke" the story and now has been accused by the girl's "aunt" of being involved in the scheme. I feel bad for the guy, who admits he did a pretty awful job of checking the background before running with the story. This is what happens though when the press is told exactly what it wants to hear. If it would make him feel any better, I'd point out that several of his more experienced colleagues in the scribbling business have, to varying degrees, been victims of this phenomena as well.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My Brush With Able Danger

I've been following the Able Danger story with some enthusiasm this past week. Unbeknownst to be at the time, I had a very interesting business discussion about just this project several years ago. At least I think I did. Allow me to explain.

As most readers know I've spent most of my career in the financial services sector, and during most of the '90's I was in this area. Sadly, I was not a highly paid deal doer, so lets not start down that road. Instead I ran projects for the firm across most of the business and found myself traveling around the world with a certain degree of frequency that was both exhilarating and exhausting.

At any rate, I'm not clear on the year, but I think it was around 1998, I was introduced to a representative of a very large "consulting organization" at a lunch that a mutual friend arranged. This organization, which despite it's size is one that you probably haven't heard of, wanted to consult with on our global security systems. I'm not mentioning the name of the firm here for reasons that will be obvious.

My introduction to this firm came from a former military official who had been retired for several years. In conducting a little due diligence prior to my meeting I was able to find out that a significant number of this firm's principals had come out of the intelligence field. "They're all former spooks!" was the colloquialism that a well informed friend used. While I believe he was correct I must say I was reasonable impressed with what I was able to find out, and would only add that they were quite obviously, very smart, well connected former spooks. Which come to think of it is probably redundant.

At any rate I went to the lunch and listened to the pitch, and politely turned down any further discussions. The last thing I was going to be responsible for was being the guy who opened the door for "a bunch of former spooks". This is when the conversation turned interesting.

We talked about other things that they were working on, and this guy was quite effusive about the military's enthusiasm for "data mining". He brought this up, because they apparently were doing some work in this area, and it did hold great interest for those of us in financial services. Data is our life's blood in many ways.

I was unfamiliar with military applications and pressed him on this. He said that they were making some good progress, and that data mining could be beneficial in identifying enemy plans, and enemy tendencies. This is where my memory gets very hazy, but I do remember that he also talked about using it to identify enemy agents. I cannot remember specifically if the word terrorist was used, but I'd guess that it probably wasn't.

So, the recent revelations have been quite interesting. More interesting though has been the military's inability to find anything on the Atta connection. What I've heard from the various people that have come forward rings true, and I find it hard to believe that there is no remaining evidence of the Atta connection. Further, I know how relentless military people can be......I was trained by some in project management. For this reason I find it impossible to believe that once the administration changed that these folks didn't try to warn the Bush people.

Finally, Rumsfeld's denials that he never heard of this program seem odd. Here is a guy that was trying to recreate the military to make it more efficient, mobile and technical and he never heard of this project? Hmmmmmm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

There's a Lot Goin' On Man

Apologies for the slow week around here, but things have been a little busy with interviews and such this week. Yet the world does not stop, and I realize it is more than time for me to feed the beast. Here is what I'm thinking about:

1. Excellent news on the wine front. I 've officially received the honor of being named the "unofficial sommelier of Annika's Journal". Well, this has filled me with pride and is the first step to greater things in the wine world. Thanks to Annie for the pub.

In related news I've been looking at the qualifications for Master of Wine status for some time, and I think I might actually try to do it.

2. Pat Robertson is an idiot who is exceeded in his idiocy only by the loathsome Nancy Pelosi who for some inexplicable reason thinks W ought to publicly denounce Robertson.

3. Who in the world is Nancy Grace, and how did this woman get a TV gig? Have you seen her? She is on one of the cable channels, and man this tootsy has get them crazy eyes. Plus, I think she is completely incoherent. Then again that may be the scotch I was enjoying.

4. Senator Chuck Hager is an idiot who is exceeded in his idiocy only by Donald Rumsfeld who when asked how this war differs from Vietnam, refused to answer saying, "there are so many ways its different we would be here all day". Guess what Don, the fact that you're correct doesn't excuse you from lowering yourself to explain it to the American public. The lefties are busy eating your lunch on the publicity side right now, and a little PR would be a good thing.

5. Speaking of PR, can somebody get Michael Deaver on the blower? I've always felt that Karl Rove wasn't so much a genius as he was a man blessed with the incompetence of his opponents and Bush's little PR tour this week confirms it. Who had the great idea to put W on tour spouting banalities that we've all grown tired of. The U.S. is doing a great thing in trying to bring democracy to Iraq, and we are by and large succeeding. Only a fool or a political opportunist would say otherwise, but in lieu of any coherent message from the Whitehouse people are beginning to wonder.

6. Where is the oil going? I'm serious. This sudden run up in crude prices that we've seen over the past nine months is very curious. Admittedly, I love a good conspiracy theory so maybe that has my interest peaked. On the other hand, maybe a couple countries are stockpiling. Maybe those countries rhyme with Bina and Bamerica. Maybe it has something to do with a coming conflict in the middle east, Korea, or both. Maybe we won't necessarily be enemies so much as coordinated allies of convenience. Maybe I'm nuts.

7. The latest Iraq constitution doesn't look that bad to me. I love these folks who seem to think a NOW chapter ought to be codified in Article I, but it makes me wonder. Specifically, we had a little problem getting the whole slavery/civil rights thing worked out in our constitution. I'd say it took about 170 years until the Civil Rights Act was passed in the 60's. From that perspective, it looks like the Iraqis have done more in 120 days than we did in a century.

8. Who are the tasteless rubes that vote on Rockstar INXS? Jordis is not in the bottom three tonight after she butchered "Dream On" last night? By the way, the show is throwing a head fake with Marty, Mig is gonna win this.

9. Thats all for now. Coming soon I will attempt to answer the question can a society maximize liberty and equality at the same time? I think not. Also the world's best waffle recipe in time for your weekend.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Good Yucks.

Hey look! One can't dance, the other can't sing!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thinking About Moral Authority

This post is not specifically about Cindy Sheehan, "Americas Mom On A Mission" who was the spiritual light of last night's national protest against the war. Ms. Sheehan's cause has surely been debated enough, and my thoughts on this summer's human interest story are below.

Instead I'd like to write about the concept of moral authority, along with how and in whom we deposit this important trust. The question comes to mind because of all the slogan's, both pro and con, that I've heard in the Cindy Sheehan fiasco the one that is stated the most, yet least challenged is that she has a greater level of moral authority than the rest of us because her son died in the war. I think this is wrong, and when we do not question the statement it does a disservice both to our country as we debate the war, and to Ms. Sheehan as it elevates her to a level for which she is neither prepared, or even, fit.

What is this thing that we call "moral authority" that has made Ms. Sheehan, and others who attain it, above critique? In my view, a moral authority is the quality of one who lives at a higher ethical level, and has demonstrated both the knowledge and the communication ability to serve as a teacher in word and deed for the rest of us human beings. To be sure, a moral authority does not have to be a perfect human being, for we all know such a person does not exist in our world. Indeed, were the perfect human to exist I question whether they could serve as a moral authority since anyone who is not subject to life's temptations would have difficulty teaching us how to rise above them.

Similarly, I do not believe that hypocrisy can necessarily discredit a moral authority. This is something I think people on the right generally understand better than those on the left. Go to any lefty blog and you'll find moral leaders deemed as hypocrites for their human failings, and therefore unworthy of our respect for their teachings. Yet life is not so simple as this. It is clear that virtually every one of our moral leaders has failed to meet the standard of perfection, so we need to remember their failings and observe their recovery to understand whether they are worth following. Were we to right off all moral leaders who failed we'd find ourselves in a society where we were unable to establish any moral guidelines beyond those that were easy to obtain, and as we all know, morality ain't easy. Oscar Wilde said it best when he said, "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue".

So the question becomes, what must one do to become a moral authority? It is clear, that one needn't be perfect, but clearly one just can't be imbued with this quality either. A moral authority could be a person that has strived to rise from a squalid past life, or someone who has worked to bring salvation to others. It is also possible that a moral authority could be a person of great learning, an intellectual who has spent their life considering the moral implications of man's role on earth and its attendant responsibilities. There are perhaps countless examples of what could make a person a moral authority, but I think a few traits are consistent across all possible scenarios.

The first would be that a person must strive to achieve moral authority. Life is full of moral challenges; temptations, trade-offs, evils. To have not had to face these challenges, and perhaps even to have succummed at one point, is to not have had to work to get better. Moral authority then is earned. The second consistent trait would be an ability to teach by both action and example what a moral life should be. Role models are important in our world and a moral authority is nothing if not a role model. Which leads us to the third trait; recovery. As I've said moral authority does not require perfection, but it does require penance when one fails, and make no mistake, we all fail. Failure of the authority, while sad is and should be a learning process for the rest of us.

What is most clear is one cannot achieve authority through circumstance. In fact, to imbue a member of our society with moral authority through such a means is both wrong and dangerous. Yet in this age where emotions frequently dominate over logic our culture's knee jerk reaction is to do just this.

Imbuing people with moral authority through no real action of their own is extraordinarily dangerous for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that it lowers the bar for moral excellence in our society. While we don't expect perfection, we should expect our fellow man to always strive to live a moral life. Assigning distinction without requiring excellence is akin to eliminating score keeping in Little League games. What is the point?

Which leads to the second danger. If there is no point, then there is no standard of expectation that we should hold our fellow man to. Shallow libertarians and leftists will say that this is exactly what we should aim for since our neighbor's life is none of our business. While I agree completely that all of our lives are our own, and that individual privacy is critical in allowing each other a role that maximizes our talents and unique personalities in a liberal society, I also acknowledge that this ideal liberal culture requires a strong moral code. As we increase liberty, and break down governmental authority it becomes ever more important to have a moral code that helps individuals regulate their own behavior. Unfortunately, by handing out moral authority like a "deputy for a day" badge on the field trip to the sheriff's office we find our culture fraying at the edges.

The weakest end up paying as a result. The poor who can't afford single mother status, the slow of mind who can't fully understand why their behavior always gets them in trouble, and the physically weak who just wish for the kindness of a stranger are hit hardest. Strong moral teachers help these folks understand guidelines, and help the rest of us understand and remember our obligation to others.

Regarding poor Ms. Sheehan, she is obviously a woman who merits our sympathy and our gratitude. She lost a son, who gave his life for us. No mother and son can give more. Ms. Sheehan is not a moral authority as a result of her loss though. While she has suffered she has only come to her status as a victim. Something happened to her, she did not achieve her role. This is not to say she couldn't become a moral authority, but without critiquing her here, I'll just say that she has a ways to go.

More importantly, we do Mrs. Sheehan a disservice by making her a moral authority. In setting her up for this status, we make her vulnerable to the opportunists of the left who will happily fill her empty vessel with their vile lies about the Iraq war and the sacrifice of so many patriotic families. They will use her, and cast her aside with no care for her own well being.

Similarly, were we to make Ms. Sheehan a moral authority, we would set her up for the castigations of the attack dogs of the right. Filled with the slogans of their political enemies Ms. Sheehan must be attacked and brought down, like it or not this is our political process and as a moral authority she will be a victim once again.

Most importantly, my dear reader, once we make Ms. Sheehan a moral authority it releases us from our responsibility to her. As an authority, we are acknowledging that she has exceeded our status, and we will rightfully expect her to serve as an example to us. The next time you see her on TV look at her closely. Is there any way this could be right? Ms. Sheehan is a suffering mom, who in her own words finds herself unprepared and possibly unfit for the role she has found. One news article quoted her as saying she now knows what if feels to be like Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. Could there be a more unintended allusion to her unfitness for moral authority?

Mrs. Sheehan is a suffering mom who gave all she had to give. We do not have an obligation to listen to her as an authority, but we do have an obligation to treat her with love and kindness. She needs our help and our prayers. She also needs to go home and grieve with her family.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

David St. Hubbins' Lesson For PETA

I've always been amazed at just how much life imitates art. This Is Spinal Tap as everyone remembers was a spot on mockery, "a mockumentary if you will", of life in a heavy metal band. What was even more impressive was the film's predictive powers for follow-on events that while completely unrelated to heavy metal, still fall into some of the same Spinal Tappian traps of life.

As fan's of the film recall, the mockumentary documented Tap's attempted comeback in the U.S. during the tour that was to support the release of their new album, "Smell The Glove". The cover of the album was controversial because Tap had a picture of a greased up, bound, woman with a glove being shoved in her face, forcing her to smell it. K-Mart and Sears were objecting since they viewed this as very sexist imagery. The boys had some difficulty understanding this enlightened view, but where completely outraged when they became aware of another musician's ("a no talent wanker" by the way) album cover.

From the script:

DAVID: Have you seen Duke Fame's current album?

IAN: Um... yes, yes.

DAVID: Have you seen the cover?

IAN: Um... no, no, I don't think I have.

DAVID: It's a rather lurid cover, I mean...ah, it's, it's like naked

women, and, uh....

NIGEL: He's tied down to this table,

IAN: Uh-huh.

NIGEL: And he's got these whips and they're all...semi-nude.

DAVID: Knockin' on 'im and it's like much worse...

IAN: What's the point?

DAVID: Well the point is it's much worse than 'Smell the Glove'...he

releases that he's number three.

IAN: Because he's the victim. Their objections were that she was the

victim. You see?

DEREK: I see....

NIGEL: Oh...

DAVID: Ah....

IAN: That's alright, if the singer's the victim, it's different. It's

not sexist.

NIGEL: He did a twist on it. A twist and it s-

DEREK: He did, he did. He turned it around.

IAN: We shoulda thought of that....

DAVID: We were so close....

IAN: I mean if we had all you guys tied up, that probably woulda been


All: Ah....

IAN: But it''s still a stupid cover.

DAVID: It's such a fine line between stupid an'...

DEREK: ...and clever.

DAVID: Yeah, and clever.

NIGEL: Just that little turnabout....

I was reminded of the band over the weekend when I heard about the latest PETA controversy. If you haven't heard by now, PETA put up a display in New Haven that showed giant photographs of people, mostly black Americans, being tortured, sold, and killed, next to photographs of animals, including cattle and sheep, being tortured, sold and killed. Reaction was predictable, at least to those of us with a brain:

One man demanded that the NAACP get involved immediately. Five minutes later, Scot X. Esdaile, president of the state and Greater New Haven chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, arrived at the scene, surveyed the photos and blasted the organizers. "Once again, black people are being pimped. You used us. You have used us enough," Esdaile said.

"Take it down immediately." "I am a black man! I can'’t compare the suffering of these black human beings to the suffering of this cow," said Michael Perkins, 47, of New Haven. He stood in front of a photo of butchered livestock hung next to the photo of two lynched black men dangling before a white mob. "You can'’t compare me to a freaking cow," shouted John Darryl Thompson, 46, of New Haven, inches from Carr'’s face.

"We don'’t care about PETA. You are playing a dangerous game." Paul Tomaselli, 46, of North Branford took exception to an exhibit that included a photo of a black man being beaten to the ground by a white man with a stick while a white mob gathers. Next to that photo was one of a man chasing a seal across the snow with a club.

"I think he'’s right," said Tomaselli, who is white, in support of Thompson. "To compare people to animals is an unfairness to people."

"Comparing people to animals is an unfairness to people", it really is as simple as that. Had PETA wanted to show the outrage of slavery and depict how slaves were once viewed as animals by their owners, well that would have been ok too. Somehow, the true believers at PETA missed this, and hence David's words would be useful for them to remember in the future.

"It's such a fine line between stupid an' ...........clever."

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Modern Day Tragedy

The Cindy Sheehan mess, a modern day tragedy of a woman losing her son, family, and self respect if not her very sanity before the public eye, is an ugly show. While everyone is ultimately responsible for their own behavior, the grief pimps of the far left and their able partners, the exploitative media, have banded together to use Ms. Sheehan's all too public breakdown for their own despicable ends.

Make no mistake, there are those on the right who have behaved just as questionably, but I'm hard pressed to criticize any group that attempts to fill the vacuum of balance in the reporting of this story. While Ms. Sheehan's pathetic mug has been broadcast to all corners of the globe, little has been made of the fact, that her story over time has changed, her charges against the President are in the main ridiculous, and her denouncing of her country and fellow citizens is obscene. In lieu of reporting on this, how can we blame the right for pointing out these short comings? In most cases they have been respectful and have acknowledged Ms. Sheehan's right to say whatever she pleases. Going further, most of Ms. Sheehan's critics have accorded to her an enhanced level of moral authority due to her loss of a son in Iraq.

Yet those on the left seem to have little respect for Ms. Sheehan. In fact, their contempt for her is all to obvious. Consider what you would do presented with the awful situation of a friend or acquaintance who had suffered a terrible loss, and was suffering from grief that few of us could imagine. Would you run out and hijack her image, capitalize on her loss for your own political gain? Of course not. Decent people try to lend a hand. Respectful people step in, take a degree of responsibility for their friend's life to help reduce the burden of their loss. Good friends listen, cry and hold their loved one's hand to try to provide an all to inadequate assurance that this too will pass, and with God's help, their friend will begin to smile again.

Grief Pimps are just the opposite. They care not a bit for the suffering mom. Cindy Sheehan in their minds is just another disposable soldier in their war against the President, and for some the United States. They are all to aware, that August 2005 has a certain end date and with it will come the end of the public side Ms. Sheehan's meltdown. Until that time, she can serve as an all too willing dupe to step into the national spotlight in their ongoing attempt blow-up Mr. Bush's presidency.

We've seen this before with Islamic suicide bombers. Its never the Ayatollahs, Arafats or Assads that strap on the backpack, it is always the brainwashed dupes that are convinced that self annihilation is the path to salvation. So it is with Ms. Sheehan. Pumped full of the same tired themes of the left, "Bush lied", "Israel out of Palestine", "It was a war for oil", Ms. Sheehan has been encouraged to step onto the national stage, create as much damage as possible, and then be cast aside to deal with her ruined life when she is of no further use.

The media is no better. Certainly they know the cynicism of this woman's users, and without question they're aware of the shallowness of her charges. Instead of reporting her story in the appropriate context with a minimum of exploitation, they gleefully convey her every utterance. My conservative brethren believe that this is further proof of the media's left leaning bias, and perhaps they're correct. Yet, I believe this gives the media too much credence. Hitchens put it best in his Slate article yesterday, "it is a story that almost writes itself". You see, it is Ms. Sheehan's gift, as it were, to those scribblers that prefer not too work too hard in the dog days. I suppose that makes the media the "Grief Johns".

So we'll be plagued by Cindy's tragic visage for a couple of more weeks. The President isn't going to meet with her, although I imagine that if he felt it would solve her problems and let her return home comforted he wouldn't have hesitated. The grief pimps will continue to wring every last drop of publicity out of her, until a better opportunity comes along, and with every new development on her journey to oblivion, we'll have a front row seat.

Me? I'm going to continue to say a prayer every day for Cindy. You should too.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Dinner With Pursuit

Last night Mrs. P and I celebrated our 20th anniversary of wedded bliss. Considering that we've now been married for over two decades, it was a low key event. We had exchanged gifts earlier in the week on "the real" day, and then this weekend we went out to dinner with our two daughters. We wanted to include them in our celebration because an anniversary really is about more than marking time. It is a celebration of our union and the life that we have built together. It has been a great twenty years, made all the much better by our kids and they joy the bring to our life.

This isn't about our anniversary though, nor is it about the joys of marriage, or child rearing. Certainly those would be interesting topics, but I'm more interested in dining this afternoon so I thought I'd write a restaurant review. Apologies to those not likely to ever dine in Chicago, but you might enjoy the read anyway. I've always thought dining reviews should contain a narrative, and be more than just the quick hits of who ate what, and whether or not it was any good. Lets see how I do, shall we?

Our choice of restaurants last night was a local spot with two locations in the Chicago area. Bin 36 has been around for a couple of years at this point, and as the name suggests it focuses on wine and food pairings, and has a retail wine shop where you can pick up a bottle or two of something that you've enjoyed at dinner should you be so inclined.

This is a clever marketing approach in that I'm sure it works to provide the desired image that the owners are looking to attain, while simultaneously increasing revenue per square foot. Effectively, Bin 36 is using their image to leverage the sales potential of one of the highest margin items on their menu: wine.

I have no problem with this approach, since establishing a fine dining business is notoriously difficult, and any advantage the owners can use to put their restaurant on strong footing should be considered. Yet I'm also well aware of that unfortunate path some establishments take to raising awareness: The Theme Restaurant.

You've seen these everywhere. From the simple Chuck E. Cheeses to medieval themes all the way up to more upscale chains that thrive on celebrity or worse some sort of "fun" aspect. Island chic, for example. So the question for me going into Bin 36 was this: Is wine a passion, or a gimmick?

Sadly, I came away with the impression that wine was just a means of differentiation. Were it a passion the wait staff would have been more well informed, glassware more differentiated, and attention to detail much better.

This is not to say that Bin 36 is a bad restaurant, because it surely isn't. Instead it is just a very average place, with a decent selection of wine and food that is prepared from ingredients that didn't strike me as being of the highest quality.

Things started out fine for us as we took our seats. The dining room was very attractive with sleek modern finishes and white table cloths. The fact that the staff wore black t-shirts and black jeans was a bit casual for my tastes, but then I'm a snob, and I thought that perhaps Bin 36 was trying to maintain a more approachable image in defiance of those tiresome boors who try to make wine a point of exclusion and class distinction. So bully for Bin 36, encouraging others to take an interest is laudable as long as casualness does not lead to carelessness.

Our waitress provided us with an overview of the night's specials, and left us with a menu, a very large flight list (wines by the glass separated into flights of 4 different wines in a flight), and a bottle list. Although cumbersome, we negotiated our way into the menu first. In general the dishes seemed fairly mundane, and I was not particularly inspired by anything. Helpfully, Bin 36 had provided wine pairing suggestions next to each menu item. Of course, I ignored these and made my own decisions!

I ended up selecting an hierloom tomato salad and a 1/2 roasted chicken for my dinner. Mrs. P selected a duck spring roll appetizer and flank steak entree, while the girls split a tiger shrimp appetizer with PD1 choosing the blue cheese hamburger for her main course and PD2 going with the scallop pasta. For wine, I chose a white burgundy to accompany my first course and Mrs. P a German reisling. We both choose the "sexy reds" flight for our main course.

That is when the wait began. Although we were there on a Sunday night and the restaurant did not seem particularly crowded it took about 10 minutes for our wine to arrive, and another 10 -15 minutes for our first course. This was an issue, because we specifically wanted to enjoy our wine with our food, and the lengthy wait time made this very difficult as it was a slow kind of torture watching our whites slowly rise to room temperature.

Finally, our food arrived and we started in. My heirloom tomato salad was not what I had really hoped for. In ordering heirloom tomatoes, one hopes to sample different kinds of tomatoes to appreciate the spectrum of flavors that can be found in strains that have not had their distinctiveness bread into oblivion. Sadly, I only had one kind of tomato in the salad, cut into about 5 slices and combined with lettuce, a smoky bacon and a very fishy tasting crab. I guess that wouldn't have been a great name though so they went with the misleading heirloom bit.

My white burgundy was decent, a bit too acidic for my tastes, but at it's moderate price point of around $5 for the glass, I wasn't expecting too much. Mrs. P's spring roll was good, but the salad that accompanied it was quite nice combining mango and Asian spices to provide a refreshing counterpoint to the duck in the roll. The reisling, despite the waitress' protestations when we ordered was, in fact, quite sweet yet to Mrs. P's appreciation seemed to work well with the food.

Our "sexy reds" (could they come up with a better name) flight came next so I'll give you an overview of the wines first. The flight included:

2003 Syrah, Hahn Estate: This was by far the weakest wine of the flight. In fact, its nose held an offputting vinegary scent that while not strong, certainly didn't seem right. Once in the mouth, the vinegar was not noticeable, yet the wine itself was undistinguished and held none of the spice and fruit that I've come to expect from a California Syrah. A very disappointing wine.

2003 Carmenere, Reserva, Casa Silva Colchagua Chile: I must say I really enjoy some of the selections coming out of South America and this wine was not exception. A moderate nose, that held some chocolate, it had nice fruit, a taste of the earth and the same chocolate hints once on the palate.

2001 Liano, Umberto Cesari, Emilia Romagna, Italy: The best of the flight, it had a more complex nose, and in the mouth tasted of fruit, black cherry in particular, chocolate and a small tanic bite. I really enjoyed this wine, and is very drinkable right now.

2003 Zinfandel, Easton, Amador County, California: This was a good zin, and held all of the tastes that one expects from a zin. Fruit, spice and medium body.

Once our main courses arrived, we pretty much knew what to expect. Decent food, presented without much sense of care or respect. My chicken, although a bit dry came in a bowl with beans, charred escarole and a little garlicy broth. It was a good dish, but certainly something that a decent home cook could accomplish. Mrs. P's flank steak had decent flavor enhanced by green chilies, yet the meat while cooked to medium rare as ordered was a bit tough. PD2's scallops and pasta where less than we expected since the scallops, like my crab, were plagued by a fishy flavor.

Desert was really more of the same. I choose a trio of sorbets that tasted as if it came out of the foodstore freezer, Mrs. P had a key lime tart that seemed as though the key lime filling had curdled during cooking, and the girls had a very standard creme brulee. Which reminds me, I really have to post something about the tragedy of what is done to creme brulees these days.

All in all I'd say Bin 36 is a C joint with B+ prices. Our dinner, prior to tip was 191.00 American. There are many other places in Chicago that offer better food for the price, and the less than inspiring wine service did not provide a compelling reason to overlook this place's faults.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Why Is This Man Allowed To Remain Free?

Let alone continue on in his job as General Manager of The Chicago Bears.

If you're a Bear's fan, and lets face it the people willing to admit to this distinction must be declining at a precipitous rate, it must be feeling a little like Ground Hog Day for you this morning. You know Ground Hog Day the Bill Murray movie were he keeps reliving the same day over and over again?

By now, most Bear fan's have heard that the latest great hope for football salvation in our town, Rex Grossman, broke his ankle last night and is out for 3 to 4 months. Effectively, this means that for the Bears to have any chance to make the playoffs this year, they will have to do it on the back of the second string quarter back. More on this in a moment but first lets review some recent Bear's history.

Chicago has never distinguished itself as a Quarterback focused franchise. An incredible number of marginally talented men have attempted to bring excellence to the position and for a variety of reasons, most having to do with a stunning lack of talent, they all have failed. The list of quarterbacks that I can remember just from my life time alone is stunning: Virgil Carter, Jack Concannon, Gary Huff, Bobby Douglas, Bob Avellini, Vince Evans, Jim McMahon, Steve Fuller, Mike Tomczak, Mike Hohensee, Doug Flutie, Eric Kramer, that guy from Michigan, Cade McNown, Shane Mathews, Jim Miller, Craig Krenzel, Johnathan Whatshisname, and the latest to crash and burn, the aforementioned Rex Grossman. When you consider that I am 44 years old, this amounts to a change of quarterback every two years, and I am sure that I have forgotten at least five that should be on this list!

Stunning, isn't it? As a charter club in the NFL, the Chicago franchise seems to have taken the strategic decision to become the team that finds new and interesting ways to really screw up. The truth is that a cursory examination of any one year will reveal tales of remarkable incompetence marked by a uniquely Chicago Bear creativity in the actual implementation of their stupidity. Lets take the 1970 draft for example. As any fan knows, 1969 was a disastrous year for the team. Able to achieve only 1 victory in 12 attempts, the sole positive development to come out of that hopeless campaign was the fact that going into the 1970 draft, the Bears had the number one pick.

For most teams this would have represented an opportunity for salvation. You see, that draft held the promise of Terry Bradshaw, most recently of LSU, and the arm that would eventually propel his team to multiple Super Bowls and Bradshaw himself to the Hall of Fame. Not so the Bears. Instead our heros, comfortable with their 1969 number 2 pick from Kansas State the unforgettable Bobby Douglas, chose to instead trade the number one slot to Pittsburgh who used it to take Mr. Bradshaw. The rest, as they say, is history.

I could go on (and on, and on....) but you get the point. So awful is the Bears history at the quarterback position that in the last 39 years, only one quarterback has thrown for more than 20 touchdowns in a season. By comparison, Peyton Manning threw 49 last year alone, and never has thrown for less than 26 in any season.

So it was with great hope that the Bears began the 2005 campaign. Their QB hopeful, and focus of all Bear's fan's dreams Rex Grossman, was coming off of an ACL injury that occurred last year (when he was coming off of a torn throwing hand tendon injury from the year before) and fans were hoping for some stability at the QB position. Despite our hopes, many wondered if it was wise to put all of our eggs in the basket of a QB who has only been able to start 6 out of 32 games in the 2 seasons that he has been in the league.

This seemed like a dodgy sort of decision, especially when you looked at the Bear's back-ups. Should Grossman get injured the team was relying on Chad Hutchinson, a journeyman with only 12 starts under his belt who most recently was rejected in Dallas by Bill Parcels the multi-Super Bowl winning coach, and 2 rookies straight out of college, one drafted in the fourth round and the other not drafted at all. Oh, yes, and some other guy that I've never heard of whose name is Dinwiddie. Do we really need to know anything more about a guy named "Dinwiddie"?

"Gosh Mr. Angelo, do you think we should perhaps get an experienced back-up in the not so off chance that Grossman turns out to be injury prone?" was the question most often repeated in the off season. Football genius that he is, Jer said "no", he was quite happy with the line-up that he has.

So we now find ourselves the morning after the second exhibition game (THE SECOND FREAKING EXHIBITION GAME YOU IDIOT!) and we are without our starting quarterback for essentially the rest of the season. This is doubly moronic when you consider that Grossman was by no means a proven quantity even if he had remained healthy.

I have scoured the news and sports sites this morning, and I am stunned to report to my readers that Angelo remains a free man. This is an outrage. In terms of crimes against humanity there certainly have been worse offenses, but that is no reason to let this awful man off the hook. He has taken the hopes and dreams of Bears fans everywhere, crushed them, shown no signs of remorse, and yet he has not spent one night in jail. Not one friggin' night!

This is an outrage.

With all the talk of corporate greed, and felonious activity you would think that there would be room for the application of our statutes against extraordinary football incompetence such as this. Why in the world should Martha Stuart have to serve jail time for a little fib to the Feds, when men like Jerry are allowed to remain free. My liberal friends tell me how the Patriot Act is a threat to our freedoms, but when a man exploits the goodwill of the best fans in football for his own ill gain and remains free, how bad can the Patriot Act be?

There will be those that say I'm "over reacting", and that Angelo's incompetence isn't "actionable" in a court of law, or that it doesn't "actually violate our legal statutes". While I grudgingly admit this is true, I'm constantly told that we are now living in George Bush's police state and I must ask, what good is a police state if we can't throw those we're mad at in jail?!

So okay, incarceration my prove problematic thanks to the liberal hand wringers out there. Fine. Lets fire the guy then. Last year the Bears set records for offensive constipation due mostly to Angelo's ill considered decisions. Did I mention that he made sure all of our back-up QB's were completely devoid of talent then as well? He now has done it again. I used to have a boss that had a favorite saying, and I think it applies here quite well.

"Screw me once, you're an asshole". Screw me twice, I'm an asshole".

My friends, I may be many things, but I'm no asshole. Fire the guy.

UPDATE: Amazingly, I forgot both the Kordel Stewart era and the Chris Chandler era.

UPDATE II: Whooooo boy, I thought I was pissed. Check out Jay Mariotti in the Sun-Times:

"I don't know what bothers me more: the franchise's incredible lack of good fortune at the position, or Jerry Angelo's utter stupidity in once again leaving his team without a quality backup. The minute Grossman signaled for a trainer, then slammed his helmet on the cart in disgust, Angelo should have resigned on the spot."

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Man Who Poses For A Picture Like This......

.......has clearly got some issues, don't you think?

I'll admit it. I do feel guilty picking on Jimmy. It really doesn't seem fair, except that like the booger eating kid in the school yard, our noted UFO sighter just seems to ask for it. Widely acknowledged by all, except for a smattering of legal heirs and true believers, to be among America's worst presidents, the man who once suffered a ferocious rabbit attack just keeps coming back for more.

At one time there was a campaign by the irony free to rehabilitate Jimmy's image by promoting the 44 state reject as "America's best ex-President". Clearly an allusion to his nail pounding, and important rigged election certification work, the strategy also had the appealing benefit (to Carter anyway) of providing a favorable comparison to President Reagan who was too sick at the time to appear in public.

Most of us were satisfied to smirk at the unintended joke, and let the man have his day, but he just couldn't let well enough alone. In a testament to the eternal good faith of the American people, his image began to rise a little and folks were happy to "forget" his numerous failures committed while in office. It wasn't enough for Jimmy though. His quest for a Nobel led him to bash the U.S. in the lead up to the award, at the ceremony itself, and he has continued to conduct himself with less dignity than merits an ex-president.

Jimmy is also desperately trying to re-write history. One of these efforts was the "October Surprise" theory which postulated that George H.W. Bush negotiated a deal with Iran to hold the U.S. hostages until after the 1980 election in order to get Ronald Reagan voted into office. This, of course, was the insane concoction of a man who badly needed to justify his rejection.

Then we also have his briefing book "scandal". Today, George Will, a focus of Jimmy's ire responds. It really is excellent reading.

Will Jimmy ever get over his failed presidency? One hopes so, since the rest of the country has moved on. He is rightly remembered for his work with Egypt and Israel and you'd think he could fashion a suitable legacy off of that. Yet his monumentally insecure ego always seems to cry for more, so we're likely to be subject to suffering along with Jimmy for years to come.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

There's No Fool Like an Old Fool

"The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band." No question about it, they always were and always will be the best. The Stones, more than any other band, always knew what Rock was all about. Up tempo blues that relied on Keith's devotion to the art, and Mick's over the top preening to set the standard by which all other band's are measured.

But, man are these guys stupid.

Keith was always a bit of a joke. Immensely talented, truly the heart of the band, and by all accounts a good guy as well. We snickered at his excess, and adored the riffs that powered the songs of the Stones. In spite of the running jokes about his drug abuse, we held Keith in high regard and knew that the Stones would never have been the Stones without him.

Mick was the jerk. Without Keith he would have taken the band over the edge a long time ago and fallen prey to whatever trendy impulse appealed to him at the moment. A man of deeply questionable judgment - Jerry Hall? Bianca? The latest pregnant Brazilian fluzy? - Mick always held the unenviable position as the rock star we'd be least likely to emulate if we found ourselves in the same position. Never has the admonition to "shut up and sing" been more appropriate for a rocker.

The last two decades haven't been kind to the Stones. While they remain an entertaining arena act, due mostly to the excellence of their early song writing, the catalogue of songs on such disasters as "Steel Wheels", and "Bridges to Babylon" has been imminently forgettable. One wonders that if these efforts were put out by other bands would anyone have noticed?

Probably the greatest of the band's attributes through the years is that the Rolling Stones wisely avoided being overtly political. Whether this was a shrewd marketing decision, or silent recognition of artist's unique ability to embarrass themselves before the public with their overly wrought, ill considered political opinions, doesn't really matter. They kept their mouths shut, and rocked in the adoration of fans who loved their songs.

Apparently they've decided to change things a bit. Hopping on the lefty bandwagon, The Stones have decided to attack President Bush in one of their new songs, "Sweet Neo-Con". Ignoring the fact that Bush is not a neo-con, Jagger has produced some real genius with the following:

"You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite/You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of shit."

A fan just shakes his head in wonder. Forget the political statement for a moment, and tell me this - can you imagine a more sophomoric set of lyrics? At best we'd expect something like this from a band of say Greenday's stature, and most likely would find lyrics of similar quality in the journal of an over wrought high schooler.

There was a lot of talk leading up to this CD that Mick and Keith had gone back to their roots and produced a more bluesy effort that was reminiscent of some of their early work. While I was skeptical I did allow myself some hope that they had one more good, if not great effort in them. I'll withhold judgment until I hear the tunes, but right now things don't seem promising.

Shut-up and sing Mick.

UPDATE: Mick woke up this morning and realized conservatives buy a lot of Stones CD's. What a dumb ass. He's gone from Old Fool to Pandering Old Fool. Oh, those lyrics? Even more sophomoric than previously imagined.
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Monday, August 8, 2005

The Project: Update

Today my friends, I bring you great news from the frontier of culinary excellence:

The Big Baby is done!

Back in June, you'll recall this post, where dreams and excitement overwhelmed reality and I committed to building myself a homemade smoker. Not just any smoker mind you, but a Big Baby, the king of two barreled smoking technology as it exists in the world today. Talk about pure folly, why I've never successfully built anything in my life.

Moving forward with this project required that I forget the ill formed spice rack I made in 6th grade shop class, that wasn't quite square. Not only did it look like the product of some tragically unskilled kid, but it packed all of the functionality too! Spices placed on the rack would slide right off crashing to the floor in a dramatic explosion.

In short, I was the black sheep of the family. My Grandfather, who I never met, was a skilled woodworker and jeweler. My father, when he had the time was also able to produce great things with a couple of sharp tools and some decent quality wood. In a sort of ongoing generational mockery, I have this day, in my house my Grandfather's workbench, and tool drawer which he made himself. All of his tools are in there; files, screwdrivers, drills and other things that I don't even recognize. It just doesn't get much use since I clearly have some mutant gene.

My dad was patient with me too when I was growing up. He'd ask me to assist on some project and I would do the best I could. Yet lack of interest, a desire to work much faster than my dad did, and a severe talent deficit led to the admonishment to "at least look like you know what your doing!" I laugh every time I think of the poor man's frustration with his less than handy offspring.

Today all that changes. I, through the mostly square product of my own unskilled hands, have secured my place in the family tree, for I have built a Big Baby. No more will I suffer the mockery of generations since departed. Never again will I fear their stern admonishment upon my attempted entry into heaven: "yes, but what did you build?"

Because now I have not only an answer, but I have something much more. I will be able to say, "I built a Big Baby, and I used it to produce some mighty fine que". "How about you"?

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Saturday, August 6, 2005

Jet Set Trash

Wanna hear a rockin' tune? I just heard these guys on WXRT's local anesthetic, and "Jet Set Trash" was a smashing little diddy! Check it out, click on the link above and give this new to me band a listen.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Teaching Intelligent Design

President Bush created a maelstrom yesterday in an interview with several Texas journalists when he seemed to endorse the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. While lefties everywhere responded predictably, the right as is typical these days exhibited a difference of opinion both on what the President said, and its merits.

While I can understand the outrage of those on the right who see no place for the inclusion of intelligent design in public school curriculum, I find myself - somewhat surprisingly - at odds with this position. Ever since my days as a Boy Scout I have always viewed America's absolute distrust of religion with a combination of amusement, skepticism, and sadness as I think we've taken an important source of inspiration and morality, and relegated it as off limits in the public discourse. This is a shame, because I am quite certain that this was not the intention of the founding fathers:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Quoted above is the Establishment Clause. Look at it closely and you'll see that there is no statement about "separation of church and state" as is commonly believed by the religophobics in our midst. Instead the founders where quite clear that they sought to ensure the rights of all citizens to believe and practice their faith, or lack thereof, without fear of oppression.

So our founders, as is typical of their genius, gave us a sound principle by which to manage our affairs but remained intentionally vague on the implementation details so that we could apply the principle to modern day events which they were unable to foresee. This incredibly wise decision represented their requirement that future generations act reasonably to maintain the freedoms on which this country has thrived for over two centuries.

The question we must ask ourselves today is a simple one. Have we gone too far in interpreting the establishment clause to require not just freedom of religion, but freedom from religion as well? This is an important question because our current state of affairs has resulted in the sorry status quo of little or no religion being taught in our public schools.

Can anyone imagine a more ridiculous situation? When a vast majority of the world, I'd guess over 90%, believes in one deity or another as the ultimate source of truth, morality and indeed life itself, why in the world would we require that public schools be silent on a discussions of religion. When you consider that the other non-believing 10% have quite a bit to say about religion and their own beliefs this status quo seems even more bizarre. I'm aware that some schools continue to teach comparative religion classes, but for the most part these are the exceptions, and discussion is very tightly controlled so as not to offend separation absolutists.

The predictable result has been that we have built a public education system that is largely silent on morals and values. More importantly, some of our greatest thinkers have come from the religious world and are now out of bounds for public school curriculums. When was the last time Augustine, Aquinas or Anselm where mentioned out loud in a classroom? Has C.S. Lewis ever been discussed for his contributions beyond just his literary importance?

One of the most amusing, yet sad instances of this lack of education came during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings during the first Bush presidency. I remember vividly the anti-Thomas side complaining that he believed in "Natural Law" as if this was some sort of heresy. The dissenter's objections presumably were based in the foundation that Natural Law, as suggested by Locke, was handed down from the Creator. These deep thinkers believed that it should be obvious to everyone that we couldn't have a man who held such views on our Supreme Court! Obvious, apparently to everyone but our founding fathers who pinned the intellectual basis for our revolution and based the rights guaranteed in our constitution, including the freedom of religion that they so covet, on Locke's theories.

Which is all a long way to go to talk about the President's "outrageous" statement yesterday, but it does set an important foundation for the discussion. I've linked to the transcript above, but let’s pull out the salient exchange, shall we?

Q I wanted to ask you about the -- what seems to be a growing debate over evolution versus intelligent design. What are your personal views on that, and do you think both should be taught in public schools?

THE PRESIDENT: I think -- as I said, harking back to my days as my governor -- both you and Herman are doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past. (Laughter.) Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Q Both sides should be properly taught?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, people -- so people can understand what the debate is about.

Q So the answer accepts the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting -- you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

On the face of it, I see little to get upset about. In the first exchange, Bush simply states that first and foremost, this is a local decision not a federal decision. Good for him. Secondly in stating his personal preference, which he notes would have been more relevant as Governor, he says he would like to see both sides taught, so kids can understand the controversy. This appears to be an endorsement, albeit a limited one, of comparative religion. In the second exchange Bush is given the opportunity to state that ID is an alternative to evolution but does not come near to making such a suggestion. Instead he goes on to endorse the policy of teaching different ideas.

This not only is not wrong, but instead is a endorsable idea. The fault here seems to be on the side of the press which should have questioned Bush further on his thoughts. If they were to have done this and were Bush to suggest that ID should be part of the science curriculum, then clearly he would have been off base. If instead, Bush were to support the teaching of ID along with other religious theories in a philosophical curriculum, then he would have been spot on.

Instead, we're left with not much more than debate fodder and a prime example why Presidents limit their exposure to the press. We certainly can fault Bush for his ineloquence, but we also must ask why the reporter, who planned the question in advance was so ill prepared to follow-up and clarify. Perhaps he was more interested in scarring than in educating. Ironically, the "scientists" accuse religious people of such an approach all the time.

Returning to Bush's comments I would simply love to see education include questions such as this in student's daily coursework. What could be wrong with debating ID, evolution, Christianity, Islam and the other great faiths that have inspired man? Indeed, if framed properly it seems to me that it becomes quite clear that the ideas of ID and evolution can be quite compatible because ID and the great religions are focused on the origins of life, while evolution is concerned with the mechanism of how life developed once here. Or not. Either way, it is a debate worth having in the classroom.

So why the controversy? It seems clear that it is due more to religious/scientific baiting hucksters competing for their time in the spotlight more than anything else. How else, in this day and age of manufactured outrage, can one be expected to raise funds and keep the foundations flush with cash, and the BMW in the garage? The rest of us ought to be above that.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Southern Culture

The Pursuit family made a trip south of the Mason-Dixon line this weekend, and as always it proved to be quite an experience. One part of my family hails from southern Illinois, and has since moved to Kentucky. We hadn't seen them in a couple of years, and when word came of an illness we wanted to pop on down for the weekend and do what we could to lend some support.

I always have enjoyed my visits down there because they have such a great, tight knit family that enjoy each other's company, and provide a strong support base. This is what family is all about, and what I think too many of us have gotten away from. Growing up in the urban north, our culture is so different. The family structure in many ways is much weaker, and our pretentions to sophistication can be as laughable as some of the more basic aires one finds in the south.

Two conversations make this point. The first involves a trip to Spain that the Pursuit family will be taking next year. The family was giving Mrs. Pursuit some good natured grief for scheduling a trip to a European country next year, especially one that took the cowardly approach to backing out of Iraq after their 3/11 attack. Thinking she would explain herself, Mrs. P said, "wait, you don't understand we won the trip in an auciton for our church's outreach program. One of the families has a condo there and they donated it as a bidding item". This, predictably, only served to heighten the mockery and secured our image as faux sophisticates.

The second conversation was shorter, but equally emblematic of the cultural divide. Mrs. P was having a chat with one of my cousins when I walked up and asked what they were talking about.

"Burnin' Stuff" was my cousin's reply.

Unfortunately, we could only spend two days down Kentucky way, but hopefully we'll be able to return soon. We had a great time, and I got a chance to remember how much I love this side of our family.

As for the sign above, I must admit I was completely stunned.....there are some things about southern culture I don't think I 'll ever understand. I get "dirt cheap", and realize it is a good thing, but I think I would find perhaps a better way to express the idea. More of my faux sophistication I suppose. Readers of this blog will also realize that although I don't smoke, I'm not against those that do, and I do find time to enjoy both beer and liquor. There is one thing I don't understand though.

Transvestite, hooker, poultry.

You might want to "click to bigger" to get the full view. How in the world does somebody who owns a "dirt cheap" liquor store sit down one day and come up with the idea that their store needs a transvestite, hooker, rooster as a mascot? I've never seen one of these, and I'm not sure they exist, but if they do, are they really the best guides to excellence in intoxicants and cigarettes?

Oh, wait a second that kind of explains it doesn't it?

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