The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Nutty Melvin redux

In the continuing saga of Jew-hater Mel Gibson, a Jesuit priest wrote in Tribune op-ed today (reg.req.) that the Jewish deputy arresting Gibson was "the most Christian" in the whole story:

After the arrest, James Mee said that he held no grudge against Gibson and didn't want to see Gibson's career suffer, even though he's the guy in whose face Gibson spewed his invective. Despite that, this Jewish fellow gave Gibson a little lesson—a parable you might say—about Christian forgiveness.

Oy. Perhaps he showed Jewish forgiveness? Or maybe, faced with a drunken idiot, perhaps Deputy Mee merely showed professional restraint?

Other nuts in the news

Following up on my earlier post, I should mention a possibly-not-religious nut from academia. Fortunately, his 15 minutes are nearly up. I heard him on NPR this morning, because, well, they sometimes roast nuts on the air. The Tribune also picked up the story:

[University of Wisconsin lecturer Kevin] Barrett believes the U.S. government orchestrated the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to create support for a larger military budget and a long-term Middle East war. He believes the World Trade Center buildings fell after a controlled demolition and doubts that the hijacker believed to have flown the plane into the Pentagon had the skills to do it. He thinks Osama bin Laden is probably dead.
"I have always been trying to distinguish myself from all the weird people," he said, recalling past ventures as a writer. "Little did I imagine I would have become devoted to exposing what most people think of as a conspiracy theory."

From this we can deduce...what, class? Number one: Barrett has not done a good job distinguishing himself from the weird people. Number two: most people think of his hypothesis as a conspiracy theory because it imagines—wait for it—a conspiracy. We should keep in mind that the generally-accepted theory of 9/11 (stupidity at the highest levels of government, 19 fanatical terrorists with no regard for human life, airplanes as guided missiles, Osama bin Laden behind it all) also imagines a conspiracy, so I'm wondering if Barrett might have forgotten an adjective to differentiate his conspiracy theory from the others. (I can think of one.)

Number three: the generally-accepted theory of 9/11 has volumes of corroborating evidence, and his hypothesis has none, which we take to mean the generally-accepted theory may be more correct. Number four: even absent said volumes of corroborating evidence, the generally-accepted theory sounds a lot more plausible on its face. (Kevin Barrett, meet William of Ockham. William, Kevin. You guys really need to have a chat.)

So, yes, even in academia, kooks abound. And because academic nut-jobs rarely have heavily-armed followers, it's OK to laugh at them.

Religious nuts in the news

Two related stories about religious fundamentalists appeared in the news this week.

First, it turns out that Mel Gibson really is an anti-Semitic religious nut who believes millions of witnesses somehow hoodwinked the world about millions of murders. I, for one, find this shocking. Gibson has shown nothing but sensitivity and a desire for accuracy in his historical films, give or take an ancient dialect, and he has gone to great lengths to distance himself from his nutter father, so it really must have been the booze talking over the weekend.

Sometimes the booze talks through me, too. So I understand. One time, the booze not only talked through me, it talked to a really gorgeous young lady whose booze had nothing to say in return. Though I don't remember what the booze said, I'm pretty sure it had something to do with a hypothetical plan for the evening with the gorgeous young lady but, instead of talking, her booze wound up in my face. So yes, booze says bad things. Or, at least, ill-advised things, because if I'm not mistaken, my hypothetical plans for the evening with said gorgeous young lady did, in fact, reflect my deeply-held convictions at the time; I just didn't phrase them appropriately. Or, more to the point, I didn't keep them to myself, which may have saved me a few bucks in dry-cleaning the next day.

In other words, booze may talk, but it doesn't have any ideas of its own, so it borrows them from the boozer. I believe people who spoke Aramaic for real knew this, too. No, I think we've learned in the thousands years of experience with booze that when booze talks, it's really you talking, no matter how offensive it sounds.

Like many successful religious nutters, Gibson probably also believes that his religion has gotten him where he is today. Being a fundamentalist crackpot takes a certain willfulness, a certain élan, a certain myopia, that tends to self-reinforcement. Once you believe that things happen directly because God makes them happen, you start to believe that God sanctions your fundamentalist crackpottery. You start to believe that you won an Oscar for Braveheart because God loves you, rather than that it grossed more than Babe and Tom Hanks. You start to believe that God directed the steps of all the other religious nutters who made Passion of the Christ such a bonanza for the studio, rather than realizing you're in a fundamentalist echo chamber.

In short, you start to believe people support your religious ideas, rather than people simply put up with your religious ideas because you're making them rich. It's just business.

Kind of like in Kansas. An apparent fundamentalist nutter there got un-elected from the school board, meaning children in Kansas may soon resume learning something about science as scientists actually see it. But whatever Brad Patzer's true beliefs, I'm under the impression that the anti-evolution Republicans on the Kansas school board were actually there to distract attention from the other, quite sober Republicans in the Kansas legislature who have systematically ground Kansas into poverty in the name of free enterprise. For that story, I recommend What's the Matter with Kansas.

So, this week, our fundamentalist kooks suffered some setbacks, but don't worry. There are plenty of them to go around.

And another thing...

Why did the only government we have approve a deal to give nuclear materials to one of only two nuclear-armed countries that rejects the Non-Proliferation Treaty? (Possible answer: because the other one is Pakistan?)

Yes, Congress voted 359-68 to give India nuclear technology:

For Bush to implement his accord with India, lawmakers must first exempt New Delhi from U.S. laws that bar nuclear trade with countries that have not submitted to full international inspections.
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) [said] that "at this time of great crisis in the world, we should be looking for nuclear disarmament, nuclear abolition—saving the world, not ramping up for Armageddon by nuclear proliferation."
"We're going in the wrong direction here," he said.

As Tom Lehrer once sang: "We'll try to stay serene and calm/When Alabama gets the bomb./Who's next?"

I am sad to report that Illinois' own nuclear material Henry Hyde sponsored the bill, though how this will help DuPage County is beyond me. Also troubling is my own representative's vote for it. Congresswoman Schakowsky: why? Why? Why?

Ten&mdash;excuse me&mdash;<em>billion</em>?

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) posted a $10,360,000,000 profit last quarter:

The earnings figure was 36 percent above the profit it reported a year ago. High oil prices helped boost the company's revenue by 12 percent to a level just short of a quarterly record. Exxon Mobil's report comes a day after another large U.S. oil company, ConocoPhillips, said it earned more than $5 billion in the quarter and at a time when many drivers in the U.S. are paying $3 for a gallon of gas—increasing the likelihood of further political backlash in Washington.

I wonder, does this have anything to do with the secret Cheney energy-policy meeting in 2001? I wonder. I also wonder who's getting that money. Are you an ExxonMobil shareholder? Do you know anyone who is, whose annual income is below $500,000? I wonder.

Just for giggles, you might want to know that their profit works out to $1,317 per second. In the time it's taken for me to write this entry, they've earned almost $400,000.

As we say in Chicago: "Where's mine?"

One more thing: Temperatures in Chicago should hit 32°C (90°F) every day for the next week, so it's possible my estimate of their earnings was low.

Moyers for President

That's what Molly Ivins suggests this week:

Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me.
Then why run him? Think, imagine, if seven or eight other Democratic candidates, all beautifully coiffed and triangulated and carefully coached to say nothing that will offend anyone, stand on stage with Bill Moyers in front of cameras for a national debate … what would happen? Bill Moyers would win, would walk away with it, just because he doesn't triangulate or calculate or trim or try to straddle the issues. Bill Moyers doesn't have to endorse a constitutional amendment against flag burning or whatever wedge issue du jour Republicans have come up with. He is not afraid of being called "unpatriotic." And besides, he is a wise and a kind man who knows how to talk on TV.

Sounds good to me.

But...but...everyone <i>knows</i> already

The ACLU's case over AT&T sharing its phone records with the government got dismissed:

"The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government's intelligence activities," U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said.

Any adversary of this country who can't figure out what phone records went to which agency is probably too stupid to be much of a threat, in my opinion.

I was all set to rant that Kennelly was a Bush (either flavor) or Reagan appointee, but no, he's one of ours. Still, the whole thing smells bad, not least because the judicial branch really ought to stand up to the executive, since the legislative isn't.

Would you like an upgrade, Mr. Bond?

I don't know whether this is funny or sad. The Italian government is using the frequent-flier records of several CIA operatives to build their prosecution:

It is unclear whether the operatives intended to take advantage of the free flights garnered at government expense—CIA personnel on such assignments are permitted to fly expensive international business class—or whether they simply were attempting to bolster their covers as private-sector executives.

So keep this in mind, all you road warriors: Someday someone may track your movements based on your quest for Executive Platinum.

ABA says Bush signing statements are probably bad

It's old news, but the President has frequently attached "signing statements" to bills he's signed indicating that, his signature notwithstanding, he won't enforce the law:

Bush has vetoed only one bill since taking office, a bill approved by Congress last week relaxing his limits on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. But he has on many occasions signed bills, then issued statements reserving the right not to enforce or execute parts of the new laws, on the grounds that they infringe on presidential authority or violate other constitutional provisions.
Perhaps the most prominent example was legislation last year banning cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners at U.S. detention centers. Bush signed the bill into law after a struggle with Congress, then followed it with an official statement indicating that he might waive the ban under his constitutional authority as commander in chief, if necessary to prevent a terrorist attack.

The American Bar Association says that the President can't just say "I'm not enforcing the law" without provoking a constitutional crisis:

"The president is indicating that he will not either enforce part or the entirety of congressional bills," said ABA president Michael S. Greco, a Massachusetts attorney. "We will be close to a constitutional crisis if this issue, the president's use of signing statements, is left unchecked."
The report seemed likely to fuel the controversy over signing statements, which Bush has used to challenge laws including a congressional ban on torture, a request for data on the USA Patriot Act, whistle-blower protections and the banning of U.S. troops in fighting rebels in Colombia.
"The President's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or a subordinate tribunal," [the ABA] panel members wrote. "The Constitution is not what the President says it is."

(Emphasis mine.) It's a bit weaselly, isn't it? He doesn't want to veto something, but he says he simply won't enforce it, which is almost a veto. I'm reminded of President Jackson, after the Supreme Court ordered him not to forcibly move the Cherokee from Georgia, "The Chief Justice has made his decision, now let him enforce it." Not good.

Minor changes to my personal site

This will interest just about no one but those people who, out of blind love for me, set braverman.org as their home page. I've made a minor change to it, adding my biking stats. To save you the click-through, here they are:

  2006 All-time
Day (km) 61.3 Jul 15 117.9 2005 Sep 18
15km sprint 33:42 Jul 21 33:42 2006 Jul 21
20km 45:42 Jul 21 43:32 2005 Jul 2
1 hour (km) 25.1 Jul 19 26.4 2004 Aug 13
Speed (km/h) 42.1 Jul 12 49.0 2003 Jul 22
Season (km) 496.3 Jul 21 1212.1 2005 Oct 4
Convert km to miles
Last ride: July 21, 20.0 km

Oh, and a friend pointed out that today is Senator Paul Wellstone's birthday. He would have been 62.