Monthly Archives: August 2006

Woman Dies Before Contradicting The Bible

From The New York Times (“Death of a Supercentenarian,” August 29, 2006):

On Sunday, the oldest woman in the world died at age 116 in an Ecuadorian hospital. Her name was María Esther de Capovilla, and she was born in September 1889. We are all aware that there will be an end to our lives, but Ms. Capovilla’s death is a reminder of how absolute the boundary of human longevity really is. You may escape all the actuarial fates there are, and yet the body has its own term limits, a point at which the warranty expires and something furls up inside you.

Now, what is that term limit? According to The Bible, it’s 120 years (Genesis 6:3):

And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. (KJV Genesis 6:3)

Now, since the Bible is infallible, can anybody find an example of somebody who lived past 120 years? Oh, shit, the Times mentions it right in the first paragraph:

The woman who succeeds Ms. Capovilla as the oldest woman on earth is also 116, and the oldest person on record died at 122.

Well, we can brush that off as liberal media bias. As a matter of fact, who’s to say Jeanne Calment ever existed in the first place? Did you ever meet her?

NY Times Article on Buffalo

I don’t know about a lot of people, but I’m getting sick of seeing people boosting cities as if that’s going to solve all their problems. That said, The New York Times had an interesting article (“To Burnish Its Image, a City Stages an Alumni Reunion,” August 28, 2006) on Buffalo, New York, today. It began:

Frustrated by decades of watching friends and family flee New York’s second-largest city for warmer climates, healthier economies and sunnier images, a group of Buffalo boosters gave a party this weekend.

The complaints about the weather seem to be the prevailing wisdom about Buffalo’s failings, but it doesn’t explain why many cities with as bad or worse weather are actually doing fairly well, including world-class Toronto not even 150 miles away.

So really, what are Buffalo’s problems? It’s really a rather elegant city. It’s rather drab, perhaps, both in terms of client and environment, but it’s not ugly.

The article about the boosters quoted many people who felt the people were friendly. The mayor, Byron Brown, himself is a former resident of the Queens borough of New York City. “I came here at 17 to attend college and just fell in love with how friendly people are and how easy it is to get around,” Brown was quoted as saying in the article. “I’ve been here ever since and I’ve never regretted it.” My limited experience with Buffalo kind of tells me the same thing. The people are nice.

While the architecture isn’t as awe-inspiring as you find in New York City or Chicago, or even Boston for that matter, it has character. The abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal (link includes pictures, as does the New York Times article) kind of embodies what I said about the city being grab, yet elegant. Amtrak service to Buffalo now is centered on Exchange Street Station.

In considering Buffalo’s demise, it’s important to consider its rise. Buffalo, like many places in New York State, became a large city because of a historical accident: the builders of the Erie Canal decided to use Buffalo, then a village, as the canal’s western terminus. Buffalo grew to over half a million people by 1950, before canal traffic was abruptly cut off by the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which allowed shipping to bypass Buffalo. At the same time, the demise of railroads in the United States made Buffalo rather unimportant as a waypoint for goods and travelers heading west to Chicago and elsewhere.

Could the answer to Buffalo’s problems lie with better transportation? Some Upstate New York politicians have been pushing for high-speed rail to Upstate New York, including making a trip to Buffalo possible within three hours (see “New York high-speed rail” on WikiPedia, which I largely wrote).

I personally don’t know if three hours is fast enough service, and have found myself pondering whether or not it would be worthwhile to try to find a way to make a two-hour round trip possible, perhaps through maglev service linking New York’s largest cities. If you follow the traditional New York Central “water-level” route, this would require average speeds upwards of 350 miles per, which is probably too fast for conventional high-speed rail.

Naturally, peak speeds would have to increase depending on how many stops are added, but one would figure a route would need to stop in New York City, White Plains, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo to capture the five most important centers of commerce in the state; four of those cities are on the list of the ten biggest in the state, White Plains being the exception merely as a center of commerce. To facilitate commuting, service would have to run from early morning to around midnight, but the side-effect would be a massive unified labor market throughout New York State.

To fully compete with the automobile, service would need to be frequent twenty-four hours a day, or at least on par with the busier lines of the New York City Subway (which seem to run at least half an hour apart late at night). The positive side-effect of this is it would allow people who live as far away as Buffalo to enjoy the amenities of New York City, which include world-class dining and Broadway shows, without having to concern themselves with losing half a day getting to New York City, or finding a hotel room. Likewise, people who live in points between could take advantage of Buffalo’s relatively famous and permissive night life as easily as they could New York City’s.

Further, for those who can’t put up with the obscene housing and real estate costs in New York City, points inbetween the two cities offer cheaper real estate. Being able to allow the rest of the state enjoy New York City’s talent pool, while letting New York City enjoy the remainder of the state’s cheaper, yet still as of now well-trained labor market is also a good trade-off.

For the remaining cities in the state, combinations of feeder lines varying between light rail (as Buffalo already sort of has, and Rochester and suburban Albany want again), traditional grade-separated mass transportation, local commuter rail, and conventional high-speed rail could still allow ready access to the cities mentioned above. Binghamton, for instance, could be fed by high-speed rail into centrally-located Albany to allow ready access to White Plains and New York City to the south and Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo to the north. The New York metropolitan area could always use expanded transit services, including perhaps PATH service as far north as Yonkers, or as far south as Staten Island.

Crybaby Fascism (Alternative Title: “Gee, Look Who’s Talking”)

It looks like Rumsfeld is off his meds again (“Rumsfeld lashes out at Bush’s critics“; Associated Press; August 29, 2006):

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday the world faces “a new type of fascism” and likened critics of the Bush administration’s war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis in the 1930s.

Well, he’s sort of right on two counts:

  1. The world is facing a new type of fascist-like behavior.
  2. As he implicitly states, fascists and those like them should not be appeased.

Sad as it is to need to compare contemporary politicians to the fascists, it’s worth noting that Rumsfeld himself, in his statements above, is certainly guilty of fascist-like behavior. Much like the cowards who ruled 1930s Germany and Italy, Rumsfeld, and for that mater his administration and many of their remaining supporters, cannot bear to be criticized. As a matter of fact, much like the terrorists he’s accusing of being “fascists,” Rumsfeld and the administration he works for seems to have a religious certainty that they are infallible. Everybody else, the majority of Americans at this point, is apparently wrong:

In unusually explicit terms, Rumsfeld portrayed the administration’s critics as suffering from “moral or intellectual confusion” about what threatens the nation’s security. His remarks amounted to one of his most pointed defenses of President Bush’s war policies and was among his toughest attacks on Bush’s critics.

Well, at this point, it’s probably fairly safe to say that the majority of people who still support Bush would find a way to rationalize it if Bush appeared on live television raping an infant and saluting Hitler.

But, to be fair, let’s consider who Rumsfeld is talking about. He’s criticizing super-national terrorism. I say super-national, rather than international, because these people are operating outside of the framework of the Westphalian state (by the way, fascists had no problem operating behind that shroud of legitimacy that statehood provides, and even relished having that legitimacy). While both certainly have their authoritarian bents, it seems that this would make Rumsfeld’s party more like fascists than Al-Queda.

On another note, OneGoodMove posted some rather hilarious examples of how thin-skinned American right-wingers can be. Watch the clips:

Traumatized by Barney’s Penis

First the facts (“My 6-year-old was traumatized,” The Village News, August 18, 2006):

On Tuesday, August 8, I took my family out to Daniel’s for groceries. I have a 6-year-old daughter who learned how to read from the Barney and Friends book series. As we stepped out of the family van, she was very excited to see a Barney movie being advertised on the Daniel’s Market lit sign. She said, “Look, Daddy, a Barney movie!” I couldn’t see it, so she guided my eyes to the vulgar obscenity arranged there on the sign. “Look! Up there! Barney’s p***s!” I was shocked when I saw the words arranged on the sign. I quickly averted her eyes and escorted her into the store.

Oh, shit. This is going to ruin your family. Right? Right:

Since then, she has not stopped mentioning Barney’s p***s. This has shaken the bedrock of our family.

Quick, honey, grab the phone! This is an emergency! Call the penis eradication squad! What are we going to do?

I made an emergency call to our church’s pastor about this bombshell in my daughter’s life and he is unsure how it will affect her future.

(I can answer for him: not very much.)

Anyway, to continue, who is to blame? Why, young people!

This sort of sick joke is typical of unlawful teenagers across the country, but I just didn’t think the little town of Fallbrook was home to such hoodlums. I am frightened for my daughter’s future; she won’t stop bringing up this horrible movie title! I would like Daniel’s Market to apologize for traumatizing my daughter, and I would like the pranksters to know just how vile their criminal act was.

Jesus Christ. Where is this Fallbrook place anyway? Oh, here, it’s in California. As someone pointed on another blog making fun of this piece, home to Tom Metzger.

One day I’m going to drive across the United States of America. Every time I meet a prude, I’m going to have a shot.

The links:

Fox News cameraman converted to Islam!

In the words of Jack Chick, haw haw haw:

A video released earlier showed the two making various pronouncement including an apparent statement of conversion by Centanni to Islam. He explained after his release that he felt coerced into making the statements, as his captors wielded firearms.

There’s something ironic about a Fox News employee being forced to convert to Islam. Don’t ask me what it is.

See the full article (“After coerced conversion, Fox journalists freed”) here!

Katherine Harris

Katherine Harris, the individual perhaps most directly responsible for getting a trained chimp in the White House, has a lot to say about religion (“Haris Clarifies Comments on Religion,” ABC News):

MIAMI Aug 26, 2006 (AP)— U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is “a lie” and God and the nation’s founding fathers did not intend the country be “a nation of secular laws.” The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will “legislate sin,” including abortion and gay marriage.

Separation of church and state is “a lie we have been told,” Harris said in the interview, published Thursday, saying separating religion and politics is “wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers.”

God chooses our rulers? Why, here I thought they were picked in shady elections. Or by political hacks appointed to electoral colleges. Or, in the case of a certain President of the United States, by Katherine Harris and the Supreme Court.

And while we’re at it, what’s this shit with the title of that article? Harris is “clarifying” her comments? Can it be any more clear that the woman is a fucking idiot who hasn’t even read or can’t comprehend the text of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? For those who need help finding it (apparently, that’s a lot of people), here’s the complete text of the First Amendment:

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.

I don’t see anything about Congress abdicating its power to Jesus’s dad. Further, the interview the article references—it can be found here—has many other little nuggets of wisdom demonstrating Harris’ authoritarian beliefs:

Civil rights have to do with individual rights and I don’t think they apply to the gay issues. I have not supported gay marriage and I do not support any civil rights actions with regard to homosexuality.

(Harris apparently doesn’t think homosexuals are individuals.)

As for states’ rights? Well, they’re not convenient either. “I fully support a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as being only between one man and one woman. I have voted in support of the Marriage Protection Amendment because we should not undermine the uniqueness of an institution that continues to serve as an essential thread in the fabric of our society,” Harris said.

Is Harris against abortion? “Yes. Because it’s a life, it’s a life. Life begins at conception.” I would have thought Harris would at least be clever enough to see that, according to her fanstasy world, life begins with Adam and Eve and continues on because of conception.

Surprise! George Allen is a Racist!

Former governor and current United States Senator George Allen (Senate Web site, Wikipedia entry) is the second senator from the South to say something blatantly racist in the past few years (the other being Trent Lott). From The Washington Post (“George Allen’s America,” August 15, 2006):

“MY FRIENDS, we’re going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas,” Sen. George F. Allen told a rally of Republican supporters in Southwest Virginia last week. “And it’s important that we motivate and inspire people for something.” Whereupon Mr. Allen turned his attention to a young campaign aide working for his Democratic opponent — a University of Virginia student from Fairfax County who was apparently the only person of color present — and proceeded to ridicule him.

Let’s consider which positive, constructive or inspirational ideas Mr. Allen had in mind when he chose to mock S.R. Sidarth of Dunn Loring, who was recording the event with a video camera on behalf of James Webb, the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat Mr. Allen holds. The idea that holding up minorities to public scorn in front of an all-white crowd will elicit chortles and guffaws? (It did.) The idea that a candidate for public office can say “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia!” to an American of Indian descent and really mean nothing offensive by it? (So insisted Mr. Allen’s aides.) Or perhaps the idea that bullying your opponents and calling them strange names — Mr. Allen twice referred to Mr. Sidarth as “Macaca” — is within the bounds of decency on the campaign trail?

The New York Times also published an editorial criticizing Allen (“A Discourging Word,” August 16, 2006).

The U.S. needs to get it straight: stop voting for Republicans. Even if you vote for a so-called “moderate” Republican (as if such a thing still exists), you’re still empowering fools like Allen and Lott.

Cameras, Cameras, Everywhere

A proposal to place security cameras at the entrances and exits of all New York City night clubs (“Plan for Cameras at New York Clubs Raises Privacy Concerns,” New York Times, August 14, 2006) is raising eyebrows among gay activists. One of the biggest proponents of the policy is City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, a lesbian and activist for gay marriage.

Always popular with the homosexual constituency, Quinn has now angered many of her traditional supporters:

Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a citywide political organization formed by gay activists in 2004, said that Ms. Quinn was now in the position of “having to please a more diverse constituency than the progressive constituency that elected her.”

Mr. Roskoff said many gays have told him that they are concerned about the proposed security cameras because they do not want to be filmed whenever they walk into a club.

“When you go out at night, I think you have the right to be anonymous,” he said. “Not everybody’s out of the closet, and therefore it’s an invasion of privacy.”

Many large Manhattan nightclubs already use security cameras, but the technology is intended for the protection of the club owners and not their patrons.

Well, true, but you have the right to be anonymous regardless of whether you’re in the closet. Debates like this shouldn’t be framed in terms of how they affect a narrow interest group. When a Protestant, straight, white male (without even the intention of “hooking up”—some people still go out to dance) goes out and gets recorded, his privacy is invaded too. Sadly, the WASP guy probably doesn’t mind being spied on, at least indirectly, by the state.

Additional nightclub security is a dumb idea. It’s a natural consequence of a problem of our making. For one, “underage” drinking laws have the obvious effect of creating a forbidden fruit aspect to alchol, so yes, young people will naturally be drawn to clubs. But besides that, the gritty underground nature to some clubs is the result of where they are and why they’re there. Pushed out of neighborhoods with eyes, clubs often exist in sparsely populated, run-down warehouse districts where loud music and crowds won’t bother many residents.

What many New York City politicians don’t remember is that many of us who choose to live in New York City do so because they want the privacy that you can’t get in small towns and suburban subdivisions. State-mandated id checks and cameras are invasions of people’s privacy. While they may thwart public drinking by people under the age of 21, they do nothing to thwart drinking, which instead takes away from the eyes of responsible, experienced adults, including parents.

A serious way to address “drinking problems” would be to permit anyone 16 or over to purchase alcohol in bars and pubs, and anyone 18 and over to purchase it in nightclubs. This gives children two years to learn how to handle alcohol in a controlled environment before they turn 18 and become officially adults. Obviously, this requires changes to both state and federal laws, but that’s the solution. (Heck, a driving age of 18 wouldn’t be a bad idea, and a driving age of 21 certainly makes more sense than a drinking age of 21.)