Seven Degrees from Normal

Two people, eighteen years of marriage, seven college degrees.

Friday, April 22, 2005

That didn't take long

So much for conciliation. Pope B16 is pretty fast out of the starting blocks with this one:

New Pope condemns Spain gay bill
By Robert PiggottBBC News, Rome

Pope Benedict XVI has responded firmly to the first challenge of his papacy by condemning a Spanish government bill allowing marriage between homosexuals.

The bill, passed by parliament's Socialist-dominated lower house, also allows gay couples to adopt.

A senior Vatican official described the bill - which is likely to become law within a few months - as iniquitous.

These days I'm congratulating myself for drifting away from the Church years ago. It saves me the trouble of leaving in a huff now.

Poor Andrew. Even he doesn't deserve this.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I hate to keep stealing items from Atrios, but this one's just too funny. Tom DeLay is outraged--OUTRAGED!-- that a Supreme Court Justice would use the Internet to do research:

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," DeLay told Fox News Radio on Tuesday. "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous."

A spokeswoman for the court, Kathy Arberg, said Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

He was probably busy posting something on Fark.

Filthy Jews

Great--now our future Air Force officers are spouting "Christian" hate speech:

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Less than two years after it was plunged into a rape scandal, the Air Force Academy is scrambling to address complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.

There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.

Are there no limits to the self-righteousness of Christian wingnuts? Is our government willing to impose any limits? You know, like the Constitution requires?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Goodbye, Catholicism, it's been fun

So Ratzinger is the man. I think my cousin said it best: "If Ratzinger is elected Pope, I have five words: 'The Episcopal Church welcomes you." Ratzy has chosen the papal name Benedict XVI.

Benedict XV seems to have a special place in the hearts of Germans for his efforts to end WWI. That's about as hopeful as I can get.

Does this make me a jerk, part 2

Another installment of me musing over how to balance resistance to the Man with not being a jerk to my fellow man.

This one also involves bill paying.

I get irritated (probably unduly so) by lots of things when I pay bills--statements that don't make it clear which part to keep and which to send in, bills with payment coupons that don't fit in the return envelope, those snotty little statements that remind you "The Post Office will not deliver mail without postage"--and recently I've seen an increase in the little extra flaps they put on return envelopes advertising products that nobody in their right mind needs. You have to tear off the little flap before you can seal the envelope, see, so you can't escape looking at the ad for a singing patriotic teddy bear, or a Nokia phone with 100 free minutes in the continental U.S. but if you read the fine print it turns out it really only works in Bucksnort, TN, or whatever. I don't like advertising in general but I really dislike advertising when I do not have the option to ignore it.

I finally snapped last month when I hit a return envelope with two separate flaps, advertising two separate useless products, that I had to tear off before I could seal the envelope. So after I tore them off, I stuffed them into the envelope along with the statement and my check.

So, does that make me a jerk?

Here I think I'm on thinner ice than with the unclosed, unused VISA account. The only problem I'm causing here is for the poor schmuck who processes the incoming bills. That's not someone with any say over the company's advertising policies.

On the other hand, what if I included a note that made my intentions clearer? Something like "I am not interested in a singing patriotic dashboard monkey, but since the ad was important enough to send to me, I would hate for all that effort to go to waste. Perhaps someone on your staff would be interested."

In my wildest dreams, I could just see something like that getting passed along to Management, and maybe eventually communicating my displeasure to them. Not solving the problem necessarily, but at least they'd know how I felt.

But then again, I've been a mail-processing schmuck, and it did not help my outlook on life to constantly get bitchy notes from customers who were upset that we had the incorrect middle initial on their mailing label. I mean, if your sense of identity is so fragile it can be knocked askew by your third class mail, you need help.

I should just pay my bills online, shouldn't I?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Twenty years, part three

Camille Kirk?
David Mollenhauer?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Twenty years, cont.

I've gotten quite a few email contacts for folks in my graduating class this week. Still searching for:

Ellen Sterling
Creighton Bailey
Musa Scandarani
Stephanie Browne
Helen Martell
Kara Boone

. . . and others.

If only

Commenter RepubAnon, over at Kevin Drum's blog, asks
"Shouldn't Pope John Paul's successor be named George Ringo?"
That's about what it would take to get me back into the church.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Does this make me a jerk?

I expect this to be the first in a series of similar posts, because this is a question I ask myself a lot. A maxim I try to live my life by is "Why be a jerk?" (with the important caveat "--if you don't have to"). But on the other hand I am congenitally unable to ignore obnoxious behavior, particularly when it's coming from bullies, people or organizations with surplus power who make life difficult for others and think they can get away with it.

Such as MBNA. They were my VISA company for a while, because I had a Working Assets VISA and Working Assets, for some inexplicable reason, transferred all their VISAs to MBNA (I think they were with Citibank before, which is a whole other kettle of fish). I'll pass lightly over some of the bigger complaints about MBNA, like their aggressive use of risk-based repricing, their poor customer service record, and the fact that they have replaced Enron as the biggest contributor to the Bush presidential campaign. What MBNA did that finally pushed me over the edge was to charge me a $40 late fee on my VISA bill.

I always pay my VISA bill in full every month. What I did that month, stupidly, was to send in my check unsigned. Yes, this was very stupid. Yes, MBNA had every right to charge me a late fee. But $40? On an account that had never had a late fee or even a balance carried forward? It really pissed me off. And I sent a little message to Working Assets telling them this. I didn't even bother with MBNA because I figured, of the two companies, at least Working Assets was supposed to have some kind of social conscience. If I recall, I got a bland reply about how MBNA gave Working Assets the best deal for their members, and all the fees and charges were explained in the 1-pt. type of the tiny leaflet they'd sent me when they switched over my card, and etc.

I was going to cancel the card. We're in the minority of U.S consumers who pay off their credit cards every month, and can walk away from a credit card company at will. My husband and I already have a VISA account at our credit union and it was a simple matter for me to start using that card. I'd only been using the Working Assets VISA because a tiny percentage of the purchases automatically went to progressive causes, which is a nice feeling. It also came in handy when I had to take Andrew Sullivan out to dinner, but that's a story for another post. Anyway, before I wrote the cancellation letter, it occurred to me that I might hurt MBNA more if I didn't cancel the card account. I just cut up the card and threw it out. This way, MBNA still has to send me a monthly statement. Some computer somewhere has to devote one nth of a nanobyte of memory to my account. It's not much, but it makes me feel better. So, my question is, does this make me a jerk?

In this case (and there will be others with a different answer), I think the answer is no. I'm causing what little inconvenience I am causing to a huge, evil, monolithic corporation which has already made plain its perfect willingness to screw me over on the slightest provocation. I'm prefectly within my legal rights to keep open a charge account and not use it (MBNA would be within its rights to close my account at any time without notice, too, so we're even there). I doubt there are any actual humans involved with the processing of my account, but if so I am helping to create employment for that person. Yeah, me!

It may make me petty and small-minded, but I can live with that. Those qualities don't affect others as much as being a jerk does, in my opinion. There is always the state of my immortal soul to think about. Buddha probably would not keep open a VISA account he didn't need, out of spite. Jesus might, though, don't you think?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Judges run amok!

If you haven't been over to the inimitable Fafblog! lately, it's time for a visit:

"Kneel before Greer!" says Florida circuit judge George Greer. I am forced to kneel on accounta Congress refuses to set limitations on his kneel-forcin powers.
"Oh you won't get away with this judges," says me. "Tom Delay will stop you an save the day!"
"Who is this Tom Delay?" says Judge Greer.
"Oh you'll find out an when you do!" says me.
"Come to me, Tom Delay!" says Judge Greer. "I defy you! Come and kneel before Greer! GREER!"

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The DeLay death spiral begins

The Post and the Times each have front-page stories today about DeLay's squishy ethics--each involving a different set of questionable practices. The perfect storm has begun.

And, thank heaven, editorial pages are starting to pick up on my own Senator's tacit death threat against the federal judiciary.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What's not to like?

I started picking up on this last week via Max's Brookings report:

Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions
Published: April 5, 2005S
STOCKTON, Calif. - Since illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States six years ago, Ángel Martínez has done backbreaking work, harvesting asparagus, pruning grapevines and picking the ripe fruit. More recently, he has also washed trucks, often working as much as 70 hours a week, earning $8.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security's long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez - who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana - contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation's public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.

He belongs to a big club. As the debate over Social Security heats up, the estimated seven million or so illegal immigrant workers in the United States are now providing the system with a subsidy of as much as $7 billion a year.

Shouldn't this make the conservatives deliriously happy? We can balance Social Security on the backs of illegal immigrants. Everybody wins! But somehow they don't want to talk about it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

And there he goes . . .

As Lou Dobose predicted, Tom DeLay is turning to his base for salvation, using Terri Schiavo's death as a grandstanding opportunity. I'm really torn here--last Wednesday I got a phone call from John Kerry's people asking for a donation to help with the "preserve the filibuster" efforts in the Senate. I told the caller that the spouse and I were concentrating all our meager financial resources this year on unseating DeLay instead, and she wished us luck (we've signed the petition demanding his resignation, but we'd far rather have him stay in until the election).

But these two paths appear to be converging, with DeLay further inflaming the judiciary issue to cover his own ass. How big a threat is that? Harry Reid seems serious about going to the mat on the filibuster, which is good. How big an impact can DeLay's histrionics have?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Happy April Fools Day

Don't miss Google's contribution, Or the NYT's recap of the brief career of the great Sid Finch.

Weapons of mass dissent

Why wasn't this the headline yesterday?
Up until the days before U.S. troops entered Iraqi territory that March, the intelligence community was inundated with evidence that undermined virtually all charges it had made against Iraq, the report said.

In scores of additional cases involving the country's alleged nuclear and chemical programs and its delivery systems, the commission described a kind of echo chamber in which plausible hypotheses hardened into firm assertions of fact, eventually becoming immune to evidence.

That's a little different from the "Gee, everyone was soooo wrong!" report all the major outlets were reporting intially.