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                             Z-GUIDE
Sun. Sept. 4, 2005  

1968 -- The Rolling Stones latest tune, "Street Fighting Man" is
banned in Chicago & other American cities where authorities fear it
will "incite riots & other forms of public disorder."


Sunday Sermon XIV:  Designing Men
     The recent Sunday Sermons have dealt (to the point
of overload, no doubt) with the resurgence of
creationism, especially as popularized in the school
of Intelligent Design.  As I pointed out, the
Scopes Trial didn't end anything; Scopes -- as directed
as a matter of strategy by Clarence Darrow -- was
actually convicted, tho it was overturned on a
technicality.  A recent
Slate article gives a useful,
concise history of how the anti-evolutionists have
been hanging on all these years, plotting their re-taking
of school curricula.  It's well worth reading, & gives
me a chance to catch up on these entries.

    Note:  Darrow himself -- whose autobiography was
one of my earliest influences (certainly in his defense of
justice for labor & opposition to the death penalty) as
I began devouring the Milwaukee Public Library's
small collection of books on atheism as a child -- was
such a skeptic himself that he disbelieved in the
existence of atoms, characterized as being mostly empty
space.  He felt that matter had to be solid, & he was
suspicious of any theory that told him otherwise.  One
does think he would have come around by now, but
there is a moral there.  Especially since his adversary
at the trial, William Jennings Bryan, was a pacifist &
Populist whose consistent defense of the ordinary
American earned him the moniker "the Great
Commoner." He was a tireless worker for
women's suffrage [Wikipedia], as well as an opponent
of US militarism, even if also as invincibly ignorant
on some matters of science as Darrow.

           [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           Z-GUIDE     
Wed. Aug. 31, 2005 
Prodding the Beast 
[Pt. 5]

[1893 -- US:  Scheduled to speak to the unemployed, Emma Goldman is Arrested in Philadelphia on NY warrants charging her
with incitement to riot for her August 21 speech.]
     "The people have only as much liberty as they have the
       intelligence to want & the courage to take."

— Emma Goldman
  
 
     The notoriously weak copy desk at the Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel
-- as documented in
previous entries
in this series -- has been piling up editing infractions
that have been overlooked here for a while because of
the demands of current events.  But we can catch up on
some of the more obvious recent errors before taking up
some pressing social & political concerns.
     A JS repeat from John Schmid on the front page of
Aug. 19 refers to UWM "as a catalyst that can bolster
the city's transition to to a knowledge-driven
economy. . . ."
     But as I pointed out on the
ReMediaL Writing page,
a
catalyst is itself unchanged by a given process;  it
could hardly be argued that UWM itself won't be
changed, if not transformed, by undertaking this mission.
The same error was committed by Kathleen Gallagher
-- confusing catalyst with stimulus -- on the 1st page of
the
Business Section of Feb. 7, 2004 in a story that
called a $20 million gift to the business school "the
catalyst" behind a proposed addition.  But undoubtedly
monetary gifts are meant to be changed -- that is, used up
-- to effect such a result.
    
Community Columnist  Diane M. Hardy began her
contribution to the JS's
Perspectives page on Aug. 15
with the observation, "Like most Milwaukeeans, some of
my earliest memories are of the Milwaukee Public
Museum."  Unfortunately the notoriously weak copy desk
didn't care that she probably meant her earliest
memories
were like those of most Milwaukeeans, a
somewhat different proposition.
     Jacquelyn Mitchard has herself been a stickler for
proper usage, even chiding John Kerry for using
over to
mean more than, actually an accepted sense, in addition
to meaning above.  Still, in her column of Aug. 14, she
writes of "cement stoops where fathers sat. . . ."  I've
pointed out that cement is an ingredient of
concrete, the
actual material used to construct the steps.
     An Aug. 14 guest editorial by James Rowen on the
Milwaukee Public Museum & its persisting red ink
would have us "
Staunch its flow. . . ."  Of course, blood
& red ink call for us to stanch them; staunch is
something for a critic of the JS's notoriously weak copy
desk to be in the face of continued incompetence.
      In a long JS article on the history of the blues & the
Mississippi delta in the Sunday
Travel section of
Aug. 14, freelancer Larry Widen would have it that
"The blues
literally came out of the Mississippi
dirt. . . ."  But remarkable tho the influence of  those
environs may have been, even keeping one's ear to the
ground would probably not have let one hear the blues
being born -- a musician or mechanical device being the
usual means for appreciating that art form.  Don't expect
the confusion with figuratively to end at the JS anytime
soon, though, if its
history there is an indication.  Before
then, this compilation will resume with a new heading.
       
  [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Sun. Aug. 28, 2005  

[New World: Anne Hutchinson Banished from Boston because of
her independent religious views -- 1591

 

Sunday Sermon XIII:  Weird Science & Spaghetti
     The previous Sunday Sermon about Intelligent Design
[ID] that dealt with the newly revived attempt to bring
creationism into the schools  (or at least provided links
to scientists who dealt with the principles involved)
brought several responses.  One is from Phil
Wroblewski
in California -- whom I quoted the first
time around to start the discussion -- who seems either
to be converting to my viewpoint that ID is not
science or misunderstood himself the thrust of his own
earlier position:
  

  Mike:  I was simply amazed at the stats.  At how
  different America seems to be. I was not advocating ID
  as science and neither was Bush.  ID and science are
  separate realms.  I just happen to subscribe to both.
  To me science uncovers how God thought (thinks?)
  about the universe.  This is not a uniquely
  PHIL position as you well know.
 
     But science is exactly what ID's adherents ardently
claim it to be.  The references speak for themselves; the
claim on equal classroom time certainly would be
rejected by the Supreme Court if it were touted as
religion.  To claim it is simply a separate realm, a
philosophy to debate which has no scientific standing
is OK with me, as long as it is not presented as that
very science which Phil, at least, admits that it is not.
     But
Bush -- tho not using the term science in the short
direct quotes reprinted by the media -- leaves no doubt
that, as with creationism in general, ID is deserving of
equal treatment with evolution; in short, of treatment as
a scientific claim [as Majority Leader Bill
Frist
explicitly claimed]:

        
Bush Endorses Intelligent Design &
                        Creationism

  For a long time now, President George W. Bush has
  avoided saying anything about evolution -- was that a smart
  move or a sign that he simply didn't understand the
  questions?  Today, he has come out in favor of teaching
  "Intelligent" Design in public schools.  Is this an effort to
  please his base or a sign of stupidity?. . . [from
About.com]
     . . . he supports exposing people to “different ideas”
  when those ideas support his religious beliefs, but I don’t
  suppose he feels the same way when those ideas might
  undermine his religious beliefs.  Besides, science class isn’t
  an appropriate venue for talking about “different ideas”
  simply for the sake of exposing kids to “different ideas.”
  Science class is a place where students should learn the
  best ideas which science currently has to offer -- and
  “Intelligent” Design doesn’t rate even a brief mention,
  much less full-scale instruction.

    
But if science classes are not the place for ID, that
leaves only comparative religion or perhaps folklore
studies or social anthropology -- again, fine with me,
but why not include Wicca, or Native American
creation myths, or Satanism & atheism, all of which
have their believers?  I don't think that's going to happen,
but let's lobby the school boards -- after all, they have a
lot of money waiting for new academic endeavors.  But
if ID isn't scientific, its adherents know it has no point,
since biology & biochemistry are moving along just fine
without it -- its only reason for being is to scientifically
prove there is a designer, a creator, undoubtedly God
herself.
     But Phil, by renouncing it as science, is already left
standing at the schoolhouse door.  He reached that
position not only through (presumably) admiration for
the work of Michael Behe & other creationist
biochemists (those who speculate about the
blood-clotting mechanism & the development of
bacterial flagellum) but also some sort of awe at the
workings of the universe in general, despite my best
efforts to paraphrase & link to the conclusions of
scientists who long ago dealt with just such scientific
misconceptions as Irreducible Complexity [IC],
however attractive they may be as spiritual comfort
food.
     He hasn't given up on that approach, though in an
exchange with a friend that he sent along he recognizes
that all that is just speculation, or "stories" that should
be "respected" & "no ultimate answer."
     His friend Steve wrote:

 
. . . 75% of the population are “believers”….they just want to
 be heard and taken seriously…..respect the belief……..why
 piss on their shoes and pretend you are doing them a
 favor?.... maybe you don’t hear the contempt….but I do.

     Phil responded:

 That’s what I’m saying in the first place….these are two
 different theories…one scientific and the other religious….I
 don’t see why they BOTH can’t be respected….for what
 they are….Stories…..I don’t see why one or the other has
 to TRIUMPH over the other.  There is no evidence for ID
 and no ultimate answer in Darwin…….why should one scoff
 at the other?........scientific truth is all about probabilities….so
 what can make anyone so absolutely certain and
 superior?.....

    
I, for one, will continue to scoff simply because
civilization is built on the scientific method, responsible
for everything from life-saving advances in medicine to
the exploration of the apparently deity-free heavens -- &
thus is as naturally inimical to organized religion (which
typically saw AIDS as a form of divine
punishment for
gays) as it is to Easter Bunny & Santa Claus myths,
though I will try to be respectful -- as one humors small
children -- except in actual debate.  But the sound you
hear is me pissing with contempt on someone's
fundamentalist shoes because . . . well, because they
want to kill us.  At least we heretics, as well as Jews,
homosexuals, mothers in precarious health forced to give
birth, heathens, Islamists (
followers of  a "certain
demonic presence in that city
"
[Mogadishu, Somalia]
according to  Lt. Gen. William Boykin "that God
revealed to me as the enemy,"
in speeches at a
Southern Baptist evangelism conference & the First
Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, Fla.).  A South
American leader, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was proposed for assassination by Pat Roberts, founder
of the Christian Broadcast Network.  Sects ranging from
Catholics to liberal Unitarian pinkos to that of the Sikh
murdered because he wore a turban have been targeted
at one time or another, while Federal money is
used for abstinence-only education & clubs that solicit
oaths of virginity until marriage & ostracize
non-conformists). 
      As Sharon Lerner wrote in The Nation [Aug. 11]
in an article not online:

          Louisiana Purchase: The Feds Recruit
                          Culture War Cadets
  Though by law it [Louisiana's Governor's Program on
  Abstinence, or GPA] is supposed to focus only on promoting
  abstinence outside marriage, Louisiana's program also
  connects young people to the broader conservative politics
  surrounding the abstinence-only movement. The strategy
  helps turn out the next generation of foot soldiers who can,
  in turn, provide the grassroots political support necessary to
  perpetuate such programs in the long term.


     Such abstinence-only education refrains from saying
anything positive about birth control, thus contributing to
the rare deaths from abortion & the certain deaths of
fetuses -- especially as the targeted teens drift away to
he forbidden pleasures, ignorant.
     It's a hatred of varying degrees, directed at various
groups at different times, but a history of repression that
can be documented from the Inquisition to the Salem
witch trials to the Scopes' trial (remember, Scopes lost
& was fined, tho it was overturned on appeal) to the
present.  In Maryland, a rational sex education
course
that included proper use of condoms was sabotaged over
its sympathetic treatment of gays, thus abetting deaths
from STDs.  If not threatened with death, we are
presumed subject to eternal tortures;  meanwhile, those
choosing abortion would be criminalized, including

 
rape victims and 12-year-olds and 50-year-olds, women
  carrying Tay-Sachs fetuses and women at risk of heart
  attack or stroke, women who have all the children they
  can handle and women who don't want children at all.


while their doctors would
be jailed (if not bombed
to oblivion first), notwithstanding that illegal abortions
would result in many otherwise avoidable deaths.
as urged by the deceptively-named Feminists for Life,
a group whose "resources links are all to Christian
groups," writes Katha Pollitt in The Nation (Aug. 29, 2005).
     Similarly, impediments to embryonic research would
punish those of all persuasions who happened to be
dying from the wrong untreatable maladies.  How much
has changed with the fundamentalists since the clergy of
Ben Franklin's time condemned the use of his lightning
rod in 1752 because lightning bolts obviously came from
heaven to destroy dwellings while the rain kept the
neighbors' home unscathed, thus demonstrating a
direct retribution from God?  Only 60 years earlier, 14
women & five men were hung as
witches
     But the persecutors aren't true Christians, we're told.
They certainly think they are, as much as the Muslim
terrorist thinks he is representing all of Islam; arguments
to the contrary do little to deter the bomber or comfort
the maimed & dead.  But surely the Christian right
doesn't hate Jews today -- they are being counted on to
build a new Jerusalem appropriate to the Second
Coming
, after all (never mind that then they will get
their divine retribution).  Well, the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel
reports on Aug. 30 from Colorado Springs
that an Air Force task force at the Academy investigated
allegations that "evangelical Christians wield so much
influence [there] that anti-Semitism and other forms of
religious harassment have become pervasive," & issued
"new guidelines for religious tolerance."  
     And it appears the administration's evangelical
Christians will connive with Shiite Iraqis to form a
theocracy there, too, as Ruth Conniff writes in her
Aug. 29
Online Column for The Progressive:

  
   Islam will be the official religion of Iraq and "a main source
  of legislation," according to the
New York Times. "Clerics
  would more than likely sit on the Supreme Court, and judges
  would have broad latitude to strike down legislation that
  conflicted with the religion."  In addition, "Clerics would be
  given a broad, new role in adjudication of family disputes
  like marriage, divorce, and inheritance."  So much for
  women's rights.


     To take just one recent case of homegrown intolerance
(there are more on the site) towards atheists,
from
About.com:
    
    
David M. Zuniga (apparently a “leader” of the
Constitution Party of Texas) explains that he would treat
atheists worse than theists if he served as a juror in a
court case:

   Thus from a purely ethical standpoint (aside from
   any consideration of the law) if I was on that jury
   and learned about his positions on God and
   government, I would question the defendant’s
   character.  Atheism and anarchism are inimical to
   ordered society.

   More importantly for me if I were on that jury --
   they’re antithetical to God’s Word.  Everyone must
   have an ultimate authority in life; mine is Scripture
   (so was that of our founders).  God not only
   exists, but He ordained the civil magistrate; by his
   own admission, Larken
[the defendant] believes
   neither of these things.

   Reiterating:  If I didn’t know the law at issue one
   way or the other, and I was charged only with
   weighing a defendant’s honesty and character so
   I could decide ‘willfulness’ -- I would likely
   convict a fellow who claims to be atheist and
   anarchist.  And it would be right to do so.


  According to David M. Zuniga, atheists lack any moral
  foundation on which to stand.  Therefore, their testimony
  cannot be believed.  This used to be a common belief -- it's
  the reason why atheists were not allowed to give testimony
  in court cases.  It's also a very bigoted point of view: Zuniga
 
would deny atheists the same rights and the same
  presumption of innocence accorded to others simply
  because they don't share a belief in some sort of god.


  It's no better than saying that racial minorities should be
  treated worse because only whites can be trusted to tell the
  truth, or that religious minorities should be treated worse
  because only those who accept Jesus Christ as their
  personal savior can be trusted to tell the truth.  People
  advocating such position would be condemned as bigots,
  and so should David M. Zuniga.

  It's not atheism that is inimical to ordered society, it's the
  hateful and spiteful bigotry of people like this who would
  relegate certain groups of people to second-class
  citizenship merely because of their need to feel superior
  to others.  Atheism does not point to a person having an
  untrustworthy character, but bigotry certainly does.  I
  wonder how David M. Zuniga would feel if he discovered
  that a jury which convicted him did so in part because they
  assumed that a self-righteous, hateful bigot couldn't be
  trusted to tell the truth?
 

     That is just a partial review of why I am on guard
against the fundamentalists getting a hearing for their
views as science.  If there is no "ultimate answer" in
Darwin, I will settle for the self-correcting method of
scientific, peer-reviewed investigation to dogmatic
certainty.  And of course, some fundamentalists are
more dogmatic than others, even rejecting ID as still
being evolution-based, thus heretical.  George
Johnson
, a UW-Madison university teacher sent a link
to
Reason Online's coverage of a recent Creation
Mega-Conference
:

  
Lynchburg, VA -- Science and scripture cannot
 contradict one another, and if they appear to do so, then
 there is something wrong with the science.  God created
 the world in six 24-hour days, according to
Georgia Purdom,
 an assistant professor of biology at Mount Vernon
 Nazarene University
in Mount Vernon.

    
But if Phil & others are so moved to despair at the
thought of an unplanned universe that unscientific
creation stories are needed to sustain an otherwise
meaningless existence, that would seem at most to move
them into the deist camp, as he acknowledged in a recent
outcry (partially re-quoted below) that I had responded
to at
length:
    
        
Where did these (non-random) patterns come
 from?  Why are there laws? 


     As the
belief of Tom Paine, Jefferson, Franklin &
others, deism it is at least inoffensive & compatible
with scientific method:
    

  deists opted for perhaps the most extreme form of
  transcendence available, completely rejecting the idea
  of God being immanent and involved in any manner
  with Creation and humanity.

  Because of this, deism supported the growing idea that
  humans should rely upon themselves first and foremost.
  Even though deists continued to believe in God, they
  did not believe that God had any continuing interaction
  with the world such that God could be called upon
  for assistance.
 

  Instead, only human effort, human intelligence, and
  human ingenuity could be called upon

 
     Although seemingly harmless, it must be admitted that
there is no evidence for deism;  the problems with deism
is that its earliest proponents relied on two arguments,
first cause & the very intelligent design (ID) that we
have seen is not provable.  Given the undermining over
the centuries of the
first cause (or prime mover) (& the
tedious but necessary question of infinite regression,
i.e., who created God? argument) & the recent
discrediting of ID (if you've been paying attention), I
simply have to rest my case.  Impersonal as this God is,
I would still like to know why an intelligent, rational
person should "respect the belief" any more than the
Great Manitou or Vishnu or any of many candidates
for inclusion in a balanced study of beliefs.
     For example, while Phil conveniently ignored the
Intelligent Falling (IF) theory advanced in the previous
Sunday Sermon, Rad Keener of Milwaukee sent a link
to another worthy viewpoint, that of the
FSM:
    
       Let us remember that there are multiple theories of
  Intelligent Design.  I and many others around the world are
  of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying
  Spaghetti Monster
.  It was He who created all that we see
  and all that we feel.  We feel strongly that the overwhelming
  scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes
  is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

 
    He built the world to make us think the earth is older than
  it really is.  For example, a scientist may perform a
  carbon-dating process on an artifact.  He finds that
  approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by
  electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact
  is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of
  Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years.  But what our scientist
  does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement,
  the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results
  with His Noodly Appendage.  We have numerous texts that
  describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons
  why He does this.  He is of course invisible and can pass
  through normal matter with ease. 


     The FSM has inspired much art, featuring his
meatballs & noodly appendages [see below].

                


     The FSM theory is supported by none other than the
author of The Population Bomb [1968] & the textbook
Process of Evolution in 1963:

 
I have a message for members of the Kansas School
 Board
. As a biologist with a Ph.D. from Kansas University
 (1953), I wish to support the teaching of the theory that the
 world was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- about
 which you have already heard from Bobby Henderson
 (
www.venganza.org).  It seems to me that the very existence
 of the evolution-creation controversy and that many of you
 support teaching “intelligent design” as science, is in itself a
 powerful argument against intelligent design.  Rather, it
 supports my more scientific theory of malign design (proven
 by thousands of years of theologians generating theodicies
 and the creation of George W. Bush).


 
Paul R. Ehrlich,
 
Bing Professor of Population Studies
 Stanford University,

     But it would be a shame to omit an earlier claimant
on our attention for Supreme Designer, the invisible
Pink
Unicorn
.  Her followers' Credo:

     "The Invisible Pink Unicorn is a being of great spiritual
power.  We know this because she is capable of being
invisible and pink at the same time.  Like all
religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink
Unicorn is based upon both logic and faith.
We have faith that she is pink; we logically
know that she is invisible because we can't
see her."
                              

    
If the reader sniffs a contradiction here, I suggest
some research into the nature of a religion that is
monotheistic while worshiping a Trinity (& Mary), or
postulates an inerrant Creator who is omniscient &
omnipotent yet who
inspired a demonstrably errant
Bible
whose flawed interpretations he foresaw.  The
mind reels.

    
Furthermore, since Christianity is noted for inspiring
much of the great art of the Renaissance, one can only
guess at the devotion of the followers of yet another
Savior & the verities that motivate them to venerate the
Passion of the Shrimp [at least temporarily taken down, perhaps
because of recent publicity]
  as seen in the the Last Shrimp
Supper
& the rendering at left.
    
On the other hand, there are those
that feel
God Hates Shrimp.
     But, given that shifting tectonic
plates indiscriminately killed 100,00
people with a tsunami while Dick
Cheney
lives on, I think Ehrlich is
onto something with his theory of malign
design,
apparently another form of dystheism, or belief in an
evil God -- not unknown in many religions, including
Satanism and many polytheistic beliefs.

           
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                         Z-GUIDE     

Tue. Aug. 23, 2005 
[Sacco & Vanzetti Executed -- 1927]

     The Progressive magazine of July 2005 reports that
Milwaukee's own Wobbly anarchist &
     
    Poet, artist, and peace activist Carlos Cortez
      died at his Chicago home earlier this year.  Best
      known for his linoleum-cut and wood-cut graphics,
      he captured the dignity of oppressed people.  The
      Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of
      Modern Art
in New York display his art, as do
      community centers.
          Born and raised in Milwaukee, Cortez was
      imprisoned for eighteen months as a conscientious
      objector during World War II.  In 1947, he joined
      the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW] and later
      became a columnist and editor of its paper, The
      Industrial Worker
.  During the 1970s, he was part
      of Chicago's Chicano muralist movement, and in
      1975, he helped found Movimiento Artistico
      Chicano (MARCH).  He did not survive on his art;
      he worked in factories.
            In addition to his graphic artistry, Cortez wrote
      three books of poetry  and was board president of
      Charles H. Kerr publishers [working-class publishing
      house]  for twenty years.

                      

     There is not much more text there, but included are
almost two pages of his bold graphics memorializing
Joe Hill
, Lucy (Gonzalez) Parsons, faceless
campesinos, families of murdered Guatemalans, & more.
     But I knew the name & remembered him from my
early days at UW-Milwaukee & gatherings on the East
Side
at the home of the Gibsons -- writers, poets &
activists themselves, with a following of appreciative
students.  I have written about Barbara & Morgan in a
Literary History of the East Side, & looking back I see
Carlos was mentioned there as "an old-time Wobbly,"
though of course he was much more, as the
accomplishments listed in The Progressive hint at. 
     But he moved to Chicago in 1965 (the story I got
from Barbara was that he had inherited some money
from his grandmother), & I didn't get to know him.  But
he was impressive -- large, dark & bearded in Tex-Mex
outfits of cowboy boots & hat, Indian jewelry & such, as
some obits point out.  To my mind, sort of rough but
good-natured at the same time.  And obits there are -- tho
not in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- testament to
someone who made quite an impact in the world of labor
organizing, poetry of the street & art dedicated to the
underclass.  A Google search of his name yields some
10,500 hits, while narrowing it down to those with
Milwaukee relevance produces about 350.  (There is
another prominent Carlos Cortez, a "professor of
history at the University of California-Riverside . . . a
leading expert in the field of Latino history."
     Morgan himself mentions our Cortez in his
Rexroth
bio, Revolutionary Rexroth: Poet of East West
Wisdom
, where he wrote of Rexroth:

    
Like Kenneth Patchen, Paul Goodman [another Gibson
visitor], William Everson, William Stafford, Carlos Cortez,
and other anarchist and pacifist writers, he refused on ethical
grounds to kill impersonal "enemies," even for a government
less unjust than the totalitarian states.

     And in the section on Rexroth's letters to Gibson
(1957 to 1979):
    
I asked my friend Carlos Cortez, an editor of the IWW's
Industrial Worker in Chicago, to send him
The Little Red
Songbook.

    
Over the years he had many showings & tributes,
including the Milwaukee
WobFest of 2003 & Detroit,
where Country Joe McDonald appeared Feb. 24, 2001
for the IWW
"in celebration of the artwork and poetry
of Carlos Cortez."

    
ArtScope.net has an extensive review (with
illustrations) of his art & aesthetic tradition based on a
Chicago exhibition that ran until January 2000 -- &
whatever else he may be noted for, a sign of his
earthiness is seen in his passion for engraving
heavily-outlined big-breasted "native" women with
huge, prominent nipples visible even under their rags, or
naked, at least until his first heart attack in 1993
 (Another "massive" heart attack left him bedridden
until 1-1/2 years before his
death.)   
     But the outpouring
initiated by his death at 81
is remarkable & touching; it
is obvious he was admired &
loved.  The
Rebel Graphic
Web site tribute begins:
      
The artwork and creative methodology that Carlos
Cortez
employed in his artistic endeavors are a rare gift
that we will treasure, always. Carlos used the old
methods such as wood block and linocut to create
precious glimpses of the struggles of working people
and their families.

He believed that art should serve a purpose, and that
purpose more often than not was the liberation of the
working class.

     It continues with the simple clarity of his
drinking-man's poem: 

Crystal-Gazing the Amber Fluid
    By Carlos Cortez

Sitting at this bar
Thinking of places
Afar
In my glass of beer
I see
Thru the smoke-filled haze
Of this room
Like a crystal vision
Looms
A ribbon of cement
Black line down the middle
Perdition bent
Like a galloping snake
On the make
Thru treeless prairies
And bottomless passes
Ever in motion
Over a moonkissed desert
Toward golden California
Grasses
Stopped only
By a big blue ocean,
Man----!
Give me the song
If you can
Of a greyhound motor's
Tirade
Crawling along
Some old ten-mile grade
Where life can be complete...

     The site features large examples of his work &
several tributes, mentioning some honors received late
in life:

 
 Few artists are honored while they live, but Carlos has been
 bombarded with praise, especially recently.  He has taken the
 cause of liberation and the IWW to many neighborhoods in
 Chicago, to many states of the union, and to many countries of
 the world.  In October, 1999 he was honored with an exhibition
 of his art in Madrid, Spain by the Foundation of Libertarian
 Studies.  They produced a very nice pamphlet of Carlos' art with
 his self portrait from 1985 on the cover.

 In 2001, he was honored in Chicago by the Mexican Fine Arts
 Center
with a large three-month long exhibition of his art.  Then
 all of his art was permanently hung in the Mexican Fine Artes
 Museum
in Chicago with the promise that if his art becomes
 too expensive for working people, they must produce more to
 reduce the price.
  Those who profit from his passing beware
 visits from owls, coyotes, or ravens [his symbols].


     Another tribute is found at the activist
IndyMedia site
for
Milwaukee.
     A more restrained obit is on the IWW Web site, as
reprinted from the
Chicago Tribune, which talks about
his Chicago basement studio of 30 years, in the house he
& his late wife Mariana  [Drogitis] reluctantly bought
with his inheritance because

     
He dreaded supporting a capitalist system that he
 believed cheated the common man out of a living wage. . . .

     
There, surrounded by the artist's black and white prints
 that inspired so many, poets and painters explored how art
 could incite social change, shed light on poor and
 disenfranchised populations, celebrate indigenous cultures
 and promote peace -- all principles that inspired Mr. Cortez
 
to create art.


     An ambience worthy of that we both encountered as
guests at the Gibsons', a link -- one can hope -- in an
ongoing chain, though he has no immediate survivors.
[Next week
Conclusion of Prodding the Beast, if
nothing intervenes
]
        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide

Sun. Aug. 21, 2005  

[Mexico: Leon Trotsky dies of wounds inflicted by a Stalinist
assassin yesterday -- 1940
[Note:  It was an ice axe, not an ice
pick
--M.Z.]

                    &
Sun. Aug. 14, 2005
 
[US: Henry David Thoreau jailed for tax resistance to the
Mexican War, Massachusetts -- 1846]

Sunday Sermon XII:  Complex Ignorant Arguments
 [Two-week special]
     A former Milwaukeean & Republican voter named
Phil, (who
appears on the Zonyx website) should
have a somewhat scientific turn of mind, since he is a
practicing psychologist.  He is also a
dedicated Z-Blog
reader
in California.  Actually, I have no idea if he reads
it or not, but this is a faith-based journal -- I have faith
that someone must read it.  Anyway, he frequently
e-mails a select few on his list, some of whom don't even
mind, mostly on subjects dear to conservatives (he calls
himself a recovering socialist).  I read them &
sometimes reply, but I also decided a while back that if I
were going to spend my time researching & writing, it
would have to be for a larger audience.  Hence
Z-Blog
for social & media criticism & the Sunday Sermon for
straight talk on religion, as I promised my dying mother.
Sort of.  (It involves the sex life of
Gloria Swanson, on
earth & in heaven, among other things.)

     At any rate, I needed a good topic, & his latest
message is sort of a hodge-podge on evolution & the
recent hot topic of intelligent design [ID], based on the
online mag
Slate (selectively chosen, to be sure; check
it out), which he accepts as proving the existence of a
creator -- most of its proponents do, though some are
coy about calling it God.  The subject is certainly in the
news, after several decades of neglect [it is after all,
only a reworking of William Paley's [1802] flawed
watchmaker argument], during which time the
fundamentalists were apparently re-tooling for another
assault on logic & reason, until they found the right tool.
The president got into the news with an apparently
fair-minded call for
balance:

  Bush essentially endorsed efforts by Christian
  conservatives to give intelligent design equal
  standing with evolution in the nation’s schools. . . .
  Bush . . . compared the current debate to earlier
  disputes over “creationism,” a related view that adheres
  more closely to biblical explanations. As
  governor of Texas, Bush said students should be
  exposed to both creationism and evolution.
  Yesterday the president said he favors the same
  approach for intelligent design “so people can
  understand what the debate is about.”

     (An opinion not shared by his own science advisor:
Dr. John Marburger III,
Presidential Science Advisor, tried to dispel the impact of the President’s comments. On Aug. 2, The New York Times quoted a telephone interview with Marburger in which he said, "evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology" and "intelligent design is not a scientific concept." Certainly, no one doubts where Marburger stands. One might question whether the President takes Marbuger’s scientific advice seriously, or is simply more concerned about pleasing a portion of the electorate.)

    Bush's views were echoed in news reports on
Aug. 20 by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who said,
". . . a pluralistic society should have access to a broad
range of fact, of science, including faith. . . ." & that ID
should be taught "alongside evolution."  It may be a
coincidence that Frist recently damaged severely his
support by his conservative base in favoring expanding
federal stem cell research to the use of discarded
embryos.  In any case, the Associated Press story noted
that "Critics say it's nothing more than religion
masquerading as science."  

        And as Austin Cline writes in About.com:

 
Of course, there is no scientific “debate” here, just a
 manufactured debate that has been “intelligently
 designed” by religious conservatives as a first step in
 an agenda that includes eliminating materialistic,
 naturalistic science and restructuring all of American
 society along their own religious preferences.

         
I think that part of education is to expose people
      to different schools of thought,” Bush said.
          "You’re asking me whether or not people ought to
      be exposed to different ideas; the answer is yes.”

Different ideas... like Satanism? Oh, we don’t need to go that
far. Why not just have a course taught by an atheist about
all the problems, flaws, and fallacies in both theism and in
organized religions? That will expose students to all sorts
of “different ideas” which they probably won’t hear at home.
President Bush supports this, right?  [
Cline]

     Until that day,
if they're interested in the problems
facing the ID theorists, your kids can check some
background from the
Secular Blasphemy website, starting
with the little old watchmaker:

   Refutation of the 'by design' argument for theism

Paley's analogy draws a distinction between natural objects and objects that
are the products of human designers. The whole argument goes that if you
should find a watch on a beach, lying in between the sand, stones, grass and
waves, you would immediately recognize that it stood out from its
surroundings, and that it was different. So, you would conclude it was an
artifact. . . .

The problem is that Paley suddenly turns around and says that everything
in nature bears evidence of a designer! The analogy is thus self-contradictory
even on the most basic level. In the analogy, the differences between the
natural objects and the human artifact is what makes an observer conclude
that the latter is designed. How come, then, can anyone conclude that the
stones, grass and indeed the whole universe is created by a Designer,
too? . . .


    
The author continues:

First, theists apply the argument from design selectively. Assuming that
the complexity of the universe shows it has to be design, they say that this
proves the existence of an even more complex entity: God. Now, if the
universe has to be created because it is complex, an even more complex
deity will have to be the product of an even more powerful meta-god. Theists
don't like this train of thought, and produce some ad hoc arguments with
little merit.


    
But Phil goes off on a tangent with some statistics that
apparently delight him, though they should discourage
any rational person; that is, the 51% of us who don't
believe Noah rescued the dinosaurs on his ark:

According to the most recent Gallup poll on the subject (2004),
45 percent of Americans believe God created human beings
in their present form 10,000 years ago
, while another 38
percent
believe that God directed the process of evolution.
Only 13 percent accept the prevailing scientific view of
evolution as an unguided, random process.


     This leads to Phil's celebratory boldface:
     I’m in the middle (38%).  I’m a minority.  At last!
    
This is meant to be humorous, as he has not generally
identified with any of the country's groups commonly
recognized as minorities since, oh, sometime in the late
60s, I'd guess.

    
But his real point is that, minority or not, a
substantial number of Americans seem to agree that
while evolution may be a fact, there is room yet in the
equation for God the designer.  Though I'm sure he
wouldn't put many of his other beliefs & practices to
this test, he seems to find it reassuring -- never mind the
well-worn observation that a substantial number of
humans once believed the sun revolved around the
earth -- & not an indication of a deficient educational
system.
     On the other hand, he quotes statistics that should be
unsettling, unless as a conservative American one
automatically concludes most Europeans are somehow
less educated & furthermore are eternally damned:
 

Look at this 1993 NORC survey: In the United States, 63
percent of the public believed in God and 35 percent
believed in evolution. In Great Britain, by comparison, 24
percent of people believed in God and 77 percent
believed in evolution. You can believe in both—but not
many people do
[Italics mine --M.Z.]

    
Again, in a somewhat uncharacteristic celebration
of American yokelism, Phil exults: 

                             I do.
And look at the difference between America and Britain.
       America is  much more religious than Europe
                               WOW !

     So much for the idea that Europe, the birthplace of
the Enlightenment, could teach us anything.  (Of course,
anybody who has been paying attention knows that
America has been far more religious -- at least with lip
service -- for decades, if not centuries, going back to
when outbreaks of revivalism swept the land.
     (A phenomenon partly attributable to our very lack of
a state-supported
religion:
   
(It has been observed that religious liberty in America
has benefited greatly from the strict separation of church
and state. Without a powerful government attempting to
define and impose religious orthodoxy on the people,
significantly more religious pluralism has developed in
America than in most other places. This has allowed
people to create religious groups based upon personal
experiences and divorced from historical traditions or
orthodoxy.
)  [About.com

     (Since each sect, in turn, develops its own following
with a tendency to grow, those turned off by a mainline
or possible state church thrive where they might
otherwise just disappear among the unchurched.)  
     Yet, curiously, he includes -- apparently because it
was a part of the original
Slate analysis -- an argument
undercutting his own thesis, that Darwinism can't explain
the emergence of  the first bacteria, when of course it
can, or at least has made long strides in that direction --
& offers evidence -- while the ID people claim that
where any gap in knowledge exists, it requires a
designer.  This is known as the argument from ignorance,
which Cardinal Schonborn (below) implicitly adopts.
     In actual practice, ID proponents (such as Michael
Behe
; see reviews) resort to outright lies about the state
of knowledge today about IC (irreducible complexity) in
such things as bacterial evolution & blood-clotting
mechanisms for example, as many of the links in this
journal will attest.  But where there are gaps, the
solution (a designer) is not testable, provable or
observable -- in short, not science.  Where the
mechanism is those things,
Occam's razor tells us we
need look no further -- except maybe to a philosophical
discussion about the meaning of it all. 
     Now, if Phil & the like-minded grant they are trying
to elevate a pseudo-science -- or, conversely, claim that
science isn't even relevant -- there is nothing to discuss.
     But just claiming that something has to be the case,
because to a wishful observer, dammit, how could it not
be? -- or that something just doesn't make sense, as Phil
does below, even though it makes sense to those who
have generally disposed of these mysteries to the point
where the unanswered question is not how does the
universe work but why is there a universe with all it's
laws? -- this is just "an
abdication of human
intelligence."

     As to the why of the universe, your guess is as good
as mine, but the answer does not require a creator,
unless -- since by the ID proponents' own admission,
anything self-evidently complex requires a creator -- the
even-more complex creator must require a creator, too,
thus substituting one mystery for another in infinite
regression.         
     Or perhaps the, shall we say, less militant ID
followers are merely positing a designer -- God --
whose sole attribute is the responsibility for a design,
whose existence is proof of the reality of the designer.
In other words, a circular argument:  What created the
universe?  God.  What is God?  That which created the
universe, dummy.  Fine, but useful only in giving us a
handy word for taking oaths -- any other actual attributes
will still have to be debated as they are trotted out, as
they have been for millennia.
     This may satisfy Phil, but in actuality, the ID people
have a much more activist program -- to advance
Christianity any way they can, but first by leaving God
out of the discussion until the ID theory is accepted as a
science.  This is pointed out in
Wikipedia:

   From
Religion and leading ID proponents:

Intelligent design arguments are carefully formulated in secular
terms and intentionally avoid positing the identity of the
designer. Phillip E. Johnson has stated that cultivating
ambiguity by employing secular language in arguments which
are carefully crafted to avoid overtones of theistic creationism
is a necessary first step for ultimately introducing the
Christian concept of God as the designer. Johnson
emphasizes "the first thing that has to be done is to get the
Bible out of the discussion" and that "after we have
separated materialist prejudice from scientific fact," only then
can "biblical issues" be discussed.[14] Johnson explicitly calls
for ID proponents to obfuscate their religious motivations so
as to avoid having ID recognized "as just another way of
packaging the Christian evangelical message."[15] Though
not all ID proponents are theistic or motivated by religious
fervor, the majority of the principal ID advocates (including
Michael Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, and
Stephen C. Meyer) are Christians and have stated that in
their view the designer of life is clearly God.

    
     More discussion of the argument from ignorance also
appears in
Wikipedia:

             Argument from ignorance

Some critics have argued that many points raised by
Intelligent Design proponents strongly resemble arguments
from ignorance
. In the argument from ignorance, one claims
that the lack of evidence for one view is evidence for another
view (e.g., "Science cannot explain this, therefore God did
it"). Particularly, Michael Behe's demands for ever more
detailed explanations of the historical evolution of molecular
systems seem to assume a
dichotomy where either evolution
or design is the proper explanation, and any perceived failure
of evolution becomes a victory for design. In scientific terms,
"absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" for
naturalistic explanations of observed traits of living organisms.


      But Cardinal Schonborn, quoted by Phil, sidesteps
even the significance of the gaps & seems to boldly
assert  that design is immanent --  just because things look
designed, as Phil claims, & because it supports Catholic
doctrine  -- while even attacking the science that exists
where there once were gaps:  


Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the archbishop of Vienna,
was saying nothing very different when he argued in a
New
York Times
op-ed piece on July 7 that random evolution
can't be harmonized with Catholic doctrine. To be sure,
there are plenty of scientists who believe in God, and even
Darwinists who call themselves Christians. But the
acceptance of evolution diminishes religious belief in
aggregate for a simple reason: It provides a better answer to
the question of how we got here than religion does.
Not a
different answer, a better answer: more plausible, more
logical, and supported by an enormous body of evidence.
Post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which can explain the
emergence of the first bacteria,
doesn't even leave much
room for a deist God whose minimal role might have been to
flick the first swi
tch.

     Unfortunately, the Cardinal's NY Times article is not
freely available, but his thinking is summed up here:

ABSTRACT - Op-Ed article by Roman Catholic Cardinal
Christoph Schonborn on Catholic stance on evolution;
says evolution in sense of common ancestry might be
true, but evolution in neo-Darwinian sense -- unguided,
unplanned process of random variation and natural
selection -- is not; says immanent design evident in
nature is real; holds scientific theories that try to explain
away appearance of design as result of 'chance and
necessity' are not scientific at all, but, as Pope John
Paul II
put it, an abdication of human intelligence.
[
italics mine --M.Z.]
    
Which apparently brings back the deist God, at least,
whose "
role might have been to flick the first switch."
     That seems to be enough for Phil, who reacts with a
joyous hash of mostly previously disposed-of arguments
(in this blog & the included links).  One new one pops
up, the impossibility of creating something from
nothing -- specifically bacteria -- though no one claims
such a thing (as the reader who follows my links can
determine).  A variety of others are covered in the
citations following Phil's plaintive incantation: 

                 And what a mighty flick it was.
                      And there was light
 And eventually . . . Bacteria.  The “emergence” of these
 slimy, elegantly complex beasts can only be explained
 by intelligent design at some point in the process.
 Something from nothing really doesn’t make much
 sense.  Orderly laws of science . . . the 17-20 basic
 laws  of physics . . . (e.g. Gravity, speed of light, etc)
 . . .   at different levels down to quantum . . . all these
 “forces” interacting -- in order to “hold” the Universe
 together.  Where did these (non-random) patterns come
 from?  Why are there laws?  Why can’t I make Raquel
 Welch appear Right Now !!?

    
Refraining from asking equally perplexing questions,
such as why Intelligent Design also created the influenza
virus which rapidly evolved to kill 20 million people
before their "free will" could begin to comprehend it,
I will take up another question.  The Raquel Welch
problem reminds me of the Wizard of Oz.  You
remember Judy Garland in
Somewhere Over the
Rainbow
sang about birds & asked

                If happy little bluebirds fly
                Beyond the rainbow
                Why, oh why can't I?

     To which my reply would be, "Because you're not a
bird."  Neither
theologian nor Supernatural Creator, Phil
-- psychologist or not -- is apparently not much of a
scientist either, & probably wonders why he can't fly.
     Though the following material covers a lot of ground,
it is meant to be merely a guideline to fuller explanations
on the Internet, which surely the seriously interested
will want to check out at least once (please?)  Another
tack would simply be to type "Behe review" [good start]
or "intelligent design" [staggering] into Google &
follow one's curiosity.  But I rest after this, knowing I
have done my duty for the Phil's of this world.
     Some discussion of scientific method is appropriate,
for starters:


                  from Wikipedia:

Critics say ID is attempting to redefine natural science,[7]
and they cite books and statements of principal ID
proponents calling for the elimination of "methodological
naturalism" from science[8] and [to] replace it with what
critics call "methodological supernaturalism," which means
belief in a transcendent, non-natural dimension of reality
inhabited by a transcendent, non-natural deity.[9] Natural
science uses the scientific method to create a posteriori
knowledge based on observation alone (sometimes called
empirical science).  Critics of ID consider the idea that some
outside intelligence created life on Earth to be a priori
(without observation) knowledge. ID proponents cite some
complexity in nature that cannot yet be fully explained by the
scientific method.  (For instance, abiogenesis, the generation
of life from non-living matter, is not completely understood
scientifically, although the first stages have been reproduced
in the Miller-Urey experiment.)  ID proponents infer that an
intelligent designer is behind the part of the process that is
not understood scientifically.  Since the designer cannot be
observed, critics continue, it is a priori knowledge.

 This allegedly a priori inference that an intelligent
 designer (God or an alien life force[10]) created life on
 Earth has been compared to the a priori claim that
 aliens helped the ancient Egyptians build the
 pyramids[11].  In both cases, the effect of this outside
 intelligence is not repeatable, observable, or falsifiable,
 and it violates Occam's Razor as well.  Empirical 
 scientists
  would simply say "we don't know exactly how
 the Egyptians built the pyramids" and list what is known
 about Egyptian construction techniques.

     For even more discussion of Behe, see:
 

  A Review of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical
  Challenge to Evolution
, by Michael J. Behe


by Robert Dorit

. . .  this argument makes a reappearance in Michael Behe's
Darwin's Black Box
.  Adorned this time around with the
language of molecular biology, spiced up with charges of a
conspiracy of scientists, masquerading as an appeal for truth
and not for theology, it is nonetheless the same old thing:
There cannot be design without a designer.  Although I do not
doubt the sincerity of the author, nor scoff at his unease with
a world apparently lacking purpose, the case for intelligent
design put forth in Darwin's Black Box is built on some deep
misunderstandings about evolution, molecular organization
and, ultimately, about the nature of scientific inquiry. Because
of these misperceptions, not a blow is landed on the central,
radical claim of Darwinian thinking:  Biological order and
design emerge from the workings of the evolutionary process
and not from the hand of a designer.


     But Phil also can't deal with the notion that Nature &
its laws weren't supernaturally formed, essentially asking
Mr. Answer Man (me) these questions:

                 [Spontaneous Order]

 So, where did the order of the universe come from, if it
 did not exist at the "beginning"?  Where did the laws of
 physics come from, if not from some great lawgiver?
 We are now beginning to grasp how the laws of physics
 could have come about naturally, as the universe
 spontaneously exploded in the big bang
.

    
Fortunately, we have answers now for those who
wonder about the origin & applicability of  Newtonian
"laws" of physics:

                      Intelligent Design
       Humans, Cockroaches, and the Laws
                         of  Physics

  Copyright © 1997 by Victor J. Stenger

Let me begin by addressing two commonsense notions:
(1) you cannot get something from nothing, and (2) the order
of the universe requires the pre-existence of an active
intelligence to do the ordering.  I will leave it to the theologians
to explain how the postulate of a creator God solves the
problem of creation ex nihilo, since God is something that,
itself, must have come, uncreated, from nothing.  Instead I
will address the physics issues implied by the creation of the
universe from nothing.  In physics terms, creation ex nihilo
appears to violate both the first and second laws of
thermodynamics.

However, our best estimate today is that the total energy of
the universe is zero (within a small zero point energy that
results from quantum fluctuations), with the positive energy
of matter balanced by the negative potential energy of
gravity.  Since the total energy is zero, no energy was
needed to produce the universe and the first law was not
violated.


If we properly compute, according to statistical theory, the
probability for the universe existing with the properties it has,
the result is unity!  The universe exists with one hundred
percent probability (unless you are an idealist who believes
everything exists only in your own mind).  On the other hand,
the probability for one of a random set of universes being our
particular universe is a different question.  And the probability
that one of a random set of universes is a universe that
supports some form of life is a third question.
  I submit it is
this last question that is the important one and that we have
no reason to be sure that this probability is small.


The second law of thermodynamics requires that the
entropy, or disorder, of the universe must increase or at
least stay constant with time.  This would seem to imply that
the universe started out in a greater state of order than it
has today, and so must have been designed.

However, this argument holds only for a universe of constant
volume.  [& not for sub-systems, either --M.Z]  The maximum
entropy of any object is that of a black hole of the same
volume.  In an expanding universe, the maximum allowable
entropy of the universe is continually increasing, allowing
more and more room for order to form as time goes by.  If
we extrapolate the big bang back to the earliest definable
time, the so-called Planck time (10-43 second), we find that
universe started out in a condition of maximum entropy -- total
chaos.  The universe had no order at the earliest definable
instant.  If there was a creator, it had nothing to create.

Note also that one cannot ask, much less answer, "What
happened before the big bang?"  Since no time earlier than
the Planck time can be logically defined, the whole notion
of time before the big bang is meaningless.

We are gradually learning that several of the laws of physics,
those that seem the most universal and profound, are in fact
little more than statements about the simplicity of nature that
can almost go unsaid.  The "laws" of energy, momentum,
and angular momentum conservation have been shown to
be statements about the homogeneity of space and time.  The
first law of thermodynamics, conservation of energy, results
from there being no unique moment in time.  Conservation
of momentum
follows from the Copernican principle that
there is no preferred position in space.  Other conservation
laws, such as charge and nucleon number, also arise from
analogous assumptions of simplicity.  [No, I didn't look those
last two up; let me know if you do & find them relevant --M.Z.]


     Any more questions?  I thought not, so we'll finish
with yet more examination of  the so-called "problem"
of irreducible complexity (IC).


                   Design Flaw [review]
                    by
Norman A. Johnson

Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology.
William A. Dembski. 304 pp. InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common
Ground Between God and Evolution
. Kenneth R. Miller.
338 pp. HarperCollins, 1999.

Is "irreducible complexity" a problem for Darwinian evolution?
In Finding Darwin's God Kenneth Miller, a Brown University
cell biologist, deftly and correctly
responds to Behe's
challenge, pointing out not just one but several examples of
evolution creating not only the appearance of design but also
the appearance of "irreducible complexity."  These examples
include demonstrations of bacteria evolving new metabolic
pathways and the tracing of the vertebrate blood-clotting
system's evolutionary history.  The blood-clotting system,
one of Behe's supposed prime examples of "irreducible
complexity," evolved via the divergence of several related
genes originally produced by a series of gene duplications.
Miller concludes: "In a general way, we really do understand
how nature works.  And evolution forms a critical point of
that understanding."

     All of which leads (finally!) to this summary, though
not in itself proof, of the anti-ID argument:

     Irreducible Complexity Demystified
                 
by Pete Dunkelberg
        "Evolution is cleverer than you are."
                 --biologists' proverb

There was supposed to be a special reason why it was
impossible or at least very difficult for evolution to arrive at an
'all parts required' situation, but there is no such reason.  The
proposed reason was based on overlooking standard
evolutionary processes and making analogies to
manufactured items.  Comparing Behe's mousetrap to
Venus'
flytrap confirms the reasonable suspicion that
analogies and arguments based on manufactured items lead
to underestimating nature.  Since IC can occur in the
ordinary course of events we have a known process,
evolution, which is acting in the present and which given time
is sufficient to produce the adaptations that Behe finds
perplexing.  This is like the raising of the Rocky Mountains;
a known process acting in the present is sufficient, given
time, to produce the result.  Of course there is no way to
predict all the details in either case, nor is it necessary.
     Still, creationists are clever at raising other
objections to evolution, & they may have won after all,
as this recent headline in the Onion
[August 2005 18-24]
trumpets:

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New
              'Intelligent Falling' Theory
         
     "Things fall not because they
                     are acted upon by some gravi-
                     tational force, but because a
                     higher intelligence, 'God' if
                     you will, is pushing them down,"
                     said Gabriel Burdett, who
                     holds degrees in education,
                     applied Scripture, and physics
                     from Oral Roberts University.
                     Burdett added:  "Gravity --
                     which is taught to our children
                     as a law-- is founded on great
                     gaps in understanding.  The
                     laws predict the mutual force
         
Intelligent Falling from page 1
          between all bodies of mass, but they can-
          not explain that force. . . .
          there are many phenomena that cannot be
          explained by secular gravity alone, includ-
          ing such mysteries as how angels fly, how
          Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan
          fell when cast out of Paradise. . . . "
          . . . the Christian Coalition, and other Christian
          conservative action groups, is calling for public-
          school curriculums to give equal time to the
          Intelligent Falling theory.  They insist they are
          not asking that the theory of gravity be banned
          from schools, but only that students be offered
          both sides of the issue "so they can make an
          informed decision."
    
     As noted at the
top, this is a two-week special, so
there will be a whole week until the next
Sermon to
ponder some of these issues or design an intelligent
reply. 

         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                        Z-GUIDE     

Sat. Aug. 13, 2005 
Prodding the Beast 
[Pt. 4]
     Copy desks, even the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel's
notoriously weak version, concern
themselves not only with grammatical errors &
misspellings but the logic & meaning of phrases &
sentences -- at least, they should.  A few recent
examples of failing in this regard are more amusing, or
at least intriguing, than the other, reoccurring errors
often dealt with here. 
     A cut line below a photo in Dennis Getto's recent
review [Fri. Aug. 5] of the Cedarburg Bistro reads:
Although some service flaws need fine-tuning, the . . .
Bistro's menu . . . needs no further refinements.

    
Surely the flaws need correcting or eliminating, not
fine-tuning; a fine-tuned flaw is, after all, still a flaw
until it is completely gone.
     And the Quick Hit editorial note by Richard
Foster
-- whose copy the desk may be too timid to
tamper with -- [Mon. Aug. 1] writes of Saudi Arabia's
Ambassador Prince Bandar, a "smooth operator," that:
   
He [Bandar] is the sort of person who could put Osama
bin Laden in a prison cell or even on death row and thank
Bandar for having done him a favor.
     Say what?  Something is missing here.  Obviously,
any thanking would not be done by Bandar himself, as
the quote reads.  The
editorial page, of course, is the
centerpiece of any paper, & should presumably receive
the most care.

     Going back to Jim Stingl's column of  Fri. Feb. 7,
2003
, another reference that shouldn't have slipped by
the desk is found.  He writes about Werner the Turner,
a mannequin donated to Turner Hall in Downtown
Milwaukee, put on display -- wearing a "moth-eaten"
100-year-old gymnast leotard -- that was stolen, perhaps
during a party for Marquette University students.  No
problem (& an amusing enough column), except that
Stingl speculates about the college students with their
dirty minds dreaming up indignities for Werner, "all
vulnerable . . . in his reptilian spandex with the plunging
neckline." 
     It is true that a website documenting the history of
spandex (after some unrelated material) begins:     

     Although noted historians and scientists alike have dedicated
  their lives to its study, many of Spandex's true origins remain
  shrouded in mystery. While the earliest evidence dates from Neolithic
  cultures of about 5000 B.C., the production of Spandex was known to
  have been practiced by many peoples, particularly in Africa, Peru,
  Ireland and New Jersey. Sadly, examples of prehistoric Spandex are
  extremely rare because of the edibility of those early fibers. It was
  not until recent years, with the advent of advanced DNA technology
  that researchers under the tutelage of Dr. F.E. Tunalu, were able to
  decipher the complex strands of the Spandex fibraic code, now
  believed to be the basis for today's Le Moo Francaise. . . .


      But a more skeptical reader than Stingl might pursue
the subject further, & find in About.com's
History of Fabrics under Spandex that:

     In 1942, William Hanford and Donald Holmes
 invented polyurethane together. Polyurethane is the
 basis of a novel type of elastomeric fiber known
 generically as spandex. It is a man-made fiber
 (segmented polyurethane) able to stretch at least 100%
 and snap back like natural rubber. It replaced the rubber
 used in women's underwear. Spandex was created in
 the late 1950s, developed by E. I. du Pont de Nemours
 & Company, Inc. The first commercial production of
 spandex
fiber in the United States began in 1959.

     Knowing this, one might reasonably conclude that the
100-year-old garment was not spandex, reptilian or
otherwise, though at least the generic lower-case is in
order.  Still, the fact that the man-made polyurethane
was "moth-eaten" might have been a clue.
     Though transgressions have been piling up, I hope to
finish this latest roundup of JS editing errors with the
next
Prodding the Beast  [Pt. 5], before starting anew
with a different heading.  It's a never-ending task.

        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Sun. Aug. 7, 2005  
Sunday Sermon XI:  Flagging Desecration
     The recent passage by the House of an amendment to
ban the desecration of the flag has, of course, religious
implications to consider on this Wednesday version of
the Sunday Sermon, as well as word-usage issues
properly taken up by Z-Blog.
    
Desecration is a religious term -- to blaspheme or
de-sacralize -- a religious icon.  But the US flag is not a
religious symbol;  to pass this amendment is a big step
towards legitimating a religious view of government, &
promoting an official religion.
     Many commentators have notice this -- a Googling of
flag desecration produce about 440,000 hits which will
turn up many critiques of the bill.  But a quick check of a
few of the top entries -- including the reliable
About.com & its Atheism site probably sum up all that
is necessary to deal intelligently with the controversy.
     But an especially fascinating pictorial view of the
ramifications of such a ban is found on cartoonist Tom
Tomorrow's This Modern World
blog [highly
recommended in any case] for June 24, 2005 under
Greg Saunders'
link. [scroll down page]  For example,
what constitutes a flag?  Does writing on one, as George
W. Bush
apparently did with his autograph, amount to
desecration?  Does it matter whether disrespect is in
the perpetrator's mind?  Who does the mind-reading, &
using what standards?   Check it out.
                  

                       Is this a flag?
Nice try, smartass. That's a t-shirt with a picture of a flag. Even though
we've got all the details right, the object in the picture above isn't a
flag because what surrounds the red, white, and blue rectangular
image makes it a shirt. How about this then?
. . . 
[continued on site,
with photo of
Bush caught in the act]
            [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                         Z-GUIDE     
Fri. Aug. 5, 2005 
Prodding the Beast 
[Pt. 3]
     Maybe today's educated reader sees nothing wrong
with:  "By focusing on the past, the Kerry alibi allows
Democrats to avoid engaging the future,"  [Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel
, E. J. Dionne
Perspectives column,
June 10, that blamed Kerry for his defeat (as well he
should be, I say)]; or,
     "The place comes with a roof, 64,000 seats and an
alibi," [sports writer Dale Hoffman, JS, Nov. 18, 2002,
on fan noise in the Metrodome].
     But I do, since it has such a clear, lengthy definition
other than excuse that is nevertheless conveyed in just
one word.  So I have to fall back on what the experts I
consult did when they wrote their reference books:
Look at several authorities & make a decision.  Where
plausible disagreement exists, the best course is to give
a sense of the arguments -- probably coming down on
one side or the other -- & letting the reader decide.
     Thus, no one seriously defends
moot in the sense of
being irrelevant, or
aggravate as a synonym for irritate,
but
hopefully is almost standard in the usage,
"Hopefully, (something-or-other) will take place."  That
is, it is to be hoped, not in a hopeful manner (the
original, preferred definition). 
Minimize, on yet another
hand, it seems, is undergoing a debatable transition.
     So it is with
alibi, as I consult my authorities (such as
Theodore M. Bernstein), who in turn had consulted
their authorities.  And I am disappointed that out of the
big 3 I looked at (the Internet & my own limited
dictionary being 2 others I regularly go to), Bernstein
himself, in The Careful Writer, states, "An alibi in
present day usage is not merely an excuse; it is
frequently an invented excuse intended to transfer
responsibility. . . . It is driving the primary, legal
meaning into the background.  In the legal sense alibi
means a plea of having been elsewhere than at the
scene. . . . the two meanings are going to have to
coexist."  [Bernstein offers more argument on the
usefulness of both meanings, but Hoffman's rendition
doesn't even seem to survive that distinction; he merely
confuses alibi & excuse.]
     Nevertheless, Fowler's  Oxford Modern English
Usage
calls the newer meaning "weakened colloquial,"
& my permissive Webster's New World Dictionary
also labels it colloquial, while my new (15th ed., 2003)
Chicago Manual of Style says, "Avoid this as a
synonym for excuse."
     So I am going to have to overrule Bernstein on this;
one doubts, however, that anyone on the JS's weak copy
desk ever reads him now, even though the former copy
chief
Tom Barber hopefully loaned me his edition in
1965.  It is just their ignorance that lets such informal
copy, at best, slide by. 
     To be continued in
Prodding the Beast  [Pt. 4]
          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Sun. July 31, 2005  
Sunday Sermon X:  The Simpson System
     If the previous Sunday Sermon IX was somewhat
heavy, dealing as it did with some odd family behavior,
there is a more contemporary family with great insights
into the nuances of religion: the Simpsons (& their
fellow TV citizens).  Beginning with:
   
"Prayer has no place in the public schools,
just like facts have no place in organized
religion."

   --School Superintendent on "The Simpsons" episode
   #100, 1994
   & more on
http://www.atheistempire.com/greatminds/more.html
(scroll down for Simpsons).
     Beginning with bonus quotes from other notables less
recognized by the public today.  If these still leave you
with deep theological concerns, distract yourself with
yet another question for the age from Jim Eukey:
    
     Hi Y’all,
     I have stumbled upon what may be the best
question(s) I have ever asked:
     What is the name of our solar system?  Why has
no one, to my knowledge, asked about the name of
our solar system?
     I have sent letters to the editors of the NY Times,
Manchester Guardian, PBS Online, Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel
etc asking these questions.
     As far as I know, there is no name for our solar
system.
     Did we simply forget to name it or …??
     How about a naming contest? My suggestions are
Fred or Beverly.
      Best regards
      Jim


   
I sent my answer to: jeukey@wi.rr.com
    
You may wish to do likewise.   Although I wrote that its name
 is simply the solar system (or our solar system) since there is
 no other planetary system that centers on Sol -- our sun -- I  do
 think Mike has a nice ring to it, suitable to the brilliance of the
 object at the center of the thing described.  
          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                         Z-GUIDE     
Sat. July 30, 2005 
Prodding the Beast 
[Pt. 2]
     The first part of this entry [Part 1] promised to take
up again the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's weak copy
desk, with some recent examples.  Some are repeats,
with links back to the original offenses, in some cases
including e-mails exchanged with the responsible
reporters. 

1) aggravating.  ". . . tattoos [on fruit] will be less
bothersome to consumers than stickers, which can be
really aggravating if you bit into one. . . ."  [
laurels and
laments
editorial, July 23] A  double repeat.
     Does not mean annoying or irritating, but to worsen
an existing condition.   

2)
blog"The following blog offers snapshots of
scenes. . . ."  [Vikki Ortiz, front page of
Cue section,
July 22]
     An apparent first for the JS, but not other
publications, as I've pointed out.  In any event, she is
merely writing an old-fashioned log, having nothing to
do with the Web & therefore not a web log, just an
attempt to seem hip.

3)
phase / faze". . . the company's stock price don't
seem to phase Amazon's eternally ebullient chief
executive. . . ."  [Associated Press (AP) story in
Business section, July 5]
     Managing Editor Stanley claimed in the same
Crossroads section quoted in Part I that

            
We edit stories from wire services and
          outside contributors with the same rigor and
          concern. . . . Sometimes we fail to meet these
          standards.  When that happens, our policy is to
          admit our mistakes, correct them, apologize to
          our readers and work to improve.


     I'm still waiting for my apology, but I won't let it faze
me. 

4)
shit / shatGot your attention, huh?  Actually, David
Doege
wrote about an apparently racist confrontation in
Waukesha that "Weber later said that Bratton spit on
him." [
Metro North, page 2, June 23]
     But the past tense is
spat, analogous to shat.

5)
mootAnother repeat in another editorial [June 23],
claims that "these local [anti-smoking] laws will be
essentially moot if they are tougher than the state
standards. . . ."  As I documented, someone there
apparently thinks that moot means irrelevant, a
confusion no doubt stemming from moot court.  Of
course, it means debatable.  

6)
throes / throwsMeg Kissinger's Q & A with Patty
Duke about her mental illness [
First Section, page 2,
June 14,] quotes her : "When I was I was in the throws
of this, I used to pray. . . ."
     Don't blame Patty; the weak copy desk (& Kissinger)
is responsible for the rendition into text.

7)
oxymoronWhile it is indeed a linking of opposites,
derived from the Greek for sharp & dull, according to
Fowler's Modern English Usage, the problem is that it
is often used for terms that may not be apparently direct
opposites but ones which the user wishes to be seen that
way.  That is, army intelligence is not an oxymoron as
such (nor is jumbo shrimp), just a point the writer is
trying to (humorously) make by calling it such.  Little
giant
, however, is.
     But Howard Schoenfeld, writing a guest opinion on
the Public Museum's need for change says that he
recognizes the "phrase 'typical turnaround' is an
oxymoron."  [Crossroads, June 12, page 1]  No, it's
not.  Of course, few turnarounds may be typical by his
lights, but they are not automatic opposites.  The weak
copy desk (& even strong copy desk is not an oxymoron,
though one might think of it that way) should have
suggested a change. 
     To be continued in
Prodding the Beast  [Pt. 3]
        
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          z-guide

Sun. July 24, 2005  
Sunday Sermon IX:  Barney & Lot's Daughters
     Readers of Sunday Sermon VIII may have noticed
some mildly critical remarks about the Bible, namely
that it is "vile, cruel & error-ridden."  Examples that
allow one to judge for oneself abound on the Internet;
from one site here is something for connoisseurs of
incest, drunkenness & blackouts & all descendants of
the Moabites & Ammonites today (you know who
you are):

               30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and
          settled in the mountains, for he was afraid
          to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters
          lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter
          said to the younger, "Our father is old, and
          there is no man around here to lie with us, as
          is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let's get
          our father to drink wine and then lie with him
          and preserve our family line through our
          father."
          33 That night they got their father to drink
          wine, and the older daughter went in and lay
          with him. He was not aware of it when she lay
          down or when she got up.
34 The next day the
          older daughter said to the younger, "Last
          night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink
          wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with
          him so we can preserve our family line through
          our father." 35 So they got their father to drink
          wine that night also, and the younger
          daughter went and lay with him. Again he was
          not aware of it when she lay down or when she
          got up. 36 So both of Lot's daughters became
          pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter
          had a son, and she named him Moab [1] ; he is
          the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The
          younger daughter also had a son, and she
          named him Ben-Ammi [2] ; he is the father of
          the Ammonites of today.

Genesis 19:30-38
         
          I had a fundamentalist Aunt Esther outside of
tiny Readstown, WI (Church of Christ, I believe,
not to be confused with the Church of God) who told
my mother she disapproved when I said
something like, "Oh, my God," & hated gambling & its
paraphernalia to the point where card games were
forbidden in her house.  (Roman soldiers gambled for
Christ's garments, or something, don't you know.)
Games played with substitute cards, like
Touring, were
OK.  I got her to agree that the Stock Market was
probably a form of gambling, but that didn't affect her
position.  But she totally opposed alcohol, & when I
had the nerve at age 10 to point out they drank wine in
the Bible, she said it was really grape juice.  Ignoring
the obvious point that grape juice would have fermented
or spoiled in the heat -- no doubt the origin of
wine-making in the first place -- I wish I could have
pointed out that it was some pretty strong grape juice
that Lot's daughters must have used to get the old coot
drunk.
     My poor Uncle Barney would sometimes leave me
in the truck when we stopped alone in town & he could
duck into the local tavern for a shorty beer, but
that was the extent of his reprieve from her strictures;
even at a family reunion many years later when I offered
him a cold one from my cooler he said he'd better not.
     Still, their little country cheese factory provided
daily, warm rubbery curds that were a salty delight of
my childhood.  But with only 2 kids -- a son that
drowned young in the Kickapoo River & a daughter -- Essie always gave the impression that her forays into
the sexual were as repulsive to her as strong drink.  Had
Barney read the scriptures as closely as she thought she
did, he might have noticed that the author of Genesis
found nothing untoward about laying with one's
daughter(s) -- after drinking some wine, of course,
thus killing 2 birds with 1 stone -- 3 if you count
perpetuating the lineage.  Literalist (when it suited her
purpose) Aunt Esther could hardly have objected.
     Besides, he was an Ammerman by name, perhaps
one of the scattered Ammonites himself. 
            
     For more comforting bedside reading, consult:
    
http://www.westegg.com/morgan/bible.html

           [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                         Z-GUIDE     
Fri. July 22, 2005 
Prodding the Beast 
[Pt. 1]
     As a writer of critical e-mails to the Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel -- mostly on matters of  copy-editing
deficiencies there, as this
Website & Z-Blog
demonstrate -- it is with some amusement I see that a
revamping of that paper apparently to find favor with a
younger, hipper readership was bannered in the Sunday,
June 5
Crossroads section:
 
We appreciate hearing from you, and here's why
     The entire front page of that section & half of page 2
consists of the big 3 of daily operations there, Editor
Martin Kaiser, Managing Editor
George Stanley &
Editorial Page Editor O. Oscar Pimintel extolling the
virtues of new design tweaks & outreach efforts --
including a readers' editorial board to meet with editors
& a changing panel of 12 or more local columnists each
serving one year -- presumably in the belief that
declining readership can somehow be stanched.
     I doubt that it can -- even with those jazzy little
quote-boxes on top of the editorial page & two new
sections, replacing the failed youth-oriented
Jump --
though I wish them well.  I love newspapers, & I am
happiest these days when I get up at whatever time &
settle down with my juice & coffee & grapefruit & a
new morning paper to read -- even though I am addicted
to computers & the Internet & enjoy a plethora of
magazines dealing with current events & humanistic
studies.  As well as the occasional novel I can fit in.
     I realize, of course, that it is the rise of those
attractions & others (TV & talk radio, naturally, & more
sports & entertainment events than ever) with the
younger readers that have relegated newspapers to their
declining position in American society, probably with
no turning back.  So I want the JS to thrive, though the
traditional draws are sufficient for me -- news, features,
editorials, other commentary, some hard-hitting
investigative stuff, even comics -- & the rest is
inconsequential window-dressing.  With the possible
exception of coverage of some first-rate scandals --
which papers have relied on from time immemorial to
boost circulation -- nothing will help very much, though
the explosion of print in the online world, forcing surfers
to retain their familiarity with text & eventually
experiment with their own journals & blogs & even
forms of text-messaging,  may serve to keep literacy
alive & bring a new appreciation for daily print
journalism -- perfect for retired baby-boomers to peruse, drinking designer coffee while reclining comfortably.
     Of course, to do it right takes several hours, more
than most people can spare, even retirees. 
     So I can't blame the JS honchos for trying, but their
crowing really comes down to predictable boiler plate
ideals straight from generations of  high school
journalism classes studying the "daily miracle" &
"instant history," though Kaiser thinks it remarkable that
"we will continue to expand how we listen to readers and answer their questions." After all, he writes,
"Listening and engaging readers can be the best part
of my job.  Their insights often help improve the
Journal Sentinel -- whether it is suggesting a story or
telling us how much they like a particular comic."

     The only new wrinkle in this is the "greater
interaction with readers,"
made possible by voice mail
& e-mail. To that end, he noted, "we put e-mail
addresses of reporters under staff members' bylines."

     In a similar self-congratulatory vein, Stanley writes
about all the news they cover -- imagine that -- from
politicians' visits & new products to car crashes,
blazes, tornadoes touching down, the uplifting story of
a gardener beautifying a neighborhood or a firefighter
saving a life. 
     Again, all well & good,  though the paean to simple
good journalism seems a (slick & skillful) restating of
the obvious:

     
    Sometimes we write stories we wish we
     didn't have to write.  It's our job to describe
     the way things are, not the way we wish they
     could be.  That's how a self-governing
     community adjusts course, makes corrections
     and moves forward -- by examining problems,
     debating solutions and taking action.
          Problems left unattended in the shadows
     will spread and rot and fester.  But shine a
     light on them , and bring them to the public's
     attention, and people of goodwill arrive to
     clean things up.       

    
It is easy to mock such platitudes, of course -- simply
stating ideals won't draw one new reader, though over
time their actual implementation could attract consistent
notice -- and all that space is effectively wasted.  But
common practice calls for alerting the public to
noticeable cosmetic changes, & it does then enter the
institutional  memory -- rallying the troops, so to speak,
or marking a new era. 

    
By implication, of course, the same process of
self-correction applies to a quasi-public institution like
the Journal Sentinel itself.  So there should be no doubt
that small but persistent criticisms like my questioning
of what I call the notoriously weak copy desk's editing
proficiency is welcome there.  Sure it is.  Even  more
welcome -- because it gets to serious structural &
philosophical weaknesses -- should be the recent
insider's tell-all by former JS reporter
Bruce Murphy in
Milwaukee Magazine [July 2005, no longer online].
 
     Titled In the Belly of the Beast, it follows his
three-year stint there, a job that sprang up, one assumes,
from his beating the JS on what used to be its strong suit,
local government coverage, with the county employees'
pension scandal.  Details of that rip-off, which cost
many an official his job -- including Democrat County
Executive Tom Ament -- are well-known, & in any
case are available
elsewhere
     But the picture Murphy paints is -- surprise! -- a
great contrast to the platitudes of Kaiser & Miller
     He starts with a description of the messy habits &
irritating conduct of his co-workers, in the cramped,
noisy "chaotic mess" of the common area that is the
newsroom, surrounded by the relatively luxurious
offices of the editors.  Petty, perhaps, especially to
someone who has been a daily reporter elsewhere, but

              
The end result is an often strained
          newsroom where top editors drive the agenda,
          middle editors worry about their dictates
          and reporters take turns being confused and
          demoralized.  Against all odds, good stories
          -- and an occasional great one -- get written,
          but you can't help but wonder why the paper
          can't be better.

    
The story Murphy tells is of the tension between the
two halves of the Journal Sentinel equation, with
former editorially conservative weak sister Sentinel
dominating the once-prestigious liberal Journal in
personnel & philosophy for historical reasons he lays
out.  Another tension is that between very "hands-on"
editors Kaiser & Stanley:

             
Kaiser mostly listens, Stanley mostly talks.
           Kaiser is soft-spoken and introverted; Stanley
           is an extroverted declaimer.  Stanley yearns to
           be a crusading journalist; Kaiser often applies
           the brakes.  Stanley see evil in many places;
           Kaiser worries about fairness to all.
                  Their opposing philosophies could combine
            to confuse reporters. . . .

      
     The result, especially in the absence of competition,
is stories being held back out of  editors' timidity or
being edited to death or simply evaporating, examples
of which Murphy supplies from his own experience.
Still, the pressure was always on for new product &
something to grab readers' attention -- while offending
very few of them. 
     And however much a crusading journalist Stanley
might wish to be, he remains a suburban conservative,
while Kaiser is seen as "more interested in sports and
features than politics."
  One result, as Murphy sees it,
is an anti-labor bias (the teachers' union) & kowtowing
to the business community (Johnson Controls) and an
avoidance of investigative material in general (&
endorsing Republican Bob Dole for president in 1996).
     And despite perennial conservative complaints to
the contrary, Murphy documents a right-leaning tilt "that
can get absurd:  Sometimes the Journal Sentinel runs
stories with the Bush administration denying some
claim or criticism that had never been published in the
Milwaukee paper,"
and much other national news
portraying the administration in a bad light is buried
(scathing books by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill &
terrorism consultant Richard Clarke) or available only
to local readers of other publications ("rendition" of
aliens for torture), while the "rebuttals" are front page
news.
     Despite this, the paper is driven even further to the
right by radio talk show host Charlie Sykes -- paid by
the same parent corporation to be its self-imposed,
albeit profitable, hair shirt -- for whom Stanley
can never be conservative enough, but who tends to
shape the agenda because commuter Stanley listens to
him during morning drive time.
     There is much more, some substantive & some just
enjoyable gossip, such as who is lazy (
Crocker
Stephenson
, Tim Cuprisin) or vicious when protecting
turf (Don Walker); good reporting & writing is
recognized too (
Whitney Gould, Tom Daykin). 
     It must be said, though, that beyond the infighting,
lack of muck-raking initiative & editing by committee,
there are no real bombshells,  & the reporters who were
forced out after the merger often left as near-millionaires
due to the abandoned employee stock ownership plan,
while those remaining average $55,000 a year  -- enough,
I gather, to assuage the many "confused" reporters who
would aspire to more challenging assignments.  And
some reporting, encouraged because it doesn't step on
any local toes, such as the
Made in China series on job
& business loss or on chronic wasting disease in deer,
is award-winning.
     I even think Murphy goes too far in his knee-jerk
approval of the Journal's "challenging" of
Milwaukee's "pro-German isolationists" in World
War I that local Socialists such as Congressman
Victor
Berger
believed were on target in condemning a
capitalist war for profits at the expense of working class
cannon fodder of many nations.  
     But I began this because of my special interest (or
obsession) with the JS's copy desk.
     It is odd that Murphy finds that

            
The level of detail considered by copy editors
          was often impressive and at times maddening.
          Copy editors woke reporters at nights to niggle
          over nuances in a story.

    
Can this be the copy desk whose derelictions I've
been carping about here for several years, & writing
e-mails to reporters & Stanley himself over?  Murphy
may have more than matters of grammar & usage in
mind, but one would think if the desk is professional
enough to question facts they would be inclined to attend
to basics.  If they are capable of it.   Yet one can despair
over the mistakes repeated continually:  improper usage
of
aggravate, alibi, bakery, begs the question,
disinterested, enormity, Frankenstein, gauntlet, invite, literally, livid, minimize, moot, nauseous & Ugly American, to name a few.  For a detailed discussion &
relevant e-mails, see
ReMediaL Writing.
     Stanley himself writes with satisfaction that:

            
Copy editors act as professional readers--
          they check spelling, facts and grammar; seek
          answers to   remaining questions; write
          headlines; proofread the pages; and make sure
          they get to the presses in time. . . .

     But if Murphy thinks they are on the job, & Kaiser
prates about how valuable reader feedback is to the
paper's drive to improvement, why did Stanley lecture
me & threaten to cut off my e-mail access to reporters
when I brought those errors to the appropriate parties'
attention.  Even if I had (sometimes) been sarcastic -- all
right, a smart-ass -- it was well within the bounds of
language a columnist might use any time, certainly never
profane or insulting except in that I may have questioned
someone's knowledge of English -- with proper
citations, of course.  And it was for a serious purpose,
one that we are told the paper welcomes -- even Kaiser
writes that "sometimes the readers are mad at us," but
"their insights often help improve the Journal
Sentinel
."
  But Stanley accused me of hassling his
sensitive reporters:

       
      Mr. Zetteler:
               Berating and insulting people with multiple
           emails is no way to communicate.  It's merely
           a way to get your messages automatically
           forwarded to junk mail boxes.  If you have
           something to say in the future, please write it in
           a civil manner and mail it, since you do not
           appear to be capable of using email responsibly.
                You may be impressed by your own intelligence,
            but we're not.


    
Well, yes I am, but I've met few reporters who aren't.
And their aggressiveness is usually considered a virtue
by editors.

     
Fortunately, this exchange & more -- including the
offending corrections -- are available
here, recorded so
you may decide.  Also by simply scrolling this journal
or consulting the
Index on the left.
     But it appears Murphy & I can agree one thing:  to
judge by his assessment, the JS management could
honor its newly-expressed high-flown idealism by
listening not so much to the public -- which in the
aggregate is usually contradictory anyway -- as to its
own reporters' concerns, over conflicting messages, lack
of investigative drive & unseemly concern over
right-wing critics.  At the same time, if that public does
take the trouble to offer constructive criticism over basic
copy editing, sincere e-mails to that effect are just what
is in order.  Instead, as Murphy said of Stanley, "He
could be downright childish, writing a snippy e-mail in
response to a diplomatically written challenge. . . ." 

     Indeed.  It is in that spirit of gentle chiding that I will
continue with more examples -- many of them
repetitious, I'm afraid -- of questionable editing from
the JS in this log.  So many have piled up on my desk
that the entire next entry will be
Prodding the Beast
[Pt. 2].
           
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]

                           z-guide
Sun. July 17, 2005 
Sunday Sermon VIII:  Monumental Errors
     Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel carries a Washington Post article:
         
True Believers on right boost
             'martyr' Moore for high court
    
In it, members of the Conservative Caucus are
depicted declining Bush's projected "dignified debate"
over judicial nominations.  Instead, wearing Ten
Commandments pins on their lapels, they are demanding
Bush appoint to the Supreme Court vacancy created by
outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor the only man
deemed qualified for the job: Roy Moore, former chief
justice of Alabama, "best known for refusing to follow
a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten
Commandments
from the state courthouse and who
was therefore removed himself two years ago."
     By now, Moore has been in the news for a long time,
and is "a national hero to millions," an "electric hero to
many conservatives, the old-fashioned kind, principled
and uncompromising," & has generated myriad links to
his cause & the issue of separation of church & state.
     But I will make it easy by pointing out just a few.
     The Atheism section of About.com notes that

             
Most people know the Ten Commandments - or
perhaps it is better to say that they think they know the Ten
Commandments. The commandments are one of those
cultural products that people imagine that they understand,
but in reality, they frequently can't even name all of them,
let alone explain them.

    
Think you can?  Find out.
    
It  goes on to succinctly examine the confusion &
controversy over the meaning of each commandment
between religions & denominations
here.
     Just one example is the prohibition against graven
images
(& we know how seriously Islam, especially
the Taliban -- who destroyed the Buddha statues --
takes this one):

    
Of particular importance here is the fact that while the
Protestant version of the Ten Commandments includes this,
the Catholic does not. A prohibition against graven images,
if read literally, would cause a number of problems for
Catholics.

     Judge Roy Moore's actions in the whole flap over
their appropriate display are analyzed on the same site
by Austin Cline here.
     So there is no need to re-hash those topic further. 
     But, of course, questions of the relationship of the
bible to morality & especially the validity & usefulness
of the 10 Commandments are not new, & were covered
-- what ethical issue wasn't? -- in his useful lucid manner
in the 19th Century by Robert G. Ingersoll.  He
answers
    
What Would You Substitute for the Bible as a Moral
     Guide?
  here
& writes of the 10 Commandments:
         
If commandments had been given against
slavery and polygamy, against wars of
invasion
[I see trouble for the Bushies on that
one]
and extermination [likewise, re Darfur], against religious persecution in all its forms,
so that the world could be free, so that the
brain might be developed and the heart
civilized, then we might, with propriety, call
such commandments a moral guide.

Before we can truthfully say that the Ten
Commandments constitute a moral guide, we
must add and subtract. We must throw away
some, and write others in their places.

    
Though it is tempting to quote him at length, to see
how vile, cruel & error-ridden  the Bible is, the reader
is urged to click on Ingersoll's
link & read for him or
herself, a satisfying preparation for the fight over the
looming payback
to Bush's Christian Conservative
masters.
         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                         Z-GUIDE     
Sat. July 16, 2005
Fiction Alert:  The Plum Tree, the latest in the series of short
stories about life on Milwaukee's near North Side in the
post-war '50s & pre-psychedelic '60s appears
indexed on the
left, or click for a 

     Be aware that if you have reached adulthood without being
exposed to sexual activity & have no desire to read about human
sexual organs & their functions, you should avoid this.  Especially
if you prefer not to think of teens as cruel, racist, criminally
impulsive or sexually obsessed.  Kids will find it quaint. 
Sun. July 10, 2005 
Sunday Sermon VII:  Humor & the Void
     Since this sermon is a little late, it has had time to
ripen (or fester, to you theocons) into some real,
personal content, not just a copy & paste of URLs.  I
had to do some thinking, prompted by a short letter to
the editor of The Nation of June 20, 2005 (in which
columnist Eric Alterman wrote redundantly of mental
telepathy
, as if there were any other kind),  reprinted
below (I am always behind since I get them from the
library of my public housing apartment building, where
I drop off my Progressive magazines in exchange):
        
Garrison Keillor's piece is extremely amusing,
     but I take issue with his statement (far too close to
     dogmatic): "There's nobody so humorless as a devout
     atheist." As one myself, I have known a great number,
     and never have I encountered a humorless one. (Didn't
     I just say I found his article amusing?) How many jokes
     will a Christian make about the virgin birth? Or a
     Muslim about the Koran?

                                                           
Abigail Ann Martin
     This reply seemed adequate on its face, if not the
last word on the subject, though devout in this context is
a misnomer; it takes no more devotion than not believing
in Peter Pan or Jack Frost -- it's just one of the truths
about life, like the usefulness of multiplication tables.
Believing in the existence of something requires the
evidence, & sometimes devotion if it's as intangible as
a Holy Ghost.
     But I didn't remember the article.  It was
Confessions
of a Listener
, a tribute to public radio.  Someone might
have kept that issue, though don't picture a horde of
elderly socialists fighting over radical magazines in my
building (there are a few, though, this being Milwaukee
-- the original home of American socialist government
for many decades).
     So I looked it up online, partly because I follow
Keillor's Prairie Home Companion religiously, you
might say, & am always interested in his work (I'm still
reading Lake Wobegon Days as I use the machines in
the laundry room when I get around to it, every six
months or so.  Life moves at a slow pace when you
retire.)
     I found the very enjoyable paean to one of my
favorite pastimes, radio & especially NPR, & the
passage in question:
            
My taste is catholic; I don't go looking for
          people  like me (earnest liberal English majors).
          I am a fan of the preachers on little AM stations
          in early morning and late at night who sit in a tiny
          studio in Alabama or Tennessee and patiently
          explain the imminence of the Second Coming--I
          grew up with good preaching, and it is an art that,
          unlike anything I find in theaters, has the power to
          shake me to my toes. And gospel music is glorious
          beyond words. I love the mavericks and freethinkers
          and obsessives who inhabit the low-power FM
          stations--the feminist bluegrass show, the
          all-Sinatra show, the Yiddish vaudeville show. Once,
          on the Merritt Parkway heading for New York, I
          came upon The American Atheist Hour, the sheer
          tedium of which was wildly entertaining--there's
          nobody so humorless as a devout atheist.
         
        [click here for the complete article]

     Like reader Martin, I would take exception to the
atheist crack, though I find it somewhat ambiguous.
     Referring to a specific program, he may have just
meant that when atheists get on the stump about
superstition & creationism & evil -- such as women &
children being crushed to death in church in natural
disasters (look up the Lisbon
earthquake of All Saint's
Day
1755) they tend to be a mite enthusiastic in their
disenchantment.  But I remind you that atheism as such
is not a substitute religion or calling, it merely means
having a complete lack of belief in any god.  Some
persons in this category may have a wish to convince
you of the error of your beliefs, but they take on this
role because of their personalities & desire to be
helpful (sound familiar?), not because they are all
required to be part of a movement.  Most are quiet
about it -- I can count on 10 fingers the conversations
about religion I have had in the last 30 years -- & they
can often be spied laughing about something if you're
quick enough to catch them.
     So if Keillor means the general run of atheist is
humorless, that's just stupid, much as I admire him.
I, too, wouldn't be a fan of Prairie Home Companion,
which is often hilarious (or the Car Talk guys, for that
matter) if that were so.  There are far too many of us,
in all walks of life.  But if he means practitioners of the
humor trade can't be non-believers, he might consider
America's all-time humor champion,
Mark Twain
(sometimes listed as merely a skeptic), though indeed
he does tend sometimes toward the darker side, as
befitting someone whom God supposedly let suffer a
variety of calamities & as a Southerner who viewed
racism up close & wrote about it. 
     On firmer ground, in the pack of comic runners-up,
we have a list ranging from acknowledged atheists
Woody & Steve Allen -- long a leader in the field of
skepticism & debunking -- to Dave Barry & Bill Maher
(a skeptic according to this compilation, though I have
heard him express it more absolutely on TV) to Kurt
Vonnegut Jr.
, not to overlook that doubting barrel of
laughs, Mikhail Gorbachev.  (More complete list of
celebrities, funny & otherwise, 
here.)  For starters.
     For a more comprehensive overview of humor & atheism, I Googled & found the
Internet Infidels Humor
Collection
.  Not to be missed there is the link to the
Landover Baptist Church (I said this wouldn't be just
URLs):
       
. . . the most elaborate and hilarious parody of
          right-wing Christianity you will ever likely see.
          Marvelously and tirelessly maintained, it sells
          lots of funny stuff, and links to several other joke
          sites well worth a good laugh. The entire site is
          "in character." You might almost think this was
          all for real!
    
See especially the advice from Mrs. Betty Bowers, "America's Best Christian."
    
Keillor himself is more problematic.  Although he
says he attends church, he is delightfully irreverent
towards many aspects of organized religion, such as
his upbringing as one of the Sanctified Brethren, &
delights in tweaking Lutherans for their dourness &
the Unitarians for burning a question mark on
someone's lawn.  
     He also finds that gospel music is glorious beyond
words
; oddly enough, so do I.  Which is part of my
religious attitude towards his Sunday show.  It is the
closest routine I have to that sort of liturgical ritual, so
that if I roll out of bed before noon, I can read the
Sunday paper & listen to his program, followed by
classical music the rest of the day (technically, it is
Sunday until that midnight, so I can do that part of it
no matter how slothful or hung-over I am).  The other
six days it is jazz all day, also on radio: WYMS in
Milwaukee.  Now, maybe my attraction to the hymns
come from the Methodists I went to church with at
St. John's Methodist Church in Milwaukee, where I
was also married, who frowned on alcohol & gambling
but relieved tension weekly by bellowing vigorously in the pews.  At any rate, I was still going there when I
was baptized & confirmed at age 16 to please my
mother, though I had already started reading everything
about atheism I could get my hands on.  And my future
ex-wife would occasionally sing an off-key solo, which
still didn't discourage my fondness for a rousing or
bathetic chorus or more, for which founder John
Wesley's
brother Charles Wesley wrote
approximately 6500 hymns, many of which are
among the finest hymns in the English language,
it
is said.
      
  [Click here to view  partial list] [If you dare]
     Stick that in your Little Brown Church in the
Wildwood, Congregationalists.
     And my mother had attended a similar Lutheran
Church
(it was a very practical German family, not
given to worrying about finer points of doctrine) & the
Walther League in her youth in rural Gotham, Wis.,
a name not without biblical resonance.  So she loved
the hymns (even though her religiosity was a nod to
Pascal's
wager) right until the time of her death, one
of the many reasons she also tuned in to Keillor every
Sunday.  And by the time she died of pancreatic cancer
I was often found listening with her at her apartment,
the same one I now live in.  We did notice (at least I
did, though I couldn't bring myself to mention it) that
Keillor seemed to dwell on death an unseemly amount
for someone whose audience certainly included a lot
of the elderly & terminally ill, but we enjoyed the
hymns together.  Maybe it was my heightened
awareness: Mickey Mantle was dying of the same
thing, as had Henry Mancini & Milwaukee Rep actor
Durward (Dewey) MacDonald a little earlier -- they
were dropping like flies:  As flies to wanton boys are
we to the gods; They kill us for their sport. 
Or some
such.  It's good to know why these things happen.

     More importantly, I had my revenge on the woman
by that time for my humiliation at the baptismal font at
16 (a precondition for confirmation), as I had since
converted her to atheism.  It began with the philosophy
& science books I began bringing home from college
& inducing her to read, about evolution & such, but was
sealed with -- yes! -- the works of Robert G. Ingersoll
of the 19th Century, many volumes of them from the
UWM Library
, starting with
Some Mistakes of Moses,
which she found vastly amusing. 
     So the real point of this sermon (I didn't forget it has
one, even if you did) is that in the last year after the
diagnosis of her disease I was driving her about once a
week to various hospital & doctor's appointments &
we had a chance to talk about many things, & she never
recanted.  She did laugh about the notion of heaven &
how would there be room for everyone who thought
they were going there, how would everybody find each
other & what would they be wearing, dressed like old
people or kids again? if not wearing wings (& couldn't
they be given the gift of flight just as easily without
cumbersome wings?) -- & when Ted Kennedy on the
news one day eulogized  recently-deceased Mother
Rose
we boggled at his assumption that she would
finally be with patriarch Joe (who died at 71) again.
     After all,  we knew, he had been a bootlegger &
adulterer, anti-Semite & suspected
Nazi sympathizer,
& his idea of heaven -- besides that of not cuddling up
to a crone of 104-- would probably be spending it with
mistress Gloria Swanson in her prime, who had been
a year younger than Joe, though she died at 83 (see how
complicated these things could be?).  I know, he got a
pass by confessing his sins to a priest before dying; isn't
Catholicism wonderful if you work it right? 
     But we also discussed my future, & I said I would
go on doing what I was doing, which wasn't much, but
did include writing -- I had recently published a long
article in the Shepherd Express on hippie
longshoremen
(such as myself) & the history of the Milwaukee docks,
that she liked -- especially since I put in her friend Ed
Manske
, also from her building, who had been disabled
& almost killed working on a cargo ship when hit on
his hardhat by a falling turnbuckle.  I had also written
some long
articles for the Bugle-American, & that
format seemed to be my forte.
     At any rate, I said that though everything had been
written on the subject, I wanted to have my go at a long
article on atheism, & the absurdity of religion.  Given
a contemporary hook, someone would publish it, I was
sure.  Even if such topics were generally off-limits
because of an unspoken Gentlemen's Agreement over
turf between academics & the clergy in today's society,
the alternative press would be receptive, & I could
show believers the error of, well, you know . . .
     "I hope so," she said in the car, on the way to one
of our final pizzas.  "I'd like to see it."  Unfortunately,
she never did.
     But so it also came to pass that the readers of this
Z-Blog -- though Netscape & the World Wide Web as
we know it had yet to be created out of the formless
void -- can support a boy's promise to his dying mother
by following the development of these Sunday Sermons
as long as I deliver them.  I hope they become an
adequate substitute for that article.  Cue the hymn.
Perhaps
IF DEATH MY FRIEND AND ME DIVIDE.

          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                         Z-GUIDE     
Wed. July 6, 2005 
     The Journal Sentinel's weak copy desk hasn't
stopped providing this column with examples of its work
-- or lack of it, actually -- that are collecting at Z-Blog
for a roundup column.  One reason for a lack of urgency
in providing that is the unfortunate fact that so many
errors in grammar & usage are repetition, & it gets
boring to write about them, & presumably to read about.
What appears to be a new offense is seen in today's
regular front page feature, A Word --, that introduces a
presumably slightly difficult new vocabulary word used
in a story within, with pronunciation.  This date offers
Forte (FAWR tay), defined as A thing that a person
does particularly well
. n. Page 2E.
     I say this appears to be an offense because forte has
2 common meanings:  the one given &, in music, loud.
In my Webster's New World Dictionary --  a rather
permissive one -- the former is pronounced fôrt; the
latter, fôr' ta.   So I was ready to issue the ticket for
this offense, but an Internet search shows some
disagreement.  For me, this had been a sure thing, & a
predictable trap for the semi-educated, the type usually
given to referring to one's forté.  It had even provided a
plot point for the old Unhappily Ever After TV show
starring Nikki Cox   -- a mirror image of the
Married . . .With Children
show -- in which the brainy,
virginal sister (Cox) was the smarter one & the younger
brother the dolt (& featuring a talking stuffed rabbit on
the basement sofa, voiced by Bobcat Goldthwaite,
that only the loser father, an Al Bundy clone, could
hear).  Cox used the distinction to prove her superiority
at one point,  convincingly, I think, & it's a shame it all
disappeared, as did her next show, Nikki, in which she
was married to a professional wrestler in Las Vegas
named the Crybaby.  You can't beat plotting like that.
There are no authentic nudes of her on the Internet,
either, according to the Fake Detective, citing #389 as
a good try.  A Google Image search comes up with lots
of fakes, though.
     At any rate, even though one source concurs with
what I think of as the traditional distinction:
    
http://dict.die.net/forte/
another calls the pronunciation disputed:
    
http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/forte
     So in all fairness, I can't fault the JS, though I think
the distinction is useful & should be followed.
        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                            z-guide
Sun. July 3, 2005 
Sunday Sermon VI:  Independents' Day Threats
     The confluence of Independence Day on Monday &
the
Sunday Sermon is a natural point at which to
investigate what the religious right believes about the
holiday & its significance.  The Atheism section of
About.com is a good place to start, with a lead-in to an
article by Kimberly Blaker:

     . . .  her basic point is quite true: many, if not most,
members of the Religious Right - and that includes many
members of the current administration - believe that our
rights come from God as they conceive of God, not from
the consent of the governed. This, unfortunately, leads
to the very unpleasant conclusion that a word from God
can abrogate those rights. Without the governed ever
being consulted.

    
View the introduction here & follow links to her
complete text & related entries:

   http://atheism.about.com/b/a/
   2003_07_04.htm

     Also, Kuro5hin, a newsletter on "technology &
culture"
has a still-relevant entry for Independence
Day
from 2003 by Michael Crawford reflecting on the
Constitution & its application to 6 prisoners of war in
Afghanistan & their projected secret military tribunals;
and, by extension, "enemy combatants" as they are
defined today by the administration:

     http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/
     2003/7/4/201240/4837

       [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          Z-GUIDE  
Mon. June 27, 2005 
     I don't generally find myself commenting on the usages of
national TV news figures, since the ones I watch, at least, are
rather literate  -- had to be, to get where they are.  And they have
producers feeding their earpieces with corrections when
necessary.  But a promo today by NBC's Katherine (Don't call
me Katie; all right, for $15 million you can call me anything)
Couric for an interview with the UN's Kofi Annan showed them
in earnest conversation.
     "You . . . literally have the weight of the world on your
shoulders," she said.  To which he, of course, agreed.
     Now, the little pause before literally, & then the emphasis on
the word & a knowing smile meant she had thought about it & was
quite pleased that she could find a context to use literally
correctly.  After all, you could almost see her thinking, the UN is
an actual world organization.
     Sorry.  Atlas literally had the weight of the world on his
shoulders, but no matter how responsible Annan is for dealing
with the entire world's tribulations, it is still only a figure of
speech.  That is, used
figuratively.  For an earlier JS infraction,
see entry for reporter Leonard
Sykes.
    
Bonus:  I'm throwing in this item from today's JS.  Even though
there's no fault on their part (or anybody's), it may give you pause,
as it did me.  The subject is a front page report of an investigation
by Cudahy police (for you Californians, that's the National City
of Wisconsin) into why "identifying the five Mexican nationals
killed in a fiery car crash was a tough task. . . ."   The story begins:

       "A 2,000 degree inferno erupted when the 1996 Dodge
        intrepid smashed into the  gravel after a 35-foot
        drop. . . . Flames melted away the visual identities
        of the five friends inside."


      The difficulties in identifying the "Bodies burned beyond
recognition" through a few items such as a scorched lump of a
wallet are recounted.
     Finally, at the end of the story the usual disposition of the
remains by the families is covered, & we learned the "families
arranged for their cremation."  Call me warped, but something
about the concept seems to be, umm . . . overkill?  Literally.
          
 [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Sun. June 26, 2005 
Sunday Sermon V:  Evil Deeds & Good People
     Followers of the Sunday Sermon may have  noticed that
there is no shortage of pithy quotes on the merits of atheism &
the fallacies of religions, as I have linked to pages of them.  But
a new one struck me as especially appropriate in these times of
sectarian strife around the world, from Palestine to Northern
Ireland
to Iraqi anti-colonialism to our own US radical-Christian
march to national domination.
     It is quoted by Katha Pollitt in the June 27, 2005 issue of
The Nation, in her
Subject to Debate column discussing a flap
at Brooklyn College over whether an atheist -- Tim Shortell --
should be allowed to head the sociology department.  Among
other things, the New York Sun "claimed Shortell's disdain for
religion would cloud his judgment of job candidates," Pollitt
writes.  But only a non-believer would be subject to that line of
criticism.  "You might as well say no Southern Baptist should
be chair, since someone who believes that women should be
subject to their husbands, homosexuality is evil and Jews are
doomed to hell won't be fair to female, gay or Jewish job
candidates.
     She points out, "As long as a believer ascribes his views to
his faith, he can say anything he wants, and if you don't like it,
you're the bigot."
     "Or," she continues, "As the physicist Stephen Weinberg put
it more recently:"

          "With or without religion, you would have good people
     doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But
     for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

     The column is of relatively narrow interest, though it concerns
academic freedom & may surprise some younger readers as it
touches on a similar huge controversy when atheistic philosopher
Bertrand Russell was fired from City College 10 years before
he won the Nobel Prize.  Still, its worth reading online at
    
http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050627&s=pollitt
     Of course, you can always Google Bertrand Russell or
atheism for more reading, or check out The Nation's
Race,
Ethnicity & Religion
archives at
     http://www.thenation.com/directory/view.mhtml?t=07
     You can browse the latest issue & back issues at
     http://www.thenation.com/
     Some articles require one to be a subscriber, but many do not,
& it has an RSS feed for those with the software.  Happy Nation
building.
            [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          Z-GUIDE  
Sat. June 25, 2005
Fiction Alert:  For those who  find merit in my tales of the
pre-psychedelic '60s in Milwaukee & my own peculiar blend of
retro-realism & neo-naturalism -- there must be somebody out
there -- Z-Blog & Zone II bring a new short story,
The Fences,
indexed on the
left.  Or just click here for
       [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          z-guide
Thu. June 23, 2005  
Three Guys Named Fred  [Pt. 4]
     Yet another Fred -- this one very much alive --  turns
up in this column, justifying the Three Fred's of the
title.  His role is different, though;  I've been saving his
mention in the Journal Sentinel for one of the
all-too-frequent dissections of its errors, editing &
otherwise. Fred Wright, AB
     In a strange bit of enterprise reporting, the Journal
Sentinel
investigates what it's like to live over a bar.
An interesting idea, really.  Apparently, after eyeballing
a few East Side taverns for living quarters above their
premises, reporter Robbie Hartman asked at a few
well-known bars, including Regano's & the Eastsider,
for some
insights.  Convenience, noise, that sort of thing.
Not surprisingly, the residents who chose those quarters
liked the experience.
     One such renter was Fred Wright, long time resident
of Brady St. -- home of Regano's -- a drinking buddy
there to many nautical types, such as seamen, tugboat
crews, longshoremen & pleasure sailors.  I mentioned
him in my article on the history of
longshoring in
Milwaukee as my friend from the bar.  About him,
Hartman writes:

Fred Wright, 74, a retired merchant seaman, lived
above Regano's Roman Coin for 12 years.

     But then he immediately adds:

A longshoreman most of his life before retiring at 66,
Wright felt at home at Regano's bar, he said. And the
spacious tavern apartment wasn't the only perk, he said.

    
Most readers will spot the contradiction right away.
A longshoreman (who loads ships)  is not a seaman
(who sails on them).  And, in fact, when I called
Fred
to ask him, he said that of course he had said no such
thing.
     Fred's interview by the reporter had also been over
the phone (he had moved to senior housing by then), &
he speculated, "I don't think he knows the difference."
     Trivial, perhaps, but getting someone's occupation
right is a rather basic journalistic value.  More
importantly, the Journal Sentinel's weak copy desk
should have spotted the contradiction.
      [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                         Z-GUIDE 
Sun. June 19, 2005 
Sunday Sermon IV:
    
Well, I tell you, if I have been wrong in my agnosticism,
when I die I'll walk up to God in a manly way and say,
Sir, I made an honest mistake.
     --H. L. Mencken

And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He
would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended
by those who doubt His existence.
      --Bertrand Russell

Question with boldness even the existence of a God;
because, if there be one, he must more approve of
the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
      --Thomas Jefferson
                                 From :

www.tentmaker.org/Quotes/atheismquotes.htm

   For some Mother Jones articles on recent religious
phenomena, see:
www.motherjones.com/search/category_religion.html
  
   For the latest on a suburban religious trend
                         [March/April 2005]:
Megachurches have found the secret to
attracting the unchurched—and it's not
                  just the Sunday service.

www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2005/03/megachurches.html

Bonus:  Also From Sun. June 19
JS; LA Times Article on Myanmar
Activist Suu Kyi, under house arrest:
   
. . . Her only known visitor is the doctor who checks
      on her monthly.
   [A health plan many American women
                                       might envy -- & she's 60 & still has monthlies?]
         

     [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           Z-GUIDE 
Sat. June 18, 2005 
Three Guys Named Fred  [Pt. 3]
     
So Freddie's dead, as Curtis Mayfield said, though
the subject of Amy Silvers Rabideau's
obituary made
it to 98 -- far beyond the life expectancy of your average
junkie.  Still, the life of a union organizer & radical can
be dangerous too, as Silvers reported in the case of
Fred Bassett Blair
discussed in the previous 2 Fred
postings.
   As I mentioned below, in searching online for the paid
Death Notice for Blair, I found the JS had announced a
policy in which a death notice would only be kept a year
 -- & then only if it had been contracted for -- which for
many people would mean obliterating their only mention
online, whether for researchers or posterity.
   Since I began my own Website I have put up a few
links to death notices &
obituaries for persons with ties
to the material I presented.  The  new policy means that
after a year the links to death notices will be invalid.
For someone such as an old friend, Fred Krause --
whose notice appeared in  March 2005 -- mentioned
briefly in my histories of Kaleidoscope & longshoring
at the Port of Milwaukee (
Sacks & Violence),  that is
really not enough.  It might be a more permanent to
record something here -- linked to those earlier pages -- though of course, one never knows.
   Beginning with the notice itself:
      Fred C. Krause (1946-2005)
Most never get to hear their
life's story. In Fred's last few days, he got an earful. Many gathered to tell the tales
of a life marked by humor, enormous generosity and almost impossible kindness
and understanding. Some talked about troubled children counseled. Others shared
a laugh with Fred about a round of golf, a pinochle game, or a hand of cribbage.
Others simply thanked Fred for his quietly offered assistance. We will remember
Fred mostly as a gentle bear of a man who gathered his family and friends in strong
arms and gave us unconditional love, taught us to view the world through a lens of
compassion and brought us to tears with laughter. From Pam; the family of Beth
and Joe; the family of Little Hip and Chris; the family of Unk and Chris; the family
of Cow and Tom; a large collection of golf and card playing buddies; Chi-Chi and
Bob; Pinky; Breeze; Bob and Cheryl; Leesa; Patty; Rowan and Olivia; Mitch; and
countless other friends and family; but especially from Anna and Su Su; Thanks
Bear-Man. We Love you. We'll miss you. We'll never forget you. . . .

   That is of the most significance to the family, of
course.  My own memories of
Fred -- "Big Hippie,"
as Dick Marino called him -- go back to the days
of the underground newspaper Kaleidoscope in 1967.
As I've written elsewhere, I began with Issue #4 as the
distributor, using a borrowed VW bus.  By the time I
was news editor & reporter, Fred did that job -- something he generally had time for, being a
longshoreman.  It was always seasonal & sporadic work
on the docks, employer by then of many hippies, giving
him the time he needed to pitch in at the paper.  His wife
Susie & he also opened a sort-of hippie clothing
boutique & crafts store near Farewell Ave. & Irving Pl.
on the East Side called North Country Faire, as part of
publisher John Kois' ill-fated empire.  A fork-lift driver
& winchman at the time, huge enough to be intimidating
at any position he took there, Fred went on to better
things at the Children's Outing Association & the
Willowglen Academy as a youth counselor.  Kids being
what they are, his size no doubt got him a measure of
respect at first contact, as it did in his time in office as
a union vice-president.
   But first he showed me how to get in at the docks --
basically, show up early on the right morning at the
hiring hall when men were needed to fill out the gangs --
& told me some of what to expect.  Poor as I was, with
no car, I could at least ride with him to work on bus-free
Jones Island.  If we were both cut at the same time -- of
course we would work in different hatches, often on
different ships -- I could ride home with him too.  By
that time I lived in an apartment across from his town
house on Pleasant St.  A sense of Fred's generosity &
good-spirits -- & he was indeed a gentle bear of a
man -- comes through in the family's remembrance
above.  His conviviality continued for me as our
families socialized until he quit the docks & moved away.  The move prompted, one night at a bar with a
relative I remember only as Cow, her remark that I
hope he wouldn't take offense at, that "Fred's never
voluntarily lived more than three blocks from a bakery
in his whole life."
  The bakery, Marino's on the waterfront, Wolski's -- where he once tended bar -- I think we all will miss
him.  Though we were out of touch for years, & his
death was a complete shock, I know I will.
                  
Next: The Fred above the bar
                          
[To be continued]
Sun. June 12, 2005 
Sunday Sermon III:  Bush -- Goldwater's Heir American?
  
The Sunday Sermon for today was delayed by the
Locust St.
Festival on Sun. & then the East Village
Association meeting which was originally scheduled
for Tue. at the Tasting Room, but turned out to have
been rescheduled for next Wed. at my own Riverview
building at 7 p.m.  Unfortunately, the Tasting Room is
closed for a while due to road construction in the
neighborhood, but EVA didn't announce any changes
on its Website.  So I made a walking tour of the Brady
St.
neighborhood instead;  both outings naturally entailed
a sampling of food & beer that was enough to disable
even a devout Webmaster such as myself.
   So in my attempt to catch up I'll use something with a
religious theme from
Randi Rhodes (in Arizona) at Air
America
progressive radio in the latest newsletter.
It may lead some people to bookmark the
site & tune in
on the Internet; it's not available in Milwaukee
otherwise, or many other places:
 

   As I walked out of the Barry Goldwater Memorial
Terminal (seriously) at Sky Harbor Airport, I couldn't
help but think about how many so-called
Goldwater-Conservatives actually STILL believe that
Sen. Goldwater and the Bushies are cut from the same
cloth.
   In fact, it was this 1964 Goldwater quote that came to
mind:
   I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers
across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want
to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D.
Just who do they think they are? And from where do
they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral
beliefs to me?
   Terri Schiavo, stem-cells, corporatist judges,
purposefully lying "journalists," Downing Street Memos,
etc, etc, etc. ENOUGH! Regardless of your party
affiliation, how much more are you going to take?! And
more importantly, how much more can we afford to
take?
        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           Z-GUIDE 
Fri. June 10, 2005 
Three Guys Named Fred
 
[Pt. 2]
   While reading Silvers' message [Pt. 1, below] I
decided her phrase "too irresistible" is redundant --
after all, something is either irresistible or it isn't.  If
you can resist, it's not irresistible.  Thus, there are no
degrees of irresistibility.  But that may be too
picky, in dealing with a casual e-mail.
   However, I do think my original concern that Silver's
obituary for Fred Bassett Blair might be problematic
for the Journal Sentinel was understandable, since the
JS -- despite the yelps of conservatives over perceived
liberal leanings -- didn't hesitate to bash socialists &
radicals like Blair when it suited its purposes.
   As far back as the Bay View Rolling Mills
Massacre, when

On 1 May 1886 about 2,000 Polish workers walked off
their jobs and gathered at Saint Stanislaus Church in
Milwaukee, angrily denouncing the ten hour workday.
They then marched through the city, calling on other
workers to join them; as a result, all but one factory
was closed down as sixteen thousand protesters gathered
at Rolling Mills, prompting Wisconsin Governor
Jeremiah Rusk to call the state militia. The militia
camped out at the mill while workers slept in nearby
fields, and on the morning of May 5th, as protesters
chanted for the eight hour workday, General Treaumer
ordered his men to shoot into the crowd, some of whom
were carrying sticks, bricks, and scythes, leaving seven
dead at the scene. The Milwaukee Journal reported that
eight more would die within twenty four hours, and
without hesitation added that Governor Rusk was to be
commended for his quick action in the matter.


   Later, in the Milwaukee mayoral race of 1912, a
fearful Journal orchestrated a Democrat & Republican
fusion campaign running candidate Gerhard A. Bading
to victory over rising Socialist Emil Seidel.  (The
Socialists were coming off a massive sweep in 1910,
&
Seidel went on to win in his next try.  He became the
first of Milwaukee's well-known succession of Socialist
mayors, culminating with Frank Zeidler, who left office
in 1956.)
    With the advent of World War I, opposition to the
socialists intensified, just as an otherwise "liberal"
press today uncritically parroted the Bush
administration in its run-up to the invasion of Iraq &
quest for more power, ostensibly to sniff out domestic
terrorists.  (The parallels between WW I & the Iraq
War
are inescapable.)  As a local historian saw it:

   
             A Victor without Peace
        Victor Berger and Socialist Opposition
                       to World War One


by Shane Hamilton
Winner of a 1998 UW-Madison History Department
William Allen Writing Prize


A certain "herd mentality," as Berger called it, developed
in American society during the First World War. Major
newspapers helped contribute to the atmosphere of
superpatriotism. Victor Berger, realizing the strength of
the mainstream press's support for the war, attacked
editors such as Lucius Nieman of the Milwaukee Journal
for their attempts to "prejudice the people against
socialism and radicalism." According to Berger, the press
denounced any Socialist opposition to war as "'high
treason'" and "'German propaganda.'" Victor Berger's
charges against the American mainstream press were justified, as many newspapermen boldly attacked
German-Americans, Socialists, and anyone else whose
"Americanism" could be called into question. Even in
Milwaukee, the stronghold of "beer, socialism, and
Deutschland," the mainstream press urged readers to
remain true to "American" ideals. Under the leadership
of editor Lucius Nieman, the Milwaukee Journal, like so
many other mainstream periodicals in the country,
promoted the cause of Americanism. The Milwaukee
Journal ran stories throughout the war exposing the
"'menace' of German propaganda" and hired a special
editor to find evidence of German atrocities. To the editors
of the Milwaukee Journal, one of the greatest atrocities
committed during the war was the strong support shown
by Milwaukeeans for the anti-war platform of the
Socialists. After Victor Berger polled a surprising
110,480 votes in the 1918 United States Senate race, the
Milwaukee Journal angrily denounced the pacificistic and
Socialistic sentiments of the electorate, claiming that
"Wisconsin's Americanism is lukewarm." As a reward for
its patriotic publishing efforts, the Milwaukee Journal
won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 for its "courageous
campaign for Americanism in a constituency where
foreign elements made such a policy hazardous from a
business point of view." In Milwaukee and elsewhere,
editors and writers for the mainstream press spilled a
great deal of hostile ink as they attacked radical thinkers
and people of German ethnicity. Wartime propaganda
also contributed to the "herd mentality" in the American
populace. Victor Berger claimed the war had brought
"a constant propaganda of misrepresentation and untruth
to create fear in the hearts of our people." To Berger,
this propaganda resulted from capitalists' desires to fuel
patriotic sentiment to ensure American participation in
the war, thereby increasing their profits.
  
(Any comparison with Halliburton, KBR & Bechtel
must be encouraged at this point.)

  
And though the Journal at times supported the
Progressive Party, it was as an offshoot of the
Republican Party & as the antidote to Socialism.
   As
Howard Zinn wrote in  A People's History of
the United States
, (1980):

  
The Progressive movement, whether led by honest reformers
like Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin or disguised
conservatives like [Theodore] Roosevelt (who was the
Progressive party candidate for President in 1912), seemed to
understand it was fending off socialism. The Milwaukee
Journal
, a Progressive organ, said the conservatives "fight
socialism blindly . . . while the Progressives fight it
intelligently and seek to remedy the abuses and conditions
upon which it thrives. . . ."

  
It seems quite clear that much of this intense activity for
Progressive reform was intended to head off socialism.
Easley talked of "the menace of Socialism as evidenced by
its growth in the colleges, churches, newspapers." In 1910,
Victor Berger
became the first member of the Socialist
party elected to Congress; in 1911, seventy-three Socialist
mayors were elected, and twelve hundred lesser officials in
340 cities and towns. The press spoke of "The Rising Tide
of Socialism."


   Although these historians can't seem to agree on the
paper's loyalties, Alice Honeywell wrote in
La Follette and His Legacy, published by the Board
of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, that
even Progressive Fighting Bob couldn't get much
support from the Journal:

       
The Milwaukee Journal, a Democratic paper,
      seldom supported his political candidacies. . . .


   To its credit, the Journal did perhaps earn the liberal
tag when it finally came out against Sen. Joe
McCarthy
(who had earlier beaten incumbent Robert
M. La Follette Jr. in the Republican primary) along
with the Capitol Times & national media.  The
expose
of Tailgunner Joe is retold on Ed Garvey's excellent
Website
FightingBob.com.
    But Silvers' obituary, far from demonizing Blair,
actually seems a bit bland.  After all, the New Left of
the '60s had little use for the old radicals, seeing them
as apologists for Stalinism.  The old-timers in turn had
engaged in vicious factionalism over the years, pitting
Bolsheviks & Mensheviks & Trotskyites &
Schactmanites against each other,  all the while
excoriating native Socialists, labeled Sewer Socialists
in Milwaukee for their concentration on public works
-- & reliance on the ballot.  Though Blair's son Bill
tells Silvers that his father's "greatest disappointment
may have come with more recent splits and strife
within the Communist Party," that is all we are told
about that strife.  Of course, it is only an obit -- not a
biography -- but it leaves the impression that Blair did
nothing much for the last 40 years of his life but peddle
used books & win a lawsuit.  Perhaps he didn't; there is
little on the Web to indicate otherwise.
   But her brief reference to a man "who deeply loved
books and learning and writing poetry" is consistent
with a mention on the Net of one early, otherwise
forgotten,  publication of his.  That 1946 poem -- important for one of the first uses of the word
Holocaust in regard to Jews -- is also cited in an
esoteric debate over the significance & uniqueness of
that catastrophe.  Very nuanced, that disagreement pits
no other than William Styron, author of Sophie's
Choice
, & others of his philosophical camp, against
some Jewish thinkers who saw the Holocaust as an
event unparalleled in human history.  Writing of this
dispute, one commentator also comes down on Blair's
blind acceptance -- very late in the course of Russian
state terrorism -- of the Soviet mission.  One could
conclude that old Fred -- of French extraction -- never
did get it; the New Left indeed had his number:

               Jews Without Memory
             Sophie’s Choice and the Ideology
                      of Liberal Anti-Judaism

   by D. G. Myers
    Originally published in American Literary History 13
    (Fall 2001): 499-529.


Styron vigorously criticizes Jewish scholars and writers
for this "narrow" and specifically Jewish interpretation.
In its stead he advances a universalist, even metaphysical
interpretation, understanding the Holocaust as the
embodiment of absolute evil, which threatened humanity
as a whole. The Jews may have been (in his phrase) the
"victims of victims," but they were not the only victims
of Nazi evil. To claim exclusive victimhood is to deny and
even to add to other peoples’ suffering. The lesson of the
Holocaust is that uniqueness is victimization, whether
practiced by Germans or Jews. To remember the
Holocaust as a uniquely Jewish catastrophe is to be Jews
without memory.

In The Ashes of Six Million Jews, a book-length poem of
1946, for example, Fred Blair gives a close and graphic
description of a mass execution of Jews -- one of the first
literary representations in the language. The Party’s
chairman in Wisconsin and a member of its national
committee, Blair is also one of the first writers to use
the term holocaust, although he warns not of a Jewish but
of a "human holocaust." After they have shot their victims
and dumped them in a mass grave,

                   The executioners pour pitch
                   And oil into the groaning ditch,
                   And drive away the settling frost
                   With a fierce human holocaust. (17)

For only Sovietism can destroy "the social roots that could
produce/ The ashes of six million Jews"
(Blair ). This rosy
vision hardly corresponds to the truth about the Soviet
Union’s campaign of official state anti-Semitism which
began with the murder of 500,000 to 600,000 Jews in the
Great Terror of the thirties and ended with the extinction
of Jewish Soviet culture.

  
But whatever else he has done, Communist dupe or
not, Fred Blair may have created the modern use
of Holocaust.

            
Next:  Another dead Fred & a living local
                           [To be continued]
Tue. June 7, 2005 
Three Guys Named Fred 
[Pt.1]
  
Readers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel may
have noticed the rather long, well-written paid Death
Notice for local Communist & bookstore owner Fred
Bassett Blair
, probably late March 2005.  I say
probably, because a search of the JS's online obituaries
carries the disclaimer that not all death notices are
archived -- & those carried after 10/23/2004 will be
gone after 365 days, as well.  It seems, public service
aspect of carrying the notices notwithstanding, online
display requires extra payment -- & apparently Fred
Blair's
family didn't contract for that.  It appears a little
crass, this being our local equivalent of a newspaper
of record.  In the case of ordinary citizens, the death
notice may be the only easily available record of their passage through our existence, & it ought to remain
available on the Net as long as researchers care about
the past (especially since births, divorces & criminal
convictions have been dropped, I assume to save staff
costs & eliminate potential errors.)  But if  the JS needs
to gouge a little more money, I guess it's their right.
   Still, I fully expected, because of Blair's long-time
notoriety -- J. Edgar Hoover had once identified him
as Wisconsin's top Communist, or so I remembered --
to see a staff-written obituary soon afterwards.  He &
his wife Mary had, after all, received a $48,000
settlement after suing the FBI for hounding her from a
job under
COINTELPRO, & he had made (& lost in)
many tries for public office, such as senator & governor.
   But I had given up, &, as I say, couldn't even find the
death notice when I decided to write about this curious
lapse.  First, I thought I should write the JS to find out
why he was overlooked.  Then, on May 29, more than
two months after his death from pneumonia on
March 21, a staff-written article by Amy Rabideau
Silvers
appeared in the Lifestyle section.  Quite long
for an obituary, it was a sympathetic feature that told
Blair's story with dignity:

       
Communist Blair held fast to his ideals
  
Even as communism fell further from favor in world
politics, Fred Bassett Blair retained much of his
youthful idealism that the answers to civil and workers
rights would not be found in capitalism.
   Decades of harassment -- even beatings and repeated
jail time -- did not dissuade Blair from that vision. . . .


   One could quibble that the first sentence would make
more sense if  it read it was "his youthful idealism that"
believed or felt  "that the answers to civil rights. . . ."
Also, since when are "civil and workers rights"
looking for answers in capitalism or anyplace else?  Of course, workers & others are looking for the answers
to problems in obtaining those rights, though the weak
copy desk apparently saw no problems with her prose
to stir them.
   But Silvers did hit the highlights.  He had started as a
labor organizer named Carroll William Blair, taking the
name of a dead uncle, Fred Bassett, to protect his
family.  He was convicted of taking a cop's club in a
riot in 1930 & hitting another cop with it, which he
admitted (to protect a 71 year old man being beaten,
he said).  He was pardoned by Gov. Phillip La Follette
after serving all but two weeks of a year's sentence.
   He went on to run for various offices,  receiving
3,617 votes for governor in 1974, for example, as I
found by checking Wisconsin's Blue Book.  This was
about as much as one could expect for someone about
whom Silvers wrote:

In 1965, J. Edgar Hoover declared Mary's Book Shop to
be one of eight "major Communist bookstores operating
in the United States at this time."


   Still, I was curious enough about the delay to e-mail
Ms. Silvers:

   Rather recently I noticed the paid death notice for Fred Blair,
though it is apparently not one that was contracted to remain in
the online archives. At any rate, I never knew Blair nor was I
involved in Communist Party activities, though I certainly
consider[ed] myself an active progressive. As such, I . . . knew of
him & his travails at the hands of the FBI over the years -- similar
to
friends of mine also victimized by Cointelpro -- & I expected
a staff-written obituary because of his long notoriety in
Milwaukee & Wisconsin politics. I had given up, & was surprised
to see your
story appearing in the Sunday, May 29 Journal
Sentinel
, more than two months after his death on March 21. As
someone who tries to keep up with radical history in Milwaukee,
I am very curious about the delay. Since I used to work in the
Journal Library & did research for reporters (eventually
becoming one myself, for the Waukesha Freeman, though I am
now retired & writing for my
Website), I know that your paper
keeps a file of obits for prominent persons ready to go, needing
only updating. I wonder if your nicely sympathetic obit required
extensive new research -- possibly because of a diminishing
national & local hostility to old "commies" or possibly was just
held back for lack of space, or perhaps internal disagreement
over Blair's final treatment. . . .  Any light you can shed on
this puzzling delay -- & there are no other recent mentions of
him at all -- would be greatly appreciated. . . .
  
  
As I had surmised from the obit itself, my fears about
Blair's treatment when the paper is prone to attack from
the rabid right for its supposed liberal leanings were
unfounded, if I am to believe Silvers -- & I have no
reason not too.  Nor was he really forgotten.  In a very
pleasant reply she wrote:


   Such an interesting message. The short answer is that
we did not hear about his death until just before the
memorial service. At that point, there was not enough
time to write an obit. His story was so intriguing that I
decided to write it after the fact. Nothing was ready in
advance, but there were lots of marvelous clips for
background. After all, how often can you quote a Gov.
LaFollette and J. Edgar Hoover in the same story -- and
invoke the ghost of Joseph McCarthy. Too irresistible.
Then it also took a couple more days to catch up with his
son, who was returning home. The story ended up rather
long for daily metro purposes, eventually finding a home
in the next available Sunday Lifestyle spot. We still could
say that services were held "this month." There were a
couple of semi-joking comments about running this obit
on Memorial Day weekend, but it wasn't a section that
ran on the official holiday. . . .
   Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for writing. It was
a pleasure to hear from you.

   Amy Silvers


         Next:  Blair's poetry & the Holocaust controversy
                        
[To be continued]
Sun. June 5, 2005 
Sunday Sermon II:  Mistakes for the Masses
      Since last Sunday's sermon covered Sunday itself,
it seems appropriate to continue with Robert
Ingersoll's
observations from 1896, getting right down
to the core of atheism (or agnosticism) on which his
subsequent  critiques of religion -- especially
Christianity -- are based.  Future Sunday Sermons
will take up some of his & others' points in more
detail.  He wrote:  

     Most people love peace.  They do not like to differ
with their neighbors.  They like company.  They are social.
They enjoy traveling on the highway with the multitude.
They hate to walk alone.
     The Scotch are Calvinists because their fathers were.
The Irish are Catholics because their fathers were.  The
English are Episcopalians because their fathers were, and
the Americans are divided in a hundred sects because
their fathers were.  This is the general rule, to which there
are many exceptions.  Children sometimes are superior to
their parents, modify their ideas, change their customs,
and arrive at different conclusions.  But this is generally
so gradual that the departure is scarcely noticed, and those
who change usually insist that they are still following the
fathers. . . .
   And continued in Why I Am an Agnostic at a
satisfying length -- perhaps too much for today's
readers -- including an inevitable correction  to the
popular deism of Tom Paine & the Founding
Fathers (mentioned earlier in this
blog).  He
ends with his reaction to a sermon of hellfire &
damnation by a popular preacher of the day: 

     
For the first time I understood the dogma of eternal
 pain -- appreciated "the glad tidings of great joy."  For
 the first time my imagination grasped the height and depth
 of the Christian horror.  Then I said:  "It is a lie, and I hate
 your religion.  If it is true, I hate your God."

      In short, the best single introduction to his works,
though his deconstruction of the Bible (Some Mistakes
of Moses
) is a hoot in
itself. 
       
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                              z-guide
Wed. June 1, 2005 
  
Since I never planned on having a real job again, I've
decided on the eve of my message announcing the
permanence of this blog to the world, or at least the
portion of it in my address book, to revise my goals.  I
proved, for more than a week, that I could do a new item
each day, but I've also found my compulsive nature led
me to "improve" on even the simplest of backup items,
intended as a quick filler to cover at least one day &
give me a break to work on something other than this
journal -- fiction, for example -- to the point where it
would eat up the time until it was past midnight & time
for yet another submission.  I've never been an
especially fast writer, & the nature of this medium is
that it's perfect for a second-guessing perfectionist but
death on a normal life -- &
Jazz in the Park starts
Thursday, June 2 (Cathedral Square in Milwaukee).
   From then on, it's summer in the city of festivals.  So,
outraged cries or not, it's going to be enough to do a few
items that I think are worth doing each week, while
building up a trove of  potential subjects & plan for
those really worth concentrating on.  Of course, the
Journal Sentinel & its weak copy desk have left me
with a stack of editing miscues in print to use, & they're
always turning out
more, but major items of social
significance need research & time for tweaking.  I think
many other personal blogs -- not collective efforts --
take the same approach.  Some are updated at a glacial
pace, but I keep going back once I've gotten to like them.
   Its just as easy & rewarding for readers to log in a few
times a week & catch up on the most promising entries.
I can only hope not to be written off for
non-productivity, but I'd rather keep up quality -- & the
Sunday Sermon -- for sure.
   In the meantime, speaking of filler, here's a famous
quotation to mull over, & even more -- if you are so
inclined --
here.
   
"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in
   one fewer god than you do. When you understand
   why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will
   understand why I dismiss yours."
                     -­ Stephen Roberts

     [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                             Z-GUIDE 
Tue. May 31, 2005  
  
While I've been examining some connected patriotic
&
religious delusions manifesting themselves on the
Memorial Day weekend, a few items from the Journal
Sentinel
, overlooked by the weak copy desk, have been
lying around until I could get to them.
   Not so egregious in themselves -- & I've covered other
instances already -- they are part of the history of errors
that nevertheless should shame any reporter or copy
editor, they are so basic.  In the matter of lay vs. lie once
again, a JS book review -- presumably a vehicle given
to the especially literate -- for the Thursday, May 19
Cue section, has Mary Louise Schumacher, writing of
a "forlorn artwork" in which "a small cloth figure lays
under the weight of [sic] metal folding chair many times
its size. . . ." 
   She is not alone in not knowing when to use lay, as an
earlier blog
entry shows.
   The weak copy desk alone -- since it is totally
responsible for headlines -- somehow came up with
     
Invite seems to be missing something
for Carolyn Hax's column, though
invite for invitation
is, at best, something used by country folk.
   Striking a different note, it is at least not an error that I
noticed in Damien Jacques' JS review of the David
Mamet
play "Boston Marriage,"  (Encore, Sunday May
8) but still an old concern of mine:  the portrayal of
longshoremen in popular culture.  I wrote an entire
history of  longshoring  in Milwaukee, titled
"Sacks &
Violence."
Now published on my Zonyx Website, it
started with a little overview of how longshoremen
were long thought of as rough & drunken drifters,
usually borderline criminals at best.  I included
examples from the modern press, which likes to label
anybody who uses foul language as someone who
sounds like a longshoreman.
   It's hard to tell exactly what Jacques has in mind
when he writes of Mamet's "terse, punchy and staccato
dialogue" that he has a "gift for spinning a
longshoreman's vocabulary into amusing and expressive
poetry."  But I would guess he means that whatever one
hears on stage, the longshoreman's vocabulary starts as
something far less than amusing & expressive, & is quite
limited besides.
   Having been a longshoreman for 21 years before
retiring, I admit I don't take much offense in this
characterization any more, if I ever did -- we were
known to play up our rough side, at times -- but it is
certainly a cliché.  Who else besides maybe truck
drivers are singled out as the perennially bad examples?
I hope someday Jacques can read my article --
originally  printed in the Shepherd Express -- & see,
as Eric Hoffer & I both wrote, that many longshoremen
are quite educated, not especially profane & maybe
even expressive, if not downright "amusing" at times.
         
would you buy a drink from this man?Zone II Photo:  Larry the Eagle looking like Tim Russert.  Click for bio site.
And that was not the only occupation of mine to be
slighted in the paper.  I've saved the relevant part of an
undated clipping from the old Milwaukee Journal for
years, from after I retired from the docks & began
bartending.  Written about George H.W. Bush's
secretary of state (1992), it states, "Eagleburger does
not look the part of a striped-pants diplomat.  He's short
and stocky, with an appearance that looks more like a
Milwaukee bartender than a player on the world
stage. . . ." 
   One of us should be insulted.  For the record, I've seen
Lawrence Eagleburger on TV -- he was indeed born in
Milwaukee -- & he looks just as much like a reporter
or baker or anything else, suitably attired,  as he does a
bartender, only some of whom can be considered "short
and stocky."  Myself, I'm 5'10" & I always thought that
in my vest, tuxedo shirt & bow tie at all those receptions
at the Art Center that I looked quite dapper.
   Maybe not.
        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                            z-guide
Mon. May 30, 2005 
  
As this Memorial weekend concludes, I have been
following the ceremonies on TV -- they're hard to avoid,
even -- especially -- on PBS; anyway, I'm as patriotic as
the next guy.  More so, if the next guy is John Ashcroft
or Alberto Gonzales & you don't think subverting the
Constitution is patriotic.  Much of it was so cloying
(were all those fallen we honor really fallen, or were
they pushed?)  I couldn't stand it, & I clicked around to
tune in late to C-Span repeating a program covering a
journalism awards event in Madison featuring Bill
Moyers
& Al Franken.  What I noticed at this & other
mainstream programs were the references to, of course,
the nation's battles and various Founding Fathers who
made it all possible -- including Thomas Paine
   But it was always the Tom Paine of Common Sense,
with a huge printing for the time of maybe 100,00 &
certainly one of the most influential revolutionary
writings of all time. 
   As the Archiving Early America site notes:

Published anonymously by Thomas Paine in January of 1776,
Common Sense was an instant best-seller, both in the
colonies and in Europe. It went through several editions in
Philadelphia, and was republished in all parts of United
America. Because of it, Paine became internationally famous.

"A Covenanted People" called Common Sense "by far the
most influential tract of the American Revolution....it
remains one of the most brilliant pamphlets ever written in
the English language."

  But it is never mentioned that Paine wrote another treatise, Age of Reason, which has (or should have) just as much relevance
today:


One of America's Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, critiques
Christianity and the Bible as a Deist. When Paine wrote, the idea of
examining the Bible as a text objectively, let alone critically, was
unheard of. Paine finds many of the internal contradictions and
atrocities of the Bible and lays them out with withering scorn. The Age
of Reason is a freethought classic. . . .


Paine demonstrates that neither the Old Testament nor the New
Testament can be the Word of God.


   Of course, as it is pointed out, Paine & many of the Founders
were deists, one definition of deism being:


The belief that God has created the universe but remains
apart from it and permits his creation to administer itself
through natural laws. Deism thus rejects the supernatural
aspects of religion, such as belief in revelation in the
Bible,
and stresses the importance of ethical conduct. In the
eighteenth century, numerous important thinkers held deist
beliefs. (See
clockwork universe.)  From Answers.com, with
links to deists Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson &
much more.


   I still remember the thrill when I began reading it on the No. 12
bus in Milwaukee at about age 11, coming home from the Public
Library
after researching atheism.  Eventually, I was led to
Bertrand Russell (
Why I Am Not A Christian), Clarence
Darrow's
biography, & some others.  I didn't discover Robert
Ingersoll
until college, but here was ur-patriot Tom Paine -- of
course, every school kid had at least heard of him -- calling the
story of
Jesus Christ a crock:

  
Jesus Christ wrote no account of himself, of his birth,
parentage, or anything else. Not a line of what is the New
Testament is of his writing. The history of him is altogether
the work of other people; and as to the account given of his
resurrection and ascension, it was the necessary counterpart
to the story of his birth. His historians, having brought him
into the world in a supernatural manner, were obliged to
take him out again in the same manner, or the first part of
the story must have fallen to the ground
.

The wretched contrivance with which this latter part is told,
exceeds everything that went before it. The first part, that of
the miraculous conception, was not a thing that admitted of
publicity; and therefore the tellers of this part of the story
had this advantage, that though they might not be credited,
they could not be detected. They could not be expected to
prove it, because it was not one of those things that admitted
of proof, and it was impossible that the person of whom it
was told could prove it himself. . . .


   It goes on for many chapters, deftly depicting the usual
pseudo-profundities of Christianity as myth, superstition &
mental coercion. 
Age of Reason was a joy to read, though the
universe as clockwork created & then abandoned I find equally
hard to swallow.  But that's for another entry in this journal.

        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           Z-GUIDE 
Sun. May 29, 2005 
Sunday Sermon:  Beer & Believers 
     This Sunday is as good as any to start
a Sunday series drawn from the works of notable
atheists & freethinkers on the fallacy of religion & the ignoble uses to which it is put.  Robert Ingersoll, the great atheist, of course dealt with the significance of
Sunday itself.  He provides a good place to start,
writing:


The idea that one day in the week is better than the others and should be set apart
for religious purposes; that it should be considered holy; that no useful work
should be done on that day; that it should be given over to pious idleness and sad
ceremonies connected with the worship of a supposed Being, seems to have been
originated by the Jews. . . .

  
Don't worry; the other sects get their lumps.  However,
he goes on with a nod to the very builders of
Milwaukee, for it was

The Germans [who] gave us the first valuable lesson on this subject. They came to
this country in great numbers; they did not keep the American Sabbath. They
listened to music and they drank beer on that holy day. They took their wives and
children with them and enjoyed themselves; yet they were good, kind,
industrious people. They paid their debts and their credit was the best. . . .
 
  The Sunday link goes to the complete text of the day,
& links to the Positive Atheism
site for an index to his
many publications, & those in his tradition.  A laff riot,
as it were, suitable to the day's enjoyment.

       [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Sat. May 28, 2005 
   On this Memorial Day weekend -- especially this one,
with an aspiring theocracy leading the way to a war
built on lies & a senseless, bloody occupation in Iraq
-- it is good to have
Howard Zinn writing in Madison's
own The Progressive magazine on how we got this way,
tracing our expansionist nationalism to its roots at the
country's beginnings, when the English

set fire to a Pequot village and massacred men, women, and children, [and] the
Puritan theologian Cotton Mather said: "It was supposed that no less than 600
Pequot souls were brought down to hell that day. . . ."

Our citizenry has been brought up to see our nation as different from others, an
exception in the world, uniquely moral, expanding into other lands in order to bring
civilization, liberty, democracy. . . .

Nationalism is given a special virulence when it is blessed by Providence. Today we
have a President, invading two countries in four years, who believes he gets
messages from God. Our culture is permeated by a Christian fundamentalism as
poisonous as that of Cotton Mather. It permits the mass murder of "the other"
with the same confidence as it accepts the death penalty for individuals convicted
of crimes. A Supreme Court justice, Antonin Scalia, told an audience at the
University of Chicago Divinity School, speaking of capital punishment: "For the
believing Christian, death is no big deal."

  
A regular contributor to The Progressive, Zinn is the
author of A People's History of the United States &
other trenchant radical commentaries.  The complete
essay -- something to think about amidst the glorification
of battle, however it comes disguised as sympathy for
the fallen (at least our own) & their loved ones -- can be
found
here.
    Solemn reading for what is supposed to be a solemn
day, picnics & marching bands notwithstanding.
   Another introductory site, apparently a fan's work, is
at
Howard Zinn Online!
           [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          Z-GUIDE 
Fri. May 27, 2005 
   Since my small kitchen TV stays stuck on on or off, I
leave it on all the time -- off wouldn't make much sense,
after all.  Reception for most things in the interior of this
high-rise building (I have Time-Warner Cable for the
rest of the apartment) is terrible, but low-powered
Channel 7, which is MTV 2, is fine.  As a result, I am
very familiar with the look, if not the sound -- spare me
from hip-hop
-- of today's music videos with bevies of
beautiful women in every conceivable provocative pose.
So I don't see how anyone could get exercised over
Paris Hilton's latest cultural offense, extremely unlikely
though it is to find oneself consuming a huge burger
while hosing off a car.  And Mariah Carey's similar car
wash video projects a more fleshed-out sensuality
through just appearing than all of Hilton's stick-figure
antics.

   It did look tempting, though (the burger, that is).  And
as a public service, one can view it & related material
here.  If you are so offended that you want to keep track of everything the Parents Television Council calls porn besides Hilton's ad, there is a secret link to the most shameful on their site
   But something the commercial -- a hit with its
intended audience of young males, & therefore a success
whatever social critics may say -- did for me was bring
back the carefree winters I spent in San Diego & something I wondered about then.  That is, why the chain
she poses & gyrates for, Carl's Jr., was named that.  I
pointed out when I asked my friend/landlady at the time
that if it were owned by the son of the original Carl -- if
there was one -- that it should be Carl Jr's.  As I might
have expected from one who lived in a typical cottage in
Ocean Beach, where the counter-culture still hangs on,
she had no explanation, nor had it bothered her, though
she could clear up exactly what a boogie board was. 
   I gave it no more thought until now, when Carl's Jr.
corporate page offers its history & an impressive
animated graphic that says logically enough that the
chain (still owned by Carl) began with a smaller
-- junior sized -- drive-in than its original barbecue
place.
   That questioned answered, I am left with only one
similar corporate chain puzzle:  Why is our local
Pick 'n Save store called that?  In other words, the
apostrophe is used, of course, in place of a missing a.
But Pick an Save -- since they clearly recognize the
principle involved -- makes even less sense, without
another apostrophe.  Pick 'n' Save, like rock 'n' roll,
would be correct.  But the one-apostrophe spelling, like
rock 'n' roll, is here to stay, I guess.  Pick an' Save
would probably cost a fortune in new signage, no matter
how much more literate, so I won't sugges' it.
          
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                            z-guide
Thu. May 26, 2005 
   The Journal Sentinel's lame mke weekly makes an
attempt at social relevance with an Index that asks Are
we moving forward or in some other direction? 
It
supplies up, down or sideways arrows according to
What the headlines suggest
   One is "Big companies fill BadgerCare rolls; more
than 40% who get aid are employed by Wal-Mart."

The comment following the downward-pointing arrow
is certainly appropriate:  "So the state is covering the
health costs for employees of some of Wisconsin's
largest companies.  What's wrong with this picture?"
   Trouble is, the Journal Sentinel (which just opened
a $113 million plant in West Milwaukee) has always
fought to keep its carriers -- many of them adults, as in
my building, some of them retired or housewives making
ends meet or college students, as well as the traditional
younger children -- as independent contractors.  As such,
they get no benefits or employee guaranties, certainly not
health insurance.  A JS article illustrates the gains to the
company:

The case for independent contractors

Many business owners find benefits in using them,
but there can also be a number of problems


By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG
Associated Press

Posted: Sept. 12, 2004


. . . .
There are also some serious legal and tax pitfalls
owners need to be aware of. How you treat an independent
contractor could, according to the government, make him
or her your employee. In that case, you would owe Social
Security and Medicare taxes and unemployment and
workers' compensation insurance premiums.


   No wonder the JS finds this so unattractive.  But
mke
might be more convincing if it looked at its own
corporate practices.
         
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Wed. May 25, 2005 
  
The Cue section of the Journal Sentinel for May 25
features a look at the Zoo's new stingray exhibit, with a
photo of baby rays being fed Brian shrimp.  I can't quite
get a decent pun out of the JS's weak copy desk & its
brain shrimp, or shrimp brains, but of course brine
shrimp
was what was intended.  Still, the capitalization
of Brian was disconcerting.  Maybe there is such a thing
-- but no, as a search of definitions in Google will
show.  But that misspelling of brine is more common
than you might think, it turns out.  Lots of examples on
the Net, & Brian Shrimp turned up in  the cached list
of  humorous
names -- some real (so it is claimed), like
Ann Thrax, who wrote a report on the disease, but most
not, such as Avery Nowandthen.  Readers may recall
that I have my own list of favorite (real) names, a few of which I mentioned
here.
   I guess it shouldn't be too surprising that Brian also
named a dish.  Thus:
a Greek favourite: Brian's Shrimp with Tomatoes
and Feta - ten minutes and you're on Corfu!

   Certainly cheaper than an airline ticket.  But the theological significance of the shrimp shouldn't be overlooked, since He died for us all.
     
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]

                            z-guide

Tue. May 24, 2005 
  
With the Koran & its possible (& some admitted)
abuse by American guards in the news, we are learning
this book is really, really important to Muslims.  Some
say it is more venerated than the Christian Bible (if more
poorly written, though it is also claimed that this is
because the Bible's "poetry" translates much better):

   The Koran, on the other hand, was originally written in the purest Arabic.
Muhammad continually appeals to its extraordinary superhuman beauty and purity,
as an evidence of the divine source from which he declared it to flow. He challenged
unbelievers to produce, even with the aid of genii, any passage worthy to be
compared with a single chapter in the Koran. Those who are acquainted with Arabic
inform us that in its purest type it is in the highest degree copious, musical, and
elegant; and that these qualities all meet in the Koran.

   Consequently there is scarcely any book in the world which loses so much by
translation. The charm of its graceful, harmonious, rhythmical, sonorous
sentences utterly evaporates, and the matter, stripped of its gaudy attire, appears to
the ordinary reader insufferably dull and commonplace.

   Atheist Robert Ingersoll, writing in the 19th century,
didn't have a lot to say about the Koran (or Qur'an), no
doubt because he had his hands full with home-grown
religious insanity, but he had a lot to say about the
Bible.
   Still, he had no illusions about the Koran's divine
inspiration, as this passage notes: 

                                Koran
  
The inspiration of the Bible is not a question of natural
affection. It cannot be decided by the love a mother bears her
son. It is a question of fact, to be substantiated like other
facts. If the Turkish mother should give a copy of the Koran
to her son, I would still have my doubts about the inspiration
of that book; and if some Turkish soldier saved his life by
having in his pocket a copy of the Koran that accidentally
stopped a bullet just opposite his heart, I should still deny
that Mohammed was a prophet of God.

  
His exhaustive analysis of the Bible can be entered
into
here, one of many starting points for appreciating
his once widely-known lectures & writings.

         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                             z-guide
Mon. May 23, 2005 
  
With the influence of the religious right holding sway
over the land, it may only be a matter of time until the
old questions -- which I haven't heard much since I came
out as an atheist as a youth (praying to God to strike me
dead if he existed) -- are put to me & this column:  Just
what do you believe in?  How can you go on with no
hope of heaven?  For starters, I'll reprint
The Creed
of Robert
Ingersoll
, which I can't claim to live up to,
but is certainly a good enough model for anyone:

 
To love justice, to long for the right, to love mercy, to pity the
suffering, to assist the weak, to forget wrongs and remember
benefits -- to love the truth, to be sincere, to utter honest words,
to love liberty, to wage relentless war against slavery in all its
forms, to love wife and child and friend, to make a happy home,
to love the beautiful in art, in nature, to cultivate the mind,
to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has
expressed, the noble deeds of all the world, to cultivate courage
and cheerfulness, to make others happy, to fill life with the
splendor of generous acts, the warmth of loving words, to
discard error, to destroy prejudice, to receive new truths with
gladness, to cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm,
the dawn beyond the night, to do the best that can be done and
then to be resigned -- this is the religion of reason, the creed
of science. This satisfies the heart and brain.
  
Secular humanists & journalists alike should find this
sufficient basis for a life;  the Bible-thumpers are
encouraged to go to Ingersoll's
works for elaboration.
           [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                            z-guide
Sun. May 22, 2005 
   Already I seem to be falling down on the job, since
I'm posting this on Tuesday, but I should point out that I
specifically promised an update FOR every day, not one
ON every day.  As G.W. Bush might say, "It's hard
work
. . . ."

  The previous posting did take a lot of work, so I'll take
it easy & also fulfill a claim, that I would be criticizing
the editing of leftist & progressive publications, not just
the Journal Sentinel & its weak copy desk.
  
Milwaukee Magazine, though not quite in the
categories mentioned, does have its share of hard-hitting
investigative stuff & is good at rooting out corrupt
politicians & inept legislators & judges (my friend Louise Tesmer, a fellow UWM graduate, having made the last
two categories) in addition to the chic consumerism &
city boosterism no doubt necessary to the sale of slick
ads, & more power to them.  Many city mags are nothing
but bland vehicles for the local chamber of commerce --
the way Milwaukee Magazine itself started, as its
former editor Jay Scriba, who went on to local
recognition as the Journal's urban nature columnist
years ago,  told me.  So it has its own Pressroom
Confidential
column, where other publications are taken
to task:  the Journal Sentinel, of course, & especially
the Shepherd Express, our only city-wide alternative
paper (& inheritor of the underground tradition), most
recently for sleazy sex ads (though why they should
bother any defender of a free press, or any supporter of
a  woman's right to control her own body, I can't
understand).
   The April 2005 issue, for example, raises questions
about the Journal Sentinel's new editorial page editor
O. Oscar Pimintel & his "unheard of" panel of readers
"exclusively for the editorial section," perhaps as a ploy
"to deflect criticism that he's out of touch with readers?"
My own initial
reaction to an early Pimintel column &
its casual affront to some religions is found earlier on
this page.
   But it is not free from error itself, as in the same issue
with a cover story by no less than former Milwaukee
Journal
bad boy (a thorn in the corporate side with
pro-union activities & needlessly irreverent attitude --
including questioning why he shouldn't get the most
market value for his company stock -- Joel McNally.
Wealth & Power Inc. is the title of his article about
black Milwaukee siblings now or formerly named
Daniels:  Bishop Sedgwick, John, Valerie & Hattie.  In
other words, a group which in the plural are the
Danielses, at least according to conventional English
usage.  As a check on this, I did a search on Henry &
William James
, an analogous name, & found:  "The
profit on the transaction, he decided, would finance a
radical change for the Jameses."  Yet nowhere in the
article are they referred to collectively as anything but
the Daniels.  Curious, as is the claim in the June 2005
issue by Perry Lamek that Ernest Hemingway's "The
Old Man and the Sea
took the
Nobel Prize" in 1954.
Of course, the prize is awarded "for an outstanding body
of work," not any one book in particular.
   The same Milwaukee Magazine trashes -- rightly --
the "trivial" new
weekly from the JS, mke (though it
does feature a slick layout, colorful ads & a wealth of
useful entertainment listings),  in noting that its editor --
Sonja Jongsma Knauss (one of my new favorite names, almost on par with Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle of
Riverwest Currents) comes from that same "politically
active weekly" (Currents), which I also find to be be a
well-written, engaged community newspaper.  It's also a
great guide to the neighborhood night life & quirky bars,
such as Art Bar (self-explanatory), Onopa (which early
on featured a mostly naked band, one member of which
displayed her talent on stage at supporting weights with
her labia), & Nessun Dorma & Timbuktu -- two names
not from the realm of the ordinary.   But my minor
quibble with Riverwest Currents, which I brought up at
the tent manned by Publisher Vince Bushell at last year's
Locust Street
Festival, is that its few ad listings are
labeled Classified Advertising.
   "These aren't classified," I said, waving a paper in one
hand while clutching a paper cup in the other.  Because
the ads were certainly not separated into any categories.
He was respectful enough, no doubt taking into
consideration my beery condition as I told him I had run
into the same situation in the ancient days when I started
at
Kaleidoscope.  There, layout editor John Sahli  just
slapped a large, deformed
Un next to the Classified,
thus creating a rather hip approach in line with the
psychedelic sensibility we were mining.  Oddly enough,
Exchange Unclassified is the wording used today by
exchange, A food & wellness journal published by
Milwaukee's venerable
Outpost Natural Foods
   Since nothing has changed, I should have asked
Bushell instead to have his crack investigative team look
into why those cups of dark beer such as I held were
advertised as pints in the quasi-British manner by my
favorite local boutique brewer (along with Sprecher),
Lakefront Brewery,  at the stands in front of
Linneman's & such.  They were really only 14 ounces,
bartenders admitted -- just like the Miller's yellow
beer, though costing more.  But my capacity for concern
was limited, & the sun enervating.  Maybe this year
(Sunday, June 12).
   Moving to another local publication,  Milwaukee's
Vital Source, designed to "appeal to the many artists
and musicians who live in the neighborhood," as a
Journal Sentinel
review said of the Riverwest
monthly, is another earnest, knowledgeable & usually
diverting . . . well, source.  But here, too, I have a
question:  Why is the editor's
note by Jon Ann Willow
called the Editor's Blog?  Since blog is short for web
log
, & log is the original term for a journal by a
commander, such as a ship's captain (from the notes kept
about the logs connected by cord thrown overboard to
measure speed) -- or even by the chief of the Starship
Enterprise -- what she is writing is just another editorial
or log, having nothing to do with the Web except a
desire to be au courant.  Why not just Editor's Log?
Of course, since a version of her comments ends up on
the Internet, I guess they turn into a blog (even if they
don't start that way) & the point is at least
moot (or
debatable --
not meaningless -- as I point out
elsewhere in this column).
   But if some of these objections seem meaningless,
chalk it up to my real motive, a desire to hold a little
tour of worthwhile & perhaps overlooked local
publications & provide some links for further reading.
   By the way, my other favorite names include
Milwaukee towing-business entrepreneur Overton
Buggs
; frequent writer of letters to the JS's editor,
Orlando Tweet; & my old classmate at North Division
High School, Cleone Pudlik.  Send me some of yours --
or more links to useful & relevant publications.
           [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                            z-guide
Sat. May 21, 2005 
   Although I've not officially gone Online -- that is, I've
not spammed everybody I can think of to make the formal
announcement -- I've told a few (asking for comments) &
have brought this journal up to the present as of Fri.
May 20
.  So I'm determined to make an entry for every
day, beginning with today, as a sly positive
reinforcement to those who might quickly check it out
once & quit the next time if there is no new entry.  I have
no shortage of material; to the contrary, I'm swamped
with topics (the Journal Sentinel's weak copy desk
provides an endless supply by itself) but the problem
was to find a worthy one for my first contemporaneous
entry & set a plausible tone.  While mulling over the
possibilities, the most likely being a treatise on how I
celebrated the inaugural Friday by making it through 3½
bottles of beer & a frozen pizza before falling asleep --
in contrast to the days when I could carry a brandy flask
to the late-night 3D porno flick at the Downer Theatre
or drink mouthwash to get to sleep in an effectively dry
Canadian province -- & what might have caused this
transformation, I found I was spared from further
contemplation of my dissolute ways because I had
received an almost instant reply to my first, small
mailing.
   It was from Morgan Gibson -- known to many
Milwaukeeans in the turmoil of the '60s as a writer,
professor & activist here -- who, along with his equally
influential then-wife
Barbara, was a friend & mentor to
a cohort of students on the East Side, primarily from
UWM.  He & she lost their academic positions here in
the anti-war upheavals of the time, & last I heard he
taught in Japan, where he lived with his new family,
until his recent retirement.  I've tried to document his &
Barbara's effect & achievements in Milwaukee
elsewhere on my first Zonyx Website, so I'll just list a
few of those links for newcomers:
   1) Christmas & J. Edgar Hoover meet on the
East Side.
   2) A literary history of the East Side from UWM's
Cheshire to little mag madness; use Find function in
Internet Explorer or scroll page for more Gibson
references.
   3) The saga of Kaleidoscope history from 1967 coffee
shop conspirators to Supreme Court vindication.  Also
with many more references.

   4) And see too an interview about Kenneth Rexroth
with
Ken Knabb of the Situationists on Bopsecrets:
Rexroth by Gibson & Knabb & an interview in a
Japanese
publication.
   But those who remember him might also appreciate
being brought up to date,  as he is now in California -- where daughter
Julia lives -- & will be traveling around
the country, even to Chicago.  Old friends &
acquaintances & others might feel like e-mailing him
greetings or whatever; he maintains a poetry connection
with the city through the Woodland Pattern Bookstore,
which carries his poetry, & has other followers through
his biography of
Kenneth Rexroth.
   Here is some of what he wrote me, with added links:

What a plethora of Milwaukeeana! I'm in Hollywood,
visiting Julia and Aaron, their son and daughter Miranda
(born in Milwaukee commune you may recall), Miranda's
son and his expected sibling (my great-grandchild) due in
October, and associated personages. Leaving soon for the
60th anniversary reunion of my high school class at the
University of Chicago and a conference with research
librarians at the UC Regenstein Library who are
cataloguing my literary papers and books in the Morgan
Gibson Collection (the real name, no less). Then back to
Yokohama for son Christopher's graduation from the
Yokohama International School with an International
Baccalaureate Diploma. He will enter Yale University in
August, after which I will settle here in Hollywood for an
extended period of writing, research at university
libraries, poetry readings (to be arranged), etc. . . .


Have you seen my poems in a recent GAM  [magazine]
published at WOODLAND PATTERN (edited by Stacy) and
Ron Silliman's review of it and memories of me in his recent
BLOG from San Francisco?
                         
http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/
                          [Scroll to
Friday, January 07, 2005]

Drink a glass to nostalgia for me also, Morgan
                                   
nonzenpoet@mac.com

Apparently I had that drink Friday night in anticipation
of this & other responses, so nostalgia has been duly
recognized & toasted.

         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                             z-guide

Sun. May 1, 2005  
   In creating a page of instructive examples for this
project,  I was hesitant about stirring up
Frankenstein &
his monster,
surely too elementary a subject; I even gave
the Journal Sentinel's Eugene Kane his props for a
previous correct usage.  Then Kane wrote about
Wisconsin's ineffective $1.5 billion (& counting) W-2 welfare "reform" program, -- which involves less
welfare & no reform -- & "the people who created this
Frankenstein of a social program" that former Gov.
Tommy Thompson
rode to his own well-paying job in
the Bush administration.  In any case, the JS's
notoriously weak copy desk was dead wrong at least
once on this one.
          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Sat. April 30, 2005  
   The Journal Sentinel's editorial page features a
Weekly laurels and laments column.  Though it's not
clear where a cutesy squib about a rare black bear
sighting and tranquilizing in Wauwatosa fits in -- Lament
its wandering ways? (Bears don't read).  Laurels to those
who netted it? (A routine animal control job) --
the editorial board writer was suitably relieved the
"bear was placed back in the North Woods, from
whence
it presumably came."  You'd think the
presumably educated writer would know a redundant
phrase.  Lamentably, the JS's weak copy desk  may be
afraid to touch some copy.
        
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          z-guide
Sun. Feb. 13, 2005  
   Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources, at least as of
this writing,  may receive a recommendation from the Wisconsin
Conservation Congress
-- following a vote by counties, 51-14 --
to allow the hunting of  little kitty-cats, or predatory feral cats,
depending on your outlook.  But you might be surprised that this
is already legal in Michigan.
   In a syndicated Washington Post column printed in the Journal
Sentinel
, humor writer Gene Weingarten writes about STGTC,
stories too good to check.  These are captivating items reporters
would rather write than look into too closely, because they tend
not to be true -- though because ethics demand it, they usually do
the investigation (except for perhaps Dan Rather).  After all, even
the general public by now knows the maxim attributed to any
number of crusty old editors & journalism teachers, one
possible source being the wall of the old Chicago News Bureau:
"If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out." (Good
luck verifying a definitive source with Google.)
   He reports, for example, on looking up as a cub reporter (a term
that I've never known to be actually used in the newspaper business
except to signify someone was telling a story on himself or
someone else) a "fact" from an American history professor for a
Thanksgiving story that the Pilgrims in 1621 sat down with the
Indians to eat, not "corn and peas and turkey" but "corn and
peas and . . . dog."  Unfortunately, no other "expert" could or
would confirm such a thing, & the story was spiked.
   Another,  from Washington Post reporter T. R. Reid, was  that
European Union bureaucrats "had gone so far as to issue
regulations governing the minimum and maximum size of
condoms." Actually, that was true.  "The part that couldn't
survive checking, unfortunately, was that the Italians had
asked that the minimums be made smaller."
   Still another was about the cheapskate who used the waistband
from his underpants to strap his cell phone to his ear.
Unconfirmed, though the hunting of house cats in Michigan -- &
many other states -- is indeed legal.
  But the point I want to make, to  aspiring cub reporters & others,
is the opposite.  As a newly-minted journalist (and actually when I
was still taking journalism courses at UWM) trying my hand at a
new & struggling underground newspaper, Kaleidoscope, I
sometimes ended up with letters or notes taken over the phone by
someone else -- given to me because I had at least some
professional training -- containing various hot tips.  Generally,
they were from persons who complained they had been ignored by
the established press.  For good reason, those of us on duty
usually agreed, & the writers were probably as nutty as their
ramblings usually made them seem to be.  (One, as we shall see,
was indeed certifiably nutty, but ignoring her claims was
nevertheless probably the biggest mistake I ever made as an
underground journalist.)  So, rather than checking out something
that would be a waste of time,  we didn't do anything at all -- the
occasional deliberate hoax being the exception -- & missed real
nuggets.
    Many were minor, of course, & without our investigation just
disappeared, valid or not.
   Others surfaced much later, after we -- I -- had declined the
scoop (another rare term, generally used by outsiders in writing
about the media, rather than by reporters themselves, though City
Editor Tom Rickert at the Waukesha Freeman once asked me
what the "skinny" was on something, & I often relayed to him after events I covered that "nobody dropped any bombshells.")
   One such tidbit, tawdry though it appeared to us & not worthy of
our newsprint even if it could be confirmed -- was not too risqué
for the old Milwaukee Journal as events finally played out.  The
original anonymous letter (presumably from his wife or even
another jilted lover) had complained that the president of the
University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, the late
(Frank) Jack Pelisek was committing adultery (illegal then & now under Wisconsin law, though simple fornication is not) with
a much younger woman in his office.  He worked for a law firm at
the time, in addition to having whatever staff & office perks the
UW system gave him, & I've forgotten the details about his
transgressions, though I recall them as many.  But several years
later Jack Pelisek, as he was called,  was divorced under just such
a scenario, though it was long before the time such messy details
could be called up from Journal archives.  But they certainly
leaped off the page for me as I read them.      

  
The only references available now online contain only lavish
praise for the Republican honcho & civic leader & have no
details  about the divorce, only that he remarried at about age 45:

Storybook romance

Pelisek was married twice. He met Jill on a "blind date," she recalled, and they quickly clicked. But there was one problem:
   "My name was Jill and his was Jack. The big question was who was going to change their name."
   They compromised, she said, and decided to endure whatever nursery rhymed jokes came their way. They married in 1975.


   Of  far greater importance than the slick Pelisek was Alberta
Lessard
.  I recall getting letters from her about her plight shortly
after starting at Kaleidoscope in 1967.  She had a lot of grudges
against the system, which had labeled the former West Allis
teacher crazy & punished  her undeservedly,  among other things.
But she didn't make much news until Oct. 1971  (shortly before
K'scope's demise) when she was faced with commitment (after
what police called a suicide attempt) against her will as a paranoid
schizophrenic & fought back.  Though I don't recall the earlier
specifics -- & online archives don't say -- whatever her mental
state over those years
:


   Lessard v. Schmidt revolutionized mental health law. It was the beginning of the
end for the broad commitment statutes that were then the general rule, as state
after state followed Wisconsin in sharply constricting or all but abandoning the
traditional parens patriae grounds for commitment in favor of strictly focusing on
the police power. Involuntary civil commitment ceased being viewed as a primarily
medical decision (albeit one authorized by a court). It is now viewed as a
quasi-criminal proceeding, with the individual to be accorded all the procedural
protections of the criminal law. From now on, primarily lawyers not doctors would
make commitment decisions.


   As I was to learn,  "Alberta Lessard’s case led to the mass
evacuation of mental patients from hospitals across the United
States.  According to
Broken Promises-25 Years After We
Unlocked the Mentally Ill,
'In Milwaukee County alone, the
number of beds at a mental health complex dropped from more
than 4,000 on any given day to fewer than 300.'”
    (She continued to raise hell; as late as 1999 she was thought to
be carrying a gun to a West Allis school board meeting, where
someone claimed she threatened to "shoot us all."  But by that
time, this revolution in treatment was so complete that when she
voluntarily sought help at the county Mental Health Complex
she was turned away because "they said I wasn't sick enough,"
the 80-year-old later recalled.)

   So no doubt -- though her real legal battle wasn't taken up by
Milwaukee Legal Services until it was too late for K'scope to
effectively investigate her claims & those of many mental patients
of unconstitutional treatment -- it was a situation that got by us,
champions of the underdog though we may have considered
ourselves.  Not because we dutifully checked out something we
hoped would prove true, but instead ignored leads as probably not
worth the effort.  So if someone tells you your mother doesn't
love you, cub reporters, as improbable as it seems, check it out.
  You may have a scoop on your hands.
      [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          z-guide

Wed. Jan. 5, 2005  
  
Jim Stingl's Journal Sentinel column in reference to a
series on Lake Michigan's travails reads: "Here's how
naive I was.  I thought a huge lake like this pretty much
took care of itself, provided food and shelter for
countless native fish, shirked off our attempts to pollute
it and performed its chief duty of giving young lovers on
shore an ideal place for making out."
Comment:  Someone on the JS's weak copy desk is shirking his
or her duty to look up
shirk if the meaning is unclear.  But I guess
they shrugged off the notion.

     
         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                              z-guide
Mon. Jan. 3, 2005  
  
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel announced that four
communications industry leaders are being inducted into

the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame, including
William F. Schanen Jr.:
   "
Schanen founded the Ozaukee Press, an early user of
offset printing, and won recognition more than 30  years
ago when he refused to stop printing a controversial
[Milwaukee] alternative newspaper, Kaleidoscope,
despite an advertiser
boycott of the Ozaukee Press.  He
died in 1971."
   Readers of the
Zonyx Report, originator of Zone II,
will recognize that
K'scope -- whose publisher & editor,
John Kois was convicted of felony obscenity in
Wisconsin -- played an important role in the history of a
free US press, culminating in a unanimous
Supreme
Court
{enter Kois, 1972}
decision written by Justice
Potter Stewart effectively clearing the way for other
underground & alternative papers generally & the local
Bugle-American & Shepherd Express.  In a concurring
opinion, Justice William O. Douglas ridiculed the
whole concept of obscenity as applied to newspapers
entitled to Constitutional protection.  (I was, at various
times, its distributor, reporter, news editor & provider
of redeeming social content, as well as a reporter &
acting managing editor on the
Ozaukee Press after
Schanen's death). 
   More on
K'scope, Schanen & his son Bill III, & the
underground press can be found by following the links
provided above.

Further biographical notes for the interested:
Though William Schanen the
father won recognition for his stance, including the
Elijah Parrish Lovejoy Award
for Courage in Journalism
for his role as a printer (he had no control over the
contents), the boycott -- which received nation-wide attention, from Life magazine to
the LA Times -- led by "wealthy Grafton industrialist" Benjamin Grob, as he was
generally called, devastated him & his business.  His family felt it caused his early
death from a heart attack at 57, which in turn led to his daughter Moira's suicide.
Bill III was another story; I got the impression that as publisher of the elite
Sailing
magazine he would have preferred to live his uncontroversial country club life, but
of  course he had his father's legacy to live up to.  And as long as K'scope paid the
printing bill in full before the next issue came out, he did so.  But we were never
allowed to fall behind.
     Though he later fired me after a stint as the only news reporter ( most staff had
been laid off earlier) --  besides himself there was also a "society lady," & he
continued covering sports --  the job came at an opportune time.  K'scope was
paying me $50 a week, with the understanding that Advertising Manager Bert Stitt
could use my old VW beetle to call on advertisers.  Schanen paid $25 a day for four
days, & I was broke.  I felt I had to move to West Milwaukee (all right, it was to my
parents' house, after I had been married & then divorced) from my hippie existence in
Milwaukee's Riverwest, despite the long commute to the small, hilly city of Port
Washington,
north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, in that same VW.  The rent
had been free, as I lived in the unheated attic of my friend Margaret, who had been
dragged into a car in front of a jazz lounge on Holton Street  & raped, & so felt safer
with someone home at night.
   But winter was coming, & as a newly dedicated worker I wanted to avoid any
conflicts over bathroom access & quiet sleeping arrangements -- if I had to resort to
her sofa -- since I had a girlfriend
(Priscilla Vettel) & had to avoid my friend's quite
capacious & warm  bed.
    Because the paper published on Thursdays, I would stay there Wednesday nights
 -- reporters & editors on weeklies, where the work piles up, tend to work much
longer weeks than on dailies, whose deadlines come every day & pass & another
cycle starts.  Then I would sleep on an editing table & finish writing in the morning
to meet the weekly deadline -- & go home for the long weekend.   The problem was
that one of the most important roles of a small-town paper is to cover evening
meetings, usually governmental or civic,  which can last until very late -- yet as the
only reporter, I was needed, or at least so Schanen thought, during the day, too.  But
I couldn't get overtime pay without working Fridays,  nor did I want to work day &
night, anyway.
   Now, if I could have afforded it, I could have rented a room & taken naps & meals
in off-hours, as I had in Waukesha.  As it was, I adjusted my hours by often coming
in late -- a habit that was reinforced by my regular late-night stops at the Tuxedo bar
on Milwaukee's East Side.  Eventually, Schanen -- instead of advancing me money
to move, though he had helpfully pointed out what category of ads to look at in his
paper when I hinted I could resolve things if I could raise enough rent -- fired me,
ostensibly for slow production, asking why I didn't "go write for Time magazine, or
something."
    Fortunately, when I appealed, the state Unemployment Compensation Division
decided Schanen had been unreasonable.   It turned out that when Schanen had
asked
Jim Huston, my previous editor on the Waukesha Freeman -- which I had
quit in disgust over not getting more general assignment stories --  for a reference,
Huston told him I was good but slow. In other words, Schanen knew what he was
getting.  So I eventually collected 14 checks in one mailing & moved back to an East
Side
apartment with the money, & started -- as did a lot of hippies the busy fall of
1971 -- as a
longshoreman at the Port of Milwaukee.  I  retired 21 years later.
(Huston has changed his own career emphasis.  A former priest married for a time to
the Journal Sentinel's Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter
Margo Huston,  herself
well-known on the East Side, he later became a lawyer for Foley & Lardner & married
Milwaukee City Librarian
Kate Huston.)

            [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           Z-GUIDE

Sun. Dec. 26, 2004  
  
The Packers' Saint Reggie has been sacked himself.
Judge how he ranks
in the Tolerance Hall of Fame with
these quotes on homosexuality & the "gay choice."

        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          z-guide
Mon. Nov. 8, 2004  
   Tom Hadricourt of the JS sports staff reports that
Brewer's general manager Douglas Melvin, knowing
he needs to improve the team, "has been
pouring over
the possibilities the past few weeks. . . ."
comment:  Let's hope that whatever he's been pouring on
them doesn't dampen his players' enthusiasm.
       
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                   
z-guide
Thu. Nov. 4, 2004  
   The Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert -- in the major,
front-page story -- thinks that "Kerry's victory in the
state became moot in deciding the
presidency" because
the 12,000 vote margin didn't matter in light of Bush's
carrying of Ohio.  But the effect
wasn't arguable or
debatable -- the definition of
moot -- but well-defined, amounting to exactly no effect.  Gilbert clearly
believes here moot means irrelevant or academic, but
the Oxford Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage &
The Careful Writer by Theodore M. Bernstein -- the
foremost authority on American copy editing -- make it
clear that is not so.  This & other corrections are treated
at ReMediaL Writing; or click here for an Internet
discussion the JS's weak copy desk should check out.
       
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                   
z-guide
Wed. Nov. 3, 2004  
  
Disinterest in science a barrier for minorities
is the
headline above Tannette Johnson-Elie's
Opportunities column today.  Of course, she didn't
write the headline (reporters seldom do) but the same
confusion with uninterest appears in the column, as she
writes "study after study shows that the disinterest
among young Americans in basic sciences has become a
severe career handicap." Apparently the JS's weak copy
desk is uninterested in editing her column to the point of
compounding her error.  Interested authorities take up
this point in more detail on my ReMediaL Writing page
under
disinterest / uninterest.
         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                       
z-guide
Tue. Aug. 24, 2004  
   In Myths are made to be challenged, even in
Milwaukee
, the new "liberal" (at least according to
rabid right-wingers such as Mark Belling) editorial page
editor of the Journal Sentinel, O. Ricardo Pimentel,
offers a column on the
need  to "Challenge the mythology
of your community," such as the old "melting pot"
characterization  of the US when it comes to historic
ethnic & racial exclusivity.  As an imported (from San
Antonio
) Hispanic, he devotes most of it to
Milwaukee's
view of Latinos as the hard-working
"good" minority, with only intermittent bad press, as
opposed to the  "bad" -- lazy -- African-Americans
     All well & good, but he concludes:
   "This is the problem with mythsZeus really didn't
hurl thunderbolts.  Icarus really didn't fly so close to the
sun that the wax melted in his wings.  And I've yet to see
a flying horse. . . ."
   Really?  I've yet to see anybody walking on water
(without floating shoes), but those myths (or miracles)
were cherished as truth by widely-believed (if ancient)
religions, with about as much proof as, oh, the feeding of
multitudes with a few loaves, the sun standing still for
Joshua, a bush burning without being consumed  & Jesus
himself rising from the dead & ascending into heaven.
   So are we to presume that when the Christian
literalists claim Moses parted the Red Sea that Pimintel
will be on the job to remind them of the absurdity of the
claim?  Or perhaps when miraculous healings begin to
be conveniently attributed to the late Pope John Paul II,
headed for earliest canonization?  Even though Mexicans
are generally taken to be devout in their Catholicism,
Pimintel may prove to be the essence of skepticism.
   In which case, just because he has yet to see a flying
horse, I'm sure he'll realize there were contemporaries
to claim that vision & those who swore to the efficacy of
Zeus' thunderbolts & were damn scared of them.
   Then if he applies his standards consistently, we can
look forward to a flood of outraged letters from the
fundamentalists & the faithful about his columns, but I
wouldn't bet the collection plate on it.  Expect a
practiced avoidance of giving offense, as is usual in the
case of our more newly-minted religious myths.  Even
from myth-busting journalists.
                           
*          *          *
   In the same issue, opposite an editorial about a three-
hour party at
City Hall for lobbyists & aldermen -- &
citizens who cough up a $17 "suggested contribution"
-- formerly called the Common Council picnic, now
termed "lobbyfest," appears the cartoon below.  Drawn
by Stuart Carlson, it is of course meant to be
Milwaukee City Hall -- except that our City Hall has no
front steps leading up to the front door.
   Now, this may say something about how citizens, even
a knowledgeable editorial cartoonist -- expected to be
more more familiar than most folks with details of civic
life -- can overlook  the obvious.  But it is especially
unfortunate in this case, since the story is that City Hall
was purposely built with the front door flush to the
sidewalk, & the steps placed inside the doors, to signify
ease of access to the ordinary person. 
   That, of course, is the complete opposite of the spirit
of the $17 lobbyfest & the list of the expected "1,200
invitees . . . [which includes] lobbyists, developers,
union officials and business owners . . . not coming for
the refreshments and the chance to see the ornate council
chambers up close." [Journal Sentinel]
   As the editorial suggests, billing ordinary citizens who
helped to pay for the building in the first place, should
they actually show up despite not having been asked,
raises real ethical concerns. 
more comment:
   Though harmless, Carlson's treatment of that
architectural detail is a missed opportunity.  Oddly
enough, the cartoon itself could not be found in the JS
archives where it should be (& still isn't), nor
anywhere else in the month of August 2004 &
thereabouts.  Though Carlson graciously e-mailed a
copy,  writing,  "Hope it works for you,"  he ignored
making any explanation & didn't comment -- though also
asked -- on whether he knew of that progressive aspect
of City Hall history. 
               
                   
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Cartoon by Stu Carlson, Aug. 24, 2004

         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                       
z-guide

Fri. June 11, 2004 
   The Journal Sentinel's Mike Nichols writes in an
amusing enough
Sat. May 21, 2005 column about
Milwaukee-talk, actually the "Wisconsin entries in the
Dictionary of  American Regional English."  The
ever-popular bubblers, of course, & Racine kringle,
& something spelled inso, that he reports may be based
on Milwaukeeans' aina, perhaps ignoring that it's more
likely a version of the common aina so (is it not so?).
No real problem here, but local writers do seem to have
another pastry-based favorite usage.  Crocker
Stephenson
, in today's Snapshots, writes about a Frank
Parrish who gets "his bakery from Sciortino's."  A Web
search will show -- some permissive dictionaries
notwithstanding -- that
bakery is the place where baked
goods or pastry are made. 

          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          Z-GUIDE
Tue. June 8, 2004  
   Had enough Ronnie hagiography yet?  Try the antidote
at Slate:  Even the Iraqi invasion apologist/turncoat
Christopher Hitchens is as scathing as in his expose of
Mother Teresa.
          
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           Z-GUIDE
Mon. June 7, 2004  
   The Journal Sentinel's architecture maven Whitney
Gould
maintains in an exchange with me that she knows
exactly what she's doing when she has an interviewee
"sniff" words in the same way you might whisper or yell
them.  What do you think?  The latest in a series that
looks at the JS's weak copy desk begins with our
e-mails; click today's date.
                           
*          *          *
   More recently (
Mon. Oct. 18, 2004) she reported on
two options in the reconstruction of Interstate I-94 that
would either "worsen noise pollution or carve into
cemeteries on either side of the road," calling that a
Hobson's choice.  But Hobson's choice meant no choice
at all, not equally distressing alternatives.  [See also
Dictionary.com for explication.]
        
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                          z-guide
Sun. June 6, 2004  
  
Sunday, when Marilyn vos Savant's column appears
in Parade magazine in the Journal Sentinel & other
papers, is a good time for a look at her errors, in
Marilyn Is Wrong!  [By the way, I'm convinced that to
her credit she's an atheist, though fearfully closeted --
just notice how evasive she is on questions about prayer
& miracles.  One ploy is to appease the religiously
deluded -- too large a segment of her readership to
offend -- by switching topics to the role faith supposedly
plays in science itself, such as the Big Bang Theory;
even if true, it's besides the point.]   
        
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                 
Z-GUIDE
Mon. Feb. 16, 2004  
   Folk/protest composer of Little Boxes, Malvina
Reynolds
, is neglected by Journal Sentinel reviewer
Dave Tianen (my old boss).  Misunderstood, too.
E-mail exchange [click
date] has the details.
          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                   z-guide
Sat. March 22, 2003   [2] 
   JS
sports page headline:  Tigers refuse to lay down
                                             early

Comment: This from a major newspaper?  It's from the AP wire,
but of course the copy desk writes the headlines to fit the space.

Theodore Bernstein devotes several grafs in The Careful
Writer
,
which I would expect every copy editor to have read, if
not to own, to illustrating the difference between the transitive lay
(takes an object, such as to lay pipe) & the intransitive lie (no
object, as in to rest).  About this particular usage he writes that,
"No, down isn't laid; it comes off a duck."
   Of course, when even presidential candidate John Kerry, as
quoted in a JS Associated Press story [Sept. 25, 2004, p. 15a]
says, "No American mother should have to lay awake at night
wondering whether her children will be safe at school. . . .", we're
back in George W. Bush territory anyway.

              [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                     
z-guide
Sat. March 22, 2003   [1] 
   Sports columnist Michael Hunt was no doubt
attuned to word usage when he opted for print
journalism  rather than TV:  Imagine his cohorts calling
on him with, "And now, here's sports from Mike Hunt."
   But he had it wrong when he wrote in the JS of  the
basketball team ". . . in Milwaukee, where the
schizophrenic play of the Bucks can usually be traced
to the duality of George Karl's nature."  Though
schizophrenia does have at the root of its meaning
schism, or split, it is defined as "a mental disorder
characterized by separation between thought and
emotions. . . ."  In other words, it has nothing
to do with the popular notion of a split or dual
personality, though sufferers may be delusional or act
bizarrely in many ways. 

         
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                   z-guide
Sun. Feb. 26, 2003  
   Journal Sentinel pop-psych columnist Phillip Chard
wails about whales.  Despite gracious admission, the
confusion is repeated.  Click date for e-mails. 
     
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                
Z-GUIDE
Thu. Jan. 23, 2003  [2] 
  
Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel uses
enormity to mean vastness or immensity, not evil.  A
common error.  Click date for our e-mails.  But if our
exchange reached the weak copy desk, it didn't have a
lasting effect, judging from Polly Drew's marriage &
family therapy column of 
Sun. May 8, 2005, where
she referred to "runaway bride" Jennifer Wilbanks'
planned wedding as Atlanta's "social event of the
season" that "made her quake just thinking about the
enormity of it."
   While 600 guests & 28 attendants might well make one
quake (or run away), it doesn't amount to great
wickedness,
as Fowler's Modern English Usage
defines it, except perhaps to critics of capitalism's
excesses as practiced by decadent Southern society.

        
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                  
z-guide
Thu. Jan 23, 2003   [1] 
   I couldn't find find awoken in my then admittedly
limited dictionary, as used by the Journal Sentinel's
Meg Kissinger.  But her own paper's usage contradicts
her explanation, her reference to the OED
notwithstanding.
   You decide;  click the date for our reprinted e-mails.
         
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                   
Z-GUIDE
Thu. Jan. 2, 2003  
  
My first critical contact with a Journal Sentinel
reporter, Mark Johnson (actually quite a good writer),
was an acrimonious exchange about his use of nauseous
for nauseated, as detailed at length in our e-mails at
today's
date.  It gets ugly, but I was testing the climate.
         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                  
Z-Guide
My First Entry  
   In the accepted format for blogs, the most recent remarks will
appear at the top of this page.  There, I will do several things,
varying with the day.  First, this is a general opinion column on
social, cultural & political topics of personal interest, even on
whimsical matters,  but -- I hope -- also of wider interest. They
are either  not deserving of  more  lengthy articles, or it is beyond
my available time & interest to produce one.   When possible, I
plan also to concentrate on criticism of mass media, especially
newspapers & their editing, which I think is in serious decline.
Notably at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [JS], & its weak copy
desk, but even in the alternative press & progressive journals.
   I hope it's apparent that when I'm referring to a specific word or
phrase usage (or misuse) in a newspaper quote that I've usually
added the italics for convenience & dispensed with the
customary emphasis added as tedious & unnecessary in context.

   
E-mails I've already exchanged with some of the offenders are
on view.  Sometimes, links to other worthwhile sources will be
promoted.  Since this page is projected to go online sometime in
May 2005, it is obvious that earlier observations are for testing
purposes & to get the feel for writing them.  Feedback is
welcome, & comments will be published on the page provided --
edited by myself (fairly, I hope) with no guarantee everything
will be printed.  The comment process is just difficult enough that
I don't expect to deal with a lot  of remarks, but all corrections &
insults will be duly considered, deserved or not.  Let the
flogging . . . ah, blogging, begin!
                                    --Mike Zetteler

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     Mike Zetteler
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