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Sun. March 5, 2006  
   2003 -- US:  Hundreds of "Books Not Bombs" student
    protests nation-wide against Bush's planned war against Iraq.
    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/05/19/lies/
  
   --The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon X:  Cartoons Provoke Führers . . . um,
Furors
    
Since this periodic sermon has no truck with
fundamentalists of any stripe, the publication of 12
cartoons so offensive to Muslims they set off extensive
rioting & killing of course provoked me to see what all
the fuss was about.  I could only hope to piss off
Christians
that much, as opposed to the "get a life"-type
comments I usually garner.  I honestly would not have
predicted the cowardice & hypocrisy most outlets
resorted to in covering the controversy while avoiding a
look at the actual cartoons.  Even given the common
tip-toeing around religious dissent in the American press.
     And while Googling the subject produced endless
pages of discussion -- pro & con -- about the 'toons, it
actually was rare to find the illustrations, tho almost
everyone said something to the effect that, of course,
reprinting them wasn't necessary since they were readily
available on the Internet.  Not so, especially in the
beginning of the uproar (as we shall see), so I then had a
mission to provide a link to them for those who are
interested but not to the point of making much of a search
themselves. 
     I didn't want just little thumbnails, either.  So
here they
are. 
     And I found the debate over re-publishing the cartoons
to be more relevant to our society & its allegedly free
press than the endless rehashing of why the cartoon are
offensive to Muslims in the first place, & why they
shouldn't be, or at least should be considered none of
their business if appearing in the European, secular
press.  Or the American, which turns out to be just as
squeamish.
        One of the few sites to print 6 of the 12 cartoons
was the Daily Illini of the University of Chicago at
Urbana-Champaign, Ill.  I found that site thru a Blog,
The Next Frontier, which apparently has a connection
with students at The Daily Illini.  That was one day ago
as of this writing, & the links to
The Next Frontier [http://thenextfrontier.net] are now dead, tho they are
cached in Google.  The original publication of Feb. 9
now appears on the Illini Web site without the drawings,
presumably reflecting the controversy that resulted for
the independent newspaper.  From the
New Frontier Blog,
here is part of the entry covering that original publication,
followed by a few comments that appeared there with
many more:

  
Running alongside the cartoons is the following Editor’s
   Note
from The Daily Illini Editor-in-Chief, Acton Gorton:


   To the right [in the original] you’ll see a series of cartoons
   about the Islamic prophet Muhammad that have fueled a
   firestorm of debate allDog Mounts Praying Muslim over the world.

   These cartoons [sample
    at right]
are bigoted
   and insensitive to the
   Islamic faith because
   they are depictions of
   the prophet Muhammad.
   In much of the Muslim
 
faith, there is an absolute
   ban on drawing or
   portraying religious
   figures. I agree they are
   bigoted and insensitive, as do many others.  However, this
   serious controversy has not been addressed by the press.
   By refusing to run the cartoons, Americans have no idea
   how “offensive” they are. The ensuing death threats, riots,
   murders and laying siege to embassies, leave most of us
   confused and appalled

   Recently, the U.S. State Department criticized the editorial
   cartoons, originally published in the Danish
Jyllands-Posten.
   A student newspaper in Wales had all of their papers
   confiscated after they published the cartoons.  Editors have
   resigned from the
New York Press after the cartoons were
   pulled from the press at the 11th hour. Only one of the major
   newspapers in this country has run an example of the
   cartoons.

   All across this nation, editors are gripped in fear of
   printing … for fear of the reaction.  As a journalist, this flies
   in the face of everything I hold dear.  By refusing to print
   these editorial cartoons, we are preventing an important
   issue from being debated openly by the public.

   If anything, journalists all over this country should be letting
   the public decide for themselves what to think of these
   cartoons.

   As an editor of a college newspaper, I cannot claim to be
   a champion for free speech and at the same time restrict it
   from running its course. My gut has been turning for days
   questioning how to address this issue. It is only proper that
   you, the public, are allowed to think for yourselves.

   Within the coming days, I hope to promote a dialogue on
   the campus and in the community as to how people feel
   about this issue. I encourage everyone to write a letter to
   the editor and let us know what you think.

    
Lots of discussion followed on the blog, including
these:


   Harald Says: February 10th, 2006: Thank you for publishing
   these cartoons, now people can make an informed decision
   about the whole row.  No major newspapers in Norway,
   where I come from, dares to publish the cartoons for fear
   of reprisals. 
Jyllands-Posten proved their point, there is no
   longer any freedom of expression concerning criticism of
   Islam in Scandinavia.

   February 10th, 2006:
   As an Illinois taxpayer, I salute you.  But as Yehudit said,
   stop apologizing for the “offensiveness” of the cartoons.

  
Unfortunately, US press accounts of L’Affair Cartoon have
   perpetuated the myth that
Jyllens-Posten printed grossly
   offensive images completely out of the blue, for no reason
   other than racism and to provoke Muslims.  Even in opinion
   pieces that support the right of
JP and other papers to
   publish the images, there is an annoying tendency to
   “balance” it with a sanctimonious denouncement of the
   images.

   You simply cannot understand the cartoons without
   understanding the REAL backstory:

   Last year a Danish author wrote a reverent children’s book
   about young Mohammed, intended to appeal to the large
   and growing population of Muslim children in Danish
   schools. The author became frustrated after being unable
   to locate an artist (Muslim or not) willing to illustrate the
   book in the wake of the Theo Van Gogh assassination.
   The
Jyllens-Posten asked 12 political cartoonists to
   comment on the matter, and the rest is history.

   One glance at these images, and it’s clear to anyone
   outside the PC fever swamps of academe and journalism
   that there is scarcely anything offensive about them.  Hell,
   some of the cartoons don’t even try to depict Mohammed
  
-- note the one depicting a sweating illustrator and the
   bulb-head guy, a caricature of a Dane involved in the
   back story. . . .

     As I indicated, the story didn't stop with that
publication, & the next development can be found in the
University of Chicago paper:


       Daily Illini editors suspended after
        publishing Danish cartoons


     Two editors at the University of Illinois at
   Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
Daily Illini student newspaper
   have been suspended after “breaking ranks” to republish
   the controversial
Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons,
   without the knowledge of the editorial board, in the
   February 9 edition of the paper, according to a press
   release from the paper.

      Travis Kavulla, editor of the biweekly conservative
   journal
Harvard Salient, also decided to reprint four of the
   cartoons. “No one had seen [the cartoons],” Kavulla said.
   “People didn’t have a good sense of what Muhammad was
   depicted as. They had somehow had the assumption that
   these cartoons were more vile.”  Kavulla reprinted the
   cartoons with not only an accompanying editorial, but also
   two “truly vile” anti-Semitic cartoons from Islamic
   newspapers, one of which depicts Jews, marked with the
   Star of David, running children through a paper mill and
   then drinking their blood, he said.  He said his intentions
   were to “make the contrast really obvious” between
   reactions to cartoons offensive to Muslims and to other
   races. “There’s a special culture of sensitivity surrounding
   the culture of Islam,” he added.  “I think it has to do with the
   inability of Muslims to cope with these imageries.”

    
Like all furors (& Führers), this one has a natural life & seems
to be running down, as noted by -- closer to home -- the
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's Fourth Estate student
newspaper Feb. 23 issue, which also sanctimoniously defended the
right to print cartoons critical of Islam but wimped out because
of "respect to the traditions of the Muslim religion" tho it will
also "continue to uphold the freedom of speech and advocate
knowledge of world events."  This waffle was finessed with another
link (in case the one above vanishes) to the cartoons at the
Mohammed Image Archive -- an  archive that includes discussion
of phony cartoons that may have been the real source of much
Muslim anger -- including a Muslim being humped by a dog while
in the prayer position.  Caption [in Arabic]: 
This is Why
Muslims Pray

               Censored Muslim Prayer
     Almost as offensive as the vile depictions of the Christian God
in . . . the Bible, about whose followers Robert Ingersoll writes 

     
They forget its ignorance and savagery, its hatred of liberty, its
   religious persecution; they remember heaven, but they forget the
   dungeon of eternal pain.  They forget that it imprisons the brain
   and corrupts the heart.  They forget that it is the enemy of
   intellectual freedom. . . .


    
Strangely, Christians don't riot -- not against the god whom
this book describes (& who is said to have caused it to be written)
nor against what by any lights should be considered a libelous &
insulting description of a merciful, understanding & just deity.
Apparently, Christians are resourceful enough to defame their own
religious appurtenances, & like it.
                  
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        
z-guide

Sat. Feb. 25, 2006  
   1968 -- Discussing the war capacity of North Vietnam, a
     country that had been fighting for 23 years & had just staged
      the massive Tet Offensive, Beloved & Respected Comrade
      US General William C. Westmoreland, master of history
      & grand prognosticator,
declares:
      "I do not believe Hanoi can hold up under a long war."

       --The Daily Bleed

     It's nice that someone at the Journal Sentinel has a
rudimentary sense of proper English usage, though it
doesn't extend to the notoriously weak copy desk. 
Joanne Weintraub
, for example, a fine TV critic
(meaning we often agree) takes some reality shows to
task for common errors, such as contestants (or their
writers) allowing such usages as, "He told Michelle and
I a secret,"  or, "This is the most unique challenge we've
ever had on this show [Dec. 29, 2005].  I might even take
a contrary position, & argue that some things can be more
unique than others as regarding the degree by which they
stand out as different from similar tasks, but she gets
credit for awareness, & goes on to list other amusing
examples of TV-speak, such as subject-free weather
forecasts:  "Turning cooler tonight but warming up
tomorrow."  What exactly is turning cooler?  Or "weekly
basis
" for "every week."  Not incorrect, but pretentious.
And "incredulous" for "incredible," "suspect" for
"suspicious," "paramount" for "tantamount," &
"'
penultimate'" when you mean ultimate."  (Even Gore
Vidal
& William F. Buckley argued over that one; I
forget which one was caught using "penultimate" --
meaning next-to-last -- incorrectly.)  For instruction
about the above examples, she suggests, "You could
look it up."  And should.  (I couldn't
Google a quick
answer to the penultimate question, tho I think it
was in a Buckley newspaper column.  Vidal (Al Gore's
cousin) however, appears to have misused "
begs the
question
" for "raises the question." a pet peeve of this
Z-Blog.
     But these are not errors that JS writers are prone to
make, at least as far as I have noticed.  In that vein, I was
slightly encouraged that a non-bylined sports story of
Feb. 11 said that "Andy Roddick grew nauseated and
lost his match . . . ."  But I have to point out that in sports
writing, one of the most common errors is never to name
the game being discussed, as is the unfortunate case with
that item -- tho "match," "sets" & "singles" would be a
clue to some.  But that's not sufficient.  In any case,
nauseous is so often used when nauseated is called for
that it is encouraging that someone was on the (tennis)
ball that time.
     If I don't take any credit for that, I do think that JS
architectural expert Whitney Gould took to heart an
e-mail discussion we had when I
criticized her phrase
about a   

      Review Board member's description of the house
       that "Everyone hated."  To quote:
       "A Jiffy Lube," one sniffed.


    
As I told her,

        
As the New Yorker magazine might have once put it, I doubt those
      are words that ever got sniffed.  They could have been shouted,
      or whispered or croaked or simply said.  But -- and this is a common
      annoyance with me -- they could not have been smiled, sneered or
      laughed, for example.  If you think otherwise, when you have a
      private moment try to sniff them.  Let me know how it sounds, if
      you would.


    
She doggedly argued the point, with (suspect) examples from
literature, but I simply suggested that a better phrasing might be,
for example, to say that someone said "blah, blah, laughing" or
 "and  laughed" rather than have him laughing something.  And in
a Feb. 17 article about Riverwest activist Vince Bushell's
comments on the proposed Kilbourn Reservoir Park, she
quotes him:  "When we started on this thing, I didn't have any gray
hair," he says, laughing."   
     In the past, reporters such as
Crocker Stephenson have actually
written back to agree with a point I made; in his case, that enormity
really means great evil, not something merely immense.
     So perhaps there is hope -- at least when individual reporters are
contacted, tho I have no reason to think the notoriously weak copy
desk is paying any attention.  (Of course, since I rely on a free Web
host for now, I haven't publicized this journal to them, only certain
writers.  Too much traffic gets it shut down for a while.)   As
evidence of this lack of effect I have in my hand (literally) stories
to save for another column,  repeating flubs for aggravated,
oxymoronic & -- a willful abomination --
Ugly American as a
disparaging description, when that term was coined by author
Eugene Burdick to describe a sympathetic character in the
eponymous novel.  You could look it up, laughing or not.

              
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        
z-guide
Sun. Feb. 19, 2006 
     1807 -- Vice President Aaron Burr arrested in Alabama
        for  treason; later found
innocent.
          
--The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon IX:  Presidential Piety
    
Monday is President's Day, expanded from homage to
Washington & Lincoln to cover them all.  Real info on
the religious practices (or lack of them) of modern-day
presidents is in short supply, since -- like all politicians
-- they have learned to present a conventional exterior to
get elected.  But some
bare facts -- including the
surprising (to some) number of the Founding Fathers &
early presidents who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ
(that is, they were deists) -- are available, & other
aspects of their faith or lack of it can be surmised.  

      
For the curious, passing over, for the moment,
historical references to presidential piety or lack of it,
George W. Bush's beliefs are dissected & found lacking
from a conventional -- if liberal -- theological point of
view by Andrew R. Murphy, Assistant Professor of
Humanities & Political Philosophy in Christ College, the
honors college of Valparaiso University:

     
Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting prisoners
    are, however,  precisely the sort of tasks that the president
    continues to reject as budgetary priorities, ranking them, in terms
    of governmental commitment, far below tax cuts for the wealthy,
    militarization of global politics, reliance on foreign fossil fuels,
    and draining Social Security coffers. . . .


    
Back to earlier presidents, it is worth noting that Unitarians
(4) are much over-represented; one can speculate that they were
only nominally religious but knew they had to profess something
to be electable.  Another, the  largest group in absolute numbers,
is the religion of the WASP, Episcopalian (11).  It has always
been the religion of the ruling class.  Still, it is also important to
recognize that many of the first 6, tho Episcopalian or Unitarian,
are also counted as deists:
       
     1)   George Washington: Episcopalian (Deist)
     2)  John Adams: Congregationalist (raised); Unitarian
     3)  Thomas Jefferson: raised Episcopalian; later no specific
          denomination; held Christian, Deist, Unitarian beliefs
     4)  James Madison: Episcopalian (deist?)
     5)  James Monroe: Episcopalian (deist?)
     6)  John Quincy Adams: Unitarian

     And Jefferson, Lincoln & Andrew Johnson had no
affiliations, despite the tendency of presidents today to pander by
at least pretending to some denomination & the public's penchant
for reading every presidential utterance as a sign of the favored
pol's staunch Christianity, whenever possible.  Similarly, the
U.S. is often -- overbearingly by some -- touted as a Christian
nation.
     But the significance of deism -- which, of course, was not an
organized denomination but a philosophical viewpoint -- was that
it denied the divinity of Christ.  Tom Paine's
Age of Reason is
probably the best known example of that view of the universe as
a sort of machine set in motion by a creator & then left alone to
run according to laws of nature.  Thus, the Bible (as  revealed
religion) was (& is) also considered a fanciful creation of
mythologists:

      Historical and modern Deism is defined by the view that reason,
   rather than revelation or tradition, should be the basis of belief in
   God.  Deists reject both organized and revealed religion and
   maintain that reason is the essential element in all knowledge.
   

          The case of Lincoln is complicated.  Robert Ingersoll
observed that

       Great pains have been taken to show that Mr. Lincoln believed in,
    and worshiped the one true God.  This by many is held to have been
    his greatest virtue, the foundation of his character, and yet, the God
    he worshiped, the God to whom he prayed, allowed him to be
    assassinated.
      Is it possible that God will not protect his friends?

     On the other hand, tho many religionists have claimed
 Lincoln as one of their own, other biographers have accumulated
 much evidence to the contrary, such as this
letter from Deism.org:
    
      "My earlier views of the unsoundness of the
   Christian scheme of salvation and the human
   origin of the scriptures have become clearer
   and stronger with advancing years, and I see
   no reason for thinking I shall ever change
   them." Lincoln in a letter to Judge
   J.S. Wakefield
, after the death of Willie Lincoln.

         
But tho all this veneration of the founders is traditional,
it should be remembered that Milwaukee was the scene of a
movement to memorialize the anarchist assassin of President
William McKinley
.  The story is too old to easily document
on any Web sites I know of (except
mine), but here it is, briefly:
     In the early 70s, local youth were gathering at the lakefront for
free concerts by local bands.  With some confusion as to the best
spot, authorities pushed a substitute for the popular location,
which became known as the Alternate Site.  It was under the bluff
near Woodstock Avenue, but also on the inland side of Lincoln
Memorial Drive across from McKin
ley Beach.  Local Yippees
& other activists thought it patronizing that some in the power
structure wanted to call it
Woodstock Park, after the famous
festival of the previous year in New York.  Instead, they suggested
Czolgosz Park, after the assassin of President William
McKinley
in 1901.
     As an anarchist (tho perhaps insane), Leon Czolgosz
sympathized with those who saw that

     
Industrialization spawned great fortunes, but it also created a
   massive class of low-paid workers.  In the 1880s
and 1900s workers
   launched a series of violent strikes and a radical labor movement
   emerged. 
McKinley was anything but neutral during these conflicts,
   and his firm alliance with bankers and industrialists generated
   enemies.  The cartoonist Homer Davenport drew McKinley as a
   marionette being manipulated by men who wore dollar signs on
   their suits.  [from In These Times]

 

     McKinley, by the way, like George W. Bush, was a
Methodist in his 2nd term who had an avid hunter for a
vice-president (Theodore Roosevelt).  He also

  
believed the U.S. government had a duty to help spread Christianity
   and Western civilization to the rest of the world.

    
The historical parallels seem to stop there, so far.  TR refused
to shoot a treed bear, while Cheney bagged a lawyer.  The first
person to send in a plausible punch line for this setup will win . . . 
all the publicity this site can supply, but don't let the Secret
Service
hear you speculate about a possible Czolgosz emulator.
                 
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        
z-guide 
Tue. Feb. 14, 2006 
    1921 -- US: In New York, Jane Heap & Margaret Anderson
      face obscenity charges for publishing a portion of James Joyce's
     
Ulysses in the Little Review.  They got fined $50.
      --The Daily Bleed
 
Image hosting by Photobucket

Tuesday Special:  Sunday Sermon VIII For Lonely Hearts
     The confusion over Valentine's Day -- Does it honor
a Christian Saint
?  Is it a decadent Pagan ritual? --
warrants a special
Sunday Sermon, although Feb. 14th
falls on a Tuesday this year.  But for the loveless,
especially the 42.4 % of "never-married
African-American women" [Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel
, Feb. 2, 2006] there is hope here for some
secular action. 
     The
About.com Atheism Page says in Valentine's Day:
Pagan or Christian Holiday? Pagan Origins of Valentine's
Day
that

   . . .
we don’t find a strong relationship between
   Christian saints and romance.  There is a lot of debate
   and disagreement among scholars about the origins
   of Valentine’s Day.  We’ll never be able to disentangle
   all of the cultural and religious threads in order to
   reconstruct a complete and coherent story, but the
   pagan connections to the date are much stronger
   than the Christian ones.

    
From the Romans' Lupercalia [honoring Faunus, god
of fertility] to several St. Valentines, it has reached the
point where

     
Valentine’s Day is no longer part of the official
   liturgical calendar of any Christian church; it was
   dropped from the Catholic calendar in 1969.  It’s not
   a feast, a celebration, or a memorial of any martyrs. 
   A return to more pagan-like celebrations of February
   14th is not surprising — and neither is the overall
   commercialization of the day. Millions of people all
   over the world celebrate Valentine’s Day in one
   fashion or another, but it’s unlikely that even one of
   them celebrates it in an even remotely religious
   manner.

    
But celebrate we do, and the romantic comedy film
"Something New" suggests a large number of black
women would like to have someone to buy them
chocolates & flowers, as an article from the Sacramento
Bee
by Dixie Reid in the Milwaukee JS [Feb. 2, 2006]
reports.  She says the film asks, "Do you step outside
your race to find love," and tells the love story of a
"smart, gorgeous and irresistible" black Los Angeles
accountant, Kenya Queen, who resists but falls in love
with a white landscape architect hired "to resurrect the
backyard at her new house"  -- until a "dream guy"
played by black actor Blair Underwood comes along.
What to do?
     There are far worse problems she could have, of
course;  the movie was prompted by all those
"well-educated and successful" women and the
"declining number of African-American men they might
find suitable to marry" -- a number that "has doubled
since 1950."
     As a divorced white man over 65, my experience with
interracial dating has been limited to almost none, as one
might expect in this culture.  I have written about
attending Milwaukee's North Division High School in
the late '50s, where the races effectively segregated
themselves except for a few white & black nerds -- the
kind who took part in student government & such. 
     Whether any romancing went on at that level I have no
idea, but we greasers & hoods didn't even talk about it. 
Race separation -- & the school was about 50-50 -- was
an attitude absorbed by stepping thru the door, & it at
least kept the peace so that we weren't aware of even
anything beyond minor prejudices toward the unfamiliar.
The jocks -- & my friends weren't any of those except for
one who became a professional bowler -- probably had
their mixed-race friendships, but if there were any
interracial scandals (as they would probably have been
considered by white & black parents) they didn't surface. 
     That was the time of some sort of school dance where
a colored girl (the term generally used then) asked me to
dance, someone I had noticed in class as thin & intense,
not especially light but attractive, with straightened hair
(I wasn't that oblivious, & a girl of any color in a tight
sweater would get my sidelong attention).  I panicked,
immediately frozen because I could never have made a
first move -- & automatically turned her down.  Later I
admitted to myself I was interested, but I had enough
trouble negotiating dating & sex with white girls.  That
was that, tho I continued to check her out from afar.
     College brought my only other opportunity.  One
young, bourgeois black woman (the daughter of a sheriff's
deputy) was somewhat the darling of our group of white
boys -- men? -- whom she dated exclusively, tho she said
she had been singer Al Jarreau's girlfriend early on, & I
had no reason to doubt her.  She wasn't beautiful, but she
was skillful in applying makeup.  She managed my
apartment building, & once when I was in her room she
was getting ready for an evening & observed, "I have no
natural beauty," & she was right, tho I had never noticed.
     She had been bedding these students serially of
course, as college girls did even in the early & middle
60s, but the competition was stiff, so to speak, & tho we
occasionally had drinks together & ended up with me
giving her rides, I was too crude for her (she said), &
we never even kissed -- tho I tried.  I suppose picking her
up in my Olds Rocket 88 convertible during daylight
while drinking from a 6-pak turned her off, tho it was just
part of my beatnik phase, complete with shades & army
jacket.
     She was working at a psychiatric hospital while a
student, & did indeed marry a white teacher, so I suppose
she was the precursor of the talented, attractive -- or
perhaps just ordinary -- black women asking, as the
article says:  "Do you step outside your race to find
love?" 
     But tho as a student & later I went to black jazz clubs
& even had a phase just out of high school when I went to
black bars in the core just because it was cool, she was
my only brush with what I thought of as exotic (except an
adopted Korean student I had a few dates with).  After
the riot of '67, by which time I was single again, I
became more circumspect in my haunts, as a lot of white
people did.  I was mainly cautious about setting off the
rare mean drunk who was irritated with my mere
existence.  The few jazz bars I frequented were mostly
white, except for the musicians, as were all the other
places where I was a regular.
     So things stayed that way, but as I aged into my 40s --
still single & looking, as they say -- I noticed several
things.  Every time a relationship ended & I dipped back
into the pool of females I became, it seemed, more &
more invisible.  It was a good 20 year run, but it was
odd:  the JS's By The Numbers  column of
Feb. 13, 2006 reports that there are "120 . . . single men
in their 20s for every 100 women in that same age group
in the U.S."  At the same time, there are "33 . . . single,
widowed and divorced men age 65 or older for every
100" comparable women.  Obviously, these would make
crossing lines on a graph, so at some point the men
should start to be in short supply -- & sought after.  But
as I found out, it's the young men who make out even tho
older white & black women are increasingly alone.  Yet
the men are supposedly there & skewing the ratio to their
advantage more & more as they die off.  But even my own
small circle of friends includes about 6 self-supporting
single men (several are divorced) living on the East Side
within staggering distance of a bar who would be more
than eager to meet an affectionate woman over 40 -- not
that they are alcoholics, you understand, just bored.
     And in the black population, men are said to be
unavailable also because of murder, unemployment,
drugs, & incarceration.  In Wisconsin, 47% of prison
inmates are African-American, according to a new
sentencing report, says the Milwaukee JS [2/20/06].
     But the marriage statistics don't surprise me, if the
customer base of the (white) neighborhood bar is
considered.  Any given night, but especially during the
week, guys of all ages are stopping in, while a woman
over 35 is rare indeed.  Except for the occasional
40-year-old waitress or nurse coming off 2nd. shift, their
numbers dwindle rapidly for the over-30s.  I suspect one
reason is that even if divorced they get the house & the
kids & remain in the suburbs; or they have a support
group of married friends & church or club members -- or
leave the marriage only when they have something else
lined up.  (When I was a social worker, a divorce court
commissioner told me that was her finding).  For
whatever reason, they feel conspicuous -- & they are --
drinking alone.
     The guys have no such problem.  For many, the bar is
& remains a second home, or at least the traditional stop
after work.  And of course, from betting pools to bar
dice to sports on TV, tavern life is the poor man's club.
So most any predominantly white corner tap will have 5
or 10 or more regulars any given night, often single. 
Sometimes the gray-haired crowd prevails, yet the male
to female ratio is 20 to one.  On the East Side -- such as
at Jamo's or Circa or
Regano's, all unpretentious &
without any live music -- this even has a name:  Sunday,
especially, is "swingin' dick night." 
     My point on this Valentine's Day, ladies, is: Go back
to your old watering holes or try some new
neighborhood
bars.  The men never left.  But especially
the abandoned black women -- they may dress up in their
finest & go out in groups to the inner city bars & clubs.
or Downtown after office hours in clusters, but the
single white men are lonely & congregating where they
always do, even if you can't afford to hire a landscaper.
(I did know one landscaper at OBG's; he stayed single
for a long time, but died of lung cancer, something I
attribute to all the chemicals he was spreading on
lawns.  Maybe there is better husband material).  All
women: Forget crowded but pretentious so-called singles
bars like Victor's & Elsa's if you're looking for a sure
thing (pubs like Wolski's & the Nomad are fun but
overcrowded).  Unfortunately the changeover at Jamo's
brought with it a sound system often played loud enough
to make conversation -- & getting laid -- nearly
impossible for those older males who have to rely on
sounding interesting, tho body language works just fine
for the younger crowd.  However,
Circa has a nice
satellite radio system & bartenders who generally play
eclectic & tasty music.
     I have observed that the few black women who do
wander in are treated with as much respect as anybody,
or more, & sometimes do become regulars.  Before
OBG's
became Jamo's, I grew friendly with one black
woman who came in nights alone all the time;  she was
then working in a bank, but was also a poet whose
self-published book I bought & enjoyed.  There were no
mutual sparks, but we e-mailed each other over the years
until Jamo took over & lots of the old-timers gave way to
a younger crowd.  I understand she's working at a
college, now.  But she had no trouble attracting male
attention, & I've observed a few others gain the instant
popularity -- & free drinks -- accorded any even
somewhat pleasant-looking, unattached female -- tho as I
grow older fewer & fewer women of any race take
notice of me.  As the film has it, interracial dating
is not for everyone (& I don't know the twists of the plot),
but it's my suggestion to counter the widely-reported
dearth of black men. 
     At the very least they might make some white female
friends -- or get even with them for competing for their
scarce black men, a
hot issue in the black community,
according to the authors of
Divided SistersNow, I can't
guarantee marriage or a lasting romance, but that's not
necessarily the point, is it?  When the

     
Romans celebrated a holiday on February 14th to
   honor Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and
   goddesses . . . .  In one ritual, women would submit
   their names to a common box and men would each
   draw one out.  These two would be a couple for the
   duration of the festival (and at times for the entire
   following year)
.

     Sometimes the old traditions are the best, honored in
our own way.
              
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        
z-guide 
Sun. Feb. 12, 2006  

   1831 -- US:  Nat Turner's plot to revolt in Virginia
    begins with divine signal -- solar eclipse.  See also
    November 11.
       http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3p1518.html

    --The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon VII:  Vonnegut, God, Pazz & Jop

     Several years ago there was an alleged
Commencement Day address going around that was
supposed to have been given by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
As was later learned, the speech -- among other
things, advising the liberal
use of sunblock -- was a
hoax, & had been a Chicago Tribune column by one
Mary Smich.  I mention this because I recently
received a link to the Sunday Herald of Scotland
(of all places) featuring an excerpt titled
Vonnegut's
Blues for America
(Sunday, February 5, 2006)
from
Vonnegut's new book, published as
  <
A Man Without A Country: A Memoir Of Life In
    George W Bush’s America
>:

  
. . . But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of
   America becoming humane and reasonable.  Because
   power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts us
   absolutely.  Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy
   drunk on power.  By saying that our leaders are
   power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking
   the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the
   Middle East?  Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies,
   is already shot to pieces.  They are being treated, as I
   never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas. . . .

  
http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0205-29.htm

     I had to check whether this article at the progressive
Common Dreams News Center was another hoax (why
Scotland?) but it is genuine & furthermore makes a
dandy Sunday Sermon.  But I also had to put on notice
the other recipients on the mailing list that the epitaph
the excerpt begins with is contrary to everything
Vonnegut
has said about religion & -- to my
knowledge -- has never disavowed.
     It reads:
        If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

        THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
        FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
        WAS MUSIC

      I pointed out that

  
This honorary president of the Humanist Association
   since 1992 had once written:

   Interviewer: Did the study of anthropology later color
   your writings?
   Vonnegut: It confirmed my atheism, which was the faith
   of my fathers anyway.  Religions were exhibited and
   studied as the Rube Goldberg inventions I'd always
   thought they were.
        --Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., self-interview

  
[See http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/
           quote-v.htm
for more quotes.]
   See Google for his bio.

    
Vonnegut also appears on the list of Celebrity
Atheists
at
     <
http://www.celebatheists.com/w/
       index.php?title=Main_Page>.

    
I admire & respect Vonnegut, tho some of his recent
stuff has seemed rather mechanical & dispirited (no pun
intended).  So I looked carefully to see if the epitaph
was intended as a spoof of religious foolishness. 
It doesn't seem to be, & is followed by an appreciation
of several types of music.  Still, it is so fatuous that if I
don't take it ironically I have to at least make several
points to maintain my own atheistic integrity.  First, it
is of a kind of gee-whiz theism that can look at
(or hear) with wonder almost any manifestation of the
universe & proclaim it such a moving experience that
it must have a connection with God.  From sunsets to
newborn babies to the crashing expanse of the vast
oceans, everything -- it seems -- is inspiring to
someone.  Oddly, the other side of the ledger is
ignored or is not relevant.  Horrible infants' diseases,
the torturing of true believers & the existence of the
most cruel of parasites & natural disasters alike are
simply ignored or not relevant or simply inscrutable
(or maybe some sort of test) -- certainly not evidence
of God's indifference or even malignity.  Which makes
the God business a pretty good bet as a line of work --
all of the credit & none of the blame.   But it would be
an unconceivable world if no natural works of geology
or biology (such as Kitten Natividad) were considered
remarkable  -- & atheists are as susceptible as anybody
to beauty.
     But since products of human artistry, at least, are
judged by the humankind that can produce them, it
shouldn't be surprising that the results are pleasing.  Why
else would they exist, & why shouldn't some of the
results be more enjoyable than others?  They exist on a
spectrum, after all -- a scale of excellence -- but it is
hard to see in the range from a pleasing ditty (surely not
a divinely inspired undertaking ) to a soaring aria where
the hand of the divine takes over.  Is a moderately catchy
pop song as inspirational -- say, to a Kurt Vonnegut --
as the "Ode to Joy?" Are both proofs of the existence
of God?  Then my abysmal croaking is too; & while
some might claim this is indeed the case -- everything
under the heavens is proof of God's creation -- it makes
hash of any special claim for music.
     But more important, tho music may be miraculous to
some, the most miraculous of events are so-called
miracles themselves.  And while I can't find much
discussion on this argument for the Existence of God
On Aesthetic Grounds
, there is a lot for His existence
on the basis of  miracles.  But since KV seems to be
saying that human skills alone don't explain the wonders
of music, then God must be the author.  In other words,
music is miraculous -- at least in its more sublime
manifestations, whether a heart-rending blues or a
momentous Wagner chorale.  But, as I say, there is
plenty of discussion of miracles, some of which I've
covered in this journal for
Sun. Jan. 1, 2006 in
Sunday Sermon I:  Does God Hate Amputees?
-- to the
effect that miracles are delusions & thoroughly
debunked by at least one lengthy source referred to
there.  It follows that KV's attribution of music's
powerful effect is also a delusion.
     More telling than that, to my thinking, is the feeling of
some musicians themselves about their art.  For a look at
that there is the contribution of 
Madalyn Murray
O'Hair
to the
American Atheists page on
Atheist Musicians:

       
Well — I studied music for a long time — and was
   something of a pianist, continuing with piano all the
   years I was in college.  I took courses in music
   history and music appreciation, and in music theory,
   and in the study of all of these greats as I had to learn
   to play their compositions.  Imagine!  All that time, it
   was never even whispered to me that they were
   Atheists.  In all that time I thought I was the only
   Atheist in the world and I was trying to find anyone
   who had ever expressed anything about Atheism, and
   sometimes when I would play the piano for long hours,
   feeling alone with my ideas, I was playing the
   compositions of Atheists, of Beethoven, Berlioz, Bizet,
   Brahms, Debussy, Mozart, Paganini, Shubert,
   Schumann, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner.  I
   wasn't alone at all. . . . .

     Yes, she does go on to document her case that those
musical stars were all atheists of one kind or another --
Beethoven
is said to have
"adopted Goethe's Pantheism"
for example, as did Schumann, while Bizet & Debussy
were captivated by
PaganismWagner abandoned
Christianity for
mysticism, according to music critics. 
     Tho many of them composed church music, it was
done for patrons, O'Hair writes, & they expressed their
freethought convictions in other compositions, as
Richard Strauss did in
Also Sprach Zarathustra &Till
Eulenspiegel's
Lustige Streiche

    
She writes that one of the reasons for this ignorance
on our part is that

  
just a hundred years ago it was extraordinarily difficult
   to avoid being classified as some kind of theist or deist
   and no works could be accomplished if one's true
   beliefs were known.


    
So one can admire Strauss & Mozart -- Vonnegut
does -- as well as

    . . .
jazz, swing, be-bop, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the
   Stones, rock-and-roll, hip-hop, and on and on – [all]
   derived from the blues

while recognizing that a burst of sublime emotion in
the presence of art does not betray one as an
unadmitted dupe of religion.  After all, even O'Hair
reports that

  
I suppose that I love music, of all kinds, at any time, at
   any sound level, more than most people do.  But I find
   that this love of music is shared by all of the Atheists
   I meet constantly everywhere I go.


    
So enjoy.  I know I do.
                [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                          
z-guide 

Fri. Feb. 10, 2006   

  1912 -- US: Emma Goldman's annual lecture tour begins in
  Ohio
, February 10-18; speaks in Cleveland, Lorain, Elyria,
   Columbus, & Dayton; topics include
"Anarchism, the Moving
  Spirit in the Labor Struggle"
& "Maternity," a Drama by
  Eugene Brieux
("Why the Poor Should Not Have Children").
  
Source: 'Emma Goldman Papers'
  --The Daily Bleed

     My examples of products from the Journal Sentinel's
notoriously weak copy desk's are from a pile of them
saved in my office -- until the stack gets so big
I feel I have to catch up.  Some of the more creative
missteps on the part of reporters that get by the copy desk
are kind of fun to deal with, I have to admit, but many are
just boring common errors and repeats besides.  But,
looking for a quick blog entry on this weekend, I noticed
the pile had dwindled to almost none.  A sign of higher
standards? 
     Actually, no;  today's paper brings 2 items that,
unfortunately, are still common repeats already dealt
with -- but they make this task as easy as ever. 
     A movie review by Paul Doro -- a freelancer --
says of
National Lampoon's Pucked that it "begs the
question
. . . why anyone thought it was a good idea to
make it in the first place."  Needless to say (I thought)
begging the question is a term from logic with a specific
meaning.  That is, to assume the truth of a proposition
that one is defending by invoking that proposition.  In
other words, a circular argument.  Of course, what is
meant here is prompts or raises the question.    
     In the same issue, the Spice Brothers' (Spivak &
Bice) column twice uses invite as a noun to mean
invitation.  Now, the column often attempts to be folksy,
but nothing is gained here in a straightforward discussion
of an
invitation to a judicial candidate's fund-raiser.  It
just comes off as iggorant.
             
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        
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Sun. Feb. 5, 2006  

    1973 -- Funeral for LC William Nolde, last US
     soldier killed in Vietnam War.


     2003 -- UN: US Secretary of State Colin Powell
     presents US "evidence" against Iraq to the UN Security
     Council, without a "smoking gun"; some pieces of
     evidence turn out to be fabricated, most of it a
    
pack of lies.
    
--The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon VI:  The Arrogance of Ignorance
     A gentle wish for peace on earth, which would
certainly be facilitated by an end to ignorance &
superstition, drew the charge of "arrogance" mentioned
in the last
Sunday Sermon.  There, I drew on
evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to counter with
his own experiences of being labeled arrogant for merely
stating what he believes to be correct -- & backed up by
science & logic.
     But I didn't provide any specifics in my case --
thinking, I guess, that any strongly expressed message of
atheism is enough to get the religionists exercised, so
what did it matter?  Besides, the particular exchange
concerning my perceived arrogance involved some
personal history that I thought I best not to go into.
      But Jeanne Ruppert in Fla. was interested enough
to comment:

   . . . Who was it who called you 'arrogant'?  Might
   we see the context of whatever he/she said?  That
   would be the only way to see the point of your
sermon
   of today.  From the article you quoted by Dawkins it's
   easy to see how he would appeal to a rough-em-up sort
   of atheist, as it seems you are.  But I believe people in
   various fields find him arrogant not so much because of
   his atheism or because of his personally abrasive,
   overbearing style, but because of the arrogance of his
   pronouncements on human psychology, consciousness,
   freedom, philosophy, and so forth.  He's a very, very
  
reductive thinker.  See Alas, Poor Darwin, a collection
   of essays by his peers in various disciplines, reviews of,
   and extracts from which, are available at Amazon, at this
   link:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/
      0609605135/104-2443292-6772727?v=glance&n=283155


    
Fair enough.  First, my actual offense was a Xmas
Greeting
, similar to this year's Online Xmas
Card.  I
sent it to my personal mailing list of respondents to items
in this blog, & others, as my Sunday Sermon was not yet
established.  It drew this response from Marcia Smith:

   Your arrogance and self righteousness are overwhelming, Zetteler.
   Get a life.  Peace on earth good will toward men . . . and let it start
   with you!

   Merry Christmas.
   Marcia

    
A mixed message, I would say.  On a personal note,
that somewhat ambivalent sentiment came from a woman
I had lived with for several years on the East Side (some
30 years ago), who had liked to call herself an urban
guerilla & who contributed to feminist activities,
including an
article [as Marcia Drouin] on the
emerging women's role for the Bugle American, an
alternative paper I wrote for.  In short, rational,
progressive & not someone I had any cause to debate
religion with.  If we discussed the second coming, it
had nothing to do with Jesus Christ.  She appears on
the
Zonyx Report Web site in a reprint of that article
on feminism, which even her equally (or more so, now)
liberated daughter linked to on her own Web site.  But
time will work its changes, & as we e-mailed over the
last few years, she reported that she was "more
conservative" & had joined the Congregational Church
in her small, new Wisconsin hometown.  (She also
approvingly quoted the racist, war-loving [at least in his
early career] Conservative
Winston Churchill.  Even tho
he despised Gandhi & called natives "wogs"; favored
force-feeding the English Suffragettes;  respected
Mussolini; & advocated the fire-bombing of Dresden
(& machine-gunning striking coal miners).  Born of the
aristocracy, he earned the title "Butcher of Gallipoli" for
helping engineer one of  his early military disasters;
spoke in favor the use of poison gas in warfare; & was
booted out by the British people after his usefulness as
an icon of the war effort was over.  Still, it comes as a
shock to some that he is more respected today in the US
than in England, so the well-known [tho probably
spurious] quote that she used is not a surprise.  Tho found
in different wordings, it reads, in effect, that 
 
   Any 20 year-old who isn't a liberal doesn't have a
   heart, and any 40 year-old who isn't a conservative
   doesn't have a brain.

    
I spent a lot of time then trying to verify the quote;
most sources deny that he ever said it, tho one with
somewhat the same sentiment turned up (which shouldn't
be surprising).  Even the present
reference says only:
source
(coming soon)
    
Churchill did indeed defect to the Liberals before
returning to the Conservative party, but in England,
Liberals are more akin to what we call Libertarians;
the working-man's party is, of course, Labour.  He
noted that "Anyone can rat [change parties], but it takes
a certain ingenuity to re-rat."
     At any rate, for some of us, a good idea doesn't stop
being a good idea because one is older, & injustice is
injustice at any age.  I recommend the lives of
A. J. Muste (died at 82),
Mother Jones (100),
Eugene Debs (71),
Bertrand Russell (98) &
Milwaukee's own former long-time mayor,
Frank Zeidler, still a live socialist at 93, for starters.

     Anyway, that short Xmas Greeting of
December, 2004
reads:

Season's Greetings, One & All:
Just thought I'd acknowledge the spirit of these Holidays,
however you define them, with a text from one of my
favorite thinkers. I do this not cynically, but with some
sadness for all the remaining ignorance in this, our world
of the 21st Century.  Can I get a Right On!?


     The text I passed along was from Robert Ingersoll:
-------------------------------------------------
The Agnostic Christmas
by Robert G. Ingersoll
The Journal, New York, December 25, 1892.

**************************************************
  AGAIN we celebrate the victory of Light over Darkness, of the God
   of day over the hosts of night.  Again Samson is victorious over
   Delilah, and Hercules triumphs once more over Omphale.  In the
   embrace of Isis, Osiris rises from the dead, and the scowling
   Typhon is defeated once more.  Again Apollo, with unerring aim,
   with his arrow from the quiver of light, destroys the serpent of
   shadow. This is the festival of Thor, of Baldur and
   of Prometheus.  Again Buddha by a miracle escapes from the
   tyrant of Madura, Zoroaster foils the King, Bacchus laughs at the
   rage of Cadmus, and Chrishna eludes the tyrant.

   This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance
   be universal. . . .
******************************************************
    
It goes on, of course, pointing out the Pagan origins of
the holiday as a celebration of the Sun.  Rather benign, I
would say.  I confess I don't understand the Samson &
Delilah reference, tho I researched it for another entry
here.   For more Ingersoll, scroll down the page at
      
http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/
     
robert_ingersoll/agnostic_xmas.html
     I'm happy to report I got a lot of "Right On!"s from
those who e-mailed in return; the only somewhat negative
response, from Phil Wroblewski, was at least good
natured, as the following exchange -- if you can stay with
it -- will show: 

[From Phil:]
And so hoping, let us celebrate the venerable festival
of the Sun.
For He is risen?
You guys don't get holidays . . . you're an
atheist . . . helloooooooo!


[From Mike Z.:]
For holiday, my Webster's lists: 2. a day of freedom from
labor, often one set aside by law to celebrate some event
3. [Chiefly Brit.] a vacation

But of course, you're free to worship that ancient religious
icon, the flying reindeer with the red nose, if you wish. Still, a
mass delusion, no matter how widespread, is still a delusion.
Or, as Freud said, a socially acceptable neurosis. I guess
the Enlightenment is a long time coming to these parts.

[Phil:]
Not this holiday . . . you can’t have it . . .“some event” here
is the birth of Christ.  Although I see that some child was
sent home from the “holiday” party because he was dressed
as Santa.  Santa is now treated as a religious figure in the
schools. . . .


[Mike: ]
And here I thought Santa Claus was another name for Saint
Nicholas
, a deceased bishop.
(Wrong again . . . Santa Claus is the patron saint of the
credit card --Phil)

[Continued:] I think Jews & Muslims, to name 2 groups, can
rightly consider this a religious figure that has no place in the
school (that is, promoted by government), just as someone
might object to a ceremony for an Ayatollah or Buddha.  A
purely social function is another matter, but there are some
lines that must be respected.  Of course, atheists may or may
not object to a lot of these religious trappings as their
conscience or intellect may dictate; it is an aspect of atheism
that it merely means an absence of theism, but has no
precepts dictating how one must deal with others' beliefs. 
Just don't force them on me.  I can enjoy Xmas & its rituals
(& I do) just as you might sit in on a Trobriand Islanders'
ceremony without accepting the magic implied, & no one of
my persuasion is authorized to call me on it.  For a complete
discussion of our holiday activity, see
    
http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml8291.htm
But since religions are always looking for converts, no one
but you would deny me the right to participate in such
holidays for whatever satisfaction it provides.

[Phil:]
And what is this crap about celebrating “light over
darkness. . . ."


[Mike:]
And, the point of my previous mailing, the "event" here is
really the Winter Solstice, recognize it however you will.
Light being a metaphor (to restate the obvious) for the
triumph of reason over superstition & ignorance. . . .


[Phil:]
this in a society where 85% share that same “delusion” about
Christ being God . . . terrible how the majority dominates
and suppresses the minority


[Mike:]
If we have a majority of 85% rightly dominating others
because they amount to only 15%, I seem to remember you
are in the blue-eyed minority in this country & should beware
of the rest of us making you a second-class citizen. I guess
that could never happen, tho.  Oh yeah, there were those
dark-skinned folks we called Negro slaves.  Maybe that's why
Madison wanted us protected against the "tyranny of the
majority."  Interesting that you don't specify whether you
share society's delusion, but since you write of the "event" of
a birth as if it were fact, I assume this means accepting all
the attendant "miracles": virgin conception, a star stopping in
its tracks, an angel annunciating the whole plan, & of course
continuing right on thru miracles & a Resurrection. If so, say
so, that I might add you to my list of complete idiots. If not, &
it is indeed a delusion, why should any of us who live in a
scientifically described world of cause & effect be in thrall to
it?  And no, there is no middle ground. This is a scheme of
sin, salvation, redemption or everlasting torture, not a
cafeteria-style blueprint for morality or mere plan for
exemplary living, by the prophets' own teachings. Reject part
& the whole falls down.  Which it should, leaving the debates
on correct behavior to ethicists & philosophers, social
scientists & my Aunt Helen. . . .

     This exchange -- spontaneous as it was, & therefore
not really polished enough to be re-published -- was also
copied to Marcia & others, maybe giving her a little
more ammunition for that claim of arrogance.  Still, as
with Dawkins, I have to believe it's just the truth as I
saw it & no more arrogant than any reasoned statement
of principles.  And what would be the alternative except
silence?  At any rate, rather than rebutting her at length, I
decided this response would be sufficient:
  

[To] Marcia: Thanks. I try to express myself with
confidence, but am seldom credited with being
overwhelming.  For a discussion of arrogance, try
    
http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/
    
robert_ingersoll/preface.html
          [scroll down to Preface]


    
I never heard from her again.
      Not even a Christmas card.

     That link, to Ingersoll, is of course to a more
scathing indictment, but that's his honored role as
someone who really does well with the atheistic
foundation, starting with:

                           Preface
  I oppose the church because she is the enemy of liberty; because her
   dogmas are infamous and cruel; because she humiliates and
   degrades woman; because she teaches the doctrines of eternal
   torment and the natural depravity of man; because she insists upon
   the absurd, the impossible, and the senseless; because she resorts to
   falsehood and slander; because she is arrogant and revengeful;
   because she allows men to sin on a credit; because she discourages
   self-reliance, and laughs at good works; because she believes in
   vicarious virtue and vicarious vice -- vicarious punishment and
   vicarious reward; because she regards repentance of more
   importance than restitution, and because she sacrifices the world we
   have to one we know not of. . . .

    
Now, I don't call even that arrogant, tho Jeanne &
Marcia
may.  But note that Dawkins only said that one
particular quote was always thrown at him as evidence
of his arrogance.  Thus, Jeanne's speculation that he may
be considered arrogant for a host of reasons doesn't
speak to that particular observation, namely that it is
considered arrogant in itself, a claim I think he
satisfactorily refutes. 
     Personally, when I saw Dawkins recently on the
Charlie Rose TV program I thought he was
well-informed, kindly & affable.  But then, so am I -- or
at least I'm kindly.
               [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                      
z-guide 
Thu. Feb. 2, 2006  

  1970 -- England:  Philosopher/activist Bertrand Russell dies
   in Penryndeudraeth, Merioneth, three years short of 100.  His
   War Crimes Tribunal was instrumental in providing a world
   forum which could not be ignored (even by US media),
   revealing US lies & atrocities perpetrated during the Vietnam
   War years
.
 
  --The Daily Bleed

     Bleeding-heart Liberals -- a category that might be
said to include myself, altho going back to my earliest
true political awakenings in college I identified with
those such as Professor
Morgan Gibson who insisted
that radical was a more accurate description of our
sympathies (that is, favoring a restructuring of society at
its roots) -- might think that Milwaukee Magazine's
criticism of the Journal Sentinel's Crocker Stephenson
in its February
Pressroom column for not revealing most
of his subjects' criminal backgrounds in his vignettes is
rather heartless.  It did bring a prominent
defense by
Managing Editor George Stanley, but the terseness of
Stanley's response didn't really convey the extent of
Stephenson's dereliction, as the
magazine saw it.  And
Milwaukee's writer Pete Robertson does raise
questions -- liberal sensibilities aside -- as to whether
Stephenson had a journalistic duty to reveal more in the
profiles of criminal backgrounds & objectionable
behavior, regardless of how downtrodden the profiled
may be.
     Stanley's response (excerpted further here) to

     Q.
Why does Crocker Stephenson not report detailed
     criminal records of some people he writes about?

 answers briefly about the item published in

  
Milwaukee Magazine, which cites several examples and
   concludes that "Stephenson doesn't bother to do
   background checks" on his subjects.  The magazine's
   assertion is false.

   Stephenson uses the state's online court records
   database at wcca.wicourts.gov to review the legal
   history of his subjects before a column is published.
   Then he uses judgment to decide what to include in
   a 500-word column, which does not pretend to be a
   complete biography. . . .

     Stanley offers only one example:

  
For example, one column described a drug dealer
   turned artist.  It opened: "Short Dog hustled drugs.
   Crack.  Weed.  Whatever."  It told of how the drug
   dealer saw two ways out of his "stupid desperate
   delusional life. . . .  Go to jail.  Or get popped."  Four
   years after being shot six times, the former drug
   dealer lived at the Millway Care Center, abandoned
   by his "friends" on the street.  He expressed his
   hopes, fears and rage through his paintings. . . .


     And concludes:
   Stephenson's columns often attempt to bring
    humanity and even dignity to people who live,
    or have lived, on the edges of society.  He does
    not portray them as saints, but as more than
    the sum of their failures. . . .
  

     But most of Stephenson's award-winning Snapshots
don't have even that much detail about criminal activity.
Roberston starts with one example:

       
Just last February, Stephenson faced withering
   criticism for failing to check court records before portraying
   Ron “Silly the Clown” Schroeder as a trustworthy
   entertainer. Turns out that Schroeder had two restraining
   orders filed against him (2000 and 2003), a battery
   conviction for spraying mace in a 9-year-old boy’s face
   (1992) and was still considered a suspect by Brookfield
  
police in the 1991 homicide of his baby daughter.


    
Alarmed editors removed the column from the newspaper’s
Web site, and Stephenson had to do a follow-up column
informing readers (and potential customers of Silly) of
Schroeder’s
legal problems.  Stephenson, however, faced
no disciplinary action and was less than contrite.  Would he
start doing more background checks?  “Sure, probably,” he
told us.


    In view of all the criticism, Milwaukee Mag
followed up with checks on 50 persons profiled since
that piece ran & concluded "it’s safe to say he didn’t
learn his lesson."

     It goes on to list several examples:

   [In]
an inspiring July 13 column, Stephenson wrote that
   homeless shelter director Doug Kay turned his life around
   while doing community service for the homeless after getting
   busted for “marijuana possession” 20 years ago.  At best,
   that was half of the story.

   What readers didn’t learn is that Kay was actually convicted
   of marijuana possession with intent to deliver when police
   found more than 166 grams of pot, a balance scale, plastic
   baggies and a quarter-gram of cocaine in his home (1985).
   The column also missed Kay’s conviction for conspiracy to
   deliver marijuana when police found more than 225 grams
   of pot in his car (1995).
 

   . . . & If that’s not bad enough, try Stephenson’s
  
poignant November 4 column on Luther “Shorty” Barnes,
   a double amputee trying to make ends meet by selling
   salvaged bricks to The Brickyard in Bay View.  We were
   moved by “the way life has taken such a toll on the man” until
   court records ignored by Stephenson showed that Barnes
  
is more villain than victim.

Pointing out that

   In and out of jail for decades, Barnes was convicted of
   disorderly conduct for impersonating a police officer (2004),
   possession of drug paraphernalia (2000), disorderly
   conduct for throwing a glass bottle at his daughter (1999),
   disorderly conduct for threatening a man with a 13-inch
   knife (1996), disorderly conduct for threatening police and
   resisting arrest (1990) and attempted theft for trying to
   steal sheet metal (1988).
  

     There are several more such examples, including one
with which I -- like a lot of East Siders -- am familiar.
It's the "wheelchair pervert" as one UWM female
student called Henning Yderstad, profiled on October
16
as a "harmless, wheelchair-bound loner" who is
“grateful when people crouch down and talk to him at eye
level.”  To get people’s attention, he asks, “What high
school did you go to?”
     Actually, reports Robertson:

  
What the column didn’t say is that Yderstad has a long
   record for harassing young women after delivering that
   unique line.  He was convicted of “unauthorized presence”
   at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee after school
   officials banned him from campus (2002), disorderly
   conduct for harassing an 18-year-old UWM student and
   groping her buttocks (1998) and disorderly conduct for
   harassing a 23-year-old female student at the school (1995).
   Court files and UWM police records show at least 13
   incident reports on Yderstad since 1981.

     I have been ambushed by Yderstad myself on Downer
Ave.
as I naturally tried to remain polite when the
unfortunate man in a wheelchair who obviously thought
he knew me set me to combing thru my past on false
pretenses.  In vain I tried to remember this rather
unpleasant, overly insistent person from high school.
Now, he has a right to his conversational gambits, but he
is far from the sympathetic character Stephenson made
him out to be.  A balanced portrait would have shown
that, even if much of the apparently anti-social behavior
documented by the magazine is only what you would
expect from the marginalized & homeless & only a
problem to themselves.
     The magazine adds a bonus section & tutorial on
researching court records Online to its published column
for Online viewers, with yet more examples of some
weighty omissions, going so far as to check
Stephenson's own record, which it found clean.  But it
couldn't help pointing out his "given" name is Ronald
Scott Skrzynski
(tho of course, the
last part of it is a
surname).
    
No word on why a reporter would choose "Crocker,"
which so easily brings to mind "That's a crock" in
discussions of his output.

     But especially interesting to me as a media critic was
Stanley's defense of the Crockster, quick as he was to
jump in on Stephenson's side, a trait somewhat
surprising to a public used to thinking of editors as crusty
taskmasters.  But even Milwaukee editor Bruce
Murphy
, who spent 3 yrs. at the JS before writing an
expose (that also called Stephenson lazy),
In the Belly of
the Beast
, mentioned in this column, said of Stanley, "He
could be downright childish, writing a snippy e-mail in
response to a diplomatically written challenge. . . ." 
     Which, as I wrote, was exactly my experience when I
experimented with
e-mailing some of the JS's reporters
to get comments on their grammatical & other offenses
(as I saw them), abetted by the JS's notoriously weak
copy desk.  Stephenson among them.  Instead of thanking
me for my concern, Stanley charged to the defense of his
sensitive writers &
threatened to cut me off:

              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.


     It should be noted that Stephenson's offenses were
minor; furthermore, he had the grace to admit to the
correctness of the dictionary definition of enormity I sent
him, tho some reporters I dealt with wouldn't be caught
dead admitting an error.
     The full dispute as I wrote about it on the
Z-Blog &
the
Zone II ReMediaL Reading report -- complete
with texts of e-mails to & from reporters -- is available
for those interested in the details.
     Since then I have singled out
Stephenson & the weak
copy desk (as well as Milwaukee Magazine) for a few
more
lapses, but remain undecided in this standoff.  But
the reader can get a fuller picture on the magazine's site,
tho apparently some features -- such as the
Belly of the
Beast
expose -- are unfortunately removed after I've
thoughtfully bookmarked them on this Blog.  
     Nor can Milwaukee Magazine escape notice itself
for being less than forthcoming.  The January 2006 issue
headlines an article on "Salary secrets of more than 130
Milwaukeeans"
with
Your Paycheck, Please, & delivers
just that.  From "Top Dog" James L. Ziemer, CEO/CFO
at Harley-Davidson Inc. ($9,741,00) to massage
practitioner Tracy Carpenter ($13,000), it's all laid
bare, whether obtained voluntarily, thru "pure stealth" or
from public records, in spite of "fear of jealousy, fear of
reprisal, fear of laughter. . . ."  Except one.  That's right,
author Dan Libit reports that "when I pressed our current
editor Bruce Murphy, he told me to get the hell out of his
office."  So much for telling the whole story.
          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                    
z-guide 
Sun. Jan. 29, 2006  

     1984 -- US: Variety Club auctions off a dinner with
      Gloria Steinem & Marlo Thomas. The winning
      bidder??  Al Goldstein, publisher of "Screw" magazine.

        --The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon V:  In Defense of Arrogance
     Hard as it is to believe, I have been accused of
arrogance in my defense here of atheism.  Apparently, in
this pluralistic society, moderate theists accept that I can
disbelieve in their theories about God -- as long as I
don't actually maintain that I am right & therefore theists
are wrong.  That would be arrogant.
     I have protested against this arrangement, of course,
quoting
Robert Ingersoll on the arrogance of preachers,
among other citations.  But it does tend to make me
appear shrill & self-serving if I point out the obvious,
that by referring to my atheism I am merely denying that
theists deserve any special treatment for their peculiar
beliefs, & rightly so.  Just as I have found theists to be
insufferably arrogant in what they perceive as normal
behavior in a long history of torture, scorn & banishment
for non-believers & merely the different-believing.
     So it is helpful that I can call upon a professional to
take on that question of arrogance:

 
Ignorance Is No Crime by Richard Dawkins
 ---------------------------------------------------------
The following article is from
Free Inquiry magazine,
Volume 21, Number 3.
 -----------------------------------------------------------
"It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody
who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is
ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not
consider that)."  I first wrote that in a book review in the
New York Times in 1989, and it has been much quoted
against me ever since, as evidence of my arrogance and
intolerance.  Of course it sounds arrogant, but
undisguised clarity is easily mistaken for arrogance.
Examine the statement carefully and it turns out to be
moderate, almost self-evidently true.  By far the largest of
the four categories is "ignorant," and ignorance is no
crime (nor is it bliss -- I forget who it was said, "If
ignorance is bliss, how come there's so much misery
about?").  Anybody who thinks Joe DiMaggio was a
cricketer has to be ignorant, stupid, or insane (probably
ignorant), and you wouldn't think me arrogant for saying
so.  It is not intolerant to remark that flat-earthers are
ignorant, stupid, or (probably) insane.  It's just true.  The
difference is that not many people think Joe DiMaggio
was a cricketer, or that the Earth is flat, so it isn't worth
calling attention to their ignorance.  But, if polls are to be
believed, 100 million U.S. citizens believe that humans
and dinosaurs were created within the same week as
each other, less than ten thousand years ago.  This is more
serious.  People like this have the vote, and we have
George W. Bush (with a little help from his friends in
the Supreme Court) to prove it.  They dominate school
boards in some states.  Their views flatly contradict the
great corpus of the sciences, not just biology but physics,
geology, astronomy, and many others.  It is, of course,
entirely legitimate to question conventional wisdom in
fields that you have bothered to mug up first.  That is
what Einstein did, and Galileo, and Darwin.  But our
hundred million are another matter.  They are
contradicting -- influentially and powerfully -- vast fields
of learning in which their own knowledge and reading is
indistinguishable from zero.  My "arrogant and intolerant"
statement turns out to be nothing but simple truth.  Not
only is ignorance no crime, it is also, fortunately,
remediable.  In the same Times review, I went on to
recount my experiences of going on radio phone-in talk
shows around the United States.  Opinion polls had
led me to expect hostile cross-examination from
creationist zealots.  I encountered little of that kind.  I
got creationist opinions in plenty, but these were
founded on honest ignorance, as was freely confessed. 
When I politely and patiently explained what Darwinism
actually is, they listened not only with equal politeness,
but with interest and even enthusiasm.  "Gee, that's real
neat, I never heard that before!  Wow!"  These people
were not stupid (or insane, or wicked).  They didn't
believe in evolution, but this was because nobody had
ever told them what evolution is.  And because plenty of
people had told them (wrongly, according to educated
theologians) that evolution is against their cherished
religion.  I think it was my colleague John Endler, author
of
Natural Selection in the Wild -- a fine compendium of
field evidence on that important subject -- who told me
the following story.  I may have got the details wrong, but
it was approximately as follows.  He was on an internal
flight within the United States, and his neighbor casually
asked him what he did for a living.  Endler replied he
was a professor of biology, doing research on wild
guppy populations in Trinidad.  The man became
increasingly interested, so, without ever mentioning
Darwin, natural selection, or evolution, Endler explained
more about his research.  The man was greatly taken with
the brilliant simplicity of the theory underlying the
experiments, and he asked Endler the name of this theory
and where it came from.  Only then did Dr. Endler reveal
his hand.  "It's called Darwin's theory of evolution by
natural selection!"  The man's whole demeanor instantly
changed.   He became defensive, asserted abruptly that
he didn't believe in that theory, and terminated the
conversation.  Ignorant certainly, stupid perhaps, but not
wicked.  I originally listed "wicked" as one of my
possibilities, only for completeness.  I have never been
sure whether there truly are intelligent, knowledgeable,
and sane people who feign disbelief in evolution for
ulterior motives.  Perhaps a political candidate needs
some such dissimulation in order to get elected in certain
states.  If so, it is sad but possibly not much more
reprehensible than the proverbial kissing of babies.  Not
deeply wicked.  There are certainly many creationists
who tell lies for propaganda purposes, wantonly and
knowingly misquoting biologists, from Darwin on down.
Such dishonesty is documented on several Web sites, and
by the Australian geologist Ian Plimer in his book
Telling Lies for God.  Coincidentally, the worst occasion
when I have been misrepresented in this way involved an
Australian creationist organization, which fraudulently
mis-cut the tape of an interview of me.  The story, which
is quite amusing though it irritated me at the time, is told
in the Australian Skeptic by Barry Williams, editor of
that admirable magazine [at]
http://www.freethought-web.org/ctrl/news/file007.html.
But such minor examples of wickedness can be excused
on the grounds that ignorance and stupidity trump
wickedness.  Are there, then, any examples of
anti-evolution poseurs who are not ignorant, stupid, or
insane, and who might be genuine candidates for the
wicked category?  David Berlinski, who is certainly not
ignorant, stupid, or insane, denies that he is a creationist,
but claims strong scientific arguments against evolution
(which disappointingly turn out to be the same old
creationist arguments).  As guests of a prominent rabbi,
he and I once shared a platform in Oxford, together with
the great John Maynard Smith and others.  Maynard
Smith
spoke after Berlinski, and, not surprisingly, he
soon had the audience roaring with laughter as he
lampooned Berlinski's bad arguments.  But what amused
me was Berlinski's tactic for dealing with this mocking
laughter.  He sprang to his feet, held up a reproachful
open palm towards the audience, and said (approximately
of course, I can't remember the exact words): "No, no!
Don't laugh.  Let Maynard Smith have his say!  It's only
fair!"  Happily, the Oxford audience saw through this
tactic of pretending to think the audience was laughing at
Maynard Smith rather than with him.  And the rabbi,
himself a devout creationist, afterwards told me he had
been shocked at Berlinski's duplicity.  I don't withdraw
a word of my initial statement.  But I do now think it may
have been incomplete.  There is perhaps a fifth category,
which may belong under "insane" but which can be more
sympathetically characterized by a word like tormented,
bullied, or brainwashed.  Sincere people who are not
ignorant, not stupid, and not wicked can be cruelly torn,
almost in two, between the massive evidence of science
on the one hand, and their understanding of what their
holy book tells them on the other.  I think this is one of
the truly bad things religion can do to a human mind. 
There is wickedness here, but it is the wickedness of the
institution and what it does to a believing victim, not
wickedness on the part of the victim himself.  The
clearest example I know is poignant, even sad, and I
shall do it justice in a later article.
 -----------------------------------------------------------
Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of
Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.
An evolutionary biologist and prolific author and
lecturer, his most recent book is
Unweaving the Rainbow.
---------------------------------------------------------------
     Creationism as Dawkins discusses it is, of course,
found in its latest manifestation as Intelligent Design.
Furthermore, Dawkins seems too polite here to mention
that all theistic views are as invalid as the creationism
he invalidates with such apparent "arrogance."  As for
myself, I go with the insane label for religionists, tho
Freud regarded such
beliefs as merely a culturally
acceptable neurosis.  

          [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                   
z-guide 
Sat. Jan. 28, 2006  

   2003 -- US: Beloved & Respected Comrade Leader Bush
   
tells
Congress Iraq tried to import uranium from Africa (one of
     many lies used to justify the NeoCon invasion of Iraq).
     --The Daily Bleed

     It may be uncommon (it is for me) to criticize a
female sports reporter (& the notoriously weak JS
copy desk responsible for editing her stuff), probably
because to succeed they come on board with more
knowledge & aptitude than the average male in the
same spot, but the JS's Lori Nickel missed the boat
Dec. 26, 2005.  It is commonly thought by the public
that humid air is "heavy," that balls won't travel as far
under such a circumstance.
     The public is wrong; water vapor is lighter than the
air it displaces & hard-hit or -thrown balls should travel
farther.  GB Packers new punter Ryann Flinn, wrote
Nickel, did well enough under the conditions of
"34-degree temperatures and very heavy air (86%
humidity)" against the Chicago Bears.  A
discussion of
this effect in football in the
Football Outsiders site has
this entry, among others:

     The “Launching Pad” effect in Atlanta has more to do
      with humidity than elevation.  It's a bit
      counter-intuitive at first, but humid Air is ‘thinner’
      than dry air.  This is because water has a lighter
      atomic weight than air.

    
A little Googling on the physics of this under baseball
produces many such explanations, but those dealing with
football are a little scarcer.

    
However, Bobbie Babowski's Ultimate Capper.com
site for baseball confirms the principle but does have a
surprising twist in the case of baseball (with no
indication that it applies to footballs):

    
     2. HumidityAir with high humidity is less dense, or
 thinner, than dry air.  But this effect so slight it would
 only account for a long ball traveling a few inches farther
 on a humid day.  There is, however, a significant and
 unexpected effect of humidity.  According to Professor
 Robert Adair, the dean of baseball physicists, a baseball
 in a humid environment is actually heavier and less
 elastic than a dry ball, and, therefore, cannot be hit as
 far.  The exact amount of this effect can only be
 determined experimentally, but, based on the data we've
 seen, we estimate a 400 ft shot on a day with average
 humidity would carry 415 ft on a very dry day with low
 humidity.

    
So I suppose you could win a bar bet taking either
position depending on the reference you use to back up
your claim.

    Of course, the reason for the overall confusion is that
humid air on the skin feels heavy because of slow
evaporation.  Especially in Milwaukee's Miller Park,
with all that beer vapor in the air.

     To maintain the men's reputation in the faulty editing
derby (my mandatory sports metaphor for this kind of
critique) Bob McGinn writes of that same game that for
the Packers, "it's hard to lay down in Green Bay, Wis.,
with Lambeau Field packed to the rafters. . . ."

     Why the weak copy desk doesn't at least flag this to
be replaced with lie down on a
Sports section front page
is as mysterious as its lack of sports physics knowledge,
or McGinn's use of yet another cliché, packed to the
rafters
(an unenclosed football stadium with rafters?).
            
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                       
z-guide
Sun. Jan. 22, 2006  

     1973 -- US:  Roe v. Wade legal -abortion decision reached by
        Supreme  Court.  Inspires right-wing religious terrorists
        to bomb health clinics & kill people for the sanctity of human
        life.
     
--The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon IV:  A Walk on the DarkSyde
     A belief in Santa Claus was compared to belief in
God
in last week's
Sunday Sermon link to DarkSyde's
entry on the Daily Kos, What it's Like to be an Atheist
Part II of his essay, Why I'm an Atheist, continues:

     This is about why I am an atheist, not why you
       should be one.  And by atheist I mean that I strongly
       suspect that the core, underlying, supernatural
       claims of religion are nonsense.  If you want me to
       not be an atheist and share your particular flavor of
       supernatural belief, you need to be able to perform
       the magic or produce the supernatural being you
       claim exists and subject that creature to a battery
       of tests under controlled conditions. . . .

    
The 2 parts make a rather complete argument for
atheism, altho volumes of commentary have been
produced elsewhere on the questions he raises once
more, a Sunday Sermon there is no need for me to
further comment upon.  At least until next week.
           
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                      
z-guide 
Sat. Jan. 21, 2006  

     1911 -- US: Senator Robert M. LaFollette of Wisconsin
         establishes the National Progressive Republican League. Yup.

     --The Daily Bleed

     Is the sky falling in Iraq?  It is only war opponents &
their media enablers who say so, according to a
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Perspectives piece
[Dec. 26] by Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Green of
Wisconsin.  He cites such gloomy events as flawed
elections without a history of democracy behind them,
the failure of the search for WMD & the "diversion" of
the abuses at Abu Ghraib as merely "talking up the bad
news and discounting any good news from Iraq."
     Now of course, whether he's right or wrong about our
new crop of "nervous Nellies" (an archaic reference to
the Vietnam War protestors as seen by LBJ), any
knowledgeable person could point to references to
support either position.  Of course, I think he's wrong, but
my purpose here instead is to call attention to a usage that
matters in the case of a candidate for governor of
Wisconsin, & that undercuts his own reliability as a
commentator.  He writes that "as the song goes,
'accentuating the  positive'
is critically important."
He means, among other things, villagers "amazed to have
drinking water that doesn't make them sick," & "girls
attending school for the first time."  Never mind that at
most this is re-gaining ground taken for granted in
Saddam's secular, if brutal, regime & lost through our
invasion & occupation.
     What I found interesting is that though he puts them in
direct quotes, "accentuating the positive," &
"eliminating the negative"
are nowhere to be found in
the Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen
song.  To be sure,
the sentiment is, but direct quotes are to mean precisely
the wording in the original.  A paraphrase should be
used otherwise, without the quotes.  The closest the
original song -- recorded by Bing Crosby & others --
comes, as everyone probably remembers, is:

         
You've got to accentuate the positive
          Eliminate the negative
          Latch on to the affirmative
          Don't mess with Mister In-Between

     A line variation talks

          About the eliminatin' of the negative
          And the accent on the positive

        Is this important?  Well, we're talking about a
candidate for governor who -- assuming he writes his
own opinion articles -- should know that precision is
important in drafting legislation & arguing legal
positions (as in the controversy over whether G.W. Bush
ignored Congressional intent & the Constitution by
warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens), & certainly in
making a case for ongoing war.  Quotation marks should
follow the established rules, especially when used by
someone with an office & aspirations as lofty as
Green's.  But remember -- especially when your neighbors & loved ones in the service are maimed & killed, that:

          You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
          Bring gloom down to the minimum
          Have faith or pandemonium
          Liable to walk upon the scene

             
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        
z-guide
Sun. Jan. 15, 2006  

1962 -- US:  J. Edgar Hoover calls M. L. King a
fellow  traveler & a "vicious liar."
1967 -- US: 
First Super Bowl played.  Green Bay
Packers
defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
--The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon III:  Why I'm on the DarkSyde
     The previous Sunday Sermon -- tho I generally prefer
my own ramblings on the grounds of originality for the
reader -- used the opportunity to link also to a site that
did an exceptional job of recasting some old concerns of
atheism in a fresh light as they regard miracles & prayer.
     That week I also mentioned reader Jeanne Ruppert,
who has occasionally questioned why I expend so much
energy on atheistic diatribes.  Apparently, wishing
mankind to be free of ignorance & superstition in the 21st
Century is not enough, tho I do admit I am baffled as to
why the obvious insanity of religious is not cause for it to
be denounced by every rational being.  But one gets tired
of pointing this out, so it is again a happy coincidence that
I have come across a link that plumbs the disgust I feel &
-- in its 2nd part -- re-states some of the old approaches
we atheists have perfected in a very readable way.
     The
first part, from the Daily Kos  for Mon Nov 14,
2005,
by DarkSyde, covers What it's Like to be an Atheist.
    
With the Holiday Season not that far behind, it is
appropriate that DarkSyde compares the belief in
religion to a belief in Santa Claus; at the same time, it
helps start a new year with a foundation that I may build
upon on this site.  The link to its next section,
Why I'm an
Atheist,
is not immediately apparent.  It is found at Part 2.
              [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                         
z-guide

Sat. Jan. 14, 2006

         
1967 -- US: Gathering of the Tribes for the First Human
              Be-In (first hippie "be-in") at Golden Gate Park in Frisco,
               California. Probably 20,000 come to play, though Emmett
            Grogan
says as many as 300,000 in Ringolevio.  Familiar
               names include Michael McClure,
Gary Snyder, &
               Lenore Kandel.  Sponsored by Haight Independent
               Proprietors (H.I.P.) & the Communication Co.  Among
               the performers are The Grateful Dead & The Jefferson
            Airplane
.

               Speakers also include Jerry Rubin, Allen Ginsberg,
               Lawrence Ferlinghetti
& Timothy Leary. Participants
               were urged to bring food to share, flowers, beads, costumes,
               feathers, bells, cymbals & flags.

              
The Be-In was produced by Michael Bowen.
              
--The Daily Bleed

Fiction Alert: Your assignment for today, rather than to
scroll my latest
Z-Blog entry, is to check out the latest
in my fiction from
M'waukee Stories, tales of the
near-North Side in the pre-psychedelic '60s, Indexed at
the
left as the Pool Game.  I know 1930s-style realism is
passé, but there will be some contemporary stylistic
surprises in store when the series is tied together.  Of
course, pitiful gropings & sexual misadventures are
timeless, as is the slowly-growing awareness of cultural
matters by a disenchanted factory worker at the end of
the "uneventful" Eisenhower era.  At least, I hope so.
Just click here for the  
            [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                           z-guide
Sun. Jan. 8, 2006 

          1353 -- Jews of Basel, Switzerland, burned alive in their
             houses.
             --The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon II:  Long-haired Plometts & Dead Miners

     Last Sunday's Sermon (Jan. 1) was tied to the
accidental deaths of 12 W. Virginia coal miners, first
reported alive -- to much jubilation.  Understandably.
But the cries of miracle turned to cries of grief when the
report proved false -- tho Americans' deeply imbedded
belief in the possibility of miracles & the efficacy of
prayer no doubt remained unaffected.  As I wrote, God
never gets any blame when things go wrong, nor is it a
sign of His indifference.
     So it was with the timely arrival of a link to a site that
disputed the possibility of any miracle, ever, & therefore
the equally silly belief in
prayer as leverage with the
Almighty that I covered the highlights of the
Online book
                   why does god hate amputees?
                            
by Marshall Brain

     Jeanne Ruppert in Florida took issue -- not with
atheism -- but with my apparent militant tone, suggesting
my hostility is a sort of howling at God for not existing,
& that I could put my energies to better use.  Of course, I
think this is just setting up a straw man, since my efforts
on
this site are directed to those on earth.  Were it not for
this Journal & the worldly insanities I would like to
counter, the thought of God or His non-existence would
merely have no relevance for me.
     She summarizes her thoughts on my alleged outrage at
a non-existent God:


     . . . all this professional atheistic anger seems pointless to
      me, unless perhaps it is somehow beneficial  by diverting
      one's pain and outrage at the loss of those miners' lives
      (or whatever outrage one is focused on at the moment) to
      outrage at the evident lack of divine intercession in this
      and apparently all cases of great pain and /or great
      outrage.  So, one gathers, you and other devoted atheists
      exercise your disappointment at the evident lack of God's
      caring by being mad at God for not-being-there.  Why, I
      wonder, does this acute disappointment and resulting
      heated anger persist and persist?   You might respond by
      saying that what you are actually angry at is organized
      religion, for misleading people and, worse, for holding
      the human race back from many worthwhile endeavors
      and possible forms of progress.  But it doesn't come out
      that way.  Reading the professional atheist, one usually,
      as here, senses most prominently the heat of the atheist's
      disappointment and outrage inspired by God's absence.
      And I don't get that.  When I became an agnostic while
      studying the Philosophy of Religion at UW-M (the
      completion of a process that began in high school for me),
      what I felt was not anger but a sense of great relief, as if a
      burden had been lifted from my shoulders because I no
      longer had to attempt to make sense of the world in terms
      dictated by religion.  If God is not there, then he/she/it is
      simply not there.  No point in being angry at him/her/it.
      Be angry instead at capitalism, the corporations, tribal
      thinking, racism, sexism, classism, nationalism,
      militarism,  and so forth.  Be angry at the almost perfect
      historical record of our species for taking every discovery,
      invention and insight that comes its way and turning it
      into a disadvantage if not a disaster.  Become a historian, a
      sociologist, an ecologist, or a politician instead of an
      atheist and try to redeem the species from its perverse
      path to self- and planetary/ecological destruction.  Really,
      there's no time for all this obsession with God if we're
      going to have to take responsibility for what we've done
      and what we are doing and will do with the planet that has
      ended up in our hands. 

     Anyone can see the illogic in my being mad at God for
not-being-there, 
so she should have re-thought things right
there.  I suppose it's true of some lapsed believers that
they never get over a sense of loss when their deity
evaporates in the glare of reason, but I never had any
such illusions.  My exploration of atheistic authors just
confirmed what I instinctively believed since I could
think about it at all.
     So it is absolutely true, as she says, that

    
You might respond by saying that what you are actually
       angry at is organized religion, for misleading people and,
       worse, for holding the human race back from many
       worthwhile endeavors and possible forms of progress.

    
So why she feels that

     . . . it doesn't come out that way.  Reading the
     professional  atheist, one usually, as here, senses most
     prominently the heat of the atheist's disappointment and
     outrage inspired by God's absence. . . .

    
I have no idea.  Nor am I a professional atheist, tho I
suppose I could be if someone would point out where the
hiring hall is.  I assume that is a rhetorical flourish, & my
writing last time that

         
God was doubly cruel, apparently, in toying with the
            grieving ones by first appearing to answer their prayers
            (there are always prayers, however ineffective
they may
             have been on other occasions), & allowing their
             jubilation & ringing church bells, & then killing off the
             miners. 

might confirm that I personalize a God, but that is my
own rhetorical flourish.  From the point of view of the
families
, of course, God would (or should) seem cruel.
So also, to arbitrarily take a recent
local case, does this
from the Journal Sentinel evoke a sadistic God:

     Leaders were trying to heal boy, pastor says

     Church minister arrested after an 8-year-old stops
     breathing, dies during a prayer service

          A pastor said Saturday that church leaders were trying
      to heal an autistic 8-year-old boy when he inexplicably
      stopped breathing and died during a prayer service Friday
      night. . . .

    
The boy's mother had described such a service:

        
She called it an exorcism," [a neighbor] said.  "She
     said they held him down for almost two hours.  He couldn't
     hardly breathe, and that shocked [his mother].  Then she
     said the devil started to speak through Junior's voice --
     though he can't really speak -- saying, "Kill me.  Take me. "

    
The fat, jackleg preacher in the overheated storefront
church was convicted of smothering the boy in an attempt
to drive out the demons, but this is still an accepted
practice in the 21st Century.

     But as Jeanne wrote

     If God is not there, then he/she/it is simply not there.  No
     point in being angry at him/her/it.

    
Exactly.  And my targets are the same as  hers:

    
Be angry instead at capitalism, the corporations, tribal
      thinking, racism, sexism, classism, nationalism,
      militarism, and so forth.  . . .

     But there's that straw man again, one who can't be
active as an atheist & still

    
try to redeem the species from its perverse path to self-
      and planetary/ecological destruction.

     Really, one Blog entry a week is not excessive; it is an
important part of my life at this point, however -- as I've
written -- one that involves a death-bed promise & old
Joe Kennedy's sins. 
     But since we are both socialists, it might be well to
consider Marx's most famous analysis of religion, from
About.com on its Atheism Site:

    
"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of
       real distress and the protest against real distress.
       Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart
       of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless
       situation.  It is the opium of the people.  The abolition of
       religion as the illusory happiness of the people is
       required for their real happiness.  The demand to give up
       the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a
       condition which needs illusions."
                   
Follow the link for analysis and discussion . . .

    
Now, this sums up in an introductory way the origin
of some of my disenchantment with religion.  But
strangely enough, the complete discussion of this passage
supports Jeanne's conclusion -- though she didn't say it
directly -- that too much can be made of Marx's
traditional condemnation of religion, or at least that there
are less strident ways of looking at it.  It may be that we
can agree on a middle ground here.
      On the other hand, her -- to my mind -- uninformed
appreciation of Intelligent Design (ID) as a supplement,
if not alternative, to Darwinian evolution was subject to
exhaustive analysis on these pages, & rejected, so the
reader can go back & check it out.

    
She wrote:

          As you no doubt know, there is currently a major
          challenge to Darwinism among many scientists based
          on the Human Genome project and on recent
          laboratory-level recognitions of  'complexity' and
          even what appears to be 'irreducible complexity' in
          microbiology, organic chemistry, and other scientific
          disciplines.  Naturally the fundamentalist Christians
          attempting to take over our country and the rest of the
          planet are attempting to lead a new charge toward
          installing creationism, young earth theory, and the
          Bible in the curriculum of the public schools, and
          naturally  many scientists and thinkers who are not
          fundamentalist Christians but do recognize the claims
          of 'Intelligent Design' theory are horrified, as they
          should be.  My point in bringing this up is to say that
          proselytizing atheists are in for a hard time in the near
          future since most people cannot yet distinguish between
          the recognitions concerning 'intelligent design' theory
          and the conclusion that the Bible tells us all we need to
          know.  It might be more useful, then, for such atheists
          to pursue Intelligent Design theory, and clarify what it's
          actually 'saying' -- that at some time, someone of
          unknown capacities and characteristics, appears, quite
          clearly now, to have manipulated the biological
          materials required to bring life out of nonliving
          substances.  It might have been a super smart being or a
          college or consortium of super smart beings for whom
          there is no distinction between the natural and what we
          human beings think of as 'the supernatural'.  It might
          have been a higher civilization of advanced
          extraterrestrials, or the brightest, most powerful
          individual, or computer, produced by that civilization.
          It might have forgotten all about what it started on this
          planet, or have gone away in stark disillusionment with
          what it had wrought here.   It might have gone on to
          correct the problems set in motion here and developed,
          somewhere else, the kind of luminous race of intelligent
          beings that human poets, generally of an earlier time
          than ours, have postulated us to be.

               "As you no doubt know, there is currently a major
          challenge to Darwinism. . . ."

    
I don't know any such thing, but as I understand her,
ID has something to offer, & atheists should leave it
alone because in explicating it, we alienate
fundamentalists who think that merely contemplating it is
an attack on the Bible itself.  Sorry.  All the allusions to
Irreducible Complexity (IC) & the Human Genome
Project
don't disguise the fact that ID has nothing to offer
as science, as the the judge in the Dover Area, Pa.
School Board case agreed.  Nor does it even pretend to
offer a scientific account of the origin of life, as
transcripts of hearings where its proponents (Behe, et al)
testified show, beyond more theism.  How then can she
urge

    
atheists to pursue Intelligent Design theory, and clarify 
      what it's actually 'saying' -- that at some time, someone
      of unknown capacities and characteristics, appears, quite
      clearly now, to have manipulated the biological
      materials required to bring life out of nonliving
      substances.

    
Quite clearly, no less?  This is just a simple
disagreement over the facts (or interpretations) between
us, & I have to rest my case with what I cited in earlier
postings about ID & my fears of religion in general
(which includes Islam, too, & your various polytheisms).
     Of course, any Sermon here should contribute to
this picture.
     But just as she feels I have a psychic axe to grind in
my hostility to God & believers, I have to note that her
listing of multiple possibilities for a putative intelligent
designer evince a desperation for there to be not just a
mystery (with which I am perfectly willing to live) but an
ultimate truth about the origin of life in God's absence. 
Despite her protestations, there is a pathetic longing
there for a higher power.  (It fits with her long quest for
validation of UFO visitations, too, but that's another
story.)
     So she ends by accepting that which hasn't been
established at all -- certainly not by me -- & inserting
a delightfully sly verse that makes me risk appearing
humorless in pointing out that it is useless as argument
& simply begs the question of God's existence:

     Where does ID theory leave us?  With lots to learn.  And
     lots to enjoy.  As Wallace Stevens saw it, we can, at least
     part of the time,


          ". . . enjoy the Ithy-oonts and long-haired plommets
          As the Herr Gott enjoys his comets."

    
And in more serious moods, which are incumbent upon us,
     we can try to get ourselves straightened out as a species.
     And stop blaming the Designer.  He might have been
     fallible.  He might no longer care.  He might never have
     cared.  But we do.

    
But I & other atheists don't blame a designer.  He
doesn't exist.  And it is precisely because we care about
this world that we are sometimes irritatingly implacable
in saying so.
             
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        
z-guide
Sat. Jan. 7, 2006 

          1952 -- US: Actor Phillip Loeb, blacklisted in 1950
                as a possible Communist sympathizer, is fired from
                highly successful TV comedy "The Goldbergs" because
                no one would sponsor it otherwise.  Beloved & Respected
                Comrade Leader Ronald Reagan,  FBI informant
                during the 40s & 50s who even had his own code
                name because of the prolific nature of his snitching, &
                others, deny to this day there was a "blacklist."
                --
The Daily Bleed

     A Quick Hit  by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
editorial writer & columnist  Gregory Stanford on
Dec. 15, 2005 about
Wikipedia, questions the
advisability of "an encyclopedia edited by
readers."  He writes that he went to the entry for
Rosa Parks
& found her described as a
"nigger seamstress."  When he clicked back quite
soon, he found the offending word replaced by
"African-American," because the site is monitored
& corrected.  This came in the aftermath of
controversies about entries for journalist John
Siegenthaler
(father of the TV anchor) & his
purported role in the JFK assassination.  This flap
was satisfactorily resolved, &
Wikipedia changed
its posting policy to make such libels harder (tho
not impossible), but I can understand Sanford's
concern (& the original posting was available for
4 months). 
     I had a similar experience when I was researching
there Henry Ford's labor policy enforcer, head goon
Harry Bennett for a
Labor Day article.  I ended up
reading a lot about Henry Ford himself, & came
across statements something like "he was known for
his fondness for young boys," & "he liked to take the
young cock."  Those are not exact quotes, & sure
enough when I went back to check after reading
Stanford's paragraph (after several weeks) they were
gone, falling into the archived category of being
deleted due to "vandalism."  But I remember well their
tenor, out of keeping with the other biographical
material & phrased so distinctly that I could hardly
forget their intent.  Yet at the time I had thought it odd,
shrugged, & moved on.
     I mention this because of an e-mail from a Florida
reader, a former Milwaukee Eastsider, who suggested
a
Zonyx Message Board, writing

     
Zonyx board would give all of us Milwaukee
     Eastsiders an opportunity to reminisce together and
     also to discuss the issues and share our thinking on
     the world we live in now.


     I made a lengthy response:

   
Well, my site now is open to general comments, & I have
of course
posted some . . . & also have a direct link on my
Index page to readers' remarks at Yahoo!:
<http://us.geocities.yahoo.com/gb/view?member=mikelzet>,
tho I get very few. . . . They have all tapered off, but I
consider everything that comes in.  I know that is probably not
the give & take you have in mind, tho even my Blog makes it
easy to post general & specific remarks on any topic (which
I would edit).
     Still I get nothing;  only when I get or send e-mails &
sometimes respond to an entire group that makes up
somebody's mailing list (or my own) do I get much
action, & then only thru my private e-mail.  But this is
precisely what I started the Blog to avoid:  If I'm going
to spend my time composing something it's going to be
for a larger audience (potentially the world) & available
for a long time.  I could indeed have a separate section on
my Site for Eastsiders & expatriates, but I'm doubtful,
given the responses to date, that there would be much
interest.  Space is a consideration, of course, since I rely
now on free web hosting. . . .

    
But I suggested she write a mission statement for such
a blog, & we would see what happens.  She rejected,
though, having any direct involvement in a board, &
especially the idea of any limits:


     
Surely it should not be edited by anyone.  It should
     be a place where people can say exactly what they
     like, and precisely what they mean, with contrasting
     viewpoints welcomed and certainly no editorial
     overseer.


    
Somewhat repetitively, I answered:

I'm in favor of a message board if it would attract any
submissions.  But as I said, my whole site is set up with
ample opportunities to comment, reminisce, etc., & I have
published (with some editing) exactly those kinds of things.
Nearly all of them, in fact, tho some are in the category of
being from relatives & not of general interest, & I have
marked those as such.  Still, almost all the comments were
from those who found me thru a search engine or who were
pointed there by someone else.  While every posting on my
Blog makes it easy to comment, I get none, so far, even tho
I ask for specific or general remarks. . . .


    
At that point I mentioned Stanford's & my experience
with
Wikipedia, & questioned, frankly, her idealism in
thinking such a Board would police itself thru some sort
of community consensus; at any rate, it would need
editing if only for conciseness & relevance -- & surely to
prevent any unwarranted slurs on unsuspecting or even
aware contributors, even for a short time.  Warranted
slurs are fine; by which I mean, documented if necessary.
She at least saw my point, & withdrew her suggestion,
but had left me with her conception of a Message Board,
which I hereby proclaim as one use to which this Blog
might be put:


    
It should be like a coffee house or a tavern where one
    drops in occasionally, or every day if it's a friendly and
    interesting place, to discuss matters of mutual interest;
    copy or link interesting blogs, recipes, or news items
    from the foreign or internet press; and, in the case of
    Eastsiders and Exiles, remember the good olde days,
    to refresh memory and friendship, to provide a venue
    for expressing our ideas and values today.

    
Sounds good to me.
    
So as a start to the New Year, I re-invite everyone to
submit comments below.  Controversy is fine, tho outright
sabotage is not (& is indeed impossible under the current
setup).   I don't mind obscenity, especially my own, to the
limits of my Web Hosts' tolerance, at any rate.
  You
should be glad that I will continue to edit for spelling,
punctuation, grammar & -- as they say -- originality &
aptness of thought.  Anonymity will be respected, if you
care about it.
     What more can I say in trying to make this for all who
drop by a Happy New Year!
            [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                      
z-guide
Sun. Jan. 1, 2006 
         
            1955 -- US: 
American Army begins training South
               Vietnamese army.  How well they do . . .
               
--The Daily Bleed
           

Sunday Sermon I:  Does God Hate Amputees?
     The recent West Virginia mining disaster brought with
it the usual rejoicing of It's a miracle -- thanks to God!
(or Jesus Christ) following the apparent rescue of 12
live miners.  No similar outcry excoriating God occurred
(at least not publicly) when it was announced that 11
were dead.  Of course, He always gets the credit, but if
things don't turn out, well, He's just inscrutable &
certainly not at fault.  In this case, God was doubly cruel,
apparently, in toying with the grieving ones by first
appearing to answer their prayers (there are always
prayers, however ineffective
they may have been on
other occasions), & allowing their jubilation & ringing
church bells, & then killing off the miners. 
     But does God really ever answer prayers?  Does he
really work miracles?  For example, Wisconsin's own
Jeanna Giese was
cured of rabies, the first such case in
history that did not involve administering the vaccine,
before or after the bite.  Many called it a miracle, tho
advanced medical treatment that hadn't been tried before
was used.
     Now, this Site tries to hold down the links to other
sites in favor of my own observations, which have the
virtue of being original.  Readers interested in other
atheist viewpoints, after all, can easily seek them on
their own.  But sometimes, something so clearly
written & irrefutable -- to my mind -- comes along that
I have to just point it out in awe. 
     So it is with one that asks, why does god hate
amputees?
by Marshall Brain.  This deals not only
with the
Jeanna Giese "miracle" & other cases, but
specifically points out the problem of prayer &
miracles:

     But then there are other times when God doesn't answer
      prayers.  For example, there are millions of children who
      die of starvation every year.  Surely some of them are
      praying, and we know that many Christians in America
      are praying for them.  God allowed six million people to
      die in the Holocaust, and it is safe to say that most of them
      were praying.  You may pray for something that seems
      obvious to you, yet God ignores you.

         
So the author suggest an experiment:

     Therefore, here is an interesting thought experiment
      for you to try as a Christian.  For this experiment, we
      need to find a deserving person who has had both of
      his legs amputated.  For example, find a sincere,
      devout, Christian veteran of the Iraqi war, or a devout
      Christian in your church who was involved in a tragic
      automobile  accident.


     Now create a prayer circle like the one created for Jeanna
      Giese.  The job of this prayer circle is simple: pray to God
      to restore the amputated legs of this deserving Christian.
      I do not mean to pray for a team of renowned surgeons to
      somehow graft the legs of a cadaver onto the soldier, nor
      for a team of renowned scientists to craft mechanical legs
      for him.  Pray that God spontaneously and miraculously
      restores the soldier's legs overnight, in the same way that
      God spontaneously and miraculously cured Jeanna
      Giese. . . .

      No matter how many people pray.  No matter how sincere
      those  people are.  No matter how much they believe.  No
      matter how devout and deserving the recipient.  Nothing
      will happen.  The legs will not regenerate.  Prayer does
      not restore the severed limbs of amputees.  You can
      electronically search through all the medical journals
      ever written -- there is no documented case of an
      amputated leg being restored spontaneously.  And we
      know that God ignores the prayers of amputees through
      our own observations of the world around us.  If God were
      answering the prayers of amputees to regenerate their lost
      limbs, we would be seeing  amputated legs growing back
      every day.

    
After more examination of this problem, Brain
concludes, logically, that God hates amputees.
Unless, of course, there is a simpler explanation:
    
    
When we pray to God to restore an amputated limb,
      there is only one way for the limb to regenerate.
      God must exist and God must answer prayers.  What
       we find is that whenever we create a non-ambiguous
       situation like this and look at the results of prayer,
       prayer never works.  God never answers prayers if
       there is no possibility of coincidence.  We will
       approach this issue from several different angles in
       this book, but
Chapters 6 and 7 are particularly
       important. . . .

     
And in this case & in the myriad of others humans
indulge in by asking the truly impossible -- that is,
unquestionably miraculous -- there will be no miracle
because there never is.

     This is only one chapter of a longer treatment of the
insanity of Christianity, at

http://whydoesgodhateamputees.com/god-toc.htm
    
It is a complete treatise worthy of the traditional
philosophers, but in a modern, refreshing style I can't
recommend enough as a start to a
     Happy New Year!
           [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                      
z-guide
Sat. Dec. 31, 2005 
      1970 -- US:  Congress repeals the Gulf of Tonkin
          resolution.  Congress finally fesses up to having been
          hoodwinked by a pack of  lies the US military, NSA &
          the government had produced to test their knee-jerk
          reaction.  Good knees meant heavy bombing &
          dramatically increased US military involvement in
          Vietnam. 
[Can you say deja vu, kiddies?]
           --
The Daily Bleed

     Finishing the year by catching up with all the recent
-- & some rather less timely -- editing errors made by
the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's notoriously weak
copy desk is, sorry to say, unwieldy -- they turn 'em out
faster than I can point 'em out.  It is hard to maintain the
enthusiasm for this when repetitions keep turning up,
lapses that one would think would be extremely rare
because copy-editing handbooks (& style books) are
devoted to them & senior editors should at least be
catching them after the fact & making sure they don't
happen again.  Apparently it doesn't work that way.
Just as spell checkers can be turned on, so too could the
database flag such candidates for abuse as alibi,
enormity, invite, literally, minimize, moot, replica &
whence, to list a few.  Not to ban them but alert the user
to think twice about their aptness.  Just a suggestion for
the JS's New Year.
     In the meantime, to expedite this & coming entries, I'm
going to try to minimize my dissection of repeat offenses.
This assumes the reader has been following this journal
or else is educated enough to grasp the proper use of
various terms or is motivated to look up definitions (try
Google) -- one source, of course, is my own growing
Introduction & log of common mistakes on the ReMedial
Writing Page
.

     It is more satisfying to deal with fresh material for
criticism, & especially those that aren't textbook classics
but new products of poor reporting or faulty thinking --
or even honest disagreement over usage -- because they
stimulate my own research & more original writing &
occasional satisfaction thru some mild (& universally
appreciated, I'm sure) sarcasm.
     Working more or less chronologically, then:  A minor
but amusing flub comes from Crocker Stephenson in his
Snapshots column for Sat. Nov 11.  He writes about
Thurmans "15"  bar on Arlington Pl. & Pulaski St., once
called "Zoom Zeppel."  Only it was actually Zum
Zeppel
, which translates as  to the Zeppel, just as Zur
Krone
on the South Side meant to the Crown; that is, of
service to the crown (or monarch), as I recall from my
college German.  That leaves the question, what is a
ZeppelBabelfish won't translate it from the German,
but the tavern is 2 blocks from my apt., & I seem to
recall that it couldn't have a translation since it was a
reference to the owner's name.  He had been stationed in
Germany & brought the idea back with him.  But there
was no zooming involved, unless it was my rush up to the
bar to order at last call.  An aside:  I tended bar on
Bartlett & Bradford at Al Calderone restaurant, which
translated means to the cauldron -- but patrons often
assumed it was owned by a guy named Al, a persona I
sometimes adopted. 
     On Sat. Nov. 5, Tom Heinen reported on Father
Trevor Miranda
who learned he would receive
$1 million for his charity but who oddly was
overwhelmed by "the enormity of  what about to happen
to him. . . ."  As I say, look it up -- here, if you wish.
     A rarer miscue (at least it's a first for this blog) was
that by columnist Eugene Kane, who wrote on Sun.
Nov. 13
about "aging baby boomers weaned on Stevie
Wonder
. . . ."  Unfortunately, one is only weaned from
something, not on it.  I suspect the purpose is to convey
that when one is weaned (taken to mean growing up &
thus giving up the teat), something is used as a substitute.
But this is wrong, & necessitates a new entry in my list.
     As for repeats, Rick Romell wrote wrongly (really)
on Tue. Dec. 13 about someone named "Smith, who
becomes nauseous around cigarette smoke. . . ."  Oh,
look it up or go here.
      Another common offense is found in the Kovels'
Antiques column of Sun. Dec. 25, where they tell of the
U.S. Seventh Cavalry "decimated at Little Bighorn."  As
I've noted, it comes from the Romans' use of selecting
every tenth man for punishment; today it has broadened
for some to mean widespread destruction.  But the
cavalry was completely destroyed, not just diminished,
surely too much of a stretch in meaning.
     Lastly (but not yet comprehensively) an article by film
critic Duane Dudek on Fri. Dec. 16 about comedienne
Sarah Silverman contained not a editing error but yet
again the cliché I've written a whole article about,
describing her "vocabulary [that] might cause a
dockworker to blush. . . ."  As a former dockworker
(21 years) I can report the blush potential is very small,
but on the other hand, why bad language is always linked
with dockworkers is a mystery to me, though it is a
practice that just won't go away.  Most people who use
it probably never heard dockworkers converse, but we
are no more obscene than reporters or professional
athletes, to pick just 2 professions.  To be honest, most
probably don't even mind being considered tough, but I
say knock it off just to encourage a more original
comparison.  What the fuck do you have to say about
that, assholes?
     Happy goddamn New Year. 
     To be continued . . .
             
Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                       z-guide
Sun. Dec. 25, 2005 
     1956 -- US:  A good white Christian celebrates the Lord's
        birthday, bombs  the home of anti-segregationist Fred
      Shuttlesworth
.   Birmingham, Alabama.
       
--The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon XVIII:  Tree Worship & Obits
     With blogs springing up the way they are, it's
certainly true, as a recent Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel
reported, that many are merely links to
other sites & blogs, usually with a few of the
author's relevant comments.  This serves a
purpose, but I had hoped to provide content that
couldn't be found elsewhere.
     Someday someone will write to tell me if I am
any good at it, but on this Xmas I will just link to
an atheist site that I have pushed before, since it
has a local connection that Wisconsin readers &
Eastside expatriates may have overlooked &
might appreciate.  It is about the annual battle --
it seems -- over the Official Xmas Tree (or is it a
Holiday Tree?) in the Capitol Rotunda:

from atheism.about.com/:

Religious Bigots Offended by Free Speech at
Christmas


Every year in the Wisconsin State Capitol,
the Freedom From Religion Foundation puts
up a sign saying 'At this season of the
Winter Solstice may reason prevail.  There
are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven
or hell.  There is only our natural world. 
Religion is but myth and superstition that
hardens hearts and enslaves minds.'
Religious conservatives are very upset.

[MORE AT:]

  http://atheism.about.com/b/a/226581.htm?nl=1

    In another local context, appropriate to a year-ending
sermon, close readers of Z-Blog may have noticed that
the Contents Page has a listing of obituaries & paid death
notices at the bottom (some with photos) from the
Journal Sentinel & elsewhere for persons associated
with places & events mentioned on this site.  The most
recent addition is Jim Barker, founder of the Avant
Garde
coffee house in Milwaukee in the 1960s, with
galleries of his memorial at Von Trier's sent in by
John Sahli & Kathy Rippey.
     Others added this year are artist & Wobbly Carlos
Cortez
; agitator & bookstore operator Fred Blair; &
Fred Krause, former longshoreman, bartender at
Wolski's & youth counselor.  Follow the links for all the
details.  Be aware that, as I have reported, the Journal
Sentinel's
paid death notices stay up for a limited time
unless the family can be extorted to pay extra.
  
       [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                      
z-guide

Thu. Dec. 22, 2005 

     1905 -- Poet/essayist/critic/translator Kenneth Rexroth lives.
        Influence on the spread of Beat poetry.  Translated many
        Chinese & Japanese poets into English.
      
  --The Daily Bleed

     As the year winds down I find Z-Blog far behind in
its mission to publicize the most egregious errors of the
Journal Sentinel's
notoriously weak copy desk.  In fact,
they have accumulated to the point that more than one
column will be needed to start 2006 with a clean slate.
Next week should conclude with the balance of 2005.
One reason for the delay is simply that it is discouraging
to cover repeats, but here goes.
     Eugene Kane's front page column [
Tue. Oct. 1, 2002],
while "Visiting the scene of the crime" where local
teenagers yet again beat a man to death revisits a crime
against logic by writing "it begs the question" of
"What's it like to live in a neighborhood like this?" 
     But to
beg the question is a term in logic, as I have
pointed out many times, that means to assume the truth of
the very premise that one is debating.  In other words,
circular reasoning.  He means, no doubt, that it raises the
question
, or prompts the question, which he then
explores.  Of course, the copy desk should be
well-versed in this, even if he is not, & automatically
flag any use of begs the question for closer scrutiny.
     In the Perspectives section [Fri. Oct. 4, 2002], no less a
word expert than the syndicated William Safire of
The New York Times writes that Tom Daschle "was
minimizing the ethical shortcomings of Sen. Robert
Toricelli,"
while on Sun. Aug. 23, 2003 the JS's own
Leonard Sykes Jr.
wrote that "African-Americans have
tended to minimize mental illness in their families." 
Certainly surprising coming from Safire, but in either
case the weak copy desk should know that although
Daschle may have fervently wished to minimize
Toricelli's faults, only Toricelli himself could do that,
thru better behavior.  And while African-Americans may
indeed speak cautiously about their endemic amount of
mental illness, they are not especially noted for any
efforts to actually reduce mental illness.  In either case,
minimize means effectively to reduce, not speak of
something in a dismissive manner.  Take that, Safire,
tho I must acknowledge that some experts take a more
relaxed view of the definition.  In yet another example,
syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker writes
[Tue. Sept. 27, 2005] under Hurricane's clout that "no one
wishes to minimize . . . the horror of these
storms. . . . ,"
though that is exactly what any victim
would want, if it were physically possible after the fact.
     More evidence that the weak copy desk is effectively
asleep, not just incompetent?  Michael Hunt on the front
page of the
Sports section [Sat. May 7, 2003] tells us about
certain conspiracy theorists that "will crawl back under
the rocks from whence they came."
  Don't most users of
English know that "from whence" is redundant (as well
as highfalutin'), that "
whence" means "from where?"
     One wonders whence these editors obtained their
degrees, probably master's at that.
     While Milwaukee's Bastille Days has many
attractions, don't expect a 986 foot copy of the Eiffel
Tower
, tho Mary-Liz Shaw reports in the JS calendar
for Fri. July 2, 2004 that you'll see a
replica of that
landmark during the festival.  Of course, it will be a
model constructed to some scale -- replica meaning
exact copy.  The error was replicated by Crocker
Stephenson
in his
Snapshots squib of Wed. June 8,
2005
in writing about an "exact replica," no less, of
a farmhouse that was nevertheless "inches tall,"
according to the story & caption.  Now, any size
farmhouse could actually be measured in inches, but
as this model could be held in one hand it was just
that -- a scale model or miniature copy.
     As I've mentioned, wire service copy -- in this case
from the Associated Press -- requires scrutiny by the
weak copy desk as much as local reporters do, & which
the JS
claims to provide.  Especially in the case of
terms so often abused they should immediately stand out
to editors, such as fulsome (the only new entry in this
roundup).  As in this case from page 4 of the first
section
of  Tue. Sept. 27, 2005, in which Tony Blair
& Bertie Ahern "offered fulsome praise to the
IRA"
for apparently disarming.  A term in
fulsome prison
is deserved for this use of a word meaning "overfull and
offensive because of insincerity
[
Bernstein]" as a
synonym for effusive.  Even if some readers might find
any sort of praise for the IRA offensive, it wasn't meant
there to accuse those leaders of insincerity.
     With still more offensive lapses to be covered,
Z-Blog will continue next week.
             
Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                        z-guide
Sun. Dec. 18, 2005 

       1972 -- Despite . . . War Criminal (& Nobel Peace Prize
           recipient)  Hank Kissinger's statement on 26 October that
          "peace" is at   hand, the US launches heaviest air barrage of
          the entire Indochina war against North Vietnam.
          . . .  President Nixon later refers to this so-called "Christmas
        bombing"
as "my terrible personal ordeal."

          Probably missed part of a football game that day.
          --
The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon XVII:  Of Dubious Birth
     This Sunday one week before the arbitrary date
of the celebration of Christ's birth (November 17, 3 BC
is one
commonly accepted date for his birth;
other scholars point to April) is a good time
for my Xmas message.  I found one on the
Internet I won't try to improve upon:

                    'Tis The Season
              What Does X-Mas Mean?

    
                   Carey Sherrill
<
http://www.positiveatheism.org/mail/eml9359.htm>

    
The supreme creator of the entire universe looks across
billions of light years and finds one small galaxy.  In the
corner of that galaxy he finds a rather mediocre solar system.
One of millions within that galaxy.  He looks to one of the
smaller planets in that solar system and finds hundreds of
thousands of species of living organisms, but he picks just one
of those species to concern himself with.  Then he decides to
create a bizarre little game with them.  He creates a place of
everlasting torment and tells them to obey him or they will
suffer for eternity.  Although he is the supreme creator he
can't seem to control this one species very well so he changes
the rules a little bit and decides to mate with one of their
females so that 33 years later, a mere blink in cosmic time,
the poor chap can endure a brutal death.  He does all this just
to try and convince the rest of the species that he really is a
good and loving god.

     I think it's time to find a new Christmas story.


     If you need more in the true Xmas spirit, Robert
Ingersoll
, of course, raised a firestorm with some
famous words in the form of his Essay on Christmas
(1889), with
Sabbath Superstition (1893) included
there (top of page) for good measure.
     Happy
Saturnalia, all.
             [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                       
z-guide
Sun. Dec. 11, 2005 

     1974 -- Go To Hell??!  French priest Georges de
      Nantes
is convicted of libeling Jacques Isorni in an
      argument over who was responsible for crucifying
     Jesus
.
    
     --The Daily Bleed

Sunday Sermon XVI:  Delilah Can't Cut It
     Intrepid blogger Chelsea at
<
http://www.livejournal.com/~lickerish/>
has an entry & some discussion from her followers about
Erotic Moments, brought to you by the Bible, featuring 

  A new calendar, coming out in Germany [that] features
  erotic photography depicting scenes from the bible.
                         [
Monday, December 5th, 2005]
    
More info can be found at
here at Yahoo; the Reuters
article from Berlin notes that

         
A German Protestant youth group has put
     together a 2006 calendar with 12 staged photos
     depicting erotic scenes from the Bible, including
     a bare-breasted Delilah cutting Samson's hair and
     a nude Eve offering an apple.

    
The calendar site itself is in German, appropriately, &
really isn't worth visiting (& seems to say the calendar is
sold out) since it offers only one illustration, a larger
version of the Samson & Delilah scene shown here:
    
    Harmless fun, but it led me to investigate
that Biblical tale, which I suspected had
been corrupted in the popular telling, as
most such stories are, & furthermore don't
stand up to much scrutiny no matter how much the
faithful seem to think they mean something significant.
Right on many counts, it turns out.  In the first place,
Delilah didn't cut Samson's hair
, despite the common
belief.
      Judges 16:19 plainly says:

  
And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called
    for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks
    of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength
    went from him.

    
So Samson was shaved by a man, one of the many she
was apparently in the habit of keeping on hand, "lying in
wait," as the verses report.  Because Samson was also
very dim, since he had lied to her (presumably normal
behavior for a godly superhero) three times about the
source of his strength & each time had been set upon by
those same convenient assailants & prevailed but yet
came back to Delilah.  Seemingly, he suspected nothing &
finally told her the truth -- tho why God had to locate
the source of his power in his hair & why he was made
vulnerable (tho this is, not surprisingly,  a common theme
in
mythology) is a mystery, since God could have just
made him invincible, instead of merely stupid & cruel
(he slew 3,000 Philistines, after all, when his hair grew
back, including the women & men who were bystanders,
as well as the "lords of the Philistines").  He also
consorted with prostitutes (& Delilah herself), tho
apparently God wasn't troubled by this, & was a showoff
as well who destroyed things for no discernible reason.
     As the
Skeptic's Annotated Bible comments about an
earlier, pointless adventure:

   
      Samson, after "going in unto" a harlot, takes the
      doors,  gate,  and posts of the city and carries them to
      the top of a hill.  Why  did he do this?  Did God make
      him do it or was he just showing off?  The Bible
      doesn't say. 
[see details at
     <
http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/jg/16.html>]

    
Tho Samson's head was actually shaved, the calendar
shows Delilah wielding scissors.  I was curious enough
to look into this & found that scissors indeed existed as
far back as ancient Egypt, but modern pivoted
scissors
weren't invented until about A.D. 100.  Previously,
scissors were more like knife blades at either end
of a u-shaped springy piece of metal, as shown here:
     In the course of this diligent research, I
uncovered another interesting site
mentioning Samson & Delilah, in a spirited defense
of
polygamy based on biblical passages  -- very
convincing, I think -- such as:

   
We need to be able to share that in 2nd Samuel 12:7,8 it
     says that God gave David wives.  If God gave them, then
     it could not be wrong to have them.  Otherwise it would
     be accusing God of participating in the sin!

     We need to be able share that Jesus never condemned
     having more than one wife, although he did condemn
     divorcing one wife to marry another.  (Something that is
     very common in the western world these days).


    
And so forth, with exhaustive citations.
    
Another site that discusses Samson & Delilah also
contains this unusual assertion in a sermon by Pastor
Steven L. Shelley:

   
Do you know Jesus died naked?  He died naked.  This is
     not a thing that we want to think about, our Lord dying
     naked.  But He died naked with nothing.  Gracious artist
     have given Him a little cloth to cover His manhood.  But
     He died naked.  And I believe there’s a message there. . . .

    
Something for Biblical scholars to debate, I suppose,
but it's appropriate to this sermon's
emphasis on
eroticism (& scissors),
especially in light of
Catholicism's
enthusiasm for
conflating visions of sex &
torture (see
St. Agatha, who had
her breasts crushed & cut off -- as obsessed over by the
young Garrison Keillor drawn to a library book showing
her carrying them on a platter in Lake Wobegon Days),
tho I doubt Christ's dangling manhood will show up soon
on anybody's calendar.  Still, given the short work relic
hunters made of the one true cross, which litters Europe,
it's amazing that particular trophy -- especially if bereft
of even a shmatte -- didn't turn up somewhere.
           
  Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                       z-guide
Tue. Dec. 6, 2005 

   1918 --
US:
   Department of War abolishes the practice
    of manacling defiant prisoners to the walls of their cells
    in solitary confinement, used to torture conscientious
    objectors (COs) in US prisons during World War I.
   
     --The Daily Bleed

Tech Note:  Z-Blog has completed some upgrading
& will resume within a few days of this explanation.
PC hobbyists may be in interested in some details & may
even have advice:
     The major hangup was that I have a dual-boot system
with WIN 98 & XP.  I went from 512 Mb RAM to
1.5 Gb.  You may know that WIN 98 is notorious for
choking on anything more than 512 Mb -- in my case not
loading at all & generating "insufficient memory"
messages, even tho that was plainly not true.  It was a
matter of insufficient resources to handle the additional
addresses required by the new memory;  research turned
up the same few tips, which boiled down to variations
on editing [VCache] in System.ini to:
     minfilecache = 5120
     maxfilecache = 524288
     chunk size = 512

And [386Enh] to contain
     ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1

    But I found I had to first eliminate my permanent
Swap File & let Windows handle the memory, & edit
[386 Enh]
by adding
     MaxPhysPage=40000
as MS support suggests, to allow using up to
1 Gb of memory.  The other edits did nothing or made
things worse, but Windows does now report that I
have 1 Gb of RAM installed, & runs fairly well, tho
I still have some problems with memory-intensive apps.
XP runs great, of course.
     Attentive observers may notice that in the meantime
I have added a link to the death notice for Jim Barker,
founder of Milwaukee's Avante Garde coffeehouse in
the early 1960s.
     The
Sunday Sermon will be back, with the next
installment to cover some discussion of erotic scenes in
the Bible as well as the provocative question of whether
Jesus died naked on the cross.
         [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                   
z-guide
Sat. Oct. 15, 2005 
   1965 -- US:
    University of California-Berkeley Teach-in & march; 14,000
    hit Telegraph Ave. (Norman Thomas spoke?). 10,000 march to
    an Oakland, California army base to protest the Vietnam War;
    Another is held tomorrow, along with 80 other cities across the
    US, against the Vietnam War.
   
     --The Daily Bleed

Z-Blog will resume after hardware upgrade
Fri. Sept. 23, 2005 
   1983 -- Brazil:  More than 500 women looted a grocery
     store in Brazil's drought-ravaged northeastern region, taking
     seven tons of food, a local government spokesman said."
San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 23, 1983
      --The Daily Bleed

     Tedious as it is to write about (& no doubt to read),
the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's weak copy desk
has repeated some previous offenses by ignoring the
meanings of catalyst & nauseous, commonly abused
words you'd think would automatically raise some red
flags.  This day, on the front of the
Business section,
Kathleen Gallagher writes "Research spending -- the
catalyst for creating high-paying knowledge economy
jobs -- is rising in the state. . . ."  But a
catalyst, as I
have pointed out, is a facilitator of a reaction that in
itself remains unchanged -- such as the platinum in a
catalytic converter.  It is an important distinction
precisely because it tells you the substance is not
consumed, & therefore will not have to be replenished.
     A charcoal filter in a gas mask canister, by contrast,
will become saturated & need replacing.  By its nature,
research spending is consumed -- the very meaning of
spending in this case.  That lets us know more spending
may be needed, or at least has a finite practical life.
     A useful substitute would be stimulus or impetus.
     The next day, Sept. 24, Community Columnist Kurt
Spielmann
wrote on the
Perspectives page, ". . . the
universe was in a mood to blend me up & make me
nauseous. . . ."  It's easy to joke that a "blended up"
Spielmann may be a nauseous prospect for us, but it's
apparent he meant it would make him
nauseated.
     At least some originality is shown by Tom
Silverstein
on the front of the Sept. 13
Sports section,
who reported that Packers' cornerback Ahmad Carroll
drew penalties the team couldn't live with.
Unfortunately, Silverstein repeated several times
Carroll's perhaps forgivable observation that he
"committed penalties."  No, he committed offenses &
received penalties.  Right, Tom?  What's the penalty for
the weak copy desk for committing this offense? 

        [Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                     
z-guide
Sun. Sept. 18, 2005 

 1987 --  Pope John Paul II, whose authority rests solely on 2,000
  years of Christian tradition, speaks to Native American leaders
  in Phoenix, Arizona, urging them to forget the past
    
--The Daily Bleed
 

Sunday Sermon XV:  Virgins & Other Myths
     By betting on an afterlife in their heaven, our
Christian warriors in Iraq may be cutting themselves
off from a reward as appealing as the one proffered to
the opposing Muslim martyrs, with their promised 40
virgins
-- & they wouldn't be expected to blow
themselves up.  They should, however, die bravely in
battle against the enemy -- any enemy will suffice, tho
Al-Qaeda or Sunni Iraqis would surely do nicely -- to
enjoy the Valhalla of the Norse gods.  They are dying
there anyway, & as the recent edition of
Atheism at
About.com points out:

             
Valhalla: Can You Take the Chance?
       A common Christian argument says that one should believe
   in God because it's too much of a chance not to believe.  It's
   a bad argument that some Christians recognize as bad, but far
   too many continue to use it.  We can, however, turn it around:
   why take the chance that Valhalla doesn't exist?  Is it really
   worth  the risk?
  

     Should you not die in battle, there is a lesser level
of Valhalla waiting, tho whether you are Christian or
pagan, this approach assumes one can deceive God
or the gods by seeming to believe for the purpose of
achieving everlasting life.  But dying for a religion does
evince a certain level of sincerity, one would think.
     If you at home persist in mocking the Norse gods,
however, you are not alone.  This
Z-Blog remarked
upon the ascension of O. Ricardo Pimintel to editorial
page editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that
he had belittled just such beliefs:

     
"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. . . ."

    
So I expressed my hope that he would be just as
skeptical of such myths as Jesus turning water into wine
or Joshua stopping the sun.  This remains to be see, but
you can read the complete entry for Aug. 24, 2004
here.
     Of course, while Christian Americans scoff at
other, inferior religions in general, that doesn't mean
they won't support the most oppressive when it suits US
interests, as The Nation writer Katha Pollitt points out
in a column about Iraq in
Theocracy Lite:
    
   So now we know what "noble cause" Cindy Sheehan's son
   died for in Iraq: Sharia.  It's a good thing W stands for
   women, or I'd be worried.  The new Constitution, drafted
   under heavy pressure from the Administration, sets aside
   the secular personal law under which Iraqis have lived
   for nearly half a century in favor of theocracy lite.  "Islam
   is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of
   legislation," Article 2 begins. . . .

    
She goes on to write:

 
women have a lot to look forward to: being married off
  at the age of 9, being a co-wife, having unequal rights
  to divorce and child custody, inheriting half as much as
  their brothers, having their testimony in court counted as
  half that of men, winning a rape conviction only if the
  crime was witnessed by four male Muslims, being
  imprisoned and flogged for premarital sex, being executed
  for adultery, needing mandatory permission from husband
  or father to work, study or travel.

    
Never fear; Muslim women like it that way.  A Sept.
15
entry at the
About.com Atheism page asks:

          Atheist Women Envy Muslim Women?

  Islamic tradition forces women into an inferior role in
  society because it is assumed that men won't be able to
  control themselves around women.  Instead of blaming men
  and getting men to exercise self-control, women are
  segregated for the good of society.  Some Muslims can't
  seem to understand why everyone doesn't think this is a
  good idea.

    
So Christian / Muslim ecumenism in Iraq has its
benefits for the religious right in the US, too, as
they no doubt secretly thrill to the idea of veiling &
covering the womenfolk here & imposing legal
punishment for loss of virginity before marriage
if they can, even while a more secular France is
demanding Muslim women not wear their scarves
to school.  It seems the culture war produces strange,
if chaste, bedfellows.
        
[Your Thoughts]   [Read Comments]
                                   
z-guide
Mon. Sept. 5, 2005 
Labor Day

A. Phillip Randolph:
     The essence of trade unionism is social uplift.  The labor
movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the
despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor.

Abraham Lincoln:
     Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.  Capital is
only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor
had not first existed.  Labor is superior to capital, and deserves
much the higher consideration.
    
--The Daily Bleed

Labor Commissioner Flower stated in the  [Wisconsin]
1883-84 Biennial Report:  "Strikes have been likened to
war, but they also may be likened to boils which show the
condition of the system. That it is
deranged and the blood
impure and a constitutional remedy is needed to drive the
humors out
".

     The last statement -- by a government official
charged with overseeing labor concerns -- illustrates
the hostility to justice for workers that prevailed at
the time.

     But well-meaning paeans to labor today temporarily
overshadow the pernicious arguments against fairness
for the marginally-employed, still left behind by general
advances for the unionized.  The forces of reaction
never sleep, & tho the gains realized by unions thru
some heroic actions were recognized by many
Americans in a general way, by the '60s -- in my
experience -- a counter-movement had prevailed to the
point where those not actually in heavily-unionized
industries thought that "Big Labor" had gone too far,
that they were somehow obstructing the American way
of life. 
John Dos Passos himself had turned against us,
& even in the working-class, news of a distant strike in
one well-paying heavy industry or another left many
(some being my own relatives) indifferent to, or
suspicious of,  labor's "demands," as the media usually
characterized them.   Shortly after a long factory strike
in Milwaukee, my homeroom teacher in junior high,
Mr. Pollnow, felt called to calculate for us the loss in
wages by the workforce there during the stoppage, &
claimed they would never make it up.  The obvious fact
that the victory set the stage for even more later gains
was ignored.
     And in truth, labor chose to hold onto its gains by
acting in a client / agency relationship with unions,
rather than a movement that should be extended to the
harder to organize employees in service occupations;
low-wage factories (such as Southern textile
manufacturers); & domestic, agricultural, day-labor &
migrant workers.  
     I paid my dues to the steelworkers for about 8 years
as a working student, unknowingly abetting the
indifference of labor leaders -- with their inflated
salaries & grossly inequitable perks -- to the
un-unionized, but as a college student with little sense
of labor history, I have to blame corrupt & complacent
officials.  Their job, after all, was to protect & extend
unionism, not reign over its demise.  But drastically
decline in influence it did, from 32 % to 12% of the
workforce, until more progressive unions finally broke
away from the
AFL-CIO this year in frustration.
     But the last line of defense for those workers who
never reaped the benefits of organization -- progressive
legislation & sympathetic regulation -- seldom gets a
fair  chance at implementation, while in real dollars,
Federal
minimum wages have actually declined 30%
since the '80s.
     The conflicts around the new state minimum wage &
harsh practices under the Unemployment Compensation
regulations ignore some of these other burdens faced by
workers.
     The Wisconsin general minimum wage increased to
$5.70/hr. on June 1, & is scheduled to go up to $6.50
next June.  A separate rate of $5.30 for minors &
entry-level workers younger than 20 in their first 90
days of work also is in effect.  Wonderful, especially
according to the self-congratulatory responses of  many
of the parties involved in the legislation for the 10.7%
increase that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called
"the result of a contentious process that involved
parliamentary maneuvers, municipal one-upmanship
and a lawsuit." 
     Of course there was much acrimony surrounding the
legislation, with familiar arguments on both sides.  The
major criticism of the increase, as always, is that
low-profit businesses may cut back on hiring & perhaps
be driven out of business, resulting in net job loss for
those meant to benefit most.  But the chief economist of
the US Dept. of Labor said in 1996:
     
In discussing the minimum wage, Robert M. Solow, a Nobel
   laureate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
   recently told the New York Times, "The main thing about (minimum
   wage) research is that the evidence of job loss is weak. And the fact
   that the evidence is weak suggests that the impact on jobs is small."

    
Other experts, such as former Labor Secretary Robert
Reich
have said the same.  And of course it should be
indexed for inflation to avoid the periodic revisiting of
the debate & the interim decline.
    And -- for the record -- it is argued that many of the
minimum-wage jobs are for new workers, not meant to
be permanent (or family supporting) but valuable
training & just the bottom on the ladder of success.
Again, the evidence is otherwise, according to
studies:

   
Contrary to popular opinion, the average worker affected by
   an increase in the minimum wage is not just a teenager flipping
   hamburgers. Only one in fourteen is a teenage student from a
   family with above average earnings.
     The fact is, almost two-thirds of minimum wage workers are
   adults, and four in ten are the sole bread winner of their family.
  

       And of course there is the conservatives' unease
with anything that interferes with their prerogatives as
employers, & a general hatred of any kind of safety
net that gives a little independence to potential new
hires.
    
  A consideration should be that employers pay the
going rate for raw materials;  the going rate for human
sweat -- & often blood -- should at least be a
living
wage
, nevermind the minimum wage.  In short, if
employers can't afford the price of raw materials, they
don't go into business -- society itself should set the
minimum cost of labor at the poverty level.  People are
generally trapped by circumstances, whether families
to feed, ailing loved ones to take care of, community
ties, geographical obstacles, lack of education  --
whatever.  The presence of others like themselves on
the market further depresses their apparent value -- &
dignity.  As railway baron
Jay Gould (1896),  said, "I
can hire
one half of the working class to kill the
other half."
  And no doubt desperate parents will
work for starvation wages to feed their families, but
that doesn't make it right.  So the bargaining is skewed
in the employer's favor unless our representatives step
in.  If not a union, then the legislature is, or should be,
their protector. 
     First, it should be noted that a marginal employer
depending on rock-bottom wages to survive might
conceivably be put out of business by paying a higher
minimum wage, tho they have been claiming that, with
little evidence, in Wisconsin since
Aug. 1, 1919 when
women & minors 17 years of age or over were first
entitled to 22 cents an hour.
  But the trade would
probably go to another employer, more likely than ever
to afford the hike & hire new employees, picking up
the slack.  Thus, one employer could thrive where two
were faltering. 
     Where there is actual irreducible unemployment,
society would have a true picture of the extent of the
problem & would rely on the safety net & enable
re-employment elsewhere, of course, thru training &
education, while the employed would have more money
to spread around & maintain the economy as a whole.
     All the above is, or should be, common knowledge.
     But critics who oppose any increase in a minimum
wage, who see it as a temporary stage in a rise to more
affluence overlook another important fact:  Many of the
recipients have been marginally employed or
unemployed for so long that they are starting with large
deficits.  No doubt they have used whatever savings
they might have had & borrowed where they could,
falling behind on all sorts of payments -- rent, heat,
balky autos, medical bills -- to the point where what
looks like adequate pay for at least a short term doesn't
begin to let a worker cope. 
     Often overlooked is that it costs more to be poor --
I often wished I could take advantage of store sales on
something I didn't need at that moment, or buy large,
economy sizes or get the two-for-one deals.  Today, I
can pay a year in advance for the newspaper & get
3-year subs on magazines, & use a debit card for Internet
sales -- often with free shipping.  Maintenance --
whether for health concerns or car care -- saves in the
long run, if you can afford it.  And so it goes.
     As a temporary worker, for example -- mostly night
shifts in binderies -- I had to travel to Brown Deer Rd.
on the north & College Ave. on the south.  I soon
learned how much depended on keeping an ancient car
running, & lost out on jobs simply because I couldn't
manage the upkeep on the low wages.  Of course, as a
person competent or educated in several areas, I
wouldn't look for such work until I became sure I had
no better alternatives elsewhere, with my resumes
circulating & applications in play & the chance that
work thru the longshoremen's union would pick up.  In
the meantime, bills -- heating was always a killer in
Wisconsin -- piled up as I worked down the list of
possibilities.  I knew the crushing routine at a bindery,
such as Advo, Inc. -- where I stayed for 13 months
while trying freelance writing until my 25-year-old
Oldsmobile was rendered such a death trap that the
garage refused to work on it any more -- made looking
for other work at the same time a daunting task.
     Fortunately, I stayed healthy, tho my teeth were
crumbling, since County General Hospital was shut
down.  A new program, GAMP, requiring advance
payment of $70 a year -- regardless of whether it was
used -- came on line, but after the first 6 mo. I took my
chances, as would any fairly healthy person.
     Still, the temporary agencies would be on my mind,
& I would find myself figuring that if I had to, at a
minimum rate of $5.15/hr. or so,  I could soon be
earning over $200/wk., or more than $800/mo.  Frankly,
it seemed at times like a fortune was to be had.  The
reality was, after the desperate decision to take
anything, there was always the time lag of finding an
agency, taking tests, waiting for the calls -- & then often
settling for a smaller number of hours than needed to
survive.  Assignments would vary in length, of course,
& naturally as the better-paying jobs dried up in lean
times, so did the temp jobs -- while competition
increased.  A one-day assignment cleaning an old lady's
basement might be it for the week, or 3 days in a bindery.
     A few days on the docks could be wonderful (a 12 hr.
day paid $221.20 in 1985) -- tho it might mean turning
down a temp job & alienating an agency or at least
getting dropped, necessitating reapplying -- but it hardly
meant an escape from the morass of debt.  Eventually I
exercised my option of cashing in my pension early,
after 21 years on the docks, for a lump sum.  At age 52, I
took a big hit in tax penalties -- but it kept me going,
letting me pay back rent.  Had I been evicted, I would
have had nothing for a security payment, or storage fees. 
     The details will differ, but that sort of existence is
common in the underclass.  So the minimum wage --
meager at best -- is not even the apparent tool of
survival for many that it is meant to be, & we are
begrudged even that.  
         There is somewhat of a safety net, as mentioned,
including Unemployment Compensation (UC), the goal
of which is not just wage earners' protection but that of
landlords, grocers, business owners & everybody who
depends on the workers' wages, just as Food Stamps
benefit the farmers who raise the food they buy & the
merchants who redeem them.  By its nature, UC depends
on a certain amount of employment for the individual,
whether long-term or some amount of short-term work.
     This sets the stage for little-noticed abuses of the
same worker penalized by inadequate wages & a low
minimum wage. 
     To illustrate:
     During a winter layoff as a longshoreman -- which
paid enough during the busy fall months to survive on &
qualified me for UC for part of the winter -- I was
registered with Olsten, a temporary agency, after my
UC ran out.  In previous years they had found me some
office work, but I hadn't heard from them for months --
until a new season of UC benefits kicked in & the state
notified them I would be collecting, based partly on
previous employment there.  Since spring & a new
shipping season were near, I hadn't looked for work
recently -- but suddenly my phone was ringing, & there
was an Olsten person. 
     My old application listed proofreading as one of my
skills, so their first offer was as a bank proofer --
something to do with looking at checks -- which I safely
turned down, as it was not the same thing.  But the next
offer was indeed as a proofreader, something I genuinely
enjoyed -- my last stint had been as a legal proofreader
at Whyte & Hirschboeck, Downtown -- but very hard to
get, in my experience (I suspected age & sex
discrimination; also, with word processing becoming
commonplace & putting typesetters out of business, the
machine operators doubled in that capacity, too).
     My dilemma was that my regular job was about to
start, so to be honest I had to tell them I couldn't commit
to a long period, tho I would like to.  What, I asked,
would the potential (unknown) employer think about
that?      
     I'm not likely to forget the female interviewer's
words on the phone:  "Let me run it by them & I'll see
what they say.  I'll get back to you on that."
     Not too long after that, my UC checks were cut off
on the grounds that I had refused work -- a serious
matter.  Of course, I appealed & eventually had a
hearing.
     There were 2 issues involved.  The first was that as
a longshoreman I got my work thru a hiring hall, so to a
certain extent I controlled my hours -- taking off to rest
if  I had to, or hustling for every hour I could get.  But
during slow periods when I was collecting UC & I was
notified there was work available -- as opposed to
taking my chances in our version of the shape-up -- I
was obligated to work if the orders got down to my
number & I was posted.  I could still collect benefits if
I didn't earn above the permitted maximum for the week. 
     Most important, if I did not perform all the  work
 available to me -- & we were monitored by the state &
the stevedoring companies (duties eventually taken
over by my union) -- I was not eligible for UC for that
week.  But that was the extent of the loss.  Now, the
temporary agencies stress the fact that they -- not the
company where you go to do some work -- are your
employer, & everything from your pay to your hours to
your complaints are handled thru them.  And certainly
there are no guarantees as to whether you'll work a day
or 3 months. 
     I reasoned that this is the same as working thru the
union hiring hall, & if I refused work my loss should
only be for that week, since I was still registered &
available for work -- should it come along -- the next
week. 
     Remember, I also maintained I had not refused work --
I thought my situation was pending.
     At the hearing, the interviewer produced a file card
which had brief notations of my contacts with Olsten
over the years, except the last entry, which even the
hearing examiner remarked was in a mysteriously
different ink & handwriting & quite lengthy in
comparison, detailing explicitly how I had turned down
work when offered.  No mention of "run it by them," of
course, or getting back to me.
     But I was notified by mail that I had lost; I was
penalized half of my remaining possible compensation
(about $900 of $1,800) & barred from applying for any
part of the remainder for a period of months, as
specified in the statutes.
     I did try try complaining about the fraud to franchise
owner, noted Fox Point art collector Anthony J.
Petullo
.  He informed me he didn't believe his office
manager -- who had testified against me -- would do
such a thing.
     There is a higher appeal process, by mail to the
commissioners in Madison, which I tried -- copying the
relevant statutes, sending the Olsten employees'
handbook, etc. -- but I lost again, with no reason given.
I gave up at that point, tho I could have appealed to the
circuit court.
     Out of this, I see the need for 2 reforms.  First, the
status of temporary workers should be clarified:  If they
are employees of the agency & haven't been working
while waiting for an opportunity (& haven't walked off
a job) why should a refusal of an indefinite term of
employment count for more than the loss of 1 week? 
How does it differ from work obtained thru a hiring
hall?  (Ships may be in port for part of a day or a week
or more).
     Second, any action which may result in such
punishment as loss of benefits should be confirmed in
writing, by a follow-up postcard or other method that
would allow the worker at least to go on the record at
the time as to the accuracy of the report.  While I
wouldn't want to place an undue paperwork burden on
the agency, even a phone call of notification at that time
allowing one to come in & make a statement for the
record would help in a hearing months later. 
     For example, while I don't know how common such
disputes are, I recall a bindery, Wisconsin Cuneo
Press
, that objected months after some assignments there
that they were opposing my UC claim on the grounds that
I had missed a scheduled shift & never returned to
work.  In fact, I had been on my way to work second
shift one blazing hot day when a wheel came off my car
& rolled across Oakland Ave., but I dutifully called in
from the nearby Sentry store & was informed I was not
on the shift for that day.  As work was scheduled day to
day, I was not expected again until the agency (Cornwell,
not Olsten) told me I was.
     Had a notification procedure been in place -- the
agency would have been told I did not show up -- I
would know by not hearing anything that there was no
disqualifying absence.
  As it was, I told my story at the
hearing & the opposing witness had no payroll or other
information to document that I had missed work -- she
said it was just policy to oppose all claims.  This time I
won, but even an appeal can eat up many unpaid weeks
 -- during which time you must keep filing if you hope to
collect any remaining benefits if you prevail.
     Another time I waited about 8 months to win my
appeal & collect 14 checks at one time.
     Even if you're an expert in UC law, as I came to be,
it's no protection against employer fraud, & certainly
shouldn't be a requirement for the average unemployed
or minimum-wage worker, who has enough to contend
with.
     Enjoy your Labor Day.
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