A Cautious Man
July 23, 2005
 
London Calling


As mentioned previously here, this evening we're taking off for our week's vacation in London. I and the Cautious Wife -


- and the Cautious Children, of course -


- aren't going to let anything, or anybody, keep us from having a great time.


See ya' in a week or so!

I found the above images (along with many, many more) at that web phenomenon known as "We're Not Afraid".

"Mind the gap."


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July 22, 2005
 
Friday Fungus Blogging
It's been a hot, humid summer around here, and this specimen (almost two feet wide) has appeared in the backyard -



Sure, we can "cat blog" too, but anybody can do that ...

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July 21, 2005
 
"I Went To Bed Knowing The Revolution Had Been Postponed ..."
"Sell it and they will come", as one song puts it.

Earlier this evening, as a car commercial played on the television to the strains of "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, the Cautious Wife turned to me and said, "Hey, guess who sold his music for a car ad?" I was unaware, and she informed me, of a new Chevy Truck ad with Steve Earle's "The Revolution Starts Now" as the theme music.

Well, imagine my surprise.

Other folks were taken aback, for example, this gentleman I found while "Googling" around for some reactions -
When the Left Hand Don't Know What the Devil's Right Hand Is Selling

The most shocking moment of yesterday's All-Star Game? No, not Tim McCarver spending 15 minutes explaining his man-crush on the missing Derek Jeter (whose looks are much better than his ability to field, except for that go to his right slide and pop up move that probably truly sends Tim's heart a-flutter). No, not even the ubiquitous plug for the needless remake of Bad News Bears, with Billy Bob Matthau.

It was a Chevy truck ad. I sat there thinking, "Gee, that background music is familiar," but couldn't place it for a few seconds, probably because it was by one of the last people I ever expected to sell his songs. For what to my wondering ears did appear but the voice of harcdore troubadour Steve Earle telling us buying this Chevy meant "the revolution starts...now."
Okay, so that particular song meant something other than "trucks" at one time on this site. But, on the other hand, what better way to carry songs and their ideas to the country at large, than by entering through the door marked "pickup truck ads"? Or, is this something that has no deep meaning whatsoever?

In any event, for a Steve Earle song with a Chevy truck in it, you have to look to "The Week of Living Dangerously" ("Buddy you'd be surprised how fast a Chevrolet truck can go"), where the protagonist runs off from wife, kids and job to cut loose in Mexico, but ends up right where he began -
Well I woke up in a county jail 'cross the line in Laredo
With a headache and a deputy staring at me through the door
Well he said "Now how you got across that river alive, I don't know
But your wife just made your bail so now you're really dead for sure"

Now my wife, she called my boss and cried so I got my job back
And the boys down at the plant, they whisper and stare at me
Yea well my wife can find a lot of little jobs to keep me on the right track
Well, but that's a small price to pay for a week of living dangerously
Some of the best Steve Earle songs have a little irony in them. So, if capitalism carries a little bit of the message out, who's laughing last?

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July 20, 2005
 
Got a Wife and Kids
The President nominated Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court. So, of course, we will learn all about his life, including -
He reported that his wife drew a salary from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, but he didn't disclose the amount. Jane Sullivan Roberts, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, is a partner in the firm specializing in transactions involving technology.

The couple have two adopted children, Jack and Josie, both under 6.
In that case, Senator Santorum has some words of wisdom for the Judge and his family -
In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them really don’t need to, or at least may not need to work as much as they do… And for some parents, the purported need to provide things for their children simply provides a convenient rationalization for pursuing a gratifying career outside the home. (It Takes a Family, 94)

Many women have told me, and surveys have shown, that they find it easier, more “professionally” gratifying, and certainly more socially affirming, to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children. Think about that for a moment…Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism, one of the core philosophies of the village elders. (It Takes a Family, 95)
(Book excerpts courtesy of CapitolBuzz.)

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July 19, 2005
 
"Santorumonious"
It’s no secret that Senator Rick Santorum would like to be President. There’s nothing wrong with that – I understand that every Senator thinks he or she could be President. However, in Senator Santorum’s case, his strategy includes presenting himself as the “Catholic” candidate – if not the only “real Catholic”. It’s a weapon that he can use two ways. First, he can try to capture President Bush’s conservative and evangelical base, and second, he can try to deflect any criticism of his political views by claiming that he is being attacked on religious grounds.

And for both, he has to start establishing what a “real Catholic” is, both to reassure some of those evangelicals, and to anticipate that some of his political opponents will also be Catholic. In short, Senator Santorum will tell us who and what is “Catholic’, and who and what are not.

Where do I get all of this? Well, I guess it starts with the recent dust-up over an article he wrote a few years ago, on the cause of the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. That’s a “biggie” that he has to deal with, if he’s going to get that conservative evangelical vote. Just as Bill Frist did with poor Ms. Schiavo, Senator Santorum came up with a “diagnosis” from afar –
It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.
Originally, when this came up a few weeks ago, I thought that an article from several years ago didn’t really matter much. Then we saw that in response to some criticism, Senator Santorum apparently re-affirmed his assertions. As reported in the Boston Globe on July 13 -
Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, refused yesterday to back off on his earlier statements connecting Boston's ''liberalism" with the Roman Catholic Church pedophile scandal, saying that the city's ''sexual license" and ''sexual freedom" nurtured an environment where sexual abuse would occur.

"The basic liberal attitude in that area . . . has an impact on people's behavior, " Santorum said in an interview yesterday at the Capitol. "If you have a world view that I'm describing [about Boston] . . . that affirms alternative views of sexuality, that can lead to a lot of people taking it the wrong way, " Santorum said.


"I was just saying that there's an attitude that is very open to sexual freedom that is more predominant" in Boston, Santorum said yesterday. Reminded that the sexual abuse occurred across the country, Santorum said that "at the time [in 2002], there was an indication that there was more of a problem there" in Boston.
There are a couple of things going on here, with his initial statement and reaffirmation. Three years ago he refers to "alternative lifestyles" as the cause of the abuse, and in his recent comment he refers to “sexual freedom”. One has to wonder why he thinks these are relevent to a discussion of abuse – until you look back at the infamous “Man-on-Dog” interview he gave in USA Today, in which he also said -
SANTORUM: In this case, what we're talking about, basically, is priests who were having sexual relations with post-pubescent men. We're not talking about priests with 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds. We're talking about a basic homosexual relationship. Which, again, according to the world view sense is a a perfectly fine relationship as long as it's consensual between people. If you view the world that way, and you say that's fine, you would assume that you would see more of it.
See, the Senator is telling us, it’s not an abuse scandal, and it's not a scandal where those in authority let down the people who relied on them, or worse. It’s just some of those liberal, gay priests causing all the trouble. And since they're liberal and gay (if I may suggest where his argument is going), then they’re not really Catholic, and its not a “Catholic” problem at all. Q.E.D.

I don’t think that’s too harsh an interpretation of where the Senator is going with this. After all, he is persisting in associating Boston (as your basic liberal enclave) with the causes of the abuse scandal. In doing so, he is ignoring all of the actual facts which have been developed regarding this, including facts which the American Catholic Church itself is trying to bring to light. Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts took exception (naturally) to labelling Boston as the cause of the abuse, as not only insulting but also contrary to the facts. And Senator Santorum got a well-deserved spanking in Sunday's Boston Globe from columnist Tom Oliphant:
In the end, I've decided, after a decade of absurdities, Rick Santorum is not funny, just weird.

The Pennsylvania senator's latest outburst of cruel insensitivity -- imagining some tie between the ''culture" of Boston and the behavior of priest-rapists -- is garden variety demagoguery.


For some reason, he and his spokesman expanded on this gibberish last week, adding the interesting theory that openness to "sexual freedom" is more "predominant" in Boston. And his spokesman went further, linking the priest-rapists to the sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s and to "liberal bias" at Harvard and other local universities.

As insight into the mind of a demagogue, this garbage is fascinating in its embrace of contemporary media politics, where the headline value of an assertion always trumps evidence.

According to data compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York for the US Conference of Bishops, accusations of child sexual abuse have been leveled at slightly less than 4,400 priests involving more than 10,600 children. Unfortunately, for Santorum, this sad narrative encompasses much more than the so-called sexual revolution. It goes all the way back to 1950, when books and movies were still routinely "banned" in Boston. It would be interesting to have Santorum declaim at length on sex-crazed Boston in the 1960s, but as someone who somehow survived those days (and at Harvard, no less) I could testify from personal experience that Boston was not exactly Sodom.


It is not even accurate to assert that Boston was the center of the child abuse horror. A demagogue feasting off headlines could be forgiven three years ago for equating headlines with deeper truth, but the fact is, as Kennedy put it, that this horrific scandal knew no state or ideological boundaries. Using a simple, clarifying concept -- priests accused as a percent of priests in the affected diocese -- the ''center" turns out to have been Covington, Ky. -- known to business travelers everywhere as the home of Cincinnati's airport. The percentage of accused priests there from 1950 on was 9.6 percent, compared to 7 percent in Boston.
In fact, data compiled by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and made publically available, shows the sad fact that such abuse was found across the country, and was not especially focused, nor initiated, in Boston or any other city which the Senator wants to label as a "breeding ground".

So, in order to make his case the Senator has to wilfully and obstinately ignore facts provided by the U.S. Catholic bishops. At least, he’s not attacking them as not being "real Catholics", which appears to be how he’s "responding" to Senator Kennedy. As recounted Joe Feuerherd of National Catholic Reporter -
It's all about politics, Santorum told participants on a July 14 teleconference call with members of the Catholic press. "There is no depth to which they will not sink," he said of the Democratic attacks. Then he too got personal: "I am for proper formation, something I would challenge Senator Kennedy to be for. Proper orthodox formation within the teachings of the Vatican. I don't think Senator Kennedy would follow that very closely. "

(There's a headline for you: "Kennedy Opposes Proper Formation.")
According to another press account, Santorum added: "I don't think Ted Kennedy lecturing me on the teachings of the church and how the church should handle these problems is something I'm going to take particularly seriously."

See, those who disagree with him aren’t “real Catholics” (and note, by the way, that the Senator's "diagnosis" and even basic understanding of the issue is at odds with the reports from the U.S. bishops). Apparently, Senator Santorum has the "keys to the kingdom" to decide who the "real Catholics" are. And, if you think my assessment of where he’s going with this is far-fetched, I’ll point you to an article from the National Catholic Reporter in 2002, discussing the Opus Dei order (which the Senator is not a member of, so there’s no problem with the conservative evangelicals over that one) -
In contemporary Western debates, this idea of unity between faith and political allegiance often puts Opus Dei-inspired politicians on the right. Santorum was a forceful champion of this view. He told NCR that a distinction between private religious conviction and public responsibility, enshrined in John Kennedy's famous speech in 1960 saying he would not take orders from the Catholic church if elected president, has caused "much harm in America. " "All of us have heard people say, 'I privately am against abortion, homosexual marriage, stem cell research, cloning. But who am I to decide that it's not right for somebody else?' It sounds good, " Santorum said. "But it is the corruption of freedom of conscience. " Santorum told NCR that he regards George W. Bush as "the first Catholic president of the United States. "
Did you catch that? If you want to know what a “Real Catholic” thinks, just look at the current President Bush. And that’s why Rick Santorum will be out to show that he’s the “Real-est Catholic” of them all.

And that’s unsettling.

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July 18, 2005
 
Makin' a List
I decided to add to my reading list.

I found Dodecahedron: an online magazine in a comment to an Atrios post. Something about the guy's philosophical outlook makes him someone to check back on (we can overlook the whole Chicago thing).

And Crooked Timber recommends a new blog by an assortment of physicists, Cosmic Variance: random samplings from a universe of ideas. I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff, so they're on the list now, too.

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July 17, 2005
 
Playing Backyard Bombadier
There's a member of the United States House of Representatives named Tom Tancredo, from Colorado, who has it all figured out with respect to dealing with extremist Muslims. Simply put, we should threaten to bomb their holy sites -
TANCREDO: What would be the response? You know, there are things that you could threaten to do before something like that happens and then you may have to do afterwards that are quite draconian--

CAMPBELL: Such as?

TANCREDO: Well, what if you said something like, if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites.

CAMPBELL: You're talking about bombing Mecca.

TANCREDO: Yeah. I mean, what if you said, "We recognize that this is the ultimate threat to the United States, therefore this is the ultimate threat, this is the ultimate response." I mean, I don't know -- I'm just throwing out there some ideas because it seems to me, at this point in time, or at that point in time, you would be talking about taking the most draconian measures you could possibly imagine. Because other than that all you could do is, once again, tighten up internally.
Thanks to No More Mister Nice Blog for transcribing that discussion (which can also be listened to here and here).

Think about that for a moment. Better yet, listen to the audio at one of the links above, and note the matter-of-fact way this U.S. Representative calmly discusses bombing Mecca, just to threaten or get back at some violent extremists. I looked to see if there were any news stories about this, and other than some piece of fluff at WorldNetDaily (which noted the expected enthusiastic reaction from the crowd at FreeRepublic.com), there basically was nothing. Nada. Zip.

Now, I have a serious problem with this. First of all, this is a statement which could only come from someone who was either screamingly ignorant, or simply venal - because he confuses "Muslim" with "terrorist". But, more important, you know that if some Imam somewhere said that it would be a good idea to set off a bomb at the National Cathedral, or the Lincoln Memorial, as payback for something that America did, the usual crowd from Fox News and talk radio would be foaming at the mouth, demanding that every single Muslim denounce such statements - and continuously bringing it up in case they didn't think the denunciations were public enough or strong enough.

Not to mention the fact that a headline like "U.S. Official Threatens Bombing of Holy Sites" not only hinders our nation's ability to reach out for allies in the Muslim world, but is also a handy little recruiting tool for those who need pliable, impressionable young men to strap on a bomb vest and blow themselves up.

The bottom line is simply this - why the hell aren't more people demanding the Rep. Tancredo be tossed out of the Congress for spreading this garbage?

[Edited on 7/18 to add] There was a little more news coverage of this, today. Rick at So May It Secretly Begin found an article about how Congressman Tancredo is trying to, um, "explain" himself -
The congressman went on to say that he was "just throwing out some ideas" but that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response."

Tancredo released a statement Sunday evening in which he said he was simply trying to figure out what the United States could use as a threat to deter future attacks.

"Among the many things we might do to prevent such an attack on America would be to lay out there as a possibility the destruction of these sites," he wrote.

"I do not advocate this. Much more thought would need to be given to the potential ramifications of such a horrific response," Tancredo wrote.

His spokesman, Will Adams, said the congressman is a "free thinker" who was grappling with a hypothetical situation.

"We have an enemy with no uniform, no state, who looks like you and me and only emerges right before an attack. How do we go after someone like that?" Adams said.

"What is near and dear to them? What is the pressure point that would deter them from their murderous impulses?" he said Sunday.
Maybe it's just me, but that really doesn't make him seem any less ignorant, venal, or just plain embarrassing.

So, I repeat, "Why the hell aren't more people demanding the Rep. Tancredo be tossed out of the Congress for spreading this garbage?"

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July 16, 2005
 
And the Wizards Play
Earlier this morning, the latest Harry Potter book went on sale. The media frenzy began long before that. Now, I am writing about this because of something I saw yesterday. While having lunch with some colleagues, my eye was caught by a caption on a nearby television screen. The television was tuned to Fox News, which apparently was doing some sort of Potter coverage with a studio audience. The caption which caught my eye was something along the lines of "Pope Says 'Harry Potter' Distorts Christianity".

Fortunately, The Opinion Mill has come through for me, pointing the way to a debunking of all this silliness:
With "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" coming out at the stroke of midnight, the wires have been humming with the story that the new Pope thinks the Potter series is bad for kids. This meme was apparently put out by a German crank named Gabriele Kuby, who has written a book accusing J.K. Rowling of impairing the moral development of children with her occult tales. Said crank has letters written in 2003, when the pontiff was still Cardinal Ratzinger, agreeing with her that the Potter tales are full of "subtle seductions" that put youngsters on the slippery slope to hell, damnation and Ozzy Osbourne songs.

Leave it to The Leaky Cauldron, a Harry Potter fan site, to post a link to Catholic Insider, which has the transcript of a radio broadcast making it clear that the Vatican doesn't have a problem with Harry Potter. In fact, Monsignor Peter Fleetwood, a former official at the Pontifical Council for Culture, suggests that Kuby "may not have understood a very British sense of humor" when she took up the cudgels against Rowling's books.
The Catholic Insider link has more of Monsignor Fleetwood's interview on Vatican Radio, to clear things up -
I was sent a letter from a lady in Germany who claimed to have written to the then cardinal Ratzinger, saying that she thought Harry Potter was a bad thing. And the letter back, which I suspect was written by an assistent of the then cardinal Ratzinger in his office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, suggested that there was a subtle seduction in the books. What that subtle seduction was, was not specified, which makes me think it was a generic answer. And she had written a book on these subjects and so the Cardinal's signature was at the bottom of the letter, suggesting she should send me the book.

She sent me the book, and I found it a very unsatisfactory book. I don't think she understands English humour. For example, she said: one sign that these books are making fun of Judaism and Christianity is that Voldemort, the wicked magician, who is the great evil power against whom Harry Potter has to fight, is referred to often as 'he who must not be named', and she takes this as an insult to the name of God in a similar way that Adonai, which is often written as Jawhe, is the name that should not be said in Jewish religion. Well I replied to her: don't you know that even within English families, men who make fun of their relationship with women in a nice, lighthearted way say: oh, she who should not be named, meaning the power in the house, their wife. You know, I think it was meant on that kind of level.

...

And people have obviously worked of a strange translation of what I said in Italian. It is notable that the only complaints I got were from people using a translation. I don't know who made that translation. They never asked me any questions about whether they got it right. They certainly didn't understand what I'd said in the press conference. So I only whish there had been more time to talk then, but the press conference was about something quite different, and it was only one question that was blown out of proportion.

But I remain firmly convinced that the Harry Potter novels are very well written. They are written on the classical plot of good versus evil in the standard way that the old myths were written. The characters are built up around that: the goodies and the baddies so to speak, and I can't see that that's a bad thing for children, when goodness, and the people on the side of goodness are portrayed as the ones who will eventually win. Harry's enemies resort to all sorts of evil things, and they are the ones who loose in the end. I don't see what's wrong with that, and I can't see that does any harm to children.
There's more sensible thoughts at that link.

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July 13, 2005
 
From the Department of "Timing is Everything ..."
From No More Mr. Nice Blog's survey of this week's best-seller list, we see that Mark Fuhrman's book on the "untold story" of poor Ms. Terri Shiavo started strong, but is now sinking. He should count himself lucky that he sold as many copies as he did. Right after the book was published, Governor Jeb Bush's unwillingness to face facts caused him to get the local prosecutor to look into bringing charges against Mr. Schiavo for what happened 15 years ago, on the night his wife collapsed.

The prosecutor not only said that there was nothing to file charges about, but that there was no reason to raise all of these allegations -
Understandably, Michael Schiavo is not the only witness who has been inconsistent or had difficulty recalling the timing of events surrounding Terri's collapse and resuscitation. Shortly after finding Terri, Michael Schiavo called his in-laws and told them what happened. It is unclear whether he or the Schindlers called Bobby Schindler who lived in the same complex as Michael and Terri and who immediately went to their apartment and arrived before the paramedics. Although Terri's parents had been awakened in the middle of the night with extremely disturbing news and waited at their house for a subsequent phone call on their daughter's condition, they have no clear idea what time they were called by Michael. They had previously provided our office a timeline indicating that they were called as early as 3-4 a.m. but recently told Thogmartin they could not recall the time. Similarly, Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, told Dr. Thogmartin he could not remember the time that he was called or initially arrived at the Schiavo residence except in relation to the arrival of the paramedics.

It is not contradicted that Michael Schiavo appeared frantic and extremely distraught throughout the incident. Under these extraordinary circumstances, where both Mr. Schiavo and his accusers have similar difficulty in reconstructing exact times, it cannot be credibly argued that this discrepancy is incriminating evidence. Nor, in light of his consistent and uncontradicted claims that he immediately called 911, can his error in estimating the time be considered an admission that he waited over an hour to get help for his wife. It does not appear that Schiavo's error was considered to be of probative value in either the civil suit or in the subsequent guardianship proceedings. Schiavo was not confronted by opposing lawyers (or by Dr. Thogmartin) with the potential inconsistency nor was he given the exact times recorded by paramedics as a point of reference. The most obvious explanation is also the most logical: under the extremely stressful circumstances his attention to and memory of the exact time were faulty - in the same way that the recollections of Mr. and Mrs. Schindler and Bobby are flawed.
You can read the whole thing at this link. I wish I could say that Mr. Fuhrman is the last vulture who will try to profit from this tragedy, but we all know that isn't going to be the case.

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July 10, 2005
 
Fear's A Powerful Thing ...
... but not if you do not let it take control.

We've done a lot of things based on fear, or should I say, based on fear overcoming other things. I think that Americans let fear, and let politicians peddling fear, convince us that our problems would be solved if we invaded Iraq, instead of pursuing other solutions.

And, if I may be so bold, I think that we really don't know if the London bombings were the work of a vast international conspiracy, the work of a few dangerous people, or something in between. What we do know is that our governments have not been pursuing policies designed to deal with these dangers.

In any event, despite my moniker here, I and the whole Cautious Family are still taking our trip to London at the end of July. I share the sentiment of the folks who have posted their support at www.WereNotAfraid.com (Link via So May It Secretly Begin).

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July 04, 2005
 
"And the River Opens for the Righteous"
Because, no matter what anybody tells you, Independence Day is about more than invading other countries because our leaders would rather be political than protect our nation the right way -
I am a patriot and I love my country
Because my country is all I know

And I ain't no communist, and I ain't no capitalist
And I ain't no socialist
and I sure ain't no imperialist
And I ain't no democrat
And I ain't no republican either
And I only know one party
and its name is freedom
I am a patriot

And the river opens for the righteous, someday
Little Steven, I Am A Patriot

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July 01, 2005
 
Dancing in a Sky Filled With Light
Inspired by Tbogg's post of July 4th lyrics (for which I've sent him some suggestions to add to his collection), I'm re-running a post from last year, about celebrating Independence Day -
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.
J. Adams, on the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Letter to Abigail Adams (July 3, 1776)
So, here are some fireworks for the Fourth -


Sandy, the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight
Forcin' a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded
on this Fourth of July.

B. Springsteen, "Fourth of July, Asbury Park"
I can hear the fireworks
I can hear the people, people shouting out
I can hear the people shouting out (up and down the line)
And it's almost Independence Day

Van Morrison, "Almost Independence Day"
We drove the car
To the top of the parking ramp
4th of July
Sat out on the hood
With a couple of warm beers
And watched the fireworks
Explode in the sky

Ani Difranco, "Independence Day"
Once in a while
In a big blue moon
There comes a night like this
Like some surrealist
Invented this 4th of July

Joni Mitchell, "Night Ride Home"
Counted the stars on the 4th of July
Wishing we were rockets bursting in the sky
Talking about redemption and leaving things behind

Willie Nelson, "Mendocino County Line"
And the Rockets' red glare, the Bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there.
F. S. Key, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (1814)

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