Archive for July 2008

That Would Eliminate A Lot Of Sermon Topics

July 31, 2008

This stunningly ignorant statement from the Confraternity of Catholic Bishops would also be the end of free speech. Period.

The same Bill of Rights which protect freedom of speech also protect freedom of religion. The Founding Fathers did not envision a freedom FROM religion, rather a freedom OF religion. In other words, our nation’s constitution protects the rights of ALL religions, not one and not just a few. Attacking the most sacred elements of a religion is not free speech anymore than would be perjury in a court or libel in a newspaper.

. . .  Individual freedoms are limited by the boundaries created by the inalienable rights of others. The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance.

Uhh, yeah, we do. Sorry if you don’t like it, but this is America, not Afghanistan. There is no “your speech hurt my feelings” exception to the First Amendment. If there was, there would be no such thing as free speech. Everyone, religious and non-religious, would constantly have to watch their tongue, lest they offend someone else’s religion. Sure, it’s good manners not to intentionally offend people. But the law does not enforce manners. Nor should it.

BTW, If you don’t know, the specific occasion of the Bishops’ anger is two recent incidents in which people removed a consecrated host from a church. The first one occurred in at a public school in Florida. A student took the host to protest student fees paying for religious services. National Catholic Blowhards called for the student’s expulsion. Regular thugs just sent death threats. In protest of the insanity, University of Minnesota Professor P.Z. Myers asked for readers of his blog to send him a host, which he then destroyed. National Blowhards called for his firing and regular thugs sent death threats.

In my opinion, not only are the thugs and blowhards dead wrong about the law and freedom, but they don’t even really understand their own theology. Sure, no one but a good Catholic is supposed to take communion, and sure, the host deserves all respect. But isn’t this thing supposed to be God? Can’t he take care of himself? In other words, all the regulations are not to protect God, but to protect the handlers. They make us treat the host with respect not because God needs our respect, but because we ought to respect God. Not following the regs, then, won’t hurt God, it will hurt us. Accordingly, the focus ought not be on defending God, but on rescuing those who defame him. Rather than call for Myers’ death, the faithful ought to have prayed for his soul. Or if that’s too mushy, how about just letting the whole thing be, leaving God to deal with Myers and the student? Surely either of those options would be more productive than calls for death and civil enforcement of religious laws.


Administrators Behaving Badly

July 31, 2008

This one, in Florida, not only banned all pro-gay messages of any type from his school, but harassed gay students, outed some of them to their parents, and then lied about his misbehavior in court, where he lost – badly – a lawsuit over his behavior.

This one is right here in La:

An Iberia Parish principal has been placed on administrative leave after being arrested on numerous drug charges just after midnight Wednesday.

Darius Sias, 38, principal of the Alternative Center for Education, was arrested as part of an ongoing narcotics investigation, according to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

He has been charged with possession of Schedule II narcotics, which authorities identified as cocaine; possession of marijuana; possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance; possession of drug paraphernalia; and monetary instrument abuse.

Home school, anyone?

Fast Food Madness

July 30, 2008

I can’t decide which of these anti-fast food crusaders is the biggest bunch of idiots.

These morons:

A group that opposes same-sex marriage has called for a boycott of McDonald’s, saying the fast-food giant has refused “to stay neutral in the cultural war over homosexuality.”

The American Family Association (AFA) launched the boycott yesterday because McDonald’s joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce several months ago and placed an executive on the group’s board of directors, in addition to donating to the chamber.

Or these paternalistic busybodies:

City officials are putting South Los Angeles on a diet.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a moratorium on new fast food restaurants in an impoverished swath of the city with a proliferation of such eateries and above average rates of obesity.

Both are dummies, but I think the second one makes me angrier.

The AFA’s boycott could actually be a good thing. It sure won’t hurt McDonald’s (or the hundreds of other companies who have committed the same actions that raised AFA’s hackles against McDonald’s) but it means less chance of having to be in the restaurant with an AFA supporter.

The LA council, though, is actually prohibiting people form doing something they want to do. No one forced the restaurants to be in that neighborhood. They went because they saw a chance to make money. And they did, because that’s the stuff the people who live there both want to eat and can afford to eat. There was no force anywhere. Each side acted perfectly freely. Now the city council wants to force people to eat healthy. This may be a matter of first principles, but it really makes me mad that some petty official – any official – thinks they have the authority to put people on a diet.

Doesn’t That Imply Someone Knew About Us In The First Place?

July 30, 2008

According to the New York Times, us rubes in the ArkLaTex live in a “forgotten corner of the South.”

I suppose this is where I ought to get mad at the uppity reporter and take bets on whether or not he’s ever even been to this area. Or ask how such a prestigious paper let such a lazy cliche into a story. But really, why bother? Besides, the more people think this place is a dump, the fewer will want to come here, the nicer it will be.

And We Thought Cars Were The Problem

July 29, 2008

Via Radley Balko:

The cyclist was arrested for assaulting a police officer.

Another Taser Death

July 29, 2008

This one might result in murder charges:

A grand jury in central Louisiana will weigh criminal charges against a former police officer who is accused of jolting a handcuffed man nine times with a Taser before the suspect died, a prosecutor announced Monday. . . .

Former Winnfield police officer Scott Nugent has acknowledged using the 50,000-volt Taser on [21 year old Baron] Pikes while arresting him Jan. 17 on a drug possession warrant, Nevils said.

I found a few interesting things about this.

First, tasers kill people all the time, even though they are marketed as a non-lethal weapon. In other words, it is not that unusual to read about people getting killed for actions that do not seem to justify deadly force. Normally, it is not the cop’s fault. They were using the taser in a situation the taser is supposed to be used: one calling for less than deadly force. The problem is that the taser did something it is not supposed to do.

Second, this case is not the usual taser death. Usually it’s one shot, but the victim had some kind of medical history. Nine times? That sounds excessive, and death looks foreseeable. Then add the fact that the victim was already hadcuffed, and this starts to look really bad.

Third, I’m a cycnic, but I find the most shocking stunning amazing thing about this case is that the cop was fired.

Fourth, note the horrific crime that resulted in this guy’s death: Drug possession.

More Straight Talk

July 28, 2008

Check out this garbled nonsense from John McCain:

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the “New York Times” you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn’t find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit. What is your position?

MCCAIN: My position is, it’s not the reason why I’m running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it’s not the reason you’re running for president of the United States?

MCCAIN: Because I think — well, I think that it’s — it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it’s very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too. I’m running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent — families that are of parents that are the traditional family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don’t have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what’s wrong with that?

MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’re against gay adoption.

MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know. And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation. And I’m running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved.

I have a good idea what was really floating around in his head during that interview. Probably something like “Boy, it sure is ignorant to oppose gay adoptions, but my party and I are beholden to just such ignoramuses, so I better appease them, still I don’t want to sacrifice all my integrity, or else the independents won’t vote for me, either.” What he actually said, though, made no sense whatsoever. Everyone is for two parent families. The questions were about situations where one or both natural parents are gone. In that situation, is it o.k. to let gay people adopt? All he had to say was yes or no. Instead, he pretended not to understand the question. Straight Talk? Only if by that you mean bulls**t artist.

Three Near Misses

July 27, 2008

About a month ago, I noted that I have never wrecked on my road bike. I still haven’t but I have had these three experiences over the last two weeks. They have a very important lesson, so make sure to read the whole post.

Today, I was in a group about twelve miles into a planned sixty five mile ride that was advertised and agreed upon as a social/conversational/reasonable/recovery ride. Of course, two guys did not get the memo about the pace. No big deal, when they took off, we let them go. No one wanted to bother chasing them. Problem was, neither or those two knew the route. That meant they had to frequently stop and wait for us to give them directions.

With the background set, here’s what happened. Another guy and I were up front pulling as we approached a curve. We decided to get through the curve and then let someone else pull. We got through the curve, pulled to the side and faded back. At the same time, we saw the two jackrabbits waiting at an intersection. As I almost reached the back of the pack, one of the speed demons pulls off the side of the road and turns in front the pack. Bikes swerved, brakes locked, tires skidded, curses flew.

No one, though, bit pavement. The only casualty was one guy’s rear tire, which looked like one of those retreads after the tread peals off. The road we were riding – Old Mooringsport – has a surface similar to used eighty grit sandpaper, which, when applied to the skidding tire, resulted in the loss. This guy had to go home early (he had clinchers, but another guy had a spare tubular, which will work on a clincher for short easy distances), and speedy felt like an idiot, but otherwise, there was no damage.

The second near miss was also today. This time towards the end of the ride. Again, this was on Old Mooringsport, but headed back into town, where it crosses Highway 1 – a busy four lane highway. We stopped for the light, and when it turned green looked left and began across the intersection. Then another rider said “watch this joker on the right.” I looked right and saw a small pick up flying up the highway towards the intersection. At the last second he either saw us, or realized his light was red, or both and slammed on his breaks. His tires skidded and barked and he had to swerve off the highway to avoid running the light and possibly nailing one of us. Then he waived at us.

And finally, last week on the Saturday ride I was in a group of six riders as we approached the little hill on Robson Road that is the last attack spot in the route. I was in second place in the pace line; the perfect spot for a winning burst up the hill. We hit the hill, the guy in front of me pulled to the side, the guy behind me pulled next to me, and I got ready to hammer it. I was in the big ring up front, and quickly shifted into a higher gear in back. After it clicked into gear, I stood with my left leg and got ready to explode with my right. Next thing I knew, my right foot was skidding along the ground, the family jewels were smashed into the top tube, and my bike was wildly veering right. What happened? Not sure which was first, but just as all my force was going to the right pedal, my chain had come off and my right foot unclipped, sending my right side rocketing towards the ground rather than my bike rocketing forward. I did not crash – regaining my balance, shifting to big in the front and big in the back to get the chain on again, and continuing forward – but I did not win the race up the hill, either.

So what’s the point? The big one, I suppose, is that the key to bike safety is to keep alert. Most, if not all, bike wrecks are because someone did something stupid. The first one today was because the jackrabbits weren’t paying attention when they pulled into the road. The second one was because of an oblivious motorist. In both situations, everyone escaped because cyclists were paying attention. Cars, other riders, the road, animals, yourself: You’ve got to see it all.

What about my near wreck last week? That seemed to be out of nowhere. Some accidents are flukes. I don’t think even that one was, though. There’s three possible explanations, each of which is easily fixed. Poorly adjusted deraileurs can knock chains off, but I have not had this problem before or since. So that wasn’t it. Worn out clips on shoes (the part that attaches to the pedal) can cause shoes to come loose. But mine are in pretty good shape. That isn’t it, either. That leaves one explanation: Clearly, the problem is that my awesome power is just too much for my bike. So the only way for me to be safe is to buy a bike that can handle me.

Times Reporter Wraps Up Bike Commute Series

July 27, 2008

Here’s Alexandyr Kent’s summary, featuring the usual positives of bike commuting: fun, better experience of city, saves money, green, good exercise. Notes the drawbacks, too, especially the time and sweat costs. Kent missed one of the greatest benefits of commuting by bike to work, though. As stated in an e-mail by a friend of mine:

the bike commute is the coolest thing ever.  I even shower at work now.  It’s so liberating… you know to be nekked at the office.  I feel like Ron White.  I should bring a bean bag to sit in behind my desk.

Liberating indeed. Just make sure the office door is locked.

The Saturday Morning Ride

July 26, 2008

The starting point for most of the twenty to fifty riders is Ellerbe Road Baptist church. A few of us, though, meet in town at the Uptown Shopping center (Line and Piermont) and ride out. We leave at 6:50 from the shopping center, and generally average about eighteen miles per hour. It’s a nice easy and conversational warm up. From the church, everyone leaves together at an easy pace. About four miles from the church, things pick up and the big group splits into several smaller groups. There’s a pace for everyone. Most of the groups turn at 175 and take it to I-49. From there, some keep going on 175 and head towards Keatchie, others tun back.

Our group usually averages in the mid-twenties for this stretch, and we almost always turn around. When we get back to Ellerbe, though, we head right towards Caspiana and loop back on Hart’s Island Road. That’s a very nice shaded low traffic lane that parallels Highway 1 on the West side of the railroad tracks. Then it’s a left on Robson back to Ellerbe and eventually into town.

This is every Saturday. On the way out, we talk and laugh and tell each other how lazy we feel and how we aren’t going to go fast today. Then after the church, the conversations drop as the speed picks up. Going into Frierson on 175, the pace easily exceeds thirty as everyone sprints for the line. Then its time to regroup, drink some water, chat a bit, and ride hard again. By the time we’ve almost returned to Ellerbe Road again, the pace is closing in on thirty once more. Then another recovery. Then a final attack on Robson up a quick little hill. The last fifteen miles is a review of who rode strong, who did something dumb, what we were thinking during the sprints, and how much we’re hurting. And of course, we make plans for the next day’s ride.

Here’s the map showing my group’s ride. I marked the main starting point – Ellerbe Road Church – as a water stop.

View Interactive Map on