there needs to be a number to call

(R) There are times where I miss having my falling apart Chevy Cavalier. In that thing, I didn't care if I got in an accident. There wasn't much paint remaining to be scraped off anyhow. Other drivers watched out for me.

This morning, there was not one but two jerks who really deserved a nice scratch down their cars. Interestingly, they were both Illinois drivers, so I guess I can't blame St. Louisans today.

Now, I know people run stop signs and yellow lights here. But this is ridiculous. The van turning left in front of us ran the red light. Then, the, uh, gentleman in the fancy car ran the red light behind the van running the red light. So we've got three lanes of traffic staring at a green light while two vehicles sit out in the intersection. Yes, that's right; they couldn't clear the intersection. They ran a red light when the street onto which they were turning wasn't even clear. Those pesky pedestrians, walking when they have a walk sign.

So then Illinois car number two pulls up a few stoplights later in the right lane. The right lane in this part of town turns into street parking, so traffic has to merge into the middle or left lanes. This guy, though, thought he'd skip the merging line and raced right to where the cars park. Instead of merging, he decided to just swerve into my lane and keep driving. 1988 Cavalier with falling ceiling and rusting exterior would have let him hit it. And don't think this guy was ignorant of what would happen. He turned into the AG Edwards parking garage a block later, which is not a public garage. He probably does that every day.

Until he meets a car with 200,000 miles on it with which the driver is ready to part ways.


the ridiculousness continues

It's football time. Do you know what the means?

Get ready for stem cell ads! Apparently the group Do No Harm, which has backing from some members of the President's Council on Bioethics, has put together a nice little post-election spot. The scene is in a lobby or cafe kind of place in a hospital or clinic. You see a trustworthy looking woman in nursing scrubs walking to the table talking about stem cell research. Someone else is on her laptop at the table, reading off the football score. 72 for adult stem cells, 0 for embryonic stem cells (despite decades of research, of course).

The woman in scrubs gives the SCNT is human cloning line, then, the money shot.

Woman (with authoritative expert tone): You remember Dolly the sheep? It's the same process.

Man (with glasses, overhearing from next table, in a caring, concerned voice): You mean they want to clone human beings?

Oh, snap. We caught you now evil scientists. It's bad enough you don't support productive adult stem cell research but do support the shut out, baby-killing embryonic stem cell research. You just want to clone human beings!

Let's see, how was Dolly born? She must have been grown in a petri dish.

Here's the website they leave at the end of the ad.

Oh, wait, you mean Dolly was born by a sheep, not in a test tube? You mean scientists do support adult stem cell research? You mean there have been lots of barriers enacted to prevent embryonic stem cell research, barriers not faced in examining adult stem cells? You mean there are hundreds of thousands of fertilized embryos lying around and many more that have already been killed?

Shh, don't upset anybody with nuanced thought. Embryonic stem cell research = Dolly the sheep. That's all you need to know.


conservative free trade at its finest

It's almost cliched to talk about all the ways the conservative movement yaks about free enterprise and competition and then does everything it can to make markets unfree.

But I found this one particularly interesting. Apparently in Louisianna and Oklahoma, the states have passed laws banning the use of names of armed forces personnel who have been killed in combat on products like t-shirts and bumper stickers. There have been two bills introduced into the House this year to ban such products nationwide.

Apparently, it's ok for Fox News to use public airwaves to say whatever misleading things they want, but a t-shirt manufacturer can't sell a t-shirt saying Bush Lied, They Died.

Of course, these lovely t-shirts are ok by the conservative kingmakers. And I'm sure everyone in the military feels this way.


happy thanksgiving 2006

I'm celebrating my 300th post by only eating one meal a day. Well, one meal plus snacking on the leftovers all day. You get the idea. My nutrition tip of the year, for those of you who think it's the chemicals in the turkey that make you sleepy, try eating less food. It's all about the calories. In fact, the meal actually counteracts the chemical because it's overwhelmed by all the other chemicals.

I ran across an article this morning trying to get myself out of bed in my cold basement looking at some other chemical reactions that get overwhelmed as we age. I found myself coming to a very different conclusion to a study regarding how teenage brains work than this guy at Newseek did. Basically, psychologists ask young people whether or not it's ok to do stupid stuff (say, light your hair on fire or drink drano or race your car to the edge of a cliff). What they found is that teenage brains are more active than adult brains.

"The results are fascinating, and unsettling. While teenagers are just as likely as adults to get the answer right (the correct answer is “No”), teens actually have to mull the question over momentarily before they answer. As summarized by psychologists Valerie Reyna of Cornell and Frank Farley of Temple in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, teenagers take a split second longer than adults to reject such patently inane behaviors. And more of the teenage brain lights up, suggesting that they are actually going through some kind of deliberative calculation before concluding what the rest of us assume is obvious."

Now, the middle age male author writing about this sides with the conclusion of the psychologists that this is a deficiency in the teenage brain. It is better when asked to play Russian Roulette, the study authors suggest, to act instinctively in saying no rather than to think about it for a millisecond before saying no. I cannot disagree more stongly! The willingness of teenagers to think critically about everything, to harbor fewer learned biases and socialized instinctive responses, I think, is fabulous. The idea that utilizing more of your brain (in a non-urgent situation) is bad strikes me as quite silly. I'll take teens over psychs any day.

I'll take "deliberative calculation" over blindly responding with "what the rest of us assume is obvious" any day.


fun family factoid

Did you know that more 18-34 year olds lived at home in the 1980s than today? I love how Census data goes against trends that trendy trendpointerouters like to talk about.

Also thought I'd say bravo to the Clayton kiddies for pulling off a great weekend. Yay, now we can relax and enjoy Thanksgiving. Sze, good to see you. They got me a set of cards as a thank you present. It's the Bush cards for the second term - even more slanted to the right.


where props are due

I've noticed that the Weekly Standard has had some really good coverage of the 2006 election. It's like insert a little dose of reality, and their inner journalist shines through. I think they ran one of the best articles about the stem cell issue in Missouri. About the only misleading thing is to call President Bush's Council on Bioethics bipartisan (for example, people who disagree with the President's will tend to get removed from the council), but that's a minor quibble in this article . Take a look. They zero in on the core issue, which has to do with embryos, not women, fertilitiy clinics, money, scientists, or biotech companies.

And while on the subject of elections, a friend reminded me of just how impressive the Onion's coverage of the 2000 election was. Their coverage of a (fake) television address by President-elect Bush is remarkable for its accuracy. It really is worth another read.

Also, if you know me, you know I have plenty of things to complain about St. Louis. So, I should definitely point out when something exciting happens. They changed the light cycles at a couple stoplights along Forest Park Parkway! What do you know, driving straight from point A to point B is now my fastest route to work, rather than the ridiculous meandering I would make down to the interstate for a mile and back up to my work (which is on the same road).


baptist fun

Ooh, first an amendment 2 update. While I was writing the post below, I saw another Life Communications ad (during the football game, of course); it was the one with Suppan, Sweeney, Warner, Heaton, and the guy from Passion of the Christ. Interestingly, it had been edited this time. What was cut out was the lies. It was still deceptive, but much less hard-hitting. I wonder if they got a lot of complaints and realized most people are smarter than that, or if they just needed a shorter version of the ad for the game today?

Anyway, on to the Baptist fun...

If you like drama, Baptist life for a generation has rarely failed to disappoint. This year's annual gathering of the Missouri Baptist Convention (the state affiliation of the national Southern Baptist Convention) provided lots of excitement.

First and foremost, I have now been involved with not one but two churches that have been kicked out of the convention. Yes, kicked out, as in, your money and opinions are not welcome here. Basically, the authoritarian fundamentalist conservative movement which has spilled over into secular life the past few years has much of its roots in the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by fundamentalists in the 70s and 80s. If you're unfamiliar with this rather fascinating power grab, here's a good chronology and the wikipedia article for the Southern Baptist Convention. By the way, if you are familiar with this and would like to take issue with my description of it as a fundamentalist takeover, I would love to engage that discussion.

But that's just for background. What happened last week is the messengers to the convention decided that Third and 18 other Missouri churches were no longer welcome. We give money to multiple Baptist groups, and that kind of inclusion is dangerous to the fundamentalists who need to control everything. It's not a young/old, liberal/conservative, traditional/contemporary kind of thing. It comes down to a core question of authority and hierarchy, one which puts Baptists and Catholics on opposite ends of a Christian spectrum between which most other denominations fall (at least, historically). Does the pastor of a church rule the church or serve the church? Do the state conventions exist to tell local churches what to do, or to facillitate cooperation among local churches? Does the Southern Baptist Convention exist to promote a pure conservative ideology, or a broader coalition inclusive of a variety of viewpoints? Is the bureaucracy of the convention to be used for service and ministry, or for furthering a specific agenda? My home church is in a college town and has a wide variety of viewpoints on all kinds of stuff, from trivial to fundamental. That's my formative experience of Baptist life. Promise Keepers and women deacons fellowshipping together. Alcoholics and prohibitionists studying Scripture together, dancers and poker players eating donuts with those who think you need to make room for Jesus between you and your dance partner and that the devil is to be found in cards. A few years ago, our disinterest in taking a stand on homosexuality, among other things, got us kicked out of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Third is a little different. Rather than the more academic and teaching bent of intellectual plurality, Third is more prone to emphasize unity and inclusion of a different sort. There is great desire for harmony and good relations with all. In particular, this manifests itself in being a church not separated by the slavery issue. It's both black and white, urban and suburban. Significantly, it is a place that has maintained ties with both the SBC (ok for missionaries to own slaves) and American Baptists (not ok for missionaries to own slaves). That's what makes Third being a part of the most recent group kicked out interesting. Unlike Second, my home church, Third was never aligned solely with the state and national Southern Baptists. Third goes out of its way to avoid political entanglements in Baptist life.

But that's just the beginning of the excitement; really, it's more just the natural conclusion of events that were put in motion years ago, although I recognize that I am less distraught than some others as I have already been through the experience of being made to feel most unwelcome for sticking to traditional Baptist values. No, this year's convention had much more excitement, as well. I share a couple highlights. Interestingly, the Missouri Baptist Convention hasn't posted the full text of any of the speeches. The only thing I've found with quotes seems to be an article that ran in the Post-Dispatch a few days ago.

On Islam:

Today, Islam has a strategic plan to defeat and occupy America...What they are after is your sons and daughters...They are coming to this country in the guise of students, and the Saudi government is paying their expenses...They are trying to establish a Muslim state inside America, and they are going to take the city of Detroit back to the 15th century and practice Sharia law there...your freedom is on the floor with their foot on it, with their sword raised, and if you don't convert, your head comes off.

That's not some powerless nutcase on the fringe who caught a reporter by the restroom. That's the Reverend David Clippard, Executive Director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, giving an address to open the annual meeting. In fairness, it should be noted that Clippard commented the following day that, "I don't hate Islamic people". Thanks for clearing that up.

On Wal-Mart:

We encourage the 2,100 Missouri Baptist churches and their members to exercise moral stewardship regarding the businesses they patronize.

Oh hey, they're recognizing the impact companies have on workers and communities. Oh, wait, it's a Disney repeat. Apparently Wal-Mart has immoral "pro-homosexual support". I think that's the first time anybody has accused Wal-Mart of being too generous with their employees.

And to top it off, Senator Talent (who is not Baptist) was there speaking about stem cells. Remember, his decision to oppose Amendment 2 and to simultaneously remove his name as a cosponsor from Senator Brownback's anti-human cloning bill is all about principle. Good Missouri Baptist principles.



These are both a few days old, but I've been preoccupied recently by commercials about stem cells. And I decided to be social last night.

Odd priorities, I know.

But this is exciting; one in the awesome way and one in the oh dear Lord kind of way.

First, awesomeness for L-town. Our school board was named Missouri's Outstanding Board of Education. Take that you other 529 school boards.

Second, St. Louis decided to celebrate winning the World Series by topping another list. Most dangerous city in the country.

And Julie's car just got broken into this weekend. How fabulous.