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Something New

6/18/10
Hi Folks,
I've been playing around with my wife's blog template, and I decided to try some new things here.

Here are some things that are going on:

  1. I'm addicted to the World Cup.  The ref in the USA/Slovenia game was disgracefully bad.  That dude shouldn't be allowed to ref a children's game, much less the World Cup.
  2. I hate dealing with wireless routers.  They're the worst.  
  3. I've been hanging out with my brother-in-law's pug puppy while they're at work. I taught it to sit and stay. Apparently I'm awesome at dogs.
  4. I've  been doing some research for my portfolio papers, and some of it is exhausting.

2nd Amendment and the Terrorist Watch List

5/6/10
A friend of mine posted this column from the Washington Post on Facebook today, and I think it deserves a blog.  The title of that column is "Terrorists who want to buy guns have friends on Capitol Hill."  It talks of an initiative to ban the sale of firearms to anyone who is on the terrorist watch list.  This move is opposed by the NRA (surprised?) and others on the Hill.  This columnist wants to paint everyone who opposes this bill as some sort of terror-lover, and the NRA as a terrorist organization.

"Is the NRA a terrorist organization?"
 This is like one of those lines a lawyer would say in some courtroom drama.  Of course the opposing council yells "Objection!" and the judge says "Sustained!" but the words are out there and in the juror's minds now.  You can't unsay things, after all.  I'm no lawyer, but it might even count as libel. Sure, it's phrased as a question, but we know what you meant, Dana.

One-sided rhetoric like this really pisses me off.  I realize that this Dana Milbank guy is a columnist, and not a real "news guy," but if you're going to publish something that people will read in a (reputable?) news paper then you have a responsibility not to write tripe like this.  The NRA is protecting the 2nd Amendment.  Clearly that's a terrorist act.

The NRA isn't off the hook here either.

"The NRA, restating its opposition to the bill a few months ago, said it is all part of a conspiracy by "politicians who hate the Second Amendment" and who "think that more gun owners can be placed on the list over time."
NRA, stop using one-sided rhetoric against people who use one-sided rhetoric!  It's not helpful, and it makes you look just as stupid.  The best cure for stupid is to drag it out into the light and expose it for the stupid that it is.  Piling more stupid on top of it doesn't help.

I seriously doubt that the govt is planning to use the terrorist watch list to just take guns from people who own guns.  This isn't the sort of conspiracy theory that I can get behind.  I'd like to think that our government isn't so far gone that this is a real concern.  These politicians are just worried about terrorists and they have the misguided idea that making laws against guns will keep criminals from getting guns.  That's a claim that is ridiculous on its face.

Let's look at this bit-of-dumb next:
"...change the absurdity in the law that keeps those with alleged terrorist ties off airplanes but enables them to legally buy guns and explosives."
 Actually, this might be a pile of dumb.


There are so many problems here that I'll use a numbered list.

  1. The "terrorist watch list" is a huge problem.  It's chock full of innocent people that the FBI hasn't vetted yet.  They're people who may never have committed a crime in their life. According to the ACLU it's got over a million people on it.  Probably way more than a million.  In April 2007 it had 700,000 people on it.  20,000 people were being added to that list per month.  If that trend has continued we now have 1,440,000 people on that list.  Those people might not even know that they're on a watch list.  They can't get off of that watch list.  I bet it's even likely that lots of them did nothing at all to get on that list in the first place.
  2. What is absurd is revoking the rights of ~1.5 million people based on their alleged terrorist ties.  I'm not sure how anyone can, with a straight face, say that it's a good idea to strip people of rights based on their inclusion on a massive, secret government list that it's nearly impossible to get off of.  That's an F'ing crazy thing to say.
  3. I'd say it's absurd to even keep these people off of airplanes.  Sure, maybe you scan/search them more carefully, but don't keep them from moving freely about the country on this nebulous suspicion.  It sounds very official to say "But they're on the terrorist watch list!"  If that turns out to just mean that they're on a massive, secret government list for obscure reasons then it's just an empty statement that can only be meant to instill fear and silence dissent.
  4. Even if we should keep them off of planes, this doesn't mean that we should make it illegal for them to buy firearms (aka strip them of a Right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights).  This sort of arbitrary removal of rights is exactly what the Constitution and Bill of Rights protect the citizens from.  Rights should only be removed if there's a legitimate reason to do so (being a felon or having some history of mental illness, for example) and not simply because a government entity has put you on a list. 
 Seriously, people. 

The world is not made better by removing more liberties from more people without any real reason.

Jumping Goat Amber Ale

5/4/10
Another beer review!  I was going to finish up a post I started a long while back about Libertarianism, but I decided to be more of a slacker and review another of my Trader Joe's single beers.

Jumping goat is an ale that smells a lot like Fat Tire.  It's got that same sickly-sweet smell with the same sort of hoppy/flower taste.  This one has a taste of honey, too.  Very little head that dissipated soon after I took this picture.  Unsurprisingly, there wasn't any banding at all.

I generally like amber ales, but this is a style I can't really get into.  There's this almost cloying flavor going on and that's not what I want in a beverage.  Perhaps it's the goat part that I don't like.  I had this beer called Celebrator Doppelbock a few years ago with my friend Joel, and it was straight-up terrible.  BeerAdvocates gave it an A+, but I can't imagine why.  It's been a year or two since then, but I think I remember both of us hating it pretty hard.  It did come with the sweet goat-on-a-string in the picture at the right.  At least it had that going for it.

Black Toad

4/29/10
Audrey and I went down to Charlotte, NC and we visited the Trader Joe's there.  They've got a really interesting beer selection, and I picked up a few things that I'd never tried (or seen) before.

My first was Frugal Joe's Ordinary Beer.  It's pretty much as advertised.  It's cheap and it's ordinary.  Actually, I might also call it "inoffensive."  Hipsters, take note. If you don't like beer much, but you want to be seen drinking a beer, this might be the beer for you.  It's super light.  Just a few shades more yellow than tap water.  Very little head, and it doesn't leave any rings on the glass.


Next up is Black Toad Dark Ale.  I poured this one straight into the glass, and it didn't have much head at all. It smells like toast.  No joke.  It's got a pretty nice flavor.  It's nutty and toasty.  It tastes more like a porter than a dark ale.  The after taste is just a little hoppy, and it sticks around for a while on your tongue.

I like it. It's not going to beat out the Shiner Black Lager, but it's nice enough and it's cheap.

Great Books

1/12/10
Hello, Gentle Reader.

I've been remiss in writing these blog posts.  For a while there I was doing philosophy stuff but, as my great friend Chris reminds me, I don't have to do that.  So sometimes I post something neat about an animal that I checked out and became briefly fascinated with.  Sometimes I post vacation pictures.  Mostly, I abandon this site for a month at a time.  No more!  Audrey has WAY more viewers than I do, and I'm jealous.  (Good job, darlin'!)

I have a friend named Travis who has a blog called "Travis Likes to Read."  He hasn't posted in a long time, but I hope he comes back to it.  I like his blog.  He's very systematic in his reading.  He lists the number of pages read and the time it took and such.  I'm not going to do that.

But, I want to post today about a book that my mom said was a classic and told me to read.  It's called Great Books and it's written by David Denby.  I'm on the first chapter, but those few pages are so good that they make me want to write about things!  Get this book.  We'll read it together.

It's about a 40-something movie critic who decides to go back to Columbia to re-take the courses they teach to Freshmen about the great books in history.  The range of things that they read is staggering.  There are two classes, and they're each a year long.  They cover The Illiad to Rawls and Foucault.   The list is heavy on people that I consider to be philosophers, but it also includes Darwin and the Bible and Malcolm X.  It's a heavy list.  The book promises to be about his experience as an adult who goes back and experiences these classics again with fresh eyes.

On page 35, Denby writes:
At the beginning of each semester, I would stand before the books required for my courses, prolonging the moment, like a kid looking through the store window at a bicycle he knows his parents will buy for him. <...> If no one was looking, I would even smell a few of them and feel the pages - I had a thing about the physical nature of books...  Reading has within it a collector's passion, the desire to possess: I would swallow the whole store.  Reality never entered into this."
That is exactly how I felt (feel) about books.  It's not that I have too many books.  It's that I don't have enough shelves and eyes and hours.  I actually have some empty shelves now, and it's a weird feeling.  I pared down my collection so that I wouldn't have to carry so many boxes in and out of moving trucks.  Audrey knows that, when we finally have a house of our own, I'll have a library that's worthy of the name.  I think she's come to grips with that because she loves me.  I want that room to smell like books.