Boston Legal ‘Abortion’ episode

This furor over abortion (again) reminds me of last weeks Boston Legal (the ep. “Smile“) and the rape victim suing the Catholic hospital because they failed to provide her with the ‘morning after’ pill when she requested it.

Specifically I am reminded of the exchange between the characters of Shirley Schmidt and Denise Bauer when, at the end of the episode it is revealed…

…Well, don’t read any farther if you want to be surprised when watching the episode.

Here are the lines from the transcript:

Denise Bauer: So?
Shirley Schmidt: I just spoke with her mother. She’’s having an abortion. While it’s still legal.
Denise Bauer: Girl who said she would never even consider it. She hands Shirley a bottle of beer.
Shirley Schmidt: Well. What’s the alternative? Having custody battles with your rapist? Sorry. That was really tasteless.
Denise Bauer: It’’s all tasteless. The more science comes up with alternatives to the misery of abortion the louder the opposition.
Shirley Schmidt: Course it’’s about power. It’s always been about power. They drink. Shirley motions with her bottle. These guys have any friends?
Denise Bauer: Not for long.

So the do-gooder at the Catholic hospital in fact contributed to someone having an abortion, all because of the scientifically indefensible belief that life begins at conception.

Misery does love company, I guess.

Democratic Victory

Every conservative that I know makes a point of saying they are a “fiscal conservative”. They are, nearly to a man, worried most about the size and cost of government, and want to see it get smaller. Ask any American on the street prior to 9-11 what was most important for the government to focus on, and they would probably respond with some variation on “re-instituting fiscal responsibility”.

Over the last 8 years, Bush and the Republican gov’t he leads have passed one (miniscule) tax cut, while jacking up the budget and the deficit to record levels.

At the pace that ‘progress’ is being made in the Middle East, Mr. Bush will leave office with the U.S. still mired in Iraq, with the neighboring nations posturing militarily in an attempt to make us blink, putting us in the most volatile foreign policy situation since FDR died in the White House, leaving Truman to finish WWII.

…And Republicans across the nation are consumed with what? Passing Anti-abortion measures so that they can try to coerce the SCOTUS to overturn Roe V. Wade.

This despite the fact that the average American, while perhaps not being favorable on abortion themselves, still favors a woman’s right to choose the procedure. I don’t know which political page they are working from, but this spells Democratic Victory in the next election, in the book I’m reading from. I’m batting a thousand so far.

Which reminds me, I’m sticking to my previous assessment on the subject. The only thing I’m curious about is how the new members of SCOTUS will justify striking down the most recent ill-conceived fascist notions concerning abortion law. As if this hasn’t happened before.

So, in the end, the only thing Bush will have achieved in 8 years: handing Democrats* control of the government for the first time since Reagan took office. Way to go, George.


*I wrote Democrats but I was thinking liberals at the time. Bill Clinton was never a liberal. He advanced Reaganomics while president. A liberal would never have done that. Who knows what Hillary would have been as president? We’ll never know now.

Recommending Firefox

I knew I was recommending it for a reason.

It’s just nice to have it backed up with statistics. Here’s a quote:

“Internet Explorer users are 21 times as likely to pick up spyware than Firefox users

I’ve been using Firefox for several years now, and installing it on systems that my boss (yeah, you, sweetheart) assigns me to fix, as well as recommending it to anyone who asks. All based on my own impression of it’s security, and nothing else.

…Until now.

Linux Distro Chooser Quiz

Reading back issues of Linux Pipeline tonight, came across a link for the “Linux Distro Chooser Quiz“. It suggested I use Suse; which is kind of funny, since I’m only looking at other distros because I’m tired of fixing the missing pieces in Suse.

I want to be able to play DVD’s on a linux system without having to stand on my head tracking down different parts of a software program. I just want to install a DVD player that actually plays DVDs; and I haven’t found one that I don’t have to assemble each time I upgrade the OS software. Suse comes with DVD disabled, as well as a lot of other bits and pieces missing and broken.

…and if I find it frustrating, as a confirmed software geek (if not a bonafide programmer) I can only imagine what the average user thinks.

Liable for Compulsive Gambling?

A Pathologist is suing a drug manufacturer, and the casinos that he lost his 14 million dollar Fortune to, because the drug that he was given causes compulsive gambling. I think that not only the drug manufacturer, but the casinos could loose that lawsuit, despite the objections about “where is the justice in this” that I’ve heard.

The lawsuit has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with philosophy. In the dominant philosophy in the US right now (Kantian Altruism) it is accepted that “we are our brothers keeper” which means that the casinos have the responsibility to tell someone who is hurting himself by loosing too much “you’ve had enough now brother, time to stop”. It doesn’t matter that this introduces a whole new mess of problems for the gambling industry. Just like the can o’ worms that bars now face (and that McDonald’s et al narrowly dodged by adding ‘healthy’ items to their menus) in having to be “brother’s keeper”, the casinos have a responsibility to do likewise.

The only way this can be corrected is to change the dominant philosophy in the world today; a daunting task.

As a Capitalist/Objectivist, I’m not going to bother trying to defend the argument that the casinos should be liable; I’m just stating for the record, that based on Altruist values and reasoning, they are.

Not Public School, Government School

If the schools were public, then the public (at large) would control them. This is clearly not the case with the schools we have now. They are government funded, with government mandated curriculum. They are run by quasi-governmental entities elected in the same fashion as government itself.

They are government schools.

As for what to do about it (at least here in Texas) see my earlier rant.

Texas school funding

This has been an issue for so long in Texas, it’s reached epic proportions. If it wasn’t so damned expensive, it might even be funny. I hear today that someone (who’s betting against it being the TEA funding this? Anyone?) ran a poll and ‘discovered’ that a majority of people would be willing to spend more in taxes if it went to schools.

As if “for the children” hasn’t been the mantra that they’ve asked us to shed blood for time and again in the past.

Once again, my name is firmly in the ‘nay’ category. Not just no, but, Hell No.

The government schools are twice as expensive to run as comparable private schools. Giving them more money will not improve the schools, because the increasing number of dollars that we’ve given them (that’s doubled and trebled over time) has not made the government schools function any better.

There is no way to earmark funds for a specific purpose, as should be painfully clear to anyone who remembers that the lottery money, the cigarette settlement money, virtually every new tax scheme proposed in the last 20 years has been “earmarked for education”, only to get dumped into the general fund.

School attendance is mandatory. This makes the government schools into something closer to prisons than they are to places where children learn. The curriculum is set at the state and/or federal level. This turns the schools into an ‘indoctrination center’, where the correct view of this or that event or behavior is sure to be the only one given. The buildings themselves are old and run down from years of neglect by administrators more interested in buying themselves nice lives than they are in seeing facilities modernized, or made less ‘oppressive’.

This leaves the teachers holding the bag, the thankless prison guard who isn’t even trusted with a gun to defend himself with, and is locked in with the inmates on a daily basis. No wonder they want more money.

Here’s a solution you won’t get from the powers that be. Remove the taxing authority from all the school districts. Fire every school district employee who isn’t actively teaching a class. Draft legislation creating vouchers equal to the current outlay per student, payable to each teacher that will be entrusted with the job to teach our children. Give them the authority to hire and fire administration that they choose to employ at their discretion, and out of their pockets.

Give parents the choice to either accept the vouchers, and have their children be tested at the end of the education process; or to do without the vouchers and the testing.

…And then see if the children end up learning more, or less. I’m betting on more.

Beyond the Da Vinci Code

I read the Da Vinci Code; I thought it was a good bit of fiction, a gripping who-done-it with a clever twist at the end, as good as any of the mystery writers that I’ve enjoyed over the years, with just that bit of ‘what if’ that stirs the mental soup even when you’ve finished reading it.

I’d like to stress the word fiction again, just for those jumpy christian types who keep thinking that it is possible to disprove something that is published as fiction.

Seriously, three hours, and counting, of material on the “History Channel” (which gets confounded sometimes as to whether it’s actually supposed to be the PTL or the militarism channel) attempting to prove that a work of fiction is in fact, fiction.

“Yeah, it’s says it right on the spine of the book, thanks for caring, though.”

Not that they didn’t have some interesting sources during the course of the three hours. Sources that lent more credence to the thought that the story was a bit more than fiction, than to the blatant attempt to discredit the book as, once again, fiction.

So, just for grins, here are the sources:

Dr. Deirdre Good – General Theological Seminary
Dr. Karen RallsThe Templars and the Grail
Richard Leigh – Holy Blood, Holy Grail
Timothy FrekeThe Jesus Mysteries
Margaret StarbirdThe Woman with the Alabaster Jar

A heartfelt encouragement of ‘good reading’ I give to you all. May you find it as intriguing as I found the History channel programs frustrating, with the exception of the insights from the sources listed above.

People should question their most firmly held beliefs. Every day. If your beliefs cannot withstand your own questioning, then are they really your beliefs?

“Mcmansions” or just a sign of the changing times…

Only in Austin would they spit on revitalizing downtown residential districts, and call the resultant housing ‘McMansions’. Everywhere else this epithet is used (and rightly, in my opinion) it is applied to the overly large, over priced, housing that springs up in the suburbs. As an architect with a family to feed, I can share the blame for a good portion of that type of housing. Most of the families who moved into houses that I helped get built were quite thankful to have them. To each his own, I live in the central city because I like the convenience of being near downtown.

Based on the complaints of disgruntled neighbors, the Austin city council took action last week and suspended all pending permits for construction in established neighborhoods, subject to review and possible further restriction by ordinance. (how is this not Ex Post Facto, is what I’d like to know, but let’s not get off on a tangent here) Anyone who thinks this isn’t about the same ‘no-growth’ issues that Austin has always been preoccupied with needs to take a crash course in the history of Austin politics.

All you have to do is see which side the usual suspects line up on. The Austin American Statesman is foursquare against the ban, as can be seen from the multiple Op-Ed columns and letters on the subject. Too bad they don’t consistently side with those interested in preserving property rights. This time the property rights (and values) argument is what is being offered by the builders, so that’s the tack that is going to be taken by those who follow the chamber of commerce side of the argument.

On the other end of the spectrum is the champion of no-growth, the Austin Chronicle. At least they are consistent in lamenting the halcyon days of Austin in the 70’s, back when the city was a town, and it was empty when UT wasn’t in session. I wish these people would wake up and smell the coffee.

That Austin has been gone for so long, it was only a memory when I moved here in the late 80’s. The no-growthers got what they wanted way back then, except they found out they didn’t want it when they saw what it was. Property values crashed, jobs went away, projects were left rotting and half completed. They got it again when they passed SOS and successfully killed development in areas outside the city.

This problem is also of their own making. The traffic congestion which is a result of blocking most of the new freeway work that had been proposed 20 years ago, makes living in the suburbs an almost intolerable commute if you work downtown now. Many people who do so would (like me) like to live close enough to avoid a long commute. This (along with other factors) produces higher demand for housing in central Austin. The resultant rise in land prices (also an offshoot of the FACT that Austin isn’t a sleepy little town anymore; but a full fledged city of more than 500,000) has lead land owners to capitalize on property investments.

Now, horror of horrors, “the growth is happening right next door to me!”, not out in the suburbs. “Gotta call my councilman, and put a stop to this.” That’s how it always starts, and it never turns out like they planned it.

If you don’t own the property in question, you don’t have any right to dictate to the current owner what gets built on it. That won’t stop most people from trying, but what usually ends up happening is the development happens anyway, it just ends up costing more. This is what comes from relying on zoning and city officials to do a job that could more reliably be done with restrictive covenants and/or architectural planners who have a clue about what makes sense land use wise.

But then the chamber of commerce types wouldn’t be able to ram through the developments they want when the tables are reversed…

A Lemmings Tale

When I get to puzzling over the quandary of how to convince people that political change is necessary, I am reminded of a computer game I used to play. “Lemmings” was its name.

Lemmings. Ah, those were the days.

These cute little green headed characters would drop out of an entry point, and wander in a specific direction (Oddly enough, to the right. What is the significance of that?) until they met with certain doom. The players job was to save as many as possible from the doom they were marching towards, by converting the walkers to various other functions. In some of the later stages of the game, there just was no way to save all of them. In one specific instance, there is a cliff in front of a relentless stream of Lemmings, and you don’t have any way to stop them. You can stop enough of them to win the scenario, but only if you play it right. You, of course, would rather save them all, but it can’t be done. They walk over the cliff in spite of your best efforts.

That is where we are now, late in the game. Libertarians pointed out years ago that a 9-11 like attack was coming. It’s happened now.

The freedom ploy engaged in by the smugglers John Hancock & Samuel Adams was diverted. The empire that Lincoln was forced to create re-claiming the South for the Union reached its summit in the 50’s and now drops down into historical irrelevance again. FDR’s schemes are coming to their crisis points and must be reformed or scrapped. There is no evading the cliff in front of us, unless we take action. We have to convince enough people who can think for themselves that there is a problem, and that there is a workable solution. ‘Enough’ is a fluid number, based on what solution is used as a target. The rest will have to walk on over the cliff, in spite of us.

We all choose our own destiny, even if our choice is not to choose.