Thursday, December 22, 2005

God Is In the Details?

This morning a friend pointed me to a cartoon by S. Harris that he felt sums up the difference between theology and science (I'm paraphrasing there, my friend didn't actually say that. In fact what my friend said, exactly, was,
"The epiphany came for me the other day when we were exchanging emails. Believe it or not it came when my mind stumbled on the memory of this cartoon."
And then my friend included a link to this fine cartoon.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I'm kind of hoping that one of the congressional movements to censure and/or impeach actually take place. Not that Cheney would be any better, but not even censuring seems so... well like we're living in a dictatorship, no matter how pleasant. Everyone must answer to the law if they actually get caught, right?

Edit, 12/22/05 - It has been brought to my attention in the comments that my statement sounds as if I would like the official hearing part of the process to be skipped. Obviously my statement is misleading. The movement that I am supporting would like to form a special committee for investigation of the administration's possible crimes. When calling for law, I am not imagining that those who enforce it should also circumvent it.

Psst - Heard About HR 550, Yet?

Of course you have. I've written about it all over the place. Lots of people have written about it. It's a fine, fine bill with some bi-partisan support, and it deals with the rights of the voters to have a voting system that's verifiable and accountable. That's all. It's not about Democrats winning, or Republicans winning, it's about the person who gets the most voted (electoral or otherwise) actually being named the winner. It's politics, people, both sides cheat, and it's important to have as secure a system as possible, isn't it?

If you haven't by now (My goodness, whyever not!), please, go look at and sign the petition.

HR 550 Petition

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Lifted from The Opinion Mill today, who in turn is quoting Penn Jillette:

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around. Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something. Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future. Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

The magician's contribution to the "This I Believe" feature on NPR's Morning Edition.

I find this statement as soothing as a fluffy comforter wrapped around me.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What I'm Doing

Instead of blogging, that is.

1) Organizing a New Year's Eve weekend. It's work!
2) Catching up on reading everyone else's blog. Also work.
3) Learning my part in some madrigals. I've joined up with a group performing at an SCA event. One's in Latin, one's in German, and I have none of them committed to memory, yet. Plus, I'm getting mightily sick of the tenor line on "The Wren", which will not leave my head.
4) Trying to catch up on actual news. I turned on CNN this weekend only to see people talking about Novak and Plame for half an hour. Don't I already know about that? What about the whole "invading privacy" thing? Isn't that important? I think it's probably very important. Running Scared has some excellent posts on this topic.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

HR 550 - You Know You Love It

In an attempt to seem topical witout doing any work at all, I have COMPLETELY lifted this post from DBK over at Blanton's and Ashton's. I'm hoping he doesn't sue.

Liz of Blondesense told me that she wrote to Randi Rhodes of Air America Radio several times about the H.R. 550 petition and Randi Rhodes has said nothing about it on the air.

Well, how about we all write to the show and ask them to publicize it?

Here's the link to write to Randi.

Here's what I am sending to her (feel free to use part or all of it for your letters too):
Dear Ms Rhodes:

Congressman Rush Holt has a petition at in support of H.R. 550, the verified voting bill that is currently languishing in the House Administration Committee. has called this legislation the "gold standard" of verified voting bills. The bill has 159 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and was also strongly endorsed by the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform. I know you are familiar with the legislation.

On November 30, a blogswarm began in support of H.R. 550 and Congressman Holt's petition. (A "blogswarm" is a loose coalition of web logs that agree to post articles about a certain topic and link to each other's postings on that topic.) The swarm now has about ninety participating web logs, but it is not enough and we need your help. Could you please publicize the Congressman's petition on your program?

Verified voting is not a partisan issue. The possibility that an election could be rigged is a danger to everyone, regardless of political leanings. From the GAO's report on election fraud, issued this past October, to the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform's final report, issued this past September, to the many articles on and, there is no question that current touch-screen voting systems can be rigged. The American people deserve elections that are not only free from fraud, but free from the possibility of fraud. They deserve verified voting, and H.R. 550 provides that.

Thank you for your consideration.

Please join me in writing to Randi Rhodes and pushing her to publicize verified voting and the H.R. 550 petition.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I Try to Keep it Clean

I really do try to keep it clean, here, It's not that I mind swearing, or that I frown on anyone swearing in the comments. It's not that I don't swear in my everyday speech, either. It's just that I feel like if I keep it clean, then when I do swear, it'll carry more weight. Like, for instance, when I see this:

Iran's Ahmadinejad says Holocaust a myth

A myth. You stupid, purposefully cruel fuck pig. I hope that comes back to you in your eternal "reward". Hell, I hope it doesn't take that long.

I think you all understand how I feel about this with perfect clarity, now.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Loss of Motor Skills

Great, now I can't make a fist.

Via Jill via Digby, Tai Shan.

HR 550 Blogswarm - Week Two

What else can I say about the importance of verified voting? I've already pointed out how it's in everyone's best interest, no matter what their party, because knowing that the votes are recorded and counted correctly makes a victory unassailable. I've linked to articles about states taking the reigns in their own hands, and I've talked about how paper-only or electronic only is a bad idea because of the possibility of system failure.

I've linked to the petition site over and over.

Well. I guess I've just gone and done it again, then.

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Thursday, December 8, 2005

Busy Signal

I'm guessing that yesterday's loggorhea is the reason I'm so behind at work today. I'm too busy to post quite yet, so I thought I'd throw this up for now:

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Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Freedom of Religion

A bit of background on me right now: I'm trying to buy gifts for my family and friends, because I love buying and giving gifts, I'm trying to keep up with the HR 550 blogswarm, because verified voting is a very important issue to me, and I'm listening, on CD, to Ron Silver reading me "The Plot Against America".

Imagine, if you will, a story about Lindbergh becoming president instead of FDR winning a third term, and holy cow is it a scary story for a Jew. Yikes. It really rams home how people don't want to believe that bad things are happening. They don't want to believe it to the level that they do not stop the bad things. I was reminded forcefully of the same feeling when reading a post at Brilliant at Breakfast about Christopher Hitchens on Joe Scarborough's show. Yes, that's a lot of links.
HITCHENS: This guy from Lynchburg defines progress as teaching junk science to our children, and leaving us the mockery of the world by pretending that we did not evolve.
Scarborough immediately tries to stop this topic because
"We are not going to debate intelligent-we are not going to debate intelligent design right here, but, Christopher..."
It felt, suddenly, exactly like the feelings I get when listening to the story. People who want to stop the teaching of evolution in the classroom in favor of "intelligent design" are doing a bad thing. Religion is religion, and science is science, and no one is saying that some god figure didn't make up the rules that make science science, we're just saying that the rules exist, and that teaching them actually equips children to grow up in an informed manner. It lets them grow up prepared to understand how things work, and solve problems, and exist without fear of simple things because they're unknown. Teaching evolution in a science classroom teaches more than just the idea that men used to be apes, it teaches natural progression, it teaches how larger, more complex things can grow from smaller, simpler things. It teaches them to think and learn and analyze for themselves. If people want to teach their young that a deity is the reason for the rules, fine. They're welcome to do that in the house of worship of their choice. The public schools aren't there for that, they're just there to talk about what those rules actually are.

This brings me back to Scarborough Country. Hitchens said this:
HITCHENS: ... as in Washington, D.C., there are large numbers of public buildings, lavishly financed, usually, in fact, invariably, tax exempt, sometimes even government subsidized by the-—what do we call it, faith-based program.

They are called churches. People can go there if they want to have religious ceremony. They can put up hoardings on their land which say it's Jesus' birthday or Christ has risen, if it's Easter, anything like that. You can't stop them. They do it all the time, and they are very welcome.
And that's true, they are very welcome to do that.
When I say that I don't want religious items on public ground -– and this is a position that I've only come to occupy fairly recently - it's not because I'm anti religion, it's simply because I feel that our government should remain staunchly secular. I wish for public offices to deal with only the cut and dried matters of taxes, and zoning, and civil documents and the like. Should people be allowed to decorate public offices? Sure. No one likes a depressing work atmosphere. Can'’t it be secular decoration, though? Can'’t they just put up some pretty snowflake lights and be happy with that?

Our founding fathers were trying to set up a country where free, white land-owning men could worship in any way they darn well pleased. I lift another link from Jill:
It was during Adam's [sic] administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."

Does this make me "anti-Christmas"? No, it does not. I am not a Christian. That means that I don't have any particular religious significance attached to the holiday. I love all the secular and updated-pagan trappings that go with it, though. I'm crazy for evergreens, love candles in windows, and I think that getting to kiss someone because they're standing under a specific branch with some berries on it is a fun idea. I like to wear green or red in fancy, warm fabrics, and don't even get me started on twinkly lights or silvery decorations! But I'm still not a Christian, and I still don't actually celebrate Christmas. And neither do Hindus, or Buddhists, or Muslims, or any other non-Christians. And those of us who practice these religions that are U.S citizens, well, we're not Christians, but we are indeed Americans. Sure Christians are the majority, but they'’re not the monopoly.

If someone, as an American, decides that they will only say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", they're not trying to exclude anybody from celebrating anything. They are merely trying to include everyone in a wish for a happy season that doesn't make any assumptions about their habits of worship. Here in the U.S we're free to worship, and to celebrate as we choose. That's not a bad thing. Being restricted to do so at non-government locations is not a sign of oppression; it's a sign of freedom.

Taking Action

You know what my .sig file* is at work? It's this: "...well run companies have 'a bias for action.'". That's right, a bias for action.

From a recent AP article by Brian Bergstein:

Even in this election off-year, the potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines' reliability.
Across the country, officials are trying multiple methods to ensure that touch-screen voting machines can record and count votes without falling prey to software bugs, hackers, malicious insiders or other ills that beset computers.

This isn't just theoretical - problems in some states already have led to lost or miscounted votes.
Problems have already occurred. We can't personally make people build machines that work better, but we can support legislation that will make it illegal for poorly-conceived machines to be used in US elections. By requiring a paper trail we canverifyy the voting results and make the entire process better.

Have you not signed the petition supporting HR 550 yet? Why not? Why not take action?

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* for those of you who just said "Huh?" a .sig file is the few lines of text that you can set up to show at the bottom of your emails

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

More Voting Stuff

OK, so maybe work is keeping me a little busy with... work. I'm still popping my nose in here and passing you all a link to Blanton's and Ashton's where DBK is once again talking about verified voting. I'm hoping that by taking part in this blogswarm, that some of you reading this will learn more about the issue than you would have without me, and that all of you reading this will sign the petition supporting HR 550.

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Monday, December 5, 2005

Carnival of the NJ Bloggers #29

Carnival 29 is up, baby!

Focus on Security

Today I'd like to highlight a small - tiny, even - section of the text in HR 550.
(9) PROHIBITION OF USE OF WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES IN VOTING SYSTEMS- No voting system shall contain, use, or be accessible by any wireless, power-line, or concealed communication device at all.
I read this and I though, "Of course! Of course we need a voting system that can't be accessed via concealed communications device! Why isn't that already written down?!"

Security matters are not intended to be afterthoughts. They're an important part of the development process. Not being able to access a voting system from the outside - at ALL - is just as important as the concept that all of the code should be available for audit by the people who buy it. This isn't a word processor that some software company's afraid that their main competitor is going to steal, here, this is the system that will be fueling the engine of our democratic process. It needs to be transparent by its very definition.

HR 550 is a bill worth supporting. Have you signed the petition, yet?

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Friday, December 2, 2005

You'd Catch 'em Votin' at Del Mar...

Back in August, the Mercury News wrote up an article about how important paper ballot validation is and how Governor Schwarzenegger was likely to sign a bill requiring it. The article brings one of my favorite points:
The difference may seem an arcane point, but it's fundamental. If there is a glitch with the software, you won't know it by simply using images that mask the problem. Only the paper copies that voters verified when they voted can offer an accurate check.
This isn't just important for California, but for the whole country, right?

HR 550 includes this aspect. It's a bill that protects our rights as voters, not as members of a political party. It's important to every one of us. Have you signed the petition supporting the bill? No?

Well sign the petition, already!

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Thursday, December 1, 2005

Verified Voting is Cool

Look, I'm all about the technology. I'm a web developer by trade, and a computer nerd by hobby. I'd say by birth, but I was born in 1968, and I'm not sure if full-fledged computer nerddom had evolved yet back then. I love all things having to do with technology, from my TiVo to my iPod to my Playstation, Playstation 2, and my XBox. Heck, I love my cell phone. What don't I love? Paperless voting machines.

Yes, having electronic voting machines is cool. Having no way to verify your vote is not. Let's say that some sort of catastrophic weather event like a hurricane, or tornado or blizzard wiped out a whole bunch of paper votes beyond reading. In that case it would be darned handy to have all of those votes also stored on a handy, not-wiped-out database. It just goes to follow that in the case of data loss, or power outage, or hack job that there should also be paper records of the votes. We should have a backup to our system, just out of common sense, and we should be able to verify that the votes were recorded correctly.

There's a website showing which states have already made verified voting a law, which ones have them proposed, and which haven't taken any action yet. It's a good resource for reading material about this subject, with press/media links and a page helping people to take action. It's called Verified Voting.Org and it's worth reading.

And, of course, you should still go over to Rush Holt's site, if you haven't yet, and sign his petition about HR 550.

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