Thursday, October 23, 2008

Exciting E-mail!

I love e-mail...what a constant thrill! You just never know what's going to pop up next. For instance, here's a screen shot of my office e-mail inbox (one of them, anyway) from this morning:

(Amusingly, one of the topics of (very brief) discussion in the Business Communications class I taught last semester had to do with "appropriate" e-mail addresses. I counseled against using a Hotmail address, which sounds a little lascivious, and we discussed whether even Yahoo sounded frivolous. In the end, there was considerable consensus that Gmail was probably the "safest"—viz., least unprofessional-sounding—of the freebie e-mail services. I wish I had known about Sandy G Newar, who e-mails me from to welcome me to "our team of professionals." A teaching moment lost.)

But anyhow, there's something intriguing about a woman with the e-mail address tequila_19, so I read on, and discovered a most interesting offer of Gainful Employment!

    Dear Mr\Mrs

    We are glad to invite you to our professional group, PES LLC and to offer you a job position according to your skills and experience. Your resume was found by our HR managers in the global network at jobseeking websites. You seem to be the one who suits our requirements and is able to make the job of our company better. We need cooperative, responsible, and efficient people whom others can trust and rely on.

Does anything say "welcome" any louder than "Dear Mr\Mrs"? It's so much warmer and fuzzier than "To Whom it May Concern."

And already I'm impressed by the prospect of joining the "team of professionals" at PES LLC, since their HR managers found my resume "in the global network at jobseeking websites" despite my never having posted my resume in the global network at jobseeking websites! That tells me they're a crackerjack team of professionals, all right, capable of using the tools of modern technology to find that which doesn't even exist!

    First of all, we would like to tell you some words about our business group PES LLC. It specializes in providing worldwide escrow service. For many years of being in the market our company has earned respect and trust among many international companies. The official representatives of the 20 countries like Canada, the USA, France, Italy Ukraine, Poland, etc. prefer to work with us, as we are able to provide high quality service valuing the time of our customers and using up-to date technologies and equipment.

    At the moment we collaborate with many giant companies rendering them the service of digital currency payment (eGold, MoneyBookes, eBullion). The number of our clients is increasing all over the world making us expand and employ more people for working in our team. Due to the dynamic development of the electronic money sphere and increasing demand in our service we suffer lack of efficient and professional personnel. Thanks to the new technologies we are able to offer our vacancies even to people who live far from our office but who have a desire to work bringing success to our company and providing decent good service to our customers.

Uh-oh. This is starting to concern me a little. They "suffer lack of efficient and professional personnel"? What happened to that crackerjack "team of professionals"? Where did they disappear to over the course of three paragraphs?

    Our corporate headquarters are located in Bellevue and Northgate. The number of physical persons and pretty large companies using our services in the USA is growing that is why we decided to employ staff on the regional bases. We are ready to provide you an interesting, well-paid job that can give you career opportunities not taking much of your time. If you are interested in our job offer and constant career growth, if you want to have a job where your efforts are awarded by the system of benefits and bonuses, you are welcome to our team!

"Physical persons"? They also have non-physical persons working there? As in ghosts? Cool! I'm in!

    Some necessary requirements to work in our company are the following:

    - Being and an intermediate computer user and some knowledge of using Internet.

    - Desire to be self-sufficient and financially independent

    - Free time availability

However, we don't require that you know how to spell or form a cogent sentence. Unless "being" means you have to be one of those "physical persons."

    More detailed information about the available vacancies and our company may be provided at your request at an early date. You will never feel alone in our team as our managers will be always glad to provide you with all the necessary information, instructions, and support. Feel free to ask us any questions answering this mail right now.

    Attention! PES LLC is a legal company with licence issued by the authorities and doesn't operate with fake transactions. We appreciate trust and opinion of our clients about our company and are ready to protect our service from any fraud and indecent activities.

Whew…what a relief to know that their license was issued "by the authorities" and that they don't "operate with fake transactions." But I would be interested in knowing more about these "indecent activities."

    If you are ready to earn with those who are proud of their job and be the part of the team, we are looking forward to hearing form you at e-mail:

Not And, again, I assume that "looking forward to hearing form you" means they're looking for "physical persons." Which is kind of discriminatory, isn't it?

    The amount of the position is restricted, so if you are an ambitious and willing to succeed person, let us know about it first!

    Best Regards,

    Sandy Newar,
    PES LLC.

"The amount of the position is restricted"…what does that mean? A small office? Or does the sentence taken as a whole—"The amount of the position is restricted, so if you are an ambitious and willing to succeed person, let us know about it first!"—mean, We're not going to pay much, so if you're "an ambitious and willing to succeed person," let us know first so we can direct you elsewhere"?

Anyhow, I might let this one pass, even though I think it would be keen to work with non-physical persons. There's just something about it that makes me wonder if it's really on the up-and-up…wait--I know what it is! Sandy spelled license wrong! She spelled it licence! I bet they're a bunch of goddamn limeys, ghosts and all! Screw that!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Abortion Rights on the Ballot, Again

This popped up in the New York Times a week or so ago (10/12/08), and I flagged it for later consideration. (One of the nice features of ShareThis, which I have been using a lot lately, is that I can save items to my Blogger draft folder for later consideration. It only saves the link, which is kind of a nuisance, but perhaps there's a setting that I haven't explored that allows me to save the whole item.) If you get a sense of deja vu, go with it:

Abortion Rights on the Ballot, Again

Published: October 12, 2008
Once again this year, opponents of women’s reproductive rights have managed to get initiatives aimed at ending or limiting abortion rights on ballots — in South Dakota, Colorado and California. These measures, which violate women’s privacy and threaten their health, have implications far beyond those states. If voters approve them, they will become a weapon in the right-wing campaign to overturn Roe v Wade.

The South Dakota initiative is a near twin of the sweeping abortion ban handily rejected by South Dakota voters just two years ago. To make the ban seem less harsh, its backers have included language purporting to make exceptions for incest, rape or the life and health of the mother. But no one should be fooled. The exceptions were drafted to make it nearly impossible to get an abortion, even during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Ah yes. One loves how, on their "moral" crusade the great and good "Christians" who are so intent on shoving their point of view down everybody else's throats think nothing of lying to get their way (see "no one should be fooled," above), and have so little regard for the democratic process that the voters having decided a year ago to leave the decision up to families, and not the government, means nothing to them also. They will simply put a new picture on the yard signs, lie about what the measure actually means, and keep slugging.

But to what end? Locally, at least, it's near impossible to find any hard numbers, any way to pin the anti-choice crowd down on the salient question: Precisely how many "babies" will you save per annum by taking away families' right to choose their own medical options? One can hardly believe it is much of a number. I know, I know: If we save even one "baby," etc. I wish these people would devote half their energy to doing something about South Dakota's abysmal infant-mortality rate, one of the worst in the nation--a nation which has one of the worst infant-mortality rates in the industrialized world. I guess the real babies are on their own.

But as the Times rightly points out, part of the anti-choice crowd's lie is that they want to "save babies" here in the heartland. Balderdash. Since it stands to reason that South Dakota's abortion rate is pretty low (after all, we have only about 700,000 residents to begin with, and I know I have never had an abortion, nor ever will), one has to wonder why the big push here in the Mt. Rushmore State. And the answer:

The measure is clearly unconstitutional under existing Supreme Court rulings, and that’s just the point. The underlying agenda is to provide a vehicle for challenging Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.

Ah, of course! The great "moral" folks behind the big lie wish to not only cram their anti-choice legislation down everybody's throat, they want also to thumb their snotty noses at the United States Supreme Court--for they have no regard for law, let alone democracy--in the hope of thereby imposing their will upon every family in the country.

Which sounds an awful lot like tyranny, not "morality."

But again, they care not. "Morality," "Christianity," "family values"--those are mere facades, cloaks which they don like KKK sheets in order to pass into whatever group they must pass in order to gain control over other people.

It's not about "babies." It's not about "morality," It's certainly not about God! It's about power. It's about them wanting to make sure that nobody does anything that they don't like.

And they're more than happy to purposely break the law--and then spend millions of taxpayers dollars to defend themselves--as part of their "moral" crusade.

Tyranny, yes. Also grand theft.

Several weeks ago I was driving a carload of soon-to-be high-school freshmen out to darkest suburbia. I had a copy of Newsweek in the car, to wile away the time whilst waiting for the aforementioned freshmen. One of them--who I happen to know is, like me, Catholic--commented on the photo of Barack Obama on the cover and inquired as to his fellows' opinions. A few noncommital words were uttered (how quickly we learn to avoid such discussions, but it is true that we live in a time--and, for me, a state--where putting the "wrong" sign in the yard cand and does end friendships and even employment), after which the originator of the "conversation" said that he likes Obama except that Obama "supports abortion" and "that just isn't cool."

It is not my habit to engage fourteen-year-olds in political discussions, and so I did nothing save utter a silent prayer of thanksgiving that he isn't old enough to vote.

But what I said to my son later (so I guess I do engage in political discussions with at least one fourteen-year-old) was twofold:

First, no one "supports" abortion. No one is "in favor of" abortion. No one thinks abortion is a "good idea." Not a single person. I believe, and am on record stating my belief, that abortion is a bad deal on many, many levels. But I believe that that is a reason to work to change the circumstances that put women and families in such a position that abortion is their only option--not strive to make a bad situation worse by making them criminals for pursing that course.

Second, to be pro-choice imposes nothing upon anybody else. I'm pro-choice: so what? It doesn't mean you have to do anything at all. It doesn't require you to get an abortion. It doesn't force anyone to do anything, ever.

But the so-called pro-life position...ah, that's something else again. It is in fact anti-choice, for it says that it is not enough for me to have my beliefs, but you have to believe that way too! And since I can't make you believe anything, well, I have to make sure that you act the way I want. It's not enough for me to say, I don't approve of X so I won't do it...I have to impose my will on you and make sure that you don't do X either, because I don't like it.

And, frankly, I think that "just isn't cool."

So. Back to the polls next month (what part of "no" do these people not understand). And, probably, again in two years.

Eternal vigilance, as they say.

And This Is What They Said

Time for another batch of quotations that have been collecting dust around here. Regular readers will know that most of them (this time, I think, all of them) are culled from the excellent A Word a Day newsletter, to which you may subscribe by visiting The first two are especially intriguing to me at the moment, since the day before yesterday I had an exchange--more of a shouting match, to be honest--with the rudest and stupidest human being I ever met. (And that's saying something, believe me.) But that's another story for another day...

Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength. -Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)

Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts. -Madame de Stael, writer (1766-1817)

People of small caliber like to sit on high horses. -Magdalena Samozwaniec, writer (1894-1972)

Let us enrich ourselves with our mutual differences. -Paul Valery, poet and philosopher (1871-1945)

The noble and the nobility are usually at odds with one another. -Johann Gottfried Seume, author (1763-1810)

Nothing is illegal if one hundred businessmen decide to do it. -Andrew Young, author, civil rights activist, US congressman, mayor, and UN ambassador (b. 1932)

War will never cease until babies begin to come into the world with larger cerebrums and smaller adrenal glands. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting. -George Orwell, writer (1903-1950)

A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill. -Robert A. Heinlein, science-fiction author (1907-1988)

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations. -Faith Baldwin, novelist (1893-1978)

It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passion, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace. -Andre Gide, author, Nobel laureate (1869-1951)

One of the indictments of civilizations is that happiness and intelligence are so rarely found in the same person. -William Feather, author, editor and publisher (1889-1981)

For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. -Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)

The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos. -Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist, biologist, author (1941-2002)

The conscience of the world is so guilty that it always assumes that people who investigate heresies must be heretics; just as if a doctor who studies leprosy must be a leper. Indeed, it is only recently that science has been allowed to study anything without reproach. -Aleister Crowley, author (1875-1947)

It is also a victory to know when to retreat. -Erno Paasilinna, essayist and journalist (1935-2000)

It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Undecided" by Davic Sedaris

Here's David Sedaris in the New Yorker, on the subject of "undecided" voters. Me, I think "undecideds" just don't want to talk about it.

Shouts & Murmurs


by David Sedaris October 27, 2008

I don’t know that it was always this way, but, for as long as I can remember, just as we move into the final weeks of the Presidential campaign the focus shifts to the undecided voters. “Who are they?” the news anchors ask. “And how might they determine the outcome of this election?”

Then you’ll see this man or woman— someone, I always think, who looks very happy to be on TV. “Well, Charlie,” they say, “I’ve gone back and forth on the issues and whatnot, but I just can’t seem to make up my mind!” Some insist that there’s very little difference between candidate A and candidate B. Others claim that they’re with A on defense and health care but are leaning toward B when it comes to the economy.

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?

When doubting that anyone could not know whom they’re voting for, I inevitably think back to November, 1968. Hubert Humphrey was running against Richard Nixon, and when my mother couldn’t choose between them she had me do it for her. It was crazy. One minute I was eating potato chips in front of the TV, and the next I was at the fire station, waiting with people whose kids I went to school with. When it was our turn, we were led by a woman wearing a sash to one of a half-dozen booths, the curtain of which closed after we entered.

“Go ahead,” my mother said. “Flick a switch, any switch.”

I looked at the panel in front of me.

“Start on the judges or whatever and we’ll be here all day, so just pick a President and make it fast. We’ve wasted enough time already.”

“Which one do you think is best?” I asked.

“I don’t have an opinion,” she told me. “That’s why I’m letting you do it. Come on, now, vote.”

I put my finger on Hubert Humphrey and then on Richard Nixon, neither of whom meant anything to me. What I most liked about democracy, at least so far, was the booth—its quiet civility, its atmosphere of importance. “Hmm,” I said, wondering how long we could stay before someone came and kicked us out.

Ideally, my mother would have waited outside, but, as she said, there was no way an unescorted eleven-year-old would be allowed to vote, or even hang out, seeing as the lines were long and the polls were open for only one day. “Will you please hurry it up?” she hissed.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have something like this in our living room?” I asked. “Maybe we could use the same curtains we have on the windows.”

“All right, that’s it.” My mother reached for Humphrey but I beat her to it, and cast our vote for Richard Nixon, who had the same last name as a man at our church. I assumed that the two were related, and only discovered afterward that I was wrong. Richard Nixon had always been Nixon, while the man at my church had shortened his name from something funnier but considerably less poster-friendly—Nickapopapopolis, maybe.

“Oh, well,” I said.

We drove back home, and when asked by my father whom she had voted for, my mother said that it was none of his business.

“What do you mean, ‘none of my business’?” he said. “I told you to vote Republican.”

“Well, maybe I did and maybe I didn’t.”

“You’re not telling me you voted for Humphrey.” He said this as if she had marched through the streets with a pan on her head.

“No,” she said. “I’m not telling you that. I’m not telling you anything. It’s private—all right? My political opinions are none of your concern.”

“What political opinions?” he said. “I’m the one who took you down to register. You didn’t even know there was an election until I told you.”

“Well, thanks for telling me.”

She turned to open a can of mushroom soup. This would be poured over pork chops and noodles and served as our dinner, casserole style. Once we’d taken our seats at the table, my parents would stop fighting directly, and continue their argument through my sisters and me. Lisa might tell a story about her day at school and, if my father said it was interesting, my mother would laugh.

“What’s so funny?” he’d say.

“Nothing. It’s just that, well, I suppose everyone has a different standard. That’s all.”

When told by my father that I was holding my fork wrong, my mother would say that I was holding it right, or right in “certain circles.”

“We don’t know how people eat the world over,” she’d say, not to him but to the buffet or the picture window, as if the statement had nothing to do with any of us.

I wasn’t looking forward to that kind of evening, and so I told my father that I had voted. “She let me,” I said. “And I picked Nixon.”

“Well, at least someone in the family has some brains.” He patted me on the shoulder and as my mother turned away I understood that I had chosen the wrong person.

I didn’t vote again until 1976, when I was nineteen and legally registered. Because I was at college out of state, I sent my ballot through the mail. The choice that year was between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Most of my friends were going for Carter, but, as an art major, I identified myself as a maverick. “That means an original,” I told my roommate. “Someone who lets the chips fall where they may.” Because I made my own rules and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought of them, I decided to write in the name of Jerry Brown, who, it was rumored, liked to smoke pot. This was an issue very close to my heart—too close, obviously, as it amounted to a complete waste. Still, though, it taught me a valuable lesson: calling yourself a maverick is a sure sign that you’re not one.

I wonder if, in the end, the undecideds aren’t the biggest pessimists of all. Here they could order the airline chicken, but, then again, hmm. “Isn’t that adding an extra step?” they ask themselves. “If it’s all going to be chewed up and swallowed, why not cut to the chase, and go with the platter of shit?”

Ah, though, that’s where the broken glass comes in.

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A Catholic Shift to Obama?

E. J. Dionne Jr. in today's Washington Post column, "A Catholic Shift to Obama?," writes:

It has become commonplace in American politics: Certain Roman Catholic bishops declare that the faithful should cast their ballots on the basis of a limited number of "nonnegotiable issues," notably opposition to abortion. Conservative Catholics cheer, more liberal Catholics howl. And that is usually the end of the story.

Well, it's usually the end of the story because that's as far as the mainstream media prefer to take the story.And I suppose it hearkens back to those halcyon days when whatever "Father" said was the final word.

For a lot of my fellow Catholics, it's still that way, of course. And for a lot of them, it isn't.

It's just that those of us in the latter group tend not to yammer on about it much because, really, what would be the point? Those who want "Father says" to be the end of the discussion will view it as the end of the discussion; those who prefer to do their own thinking will not.

So that part of the tale is not noteworthy. What is noteworthy, however, is that Catholic bishops as a class seem way less worked up about The Issue than in the past. Oh, there's not a one of 'em who's pro-choice, of course, but there seems to be a lot less saber-rattling in re hellfire and damnation for any candidate who dares deviate from Rome's party line, and ditto for anyone who votes for such a candidate.

Doesn't seem that long ago I had a crazy old lady chew me out in the parking lot of St. Joseph Cathedral forhaving a Tom Daschle bumper sticker on the back of my car:

"You can't be a Democrat and call yourself a Catholic," spews she.

"Yes I can," says I. Touchez!

Anyhow, nostalgia aside, Dionne's next paragraph contains the firecracker:

Not this year. Catholics, who are quintessential swing voters and gave narrow but crucial support to President Bush in 2004, are drifting toward Barack Obama. And this time, some church leaders are suggesting that single-issue voting is by no means a Catholic commandment.

Yikes! Can it be? For as many years as I can remember, the sine qua non, the trump card, The Issue of All Issues for my church has been abortion. You can be the candidate of education, job security, health benefits, liberty and justice for all--hell, you can be the bloody Man of Steel--and none of it counts a tinker's damn if you are in addition to that pro-choice.

Indeed, I know plenty of Catholics--not to mention evangelicals, who are just as rabid--who would unblinkingly vote for Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Count Dracula, just as long as they said they were pro-life. That's how single- (one might say narrow-) minded they are on The Issue.

But now, Dionne reports, we have this:

In an interview yesterday, Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary bishop in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, said his fellow bishops have long insisted that "we're not a one-issue church," a view reflected in their 2007 document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

Excuse me. I have to sit down. Is there any brandy?

Dionne continues:

"But that's not always what comes out," says Zavala, who is also bishop-president of the Catholic peace group Pax Christi USA. "What I believe, and what the church teaches, is that one abortion is too many. That's why I believe abortion is so important. But in light of this, there are many other issues we need to bring up, other issues we should consider, other issues that touch the reality of our lives."

Those issues, Bishop Zavala said, include racism, torture, genocide, immigration, war and the impact of the economic downturn "on the most vulnerable among us, the elderly, poor children, single mothers."

"We know that neither of the political parties supports everything the church teaches," he added. "We are not going to create a culture of life if we don't talk about all the life issues, beginning with abortion but including all of them."

And so, after all these years, it has come down to this: Yours truly finds himself agreeing with an Archbishop on the subject of abortion.

At least, we agree that the world is bigger than just that one issue.

It may be, then, that there is hope after all.

Read the rest of Dionne's column here.