Friday, October 07, 2005

Start Spreadin' the News...

   I am leaving for my weekend in New York in a few minutes. I will be back Monday evening, but until then I expect to have zero computer access. Hence, no blogging until Monday evening at the earliest.

   Here are a few links to keep you occupied while I am gone.
  • DC Debate - a great new political blog with simultaneous analysis from the left and the right. Great concept!

  • Vodkapundit - Stephen Green is promising a "monster" thinkpiece in the next few days. Keep an eye out, as they are usually excellent.

  • Boston Weblogs - 885 opinionated Bostonians and counting...

   In the meantime, consider the comments an open thread. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Minnesota at Michigan This Weekend

   Minnesota makes the trip to Ann Arbor this year for the Homecoming game, as well as the battle for the Little Brown Jug.

   I will be away this weekend, and thus unable to watch the game. But, look for sophomore running back Mike Hart to have another big week after ringing up 218 running yards on Michigan State last week.

   Wojo's take on the match-up sums it up:

[. . .]But it's time to move on because the Wolverines have a major test (not really) this Saturday. It's the annual exercise against Minnesota, in which the Gophers always look like they might win for the first time since 1986, but then, in an amazing twist, don't.

Not to stereotype, but Minnesota generally comes in with a good running back, a record (4-1) bloated by nonconference, high-carb snack treats and the psyche of a team that knows if it manages to build a 49-7 fourth-quarter lead, it will lose 50-49.

Still, this can be a difficult week for the Wolverines, who always spend most of their time trying to remember where they put the revered Little Brown Jug. Contrary to reports published in this column a few years ago, the trophy has never been used as a bathroom spittoon or a pencil-holder. I cannot confirm or deny that it has been used as a flower pot (geraniums, mostly).

As football goes, not a bad weekend to get away from the television.

Well, it's something at least

   Following up on this post about the role of gay men in the Catholic priesthood, today's Boston Globe is reporting a retreat from the previously reported position:

The Vatican will allow gay men into the priesthood if they can show they have been celibate for at least three years, leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported on Friday.

But it said the Vatican will ban men who "publicly manifest their homosexuality" or show an "overwhelming attraction" to homosexual culture "even if it is only intellectually."
* * *

The Corriere report said: "Candidates who show a homosexual tendency will not be allowed into the priesthood unless they can demonstrate that they have been able to remain chaste for at least three years."

Well, it's better than the total ban that was previously reported, but a couple of nagging questions remain.

   First, what does it mean to have an overwhelming attraction to gay culture? The Church can probably make a case that priests should not be going clubbing or watching porn -- common sense rules that could apply to gay and straight priests alike. But what about the priest who takes an interest in gay and lesbian studies so he can better minister to his community? More frivolously, what about the priest for whom "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is a guilty pleasure? I'm sure there are numerous examples in among those, but it is still unclear where the line is.

   Second, how does anyone demonstrate having been chaste for three years? I mean, really? It's really the ultimate negative to attempt to prove, isn't it?

   I'm still waiting for the release of the final document, but I am still pretty sure the result will be somewhat disappointing. I hope I am wrong.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Programming Note

   Blogging will be light tonight, if there is any at all. I have a friend who is in town this evening on business and we will be meeting for drinks once his obligations are finished for the day.

   Also, look for light blogging tomorrow, with the usual Wolverine Report and anything else I notice in the morning papers.

   No blogging this long weekend, however, as I am going to New York (for the first time) and I am not about to let any would-be martyrs stop me. On a related note, I've learned how to get instant "street cred'" on the east coast since I moved to Boston three years ago:

   Tell them you're from Detroit.

Surber on Stars in Politics

   I tend to agree with Don Surber as often as not, but he hits with much greater clarity here the point I made earlier, if somewhat obliquely:

"My father ran for Congress last year. I couldn't campaign for him and I knew I couldn't, because I'd hurt him,” [George] Clooney said. “They tried to get me to get on the John Kerry train and I said: 'We'll hurt him. They'll use us as 'liberal'.”

Well, now that he mentions it, there is a backlash against being told by every two-bit girl singer that Bush is an idiot and Americans are idiots for voting for him.

Of course, celebs are entitled to their views. Write a letter to the editor. Blog. Talk about nothing but politics in every interview-to-promote-the-flick. Knock yourself out. But don’t expect the rest of the nation to embrace your ideas simply because you are a star.

(Emphasis mine.)

Now, will anyone in Hollywood at least consider Clooney's point?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rich Bloggy Goodness

   The Carnival of the Vanities is up at Technogypsy this week. Lots of good stuff.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

On Moonbats and Wingnuts

   Something has been bothering me for the last couple of weeks about the state of discourse on the blogosphere. About a week ago, things reached a point compelling me to get the hell away from my computer.

   This is a collection of thoughts on moonbats and wingnuts, or rather the level of disrespect embodied in those two words.

   They are words I have never used, and they are words that I intend never to use against specific individuals. Of course, I -- like everyone else -- have read things on the Internet that have led me to question the author's sanity. Usually, I will give an argument a full and fair chance, but sometimes things are just too incredible to pass the giggle test. That's the way the world is, and so goes the blogosphere. I accept that, and you have to do so to stave off misanthropic tendencies. That said, I generally consider it a defeat to resort to name-calling.

   About a week and a half ago, something happened. I don't know if there was a full moon out, but it seemed that people -- otherwise consistently reasonable people -- had lost all sense of themselves. Several of my usual reads -- I won't link to them here because my intent is not to point fingers, but rather to work some things out for myself -- had reached an unprecedented level of shrillness in defense of their positions. So convinced of the rightness of their statements, these writers expressed their views with such vehemence that the force would have caused even an omniscient god to blink and second-guess itself. One side does so, and the other ups the ante. Rinse. Repeat.

   It seems that this phenomenon extended to other parts of the blogosphere, and it was not merely limited to simple stubbornness. Joe Gandelman was the recipient of a thoughtless statement -- if not an outright personal attack -- that I will not quote here as to avoid people stumbling upon my site in search of pictures of boy-boy action. This caused a rift among a number of bloggers when the statement in question was dismissed as part of a long-running joke on the blog hosting the offending comment, a defense that strikes me as absurd, but what do I know?

   I'm apparently not the only person who has noticed bloggers' recently feverish intensity. Jack Grant at Random Fate had some similar thoughts over the weekend in this regard, and took some time off as well:

I wonder, after the near universal expression of high emotions during the assault of the hurricanes, coupled with the recent political developments involving the decline and then stabilization of poll numbers for President George W. Bush, along with the indictment of Representative Tom DeLay and his consequent stepping-down as House Majority Leader, if all these factors and perhaps more have combined to create a collective exhaustion in blogworld.

Do we all need a moment to take a breath?

I hope that most are taking some time to gain a bit of perspective.
* * *

Blogworld needs to gain some perspective. I have some thoughts on this that I am striving to coalesce together into a coherent whole, but it’s not working tonight. Perhaps tomorrow.

In the mean time, let’s all catch our breath, and try to think instead of react.

Too true. Last week, I saw too little thought and too much reaction, as evidenced by an endless stream of poorly substantiated statements, regurgitated talking points, and unrestrained refusal to listen. Heavy on the reaction, light on the response.

   It was Moonbatism and Wingnutry of the highest order: people talking past each other, each looking to deliver the coup de grace while missing the opponent completely. A duel in which no one's honor is defended, deeply disappointing all around.

   (Yes, I know what I said above. In my defense, this is more like calling a person's action "stupid," instead of calling an individual the same.)

   The blogging phenomenon (if it can rightly be called that) has done, and can continue to do, wondrous things for the free exchange of ideas in our society. What we have is a "marketplace of ideas" on a scale grander than Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. could have imagined, with elements of the old New England town meeting mixed in. The information is out there: some good, some bad. Regardless, it is there for the reader to examine, to weigh, to evaluate, and to decide.

   In order for this system not to burn itself out, however, those who participate in it -- I think -- need to be mindful of overarching consideration: blogging is an implicitly egotistical exercise. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with it, but if we did not think we had something of value to offer, we would confine ourselves to our diaries and journals. In too many cases to count, the broader society would be poorer as a result. Without Instapundits and Kossacks alike, ideas among concerned citizens would take far longer to germinate, and might never even sprout and yield fruit at all. The trend is something, on balance, that we should embrace rather than shun.

   But unchecked egoism places the author ahead of even the worthiest message, eclipsing the source of the greater social benefit. I think we all have succumbed to this at one time or another. I have certainly been guilty of it myself. It's the nature of things. That said, maybe it's time for a shot of humility in the blogosphere, or more accurately, several million individual shots.

   Bottom line: if you are human, then you are fallible. If you are fallible, then you are wrong about something, likely about many things. Lose sight of that, and lose your reader and, perhaps in really egregious cases, his respect.

   Upon further reflection, that little dose of humility, too, may be rooted in egoism, creating an apparent paradox. After all, who doesn't want to grow his readership. But, that's another matter for another time.

UPDATE: Welcome to readers clicking through from The Moderate Voice. Thanks, Joe!

This Year's Must-Have

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

The childish exuberance, the adult cynicism, the gorgeous colors in the Sunday panels. Hyper-literate third graders read it, overweight taxi drivers in El Paso read it, terminally hip people wearing black in Manhattan read it.

I was one of those hyper-literate third graders. A small part of me envied Calvin for his imagination and his unbridled will. He was fully child and fully adult, proving that arguably the funniest strip could also be the smartest as it provided insight to the world, as it is and as the child might see it.

I remember when Bill Watterson, the strip's creator, took a nearly year-long sabbatical in about 1990. I all but counted the days until the production of new material would resume. I guess it prepared me well for the eighteen-month wait between seasons of "The Sopranos".

I can't believe it has been ten years since the strip ended. I'm just glad they did not wait ten more to release this collection.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Miers Nominated to Supreme Court

   As soon as I awoke this morning, the media were abuzz with the news that White House Counsel Harriet Miers had been nominated to the Supreme Court. Despite the fact that her name had only surfaced in speculation in the last week or so, it seems that President Bush had been considering her since this summer.

   I have no informed opinion on this nomination at this time. That she was White House Counsel is a credit to her nomination, but I probably would have preferred a sitting judge.

   Although Miers was recommended to the president by Republican and Democrat senators alike, Senator Chuck Schumer has already tipped his hand, noting that the O'Connor seat is the "swing seat," which is one of the more ridiculous things I've heard him say. Given how hard the Democrats fought for the presidency last year, I find it hard to believe that John Kerry would have named a conservative to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist, or a swing voter to replace Justice O'Connor. What's next? In the event that Justice Stevens retires, would a Republican president be required to fill the seat with a like-minded judge? I don't recall anything in the Constitution constricting the judicial President's choices to perserve a supposed ideological balance on the Court, especially when the shorthand for ideological placements fails so often and so utterly to describe the nuance of the individual judges' philosophies.

   Look for this confirmation to be rather more bitter than the last one.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Blogging Malaise

   Things have been a little slow around here for the last couple of days. Part of that can be chalked up to the weekend, since it's been a busy one involving, among others, the small joys of visiting a New England apple orchard on a picture-perfect October day, as well as the larger one of Big Blue knocking Baby Brother down a peg or two. Part of it can be chalked up to a little bit of mental lethargy, as I have not really had the energy to do any serious writing -- or, for that matter, thinking. For someone with a compulsion to be continually engaged with the greater world, maybe it's a good thing. I am notoriously bad at allowing myself to rest, the kind of person who usually grows anxious by about the fourth day of a vacation.

   Mostly, though, I think it has been a visceral reaction to the general tenor taken on last week by a number of my regular reads, as reflective of a number of blogs I sometimes, but don't often, read. I have been trying to put together my general thoughts on the matter for a better part of a week now, but have come no closer than I was at the outset. Maybe I will have something more coherent on this topic in the coming days.

   Stay tuned.

UPDATE (6:53 p.m.): I edited the last sentence of the first paragraph when I saw that I had used two semicolons to join three independent clauses. That's just wrong. It's also indicative of what I would be subjecting everyone else to if I forced myself to update for updating's sake. Ugh.