Thursday, September 29, 2005


On the drive into work today, I was listening to NPR's Morning Edition, and I heard Corzine and Forrester (both NJ gubernatorial candidates) sniping at each other about if and how many times Corzine had voted to raise or cut taxes. The underlying assumption being, of course, that raising taxes is bad and cutting taxes good.

You know, of all the damage the conservative movement has done in the last thirty years, the promotion of the idea that taxes are inherently bad may be the worst. When I sit and think about the things tax dollars have created, I come up with the following:
  • Interstate highways
  • Social Security
  • The Internet
  • Public transportation
  • Railroads
  • The GI Bill
  • Regulatory agencies like the FDA or OSHA
  • Medicare
  • Public schools
  • Free libraries

I don't know about you, but I think these are pretty good things, as a whole. Sure, there's waste involved in each, but what organization, public or private, doesn't waste money? My gosh...I used to work at a law firm that wasted tons of money; I could tell you stories that would curl your hair.

No one is anxious to pay taxes, and yet almost nobody turns down a chance to grab government money. The most rock-ribbed Mississippi Republican will take every post-Katrina federal disaster-recovery dollar on which he can get his greedy hands. Big oil companies routinely lobby for federal subsidies. The airline industry practically lives on the public teat. When Uncle Sam wheels out the government trough, every little piggy, from richest to poorest, pushes his snout right in.

The issue, as I see it, is not the amount of tax we pay, but the value we receive. I don't mind handing over a dollar to the feds if I receive a dollar's value in return. Low taxes aren't by definition good, and high taxes aren't by definition bad, and I think there are a lot of Americans who would agree if the issue were properly presented.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New Blog Look

But don't get excited; I just used a template Blogger already created. That's the kind of can-do guy I am. I've also added comments, because a few people asked and it was easy. Again, can-do me.

So that this post is more than just an announcement of the obvious, let me share a job-interview experience I had last week. The interviewer, who was a Chatterbox (remember the categories?), told me that she'd recently had to fire a member of her team for an intractable, disruptive attitude. The interviewer had been with the company for less than a year when this happened, and the employee had been there for a bit more than four. She said she hated to do it, but that she had no choice.

Here's my question: Why would she tell this to an interviewee? Sure, one could interpret this as the tale of a good-hearted manager who, regrettably, was forced to terminate a long-term employee who for too long had gotten away with a bad attitude. One could also interpret this as the tale of a my-way-or-the-highway boss who came rampaging into the company and fired anyone who didn't agree with her management style. I don't know which interpretation is closer the truth, but you'd better believe that at a second interview I will endeavor to find out.*

You never, ever, ever say at an interview anything that could reasonably be interpreted negatively, and that goes for interviewers as well as interviewees. I've been told I am Minbari in my attitude of telling people only what I think they need to know, but in an interview situation I think that's an asset.** That termination story was something she didn't need to tell me, although I'm glad she did. Every bit of information helps in making a decision, should I receive an offer.

* It's interesting that Dan immediately took the positive interpretation and me the negative. I don't like to think about what the says about me.

** I am awfully close-mouthed at interviews, I admit. In fact, at this interview, two people complimented my tie, and I was about to say I receive many compliments about that tie, but I thought, "Umm...they don't need to know that." So I simply thanked them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Another miscellany

The new "Battlestar Galactica" rocks! If you aren't watching it, you are a poor, poor person who must be taught the error of your ways. Forcibly, if necessary.

Unless you're living under a rock, you've heard that the grand jury released its report on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sexual abuse scandal. I've read a good bit of it, and it's one of the most quintessentially disgusting things I've ever read. The case studies of abuse are bad enough, but the description of official obstruction are what really turn my stomach. This corruption goes all the way to the top, my friends, and it certainly doesn't stop with Cardinal Rigali, as the last pope demonstrated by rewarding Cardinal Law with an honored position at the Vatican. These are the folks who are supposed to be in a position to lecture to people about birth control, abortion, homosexuality, blah blah.

Speaking of homosexuality, the Church has revealed its plans to oust gay seminarians, apparently heedless that it's estimated that up to 58% of current Catholic priests are themselves gay. I like it when my political opponents so neatly slit their own wrists. If this nice cooperation would spread to, say, the Family Research Council, I'd be a happier guy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Vampires and Society

Before we get started, here’s a pic of Spike and Drusilla, ‘cause they’re cool. They were the Sid and Nancy of the vampire set (at least until Joss Whedon ruined Spike’s character in Season 4), and they live on in my heart as my favorite undead couple. Admittedly, that’s a pretty limited subset, but there you go.

Dan and I were talking the other night about cultures, and Dan asked me the other night what makes a good culture. Now, I’ll freely admit that I’m not what you’d call a cultural relativist. Although I respect that different people have different cultures, I am willing to pronounce certain aspects of those cultures (even my own) wrong if I think they are. Anyway, I gave it some thought, and I came up with three elements I believe fundamental to good cultures. They are…

Diversity: The society is a welcoming place for people of various backgrounds: ethnic, economic, sexual, and intellectual. Citizens are not only free to be who they are, but to express these differences in art, music, academia and science.

Consistency: Citizens are treated in an even-handed fashion by their government, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or economic status. They can reasonably expect fair and equitable treatment in all matters of law.

Community: Despite the diversity of the citizenry, the society possesses a strong sense of communal good. Citizens understand that individual fulfillment is inextricably linked with the public good, and that a society is measured by how well it treats its most disadvantaged members.

What you think?

Friday, September 16, 2005

For you God-fearin' folk...

You know, recent statements by Michael Marcavage (New Orleans got trashed by Katrina because gays are eeeeevil) have gotten me thinking about God and why He might send disasters. Admittedly, I'm an atheist, so I'm no authority on such matters, but consider this:

January 2001: George W. Bush inaugurated as President of the United States.
September 2001: Hijackers fly planes into the WTC, completely destroying both buildings in America's most devastating terrorist attack.

January 2005: George W. Bush re-inaugurated as President of the United States.
August 2005: Hurricane Katrina trashes much of Lousiana and Mississippi, in America's most devastating hurricane.*

See the connection? About nine months after we swear in George Bush, calamity strikes. Coincidence? Perhaps, or maybe it takes nine months, give or take a week, for God's administrative staff to process the Disaster Request Form. I'm thinking that the form was delayed in 2001 because, like most rational people, God was completely befuddled by the way Bush sleazed into office, and He fell behind on His paperwork. In 2005, however, God probably had all the forms filled out, signed, and placed in interoffice envelopes, just in case. The moment Ohio went for Bush, God just dropped that shit in His "out" box and His celestial staff took over.

I'm thinking God needn't have bothered. With a costly quagmire in Iraq, a record deficit, and skyrocketing healthcare costs, America's doing pretty well in the disaster department.

* I actually don't know if Katrina qualifies as America's most devastating hurricane, and I don't feel like looking it up. It was pretty damn bad, however, and anyone who thinks he/she can void the point I'm making by contradicting me in this petty way, suck.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Walking Stuff

During my daily walks, I pass a church that offers daycare. They've now posted on the lawn a sign that announces this service that reads, "Child Transfer Center." Umm...doesn't that sound like a place where parents go to exchange their children for more compatible offspring?

Speaking of walking, have you ever noticed stupid walkers? These are pedestrians who walk in the wrong way. Since I do a lot of walking, this is one of my pet peeves. I find that stupid walkers fall into certain categories, thus described:

Slow-bees: These are the folks who move like molasses, taking about ten minutes to walk one block. They aren't normally a problem unless the path is narrow, or unless they're also Spacers (see below). Note that the elderly do not fall into this category, as they often can't go any faster. Only the deliberately slow can be Slow-bees.

Spacers: These fine folks insist upon taking their half of the sidewalk out of the middle, making it difficult if not impossible to get by them without walking in the street. On Market Street you can ignore Spacers, but on Pine or Spruce they can be most irritating. A Spacer who's also a Slow-bee is death.

Wrongways: In American society, most people stick to the right when they drive, or go through double doors, right? Not Wrongways! They go their own way, but not in an I'm-so-individual sort of way. In an annoying way. On a crowded street, you can tell a Wrongway by the path of disruption she leaves as she grimly forces her way against the natural flow of pedestrians. The path of least resistance is never good enough for a Wrongway.

Weavers: Normally, a person walking down the street does so in a fairly straight line, with only minor deviations to either side. A Weaver is one who swings first left, then right, with little consideration and no warning. Getting around them is tough because they might decide to cut directly into your path for no discernable reason. Cell phone users are notorious for weaving, but drunk people don't count because they often think they're walking straight. Their weaving is purely unintentional.

Stoppers: These are the twisted bastards who, for reasons often known only to them, stop dead in their tracks. You'll often see women doing this, halting dead in the middle of a crowded sidewalk to rifle through a purse, but men are frequent offenders as well, as are cell phone users of either sex. This is usually a problem only when the sidewalk is crowded and people are likely to be close enough to crash into the Stopper. (If you're close enough to crash into a Stopper on an empty sidewalk, you're a pervert. Yes.) Stoppers also cause problems at the base of escalators, blocking the way so that the escalator gets clogged with human backflow.

Unfortunately, stupid walkers rarely get their comeuppance, unless they are Wrongways on the Schuylkill River trail. Bikers who use the trail are normally pretty polite, unless you're fucking up the flow by weaving or wrongwaying. Then they unleash tongues as sharp as their bicycle-trained muscles.

Friday, September 09, 2005


So a federal court says that the Bush administration can hold Jose Padilla - a US citizen suspected of terroristic activity indefinitely without benefit of a trial. Why would they want to hold him? Listen to this:
At the heart of the White House argument to keep a half-dozen terror figures in permanent lockup was its fear that a trial could result in their acquittals and permit them to return home and wage a violent campaign against the United States.

So we can't try him because a court might find him...not guilty? But if that happens, shouldn't be be allowed to go about his business? Did I wake up in Russia this morning?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A miscellany

Here's a pic of me at my company picnic. Wearing a Che-Guevera-style shirt was probably not the most prudent fashion choice, but I was feeling a bit rowdy that day. Ha-cha!

Note to Center City drivers: The lines painted on the roads mean that you should stay between them even when you're turning. Yes. If you get confused, think back to when you were a kid using coloring books; just stay within the lines.

Fall League starts Friday, which rocks! Although I'm not a very competitive person in general, I always look forward to two months of lung-busting, disc-slamming contests of will and muscle. I'm not all that concerned if my team wins (although that's nice too), but instead with achieving my personal best. That's pretty corny, I know, but true. Also, I think that there's only so far one can advance in a sport without the honing that competition provides. Whenever I play pickup I can almost instantly spot the difference between those who have played competitively and those who have not. The former have a certain canniness about how to move on the field that the latter just lacks. I'd like to think I have that canniness too. By the time November rolls around, I expect to have a bit more canniness. And shin splints.

Unfortunately, aforementioned league will keep me from Movie Night for nearly all of October and cause me to drop off the film list (which, as Vis Major well knows, was on the left-hand side).

One more thing about league is that I have to be...different when with my team. Believe it or not, the Philadelphia Area Disc Alliance (PADA) is pretty clannish, with everyone knowing everyone else, so I think the news about me being gay has spread around. I've never encountered any hostility or anything like that, but as a gay guy I have to be twice as tough and twice as uncomplaining to get half the respect given to the straight boys. Sad, but true.