Punishment, Power and Procreation

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Pick Two Fingers
I always enjoy starting off on a lighter note. There was an interesting report this week that, like many scientific studies, just seems to confirm the obvious. Published in Nature Magazine, the study of brain scans indicates that men enjoy seeing people (the article says "bad" people) suffer more than women do. Did we really need a study of this? A couple of key questions: How many women enjoy the Three Stooges poking each other's eyes out; and how many women have you ever seen wearing Three Stooges t-shirts? What is the ratio of men to women when "revenge" movies by such great filmmakers as Arnold Schwarzenneger, Steven Sagal, Sylvester Stallone, Vin Diesel, Quentin Tarrentino (actually, I think he is a great filmmaker, though quirky) and Clint Eastwood (though he has graduated to mature films) are shown. Generally, unless they are admiring the lead actor's pecs, the only reason most women watch these films is because their male significant other has dragged them there over going to see an English romance. So we don't need any confirming studies on this one. Yes, men like seeing other men get clobbered.

The Pope's No Dope
How did we get to the point where The Vatican is more progressive than heartland American politics? For at least the second time, the official paper of the Vatican, L'Osservatore Romano, has stated its support for evolution, and has disavowed the theory of intelligent design as science. And I don't even think Father Guido Sarducci wrote the article. The article notes that few people outside of the U.S. believe in intelligent design. Maybe we should check the water.

But Did He Sleep with Any of Those Four Jewish Women?
You can make the connection between a story about the Catholic Church and an Irishman who is responsible for about 3 million male offspring; I won't go there. Last week, scientists reported that many of the world's east European Jews were descended from four women; this week comes a report that one Irish male, Niall of the Nine Hostages, was the ancestor of about one in 12 Irish men. (Now there's a role for Colin Farrell.) The same story reiterates that Genghis Khan has nearly 16 million descendants! This newfound science of tracing genetic material is incredibly fascinating and enlightening. I hope someday to find out whether my Marx genes (and I do have some) are authentic Groucho. (My grandmother used to tell me I have authentic "Howard" genes--distant cousins from Moe, Curly and Shemp...see first paragraph, another recursive loop.) But when we're all traced to about 12 people, what will the religious right say about interbreeding? (Probably nothing, they seem to encourage it.)

And Back to the Administration's Tendrils
In what some of us think was an amazing turn of events--and a small victory for personal freedoms--the U. S. Supreme Court upheld Oregon's "death with dignity" law, which had twice been passed by this state's voters. It was a pretty clear majority vote by the court, but notably new Justice Roberts was in the minority, wishing to trump state's rights with Federal power. (This is a law first challenged by the administration via John Ashcroft and then pursued by current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.) Robert's vote does not bode well for future court conflicts between Federal and State power, because (presumably) soon-to-be Justice Samuel Alito has a history of supporting unprecedented Federal and Executive branch power, leading most Democrats to oppose his appointment. This is especially frightening when some Congresspeople are attempting to investigate the President's authorization (if not encouragement) of NSA spying and his steadfast insistence that "security concerns" (real or speculative) override Americans' right to privacy, as guaranteed by the Constitution. In fact, just to make more clear what a busybody the President is about intruding into people's lives (while apparently ignoring issues like the cost--in dollars and lives--of an unjustified war in Iraq), this week the administration is trying to revive a law already struck down by the Supreme Court, to subpoena Google's records of what people are searching the Web for, under the guise of protecting children from pornography. Perhaps he's hoping to bring it before a more "friendly" (read intrusive) Supreme Court when Alito is confirmed. Alito, by the way, advised the Executive branch on a mechanism by which the President can sign a bill passed by Congress, and completely ignore and disavow it. Columnist Andrew Sullivan is certainly not a fellow traveler to me politically, but I will refer you to one of his recent blog columns--for the "conservative" perspective on how this President is seizing unprecedented power to ignore the checks and balances set up by our Founding Fathers. The President expressed disappointment at the Supreme Court's vote (though he hasn't yet called them traitors or terrorists) because, according to the White House spokesman, he wants to encourage a "culture of life." Actually, it is a culture of "we're going to tell you what to do with your life."

A Literate
And just today a story surfaced about the possibility of first wife Laura Bush potentially following her predecessor's lead and running for Senate! According to the AP article, husband George denied that his wife had any interest in "politics or politicians." Speaking before a moving and storage company (??!!), the less popular Bush said, according to the article: "She's not interested in running for office. She's interested in literacy." In reality, of course, we all know that she married a politician who probably reads no more than a cereal box everyday. Then he went on to speak about honesty in politics. Bidness as usual.

Posted: Thu - January 19, 2006 at 09:19 AM