Archive for March, 2009
and meaningless on the cultural front.
Someone should tell Hardees execs — and now McDonald’s execs — that is extremely annoying pulling up to the drive-thru window and being asked questions like, “Would you care to try our new pork chop gravy, corn bread and mashed potato omelet bowl today?”
“Actually, no I don’t want to try your new bistro chipotle wrap, thanks. I want to try whatever it is I tell you I want to try.”
I go to Hardees often because their biscuits are grease-tastically good, and I apparently feel a certain desire to nudge my lifespan ever downward. So, I hear the obligatory, “Would you like to try our new pork chop gravy biscuit today?” quite often. Sometimes, the cashier forgets what it is she’s supposed to be pushing over on us, and there’s this awkward pause: “Would you like to try our … … bacon, sausage portobello … no wait, baby back rib gravy bowl … oh wait … oh yeah, pork chop gravy biscuit.” I used to be like, “No thanks. I’ll have … ” But I don’t even acknowledge they asked me anything anymore. I just pretend as if they never said anything and continue with the order. It’s the only way I can live with myself.
Needless to say, it’s maddening, and I feel like driving off right then and there. I go to Bojangles most of the time for biscuits nowadays, though. At least they ask us what we want rather than tell us what they think we should get. Sadly, McDonald’s has now started the trend … at least the one in Clemson, S.C. If they only knew how super annoying it was for the customer, they would stop the practice immediately and let me decide whether I want to try their new fruit loop, flap jack, super-duper whatever, whatever on my own.
James McPherson had a good article on his blog about President Barack Obama’s move to boost Mexican border security and to spend $700 million to assist Mexican officials in buying surveillance aircraft and equipment, noting:
Mexico is the third-leading provider of imported oil for the United States, but the leading provider of illegal drugs. Oil companies tend to be much more refined than drug cartels in their use of violence, and to have bigger U.S.-backed armies, so in Mexico it’s the drugs, not the oil, fueling the war.
In return, Americans provide the money and the guns to keep the war going–pretty much as we do in the rest of the world, though in this case it’s not through major corporations with the endorsement of the U.S. government. Of course at the government level we are still continuing a failed decades-long “war on drugs” policy instead of taking the simpler, cheaper route of drug legalization.
As I noted in a comment on his site, for some reason, I have an intense interest in the debate about illegal immigration. As I said on McPherson’s site, I don’t think these people are getting a fair shake, and here’s why.
If one traces history through the generations (at least in America), one finds instance upon instance of a new segment of population being introduced into the ”host” country, and then, out of fear or racism by the current inhabitants, the new group is mistreated, disenfranchised, enslaved, uprooted from their homes or sold as chattel, along with other numerous other dehumanizing actions. Then, perhaps after years or generations of struggle and oppression, on one fine, sunny day, the pervailing populous allows the oppressed to stand beside them as equals.
I’m a white guy, obviously, with mostly white family and friends, but for some reason, this is an issue about which I’m quite passionate. Perhaps it partly stems from my time living in a county highly populated by Hispanics, one in which there seems to be clear racial profiling going on among the backward-thinking law enforcement. If folks in America had any clue (and I admit I don’t) what it might be like to be a 5-year-old kid in Mexico to get one toy, just one, not $300 worth of toys, under the tree for Christmas or to grow up your entire life in abject poverty under a government that has proven to be impotent at sustaining its own people, they would speak a different tune. I obviously had no such experience as a child. Though raised of modest means, my level of privilege lapsed many kids living in Mexico many times over. Yet, the ability to emphathize, even among people who grew up with less than I did, seems to be lost on many Americans today.
The argument, and quite passionately, will surely come that these folks are draining the system or illegals that do make it to this country are taking jobs away from legal Americans. But of what consequence is this argument? Either the legal Americans aren’t applying for the same jobs, or they are less qualified. If the best people get the jobs, for we can only assume they do, (Why would employers want incompetent people working for them?) and the best person in some job vacancy happens to be of brown skin, so be it. This argument falls flat.
Crime is another argument that frequently comes from those who are fed up with the illegal immigration (or even legal immigration) problem. One, all people, no matter race, commit violent crimes. Illegals commit violent crimes and so do white and black folks. Here’s one link, and here’s another. Gleam from them what you will. I, personally, believe those who commit crimes don’t just belong to a particular race. To think otherwise would be racism. I need only to name Charles Manson, Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Stalin and Robert Mugabe to give a smorgasbord of people who have, in their own way, wreaked havoc on humanity (and this is a very short list).
The fear of how immigrants might alter America as we know it is irrational and has been proven time and time again to be a moot point. From what I can tell, immigrants have altered this country for the better, for without them, in America there would ultimately be no Michael Jordan, no Michael Jackson, no Tiger Woods, no Frederick Douglas, no W.E.B. DuBois, no Jesse Jack, no Kobe Bryant, no Harriet Tubman, no Abraham Lincoln, no John Lennon, no Barack Obama. Thus, in the 21st century, where we have an international space station, where we can scope out many parts of the universe and spot galaxies light years away, where we can intelligently talk about gamma ray bursts and black holes and the beginning of life itself, racism has no place, and it must be crushed.
We have huge problems to tackle with regard to the national and world economy, and racism should have been dealt the death blow years ago, but by the will of ignorance and fear, it persists. If this doesn’t sadden you, something warm has hardened.
Sen. Chris Dodd has obviously taken heat recently for his perceived involvement with making it easier for AIG execs to get their bonuses.
During a recent event in Enfield, Conn.,
Dodd said that he was misled on the issue of bonuses for AIG executives. He said he would not have drafted key legislative changes allowing the bonuses to move forward if he knew the purpose of those changes.
Dodd said officials at the Treasury Department led him to believe that the changes, added to the $787 billion economic stimulus bill shortly before its passage last month, were merely “technical and innocuous” in nature. …
Dodd said he was disappointed that the Treasury officials who asked him to make the legislative changes had not identified themselves. — CNN
The melee in trying to figure out who said what at what time and under what pretense is inconsequential. (And it is a melee. Just making sense of that CNN article is a struggle. Actually, the CNN reporter makes the same mistake as Dodd by taking action, in this case, writing an article, based on the word of an unnamed source.)
But the underlying problem, as I see it, is that Dodd didn’t ask enough questions. What senior official in Congress, one charged with helping draft such an important bill to the recovery of the economy, leaves in a portion of language on the good word of an unnamed Treasury official? And why would someone in Dodd’s position not ask the person to identify him/her self? Who makes decisions based on transient, faceless voices?
Also, on what grounds can a Treasury official not be identified, either in the case of a CNN reporter writing a story or a lawmaker drafting language for a stimulus bill? Public officials have no such prerogatives, and we shouldn’t play nice and pretend they do. There is a case to be made, and the paper I used to work for took this escape clause more than I would have liked, but sometimes reporters are able to get sensitive information that otherwise wouldn’t be available by gathering data from anonymous sources. But the problem with this practice is glaring. Should we simply tell the reader to “trust us” that this information is coming from a legitimate source? Newspapers already have enough trouble gaining the public’s trust, so this is a stretch. We in the newsroom could be making up a bunch of nonsense for all anyone knows.
This problem becomes even more critical regarding lawmakers, who, on many levels, hold the public’s trust in their hands, and like suspension bridges, we trust them (or at least we do in the basic sense that we trust they won’t set up the next Third Reich tomorrow). Folks at newspapers, for all practical purposes, are just filling white space. Granted, reporters and editors provide a heck of a service for the communities they serve (given they are good at what they do), but the fact is, stories and photos “feed the beast,” and that’s really what it boils down to. But lawmakers should not take any action, however “technical and innocuous” based on the word of a nameless source. They just shouldn’t.
Dodd’s not a snake. I think he just made a mistake or an error in judgment, but his stumble proves a grand point: accountability is a beautiful thing. And now, the still-faceless officials who spurred him to add that bit of language are scot-free.
I didn’t really intend this to be a separate post, as the following is commentary I made on a reply to this post, but I think it’s important enough, and interesting enough, to make it a separate post, and perhaps, I will add to it a bit. That said, read this, then read this:
While John Loftus’ argument against God appears is convincing when read at first, you should take a closer look at his logic. Suffering does NOT exist in the world because of the doctrine of so-called “original sin.”
Alexandre Dumas, in the Count of Monte Cristo, wrote the famous line, “A man is not capable of feeling ultimate bliss until he has felt ultimate despair.” Happiness cannot exist without unhappinesss. God knows that as well as Dumas. He wants us to be happy, so he allowed us to experience something that will help us learn and grow and have something to compare our happiness too. — Ian, poster
This is my unexpectedly lenghty reply:
Thanks for your comments, Ian. This is going to take a few graphs, so bear with me.
Have you read the entirety of Loftus’ book? Loftus may have brought up the original sin argument by Christians to account for the suffering in the world, but his predominant argument, to the best of my understanding, was about intense suffering in the face of an omnibenevolent god. The point about original sin was mine.
According to Roman 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Ok, perhaps, according to your statement, “suffering does NOT exist in the world” because of original sin, but death certainly does. But which is worse? Is suffering included in “death?” The traditional doctrine goes thusly (I am speaking from one who was raised in a Wesleyan, and later, Baptist church):
Adam and Eve were created by God in a sinless state in the garden, where the very concept of sin was absent, at least as far as Adam and Eve knew. Satan tempted Eve with the knowledge of good and evil, thus leading to the fall.
After the fall of man, God cursed man, handing down the curse of birth pangs, imminent death by old age, etc. So, without Satan’s influence and without the introduction of sin, we can only assume Adam and Eve would have continued in their nearly perfect or perfect world free of sin and free from Satan’s influence, thus free of the knowledge of good and evil and free from birth pangs and free from certain death (But, they obviously had free will, so their fall may have been forthcoming eventually anyway). Regardless, if man hadn’t fallen, it’s conceivable, though unlikely given free will, that we would continue to this day to live in a perfect world, free of Satan’s influence, walking only in God’s light. But man did fall, thus casting us out of Eden, as John Milton’s imagery portrayed it in “Paradise Lost.” With this fall came not only sin, but death, given Paul’s quote above.
Now, death cannot exist without suffering on our part. Who on the planet has not suffered when a beloved son or daughter or mother or father has died? Death, in itself, includes some level of suffering inherently, and this is precisely what Paul was referring to. According to traditional doctrine, we live in an imperfect, fallen world, and as a result, death and suffering are inevitable.
I don’t necessarily agree on Dumas’ premise that bliss can’t exist without despair. (The very idea of happiness and suffering assumes we have a level of intelligence capable of such feelings). But it’s not necessary that we have both. We could have come into consciousness as a less evolved form of human, say 200,000 years ago. Say we are examining the first generation of species capable of the level of consciousness or intelligence to be able to be feel something called happiness or suffering. Say we are at the very birthplace of the being capable of experiencing such things. Then, imagine, as the being opened its eyes, looked up, and saw a comet heading for the earth. It’s mother was there looking down at its young frame. It then looked up at its mother, and in a matter of minutes, the mother was thrown backward by the force and killed, and the baby species watched the death, and then in the next moment, was killed as well. In the milliseconds before the mother and child were killed, did the child, freshly aware of its place in the world, suffer or feel despair? What did it think about, and what did it feel? Did it experience any point of happiness in its short existence? Perhaps something like comfort occurred, but to say it felt happiness or bliss seems to be a stretch. In those brief moments, it must have felt tragedy and nothing else in seeing its mother perish in the seconds before its own demise.
Do children in Africa dying from AIDS or starving from hunger feel despair? Certainly. Do they ever, ever feel what we call bliss? What about stillborn children? According to the evangelical crowd, they were humans with souls. Do they feel happiness or suffering? What about embryonic stem cells?
Dumas’ point, of course, is that one can not appreciate bliss without experiencing suffering, thus having a frame of reference for what happiness feels like. But one doesn’t need a frame of reference or a comparison. The ability to experience happiness and suffering are hard-wired. We don’t need one to recognize the other; we just feel them as the experiences come.
So, finally, back to the topic of intense suffering in the face of an omnibenevolent god, three scenarios seem possible to me. First, God is either concerned about the atrocities taking place on his watch, but is not interested in intervening. He is either concerned and incapable of intervening or either unconcerned, thus irrelevant to us. To say that God is concerned and wants us to be happy but allows intense suffering anyway circumvents his omnibenevolence. To say that God could sit back and watch his creation be raped, starved, mutilated, lynched and burned though generation after generation and do nothing, nothing whatsoever, for at least 2,000-plus years gives a disastrous testimony to his omnibenevolence.
To end, if he exists and is also omnibenevolent, he must be the saddest (to see his creation suffer so), powerless (to be unable to do anything about) being in the universe.
It’s incongruous to me that the same company (Rupert Murdoch’s own tower of capitalism, News Corp.) that hosts The Simpsons, Family Guy and other gems of social commentary, also funds its flagship news channel, FOX News, which is simply awash with all things Republican, or at least, anti-leftism. This, by the way, would be A-OK, as long as lemons were called lemons and limes were called limes. But there at FOX News, “fair and balanced” is the calling card, yet over and over commentators have proven the coverage at that network to be something other than non-biased. So much so that there is no need to point readers to links here. It’s not an understatement that this network deserves none of our attention, unless you want to get good and angry and dissident about the state of the national media in America. Journalistic principals have long been tossed out the window, that is, if they were ever there to begin with. Once, journalism was a proud trade. Once, heck, even broadcast journalism was a noble field. Today, it seems as if we are, in some respects — and FOX News is taking us there quicker than many other outlets — returning to the 19th century version of newspapering that hinged around ideology rather than fact. On FOX’s inadequacies, Google any number of other examples for yourself.
Or, witness this video:
During a segment about how some were claiming the economy was sound, FOX News piped in a clip of Vice President Joe Biden (then Sen. Biden) saying, “the fundamentals of the economy are strong.” The problem is that Biden was not saying, speaking for himself, that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. He was relaying an earlier line from Sen. John McCain in order to speak against such a notion, and of course, to make a political point . See here:
As I said here, I like words, and I like information. While pictures and graphics can provide some level of information, I think solid reporting and well-crafted stories serve our communities the best. I think The New York Times’ traditional design is a beautiful thing. Newspapers such as that offer less filler and are teeming with information. As such, I would probably fit perfectly well in some 18th century London coffeehouse or pub reading the latest edition of The Spectator. But then again, and for better or worse, I’m not the average Joe.
Print media, as is evidenced by the recent demise of the Rocky Mountain News, the Detroit Free Press scaling back to only three days per week, Knight Ridder’s purchase by McClatchy, among others examples, print media is tanking. Perhaps sooner than later, the days of sitting in the local Huddle House or at your kitchen table reading the morning paper may be one and done. Today, at least among small to mid-size dailies, there’s this dire atmosphere, almost like a desperation, to sell papers. I saw it at a local daily I used to work for. The leadership wanted giant photos, “teasers” everywhere, sports cut-outs … basically as much crap as one could pile above the fold, the better, information and usefulness of such “elements” (as they called them) be damned. For a national example of this, see USA Today.
The problem with that model is that a publication could offer the most artistic, elegantly designed and well-photographed publication in the country, but if it missed the boat on content, it has failed in its duty to inform and educate the community it serves. After all, with all those “elements” flying around everywhere, something has to be compromised. And the content usually gets the ax, and at this aforementioned paper, that’s exactly what happened. Thus — and I know to the budget-minded publisher or editor this is unpopular territory — but the public is shortchanged when elements take precedence over content. The job of newspapers is to add to the intelligence and knowledge of the public, not take away from it or contribute to the general dumbing down taking place in other outlets like radio and television. Have we lost our muster when we simply can’t sell newspapers by compelling headlines and probing reporting? Have J-schools across the country failed us in producing a generation of editors and publishers who are OK with this nonsense? Can’t we be everything television and radio isn’t?
As an example, Stephen King’s name doesn’t jump out at you because he’s got lots of cool pictures and graphics in his books. In fact, it’s hard to find a single picture anywhere! His name jumps out at you because he does something with words and ideas that few others can. We are raising and educating a generation of journalism amateurs — or wimps — in this regard. What King does and what journalists do are polar, of course, but I’m arguing that words, in and of themselves, can be compelling and can make newspapers or books or whatever fly off the racks. Journalism is not for the bashful. True journalism doesn’t hide behind snazzy graphics or photos. It can be powerful, and it can change communities. I’ve seen it happen. But I’m probably arguing in 20th century, or even 19th century, terms.
Here in the 21st century, the Internet provides a literal free for all of information, thus rendering newspapers largely irrelevant, except only to a select few still enamored with their morning coffee-paper routine. I’m in that crowd, but admittedly, we must move on. Insomuch as small- to medium-sized dailies are going to continue to offer their daily fare of elements, giant photos, graphics simply for the sake of graphics and cartoon-sized headlines, they should just fold up shop and put all that time and effort into the Internet, as witnessed by this publication:
Whoever created this is probably quite proud, but this is a newspaper, not a graphic showroom. And by the way, to further illustrate why this is trash, where is the local news on the front page? Can you find it? Clemson Tigers basketball is local, but that’s sports. A local feature story about an artist is not local news. Photos and graphics have all but consumed this paper. I am sure local news in short supply can be found inside, but it should be found out front, and it’s not. (The paper recently reformatted to this tabloid design.)
Almost all of this paper’s readers — and millions more — are online, so why not scale back the effort, stop contributing to the trash heap and publish solid reporting and well-crafted writing on the Web site. And, the money saved from going virtual could be put into increased attempts to sell ad space on the Web through banners, specially-priced ads based on where they appear on the page, Web design, hosting and other ventures. In short, if the goal is to abandon the traditional model for newspapers as we know them, get on with the end game. Get completely virtual, stop publishing graphic-laden, information-less trash and give up the ghost. I’ll never read books online and if there is still a local or national newspaper still putting out quality work in print form, chances are I’m going to read it. But thankfully, books still have a market in print form. Of the former newspapers, I’m not sure. We are too enamored with the sound bites of FOX News and CNBC and CNN to care about newspapers anymore. And that’s fine. But it’s time some papers stop pretending to be relevant, if that relevancy means compromising journalistic integrity to en masse photos and graphics signifying nothing.
Browsing CNN’s Web site tonight, I came across this column from Bob Greene, who opined that those who lived through the Great Depression are owed an apology from “the rest of us.”
They don’t deserve what they are going through. You hear it again and again from money experts: Take the long view of the economy. If you don’t need cash from your stock market accounts in the next five to 10 years, leave it in there. Time will heal our current woes — the economy, even when it’s in tatters, runs in cycles. Just wait it out and be patient. Especially young people — fiscal stability will arrive again in your lifetime. You’ll see.
Nice words. Yet they leave out that one group of people — the people who have a right to be terrified when they are told the economy will only be brutal in the short term. They leave out the people to whom the short term is all they have: our parents. Our grandparents. The men and women who never should have had to worry about their personal security again.
First, I take exception with Greene’s premise that “the rest of us” owe the folks who lived through the Great Depression an apology. No. Those individuals and companies who engaged in bad bets, those who were financially moronic enough to take on loans they knew they couldn’t pay back and the banks who supplied them, perhaps, are the ones who should be doling out the apologies. To say everyone should apologize to older people who lived through the largest economic demise in our history, without a shred of evidence to suggest the Great Depression generation is suffering anymore than anyone else, is flawed reasoning.
Second, experiencing periods of financial hardship — and financial gain — is a part of life. Why should these folks never have to “worry about their personal security again?” Whichever worldview one takes, I can show we aren’t living in an idealized society or universe. If one takes the Christian view (which seems to be the default here in America), these folks, along with the rest of us, have much to worry about because, of course, as doctrine teaches, this is a fallen world and events do not play out to our liking. In fact, based on evangelical viewpoint, events play out to an increasingly sinister plot, where evil reigns and where God, who for reasons we can’t rightly figure out, either has no desire to intervene, can’t intervene or simply will not, has called his son to eventually take those who have accepted him home, thus rescuing them, based on their faith, from eternal judgment. Amid this cosmic struggle for our souls, our finances is hardly a primary focus.
Or, if one doesn’t believe, here’s the alternate viewpoint: These folks should have to worry about their security as long as they are alive because there is no rhyme or reason to the universe, this country or its finances. Thus, personal responsibility and smart decisions should be every person’s calling card.
We didn’t realize that they would be asked to do it again, in 2009 — we didn’t realize that our parents and grandparents, the vestiges of their retirement income suddenly diminished and threatened, would be asked once more to stoically accept hardships they had done nothing to bring upon themselves.
Really? Again, there is no evidence presented to suggest that at least some or a few of the folks who were alive during the depression were not involved recently in some subprime or market dealings. This source suggests seniors today are doing OK financially:
“Even in their current precarious state, it is important to note that today’s seniors are better prepared for retirement than subsequent generations will be,” said Tatjana Meschede, lead author of Living Longer on Less: The New Economic (In)Security of Seniors, a just-published report on the SESI. “They have benefited from pensions, jobs with significant retirement benefits, and a stronger social safety net than subsequent generations will enjoy.”
But Greene retorts:
Think of the disdain they must feel for the Wall Street titans who have hurt them [Who hurt others as well!]. When they hear about a brokerage executive who spends $1,400 on a wastebasket, their first thought undoubtedly is not that the man has taken advantage of his shareholders, or of the federal government.
This is likely a disdain for how any person making less than, say, 50k feels. Putting aside the fact that he is making a lot of assumptions about what a particular person might think or feel without himself being omnipresent or omniscient, Greene concludes:
All that the oldest Americans asked for, in their final years, is a sense of safety, of stability. Twice in the nation’s history, they knew what it was like to go to sleep night after night with their stomachs knotted in fear. What we as a country owed them was nights, at the end, when they never again had to feel that dread in the darkness.
Now they are feeling it, and there is nothing that we — their sons and daughters, their grandsons and granddaughters — can do to convince them that their fear in the night is groundless. What they are being forced to go through now is — in the most elemental sense of this word — a shame. I hope they know how sorry we are.
Did he ask anyone specifically whether all they wanted in their final years was stability and safety? Logically, there could be a rebel senior out there who still likes to ride the financial roller coaster every now and then. There’s no need to blow it up or blame it on the collective whole.
But back to the point, in short, what seniors are being forced to go through now is what all of us are being forced to go through: a fluctuation in the world and national economy and an event in the thing we call life. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not God playing dice; it’s not financiers playing devil’s advocate. We don’t owe anyone anything. It just is.
For anyone who is considering starting your very own WordPress site, make sure you read up, research and get your crap together. This isn’t for novices. For those who have visited — or tried to visit — this site in the last week or so, probably have a hunch the site was compromised. You would be right. It was apparently compromised months ago, but not until recently, did it raise much ire with Google. But when it did, the gauntlet was thrown down. Due to malicious code somewhere in the main directory (my guess is a subdirectory that didn’t even involve WordPress), Google red-flagged my site and Safari and Firefox prevented anyone from visiting the site without first displaying a “malware” warning. This, of course, was of no use to me and inhibited folks from enjoying (or not) the opinions that were forthcoming, for I had no clue what was wrong,as I manually sifted through a gazillion lines of code in my directory.
So, with that said, here are the steps I took to correct similar problems you may encounter with your WordPress, after much wrangling and hair-pulling on my part.
- First, get your crap together. If you know nothing about Web design, PHP, viruses, hosting, Web site security, databases and the like, this isn’t for you. Visit wordpress.com and set up a free blog without the hassle. If you like a good challenge, by all means, proceed.
- Obviously, wordpress.org has all you need to get up and running. Well, you will need a Web server through a host, but I’m assuming you know this (See step 1).
- Before anything else, make sure your local machine is virus and malware free. Second, make sure you are dealing with a reputable host. I use ixwebhosting and they seem pretty solid to me. My maladies were probably totally self-induced, so I don’t blame them at all for the compromises I experienced. Unlike godaddy.com, ixwebhosting has a toll-free number and even a 24/7 live chat, which I have personally found to be very helpful and convenient. I would not recommend godaddy.com, as their customer service is lacking and transferring domains away from them is like pulling teeth (Just my experience). Not to mention the long distance calls and no 24/7 live chat for customer service.
- After uploading the files and setting up the database, etc, go get the AskApache Password Protect plugin and lock that crap up tighter than a drum. Also, make sure your file permissions are at 644 and your folders at 755. Be careful with the AskApache. Some of the settings could make your blog inaccessible. If this happens, delete the .htaccess file the plugin creates in both the root and the wp-admin directory. Try to remember which setting screwed you up and work around it.
- Don’t name your database table prefixes “wp_anything.” Change the prefix to hy_ or pq_ or whatever. Just something other than wp_
- Make your user name something other than admin. This is easily guessable by someone attempting to get into your site. Change the user name to something else AND I would suggest making your password the most convoluted series of letters and characters one could imagine. WordPress has a tool that can generate one for you. That’s cool, but you should probably change it every month or two. I previously didn’t use one of these generated passwords because I couldn’t remember them, but now, I simply cut and paste it. I have them saved in an e-mail folder and just pull them up when I want to log in and post. Also, AskApache has a second layer of protection for your blog, which includes an additional password just to access the wp-admin page. Use this too with the cut and paste deal.
- Once you are up and running, I would suggest not putting anything in your WordPress directory other than the actual files needed to run the site. For instance, I had a subfolder in my WordPress blog that I found was causing problems. It’s not recommended putting anything else in the WordPress folder unless you are well-adept at securing those as well.
- Backup your files often. I try to backup my entire database AND the WordPress site, using the internal WordPress “Export” tool. It’s possible that your database itself could be hacked, so at the bare minimum, use the WordPress Export to make sure you have backups of your posts and, worse comes to worse, if the database gets hacked, you can create a new one and point WordPress to it.
- Use Askimet, Spam-Free and other common plugins to keep the gunk out of your trunk.
- I know some spend hours and hours tweaking and customizing their templates. Cool, indeed. But this can get wrecked as well. Save ”clean” templates on your harddrive whenever you can, so if something screwy happens, you can simply open the header.php, sidebar.php or stlye.css files and cut and paste the pieces of code you customized. Templates can be compromised, so I wouldn’t assume these files were safe. Make backups, and if things go haywire, check your local files against the files on the server and cut and paste as needed.
Again, this is a bunch of stuff, but maintaining a WordPress site is not for the weak at heart, and I’ve learned this the hard way. If you don’t want to bother with it, just check out wordpress.com and you can have a blog in minutes. But if you like the customization level, at all levels, that running your own WordPress site offers, go for it!
President Barack Obama on Monday signed an order undoing some of President George Bush’s limits on stem cell research, saying, “we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”
… by asserting “the centrality of science to every issue of modern life,” said Dr. Alan I. Lesher, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse under President Bill Clinton and, briefly, Mr. Bush. Mr. Obama is suggesting that science rather than ideology will be the foundation for his decision making. “What you are seeing now is both a response to the last eight years, and a genuine reaction to President Obama’s enthusiasm for science,” he said. — The New York Times
Well, to that, I say with restraint, “Hallelujah,” for there are apparently some other pieces of legislation that Congress must look at. But for too long, we have embraced policies that have essentially said, “We would rather see living, breathing, suffering people lose the chance of having an improved life than witness the death of stem cells, which, first, aren’t living, breathing people, and second, have the potential to become any number of human cells within the body.” Evangelicals, preachers, religious apologists and generally people who don’t know what they are talking about have carried the flag against stem cell research, thus delaying progress in a promising field of study that could help, dare I say, living, breathing humans beings suffering right now from any number of diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, emphysema, heart disease and others. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can develop into any of 200 human cell types. Bush, of course, seems to repeat the silly claim that stem cells are people with souls and has also carried the flag either out of ignorance or out of fear of upsetting his base voting bloc.
In a related editorial, The Times had this to say:
Mr. Obama also pledged on Monday to base his administration’s policy decisions on sound science, undistorted by politics or ideology. He ordered his science office to develop a plan for all government agencies to achieve that goal.
Sound science: another novel idea. Also for too long, the country has collectively said something like, “Let’s not base much of our research on science, let’s infuse some politics and ideology in there, for we don’t truly care about making this world a better place, we care about winning elections and catering to the religious folks who voted for us.”
Of course, all this makes sense if there’s a heaven waiting for us. Heck, what does it matter if thousands or millions more die because we inhibit the research necessary to save lives. We can convert them and someday meet back up with them in heaven, right? That’s a better place, in the end, isn’t it? Those who fall by the wayside with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or whatever will get new, perfect bodies. Why bother with making the world a better place in the here and now, why bother with research, with science, with medicine, with astronomy or astrophysics: it’s all inconsequential to the all-encompassing knowledge that God, who seems to have no problem letting us fend for ourselves (sort of like the GOP), as he has for the last 2,000-plus years, will give us a new body in heaven? There’s simply no need to attempt to devise methods to help people dying from cancer or heart disease or with defunct organs, for they’ll be in a better place someday … if they believe.
Based on that thinking, it makes perfect sense to inhibit stem cell research on ideological grounds, that is, if you are willing to look away from the many afflicted with such chronic conditions that could be helped by stem cell research, of which, God can and will look away, as he has for millennia. Here, some will bring in the original sin argument that we are all under the cloak of original sin and this is why pain and suffering exist in the world. But there’s a problem: God’s omnibenevolence.
On the subject of suffering, John Loftus had this to say:
Here is the argument as stated by David Hume (Philo): ‘Is he (God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?’ But I want to be more precise. If God is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the issue of why there is so much suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason is that a perfectly good God would be opposed to it, and an all-powerful God would be capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about it. So the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that either God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it. The stubborn fact of intense suffering in the world means that something is wrong with God’s ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge. I consider this as close to an empirical refutation of Christianity as is possible.
To conclude, do we really care more about clusters of cells than people existing and suffering right now before our eyes? Witness a person dying of cancer or a person already in the coffin, looking thin and wrecked by months of suffering from the disease, and tell me that undifferentiated cells matter as much or more than living, breathing human beings. If you can do this, kudos to you, for you are stronger than I. But I can’t see the logic and my humanity makes me ache when religion or faith or ideology or politics gets in the way of research that could help — let me say it again — living, breathing human beings.
Footnote: If this post seems out of character for me or even shocking to family, friends or whomever might read this, the reason is that I’ve struggled with questions such as these for at least five or more years or longer. I could probably fill a book containing arguments just like this. The truth, as I see it, is the evidence does not add up and to prohibit meaningful, potential life-saving research such as this on religious or other ideological or political grounds is not only irrational, but cruel.
Noxious as it is, the back-and-forth between Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, other GOP leaders and Rush Limbaugh highlights at least one glaring truth: The GOP is in crisis mode, and the weaknesses continue.
Limbaugh, of course, exudes no such weakness. His fellow Republicans blasted him and other talking heads after Limbaugh’s 90-minute rant against Obama and the GOP leadership. (Consequently, in the speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, he confused a line between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, despite calling Obama’s plans a “bastardization of the Constitution.”)
Shortly after criticizing Limbaugh, one-by-one, GOP leaders either apologized or recanted altogether or skirted away from outright vilifying Limbaugh’s statements asserting he wanted the president’s policies, if they moved us closer to socialism, to fail:
- Michael Steele: “My intent was not to go after Rush — I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele told Politico in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.” What leadership?? He’s a talk show host. He holds no office or power. He’s not a leader, unless the definition of leadership now been reduced only to those with frantic, booming, irrational voices over the airwaves.
- Rep. Phil Gingrey: “I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives—that was not my intent,” Gingrey said in a statement. “I am also sorry to see that my comments in defense of our Republican Leadership read much harsher than they actually were intended, but I recognize it is my responsibility to clarify my own comments.”
- Rep. Eric Cantor: “Absolutely not,” Cantor said during a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos, asked if he accepts Limbaugh’s failure statement. “And I don’t — I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now. We have such challenges. What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today.”
and in a recent press conference:
- “Let me just say this: It is not about Rush Limbaugh. It’s not about Rahm Emanuel. It’s not about individuals right now. This is about real impact on families across this country.”
- Gov. Mark Sanford: “I don’t want him to fail. Anybody who wants him to fail is an idiot, because it means we’re all in trouble.” and then a subsequent press release: “Asked to comment on Limbaugh’s statement, Joel Sawyer, Sanford’s Communications Director, said that ‘the governor was not referring to anyone’ in particular when he said that anyone hoping for Obama to fail is an ‘idiot.’ Rather, Sawyer said, Sanford was speaking ‘generically’ and did not know that Limbaugh had previously said he hopes that Obama will fail.”
Ok, that’s more than enough to prove the point that real GOP leaders did not unequivocally condemn Limbaugh’s statements in the first place, as they should have, and in the second, when pressed, either apologized or circumvented saying anything that could be considered harsh toward the talk show host.
Author Timothy Egan said in a March 4, 2009 New York Times column:
Smarter Republicans know he (Limbaugh) is not good for them. As the conservative writer David Frum said recently, “If you’re a talk radio host and you have five million who listen and there are 50 million who hate you, you make a nice living. If you’re a Republican party, you’re marginalized.”
Polling has found Limbaugh, a self-described prescription-drug addict who sees America from a private jet, to be nearly as unpopular as Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who damned America in the way that Limbaugh has now damned the nation’s newly elected leader. But Republicans just can’t quit him. So even poor Michael Steele, the nominal head of the Republican Party who dared to criticize him, had to grovel and crawl back to the feet of Limbaugh.
Republican strategist Ed Rollins calls this entire conflict “idiotic,” and one can’t help but agree. If Republican leaders cower to the influence of a talk show host, how we can expect them to be capable leaders in making truly tough decisions that affect the livelihood of their own constituents. They have been marginalized indeed. Rollins seems to understand that point as well, noting that the party needs new ideas, new leaders and strategies for reaching younger generations. That’s probably an understatement. Rollins was right when he said,
People who govern are the ones who will make the party relevant again, or not. All have to be long-term thinkers in addition to doing their daily tasks.
And that means that actual elected officials charged with moving us forward — not a talk show hosts who belittles someone with Parkinson’s, shows racists tendencies and confuses the two most important documents in the country;s history. Thus, Limbaugh is one of the archaic, anachronistic symbols of a Republican Party that is no more. For it to survive, it must reinvent itself, and it hasn’t as of yet.Or, as Egdan noted of Colin Powell:
When Colin Powell endorsed Obama during the campaign, Limbaugh said it was entirely because of race. After the election, Powell said the way for the party, which has been his home, to regain its footing was to say the Republican Party must stop “shouting at the world.”