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Why don't they just call it the "JackMaster 2000" and be done with it?

Our First Fight...

UPDATE: Apparently, the President and the two principals in this incident will be having some brewskis in the near future...

I knew this day would come. Even in the heady days of our whirlwind romance during the campaign, I knew the spark would grow cold, and someday Obama and I would have out first spat. I mean, it’s only natural, given my uber-left worldview, fickle nature, and tenuous grip on my temper – but I had hoped it would happen later, and I hoped it would be for something roguish and cute, like diddling an intern with a cigar. But earlier this week when the President said the Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer who arrested prominent Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. acted stupidly, I wanted to make him sleep on the couch.

As you have probably figured out by now, I’m about as liberal as a guy can get. I’m all for exposing discrimination and racism in all its forms, and I think that agencies and officials should work to even the disparities between the races in terms of policing. I’m well aware that Blacks and Latinos are arrested in disproportionate numbers in this country, and I’m also not opposed to sanctioning police officers who overstep their powers, despite my own previous career as a law enforcement officer. That said, I am opposed to the President, or any official for that matter, making off-hand remarks about a case, the facts of which, he admittedly didn’t know.

Because Professor Gates is an African American and the arresting officer is white, the immediate assumption is that he was the victim of racial profiling, and I confess that upon hearing of the incident, that was the conclusion I jumped to as well. Upon hearing just a few of the details of the case, however, I began to have my doubts.
According to all the published accounts I’ve seen, at the point that the arrest was made, Professor Gates had already shown the officer his Harvard ID card, and the officer was trying to get some confirmation that the house was, in fact, his. With that fact confirmed, the officer would have no reason to make an arrest – it is perfectly legal to break into your own house. The fact that the arrest was made for disorderly conduct while he was trying to ascertain that fact indicates that the words which were exchanged between the officer and Gates were probably quite heated.

This leads us to the question of why? Why would the officer and Gates begin yelling at each other to the point that the officer felt it was necessary to jail the professor? And believe me, it takes a lot to get the average cop to do that - taking someone to jail requires an affidavit and a bunch of other paperwork hassles, so it's generally not done on a whim. I came up with several possible answers.

It could be that the cop in question is a racist pig bastard, following the dictates of “the Man” and he was just taking the opportunity to jail a black man for no reason. While I admit that’s possible, I think it unlikely, given that the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, is the guy who teaches the racial sensitivity classes at their local law enforcement academy. If anything, he would be hyper-aware of the ramifications of such an action. Plus, he has no prior history of such behavior in his career.

Could it be that this was just a case of a guy losing it on a cop because he was embarrassed? Possibly – an incident like that would certainly generate a police report, which would be published in the police blotter, which could cause a prominent man like Gates to feel a bit foolish. In that situation, some of us will yell before we think of the consequences. Especially if we feel that our position should carry some prestige with it which makes us believe that we should be treated with greater respect or deference – sound like any prominent professors you know?

Or worst of all, could it be that the victim of racial profiling here is the cop? Could it be that because he is a white man arresting a prominent black man on charges which were ultimately dropped, that the assumption is that his behavior was racially motivated? In fact, could he take any action in this situation without the shadow of race falling over it?

Any of these scenarios could be the case, and only Crowley and Gates really know what happened that evening. It does seem likely to me, however, that this is not a case of blatant racial bias on the part of the officer, and even if the arrest was not wise, this is not Rodney King or Abner Louima we’re talking about here – no one got severely beaten or had a broomstick broken off in his ass. In short, it’s not an incident that requires national media attention. Had this taken place between two men of the same race, would this even be an issue? It wouldn’t have gotten national coverage, and it certainly doesn’t require the comment of the President.

Although I’m not ready to break up with the President yet, the honeymoon is definitely over. He needs to do something really romantic to win me back… like, attaching dental coverage to the health care plan, or, making gay marriage legal in all 50 states.

Actually, I’m easier than that. I’d probably settle for lower gas prices and some flowers...

At War with the Plants

My allergies are quite irritating right now. Even while staying indoors I am sneezing and my eyes itch, but I have already exceeded the allowed dosage of my meds for today. This is one of the great ironies of my life here in Black Vatican City - I bitch all the time about the cold, yet during our all-too-brief summer the plants outside are trying to kill me.

As for medications, the next step is steroids. I've tried the steroid shot in years past and it worked like a charm, but I'm less than excited about going that route. It is both expensive and not great for your innards, plus I'd rather be treated in a more natural way.

This brings me to one of the many thorny crossroads that all vegans face. It seems that there is a body of evidence (mostly anecdotal, unfortunately) that indicates that raw local honey or bee pollen taken daily can reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms. Honey is one of the grey areas of veganism - many will avoid it simply in the name of consistency, while others will tell you that honey is one of the only animal foods that doesn't actually exploit the animals producing it. I've done a bit of research of late on the subject, and the domestic honeybee is, in fact, probably far better off than his wild cousins, but some are killed during the harvesting of full honeycombs - it's unavoidable.

I know many of you will scoff at my concern for a few tiny bees, but I want to kill as few animals as possible in the years remaining to me in this incarnation. I choose not to eat animal foods because I don't need them to live a long, healthy life; avoiding unnecessary suffering and killing of any kind is the point. In this case, however, the animal producers don't appear to suffer terribly, the number of deaths is reportedly very low, and I may actually NEED the fruits of their labors in order to live a healthier, less pharmaceutical-dependent life

So, the long and the short of it is that after much thought, I've decided to give the honey and bee pollen treatments a try. I've read that it takes a long time to work, so this may not be particularly useful until next spring, but I think It's worth a try. If anyone knows of good ways to ingest bee pollen (I hear it's nasty) I'd be grateful for your recipes.

How Was Girls' Night Out, Honey?

Remembering Apollo 11

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and in a few days it will be the anniversary of the first moonwalk.

I imagine that most of you weren’t born yet, but I recall both of those events. I was 4 years old at the time, and the quality of those first televised images from the moon was pretty grainy, but I remember it, and I’m thankful my grandmother sat me down in front of the TV that day and threatened to beat me if I wasn’t quiet.

I’m glad I remember it, because the Apollo program proved that when mankind applies its talents we can achieve great things. It was a time of optimism, and vision, and a belief that with technology, anything was possible. It seemed obvious to us that by the time I became an adult, on the weekends we’d all be driving our hover cars to the spaceport to catch a flight to the Sea of Tranquility for some R&R.

Of course, just a few years later, the Apollo program was dismantled. Having accomplished our real objective of beating the Russians in the race to the moon, the government lost interest and turned to more important things – like beating the Russians in the race to see who could have the most missiles. Since then, we’ve seen NASA change from the place where the best and brightest go to push back the horizon, to being a place where every launch knocks another piece off the shuttle and makes reentry a crap shoot, and weird kidnappers go to get astronaut diapers. I heard today on NPR that American astronauts will soon have to get rides from other countries to take them into orbit. That’s right – our astronauts are now that guy - probably bumming freeze dried ice cream off the Cosmonauts, and crashing on the couch at the International Space Station.

Where are the Buzz Aldrins and Neil Armstrongs of this generation? We need those men, and not just to beat the Russians to Mars. We actually need them to survive. You see, we, as a species, need to believe that we can overcome what we face. I’m struck by the irony of the bumper stickers all over town that say “Yes We Can” when it’s clear we don’t believe that anymore. Look at the news - we can’t seem to do anything about global climate change, we can’t solve our energy problems, we can’t seem to feed everybody, we can’t give everyone medical care – hell, we can’t even get our banking system to work properly anymore. Take swine flu as an example. World wide a few hundred people get the piggie sniffles and we start to act like it’s fucking judgment day. Epidemiologists and health policy makers wring their hands and tell us there is nothing much we can do but cancel school and hand out Tamiflu. Back in the 1950s, when polio was taking down over 50,000 Americans a year, Jonas Saulk and his crew at the University of Pittsburgh didn’t get all whiny – they just kicked that virus’s ass. Oh sure, it’s illegal to experiment on institutionalized children like they did, but that’s just nitpicking – the point is they believed they could do it, and that’s the kind of thinking that will keep man alive long after we have burned this little rock to a crisp. If the Republicans really oppose cap and trade, they should support the expansion of the space program – ‘cuz where else are you gonna’ go when the ozone layer is smoked?

Go to NASA’s website and watch the videos of the original landing. We took that one giant leap 40 years ago, and it’s about time for more. I want Obama to parallel Kennedy and set some deadlines. I want us to go back to the moon, I want us to establish colonies, and I want us to go on to Mars. I want the spirit of innovation and perseverance that was once the hallmark of humanity to be rekindled. I want us to explore, simply because it’s what humans have always done. I want us to embrace our destiny and leave this cradle. And most of all, I want my damn hover car!

Museum Goes the Way of the Dinosaurs

Budget cuts hit the UW Geology Museum.

Although no one is making emotional films about it, they also closed the Graduate School Office. There is still a Graduate Program, but no staff to administer it...

Our Latest Poll - MJ, Cause of Death

In our most recent poll, the tackiness of which may only be overshadowed by the picture that accompanies this post, we asked...

What do you think was the actual cause of Michael Jackson's death?

...and you answered...

Medical malpractice 18%
Assisted suicide 0%
Accidental overdose (prescription drugs) 31%
Accidental overdose (illicit drugs) 0%
Plain old heart attack 12%
His nose fell off 6%
He's not actually dead - he's rooming with Elvis 31%

It will probably be several more weeks before the officials release a final report on the cause of death, but I think the Medical Malpractice/Accidental Prescription Overdose angle is most likely. His list of prescriptions allegedly included Dilaudid, Vicodin, Soma(carisoprodol), Xanax, Zoloft, Paxil, and Demerol, as well as more minor stuff like Prilosec and various antibiotics. I'm no pharmacologist, but I would imagine that when dealing with a drug list of this calibre, simple miscounting could be fatal; another tragic victim of Heath Ledger syndrome.

If, however, MJ just decided he was sick of the celebrity lifestyle and decided to move in with Elvis in hiding, I applaud his courage - although living with your former father-in-law can be trying, especially when you are both "the King" of something...


The early morning has become largely foreign to me, but it was not always this way. I've had several jobs that required me to be up and functional at ungodly hours - one job that I had for several years required me to be on site, ready to lift heavy things at 6:00AM. During another period of my life, I lived just a few blocks from a Zendo and I would attend meditation at 7:00AM each morning. The last few months of student life, however, have turned me back into a bat. I have grown accustomed to calling 9:30AM "early," and going to bed before 1:00AM seems quaint. I had convinced myself that I did my best work after dark, and I would seldom even start to work until everyone else in the house was in bed.

The net result of this has been one of the least productive times I can recall. For the last month, my bedtimes got later and later until I was a true vampire, falling into bed as the sun came up, and waking in the early afternoon. I became sluggish and grumpy, and I never felt like I had slept enough. Worse yet, I was doing very little of my summer reading, not getting much done around the house, working out sporadically, and writing nothing. Depression was setting in.

When I finally faced up to this situation, the solution was obvious. I must get to bed early, and rise at a decent hour. Unfortunately, I was trapped in a vicious cycle - if I don't get enough exercise I don't sleep soundly, and if I don't sleep soundly I have very little desire to exercise. On the day I finally decided to fix my problem, I had gone to bed at about 5:00am, then gotten up at noon to keep an appointment. I decided that instead of going to bed at 5 or 6 the next morning, I would force myself to stay awake until the following evening and then turn in at a more normal bedtime.

I made it to about 4:00PM the next day - about 28 hours of consciousness - when a headache forced me into bed for a nap. I set my alarm for about three hours, then I got up and had a light supper. I went back to bed around 8:30PM and I woke up naturally at 5:30AM.

That day was amazing. It was like I had finally emerged from a lengthy illness. I felt more energetic, I finally made progress on several projects around the house, and I got in a great workout before 8:30AM. This trend has continued for the last few days; I've been in bed at quite reasonable hours each night, and I've woken up without an alarm between 6:00 and 8:00 each morning.

I know what you are wondering - "Is the Black Pope turning into a morning person?" I, too, was concerned with this development; it's hard to maintain your sinful street cred when you are going to bed at 10:00 every night. I finally had to face a difficult truth that I have only glanced at in my darkest hours... the Black Pope may be dead.

Yes children, the Pontifex Niger may have to hang up his cassock. I am no longer the creature of the night I was when this persona was born. Although I still abhor organized (i.e. "stupid") religion as much as ever, I am much more interested in steering folks away from it by pointing out its illogical positions than by personally tempting them into sinful behaviors. In short, it is much more satisfying to create skeptics than degenerates - and less labor-intensive, too.

I suppose that some of the Faithful may find this new, less vitamin D-deprived Linus a bit of a disappointment, but the trend has been there for a while now. More exercise, veganism, no alcohol, no drugs - hell, I've even begun to occasionally enjoy wearing colors other than black(!). If you think about it, the most extreme of my evil personae, Darth Furious, has hardly reared his head at all in the last few years. My rehabilitation from Sith Lord to Grey Knight may be almost complete (you're never really cured, you know? One day at a time, Lord, one day at a time...).