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What Would People Think?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Do I Have Terrorist Underwear?

Well, it's only undershirts, really. I confess I haven't following the whole controversy with port security and the United Arab Emirates. I've been too focused on my life (PILF auction went swimmingly last night) and on the sectarian violence in Iraq. My rough understanding is that the company approved by Bush & Co. is state-owned by UAE and that UAE has been known to help terrorists in the past.

Anyways, as I was sorting my laundry today, I absent-mindedly checked the tags on my undershirts. Turn out they were made in the good ol' U.A. of E!

Since I was reading national security law in between laundry work, it got me wondering. Do I have....terrorist undershirts? Is my undershirt part of some secret terrorist conspiracy? Perhaps it's got secret wires in it that enable UAE or Al Qaeda operatives to spy on America....or it would enable them if I weren't blocking the signal by wearing a sweatshirt - emblazoned with a picture of Mickey Mouse - over my undershirt.

Or perhaps my undershirt contains special chemicals that are the key to....no, it can't be a bomb. That would be far too prosaic. It must be they've got a chemical that makes the wearer unbelievably sexy to American women. It's all a plot for the terrorists to steal all of America's women so that Americans will be unable to reproduce. The sexist pigs! I'll have to ask Christy if it's working......

Or perhaps my undershirt is just the official uniform of the terrorists. Perhaps they all sport such undershirts out of team loyalty. I should report to the Bush Administration that they should track down anybody that's walking around showing off UAE undershirts....unless the wearers are covering it up with Mickey Mouse sweatshirts, of course.

Or perhaps associating everything having to do with one country with terrorists is overstating things just a bit. I'm sure that's what Jeff would say. Like I said...I haven't really been following things too closely.

Luckily, I don't have to worry about terrorist underpants. My underwear is made in the good ol U.S. of..........Honduras. My loins are internationally girded.

(Note: Enjoy this, people. This is the first, and last, time you will read me discussing my underwear on this blog.) (As far as I know.)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Religious Mob Violence Post

1. I'm glad to hear that not all Iraqis have gone insane:

Still, the neighborhood itself did not divide along sectarian lines: Shiite residents also condemned Wednesday's assaults. Neighborhoods all over Baghdad reported similar camaraderie.

"As a Shiite, I do not accept this," said Saadiya Salim, a 50-year-old homemaker. "These acts will lead to violence, because the Sunnis will attack" Shiite mosques.

What with the continued violence, the accusations on each side that the other is supporting violence, the disintegration of the government, the government's utter inability to protect people, the continued rise of lawless militias..........gosh, it's good to hear some glimmer of hope. Perhaps ordinary Iraqis really just want to live their lives. Perhaps it's just the extremists (and the terrorists) who are trying to drag them into civil war.

2. What's this with Nigerian Christians rioting and killing Muslims in response to the cartoon riots, even burning their corpses?

You.......you HYPOCRITES! How can you call yourselves Christians? I know an authority who has some choice words for you:

27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Let's mull over that a bit, hmmmm? See if you can find authority for retaliatory violence. And if you do find authority for violence, then you'd best join Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sitting underneath a rock poking yourself repeatedly in the eye.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Won't This Man Ever Shut Up?

The bombing of one of Shiite Islam's most important sites was bad. The wave of sectarian violence and political chaos in the aftermath - leading to 138 Iraqi and 7 American deaths in two days - is worse.

Big question in my mind: who the hell bombed the Shiite site? My best guesses: either (1) stupid Sunni insurgents who just wanted to strike a blow against people they didn't like and didn't realize the consequences, or (2) terrorists working under Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, hoping to sow the seeds of chaos. The latter makes the most sense to me. They benefit from a failed Iraq, which would breed even more resentment against America and prove fertile ground for recruiting desperate, angry young Muslims to their terrorist cause.

But what's this? It appears Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a theory about who's behind the bombing. Let's tune in and see what he has to say.

In Shiite-dominated Iran, the hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blamed Israel and the Americans for the shrine bombing in a speech broadcast live on state television.

"These heinous acts are committed by a group of Zionists and occupiers that have failed," he said. "They have failed in the face of Islam's logic and justice."

.......um. Thanks, Mahmoud. That was helpful. You know what would be even more helpful? If you crawled back under whatever slimy rock you came from and poked yourself in the eyes repeatedly.

Could you do that for me? Thanks, I'd appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Moo On, Chicken Boy

Somehow Danielle dug up an old IM conversation between Jeff and me. I will share that conversation with you now, in order to lighten up your dreary day. Don't blame me if you laugh so hard you need to change your pants.

To set the scene: Jeff and I were sitting in the same room, doing homework. Yet we still spoke to each other via Instant Messaging. You see, we were - and remain - silly. It all starts when Jeff IMs me.

Jeff: This is God.
Jeff: Stop reading that article RIGHT NOW
Ben: God, you have a lab report to do.
Jeff: I just finished it, you unworthy peon
Jeff: Don't make me smite you
Ben: Hmmmm, "God is love" must have been mistranslated. It should have been "God should shut the hell up."
Jeff: That Aramaic can be a bitch sometimes

[I throw silly putty at Jeff, presumably to get him to stop distracting me.]

Jeff: HA! God catches your silly-putty attack!
Ben: You only THINK it's silly putty.
Jeff: But I'm God...and if I think it's silly putty it is...
Ben: damn
Jeff: So, I think you're a blue chicken
Ben: moo
Jeff: Yeah, that's right. Moo on, chicken boy.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

All My Ambitions, Hopes, and Plans

[Loooooong post. This is why I resisted getting a blog for so long. It really does eat away at my time. If you actually take the time to read it, I thank you in advance.]

Kenny and I hosted a Christian Legal Society dinner last night. The guest of honor was Erin's dad. (Yes, he's a Nebraska Supreme Court Justice. I find that really cool but Erin doesn't trumpet the fact too much. She's not the type who name drops, especially not the type who name drops her dad. But I guess I just let the secret out to my audience of...what...10? If that much.)

Mr. Gerrard spoke with us some about the question we lawyers often get: "How can you be a Christian and a lawyer?" Or even "how can you be a good person and a lawyer?" Given this world's low standard for what "good person" means and the outrage with which that question is often asked - often it takes the form "how can you defend someone you know is guilty?" - the question merits consideration.

Mr. Gerrard's response was "guilty of what?" He explained that he meant that both a in a legal sense - i.e. one accused of murder may only be guilty of manslaughter and thus deserve a lesser penalty - and in a theological sense. When Jesus's enemies brought before him a woman caught in the act of adultery, she should have been stoned under the Mosaic law. But Christ wasn't filled with the righteous indignation of his scheming questioners. He saw this broken woman and, in a very real sense, he advocated for her and saved her life.

That's where my heart lies. More often than not, when a lawyer encounters a client, that client is hurting and broken. Often the client has made a terrible decision. Mr. Gerrard argued, and I agree, that we as lawyers have a responsibility beyond mere legal advocacy to improve the lives of our clients. As Christian lawyers, especially, we must love them with the same zeal that Christ loved the prostitutes, swindlers, drunkards, beggars, lepers, and outcasts.

I actually had to wipe away the tears as Mr. Gerrard was talking and I heard him describing what I want to do....indeed what I have done in the past. Am I doing that now? Am I on the path to doing that? I'm reminded of something an acquaintance of mine wrote once (and, yes, she's a law student; her words in italics):

I do not want to be a lawyer. I want to teach United States history at an Episcopal private school in the mountains. I want to live in a well-built log cabin with a vegetable garden out back. I want to keep chickens in the yard and have little barefooted children tugging at my apron strings.

I do not want to deal with the desperation, messiness, brokenness that sags the shoulders of most folks who walk into a legal aid office. I do not want to hear the story of the kittens' heads being snapped off by the abusive husband who tells his wife she better be careful or he will do the same to her. I do not want ever again to hold a screaming baby with the tell-tale signs of fetal alcohol syndrome while her mother seeks an order of protection against the baby's abusive father.

You want to know what the really crazy thing is? That's precisely what I want to do! I want to look "desperation, messiness, brokenness" in the face and respond with love. I want to make the hard decisions which seem to have no right answers. I want to fight the usually-but-not-always hopeless fights and make my client's life a little bit better. (Hey, even taking a murder charge down to manslaughter is a victory.) And occasionally there will be the big victories that make life doable.

Instead, I will be working a comfortable 9-to-5 job when I graduate, for a nearly 50% greater salary than local public defenders or Georgia Justice Project attorneys make. I won't be making mega-bucks at a big firm, but I don't think I will encounter many broken people either.

What am I doing? Well, I'm reminded of a song lyric I heard in church today:

All of my ambitions, hopes, and plans
I surrender these into your hands

I ever tell you how I got this job at the Department of Labor? It's a crazy story. They came to Duke for on-campus interviewing, but I didn't even know they were coming. I hadn't been having much luck in my on-campus interviews at that point and that day I had come to school in a Charlie Brown t-shirt and shorts sporting 2-days worth of facial hair. Suffice to say I didn't look that professional. But someone informed me that DOL was coming that day and I figured it was worth a shot. I popped my head into the interview room to ask if they had any openings. Yes, they said, they had one in 30 minutes. So they gave me a paper about their program and I quickly printed out my resume, transcript, and writing sample. I came up with some questions and did the interview. It went well, but given the way I was dressed and the last-minute nature of the interview, I didn't give it much thought.

Months passed and I continued the increasingly frustrating job search. I panicked on occasion. I prayed a LOT. Then, out of the blue, I got a call that I was one of the finalists for the DOL job. One month later, with no additional work on my part except giving them my references, the job was mine.

After all the work I did, and all the praying that God would show me the way, to have this job just fall in my lap....I truly believe this is God's will.

And besides, it's not that bad. This office does plenty of good work. And the regular office hours will mean I will have more time to spend with my wife, an especially important consideration early in our marriage as we are getting used to life together. Also, I was able to refer a potential client to the Georgia Justice Project recently...so my contacts with GJP could still prove useful. And if I want to help broken people, Atlanta's not lacking in volunteer opportunities.

Bottom line: I don't exactly know what I'm doing, but I'm trusting God on this one. I'm surrendering my ambitions, hopes, plans, and dreams into His hands.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An Engaging Evening

I can say from personal experience that the day one proposes to one's girlfriend is about the most nerve-wracking day of one's life. Last night, I was nerve-wracked on my friend's behalf. Luckily things turned out well.

On February 14, 2006 at around 11:00 PM (according to my inside sources) my roommate Kenny Ching proposed to his girlfriend Erin Gerrard. And - thankfully for my nerves (and, more importantly, for Kenny's happiness) - she said "yes!"

Congratulations, Kenny and Erin!

Kenny and Erin are my best friends at the law school and are certifiably the coolest people to study in Duke Law's hallowed halls. Kenny (who shall be a groomsman in my wedding in August) is the kind of guy I could have long conversations with about what it means to be a Christian and a lawyer. I often referred to him as "my fellow liberal Christian" as if we were the only ones. He's a novelist, songwriter, former journalist, dedicated scholar, and dedicated friend. He inspires me to be a better Christian and a better friend.

Erin is an occasional commenter on this blog who quickly earned the title of "my other fellow liberal Christian." She's a former track runner, so she's probably in better shape than I will ever be. Upon first meeting Erin, you may think she's rather quiet. That's because you haven't engaged her in political debate yet. Erin has demonstrated her commitment to the downtrodden by working for Bread for the City and arranging community service events at the Durham Rescue Mission. Like Kenny, she inspires me.

What I'm trying to get across is that they are kindred spirits of the coolest kind. I recognize in them the same kind of bond I share with Christy.

I'm so happy for you guys! I haven't been this excited since...well...since I got engaged myself! (Yes, Christy, I was more excited then. A vicarious engagement high is no substitute for the real thing.)

Libertarian Perspective On...... Coffee?

My dear friend Jacob Grier and I have often come out on opposite ends of the political spectrum. See, Jacob's been known to refer to himself as a "guilt-free atheist" and "wild-eyed libertarian." Suffice to say neither is an accurate description of me. Luckily, Jacob and I bonded over our mutual love of making complete fools of ourselves.

If there's anything Jacob loves more than his libertarianism, though, it's his love of coffee. From what I can tell, he's no fan of Starbucks. He hopes to create his own coffee shop some day. Frankly, I think a coffee shop run by Jacob Grier would kick ass.

So what's a libertarian to do when his precious free market principles seem to run up against his true love (coffee)? Well, now we know. Jacob wrote an article on a friend's coffee-obsessed blog about just that. Interesting stuff. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Conservatism Used To Look Like

You ever heard of the Free Republic? It's an online forum of conservative activists. No pinko-commie-sissy liberals here. See, for example, this paragraph from a post by its founder:

As a conservative site, Free Republic is pro-God, pro-life, pro-family, pro-Constitution, pro-Bill of Rights, pro-gun, pro-limited government, pro-private property rights, pro-limited taxes, pro-capitalism, pro-national defense, pro-freedom, and-pro America. We oppose all forms of liberalism, socialism, fascism, pacifism, totalitarianism, anarchism, government enforced atheism, abortionism, feminism, homosexualism, racism, wacko environmentalism, judicial activism, etc. We also oppose the United Nations or any other world government body that may attempt to impose its will or rule over our sovereign nation and sovereign people. We believe in defending our borders, our constitution and our national sovereignty.

So, yeah, any reading of this site will establish its conservative bona fides.

I'm establishing this so I can point out how much things have changed in the past 7 years. Read this Free Republic post from 2000, decrying the unconstitutional invasions of privacy by....the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Horror of horrors! These unaccountable judges in a secret court have the power to grant search warrants at lower-than-usual probable cause standards! That evil Clinton administration even expanded it! I'd also like to point out how the poster decries everybody's willingness to trade away civil liberties after a terrorist attack (Oklahoma City).

Most hilarious part of the post: A commenter asks "Any chance of Bush rolling some of this back?"

Flash forward 6 years and conservatives are again decrying the FISA court. It's such a burden! It's so bureaucratic! It takes too long to approve surveillance! Its probable-cause standard is too high!

Your head spinning yet?

(Full disclosure: there are some principled conservatives who remain true to the sentiments expressed in that 2000 post. I may disagree with them on many things, but I'm with them on this and I respect them remaining true to their values instead of their President.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Stay Away From Vice-Presidents With Guns

Dick Cheney shot a guy! No, seriously. I don't know much about shotgun pellets, but it seems from the story that the victim is doing ok.

A hunting accident? Or a coded warning to Senators who suggested he should be investigated?

Ok, it's a hunting accident. I don't attribute THAT much evil to the Administration. (But you bet if you or I had done something like that, we'd get our butts sued off for negligence.)

[Update 6:10 PM] Liberal blogs are having far too much fun with this story. The best comment I've seen thus far is somebody changing the Aerosmith song into "Cheney's Got A Gun."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Duuuuuuuude! Cool!

Random tidbits for the day, most of them Eisley-related.

1. I've been complaining for a while about lack of new music to hear in the Triangle. (Thanks to David for pointing me toward a new band. I'll have to check them out.) In response to the terrible radio in the Triangle and my strange unwillingness to download music, I've been latching on to a few bands and hanging on for dear life.

Mike, Jeff and other recipients of my mix CDs must really be sick of hearing Eisley, Relient K, Nellie McKay, and SpencerAcuff. Nonetheless, here's a bit more about Eisley. (Note: The Eisley site was down last I checked. Darn.)

They're a band of teenage brothers and sisters (plus one cousin....bassist used to be the boy next door but he left and now it's their cousin). They've got a really dreamy, melodic, sincere sound, the kind of music that (a) sounds like it was written by teenage girls and (b) isn't really annoying. Actually, here's how they try to describe their sound in their myspace account:

Here's a lame, irresponsible stab at this: Indie but not Independant. That's a style vs status issue. Emotional but not Emo (stop saying emo), Pop but not Popular (Warhol did pop but was popular), Soul-ful but not Soul (cuz...no booty), Dreamy but not a Dreamsicle; wait... if dark chocolate replaced the vanilla interior...maybe, Alt - (because AP magazine says so), Haunting but not like an evil, scary clown, Folkish but not...really, Catchy - not flashy, Moody - yes, Melodic - very, Rocks? - sure, you take them out of the rocktumbler after 3 days, Radio Rock? Not so far; they say it's not "broad" enuf - lyrically, College Radio? - yes! Modern ?? - hmmm... Modern Art began late 1800's and ended in the 1970's, modern rock... hmmm - a tombstone with Creed enscribed? Organic: if an organ - maybe a heart (aww...), not Punk Rock because yesterday, a punk rock fan left a message saying, "your music sucks, eat s___ and die".

Isn't that awesome and whimsical?

2. Non-Eisley tidbit number 1: Interested in philosophical debate? Are you someone who's NOT Judeo-Christian or a liberal? David Barzelay, Jacob Grier I'm looking at you. Come join us at the debate over the government's role re: morality at Matt Novak's blog. (I'm sure anybody's welcome.) Once again, those of us who have never met Matt are taking over his blog. So I figured I would invite a libertarian atheist and....whatever the heck Barzelay is.....over to that debate to get some different POVs. Jeff informs us that this debate is "spiffy."

3. My favorite member of Eisley is rhythm guitarist Chauntelle Dupree. The reason I like her is that, even though she's not one of the band's singers, she's always dancing around and passionately singing the songs (to herself, I guess) during concerts. That kind of rocking out is near and dear to my heart. I've been doing that at concerts for 7 years now. Although, for me, the guitar is imaginary, too.

Anyways, I always figured that Chauntelle didn't sing on Eisley records b/c she didn't have a good voice. (Same reason I'm not a pop superstar by now.) Well I was wrong. Check out Chauntelle singing on a demo recorded at a songwriting retreat hosted by Hanson (yes, that Hanson). Chauntelle sings on a lovely little demo co-written by Zach Hanson and some guy who's last name was Crosby. (I'd tell you more details, but the Eisley web site went down while I was writing this blog post.)

4. Non-Eisley tidbit number 2: DUDE, CHECK THIS OUT! Sidewalk artist Julian Beever specializes in making sidewalk art that looks 3D from the right angle. It's really, really freakin' cool. My response to this art is really what inspired the title of this blog post.

5. Eisley's coming to the Triangle on March 25 at Cat's Cradle! Who's with me? (Ok, so yes that invitation's mainly to people in the Triangle....although anybody's welcome.)

Update (11:02 AM): I should so be reading a trial transcript right now, but I couldn't resist showing y'all this from Ebert's review of Final Destination 3 (another in the series where a bunch of teenagers escape gruesome death at the beginning of the movie, only to die creatively one-by-one in the order they would have died had they not escaped at the beginning...not my kind of movie):

"Final Destination 3" is good-looking and made with technical skill. The director is James Wong, who made "FD1" and was once a writer on "The X-Files" and "21 Jump Street." He and the cinematographer, Robert McLachlan, do an especially good job of evoking a creepy sense of menace on a carnival midway. Has there ever been a carnival midway in a movie that didn't look like a sadomasochistic nightmare? The rides look fatal, the sideshows look like portals to hell, and you know that game where you slam down a big hammer to make the weight fly up and hit the bell? One kid pounds so hard, the weight crashes through the bell and flies off into the air. I expected it to land on somebody's head, or maybe on the roller-coaster tracks, and maybe it did and I missed it, because there was a lot going on. But as nearly as I can figure, the weight is still up there somewhere.

Editor's note: Ebert's review was cut short when a weight from a carnival game crashed through the window and wiped out his computer. Dann Gire, president of the Chicago Film Critics' Association, has sent out warnings to the next six reviewers scheduled to write about the film.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

25 Year Old Geezer?

I'm getting old. Observe the evidence:

1) Late nights 'till 3 AM? A thing of the past. During a ski retreat this past weekend (in which I didn't even ski) I got tired and went to bed at 10:30 PM.

2) As I point out in the comments to Mike's blog, I have no idea what's going on in the world of rock music these days. That's partly because I live in the Research Triangle (i.e. the Bermuda Triangle of music).

3) I just looked in the mirror and saw two streaks of GRAY HAIR! I'm 25 years old! I shouldn't have gray hair! [Screams in terror. Hides under bed. Finishes tax homework....'cuz I'm old and that's what geezers do.]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Meeeeeee

Mediocre '80s songs aside.....

Senate Intelligence folks grilled John Negroponte, Bush's director of national intelligence, today:

In one pointed exchange, Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, a Democrat, asked Mr. Negroponte whether there were any other intelligence programs that had not been revealed to the full intelligence committees.

The intelligence chief hesitated, then replied, "Senator, I don't know if I can answer that in open session."

He might as well have said "I'm taking the Fifth." Next thing we'll find out is that the federal government is reading my blog.

In which case, I should point them to these pictures of the Howard Dean event I went to 2 nights ago. I'm only in one picture and I look like I'm playing air guitar. (Given that it's me we're talking about here, that would be a reasonable assumption.) Erin shows up twice.

Oh, and if you care, here's actual pictures of Howard Dean at that event.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

There's A Thoughtful Pro-Lifer Out There....

...and his name - middle initial and all - is Matthew B. Novak.

I first "met" the guy through a debate on Zhubin's blog. (Incidentally, check out the comments on Zhubin's latest post. Not only is there humorous comparison of a law school class to Dungeons and Dragons, but we've managed to hijack to comments page and make it a discussion about the Research Triangle.) There was a discussion about the place of religion in politics and Matt and I were basically coming to the same conclusion - one which differed from most of Zhubin's friends. Before I knew it, we were cross-posting on each other's blogs.

I've never actually met the guy in person. Who knows if I ever will? Isn't technology grand? But, based on our mutual interests in film, politics, poverty, and Christianity I declare Matt to be a cool guy.

I know, I know. Most stories that begin with "I met this cool guy on the Internet" end badly. But if Zhubin likes him despite his pro-life proclivities AND his love of baseball, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Anyways, that's my long way of saying go look at this thoughtful blog post by Matt on addressing the problems that lead to abortion. I've got nothing to add to it. He says everything I wanted to say, only he's clearly thought about it more than I have.

And, no, I'm not just linking to his blog because he linked to mine.

(Oh, and don't forget to satisfy my ego by clicking on the link in the post below to read my second inane quote in local media within a matter of weeks. A 3rd is on the way when Duke Law Magazine comes out.)

Me and Gov. Dean

So, yeah, I was in the same room with Howard Dean last night. I even get quoted in the Duke Chronicle saying something entirely meaningless.

Dean didn't really say anything unexpected or insightful last night. But then, I have it on good authority that neither did Bush (except for the renewable energy thing, which I'm all for). I also hear from the entirely objective *cough* Think Progress that everything Bush said was B.S. TP has a point-by-point rebuttal of Bush....some of which is meaningful and some of which is cheap shots.

Oh, and the thing about how warrantless wiretapping could have caught 2 of the 9/11 hijackers? That is B.S.

Did I mention I was in the same room with Howard Dean last night?