Sinful Pat Robertson

You may have noticed that little storm God sent to Louisiana and Mississippi. The message is clear. God is angry. He wants to punish someone for the grievous sin of blaspheming his holy name. That someone is Pat Robertson.

Just a few weeks ago, Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. Then he lied about calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez and accused the mainstream media of taking him out of context and misquoting him.

But now it’s clear that Pat Robertson was the one who sinned. He advocated murder, which, according to the bible, is the same as actually committing the murder himself. Then he accused others of sin to cover up his own sin. So God sent Katrina to teach him a lesson.

Now, you may have noticed that Katrina didn’t actually do any harm to Pat Robertson but it did do a great deal of harm to a lot of innocent people in New Orleans and Biloxi and Mobile, and so on.

But that’s the way it is with God’s wrath. As Jerry Falwell pointed out, 9/11 was punishment for America’s acceptance and tolerance of homosexuals. It didn’t matter if none of the people in those buildings were actual homosexuals, just as it didn’t matter that none of the people in New Orleans waiting in their attics in water up to their collar-bones was actually Pat Robertson.

If you believe that sort of thing.

You are not sure if God really sent Katrina to punish Pat Robertson? How would you know if I was wrong? You would pray about it, right, and God would tell you?

What if God told you that Katrina was punishment for New Orleans’ tradition of drunkenness and debauchery? What if God told me that it was punishment for Pat Robertson’s militancy? How do we know which is the real message from the real God?

Actually, maybe it’s not as hard as it looks. Just read the bible, especially the gospels. Then try to imagine that God would get more angry at a lot of poor black people who have been beat up and abused most of their lives than he would at a rich and powerful white preacher who, confronted with the problem of dwindling supplies of oil for America’s lavish lifestyle, advocates political assassination over conservation.  And confronted with the problems of racism and poverty and inequality, he would advocate reduced taxes for the rich?

Try to imagine Christ saying, “blessed are those who give tax deductions to investors and shareholders, and who reduce the liability of manufacturers for defects in their products, and whosoever provideth grants and incentives to profitable companies that they might exploit disasters for their own gain…”

You see?  God sent Katrina to punish Pat Robertson.  I prayed about it and it’s true.

Police State

The disparity between rhetoric and reality is now a yawning chasm. America never ceases, for a second, to rhapsodize about freedom and liberty and justice and the American Way. And then, without the slightest inkling of opposition or dissent, casually renews the Patriot Act, making it legal for the government to spy on whoever it wants whenever it wants with impunity, tap your phones, read your mail, or search your home– without even having to tell you that you are under suspicion, without even having to tell a judge.

Nobody knows which way Judge Roberts is going to vote on abortion or environmental regulations (well, actually, we do): this guy has already ruled in favor of the government’s right to hold people prisoner for as long as they like simply by designating them “prisoners of war”.

And Americans run the flag up the pole and salute and sing their anthems, completely unconcerned.

And the police continue to flog the illusion that these police state provisions have helped them catch terrorists. They don’t have a single real terrorist (just a gaggle of impulsive youths who were entrapped) to show for it, but that hasn’t even slowed them down: we need to spy on people to keep America safe.

When this measure was introduced, it included “sunset provisions”, which everyone happily pronounced would ensure that this glaring intrusion on everyone’s civil rights would expire in four years. Just as I always expected, the Republicans are now trying to make those provisions permanent. That is ghastly. That is just maybe the most outrageous act by an outrageous congress. And the Democrats, petrified of being portrayed as intelligent and wise, are rolling over like sheep.

[Last minute correction: most Democrats voted against the bill. That’s actually interesting, because the perception used to be that you could not win re-election if your opponent could accuse you of a lack of enthusiasm for bombing or killing or suppressing civil liberties.]

Why hasn’t a single prominent politician dared to stand up and announce he will oppose government use of torture against prisoners, no matter what the charges? (Actually, John McCain and some other senators have.) Do people really think that that is unpalatable?

I suspect that if, say, John Edwards, made it a prominent feature of a campaign (an early start on 2008), it would set off all kinds of alarms in the White House. Right now, Bush can nudge, nudge, wink, wink, declare that of course he’s opposed to torture, while allowing his staff and officials to carry it out. But if someone prominent were to make it an issue, I have a feeling that Karl Rove would issue immediate instructions: no more torture. It just don’t look good defending it in public, or answering reporters questions — “Mr. Edwards says that he would fire any official involved in any kind of torture– would you, Mr. Bush?”

Then go ahead, George, make a joke about it.

Russ Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. He deserves the medal of freedom but, of course, he’ll never get one.

In fairness, the Senate’s version of the same bill is considerably less draconian. But it’s rather pathetic that anyone would see this version as “enlightened”. We’ll allow the rack, but not the red-hot pokers to our civil liberties.

Added October 5: Judge Roberts, in his hearings before the Senate, declared that the President has the power to order the torture of prisoners, if Congress was “supportive”.

That’s a strange reading. Why would a Supreme Court Justice care if Congress was “supportive” of an unconstitutional act?

Judge Roberts, should the President arrest witches? If Congress is “supportive”…

What Mr. Roberts has really said is that torture is “constitutional” (since a mere Act of Congress could allow it).  I would not be alone in vehemently asserting that it is NOT.

Pull the Goalies

I have been thinking about this particular problem for years. Why is it a good strategy for a hockey team to pull their goalie in the last minute of a hockey game when they are trailing by one goal, but not a good strategy at any other time?

I’ll tell you right off the bat that I have a strong suspicion that almost every one uses this strategy because it’s always been used, and everyone else does. There is not a single coach, manager, or player who has any credible proof that it’s a good strategy. All of the evidence is anecdotal and religious in nature.

I believe that it is actually a bad strategy and that a team has a better chance of tying the game by keeping their goalie in the net. Sound strange?

The assumption at work is that by removing the goal-tender and adding a skater, you thereby increase your chances of scoring to an extent that more than offsets the rather obvious disadvantage of not having a goalie and thereby increasing the other team’s chances of scoring on you.

It is immediately obvious that this strategy is flawed in terms of logic. If removing your goalie and adding a skater gave you a real advantage, teams would do it all the time. Obviously nobody does. So why do teams think that doing it in the last minute of a game is different?

In defense of the strategy, people will argue that you only pull your goalie when you have possession of the puck and you are headed for the other team’s end. They argue that the attacking team will summon remarkable strength and courage in the face of adversity that will somehow bend the rules of logic and result in an advantage that no coach, in the history of the NHL, has been able to demonstrate under any other circumstance.

Having possession of the puck improves your chances for a few seconds, but it doesn’t really address the issue. Teams obtain possession of the puck in their own end dozens of times during a game. If that strategy works in the last minute, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work in the first minute. Why not pull your goalie every time you have possession of the puck and start a rush out of your own end? Because the other team might get the puck back and score on you? How is this different in the last minute of a hockey game?

I suppose you could argue that 60 seconds is not long enough for the other team to get a good shot at your net. If that was true, we would rarely see an empty net goal. But we see them all the time.

There is another weird consideration. The defending team will quite often change it’s style of play as well– though not as much as they used to. The defending team will suddenly retreat behind their own blue line and form a box. When they get possession, instead of rushing down the ice and trying to score– precisely what the attacking team does not want them to do– they skate up to centre and then take a pot shot at the net. Often, they take the opportunity to change lines, on the weird assumption that the other team is going to get the puck back almost immediately and renew the attack.

The shot from centre doesn’t go in very often because usually one or more members of the attacking team are able to get back on time to block it, and the defending team doesn’t try to create a sustained counter-attack. But it does go in often enough to really finish off the team that is trailing.

We will never know the truth until some coach somewhere decides to go a season or two without ever pulling the goalie. But that would require genuine leadership. It would require genuinely independent thought. It would require someone unafraid of heresy.

The NHL does not even know when the first goalie was pulled. The New York Rangers, coached by Frank Boucher, are credited with inventing the move, in 1939 or 1940 or 1941 (like I said, the NHL doesn’t know).

I wrote here that nobody tries this strategy at any time other than the end of the game, but there was a game, years ago, in which the strategy was employed throughout. The circumstances were thus: two teams were going to be tied in points on the last day of the regular season. The team with the most goals (not the best differential, I note) would be the one to advance to playoffs. So when one team realized it was going to lose this critical game, they began to pull their goalie at every opportunity, in order to try to score as many goals as possible. Think about that. In other words, they acted as if pulling the goalie really was a good strategy. But if I remember correctly, they gave up as many or more goals than they scored.

The result, of course, was a chaotic, bizarre game that called the very integrity of the sport into question. The NHL changed the rules next year to ensure that this circus would not happen again.

[Added 2008-11]

It took me a while, but I finally found an online reference to that game referred to above. It was New York in 1970, in the 1969-70 season. Eddie Giacomin was in — or out of goal. The reference I found didn’t mention the other team involved or the final score.

I came across a report about a study last year that claimed to objectively prove that the strategy of pulling your goalie was, in fact, demonstrably effective. I won’t be convinced until I have a look at the study.

[Added 2022-05]

I did find that study and analyzed it.  The study shows only a tiny, marginal benefit to pulling the goalie.  But the study has one very significant flaw:  not one single NHL team will not pull their goalie in the final minute of a close game so it cannot compare the results with teams that do.  However, the in KHL (Russian NHL) pulling the goalie is quite rare: the prevailing belief there is that it is not a net benefit.


The Roches Sing the Hallelujah Chorus

You only get one first kiss in life.

And I’ll bet that for many people, that first kiss sucked. Maybe you missed the lips, or slobbered, or quit too soon or too late, or, more likely, it wasn’t really the person you wanted to kiss so badly, but your second or third choice. Maybe you didn’t even want to be kissed.

But when the first kiss is with someone you really like, and your lips connect, and her lips are incredibly soft and slightly cool, and your arms feel just right around her waist, and she kindly puts her arms around your neck….

And you can’t experience the magical moment of exquisite tickled transcendence of hearing the Roche Sisters perform the Hallelujah Chorus for the first time again and again and again.

Sure, it’s great to see it again. I want to see it again. I enjoy seeing it again. But I remember the moment I saw them, on PBS in 1983, for the first time, and fell in love with what they were doing. They took a famous piece of music– which had been flogged to death already by then– and reinvented it. They turned it inside out and upside down and toyed with it, and that’s what I think really electrifies the listener the first time– the playfulness of the whole idea. The shocking delight of making something look funny and brilliant and powerful and poignant at the same time.

All right– you want to see it, don’t you? This is a pretty coarse, bad copy, but it will have to do for now:

Why I do not stand for the Hallelujah Chorus: You have to stand. You WILL stand. You are hereby ordered to stand because that is what everybody does and they’ve always done it and it shows that we are people of good taste and that we respect good music and do not dare to defy the authorities who have ordained that the Hallelujah Chorus is better than anything by Bach.

Well, tough. I hereby declare that from now on, I only stand in reverence for Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #5 or Cantata 42, Dylan’s “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and Cat Power’s version of “Satisfaction”.

Another Great Song by The Roches.


With George Bush busy handing over ever more control of the economic lives of U.S. citizens to mega-corporations, the Homeland Security Keystone Kops, the banks, and credit card companies, it’s time to crack open a little vintage Clash: the Guns of Brixton.

When they kick down your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head?
Or on the trigger of your gun?

Sound a little unduly violent? I just watched video of the Portland demonstrations against George Bush, when he made an exclusive appearance there before a gathering of rich Republican Party faithful. A number of things struck me about the video, and the meeting, and the general circumstances, even beyond the fact that the police pepper-sprayed infants in their mothers’ arms.

1. I don’t, as a rule, believe that people should try to achieve through demonstrations and violence what they could not achieve through the ballot box. Generally.

2. The Motion Picture Association of America and other copyright owners did not achieve anything through the ballot box either. Microsoft didn’t run a campaign during the election asking people to support it’s court battles over it’s monopoly. Boeing didn’t do any polls asking if the public thought it should hire consultants straight out of the very Pentagon offices that made purchase decisions involving their products.  Bush never campaigned on the idea of taking more rights away from consumers and artists and giving them to the massive corporate copyright pimps that have a stranglehold on the media in the U.S. He never allowed consumer groups to have any voice in the drafting of new legislation.

No, Bush campaigned against gay marriage and in favor of patriotism and tax cuts.

But all of those corporations benefited from legislation passed after they made massive donations to his re-election campaign (and the re-election campaigns of his friends in Congress).

Is that any less democratic than marching down Main Street waving a placard and chanting slogans?

3. The average American did not ask for and would never have voted for the new bankruptcy legislation which makes even more difficult for a family that is ruined financially to make a clean start… ever. Nor would the average American vote for the new tort reforms, or for a tacked in provision that would exempt gun manufacturers for any liability for criminal wrongdoings as a result of lax procedures on the part of gun store owners.

Every day, Congress passes and the President signs legislation that is the result of special interests paying big bucks to the Republican Party and having private meetings with legislators and White House operatives to which the public never gets invited.

4. The police were dressed up like Robocops– all black leather and bulletproof vests and dark helmets and batons and pepper spray. They video-taped the protesters, without, presumably, their permission (amazing how impotent copyright law is when it could be used against the corporate establishment). They informed the demonstrators that they had to get off the street and onto the sidewalk. Then they informed them that they had to get off the sidewalks and into the park. Then they informed them that the park had to be vacated immediately for reasons of national security. Then they moved in and pepper-sprayed the demonstrators.

5. If I was George Bush– or, more likely, his allies in the state and municipal governments– it would be very, very easy to develop a procedure through which the police can beat up and intimidate protesters with impunity. All you have to do is have some people infiltrate the demonstrators and start smashing windows, throwing rocks at police cars, and yelling obscenities. Make sure this gets filmed for broadcast on Fox News or CNN. The vast majority of the sleeping public, drugged out, overweight, exhausted from their minimum wage jobs, will feel that police brutality is not only justified, but absolutely demanded by the situation. They mostly wouldn’t even mind if you locked up a number of these people without charges or access to lawyers.

In fact, we know that this is exactly what some government agencies have done: infiltration and provocation.

Am I talking radicalization here? You have to keep in mind that, with the exception, perhaps, of Karl Rove (who won’t care about anything beyond the end of Bush’s current term anyway), most of the people in power in the present U.S. government are stupid and short-sighted. They are not sure just how far they go before a backlash develops and people turn against them and we start a long term of relatively liberal leadership, possibly in 2008.

PR Advice for the Heterosexual Tom Cruise

You would think a big-time Hollywood actor would have a better understanding of PR than Tom Cruise.

Cruise appeared on the Oprah show a few weeks ago with Katie Holmes. He looked absolutely demented as he jumped around the stage proclaiming how hetero-sexual he was, and how Katie Holmes was just the girl for him, and how happy he was that she was hanging out with him, and how hot she was, and so on. I was just waiting for a band to kick in with “I’m Into Something Good”.

It was a truly weird moment in the history of nothing. Nothing. What else are we talking about here? An irrelevant talk-show hostess interviewing an irrelevant actor. Nothing.

If Cruise really wants to convince people that he is not gay, what he really needs is to get Katie married to someone else– say, John Travolta– and then be caught by a tabloid photographer leaving a motel room with Katie, trying to hide his face. Even better– he should attack the photographer and try to seize his camera. Then he should launch a lawsuit against any magazine that prints the pictures.

Alternatively, he could persuade a female former assistant or trainer or something to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against him for sexual harassment. Then he could go on tv and firmly deny that he ever harassed this… this…. woman.

Then he could hire an escort service to call a tabloid and report that Tom Cruise was one of their favorite customers. Cruise could immediately call a press conference and deny it, repeatedly, insistently.

After a year or so, the woman can quietly drop the lawsuit, Tom pays her off, and everybody’s happy.

Learn from Hugh Grant. Hugh Grant was caught in 1995 attempting to solicit oral sex from a prostitute named Divine Brown on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. He went on to become the hottest male film actor in the world, in films like “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Love Actually”, and “Brigit Jones”. Why? Because nobody thinks he’s gay anymore. Why would anyone have thought he was gay in the first place? For heaven’s sake– he’s an actor.

What if he had appeared on Oprah instead and announced to the world how much in love he was with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley? Love her, love her, love her! I really do! I love her lots. I love this WOMAN.

Come on. Admit it– you’d have started wondering if he was gay.

You’re welcome!

The Dubious Conviction of Scott Peterson: God Help You Behave “Appropriately” if Your Wife Ever Disappears

I have long believed that police often make up their minds about a suspect before really analyzing any evidence or logic, and that “police procedure” thereafter often consists of rounding up the evidence need to convict, rather than the evidence that shows who the guilty party is. That is why in so many cases– sometimes I think it must be nearly all of them– there is a jailhouse snitch.

I cannot believe than any judge nowadays even allows testimony from a jailhouse snitch. But then– I’m insane.

So in the May 23, 2005 issue of “People Magazine”, we have an exclusive inside story on how the prosecutors “got” Scott Peterson. You may have already noticed that they don’t talk in terms of “discovering the truth” or “finding the evidence” or “proof”. No. They got him.

It is rarely quite this transparent. Prosecutor Rick Distaso admitted– without shame– that he had a “gut feeling” right at the start. Okay– he thinks that’s because he’s got great intuition. How about if we call it prejudice instead? You can call it whatever you want, but what we have, right up front, is a prosecutor admitting that he made up his mind about the case immediately and thereafter was primarily interested in proving his “intuition” correct.

Not to mention that… well, for heaven’s sake– he had a “gut feelings” that the husband might be involved? Have you ever not had that feeling when encountering the homicide of a young wife?

The prosecutors observed that his phone call home from his fishing trip on the day Laci disappeared was unduly friendly and affectionate. That led them to suspect he murdered his wife. I can’t even imagine what they might have imagined he’d done if his phone call had been distant and matter-of-fact! Or what if he had called up and screamed, “you bitch– you forgot to pack my lunch! I hate you! When I get home, I’m gonna kill you!” Would the police now be saying, he almost threw us off with that phone call. What murderer calls up his wife and leaves a threat on her answering machine? Fortunately, we saw through that clever ruse…

What sealed it, of course, in a case utterly devoid of any physical evidence or proof, was the affair Scott was having with Amber Frey, who called the police when she saw Scott’s face on TV in connection with the disappearance of the wife she didn’t know he had. “It was the moment the cops were waiting for” reports People magazine, a little breathlessly. Again, I guess I’m the crazy one in the room.  You’ve never heard of men cheating on their wives before?  Did they all kill their wives?

Peterson went on TV and was interviewed by Diane Sawyer. It was clear to the police that he had lied to them, or he lied to Diane Sawyer, and an entire nation of vidiots who were just waiting with baited breath for the Michael Jackson story to break.  He denied that he was cheating on his wife.

That makes him stupid and irrational, but it still didn’t prove anything.

Laci’s body washed up on the shore of San Francisco Bay on April 13. Police made much of the fact that this was the same body of water in which Scott Peterson went fishing. Imagine that. He actually went fishing in the nearest body of water.

The prosecution produced a pair of pliers that had a single hair in it that “might” have been Laci’s.

The prosecution implied that a life insurance policy that was two years old had been taken out just days before Laci’s disappearance.

Prosecutors admitted that they could barely keep from crying when Laci’s mother read an impact statement in court. But Scott did not react appropriately. The prosecution seems only dimly aware of the possibility that Scott Peterson might be a simple adulterer. By their logic, he was either a faithful husband or a murderer. He could not plausibly be an unfaithful husband whose wife was murdered by somebody else.

Now someone will try to tell me that all of this does not prove that he didn’t do it. Of course not. But nobody has any obligation to prove that he didn’t do it.

Considering the prosecution’s theory of how Scott Peterson allegedly killed his wife, it seems rather stunning that the evidence is so thin. Did he have a different boat that they didn’t know about? Did he perform a singularly magical act of sanitation afterwards, removing every trace, every hair, every drop of blood from his car and boat after murdering her and driving her 90 miles and putting her into a boat and navigating out into San Francisco Bay and dropping her body off?


Your intuition is not always right.

Listen to you!

“An innocent man does not behave the way Scott did…” From a review of “Presumed Guilty…” on

You are a liar and a scoundrel and you should never, ever be entrusted with any role whatsoever in the administration of justice anywhere on this earth. [2011-12-24]