Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A meme

My first. The woman formerly known as BFH (insert rude words :)) but now known as Rock Candy Mountain with Whiskey Streams tagged me and now I am to talk about Seven Things About Me That You Probably Didn't Know. So, here goes:

  • I was bulimic from 13ish to 15ish. The last puke had its own soundtrack as Blondie was on KROQ singing Accidents Never Happen (in a perfect world). As a result of my years of puking, I can puke on cue.
  • Even though I have swum with large reef sharks, I am still very, very afraid of sharks.
  • At 40, I am still afraid of the dark and of ghosts.
  • I have only recently learned to eat sushi and sashimi.
  • I was 28 before I chundered (Aussie slang for got sick from drinking - as in the Men at Work song Down Under, "where women glow and men chunder.").
  • I sincerely wish to come to some understanding of/with my dad before we leave this mortal coil. It may or may not happen.
  • I weep very easily.

Monday, October 27, 2008

We are a proud, proud lot

and I laugh because I'm sure that we are very, very annoying.

We live in a godforsaken place, hot as hell in the summer and colder than a witch's tit in winter, nearly four hours from a real airport, and over four hours from great cheap ethnic food.

If you have a heart attack, you'd better have good insurance, because you're going to get airlifted out of here. Same goes if you go into labor before your 37th week. That, or you just need to be a superboy or girl.

We pay a premium for every consumer good we buy, and our housing isn't any cheaper than a lot of urban areas.

Yet for all this, we are a proud, proud lot. We fiercely defend the honor of our harsh landscape and berate anybody who doesn't find it one of the most beautiful places on earth*.

We parade our grizzled, cancerous skin and gnarled feet like banners and badges.

We talk about how the friends we have here are like minded crazies, who turned their backs on comfortable lives, great incomes, consumerist culture, and endless commutes on freeways.

We mourn each other's losses and cheer each other's wins against The Man. We're always up for a random hike, bikeride, or ski. And for dessert, we're always up for a shot of single malt or bourbon, or cuppa tea.

* that one was for you, Diane. Remember when my sister in law tried to pick a fight with you about the Valley being the most beautiful place on earth? And I'm not saying that friends in the big city are consumerist robots. It's just that we have to poo poo the big city to justify our lives out here in the dirt.

Houston, we have recontact

with Blink Jorgensen, who runs the mighty A Low Hum and who is bringing Disasteradio through the States next spring.

Disasteradio inspires Awesome Feelings and more:

If the weather is good, I want to host a guerrilla potluck and gig on the high desert floor- leaving no trace and all that. With as many babies coming online around Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year, it might mean that folks with infants can come and remember that they were young once.

In other recontact news, we saw Graham last night. He left for Alabama and Georgia 22 months ago. He is as beautiful and funny and exotic (he's Southern, afterall) as ever. The good news is that he's going to split his time between Cabbagetown near downtown Atlanta and Bishop. It appears that you can leave the Valley, but the Valley never really leaves you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Luke Buda's first single off his new release, Vesuvius

For folks who were at the Bishop Phoenix Foundation show, you might recognize Luke Buda as the fella who sang Purple Rain at the end.

Despite the cheery gloss of the tune, there is a deeper melancholy (melancholic?) streak in most of Luke's lyrics which makes a certain fan in Atlanta worry about his Middle European psyche.

The track is called My Imminent Demise. :)

Luke, along with so many other great artists, is on Arch Hill.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The passage of certain nicknames

Babbo is outgrowing certain nicknames he's had for years. Namely, he's no longer Sucky Sucky Parasite and becoming less of a Midget and more of a Dude. It kind of makes me sad.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some bastard hit the Sierra Phantom

The Sierra Phantom is my homey. He lives a block away from here, and he always has a smile for me when we pass each other on our bikes. Thankfully, he is a tough man and will be okay. Thanks for the coverage, Tom.

Hit and Run Accident Sends the "Phantom" to Hospital
Written by Tom Woods
Monday, 20 October 2008

The well known Bishop fishing guide and glitter fly manufacturer known as “the Sierra Phantom,” was hit by car while riding his bicycle near Pleasant Valley reservoir on Friday night.

Highway Patrol Officers report that a vehicle sideswiped the Phantom, also known as J.P. Glover, causing the bicyclist to lose control. The driver left the scene, and despite a “extensive search,” officers were unable to find the suspect vehicle.

When we called Glover, he said that after he was sideswiped he went over the handle bars. He says he was on the side of the road for about a half an hour before a “couple of guys,” found him and called the ambulance.

Phantom had injuries to his ribs and lungs, a dislocated shoulder, the skin taken off his nose and knees. He was in pain when we spoke with him Monday, but his spirits were high. He says that his friends are looking out for him.

This was the third time he has been hit by a car in three years. The first time he was hit while riding a bike was in front of Giggle Springs. With little room for people on bicycles on Main Street and people not paying attention to bicycles, he says one person killed or hurt is too many.

Despite the injuries, Glover was confident of a fast recovery. He says that after a very long and serious series of cancer operations, the doctors told him that he wouldn’t be able to do anything for four months. A week later, he says that he walked from Bishop to South Lake and back to go fishing. With luck, the Phantom will soon be back out at one of his usual Main Street haunts, or on the river with his line in water.

the Itchy and Scratchy Show

I cleared tomato plants from the garden yesterday, 40someodd of them. Gave some perennials a quick haircut for winter and broke out in a quick itchy rash that went away when I finally had a shower.

It was a crap tomato year for everyone. It started very late and was not superproductive. I do believe that heirloom/open pollinated yields are not as high as superkillerhybrid yields, but I am not fond of most hybrids.

Lynne's Black Cherry was a tasty wonder, even if the plants fought early blight. They had the flavor of a Black Brandywine without the wait. Zapotec did not like my yard and the fruit leathered on the vine.

Green tomatillos have taken over a few of my beds. Be careful of where you compost leftover green salsa. T.T. has found good use for the tomatillos, thankfully, and we have some nice relish to go with our carnitas tacos today.

Dad and his lovely friend Natalie took Wyatt fishing Saturday. Natalie has two grandsons with diabetes and was the guardian of one for 8 years. She was great. She asked all the right questions and asked for the right diabetes gear. Hopefully my Dad learned a bit. Wyatt had a great time landing "RAINBOW TROUT!" and we had a great time going out to lunch with Matt's old high school best friend and going out to Auntie Genevieve/Auntie Shauna's Baby-Q potluck. It was a great break from active parenting.

In other news, I have been pitching to and wooing Kiwi bands, labels, and handlers. Bless good ol' Ben Howe at Arch Hill. He is an old Flying Nun artist (Superette) and hosts the marvelous Don McGlashan and Luke Buda (among others) on Arch Hill. Have also pitched to Loop Recordings, the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, and WIUO/Don McG's Manager. Thanks to Bibi and Lynne for being my daily sounding boards on these matters and to Steve for the encouragement from the muso's perspective and to Karen and Matty and Diane for the general "go for it-ness" of it all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl

I admit I was touched. It was a small, gentle film about how the right kind of family and community help a broken boy-man start to become an adult and possibly whole.

Maybe because I am a Nat King Cole fan, I especially loved this scene (Genevieve, don't look)

I also admit that I had only seen crap or schmaltzy Ryan Gosling films on long transatlantic flights or 14 hour bus rides across Argentina, but I always liked him.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I fear my Obama sign's days are numbered

I would love to be wrong.
My 2004 Kerry-Edwards lasted about a week before somebody ripped it down. When I called the local Dems to get a new sign, they said it was happening all over town.

I took Babbo to an Obama rally last Saturday. We sat on the City Park wall. I held a sign. Many many folks honked in support. Thankfully, nobody flipped us off or cussed us out. It did happen to a few others. I reckon that you'd have to be a pretty huge scumbag to flip off a three year old kid.

It was good to see my Subaru/Toyota/Honda driving, down jacket wearing, bluegrass listening, agnostic/atheist, but "spiritual" parenting brethren all gathered in one spot.

It has turned into such an ugly election.

Some women with Yes on 8 placards held down the corner at Main and Short. Their signs said something to the effect that 8 saved families. Huh? Whatever. A "yes" on 8 would eliminate same-sex couples' right to marry in California

In related news, A.T., who'd just gotten justice of the peace deputized, married a whole bunch of women wanting to get married before November 4th. Bless her. If folks really want to join the ball and chain fray, more power to them.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Because scheming is still free.....
  • I would really like to work on another Kiwi-Owens Valley musical production. I'm hoping to hit some bands on their way to/from South by Southwest next March.
  • I would really like to get back to NZ for the summer music festival season. This isn't going to happen unless Bibi or I win some contests we've entered. :)
  • I would like to put off the second femoral osteotomy for another year. I'm just not psyched about being laid up for weeks and weeks on disability when economic times will only get tougher, when there are things to do, when there are bands to court. I wouldn't mind getting this angle plate in my old hip out, though. I could use another bottle opener. :)
  • A good drink. The lurgy is almost over, and I will partake in a glass of champy (1996 Piper Heidsieck Blue Diamante Monopole blah blah) tonight. Thank you Zach for that awfully fancy bottle for simply turning 40.
  • The new SJD, Luke Buda, Conrad Wedde, etc. releases.

In other news, I was sad to see that there was a fatal crash at Lukla Airstrip in Nepal. We used it in 1996, and it was a thrill ride to say the least. It's angled so that landing planes can use the uphill ride to stop and that departing planes can use the downhill ride to get the momentum to take off - right before the abyss. Edmund Hillary helped build the first strip, which was just pounded dirt. There was chang (a local liquor) for everyone and dancing all night. How else do you get folks to pound on dirt?

Matty just reminded me that the landing strip was still dirt in '96.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gazpacho sin barbiturates

It is Fall/Autumn and we are making batches and batches of gazpacho in honor of the season. With our freezing mornings, the tomatoes are very nearly done.

I cannot think of "gathpacho" without thinking of the scene in Women of the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown where Carmen Maura, playing the leading lady, tells the detectives of all the trouble she's been up to and tells them that they are partaking in gazpacho laced with barbiturates.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Another Bush Administration Guantanamo case bites the dust

Judge orders release of Chinese Muslims into US

By HOPE YEN – 34 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ordered the Bush administration Tuesday to immediately free 17 Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo Bay into the United States, a dramatic ruling that could set the course for releasing dozens of other prisoners at the naval facility in Cuba.

The Bush administration announced plans to ask an appeals court to block the order, calling it a threat to national security and contrary to federal laws.

"Today's ruling presents serious national security and separation of powers concerns and raises unprecedented legal issues," Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

In a stern rebuke of the government, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina said it would be wrong to continue holding the detainees since they are no longer considered enemy combatants. Known as Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurz), the men have been in custody for nearly seven years.

Over the objections of government lawyers, Urbina ordered their release in Washington D.C. by Friday. It was the first court-ordered release of Guantanamo detainees since the prison camp opened in 2002.

"Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detentions without cause, the continued detention is unlawful," Urbina said, prompting cheers and applause from local Uighur residents and human rights activists who packed into the courtroom.

Urbina, who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton, also ordered a hearing next week to decide where the Uighurs should be permanently settled. Until then, members of the Uighur community in the Washington area agreed to sponsor and help care for them.

"I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for the detention," he said.

Urbina said once the detainees arrived in Washington, they would be free to move around unsupervised, drawing the surprise of government attorneys who suggested that immigration officials might act to take the men into custody upon their arrival.

That prompted an angry response from the judge, who said he would not "take kindly" to such a government move. "That would be inappropriate," Urbina said. "There is a pressing need to have these people, who have been incarcerated for seven years, to have those conditions changed."

Roehrkasse said the government's appeal of Urbina's ruling was prompted by security concerns over the weapons training the Uighurs received at camps in Afghanistan. "The government does not believe that it is appropriate to have these foreign nationals removed from government custody and released into the United States," Roehrkasse said.

At the White House, press secretary Dana Perino said the decision "is contrary to our laws, including federal immigration statutes passed by Congress."

Perino said if Urbina's ruling is not reversed, it "could be used as precedent for other detainees at Guantanamo Bay, including sworn enemies of the United States suspected of planning the attacks" of Sept. 11, 2001, to seek release into the U.S.

At issue is whether a federal judge has the authority to order the release of Guantanamo prisoners who were unlawfully detained by the U.S. and cannot be sent back to their homeland. The Uighurs, who are Turkic-speaking Muslims in western China, have been cleared for release from Guantanamo since 2004 and ordinarily would have been sent home.

Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, reiterated Beijing's argument that the Uighurs are terror suspects and should be returned to China. "We ask the U.S. side to take into serious consideration of the repeated requests of the Chinese side, and handle the issue in a prudent way so as not to further harm their bilateral cooperation on combating international terrorism," Wang said.

The Bush administration has refused to turn the Uighurs over to China because they might be tortured. The Bush administration says it has found no other country is willing to accept them. Albania accepted five Uighur detainees in 2006 but has since balked on taking others, partly for fear of diplomatic repercussions from China.

Uighurs are from Xinjiang — an isolated region that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and six Central Asian nations — and say they have been repressed by the Chinese government. China has long said that insurgents are leading an Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang. The Uighur detainees were captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001.

Urbina's decision has broader implications for the future of the Guantanamo prison, which the Bush administration has said it wants to shut down after "working with other countries to take people back under the right circumstances."

A federal judge is set later this month to hold hearings on other Guantanamo prisoners challenging their detention as so-called enemy combatants.

Roughly 20 percent of about 250 detainees who remain at the military prison fear torture or persecution if they return to their home countries, according to the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. Their concerns raise similar questions as to where they should go if other countries refuse to take them. The U.S. has long maintained they should stay at Guantanamo.

"How many times does the Bush administration need to be told that detainees are entitled to essential rights? All the remaining detainees in Guantanamo Bay must be either charged and tried or released immediately," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

The Bush administration has argued that a federal judge cannot order the release of a foreign-born detainee into the U.S., saying that would undercut immigration laws that dictate how foreigners are brought into the country.

Until a country accepts the Uighurs, they would stay in special Guantanamo housing that includes TVs, air-conditioning and recreational items such as soccer, table tennis and volleyball, government attorneys said.

O'Quinn also said federal judges should defer to the executive branch officials, who he said must consider delicate relations with China. "The court should be circumspect because of the potential for interference with foreign relations," O'Quinn said.

Sabin Willett, an attorney for the Uighurs, countered: "I've never heard anyone argue our relations with other nations are a basis for holding someone."

Rebia Kadeer, president of the World Uighur Congress, called the decision a victory for oppressed Uighurs in China.

"This is our destiny. This is our people's win. This concerns our freedom. China accuses us of being terrorists, but we are not," she said through a translator as other Uighurs in the courtroom cried for joy.

Emi MacLean, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said she hoped the decision would encourage other foreign countries to take in Guantanamo detainees who have not been charged.

"Finally, we are beginning the process of taking responsibility for our mistakes and fixing them," she said. "Allowing these wrongfully detained men a fresh start would also provide the U.S. a fresh start — an opportunity to turn a page and finally take a position of leadership in closing Guantanamo."

CHLA is our friend

Had a bonzai run down to Children's Hospital LA. It was our second visit in two weeks, but this time it was for a diabetes check up.

I stuck Wyatt on the Ipod (Caillou, CBC programming) and while he was mostly quiet, he did lose the plot when I pulled the earphones off to make him pay attention or to be sociable. I swore I'd never be one of those electronic-devices-dependent parents, but Jesus God, this beats having him eat his Cheerios off the floor or lick the doctor's chair. And, it allows us to have a conversation with the doctor which is not punctuated by the stream of consciousness ramblings of a VERY LOUD THREE YEAR OLD BOY.

His A1C level is coming down. It went from 8.5 in May to 7.5 in October. Three cheers! The A1C is an indicator of how high his blood sugars have averaged over the last three months.

Dr. Jeandron is great. She is busy, but makes time to answer questions, to look us in the eye, to make us feel confident. She said we could switch to the insulin pump when we were ready because as far as she was concerned, we're ready. We'll probably save that for next year.

The nurses at CHLA are amazing. They fine tune and problem solve and call you right back when you need them to. They are no-nonsense but encouraging. They are your like your favorite aunts.

I got to squeeze in two of my Chinese food trifecta, Mandarin Deli and Sam Wo's BBQ. I got to give Auntie Tammy a hug on the day she got baptized (my funny and fierce Auntie Tammy - we will never see eye to eye on God or politics, but she one of the best people I know).

Even though the boy and I were both a bit delirious when we rolled into Bishop last night (We started yelling "Beeeeeeee-shopppppppp......"), it was a productive trip.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thanks Lauren for making us have a look at this

When Atheists Attack

A noted provocateur rips Sarah Palin—and defends elitism.
Sam Harris
From the magazine issue dated Sep 29, 2008

Let me confess that I was genuinely unnerved by Sarah Palin's performance at the Republican convention. Given her audience and the needs of the moment, I believe Governor Palin's speech was the most effective political communication I have ever witnessed. Here, finally, was a performer who—being maternal, wounded, righteous and sexy—could stride past the frontal cortex of every American and plant a three-inch heel directly on that limbic circuit that ceaselessly intones "God and country." If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.

Then came Palin's first television interview with Charles Gibson. I was relieved to discover, as many were, that Palin's luster can be much diminished by the absence of a teleprompter. Still, the problem she poses to our political process is now much bigger than she is. Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism. However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady's misfortune—and, above all, upon the "liberal elites" with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth's surface (she didn't have a passport until last year), or that she's never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story—but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.

We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter's microphone, saying things like, "I'm voting for Sarah because she's a mom. She knows what it's like to be a mom." Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.

Palin's most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn't much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase "Bush doctrine." And I am quite sure that her supporters didn't care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to know—or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain's advisers. What doesn't she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin's ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn't be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn't ready for? He wouldn't. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House.

In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God's plan." When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response "absurd." It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations. Every detail that has emerged about Palin's life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the "end times." Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves. Otherwise, what could she have meant when declaring to her congregation that "God's going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you"?

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy "baptism in the Holy Spirit," "miraculous healings" and "the gift of tongues." Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin's spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of "the final generation," engaged in "spiritual warfare" to purge the earth of "demonic strongholds." Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?

It is easy to see what many people, women especially, admire about Sarah Palin. Here is a mother of five who can see the bright side of having a child with Down syndrome and still find the time and energy to govern the state of Alaska. But we cannot ignore the fact that Palin's impressive family further testifies to her dogmatic religious beliefs. Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity. And just imagine if, instead of the Palins, the Obama family had a pregnant, underage daughter on display at their convention, flanked by her black boyfriend who "intends" to marry her. Who among conservatives would have resisted the temptation to speak of "the dysfunction in the black community"?

Teen pregnancy is a misfortune, plain and simple. At best, it represents bad luck (both for the mother and for the child); at worst, as in the Palins' case, it is a symptom of religious dogmatism. Governor Palin opposes sex education in schools on religious grounds. She has also fought vigorously for a "parental consent law" in the state of Alaska, seeking full parental dominion over the reproductive decisions of minors. We know, therefore, that Palin believes that she should be the one to decide whether her daughter carries her baby to term. Based on her stated position, we know that she would deny her daughter an abortion even if she had been raped. One can be forgiven for doubting whether Bristol Palin had all the advantages of 21st-century family planning—or, indeed, of the 21st century.

We have endured eight years of an administration that seemed touched by religious ideology. Bush's claim to Bob Woodward that he consulted a "higher Father" before going to war in Iraq got many of us sitting upright, before our attention wandered again to less ethereal signs of his incompetence. For all my concern about Bush's religious beliefs, and about his merely average grasp of terrestrial reality, I have never once thought that he was an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist. Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy. With the McCain team leading her around like a pet pony between now and Election Day, she can be expected to conceal her religious extremism until it is too late to do anything about it. Her supporters know that while she cannot afford to "talk the talk" between now and Nov. 4, if elected, she can be trusted to "walk the walk" until the Day of Judgment.

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. "You can't blink," she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.

Harris is a founder of The Reason Project and author of The New York Times best sellers “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” His Web site is