January 26, 2007

Dr. Dino goes to jail

Creation evangelist "Dr." Kent Hovind has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for tax evasion. (This story is now a week old, which in blogosphere terms is a bit stale, but since I posted about his conviction, I think it's only fair that I comment on his sentencing as well. I get busy. Sorry.) The Pensacola News Journal had the story last weekend:

A newly remorseful Pensacola evangelist, who still disputes the government's right to make him pay taxes, was sentenced Friday afternoon to 10 years in prison on federal tax charges. . . .

In November, a jury found Kent Hovind guilty on 58 federal counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. Jo Hovind was convicted of 44 of the counts that involved evading bank-reporting requirements.

[Full Story]

Another story in the same paper describes Hovind's sentence in more detail:

After a lengthy sentencing hearing that last 5 1/2 hours, U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers ordered Hovind also:

  • Pay $640,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Pay the prosecution’s court costs of $7,078.
  • Serve three years parole once he is released from prison.

[Full Story]

On Saturday, Hovind's son Eric tried to spin the sentence on the CSE Blog, writing:

New Mission Field for Dr. Hovind

[Full Text]

I'm immediately reminded of a press release I read back in the mid-90s from the Church of Scientology™, right after they had lost a huge, expensive lawsuit they had launched against Time-Warner. The headline read along these lines: "LAWSUIT DISMISSED: PAVES WAY FOR APPEAL." I guess that when the world hands you lemons, you make lemonade. "Dr." Hovind isn't going to prison, he's going to the mission field. It's not a bug, it's a feature! (Whether the rest of us Christians want to be represented in prison by this man who brings reproach upon Christ and his Church is not, apparently, up for discussion.)

Eric says:

In his opportunity to address the court, Dr. Hovind tried to choke back the tears as he went through the history of the ministry as well as a history of his correspondence with legal advisors on taxation and the letters written to the IRS that were never answered.

"I intend to obey the law and think that everyone should obey the law," he said. "If I would have known that I was doing something unlawful, I would have corrected it."

Since ignorance of the law is not a defense, I fail to see what Hovind would hope to accomplish by pleading it. Of course, this claim just doesn't hold water anyway.

One witness at Hovind's trial testified that he had been instructed to refuse registered mail addressed to Hovind in block capitals, because this form of his name supposedly represents a fictitious, government-created corporation, for which he would then assume responsibility. This is a claim I've often heard hard-right conspiracy theorists make. Obviously, Hovind is familiar with certain legal arcana and minutiae that the average taxpayer-on-the-street isn't. Doesn't it strain credulity just a little bit to think he wouldn't know what the law said in a broader sense?

Moreover, other testimony said that Hovind and his wife would do such things as transfer money in amounts smaller than those that would trigger the banks' reporting requirements. As I said in my previous post on this subject, if you don't think you're doing something illegal, why would you try to hide it? But concealing one's actions proves that you know the law.

Now, predictably, Hovind's fans are declaring him a martyr, a victim of religious persecution. Jesus said:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (Matt. 5:10-11)

Despite what he may say, Hovind is not being persecuted for righteousness' sake, or on Jesus' account. He is being prosecuted for lawlessness' sake. It gives no pleasure to see other Christians go to prison, but on the other hand it is morally satisfying to see justice done. Furthermore, Hovind is not a victim because of his faith; he is an embarrassment to the faith. It does neither him, nor me, nor the Kingdom of Christ any favours to claim, wrongly, that his misdeeds are any part of the faith, or that he is somehow deserving of leniency merely because he is a Christian.

Let me close off with another excerpt from the PNJ report:

Prior to his sentencing, a tearful Kent Hovind, also known as "Dr. Dino" asked for the court’s leniency.

"If it’s just money the IRS wants, there are thousands of people out there who will help pay the money they want so I can go back out there and preach,” Hovind said.

There's only one appropriate response to this cynical plea.

I'm sorry, "Dr." Hovind, but it simply wouldn't be right for me to give money to you, as in your present circumstances I would effectively be turning it over to the State of Florida. After all, it's God's money, not my money, and if there's anything I've learned from you over the last few months, it's that God's money is too good to be handed over to Caesar.

It sucks, I know. But at the same time, I'm sure you can appreciate the irony.

January 17, 2007

I been comment spammed!

No, I realize that getting spam in blog comments is nothing unusual. This is just my first time; perhaps there is something to "security through obscurity" after all.

Today, I was hit by about 10 faux comments on the backup blog, all with a different name, all on different posts, and all with the same message: "Google is the best search engine."


It's fairly self-evident that Google isn't doing it. And it isn't advertising fake degrees, stock tips, pet food, or v1agra. So it only raises the question: Why? What could a spammer possibly accomplish through such a pointless exercise? (I guess there is the possibility that this is just one of the small things that amuse small minds.)

Not that it matters. WordPress's comment management features made short work of it. I noticed along the way that it has caught dozens of spam messages I didn't even know about, too, thanks to WP's Akismet anti-spam feature - something Blogger doesn't have.

If there is fundamental justice in the universe, the fires of hell are being fueled by the burning corpses of spammers.

January 10, 2007

CUSA/Carleton/Lifeline update

As I was passing through the bus stop yesterday, I spied the front page of 24 Hours, one of the many free fishwrap tabloids that you can pick up in Ottawa, read quickly, then leave on the floor of the bus. The headline was "Pro-life group awaits fate," and the picture was of Carleton Lifeline president Sarah Fletcher. Apparently, Carleton held the term's clubs certification meeting last night.

According to CBC, and despite the resolution passed a month ago that seems intended to target them and other like-minded groups, Lifeline's clubs status was overwhelmingly approved:

An anti-abortion group at Carleton University has officially been approved as a student club despite a new policy that bans using student council resources for anti-abortion activity.

Representatives from 32 other clubs and associations seeking student council approval at the university voted by an overwhelming majority Tuesday night to recognize Carleton Lifeline as a student club, making it eligible for funding from the Carleton University Students' Association (CUSA). . . .

The student council changed its discrimination policy in December to ban the use of its space, resources and recognition for any activity "that seeks to limit or remove a woman's right to choose her options in the case of pregnancy."

The policy was proposed after an on-campus abortion debate organized by Carleton Lifeline, where some students complained they had been harassed.

[Full Story]

Today's Ottawa Citizen also has the story, and notes that there was only one dissenting vote:

Ken Woolliscroft, 36, was the only student to vote against the motion to grant the group club status.

Mr. Woolliscroft, president of the Women’s Studies Society, says he voted based on his own beliefs.

Not surprisingly, Wooliscroft is the same extremist whackjob who called being pro-life "violence against women" on Facebook during the controversy leading up to the December 6 meeting.

So it looks like Lifeline wins the war. For now. Time will tell.

Update update: While I was writing the above yesterday, what should pop into my aggregator but a comment from none other than Katy McIntyre herself, commenting on my first post on the Carleton abortion controversy. She was complaining about my "rampant stereotyping." I guess these days a single blonde joke qualifies as "rampant." Whatever.

January 08, 2007

2006: reading in review

As I read books, I like to keep track of what I'm reading, so I maintain a database of my reading list in a spreadsheet.1 Partly this is to know where to find stuff I've read, partly to know what I've read (in the past, I have actually taken Larry Niven's novel A World Out of Time out of the library twice without realizing it was something I had already read, years ago), and partly to keep up with how much I've read from year to year.

Anyway, for those of you who like to keep track of this sort of thing (and I know at least some of you read the updated lists in my sidebar), here are some stats:

  • Total books read: 38. Not really a strong showing this year; I'm accustomed to going through a book a week or 50-75 in a year. Some of these were pretty short, too.
  • Fiction books: 20.
  • Nonfiction books: 18. I am including Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List in the nonficton; although it is usually classified as a novel (and indeed I found it with the novels at the library), and the details are somewhat fictionalized, it reads more like a biography than a work of pure fiction.
  • Nonfiction ratio: 47%. I've never read this proportion of nonfiction before, as I'm primarily a fiction reader. (This doesn't count years in school where I read pretty much nothing but textbooks.)
  • Science fiction books: 9 (including fantasy).
  • Christian theology books read: 1. This doesn't count the Bible or all the times I cracked open a reference book, but still: What was that thing I said back on New Year's? Oh yeah: Ha ha, ha ha ha ha.
  • Best book I read: A toss-up between Richard Matheson's collection of stories, Duel, and Donald Kraybill's The Riddle of Amish Culture, both of which I reviewed here.
  • The worst: The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. Woefully overrated, but at least I slipped it in before the movie came out (just).

Just for comparison's sake, I also watched 88 movies in the same time. When did i start becoming a viewer rather than a reader?


1 Legacy footnote: I maintained my first reading database in 1994, at which time I used the "Cardfile" application in Windows 3.1 to keep bibliographic data for everything I read. I'm sure I still have the lists sitting on one of the thousands of unlabeled floppy disks I've hoarded since 1989, but as far as I know, the last Windows to support Cardfile was Win98.

January 05, 2007


Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of "Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness." The university takes nominations through its Web site, selects the short list in December, and publishes the final outcome on New Year's Day.

These are the 16 terms marked for banishment this year:

  • Gitmo: Meh. It's not half the mouthful that "Guantánamo Bay Naval Base" is (and doesn't have the annoying accent).
  • Combined celebrity names: Like "TomKat." The real problem, of course, is that we're inundated regularly with vapid celebrity gossip masquerading as "news."
  • Awesome: Not as in "inspiring awe," but "cool" or "nifty." Unfortunately for the folks at LSSU, slang that's been around for 20+ years has pretty decent staying power.
  • Gone missing: Yeah, this is a perennial favourite with the language mavens - apparently a close relative of "near miss."
  • Pwn or pwned: Banish it? I don't even know how to pronounce it. "Puh-owned"?
  • Now playing in theatres: As distinct from "Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray" or "Exclusively on pay-per-view." I don't see the problem.
  • We're pregnant: Yeah, if nothing else, it's cutesy.
  • Undocumented alien: For people who don't want to admit that illegal aliens have snuck into the country without the permission of the government. Orwell would be proud.
  • Armed robbery/drug deal gone bad: Yes, as opposed to one that was carried out successfully, without shots fired, hostages, or collateral damage. What's the problem?
  • Truthiness: Incidentally, there's still more written about truthiness on Wikipedia than Lutheranism, which tells you something about the general worth of that resource.
  • Ask your doctor: Yeah, I've often been persuaded by television advertising to ask my doctor if I need prescriptions to pharmaceuticals designed for diseases I don't have.
  • Chipotle: Uh . . . and what are we supposed to call something chipotle-flavoured? Maple syrup, vanilla ice cream, chocolate milkshake, chipotle sauce. I suspect some people would rather have the flavour banished, not the word. (I love chipotles myself, but then I've been eating them since before they were trendy.)
  • i-Anything: iAgree.
  • Search: One comment says that it has been "replaced by'google.'" Only half true. I don't "google" my Word files.
  • Healthy food: Specifically, as used to describe the nutritional qualities of foods. Come on: who actually says "healthful"?
  • Boasts: As in "master bedroom boasts his-and-her fireplaces"; whereas, as the commenter adds, "kitchen laments pathetic placement of electrical outlets." Well of course not, that wouldn't be good advertising.

Just for your own edification, check out the inaugural list from 1976. See too many words on there that have been permanently banished from the English languages? No, me neither. Incidentally, I vaguely recall Charles MacKay's immensely entertaining 1841 history of popular hysteria, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, noting several slang terms he hoped would pass out of popular usage that are still commonly used a century and a half later. So bad language predictions aren't just a recent thing. They're a way of life.

(H/T: Rebecca Writes. Cindy caught it too.)

January 04, 2007

Taking the plunge

Now that New Blogger is out of beta, I've taken the leap of faith and converted the Crusty Curmudgeon to the new format.

So far, so good. At least, it doesn't look any different. But I suspect there are a few changes "under the hood" that I will need to get used to, and perhaps a kink or two in my homemade template that will have to be hammered out.

At the very least, I'll be starting soon to add tags to my old posts - and at 905 of them to date, that's no small task! At some point I will probably also switch over from Haloscan's comments to Blogger's own system: not that I have anything against the fine folk at Haloscan, but I just prefer to have as much functionality as possible in one place.

If you see anything that looks like it shouldn't be, just let me know.

January 03, 2007

Another year, another opportunity . . .

for the perpetually profligate, professional prognosticator Pat Robertson to say something stupid.

As if he hasn't embarrassed the Christian Church enough in recent years - by calling for the assassination of Venezuelan leader in Hugo Chavez in August 2005, then claiming (almost exactly one year ago) that God smote Ariel Sharon with a stroke for ceding the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, as well as many other generally kooky and uninformed antics - now he claims God told him the U.S. would suffer a massive terrorist attack:

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

[Full Story]

Oh, good. It's not going to be nuclear.

I'd award Robertson the coveted Dim Bulb du jour, but he's already won twice, and I don't want to look like I'm playing favourites.

January 01, 2007

2006 post-mortem

Looking back on the last year and the blogging goals I set for myself, I can summarize my feelings in six words:

Ha ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Ha.

I don't even have to open up last year's post-mortem to know I didn't meet any of the goals I set.

In all fairness, everyday life always has a certain amount of randomness that long-term goal-setting can't anticipate. I certainly couldn't have predicted how a sudden career change would affect my blogging habit. Still, I don't like setting goals and then missing all of them.

So I don't intend to make any promises this year. Not any measurable ones, anyway: I've learned my lesson. So, broadly speaking, this year my goals are:

  1. to blog more.
  2. to blog more substantively.
  3. to finish the projects I've already started.
  4. to read other people's blogs more, and to revive "Fridays in the Wild" to acknowledge what I liked during the week.

What I need - and I think I've said this before - is not a lot of metrics, but a lot of self-discipline: in all areas of my life, of which the blogosphere is but one.

Lord willing, may 2007 be a blessed and prosperous year. In my fifth calendar year of public, opinionated curmudgeonliness,thank you all for your continued indulgence.