Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New go-to resource for lighting info in town

I've blogged occasionally about lighting in the past, as I have a good deal of interest in the subject and in seeing better, and more efficient, lighting used.  (Yes, it is possible to be in favor of efficient lighting while simultaneously thinking that portions of the environmental movement are over the top, and also occasionally hypocritical.)

However, with the addition of a blog to the Four Point Lighting Design website, local (Austin) lighting designer Deborah Frankhouser has, in this blogger's opinion, become the go-to resource for lighting information you need to know, presented in a way that people who are not lighting designers can understand it.  Her blog is worth a read for anyone interested in lighting their home, office, patio, or whatever else.

Take, for example, one of Ms. Frankhouser's latest posts, "Outlaw Lamps!!!"  This, as I told her, is the best explanation of the current state of what laypeople (not lighting designers) call "light bulbs" but lighting designers call "lamps" that I have ever seen.  In it, she discusses the fact that lamp wattages have dropped in order to meet efficacy requirements.  While this still allows consumers, at least for now, to pick up their standard "light bulb" at pretty much every store everywhere, things will get even more stringent, thanks to tightening government regulations:

One of the things that the Lege did was give the Dept. of Energy a great deal of power to continue to ramp up efficiencies and requirements and every time they do that, things get harder.  In addition,  manufacturers are no longer placing any R&D money into improving the incandescent Argon based or the standard Halogen lamp.  All money is going into LED.  Eventually, incandescent lamps of all types simply won't meet requirements and we will have to turn to a different alternative.  The lamp manufacturers are banking on LED and there is a HUGE incentive push by the DOE to develop LED technology for general service applications.  

Now, I firmly believe that in five years, LED will be the mainstream light source.  It has the potential to produce a better quality light than the compact fluorescent spiral-type lamps that people either love or hate now, and unlike spiral lamps, you don't have to worry about some sort of environmental disaster just waiting to happen, as it did in our house when one of the kids got rowdy and managed to take out a table lamp (or "light fixture", as they call it in the lighting world), breaking the spiral lamp in the process.  (Don't tell the EPA, but I picked the pieces up in a paper towel and tossed them.  CFL spiral lamps have a lot less mercury in them than the fish you probably consumed the last time you went to Red Lobster.)

Continuing with the topic of LED lamps, Ms. Frankhouser explains the different types you can buy these days, in the process answering the question of why there are some people who think LED is a lousy light source...that would be because they bought a lousy grade LED light, and for those people, I'll simply point out that "you get what you pay for" is an axiom for a reason.

But given that the quality LED lamps are still rather cost-prohibitive, at least for now, what is Ms. Frankhouser's recommendation?  That would be halogen lamps.  They produce excellent quality light, and they're dimmable.  (Just watch out for the cost and the heat they generate.)

Again, if lighting interests you at all, or if someone's about to force spiral lamps on you and you want some rebutting information, the whole article is worth a read.

(Disclaimer:  Yes, the author knows Deborah Frankhouser.  That doesn't take away anything from her substantial lighting knowledge.  So read the thing already.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Requiem for a Friendship, Part Three

I have been writing, mostly for purposes of catharsis but also for a very important reason that will be revealed at the end of this column, about how a friendship of mine has suffered death by a thousand cuts from political and religious discussion between another party, herein referred to as "Friend", and myself.  Part One covered the beginnings of these discussions, while Part Two showed how the intensity level was ramped up to 11 when Christianity came into it.  Given that both Friend and I are Christian, and given the level of sniping in our discussions, I'm sure the two of us presented a wonderful picture of what Christianity should be.

(Note:  in the interests of clarity, I am presenting my quotes in red, while Friend's will be in blue.)

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

 --I Corinthians 1:10

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

 --John 17:20-21

My interpretation of these particular verses is not that every Christian is going to agree on everything.  Good grief, even Paul had a bitter argument with Barnabas (Acts 15:38), such that they went in totally different directions.  But they both held onto their Christianity, of course.  As time went on, I feared that my discussions with Friend were getting less and less Christian.

In the wake of our quite recent (at the time) discussions of whether Jim Wallis's viewpoint that a government-controlled healthcare system was the best way to provide the best care for this country (unnecessary reminder:  I disagreed with Mr. Wallis), I posted multiple links on my Facebook page addressing the Wallis/Glenn Beck situation, as well as addressing the "Obamacare" bill, which was passed that same week in the Senate.

In the first of those links, Shane Vander Hart took on Mr. Wallis's viewpoint, which Mr. Vander Hart called "akin to wealth distribution".  Friend, of course, could not take this affront to his ideological brother lying down, and so, very quickly, Friend's comment appeared stating, "The problem here is that Shane doesn't know what the gospel is."

(Side note:  it appeared, at least to me, that Mr. Wallis and Friend share the unfortunate tactic of talking down to the opposing side of their respective arguments.  And by the way, I decided to let Friend's comment go unchallenged because I felt it would be a rehash of the same discussion we had just had.  And yes, there was more to Friend's comment, including a book recommendation.  'Cos a guy who hardly has the time to blog is going to rush out and read a long book that, I'm sure, would just mirror Friend's viewpoint anyway.)

The next one, by another friend of mine, Dr. Melissa Clouthier, really got Friend's dander up.  To wit:

More of this horsecrap that calls objecting to the tyranny of the rich "childish". Cut it ouit. [sic]

Gee whiz, I didn't even know I was supporting the tyranny of the rich.  But, as we've seen, this isn't the first time that phrase has slipped into our conversations.  Friend wasn't done, either; within three minutes another comment had appeared:

She says that working for the common good is immoral. ALL CIVILIZATION involves people giving up freedom for the common good. Claiming otherwise is a libertarian fantasy.

Please stop posting this intelligence-insulting, immoral drivel.

And that was where things really started to unravel, because I had had it.  (It may come as a surprise that a blogger does not enjoy having his viewpoints called either intelligence-insulting or immoral.  But it shouldn't.)  My comment was very direct:

Your continued assault on my viewpoint as "intelligence-insulting" is insulting to me. Discuss this civilly or stop commenting on my posts. I value your viewpoint, but it is NOT necessary to belittle my mindset as part of such a discussion.
And I fail to see how our paying for benefits that a lot of irresponsible people failed to plan to pay themselves is at all working for the common good. What we are doing is allowing some people to sit back and let others pick up the slack for them. It's the ant and the grasshopper all over again.

And if you don't like the ant/grasshopper idea, consider Paul's statements in II Thessalonians 3. We are not to be idle, not working for "the bread [we] eat". And far too many people are doing just that and living off the government's largesse.

Is letting people who could be taking care of themselves leech off the system what you think Jesus meant for us to be doing? Because that's exactly what this bill is going to facilitate for a lot of people.

I don't believe Friend's response held to my request for Friend to discuss things civilly:

"a lot of irresponsible people failed to plan to pay themselves"

"the ant and the grasshopper"

"people who could be taking care of themselves leech off the system"

If you think that these things describe the health-care situation in the USA or describe civilization generally, then you are either ignorant or callous.

You grossly misused the scriptures.

Again, your advocacy of those who treat the poor as children for their desire to be protected from the rich is insulting.

The rich of the USA have been playing you for a long time, painting libertarianism as "noble" and "adult". Buying into that means that you have abandoned your sworn duty to stand with the poor: you continue to paint 99% of the world as "mere children" because they don't trust the rich. That sickens me.

I responded:

You cannot throw out a statement such as "you grossly misused the scriptures" without justifying it.

And just because I don't trust government doesn't mean I've thrown myself into the arms of "the rich". This issue is not black-and-white, regardless of how you would like to frame it.

And then Friend, rather than justifying the earlier statement, referred me to a status update Friend had posted linking to an N.T. Wright essay which--big surprise--mirrored Friend's viewpoint.  Big deal.  I can find links that back me up, too.  And I guess that was what I had been doing when Friend butted in to tell me that my opinion was "horsecrap".  But at this point, I was not going to continue to play with Friend in this way.  I had read the Wright essay days before (and I did reread it), and while I didn't agree with it, I did notice that it in no way justified Friend's assertion that I misused scripture, which--and maybe this is just my opinion--should not be an assertion made lightly, particularly without justification.  But in any case, I was not going to continue this ridiculous "he said, Friend said" back-and-forth discussion.

And so I left the discussion at that point.  I hoped that by not firing back, yet again, at Friend, some modicum of civility might be restored.  For a little while it seemed that my hopes were well-founded, as for a few days, there was no further sniping between us.  But then I posted two things that put the final nails into the possibility of future civil discussions.  The first was a link to this post, in which I pointed out that a lot of the MSM were falling over themselves trying to call Tea Party protesters racist.  Friend, of course, had to chime in, saying that I was being "disingenuous, at best":

The tea parties and related gatherings have been full of overt expressions of racism. Lots of people are testifying that similar expressions were made Sunday. Indisputable audio evidence doesn't exist (I assume). Why shouldn't we take the observers at their word?

It is hard for honest, informed people to disbelieve that the Republican southern strategy has used racism to develop opposition to federal social spending. It doesn't surprise us, then, that the tea partiers display overt racism: they are the base to which Republicans have been appealing for 45 years.

So when Olbermann points this out, you distort his words to be "you are all racists."

You also try to exempt Republican leaders from responsibility for this. When Beck, Palin, O'Reilly, and Bachmann sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, then we should recognize it as such. I don't think that any of them want to see violence, but its childish of them pretend [sic] that they haven't contributed to it.

Did you, gentle reader, notice the smooth way that Friend transitioned from "honest, informed people" in one sentence to "us" in the next?  Apparently Friend started this discussion with the preassumption that Tea Partiers and/or Republicans do not fall into the category of "honest, informed people".  Also take note of the way that apparently, to Friend, only conservatives might possibly have followers whose viewpoints are unacceptable.

But Friend's postscript went back to the usual tactic of telling me what I should and should not post.  Quoth Friend:  "If you want to convince honest people of your belief, then don't cite Breitbart. It makes you seem like a partisan hack."  (Note:  I am indeed partisan.  I am not a hack.)

I, having grown weary of the same shtick from Friend, fired back with both barrels:

It is obvious to me that you see in people, and groups of people, only what you want to see. While I will agree that early proponents of the "southern strategy" appealed to some people's racism, for you to say that racism is still what motivates the base of Republicans is totally baseless. Regardless of what the Dems' talking points might be, states' rights and racism are not the same argument.

So yeah, I'm inferring an accusation of racism from both you and Olby. On top of that, I'm inferring a great deal of condescension from you every time you call one of my viewpoints "childish" (and you do it a lot).

And no, I don't think Palin and Bachmann are fomenting ideas of violence. (I haven't seen much of O'Reilly or Beck in a while except for Beck's continued dust-up with Wallis.)

In short--and I hope I'm misreading this--your comment is saying that yeah, Republicans are racist thugs. And I will remain in total disagreement with that conclusion.

p.s. And if I'm a partisan hack for citing Breitbart, you are just as much of one for citing HuffPo.

Friend never responded to this statement.  I can only hope Friend decided that this discussion was just as unproductive as the previous ones, but future events led me to believe that this was not the case.
The second event which put the nails in the coffin was my posting of a Michelle Malkin column about the same events I mentioned in my post.  Ms. Malkin's column took the viewpoint that the left had manufactured a fake hate-crime to pin on the Tea Partiers.

And how did Friend respond?  Of course, by attacking the messenger.  "You need to stop referencing Malkin. She is a demonstrated liar and bigot..."  At this point, I was incredibly tired of being told what not to post.  I certainly didn't tell Friend not to post the Frank Rich NYTimes column from the following Sunday (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/opinion/28rich.html?hp) which, as one might expect at this point, called the Tea Partiers racists.

No, I decided that the Christian thing to do in this case was not to engage Friend in any discussion whatsoever.  I changed the privacy settings so that, presently, Friend is no longer able to see my posts, thereby leaving Friend unable to comment on them as well.

But, with that said, Friend's status updates still appeared on *my* Facebook news page.  And two of those updates crossed a line.

The first:

Nevermind that she and the right-wing media establishment are willfully misinterpreting the U.S. president, but Sarah Palin is a Constantinian, not a Christian. I quote: "I don't understand a world view where we have to question whether we like it or not that America is powerful."

Friend, who are you to question whether someone else is a Christian or not?  Last I heard, God was in charge of making that determination, and you certainly are not God.  Was Governor Palin's statement Constantinian?  Perhaps it was.  But neither you, nor anyone else in this world, gets to make the call on her characterYour statement was incredibly arrogant and infuriating.

The second:

Mark Davis is a damnable racist, and both the Dallas Morning News and WBAP happily give him platforms for his wickedness. I am furious at him for how much he loves to hurt black people and I'm likewise frustrated at the society that makes our local media essentially untouchable.

Other than that Mark Davis hosts a show at WBAP in Dallas/Fort Worth, I know absolutely nothing about him, but again, Friend, who do you think you are to refer to a person as "damnable"?  IT'S NOT YOUR CALL.  (Given your leanings and your previous postings, Friend, I'm inclined not to believe he's even a racist, but I'm not having that discussion.)

So, Friend (and I know you're reading this), why did I change my privacy settings to let you read this particular post (and, of course, the other two parts through the links posted above)?  Because you and I are still fellow Christians.  First of all, as a Christian, I feel that it is important to call you out for your statements above, which, in my opinion, were decidedly not Christian.

Secondly, and more importantly, I feel called to end this bitterness.  Several of my comments to you in our Facebook discussions were not exactly Christian in nature either, and I feel that we both owe it to God to apologize.

So I'm sorry.  I'm not sorry for my viewpoints, but I am sorry for the way I defended them at times.

And what of you, Friend?  Do we reconcile, acknowledge that we are going to disagree on certain issues, and move forward, or do we part ways now?  It's your call.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Time Warner moves more channels to digital-only; no one cares

Gee, it's been two months; it must be time for more channel rearranging from Time Warner Cable in Austin.  This time around, TWC is moving no fewer than seven channels to digital-only, which, as has been stated before, means that they can only be viewed on a TV equipped with one of Time Warner's spiffy set-top boxes or with a CableCARD-equipped device.  (Set-top boxes and CableCARD-equipped devices were covered in my last Time Warner update.  And yes, my last update mentioned the removal of KADF-LP, channel 14; that apparently is still going to happen, eventually.)

Honestly, I can't imagine too many people in the greater Austin area caring a great deal about most of the channels that Time Warner is moving this time, as they consist of six access channels (10, 11, 16, 17, 19, and 22) and Channel 6, the city channel.  (Hey Snowed, didn't you report that 19 was being moved a year and a half ago?  Yes, I did.  And it was gone for a while, but for some reason it reappeared on my basic cable.  Go ask Time Warner.  And don't try the "legal notices" link in the old post; it's no longer good.)

If anything, I'd bet the most missed out of those seven will be Channel 6, as Austin has experienced the occasional heated discussion in a city council meeting.  But--and be honest--will you miss most of the programs that air on the other access channels, specifically 10, 11, and 16?  (The other three deal with organziations such as ACC, Travis County, and AISD, but 10, 11, and 16 are true public access channels.)  I just can't picture anyone saying, "Gee, I sure do miss seeing Perry Logan and his seizure-inducing 1980s-era video effects coupled with incoherent rantings with the gain turned up way too high!"  (Yes, it's a real access show in Austin.  No, I'm not giving him a link.)

The only thing I'd take from this development is the inevitability that eventually, all channels on Time Warner Cable will be digital only, if they're taking the trouble to change the access channels..  Multiple commenters have pointed out to me that transmitting channels digitally is a lot cheaper, and I certainly won't argue that point.  Plus, cable systems are, last I heard, only required to downconvert broadcast channels until 2012, at which point I totally expect to see my basic cable package discontinued.  (Sure, I'll bet Time Warner offers some discount at that point for people who will be forced to upgrade, but I'll also bet that the price given for whatever package they push during that promotion will not include the $8 a month for the converter box.  Of course, by then it'll probably be $10 anyway.)

So, maybe in 2012, after I lose my basic cable, I'll catch up on my reading list.  Or maybe I'll do something else.  Whatever it is, I'm fairly sure it won't involve upgrading any Time Warner services.

Update:  Kevin writes:  "The channels you mention are remaining on the basic tier, just being switched to digital only. You do not have to have a Time Warner set top box or CableCard to receive them, nor do you have to subscribe to the digital cable package. All you need is a TV equipped with a digital tuner or digital converter, the same equipment required to pick up digital broadcast channels with an antenna."

And Kevin is right, and I misread this originally.  Oops.

With that said, these moves by Time Warner still bode ill for subscribers like me who, due to budgetary concerns, still have a standard definition television, no set-top box (because cable is supposed to convert channels at least until 2012, as I understand it), and basic cable.  Maybe I'll just end up with the broadcast channels and nothing else.  And when that happens, the set-top box will pay for itself after just a few months of no cable television.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Requiem for a Friendship, Part Two

I have been writing about the sad destruction of a friendship, a destruction that was caused by political discussions.  In Part One, I discussed the beginnings of the conflict that developed between myself and a Facebook friend who does not agree with my political leanings in any way, shape, or form.

(You will recall that the other party of this destroyed friendship is referred to only as "Friend".  No name, no personal pronouns.  Friend could be anyone.  Friend could be *you*.)

Where it started to become quite apparent to me that a civil discussion with Friend was no longer possible was about four months ago, and it was thanks to a back-and-forth between talk show host Glenn Beck and Sojourners head Jim Wallis.  Sojourners, for the uninitiated, is a left-leaning Christian group dedicated to social justice, which sounds innocuous enough until one reads that Jim Wallis is described by some as a communist sympathizer.  It should be noted that I have read multiple books by Mr. Wallis and, while I did note a liberal bias, I certainly was not aware of the accusations leveled against Mr. Wallis. 

Now, as a lot of people are aware, Glenn Beck and Jim Wallis have had a few things to say to one another about "social justice", its meaning, and its relationship to Christianity.  (Yeah, Mr. Beck is a Mormon, and I know that some people have said he thus is not qualified to speak about Christianity, but I'm not going into that here.)

Where I got caught up into the Beck vs. Wallis idea was when I decided to comment on the link Friend posted on Facebook to this Sojourners post urging people to send e-mails to Glenn Beck stating that they were turning themselves in as "social justice" Christians.  I'm not going to comment on whether I agree with this tactic in the post Friend linked.  Anyway, I commented thus:

I think there's a major disconnect between the two sides as to what "social justice" means. I personally do not think that Jesus intended for social justice to be mandated through government (it certainly wasn't during his earthly life), but rather that social justice be carried out voluntarily by Christ-followers as a way of expressing God's love.

Friend countered with the quite biblical idea of jubilee, which, I pointed out, was not being practiced at all by the governing Roman authorities of the time.  Friend asked rhetorically whether Jesus endorsed the Roman government.  I responded:

You're missing my point. Jesus was talking about a personal commitment to social justice. He wasn't speaking in favor of a government-run social justice program...Rome certainly wasn't inclined to have such a thing, and nothing short of divine intervention was going to change that (and that wasn't how Jesus chose to act, of course).
Wallis and I differ in that I do not trust the government to run such a program with any sort of efficacy or without a great deal of fraud and graft. And based on previous programs, I doubt such a program would truly help very many people. This is something that we, as Christians, should be doing on our own already, without a government bureaucracy telling us how and what to do.

My next comment in the discussion pointed to a discussion about social justice and what that phrase means.  Opinions on the meaning of the phrase ran the gamut from helping the poor, which I would consider to be generally a good thing, to subsidizing the poor, which I would not consider beneficial. 

In any case, Friend responded to both these comments, proving once and for all that this discussion was destined to come to an impasse with his statement that "Jesus' ministry was fundamentally political"--that is, that his ministry was communal in nature.  Friend finished with this jab:

That's one reason why a libertarian approach to understanding Jesus will fail: it is fundamentally individual and looks for Jesus to say things about individuals' actions.

I will remind the reader at this point that I am not a libertarian; I remain a conservative with some, and only some, libertarian tendencies.  Friend, however, felt a need to pigeonhole me as a libertarian in order to rail against what Friend called "the tyranny of the rich".

I made one final comment in that particular discussion, the majority of which went as follows:

I cannot agree that Jesus's ministry was fundamentally communal. When I think of what he said, I think of the sermon on the mount, or of his parables, and I see a lot of places where he talks of a person's heart.
Now, when a group of Christ-followers comes together, there can definitely be a community effort to effect some good in this world. WE SHOULD BE DOING THAT ALREADY.
I just don't think it should be run by some government bureaucracy.

I continue to hold to this statement.  Now, obviously, modern American Christians have, in many ways and on many occasions, not met their obligations to love one another.  (That's not to say that churches and Christians don't do a lot of good works.)  We have missed opportunities to help each other, probably almost every day of our lives.  But putting a government entity in charge of it, complete with a lot of people who would have opportunity to manipulate the system to their own gains, seems to me to be a really bad idea.  (And on top of that, of course, a lot of the monies that could be used to help people would have to go to the overhead of such an entity, thus making the entire thing incredibly inefficient.)

While this discussion was mostly benign, it was becoming painfully obvious to me that Friend and I were going to be at loggerheads for the foreseeable future.

Part Three will explain how our conversations met a very sudden end.

Monday, July 05, 2010

What I learned at the Defending the American Dream summit

This weekend I had the chance to attend the Texas Defending the American Dream summit, which was held here in Austin.  While my usual modus operandi is to sit anonymously behind a computer, this was a chance to get to meet a lot of kindred minds, and to learn that, despite all appearances, there are quite a few conservatives online in the Austin and central Texas area.

And what is the Defending the American Dream summit, you might ask?  This was an event of grassroots participants from across the state who are dedicated to lower taxes and limited government, two things which are in short supply these days at any level of government.  (You can see the webpage for the event here, along with the agenda of speakers.)  It was spearheaded by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, about which you can read more here, or you can see the Texas Chapter's page here.

Being, as I am, a blogger of limited influence (at this point, the author takes a moment to say hello to his most faithful reader, his father), I knew that there would be people who are much more effective at defining the discussion (to avoid being defined by others who are all too happy to do it for our side), and I really was looking forward to hearing what they had to say.

So with that said, here are some of the main ideas I learned from the summit:

  • Make lists.  Apparently search engines really like lists.  Like, say, this one.
  • Define yourself first (as mentioned above), so that you can control your message.  It's a lot harder to spread the message that government is getting its hands into too many things with which it has no business interfering when you're stuck on the defensive, in the position of having to prove you're not a racist who hates the president.  Because I don't know about you, but that's not who I am.  (Aside:  I don't hate anyone.  But some people sure do tick me off.)
  • If you are to have some influence in the online political world, you have to have an active social network, and you have to share the love.
  • What happens on Facebook/Youtube stays there.  (In my own experience, this is also true for blogging...that's why I still regularly get hits from people because of a rather crude and probably un-Christian remark I made about a certain starlet three years ago.)
  • Run Google alerts on your name.  In doing this for myself, I discovered that despite the relative obscurity of my real name, there are at least two people with my name more famous than I am (at least, two people dominated page one of the results).  That's probably good.
I also learned some specifics about doing more checking up on various government entities, which I'd love to put into practice at some point.

All of the speakers at the event who I saw (check out a list of the speakers) were quite good.  They were quite dynamic, and they all spoke well about their particular topics.

And don't get the idea that the entire event was simply a rah-rah event for Republicans.  The Republican Party was taken to task as well for abandoning its own principles during the last years of Republican control over the Congress (you may have noticed, for example, that the Republicans were pretty good at running up debt and handing out pork left and right too).  What the event was, at least to me, was a call to action, a call to stand for what I (and most, if not all, of the other attendees) believe.

Oh, and if I haven't said so already, many thanks to the AFP Foundation for hosting this.  It was quite an enjoyable experience.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Requiem for a Friendship, Part One

I generally enjoy having political discussions with my friends, or at least those who enjoy them as well.  Those of my readers who are also friends on Facebook know this.

But with that said, I've come the realization in the last year or so that there are some friends with whom I cannot have these types of discussions because both of us are so set in our opinions (which, naturally, in this situation, are polar opposites) that there would be no persuading either party of anything, and we would both most likely leave the discussion more frustrated than anything else.  And that's fine, and I figured that we would skip those discussions and move on, remaining friends.

Sadly, life is not so straightforward.

I have gone on to learn in the last few months that not only are there some people with whom I should not have political discussions, there are also people whose disregard for the rules of arguing fairly can and do destroy friendships.  This has happened to me.

I have (yes, still present tense, as of this writing) a Facebook friend, who, for the purposes of maintaining this person's identity, I shall call "Friend".  (Catchy name, I know, but it does manage to hide not only Friend's name but Friend's gender...you will all be glad to know that Friend is not gender-neutral.  It also reminds me of a favorite book of mine as a child.  100 bonus points to the person who catches the reference.)  I have known Friend for quite a while, and Friend and I not only both grew up in the same Christian denomination but also both remain in that same denomination, as far as I know.

Very soon after I friended Friend (or vice-versa, I don't remember), I noticed that Friend had political opinions different from my own.  The first inkling of what was to come was when I posted a link to an entry entitled "Fears of a Straw Man".  I don't know whether Friend realized that I was the author when Friend commented on the link; I suppose it doesn't matter at this point.  Either way, what Friend wrote was insulting to me, with flowery, yet cutting, phrases such as "It sounds like Mr. Snowed doesn't have a solid grip on the reality of party politics...[h]e projects embarrasingly [sic]...Mr. Snowed simply doesn't read and think well."  If I had known then what I know now, I would not have engaged Friend any further.

The rest of Friend's comments had to do with some of the subjects of the post in question (namely, Rush Limbaugh, David Brooks, and Sarah Palin); these statements betrayed that Friend approached my post with so rigid a set of presuppositions that nothing I wrote would have convinced Friend of anything.  To wit:  "Limbaugh is a patently wicked man, Brooks is a consistently pragmatic party voice, and Palin is a ridiculously embarrassing pol for her ignorance, incuriosity, and toothless attempts at self-justification..." 

As I said earlier, if I had only known...

Friend's later comments on similar comments displayed the same rigidity, along with what came across as an elitist attitude, particularly about Sarah Palin (who, as my regular readers know, has a lot of similar opinions to my own), with statements such as "Palin is an illiterate, incurious buffoon," or "Palin does not think seriously and deeply about things. If she did, it would show in her speech and writing. The depth of her incoherence is shocking, and I've seen nothing remotely like it in national U.S. politics."

If that weren't enough, Friend took it one step further:  "We do scratch our heads at why you advocate such ignorance in high office. It's not such a great (if lazy) leap to 'You, too, are stupid.'"

Obviously, my assumption that a civil discussion was possible with Friend about politics was incredibly off-target.  And it got worse before it got better.  We'll delve deeper into the messier parts later.