Friday, January 25, 2013

Dunt-Da-Da-DUUUUHHH!!!

The Angry Powerless Virtual Fist And His Trusty Sidekick, Overweight Carpal Tunnel Guy! Tune In Each Week To Watch Them Blast The Internet With Scathing Critiques Of Big Shots Who Ignore Them And Literary Agents Who Haven't Responded To Their Queries! Every Week They Strike A Blow For Helpless Frustration!

(Thanks to Indigo.)

What's The Deal With Guy Fieri's Convertible? Please Tell Me If You Know!

If you don't know, feel free to take a guess. I'm talking about the late-60's-or-so muscle-car convertible Guy drives on location in every single episode of "Diners, Drive-In and Dives." What I'm asking is, how does that car get to all of those locations? Does Guy actually drive it himself, back and forth again and again and again, from sea to shining sea and all over the 48? Does some poor schlub of a Food Network intern drive it cross-country for minimum wage? (Or worse, does some unpaid intern do it? And while we're at it -- at exactly what point does this crap with not paying interns cease to be merely disgusting and actually become illegal? Maybe I'll return to that point in another blog post.) Is the car FedEx'd hither and yon while Guy flies first class?

Is it actually several convertibles posing as one, one based in Maine, another in Texas, another in California, another in Memphis and yet another in Boise?

(Yes, it has been a rather slow Friday. And thank you for asking!)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sequel To My Blog Post "Don't Play Their Game" Or: Whose Game Is This, Anyway?

In the polemic which I entitled Don't Play Their Game and posted here last May, I said, addressing some of my fellow atheists who spend a lot of time and energy debating Christian clegypeople and theologians about subjects such as the existence of God:

We [don't] have to follow them into every absurd corner of their work in order to refute them. Indeed, if we do follow them around every turn of their labyrinths, I fear we may actually be aiding them in their work, which is taking a worldview which is simple, simplistic, primitive and crude as can be, and dressing it up and convincing people that it is complex and deep and subtle. Answering their detailed absurdities in detail may be showing too much courtesy to them and not enough respect to ourselves and to anyone else possessed of common sense

And I stand by that, except that I'm beginning to ask myself, "What you mean, 'we,' Kimosabe?" How naive of me was it to hope for solidarity from certain other atheists on this point? It's very often speculated, and not unreasonably, I think, that a significant number of clergy and theologians, and other scholars in related fields, may have completely lost their faith, but behave as if they still have it, purely and simply to protect the justification for their careers. I'm ashamed to say that it took more than 8 months after posting "Don't Play Their Game" before it occurred to me that some professional atheists might completely agree with me -- and with Nietzsche: see Morgenroethe, first book, aphorism 95 -- that Christian theology is too absurd and simplistic to merit any elaborate response, but that they might behave as if they don't agree, because if they did, well, they'd have to find some other sort of gig.

I never was very good at poker.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

An Open Letter to Professor Bart D Ehrman

Dr Ehrman, it has been less than a year since I began to pay more than passing attention to your work. I read Did Jesus Exist?which was the number-one topic of conversation among my circle of acquaintances for months, and then The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture,which I think is greatly admired by everyone I know who's read it, and now I've started in on your new book, Forgery and Counterforgery.

I left graduate school, not for the first time but for the last, in 1992, and since then I have continued pursuits very similar to what would be considered academic. You might say that I'm in Independent Studies -- so independent that I can no longer officially involve a university in my work. In 2007, only because I was fortunate enough to know a psychologist personally who specialized in diagnosing autism, who for years had persistently suggested I undergo testing, I was diagnosed as autistic -- which explained many things in retrospect, including my difficulties in pursuing an academic career despite my passionate interest in academic subjects. Since 1992 I have been an autodidact, studying a wide range of subjects, most especially Latin literature of all eras. My Latin is completely self-taught. How good is my Latin? In the complete absence of tests to measure my progress, instructors to criticize my work and fellow-students against whom to measure myself, it's very hard to say. But having studied German and French as a student, the process of language acquisition was not entirely foreign to me. How many languages can I read, write or speak? As with anyone, the answer depends on how low the bar is set. My native language is English, I'm fluent in German, and I know some Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and a little bit of some other languages.

Including, lately, Greek and Hebrew, because in 2010, entirely by chance, I happened upon some Internet communities made up of academic Biblical scholars and academics in related fields and interested amateurs, and I feel I must become more familiar with the primary languages of the Bible in order to be able to participate with anything approaching competence in some of the discussions going on among my new acquaintances. Up until then I knew the Bible almost entirely in the form of the Vulgate and the KJV and the Greek Church fathers hardly at all. I had already been dipping my toe, lazily, into the study of Greek, because the more I knew of pre-Christian Latin literature the more keenly I felt my lack of knowledge of Greek, because the literature and other aspects of the culture of the ancient Romans is to such a large degree merely an imitation of and homage to that of Greece.

But of course the beginnings of Christianity are recorded almost entirely in Greek. And now that I've suddenly met all of these people who seriously study Greek and Hebrew, I must make an attempt to keep up. I've reached that wonderful stage of language study where it truly is more fascination than drudgery, and on those occasions when I still become weary of it, I just think of I F Stone: began a course of study in ancient Greek in his 60's, and at the time of his death in his early 80's, so the story goes, he had begun energetically to study Hungarian.

So. Yeah. I'm about polyglotism. So you could dismiss my point by telling yourself that I'm crazy, if you don't know very much about autism, or that I'm obsessed, if you know a little more about it. Just laying out some options for you, trying to be helpful here, before getting to my point, and yes I have rambled a bit before getting to my point. Here it comes now: On page x of Forgery and Counterforgery you mention that originally you had intended to leave all citations of non-English texts untranslated in the main body of the page, with translations consigned to footnotes, but that everyone who talked to you about this was against it, and so you relented, and non-English citations are now in the footnotes and translation in the main text.

I wish that you had gone against the advice of every single person who advised you on this. As you point out on page x, Forgery and Counterforgery is, indeed, a scholarly book. But many more non-scholars read your scholarly books than read most of the scholarly books published in your field. Was this an argument for consigning the non-English passages to the footnotes? For me, it's an argument that you should have done what you wanted to do, and left them in the main text. You and Crossan and Paigels and a few others are the public face of your academic specialty. For centuries, academics in the English-speaking world, and especially academics in the United States, have steadily, disastrously followed a course toward monolingualism. (Thankfully, in the past few decades more and more English-speaking Americans are acknowledging that the US is multilingual, seeing at the very least that tens of millions of Americans speak Spanish as their native language, and realizing some of the benefits of learning at least a little Spanish, and sometimes other languages still. This is happening outside of academia as well as inside, I'm not sure how much credit academics can take for this healthy and natural trend.) Not so many decades ago every Bachelor of Arts in the US, or almost every single one, was still expected to have passed some courses in foreign languages. Now Biblical studies is one of a rapidly-shrinking number of disciplines in which monoligualism is still unacceptable. Yes, many non-academics will read this book. It would have been very good if you had emphasized to them the multilingual character of your work to them, the importance of not relying on translation. If you had shown them a truly scholarly example in the best sense of the term.

Best regards, and Forgery and Counterforgery still seems so far like an excellent book. Like apparently absolutely everyone I know personally who's read it, I found Orthodox Corruption to be excellent. I forgive you for Did Jesus Exist? and for appearing as a talking head on at least one program produced especially for the so-called "History Channel."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Help Me Defeat Dan Brown's War On History

As Randall Munroe famously pointed out years ago, someone was WRONG on the INTERNET! Tell me about it, Randall! And despite years' worth of heroic effort on the part of Munroe and other well-informed and occasionally sleep-deprived people, someone is still wrong! Several people are wrong! ...Well, let's face it: many people are wrong.

And it's usually Dan Brown's fault.

A few days ago, within the space of an hour or so, I believe I contradicted four people separately, each of whom had asserted that the Bible had been altered at the Council of Nicea. Even if I wanted to, even if I had nothing else to do, I don't think I could correct every single person who makes that mistake in a reader's comment on the Huffington Post alone, let alone the rest of the Internet. Even if I corrected that one mistake every time it appeared in the readers' comments on HP, even if I hung in there with multiple replies, I doubt I could convince all of those readers all by myself that they were wrong about even just that one thing. If I'm going to convince everyone in the world about even just this one thing, I'm going to need help. And of course it's not as if this is the only thing that people are wrong about on the Internet.

Who's with me? Who will stand up beside me and shout, "I'M SPARTACUS!" ?

Dan Brown's Inferno

Okay, Dan Brown is going to publish a novel about Dante. I suppose it's the duty of The Wrong Monkey to do something, to not merely take this lying down. And so I'm going to suggest some authors you might want to consider reading instead of Brown. (Search for posts labelled "dan brown" to see reasons not to read Brown.)

First of all, Dante comes to mind. Preferably untranslated. Part of the reason such a fuss is made about him to begin with is that his writing really sings. It's beautiful in ways which can't be translated. And I'm talking about the Latin works as well as the Italian ones. I was lucky enough to find a volume in a second hand book store years ago, containing Dante's complete works ("Tutti le opere"), edited by a certain Dr Moore, published by Oxford in 1897, pre-acidic paper, for seven freaking bucks. Or maybe that was just normal, not freakishly lucky. I'll probably never understand book pricing. Anyway, "tutti le opere" is what yr lookin for, happy hunting.

Another thing I stumbled a cross in a used-book store is Guido Da Pisa's Commentary on Dante's Inferno.Written in the 14th century, published for the first time in its entirety in 1974, and according to its editor, Vincenzo Cioffari, it was in 1974 "by common agreement among Dante scholars" the most important commentary on the Inferno which hadn't yet been published. I'm not a Dante scholar, I'm just telling you what Cioffari said. For myself I can only say that I found Guido's commentary (written in Latin) to be quite fascinating. Lots of detail about the political and social background of the Inferno, many edifying references to ancient and Medieval Latin authors who were always in the air which bookish lads like Dante and Guido breathed. Good stuff. Really helps you enjoy the Inferno more.

Unfortunately, as I said, I'm not a Dante scholar and I only stumbled upon that volume of his works and upon Guido's commentary. So I don't have much more to tell you about Dante. I can't even tell you who would be some of the best people to tell you all about Dante. So instead I'm just going to leave the subject of Dante now, and instead just list a bunch of authors who have nothing in common except that I think they're all miles better than Dan Brown, and beg you -- beg! -- if you are planning to read a novel by Brown, to just consider looking at at least one book by at least one of these other people instead, and who knows, you might just be glad you did. I'll list them by genres of writing and by their native languages and by other categories. And if you haven't already discovered the joys of multiligualism I'll just mention that it's great, and urge you to try to learn new languages. (It's a really great thing to do in so many ways. Very difficult, for most of us -- but so worth it!)

Writers of fiction, either contemporary or recently-deceased, writing in English: William H Gass, Walter Abish, Thomas Pynchon, Margaret Atwood (also a poet), Richard Powers, Barry Unsworth, Evan Dara, Salman Rushdie, William T Vollmann, Steven Bollinger, William Gaddis, Padgett Powell, Barry Hannah, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Cormac McCarthy

Writers of fiction in English further back in the past: Henry Fielding, Herbert Melville (also wrote poetry), Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Flannery O'Conner

Poets writing in Engliah: Alexander Pope, William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, W H Auden, Wallace Stevens, Allan Ginsburg

Historians, English: Edward Gibbon, Steven Runciman, Samuel Eliot Morison

Historians writing in German: Leopold von Ranke, Theodor Mommsen

Wrote in German, partly an historian, partly an essayist, partly a philosopher, partly an art critic, entirely awesome: Jacob Burckhardt

Wrote in English, even harder to classify than Burckhardt: Edmund Wilson

Philosophers writing in German: Karl Marx, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W Adorno, Elias Canetti (Canetti also wrote novels and several volumes' worth of autobiography and published fascinating diaries), Herbert Marcuse

More novelists and/or playwrights writing in German: Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen, Lessing, Goethe (also a philosopher, geologist, biologist, discredited writer on optics and publisher of slightly-fictionalized memoirs), Doeblin, Brecht, Heinrich Mann, Ingeborg Bachmann

An Italian novelist: Italo Svevo

Philosophers writing in French: Leibniz (also wrote in Latin. Underrated mathamatician and possibly not a liar as is often claimed by fans of Newton), Voltaire, Sartre, Derrida, Barthes, Gorz

And, well, I could go on, but you get the idea. Just let me point out: I'm vouching for each one of these guys and gals personally. I've read their stuff and liked it, I'm not just copying names from lists of famous authors. Okay, that reminds me: I've read a few famous authors whom I recommend you don't read. Overrated, and not sorted by language: Plato, Cicero, Seneca, Augustine of Hippo, Aquinas, Robert Grosseteste -- okay: every theologian I've ever had the misfortune to read, with the exception of Kierkegaard, who wrote brilliantly in genres besides theology but who also became unspeakably dull whenever his theological tendency emerged -- Hegel, Thomas Carlyle, John Updike, Ernest Hemingway, Christa Wolf, Lord Byron

There's no need to read Dan Brown. Honestly, you'd be much better off even reading any of those overrated schmucks in the preceding paragraph.

Sincerely,

Your Pal

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Jesus -- A Parable, Perhaps

Contemporary Biblical scholars, many of them anyway, seem to agree that the amount of biography of Jesus we currently possess can be contained in a sentence not much longer than this sentence, if that long. Doesn't stop them writing book-length biographies of Him, though, does it? Yes, that's a bit unfair on my part. R Joseph Hoffmann's upcoming book on Jesus will not be a biography, strictly speaking, but a book-length argument for the case of Jesus' historicity. But Hoffmann is still not a strict historicist. Unlike many Biblical scholars, he still does not say that it is "certain" that Jesus existed. In his latest blog post, he again characterizes the case for the historical Jesus as "plausible."

And I agree that an historical Jesus is a plausible explanation for how Christianity began, a plausible way of accounting for its existence. Indeed, I think it's the single most plausible explanation. But all other possible explanations put together may outweigh the historical Jesus. And the smaller the amount of information about Him which is thought to be historical, the easier it is to plausibly account for Christianity without relying on the existence of Jesus.

I'm as weary as just about anyone is of inept mythicist analogies between Jesus and Hercules or Dionysis or Attis or Mithras, and as impatient as anyone with mythicists who tirelessly talk about ancient history without first having seriously studied it. And seriousness means, among other things, examining the primary texts, ideally untranslated, and at least translated and with more than a passing thought to the accuracy of the translations and more than a passing knowledge of the transmission of those primary texts.

But another analogy to the story of Jesus has just occurred to me: to the parable of the prodigal son. (See Luke 15:11-32.) Did the prodigal son really exist? Was Jesus -- assuming, of course, that Jesus existed and actually told this story -- talking about someone he knew, or about someone known to someone else who had told him the story? It's certainly possible. Can we say that the historical, flesh-and-blood existence of the prodigal son is certain? Of course we cannot. Is there cause to give the possibility of the historical existence of Jesus more weight than that of the prodigal son? Yes. A lot more weight? In my opinion -- no. Perhaps I simply don't understand what the Biblical scholars are talking about when they go on and on about what they consider to be good reasons to give credence to the notion of Jesus as an actual flesh-and-blood man and not a fictional character.

Or perhaps what lies behind their arguments is not so much logic as habit. As habit more than logic lay behind the arguments of scholars who a century ago were still convinced of the historical existence of Moses. (Not that I'm convinced that there was no Moses and no Exodus. But certainly -- "certain" is a term I feel is much over-used, but here comes an exception -- if there really was a Moses and an exodus, it involved far fewer than the six hundred thousand families mentioned in the Bible, and very probably lasted much less than the Biblical forty years.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Somebody's Missing Something (Might Be Me)

For years -- decades, actually -- I was unable to read Immanuel Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft.In most attempts -- in the more merciful cases -- I would simply fall quickly to sleep. When I stayed awake I quickly became very annoyed, and wondered when Kant was going to stop prattling about next to nothing and get down to the critique of this thing he called pure reason. Finally, recently, I gritted my teeth and read the whole thing, and I didn't merely hate it. I've enjoyed and felt greatly edified by some other of Kant's works, especially the ones written before the famous Critiques. But I not only hated the Critique of Pure Reason: I wondered whether I was way past everything he said in this, his universally-acknowledged masterpiece. I came to an agonizing, Kierkegaardian Either/Or moment: either I didn't understand what Kant was driving at, and never would, or Kant and his fans were wrong in their belief that he had surpassed Hume. If I'm right, then an awful lot of very smart people who feel that Kant has helped them past certain mental points where Hume had left them stumped are wrong. A third possibility, that I will eventually understand Kant's Critiques as an advance past Humeist (Humean?) impasses, does not strike me as realistic at this point, after I have read so much earlier philosophy to which Kant refers, and so much later philosophy which refers to him. (Nietzsche is one of the few philosophers who refer to Kant negatively, but he does so in passing, in not enough detail for me to know whether his reasons for rejecting Kant resemble mine at all.) (And yes, I do realize that I have not explained my objections to the Critique of Pure Reason at all.)

I say all of the above as preamble to a more recent Either/Or moment of mine: either theologians are writing way above my head almost all of the time, and I will very probably never even begin to understand what they are saying; or I, and Goethe, and not a few others, are thinking at a level way above that not only of the theologians themselves, but of anyone who finds any theologians to be brilliant or finds any reward in reading them. Somebody is missing a whole lot here. Might be me. Might be me and Nietzsche and Goethe and a lot of others. Then again it might not. R Joseph Hoffmann has written many things which I have found to be insightful, witty, profound -- and then he starts writing admiringly of someone like Aquinas, and he's lost me. Somebody's missing something. Might be me. (Might not.) And I might be missing a whole great big bunch of stuff when it seems to me that Hoffmann -- like Ehrman, like Crossan -- has begun to make illogical leaps which I can only describe as theological, in his recent comments on the historicity of Jesus. He is not strictly historicist now, but in several recent posts on his blog The New Oxonian, Hoffmann presents his current take on historicity, which is similar to the current mainstream position of New Testament scholars and authorities in related fields: first they assert that very little, if any, or what the New Testament says about what Jesus said or did can be relied upon as historical. And they add that neither the earliest non-Christian references to Christianity: Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, etc, nor any of the non-canonical Gospels, with the exception of the Gospel of Thomas in the opinion of only a minority of scholars, can be regarded as primary sources, or make up for the deficiencies of the New Testament as an historical record.

And then they add that it is however certain, or close to it, that he did exist, which is where they completely lose me. And they place all sorts of requirements on mythicist arguments before they will consider any of them to be reasonable, requirements which seem to me to be utterly unreasonable, not applied to their own historicist arguments, and basically pulled out of their fundaments.

I expect to be thoroughly puzzled by Hoffmann's upcoming book on the historicity of Jesus, or to have lost all faith in the soundness of his reasoning by the time it is published. I have not given up on ever finding what looks to me to be reason in historicist arguments, but I have taken a step in that direction, and that makes me sad. Not because I want Jesus' existence to be proven -- I continue to maintain that I am actually objective here, and wish simply for understanding to increase, in whatever direction that greater understanding may lead us -- but because it seems Either that there is precious little sound thinking going on concerning the Jesus question, (Don't even get me started on the non-academic mythicists.) Or that I am not particularly bright when it comes to understanding ancient texts and ancient artifacts related as evidence to those texts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Couple of Points About Judeo-Christian History and Some Reasons it's So Poorly Understood

It has been pointed out before that many New Atheists spend a lot of time talking and writing about the history of religion, most of all the early history of Judaism and Christianity, while at the same time betraying a remarkable ignorance about that history: referring to the authors of the Bible as "Bronze Age goat herders," talking about how Constantine and "the Vatican" supposedly wrote or re-wrote the Bible at Nicea in 325, insisting that a Christian doctrine of celibacy was unknown before around AD 1000, and so forth. Lately, in discussion centering around Karen L King's presentation of a piece of papyrus she refers to as the "Gospel of Jesus' Wife," I've run into a meme which is very popular but was entirely new to me: the belief that "all" Jewish men in the 1st century AD were required to be married. An amazing number of people seem to take for granted that this is so. I asked many of them where they had gotten this notion, without getting a straight answer. Finally yesterday I found out that the "all Jewish men in Jesus' time were required to be married" meme is another mistake presented in that huge pile of mistakes, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

A few days ago I was talking with some people about the widespread, thoroughly unscientific belief that vaccinations cause autism. A psychotherapist, a specialist in autism, pointed out that the people asserting the vaccine-autism link and attempting to treat autistics with crystals and pyramids are extremely mistrustful of the medical establishment, thinking that doctors and pharmaceutical companies are primarily interested in maximizing their incomes, at the expense of the best possible medical care. I replied that they were partly right, that many people in health care are primarily motivated by greed -- but that those people were working side by side with the people capable of providing the best care, the people who were by far the most expert in the field of medicine. That in fact sometimes one and the same doctor or Big Pharma exec must have both of those motivations, fighting against each other. There's a similar situation with the established academic community in the study of religion: there's a cozy relationship with rich and corrupt religious institutions, with apologetics who are not always sincere, with people who abuse children and/or protect child abusers from prosecution, etc. But these corrupt individuals are working side by side with those who know the most about the history of religion, indeed they're sometimes the same individuals.

Just as the business of medicine and pharmacy must address corruption within its ranks if it wishes to reach people who, for example, die unnecessarily early from cancer because they don't trust doctors and don't take prescription medications, so we who grind our teeth and clutch our heads in agony at the widespread notions of history which have far more to do with authors like Dan Brown than with any sort of rigourous historical study must address the corruptions and crimes of Christianity if we wish to get through to people who think that Constantine and "the Vatican" re-wrote the Bible, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a Christian, and is lying if they say they're not a Christian. Let's face it, the great majority of the people who are taking the trouble to correct Brown's mistakes are Christians. The great majority of people who are familiar with a lot of the actual history of the early Church are Christians.

Just in case someone's reading along here who's familiar with Brown's take on things, but still willing to consider the possibility that I can present a more accurate depiction of events, and that I have no secret agenda here, let's just take the one Brownian mistake about Constantine and the Pope re-writing the Bible at Nicea in 325:

1) Pope Sylvester wasn't at Nicea, he sent two representatives in his place.

2) In 325 the Bishop of Rome wasn't generally referred to as the Pope, but simply as the Bishop of Rome, and wasn't thought of as a higher authority within Christendom than the Bishop of Alexandria or of Antioch. The Pope's position of power in the Western Empire only began to establish itself after the Western Empire disintegrated in the 5th century, and the Church stepped into the power vacuum left by the Empire.

3) The contents of the Bible weren't on the agenda of the Council of Nicea. Constantine's main reason for calling the Council was to address the constant bickering between the Bishops. The two biggest competing factions in Christendom were the factions which eventually defeated the others and became what we now know as Orthodox (including what we now call Catholics); and the Arians. The Orthodox Bishops far outnumbered the Arian Bishops at the Council, and the Council adopted the Nicene Creed, which was first and foremost a rejection of Arianism. It's not clear that Constantine cared which side won, as long as unity was achieved, and that he wouldn't have backed the Arians if there had been more of their Bishops at the Council than Orthodox Bishops.

4) Constantine created a second capital of the Empire at the city which became known as Constantinople. This of course greatly weakened the power and prestige of the city of Rome, and along with it the power and prestige of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. This does not sound to me like an Emperor who was conspiring with the Pope.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not Rocket Scientists

It's the morning of New Year's Day. In the wee hours the Senate passed a save-ourselves-from-this-totally-unnecessary-self-inflicted-financial-gunshot-in-the-foot bill. People are generally lounging around at home today. I'll bet C-SPAN 1, which covers the House of Representatives, is experiencing record-high viewership right now, as people coast-to-coast who have nothing else to do have woken to the dramatic news of the Senate passing the bill -- by a vote of 89-8 -- and now are waiting for the House to do something, but C-SPAN isn't in the House right now because the House hasn't convened. Boehner has announced he will brief House Republicans on the bill at 1PM. The House might not vote on the bill at all today. One thing the House Republicans have done today is officially announced that they were upset by the President being a big meanie in his public comments about them yesterday.

Keep playing to that shrinking base, guys. Keep ignoring your record-low, incredibly-tiny, still-sinking favorability ratings. On the one hand I'm irked by your inaction on this bill, but on the other hand, as a Democrat looking forward to the 2014 elections and beyond, I'm genuinely grateful for your help.