Saturday, December 31, 2005

Steve Martin: The Leap Second is un-American

Friday, December 30, 2005

No Child Left Behind
I guess I'm the only person who thinks this, but I don't mind that "gifted" students receive less attention under a push to help under-performing students. If a choice has to be made, it seems clearly more important to me that a broad range of students become competent in basic skills than that a few brilliant minds are nurtured. Public education fails when children get through who can't read, write or perform basic math well, who enter adulthood with no hope of contributing or participating in society. That is a far bigger failure than when some of the smarter kids are bored in the 4th grade. There, I said it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

No Child Left Behind?
The blogosphere is buzzing, the way only it can, over this Washington Post op-ed on education and the No Child Left Behind Act. I have lots to say about this, but I'm going to sleep on it a day and make sure I still respect myself in the morning. In the meantime, read it yourself and see what you think. Here's a choice bit, but read the whole thing.
By forcing schools to focus their time and funding almost entirely on bringing low-achieving students up to proficiency, NCLB sacrifices the education of the gifted students who will become our future biomedical researchers, computer engineers and other scientific leaders.
Not surprisingly, with the entire curriculum geared to ensuring that every last child reaches grade-level proficiency, there is precious little attention paid to the many children who master the standards early in the year and are ready to move on to more challenging work. What are these children supposed to do while their teachers struggle to help the lowest-performing students?
I'm especially interested what you public school teachers out there think, as well as you parents of public schoolers. If my immediate blasphemous reaction still feels right tomorrow--frankly my mind may have changed 3 times by then--I'll write it up in the morning.
Wrongful Use of a Condom
There is so much wrong with this story I don't know where to start.
Bryn Mawr College student Janet Lee invented an unusual method of stress relief. She filled condoms with flour, then squeezed them. Flying can be stressful, so she brought three flour-filled condoms with her to carry on a flight. This turned out to be an unfortunate idea, as airport screeners searched her luggage and found the condoms, which they assumed to be filled with cocaine -- an assumption Philadelphia police claim was confirmed by field tests. Lee spent three weeks behind bars on drug trafficking charges before the error was discovered.
I absolutely believe Janet Lee deserved to spend time in jail, clearly not for what she was charged with. The only question is which of her many crimes is most heinous?

Submit your nominations in comments. I'm torn between the stupidity of carrying something like that on a plane, and her not having thought of any better method of stress-relief involving a condom. Please! Give it to someone less fortunate who could make better use of it!

Anyway, airports are filled with those little stress balls in gift shops. And if you just have to make one yourself, please, respect the condom. Use a balloon! Somewhere a needy couple will be frantically scouring the room for that last condom (under the bed! behind the alarm clock!) and will have to go to bed, er, hungry. Janet should have to think about her wasteful actions. 3 weeks probably weren't enough.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Barr: Bush = Clinton
Former Clinton impeachment House manager Bob Barr has seen this all before. His Atlanta Journal op-ed blasts the Bush response to the spy scandal:
Two of the most powerful moments of political déjà vu I have ever experienced took place recently in the context of the Bush administration's defense of presidentially ordered electronic spying on American citizens.

First, in the best tradition of former President Bill Clinton's classic, "it-all-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is" defense, President Bush responded to a question at a White House news conference about what now appears to be a clear violation of federal electronic monitoring laws by trying to argue that he had not ordered the National Security Agency to "monitor" phone and e-mail communications of American citizens without court order; he had merely ordered them to "detect" improper communications.
On foreign policy, domestic issues, relationships with Congress, and even their selection of White House Christmas cards and china patterns, presidents are as different as night and day. But when caught with a hand in the cookie jar and their survival called into question, administrations circle the wagons, fall back on time-worn but often effective defense mechanisms, and seamlessly morph into one another.
Is there a worse slap in the face Bush could get than a comparison to Clinton scandals?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The last 2 days, some Democrats have gotten excited about a Robert Novak column in which he suggested; 1) that Trent Lott may retire instead of run for reelection in '06; 2) that is that should happen, Democrats have a better-than-even chance of picking up his Mississippi Senate seat; and 3) Democrats stand a good chance of turning that one development into a reclaiming of the entire Senate next year.

I say fat chance. Frist is gone, and Lott wants his Majority Leader spot back. If he's making noise about going home it's probably just to try and secure the support of his colleagues for a return to his post. If they promise to vote for him, he'll promise to remain in the Senate. It's a pretty good bluff though, really.

Either way, the Novak column hardly deserves the headline given it by the Huffington Post: "Southern Red States Turning Blue." That's just silly.
Local Holiday Tragedy
The Nun Bun was Stolen!
This is a good plan
A wedge issue for Democrats. And we're using it:
New Year's Day will bring the ninth straight year in which the federal minimum wage has remained frozen at $5.15 an hour, marking the second-longest period that the nation has had a stagnant minimum wage since the standard was established in 1938.

Against that backdrop, Democrats are preparing ballot initiatives in states across the country to boost turnout of Democratic-leaning voters in 2006. Labor, religious, and community groups have launched efforts to place minimum-wage initiatives on ballots in Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Arkansas, and Montana next fall.

Democrats say the minimum wage could be for them what the gay-marriage referendums were in key states for Republicans last year -- an easily understood issue that galvanizes their supporters to show up on Election Day.
Last year, both minimum wage increases on state ballots won overwhelmingly. Voters in Florida and Nevada -- two states that went narrowly for Bush -- overwhelmingly supported a higher minimum wage, giving ballot measures 71 percent support in Florida and 68 percent in Nevada. (The Nevada initiative must be approved again in 2006 before it can take effect.)

Democrats say they hope to replicate Republicans' success in 2004, when ballot initiatives banning gay marriage passed in all 11 states they were offered. The initiatives were credited with boosting GOP turnout in those states.

The minimum wage can have a similar cross-country resonance, particularly after Hurricane Katrina exposed the dire poverty that exists in parts of the nation, said the Rev. Paul Sherry, the Cleveland-based coordinator of "Let Justice Roll" and a former president of the United Church of Christ. Sherry said his group is considering broadening its efforts to launch state legislative campaigns for a higher minimum wage in states including New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

"It cuts across all kinds of ideological lines," Sherry said. "People on the conservative side of the political sphere, as well as the liberal, see the need for a decent wage for people."
Republicans avoid minimum wage votes for a reason. Hopefully this strategy well help get people to the polls that also have the good sense to vote for Democratic congressional candidates.

Monday, December 26, 2005

2 Questions this Media Monday:
1. What have you been reading, listening to, watching?
2. What media did you get for Christmas that you're excited about reading, listening to, or watching?

British Intelligence
From The Telegraph:
Here's the setup:
Ever since America gave us rock and roll and we gave them back beat music, the ebb and flow of ideas and talent between these two great musical powers has been the creative engine of pop culture. But my recent encounter with Floetry, a British group apparently unwanted in the UK but lauded in the US, has led me to wonder if the special relationship is still special.

In recent years it has all been a bit one-sided. They gave us hip hop, grunge, R&B and the überpop of the mouseketeers (Britney, Christina and Justin) and, in return, we gave them Dido. Actually, they gave us Dido, too, because she was signed and developed in the US and rose to fame with Eminem. But lately there have been signs of an even more pronounced continental drift.
Here's the conclusion:
American pop is in danger of becoming as inward-looking as its politics, and local acts are more than willing to fill that vacuum.

One result is that Britain is exporting music to America once again.
You'll have to read the whole thing to see how he got from one to the other.

Top Tens
Metacritics has a comprehensive collection of top ten lists from critics:

Why, Jamie?
The NYTimes reviews 2 new CDs; one gets a nice long deserved write-up, a box set of Miles Davis live recordings from the musically turbulent (for him) 1970 period. The second review is new music from Jamie Foxx. Yes, the actor/comedian. Apparently, when he's not sounding like Ray Charles, Jamie's musical taste, and his inspiration, are a bit lacking.
Between takes on movie sets, Jamie Foxx must have been studying the Kama Sutra. His debut album, "Unpredictable," is nearly all about sex. As he sings in "Three Letter Word," the album's strangest and most obsessive song, "Sex, all the time, sex, on my mind." Despite an occasional mention of love, what really fascinates Mr. Foxx is the mechanics of sex: which room, which surface, which limbs go where. Perhaps it's a movie actor's approach to romance, working on the assumption that if the blocking and angles are right, the scene will take care of itself.

As he proved in the film "Ray," Mr. Foxx can sing. But the Ray Charles voice he revealed in that movie (and on Kanye West's song "Gold Digger") is not what he uses on "Unpredictable." He moves to the higher end of his range, setting out to be a smoothie like Usher or R. Kelly
Can't he just work on his acting? Or more importantly, his script selection?

My Xmas Media Gifts
The new Al Franken book, David Shipler's "The Working Poor," Martin Amis' "Yellow Dog," and a CD, Sleater-Kinney's "The Woods." I'll recommend them or not when I can.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas
From conservative Barron's magazine:
Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies, such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.

Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.
Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.
It's too much to hope for an impeachmenterrific 2006, but here's best wishes that more and more liberals find their voice, that more and more conservatives come to their senses, and that more and more "moderates" start paying attention. And soon.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Just when you thought you knew everything about Uranus
More rings around it. Same old jokes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Where to Begin?
Why so few posts? No, it's not because of the new blog, though news has made it especially relevant yesterday and today. No, it's not because of excess Christmas shopping--or else I'd have more of it down. No, it's not because of excess holiday partying, though I did recently leave my mark at the Opryland Hotel and, not so long ago, lost my shirt (or was it my pants?) playing poker.

No, the reason for the dearth of posts is simple: outrage fatigue. There are just too many things to pull my hair out over and I can hardly take it. So here's what I'm not feeling up to writing about:
1. The President's recent ridiculous prime-time speech, outdone only by his embarrassing next-day press conference. Yglesias and Kevin Drum handle them succinctly.

2. Spygate. How do you start expressing sufficient outrage over Bush's flaunting of the law? Josh Marshall gets it started here and here. Think Progress exposes and eviscerates a Cheney lie over the offense here.

3. Johnny Damon is a Yankee!!? wtf?

4. We could be funding national health care with all the money going to tax breaks for the wealthy. But we're not.

Instead, try this one on for an outrage. The Senate just passed (by virtue of Cheney's tie-breaking vote) a budget chock full of domestic spending cuts. And what takes the biggest gillooly to the knees? Student loans.
The bill would cut the amount of loan money guaranteed by the federal government, pushing up interest rates. It would also impose a 1 percent insurance fee on student loans. Proponents said the changes would control federal spending and help chip away at the federal budget deficit.
critics said the cuts would overly burden students, who already borrow an average of $18,000 to finance their college educations. The United States Student Association estimates that the changes will add several thousand dollars in interest payments to student bills.

"This bill abandons the government's longtime commitment to ensuring that the neediest students get the most help," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. ''It imposes so many hurdles to new aid that it is sure to leave behind those who need our help the most to stay in school."
So, at least the Republicans are cutting spending hence reducing the deficit right? I mean that wouldn't cut a kid's student loan at the same time they were borrowing more money on that kid's future would they? At least we can tell them that in exchange for higher difficulty accessing higher education, in return they get stuck with a smaller bill in US debt, right?

Of course, no.

This budget, obscenely named as a deficit reducing measure, merely leaves out the tax cut side of the equation to be picked up in a separate bill, so it looks like they're being at least fiscally responsible, since they're not responsible in any other way. And of course the media is lapping it up. Scroll down to the very bottom of the page in this Boston Globe story to see that the tax cuts will be voted on in a separate measure. Kevin Drum warned us about this switcheroo, and the media's inability to juggle the elements into a truthful statement, last week. Today the Senate brought it to fruition, 51-50. I'm pissed. More details and links here.
American Students of Science Hidden From Truth
By now you're heard the story: the PA judge decided against the Dover County school board and declared the teaching of intelligent design unconstitutional in the science curriculum. You may not have fully considered the most important ramification: our students will have to be home-schooled about the Flying Spaghetti Monster until we can get some more savvy judges.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Not that we care...
But Golden Globe nominations are here. Interested to see that Woody Allen's Match Point received a best picture, best director, best screenplay and best actress (Scarlet Johannson) nomination.

Last week I marveled at the rating King Kong was pulling at Metacritics, landing it among the best films of all time. Now that more critic's reviews have rolled in, the average score has settled down to a more reasonable 81. What stands as the highest rated movie of the year now? Capote and The Best of Youth, tied at 89.

Weekend Box Office
1. King Kong
2. The Chronicles of Narnia (BO disappointment in week 2?)
3. The Family Stone
4. Harry Potter
5. Syriana (is this the year of Clooney?)

Anyone seen the ape movie yet? Box Office Mojo is indicating that the sales aren't quite as high as were hoped. But if the movie's as good as everyone seems to be saying, the tickets will sell.

Friday, December 16, 2005

By the way...
White people.

That's the disturbing answer to the question ending this post below about Al Mohler, no fringe Southern Baptist. He's the head of the flagship Southern Baptist seminary, a place some of us used to appreciate before the Visigoths stormed in. A couple readers wrote in for clarification...

Personally I prefer Bulworth's "voluntary, free-spirited, open-ended program of procreative racial deconstruction," but apparently Al isn't on board.
Senate Democrats showing a tiny backbone? [UPDATED]
This is great news if true, and about damned time. Tons of credit go to Senator Feingold, who I don't think has a chance of becoming President, but am starting to think would make a good one.
[T]he math on the Patriot Act suddenly seems to be moving in favor of Sen. Russell Feingold.

He was a minority of one four years ago, when the Wisconsin Democrat cast the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in the traumatic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, he said then, gave government too much power to investigate its citizens. Ninety-nine senators disagreed.

Now add more than two dozen senators to Feingold's side, including the leaders of his party and some of the chamber's most conservative Republicans, and the balance of power shifts.

The new Senate arithmetic that emerged this week is enough to place the renewal of major portions of the law in doubt.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., told reporters that more than 40 votes exist to sustain a filibuster in a test vote Friday.
Read the whole thing. I especially like the way an unusual coalition is working together against the White House.

[UPDATE: The vote to end debate failed miserably. 60 votes are needed. Bush only got 52. Frist is pissed. We'll see if we can actually get some reasonable changes in the legislation]

Thursday, December 15, 2005

One of the unsettling things about working on my new blog (explanation here) is reading through the strange proclamations/ideas/personalities that make up the conservative religious world on the way to finding actual stories and writings that are relevant to the website. Sometimes conservatives are correct on church-state matters; sometimes they are the antagonists in the story. Either way, I have to keep up with them, for better or for worse. Most of the time that means reading stories that qualify as neither, and moving on.

So yesterday I read this and just had to scratch my head:
A Southern Baptist leader previously on record as saying it is a sin for married couples not to have children has added a new rationale--demographics.

In a Nov. 27 Chicago Tribune story about married couples choosing to remain childless, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said he sees such a decision as violating God's will. "I am trying to look at this from a perspective that begins with God's creation," Mohler said. "God's purpose in creation is being trumped by modern practices."

"I would argue that it [not having children] ought to be falling short of the glory of God. Deliberate childlessness defies God's will," he said. Instead of being worried about overpopulation, as many of the deliberately childless couples say they are, Mohler said he is more concerned about under-population.

"We are barely replenishing ourselves," he said. "That is going to cause huge social problems in the future."
I know the population of the world is growing. I know the population of the U.S. is growing. Who, exactly, is the "we" that "are barely replenishing ourselves"? I think I know. I think you do too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

No need to take that Ford Focus back to the dealership. Ford has relented. Hopefully that barrage of feedback they must have gotten will serve as a lesson to any corporation that takes seriously the hateful threats of wackos like the American Family Association.

Kudos to gay rights groups and organizers everywhere.
Hypocrisy of the religious right
The Washington Post asks a damn good question:
Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?
You have to read the explanations of conservative leaders to believe them. Some say it's a matter of priority...abortion is more important; some say helping the poor isn't the arena of government; the real truth shines through: they know where their political power comes from: Republicans.
Ford Takes a Beating
Finally, a headline making the proper analogy in Ford's recent cave to pressure of the American Family Association by pulling their ads from gay publications:
From the Holmes Report (via AmericaBlog):
Under Pressure From KKK, Ford Pulls Ads From Black Media

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sense of Humor
I'm (famously) not very funny. But at least I wouldn't try and joke the way Bush does: all the wrong times, all the wrong ways. What an embarrassment.
Tis the Season
Local News--The Nashville City Paper reports on disturbing, growing trend here: more and more homeless families are being denied shelter for lack of space.
On a chilly night last month, Safe Haven Family Shelter, a local nonprofit serving homeless families, was forced to turn away more than 700 families looking for a place to spend the night.
[Safe HavenÂ’s Executive Director Bruce] Newport said 700 requests per night from families looking for shelter arenÂ’t unusual.
So, how close are we taccommodatingng this need? The Safe Haven shelter, one of only 2 substantial family shelters in the entire state, has "9 rooms and 6 transitional homes" for families. For more than 700 nightly requests.

Why are there no more shelter space for families? Because the federal government, which subsidizes a fair percentage of local efforts to shelter the homeless, is focusing its funding attention on "chronic homelessness." That's a fabulous idea, but it's defined as "an unaccompanied disabled individual who has been continuously homeless for over a year." Families don't fit the definition. Unless they split up.

Monday, December 12, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

David Byrne Radio/Lawsuit Threats
I've already bought 3 CDs I never would have thanks to David Byrne radio. But the recording industry is pretty much dumb as bricks, so they threatened him with a lawsuit for streaming too many of a single artist. Keep in mind, Mr. Byrne already pays a fee to stream the music to begin with. He justly rants:
Is there a reason a radio station can play Springsteen ‘round the clock but I can’t stream Missy Elliot? Answer: You CAN pay for this, Dave. However, you would have to license every song separately, and pay for each one too, instead of as a lump sum, as you do now.

For example, KCRW can feature a single artist in their broadcasts, but can’t post those shows online. Terrestrial (broadcast) radio pays publishing fees, but not performance royalties — a holdover from radio being viewed as a promotional tool. Streaming radio is not? Huh?

From Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture, citing an estimate: “...if an Internet radio station distributed ad-free popular music” — as mine does — “to ten thousand listeners, twenty-four hours a day, the total artist fees that radio station would owe would be over $1 million a year. A regular radio station broadcasting the same content would pay no equivalent fee.”
Meanwhile there's a new playlist up, with no more than 4 tracks by a single artist within a 3-hour period. It's "Rednecks, Racists and Reactionaries: Country Classics"

"Best of" Lists
The end of year film lists are pointless right now, because most of the films at the top won't have a wide release until well after the year has ended. So consider these recommendations for early next year, unless you are a film critic, or live in LA or NY.
American Film Institute List ("The 40-year-old virgin" made the top 10...?!)
Broadcast Film Critics List
LA Film Critics announce winners and runners-up in major categories.

After combining these lists, which 2005 films should you make sure and see?
Brokeback Mountain
A History of Violence
King Kong
Good Night and Good Luck

Most interesting, King Kong now occupies the highest rating for the year on Metacritics. At 95 out of 100, it's the 3rd highest rated film of all time, behind The Godfather and Dr. Strangelove. It couldn't really be that good, could it?

Book Recommendations
Kevin Drum and the Washington Monthly offer up some political book suggestions for Christmas gifts. My only beef is that he calls these "last-minute" suggestions. Christmas is 2 weeks away, people. When it's the last minute, I'll let you know.

Movie Awards Blog
The NYTimes has a new blog, devoted to the award season for films.

Weekend Box Office
1. Chronicles of Narnia
2. Syriana (in a shocker, 2nd place?!)
3. Harry Potter, blah blah
4. Walk the Line
5. Yours, Mine and Ours

Sunday, December 11, 2005

International Human Rights Day...
...was yesterday. Mexico celebrated a day early by officially abolishing the death penalty on Friday (via TalkLeft).
"Mexico shares the opinion that capital punishment is a violation of human rights," Fox said. "Today, the death penalty has been abolished."

The Mexican legal system has not put anyone to death since 1961, and courts usually refuse to extradite suspects to the United States or other countries if there is a chance they could wind up on death row.

But capital punishment was, until Friday, still technically legal, especially in military courts.
Like I said earlier, we are slowly isolating ourselves in a small club of the truly inhumane and barbaric.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Blog News--I'm Turning Pro
Monday marks the official launch of a new blog that I will be authoring. For the last month I've been working on a trial run blog for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. The BJC is a Washington, D.C organization that has been important to me personally for many reasons. They are committed to the separation of church and state and represent a number of Baptist denominations around the country that appreciate their thoughtful strong voice. For many years the BJC's "Report from the Capital" monthly publication has been essential reading for people interested in maintaining church-state separation and religious freedom. And so "Blog from the Capital" will aim to point to those daily events and opinions, legislation and court decision that impact the church-state debate. I'm excited to accept their offer to write the blog.

What does this mean for Article 19? My first thought was that it may be time to shut it down. Almost 2 years is a pretty good run. But the truth is that the tone and aims of "Blog from the Capital" simply don't allow me to fulfill my most essential blogging needs: whining, bitching, moaning and ranting about stuff that makes me crazy, whatever the topic. In fact, the reserve with which I need to approach most of the topics for the BJC blog leaves me needing this space more than ever. So, nothing will much change here so far as I can see. I do really appreciate everyone who reads and even more those who dare to comment. I hope you'll stick around, but also please visit Blog from the Capital, once in a while, especially Monday/official public launch day (not sure if the address will change on that day) and write me with tips, comments, ridicule, whatever.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I [Heart] Mike Wallace
I hope I'm this much of a pain in the ass to the powers that be when I'm 87. Someone get that man an interview with the President.
Sad Anniversary
I like to imagine that if John Lennon were still alive, he would have become a truly transcendent figure--writing songs no doubt, but engaged in worldwide efforts for peace, justice and equality. Think Bono but much more respectable and influential. More like what Caetano Veloso is to Brazil but on a world-wide scale: civic leader, national poet-hero, voice of conscience.

I suppose it's more likely that John would have stayed out of the spotlight.

What do you think he'd be doing? What do you like to think he'd be doing?
Dean is (almost always) right
At The New Republic, John Judis says Howard Dean is "the nation's Cassandra."
During the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, and during the invasion and occupation, Dean has been almost consistently correct in his statements.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Beyond Belief Media Declares War on Christmas
No really:
"Christian conservatives complain nonstop about the 'War on Christmas,' but there really isn't any such war," said Beyond Belief Media president Brian Flemming, a former fundamentalist Christian who is now an atheist activist. "So we have decided to wage one, to demonstrate what it would look like if Jesus' birthday were truly attacked."

As its opening salvo, Beyond Belief Media has purchased advertisements this week in the New York Times, USA Today and the New Yorker magazine. The company's 300-member volunteer "street team" is also descending on Christmas-themed public events with random "guerilla giveaways" of Beyond Belief's acclaimed DVD "THE GOD WHO WASN'T THERE."
I think this is a pretty annoying thing to actually do, but the idea is funny.
Boycott Failures
Why would any corporation buckle under the stark-raving mad pressure of the radical Christian right? Remember Disney? They really brought Disney to its knees didn't they?

The Carpetbagger (via Washington Monthly) outlines recent boycott failures of the kooks, and wonders why on Earth Ford would give in to their demands that it stop sponsoring gay events.

As always on such matters, the best resource is AmericaBlog, where John Aravosis has been all over this story all week.

Shame on Ford. Of course, when gay people show up driving a Japanese car, these same blowhards will accuse them of being un-American, in addition to being un-godly. How dare you not buy the cars of the companies that refuse to advertise to you!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gotta Love the Camera Phone

"Day 2 of life is so much different than Day 1!"
Bridget Mae, born yesterday. Good to be an uncle yet again. Everyone's doing fine. But I've been away from computers--sorry for the light posting.

Monday, December 05, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Posting could be light today for reasons that will become known...
In the meantime, it's about time for all the top 10 lists of the year to come out. What were your favorite media events/titles of the year?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Essay Contest [UPDATED]
What is humanity's worst invention?

No easy outs like nuclear bombs or gunpowder.

[UPDATE: The correct answer is: The Alarm Clock. It occurred to me this morning. Essay forthcoming.]

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday Comedy
James Wolcott issues an important report in the war on Christmas.
Supreme Court Says Gays Must Be Allowed To Marry!!
in South Africa.

Which will be the last handful of countries to oppress gay people and execute our criminals for revenge? When we get down to the last 5 holdout nations or so, it's going to be pretty barbaric company.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

December 1
Today is World AIDS Day!
You Make the Call
Let's suppose you were President for an hour. Yes, you. Your primary task is to make a significant appointment: the deputy director of USAID. What is USAID? It is a government agency that distributes funds to countries engaging in Democratic reform, or recovering from disaster, or mired in deep poverty. But it does those things for the express purpose of furthering the foreign policy goals of the US. As a tool for promoting stability, peace and democracy, President Bush has considered USAID one of the three legs of the "foreign policy apparatus" engaged in the "war on terrorism", alongside defense and diplomacy.

So what sorts of qualifications will you look for? Someone with administrative experience, overseeing significant funding processes? someone worldly? knowledgeable of civic infrastructure needs? foreign affairs/diplomatic experience? disaster relief experience? (no, Michael Brown is not available)

How about Paul Bonicelli? Who's he? He's been the Dean of Patrick Henry College, a conservative (to put it mildly) Christian school of 300 students, created for the purpose of attracting home-schooled students who want to stifle announce their academic curiosities ahead of time with pledges of belief in inerrant, literal scriptural truth, including a rather particular avowance that "hell is a place where 'all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.'" All, like, I presume, Muslims, Hindus and Jews.

I don't think you would appoint him to take a key leadership position within USAID. But somebody did. And I should be clear--I think persons of all religious faiths and viewpoints should be, of course, eligible for all government positions for which they are qualified. Religious belief should neither include nor preclude that qualification. But there is a problem here even beyond Bonicelli's seeming lack of any relevant experience for such an important post. 2 really:

1. Because the politics of today have so tied the conservative religious community to the electioneering machinery of party politics, it's hard to accept this otherwise curious appointment as anything but a political nod to the religious right. The conscious courting of religious voters has created a rather unholy marriage between religious leaders and elected officials that--like any purely political alliance taken too far--can be bad for the important business of government.

2. This furthers the impression that foreign policy might be a religious exercise. Again and again we have heard that the "war on terrorism" is not a war on Islam. But there has been plenty of reason to believe the motivations of much of our foreign policy is based in religion. An appointment like this one can only fuel that fire. Bad appointments, like this one appears to me, will make it harder for future Presidents to appoint people of outspoken faith to important positions for which they are indeed qualified.
He's pissing off Democrats, and got brutalized on the Daily Show last night.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bystander Ethics
Read this right away. Isn't that really everything we need to know about Donald Rumsfeld?
For those with a strong stomach only, the President's 38-page "strategy" for victory in Iraq. (pdf)

Here is the President's statement from this morning.

And here is all you need to know about it really, Senator Reid's response:
Just two weeks ago, a bipartisan majority of the United States Senate registered a vote of no confidence in the president's current policy in Iraq. Democrats and Republicans called on the president to change course and release a strategy for success in Iraq with specific benchmarks by which the progress could be measured. Today, President Bush failed to meet this call. Instead, he recycled his tired rhetoric of `stay the course' and once again missed an opportunity to lay out a real strategy for success in Iraq that will bring our troops safely home.

After nearly 1,000 days of war in Iraq, our troops, their families, and the American people deserve more than just a Bush-Cheney public relations campaign. They deserve a clear strategy with military, economic and political measures to be met in order to successfully complete our mission. The president's continued refusal to provide that plan does nothing to support our troops or their families. Simply staying the course is no longer an option, we must change the course. We can do better.
New Bush policy. Same as the old Bush policy. Why do they even bother?
Cry for help? What kind?
Can one of yous edumacated in psychology (I know you're out there) please enlighten me. I don't pretend to be an informed student of the human mind, but my brain can't even come close to this:
A Fayetteville principal who claimed that two armed, masked men assaulted him in his school office earlier this month falsified the attack and inflicted the injuries on himself, including possibly cutting off part of his tongue, authorities said yesterday.
As little sense as this local story originally made (masked men attacking an elementary school principal in his office?), this makes even less. And of course, everyone who knows him claims he's a model of competence and normalcy. Beloved by the community. Great with kids. He just cut off part of his tongue and bruised himself mercilessly for...attention? pity? free trip to the hospital? A little help here. What's the standard mumbo-jumbo for this kind of stupefying behavior?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Milestone Delayed
Perhaps nobody will want to be the Governor to execute the 1000th person in the US since the death penalty was reinstated. On the heels of the recent chilling Houston Chronicle story that established a likelihood that Texas executed an innocent man 12 years ago, Virgina Governor, and possible Presidential candidate Mark Warner has commuted the sentence of the man set to be #1000. The honor now belongs to North Carolina.

Amy Sullivan's conclusion may be a bit of wishful thinking, but I suppose a change has to begin somewhere if it's going to occur at all.

As TalkLeft's Jeralyn Merritt points out, 1000 since 1976 averages out to one state-sponsored killing every 10 days. For 28 years. Truly shameful.
Bailout Begins
Now....we've got a plan to win.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What have you been watching, reading, listening to?

Smithsonian Weblog
Via Kevin Drum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has a new blog: Eye Level.

Lessig on Google Book Search
Have you tried the book search? It's absolutely incredible. And because it's so cool, naturally folks (Authors Guild (AG), and Association of American Publishers (AAP)) are whining infringement. This is more than a week old, but Professor Lessig argues for Google Book Search:
The AAP and AG say they believe in “fair use.” If that’s so, then they must believe that someone has a right to make money using fairly the work of others. If that’s so, then they must believe that someone has the right to fairly use the work of others without permission. And so if that’s so, then if Google Book Search is fair use. not only is Google doing nothing wrong. Google is, from the perspective of the authors and publishers, doing something extra nice — giving them the permission to opt out of the index.

So the only question is whether Google’s use is “fair.” Now anyone who knows anything about the law knows that’s a hard question. Reasonable people may differ about it. But the frustration I consistently feel with the position of the AAP and AG is that the reasons they offer for why Google’s use is not fair would mean that practically no use would be fair.
On a similar note, Matt Yglesias has been taking up the drumbeat of the public domain in recent days (here and a followup here), and gotten foolish criticism in his comments for it. Atrios jumps in here.

Year-End List
The NYTimes has its list of 100 notable books for 2005.

Trailer Watch
The most exciting part of my experience seeing Walk the Line (recommendation below) was a couple of previews: one for Steven Spielberg's Munich, the story of the aftermath of the 1972 Olympic murders in which the perpetrators are hunted. For Munich, Spielberg is forgoing most all marketing efforts, believing the film--which is being called perhaps his best ever--will "speak for itself".

The second was Match Point, which bore the shocking revelation at the conclusion: A Woody Allen film. The scenes here looked like nothing we've ever seen from him, including his serious fare.

Article 19 Film Recommendation: Walk the Line
************* (13 out of 19)
Frankly, it was a bit boring, plus one truly ridiculous scene. It kept my attention but didn't do much with it. Still, impressive performances and the music was well done. I wish there had been a bit more emphasis on Cash's rebellion against the country industry, but what can you do.

Weekend Box Office
1. Harry Potter
2. Walk the Line
3. Yours, Mine, Ours
4. Chicken Little
5. Rent

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Health Care for Hybrids
Senator Obama has introduced a bill that would offer a deal to US automakers: the government will pay the health care costs for their retirees if they will commit to spending half of that money developing more fuel efficient cars. Plus, they would not be allowed to offset those efficiencies with new less-efficient offerings as well (so, no unveiling that new super-Hummer with the new hybrid).

This strikes me as brilliant on a number of levels. For one, it calls Detroit's bluff (if it is one) in making retiree benefits the scapegoat for their unwillingness to invest in higher fuel standards. But more than that, I like this plan for moving the ball forward in shifting the health-care burden onto the government. You would think that businesses (especially responsible ones that provide decent benefits) would be out front arguing for a national health care system that would remove that financial and administrative load from their expense sheet.

If this bill passes, it could do as much or more in the long run for the fight to implement a sane health care program as it does to reduce our oil dependence.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Random Concern
My Snickers bar lists the following ingredients: "peanut, milk, egg, and soy products. May contain almonds."

Why the hell don't they know if it does or does not contain almonds?
Ann Coulter is a lunatic. From her viewpoint, Americans can never question a war or suggest its conclusion. Her column responds to Rep. Murtha's courageous stand urging that it's time to begin withdrawing US troops from the heart of the fighting in Iraq.
The Democrats are giving aid and comfort to the enemy for no purpose other than giving aid and comfort to the enemy. There is no plausible explanation for the Democrats' behavior other than that they long to see U.S. troops shot, humiliated, and driven from the field of battle.
Now, one thing Ms. Coulter and I have in common is that neither of us has the slightest notion of what it's like to be in war, the winning side or the losing side, or to know what effect that war's debate has on morale or efficacy. And since I don't know, I'm glad to be the first to admit this, if it must be me: it may be true that those seeking to kill American troops are "comforted" by the notion that some of us here think the war is a bad idea that's going badly. I don't wish it, but it may be so. That doesn't mean the dissent is not worth it. Why are we going to let the emotions of violent anti-US "insurgents" dictate how Americans carry out our policy debates?

Giving ear to dissent toward an endeavor that is getting people killed is one powerfully important way we make sure the mission is worth it. The fact that (if it is a fact) bad people on the other side may enjoy it is far outweighed by our need to make sure there is an earnest and united sense that we are doing the right thing. In this case, we are not. And the country is gradually uniting around that realization.

But, while we're taking an accounting of who is and is not helping the enemy, how many bad decisions of the Pentagon and the Bush Administration have empowered, emboldened, enflamed and enhanced the efforts of anti-US insurgents? (Look no further than the fact that the majority of Iraqi people want us the hell out of there.) Those outrages far and away have done more to endanger US troops than any congressional speech or mass protest televized on Al-Jazeera.
This has got to be a joke
Michael Brown is starting a consulting firm...on disaster preparedness. What's next, Bill Buckner as infield coach, consulting on ground balls?

I'll leave the response to Josh Marshall:
[I]t seems that Brown's actual angle may be providing not generic emergency response consulting services but rather consulting services to incompetents who've been saddled with emergency preparedness responsibility and fear becoming national laughing stocks when they turn mid-size disasters in to full-on catastrophes through gross mismanagement.

This actually may be a solid and underserved niche Brown could cater to, though my understanding is that in such a learning process someone like Brown is generally referred to not as a 'consultant' but rather as 'specimen'.
And there's this TPM followup.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Guest Post from Kenny Byrd:

That was the famous tag line of e-mails written by a friend and class mate at Boston College Law School. November 23 marks the second anniversary of his tragic death. While many of us talked a good game about public interest and achieving social justice with our law degress, Arthur was busy walking the walk. He had no patience for setting up meetings to talk about societal problems, he wanted action! He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. In my health law class, he was fond of saying things like, "I don't care what the law book says, failing to provide health care for all violates a higher code," or "It's just not right!" I am quoting the entire Boston Globe obituary of Arthur below.

Arthur declined the offers of some classmates and teachers, and decided to live in a homeless shelter during his last year of law school. He wanted to live with the people he hoped to serve in his career. While the causes of death were unknown, there was some speculation by the media later that Arthur had engaged in drug use in the wake of coping with the death of a friend of his at the shelter. All I know is that he was a drum major for justice in a society that could use more. It is hard to do justice to the life of Arthur in one post.

On Dec. 6, 2005, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in FAIR v. Rumsfeld over a federal requirement that forces schools like BC Law to give red carpet treatment to military recuiters even though the military openly discriminates against gay, lesbian and bisexual students -- students that are friends of mine. One of the plaintiffs along with FAIR is a small group of students from BC Law that I belong to-- the Coalition for Equality. A small group of us formed this coalition to help BC stand by its principles of non-discrimination, even in the face of heavy-handed government tactics. One of our most committed members was Arthur and I can still hear him leading our cheers: "What do we want? -- Justice! When do we want it? -- Now!" In my mind's eye, Arthur is still rallying the saints; and if there is anyone victimized by discrimination in heaven, Arthur probably is organizing to take it on; and I'm sure he's using any other powers he has to give us a magical fifth vote on the Supreme Court. Let us all take special efforts to comfort the afflicted on this day, but Arthur would want equal time going to afflicting the comfortable. We miss you Arthur.

BYLINE: By Gloria Negri, Globe Staff

Arthur C. Harris could have lived near Boston College Law School, where he was a third-year student. He chose, instead, to live with the homeless at Long Island Shelter in Boston Harbor. For 10 months, he commuted by public transportation to the law school campus in Newton, telling friends that he stayed at the shelter to prepare for his future work with the needy, a pledge he made because of his own impoverished childhood in Alabama.

"I'm happy because I'm learning more about the struggles that confront the homeless," he e-mailed Norah Wylie, associate dean of students at the law school, who had expressed concern about his long commute. "This will make me a more successful advocate for the poor and disenfranchised."

Mr. Harris died at the shelter in his sleep on Nov. 23. He was 27. Wylie said she had been informed by the medical examiner's office that preliminary tests indicated he died of natural causes. Cheryl McCloud, spokeswoman for the Boston Public Health Commission, which operates the shelter, said an internal investigation of Mr. Harris's death is underway. Such an investigation is standard procedure for any death at the facility.

In Montgomery, Ala., where Mr. Harris was born, his mother, Mona Scott, said in a phone interview yesterday that she knew of no illness her son might have had. "He was somewhat overweight," she said. "He knew how to cook but didn't, and ate all that fast food instead." She recalled how excited he was about taking a hiatus from classes to go on the campaign trail next year with Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

"I saw my child as another Martin Luther King," Scott said. "He was thoughtful, a godly child, very respectful and listened to his mom. I always taught my kids [these] words to secure their lives: 'yes ma'am, yes sir; excuse me; may I? please; and thank-you.' Arthur abided by them all and took them all the way to Boston College."

The respect in which the college community held Mr. Harris was shown yesterday at a memorial service in the law school chapel. "Arthur was an incredible young man," said college spokesman Jack Dunn. "Rare is the person in this day and age so committed to his principles that he would choose to live in a homeless shelter to help improve the lives of the needy. He was an inspiration to everyone at BC Law."

"I was Arthur's professor," said Kent Greenfield. "But, like many of us here, I was also his student. I learned from him. I saw in him what it means to be a person of courage who never stands silent in the face of injustice."

In spite of adversity, Greenfield said, Mr. Harris "seemed to grow. He was a large man, and I do not mean his physical size. I mean that he possessed a substantial soul. It was as if he took to heart the advice of Rainer Maria Rilke, who advised a young friend that, 'We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it.'"

At BC, Mr. Harris worked on the Solomon Amendment Task Force, opposing the federal policy that forces colleges to allow military recruiters on campus if they want to continue receiving federal funds. He was a member of the Coalition for Equality and the Black Law Students Association.

Wylie said Mr. Harris had some scholarships at BC, and one summer he did an internship in Boston Juvenile Court. "Arthur was a passionate fighter against all kinds of discrimination," she said. "He was a sweet man who would tend to challenge people to do more to help others. He would always say, 'My grandfather says we're here on earth to give back to others.'"

Mr. Harris was one of three sons. Raising her family in public housing, Scott said, she worked as a housekeeper and cleaning lady to keep her children in school. In his law school application, Mr. Harris wrote how, as an African-American in a poverty stricken area, he and his family were often the targets of police profiling and searches, though they had done nothing wrong. "These experiences gave him the desire to fight for change and inspired him to work even harder to get the educational background he felt he needed to become an effective advocate for the poor and the homeless," said Nate Kenyon, a law school spokesman.

Scott said her son took her warning to heart, "to never take home a 'C, D, or E' on his report card, and won a full scholarship to the University of Alabama in Birmingham. At UAB, Mr. Harris was president of the Undergraduate Student Government Association and led the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. He was elected to the Alpha Kappa Delta International Society and the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars.

While at UAB, Mr. Harris was working 35 hours per week at two jobs, at a bookstore and a pharmacy. He graduated in 2000. "Arthur wanted to become a voice for change," Kenyon said, "and assist in urban renewal efforts to revitalize the inner cities of America."

Wylie said Mr. Harris had a tag line for his emails: "Living, learning and leaving a legacy." Besides his mother, Mr. Harris leaves his grandfather, Sidney, who helped raise him, and brothers Preslay and Marcus Thomas, all of Montgomery. Another memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow in People's Baptist Church in Montgomery. Burial will be in New Elam Cemetery in Bullock County, Ala.
Murtha on Meet the Press
If you didn't get a chance to see Rep. Murtha on MTP Sunday you should read the transcript. Here's a taste, responding to Russert's showing video of Cheney questioning his backbone:
REP. MURTHA: Well, I tell you, Cheney's a friend of mine. We work very closely together. He was a good secretary of Defense, but he's wrong. They should have fired people. The president should be furious with this--the people that work for him giving him bad intelligence. We spend more on intelligence than any country in the world. We spend more on intelligence than the whole world spends together and our intelligence was wrong. There's no question we're going in the wrong direction and we're not winning. The incidents have increased and the economic indicators--oil, which was supposed to pay for all of this, is below prewar levels. There's nothing that's happening that shows any sign of success.

And the biggest problem is this illusion that--I remember going to Iraq a month or so after the invasion when they said it was all over. And one of the members said to Ambassador Bremer, "What do you think about this cleric named Sistani?" And he turned to his expert, and you know what she said? She said, "Oh, he's just a minor cleric." Now, two weeks later that guy had 100,000 people in the street. That's the kind of information they were acting on. They've been overly optimistic and illusionary about their policy. We got to--this is not a war of words, this is a real war where people are getting killed. Fifteen thousand people have been wounded, and half of them are desperately wounded, blinded, without their arms.

I mean, it breaks my heart when I go out there and see these kids. I see wives who can't look at their husbands because they've been so disfigured. I saw a young fella that was paralyzed from the neck down and his three children were standing there crying with his wife and his mother. So this is a real war, which--we have to find a solution. We--and since there's no progress, we've got to find a way to let the Iraqis take over.

Monday, November 21, 2005

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Article 19 CD Recommendation: Fiona Apple--Extraordinary Machine
I've not been a fan in the past of her sultry anger schtick. But I respect that she writes her own songs and that they are not always right out of the pop cookie cutters. But her new release is mostly fabulous. If you're scoring at home, and good for you if you are, the tracks especially worth hearing are 1, 5, 6, 12. The title track (1) is an astonishing Jon Brion orchestration for a fun and light song. Brion's production of the waltz (12) that closes the album is also the perfect setting for the tune. "Tymps" (5) is an incredibly complicated lose-your-place chord progression. And "Parting Gift" (6) has the best lyrics on the album:
I opened my eyes while you were kissing me once (more than once),
and you looked as sincere as a dog.
Just as sincere as a dog does,
when it's the food on your lips with which he's in love.
Gotta love that determination not to dangle a preposition.

Weekend Box Office
1. Harry Potter and the whatever
2. Walk the Line
3. Chicken Little
4. Derailed
5. Zathura

Sunday, November 20, 2005

What the hell is wrong with Bush?
Atrios has the pictures. Those are some nice and dignified facial expressions.

Friday, November 18, 2005

C-Span Smackdown
All hell has broken loose on the floor of the House. Republicans are pathetic. It started with Bush and Cheney's decision last week to once again demonize any Democrat questioning the War and paint them as unpatriotic. And it's trickled down to the dregs of GOP jerkoffs. C-Span tonight is more grotesque than any reality TV.
Stay Out [UPDATED]
House Repubs are trying to push another support-the-troops/war vote. I say Dems should let only Republicans vote on this one, if they're not going to have the nerve to vote collectively against it.

[UPDATE: Debate is going on now. Kos has Murtha's reasonable resolution paired with the GOP version/interpretation that they'll be voting on instead. Our Congress is ridiculous and shameful.]
Murtha on Cheney
"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."
(stolen directly from TPM)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not a Moment Too Soon
Some of you who don't live in the 'Ville may still be interested in this local news:
"Baptists no longer will fund Belmont".
This Week National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, organized by the National Coalition of the Homeless (NCH), Students against Hunger, and other groups. Just so you know. (via Street Prophets)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Alito v. Warren
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's 1985 job application to be Assistant Attorney General under President Reagan is generating lots of interest because of his stated opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision. But reading the entire document (you can read it here) shows another area that should be of concern to church-state separationists. Alito writes:
In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.
I will leave it to others to wonder about Alito's problem with the one-man, one-vote principle established in the reapportionment decisions. But what were the Warren Court decisions with respect to the Establishment Clause?

In Engel v. Vitale (1962), the Court held by a 6-1 vote that school-sponsered prayer in public schools, even if basically voluntary and non-denominational, was unconstitutional.

Abington Township v. Schempp (1963) determined--with an 8-1 vote--that public schools were not the place or time for officially sanctioned and organized Bible reading. Here it was determined that to meet Establishment Clause criteria of neutrality, activities must have "secular purpose" and that its "primary effect" must neither promote nor inhibit a particular religion.

Exactly which of these does Judge Alito have a problem with? Would he like to keep school-sponsored prayer or Bible readings in public schools?

His reference is not specific. Someone should ask him just what his beef with these important decisions might be. And if he's changed his mind about them, it would be nice to know when that happened, and why.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Jimmy Carter in LA Times
In today's LA Times, Carter wrote not so much a column as a laundry list in his piece entitled "This isn't the real America." And I know he's trying to sell his book, but a former President willing to say these things is remarkable, and telling as to the sad state of things.
(T)he U.S. has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in U.S. custody.

Instead of reducing America's reliance on nuclear weapons and their further proliferation, we have insisted on our right (and that of others) to retain our arsenals, expand them, and therefore abrogate or derogate almost all nuclear arms control agreements negotiated during the last 50 years. We have now become a prime culprit in global nuclear proliferation. America also has abandoned the prohibition of "first use" of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear nations, and is contemplating the previously condemned deployment of weapons in space.

Protection of the environment has fallen by the wayside because of government subservience to political pressure from the oil industry and other powerful lobbying groups. The last five years have brought continued lowering of pollution standards at home and almost universal condemnation of our nation's global environmental policies.

Our government has abandoned fiscal responsibility by unprecedented favors to the rich, while neglecting America's working families. Members of Congress have increased their own pay by $30,000 per year since freezing the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour (the lowest among industrialized nations).
The whole thing is powerful. As far as I'm concerned, he's a national treasure.
Voting Rights
The very idea of denying the right to vote to convicted felons who have completed their sentence seems obviously absurd to me. So, I have new respect for Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack now that I discovered the order that all voting rights be restored to ex-felons he issued in the summer. No 21st century Governor should allow this 19th century idea to stand.

Maybe somebody here can explain why this isn't an issue appropriate for the Supreme Court to address. Yesterday, they chose not to hear it. I'm not smart enough to know if that's the right legal decision, but as far as outcomes go, this denial maintains an injustice the logic of which simply escapes me.

The folks in question have served their time.
President Bush: Uniting the Country?
New USAToday-CNN-Gallup Poll:
60% of Americans now disapprove of the job he is doing.
61% disapprove of his handling of the economy.
71% disapprove of his handling of federal spending.
55% believe "honest and trustworthy" doesn't apply to him.
86% would choose not to support a Republican congressional candidate who agreed with President Bush on almost every issue.

Admitedly, that last question, inquiring about the kind of congressional candidate being sought, is foolish and gave respondents who support Bush an obvious "correct" answer that seems immediately more reasonable:
"A Republican who has had both agreements and disagreements with President Bush." The best news there is that 53% chose an answer that begins with the magic words "A Democrat..."

On that front, leader Harry Reid has a political memo to Senate Democrats.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sorry, late to the post today.

But what have you been reading, watching, listening to?

I'm not sure what new project he's up to, and it probably is great, but not sure I can handle the new playlist over at David Byrne Radio.

Article 19 Film Recommendation: The Weather Man
************ (12 out of 19)

Warning: this does not contain specific plot spoilers, but is a general spoiler.

This film suffers from being foolishly marketed and was doomed to box office disappointment almost by design. Commercials and previews convey a tone of comedy about a lovable but troubled weather man, not unlike the advertising look given Bruce Almighty. The truth is this is a seriously depressing film about a depressed man living a depressing life. It also has some truly funny moments and lines, and one or 2 poignant ones. My problem with it is not that it's depressing. (Roger Ebert, who seems to have loved it, asks all the right questions to establish that a depressing movie does not equal a bad movie. I agree) It's that it never quite scratches beneath the surface of the title character's existential dilemma. Of his many relationships we witness, none occasion a big question, demand a telling decision, or allow for a moment of self-discovery. While we see a few moments of his redeeming qualities, nobody on screen seems to notice, or care, including himself. And then, the plot turn that ends the film lets him off the hook too easy. The person sitting next to me said, of a scene in which Nicholas Cage passes out drinking liquor out of one of those miniature bottles, "It's like Leaving Las Vegas but with smaller bottles." An apt description actually of the entire film, both its aims and its execution.

Weekend Box Office
1. Chicken Little
2. Zathura
3. Derailed
4. Get Rich or Die Tryin'
5. Jarhead

How far out of it am I? I haven't even heard of #s 2,3 or 4. But I did catch The Weather Man (#13) and will give a brief recommendation later.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Pat Robertson...Living Up To All My Expectations
On Tuesday, Dover voters ousted the local school board, which had tried to introduce the concept as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

Pat Robertson told his TV show that the town had turned its back on God.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Mr Robertson said on The 700 Club.
"God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in His eye forever," Mr Robertson said.

"If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."
What more can you say?
The Senate today passed Lindsay Graham's amendment, 49 to 42 barring detainees at Guantanamo and others declared by the Executive Branch to be enemy combatants from seeking judicial review of the legality of their detentions.
Sadly, 5 Democrats don't believe in due process, the right to an attorney, or the promise of having your day in court. Conrad, Landrieu, Wyden (??), Nelson (NE) and, of course, Lieberman.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

2008 stuff
Biden is in.
Edwards admits mistake on Iraq War vote.

In this political climate, don't these 2 things mean the same thing? They're running. Via Kos.
Lamest of all ducks
Finally Bush's plunging approval numbers have combined with scandal, a scary election (for Republicans) and the kind self-preservation urge that only politicians seem to know, to provide -- for our entertainment -- a full-blown breakdown of Republicans in Washington. They don't want to be seen with Bush. They aren't interested in his priorities (tax cuts), much less his pet projects (ANWR drilling). They have no idea what to do. Josh Marhall has more.

What was that Bush said a while back about having political capital and intending to spend it?
What is Lindsay Graham Smoking? (A survey)
Talkleft's Jeralyn Merritt, blogging at the Huffington Post, reports on SC Senator Graham's astonishing amendment to the Senate Defense Appropriations Bill.
[It] would strip those designated by the Administration as enemy combatants of the ability to seek habeas review in federal courts. This is an end-run around the Supreme Court's decision in Rasul v. Bush which held Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge the legality of their detentions.
Via Jeralyn, here's a link (pdf) to the text of the amendment. Absolutely outrageous. And if you have a Senator with the slightest chance of being a decent human being, you may want to write them a quick note.

And to pull a page from the right-wing playbook, I would say that, Senator, this is America! Why don't you go back to China for that kind of tyrranical rush?

Some would say our friend Lindsay is just angling for a spanking. But, really, what do you guess he is smoking? I know what Kenny B thinks he smokes. How about the rest of you?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yesterday's Election: Signs of Life
No, not the fact that Democrats won a Governor's race in New Jersey (should we always?), and not the fact that Democrats won a Governor's race in Virginia (Kaine has been the right-hand man of the very popular current Gov., so it would have been a real upset if he lost). No, I'm talking about the Dover County, Pennsylvania school board election. That's the community currently embroiled in the Intelligent Design trial. Well, everyone of the members up for reelection who tried to insert religion into the curriculum was kicked out by the voters and replaced by a Democrat who wants to teach science/evolution instead.

Kansas, you're next.
Something's Going On
I know there is a standard funny complaint about how the dryer always eats one of your socks, yeah yeah yeah. Funny. But I don't buy that many different brown-type socks. And yet today in my drawer were, no lie, 8 different brown-type socks, none of which had a match. Let's forget for a second that it's ridiculous that there are that many different kinds of brown-type socks in the world, or even that many different shades of brown (wtf?). And let's focus on this: I don't just take off one sock one part of the day and the other one some other part, or somewhere completely different in the house. They come off at the same place, at the same time, and are discarded simultaneously in the dirty clothes closet. Seriously, who or what is screwing with my socks? Is it one of you?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

As an academic of the nerdiest variety, I have real serious problems with acts of plagiarism. Passing off the words of others as your own is the worst kind of offense to everything the academy stands for -- where we are given daily the chance to put our name to something and say "this is what I can do" on the path to fulfillment through formal education.

Somewhere in the middle of the semester, after [most of] my students have figured out they should trust me and listen to me, I tell them that integrity isn't something they're born with, but something they develop and learn to believe in over time by demonstrating to themselves that, first, they can be honest, and second, that it feels good. School gives you the chance to do that every day consciously: you do your homework, put your name on it, answer a question in class without someone whispering to you, that sort of thing.

So many kids go through thinking that the primary goal is to convince me, or their parents, or friends, that they are capable/talented, and they forget that along the way, if their achievements are not honorable, they will have convinced themselves of just the opposite with no way out--a self-cynicism spiral. It's usually the quiet ones.

An F can be an honorable grade, I always tell them (sometimes to confused looks). It's not worth sacrificing yourself just to avoid one.

BUT, this post isn't about that, believe it or not. This post is about a plagiarism that does not much concern me. Most candidates/politicians are not just individuals, I'm sorry to say, but small communities of like-minded folks. We know that most of the things President Bush says are not his own words. We don't frankly want him sitting around writing speeches all day, and can you imagine how long it would take him anyway? Part of the job of a candidate's team is to come up with ways to present ideas and visions and criticism of an opponent that will be the most persuasive.

So, where does a candidate's team stop being a legitimate pool for shared wording and instead become *outside* but like-minded supporters? To be sure, Sherrod Brown's team, running for Senator in Ohio, should have contacted blogger Nathan Newman and asked permission to use his wording in a letter to Republican incumbent Mike Dewine, and having not gotten permission, should have apologized if he was offended, but he was not. Kos reiterates what most bloggers including myself generally feel about public officials who share a policy goal: use me. And Atrios, in his own typically funny way, says the same thing.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

John Fowles, RIP
The French Lieutenant's Woman is an engaging 2-track self-referential read like no other in my experience. (Maybe Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler can compete.) It's author John Fowles, who also wrote The Magus, died over the weekend.
He provided few solutions in his work, preferring to allow the answer to a question to be itself another question. For he believed that "Mankind needs the existence of mysteries. Not their solution." His own work, sometimes labyrinthine in its complexity, rarely deviated in style or content from this maxim.
Weekend Box Office
1. Chicken Little
2. Jarhead
3. Saw II
4. The Legend of Zorro
5. Prime

Picking up the slack
Lewberry reads, listens and watches so I don't have to. Which is good because last week I didn't.

Lyrics of the Day
From Rufus Wainright:
I don't know what I'm doin'
I don't know what I'm sayin'
I don't know why I'm watching all these white people dancin'

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Clutter Therapy
I don't especially believe in ghosts of any kind, or in karma (my life's too good to support it). But I do believe in this: improving your life by throwing crap out. I don't do it nearly enough, but have little question that it works. What is the silliest thing you're hanging on to?
(R)ight now, in your life, in your closets and in your garage and in your car trunk and in your brain and even in your desk drawer you have way, way too much stuff, far more than any one person or single family needs and, oh my God, have you even seen your closet lately?

Honest psychologists and good spiritual healers often advise patients with overactive minds and squirrel-like attention spans and problems focusing and problems sleeping, they will tell them not to pop some Ritalin or merely take an herbal tincture and eat more leafy greens, but to go home right now and, yes, clean out your closets. Clear out your clutter. Strip it all to the beautiful essentials and then keep it that way.

They will tell you that one of the fastest way to hot-wire your divine Camaro and reconnect to that feeling of cosmic wholeness is to take stock of your life and take stock of your body and see how much you've really got, and then purge-purge-purge. Get rid. Clean out. Toss old looks, old ways, ties to the past. Empty your drawers. Dump the stuff you're hiding from, that you've been uselessly protecting, that you've been scared to let go because it makes you feel safe and connected and more clearly defined as a human when, in fact, it's doing the exact opposite.
I have way too many books i'll never read. too many clothes i'll never wear, a super 8 film projector that I'll never use, and 2 old computers I don't use anymore but haven't been bothered to figure out precisely the proper way to dispose of. What's your story?

Friday, November 04, 2005

New Employment Numbers
The job market sucks
Employers added only 56,000 jobs in October, well below the 150,000 or so that are needed to keep pace with population growth. The Labor Department also said that 36,000 fewer jobs had been added in August and September than previously estimated.
And it's not just the number of jobs:
Researchers at the New School University in New York found that only 41.8 percent of the working age population has found employment in jobs that pay adequate wages
John Schmitt, a labor economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, concluded that the share of workers with “good” jobs – defined as jobs with wages of at least $16 per hour, health insurance and a pension – has remained stable from 2000 to 2004 at about 25 percent. The shares of younger workers and of workers with less education with good jobs have actually declined during those years.
Sure paints a dirtier picture than 5% unemployment doesn't it?
We've all been there
Locked in the trunk of the car with no way out... you know, just to see if you would fit. Now there's an answer that's easy to see and understand while you're gasping for that last breath. BoingBoing's Mark Frauenfelder unpacks the multi-level beauty of Ford's new glow-in-the-dark symbol based pull tab.
More new lows
37 in AP-Ipsos
39 in ABC/Washington Post
For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.

On almost every key measure of presidential character and performance, the survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office -- the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls....
Forget about impeachment and indictments, how about the whole lot of them just resign out of shame for poor performance. President Hastert, anyone? That couldn't be worse could it?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

35 and falling
New CBS News job approval rating for the President. Yglesias puts it in perspective:
Indeed, it seems to raise the question of whether it'll even be possible for Bush to go any lower. After all, 22 percent of Americans say they've personally seen ghosts, so you can probably get 20 percent to agree to anything.
A Kos diarist points out that Bush is now only 8 points ahead of Nixon's 27% approval at this time in his second term.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Equal Rights
In the past, Howard Dean, channeling the wisdom of George Lakoff, has suggested that the abortion rights issue be framed by Democrats as one of control. Democrats want women to be in control of their bodies, while right-wing Republicans want to control women's bodies. To me that sounds about right, but some of my friends think that's a bit of hyperbole. For them, anti-abortion nuts are really principled on a moral ground that's at least respectable, if ultimately misguided.

But this Alito dissent getting attention puts into clear relief just how wrong-headed that apology is. At issue there is a law, passed by the men of the Pennsylvania state legislature, requiring women to notify their husbands before choosing not to have a child if they don't want one. Even if the husband raped the wife. Even if the child is not the husband's. Even if she just damn well doesn't want to tell the bastard.

Alito thinks that sounds about right. So too religious conservatives that apparently control the judicial decisions of this White House.

Add to that what Garance Franke-Ruta points out (via Kevin Drum)--that the same legislature did not see fit to require husbands to tell their wives if they were carrying a deadly sexually transmittable disease:
(T)here is no state demand that a man inform his wife that she may be at risk of contracting a deadly disease from him. He is asked to do so as a matter of decency, and there is an option for physicians to intervene to inform the wife if it seems likely the man will not do so. But in situations where the husband (or other sexual partner) chooses to lie to the physician about his intentions, the state holds both the man and the physician blameless.
This is about control, plain and simple. I have ranted about this before, famously, so I won't bore you with that again, but it seems perfectly clear to me that if men could get pregnant, there would be an abortion clinic at every street corner, and drug companies would have perfected a suitable pill decades ago with all of the enthusiasm they took to erectile dysfunction. Republicans just don't want women to have independent thoughts, or make independent decisions.

Luckily, the American people know better. But our collective horror isn't enough on its own to keep this sexist off the bench.
Humble Request from a Teacher
I know scientists are busy. They're trying to cure diseases, replace fossil fuels, explore outer space, blah blah blah. Can I please get one to spend a little extra time (it can be one of the lesser scientists out there) creating a freaking dry erase marker that works well for more than 15 minutes?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Reid shuts down the Senate
Wow. Steve Clemons has more.
What makes an activist judge?
This came up in the Times a couple months ago but seems worth revisiting today. If being an activist judge, "legislating from the bench", as everyone likes to call it these days, means voting to overturn congressional legislation, then the top 5 activist judges on the Supreme Court since 1994 were: Thomas, Kennedy, Scalia, Rehnquist, O'Connor. The 4 "liberal" justices? At the bottom of the list.

So can we please get rid of the ridiculous idea that "conservative" judge is the opposite of an "activist" judge? Clarence Thomas has voted to overturn congressional legislation more than twice as often as Steven Breyer. (Via Washington Monthly)