Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Harmful Books
Brad Delong points to this ridiculous Human Events Online list of the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th Centuries, plus honorable mentions, as chosen by complete nut-case conservatives. Included are the predictable (Marx, Nietzsche, Darwin) and those that are just plain inconvenient to the right because of their truthful power (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, The Kinsey Report!). Former philosophy professors who made me read Mill's "On Liberty," and Dewey's "Democracy and Education," and Foucault's "Madness and Civilization" will be thrilled to know that they also made the list.

At least now we know some good classic books to put on our Christmas lists.
Greg Beato at Wonkette has important news about this month's unemployment statistics.
W. Mark Felt is Deep Throat [Updated]
Or so he and his family say. He was the #2 FBI man. He's also 91 years old and may have just been asked if he was the anonymous source for so long that now he believes it. Woodward and Bernstein are keeping their mouths shut. The Vanity Fair piece breaking it is a pdf file.

[Update: Josh Marshall notes that the Washington Post has confirmed the story with Woodward, Bernstein and Bradley.]
Institution of Marriage
A reader sent in this Molly Ivins column, which quotes African-American Texas State Legislator Senfronia Thompson, from a recent debate about a constitutional amendment offered by Representative Chisum. It ultimately passed the House.
When I was a small girl, white folks used to talk about ‘protecting the institution of marriage’ as well. What they meant was if people of my color tried to marry people of Mr. Chisum’s color, you’d often find the people of my color hanging from a tree. ... Fifty years ago, white folks thought interracial marriages were ‘a threat to the institution of marriage.’

Members, I’m a Christian and a proud Christian. I read the good book and do my best to live by it. I have never read the verse where it says, ‘Gay people can’t marry.’ I have never read the verse where it says, ‘Thou shalt discriminate against those not like me.’ I have never read the verse where it says, ‘Let’s base our public policy on hate and fear and discrimination.’ Christianity to me is love and hope and faith and forgiveness — not hate and discrimination.

I have served in this body a lot of years, and I have seen a lot of promises broken. ... So ... now that blacks and women have equal rights, you turn your hatred to homosexuals, and you still use your misguided reading of the Bible to justify your hatred. You want to pass this ridiculous amendment so you can go home and brag — brag about what? Declare that you saved the people of Texas from what?
From what, indeed.

Monday, May 30, 2005

MEDIA MONDAY (Postponed)
What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

HBO has kept us waiting forever for the final seasons of both The Sopranos and the best show on television, Six Feet Under. We still have to wait until 2006 sometime for Tony's last dance, but Six Feet Under gets underway in one week, premiering on Monday, June 6 at 9 pm ET. Being a final season for a show so overtly about death, I don't expect a feel-good wrap-up, but I still can't wait to see it. Season 3 was not so good, but the first, second and last season (the 4th) make up some of the best TV I've ever seen. Hopefully the final, Season Five, will live up to last season's final episode.

Wanna catch up really fast? Watch the entire last season this week on HBO2:
Tuesday: 8,9,10 pm ET--Episodes 40,41,42
Wednesday: 8,9,10 pm ET--Episodes 43,44,45
Thursday: 8,9,10 pm ET--Episodes 46,47,48
Friday: 8,9,10 pm ET--Episodes 49,50,51 (the amazingly good season finale)

Fast-Food Nation: The Movie
Richard Linklater is signed to make a "fictionalized thriller" of this non-fiction book. Whatever that means. (via Blog Riley)

Martha Wainwright
Kenny B strongly recommends, and I concur, the music of Rufus' sister, Martha. I was concerned that she was picking up music as a fall-back strategy (she previously tried acting) to capitalize on her name. But she has a commanding, confident voice, and is a fabulous guitar player. I'm looking forward to finding her debut album to see if the honest energy translates from a very small venue to a studio album.

Kenny and I both caught her live at The Basement, a fun new tiny club underneath our town's best record shop, Grimey's. An intimate setting, The Basement is also smoke-free, which had alot to do with how pleasant the experience was. Are you able to catch live music in smoke-free bars where you live? How can we get more of these?

Robert Greenwald, maker of the documentary films Outfoxed, Unprecedented, Unconstitutional, and Uncovered, will soon reveal details of his next "mystery film".

The Beast
Somebody's been thinking ahead. You think fundamentalist Christians are a pain in the ass now? Wait until next summer, when a film will come out about uncovering "Christianity's best-kept secret": that Jesus never existed. The Beast purports to be "diving into factual territory well-explored by scholars but largely hidden from the view of the public." Why next summer? June 06 (06-06-06). Just in time to get them all riled up heading into the mid-term elections. Thanks alot, Hollywood.

Whale Song Decline
I haven't been listening to whale singing, but Dr. Roger Payne has. And he says that "the whale songs of the 60's were much more beautiful than the whale songs these days." Kinda like the Rolling Stones.
(via BoingBoing)

Weekend Box Office
1. Star Wars: Episode 3
2. Madagascar
3. The Longest Yard
4. Monster-in-Law
5. Kicking and Screaming

I'll chime in with my own Media Monday thoughts sometime tonight [<---Done; see above] (in the meantime, at Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death, Doug reminds us of the reason for the season)--please post your own raves and rants in the comments. In addition to it being a holiday, I also am dealing with a flooded apartment, thanks to a hose on my clothes washer that decided to bust during the hour and a half I was out yesterday afternoon. You haven't lived until you've come home to water gushing out of your ceiling light fixtures into a lake where the carpet used to be.

Going away for a holiday this summer? Think about turning off the water. Lucky for me (and the neighbors) I was only gone for 90 minutes.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Specter Kicking Butt
AMERICAblog has the PA Senator smacking down the conservative Brownback from Kansas over stem cell research on this morning's ABC talk show.
(Not so) Secret Meetings of Urgency
Interested parties on the left and the right have been conducting secret meetings to try and agree on proposals that would expand health coverage to as many uninsured as quickly as possible.

Since the group includes reps from the insurance and the pharmaceutical industries, there's a decent chance that any resulting legislation will actually have a chance to pass; for the same reason, there's also a good chance it will be crap.

The group is considering these options:

--The federal government could require parents to arrange health insurance for their children up to a certain age, say 21. If the children were not eligible for public programs like Medicaid, the parents could obtain tax credits to help meet the cost.

--If an employer does not offer health benefits to employees, the workers could designate amounts to be withheld from their paychecks, along with taxes. These amounts would eventually be forwarded to insurers to pay premiums.

--The federal government could provide tax credits to low-income individuals and families or small businesses to help them pay for insurance. The full amount of the credit would be sent directly to the insurer.

--Medicaid could be expanded to cover any adult with income below the official poverty level (about $9,600 for an individual). Each state would decide for itself whether to do this, and the federal government would provide financial incentives for states to take the option.

--The federal government would offer small grants to states to help them establish insurance purchasing pools. Individuals and small businesses could buy coverage through these pools.
I like the one where workers will be able to have money taken right out of their checks to pay for their insurance directly. Woohoo--thanks!! Sounds like many new ways for people to be able to, or required to, send money to insurance companies.

Things will have to get a good bit worse before they get alot better with a reasonable universal coverage system. According to David Broder, after reading the National Coalition on Health Care report, that time may be now:
(T)he potential savings to business, individuals and government from comprehensive reform of the beleaguered medical-insurance-hospital system....are startling -- a projected saving of anywhere from $320 billion to $1.1 trillion in the first 10 years, even while insurance coverage is extended to every American and stronger quality measures are put in place.
Underlining the advantage of systemic reform are [Chairman of the Emory University Department of Health Policy Kenneth] Thorpe's calculations of the likely consequences of doing nothing to change the current system. Without fundamental change, by 2015, the United States is likely to have 54 million uninsured -- 20 percent more than today -- and be spending 19 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, compared with 15.6 percent today.
The National Coalition's website is here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Speech Every Graduate (and no adult) Should Be Hearing This Month
Given by Howard Zinn, at Spelman College
My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment. It is easy to be discouraged, because our nation is at war - still another war, war after war - and our government seems determined to expand its empire even if it costs the lives of tens of thousands of human beings. There is poverty in this country, and homelessness, and people without health care, and crowded classrooms, but our government, which has trillions of dollars to spend, is spending its wealth on war. There are a billion people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who need clean water and medicine to deal with malaria and tuberculosis and AIDS, but our government, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, is experimenting with even more deadly nuclear weapons. Yes, it is easy to be discouraged by all that.
Then he reminded that the Civil Rights Movement did eventually break the entrenched, institutionalized discrimination of the White South, and that an anti-war movement among soldiers, citizens, and draftees did eventually end the seemingly never-ending Vietnam War. And concluded:
The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. The government may try to deceive the people, and the newspapers and television may do the same, but the truth has a way of coming out. The truth has a power greater than a hundred lies. I know you have practical things to do - to get jobs and get married and have children. You may become prosperous and be considered a success in the way our society defines success, by wealth and standing and prestige. But that is not enough for a good life.
He's right. At times, it feels like there are so many fronts of injustice, greed, and just plain bullying, that I have a hard time knowing just where to mount a resistance; harder still is knowing how to resist with any efficacy. That concern then becomes my complaint ("It won't work!") in response to every idea, and I end up doing the easiest thing of all, nothing. Voting isn't enough. Being right--even when I am--doesn't help. Blogging isn't enough really an act of any kind.

He's right (still, a paragraph later). Only peaceful, determined, principled, organized confrontation will keep us--eventually--from terrorizing the world, from terrorizing gay people, from leaving the vast majority of citizens (of the US and the World), not to mention governments, impoverished in one way or another. Confrontation annoys, irritates, rouses attention. I don't lack the will, or the nerve, to act--even if I did, those things can be increased with time and circumstance. I'm worse. I lack the constitution for it. Just a loose knitting of decent manners masquerading as a human being. (That kind of (non)existence really impresses the ladies too!)

Amid a brief excursion into mainstream political activism, my impression is that it is essentially endless, directionless, pointless meetings, one after another, plus giving what money you can to the same old ineffective machines. Something's got to change. I've got to act (up) more, or else care less. Horrible things are being done in our name, under our noses, and sold as righteous, patriotic, freedom-loving Christian values; and what am I doing?

A good graduation speech should make the graduates feel empowered and the adults feel like failures. It worked. Thanks, Howard.
LATimes says Frist should resign
The best thing a Senate majority leader with presidential aspirations can do is quit. That was Bob Dole's strategy in 1996, when he resigned to run against President Clinton. And it may be part of Bill Frist's decision not to seek reelection in 2006. If so, Frist could hardly make a smarter move.
Frist may be bringing trouble on himself by trying to satisfy the exorbitant demands of his party's far-right wing, which, like the old Soviet Union, views one concession simply as an occasion to ask for another. Before Frist truckles any further to the conservative base, he would do well to remember that the Hippocratic oath should apply to the Senate as well: First do no harm.
It's too far away from '08 to be saying such things, but Frist's Presidential hopes are sure looking silly aren't they? I have never been one that gives him much of a chance though. Meanwhile, Hillary's prospects are looking up. Sadly, there are 3 years for the other side to tear her down; I'm sure they will try to do just that.
Step Away From the Soft Drink
Via BoingBoing
Among respondents to the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), more than two thirds reported drinking enough soda and/or sweet drinks to provide them with a greater proportion of daily calories than any other food. In addition, obesity rates were higher among these sweet drink consumers.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Party Against Desecration
John at Americablog (which has become such essential reading that I've added it to the blogroll) has a fabulous idea for Democrats:
Congress ought to pass a law banning the military from desecrating the Bible, the Quran, or the Torah. Come on, Democrats. The Republicans would crap their pants if you offered this legislation. If they opposed it, they'd be responsible for sending a terrible message to the world - not to mention, I'd love to see them explain to the voters why they refused to vote for the Bible Protection Act.
I agree. Hillary Clinton, are you listening?
Swiped this link from Kos. "Store Wars" is no "Battleship Pumpkin," but it's damned funny and brilliant.
Bad Timing
From the local news. On Wednesday, Harold Ford, Jr. files as a candidate for US Senate. On Thursday, his uncle, John Ford, is arrested on charges of being a corrupt State Senator.
500 detainees held for 4 years (so far) without being charged
50,000 detainees in 42 detention facilities during military operations
300 recorded cases of alleged abuse
100 detainees hidden from the Red Cross
40+ deaths by police taser
59 state-sponsored executions
5 released from death row for innocence
70 child offenders on death row

And that's just in 2004. Read Amnesty International's report on your United States.
Faking It
Tina Brown thinks we're just not falling for it anymore. Lied to by the President and his buddies, lied to by a Congress that claims to care about "life" and the "traditions of the Senate", lied to by the military, lied to by celebrities ("I didn't touch that boy", "You will love my new movie", "I'm rehabilitated!"), and now, worst of all, lied to by--*gasp*--Tom Cruise.
Maybe there's been some alarming secret studio poll that proves scientifically (or Scientologically?) that Cruise's weirdness/asexuality rating is at an all-time high. But with a new movie to promote (the impending Steven Spielberg monster "War of the Worlds"), a People magazine poll showing 62 percent of readers dismissing the Tom/Katie liaison as a publicity stunt, and showy PDA ploys falling flat, Cruise resorted to desperate measures:
"Sure They're in Love -- With Publicity" ran the Boston Globe headline. What Cruise doesn't seem to get is that everybody's an insider now, from the Us Magazine generation on up to the AARP cohort. Tom is just not hip to the public's new hipness. We know the poor guy has to go on "Oprah" and pretend to be in love with Holmes, and we don't mind -- he has a movie coming out. But can't he, like, fake it with more conviction?
I think she's right. We're on to them. We know Paris Hilton isn't really that stupid; that Flavor Flav isn't really in love with Brigitte Nielsen; that Madonna isn't really Jewish now; that Bill Frist didn't really learn to love Jesus in Washington; that George W. isn't really like one of us.

TV cameras are the new truth serum. The harder they try, the clearer we see right through them. Famous people need a new schtick. We're so done with them. Lying about love is the last straw.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

TalkLeft reports on the "stupid arrest of the week"
Police in Charlotte, North Carolina arrested an 86 year old woman for calling 911 to complain that a pizza restaurant refused to deliver pizza to her apartment.
Silly woman. Everybody knows that when you don't get your pizza, you call the Governor. In Tennessee, that's Phil Bredesen: 615-741-2001. The police are busy tracking down and prosecuting real criminals.
Kos on Bush-Logic
We're getting killed = we're winning!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Courage, Justice, and the Fortunate Seat in the Car [UPDATED]
For a few years, I have been a fan of the arguments of Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford. He is a brilliant, forward-thinking, legal pioneer in intellectual property. His blog is one of the first I ever read, notable for its passion, its overt search for positions of integrity, its ambition to change the way we think about copyright in the digital age, and its occasional especially honest moments of self-deprecation and doubt.

Witness this recent post, in which he laments the pressures he puts on himself in public speaking, the extent of his travels away from home, and his decision to agree to less engagements to see more of his wife and his very young son in person. All this from a man that may turn out to be the most significant legal scholar of the turn of this century. Done right, weblogs allow this kind of get-to-know-you-even-though-I-don't-know-you (non)intimacy. So it was especially heartening and touching to learn that he is also a strong and courageous person, as he awaits the New Jersey State Supreme Court's decision in Hardwicke v. American Boychoir School, an appeal he himself argued, against a school he himself attended as a young teenager.
During his work on the case, Lessig has been asked more than once by the press if he had experiences at the school similar to Hardwicke’s. And Lessig has replied, “My experiences aren’t what’s at issue here. What’s at issue is what happened to John Hardwicke.”

The answer is appropriate, politic—but it’s not entirely true. For Lessig has told me that he too was abused at the Boychoir School, and by the same music director that Hardwicke claims was one of his abusers. Lessig is by nature a shy, intensely private person. The fact of his abuse is known to almost no one: not the reporters covering the case, not the supreme-court justices. The fact of his abuse isn’t even known to Larry Lessig’s parents.

In taking this case, however, Lessig has cast aside his caution about a secret that haunts him still. And while his passion about his client’s cause is real and visceral, Hardwicke isn’t the only plaintiff here. Lessig is also litigating on behalf of the child he once was.
The entire story, in the New York Metro, is a must-read, both for those who, upon enduring life's collisions, have felt the brunt of the painful seats in the car, and those who manage to emerge, unharmed, from a fortunate seat.

[UPDATE 1: On his blog, Prof. Lessig posts briefly on the article]

[UPDATE 2: Plaintiff John Hardwicke posts a comment here at Article 19, so be sure to read those, but the article first.]
Impending Calamity in 2036?
We'll see if Bush cares as much about addressing this disaster down the road as he does social security. Which would be worse, raising the cap on payroll taxes or getting pounded by a meteor 320 meters in diameter, as a scientist warned at a recent meeting of the National Space Society International Space Development Conference? I'm betting Bush and the Republicans are willing to roll the dice on that one.
The worst part about the filibuster compromise (pdf) is that Janice Rogers Brown gets confirmed to the DC Circuit. That's especially bad for a couple reasons: 1) The DC Circuit is a reasonably moderate one, with some progressive hints. Now, it's going to be significantly more conservative. Priscilla Owen may be just as bad on many issues, but the 5th Circuit was already a lost cause. 2) Brown seriously raises the bar as to what can be counted as "extreme" or "extraordinary" cases, those which would allow those signatories to break their pledge not to support a filibuster. If Brown doesn't count as extreme, who does?

I still think Bush will pick a Dobson-loving Supreme Court nominee for a vacancy (maybe not the first), and dare Democrats in this group to break ranks. If he doesn't, then this deal really is a good one.

Other than that, my instinct is that the deal is craptacular, that we were close to having the votes to defeat Frist today, and that even if they won it would have caused them great political damage that may have overcome whatever judicial appointments they were able to make. But there's no way to know.

To read other perspectives:
Bad deal
Russ Feingold
Jeralyn at TalkLeft (part 1; part 2)
Matt Yglesias (with caveats)
Good Deal
Kos (part 1, part 2)
Josh Marshall (with caveats)

Josh also points out that we can at least enjoy the steam coming out of the ears of both Gary Bauer and James Dobson. But the last laugh has not yet been had.

Monday, May 23, 2005

What have you been listening to, watching, and reading?

Broadway, You're Fired
I don't know what thoughts go into deciding what ideas may make a great broadway musical. But I can't believe The Apprentice--yes Trump's TV show--could possibly be either decent or successful, but that's not stopping them from trying.

DVD Releases this week
include The Aviator and The Godfather II (it wasn't on DVD before?)

Lewberry recommends Motorcycle Diaries, and that we get off our collective butts and, uh, read about exercising. Food for Fitness and Slow Fat Triathlete are his suggestions. Also, he's looking for some new tunes. My recent listening is below.

New Music Purchases
In order of recommendation, here are some CDs I rewarded myself with for ending the semester.
1. Ben Folds--"Songs for Silverman" I've never really gotten into the nerd-rock scene, including Ben Folds 5. Not even sure why I bought this one, but I really like it. It's probably some kind of illness, but I have images of him as potentially a modern-day Randy Newman (I know, Randy Newman is still the modern-day Randy Newman, but you know what I mean). Maybe I'm just trying to like him because he lives in Nashville now.
2. Arcade Fire - "Funeral" Kind of like if the Pixies and The Band had a love-child. I'm late to this one; it got lots of 2004 hype. Lots of instruments keep things fresh and different than your ordinary rock. Compellingly forceful. Or forcefully compelling.
3. Beck - "Guero" I may come around to liking this one more. I usually like him more after several listens. Nothing bad about it, but nothing special. It's a mixture of his Odelay rapper days and his Mutations somber songwriter days. Both kinds of tracks, but not sure that they're as convincing as they were in both of those earlier albums. But it may be too early. I reserve the right to change my mind.
4. Aimee Mann - "The Forgotten Arm" - Nice, but not up to my expectations. Not horrible, but nothing striking. The songs all kind of sound the same (and I've been a fan of hers); but the worst thing is that I know it's a theme album, adn I've read the lyrics with that in mind, and I still can't make heads or tails of it. No real thematic/character unity or development unless I'm just densely missing it, which is always a possiblity. Only had one listen so far, so I could come around on this one too.

Article 19 Film Recommendation: Star Wars, Episode 3
************** (14 out of 19)
Had no trouble getting tickets on Saturday night. I think it was playing on every screen. I thought it was great for what it was, and did a good job dealing with a difficult plot situation: everyone who knows the Star Wars series already knows what the major twists must be. The visuals were fabulous and the sound was amazing. A few things bug me, but I suppose they are easily surrendered for the sake of the movie:
1. Why most Yoda walk with a cane when we know he can jump/spin/fight like a madman? Kenny B says he obviously has to use the force for physical activity and shouldn't use it for something as selfish as walking.
2. Volcanoes are hot, right? Like really really hot. You don't want to be surfing on lava, inside a volcano I'm guessing.
3. They seem to be able to transmit holographic images of themselves at will, when it's convenient to the plot. But I guess they never think of it when they could really use some help.
4. Yoda uses different grammar - know that by now we do. But some of his sentences in this one were just painful.

But overall I thought it was much stronger than 1 or 2. The biggest flaw is the toughest element - making the transition to Darth Vader/the dark side convincing. He has to be weak enough/flawed enough so that it seems reasonable, but strong enough and with enough good character that he could be the person Obi-Wan describes to Luke in the original film. I don't think he quite lived up to this second requirement. But walking that line is probably impossible.

Also, there's no way any reasonable person can come away thinking this movie is about Bush. If you think about it, you can notice similar mistakes in outlook. But it was hardly an attempt to jab him.

Quote of the Day
Only the summer leaves me still enough to read any poets. Here's Rilke, from last night.
[B]e patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within yourself the possibility of shaping and forming as a particularly happy and pure way of living: train yourself to it - but take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your inmost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing.
Weekend Box Office
1. Star Wars, Episode 3
2. Star Wars, Episode 3
3. Star Wars, Episode 3
4. Star Wars, Episode 3
5. Star Wars, Episode 3

Well, practically.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Chairman Dean [UPDATED]
I thought he was great on Russert this morning. He didn't back away from controversial comments and for the most part brought everything back to the central message: Republicans are doing terrible things to the country, and that's what happens when one party becomes entrenched in Washington. He did spend almost an entire segment referring to Osama bin Laden when he clearly meant Saddam Hussein, and he probably did get drawn further into bringing out his personal opinions on issues--as opposed to speaking on behalf of the Party--than some congressional leaders might like. I'll post a transcript link when I find it. You can catch the replays tonight if you missed it.

[UPDATE: Transcript here]
Anatomy of Stem Cell Legislation
In today's Washington Post, essays by 2 esteemed opinion writers tell different kinds of stories about the current stem cell research legislation the President has threatened to veto.
David Broder explains how this unlikely bill has made it to the floor:
It is rare that any bill that originates on the Democratic side of the House ever comes to a vote. The Republican leadership sets the agenda and has the power, under House rules, to exclude measures it has not endorsed.

But Rep. Diana DeGette, a fifth-term Democrat from Denver, fought doggedly against the odds and lobbied every member on her side of the aisle to support the cause. More important, she found an ally in Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware, who in his seventh term has emerged as the shrewdest politician among the small band of Republican moderates.
Michael Kinsley comments on the substance of the stem-cell debate and the hopeful emotions it both raises and unravels, especially in light of the recent announcement from Korea of more successful, efficient methods of cloning cells from a human being.
Other nations are racing for the leadership role in stem cell research that the United States has abandoned. And individual states are defying the federal near-ban. So it seems unlikely that U.S. government policy will actually prevent a cure for Parkinson's and other diseases. And it's not too likely that a cure will come in time for most current sufferers in any event. But it might, it might. So if my government merely manages to slow the process down -- as it already has done for years -- that is disheartening.

Friday, May 20, 2005

When Extremists Veto
Bush will veto a bill that would have made it a teeny bit easier to conduct stem cell research.

Maryland Governor Ehrlich will squash the gay rights bill the MD legislature passed. It would have allowed for equal rights for unmarried couples (including gay couples) that register with the state.

Is "moderate Republican" now officially an oxymoron? We'll know next week...Tuesday, about 2 pm.
Dean on MTP
Russert will interview Howard Dean for the full hour on Sunday. Dean's taken some criticism, perhaps rightly so. He's said some silly things and according to Novak has fallen way short of the GOP in fundraising in the first quarter. And even though it is true that he is reaching out to "red states," he seems to be visiting with only hard-core supporters (and getting the cold shoulder from Democratic Governors). Hopefully the purpose is to get those organizations in shape to appeal to centrist and previously-apathetic voters. Here's hoping he's got a plan. And that he doesn't say anything so controversial on Sunday to detract from the Democratic unity in fighting the rule-breaking in the Senate that will occur this week.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

No chance...
I heard on Olbermann's show just now, and I've read it elsewhere, that there's a good chance Frist doesn't have the votes for the "nuclear option" even though he's just announced it will all go down on Tuesday at 2 pm. They say the head-counting is not yielding results on the GOP side, and the tradition of the Senate will lead some of those long-serving Republican Senators to vote agaisnt their party. I don't believe it for a second. We would need 6 of them to cross lines. No chance. Anyone even considering it is getting a serious arm-twist. Even Hagel, who really has the most to gain by defeating Frist, since he eyes the White House also, is going to fall in line.

Our victory - if there is to be one - will come in the aftermath of Frist's inevitable success. He may be sorry. That's all we have left.
Rick Santorum is on Crack
Can anyone explain to me how this metaphor works?
What the Democrats are doing is "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.' This is no more the rule of the senate than it was the rule of the senate before not to filibuster."
Only serious drugs could lead a person to try that connection.
John Jay Hooker Has a Blog
And why?
I sincerely believe blogging can save America.
This is (not) encouraging
After 2004, I don't believe in polls, especially ones taken far in advance of an election. I no longer believe that public disapproval of Republicans, much less actual screw-ups and bad news, ever actually leads the public to vote against them. If I did, I might be interested by this:
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that disapproval of Congress's performance is higher than it has been since 1994, the year voters swept Democrats out of power on Capitol Hill. Americans have grown gloomier about the nation's direction, the economy and Iraq, and by 65%-17% they say Congress doesn't share their priorities.
When Americans are asked which party they want to control Congress after the 2006 elections, Democrats hold a 47%-40% edge -- the party's best showing since the Journal/NBC survey began asking that question in 1994.
But I don't. So I'm not.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Premature Star Wars Post [UPDATED]
I haven't, of course, seen Episode 3 yet, but I'm amused by Republican whining that the plot amounts to a political indictment of President Bush. The Star Wars films are notable for their embrace of classic, even ancient, narrative themes of the true hero: sacrifice for others, resisting the temptation of power in favor of humanity, following your true self and calling in the face of an imposed system. As Joseph Campbell said in his interview with Bill Moyers:
Is the system going to flatten you out and deny you your humanity, or are you going to be able to make use of the system to the attainment of human purposes? How do you relate to the system so that you are not compulsively serving it? It doesn't help to try to change it to accord with your system of thought. The momentum of history behind it is too great for anything really significant to evolve from that kind of action. The thing to do is learn to live in your period of history as a human being. That's something else, and it can be done...[b]y holding to your own ideals for yourself and, like Luke Skywalker, rejecting the system's impersonal claims on you."
The dark side - like the dark sides of all great narratives of good and evil - values vengeance over love, imposition over understanding, force over diplomacy, victory over honesty, and it falls ultimately of its own hubris, having forsaken its own humanity. If Republicans see their leader in those timeless depictions of evil, George Lucas is hardly to blame. It is the oldest story in the history of the world, and for good reason. If our President has become a caricature on the wrong side of that tale, it is for him to answer.

[UPDATE: Before everyone latches on to the "you're with us or you're with the enemy" line in assigning Lucas present-day political intentions, Matt Yglesias reminds that George Bush didn't exactly make that up.]
Reid Appeals to "Republicans who believe in liberty"
The Washington Republicans are on a quest for absolute power...and we all know what that brings. Their corruption and abuse of power is already here for all Americans to see. House Republican leader Tom Delay is a walking symbol of what's wrong with Washington DC.

At a time when gas prices are going through the roof and families are cutting back on summer vacations, George Bush and Dick Cheney are trying to line the pockets of big oil and walking hand-in-hand with the Saudi princes.

And while health care costs are rising, pensions are sinking, and our economy is stuck in place, Washington Republicans are wasting our time by trying to pay off the far right.

We are a nation at war. And the American people want their leaders to be focused on achieving progress, not playing partisan games.
Read the whole thing.
Schumer: The US is a Banana Republic
Over at TalkLeft, Jeralyn relays information from Senator Schumer's recent conference call with bloggers about the impending "nuclear option" showdown in the Senate.
Sen. Schumer said there are 25 Republicans who are uncomfortable with the nuclear option, but all but 10 cannot afford to buck the hard right. Of those 10, he said that 7 or 8 are up in the air. The declared ones are Sens. McCain, Chaffee and Snow. Sen. Collins of Maine sounds like one who might side with the Democrats. There's a chance that Sen. Warner and Sen. Specter will vote against the nuclear option. He said not to count on Sen. Roberts from Kansas as had been reported in the media Sunday.

I also asked Sen. Schumer if our activism can help at this juncture - whether the Senators on the fence would be responsive to calls and pleas from constituents. He said absolutely.
If you live in PA, VA, ME, NE, AZ, please call your Senator! It sounds like they don't have the votes yet, but are on their way.
Much Better
Last week, I whined about an unsatisfying (to me) attempt to align Democrats with Christian values through a billboard. I like this way much more: a courageous letter from many faculty members of a conservative Christian college, the one Karl Rove decided to send Bush to as a commencement speaker. It will appear in the local paper:
"As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," the ad will say. "We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."
"No single political position should be identified with God's will," says the ad, which also chastises the president for "actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor."
"Christians are to be characterized by love and gentleness," it adds, but "we believe that your administration has fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees."
Moreover, says the letter, set to run in the Grand Rapids Press, the Bush administration's environmental policies "have harmed creation," and it asks the president "to re-examine your policies in light of our God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy."
"Some think we should be honored to have the president here," religion professor David Crump said. "We're excited by the opportunity to show people that evangelical Christianity is represented by a much broader spectrum of opinion than is depicted by the religious right and the media."
I can't imagine Rove and Bush would have picked Calvin College without being confident the school's Administration supports the Bush agenda. So this action is that much more courageous. More of that please. Pass it on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Americans [heart] Christian Conservatives
As a follow-up to the discussion around the blog-world in which Yglesias and Drum suggested we lighten up on the religious liberty issue, I looked back over the extensive Pew poll that gave rise to their concern. Among the more horrifying discoveries was this below. What should we make of this?

Everyone but "liberals" have a favorable opinion of the Christian Conservative movement. (For a description of the different "types" polled, you can read this). All I can think of is that we need another name for the Jerry Falwells/Pat Robertsons/James Dobsons of the world. "Christian" and "religious" are terms with which many good Americans identify, even if they would not agree with many of the wackos' positions. So "religious right," and "Christian conservative" need an upgrade to something more accurate. What should we call them? No, really.
Bizarro World
WH spokesman Scott McClellan on the Newsweek retraction:
"This allegation was unsubstantiated and it was contrary to everything that we value and all that our military works to uphold. We encourage Newsweek to now work diligently to help undo what damage can be undone."

"People lost their lives. the image of the United States abroad has been damaged. It will take work to undo what can be undone"
(my emphasis)
Can you believe Newsweek would do that to us? Ruin the great international image the Bush team has worked so hard to build up?

Meanwhile, 5 days ago, when the White House assumed the story was probably true (and why wouldn't they?), the Administration claimed the rioting was "not at all tied to the magazine."

Think Progress (via Kos) reminds us of the Bush attitude toward using a single wrong source when the result was a war on Iraq killing probably 100,000+
QUESTION: He's the president of the United States. This thing he told the country on the verge of taking the nation to war has turned out to be, by your own account, not reliable. That's his fault, isn't it?
Cracking down on single sources must be a new push of the second term... Olbermann puts it all together if you're not already too sick to read more.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

Doug recommends the Gang of Four reissue: Entertainment!

New Yorker Music Review
Sasha Frere-Jones doesn't care for Bruce Springsteen's new release (neither does Tim Riley). I'm still waiting for my copy from one of those shady Amazon partners.

When Mr. Cordle discovered that he was no longer anonymous, he says, it felt like "a punch in the stomach." He was sitting on the couch, feet propped up, working on his laptop. While visiting a poetry-related blog, he noticed something strange: his name, address, and home telephone number. He checked another site and there they were again. "The cat is out of the bag," one blog declared triumphantly.

Ms. Halme happened to be in the room at the time. Mr. Cordle thought briefly about keeping it from her, then realized that would be impossible. When he told her, he started crying. Then she started crying.
Discover the "Michael Moore of poetry", and his no-longer-anonymous website.

MP3 Blogs
Not enough music on the Net you say? Check out this post at the Tofu Hut. Scroll down and marvel at the list, organized by type.

Cannes Festival Buzzes About Woody
I will probably fall for this again and again. Every year about this time, a European audience goes aflutter for Woody Allen's newest film, and a critic or two get caught up in the frenzy to declare it his "best work in decades." But this time, they sound like they really really mean it. Well, maybe. The real question is, how fast can the man make movies? I thought he was only working at the already-quick pace of one a year, but he released Melinda and Melinda in the US a few months ago(it was good/better than recent, but not great), and I assume he won't wait until 2006 sitting on "Match Point," which stars the lovely and talented Scarlet Johansson.

Book Query
I'm interested in Everything Bad is Good For You, a book recently profiled in BoingBoing, though I'm doubtful it will thoroughly convince me.
The thesis of Everything Bad is Good for You is this: people who deride popular culture do so because so much of popcult's subject matter is banal or offensive. But the beneficial elements of videogames and TV arise not from their subject matter, but from their format, which require that players and viewers winkle out complex storylines and puzzles, getting a "cognitive workout" that teaches the same kind of skills that math problems and chess games impart.
Anyone know anything about it? Or the author?

Video Releases
3 acclaimed films from 2004 are released on video this week: Kinsey, The Sea Inside, and Tarnation. I haven't seen any of them, but looking forward to it.

Fearless Freaks

A documentary about The Flaming Lips is released today on DVD. Sounds like a long time in the making. If you're in Nashville, The Basement is offering a free screening at 8, with a Flaming Lips cover band along for the ride.

Article 19 Film Recommendation: Crash
************** (14 out of 19)
Interesting and watchable, touching and crushing. I don't want to ruin any of it, but it's worth seeing. But be warned, you'll feel like you've been beaten up by the time it's over. Weaves stories in a way reminiscent of Magnolia, but doesn't try to dive so far beneath the surface as that one did.

Article 19 Film Recommendation: Old Boy
**************** (16 out of 19)
A really good, fascinating film, and not like anything we're ever able to see in American cinema. From what little I had read I expected a gory blood-fest but it's really not like that, though there are definitely a few excruciating scenes, and as Roger Ebert wrote in his rave (does he ever dislike movies anymore?) an "octopus was definitely harmed in the making of this film". This is no martial arts fight romp, more of a psychological puzzler themed around vengeance. I had read that it's a Korean "Kill Bill," but the fighting here is really secondary (at best), and while they are beautifully shot, the few fighting scenes are notable more for their pathos than as the thrilling choreography we've grown to know through Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, and others.

There are still some things I don't really understand and you must work through the first 30 minutes or so just to get to a point where you grasp the thrust of the narrative. The good news for viewers is that it does, eventually, come, and that it is worth it. The revelations peel away with purpose, and even the twists that are foreseeable remain powerful.

UPDATE: An answer to the question about whether Ebert still dislikes any films: yes.
Watching "Monster-in-Law," I tried to transfer into Fan Mode, enjoying their presence while ignoring the movie. I did not succeed. My reveries were interrupted by bulletins from my conscious mind, which hated the movie.
Weekend Box Office
1. Monster-in-law
2. Kicking and Screaming
3. Unleashed
4. Kingdom of Heaven
5. Crash

Hitchhiker's Guide has to be considered a box office flop, with only $43 million made on a $50 million movie. And it's sure to be droppign like a rock with Star Wars hitting later this week. Highest non-fiction? Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room, coming in at #16.

Anyone see Palindromes? After Happiness, which kind of made me want to squeeze my head (and maybe everyone else's) in a vice, I swore I'd never see another Todd Solondz film, but I'm tempted. I need to be talked either in or out of it by someone who's seen it.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

God Help Us
Link (via the Huffington Post)
A trial balloon for a Cheney for President run in 2008 is being launched by a surprising source, Washington Post star reporter (and White House insider) Bob Woodward.
Woodward, appearing on Chris Matthews' NBC talk show on Sunday, labeled Vice President Cheney “a serious dark horse candidate.”
Just in case you were wondering if it could get worse.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Saturday Quiz
What has 24 eyes, 4 brains and 60 arseholes? Click here to find out. (via Huffington Post Newswire)
But what are other potential answers to that question?
Weekend Family Values: Sanctity of Marriage edition
Meet Dr. David Hager, champion of family values, administration guru on women's health issues (responsible for keeping Plan B emergency contraception off the shelves), also a serial rapist and john to his first wife of 30 years.

Meet Representative Don Sherwood, family values and marriage champion, adulterer, attempted asphyxiator, and still co-chair of the Republican committee to retain incumbent congressmen.

We have screw-ups and sinners on our side too, but Democrats aren't (mostly) the ones with all the self-righteous, venomous, judgmental, freedom-restricting policies. Both men should resign in shame. At least one should be in jail. Relationships may be difficult, but refraining from raping and choking your significant others is not really one of the hard parts.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Why we have to fight for church/state freedom [UPDATED]
I completely disagree with Kevin Drum's suggestion, following Matt Yglesias, that we liberals should compromise on more church-state issues if they seem trivial, because so much of the country takes personal offense at those battles. They cite a new comprehensive Pew research poll that shows by a 74-22 margin, Americans believe it is "proper" for "the Ten Commandments to be displayed in a government building."

Kevin and Matt believe we can give up on these "slabs of stone" arguments if it means having the chance to make gains in areas that really "matter."

there are fights and there are fights, and some are more worth fighting than others.
[SNIP]We've won 90% of this battle, and that's good enough for me. Beyond that, I'm happy to allow local communities some leeway. It makes them happy and it doesn't do much harm unless you're just aching for a fight. On this issue, it might be time to declare victory and go home.
Look, I'm happy to compromise, and I also think getting elected is a priority if Democrats are going to be in a position to have our important policy positions govern. But there are so many things wrong with Kevin and Matt's manner of acquiescence here I have no choice but to bludgeon you all with a list.

1. There's no deal on the table. It's not like there's a reason to believe that voters will join us on important issues if we start attacking public religious display bans. We can win over more of the 74% the same way we've already got 1/3 of them: by being principled on issues that matter to them and smart/reasonable about the way we talk about the other issues.

2. Christian conservatives will use that concession against us. They want more than just ten commandments. They want evolution out and sanctioned prayer in schools. They already use trivial facts to make their point: that "In God we Trust" is on our money, and in our courthouses, that the Congress and the Supreme Court start each day with prayer, etc. Once the 10 commandments are up, and the nativity scenes adorn the town squares, that's not a compromise, that's ammunition in their next fight--and what will that be?

3. It's the judiciary, stupid. These "trivial" matters come up because individuals or organizations sue and judges apply important constitutional principles and rule. The campaign issue isn't the 10 commandments, it's the rule of law and the Constitution. Democrats aren't out there foolishly running on tearing up the 10 commandments. What Kevin and Matt are suggesting is nothing short of joining the attack on the judiciary. How else will could this new concession be expressed? And so once we're against judges on this issue and vow to get different kinds of judges in, like Republicans, we're not going to end up with judges who have made similar trival compromise, we will end up with judges that have different fundamental principles. And they get to rule on all kinds of things, not just a slab of stone fight.

This mistake is essentially an agreement with those on the right that claim small-town values are under assault by our judiciary. We liked it when they helped us win the heart of the church-state argument (and Kevin is right, we've won 90% of the issue), but now those judges are really going too far?

4. We already compromise. We do, at least in the sense that we don't bring up fights that we don't need. And when they do come up, like the Pledge of Allegiance decision from last year, Democrats aren't exactly fighting. I seem to remember Democratic Congressmen on the Capitol steps reciting the pledge with Republicans, and where did that get us? We don't clamor about "In God we Trust" on our buildings and money, or "so help us God" in our oaths because those fights aren't worth fighting. And do we get any credit for that? No.

5. Kevin's last arguments are uncharacteristically silly:
we can be in favor of the principle of separation of church and state without feeling like we have to fight every single battle to the death. Just like we can be in favor of progressive taxation without favoring 90% marginal rates and we can be in favor of the minimum wage without favoring a ten dollar increase. There's no law that says every principle has to be carried to its absolute logical limit.
Apple, meet oranges. First, like I said, we don't fight every single battle, much less to the death. And in most of them, we're not players, it's judges and lawsuits so we've only to decide whether to join the assault on judges. I suggest we do not. We oppose 90% marginal rates and a 10-dollar minimum wage hike because they would be bad economic policy, and the first, especially, would be couter-productive to our goal: a strong economy for all Americans. We don't oppose them because we're compromising principles for political expediency. They are fundamentally different questions in type, and have a different kind of spectrum of answers, than does the question of public entanglement in religious matters.

Finally, shouldn't we start calling it church-state freedom or liberty, and not church-state separation?

[UPDATE] Kevin responds to his critics by saying we're in danger of becoming (or at least looking like) crazy absolutists. I think he's not really thinking it through to the point of action. The issue is: most church-state separationists like me think that the legal balance at present is an acceptable one. Even the ACLU (who really should be the most vigilant among us) is not fighting every conceivable battle. Conservatives do not (and will never). The only thing to register our disapproval with that I can see is with court decisions. I just think that's a bad idea. If I'm missing another reasonable step, I'd like to hear it.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New Ad
The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has a good new ad about Frist and Delay. Hard-hitting and accurate. Changing the rules and abusing their power. Sounds like a good congressional election theme for '08.
Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates says Apple Computer Corp. shouldn't get comfortable atop the portable music playing world.

"I don't think the success of the iPod can continue in the long term, however good Apple may be," the former chairman of Microsoft, the world's biggest maker of computer software, was quoted as telling German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview published Thursday.
I think just the opposite. I think the popularity of iPod will eventually spill into more Apple computer sales. More and more kids at school are using the Apple laptop. I'm planning on my next computer, whenever that is, being one as well.

Also, I have one of the world's greatest business minds. As you all know.
Helpful or harmful?
I'm no expert--on PR or on politics. But I just don't think this approach will work. In fact, I think it may do more harm than good. I know you have to start somewhere, but we have to overturn a now deeply-ingrained set of beliefs about Republicans and Democrats. I think it will take much more than a billboard to do it. Someone tell me I'm wrong and make the case that this is a valuable first step in the process, because I hope I am, and that it is.
Bolton will get through
What's the point of having a committee vet nominees? Half of the committee is against the Bolton nomination and are prepared to vote against him, but Voivovich has decided not to oppose him in committee to let the full Senate vote, even though he plans to vote no, because he considers Bolton "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be." Bolton is expected to pass a Senate vote.

At War and Piece, Laura Rozen has Voinovich's strong statement against Bolton, as well as transcriptions of the committee hearing today, including Biden's great statement.

Either we find 5 more reasonable Republican Senators, or we will have a first-class jerk representing us at the UN.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Sorry I had to take a blog break today to execute my traditional last day 24-hour grade-a-thon. What did I miss?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Article 19 Hearts Harry Reid
Senator Reid says enough already. He's got a message for Senator Frist: The "nuclear option" of ending the filibuster is "unnecessary and irresponsible." But enough talk and threats already. "Let's vote." Kos has Reid's statement, released today.
TennCare cuts and the mentally ill
Thanks to Walter for pointing me to the cover article in the current Nashville Scene, an autobiographical piece by a bi-polar woman who will soon see our state's coverage of her medication--which would cost her about $700/month--greatly reduced if not dropped altogether, due to our ("Democratic") Governor's plan to curtail the ballooning costs of our aggressive Medicaid program and funnel the money into education.
What if I were completely on my own—no resources, no extended family, no loving little village to gather round me—with a limited education and few contacts or marketable talents?

When our medication is cut off, we will suffer. I will be back in the hospital, because if I'm not functioning, my retired parents would be in a pinch to pay the house note and $700 a month. For one emergency room visit and the three-day stay in a psych unit (that's all you get these days, which is no help at all, really), it's almost the same as one year of the meds that have me functioning quite well and contributing to society.

I'm not going to jail. I'm not going to the homeless shelter. But what do you think is going to happen to many of those 30,000 mentally ill on TennCare who are suddenly jerked off the lifeline?

Good luck getting your broken arm set. The ERs are going to be jammed. Be nice to the people under the bridge—there's going to be a lot more of them. If you hear the jails are overcrowded, don't complain.

We're just like you, except for the mis√ěring synapses. It's not a character thing. It's not a moral thing. We can't just try harder, pray more, pull ourselves out of it.
Meanwhile, Governor Bredesen, who is up for re-election in 2006, has started something of his own blog.
Arianna Huffington's new site
The Huffington Post is in day 2. Already I've seen posts by Harry Shearer, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Larry David, David Mamet, Bill Maher, Gary Hart, Rob Reiner, Andy Stern, Jerry Brown and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It's worth browsing. Whether it's worth a regular visit, only time will tell.

Monday, May 09, 2005

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

What not to watch
Ouch - one of the lowest-rated movies I've ever seen on metacritics is out on video tomorrow. "Alone in the Dark" starring Christian Slater received a 9. The only one lower that I've run across is "National Lampoon's Gold Diggers" which rated a 6.

Out of 100.

What to watch
The Life Aquatic is worth a rental and is released this week, as is Al Pacino's Merchant of Venice.

Have you rented Sideways yet?

The Boss
A couple weeks ago, Doug speculated about the inevitable rebukes of backlash that were sure to befall Springsteen with his new CD, Devils and Dust.
When it doesn't sell as well as Born in the USA did twenty years ago, watch him get raked over the coals for campaigning for John Kerry and "killing his career." No one will pay attention to the fact that he hasn't sold at Born in the USA numbers since that album came out.
I think he's right, but in the meantime, the album debuted at #1 on the billboard 100. It's just one week, but will be interesting to see how it holds up. I haven't heard it yet, but it's on its way to my house in an Amazon shipment, along with the new Ben Folds (#13) and the new Beck (#20). I'll let you know next what I think of them. They're on my list of things-I-get-to-do-once-grades-are-in on Wednesday.

The Spielberg Stamp of Approval
Spielberg says, "I saw [Star Wars: Episode 3] about a week ago, and it's absolutely amazing.

"It's the best of the last three episodes. It's the best way you could possibly imagine for George to finish it off, it has a tremendous ending and it's very dark. You'll cry at the end, it's wonderful."
out of sand.....out of watermelons.

Weekend Box Office

1. Kingdom of Heaven
2. House of Wax
3. Hitchhiker's Guide
4. Crash
5. The Interpreter

Can't remember the last time I've seen 2 of the top 5. Plus, I'm really looking forward to Crash (has anyone seen it yet?) even though I don't know too much about it. But, I'm curious: there was a movie version of the JG Ballard novel, Crash, released in 1996. It was not great--and nothing like as interesting as the book though plenty disturbing. My question is can they just re-use film titles like that?

Film Recommendation: The Interpreter

*********** (11 out of 19)
Ok but not great. I may have been expecting too much.

Seen in the ticket line: a notice that Star Wars tickets can be purchased now.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Quiz Time
Several weeks ago, Kenny B pointed us all to a math quiz and let's face it we all most of us ended up feeling pretty darned good about our math/logic abilities. So, to put us back in our place, try this. Via boing boing, it's a 20-problem "self-referential" multiple choice quiz, with each question being about the quiz itself.
Brighter Earth, Dimmer Scientists
If Article 19 readers were asked to comment on data showing the Earth brightening in the 1990's, reversing a dimming trend over the previous 3 decades, we could have come up with the same admitedly clueless theories for why and what it all means that real live scientists did in the NYTimes on Friday. Shouldn't they really have a better grip on such things? I like how the article refers to their befuddlement as a "major gap in the understanding". Most of the time, scientists are probably just as dumb as the rest of us.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Kansas and Epistemology
Here's what's the matter with Kansas (among other things):
The hearings in Topeka, scheduled to last several days, are focusing on two proposals. The first recommends that students continue to be taught the theory of evolution because it is key to understanding biology. The other proposes that Kansas alter the definition of science, not limiting it to theories based on natural explanations.
"Part of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is in our schools," said William Harris, a chemist who was the first witness to speak Thursday on behalf of changing the state's curriculum. "This is a scientific controversy that has powerful religious implications."
Many bloggers are ripping this to shreds, appropriately. DKos diarist Hunter is the best I've read thus far. But, let me point out one potential (long-shot) bright spot.

Writing in 1981, Stephen Jay Gould remarked that "Scientific" Creationists have offered no new arguments in decades; that the "controversy" bubbled up cyclically but not because of any new insight, or, to be sure, any new facts, helping the anti-evolutionist claim. But, if the quoted article above is correct, I think the alternatives offered in Kansas mark at least a head-fake in a new direction. They will either choose to keep teaching evolution as the foundation of biology, and that sounds like a darn good option to me, or they will admit that anti-evolutionist creation arguments are unable to provide "natural explanations" and fall outside the realm of science as we know it. This second confession blows apart the phenomenon and false hope of "scientific creationism" short of re-writing the very definition of science.

If they slightly re-think "science" to allow all kinds of crap in it, then yes this will be a disastrous embarassment.

But, this new direction offers the possibility to publically consider science and religion as fundamentally different types of knowing, of thinking, and of purpose. Science is not the only way to know. Its method is tied, in a close dance, to the questions it asks. They are not questions that religion attempts. When a religious person nontheless asks them, that doesn't make it a religious question, it makes is a scientific question answered poorly. Religious questions, in turn, are not asked or answered by science. And when scientists try to offer answers to them, they routinely miss the point.

What could count as progress for me in this silliness is to develop a clarity that the two attempts to grapple with life are asking different questions, understand the way to anwer questions differently, and make use of their answers for different purpose. I know at first glance it doesn't sound like Kansas is approaching this clarity. But, prying the issue of creationism away from a modern notion of science is a necessary step. And once they decide that and sit down to write that new definition of science, what will that be like? We can only hope that the entire process would break down at that point, as it should. But the exit of religious creationism from the discipline of science's "natural explanations" would have already been achieved on some level. And there's no getting that back in the tube.

Genesis is much more interesting to think about removed from the table of scientific questioning. For maybe 100 years, science has been laughing at religion because the battle has been fought on their turf. If we could convince religious folks to stop asking scientific questions and to start asking religious ones, then there will be at least occasion for the tables to turn. And the person of faith can look to the scientist, once his explanation is complete, and ask "what do we do now?"

Friday, May 06, 2005

Family values, from sea to shining sea...
Republican hypocrites hold office from Pennsylvania to Washington state. In a civilized, sane democracy, when those revelations pop up in the same week their executive leader proves to have lied about the Iraq War, while their legislative leader has became the poster boy for unethical behavior, the whole Republican party would simply disband and say "we're sorry."
What's the headline..
That encapsulates this?
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) today delivered remarks on the importance of humility in public service...
More on this later. Right now, I'm at a loss.
God gets more good press
Morning Edition yesterday ran a frightening and poorly balanced piece on politics in religion, despite a few sound bites with congregants of noted DC liberal Baptist church Ravensworth. David Brock and Media Matters take on the report today. And Atrios points to this DKos diary about Waynesville Baptist Church, in North Carolina, which just ex-communicated all its Democratic members. I suppose we can expect this to be only the beginning of that kind of bullshit.
George Will Gets Something Right
In his column this week, George Will allies himself with the only-somewhat-crazy-far-right wing of the Republican Party, and he opposes the extremist-wacko-religious right that's taking over his Party whether he likes it or not.
Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." Christians are indeed experiencing some petty insults and indignities concerning things such as restrictions on school Christmas observances. But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.
Of course, he's wrong about the insults and indignities regarding Christmas, unless he means the course commercialism that saturates the holiday with corporate stink. I'm sure he doesn't.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Al Gore on judges and the filibuster: speech transcript
Finally found. From April 27. A highlight, but read the whole thing:
It is no accident that this assault on the integrity of our constitutional design has been fueled by a small group claiming special knowledge of God's will in American politics. They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against "people of faith." How dare they?

Long before our founders met in Philadelphia, their forebears first came to these shores to escape oppression at the hands of despots in the old world who mixed religion with politics and claimed dominion over both their pocketbooks and their souls.

This aggressive new strain of right-wing religious zealotry is actually a throwback to the intolerance that led to the creation of America in the first place.
"President Gore" is sounding pretty good right about now, huh.
Strings Attached
Brazil turned down $40 Million in US aid for combating AIDS because of all the fine print: they can't use the money for prostitutes (a legal, regulated profession in Brazil) or for encouraging condom use. It's abstinence today, abstinence tomorrow, abstinence forever. Thanks for nothing, George.
"The US is doing the same in other countries - bullying, pushing and forcing - but not every country has the possibility to say no," [Sonia Correa, an Aids activist in Brazil] said, quoted in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
Culture of life, anyone?
Emmitt Till Update
I didn't know about this yesterday when I linked to my post from a year ago to try and help out "Emmitt Till" searchers, but today brings an update and new development in the re-opened case.
The F.B.I. said on Wednesday that it would exhume the body of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black Chicagoan whose killing 50 years ago in the segregated South helped fuel the civil rights movement, to determine the cause of his death.

The plans come one year after federal prosecutors and the authorities in Mississippi reopened the investigation, prompted in part by two documentary films about the crime.
Election Day [UPDATED]
In the UK. You can follow it at the BBC site here. For a marker, in the 2001 election, Labour received 41%, Conservatives received 32% and Liberal Democrats received 18%. Polls expect the Lib Dems to cross into the 20's and Labour to dip into the 30s. If Labour maintains a seat majority in the 90s or higher, it's a good day for Blair. In the 80s or lower and it's not so good for him, or for somebody else, whose last name starts with a B.

[UPDATE: Guest-blogging at TPM, Ken Baer reports that exit polls (not that we believe them, right?) show Blair heading a Labour majority of only 66 once the votes are all counted. Still a majority, but a definite backslide.]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

...was World Asthma Day. Who knew? Did anyone attend, or hear anything about World Asthma Day (WAD?) activities?

Carl Pope has a good idea though. How about instead of the EPA distributing hints on how to hide from leading outdoor asthma causers they could try and do something about the prevalence of such things all around us. Is that what "environmental protection" has come to these days: run for your lives! Don't leave your home!
New Article 19 Feature
One of the interesting things about the blog archives continuing to grow is that I get more and more visits from folks who searched for something I happen to have mentioned. Sometimes this is because the searcher and I shared a spelling mistake. But, far and away the most common search topic that lands an unsuspecting web surfer here at Article 19 is anything to do with "Emmitt Till," because of one post I made about a year ago. But a search engine only puts you on the proper archived month and you have to scroll through to find what you're searching about. So, I'm starting a new link on the left. As I notice more and more common searches, I'll put a link to the proper post. Also, as I find more and more ridiculous searches that shouldn't have landed you here but did, like "rebuild negative self esteem with Reality TV" I may post those as well, for comedic (hopefully) effect.
Random Question
Are flies in control of their path? Or do they just buzz around randomly? If they are in control, what is their plan? If they aren't, how do they survive? It looks like they are crazy.
Taking the SAT? Learn the power of BS
This is just great. The new SAT essay tests would seem to reward only one thing: length.
How to prepare for such an essay? "I would advise writing as long as possible," said Dr. Perelman, "and include lots of facts, even if they're made up." This, of course, is not what he teaches his M.I.T. students. "It's exactly what we don't want to teach our kids," he said.

SAT graders are told to read an essay just once and spend two to three minutes per essay, and Dr. Perelman is now adept at rapid-fire SAT grading. This reporter held up a sample essay far enough away so it could not be read, and he was still able to guess the correct grade by its bulk and shape. "That's a 4," he said. "It looks like a 4."
I can understand overlooking some factual errors in assessing writing ability; that makes a certain kind of sense. And, in their defense, they claim they haven't released the shorter high-grade essays to the public. But, why wouldn't they? Aren't teachers intended to use such samples to direct their students?

I would prefer 2 writing elements. One would have a word limit, not just a time limit, that would encourage and reward taking time to self-edit. The other would be an editing assignment. Give them a poorly-written paragraph, with subject-verb problems and punctuation issues, maybe even a spelling mistake, plus some badly-worded phrases. Ask them to fix it. Why reward rambling (and even error-rich rambling!) when we most want them to master interesting, coherent and concise? I would settle for developing even one of those skills myself, but we should have higher standards for the kids today, right? They're gonna write the crap we all have to read in the future.

Kenny T - you out there? Tell me where this story is right or wrong.
Why I Read BoingBoing Every Day
Because they answer questions like this: What happens to all of the items that don't make it through airport security? Click here to find out.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

When the President talks to God, on Leno
I didn't see it, but Conor Oberst was on Leno last night and performed "When the President Talks to God." I don't know much about him, but loved the song and the fact that they actually showed it on Leno. Pretty amazing, really. Here's my favorite verse:
When the president talks to God
I wonder which one plays the better cop
We should find some jobs. the ghetto's broke
No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't
Just give 'em more liquor stores and dirty coke
That's what God recommends
See a video of the show here, and read all the lyrics where I did: at Pitviper's DKos diary. Is anyone here a fan of Oberst/Bright Eyes? What should I listen to first?
Pat Robertson is on crack
What is the biggest threat to the United States in the entire history of the country?
With choices like the Civil War, Communism, Nazi Germany and Al Qaeda, Robertson chose today's judges and their assault on conservative values. Seriously. They're the biggest most dangerous threat America has ever faced. Who in their right (undrugged) mind would say such a thing and then repeat it when pressed?

Also revealed in the jaw-dropping ABC interview on Sunday, Robertson believes that only Christians and Jews should be allowed to serve in the government and on the judiciary (he didn't come right out and say it, but you could tell he wanted to). Also, he doesn't believe God changes natural laws to either induce or prevent natural disasters (though if memory serves, he used to believe the opposite), but he does believe God responds to prayer to bring about things like, oh i don't know, the death of some Supreme Court judges. Oh yeah, and Judge Ginsburg is a communist. And Giuliani for President! (ix-nay on ist-Fray)

If you have a fast Internet connection, download the video here. Must be seen to be believed. The man is completely out of his mind.
EJ Dionne
In today's Washington Post:
Now that President Bush has proposed Social Security benefit cuts through "progressive indexing," his critics are said to have an obligation to negotiate in good faith to achieve a solution. There are just two problems with that sentence: The words "good faith" and "solution."
The whole thing is good.
Do you wanna know a secret?
PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.

You are invited to anonymously contribute your secrets to PostSecret. Each secret can be a regret, hope, ,experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before.

Create your own 4-inch by 6-inch postcards out of any mailable material. But please only put one secret on a card. If you want to share two or more secrets, use multiple postcards.

Please put your complete secret and image on one side of the postcard.

Be brief - the fewer words used the better.
Be legible– - use big, clear and bold lettering.
Be creative - let the postcard be your canvas.
It's 1 part fascinating, 2 parts guilty voyeuristic pleasure. I feel confident that some of them are not true, but you should still check it out.
Playing Hardball
Who knew NPR stood for Not Particularly Reasonable?
Bob Edwards , the longtime "Morning Edition" host who was booted amid much controversy last year from National Public Radio, says he's still getting static from his former employer. Edwards is furious because NPR barred his old colleague Scott Simon , host of "Weekend Morning Edition," from appearing on his XM Satellite Radio show last week to promote a book.

"This is clearly just pettiness directed at me," Edwards told us yesterday. "It baffles me that they are going to these petty extremes, especially when I am still an outspoken supporter of public radio and NPR specifically."
via War and Piece.

Monday, May 02, 2005

What have you been watching, listening to, or reading?

Broken Flowers
Pride, Unprejudiced reports that Jim Jarmusch's new movie has a title, "Broken Flowers." It has an all-star cast: Bill Murray, Julie Delpy, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone, Tilda Swinton. I still haven't seen Coffee and Cigarettes, but his films are among my favorites: Night on Earth (featuring, with Roberto Benigni, maybe the laugh-out-loud funniest 15 minutes I've ever seen in any movie.) and Mystery Train are real favorites.

Who are today's stars?
The Hot Blog says that today's top 10 is a far cry from the old days of hepburn, tracy and cary grant:
1. Will Smith
2. Tom Cruise
3. Adam Sandler
4. Jim Carrey
5. Tom Hanks
6. Eddie Murphy
7. Ben Stiller and...
8. Will Farrell
9. Denzel Washington
10. Steve Martin

Come on though - not a single woman in the list, and Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin made it? What about Brad Pitt? Matt Damon? Julia Roberts? Leo Dicaprio? This is a truly crappy top 10 if it's accurate. Interesting how many comedians are in there. Who else is misplaced or missing?

Paul Westerberg tomorrow night at the Cannery!! Canceled

Punk rock and bad teeth
David Byrne comments on having seen a new documentary, Punk: Attitude, in his award-winning web journal.

Weekend Box Office

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
2. The Interpreter
3. XXX: State of the Union
4. The Amityville Horror
5. Sahara (fading fast for a summer blockbuster hopeful?)

New documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" made it into the top 20 and is getting strong recommendations (not that I've read the reviews, as you know...), like 3 1/2 stars from the Boston Globe, and this review from AO Scott. Also Roger Ebert liked it for 3 1/2 stars. Metacritics scores it an 82. My only worry is: can I withstand any more outrage?

Article 19 Film Recommendation: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
*************** (15 out of 19)
I haven't read the book in so long that I don't remember details, but enough of the basic tone that the film was like a really funny reminder. If I had never read it, or had read it recently and knew it well, I don't know what I'd have thought. But I had a really good time and thought it was very funny. Especially enjoyed Sam Rockwell's portrayal of the egocentric moron Zaphod, played with no small hint of George W. Bush twang.

Also, caught a preview for the new Batman film, Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan (who made Memento, an Article 19 favorite). I know teasers are often misleading but this one is really kick-ass.