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.