Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who Still Hangs?
Sorry to get a bit morose, but in talking with Kenny B yesterday he was saying that some states in the US still use the gallows as their method of execution. I was shocked amd skeptical. Of course, he was right. Washington and New Hampshire still list hanging as their way to kill killers for killing. When was the last time a state in the US hanged a person? 1996.(!!) But it really should never happen again. Is that because we've become so much more civilized we now recognize hanging as barbaric? No. It's because a legal, er, loophole has been discovered. Should you ever be condemned to hang in the US, and you'd rather die some other way, the thing to do is eat yourself silly. Slate's Explainer has more, if you can handle the super-unpleasant details.

Oh yeah, and happy new year.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Execution
I pretty well agree with Josh, who says it better than I could:
This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.
Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.
You should read the whole thing.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Nevermind, Edwards is Finished.
He's too honest. That will never work. He's going to run on raising taxes *and* running a deficit. I'm sure he is right, and would love to see him get his way in national priorities; they are truly inspiring. But you can't win admitting stuff like that, can you?

If I had known his plan was to present the right plan for the country and to tell the truth I wouldn't have bothered...
Year in Review
Over at my other blog I compiled a top ten year-in-review list of the big church-state stories of 2006. It was alot of work, so go give it a look.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Of Edwards' announcement, and a bit of video, is here. It's not your normal campaign announcement in many ways. The setting is a somber one, not a rally among throngs of supporters. And it was really a call to volunteerism and public engagement as much as a call to support his candidacy. Does he mean it and will it work? I have no idea.
Edwards Site
The John Edwards campaign site is here. The blog is here.
Ford's Critique
I suppose I understand the general practice of former Presidents not criticizing a sitting President on foreign policy. But I wonder how badly Bush would have to screw up before a public upbraiding would be warranted. It turns out Gerald Ford wasn't the biggest fan of the Iraq War, but he wouldn't let an interview with Bob Woodward be released until after his death. Woodward's Washington Post story today, summarizing the taped interview conducted in 2004 (when the war wasn't so unpopular) is a good one.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Edwards Announcement
He's announcing for President tomorrow in New Orleans. I'll post the speech when I can find it - looking forward to hearing what he has to say. I'm hoping for bold and blunt. Will it be the same as his campaign from '04? What will be different?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Global Warming News
An inhabited island has disappeared:
Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.
Gardening maps have changed:
Fifteen years of warm winter weather is beginning to change the Washington area's landscape — with Southern species like crape myrtles having an easier time and northern types feeling less welcome, according to findings by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The foundation has revised its map of "hardiness zones" — with each of the nine zones showing a range of average annual low temperatures that help serve as a guide for gardeners and others.
"You could say D.C. is the new North Carolina," said Bill McLaughlin, a curator at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the Mall.
And retail is feeling it:
Retailers are calling it the Coat Crisis of 2006, a fashion fiasco measured in racks of unsold fur-lined shearlings at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and hooded wool peacoats at the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris.

Balmy temperatures on the East Coast of the United States and in Western Europe have been disastrous for sales of all kinds of cold-weather clothing, from cashmere caps to wool scarves.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!!
Plus, RIP James Brown.

If you've got anything to say about Xmas, or about having a funky good time (or a brand new bag..), have at it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Greatest Christmas Link Ever
Want to watch the claymation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Bugs Bunny's Fright Before Christmas? Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol? Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas? The Seinfeld Festivus episode? It's all right here, and more. Thanks to BoingBoing

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Milgram, Redux?
For whatever reason, the Milgram obedience experiments have come up at this blog a few times over the years. So, I thought of you all when I read this:
Diane Sawyer will conduct a version of Stanley Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority, says Jossip. On January 3, 20/20 will air a special in which Sawyer and social psychology professor Jerry Burger (who studies compliance and personal control) re-enact a "tamer" version of the Milgram experiment, in which participants were goaded into giving electric shocks to strangers far more easily than anyone predicted.
If your eyebrow raised over the phrase "a version of..." like mine did, you won't be surprised that this new take will hardly be a replay of that harrowing finding. Could still be plenty disturbing I suppose.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kids and Nutrition
A new article in Slate starts this way:
Ever since I became a pediatrician many moons ago, parents have been pressing me for advice on feeding their children, and I have been blithely reassuring them that the best thing they can do is to pay no attention to what their children eat. In support of my laissez-faire position, I have cited the pioneering studies of Clara Davis, a Chicago pediatrician who began publishing in 1928. Truthfully, I cited them even before I actually read them, because what I thought they said suited my message about eating—"leave kids alone!"

When I actually read Davis' papers, my sense of them turned out to be about right.
Read the whole thing. Stevie T, this is the one I told you about.
Mark Taylor
Spent the last hour or so trying to stretch my interest in today's NYTimes op-ed by Professor Mark Taylor into a church-state issue for my other blog before giving up. Maybe I'm trying to keep the focus too narrow there but I just can't seem to make it work well enough to feel good about placing it there, so I'll see if I can get you to respond to it. I know Taylor as a philosopher--his book Altarity was a central text in my undergrad class in post-modernism (a course that taught me, among other things, to problematize phrases like "central text" but oh well...). I haven't kept up with his work since then so I didn't know he is a religion professor and theologian (now at Williams College).

His column presents this perspective as a professor: more students than ever are religious, and increasingly, religious students are much more interested in being religious than they are in being students. Here's a snip:
For years, I have begun my classes by telling students that if they are not more confused and uncertain at the end of the course than they were at the beginning, I will have failed. A growing number of religiously correct students consider this challenge a direct assault on their faith. Yet the task of thinking and teaching, especially in an age of emergent fundamentalisms, is to cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty.

Any responsible curriculum for the study of religion in the 21st century must be guided by two basic principles: first, a clear distinction between the study and the practice of religion, and second, an expansive understanding of what religion is and of the manifold roles it plays in life. The aim of critical analysis is not to pass judgment on religious beliefs and practices — though some secular dogmatists wrongly cross that line — but to examine the conditions necessary for their formation and to consider the many functions they serve.
Until recently, many influential analysts argued that religion, a vestige of an earlier stage of human development, would wither away as people became more sophisticated and rational. Obviously, things have not turned out that way. Indeed, the 21st century will be dominated by religion in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago. Religious conflict will be less a matter of struggles between belief and unbelief than of clashes between believers who make room for doubt and those who do not.
As much as I agree with his beliefs about education (and I do), the easiest thing in the world is for us to read that and agree and sit in judgment of those students we readily label as closed-minded. True, college students need to be held responsible for their own minds and attitudes, but we'd do well to also look around at the factors that have made them the way they are--parents, teachers, churches, culture, role-models.

Introducing "room for doubt" around things you've built your identity on is a difficult exercise for anyone of any age. In a classroom it requires a certain relationship of trust to let someone lead you down that path - trust in an instructor, in an institution and in the educational process itself, to name a few. I don't know just where I'm going with this. But when a class - or I guess any community based on conversation and knowledge and truth - goes just right it's a pretty amazing arena of trust and openness. If I had to point to the biggest difference between my classes today and my classes 10 years ago, honestly, it's that we just don't quite trust each other the way we used to. I'm not sure how to define or illustrate that, but it's true. And it seems to me that can lead to all kinds of educational failures, including the ones professor Taylor mentioned. But I guess what I'm getting around to is I'm not sure this is primarily a religion problem (maybe there it shows up with the most clarity). And that's worth thinking about before we go deciding it's just the religious folks leading the closed-minded brigade.

We get 18 years, give or take, with kids before they go to college. How do we prepare them to doubt properly? And not just doubt their teachers, their government, even their ministers (We've excelled at that sort of training haven't we?)...but themselves?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just Saying...
CNN has new heads-up presidential polls for '08. Only one of the Democrats is actually ahead of McCain, though just by a point, 47-46. Guess who?
Bush Press Conference
Q Thank you, Mr. President. If you conclude that a surge in troop levels in Iraq is needed, would you overrule your military commanders if they felt it was not a good idea?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a dangerous hypothetical question. I'm not condemning you, you're allowed to ask anything you want. Let me wait and gather all the recommendations from Bob Gates, from our military, from diplomats on the ground; I'm interested in the Iraqis' point of view; and then I'll report back to you as to whether or not I support a surge or not. Nice try.
2 months ago, we were "winning" and the military commanders were the ones to set the strategy, according to The Decider. Now, we're losing, he's "gathering information" for a big decision, as if this war thing is all just news to him, and the military commanders are to him just another group of folks giving advice.
Now He Tells Us
Bush on Iraq: "We're not winning."

I wonder if he'll ever see that the problem is not that we're losing in Iraq. The problem is that he persists in viewing this complex chaotic situation in terms of America winning or losing, militarily. The major thing we've "lost" is not the war itself, but our national influence, credibility and a claim on moral high ground.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Of Course You're Sick, You Depressed Fool
Science has decreed: If you're in a good mood, you're more likely to resist symptoms of the cold virus.
People with generally positive outlooks show greater resistance to developing colds than do individuals who rarely revel in upbeat feelings, a new investigation finds.

Frequently basking in positive emotions defends against colds regardless of how often one experiences negative emotions, say psychologist Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and his colleagues. They suspect that positive emotions stimulate symptom-fighting substances.

"We need to take more seriously the possibility that a positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk," Cohen says.

In a study published in 2003, his group exposed 334 healthy adults to one of two rhinoviruses via nasal drops. Those who displayed generally positive outlooks, including feelings of liveliness, cheerfulness, and being at ease, were least likely to develop cold symptoms. Unlike the negatively inclined participants, they reported fewer cold symptoms than were detected in medical exams.
Read the whole thing. Spot the flaws!
New Direction or Wishful Thinking? [UPDATED]
Blog types are pretty excited over EJ Dionne's column in the Post. There he exclaims the good news that America is changing.
It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South. Democrats seemed to accept this definition of reality, and they struggled -- often looking ridiculous in the process -- to become fluent in NASCAR talk and to discuss religion with the inflections of a white Southern evangelicalism foreign to so many of them.

Now the conventional wisdom sees Republicans in danger of becoming merely a Southern regional party. Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens in the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology.

Only a few months ago, it was widely thought that accusing opponents of wanting to "cut and run" in Iraq would be enough to cast political enemies into an unpatriotic netherworld of wimps and "defeatocrats."

Now the burden of proof is on those who claim that fighting in Iraq was a good idea and that the situation can be turned around.
I seem to remember that part he describes, where Democrats looked "ridiculous", you know, with the religion and the NASCAR, was just a few months ago. Have things really changed? Or did people just finally get fed up with clearly the worst federal government we've seen since Nixon (at least) and decide to vote them out? He's got some good points, especially about the young vote (Jon Stewart is the new Rush Limbaugh?!), but I'm not ready to claim a sea change just yet.

[UPDATE: Then again, if what's happening in Kansas is any indication, maybe Republicans really have screwed the pooch.]

Monday, December 18, 2006

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Article 19 Holiday Poll Question
What's your favorite Christmas song, movie, tv special?

Christopher Guest
I haven't seen For Your Consideration yet, but have been sorry to see that most reviews seem a little disappointed. There is a pretty horrifyingly stupid cover-story interview in the newest Paste Magazine, but I recommend one of their other features, of Harry Shearer and Michael McKean talking about Guest.

Weekend Box Office
1. The Pursuit of Happyness
2. Eragon
3. Happy Feet
4. Charlotte's Web
5. The Holiday

2006 Highest Rated Movies
According to Metacritic:
1. The Queen
2. United 93
3. Borat
4. Overlord
5. L'Enfant
Say It Ain't So
Not sure how reliable this is, but this rumor from the Evans-Novak Political Report says that the DC scuttlebutt is that Justice John Paul Stevens plan to retire soon--purposefully while President Bush can name a successor.
Justice John Paul Stevens wants to be replaced by a Republican President, just as he was appointed by one, Gerald Ford. Stevens, a consistent liberal voice and vote on the high court, was also rumored to have wanted to step down after the 2006 election, so as to avoid making his replacement into a political issue.
On the one hand this would be an entirely principled stand on Stevens' part if true, to decide it's only fair that the Party that hired him should be the one that gets to replace him. On the other hand, of all the principles you might use to select your retirement plans as a Supreme Court Justice, that has to be one of the most shallow, pointless and confused I can imagine.

Let's start with the fact that he's built an entire career fighting to defend constitutional principles that are very important indeed, and worth continuing to fight for by trying to be replaced by someone other than Bush. But beyond that, even given that bizarre desire for partisan equality (one that, since nobody else seems to follow, is hardly achieved by this single enactment), the party of Bush is hardly the party of Ford. Nothing of substance connects them. Certainly nothing worthy of a loyalty that would effectively undo Stevens' career.

If he wants to retire because of his age, his health, or just because he's done enough, I wouldn't quibble. The man has continued to serve into his 80's. But, come on, don't leave with the purpose of being replaced by a Republican.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Edwards Announcement
No surprise, but John Edwards is running for President. He will make his official announcement from a devastated neighborhood in New Orleans. Sounds like a smart move to me. I don't know if he can win, and haven't decided who I'll vote for in the primary, but I like him.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Captain Obvious
The news today is full of things I'm sure you didn't know.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was not in fact killed by the British government.

Americans are fat and watch lots of TV.

The Associated Press' Daniel Yee is somehow getting paid to report that the success of Hooters' restaurant chain has something to do with the waitresses.

Now that he's running for President, MA Governor Mitt Romney has found the conservative religion on everything from abortion to gay rights. Who would have thought he'd change his mind just in time for the primaries? What are the odds?

What other astounding findings are in the news today?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Grades Are In
So I finally have time to read and post. What have I missed in my 24 hour grade-a-thon haze? I notice that while I was away we nearly lost control of the Senate thanks to a little intracranial bleeding by our South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson. Sounds like (via Kevin Drum) the surgical procedure is not pleasant, but the recovery prognosis--though a bit slow--is promising in most cases that unfold like this one. Apparently, if you have this congenital problem, and it announces itself, this is just how you want it to happen: noticeable symptoms a few steps away from the best and fastest medical care in the world. For most of us, if we have this problem, they'll figure it out in the morgue.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The People Have Spoken?
I can hardly believe it, but I think Bush is actually going to increase the troop level in Iraq. Ugh. How many more have to die?

Meanwhile at TPM, a reader points out that "doubling down" as many are calling it is a completely improper metaphor for this foolishness.
The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.

In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let's call it what it is: double or nothing. This is is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

3 Cheers for Craigslist
I have to admit, if I was the owner of Craigslist, I would have sold out by now. It's nice to know that there are some people whose view of the world doesn't require it, especially when it can so beautifully confuse the people whose view of the world demands it.

Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, caused lots of head-scratching Thursday as he tried to explain to a bunch of Wall Street types why his company is not interested in “monetizing” his ridiculously popular Web operation. Appearing at the UBS global media conference in New York, Mr. Buckmaster took questions from the bemused audience, which apparently could not get its collective mind around the notion that Craigslist exists to help Web users find jobs, cars, apartments and dates — and not so much to make money.

Wendy Davis of MediaPost describes the presentation as a “a culture clash of near-epic proportions.” She recounts how UBS analyst Ben Schachter wanted to know how Craigslist plans to maximize revenue. It doesn’t, Mr. Buckmaster replied perhaps wondering how Mr. Schachter could possibly not already know this). “That definitely is not part of the equation,” he said, according to MediaPost. “It’s not part of the goal.”

“I think a lot of people are catching their breath right now,” Mr. Schachter said in response.
Larry Dignan, writing on Between the Lines blog at ZDNet, called Mr. Buckmaster “delightfully communist,” and described the audience as “confused capitalists wondering how a company can exist without the urge to maximize profits.”

Monday, December 11, 2006

What have you been watching, listening to, reading?

Another Eastwood Winner?
I never saw Clint Eastwood's film "Flags of our Fathers" about Iwo Jima and frankly never had much interest in it; still a little pissed at him for Million Dollar Baby. And I didn't feel like I missed anything since it prett much came and went without any fanfare. But now I see it on best picture lists and it turns out he has a companion film in Japanese coming out this month called "Letters from Iwo Jima." Together they are supposed to tell the story of the war from both sides, and I'll be damned if that doesn't sound kinda interesting. I wonder if I just slept through the acclaim when the first came out. Did anyone see it?

While I'm at it, I have to say for the record, that even though Borat did make me laugh and I suppose Cohen's performance is pretty unavoidably convincing, there's no way the film belongs among contenders for best picture. There's just not that much to it. But alas there it is.

Not Your Average Travel Guide
I am informed that tonight's show on the Travel Channel will feature the music of wunder-nephew Joel Wilson among others. 7 and 10 central time.

Weekend Box Office
1. Apocalypto
2. The Holiday
3. Happy Feat
4. Casino Royale
5. Blood Diamond

Friday, December 08, 2006

Kos knows the way to my heart - talking of how Al Gore would and could win the nomination if he wanted. His basic thought I agree with - wait and let the others do the campaigning for most of 2007. But his particular advice I'm not sure about: he can wait until Dec. 2007 to jump in. Really? The first primaries are in January...isn't that a bit late? On the other hand, he would have a great excuse for not winning those and could claim victory for finishing anywhere in the top 3 or 4 there. What I tend to think is that if an Edwards or Obama candidacy is leading or right with Hillary he'll stay out. If she looks to be steam-rolling and we need a consensus alternative maybe then he'll get in.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I made the mistake of following the story of James Kim, which has ended tragically. It's confusing to me how -- in an age of GPS and cellphones -- something like that can happen, in which a family is stranded for days in their car on a road. It's nightmares like the Kim's that keep me almost completely uninterested in camping trips or other wilderness my head the story usually ends with a bear or a drunk redneck, but snowstorm is pretty bad too.
3-Day Work Week
I agree with Rep. Kingston (R-GA) who complains about the prospect of having to work more than 3 days a week under the new Democratic congress. How are good family men like Mark Foley supposed to preserve those important relationships if they're expected to be at work all the time?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It was cute the way we built rockets and went to the moon before the Russians, and the way we've sent probes with fancy cameras and some sciency tools out to mars and beyond. And if it's true that there was water on mars pretty recently, that would be truly fascinating. But (could you tell I had a but coming?), why are we thinking of building a "permanent moon base" now? I haven't heard anyone suggest a good reason. Meanwhile, if scientists are looking for something to do, or some problem to solve, how about the one where the entire planet we do actually live on is heating up, ice caps melting, coastlines threatened, storms worse, droughts worse, and the oceans are dying.

I'm not opposed to aimless exploration. Sounds pretty neat. But don't you do that in a time of relative luxury, not a time of crisis? Screw the space station I say, and, you know, the moon will still be there in 50 years. If we've got that many billions to spend, let's use it to solve some more pressing problems--we've got them. Am I just missing it? Have I gone batshit myopic? I prefer believing in big dreams and long walks on the moon (and cuddling). But it just seems the wrong time for that and sounds more like a budgetary line-item that wants to stay funded and is in need of a statement of purpose.
2008 Straw Poll
Kos has a Dem poll up for the '08 nomination. Go and take a quick vote. I flipped a coin between Obama and Edwards and came up with Obama. But could just have easily gone another direction. Hard to see getting excited about any of the other candidates. I am open to listening to Hillary. The rest seem like a waste of time. I never got the Wes Clark thing, but I don't think I really object to him other than just a sense that he couldn't win.

Come back here and tell everyone else who you voted for and why. Or else just make up something good.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006, no
Not that I was seriously thinking about supporting Joe Biden, but I admit I had left a small window open because sometimes he can be tough on the other side and seems to have some good sense, if too conservative. But ol' Joe's shut the door on that. He didn't have much of a chance with me anyway, but this gaffe blows it. Yeah, you can get laughs at a Republican meeting in the South by making jokes about slavery. But you can't win Democratic nominations that way. Thank God. I hope I live long enough to see that whole generation of wink-wink, nod-nod Trent Lott-Joe Biden brand of racial cluelessness run into retirement.

Here's a hint, Joe. You want to get votes in a South Carolina Democratic primary? Don't offend black Americans. You want Republican primary votes? You're on the right track. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Because You Want an Excuse to Read GQ
Not sure how old it is, but there's a good interview with Al Gore, via Kos.
Q: Is there a burden to being so smart?
A: That’s the exact converse of, “When did you stop beating your wife?” There’s no way to answer a question like that without seeming pompous and conceited. I have a battery-powered hubris alarm on my belt. And it’s set on vibrate, and it’s going crazy.
What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. Happy Feet
2. Casino Royale
3. Deja Vu
4. The Nativity Story
5. Deck the Halls

Jessica Simpson Stinks
Not that I could do any better, but look--this is what happens when we confuse media-created celebrity, the pretty face with a servicable singing voice with actual talent. Musicians invited to perform at the Kennedy Center ought to be committed artists, respected by their peers, dedicated to making great music. Even a singer like Dolly Parton, who may have been the object of jokes in the past, is a talented songwriter and a performer who made a living actually getting on stage and making her own music. So when the Kennedy Center decided to honor her, maybe someone should have thought twice about inviting a no-talent hack who was essentially created in a music studio and tours propped up by all the high-production values and technical wizardry of today's music studios and mega-venue concerts. I doubt she could even get up in front of one of our famous Nashville dives with just a microphone and a back-up band without making a fool of herself. So I'm not surprised that things went badly at the Kennedy Center.
Simpson was in tears last night after flubbing a song she was performing during the Kennedy Center Honors.

Simpson was on stage to sing Nine to Five as part of the tribute to Dolly Parton, one of the evening's five honorees. Simpson ended her performance abrupty with the words "so nervous" and quickly exited the stage. The stunned audience remained silent, giving her no applause.

Simpson appeared to be crying when she and other singers in the tribute returned to the stage.
And, of course she had to make it all about her with the crying and the "so nervous." I'm sure they'll clean it all up by the time it's on TV. This is a bit like the SNL incident that hit her sister, as neither of them could hide behind shifty editing and multiple takes to mask their screwups in front of the live audience, but it's not a performance problem that's in the genes. The truth is they're just a couple of well-scripted marketing plans masquerading as musicians. You could say even worse about me, of course (go ahead), but at least if I got invited to perform at an event like that, because someone actually believed my ruse, I'd at least have the good graces to decline.
Obama on AIDS
If you followed this story you know that Senator Obama was invited by mega-church pastor Rick Warren to speak to his congregation for World AIDS day conference last week. Many in the church objected loudly to the invitation because of Obama's being pro-choice and for supporting condom and clean needle distribution. He went anyway. You can read his speech here.
I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like if Leo's family was my own. If I had to answer those phone calls - if I had to attend those funerals. All I know is that no matter how or why my family became sick, I would be called to care for them and comfort them and do what I could to help find a cure. I know every one of you would do the same if it were your family.

Here's the thing - my faith tells me that Leo's family is my family.

We are all sick because of AIDS - and we are all tested by this crisis. It is a test not only of our willingness to respond, but of our ability to look past the artificial divisions and debates that have often shaped that response. When you go to places like Africa and you see this problem up close, you realize that it's not a question of either treatment or prevention - or even what kind of prevention - it is all of the above. It is not an issue of either science or values - it is both. Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds; in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist; neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own - AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck effort.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ranking Bush
Columbia University History professor Eric Foner in today's Washington Post:
At a time of national crisis, Pierce and Buchanan, who served in the eight years preceding the Civil War, and Johnson, who followed it, were simply not up to the job. Stubborn, narrow-minded, unwilling to listen to criticism or to consider alternatives to disastrous mistakes, they surrounded themselves with sycophants and shaped their policies to appeal to retrogressive political forces (in that era, pro-slavery and racist ideologues). Even after being repudiated in the midterm elections of 1854, 1858 and 1866, respectively, they ignored major currents of public opinion and clung to flawed policies. Bush's presidency certainly brings theirs to mind.
Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Today is World AIDS Day
Doug Ireland has a good/depressing report at Talk among yourselves.