The question, via Sarah J at Alterdestiny, is "Will women be accomplices, then? Or scenes of the crime?”

Here's the context--Utah's House of Representatives is hearing a bill that "could hold physicians responsible for homicide if they perform abortions deemed illegal by the state."

Ray's bill states that, to justify an abortion, two physicians would have to separately determine a fetus has a birth defect that would prevent it from surviving outside the womb, but Hodo said it may still force women to give birth to children who have no chance of long-term survival...
Mind you, it's already difficult for women in Utah to get a legal abortion, especially if they live outside of Salt Lake City. There's only one place that will do them up to the 20 week limit protected by Roe v Wade, and the informed consent laws are restrictive. But that's not enough, apparently.

The natural question that follows is, of course, what about the women who seek the abortion even if it doesn't fall into the categories outlined in the bill, i.e. are the women accomplices or crime scenes? Under the proposed legislation, the answer is obviously the latter, since they're not included under the heading of those who can be charged. You can't rightly call them victims, since they're the ones seeking the abortion and, in theory at least, paying for the service. So crime scene is all that's left, ridiculous as that is.

Come on, Utah legislators. Show a little backbone. Add in a law that would charge not only the women who seek abortions under this law, but one that will charge anyone who helps her to get one as an accessory to second degree felony criminal homicide. While you're at it, charge any woman who looks into it and doesn't qualify under the statute with attempted criminal homicide. Show the rest of the country that you do believe that women are people, and not just crime scenes. What are you afraid of?

Ian Buruma has a piece in the NY Times about Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch Parliament, who seems to be Holland's answer to Michelle Malkin, or Pam Atlas, or any of the other rabid right-wingers in this country who are convinced that Islam ought to be scrubbed from the face of the earth. He wants to ban the Koran from Holland, and he compares it to Mein Kampf, which is already banned. We're not talking about the most lucid person here.

Problem is, the Dutch government has permission to prosecute Wilders for hate speech.

Yet last week an Amsterdam court decided that Mr. Wilders should be prosecuted for “insulting” and “spreading hatred” against Muslims. Dutch criminal law can be invoked against anyone who “deliberately insults people on the grounds of their race, religion, beliefs or sexual orientation.”
That's bothersome to me, and not for the reasons Buruma puts out there. When responding to a professor who noted that being prosecuted for criticizing a book seemed strange, Buruma said:
This seems a trifle obtuse. Comparing a book that billions hold sacred to Hitler’s murderous tract is more than an exercise in literary criticism; it suggests that those who believe in the Koran are like Nazis, and an all-out war against them would be justified. This kind of thinking, presumably, is what the Dutch law court is seeking to check.

One of the misconceptions that muddle the West’s debate over Islam and free speech is the idea that people should be totally free to insult. Free speech is never that absolute. Even — or perhaps especially — in America, where citizens are protected by the First Amendment, there are certain words and opinions that no civilized person would utter, and others that open the speaker to civil charges.
Buruma is talking about two different classes of speech here. For starters, here in the US, you can pretty much insult people however you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, with little fear of legal repercussion. In fact, you're more likely to get police protection to do your insulting than you are to be arrested by them. Ask the police who do crowd control at Klan rallies. Ask the cops who make sure street preachers like Brother Micah don't get pounded by people who've just been called whores and sinners.

The kind of speech that opens people up to civil charges is slanderous or libelous, and both examples have to clear a pretty high bar, especially if the person being talked about is a public figure. The plaintiff has to prove that the charges are false, that the person making them knew it, and that they did so maliciously. That's why it's so rare for a tabloid magazine to be successfully sued for libel. What Wilders said wouldn't even raise much of an eyebrow in some parts of the US, and in others, would only be notable in that it sounds like so much that comes out of a particularly noxious part of the internet. But prosecutable? Not a chance.

I think my biggest problem with Buruma's approach comes from the fundamental disagreement we have over how much the government should be involved in censoring speech. For instance, I think that banning Mein Kampf is a mistake, just as I think banning Holocaust denial is a mistake. When a government takes the extreme step of banning books or arguments, it gives them an unearned legitimacy. Better to force Holocaust deniers to back up their claims in the open air, so they can be openly ridiculed, than to allow the claimants to say "the government has banned us because it has something to hide."

And I also think it's impossible to separate criticism of a religion from criticism of the people who follow it, at least if you're constantly having to worry about being sued or prosecuted if you do it. For instance, if the US had the same laws as Holland, I'd have to really consider whether or not I'd blog about religion at all; why chance writing about Pope Benedict's revocation of a Holocaust denier's excommunication and his reinstatement into a place of power in the church? I could potentially be sued for hinting that the Catholic Church, and by extension, all Catholics, supported Holocaust denial. I don't believe that, and would never say it, but if the Church wanted to make my life miserable, they could sue me under those grounds and I'd have to eat the cost of my defense (which I couldn't). It's an unreasonable restriction on speech.

Wilders is a perfect example of the unlikeable defendant. He's Larry Flynt, only he hates Muslims instead of women and Jerry Falwell. I would just as soon he disappeared from the public scene, but only because he's been discredited, not because a government decided that what he was saying was illegal.

I guess there must be a move in the state legislature to shut down what few nude beaches there are in Florida, because an advocate for their continued existence made a positive case for them to Broward County legislators Thursday.

He said the closest one to Broward, Haulover Beach in Miami-Dade County, is an economic engine, drawing tourists from other states and countries to a place where they can enjoy a beach without the encumbrance of clothing. Twenty-seven percent of Haulover visitors come from outside Florida, Mason said.

Mason termed Haulover "the most successful beach in the state of Florida." He said it outdraws the Florida Marlins and Miami Dolphins combined — a comment that drew titters from the crowd.
Okay, so outdrawing the Marlins isn't that big a deal--I think there are college productions of The Cherry Orchard that outdraw the Marlins, and I mean for the season, not just for a single game. But still, that's money, which is in short supply these days, in case the legislature hadn't noticed, and anything that can get people to spend is at least worth considering.

I'd like to point out that I fought the urge to go juvenile in this blog post fairly successfully, and believe me, it was difficult.

Mark's right


Just kidding. Actually, they know exactly what they're doing, and if you tell them it's a mistake, they'll just claim to be sticking to their principles... which is funny coming from a blank-check-for-Bush batch of legislators who now claim that the problem with Bush was that he "behaved like a Democrat." If he behaved in a way you find reprehensible (because of your "principles"), why the lock-step loyalty?

(Ron Paul, on CSPAN this morning, claimed that Bush I, Bush II, and Ronald Reagan all "acted like Democrats," creating huge deficits and expanding government -- but don't the last three Republican presidents over the last three decades DEFINE what the Republican party is? How can they be the exception when they are the party?)

But that's the problem with the Republican party: it is such a blindingly partisan party that its only real principle IS loyalty. Its ability to march in lockstep gives it many advantages: the ability to communicate a loud, pervasive, effective message (true or not), the ability to act swiftly to change things when it's in power; the ability for its leaders to state and do questionable things without being questioned by underlings or peers -- only "outsiders." But there are disadvantages as well, especially lately.

The two major American parties are similar in a lot of ways, but their weaknesses are opposite. The Democratic party is too compromising, too milquetoast, too frightened to make bold moves, even when on the side of right. The Republican party, on the other hand, is utterly incapable of compromise, is too arrogant, and too eager to make bold moves, even when they're completely wrong. A proper leader (or person) should avoid either extreme, but natural systems create feedback loops, and exaggerate the qualities of its constituent parts.

So now, when the entire country has rejected Republican ideas and has embraced Barack Obama, the Republican party has further united to not vote for the stimulus plan with Obama's name on it. (Bush's name, yes -- Obama's name, no). They did this knowing that the plan would pass anyway. They're doing it for show: to make a statement. To show that they will not compromise, they are right dammit, and they will act boldly, no matter the cost!

But here is the gamble: the stimulus package did pass the House, and will pass the Senate, and will be signed by the president. The Republican party just bet its reputation on that package's failure. If the economy improves, and people perceive that the stimulus package helped, then the fact that not a single Republican voted for it becomes a symbol of how partisan and party-before-country they have become, and will further reduce their popularity.

And what might be gained? If the stimulus package fails and the economy continues to worsen, no one will believe "oh, had you followed our Republican ways things would have been better!" It was the Bush years that led to the crisis in the minds of most -- so if the package fails their reputation will continue to be mud.

This is a difference of kind in comparison to Democrats: Democrats are squishy and complex (often a great failing of theirs); when Democrats disagree with a policy -- say, invading Iraq -- they nonetheless lift a finger to the wind and behave in a politic way. They haven't the unity nor the imagination to try to f* up things and make the policy fail (by, say, failing to fund the war in order to stop it -- something their constituents wanted them to do). No, the Democrats put their country first and decry any move that would create "rifts" and create a poisonously partisan environment.

On a purely political basis, they're making a mistake. The mood of The People is not entertained by ideological speeches and empty gestures, and people everywhere at every income level are suffering. People want results.

you may find this intensely disturbing, not because of the content--you've already seen that--but because of the context. Enjoy.



Via The Rumpus

My Fellow Whiteys...

I've pretty much stopped commenting in this thread on the ending of Reverend Lowery's benediction at the inauguration of President Obama just over a week ago. I stopped because it was clear that the discussion wasn't going to go anywhere, and that the people who are continuing to complain about Lowery's language are completely missing the point. So in order to keep this from being lost in the comment section, I'm just going to put it out here for everyone to see.

Lots of you are saying that Lowery was being unfair to white people when he said "when white will embrace what is right," as though Lowery was condemning the actions of every white person and suggesting that none of them were doing right. I'll be blunt here--you're being a bunch of idiots.

Look at the world around you. Really look at it. If you're a person of color, you're more likely to go to jail than a white person convicted of the same crime. You're also more likely to be charged with a more serious crime given identical circumstances. If you're a person of color without a criminal record, you're less likely to be called back for a second interview for a job than a white person with a criminal conviction, all other things being equal. There are other examples of this sort across the socio-economic spectrum. The fact is that, on the whole, white has yet to completely embrace what is right when it comes to social justice.

That is not to say that the playing field hasn't evened over the last few decades--it has, unquestionably, in large part because growing numbers of white people have embraced what is right. But the field is not even yet, because a large number of people, whether intentionally or not, have refused to help make it so, and the result is that, on the whole, white has not yet fully embraced what is right.

If you are one of those who have, who is working to seek justice and fairness for all, good. Do you want a freaking medal or something? To paraphrase Chris Rock, "you're doing what you're supposed to do, you low-expectation-having mother-f***er. What do you want, a cookie?" You're doing what a decent human being does. To not do it would make you an asshole. That's your reward for not being a bigot--you're a decent human being and you help make the world a better place.

Part of that job means noticing that the world isn't good enough yet and doing something to make it better, to make it so that one day we really can look at our country and see that race isn't a determining factor in how likely you are to get a job, or how likely you are to go to jail, or how likely you are to have your children go to a substandard school. That's the day that Lowery is asking for in that prayer. That's why he concluded it by saying "Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen." All those--did you notice that? Guess who's included in there? Those of you who took unnecessary offense at what he'd said in the previous sentence.

So stop looking for the pat on the head, or the "good job." You're not doing anything you shouldn't have been doing in the first place.

Being on top

It's an interesting time to be a Democrat, because for the first time in a generation, it means being part of the party that's not only in charge, but is also on the rise. We've got the excitement thing going, which is really an odd feeling for me. The first time I voted--and I was neither a liberal nor a Democrat at the time--was 1996, and I only really became involved in politics in the last 8 years, so it's an odd feeling to see right-wingers like Michelle Malkin or the goofballs at RedState freaking out over how their Senators are "caving" on Cabinet appointments. It's odd in the sense that I can feel for them, even though we have so little in common otherwise.

My general response to them is a Friedman-esque "suck on this," since they were so gleeful at our angst when our Senators voted yes on things like the Military Commissions Act--I haven't forgotten that, Bill Nelson, and I will support anyone who primaries you--or to confirm people like Alberto Gonzales. I get a big case of "how does it feel now?" going, because that pain is so fresh in my mind.

This is usually the time in my blog post where I would get introspective and comment on the shared humanity of us all, but I don't think I'm going to do that today. It's a little early for that, especially when these are the types of people who consider themselves the future of the Republican party.

Liberals have their Ted Kennedys and Nancy Pelosis that do no compromising. They have their “Baghdad” Jim McDermotts that cavort across the globe advocating for murderers and tyrants the world over. They’ve had their presidential candidates “reporting for duty” that have in the past been key members of committees advocating for putting our own soldiers in jail and indicting Americans for faux war crimes. For that matter, the left even has an actual ex-president that runs to the support of every tin-pot dictator in the world pretending at being a diplomat.

The left is unapologetic for its support of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, the biggest mass murderers in history. They are resolved to turn our foreign policy over to foreign bodies like the UN. The left is four square against freedom of religion and keen to remove uncounted numbers of our Constitutional rights from us. They hate capitalism, property rights and are against open debate in our schools… yet they say so proudly and their politicians cultivate voting records that reflect those beliefs.

There’s no “compromise” there. The left knows that politics ain’t beanball.
Yeah, it's going to take a few more rhetorical kicks to the junk before these people start seeing anything close to reality. Come on--Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot? Liberal hate capitalism, but we're doing everything we can to save it from itself. We hate religion, even though the majority of the people in our party are religious.

But this is the best--liberals never compromise. What? Do you know what's been happening to this stimulus bill? Do you know what got taken out of it yesterday, even though Democrats have sufficient majorities to push through whatever they want?

So it's going to be interesting for the next couple of years. See, unlike the Republicans who actually bought into the notion of the permanent majority, I know that my party will fall out of favor eventually, and it might even fall out of favor with me. I'm prepared for it. But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy watching the RedStaters and Malkins of the world gnash their teeth and rip their hair out because their representatives aren't as hardcore as they'd like them to be.

Blowfish testicles poison 7 diners in Japan

I don't get thrill-seekers. Call me a stick-in-the-mud or something equally clich├ęd, but I just don't get the need for self-inflicted adrenalin rushes. I can't say I've ever been tempted to bungee-jump or sky-dive (though hang-gliding does look cool); I can deal with roller coasters, but I've never been excited to go on one; and while I'm all about trying new foods, I've never been tempted to eat something that I know ahead of time might kill me if the chef isn't up to the chore of preparing it.

Although I have eaten my share of fast-food burgers/tacos/etc. over the years--but that's a different category.

Maybe fugu is the most awesome tasting sushi in the world, but I don't know if it is or not, because taste isn't the reason people eat it. People spend all that money on fugu because there's the chance that if the chef messed it up, they could die. Is your life that boring? Are you that unfulfilled? Somebody, please, explain this phenomenon to me.

So Citigroup ordered a plane two years ago, at a cost of $50 million. It's the sort of purchase you expect a company riding a bubble to make, so it wasn't all that surprising. It wasn't even surprising when I read a couple of days ago that they still planned to take possession of it--I'm a little cynical when it comes to the way the financial industry continues to make decisions in this economy they helped destroy. Of course they'd take possession of the plane, right? They haven't worried about public opinion so far--why start now? Besides, it's not like this is going to hurt them anymore--what, will it make us consider Citigroup executives to be dog crap instead of lower than dog crap? Ooooh.

But Citigroup, apparently deciding that it is indeed better to be dog crap instead of lower than dog crap, isn't going to take the plane. Hooray? Sorry, I just can't get excited about anything like this. It's the equivalent of the auto execs who came to DC in their private planes to ask for a bailout, and then returned in their hybrid SUVs. Little late to be cost-conscious, I think.

How to narrow the field

Here's the problem with deciding who to vote for in the upcoming Fort Lauderdale mayoral election--there's a lot of people running and not much press on the subject. But--and this is important--there has been an important in the development that will help winnow at least one, and perhaps two people from the field. Jim Naugle has made a couple of endorsements.

Now, Jim Naugle, as you may remember, is the guy who stirred up the debate on this blog over whether crupid or stubatshit was a better adjective to describe him, and who also inspired the attempt to do to Naugle what Dan Savage did to Rick Santorum's name. That didn't work out so well, as I recall. The crux of this is that Naugle is a douchebag of monumental proportions who has been term-limited out, and who has made an endorsement or two in the upcoming Mayoral race.

Which means that at least one, and perhaps two people have been culled from the race as far as I'm concerned, because no way will I vote for a person Naugle likes. Romney Rogers? No way.

Rogers sought Naugle's endorsement.

"I think the comments he has made have been divisive comments, but at the same time he speaks his mind," he said. "We certainly want to be sure everybody has their free-speech rights."
Rogers is absolutely right--Naugle has the right to say whatever he wants. And we as voters have the right to electorally punish people who say things that offend us.

I haven't ruled out Seiler completely yet--he's distancing himself a little from Naugle, which means that he understands the problem at least. That's not stopping Dean Trantalis from taking a shot at him, though.
"Apparently they see eye to eye," said former City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, a mayoral candidate, speaking of Seiler and Naugle.
Well, that's certainly the case for Rogers. Now, for the rest of the field.

Give these people a prize

I don't know what these peoples' names are--I don't even know which company they worked for--but if I ever find out who the people responsible for deciding that digital cameras in mobile phones are, I'll have them all to dinner at my house. I'll even cook.

I'm sure I'm not the first to marvel at how this has changed the power structure between the governed and the government, but it really hit me when I read this comment by a poster named BabylonSista over at Coates' place:

I don't know if I could stand to see more video of this young man being mistreated and killed. It's a dark blessing, however, that the video exists--if there were no video, this scandal might have been ignored completely.
She's talking about the latest development in the Oscar Grant case, which involves a police officer hitting someone for no reason. Without those videos from the mobile phones, there's little doubt in my mind that the police officer in question would never have faced a murder charge the way he is now. We give police the benefit of the doubt in this society--we do it far too often, in my view--and with the official video unavailable (and I'm making no charges about how that happened), the judicial system would have rallied around the police officer.

But with citizens now having the ability to not only record--because cameras can do that--but also transmit pictures and video almost instantly, it makes covering this sort of thing up much, much more difficult. And this is hardly the first time. YouTube is full of examples of cops who were out of control and who were only busted for it because onlookers had mobile phones with cameras on them.

Maybe I'm overstating the case a little, but that melding of technologies might be one of the most significant of recent history.

Quote of the Day

From the New York Times Op-Ed page:"This is William Kristol’s last column."

Via Balloon Juice, because it's unlikely I'd have clicked on Kristol's column on my own.



that is, unless I'm singing this instead. I'll bet that would make for an interesting mash-up.

Universal Health Care Now!

What would make a successful writer and artist, daughter of a Cuban exile who has no illusions about the kind of government that exists there right now, be willing to move to Cuba and not come back? How about massive heart disease?

For the past month, I have been in and out of the hospital for problems with my heart. The pain and issues came up suddenly, around Jan. 1. After many tests, doctors have determined that I have three leaky heart valves, an enlarged left atrium, and resultant arrhythmias. The arrhythmias are nearly constant, and terrifying.

That, sadly, is the good news. The bad news is, I don't have health insurance. I can't afford it, as a self-employed person supporting a family of three. Even if I got a job with insurance now, or if I bought private insurance, it is unlikely any of this would be covered because it would be a pre-existing condition.

The bad news? I probably need open-heart surgery to correct the valves, at a cost of about $45,000 per valve. I don't have that kind of money.

My family and I are very seriously considering moving to Cuba, where medical care is free. As the daughter of a Cuban exile, I am a dual citizen of the United States and Cuba. It is incredible to me that a nation as poor as Cuba would be able to treat me for free, while my own rich nation, to which I have contributed so much, would let me die.
Ms. Valdes-Rodriguez is lucky in a way--she has an option, questionable as it might be. Lots of people don't, and for this sort of thing, an emergency room visit won't cut it, former President Bush's protestations notwithstanding.

Ms. Valdes-Rodriguez is hardly the only person in a situation like this. As of 2006, there were 47 million uninsured people in the US, and many of those who have insurance have crappy insurance that doesn't cover much, especially in the case of catastrophic illness. Of those 47 million, over 57% are employed, and nearly a quarter make between $20K and $40K a year. We're not talking about people who would be covered by existing government programs--we're talking about working class people in a lot of cases.

Sometimes, when we look at numbers like those, it's easy to be overwhelmed by them, to fail to get a sense of just how many people that is. So it's good to look at individual circumstances every once in a while. Look at Alisa Valdes-Rodrigues, read her story, and then call your Congressperson and say that it's beyond time that we had universal health care in this country.

How large a margin?

On Bill Moyers Journal (I swear there should be an apostrophe) this past Friday, David Sirota was talking about President Obama's strategy in passing the economic stimulus package. He said:

I think Barack Obama can pull five or ten Republicans with — and by pushing a very progressive agenda. The issue is how much is he willing to sacrifice for political aesthetics? How much is he willing to water down an economic stimulus package with discredited tax cuts in order to get 30 or 40 Republican votes?

I'm very convinced, if you look at polls on issues like healthcare, on issues like, should the government spend to create jobs? I'm very convinced that if he pushes a robust, progressive, Democratic package, he, with his bully pulpit, would be able to peel off the necessary five, six, seven Republican votes in the Senate. But, again, the question is how much is he willing to water that down to get 20 or 30?
He reinforced that a couple of minutes later by suggesting that President Obama is trying to get to 80 votes--a suggestion Moyers had made earlier as well. I tend to agree with them. President Obama has been making those noises since before he was President, even since before he was President-elect, so they're no great shock at this point.

What's also not a shock, however, is that Republicans, even those with a (questionable) reputation for bi-partisanship, are going to demand more than what is reasonable to get to 80 votes. At the top of the list is the man who lost decisively to President Obama in 2008, in large part because of the way he waffled when this current economic crisis broke.
Sen. John McCain says it will take some big changes before he would vote for the Obama administration's stimulus package....

The former GOP president nominee also says he will push to make permanent the Bush tax cuts, which helped high-earning people. Those cuts expire next year. and President Barack Obama has said he would not seek to renew them.
I expect, personally, that when the final package is done, Senator McCain will find a way to vote for it, as will a number of other Republican Senators. After all, for all his reputation as a maverick, he's far from the most likely to cross the aisle--there are some blue-state Senators who are looking toward 2010 with some trepidation and who want to hook onto whatever economic improvement comes along. If the economy stays bad, they're hosed no matter how they voted. And remember also that once Senator Franken is seated, the Democrats only need one or two votes to get above the filibuster margin--that's the tipping point at which Mitch McConnell will have problems holding his caucus together. 61 votes will mushroom to 70 without an awful lot of effort, and McCain will be one of them.

But gamesmanship aside, the thing that makes me curious is why Republicans are so determined to hold on to what the public in general obviously sees as failed policies. Remember, Republicans were rejected up and down the ticket--they can talk all they want about the various problems in individual races, but the fact is that not only did their party lose the Presidency by an amount unseen in a generation, they lost Senate seats and the margin in the House, already larger than the largest the Republicans ever held, is even larger now. That sort of buttkicking ought to cause at least a little reflection, I would think, but there's no indication that it's happening.

There are signs that President Obama is willing to use his popularity to make his policies become a reality. There's his "I won" moment for starters, but I hope he takes his historically high job approval rating and runs with it, because it won't last.

does he say "Make it so, Number One"?

Don't hold back, Dick.

Tell us how you really feel.

I felt bad when George Bush was booed.

But only briefly. My sympathy for that man has a half-life of about four seconds.

There was a surprising number of outpourings of sympathy for his having to sit there and, as it was too-often described, “take it on the chin.” Was there ever a chin more deserving of taking it?

“You have to feel sorry for him,” someone cooed. “No. You do not!” I shouted at the screen. I know he “tried” and he “did what he thought was right.” But so does the incompetent surgeon.

What does that excuse?

His brief discomfort “sitting there” can’t have been less endurable than the discomfort of the young soldier describing on the news how he watched helplessly as his gut-shot buddy bled to death on the sands the smirking Texan sent him to.

*****

And a hearty sayonara to that other fellow.

Do freshman philosophy classes nowadays debate updated versions of the age-old questions? Like, how could a merciful God allow AIDS, childhood cancers, tsunamis and Dick Cheney?
I didn't really need all the other stuff about who made you cry and all that, and I won't judge you because of who doesn't. This was enough for me.

Catholicism Whaa?

Far be it from me to give the Catholic Church advice on its image--I don't see a downside to the current Pope's influence being diminished--but this decision makes absolutely no sense to me.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI, acceding to the far-right of the Catholic Church, revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage....

Most contentious was the inclusion of Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.
I just don't see any upside to that move. I mean, the church can say all it wants that Williamson's views on the Holocaust and 9/11 aren't approved of by the church, but no one is going to see it that way outside the hardcore people who demanded his reinstatement, and rightly so.

It's one thing to reinstate schismatics who were excommunicated because they wanted the Church to stay old-school; it's another completely to welcome back a Holocaust-denier. Again, I'm not a Catholic, but if I were a member of an exclusive group that had the power to determine who gets to be a member of the club, guess what? No Holocaust-deniers invited, no matter what other credentials they bring to the table. And if it sounds like I'm suggesting that people of certain belief systems ought to be shunned from polite society, you're right.

I hope there are voices inside the Catholic Church who will stand up to the Pope on this.

Saturday Kittehs



Wind tunnel testing aids in Eliot's energy conservation efforts.



"Get off my bladder!"

Pure Awesome

Some days I miss San Francisco more than others.



From Pizza Diavola via Shakesville

Get Your War On

may be no more, but this is what I found most interesting about the history of the strip and its artist.

Started by Mr. Rees, at the time a Brooklyn-based former Maxim fact-checker in October 2001, the strip took the form of generic clip art office drones bantering—but more often ranting—about the war on terror, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and the war on civil liberties at home.
Maxim checks facts? Maxim has facts to check?

Maybe it's backlash from the Prop 8/Amendment 2 mess, or maybe it's the exuberance of having a non-wingnut in the White House, or maybe it's just that the homobigots are the ones leaving Florida, or maybe it's just the in-your-face stance taken by LGBT groups and their allies recently, but something is happening in Florida.

Outsiders might not know that Florida is one of the few states to refuse to allow gay people to adopt children. Right now, there are a couple of cases pending appeal on the matter--the trial judges have overturned the ban, saying it's unconstitutional, and the state has said it plans to appeal. This is one case where public opinion is on the side of overturning the law, at least according to a poll from Quinnipiac released today. Here's the breakdown:

The survey also found that Floridians oppose 55 - 39 percent a state law that prohibits gays and lesbians from adopting children.

Republicans support the law 52 - 43 percent, as do White Evangelical Christians 58 - 37 percent.

Democrats oppose the law 61 - 32 percent, along with independent voters 60 - 34 percent.
That's a pretty big spread--16 points--and the agreement between Democrats and Independents is really close.

The numbers on some sort of legal recognition for same sex couples are the real surprise, though, considering how badly Amendment 2 got stomped at the polls last November.
Statewide, 27 percent of surveyed voters said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

Another 35 percent said gays should be allowed to legally form civil unions but not marry.

And 31 percent said gays should not be allowed to obtain legal recognition of their relationships.
So 62% of the population favors some sort of recognition. Count me in the 27%--not a surprise to anyone who reads this blog--but if there's public support for civil unions that we can then build on to get to full marriage, I'll support it. These are the important numbers to me, though.
Voters age 18-34: support marriage, 39 percent; support civil unions, 34 percent; favor no recognition, 24 percent.

Voters older than 55: support marriage, 24 percent; support civil unions, 36 percent; favor no recognition, 33 percent.
It's good to see 60% support among older voters, but it's the 73% in the 18-34 range that's got to be disheartening to homobigots. I don't see a way they overcome that kind of demographic spread on this issue in the long term. And with the younger people supporting marriage over civil unions, that means we're even closer to full marriage. It's going to happen. It's only a matter of time.

So what's the plan?

Steve Benen is wondering what the Republicans are thinking with this petty nonsense over President Obama's Cabinet nominees.

Granted, Republicans aren't exactly in a position of power or leverage, and it's unreasonable to think the party will just roll over and let Democrats do as they please for the foreseeable future. But where's the strategy? Where's the evidence that the party has learned lessons following its electoral fiasco? Where's any indication at all that the Republican Party has changed, even a little?
Well, I don't think the party has changed any. I think they're trying the same strategy they tried back in 1992 when they managed to get President Clinton to dump a couple of nominees because of crap objections. The difference is that this time it's not working, in part because Obama won such a clear victory and also because the Democrats have administered quite a junk kicking in Senate races in the last two cycles. Clinton's Democratic party was on the decline and the Republicans knew it, so they could go after Clinton's nominees without having to worry about the Democrats punching back too hard. And Clinton hadn't won a mandate election, so he had limited political capital to spend.

Now, it doesn't say much for the foresight of the Republican Senators who are trying to play the game with much less stroke--in fact, all it really tells us is that they are lacking in ideas and haven't yet gotten used to being in the minority again and how to effectively fight back. At the moment, it feels a lot like the Republicans are a little confused by the fact that the Democrats aren't caving on this stuff--I can understand, because it's a new experience for me as well.

But I don't think that this flailing will necessarily cost them in the next election cycle. By the time the next round comes, this petty nonsense will have faded and the Republicans will be on to some other petty nonsense which hopefully won't stick. And the cycle will continue.

If Mike Lazaridis were an American, I think he'd be Barack Obama's best friend, because Obama may have done him the biggest solid doable by fighting for his PDA. You might not know who Lazaridis is--I didn't until I started googling for this blog post--but I bet you know what brand of PDA President Obama uses and can't live without, don't you?

The president has been adamant about continuing to use a BlackBerry, which has Internet and e-mail access, despite concerns that likely have made the National Security Agency as nervous as the Secret Service on Inauguration Day when Obama left his presidential limo twice to walk and wave to crowds along Pennsylvania Avenue.
When the most adored politician in a generation demands to keep using your product, you're in a position most other companies would kill for. The temptation to mention it in ads must be overwhelming--risky, but tempting as hell. If you're trying to lure people into the smartphone market, noting that the very popular new President likes your brand might not be a bad thing to play up.

Prepare for the onslaught

If you're an avid blog reader of political blogs, then you probably already know what today is. You will see many posts on the same subject, each hoping to perhaps stake out a unique claim, find a new hook, win the argument once and for all. There will be earnest pleas, sentimental stories, harsh rhetoric, accusations of bad faith. Words will be misspelled. CAPS LOCK WILL BE USED. The exclamation may get a workout like it rarely sees.

All because today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

There's no other issue that gets the anger flowing quite like abortion rights does. It seems as though any mention of the word turns people who are normally sedate and moderate into ravening beasts, as they dig their heels into their positions and refuse to budge. I'm as bad as anyone on this front. When I get into an argument--rare, believe it or not, because I don't generally find it fruitful--my attitude toward the anti-abortion extremists is that they're either stupid or dishonest, and I don't much care which one they choose.

After all, I'm not going to be swayed from my position that the most personal choice a woman can make is whether or not she's going to give birth if she's pregnant, and that no one has the right to get between a woman and that choice. I'm all about discussing ways to reduce the number of abortions that are performed in this country--I'm in favor of increased access to birth control including emergency contraception, of better age-appropriate sex education, of social programs that can help economically disadvantaged mothers take care of babies they choose to have, like government-funded day care, and of course, universal health care. But the core of it, the sacred part of the debate, is that the individual woman has the right to choose what she does with her body and what's inside of it. If the other side isn't willing to give me that, then we can't have a discussion.

The darkly funny part of all this is that in almost every public discussion, when this debate shifts from airy abstractions about rights to real-life examples of pregnant women, the language of choice is the one that always dominates. That's the inevitable frame, and anti-abortion advocates know this. Remember the Republican convention, and the way the Palin family tap-danced around the issue? It was one of the best moments The Daily Show and Samantha Bee ever had.



The way those people did everything they could to avoid uttering the very word shows that they know, on some level, that they're walking into a rhetorical minefield, that in a real debate, they can't win. This is especially the case when, as is the case for the Republican party, you're generally arguing (dishonestly, I'd say) that government ought to stay out of your personal decisions. It's a contradiction that can't be skirted honestly, so anti-abortion advocates do everything they can to shift the debate onto ground more suited to their arguments.

Anyway, you'll get to see a lot of this today, definitely on political blogs, perhaps in your email inbox, possibly in the form of street protests depending on where you live. I'm actually dreading walking across the quad today because I assume someone will be out there with pictures of fetuses and I don't have the energy to mock them in the manner to which I am accustomed. Happy Abortion Day, y'all.

Ha! Indeed.



Stolen shamelessly from Rick

New Piece up at The Rumpus

I've had my ass handed to me so many times when I write about poetry that I'm a little gun-shy, but for some unknown reason, I've written a piece about Elizabeth Alexander's "Praise Song for the Day" over at The Rumpus. Here's a taste.

As a poet, I appreciate the gesture made toward the arts when the President-elect asks a poet to present a work at his or her inauguration. I’m as big a dork for it as there is—it’s rare that the art form I’ve chosen to work almost exclusively in gets that kind of exposure.

But I’m starting to think that it’s just not working, that maybe the limited history of the Inaugural Poem is enough to tell us to quit while we’re… well, if not ahead, at least not too far behind. Read the rest...

I'm pretty sure Ta-Nehisi Coates didn't intend this post to turn into a discussion of the final lines of Reverend Lowery's benediction yesterday--a prayer that I, as an unbeliever, was saying Amen to in the call and response at the end--but that's what happens when you're a big-time blogger. The discussion seems to focus on the line I used as the title for this post, the final rhyme that Lowery threw out there. Some commenters said that the line made them or friends of theirs feel slightly alienated, as though Lowery were calling out white people as the problem that all other races and ethnic groups should point fingers at in blame and accusation.

Which made me shake my head and laugh. As though that line alone would make you feel alienated from the celebration as a whole? Look, the history of white people in this country is an ugly one, and the invisible benefits that we white people get on the average are so numerous that we don't even notice them for the most part. Sure, the field has evened some in the last fifty years, but whites, especially white men, are still on the high side of that field. Again--on the average. If you're going to comment on how you think you haven't seen any great bias in your favor based on your skin color, then either reexamine your situation or assume you're one of the rare few white people I'm not talking about here, okay?

The point of Lowery's prayer wasn't to cast blame on white people for centuries of oppression, though if it had been, he'd certainly have been justified. It was more a statement about the reality of the relationships, and the hope that the group that has been in power for so long will continue to move toward "embrac[ing] what is right." Lots of white people have already embraced right, but getting gripey about it when someone points out that we have a sordid history and a ways to go yet just proves Lowery's point. And while we're being brutally honest here, I think the election season, the political circus, the fact that a candidate for the leadership of one of the two major parties in the US can send out a CD with "Barack the Magic Negro" on it and not see his candidacy vanish in a puff of smoke further strengthens Lowery's point.

Lowery was speaking in generalities. Should African-Americans who have been economically successful have gotten upset over "brown can stick around," because it applies less to them? Should Native Americans gotten upset over "the red man can get ahead man" if they're doing well financially? Of course not. We all acknowledge that when talking about large groups, there will be exceptions. So if you're a white person who has embraced what is right, then acknowledge that lots of your fellows haven't quite done it yet, and get to work convincing them to do better. And in the meantime, dust that chip off your shoulder.

Senator Hillary Clinton will be the next Secretary of State. No one is questioning that. She sailed through her confirmation hearing with glowing reviews from members of both parties, and no one is questioning that we need someone heading that department as quickly as possible.

But John Cornyn feels like he has to somehow remain relevant.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas objected to including Mrs. Clinton’s name in a unanimous consent vote for several Cabinet nominees, scheduled for hours after the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, plans to hold a roll-call vote on Mrs. Clinton’s nomination on Wednesday, which she is expected to win easily.

A spokesman for Mr. Cornyn, Kevin McLaughlin, said, “this is not an effort to scuttle or block the nomination, but a legitimate policy difference. Senator Cornyn’s goal is to create transparency on all levels of government.”
My ass. Cornyn has never been interested in transparency in government. He ran interference for the Bush administration on more than one occasion in the Senate, and seems to be doing this just to be a dick. He's not going to derail Clinton's nomination, and he knows it, but he can't let her get into the new office without showing that he's still got some stroke. Well good for you, Senator. Now go over to your office and be irrelevant while the real grownups clean up the mess you helped make.

Inaugural Poem

Enjoy.

Inaugural thoughts

I dressed in blue today--royal shirt, navy pants, with my Florida for Obama t-shirt underneath. I know--red states, blue states, United States--but this is the first time I've ever voted for the winner, and I'm going to revel in it a bit.

Any worries I had about Rick Warren were shuffled away when I realized that he couldn't be anything other than what he is--a pompous gasbag who can't help but crap all over anyone who doesn't subscribe to his limited view of God and Christianity.

How long will it be before someone files a suit saying that Barack Obama isn't actually President because of the mix-up during the oath? And since President Obama hadn't been sworn in until a few minutes after noon, does that mean that Joe Biden was the acting-President for about fifteen minutes?

That Obama guy sure knows how to deliver a speech, doesn't he? And I very much appreciated the shoutout to the nonbelievers, alongside the Muslims and Jews and other non-Christian types.

I didn't have access to a good tv, so I tried watching everything online. Hulu had the best feed, which it got from Fox News. I wonder why their intertubes weren't clogged up as bad as the others?

To the Fox guy: talking over Elizabeth Alexander--not cool. I wound up scrambling to another office where a colleague had a 3.5 inch black and white with an antenna, so we huddled around it, peered through the static and got most of our inaugural poem on. When video becomes available, I'll have it here, but I liked it, based on my first impression.

The real reason I'm not worried about Rick Warren's appearance? Reverend Lowery, who made Warren look petty by comparison. I found myself saying Amen at the end of his benediction. That's some good crazy, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, go to Youtube and use Lowery and "good crazy" as search terms. He's a good man, that Reverend Lowery.

No, this isn't the beginning of a joke. It's a serious question, one I've been thinking about since earlier when a lot of people I respect got wound up about the exclusion of Reverend Gene Robinson's prayer from the broadcast of the pre-inaugural festivities today.

Rev. Robinson's inclusion has been an issue with some people because they felt it was an awkward attempt to mollify LGBT activists who were pissed about the big stage given Pastor Rick Warren. Many flat out disbelieved the Obama Inaugural Committee's claim that Robinson had been part of the plans from the beginning, and given the way the news came out, that's a fair position to take. It's not one I share, but I'm not basing my opinion on anything other than my willingness to trust.

So when either the OIC or HBO--depending on who you ask--dropped the technical ball earlier today, some people got upset. Over at Shakesville, Melissa posted a thread that noted that the ability to point fingers and assign blame is one that all political persuasions share. When I noted in a comment that there is indeed a gay-friendly pastor, Reverend Lowery, on the ticket for tomorrow, the Portly Dyke responded, in part, by writing:

And you know, Incertus, a gay-friendly pastor just is not the same as a gay pastor. Know what I mean? Would you say the same to a person of color who was concerned about their inclusion? "Well, he does still have a black-friendly pastor on tap! Cheer up!"
I've been thinking about that a lot for most of the day, trying to figure out a way to respond without simply saying "we shouldn't have pastors up there in the first place." I mean, I do believe that, but it's hardly conducive to good discourse.

Portly Dyke does have a point--a gay-friendly pastor isn't the same as a gay one, but let's remember that a gay one did take the stage today (and his invocation will be rebroadcast tomorrow), even if he didn't get the coverage he deserved and that the Obama team say they had asked for. But you know who didn't get on the stage today in that capacity, at least as far as I saw, and won't tomorrow, unless there's something I missed in the program? A Rabbi. An Imam. An atheist. A Catholic. A Buddhist monk. A woman who holds a place of authority in any faith*. A Latino/a. An Asian. A Native American Shaman. I could go on, but I trust I've made my point. Even if President-elect Obama wanted to be as inclusive as possible, where does it stop? Somebody--a lot of somebodies--are going to be left out, and there are Americans who are represented by all of those groups. This is supposed to be a day for all Americans--not just the ones represented by the preachers who ascend the podium and offer their platitudes on the day.

At least you got someone. Lots of people were left out.

But that's sort of the point, or the problem, with going down the inclusion road. How wide do you cast the net before you realize that it's logistically impossible to cover everyone? And then where do you draw the lines? What groups are offendable, and which groups aren't? And do we really want to get into drawing those lines? I sure as hell don't.

I didn't like the Warren choice, but if it gives Obama enough political capital that it'll make a couple of Republican Senators twitchy enough about re-election that they'll vote to pass ENDA (with transgender protections), I'll listen to him pray, well, not everyday, but I won't boo loudly when he does. If that choice makes it easier for Obama to allow gays to serve openly in the military, then let Warren pray his fool head off. There are bigger issues at play here. And sometimes, including people we're not the fondest of is the only way to get those problems solved.

* Of course, if you consider poetry a matter of faith, then Elizabeth Alexander qualifies. I look at it as an attempt to divine the transcendent in the universe, but I'm not sure that counts.

Is it really almost here?

Way back in November--in the long long ago, in the before time--Amy changed the tag line for this blog to what it is currently. "We are full of win: 1.20.09" And we've been marking days on our calendars furiously ever since, waiting for tomorrow to come, waiting to actually, finally, cleanse ourselves of the 2000 election, waiting to enter the 21 century with minds looking toward the future instead of back toward some nostalgic past that never really existed. And we have a hell of a symbol to lead us into it.

It's easy to fall into the trap of overblown rhetoric when talking about what we expect of the first Obama administration. Obama's election signals an important turning point in race relations in this country (though we're far from post-racial--whatever that means), as well as a turning away from economic deregulation and the notion that big government is necessarily bad government. But even the most pie-eyed optimist won't suggest that Obama is superhuman, able to leap obstinate Congresses in a single bound. He will disappoint--hell, he has already disappointed some people with his choices for the inauguration or his Cabinet--but he'll disappoint on something larger, and more personal to every one of us eventually. That's the nature of the job.

But today, and for the next couple of days, as we soak in this moment--today the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and his dream followed by tomorrow as the next step in that dream (because make no mistake, the dream has not been realized yet)--just focus on where we're going. We're really in the 21st century now, if we allow ourselves to be.

BSG Sucking? Thanks for noticing!

Heather Havrilesky on Salon has just published a TV review that she seems to believe will earn her pariah status: she points out that the Battlestar Galactica emperor has been quite naked for some time now.

{Spoilers coming.}

To this I can only reply: thanks for noticing! The evidence has been very in for very long that BSG had jumped the cylon-space-shark-that-looks-like-a-real-shark. The previous half-season was about as bad as anything I've ever forced myself to sit through, and the first episode of the final run seemed to be hitting me in the face with a hammer labeled "now that we don't believe in the prophesy and have Earth to look forward to, we're going to degenerate into sub-human, murderous, suicidal beasts -- because, you know, if you don't have religion..."

That said, the first ep of the final run was well-paced, mostly well-written, and I can forgive them for sending Dee into a nuclear holocaust wearing so much lipgloss that it sparkled through even the intense blue-gray mute filter they used for all the Earth-bound scenes. The new wrinkle where the "final five" all died in a nuke attack on Earth 2000 years ago def'ly creates some new suspense (hopefully this time they won't squander it), as does the "two Starbucks" question.

As I said in my previous "complaints" (linked above, one of which features a deduction that, with Ellen Tigh as the final cylon, came right), I am watching this thing to the end. The mini-series and the first 2 seasons (and Razor) were all fantastic, and there's a half-chance that this last half-season might get its groove back. But to pretend that season 3 and the first half of season 4 were anything but half-assed self-important schlock is to lie to oneself and the world. So kudos to Havrilesky for noticing, and for being willing to point it out (in the face of an army of mindless bsg-drones who keep chanting "smartest show on television" as though saying it will make it once again true).

I'm not what you would call a gamer, even though I'm of the original video game generation. I was one of the many in my age group who would scrounge quarters to spend at The Landing, the arcade in the shopping center just outside my high school, or would stop at a Time Saver on the way home from school for an Icee and a game or two of Galaga. But I fell behind the curve pretty quickly--I never mastered the complex controls of Stargate, so today's systems are beyond confusing to me. If it doesn't involve Mario or driving a car or the Wii balance board, I'm pretty helpless.

But being a college teacher, it's impossible to get away from the phenomenon. I get crappy papers in part because my students are spending more time perfecting their kill shots on Call of Duty than they are figuring out where to put commas in their sentences. But I digress.

The complaints about video game violence have been around almost as long as the genre has existed--I had friends in junior high school whose parents wouldn't let them play Asteroids because it had guns, and no, I'm not making that up--but the increased realism in the graphics is starting to concern more and more people. But what would a truly realistic war-time video game look like? Ads without products has one answer.

And it all leads me to wonder what it would be like to write a videogame in which one dies a hundred times over before one successfully kills a single antagonist. The boredom of waiting to fight the enemy would be punctuated, in all but the rarest of cases, by sudden death from the air. After hours of waiting, the screen would simply go blank, over and over and over, without the player ever getting to fire a shot. The sole variety, perhaps, would come from death by other means - a sniper’s shot to the head or a round from a tank. But no matter how, the screen goes blank just the same way - you probably shouldn’t even get to appreciate the difference in the way that you just died again.
The author is talking about the way that, in real war, especially in the sort of conflict we're seeing in Gaza right now, where the ratio of dead is in the movie/video game realm of 100-to-1, we've become a bit desensitized to the ugliness of war. We're used to being on the winning side, vicariously--our characters kill hundreds of virtual characters that, as the writer puts it, "fizzle and melt back into the earth a few seconds after they die," and if our character is shot, he continues on, picking up a medical kit and "healing" on the run. But what would it be like to be on the other side of that divide, to be the human equivalent of the video game bad guy, killable with only one shot, unable to aim as well or fire as quickly as your enemy, aware that you and a hundred of your comrades are likely to die before you're able to kill even one of your foes?

Awesome Things:

Coming Soon*:




In the meantime:


*This is from the new documentary "Prom Night in Mississippi," now showing at Sundance... follow that link above or HERE to read more.

God, I miss The Wire



Via The Rumpus

Make your own here

Revising History

I like to traipse through the right side of the blog-world every once in a while just to see how they're currently looking at the world. It's like dropping acid--the world gets really weird for a while, afterward you're really worn out from the experience, and you don't want to do it all the time because it might cause lasting damage.

But it's interesting to do once in a while, because you get to see an entirely different version of the same events you experienced. Take, for instance, this gem from Babalu, courtesy of Claudia4Libertad.

It still amazes me that so many people on the right have stated that they will respect our new president and wish him well. I recall nothing of the sort when President Bush took office. In fact, I recall an outcry in the exact opposite direction.
It's not like there weren't reasons for people, especially in south Florida, to feel less than cheery toward George W. Bush's ascent to the Presidency. After all, there was the whole uncertainty whether he'd actually won Florida, the revelations shortly after the election that Jeb! along with his BFF Katherine Harris had rigged the game in advance by illegally throwing thousands of voters off the rolls, and the fake protests ginned up by the national Republican party to stop the recount in Dade County. Then there was the whole Bush v Gore decision, a decision so partisan and wrong-headed that the court itself refused to allow it to be cited as precedent for any other case, as well as the fact that Bush lost the popular vote. Nah, none of that could have had anything to do with the reception Bush received. And yet, he entered office with approval ratings over 60% despite all that. Indeed, most Americans were willing to give him a chance, and after the 9/11 attacks, Bush's ratings jumped to 90%, the highest ever measured for a President.

Now, were there people who decried Bush as an illegitimate president? Sure. I was one of them, and I don't regret a word of it. But to say you "recall nothing of the sort" is simply inaccurate. For crying out loud, Al Gore came out and said that George W. Bush was the President and called for partisan rancor to be set aside.

Now I don't think Claudia4Libertad is lying--I think that's just the way she remembers the situation. But that's the problem with memory, especially when we use it to revise history--it's unreliable. We remember what we want to remember, and filter out the inconvenient stuff--in this case, Claudia and her commenters have filtered out anything that questions the narrative they've constructed about the people they consider their ideological enemies, and at Babalu, they reinforce the narrative by banning anyone who posts comments that question it.

Silly ads

Most of the time, I don't pay much attention to ads, especially on the web (though if readers wouldn't mind clicking on my ads from time to time, I'd appreciate it. I might get a google check one day if you do.), but every once in a while, I see one that just makes me scratch my head and wonder about the reason for it.

This is one of those ads, found on Facebook. It's for a new show on Showtime starring Toni Collette, and I only know that much because I've seen other ads for the show in other media. It's the text that has me wondering. "If you love the Daily Show, you won't want to miss United States of Tara" it says. Why? I love the Daily Show because it's an acerbic take on the media, and because Jon Stewart does an incredible job playing the straight man to the news media's buffoon. I love it because it's grounded in the real world, and talks about news stories I've been following.

United States of Tara, however, is apparently about a woman with dissociative identity disorder. I don't get the connection.

I suspect there isn't one, other than in the mind of the lazy ad-writer who put this thing together. "We need an ad for the web, which means for kids. What do the kids like? That Daily Show! They're all over that Daily Show thing. Yeah! We'll just say our show is like that one and put it on that Facebook thing. We'll be reeling them in!" I'm guessing those people went to the Underpants Gnomes School of Business.

So Phelps didn't show...

but a lot of locals did. Here are a few of the pictures I took of the various signs. A friend is supposed to email me with some more and when I get them, I'll dump them into a big Flickr album and link to them as well. I'd estimate the crowd at about a hundred, maybe slightly more, pulled from various local groups and gay-straight alliances, all cheery and united.










I got to meet Anthony Neidweicki, local candidate for Oakland Park City Commission while I was there--wish I could vote for him, but I don't live in the area. You might not recognize the name, but you probably recognize this story. He and his now-husband were waiting for their bags at the Fort Lauderdale airport late one night when they and everyone else in the airport were informed, via the intercom, that "A man who lies with another man as he would a woman is subject to death." Niedwiecki didn't much appreciate it and got the airport to investigate. He and his husband, Waymon Hudson are both very involved in local and state-wide politics--Hudson formed Fight Out Loud and worked a great deal on the attempt to defeat Amendment 2 last year. They're both good people and indicative of the kind of community I live in.

Look out, Paul Krugman

There's a new hot economist out there, and he's looking for the spotlight.



Via Rate Your Students

Assault in south Florida

Fort Lauderdale--Irony was found lying in a puddle outside Broward County Hall this afternoon following a protest carried out by a group calling itself "Americans Against Hate." Irony described the incident as a frontal assault.

"I was just minding my business when this group comes out of nowhere. They jacked me a couple of times to the jaw and I went down, and they kicked me a few times in the ribs. I think I'll be okay, but I'm going to need a lot of Vicodin to get through this, I think. You hear me doctor! None of that Tylenol-3 with codeine crap, Okay!"

"Americans Against Hate" is a group led by activist Joe Kaufman, a man who "once called for nuclear attacks on Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Since founding Americans Against Hate as a terrorism watchdog group, he wrote that "pure merciless force" was the only way to deal with Muslims."

Kaufman and his group were protesting some ads that have been running on Broward County busses. The ads, run by CAIR, say the following: "ISLAM: The Way of Life of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad." From a Muslim point of view, this makes perfect sense, and isn't even controversial. Allah is Yahweh is Jehovah from their vantage point. Kaufman isn't buying it.

The group says the ad is misleading because it implies that Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Muslim.

"That's offensive to both Jews and Christians," said Kaufman, a resident of Coral Springs.
Irony is just wondering how it got caught in the middle of this mess." I was just trying to get to the 7-11 for some taquitos and a copy of High Times. I got no beef with anyone in this deal." Irony was unsure if it was going to press charges in the case.

Surreal


Can an era initiated by crashing planes be brought safely back to earth -- in the same city -- with 155 saved lives? I hope so: I try not to get sucked into (the altogether human) belief in augury, but if life were a text this would bode symbolic. Fantastic flying, captain! I hope my next pilot is as skilled as you -- or, is you.

Not so funny now, is it? At least it's almost over.

I mean, as long as you're slurping around down there, you might as well get a taste of everything in the area.

The American lady who called to see if I would appear on her radio programme was specific. "We're setting up a debate," she said sweetly, "and we want to know from your perspective as a historian whether George W Bush was the worst president of the 20th century, or might he be the worst president in American history?"

"I think he's a good president," I told her, which seemed to dumbfound her, and wreck my chances of appearing on her show.
Setting aside the stupidity of the question--Bush wasn't a 20th century president, and though he's certainly in the running for the all-time gold, he wasn't so bad that he was able to shift time--and also setting aside the question of whether his 8 years are worse than the 19 days Clinton spent as the first 21st century president (they were), the interesting thing about that column isn't the fact that Andrew Roberts defends the Bush record. The interesting is the extremes to which he goes to do so, defying not just reality, but the fabric of space-time itself in order to do so. Seriously, Roberts' article in defense of the Bush record is such bullshit (in the Harry Frankfurt sense of the word) that it borders on performance art.

Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog touched on one particular point that I want to address as well.
But here's my favorite line:

With his characteristic openness and at times almost self-defeating honesty, Mr Bush has been the first to acknowledge his mistakes -- for example, tardiness over Hurricane Katrina....

The first? THE FIRST??? Wait, has he ever made such an acknowledgment of that particular error? Or about practically anything?
Bush's most recent discussion of Katrina involved his acknowledgment of this error--failing to land Air Force One at Baton Rouge--and then defending the choice by saying that it would have pulled law enforcement from the area, which is true. However, in the same breath, he defended the response by saying that 30,000 people were pulled off roofs, so the response wasn't that bad--he got absolutely petulant on that point. He neglected to mention that most of those people were pulled off those roofs--as they always are--by local law enforcement, volunteers, and Guardsmen. That's not a federal response. And the public record is full of examples of federal forces and aid that could have swung into action immediately but didn't because they were waiting for orders from the federal government. And the person most responsible for the failed response kept his job--Michael Chertoff of Homeland Security.

The rest of it is pretty much the same, though this bit also deserves special mention for fellating beyond the call of duty.
Mr Bush's supposed lack of intellect will be seen to be a myth once the papers in his Presidential Library in the Southern Methodist University in Dallas are available.
Make sure you spend some extra time on the taint. It gets neglected.

Good News

There's a lot of crap going on in the world, but some mornings you wake up and happen upon a string of "good" news. Every one of these "good" stories is tied to a massive injustice, but history tells us that injustice is usually compounded by further injustice. These are glimmers of light:


1. Oscar Grant's murderer has finally been arrested. According to Democracy Now!, this is the first time a California police officer has been arrested and accused of murder for an on-duty killing -- and citizens with cell phone cameras have everything to do with that. It took them too long to get around to this arrest, but we should be grateful it happened. Grateful to the guy with the cell phone video, btw.

2. The government of Greece is not allowing a shipment of arms from the United States to Israel to pass through their country. Israel is blocking and attacking boatloads of food and medical equipment trying to get to the Gaza strip. Israel is bombing warehouses of food and medical equipment -- right now, in Gaza, they burn. Israel has used its superior US-SUPPLIED weapons to kill (as of this writing) over 1000 civilians, while suffering only 3 civilian deaths of their own (plus 6 soldiers killed in combat, plus 4 killed by "friendly fire"). It is a small gesture, from Greece, to refuse to be a part of this, and the weapons will still get to Israel, and will still be used to murder innocent people -- but Greece has done something to slow them down a little, and made a statement as well, and that's important. 

3. The douche who thought he was smart enough to dodge his responsibilities by faking his own death not only failed and was caught, but is now, thanks to Jon Stewart, known far and wide as a great big moron. 


So that's the upside for the day: there's still f-ed up stuff going on all around the world, but justice is also rearing its head, which is as much as we can possibly hope for, I suppose.

Happy Day. :-)

Full power, damn you!

Khan is dead. The only actor to truly go head to head with William Shatner in a full on emote-a-thon, complete with awkward pauses and everything but winks at the camera during takes has died.

I remember seeing an A&E Biography about Ricardo Montalban a few years ago, back when A&E showed something other than Dog the Bounty Hunter, and he lived a fascinating life. He was one of the first Mexican-born acting stars, and was instrumental in founding Nosotros, an organization dedicated to promoting Latino involvement and image in the film industry. That takes guts to do when the general attitude toward you is that you ought to take what's offered and stay quiet. I remember Montalban speaking about it in the Biography piece, and his response to the effect that it was something he had to do. I liked him as an actor, but respected him as a person for that.

The Tennessee state Republican party just learned it. Watch the delicious video.



Here's the short and dirty. The wingnut side of the TN Repubs had planned, after gaining control of the TN House for the first time in 40 years, to go the full wingnut. They had a new Speaker picked out and everything. But they forgot one simple rule of politics: don't shit where you eat.

See, they had this moderate member they were always screwing with, to the point where some of his own colleagues had threatened boycotts of his businesses. They did this even though they needed him--their majority was only 50-49--and he made them pay, as you saw in the video.

The video is via John Cole, but I have to admit, I'm putting it here so I can just watch it over and over.

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