Monthly Archives: June 2008

Michael’s At It Again With The Gay Thing

From Thursday, it’s Michael Medved:

The act of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is the only human interaction capable of producing offspring, and therefore enjoys recognition in every culture as the most significant form of intimacy.

"Significant" is a nice wishy-washy word.  Frankly, I didn’t know that we ranked various forms of sexual intimacy, in this culture or any culture.  Go know.

But let’s go with the premise for a second.  If the act of babymaking is the MOST significant form of intimacy in this culture, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the second-most significant form is the ACT of babymaking, even if it doesn’t result in a baby?  And if that’s true, shouldn’t we celebrate it by having porn channel after porn channel?

But I digress….

Gay couples, as well as heterosexual partners, may engage in other erotic contact but this affection can’t count as consequential or as serious as intercourse.

Serious or consequential to whom?  That’s a frightfully judgmental statement.

But besides, "intercourse" IS erotic contact, and it can happen between gay couples.  Just look at the definition of the word:

in·ter·course (noun): physical sexual contact between individuals that involves the genitalia of at least one person

See how that works?  So you can have vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, etc.

Society and law rightly give unique weight to this one form of physical contact, and pay less attention to other forms of affection or pleasure.

No bonehead.  Society and law don’t give unique weight to one form of physical contact.  They just DON’T.  Certainly not the law.

(Are you suggesting, Mike, that if a man rapes another man, the law doesn’t care, because it’s not heterosexual intercourse?  C’mon…..)

What, after all, does it mean to “consummate” a same sex marriage?

Oh, Mike.  Sit down.  I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Merriam-Webster.

Hi, Mike.  I’m a dictionary.  I hear you have a problem with the word "consummate".  No problem, buddy.  "Consummate" means to "complete". 

There you go, Mike.  To consummate a same sex marriage, you have to complete it.  Presumably that would be by intercourse (see note above).

That’s okay.  I’m here to help, Mike.

We know how to define “virgin” in heterosexual terms, but what, exactly, does that designation mean for lesbians or gay males?

Oh, Mr. Merriam Webster.  Come back!  He’s doing it again.

Hi, Mike.  "Virgin" means "a person who has not had sexual intercourse".  Since intercourse involves only ONE genetalia, then it is indeed possible for lesbians and gay makes to have intercourse.  And a virgin in that case, would be one who hasn’t had intercourse of any kind.

Thanks, Mr. Merriam-Webster.  Confusion abated, Mr. Medved?

The effort to erase all distinction between man-woman sex and gay relationships contradicts both nature and common sense.

Oh, Mike.  Sit down.  I’d like to interoduce you to Mr. Common Sense….

Facebook’s Grammar Problem

As a new convert to Facebook, I’ve notices that its news and updates feature lack grammatical correctness.

For example, you might read that "John Smith has a picture to their profile."  (Emphasis mine).

That’s because Facebook doesn’t take into account one’s gender.

But that’s going to change.

Dot-Com Is Soooo Last Century

ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the Internet’s main oversight agency (ha! and you thought it was unregulated!).

Yesterday, they decided to "open up" top-level domain names.  A top-level domain is, well, ".com, .org, .biz", etc.  Soon you will be able to have .sports, .perfurme, .coke, and .seventhsense.

I’m not sure this is a good idea.  I think it’ll be confusing.  Just more crap to remember.

More here.

UPDATE:  The L.A. Times says the initial fee for getting a top-level domain will be $100,000.  Uh, pass.

No More Christmas, Because Santa Drowned

This is very disturbing news:

No ice at the North Pole

Polar scientists reveal dramatic new evidence of climate change

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic – and worrying – examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice-free North Pole this summer are greater than 50:50 because the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole has been blown away and replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year.

This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during the summer months and satellite data coming in over recent weeks shows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when there was an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.

"The issue is that, for the first time that I am aware of, the North Pole is covered with extensive first-year ice – ice that formed last autumn and winter. I’d say it’s even-odds whether the North Pole melts out," said Dr Serreze.

But By All Means, Let’s Drill In ANWR

Stupid bureaucrats:

Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.

***

Galvanized by the national demand for clean energy development, solar companies have filed more than 130 proposals with the Bureau of Land Management since 2005. They center on the companies’ desires to lease public land to build solar plants and then sell the energy to utilities.

According to the bureau, the applications, which cover more than one million acres, are for projects that have the potential to power more than 20 million homes.

I smell a rat.  An oil-lobbyist-with-boatloads-of-cash kind of rat.

More On Heller: Scalia vs. Stevens

Prof. Sandy Levinson compares the majority opinion of Scalia with the dissent by Stevens:

I confess that I am equally dismayed by the Scalia and Stevens opinions (though, if absolutely forced to choose, I’d go with the Scalia opinion). One of the most remarkable features of Justice Scalia’s majority opinion (joined, of course, by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Kennedy, and Alito) and Justice Stevens’s dissent (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter) is the view that the Second Amendment means only what it meant at the time of its proposal and ratification in 1789-91. Justice Scalia, of course, has long been identified with “originalism,” even though some of his critics, both liberal and conservative, note that he has been a most inconsistent one. But Justice Stevens has certainly not embraced originalism. Yet they spend a total of 110 pages debating arcane aspects of the purported original meaning of the Amendment.

If one had any reason to believe that either Scalia or Stevens was a competent historian, then perhaps it would be worth reading the pages they write. But they are not. Both opinions exhibit the worst kind of “law-office history,” in which each side engages in shamelessly (and shamefully) selective readings of the historical record in order to support what one strongly suspects are pre-determined positions. And both Scalia and Stevens treat each other—and, presumably, their colleagues who signed each of the opinions—with basic contempt, unable to accept the proposition, second nature to professional historians, that the historical record is complicated and, indeed, often contradictory. Justice Stevens, for example, writes that anyone who reads the text of the Second Amendment and its history, plus a murky 1939 decision of the Court, will find “a clear answer” to the question of whether the Second Amendment supports a “right to possess and use guns for nonmilitary purposes.” This is simply foolish. Justice Stevens pays no real attention to a plethora of first-rate historical work written over the past decade that challenges this kind of foolish self-confidence, as is true also of Justice Scalia. There is no serious discussion, for example, of Saul Cornell’s fine book A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control, but many other examples could be offered, from various sides of the ideological spectrum.

Both Scalia and Stevens manifest what is worst about Supreme Court rhetoric, which is precisely the tone of sublime confidence when addressing even the most complex of issues. The late Victoria Geng once wrote a marvelous parody of Supreme Court decisions in which, among other things, the Court announced that “nature is more important than nurture.” We wouldn’t take such a declaration seriously. It is not clear why we should take much more seriously the kinds of over-confident declarations as to historical meaning that both Scalia and Stevens indulge in.

What is especially ironic is that the strongest support for Scalia’s position comes from acknowledging that the Second Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, has been “dynamically” interpreted and has taken on some quite different meanings from those it originally had. Whatever might have been the case in 1787 with regard the linkage of guns to service in militias—and the historical record is far more mixed on this point than either Scalia or Stevens is willing to acknowledge—there can be almost no doubt that by the mid-19th century, an individual right to bear arms was widely accepted as a basic attribute of American citizenship. One of the reasons that the Court in Dred Scott denied that blacks could be citizens was precisely that Chief Justice Taney recognized that citizens could carry guns, and it was basically unthinkable that blacks could do so.

Good analysis.

More commentary from legal minds around the blogosphere:

Analyis of Heller by Lawrence Solum (or scroll down)

Initial Thoughts on Heller by Orin Kerr & Key Limitations of Heller by Orin Kerr

The Second Amendment and State and Local Laws by Eugene Volokh

My Sense of the Bottom Line from Heller by Tom Goldstein

Heller Discussion Board: "Clarity is in the Eye of the Beholder by Alan Morrison

Heller, Justice Steven’s Dissent, and the Historian’s Brief by Jim Lindgren

Supreme Court: Scalia and Stevens Duke It Out by Tony Mauro

Thoughts on Heller? by Matt Bodie

Heller Discussion Board: Incorporporation and the Need for Further Litigation by David Schenck

The Scholarly Nature of Heller by David Bernstein

Meet Your Second Amendment: D.C. v. Heller Decided by Mike O’Shea

Commentary: So, what’s next on guns? by Lyle Denniston

Some Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment Decision by Eugene Volokh

Heller’s Indictment of Originalism by publius

I would weigh in, but I haven’t even begun to wade through the 157 page opinions.  I note that Sandy Levinson and publius (among others) have hit upon the most distressing point — that the justices both for and against the Heller outcome have cherry-picked history in order to justify their decision.  This, as publius says, is the whole problem with an originalist interpretation of the Constitution: you simply can’t know what the Framers originally intended.  In fact, I have no doubt that if you went back in time and asked them, "Hey, buds.  Is the Second Amendment supposed to be for militia purposes only, or is it for hunting, self-defense, etc.?", you would get a bunch of different answers among the Framers themselves.  Likewise, if you informed them about the future — with semi-automatic reloading machine guns, or even nuclear weapons — they would probably be split on whether their wording applies.

Am I arguing against an originalist approach?  Not at all.  When it is clear what the Framers unanimously intended, then the plain meaning of the words should govern.  Where it is ambiguous, then judicial reasoning should come into play.  Does that mean judges will be legislating from the bench?  Perhaps, but here’s the thing about that — Congress and the people can always override through legislation.  Checks and balances, my friend.

Heller Decision In

5-4 in favor of individual gun rights, meaning that you can own a gun for self-defense and hunting (rather than for being in the militia, which arugably is what the Second Amendment says).  Justice Scalia wrote the opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg; there’s also apparently another dissent.   MSNBC reports that the opinion "went further than even the Bush Adminstration hoped for".  Great.

The ruling is here (PDF), but good luck getting it right now.  Site seems to be flooded.

UPDATE:  Apparently, Stevens (and perhaps others) in the dissent believed it to be an individual right as well, but thought that D.C.’s ban was a permissible restriction.

UPDATE:  From Scotusblog:

Individuals have a constitutional right to possess a basic firearm (the line drawn is unclear, but does not extend to automatic weapons) and to use it in self-defense.  The government can prohibit possession of firearms by, for example, felons and the mentally ill.  And it can also regulate the sale of firearms, presumably through background checks.

The opinion leaves open the question whether the Second Amendment is incorporated against the States, but strongly suggests it is.  So today’s ruling likely applies equally to State regulation.

So it sounds like nothing has really changed; it only has the official stamp of approval from SCOTUS.

UPDATE:  Still can’t get the opinion, but here are (reportedly) some selected quotes from it:

“Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command.”

“We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”

“the most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.”

“The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity.”

“Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

“Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.”

“The prefatory clause does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting.”

Whoa.  I gotta stop there.  The prefatory clause of the Second Amendment says (in full): "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, ….".

That clause does suggest that the militia was the only reason, since it is the ONLY reason mentioned.

Furthermore, what’s with this "most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting"?  What?  Is the majority mindreaders?  And even assuming that is true, maybe it is more IMPORTANT, but that doesn’t mean they intended to make it a RIGHT.  Ugh.

Back to more selected quotes from the majority opinion….

“It was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense.”

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

“Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U. S., at 179.”

“Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.”

“In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense. Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.”

On the question of the Second Amendment’s application to the States: “With respect to Cruikshank’s continuing validity on incorporation, a question not presented by this case, we note that Cruikshank also said that the First Amendment did not apply against the States and did not engage in the sort of Fourteenth Amendment inquiry required by our later cases. Our later decisions in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252, 265 (1886) and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535, 538 (1894), reaffirmed that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government.”

That last bit is important.  Remember, this case involves D.C., which is all federal law.  Doesn’t look like incorporation is happening, so states still can go further to ban guns.

Happy Birthday Myth

You know that thing about "Happy Birthday" being copyright protected?

Turns out, not true so much:

"Happy Birthday to You" is the best-known and most frequently sung song in the world. Many – including Justice Breyer in his dissent in Eldred v. Ashcroft – have portrayed it as an unoriginal work that is hardly worthy of copyright protection, but nonetheless remains under copyright. Yet close historical scrutiny reveals both of those assumptions to be false. The song that became "Happy Birthday to You," originally written with different lyrics as "Good Morning to All," was the product of intense creative labor, undertaken with copyright protection in mind. However, it is almost certainly no longer under copyright, due to a lack of evidence about who wrote the words; defective copyright notice; and a failure to file a proper renewal application.

The falsity of the standard story about the song demonstrates the dangers of relying on anecdotes without thorough research and analysis. It also reveals collective action barriers to mounting challenges to copyright validity: the song generates an estimated $2 million per year, and yet no one has ever sought adjudication of the validity of its copyright.

Good to know.

Read Maureen Dowd

She’s surprisingly good today, as she takes on the Rove meme that Obama is a country-club elite.  Here’s a taste:

Karl Rove was impressed with Barack Obama when he first met him. But now he sees him as a “coolly arrogant” elitist.

This was Rove’s take on Obama to Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club Monday, according to Christianne Klein of ABC News:

“Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”

Actually, that sounds more like W.

The cheap populism is really rich coming from Karl Rove. When was the last time he kicked back with a corncob pipe to watch professional wrestling?

Rove is trying to spin his myths, as he used to do with such devastating effect, but it won’t work this time. The absurd spectacle of rich white conservatives trying to paint Obama as a watercress sandwich with the crust cut off seems ugly and fake.

Obama can be aloof and dismissive at times, and he’s certainly self-regarding, carrying the aura of the Ivy faculty club. But isn’t that better than the aura of the country clubs that tried to keep out blacks? It’s ironic, and maybe inevitable, that the first African-American nominee comes across as a prince of privilege.

***

Conservatives love playing this little game, acting as if the “elite” Democratic candidates are not in touch with people like themselves, even though the guys doing the attacking — like Rove, Limbaugh, O’Reilly and Hannity — are wealthy and cosseted.

Haven’t we had enough of this hypocritical comedy of people in the elite disowning their social status for political purposes? The Bushes had to move all the way to Texas from Greenwich to make their blue blood appear more red.

***

Rove’s mythmaking about Obama won’t fly. If he means that Obama has brains, what’s wrong with that? If he means that Obama is successful, what’s wrong with that? If he means that Obama has education and intellectual sophistication, what’s wrong with that?

Many of Obama’s traits are the traits that people in the population aspire to.

Yup.

“I Cant Heeeeear You”

The White House is full of children.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment.  The EPA, under Bush Administration influence, had been dragging its heels on the issue, saying that it was not part of its duties.  The Supreme Court said, "Oh, yes it is".

So the EPA made its determination.  They studied the issue and concluded that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled.  They sent — by email — their findings to the White House, who would then have to, you know, do something about it.

But those clever people at the White House had a plan.  Knowing what the email contained, they decided not to open the EPA’s email.  That was back in December (although we’re only finding out about it now).

Following that clever ruse, the White House set out to pressure the EPA to water down their original conclusion:

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

The EPA, by the way, is supposed to be an independent agency.  From its website:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in the executive branch as an independent agency pursuant to Reorganization Plan #3 of 1970, effective December 2, 1970.

That means political branches can’t mess with it.  But this is the Bush White House.  *Sigh*

Heller Today?

UPDATE, BREAKING NEW (11:30 a.m.):  Although not related to the gun issue below, the Supreme Court just ruled that it is "cruel and unusual punishment" to give the death penalty to a man who raped an 8 year old.  It was a 5-4 decision, but I don’t know the breakdown.  Interestingly, victims’ rights groups didn’t want the death penalty for something like this, because they feared that child rapists would be more likely to kill their victims if they knew they could get the death penalty for rape.  Not sure I agree with that.  But I do worry about the slippery slope.  We really should reserve the death penalty for crimes where the victim is killed.  Anyway, on to the post….

I suspect today is the day when we learn the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller, and it will no doubt be the lead story in the media. [UPDATE:  According to Orin Kerr, I’m wrong.  It’ll be out tomorrow].

For those of you without a scorecard, D.C. v. Heller, one of two cases remaining from this year’s docket for which an opinion has not been rendered, is without doubt the most important case to come to the Supreme Court on the issue of gun rights.

For decades, people have argued whether the Second Amendment grants an individual right to own guns, or a collective right.  The Second Amendment text reads in full:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The individual-right argument is that the Second Amendment gives everyone a right to own a gun, for whatever reason.  The collective-right argument says, "Whoa there.  Clearly the framers intended people to have that right inasmuch as they have the right to form a well-regulated militia.  You can only have a gun for purposes of being in the militia"  (And, since we no longer have militias, you don’t have a right to own a gun for all intents and purposes).

The arguments on both sides are compelling.  Individualists say that all the other amendments in the Bill of Rights are individual rights — why make the Second Amendment different?  (I would couterargue that the right to assemble isn’t an individual right, but that’s another story).  Collectivists point out that "bear arms" is a military term, and you can’t just "read out" the whole Militia/security clause.

There’s no "right" answer.  We don’t know what the framers meant.  They themselves probably weren’t of one mind.

So how to resolve it?  Well, that’s why they pay the big bucks to the Supreme Court.

But the Supreme Court has punted on this issue for decades.  Heller will put an end to that.

In a thoughtful post, on the assumption that the Court will hold that the Second Amendment reflects an individual right (I agree with that prediction), Professor Mike O’Shea addresses the incorporation question. 

What is "incorporation"?  That’s the 14th Amendment, which says (in pertinent part):

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

What that means, in layman’s terms, is that if the federal constitution protects a "right", then the states cannot come along and take it away.  (The 14th Amendment was a by-product of the Civil War, which was, in part, about states’ rights).  "Incorporation" means that a particular right guaranteed by the Constitution has been applied to states as well.

Not all the rights in the Bill of Rights have been incorporated to the states.  The Establishment Clause, the right to counsel, the rights of free speech, assembly, and petition, and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the right against self-incrimination, and a slew of others have all been incorporated.  The right to indictment by grand jury (in the 5th Amendment) and the right to a jury trial in civil cases (7th Amendment) has been held as NOT being applied to states.

But in Miller v. United States, back in 1894, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically said that the Second Amendment does not bind the states through 14th Amendment incorporation.  In other words, while the federal government cannot infringe the Second Amendment right (whether it be an individual right, a collective right, or something else), states still can.

In a sense, this may render the whole individual/collective argument moot.  Unless, of course, the Heller decision overturns Miller.

The incorporation issue presents a problem for conservatives.  They tend to support the "individual right" view of the Second Amendment.  But they also tend to support the "state’s right" view of federalism, meaning (in essence) that the federal government cannot tell states what to do.  Justice Scalia himself once wrote in his book A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law (1997):

[T]he Second Amendment [i]s a guarantee that the federal government will not interfere with the individual’s right to bear arms for self-defense. … Dispassionate scholarship suggests quite strongly that the right of the people to keep and bear arms meant just that. … [T]here is no need to deceive ourselves as to what the original Second Amendment said and meant. Of course, properly understood, it is no limitation upon arms control by the states.

I suspect, however, that the Supreme Court will not address the incorporation question, since that is not an issue in this case.  It will be some other day, in some other case.

But setting aside the incorporation question, the long debate will probably end today (or within the next few days) on one of the hottest debates in the legal/constitutional arena.  Watershed, it will be.

Shorter McCain Energy Policy

It’s this: "Fuck if I know, but if someone can build a better mousetrap, I’ll give them lots of money."

That’s not an energy policy; that’s a game show.

First of all, giving a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars sounds nice, but the companies that are likely to do it are already working on it, because they stand to gain huge financial profits far exceeding $300 million, should they succeed.

Secondly, $300 million is nothing — nothing — compared to the $4 billion per-year tax break McCain has proposed giving to the 5 biggest oil companies (including $1.2 billion for Exxon Mobil alone) — companies which have absolutely every disincentive to see such a battery work.

Finally, McCain is no friend of alternative renewable energy:

* McCain voted against, and Obama voted for, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which, as USA Today noted, contributed to a dramatic increase in wind power generation: "The U.S. wind power grew 45% in 2007, the sharpest rise since the 1980s, as developers responded to a federal tax credit, a growing number of state renewable energy mandates and global warming concerns, the American Wind Energy Association said Thursday."

*  In 2006, John McCain voted against a renewable energy tax credits including a 2006 proposal sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman that included a four year extension of the production tax credit.  In addition, McCain supported the filibuster of the 2007 energy bill that sought to extend the production tax credit to 2011. 

*  McCain has repeatedly voted against renewable energy mandates, including a measure to require that renewable sources be used to produce at least 10 percent of the electricity sold by electric utilities by 2020, and a measure to require refiners to use 8 billion gallons of renewable fuels each year, by 2012.  He also supported an effort to delay renewable fuel mandates and to allow states to opt out of the mandates.

*  McCain has repeatedly opposed measures to provide tax credits to encourage investment in renewable energy technologies.  For example, in 2007 he supported the filibuster of energy legislation that sought to have revoke $13.5 billion in tax cuts for the five largest oil companies and instead provide tax incentives for solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, wave energy and other renewable sources of energy. McCain was the only Senator to miss the vote on the bill, but his staff noted that he did, in fact, support the filibuster that eventually killed the proposal.

Obama is right, speaking about McCain’s gimmick today:

“After all those years in Washington, John McCain still doesn’t get it…  I commend him for his desire to accelerate the search for a battery that can power the cars of the future. I’ve been talking about this myself for the last few years. But I don’t think a $300 million prize is enough. When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win — he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project and called on the ingenuity and innovation of the American people. That’s the kind of effort we need to achieve energy independence in this country, and nothing less will do. But in this campaign, John McCain offering the same old gimmicks that will provide almost no short-term relief to folks who are struggling with high gas prices; gimmicks that will only increase our oil addiction for another four years.”

Inspector General’s Report: DOJ Politicized Hiring

This just in: A report from the inspector general — the result of an investigation into DOJ hiring practices over the last six years — alleges that “many qualified candidates” were rejected from an elite recruitment program because of perceived liberal bias. Here’s a story from the NYT’s Eric Lichtblau, and here’s an AP report. Click here for the 115-page report.

The hiring practices, which reportedly took place under both AG Ashcroft and AG Gonzales, “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations,” the report says.

Some snippets from the summary:

…[W]e concluded that McDonald committed misconduct and violated Department policies and civil service law by considering political or ideological affiliations in assessing Honors Program and SLIP candidates. (93)

[W]e concluded that Elston violated federal law and Department policy by deselecting candidates based on their liberal affiliations. (94)

We also concluded that Elston committed misconduct, and violated federal law and Department policy, when he deselected candidates and denied appeals based on his perception of the political or ideological affiliations of the candidates. (96)

We also concluded that OARM Director DeFalaise did not adequately or timely address the concerns that were brought to his attention concerning the Screening Committee’s deselections. (96)

Finally, we concluded that Acting Associate Attorney General Mercer did not adequately address the concerns that were brought to his attention by several senior Department officials that the Screening Committee’s deselections appeared to have been politicized. (97)…

When Fridman asked McDonald how she obtained the additional information, she told him she conducted searches on Google and MySpace, and read law review articles written by the applicants. For example, Fridman recalled that one candidate had written a law review article about the detention of individuals at Guantánamo, and McDonald noted on the application that she perceived the applicant’s viewpoint to be contrary to the position of the administration. On another application, McDonald noted that she found information on the Internet indicating that a candidate was an "anarchist." (78)

The OIG report also notes the destruction of documents pertaining to its investigation by the DOJ.

UPDATE:  Kevin Drum notes a graph showing the number of students from the American Constitutional Society (a liberal legal organization) who were approved/deselected from the "non-political program, as compared to those who were members of the Federalist Society.

Blog_doj_honors_program

Overall, of the applicants nominated, 70% of those who identified as Democrats were de-selected, 32% who identified as Neutral were deselected, and just 11% who identified as Republicans were deselected.

Yup.  A bit of a political bias there.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe time:

3/4 cup butter(It has been suggested that using 1 full cup of butter works best due to cookie dough dryness)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon hazelnut (or almond) extract *Edit- It has been suggested that the almond flavouring may be overpowering to the flavour of the cookie, feel free to add this ingredient to taste*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg (It has been suggested that using 2 eggs works best due to cookie dough dryness)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups bacon bits (if preferred, you can separate the dough into two parts and only make half of the dough into bacon cookies, in which case you’ll only want to use 1 cup bacon bits)

*An important note- Be sure to use real bacon bits, not Bacos

Result:

P1110504

Secondary result:

Fam_pepto_bismol_liquid_8_oz5715

Via.

Bush Pusher

Addicts4Tom Friedman is right:

Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was “addicted to oil,” and, by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan: “Get more addicted to oil.”

Actually, it’s more sophisticated than that: Get Saudi Arabia, our chief oil pusher, to up our dosage for a little while and bring down the oil price just enough so the renewable energy alternatives can’t totally take off. Then try to strong arm Congress into lifting the ban on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s as if our addict-in-chief is saying to us: “C’mon guys, you know you want a little more of the good stuff. One more hit, baby. Just one more toke on the ole oil pipe. I promise, next year, we’ll all go straight. I’ll even put a wind turbine on my presidential library. But for now, give me one more pop from that drill, please, baby. Just one more transfusion of that sweet offshore crude.”

It is hard for me to find the words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy this is.

Yup.  Friedman goes on to explain how Bush and the Republican Party are opposed to H.R. 6049 — “The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008,” which extends for another eight years the investment tax credit for installing solar energy and extends for one year the production tax credit for producing wind power and for three years the credits for geothermal, wave energy and other renewables.

As Friedman says, wind energy and solar energy are here — they are available now, unlike drilling in ANWR and other places, where we wont see any oil (and even then, not that much of it) for years, maybe decades.

But Republicans — and that includes John McCain — have been fighting the bill, having lined their campaign coffers with generous contributions from oil companies.

So why are we in the energy dilemna we’re in?  Now you know.

Where America Is Religiously

ReligionsYesterday, the Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life release the second part of a massive survey of American’s attitudes about religion.  This was an in-depth survey of 35,000 Americans.

The full report (PDF) is here, but there are some interesting (and what I think are encouraging) findings.

The topline summary, I suppose, is that Americans are not dogmatic about their religion and faith.  In other words, the Falwells and Dobsons are just that — the Falwells and Dobsons.

For example, the majority of Americans — a full 70% — believe that many religions (not just theirs) can lead to eternal life.  Even for evangelical Americans, this number is still a majority — 57%.

I should probably note that I am using the word "Americans" here deliberately.  I mean "Americans", and not necessarily "Christians" (some people believe the two are synonymous).  The breakdown of out religions, as Americans, is on the right.

And most Americans (64%) believe that their religion can be interpreted in more than one "true" way; this also holds true for the majority of self-described evangelicals (53%).

92% of Americans believe in God (or a universal force), which is what you would expect.  But when you dig deeper, you see that one-in-five Americans are not certain in their belief of God’s existence.  Americans are also split about the nature of God: 60% believe He is a personal God (an actual figure), whereas 25% believe is he is an "impersonal force" (an energy without a body).

How religious are we?  Not as much as some would like us to think.  55% said that religion was "very important" in their lives, and only 39% said they attend religious services once a week.

Religionpolitics_2Not surprisingly, those who say their religion is "very important" and/or attend religious service at least once a week and/or pray daily tend to skew conservative on the ideological scale.

In the post below, I wrote about Dobson vs. Obama, and their conflicting views of biblical interpretation.  Most Americans (63%) believe that the Bible is the Word of God.  This number is highest among Christians, compared with other religions.  However, among Christians, there is disagreement over whether the Bible should be interpreted literally, word-for-word.  The majority of black (63%), evangelical Protestants (59%) believe the Bible should be interpreted literally, word-for-word; the majority of Catholics, Mormons and mainline Protestants think every word should not be interpreted literally.

What strikes me about that is the relatively high number of evangelicals who DON’T believe in literal interpretation — about 41%.

God only talks to some of us apparently.  Only 19% of Americans say that they receive specific answer to specific prayers once-a-week from God.  I think many of those 19% are lying (or rationalizing).

An issue that is big with me is proselytizing (a word I’m never going to learn to spell correctly).  36% of Americans say they share their faith with others once a month, although this varies widely among religions.  It jumps to 52% among evangelical religions and (no surprise here) 84% among Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Yeah, we noticed, guys.

Most Americans (58%) believe that the "culture of Hollywood" does not threaten their values, although that number goes down when you start talking about evangelicals and Mormons.  Most Americans (57%) don’t believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, but that number goes down when you start talking about evangelicals and Mormons*.  And most Americans (60%) do not agree with the statement "Homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged", but but that number goes down when you start talking about evangelicals and Mormons.**

On evolution, Americans are split 48% (agree with it as the best explanation for existence of life) and 45% disagree.  This ties in hugely with one’s religious beliefs.  For example, 58% of Catholics, 77% of Jews, and 72% of unaffiliated (agnostic/atheist/etc) agree with evolution, compared to 35% of Protestants (evangelical and mainline combined).

And finally, religion and education.  One common theory is that as education increases, a person’s adherence to religion decreases.  From the survey, there is this helpful data:

Religedu

Hmmmm.  I guess one could say that evangelicals are less educated, compared with Jews and Hindus.  One could say that — but I’m not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole.

So where are we going, religiously?  Well, Europe has become very secularized over the last several decades.  America is a little slower, but it is heading that way.  7% of Americans say they were not affiliated with any religion as a child, but 16% say they are not affiliated with a religion now.  So Americans are dropping out more than they are finding faith.

If this stuff interests you, I strongly urge you to browse the full report.  It breaks down these issues by major sects (not just broad religions) — for example, 22% of those who are affiliated with the United Church of Christ believe government should do more to protect morality in society — and states — for example, 49% of North Carolinians attend church at least once a week (compared with 60% in Mississippi, and 23% in New Hampshire).

* I’m not talking about aborting evangelicals and Mormons; I’m talking about their opinions.

** Ditto

Dobson: Obama is “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter”

I’m going to assume this is a craven attempt for publicity, because on logical and argumentative grounds, Dobson isn’t saying much.  From the AP:

As Barack Obama broadens his outreach to evangelical voters, one of the movement’s biggest names, James Dobson, accuses the likely Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible and pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

The criticism, to be aired Tuesday on Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program, comes shortly after an Obama aide suggested a meeting at the organization’s headquarters here, said Tom Minnery, senior vice president for government and public policy at Focus on the Family.

The conservative Christian group provided The Associated Press with an advance copy of the pre-taped radio segment, which runs 18 minutes and highlights excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal. Obama mentions Dobson in the speech.

"Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?" Obama said. "Would we go with James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s?" referring to the civil rights leader.

Call to Renewal is also known as the Sojourners.  You can read the full text of Obama’s 2006 address here.

Dobson took aim at examples Obama cited in asking which Biblical passages should guide public policy — chapters like Leviticus, which Obama said suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination, or Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, "a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application."

"Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles," Obama said.

Dobson and Minnery accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament.

And that’s where the fundamentalists lose me.

"No longer apply"?!?

Wait, wait, wait.  I thought the Bible was the Word of God.  Now you’re telling me that the Word of God no longer applies, Mr. Dobson?

Oh, I see.  Only some parts of it no longer apply.  Well, okay.  Which parts?  Who decides that?  Hmmmmm?

"I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said.

"… He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

Sez you.

Obama’s point, and it was crystal clear, was that everyone has their own worldview — Dobson has one, Sharpton has another — and it would be wrong for the government — the law — to promote or endorse one worldview to the exclusion of others.

Why is this concept so difficult for Dobson to understand?  It’s at the core of American freedom.

But Dobson wasn’t done….

Dobson reserved some of his harshest criticism for Obama’s argument that the religiously motivated must frame debates over issues like abortion not just in their own religion’s terms but in arguments accessible to all people.

He said Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the "lowest common denominator of morality," labeling it "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

"Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?" Dobson said. "What he’s trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe."

No, he’s NOT saying that.  Here is what Obama actually said:

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice.

In other words, Dobson, Obama believes that you DO have the right to fight for what you believe.  But your argument (particularly with abortion) has got to be more than "because God says so".  And that’s because people intuitively understand you as saying "because MY God says so".  And YOUR God doesn’t rule in a pluralistic society.

So fight on, Dr. Dobson.  You have the right to do so.  I believe that, so does Obama.  But you can’t WIN the fight by appeals to your interpretation of the scripture.

Where The Hell Is Matt? (Again)

I don’t know why I find these videos so awesome, but I do.

Two years ago, I posted a video of a guy named Matt Harding, dancing all over the world.  The video has been viewed on Youtube over 9,000,000 times.  Here’s the video again:

Well, the globetrotting Matt was at it again in 2008, and came out with a 2008 video a few days ago.  It’s been viewed on Youtube over 1.5 million times already.  This time, the Internet sensation has been joined by a cast of hundreds.  This is guaranteed to make you smile (again).

Nice life…

UPDATE:  Brett (in the comments) is right…. this is great because it’s (a) silly and (b) has an uplifting one-world feel to it.

EW’s Top 50 New Stage Classics

Broadway_shows_2These are the best new plays (1983 – present) according to the folks at Entertainment Weekly:

1. Angels in America (1993-94)

2. Rent (1996)

3. August: Osage County (2007)

4. Doubt (2004)

5. Jersey Boys (2005)

6. Fences (1987)

7. Glengarry Glen Ross (1984)

8. Avenue Q (2003)

9. The Heidi Chronicles (1988)

10. The Producers (2001)

11. The Coast of Utopia (2006-07)

12. The Phantom of the Opera (1987)

13. The Lion King (1997)

14. Frost/Nixon (2007)

15. Les Misérables (1987)

16. Wicked (2003)

17. Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (1987)

18. Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2001)

19. Six Degrees of Separation (1990)

20. Three Days of Rain (1997)

21. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (1998)

22. Into the Woods (1987)

23. M. Butterfly (1988)

24. Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk (1995)

25. Falsettos (1992)

26. Dinner With Friends (1999)

27. La Cage aux Folles (1983)

28. Speed-the-Plow (1988)

29. The Piano Lesson (1990)

30. City of Angels (1989)

31. Three Tall Women (1994)

32. Prelude to a Kiss (1990)

33. Hairspray (2002)

34. Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983)

35. Stomp (1994)

36. The Substance of Fire (1991)

37. This Is Our Youth (1996)

38. Noises Off (1983)

39. Grey Gardens (2006)

40. Fires in the Mirror (1992)

41. Cirque du Soleil: O (1998)

42. subUrbia (1994)

43. Spring Awakening (2006)

44. Wit (1998)

45. Sunday in the Park With George (1984)

46. Rabbit Hole (2006)

47. Burn This (1987)

48. Fool for Love (1983)

49. Topdog/Underdog (2001)

50. Chess (1988)

On the whole, I think it’s a pretty good list.  But I’m going to take issue with a couple of things. 

First of all, I think they tend to give higher ratings to shows which are more current and haven’t stood the test of time (even the short time).  For example, Frost/Nixon and Jersey Boys probably deserve to be on this list, but at numbers 14 and 5, respectively?  No, I don’t think so.  Same perhaps with Coast of Utopia.  (I would agree with the placement of August: Osage County at #3, but I think Spring Awakening (#43) got reemed a bit).

Secondly, while I agree with the top four (and in that order, too!), I think several shows got screwed.  Spring Awakening (as I’ve already mentioned) and Burn This (#47).

Also, there are at least two shows on the list which shouldn’t be there at all: Stomp (#35) and Cirque du Soleil: O (#41).  Sorry, but if there’s no acting, it’s not theater.  It’s dance, it’s circus, it’s an entertainment piece, but it’s not theatre.  Oh, and same with the Elaine Stritch show (#18).  That’s a concert, people.  And Speed The Plow wasn’t a classic, even a new one.

Why isn’t Cats on the list?  It’s a shitty show, but it is undeniably a classic.  Well, that’s because it opened in 1982.  (I also thought Amadeus should be on the list, but it turns out that was 1981, and Little Shop of Horrors was 1982).  No, I don’t think they overlooked anything major (maybe… maybe Spamalot).

Finally, anybody other than me note the conspicuous absence of Disney musicals on the list, save for The Lion King?  You know why that is?  Because they suck (save for The Lion King).  Just my two cents. 

Feel free to weigh in….

Rush’s Not-So-Subtle Racism

Here’s the big fat one, on his radio show, talking about the recent floods:

Limbaugh: I want to know. I look at Iowa, I look at Illinois—I want to see the murders. I want to see the looting. I want to see all the stuff that happened in New Orleans. I see devastation in Iowa and Illinois that dwarfs what happened in New Orleans. I see people working together. I see people trying to save their property…I don’t see a bunch of people running around waving guns at helicopters, I don’t see a bunch of people running shooting cops. I don’t see a bunch of people raping people on the street. I don’t see a bunch of people doing everything they can…whining and moaning—where’s FEMA, where’s BUSH. I see the heartland of America. When I look at Iowa and when I look at Illinois, I see the backbone of America.

Well, I don’t know where Rush got his info about Katrina and New Orleans.  I mean, how do you go about "raping people on the street" when the street is submerged under 6 feet of water?

Of course, Rush ignnores the fact that the Katrina disaster was a disaster on an unheard-of scale.  I say that not to belittle what has been going on in the Midwest, but the two are hardly comparable.  The death toll in the Midwest stands at 24;   The immediate death toll from Katrina was roughly 1,800 (the exact number isn’t known, and the toll continues to rise from long-term deaths).

But Rush makes the comparison anyway.

Applesandoranges

But we all know what Rush is saying.  It was the black people in New Orleans who were doing all the raping and pillaging and "whining", as they watched their friends, family, and neighbors drown.  But the good ol’ white people of middle America?  They’re not doing that.  And why?  Because they are the backbone of America.

Of course, the people in middle America aren’t complaining about the lack of FEMA, because (unlike Katrina), FEMA is there.

It’s sad when disasters expose the worst side of our nation’s inherent racism.  Remember this from the Katrina coverage?

Katrinaaftermathandracism

Yes, the young (black) man "loots" soda from a local grocery store, while the upscale (white) residents "find" soda within a local grocery store.  Got that?

Rush would probably look at the second photo and proclaim the two people to be self-motivated can-doers who embody the spirit of America, even in the face of terrible tragedy.  And he would probably look at the first photo and proclaim the black guy is a common street thug, taking advantage of tragedy to rip of whitie.

Can’t believe that guy still has a radio show…..

The Country I Love

"Country I Love":

They’re running it on a very aggressive 18 state play that includes Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Virginia. 

The ad does a good job of reminding people that Obama’s mom was white, and that he’s not — you know — a Muslim (as many wingnuts suggest), or an effete ivory tower liberal (as many of the same wingnuts suggest).  It’s too bad he has to (subtly) put this message in his ads, but it’s the right ad to run in the above-mentioned states.

My Problem With Basketball

One of two things happen:

(1)  It’s a close game, which means that you sit there watching for an hour before it gets exciting in the last quarter, or (more likely) the last minute

OR

(2)  It’s a blowout, in which case you sit there waching for more than an hour just waiting for it to end.

I think I watched my first televised basketball game in its entirety the other night — Game 6 of the Celtics-Lakers matchup.

Glad the Celtics won of course.  But it was a #2.

Liveblogging The Tonys

8:00 — Opening with The Lion King.  We’ve seen this before, haven’t we?

8:04 — And it’s still going….

8:07 — Original cast of Rent?  Cool.

8:09 — Best Featured Actress in a Play — I picked Laurie Metcalf (November), but it’s Rondi Reed (August: Osage County).  She was pretty good, but not the best in the cast.

8:15 — Wow, Crybaby looks really good.  Gotta see that.

8:23Best Featured Actor in a Play —  I picked Raul Esparza (The Homecoming), but it’s Jim Norton (The Seafarer).  I read the play a few weeks ago — it’s phenomenal.

8:26 — Excerpt from Passing Strange.  Okay, I still don’t know what it’s about.  But I like the music.

8:37Best Musical Direction — I like John Lithgow.  Bartlett Sher for South Pacific.  Okay, well I’ve got three wrong so far… out of three.  I like South Pacific; I’m just tired of it.

8:40 — It’s Jack Klugman.  He’s not long for this world.  Sadly.

8:41 — Excerpt from Gypsy.  Another show I’m not a big fan of.  But Patti Lapone.  Yeah, she was meant to play this part.  Better than Ethel Merman.  Which isn’t saying much.

8:53 — Wow.  I didn’t get Best Orchestrations, Best Book of A Musical, Best Play Revival, and Best Choreography (all presented earlier) right.

8:56Best ScoreIn The Heights.  The rap acceptance speech.  Nice.  Odd.  But nice.

8:58 — Excerpt from South Pacific.  There is nothing like a dame…. that’s okay. But I hate Some Enchanted Evening…. this whole segment is as corny as Kansas in August.  Where’s Mary Martin when you need her?

9:09 — It’s Kristen giving the award for Best Featured Actress In A Musical.   I guess the chick from In The Heights, but it’s Laura Benati from Gypsy.  Awwwww, she cried.

9:12 — Excerpt from Grease.  Ugh.  From that awful TV show.  They’re doing "Grease (Is The Word)" from the movie.  And it’s awful!!  The second song was better.

9:22 — Why it’s that well-known Broadway actress  — Brooke Shields??

9:23 — Best Actor in a Musical — Boyd Gaines from Gypsy.  Hey, I’ve seen Robin De Jesus before.  He was in Camp.  Anyway, I got yet another one wrong.

9:25 — Marisa Tomei.  I’m in love again.  Excerpt from The Little Mermaid.  Sigh.  Another Disney show.  Thank God it’s not getting much acclaim.  Sierra Boggess is good though.

9:28 — Faith Prince singing from A Catered Affair.  Eh.

9:29 — Excerpt from Young Frankenstein — Mel Brooks can’t write music.  It’s always derivative.

9:43 — Well, that was a nice, albeit short, review of the best play nominees.

9:44Best Director of a PlayAnna D. Shapiro for August: Osage County.  Yay!  And I got one right!  Nice tat!  Awwww, she’s crying.

9:54b — Best Actor in a Play — Mary Louise Parker presents the award to Mark Rylance in Boeing-Boeing.  I had picked Larry Fishbrune for Thurogood.  Wow.  Best.  Acceptance.  Speech.  Ever.  What the hell was that?!?  I loved it!

9:57Best Actress in a Play — Well, this is easy.  Deanna Dunagan for August: Osage County.  Of course.  One of the best performances I’ve ever seen.  Phenomenal.  They’ll be talking about it for years to come.  Amy Morton was also incredible.  Too bad they were in the same play in the same year.

10:00 — Excerpt from In The Heights.  I guess it’s a rap musical.  I like it.  Hmmm.  Wow, I really like it.  Lots of energy and great dancing.  Ok.  It’s not all rap.

10:11Best PlayAugust: Osage County.  Of course it won.  Yes, Tracy: "They decided to produce and American play on Broadway with theatre actors."  Nice.

10:14Lifetime Achievement to Sondheim.  Mandy looks like Santa Claus.

10:17 — Excerpt from Sunday in the Park with George.  Looks like an interesting revival.  I’m still a fan of the original.

10:22 — Well, I’ve got many many picks wrong so far.  The only ones I got right were Best Play (August: Osage County), Best Actress in a Play (Deanna Dunagan), Best Direction of a Play (Anna D. Shapiro), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County) and Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Michael Yeargan, South Pacific)

10:28Best Revival of a MusicalSouth Pacific.  Okay, I got that right too.  Oh, they showed Mary Rodgers (Richard Rodger’s daughter).  I met her when I did Once Upon A Mattress.  Nice lady.

10:31 — Excerpt from Xanadu.  Nice number, but they could have picked one that conveyed some of the humor of the show.

10:37 — Why so many ads for bipolar disorder pills?  They think theatre people are crazy?

10:42 — Tribute to Rent, which is closing soon.  Original cast.  Hi, Idena.  Well, that was nice.

10:45 — Oh, God.  It’s Liza.  "For sho many of ush, theatre ish our home."

10:47Best Actor in a Musical — Paulo Szat from South Pacific.  I guessed Tom Wopat.  Now, why is Stew nominated?  He didn’t act, did he?  Didn’t he play himself?

10:50Best Actress in a Musical — David Hyde Pierce gives the award to…. Patti Lapone (Gypsy), as I predicted.  I would have loved Kerry Butler to win, but Patti is an all-star.  Why is she YELLING INTO THE MICROPHONE?!?

10:55 — Okay, let’s wrap it up.

10:58Best MusicalIn The Heights.  Well, good.  It looked good.  Heather told me not to discount it.  She was right

Well, I got 7 out of 26 right.  Sucky.

And that’s a wrap….

The Forecast Calls For Smoke

Smoke?!?  Really?

Never heard that before.

But sure enough, that’s what the forecast says: "Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms possible. Areas of smoke reducing visibilities at times."

The reason, as it turns out:

Smoke and haze wafting over the region from two North Carolina wildfires should begin to clear later this morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The sources of the smoke were likely from a 40,000-acre, lightning-sparked blaze in the central Outer Banks about 50 miles west of Nags Head, N.C., and a nearly 1,000-acre fire near Suffolk along the North Carolina border, weather experts said.

Winds blew smoke west-northwest to the Danville area, affecting Pittsylvania, Halifax, Henry and Patrick counties, as well as Caswell, Rockingham and Stokes counties in North Carolina, the National Weather Service said.

OK then.  I suppose they get this kind of forecast in the West Coast.  It’s just a new one to me.

Scared Straight Backfires

Ummm, they probably should have thought this through more:

OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) – On a Monday morning last month, highway patrol officers visited 20 classrooms at El Camino High School to announce some horrible news: Several students had been killed in car wrecks over the weekend.

Classmates wept. Some became hysterical.

A few hours and many tears later, though, the pain turned to fury when the teenagers learned that it was all a hoax—a scared-straight exercise designed by school officials to dramatize the consequences of drinking and driving.

As seniors prepare for graduation parties Friday, school officials in the largely prosperous San Diego suburb are defending themselves against allegations they went too far.

At school assemblies, some students held up posters that read: "Death is real. Don’t play with our emotions."

Michelle de Gracia, 16, was in physics class when an officer announced that her missing classmate David, a popular basketball player, had died instantly after being rear-ended by a drunken driver. She said she felt nauseated but was too stunned to cry.

"They got the shock they wanted," she said.

Some of her classmates became extremely upset, prompting the teacher to tell them immediately it was all staged.

"People started yelling at the teacher," she said. "It was pretty hectic."

Others, including many who heard the news of the 26 deaths between classes, were left in the dark until the missing students reappeared hours later.

I guess it’s good that the students got the message.  Still, it’s a little mean….

Tax Policies of McCain and Obama

The Tax Policy Center today released an exhaustive comparison of the tax plans of Barack Obama and John McCain.

The graph below shows the change in income (up being more income, down being less income) under the Obama (blue) and McCain (reddish) tax plans.

Blog_tpc_obama_mccain_tax_plans

Bottom line:  The people who need money the most will benefit most from Obama’s plan; the people who have tons of money will benefit most from McCain’s plan.

Oh, and middle-class families would do better under Obama (who would cut their taxes by $1000 in 2009) than McCain (who would cut them by only $300).

Prez Race Tight In NC

Rasmussen. 6/10. Likely voters. MoE 4% (5/8 results)

McCain (R) 45 (48)
Obama (D) 43 (45)

The internals:

6/10  Total   Men Wom  GOP Dem Other
McCain  45     45  45   88  16  36
Obama   43     43  43    6  76  39

5/8   Total   Men Wom  GOP Dem Other
McCain  48     52  44   81  20  49
Obama   45     39  49   15  71  40

We’re definitely a swing state, which is unusual for NC.

Marine Expelled For Puppy Throwing

You may have heard about this story a few months ago.

It’s about the U.S. soldier in Iraq who threw a puppy off a cliff.  Here’s the video [WARNING:  This is a very disturbing video]

Justice is (somewhat) served.  According to the AP:

The Marine Corps said Wednesday it was expelling one Marine and disciplining another for their roles in a video showing a Marine throwing a puppy off a cliff while on patrol in Iraq.

The 17-second video posted on YouTube drew sharp condemnation from animal rights groups when it came to light in March.

The clip shows two Marines joking before one hurls the puppy into a rocky gully. A yelping sound is heard as it flips through the air.

"That’s mean. That’s mean, Motari," an off-camera Marine is heard telling the Marine who tossed the black and white dog. The off-camera Marine snickered slightly afterward.

Lance Cpl. David Motari, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at Kaneohe Bay, is "being processed for separation" from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps said in a news release. He also received unspecified "non-judicial punishment."

Gitmo Detainees Have Habeus Rights

OK.  Permit me to get all law geeky, but this is big legal news.  Well, it’s big news for anyone who believes in our Constitution, really.  Aned a big blow to the Bush Administration.

About an hour ago, the Supreme Court ruled that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention.

What does that mean?

A habeus petition is an extraordinary (meaning "out-of-the-ordinary", rather than "wow-gee-willikers") process by which people incarcerated can challenge their incarceration in court.  This usually happens after all trials and appeals have failed.  It’s really thought of as the "last resort" for justice — the last bite at the apple.  The writ of habeus corpus is old — older than the Constitution.  It’s one of the few rights that is in the original Constitution, rather than the Bill of Rights (the amendments) tacked on afterward — that’s how important the framers thought it was.

Now, according to the Constitution, the habeus writ cannot be suspended except "in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public safety may require it." [U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 9, Clause 2]. 

Lincoln suspended the writ during the Civil War. 

Sadly, it was also suspended in 1941, when Japanese-Americans were denied the ability to challenge their internment during WWII.

Okay, so what happened here?

Well, 9/11.  We went to war.  We rounded up a bunch of "enemy combatents".  Well, not really — most of those held at Gitmo were captured by the Pakistani government or the Northern Alliance, so we don’t really know if they were "enemy combatents" or not.  [UPDATE:  In fact, according to the NYT:

The man who gave the case its title, Lakhdar Boumediene, is one of six Algerians who immigrated to Bosnia in the 1990’s and were legal residents there. They were arrested by Bosnian police within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks on suspicion of plotting to attack the United States embassy in Sarajevo — “plucked from their homes, from their wives and children,” as their lawyer, Seth P. Waxman, a former solicitor general put it in the argument before the justices on Dec. 5.

So this guy is an "enemy combatent" in our War on Terror?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But we should try and convict him before we detain him for 6 years, right?]

But hundreds languished at Gitmo, without trial, without being charged.  Over time, our government quietly transferred hundreds of them back to their home countries, most of them for release.  ("Oops, our bad")

But hundreds remained, and still remain, at Gitmo.

The Bush Administration and the republican-controlled Congress has tried to pass laws suspending the writ to these guys.  Over the past few years (and for reasons I won’t get into), the Supreme Court has struck those attempts down.

The latest case essentially stems from the argument (made by the Bush Administration) that the detainees do not have a constitutional right to the writ of habeus corpus, because they are being held at Gitmo, which is not U.S. sovereign territory.  (Under prior cases, it would be clear that if the foreign nationals were detained within the contiinental United States, they would have rights to habeus relief). 

So today, the majority of justices (in a 5-4 decision, with Kennedy being the swing) didn’t buy that; They recognized that the U.S. was trying to get around the habeus requirement by having these guys held in some place other than in U.S. territory:

"The test for determining the scope of [the Suspension Clause] must not be subject to manipulation by those whose power it is designed to restrain."

In other words, because the Government chose to detain these prisoners at Gitmo for the very purpose of avoiding a judicial check on the legality of the detentions, the Court has ensured that the constitutional guarantee extends to the naval base.

Bottom line: these detainees who have been held for as long as six years without trial, without being charged, will get their day in court.

As it should be.

[Law geeks can read the opinion here.  Read Scalia’s dissent — he sounds like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men ("All you’ve down is risked lives today"), but Souter’s concurrence in rebuttal takes care of Scalia.  Good reading]

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON SCALIA DISSENT.  Scalia wrote:

“…it sets our military commanders the impossible task of proving to a civilian court, under whatever standards this Court devises in the future, that evidence supports the confinement of each and every enemy prisoner. The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done today.”

Yeah.  It would be easier for our government if they could just imprison people without having to, you know, prove guilt.  But I don’t think that’s what our forefathers, and the soldiers who gave their lives afterwards, envisioned and gave the full measure of their lives to protect.  This isn’t some banana republic, Scalia.

UPDATE: From the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented defendants in these cases:

"The Supreme Court has finally brought an end to one of our nation’s most egregious injustices,” said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. “It has finally given the men held at Guantánamo the justice that they have long deserved. By granting the writ of habeas corpus, the Supreme Court recognizes a rule of law established hundreds of years ago and essential to American jurisprudence since our nation’s founding. This six-year-long nightmare is a lesson in how fragile our constitutional protections truly are in the hands of an overzealous executive."

Yup.

LAST UPDATE, I PROMISE:  For those of you who are ambivalent or reject the Court’s decision today, I ask you to consider this, from Glenn Greenwald:

The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system, they are reconciled within the framework of law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, part of that law.  In ruling that the CSRT’s woefully fail to provide those safeguards, the Court quoted Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 84: "The practice of arbitrary imprisonments, in all ages, is the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny." It is that deeply tyrannical practice — implemented by the Bush administration and authorized by a bipartisan act of Congress — which the U.S. Supreme Court, today, struck down.

***

The greatest victim of the 9/11 attack — by far — has been our core, defining constitutional liberties. Of all the powers seized by this administration in the name of keeping us Safe, the power to imprison people indefinitely with no charges and no real process is the most pernicious.

Any disagreements with that?

Site Changes

I added a widget in the left column with my Google calendar.

I added a widget in the right column listing my Facebook status updates, as well as those of my friends (click the arrows in the title bar).

UPDATE:  And the clock.  Let me know if there are any problems….

Michael Medved And The Nazi/Gay Issue

Seriously stupid:

Germany recently unveiled a memorial to what the press called “the Nazis’ long-ignored gay victims.” Across the road from Berlin’s monument to Jewish Holocaust victims, the new shrine features a pavilion-sized concrete slab with a window through which visitors view a video of two men kissing.

Ok….

This commemoration follows a longstanding, misleading attempt to depict homosexuals as prime targets of Hitler.

Whoa, whoa, whoa there Michael!  Who exactly has been saying that homosexuals were a prime target of Hitler?  Certainly they were one of them along with Jews, intellectuals, Catholics, etc.  Let’s roll the videotape of Heinrich Himmler:

I would like to develop a couple of ideas for you on the question of homosexuality. There are those homosexuals who take the view: what I do is my business, a purely private matter. However, all things which take place in the sexual sphere are not the private affair of the individual, but signify the life and death of the nation, signify world power…

After likening the homosexual who was killed and thrown into a peat bog to the weeding process in a garden, Himmler continued his tirade:

…In the SS, today, we still have about one case of homosexuality a month. In a whole year, about eight to ten cases occur in the entire SS. I have now decided upon the following: in each case, these people will naturally be publicly degraded, expelled, and handed over to the courts. Following completion of the punishment imposed by the court, they will be sent, by my order, to a concentration camp, and they will be shot in the concentration camp, while attempting to escape. I will make that known by order to the unit to which the person so infected belonged. Thereby, I hope finally to have done with persons of this type in the SS, and the increasingly healthy blood which we are cultivating for Germany, will be kept pure.

But back to Medved:

In fact, even historical material released with the memorial noted only “an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men deported to concentration camps” – and by no means all of them were killed.

No, just about 60% of them, according to historians.  So that’s about 6,000 to 8,000 people killed.

While homosexuals surely outnumbered the less-than-one-percent of the German population that was Jewish, Jewish victims of Nazi death camps outnumbered estimated gay victims by more than 500 to 1.

Your point, Mike?

Persecution of any group deserves condemnation and remembrance, but it’s wrong to exaggerate the extent of victimization for politically correct P.R. purposes.

Who exaaggerated?  Mike, you just cited as authority the numbers from the "historical material released with the memorial"!  Roughly 7,000 men and women were killed for being gay!  That’s not worthy of a memorial???

What Michael also omits is the fact that in 1935, Nazis made homosexuality illegal.  50,000 were convicted that crime, and roughly 25% of them went to concentration camps.  The remaining (who survived) had a criminal conviction on their records, and many were re-arrested after WWII.  They finally received pardons… in 2002.

Medved the Moustache gives lip service to the "condemnation" of this persecuted group, but he has trouble with a memorial for that purpose?

Medved

Pictured above: Michael Medved, a not gay man.

The Religious Vote In 2008

Barna, the pre-eminent pollers of religion-related issues, says the landscape is changing:

The Christian community in the U.S. has largely shifted its loyalty to the Democratic nominee in this year’s race. In the 2004 election, 81% of evangelicals voted for the Republican incumbent George W. Bush. Currently, 78% of the likely voters who are evangelical expect to vote for Sen. McCain. Evangelicals represent 8% of the adult population and just 9% of all likely voters.

But the big news in the faith realm is the sizeable defection from Republican circles of the much larger non-evangelical born again and the notional Christian segments. The non-evangelical born again adults constitute 37% of the likely voters in November, and the notional Christians are expected to be 39% of the likely voters. Among the non-evangelical born again adults, 52% supported President Bush in 2004; yet, only 38% are currently supporting Sen. McCain, while 48% are siding with Sen. Obama. Although notional Christians voted for John Kerry in 2004 by an 11-point margin, that gap has more than doubled to 26 points in this year’s election. Protestants and Catholics have moved toward the Democratic challenger in equal proportions since 2004.

The New York Times today notes that evangelical support for McCain is soft at best:

…what remains one of Mr. McCain’s biggest challenges as he faces a general election contest with Senator Barack Obama: a continued wariness toward him among evangelicals and other Christian conservatives, a critical voting bloc for Republicans that could stay home in the fall or at least be decidedly unenthusiastic in their efforts to get out the vote.

And why are they not gung-ho for McCain?

Mr. McCain’s relationship with evangelicals has long been troubled. In 2000, when he was running against Mr. Bush for the Republican nomination, Mr. McCain castigated Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell as “agents of intolerance.”

In a sign of the lingering distrust, Mr. McCain finished last out of nine Republican candidates in a straw poll last year at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, a gathering for socially conservative activists.

James C. Dobson, the influential founder of the evangelical group Focus on the Family, released a statement in February, when Mr. McCain was on the verge of securing the Republican nomination, affirming that he would not vote for Mr. McCain and would instead stay home if he became the nominee. Dr. Dobson later softened his stance and said he would vote but has remained critical of Mr. McCain.

“For John McCain to be competitive, he has to connect with the base to the point that they’re intense enough that they’re contagious,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “Right now they’re not even coughing.”

The balancing act Mr. McCain faces in appealing to both moderate voters and evangelicals was starkly illustrated last month when he rejected the endorsements of the Rev. John Hagee and the Rev. Rod Parsley, prominent evangelical leaders, after controversial statements by the two came to light. Mr. Parsley has been vocally anti-Islam and Mr. Hagee, in a sermon, said Hitler and the Holocaust had been part of God’s plan to drive the Jews to Palestine.

Mr. McCain’s actions complicated his relationship with evangelical leaders, some of whom said in interviews that the senator’s actions contributed to the impression among some evangelicals that he did not know or understand them. They argued that he should have stood by them, while making clear that he did not necessarily agree with all of their views.

He also supported financing for embryonic stem cell research.

Robert Novak jusmps in the fray:

Shortcomings by John McCain’s campaign in the art of politics are alienating two organizations of Christian conservatives. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family is estranged following the failure of Dobson and McCain to talk out their differences. Evangelicals who follow the Rev. John Hagee resent McCain’s disavowal of him.

The evangelicals are not an isolated problem for the Arizona senator. Enthusiasm for McCain inside the Republican coalition is in short supply. During the four months since McCain clinched the nomination, he has not satisfied conservatives opposed to his positions on global warming, campaign finance reform, immigration, domestic oil drilling and how to ban same-sex marriages.

The particular problem for McCain is that if he moves to the right to pick up the "base", he’ll not only be seen as pandering (and a flip-flopper), but he’s likely to lose people in the center.

I don’t envy his position, but I’m glad he’s in it.

But No Superhuman Abilty To Wage Mind Control

Human Resources at the place I work is asking employees to take a Clifton Strengthfinder Test, to show our strengths and talents.  It’s a serious psychological test (not one of those BS internet things).  It assesses your strengths, giving you five "talents" out of 36 metrics.

Here’s my results:

Learner

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered—this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences—yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”

Ideation

You are fascinated by ideas. What is an idea? An idea is a concept, the best explanation of the most events. You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are. An idea is a connection. Yours is the kind of mind that is always looking for connections, and so you are intrigued when seemingly disparate phenomena can be linked by an obscure connection. An idea is a new perspective on familiar challenges. You revel in taking the world we all know and turning it around so we can view it from a strange but strangely enlightening angle. You love all these ideas because they are profound, because they are novel, because they are clarifying, because they are contrary, because they are bizarre. For all these reasons you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual or even smart. Perhaps you are all of these. Who can be sure? What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.

Input

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and quotations—or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

Individualization

Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. You are impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person. Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals. You instinctively observe each person’s style, each person’s motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships. You hear the one-of-a-kind stories in each person’s life. This theme explains why you pick your friends just the right birthday gift, why you know that one person prefers praise in public and another detests it, and why you tailor your teaching style to accommodate one person’s need to be shown and another’s desire to “figure it out as I go.” Because you are such a keen observer of other people’s strengths, you can draw out the best in each person. This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams. While some search around for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.

Intellection

You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. The exact focus will depend on your other strengths. On the other hand, this mental activity may very well lack focus. The theme of Intellection does not dictate what you are thinking about; it simply describes that you like to think. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. You are introspective. In a sense you are your own best companion, as you pose yourself questions and try out answers on yourself to see how they sound. This introspection may lead you to a slight sense of discontent as you compare what you are actually doing with all the thoughts and ideas that your mind conceives. Or this introspection may tend toward more pragmatic matters such as the events of the day or a conversation that you plan to have later. Wherever it leads you, this mental hum is one of the constants of your life.

Whatever.  Below the fold is all 34 themes for me, in order…

Gas Information

As a public service, I’ve set up a separate page on this blog giving information about gas prices — including the cheapest gas prices in the Winston-Salem area within the past 24 hours. This link will be permanently available on the right hand column.

Enjoy.

Office Worker Freaks Out

It’s viral now — you’ve probably seen it already.  Happened a couple weeks ago.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is a hoax.  Probably some viral video marketing campaign….

Bobby We Hardly Knew Ye

40 years ago today (from the movie "Bobby"):

Real footage:

The funeral train:

The L.A. Times has a nice rememberance page.

Is history repeating itself?

Through both violent tragedy and political intrigue, Election 1968 had been transformed from a hopeful opportunity to change the country into an ugly case study of how easy it is to snuff out idealism and decency.

In many ways, Election 1968 charted the course that the United States would follow for most of the next four decades. On one side, there would be aggressive, win-at-all-costs Republicans; on the other side, timid, don’t-get-too-rowdy Democrats.

Not surprisingly, the youthful idealism of the 1960s devolved into world-weary cynicism that would be passed down like some bitter legacy from the Baby Boomers to their children …

By and large, political apathy among the youth held sway – at least until Campaign 2008 when a new generation was caught up in the inspirational message of Barack Obama.

I first encountered the Obama phenomenon when I visited my youngest son, Jeff, at Savannah College of Art and Design in spring 2007. At an arts festival where a park was set aside for students to do chalk drawings on the sidewalks, the only drawings of an American politician were of Obama.

The youth movement for Obama – this new children’s crusade – has influenced some prominent mothers to endorse the 46-year-old African-American senator from Illinois. Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, said it was her three children who convinced her to come out publicly for Obama.

“I am happy that two of my own children are here with me,” she said at American University in Washington on Jan. 28, “because they were the first people who made me realize that Barack Obama is the President we need. He is already inspiring all Americans, young and old, to believe in ourselves, tying that belief to our highest ideals – ideals of hope, justice, opportunity and peace – and urging us to imagine that together we can do great things.”

Now, with Obama cinching the Democratic nomination on June 3, Hillary Clinton and many of her loyal supporters will be faced with a decision not dissimilar to what their parents confronted during the Vietnam War:

Will they do what they feel is in their personal interest – or will they trust and protect their children?

Click here to visit Bobby Kennedy’s Myspace page.  Yes. he has a Myspace page.

How NOT To Deal With High Gas Prices

In Danville, California:

A Danville woman faces arson charges after she allegedly set fires at two gas stations and a coffee house, saying she was protesting high gas prices.

The woman, 64, remained Thursday in a Contra Costa jail on $810,000 bail on suspicion of premeditated arson and burglary.

Police say the woman used a fireplace log and a lighter to set fires in the restrooms of an Arco station, a Chevron station and a Starbucks on Wednesday. No structural damage was reported at the locations.

Police later found the woman at a nearby fast food restaurant with eight fireplace logs with her. She told officers that she was behind the fires and said she woke up that morning wanting to do something about high gas prices.

Ok, honey?  Let me explain something.  Blowing up gas stations won’t bring down gas prices.  If anything, it will raise them (negligably, according to the laws of supply and demand).

But here’s my favorite line of the story….

Police say they don’t know why she targeted the Starbucks.

Same reason, I suspect.  Have you seen the price of a grande mocha frappachino?!?

Speaking Of The Problems McCain Faces…

this is the best opinion piece I’ve read on the subject.  Short, simple, and to the point:

WHAT JOHN MCCAIN UNDERESTIMATES

1. The astonishing enthusiasm that Obama inspires in his supporters — and how much it contrasts with the respect, but not passion, McCain enjoys from his own backers. (And the size of Obama’s crowds…)

2. The “Major League vs Little League” difference between Obama’s infrastructure and his own.

3. The inherent difficulty/sensitivity of running against two figures at once. McCain will have to 1) explicitly criticize a sitting Republican president before Republican audiences and 2) prevent the historic event of electing the nation’s first African-American president that many in the country (and the media) desire.

4. The ever-present danger on the trail that he might evoke Bob Dole with a Bob Dole-like misstep (fall off a stage, sound like a Washington fossil, seem angry and out of touch).

5. How little most Americans care about foreign policy (beyond the Iraq War) when the economy is in the tank.

6. How many voters (even Republican stalwarts) dread the idea of a virtual third Bush term.

7. How many members of the media dread the idea of covering a virtual third Bush term (and how much they buy Obama’s argument that McCain is an extension of Bush-Cheney).

8. The extent to which McCain’s lack of an economic message could make Obama (who also is challenged in adequately addressing the economy) seem like Bob Rubin, Bill Clinton, and Lou Dobbs all rolled into one.

9. That many of his party’s wiseguys and wisegals see polling data suggesting his chances of winning are no more than 30% (and how much it infects their cable TV appearances).

10. That in modern America, perception is often reality and style often beats substance.

11. That age is only a number unless it’s a really high number — then it’s a liability.

12. How old he looks when he is acting “presidential” on the stump – and how incongruous it makes his message of change appear.

13. How powerful debates might be when the allegedly inexperienced Obama of allegedly questionable judgment goes toe-to-toe with McCain, even on national security, and is therefore deemed of sufficient strength and stature to be president by many.

14. How valuable Obama makes voters feel (”we are the change we have been waiting for”) – while McCain’s campaign instructs and lectures voters.

15. How forcefully Obama will now move to the center as a mainstream, optimistic candidate celebrating both change and America’s greatness.

McCain On Wiretapping

It’s hard to understand John McCain.  He keeps allying himself with the Bush agenda, despite the fact that Bush is polling as the most unliked president in modern history [UPDATE:  Apparently, I was more right than I thought.  USA Today reports that John McCain "won’t try to separate himself from a weakened President Bush or his unpopular handling of the war in Iraq to try to win the general election against Barack Obama, who has made opposition to the war a focus of the Democratic campaign."]

This is particularly stupid:

WASHINGTON — A top adviser to Senator John McCain says Mr. McCain believes that President Bush’s program of wiretapping without warrants was lawful, a position that appears to bring him into closer alignment with the sweeping theories of executive authority pushed by the Bush administration legal team.

Nice one, McCain.  You just lost the libertarian vote.  In fact, you lost lots of votes:

U.S. voters overwhelmingly oppose key elements of the Bush administration’s proposed wiretapping legislation, according to a new poll commissioned by the ACLU.

“Large majorities across almost every demographic subgroup of American voters,” wrote pollsters The Mellman Group in a memo to the American Civil Liberties Union, “oppose warrantless wiretaps, oppose blanket warrants, and oppose amnesty for telecommunication companies that may have broken the law.”

“As a result,” the memo says, “members (of Congress) who stand in defense of constitutional rights have little to fear from their constituents.”

Sixty-one percent of voters favor requiring the government to get a warrant from a court before wiretapping the conversations U.S. citizens have with people in other countries, with an outright majority of voters, 51 percent, “strongly” supporting the requirement, the poll of 1,000 likely 2008 general-election voters found.

Similar percentages opposed “blanket” or “basket” warrants, under which surveillance of categories of Americans would be allowed.

And by the way, look where McCain was on this issue of retroactive immunity for the telecoms:

In 2005, at least, McCain was in favor of letting the courts decide whether AT&T and other telecos violated the law.

Last fall, while preparing our Tech Voter’s Guide, we asked McCain point-blank whether he would support the bill (S.2248) providing retroactive immunity. On November 30, 2007 McCain sent us this response via e-mail:

Every effort in this struggle and other efforts must be done according to American principles and the rule of law. When companies provide private records of Americans to the government without proper legal subpoena, warrants, or other legal orders, their heart may be in the right place, but their actions undermine our respect for the law.

I am also a strong supporter of protecting the privacy of Americans. The issues raised by S.2248, and the events and actions by all parties that preceded it, reach to the core of our principles. They merit careful and deliberate consideration, fact-finding, and exploration of options. That process should be allowed to proceed before drawing conclusions that may prove to be premature.

If retroactive immunity passes, it should be done with explicit statements that this is not a blessing, there should be oversight hearings to understand what happened, and Congress should include provisions that ensure that Americans’ private records will not be dealt with like that again.

I hate to get cocky, but if this is how it’s going to be with McCain — flip-flopping to the least popular position — this is going to be a blowout election.

Seventh Sense Changes

(1)  Due to the news that Typepad has improved its spam blocker, comments will no longer be moderated.  That means that your comments will appear within minutes after you have posted them.

(2)  Comments will be automatically closed 3 months after an item is posted.

More Name Games From The ID Crowd

"Creationism" didn’t work.

"Creation science" didn’t work.

"Intelligent design" didn’t work.

So how do the creationists intend to get biblical teachings into our public schools now?  Another name for the same thing:

The words are “strengths and weaknesses.”

Starting this summer, the state education board will determine the curriculum for the next decade and decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.

Already, legislators in a half-dozen states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina — have tried to require that classrooms be open to “views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory,” according to a petition from the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based strategic center of the intelligent design movement.

“Very often over the last 10 years, we’ve seen antievolution policies in sheep’s clothing,” said Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education, a group based in Oakland, Calif., that is against teaching creationism.

The “strengths and weaknesses” language was slipped into the curriculum standards in Texas to appease creationists when the State Board of Education first mandated the teaching of evolution in the late 1980s. It has had little effect because evolution skeptics have not had enough power on the education board to win the argument that textbooks do not adequately cover the weaknesses of evolution.

Yet even as courts steadily prohibited the outright teaching of creationism and intelligent design, creationists on the Texas board grew to a near majority. Seven of 15 members subscribe to the notion of intelligent design, and they have the blessings of Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

What happens in Texas does not stay in Texas: the state is one of the country’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are loath to produce different versions of the same material. The ideas that work their way into education here will surface in classrooms throughout the country.

“ ‘Strengths and weaknesses’ are regular words that have now been drafted into the rhetorical arsenal of creationists,” said Kathy Miller, director of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that promotes religious freedom.

The chairman of the state education board, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist in Central Texas, denies that the phrase “is subterfuge for bringing in creationism.”

“Why in the world would anybody not want to include weaknesses?” Dr. McLeroy said.

The word itself is open to broad interpretation. If the teaching of weaknesses is mandated, a textbook might be forced to say that evolution has an “inability to explain the Cambrian Explosion,” according to the group Texans for Better Science Education, which questions evolution.

The Cambrian Explosion was a period of rapid diversification that evidence suggests began around 550 million years ago and gave rise to most groups of complex organisms and animal forms. Scientists are studying how it unfolded.

Evolution as a principle is not disputed in the scientific mainstream, where the term “theory” does not mean a hunch, but an explanation backed by abundant observation, and where gaps in knowledge are not seen as grounds for doubt but points for future understanding. Over time, research has strengthened the basic tenets of evolution, especially as advances in molecular genetics have allowed biologists to read the history recorded in the DNA of animals and plants.

Yet playing to the American sense of fairness, lawmakers across the country have tried to require that classrooms be open to all views.

And here we go again…

Senate Intelligence Committee Report On Pre-War Iraq Released

Key conclusions:

The Committee’s report cites several conclusions in which the Administration’s public statements were NOT supported by the intelligence. They include:

  • Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence. 
  • Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information. 
  • Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products. 
  • Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing. 
  • The Secretary of Defense’s statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information. 
  • The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed. 

Republican Senators fought very hard to prevent the release of this intel report back in 2004 to insure Bush’s re-election. And, they wouldn’t release this report back in 2006 to protect their own re-elections. All that delay has resulted in the release of this report in 2008 — leaving John McCain to defend the Bush Iraq war agenda.

There are two parts to the report, and you can read them here (warning: big .pdfs):

"Report on Whether Public Statements Regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials Were Substantiated by Intelligence Information"

"Report on Intelligence Activities Relating to Iraq Conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group and the Office of Special Plans Within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy"

UPDATE:  But that’s history, right?  That’s how we got into Iraq.  What about getting out?

Well, The UK Independent has a troubling report on a “secret plan” for U.S. occupation in Iraq allegedly being pushed by the Bush administration:

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

Jeez.

Words vs. Deeds: McCain

Let the McCain basking begin —

John McCain, speaking in Katrina-devestated New Orleans — June 3, 2008, on Obama:

The wrong change looks not to the future but to the past for solutions that have failed us before and will surely fail us again. I have a few years on my opponent, so I am surprised that a young man has bought in to so many failed ideas. Like others before him, he seems to think government is the answer to every problem; that government should take our resources and make our decisions for us. That type of change doesn’t trust Americans to know what is right or what is in their own best interests. It’s the attitude of politicians who are sure of themselves but have little faith in the wisdom, decency and common sense of free people. That attitude created the unresponsive bureaucracies of big government in the first place. And that’s not change we can believe in.

Emphasis mine.

That’s a pretty ballsy thing to say in New Orleans. I guess McCain is really serious about dealing with unresponsive bureaucracies, right?

Mccainkatrina

Hmmmm.  Not so much.  (H/T and graphic from The Talent Show)

Yeah, I Know It’s Over. And It’s Just Beginning.

I’m sure by now everyone knows it’s over.  So what can I blog about?

The historic significance of the first African-American presidential candidate?  Yeah, but you know that, too, unless you live under a rock.

Will the Democratic party unify?  Yes.

Will Hillary be VP?  I don’t know yet.

That said, now that we’re at a new starting line politically, it’s probably a good time to see where the two candidates stand.  Obama has the edge:

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama holds a six point lead over his Republican counterpart John McCain, a new CBS News poll finds. Obama leads McCain 48 percent to 42 percent among registered voters, with 6 percent of respondents undecided.

The poll contains troubling signs for Obama as he looks to mobilize the Democratic Party behind him following his long and sometimes bitter battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, however.

Twelve percent of Democrats say they will support McCain in the general election. That’s higher than the 8 percent of Democrats who defected to President Bush in 2004. Nearly a quarter of Clinton supporters say they will back McCain instead of Obama in the general election.

Right now, Obama is ahead even though he has only one-quarter of the Clinton supporters.  That number will slowly but surely rise.

Other factors in the poll also portend bad news for McCain:

* Bush: The president’s approval rating is down to a stunning 25%, and “more than four in ten voters believe McCain would, indeed, generally continue Mr. Bush’s policies.”

* Favorability: Obama has a favorable/unfavorable rating of 41/31. McCain’s numbers are 34/37.

* Age: Nearly one-in-three voters believe McCain’s age (he’ll be 72 this year) will be an obstacle to his effectiveness as president.

* Caring about voters’ problems: While Obama and McCain are even on sharing voters’ values, poll respondents were also asked if the candidate care about voters’ problems. On this, Obama led McCain by 16 points.

* Age: Most Americans seem to reject McCain’s approach to Iraq altogether.

Sixty-one percent say Iraq will never become a stable democracy – the highest number since CBS News starting asking the question in December 2003. Just one third think Iraq will become a stable democracy, and most of them think that will take longer than two years.

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed say things are going well in Iraq, down from 40 percent in April. Sixty-two percent say things are going badly.

Americans would like U.S. troops to come home from Iraq sooner rather than later. 42 percent are willing to have U.S. troops remain in Iraq for only a year or less. 21 percent say troops should stay for one to two years more, while 30 percent are willing to keep troops in Iraq longer than two years.

So you gotta be happy with that.

UPDATE:  What Digby said, in a post entitled "Coda":

As to what happens next, you all know that I believe this is the Democrats’ year and I think that as soon as everyone licks their wounds and takes a little rest and, more importantly, sees what the Republicans are going to unleash on Obama and the Democratic party, we will all make our way back together. As I wrote the other night, I think both of the leaders need to do their part to make that happen, and I expect they will, for both personal and political reasons.

Finally, whoever you supported in this race and however your feel about the candidates, there still remains the problem of our sick, sick political media and that’s something that the blogosphere — as alternative media — need to sort through. I know that many of you have felt that this campaign’s coverage wasn’t as bad as I have painted it. But I think that when we look back on this we will see that it was yet another disgraceful performance on the part of our mainstream media (and, alas, our "liberal" media as well.) There is a lot to be written about that and I’m hopeful we can all look at this with clear eyes once we take a breather.

Clinton will officially end suspend the campaign on Friday, (which is perfectly in keeping with the usual timing of these things contrary to the gasbags’ ahistorical and overwrought blathering of last night.) We will see what the Republicans have in store for us. And maybe we can start behaving like ourselves again. Family fights are always painful, but they are usually easily healed as well. Here’s to the end of the Long March of 2008. It’s been real.

Obama’s Not A Very Good Muslim

John McCain on May 9, 2008:

John McCain has offered a creative new justification for the use of Obama’s alleged endorsement by Hamas as an issue in the campaign: Even though Obama clearly has nothing in common with the organization, people will care about it, anyway.

"It’s very obvious to everyone that Senator Obama shares nothing of the values or goals of Hamas, which is a terrorist organization," McCain said. "But it’s also a fact that a spokesperson from Hamas said that he approves of Obama’s candidacy. I think that’s of interest to the American people."

Reality on June 4, 2008:

The Islamist Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip slammed a speech by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Wednesday, saying it confirmed US "hostility" to Arabs and Muslims.

"We consider the statements of Obama to be further evidence of the hostility of the American administration to Arabs and Muslims," Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP

Where’s George?

Went to the vending machine, and notices that my $1 bill had the following stamp on it:

Track this bill www.wheresgeorge.com

So I used a different bill to get my soda. 

I then went to my computer, went to the website, and entered the bill’s serial number.

One Dollar Bill, Serial# C9439—5D Series: 2001
This bill has travelled 383 Miles in 3 Yrs, 23 Days, 12 Hrs, 9 Mins at an average of 0.34 Miles per day.   
It is now 383 Miles from its starting location.
This list is in reverse-chronological order
Entry Time
(Local Time of Zip)
Location, State/Province
(Green=USA, Blue=Canada, Purple=International)
Travel Time
(from previous entry)
Distance
(Miles)*
Average
Speed
(Miles
Per Day)
Send
Anon
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05-Jun-08 10:08 AM Pfafftown, NC 3 Yrs, 23 Days, 12 Hrs, 9 Mins 383 0.34
13-May-05 09:59 PM Mays Landing, NJ Initial Entry n/a n/a

Good to know.