Monthly Archives: April 2009

Obama’s Press Conference — Literally No Fireworks

Media Matters:

Here's what the following media figures and outlets had to say about Obama's April 29 press conference:

  • During the April 29 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Karl Rove said that the press conference "was boring," "flat" and "dull." He later stated: "There were a couple of very important moments in it — I don't deny that — but it was a boring, boring news conference."
  • During CNN's coverage of the press conference, contributor Ed Rollins stated: "I thought his opening statement was perfect. You know, what bothers me a little bit about it: As it goes on, it gets a little bit more boring. And, you know, you need to hold that attention span a good half-hour, a good 45 minutes. The answers are a little long. He doesn't know how to turn and pivot off of them. But nothing incorrect that I heard, it just — it gets a little boring."
  • On MSNBC's Hardball Late Night, host Chris Matthews asked political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell: "Why, Lawrence, are these press conferences that this guy holds so frighteningly boring?" He added: "Why does everybody act like they're in a sepulchre of some kind? They're so dutiful, it's boring beyond death."
  • During the April 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson stated, "I suddenly woke up from nodding off" when Obama was asked by a New York Times reporter "what had 'enchanted' him."

The movie Network wonderfully lampooned the merging of the "news" division with the "entertainment" division of major television networks.  Sadly, I think many so-called "journalists" would look at Network now, and just not "get it".

Guess what?  These press conferences consist of the President of the United States talking about the recession, flu pandemics, and torture (among other things).  It's serious stuff for serious people.  It's not supposed to be "American Idol".  Idiots.

Condi Invokes The Nixon Defense

Condi Rice, speaking to students at Stanford University:

Q: Is waterboarding torture?

RICE: The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture. So that's — And by the way, I didn't authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department's clearance. That's what I did.

Q: Okay. Is waterboarding torture in your opinion?

RICE: I just said, the United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

Yeah, we've heard that before:

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North Carolina Rep: Matthew Shepard Incident Was a “Hoax”

You will recall that Matthew Shepard was the young gay man in Laramie, Wyoming who, a decade ago, was tied to a fence, Jesus-like, pistol whipped in the head some 50 times, then left for dead in the cold fall night, only to be found a day later clinging to life. Shepard died five days later.

Here is what this state's Republican representative, Virginia Foxx, had to say about Shepard's horrific murder:

If you didn't vote for this bill — against this bill and against this rule for anything else, you could vote against it because we are spending additional money. I also would like to point out that there was a bill — the hate crimes bill that's called the Matthew Shepard bill is named afte a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. it wasn't because he was gay. this — the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.

Now read what really happened:

During the trial, Chastity Pasley and Kristen Price (the pair's then-girlfriends) testified under oath that Henderson and McKinney both plotted beforehand to rob a gay man. McKinney and Henderson then went to the Fireside Lounge and selected Shepard as their target. McKinney alleged that Shepard asked them for a ride home. After befriending him, they took him to a remote area of Laramie where they robbed him, beat him severely (media reports often contained the graphic account of the pistol whipping and his smashed skull), and tied him to a fence with a rope from McKinney's truck. Shepard begged for his life. Both girlfriends also testified that neither McKinney nor Henderson was under the influence of drugs at the time. The beating was so severe that the only areas on Shepard's face that were not covered in blood were those where his tears had washed the blood stains away.

This is why Virginia Foxx was Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World".  And here's the "Hardball" takedown:

UPDATE:  Foxx released a statement today, backtracking from her earlier statement (sort of), attributing it as "a poor choice of words":

"It has come to my attention that some people have been led to believe that I think the terrible crimes that led to Matthew Shepard's death in 1998 were a hoax," she said. "The term "hoax" was a poor choice of words used in the discussion of the hate crimes bill. Mr. Shepard's death was nothing less than a tragedy and those responsible for his death certainly deserved the punishment they received.

"The larger context of my remarks is important. I was referring to a 2004 ABC 20/20 report on Mr. Shepard's death. The 20/20 report questioned the motivation of those responsible for Mr. Shepard's death. Referencing this media account may have been a mistake, but if so it was a mistake based on what I believed were reliable accounts."

So she apologizes for the use of the word "hoax", but (apparently) stands by her belief that the death of Matthew Shepard was not gay-hatred motivated.

As for the "2004 ABC 20/20 report"?  Well, that was a report where three people claimed that the killing of Matt Shepard was not out of gay hatred.  Those three people were: (1)  James McKinney (one of Shepard's killers); (2) Russell Henderson (the other killer); and (3) Kristen Price (McKinney's girlfriend). 

Kristen Price is an interesting witness.  At the trail, Kristen Price had a different story: she testified under oath that the boys intended to rob a gay man.  And then there was Price's first interview with 20/20 in 1998, in which she said (of McKinney and Henderson's attack): "They just wanted to beat him bad enough to teach him a lesson, not to come on to straight people, and don’t be aggressive about it anymore."

So what are the "reliable accounts" that Foxx believes?  The two killers (model citizens, them) and the girlfriend who changes stories all the time.

Nuff said.

P.S.  When Foxx said those remarks on the House floor, Matthew Shepard's mother was sitting in the gallery (PDF).

Nice.

D'OH!!!!!:  I am corrected in the comments that Ginny Foxx is in the House, not the Senate!!!

Don’t Hold Your Breath

The Washington Post/ABC poll found 21% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans. The NYT/CBS poll put the number at 20%. NBC/WSJ also put the GOP number at 20%.

Nate Silver combines these and other polls to show party identification in this telling graph:

Partisan

That's the backdrop for this news from CNN:

Coming soon to a battleground state near you: a new effort to revive the image of the Republican Party and to counter President Obama's characterization of Republicans as "the party of 'no.'"

CNN has learned that the new initiative, called the National Council for a New America, will be announced Thursday.

It will involve an outreach by an interesting mix of GOP officials, ranging from 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and the younger brother of the man many Republicans blame for the party's battered brand: former President George W. Bush.

In addition to Sen. McCain and Gov. Bush, GOP sources familiar with the plans tell CNN others involved in the new group's "National Panel Of Experts" will include:

*Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former national GOP chairman
*Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
*Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

Blog_Party_Of_No John McCain, the failed presidential candidate, and Jeb Bush, brother of the disreputed ex-president, are going to help rebrand the GOP?

Into what?  This will be interesting.

I note, however, that the distinguished panel does not include the likes of people like Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee [UPDATE: The Politico reports that although Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) had been invited to the join the National Council for a New America, she has not responded to the request.] [UPDATE SIDEBAR:  Follow Sarah Palin on her new Twitter account!!!!]  I suspect that if the panel does anything concrete (big if, there), it will be to abandon social conservatives and wave goodbye to the GOP's stances against gay marriage, and maybe even abortion.

Though the letter announcing the National Council promised an "open policy debate" with "not a Republican-only forum," Cantor disputed the notion that the initiative is actually a move to shift the party away from far-right ideas. Speaking on CNN last night, Cantor admitted it is "not so much a rebranding effort," but an avenue to "begin to lay out the solutions that Republicans have."

More likely, the new GOP "brand" will be just the old one — emphasizing tax cuts, tax cuts, spending cuts, and tax cuts.

Of further interest: Conspicuously absent from the list of Republican heavyweights participating in the effort is current RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Steele was elected on a platform to rebrand the GOP, promising an "off the hook" public relations campaign. But after a string of missteps, conservatives are now pushing a resolution to revoke the Chairman's power to dole out money.

“Dead Certain”

Michael Goldfarb in the (conservative) Weekly Standard writes:

Tonight President Obama said he was "absolutely convinced" that he had made the right decision in putting an end to the use of the harsh interrogation techniques employed by the Bush administration. After eight years of President Bush, it certainly is refreshing to have a leader who doesn't let himself become entangled by complexity and nuance but instead has absolute certainty in the righteousness of his own decisions. Obama said that "we could have gotten this information in other ways — in ways that were consistent with our values, in ways that were consistent with who we are." Maybe, but we'll never know. And if there is another attack on this country, we'll never know whether a more aggressive interrogation approach might have averted it.

Obama's supple mind is still capable of nuance and complexity though, as evidenced by his answer to a question about abortion. Obama said abortion is "a moral issue and an ethical issue" and that women "struggle with these decisions each and every day." Our president is clearly troubled by abortion, but not so troubled he would outlaw the practice. Instead the president wants "to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies."

There's a striking contrast between these two answers. Perhaps Obama ought to try and think of waterboarding like he thinks of abortion — as something that ought to be kept safe, legal, and rare. A last resort when all else fails. Unfortunately, he's now painted himself into a corner on the issue.

This is a false analogy. 

Yes, both torture and abortion carry moral and ethical issues.  But the salient characteristic distinguishing those two hot topics is WHO gets to decide.  Torture of enemy combantents speaks to the values embodied in the national character; abortion speaks to the values embodied in the individual character.

Abortion, unlike torture, is not something that governments engage in (or, as the case may be, refuse to engage in).  When a woman chooses to have an abortion, it is not done in the government's name.  But the practice of waterboarding, carried about by my government, is carried out in my name. 

It is therefore within the province of the President to draw a bright un-nuanced line banning torture as a matter of national policy.  Abortion, controversial as it may be, does not fall within "national policy", in part because the choice of whether or not to have an abortion is fundamental to the concept of individual freedom.  That's the distinction.

NH SSM

Looks like my home state of New Hampshire might become the fifth state to recognize same-sex marriages.  Both houses have passed the bill, and I think the governor is going to sign it.

New Hampshire is a very strange breed politically.  On the one hand, it is very progressive — full of granola-eating environmentalists and new-agers (not unlike its western neighbor, Vermont).  On the other hand, it has become a haven for libertarians who rally around the whole "Live Free of Die" motto.  And although libertarians ought to be supporting gay marriage, the particular breed of libertarians in New Hampshire tends to be libertarian on gun and tax issues only — not so much on other issues of government intervention.  (The New York Times contradicts me on this point, I should note).

Anyway, it's not altogether surprising.  Maine is next, and it won't be long before New England (including New York) are all SSM-supporting.

Dickensian URL

Oh, sure.  You can reach this blog by going to

But you can also reach it by going to:

http://dickensurl.com/7b05/Under_an_accumulation_of_staggerers_no_man_can_be_considered_a_free_agent_No_man_knocks_himself_down_if_his_destiny_knocks_him_down_his_destiny_must_pick_him_up_again_down_if_his_destiny_knocks_him_down_his_destiny_must_pick_him_up_again

Under an accumulation of staggerers, no man can be considered a free agent. No man knocks himself down; if his destiny knocks him down, his destiny must pick him up again.

That's a quote from The Old Curiosity Shop

The First 100 Days

Instead of reflecting on Obama's first 100 days, let's reflect on Fox News's first 100 days of the Obama administration:

At last night's press conference, Obama took questions from every major news outlet — CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC — and a few other outlets (like BET), but he didn't go to the FOX News reporter. 

Well, why should he?  After all, Fox News didn't even carry the live press conference last night.  That's right — after spending days talking about Obama's First 100 Days, Fox didn't even carry his press conference about those first 100 days.

I think we can now put to rest any myth that Fox News engages in actual "news".  Although for most of us, we knew this a long time ago.

Photo Of The Day

Actually, it's a week old.  It's President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama participate in tree plantings at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington.

Except, the look on the First Lady's face is priceless: "Oh, I see.  Too high-and-mighty to pick up a shovel, Mr. President Bigshot???"

3484051945_f077205a97

Bachmania!

Time to spread a little lovin' once again to "America's Worst Legislator"TM, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN).

First of all, she weighs in with her thoughts about the swine flu pandemic alert:

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter," said Bachmann. "And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

Interesting coincidence?  How?  If you're not blaming this on President Obama, then what is your point, Congresswoman?

Oh, and by the way, the swine flu outbreak occured in 1976…. under President Gerald Ford.

And earlier this week, Bachmann took the House floor to give a speech:

"As a matter of fact, the recession that FDR had to deal with wasn't as bad as the recession Coolidge had to deal with in the early 20s. Yet, the prescription that Coolidge put on that — from history — is lower taxes, lower regulatory burden, and we saw the 'Roaring 20s,' where we saw markets and growth in the economy like we'd never seen before in the history of the country. FDR applied just the opposite formula. The Hoot-Smalley Act, which was a tremendous burden on tariff restrictions. And then, of course, trade barriers, and the regulatory burden and tax barriers. That's what we saw happen under FDR that took a recession and blew it into a full-scale depression. The American people suffered for almost ten years under that kind of thinking."

Now, what is interesting about this is that she was reading from a prepared script, so she obviously had done some research.  

Or maybe not.

First of all, there was never such a thing called "the Hoot-Smalley Act".

Secondly, "a tremendous burden on tariff restrictions"?  What the fuck does that mean?

Now, there was something passed during the Great Depression called the Smoot-Hawley Act, and it did exacerbate the bad economic conditions.  Except that FDR didn't pass it.  It was signed into law by Herbert Hoover, a Republican, in June 1930.  And the bill was sponsored by Sen. Reed Smoot and Rep. Willis Hawley.  They were both… yes, you guessed it… Republicans.  FDR showed up on the scene almost 3 years later, in March 1933.

Finally, the notion that "FDR took a recession and blew it into a full-scale depression" is simply false — you don't need me to tell you how to read graphs….

Depression-GDP-output-2

Swine Flu — How Bad Is It?

Not bad, but not good.

The World Health Organization raised it to a Phase 4.  The U.S. stll has it at Stage 0, but expect that to go up tomorrow.

574px-FedFluPandemicResponse

P.S.  Yes, I know I'm blogging about this a lot.  I don't think we're at death's door, or the fall of civilization is imminent.  I just like the subject matter (I took a class in epidemilology once).  I understand that mass media is going apeshit over it, basically trying to get everyone to believe that we'll all die tomorrow.  Well, it IS sweeps week.

It’s Heeeeere…..(Maybe)

NC isolates patients who may have swine flu

An Open Letter To Rep. Susan Collins (R-Me)

Dear Rep. Collins:

Your website boasts that you led the fight to cut "$780 million" for pandemic-flu preparedness from Obama's stimulus package.

It kind of makes you look like a jerk now.

You're probably still wondering what pandemic-flu preparedness has to do with an economic recovery stimulus bill.  Sadly, I think you're about to find out.

But it was explained to you before:

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year's emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse — with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

But former White House political czar Karl Rove and key congressional Republicans — led by Maine Senator Susan Collins — aggressively attacked the notion that there was a connection between pandemic preparation and economic recovery.

It's kind of like when Bobby Jindel mocked the stimulus package for containing a few million for "volcano monitoring".  Jindel claimed to not know what the hell that was about, therefore (he reasoned) it must be pork.  Less than a month later, an Alaskan volcano erupted.  But we were able to protect lives and divert plane flights, etc., thanks to… volcano monitoring.

I know, I know.  You were just trying to attack the spending in the stimulus bill, because that's how you maintain your GOP cred. 

Thankfully, you lost that battle.

Love,

The Seventh Sense

P.S.  I don't know if you know the governor of Texas — Governor Rick "Texas Can Secede" Perry.  But if you see him, perhaps you can ask him why the supposedly "self-sufficient" state of Texas has to borrow all kinds of federal money to fight the swine flu outbreak, and what Texas would be doing right now if it were, as many Texans hope, a totally independent nation.

It seems to me that bashing the federal government for spending is in vogue with a lot of conservatives, but they're more than happy to take the money.

Crimes Committed During “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

People are compiling a list.  So far:

By Ferris

Truancy

Many many many moving violations

Odometer fraud (tampering): 49 U.S.C. § 32703(2)

Odometer fraud (conspiracy): 49 U.S.C. § 32703(4)

Computer tampering (when he changes his attendance record): 720 ILCS 5/Art. 16D – 3

Car theft

Disorderly conduct (jumping on parade float): 720 ILCS 5/26‑1

Copyright violation (singing "Twist and Shout" on said float)

Trespassing

By Cameron

Violation of 720 ILCS 5/32-5.1: False Impersonation of a Peace Officer. A person who knowingly and falsely represents himself or herself to be a peace officer commits a Class 4 felony. (At the restaurant, on the phone with the Maitre D' he says, "This is Sgt. Peterson, Chicago Police.")

By Mulroony

Failure to report suspected child abuse (on thinking that Sloane and her dad had an incestuous relationship): 325 ILCS 5; see also 720 ILCS 640

Breaking and entering 

Rightwing Extremists Are Dangerous? Naaaaah…..

For a couple of weeks now, right-wingers have been all upset about a report issued by the Homeland Security Office which makes the argument that right-wing extremists are potentially dangerous, and we should watch them.  Example of this include Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph, who committed acts of terrorism in Oklahoma City and at the Olympics in Atlanta, respectively.

Somehow, right-wingers interpreted this warning about right-wing extremists to be about, you know, them, as if they don't undertand what the word "extremist" means. 

So bloggers took to their keyboards and ranted. 

And not just bloggers.

Here's a tweet from someone SO angry at the insinuation that the Homeland Security thinks that right-wing extremists are a threat that he…. well, you can read what he tweeted just before going to a teabag protest on April 15:

Twitter-teabagger 

That was April 15.  A few days earlier, he had tweeted:

Twitterthreat4-26-09

Yeah.  Way to prove the DHS's point, wingnut.

Fortunately, there's a happy ending:

An Oklahoma City man who allegedly threatened on Twitter to turn a tax protest into a massacre has been arrested on suspicion of making interstate threats in what is believed to be the first federal prosecution based on posts made to the micro-blogging site.

The FBI arrested Daniel Knight Hayden, 52, after agents identified him as Twitter user CitizenQuasar. Using the micro-blogging site, Hayden allegedly threatened to start a "war" against the government at the Oklahoma City Capitol where a "Tea Party" tax protest was planned.

"START THE KILLING NOW! I am willing to be the FIRST DEATH!," read a message posted at 8:01 p.m. on April 11, which was followed by, "After I am killed on the Capitol Steps, like a REAL man, the rest of you will REMEMBER ME!!!" Another post said: "I really don' give a (expletive) anymore. Send the cops around. I will cut their heads off the heads and throw the(m) on the State Capitol steps."

No word yet from Michelle Malkin.

I'm sorry that there is a fringe element to both the right AND the left, but one cannot deny it.  The problem is that the fringe element on the right tends to, you know, ARM itself.  This Oklahoma City guy isn't the only one on the tip of the iceberg.  Why, just yesterday, it happened again – this time, in Okaloosa County, Florida.

On Sunday, lawmen still were investigating why Joshua Cartwright, a 28-year-old U.S. Army Reserve soldier with a history of violence, killed Okaloosa County sheriff's deputies Burt Lopez and Warren "Skip" York at a gun range in Crestview.

A few minutes after he killed the deputies, Cartwright was himself killed in a shootout with lawmen in DeFuniak Springs […]

An offense report filed against Cartwright the day he died outlines an angry husband who threatened his wife, kept guns and knives on hand, was "severely disturbed" that Barack Obama had been elected president, and believed the U.S. government was conspiring against him.

When you have guys with guns, and paranoia-feeders like Glenn Beck, this is what you have to expect.  And the DHS really does have to monitor this.

Drama Desk Nominees

I'm going to be in NY when these are given out.  Maybe I'll try to get tix.  9 To 5 got the most nominations (15), including an "Outstanding Actress" nomination for all three women.

Nominees for the 54th Annual Drama Desk Awards follow:

Outstanding Play:
Annie Baker, Body Awareness
Gina Gionfriddo, Becky Shaw
Neil LaBute, reasons to be pretty
Lynn Nottage, Ruined
Michael Weller, Fifty Words
Craig Wright, Lady

Outstanding Musical:
9 to 5
Billy Elliot The Musical
Fela!
Liza's at the Palace….
Shrek The Musical
The Story of My Life

Outstanding Revival of a Play:
Blithe Spirit
Exit the King
Mary Stuart
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Norman Conquests
Waiting for Godot

Outstanding Revival of a Musical:
Enter Laughing The Musical
Hair
Pal Joey
West Side Story

Outstanding Actor in a Play:
Simon Russell Beale, The Winter's Tale
Reed Birney, Blasted
Raúl Esparza, Speed-The-Plow
Bill Irwin, Waiting for Godot
Daniel Radcliffe, Equus
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski, reasons to be pretty

Outstanding Actress in a Play:
Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Ruined
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Elizabeth Marvel, Fifty Words
Jan Maxwell, Scenes From an Execution
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart

Outstanding Actor in a Musical:
James Barbour, A Tale of Two Cities
Daniel Breaker, Shrek The Musical
Brian d'Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Josh Grisetti, Enter Laughing The Musical
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!
Will Swenson, Hair

Outstanding Actress in a Musical:
Stephanie J. Block, 9 to 5
Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Megan Hilty, 9 to 5
Allison Janney, 9 to 5
Karen Murphy, My Vaudeville Man!

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play:
Brian d'Arcy James, Port Authority
Jeremy Davidson, Back Back Back
Peter Friedman, Body Awareness
Ethan Hawke, The Winter's Tale
Pablo Schreiber, reasons to be pretty (Off-Broadway)
Jeremy Shamos, Animals Out of Paper

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play:
Rebecca Hall, The Cherry Orchard
Zoe Kazan, The Seagull
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Andrea Martin, Exit the King
Carey Mulligan, The Seagull
Condola Rashad, Ruined

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical:
Hunter Foster, Happiness
Demond Green, The Toxic Avenger
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5
Bryce Ryness, Hair
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical:
Farah Alvin, The Marvelous Wonderettes
Christina Bianco, Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Nancy Opel, The Toxic Avenger
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey

Outstanding Director of a Play:
Sarah Benson, Blasted
Michael Blakemore, Blithe Spirit
Garry Hynes, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Terry Kinney, reasons to be pretty
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests
Kate Whoriskey, Ruined

Outstanding Director of a Musical:
Walter Bobbie, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot The Musical
Joe Mantello, 9 to 5
Jason Moore, Shrek The Musical
Diane Paulus, Hair
Stuart Ross, Enter Laughing The Musical

Outstanding Choreography:
Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Shonn Wiley, My Vaudeville Man!

Outstanding Music:
Neil Bartram, The Story of My Life
Zina Goldrich, Dear Edwina
Elton John, Billy Elliot The Musical
Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
Stephen Sondheim, Road Show
Jeanine Tesori, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Lyrics:
Neil Bartram, The Story of My Life
Jason Robert Brown, 13
Marcy Heisler, Dear Edwina
David Lindsay-Abaire, Shrek The Musical
Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
Stephen Sondheim, Road Show

Outstanding Book of a Musical:
Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis, This Beautiful City
Joe DiPietro, The Toxic Avenger
Lee Hall, Billy Elliot The Musical
Brian Hill, The Story of My Life
David Lindsay-Abaire, Shrek The Musical
Patricia Resnick, 9 to 5

Outstanding Orchestrations:
Larry Blank, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Bruce Coughlin, 9 to 5
Aaron Johnson and Antibalas, Fela!
Edward B. Kessel, A Tale of Two Cities
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot The Musical
Danny Troob, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Music in a Play:
Mark Bennett, The Cherry Orchard
Mark Bennett, The Winter's Tale
Dominic Kanza, Ruined
DJ Rekha, Rafta, Rafta…
Richard Woodbury, Desire Under the Elms
Gary Yershon, The Norman Conquests

Outstanding Set Design of a Play:
Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
David Korins, Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Neil Patel, Fifty Words
Walt Spangler, Desire Under the Elms

Outstanding Set Design of a Musical:
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Anna Louizos, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Thomas Lynch, Happiness
Scott Pask, 9 to 5
Scott Pask, Hair
Basil Twist, Arias With a Twist

Outstanding Costume Design:
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
William Ivey Long, 9 to 5
Michael McDonald, Hair
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Carrie Robbins, Irving Berlin's White Christmas

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play:
Marcus Doshi, Hamlet (Theatre for a New Audience)
David Hersey, Equus
Ben Kato, Washing Machine
R. Lee Kennedy, Bury the Dead
Paul Pyant, The Winter's Tale
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical:
Kevin Adams, Hair
Jules Fisher and Kenneth Posner, 9 to 5
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot The Musical
Jason Lyons, Clay
Sinéad McKenna, Improbable Frequency
Richard Pilbrow, A Tale of Two Cities

Outstanding Sound Design:
Acme Sound Partners, Irving Berlin's White Christmas
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot The Musical
Gregory Clarke, Equus
John Gromada, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself)
André J. Pluess, 33 Variations
John H. Shivers, 9 to 5

Outstanding Solo Performance:
Mike Birbiglia, Sleepwalk With Me
Frank Blocker, Southern Gothic Novel
Michael Laurence, Krapp, 39
Lorenzo Pisoni, Humor Abuse
Matt Sax, Clay
Campbell Scott, The Atheist

Unique Theatrical Experience:
Absinthe (2008 Edition)
Arias With a Twist
Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words
Désir
Soul of Shaolin
Surrender

Sick As A Pig

I've been fighting (and losing) this battle with the flu the past few days, and naturally, it did cross my mind as to whether this is of the swine flu variety.  It's not (I just have achy head and sneezing and coughing)

But the World Health Organization has called the swine flu epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern."  So it is incumbent on us to know what we're talking about here.  So here's a little PSA FAQ from CNN:

Q. What is swine flu?

A. Swine influenza, or flu, is a contagious respiratory disease that affects pigs. It is caused by a type-A influenza virus. Outbreaks in pigs occur year-round.

The most common version is H1N1. The current strain is a new variation of an H1N1 virus, which is a mix of human and animal versions.

Q. Does swine flu affect humans?

A. While the virus causes regular outbreaks in pigs, people usually are not struck by swine flu. However, there have been instances of the virus spreading to people — and then from one person to another. The only difference is, says the CDC, transmission in the past did not spread beyond three people — as it has done this time.

Q. What is behind the spread of the virus this time?

A. Researchers do not know yet know. People usually get swine flu from infected pigs. For example, farmers handling infected pigs can contract the virus. However, some human cases have occurred without contact with pigs or places they inhabited.

Q. What are the symptoms of swine flu?

A. The symptoms are similar to the common flu. They include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Q. How does the virus spread?

A. The virus spreads the same way the seasonal flu does. When an infected person coughs or sneezes around another person, the latter is put at risk. People can become infected by touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. An infected person can pass the virus to another before any symptoms even develop.

Q. Why is this spread troubling?

A. Scientists are concerned whenever a new virus is able to jump from an animal to a person — and then spread from person to person. When the flu spreads person to person, it can continue to mutate, making it harder to treat or fight off.

The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak has "pandemic potential," and has urged governments to take precautions to prevent its spread. If the virus continues to mutate, drug makers won't be able to come up with vaccines fast enough.

Q. Can swine flu be fatal?

A. Just like the regular flu, swine flu worsens pre-existing medical conditions in people. So people with already compromised immune systems can die after contracting it.

Q. But doesn't the common flu kill more people?

A. Yes, common seasonal flu kills 250,000 to 500,000 people every year. But what worries officials is that a new strain of the flu virus can spread fast because people do not have natural immunity and vaccines can take months to develop.

Q. Have there been swine flu outbreaks in the past?

A. From 2005 to January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the United States, without deaths occurring, the CDC said. In September 1988, a healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died a week later. And in 1976, a swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey, caused more than 200 illnesses and one death.

Q. What does the World Health Organization mean when it says swine flu has "pandemic potential"?

A. If the virus spreads over a wide geographic area and affects a large segment of the population, it is upgraded from an "epidemic" to a "pandemic."

Q. How deadly have pandemics been in the past?

A. In 1968, a "Hong Kong" flu pandemic killed about 1 million people worldwide. And in 1918, a "Spanish" flu pandemic killed as many as 100 million people.

Q. How can one keep from getting swine flu?

A. There are no vaccines available. But several everyday steps can help prevent the spread of germs: Washing hands frequently; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and avoiding touching surfaces that might be contaminated.

Q. Are there medicines to treat swine flu?

A. Yes, the CDC recommends using anti-viral drugs. They keep the virus from reproducing inside the body. And in an infected person, the drugs make the illness milder.

Q. Can one contract swine flu from eating or preparing pork?

A. No. Pork and other pig-derived products, if properly handled and cooked, do not transmit swine flu. The flu virus is killed by cooking temperatures of 160°F (70°C).

Last Week’s News Auto-tuned

 

The best part is the duet with Katie Couric…..

Lyrics:

You gotta do it like this. Shawty, ready, set, go!
RM: This was a pretty remarkable week on the gay marriage front
First of all, to have a state like Iowa
MG: What you tryna say about Iowa
RM: Not the east coast state
MG: East coast
RM: Not the left coast state
MG: Left coast
RM: In a decision written by a republican appointee
MG: shawty, now you sounding so fine
Give me your number, we can bump and grind
Talkin about politics all night
Leavin the club in the mornin light
If we get carred away
We might get gay-married today

CP: In my country, a marriage should be between a man and a woman
No offense to anybody out there
MG: Uh…dude, what the hell?

KC: We just heard from some of our viewers who strongly support legalizing marijuana
MG: Shawty, 5 of those calls was from me
KC: Do you think we should legalize pot alone or all drugs, including heroine, cocaine, and meth?
MG: My brain says no, but my body says yes!

KC: At the North Pole, new satellite photos show arctic ice is melting so fast
AG: Oh snap, how fast?
KC: Many scientists now believe it will be gone within 30 years
AG: Surely you jest! I'm under cardiac arrest, shawty
KC: Some researchers think it could disappear in just six
AG: Shit!
KC: Without it there could be a snowball effect
AG: Oh
KC: With temperatures rising even faster
If we all don't take bold action and take it fast
AG: Yeah,
Both: We will find ourselves on very thin ice

MG: Tell em, Hillary, pirates on very thin ice
HC: These pirates are criminals 
They are armed gangs on the sea
MG: That means the ocean
HC: The United States does not make concessions
Or ransom payments to pirates

MG: Hello, shawty, we can meet up at the mall
Browse around at the bookstore
Mentally ball until we fall
Love you, too, grandmom

Peggy Noonan’s Moral Compass

Peggy Noonan, December 21. 1998:

"The Democrats had long labeled the impeachment debate a distraction from the urgent business of a great nation. But the Republicans argued that the pursuit of justice is the business of a great nation. In winning this point, they caught the falling flag, producing a triumph for the rule of law, a reassertion of the belief that no man is above it, and a rebuke for an arrogance that had grown imperial."

Peggy Noonan, April 19, 2009

"It’s hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, ‘Oh, much good will come of that.’ Sometimes in life you want to keep walking… Some of life has to be mysterious."

In other words, when the issue is perjury in a civil suit about a blowjob, it is important to remember that we are a nation of laws, and no man is above the law.

But when the issue is war crimes, well, let's just look the other way, because the ickiness of the truth is more important than adherence to the law.

[H/T Sully]

 

What Krugman Said

Outstanding column today:

[T]here are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis.  Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford?

No, it isn’t, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for…

…what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.

We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.

Three Things Weighing On My Mind This Morning

(1) Listening to BBC World News on the way in to work, I've learned that I have been tying my shoelaces wrong all these years.

(2) Why is Del Shores following my tweets?

(3) The vending machine at work has Baby Back Rib-flavored potato chips.  Since when are potatos supposed to taste like ribs?

UPDATE:  But somehow, the idea that you can buy cereal marshmallowsjust the marshmallows – makes my day.

An Open Letter To Miss California

Dear Miss Prejean:

You are entitled to your views.  However, you need to understand that those views are offensive to many people, including some of those people who made you what you are.

"Made you what you are".  I mean that literally.

Because it seems that you have benefitted from a gay man — the guy who gave you your boobs (if I am reading this article's innuendo correctly).  One wonders if you would have advanced up to runner-up had it not been for him.

That's right.  Your supporters like to harp, "she would’ve won if she hadn’t expressed her honest views”.  But it's no stretch at all to credit your achievement in the pageant, perhaps even your entry, to a gay man.  Without him, you may not have been able to express your honest views in the first place.

I think the only proper thing for you to do, since you don't believe in teh gay and all, is to give those boobs back.

Yours,

The Seventh Sense

Change We’re Believing

For the first time since 2004, most Americans think we're going in the right direction.

[T]he percentage of Americans saying the country is headed in the right direction rose to 48 percent, up from 40 percent in February. Forty-four percent say the nation is on the wrong track.

Not since January 2004, shortly after the capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has an AP survey found more "right direction" than "wrong direction" respondents. The burst of optimism didn't last long in 2004.

And it doesn't happen much.

Other than that blip five years ago, pessimism has trumped optimism in media polls since shortly after the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003.

The "right track" number topped "wrong direction" for a few months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to non-AP media polls, and for several months late in the Clinton administration.

So far, Obama has defied the odds by producing a sustained trend toward optimism. It began with his election.

In October 2008, just 17 percent said the country was headed in the right direction. After his victory, that jumped to 36 percent. It dipped a bit in December but returned to 35 percent around the time of his inauguration and has headed upward since.

What is extremely remarkably about the nation's optimism is that it arrives at a time when Americans have every reason to be very pessimistic.  This is not "the era of good feeling"; we're in crisis mode.  And yet, the majority is optimistic.

Take that, teabaggers.

Stipulation

Can we all at least agree that "torture" doesn't become "not torture" by virtue of the fact that the victim provides information?

President Bush got on the world stage and said, "We do not torture".  Now, it is beyond all doubt that we did conduct torture.  The response from Bush defenders (and Cheney himself) is that we got good information from it that saved lives.

Well, then what is their argument?  "We do torture, but it's okay (since we get something from it)"?  If that's their argument, they should say so, even if it exposes Bush as a liar.  Why can't those few still supporting the interrogation tactics just say that?

By the way…. last week, conservatives were complaining Obama was establishing a socialistic fascist dictatorship.

This week, conservatives are complaining Obama does not want to torture his opponents.

Go figure.

UPDATE:  Publius echoes my sentiments:

Via Andrew Sullivan, Steve Chapman raises a really good point – there’s simply no way that the effectiveness of torture can solely justify its use.  And I think he poses a difficult logical problem for torture supporters.

Chapman notes that if “effectiveness” is all we care about, any form of torture would necessarily be ok.  One could, for instance, drag in a detainee’s child and begin torturing him or her in front of the detainee.  I assume that even the most hardened torture advocates would draw a line there.  If they didn’t, that tells you pretty much all you need to know.

But if they do concede that certain methods go too far (i.e., that such things are relevant), then they’re stuck having to argue that the methods we used simply aren’t that bad.  In other words, if they concede a line exists, then they’re forced to argue that these methods don’t cross it.

And defending these methods seems very difficult, if not completely disingenuous.  I mean, it requires saying that heinous acts like slamming heads into walls, waterboarding, stress positions, striking faces, and locking people up in small boxes are all ok.  And remember – those are just the formally legalized tactics.  They exclude the grotesque acts that these tactics inevitably mutated into – things like murders and electrodes to testicles at Abu Ghraib.

All in all, it’s a fairly clarifying debate – one that will be remembered for some time.

At Long Last, A Good Use Of Twitter

Celebrities tweet.  Politicians tweet.  News organizations tweet.  It seems that everyone (yes, me too) has something to tweet.

And that's fine by me.  Say what you want to say, and praise God that you must to do it in 140 charactors or less.

But I wouldn't argue that there is much social utility to Twitter.  It's just this… thing that's out there.  Use it, don't use it, follow tweets, don't follow tweets.  But why the obsessive media focus about Twitter? Seriously, who gives a damn?  Who gives a damn if Ashton Kuscher has more twitter followers than CNN?

That said, it was nice to read this story, because it actually made me think that Twitter does have limited social utility, for a limited set of people:

Adam Wilson posted two messages on Twitter on April 15. The first one, "GO BADGERS," might have been sent by any University of Wisconsin-Madison student cheering for the school team.

His second post, 20 minutes later, was a little more unusual: "SPELLING WITH MY BRAIN."

Wilson, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering, was confirming an announcement he had made two weeks earlier — his lab had developed a way to post messages on Twitter using electrical impulses generated by thought.

That's right, no keyboards, just a red cap fitted with electrodes that monitor brain activity, hooked up to a computer flashing letters on a screen. Wilson sent the messages by concentrating on the letters he wanted to "type," then focusing on the word "twit" at the bottom of the screen to post the message.

The development could be a lifeline for people with "locked-in syndrome" — whose brains function normally but who cannot speak or move because of injury or disease.

I just hope that this technological breakthrough will be permitted only for the handicapped.  The last thing I want is for people to tweet merely by thinking.

For Today Is “Talk Like Shakespeare” Day, Brothers…

Shakespeare

… and he who sheds common parlance for that of the Stratford bard shall be my brother.

Thou recollects an army of good words are penned of habit upon the annual pirate's day.  And joy it doth bring to chroniclers of daily online musings.

But lo, the sheen of such a venture darkens upon the news of a forenight past, when made-and-true pirates from the dark continent boarded a vessel and hostaged her stalwart captain.  And tho the king's sharpshooters laid low the cold-hearted sea-heathens, piracy talk has lost its merriment.

But weep not, for a newish fad abounds.  'Tis "Talk Like Shakespeare" Day that we now herald.

Wouldst thou deign to be understood in such a task?  Then heed you these rules:

  1. Instead of you, say thou. Instead of y’all, say thee.
  2. Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
  3. Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
  4. Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back’d toads.
  5. Don’t waste time saying "it," just use the letter "t" (’tis, t’will, I’ll do’t).
  6. Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
  7. When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
  8. To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
  9. When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer’s day. If that fails, say "Get thee to a nunnery!"
  10. When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

Presently, thou may witness thine actors doing exceedingly fine homage to the Bard, excerpted from their satirical abridgement.  By way of the YouTube ThouTube (in offense of the king's copyright laws, methinks), the jesters speak folly thusly:

 

Earth Day

P1060120-thumb-465x310 

Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, Nevada, taken last week. The “bathtub ring” records the water level less than a decade ago. Until recently, there was a “No Fishing” sign on the cantilevered pier. The road on the left was carved from what used to be lakebed. The triangle-shaped hill in the upper right is Pyramid Island, although it’s no longer an island. The protruding landform in the upper left is Saddle Island—also no longer an island. The water volume of the lake is down by more than half since 2000. The Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates that it will be significantly lower by July. The main reasons for this are declining snowmelt and increased water use for irrigated agriculture.

Any questions?

Corporal Punishment In NC Schools: If We Can Beat Mules, Why Not Kids?

North Carolina is one of the few states that permits educators to hit students.  Although the practice has been banned by some school districts in this state, 60 of the 115 school districts think that a teacher walloping a kid is a good way to maintain discipline.

That has prompted legislation about corporal punishment in schools.  A bill is now making its way through the General Assembly this year, havind passed a House committee yesterday.  The bill would not outright abolish the practice though.  It just adds more notification and parental consent safeguards when a child is spanked at school. That's all the supporters of the bill thought they could get passed this year.  It will help a little, but striking kids in school will continue as long as parents agree.

The bill banning corporal punishment outright was brought last session, but it failed.  Hence, the watered-down version this year. Last session, officials with the North Carolina Association of Educators, the UNC School of Social Work and the North Carolina PTA all supported a corporal punishment ban. They talked about the culture created by corporal punishment administered by authority figures, the bad example it provides for kids, and the research that shows it is not an effective way to discipline children.

But opponents of the bill loved to brag, it seemed, about how much they were hit when they were young.  Rep. Ronnie Sutton, for example, told his colleagues that when he was growing up, he was "beaten like a rented mule once or twice a week at school."

What Sutton apparently didn't realize is that in today's world, it would be illegal to beat a rented mule once or twice a week.  We have animal cruelty laws.

It's not hard, therefore, to expect the same treatment and protections being given to children in schools.

This session's bill (PDF) passed the committee and now goes to the House floor.  Opponents are already objecting on the grounds that the bill requires each school district to compile stats on the number of times corporal punishment was administered, and furnish that info to the State Board of Education.  Opponents are calling this a "bookkeeping nightmare".  Yikes — you mean it happens that often?

Movie Deaths

Johnny Depp, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, and Bruce Willis.

(1)  Four of these guys have died nine times (and no more) in the movies.  Name them.

(2)  One of these guys died nine and a half times in the movies (i.e., he died ten times, but his character was resurrected from the dead in a sequel).  Name him.

(3)  One of these guys died eleven times in the movies.  Name him.

(4)  One of these guys died fourteen times in the movies.  Name him.

[Answers]

We Have Ways Of Making You Bolster Our Untenable Position

Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney wanted to find links betweel al Qaeda and Iraq, so they could make their case to the American people that invading Iraq was a proper response to 9/11.  They didn't have any evidence of links, but they wanted their Iraq War, so they tried to get that "evidence" out of terrorist suspects….by torture:

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

Torturing people to get the truth is repulsive.  But torturing people to get them to speak your vision of the truth is repulsive and fucked up.

Strip-Searching Students

Ah, the days when I used to write in detail about Supreme Court cases in this blog are long in the past.  A shame, really.

But the Supremes did happen to hear a rather interesting Fourth Amendment case yesterday.

I should preface by saying that the nation's highest court hears a lot of Fourth Amendment cases: in the neighborhood of 4 or 5 every year.  You would think that, by now, the law of searches and seizures would be pretty much set in stone.

But no.  Seems that fact patterns arise in the real world that test that gray area where the right to privacy runs headlong into the government need to prevent crime.

Such was the case yesterday, Safford United School District v. Redding.

Here are the underlying facts:

Savana Redding, had been subjected to a strip search in 2003 by school officials in Safford, Ariz. She was 13 and in eighth grade at the time.

The officials were acting on a tip from another student and were looking for prescription-strength ibuprofen, a painkiller. They made Ms. Redding strip to her underwear, shake her bra and pull aside her panties. The officials, both female, found no pills.

Ms. Redding, a model student, had never been in trouble with the law and never been so much as called to the principal's office.  The other student who provided the "tip" to school officials was a former friend of Ms. Redding (the two had drifted apart — the friend had fallen in with the goth crowd, while Ms. Redding was one of the goody-two-shoes).

The strip search traumatized Ms. Redding to the point where she eventually changed schools (she is now a freshman in college).

The Fourth Amendment protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures".  It's that word "unreasonable" that is always the sticking point in these kind of cases. 

Is it "unreasonable" for the government (i.e., school officials) to search for drugs in the possession of students — students for whom the govenment is responsible (at least during school hours)?

No.  And locker searches, for example, have been routinely upheld as constitutional.

But strip searches, obviously, are more invasive of one's privacy when compared to a locker search.

On the other hand, students now know that their lockers are subject to random searches.  So where do they hide drugs?  In their underwear.

So yesterday, the Supremes wrestled with this balance, as the two sides made their arguments before the bench.  SCOTUSblog reports on yesterday's events:

It was common for members of the Court — and, especially, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — to express discomfort with an Arizona prinicipal’s order for a close-to-naked search of a 13-year-old girl.  But that sentiment did not appear to be as strong as the concern that drugs may be so destructive for teenagers that some surer means of detecting them had to be acceptable under the Constitution.

No more telling illustration of the Court’s mood emerged than Justice David H. Souter — whose vote would almost have to be won for student privacy to prevail – expressing a preference for “a sliding scale of risk” that would add to search authority — including strip searching — based on how school officials assessed whether “sickness or death” was at stake.

“If the school official’s thought process,” Souter asked, “was ‘I’d rather have a kid embarrassed rather than some other kid dead,’ isn’t that reasonable under the Fourth Amendment?”  Stated in that stark way almost compelled agreement, without regard to whether a student singled out for a strip search was actually adding to such a risk, but was only the target of a classmate’s unverified tip.

Along with Souter, two other Justices whose votes might turn out to be crucial — Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy — were plainly more concerned about the drug problem than with student privacy. Both of those Justices, in past cases involving students and suspected drug use, have suggested that students’ rights were not very sturdy.

The Washington Post adds:

Souter asked Wright [representing the school district] why the court should accept his "blanket assumption" that the search for any contraband, even an aspirin, allows a strip search. "I mean, at some point it gets silly," he said.

Redding's attorney, Adam Wolf of the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed that the type of drug does not matter if school officials do not have specific reason to believe it is hidden in a student's underwear.

Kennedy seemed to find that hard to buy. "The hypothetical is that there is a very dangerous drug, meth, that's going to be distributed and consumed that afternoon," he told Wolf.

The same rules apply, Wolf replied. "The Fourth Amendment does not . . . countenance the rummaging on or around a 13-year-old girl's naked body," he said. In one of the many memorable, if not exactly legalistic, phrases uttered in the courtroom yesterday, Wolf said there was a "certain ick factor" in the school officials' actions.

Justice Breyer also confessed that when he was in high school, he would (like all students) have to undress in the gym locker room, and things were often stuffed down "my underwear".  This led to a very un-judicial like laugh (especially from Clarence Thomas) — while Breyer tried to backtrack: "Uh… not my underwear".

It's hard to know where the Court will ultimately come down on this.  Clearly, they are not going to ban student strip searches altogether.  But then what?  What's the new constitutional guideline?

It's hard for me to think where I come down on this, too.  It seems to me that strip searches are (sadly) necessary and generally reasonable.  On the other hand, they really shouldn't be randomly conducted, like locker searches. 

There has to be, in my view, sufficient suspicion that a particular student is carrying drugs.  Is a "tip" from a fellow student enough?  Well, there it gets a little dicey.  Students will lie in order to "get" other students (this is precisely what happened to Ms. Redding).  I don't know.

Is there a less invasive way to search for drugs on the body of a student?  I suspect, for some drugs (remember, this case dealt with over-the-counter Ipuprofin) the obvious alternative — drug-sniffing dogs — won't work.

Tough call for the court.  It'll be interesting to see where they fall.

UPDATE:  Slate has a more colorful re-cap of yesterday's oral arguments, and also notes this:

On the courthouse steps after argument today, Redding is asked what she'd have wanted the school to do differently. "Call my mom first," she says.

Well, that seems perfectly reasonable.  I should have thought of that.

“Stop It Right Now Or I’ll Pull This Car Over And Let You Out”

Ah, the classic parental threat to the bickering kids in the back seat of the car.

One parent actually went through with the threat.  Result?  FAIL:

Madlyn Primoff, a 45-year-old Park Avenue lawyer, has been accused of doing just that Sunday evening in downtown White Plains, N.Y. Police say she ordered her two quarreling daughters from the car and drove away. One is 12, the other 10.

The 12-year-old ran after the car and was let in when she caught up. She and mom went home to Scarsdale, about 3 miles away.

The 10-year-old was left behind, crying. A passerby saw the girl, bought her ice cream and called the local police, who took her to the station.

The girl gave police her mother's name and their address, a $2 million house in well-to-do Scarsdale.

Soon after, Primoff called White Plains police to report her daughter missing. Police told her to come get her. Primoff was arrested when she showed up.

She pleaded not guilty yesterday to endangering the welfare of a child. A temporary order of protection was issued, barring her from contact with the girls.

Lesson to be learned for all you parents out there.

A Lie Can Get Halfway Around The World Before The Truth Can Get Its Boots On

An interesting article by Michael Tomasky in The Guardian looks out how a conservative meme — one that is blatently false — gets started and circulated. 

Tomasky was reading an interview with Newt Gingrich in which Gringrich said:

"You have Obama nominating Judge Hamilton, who said in her ruling that saying the words Jesus Christ in a prayer is a sign of inappropriate behavior, but saying Allah would be OK. You'll find most Republican senators voting against a judge who is confused about whether you can say Jesus Christ in a prayer, particularly one who is pro-Muslim being able to say Allah."

Who is Judge Hamilton, and did she say that the words "Jesus Christ" in a prayer are inappropriate, but "Allah" would be okay?

No, of course Judge Hamilton (who is a guy) didn't.  It's a bald-faced, out-and-out lie.  But what prompted Gingrich to say that — to even think that?

Tomasky tracked the lie to its source (some hyperbolic rightwing site) and, of course, he found the judge's opinion.  Interesting read.  Tomasky concludes:

What kind of person can say or write such blatant lies? And I'd like to report that this is unusual, but this kind of slippery illogic is standard operating procedure on today's right. Find something that might inflame opinion and stoke prejudice, and pump it. Doesn't matter that it isn't really true. By the time the other side explains that it isn't true, we'll already have won. They know that no one's going to read page 49 of a legal opinion. As it happens this time someone did, but often, alas, they're right.

These are sick, sick people. May their Jesus consign them to history's ash heap.

Can Wingnuttery Be Cured?

I used to read Charles Johnson of the Little Green Footballs blog.  I stopped because he was, to my mind, just another batshit crazy conservative, and his commenters were often outright racist.  Blatently, unapologetically so.

But according to The Washington Independent, something has happened to Charles as of late:

But in the early days of Barack Obama’s presidency, LGF has become better known for the various fights it picks with many on the right — including conservative bloggers, critics of Islamic extremism, and critics of Islam in general who used to be Johnson’s fellow travelers.

Johnson has blasted Fox News host Glenn Beck, promoting a video from a Beck-inspired party that shows conservatives ranting about evolution and arguing that “this turn toward the extreme right on the part of Fox News is troubling, and will achieve nothing in the long run except further marginalization of the GOP.” In response to the news that the Department of Homeland Security was watching for increased right-wing extremism — something that most of the conservative blogosphere, like most Republicans, responded to with angry ridicule — Johnson pointed to the recent arrests of right-wing terrorists and criticized bloggers for buying into “distorted claims” about the DHS report. When Obama genuflected before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Johnson found archival video of President Bush bowing to take a medal from the King and urged conservatives to turn down their “hyperventilating nonsense.”

This has the blogger’s peers asking themselves the same question, over and over: What the heck happened to Charles Johnson?

Either he's gone sane, or the right wing around him has gone so far afield that even Johnson can't help but take notice.

Interesting reading.

The Gaythering Storm

Spoofs of that "Gathering Storm" public service announcement are still all the rage.  There's some very good ones on Youtube (check it out).

But this one is kind of special, because it's star-studded: Jane Lynch, Alicia Silverstone, Lance Bass, George Takei, and more.  From the same people at Funny or Die who brought us Prop 8 — the Musical.

Bryan Fischer’s Religious Right To Hate Is Being Threatened

Renew America columnist Bryan Fischer writes ("Our choice: liberty or homosexual agenda"):

On the pages of the Idaho Statesman, the Gem State's largest newspaper, Amy Herzfeld recently expressed her determination to continue pressing for legislation at the state level that will grant special workplace protections to those who engage in homosexual and transgender sexual behaviors.

Laws that provide special rights and privileges based on "sexual orientation" or "gender identity" are bad public policy because they represent a clear and present danger to religious liberty, freedom of conscience and freedom of association. Such laws are quickly used to harass, intimidate and punish individuals, businesses and organizations which adhere to traditional, time-honored values regarding human sexuality.

Bryan seems to fear laws which will make discrimination illegal.  Because that is unfair to the people who are doing the discriminating.

Well, yes, Bryan.  That is the point.  Just like laws which make it illegal for you to kidnap people.  Those laws are discriminating against kidnappers.

What follows is just a sampling of what happens under "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" statutes:

  • A Christian photographer was fined $6,637 by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission for declining to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony, even though same-sex unions have no legal status in the state

Yes, but New Mexico does have a law which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.  Any businessperson, including a photographer, cannot deny services to someone based on that customer's sexual orientation.  The fact that the business provider is "Christian" does not enter into it.

  • Christian fertility doctors in private practice in California have been barred by the state Supreme Court from declining to artificially inseminate lesbian patients on conscience grounds.

Same deal.  Plus, as doctors, there is an additional moral ethic here (apart from anti-discrimination laws) — you simply cannot deny treatment based on the race, gender, or orientation of your patient.

  • Catholic Charities of Boston shut down its work of finding homes for hard-to-place adoptive children because Massachusetts' "sexual orientation" law required staff to place children in homosexual households

Yup.  Even charities which receive government funds can't discriminate.  Don't worry — plenty of other adoption agencies picked up the slack.

  • The Methodist Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association was found guilty of violating New Jersey's discrimination law for declining to rent space to a lesbian couple for a civil union ceremony.

Yup.  The facts are complicated, but the "space" available for rent is actually public land.

  • The Cradle of Liberty Boy Scouts of Philadelphia were evicted from a building they had occupied since 1928 because the organization does not allow homosexuals to serve as Scoutmasters, even though the Supreme Court has upheld the Scouts' policy

Oh, sure.  The Supreme Court did uphold the Scouts' policy of discrminiating against homosexuals.  And the Scouts can.  But not while using taxpayer funded public property.  That's why they were evicted.

  • eHarmony, a match-making site for heterosexuals, was compelled to create a dating site for homosexuals, despite the fact that hundreds of such sites already exist

Well, I don't think "hundreds" of such sites exist, and certainly none with the widespread popularity (and seriousness) of eHarmony.  In any event, eHarmony chose to create the site, in part because they knew they were discriminating.

  • A nightclub in the Midwest is being sued for denying entrance to a cross-dressing male because he insisted on using the women's restroom despite the club's common sense concern for patron safety and privacy

 

This latter case demonstrates that privacy protections for every bathroom, dressing room, and locker room will disappear under "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" legislation.

I'm not quite sure what Bryan means here.  As far as I know, there is no dressing room or locker room that bars homosexuals.  I think whatever "privacy concerns" Bryan has, those have long gone out the window.

Congress is even now considering "hate crimes" legislation, which provides enhanced penalties for those convicted of bias crimes against homosexuals.

The problem here is that this gives more protection to some victims of crime than others, which violates the fundamental principle of American justice that we are all equal under the law. Every victim of violence ought to have the full protection of the law regardless of his sexual orientation.

No, it doesn't give "more protection to some victims of crime".  That's like saying that people who are victims of "assult with a deadly weapon" get "more protection" than people who are victims of "assult".  They're all protected.

The murder of a cross-dressing man is a cause célèbre in Colorado right now. We join with homosexual activists in wanting his murderer prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But we want justice for the victim because he was made in the image of God, not because he dressed as a woman and wore breast gels.

Didn't know God was a cross-dresser, but okay.  Whatevs.

We want every victim of homicide, regardless of sexual orientation, to have the same legal protection, no less and no more. Every crime, in fact, is a hate crime.

NO!  That's really NOT true.  It sounds like it might be true, but it's really not, if you think about it (which Bryan clearly hasn't done).

I was the victim of a mugging once.  Did/do I think the mugger hated me?  Of course not.  He was indifferent to me.  He just wanted my money.

The "every crime is a hate crime" is just another canard, which, upon the slightest reflection, simply isn't true.

In addition, "hate crimes" laws are "thought crimes" laws. They punish an individual not for what he did but for what he was thinking when he did it.

I have a surprise for you, Bryan.  ALL crimes punish a person for what he was thinking.  In fact, "what he was thinking" is, in legal terms, mens rea, or "state of mind".  That's why, for example, the law makes distinctions based on what's in the criminal's head, i.e. "intentional homicide" or "involuntary/voluntary manslaughter" or "with malice aforethought". 

If a gun I am holding goes off and kills another person, I haven't necessarily commited a crime until it is proven what my thoughts were at the time.  Was it my intent to kill?  Was I being reckless?  Or was it an accident (i.e., I was asleep and didn't even know I was holding a gun?)  The answer to this question lies in my thoughts.

The law has always been that way.

But as Thomas Jefferson said, "[T]he legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions."

Actually, Jefferson wrote "the legitimate powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions." But, again, we're not talking about making crimes out of one's opinions, which is what Jefferson was talking about.   We're talking about the state of mind of the criminal coupled with the action. 

Killing someone in a sponteous fit of jealous rage is treated differently under the law than killing someone through planning and preparation.  So by the same token, killing someone for their money is intended to be treated differently under the law than killing someone for their skin color or sexual orientation.  The latter is treated as harsher because it is a crime directed at a class of people, much like terrorism.  It's "victims" are more than just the dead person; the victims spread to the class of people who are made afraid. 

Society views a lynching, for example, as a different kind of murder than say, a mugging in which the victim is shot.  That's why it has a special name — lynching — because it's an especially heinous kind of murder.

To suggest that we not inject the concept "hate" into our laws would make crimes like cross-burning no different than vandalism.  But cross-burning is more heinous than vandalism.  And what makes that so?  It is a crime of hate, meant to scare not only the black property owner, but all blacks.

And that's the point.  There are already hate crimes.  Lynching and cross-burning, for example.

Religious freedom is the first right guaranteed to us in the First Amendment.

No, it's not.  Establishment of religion is mentioned first.

Special rights for homosexuals receive no explicit mention in the Constitution whatsoever. Yet now we must choose between liberty and the homosexual agenda because, it turns out, we can't have both.

The term "special rights" has always puzzled me.  When a straight couples get married, that is apparently a right, but not a "special" one.  But when homosexual want to get married, it is a "special" right?  What's so special?  It's the same right — the right to marry.  Rights don't become "special rights" just because they apply to different people. 

In fact, they're supposed to apply to everybody.  And that is in the Constitution.  14th Amendment.  Equal Protection clause.  Look it up.

Besides, just because religion freedom is specifically mentioned in the First Amendment doesn't mean it wins out over other rights.  Read the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

Conservative Talking Point: “We Have The Best Health Care System In The World”

Hmmm.  Well, it looks like North Carolina didn't get the memo.  What are the waiting times to get medical treatment here?

GR2009042000721 Just six months ago, the [Greensboro] clinic delivered same-day care to most callers, the gold standard from a health perspective. But in October the delays crept to four days, then 19 in November and 25 in December. In January, HealthServe temporarily stopped accepting new patients, and almost immediately 380 people put their names on a waiting list for when the crunch eases.

In North Carolina, more than any other state, the recession has triggered a burgeoning medical crisis. A steep rise in unemployment has fueled a commensurate increase in the number of people who do not have health insurance, including many middle-income families.

In the past two years, North Carolina's number of uninsured has climbed 22.5 percent, the biggest jump in the nation, according to an analysis by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, a quasi-state agency. Nationwide, about 22 percent of adults do not have health insurance. Here in North Carolina, 25 percent of adults — or 1.8 million people — have no coverage. An additional 9 percent are underinsured.

Read the whole thing.

 

Short Takes on Torture

* Marc Theissen writes a WaPo op-ed reminding us that, despite our outrage, "The CIA's Questioning Worked".  No, he just can't bring himself to call it "torture".  And as for it "working", Theissen writes:

Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques "led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the 'Second Wave,' 'to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into' a building in Los Angeles." KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. The memo explains that "information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the 'Second Wave.' " In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.

Theissen is lying here.  And it doesn't take much Google to figure it out.  For one thing, the plot to fly planes into the Library Tower was foiled in 2002 when we arrested the terrorist who planned to do it.  KSM wasn't arrested until 2003, so there's not way KSM's questioning was responsible for preventing an already-foiled terrorist plot.  (We also knew about "Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali" before the capture of KSM).

Besides, what Theissen argues is contradicted by the interrogators… who were there:

The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum.

Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said.

*  Phillip Zekelow was an attorney in the Bush Adminstration, working under the Secretary of State.  About the OLC torture memos, he writes:

At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn't entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that:  The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department's archives. 

Stated in a shorthand way, mainly for the benefit of other specialists who work these issues, my main concerns were:

  • the case law on the "shocks the conscience" standard for interrogations would proscribe the CIA's methods;
  • the OLC memo basically ignored standard 8th Amendment "conditions of confinement" analysis (long incorporated into the 5th amendment as a matter of substantive due process and thus applicable to detentions like these). That case law would regard the conditions of confinement in the CIA facilities as unlawful.
  • the use of a balancing test to measure constitutional validity (national security gain vs. harm to individuals) is lawful for some techniques, but other kinds of cruel treatment should be barred categorically under U.S. law — whatever the alleged gain.

The underlying absurdity of the administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail. 

The Worst Answer In Pageant History?

I'm not a pageant watcher, but the big scandal is that Miss North Carolina won the Miss USA contest this weekend.  Conservative conventional wisdom is that Miss California, who was first runner-up, was a shoe-in to take the crown, except that she failed to give the "politically correct" answer to a question about same-sex marriage:

Hilton asked Miss California's Carrie Prejean her thoughts on legalizing gay marriage during the Miss USA 2009 pageant, which aired live Sunday night on NBC.

"Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage," he said. "Do you think every state should follow suit, why or why not."

At first, Prejean seemed to trip over her words before giving an answer that drew a mixed reaction from the audience and a look of thinly veiled disgust from Hilton.

"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other," she said. "We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be, between a man and a woman."

The video:

As I said, conservatives are quick to say that Miss California failed to win because she answered the question wrongly.  John Hindraker, for example writes:

The two co-organizers of the Miss California pageant said they were "personally saddened and hurt that Miss California believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman."

Nothing about this narrative could be surprising to anyone who pays attention to our news and our popular culture. Yet there is something very weird about the idea that Miss California lost the Miss USA crown because she gave such a "controversial" answer to a political question. After all, she represented the state of California in the pageant, and we know for a fact that most Californians agree with her, as evidenced by the recent Proposition 8 vote. Moreover, her position is not only the one endorsed by most Americans in opinion surveys, it is also the view taken by President Obama. So why is it more "controversial" than any other political opinion? We all know that if Miss California had answered Hilton's question by saying that she believes in equal rights for all, and that means gay marriage, there would have been no controversy and, very likely, she would have won the title.

Nobody, including me, has a direct pipeline to the minds of the Miss USA judges.  But it doesn't seem clear to me that Miss California "lost" because her response was "wrong" or "controversial".  It seems to me that her answer was simply bad.  As in, poorly constructed.

Let's parse it.  She started off with this:

"I think it's great Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land that you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage."

Well, unfortunately, we don't live in that kind of a land.  You can't "choose" to have a same-sex marriage, unless you live in four of the 50 states that recognize same-sex marriage.

Now, perhaps she meant to say "it's great that Americans are able to vote on whether to recognize same-sex marriages or not".  That would have been okay — a nice little nod to democracy.

The problem is, she didn't say that.  So, you know, points off, right away.

Next comes the trainwreck portion of her answer:

And you know what in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.

"And you know what" — that phrase alone makes her sound like a stereotypical blonde airhead.  But even if we omit that we get a "sentence" that makes no sense:

…in my country, in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.

If she wants to say that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, fine. 

If she wants to say that her family believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, that's fine, too.  I mean, it's honest, so she can hardly be criticized.  [UPDATE:  I guess it's not honest.  Miss California's sister is a gay rights activist who supports same-sex marriage, which is why Miss California admitted today: "My beliefs have nothing to do with my sister or my mom, or whatever" — so much for the "my family" thing.]

But this "in my country"?  Honey, it's Perez Hilton's country, too.  And the "country" does not believe that marriage should be just between a man and a woman.  It's, if anything, divided on the issue.  (And I won't even mention the awkward phrasing "I think that I believe…." — huh?  You don't know what you believe?)

Moreover, the question was about a state's policy toward same-sex marriage.  Her belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman is irrelevant.  Which is what makes it a bad answer.  (Analogy:  A person can be a Catholic and still believe that the state shouldn't discriminate against Jews).

So, in my view, Miss California blew it on the Q and A not because of her belief in man-woman marriage, but because she largely dodged the question, and did so rather ineloquently.  My understanding of the Q and A is that it is not about whether the question is answered "correctly" or even "politically correctly", but rather, to be cogent and responsive.  Miss California didn't do well in this category at all.

This, then, answers the question put forth by Hindraker in perspective:

Miss North Carolina, the winner of the Miss USA competition, was also asked a political question–about bailouts. She responded by disapproving of the federal government bailing out private companies. Yet this answer, which 1) runs counter to the policies adopted by our national government, 2) stands in stark opposition to the actions of our President, and 3) is more a matter of current debate than gay marriage, was not considered "controversial" by anyone. Why not?

Again, the difference, it would seem, was not the substance of one's answer or how "controversial" it was, but rather, the way in which the answer was (or wasn't) articulated.

Four Corners Isn’t Right

You know the famous national landmark, Four Corners? 

215px-Fourcorners-us It's the exact location where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah come together.

Every year thousands of tourists visit the marker designating where the four states meet, and they take pictures of themselves straddling four states.

Like this girl:

4corners 

Cute, but a waste of time.  Because the marker is off:

Four Corners — the only place in the United States where four state boundaries come together — was first surveyed by the U.S. government in 1868, during the initial survey of Colorado's southern boundary line. Its intended location was an even 109 degrees west longitude and 37 degrees north latitude.

However, due to surveying errors, it didn't come out that way.

According to readings by the National Geodetic Survey, today's official marker sits at 109 02 42.62019 W longitude and 36 59 56.31532 N latitude.

That means the current monument marking the intersection of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona is approximately 2.5 miles west of where it should be.

According to three different Internet sites for distance calculations (including an FCC site and GPS visualizer) the readings were 2.493; 2.484; and 2.499 miles.

So that ruins that vacation memory.

Uh Oh. Susan Boyle’s Got Competition…..

This 12 year old got off to a rough start, with Simon cutting him off.  But then….

Britain's Got Talent Week 2: Shaheen Jafargholi – video powered by Metacafe

RELATED: The YouTube video of Susan Boyle has exceeded 100,000,000 views in just nine days.  For comparison purposes, Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" video — YouTube's current reigning champion — took more than two years to accumulate its tally of 118 million views.

Preview of The Great American Trailer Park Musical

This is a show I will be performing in August.  I thought I would create a scene using computer animation and computer voices.

In this scene, Norbert, who is fed up with agorophobic wife, meets Pippi at Pippi's workplace: a strip bar.

UPDATE:  Yeah, Norbert looks like George Bush.  And he's drinking a martini.  I was somewhat limited in my choice of characters and settings.

Quote Of The Day

This Week With George Stephenapolous:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the responsible way? That’s my question. What is the Republican plan to deal with carbon emissions, which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change?

BOEHNER: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.

Boehner has just demonstrated why he is in no position to be an opponent of efforts to address climate change.

Because to be an opponent of something, you have to at least be on the same playing field.

Carbon dioxide is a carcinogen?  He's right when he says CO2 is not a carcinogen, but that has NOTHING to do with global warming.  It's a non sequitor from left field. 

But carbon dioxide, in high levels, contributes to the destabilization of the planet’s climate.  And it does kill.  (Anyone remember Apollo 13 and the part where they had to replace the scrubber?  That's because the old one was broke, forcing the astronauts to be living in an environment full of their own CO2 emissions).

Then Boehner says, "Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide."

Uh… no.  Cow farts do not consist of carbon dioxide.  And if John Boehner thinks that cow farts are no different from human exhalation, he is more than welcome to lift the tail of a cow and put that theory to the test.  I'll even provide the stool for him to sit on.

No, bovine flatulence is actually methane, and yes, it does genuinely contribute to global warming, albeit not on the same scale as industrial activity.

But the larger point here is that you can't do much to address the global warming issue properly in the face of powerful politicians as ignorant as Boehner.

The Pulitzers Are Announced

For journalism, Fox News and newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch again got shunned, proving that the Pulitzers are part of the librul conspiracy.

The Pulitzer for drama went to “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage.  It's a "searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness."  So…. not a musical.

What The Torture Memos Tell Us About Us

So now we know that waterboarding was used 266 times on two terrorist suspects.  183 of those times were on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described planner of 9/11, in one month.

The Bush administration euphemistically used waterboarding as an "enhanced interrogation technique", but when you hear that it was used 183 times in one month, a couple of common sense things jump out.

The main thing is this: as "interrogation techniques" go, this one obviously wasn't working.  If I were present at, oh, the 35th waterboarding, I might raise my hand and say: "Okay.  Either he has given us every piece of information we want, or this near-drowning thing isn't working".

I have absolutely no way of knowing, but I suspect that what was going on had less to do with information-gathering (clearly it was ineffective if you had to do it 183 times), and more do to with — let's be honest — punishment.  Or, to be blunt, outright sadism.  Sadism in the name of our government.

I don't care that the subject was KSM.  It's not about him.  It's about us.  We live in a country which has sunk to KSM's level.

Charles Lemos over at MyDD notes his close friendship with WSJ reporter Danny Pearl, who was brutally murdered by al Qaeda, and responds to the torture memos:

Those of us who knew Danny are very protective of Danny and his legacy because Danny Pearl was an exceptional human being. It is hard to talk about Danny and not wax eloquent. It is beyond belief to us that when Al Qaeda killed Danny, they killed someone who actually was interested in having their grievances heard. Not that Danny or I sympathized with Islamic terrorism, but there are many who think it important to understand its causes so that we might be able to better mitigate its spread.

In thinking about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the fact that he was waterboarded 183 times in the month of March of 2003, I cannot but express how this denigrates everything that Danny stood for. In waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, we have descended to the level of that butcher. We have proved that we are no better than them and I refuse to believe that. The West has a moral obligation to live up to the ideals that Danny Pearl embodied.

Yup.

Metered Bandwidth Fail

A lot of people didn't know this, but Time Warner announced that it wanted to test the idea of metering bandwidth.

What does that mean?  Well, basically, the idea was to start charging more to Internet users who used more bandwidth.  If you access/download songs or video (like YouTube), you would end up paying more for Internet service.  It's what Time Warner called "consumption-based billing".

Where was Time Warner planning to test this idea?  Right here in North Carolina.  Here and New York.

I had heard about this and was not pleased.  Like many around here, I use Time Warner's Road Runner service for Internet access at home. 

But the people in New York went ballistic.  Representative Chuch Schumer got involved.

And the bottom line?  Bandwidth metering is dead in the water.  Read more.

Google Maps With Webcams

A pretty cool new feature to Google Maps was added today.

Go to Google Maps, click "More", and check "Webcams".  Now Google Maps will be embedded with live webcams.

UPDATE:  Hmmm.  A few bugs perhaps.  For example, if you go to Google Maps and zoom in to the webcam just southeast of Louisville, Kentucky……