Monthly Archives: June 2009

Our Media

A 2012 presidential contender has an extramarital affair, bloody revolts in Iran, a military coup in Honduras, Congress considers bills which will fundamentally change health care as we know it, and there's movement on environmental cap-and-trade laws.


Fully 93% of cable coverage studied on the Thursday and Friday following his death was about the King of Pop.

Yeah, I "covered" it a lot, too.  But I'm not a 24 hour news channel.

Also, the mainstream media has stupid ringtones:

Palin Profile

Vanity Fair has a whopper of an article on Sarah Palin, full of inside-the-McCain-campaign insight from those within the McCain camp (who, shall we say, are not Palin fans).  If the Vanity Fair piece is too long, you might enjoy these excerpts from USA Today:

On the campaign: "… (M)ost made it clear that they suffer a kind of survivor’s guilt: they can’t quite believe that for two frantic months last fall, caught in a Bermuda Triangle of a campaign, they worked their tails off to try to elect as vice president of the United States someone who, by mid-October, they believed for certain was nowhere near ready for the job, and might never be."

On Palin's CBS interview: "By all accounts, Palin was either unwilling, or simply unable, to prepare. In the run-up to the (Katie) Couric interview, Palin had become preoccupied with a far more parochial concern: answering a humdrum written questionnaire from her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman."

One Palin as a candidate: "I saw her as a raw talent (says one key McCain aide). Raw, but a talent. I hoped she could become better.”

On Palin's striking good looks: This "reality has been a blessing and a curse. It has captivated people who would never have given someone with Palin’s record a second glance if Palin had looked like Susan Boyle. And it has made others reluctant to give her a second chance because she looks like a beauty queen."

On Palin's future: "(S)he has the good fortune to have traction within a political party that is bereft of strong leadership, and whose rank and file often demands qualities other than knowledge, experience, and an understanding that facts are, as John Adams said, stubborn things."

I, for one, would not mind seeing Palin stay on the political scene for the next election.  It'll be interesting to see how she pulls of a presidential campaign when so many "establishment" Republicans are against her.

Could Bachmann Wingnut Herself Out Of A Job?

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis raises an interesting point in its editorial bash of The World's Dumbest Politician ™, Michelle Bachmann:

At the very least, the census statements call Bachmann's strategic judgment into question. She may be setting in motion events that could substantially hurt her home state and potentially cost her the office she occupies.

The 2010 census will likely determine whether Minnesota loses one of its eight U.S. House seats; population determines seat allocation. Political experts agree that a few thousand people not filling out census forms may be all it takes for the state to lose a congressional advocate in the nation's capital. If Minnesota were to lose a congressional seat, Bachmann's district appears to be candidate for absorption.

That would be the ultimate irony.

Of course, if conservative wingnuts follow the advice of Bachmann and Glenn Beck and refuse to fill out the census for fear of some government conspiracy or something, the end result is that they won't be counted, which means they will have less representation when it comes time to apportion districts and set the number of representatives at the state and national level.

So… good.

Happy Birthday, Walkman

_45984503_scott_mum_226 Yup.  The Sony Walkman turns 30 years old this week.  Which is relatively young for something that's… well…. dead.

In this article, a 13-year-old turns in his iPod to spend a week with a Walkman.  Guess which one he ended up preferring?

My friends couldn't imagine their parents using this monstrous box, but there was interest in what the thing was and how it worked.

In some classes in school they let me listen to music and one teacher recognised it and got nostalgic.

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Bring Your Guns To Church

I may not be a religious expert, but it seems to me that Jesus would not approve:

Ken Pagano, the pastor of the New Bethel Church here, is passionate about gun rights. He shoots regularly at the local firing range, and his sermon two weeks ago was on “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry.” And on Saturday night, he is inviting his congregation of 150 and others to wear or carry their firearms into the sanctuary to “celebrate our rights as Americans!” as a promotional flier for the “open carry celebration” puts it.

Good lord.  It never ceases to amaze how the most unChristian behavior gets co-opted and even celebrated by the Jesus freaks.  I mean, what would Jesus have said about guns?  Let's consult the original text, shall we?

[Mat 26:51-52] And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. And said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

There's also something in there about "Thou Shalt Not Kill" right?  Although zealots would have you believe there is an asterisk there which reads "*But killing in self-defense isn't 'killing', so have at it, y'all.  Yeeeee-hah!"

This made me laugh though:

Mr. Pagano said the church’s insurance company, which he would not identify, had canceled the church’s policy for the day on Saturday and told him that it would cancel the policy for good at the end of the year. If he cannot find insurance for Saturday, people will not be allowed in openly carrying their guns.


P.S. and FYI:…. also this:

"The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity," he said. "Our gun-flooded society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship of idols must be recognized for what it is – blasphemy."


Keeping Secrets

It's kind of amazing that nobody knew that New York Times reporter David Rohde had been kidnapped by the Taliban on November 10, and remained in their custody for several months.  Well, the New York Times and the government knew of course, but they (rightly) decided to keep the information quiet.  They figured that publicity would add to Rohde's value as a hostage and impede efforts to free or rescue him.

What I find remarkable is thatthe kidnapping managed (for the most part) to remain a secret on the Internet.  Now that Rohde is free, a few bloggers with connections to mainstream media have now reported that they knew, but they agreed to keep it hush-hush.

The New York Times has an interesting side story about battle at Wikipedia, the open source news and information encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and how the main editors struggled to keep the Rohde information off Wikipedia:

A dozen times, user-editors posted word of the kidnapping on Wikipedia’s page on Mr. Rohde, only to have it erased. Several times the page was frozen, preventing further editing — a convoluted game of cat-and-mouse that clearly angered the people who were trying to spread the information of the kidnapping.

Even so, details of his capture cropped up time and again, however briefly, showing how difficult it is to keep anything off the Internet — even a sentence or two about a person who is not especially famous.

The sanitizing was a team effort, led by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, along with Wikipedia administrators and people at The Times. In an interview, Mr. Wales said that Wikipedia’s cooperation was not a given.

“We were really helped by the fact that it hadn’t appeared in a place we would regard as a reliable source,” he said. “I would have had a really hard time with it if it had.”


On Nov. 13, news of the kidnapping was posted and deleted four times within four hours, before an administrator blocked any more changes for three days. On Nov. 16, it was blocked again, for two weeks.

“We didn’t want it to look unusual in some fashion that would draw speculation, so we would protect it for three days, or up to a month, which is pretty normal,” Mr. Wales said. He added, “Weeks would go by before there was a problem.”

On Feb. 10 and 11, two users added the kidnapping information several times to Mr. Rohde’s page, only to see it removed each time, and they attached some heated notes to their additions. “We can do this months,” one said.

To their credit, they were successful.  Which speaks well, I guess, of the information highway.  It's not quite the free-for-all one might think, and occasionally, people stop and do the right thing.

Ricci Case Overturned

The US Supreme Court overturned the Second Circuit in the Ricci case, aka the "white firefighters case", this morning.  The court held that it was wrong for the Town of New Haven to deny promotions to white firefighters after it appeared that the firefighters' exam was racially biased.  The outcome was 5-4 along predictable lines: Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito in the majority, with Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter, and Breyer dissenting.  Kennedy, of course, was the swing.

The case probably would have gone unnoticed but for the fact that (a) Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor was an appellate judge on the lower case and (b) the case involved "reverse discrimination" against whites.

Conservatives are predictably crowing about the case — how it shows (apparently) that Sotomayor is anti-white or some such nonsense, and how the Supreme Court has now "slapped" her down.  The Judicial Confirmation Network, for example, writes:

"Frank Ricci finally got his day in court, despite the judging of Sonia Sotomayor, which all nine Justices of U.S. Supreme Court have now confirmed was in error.

"Usually, poor performance in any profession is not rewarded with the highest job offer in the entire profession.

"What Judge Sotomayor did in Ricci was the equivalent of a pilot error resulting in a bad plane crash. And now the pilot is being offered to fly Air Force One."

Of course, this is just bullshit.  First of all, as I said, "all nine justices" of the Supreme Court did not vote to overturn.  It was 5-4. [UPDATE:  Not to be outdone, Rush Limbaugh lies about that final tally and the court's holding, stating, "The court found that she was indeed a racist… a nine-zip decision"]

Secondly, one of the plaintiffs that "Sotomayor" ruled against (the "white" firefighters) was latino, just like Sotomayor. 

Finally, Sotomayor merely joined the Second Circuit opinion, which was unanimously held by a panel of the Second Circuit – a panel that included a Republican judge.  In fact, the Second Circuit didn't even write an opinion at all, save a brief sentence or two saying that they agreed with the opinion of the lower court.

And actually, when you do the actual tally, 11 out of the 21 federal judges to rule on Ricci ruled as Sotomayor did. 

What layman don't understand, and what hacks often exploit, is the fact that the legal issues in any Supreme Court case are vague and reside in some gray area.  That's why the Supreme Court addresses them.  So it is incorrect that Sotomayor is a "bad judge" who got the law "wrong".  In fact, it looks like Sotomayor and her collegaues were following precedent as it existed at the time.  And today, the Supreme Court came along and changed that precedent.

And FWIW, John Roberts was on the Court of Appeals in Hamden v. RumsfeldThat was overturned by the Supreme Court 5-3, after Roberts was named for Chief Justice of the highest court.  Where was the outcry then about what a terrible judge Roberts was?

The SCOTUS opinion is available here (PDF).

Jackson Around The Net

New Republic's John McWhorter:

Michelangelo said that when he sculpted the David statue, David was already inside the block of marble and his job was just to take away what was not David. Jackson worked against nature’s endowment just as diligently, but surely the pale wraith he became was not something that had been waiting to see the light of day. Rather, what Jackson seemed to find was a negation, a mangling of personhood – what else can we say of someone attending a court date for child molestation in his pajamas? The irony is that despite this man’s towering stature as a keystone of American popular music’s history, there is surely a part of all of us that sees the man as more fortunate resting in peace.

I'll add more when/if I see something.

Oh, but can I say something?  I cringe whenever I hear anyone say that Michael Jackson broke the color barrier.  What is that — some kind of joke, given is changing skin color?  Sure, before Michael came on, MTV didn't play black artists, and yes, MJ changed that.  But it's not like there were a lot of black artists making videos and hits (this was in the post-disco, pre-rap days).  And MTV was only a couple of years old anyway.  And certainly, MJ didn't break the color barriers in music.  Plenty of black artists had crossed over before him… for decades.

The Corner's Jonah Goldberg:

Calling Michael Jackson an icon doesn’t let him off the hook for anything. But to listen to the news anchors you’d think it absolves him of everything.

I say: Who cares who his famous friends were? Who cares what a “fascinating” person he was? If you want to talk about his death as an end of an era, have at it. But that’s not what the Barbara Walters set is doing.

I know that Michael Jackson wasn’t convicted of the despicable crimes he was accused of. And that’s why he never went to jail. Three cheers for the majesty of the American legal system. But in my own personal view, he wasn’t exonerated either. Nor was he absolved of his crimes because he could sing, moonwalk, or sell 10 million records. (Though many of us suspect the money and fame he made from those things is precisely what kept him out of jail).

And, while I merely think he was a pedophile, I know he was not someone responsible parents should applaud, healthy children emulate, nor society celebrate.

Take a gander at the current Amazon's Music Bestseller List.  19 of the top 25 are MJ.

TPM's Josh Marshall:

While I liked Jackson's music and had great respect for his talent, I just didn't have a strong emotional connection to him.

So, not sadder or more upset, but more shocked. And I was thinking last night, what feels different about this?

I think it's because so much of Michael Jackson's life seemed like make believe. Sometimes farcical. But always like play acting, somehow. So much theatrics. So many costumes. And on various levels the desire — often frighteningly realized — to deny or defy his physical self, his age and much more. Even the things that seemed terribly serious, perhaps especially those — the trials for child molestation which could have landed him in jail for years or decades — never seemed to stick. Whether he was truly guilty of these accusations or not, it always blew over. All together it conditioned me to think of Jackson as someone whose drama was always just drama — whether it was the threat of prison or vast debts or bizarre physical tribulations — all of it would pass or blow over, perhaps not even have been real, leaving him more or less in place, as weird or surreal as ever, but basically unchanged.

In the span of time between when news first broke that Jackson had been rushed to the hospital and when it was reported that he'd died, I actually saw some people speculating on the web that the whole thing might be a stunt to get out of his tour dates or perhaps some health emergency that was not quite as serious as it was being described. And even though these speculations turned out to be tragically, embarrassingly off base, I wasn't sure if they might not turn out to be accurate since it seemed somehow more in character, at least more in keeping with the never ending drama.

In the end death just seemed more out of character for Michael Jackson than for most people. Because through most of his life he and reality seemed at best on parallel but seldom overlapping courses. And death is reality, full stop.

Here's an especially stupid tribute, from the Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro:

While the big news of the day wouldn’t seem to have a public policy angle, Michael Jackson’s death allows us to remember that such phenomenal career achievements can only be possible in an economic system that rewards and harnesses talent.

The King of Pop’s creativity allowed him and his family to make hundreds of millions of dollars, yes, but it also created thousands of jobs in the music and marketing industries and brought joy to fans around the world. Whatever his personal eccentricities — perhaps, in part, as a result of them — Jackson represents a capitalist success story.

No central planner could have invented him, and no government bureaucracy could have transformed pop music in the way he did.

So take that Obamasocialists!!!

Seriously, I don't think the death of Michael Jackson really adds much to the capitalism vs socialism debate.  Sure, socialism didn't produce much to the pop music world, but so what? 

Maybe I should note that Michael Jackson's early death at age 50 only proves that America has shitty health care.  That would be a stupid point, too.

And by the way, some damn good movies come from socialist countries and totalitarian countries (the Iranian cinema is especially good; go rent The White Balloon if you can find it).  Just saying…

Bad Day For Icons: RIP Michael Jackson

Unlike Farrah Fawcett, this was a total surprise.

I'm not sure I can add to the testimonials and news coverage about his career.  I only note that when I came home from the performance this evening (the Michael Jackson kick choreographed weeks ago into the curtain call took on a special poignancy, however brief), I turned to MTV, a cable station which I haven't watched in over a decade.  Along with Madonna, Michael Jackson was MTV.  But they were showing a reality show.  Lord, how times have changed.

I wish I could express to the kids out there (and I'm even talking about people half my age) just what an impact Jackson had on pop culture, music and dance.  I suppose it was much like Elvis in the generation before me.  Michael Jackson was the last of three megasuperstars — Valentino, Elvis being the other two.  Nobody — nobody – has ever reached that level of fame since.

Yes, there were the eccentricities.  The scandals.  But his talent was undeniable. 
Jackson was already famous when he performed on the now famous "Motown: Then and Now" TV special which aired on May 16, 1983.  He wasn't the headliner.  It wasn't an "event"; just another TV music special.  He performed with The Jacksons, and he sang a song called "Billie Jean" from his new album Thriller, the follow-up to the very successful Off The Wall.

What happened then has been compared to The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.  Suddenly, he taken the concept of fame to a new level.

He rocked the house on that Motown special, and performed this — thing — which became known as "the moonwalk".  The entire nation couldn't believe it's eyes.  Yeah, he was lip-synching, but it made no difference.  The performance made the nightly news the following day.  And for the next several years, Jackson dominated popular culture, most especially the "YouTube" of the day: the music video.

Here's the performance in the Motown special that brought Jackson to a new level.  If you want to know the public image if Michael Jackson just before that show, go here.  Then come back.  He was pretty good, huh?  But superstar?  No.  

So now to the Motown special.  Remember, this was the first time most of saw the moonwalk, the kick, the half-kick, the white glove…. even the beginnings of the crotch grab are in there.

Astounding to think that was more than 25 years ago.  (Sidenote: Fuck, I'm old).

For my money, this was his best song — Black or White — a great blend of hard rock, dance and rap.  Also had one of the best vamps/hooks evah.

He still had it in his later years. Here he is with Britney in 2001, singing another fave of mine "The Way You Make Me Feel".

It doesn't get better than that. Never will.

Sadly, his odd behavior and color-changing caused people to forget about him, or be sick of him, or both.  He still cranked out some nice new stuff — Stranger In Moscow, for example, can stand on its own as a strong soul ballad.  But he'll always be remembered for owning the early-to-mid eighties.

Knowing MJ, I suspect he's got some odd provision in his will that he be frozen or something, and that might bring forth chuckles or whatever.  I'll leave it to others to decide what accounted for his oddness – early fame, super fame, or really ugly and brutal child abuse (I think the last one can never be entirely dismissed).  But for the time, it's important to remember just how much he shaped my generation, our culture, and the world.

One more for the road, and a happy smile to boot.  You know a better 9 year old performer?

NC Senate Passes Film Incentives

Good news:

The movie industry got a step closer to better tax treatment in North Carolina as the state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill on a party line vote 27-17 to increase tax credits for qualifying expenses to 25 percent. It still has to be approved by the House before it is implemented, though.

Sweetening the incentive pot for the motion picture companies came to the forefront in recent weeks after the state lost out to Georgia for the production of “The Last Song,” which is based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.

North Carolina’s present incentive of 15 percent has not kept up with the escalation other states have offered. Georgia’s package of incentives includes a 30 percent credit, and that has helped that state attract numerous productions that otherwise may have landed in North Carolina. North Carolina and Georgia were the finalists to produce “The Last Song,” but it went to the Peach State after the revenue officials here ruled that certain expenses would not qualify.

Opponents of the bill tried one final time to amend the bill and place a hard cap on the total amount of tax credit the state could offer in a year. That amendment also failed on a party line vote.

Sen. Julia Boseman, D-New Hanover, called the amendment bad policy because movie companies wouldn’t consider North Carolina if they were about to bump up against a tax credit cap.

“Movie companies wouldn’t come here if they knew they couldn’t get the tax credit,” Boseman said. “The movie industry can have a positive impact on the state because of the type of jobs it brings to the state.”

Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, spoke in favor of the bill and explained how small businesses have benefited from being hired by production companies.

“In my area, there are a lot of commercials produced and when the production companies come here and contract with small businesses, those dollars are spent locally,” Hoyle said. “They’re hiring carpenters, electricians. Those jobs are easier to hire locally. It means a lot.”

How the tax credit fits into the final state budget picture remains unclear. It could be taken up as a separate issue by the House or it could just be rolled into the final state budget bill. By passing the Senate, it definitely is in play as the House and Senate budget negotiators begin their talks to finalize the new budget.

Who’s To Blame For The Sanford Affair?

Who is responsible for Sanford flying down to Buenos Aires to spend five days with his paramour?

Sanford, right?  Seems like a good candidate for "the blame game".

Nope, you silly person.  Rush Limbaugh once again sets us straight.  It's Obama's fault.

Click here for the vid.

"This is almost like, 'I don't give a damn, the country's going to Hell in a handbasket, I just want out of here,'" said Limbaugh. "He had just tried to fight the stimulus money coming to South Carolina. He didn't want any part of it. He lost the battle. He said, 'What the Hell. I mean, I'm — the federal government's taking over — what the Hell, I want to enjoy life.'"

"The point is," he added, "there are a lot of people whose spirit is just — they're fed up, saying to Hell with it, I don't even want to fight this anymore, I just want to get away from it."

Thoughts On Monogamy

Heather in the comments raises an issue that I've thought about in the past 24 hours (in the wake of the Sanford emails):

I've begun to wonder if human beings are meant for monogamy at all. We seem to screw it up far more than we should if it was truly our destiny. Kind of makes me a little depressed.

Heather and I are certainly not the first to wonder if humans were meant to be monogamous.

Biologically, the odds are certainly stacked against us.  There are anout 5,000 species of mammals, including humans, and only 3 percent to 5 percent of those mammals are known to form lifelong, monogamous bonds.  Ironically, the beaver is one such animal.  (Please, no emails/comments about this.  I'm feeling punchy this afternoon).

And obviously, man spreading his seed all over the place is biologically-ingrained from an evolutionary standpoint.  (Translation: We're not pigs, ladies.  It's in our DNA!) (Second thought: okay, some men are pigs, notwithstanding the whole DNA thing.) [UPDATE: The notion that "man must spread his seed" from an evolutionary standpoint is challenged — H/T Heather]

So monogamy seems to be a social construct, borne of Judeo-Christian tradition.  In other cultures throughout history (and even in the present), men had wives and concubines.  Ours?  Not so much.

But the monogamy construct is so ingrained in our culture that to even attempt to move away from it amounts to more trouble than it is worth.  On the other hand, as Heather points out, perhaps the attempt to adhere dogmatically to the concept of monogamy is a fool's errand.

Perhaps the folly isn't monogamy per se, but lifetime monogamy.  Perhaps we were meant to be serial monogomists, i.e., staying faithful to a relationship until we no longer can.  That's not to suggest that we should abandon our commitments at the first hint of strife, but rather, perhaps to acknowledge that – sad as it is – even the best relationships run their course sometimes. 

Frankly, a 20+ year marriage (like what Sanford had) is a darn good run in this day and age, and perhaps we should celebrate its longevity rather than mourn (or mock) its demise.  Even better, perhaps we could celebrate the new hope for new love that it affords both Sanfords (and really, is there anything better than the discovery of "new love"?)

Regardless of whether or not we are meant to be serial monogamists, it seems pretty irrefutable that that is what we are.  And if you don't believe me, check out the divorce rates.  So one could argue that we should not fight it.  Maybe we should just lower our expectations of enjoying lifetime commitment, so we won't find ourselves constantly disappointed when we see divorces, or it happens to us.  Perhaps we are correct to think of marriage as the "new dating".  At least we're not deluding ourselves.

In any event, the family values people should shut the fuck up.  Of that much, I am sure.

SCOTUS Rules On Strip-Searching Case

One of the few cases I was following this year on the Supreme Court docket was Safford United School District v. Redding, a case out of Arizona where a 13 year old girl was search-stripped by school officials because of a "tip" that she had some ibuprofin. (She didn't, as it turned out).

I sketched the full details out in a post last April, including these details:

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).

I also covered the Court's demeanor at oral argument.  It looked like it was heavily split on the counterveiling issues of privacy, and constitutional searches.

So you can imagine my surprise when the opinion (PDF) came out this morning.  By a vote of 8-1, the Court ruled that the search was unconstitutional.    Not even close.

(The dissenting judge was Justice Thomas.  He has always taken the rather absurd opinion that the U.S. Constitution does not apply to state public schools, a rather crazy position which the 14th Amendment makes mincemeat of.  I mean, even Scalia can't swallow that one.)

(The court also ruled, 7-2, that the school officials cannot be held liable, since the Fourth Amendment ruing was not "clearly established" at the actual time of the search.  Ginsberg and Stevens dissented, arguing that controlling precedent had already established that strip-searching was unconstitutional).

The court reasoned:

Had Savana been suspected of having illegal drugs that could have posed a far greater danger to herself and other students, the strip search, too, might have been justified, the majority said, in an opinion by Justice David H. Souter.

“In sum, what was missing from the suspected facts that pointed to Savana was any indication of danger to the students from the power of the drugs or their quantity, and any reason to suppose that Savana was carrying pills in her underwear,” the court said. “We think that the combination of these deficiencies was fatal to finding the search reasonable.”

The ruling is significant because it comes at the end of a long line of SCOTUS opinions allowing student searches (locker searches, etc.).  For a while there, it began to look like there was no zone of privacy for students at all.  Well, apparently, we now have a line — you can't search their underwear or bodily cavities.

Well, you can, but you have to have some solid suspicion — something more than a hunch or a student tip — to justify the strip-searching of public school students.  And the contraband has to be something more dangerous or potentially harmful than ibuprofin.

The other constitutional rule expressed in the opinion — searches of public school students’ backpacks, notebooks, other belongings, outer clothing, and pockets are generally allowed if they are based on “reasonable suspicion” — remains as it has for a quarter-century, but with a small amount of refinement, the exact scope of which is not quite clear.

RIP Farrah Fawcett

We saw this coming.  Very sad.  She passed only moments ago, fighting her battle with cancer the best she could until the end. She was 62.

The young model….


…turned iconic image of the 1970s…


…turned respected actress…


Even throughout her wildly successful Charlie's Angels phase (which only lasted one year with her), she was dismissed as an unserious blonde actress.  Then came the classic TV movie The Burning Bed which established her as a serious actress.  Unfortunately, with some exceptions (one of my favorite plays/movies, Extremities), Farrah could never quite escape the tabloids.  Even in sickness.

Early early days:

Bachmann Follies [UPDATED with Video]

Yay!  Our favorite Worst Politician In The World ™ is back in the news with some more batshit insanity.

Last week, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) said that she would refuse to complete the census when it rolls around next year (which is a crime, by the way). 

Today on Fox News, she explained her reasoning:

"Take this into consideration. If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps," said Bachmann. "I'm not saying that that's what the Administration is planning to do, but I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up, in a violation of their constitutional rights, and put the Japanese in internment camps."

Right.  She's not saying that the Obama Administration is going to put people into forced camps.  At least not now.  She doesn't have to say it here and now.  Because she's already said it.


Think Progress dissects:

There are many things wrong with Bachmann and host Megyn Kelly’s so-called analysis: First, both women were shocked that the Census would ask for people’s telephone numbers. However, that information is not required by law, and is used only to contact recipients who have incomplete forms.

Second, Bachmann is confusing the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey (ACS), a long-form survey sent out to one in 40 households (0.0028 percent of the American public) each year. The Census, sent out once every ten years, asks only about one’s age, race, and the type of home one lives in. The ACS, started in 1996, collects more detailed data used to distribute more than $300 billion in federal funds to local communities.

Most importantly, the questions that Bachmann is so concerned about — questions she suggests might somehow lead to internment — are not new questions (not to mention they frequently overlap with information given to the IRS every year). Census questions on race have been asked since 1790; home language since 1890; rent since 1880; and income since 1940. The Census has asked what kind of heating fuel heats Americans’ homes since 1940.

Finally, it’s a federal crime for any Census worker to violate the confidentiality of the Census form, punishable by a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

Integrity and Analogies That Don’t Hold Water

From The Corner, K-Lo quotes Bill Bennett who quotes Chuck Colson (Watergate conspirator who became born again in prison)

Integrity is wholeness. Think about the Navy.  You know what happens when a Naval ship takes off? Someone goes up to the captain on the bridge — the captain on the bridge says check for watertight integrity. And someone goes down through the ship and they check every single door to see that every door, every waterproof door, is sealed.  

And they go back up and they say, "The ship has integrity." Integrity means every part of your body. It does not mean every part of your life. It means every single part of your existence. All those water tight doors are shut tight. And then there is integrity. You cannot say that someone can do something on the private side of their lives without it having public consequences, because you’ve opened one of those watertight doors and that ship will eventually sink. A cheat in private is going to be a cheat in public. Someone who lies in private is going to lie in public, and you can’t trust someone who does that.

If someone ever decides to give out Bad Analogy Awards, this is my nominee.

First of all, I cop to being ignorant about naval matters, but even *I* know that ships can stay float even if one, two or more watertight door fails.  What Bennett/Colson is saying sounds good, but it simply is — well — a lie.  And a moment's reflection (or the most rudimentary Google search) will expose this lie.

In fact, to the extent that ship integrity has any bearing on moral integrity, the opposite conclusion can be reached: One can lie from time to time in some areas of their life (particularly private matters), and still tell the truth publicly.  If I'm sitting with the guys in the bar and telling tall tales (or outright lies) of sexual conquests, that does not mean I lie about everything.  Even if I were to cheat on my wife, that does not mean I am cheating on my country by selling state secrets to terrorists.

I'm not defending Sanford (which is what Bennett was discussing in advocating that he "had to go"),  Nor am I defending the act of lying — either lying in one's personal (e.g., having an affair) or lying in the public realm.  But I am saying that there are degrees of lying and surrounding circumstances, and you simply cannot say that a person who lies in a particular situation will lie in ALL situations.  That's absurdly moronic.

UPDATE:  K-Lo is getting pushback from her brethren at The Corner:

Yes, integrity is wholeness, but here we're talking about the wholeness of human beings who, unlike vessels, are flawed by nature. It also seems absurd to me to suggest that affairs of the heart are not in any sense different from — or to be judged differently than — even a private person's professional obligations, let alone an elected or appointed official's public duties…..

It's certainly possible that someone who acts immorally in his personal life will be so pervasively immoral that it spills over into all facets of his life.  But it's not my experience — and I've crossed paths with a lot of people who've done a lot of very bad things — that making a bad judgment, or even several, necessarily means the person is bad across the board. It is sometimes true, but it is not the rule. 

Most of us (I would say all of us, but I'm not that presumptuous) have made some blunderous mistakes in our lives. I know I have. The hope is that if we are decent people, if we have integrity, it is in part because we have taken these errors to heart and become better because of them.


Sanford Fallout

It really really looks like the GOP is revving up to cut ties with the religious right now.  The Sanford Affair seems to have provided the opportunity to do this.  Why do I think that?  Well, the mainstream media is covered with stories about the downfall of social conservatism.  And then there's quotes like this:

South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis… sees an opening for the Republican Party, a chance to “lose the stinking rot of self-righteousness” and “to understand we are all in need of some grace.”

That's a remarkable quote when you consider that Inglis made a name for himself "in the late 1990s as one of Bill Clinton’s most zealous pursuers, an impeachment 'manager' who attacked the moral failings of the president with a gusto".

A transformation of Inglis?  No, he says.  He's just as religious as ever.  In fact, he claims to be more attuned to the Gospels compared to the days when he was railing against Clinton's indiscretions:

“They want me to walk around saying I am the paragon of virtue,” Inglis said. “But that is unrecognizable to the Gospels.”

A little late to the party, but welcome.

Different Perspective On Sanford

And one with which I agree, from John Dickerson at Slate:

The personal impact of the Sanford affair is more gripping than the political. Sanford has done a horrible thing to his wife and family and friends. He seemed to know and feel this more profoundly than other politicians we've seen go through this familiar apology exercise before. That doesn't excuse him. Not that he was asking that anyone excuse him. He seemed to be trying to take all the blame, as he should. Some might think his explanations were excuses. To me they seemed like a man confessing the details of a crime.

The minute Sanford started speaking, the reviews poured in via e-mail and Twitter. He was rambling, confused. He didn't tear up enough when talking about his wife. He favored his mistress. He answered the questions too thoroughly. All these judgments seemed absurd. A man standing in front of a bank of cameras in the middle of a complete collapse is going to say a lot of things poorly.

The snap judgments failed to acknowledge a grain of the fundamental human carnage we were witnessing. You can laugh at Sanford, as you can laugh at a video of a wrecked Amy Winehouse falling all over her house. But at some point, even though they did it to themselves, you have to feel sorry for them as human beings. You can do that, I think, and not be a fan of adultery or drug use.

I'm not offering Sanford's humanity as an excuse. I'm just marveling at how few people stopped for a moment to even nod to it. My thoughtful colleague William Saletan and Andrew Sullivan were exceptions. Maybe there are others. Maybe people expressed these views in private conversations. But in the e-mails and Twitter entries and blog posts I read in the aftermath, Sanford's human ruin was greeted with what felt like antiseptic glee. The pain he's caused, the hypocrisies he's engaged in, seemed like license to deny him any humanity at all.

When I read the emails, I was struck by just how human this tragedy.  And I actually felt bad for Sanford.  Not Sanford, the governor, or Sanford, the politician, but Sanford, the man.  Because the emails almost sounded like an affair of the heart.

I mean, this wasn't your run-of-the-mill family values politician being caught having random sex in airport bathroom stalls, or chasing after congressional pages indiscriminately.  At least (so it seems) there was one woman, and his interest in her seemed to transcend purely sexual interests.  In other words, this has the earmarks of an "affair of the heart", making the Sanford affair less troubling than those of his colleagues-in-disrepute, and yet more tragic.

I'm not defending him.  For his hypocrisy alone, he should be burned at the political stake.  If it turns out that the fiscal conservative used taxpayer dollars for his jaunts to Argentina, all the more reason for a downfall.  But as for the personal repercussions, I actually kind of feel bad for him (and all involved — his wife, kids, and even the other woman).

Of course, Sanford's personal tragedy reflects what is happening in thousands of households all over America.  None of those people, however, have to see it unfold on cable television (except for Jon & Kate, who I feel less sympathy for because they voluntarily gave their personal lives over to TV).

One more thought from Dickerson:

What Mark Sanford seemed to be trying to say is that he screwed up, in the biggest possible way, because he lost his bearings. He lost his self-control. He was indulgent. He forgot that there were other humans in the world. Yet in the constant flow of abuse, joke-making, and grand conclusions about his failings, it seemed everyone having a good time pointing at his self-indulgence was also engaging in a form of it.

I don't think everyone is "having a good time pointing at his self-indulgence".  There's a good time being had at Sanford's expense, but it's all schadenfreude at the hypocrisy, not the self-indulgent affair itself.  He's being hoisted by his own petard.

After all, there have been 21 major sex scandals since Bill Clinton.  Why do the Republican ones (arguably) get more press converage?  Not because the media is liberal, but because of the hypocrisy.

But Dickerson's point is valid, echoed here by John Cole:

I'm not trying to be a scold, because I know I can be as bad as anyone when it comes to the schadenfreude. And I know that Sanford has worked to marginalize a number of people who only want to be able to be married. But unlike when I watched Ensign last week and saw a tough politico with no soul doing whatever he could to just salvage his career, when I watched Sanford yesterday, I saw a confused, and lost, and hurting person.

Ditto.  Amusement existed at a time when there were only questions.  Amusement at the situation, amusement at the obvious and awkward lies….  But now that we have the answers, we're all struck with the personal nature of this "scandal" — the fact that it involves people — and it feels a little bit awkward to even know about it.  At this point, the only relevant matter is the public aspects of it: the "abandonment" of the people of South Carolina by its leader, the hypocrisy of the pro-family political stance by Sanford and others, and the hypocrisy of a fiscal conservative leader taking taxpayer money for — uh — personal use.

And perhaps, the whole affair has something to say about social conservatism in general, its fall from grace, and questions about its place (or lack thereof) in the political spectrum.

Personally, I would be happy to see Mark Sanford, both the political figure and the private man, heal.  Specifically, I hope that somewhere in that healing process he will learn something about glass houses, and purge himself from the self-righteous values voters clan (after all, they've already purged him).  But beyond the greater political and social implications (including but not limited to the political future of Mark Sanford himself, the downfall of social conservatism, the role of journalism, etc.), I no longer give a shit.

Ewwww, Not The Actual Emails

How did they get out so fast?

Oh, and those trips to Argentina?  Could be that the taxpayers paid for them.  Mr. Fiscal Conservative, Mr. I-Don't-Want-Stimulus-Money spent taxpayer dollars to meet his paramour in Argentina.

Impeachment to come next.  Or resignation.

ON SECOND READING:  Actually, I kind of like the emails.  I mean, under better circumstances (e.g., neither one is married) they're rather sweet and classy.  A little risque, but not perverted.  It's just a shame to see them splashed in a newspaper.

RELATED:  A blogger at the conservative Redstate has a hissy fit.  Now, before you click through to read it, take my advice: imagine it in the voice of Corky (from Waiting for Guffman) when he throws his tantrum ("because you're all bastard people!"), as the World O' Crap people have done.  It's very entertaining that way.

I Don’t Want To Tell People How To Do Their Jobs, But….

Police in Jacksonville pulled over a nude driver:

He was driving on Suwanee Chapel Road and was stopped because the car was weaving in and out of its lane. Detectives released him after ordering him to put his clothes on and advising him to keep them on. "He gave no explanation … There is no law against driving naked so we had to let him go," Royal said.

Okay, but isn't there a law against weaving in and out of one's lane, regardless of how much (or little) the driver is wearing?

Sanford On Clinton/Lewinsky and Livingston Affairs

“The bottom line, though, is I am sure there will be a lot of legalistic explanations pointing out that the president lied under oath. His situation was not under oath. The bottom line, though, is he still lied. He lied under a different oath, and that is the oath to his wife. So it’s got to be taken very, very seriously.” [Sanford on Livingston, CNN, 12/18/98]

We ought to ask questions…rather than circle the wagons for one of our tribe.” [Sanford on how the GOP reacts to affairs, New York Post, 12/20/98]

“I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally (to resign). I come from the business side. If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he’d be gone.” [Sanford on Clinton, The Post and Courier, 9/12/98]

The issue of lying is probably the biggest harm, if you will, to the system of Democratic government, representatives government, because it undermines trust. And if you undermine trust in our system, you undermine everything.” [Sanford on Clinton, CNN, 2/16/99] [Source]

Chris Cillizza adds:

This is not the end of the story. The problem for Sanford is that he appears to have willfully misled his staff, the lieutenant governor and the people of the state about his whereabouts — signaling that he was likely headed to the Appalachian Trail before hopping on a flight to Argentina. There will almost certainly be some sort of investigation into whether Sanford misused state funds on this trip — remember that he took a state-owned vehicle and parked it at the Columbia airport — that will keep this wound raw for the foreseeable future.

Fox News Continues Its Annoying Habit Of Identifying Shamed Republicans As Democrats

For crying out loud:


Remember this from a few years back, regarding Senator Mark Foley (R-FL), who made sexual advances to underage male congressional pages?


And when McCain was down in the polls just weeks before the election?


Fox News: Inept or a Propaganda Machine?  You decide….

RELATED:  During his press conference, Governor Sanford said that he was "crying In Argentina".  So naturally, I have to post this:

Snakes In The Carolinas

Burmese%20Python%20in%20Florida No, not another post about Mark Sanford.

I'm talking about snakes.  Actual snakes.  Big ones. 

I'm talking about Burmese pythons up to 25 feet long that eat kitties and poodles and potentially, babies.

Now scientists fear this invasive species is silently slithering northward.


"The question is really, well, can they survive in a place like South Carolina or North Carolina or Arkansas or Tennessee?" [NC biology professor Mike] Dorcas said.

Let's hope not.

It’s 2:15 PM. Do You Know Where Your Governor Is? [UPDATE: He Confesses]

Gov. Mark Sanford is late for his 2:00 pm news conference to explain his whereabouts and odd behavior these past six days.

Except he hasn't shown up yet.

Probably on the Chisholm Trail, I'm guessing.

Picture 20 UPDATE (2:25 pm): Okay, here he is. He's basically apologizing to his wife, kids and staff for just disappearing like that.

2:27 pm:  Now he's holding back tears.  Saying how he's let people down.  Including his in-laws.  Not exactly saying what he did to let them all down.

2:27 pm:  Now apologizing to people of faith.  Still not explaining what he's ap[ologizing for.

2:30 pm:  BOOM!  There it is!  "I've been unfaithful to my wife".  Developed a relationship with a woman from Argentina.  Began as an innocent email exchange.  Lady in the background behind him gave a "WTF?!?" head turn when he said that. [NOTE: I called it when I first wrote about it: "I smell Republican sex scandal"]

2:32 pm: Going to resign as Chairman of Republican Governor's Association.

2:38 pm: Sanford is explaining that he went to Argentina on this trip was essentially to break off or end the relationship with the woman in Argentina and that he's committed to trying to reconcile with his wife.

And that's all there is to write.  He's still talking and there's still question time, but the rest is just epilogue.  One could take the stance that this is a private, not public, matter, but his behavior this past week makes that argument a non-starter.

Some may want to give him credit for his standing up there, owning up to his mistake, being earnest, blah blah blah, but I can't help but wonder what he would be saying had he not been caught by a reporter in the Atlantic airport where he just debarked from a flight from Argentina.  Would he still be spouting the Appalachian trail story?

Whatever kudos can be given to his newfound earnestness, the affair itself (or even the ending of it, as he claims) doesn't excuse leaving an entire state rudderless for several days.  Nor does it excuse the hypocrisy from this "family values" political figure.

LATER THOUGHT:  Perhaps this webpage should come down….

EVEN LATER THOUGHT:  Less than a month ago, the right blogsphere was all agog at the "scandal" of Obama taking his wife to NYC for a date (a Broadway play).  Not to mention their constant party line that gay marriage creates family instability.  Wonder what they have to say now?

Oscar Doubling The Best Picture Nominees

Instead of five nominees for the Best Picture of the Year, there will now be ten.

This is not new.  In the 1930's and 1940's, the Academy often nominated 10 pictures. 

But then again, they had good reason to.  Consider the Best Picture nominees from 1939: "Gone With the Wind," which won, "The Wizard of Oz," "Stagecoach," "Wuthering Heights," "Love Affair," "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Of Mice and Men," "Dark Victory" and "Ninotchka."  All of them are classics today.

Oddly, the Academy came to this decision after looking at last year's films:

[Academy President Sid] Ganis said the board looked at last year's slate of films and decided there was room for more in the top category. "We nominated five, but there were many other great films last year," he said.

Really?  Last year's movies for the most part sucked, with the exception of the five nominees.

I think the Academy is trying to get a larger TV audience for its awards, so it is going to throw out bones to popular movies (like Batman: The Dark Knight) which won't ever win but which will draw audiences to the Oscar telecast.

The new rules start this coming year.

Sanford To Explain All (And A Look At Decision 2012)

UPDATE:  Since posting this item, the "other woman" question has come to the fore.  According to source to TPM:

….a second car was identified at the Columbia airport, next to the SUV Sanford is believed to have used. Two additional sources in South Carolina politics said the same thing.

Other sources also note that the Sanfords have been having problems in their marriage and have "been in marital counseling for several weeks now."

First, he wasn't missing at all.  Then he was taking some time away from the kids to do some writing, then he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, then his staff was in touch with him and then they weren't, and now he was supposedly in Argentina alone the whole time, driving on a coastline which is neither long nor scenic, in the coldest time of the year down there.  And that wasn't revealed until a reporter caught him at the airport getting off a plane from Argentina.

All this from a pro-family value governor (and 2012 presidential candidate) who spends father's day away from his kids.

When the timeline is put together (and it has been), the whole thing strains credulity.

He's holding a news conference today at 2:00 pm.  Trainwreck coming?  I hope he's prepared to answer these questions:

* Where did Sanford stay during his trip? And with whom? (The governor refused to discuss his accommodations in Argentina earlier today.)

* Did Sanford lie to his staff, or did he encourage his staff to lie to us?

* Why didn't the governor tell his wife and children where he was going?

* Why didn't Sanford check in with the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires?

* The governor's vehicle parked at a South Carolina airport had a "baseball cap, running shoes, sunscreen, a pair of shorts, a canvas bag and a sleeping bag" inside. Did Sanford intend to come home and pretend that he actually was on the Appalachian Trail during his absence?

* Why did Sanford change his travel arrangements for his return trip home?

* Who was in charge of the South Carolina executive branch for the last six days?

* Given the number of telephones and computers in Buenos Aires, why didn't Sanford call and/or email anyone on his staff or in his family?

Before he takes the podium, let's have a quick rundown of 2012 GOP presidential contenders and their implosions:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: Showed her seriousness as a high-minded policymaker and world leader by picking a fight with a late-night comedian.  The refusal of the stimulus funds.  Then the continuing feud with D.C Republicans.  And the Bristol-Levi breakup mess.  She's not doing much to shed her trailer park housemom image.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: Shyed away from the public spotlight after a dreadful televised response to Obama’s address to Congress.  In that address, Jindal mocked some of Obama's stimulus spending, openly wondering what "volcano monitoring" was and why we needed to spend money on it — less than a week later, a deadly volcano erupted in Alaska as if to answer Jindal's stupid query.

Arizona Sen. John Ensign:  After having dipped his toes in the Iowa waters, he confessed last week to having an affair.

SC Gov. Mark Sanford: Well, you know….

Newt Gingrich:  Got in trouble — and didn’t do himself any favors among Latino voters — when he called Sonia Sotomayor a "racist".

Texas Gov. Rick Perry:  Became laughing stock when he suggested that Texas seceed from Union

So much for the conservative hopefuls.  As for the moderate Republicans:

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman:  Has gone to work for … the Obama administration.  Not an "implosion" per se, but it pretty much kills any 2012 hopes.

I think Mitt Romney must be pretty happy these days.  He's playing it smart by staying out of the spotlight.  A new Pew Research poll finds Romney "has seen his favorability ratings improve and now enjoys a positive balance of opinion among the general public: 40% rate him favorably, 28% unfavorably."

Is There A Gender Bias In Theater?

Book The New York Times covers a new study conducted by Emily Glassberg Sands, a Princeton economics student. 

It's common knowledge that play by men get produced more often than plays by women.  But why?  Is it merely because there are more male playrights than female playwrights?  Or is there discrimination at play?

To answer these questions, Ms. Sands conducted three studies.

The first considered the playwrights themselves. Artistic directors of theater companies have maintained that no discrimination exists, rather that good scripts by women are in short supply. That claim elicited snorts and laughter from the audience when it was repeated Monday night, but Ms. Sands declared, “They’re right.”

In reviewing information on 20,000 playwrights in the Dramatists Guild and, an online database of playwrights, she found that there were twice as many male playwrights as female ones, and that the men tended to be more prolific, turning out more plays.

What’s more, Ms. Sands found, over all, the work of men and women is produced at the same rate. The artistic directors have a point: they do get many more scripts from men.

I'm not sure that's revealing too much.  Doesn't seem like discrimination.  However, Sands' second study was interesting:

Ms. Sands sent identical scripts to artistic directors and literary managers around the country. The only difference was that half named a man as the writer (for example, Michael Walker), while half named a woman (i.e., Mary Walker). It turned out that Mary’s scripts received significantly worse ratings in terms of quality, economic prospects and audience response than Michael’s.

Hmmmm.  That would indicate some anti-woman bias. 

BUT here's the kicker: the bias against women comes from women.  The "worse ratings" for the female-authored play came from female artistic directors and literary managers.

Now to Sands' third study:

She modeled her research on work done in the 1960s and ’70s to determine whether discrimination existed in baseball. Those studies concluded that black players had to deliver higher performing statistics — for example, better batting averages — than white players simply to make it to the major leagues.

Ms. Sands examined the 329 new plays and musicals produced on Broadway in the past 10 years to determine whether the bar was set higher. Did scripts by women have to be better than those by men?

"Better" is a qualitative vague term.  For her study, Sands defined "better" as more successful, i.e., box office receipts.  The results?  Plays and musicals by women sold 16 percent more tickets a week and were 18 percent more profitable over all, BUT in spite of that…

…producers did not keep them running any longer than less profitable shows that were written by men. To Ms. Sands, the length of the run was clear evidence that producers discriminate against women.

Other findings?  Plays by women which feature women are less likely to be produced.  However, this may have more to do with the fact that women tend to write plays with a smaller cast, and smaller cast plays as a whole get produced less often.

You can read the full NYT article here, her research paper here (PDF) or a view her Powerpoint presentation (PDF) here.

Who Says We Won’t Have Nixon To Kick Around Anymore?

Just yesterday, a Nixon tape was released in which he expressed approval of abortion for children of interracial couples.

Today, from other newly-released tapes, we learn of his sexism.

In February of 1973, President Nixon called future president and then-Republican National Committee chairman George H.W. Bush, and recounted a recent visit to the South Carolina state legislature.

"I noticed a couple of very attractive women, both of them Republicans, in the legislature," Nixon told Bush. "I want you to be sure to emphasize to our people, God, let's look for some… Understand, I don't do it because I'm for women, but I'm doing it because I think maybe a woman might win someplace where a man might not… So have you got that in mind?"

Bush replies, "I'll certainly keep it in mind."

Yeah, God forbid Nixon be "for women".

Who Do Americans Trust To Handle Terrorism?

For decades, the American people believed that the Republican Party, despite whatever else they may lack, was the go-to party on issues involving national security and terrorism.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll from 2002 said that 57% of Americans felt Republicans were better on handling terrorism (only 22% favored Democrats).

An NBC/WSJ poll from 2002 said that 49% of registered voters preferred Republicans to deal with terrorism (compared to 13% for Democrats).

A Fox poll from 2003 had similar results: 53% favored Republicans; 19%  favored Democrats.

In all cases the spread was 35-40 points, Republicans beating Democrats.

No more.  ABC/WaPo poll this week asked:

Who do you trust to do a better job handling the threat of terrorism — (Obama) or the (Republicans in Congress)?

   Obama: 55%

   Republicans in Congress: 34%

Looks like the GOP no longer has the edge on the subject of terrorism either.  It sum, this graph compiles the poll on the "trust" issue:


With that much approval on the issues, it is hard to understand why Obama is having such a hard time getting certain things like health care reform approved.  In fact, it's hard to tell why he's even bothering to be partisan.

Pat Boone Cannot Tell The Truth

Lot of really good over-the-top anti-Obama wingnuttery these days. 

Over at Renew America, Marie Jon No-More-Apostrophe has penned her solution to deal with Obama in a piece entitled "How do we stop Communism? Pray!"

And Sher "It Appears That" Zieve is still using her favorite rhetorical devices — capital letters and the phrase "it appears that" — to gin up the coming ObamaArmageddon.  Here's an example:

By the way, ObamaCare will also him to control virtually all of the actions — what we can and cannot eat, do, say, think etc. — of American citizens. It will also allow him and his adherents to ultimately decide who will live and who will die. This will be called ObamaTotalControl.

But I'm kind of partial to Pat Boone's brand of earnest lunacy, which is found in his latest Newsmax column, "Obama Should Emulate George Washington's Truthfulness".  He starts out:

I doubt that it’s ever taught in school today, because it seems that the National Education Association has different ideas about what our kids need to know.

What is "it"?  Pat's going to tell us:

But most adults over 40 surely are familiar with the story about young George Washington, who had been given a small hatchet for his birthday.

Yes, Pat.  The kids NEED to know made-up stories about the founding fathers instead of this shit.

Eager to try it out, the boy looked for something to hack (the word had a different meaning in our forefathers' days). And he found it — a little cherry tree. When his father found that a perfectly good cherry tree had been destroyed, he asked George whether he knew what had happened.

“Father, I cannot tell a lie,” said the future first president of the United States of America. “I did it.”

Yeah, I think it is important to teach kids not to tell a lie, too.  But we kind of undercut the lesson when we use a story which is itself a lie, don't we?

An insignificant story, perhaps, just a little morality tale for kids. No one today can verify whether it actually happened. I, for one, believe it did, mainly because if its apparent insignificance.

In other words, if it has significance, it really happened.  Really, that's all it takes. 

If there weren’t a factual basis for the story, who would make it up?

Um, this guy maybe?

Mason Locke Weems (October 11, 1756 – May 23, 1825), generally known as Parson Weems, was an American printer and author. He is best known as the source of some of the apocryphal stories about George Washington, including the famous tale of the cherry tree ("I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet"). The Life of Washington, Weems' most famous work, contained the story. Creating a moral tale to emphasize a character trait was a commonly used literary device in 18th century biographies.

Emphasis mine.  But back to Pat:

Surely a fableist would conjure up something more dramatic than a little boy cutting down a cherry tree with his new hatchet.

Surely.  After all, is there a book more gripping and dramatic than Aesop's Fables?

But what makes it significant is that it underscores, from a very early age, the character of the man who became our first president — and a role model for all who would follow him into that office. His honesty never was questioned throughout his distinguished military career, his political leadership, and his virtually unanimously elected two terms as president of the United States.

His slaves also never questioned his honesty.  Oh, sorry.  Why did I have to bring that up?

In fact, his admiring friend Thomas Jefferson wrote about Washington: “His integrity was the most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known. He was, in every sense of the word, a wise, a good, and a great man.”

That was just before Jefferson wrote about how "naturally irritable" Washington was.  No, really.

Is it any wonder, then, that parents and teachers have pointed to the man we call “the father of our country” for nearly 200 years as an example for our kids to emulate? That, too, makes the story of the apple tree meaningful and important: Children can understand the moral and learn a valuable lesson from their earliest years.

Oh, so now it's an apple tree?

Pat then compares Obama to George Washington — not the real George Washington, of course (which is an unfair comparison anyway) — but the fake hatchet-breaing, cherry-and-or-apple-tree-chopping George Washington.

I'm not exactly sure that Pat is any position to criticize the NEA or extol the virtues of truth in a column so riddled with inaccuracies.

Sanford: No, I Wasn’t Hiking — I Was In South America


Gov. Mark Sanford arrived in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this morning, having wrapped up a seven-day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said. Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media.

Sanford's whereabouts had been unknown since Thursday, and the mystery surrounding his absence fueled speculation about where he had been and who's in charge in his absence. His emergence Wednesday ended the mystery.

Sanford, in an exclusive interview with The State, said he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over how to spend federal stimulus money.

Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail, an activity he said he has enjoyed since he was a high school student.

"But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford said "… It's a great city."


The governor said he cut his trip short after his chief of staff, Scott English, told him his trip was gaining a lot of media attention and he needed to come back.

When asked why his staff said he was on the Appalachian Trail, Sanford replied, "I don't know."

Sanford later said "in fairness to his staff," he had told them he might go hiking on the Appalachian Trial.

Also, his press secretary issued a statement Monday at 5:00 pm that said, "“Before leaving last week, (Sanford) let staff know his whereabouts and that he'd be difficult to reach.”   Then the press secretary reiterated that Sanford was hiking the trail.

200px-evita_screencap1 NOW we learn he was in Buenos Aires.  Hmmmmmm.

Sanford told reporters he was travelling alone.

Hey, it could be true.  Maybe we'll never know.  However, even if it is true, it's a little disconcerting — the governor of a state just flies away without telling his staff or family where he's going or when he will be back.  Can't do that mister.  Kind of irresponsible.

I think Sanford may have blown his 2012 presidential bid.

UPDATE: The AP showing some skepticism at the whole "driving the Argentina coast" thing.

Sanford told The State he was alone on the trip to Argentina. He declined to give any additional details about what he did other than to say he drove along the coastline.

Trying to make such a drive could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it's less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat.


ABC’s Joe Goldman reports that a US embassy official in Buenos Aires tells him that the embassy had “absolutely no idea” that Sanford was in Argentina. The embassy official added that this comes "from out of left field — it would be extremely odd that a US governor would not check in with the embassy."

Missing Governor Sanford: The Plot Thickens

From Greenville SC TV:

WYFF News 4 has received exclusive information from sources who say they have information about Gov. Mark Sanford's whereabouts during a mysterious absence over the past several days.

Sanford's wife Jenny said she last talked to him on Thursday, and though she didn't know where he is, she said she wasn't concerned. She said he had left to have time to write.

Joel Sawyer, communications director for the governor's office, then said the governor had been on the Appalachian Trail. Sawyer said staffers heard from Sanford on Tuesday morning and the governor plans to return Wednesday.

Sawyer said the governor is surprised by all the attention.

On Tuesday, sources told News 4's Nigel Robertson that a state vehicle is missing and was tracked down, not to the Appalachian Trail, but to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.

Sources told Robertson that a federal agent spotted Sanford in the airport boarding a plane. Robertson was told that the governor was not accompanied by security detail.

Sanford has been out of reach for more than four days, including Father's Day.

Sawyer has emphasized that the governor was hiking on the Appalachian Trail and that it wasn't something the staff or Jenny Sanford were concerned about.

But sources told WYFF News 4 that the federal agent who spotted Sanford saw him at the Atlanta airport, which is about 80 miles from the start of the trail.

WYFF News 4 has not yet confirmed where the plane was going or how the governor got to the airport, but it is clear there are two very different stories.

News 4 called the governor's office, and was told again by staffers that they stand by their original statement that the governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail. They did not want to comment on this story.

I go back to original theory — sex scandal.

And don't say he flew from Atlanta to someplace on the trail.  He could easily fly from Columbia, SC.  Or drive.  The only reason to fly out of Atlanta is if you are going someplace far away and you want to fly nonstop.

BONUS:  CNN quotes his wife, who still hasn't heard from him, as saying:

"I am being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children."

I guess it depends on the tone, but Notice how she said “my” children. Ouch… maybe we have a little Jon and Kate Gosselin situation here.

NC Anti-Bullying Statute Debate [UPDATE: Passes!]

I'm listening to the feed from the NC House as they debate the School Violence Prevention Act (the so-called anti-bullying bill) — full text here — and some moron is up there saying that the problem with the bill is that it is centered around the victims, rather than the bullies.  According to this idiot, anyone can be victims, so rather than having a bill that singles out "special protections" for "certain" victims (he means gay kids), he thinks the bill should focus on the bullies.

It's a stupid argument on its face.  First of all, we all went to high school, and no, some kids weren't picked on.  Not everyone was a victim.  Secondly, the bill, as written, doesn't create "special protections" for gay kids – it applies to anyone who is bulliled on account of "race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics".

Now another idiot is getting up there and trying to stop the bill by complaining that it doesn't protect kids whose "sexual orientation" includes pedophilia and S&M.  That's called being a "concern troll" — he's not actually trying to keep pedophiles and sado-masochists; he just is trying to kill the bill.  Those things are not sexual orientation, and even if they are, the bill covers ALL "sexual orientation" without limitation.

Now another concern troll is up there, complaining that the bill only requires that schools set policies and procedures to deal with bullying, but it doesn't actually punish the bully. Uh, what?  If you set up the procedure to deal with the bully, then you ARE dealing with the bully.  And now he's trying to add a corporal punishment amendment so that teachers can beat up bullies.  Now he's backtracking and saying that corporal amendment can only be allowed in constituancies that allow corporal punishment.

Well, they sure are right about laws and sausage-making.

UPDATE:  If I heard correctly, the bill passed the House by one vote!  All amendments failed.  Senate has already passed, so now the bill goes to the governor.

The Actor And The “Bullet Fee”

A37282898f2e5e975c110bbd5985f2ea If you were following the situation in Iran this weekend, you no doubt already know about Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman shot and killed in Iran on Saturday, who has since become an international symbol from the time the gruesome video of her death went online. [I won't post the Neda video here — too disturbing even for me — but you can see it here]

Of course, hers isn't the only story of cruelity inflicted by the Iranian regime on its own people.  Here is a story about another young person — an innocent bystander again — killed in Iran this past weekend, a 19 year old named Kaveh Alipour

On Saturday, amid the most violent clashes between security forces and protesters, Mr. Alipour was shot in the head as he stood at an intersection in downtown Tehran. He was returning from acting class and a week shy of becoming a groom, his family said.

The details of his death remain unclear. He had been alone. Neighbors and relatives think that he got trapped in the crossfire. He wasn't politically active and hadn't taken part in the turmoil that has rocked Iran for over a week, they said.

"He was a very polite, shy young man," said Mohamad, a neighbor who has known him since childhood.

When Mr. Alipour didn't return home that night, his parents began to worry. All day, they had heard gunshots ringing in the distance. His father, Yousef, first called his fiancée and friends. No one had heard from him.

At the crack of dawn, his father began searching at police stations, then hospitals and then the morgue.

Of course, we now know that Kaveh Alipour was killed.  And to add insult to, uh, injury….

Upon learning of his son's death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a "bullet fee"—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

The Alipour family refused to pay the fee, and morgue officials eventually caved, but "demanded that the family do no funeral or burial in Tehran."

It's no wonder there is an uprising against the Iranian government.

What Do You Think Of Autotune?

Autotuning is quite simple.  It can also be used to turn regular speech into music (with Cher-like effects if desired), like the guys who routine autotune the news of the day:

But more controversially, autotune involves the ability, through software, to correct one's singing pitch in real time.  With a software program which runs only a couple hundred dollars, a performer's voice is automatically and in real time tweaked to the correct pitch if it happens to be a little sharp or flat.  Without effects.  It can even add/remove vibrato – live, in real time – according to whatever parameters you preset.

And it's used.  In theaters (I'm looking at you, Jersey Boys).  In concerts (Beyonce, etc.)

Now, God knows I could certainly use it when performing.  But what about the professionals?  A cheat?

One side of the argument is that it's not much different than Milli Vanilli.  What you're hearing isn't real.

The other side of the argument is that you still are hearing the tone of the voice (Harvey Fierstein will still sound like Harvey Fierstein), and the singer can still sing, but you're hearing it at its best, since nobody can sing 7 shows a week with heavy chorerography.

What do you think?

Nobody’s Down With The GOP

Ugly numbers from the latest Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll:


ALL 24 71 5
MEN 32 63 5
WOMEN 16 79 5
DEM 5 94 1
REP 70 22 8
IND 15 78 7
OTH/REF 19 76 5
NON VOTERS 14 81 5
WHITE 31 64 5
BLACK 3 94 3
LATINO 8 86 6
OTHER/REF 9 84 7
18-29 9 87 4
30-44 35 59 6
45-59 21 74 5
60+ 23 72 5
SOUTH 45 47 8
MIDWEST 18 78 4
WEST 20 76


Let's put that in graph form, so you can see the breakdown by race:
Josh Marshall notes that the Republican Party may have structural impediments in place that will make progress with minorities difficult.

The only problem is that the modern Republican party's panic switch, or at least one of them, is rancid jingoism and more or less open anti-Hispanic (though often specifically targeted at Mexicans) prejudice. Or, to put it more bluntly, as with African-Americans, it's tough to be the party of the blacks and the racists at the same time. (Not that the Dems didn't try it for a few decades in the middle of the 20th century — but it didn't end up panning out.)

One might imagine an alternative universe in which gays were not only an increasingly open and powerful political constituency but also one that was growing rapidly in population terms. And you'd have Republicans wanting to cultivate support among this growing group but also episodically bashing them to consolidate support among base conservative voters.

In other words, it's not a mistake or incompetence or any lack of planning that has Republicans in such a bad position with Hispanics, America's fastest growing ethnic group. It's just that people who are hostile to Hispanic immigration and just Hispanics in general are one of the GOP's key constituencies. That puts some real obstacles in the way of becoming the party of Hispanics.

Dumping Waste Into Clean Water Doesn’t Violate The Clean Water Act

SCOTUS ruling today:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Clean Water Act does not prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from allowing mining waste to be dumped into rivers, streams and other waters.

In a 6-to-3 decision that drew fierce criticism from environmentalists, the court said the Corps of Engineers had the authority to grant Coeur Alaska Inc., a gold mining company, permission to dump the waste known as slurry into Lower Slate Lake, north of Juneau.

I don't know the details of the case, so I'm not going to comment on whether the decision was sound or not.

I will say this though…. if the ruling is sound, then they need to either change the name of the "Clean Water Act" or enact a better one.

Mystery Solved?

See update on Governor Sanford story below….

FUN FACT:  If the governor truly is in fact enjoying the Appalachian Trail, one might point out that the trail got stimulus money — money that the governor himself opposed.  Read more.

ANOTHER FUN FACT: Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) — yes, that John Ensign — disappeared for two weeks in 2002 citing personal reasons. When he returned to the Senate, he offered no explanation for his absence.  Just sayin'….

AND STILL ANOTHER:  The governor was "hiking" on Naked Hiking Day

Artists Running Wall Street?

That's one someone thinks.  From the Community Arts Network:

A Proposed Job Swap To Save American Capitalism

Do Wall Street executives deserve big bonuses during hard times? Does increased arts funding have a place in an economic stimulus package? I’ll leave it to others to debate these controversies. Meanwhile I’d like to make a modest proposal to solve some of our economic problems: Let’s do a job swap. We’ll put the corporate executives to work as artists while the artists run Wall Street.

Since their first task will be getting economic markets back on solid footing, I’m convinced that artists have the perfect resumès for their new jobs. Here’s why:

  1. Artists work ridiculous hours for no pay. And most of the artists I know will keep working until they get the job done right.
  2. Artists do not need fancy offices. In fact, they usually work in the worst part of town … until that part of town becomes fancy because the artists are there. Then they have to move because they haven’t paid themselves enough to afford the new rent.
  3. Artists throw everything they earn back into the store – which is why they haven’t paid themselves enough. (I will admit that there was one time I didn’t do this. When I was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship back in 2002, I decided to open my first retirement account. I put the money in “very safe” stock market investments. I would have been better off putting it into my next dance.)
  4. Artists do not need financial incentives. Artists do the work they do because they love it. Or because they believe in it. Or because they think it is a social necessity for our communities. Or because they know when people make poems or pictures or dances, our best human spirits emerge.
  5. Artists do not expect to get anything if they do a bad job. Except maybe a bad review.
  6. No artist gets a bonus because there is never enough money at the end of a project.
  7. Artists keep very tight budgets. They know how to spend the same penny over and over (not by cooking the books, but by pinching, recycling, borrowing, bartering and plowing their economy-airline frequent-flyer miles back into the next project.)
  8. Artists have a rightful reputation for fresh ideas combined with a capacity for self-evaluation that borders on recrimination.
  9. Artists play well with others, having evolved highly efficient collaborative techniques in the service of their visions. But they are also very independent, delivering great things even when they work alone.

Meanwhile, in their new capacities as painters, poets, cellists and choreographers, our Wall Street executives might be experiencing a combination of culture shock therapy and ethical boot camp. Artistic practice may force them to discover what they really believe in, because the combination of introspection, discipline and craft that fuels an artist’s work (oh, and it is work) puts people in a very demanding state of truth. Doing what artists do every day, some might find themselves in overcrowded classrooms, excited to share their practices to help young people discover that they actually can learn. Others might be sparked to help communities solve problems by bridging differences through the unique power of their art forms. Those who have been lucky enough to get funded for their work will likely be staying up nights, filling out multiple forms to prove the exact use of the money they have been granted. All will find their moral compasses tested as they balance the demanding loyalties of pursuing personal vision and creating value for an audience.

The job swap I propose might have a final payoff: With artists in charge of Wall Street, you might even see people donate to the cause because artists know how to inspire others to participate together, to work for something that matters, to build on the intangibles of the human experience, to make a difference.

Imagine that kind of Wall Street.

Obviously not a serious idea.  If artists ran Wall Street, they would suck at it — mainly because artists do what they do (at poor wages and work conditions) for love.  And most artists I suspect would not cozy up to balance sheets, audit reviews, and mid-range multivariable stategic planning oversight budget committee workshop… uh… things.

Also, it was innovation which got us into this mess.  Financial innovation.  Someone came up with the brilliant idea of creating these credit default swaps, which was a fancy way to make money off of bad mortgages.  "Creative" accounting, too, tends to get us in trouble (see Enron).

That said, it would make a good idea for a buddy-switch movie.  Nathan Lane and Harrison Ford are brothers; he's a flamboyant limpwristed stage director and he's a tightass Wall street exec.  And after both touching some rare Africant artifact, they switch bodies…. you know the rest.  Working title: Give my Regards To Wall Street

Odd Story Out Of South Carolina

Probably nothing, but still…

The whereabouts of Gov. Mark Sanford have been unknown to state officials since Thursday, and some state leaders are questioning who is in charge of the executive office.

Neither the governor's office nor the State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for governors, has been able to reach Sanford after he left the mansion in a black SLED Suburban SUV, said Sen. Jake Knotts and three others familiar with the situation but who declined to be identified.

Sanford's last known whereabouts were near Atlanta, where a mobile telephone tower picked up a signal from his phone, authorities said.

First lady Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press today her husband has been gone for several days and she doesn't know where he is.

His wife doesn't know where he is? Neither do the state officials responsible for his security? And weirdly, both the governor's personal and professional phones have been turned off, and messages have gone unreturned since Thursday.

The governor's wife said the governor needed some time away "to write something." Sanford's office issued a statement today saying that Sanford decided to "recharge" after the legislative session, and has decided to "work on a couple of projects that have fallen by the wayside."

South Carolina's lieutenant governor said he also didn't know where Sanford is, but added that he has not been given any temporary power.

Wonder what's up…. peculiar behavior for a 2012 presidential candidate.

I smell Republican sex scandal.

NEXT DAY: Mystery solved.  He's on the Appalachian Trail.  Although, it's still a little odd

(1)  Staff and wife didn't know where he was

(2) Wife said governor needed time away "to write something".  Really?  On the Appalachian Trail?

(3)  Saying that you're at "the Appalachian trail" is odd.  The dame thing runs from Maine to Georgia.  Most people go to a part of the Appalachian Trail, like "Mt Washington", or Great Smoky National Park.

(4)  When this issue was raised, SC spokesmen said that his cell phone suggested that he was in the vicinity of Georgia.  That suggests that somebody had already inquired about the governor and had conducted some sort of cell phone trace.

You Want To Cry?

Then read this.  Here, I'll start it for you:

Pixar grants girl's dying wish to see 'Up'

Colby_med HUNTINGTON BEACH – Colby Curtin, a 10-year-old with a rare form of cancer, was staying alive for one thing – a movie.

From the minute Colby saw the previews to the Disney-Pixar movie Up, she was desperate to see it. Colby had been diagnosed with vascular cancer about three years ago, said her mother, Lisa Curtin, and at the beginning of this month it became apparent that she would die soon and was too ill to be moved to a theater to see the film.

After a family friend made frantic calls to Pixar to help grant Colby her dying wish, Pixar came to the rescue.

The company flew an employee with a DVD of Up, which is only in theaters, to the Curtins’ Huntington Beach home on June 10 for a private viewing of the movie.

The animated movie begins with scenes showing the evolution of a relationship between a husband and wife. After losing his wife in old age, the now grumpy man deals with his loss by attaching thousands of balloons to his house, flying into the sky, and going on an adventure with a little boy.

Colby died about seven hours after seeing the film.

Yeah, and keep reading the article.  The details will rip you up….

“I Can’t Get That E-Coli Virus Offa My Mind”

That title is an inside joke that only a handful of people will get.  It's from a play I'm in which opens tonight (see right column).

One of our castmates was unable to make final dress rehearsal last night — tremendous stomach problems, apparently.

So you know where my mind went when I read this:

Nestle recalls cookie dough products for E. coli

66 reports of illness across 28 states since March; 28 people hospitalized

Food maker Nestle USA on Friday voluntarily recalled its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products after a number of illnesses were reported by those who ate the dough raw.

The company said the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control are investigating reported E. coli illnesses that might be related to the ingestion of raw cookie dough.

In a statement, the FDA said there have been 66 reports of illness across 28 states since March. About 25 people have been hospitalized, but no one has died.

Raw cookie dough?  Yeah.  You've done it.  Don't lie.

But don't, okay?

And Paul, I hope you didn't.  You better be there tonight, bubba.