Monthly Archives: October 2009

Hellphone Teaser

The funny thing is…. the guy at the beginning of the trailer?  That was originally going to be my part, but due to scheduling issues, it went to someone else.  I got a different scene.

This is going to be a fun little movie.

Gay Marriage In Maine: The Homophobes Speak

Jim Newell at Wonkette comments on this ad:

The latest anti-gay ad in Maine, produced by a paranoid schizophrenic on meth, features random documents with bureaucratic titles and pulled phrases flying around the screen at warp speed, to Warn us. The gay teachers in Maine are all going to come out and then force the gay children — you know, the quiet little boys who play with dolls in the sandbox at recess — to come out with them.

“Gay marriage will be taught in schools unless we vote Yes on Question 1,” the insane person tells us. Do they “teach” straight marriage now? When we were in grade school, all the teaching was about multiplication and reading and George Washington and whatever. Now everyone just learns to be gay and to sext each other and to compare and contrast iPhones and Palm Pres.

…. And There Are No Pictures!

Healthcare reform has focussed on the Senate bill these past few months.  But as we know, there is another important legislative body: the House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveild the House Democrat health care reform bill today.

And what's the insta-reaction from the conservosphere?  "OMG.  It's 1990 pages long!  That's a mega-mega-bureaucracy!  Like Hitler!"

Okay, first of all, if you are talking about comprehensive reform of the health care system in this country — and Dems are — then of course it is going to be a "big bill".  You can't accomplish real change by nipping at the edges of an issue.

The other thing: if you actually look at the bill, you'll instantly see that it is printed in double-space, with margins actually bigger than the text itself.  Only about 150 words per page.  This post alone would be about two pages!

UPDATE: One thing to like about the Pelosi bill (so far) — it outlaws "domestic violence" as a pre-existing condition to deny coverage.  A short summary is here.

Why Yahoo Answers Is The Bestest Thing On The Intertubes

Example:

My_wife_thinks_i_am_gay 
Here's the link.  The answers are a scream, too.  A sampling:

If you walked in on your male neighbor and saw the same thing what would you think? I'm glad I don't have to clean that room when all you guys are 'finished'.

Dear sir,
You are so the very, very gay. You are in fact so very gay that the gay people call you gay.

What are you, 10 yrs old? Sound very immature to me.

OK, no gay person would ever be such a pervert.

If it's real then she's reacting as any woman of a grown man involved in a circle jerk would react. What she's caught is exactly what you want it not to be…some type of perverted homosexual or homo-erotic behavior that is pretty sick. You may be stuck in the 80's but what you're describing here isn't what men who lived through that decade as an adult did. If she can stomach you again she's a real princess. My guess is she can't and won't. Good luck…

BREAKING: Obama Signs Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes Legislation

Actually the Hate Crimes bill was tacked on to the 2009 Defense Appropriations Act, which Obama signed this afternoon, but it's still there, and Obama noted the significance of it:

So today I'm pleased to say that we have proved that change is possible. It may not come quickly, or all at once, but if you push hard enough, it does come eventually.

Now, speaking of that, there is one more long-awaited change contained within this legislation that I'll be talking about a little more later today. After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are. (Applause.)

I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day — make this day possible. So — and thank you for joining us here today.

The new law strengthens existing U.S. laws by extending federal hate crime protection in cases where the victim was targeted because of their sexual orientation, gender, disability, or gender identity.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Gets A Little Cute

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) vetoed a bill last night, and sent a little seven-line note to the California legislature, blasting them for not advancing his administration's proposals.  The note is innocent at first glance:

Ahnold

But people today, started noticing something:

Schwarzfu 

Oh, bad boy……

Local Papers Don’t Do Justice To Theatre Criticism

Okay, that's twice now in about one week — here and here.  Iin both of these theater reviews — from local papers — the phrase "does justice" appears in the headline (or sub-headline).

As in:

Cast does justice to long-running Broadway show

and

Triad Stage's Oleanna does justice to Mamet's vision

Does justice? I don't know what that phrase means.  Is theater-going a trial now?

It's one of those flat, dishwatery phrases that bad newspaper editors use when they can't think of anything better.  (I actually don't fault the reviewers here — they don't necessarily choose their headline titles).  Seriously, it's high school newspaper style.

It really means nothing more than "So-and-so put on a play that is like the original version".  Well, yes, Einstein.  That's usually the case.  After all, they're using the same script and all.

That phrase comes off as a backhanded insult, i.e., "Well, at least they didn't fuck up Moliere by wearing tu-tus and sporting afros."  But if you look at the reviews above, they are positive, so why can't the headline contain something a little less namby-pamby?

Strange Bedfellows

The Catholic Church is in favor of "No 1" in Maine, the voting referendum which, if passed, will overturn the governor and Maine legislature's decisions to allow same-sex marriage.

And that's fine, but look who they are getting into bed with:

The Maine Grassroots Coalition will hold a press conference in the Hall of  Flags at the State House in Augusta at 11:00 on Wednesday October 28th, to alert the public to the dangers of the radical homosexual agenda. The press conference will feature three well-known pro-family speakers, Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, Brian Camenker of Mass Resistance, and Maine's own Paul Madore, from the Maine Grassroots Coalition.

[Emphasis mine]

Brian Camenker is the leader of one of only eleven organizations to be so extreme, that they've chosen by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an official anti-gay hate group.

RENT at Theatre Alliance

I realized this morning that 1,000 people have either seen RENT at Theatre Alliance, or have bought tickets to see it.  That's damn impressive.

I'm not plugging it — it doesn't need plugging, but if you are in the Triad, you really don't want to miss it.  Info in the right column…..

Rent at ArtsFest 2009 from Ken Ashford on Vimeo.

The piano-only preview performance above doesn't begin to do justice to the cast's talents.

But it's just a tease….

Teabaggers Turn On GOP

Oh, my.  Look what they have created.

In Florida and Missouri and elsewhere, the tea baggers are attacking Republicans candidates for being "DC insiders".  Put another way, they are splitting the Republican party.

What does this mean for Democrats?  Well, the Democratic Party was never going to be the choice of teabaggers.  But the further the GOP moves to the right to accomodate the screeching minority, the more that centrists will gravitate to the Dems.

Put another way, Democrats will have some smooth sailing for the next election cycle — and possibly more — if this trend continues.

FRC On Old Gays

Last week, the Obama administration did a reachout to a not-much-discussed demographic — elderly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people:

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced plans to establish the nation`s first national resource center to assist communities across the country in their efforts to provide services and supports for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

Experts estimate that as many as 1.5 to 4 million LGBT individuals are age 60 and older. Agencies that provide services to older individuals may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the needs of this group of individuals. The new Resource Center for LGBT Elders will provide information, assistance and resources for both LGBT organizations and mainstream aging services providers at the state and community level to assist them in the development and provision of culturally sensitive supports and services. The LGBT Center will also be available to educate the LGBT community about the importance of planning ahead for future long term care needs.

Naturally, the Family Research Council has a problem with this:

Apparently, our nation is never too broke to advance a radical social agenda. The agency released a statement on the Center last week, saying its purpose would be to "help community-based organizations understand the unique needs… of older LGBT individuals and assist them in implementing programs for local service providers…" In the release, HHS regurgitates the Left's propaganda to justify the waste, claiming that "1.5 to 4 million" LGBTs are age 60 and older. In reality, HHS has no idea how many LGBT seniors exist. No one does! The movement is only a few decades old, and people who are 80- or 90-years-old didn't grow up in a culture where it was acceptable to identify with this lifestyle.

[Emphasis mine]

Implicit in the FRC's press release is the thinking that it is the "few-decades-old" homosexual "movement" that makes people be gay.  After all, according to the FRC logic, gay people in their 80's and 90's couldn't possibly exist if they were alive before the gay movement.

Where can one begin to dissect this backward thinking?

First of all, even if we grant every single (absurd) premise of the FRC, it still means that, over the next few decades, there will be an increasing number of LGBT elders.  So this HHS initiative is addressing that issue.

Furthermore, the raw numbers, even if they aren't knowable to a precise degree of accuracy, don't negate the trend:

Over the next 25 years, persons in America who are 65 and older are expected to grow from about 12 to 20 percent of the total population, and various estimates indicate that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals will comprise 7 to 10 percent of that senior population. Meanwhile, like the Baby Boomers of all stripes, aging gays and lesbians are radically redefining what it means to be a senior—and how they fit into the larger community. They're coming out of the closet, vocalizing their experiences and needs, and, most importantly, demanding public recognition. "If you go back 40 years, there were virtually no openly gay seniors," says Gary Gates, a senior research fellow and demographer at the Williams Institute. "But now you have a large enough group that people are paying attention."

More importantly, there is the moral aspect, something which transcends the numbers and trends.  As Pam Spaulding wrote:

It doesn't matter whether or not the specific number of elderly lgbts are known.

The point is finding out who they are and taking care of their needs, i.e. a perfect reason for the creation of this national resource center.

This is especially true since the overwhelming number of LGBT elders, in comparison to their straight counterparts, live alone.

Pam continues on the moral theme:

Expressing a belief that homosexuality is a sin is one thing. Actively trying to throwing a monkey wrench into plans to help senior citizens simply because you do not agree with their sexual orientation is entirely something else.

And part of FRC's reasoning for its opposition actually goes against the nature of Christianity.

In the Bible (Matthew 25:45), Jesus said " . . .whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." 

So now FRC, which claims to espouse the values that Jesus taught, is implying that since the number of lgbt senior citizens are allegedly small, they shouldn't warrant any help from the government.  The organization must be reading that new Conservapedia version of the Bible everyone is talking about.

In its eagerness to espouse its version of "values," FRC seems to have abandoned basic Christian decency, as well as common human decency.

The organization forgets that some of these lgbt seniors could be someone's mother, someone's father, or a veteran.

And  isn't it moral to take care of our elderly citizens, period?

In the real world, the answer to this question would be yes. But in the bizarro world of pseudo Christian values that FRC populates, we know the answer is "only if they are not homosexuals."

Touche.

Further reading here at SAGE. [Pictured below: Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, two women that we know couldn't possibly have been gay due to the fact that they were together long before the homosexual movement]

Stein-and-toklas 

What’s “For Now” At Avenue Q Now

Avenuq Last March, I wrote about the show Avenue Q and how they had to change their lyrics in the song "For Now".  One of the lyrics was "George Bush is only 'for now'", but of course, with the Obama relection, there was some question about what to do with that line.

The Broadway show settled for "George Bush WAS only 'for now'", while the national tour opted for "Prop 8 is only 'for now'".

The tour is over, and Avenue Q itself has moved to an off-Broadway house. (At the last Broadway performance, the lyric was changed to "THIS SHOW is only 'for now'!").

And what's the lyric now?

"FOX NEWS is only 'for now'"!

Public Option: Back From The Dead

In case you haven't heard, the "public option" which many (including me) lamented as "dead" only a few weeks ago, appears to be quite alive.  The Senate Finance Committee health care reform bill (the only one to come out of the Senate — there are several in the House), lacked the public option.  Even after it came out of committee, it didn't look like Democratic leaders in the Senate would push for the public option.

But Senate Majority leader Harry Reid surprised everyone last night by siding with the liberal democrats, and coming out for a public option.  The catch?  States could "opt out", if they wanted.

It's really not a "catch" at all, in my view.  I doubt that most state would choose to "opt out", and those that do (deeply conservative states, I suspect) will eventually regret it, and come back into the fold after 5-10 years.

Good news.

UPDATE:  Joe Lieberman is going to back a filibuster of the Senate bill.  Note, he's not merely opposing it — he's going to side with Republicans in blocking the bill to even come to a vote.  Can't believe this guy used to be a Democrat.  Steven Benen has some good observations about the ramifications of Lieberman's decision.

Facebook Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone, Preserves The Deceased

(1)  This annoying live feed thing can be "fixed" with a little workaround.  Simply click and drag your "status updates" on that lefthand column, and place it above the "news feeds".  Facebook will now appear close to what it was before.

(2)  Facebook is now urging you to "reconnect" with your friends that you haven't interacted with in a while.  Why?  Why is it any of Facebook's business?  This isn't going over too well, by the way:

On Twitter, a storm of complaints and jokes popped up about the Reconnect feature, such as user jessefarmer, who wrote, “‘Facebook’s “reconnect with him’ feature just recommended I write on a dead friend’s wall.” User KenHuffman tweeted, “Facebook is suggesting that I reconnect with my wife by writing on her wall. I’m thinking coming home every night is a tad more effective,” while Jweiler wrote, “OH: The new “reconnect” feature on Facebook could be renamed “Unfriend Suggestion.”

(3)  And speaking of the dead on Facebook, Facebook clarified its "dead person" policy yesterday — they will leave their page and profile up, upon request:

Obviously, we wanted to be able to model people's relationships on Facebook, but how do you deal with an interaction with someone who is no longer able to log on? When someone leaves us, they don't leave our memories or our social network. To reflect that reality, we created the idea of "memorialized" profiles as a place where people can save and share their memories of those who've passed.

***

When an account is memorialized, we also set privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. We try to protect the deceased's privacy by removing sensitive information such as contact information and status updates. Memorializing an account also prevents anyone from logging into it in the future, while still enabling friends and family to leave posts on the profile Wall in remembrance.

If you have a friend or a family member whose profile should be memorialized, please contact us, so their memory can properly live on among their friends on Facebook.

Nice touch, I guess.

Facebook-memorial-accounts-29711-1256581821-3

Baby Einstein? Not So Much

Via Heather:

Disney is offering a refund to buyers of its ubiquitous “Baby Einstein” videos, which did not, as promised, turn babies into wunderkinds. Apparently, all those puppets, bright colors, and songs were what we had feared all along—a mind-numbing way to occupy infants.

This news has rocked the parenting world, which had embraced the videos as a miraculous child-rearing staple. Videos that make your kid smarter while you prepare dinner? Genius!

Or not. According to the article, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two years old stay away from watching screens. In the letter threatening Disney with a class-action lawsuit for "deceptive advertising," public health lawyers hired by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood cited a study which found a link between early television exposure and later problems with attention span.

***

Disney’s refund is about as close as we’re going to get to an actual admission that we were sold snake oil, and it casts a pall over the other "educational" toys out there.

Read the whole thing.

It should be noted that, although Disney is offering refunds, it is not admitting the Einstein videos are ineffective:

Instead, the company believes that consumers find value in the product. They said a money-back guarantee is actually their standard policy.

Right.  It's their "standard policy"… only after getting slapped with a class-action lawsuit.

Disney has also toned down its claims regarding Baby Einstein since the lawsuit came out.

I'm no child psychologist (although I took a few classes), but it seems to me that for particularly young ages, these Baby Einstein videos probably are entertaining and not very educational.  Although they might touch on educational subjects, I don't think the subject matter is going to "sink in" with your poopy-diapered infants.  It's the equivalent of sleeping with your geometry book under your pillow, except that it has cute music and puppets.  Apparently, many smarter people than me have come to that same conclusion.

See for youself — this is "Baby Galileo Discovering The Sky" from the Baby Einstein series:

Again, this strikes me as eye candy, nothing more.

And, as Heather points out, there's an inherent danger in merely propping your baby in front of a video screen at the expense of human interaction — a problem which goes beyond just the Baby Einstein brand of videos. So the bottom line, I suppose: while videos might keep your little one occupied for a while, it's not a substitute for actual parenting.  And overdoing it can actually hurt your child developmentally.

None of this, of course, applies to the videos of Dan Zanes (also marketed by Disney, I believe), who was a childhood friend of mine back in Concord New Hampshire:

 

The White House vs. Fox News

So many people are covering this — I have little to add.

For those not paying attention, the Obama White House is openly condemning Fox News for its biased reporting.  Fox News is crying foul.

In the latest volley, Fox News is claiming that the White House doesn't know the difference between its opinion programming (Beck, Hannity, etc.) and actual news programming.  Their news programming, Fox insists, really is "fair and balanced".

That, of course, is a joke.  Their news programming reflects the opinions of their opinion programming, a point made well by Media Matters here:

 

An Opening Paragraph We Didn’t Particularly Enjoy Reading

From the Boston Herald:

RALEIGH, N.C. — Twenty murderers, rapists and robbers sentenced to life in North Carolina prisons in the 1970s will be released at the end of October as a result of recent court rulings.

Why?

Well, basically it comes down to this.  These murderers, rapists, and robberts were sentenced to life in prison in the 1970s as a result of their crime.

In 1981, the NC sentencing guidelines were revised.  Essentially, all sentences were cut in half.  The new guildelines were applied retroactively.

One industrious lifer argued to the court that, back in the 1970s, the sentencing guidelines interpreted "life in prison" as meaning "80 years".  Therefore, when the 1981 changes came along, that meant that their sentence was, effectively, 40 years.

Last week, the highest court of North Carolina agreed with this interpretation.

So, with some staturorily-recognized time off for good behavior, some "lifers" are now being set free, having served their sentence.  More will be released in the decade to come.

Thank you, legal fluke.

[For what it is worth — since 1994, when North Carolina eliminated parole, a life sentence in North Carolina has meant the convict will die behind bars. But only first-degree murder can carry a life sentence, and now, the shortest sentence someone convicted now of first-degree forcible rape can serve is 12 years.]

How Many Republicans Are Out There?

The answer may surprise you.

There's a lot of meat to this Washington Post-ABC News poll. The Washington Post leads with the most relevant to today's political debate: health care.

Specifically, people are warming up to the public option:

On the issue that has been perhaps the most pronounced flash point in the national debate, 57 percent of all Americans now favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent oppose it. Support has risen since mid-August, when a bare majority, 52 percent, said they favored it. (In a June Post-ABC poll, support was 62 percent.)

If a public plan were run by the states and available only to those who lack affordable private options, support for it jumps to 76 percent. Under those circumstances, even a majority of Republicans, 56 percent, would be in favor of it, about double their level of support without such a limitation.

What demographic accounts for the change?  Independents and senior citizens.  Yup.  After a summer of falling for scare tactics (death panels, etc.), they finally listened long enough to hear the truth. 

But here's the part I want to draw your attention to:

Only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, little changed in recent months, but still the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983. Political independents continue to make up the largest group, at 42 percent of respondents; 33 percent call themselves Democrats.

That's right.  Despite its efforts at "rebranding", only 20% of the people identify themselves as Republican.  Remember, Ross Perot, when he ran for election, got 19% of the vote.  In other words, Republicans are becoming a fringe party.

The public isn't buying what Republicans are selling. President Obama's support isn't as strong as it was — though a 57% approval rating is pretty impressive at this point — but the GOP has failed to capitalize. To the contrary, the minority, instead of positioning itself as a serious, credible alternative, is moving backwards.

Full poll graphic below…

“Once On This Island” Too Offensive For One Uptight Pastor

Swank In my occasional forays into wingnuttia land, I often check the writings of Reverand Grant Swank, a columnist at Renew America and a pastor New Hope Church in Windham, Maine.  His writings are unintentionally hysterical.

Imagine my joy when I read his latest column "Eastern Nazarene College anti-Christian play presented", which is essentially a reprint of an email he sent to the President of Eastern Nazarine College, located in Boston's South Shore.

Dear ENC President Corlis McGee:

I just sat through the 4 pm October 17 musical, "Once On This Island," in Cove Center.

"Once On This Island" is a calypso-style musical about an ill-fated romance between Ti Moune, a dark-skinned peasant girl, and Daniel Beauxhomme, a light-skinned descendant of French plantation owners and their slaves. 

Here's a scene from the actual production that Swank saw (taken from the local paper in Quincy, the Patriot-Ledger):

G113000be69111a37c21f81a25759280d1368157c781a55 

"Once On This Island" is more than a love story; it addresses racism and class struggle on a post-coloniel Carribean island.  It's about muli-culturalism and diversity.

So fans of Pastor Swank can guess what he thought of it.

I am disappointed and disgusted.

Of course he is.

This play should never be presented on a Christian campus, let alone a holiness campus.

What's the difference between a "Christian campus" and a "holiness campus"?  Apparently, the latter would never do "Once On This Island".

Its accent on godS — in the plural — was throughout, particularly praying constantly to these gods, in one instance for gods to heal a sick body. There is only one God who appeared in Christ. There is no room for polytheism laced throughout an ENC drama department presentation.

Riiight.  I mean… it's not as if "multicultural understanding" is a defining value of the Eastern Nazarene College.  Excuse me?  Oh.. really?

At the Friday homecoming Marriott dinner, when the musical was highlighted with a lead actress singing, she sang out "My God. . ." in the singular. That obviously told the attendees that she was praying to the biblical God, the deity adhered to by Eastern Nazarene College. However, when she sang that same song in the Saturday musical, "God" was changed to repeated mentioning of "gods," not only by this one singer but all singers in one selection after another.

Ah.  They pulled a bait-and-switch on Pastor Swank.  As an alumni of ENC, he attended the Friday homecoming dinner at that Marriott (strawberry shortcake for dessert, I'm guessing), and the drama department did a little preview.  But they omitted the "s", thereby fooling Pastor Swank into coming to see the full show.  Sucker.

Further, there were two lovers in the play who spent the night together — unmarried. Such was an obvious scene depicting just that, no indirect implications implied. It was evident without apology or qualification.

Because in the REAL world, two unmarried lovers NEVER spend the night together.  Or if they do, there's a lot of apology and qualification.

But enough about my sex life.  Back to Michael Medved's Pastor Swank's review:

In addition, there was much so-called dancing throughout the musical. The dancing was without doubt in most instances quite suggestive. This underlined most disturbingly the demonic overtones from start to finish. There is no polite way to state that but to state the strong term "demonic."

Yes, let's state it a couple more times.  Demonic, demonic, demonic.

Don't these people know that they dance the Viennese Waltz, hankies aflutter, to creole music?

Moreover, who scheduled this offensive presentation on none other than the Lord's Day afternoon at 4 o-clock?

Presumably, he's talking about the special benefit performance held yesterday.  I hope it was a full house.

Anyway, having unleashed his wrath at the play with colored people, Pastor Swank turned to… yes… the program.  Apparently, the play was too demonic for Swank to watch, so he spent the entire time reading the program, looking for things to condemn.

In the printed musical program on page 2, the musical director and drama department head both tried to legitimatize the musical as being multicultural, a lesson in colonialism, etc. Even praise was given to students sharing with one another their understandings of "the faith." This does not wash with any thinking Christian, that is, when sitting through the production. These two program page 2 statements are limp at best, insulting at worst.

Pastor Swank doesn't have a problem with "multiculturalism" in the performing arts, so long as it represents his (and only his) brand of Christian culturalism.  (The "multi" part is superfluous and a much un-needed syllable).

The musical was not a "child-friendly" performance because of the violence and demonic/ghost insertions. What child should have been subjected, for instance, to scenes in which knives were put to humans' necks under threat of slaying these individuals?

One wonders if Swank missed the ENC college of Phantom of the Opera.

I am sorry that my granddaughter, age 5, was seated in the audience.

"I'm sorrier still that her parents didn't want me to sit with them."

A teen grandchild of mine was planning on attending ENC in a couple of years. Now, not so.

ENC's loss?

My wife and I will not be contributing moneys henceforth to ENC.

Thery won't be contributing moneyS because the play sang about godS.

Though having attended ENC plays for decades, I doubt if I will ever trust an ENC production again. I will never recommend friends attending an ENC play, though I have been a chief supporter of same for years.

You won't recommend friends who attend an ENC play, Pastor?  That's going nuclear, dude!

What is particularly sad is that the young students in the musical have now been given the message that this kind of anti-Christian production is legitimate at Eastern Nazarene College; therefore, they will expect same for future productions. This should never happen again.

"They should just keep doing The Wizard of Oz and Seussical until their ears bleed."

These students should be read such emails as this one. And the musical director as well as drama department head should be given this email with directives to squash any hopes of scheduling this kind of content.

"And what about book-burning, too?  Can we get an amen to book-burning?!?"

I noted in the musical program on page 2….

Oh Christs.  We're back to the program.

I noted in the musical program on page 2 there a sentence that the college mission statement has been changed. A red flag went up on that sentence.

Judging by the writing style of their alumni, perhaps the college ought to focus on English language skills.

Why has that mission statement been changed? I then would appreciate you mailing to me the "old" mission statement" and the "new" one to compare what change has been made for as far as I know we alumni have not been informed of any change in the college mission statement.

Pastor, you might want to read here.  Or this, from Wikipedia:

The president and trustees of the college determined in 1931, one year after gaining its charter to grant degrees in Massachusetts, that it is part of the college's mission to be "distinctly interdenominational and cosmopolitan in service." Students are not required to profess any religion, but faculty members are required to be Christians.

The sad fact is that ENC was not intended to be the Christian Tightwad College.

Finally, I am seriously posting on well-read Internet websites the above for Eastern Nazarene College graduates and prospective students to read what has happened in Cove Center this homecoming weekend.

You go, girl.

If the world does not know, I fear that the drama department is going to continue its present track of improper productions at the college from which I graduated.

I cannot envision my professors Bertha Munro, Edith Cove, Alvin Kaufman and such ever countenancing a musical such as has been offered this homecoming event 2009. This kind of "opening up the door" to obscene, anti-Christian productions simply cannot continue. If it does, I will be at the forefront to communicate with as many alumni as I can muster about this horrific intrusion.

Oh, Pastor.  You were probably ignored when you were a student at ENC.  What makes you think anybody cares what you think now?

Falcon Heene

Genthumb I have a rather bad feeling about this boy trapped in the balloon.

I have a rather bad feeling he is not hiding, but rather, he fell.

And we're going to get all kinds of people making snap judgments about how bad the parents were — before we have any clear evidence that they were negligent.  To blunt those, let me get a few things said.  Accidents happen.  And because they were smart and eccentric and mixed-race (yes, some conservative bloggers think that's relevent) and on Wife Swap, that means nothing.

I suppose we'll know before nightfall.

UPDATE (6:05 pm):  As I'm typing, I was just watching local Colorado news.  They just announced he's been found.  He's alive.  He was in the house, hiding in the attic in the garage in a box.  So much for the house searches earlier today.  Networks will have it shortly.

Football Logic

Shorter every single rightwing website right now:

Was civil rights pioneer Medgar Evers ever denied the right to purchase an NFL franchise?  Hellz, no!  So why can't Rush?  Because of racism!!!

Okay, not all are saying that.  But you have some really over-the-top whines.  This, by far, is the most WTF of them all:

Earlier this evening, as most of you now know, one of our own, Rush Hudson Limbaugh, while taking withering fire, crashed and burned.

Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a radio personality.

Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a NFL owner denied

Tonight, Rush is us. And we are him.

Tonight Rush became the metaphor for all of us… every man woman and child in this great nation of ours.

The enemy of this great nation, the enemy of you and me, Rush’s enemy… those on the left, inside and outside of this nation abhor success… and when faced with it will destroy it… by any and all means possible.

We all have our dreams in life… such as they might be. Rush dreamed of being an owner in the NFL.

Tonight the left proved that they will stop at nothing to end our dreams. Our dreams of success and happiness devastate their need to dominate and control you and me… and well everything and everyone.

And it ends with the Niemöller quote, too ("First they came for the communists….")

With prose like that, you would think this is the equivalent of 9/11.

Seriously, what happened with Rush Limbaugh and the St. Louis Rams is the free market at work. 

Rush was a limited partner in a group headed by St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts.  The group hoped to purchase the Rams.  There was a public outcry, not only among the public, but from many NFL pros themselves.

Rush became an economic liability.  So the group cut him loose, so they could proceed with the sale.

Obama didn't cut him.  The liberal media didn't cut him.  Congress didn't intervene and strike down any purchase possibilities.

It was a business decision.

Heh.

Reich: Hold On To Your Wallets

Clinton economic advisor Robert Reich isn't impressed with the Dow breaking 10,000:

How did the Dow break 10,000 when the rest of the economy is in the toilet?

1. Corporate earnings are up — mainly because companies have been cutting costs. Payrolls comprise 70 percent of most companies' costs, which means companies have been slashing jobs. In the end, this is a self-defeating strategy. If workers don't have jobs or are afraid of losing them, they won't buy, and company profits will disappear.

2. Federal borrowing has filled the gap that consumers and businesses created when the latter began to reduce their debt. Federal debt, in other words, has kept the economy from tanking. Can't keep up forever, though.

3. With such horrid employment numbers, Wall Street figures the Fed will keep interest rates low for some time, and continue to flood the economy with money. That's good news for the Street because it means money stays cheap — and with cheap money the Street can make lots of bets on almost everything under the sun and moon. As a result, the Street's earnings are way up. But this, too, is temporary. At some point the Fed is going to worry about inflation and a falling dollar.

4. Investors of all stripes want to get in early and ride the wave. Pension funds, mutual funds, and other institutional investors figure the bull market has more oomph in it because, well, other investors will jump in. Think Ponzi scheme. Nice for now, but watch out if you're one of the last in.

In other words, this is all temporary fluff, folks. Anyone who hasn't learned by now that there's almost no relationship between the Dow and the real economy deserves to lose his or her shirt in the Wall Street casino.

Thank you, Mr. Happy Fun Guy.  Although, you're probably right.

Governor Perry Doubles Down on Willingham

This story is starting to get national attention.  Presumably, that's why Perry said what he said:

Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday defended his actions in the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, calling him a “monster” and a “bad man” who murdered his children.

Specifics?  Sure…

“Willingham was a monster,” the governor said. “Here's a guy who murdered his three children, who tried to beat his wife into an abortion so he wouldn't have those kids. Person after person has stood up and testified to facts of this case that, quite frankly, you all are not covering.”

Willingham, he said, showed how bad he was on the day of his execution.

“This is a bad man. This is a guy who in the death chamber in his last breath spews an obscenity-laced triad (sic) against his wife,” Perry said.

This is utter bullshit.

First of all, the prosecutor claimed that he beat his wife to abort his kids; his wife denied that at trail (and she really ought to know).  Did he beat his wife other times?  Yes, the evidence suggests that.  But is that a fact of the case?  Emphatically, no.  Neither does swearing to your wife while being put to death.  (She insisted he was innocent, until he was found guilty, and then she changed her mind, and failed to assist him for over a decade as he exhausted his appeals).  Frankly, if I were an innocent man sitting in death row, I might be inclined to cuss as well.

But here's the thing — I don't care if Willingham was a bad husband.  It is entirely irrelevant as to whether he commited arson to kill his children.  There was (as I have blogged before) no eyewitness and the forensic evidence (we now know) indicated that the fire was not deliberately set.

This seems to be a thing with the Texas criminal justice system: if you are a bad man, you must have done everything that the prosecutor says you did.  It's been around a long time — go rent (if you can find it) The Thin Blue Line.  An alarming number of people have been executed in Texas — before their innocence is discovered.

Calling Willingham a "monstor" and a "bad man" is not evidence of guilt.  Perry is grasping here, because he knows he screwed up and allowed an innocent man to die.

Melt The United States

Think about how vast the United States is.  Leave out Alaska and Hawaii and just focus on the lower 48.  Think about how expansive it is, how long it takes to travel from one end to the other.

That's about the size of the Arctic polar ice cap — during warm months — for the end of the last century.

2007_Arctic_Sea_Ice

Even during the warmer months, the Arctic ice cap was unpassable.

Well, that's soon to be a thing of the past.

A new study reveals that the polar ice cap will be navigable during the summer months, within a decade. 

And in 20 to 30 years, it will be entirely gone during the summer months.  That's right.  The North Pole (including Santa's house) will be ocean. 

In the upcoming months, there's going to be bills and debate in the Congress on the subject of global warming, and you know where the political parties will line up.  You're going to be hearing a lot of misinformation from interest groups (big oil) and GOP politicians and pundits fiananced by those interest groups, including the ridiculous conard that global warming doesn't exist.  It's going to make the health care debate look reasonable and adult by comparison. 

But Santa Claus is drowning.  So it's time to saddle up.

“Anyone Can Be Killed”

Francis Schaeffer was the father of the modern Christian Right.  An world-renowned evangelical in the 1970's, he was mentor to young religious "upstarts" like Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson and James Dobson — men who, in the 1980's, would combine their religion with conservative politics and bring it to the masses in the exploding media age.  Francis died in 1985.

His son, Frank Schaeffer, followed in his father's footsteps.  He spoke before religious followers at anti-abortion rallies.  Cal Thomas — then the vice president of the Moral Majority — called him "the best speaker in America".

You may wonder why you have never heard of Frank Schaeffer — why he didn't follow the path of Swaggart and Robertson and Falwell and Dobson to become (yet another) rightwing Christian demogogue.

The reason is because…. he developed a conscience.

He acknowledges that he was "part of the self-pitying, whining, evangelical/fundamentalist chorus", but that was then.  Today, he is an outspoken critic of the evangelical right.

And he's got something to say:

Since President Obama took office I've felt like the lonely — maybe crazy — proverbial canary in the coal mine… As a former right wing leader, who many years ago came to my senses and began to try to undo the harm the movement of religious extremism I helped build has done, I've been telling the media that we're facing a dangerous time in our history. A fringe element of the far right Republican Party seems it believes it has a license to incite threatening behavior in the name of God.

Read the fascinating interview.

Here’s A Halloween Hootenanny For Ya!

Instead of trick-or-treating, how about piling those kids in the pick-up truck and taking a trip down the road to Canton, NC (near Asheville)?

Here's what you can expect (image from their website):

Halloweenburningparty

[NOTE: The website has been changed recently to include a burning fire background, rendering this page virtually unreadable.  Still, the text shown here remains the same.]

From Raw Story:

The website for the Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, N.C., says there are "scriptural bases" for the book burning. The site quotes Acts 19:18-20: "And many that believed, came and confessed and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."

Church leaders deem Good News for Modern Man, the Evidence Bible, the New International Version Bible, the Green Bible and the Message Bible, as well as at least seven other versions of the Bible as "Satan's Bibles," according to the website. Attendees will also set fire to "Satan's popular books" such as the work of "heretics" including the Pope, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Rick Warren.

"I believe the King James version is God's preserved, inspired, inerrant and infallible word of God," Pastor Marc Grizzard told a local news station of his 14-member parish.

***

David Lynch, a resident of nearby Asheville, N.C., told Raw Story "it's a little disconcerting how close this is to my home."

"They are burning so much stuff I've dubbed them the hypocritical Christian Taliban," Lynch said in a phone interview with Raw Story. "Just the scope of all the information they want to destroy is pretty disturbing."

Church leaders did not respond to Raw Story's requests for comment, but the website notes they will be providing "bar-b-que chicken, fried chicken and all the sides" at the book burning.

Well, given the amount of fire there, I expect the chicken will be burnt to a crisp.

My reaction?  Wonkette says it all:

…and don’t even attempt to answer this: How does a human being become this insane? Imagine how hard you would have to work, mentally, for your whole life, training yourself to be as insane as fucking possible about everything, every object you see, every interaction you have, to the point where you would plan or attend this church’s Halloween book burning non-ironically, agreeing with each aspect of this itinerary on earnest grounds, actually believing that this event would result in some sort of pure, positive good, and then telling people in public, on the publicly available Internet, about this event. Try to imagine for yourself a hypothetical psychological path that would lead you to this sort of existence. “Clinical psychosis” won’t even get you halfway.

Seriously, I have a problem with book-burning in general, but I suppose if one must burn books, James Dobson's work won't upset me too much.  And I can certainly think of some country music records that deserve to burn.  But to burn James Dobson, Billy Graham, Rick Warren and Chuck Colson because they are insufficiently religio-conservative?  That takes a special kind of batshit insane. 

UPDATE:  From the church website's joke page:

TOP TEN SIGNS YOU MAY NOT BE READING YOUR BIBLE ENOUGH:

10) The Preacher announces the sermon is from Galatians … and you check the table of contents.
9) You think Abraham, Isaac & Jacob may have had a few hit songs during the 60's.
8) You open to the Gospel of Luke and a WWII Savings Bond falls out.
7) Your favorite Old Testament Patriarch is Hercules.
6) A small family of woodchucks has taken up residence in the Psalms of your Bible.
5) You become frustrated because Charlton Heston isn't listed in either the Concordance or the Table of Contents.
4) Catching the kids reading the Song of Solomon, you demand: "Who gave you this stuff?"
3) You think the Minor Prophets worked in the quarries.
2) You keep falling for it every time when Pastor tells you to turn to First Condominiums.
And the number one sign you may not be reading your Bible enough:
1) The kids keep asking too many questions about your usual bedtime story: "Jonah the Shepherd Boy and His Ark of Many Colors."

Ok, now the whole burning thing is starting to sound appealing.

Lesson Not Learned

WSJ:

Wall Street On Track To Award Record Pay

Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year — a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street's pay culture.

Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007, according to an analysis of securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end by The Wall Street Journal.

Total compensation and benefits at the publicly traded firms analyzed by the Journal are on track to increase 20% from last year’s $117 billion—and to top 2007’s $130 billion payout. This year, employees at the companies will earn an estimated $143,400 on average, up almost $2,000 from 2007 levels.

I have no comment.

That's because I'm speechless.  We're facing double digit unemployment because of these bastards, the deficits are huge because we bailed out these bastards, and now they're increasing their own compensation?

UPDATE:  Thankfully, Kevin Drum, while as dumbfounded as me, can eke out a few thoughts:

There's an insanity here that's almost beyond analysis.  Wall Street can spark an economic slowdown that misses destroying the planet and causing a second Great Depression only by a hair's breadth — said hair being an 11th hour emergency infusion of trillions of taxpayer dollars — and then turn around and use those trillions to return to bubble levels of profitability within 12 months.  And they can do it even though the rest of the economy is still suffering through the worst recession since World War II.  It's mind boggling.

Is there any silver lining here?  Probably not, but I'll try: If Wall Street can shrug off the worst recession of our lifetimes as if it's a minor fender bender and get the party rolling all over again in less than 12 months, it means the next bubble is already in the works and its collapse will be every bit as bad as this one.  That in turn means it will almost certainly happen while today's politicians are still in office.  So maybe news like this will finally spur lawmakers to realize once and for all that the financial industry needs to be cut down to size.  Half measures won't do it.  Self-regulation won't do it.  Compensation limits won't do it.  Byzantine, watered-down rules won't do it.  Something like a Morgenthau Plan for Wall Street is the only thing that has even half a chance of working.

Will Congress finally get this?  Probably not.  The financial lobby is just too strong.  But we can hope.

RELATED:  The Dow surpassed 10,000 today.  Republicans are downplaying the significance of that.  And while I tend to agree with them (10,000 is just a number), recall that Republicans weren't singing that tune a few months ago.  The Wall Street Journal ran an entire editorial on this in early March. The drop in the Dow, the WSJ insisted, was a direct result of investors evaluating "Mr. Obama's agenda and his approach to governance."  Karl Rove and Lou Dobbs made the same case. So did Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fred Barnes. It was one of Mitt Romney's favorite talking points for a while, too.

To Republicans, Obama was to blame for the continuing fall of the Dow last spring.  But now that it keeps going up and up?  Well, the Dow doesn't mean anything.

But since when has logical, or even rhetorical, consistency been a characteristic of today's Republican party?

UPDATE TO RELATED:  OMG!  Fox News is pitching that the surge in the Dow is an example of the "Bush recovery"!!

Cavuto

Latest Update On The Execution of Cameron Todd Willingham

Looks like Texas’s Republican Governnor Rick Perry is digging a deeper hole for himself.

The Houston Chronicle adds some more details about how Perry disregarded doubts of Willingham’s guilt.  Three days before the execution, Willingham’s attorney alerted Perry of a new arson analysis that cast doubt on the conviction.  The ultimate analysis came from a respected arson expert, Dr. Gerald Hurst, who helped exonerate prior death row inmates.

According to the Chronicle, the five-page Hurst report was faxed to Perry at 4:52 PM.  A “few minutes after” 5:00, Perry’s office said he would not intervene.  They probably didn’t even read it.  The execution occurred about an hour later. 

Perry is clearly trying to cover his tracks now.  As I wrote about two weeks ago, members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission were dismissed by Governor Perry, literally on the eve of the day when they were to receive a damning report from an arson expert.  The report conclusively stated that Willingham was innocent, and the arson evidence on which he was solely convicted (and eventually executed) was horrible.  The Chicago Tribune adds more:

Just months before the controversial removal of three members of a state commission investigating the forensics that led to a Texas man’s 2004 execution, top aides to Gov. Rick Perry tried to pressure the chairman of the panel over the direction of the inquiry, the chairman has told the Tribune.

Samuel Bassett, whom Perry replaced on the Texas Forensic Science Commission two weeks ago, said he twice was called to meetings with Perry’s top attorneys. At one of those meetings, Bassett said he was told they were unhappy with the course of the commission’s investigation.

“I was surprised that they were involving themselves in the commission’s decision-making,” Bassett said. “I did feel some pressure from them, yes. There’s no question about that.”

Not good at all.

UPDATE:  Sam Bassett, the former chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, has now told the Houston Chronicle that lawyers for Perry told him the case was inappropriate, and that the hiring of a nationally known fire expert was a “waste of state money.”

The New GOP Website Launch

It's buggy and ugly.  It crashes.  But Marc Ambinder compiles the other things wrong with the launch:

Top Ten Reasons Why The GOP Website Relaunch Is Fizzlin'

10. In a section devoted to "future leaders," there were none

9. In the subsequent rush to get up a "future leaders" page, they choose "you."
8. The last GOP accomplishment cited on the accomplishment page was from 2004. 
7. The what's up page — hip! starts with this sentence: ""the internet has been around for a while now" [NOTE from Ken:  the "what's up" page, written by GOP Chairman Michael Steele, was actually called the "What Up" page, because the GOP is hip, fo' rizzle, word to your mother.  After a day of laughter, the GOP changed it to "Change The Word" because the GOP loves change… or… something.]
6. Administrator passwords were accidentally posted
5. When the RNC hosted a kick-off conference call, the website was down. 
4. The website cites Jackie Robinson as a GOP hero. Robinson wasn't a GOPer, and he criticized the GOP on race. Robinson left the party because of its views on race. He had been, as a reader points out, a Republican for many years.
3. The first question on the conference call was from an Hispanic Republican who asked why the GOP site didn't have a Spanish-language page and noted that the White House had one. 
2. Bragging about web redesigns is so 2004.

1. It's not timed with the start of any major advocacy campaign — or political campaign. And it portrays itself as something it's not: diverse and ready to embrace new ideas. That may be what the party leadership aspires to, but, at least when it comes to diversity, a few pictures of Hispanics and African Americans doesn't make up for … well, the history of the party.  

Also… referring to Ronald Reagan as Ronaldus Magnus (latin for "Ronald the Great") strikes me as ingratiatingly over the top.  Seriously?  A monarch title?

The Seventh Sense Silly Legal Advice Corner

Q.  I have a restraining order filed against me.  Can I still "poke" that person on Facebook?

A:  It depends on the terms of the restraining order, but the answer is probably "no".

A Hendersonville woman was arrested for virtually “poking” someone on the social networking site Facebook.

Shannon D. Jackson, 36, was arrested Friday, Sept. 25 for allegedly violating an order of protection.

According to the affidavit filed in Sumner County General Sessions Court, Jackson is accused of using the “poke” option on Facebook to contact a Hendersonville woman, thus violating the terms of the order of protection, which stipulates “no telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the petitioner.”

Poking is a feature unique to Facebook that conveys no other message but informing a user they have been “poked” by another user.

Of course, this incident begs a question.  Since you can only "poke" your friends, why wasn't this Shannon D. Jackson already blocked by the alleged victim?

Am I The Man Of Your Dreams?

A colleague brought this story and website to my attention:

Thisman_small In January 2006 in New York, the patient of a well-known psychiatrist draws the face of a man that has been repeatedly appearing in her dreams. In more than one occasion that man has given her advice on her private life. The woman swears she has never met the man in her life.

That portrait lies forgotten on the psychiatrist's desk for a few days until one day another patient recognizes that face and says that the man has often visited him in his dreams. He also claims he has never seen that man in his waking life.

The psychiatrist decides to send the portrait to some of his colleagues that have patients with recurrent dreams. Within a few months, four patients recognize the man as a frequent presence in their own dreams. All the patients refer to him as THIS MAN.

From January 2006 until today, at least 2000 people have claimed they have seen this man in their dreams, in many cities all over the world: Los Angeles, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Tehran, Beijing, Rome, Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, New Dehli, Moskow etc.

At the moment there is no ascertained relation or common trait among the people that have dreamed of seeing this man. Moreover, no living man has ever been recognized as resembling the man of the portrait by the people who have seen this man in their dreams.

My colleague thinks I look like the drawing of THIS MAN.

Uh…. other than the hairline, I don't see it.  My eyebrows aren't that bushy, and my ears are a bit higher than my mouth.

Anyway, if I am invading your dreams, I assure you it is not intentional.

Marriage Equality Ad Running in Maine: My Extended Family Version

This one is special because it stars my in-law's family. 

The woman in this ad, Yolande Dumont (who we all call "Memere") is the mother of my brother-in-law.  She's a pistol.  I haven't seen Raymond (her son) in years, but he's looking well and happy with his partner and their son.

Marital apartheid's days are numbered.  We just have to want it bad enough.

RELATED: Tonight was the world premiere of "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later" at hundreds of theaters across the country (with the "flagship" production at Lincoln Center – more here).  It was an amazing experience to be part of it (Paper Lantern Theatre here in Winston-Salem was one of three NC theaters taking part; I was the narrator).  The rain kept the audience size a little less than we had hoped, but the 250 or so people were very responsive.  Not very many dry eyes.

This date was the premiere because Matthew Shepard died on October 12.  We haven't progressed much since then.

The New Scarlet “A”

A proposed new Oklahoma law will require the details of every abortion to be posted on a public website.   Mothers — or would-be mothers, rather — will be prompted to answer 37 questions that range from her marital status and race to how many times she's ever been pregnant.

The website will cost about $200,000 a year.  Doctors and physicians will be forced to comply, violating doctor-patient confidentiality.

Why?  What's the point?

Well, they're being open about why.  It's too shame or embarrass women in the hopes that the abortion rate will be reduced.

There's no way the law will ever pass constitutional muster, but the rightwing idiots in the Oklahoma legislature don't really care about that.

But isn't it odd?  I thought conservatives wanted government out of health care.

Now HERE’S An Honor That’s Undeserved…

No, I'm not talking about Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize. 

I'm talking about this:

The Miss America Organization (MAO) announced today that Rush Limbaugh has been named as one of the national judges for the 2010 Miss America Pageant, which will be held at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday, January 30 and broadcast live on TLC. Limbaugh will be one of a panel of seven distinguished judges that will help decide which of the 53 contestants will capture the Miss America 2010 title and serve as the Goodwill Ambassador for the Children's Miracle Network, as well as introduce the first Go Green platform for MAO.

Rush is going to help pick the next Miss America, who will in turn help the pageant "go green"?  An odd — indeed, offensive — choice considering Limbaugh's staunch anti-environment creds.

But more surprising is the choice because of the thrice-divorced Rush's persistent anti-woman and sexist remarks.

Like here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

And all these here.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Seriously, what was MOA thinking when it chose Rush Limbaugh?  What about him — his words, his works, anything — lends itself to the mission of Miss America?

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About The Nobel Prize Thing

Look.  Everyone knows that Obama got awarded the Peace Prize this morning not for his past achievements, but for his outlook and approach to future achievements.  Obama himself understands this.  Even the spokesperson for the Nobel Committee said as much.  So big deal.  It's their committee, their prize, their criteria.  Nobody else's.

One thing though — it's not unprecedented.  The Nobel Prize Commitee gave the Peace Prize to Biship Desmond Tutu long, but they didn't wait until apartheid had crumbled to do it (Tutu won it in 1984; apartheid fell ten years later). 

What's alarming to me is the conservative reaction to this.  (I'm not talking about it grown-ups in the GOP; I'm talking about… well, you know who I'm talking about).  Does it not bother anybody that the only groups universally opposed to Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize are Hamas, the Taliban, and conservatives?  Does it not bother conservatives themselves?

[UPDATE:  I guess it doesn't bother conservatives.  Said Rush Limbaugh today: ""Folks, do you realize something has happened here that we all agree with the Taliban and Iran about and that is he doesn't deserve the award. Now that's hilarious, that I'm on the same side of something with the Taliban, and that we all are on the same side as the Taliban."

'Hilarious', RUSH?  Well, it's something…]

These are the people who, less than two weeks ago, were giddy about America losing out on the Olympics.  Media Matters has put together a video noting the conservative reaction to (a) America not getting the Olympics and (b) America's leader winning the Nobel Peace Prize:

It's a good day to surf conservative blogs.  You'll find all sorts of hilarity.  One meme is that Obama got the Peace Prize because he is black.  Funny, how many conservatives have to put a race angle into everything.

But s outraged as American conservatives are this morning, notice the international reactions. Praise was not universal, but Mohamed Elbaradei, for example, said, "I cannot think of anyone today more deserving of this honor. In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself." Mandela, Tutu, and Gorbachev, among others, also praised the announcement.

I think Josh Marshall puts it best:.

[T]he unmistakable message of the award is one of the consequences of a period in which the most powerful country in the world, the 'hyper-power' as the French have it, became the focus of destabilization and in real if limited ways lawlessness. A harsh judgment, yes. But a dark period. And Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction. If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many of the usual Washington types it's a profound reflection of their own enablement of the Bush era and how compromised they are by it, how much they perpetuated the belief that it was 'normal history' rather than dark aberration.

Public Option (Of Some Sort) Looking Good

A lot of Republicans are coming forward in support of "Obamacare" suddenly.  Unfortunately, none of them are current congressmen.  They include Republican overnors (like Ahhnold), or former Republican Congressmen, like Bill Frist and Bob Dole.  It doesn't seem to be having much effect on current Congressmen.

But there is a new "compromise" solution, which seems to be catching fire — the public option, but with a clause allowing states to "opt out".  Josh Marshall explains:

To be clear, this is not 50 different state-based public options, where individual states could opt out. It's a national public option, which individual states could opt not to participate in.

The idea is from Sen. Carper (D-DE). But Sen. Schumer (D-NY) seems to be pushing it. He just went on TV a few moments ago and said the idea was gaining traction. The two of them apparently met yesterday evening to discuss the idea.

Now, I haven't heard yet from the people who really understand the policy dimensions of this stuff, the people who know all the moving parts and whose opinions I trust. So consider my comments as very tentative, subject to change if, as is quite possible, there are dimensions of this I'm not considering. But just on the face of it, this sounds like a compromise reformers could embrace because I suspect many, probably most states would opt in, providing a plenty large enough pool to get to the bargaining power that is essential to make a public option work.

Part of my assumption here is that you'd have relatively few states opting out and they'd tend toward lower population states, likely clustered in the South and mountain states. So I suspect that a substantial majority of the population would be in opt-in states, providing the bargaining power that would make the public option threshold viable. And if the public option works, one would think the people in opt-out states would quickly become pretty envious of the folks in states who had the option and pressure their state governments to get in. Of course, if the public option was an abysmal failure the reverse would happen. But that's another matter.

I like the compromise, too, assuming the full public option won't pass.  And I'm not sure where North Carolina would fall.  I suspect it would not opt out.

Who Opposes Victims Of Rape Getting Their Day In Court?

I don't expect Republicans to be in favor of all, or even most, of the things I support.

But really, this seems like a no-brainer:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.”

Franken wasn't asking to punish Haillbuton/KBR for their past indiscretions.  He wasn't trying to screw them out of future contracts.  All he was saying was, "If you want a government contract, and if you gang-rape your employees, then you must allow them to sue you in court, rather than in private arbitration."

Now, honestly… who has a problem with that?

Fortunately, Franken's measure passed the Senate, 68 to 30.

But it is that thirty no votes that I find troubling.  30 Senate Republicans — 75% of the entire Republican Senate caucus — voted against this.

But why?  What possible rationale could three-fourths of the Republican Senate caucus have for voting against this?

Is it merely because the amendment was offered by a liberal Democrat?

Or do they actually have a substantive reason for not letting victims of sexual assualt sue their rapist-employer?

Bizarre.

UPDATE:  Female Republicans voted unanimously in favor of the amendment.  The 30 no-voters were all (white) male Republican senators.  You know, the "family values" crowd.

David Joy Gets Good Press

Geez.

Best quote:

Jokes Lawson: “Truth be told, he owes all of his success to me, and the rest is history.” Joy plays right along. “It’s true,” he says. “I’m Jamie’s bitch. He works me like a slave driver and I keep coming back for more. I’m a prison bitch.”

Look Up Tonight

The Dracoid meteor shower peaks tonight, as well as tomorrow night, and the 9th.

The annual Perseid meteor shower is bigger, but the Dracoid meteor shower is no slouch.  What's more, unlike the Perseid, it tends to peak in the evening hours (as opposed to the morning hours).

Also, Dracoid meteors are slower, so you tend to catch them with your eye quicker (before the fizzle away).

Tonight is a great night for watching the Dracoid meteor shower.  Clear skies are forecast, and the moon won't rise until late late late.

What to do?  Where to look?

Ideally, you want to be outside for a while, away from ambient lights (street lights, etc.), where your eyes can adjust to the dark.  Super ideally, you'll want to bring a blanket and watch for a while, but maybe you'll luck out and see one soon if you know where to look.

A clear view to the horizon (no buildings or trees) is best.

The constellation Draco (the Dragon) is in the vicinity of the North Star.  The meteor will radiate from Draco's "head".  For the best chance of spotting meteors, you need to find Draco's head.

From the Triad area, you generally will want to look high in the sky, slightly to the Northwest.  Here's what the sky will look like from Winston-Salem at 9:00 tonight (click to embiggen).  North is "up" on this map; west is to the right.

Draco3
 
 

The green constellation is Draco, although I'm pretty sure it won't be green (or have lines) in the actual sky tonight.  If you can find the Big Dipper, Draco is pretty easy to find.

I've drawn a small yellow arrow point to the Big Dipper (which will be in the Northwest sky).  Drago is "above" the Big Dipper, as if it was being flipped from the griddle like a pancake, with its head facing the opposite direction.  (The red arrow I drew in points to the North Star, if that will help as a reference point).

As the evening progresses, Drago will get slightly lower and lower in the Northwest sky. 

The blue arrow shows from where the meteors will radiate (Draco the Dragon's "head").  Probably not best to look right at this area, since the meteors merely start there, but won't necessarily be seen.  Look instead about 10 degrees in any direction away from that area, and hopefully your eye will catch something.

And if it doesn't, there's always the 8th and 9th.

Quote Of The Day

As reported in Time:

"The fact that our numbers are up 30 plus in the news arena on basic cable I'd like to think is a sign that we are just putting what we believe to be the facts out on the table," said Michael Clemente, Fox's senior vice president for news, in an interview on Tuesday.

Reflect on that very revealing statement by Fox News VP for News.

"..we are just putting what we believe to be the facts out on the table…"

That's the kind of statement you probably wouldn't hear from any other legitimate news organization — print or broadcast.

The point of journalism is to put out the facts — not what the media outlet believes are the facts.  And if you don't know the facts, you send people out to get them.

When you broadcast or publish beliefs, that's speculation.  Or opinion.  Or even advocacy.  And that's fine — there's always a place in this information age for speculation, opinion, and advocacy. 

But it's not journalism, and it's very telling that these words come from a senior vice president of cable news.

Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do

Years ago, Andrew Schlafly, the son of you-know-who, decided that Wikipedia was too liberal, and created Conservapedia, which…

strives to keep its articles concise, informative, family-friendly, and true to the facts, which often back up conservative ideas more than liberal ones. Rather than claim a neutral point of view and then insert bias, Conservapedia is clear that it seeks to give due credit to conservatism and Christianity. Schlafly said in regard to the point of view issue, "It's impossible for an encyclopedia to be neutral. I mean let's take a point of view, let's disclose that point of view to the reader.

Newbible I've written about Conservapedia before — it's a source of endless amusement.

So what is Schlafly and the conservapedia.com crew up to now?

Believe it or not, they are creating a conservative Bible:

The Conservative Bible Project is leading the charge to deliberalize the Bible by using a Wikipedia-like Web site to correct what it calls "errors in conveying biblical meaning."

Those errors are a "lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ," "lack of precision in modern language" and "translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one."

On its Web site -  which is emblazoned with an Old Glory logo above the words "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" – the group is seeking to create a fully conservative translation of the Bible that follows 10 commandments, er, guidelines.

Those guidelines include "a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias;" not "dumbing down" the Bible; not emasculating the Bible, that is, not using "gender inclusive" language, and not downplaying the "very real existence of Hell or the Devil." But do, the Web site says, "utilize powerful conservative terms."

Yup.  The Bible, according to these nutjobs, kind of lacks that conservative bent.  How extremely inconvenient.

So they've pooled their considerable talents to re-translate the Bible.

They've set out ten guidelines for doing this:

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[3]
  4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop;[4] defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots";[5] using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

Basically, they are starting with the King James Version and working from that, verse by verse, to say what they think it should.

Of course, in doing so, they are tacitly admitting that the so-called "undeniable Word of God" is subject to interpretation (and now, they're spinning their own interpretation), something which plays well into the hands of atheists and agnostics.

Moreover, they are explicitly rejecting the current versions of the Bible as being "liberal" (or else — why would they be doing this?).  This might come as news to the religious right.

Rod Dreher over at beliefnet.com looked at the above ten guidelines and quipped:

"The liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio"? Hoo-wee! Elitists like to use words, and lots of 'em! "Unnecessary ambiguities"? But how are you going to abide by the conservative mandate to avoid "dumbing down" Holy Writ while at the same time avoiding big words liberals use?

More seriously, the insane hubris of this really staggers the mind. These right-wing ideologues know better than the early church councils that canonized Scripture? They really think it's wise to force the word of God to conform to a 21st-century American idea of what constitutes conservatism? These jokers don't worship God. They worship ideology.

I wandered over to the actual Conservative Bible Project to see how it's going.  It's only been a few days — not much "translation" has been done.  But despite their "guideline" not to "dumb down" the "reading level", that much is clearly going on.  For example, take the KJV version of Mark 3:7:

But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea

I understand what that means.  But they've clearly dumbed it down to reach a lower reading level.  Now, under the Conservative Bible, it reads:

Jesus then departed for the quiet of a lake, but crowds from Galilee and Judaea followed him

… complete with an explanatory annotation that "'lake' is better than 'sea'".  I'm not sure why (is "lake" too "liberal" or one is it of those "elitist" words?) – but there it is.

I have no objection to making the Bible more accessible to modern reader — in fact, this has been done before.  But don't say you're going to dumb it down, and then go ahead and dumb it down.

Other than that, I confess to being a little disappointed.  There wasn't much about the "Conservative Bible" that struck me as being, well, conservative.

And then I found this, also in their translation of Mark Chapter 3 (my ephmasis added):

Verse King James Version Proposed Conservative Translation Analysis
1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. Jesus returned to the synagogue, and noticed man with a crippled hand.
2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. The Liberals watched Jesus to see if they might catch and accuse him of healing on the Sabbath. Tentatively using "Elite" rather than "Pharisees" or skeptical "teachers" for more modern accessability. See talk. – "Self proclaimed elite" = "liberals", fits modern terminology, see talk.
3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. Jesus told the man with the crippled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."
4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. Jesus asked the Liberals, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: doing good or evil? Saving a life, or killing one?" The Liberals did not answer.
5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. Jesus looked at them, feeling anger and pity for the hardness of their hearts, and said to the injured man, "Open your hand." He then opened and held out his hand, and it was as good as new.
6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. The Liberals then fled from the scene to plot with Herod's people against Jesus, and plan how they might destroy him.

Well, it's a work-in-progress.  We'll see if that language sticks.

But this first attempt is revealing.  The Pharisees were actual people, a historical fact, an actual sect of Judaism.  They're not represented well in the Bible (the more accepted versions), because — well, to be blunt — the Pharisees (being Jewish) didn't proscribe to Christianity when the Bible was written.  But could they be described truthfully as "liberals" in the modern sense of the word?  Hardly. 

Nevertheless, you can see the thinking process already at work in the "Conservative Bible" translation, i.e., Pharisees were "bad", liberals are "bad" — therefore, why not exchange one word for the other, even if it dilutes historical fact?

While we're at it, boys, let's just make the Romans "liberals", too.  Then we can have Holy Writ which explicitly says that the Liberals crucified Christ.  Why not?

Beck and the “Alamo for Truth”

Earlier this week, Beck — almost crying (again) — lashed out at "the media" for digging into his past.  Apparently, it had something to do with an excellent three-part Slate article (starting here) about Beck's life.

In the course of his performance, Glenn Beck assured viewers that what he does, well, "it's about me and you and quite frankly, Fox News — the Alamo For Truth"

Watch:

I'm not sure that Glenn knows what he is saying.  The Alamo was a huge failure and national embarrassment, resulting in the death of many Americans, and that has become its metaphorical meaning.  By calling himself and Fox News the "Alamo for truth", isn't he suggesting that Fox News is the place where the truth ultimately dies?

2009 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

It's Nobel prize time, which means that it is Ig Nobel prize time as well.  The "Journal of Improbable Research" has announced its winners of the esteemed Ig Nobels, given to research which delves into the ignored, irrelevant, or obvious.

This year's winners:

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand – but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand – every day for more than sixty (60) years. REFERENCE: "Does Knuckle Cracking Lead to Arthritis of the Fingers?", Donald L. Unger, Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol. 41, no. 5, 1998, pp. 949-50.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid – specifically from tequila.
REFERENCE: "Growth of Diamond Films from Tequila," Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor M. Castano, 2008, arXiv:0806.1485.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don't tip over.
REFERENCE: "Fetal Load and the Evolution of Lumbar Lordosis in Bipedal Hominins," Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman, Nature, vol. 450, 1075-1078 (December 13, 2007). DOI:10.1038/nature06342.

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago, Illinois, USA, for inventing a brassiere that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of protective face masks, one for the brassiere wearer and one to be given to some needy bystander.
REFERENCE: U.S. patent # 7255627, granted August 14, 2007 for a "Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks."

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.
REFERENCE: "Microbial Treatment of Kitchen Refuse With Enzyme-Producing Thermophilic Bacteria From Giant Panda Feces," Fumiaki Taguchia, Song Guofua, and Zhang Guanglei, Seibutsu-kogaku Kaishi, vol. 79, no 12, 2001, pp. 463-9. [and abstracted in Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, vol. 92, no. 6, 2001, p. 602.]REFERENCE: "Microbial Treatment of Food-Production Waste with Thermopile Enzyme-Producing Bacterial Flora from a Giant Panda" [in Japanese], Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, Yasunori Sugai, Hiroyasu Kudo and Akira Koikeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Waste Management Experts, vol. 14, no. 2, 2003, pp. , 76-82.

VETERINARY MEDICINE PRIZE: Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, for showing that cows who have names give more milk than cows that are nameless.
REFERENCE: "Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production," Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson, Anthrozoos, vol. 22, no. 1, March 2009, pp. 59-69. DOI: 10.2752/175303708X390473.

Congrats to the winners.

Things You Learn On WIkipedia

The flag of the Benin Empire (1440-1897):

Badass_flag

That's pretty hard core.

And note that the victim is not only unarmed, but was also merely trying to samba.  All that is missing is a cartoon bubble with the victim saying "Ouch" or "Quit it!"

Benin was a little empire located in present-day Nigeria.  The nobility which ran the empire were, obviously, very protective of their land and holdings.

In 1897, the tribesmen of Benin killed eight British explorers, along with 243 native carriers, in a massacre that one imagines is much like the flag depiction.  Great Britain, of course, wasn't going to take this lying down, and promptly ended the empire by, essentially, burning it down.

So much for the flag.

[H/t: Blame It On The Voices]

Return To Oz

Seventy years ago, the Wizard of Oz was released.

Five surviving munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz” sat down recently, dressed in their full munchkin garb, to sing songs and remember the glory days. One of them fell asleep during the chat.

Justice Scalia Wants Dumber Lawyers?

As reported in the Wall Street Journal law blog, Justice Scalia has some interesting opinions when it comes to the quality of counsel that appears before him in the U.S. Supreme Court:

Well, you know, two chiefs ago, Chief Justice Burger, used to complain about the low quality of counsel. I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.

I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.

So…. from his perspective on the Supreme Court bench, Scalia thinks that, generally speaking, the quality of lawyers in today's bar is high.

But… according to Scalia, that's bad thing.

Say what?

Look, lawyers get a bad rap.  Sometimes deservedly so.  But to suggest that smart lawyers are wasting their time practicing law seems… well… dumb.

No, lawyers don't produce anything in society (neither do judges for that matter) but neither do, say, surgeons.  Does that mean a smart and accomplished surgeon is wasting his time?  That society would be better off if he had chosen a different vocation? 

Being a good "smart" lawyer does not mean that one can become a good engineer and "invent the automobile" (which, last time I checked, was already invented).  They are entirely different skill sets.  I know lawyers — brilliant lawyers — who can't program a VCR.

So what the hell is Scalia saying?

Judicial Activism

Number of questions asked by new Justice Sonia Sotomayor to litigants during her first hour on the Supreme Court bench: 36

Number of questions asked by Justice Clarence Thomas to litigants over the past three year: zero