Monthly Archives: May 2010

Obama’s Katrina?

A lot of "serious" right-wing contributors are comparing the Obama's response to the Oil Spill to Bush's response to Katrina.  

Read, for example, how unhinged the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan

I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office.

She continues:

I wonder if the president knows what a disaster this is not only for him but for his political assumptions. His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: "Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust." Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: "We pay so much for the government and it can't cap an undersea oil well!"

This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. 

Peggy conveniently overlooks the obvious.  Katrina is not the same as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in some very significant ways.

For one thing, the federal government never took it upon itself to oversee oil spills caused by private industries.  There is no federal expertise in capping oil blowouts. There is no federal agency tasked specifically with repairing broken well pipes. There is no expectation that the federal government should be able to respond instantly to a disaster like this. There never has been. For better or worse, it's simply not something that's ever been considered the responsibility of the federal government.

The same cannot be said of hurricanes.  In that case, we specifically have FEMA just for that purpose.  And FEMA worked like a charm during the Clinton administration.  But when George Bush became president and Joe Allbaugh became director of FEMA, everything changed. Allbaugh neither knew nor cared about disaster preparedness. For ideological reasons, FEMA was downsized and much of its work outsourced. When Allbaugh left after less than two years on the job, he was replaced by the hapless Michael Brown and the agency was downgraded and broken up yet again. By the time Katrina hit, the upper levels of FEMA were populated largely with political appointees with no disaster preparedness experience and the agency was simply not up to the job of dealing with a huge storm anymore.

So is the oil spill "Obama's Katrina"?  Hardly.  There was nothing for the Obama Administration to do.  BP had the experts to stop the thing.  BP was tasked to stop the thing (although the Obama Administration was clearly breathing down BP's back).

In fact, there's a very good argument that the BP oil explosion could have prevented if the federal agencies under Bush hadn't been watered down.  The BP blowout was made more likely because that Bush administration decided that government regulation of private industry wasn't very important and turned the relevant agency into a joke. If you believe that government is the problem, not the solution, and if you actually run the country that way for eight years, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But we shouldn't pretend it's inevitable.

SATC2 Reviews Are In…

… and it's being compared to Gigli and a female Ishtar.

You ready?

First, let's see how it rates at Rotten Tomatoes:

Satc2-17116-1274993262-3
Oh… my. [UPDATE:  As more reviews roll in, it's down to 10%]

And the New York Times’ A.O. Scott says:

The ugly smell of unexamined privilege hangs over this film like the smoke from cheap incense.

and then Wajahat Ali in Salon is all:

Michael Patrick King’s exquisitely tone-deaf movie is cinematic Viagra for Western cultural imperialists who still ignorantly and inaccurately paint the entire Middle East (and Iran) as a Shangri La in desperate need of liberation from ignorant, backward natives. 

That doesn’t sound fun AT ALL. Also in Salon, Andrew O’Hehir writes:

It would have been more merciful for writer-director Michael Patrick King to have rented Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda out to the “Saw” franchise.

Another Salon reviewer:

The stakes are so low that, during the girls' final madcap sprint through an outdoor market disguised in burqas, the unspeakable outcome they're trying to forestall is the possibility of having to fly home in coach.

Ella Hornaday of the Village Voice:

Sarah Jessica Parker is now 45 years old, and, frankly, I cannot stomach another moment of the simpering, mincing, hair-tossing, eyelash-batting little-girl shtick she's been pulling ever since she emerged…

Then there's Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post:

An enervated, crass and gruesomely caricatured trip to nowhere [that] seems conceived primarily to find new and more cynical ways to abuse the loyalty of its audience.

Ebert:

Some of these people make my skin crawl. The characters of Sex and the City 2 are flyweight bubbleheads living in a world which rarely requires three sentences in a row.

Roeper:

Bad puns, fashion porn, domestic handwringing, contrived plot points, idiotic dialogue and offensive stereotypes. What's not to loathe?

Dave Edelstein of New York Magazine:

The most depressing thing about Sex and the City 2 is that it seems to justify every nasty thing said and written about the series and first feature film

Kyle Smith of the New York Post:

As tasteless as an Arabian cathouse, as worn-out as your 1998 flip-flops and as hideous as the mom jeans Carrie wears with a belly-baring gingham top, Sex and the City 2 is two of the worst movies of the year.

Amy DiLuna of the New York Daily News:

Though the sequel is a welcome return of the four women we know and love, it's tough not to acknowledge that if we were all friends in real life, at this point we'd probably stop taking their calls.

Well we could go on, and lift quotes from almost every major publication about how bad/not funny/rich in stereotypes the movie is, but you can do that for yourself:

And we'll just leave you with Lindy West, who writes for the Stranger:

“SATC2 takes everything that I hold dear as a woman and as a human—working hard, contributing to society, not being an entitled cunt like it’s my job—and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car. It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theater in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white mustache. This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls.

“If I wasn’t rich, I’d definitely just kill myself right away with a knife!” says everyone in this movie without having to actually say it.

If this is what modern womanhood means, then just fucking veil me and sew up all my holes. Good night. 

Sox Got The Mojo

Tampa Bay had the winningest record of all the MLB teams this year so far.  Earlier this week, they were 32 wins and only 12 losses, a percentage of around .700.

And the Sox swept them, three games in a row.  In Tampa Bay.

So the Boston Boys are doing something right.  Still, they're in the toughest division in baseball.  Tampa Bay still has the highest win-loss percentage; the Yankees have the second highest.  But don't count the Sox out yet.

Team W  L  Pct  GB  Home  Road  East  Cent West  Last10  Streak
Tampa Bay 32  15  .681  -  13-10  19-5  14-7  6-3 10-4  6-4  L 3
New York 28  18  .609  3.5  13-6  15-12  12-7  7-5 8-4  4-6  W 2
Boston 27  21  .563  5.5  14-11  13-10  13-14  6-5 6-1  8-2  W 5
Toronto 27  22  .551  6  11-11  16-11  5-7  11-5 10-8  4-6  L 2
Baltimore 15  32  .319  17  9-13  6-19  6-15  4-5 4-10  3-7  L 1

Adventures in Homeschooling

In Paradise (California):

Theshatzes Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz face one count of murder, one count of torture and one count of child abuse. The torture count alleges that the parents beat their 11-year-old adopted daughter so severely she ended up in the hospital with kidney failure. The child abuse charge is for bruising authorities reportedly found on the couple's 10-year-old biological son.

The Schatzes are parents to six biological children and three they adopted from Liberia about three years ago. Seven-year-old adopted daughter Lydia died of blunt force trauma in February. According to authorities, she was beaten for several hours with a quarter-inch plumbing supply line as her parents took turns holding her down and using the instrument. The blows reportedly cause Rhabdomyolysis, which is a breakdown of muscle tissue which fatally damaged her vital organs. The 11-year-old was allegedly beaten in a similar manner the previous night.

According to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the parents appeared to be following the methods of Michael and Debi Pearl, founders of a controversial fundamentalist religious group, No Greater Joy Ministries.

What did the kid do to deserve that treatment?

According to local authorities, Lydia's "biblical chastisement" leading to her death may have been for mispronouncing a word during a home-school reading lesson.

Find out about their religion: No Greater Joy.

Rites of Passage

I had my first encounter with actual moonshine last night, distilled (or so I was told) by the late and legendary "Popcorn" Sutton.

I'm not the kind to cotton to such things, but there I was, on some abandoned railroad tracks with a steel guitar player and a banjo player and a bunch of others.  (The railroad tracks were behind the theater where I and the others had just finished a performance of the show "Hank Williams: Lost Highway").  Under the circumstances, a swig of moonshine just seemed appropriate and fitting.

I highly recommend it.

Ebert on SETC2

I love Ebert's takedown of Sex and The City 2, especially this:

The movie's visual style is arthritic. Director Michael Patrick King covers the sitcom dialogue by dutifully cutting back and forth to whoever is speaking. A sample of Carrie's realistic dialogue in a marital argument: "You knew when I married you I was more Coco Chanel than coq au vin." Carrie also narrates the film, providing useful guidelines for those challenged by its intricacies. Sample: "Later that day, Big and I arrived home."

He does note that there is an swful lot of "boobage" in the film, such that "male couch potatoes dragged to the film against their will may find some consolation.".

I'm (not surprisingl)y not a fan of the series or the franchise.  Over the last 10 years these four ladies have shown us their stereotypical gay friends, archetypal boyfriends and slept with every man in New York under the guise of "feminism".  And now I'm supposed to pay 8 bucks to see them do the same thing in Abu Dhabi?

Facebook Changing Privacy Controls AGAIN

The announcement will be at 1 pm today (ET).  Apparently, the backlash has been too great, and Facebook is going to fix it for the better:

(CNN) — Facebook, in a rare move, is expected to reverse itself Wednesday on changes to privacy settings after sustained backlash from users worried about how their private information is being used.

The announcement, expected shortly after 1 p.m. ET, marks a rare double-back for Facebook, the nearly ubiquitous networking site that has made a habit of rolling out changes, then weathering user grumbling until it subsides.

"I can confirm that our new, simpler user controls will begin rolling out tomorrow. I can't say more yet," Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told CNN in an e-mail Tuesday.

Among other changes, the site implemented a new tool last month that spreads user preferences and data across the Web. The tool allows Facebook users to more easily share articles and other Web pages they like, but at the same time makes those picks easier for others to see.

Some Facebook members also have been vocally opposed to changes that switched default settings to public.

The Web information-sharing function requires users to sign up for it. And privacy settings can be reset. But the current setup of about 170 settings requires negotiating what The New York Times called "a bewildering tangle of options" to make the switch.

Wednesday's announcement presumably will address what Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged have been missteps with the recent changes.

America Speaks Out

The Republican Party, apparently devoid of ideas themselves, have launched a website called "America Speaking Out".  It's an election-year gimmick intended to help give the GOP a policy platform to run on, except that you, Mr. and Mrs. America, get to set the policy platform.  It's all designed to show that Republicans are "of the people" and they hear you.

This is how Rep. Mike Spence described the website:

"This is a state of the art – what my kids would say 'really cool' – social networking site where people can put up ideas, other people can rate them, score them, thumbs up, thumbs down, it's really going to be a lot of fun for people and it's going to help us develop the governing agenda for this Congress," added Pence, chairman of the Republican Conference and a possible contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.

You know, the GOP is like an elderly person who has just discovered the wonders of the Internet.  It's really "cool", but you have to take it worth a grain of salt, especially when it comes to what people say and think.  The Internet is ground zero for the tin foil hat people.

i think they're beginning to find that out.  One of the first proposals from regular Americans, apparently promoted by a Rand Paul fan, was to eliminate provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Republican officials monitoring the submissions removed it from their site. 

So I guess they kind of want to hear from you.

Dana Milbank has highlighted some other "early responses to the Republicans' request for ideas."

"End Child Labor Laws," suggests one helpful participant. "We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories."

"How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way," recommends another. "That fake so called birth certificate is useless."

"A 'teacher' told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!" a third complains. "And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story."

***

"Build a castle-style wall along the border, there is plenty of stone laying around about there." That was in the "national security" section of the new site.

"Legalize Marijuana, cause, like, alcohol is legal. Man. Also." That was in the "traditional values" section.

"I say, repeal all the amendments to the Constitution." ("American prosperity" section.)

"Don't let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. . . . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet 'I' on their chests — for 'illegal'!!!" (Filed under "job creation.")

***

"Let kids vote!" recommended one. "Let's make a 'Social Security Lotto,' " proposed another. "What dope came up with the idea of criminalizing a parent's right to administer corporal punishment?" a third demanded.

Some contributors demanded action to uncover conspiracies involving the 9/11 attacks and the "NEW WORLD ORDER." One forward thinker recommended that we "build the city of the future somewhere in a non-inhabit part of the United States, preferably the desert."

Some of the uglier forces of the Internet found their way to the House Republican site. "I oppose the Hispanicization of America," said one. "These are not patriotic people." Another contributor had parody in mind (we hope): "English is are official langauge. Anybody who ain't speak it the RIGHT way should kicked out."

Now, some of these suggestions may be progressives getting on the site and trying to make Republicans look stupid.  And some of them, no doubt, actually are stupid Republicans.

I can't tell the difference.

Amityville Home For Sale

The home gained its notoriety when Ronald DeFeos killed six family members while they were sleeping in 1974 and subsequent owners George and Kathleen Lutz claimed to be haunted for 28 days, which were detailed in the book “The Amityville Horror” (on the cover: “This book will scare the hell out of you”—Kansas City Star). However, James Cromarty, who lived in the house after the Lutzes were foreclosed upon, “Nothing weird ever happened, except for people coming by because of the book and the movie.”

The listing is here.  Actually, it's a rather nice house.

The Local Tea Party Candidate

All over the country, the Republican Party is running up against far-right "tea party" candidates, often to hilarious results.  As I have pointed out, the GOP/Tea Party rift tends to divide the right side of the political spectrum, all to the benefit of the Left/Democrats.

It's no different here in North Carolina.  The GOP is attacking the tea party's man who (if the GOP is correct) is kind of a loon:

North Carolina Republicans are circulating court documents that suggest a far-right Tea-Party-backed congressional candidate claimed to be the Messiah, tried to raise his stepfather from the dead, believed God would drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid as the New Jerusalem on Greenland, and found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona.

Tim D'Annunzio also has written that he wants to abolish several key government departments, including the IRS. But there's more going on here than just another wacky conservative politician. The effort by GOP leaders to stop D'Annunzio at all costs offers an intriguing test case of their ability to keep control of the party in the face of challenges from the Tea Party wing. Or as D'Annunzio himself has put it: "The power brokers in Raleigh and in Washington are willing to go to any length and use any unscrupulous tactic to try to destroy somebody. They think that they're losing their control over the Republican party."

D'Annunzio is seeking the GOP nomination to take on Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) this fall. He was the leader in a primary earlier this month, but didn't win enough of the vote to avoid a runoff in June. The state and national party is backing his opponent, former T.V. sportscaster Harold Johnson. And how.

"I consider Mr. D'Annunzio unfit for public office at any level," Tom Fetzer, the North Carolina GOP chair, told reporters recently. "What he could do to the party as our nominee is secondary in my view to what he could do to the country if he got elected." And a spokesman for the NRCC said: "The issue is, do we give Democrats a candidate that they can absolutely tear apart in the general election? I don't think most Republicans want to see that happen."

To undermine D'Annunzio, the state GOP has been circulating records from his 1995 divorce and from a 1998 child support judgment. In the latter, as the Charlotte Observer reported Sunday, the judge called D'Annunzio "a self-described religious zealot," and wrote that D'Annunzio had "described the government as the 'Antichrist'."

In the divorce case, Anne D'Annunzio said her husband had told her that "God was going to drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid" on Greenland, and also that he had found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona, among other unusual beliefs.

In addition, a doctor wrote in the custody proceedings that D'Annunzio told him he had once received treatment for heroin dependence, and was jailed three times for offenses that included burglary and assaulting a police officer.

D'Annunzio says his personal problems are in all in the past. But the Born Again candidate still has some pretty extreme political ideas. On a blog he writes, entitled "Christ's War," D'Annunzio declared earlier this year that he wanted to "abolish the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Transportation, Treasury, and Home Land Security," and the IRS, as well as "any appellate court that has shown an anti Constitutional activism." He also advocated giving control of Social Security and Medicare to the states.

I would love it if D'Annunzio won the GOP nomination.  Sadly, I don't think it will happen.

Lost: Unanswered Questions

  • Why wasn't Walt at the afterlife party? Or Nikki and Paulo? Or Ana Lucia? Or. Mr. Eko? They were all on the plane in the original crash.
  • Why did that sequence of numbers keep reappearing? And how?
  • What was the origin of the island sickness that prevented women from giving birth?
  • And why was Claire the exception to that sickness?
  • If Smokey was responsible for all those appearances of Christian Shepard, and Smokey couldn't leave the island, then how do you account for that one time Christian Shepard appeared in Los Angeles?
  • Why did The Others take flight attendant Cindy, but none of the candidates?
  • Why did The Others dress up like hillbillies during Season 1 and 2, but not so much at other times?
  • What accounted for Locke's sudden ability to walk after the plane crash?
  • How did Rose become cancer-free?
  • And why couldn't Ben be healed if Locke and Rose could?
  • Kate's black stallion — where did that come from? (Was it Smokey?)
  • Whatever happened to Clementine, Sawyer's daughter?
  • Did David, Jack's son, ever exist?

There are probably thousands of other questions….

Again, I came to accept mid-season that they were never going to answer ALL these questions, but some of these omissions are a little glaring in that the writers spent a great deal of time up-playing their significance (i.e., the numbers, the island sickness).

Perhaps the other frustrating thing about the show was the arbitrary "rules".  For example, Ben couldn't kill Widmore and Widmore couldn't kill Ben.  Those were the "rules" they set out — much like the "rule" that Jacob and the Man in Black couldn't kill each other.  So, because of the Ben-widmore "no killing" rule, Ben spent a lot of time and effort going after Widmore's daughter (Penny), or getting Sayid to kill Widmore's associates. 

Yet, in the final season, who pumps lead into Widmore?  Ben.  Why didn't he just do that when he had the chance…. many times?

So, Is ANY Republican Faithful To Their Marriage In South Carolina?

Outgoing governor had an affair, wife divorces him. Former wife now supports new GOP gubernatorial candidate, who we now know also had an affair – with a staffer of the adulterous governor – and who distanced herself from the governor because of HIS affair.

Haley, who is married and has two children, has yet to comment on Folks' announcement. About an hour after Folks announced the affair, Rep. Haley canceled an interview with WIS News 10 that had been previously scheduled for Monday morning and had been confirmed by the campaign before the FITSNews page went live.

Haley recently rocketed to the front of the polls in the Republican race for governor after being publicly endorsed by Republican icon Sarah Palin and former first lady Jenny Sanford. Ms. Sanford, who divorced her husband after the governor announced an extramarital affair of his own, has not commented on the news of Haley's alleged affair.

Haley was once a close political ally of Governor Sanford, but somewhat distanced herself from him after Sanford's affair came to light, saying the governor had "fallen short" in his behavior.

Here's the blogger's admission of the affair.

Is Kevin Costner Making Himself Useful?

The spill in the Gulf rages on.  Animals are washing ashore dead.  Efforts to stop the thing are proving unproductive.  It is the worst environmental disaster the world has ever seen.

And one man may have a solution: Kevin Costner.  Yes, that Kevin Costner.

Mr. Costner appeared in New Orleans last week to demonstrate a $24 million oil extraction device he is pitching to BP and Coast Guard officials. Costner says the device will clean oil from the water at a rate of 97 percent. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Wednesday that his team will test the device next week.

Costner’s involvement in helping solve oil spill crises is not new. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska motivated the actor to help fund a consortium of scientists to develop technology that mitigates oil-infected water before it hits the coast. The technology is ready to combat the BP spill, he told reporters last week.

“It's not anymore about talk," Costner told WWL-TV in New Orleans. “It's about doing the walk, and that phrase was probably invented down here.”

Costner’s company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, provides multiple machines designed to address spills of different sizes. The largest can clean as many as 200 gallons per minute, Costner said. The company reports it has 20 such machines ready to be employed.

“The machines are basically sophisticated centrifuge devices that can handle a huge volume of water and separate [the oil] at unprecedented rates,” Ocean Therapy Solutions CEO John Houghtaling said last week.

Costner said the machines work by drawing in the infested water where it then breaks it down, allowing the oil to discharge through a separate pipe. His audience, a gathering of local parish presidents, appeared eager to get the device to the Gulf.

Um, okay.  Well, he did star in Waterworld.

Mark Twain Tells All

Mark Twain left instructions not to publish his autobiography for at least a century.

It's now been 100 years since the great American author died, so…. that's right.  Mark Twain has a book coming out.  Read more.

Is the Senate Financial Reform Bill Any Good?

Edmund Andrews, who used to cover these issues for the New York Times and now is at the Fiscal Times and blogging at Capital Gains and Games, says it’s very good indeed:

Against that backdrop, it’s astonishing that the Senate bill actually became stronger as the process dragged on. The proposed consumer financial protection agency is stronger and I believe more independent than it would have been in the original Senate bill (more on that in a moment). The multi-trillion market in financial derivatives, which is almost unregulated right now, would for the most part have to be take place on exchanges or at least through clearinghouses — either of which require greater transparency and more pfront capital by the players. Banks, whose deposits are federally insured, would be prohibited from trading derivatives. And as an added surprise bonus, from none other that freshman Senator Al Franken, the bill includes a very smart reform to fix the corrupt busines model of credit-rating agencies.

You can argue that some of these reforms will backfire, and some probably will. But you cannot argue that the reforms amount to little or nothing. These are big changes.

Good.

The New York Times has a nice summary.

Rand Paul Doubling Down By Showing Support For BP

Bruce Bartlett may have said it best when he wrote that Paul suffers from foolish consistency syndrome:

I don't believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only–freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists. To defend the rights of racists to discriminate is reprehensible and especially so when it is done by a major party nominee for the U.S. Senate. I believe that Rand should admit that he was wrong as quickly as possible.

For his part, Rand Paul has spent the last 24 hours backtracking very fast.  Originally he had problems with parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; now he claims he would have voted for it, even the parts he didn't like (i.e., the part which compelled businesses not to discriminate).

Some conservatives — and even Paul himself — have tried to dismiss the whoe Civil-Rights-gate issue as a gotcha game, based on an historic event which has no bearing on the present.  But wiser people (like me) understand that the issue isn't civil rights, but Paul's adherence to a hands-off government.  That has real world applications to current events.

And this morning shows why.  In an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America today, host George Stephanopoulos pressed GOP Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul on “how far” he would “push” his anti-government views. Playing a clip of Paul telling Fox Business that he wants to “get rid of regulation” and “get the EPA out of our coal business down,” Stephanopoulos asked if Paul believed “the EPA should not be allowed to tell oil companies they can’t use certain chemicals to enforce safety regulations on that rig out there?” “No,” replied Paul, saying that he was referring to the EPA’s effort to regulate carbon emissions.

When Stephanopoulos followed up with a question about getting “rid of the EPA,” Paul defended BP’s response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill last month and attacked the Obama administration’s crackdown on the oil giant as “really un-American“:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t want to get rid of the EPA?

PAUL: No, the thing is is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.

Really, Rand?  Coming out in favor of BP?  It's un-American to come down hard on British Petroleum?

Great timing.  And great way to change the subject….

Rand Paul And The Civil Rights Act: Part II

As the day progresses, Rand Paul is clarifying his position on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, assuring the voters that he will not try to repeal it.  This afternoon, a spokesman for the Paul campaign told Greg Sargent, "Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to insure that private businesses don't discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers."

It's nice that Paul doesn't want to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits private businesses from discriminating on the basis of race, but it still skirts the issue.  Because clearly, if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were to come about now, Rand would be against it.

How do we know?  Because Paul objected to another act which sought to end racial discrimination, this time in 2002:

In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul's hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin."…

"The Daily News ignores," wrote Paul, "as does the Fair Housing Act, the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not."

In language similar to the language he's used talking about the Civil Rights Act, Paul criticized racism while defending the right of businesses to discriminate.

"A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination," wrote Paul, "even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities."

So even though Paul won't try to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he's still in favor of allowing businesses to discriminate on the basis of race.  Not in favor of it morally (he insists), but in favor of allowing businesses to get away with it.

Much as Rand Paul would like, this issue really isn't about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  His worldview applies to discrimination today.  What are his views on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, or a law against discriminatory housing against gays?  I think we know where he stands.  It's where he would have stood back in 1964.

NC Goodwill Centers No Longer Interesting; They’re Scary

On Monday, I wrote a post entitled: NC Goodwill Centers Getting Interesting.

I take that back.  Another grenade has been found at a local Goodwill Center, this time right here in Winston-Salem:

WINSTON-SALEM — A customer at the Goodwill store on Peters Creek Parkway tried to purchase a grenade found on a shelf Wednesday morning, prompting the evacuation of the store while bomb squad members removed it, Winston-Salem police said.

Police said Goodwill officials didn't know if the item had been donated. A clerk at the store was concerned by the appearance of the grenade and called police.

Bomb squad members are working to determine if the grenade contained explosives.

A training grenade was discovered Monday in some clothing donated to a Goodwill location in Madison.

"Military ordnance of any kind should not be donated to charity stores," a news release from Winston-Salem police read. "Members of the public that locate military ordnance or need ordnance or ammunition destroyed should contact their local law enforcement agency. Any suspected military ordnance should not be handled."

Quote Of The Day

From here:

Prior to the warrant being issued, a friend of Lohan's [said] that Lindsay was not pleased with Revel being assigned to her case. "Lindsay thinks that judge is so mean … Lindsay wants a new judge that isn't as bossy and strict … It's not like Lindsay isn't busy. She's an international movie star," the friend said.

Shorter version: Lindsay Lohan is a movie star, so the law doesn't apply to her.

Well, it looks like Lohan will have to reflect on that when she's in jail.

Rand Paul And The Civil Rights Act

No_irish I saw a lot of Rand Paul on TV yesterday.  And heard him on the radio.  The newly-minted Republican candidate for Senator from Kentucky is facing national criticism because of his stance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rand Paul, I honestly believe, is not a racist.  He just believes that government should not be involved in business.  And he holds to that ideological stand scrupulously.  

The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited government from discriminating on the basis of race — in schools and bus stations and government jobs.  Paul has no problem with that.  But the part he has a problem with is where the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires businesses not to discriminate either.  While Paul thinks it is stupid and immoral for a business to discriminate, he doesn't think the government has a place in preventing them from doing so. Or, as Ezra Klein writes:

So I take Paul at his word that he's not a racist. What he is, however, is an ideological extremist. He is so categorically opposed to public regulation of private enterprise that he cannot even bring himself to say that the Woolworth lunch counter should've been desegregated. Instead, he falls back on the remedies of the market: "I wouldn't attend, wouldn't support, wouldn't go to," a private institution that discriminates, he told Rachel Maddow. But he would let them discriminate. And in the segregated South, that would've been a perfectly viable business model for many, many very important institutions.

This prompted Rachel Maddow to ask Rand Paul a very simple question on her broadcast last night if the lunch counters at Woolworth's should have been desegregated, "yes or no".  Paul's answer was evasive (he knew it was a trap question), but his answer was essentially "no":

"Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion."

Rachel replied:

"Well, it was pretty practical to the people who had the life nearly beaten out of them trying to desegregate Walgreen's lunch counters despite these esoteric debates about what it means about ownership. This is not a hypothetical Dr. Paul."

[The whole interview was fascinating.  Clip below]

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Now, I stress again, Paul is not a racist in my view.  But his government-get-your-hands-off-business logic certainly encourages racism, and no doubt his views attract racists to his camp.

But Paul's logic is not only offensive to racial minorities, it ought to be offensive to just about everybody.  Just think of the laws that regulate business — disabilities laws which require ramps, child labor laws, etc.  If Paul took his logic to its natural conclusion, we would be transported back to the turn of the century — the 18th century.

What is at odds here is the very notion of what government should be doing.  Paul thinks it should get out of the way.  That's a reasonable position.  Businesses should be free to do what they want.

But within limits.  One person's freedom ceases when it impinges on another's.  And there are times — and the civil rights era certainly serves as a good example — where government needs to intercede to ensure equal rights for all.  Government needs to be a force for good, where evil is pervasive.  No, it can't eradicate evil from the hearts of man, but it certainly can make man behave properly.  But this just highlights what a strange philosophy libertarianism is. While libertarians claim to be driven by a goal of maximizing freedom, what they mean by "freedom" is not what most people take that word to mean. To a libertarian, the only freedom that really matters is freedom from government intrusion. But often, meaningful freedom can only be created through government intervention.

A very good point from Atrios:

Government regulates – and, of course, provides the necessary conditions for the existence of – private business in all kinds of ways. So when people have a particular concern about, say, the Civil Rights Act, as opposed to, say, parking requirements, it’s reasonable to wonder why.

Anyway, it's anybody's guess as to whether Paul's worldview will become a major force.   in the meantime, I also suppose it's time to start asking Republican leaders across the country a straightforward question: "Your party's Senate candidate in Kentucky has a problem with the Civil Rights Act. Do you think he's right or wrong?"

UPDATE:  Someone else asks the same question as me–

If we follow the logic he's already articulated, Paul must necessarily oppose the minimum wage, for example. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, in light of their burdens on private companies, would be equally problematic. Social Security must be out of the question. Child-labor laws would obviously be a problem, as would workplace safety regulations and OSHA.

We can even start exploring more details on discrimination. Paul talked about segregated lunch counters yesterday, but let's also explore employment discrimination. If a private company decided to fire a woman for getting pregnant, Rand Paul would necessarily conclude that it's not the government's business. If a private employer refused to hire Jewish applicants, that, under Paul's worldview, would be legally permissible, too.

Rand Paul will spend the next six months trying to defend his philosophical worldview. It should be interesting to watch.

MORE — Even Bruce Bartlett, very much the free marketer himself, gets it:

In 1883 the Supreme Court, then in its most libertarian phase, knocked down the 1875 [Civil Rights] act as well as many other Republican measures passed during Reconstruction designed to aid African Americans. The Court's philosophy in these cases led logically to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which essentially gave constitutional protection to legal segregation enforced by state and local governments throughout the U.S.

….The libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn't work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.

….Rand's position is that [the Civil Rights Act] was wrong in principle in 1964. There is no other way of interpreting this except as an endorsement of all the things the Civil Rights Act was designed to prohibit, as favoring the status quo throughout the South that would have led to a continuation of segregation and discrimination against African Americans at least for many more years. Undoubtedly, changing mores would have broken down some of this over time, but there is no reason to believe that it would have been quick or that vestiges wouldn't still remain today. Indeed, vestiges remain despite the Civil Rights Act.

Bad Marketing Idea

Take a look at this ad, which has appeared on websites and billboards:

Todddavis 

Mr. Davis's company, Lifelock, advertized that it could protect one's personal information.  So confident was Mr. Davis in the company's product that he advertised his social security number prominently.

Well, guess what:

Well done, Mr. Davis.

The Class of 1994

Here we go again:

"I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff…."

That's Representative Mark Souder (R-Ind), sponsor of the "Marriage Protection Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution, admitting to an extramarital affair yesterday morning with part time staffer Tracy Jackson.  (The two can be seen here in a video interview discussing, ironically, abstinence education.  Jackson is the "interviewer").

The Washington Post notes that the Republicans who were swept into office in 1994, which includes Souder, seem to have, well, a lot of "issues":

Souder appears likely to join classmates Mark Foley (lewd text messages to House pages), Mark Sanford (hiking the proverbial Appalachian Trail with his Argentine mistress) and John Ensign (whose parents paid the family of his ex-mistress $96,000) in the sex-scandal hall of fame. Another of their classmates, Bob Ney, did prison time for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

As Eric Massa, John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer can attest, scandal can visit any party or any political body. But the House Republicans of '94 stand out: No fewer than 15 of the 73 elected in the landslide that year have entertained the nation with flaps that include messy divorces and a suspicious car accident.

Surging Republicans?

Conventional wisdom and the polls suggest that 2010 will be a banner election year for the Republicans, as anti-Obama fervor continues to grow.

But Steve Benen took note of the special election yesterday in Pennsylvania's 12 District, to replace the House seat held by John Murtha. Democrats ran Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer, against businessman Tim Burns, who touted his "outsider" status and association with the right-wing Tea Party "movement."  Burns was ahead in the polls, in a district where Obama's approval rating was 35%, well below the national average of 50%. 

Yet Critz won, prompting Benen to write:

Marc Ambinder noted yesterday, long before the polls even closed, "If the Republican doesn't [win], I think us pundits in Washington are going to have to revise our thinking about whether this is a wave election year for Republicans."

Once the results were in, Politico added that "Republicans failed spectacularly, losing on a level playing field where, in this favorable environment, they should have run roughshod over the opposition…. The district itself couldn't have been more primed for a Republican victory."

***

For those keeping score, there have been seven special elections for U.S. House seats since the president's inauguration 16 months ago: NY20, IL5, CA32, CA10, NY23, FL19, and PA12. Democrats have won all seven.

I certainly don't think Democrats are going to have much to rejoice in this year's upcoming midterms.  But perhaps — just perhaps — the whooping won't be as bad as everybody thinks.

NC Goodwill Centers Getting Interesting

Reported yesterday, in Asheville:

A clothes sorter at a North Carolina charity generated a lot of goodwill when she turned in thousands of dollars she found in a sock.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that Goodwill worker Jocelyn Garnace found more than $5,000 cash in a sock wrapped up in a blanket.

This afternoon, in Madison:

A device that could be a grenade was found in some clothing donated to a Goodwill location in Madison, police in Madison said.

Police said the device was discovered at about 11:40 a.m.

The device was taken to the Madison police station.

Officials were waiting for members of the Greensboro squad to arrive to analyze the device.

Supreme Court: No More Life Sentences Without Parole For Minors Who Haven’t Killed Anyone

It was a 5-4 decision, with Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas in the minority.

Really, this should have been a no-brainer.

By a 5-4 vote Monday, the court says the Constitution requires that young people serving life sentences must at least be considered for release.

The court ruled in the case of Terrance Graham, who was implicated in armed robberies when he was 16 and 17. Graham, now 22, is in prison in Florida, which holds more than 70 percent of juvenile defendants locked up for life for crimes other than homicide.

''The state has denied him any chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society based solely on a nonhomicide crime that he committed while he was a child in the eyes of the law,'' Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. ''This the Eighth Amendment does not permit.''

Roughly three dozen states allow for the possibility of sentencing teenagers for life with no parole, even where the teen did not kill anyone.

Writing for the dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas offered this:

''I am unwilling to assume that we, as members of this court, are any more capable of making such moral judgments than our fellow citizens.''

Perhaps not, Justice Thomas, but it is your job.  The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment.  It is your job to interpret the Constitution, and make sure that laws (or, in this case, sentences) do not offend the Constitution.  If you, as a judge, feel uncomfortable determining what the Constitution means by "cruel and unusual", then please step down and we'll find someone to replace you.

Miss USA Wants To Blow Up Times Square

So the newly crowned Miss USA, from Michigan, is an Arab Muslim terrorist, just like our President.  Congrats, Rima Fikah.

Cue wingnut head explosions in three, two…. wait for it!

UPDATE:  And now there's controversy about some stripper photos that were taken of Rima Fikah when she won a stripper contest in 2007.  However, it won't amount to anything since (a) she kept her clothes on and (b) it's not like the Miss USA Pageant cares.

FURTHER THOUGHTS:  Michelle Malkin notes Miss USA's heritage, but what really upsets her was that the new Miss USA supports insurance coverage for birth control.

She also notes that Miss Oklahoma responded to a question by celebrity judge Oscar Nunez (Oscar on "The Office").  It was a conservative response, barks Malkin, so Miss Oklahoma blew her chances.

The question was about Arizona's immigration law which allowed law enforcement to stop anyone that they "reasonably suspect" to be an illegal immigrant.  Miss Oklahoma responded that she is against illegal immigration, but also against racial profiling.  And then added:

“I’m a huge believer in states’ rights. I think that’s what’s so wonderful about America. So I think it’s perfectly fine for Arizona to create that law."

States rights is fine, honey, but human rights (especially those protected by the Constitution) trump states rights.  That's why slavery is unconstitutional, no matter what the Southern states want.

UPDATE — video:

 

UPDATE:  Jesus' General compiles the winger reaction to the new Miss USA over at the Free Republic:

Miss Hezbollah wins!
by Stepan12

Nope, according to her bio, Catholic. (strange considering birth control comment)
by mnehring

I submit she may just say she is Catholic to avoid being murdered.
by rlmorel

Nope. Lebanese Shi’ite with family ties for Hezbollah.
by rmle

I'm SURE papa Hussein approves of his little westernized slut.
My 2 cent's worth … she isn't that hot.
by knar

She looks like every other Puerto Rican.
by cll

This is a Trump production. I wonder if Obama asked him to promote the Muzzi.
by aimhigh

Our president claims to be Christian, and his middle name is Hussein.
by Sherman Logan

The fix was in, folks. Don’t believe for a second she won on merits. Everything since Obama has taken office has been about appeasing Muslims. This just falls right in line with it all.
by rintense

The Islamic concept of deceiving infidels–taqiyyah–is employed here, just as Mohammed Atta employed it when he patronized strippers and prostitues, drank alcohol in bars, and gambled in Vegas–most of that against Islamic law.
It is their creed and is exactly why they should never be trusted in this country.
by The_Media_never_lie

I’m sorry, but Hezbollah monkies don’t do it for me … LOL …
by Star Traveler

Maybe the IDF/Caterpillar can pancake her like St. Rachel Corrie.
by skimask

MORE:  Debbie Schlussel:

I don’t just wonder if this whole contest is rigged.  I have a feeling that it is.  Clearly, there is affirmative action for Muslim women in beauty pageants and other such “contests.”

And on Fox:

 

Drunk History Vol. 5: Fredrick Douglass (and Abe Lincoln)

If you haven't been following Funny or Die's Drunk History series, you're going to laugh when you see what you're missing.

Here's how it works: the producers get somebody super-drunk, then have that person tell a story from history. This story is usually completely inaccurate, but hilarious due to the aforementioned super-drunkenness. Then the producers get actors (often surprisingly high-caliber actors) to reenact the story word-for-word as told by the super-drunk person. The rest is Drunk History.

In this episode, the story (sort of) of Fredrick Douglass, as told by (drunk) Jen Kirkman, and performed by Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle, and Zooey Deschanel.

 

BP CEO Tries To Minimize Oil Spill, Says Something Stupid

Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, in an interview with The Guardian:

In an bullish interview with the Guardian at BP's crisis centre in Houston, Hayward insisted that the leaked oil and the estimated 400,000 gallons of dispersant that BP has pumped into the sea to try to tackle the slick should be put in context.

"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume," he said.

Riiiight.  And let's put 9/11 in context, too.  "Attack on America?"  No…. America is a big place.  The WTC and the Pentagon were only a couple dozen acres, at most.

I wonder what Tony Hayward would say if he was served a four-course meal, some of which was laced with a few grains of anthrax.  Contextually speaking, that's not a lot of anthrax, so, according to his logic, what would be the fuss?  (Note: I'm obviously not advocating that this be done; I'm making a point).

Hayward may be correct that the volume of oil in the Gulf is small compared to the total water volume, but the point is that the spilling oil does not disperse in the Gulf's water… so it is kind of big deal.  It floats around killing wildlife, ruining livelhoods, polluting natural shores millions of years in the making.  The oil doesn't dilute.  Hayward seems to forget that oil and water go together like, well, oil and water.

The Next Bieber

I first saw this video late last week, and it's gone waaaay viral by now.  The talented kid here (performing Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi") has gone from regular school kid to an appearance on "Ellen", and you can be sure there'll be more from him.

The video is from April 12.  The kid, whose name is Grayson Chance, is performing at the Cheyenne Middle School recital.  He's in sixth grade.

Normally, I wouldn't post the video but, it's Friday.  Plus, having seen it a few times, what charms me about it isn't the kid — or his undeniable talent.  It's the sixth grade girls in the background falling in love.  A lot of lip-licking and face-touching.  You can almost hear the hearts breaking.  Cracks me up.

I Like This Obama Better Than Bipartisan-Wannabe Obama

OBAMA: After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want to keys back. No! You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out.

Jon Chaitt adds:

I think we can see his main political theme for 2010 and 2012 taking shape here: Republicans screwed the country up, Obama got to work fixing it, Republicans took an ultra-partisan stance on every issue, and if you give them power they'll screw things up again. It's quite simple, and has the added virtue of being true.

How Much Oil Is Actually Being Spilled?

When the oil spill first occured, we were told it was about 1,000 barrels per day.

Then BP upwardly revised its estimates a few days later… to 5,000 barrels per day, and that remains the official estimate.

But within the past few days, we've been treated to video of the actual spill from deep underwater…

And now we read this:

BP has said repeatedly that there is no reliable way to measure the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by looking at the oil gushing out of the pipe. But scientists say there are actually many proven techniques for doing just that.

Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, analyzed videotape of the seafloor gusher using a technique called particle image velocimetry.

A computer program simply tracks particles and calculates how fast they are moving. Wereley put the BP video of the gusher into his computer. He made a few simple calculations and came up with an astonishing value for the rate of the oil spill: 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.

The method is accurate to a degree of plus or minus 20 percent.

Given that uncertainty, the amount of material spewing from the pipe could range from 56,000 barrels to 84,000 barrels a day. It is important to note that it's not all oil. The short video BP released starts out with a shot of methane, but at the end it seems to be mostly oil.

Lovely. 70,000 barrels is about 3,000,000 gallons of oil.  Per day.  The Exxon Valdez oil disaster, by comparison, was a total of 12 million gallons.

That is depressing enough, but when you couple it with this headline from National Geographic….

Gulf Oil Leaks Could Gush for Years

"We don't have any idea how to stop this," expert says.

…well, that just makes you want to cry.

I guess if we can't stop the leak, it doesn't really matter how fast the oil is coming out.  We just have to wait until the particular reservoir of oil underneath the sea bed gets tapped out.

How much oil is that?  Oh, about 50 million barrels (or 2 billion gallons).  Which comes out to about 160 Exxon Valdez disasters.

David Ortiz Getting Paid $13 Million, By The Way

From The Onion, who gets it:

BOSTON—According to official MLB statistics available as of press time, struggling Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is hitting only .200 and has tallied a paltry four home runs and 11 RBIs thus far in 2010. Sources close to the team noted that, just FYI, Ortiz is being paid $13 million per year to do nothing but hit.

Moreover, as long as sources happen to be on the subject, Ortiz is carrying an on-base percentage of .274 and a slugging percentage of .412 for an OPS of .685, which ranks him at roughly 60th in the American League. Basically, witnesses said, this means Ortiz has earned $165,214 per hit this season, which is something to think about for sure.

Once again, sources stated, Ortiz only gets paid to hit. Just hit. Nothing else.

So those familiar with the Red Sox organization are completely clear, baseball insiders said, the Dodgers' Andre Ethier is leading the NL with a .385 batting average, has 37 RBIs, and is second in the majors with 11 home runs. It also bears mentioning, they continued, that he plays a position in the outfield, is a 2009 Silver Slugger Award winner, writes the food blog Dining With 'Dre, and does all of this for $7.25 million per year less than David Ortiz.

Sources also confirmed that Milwaukee's Ryan Braun is right behind Ethier, hitting .359 with 28 RBIs, for only $1.3 million, if you can see where sources are going with that.

Personnel close to the Red Sox front office noted yesterday that Ortiz is being paid one-twelfth of the team's total payroll, adding that they were just saying, is all. In addition, those who wonder if you can see a trend developing here at all reported that the Texas Rangers, currently in first place in their division, will spend just over $55 million on payroll this year, which is only a little more than four times what Ortiz costs Boston.

Flustered Red Sox officials, who are reportedly "very familiar" with these numbers, have on multiple occasions been overheard to say—usually with a fair amount of groaning, sighing, and wall-punching—that there are 12 teams without a single player earning $13 million this season, including Pittsburgh, San Diego, Arizona, Oakland, Florida, Cleveland, Washington, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore.

And one can't help but notice, sources confirmed, that Tampa Bay is currently in first place in the AL East.

Who Would Jesus Turn Down?

The Catholic Church keeps digging a hole for itself:

BOSTON — A Roman Catholic school in Massachusetts has withdrawn its acceptance of an 8-year-old boy with lesbian parents, saying their relationship was "in discord" with church teachings, according to one of the boys' mothers.

It's at least the second time in recent months that students have not been allowed to attend a U.S. Catholic school because of their parents' sexual orientation, with the other instance occurring in Colorado.

The Massachusetts woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of concerns about the effect of publicity on her son, said she planned to send the boy to third grade at St. Paul Elementary School in Hingham in the fall. But she said she learned her son's acceptance was rescinded during a conference call Monday with Principal Cynthia Duggan and the parish priest, the Rev. James Rafferty.

"I'm accustomed to discrimination, I suppose, at my age and my experience as a gay woman," the mother said. "But I didn't expect it against my child."

Rafferty said her relationship "was in discord with the teachings of the Catholic Church," which holds marriage is only between a man and woman, the woman said.

Yeah. You know what else is in discord with the Catholic Church?  Divorce.  Does the school turn down children of divorced parents, too?

Lot of this going around lately.

Facebook Privacy Settings

Kudos to the New York Times for doing the heavy lifting and mapping out all the places on Facebook where there are privacy settings.

As they write, "To manage your privacy on Facebook, you will need to navigate through 50 settings with more than 170 options…"

The NYT came up with this graphic, which you will have to click to embiggen:

Fbpriv

Only In Alabama

In the Republican primaries for Alabama governor, the top Republican candidates are having a battle to show voters who is the more bonafide creationist.

It all started with this attack ad:

Ironically, the group behind that ad is called the True Conservative PAC, a political group that gets most of its money from the teachers' union — or, more accurately, from a collection of other PACs heavily funded by the union.

Yup.  Teachers are abetting an attack which calls out a candidate for being soft on creationism.

The subject of the ad, candidate Bradley Byrne, responded with common sense, noting that 2000 years of science necessarily renders parts of the Bible as something other than literal truth.

No, just kidding.  Byrne actually responded with a lengthy press release vehemently defending his belief in creationism and the infallible truth of the Bible:

"As a Christian and as a public servant, I have never wavered in my belief that this world and everything in it is a masterpiece created by the hands of God… As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school text books. Those who attack me have distorted, twisted and misrepresented my comments and are spewing utter lies to the people of this state."

This is insane, especially in the 21st century.

Smoke Monstor From “Lost” Given Own Primetime Spin-Off Series

As reported here:

BURBANK, CA—Executives at ABC announced Monday that the network will premier a new Lost spin-off series this fall based around that show's popular smoke monster character.

The new series, a half-hour family-oriented comedy called Where There's Smoke, is touted by ABC as the new anchor of its Thursday-night lineup.

"Somewhere between the smoke monster's first appearance on Lost— when it was depicted as a strange unseen force uprooting trees—and that episode in season three where it grabbed Mr. Eko and smashed him against the ground until he was dead, this character became the breakout star of the show," said Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment. "And that's exactly why we're so excited about Where There's Smoke. We get to see the monster's light comedic side in a show about life, love, and good friends having good times."

"Because after all, Where There's Smoke, there's laughter," McPherson added.

ABC sources reported that the series will transplant the evil black cloud from the island of Lost to the suburbs of Chicago, where it works as a sports radio host, surrounded by "a whole new group of crazy characters." Actress Lea Thompson has signed on to play the monster's long-suffering wife, who must put up with her husband's screwball antics while raising the couple's two rambunctious children, Tanner and Smoky, Jr.

Veteran TV producer Chuck Lorre, of Dharma & Greg and The Big Bang Theory fame, will helm the show, which he said will focus mainly on the deadly creature's adjustments to suburbia and fatherhood, and its comically contentious relationship with its boss, a fussy radio station manager played by Richard Kind.

"The whole concept began with us asking, 'So what happens to the monster after it kills somebody and disappears down that ancient temple vent? What kind of life might it have?'" Lorre said. "And what we realized is that audiences really relate to this character and would like to see it in everyday situations, shooting the breeze with buddies at a local watering hole or murdering its son's soccer coach and depositing his lifeless body in a tree."

"And of course, you'll be hearing lots of its classic catchphrase, 'Brrrrr, chk-chk-chk-chk, muuuuuuuuuuuuaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrhhh,'" Lorre added.

Lost producer Jack Bender has confirmed that the smoke monster will no longer be part of his show's regular cast. However, ABC has promised that Where There's Smoke will feature a number of guest appearances from Lost regulars. Sources said the pilot episode will feature an appearance by actor Michael Emerson as a slobby houseguest named Benjamin Linus who overstays his welcome, much to the chagrin of the smoke monster's wife.

Though the project has been in development for almost a year, negotiations reached a standstill last winter when representatives for the mysterious, billowing actor expressed concern that their client would risk being typecast as "just a smoke monster" if the role were carried into a new series.

"We're always sensitive to these kinds of things, but we actually think this new vehicle will make people realize [the monster] is a sophisticated actor with a great deal of range," said McPherson, who agreed to pay the show's star $2 million per episode after scenes between the smoke monster and a nosy, ethnic next-door neighbor tested well with audiences. "People love the smoke monster, and people love to laugh. This series is a can't-miss."

Added McPherson, "And I'm not just blowing smoke here."

Speaking of Lost, I see a major let-down happening, as exhibited by last night's episode.

Now, granted, we got some answers.  We found out, finally, who "Adam" and "Eve" were.  That was nice.

But some of the "answers" aren't really "answers".  The writers are just punting the ball further down the field in the hope that we won't ask the questions again.

For example, we've known that Jacob and the Man in Black cannot kill each other.  But why not?

Well, last night's episode provided the "answer" (SPOILER ALERT).  We learned that Jacob and the Man in Black were twins.  A pregnant woman stranded on the island gave birth to them.  But minutes after giving birth, the mother was killed by White House press secretary Allison Janney, who raised Jacob and the other one as her own.

And even though the brothers could beat each other up pretty severely, they couldn't kill each other.  And why not?  That was reveled in this scene between Jacob and Allison Janney, which I paraphrase pretty closely below:

JACOB:  But why can't we kill each other?

ALLISON:  Because I made it that way.

Ah, mystery solved.

No, wait — it's not solved.  We don't know who this Allison Janney charactor is.  We don't know why she's on the island, or, well, anything.  Okay, she was in charge of protecting the island, and that got passed down to Jacob, and now (presumably) to someone on the crashed Oceanic flight.

But why does Allison Janney have to protect the island?  And how did she make it so that Jacob and his brother couldn't come to death blows?

Like I say, punting these questions downfield — answering a mystery with another mystery — doesn't work for me.

And with only two shows left, they better get on the ball.

Lost Finale LEAKED!

I'm not sure how long this will stay up… I imagine lawyers are scrambling to take it down.

And maybe you don't want to know.  SPOILER ALERT, as they say….

But here it is…. from the final episode of LOST:

Smut On Film: “Babies”

Kids in Mind is a website which reviews movies on a 1-to-10 basis along three criteria:  Sex & Nudity, Violence/Gore, and Profanity.  Their mission is to "enable adults to determine whether a movie is appropriate for their own children…"

It gets a "5" rating for nudity because…

SEX/NUDITY 5 – Bare female breasts are seen throughout the movie in a non-sexual maternal and cultural context; scenes include breast feeding newborns and babies, a woman sharing a bath with a baby, a woman is seen lying in bed next to a swaddled baby, and multiple women are seen in indigenous tribal surroundings, where women do not routinely cover their breasts.
 A woman appears to be completely nude in a hot tub — she's holding a nude child, covering her breasts, and when she stands up, her nude torso is visible momentarily.
 The bare chests of men are visible as they soak in a hot spring. A man's bare chest is visible as he holds a nude baby in a shower. A shirtless man is seen holding a nude child.
 Children of various ages, from newborns to toddlers, are seen in various states of undress, including unobscured views of both male and female genitals. Infants are seen without clothing, as well as young children wearing only indigenous tribal outfits, which do not cover buttocks and genitals — in one instance a baby grabs the genitals of another male child, and the male child pushes him away.

Also, for "violence/gore", "Babies" offers:

 We see wires and tubes coming from the feet of a baby in a hospital, and hooked up to a monitor.
 As an infant eats, she spits food out of her mouth and into her hand, offers it to a man, and then puts the food back into her mouth.

Why can't they make nice family pictures anymore?

Can Gay Actors Play Straight?

Apparently, a writer at Newsweek named Ramin Setoodeh has a problem with Sean Hayes in Promises, Promises and Jonathan Groff in Glee.  An excerpt:

For decades, Hollywood has kept gay actors—Tab Hunter, Van Johnson, Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson, etc.—in the closet, to their own personal detriment. The fear was, if people knew your sexual orientation, you could never work again. Thankfully, this seems ridiculous in the era of Portia de Rossi and Neil Patrick Harris. But the truth is, openly gay actors still have reason to be scared. While it's OK for straight actors to play gay (as Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger did in Brokeback Mountain), it's rare for someone to pull off the trick in reverse. De Rossi and Harris do that on TV, but they also inhabit broad caricatures, not realistic characters likes the ones in Up in the Air or even The Proposal. Last year, Rupert Everett caused a ruckus when he told the Guardian that gay actors should stay in the closet. "The fact is," he said, "that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the … film business." Is he just bitter or honest? Maybe both.

He goes on to give a pass to some gay actors, like Neil Patrick Harris, but only because they play broad characters in sitcoms.  But Sean Hayes, he essentially says, cannot play leading man roles because when he does, there is a "pink elephant" in the room.

Hayes' co-star in Promises Promises, Kristin Chenowith, is having none of that.  She posted a response in the comments section to the Newsweek article, but since it is hard to locate, I reprint it here in full:

As a longtime fan of Newsweek and as the actress currently starring opposite the incredibly talented (and sexy!) Sean Hayes in the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises, I was shocked on many levels to see Newsweek publishing Ramin Setoodeh’s horrendously homophobic “Straight Jacket,” which argues that gay actors are simply unfit to play straight. From where I stand, on stage, with Hayes, every night — I’ve observed nothing “wooden” or “weird” in his performance, nor have I noticed the seemingly unwieldy presence of a “pink elephant” in the Broadway Theater. (The Drama League, Outer Critics Circle and Tony members must have also missed that large animal when nominating Hayes’ performance for its highest honors this year.)

I’d normally keep silent on such matters and write such small-minded viewpoints off as perhaps a blip in common sense. But the offense I take to this article, and your decision to publish it, is not really even related to my profession or my work with Hayes or Jonathan Groff (also singled out in the article as too “queeny” to play “straight.”)

This article offends me because I am a human being, a woman and a Christian. For example, there was a time when Jewish actors had to change their names because anti-Semites thought no Jew could convincingly play Gentile. Setoodeh even goes so far as to justify his knee-jerk homophobic reaction to gay actors by accepting and endorsing that “as viewers, we are molded by a society obsessed with dissecting sexuality, starting with the locker room torture in junior high school.” Really? We want to maintain and proliferate the same kind of bullying that makes children cry and in some recent cases have even taken their own lives? That’s so sad, Newsweek! The examples he provides (what scientists call “selection bias”) to prove his “gays can’t play straight” hypothesis are sloppy in my opinion. Come on now!

Openly gay Groff is too “queeny” to play Lea Michele’s boyfriend in Glee, but is a “heartthrob” when he does it in Spring Awakening? Cynthia Nixon only “got away with it” ’cause she peaked before coming out? I don’t know if you’ve missed the giant Sex and the City movie posters, but it seems most of America is “buying it.” I could go on, but I assume these will be taken care of in your “Corrections” this week.

Similarly, thousands of people have traveled from all over the world to enjoy Hayes’ performance and don’t seem to have one single issue with his sexuality! They have no problem buying him as a love-torn heterosexual man. Audiences aren’t giving a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We’re actors first, whether we’re playing prostitutes, baseball players, or the Lion King. Audiences come to theater to go on a journey. It’s a character and it’s called acting, and I’d put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period.

Lastly, as someone who’s been proudly advocating for equal rights and supporting GLBT causes for as long as I can remember, I know how much it means to young people struggling with their sexuality to see out & proud actors like Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon succeeding in their work without having to keep their sexuality a secret. No one needs to see a bigoted, factually inaccurate article that tells people who deviate from heterosexual norms that they can’t be open about who they are and still achieve their dreams. I am told on good authority that Mr. Setoodeh is a gay man himself and I would hope, as the author of this article, he would at least understand that. I encourage Newsweek to embrace stories which promote acceptance, love, unity and singing and dancing for all! –Kristin Chenoweth

Yup.

Taxed Enough Already?

The "tea" in the Tea Party movement stands for "Taxed Enough Already".  It's a bad time for this kind of movement, and here's why:

Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found.

Some conservative political movements such as the "Tea Party" have criticized federal spending as being out of control. While spending is up, taxes have fallen to exceptionally low levels.

Federal, state and local taxes — including income, property, sales and other taxes — consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.

***

Individual tax rates vary widely based on how much a taxpayer earns, where the person lives and other factors. On average, though, the tax rate paid by all Americans — rich and poor, combined — has fallen 26% since the recession began in 2007. That means a $3,400 annual tax savings for a household paying the average national rate and earning the average national household income of $102,000.

Granted, a lot of the reason taxes are at their lowest level is because of the stimulus package, which will expire in 2010.  But still, why are people complaining?

What Justice Kagen Means

If Kagen is confirmed, as I expect she will (despite a lot of moaning and lying from Republicans), the United States Supreme Court will consist entirely of justices who attended law school at either Harvard or Yale.  (Note: Ginsberg graduated at Columbia, but she went to law school at Harvard and then Columbia).

Not that Harvard or Yale are bad — they have great law schools.  But, you know.  Come on.

Also, no Protestants on the Court.  Just Catholics and Jews. 

And New York is apparently the breeding ground for justices: If confirmed, Elena Kagan will join fellow New Yorkers Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor on the bench.

In truth, I don't any of these things means anything.  But it certainlt gives fodder to those who want to complain that the makeup of the Supreme Court doesn't look like America.

Then again, maybe we don't want the Supreme Court to look like America.  Maybe we should want them to be highly educated "elitists", regardless of their conservative or liberal leanings.