aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Why not a Michael Graves cell phone tower?
When I worked in the New York suburbs in the 90s, the hot battle was over cell phone towers. Nothing’s changed. And my guess is calls still drop when driving the Hutch through Scarsdale.
Cell providers should host a competition among the world’s signature architects to come up with new cell tower designs. They’re sure to come up with something more interesting than “spindly, metallic and freakishly tall antennas” that are “sometimes disguised as fir trees, cacti or flagpoles.”
Why not a Michael Graves cell phone tower? Imagine what Frank Gehry would come up with. I bet Scarsdale could be persuaded to put up one of theirs.
Hope for the documentary
News that Judy Woodruff is leaving CNN ("to teach, write and work on long-form documentaries") following, as it does, Ted Koppel’s announced departure from ABC ("There are some very interesting prospects out there...") makes me optimistic that there will be some good documentary happening, hopefully on PBS or a broadcast network rather than pay TV.
I started out in documentary and still have a fondness for the form. Yesterday a student came in asking about doing a documentary this summer about some of the black midwives in Georgia in the 1950s who are still living. My ears pricked up. As it happens my teacher, mentor and friend George Stoney made a 1952 film, All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story:
...widely regarded as a landmark film, “remarkable in its time for its respect for African Americans… visual version of a training manual for black midwives...[that] includes an actual birth,” All My Babies follows a remarkable midwife, Mary Coley (Miss Mary), through three deliveries in a series of reenactments shot on location in rural Georgia.
The film was made for Georgia’s Department of Public Health to train the midwives:
Stoney was dealing with subject matter that challenged racial taboos...Stoney was to assure the white community that there was no sabotage intended of the white South, and no intention of even suggesting that an unhappy relationship existed between whites and blacks, not in any way promoting a change in black-white relationships. The film, the sponsors felt, should manifest interest in the health of blacks and how it might be improved within the South’s traditional way of life.
All My Babies represented several advanced views. It challenged the idea that a hospital was the only appropriate place for childbirth. Its consideration of birth as a natural process rather than a “trauma” was quite unusual at that time. And its psychological approach, which stressed, for example, the importance of paying attention to other children in the family, was quite new. According to Stoney, one of the best things that All My Babies accomplished was to show doctors in the South that working with midwives offered unique and rich clinical experience. “A lot of younger doctors began to take those assignments”
I called George for a copy of his tape and will be working with the student, who had his first project debut last night in our school’s first film festival. He’s got talent and has demonstrated commitment. I’m excited at the prospect.
Drooling over Tiger
Not me. Not yet.
A friend IMed yesterday to note that people were lined up outside the SoHo Apple store waiting to buy Tiger. Joe Gandelman, in a roundup of stories from around the world, notes that Apple’s Core Supporters Roar Approval At Tiger:
Apple’s new Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger operating system was a huge smash as it went onsale yesterday - and we’re not lion.
Bill Gates may have the numbers (and bankroll) but, as usual, Apple has the enthusiastic, almost cult-like devotees.
I’m platform agnostic, lucky to have both Macs and PCs, at home and work. I have been primarily a PC person, using the Macs for photos, music and mail (and the PC for graphics? How lame is that?)
Today I’m edging more towards Mac, sitting here with my new Panther iBook, updating and installing software, grousing because the Mac keyboard shortcut for switching betwen windows switches between programs not windows and, elegant as Shrook is, I can’t get it to display date and time.
I’ll get around to switching up to the 200+ new features in Tiger, but not yet.
Detective O’Reilly: Making America Stupider
A Georgia woman, who was found in New Mexico early Saturday and who said she had been abducted, admitted today she had made up the story because she was nervous about her upcoming wedding, police said.
World O’Crap was watching the Bill O’Reilly segment on the case last night, before she was found:
Bill asked Greta [Van Susteren] if the police had any clues about who had taken the woman, because it was obvious that she was the victim of a crime, and was most probably dead.Ã‚Â Greta quickly replied thatÃ‚Â the cases of Audrey Seiler (the Minnesota coed who faked her own kidnapping) and Elizabeth Smart show thatÃ‚Â Wilbanks could still be found alive.Ã‚Â Bill pompously said that this case was different, in that WilbanksÃ‚Â was very close to her family, and was very responsible, so she obviously didn’t just run away.Ã‚Â Plus,Ã‚Â it was only luck (he repeated that: “only luck") that Smart wasn’t killed by her abductor.Ã‚Â BillÃ‚Â addedÃ‚Â that Seiler hadÃ‚Â some mental problems, andÃ‚Â in every case like her’s there are some signs that point to a hoax,Ã‚Â but Wilbanks was 32-years old and had never done anything flaky before, and wasn’t the type to cause her family so much worry, so it was clear that she had been kidnapped or murdered.
Greta defensively said that we had to hope that she would be found alive, even if Bill was right about her not having just gotten cold feet and ran away.Ã‚Â BillÃ‚Â smugly commented that he knew enough about these kinds of cases to say with certainty that Wilbanks was the victim of some crime, and then asked about the status of the fiance’s polygraph…
The thing that bugs me most about this isn’t that Bill, the pompous jerk, was opining about something in the absence of evidence and turned out to be wrong (we have to expect that of Bill), but that he kept hyping the story as being another case in theÃ‚Â "epidemic" of missing women and children who turn out to have beenÃ‚Â murderedÃ‚Â by their husbands, or raped and murdered by degenerate child molesters.Ã‚Â Sure, it’s just a ploy to attract viewers, but it causes harm, in that peopleÃ‚Â start believing that attractive, white women are disappearing at an alarming rate in this country, and that all convicted sex offenders should by lynched to keep our children safe.Ã‚Â And then the more realistic dangers (like domestic violence to regular women, and kids dying fromÃ‚Â abuse and neglect caused by people in their own households) are ignored, since everyone is so focused on Laci Peterson and little Jessica Lundford.Ã‚Â
So, I think the new Fox News slogan should be: We Over Hype, You Over-React.Ã‚Â Or simply “Making America Stupider."Ã‚Â
Friday, April 29, 2005
Everything that’s wrong with Broadway
The New York Times review today:
AND who says Broadway has lost the human touch?
The title character - and undisputed star - of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” the lavish wind-up music box of a show that opened last night at the Hilton Theater, is an automobile that swims, flies and rescues people in distress if they remember to say please. Chitty routinely receives more enthusiastic applause than any of the other cast members; she is allowed the final bow in the curtain calls; and the audience claps along in tribute whenever her theme song is played, starting with the overture. The darn thing probably has a dressing room that would make Nathan Lane choke with envy.
There are also some real and very talented people in the cast, including RaÃƒÂºl Esparza, Philip Bosco and Jan Maxwell. (Ms. Maxwell is the sole reason for grown-ups to attend this show without children.) Of course, you cannot always understand what they are saying or singing. But words muffled by miking and plummy British accents don’t much seem to matter to the alternately fidgety and absorbed audience, which surely has the youngest median age of any show on Broadway. This is, after all, a work that makes “The Lion King” look as lurid as “Mondo Cane.”
No, it’s the playthings that are the thing in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which is directed by Adrian Noble and (far more important) designed by Anthony Ward: windmills and Rube Goldberg machines and a levitating miniature plane, blimp and (for that irresistible dash of bathroom humor) outhouse.
The criticism starts with the name of the theater, “The Hilton” named after one of Broadway’s bright lights, but a hotel (chain), not a person. The show is overly miked, its singers mumble; the prowess is instead expressed in a technological marvel. The thrill is the attraction, as in an amusement park. There’s nothing new or original in the book or music, rather it’s a remake of a “cheesy movie musical.”
This is a wonderfully legitimate manifestation of the creativity of our time: The Broadway blockbuster. If I were there I’d take my nieces and nephews. (The road show, you know, will make its way here to The Fox, which was originally the headquarters for the 5,000-member Shriner’s organization. How perfect.) Others have observed that Off-Broadway does now what Broadway once did. So Broadway now does this.
But when I think of theater, what I miss most, and what is nowhere to be found here, is the new, young, raw, creative energy and edge that is on display in the small venues that are everywhere in New York. That culture of creativity, and my memories of it, are something to treasure.
In praise of Jon Stewart
‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ Uses Humor to Skewer Homophobes -April 26, 2005
In its “fake news” coverage, ‘The Daily Show’ uses its incisive wit to bring to light the bigotry and prejudice of those who oppose full civil rights for gay and lesbian people. Stewart’s comments on the Texas measure to bar gay men and lesbians from becoming foster parents are particularly on-target.
Bonus video from last week:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Town Hall Meetings with the Samantha Bee Effect
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ From Jimmy Kimmel, Bush on corn (for Earth Day)
Thursday, April 28, 2005
TV good, cluttered screens not
A friend who knows me to believe that you have to have television in your diet to be culturally and politically well-rounded and informed, wrote to be sure I didn’t miss this NYTimes Magazine piece, Watching TV Makes You Smarter:
For decades, we’ve worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ‘’masses’’ want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But...the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of (for example) ‘’24,’’ you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ‘’24,’’ you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion—video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms—turn out to be nutritional after all.
I believe that the Sleeper Curve is the single most important new force altering the mental development of young people today, and I believe it is largely a force for good: enhancing our cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down.
It’s interesting, and I have yet to read the whole thing, but I note that it need not conflict with this from Kansas State University:
In the past few years, television stations have begun to reformat their screen presentations to include scrolling screens, sports scores, stock prices and current weather news. These visual elements are all designed to give viewers what they want when they want it.
However, Kansas State University professors Lori Bergen and Tom Grimes say that it’s not working. [...]
“We discovered that when you have all of this stuff on the screen, people tend to remember about 10 percent fewer facts than when you don’t have it on the screen,” Grimes said. “Everything you see on the screen—the crawls, the anchor person, sports scores, weather forecast—are conflicting bits of information that don’t hang together semantically. They make it more difficult to attend to what is the central message...The outcome of all of the experiments was that people were splitting their attention into too many parts to understand any of the content.”
The Long Emergency
At three o’clock this morning the power went out on campus. Rumor is that the electricity grid collapsed. Maybe it was only a rumor, we like rumors here. I have no idea what the condition of the electricity grid is. A cursory search didn’t turn anything up, so maybe it’s in great shape. But the lack of electricity raises all kinds of doom and gloom scenarios for me.
I notice lately that there are two kinds of hubris operating among the ‘forward-thinking’ classes in America (which is to say, those who are thinking at all). One I call techno-hubris. It represents the idea that there are really no limits to our powers of innovation and it is obviously the product of our experience in the past century, especially of our victory in World War Two and of the 1969 moon landing. The other kind is organizational hubris, the certainty that we can organize our way around the oil bottleneck, global warming, and population overshoot. What both modes of thinking have in common is that neither recognizes the probability that we are moving into a period of discontinuity, turbulence and hardship. Both modes of thinking assume that we can negotiate a smooth transition from where we are now to a new-and-improved human condition.
There is a remarkable consistency in the delusional thinking at every level of American life these days. When Americans think about the future at all, they seem to think it will be pretty much the way we live now. The buyers of 4000 square foot McHouses think that they will be able to continue heating them with cheap natural gas, not to mention commuting seventy miles a day. The stadium builders assume that major league sports will continue just as it is today, with chartered jet planes conveying zillionaire athletes incessently back and forth across the continent. The highway engineers and the municipal planners are focused like lasers on providing more roads and more parking spaces for evermore cars. The architects are designing more skyscrapers, despite the decrepit condition of the electric grid and the frightful situation with our depleting natural gas supply. We’re so confident, so sure of ourselves.
Raised as I was in the context of a duck and cover Armageddon, I’m vulnerable to this line of thinking. Fortunately, there’s Kevin Drum to bring me back to earth. He agrees with much of what Kunstler says but considers his arguments “crackpot” and “harmful” so calls him a crank and moves on.
Georgia Power has already restored power to part of the campus. Time for me to move on too.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Guest post by Jen.
“It’s Passover,” explained the first student, refusing her classmate’s offer of pretzels. The second student, a fundamentalist Christian, apologized for forgetting.
Anti-Semitism seems relatively uncommon here, and, to my great surprise, charismatic Christians seem to interact more comfortably with Jews than with other (non-charismatic) Christians.
...all of historic Palestine—including all the land west of the Jordan which was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war—must be under the control of the Jewish people, for they see that as one of the necessary stages prior to the second coming of Jesus.
I am working to commit the taxonomy of fundamentalist Christianity to memory.
Morning television & me
I switched my season pass from the Today Show to Good Morning America but alas, there was Katie Couric again this morning. I don’t blame TiVo, I blame the cable company because even though I have an expensive digital box, the serial port isn’t active so I have to use the IR controller to change channels, which sometimes fails. Even so, TiVo still beats the cable company: The Comcast DVR Belongs in A Dumpster, “All I wanted was to watch 24 last night, and apparently that’s too much to ask from the nation’s largest cable company.”
I’m so out of synch. I used to be a regular Good Morning America viewer but recently I’ve favored the Today Show. It turns out the Today Show is struggling and GMA is moving up. And Katie gets the blame:
...lately her image has grown downright scary: America’s girl next door has morphed into the mercurial diva down the hall. At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights...The strained chemistry between Ms. Couric and her colleagues - Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry - could be one reason..."Today" has turned her popularity into a Marxist-style cult of personality. The camera fixates on Ms. Couric’s legs during interviews, she performs in innumerable skits and stunts, and her clowning is given center stage even during news events.
Yowza! That hurts. And there she was this morning smiling and joshing with Matt, good as ever if you ask me. I was glad to see that Steve Brill came to her defense:
It’s one thing to write a review in The Arts Section saying the show is slipping or that it seems desperate, or that “the camera fixates on Ms. Couric’s legs.” That’s all about the content of the show—fair game for a critic, and really good stuff. But it’s quite another to report as fact—all unsourced—that “people dart behind doors and douse the lights” when Katie approaches, that “panic has set it,” etc. Who says? What’s Katie’s comment? Was she asked to comment?
The sad thing is that based on that article I was set to abandon the show. Fickle eh? Maybe I’ll just go and change that season pass back.
I’d watch that
Former ABC News producer Paul Friedman’s advice to CBS News execs: Summarize the news of the day in five minutes or so; spend a big chunk of time—10 minutes or so—on covering one really good story; and give people even more to think about by ending with opinion.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
The pot calls the kettle black
Alan Wexelblat comments on two “independent music promoters” who have filed suit against Universal Music Group alleging they were forced to submit false invoices:
So the problem, guys, is not that you were part of the payola racket, but that you got fired and blacklisted for refusing to pad your payola records? Excuse me while I cry a crocodile tear river here. The whole system is rotten to the core. Promoters don’t promote. Artists get ripped off. Producers get bullied. And the Cartel hollers “piracy” when you and I share songs? What a hypocritical bunch of hooey. How about we put the entire bunch of ‘em out to pasture and actually let artists promote and sell their music to consumers without this blood-sucking mass of sanctimonious double-dealing? [B mine]
The flawed iPod
I’ve always agreed with the received wisdom that the iPod is great design (even though all white doesn’t really work for me, most especially in the iMac). Today Virginia Postrel changed my mind:
It’s gorgeous and tactile, and the software interface is excellent--aesthetic and functional qualities lacking in most electronic products--but Apple has never been much good at the physical side of design. If only they didn’t have to actually make things. In this case, the batteries are the problem. They’re beyond terrible, and Apple won’t replace them. My original iPod lasted about a year before the battery died and I had to throw it out. Worse, my iPod Mini has never really held a charge, except for the day it spent in the Apple Store.
The Mayor of Brooklyn
Shortly before leaving New York I worked with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s Cultural Transition Committee. I met Marty only a few times but became close to some on his staff and had
I stayed, might well have ended up working even more closely with them. So it was that reading last week’s dead-on New Yorker profile of Marty brought pangs of homesickness:
Markowitz’s office, like that of New York’s other borough presidents, combines a grand governmental title with a slight portfolio and a very modest budget. (This year, Markowitz has an operating budget of five million dollars; the city’s over-all budget was fifty-one billion dollars)...The Times, in endorsing Markowitz against his two primary contestants in August, 2001, acknowledged the comparative impotence of the office that he was seeking. Indeed, that was what made Markowitz, whom the paper described as “an ebullient public servant who could provide a refreshing boosterism for the sometimes beleaguered borough,” the right man for the job.
Markowitz’s ebullience is such that, among other city officials, he tends to be treated less as a political peer than as a cheery mascot for his borough. In mid-December, Markowitz shared a platform with Mayor Bloomberg at an event announcing an investment in the neglected Restoration Plaza, on Fulton Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, and the Mayor introduced him with an air of amused condescension.
Marty is a showman. A Brooklyn booster. With a Fiorello LaGuardia-like flair. He loves Brooklyn and it shows. His office “looks less like a sober place of government than like Santa’s workshop. On every surface-shelves, tables, window ledges, and cluttering the desk-there are Teddy bears and toy trucks, balls and bats, dolls dressed in the regalia of the Caribbean parade that takes place on Eastern Parkway every Labor Day.”
Markowitz has made an art of trading in a familiar nostalgia for better times as a means of promoting the future of what he usually refers to as “the city of Brooklyn.” Ken Fisher, a former City Council member who was another of Markowitz’s opponents, says, “Marty can make people nostalgic for the Dodgers who weren’t even born when they left Brooklyn.” Since his election, Markowitz has attained a degree of omnipresence in the seventy-two-and-a-half-square-mile borough: if there’s a parade, he’ll be marching in it; if there’s a street fair, he’ll be eating at it. If there are Brooklynites to be honored-such as Cake Man Raven, a Fort Greene confectioner who replicated Borough Hall in sponge cake and frosting for Markowitz’s inauguration-Markowitz will be there, issuing a proclamation or a citation printed with gilded, archaic lettering.
I love Brooklyn too. After living in Manhattan for 25 years, most of it on the Upper West Side, I moved to Brooklyn. (Doug kids that the BIG move was to Brooklyn, and says compared to that Georgia was a cakewalk.)
An egregious, ugly and brazen expression of our homophobic culture
On Feb. 16, 2000, Matthew Limon gave his boyfriend a blow job and got himself a 17-year prison sentence. The boys were residents at the Lakemary Center, a school for developmentally delayed youngsters in Paola, Kan. It’s generous, perhaps, to call them boyfriends. What they did was more akin to sexual experimentation, two boys in a dormitory at night, messing around. Matthew had just turned 18 the week before, and his partner was just shy of his 15th birthday. The younger boy, identified only as M.A.R., consented to the sex, but changed his mind. As soon as he asked Matthew to stop, Matthew did, and M.A.R. has always been steadfast in his statement that what happened was consensual. How the police were brought in, why they were called, isn’t clear. Someone from the center complained and the trial was based on stipulated facts—one paragraph stating that on that night in February, the boys engaged in consensual oral sex. That single paragraph was the basis for the 17-year sentence.
Kansas’ statutory rape law prohibits “criminal sodomy” (including oral sex) with teenagers younger than 16. If the object of Matthew’s affection had been female, however, Kansas would have afforded him the benefit of its romantically named “Romeo and Juliet” statute, designed precisely for kids like him, kids who have consensual sex with other kids. In Kansas, and in many other states, when two teenagers have heterosexual sex, even the dreaded sodomy, the penalties are relatively mild. If Matthew had had consensual sex with a girl, and the state had prosecuted him at all, the longest sentence they could have given him was 15 months. Instead, because Matthew had sex with another boy, and only because he had sex with another boy, he has spent the past five years in Ellsworth Correctional Facility in central Kansas.
One can only imagine what life is like for him in there. Young men like Matthew are prime targets in jail. Gay prisoners are more than twice as likely to be the victims of rape in prison, and young gay men are particularly vulnerable. Worse, the rate of HIV infection among the prison population is higher than in the general population, so prison rape carries with it the added risk of HIV transmission.
The case of Matthew Limon exemplifies the ugliness and brazenness of American homophobia, but while that may be the most important strand here, it’s interwoven with adult discomfort with children’s and teenagers’ sexuality. The first strand is easy to untangle and resolve. The State of Kansas’ justification for the horrifying disparity between its treatment of Matthew and that of his heterosexual counterparts comes down to this: Boys who get blow jobs from other boys are so impressionable that they might “turn gay.”
Monday, April 25, 2005
Sinking like a stone
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling:
A. Social Security 31 64
B. Iraq 42 56
C. Economy 40 57
D. Terrorism 56 41
E. Energy Policy 35 54
A lot of other stuff, but this one is my favorite:
Which party better represents your personal values?
Dems - 47%
GOP - 38%
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), through a Freedom of Information Act request, got the Secret Service logs of James Guckert’s (aka Jeff Gannon) access to the White House.
Guckert made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.
Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.
Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One-which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House. On other days, the president held photo opportunities.
On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.
Among the many questions raised by the documents, Salon asks:
First, if White House day passes—and the abbreviated security check that goes along with them—are meant for the occasional use of reporters who don’t need a permanent “hard” pass, why was Gannon allowed to use such day passes more than 200 times in less than two years? Is anyone else allowed, in effect, to turn a day pass into a “hard” pass, or was Gannon alone in his near-constant day pass access?
Second, in the post-9/11 world, is it too much to ask that the Secret Service keep track of who is coming and going at the White House? ...Maybe it’s just sloppy bookkeeping, but how hard can it be to get this stuff right? The White House isn’t exactly Grand Central Station, and the Secret Service checks everyone who comes and goes. Is there a reason other than ineptitude for missing many of Gannon’s entries and exits? And if it’s just ineptitude, what is the president going to do about that?
You’ll recall my solution to conscience clauses for pharmacists. Now, with the return of the contraceptive sponge, Pseudo-Adrienne at Alas, a blog wonders how long it will take for them to come up with a conscience clause for cashiers.
Yo, Adrienne. Please don’t give them any ideas.
“Democrat’s call Frist’s proposal to change the rules, ‘the nuclear option.’” - TODAY SHOW correspondent Chip Reid an hour ago.
Our media is at another pivotal moment - report the truth or cave? Today, Frist said:
Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the “nuclear option.” Only in the United States Senate could it be considered a devastating option to allow a vote. Most places call that democracy.
On November 14, 2004, there was the following exchange on Fox News:
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about one of them, because some Republicans are talking about what they call the nuclear option, and that would be a ruling that the filibuster of executive nominees is unconstitutional, which would require not 60 or 67 votes but only a simple majority of 51.
FRIST: Yes. That’s right.
WALLACE: Are you prepared to do that?
FRIST: Oh, it’s clearly one of the options. I’ve always said it’s one of the options.
What it basically—it’s called the nuclear option. It’s really a constitutional option. And what that means is that the Constitution says you, as a Senate, give advice and consent, and that is a majority vote. And then you vote on that, and that takes 50 votes to pass.
On November 16 he said to NPR:
Sen. FRIST: If we continue to see obstruction where one out of three of the president’s nominees to fill vacancies in the circuit court are being obstructed, then action would be taken. One of those is the nuclear option. The Constitution says advice and consent is the Senate’s responsibility; the president’s responsibility to it is to a point, and therefore, if the Constitution says `advice and consent,’ by 50 votes you can decide to give advice and consent. Will we have to do that? I can’t tell you, but I can tell you if obstructions are to continue like they have in the past, that clearly is an option that we have on the table.
UPDATE: Media Matters details the media shift in terminology.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Microsoft’s most famous blogger criticizes Microsoft
As to the religious’ guy’s claims. I’m not gonna name him cause that just makes his popularity even higher which is EXACTLY what he wanted. He says that Microsoft should not be pushing an agenda outside our walls. Well, sorry, the religious right has pushed an agenda outside of THEIR walls. My money says “in God we trust.” That’s not my agenda. It’s one that was pushed on us. (Our money didn’t always say that, by the way). Same thing for a whole raft of issues.
But, I guess, religion in America has become so powerful that even we are willing to cowtow to them.
Armstrong lets protÃƒÂ©gÃƒÂ© win
From the NYTimes, an hour ago:
Lance Armstrong, the greatest individual bike racer America has produced, was a team player on Sunday as he ended his domestic racing career.
Armstrong, who announced last week that he would retire this summer after attempting a seventh consecutive Tour de France victory, was content to help ensure that a Discovery Channel teammate, Tom Danielson, wound up the winner of the Tour de Georgia.
Our own Tour de Georgia has become “the most important stage race in America:”
Thousands of spectators lined a six-kilometer loop on the streets of Alpharetta, hoping for a glimpse of Armstrong and wishing that he would make one last charge to the front of the pack. But Armstrong, the defending champion, sat back and let his protÃƒÂ©gÃƒÂ© win what has become the most important stage race in America.
For the second year in a row, Armstrong chose the Tour de Georgia as a prelude to the Tour de France. His presence attracted almost all of the leading American riders, including Bobby Julich, Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis, who left Armstong’s team last year for the Phonak team.
See also my post Enhanced Lance?
We had to return the tables that we had borrowed for the party and on the way back were listening to This American Life. This week, Backed Into A Corner, “Stories about people who end up making choices they’d rather not make.” Act 3 (listen via Real Player, about 40 minutes in) was so good we sat in the driveway and listened:
Confessions of a Not-So-Dangerous Mind. How NOT to get a job in U.S. intelligence: Admit to being a pervert during your job interview. Somehow, though, that’s exactly what happened to a perfectly normal, nice guy who we’re calling Matt for the purposes of this story. On paper, Matt was a perfect candidate to be an analyst for the National Security Agency. He was bright, ambitious, spoke Chinese. But he was also a little neurotic. So somewhere in the midst of his final round of testing for the NSA job, he started to worry about this riddle: What if I’ve done something bad, but I don’t know I’ve done it? Am I still guilty? This, it turns out, is not the best way to approach a lie detector test. Brian Montopolis, Matt’s friend, interviewed him about what happened.
He is gay and admits to looking at kiddie porn even though he never had. False confessions are a serious problem. “Matt” didn’t get a job, others end up in jail or worse. I am familiar with the topic in an all too personal way. Here’s a Washington Post series on the issue.
The photos of penguins put through airport screening at Denver International Airport are too good to resist, but I did the first time I saw them via Cory at Boing Boing. When I saw them the second time via Lindsay at Majikthise I decided I could use the occasion to again point to Dave Neiwert’s excellent post from March:
So far, most of the evidence that the Bush administration is mishandling the domestic side of the “war on terror” has been a matter of omission, that is, what isn’t being done: We haven’t caught the anthrax killer. The William Krar case was swept under the national carpet. Even the recent concerns raised by the Lefkow killings raised nary an eyebrow.
There have been clearer indications that this administration is playing politics with the “war on terror,” particularly in the skewing of priorities at the FBI, where investigators who specialize in right-wing extremists have been shunted to the back, and the FBI instead has announced “eco-terrorists” as the top domestic-terror threat.
Emphasis mine. The AP got to the story three weeks later:
The Homeland Security Department is focusing on possible terror threats from radical environmental and animal rights activists without also examining risks that might be posed by right-wing extremists, House Democrats said Tuesday.
A recent internal Homeland Security document lists the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front with a few Islamic groups that could potentially support al-Qaida as domestic terror threats.
The document does not address threats posed by white supremacists, violent militiamen, anti-abortion bombers and other extremists that Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., called “right-wing hate groups.”
Thompson said he reminded Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff of threats by right-wing groups in a letter sent to the department Tuesday—the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. That attack, which killed 168 people, marks the worst act of domestic terrorism on U.S. soil.
ALF and ELF are accused by the FBI of committing hundreds of acts of arson or other attacks on property in the United States, causing millions of dollars in damages. None of their attacks, however, have caused human deaths.
John at AMERICAblog and Crooks and Liars posted about it. Salon reported it. But I’ve yet to see it on TV. Maybe I just missed it. Or maybe we’ve got to make still more noise about it. I do believe the terrorist threat is a real one, and this another example that our response is not just bureaucratically vapid but also influenced by politics and off the mark.
1,347: Number of days from the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, to VJ Day (Victory in Japan) on August 15, 1945.
1,317: Number of days from the airplane-bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, to today.
If Osama makes it to May 21, he will have survived the self-declared world’s only superpower in a presidentially-declared war longer than did Tojo, Hitler, and Mussolini working together.
Last night lying in bed on the way to sleep I had a flash of the fear I had in New York in those first nights after 9/11, when my apartment still smelled of the smoke from the towers. I was in Brooklyn when the planes hit, but I was downtown years before when the bomb went off in the garage; a fireman friend told me then that they came a whole lot closer to tumbling the towers then the world would ever know. He was back on 9/11 and became a hero that day.
Here’s what I find fascinating: while one arm of the government (the Federal Air Marshal Service) has vehemently maintained all along that “nothing happened on flight 327,” the other, more muscular arm (the Department of Homeland Security) has been conducting a rather large investigation about it. Based on my 4 Ã‚Â½ hour meeting with the agents, I can tell you that not only have they been investigating what did happen during the flight, but they’ve also been investigating who botched the subsequent investigation as well as how it got botched. [...]
Since 9/11 the Justice Department has been widely criticized for one particular tactic it uses in fighting the War on Terror: it detains suspicious persons for long periods of time and puts them under heavy questioning before they are ever even charged with a crime. Flight 327 seems to have had an extreme case of just the opposite. There were 13 men on a domestic flight acting in such a way that many passengers felt their lives might be in danger. And yet not one of the individuals responsible for that threatening behavior was detained. Only two were put under light questioning, let alone medium or heavy questioning. Two individuals from a terrorist-sponsoring nation were allowed to speak on behalf of the other 11 men.
But we put penguins through metal detectors at airports.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Kevin Drum looks into whether Republicans have succeeded in replacing the unpopular term “private accounts” with the more politically palatable term “personal accounts.” He charts media use of the two phrases and concludes:
So: although Republicans have indeed been working with Orwellian thoroughness to modify the linguistics of Social Security, I’m happy to report that they’ve had only minor success. Overall, it looks to me like the media is writing about Social Security pretty much the way they always have.
It looks like the Republicans are having more success at getting the term “nuclear option” designated a Democrat-created smear phrase. Armondo at Daily Kos is watching and fuming:
The Republicans INVENTED the phrase the “nuclear option” and now they are trying to weasel out of it by calling it a Democratic phrase.
Changing the Senate’s rules on judicial filibustering was first addressed in 2003, during the successful Democratic filibuster against Miguel Estrada, whom Bush had nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Ted Stevens, a Republican Senate veteran from Alaska, was complaining in the cloakroom that the Democratic tactic should simply be declared out of order, and, soon enough, a group of Republican aides began to talk about changing the rules. It was understood at once that such a change would be explosive; Senator Trent Lott, the former Majority Leader, came up with “nuclear option,” and the term stuck.
Frank Rich on “Justice Sunday”
Frank Rich’s column in the Sunday NYTimes:
The fraudulence of “Justice Sunday” begins but does not end with its sham claims to solidarity with the civil rights movement of that era. “The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias,” says the flier for tonight’s show, “and now it is being used against people of faith.” In truth, Bush judicial nominees have been approved in exactly the same numbers as were Clinton second-term nominees. Of the 13 federal appeals courts, 10 already have a majority of Republican appointees. So does the Supreme Court. It’s a lie to argue, as Tom DeLay did last week, that such a judiciary is the “left’s last legislative body,” and that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is the poster child for “outrageous” judicial overreach. Our courts are as highly populated by Republicans as the other two branches of government.
The “Justice Sunday” mob is also lying when it claims to despise activist judges as a matter of principle. Only weeks ago it was desperately seeking activist judges who might intervene in the Terri Schiavo case as boldly as Scalia & Co. had in Bush v. Gore. The real “Justice Sunday” agenda lies elsewhere. As Bill Maher summed it up for Jay Leno on the “Tonight” show last week: “ ‘Activist judges’ is a code word for gay.” The judges being verbally tarred and feathered are those who have decriminalized gay sex (in a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Kennedy) as they once did abortion and who countenance marriage rights for same-sex couples. This is the animus that dares not speak its name tonight. To paraphrase the “Justice Sunday” flier, now it’s the anti-filibuster campaign that is being abused to protect bias, this time against gay people.
Once upon a time you might have wondered what Senator Frist is doing lighting matches in this tinderbox. As he never ceases to remind us, he is a doctor - an M.D., not some mere Ph.D. like Dr. Dobson - with an admirable history of combating AIDS in Africa. But this guy signed his pact with the devil even before he decided to grandstand in the Schiavo case by besmirching the diagnoses of neurologists who, unlike him, had actually examined the patient.
It was three months earlier, on the Dec. 5, 2004, edition of ABC News’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” that Dr. Frist enlisted in the Perkins-Dobson cavalry. That week Bush administration abstinence-only sex education programs had been caught spreading bogus information, including the canard that tears and sweat can transmit H.I.V. and AIDS - a fiction that does nothing to further public health but is very effective at provoking the demonization of gay men and any other high-risk group for the disease. Asked if he believed this junk science was true, the Princeton-and-Harvard-educated Dr. Frist said, “I don’t know.” After Mr. Stephanopoulos pressed him three more times, this fine doctor theorized that it “would be very hard” for tears and sweat to spread AIDS (still a sleazy answer, since there have been no such cases).
The whole column must be read.