aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Google Maps Street View
Will Whitehead self-destruct in Georgia’s 10th?
Facing South notes that two special elections are coming up in the South, one of them in Georgia. That election will be to fill the 10th Congressional District seat left vacant when Republican Rep. Charlie Norwood passed from lung cancer in February.
The race to replace kicks off with an unusual free-for-all open primary on June 19th in which six Republicans and three Democrats will compete on the same ballot. A runoff will be held four weeks later on July 17th in the likely event that none of the candidates garners 50 percent or more of the vote.
For most of the race, Norwood’s heir apparent has been State Senator Jim Whitehead, who hails from Norwood’s area north of Augusta and has kept most potential rivals at bay and out of the running. Recently, though, he has been suffering from a bad case of foot-in-mouth syndrome. In a column that appeared in The Elberton Star, Whitehead admitted suggesting that someone “probably ought to bomb” the University of Georgia--sparing the football team, of course. Then, in a March 26 letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Whitehead claimed that liberals have been registering “known al-Qaida terrorists” to vote.
This is the district rejiggered to knock out Athens Democrat John Barrow last time around. It made Barrow’s district more Republican and removed his Athens hometown altogether. His own home no longer in his district, Barrow moved to Savannah. And won by a hair - despite being called an “outsider” in Republican attack ads.
That leaves the 10th District with the more liberal Athens, though it’s still not expected to go Blue:
Democrats are hoping to take advantage of the battle royal on the Republican side and have mostly united behind former Yahoo! Executive Jim Marlow. If divisions among Republicans can keep Whitehead from reaching the 50 percent he needs to escape a runoff, and enough Democrats from Athens make it out to the polls, then Marlow could well become number two vote getter and advance to the runoff. From there, Democrats’ victory recipe calls for Marlow’s free spending and Whitehead’s self-destruction.
My friend Sunny says, “I am crazy about Barack. he is the real thing.”
Backwards Old World thinking
Douglas McLennan, editor, ArtsJournal.com, calls that backwards Old World thinking:
Google? So now Google is what’s doing in newspapers? This is exactly the kind of backwards Old World thinking that is killing newspapers. There are many reasons newspapers are having a tough go these days (unsustainable profit margin expectations among them). But two things are clear - the appetite for news is only growing. And the news industry is in a transition to digital delivery, and figuring out a business model that makes that work should be the highest priority.
And yet, look at the digital operations of most newspapers. While they say they’re working on it, their investment has been far behind the curve, and virtually every meaningful innovation in the digital delivery of news and building of usership has been made outside the newspaper industry. Most newspaper websites are dull, confusing and difficult to read, violating long-established principles of reader usability. At a time when social networking sites are showing how to build massive loyal communities, news organizations’ interactivity is rudimentary at best. Companies like Google have raised digital advertising to an art, making it easy for advertisers to find the customers they want. Where have newspapers been? Asleep, while Craigslist and a host of other competitors have eaten their lunch. [...]
If I was pointing fingers, I’d aim squarely at the business managers who are so locked into the old ways of doing things that they don’t even understand what the new issues are, let alone solutions to them. Journalists are being failed by those whose job it is to figure out the business side, and now journalists are paying the price for that lack of vision. Like somehow cheapening the product and giving readers less is going to attract more customers.
To speak directly to the rant about Google: Google is an infrastructure, potentially the best friend any content producer has at the moment. Google sends floods of traffic around the internet in search of content its users want, presented in ways they can use it. Newspapers have always been about finding a readership and advertisers who want to reach those readers. There shouldn’t be a conflict here. Google is a reality. Any news organization that wants to make it in the new digital world better find a way to work with companies like Google and the next YouTube rather than thinking about “class-action suits.” Jeesh!
Via Jeff Jarvis.
...in plain English from Common Craft, “We made this video because wiki web sites are easy to use, but hard to describe.”
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Southern High Resolution Modeling Consortium (SHRMC) is providing daily forecasts of ground level particulate matter concentrations resulting from wildfires in the southeastern U.S. using the BlueSky smoke modeling framework developed by the U.S. Forest Service. Forecast results are displayed using Google Earth which provides an intuitive interface for displaying spatial information. If you have any questions or comments on these products please contact Scott Goodrick.
As an alternative to using Google Earth, overlays are also provided for Google Maps for both the reported wildfire locations and daily forecasts of smoke concentration. Note that Google Maps does not have the animation capability of Google Earth (version 4).
Via CNet News Blog:
The 6-week-old fires have burned a half-million acres. And they’re still outta control. These fires are a record for Georgia. That’s sparked debate over lack of fire-fighting resources, forest management outsourcing, climate change and the area’s worst drought in 50 years. When the flames finally die down, they’ll be talking about this one for a long time.
We need public diplomacy, not public relations
From an OpEd by Price Floyd, director of media affairs for the State Department until several weeks ago and is now the director of external relations at the Center for a New American Security:
We have eroded not only the good will of the post-9-11 days but also any residual appreciation from the countries we supported during the Cold War. This is due to several actions taken by the Bush administration, including pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol (environment), refusing to take part in the International Criminal Court (rule of law), and pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (arms control). The prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib and the continuing controversy over the detainees in Guantanamo also sullied the image of America.
Collectively, these actions have sent an unequivocal message: The U.S. does not want to be a collaborative partner. That is the policy we have been “selling” through our actions, which speak the loudest of all. [...]
We need a president who will enable the U.S. to return to its rightful place as the “beacon on a hill”—a country that others want to emulate, not hate; a country that proves through words and deeds that it is free, not afraid.
We need to demonstrate that we are willing to help out our neighbors and to do what is necessary to ensure that our country and its citizens are safe.
We must do the real work of public diplomacy, not public relations.
2 years and 2 days off: still flagged a sex offender
The Chronicle’s Wired Campus:
Jessica Davis, a 29-year-old senior at the university [of Colorado], was booted off MySpace earlier this month. Evidently the site had labeled Ms. Davis as “a registered sex offender in one or more jurisdictions,” a claim that left the student understandably horrified.
It appears that Ms. Davis was a victim of mistaken identity: She was mistaken for a sex offender with the same name and a birthday two years and two days apart from her own, according to the Sentinel Tech Holding Corporation, the company that designed MySpace’s database of sex offenders.
ABC quotes the notification email and no appeal response:
“It has come to MySpace’s attention that you are a registered sex offender in one or more jurisdictions,” the e-mail, sent early Saturday morning, May 19, informed her.
“MySpace is committed to removing registered sex offenders from its site, and will take all necessary means to block or remove anyone it determines to pose a threat to its users,” the note read, concluding with an e-mail address where she could appeal the decision.
Davis nervously jumped at the opportunity, punching into an e-mail subject line, “You have the wrong person.” [...]
On Wednesday, days after she sent a second e-mail to MySpace, Davis said she finally heard back.
“We do not keep records of removed profiles or images,” the response note reads. “If it was removed by MySpace it was because of a violation of our terms and conditions—which can include a number of things (underage, inappropriate images, cyber bullying, spam, etc). Please review our terms for further assistance.”
Savvy, or lucky, she went to ABC News. You’ll recall that several state Attorneys General demanded that MySpace turn over names of sex offenders. Was Jessica’s name among them? The story doesn’t say, though it notes she supports the MySpace sex offender database initiative.
So what of the company, Sentinal, hired by MySpace to track sex offenders? ABC did a follow-up story:
[Sentinel CEO John] Cardillo, who called the initial match an"unfortunate circumstance,” said that the database worked exactly as intended.
“It was so close,” Cardillo told ABCNEWS.com. “It was one of those rare instances where there was nothing else we could have done but flag her. If we get an offender and I’m looking at a date of birth that’s two days off, we’re going to assume were dealing with the offender.”
This is getting to be a scary numbers racket. MySpace has blocked 7,000 profiles classified as sex offenders. I bet some of them have common names (Jessica Davis among them) and if a birthday a couple of years and a couple of days off is the kind of precision we’re working with here, Jessica’s not alone.
When Wired’s Kevin Poulsen made news last October with his automated search of MySpace’s membership rolls looking for registered sex offenders he manually sifted the data to come up with a mere 744. Says he:
...it appears that MySpace isn’t taking the same care.
That means we’ll be seeing more cases like this. The incident also casts doubt on the usefulness of MySpace’s appeal process. Responding to Davis’ plea by sending her a form letter falsely accusing her of wrongdoing isn’t Solomonic jurisprudence.
Just how big is BIG GOVERNMENT anyway?
Lately I’ve been wondering just how big our big government is. But the way I’m wondering is on a per capita inflation adjusted basis. I wonder when I read, for example, that only recently gas prices (when adjusted for inflation) beat the all-time high reached in March of 1981. I wonder when I read that the 20Ã‚Â¢ stamp from that same year would be equivalent to 45Ã‚Â¢ in today’s dollars (the 13Ã‚Â¢ stamp from 1975 would cost 50Ã‚Â¢ today). Our new 41Ã‚Â¢ stamp is a relative bargain.
Small government types are always talking about the Founding Fathers and the Early Republic. Let’s talk then, too, and figure out just how much government per capita we had, because it looks to me like this country’s growing like gangbusters (an increase of 35 million people in the last decade) while the Right keeps yapping about the need to shrink government.
I find myself in complete agreement with D. Sidhe who, in History is Made by Stupid People (calm yourself; that title is an Arrogant Worms song), wrote yesterday:
For some reason, I’m pro-government. Always have been. People who say things like “Government doesn’t solve problems”, or “Name one good thing the government’s ever done”, or “Capitalism can do that better” baffle the living hell out of me.
Give me a few minutes, and I could name at least three dozen government programs that are important enough they need doing but that capitalism isn’t capable of, or interested in. Let’s start with orphan drugs. People with rare diseases, for which drugs aren’t available because any given company can make more manufacturing Cialis than something maybe a thousand or so people across the US take. Unless we’re willing to just write these people off, telling them, well, yes, a cure exists, but you can’t have it because there’s not enough profit in making it, taxpayer subsidies seem like a good solution.
Rural electrification, there’s another good one. No for-profit company is going to string wire all the way out to some tiny hamlet in the Ozarks for the sake of a few hundred people. For that matter, no for-profit hospital is going to spend much if any time treating the indigent in their ERs if they’re not made to. For-profit schools is another good way to say “MacDonald’s Training Academy”, and no kid is going to learn literature or citizenship or art there. Anybody want to explore the concept of capitalistic fire departments? Remember, your non-covered neighbor’s housefire can very quickly become yours, and even if the fire department saves your home, you’d have less damage if they put out the fire when it was still two houses away. Road building, police departments, prisons, the military, you want to see what happens when they go capitalistic, Iraq is rather instructive.
There’s an awful lot of stuff I’m perfectly happy to pay taxes for so everybody can use, and so no one person or group controls how it gets used. If civil courts are replaced with the sort of arbitration my bank tells me is my only option if we have a disagreement, those of us who aren’t hiring and paying the arbitrators will never see justice. If the roads are maintained by auto companies, you can just keep your bike in your garage. If Microsoft is the only source of funding for the local aquarium, you can expect to have to wait outside with the field trip kids while they hold their monthly employee banquet. When the Wall Street Journal gives PBS more money than anybody else, you can expect to see programming where some B-list columnist quizzes guests as to whether the economy is going “great” or “really great”.
So government can absolutely solve problems, and paying taxes is how we have a government with an interest in and an ability to solve problems that are important, rather then just profitable. And right off the bat, I have an adversarial stance toward anyone who tells me smaller government is inherently better--which is not to say I’m any happier with those who propose that larger government is inherently better. It’s not the size, as they tell us, it’s what you do with it.
Me, I’m pro-government too. And size, while not determinative, matters. If you look at the correlation between income and Government spending as a percent of GDP, I expect you’ll find a positive correlation. Here in the South where conservative is the norm, those with a liberal bent or made uncomfortable by the excesses of what contemporary Christianist conservatism has become will often say, “I’m a libertarian; I believe in less government.”
I’ve been known to snap back, “If you took all the countries in the world, all the places on earth, and measured those with more government versus those with less government, I bet you’d find that those with more government have a higher standard of living and greater human liberty.”
Though not precisely right (the old Soviet Union was big bad government) it makes the point. I firmly believe that larger governments are generally helpful and good. It’s time we start saying so. Yes, government must be kept in check, but with size it can sustain the stable institutions that facilitate contracts, property rights, commerce, antitrust policy, education, infrastructure and everything else that a peaceful and free civilization requires.
Meanwhile, my new retort to those who wear the libertarian label is that I lean towards a flavor of libertarianism too - Libertarian Paternalism.
Via The News Blog.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Outmoded, amateurish and unreliable
As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable. [...]
While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods - possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda - are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.
Earlier today Andrew Sullivan looked at the etymology of the phrase enhanced interrogation:
The phrase “VerschÃƒÂ¤rfte Vernehmung” is German for “enhanced interrogation”. Other translations include “intensified interrogation” or “sharpened interrogation”. It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods...are indistinguishable from those described as “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.
He’s not accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler:
There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture - “enhanced interrogation techniques” - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.
A picture is worth a thousand words. In this case the silence is deafening.
Picture the photo of the Vice President and his wife and their newborn grandchild—fresh from delivery and still wrapped in his hospital-issue receiving blanket. What’s missing here? The child’s parents, of course. READ ON
Pew: 4-in-10 Have Close Friends Who are Gay
Pew uses the word too, ”Survey finds Familiarity Is Closely Linked to Greater Tolerance:”
In the past four decades, growing numbers of gays have come out of the closet and into the mainstream of American life. As a consequence, 4-in-10 Americans now report that some of their close friends or family members are gays or lesbians, according to a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
About half of all women, young people, college graduates, political liberals and mainline Protestants say that someone close to them is gay, the survey found. But significantly fewer men, conservative Republicans and older Americans report that a good friend or family member is homosexual.
An analysis of survey results suggests that familiarity is closely linked to tolerance. People who have a close gay friend or family member are more likely to support gay marriage and they are also significantly less likely to favor allowing schools to fire gay teachers than are those with little or no personal contact with gays, the poll found. [...]
Percentages vary greatly by political orientation: Conservative Republicans are the least likely to say they have a close gay friend or family member (33%), while liberal Democrats are most likely to say so (59%). Race seems to have virtually no effect on whether a person knows gay people well.
Among religious groups, mainline Protestants and seculars (those who don’t claim any particular religion) are the most likely to say they had a gay family member or close friend, with 47% saying so. White evangelicals (31%) and Hispanic Catholics (33%) are the least likely to say they have gay family members or close friends.
People living in the south (37%) are less likely to know gay people well than are people living in the Northeast or West, and people living in rural areas (34%) are less likely to say so than those in urban or suburban areas.
Gallup: Tolerance for Gay Rights at High-Water Mark
PRINCETON, NJ—Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted each May, finds current public tolerance for gay rights at the high-water mark of attitudes recorded over the past three decades. There is still considerable public opposition to complete equality for gays, particularly with respect to marriage. However, after several years of lower support for gay rights, support is now springing back to the relatively high levels seen in 2003, just before the Supreme Court’s June 26, 2003, decision striking down a Texas sodomy law. (According to Gallup trends, that ruling appeared to produce a backlash of public opposition to gay rights.)
The clearest example of the recent renewal in pro-gay rights attitudes comes from a question asking Americans whether they believe homosexual relations should be legal. Public tolerance for this aspect of gay rights expanded from 43% at the inception of the question in 1977 to 60% in May 2003. Then in July 2003, it fell to 50% and remained at about that level through 2005. Last year, it jumped to 56% and this year it reached 59%, similar to the 2003 high point.
I have to say I find that astounding. Not that 59% think same sex relations should be legal. No, I find it astounding that 41% of Americans think it should be a crime to be gay! Even as just 10 days ago I wrote that the real agenda of the leadership of the anti-gay marriage crowd is to criminalize homosexuality.
But back to the good news:
A similar pattern is seen with attitudes about whether homosexuality should be sanctioned as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Only 34% in 1982 believed it should be considered acceptable. This expanded to 54% in May 2003, only to drop to 46% two months later. Today’s 57% is the highest on record for this measure.
The trend in public support for gay marriage also shows a long-term increase in pro-gay rights attitudes, with the current result being the most affirming on record for gays, though still the minority view.
53% oppose it, 46% support it. Poll or no poll I think popular acceptance of naturally occurring and consensually practiced same sex attraction is bound to increase and here to stay.
More of Gore’s press critique
He was at the 92nd Street Y Friday:
“Actually, the public forum is now crowded with triviality, banality, commercial messages and exploitive strategies for gluing people’s attentions to the screens in order to sell them things. And what is pushed out, even from the major network news casts is a serious discussion of what is at stake. What the invasion of Iraq had in common with the climate process is that in both cases is that there was voluminous evidence well available, well understood in sufficient quantities to convince any reasonable person that the decision that is appropriate and correct is the complete opposite of the decision that was in fact made.”
“When reason is drawn, is pulled out of the public sphere, it creates a vacuum. And what rushes in is ideology, and extreme partisanship and fundamentalism and extreme nationalism and people who assert they have a direct pipeline to the almighty who has this particular policy to this particular party and that is blasphemy and American herecy.”
Barack’s “tolerance” critiqued
Another illustration of our recent substitution of “tolerance” for what once was the fight for “freedom and justice for all” comes via Greta Christina’s Blog. She’s chilled to the bone by this quote from the widely praised New Yorker profile of Barack Obama:
Sometimes, of course, there is no possibility of convergenceÃ¢â‚¬"a question must be answered yes or no. In such a case, Obama may stand up for what he believes in, or he may not. “If there’s a deep moral conviction that gay marriage is wrong, if a majority of Americans believe on principle that marriage is an institution for men and women, I’m not at all sure he shares that view, but he’s not an in-your-face type,” Cass Sunstein, a colleague of Obama’s at the University of Chicago, says. “To go in the face of people with religious convictions-that’s something he’d be very reluctant to do.” This is not, Sunstein believes, due only to pragmatism; it also stems from a sense that there is something worthy of respect in a strong and widespread moral feeling, even if it’s wrong.
No, there isn’t.
No, no, no, no, no.
A wrong moral feeling is not—repeat, NOT—made worthy of respect by being either strong or widespread. [...]
Do I even need to explain this? Think of all the evil, harmful things in human history that have been supported by a strong and widespread moral feeling. Slavery. Clitoridectomy. Imperialist wars. Religious wars. The disenfranchisement of women. The censoring of information, and active disinformation campaigns, about birth control and sexual health. The Salem witch trials. The Inquisition. Genocides ranging from the Trail of Tears to the Holocaust. Lynchings. Putting queers in jails and mental institutions. Do I need to go on?
Monday, May 28, 2007
Jim Nabors & Marla Maples
Google Trends, a new daily zeitgeist.
What’s that say?
Crazy Hot Air Balloons
Via Damn Cool Pics where there are lots more balloon pics:
Hot air balloons are the oldest successful human carrying flight technology, dating back to the Montgolfier brothers’ invention in Annonay, France in 1783. The first flight carrying humans was made on November 21, 1783, in Paris by PilÃƒÂ¢tre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes.
A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing hot air. Suspended beneath is the gondola or wicker basket (in certain, long distance or high altitude balloons, a capsule) which carries a source of heat capable of producing a sufficient temperature gradient between the air inside the envelope and the surrounding air mass to give enough lift to keep the balloon and its passengers aloft. Unlike gas balloons, the envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom since the rising hot air only exerts pressure on the upper hemisphere of the balloon to provide lift. In today’s sports balloons the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric and the mouth of the balloon (closest to the burner flame) is made from fire resistant material such as Nomex.
Today, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation. There are some 7,500 hot air balloons operating in the United States. READ ON.
Can you guess why I picked the cow balloon?
Al Qaeda’s Enabler: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
Andrew Sullivan called George Bush Al Qaeda’s Enabler yesterday:
[E]very road ahead in Iraq - staying or leaving, surging or redeploying - is full of death, terror and chaos. The light at the end of this tunnel is hard to glimpse. But Bush is still proudly digging the tunnel.
What can one say? Well: we can say this at least. The president is right that al Qaeda remains a terrible threat to Americans. He is right to insist on this. But one core reason he is right is because he has been in the White House for the last six years. Al Qaeda surely never had a more helpful man in such a powerful place.
I read that shortly after listening to Robert Wright, a New Yorker staff writer and author of “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” in a talk entitled Al Qaeda: Past, Present and Future. Wright neatly synopsizes how Bush snatched defeat from the jaws of victory:
[bin Laden] envisioned Afghanistan as a great bear trap for us and so he was provoking us in order to get us to attack in Afghanistan. Well, of course, he miscalculated. In just a very short space of time, six weeks, American coalition forces swept aside the Taliban. Pummeled Al Qaeda. If you read the accounts of Al Qaeda insiders they admit that 80% of their membership was captured or killed.
Yes, the leaders got away. But they were scattered, they were destitute, they were unable to communicate and they were repudiated all over the world, even in the Muslim world. The war on terror was essentially dead. It was Iraq that breathed that monster back to life. Iraq looks a lot like what bin Laden had in mind for us in Afghanistan. It offers Al Qaeda a whole new country to train in.
So what if a Democrat had done that? Again I think Sully gets it right:
If a Democrat had been responsible for endangering America in this fashion, the Republicans would have impeached him by now. If a Democrat had bungled a war as obviously as this president - a war, moreover, that he has described as an existential struggle for our survival - the Republicans would long ago have Carterized him. Look how the Israelis have held Olmert accountable for his feckless war in Lebanon. Compared to Bush, Olmert is Churchill. If Bush’s record in this war is “offense,” then the only sane response is: so was the charge of the light brigade.
Just to anger up the blood some more, it’s now clear, thanks to the latest Congressional report, that this president was warned starkly about the dangers of "a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups" as a result of an invasion of Iraq. He was told that Iraq was "largely bereft of the social underpinnings" for democracy. He was explicitly informed that there was "a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so." And yet he still sent a pathetically insufficient occupation force in 2003 - and refused to increase it for three years of growing chaos and mayhem. Even if you excuse the original recklessness, the persistence in it - until our current point of no return - is and was criminal negligence - a callous disregard for your security and mine.
In his talk, Robert Wright outlined the twenty year plan of Al-Qaeda as articulated in Fuad Hussein’s biography of Abu Mussab al-Zarkawi. The plan begins with 9/11 and has so far been remarkably prescient.
Wright doesn’t believe we will loose, though he does believe that “the failure of the American project in Iraq is bound to embolden Al-Qaeda and radical Islamists everywhere.” Things will get worse before they get better.
Here’s some of what Wright believes must be done to turn this around:
1.) Fix our intelligence. There are fewer Arabic speakers in the FBI now than on 9/11. “If you don’t know the first thing about your enemy, you’re bound to have a failure of imagination, an inability to connect the dots.” He notes that we’ve added new Directorate of Intelligence and Homeland Security offices which add nothing but bureaucracy to our intelligence, while our 1,000 person embassy in Baghdad has 6 fluent Arabic speakers. “How are we going to succeed...if we don’t have people that understand the culture?”
2.) Bring our allies back on board. After 9/11 the whole world was with us; now “we’re so radioactive that every good thing we try to do causes people to draw away...There are a lot of reasons why people should be helping us in Iraq and we haven’t been able to marshall them in an effective manner.”
3.) Help bring about a viable, prosperous, unified Palestine. “If you create a failed state on Israel’s border what have you done?” We should declare that we don’t support the settlements. “They are illegal and they are not in the interest of peace… we need to succeed in Israel and Palestine right now.” He sees a moment of opportunity now. He knows this won’t solve the problem, but “it will reduce the inflammation that is so much at the cause of Muslim anger.”
He says Al Qaeda will lose for 3 reasons: too many enemies, they kill Muslims recklessly, and they offer nothing to the people who follow them. They have no belief in politics, they offer only death through martyrdom and that’s no recipe for success.
I’m as anti-war as the next guy, but Bush has gotten us into this pickle and we’ve got to start thinking of how we’re going to get out of it. Everything Wright said in his talk makes good sense to me.
Memorial Day in Red America
The Wall Street Journal in search of the real Tom Collins:
Memorial Day wasn’t always on a Monday. Inaugurated shortly after the Civil War, the holiday was originally known as “Decoration Day,” and came to be observed in most states on May 30 of each year. Come the 1950s, NATO started militating for Memorial Day—and a slew of other holidays, including the Fourth of July—to be moved to Monday. This particular NATO, Frank Sullivan noted in a 1955 New York Times Magazine article, was not the defense alliance, but rather the National Association of Travel Organizations, a lobbying group that wanted to boost the number of three-day weekends. Sullivan wondered at the urge to travel on every holiday: “I always enjoy Washington’s Birthday immensely because I sit by the fire all day long, thinking how fortunate I am not to be out skiing.” Were Memorial Day to be on a Monday, he declared, he would “celebrate by spending the three days on the lawn, toying with a Tom Collins and watching somebody else mow the grass.”
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Coke’s Pepsi challenge
The opening of the new Coke museum in Atlanta last week is the backdrop for a 5,000 word piece in the Business section of the NYTimes today. Visitors pay $15 (for adults, $9 for children) to walk through a building full of slickly displayed interactive Coke ads; the company anticipates 1 million of us will come each year.
Still, Coke’s apparently having a rough time, loosing half its stock value since 1998 while watching young people turn away from soda, preferring instead bottled water, sports drinks, green teas and juice.
Pepsi’s done better. It controls half the non-soda beverages in the US, having bought Gatorade and SoBe after Coke missed the opportunity. Coke has 23% of the non-soda market. The story says Coke’s road out of its doldrums is that Coke Zero is “a hit,” that they’re “pumping up the brand” and that the new Coke commercials are fun.
What stuck with me was how parochial this global giant is. Their first non-Georgian CEO was hired in 1981. And while 70 percent of their sales are overseas, this is what we learn about their board:
Of the 11 current members of the board, eight have served 10 years or longer, and four of those have logged 25 years or more. The average tenure for board members is 16.6 years, nearly double the average of Fortune 500 companies, according to an analysis by the Corporate Library, which tracks corporate governance issues and compensation for executives and board members. Coke has the 10th-longest-serving board among Fortune 500 companies, the analysis found.
The average age of the 11 directors is 68. Except for Mr. Isdell, all of the board members are American. One is African-American and one is a woman.
(By comparison, the average tenure of PepsiCo’s board is six years, and the average age of its members is 59. Of the 10 members, there are 7 men and 3 women; five of the members were born outside the United States, including the chief executive Indra K. Nooyi, 51, who was born in India.) [...]
Mr. McHenry [on the board since 1981] says the board has given Mr. Isdell leeway to run the company as he sees fit; Mr. Isdell does not dispute that. As for the age and tenure of the board, Herbert Allen, a director since 1982, says it has the benefit of experience. Asked about the lack of diversity, he says: “When we are sitting in the room, the opinions are certainly diverse.”
They can’t see what they can’t see. My money’s on Pepsi.
The Happiness Factory
Coke’s chairman and chief executive E. Neville Isdell’s favorite commercial. More from the NYTimes story:
Since Mr. Isdell took over, Coke’s research and development budget has more than doubled. And Mr. Kent says the company is counting on a beefed-up innovation laboratory to deliver new products and packaging to lure customers. The lab is tucked away in a rather unsavory corner of the company’s sprawling headquarters, at the end of a cracked driveway at the back of a low concrete building that looks more like an elementary school than a tech center. A sign on a plain steel door reads “KO Lab.” [...]
The lab also displays all kinds of new products. “Mother” is a natural energy drink that has been introduced in Australia, while Nanairo Acha, a tea sold in Japan, changes color depending on its temperature. Coke Zero was created here. The lab is also exploring new ways to market Coca-Cola. A “super coolÃ¢â‚¬Â� vending machine keeps soda colder than its freezing point, so that when the cap is opened the bubbles form tiny ice crystals.
Terror threat in Alabama
A Web site operated by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security identified gay rights organizations, anti-abortion groups, environmentalists and people opposed to genetically-altered foods among those who could be classified as terrorists.
Certain Web pages were removed from the Internet after the agency received complaints about the site. [...]
The site indicated that these “radical elements” are found in many of the following movements:
- Anti-Genetics (those opposed to genetically-altered crops)
- Animal Rights
- Pro-Gay Rights
For the record, I don’t blame Alabama. I blame weak political leaders at every level - the Alabama department’s director, Jim Walker, among them - who pander and preen because they’re too incompetent and cowardly to do something effective. Demonization hurts us all.
Via Gay News Blog.
32” flat panel HDTV for $500
After $50 mail-in rebate and including shipping. Sale ends Thursday. Customer reviews are generally favorable, though the NewEgg no returns/no refunds policy spooks me. But in February the NYTimes profiled Syntax, maker of Olevia, and noted that Consumer Reports magazine rated one a best buy, right up there with Sony.
Six months ago I said that $500 was my price point. Today I bought one.
Violence, harassment and arrests at Moscow Pride
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia 14 years ago. You’d hardly know it by the way they treat gay rights campaigners:
A British gay rights campaigner was among those arrested after violence broke out at a banned gay rights protest in Russia.
Veteran protestor Peter Tatchell was detained in central Moscow along with MPs from Germany and Italy and Nikolai Alexeyev, a senior gay rights leader.
Hundreds of ultra-nationalists disrupted the protest by punching and kicking the gay rights group and throwing eggs at them.
Mr Tatchell had his clothes pulled and was smacked in the face before being arrested.
The Briton was among the gay pride demonstrators trying to give a petition to the mayor of Moscow demanding the right to stage public marches.
Italian MEP Marco Capatto was kicked by an anti-gay rights protester and then detained when he demanded police protection.
Here’s a “record” of the dispatches received by UK Gay News from many sources. A snippet:
It was short. The real violence started after we left. We got there and then we went up to the city hall. Police immediately arrested Nikolai (Alekseev), and also Nikolai Khramov, so there were a lot of cameras everywhere. Many journalists. We felt eggs and other things being thrown. Police did nothing to arrest hooligans. We walked 40 meters and there were interviews and journalists. I was walking not far from Mitrofanov and saw a guy with a knife.
The BBC has a video report that I haven’t found yet (if you find it, link to it in comments). Here’s the statement of Nicolas Alexeyev, the organizer of Moscow Pride, released from inside Tverskoya police station.
Significantly more press was expected at today’s event than at last year’s, and the headline-grabber was to be Archbishop Alexiy of the Russian Orthodox Church. Alexiy, the Church’s representative in Italy before later leaving the Church, was to talk on “The Church in the 21st Century and LGBT Community.”
Ironically, the NYTimes Travel Section today features 36 Hours in Moscow. Call me chicken but, while my admiration and gratitude toward the protesters is heartfelt and deeply held, I’m staying away.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Talking out his @#$%!
I turned on the TV and there was Mark Smith, author of Disrobed: The New Battle Plan to Break the Left’s Stranglehold on the Courts, talking on C-SPAN 2’s Book TV:
I say it’s time that we use litmus tests, too, as opposed to just running around with phrases like “respecting the rule of law,” “respecting the constitution” which I think, those are too ambiguous and too vague to give any meaning to what we’re looking for in judges.
I might balk at the notion that we have a stranglehold if I wasn’t so flummoxed by the clear implication that this baby-faced author sees no need to respect the law or abide by the constitution.