aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, November 30, 2007
Innovation has moved from the desktop to the web
Leopard is great for me. Unlike others (like this Slashdot rant or Dave Rosenberg’s own complaint), I’ve never had Leopard crash. Not once. The upgrade from Mac OS X version 10.4 (Tiger) was completely painfree. Everything just works.
Maybe this is the problem.
Over the years I’ve come to expect operating system and application upgrades to be, well, upgrades. I pay for something new: new functionality, new user interfaces, new something. With Leopard, everything just works, same as it did before with Tiger. Time Machine is new, but I haven’t gotten around to using it. Spaces? Not interesting to me. Expose in Panther? That was cool. New look to the Dock in Leopard? Snore....
So why did I upgrade? I mean, besides the fact that I’m clearly a mindless Apple zombie? I figured the new applications would take advantage of the power and functionality under the Leopard hood, and in this I assume I won’t be disappointed. But for now, everything is the same.
Not quite, of course. Apple has released new software that actually has changed and visually improved. iLife ‘08, for one, is definitely worth the upgrade. I like some of the innovations in iPhoto and iMovie. But I didn’t need Leopard to get the new iLife.
It may well be that we’ve tapped out the desktop metaphor and won’t be seeing much reason to upgrade, whether on the Windows, Mac, or Linux client. Maybe all the innovation is now happening out in the Internet cloud. Maybe it’s time to stop feverishly clicking on “Software Update” to get the latest patches and functionality updates to Leopard (or Vista, if that’s your persuasion).
Perhaps it’s time to just capitulate to the perpetual beta that is the web. There’s always something new happening there.
Six months later and finally they issue the rebate!
Kara & Walt’s gadgetfest
Now in its fifth year, it was called, “Making a List: The Fifth Annual What’s Hot and What’s Not in Personal Technology” and took place in Palo Alto.
Walt and I typically show off several devices we think are interesting and try to identify some important trends.
Walt says, “The big trends in gadgets, I think, is software… the gadgets are important but the software on them matters even more.”
Do we really want an alarm clock that jumps off the table and makes you chase it around?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Assumed consent is evil and maybe illegal
Facebook applications can be based solely on direct sales. Companies like Overstock.com allow--or should I say encourage--Facebook users to purchase from their website through their application without ever leaving Facebook.com. The problem is that purchase information is being shared. After making a purchase, the Overstock.com app displays a small box in a corner of the browser interface following a transaction. This box alerts users that information will be shared with other Facebook users unless they click on it to negate that information form being shared. The box fades away after a half minute or so, after which consent is assumed, and all your friends can see what you bought.
I’m no lawyer, but that sounds kind of “iffy” to me. And, even if it is a legally binding procedure, it certainly isn’t going to do much for customer satisfaction! There are, evidently, other large e-commerce sites with similar or identical interfaces, and my instinct is that Facebook and these large companies will solve the problem quickly. It makes a good example, however, of social media gone awry. The term “social” does not automatically imply that sharing is the default; part of being social is having the choice to share or not share. Purchasing things, especially during the holidays, often involves gifts, and the surprise of a well-chosen gift to a friend (who may well be in your Facebook world) is as social as it gets.
Hell, I think the non-leaky clickthrough should be illegal. Of course I’m going to hate “assumed consent.”
Did Scandal End Lott’s Career?
Please welcome now the Scandal theory, which is suddenly gaining traction with conservative blogger Michelle Malkin; with Harper’s blogger Scott Horton; with Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan; and most especially with David Rossmiller, managing editor of the Insurance Coverage Law blog, which is maintained by Dunn Carney Allen Higgins and Tongue, a law firm based in Portland, Ore. The Scandal theory, which is admittedly speculative, is that legal proceedings concerning Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and the flamboyant plaintiff’s attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who is also Lott’s brother-in-law, are about to expose improper behavior by Lott.
Judges need leeway in teen sex cases
Maureen Downey for the AJC editorial board on the Widner plea deal and calling for a fairer approach to teen sex sentencing:
A judge ought to be able to look at those facts and determine how long Widner should serve rather than be bound to a 10-year sentence. Voters elect judges in Georgia to make those tough calls.
Yet lawmakers eroded the powers of judges by mandating the sentences they can impose. “We should trust our judges to make decisions and not pen them in with mandatory minimum sentences,” says [Widner’s attorney, J. Scott ] Key. “We now have a system where there is little opportunity for the punishment to fit the facts.”
Widner is leaving jail a felon, which means he’ll be on the state’s sex offender registry. The registry is another example of the Legislature’s abandoning common sense and fairness, putting consensual sexual activity between teens on the same level as violent rape or child molestation. [...]
The courts must have greater flexibility in teen sex cases where force is not involved and where both teens are willing participants. Neither Widner nor Wilson is a hero for what he did. But antiquated laws that view older teens as dangerous predators and younger ones as helpless victims ignore the realities of high school society where seniors and freshmen often date.
Most Georgians understand that a world of difference exists between two classmates having sex and a 35-year-old molesting a 10-year-old. Georgia’s laws and its sex offender registry need to recognize that distinction.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The GOP on YouTube: “A greasy-haired bunch”
So the sissy Republicans who tried to avoid their YouTube debate are finally facing The People.
Anderson Cooper acknowledges the concerns about the kinds of questions asked last time but only manages to insult the entire field of questioners by featuring the stupid moments. Thanks, Andy. Next we have a song about the candidates that is an utter waste of time. We have more than 10 minutes of preambles, taking up the chance to add two questions. And I’ll waste a line of pixels noting that none of these guys believes in blow-dried hair. It’s a greasy-haired bunch.
We have the same formatting problem from the last debate: the videos are a small screen on a screen. And worse, they’re sometimes out of sync. And dark and unwatchable.
We start with a tribute to Lou Dobbs: immigration.
Finally, question No. 1: A New Yorker asks Rudy Giuliani about New York being a sanctuary city. Rudy says that New York was not a sanctuary city but on my TV, CNN’s transmission glitches and we missed a few crucial words from his answer. Rudy defends himself; Mitt Romney goes after him; Rudy attacks back, saying that Mitt had illegal immigrants working in his mansion. Mitt calls foreigners “people with funny accents.” Fred Thompson jumps into what is looking like a schoolyard squabble.[...]
Finally, we get off immigration but land on someone pushing Ron Pual on conspiracy theorists and the Trilateral Commission. Jee-sus. This is our national election? These are what CNN thinks are what we think are the most important topics in this election? What a cartoon.
Activist judges or willfull prosecutors?
This quote from the AJC’s story on Josh Widner’s plea deal merits emphasis:
Constitutional law expert Robert Shapiro said Floyd’s decision to clear the way for Widner’s release was highly unusual. It showed the discretion prosecutors have in finding a fair result.
“The fairness in the system may depend on prosecutors following the principle of fairness,” said Shapiro, a professor at Emory University law school.
Conservatives have been incredibly successful at promoting the construct of “activist judges.” Worse, they have successfully codified it into onerous limits on judicial discretion to right obvious wrongs. Liberals should not just fight back this challenge, they should take on willful prosecutors. We need a justice system that includes real safeguards against willful and/or discriminatory prosecutionS.
The indisputable fact is that the vast majority of all cases prosecuted never get to court. They are, instead, settled in negotiated plea bargains. And the decision of how, what and whether to prosecute is decided entirely through Prosecutorial Discretion:
Courts recognize a prosecutor’s broad discretion to initiate and conduct criminal prosecutions, in part out of regard for the separation of powers doctrine and in part because “the decision to prosecute is particularly ill-suited to judicial review.” In the absence of contrary evidence, courts presume that criminal prosecutions are undertaken in good faith and in a nondiscriminatory manner. So long as a prosecutor has probable cause to believe that the accused has committed an offense, the decision to prosecute rests within her discretion. A prosecutor has broad authority to decide whether to investigate, grant immunity, or permit a plea bargain, and to determine whether to bring charges, what charges to bring, when to bring charges, and where to bring charges. [...]
There are other limits to a prosecutor’s discretion, and the judiciary has a responsibility to protect individuals from prosecutorial conduct that violates constitutional rights. Such conduct usually involves either selective prosecution, which denies equal protection of the law, or vindictive prosecution, which violates due process.
Emphasis mine. It’s time that liberals right the wrong of willful and discriminatory prosecutors and do it in a manner similar to - and with as much vehemence as - the way big ‘C’ Conservatives have taken on activist judges.
Richard Moran, a professor of sociology and criminology at Mount Holyoke College, has documented that there is malicious prosecution:
My recently completed study of the 124 exonerations of death row inmates in America from 1973 to 2007 indicated that 80, or about two-thirds, of their so-called wrongful convictions resulted not from good-faith mistakes or errors but from intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel.
It’s time we on the Left do something about it!
Hacking my life
Speaking of the web as mind, my own is too often filled with cob webs and clutter and would benefit from some optimization. At 53, I’ve developed my tech habits over decades and they’re rusty. It’s time to change but there’s so much to change to that it’s hard to keep up.
Oh to be young again!
To wit, I’ve been tweaking my inputs and workflows over the last few months. I have successfully adopted the InBox Zero methodology of email processing and it’s changed my life. I’m a free man; I feel the love!
I started by watching this presentation Merlin Mann did at Google:
I’ve also set up an I Want Sandy account, but have yet to get my Jott accont synched with it and all of the speed dials and email shortcuts set to effectively use it. And, finally, I’ve set up one GrandCentral phone number so far. (If you need an invite drop me a line; I’ve got a few left.)
The way I’m using it is to give friends a single number that will ring my cell, Doug’s cell and our home. It might be handy to get a second for work to allow the Dean and other VIPs to have single number access to me wherever I am but I’ve yet to set that up. And I’m not sure those folks want yet another number for me, even if it is a master number that can reach me anywhere.
The key to adoption for me in all of this is to enlist students and friends to use these services. Then they can show me how to better use them myself!
The Web as human mind
The future of the Web is coming fast and furious:
Though the favorite metaphor to describe the Web has long been a highway, or for some, a “series of tubes,” the man credited with inventing it all thinks of the Web more like the human mind.
“Lots of people are doing research around the Web...and there are interesting results, but a lack of a core curriculum in the universities,” Tim Berners-Lee told a gathering of scientists at HP Labs and other Silicon Valley executives here. “I’ve been told the Web has 10 to the 10 to the 11 (number of) Web sites. The brain we study as a complex system.” So why not the Web? [ERAD ON]
Josh Widner accepts life sentence for release
I promise you, I’m not second guessing the young man. What choice did he have?
Like Genarlow Wilson, Joshua Widner received a mandatory 10-year sentence for nonforcible sexual activity with a fellow teenager.
Like Wilson, Widner argued through his lawyer at the Supreme Court of Georgia that his sentence was unconstitutionally cruel and unusual.
Widner last year lost in a unanimous decision from the high court, while Wilson last month prevailed in a 4-3 ruling. One key difference between the cases, the court’s majority said, was that Widner was about 4 1/2 years older than the 14-year-old girl involved in his case, while Wilson was about two years older than the 15-year-old girl in his case.
But on Monday, a Henry County, Ga., judge signed off on a plea deal that will allow Widner out of prison within days, less than five years into his sentence. [...]
Widner still will need to register as a sex offender, McGarity explained to him. That was a primary complaint by Wilson’s supporters about his sentence.
Asked about the sex offender registry, Widner’s lawyers said they didn’t think they should look a gift horse in the mouth.
Unfortunately, that’s a gift horse that promises to keep on giving. While Georgia’s draconian sex offender residency restrictions have been struck down by the GA Supreme Court, Maggie at Of Counsel suspects they’ll be back soon:
...Law enforcement had decided that it didn’t matter that the law was unconstitutional and they were going to enforce it anyway. The Attorney General has thankfully clarified the issue, telling police that unconstitutional does in fact mean unconstitutional, no matter the person’s circumstances. However, it’s not the end. In this article, a Republican congressman from Sandy Springs says the legislature will re-draft. Based on my reading, it seems all they’ll have to do is allow grandfathering of sorts, that offenders can stay where they are if something new shows up after a certain date. I’m betting that’s the route they’ll take, though it completely ignores the bigger issue.
I recently attended a JUSTGeorgia Town Hall meeting. The group aims to rewrite the juvenile justice code in Georgia. They are conducting a survey right now which can be found here. If you care, as I do, about the serious injustices we are perpetrating on our youth through an inadequate and outdated legal system, take a moment to complete the survey.
In the meantime, good luck Josh. We’re pulling for you.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Cruise ain’t gay!
I’ve never been one to believe the rumors.
Canada’s Globe and Mail:
In its Dec. 3 issue, the National Enquirer is publishing this, its yearly tease about closeted “TV stars, movie stars, politicians and more!,” as a sort of index to the bigger news of celebrity biographer Andrew Morton’s forthcoming book about Tom Cruise (who is, conspicuously, not mentioned in the tabloid). Morton has, according to TMZ, spent the past several months interviewing a large number of Cruise’s associates about his “career, his religion and even his sexuality.” The biography is rumoured to be “explosive,” though it’s hard to say why.
Rumours about Cruise’s homosexuality have trailed him since the beginning of his career. Many of his films out him as well, through innuendo and a system of aesthetic clues (an extreme, if not prurient focus on the actor’s chunky, radiant physicality is a near-constant in these films). Yet surely this kind of speculation has become old hat, after his parsed-to-bits marriage to Katie Holmes, and almost three years after the infamous South Park episode about Cruise being Trapped in the Closet.
The Enquirer’s omission of Cruise may speak to its own exhaustion with the subject of this particular star, and to The Gay Rumors: FINALLY THE TRUTH “exclusive” by the Enquirer’s new rival, In Touch. (The story is couched as an interview with “porn-star-turned-private-investigatorÃ¢â‚¬Â� Paul Barresi, a.k.a. Joe Hammer.
Barresi claims to have conducted “an extensive investigation” of Cruise and to have turned his report over to Morton. The result? “Everything that I’ve found and everything I know points to Tom being heterosexual.”
Via Gay News Blog.
Facebook founder’s old friends now foes
Kara Swisher says, “Don’t miss this very thorough article by Luke O’Brien from 02138, an independent magazine aimed at Harvard University alumni, that looks very closely in its current issue at the controversy (and lawsuits) related to the founding of this year’s hot Silicon Valley start-up, Facebook.”
From the piece:
Mark Zuckerberg may not yet have the stage presence of, say, Steve Jobs, but give him time; he has plenty of ego and ambition, and he is quickly developing a mythology. A confluence of intelligence, naÃƒÂ¯vetÃƒÂ©, and hubris, Zuckerberg can be both brilliant and immature. A self-styled revolutionary who speaks often of “trying to make the world a more open place,” he is sometimes smug and often comes across as brash. He once handed out business cards that read: “I’m CEO Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ bitch.” [...]
It’s no surprise that Zuckerberg is increasingly compared to Gates, an earlier generation’s high-tech billionaire and Harvard dropout. But geek style and enormous net worth aren’t all that Zuckerberg has in common with Gates: Like the Microsoft co-founder, he has had to weather allegations that his greatest achievement is the result of ripping off the ideas of others. Now, Zuckerberg finds himself ensnared by several lawsuits, none more potentially damaging than that brought by three Harvard grads in the wake of Facebook’s 2004 launch. The recent graduates charged that Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them, and they have spent years in court trying to prove it.
The media have mostly glossed over ConnectU Inc. v. Facebook Inc., now unfolding in a Boston courthouse. Most articles depict the case as either a cash grab or a blip on Facebook’s march to global domination. But interviews with people familiar with the lawsuit, and a close examination of court records, suggest that, at the least, the case raises troubling questions about the ethics of this new billionaire.
The plaintiffs are three Harvard grads: Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin rowers currently training for the Beijing Olympics, and Divya Narendra, who since graduation has worked in finance in New York and Boston. In 2002, the three friends dreamed up an online social network called Harvard Connection (subsequently renamed ConnectU), later asking Zuckerberg to finish programming it. Instead of fulfilling his end of the bargain, the plaintiffs say, Zuckerberg stole their ideas and source code to build his own competing social network. “We got royally screwed,” Narendra says in a deposition.
At this moment 81% of the respondents to their weekly poll say that Zuckerberg is not telling the truth about the creation of Facebook. I’m one of them.
Sunstein on the 2nd Amendment
In it he examines the textualist and originalist positions and concludes that the Second Amendment probably does not create an individual right, because it was designed to protect state militias. But, in the end, he concludes:
Some people are drawn to judicial “minimalism,” and want to decide cases as narrowly as possible. (Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Breyer, and Ginsburg have shown minimalist tendencies.) Could we imagine Second Amendment minimalism? Even if it is agreed that the Second Amendment should be construed to protect individual rights, it does not follow that all, most, or many restrictions on gun ownership must be struck down. People have an individual right to free speech, but that right is not absolute. Courts allow governments to regulate obscenity, libel, bribery, criminal conspiracy, false commercial advertising, child pornography, and criminal solicitation. Even the minority report in the Pennsylvania ratification convention, much emphasized by advocates for gun rights, says that the right to bear arms can be overcome in the face of “real danger of public injury.”
It would not be difficult for judges to conclude that a “real danger of public injury” exists when those with criminal records seek to buy handguns, or when people get sawed-off shotguns, or when they do not agree to keep their guns in secure places at home. Judges who embrace minimalism would prefer to resolve Second Amendment cases in the following way: “We need not answer the disputed question of whether the Second Amendment confers individual rights at all. Nor need we specify the precise nature of any individual rights that might be conferred by that amendment. Even if the Second Amendment does confer individual rights, it is not violated by the restriction at hand. That restriction preserves the right to possess guns; it merely imposes a reasonable condition on the enjoyment of that right.”
An approach of this kind, now followed by many state courts under state constitutions that protect gun rights, would leave open the possibility that courts would invalidate the most draconian or severe restrictions on gun ownership, while also allowing the democratic process considerable room to maneuver. To be sure, some gun-control laws, including the law in the District of Columbia, are quite severe, and make a minimalist approach hard to implement. But even when confronting such laws, courts can rule in a way that leaves open many of the hardest questions.
Many people would like to reject a minimalist approach on the ground that...the legal materials, including the original understanding and the broader tradition, do not recognize an individual right at all. But whatever the founding generation may have thought, the Second Amendment has become a shorthand, or a rallying cry, for a deeply felt commitment on the part of tens of millions of Americans. There would be not merely prudence, but also a kind of charity and respect, in judicial decisions that uphold reasonable restrictions without rejecting that commitment, and without purporting to untangle the deepest mysteries about the meaning of the Constitution’s most mysterious provision.
I agree with that conclusion and recommend reading the whole piece.
Maybe the best rehab is to send prisoners to parties
So says Michael Moore:
Via Towleroad’s Guide to the Tube #201
Blog design inspiration
As I contemplate my design tweaks, I’m looking around for inspiration. Here’s some from Smashing Magazine:
It’s not hard to design a weblog, but it’s getting harder when you try to achieve a unique weblog design. It doesn’t matter what weblog-engine you are using — frequently used themes tend to become boring over time, and they also don’t necessarily reflect the unique identity of the blogger.
To create an original design you need fresh ideas and creative design solutions. However, you don’t need to go too far with your design experiments. Basically that’s a close attention to finest details which makes a weblog stand out and gives it a fresh flavour and soft touch visitors can recognize immediately.
We’ve selected some more of them — over 30 excellent weblog designs with unusual design approaches; these blogs don’t only have a unique voice, but they also pay close attention to the finest design details.
- You might find not all of the designs listed below beautiful; but that’s not what it’s about. They are beautiful in their own way as they are both well-structured and originally designed.
- you can find further blog designs in the post 45 Excellent Blog Designs we’ve published before;
- you can find even more designs in our Design Showcase section.
Michelle Bruce update. And gay Republican elected in GA.
The Riverdale City Council voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a runoff election despite a pending lawsuit asking a judge to halt the race.
But the real decision will be made Dec. 3 - a day before the election - when a Clayton County Superior Court judge will decide whether a transgender Riverdale City Council member lied to voters when she ran as a woman. That allegation, along with accusations of voting machine tampering and improper campaigning, could push the election back even further. [...]
Bruce says she became the first transgender elected official in the United States when she took her seat on the Riverdale council in 2003.
The National Center for Transgender Equality said they have seen gender disputes arise in custody battles and insurance claims, but never in an election.
“There is nothing to hide. She is who she is,” said Mara Keisling, the center’s executive director. “She has served for four years and never lied to the people.”
On Monday night, Bruce and the rest of the council voted to move forward with the Dec. 4 runoff election. Several residents and council members at the meeting encouraged citizens to support Bruce.
Also in today’s AJC, Georgia’s first openly gay Republican elected:
Brian Bates is a 36-year-old business owner in charge of Doraville’s annual Police Appreciation Day.
He’s active in his neighborhood association and staunchly supports popular police Chief John King, who became a major issue in elections earlier this month.
So Bates’ victory in a race for city council didn’t come as a major surprise in this town of about 10,000 residents. But, it was, in fact, groundbreaking.
Bates is now the state’s first openly gay Republican elected to office Ã¢â‚¬” a development that has gained the attention of politicos and pundits across the country.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Email me form not working. (LATER: fixed.)
I just found that the “email me” form on this site is not working! I will try to fix it tomorrow. In the meantime, if you are trying to email me please use joe AT atypicaljoe DOT com. Sorry for the inconvenience.
While on the topic, I am aware of some of the technical challenges this site presents to visitors and I am about to do something about it. I have contracted with E. Webscapes to tweak my design, optimize the engineering, upgrade the blog software and move back to my old host, ICDSoft.
So help is on the horizon! I’ll keep you posted as we progress.
LATER: The form is back!
Newegg.com Rebate scam!
UPDATE: Newegg has issued the rebate and sent it via UPS. I will have received it within the 10 business days I stipulated. Further, they have offered $30 towards my next order. Now I have to tell the BBB how satisfied I am. I will wait to get the rebate and verification of the $30 before responding to the BBB. Newegg has clearly resolved my situation. But they have not changed my conviction that we need some serious rebate regulation!
Today, Cyber Monday of all days, is 6 months to the day after I purchased my 32” flat panel HD display. You may recall how pleased I was that after a $50 mail-in rebate the $500 price even included shipping.
Here’s what the Newegg Rebate Status website says about the rebate I’m still waiting for today:
On Thanksgiving Day, 10 days after my last email enquiry, they finally replied, “We did not receive an original UPC symbol or proof-of-purchase tab with your request.”
Well, of course, they did!
I copied the code and documented the purchase of the extra postage and the larger envelope required to send it in. Color me suspicious, but this rebate abuse is a scheme to scam people out of their money. Why didn’t they contact me when they discovered the UPC code was missing? Why does the website to this very second say that my order is being processed?
I sincerely believe that these rebate abuses cry out for investigative attention and appropriate state and/or federal legislation. At a minimum, companies offering rebates should be required to clearly state who is offering the rebate (manufacturer or retailer?), how to contact the appropriate party, and how long until the rebate will be received. And they should pay a penalty when a rebate is late.
If any such laws are in place now, I have yet to find them!
I have filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau; I will follow up with the state of Georgia and the Federal Trade Commission. I am confident that I am not the only consumer to have had this experience.
I wonder how many of us are willing to go through all that it takes to recover the rebate? In the extended entry I have copied their letter to me, my complaint to the Better Business Bureau and my last reply to Newegg.
Obama’s straight talk finesse
In last week’s Slate Gabfest (inexplicably, I can’t find it on the Slate site!), or maybe it was in their audio book club review of Obama’s Audacity of Hope, John Dickerson said he’s been noodling around with a piece on how Barack has built his campaign on his willingness to talk honestly and directly with the American people (as the Slate gang agrees he did much better in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance) but in his campaign he has been much less willing to do so.
Fred Hiatt beats Dickerson to the punch in todays WaPo:
Barack Obama suggests that Hillary Clinton is guilty of triangulating, poll-testing and telling the American people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear.
Maybe so. But then it’s fair to ask: Is Obama telling the American people anything they don’t want to hear? More specifically, as he campaigns for votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, is he saying anything except what polls suggest Democrats there might want to hear?
His campaign points to Obama’s traveling to Detroit to endorse higher fuel standards for automobiles, his preaching parental responsibility in black churches and his refusing to promise Iowa activists that he will cut the defense budget. He backs driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, not a crowd-pleaser this electoral season.
But to the extent that Obama’s positions have shifted over the past several months, they’ve shifted uncannily to where middle-class Democratic voters happen to be.
I hope Dickerson still does his piece; I found Hiatt’s unpersuasive.
Zero tolerance for motorists’ blood alcohol
On a May night in 2005, Debra Bolton, a lawyer and single mom from the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, was leaving the CafÃƒÂ© Milano in Georgetown after socializing with some friends. She had driven her SUV only a few hundred yards before she was pulled over by D.C. police for driving with the headlights off. She told the officer the parking attendant at CafÃƒÂ© Milano probably had turned off her vehicle’s automatic light feature.
Not mollified, the officer asked Bolton to step out of the car, walk in a straight line, recite the alphabet, stand on one foot, and count to 30. He checked her eyes for suspicious jerkiness and insisted on a breath test for alcohol.
The breath test revealed that Bolton’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.03 percent, a level a 120-pound woman could expect after drinking one glass of wine. It was well below the 0.08 percent limit that marks a driver as legally intoxicated in D.C. It was not low enough for the arresting officer, however. This middle-aged mother of two, who hadn’t drunk to excess, who hadn’t run a red light or run a stop, was arrested, handcuffed, and fingerprinted for an innocent mistake. She sat in a jail cell for hours and was finally released at 4:30 a.m. Bolton spent four court appearances and over $2,000 fighting a $400 ticket. She then spent a month fighting to get her license back after refusing to submit to the 12-week alcohol counseling program.
The arresting officer, inaptly named Dennis Fair, insists: “If you get behind the wheel of a car with any measurable amount of alcohol, you will be dealt with in D.C. We have zero tolerance*....Anything above 0.01, we can arrest.” Fair recognized that nearly everyone in D.C. was unaware of this zero tolerance policy. Still, he told The Washington Post, if “you don’t know about it, then you’re a victim of your own ignorance.”
So is prohibition working?
In 2000 President Clinton signed a federal law aimed at pressuring states to lower their BAC limits from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent. States that didn’t go along were threatened with the loss of federal highway funds. Karolyn Nunnallee, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), predicted that a nationwide 0.08 percent standard "will save nearly 600 lives every year."
It hasn’t worked out that way. In the July 2007 issue of Contemporary Economic Policy, Sam Houston State University economist Donald Freeman examines the most recent data available and concludes "there’s no evidence that lowering the BAC limits...reduced fatality rates, either in total or in crashes likely to be alcohol related." This is true, he found, both in states that adopted a 0.08 percent BAC standard on their own and in states that did so under federal pressure.
Read on; it turns out that even the founder of MADD believes “the emphasis on .08 laws was not where the emphasis should have been placed. The majority of crashes occur with high blood-alcohol levels, the .15, .18 and .25 drinkers. Lowering the blood-alcohol concentration was not a solution to the alcohol problem.”
* the Zero Tolerance policy was defeated in DC in October 2005.
Simon: Southern pol wears dresses to be popular?
Just a couple of weeks ago, Michelle Bruce was reelected to her second term on the city council there. She’s 46 years old, tall, sturdy and repossesses cars for a living. She wants to attract more industry to Riverdale. Michelle Bruce, frankly, in fact, proudly identifies herself as transgender, which the dictionary defines as appearing as; wishing to be considered as; or having undergone surgery to become a member of the opposite sex. Ms. Bruce finished first in a field of three.
But this week, Georgia Fuller, who finished third, filed a lawsuit, charging election fraud, a phrase usually tied to bribery or stuffing ballot boxes. Georgia Fuller charges that Michelle Bruce misled voters by identifying herself as transgender. She says that Ms. Bruce is merely a man who masquerades as a woman to keep her seat in the Riverdale City Council.
Now, I think this is a moment to note in Southern political history right alongside Bobby Jindal being elected governor of Louisiana. Not so many years ago, a Southern politician running for governor ridiculed his opponent, who’d been in a high school drama club, as an admitted thespian. Now, we have a losing candidate in the Southern city council election who charges that her opponent pretended to be transgender just to be popular, the way candidates used to boast that their great, great grandfather fought with Stonewall Jackson. [...]
Now, if being transgender has become a political asset in some parts of the South, like getting endorsed by Pat Robertson or the NRA, it could have urgent implications for the presidential campaign ahead as both parties try to win votes there. Everyone running for office says I’m the candidate of real change; a transgender candidate can add, and that’s not just talk.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
FSM @ Academy of Religion confab (afterward)
Over the four-day meeting, in panel discussions and speeches that began at breakfast time and went well beyond dinner, men and women who teach and study belief systems debated and dissected the things that people hold sacred. [...]
But...what gives meaning to some is an anathema to others. Just ask the four young graduate students who gave a presentation at the American Academy of Religion on the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster grew out of a backlash against biblical creationists in Kansas who wanted intelligent design taught in public schools as an alternative to evolution. The movement’s founder dashed off a letter to the state school board demanding his theory also be taught: that the world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Fueled by the Internet, the craze became a pop culture hit. Its followers are known as “Pastafarians.” Its icon is a spoof of Michelangelo’s “Creation” portrait, with Adam reaching out to touch a noodle.
But the four graduate students in religion argue that this is a parody with a purpose.
“I think it’s a really serious issue because we’re raising a generation of kids who don’t believe in evolution and don’t know what science is for,” said Luke Johnston, a doctoral student at the University of Florida.
“Religion is a constructed term created by scholars,” said Sam Snyder, who also goes to the University of Florida. “Religion is also in the hands of the public to do what they will. ... So how do we study that?”
Snyder and Johnston teamed up with Gavin Van Horn, also from Florida, and Alyssa Beall, from Syracuse University, for the presentation. [...]
If you don’t understand each other’s belief systems, then how can you talk to each other? asks Snyder.
“If we want to leave the world a better place, then people have to think and ask questions,” Johnston adds.
[Yale Divinity School professor and the new president of the American Academy of Religion Emilie] Townes is more specific. “Bad understanding of religions can lead to bad public policy, and that to me can be very destructive,” she said.
Jurassic Ark (reprise)
They’re crowing in Kentucky today:
Each day near Petersburg, Ky., 1,500 to 4,000 visitors, including busloads from Christian schools and churches, stand in line for as long as an hour to wander 60,000 square feet of animatronic exhibits presenting the Bible’s creation story as fact.
It’s been six months since the Creation Museum opened to crowds and protests, and the controversial attraction has proven more popular than even organizers had predicted.
The Ark easily had room for the dinosaurs (as you can see in other articles in this issue). First, the Ark was the size of a huge cargo ship (at least 450 ft [137 m] long). Second, there weren’t many different kinds of dinosaurs (only about 50 “kinds"). Third, God most likely brought the smaller juvenile dinosaurs, not the aging adults, because they would be better suited for the voyage and the responsibilities of reproducing rapidly after the Flood.
That from the new Creationist Museum. Mike Riddle, who authored that this past February, has a masters in education. Ugh!
Via Echidne of the Snakes, who also reports that the actor playing Adam in a Creation Museum video recently had a graphic Web site called Bedroom Acrobat where users would post explicit photos and stories. More on that from Raw Story (where I got the photo).
REALATED - Ars Technica takes a field trip to the new Creationism Museum:
There was also an explanation as to why, with only one progenitor family, it wasn’t considered incest for Adam and Eve’s children to marry each other. Apparently there was less sin back then, and therefore fewer mutations in their DNA. Evidently sin, not two copies of the same recessive trait, gives rise to congenital birth defects.
Chevron buying ads on Google for conservation…