aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Taking science on faith
When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” - imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth - and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.
Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are - they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality - the laws of physics - only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science. [...]
Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith - namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence. [...]
It seems to me there is no hope of ever explaining why the physical universe is as it is so long as we are fixated on immutable laws or meta-laws that exist reasonlessly or are imposed by divine providence. The alternative is to regard the laws of physics and the universe they govern as part and parcel of a unitary system, and to be incorporated together within a common explanatory scheme.
In other words, the laws should have an explanation from within the universe and not involve appealing to an external agency. The specifics of that explanation are a matter for future research. But until science comes up with a testable theory of the laws of the universe, its claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus.
I was looking for this argument - and making my way vaguely in its direction - two years ago when I wrote my when being right is wrong post. Then I was grappling with some poll (the link is now dead) that found only 35% of Americans believe in evolution.
I happened to have had the opportunity to ask Eugenia Scott of the National Center for Science Education about America’s antipathy towards evolution. I wanted to know what we could do to change that fact and I was dissatisfied with her “we have the facts on our side” answer. We need something more than we’re right and they’re wrong!
My issue is that I believe in science (my scientist friends object to that terminology but in light of the title and tone of Davies’ piece I stand by it). Like any good believer I want others to believe along with me. Still, a majority of them don’t. We need a better argument. Understanding Davies’ point as a necessary precondition to finding it.
GA trans pol accused of gender fraud
This in the reelection battle after she served as openly transgender for four years:
One of the few openly transgender elected officials in the U.S. faces a lawsuit from opponents who allege she deceived the public by identifying as female.
Two losing candidates in the Nov. 6 city council election in Riverdale, Ga., filed a lawsuit last week in Clayton County Superior Court against incumbent City Councilmember Michelle Bruce, accusing her of fraud for identifying as female.The lawsuit also alleges election fraud and seeks to stop a Dec. 4 runoff election between Bruce and the second-place finisher for her post. [...]
Deana Johnson, city attorney for Riverdale, said an answer to the lawsuit was filed Nov. 20 and denies all allegations in the suit including fraud by Bruce. She said the city is awaiting a hearing date.
“She is Michelle Bruce and has been for the past four years,” Johnson said. “She is identified as female on her drivers license. This is a frivolous suit. I really don’t understand what the allegation is.”
Matt Carrothers, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office, said there is no place to identify gender on the form people file to run for political office in state, county or municipal elections.
“Nowhere on the form does it ask for the sex of a person,” he said. [...]
Bruce, who lives with her mother, said Tuesday that the lawsuit is painful, as is an anti-transgender website administered by anonymous opponents to mock her.
Via Autumn Sandeen:
As a transwoman, It’s a little frustrating to have the word “deceit” frequently linked the to “transgender” and “transsexual”—based on the concept that my transgender peers’ and my gender presentation is a bald-faced lie as too our “real” sex.
When I know how I present my gender isn’t a lie, but knowing that it’s widely perceived as one—well, it’s a little frustrating.
Cooking with Pooh. And eating it too!
The AJC’s Book Page had a squeaker in the vote for World’s Worst Book Title ever:
The winner was “Cooking With Pooh,” which is a real book from Disney. It barely beat out “Letting It Go: a History of American Incontinence,” “The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification” (which I think maybe some people did not realize is also a real book) and “Everything You’ll Need to Remember About Alzheimer’s.Ã¢â‚¬Â�
That title recalled for me a piece that ran in Slate a couple months back by Kent Sepkowitz, a physician in New York City who writes about medicine, titled Eat Crap: Why Americans should ingest more excrement:
Ever wonder why your dog can gobble, lick, and gnaw all he wants along the glorious buffet of a city street and (almost) never get sick? Your dog is used to eating shit. Americans, on the other hand, grow up eating almost no shit at all. Our food is hosed and boiled and rinsed and detoxified and frozen and salted and preserved. Recently, we have begun to irradiate it, too-just in case. As a result, when our bodies encounter the occasional inevitable bug, they’re unhappy. Our centuries-long program of winnowing out all the muck has turned us into sissies and withered the substantial part of the immune system mediated by our intestinal tract.
Kids have it worse than adults. Even with today’s near-sterility, adult intestines have learned enough tricks to ward off major trouble, albeit clumsily. In contrast, modern kids are near-bubble babies. Our mammalian disaster plan is a good one: A child receives antibodies against countless infections from his mother through the placenta and then from breast milk. With that protection, the infant can take his time to develop his own antibodies. But these days, mothers have scant immunity because they too were raised in America the Hygienic. (Also, breast-feeding may be skipped.) So, kids have zero experience with routine gut infections, and when they encounter one that has slipped past our pipes and filters, the result can be catastrophic.
The best response to E. coli and the other pathogens that cause food poisoning is to recognize, humbly, that we can get the food supply almost perfectly clean, but never completely. There’s just too much crap out there: human crap, horse crap, cow crap, pig crap. In the feces of these and other animals are trillions of infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi, worms, and everything else that upsets the stomach). Try as we may to contain the mess, we can never win. Pig dung fouls rivers; cow crap seeps into water tables; human shit kicks back every time heavy rains overwhelm a sewage system’s filtration capacity… So, here’s a suggestion: Rather than frantically throwing money at new ways to eradicate the pathogens that reside in shit, we should fund the boring scientists who focus on untangling the intricacies of the gut’s immune system. Labs, answer this: How much shit can we safely eat and, as importantly, how much must we eat to remain healthy?
Via Crooked Timber.
I Want Sandy
I just signed up for I Want Sandy.
Cory Doctorow, who’s “proud to serve on the advisory board for values of n, the company that produces I Want Sandy,” says:
IWantSandy is an email-based automated personal assistant that has just opened up for public signups. I’ve been using Sandy for a couple months now, and she’s fast becoming indispensable for my life. All you do is CC your personal Sandy address on your mail and throw in keywords, like “Sandy, remember that this is the grocery list” or “Sandy, remind me to follow up on this with Fred on January 1, 2008” and the Sandybot will file away all your minutae for you. Sandy emails you with reminders (she can also communicate by Twitter/SMS). She can barf up all your remembers whenever you need them—just tag your emails with the @-mark (for example @phonenumber @kids @kitchenrenovation @welding) and then ask her for all the items corresponding to a given tag.
The coolest thing about I Want Sandy is the “groupware” function—if I CC you and Sandy on a message with a reminder, she’ll remind both of us. No permissions, no groups, just CC in regular email. The service is free and live and open to all comers.
Matt Wood adds:
You can also email Sandy commands to lookup stuff and send it back to you, very handy if you’re on the move with an iPhone or Blackberry, or, you can always manage all your stuff on Sandy’s website.
Sandy also supports recurring events and tags, so GTD users could easily turn it into a nice, trusted system with mucho lists and contexts.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Conservatives LOVE reading about gay stuff. Or do they?
Except this makes no sense. While the “Homosexuality” page itself might be highly ranked, the “Homosexuality and Hepatitis” page is short and has been in existence only since October 17. There’s no way something like that would a legitimate third-most popular page, even for raving homophobes.
And the top ten doesn’t have
“Bible"? Or “Jesus Christ”?[update - better: any other controversial topic?]. Those are supposedly less popular than “Gay Bowel Syndrome”?? That’s ridiculous (I know, I know ...). Either a spider has run amok or someone is deliberately inflating the pageviews.
Tucker Carlson: Mr. Right Now
MSNBC has been accused by many rightist pundits of adopting a liberal editorial policy. The sole basis of this charge appears to be the existence of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. In an interview with NPR, MSNBC Sr VP Phil Griffin denies the charge saying that it is the host’s personalities, not their positions that make them popular. So Tucker’s already starting at a disadvantage. Griffin acknowledges that the network is trading on the audience identifying with the program’s anchors.“Keith Olbermann is our brand; Chris Matthews is our brand. These are smart, well-informed people who have a real sense of history and can put things in context.”
That is an unequivocal expression of the faith Griffin has in Olbermann and Matthews. But when he is specifically asked whether Tucker Carlson is also their brand, he pauses and says…
“He is right now.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence. Griffin seems to be hinting that his answer might be different if you ask him again in a week or two. Looks like the only thing Tucker has to be thankful for is his well-connected family and a contract for an upcoming TV game show pilot. I still can’t get over this project - a remake of “Who Do You Trust?”
Sex-offender residency restrictions don’t work!
More on Wednesday’s GA Supreme Court ruling striking down residency restrictions for sex-offenders:
“It is apparent that there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without continually being at risk of being ejected,” the ruling said.
The Georgia law had been considered one of the most comprehensive in the nation, not only for the breadth of its residency limits but also because it covered even the mildest types of sex offender, such as those convicted of having consensual sex acts as high school students. [...]
In finding the residency restrictions unconstitutional, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that, by forcing a sex offender from his home, the law violated his Fifth Amendment right to be safe from the government “taking” his property.
While the argument for these laws is always about protecting children, experience tells us they don’t work:
You can find a very good discussion of issues presented by the residency restrictions on sex offenders by Lior Strahilevitz and many commentors at PrawfsBlawg’s “Sex Offender Residency Restrictions and the Right to Live Where You Want,” Aug. 3, 2005, and Michael Cernovich reviews many of the relevant legal issues at Crime & Federalsim, in his posting Doe v. Miller: The Legal Theories. Residency restrictions have been in the news a lot recently, and have been covered well by Corey Rayburn Yung at Sex Crimes (e.g., here), and by Prof. Douglas A. Berman, at Sentencing Law and Policy weblog. Last year, Prof. Berman pointed to “A potent and important prosecutorial statement against sex offender residency restrictions” (Feb. 9, 2006). The document was released by the Iowa County Attorneys Association, an organization of county prosecutors seeking “to promote the uniform and efficient administration of the criminal justice system.” In its five-page statement ICAA explains that Iowa’s broad sex offender residency restriction “does not provide the protection that was originally intended and that the cost of enforcing the requirement and the unintended effects on families of offenders warrant replacing the restriction with more effective protective measure.”
In Boston, nearly two-thirds of 136 high-risk sex offenders lack permanent addresses. In New York City, more than 100 registered at two homeless shelters. In Miami last month, 22 reported living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway that links the city to Miami Beach.
“People should be concerned about this,” says Jill Levenson, sex-crimes policy analyst at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. She says homeless sex offenders are more likely to commit another crime.
“Being homeless is also demoralizing,” Levenson says.
Sex offenders are likely to behave better if they have a stake in their community and “something to live for,” says psychiatrist Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic. Sex offenders are increasingly being shunned and isolated. “They are the modern-day lepers,” he says.
Here I propose the death penalty for all of them. It is very clear to me that this is not about safety or prevention. It is naive and dangerous caving to the retributive proclivities in all of us.
Our punishment judgments are rooted in outrage - deterrence is secondary - and it would be better for all of us if we’d understand that. Maybe then we could start to come up with some measures to honestly and effectively address the very real problems of sexual dysfunction, abuse and deviance.
Sinking ship & an ordeal at sea
All passengers and crew aboard a ship touring the Antarctic were safe Friday after the vessel apparently hit an iceberg and started sinking, officials said. No injuries were reported.
The Norwegian cruise ship MS Nord Norge took the stranded passengers and crew on board, a spokesman for Gap Adventures, which owns the sinking vessel, said.
A happy outcome. But I’m not eager to go cruising in polar waters. A couple years ago a friend was teaching in a Semester at Sea program. While cruising in icy waters in the North Pacific the ship was hit by a rogue wave.
Her first-hand account of the ordeal gives a real flavor of what it’s like to be in an accident at sea:
At about 1:30 am I was awoken by the violence of the ship’s movement Ã¢â‚¬” though it may have been going on for a little while before I noticed it. Once again (like previous nights with bad seas), my drawers were slamming open and shut very violently, my bed was sliding around (with the other furniture), and I was struggling to stay in the bed and out of the melee. This went on for a long time and seemed to get worse and worse as the hours crept by. Virtually everything in my room except the permanently attached things (like walls and shelves) was moved or thrown about. The beds slid around, the nightstands were knocked off their supports and fell over (previously I had not been able to budge these even when I tried), the heavy, round glass table kept falling (I righted it a few times) and rolling about. The chairs (2) were sliding and tipping all over. The metal, round garbage can and its lid rolled madly, and the drawers and refrigerator never stopping slamming open and shut. Every time it seemed a bit calmer, I would get up and try to right things, push the beds back into place and jam things together so they might not fall again. But this was futile and dangerous because I was being thrown about too, and banged myself up a couple of times on furniture (never seriously). So then I tried to stay in my bed, with the light on, and just held on to the ledge/half wall in front of my window. Sometimes I had to hold with all my might to keep from getting thrown from my bed or with my bed. Even holding tight with both hands, I was once or twice pulled away and slid with my bed across the room, being jammed up under the attached desk faster than I knew it was happening. The scariest thing was when the TV - normally on a high shelf across from the beds - came flying off its stand toward me. Luckily the second bed had already slid into the center of the room and made a perfect landing place for the TV, which then bounced from there to the floor and was one more thing rolling around. I tried to secure it too, but without much success. [...]
About 5 or 5:30 am we seemed to finally be slightly more stable. We were told to clean up our rooms and stay put. The crew and some staff then came around to every room to check to see if anyone was injured or overly traumatized. I think I must have dozed until they knocked on my door about 6:15 am. I straightened up my room yet again - we were still rocking, but not quite so violently and I was hoping this meant the storm had abated. A little before 7 am the captain again came on the PA system to tell us we were going to turn back into the wind to stay on course for Japan. He talked us calmly through the turn and assured us that from then on we’d be okay, and it would not be so bad, that the ship could take it. But it was still rocking pretty crazily in my room. Although I had straightened up most of it, the TV was still on the floor. I was trying to hold that while we continued rocking and rolling. Then I thought I smelled smoke (I later learned this was probably the exhaust from our turn), and about that time the foghorn sounded, and didn’t stop. That’s when I started feeling concerned. So I began to get dressed, NOT an easy task in the again violently rolling condition of the ship. In fact as I was trying to get dressed, I was thrown pretty violently all the way across the cabin. My shin got bruised on the bed corner, but the bed kind of broke my fall and I landed on it. I later learned that at about the time the foghorn blew is when the wave hit that smashed in the bridge window and shorted out the equipment that controls the engines. Without engines in those still violent seas, we were being tossed about... [READ ON]
LATER: The WaPo has passenger accounts of the M/S Explorer ordeal.
Standing on the sidewalk not a crime
Hanging out on the sidewalk isn’t a crime, the state’s top court has ruled, even if you and your friends are blocking people’s paths through bustling Times Square.
The New York Court of Appeals decided Tuesday to overturn the conviction of Matthew Jones, who was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest on June 12, 2004. Police said other people “had to walk around” him, he wouldn’t move when asked and he flailed his arms.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Marshall in Iraq for Thanksgiving
While thousands of Americans hit the highways to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall caught a flight to Iraq.
It marked the 12th time the congressman toured the war zone. This trip, Marshall toured downtown Fallujah and the West Rashid area of Baghdad. [...]
“It’s just remarkable the turnaround that’s occurred in Fallujah, Ramadi and the Al Anabar Province,” Marshall said. “This kind of tour by a congressman to a market in downtown Fallujah wouldn’t even have been dreamed of six months or a year ago.”
He’s nothing if not consistent.
I’m over 50:
For anyone over 50, today is not only Thanksgiving but the day JFK died 44 years ago. He has been gone now for almost as long as he lived and, in these times of White House infamy, not nearly as much in the national mind as his antagonist, Richard Nixon, whose all-time low approval ratings have just been eclipsed by George W. Bush.
A few years after the assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy wistfully told me that her husband was being remembered too much for how he died rather than what he had lived for. She was right. It was too soon then for Americans to appreciate what they had lost. [READ ON]
Search Engine Roundtable has gathered some search industry holiday logos on display today:
Yahoo has a Flash logo and a static, here is the flash followed by the static version:
The pretty much recaps all the logos I was able to track down. For more thanksgiving images, check out Flickr. Gary Price compiled his Fast Facts: Thanksgiving Day 2007 Facts and Stats and Danny Sullivan posted Flight Tracking, Airport Conditions, Real-Time Traffic, & Other Thanksgiving Search Tips. Quintura emailed me to tell me they added a thanksgiving tab to their navigation.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
GA court strikes down sex offender residency restrictions
It was a unanimous Supreme Court victory and I’d never have guessed the grounds:
The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional a provision of a 2006 state law that prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of day care centers, schools, churches and other places where children congregate.
In striking down the residency restrictions, the justices said they can amount to an “illegal taking” because they force sex offenders who are homeowners to abandon their homes if a place where children congregate is suddenly built nearby.
“Sex offenders face the possibility of being repeatedly uprooted and forced to abandon homes in order to comply with the [law’s] restrictions,” Justice Carol Hunstein wrote.
“It is apparent that there is no place in Georgia where a registered sex offender can live without being continually at risk of being ejected,” Hunstein added.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, there are almost 15,000 sex offenders on the state’s sex offender registry. While the court’s ruling focused on the issue of sex offenders who are homeowners, it appears to also extend to all sex offenders because the entire residency restrictions were stricken.
NYTimes new building reviewed
Writing about your employer’s new building is a tricky task. If I love it, the reader will suspect that I’m currying favor with the man who signs my checks. If I hate it, I’m just flaunting my independence.
So let me get this out of the way: As an employee, I’m enchanted with our new building on Eighth Avenue. The grand old 18-story neo-Gothic structure on 43rd Street, home to The New York Times for nearly a century, had its sentimental charms. But it was a depressing place to work. Its labyrinthine warren of desks and piles of yellowing newspapers were redolent of tradition but also seemed an anachronism.
The new 52-story building between 40th and 41st Streets, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, is a paradise by comparison. A towering composition of glass and steel clad in a veil of ceramic rods, it delivers on Modernism’s age-old promise to drag us - in this case, The Times - out of the Dark Ages.
I enjoy gazing up at the building’s sharp edges and clean lines when I emerge from the subway exit at 40th Street and Seventh Avenue in the morning. I love being greeted by the cluster of silvery birch trees in the lobby atrium, their crooked trunks sprouting from a soft blanket of moss. I even like my fourth-floor cubicle, an oasis of calm overlooking the third-floor newsroom.
Says my nephew after watching the multimedia tour of the tower, “I want to work in a cubicle in a building like that one day.”
It made me homesick.
What’s the deal? The Bernard Kerik issue should be enough to knock Giuliani right out of the race. The guy America’s Mayor pushed to be in charge of homeland security is, is appears, an out and out crook. Then there is the sex molester priest on Rudy’s staff. That, by itself, should finish him off.
But it doesn’t. In fact, none of the other Republicans mention any of this. Why? They don’t want to be accused of “mudslinging” or of giving Democrats ammo we can use should Rudy be the nominee.
Of course, we’ll use this stuff anyway, whether Republicans bring it up or not. They don’t write our playbook.
The striking thing, for me, is that it is so damn unpatriotic for Rudy’s opponents not to tell GOP primary voters who he is. Romney, McCain and the rest are so afraid of a voter backlash against them for mudslinging that they essentially protect Rudy. As a result, he could become the nominee.
So let’s forget this BS about mudslinging. It is only mudslinging if its a lie. Attacking a fellow candidate’s positions, experience or record is not only permissible. It is essential.
So here’s my definition of mudlinging: willfully lying about another candidate, especially about their personal lives.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The NYTimes says the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 is up for reauthorization, and that’s an opportunity for needed reform:
As incredible as it seems, many states regard a child as young as 10 as competent to stand trial in juvenile court. More than 40 states regard children as young as 14 as “of age” and old enough to stand trial in adult court. The scope of the problem is laid out in a new report entitled Jailing Juveniles from the Campaign for Youth Justice, an advocacy group based in Washington. Statistics are notoriously hard to get, but perhaps as many as 150,000 young people under the age of 18 are incarcerated in adult jails in any given year.
As many as half of the young people who are transferred to the adult system are never convicted as adults. Many are never convicted at all. By the time the process has run its course, however, one in five of these young people will have spent more than six months in adult jails.
Some jails try to protect young inmates by placing them in isolation, where they are locked in small cells for 23 hours a day. This worsens mental disorders. The study says that young people are 36 times more likely to commit suicide in an adult jail than in a juvenile facility. Young people who survive adult jail too often return home as damaged and dangerous people. Studies show that they are far more likely to commit violent crimes - and to end up back inside - than those who are handled through the juvenile courts.
The rush to criminalize children has set the country on a dangerous path. Congress must now reshape the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act so that it provides the states with the money and the expertise they need to develop more enlightened juvenile justice policies. For starters, it should rewrite the law to prohibit the confinement of children in adult jails.
I recently attended a community forum on rewriting the Juvenile Justice Code in Georgia. I was the only non-professional, the only interested citizen, to attend. Hosted by JUST Georgia, they have an ambitious plan to overhaul the entire outdated inadequate system here.
I was impressed by everyone there and all I heard. My one piece of feedback to them was that there will need to be citizen participation, broad citizen support and understanding, if they imagine they will get such an overhaul through the Georgia legislature.
RELATED: Can a 9-year-old be a rapist?
Can a 9-year-old be a rapist?
I don’t think so. He can be sick; he can need help or treatment. But a criminal rapist in the sense that I understand it? The answer is just plain no!
I’ve been watching this story since it broke, speechless and wondering. How can a rational evaluation of even the basic facts be made through the filter of a sensationalist market press that has only one interest - making money.
A 9-year-old rapist is a market opportunity, three a market bonanza in today’s media ecology. Most especially, it seems, here in the Bible Belt. One of the boys is characterized as a third grader at a local Baptist school and a batboy for his church’s softball league.
We know that factoid for what reason except as an exclamation point for our disgusted outrage?
The only reasoned response I’ve seen is digby’s:
I do not have any doubt that it’s possible that these boys “raped” this girl. The legal definition doesn’t require penetration (and for all I know maybe that happened too.) If they did it, then they need to be dealt with in the juvenile system and given intense psychological counseling.
But what if it was “consensual” in the sense that the kids were all playing a game or the boys thought they were, or any number of other possible scenarios? Remember, we are talking about 8 and 9 year olds. They’re all hardly more than babies. No matter what it was, it cannot, by definition, be legally equivalent to a gang rape by adults or even teen-agers.
But this police chief says that even if it was a game or there were some other mitigating factors, the girl cannot, under the law, consent. Again, I’m not saying that it couldn’t have happened just as this little girl said it did. But it’s obvious to me that if an 8 year old can’t consent to sex --- which I agree, she can’t --- it’s equally clear that 8 and 9 year old boys cannot “rape” in the legal sense.
American culture has always been violent and somewhat backwards in these ways, at least compared to other first world countries. But in the last couple of decades we seem to be nurturing it to the extent we have lost all common sense and certainly any sense of proportion. Arresting little boys on charges of felony rape is not only ridiculous on it’s face, it demeans the entire justice system.
There is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion, something that is in very short supply in the Georgia legal system, apparently.
I whole-heartedly blame the prosecutor, but it’s the population that needs to wake up.
Philadelphia’s Boy Scout Ultimatum. And gay wedding.
Gay-friendly news from Philadelphia. WaPo:
This may be the last free Thanksgiving dinner for the Boy Scouts of Philadelphia.
Citing a local 1982 “fair practices” law, the city solicitor has given the Scouts until Dec. 3 to renounce its policy of excluding homosexuals or forfeit the grand, Beaux-Arts building it has rented from the city for $1 a year since 1928.
And this weekend Philly mayor John Street will preside over a gay colleague’s wedding.
With 125 guests expected, it will resemble in every way a traditional wedding but will have no legal standing, since Pennsylvania prohibits gay marriage.
Mahjoubian, 33, and Ryan Bunch, 32, will wear matching black tuxedos with orange vests. There will be a 10-person wedding party; each groom’s best man happens to be a woman. Mahjoubian and Bunch will say their vows, exchange wedding rings, then leave for a reception at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. [...]
For Mahjoubian and Bunch, it’s as much a political statement as a show of their love before family and friends. For Street, who has performed fewer than 10 weddings as mayor, it’s anything but.
“Micah is my friend. He has been in my campaign and has been in my administration for eight years,” Street said. Currently, Mahjoubian is his deputy secretary of external affairs. “I’ve come to respect him as a person, and if this is something he would like for me to do, then I’d like to do it for him.”
Amazon’s Kindle Reader
First look, it isn’t like reading actual paper. Emphasis in original.
I was going to completely ignore this meme. eBook readers are stupid. The iPhone and Blackberry and services like DailyLit that deliver books via email and RSS to any device are the way to go. [...]
...you probably can’t get this blog on the Kindle. But it’s easily readable on an iPhone or a Blackberry and that’s where mobile content is headed, not to some big, heavy, proprietary device that charges to subscribe to content. Losers is right…
Firefox 3 beta released
A few months later than had been planned, Mozilla released on Monday night the first beta version of an overhauled Firefox, the widely used open-source Web browser.
Firefox 3 beta 1 includes a number of significant features that Mozilla said should improve security, ease of use, rendering of Web pages, and location of previously visited Web pages. And for the new era of rich Internet applications, the browser can run Web-based applications even when the computer is disconnected from a network.
Download it here.
Or will John win Macon?
Ahem...all love here for Obama, but John Edwards will win Macon in the primary. Yes, Bibb County has traditionally voted for Democrats, when taken as a whole, and the City of Macon is decidedly Democratic. Sen. Robert Brown, who drives GOTV in Democratic primaries in Middle Georgia, has endorsed John Edwards as have other key local leaders in the mid-state. Add to that the often ignored fact that despite Obama’s haul in Atlanta, Edwards has out-raised Obama by a greater than three to one margin in South Georgia zip codes, including Macon. Did I mention that south of I-20, Edwards has out-raised every single other candidate-Democrat or Republican? That may be because the Edwards have visited Macon three times since January, plus going to Americus, as a guest of Carter, where he drew a crowd of over 2,000 people. I think the moral of the story here is that you have to actually campaign in Macon to win Macon. Edwards’ roots are deep here, as is his support. He carries Bibb County on February 5th-and again in November.
To make my own position a tad clearer, I am thrilled with the Democratic field and could vote for any of them, though I think that now I’m tilting towards Hillary. Until I fall for any one candidate, I’ll revel in the positives of all of them.
BIG Media = BAD Media
This week on Bill Moyers Journal:
On November 2, 2007, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced that the Commission would hold the sixth and final public hearing on media consolidation November 9, 2007 in Seattle, Washington. Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein blasted the Chairman’s decision to give the public only five business days notice before the hearing:
“With such short notice, many people will be shut out ... This is outrageous and not how important media policy should be made.”
The people agree. Watch through to the end:
Monday, November 19, 2007
Can Obama win Macon?
Of course he can. Go with me here…
My dad grew up in Macon, Georgia in an all-white school he describes consistently as having gone to hell thanks to integration. He has never been personally racist to anyone of any background in his life, but he really thinks the world went to hell starting about 1960 and that civil rights went too far too fast. His dislike for the Sharptons and Jacksons of the world couldn’t be fiercer. The N-word is pretty much the standard noun many of his family members use to describe black people. His only vote for a Democrat in his lifetime was for Carter, out of Georgia patriotism.
I had the fun experience of watching Obama’s electrifying 2004 convention speech with him. My dad, who hadn’t heard of him, just said “He’s good.” As in, “ok, I liked this guy, but he’s a Democrat, so he must be a huckster. But he’s a talented one.”
Then, late last year, his updated view on Obama: “I think I could vote for him.” I could only turn around and smirk, once I’d picked my jaw up from the floor.
Then there’s Time Magazine on Obama’s Red State appeal:
On Monday, the Obama campaign announced that over 300 Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans had decided to cross party lines to support Obama. At Obama events in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia and Georgia, a good 20% of audiences routinely raise their hands when emcees ask for Republicans in the crowd. A “Republicans for Obama” website has 11 state chapters with 146 members. An August University of Iowa even found Obama running third in the state among Republican candidates, behind Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani but ahead of both Fred Thompson and John McCain. And a national Gallup poll this month also found that nearly as many Republicans like Obama - 39% - than the 43% that dislike him, compared with the 78% of Republicans who held an unfavorable opinion of Hillary Clinton.
And Barack’s been pulling in some Georgia cash:
One year before they go to the polls, Georgians have opened their wallets to candidates for the White House in unprecedented fashion. But unlike in years past, residents of the red state have given a majority of their cash to Democrats.
Contributions funneled to the Democratic field from Georgia - Barack Obama has raised more than any other candidate - are twice what they were at the same point four years ago, and five times larger than they were in the fall of 1999, according to new Federal Election Commission figures.
Finally, as this Purple America county by county map of 2006 Congressional Election Results clearly shows, there is a blue swath that stretches up through the center of Georgia. Macon’s right in the middle of that.
Oprah in Macon why???
My nephew was shocked to find himself standing next to her on College Avenue on Friday, so much so that he neglected to snap a cellphone photo for the blog. Or go to the show and get us a refrigerator with an HD TV in the door:
Macon will set up free, public viewing areas of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Tuesday at the Terminal Station and in the City Council chambers at City Hall.
The show, which was filmed Saturday in the Macon City Auditorium and featured the talk show host giving away her “favorite things” to the audience members, starts at 4 p.m.
Apparently this is the hottest ticket in daytime TV “because of the thousands of dollars in loot each person in the audience takes away.” 4,500 people applied for the 300 tickets.
So why Macon?
Oprah, who stages the “Favorite Things” show every year at holiday time, usually tries to find a deserving group to put in the audience.
In past years, the audience was made up entirely of teachers or rescue workers from Hurricane Katrina.
This year, she took the show to Macon because it consistently has the nation’s highest percentage of viewers tuned into her afternoon talk show.
Local reports say that 45 percent of homes in Macon watch Oprah at 4 p.m. - a huge market share. (In New York, the local share of audience is closer to 20 percent.)
Taking the “Favorite Things” show to Macon was a thank-you to the fans, she told the audience.
Emphasis mine. I’m dumbstruck.
LATER: Here’s the gift list.
Drought or desertification? Atlanta’s hardly alone
It sounds like there’s going to be more sand everywhere for all of us to stick our heads in:
According to the How Dry I Am Chart of “livability expert” Bert Sperling, four cities in Southern California, not parched Atlanta, top the national drought ratings: Los Angeles, San Diego, Oxnard and Riverside. In addition, Pasadena has had the dubious honor, through September, of experiencing its driest year in history.
“Resource wars” are things that happen elsewhere. We don’t usually think of our country as water poor or imagine that “resource wars” might be applied as a description to various state and local governments in the Southwest, Southeast or upper Midwest now fighting tooth and nail for previously shared water. And yet, “war” may not be a bad metaphor for what’s on the horizon. According to the National Climate Data Center, federal officials have declared 43 percent of the contiguous U.S. to be in “moderate to extreme drought.” Already, Sonny Perdue of Georgia is embroiled in an ever more bitter conflict with the governors of Florida and Alabama, as well as the Army Corps of Engineers, over the flow of water into and out of the Atlanta area.
He’s hardly alone. After all, the Southwest is in the grips of what, according to Davis, some climatologists are terming a “‘mega-drought,’ even the ‘worst in 500 years.’” More shockingly, he writes, such conditions may actually represent the region’s new “normal weather.” The upper Midwest is also in rainfall-shortage mode, with water levels at all the Great Lakes dropping unnervingly. The water level of Lake Superior, for instance, has fallen to the “lowest point on record for this time of year.” (Notice, by the way, how many “records” are being set nationally and globally in these drought years; how many places are already beginning to push beyond history, which means beyond any reference point we have.)
And then there’s the Southeast, 26 percent of which, according to the National Weather Service, is in a state of “exceptional” drought, its most extreme category, and 78 percent of which is “drought-affected.” We’re talking here about a region normally considered rich in water resources setting a bevy of records for dryness. It has been the driest year on record for North Carolina and Tennessee, for instance, while 18 months of blue skies have led Georgia to break every historical record, whether measured by “the percentage of moisture in the soil, the flow rate of rivers, [or] inches of rain.”
And there this from paleontologist and author of “The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change” Tim Flannery:
It’s not just the Southeast of the United States. Europe has had its great droughts and water shortages. Australia is in the grip of a drought that’s almost unbelievable in its ferocity. Again, this is a global picture. We’re just getting much less usable water than we did a decade or two or three decades ago. It’s a sort of thing again that the climate models are predicting. In terms of the floods, again we see the same thing. You know, a warmer atmosphere is just a more energetic atmosphere. So if you ask me about a single flood event or a single fire event, it’s really hard to make the connection, but take the bigger picture and you can see very clearly what’s happening.