Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tryin Ta Stack Fo An Escalade

I have to be impressed by how the environmental movement as a whole moves further and further out of the nutty granola category and manages to find a mainstream and even conservative voice by going to its roots in conservation and national independence. The days of the hippie tree hugger, while that guy certainly exists ad nauseam, as spokesman for the environmental movement for conservation are over. Now we have. . .James Woolsey? Wha?

That's right, a large chunk of conservatives are joining with a large chunk of liberal environmental activist to act against the gas guzzling ways of our society, says El Wapo. This odd coalition resonates around one common theme: national independence from foreign oil. And instead of going on a drilling jihad in ANWR, they're suggesting the answer might be to reduce consumption and demand for the black gold. To me, it's more than just a tree-hugging thing, it's a moral thing, it's a national security thing, and it's an economic thing. The moral part has driven the arch-conservative Family Research Council to join hands with environmentalists Set America Free, the national security thing has got Frank Gaffney and James Woolsey on the case, and the economic thing has the car industry and the UAW on board to stop the loss of American jobs and investment from the foreign technologies of hybrid cars and advanced disel, which make economic sense now.

The worm is starting to turn on SUV's like the Escalade, and pickup trucks as their fuel economy makes them impractical to drive in market conditions. And this is not likely to change in the future, but only get worse as we progress to the day when middle east fuel reserves go dry decades from now. We may actually see real bi-partisan Congressional action based on these odd cross-ideological pairings:

"Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said last week that he plans to form a bipartisan "Oil and National Security Caucus" to build political support for action. His staff members declined to say which Republican colleagues are being approached about joining the group, but Engel said at a joint appearance with Gaffney on Capitol Hill that there is interest on both sides of the aisle.

"This isn't a Republican or a Democrat issue, or a right-wing or left-wing issue. It's an American issue," Engel said."

Rest in Peace, Terri Schiavo

May her soul repose in peace, unlike her body in its final days.

International Task Force
on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide


Symptoms of Dehydration

If all food and fluids (nutrition and hydration) are removed from a person -- whether that person is a healthy Olympic athlete who takes food and fluids by mouth or a frail, disabled person who receives them by a feeding tube -- death is inevitable. That death will occur because of dehydration.

As a person dies from lack of food and fluids, his or her

  • Mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material.
  • Lips would become parched and cracked.
  • Tongue would swell, and might crack.
  • Eyes would recede back into their orbits.
  • Cheeks would become hollow.
  • Lining of the nose might crack and cause the nose to bleed.
  • Skin would hang loose on the body and become dry and scaly.
  • Urine would become highly concentrated, leading to burning of the bladder.
  • Lining of the stomach would dry out and he or she would experience dry heaves and vomiting.
  • Body temperature would become very high.
  • Brain cells would dry out, causing convulsions.
  • Respiratory tract would dry out, and the thick secretions that would result could plug the lungs and cause death.

At some point within five days to three weeks, the person's major organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain, would give out and death would occur.

[Source: Brophy v. New England Sinai Hosp., 398 Mass. 417, 444 n.2, 497 N.E.2d 626, 641 n.2 (1986) (Nolan, J., dissenting).

We wouldn't dare do this to terrorism suspects or death row murderers, but we allow it for a woman whose final wishes were never definitively proved with documentary or videographic evidence of her express desire to have this done were she to be incapacitated.

Rest in Peace, Terri Schiavo

May her soul repose in peace, unlike her body in its final days.

International Task Force
on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide


Symptoms of Dehydration

If all food and fluids (nutrition and hydration) are removed from a person -- whether that person is a healthy Olympic athlete who takes food and fluids by mouth or a frail, disabled person who receives them by a feeding tube -- death is inevitable. That death will occur because of dehydration.

As a person dies from lack of food and fluids, his or her

  • Mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material.
  • Lips would become parched and cracked.
  • Tongue would swell, and might crack.
  • Eyes would recede back into their orbits.
  • Cheeks would become hollow.
  • Lining of the nose might crack and cause the nose to bleed.
  • Skin would hang loose on the body and become dry and scaly.
  • Urine would become highly concentrated, leading to burning of the bladder.
  • Lining of the stomach would dry out and he or she would experience dry heaves and vomiting.
  • Body temperature would become very high.
  • Brain cells would dry out, causing convulsions.
  • Respiratory tract would dry out, and the thick secretions that would result could plug the lungs and cause death.

At some point within five days to three weeks, the person's major organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain, would give out and death would occur.

[Source: Brophy v. New England Sinai Hosp., 398 Mass. 417, 444 n.2, 497 N.E.2d 626, 641 n.2 (1986) (Nolan, J., dissenting).

We wouldn't dare do this to terrorism suspects or death row murderers, but we allow it for a woman whose final wishes were never definitively proved with documentary or videographic evidence of her express desire to have this done were she to be incapacitated.

Memogate II: This Time It's Asinine

"Memogate II", that's what they're calling it. It's all about this. That's right, this unsigned talking points sheet that ABC News reported was being distributed. But apparently, now they're saying that the talking points were fakes, perhaps planted by Democrats! Perhaps copied off of Mel Martinez's press release! WHAT A SCANDAL!!!! Or maybe not. El Wapo is catching some flak, but Allen writes a self-defense column here. (Hat tip, Mr. Kaus) I think that this is superbly idiotic. Talking Points, especially unsigned, get distributed all over the place up here. If they mistakenly labeled them as "GOP Talking Points" without verification, well that's a tiny bit of a mistake. But you can't say these are fakes. The same level of analysis of CBS' travails revealed by specific typewriter issues doesn't apply here. Yes, they could've been faked by Dems. But they could be from anybody. Who knows! There are PLENTY of possibilities of who might have come up with these. But we know for a fact they were being distributed.

Jesus' General has a take on the crawling chaos of this supposed "memogate II" scandal that adequately captures what I'm trying to say. Here's a good piece of it:

"Mr first inquiries were disappointing. ABC
reported that "multiple sources" confirmed that the
memo was distributed to Republican Senators on the
Senate floor. I checked with my own sources, and they
say that's what happened and named a name, Sen. Rick
Santorum.

Undeterred by this bad news, I continued to
investigate and soon hit the jackpot. An artist for
the Spongebob Squarepants show told me that the
Santorum who distributed the memos was an imposter. A
cabal of Hollywood makeup artists was behind the
subterfuge. They were trying to discredit God's party
so that they could finish the homosexualization of our
nation.

They were good. They matched every detail, even going
so far as to have the fake Santorum escorted by an
afghan hound. One of the dog's paws was dyed purple in
honor of Iraq election. A corresponding purple smudge
was placed on the back of the fake Santorum's shirt in
the exact place one would expect the dog to place his
paw when mounting. These Tinseltown terrorists left
nothing to chance.

A few days later, their attention to detail manifested
itself once again when the fake Tom DeLay made his
speech to the Family Research Council. From what I
understand, the phony DeLay's necklace of human ears
was indistinguishable from the one Rep. DeLay wears to
parties."


This is almost as funny as this detailed analysis of the Bacon Cheddar Ranch. Which coincidentally is much more fascinating to analyze than the authenticity of talking points.

Coalition for Darfur: Never Again: Again and Again

In her 2001 article "Bystanders to Genocide," Pulitzer Prize winning author Samantha Power recounts how President Clinton was shocked and outraged by an article written by Philip Gourevitch recounting the horrors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, prompting him to send the article to his national security advisor Sandy Berger with a note scrawled in the margin reading "Is what he's saying true? How did this happen?"

After taking office, President Bush reportedly read Power's article on the Clinton administration's failure to intervene during the genocide. He too scrawled a message in the margin - "NOT ON MY WATCH."

Yet we are now faced with another African genocide, this time in Darfur, and the United States and the rest of the world are responding exactly as they did during Rwanda - with paralyzed inaction.

Though there are many key differences between what is taking place in Darfur and what occurred in Rwanda a decade ago, there are also many similarities.

In 1993, the world watched "Schindler's List" and wondered how such horrors could unfold and why they were not stopped. In 2004, it watched "Hotel Rwanda" and asked the same questions. In each case, those questions went unanswered.

Just as in Rwanda, the international military force on the ground in Darfur is far too small, poorly equipped and operating under an extremely limited mandate that does not allow them to protect civilians at risk.

Just as in Rwanda, the genocide is taking place against a backdrop of "civil war," leading the international community to focus more on establishing a cease-fire than protecting those being killed.

Just as in Rwanda, the death toll is nearly impossible to determine.

Just as in Rwanda, the United Nations is more or less paralyzed as individual nations seek to protect their own national interests rather than helpless men, women and children.

Just as in Rwanda, media coverage is almost nonexistent, Congress is all but silent, and the human rights community is having difficulty get the nation to pay attention to a genocide in progress.

Just as in Rwanda, a genocide is unfolding - but this time it is happening on our watch.

We ask you to join the Coalition for Darfur as we attempt to raise awareness of the genocide in Darfur and raise money for the life saving work Save the Children is doing there.

See Aegis Trust for their powerful film, "Not On My Watch"

Corruptastic

President-for-life Mugabe is not blinking. In a last ditch effort to destroy the opposition, he's unfurled a campaign of bribery, voter fraud, and empty promises that would make any aspiring politician green with envy. One such promise: a tenfold increase in the minimum wage for household servants. TENFOLD. Also, here's a snippet from Indy about how the conditions on the ground are going to look for the election:

Earlier this year, the government passed a law that allows the military and security services to act as election officials, manning polling station and supervising the vote count.

"Can you imagine how a voter is going to feel, walking into a polling station and seeing the army and police standing at the door," asked Shari Eppel, a human rights worker for Zimbabwe-based Solidarity Peace Trust. "It does nothing to convince people this election will be free and fair."


As for international election monitors, Mugabe has banned both the EU and the US from sending anyone, probably to cover his own rear-end from any sort of Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan situation happening. Who is he allowing? South African monitors, whose President Mbeki has already declared that he thinks the election will be free and fair, and a handful of other friends who will turn a blind eye to whatever happens. Rascalism at its finest. Let's hope Archbishope Mcube throws the bullshit flag, and someone in the US or EU cares enough to back him up.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The letter of the law kills

I begin with an excerpt of the dissent from last week's 11th Circuit ruling in the Schiavo case, but pretty succinct for the layman to understand:

WILSON, Circuit Judge, dissenting:

I strongly dissent from the majority’s decision to deny the request for an
injunction pursuant to the All Writs Act and the request for a preliminary
injunction.

First, Plaintiffs have demonstrated their entitlement to a preliminary
injunction. Second, the denial of Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction frustrates
Congress’s intent, which is to maintain the status quo by keeping Theresa Schiavo
alive until the federal courts have a new and adequate opportunity to consider the
constitutional issues raised by Plaintiffs. The entire purpose for the statute was to
give the federal courts an opportunity to consider the merits of Plaintiffs’
constitutional claims with a fresh set of eyes. Denial of Plaintiffs’ petition cuts
sharply against that intent, which is evident to me from the language of the statute,
as well as the swift and unprecedented manner of its enactment. Theresa
Schiavo’s death, which is imminent, effectively ends the litigation without a fair
opportunity to fully consider the merits of Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.

We should, at minimum, grant Plaintiffs’ All Writs Petition for emergency
injunctive relief. First, I note that there is no precedent that prohibits our granting of this petition. Second, mindful of equitable principles, the extraordinary circumstances presented by this appeal require that we grant the petition to preserve federal jurisdiction and permit the opportunity to give Plaintiffs’ claims the full and meaningful review they deserve.

In considering this extraordinary case, I am mindful that “[t]he essence of
In Bonner v. Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), we adopted as 1
binding precedent the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down prior to October 1, 1981.
12
equity jurisdiction has been the power of the Chancellor to do equity and to mould
each decree to the necessities of the particular case. Flexibility rather than rigidity
has distinguished it. The qualities of mercy and practicality have made equity the
instrument for nice adjustment and reconciliation between the public interest and
private needs as well as between competing private claims.” Swann v. Charlotte-
Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 402 U.S. 1, 15 (1971) (citations omitted). Keeping
those principles firmly in mind, “mercy and practicality” compel us to grant the
relief requested.
Hogwash, says the majority:

Plaintiffs have appealed the district court’s denial of their motion for a
temporary restraining order to require the defendants to transport Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo to a hospital to reestablish nutrition and hydration and for any
medical treatment necessary to sustain her life, and to require the state court judge
defendant to rescind his February 25, 2005 order directing removal of nutrition
and hydration from Schiavo and to restrain him from issuing any further orders
that would discontinue nutrition and hydration [footnote #1]...

...

[footnote #1] Our dissenting colleague says that “the denial of Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction frustrates Congress’s intent, which is to maintain the status quo.” The status quo is that Mrs. Schiavo is not receiving nutrition and hydration. The plaintiffs do not want the status quo maintained. They want this Court or the district court to issue an injunction affirmatively requiring the respondents to change the status quo by bringing about the surgical procedure necessary
to reinsert the feeding tube into Mrs. Schiavo.


Ah, I see, so basically, by so strictly interpreting the status quo governed in the text of the legislation, the majority has found a way to legally murder a woman who has not yet received, nor will survive long enough to receive, proper judicial review in the federal courts as per congressional legislation approved expressly for that purpose.

The Good Book says the letter of the law kills, but the spirit gives life. It's a damn shame that the letter has a 2-1 advantage over the spirit in this case.

###

Finally, a Fun Baseball Post

Over the weekend, I watched an exhibition game between the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals. I know it was only one game, but I realized very quickly that my prediction that the Nationals would have a strong season (I think I said they would finish in third place in the NL East) was way too optimistic. Granted, a bunch of their starters were not playing, but the offensive output from those who were there was far from stellar – especially against Mets pitchers that might not even make the team. It is becoming apparent that the Nationals do not have the offense to stay with the likes of the Braves, Marlins, or Mets – their three toughest opponents in the National League East. And it remains to be seen if they even have enough talent to stay ahead of the Phillies. The first three starting pitchers in their rotation look strong, but after that, their staff is young and unproven. The upside to all this is that the Nationals will not stay in the basement of the National League East for long. The strength of this farm system cannot be overlooked, and the team will soon get new ownership, which is bound to bring more money and talent with it. Until then, just enjoy that baseball is back in the nation’s capital.

A Non-critic’s Critique

I visited the Whitney Museum of American Art on Friday and found that most of the collection was really interesting. Before I go any further though, I must admit that I am not an art expert by any stretch. Instead, I am offering a critique of the collection from the point of view of a non-expert. My first thoughts are that there is much of modern art that I do not understand (I am still trying to get my head around Jackson Pollock’s work). The third floor had an exhibit of Cy Twombly’s work. Either that stuff is way over my head (or ahead of my time) or the people who have “discovered it” are playing tricks on everyone. I have tried reading up on him to see if I can get a better understanding of what his stuff is really trying to say. Biographies and descriptions of Twombly link him to minimalism, yet they also say that his work has resisted public appeal because it is so hard for people to understand and verbalize. If anyone can actually verbalize why finger paintings and his chalkboard period make him “one of the most important American artists living today”, I would love to learn. I even tried to follow one of the museum tours around – all I got from it was a description of the feel you get due to the colors he chose and how you can notice the light smudging effect he used. Seeing his paintings and then reading verbose reviews that use language like anti-sensual and cerebral spareness don’t do enough to bring an art novice like myself up to speed. Tim Hawkinson’s work on the other hand was easier to grasp. His sculptures were creative and used everyday materials, his mechanical constructions were intelligent and fun, and his paintings/ drawings were very intricate.

Much of the permanent collection was very impressive. They had at least a half-dozen Edward Hopper pieces - all of which are amazing. And their depression era art is probably the only modern art I can really understand. Their images are surreal depictions of the great depression, either through the lens of the urban or rural landscape. You can see the influences of European surrealists like Dali, except the American pieces are grounded in the feelings of loneliness and despair from the Great Depression and therefore I connected to them better than I would a Dali piece. To conclude, if you find yourself in New York, the Whitney is worth checking out – especially the fourth and fifth floors.

Can We Really Stop This?

I am not sure I even know where to start with this article from CNN; "Death sentence by jury that discussed Bible thrown out". I guess the first thing I have to say is that no jury should be spending time deliberating the morality of the death penalty. That is not their responsibility once they are on the panel. Each juror has a chance during jury selection of a capital crime to say whether or not they would be able to deliver a death sentence to the defendant – so they need to know long before they get selected how they feel about the death penalty. Therefor if a person ends up on the panel, it is because they have decided that they can in fact deliver that punishment if the facts support it. Once the punishment phase of the trial begins, the jurors should only talk about the facts of the case and if the facts support the punishment of death as stipulated under that state’s (or federal) laws.

The problem with this is that jurors are notorious for not being able to follow the strict guidelines set forth during the trial. And I am sure it is human nature when deciding whether to sentence someone to death to discuss the morality of it. Since I don’t think it is possible to prevent jurors from talking about morality in these situations, I don’t see how we could realistically prevent them from talking about religion or the Bible. A judge can set guidelines against both, but in the end it can’t be prevented and I don’t think decisions should be overturned because of it. As a side note to my argument though, if jurors are allowed to talk about religion and morality during the punishment phase of a capital crime, it leaves the door open not just for Old Testament passages that support the death penalty, but also New Testament passages that are against the death penalty.

I know my argument makes it sound like I am in favor of the death penalty, but I am definitely not. I don’t think capital punishment is right in concept and it is even worse in application in this country. But I am a strong believer in the rule of law. And the laws of some states say certain crimes should be punished by death. Therefore, if the facts say that crime was committed, then the death penalty should be administered. If someone doesn’t agree with that, then they shouldn’t serve on the jury.

The ALL "Loving Will"

An alternative to the usual living will, the American Life League (ALL) is distributing its alternative, the "Loving Will" free to interested persons who wish to leave a living will which is consistent with Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life:

To: National Desk

Contact: Amber Dolle of American Life League, 540-903-9572 or adolle@ALL.org

WASHINGTON, March 30 /U.S. Newswire/ -- "The plight of Terri Schiavo has rightly raised concern about the care of the disabled," said American Life League (ALL) president Judie Brown. "Unfortunately, too many people are not aware that when they sign a 'living will,' they could be signing their own death warrants."

Brown said several years ago, similar cases led American Life League to develop a document called the Loving Will as an ethical alternative. Typical "living will" language can permit normal treatment to be denied to a person who is not terminally ill.

"Even if you think your living will protects you," she said, "you need to be aware that hospitals may not interpret your medical directives the way you intend. You may rightly say that if you are dying, extraordinary means need not be used to extend your life. However, in many cases, food and water are now considered 'extraordinary means.' Despite your wishes to the contrary, you could face starvation at the hands of uncaring people who would prefer to see you dead."

The language in ALL's Loving Will is rooted in Catholic teachings about end-of-life care. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person."

"The Church also tells us, 'We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of,'" said Brown. "We cannot in good conscience sign a document that would enable others to end our lives by failing to provide normal life-sustaining care, nor can we cooperate with persons who would ask us to take such actions on their behalf. ALL's Loving Will provides faithful, life-affirming options for those who wish to provide written instructions stipulating the type of care they wish to receive if they become incapacitated."

American Life League supplies the Loving Will package free of charge. It may be ordered from ALL's Resources Department at 866-LET-LIVE. Additional information is available online at http://www.ALL.org/LovingWill.

I emailed Ms. Dolle and asked her what the response was like from persons of faith, if there was a strong evangelical as well as lay Catholic response for the Loving Will. She replied:

Thanks for the email. ALL has received great feedback across
denominational lines with the Loving Will. Jim Sedlak, VP of American
Life League, is in Pinellas Park, FL right now, outside of Terri
Schiavo's hospice, and he has handed out numerous Loving Will packets
to both Catholics and Protestants. It is based on the end-of-life
teachings of the Catholic Church, but those teachings are quite often
universal in many Protestant denominations.

As of printing, the link for the Loving Will was not working. I look forward to perusing it later when that website glitch is fixed, however.

###

No Ticket!

DCeiver has an incredibly beautimous rant about the 9:30 club, ticket sales, fan clubs, hipsters, and mailing lists that spans just about the entire ecosystem of hilarious things about the DC music scene and indie rock. It all started with DCist announcing upcoming ticket sales that were supposed to be for "fans-only", and turned into some sort of raging jihad in the 9:30 Club Forum. All of which DCeiver rightly unmasks as absurd bullshit. Here's a sample:

Fallout from DCist taking public information and daring to "publicize" it has predictably spilled onto the 9:30 club forums to be batted back and forth by lackwits far and wide.

[snip]

There appears to be an ever shifting set of goalposts for some that denote a true fan: basically, the argument is being made that if you don't check websites and join mailing lists religiously then you don't carry the Mark of Cain or some nonsense. Of course, what no one will cop to is the fact that as soon as ten times the number of people start checking the websites and joining the mailing list, those self-same avatars of purity control will roundly dismiss the latecomers as poseurs and the new shibboleth will be "I was on the mailing list back when it was old-school! I deserve special rights and priviledges." Wank wank wank. This isn't about being a true music fan and it isn't about supporting the 9:30 club and it isn't about fighting scalpers, it's about proclaiming yourself to be "in" and then digging as deep a moat as possible so that these ego-deificient yucksters can stave off their creepy inferiority complexes.


DCeiver then goes on and on to list all the upcoming ticket sales of all the upcoming shows about to be announced. I've perused the 9:30 Club Forum before, and it is a genuinely surreal place. Mocking the people on their could fill up an entire blog of its own, but that's true of most forums. What's true here is that advance ticket sales for "special fans" are I think a load of crap. Inevitably you just end up with these "special" fans going totally sickhouse and whining like World Bank protesters. It's their business when they want to sell tickets, and for how long, but honestly if anyone expects any information that is sent to an email list to remain secret nowadays, they're truly off their rocker.

Please Sir, May I Have Another

Some ask me why I'm skeptical of school vouchers. Well, Jesus' General has brought me a great example of why I don't one hundred percent trust unregulated private schools so completely. A sample:

"On the morning of March 10, our school principal went outside to wait for the school busses. When they arrived and began to unload, he rounded up about 100 boys and told them that for not having their shirts tucked in they were going to have to choose between a 3 day suspension or a paddling. About 60 of them took the paddling."

Yikes. That's all I have to say about that.

No Congregating in the Halls. . .

That was what security guards always used to yell at us in high school. Those were the good old days . . . A controversy over free association is developing in Uganda. Right now, the nation is transitioning from a de facto one party state to true multi-party politics, and that is causing a number of headaches. Especially for those in power. One particularly thorny spot involves President Museveni, and whether or not he should enter President-for-Life territory and be allowed a third term. Demonstrations and rallies were planned both for and against the issue of term limits and Museveni's third term, but apparently so far Internal Affairs Minister Rugunda, of the incumbent force known eerily as "the Movement" hasn't cleared them. And yes, demonstrations have to be cleared in Uganda. His logic:

Rugunda said as the country enters the period of political transition to full multiparty politics, it is crucial that while our people play a more active role in determining the future course of the enjoyment of democratic governance, they do so in an organised manner consistent with the Public Good.

Citing the two public demonstrations - one of them pro, the other against, the third term - Rugunda said, the Movement is committed and has demonstrated its political will to achieve a peaceful political transition.

"Now that the two parties to the constitutional amendment contention have expressed their opinions through public debate and demonstrations, the conduct of a multiplicity of public demonstrations is not necessary. In fact it could be a recipe for disturbance of law and order," he added.


Ugandans, especially those planning the demonstrations, are predictably upset about this. Some talk of going on with their demonstrations anyway. But this is about more than a couple of protests. It suggests how we define a democracy globally as well. Is a democracy just elections? Is a democracy defined by multiparty politics? Is a democracy defined by civil liberties such as free speech, legal equality, and in this case freedom of association? Should a state be able to decide these things and regulate such uses of political space? As the Fourth Wave of democracy continues to sweep the world and despots, Presidents-for-Life, and one-party political monopolies are swept aside the obvious parts of a democracy are established. But that's the easy part. Forging the civil society and political space necessary to reinvigorate and push the machine forward are the hard part.

Democratic legislative priorities in Centennial State

Why is it such a high priority for the Democrats to enact this law? And certainly, the objections of the bishop here should be taken into account and codified into the legislation, at the very least.

Though strongly pro-life, my view is that rape victims should be informed about the potentially abortifacient aspects of emergency contraceptives, as well as any potential side effects for the woman herself. Fully informing the woman of all the dynamics of the decision is the proper way to go, although I would prefer that Catholic and other religious medical personnel would not be forced by law to raise the possibility of emergency contraceptive, but that they would be compelled to discuss the matter, or at least bring in someone else, to discuss the matter if raised by the patient.


DENVER Mar 30, 2005 — Gov. Bill Owens, a Roman Catholic who campaigned for office on conservative values, could face a tough choice deciding whether to sign a bill requiring hospitals to tell rape victims about emergency contraception.

Fellow Republicans say the bill, passed by the Legislature on Tuesday, violates Catholic hospitals' freedom of religion by forcing them to offer information about abortion. Democrats say the bill simply requires that help be given to women whose bodies have been violated.

In the middle is Owens, who refused to immediately take a position after the legislation was approved. Spokesman Dan Hopkins said Owens would "carefully consider" it before deciding whether to sign the legislation.

Republicans blocked similar versions of the bill the past two years, when they were in charge. Democrats captured both the House and Senate last November and pushed the measure through.

Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput objected to the bill because it does not require health care workers to tell rape victims that some medications stop a fertilized egg from being implanted, which he says amounts to abortion. He said the church does not object to rape victims taking steps to prevent ovulation when there is no risk to a fertilized egg.

Network Government

Instabastard, in his HackCentralStation form (Form 3, Second Most Powerful of his Four Evil Glenn Forms), discusses NASA's new approach: grants by prize! Sayeth the Evil Glenn, Form 3:

"In a way, though, what's really revolutionary isn't this stuff -- people have been talking about, and, in a small way, working on, Solar Power Satellites for pretty much my entire lifetime -- but the way it's being done. As some of us have argued for a while, a prize program like this one has a lot to offer.

Instead of going for a massive Apollo (or worse, Space Shuttle) sort of program, NASA is attacking the problem incrementally, and it's getting other minds involved. The way the prize program is structured (contestants get to keep their own intellectual property) encourages people to participate, and the goals get more ambitious over time."


Here is the grist for Glenn's demonic mill. It's Alan Boyle from MSNBC.com, the Space Editor (my, how I woud like to edit space). Here describes the program thusly:

"Although the space agency will put up the prize money, the contests will be administered by the Spaceward Foundation, a California-based group that started planning the contests last year.

'We are thrilled with our partnership with NASA, and we're excited to take the Tether and Beam Power challenges to the next level,' said Meekk Shelef, president of the Spaceward Foundation.

Shelef and her colleagues at the foundation hope the contests will advance the concept of a space elevator, which proposes using climbing robots powered by light beams to carry payloads into outer space. Such elevators would travel on tethers extending tens of thousands of miles above the surface of the Earth. If feasible, such a system could dramatically reduce the cost of access to space."


This is smart in a number of ways. First, it creates real competition, and allows the competitors to keep their intellectual property. You get a ton of sporadic R&D research from a ton of different sources, which is likely going to produce all kinds of results to reverberate through the aerospace industry and related prive market. Second, it builds the paradigm of "network government", a concept that collapses the role of government from doing governance and actual government to one of meta-governance. What? Let me break it down for you. Three models of government. . . 1) Traditional. Government finds vision (meta-governance), government makes policy (governance), government implements policy (government). 2) Contracted. Government finds vision (meta-governance), government makes policy( governance), contractor implements policy (government). Various perversions of 2) involve contractor working at the vision and policy stage. 3) Network. Government finds vision, provides funding (meta-governance). . .the rest is done by whoever! Private sector! Educational institutions! Churches! Regular People! Doesn't matter.

That's what the Spaceward Foundation and NASA's partnership is an example of. And with technology, or any research and development for that matter, it's a model of infinite possibility.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

2005 MRC religion study

Helped my boss research, write, and edit it. You can find it here.

Below you see the executive summary of same. Enjoy.



By Tim Graham and Ken Shepherd
March 28, 2005

Executive Summary

NBC's John Seigenthaler After all the dramatic events of last year’s religion news, from the installation of an openly gay bishop and the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s historic pontificate to Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ, religion coverage on the broadcast TV networks could be expected to decline. To measure the trends in religion coverage in 2004 and the beginning of 2005, Media Research Center analysts surveyed every religion news story on ABC, CBS, and NBC news programs in the 12 months from March 1, 2003 through February 29, 2004. Major findings include:

The trend of religion coverage declined measurably — until the Pope’s health scares in February. Religion coverage is down, but not as much as might have been expected. Overall, there were 648 total religion news stories in the 2004-05 study period, down from 705 religion news stories on the Big Three last year. The slippage came in evening news coverage, which fell from 292 a year ago to 228 this year. By contrast, the number of morning-show segments was nearly the same (331 in 2003-04, down to 320 in 2004-05) and the number of magazine and interview-show segments went up slightly (from 82 to 89). Without all the stories in February, the number of evening news stories would have been close to half of last year’s total.

The Catholic Church received the most coverage among faiths, but the percentage of Catholic coverage devoted to the aftermath of sex-abuse scandals has dropped. The health scares surrounding the Pope exaggerated the usual broadcast network tendency to focus on the nation’s largest religious affiliation. The church’s sex-abuse scandals headed toward the margins of coverage, with only 10 reporter-based stories on the evening news, or one-sixth of the stories on the Catholic Church. Last year, almost half of the reporter-based stories on the Catholic church – 35 out of 75 – focused on clergy abuse scandal news. The percentage of morning show segments was also one-sixth of the Catholic coverage, about the same level in the morning as last year.

Reporters approached religious issues from a very secular and political perspective, especially in stories on the presidential campaign. When some Roman Catholic bishops announced that they would deny Democratic candidate John Kerry the sacrament of the Eucharist over his decades of pro-abortion voting and advocacy, network reporters placed all their scrutiny on the church leaders, not on Kerry. Not only did they fail to explain the Eucharistic rules of the Church, they misquoted bishops as claiming Catholics shouldn’t “vote for sinners,” while they described Kerry as a “devout,” “observant,” and “practicing Catholic” despite his pro-abortion record. Kerry’s opponents were labeled “conservative,” but Kerry and his supporters were never described as “liberal.”

TV news often ignored religion news that the Religion Newswriters Association found were the top stories of the year. Surprisingly, after all of last year’s supportive coverage of gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson, the networks barely touched the church trials of two lesbian Methodist ministers. During the study period, only NBC noticed the Christian ministers that have topped the list of best-selling books, especially Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, which recently entered the media spotlight after the Atlanta courthouse killings.

The MRC Special Report concludes with four ways the networks could improve their coverage of religion in the future: hire a full-time religion correspondent; hire reporters who are themselves religious; present the religious and theological dimensions of social issues instead of focusing solely on political elements; and present viewers with a balance of religious experts, not just a few favored (generally liberal) theologians.

Wave After Wave

The Fourth Wave of Democracy is about to wash away yet another pylon of corrupt rascalism. Doomed Dictator, Thy Name Be Mugabe. The Democratic Opposition is getting juiced up, with Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube joining the fray. The Archbishop is winding up to throw the bullshit flag, rallying people for massive nonviolent political action should Mugabe’s one-party kingdom steal the election with some delicious fraud. President-for-life/Dictator de facto Mugabe, however, is preparing himself. He’s already labeled anyone who votes for the democratic opposition a “traitor” (is Ann Coulter his campaign manager?). Apparently in 1985 he pulled similar antics, and post-election there was much beating, killing, and general antagonism toward anyone who didn’t vote for the ruling party. This time he’s gearing up for more of the same, with a small army of paramilitary thugs ready to beat, harass, and starve anyone who opposes him.

This reminds me of the following SNL sketch of “election” coverage under Saddam:

"Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh:
Well, Pervez, here is my suspicion: the ballots being
used this year are a little confusing.

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Okay, okay, walk
us through it.

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: Okay,
see, here is the box for Saddam...

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: ...He Whose
Benevolence Spreads Like a Milk Through the Tigris
Valley...

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: ...yes,
the Sturdy Bridegroom of the Iraqi State, yes, the one
and only -- ah, but there is a box marked 'No' here...

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Okay, okay... see,
already you have *lost* me.

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: Okay,
okay... I'll explain it in more detail. See, marking
this box is a vote *for* Saddam, and marking *this*
box means, 'No, I am *not* voting for Saddam.'

Pervez Al-Huwayeh: Once again,
[waving hand over head] whoosh! I am *very* confused,
I do not envy those voters out there at the polls.
Actually, I am just getting word that earlier today
that two of these 'No' votes were cast by secret
ballot.

Daljit Kalakh Galanlaneesh: That's
right, Pervez, cast by secret ballot in Saddam's home
village of Tikrit by Omar Bakeesh and Tariq
Al-Darwesh.
"


The two men who voted “no” by secret ballot were then shown, running away from police. I’m sure Mugabe has about the same in mind.

Senseless Criticism: Sensory Damage

What's in a dubiously defined sub-genre of electronic music? Well, a lot of these sub-genres have very funny names. There's Techstep, Downtempo, Jazzstep, Mushroom Jazz, Intelligence Dance Music, and, the subject of today's review: Illbient. What is Illbient? Well, first, it's DJ Spooky. That's the foundation. But to describe it. . .well, imagine dark synthesizer ambient conjured up by those like Philip Glass, Vir Unis, or Bill Laswell. Now throw on top of that some screeching noise, hip hop samples, reggae dub, and loud bass. Voila. You have Illbient.

And where better to turn to Illbient than one of the latest compilations (there are usually about 12 or 13 of these a year, so I'm trying to pick the best one), De-Programming Sequence. I won't sugar-coat it, De-Programming Sequence can sometimes be a very challenging listen, but is thought-provoking, complex, and ultimately meditative music. It features ambling songs punctuated by intense samples, orchestral movements, rapid drumming, and all the time moody drones. That might sound like I'm writing a commercial for Pure Moods, but Pure Moods it isn't. This album is DARK in tone, and often can ratchet up to VERY loud. One highlight is DJ Spooky's sole appearance on the record, the ominous "Code Green." Wobbling synthesizers collide with a slow, deep bass and a randomly placed Spanish guitar line to create unbelievable tension. Mentol Nomad brings a hailstorm of symphonic drum rolls and sampled music that sounds like it's from Seven Samurai in "Sangre De Mentol." Such symphonic sampling is common throughout the compilation disc, and the drum beats, though hip hop-like, sound much more symphonic and creepy.

Other great tracks are all over this short compilation. Nate Mars' unsettling, delay-splattered "Concentric Circles" is a great example, where a suddenly sick drum and bass segment comes seemingly out of nowhere to join a flood of weird sounds and reverberating strings and ghosty melodies. The slow-building "At the Edge of Disarmaggedon" from Kentyah Meets Jordan is also an intriguing suite of small funky electronic movements bound together into a complicated suite. What De-Programming Sequence broadcasts is that Illbient is basically the Classical Music of electronically-produced dub, turntablist, and techno music. It features long sections, carefully assembled, with tight chord patterns and transitions throughout. I would say "this is great music to study to", but I'm not in college anymore, so it's "great music to read to" or, in my case "great music to write science fiction to."

Bandanas, Peglegs, and Broadband

Today is the day. The RIAA's vainglorious Luddite struggle has arrived on the steps of the Supreme Court. At issue is internet piracy, but in a way that makes me shake my head in disgust. The large scale attacks of the RIAA on individual sharers, Napster, and others have been well-documented and discussed into the dirt, but the Grokster case, at issue today, takes the anti-piracy crusade yet another place it doesn't belong.

The RIAA contends that Grokster and Streamcast and limitless others who publish peer to peer sharing programs must be held liable for any piracy their programs allows. That's right. If you made it, and someone uses it for ill, EVEN IF YOU PUT WARNINGS ON IT NOT TO, you are to be held liable for the same crimes. This is the same kind of specious logic that would sue gun shop owners and gun manufacturers for crimes committed with guns, or would sue VCR makers because you can dub tapes. Or, and this is what I want to know, why not sue all the manufacturers of CD burners for allowing people to burn their own music? Logically, it is all the same and not different than what Grokster and Streamcast are doing. It doesn't surprise me at all that Harasser-in-Chief Ken Starr wrote the RIAA's legal brief.

Grokster is not without allies in this case. The Consumer Electronics Association and Electronic Frontier Foundation, not to mention eccentric, rich genius Mark Cuban are all putting themselves in Grokster's corner. As they should. And quite frankly, as all of us who support innovation in technology and the small businesses should. Go after the pirates, not the technology, especially when technology is being used for purposes the creators didn't intend. If the SCOTUS falls down on the RIAA's side, that's just going to stifle technological entrepreneurship and innovation even further.

We live in a time when intellectual property is a tough issue, but declaring war on all technology that may or may not pose a threat to it is not the answer. For more good commentary, check out Barry Ritholtz, who takes a logical sledgehammer to the starving musicians argument often made by the RIAA.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Steroids and Amphetamines

There was an AP Poll released on Friday showing that of the 155 sports writers that responded who are eligible to vote on induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Mark McGwire would not receive enough of their votes but Barry Bonds would. I am getting so sick and tired of the blatant hypocrisy coming from the sports-writers. They are so blinded in their anger, that they are willing to let all the blame fall on one person – Mark McGwire. And the blame is falling on him because he chose not to talk – although he also chose not to lie. Dodging questions is the biggest sin you can commit in the eyes of sports writers, even bigger than lying. They hate players like Eddie Murray and Kevin McReynolds despite the fact that they were some of the best team players in baseball. Now that McGwire refuses to answer questions, he has become the new punching bag for the press – taking that role away from Barry Bonds.

Let me be clear about something, if McGwire was the only one who took steroids, and managed to do it despite a strong testing policy by baseball – I would admit that was cheating, and I would join in the attacks. But the only sin McGwire is guilty of is taking a substance that baseball knew was a problem, but refused to ban and test for. Baseball allowed the Cansecos, McGwires, Caminitis and everyone else to use, in order to make the game more exciting.

And the problem with performance enhancing drugs in baseball is much bigger than one person and one word. Amphetamines have been around in baseball for 30 years and it is estimated that about half of baseball players take (took) amphetamines before a game. This appears to be a much more widespread problem than steroids. And if anyone thinks the press doesn’t know about this, you are naïve. In fact, the press knew about steroids too – and so did the fans. We just chose to turn a blind eye, and now that we can no longer ignore it, we act surprised and offended.

My biggest problem is a lack of consistency with this whole situation. If Congress is going to investigate performance enhancing drugs and the effects on baseball’s records, then it needs to call in all Hall of Fame baseball players from the last 30 years, and ask them under oath if they took amphetamines. If they choose not to answer, allow sports writers to kick them out of the Hall of Fame. If they say they didn’t, but the writers don’t believe them, kick them out also. In fact, lets allow these self-righteous sports writers to kick out anyone who may or may not have used some sort of performance enhancing drug – at least that way we will be consistent. Or, we could tell them to get off their high horse, write about what they know - today’s game – and leave out their unfounded speculation. Steroids and amphetamines were part of the game of baseball – like it or not. Everyone chose to ignore the problem – and we did it for one reason – the home run is sexy. Unless we know exactly who took them and who didn’t, any decision to prevent players from going to Cooperstown would be inconsistent and unfair.

Looks like Larry Klayman got himself a makeover.




Or am I just imagining things? This is a pic from his Senate campaign website:

The image “http://www.klaymansenate.com/images/Larry%20Klayman2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Even a wacky socialist is right from time to time

Hooray for Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) for proposing legislation to bar the FCC from further content regulation of cable and satellite programming.

The push to crack down harder on radio and television indecency, which rose to national attention with Janet Jackson's brief exposure during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, is beginning to stir pockets of opposition.

Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a bill that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission, which polices over-the-air radio and television broadcasts, from extending its authority to cable and satellite channels.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to cut a contribution check to Sanders anytime soon, but he is right to say there needs to be a firewall against quasi-pro-free market conservatives from interfering here.

Sanders said his bill is meant to head off possible legislation discussed by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) that would give the FCC the power to fine channels such as HBO and companies such as XM Satellite Radio Inc. if they air offensive content.

"It's a very dangerous trend," Sanders said in an interview yesterday. "I've talked to people in the industry and they say it means programs like 'The Sopranos' and 'Sex and the City' and similar-type programs will either be rewritten or taken off the air or pushed into late night."

Granted, Sanders is more concerned with free speech and press issues, looking at it from that template. I, however, see it also as a freedom of property and freedom of contract issue, issues of economic freedom.

Sanders may be right for all the "Left" reasons (for not considering this an issue of economic liberty), but conservatives wishing to further empower the FCC are wrong for the non-"Right" reason (their policy being predicated on government stronghandedness versus private, market-oriented action).

I won't call Sanders my odd bedfellow on this issue, but I will call him my fellow traveler running down the path yelling, "stop," to the runaway train of FCC overempowerment.

###

Friday, March 25, 2005

Let's Get Serious (Jermaine Jackson Style)

The VA General Assembly decided to take a break from attacking gay people and actually passed some key environmental legislation, all of it with strong bipartisan support. This was long overdue, but it shows two things:

1) Both parties are getting serious about the environment. While the Bush Administration has pulled out all the samurai swords it can in its efforts to gut the EPA, state governments, first with Schwarzenegger's environmental Power Moves and now Virginia's, often driven by Republicans have stepped in to fill the gap. More and more the environment is becoming a mainstay of political rhetoric, because anyone with sense is starting to realize we have a serious problem.

2) Gov. Mark Warner (D) has officially brought a lot of the VA State Republicans firmly into his column. He cooperated with them starting last year with the fiscal crisis and ensuing solution, and still continues to do so, especially with this important environmental action. This wasn't just a tactical alliance, but it shows a strategic relationship and alliance between moderate Warner and the moderate elements of the Republican party. That's something to cheer about with as divided as this nation has become. Let's hope it happens in more states.

Bonus 3) State Sen. Fred Quayle, (D-Chesapeake) my former State Senator and former Boy Scout Scoutmaster, is the man. He authored some of this legislation, and at a young age gave me a good example of everything good about the Republican party. Too bad he won't run for Congress, Senate, or Governor. It's all our loss that we can't have someone like him represent us, and responsibility, at higher levels.

I Guess That's Fair. . .

Bush, in a big surprise move, has announced that he will sell F-16s to both India AND Pakistan. Originally India was supposed to be the only kid on the block with new toys, but the dynamic has changed considerably. The history behind the situation is that the U.S. had originally banned sales to Pakistan to sanction them for their nuclear program, but that idea has been tossed out the window. India is of course peeved, but C-Plus Augustus has needed to reward Pakistan for their contributions in the WOT for awhile. It's probably right that if both of them get the planes it won't cause a shift in the balance of power in the region at all (except it will increase both of their strengths against powermad next-door neighbor China), but it could escalate the Cold War between the two powers and perhaps spark and arms race beyond the nuclear one India and Pakistan are already in.

The Follow-Through

Kyrgyzstan has officially joined the Ukraine Club. President Akayev was ousted yesterday and acting President Bakiyev has already begun planning new election to replace the contested ones for June. The chaos and protests have claimed their toll on the Central Asian country:

"Gunshots rang out throughout the night in the city of 800,000 people and fires were still burning in the morning with the shop workers attempting to clear up smashed windows."


This does pose an interesting question, because the Kyrgyzstan expression of democracy took the form of violent looting and riots. Unlike Ukraine, where the demonstrations remained peaceful, the Kyrgyzstani opposition took buildings, clashed with police, and looted like mad. Spreading democracy is an admirable goal, but Kyrgyzstan begins to ask whether violence within the democratic process is okay.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

RedState bloggerspondent sits in on FEC meeting

Okay, so bloggerspondent isn't a real word (though I did find one hit on Google) but anyway, this from Mike Krempasky over at Redstate.org.

He doesn't care for what he heard (nor do I, as the portions I show in bold attest):

I attended the FEC hearing to release the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking governing Internet activity this morning. I have much to say about that hearing, but more important - the draft rule released today. I regret that I've been unable to post anything substantive as yet - and I'll have to wait another hour to do so.

But - I will say this - don't believe the hype, and don't believe Ellen Weintraub when she repeats her mantra of "Bloggers, Chill Out!" This draft rule, (yes, it's a draft that will change) creates an unacceptable regulatory minefield for bloggers.

Consider this - the FEC raises two significant possible "havens" for political bloggers - the "volunteer" exception and the "media" exception. The volunteer exception is preferable, because it's a sort of shall-issue exception. If you're an individual, and you're "uncompensated" - you're pretty much free to go (except..the FEC also considers an individual to only be allowed to spend a "nominal fee" in the course of providing services to a candidate or committee. Do you think the FEC realizes that the hosting tab for a moderately poplular weblog can reasonably cost $1,000 a year?) do what you want.

On the other hand - if you're a group, an incorporated blog, or you get compensated - no exception for you. (more on that in a bit)

On the other hand - the media exception will pretty much be extended on a case-by-case basis. Who decides? Why, the government of course. Welcome to regulatory compliance hell. Even better - it heavily resembles a licensing regulatory scheme, since presumably you have to submit to the FEC to get the exception before you do or say anything, lest you violate the law.

Again, more on all of this in a little while - and let me say that clearly the FEC is listening, as they've addressed every point in the letter from the Online Coalition. They've just managed to do so in a way that might create just as many problems as they intend to solve.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

EU Throws the Bullshit Flag

China's anti-secession law has actually had an impact, and not just on U.S. opinion. Telegraph reports that the measure didn't just provoke American anger, but also got the Brits stirred up too. It was their concern that prevented the EU from lifting the arms embargo.

While it wasn't on the agenda, and Britain denies it's trying to sink it, and China denies that their anti-secession law has anything to do with it, and France remains committed, steps toward lifting the embargo didn't happen. And it's the absence of motion that says a lot in this case, especially with Chirac's dedication to lifting the embargo and sucking up to China as much as possible. If Britain has gotten lukewarm about it, it's unlikely they'll be able to proceed. And, let's remember, this embargo was created in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square, which China has done little to atone for and seems to want to repeat with Taiwan as soon as the world turns a blind eye.

Coalition for Darfur: Humanitarian Workers At Risk

Last week, the United Nations was forced to withdraw its staff from parts of western Sudan after the Janjaweed militia declared that it would begin targeting foreigners and U.N. humanitarian convoys.

Yesterday, a 26 year-old USAID worker was shot in the face when the clearly-marked humanitarian convoy she was traveling in was ambushed in broad daylight.

It is still unknown just who carried out this ambush, but Sudan expert Eric Reeves reported
yesterday that he had "received from multiple, highly authoritative sources intelligence indicating that Khartoum has ambitious plans for accelerating the obstruction of humanitarian access by means of orchestrated violence and insecurity, including the use of targeted violence against humanitarian aid workers."

If such a plan is truly in the works, it will have dire consequences for the people of Darfur. Last year, Jan Egeland, the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, warned that as many as 100,000 people could die in Darfur every month if those providing humanitarian assistance were forced to withdraw due to insecurity.

Save the Children has already lost 4 of its aid workers in the last year, yet they continue to provide medical care, food, water, shelter, and protection to more than 200,000 children and families in Darfur each month.

The members of the Coalition for Darfur are working together to raise money for Save the Children and if each coalition partner can raise a mere $10 dollars a week, together we can generate $2,000 a month to support Save the Children's life saving work.

We hope that you might consider making a small donation.

I almost feel sorry for "the Left..."

...being represented by Ralph Nader on Crossfire the past few days.

Not so much because his arguments are trite and laced with wore-out lines about corporations and yada, yada, but because the mofo won't stop dropping website URLs, including his new blog.

Hey Ralph...


... no one cares!

Ray LaMontagne - Trouble

I have a prediction – the next big thing will soon be Ray LaMontagne’s debut album Trouble. I bought the album recently and I can’t stop listening to it. It is at times soft, always powerful, and as far away from commercial or pop as you can get. Right away, you will feel the power and emotion in LaMontagne’s voice. Like other popular folk singers, his voice is original and drives his music. But as a folk singer, he will only survive if his song writing is as unique and powerful as his voice – and for LaMontagne, it is.

The album starts off very strong, with the title track Trouble. This is probably the most powerful song on the album - and it works at pulling you in and making sure you stay until the very end. With his raspy voice, you can hear the blues influence. Much of the rest of the album is a little softer; but his voice is never quiet and certainly not boring. There are two exceptions after Trouble to the softer nature of the album – Forever My Friend and How Come. Forever is definitely more upbeat with more than a hint of Latin influence, and How Come is fast-paced and energetic. Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek lends her voice and fiddle to Hanah, a song in the middle of the album that is soft and pure and rooted in bluegrass and country. I don’t think you could find two more perfect voices for this song. Jolene is probably his best piece of song writing, slow but powerful.

The bottom line is that this album is already generating a lot of buzz - and the attention is well deserved. If you don’t get it soon, you’ll be end up being the last on the bandwagon.

Medical Science in The Post

There is an interesting article in the Washington Post today about starvation. Although it points out that there is very little research done on end-of-life care – most health care facilities find it unethical to conduct studies on dying patients – it does a good job of describing what most likely happens when a patient starves.

The effect on organs is varied and profound. Ammonia-like substances have a sedating effect on the brain. High concentrations of potassium alter the heartbeat and eventually stop it -- which is the mechanism of the injection used for execution.

Whatever the mechanism of death, experts are virtually unanimous in saying it does not appear to be painful.

"You go into a uremic coma. You go into a stuporous state, and you stay that way until you die," said William A. Knaus, who co-directed the intensive care unit at George Washington University Medical Center for 20 years and is now at the University of Virginia. "There is absolutely no indication that the body reacts to this with stress."

[Porter] Storey said that in his hospice practice he has "sat at the bedside of thousands of patients as they died, and many of them could tell me how they were feeling when they had gone weeks without eating and drinking." What they told him, he said, was that they did not feel bad at all. Their chief discomfort was a dry mouth. That could be relieved by sips of water or by swabbing the mouth with a water-soaked sponge.


You can take this article for what it’s worth. But I would trust the opinion of doctors before politicians when it comes to the symptoms of starvation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Let the Rampant Speculation Begin!

Thomas Haden Church has officially been cast as the villain in Spider Man 3. What villain you ask? THAT is still a secret. Sam Raimi did a phenomenal job bringing Green Goblin to life, but an EVEN BETTER one bringing about Doc Ock. Alfred Molina was a perfect blend of cool, vicious, and smart. But what about Lowell from Wings? After that classic Demon Knight there's no doubt in my mind Church could make a solid and entertaining villain. But I wonder which one? The Lizard (replacing the actor from Spidey 2)? The Scorpion? The Shocker? I've always hoped for Mysterio myself. That's what I'm crossing my fingers for, because it's an opportunity for some wicked special effects.

Stepping Up

May I ask, ladies and gentlemen, what's wrong with Street Justice? I was immensely heartened by this story, especially since it came in over AP. Iraq is turning into an evermore fascinating slice of world history, and this display of courage from everyday Iraqi people shows the election and voting were only the beginning:

"Gunbattles erupted out in the streets of the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Doura, where militants wearing black hoods and riding in three cars opened fire on people shopping on a main street. Shopkeepers and residents returned fire, killing three assailants. A man, woman and child were injured and taken to a hospital."

While there's still plenty in this story about American troops and Iraqi national guardsmen dying, this is a powerful glimmer of hope, and shows the Iraqi people don't just hate the insurgents, they're now wiling to take the fight to them themselves. Even more shocking comes this from Republicans' favorite punching bag:

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said al-Jaafari was not as "upbeat as our people, who seem to be very excited about the quality of the Iraqi police force."

"My sense was, he was certainly in no rush to hand over security to his new police force," Boxer, a vocal opponent of the war, said during a visit to Baghdad.


At least she's clearly down with the fact that we need to stay there and see this thrrough. The man she's talking about, Mr. Jaafari, is going to be the new P.M., and despite thoughts that his Al-Sistani backed party is a front for Iran, seems perfectly fine with the continuing presence of U.S. troops.

The Post - Propaganda Machine for Sudan

It is incredibly disappointing to see a sympathetic interview with Sudan’s Vice President in today’s Washington Post. The article gives Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha an open forum to cast the atrocities in Darfur in a way that makes his government look blameless and holds the victims responsible, without debating anything he says. This is very irresponsible, especially since coverage of the Darfur crisis is so limited. This could easily be one of the only pieces many people read on the situation, and to have it be a piece of Sudanese government propaganda is very distressing.

The Vice President says that in order for the situation to be resolved in the Darfur region, the rebels need to disarm. Only then can the Sudanese government deal with the Janjaweed. His response to the accusation that his government is arming the Janjaweed is evasive – he says he called up the PDF – a government backed paramilitary group whose volunteers are not just Arabs. Those who have been following this situation know that the Janjaweed are committing most of the atrocities - and they are being supported and armed by the Sudanese government - but the Post article doesn't mention this.

The Washington Post even allows him to get away with casting the problem as historical, citing tensions and periodic violence. Taha says that his government has been restrained in dealing with the rebellion, but won’t adhere to appeals for a no-fly zone. The problem is that our national press doesn’t give much coverage to real reports from the region – but has no problem giving news coverage to the lies from the nation’s leaders. Let’s not forget, the Hutu Power government in Rwanda cast the 1994 genocide there in a similar way. Thanks to the Post, the Sudanese government looks like it is blameless. The only responsible thing to do is to write an opinion piece tomorrow (a day too late) putting his words in the appropriate context.

Monday, March 21, 2005

BlitzKyrgyzstan

Looks like I was straight wrong. Kyrgyzstan is truly becoming the Orange Revolution Redux. Globe and Mail calls it that the President is backing calls for a new election from his opposition. The opposition has taken over government buildings and is calling for the man's resignations because of the flawed Parliamentary elections. Transitions Online paints it even starker, labeling the protests a straight revolution now. Security forces have lost control of two major cities, and are retreating in the face of the powerful protesters.

There's no doubt about it now, we're in the middle of a FOURTH WAVE of democracy to probably make Huntington's celebrated third wave look like child's play. The states of eastern europe, even brutal ones like Kyrgyzstan, have completed their full political transitions from communist states to authoritarian states to full-fledged democracies. More than anything their civil society has developed to the point that it's perfectly willing to scream "fraud!" and take to the streets like the French kicking Napoleon III out after he lost the Franco-Prussian war. But that's off-subject. This is exciting on multiple levels. The aggressive global discussion on democracy Bush started, and that he ponied up to in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the day he personally threw the bullshit flag on Ukraine, and NOW the bullshit flag he's thrown on Syria are all strides that were unimaginable even two years ago.

Inaccurate wording of questions produces expected result

The Washington Post-ABC News poll everyone is cited on the Schiavo case should be examined in light of the wording of the questions [bold indicates my emphasis], for example:

"Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her husband and her parents disagree about whether she would have wanted to be kept alive. Florida courts have sided with the husband and her feeding tube was removed on Friday. What's your opinion on this case? Do you support or oppose the decision to remove Schiavo's feeding tube?"

I submit to you the average person hearing this question will envision Terri as brain dead, which she most assuredly is not. She's brain damage and is not completely cognizant of her surroundings, but the extent of the brain damage is not agreed upon without significant dispute.

If you think Mrs. Schiavo is incapable of feeling pain and is completely zoned out, you're likely to answer in a way which lends support to Michael Schiavo.

If, however, you've followed the case and know the facts beyond the misleading wording of the question in the poll, and you know that quite probably Schiavo will feel/is feeling the long, slow pains of dehyrdration and starvation, then it's quite probable your aversion to that barbaric notion driving you to agree with Terri's parents.

At any rate, 44 percent who responded to this poll said they had not closely been following the Schiavo story, 56 percent said they had. I'd like to see numbers broken down by those who closely followed the story and those who were going off vague impressions.


Bradbury's Vision

The calls to fire University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill continue, and that worries me. It’s amazing how proud we are of free speech in this country until someone says something we don’t like. Granted, Ward Churchill’s comments comparing the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to Adolf Eichmann (one of the chief architects of the Holocaust) were ludicrous. His claim that the victims of the World Trade Center attacks are citizens of this country and are responsible for the repercussions that stem from our foreign policies is absurd. But I don’t think that he should be fired for those comments. I would much rather see his attendance in his classes wither away because he has lost credibility, which would then likely lead to him losing his job. Too many people are so quick to stifle dissent – to silence anyone whose opinions are different or offensive. The solution instead should be to combat those opinions and show how ludicrous the arguments really are.

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury creates a world where silencing different or offensive opinions has run amok. The story isn’t just about book burning, but about preventing different (all) opinions. In the dystopia Bradbury creates, no one talks (or even thinks about) politics because it causes people to disagree, and with disagreement comes unpleasant feelings. Instead, simple entertainment dominates peoples’ lives. There is a war looming but the characters hardly discuss it.

This has relevance to other recent issues. When a Harvard University President says that the differences in the numbers of males and females in the sciences could be due to scientific differences between the sexes – that men are naturally better at the sciences – he shouldn’t be fired or asked to step down. That only takes the debate away from what he said. Instead, all efforts should be directed at talking about why that idea is so ridiculous. We don’t want to live in a world where everyone is afraid to express opinions that might be on the fringe – we don’t want to live in a world where the only thing to do is watch mindless entertainment like Desperate Housewives and ignore the important issues for fear of offending someone.

Ali al-Sistani

Thomas Friedman makes a really good point about the importance of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq. Sistani has been the voice of moderation for Shiites in Iraq, telling his followers not to retaliate against Sunni attacks and forcing America to have national elections in Iraq and not allowing them to be delayed. But if Friedman were in fact serious about giving Sistani the Nobel Peace Prize, I would have to disagree. The last thing that Sistani needs is to win a major award from the West. This would help his critics by making him look like an American puppet. Iranian Shiites are desperately fighting for influence in Iraq, and their most powerful attacks are ones that call their opposition stooges of the West. So let’s all recognize how important Sistani has been, and understand that he probably deserves the Nobel Prize, but let’s also realize he is almost definitely better off without it.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Today show paid the least attention to Schiavo...

...of the three broadcast morning shows.

Good Morning America ran one full story and two anchor briefings.

The Early Show ran one full story.

Today only ran brief anchor mentions at the 0700 and 0900 half hours. Katie Couric had plenty of time to yuk it up with the cast of Monty Python's Spamalot, however, with one segment interviewing the cast and another showing the cast singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Your Life."

So much for a nose for news. The story dominates the media today, in part due to the whipsawing of the storyline with the state judge ordering the tube back in and the subpoena ignored. Still, this was a story worthy of LEADING the newscast even before the judge's actions today. It's not every day a congressional committee subpoenas a woman in a near-vegetative state whose feeding tube is about to be forcibly removed when no objective knowledge of her wishes on the matter is known.

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Words of Wisdom from Chairman Jim Sessenbrenner

Today with Terri Schiavo fiasco dragging on, Felonius Monk, Roy Blunt, Whip, and Jim Sessenbrenner (R-WI, Judiciary Committee Chair), held a press conference a couple of minuts ago. Jim Sessenbrenner spoke this nugget that made me feel the undeniable urge to blog:

"I've always believed that society is judged by how it treats its least vulnerable."

I've never heard the agenda of Republican Congressmen summarized so succintly and powerfully.

Left Behind

It's hard to dispute that Bush's actions in the Middle East, however rash at times, have caused a lot of positive movement for women's rights in the Middle East. Simply the right to vote in Afghani, Palestinian, and Iraqi elections is a major stride forward. In addition to that, Afghanistan has woman ministers in government and Iraq has woman representatives in the soon-to-be-convened General Assembly. Despite that progress, much still is left to be done. Joseph Braude at TNR has a detailed list of atrocities and problems still facing women in the Middle East. Here's a piece:

"Perhaps it is harder to force women into the shadows; but it's still not actually hard. Women remain marginalized and oppressed by many of the Middle East's secular and Islamist governments alike--including both America's allies and its opponents--and it's not clear what exactly the White House intends to do about it. Even in the two countries where the U.S. exerts direct military authority, the cause of women is advancing in some ways but regressing in others. In Afghanistan, human rights organizations report that rape, sex trafficking, and extra-judicial "honor killings" remain prevalent in rural areas, in part because the central government is too weak to exert much control outside Kabul. In Iraq, the security situation has effectively barred many women from leaving their homes to go to school or work. Furthermore, some newly elected Iraqi Islamist parties are pressing to repeal the relatively liberal personal status law for women that has been on the books since 1959. They want to replace it with a version of Islamic law that would take away women's inheritance rights and skew divorce law to favor men. These setbacks are the downside of political destabilization brought about by American hard power. The trouble is, American soft power is weak and inconsistent on the issue of Middle Eastern women--at a time when soft power is precisely what is needed to mitigate the negative side-effects of an aggressive foreign policy."

America has accomplished a lot, and stands on the verge of accomplishing more in the name of global women's rights. In spite of all that we face a dangerous chance to backslide. With all the pushes made, Bush and his cronies have a lot of pushing to do, and should not take the slightest chances to rest on their laurels.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Testimony of MLB

My heart broke a little more today. In my last post about steroids in baseball, I said I still held out some hope that the allegations that Mark McGwire used steroids were untrue. After watching McGwire's moving testimony today in front of Congress, most of that hope is gone. While Raphael Palmero and Sammy Sosa denied ever using steroids, McGwire said he would not answer any questions about whether he, or any players he knew, used performance-enhancing drugs. That sounds suspiciously like an admission and maybe the sooner I accept that the better. Yes, my hero used illegal performance enhancing drugs, and Major League Baseball did nothing at the time to deter him.

If there is any good news that comes from this testimony, it was the attacks on Jose Canseco from most of the players that were testifying. Even Curt Shilling, who was apparently there because he has been an outspoken opponent of steroids in baseball, took the time to discredit Canseco. The importance of that should not be underestimated; the Committee heard from someone inside baseball that they respect that Canseco’s book is just an attempt to make money, and does nothing to deter steroid use in baseball. If only the Committee realized this earlier and refused to even call him as a witness and give him an open forum to push his book.

Lethal Aid

AIPAC has done it again. President Bush's gesture of historic proportions, offering 200 million dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority to build its state up and strengthen its security forces, was gutted by the House. Somehow, also, the House decided it would be a great idea to debate and talk about Arafat as it decided to restrict the aid. I guess they forgot he's dead. I guess they also forgot Israel actually wanted the Palestinians to get this aid too. Added to the other recent travesties of Congress (Bankruptcy Bill and Tom DeLay's Ethics Chairman Toady Switcheroo) this is just breathtaking.

Alterman has his usual vitriolic analysis here:

"Following AIPAC's lead, the committee endorsed the aid in principle and then attached so many conditions to it (mosques and the Internet must be monitored to prevent criticism of Israel, was one of them) that the aid package becomes one big slap in the face to Abu Mazen. (Arafat did not have so many conditions on aid). But no matter. All legislation like this has a "national security waiver" that the President can invoke to provide the aid for national security reasons even if every demand by Congress is not met. So, under intense pressure from AIPAC, the waiver was removed. Bush's hands are tied. It is worth noting that the government of Israel supports the aid, without onerous conditions, as being in Israel's best interests. The Administration says it needs the aid to promote peace and an end to terrorism. And the Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) which represents virtually every major Jewish organization in the country -- including all the local federations -- endorsed the aid without killer amendments. But AIPAC is apparently its own sovereign state so it does what it likes. And it has the ranking Democrat on House Foreign Ops, Nita Lowey, doing its bidding. I guess she thinks she is being pro-Israel by undermining Palestinians trying to end terrorism against Israel."

The taking away of the waiver is just a blinding moment too, not only are they defying Bush's will, they are preventing him from using any discretion to claim any of it back. Alterman believes the AIPAC is behind all of it, and they probably have a lot to do with it, but I think the idiocy, myopia, and prejudice of Congress had more to do with it.

My final fours

Eh, what the hell.

I submitted two brackets. I suspect I just flushed $10 down the drain but oh well.

F4 #1: Boston College, Ga. Tech, Kansas, Mich St. B.C. wins it all in the final game against Kansas.

F4#2: Illinois, Wake, UNC, and Kentucky. Illinois wins it all in matchup over UNC>

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Casualty of Abnormal Normality

Slate's screed on the 11 teams you should hate is hilarious, but I especially enjoy this little rant they included from a Georgetown fan attempting in a gropish fashion to defame Jim Boeheim:

"Jim Boeheim is a single-minded dweeb. If you cut open his shiny, bald skull and looked at his brain under a microscope, you would see that the neurons are permanently frozen in a 2-3 zone. Every day at breakfast, while he reads the morning papers, he sucks the air out of two fresh basketballs using a custom-made straw. Then he bathes in basketball holy water, hauled into his home from wells in Springfield, Mass. Afterward, he flosses his teeth with a basketball net. He smiles in the mirror, and his mouth squeaks like a gym. His false teeth are carved from the same wood as the floor of the Carrier Dome.

All of which is my way of saying that I'm a Georgetown fan. This year, for the seventh time in the last eight years, the Hoyas won't be in the NCAA tournament. I don't know how much longer I can carry on the rivalry without Georgetown making the dance—I'm running out of ways to mock the bionic Boeheim and his perennially successful teams. There he is now, walking courtside with a cane. I hear it's made out of Rony Seikaly's femur."


They implore us to hate Syracuse, because, well, Jim Boeheim's tired strategy ALWAYS WORKS. I'm sure as Boeheim got his 700th win and won the Big East Championship this somehow it's "stale" even though no one has found a way to defeat it. Gee, I guess. . .what? Most of this is just completely nonsensical. We should hate him because his lives and breathes basketball? Isn't that kinda the point of being a basketball coach? Gotta love those "witty" Georgetown fans, as they get smacked down again and again. They remind me of myself trying to talk smack about Virginia Tech football. Another great snark:

"Led by sore-losing, ref-haranguing coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke has long been a hotbed of whininess, but junior J.J. Redick is the first Blue Devil to publicly elevate it to an art form."

This is great reading for sports-fan and ignoramuses alike (of which I am both).