Friday, April 29, 2005

Friday Gatling Blog

Buckle up. It's that time of the week again.

Dan Drezner discusses the future of internet advertising, especially as it relates to blogs and blog syndicates looking to capture new pieces of this huge pie.

One of my favorites, Bamacrat, feels mostly encouraged, but somewhat disheartened by the President's performance last night.

(Disclaimer: I was drinking, and the bar I was at, even though a Republican hangout, didn't show the press conference)

The Debate Link wonders if marriage is being deconstructed post-modernist style by the right.

Winds of Change peers into a gay and lesbian film festival in China and riffs on what it meants about market-communist China's future.

Random Fate, ex-pat, tries to control the rage and frustration of watching his country's politics from afar. I feel that, yo.

Obsidian Wings has a lot about the obscene book-banning in public libraries in Alabama.

DCSOB tells the tourists what NOT TO DO, and the comments section explodes! (you'll find me there). Feel free to leave your own suggestions.

Siberian Light is a great resource for Russian news and has a COLOSSAL weekly roundup, and this week covers an empty speech by Putin and the corrupt Yukos verdict.

Speculist discusses the possibilities of life being destroyed on earth, and how a super volcano is MUCH more likely than a meteorite (but more likely, of course, is Robotic Takeover)

Futurepundit talks oil fields and methane producing bacteria. . .could we have a way to produce LOTS more natural gas?

Big Picture looks at the GDP numbers, and is not encouraged.

Ambivablog has the good, the bad, and the funny. Check, check, and check.

Bull Moose and Faith

I have been thinking about the left's stance on religion in politics for a little while now but haven't had a chance to write about it. Bull Moose has made a great argument;

"Consider the compassion and ecumenicism of the civil rights movement in contrast to the intolerance and the sectarianism of the contemporary religious right. It is no accident that many of the so-called pro-life judges endorsed by the religious right support gutting environmental and worker protection regulations of the past seventy years."

Read his full post - the left needs to be thinking about this seriously.

Hasan Who?

Sergeant Hasan Akbar has been sentenced to death by a court martial.


vert.akbar.wed.ap.jpg

FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (AP) -- A military jury sentenced a soldier to death Thursday for a grenade and rifle attack on his own comrades during the opening days of the Iraq invasion, a barrage that killed two officers and that prosecutors said was driven by religious extremism.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, it most likely shouldn't given the MSM's lack of coverage of the court martial or any of the phases of the investigation and prosecution pursuant to his murderous actions near the frontlines in March 2003 at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Maybe if Hasan were a pregnant hillbilly GI who mocked and sexually humiliated enemy combatants he'd be a household name. I guess being a traitor to your comrades and your country, betraying it for a radical Islamic fundamentalism at the heart of the war on terror which we are fighting, just doesn't have a certain cachet with the media.

###

Thursday, April 28, 2005

So, is anyone live blogging the press conference?

I probably would if I were at work, maybe if I were home, but I won't get home to late tonight.

Talk about Frivolous Lawsuits!

I thought the Republican Party was supposed to be the party opposed to frivolous lawsuits? It looks like the Florida GOP didn't get the memo (Point Progression, via Random Fate). Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), is trying to pass a law called the "Academic Freedom Bill of Rights", which is anything but that.

The law allows students to sue their teachers for teaching "controversial" material without a "legitimate pedagogical purpose." It doesn't take a lot to realize what he's talking about here: Evolution. I really don't know how this is productive in any sense of the term. Although, honestly, I'm sure the ACLU would actually LOVE this law, because so many people would be suing on the basis of their being offended by the "controversial" material that it would be court bonanza. Even if the goal is to get creationism and ID into the classroom, this is counterproductive because the bill would then allow more atheists and children of other religions to sue.

It is as Homer Simpson said. Florida really is America's Wang.

Auster’s Brilliance

I must now use this blog to plug my new favorite author, Paul Auster. I recently read The New York Trilogy, which is made up of three novellas, all set in New York City. He uses the mystery / detective genre to explore language and the narrative style. The three stories are connected in that the characters are exploring identity and the self (and coming to some startling conclusions). His characters are mysterious, but very exciting and real. He often uses authors as characters in his stories, and by doing this, the exploration of the art of writing becomes one of the themes (although not a central theme). These three stories stay with you long after you have read them and continue to make you think, which is the mark of great literature.

Before I read the New York Trilogy, I read Auster’s The Book of Illusions. That has remained one of my favorite books. The character he created, Hector Mann, is by far one of the best characters in modern fiction. There is not another character that I have read that comes to life as fully as Hector Mann does in this story. Hector Mann and the narrator are also exploring their own identities – and while Hector tries desperately to remain forgotten, the narrator tries to create a legacy for both of them.

The true mark of Auster's brilliance is his writing style. A college professor once told me that the most important component of any good writing is the voice of the author – and Auster has an incredible voice. He uses the full spectrum of the English language, but does this while remaining very readable and without sounding verbose. As a reader, you will find yourself pulled into stories that lack the drama and suspense of pop-fiction – and this is because his voice is so powerful. Some reviews on his works call him a post-modern writer. I can't tell you if that is true (or what that means) but I can tell you his work is brilliant.

Mailing back formal offer letters

Maybe I just don't get it because I'm not into snail mail at all.

A friend of mine was offered a job Monday. They emailed her the former offer letter. They want her to snail mail it back.

Wouldn't it just be quicker to FAX it in, signed and dated and to perhaps hand-deliver the original upon arrival the first day of work?

I mean, they want her to start on 9 May 2005.

Why bother with snail mail when a fax will suffice and the original hard copy can be filed in person?

The Disturbing World We Live In

There is a child pornography story out of Orlando, Florida that CNN has been covering. It involves a joint effort of Florida and Canadian law enforcement officials to find one young girl who has been seen in many child pornography photographs they have come across. One of the many problems law enforcement officials face when it comes to child pornography are the laws that prohibit making photos of children who are victims of sexual crimes public. When law enforcement cannot include the public’s help in searching for victims of child pornography, it makes it very difficult to find and stop the people responsible. This story is newsworthy because it shows the creative efforts of the law enforcement officials to track down the victim within the limits of the law. They have showed a picture where the girl has been removed and only the background remains and asked for the public’s help in identifying the location (which they found out was a resort in Disney World). And yesterday they released a picture of a young girl who has not been seen in any illicit pictures, but might be connected to, or have information about, the other girl they have been looking for. These efforts to exhaust every legal avenue possible to find the girl, while also protecting her privacy, are laudable. But the truly disturbing piece of information comes at the end of the CNN article:

“According to Gillespie, police around the world have identified fewer than 500 of the estimated 50,000 children seen in online pornography -- or just 1 percent.”

That law enforcement officials can continue in their work knowing they are making such a small dent in such a big problem is amazing. But it also makes me wonder if maybe we should allow pictures of the victims to be made public. Part of me feels that the chance to free these children outweighs the privacy concerns of the victims. At the very least though, one solution I heard yesterday makes sense: allow photos of the victims’ faces to be made public, but release them with missing children photos. This way we can find the children without announcing to the world that they are victims of sexual crimes. Maybe then we can make a bigger dent in this horrifying problem.

Gnassingbe Anarchy

It's getting much worse in Togo. People are fleeing the tiny country as clashes between security forces and the Gnassingbe's opposition is starting to get intense. The amount of rioting and chaos in Kyrgyzstan made me worry about how far these flare-ups and demonstrations of democracy should permissibly go. This pushes it to the breaking point. Reports allafrica.com:

As furious youths continued to fight government forces from behind barricades built of burning cars and hacked down trees, the opposition candidate in Sunday's election, Emmanuel Bob-Akitani, refused to concede defeat despite the announcement of the official results and instead declared himself president.

"Togolese, your president is speaking to you," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Yes, your president. We have not lost this presidential election."

"We must fight with our lives if necessary to force the one who believes he has a divine right over our people to listen to reason," he said, speaking from a safe house inside a neighbourhood of Lome.


Akitani is doing more than declaring fraud, he's declaring himself the victor. It appears the pent-up rage people had towards Gnassingbe was way more than he anticipated. Similar to Zimbabwe, what few international monitors were there said the election was basically fair. It looks like the people didn't buy it, and unlike in Zimbabwe (where Mugabe has decided, after the election to slaughter elephants and other big game in order to feed his people) they decided they would take the matter into their own hands. This may be a transition to a real democracy, but it could just be dictatorial musical chairs or the beginning of a civil war.

Just Saying

This is a Great Ad. Every ad should feature more angry dogs mauling things and mockeries of metrosexuality.

Baseball Rage

The TV broadcast rights battle over the Nationals continues to spiral into the realm of absurdity. Now it seems as though the only chance for hearing them is going to be through Federal News Radio! And who is there to spike it but James F! Here's a warm fuzzy about Peter Angelos:

"It's hard to describe the unjustifiable level of anger I feel toward Angelos. But I will try to put it in perspective. I would like to take a large metal item, sort of like a giant speculum, and jam it up his rectum. Then, I would clamp the handles together, thus causing him to be eviscerated from the inside out, in a highly gruesome manner. And then, as I'm walking away, someone would come up to me and be all, "Where's Peter Angelos?" and I would answer, "He had to split." In an inexplicably Austrian accent."

If anything, Angelos is guaranteeing through his shenanigans that eventually people in DC are going to downright transform from former O's fans to complete O's haters. And it won't be one of those fun, friendly rivalries. It'll be the battery throwing kind.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Coalition for Darfur: The Man Nobody Knows

On February 24, 2004, an op-ed entitled "The Unnoticed Genocide" appeared in the pages of the Washington Post warning that without humanitarian intervention in Darfur "tens of thousands of civilians [would] die in the weeks and months ahead in what will be continuing genocidal destruction."

Written by Eric Reeves, a literature professor from Smith College, this op-ed was the catalyst that compelled many of us to start learning more about crisis in Darfur which, in turn, led directly to the creation of the Coalition for Darfur.

For over two years, Eric Reeves has been the driving force behind efforts to call attention to the genocide in Darfur by writing weekly updates and providing on-going analysis of the situation on the ground. As early as 2003, Reeves was calling the situation in Darfur a genocide, nine months before former Secretary of State Colin Powell made a similar declaration. In January of 2005, Reeves lashed out against "shamefully irresponsible" journalists who "contented themselves with a shockingly distorting mortality figure for Darfur's ongoing genocide." Reeves' analysis led to a series of news articles highlighting the limitations of the widely cited figure of 70,000 deaths and culminated in a recent Coalition for International Justice survey that concluded that death toll was nearly 400,000; an figure nearly identical to the one Reeves had calculated on his own.

Perhaps most presciently, on March 21st, Reeves warned 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." The following day it was reported that Marian Spivey-Estrada, a USAID worker in Sudan, had been shot in the face during an ambush while "traveling in a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle." The lack of security for aid workers has led some agencies to declare certain areas "No Go" zones or withdraw all together, leaving the internally displaced residents of Darfur without access to food, water or medical care.

And as the Boston Globe reported on Sunday, he has done it all while fighting his own battle with leukemia.

Were it not for Eric Reeves, it is quite possible that the genocide in Darfur would have gone largely unnoticed. We at the Coalition for Darfur offer him our prayers and support and express our heartfelt thanks for all that he has done to prick the nation's conscience on this vitally important issue. We hope that his courage and conviction will be an inspiration to others and that Darfur will soon begin to get the attention that it deserves.

A Touchy Subject across the Pond

Another headache for Michael Howard, likely on his way to a disappointing election next week.

Howard 'sorry' for MRSA hygiene error

PETER MACMAHON

MICHAEL Howard was forced to apologise last night after he broke hygiene rules on a hospital visit intended to highlight his plans to wipe out MRSA.

The Tory leader, who lost his mother-in-law to a hospital acquired infection, promised £10 million yesterday to speed up diagnosis and help to eradicate the problem.

But on a visit to London’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, he failed to follow basic procedures aimed at halting the spread of MRSA.

Mr Howard had carefully scrubbed up before entering the Lady Ann Allerton ward. However, he did not repeat the process between shaking hands with two patients.

Catherine Cook, the hospital’s infection-control nurse, said hands should be cleaned "before you touch a patient and after you touch a patient"

This could have been averted if Howard were able to secure the advisory services of Senator John Kerry, who is quite an expert in maintaining protocol for sterile environments.

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Gnassingbe Larceny

Gnassingbe has been "elected" Togo's "new" "President", with election results from this weekend showing him at 60% of the vote and 38% of the vote for the leading opposition candidate. Here's a recap on what happened with Togo so far from a previous post of mine. Gnassingbe is essentially attempting to "inherit" his father's President-for-Life position as ruler of Togo for 38 years before he died. So how is the opposition taking it? According to allafrica.com:

"Protesters threw up flaming barricades across Togo's capital and a furious opposition urged people to resist after Faure Gnassingbe, son of the late long-ruling president, was declared winner of a presidential poll marred by violence and fraud allegations.

Minutes after the announcement of Gnassingbe's victory on state radio and television on Tuesday, an IRIN correspondent saw crowds of angry youths spill onto the streets of the capital Lome, some waving machetes and hurling stones."


Damn. Not too pleased. Nigeria is trying to broker some sort of compromise between Gnassingbe and the opposition, pushing Gnassingbe to form a unity government. That's unlikely to appease the opposition, especially given the fact that the final vote was missing votes from a full 700 polling stations destroyed during election violence on Sunday. Also, there're widespread reports of Gnassingbe's hoods destroying and seizing ballots. All signs point to stolen, but since this country has the unfortunate problem of being located in Africa, where apparently nascent democracy is ignored (see also, "Zimbabwe") and election fraud not as important as in places like the Ukraine, Lebanon, and Kyrgyzstan. At least South Africa's Mbeki isn't acting as a bagman for Gnassingbe in this case, the Togolese at least have that going for them.

Whether the opposition truly does have the edge or not, this violence and unrest is unlikely to die down and the population hasn't seemed to care much for Gnassingbe since he came to power. Hopefully this hereditary monarchy in disguise will end soon. It would be nice to at least here some U.S. official question this election result, at least to pay lip service to the importance of democracy in Africa's future.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Love GSA! (Screw You, Taxpayer!)

Someone in the building I work in just came down with Legionnaire's Disease. Of course, this sparked some degree of panic and we were informed by the local authorities (GSA, the General Services Administration), that this disease is only contracted through inhaling contaminated water. Of course, what they failed to mention is that it often happens through building ventilation systems. Really encouraging.

I bring this up to illustrate a point. I work in a government building, built by GSA, and it is terrible. It is like an old high school in layout and design, and the internal temperature is a scorching 85 degrees in the winter (and all months the heat is activated), and 55 degrees in the summer (or now, in all months the air conditioning is activated). You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. I have a thermometer. The point I'm illustrating is that GSA, who builds all government buildings and serves as the landlord, supply clerk, and contract creator for the Federal government, is terrible and an aggrevious abuser of federal government, and accordingly, taxpayer dollars. In short, I propose the GSA be renamed Generally Stupid Assclownery. This year they are expected to drop 24 BILLION DOLLARS, if you examine their FY 2006 requested budget. This is from a combination of Congressional Appropriations, and fees collected from other agencies, or, to be real, Other People's Congressional Appropriations.

Some info on GSA fees. GSA is a monopoly when it comes to the following: fleet management, building, and leasing. Basically, whenever a federal agency wants to do any of those things, they are forced to get the services through GSA, and pay GSA a fee on them (usually between .5 and 3%, depending on the service). Also, all telecommunications to federal buildings are also a GSA monopoly. One might argue it makes sense to pay GSA a fee for its services, and having other people do these in other government agencies would be redundant cost. Of course, that's baloney, because GSA has a monopoly and will never be challenged in any of those categories. Also, they're not good at the job. While no one has actually crunched these numbers, anecdotal evidence (talking to other people you share a commercial building with), suggests that the leasing fee GSA charges agencies to operate in commercial buildings GSA hasn't built is astronomically high and completely unreflective of the market. And it has a fee on top of it too.

In addition, GSA has the dreaded Federal Supply Schedules. Whenever you want to get a contract or service, you have to go through FSS, which are pre-negotiated contracts, unless you write a several page memo explaining why you aren't and also explaining why it wouldn't be advantageous to go through FSS. Usually these pre-negotiated vehicles have crappy terms and conditions (though the pricing is good), that can screw you over. Also, you have no flexibility in incentivizing or setting up your contract. And, of course, GSA gets a .75% fee from everything purchased under these contracts. These contracts are totally unpoliced, hence why the Department of the Interior was able to purchase prison translators and interrogators for DOD under an IT Federal Supply Schedule. That's just one horror story among hundreds. Part of the reason why GSA has a new program called "Get It Right!" Because, of course, they can't get it right. That, and GSA Administrator had the nerve to suggest (there are witnesses, but it doesn't appear in the transcript), that ALL contracting be done through GSA. I guess the level of incompetence and exorbitant fees that are already there aren't enough, and I guess we should have people even further detached from the needs of government programs deciding what they actually need.

In short, GSA is a giant parasite, that Congress and the President have ordered all agencies to kindly allow to burrow deep into their rear ends. As long as they are in charge, no agency will be free to actually negotiate the terms of their own leases on the commercial marketplace (and get better prices), or get a large variety of services customized to their own needs from the commercial marketplace. Or have any incentive to get out of crappy buildings. GSA is a giant landlord, and it's a company store, and worst of all it's the most cartoonish and incredulous version of both. A chunk of every dollar of appropriated money goes to feed the beast, and the government would be better off, and agencies freed from expensive chains, without it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Foggy Bloggem

This is an interesting resource. Apparently we at restlessmania are actually harder to read than the Wall Street Journal and write on ALMOST an 8th grade reading level. Wow.

Hat tips: Kevin Drum, via Professor Bainbridge, via Marginal Revolution.

Will Pulling a John Kerry Work? (No)

Michael Howard has opened up the new Tory whupass campaign, and it looks familiar. Does he support the Iraq War? Of course! But he wants to pound and criticize Tony Blair for lying about it so he could get us into it! Meaning. . .???? I'm for the war but against the way Tony Blair convinced me to be for it. Again. . .????

This is exactly the same kind of shenanigans that sunk John Kerry, and it will sink Howard too. Tories are already falling in the polls against labor, down to 33, which is a miserable 9 point lead against the LibDems (24). Labour has stood still after it's recent drops at 37. The election is imminent, so it doesn't look like the Tories can pull it off. The LibDem voters will probably chicken out at the last minute and hop to Labour anyway.

John Kerry tried to dissemble about the Iraq War and pretty much failed on two grounds: 1) to convince pro-war people he was tough enough and 2) to convince anti-war people he was left enough. For that reason he had to stagger to the left, then stagger to the right, then stagger to the left again, losing more credibility each time. He failed to actually define his position from Bush's enough to actually make hawkish liberals want to support him and had to spend too much time shoring up lefty support. Howard is obviously not trying to even get lefty support, but Britain was of course in general much more lefty toward the Iraq War. So, he will develop the opposite problem. Like Kerry could never convince most hawks to go along with him because of his vote against the war supplemental, Howard will fail to convince most doves because he still supports the war. In general, this is a loser of a proposition, and a loser of a strategy. And Michael Howard will be a loser from it.

Wait a Tick

Suspended animation may happen. Researchers have induced a phase close to it in mice, inducing hibernation using hydrogen sulfide and waking the mice up again with a dash of fresh air. Apparently the mice suffered no side effects from the hibernation. What's the deal? Here's the potential uses:

"Slowing metabolic functions to a near standstill preserves organs and other tissues. That could, for example, give critically ill patients awaiting organ transplants more time, keep patients suffering severe blood loss from car accidents or gunshot wounds alive long enough to get transfusions and surgery, minimize damage from heart attacks and strokes, and help minimize the side effects of cancer chemotherapy and radiation."

The research before had been successful on all kinds of less-complex animals, but the mice represent the first time scientists have worked the technique up to a mammal. Metabolic rates fall 90 percent, breathing slowls more than 90 percent, and body temperature drops. The gas used is also naturally produced by animals and used to regulate energy in the body, so this is way more natural than any type of chryogenics. Of course, no one should be surprised DOD is funding the research. I sense there's a project underfoot to put Donald Rumsfeld in suspended animation, so that should the country ever need him again he can be called upon. . .

A Capitol sense of humor

A fairly liberal friend of mine who works for a D-Sen on the Hill.

Me: Negroponte
Me: friend are you still sore that ******* voted for Negroponte
Me: and didn't have the courage to join Wyden and Durbin [sic]* in saying nyet
Hill Staffer: no
Hill Staffer: bush should get his choices unless they have silly moustaches
*I was wrong. It was Tom Harkin. Oh well, same shit, different bull.

Guilty TV pleasures

Fess up guys.

Mine is Las Vegas on NBC. Although I fear this subplot on tonight's show kinda jumps the shark.

HIDE AND SNEAK
9pm 2005-04-25 ALL NEW!

WHEN YOU CAN'T SEE WHAT I CAN SEE - Ed (James Caan) suspects that the Montecito's security system has been breached and that he and his hotel staff are now under surveillance, Danny (Josh Duhamel) and Mike (James Lesure) are employed to expose the identity of the phantom mole. Meanwhile, Sam (Vanessa Marcil) is seduced by a high-rolling vampire when he mysteriously appears in her room. Elsewhere, DeLinda (Molly Sims) escorts her sheepishly innocent Amish cousin as he sows his oats on the Vegas strip before returning to the simple life. Nikki Cox and Marsha Thomason also star. TV-14

Nuking the Opposition

Bill Frist edges closer to the Nuclear Option. I have my own thoughts about this, but the Centrist Coalition sums it up best here, and Joe Gandelman plows into it here. Joe asks all the right questions:

So if the "precedents that worked so well for 214 years" are at stake, why does the filibuster rule exist — and why have people such as Senator Bob Dole cautioned Frist against eliminating it? And why are Republicans running away from the phrase "nuclear option" as if they're horses in the third race at Del Mar?

Gandelman also spells out the potential consequences for both parties:

1. IF THEY LOSE Bill Frist could suffer a setback in his unannounced Presidential bid. This is a critical issue to social conservatives.

2. IF THEY WIN Democrats have vowed to tie up some Senate business.

3. GOPers WHO DON'T VOTE THE PARTY LINE will likely be targeted by conservative groups.

4. IF THE PRESS LETS THE GOP REWRITE HISTORY it will indicate American journalism has lost the essential backbone nurtured through the centuries. You don't let sources reframe news into p.r. if you're a good reporter — and it doesn't matter if you're a conservative or liberal. Sources don't dictate the explanation. The FACTS do.

5. IF THEY WIN depending on the degree of anger on the part of Democrats and backlash on the part of independents it could be one more step towards a realignment of parties — which is what some believe Karl Rove wants, anyway.

6. IF THEY WIN the big question is how traditional and libertarian Republicans will react to it. They may feel it is totally justified and not in the same class as some other controversies.

7. IF THEY WIN and the Democrats overreact, the Democrats could be further hurt by it.

8. No matter what: polarization has increased because of the way this issue is being handled.


This isn't good for either side, and is only likely to destroy whatever bipartisanship we have left. As Frist whines about judges and obstructionist tactics ad nauseum, no one sheds a tear for Clinton's vastly larger number of appointees blocked by Republicans. Because, of course, those were dangerous out-of-the-mainstream liberals, but a judge who thinks all zoning laws are "thievery" is perfectly normal and in-step with what Americans believe. Yeah, right. I put high stock in the Kaus line of reasoning on this. If we should keep filibusters for anything, it should be judges. They have lifelong appointments and therefore should be screened and compromised on way more than any legislation or executive branch appointee.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A dash of political bias in a religious book review

Nancy Zjaba, a writer from Madison, Wisconsin, couldn't resist zinging politically-engaged religious conservatives in her review of a trio of three recently-published religious books. The closing line comes as she finishes up on the third and most-theologically orthodox book, Lauren Winner's, Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity.

Winner's book offers useful insights into current Christian thought on chastity. But her call for a communal sexual ethic is worrying, conjuring images of a "bedroom police." Whether she intends for her ethic to apply to the larger culture is unclear, although she writes that "to embrace chastity is to reconstruct a culture." Whatever her intent, it's easy to imagine her ideas making their way into abstinence-only education programs, where they might well be presented as fact by those who seek to advance their religious beliefs under the guise of sexual education.
What this has to do with the rest of the book is beyond me. Now, I've not read Winner's book, yet, but I've no doubt a good number of religious conservatives are among the numbers who will buy and carefully consider the arguments therein, and seek to, with God's help, change their lifestyle and outlook on sexuality, and seek to impress that view upon the culture with adialogue and argument. That that cultural dialectic is code for government action is more, it seems to me, the paranoid apprehensions and political prejudices of the reviewer, perhaps explained here as she writes how she became disillusioned with evangelical Christian theology while covering a rape trial:

It was the collision of two realities: the horror of sickening violence against a child, of sudden death, of driving through a parking lot and somehow killing a child, and a nearsighted, self-contained and self-satisfied religion that subverted all genuine human experience, good or bad, for its own purposes. It offered glib answers to the world’s problems -- bad things happen because people choose to sin, or simply because “It’s a fallen world.” But if people pray a prayer and are born again, they will be changed. Jesus will judge the sinners who don’t repent.

But how did any of that help the little girl? Should someone have witnessed to her assailant sometime before the rape? What if someone had, but he just chose not to repent? Why should she have to be the victim of his free will?

No, the explanations it offered were futile. And then I realized that, despite my very best efforts to practice the faith, I had not been helped either.

...

I realize now that the girl found help from the best possible source -- herself. Her testimony eventually led to a conviction of the man, who avoided a trial by entering a plea. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She did what a lot of adults couldn’t have done, or couldn’t have done nearly as well.

I prayed for her for a long time after that day. As for me, less than a year later, I stopped attending that church. I got one call from the choir director about a month later, wondering where I was. I told him I’d been traveling on the weekends. That was the last call.

And that was the end of my time as an evangelical. For many years I felt as if God had abandoned me, that I was on my own. Now I realize that to reject a form of faith that was not serving me did not mean that God had left me alone.

I still sometimes wish it had worked, that kind of faith where God scratches us behind the ears and we purr, “symbolic of … trusting peace,” the essayist wrote. But my pain failed to respond and I was driven away, seeking refuge in the wild woods, the realm of uncertainty. It’s where I still am. It is not warm and cozy here, and there are moments of profound fear. But it’s also the only place I’ve been able to find hope and some small understanding of how a person might be healed.


Look, the woman's free to believe what she will and bring her skepticism to the fore when reviewing a book. But clearly she let her prejudices from past church experiences, and her view on American politics, find its way into a religious book review.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Friday Gatling Blog

Again, stuff I saw this week that interested me. There's ever more! This week is pretty political.

Staunch Moderate smacks down the USDA's Food Tetrahedron.

Transparent Eye ponders Benedict XVI's real ideology and past politics.

Arnold P. California at Demagogue wonders if events in Spain prove that Osama supports gay marriage.

The Debate Link tackles the unconstitutionality of a gay adoption law in Texas.

Crooked Timber talks oil, and the comment section explodes.

Obsidian Wings calls out Microsoft for cowardice and kowtowing.

Froggy and Smash toss out the rumors and possibilities of terrorist SCUBA attacks as unfeasible.

Slacktivist tries to get to what the word liberal and liberalism mean and the judiciary, and that the idea becomes all the more confused, and that a lot of it originally had to do with the Puritan ideal of "freedom of conscience."

Alex Tabarrok Marginal Revolution, no haven for liberalism, questions the validity of the academic discrimination studies, and, for that matter, discrimination studies in general, on the basis of self-selection bias. Dan Drezner, also far from liberal, actually concurs.

Running Scared takes the time to actually break down and analyze a credit card offer's terms and conditions. It's scary.

Bacon's Rebellion weighs in on the VA state Dem and GOP Primaries. I agree with them on both counts.

Red State updates us on the move to stop the FEC from completely ruining blogging. It looks like Congress might come through for us on this one.

Ambivablog discusses the "skirt strategy" for Bush's judicial nominees.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Vote Counts

Rep. Tom Davis eats the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for lunch in a pro-growth vs. smart-growth brawl. I voted for the guy last Fall, and I'm lovin' it.

Now if he could only convince Congress to provide more funding for Metro...

Is Brooks that Naive?

I can’t decide whether David Brooks of the New York Times is naive or if he knows his argument is bunk but is hoping to pull a fast one. In his recent Op-Ed piece in the Times, he claims that politics will become less divisive only when Roe v. Wade is overturned. To think that the abortion issue will become less divisive and cause less conflict once the controversial Supreme Court decision is overturned is ludicrous.

If a new and more conservative Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, every state legislature as well as Congress would be embroiled in the fight over abortion. Now I realize that the legislative branch of government was created to decide on policy and pass laws, so I am not arguing that the legislatures are the wrong place for this issue to be decided. But the fight over abortion laws would just as divisive as current fights over judicial nominations. Furthermore, with a Republican dominated Congress, and a strongly pro-life President, the federal government would likely try to pass anti-abortion laws (which the Democrats in the Senate would try to filibuster while Republicans might look into the Nuclear option again). If federal legislation did pass, it would cause the more liberal states to fight the issue arguing for states’ rights, sending this back to the courts. That Brooks thinks compromise legislation would be agreed on once the issue is back in the legislature is absurd. To most people, there is no middle ground on abortion. Either life begins at conception or it doesn’t. We have to accept that this issue is incredibly divisive and that no matter where the battle is carried out, it will be hard fought and very emotional.

I also disagree with his contention that the only reason Federal Court appointments are contentious is because of abortion. Democrats will always be opposed to nominations of very far right justices (in the same way that Republicans opposed Clinton appointments that they thought were too far left).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Blogging politicos

I came across this tonight and I checked out Rep. Tancredo's blog. Not a dazzling or manically updated blog, but I applaud Tancredo's cajones, particularly for allowing freewheeling commentary from yutzes in the blogosphere.

Of the handful of congressional "blogs," most lack the capability for readers to post comments at will, making them at best a one-way online diary—though the press-release quality of much of the writing leaves much to be desired.

Why don’t more politicians blog?

Only a few Members of Congress have features that they call blogs on their actual congressional websites, among them Senator Jim Talent (R-MO), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). But, most of these aren’t true blogs. Inherent in a blog is the ability to post comments and have online discussions. A few Members regularly post, but only one— Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO)—has embraced the open, unfiltered nature of blogging with ongoing unadulterated threads. A few other members have blogs – or more specifically remnants of blogs, but they have only been updated once or twice, clearly a project that didn’t catch on.

This reminds me of a discussion I had with a fellow conservative colleague about the merits and demerits of having a blog on the website of our place of employment which had a comment field which didn't require administrator approval but was free for any old yutz to use as a soap box within the linked commentary segment.

My contention was that while a blog needn't have a comment option in order to be a blog, the culture of the blogosphere, regardless of ideology, frowns on fear of oppositional commentary and smiles on interaction and sharp conflict between blog authors/editors and their feisty readership.

Besides, with the overabundance of blogs and the unlikelihood of rising to the cream of the crop in terms of web traffic, it's my belief that everything finds its own level and the potential conflict from blog item comments are minimal.

Plain and simple: if your blog item is 100 percent factually accurate and your opinion is not extreme or patently offensive/violence inciting, you're really not going to rock any boats to the point of capsizing.

Besides, I'm hoping that someday in the future there will be a market for professional political ghostbloggers for politicians and the like so that I can shamelessly make a living off of my hobby.

Oh well, a conservative rebel can dream, at least.

Maybe I was Wrong

I used to argue that the Las Vegas “What happens here, stays here” ad campaign was a bad idea. Although I generally don’t like that slogan as a philosophy (even a temporary one), that isn’t the real problem I had with it. My problem was that I thought Las Vegas should be spending advertisement money on a campaign that brings new people to the city. It was my opinion that everyone already knew Vegas had the reputation of being a crazy place where you do stuff you might not otherwise do. So if it already had that reputation, then it would be a waste of money to just repeat that message. Basically, I thought the ads should be geared towards showing off the family friendly environment. This way, the city would already attract those that know and like the “what happens here” idea of Vegas, and it would also attract families.

But after reading through this article in the NY Times, I realized that my idea of Vegas was very outdated. It turns out that Las Vegas isn’t trying to appeal to families; it is trying to appeal to adults who want to pay for luxury. In this way it has moved away from being associated only with gambling – entertainment and the nightlife are a very big part of the attraction. You no longer have to be a high roller to stay in the expensive rooms or suites – now you can pay for them. And it is that ad campaign that is helping attract adults looking for both luxury and excitement. I bet it is no coincidence that one of the commercials has a group of girls riding in a limo all laughing at one of the girls. It shows the girls enjoying luxury, entertainment, as well as a little intrigue. So, yes, I admit I was wrong about the ad campaign. It does seem to be working well to portray the image that Las Vegas wants of itself. But that doesn't mean you will see me there any time soon.

Coalition for Darfur: While We Were Distracted

In 1994, a genocide took place in Rwanda and it is probably safe to say that few of us remember hearing much about it. How was it possible, we now ask ourselves, that we could have so easily ignored the brutal slaughter of nearly one million people.

A look back to those 100 days in 1994 reveals that while we may not have heard much about Rwanda, we most certainly heard a great deal about many other things.

April to July 1994: A Timeline

On April 7, 1994 Rwandan soldiers and trained militias armed with machetes unleashed a murderous campaign to destroy the minority Tutsi population.

On April 8, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gun shot wound.

On April 15, an estimated 20,000 Rwandans who had sought shelter Nyarubuye Church were slaughtered by government forces and members of the Interahamwe militia.

On April 22, former President Richard Nixon died and his funeral was held five days later.

On May 5, Michael Fay, an 18 year-old US citizen, was caned in Singapore as punishment for vandalism.

In mid May, the International Red Cross estimated that 500,000 Rwandans had been killed.

On June 17, OJ Simpson led police on a slow speed chase in a White Ford Bronco.

On July 4, the rebel army took control of the Rwandan capitol of Kigali and the genocide came to an end in a country littered with nearly one million corpses. It is widely acknowledged that the world largely ignored the genocide in 1994 and failed the people of Rwanda. A decade later, it is worth asking if our priorities have changed.

On September 8, 2004 "60 Minutes" ran a controversial story regarding President Bush's service in the Air National Guard that relied, in part, on forged memos.

On September 9, former Secretary of State Colin Powell officially declared that genocide was taking place in Darfur, Sudan.

On October 4, Romeo Dallaire, the head of the UN mission in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide warned that the world was responding to the crisis in Darfur much in the same way it responded to the genocide in Rwanda – with complete indifference.

On October 6, comedian Rodney Dangerfield died.

On January 24, 2005, Johnny Carson died.

On January 25, the UN released a report chronicling "serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law amounting to crimes under international law"; among them the "killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence."

On March 11, Brian Nichols overpowered a deputy, stole her gun and killed three people in an Atlanta courthouse before escaping.

On March 14, the United Nation's estimated that at least 180,000 people have died in Darfur in the last year and a half.

Ten years ago, a genocide unfolded right in front of our eyes, but the media was more focused on the legal problems of various celebrities than it was on the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Africa.

And the same thing is happening today.

One has to wonder if, ten years from now, we'll be saying to one another "I vaguely remember hearing about the genocide in Sudan. It took place about the time of the Michael Jackson trial, right?"

We at the Coalition for Darfur ask you to join us in raising awareness of the genocide and to consider making a small donation to any of the organizations providing life saving assistance to the neglected people of Darfur.

Rove on Campus

Karl Rove gave a speech recently at a liberal arts college about the role of journalism and the media. I don’t know what came over him, but he actually made a compelling argument. He didn’t do the expected, which is to attack the media as having a liberal bias. Instead he described the media as oppositionist and more willing to cover the horse race rather than content driven news stories. This isn’t an entirely new argument. Thomas Patterson, a political science professor at Syracuse University, made a similar argument in his book Out of Order. He found that most news stories about political races were more negative than positive (and this held true for both parties). His argument wasn't new when he first made it either, but his book backs up the argument with strong analysis. That journalists prefer to cover the race or scandal has been true for quite a while, and some say it is getting worse. Whether it started after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke open the Watergate scandal leading every reporter that followed to use them as their role model and watchdog journalism as their style, or if it is a consequence of intense competition among a media market saturated with 24 hour news, it still needs to be fixed. Journalists have a responsibility to be informed and objective and to provide important information to the public. And showing a new poll every night of which candidate is in the lead is not important information unless it is followed or preceded by their positions on the issues.

Rove makes another really good argument, but it is more than a little hypocritical coming from him; and the Washington Post didn’t hesitate to point that out. I’ll let the Post article speak for itself:

Similarly, Rove attested that "most people I know on both sides of the aisle actually believe in the positions they take," and he proposed a rule: "Unless you have clear evidence to the contrary, commentators should answer arguments instead of impugning the motives of those with whom they disagree." But he did not square that with a White House that routinely challenges the motives of those who question Bush, calling them "partisan" and "petty."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Why Not an USDA Beeramid?

The old USDA Food Pyramid was one size-fits-all, and it had its problems. So what did they decide to do? Why not create a 12-part labyrinthine arrangement with a 70 page booklet to replace it! There's nothing like creating 23 general guidelines and 18 special guidelines for older people to answer everyone's questions and create even more! Go here for the Executive Summary! (This is so sad, I don't know what to really think about it. . .) Supposedly you can look at the pyramid at mypyramid.gov, but it's still under construction.

Thank you, USDA, for proving to us again why you are useless and should be defunded.

Eco-Terrorist Bookworm Has Book Thrown At Him

“I want nothing more than to be a physicist,” Cottrell said. “I would do anything to earn any leniency the court could show in this matter.”

That's what aspiring physicist and convicted eco-terrorist Cottrell said before the judge threw the book at him. 8 years in prison for the firebombing of car dealerships and vandalism against SUVs. As someone who hates the H2 with the fire of a thousand suns (especially the ones that decide to make U-turns in the middle of M-street at the height of Georgetown Traffic) and all other SUVs to a lesser extent, I still can't find any sympathy for this guy. His defense hoped for the five year minimum, stating that he had a form of autism that kept him from backing out of the fire bombing when it started. I just don't buy it, and neither did the judge.

People like Cottrell and his ilk, in all their eco-terrorist actions, do more to discredit the environmental movement than any Michael Crichton novel (or maybe they provide the inspiration for Michael Crichton novels. . .) and deserve to be behind bars with any other criminals, vandals, and abortion clinic bombers. And, honestly, if he had been anything other than a grad student at CalTech he probably would've gotten even more time.

Habemus Papam

Ah, papal election in the era of 24/7 News. Most nets are titling it "New Pope Elected" while Fox News has "We Have a Pope."

I like the bells. Nice touch. It adds to the festiveness. But of course, if the new pope is more dour and reserved in demeanor, it might kinda ruin the moment. Or maybe not.

Does Reuters have bugging equipment or...

... are they just making assumptions here:

No Pope Chosen After Three Conclave Votes
Tue Apr 19, 2005 08:38 AM ET

By Philip Pullella and Crispian Balmer

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A secret conclave of Roman Catholic cardinals failed to choose a new pope in two more votes on Tuesday, indicating rival wings of the Church were still maneuvering for position.

This doesn't necessarily mean it's an epic struggle between rival factions. It could be two or three strong candidates from a more conservative wing of the Church who are in the running against each other. In other words, it could be more like a presidential primary than a general election: each candidate is very similar in theology and practice, but each brings a certain level of personal support on the expectation of patronage and/or the issue is more of persona and charisma and not policy direction or doctrinal standing.

The rival factions storyline is both a) convenient for the media looking for an interesting story and b) useful to the media to be able to bring out more liberal critics of the Church into prominence, their causes being trumpeted not on the strength of their merits per se but on the strength of the media-constructed storyline of a titanic struggle between conservatism and liberalism in the Church.

Maybe that's all well and good and makes for entertaining reading, but let's not kid ourselves: when conservatives in more liberal churches struggle to reassert doctrinal orthodoxy, their case is not given the weight and consideration that it should. The media need to put that in their pipes and smoke it the next time conservatives in the Presbyterian Church USA or the Episcopal Church wage ecclesiastic warfare upon more liberal strains of theology which have sickened the body of Christ.

A-76 and ADA

Rick Heller poses the question at Centerfield of whether or not the A-76 Outsourcing Initiative in government has harmed disabled workers. The answer is yes, as I can personally attest to. A-76, for those who don't know, was born long ago, pre-Bush and pre-Clinton with the FAIR Act (Federal Agency Inventory Reporting). FAIR required agencies to categorize and inventory all agency jobs into "commercial" and "inherently governmental", and to place as many of those jobs available for competition as possible. Bush often is credited with inventing it, but it was during the Clinton years that real, genuine A-76 efforts began, and were elevated to a more public face with Bush's President's Management Agenda. A-76 made a lot of sense in cases. Did every agency need a wood shop staffed by government employees? Did every agency need government-employeed window washers? The list goes on.

The point Heller makes, though, is one that is becoming startling. As the most conservative estimates put the ratio of contractors to federal employees at 2 to 1 (based on numbers pre-2000, but contracting and A-76 have become much more rampant since then, hiring a million more contractors) almost every function possible is being contracted out. The jobs most dubbed "commercial" are blue-collar jobs. Janitorial services, mail room, building services, administrative and clerical jobs, and others most get it. Other "white collar" jobs like accountants, IT, and legal spots are also being contracted out and dubbed "commercial" (like writing Agency Final Determinations in discrimination cases, right?), but for the most part it's the blue collar ones. The hidden casualty of this is that the government typically hires lots of disabled people, either mentally-challenged or otherwise, to work in these blue-collar jobs. Then, when the A-76 comes around, they are essentially disposed of, and without all the legal complications of firing them. The award goes to the most efficient firm, and rarely does that mean that they hire people with disabilities.

So does the A-76 violate the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)? Of course not, although it creates an easy way to get rid of the less-efficient disabled people the government makes it a policy to hire, since there's no such mandatory policy in place in the private sector. We can go round and round in circles about this, but to me it's better use of taxpayer dollars to pay a little bit extra to get them a job than it would be paying them benefits to sit home, watch tv, and become morbidly obese. Of course, some would probably like to cut them off entirely, but no one with real sense. I have seen and heard of mail rooms being contracted out constantly, which are usually full of disabled people, since those jobs are the easiest to part with using A-76. And, since A-76 and the Management Agenda only give you points for how many job competitions you conduct (not on quality and money saved, just quantity), those are going to be the victims. What's the answer? If A-76 provided some protection for disabled workers, that would be a start, but the problem is deeper. The OMB Scorecard for agencies on competitive sourcing should be more about looking at quality of what is outsourced instead of quantity. While many want to claim victory just be getting less employees on government payrolls, it may be a Pyrrhic victory indeed if it means more disabled people on the dole, poorer services, and a death of institutional capacity, learning, and synergy, which often contracted out projects lead to. Merely swapping out government employees for a batch of contractors often doesn't do anything but cause disruption and save no more than pennies on the dollar. A-76 should be more about overall organizational transformation, not just musical chairs.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Clear As Day (Screw You, Taxpayer!)

That we should get something for taxpayer money is a given, that is to anyone who isn't a politician. Talk of unrestrained free market leads to a slippery slope of anarcho-capitalism, and talk of state activism turns to socialism or totalitarianism. I like to turn out a more simplistic question, government should do what WORKS, or what it's capable of doing. Government Agencies are getting better at conveying what they're up to and what impact it is having, as a recent event from GMU's Mercatus Center and David Walker (Head of GAO) attest to. The federal government until recent history (pre-Clinton) was accountable to only one thing: satisfying the politics of the people running it. Since then, there's been an attempt (though half-assed because politics and mad rhetoric will always be king and queen), to make government about results. Labor, State, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs won awards from Mercatus for their performance reporting effort. (Note: This is about the quality of the reports, not the performance, hence why VA can get anywhere even though it's record is abysmal). Government Executive reports:

"The State, Commerce, and Justice departments were among the top-rated agencies that jumped up the ratings scale compared to fiscal 2003. "[State] has done a lot better job of defining outcomes and has shown steady improvement for several years," said Ellig. He added that the agency does an especially good job of clearly explaining its work to outsiders.

That ability--which Mercatus rates under its transparency criteria--is important not only so taxpayers can understand how an agency is performing, but so members of Congress can understand, said Ellig. "Members of Congress are not necessarily familiar with the minutiae of what agencies do," he said. "


So what's the issue? 90% of funding goes to agencies that rate below satisfactory. One of the worst reporters and least accountable agencies? DOD. . .the mother of all cash cows, with Homeland Security close behind. That calls for a word on the politics of this. You could consider me a small-government liberal, or perhaps an ideological pessimist. I believe that government can't solve problems except for a limited few, and the free market can't either except for a limited few. The issue is the uncertainty in what those few are. Conservatives rail against whatever they can, slashing anything they don't like (unless it might benefit a few wealthy buddies and/or has Defense written on it) with little regard to whether it has positive impact on the principle of smaller government as an end in itself. Liberals prop up and advocate programs that have never had any history of working because they theoretically "help people." A lot of this gets bogged down in hypocrisy, and sound judgments are never made because no one really asks the question "does the program work?" before they political assassinate it or reinforce it.

The sunshine of transparency is a tricky thing for government and politicians, and challenges even the most principled. Boosting the budgets of inspectors generals, GAOs, and program analysts is a double edged sword. It gives you ammo to wipe out political adversaries and their pet programs but puts you in the same shoes. And that's why these efforts aren't pushed as much as they should be, nor why program evaluation and transparency fall at the bottom of the list. Answering the question "What is the state capable of doing?" is a much more useful question than the ideology of "What should the state be doing?" At the very least you have to know the answer to the first question before you can answer the second question. The devil is in the details.

Project Sasquatch

From a favorite, Query Letters I Love:

"During a field-training exercise in Alaska, the U.S. military capture a young Sasquatch. Years later, thanks to his paranormal capabilities, this Sasquatch becomes a most unusual and dangerous weapon in the fight against international terrorism."

Wow. You know, the funny thing about this, is funding such a project would probably yield more effectual and real results than 80% of DOD weapons programs.

The UN. . .Accomplished Something?

I'm as shocked as anyone. The genocide in the Congo is serious business, and has been going on for a long time. For all we talk about the atrocities of Darfur, which are atrocities because they have all the appearance of being perpetrated by the state, the endless civil wars in the Congo have cost many more lives than both Darfur and Rwanda combined. For an overview, see Global Security's summary, but it has been estimated that as many as 3 million people have been killed in Congo's endless wars SINCE 1998. Recent history puts the total at around 50 million whose lives have been affected by this interstate war. Another roundup of news is captured at AllAfrica here. As always, Allafrica's indexing by country is helpful. Every one of Congo's neighbors has bloody hands in the matter as well, especially Uganda. Part of the problem is the complexity of Congo's 200 different ethnic groups, all of which seem to have their own militia (and to think only 3 in Iraq make it difficult).

The modus operandi for ending this enormously bloody conflict has been negotiations with each of the major militia groups in attempts to convince them all to slowly disarm one by one. The UN Mission added onto this disarmament deadlines for all militia groups in each region. In the district of Ituri, this approach has yielded major headway. The largest groups have peacefully disarmed, and plan to join the political process. It's more than a little good news that in this district, the war may finally be over. With Congo's diversity, it makes sense to try to end the conflict on a piece by piece basis, since the scale and complexity of groups involved renders it one of the most difficult conflict resolution dilemmas ever. It bodes well for this UN Mission that it was able to accomplish this minor breakthrough in getting all the groups in the district to disarm, especially since the track record of UN Missions in Congo and elsewhere up to this point is spotty at best. One major group, the UPC, have declared that any remaining armed members are outlaws, basically denouncing any of their own people who decide to keep weapons. Let's hope that this spreads further throughout Congo, but the odds and history are against peace in this case, and sadly against the lives of the Congolese as well.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Casting Call

Hey you.

Yeah, you.

All right, here it is. We at Restless Mania try our best to provide you quality content from a variety of obnoxious viewpoints. In that vein, we are seeking to expand and add new contributors. Anyone who reads this blog, and/or has friends who don't read this blog but might be interested and thinks they've got the stuff and something to say, and thinks they fit with our model or could bring something different to the table, email me. You can just click on the link to the right for me and you'll find the link to my email. State what you plan to write about, why you're at least as obnoxious as the rest of us, and that you'll pledge to contribute REGULARLY, unlike SOME people who are "contributors" on this blog.

Political persuasion, as seen by the constant fistfights between Prince, Chainz, and me, don't matter all that much. This is a bi-partisan, full spectrum blog. Let the auditions begin!

Friday Gatling Blog

As last week, I'm bringing you posts all over the blogosphere I find interesting. We have, for this week, the sexiness of President Bush, John Bolton flashback, screwing with 9:30 Club hipsters, and weaknesses of China. Here we go!

BlondeSense analyzes a survey, a WORLDWIDE survey, about how sexy women find President Bush.

Rudepundit provides transcripts and thoughts on the John Bolton of 1999 and he finds: flip flopping!

A kinder, gentler James F at why.i.hate.dc declares that he does care about DC, and that's why the fact that it sucks bothers him so much.

DCeiver mocks DC hipsters and scenesters over ticket presales yet again in hilarious dramatic play format.

The Glittering Eye finds weakness number 1 in China, the graying of the population, a consequence of the "one child policy."

Centerfield discusses a protest in China, China weakness number 2.

Staunch Moderate tackles that paradox: more cameras in public places yields more privacy?

Ambivablog muses over the absurd act of writing a real letter on stationary in today's digital world.

And, Charging RINO discusses Lincoln's legacy on the anniversary of his assasination yesterday.

A Perfect Day at RFK

Baseball is officially back to our nation’s capital. Tonight was the home opener at RFK Stadium and the atmosphere was almost like a playoff game. As I took the escalator up from the metro station platform, there was a line of fans looking for tickets, but I swear they were there to welcome us. The crowds were filled with people wearing Nationals hats and shirts and with the first pitch came hundreds of flash bulbs keeping that moment for posterity. The crowd went crazy after Nationals starting pitcher Livan Hernandez’s first strike out, and after the National’s first hit, first run, and first home run. Make no mistake, Washington is a baseball town that has been waiting for a baseball team. I am looking forward to seeing some more games this season, and many more games during my life in DC.

The atmosphere was perfect, and so was the game. Livan Hernandez was awesome giving up only one hit and no runs through eight innings - and then had a rough ninth inning giving up a three run home run. Vinny Castilla went 3-3 with a home run, a double, a triple and 4 RBI. He was a base hit away from hitting for the cycle, and might have gotten it if relief pitcher Lance Cormier hadn’t hit him with the first pitch. Chad Cordero came in for the ninth to save the 5-3 Nationals win.

The home opener brought out some of Washington’s finest. President Bush threw out the first pitch - from the mound - and although it might have been a little high, at least it reached without bouncing. Also attending the game was our nation’s highest law enforcement official, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Chris Matthews and a number of US Senators. At the beginning of the game they recognized many of the people responsible for bringing the Nationals to DC, and City Council President Linda Cropp was loudly booed. Apparently the fans remember when she thrust herself into the spotlight trying to prevent (or change) the new stadium deal.

The game was exciting, and the fans were great. RFK Stadium is a good venue for baseball. I think this team will surprise us. The players are excited to be in a town that has been waiting so long to have them. And for now they own sole possession of first place in the National League East.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Don't Drink the Water

It never seems to amaze how something that is thought of as common sense can actually turn around and bite you. That's right, if you drink TOO MUCH WATER before a race, it can kill you. An article published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine based on studies of marathon runners cautions that more is not better when it comes to fluids. The condition is called hyponatremia, and happens when the salt in the body is diluted by too much water. Sports drinks and such have the same effect, so you're not safe switching just to gatorade. The researchers state that runners should drink only enough water to replace that lost in sweat and no more, and if you gain significant weight during a workout or training, it's a sign you could be drinking too much.

Where's the mercy?

I wouldn't have fired this guy. In general I think it's a nasty affliction in our culture that some stupid mistake that is an aberration in a career rather than a pattern gets enough publicity and you're canned. It's not very illustrative of mercy or grace, something I would expect from a Christian radio station.


An evangelical Christian talk show host who questioned the beliefs of the Catholic church and entertained a caller's question about whether the late Pope John Paul II would go to heaven has been fired.

Marty Minto, 39, a senior pastor at a New Castle church, was fired Friday after three years as a host on WORD-FM in Pittsburgh. He said he was told that he was alienating listeners. "As far as I'm concerned, I was doing what I've always done on the radio -- look at events around the world from a biblical perspective. I've always been willing to talk about controversial subjects," said Minto, who has had shows in Albany, N.Y., Denver and Phoenix.

Last week, Minto questioned some of the Catholic church's beliefs, such as purgatory, and fielded a question from a caller who asked whether the pope would go to heaven. Many evangelical Christians believe that someone must be a "born-again" believer to enter heaven. Minto, who is also senior pastor of the 100-member Turning Point Community Church, said he told the caller that whether someone was born-again was personal and "between an individual and the Creator." Chuck Gratner, general manager of WORD-FM, didn't dispute Minto's description and said he was let go because of differences in how he conducted his show. "WORD-FM needs to function in this city in support of the entire church -- that means everybody -- and not focus on denominational issues," Gratner said.
Whatever. This incident breeded a controversy and conflict which caused people to tune in and that energy should have been harnassed to respectfully discuss sin, redemption, judgment, grace, mortality, and Christ.

Rev. Minto could have been spurred on to publicly apologize for his poor wording and then, as penance, to co-host a special edition of his program with a Catholic where the two could discuss evangelical Protestant and Catholic theology where the two are not so divided: on the essentials of the faith and can cooperate in reaching the world's spiritual, educational, and material needs.

That's how I would have handled it as general manager. It's a shame that Gratner didn't see it the same way.

###

The Whining about Bolton

Okay, I've been thinking a bit about the complaints against John Bolton. It seems they all boil down to

1) he hates the UN
2) he reamed out intel analysts who didn't see things quite the way he did

Now, obviously, #1 is an exaggeration. Perhaps John Bolton has a certain disdain for the UN as a feckless, spineless organization prone to corruption. But the oil-for-food scandal, sexual abuse of civilians by UN peacekeepers, and the inability of the UN to keep out thuggish regimes like Syria from its human rights commission are all evidence that the UN, while a key component to American diplomacy, is a deeply flawed one that needs to be treated with a bit of tough love.

Would the Democrats rather have a UN apologist as the Bush-appointed genuflector to the rest of the world, especially when the UN shows itself unable or unwilling to clean up its act.

As for #2, it seems to me that intel analysts who cower in corners and suck their thumbs due to a dressing-down by a political appointee are not fit for the job. And certainly it does reassure me that a political appointee like Bolton concerns himself enough with the nitty-gritty of the policy aspects of the job to voice strong opinions to a subordinate with whom he disagrees.

Obviously if blackmail or strongarming tactics can be proved, that's a different story. But I think the Democratic pattern of finding whiney sniveling bureaucrats who pee their pants at questions from Cheney or Bolton doesn't exactly do much to inspire confidence in our intelligence agencies. Maybe it plays well to the base, but for as many Democrats harumph about Cheney or Bolton allegedly chewing out a poor wittle intel analyst, there are Republicans like me who say "suck it up" and expect our career government workers in intelligence and defense policy to be able to weather the bullshit from any politician, Republican or Democrat.

Quite simply, neither the senior officials of the Bush Administration nor the entrenched careerists in the intelligence community are infallible oracles of geopolitics. There always have been and always will be sharp debate on policy, especially between policy-setting political appointees and policy-executing careerists.

Anti-Choice Pick Their Next Target

Dahlia Lithwick has a Jurisprudence piece over at Slate depicting the issue of "conscience clause" and it's extension now from doctors to pharmacists. That may seem like no big deal, but it's a whole new front in the abortion/life/choice war. This isn't about RU-486. This isn't about abortion. It's simply about birth control pills, and in the most extreme cases emergency contraception. 11 states are, for all intents and purposes, planning to greatly restrict access to these LEGALLY approved FDA drugs, subject to the personal whims and convictions of pharmacists. It's under the radar for now, but make no mistake this is probably a bigger attack on right to choose than any appointment of a pro-life judge to the Supreme Court. Why? Here's why:

"Whatever you may think of the morality of taking a morning-after pill, the incontrovertible fact is that it loses efficacy after 24 hours and becomes virtually useless after 72. So, one pharmacist's refusal to dispense them can rapidly morph into an unwanted pregnancy. That means—particularly in isolated or rural communities—the religious objections of the pharmacist can trump the mother's legal rights. This may well lead—as noted recently by the St. Petersburg Times—to an increased number of later-term abortions. Which would be ironic, were it not so sad."

Think this is liberal hysterics about a bunch of hypotheticals? No, it's not:

"For a pharmacist to subordinate a physician's judgment to his own is the height of arrogance. Reports from around the country—of pharmacists delivering hectoring lectures, discriminating against unmarried women, or refusing to return prescription forms to be filled elsewhere—reveal what happens when pharmacists are allowed to interpose their own values between a physician's medical judgment and the needs of her patient. Does the guy who drives the Pfizer delivery van hold an analogous right to be a conscientious objector?"

As for my position on abortion, I've said it in the most wishy-washy nuanced way before. I'm a step beyond "safe, legal, and rare" but generally I recognize that it has to exist, because the consequences of not allowing it destroy and violate more than allowing it. But that's not the argument here. That's not even what's under discussion here. The pro-choicers held the battlefield for a long time because they effectively managed to combine birth control, contraception, and abortion into a seamless package. Because the right tended to attack it all at once, it was easier for the left to draw attention away from the nasty aspects of abortions.

Then the pro-lifers repositioned themselves. Largely, most of the mainline pro-life movement dropped their criticism of birth control (and also because emergency contraception didn't much exist at the time), and tailored their attacks on only the gruesome aspects of abortion, particularly partial birth and late-term abortion. This repositioning allowed them to take most of the field. For the history of this pivot, see Saletan's piece here, or read his book. Now we're back around again. A lot on the conservative side, embolden by this shift, are reopening the attack on contraception.

If pro-choice activists are smart, they will pivot as well and portray this for what it is, a denial of medical service, an invasion of privacy, and a trumping of people's right to make decisions about their bodies, and this time it's just about whether they want to risk getting pregnant or not, not whether they already are pregnant. These pharmacists and their allies would deny even that right. My guess is if they keep pursuing this line the pro-life movement (or, in this case I would say the anti-choice movement, because only whackos would argue that birth control is tantamount to abortion or murder) will overextend itself, but unless those who dissent draw attention to it and raise awareness, this fringe could overextend itself and keep on going.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Warning: Sarcasm Ahead

I am so glad that a large majority of the population believes that it is okay for homosexuals to participate in sports. Talk about a meaningful statement about this country’s support for all athletes regardless of their sexual orientation. Granted, most of this country doesn’t want to allow two homosexuals to live in a monogamous relationship that is recognized by the state, but at least we are okay with them playing for our favorite sports team. In case you can’t tell because you can’t hear the tone of my voice, I am being more than a little sarcastic. Although I am happy that this survey showed mostly positive results, I still think it means very little. The survey results don't show an acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, but instead that sports fans can ignore that lifestyle and continue to enjoy the sport.

Although most of the questions showed positive answers regarding the respondents’ feelings towards homosexuals in sports, there was one answer that was a little disturbing:

I admire an athlete who is openly gay: 48% Agree - 52% Disagree

Does this mean that athletes should assume there is a “don’t ask – don’t tell” policy in sports too?

Coalition for Darfur: Lacking the Political Will

In the last few days, international donors have pledged $4.5 billion in reconstruction aid to Sudan as part of the north/south peace process. And though much if this aid is nominally contingent on Khartoum's ability and willingness to end the violence in Darfur, it remains to be seen if the international community is truly willing to risk undermining the long sought peace agreement by demanding an end to the genocide.

For a year and a half, the UN and others have tread carefully, fearful that too much pressure on Khartoum would derail the north/south peace process. And Khartoum has relentlessly exploited that fear by, for instance, warning that the recent Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court "threatens Sudan's stability."

And while the world focuses on protecting the peace agreement, Darfur continues to deteriorate.
Yesterday, the World Food Program warned that, due to lack of funding, nearly 200,000 refugees who have fled into Chad risk going hungry in the coming months. And just last week, the WFP warned that it will be forced to cut food rations for more than one million people living in the western region of Darfur, again for lack of funds.

Last Friday, UNICEF warned that an estimated four million people in Darfur will face significant food insecurity over the next 18 months because the agricultural economy has collapsed. One million children under five year-olds are already suffering from, or will suffer from, severe malnutrition.

And one day after an United Nations human rights investigator for Sudan warned that Darfur was a "time bomb" that could explode at any time, Janjaweed militia attacked and completely destroyed the village of Khor Abeche (the attack on Khor Abeche is the focus of Eric Reeves' latest analysis.)

It seems clear that the referral to the ICC was not the remedy that many in the human rights community had hoped. At the same time, calls for an increased AU force has problems of its own, judging by Charles Snyder's recent comment that "Nobody that wants to be on the ground is not on the ground."

Stopping the genocide in Darfur is going to require a dedicated and well-coordinated effort by the UN and the international community. As of yet, the political will to engage in such an effort does not exist. We at the Coalition for Darfur ask you to join us in raising awareness of the genocide in an attempt to force policy makers to seriously address this issue to consider making a small donation to any of the organizations providing life saving assistance to the neglected people of Darfur.

Surfergirl, Prophet

Slate's Surfergirl brings us Revelation, TV Guide-style. Not until you click the links will you understand the Britney Spears' Pregnancy, Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, and Terri Schiavo were definitely the coming signs of the apocalypse.

Tapper: Where Everybody Kicks Your Ass

I have officially deemed today "UBERDORK" day, where I will post about nothing but incredibly geeky things like zombies and videogames. Ignore my two non-dorky postings. The Onion AV Club proves that I am not, in fact, crazy. For ages I have mentioned this game, the game Tapper only to have people pull funny faces, say they have no idea what I'm talking about, and doubt that this game could've ever existed given its wildly strange premise. AV Club's section, "Games of Our Lives" revisits it this week, and proves to the naysayers and myself that I am not the only one who played this. This is, in fact, the best description of Tapper I've ever seen:

"A steady stream of surly drunks need beer, and they need it now. If they make it to the end of the bar before you've quenched their thirst, they'll kick your ass. If you drop one of their empty glasses on the ground, your boss will fire you. Clearly, bartending is not as easy as Cheers would have you believe."

It was also, honestly, one of the hardest games ever. Aside: In case you were wondering, all of "Games of Our Lives" segments in AV Club are written by a Mr. Wil Wheaton. Name sound familiar? Guess he had to do something on the set of Star Trek.

The wok calling the rice bowl black

Textbook Controversy May Cost Japan Permanent UN Seat
By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com International Editor
April 13, 2005

Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - China has told Japan to "face up to history" as the row over Japan's alleged whitewashing of World War II atrocities deepens.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Tokyo should reflect on recent protests and petitions sparked by the Japanese education ministry's authorization of a new junior high school history textbook perceived as playing down Japanese regional aggression before and during the war.
This from the government which still denies that that bloody little scuffle in Tiananman Square in 1989 was a massacre.


OG Zombies

It seems this summer horror movies are getting a higher profile. Not only was Dark Water moved up a month early into early July, a TOUGH slot, because the studio thought it was quality enough to compete (which, if it's anything as good as Suzuki's original story, it will compete. I still have nightmares about the red hello kitty bag. . .) but now Land of the Dead is taking a similar cue. Romero's newest zombie opus to follow on his "Of the Dead" trilogy has been moved into June 24th, when it was originally scheduled for OCTOBER. That is a collosal shift.

Thankfully Romero got his way and the zombies are walking, not running. Romero thinks there's something wrong with running zombies, mostly because he views the zombie as metaphor. Especially metaphorically this time: the plot is rumored to involve survivors holed up in Pittsburgh skyscrapers (Pittsburgh skyscrapers? i guess if ten stories is a skyscraper that could be true) with the zombies ruling the streets below. Corporate analogies much? Anyway, good news is the cast: Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, John Leguizamo, and SIMON PEGG AND EDGAR WRIGHT IN ZOMBIE CAMEOS! Guess Romero enjoyed Shaun of the Dead, though we already know he has a macabre sense of humor. If you look at the IMDB profile, a lot of the zombies are named. Romero hinted that some of his zombies would be "Super Bubs", of course referencing the non-stupid zombie from Day of the Dead. It's definitely got me curious.

What's taking up the slot in October? The adaptation of Doom, pushed away from August. Ouch.

I Wonder If He's Running against Charlie Murphy?

He's Rick James (bitch), and he's running for City Council. And people are stealing his signs. This whitebread City Council candidate in Hattiesburg Mississippi just can't win:

“It’s gotten so bad, I can put out a sign and the next day, sometimes the same day, it will be gone,” the 53-year-old political hopeful in Hattiesburg told The Associated Press.

At first he was confused about the popularity of his “Vote for Rick James” signs, having never seen the show.

Friends then informed him about the sketch, in which comedian Dave Chappelle dresses as James and utters a catch phrase beginning, “I’m Rick James ... “


I say Rick needs to wait by one of his signs, and when the drunk frat guys show up, emerge from the shadows and give them a nice "What did the five fingers say to the face? SSSSAAALAP!" Apparently the thefts are making it hard to run his low-budget campaign, but you can't beat that kind of name recognition.

No Unfriendly Superpowers, Please

North Korea wants Japan and the United States out of the regional talks. What web of bullshit is this based upon? Here's North Korea's transparent ploy from Globe and Mail:

"Since the United States lies across the Pacific Ocean and Japan is an island separated from the rest of Asia, they have no direct stake in the region's peace and security, the commentary said.

It also accused the United States of trying to provoke confrontations among Northeast Asian countries in order to gain the upper hand militarily in the region.

The state-run newspaper also for the first time mentioned South Korea's new government policy seeking a balancing role in the region, alleging it was 'causing discord with the United States.'"


Yeah, sure. There's also another choice quote by a DPRK, referring to Japan as a "vulgar and shameless political dwarf." Wow. First of all, I think it's amusing for North Korea to say Japan has no stake in regional piece when North Korea HAS FIRED MISSILES at Japan (well maybe not at, but in the general direction thereof). Also, another to say the United States has no direct stake when they've got troops sitting across the border.

North Korea has succeeded many times in manipulating the different countries involved, and this is another attempt at that. For a short history and what I'm basing my comments on, see Bridled Ambition, Negotiating on the Edge, and/or the most recent Nuclear North Korea. Everytime the U.S. has gone after North Korea about nukes, or whatever, North Korea has been exceedingly good at negotiating with each country bilaterally, having separate talks with China, South Korea, Russia, Japan, and the U.S. throughout its history. This way they pushed their envelope with every part involved and often succeeded in pitting the countries against one another. The new strategy of six-party talks worked to mitigate against that, all parties refusing only bilateral talks. Too bad it derailed in June.

North Korea has seen it ain't going to get back to the old bilateral strategy, so instead it's pushing this as a way to only get those parties it easily manipulates to the table and removing all that firmly stand against it and are most hostile to its interests. Make no mistake, if they somehow get this Asia-only talks together (but without Japan???) then they will sufficiently derail all chances of a diplomatic solution, even if there is one in the first place.