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July 31, 2003

It's a challenge!

Michele says that Lee is one heck of a blogger, but Lee faded into the blogmist of history some time back. She's now considering re-emerging, but she's one canny lady - she says, I'll come back to blog once this post has comments from 100 different people.

Soooo... there were 54 comments when I was there a few minutes ago. You reckon we can post enough more comments to drag her screaming back into the blogosphere? Michele says she's good - let's make her prove it.

Go here now - leave a comment.

Oh, and Michele is right about the bra thing too. But why stop your clothes ripping there?

Posted by susanna at 08:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bias?! In the media??

Spoons is scooping on bias in the Chicago Tribune today, even finding a double whammy - plagiarized bias! Just think of the possibilities (Jayson, Jayson Blair! Call your office!)

First, Spoons calls bias on a very pointed example of the species, in an article on Bush's recent comments on his own "blame"* for using the information on uranium in the State of the Union speech. He suggests you write the Trib's ombudsman, and I second that.

Then Spoons finds that a veteran Trib reporter seems to have written an article... suspiciously ... close to one by Your Unbiased Central Source, Reuters. He's got the two articles side by side - very illuminating.

* I used the "scare quotes" on purpose, because I don't think there's anything there blameworthy. Perhaps a mistake, but not intentional and not anywhere near the caliber of problem the Dems have made it out to be.

Posted by susanna at 06:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Changed parties lately?

This Just In from WNYC public radio reporter Amanda Aronczyk:

I’m looking for help producing a radio piece for the Next Big Thing, which is a nationally syndicated public radio program. Please let me know if you can think of anyone who might be interested in telling their story.

Here’s the idea:

Phill Gramm did it. Condoleezza Rice did it. Winston Churchill did it -- twice. There are countless reasons why politicians switch parties – convenience, opportunities, ideology, geography… but what about ordinary people? In a country where party affiliations are often life long and handed down through the generations, the change can be huge and divisive.

For a radio piece to be broadcast on the WNYC program, The Next Big Thing, I am looking for unusual stories of people who have switched their political party allegiance.

Whether Democrat to Republican or Republican to Democrat, I’m looking for compelling stories of party hopping.

It's from a mass emailing, so likely you have 36 of them in your own spamorciser, but just in case. Me, I was baptized a Republican at birth and I'll likely die one. But that's just because there's no party further to the right. No sane party - just the freakozoids. I think I'll start my own - the Morality In, Government Out Party - MIGOP. Hey, maybe I will email Ms. Amanda Aronczyk...

(Oh, if you want to write her, send email here: aaronczyk@wnyc.org)

Posted by susanna at 03:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

On writing and life in general

I've always wanted to be a mystery fiction writer - that's my deep, life-long dream, and one I've attempted to fulfill a few times (and am again). It's a struggle, especially since I have a lot of other goals as well as a niggling sense that I just don't have what it takes. Sometimes I think I have talent but not perseverence; sometimes I'm sure I have never. But I can't just let it go, which tells me I have to do it and put my work out there so I can find out if I have what it takes to succeed.

So posts like the ones quoted below from writers John Scalzi and Harlan Ellison grab my attention. Basically, a participant at a writing workshop in New England got huffy about the criticism he received for his work from writer Gene Wolfe, and precipitated a mess that's blown up all over that little writerly part of the Internet and world. As Ellison says in his discussion of it, everyone involved turns out to be a Victim with no real bad guys, except some are more Victimized than others.

All that's worth reading if writing is your thing. But on reading what Scalzi and Ellison wrote, I realized that what they both say could also be applied to life as a whole - life is not warm muffins and affirming hugs, but rather a constant competition to get what you want in a world that sucks you in and pushes you away all at the same time. It can be exhilarating, but if you're very thin-skinned it can also eat you like acid. I recommend you read both posts and think about how it applies in your own life. I know that it hits me in many places.

From Scalzi:

So, in short: Workshops -- eh. I'd go for the pros and their comments. Everything else is group-huggy self-affirmation.

Alas for the people at the Odyssey Workshop, many of them seem to have gone for the group-huggy self-affirmation rather than the useful aspect of having their work read and commented upon by a professional -- and to have the exposure to how a professional writer approaches the work, and how the professional world approaches writing as well. One of the most interesting and telling comments came from Ms. Totter, who wrote in her journal about Odyssey, after first being exposed to Wolfe and his critical style: "Since when did writing become a competitive sport? We're supposed to be fostering camaraderie here, not cutthroat one-upmanship."

Anyone who believes professional writing is not a competitive sport needs to take a field trip to any of the major publishing houses and take a long loving look at the slush pile. Professional writing is intensely competitive...

Ms. Lincoln, in describing her reaction to Mr. Wolfe's critique wrote: "Wolfe's critique didn't give me anything the rest of the class couldn't deliver, only more tactfully." Ms. Lincoln, with no disrespect to her follow workshoppers, is probably wrong on this: Mr. Wolfe has published a couple dozen novels across four decades, as well as innumerable short stories over a longer span of time, many of which have been nominated for (and on several occasion have won) the various top SF/F awards. This means he has an excellent combination of overall writing skill and commercial savvy; no one gets continuously published over four decades if he doesn't know what he's doing in both departments...

Had I been in Wolfe's shoes, I would not have quit. I would have gone into that classroom and told them (those who would listen) that if they thought he was being rough, that they should just wait until their first batch of book reviews rolled in. The professional writing life is not for people who need to be affirmed. It's 98% rejection on a good day.

Writers also need to learn to stand their ground in the face of withering criticism. If your response to being slagged is to run away and write whiny letters about how your critic was unfair, man, are you ever in the wrong line of work. If you believe in your work, you fire back and you give as good as you get. You take your fight to your critic and make him or her back up the criticism. When your critics have a point, you learn and you move on. But when you think you're right, you argue it, tooth and nail, and you win or die trying.

From Ellison (scroll to his Saturday, July 26 2003 15:43:5 - Clarion and Odyssey are writers workshops):

And this brings me to what little good this unfortunate matter may evoke. Workshops have lost their bite. The people in charge, it seems to me (get that: IT SEEMS TO ME) are frightened of their own students. They hire instructors who are timorous, who need to be loved, who want to be "pals" and squirt-gun buddies with the kids they have been hired to whip into shape.

I may be utterly alone in this, but it was the reason I absented myself from teaching at Clarion (before there was an East and a West) years ago. Because I saw it was turning into a Cult of Personality, and the instructors were loath to upset anyone ... staff, students, university administration. They were pale and proper, politically-correct poseurs; like characters out of a novel of Victorian manners, like The Late George Apley. And in my revulsion I perceived that they were taking money under false pretenses, the students were being treated patronizingly, dishonestly, with kid gloves, like the little old bluehaired ladies with support hose who infect most "writers' workshops" with their astrological poetry and their New Yorker-manque fiction. Clarion was founded off the template of Milford, to be, goddamit, a BOOT CAMP for writers. Not to make it easy, but to make it a reflection of the REALITY of what it is to work in the public marketplace. the only thing that's "easy" is mediocrity. End-result? Today, colleges are not permitted to discuss "failure" as a life possibility. Not to upset the ego-drenched little parvenus surfeited with their 21st Century self-pity, pointless rebellion, need to deconstruct and ridicule, not to mention their rodentlike feeling that everything and anything they want, they deserve, and they don't need to work to get it. It should just come to them, sans discomfort, because as advertising tells them, they are the noblest demographic that ever was, or ever shall be.

I fully understand why Odyseey would never have me back, why Clarion East and West feel I am no-price, that I "scare" potential money-units (aka "students") away, that they're afrighted of me. I bask in that knowledge. I know how to pull the plow, how to do that job, how to make it as rough and gritty and as close to the reality of the toughest job in the world as I can when I teach. It's been proved in the fire, because dozens of the people now doing the workshop instructing were people I helped beat into shape. I only wish they'd retained their passion! To instruct otherwise is to cheat, to take pay under false pretenses, to succor the talentless and time-wasting and self-indulgent, and to short-change the ones who look on the job as Art, as a Way of Life, as a responsibility to themselves, their talent, and the rest of the human race.

The basic message here, to me, is: Do your work, do your very best work, and realize that constructive criticism from people who are much further along in your craft or profession than you may hurt a lot but you'll be a better (whatever you are trying to be) if you listen and use what makes sense. But really listen, don't reject it because you don't want to hear you're not wonderful. Face it, at some point in our lives all of us, no matter how talented, really sucked at what we wanted to do. And don't be a whiner!

As for writing, I always remind myself of the people who took years to perfect their craft or get their work published. You've heard of them - they sent their manuscript to 40 publishers before it got accepted. And you know why you heard of them? They didn't quit. And they didn't whine.

I've got a lot to think about.

Posted by susanna at 11:29 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

He didn't pass the smell test

Is there such a thing as an odor-glove? I'm sure it'll be developed soon, when this new test becomes a forensic staple:

Scientists working for French police have perfected a technique for "bottling" smells at the scene of a crime to identify suspects by the odour they have left behind.

After conducting a two-year-long programme of tests on a method of detection known as "odourology", they have concluded that smell can be as effective as using fingerprints or DNA samples to link a criminal with a crime...

The smells gathered can come from tiny droplets of sweat or skin-oils.

Forensic investigators leave strips of a special type of tissue paper at the crime scene to absorb smells, which are then sealed inside a sterile jar. Scientists believe they can retain the smell for up to 10 years.

An arrested suspect is told to hold a clean tissue of the same kind for up to 15 minutes, and this and other samples are then presented to a sniffer dog, to be matched - or not - to the odour from the crime.

The scientists found that, in strictly-controlled experiments, sniffer dogs correctly picked out the suspects' smells from samples collected at the crime scene, and were successful even when the samples bore the odour of more than one person.

How amazing. I love this kind of thing - my television watching consists of 30% home decorating shows and 70% crime related shows, including everything from all the Law & Order shows to a full panoply of Court TV and Discovery channel crime shows like Forensic Files; The New Detectives; I, Detective; The System; and others. I do watch CSI fairly regularly, although I can't do so without scoffing at the role the crime techs play in solving a crime on the show. Let me assure you it does not happen that way in real police investigations. And most crime techs don't wear belly shirts or look like they just stepped off a GQ shoot, at least not while at work. But I digress.

It will be interesting to see how the forensic odor collecting and matching plays out in the US - you know it's going to be used here soon if it hasn't already. And who knew the French were good at something?

[Link from Mike at Interested Participant]

UPDATE: Mary Beth of Finder Creations is on the ball - she's located another article on forensic scenting in this month's issue of Popular Science. Should've known the French wouldn't stand up to the smell test.

Posted by susanna at 07:45 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Movie classics, blogger style

John Hawkins at Right Wing News asked a whole slew of bloggers to list their nominees for the best movies ever, and here is the result. I'm sure it'll stir discussion, because that's something not many agree with. I meant to respond but didn't - I'm claiming fogginess after surgery, although it was more likely forgetfulness.

Anyway, I'll give you my top five, then you can go see what the others thought. And just to let you know that I'm totally movie-challenged, I confess that I haven't seen nine of the top 16 listed on RWN (or 7 of the 9 honorable mentions - although I've seen bits and pieces of some of those 16). I need to get to the video store...

My five, in no particular order:

The Sound of Music
Silver Bullet
LOTR (I can't choose - both of them, so far)
Wizard of Oz
Alien

And yes, some of those would change depending on when you asked me. I want to include Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea, the set with Megan Followes, and I also love Ken Burns' Gettysburg, but those were made for TV movies. I fear I'm not a cinema connoisseur.

Posted by susanna at 07:20 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 30, 2003

How cool is that?

I love art with a sense of whimsy, especially in functional settings. That's why this made such an impression on me. I would love to have a fireplace along those lines in my home, although I don't know that I'd choose Poseidon. Tom and TJ Moberg, who did the fireplace, also do a lot of other three-dimensional art that at times moves into trompe l'oeil and (it seems to me) a touch of surrealism. After looking at this, this and this, what occurred to me is just how awesome it would be to have a whole room done this way. Maybe a bedroom, or a small sitting room - done to be a Elvish glade from Tolkein, or a scene from a fairytale. It's beyond the money I'll ever make, but such a beautiful dream.

Here's where to find more of the Mobergs' work: their studio, and an exhibition site.

Posted by susanna at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Inquest ruling: Golden committed suicide

Yesterday I posted about an inquest in Florida into whether Feraris "Ray" Golden committed suicide or was murdered. The judge has ruled the death a suicide, a verdict accepted by at least some of his family.

Race was an issue in the questioning by the community, so that makes this interesting:

The assistant medical examiner, the inquest's star witness, is black. So are several police officers who responded to the death, the psychologist and one of two prosecutors on the case.

I don't think we should have affirmative action or any kind of forced racial quotas. At the same time, I do think any profession - including policing - is going to be done better when a wide range of the population is represented. Given the history between police and minorities, it's a good thing to make an effort to make sure local police departments (and other criminal justice agencies) to some degree reflect the population mix - it can help reduce fears about racism or other forms of prejudice. No one should ever be hired because of their race if they aren't qualified for the work, because that is unfair to those who are qualified; to those who are being served; and especially to those of that minority who are qualified but will be under some cloud that they got where they are through affirmative action. However, proactive efforts to attract minorities into all professions is wise, and this inquest is a good example of why. Not that any of the people involved, regardless of race, were less than honest in their behavior in the case, but just that it removes one potential and unnecessarily distracting source of tension.

Posted by susanna at 03:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No, no, no!

This is just ridiculous:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A new rape law in Illinois attempts to clarify the issue of consent by emphasizing that people can change their mind while having sex.

Under the law, if someone says "no" at any time the other person must stop or it becomes rape. The National Crime Victim Law Institute (search) said it believed the law is the first of its kind in the country.

Lyn Schollett, general counsel for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (search), said the law was important to make it clear to victims, offenders, prosecutors and juries that people have the right to halt sexual activity at any time.

"I think it will empower prosecutors in charging cases where the victim and the offender have a sexual history," she said.

I don't have time right now, I'm almost late for an appointment, but I'll look into this more later. Specifically, I want to see the text of the law to find out at what point they consider the act to be done and thus saying "stop!" is too late. It seems to me that if she says "yes yes yes!" until penetration is accomplished, and then starts saying "no no no!", that's a problem. Certainly there are issues of roughness, etc., that could be addressed as assault but... this is just scary. Rape is a horrible crime. Yes, they should be able to stop at any point, but at the same time men are not automatons with an "off" switch. And intent is a big part of this too, in my judgment.

So you tell me - is there a point where you just can't say no anymore? I know what I think.

UPDATE: Here's the article in the Chicago Tribune from yesterday. Still no exact wording, but according to this article the new law is a "clarification", not a new standard. Hmmm. It's based on a California case:

The law follows a high-profile court ruling in California in a case in which a young woman changed her mind about having sex but the boy she was with did not respect her wishes and stop. He was charged with rape and ultimately found guilty under California law, but it took three years of court battles before the California Supreme Court finally reached that conclusion.

State Sen. Dan Rutherford (R-Chenoa) introduced the measure in the General Assembly shortly after that, and passage now makes Illinois the first state to codify the essence of the ruling into law.

"It was illogical to think that a person could not have control of their body and withdraw consent," said Rutherford. "You have to prove the facts, just like you did before this became law, but you have the legal right to say no."

I'm still not getting where the line is drawn. More digging is in order.

UPDATE: Okay, here we go - this is the relevant part of Public Act 093-0389 of the Illinois legislature:

(c) A person who initially consents to sexual penetration or sexual conduct is not deemed to have consented to any sexual penetration or sexual conduct that occurs after he or she withdraws consent during the course of that sexual penetration or sexual conduct.

This is just too open ended. While I recognize the intent of the law, it just is unrealistic. You wait. There's going to be a case where he's almost done, she's been willing up to that point, she (for whatever reason) says "NO, STOP!", he doesn't, and she says he raped her. It seems to me that men are totally screwed by this law.

And yes, I meant the pun.

Interestingly, the governor of Illinois - Rod Blagojevich - approved the change in the law on Friday, then got out of Dodge before it was announced on Monday. Why wasn't it announced when it was signed, on Friday? Maybe for the same reason that I can't find a press release about it on his website.

Posted by susanna at 08:27 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Heh

The Rolling Stones are holding a SARS benefit concert in Toronto, Canada today. Curtis Sliwa was talking about it on the radio this morning and called them "The Rolling Bones" and "The Touring Cadavers". Heh. Michele was noting earlier that it's a bit startling when your teenage idols turn out to be almost the same age as your parents. I must say my dad looks better at 66 than Mick Jagger does at 60.

Posted by susanna at 08:07 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2003

Journalist vindicated

Remember back in April, when Boston Herald journalist Jules Crittenden was stopped by Customs as he returned to the US from a tour as an embed during the Iraq War? They confiscated a bunch of things he was bringing back, and Poynter Institute's ethics guy, Bob Steele, got all huffy about it - condemning Crittenden with much stronger words than he used about CNN's Eason Jordan's winking at Saddam's atrocities. I covered it, with quite pointed words about Steele's lack of judgment and proportion.

Well, fast forward a couple of months - Customs has returned most of Crittenden's things:

U.S. Customs officials last week returned most of the 55 items confiscated from a Boston Herald reporter who covered the Iraq war.


The items were withheld from reporter Jules Crittenden at Logan Airport on April 19 while U.S. officials investigated their origins.

In a decision dated July 17, U.S. Customs forfeiture specialist Susanne M. Cain wrote that except for a painting of Saddam Hussein, Crittenden's ``request for relief from forfeiture has been granted.''

There were no fines or penalties of any kind. Herald attorney Jeffrey Hermes of the Brown Rudnick law firm said: ``The return of these items to Mr. Crittenden reflects a determination by the U.S. Customs Service that Mr. Crittenden did nothing wrong in bringing these souvenirs back from Iraq.''

...Customs officials refused to return a 4-foot-by-6-foot color canvas of Saddam, which they said was appraised at $800. Customs officials did not disclose the source of the appraisal, or the standards they applied in withholding the painting.

"Where I found this, paintings of this kind had no value," Crittenden said. "They continue to be destroyed by GIs and Iraqis to this day."

Now the question is - will Bob Steele ever apologize for saying this about Crittenden?

He may not have seen a painting and other souvenirs as "riches," but he failed to comprehend the disrespect he was showing to the Iraqi people by taking these "souvenirs."

Journalists must exhibit a strong sense of independence when covering war, and it's inappropriate and ethically wrong to become a participant in the aftermath of the conflict by taking away items of value.

The painting is an "item of value" only in a very loose sense, from what I can see, and I'd say Steele would be hard pressed to find many Iraqis who would say Crittenden's possession of it showed "disrespect". Yet Steele went out of his way to speak harshly about Crittenden without waiting for the results of the Customs investigation. Poynter is considered by some (certainly by Poynter itself) as a major center for teaching in journalistic excellence, and Steele is the head of their ethics unit. His comments could very well have damaged Crittenden's reputation, quite unfairly. So will he do the ethical thing and apologize?

We'll keep you posted.

And I can't resist this last section of Steele's original column:

In a discussion on a Poynter listserv, a former Poynter Ethics Fellow said those journalists who take what belongs to the Iraqi people "show a cavalier view of the world that is part of what many non-news people out there say shows our arrogance."

Amen.

I think it's pretty clear which of these two men showed arrogance.

Posted by susanna at 09:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Texas-sized idiots

They're at it again:

Democratic state lawmakers fled Texas on Monday for the second time in three months to thwart a Republican drive to redraw the state's congressional districts.

Of course it's a noble move:

"We're availing ourselves of a tool given to us by our Texas Constitution to break a quorum," Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos (search) said at a hotel in Albuquerque, where the 11 Democrats met with reporters. "It's not about Democrats, it's about democracy."

"This is not an action that we take lightly. There are not many issues that would rise to this kind of action," said Leticia Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Van de Putte said more than 1.4 million minorities in her state would lose effective congressional representation if the Republicans redistrict according to their wishes.

Now, let's see a show of hands of all readers who think that Democrats nationwide would fly into a self-righteous rage if Republican legislators did this over any issue. It's petulance. It's subverting the legislative process. It's grandstanding. It's just... idiocy.

I hope the voters in Texas respond appropriately in the next election. But I fear not.

And just so you know, I'd be trashing Republicans myself if they pulled a stunt like this.

Posted by susanna at 11:36 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Lynching or suicide?

A case in Florida is proving an interesting intersection of forensic science, police practices and racial distrust. Following is a summary from information in articles in the NY Times and the Miami Herald.

Two months ago, Feraris ''Ray'' Golden was found dead, hanging from a tree in the sideyard of his grandmother's house in Belle Glade, Florida, about 80 miles northwest of Miami on Lake Okeechobee. Police arrived in response to a 911 call, and cut down Golden's body. His death was ruled a suicide.

But rumors soon started that Golden, a black man, had caused trouble by dating the white daughter of a police officer, that he had been gagged with his hands tied behind his back when found. Suspicion grew that he had been murdered, until finally a local judge agreed to hold an inquest - similar to a grand jury proceeding, but held publicly - to query those with information about the case. Audience members were allowed to pass up questions on paper to the judge.

The first day of the inquest was yesterday; the judge is expected to rule on the death today after another day of questioning. Yesterday's proceedings brought out that Golden was hanged with a bedsheet from his grandmother's house; a video from the scene, taken by a camera on a police car, shows clearly that Golden's hands hung at his side, and he was not gagged. And Golden's ex-wife, among others, testified that he was depressed and spoke of committing suicide. Interestingly, Golden's ex-wife, also black, is now remarried - to a white sheriff's deputy. It seems to indicate that interracial romance is not as frowned upon in the general community as the supposed motive for Golden-as-murder-victim would indicate.

From what I read in the two articles, it appears that Golden likely did commit suicide, but the local police should have been more thorough in their initial investigation. It's a delicate situation - families are traumatized enough by the death of someone they love, and frequently balk at intrusive police questioning or autopsies to make sure the death was self-inflicted. On the other hand, accidental deaths can look like murder on first glance (deaths resulting from autoeroticism gone bad, for example) and murder can look like a suicide or an accident. It behooves the police to process a scene carefully, just to avoid precisely this kind of situation. At the very least, take photos and forensic samples at the scene just in case questions arise.

One of the questions remaining now is concern over Golden's blood alcohol, which the Herald gives as .334 - some of his relatives want to know how he could have climbed the tree when he had so much alcohol in his system. This, however, is precisely right:

Asked by skeptical members of the audience if Golden was too drunk to climb a tree, [Palm Beach County Associate Medical Examiner Christopher] Wilson said frequent alcohol users often have a high tolerance.

Since I don't drink alcohol generally, I would be thoroughly sloshed before I even got to the legal limit. But dedicated drinkers - and Golden's ex-wife said his drinking was a problem in their marriage, so he has a history of it - can build up an amazing tolerance. A police officer I knew in Kentucky told me that he once arrested a man for driving under the influence who blew a .40 - that's higher than Golden's level, and this man was driving. Not particularly well, but he hadn't wrecked or hurt someone else. I would be passed out and likely close to death at that same level. Actually, I doubt I could get to that level unless I drank down a bottle of whiskey like it was Gatorade on a hot day.

I hope the law enforcement community in Belle Glade and its environs take heed from this case. I'd say the judge will rule the case a suicide, but obviously there's a lot of distrust on the part of some in the black community for local law enforcement. That could be alleviated to a degree just by meticulously following police procedure and proper forensic evidence gathering.

Posted by susanna at 11:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Bob without the rose colored glasses

In May, Mark Steyn wrote a retrospective on Bob Hope in honor of his 100th birthday. It's an affectionate but clear-eyed look at a man who was as human as he was larger than life.

Posted by susanna at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shoot that headline writer

The NY Times is at it again - this morning's headline:

U.S. Troops Said to Capture Hussein Bodyguard

You understand that "said" is in "quotes" - they say they've done it, but HA! You know how believable those troops are! Bums! You'd think that the headline writer would at least read the first graph of the article (written by the AP, or it would most likely have had "quotes" too):

TIKRIT, Iraq (AP) -- American soldiers overpowered and arrested a bodyguard who rarely left Saddam Hussein's side Tuesday and said they obtained documents and information that could help them close in on the former dictator.

Seems straightforward to me. It happened. So what's the "said" about? There's no question, except apparently in the mind of the headline writer - what mind is left after sitting up all night discussing the perfidy of the Bush administration over lattes in some hip Manhattan pseudodive.

Posted by susanna at 09:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lance - the best postal delivery in years

Here's an interesting article dissecting the USPO and its best decision in years - sponsoring Team USA cyclists, including Lance Armstrong.

[Thanks to John McCrarey for the link]

Posted by susanna at 09:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2003

UPI: Geez, he said it was true!

Dodd Harris has caught out UPI:

I'm glad I posted a copy of the "dubious" pullquote (see linked post) regarding Czech intelligence, because UPI has removed it from the piece in its entirety. It's also a good thing that I saved a copy of the originally published version because the article has been scrubbed of all references to the Czechs, Mohommed Atta and the "four planks" of the Administration's case for an Iraq-al-Qaeda connection that were supposedly disproven by the report. A quick comparison will demonstrate that the new version is a completely different story from the original.

Note also the glaring lack of an apology for their rather egregious error. I'd say that earns me an "Advantage: Ipse Dixit!"[emphasis in original]

Of course, the content of the article is illuminating as well. Dodd's got all the details. Remember, these are the people all over Bush because, well, you know, why did he trust anyone in the intelligence community? Sure, they didn't send the country into war based on questionable information - which I'm not saying Bush did, but they are saying that - but they're perfectly willing to turn the country's opinion with poorly reported information (let's just call them, well, lies) because it's not their fault if they believed what they wanted to believe! And it's probably true in essence, if not in fact! And if a presidential election is affected by their poor reporting... hey, that's the price of doing business!

Uh huh. Good catch, Dodd.

(I may even forgive you for getting an Instalanche for a cartoon you lifted from my blog. After all, you did give me credit.)

Posted by susanna at 04:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Oh, the places you should go

Chris Muir is back in action!

And this week's Site of the Week is the fine Dancing With Dogs, brought to you by the always insightful and interesting Shanti. Check it out!

Posted by susanna at 03:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bush charged with international crimes

Not that we're surprised:

NEWSRu.com reports that US President George W. Bush was charged with violation of 11 laws and agreements at a session of the so-called international tribunal for US crimes committed in Korea. The session was held in Pyongyang.

The Central Telegraph Agency of Korea reported on July 25 that other top officials from the US Administration were on the tribunal's symbolic dock together with Bush.

President George W. Bush is particularly blamed for violation of the US Charter and the Korean War Cease-fire agreement. The information reported by the news agency doesn't specify what sentence can be pronounced on the US president in connection with the charges, Russia-s news agency ITAR-TASS informs.

The tribunal was created in Pyongyang in connection with the 50th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire; it was set up by several international organizations sympathizing with North Korea and the Korean Committee for Solidarity with World Peoples operating in Pyongyang.

Next up: France charges Lance Armstrong with violations of French law for winning another Tour de France and once again showing that the French are washed up even in their own country.

Posted by susanna at 02:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oh, No! What's a good liberal to do?!

Fidel Castro is trashing the EU:

Cuban President Fidel Castro has marked the 50th anniversary of the guerrilla battle that launched the Cuban revolution by delivering a withering attack on the EU and individual leaders in Europe...

The background to this tirade is an ongoing diplomatic spat between the EU and Cuba. The EU has been critical of Cuba's human rights record this year, especially after the execution in April of three Cuban men who attempted to hijack a ferry. Cuba has also sentenced 75 political dissidents to long prison sentences.

In return, the EU has been rethinking its Cuba policy, limiting bilateral visits and freezing Cuba's request to join an aid agreement known as the Cotonou Agreement.

The EU is in effect enacting sanctions against Cuba? Expecting them to toe some human rights lines before giving them aid? Oh my goodness! How... how can they do that? I thought Cuba was the golden child of communism, flourishing despite vicious and deliberate efforts by the US to crush it. And now the EU is joining in.

Oh, the humanity.

At least Fidel has kept his sense of humor:

He said that they could not forgive Cuba "for having demonstrated that socialism is capable of achieving a society a thousand times more just and humane than the rotten [capitalist] system they [eastern European countries] were adopting".

A funny guy, our Fidel.

Posted by susanna at 02:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ack

Definitely TMI.

(but funny)

Posted by susanna at 02:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A reason to be happy I'm not in KY

The new Kentucky license plate unveiled in January is just... tacky. Goofy. Annoying. Even more annoying than the "We Care!" tagline on my NJ cancer specialty plates (I love the violets, but what's up with "we care"? What, people who don't get cancer specialty plates don't care?!). It appears that a lot of Kentuckians agree with me about Mr. Smiley The Tacky License Plate Sun:

Poor Mr. Smiley.

Kentuckians have called him a cartoon, a hick and an embarrassment ever since his sunny face appeared on new license plates in January.

But now, the relentlessly cheery sun has found some unlikely fans — groups benefiting from a Mr. Smiley backlash.

"I love Mr. Smiley," said Anita Magan, president of the Kentucky Horse Council. "He's helped us a lot."

In the first three months after Mr. Smiley graced Kentucky's standard plates, the horse council has seen sales of its specialty plates increase to slightly more than $60,000. Before Mr. Smiley, the council received $1,000 to $2,000 each month in license plate sales.

The council is one of several groups that has seen its specialty plates sell faster than ever, and its earnings rise, with Mr. Smiley's arrival.

Mr. Smiley the Sun has nothing to do with Kentucky. Yes, the sun shines there, but in parts of Kentucky you just about have to ship in the sunshine - it's not precisely Florida, or southern California. And that cheesy grin... it grates on my nerves like that "we told you so!" window manufacturer commercial here in NJ. And that's a lot - I lunge across the room to turn off the radio every time it comes on.

But, of course, you understand why something that is totally asinine was chosen - something that isn't about horses, horse racing or hills, about bluegrass or moonshine or Mammoth Cave or My Old Kentucky Home, barbecue or the Museum of the American Quilter's Society or quilts in general or Muhammad Ali or anything else that Kentucky might legitimately be known for:

The plates were designed by a committee comprised of representatives from the Transportation Cabinet, Tourism Development Cabinet, and Governor's Office.

There you go. Committees lower the collective IQ of its members by at least 50%, and often bottoms it out completely. That's obviously what happened here.

[Thanks to FARK for the CJ Smiley link]

Posted by susanna at 02:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

On illegal immigration and terrorism

John Hawkins at Right Wing News has posted an interview with Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) - if you care about illegal immigration and terrorism, you shouldn't miss it.

Also, don't miss RWN's great new design!

Posted by susanna at 01:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dumping objectivity

Robert Bartley, editor emeritus of The Wall Street Journal, says today what I've been saying since this blog started:

Let me give you one view of what that is, based on watching my craft evolve over 30 years as a senior editor. I think we're coming to the end of the era of "objectivity" that has dominated journalism over this time. We need to define a new ethic that lends legitimacy to opinion, honestly disclosed and disciplined by some sense of propriety.

Though an opinion journalist myself, I'm certainly not against attempts at objectivity. Indeed I believe the ethic is a more powerful influence than disgruntled readers and viewers often seem to believe; it's simply not true that journalists conspire to slant the news in favor of their friends and causes. Yet it's also true that in claiming "objectivity" the press often sees itself as a perfect arbiter of ultimate truth. This is a pretension beyond human capacity...

...journalists can't have it both ways. Since they're increasingly dealing with subjective opinion, they should stop wearing "objectivity" on their sleeves.

It's an excellent piece, and encouraging to see someone of Bartley's stature in the profession saying a lot of the same things I've thought for years. And he says it with much more grace and gravitas than I.

Posted by susanna at 01:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thanks for the memories

He was 58 when I was born, and I grew up watching his television shows. I've always thought of him as the gentleman entertainer, one as dedicated to the United States as any patriot.

0_1_490_obit_hope.jpg

Illustration from FoxNews.com

Goodbye, Bob. Thanks for the memories.

UPDATE: It's difficult to quite grasp what Hope's life span encompassed. I remember clearly being 11 years old, sitting through Ms. Thelma's class, and dreamily watching a local high-school-aged Paul McCartney lookalike go by my classroom window every day on his way to his car. When Hope was 11, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand began what became World War I. I remember being 17, on the cusp of adulthood, thinking of college. When Hope was 17, he became a US citizen; a year later, at the age I packed up for two years in college in Florida, Hope launched his vaudville career. It was 1921, the beginning of the flapper era, when talkies were just a twinkle in a producer's eye. He was 24 when The Jazz Singer premiered, his career as a solo entertainer already established.

Hope was 30 years old in 1933 when his "first major recognition" came for his work in Broadway's "Roberta" - which was also when he met his wife, Dolores. That was the year Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. When I was 30, Bush 41 was president, the Gulf War sent Saddam packing out of Kuwait, and I was living in the New Jersey countryside nominally working on a degree.

Radio found Hope in 1937, four years before Pearl Harbor yanked the US into World War II. Soon Hope was making USO tours to entertain the troops; his first was in 1942, and his last in 1990, at the age of 87. When he was the age I am now - 42 (in a few days) - he was a radio star, a movie star and an international star of USO shows - and it was the year that World War II ended.

My first memories of Bob Hope are from his television specials, interesting especially because Hope didn't have a lot of confidence in the success of that new medium - he was 47, in 1950, when he officially began his television career. He was 58 when I was born, in 1961, and 60 years old - the age many have either retired or are planning to soon - when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. He was almost 61 when his fellow countrymen, the Beatles, showed up in the United States for the first time. He was 72 when the Vietnam War ended in 1975 - a war he made easier for the fighting forces by making USO trips "over there", nine trips in 8 years.

He was 78 when President Reagan took office; 90 when the World Trade Center was first attacked; 98 when the Towers came down, one side of the Pentagon was ripped open, and thousands died from the first major terrorist attack on US soil. And now, at 100, he has left us.

Bob Hope's life spanned one of the most amazing centuries in the annals of humanity and, in my judgment, brightened and improved it through his talent, charm and unflagging spirit. He will be greatly missed; I doubt we'll see another like him.

UPDATE II: Lt. Smash posts his own tribute to Hope - fitting from a fighting man.

UPDATE III: Just came across this graph in a USA tribute to Hope, and it said a great deal:

He and Dolores were Jeopardy! fans, and they also spent time watching American Movie Classics ("to see my friends"), golf, news and football.

"To see my friends". What an amazing truth. The people we watch in old classic movies are the friends he golfed with, had dinner with, worked with. Those who are sepia-toned icons to us are a long life's memories to him.

Posted by susanna at 10:08 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 27, 2003

July 26, 2003

What I'm doing

Yes, I've spent about six hours watching While You Were Out and this show:

Trading Spaces in Manhattan.jpg

Not spending a lot of time sitting... don't think I will, for a couple more days.

But hey, that's okay. I can indulge my infatuation with Andrew Dan-Jumbo, and dream about a vacation in the Orkney Islands. Seriously, I'm thinking I'll go there, sometime in the next year. Very cool.

Posted by susanna at 09:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Found?

Police in Waco, TX, may have found the body of missing Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy. They're not sure yet:

The badly decomposed body was found in the woods outside of Waco near an area previously combed by authorities...

An investigator with the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office said the agency expects to receive a body Saturday from McLennan County that is "greatly decomposed and missing a lot of parts."

"They said there probably wasn't enough left to tell it was a man," said the investigator, who declined to give his name. "They have been vague and they apparently have not found much.

The condition of the body may indicate the killer did more than just shoot him and leave, but given the heat of the Waco area, the remoteness of the location (so there would be quite a few animals), and the likelihood that it's rained at least once, maybe it was no more than that.

Was it Dotson who killed him? It just seemed unlikely it was anyone else.

Posted by susanna at 07:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Black culture damaged by rap culture

This City Journal article by linguist John McWhorter fits perfectly with my earlier post about the negative influence of some modern black culture:

On a deeper level, there is something truly unsettling and tragic about the fact that blacks have become the main agents in disseminating debilitating—dare I say racist—images of themselves. Rap guru Russell Simmons claims that “the coolest stuff about American culture—be it language, dress, or attitude—comes from the underclass. Always has and always will.” Yet back in the bad old days, blacks often complained—with some justification—that the media too often depicted blacks simply as uncivilized. Today, even as television and films depict blacks at all levels of success, hip-hop sends the message that blacks are . . . uncivilized. I find it striking that the cry-racism crowd doesn’t condemn it.

For those who insist that even the invisible structures of society reinforce racism, the burden of proof should rest with them to explain just why hip-hop’s bloody and sexist lyrics and videos and the criminal behavior of many rappers wouldn’t have a powerfully negative effect upon whites’ conception of black people.

I don't get the impression from McWhorter's article that he's saying hip hop as a music genre should be targeted for eradication - rather, he's calling out those who foster even ugly elements of black culture as wonderful just because they're based in the black community. It's rather like inviting the mafia to your Italian Day Celebration because it must represent some deep cry from the ethnic roots of the Italian population. And you know how that would be received by the Italian community as a whole, given that some have threatened to sue over The Sopranos because of its negative Italian stereotypes. And I actually think a lot of the ones promoting or defending gangsta rap and hip hop as definitive black culture are guilty white liberals, which makes it different from earlier generations' reaction to rock 'n roll, to early country music, to the flapper fad of the 1920s.

While I was reading McWhorter's article, I thought about Elvis's song, "In The Ghetto". I've always seen it depicted as involving a young white man, but really it could involve any race. And the point is that hopelessness is always a breeding ground for crime - regardless of who's in that state. Poverty, vicious violence and disdain for the "mainstream" is not the sole provence of blacks, nor are they anything to be admired in anyone. And the first is difficult to throw off if you're consumed by the latter two.

Since I moved back to the northeast, I've worked with and taught a number of young blacks, men and women, who adopted to some measure the hip hop persona - the dress, the mannerisms - although given that they were in school they apparently didn't have the full disdain for education. And in my experience there was nothing between them and a good education but their attitude - I have never found a systematic difference in ability between the races in my classes, nor have I seen in the university as a whole a tendency to hold anyone down. It's all about who listens and works hard. Want to wear baggy pants and a do-rag? Be my guest, just get your essay in on time. But don't call me bitch and expect me to overlook it as a cultural artifact.

Race is not an issue with me, but rudeness and anger I didn't cause is. If a group of people, regardless of how they are dressed or what their race is, comes up to me and says, "Bitch, get out of my way," I'm going to think that is a group of lowlifes. If a group walks past me, regardless of race, and I hear some form of "f**k" as an adjective to every noun, as an exclamation for every occasion, as a reference to every male relieved only by a switch to "f**king bitch" for every woman - then, yes, I'm not going to think well of them. And there are those who would accuse me of racism if that group was black, while at the same time think I was just having a typical middle-class uptight response to rebellious youth or, even, having a fully justified response to rudeness, if the ones involved were any other race.

It's a dilemma, because quite frankly I don't want to focus this much on race. People are people, they want essentially the same things in life, their background and culture make them unique and everyone has something they can learn from everyone else. The means and desire to repair this society, to truly make it a place where race is not a negative issue, is already here. But now a lot of the resistance is on the side of the minorities (and not just blacks, I think, although since this is about hip hop they are more of a focus in this post). Until that attitude changes, society as a whole will not be repaired.

And in case you forgot it, here's Elvis's song:

In The Ghetto Lyrics
Elvis Presley

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin'
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
And his mama cries
'cause if there's one thing that she don't need
it's another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto
People, don't you understand
the child needs a helping hand
or he'll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me,
are we too blind to see,
do we simply turn our heads
and look the other way
Well the world turns
and a hungry little boy with a runny nose
plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto
And his hunger burns
so he starts to roam the streets at night
and he learns how to steal
and he learns how to fight
In the ghetto
Then one night in desperation
a young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car,
tries to run, but he don't get far
And his mama cries
As a crowd gathers 'round an angry young man
face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto
As her young man dies,
on a cold and gray Chicago mornin',
another little baby child is born
In the ghetto

Posted by susanna at 10:41 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 25, 2003

Irony

Admitted journalist liar Jayson Blair is going to write a movie review for Esquire of a film on admitted journalist liar Stephen Glass, who himself is going to write for Rolling Stone because everyone "deserves a second chance".

Blair has said he will donate his fee for the article to two charities, one for the protection of journalists and one for research into depression.

You know, sometimes truth is stranger than Scrappleface.

Posted by susanna at 02:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Suing states with "lax" gun laws?

You knew this would happen - the shooting in NYC City Hall Wednesday that ended in the deaths of Councilmember James Davis and his assailant and political opponent, Othniel Askew, is being blamed on ... "guns on the street".

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is on John Gambling's WABC radio show every Friday morning. This morning, Bloomberg talked about security issues, which led to a discussion of guns. Apparently Askew bought his gun in North Carolina and brought it into NYC without getting the proper permits. Bloomberg said that we have to "get the guns off the streets", that there are 260 million Americans and "300 million guns", that you think you don't know anyone who carries a gun but "you just don't know". He spoke approvingly of the lawsuits brought by New York and other states against gun manufacturers. Gambling asked what the rationale was for that, and he said, in a "well, doh" voice, "They make the guns. It's like the tobacco companies."

Gambling and Bloomberg groused briefly about states with "lax" gun laws that allowed people to buy guns easily, and how that caused problems for states that wanted tougher limits. Then Gambling asked, "Can you sue the states with the looser gun laws?" ostensibly because they, as well as the gun manufacturers, are putting New Yorkers at risk. Bloomberg said, "I hadn't thought of that. I'll ask counsel about it."

Yes, that's what we need - New York suing North Carolina for allowing Askew to buy a gun there. I don't think that's a permissible lawsuit, but the fact that it came up is scary. Don't these people understand that it's only law-abiding people who would be prevented from getting guns? It's so obvious that it's ridiculous. I guess they figure they'll get all the legal guns out of the way, then crack down harder on the illegally obtained ones. This is one of the issues that makes me nuts - I don't have a gun, but I would feel a lot less safe if I knew only criminals had them. And that's just speaking of crime - there's still the whole problem of the governmental abuses that could be visited on an unarmed populace.

I'm getting more and more into the mode of activism. This has got to stop.

Posted by susanna at 10:40 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

"I told her she was stupid for marrying her own daddy"

Just when I thought it was safe to move back down south:

Carrol Eugene Ferdinandsen, 53, and Alice Faye Ferdinandsen, 30, were arrested Thursday and charged with incest and fraud in connection with their May 2 marriage in a civil ceremony in Mobile County...

According to Mobile County court records, Alice was the third child of Carrol and Shirley Faye Ferdinandsen, and her mother filed for divorce when Alice was only 4 months old. Her mother said Thursday that she later met and married Charles Stewart, who Alice listed as her father on her marriage license application...

Family members said they had heard about the marriage and disapproved of the relationship.

"My father is completely convinced that she's not his daughter, no blood relation at all," David Ferdinandsen, who said he is Carrol's son and Alice's older brother. He's tried to discourage his father from the relationship, he said, but his father won't listen.

Alice's mother, whose last name is now Crayne, said Carrol is definitely Alice's father. She didn't meet Charles Stewart until Alice was 3 or 4 years old, she said.

"I told her she was stupid for marrying her own daddy," Shirley Crayne said. "I told him he was crazy and stupid. I told her I didn't ever want to hear from her again."

It's clear from the story that the dad should have been taken out and shot years ago - he's been after that girl since way before she was legal. At best it's a Woody Allen thing. At worst... well, at worst he should be neutered on the public square for this.

Yeesh. It just gives me cold chills.

Posted by susanna at 09:29 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 24, 2003

Update

Just to let you know, the surgery went fine today and the best case scenario is the one that played out. I am, however, in some degree of pain and feeling pretty stiff, so I'm moving around the house like an old lady (what's new about that, you say? just wait 'til I feel better - I am so going to thwap you). I am also having my first meal since last night, which consists of sweet iced tea, saltines and chunky applesauce. The anesthesia tends to make me nauseated, so I'm going as bland as I can get for tonight. Fortunately, I like all three of those things very much even if the saltines aren't Zesta, the pinnacle of saltine excellence.

See ya soon.

Posted by susanna at 08:17 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

For the libertarians

I was delighted to find Chris Muir (on hiatus - cruise his archive, it's all good) and Cox & Forkum, wonderful political cartoonists with a conservative bent - although none of them holds back from slaughtering sacred cows of the right, if that's what needs to happen. Today I found another cartoonist of like mind, except he seems - to me - to be more libertarian than conservative. I give you - Kevin Tuma:


Lesson1 - tuma small.jpg

Another reason Ben should be among the 20 Greatest Americans.

patriotact1 - tuma small.jpg

I'd say that Dodd would especially like this one.

/archives/choppers1___tuma_small.jpg

It's refreshing to see someone make it clear that both sides screw up, sometimes, and royally at that. Not that I'm convinced the War on Drugs is a complete waste of money, but I do think it's used as leverage to do things not directly a part of the WOD mission.

Isn't Tuma great? He's also published at CNS - his latest is hilarious.

Posting may be sporadic for a few days; I may post every 10 minutes, I may not post until Saturday or Sunday. It depends on how I feel after (minor) surgery tomorrow. So check out Tuma, and browse the blogs listed on the right. Of course.

Posted by susanna at 12:01 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 23, 2003

Inside Saddam's head

Bigwig braves the putrid cesspool of Saddam Hussein's thoughts in the aftermath of the deaths of his sons. It's a speculative thing, but chilling and well done, and -hopefully - true. But I fear that the man is too deeply evil and full of his own importance to have even that level of introspection.

Posted by susanna at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shooting in Manhattan's City Hall

Someone has opened fire on the second floor of the NYC City Hall in Manhattan; according to one report, two are injured, including the shooter. Another report says the shooter hasn't been apprehended. Just now, someone said the two injured are police officers. Obviously the reports are scattered right now.

Mayor Bloomberg wasn't injured. City Hall has been evacuated and the cops have taken over the scene. The Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges are closed.

It will be interesting to see how this is spun by the gun control folks. NYC has very stringent gun control laws, and the City Hall has metal detectors. What went wrong?

UPDATE: Apparently one of the injured is Councilmember James Davis, with two shots to the chest. That doesn't sound good. I hope it isn't as serious as it seems it could be.

UPDATE: Mayor Bloomberg said that a man stood up in the balcony section of a council meeting room, and shot two people. He's wearing a blue suit - that's the only description they've given. Bloomberg said it is not terrorism, but he got rather overblown in the rhetoric, saying it was a blow against democracy and against the American people as a whole. Um, no.

UPDATE: Hmm. Now it's two police officers shot. How can only two people be shot, and two police officers AND a councilmember be victims?

UPDATE: Just heard that one of the victims may have died, and a confirmation that a councilmember was among the victims. Here's the updated NY Times story (which doesn't have either of the two previous bits of info).

UPDATE: Sean Hannity is interviewing Curtis Sliwa on WABC radio, who is saying that Councilmember James Davis may have died, and that the shooter could have been his opponent in the last election.

Posted by susanna at 02:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why didn't I think of that?

I have two mangos in my frig that are in the last stages of acceptability (remember the three I bought last week in Manhattan? Yes, those). Trying not to be wasteful, I went searching for a recipe for mango sherbet to make tonight.

I was considering this one until I came across this line:

Turbinate in sherbet machine.

Right. Not only does it sound vaguely illegal (what's a "turbinate"?), who actually owns a sherbet machine? Except for maybe Martha Stewart. And I think hers has been sold in her, "Everything Must Go, I'm Off To Prison!" yard sale.

This is probably more my speed.

Or maybe just this. What's a little waste?

Posted by susanna at 01:46 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

More on cultural damage in race issues

Reader George Junior responded with a story of his own in response to my post yesterday on the controversial Hartford Courant cartoon:

I think "He sucks, but I respect him” is a great post on an important subject but the only short comment I could think of was: Bravo! So, I didn’t leave one, but I did have something I wanted to say that is far too long for a comment.

The piece resonated with me because a friend of mine, Rod, who’s mixed race (as a klutz I have no idea what the modern term for this is) has four children and they all just got their report cards. I’ve got three kids myself and Rod and I talk a lot about how tough it is to raise them right these days.

Anyway, the two youngest ones (boys aged 8 and 11) got fine reports. They’re doing well and Rod’s pleased, but the two girls (13 and 15) got dreadful reports. Not just bad, as in didn’t do well, but dreadful, as in failed most subjects they took. One of their teachers said “It looks to me like they’ve just given up”. It’s a real shame. They’d been doing ok at school up until now; some problems with the eldest girl but Rod just figured it was a phase she was going through. So he’s devastated by the news.

He puts it down to what they see on the streets, the opinions and judgements of their peers and the relentless advertising on TV, and pretty much everywhere else, of a “teenage lifestyle” and then coming on top of this is the race issue.

One of the reasons Rod and I get along so well, I think, is that we both talk to our children. We’re interested in them and naturally want to hear what they’ve got to say. Some of the conversations we’ve had with the girls over the past year have puzzled me, and worried and angered their father. He says it’s a social identity thing, he reckons they’ve “gone Black”. I guess I should make it clear, Rod is the black half of the kids’ mixed race parentage.

Anyway, here are some of the things the girls have said when we’ve talked to them about racism.

“something white people do to black people”,

“a gene that only white people have”

“it’s like an original sin that white people have”

Rod and I looked at each other in disbelief, these views have come from outside the home and seemed (when we talked to them some more about it) to involve a rejection not only of white people, who are “nasty” according to the girls, but of wider “white” society and everything white people value. As if wanting a job, a home and a good education for your kids was something only white folks wanted.

I remember when both the girls were born. I’ve played with them since they were toddlers and we always got along. But I’m white and when they were talking about how “nasty” white people are, I could see the look in their eyes that said “and you’re one of them”.

To be black for these two girls is to be “Black”: proud, separate and exclusive. But they’re not being excluded by society, they’re excluding themselves and by so doing are restricting the range of opportunities and rewards that will be available to them later in life. It’s a tragedy.

Sure they could work hard at school and try to get to college but then they’d be “acting white”.

Sorry for the length. I guess I had more to share than I thought.

It pretty much speaks for itself. I'd just like to add that this phenomenon results at least in part from emphasizing valuing self more than others, and basing that sense of superiority on characteristics the individual had no responsibility for - the same thing happens with a lot of the feminist rhetoric. You are better and laudable because you're black, or a woman, is the mantra, not because you work hard, or help others, or take responsibility for yourself. It's very damaging to both the ones who take that position and society as a whole. Those girls are now much more prejudiced than the average person they're claiming are prejudiced against them. And this is viewed as good in some circles.

I will point out here that a large portion of the black community in the US don't buy into this attitude. But it's a strong element in some areas, and definitely (from what I've seen) amongst so-called "black leaders" and places like African-American Studies programs. They do their race no favor.

Prejudice against someone because of their color is wrong, end of story, regardless of the color of the person holding the prejudice or the color of the person who is the object of the prejudice. It's difficult to tell whites who are prejudiced that they are completely wrong and at the same time defend blacks who are prejudiced against whites - or Asians, or whomever. People deserve to be judged on character, beliefs, choices and actions, and that's it. A virulent black racist is no better than the most spittle-spewing member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Posted by susanna at 08:30 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Speaking of women bloggers...

Ms. Magazine finally has its list of bloggers posted on its blogsite. I don't know if it's been there a while, but today is the first time I've seen hits from it. Way back (I'll dig in my archives to see when), there was an article saying there weren't many women bloggers, and Ms. started collecting links to said women bloggers to show it ain't so. Naturally I sent my link in, and actually had a couple of email exchanges with the Ms. blogger, Christine Cupaiuolo, who has been unfailingly pleasant to deal with.

I don't know what their criteria is for linking blogs; they do have a "feminist men" catagory that very correctly includes Alas, A Blog (altho now he's in splendid isolation). At any rate, I'm quite content to have this blog linked there, because anyone clicking over will likely find something very different from what they expect, and it might be good for them. I applaud Christine for including a cross-section.

I don't recognize most of the blogs linked there, but the ones I do recognize seem mostly liberal to me (or not political) except for Asymmetrical Information. I think any list of feminist bloggers online should include Meryl Yourish (and I mean that in a good way - she's someone I can disagree with and still manage to enjoy having dinner with her without it degenerating into a food fight) so I will encourage her to submit her link. And any of you other women out there, why don't you as well? Don't you think it'd be a better list if it included Virginia Postrel, Andrea, Michele, Rachel, and Kate? You know you do.

Posted by susanna at 07:01 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Something to think about

Meryl Yourish, Michele Catalano and Laurence Simon are participating in the Blogathon this weekend. Their goal: to contribute enough to Magen David Adom to buy an ambulance for Israel. This is an ambulance that would be used to help victims of suicide bombings in Israel - not just Israelis, but any victims (not limited to those occasions, but the more ambulances they have the better able they are to respond to any medical emergencies).

I don't typically encourage you to support specific groups. But if you've ever wished you could help those injured in the carnage in Israel, this is a way you can do so. It's not even about agreeing that Israel is exactly correct in its politics; it's about reaching out a hand to say, I want to help you survive this terrible situation.

It doesn't matter which blogger you support, really; what's important is that the support is there. You can choose one of the three, or do what I did - pledge some to each. And you can also browse the list of charities others are blogging for and contribute to something else entirely (but please, don't get violently ill when you see that many of them are rankly liberal - there are worthwhile groups).

So think about it. And make sure to drop by and encourage all three of them this weekend as they're blogging.

Posted by susanna at 12:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 22, 2003

YEEHAW!

Uday and Qusay are confirmed dead by the US, according to Fox News.

All I can say is, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving pair. Well, okay. Their father is more deserving. But only just.

And this also shows that the work of making Iraq a better place to be is continuing successfully - you know this wouldn't have happened without good intelligence.

I'll feel better when it's more widely reported and the Iraqi people believe it. But man, it's a great feeling. Those two boys were vipers in the bosom of Iraq.

UPDATE: Here's the NY Times article on it, and here's the WaPo article. It just feels surreal, like someone's going to say, "Oh! We were mistaken! Sorry." I guess because I want so much for it to be true, it's difficult to accept that it is.

Also, I hate to be this cynical, but I'm quite confident there are some Democrats out there who were irritated by this news because it plays politically in Bush's favor.

Posted by susanna at 04:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On a lighter note

Sick of "what would Jesus drive"?

How about seeing "what would Jesús drive"?

In Monday's edition of USA TODAY, the fledgling Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America ran a full-page ad that asks, "What Would Jesús (Rivera) Drive?" The ad shows a smiling, waving man named Jesús Rivera in front of his 1995 SUV...

The ad comes as the Rev. Jim Ball of the Evangelical Environmental Network completes an 11-city tour of southern states in a hybrid Toyota Prius as part of his "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign. ...Ball and the 90 other Christian leaders who are backing the "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign say that vehicle choices are moral decisions and that SUVs are hurting the earth by increasing pollution and oil dependence.

You gotta love a sense of humor - the pro-SUV folks strike precisely the right note here. When people start making what you drive a moral decision, then they deserve to be roundly mocked.

And, for your viewing pleasure, here is my own "bad for you" car - a close facsimile of the black Camaro I drove for two years in college and right after it:

/archives/76Camaro1.jpg

I would love to have this car again. Maybe, when I get settled somewhere, I'll get one. I want my little utilitarian Sentra, but I also want an SUV and a vintage Camaro. I'd be a happy woman.

(SUV link via Theosebes)

Posted by susanna at 10:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

But do they deserve to die?

A few months ago I posted several times about a murder at Western Kentucky University - the school is my alma mater, and the murder victim - Katie Autry - was a good friend of my niece. Katie was raped, then set on fire; two men have been charged with her murder. Now the prosecutor in the case has decided to seek the death penalty for both men.

Should they get it? It's a close call, but I'd say no.

This goes back to my discussion about the death penalty recently. What these two men did - if indeed it was them - is horrible. They deserve to never see the light of day again. However, I would not go for the death penalty. I would go for life without parole. Why? Because I think the death penalty should be for only the very most heinous crimes - for example, the case where two men robbing a music store in Utah forced the workers into the basement and tortured them, including making them drink Drano, which ate up their throats, and pushing an ink pen all the way into the brain of one man through his ear, before shooting all of them. Three of the five victims died.

Fewer death penalty cases, more executions. Raise the bar, then lower the boom.

Posted by susanna at 09:57 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Just when you think it can't get worse...

And the Catholic church isn't twisting itself into pretzels to apologize... why?

New court documents contain the most graphic evidence to date against the Rev. Paul R. Shanley (search), a central figure in the scandal that has engulfed the Boston archdiocese.

The court papers filed Monday by attorneys for alleged victims include claims that Shanley paid to rape and molest teenage boys, and sometimes shared them with other men — including at least one other Roman Catholic priest...

One alleged victim said in an affidavit that a man he met as a teen through his church would send him to Shanley, who would molest him and send him back with an envelope of money, some of which the boy would keep.

The "deliveries" continued over many years, according to the affidavit. When the alleged victim was 17, he said, the priest began taking him to bars, and would bring the teenager for games of spin-the-bottle with groups of older men.

Charming. I'm sorry, but this kind of thing can't happen consistently, over years, without it being widely known inside the institution. If I were a Catholic, I would never leave my child, male or female, alone with a priest ever. Is that unfair? To a lot of priests, absolutely - while I disagree with their theology, I don't question that most priests are good and honest men, dedicated to doing what they think is right. But too many aren't, and too little is done to them, and the Catholic church still won't bring the hammer down in a decisive way, which IMHO severely damages its claim to godliness and decidedly brings the leadership in to severe question. Admittedly as an outsider, I don't know all that's being done, but I've seen nothing that looks remotely like the repenting and abject sorrow, sackcloth and ashes sorrow, that David showed about his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite, or as shown by many others.

I think the entire Catholic clergy should have to consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:27-28 on a daily basis, to make sure it's never again true of them:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

And the Bible is also clear about what happens to those kinds of people:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-- 44where

"Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.'[1]

45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched--

Words to remember.

UPDATE: Theosebes comments.

Posted by susanna at 09:20 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

"He sucks, but I respect him"`

A little internal strife at the Hartford Courant has the staff cartoonist at odds with the reader representative (would that be "ombudsman" in normalspeak?):

Bob Englehart's cartoon showed two African-American residents of Hartford talking to a police officer as bullets whizzed by. One resident says: "Sure, we could give up the names of known criminals and make the neighborhoods safe for children but then we'd be 'acting white.'"

Karen Hunter, the Courant's reader representative, responded to the July 13 cartoon in her July 20 column. She noted that Englehart "is more than entitled to his opinions, he is paid for them." But Hunter added that the cartoon "insult(ed) a community." She wrote: "Beyond the complete disregard for the reality of fear of retaliation was the outrageous implication that black people in Hartford don't value the safety of their children and their neighborhoods as much as white people do."

Englehart, contacted Monday for his reaction to Hunter's column, told E&P Online: "I thought it was out of line and wrong." He said crime in Hartford -- and what he feels is the inadequate response to this crime by residents and those in authority -- is an "embarrassment." Englehart added that if residents don't report criminals because of fear of retaliation, "it's not going to help their neighborhoods."

Here's Hunter's column, and here's the cartoon (it's in a separate window that I can't get a link to; go to Englehart's Gallery for July 13, 2003, for the original):

/archives/acting_white_englehart_7_13_03.jpg

Hunter complains:

Englehart responded to my request for a better understanding of the cartoon by explaining that his commentary was born in part from an editorial board visit with Hartford Police Chief Bruce P. Marquis. "I was being critical of certain aspects of neighborhood culture that are anathema to maintaining law and order in Hartford," Englehart said.

But what does race have to do with it? No one would deny that Hartford residents have to work with police to address criminal activity. But as [reader Fanita] Borges made clear in an e-mail, "It is not about the race, it is about the people. Are you saying that only white people care about making their communities safe for children? How do they do that, by driving to Hartford to purchase drugs instead of having a dealer in Simsbury or Granby?"

Yes, all communities should be interested in safety. But it is about the race, or at least about one aspect of the culture of a race, that is hamstringing police. I'm very sympathetic to the dual difficulties of people who live in a high-crime area when the majority of the population there is minority and the majority of police are white. (I don't agree that they usually have good reason to be suspicious of the police, but I do agree that to them the suspicion is reasonable.) They fear the young thugs on the street, but they also don't trust the police. However, if a high percentage (not even 50%, but a lot) of the people in the neighborhood joined with the police to rid an area of the bulk of the criminals, it would happen. And I also agree that a very damaging meme in the minority communities (mostly in the African American community) is the "acting white" taunt. A lot of behaviors that would advance a person in society - speaking well, getting an education, working with the police to make the community safe - are denigrated as "acting white" in some circles. So, overall, it sounds to me like Englehart was right on target, and the cartoon is fair (from what I can see - not being from the area, I can't fully judge).

Hunter was way off in what she said. Englehart was identifying a real phenomenon that has a negative impact on the safety of a community. I don't think he's saying that blacks aren't as loving or caring as whites, I think he's saying that when blacks reach out to improve things, they're accused of not being "black enough" (and note that the officer in the drawing is also black, a point the E&P article doesn't, but should, make). And the only way that an accusation of "acting white" can stick is if there is a clear distinction in behavior between the two communities. Why should being safe be "acting white"? Why should getting a degree be "acting white"? Why should obtaining the good things in life legitimately be "acting white"? It's the charge that's leveled at any number of successful blacks who don't toe the "black" line - like Condi Rice, Clarence Thomas and others. If Englehart's cartoon rattles that cage a little, then great. I'm sick of the whole "acting white" thing. It's an excuse. Englehart lays it on the line. Hunter needs to stop "acting stupid".

Posted by susanna at 09:02 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Things you like to see your governor do

Not satisfied with charging a $17,000 cell phone bill to New Jersey taxpayers while on a taxpayer-funded junket to Ireland last year, NJ Governor Jim McGreevey is now vacationing in Puerto Rico at least partially on the taxpayer dollar, again. And while this time at least he had some of his trip funded privately, it is by... the local segment of an allegedly mob-riddled union, the International Longshoreman's Association (ILA):

Governor McGreevey and his family today will spend the first of five nights at an oceanfront resort in Puerto Rico on a trip sponsored by a labor union.

The International Longshoremen's Association will pay for the airfare, room, on-island transportation, and some meals for the governor, his wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, and their 19-month-old daughter Jacqueline, said McGreevey spokeswoman Kathleen Ellis. The union also will pay for the rooms of a McGreevey staff member and two state troopers, she said.

The longshoremen invited McGreevey to speak at their convention in San Juan on Tuesday about the economic importance of the New Jersey's ports.

Ellis said she couldn't provide an estimate of how much the union would spend on the McGreevey contingent, and union officials could not be reached Saturday. Ellis said New Jersey taxpayers would pay the nearly $1,700 airfare bill for the troopers and staff member, and up to $71 a day in expenses for the two troopers and the staff member.

Makes me proud to see that deduction in my paycheck every two weeks, knowing that it's going for such a vital government function. But somehow even that is better than the alternative McGreevey has come up with:

The president of the labor union that is paying for Gov. James E. McGreevey's trip to Puerto Rico this week said yesterday he expects his organization may soon be named in a federal racketeering suit...

Earlier this year, prosecutors convicted three members of the Gambino crime family who used threats and violence to take control of the Brooklyn and Staten Island locals of the ILA. A mob informant who testified in the trial said the Genovese crime family was "very friendly" with [ILA president John] Bowers.

Bowers has denied the allegations and said yesterday that he has tried to crack down on union corruption...

They're cutting down on corruption. (wink wink, nudge nudge) Why, they've never been involved in it, I'm sure! It's all persecution:

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor has monitored the docks since 1953. In the 1970s, racketeering prosecutions led to fines or prison sentences for 117 ILA officers, stevedores and shipping executives.

Four straight general organizers, the third-ranking post at the ILA, were toppled by racketeering or corruption charges.

In 1990, the U.S. Justice Department sued the union in an effort to break the Gambino and Genovese crime families' grip on the ports. The suit sought to oust Bowers and bar him from union activity, accusing him of ties to the Gambinos. Bowers denied it, settled the case and gave up just one of his three local presidencies.

The government took over a number of ILA locals in the wake of the lawsuit, top union officers were forced to step down and union representatives linked to the mob paid thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.

In 2002, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office indicted seven reputed Genovese crime family associates accused of shaking down dockworkers in a crime prosecutors likened to the labor corruption depicted in the classic Hollywood film "On the Waterfront." Among those charged were current and former union officials, including John Timpanaro, president of Local 1588 in Bayonne.

As recently as January, a Genovese crime family soldier turned government witness described in federal court the mob's influence with Bowers. The mobster, George Barone, described how he and Bowers agreed on who would lead the union in the future to ensure the Genovese family would "have our man as president."

I'm fully confident that McGreevey is completely disconnected from the investigation, that the fact that his administration has been investigating crimes by the organization paying his way is not in the least a conflict. Of course McGreevey is focused where he needs to be:

McGreevey's staff downplayed the vacation element of the trip, emphasizing that the governor will have at least a dozen meetings with Bush administration officials and others attending the convention to discuss dredging in the New Jersey area ports.

Micah Rasmussen, the governor's press secretary, said the governor's visit was about boosting jobs for New Jersey.

"Clearly, an investigation is a serious matter and it is one that should be completed," Rasmussen said. But, he added, "The governor's trip is not about whether one officer is under investigation. The governor's trip is about the thousands of people who work in the ports of New Jersey."

Yes, well, McGreevey's history would definitely lead you to believe that he's motivated by economic altruism - from last year:

When Gov. James E. McGreevey left for Ireland this summer on his first trade mission, he predicted the trip would cost taxpayers about $20,000.

He was off by at least $85,000. State records show the weeklong trip cost taxpayers at least $105,000, with the cell phone bill alone totaling at least $16,448.

The Governor went back to his ancestral homeland in style. He flew first-class, was chauffeured around the Irish countryside in a Mercedes-Benz, and stayed at luxury hotels. In Dublin, the Governor and first lady Dina Matos McGreevey spent one night in a $720 per-night "luxury suite" at the plush Berkeley Court Hotel -- a five-star hotel whose guests have included Tom Cruise, Nelson Mandela and the king and queen of Spain.

In all, taxpayers picked up the tab for McGreevey, the first lady, eight state officials and three state troopers on the Governor's security detail.

"This has started productive and long-term discussions with the Irish business community and with American companies," said Jo Glading, the Governor's spokeswoman. "These are long-term relationships that have been built and will be fostered and will yield benefits for New Jersey. Ireland is the gateway to the European Union."

I'm sure Chirac would be surprised to learn that Ireland is the gateway to the EU. I don't think he got that memo. At least there is a little consistency - I'm quite sure that Chirac and Bowers would get along like, well, members of the same family. (I will point out that eventually the majority of McGreevey's Ireland jaunt was paid for - by the Democratic party of NJ.)

And, of course, the final indignity- McGreevey has been appearing in commercials and making a big push for everyone in New Jersey, New York and all surrounding environs to vacation on the Jersey Shore. I guess it got so crowded he had to go out of town. Bummer, that.

Posted by susanna at 08:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Sexism in the blogosphere, Part 2,373,981

Spoons responds to Meryl's post on sexism in the blogosphere (which I linked earlier), sparked by John Hawkins's blogger list of "Greatest Americans".

I have to take a little bit of issue with Spoons for this comment: "she too claims to believe in an anti-female blogobias". Um, no. Meryl said that "Something is wrong with that picture" i.e., that there weren't any women in the top 20 list; I said, "I would agree" - meaning, it's a shame there aren't women there. And then I explain that I think it's more a matter of fewer women to choose from than any kind of anti-female bias. Do I think there are men in the blogosphere that think women are better seen (preferably unclad) than heard (except for... well, nevermind)?* Yes, of course. However, I also agree with the overall point of Spoons' commentary.

Women haven't had as broad a brush to paint with in our society; they're not presidents, and for most part (until recently) not ambassadors, inventors, business leaders or scientists. That's a societal thing. It's a shame - I think sometimes about all the talent and potential solutions that were lost to us because women, blacks and other groups have been limited by their context and time. And I think that's been one of the biggest unrealized tragedies of all time. But that's a far different thing from saying that there is sexism now in the blogosphere because we didn't reach into the past and find examples of each group to hold up.

* I also think there are women in the blogosphere who think men are mainly walking wallets and adulation machines. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, IMHO.

Posted by susanna at 12:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 21, 2003

Where I grew up

Recently you've seen photos of Manhattan and the part of New Jersey where I live - if any of you have watched the opening of The Sopranos, you've seen a lot more of it. I just came across some photos of my home town at the local newspaper's site, so here is the contrast.

This is downtown. I grew up 12 miles northeast of here, but this is where we shopped a lot, where I went to high school, where I went cruising with my friends when we were very cool teenagers. Where the road forms a Y in the middle-right section is the center of town; the building there is now a bank, but my dad worked at a grocery store on that site when he was in high school, and my mom took me there to buy shoes from Ben Rice's Shoe Store many times, before Ben moved the store to a new little strip mall on the north end of town. We always entered town on Main Street, which is also US 421; this perspective is north looking south, so we entered at the bottom of the photo. To the right of the Y is an open space around a building - that's a new government building, but a row of stores was there when I was in high school. My eventual brother in law worked at the Ben Franklin's that was there, and I remember rolling my eyes when my sister made me go in there with her so she could ogle and flirt. That was before he worked at Long John Silver's, where we would go so my sister could ogle and flirt too - it was true love from the start. How do I know? He would see her coming and have a hot plate of fried clams waiting for her when we got in the restaurant. I am far too familiar with the entire Long John Silver's menu. Long John's was at a strip mall on the west of town; you follow the right fork of the Y and curve around on the other side of the hill there. If you bear to the left and go across the bridge, you're in Littleton, a residential section of town we rarely ventured into.

On the center far left of the photo, you can see a red brick house with white columns in front. That's halfway up what we call Courthouse Hill, because (of course) it is a hill with the courthouse on top. If you look at the second house to the right of the one with columns, you'll see a yellowy-beige house with a small strip of red in front. That's where my piano teacher lived (still lives) - I spent many an hour in that split level, and it's a toss up whether I or my teacher was more tortured by it.

I could tell you something about most of the buildings in downtown, but I'll spare you. What strikes me most about the photo is just how tiny the town is - a population of 1700+, when everyone's home. It felt big to me when I was a little girl, going to town for groceries or to buy school clothes at the dry goods store on River Street (the last big building on the left, just before the left side of the Y ends at the river). There's a lot more of the town - you can't see the high school, the courthouse, or the ball park; you can't see the Henny Penny drive-in, or the new big strip mall with the Wal-Mart, a Winn-Dixie, a Wendy's and a Pizza Hut. But this is the heart of it.

This photo is a good overview of what Clay County looks like generally - it's not big mountains, but high hills packed so closely together that big valleys are rare. Take away all the buildings in this photo, moosh the hills together to take away about half the width of that valley, and you've got a decent approximation of where I grew up (and where my parents still live).

It's a world away from where I live now. In more ways than one.

Posted by susanna at 07:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Site of the Week

This week's featured Site of the Week (up in the top right corner, if you haven't been paying attention) is Little Tiny Lies, authored by the always... interesting Steve, who goes by a variety of odd names on his blog, some of which I suspect my mother would not approve.

Steve is a writer and lawyer, two professions that are even more suspect when practiced in tandem. Furthermore, he's also a humorist AND a cook, so if you're in Miami and see a man with four hats walking through some mall carrying foodstuffs, it's likely Steve. The only mitigation in all this is that he was born in eastern Kentucky; however, nearly all the value of that is erased by his now living in Florida. At any rate, he's a fine writer worth a look.

Posted by susanna at 07:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lance keeps going, and going, and goi...

This is why Lance Armstrong is a cycling machine:

As Mayo attacked the lead group it was Lance countering the move and then going on his own attack. As he turned right into a fairly sharp turn, Lance was on the right side of the road and hooked a musette (bag) held by a spectator and went down hard with Mayo. He recovered as fast as he could and in a display of awesome sportsmanship the leaders waited for him to get back on. One final pedal slippage saw Lance almost go down again, but yet he recovered the leaders again..

Once he settled back into the pace Lance was on the attack again, dropping Mayo quickly and off to the races and a historic stage win. Ullrich was forced to chase as the other riders sat on his wheel, and the desperate German star had no answer for Lance today.

He took a spill and still won the day. He is just.... well... the site says it:

Amazing - epic - awesome - terrifying - unbelievable

Amen.

Posted by susanna at 11:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Who's the greatest?

John Hawkins has put together the top 20 Greatest Americans, according to 48 bloggers. How close do they match your own list?

UPDATE: Meryl Yourish isn't much happy with the list:

Notice also that there is not a single woman on the list of the "greatest figures in American history." There is one honorable mention of a woman: Harriet Tubman.

Something is wrong with that picture.

I would agree, but at the same time, given the limitations women have labored under for most of humanity's existence, there aren't nearly the same number of prominent women to choose from and their accomplishments not necessarily recognized as universally across political lines and across the male-female divide.

For what it's worth, here's my list with the note I sent about it to John:

Here's my list, in no particular order - and FYI, my definition of "greatest" includes "most important impacts", so there are people here that I wouldn't necessarily like or agree with all their ways:

Thomas Edison - electricity and its attendant inventions

Henry Ford - manufacturing innovations

Thomas Jefferson - guidance and writing in producing the founding documents

George Washington - leadership, and setting the example of how to be president

Benjamin Franklin - diplomacy, and invention

Thomas Paine - getting the word out

Abraham Lincoln - keeping the country together, even though I hate how he did it

Frederick Douglass - for showing the country the plight of the slaves, and the truth that black and white are equal, and for being equal without being a victim

The Robber barons - a group; because they laid the foundation for and marshalled in the Industrial Age, albeit while using some very bad methods

FDR - for his guidance in WWII; but NOT for the New Deal.

Bill Gates - for ensuring the spread and ubiquity of PCs, even though (like the robber barons) his methods weren't always the best

Ronald Reagan - for turning the country to the right, for ending the Soviet Union through his refusal to bend to them, for being an icon of conservative governing in many ways

Harry Truman - for having the guts to do what needed to be done to end WWII

Bob Hope - For his tireless efforts throughout the years to entertain and encourage our military personnel overseas. I think that contribution means more than we may realize.

Condoleeza Rice - for all that she is and has accomplished in the face of great obstacles

Suffragettes - Another group - because they brought women into the mainstream of society. I don't agree with all their vision, but I can't deny my life is tremendously rich with potential due in a good part to their efforts

August Vollmer and Orlando W. Wilson - police chiefs in the first half of the 20th century who were major movers in the professionalization of policing in the US - today's professional force is founded on their efforts.

Lady Margaret Thatcher - because I want to adopt her as an American

My mom - Because she overcame a very difficult childhood ... to become a normal, happy and loving woman who sustains a marriage of 45 great years (so far), enjoys life and raised three healthy kids. This country was built on the backs of millions of men and women just like her, strong and unassuming, living their lives doing what they thought was right, resulting in the great country we have. All the "greatest Americans" we can think of as individuals would not even be footnotes in history without the vast millions of average doing-the-right-thing Americans.

There you go. Yes, I know Bob Hope is iffy, but if you're talking about "impact", then I think you can't leave out the entertainment world. So what is your list?

Posted by susanna at 08:42 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Coverage and reality, Part II

I posted earlier about the coverage of Wednesday's panel discussion on whether Bush is unbeatable in 2004. Now that the transcript is posted, I thought you'd like to see a little more juxtaposition of what was said vs what was covered:

First, the New York Times - that paper of record - who sent their breathlessly self-impressed gossip columnist. She mentions who was on the panel; she tells us what she ate; she recounts the "frisson" moment between former Clintonista Dick Morris and his still-on-the-bandwagon former colleague Sidney Blumenthal; then after a litany of Who Was There, she gets to the meat of it all:

[Bianca] Jagger, for her part, said she was glad to finally see serious questions being asked about Mr. Bush's administration.

In New York doing her human rights work, she said, she furiously took notes throughout the discussion, at one point rooting around on the floor in search of another discarded program to write on.

"I do a lot of debates on television," Ms. Jagger explained, adding that she has been outspoken about Mr. Bush "and how he has made people in America less secure."

That's what you like to see - serious analysts tracking what's being said. Here's a bit of what was said - do you think it would have been worth the Times' time?

Blumenthal (?): I would say not so fast on the question of the rationale that the president presented for the war. This is a very serious matter, it is by no means over, there’s a good deal to be learned about this. I believe it will lead to the door of Vice President Cheney, who I believe is responsible for the abuse of intelligence. That’s a very serious matter. It’s not a question of whether or not it was a good thing to overthrow Saddam Hussein, I think we can all agree that having Saddam [gone] is good. The problem is, is that in presenting the rationale for the war, intelligence was abused, and the Congress was lied to as it voted on a war resolution. It’s a Constitutional matter. The question is, who’s responsible? George Tenet, whose taken the fall, is he truly responsible? Condi Rice, now, who blames George Tenet, did she play no role in this? What about Vice President Cheney, what is his responsibility for all this? Was he the prime mover in all this? There’s a lot [more] to learn here, and this goes to the question of trust of the president.

So Blumenthal accuses Cheney of abusing intelligence, and says the Congress was lied to, and it's more important to the NY Times to report that the lunch was shrimp salad and that Bianca Jagger took notes for her debates.

The New York Post did their part too - this was all about Hillary:

AL Gore would be the biggest threat to President Bush's re-election and Hillary Clinton the next most dangerous opponent, Republican strategist Ed Rollins said yesterday at the "Is Bush Unbeatable in 2004?" forum sponsored by The Week magazine.

Of course, neither Gore nor Clinton is running. But that didn't stop former Talk editrix Tina Brown from asking Rollins, who masterminded Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election, if New York's junior senator could unseat Bush next year.

"Six months from now, if Bush is vulnerable, then yes, she could," said Rollins...

Certainly that was more important to report than this:

Hart: Well, I think Mr. Blumenthal could do that better than I, all I’ll say to you is that our commission did not issue its final report until January 2001, under a mandate to advise the next president of the United States, whoever that should be, of 15 uniform, universally agreed to recommendations that this commission that spanned (?) Young on one end to Newt Gingrich on the other. The first was, create the National Homeland Security Agency. Not only did George Bush not do that, when Republicans in Congress introduced legislation that spring to do it, he publicly asked them not to go forward.

Evans: Okay. Anybody answer that? You can’t, right?

Rollins: I can answer it. First of all, we’re operating under certain premises. And the premises are, that because taking the 15 items in your report, which obviously they’d all be very superb items, that we could make America terrorist free. We can’t make America terrorist free. And I think the efforts that have been taken since September 11, no question on September 10, September 6 when you presented your report, our guard was down. Our guard was down terribly. We were shocked, and (unintellig) because we were attacked. Today, let’s give credit where credit is due. For two years, no terrorists get to sit around bars in Daytona Beach, Florida, and watch [strippers] while they’re planning on kidnapping planes from Boston or what have you. We are hunting those people down, from one end of this world to the other, successfully or unsuccessfully they’re on the move. There have been a whole variety of times they’ve captured, they don’t basically set up on the front page of the New York Times, we just caught these 25 terrorists trying to sneak through the Canadian border yesterday, but at the end of the day, at the end of the day, will there be other terrorist attacks in this country? You bet we are. We are now a target, we will be a target for the rest of our lifetime, and unfortunately for the lifetime of my daughter and your grandchildren. That’s sad. Are we getting more prepared than we’ve ever been before? Absolutely.

It's possible that none of the information discussed by the panel was very new, but at the least it was presented as argumentation with answers of a sort. There are so many ways this could have been covered - I can see several possible headlines:

Rollins: We will be attacked again - on American soil
Blumenthal says Bush administration lied to Congress
Gary Hart holds Bush responsible for 9/11 attack: "He was warned... he did nothing"
Financier: Bush tax cuts "robbing our children and grandchildren"

Instead, we get this:

NY Times: Rounding Up the Usual Suspects
NY Post: AL TOPS BUSH-BEATER BRIGADE

At least three of the four panelists have reason to both have knowledge the average person does not, and to have an impact on the issues and approaches emphasized in the 2004 election. So why wasn't it covered differently by the newspapers?

Posted by susanna at 08:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The real deal - what the pundits are saying, in their own words

Last Wednesday, I attended a luncheon given by The Week magazine, at Michael Jordan's The Steakhouse in Manhattan's Grand Central Station. I took along a tape recorder and my trusty digital camera, lucking out with both - I arrived just as the panel of pundits were posing before the media cameras, and then snagged a seat beside Megan McArdle that also happened to be right beside one of the speakers (not the human kind, the mechanical amplifying kind). I've transcribed the entire tape - about 60 minutes worth - for your reading pleasure. It's very long, 16 pages single spaced, half inch margins, 12 point type, so I've tucked it away in the MORE section so those who don't care won't be bothered by it. Here are the pundits in full glory:

/archives/Speakers_straight_shot_7_16_03.jpg

Sidney Blumenthal, Gary Hart, Harold Evans, Monica Crowley, Ed Rollins

I think all of you should read the entire transcript. I'm going to write a post analyzing it at some length, later, and maybe by then you'll have read the original. One of the more important points to be made is comparing what was actually said to the coverage in two major New York newspapers, the New York Times and the New York Post. I'll have more to say about that too.

Now, for technical comments. There were times when the voices were unintelligible on the tape or people spoke over each other, and I indicate that. A few times I wasn't completely sure who was speaking, and I have put who I think it was with a question mark after his or her name. I also use (?) in the text of the comments when what I couldn't understand was only a word or two; I use (unintellig) or some variation when the amount left out was longer. They had started the panel discussion before I had the tape on, so I missed the first few minutes, and I probably missed a bit when I switched the tape over to the second side (I note where that was).

So, without further ado:

(Discussion had already started by the time my tape started)

Crowley: … I think the President has a number of things going for him, that put him in a very strong position going into November next year. He’s going to raise an enormous amount of money, he’s got the power of incumbency, and he also has a very strong emotional connection with the American people, coming out of September 11, and those three things together are going to form very intense obstacles for whatever Democrat is nominated by the party.

Evans: You say he’ll lose on security. Please explain why

Hart: He is horrible on security. He was warned nine months before 9/11 to create a national Homeland Security agency, he did nothing. The reference to Congress to create such an agency to coordinate federal capability to defend this country, he vocally and visibly opposed those efforts. So here is a man who was warned there would be attacks, very explicitly, he did nothing. Nine more months went by, before he finally endorsed the notion of protecting this country through correlation with the federal (?).

Evans: Everyone I suppose knows that Gary Hart and Warren Rudman wrote the National Security Commission Report saying Americans would be dying on American soil unless security was improved… He went to the White House to press this issue and met Condoleeza Rice in I think May, what happened?

Hart: Actually, we met with the National Security Advisor in the White House to urge the administration to move more quickly on homeland security, that day was September 6, 2001, five days before the attacks.

Evans: But your report came out in January.

Hart: The report was given to the president January 31st, 2001.

Evans: So what do you say, is this an amazing window of vulnerability, Ed, for President Bush?

Rollins: Whatever the report said or didn’t say, is not relevant. The American public today basically views this president as the guy who came, who gained great strength and great character on September 11. Two men in America basically gained great stature, Rudy Guiliani here and obviously President Bush. Ever since then, the country looked at Bush in a different way, they looked at him as a very significant leader. And that’s what you’re up against today, it’s not the candidate that’s untested against Al Gore. Now he’s now a man who’s basically lived up and moved this country forward since then, and I think (?).

Harold Evans: (unintelligible) that he said this week, that Saddam Hussein would not let the inspectors in. I mean, who, there’s a move on the Democratic web sites, invoking the 25th Amendment, which removes the president for insanity. They’re trying to get signatures for this, and I know nobody in the room would like to sign (?), but does it do any damage to say Saddam would not let the inspectors in?

Rollins: I think the bottom line is, as Sidney said, any time our military goes in and wins a war, the America public get around it. The administration that you served, Bill Clinton, had the same army and obviously chose on many occasions not to do what you should have done. George Bush I think did what he thought was right, basically went in there and, obviously we’re not out of Iraq yet and won’t be for a long time, but I think as far as the country at this point in time the military fought a good war, and was guided well by the commander ‘n chief, and I think that’s a good (?)

Crowley: We’re talking about a situation here in Iraq where the majority of the American people still believe it was the right thing to do, to go in and remove Saddam Hussein. We’re talking today, in July, a year before the presidential election, 16 months down the road, there are a couple of unknown things that can happen and one of them is a situation in Iraq, and if this thing goes down poorly over the next 16 months then the president will (?). Because I think there is a point of vulnerability for this president, he did do the right thing, he won a very strong military victory here in Iraq, but the problem is do we have an adequate post war strategy under way in Iraq. And this thing could go one of two ways. If it goes well, the President benefits. If it goes badly over the next 16 months, he will be vulnerable.

Blumenthal (?): I would say not so fast on the question of the rationale that the president presented for the war. This is a very serious matter, it is by no means over, there’s a good deal to be learned about this. I believe it will lead to the door of Vice President Cheney, who I believe is responsible for the abuse of intelligence. That’s a very serious matter. It’s not a question of whether or not it was a good thing to overthrow Saddam Hussein, I think we can all agree that having Saddam [gone] is good. The problem is, is that in presenting the rationale for the war, intelligence was abused, and the Congress was lied to as it voted on a war resolution. It’s a Constitutional matter. The question is, who’s responsible? George Tenet, whose taken the fall, is he truly responsible? Condi Rice, now, who blames George Tenet, did she play no role in this? What about Vice President Cheney, what is his responsibility for all this? Was he the prime mover in all this? There’s a lot [more] to learn here, and this goes to the question of trust of the president.

Hart: (unintelligible) Let’s hypothesize that nine months before Pearl Harbor, a commission of distinguished Americans, present company excepted, advised President Roosevelt that the Japanese [would] attack our fleet at Pearl Harbor. Or that they would attack Americans in some way. The president did nothing about that. Reality doesn’t begin the day of the attack. There is something in a democracy called accountability, this president didn’t do his job.

(several talking at once)

Evans: You just tell him what the country is thinking about these charges, and betrayal of trust.

Rollins: At this point the country is not (?), that does not mean that over a period of time if this becomes a front page story repeatedly, it depends on a lot of other things that could occur.

Evans: Well he’s gone down from 90 percent …

Rollins: No, no, 90 percent is totally artificial. Most polls today he’s still sitting at a very high point.

(Evans unintelligible, other voices)

Rollins: 55-60 percent. When Gary Hart was running for president in 1984, Ronald Reagan, I left the White House (unintell.) in October of 1984. Ronald Reagan was behind (unintell) was running behind Walter Mondale. Once we cleaned up the troops in Beirut, once we got to January, we were ahead of Mondale 51 to 41, 51 to 42, for a solid year. We won with 59 percent of the vote, we won the biggest electoral vote in history, we also the biggest actual vote. These are the numbers that Bush is holding today against any Democrat, it’s 51 or 52 against any Democrat. If six months from now, like his father, 60 percent of the country was looking for a change, people aren’t looking for a change right now, and I think the reality is he’s getting the benefit of a doubt and he will continue to get a benefit of a doubt unless (unintelligible).

Crowley: (speaks over Rollins) Also, let me just follow up on one point. Historically the American public when faced with questions of war and peace tend to traditionally trust Republicans more (?) so as long as we’re in this protracted war against terror the Democrats are going to have an uphill battle in trying to convince the American people that they are credible on this.

Evans: (unintelligible) we get to the Vietnam situation where the American people did tend to distrust a Republican president, just to correct you there.

Crowley: It took a long time to get there, it took two Democratic presidents running Vietnam before you have Richard Nixon in the White House, so it took a long time for the American people to turn on the war. (?)

Evans: At the moment, if I’m correct on this, the (?) in published reports isn’t anything like as extreme as it was during the Vietnam era.

Rollins: First of all, we’re about a month after the war is over, I think Bush declared the war over a little too soon. I mean, you’re going to have guerilla action, which unfortunately a troop a day is going to be probably killed for the foreseeable future. I think you have now real actively Saddam is still alive, allegedly, but it’s not a war. We have won the war, the government has been toppled, it’s not Vietnam, it’s not hundreds of thousands of troops being killed over there (unintell.) I think the reality is that over time we’re bring peace and order there. It’s going to take longer because there was not a good, there was a good war plan, but not a good peace plan.

Evans: Not to campaign, which doesn’t sound (?) patriotic… (unintell)

Hart: I’m (?) with Homeland Security, I’ve already made that case, and I’m prepared to make it at much greater length, because I think this president did that and (unintell). And I don’t think, two, we’re coming up on the second anniversary in a couple of months, two Council on Foreign Relations reports now document that this country is not a whole lot safer than it was on 9/11. That’s a terrible indictment, and by the way these commissions, our commission had people like Newt Gingrich on it, the Council of Foreign Relations is totally non partisan, totally not, unbiased, our ports are insecure, the list goes on, the National Guard is not properly trained and equipped, we don’t have enough emergency health workers, the first responders are getting no support from the federal government, and the list goes on. Our critical infrastructure is not protected, we are a vulnerable nation, and it is lucky we haven’t been attacked again. I’ll make that case till hell freezes over.

Blumenthal: The issue of patriotism has been used against Democrats, it was used very effectively in 2002, you have Max (?) running in Georgia, someone who gave three limbs for his country in Vietnam, and his patriotism was attacked. He was stunned, didn’t respond, and lost the election. I think the Democrats can expect a full scale assault on their patriotism regardless of what the facts are. Gary has pointed out, there are very important facts about the president that need to be dealt with. The question is whether or not Bush will be held accountable in (?) on the question of patriotism. The image of a constant turmoil, a constant state of warfare, that requires the American people not to focus on the president, not to focus on the facts, I think is essential to the Bush-Rove strategy. It’s succeeded in the past, and what the Democrats need to do is to drive these facts about the president home.

Evans: A celebrated Democrat, who shall be nameless, suggested to me the other day that it would be a good thing to take a video clip of Bush landing on the aircraft carrier and run it in reverse, as a kind of reminder of Dukakis on the tank. Would something like that work?

Hart: Not a single president, by the way, whoever put on a military uniform while he was president, not George Washington, not Grant, not Eisenhower, and not a war hero candidate. It was only this person, who was able for a year to (?) the National Guard, who (unintelligible)…

Evans: (unintell) So could that be used against him, exploiting the uniform of (unintell..)

Crowley: That’s a very risky strategy, Gary, and this gets back to one of my initial points, which was that the president has a very strong emotional connection with the American people coming out of September 11, the image of him down the block here, amidst all the wreckage of the World Trade Center, clambering on top of that rubble with that bull horn, that is a very powerful image to the American people. When you talk about using the image of him landing on the aircraft carrier, put that in reverse, boy, that is courting disaster for the Democrats if they do that, because it might backfire in a big way.

Hart: Do you know how many times you used the word “image”? About five. There’s a difference between image and substance.

Rollins: I said nice things about Senator Hart as the man who threw the hatchet and won the New Hampshire primary in his plaid shirt, and he wants to talk about substance vs imagery, it’s a new take.

Evans: What about… (unintell) this morning we have a new report about the deficit being $450 billion, is this something that can passed over lightly?

Rollins: No, I can’t, and I think the deficit is a very serious problem, and it’s a very serious problem for the states and the cities across the country. The bottom line for re-election campaigns that we’re talking about, I can certainly make some very similar arguments about things this president might need to do, and might, has to do to answer. The country is looking to re-elect a president, I don’t care who the Democrat is, if they’re satisfied with the job, as they were with Bill Clinton, as they were with Ronald Reagan, it doesn’t matter who their opponent is, they’re going to win. If there’s some reason six months from now, eight months from now, the country is looking for an alternative, one of these people today, very few people know anything about them, (unintell). As of today, every poll that I’ve seen, including the ones where he’s dropped in the last week or 10 days, not dramatically but dropped a little bit, every poll that I’ve seen the country is still very satisfied with the leadership of George Bush. (Male voice says, “There are some questions, there are some questions.”) The deficit will not be a factor if the other issues, Gary Hart wants to raise and George Bush wants to run on, which is national security what have you, today as Gary Hart has (?) laid out, we have lots of things to be done in this country, but in order to do any of them, fix ports, more police forces, what have you, many of the reasons these states and cities are so flat broke is they have had additional security that has cost tremendous sums of money. So anything that relates to national security the country is willing basically to spend more resources for, including war. If it doesn’t relate to national security, if it’s irresponsible spending, then clearly they’ll (?).

Evans: But at the polls, he’s seen as not paying sufficient attention to the economy, is that not right?

Rollins: It is now starting to be the Achilles heel, as it was for his father. At the end of the day, it’s not a foreign policy crisis, if he focuses only on the economy or only the deficits and that’s the issues that are made, it won’t be as effective a campaign. I think President Bush intends on running on national security. If Gary Hart wants to answer him, if the Democrats want to answer him on national security, it’ll be an interesting debate, but it’ll play to George Bush’s strength.

Evans: Pete Peterson, do you want to comment on the economy here, because you’ve issued a number of reports about the vulnerability of the country, how vulnerable do you think President Bush is on the economy? Pete Peterson is chairman of The Blackstone Group.

Peterson: When you mention my name the economy (unintellig., laughing, voices talking over each other). Let me just say… So far no one has been able to make the case that (unintellig.), but the fundamental problem with this administration (unintell) is it’s totally ignored the future, it’s robbing the future and fundamentally it’s robbing our children and grandchildren. And all of these tax cuts, [as bad as it means for the deficit], with everybody urging that they be made permanent, only aggravate an already profoundly serious problem with (unintellig.), and I’m waiting for some guy who’s good at politics to make the moral connection between our responsibility to our children, and our desire to have it all now. And that’s an issue that’s not been made, and I don’t know that it can be made, but I think it’s a very important point to be made. Now on the economy, something you haven’t mentioned, that ties the economy to what Gary Hart said, is that should there be a terrorist attack on our country in the reasonably near future, it would have two potential implications. It would make Gary Hart’s case, and Warren Rudman’s case, far more real to the American people in terms of accountability. Secondly, we’re desperately dependent in this country on the consumer. And if we were to have a series of attacks, and they needn’t be very big, I suspect we could have a significant effect on the economy, which (unintellig.). The problem with the deficit is not today’s deficit, the problem is what happens [in ten years].

Evans: You made a very good point there, which was who can articulate your concern for the future, who is the Democratic candidate, and we’ll ask you in a moment too, who (unintellig), who is the Democratic candidate in the present field, excluding Mayor Koch, Mayor Dinkins, George Plimpton, those who are well known to be running.

Blumenthal: I don’t want to pick and choose among the candidates, however I do want to say that the issue of the future is absolutely essential to this discussion, to the presidential campaign, it is about the economy, as Pete Peterson has said. It is also about the future of the Supreme Court, which has to do not only with rights, but the role of federalism and states rights, it has to do with our foreign policy. There’s no doubt that Colin Powell will not be Sect’ry of State in the second term, nor will there be anyone like him in that position, it’s going to be extremely difficult for even our closest ally, Britain, to maintain the same kind of relationship that Tony Blair has, very brilliantly and through great difficulty maintained, in this first Bush term. So I think it’s, thinking about the future of a second Bush administration and what it may bring, can help clarify what the issues may be.

Evans: I’ve got here on the telephone, Republican speech writer David Frum, who’s book was (unintellig.). David, are you there?

Frum: Yes, I am.

Evans: We’ve pretty much decided Bush is bound to lose. (unintellig.) What do you say to that?

Frum: Any incumbent president is beatable. Certainly, so far away from an election you would hesitate to say otherwise. Maybe two months beforehand, (unintell). The good thing is for President Bush, even though he’s beatable, the Democratic party seems determined not to beat him. That direction (unintellig), is determined to charge the machine up, to challenge President Bush where he’s strongest, to go easy on him where he’s the most vulnerable, and that it’s (?) on such impatience and anger, on dislike of him, that it has their ability to proceed in a cold-eyed way (unintell)

Evans: If you were writing speeches in the White House today, how would you be exploiting what you see as that Democratic chaos:

Frum: I would do (unintellig) what Napoleon said, never interfere with an enemy while he’s committing suicide. They can go on doing what they’re doing, and just keep pinching themselves, asking themselves whether they can continue to be so lucky.

Evans: Ed?

Rollins: David, just help me. You always forget, these are national elections, state by state elections, that wind up with 270 electoral votes, or 271 as the last occasion took place. Gore obviously won the plurality of the votes, and lost by five votes the electoral. I’ve watched [these campaign] where the Supreme Court is the most important issue, and I don’t think it will stick to people in the country, [to vote on the single issue of whose going to be the next Supreme Court judges]. Maybe in some Democrat caucases in Iowa and New Hampshire or elsewhere, but the people in middle America, and we who live on the east coast and the west coast always forget there’s about 180 million people who live in middle America, clearly these are not the issues. The Republican party 20 years ago when I ran President Reagan’s reelection campaign, we were a western, far western, big industrial state party. We are now a Southern party, we now have the old Democratic coalition of the South. I promise you that with the exception of Florida, that not a single Southern state that is in play…

Evans: What about if Edwards runs?

Rollins: Edwards has got a run for his life to get re-elected in North Carolina. And, he has to make that decision pretty quick, about whether he wants to be a Senator or he wants to be a candidate for president. The successful, the three Democrats who have been successful in running with the exception of Lyndon Johnson who obviously took office because of an assassination, ran as centrist Democrats. Kennedy ran on tax cuts and strong national defense. Carter ran as a reformer, obviously as a Southerner. Clinton obviously ran as a centrist and basically any Democrat who’s candidate today and letting Howard Dean set the pace, 7% of the Democrats can name who Howard Dean is, everybody in the media is all excited about Howard Dean, but the reality is that Howard Dean is going to get you so far to the left, and that’s who you’re going to chase, the reality is (unintellig).

(voices talking over each other)

Hart: First of all, about the Supreme Court. I think a lot of women in this country care a lot about who’s on the Supreme Court, and you’ll get more than 50 hands in this audience from women about whether the Supreme Court’s important.

Evans: All right, let’s try it (unintellig). This is a poll, conducted by me. How many people in the audience think the Supreme Court matters (?). Okay! Now, just women now please. (pause) I think you’ve lost the election.

(voices talking over each other)

Rollins: Are you going to vote for whomever, based on who they’re going to put on the court, that’s the question that was posed. There are lots of issues that go into, and I’m not arguing the abortion issue one way or the other, I’m just simply saying for every campaign, the last several, people have said who gets to be on the court, the president is going to appoint the next two or three judges, that’s the most important issue, it started with Mondale against Reagan. That basically (?) a 3200 vote margin in his home state of Minnesota. Dukakis tried the same thing, you tried the same thing, and the reality is it’s not the issue that matters. What matters to most Americans is who can lead the country the most effectively.

Crowley: And in the upcoming presidential election you’ve got two primary issues that are going to drive this thing. You’ve got the economy, and you’ve got national security. And we always talk about how the economy trumps everything, but I think in the age of terror, you’re dealing with life or death issues, those life or death issues then trump everything. And you’ve got a president who’s running on a very strong record on national security. We talk about the economy, you know the unemployment number, if that continues to climb that could be a liability for him, but he has, unlike his father, he can actually run on the fact that he has taken the initiative on the economy, he’s managed to persuade the Congress to pass two waves of tax cuts, he can run on that, that is the platform he ran in 2000, he’s delivered on it, he’s worked on his principles, he is very strong on the two issues that are going to matter.

Evans: There’s a bumper sticker among the Democrats at the moment, two bumper stickers I’ve got here, “Bush lied, thousands died,” that’s one bumper sticker, another is, “Bush and Cheney got rich – did you?”. Are those going to be effective?

Crowley: I think they’re clever one liners, but I don’t think they’re going to go particularly anywhere.

Evans: (unintellig)

Blumenthal (?): I think there’s an issue on the economy that will cut against Bush, Bush is obviously trying to use the image, as you point out, of his position on security to obscure his actual record and to have the voters charge him with responsibility for it. In 2000, he run with a compassionate image, and that was intended to show that there would be no difference in policy in effect between himself and Al Gore. We now have seen the results of his policy, he can’t claim that the economy is like the weather and that he is fundamentally irresponsible, for the American people hold the president responsible for insolvency, for these deficits, which are pressing down on very important issues, including how you pay out Social Security in the future. It is also pressing down on (unintellig), and that, in particular, affects the people who have been most hurt by the greatest rise in unemployment in over 10 years, have been African Americans, Hispanics, and women. And it’s, he has not made good on his agenda as a so-called compassionate conservative, and the question is whether he will be held accountable for his actual record.

Evans: Okay, Gary?

Hart: We didn’t respond to Mr. Peterson’s observation, I think it requires response. Before that though, a fundamental proposition. This to a degree is a referendum on George W. Bush, but he will not be defeated, despite all our rhetoric here, unless the Democrats offer positive alternatives. Mr. Peterson talked about consumption. For example, if one of the Democrats, by the way, this is still very early, all this business about Democrats and chaos, the party out of power is always in chaos. John McCain and George W. Bush carved each other up, well, George W. Bush survived and won the election, so let’s forget about the chaos for the time being. An economy based on consumption, when the president says, we’re under attack, now go out and spend your money, it’s a false economy, it is not sustainable. If a Democrat proposes to shift the base for the economy from consumption to savings and industry, to very sound positive but conservative economics, then that Democrat will get attention. None of them have yet (?).

Evans: I want to try and pin you down on this Democratic, I know that it’s early stages, but who do you fear most, describe the Democratic candidate, even put a name to him, be so bold.

Rollins: As I’ve said earlier, I don’t want to blow smoke up Hart’s tail, but Senator Hart was a candidate…

Evans: Are you running?

(voices, all talking over)

Rollins: Senator Hart came out in 1984, and I sort of tracked him even after he had (?), when his momentum caught up with his lack of organization, but he had an appeal to the younger voters, he had an appeal to the West, went against our coalition and he had (unintellig.). The reality today is there aren’t any Democrats in this particular field who can remake themselves. John Edwards maybe because he’s not known, but I don’t think so. I think the candidate I fear the most, if for some reason George got in trouble in six months from now, if six months from now we could have this forum I could give you a very good, solid answer, whether George Bush could win and win big. Today I can’t, today the numbers all indicate he should win easily, but that doesn’t mean six months from now (?). Al Gore would be a significant candidate (?).

Evans: Do you think there’s a chance of Al Gore coming back?

Blumenthal?: Not that I know of.

Evans: Do you think so?

Hart?: I don’t think so.

Evans: Would you fear Al Gore?

Crowley: I think strictly on the basis of name recognition and on the fact he won the popular vote the last time around, and the fact that many Democrats still harbor great resentment for the way the 2000 election ended, I think yeah, he would be a very formidable candidate, but I think frankly he’s enjoying his private life and doesn’t want to come back.

Evans: Okay, we’ve got someone on the phone, who’s on the phone? Al Gore, is it?

Morris: You talking to me, Harry? This is Dick Morris.

Evans: Oh, Dick Morris! Dick Morris was in the White House, and wrote a book I think called, “Behind Closed Doors”, and has got a new book out which attacks a lot of people.

Morris: Harry, you published it, you should know it’s called, “Behind the Oval Office”.

(laughter)

Evans: (laughs) It’s called selective amnesia.

Morris: And my current effort is less generous, it’s called “Off With Their Heads”.

Evans: Yes, okay, you may or may not have heard all that’s preceded. Do you think that anybody stands a chance of beating President Bush?

Morris: Yes, I think Bush is definitely beatable. I (unintellig) how his job approval slid from the mid70s to the arguably mid or high 50s. And, Clinton used to have a wall stop there, a blockage, at about 62 or 63, and once we got his favorability and job approval up that level, in late 1995, early 96, it stayed there for five years, it never budged, even as his personal favorability because of the Lewinski scandal was dropping from the mid60s into the low 40s, his job approval remained right up there at 62 and 63. And Bush’s [favorability] to get down to a 50-50 situation, which is where it may be headed, really reflects that he doesn’t have the kind of built-in base that Clinton had. Part of that reflects that the country is becoming more and more Democratic, because of more black and Hispanic participation and immigration, but the point is, that I think Bush is two different people. When he’s running a war on terror, he’s a 70% president, but when he’s not he’s the guy that lost the popular vote by half a million. And I think he has great difficulty sustaining himself anywhere in between those two figures.

Evans: Okay, let me stop you. Which Democrat can most exploit that of the present runners?

Morris: Well, any of the major candidates could do very well, Dean excepted, Dean would just be handing the race to George Bush, Bush has to pray that Dean is the nominee. But they all varying in important respects. Lieberman could become a strong candidate if he attacked the left, if he got out there and said Dean and Kerry are dragging this party to the left, I stand firm and aggressively on terror, and (unintell). You’ve got to remember that half the voters in the Democratic primary are independents, who voted for McCain or Bradley, and they outvote the Democrats in most states because they’re not split between the two primaries. I think that Kerry could get out in a much more aggressive way to (?) the left with Dean. Gephardt is kinda the Democratic Bob Dole, dull enough to get the nomination. But the only thing that he was good at is the mechanics of fundraising and now that’s gone.

Evans: Yes, that’s fallen off too. Now, Dick, what do you say…

Morris: (unintellig) with the money he did raise, he’s struggled with (?) the McCain/Feingold laws all over the place.

Evans: Thank you very much, Dick. What do you say about that, (?)

Blumenthal: I just want to say that I think that on the, that it’s very important…

Morris: (interrupting) By the way, hello, Sidney, we haven’t spoken in years, (unintellig)

Blumenthal: (pause) Okay. (short laugh) (pause)

(several voices)

Evans: That’s what you call a frisson, okay? A frisson. A frisson has transpired and if you missed it, too bad. Now go on.

Blumenthal: I think on the substance of security, it’s very important to, for the future of the country for Democratic candidates to make the points that Bush has engaged in an unprecedented departure from our international alliances, that this is hurting us now in the reconstruction of Iraq, which should international, obviously. It is not proposed (?), that he is losing the peace, this is not simply a partisan point, this is a serious substantive point that ought to be pursued. He has not in my view learned the lessons of 9/11, and the Iraq war itself, from the early (unintellig) of diplomacy which almost shipwrecked his own war, against Saddam Hussein. All that is very serious, this will all take on a very different character barring another terrorist incident.
Evans: Okay.

(??) : French lovers, that’s going to be the…

(several voices)

Morris: (unintellig) a peace that has kindled and catalyzed the peace process in the Middle East in a way that nothing else could possibly have done. The New York Times had it wrong, they said you couldn’t invade Iraq until you settled the Palestinian fight, it’s now turning that you can’t settle the Palestinian problem until you invaded and conquered Iraq. But the cut off of Saddam’s money to those extremist groups, and the cut back of Iranian and Saudi money because they’re scared of us…

Evans: (interrupts, both talk) I get the point, let him answer that point.

Blumenthal: Bush abandoned the policy in the Middle East that was pursued by President Clinton. He did not want to be seen as his father, who he believed was politically damaged by the Middle East peace process. He should have pursued it, regardless of the difficulties. He took it up at the urging of Prime Minister Blair as a part of the price of going to war. That was all from Blair’s initiative. He is exactly right to be for the Road Map, however the question is whether he will maintain his diligence in pressing this diplomacy.

Evans: But it’s true to say what Dick Morris has just said, is it not, that the war in Iraq whether or not you approved of it, did actually move the kaleidoscope in the Middle East in a favorable direction.

Blumenthal: Bush committed himself to the Middle East road map before the war at the insistence of Prime Minister Blair.

Evans: Well, never mind who insisted…

(voices talking over each other)

Hart: We’ll never know the answer to Mr. Morris’s proposition, because as Sidney has pointed out, President Bush did nothing in the Middle East for two years.

(several voices)

Rollins: We’ve attempted to do it. There’s no more complicated area of the world. If anybody has a (?) solution how to bring the sides together in the Middle East, have at it. You had eight years of trying to do it, Sidney, in your administration, and certainly we tried it and others have tried it, and at the end of the day, at the end of the day until they’re willing to sit down to make it happen, it’s not going to happen, no matter how much prodding, no matter the candidate. I do think at this point in time we’re at a point where we’re going to probably make some progress because there’s been some major concessions on both sides. Prior to this there’d been no major concessions. Bush had pushed for two years without, (?) making major concessions, (?) had road maps, at the end of the day. No one took it further than Clinton did and failed and failed miserably (?).

(several voices)

Evans: Do you want to comment on that Middle East point from Dick Morris?

Crowley: I just wanted to add that the Middle East peace process as it stands right now will be one part, one small part of a larger foreign policy record on which the president is going to run next year.

Evans: Okay. Questions from the audience.

Woman: Betsy McCaughey

Evans: Former Lt. Governor of New York State.

McCaughey: That’s right.

Evans: Republican…

McCaughey: No.

Evans: Okay. Can you all hear Betsy?

McCaughey: I’d like to hear Monica and Ed comment on which political party voters SHOULD hold accountable for the very disturbing findings in the Hart-Rudman report and other reports that came out in 1999 and 2000, CSIS, Rand and others, on how unprepared the United States was for terrorism and particularly the failure of Congressional subcommittees and the president to prepare for air safety or biological terrorism, after all the president on watch then was a Democrat.

Evans: Wait a minute. Monica, answer that.

Crowley: Well, Betsy brings up a very good point. And the Senator has done some extraordinary work, I’m a member of the Council on Foreign Relations also and his reports have been extraordinary. You’ve really done some fine work. I mean, you’ve brought up some very important points that need to be a part of the national discussion here as we deal with this terrorist threat. Betsy’s question is who do we hold responsible for the initial attack on September 11…

McCaughey: And the lack of preparedness.

Crowley: The lack of preparedness. Let me answer the question this way. There’s plenty of blame to go around, I think, I do not think terror as an issue was a galvanizing issue for either party throughout the 80s and 90s. I trace the modern age of terror back to the 1979 taking of hostages in Iran. You see throughout the Reagan years, throughout the Bush 41 years, the Clinton years, there was some attention paid to terror but not a lot because there were other threats that were primary threats – whether it was defeating the Soviet Union, the first Persian Gulf war against Saddam Hussein, so there were other issues pressing and terror was sort of a secondary threat. But we dealt with it because we had to, but all of those attacks against Americans or American interests or our allies happened on foreign soil. So it didn’t galvanize public opinion so that pressure was brought to bear on our public servants to do something real about it. So there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Evans: Is your implication, Betsy, that it was President Clinton’s fault?

McCaughey: My implication is that several of those reports will remind American voters that the Democratic party failed to prepare the United States for terrorism, that in fact this was the second attack on the World Trade Center, not the first.

Evans: Okay, Gary Hart, you must answer that. It’s the Democrats fault.

Hart: Well, I think Mr. Blumenthal could do that better than I, all I’ll say to you is that our commission did not issue its final report until January 2001, under a mandate to advise the next president of the United States, whoever that should be, of 15 uniform, universally agreed to recommendations that this commission that spanned (?) Young on one end to Newt Gingrich on the other. The first was, create the National Homeland Security Agency. Not only did George Bush not do that, when Republicans in Congress introduced legislation that spring to do it, he publicly asked them not to go forward.

Evans: Okay. Anybody answer that? You can’t, right?

Rollins: I can answer it. First of all, we’re operating under certain premises. And the premises are, that because taking the 15 items in your report, which obviously they’d all be very superb items, that we could make America terrorist free. We can’t make America terrorist free. And I think the efforts that have been taken since September 11, no question on September 10, September 6 when you presented your report, our guard was down. Our guard was down terribly. We were shocked, and (unintellig) because we were attacked. Today, let’s give credit where credit is due. For two years, no terrorists get to sit around bars in Daytona Beach, Florida, and watch [strippers] while they’re planning on kidnapping planes from Boston or what have you. We are hunting those people down, from one end of this world to the other, successfully or unsuccessfully they’re on the move. There have been a whole variety of times they’ve captured, they don’t basically set up on the front page of the New York Times, we just caught these 25 terrorists trying to sneak through the Canadian border yesterday, but at the end of the day, at the end of the day, will there be other terrorist attacks in this country? You bet we are. We are now a target, we will be a target for the rest of our lifetime, and unfortunately for the lifetime of my daughter and your grandchildren. That’s sad. Are we getting more prepared than we’ve ever been before? Absolutely.

Evans: (begins to speak, interrupted by Blumenthal)

Blumenthal: Then nothing could be more important than for the Bush administration not to be mocking and frustrating the 9/11 Commission, as a Republican, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, who is head of that commission, has said. And all the information in that report ought to be released and made public so that we can understand what went wrong and what needs to be reformed. And I look forward to the release of that report, and I think we all ought to demand that all the information be released.

Evans: That must be a time bomb for the Republican Party.

Rollins: It’s a time bomb for both. I think that’s his point, that both sides have a lot of blame, it’s like the savings and loan crisis. And the reality is that we’re moving forward in this point in time, and I have to argue, I have to argue this, you put something on Bush’s desk on January 31st, and I promise you there are a lot of other things on his desk on January 31st.

(several voices)

Rollins: I have been in the Oval Office as have you and, and you’ve been a visitor there. The reality is, it takes time to implement anything. The Homeland Security is still going to take two years to basically ….

Evans: (interrupting) The basic question, I agree with all of that, why is the president apparently frustrating the commission’s investigation.

Rollins: I’m not there, I can’t tell you.

Evans: You can’t tell me. Can you tell me? (pause) Nobody knows why he’s holding it up. So you’ve got a point here, see, because, does anyone in the audience have a guess?

Rollins: In the name of National Security a lot of things get held up.

(several voices)

Evans: Alterman, Eric Alterman, the author of “What Liberal Media”.

Alterman: I just wanted to speak to the question you just raised. I think that this entire issue speaks to the many issues Senator Hart has raised. The entire issue is absolute dynamite for the Republicans, perhaps this report would be terribly damaging, perhaps not, but the idea of focusing the media attention on what the Bush administration did between the moment that they were warned, at the very beginning of the administration about our vulnerability, but George Bush was warned that al Queada was planning an attack very much like the one that took place, in August while he was on vacation, in Texas, and he went fishing that day. And, there was a report, I think Gary can speak to this, Dick Cheney announced that he would be overseeing a task force that would decide how to implement their commission’s recommendations. There was never a meeting of that task force, it was made up. There’s an enormous Pandora’s box here. The problem is, is, as Ed Rollins says, Republicans are considered credible on this issue and Democrats are not. And I’m wondering if anyone on the panel can speak to the issue of how Democrats can be made to appear credible on this, and so that we can get the media focus on the question.

Evans: Speak to Democratic credibility, Gary.

Hart: First of all, you can’t get credibility on any issue, including national security, after you’ve announced for President. You have either put in your time, studied the issues, served on the Armed Services Committee, met with the troops, visited the armed forces abroad, learned the problems and deeply involved in security issues from all angles, for years, same is true for foreign policy. There is this notion, and it is supported by some evidence, unfortunately, including the incumbent, that you can learn all this after you’re elected. I have this old fashioned notion you shouldn’t even run for president until you are prepared to be the manager of the fiscal policy of the United States, job number 1, be head of state, job number 2, and be commander ‘n chief of the military forces, job number 3, before you announce for president. You don’t announce for president and then say, oh, I haven’t had much chance to travel the world, but I’ll do that after I’m elected…

Crowley: (interrupting) That’s why I think Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is by far the most qualified on the Democratic side of the current group running for president to be president of the United States. I think he’s eminently credible on national security issues, I think he’s done all the hard work, Senator, that you’re talking about, and I can’t understand why the Democratic party is not, at least the activists, aren’t behind him to a greater extent. He doesn’t seem to have much traction and I don’t understand why.

(several voices)

(end of side one of the tape)

Question from woman in audience: (unintelligible) President Bush, have they made the people in this country more vulnerable to the terrorist attack because of the way the rest of the world regarded (unintelligible) George Bush’s policies as president?

Evans: (unintelligible) Have his policies made us more vulnerable, irritating people, etc. etc.

Rollins: (unintell) The more people today feel the United States rightly or wrongly, I think wrongly, are their enemies the only way they can strike out is to do so through acts of terrorism. One of the problems of being the great military might in the world, and the only military might that’s left, is we can win the wars, everyone’s going to want us to fight the wars because they don’t have the resources (unintll). So the way you counter that is you don’t counter it with weaponry, you don’t counter it with anything else, you counter it with terrorism. And the reality is, the state of Israel has fought terrorism it’s entire existence, and it can’t stop bus bombings. Fortunately or unfortunately they haven’t come to this country very often, but they’re now going to come, and unless we have a total anti-immigration policy, unless we basically take away the individual freedoms of everybody in this room, people are going to have access to this country and there are going to be people who come here and do things that are unconscionable, four, five or ten years.

Evans: (acknowledges audience member, asks assistant to give him microphone)

Audience member: Robert Zimmerman, Democrat. One of the most effective tactics the Republicans (used?) in 2000 and still continue is keeping the Democrats on the defensive. And I think they got it through the media, they got it by picking some of the most irrelevant issues and kept hammering away at them. But Ed and Monica were talking about polling, and that’s a very good example of it. Despite the high approval ratings of the Bush administration, 55 or 60 percent, it’s important to also remember the next question the pollsters ask, are you committed to Bush’s re-election, his numbers drop to 40 or 44 percent. In fact, Gallup just completed a poll this past June asking about the commitment to re-election of the president, and George Bush was beating the average Democrat by 12 points. 1991, Bush Sr. was beating the average Democrat by 20 points. My point very simply being, the polls show there’s growing unrest in the country among the people that vote about the direction of the Bush administration and they show there’s certainly a window of opportunity. My question for the Democrats is, why aren’t the Democrats taking advantage of those concerns, and trying to galvanize the voters around those issues.

Evans: Why aren’t you galvanizing the voters

Blumenthal: I think you make a very good point about the clever way in which the Republicans characterize the Democrats. They continue to do so, but I also detect a tone of complacency and even arrogance in the Republicans, on the assumption that Bush is unassailable and should be unassailable, or even unquestioned, including on the issue of national security. One of the issues just raised here, I think, is a very important one, and there’s an undercurrent to it, just on one point. Certainly what is clear are the falsehoods on the rationale about nuclear weaponry in Iraq, that were told in the State of the Union address and elsewhere by the president, and the administration, I think that had very serious consequences elsewhere as well, for example, I think there’s no doubt that that has been an incentive to the North Koreans to develop a nuclear weapon. I think it’s an issue the Democrats ought to raise. I think the Democrats need to stick to very serious issues, and remain on these points, and not become disoriented and distracted by the Republican negative campaign.

Rollins: (unintell) The generic code, historically the generic Democrat does better than any of the Democrat candidates because people imagine the generic Democrat is basically going to be who they are so they support him. If you look at the electorate today, we’re about as divided as we were in November of 2000. If you look at the Congressional votes, we won the reapportionment battle for the first time this last go ‘round, 10 years ago we won it in the courts, this time we won it. You’re going to have a 8-10 vote margin in the Congress, the Congressional vote’s almost equal, the Senate is almost equal, the generic Democrat and Republican both have bases around 35 percent. You have a totally independent one third of this country, particularly the young people, that aren’t tied to either party. So the fact that 41 percent are die-hard, hard base, I’m for George Bush no matter what, is about where it’s always been generically from Nixon on forward. Does that mean the other two-thirds of the electorate, or 60 percent of the electorate, are automatically going to vote for a Democrat? They may vote for a generic Democrat, or they may vote for an independent, or they may vote for some of the (unintell). Right now, re-elections about two things – the incumbent, and then when you go state by state to try to get to 270, the game changes dramatically and I defy anyone here today to put up 270 electoral votes for a Democrat out of the base that’s there today.

Hart: About three political science observations. First of all, as we all know, the Democratic party has (unintell) been a coalition party, and therefore much more difficult to speak with a single voice or have a single message. Republican Party has basically been a more monolithic party, at least up until 20 years ago when it took the religious right on board, and even now with the mainstream traditional Republicans and the Pat Robertsons of the world, you’ve got some tensions there, so we may begin to see some fractures in the Republican party. Second, it’s much easier for a party that reduces complex issues to slogans and bumper strips, if you ask the Republicans what should we do about the economy, the answer you’re going to get is “cut taxes”. You ask a Democrat and you’re going to get an essay on what needs to be done about the economy.

Woman from audience (Gawker says Tina Brown): Could Hillary Clinton beat Bush? And I’m talking about ’04…

Evans: Could Hillary Clinton beat Bush?

Rollins: If Bush is beatable, in six months from now… the country is looking for an alternative, could Hillary Clinton beat the rest of the Democratic field to be the nominee? The answer is yes. Would that be a polarized election? You betcha. It would be a tremendously polarizing election.

Evans: You would do your best to make it polarized.

Rollins: I would do my best to make it polarized.

Evans: (last question)

Man in audience: Dan (last name unintelligible) I’m a Democrat. The Republican Party it seems that it is better able than the Democrats to simplify things that, to tag on bumper stickers. How important do you think like conservative talk radio is in galvanizing public opinion for the Republican Party, and how does the Democratic party and the left fight that when it seems that talk radio is about, you know, (unintell.)

Evans: Is talk radio closed.

Crowley: I feel really equipped to answer that question because I am a talk radio host on ABC radio. I think talk radio as an arena is very important for Republicans because we have an outlet there, before Fox News and some of these other outlets, talk radio existed. And it was out there, and it gave a voice to a side of the political debate that never really had a voice in the mainstream media. And that audience is very loyal, and very participatory. I mean, they call in, and they’ve got opinions, and they want their voices heard, so in terms of galvanizing Republican voters or conservative voters, talk radio, yes, has played a very significant role. It’s also very interesting to take a look at the fact that Democrats or liberals who have tried talk radio have failed for the most part, there are exceptions but they’re few and far between. So then you have to ask yourself, we’ve got an open marketplace here, an open marketplace of ideas, why aren’t liberal ideas selling on talk radio, or necessarily selling in other forms, in other media forms. It’s what the marketplace will bear and it’s what the listeners in the audience wants to hear, because oftentimes if you don’t feel your point of view is being reflected back to you, you will seek out the media (?) in which it is.

Evans: You don’t think it has anything to do with the ownership of the radio stations?

Crowley: (pause) Oh, no, it has to do with the on-air talent, it’s the host of the program and it’s the topic of discussion..

(several voices speak over each other)

Blumenthal: I just have one reflection here on this, obviously talk radio is very important, Fox News is important in galvanizing and getting the talking points out to the Republican base and keeping it in motion every single day. There’s a huge vacuum on the other side, whatever you want to call it. One symptom of that, is that over the last year there’s been a tremendous increase in readership on the Internet of the Guardian and BBC outlets, as well as viewership of BBC, and there are literally millions of Americans in this vacuum, who are willing to go to British sources seeking an alternative view they regard as credible because of this vacuum, and I think that this vacuum has not been filled at all in the media, so much so that Americans have created a proliferation of Internet sites and are willing to (pay attention to) the Guardian and BBC.

Evans: Thank you very much. Don’t want to go any further… I want to thank you all… (ends)

Posted by susanna at 06:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2003

It's on C-Span

If you're interested, the program I attended in Manhattan on Wednesday is on C-Span - it was on earlier today, but the next showing is at 12:20 a.m. Sunday, Eastern Standard time (that'd be about two hours from now). Here's the C-Span schedule, and the details of the program: 2004 Presidential Election Outlook. Laura Ingraham wasn't there; Monica Crowley was.

By the way, in the midst of my cleaning frenzy I gave away all my blank video tapes. If any of you could record the program for me, that would be excellent. Otherwise, I might break down and buy it.

Posted by susanna at 10:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Random thoughts

Remember several weeks ago, when I was going to clean out my pantry by eating my way through it, and not replenish it? I was going to be a week-by-week shopper, not stockpiling, because you know I drive by a grocery store every blessed day of my life - what's the point? And when you live alone, stockpiling means you will throw away about half of the fresh goods you buy, and you will keep falling over that jar of napolitos until they're older than God. I've done a good job, mostly, for the past few weeks.

But now I'm going to be unable to leave the apartment for a few days at the end of next week, and you'd think I was going to be consigned to the outer reaches of Siberia. Without a tent. Or a gun. Or even a knife, or the ability to make fire. Yes, I went to the grocery store this afternoon and bought... well, everything. Four boxes of cereal. Milk. Frozen dinners. Canned soup. Canned spaghetti sauce. Yogurt. Paper plates. Paper bowls. Plastic flatware. Believe me, the list goes on. I even, for some bizarre reason, decided it was a perfect time to replenish my spice rack. Am I going to use poultry seasoning in the next two weeks? Highly unlikely. But I have a nice fresh new bottle of it, just in case. (And Woolite. For the past four years, I have used a bottle of shampoo I bought on sale for my hand washables. Today, with a third of the bottle left, I bought Woolite.) Do I live in a metropolitan area with well over 10 million people? Of course I do. But I'm certain nonetheless that if I don't have enough food for most of them in my pantry I'll die a lonely death inside of 24 hours, when I can't get to my car to get more.

I'm the same way when I make the 11-hour drive to Kentucky. You'd think I was running the Iditarod, with a passle of hungry dogs depending on me and all food sources frozen for centuries six feet under me. I buy fruit, luncheon meat, candy, chips, batteries - it's scary. I have gotten better; the last time, i think I only took extra water, and stopped along the way for meals. Shocking.

But I'm not the only one. How many of you city or town people go to the store when you know there's a big snowstorm coming? You know you do. At worst it would be 48 hours before you could get out again - and that's if you live in the furthest corner of the remotest cul de sac on the edge of town. But still you buy bread, and milk, and enough snacks and batteries to outfit an 1840s wagon train heading off to an empty grassland hundreds of miles from stores.

Is it a throwback to our ancestors? I don't know. But at least I know I won't lack for blueberries next weekend. Oh. I didn't mention that? I bought blueberries again. 99 cents a carton. And no harassing the cashier.

And no, I'm not done with the ones I bought last week. You got a problem?

Speaking of having a problem, I finally finished the transcript yesterday afternoon, but decided to wait until Monday to post it. Most of you wouldn't read it until then anyway, and I want to write a couple of companion posts to go with it. Looking at the difference between how it was covered and what was actually said, I realized that Dr. Manhattan was right, in his comment below my previous post on it - it was a society gathering, a chance for the Democrat glitterati to air kiss each other and play like they're important to the process. David Dinkins. Ed Koch. Tina Brown. Bianca Jagger! George Plimpton, he of the commercials trying to get us to love France again (did we ever love France?).

The self-referential Manhattan scene is nothing I will ever be comfortable with. I don't want to say that all Manhattanites are that way; as is always true, in every place there are wonderful people. And I'm not without my own glaring faults and flights of self-importance. But they make it all about themselves to the extent that it's as if the entire world, outside their recognized circles, is nothing but a Broadway play for them to watch, and criticize, and feel that the actors on the stage are not real people, not in the way they are real. They are the modern nobility, they see themselves that way, they certainly act as if they operate in a bubble of privilege that not only sets them apart from everyone else, but should set them apart, because they are better. And these are the Democrats. Are there Republicans who are the same way? Yes, but I suspect they are less hypocritical about it.

While thinking about that crowd, as I sat hunched over my grilled shrimp, mango and mixed greens salad at Wednesday's luncheon, I wondered... just who would I bring there, to depress their pretensions? It would have to be people secure in themselves, with nothing to prove, intelligent, outspoken and just a little (or a lot) rough-edged. And then I smiled - I knew exactly who I'd bring.

Brent of The Ville.

Mike of Cold Fury.

Acidman of Gut Rumbles.

Andrea of Too Much To Dream.

Michele of A Small Victory.

Folks, when I think about it - my smile gets so big it hurts. Talk about an anti-pretension dream team. I hope some day to see it.

I'd probably get rich, if I sold tickets.

Posted by susanna at 06:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Help!

I'm going to be laid up - laid out? - for a few days next week; I'm having minor surgery on Thursday, and no, I won't be telling you all about it like Acidman. It's neither as interesting or cutting edge. It will, however, making sitting down an impossibility for at least a couple of days, and uncomfortable for at least a week. Yes, this translates into minimal Internet time. However, knowing my computer addiction (I can quit anytime! Really!), Page, formerly of The Last Page, suggested I get a wireless keyboard and mouse to allow me more flexibility in interacting with my computer while I'm, um, sitting-challenged.

I've done a little research on the Internet, but of course I'm totally clueless about technology - hey, I can use it really well, but that doesn't mean I know what's what. So I'm asking my lovely readers for their experiences and recommendations - if I do decide to go that route, what do you recommend? I can't break the bank. The whole thing would need to cost no more than $75, and I'd prefer less.

What are your thoughts? (About the wireless keyboard - stop that!)

Posted by susanna at 02:41 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Walking in Manhattan

I grouch and complain about New Jersey and the NYC metro area, but there are a lot of things to like. Walking around in Manhattan is its own particular pleasure, with lots to see that you won't see elsewhere. After the luncheon on Wednesday, I walked the 10 blocks from Grand Central Station to Manhattan Mall, where I catch my train home snapping photos all the while. Here are a few of my favorites:

UPDATE: The photos have been moved to the MORE section, so readers won't have to continue waiting for them to load when they've already seen them. But they're still there, if you want to see!

Grand Central w Chrysler 7-16-03.jpg

Grand Central Station, Victorian beauty against the backdrop of modernity, with the Chrysler building in the background

The interior of Grand Central Station is just as gorgeous as the exterior.

Fruit stand.jpg

A fruit stand just off 5th Avenue

Luscious fruit piles stands like this all over Manhattan; Chinatown is especially known for it, but this one is a good example. I bought three mangos from another stand - yummy.

Nut lady 7-16-03.jpg

Sweet roasted nuts and the lady who sells them

I bought the cashews, although the peanuts are good and so is the coconut. You can't visit NYC and not buy roasted nuts from a street vendor.

umbrella man 7-16-03.jpg

The doorman outside Lord & Taylor's, 6th Avenue

I couldn't resist - he was whistling and bouncing on his toes, shading himself from the sun while he waited for another Lord & Taylor customer to need a taxi.

Traffic in NYC 7-16-03.jpg

Traffic on a side street just before the light changes

The canyon effect is almost everywhere in Manhattan; I realized recently that it's what makes Manhattan different from most cities I'm in. Everything is just so pushed together. And traffic is almost always this heavy.

Homeless help 7-16-03.jpg

Uh oh! Too late?!

While walking under a construction awning on Sixth Avenue, I saw this bucket that said, "Homeless Help." No one was around, but the chair was lying on its side. Looks like help arrived too late.

Subway station entrance 7-16-03.jpg

Heading down underground - a typical subway entrance

These are everywhere, and negotiating the system isn't really that complicated if you pay attention. But my station on Wednesday was under Manhattan Mall.

Manhattan Mall 7-16-03.jpg

Manhattan Mall, 33rd and Sixth

And this is where I catch my train home. Enough of New York for today - later we'll take a ride home on the PATH. In living color!

Posted by susanna at 12:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 18, 2003

I are a editer

The subject of this story is very very sad. But that doesn't mean that I will ignore the headline:

Prize-Wining Poet, Infant Son Found Dead

Now, it's bad enough that the headline is misspelled. But what's worse is that it's an Associated Press story and... apparently the newspapers are using not just the story, but the headline without editing. How do I know? Look at this.

Since the Kansas City article was posted 22 hours ago, I don't think they will change it. I don't know how to do screen shots, so if they do for some reason change it now, you'll have to take my word for it.

Posted by susanna at 11:28 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Everybody, stand back!

This is very funny:

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee vowed Thursday that no Democrat will run to replace Gov. Gray Davis if a Republican-led recall drive reaches the ballot.

"I want the folks here in California to know that we are not going to have another Democrat on the ballot. I think that is the single biggest message I can give today," DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe said at a downtown news conference.

"So if you're a California voter and you want to vote to recall Gray Davis, you are not going to have an option but a bunch of right-wing conservatives on the ballot," McAuliffe said.

It puts me in mind of something David Frum said Wednesday at the "The Week" luncheon - quoting Napoleon (paraphrased): If your enemy is intent on committing suicide, don't get in his way.

Stand back, everyone. Just stand back.

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The answer is "yes"

The question: Are you still transcribing that tape?

I'm obsessed. More blogging when I'm done with the transcription. It's up to 9 pages now.

Posted by susanna at 08:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Loving Lileks (and Blair)

I've always struggled a little with the Tony Blair adulation I'm inclined to feel - he is a socialist, after all. But he's been so completely admirable, so absolutely the friend of the US during our fight against terrorism and with the war in Iraq, that my emotions pummel my logic into submission. As always, Lileks says exactly what I'm feeling, only so much better.

And lest you think our love for Lileks is a bloggish thing, don't miss Hugh Hewitt's article in The Weekly Standard from yesterday, on Lileks.

Posted by susanna at 08:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Loving Lance

He's still ahead! He's so very cool. But it could develop into a fight to win, so don't miss all things Lance.

You know you love him.

Posted by susanna at 08:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kentucky on my mind

Steve at Little Tiny Lies has a superb post about his recent trip to Kentucky to visit the memories of his childhood. As native Kentuckian myself, I was just absorbed by it, but I think all of you will enjoy reading it. It's long, but think of it as an article in a magazine, not a blog post. It's that good.

And yes, I do know what Ale 8-1 is, although my family didn't buy it. My memories of hot summer days involve walking barefoot down the blacktop road with bare feet, popping tar bubbles with my big toe, and hanging out on the rough wooden porch of my uncle's little country grocery store, eating strawberry ice cream on a stick. Every day stretched like sun-warmed taffy. I miss it.

I also grew up eating shuck beans. But that's another tale.

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July 17, 2003

Stay tuned...

I'm diligently transcribing this tape of yesterday's talk, which is even more interesting on second time through, so that's the reason for the dearth of posts. And I have lots more to do. I think you'll think it's worth it, though.

Back later.

Posted by susanna at 04:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

He said, Fox quoted, then... he didn't say?

A Northern Kentucky University professor has sued FoxNews, claiming that they printed a quote attributed to him was inaccurate, after he and his attorney informed them it was wrong.

But it's not an easy call:

A Northern Kentucky University professor who sued Fox News Network after it reported he'd advocated violence against the white Cincinnati policeman who shot an unarmed black man in Over-the Rhine gets his day in court today...

Hewan sued Fox News in June 2001 after it posted a story on its Web site with comments attributed to him, including:

"I do not advocate any violence as an initiate. But in the case of willful murder, the family should go out and get that policeman.''

Fox News reprinted the comments after a Cincinnati newspaper published a story about the controversy surrounding them. They first appeared in The Northerner, the independent student publication at NKU.

But Hewan contends he was misquoted in the Northerner, and merely posing theoretical questions about how best to handle tragedies like the Thomas shooting.

When I saw the headline, I was all ready to write a post saying, look, FoxNews needs to make sure they get it right, we don't need a Jayson Blair fiasco there. But the article sounds as if Hewan is in damage control mode after shooting off his mouth and getting a lot of fallout for it, rather than Fox being irresponsible. It's nice to see accountability being debated - at least in this situation, there will be formal resolution as to whether the source was misquoted, or the media outlet misbehaved. Based on the article, I'm voting for Fox as the winner in this one.

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Checking on coverage

The coverage of yesterday's luncheon discussion about "Is Bush Unbeatable in 2004?" is an interesting view of how things are covered. I'm working on the transcript - anyone who's done transcription knows it's not a quick or easy task - so you'll soon be able to read (most) of what was said, and compare it to what was written. I'm finding it quite intriguing - I think you will too. I looked for coverage in the New York outlets - the Post, the Daily News, New York magazine - and the New York Times is the only one to cover it:

New York Times: Rounding Up the Usual Suspects

This coverage isn't serious; it's a gossip column. Actually there were a number of things said during the discussion that gave hints at Dem and Republican memes for this election, but you won't find that here. My favorite quote:

"What I wish is that things like this were available for other than people like me and Bianca Jagger and all the folks we've seen," [ANNA DEAVERE SMITH] said. Like GEORGE PLIMPTON, ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN, ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, PAULA ZAHN and STEVEN BRILL.

There apparently were piles of famous people there; I didn't recognize any of them. Interesting that the majority of them are Dems. And actually, a number of the hoi polloi - like, say, me - were in fact there. But you wouldn't expect them to recognize an average person, would you?

If I find more coverage, I'll let you know. And if you find any, let me know.

UPDATE: Page Six of the NY Post covered it too - another gossip column, another mention of all the "luminaries" (pretty Dem, the lot of them) who were in attendance. Am I missing something here? Was there no substance there?

I think there was, if nothing more telling than the little pockets of rhetoric each side chose. But there again, you can decide that yourself, when I get the transcript up. Viking Pundit Eric Lindholm (he of Smarter Harper's fame) found the link; here are his comments.

Posted by susanna at 07:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 16, 2003

What's that again?

An advertisement for a new movie coming out this weekend is on frequent rotation on the radio station I listen to. I never quite catch the title, but I do catch this: the list of warnings about the movie says it contains "pervasive language".

Hmmm. Okay. Now, it could be saying that it's different from those movies where the communication is mainly grunts, yells, gun blasts and screeching tires - it actually has language, and not just a little, but it's pervasive. Somehow I'm not thinking that's the case, though. I think what they mean is "pervasive bad language", but they don't want to say it. They're being coy. It just amuses me, given that they're not shy about "pervasively" using bad language. They're just shy about owning up to it.

Be warned. This blog has "pervasive language" too. But just the kind that term really means.

Posted by susanna at 04:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What I Did At Lunch

One of the very coolest parts of being a blogger in the NYC metro area is that you're invited to very cool things. Today was exceptional even on that scale. The political magazine The Week sponsored a discussion on the question "Is Bush Unbeatable in 2004?" - yes, that's the source of my post yesterday - that was held at lunch today in Michael Jordan's The Steakhouse in Grand Central Station. And the discussants were excellent:

Ed Rollins, who served in the Reagan White House, ran his 1984 re-election campaign and serves as a Republican political consultant now; here's his book.

Sen. Gary Hart, former Democrat candidate for president (and author)

Monica Crowley, Richard Nixon biographer and political talk show host on NYC 770 AM; she also appears on FoxNews and other media outlets.

Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton White House insider and author of the recently released The Clinton Wars (They had it for sale at the luncheon, but I didn't see anyone buying.)

Harold Evans, who seemed like a Democrat to me, was the moderator. And that wasn't all - David Frum phoned in. Dick Morris phoned in. And Eric Alterman asked a question from the floor.

I was in the same room with Eric Alterman! And I didn't lose my lunch! I was very proud.

Of course it was rife with bloggers as well - I sat with Megan McArdle (Jane Galt), and later we saw Nick Denton, Jeff Jarvis, Elizabeth Squires and Dr. Manhattan. I'm sure there will be a lot of posting about it, but I do have photos and I taped it, so hopefully there will be things here you can't get elsewhere.

UPDATE: Reports are already up at Buzzmachine and Gawker.* I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post:

(Posted earlier) I also took many many photos of Manhattan and my trip home, so I'll be posting on that as well. To tide you over, I offer A Self-Portrait:

/archives/Self_portrait_7_16_03.jpg

Yes, yes, I know. I took it looking up at the underside of the escalator in Manhattan Mall on my way home. Very nice graphically, I thought. And quite a good likeness - although I didn't know I was really a bright. But photos don't lie.

Well, unless you read the LA Times.

* UPDATE TO THE GAWKER THING:

I have to take exception to this from Elizabeth at Gawker:

The panel veers dangerously close to a discussion of "Hart in 2004" but gets derailed by Monica Crowley (she of public radio) who begins enumerating the virtues of conservative talk radio [involuntary wretching on my part at the mere mention of the phrase]—the primary being that it's a manifestation of latent majority demand for conservative voices. I resist the temptation to point out that radio's a great medium for people who don't/can't/won't read books and newspapers, and that this may be a more accurate explanation, as I'd imagine it decribes much of the Rush Limbaugh demographic.

Now, if this isn't just the kind of arrogant drek that makes middle America detest the bicoastal crowd, I don't know what is. Excuse me! I happen to know a lot of people who listen to Rush, and other conservative talk radio hosts, and they're not illiterate idiots. I listen to Rush regularly (although not religiously), and I am not an idiot, thankyouverymuch. It's attitudes like that that caused Ed Rollins to say, (paraphrased), "We on the coasts forget there's 180 million people out there in the middle of America". Yeah, there are. They read books. They're not idiots. And millions of them listen to Rush.

The truth is, Monica is precisely correct. And Elizabeth would do well to Gawk at a few facts instead of laying New Yorker snark on something she knows nothing about.

(Am I sensitive about this? Yes, I'm sensitive about this. As a native of southeastern Kentucky, I heard the "idiot redneck illiterate white trash" thing about my part of the state from people in Louisville, much less out of state, when I was growing up. As I've moved around and visited other parts of the country, I've found a lot of derision about the South, especially the rural South, MOST especially the Appalachian rural South. And here in the NYC metro area, 90% of the 20% of the people who are aware there is a country outside the five boroughs think that country is populated by either idiots or transplanted New Yorkers. I can take a good joke, I make fun too sometimes, I realize that the stereotype is there because there are some people that way, but there's funny and there's not funny. I think you know where that excerpt goes.)

Oh, and here's one of those illiterate conservative talk radio listeners. I double dog dare you to say that to his face.

Posted by susanna at 04:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Oh, bravo!

The Palestinians always claim that Israel isn't required to apologize for their behavior. This is the best answer to that I've seen.

I've never claimed, and won't ever, that Israel is without fault in their struggle with Palestine and Palestinians. But the Palestinian hatred of Israel and killing of Jews, and the hatred and killing of Jews amongest Muslims in general, is just beyond anything Israel has even contemplated, much less done.

Obligatory caveat: A lot of Muslims do not hate or mistreat Jews or anyone else. Maybe most don't. But I also don't see a fervor to denounce those that do.

Posted by susanna at 08:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Carnival of the Vanities #43

Go! Go read! What are you doing here? Sheesh. Go read already!

(Oh, it's at caerdroia this week. A link will be up on the right sidebar all week, so you'll be able to go back repeatedly.)

Posted by susanna at 08:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A mess all around

Recently in New York City, a group of eighth graders skipped school to go to a party that apparently involved sexual activity. When they returned to school, the administrators required them to get pregnancy and STD tests before returning to school. Now the ACLU is all up in arms, and is suing the school for invading the girls' privacy:

"What they did is completely unheard of," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. "It violates their right to privacy. It violated their right to go to school. It violated their right not to be subjected to summary punishment."

Dr. David Bell, a specialist in adolescent medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital's family planning clinic who saw two of the girls, said he was "outraged" that Intermediate School 164 demanded confidential medical information from the students.

"Having teens presented to me as a punishment jeopardizes their trust to future relationships with me and their future care providers," Bell said.

That's right, folks, what's important about this situation is not that eighth graders are screwing around, but that their privacy is being compromised. There's not a comment even in passing from anyone in the article about how awful it is that the girls left school for a sex party, no one mentions the parents, no one talks about ways to educate the young people that sex at 13 is not the smartest thing you can do.

Now, I'm not saying that it's the school's business to send the girls off for those tests, especially since apparently they didn't make the same requirement of a boy from the same school at the same party. But it's a sad sad commentary on this society that the primary brouhaha is about a school indicating disapproval of underage sexual activity, albeit in an inappropriate way, rather than the girls behaving like little sluts (and the boys are no better, don't accuse me of sexism). What message is this sending? Not a good one. And where are the parents? Where's Child Services? I'm thinking some kids need to be taken away from their parents, or at least the parents should be fined for extremely poor parenting.

Schools are held responsible for teaching everything from reading to morals to anti-gun activism these days, but when they actually take a stand on something they're shot down by the ACLU. Lovely. Actually, I doubt the school was as concerned about morals as lawsuits, which makes the outcome of this story ironic, but still. They were trying, no matter the wrong intent.

And just in passing, to what extent does the focus of the article have to do with the prejudices of the writer? Worth a thought.

[Thanks to michelle for the link]

Posted by susanna at 08:16 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Scaring you silly in school

I managed to miss the best of the freakish health films that plagued earlier generations of students - the marijuana-as-hallucinogen movies, and the drive-fast, die-horribly movies. The latter are the focus of a new film, "Hell’s Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films”, which is about the Highway Safety Foundation. What did they do? I'll let this article tell you:

(T)he Highway Safety Foundation, the same Mansfield, Ohio, outfit responsible for a spate of driver’s education films in the ’50s and ’60s with names like “Signal 30” (police lingo for a traffic fatality), “Wheels of Tragedy,” and “Mechanized Death”. The movies combined preachy, melodramatic narration with bloody footage of real dead bodies—and scared the daylights out of millions of baby boomers...

Slate's film critic, David Edelstein, calls the movie - and the ones it chronicles - pornography. I didn't quite get his reasoning there, other than that he called the HSF's producers' interest in gore "fetishistic", and noted that their downfall came as a result of their willingness to help police by videoing homosexual men engaged in intimate encounters in public bathrooms. However, I suppose there is an element of drive-slow-by-an-accident voyeurism:

There is a primitive horror in watching the hand-held camera move in on flashing police lights in the night, then get right up to smashed cars, then fasten on shattered faces covered in glass and blood and bodies twisted in unnatural positions. Sometimes you can hear the real moans and shrieks of the injured and dying. Once the camera catches a man at the instant of death.

Whatever the filmmakers’ intentions, this was pornography then, and its liberal use in the documentary—which features stomach-turning shots of a dead baby under a car—makes it feel like pornography now. Hell’s Highway isn’t nearly as revelatory or as penetrating as it would need to be to overcome the exploitation factor.

Edelstein seems to think that pornography is about exploitation, which I think it is, but he doesn't mention the sexual element that I think is integral to calling it pornography. I'm sure there are people who do get off on it, there's people who get off on everything. I don't know what else I would call it, but then maybe I don't want to look too closely. Interesting article, though.

[Thanks to my brother Alan for the link]

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July 15, 2003

Tour de Lance

I love Lance Armstrong.

Have I mentioned that I love Lance Armstrong?

I can't believe that I allowed the Tour de France to get started without me, but fortunately it was called to my attention today. Lance Armstrong (I love him) is of course out ahead in the yellow jersey. Go cheer him on - he's a great guy, a fine example of the best America has to offer, and besides - he's whomping the Frenchies and the Euros on their own turf. Ha! And he's going to win this year AND next year to knock the reigning Spaniard, Miguel Indurain, off the top of the Most Wins List - Ha!

Have I mentioned I love Lance Armstrong?

If you want to know more (and you know you do):

Official website
Just Call It the Tour de Lance
Armstrong Keeps Lead Despite Protesters
Yellow, Nearly Submarined
Everything you want to know from ESPN
Everything you want to know from CBS Sportsline
Lance's first book (very good)
Lance's second book (Not released yet)

Okay, that should hold you until Thursday, when he's back on the bike again.

(I love Lance Armstrong)

Posted by susanna at 09:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

New feature

In case you didn't notice, I've added a new feature in the upper right of blog - a Site of the Week. I'm going to feature sites that I think deserve more attention, and that doesn't mean they're not getting attention now. Just that even if they are, they deserve still more! Some may be brand new, some may be long in the tooth, some may be hugely popular. But they're all going to be sites I encourage you to check out.

The first week, the site was The Dead Parrot Society, which is a very cool blog by a group of smart guys from all over the country. The topics range widely, and it's always entertaining. Last week the site was blogoSFERICS , by my friend Kevin McGehee; he's always mining the Internet for interesting links, and when he actually comments on them he's pretty savvy. And finally, this week, the site is Tales from a Yeti Suit, which is just as quirky as the name might indicate. TheYeti is, by his own estimation, a magnificent single male on the prowl, and he has a lot of advice for both men and women about relationships. It's all interesting, and some of it is actually quite good (which is to say, I agree with it). Be warned, though - TheYeti is not shy about graphic physical descriptions that might go beyond what some of you care to read.

So. Each week, on Sunday if I remember, there will be a new Site of the Week. Look for them, and check them out. And for your convenience, I'm also putting the Carnival of the Vanities site just below it each week.

Posted by susanna at 09:41 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Kazemi situation in Iran continues

Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian freelance photojournalist who died recently in Iranian police custody, continues to be a source of controversy; some details in today's article add aspects I was not aware of:

OTTAWA - John Manley, the Deputy Prime Minister, warned yesterday that relations with Iran could be seriously jeopardized if it does not return the body of a Montreal photojournalist and explain how she died while in custody in Tehran...

The prevailing view among Canadian diplomats is that Ms. Kazemi's body is still in a morgue in Tehran and has not yet been buried. This runs counter to reports over the weekend that Ms. Kazemi's elderly Iranian mother had given permission to have the body buried in Iran, and that the burial had already taken place.

I've not read the articles over the weekend about Ms. Kazemi, so I may have missed that she is in fact Iranian herself, although apparently she now has Canadian citizenship. I found this interesting too, in light of the current protests by Iranian citizens against the repressive Iranian government:

Mr. Manley told reporters Canada has been steadily seeking improved relations with Iran, particularly with the government of its reformist President, Mohammad Khatami, who on Sunday ordered an inquiry into the death of Zahra Kazemi.

Huh. "Reformist" president? "Seeking improved relations"? Doesn't sound like Canada is on the side of right this time around.

Here are links to other articles on Kazemi in the Canadian press over the weekend:

Investigate Iran's role in death: son
Son fights for Kazemi's body

The latter article does go into Kazemi's Iranian birth, and discusses the probe into the matter that President Khatami has launched. Of course we know that his minions will be strictly independent in their inquiries and findings, don't we? After all, it's an open country with a reformist leader. Right? Right?

The NY Times finally published Reuters articles on it - Sunday and Monday. WaPo has it in their "World in Brief" sections on Sunday, Monday and today.

[Thanks as always to Capt. J.M. Heinrichs for the Canadian links]

Posted by susanna at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is Bush unbeatable in 2004?

I've seen this question asked recently, and I think it's an important. Of course the election is more than a year away, and a lot can happen in a year. But here's my assessment of the situation - what's yours?

1) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

I think these, right now, are positives for Bush. I think most Americans were behind both of them, and remain committed to the purpose. Having our soldiers killed daily for another year will create problems, so getting a handle on that is important. However, the average American understands that the situation in Iraq is still quite unstable, and we expected some level of casualities to continue for a few months after the initial heavy fighting ended. If the casualties lessen, and the countries (especially Iraq) seem to be heading for real democracy (albeit not necessarily one that is a copy of US democracy), then this will only be a positive for Bush.

2) The war on terror (non-domestic)

I think that this is going fairly well. The flypaper effect that Glenn Reynolds spoke about yesterday is working in terms of sucking the energies of the terrorists into Iraq. There have been no significant attacks in a while. If this continues - or if there is a rapid and decisive response to any other attacks that occur - Bush will be fine. He's aided here by the Dems' lack of credibility on national security issues: A stumbling Bush is better than a pandering Dem, in the minds of most Americans.

3) The war on terror (domestic)

Right now, I think this is Bush's biggest failing and challenge. While it's clear that 9/11 could have been prevented if the US intelligence agencies played nicely together and weren't criminally risk-averse, we've seen nothing substantial in the way of improvements in those areas. One huge problem is that no one paid a price for the failure. No one was fired, no big name lost his position, nothing. The same jokers who were there before are there now. Maybe the majority of agents in those agencies are top-notch (I doubt it), but even so there were significant failures somewhere, and I see no evidence that that is being fixed. Instead, we see stories like this. I don't have much faith in Tom Ridge, I don't have much faith in the Dept. of Homeland Security, and I don't have much faith in the intelligence agencies. You're only as strong as your weakest link, and it seems to me there are plenty of links that are not just weak but broken. I don't see any effort to fix that. Right now this is my biggest complaint with Bush.

4) The economy

I think the economy is improving. We had a big bubble in the 1990s that burst, and expecting to return to that is not only unrealistic but undesirable. If we continue to show steady improvement, this will be fine.

5) Expanding government

This is my second biggest problem with Bush. He's a big-government Republican, and I don't like that at all. He folds before almost every initiative to expand government, and we just can't keep doing that. I want government to be sliced back (and that could mean my losing my own job, since I work for govt in a "non-value-added" position, but if that's what it takes...). Bush will lose votes over his big-govt behaviors, and those votes will be from his base. All he will gain is the potential for middle-of-the-roaders votes, and they're pretty mercurial. It's a big price to pay for little sure return.

So, do I think Bush is unbeatable? No, he's definitely beatable. But the areas where he's most vulnerable - flailing on national security, and expanding government too much - are also the areas where at his very worst he's not going to be as bad as any one of the Dem candidates. That means the only person who can beat Bush is himself. But I think it's possible it could happen. The Dems are going to be vicious and motivated to win back the White House and Congress. Bush's base is a bit complacent and will stay home if he doesn't get their core issues on the right road. The win was narrow last time. It will be narrow this time. Bush needs to make sure it falls his way again, and it's not a sure thing now.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds' Tech Central Station column is more evidence of the problems at the Dept. of Homeland Security.

Posted by susanna at 08:37 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Sometimes...

Sometimes I wish I could track down some of people who come to my site and beat them senseless - or at least turn them over to the police. Someone came to my site from this online search: preteens in see through bras. This thoroughly creeps me out, and is frankly frightening. I know people are out there who are interested in that, but to think my life might brush past theirs, even in such a tangential way...

People who even think up search strings like that should be dropped in the ocean in concrete shoes after having thousands of little cuts made all over their bodies.

Posted by susanna at 06:37 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 14, 2003

All the more reason to kill him

A convicted torturer and murderer on Pennsylvania's death row has appealed his sentence because he says jurors should have been able to consider the possibility that his crime was the result of "bad genes" from his father, himself a death row inmate in Pennsylvania:

As a troubled youngster, Landon May worried he had inherited "bad blood" from his father, a notorious killer on Pennsylvania's death row.

Now, on death row himself for the torture killings of a school principal and her husband, May is hoping the state Supreme Court might give him another chance to argue he was fated to follow in his father's violent footsteps.

In an unusual appeal, May's lawyer said experts should have been allowed to testify when jurors were deliberating May's sentence that he was genetically predisposed to violence, given his family history.

This doesn't make me think he should be given life in prison. This makes me think he should be shot down in the street like a rabid dog. Of course that's hyperbole, but I don't think he would deserve leniency even if it was true. It's really an argument for getting those genes out of the common pool. After all, think of the pain and suffering the world would have been spared if they'd at least castrated the grandfather, who "served prison time for sexually assaulting his own daughters", before he bred a killer son and grandson?

If this is argued in court, it'll bring the nature vs nurture folks out of the woodwork. Actually, it's a dilemma for the rehabilitationists amongst us. Their primary argument is that people are the way they are because of upbringing and social circumstances/context, so they should be given an opportunity to correct that in a proper environment. If he's arguing that he shouldn't be killed because he is genetically incapable of not killing, the rehabilitationists can't use their reform argument. They'll be pushed to the fallback position of "we shouldn't punish someone for something they couldn't help." That's a weak argument faced with the two main points opposing them: If he's genetically a killer, then for the safety of society he should be removed from the gene pool. And if he can't stop himself, he's an active threat to the people in prison too, both guards and inmates. He's painted himself into a nice little corner here, and I must say it's a bit amusing, if things so dire can ever be amusing. Let's say, very very dark humor.

I don't think he'll get very far with this - and of course, my source for the story - Scrappleface - has precisely the right take.

Posted by susanna at 12:25 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Nononononononoooooooo!!!

(Not good for work, or if you're eating, or have delicate sensibilities. Actually, it's not good for anyone, but that didn't stop him, did it?)

Sometimes referrer logs are a good thing.

Sometimes... sometimes they bring lime green terror.

A terror that continues...

And is aided and abetted.

You're forced to accept it. But you aren't forced to look at it again.

UPDATE: Okay, apparently all things lime green are suspect (I wonder what Meryl would say? I refuse to speculate). At least this isn't as improbable as this (not that I would ever question Acidman). It's getting a bit prurient in here; I'm going to stop for a while before it gets even worse.

(Hulk link via RAWbservations)

Posted by susanna at 11:33 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Filtering, choosing not to know, and the Dem candidates

The OmbudsGod points to an excellent NPR online article on something I hadn't really thought much about - the media has selected which officially registered Dem presidential candidates are "mainstream":

The campaign for the 2004 nomination is in full swing as the nine announced candidates make frequent visits to key states, including New Hampshire, Iowa and California...

But the Federal Election Commission says many more have registered as official Democratic Party candidates. So far, there are 25 official Democratic candidates.

Why is NPR Interviewing Only Nine?

...Some of the other less-known candidates running for the Democratic Party nomination remain obscure and likely will stay that way. In my opinion, it is not the job of journalism alone to raise the public's awareness of these campaigns. But journalism mediates and in its own way, selects who should have legitimacy and who should not. Many people resent that role, but short of making every candidate equal by giving each the same amount of airtime, the role of journalism in politics is unlikely to change very much...

It's a very good point to consider, and NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin - the author of this article - points out that Lyndon LaRouche is a good example of the fact that the selection process isn't based on some objective criteria like number of signatures on the petition to run, or on money raised:

LaRouche has raised more than $800,000 and he lists thousands of supporters in his FEC statement. That's more money and supporters than raised by Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun combined. But while money seems to be a determining factor for journalistic legitimacy with other candidates, it does not seem to be a factor at all when it comes to LaRouche.

Now, LaRouche is not exactly a serious candidate in that he attempts to address the big issues facing the US - his big issues include returning the US to a gold standard - but Dvorkin says (and I agree) that that is not the point:

LaRouche's campaign is different. Mainstream, he is not. And he makes journalists nervous because of the risk of giving his cause legitimacy.

But NPR's commitment to democracy may also include reporting on people about whom there is a very high "squirm factor." The past is full of political hopefuls and their ideas, ignored and dismissed by many, who suddenly burst onto the political stage. Historians, not journalists, are then left to pick up the pieces and figure out what happened.

While NPR News is not C-SPAN and it does not -- and should not -- be obliged to give equal airtime to all, it seems that the public radio system might consider doing more than it does.

The OmbudsGod says what needs to be said about this better than I could:

So let’s get this straight, race baiters with dubious credentials and little support like Sharpton and Moseley Braun are “mainstream,” but journalists are afraid to give a mere nut-job like LaRouche legitimacy? Does anyone really think that either Sharpton or Moseley Braun would be interviewed if not for the color of their skin?

The media has clearly made a decision about who is and is not legitimate, and would doubtless defend their choice. But it's decidedly a choosing not to know, and it's something I think citizens should know. Why does LaRouche keep getting such support? And why are Sharpton and Moseley Braun considered valid candidates? I know what I believe about that - I'd like to know what the media thinks.

Posted by susanna at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An alarming situation

The NY City Council is considering a ban on car alarms, according to this article in City Journal, which also points out that said alarms have a 95-percent false-alarm rate. I'm ambivalent about this... I don't much like the concept of one more law, but at the same time, as someone who has startled awake more than once to the tune of a late-night car alarm blast, I have great sympathy for New Yorkers. Now if someone would just throttle the cabbies who find nothing wrong with blaring their horn at 3 a.m. to let their fare know they've arrived, rather than getting out of their car and knocking on the fare's door so I can sleep.

Posted by susanna at 09:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Debate over juvenile crime in Japan

Japan, which I tend to think of as a fairly safe country, apparently isn't quite - and there's a hot debate about whether to drop the minimum age for incarceration below the current 14:

In spite of the debate over the existing legal framework for crimes committed by juveniles in the wake of a 12-year-old boy admitting to murdering 4-year-old Shun Tanemoto in Nagasaki, experts have mixed views over whether the age at which juveniles can be held criminally responsible should be lowered from the current 14.

Prompted by a series of violent crimes committed by youngsters, including the 1997 killing and decapitation of an 11-year-old Kobe boy by a 14-year-old junior high school student, the Juvenile Law was revised in April 2001 to lower the age at which crimes by young people can be sent to prosecutors from 16 to 14.

Apparently the young killer kidnapped Shun to sexually abuse him.

According to the article, "Yoshiro Ito, a lawyer well-versed in juvenile crime" thinks it's a bad thing to lower the age:

"Punishing them for criminal offenses means giving up on rehabilitating them," Ito added. "We should not do that to children who are just 12."

But juvenile crime is an increasing problem:

"Statistics compiled by our Community Safety Bureau show that 3,530 12-year-olds were taken into custody last year for violating the Penal Code," [National Police Agency spokesman Satoshi Kadokawa] said, adding that the figure was 20,477 for children 13 years or under, and that it has remained above 20,000 for the last decade.

The number of murders committed by youngsters aged 14 and older surged from 18 in 2001 to 52 in 2002, he added.

This debate mirrors the one in the US - specifically, at what age is it appropriate to visit the full adult-level wrath of society on someone? If someone can't marry or drive until they're 16, can't vote until they're 18 or drink until 21, how can you incarcerate them for life when they commit murder at 14? On the other hand, you have crimes like the ones described above, so how does society react? Notice that Ito believes rehabilitation and incarceration are mutually exclusive, which is a hot point of debate here as well. If you incarcerate a 12 year old for murdering a 4 year old, aren't you assuming adult reasoning in terms of intent? On the other hand, if you don't incarcerate the 12 year old, aren't you putting others at risk? After all, one of the warning signs for a serial killer is that he tortured animals at a young age - if someone escalates to torture and murder of a child by 12, isn't that almost putting it on a billboard that this is a fledgling serial killer?

It's a tough call - we hate to give up on people, especially children, and the concept of redemption runs deep in our society. But I personally think that any person who tortures and kills another person, regardless of the offender's age, has shown himself to be so beyond normal behaviors and concern for others that he needs to be removed from society until he's at least aged out of the common ages for offending - most people age out of offending by their 30s. I would ask those who believe that rehabilitation is the right route to explain precisely how you rehabilitate a murderer of this stripe - and the type of murder done matters. There's a lot of difference in what it takes to shoot someone deliberately and what it takes to torture, sexually assault and kill a child.

We should err on the side of mercy, but we don't need to let our brains fall out of our heads in the process. I hope Japan recognizes that.

Posted by susanna at 09:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Palestinians don't want to move to Israel

This is an interesting poll:

The poll, conducted among 4,500 refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Jordan, was the first ever to ask where they would want to live, if Israel recognised a right of return.

Only 10 per cent of the refugees chose Israel, even if they were allowed to live there with Palestinian citizenship; 54 per cent opted for the Palestinian state; 17 per cent wanted to be absorbed in Jordan or Lebanon, and 2 per cent in other countries that were ready to admit them. Another 13 per cent rejected all these options, preferring to sit it out and wait for Israel to disappear, while 2 per cent didn't know.

I'd be curious about whether the suicide bombers come from that 13 percent who "rejected all these options". I checked the website of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, and they haven't posted the survey yet. But that may have something to do with the welcome reception their poll results received:

A mob of about 100 Palestinian refugees stormed the office of a Ramallah polling organisation on Sunday to stop it publishing a survey showing that five times as many refugees would prefer to settle permanently in a Palestinian state rather than return to their old homes in what is now Israel.

The protesters pelted Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, with eggs, smashed computers and assaulted the nine staff members on duty. A woman worker was sent home last night after being treated in hospital for her injuries. "This is a message for everyone not to tamper with our rights," one of the rioters said.

You like to see this openness to new information.

I was surprised to see that the New York Times actually covered this; it's a decent article, emphasizing that the pollster, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, himself grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp and was educated at Columbia University. His brother was actively involved in attacking Israel:

Dr. Shikaki's biography shows the diverging paths refugees can take. He grew up in Gaza's dismal Rafah camp. His older brother, Fathi, a physician, founded Islamic Jihad, bent on Israel's destruction. In 1995, Fathi Shikaki was killed in Malta, apparently by Israeli agents.

Dr. Shikaki, who rejects violence, earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University and now directs the polling organization here. For his independent views, he has been threatened by both Mr. Arafat and Hamas.

He consults regularly with Israeli political scientists and plans to travel to Washington this week to present his new findings to the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations and others.

It sounds like Shikaki has dubious connections but may himself be dealing relatively honestly through his science. I've not seen the survey or details of the results, but he's certainly not pandering. That's encouraging, anyway. I guess my main question is... how does a poor boy from the "dismal Rafah camp" have the wherewithal to travel to the US and earn a PhD at Columbia, or, for that matter, how was his brother able to become a physician? Is it not that dismal? Were his family that well-to-do? Was he supported by Palestinian organizations? Or did he get scholarships? I don't know how important it is, but I just wondered. The refugee camps are painted as odorous cesspools of fetid hopelessness... are these two men anomolies?

Interesting.

Posted by susanna at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Honored

I meant to point this out before - John Hawkins at Right Wing News has listed me as one of his favorite women bloggers. Very cool! August company. Not that I feel under the gun now...

I consider John to be one of the top bloggers, with his mix of commentary and interviews with newsmakers, as well as other things like this Symposium on the War on Terrorism, featuring bloggers, that you just don't get on other blogs. That makes it even cooler that I'm on his list, too.

Posted by susanna at 08:09 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bloggish moves

My goodness, there's a lot going on out there! Spoons of The Spoons Experience has resurfaced after a six-month hiatus (we knew you couldn't stay away, Chris!). R. Alex Whitlock has reopened RAWbservations. And Bryan Preston has moved Junk Yard Blog into a new MT site with a new URL, so adjust your bookmarks accordingly. Oh, and ZogbyBlog has moved as well.

Did I miss anyone?

Posted by susanna at 07:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Weenie!

Chris Muir is taking 30 days off from his Day by Day cartoon for medical reasons. Could this be a plot by the DNC because of Muir's clever political voice? I'm deeply suspicious. We'll keep a close eye on this development, and avidly await his August return.

Posted by susanna at 05:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2003

Free speech or hate speech?

Meryl Yourish has all the details on a pro-Palestinian conference sponsored by a student group at Rutgers University - New Brunswick, scheduled for October. Little Green Footballs has more. I meant to link it earlier, but I'm glad I held off because I got to hear the conference organizer, Rutgers law student Charlotte Kates, talking this morning with Steve Malzberg on WABC 770 AM out of NYC.

I'm much too naive about this kind of thing; I always want to assume that the person or group involved in a heated dispute are on some level honest, honorable and open to reasoning, at least until proven wrong. I think it's important to have open discussion on America's campuses, even when I disagree with the point being put forward, so I was also hesitant to say that this was not a free speech issue. But after hearing Kates, I'm completely on Meryl's side.

She sounded almost robotic, her points the same ones you hear over and over, her hatred for Israel not hidden in the slightest. It's an "apartheid state", it's "colonized" Palestine, and the United States is prime conspirator in keeping the Palestinians under the heel of vicious Israel. It was actually a bit frightening to hear her speak, because you could tell she is a true believer with no rough edges in her slick logic where you might start a discussion. I could imagine her sending off suicide bombers with a shrugged, "What are you going to do? They forced it on us." And that convinced me that this conference isn't about free speech, but hate speech.

I don't agree with NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey, who brainlessly has said he'll encourage the conference to have a balance of opinions - that's NOT the point, and certainly I wouldn't agree with a pro-Israel conference having to have pro-Palestinian speakers for "balance". I think there needs to be an assessment of what "speech" is going to happen before a conference on a topic this volatile is approved - and since there have been two previous conferences of this name, there is ample evidence to review. They've been unrelenting anti-semetic hatefests.

Here are a few comparisons to show free speech vs hate speech:

Anti-abortion conference vs. How To Kill Abortion Doctors conference
Pro-animal rights conference vs. How To Torch Labs and Assault Meat-eaters conference
Anti-affirmative action conference vs. How To Keep Those Minorities Under The Heel of The Euro-WASP Superior Race conference
Pro-Palestinian state conference vs. How to Kill More Jews So They'll Leave Israel or Die, All Of Them, conference

Are we seeing a theme here? There is a line you can't cross, that the "free speech" stipulation shouldn't and, I think, doesn't cover. The issue here is whether a state-funded university should spend tax dollars to sponsor this conference, and I think the answer in this case is "no". They aren't exemplifying free speech - they've slid solidly into hate speech. And I don't think my taxes should pay for their hate.

Posted by susanna at 10:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 12, 2003

ERA...? I think not

Blogdom's own Bill Dennis, the Peoria Pundit, is responsible for a bloggish new feature at his day-job newspaper - The Community Word Online Edition. It's a cool idea, well executed. Naturally I went to check it out, and naturally I had something to say about one of the posts. Some chicklet named Dolores M. Klein had a typically overwrought (fortunately brief) little treatise on the Equal Rights Amendment:

“My personal opinion is that it’s kind of like a retro subject, like going back and wearing bell-bottoms” commented Florida Governor Jeb Bush, when the Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in Florida recently.

As the Amendment is passed in one House in Springfield and waiting for the other to vote, and the Governor to sign it, let’s remember that on June 22nd in 1982, two states waited for Illinois, the largest northern industrial state to ratify it. A struggle of 200 years for full constitutional gender equality was stopped three states short of ratification, here in the Land of Lincoln.

Let’s remind the younger generation that a group of religious women, Mormon, Catholic, Protestant fasted in the rotunda for 37 days. At that time, it was the longest public fast since that of Mahatma Ghandi.

There will never be another season of silence until that permanent tool for change becomes the law of the land. Until it is included in the Constitution, when we or our children cross a state line to go to college, change jobs, etc., our gender rights will be “up for grabs,” depending on which of the states have their own Equal Rights Amendment.

Erma Bombeck had a word for whoever is elected President next time: “We will have the E.R.A. when the President comes into office making full legal equality for women his first priority.”

Aaaaaaaaggggggggghhhhhhh! You know it can't be good when she swipes at Jeb, compares women starving for the ERA to Gandhi, AND quotes Erma Bombeck all in just five paragraphs! So... well... this is what I had to say:

No, no, no. We do NOT need an Equal Rights Amendment. The Constitution already speaks for all of us - "man" means "humanity" wherever it occurs, and it's understood that way both by the average person and the courts. And to be honest with you, fasting does not make a cause more legitimate, no more than those silly women who stripped down to use their bodies to spell a naked "PEACE" in some field outside Berkeley made their cause seem more valid. All it means is that some people are very very dedicated - well, so were the 9/11 bombers. Did their willingness to die legitimate their cause? I think not.

As for your "up for grabs" thing, that's called "states rights", and it's one of the reasons this country is great. I strongly disagree with the federalizing of everything; it's gone too far already. And how quickly would you bark for states rights if abortion were outlawed on the federal level? Pretty fast, I'd say. I'm pretty sick of having special interest groups strongarm federal legislators into federalizing just one more thing because those same special interest groups face opposition on the local levels. You cry for equality and diversity, but you only want equality with those who agree with you, and diversity when it suits your purpose.

Try a little tolerance. It's good for what ails you.

If you want to see the post and my comment in their natural habitat, here they are. I'm going for more Snickerdoodles.

Posted by susanna at 11:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

What's up with that?

I love Snickerdoodles.

Let's be real - I love cookies.

But Snickerdoodles just have a special place in my heart. For those of you who don't know, they're basically sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon sugar before they're baked. That's how I've always made them, but recently I thought I'd dig through some of my 80 cookbooks to find an Official Snickerdoodles Recipe. I did... and it called for cream of tartar. Why? WHY? I've used cream of tartar to make meringuey things, but that's all. Why use it in cookies? So I thought, well, maybe it will make a difference that I don't understand right now. I made the recipe. And the cookies...

Tasted like cinnamon flavored cream of tartar. This is not a good thing.

I went online to see if this is a common Snickerdoodle thing. It would appear to be almost universal. I wondered... what is the point? What is it supposed to do??

So on to finding out. I googled for cream of tartar in cookies, and of course found a site addressing precisely that:

name: Mary

Question: What does cream of tartar do in a cookie recipe?

Web Chefs: From Stephen Block

Cream of Tartar is used in cookies mainly as a substitute for baking powder. Baking powder is mainly a combination of cream of Tartar and Baking soda. You can use as a substitute for Baking powder 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar.

Well. There you go. It's a holdover of the days before baking powder was a staple in most kitchens (and apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't like it). Some recipes now do call for baking powder, and that's what I'll be using from now on (specifically, from my Mrs. Fields Cookie Book, only she doesn't call them Snickerdoodles).

Some days, I love the Internet.

Okay, all days I love it. But especially with Snickerdoodles and a glass of milk. Now excuse me, I have some baking to do.

UPDATE - ACK!! While closing out the windows I opened researching that last post, I came across this recipe - and I can't imagine finding it appetizing. For your dining pleasure: SHIT ON A SHINGLE

Posted by susanna at 07:54 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Journalist brain dead - was she beaten by mullah forces?

I posted earlier about Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian freelance photojournalist hospitalized for a brain hemorrhage her family claims she suffered while in the custody of Iranian police - and at their hands. She's now been declared brain dead:

Zahra Kazemi, a Montreal-based photojournalist arrested in Iran and allegedly beaten by police interrogators, has been declared brain-dead.

Doctors in Tehran told Canadian consular officials yesterday that Ms. Kazemi has all but succumbed to the brain hemorrhage she mysteriously suffered while in the custody of Iranian authorities.

Very sad. As I reported before, the US media doesn't seem to be covering this. But Kazemi had a lot to say about the protests in Iran before she suffered the hemorrhage:

In her last email to her son, Kazemi described the anti-government student protests that engulfed the capital, sparking mass roundups and the detention of numerous journalists by security forces.

"The country is living through nighttime upheavals that are ideal for photographers," Kazemi wrote.

At least 17 journalists are believed to still be in custody following a security clampdown after the student protests.

Foreign Affairs learned of the arrest Monday, when Kazemi's mother contacted the Canadian embassy in Iran.

I hesitate to say she for sure was beaten by the Iranian police, although it seems almost a sure thing, because there's been no independent investigation as of yet. But I think someone could be convicted on circumstantial evidence, from what I've read. My hesitation is just all about the reason journalists generally say "alleged" unless there's been a conviction.

It's both shocking and unsurprising that the US media isn't covering this. They usually do treat journalists as super-citizens of the world - worthy of extra coverage - but they've consistently downplayed the problems in Iran so it's not surprisingly that they've not paid attention to this. I have a lot more here about the reasons I think that is true.

[Thanks to Capt. J.M. Heinrichs for the Nat'l Post link.]

UPDATE: The Committee to Protect Journalists is also concerned about the circumstances of Kazemi's condition.

Posted by susanna at 04:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Honoring Ronald Reagan

I'm watching the commissioning of the new US Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan. It's a wonderful honor for the greatest president of my lifetime, and I've been tearful more than once.

My first presidential memories are of Richard Nixon; the first year that sounds familiar to me, as if I was aware of that time and not just relying on stories about it, is 1968, the year I turned 7. My clearest first memory of a president was of Richard Nixon resigning - my parents were watching it on television, and called my sister and I from our play to come see. "You'll remember this forever," my dad said, "You'll likely never see this again in your life." Gerald Ford's tenure was a bit of a fog for me - preteens are like that - but I vividly recall Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter walking down the street in Washington, DC, on Carter's Inauguration Day. My opinion of him was ambiavalent that day; I wished him well, but hoped he wouldn't do damage. It was the highest my opinion of him has ever been.

I turned 18 just as Reagan began to run for president, and I felt a sense of history when I voted for him in the first presidential election I voted in. I've never regretted it, and voted for him again four years later. I didn't always agree with him, nor how he ran his own life. But I thought him at heart a man of character, of genuine love for his country, and a desire to serve his fellow citizens that went far deeper than his desire to serve himself. Our country was on the wrong path with Carter at the helm, and Reagan steered it on a course that benefited not only the United States, but everyone living in his time. He was not perfect, he was not always right, but he was a great man and the best man for his time.

I have a deep respect, admiration and - yes- love for Ronald Reagan. It breaks my heart that he is no longer able to interact with our world. But he has left us a legacy that resonates still, that we are better for having, that can serve as a blueprint for leaders of the future.

And it's fitting, that in this time of war, of struggle, of treading the waters of the world lightly but firmly to show that the US will not seek to rule but will protect its own, that the mightest ship in the mightest Navy of the mightest country this world has ever known, be commissioned in the name of our former president, Ronald Reagan.

God bless the Navy. God bless Ronald Reagan. God bless America.

Peace through strength.

UPDATE: The FoxNews story on it.

Posted by susanna at 12:09 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

I don't think so

An advisory committee in Great Britain has a new curriculum in mind for five year olds:

Compulsory sex education for five-year-olds will be demanded today by government advisers on teenage pregnancy, as an essential step towards halving the under-18 concep tion rate by 2010.

How many ways can I say "no"? A further reading of the article indicates that they aren't planning on explaining the mechanics to pre-schoolers, but I don't trust these people to keep to the agenda either. We do not need sex education in kindergarten. Now, they say they'll just teach about relationships, but if that's what it is, why don't they say so?

As for halving the under-18 birth rate, I'd say that the very best way to do that would be for these things to happen:

a) The unmarried above-18s keep it in their pants (or under their pants) a little more often (I'd prefer a lot more often;

b) The media types and society in general stop making it seem as if sex is the end all and be all of life;

c) Somebody stop buying belly shirts, pushup bras, thongs and lowslung pants (so the thong straps can show) for the pre-teen girls, and stop fostering the notion that it's a matter of male pride to ride anything you can get a hold of.

d) Teach boys that if you're a real man, you don't put women at risk and you don't spread your semen around like it's manna. And teach girls that if you're a real woman, you don't have to put your sexuality out there on a platter, offering it like a casual snack to whoever's hungry. Because someone's always hungry.

Why don't they make my rules the law instead of theirs? I think they'd be at least as effective; I'd say more. Oh, there's such a thing as freedom of choice? A right to choose your own path? Huh. Tell that to the parents of these children. Although, again, there seems to be a little consciousness of that:

Ms Frances said the report would advise ministers to leave schools some discretion over the pace of the sex curriculum: "There is no point in pushing schools to do more than parents and the local community can stand."

Those wussy parents! Those silly communities! We'll ease them into this, like slow-boiling a frog in water so he won't realize he's dying until he's dead. After all, once these kids grow up, they'll be used to this and we can teach even more to their kids.

I don't disagree that children should learn about relationships, or that they have rights over their bodies. There are very very sick people out there who would take advantage of children of any and all ages. But this kind of social re-engineering is just anathema to me. And it's always toward the liberal side of things. Why don't they mandate more morals teaching? Why don't they mandate teaching of abstinence? Why don't they mandate teaching discipline, self-respect, hard work, respecting everyone else in your life as much as you respect yourself? They'd go a lot further toward helping them meet their goal. But, you see, that's intrusive! You're trying to make people be like you.

Oh? And this is different.... how?

[Link via TacJammer]

Posted by susanna at 09:19 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 11, 2003

Blogs, circa 1999

I just came across this article on blogs in The Atlantic, circa 1999. It's by Ben Austin, and has some information on where some early references came from:

Enter the Weblog. Better than a static links list (because it's a living resource) and more useful than a What's Cool page (because coolness stopped meaning much when everyone became a Photoshop pro), the Weblog is in Net terms a relatively recent development ("Weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on his Robot Wisdom site in late 1997). With the notable exception of Slashdot, Weblogs are almost always the work of one person. And though it may not appear to be much more than a regularly updated, annotated list of links, the blog (a contraction coined by information-design Weblogger Peter Merholz) has become a new kind of Internet filter: what really makes one valuable is the combination of frequency, timeliness, and editorializing that coalesces around the blogger's voice.

Still a good description of what a blog is, although he focuses on tech blogs. Cool to see what he has to say, in light of where blogs are now.

Posted by susanna at 02:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Getting it right

Eugene Volokh has all kinds of information and examples of CBS getting it wrong - headlines, that is. And they're important. Often people skim headlines without reading an article, and assume that whatever the headline says is true - otherwise, why would the editors allow it in the newspaper? And it's easy to read into an article what the headline says is there, unless you're reading critically. Scroll down - Volokh has several pertinent posts.

Posted by susanna at 11:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Choosing not to know

As you know I've been working my way through academic articles on criminal justice and the media lately, and one of the concepts that has stuck in my mind is referred to in Mark Fishman's 1978 article "Crime Waves as Ideology" as "a means not to know". Fishman takes the concept from Dorothy Smith's 1972 article (citations and a pertinent quote is in the "MORE" section below).

Basically, Fishman says the process of developing news articles is in part a process of "choosing not to know" - there are many directions a reporter can go with any news event or situation, and he chooses not to know about the directions he deems unnewsworthy for whatever reason. It seems to me that a lot of the media choose not to know about situations internationally where the US cannot be cast as the bad guy. This cartoon by Cox & Forkum says it more clearly than anything I can write:

Priorities-X.gif
(Used with permission)

The information about what's going on in Iran is readily available to the mainstream media; they're focusing on the deaths of the conjoined twins, which while very sad and poignant, is not of the magnitude of a people fighting and giving their lives for freedom. (Cox & Forkum also have a lot of links to other information and commentary on the Iranian protests.)

What else is the media choosing not to know, that we aren't aware of because the information is not so easily available outside of mainstream media sources?

[I encourage you to make Cox & Forkum a daily stop, just as I know you do Chris Muir's Day by Day. Both cartoons should be in your local newspaper, so I also encourage you to write in asking that they be added. Remind the newspaper that diversity of viewpoints is one of their goals. Ask them not to "choose not to know" the other side of these important issues.]

UPDATE: First paragraph edited to correct a quote and the name of a referenced author.

First citation:
Fishman, Mark. (1978). "Crime waves as ideology." Social Problems, 25 (5):531- 543.

Second citation:
Smith, Dorothy. (1972) "The ideological practice of sociology." Unpublished paper, Department of Sociology, University of British Columbia.

Quote from Fishman referencing Smith:

"All knowledge is knowledge from some point of view, resulting from the use of procedures for knowing a part of the world. Ideological accounts arise from 'procedures which people use as a means not to know' (1972:3, emphasis mine). Routine news gathering and editing involve 'procedures not to know.'"

Emphasis and note in original.

Posted by susanna at 11:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Watching the falling Raines

The beginning of the end for former NY Times editor Howell Raines was the two spiked sports columns on the Augusta kerfuffle six months before the Jayson Blair fiasco hoved on the horizon, according to NY Daily News media columnist Paul D. Colford, in this Columbia Journalism Review article:

Exactly five weeks passed between the resignations of Blair and Raines, but the discovery of the reporter’s deceptions wasn’t the first act in the drama. In retrospect, it was the spiking of two sports columns six months earlier that marked the beginning of the end for Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd. Yes, those columns — by Harvey Araton and Dave Anderson, both of whom differed with Times editorials on the Masters Tournament at the men-only Augusta National Golf Club — eventually did run in amended form. But outrage within The New York Times ran so high, and was expressed to me so freely by reporters and editors at the paper, that I should have recognized the stirrings of a major revolt.

As bad as the situation was with Raines, that the Blair fiasco happened on his watch, what's comforting is that it was revealed, just as the situation with the spiked columns were. Fascinating to read the inside scoop on how Colford got the story from inside the Times. And this will be familiar to anyone who has worked as a journalist - or cop or doctor:

Bragg’s suspension for misusing the stringer broke on May 23, a day I was supposed to take off to attend a brother’s wedding at the Jersey shore. I filed a story from home, was back on the phone in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Garden State Parkway, discussed a new lead with my editor after reaching my hotel room, and later drew a disbelieving stare from my brother when I stepped away to take one more call from the desk as he was just about to walk down the aisle.

Oops.

Posted by susanna at 10:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pissing match

Well, well, well:

If cable news channels were wristwatches, CNN would be Rolex and Fox News Channel would be Timex, CNN chief Jim Walton explained to critics at Summer TV Press Tour 2003 here today.

Timex sells more watches, but Rolexes cost more.

But Fox News Channel claims it is Rolex and that CNN is "more like an antique hourglass."

Fox is watched by more people on average, Walton acknowledged, but CNN's audience is more affluent, and the network can therefore charge a higher ad rate. It enjoys a 40 percent CPM (cost per thousand people) advantage over FNC, CNN claims.

Personally, I'd say CNN is a stopped watch - right twice a day in spite of itself. But that's just me.

Interesting that CNN has a "more affluent" audience, since I'd say it's also a "more liberal" audience. I thought only Republicans were affluent? Huh. I'll have to consult millionaire Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry about that. Or maybe millionaire Dem Senator Ted Kennedy. Possibly millionaire capitalist entreprenuer Ben of Ben & Jerry's. Or, if she's out of court now after trying to keep the hoi polloi from even seeing her home, millionaire Dem supporter Babs Streisand.

I'm sure they all watch CNN. Those of us who wear Timexes watch Fox.

[Link via Romenesko]

Posted by susanna at 09:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Shoring up credibility in newspapers

Last month, The Providence Journal ran a series on a sexual assault (registration required) that resulted in the conviction of a teenage boy for the attack. It dealt with the attack, the investigation, the impact on the victim and the impact on the families of the victim and offender. Because of the complexity of the series, and the story-like narrative format, ProJo decided to run a highly detailed source note that tracked where the bulk of the information came from - here's a sample:

Descriptions of how well Plante was known in the school community, his art work and his friendship with Laura: interviews with five friends of the Plante family, an acquaintance and a local businessman who wrote letters to the court on the family's or Plante's behalf; the 120 letters submitted to the court on Plante's behalf, which were written by 119 people and categorized by Bramson for trends and themes; interview with school nurse Marilyn Kelley; interviews with Laura and her family...

"Many residents say you're considered a newcomer unless you were born here": interviews with multiple residents, employees in town hall, school department employees, high school students and their parents from August 2002, when Bramson began covering Burrillville, until the present.

Poynter Institute's Chip Scanlon interviewed the reporter, story editor and executive editor who were involved in deciding to run the source note. It's quite a departure from how nearly all newspapers attribute their information, and it's an interesting insight into the culture of the newsroom post-Jayson Blair:

Scanlan: Did the Jayson Blair fabrication scandal at the New York Times influence the decision to provide the reader's note on sources? If so, how?

Bramson [the reporter]: I don't know if it influenced Joel [the executive editor], but it certainly influenced me in deciding whether or not to accept this method and do it willingly. I have no illusions about how the media is viewed in our society, and I know that the Jayson Blair scandal has tarnished our image even more. I knew I had done my homework with this story, and I had no qualms about telling readers that it was extremely thoroughly researched and documented. Any time we can tell our readers that we take our job seriously and do it well and pay close attention to fact, I think we should.

Burkhardt [story editor]: Joel will probably say it did, in the sense that the whole NYT fiasco seems to be on everybody's mind and inspiring a fair amount of paranoia, along with some productive examination of our expectations and practices.

But personally, I would really like to think Blair had nothing to do with this. The message to readers shouldn't be, "See, she didn't make it up and here's the proof."

...Here's the message I hope we conveyed to readers: This story is different in many ways from what you are used to seeing in the newspaper. We understand that you might wonder about some things -- why we are not fully identifying Laura, or perhaps why we are identifying her at all. How we can describe a rape we didn't witness, quote from a private conversation in a hospital examining room, say where generations of locals bought their cars. Because of the unusual nature of the story, we're taking the unusual step of sharing some of the process behind it.

Rawson [executive editor]: Yes. The Jayson Blair affair shook my confidence as an editor. It must have had an impact on our readers. The source notes are an attempt to maintain readers' confidence in the narrative form of newspaper writing by demonstrating that the reporting was done and making the facts in the story verifiable.

The value of the source note is about credibility, whether or not Jayson Blair played a role in this specific decision (and it clearly did). The discussion led by Scanlon is quite lengthy, and worth reading for thoughts on the pros and cons of this type of attribution. Is it appropriate or even necessary to do it? I think it's appropriate, especially with the crisis in credibility that the media are facing now. However, I think it shouldn't become standard in the sense that readers don't trust the information unless the sourcing is detailed so thoroughly. Perhaps when an article is so very complex, it has a role. What I think should be standard is that reporters provide this kind of information and detail to the editors. It would take a little longer, but I think it would be appropriate for journalists to provide a list similar to Branham's to their editors when they submit an article, and file it with their notes. If there's any question about it, then it's all right there. As a former reporter myself, I know that memories that are very clear when you write a story fade until you yourself aren't sure how a story was constructed when you're a month or six months or a year out from the composition of it. This way, it's always clear.

Publication of a note tracking the research on an article not something that has to happen. But I think it's something that, used occasionally, would increase the public's knowledge about how journalists put together articles, and increase their confidence in the integrity of the media. Because, for all that I hammer on the media a lot, the majority of journalists do a good job more often than not.

Posted by susanna at 09:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Condemn cars! They'll take business from carriage companies!

This intriguing editorial in Editor and Publisher sounds a dire warning about Google and classified ads:

Google is clearly putting classifieds in its cross hairs. Through its recent acquisition of Applied Semantics, Google achieved a de facto relationship with USAToday.com. Meanwhile, a number of local news sites, including those affiliated with other newspapers, are exploring some sort of relationship with Google.

While on the surface this may seem like a smart revenue-generating idea, it is clearly a dance with the devil.

How long will it be before small businesses (and after that, savvy individuals) realize that instead of buying local classifieds to attract new business in their regions, they can buy keyword searches, have their ads pop up on Google-based geo-targeted results, and ONLY pay for clicks on the ads? Moreover, customers can use credit cards to immediately pay for the featured item.

How horrible! Your customers may realize they can get better service cheaper somewhere else! Condemn Google! Refuse to advertise! Circle the wagons!

It's pretty funny to see something like this - an effort to rally publishers to reject Google search engine ads because it will make inroads into a traditional revenue cash cow. The truth is, the Internet model is going to happen, and happen quickly. A few publishers refusing to play isn't going to do anything but slow their own transition to the new order. It would seem more valuable to me to have an article offering advice on how to either maximize the value of the new order for the local publisher, or on how to niche market in a way that Google can't - like a store sharing a market audience with a Wal-Mart. It won't work to tell your customers not to shop at Wal-Mart because it's the devil; it won't work to try to undersell Wal-Mart or outdo it on product range. You offer something that your customers want that Wal-Mart can't or won't do. Duh.

It's a funny read, though.

Posted by susanna at 08:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lileks: Coulter, King and the Lumpers

Of course you read James Lileks every day. But today is especially good - Ann Coulter as lovely but a Lumper, Stephen King is the Dickens of our day but a Lumper, and some mysterious anti-Bush CBS headline writer is a Lumper - but you shouldn't be!

Plus, Gnat calls Daddy "James".

Why aren't you reading it already?

Posted by susanna at 08:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 10, 2003

I'm drivin' my life away

I live seven miles from work.

It just took me 90 minutes to get home.

I am not happy.

UPDATE: This is what I mean:

Traffic back up on HT approach 6-03.jpg

Traffic on the Holland Tunnel approach, looking west

Traffic heading to HT 6-03.jpg

Traffic on the Holland Tunnel approach, looking east

I go through this intersection twice a day. Both photos are taken as I'm stuck literally in the middle of the intersection of the approach to the Holland Tunnel and the cross street that takes me to its companion west bound lanes to get home (the lanes heading out of the Holland Tunnel). The first photo is a look at the traffic I drive through on the way to work; I come down that incline in the distance and turn right before getting to the Tunnel. It's six lanes across, and during rush hour packed solid. The second photo is looking toward the Tunnel, and you can see how packed that is too.

A two-lane street intersects the approach to the Tunnel here. Very often - a couple of times a week at least - vehicles heading to the tunnel block the intersection in their eagerness to get to the Tunnel, so those of us on the cross street either can't get across or fight each other for who gets to thread through the little openings that amount to one jagged lane to get to the other side. There is usually a Port Authority police officer parked on the other side watching (the PA headquarters is on the northwest corner of the intersection) but no one ever directs traffic.

These photos were taken while I was sitting in the middle of the intersection, blocked because all but the far two lanes were clear - and those two could have been clear if the two cars blocking them were paying attention (there was room to move). Instead, there was nearly a fist fight because the guy in the white car beside me was yelling vulgarities aggressively at the pickup truck guy, who was about to get out and take care of him when the guy in the first blocked lane moved to allow us through.

This, ladies and gentleman, is almost a daily part of my commute - this or something similar, somewhere along the path. I love New Jersey.

Posted by susanna at 05:26 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Did Iranian police beat Canadian photojournalist into coma?

It's a mystery:

A Canadian woman arrested in Iran and allegedly beaten into a coma has a 50% chance of surviving, according to doctors at the hospital where Zahra Kazemi remains bruised, unconscious and strapped to a life support system...

Ms. Kazemi, 54, was arrested on or about June 23 on suspicion of espionage after authorities in Iran found her snapping photos of Evin prison, a correctional facility in the capital city of Tehran.

It is believed the freelance photographer was covering one of the student protests, which ended when dozens of people were taken into custody. Her family suspects authorities were upset that she was shooting pictures of the prison where the protesters were taken.

Her family said she called home the next day -- she was laughing and in good spirits, her son said -- but 24 hours later, she was lying in a hospital bed...

The only certain fact, said Reynald Doiron, a Foreign Affairs spokesman, is that Ms. Kazemi has suffered some level of brain damage. How it happened is still a mystery.

"Is it hypertension?" he asked. "High blood pressure? A blow? Who knows?"

Why isn't this in the American media? Here's what I found at 11 a.m. Thursday:

No Article matches for "Kazemi" on CNN.com
NY Times: There were no matches for your search "Zahra Kazemi" / past 30 days .
Washington Post: No Results Found
MSNBC: No sites were found containing 'Zahra Kazemi '
CBS News: Sorry, no matches were found containing "Zahra Kazemi".
ABC News: Nothing in all manner of Web search engines.
LA Times: latimes.com Articles 0 results found on: "Zahra Kazemi"

Given the coverage of every serious injury or death involving journalists in Iraq, why isn't this given more coverage? Could it be that it's filtered out as unimportant because the US is not an aggressor, nor is an American a victim? It would seem that this would illuminate the larger picture in Iran, at the least. But then, the media isn't covering the suppression of protest in Iran in general, so why would they rate as worthy of coverage one journalist who may have been beaten nearly to death for covering it? Maybe it wasn't a beating, maybe her brain just spontaneously hemorrhaged. But then why this?

Canadian consular officials visited Ms. Kazemi yesterday, but for the second day in a row they were only allowed to view her from behind a plate-glass window. As of last night, she was alive and under the constant care of doctors, Mr. Doiron said.

"Our people can see that she is not conscious," Mr. Doiron said. "But does that mean that she is sleeping? Does it mean that she is knocked out? Does it mean she is dying? We don't know."

And apparently the media in the US don't want to know.

[Thanks to Capt. J.M. Heinrichs, the COTB Canadian bureau chief, for the link.]

Posted by susanna at 11:14 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Mr. Mayor - sometimes sarcasm isn't smart

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg hasn't quite honed the skills of a politician. There's a law in NYC against drinking in public, and a recent cop crackdown on a party on Rockaway Beach has gotten a lot of publicity - in part because the Mayor himself attended a concert by the New York Philharmonic held in a public park, where wine drinking was done openly without harrassment. What did the Mayor have to say about it?

"The truth of the matter is half a dozen people have died - drowned - off the Rockaways. I don't know of anybody that's drowned in a tuba recently," he added.

It appears that none of the drownings he references involved alcohol, but who's counting?

This is one of the most stark faux pas I've seen him make; it's pretty apparent that it's a class issue. If Mayor Mike is thwacking people for smoking indoors in a restaurant because "it's against the law", and he's thwacking people on Rockaway Beach for drinking in public because "it's against the law", he can't quite get away with justifying condoning public drinking in another, more monied context because nobody's "drowned in a tuba" lately. And he genuinely might draw the line because of rowdiness, not whether alcohol is present. But he needs to say that, not rattle on about tubas.

I thought he was smarter than that. But hey, it was a great line.

Posted by susanna at 09:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Calling all goofy people

Some people are just made for telemarketing calls:

[Ms. Elder of Missouri] said she hates to turn telemarketers down and hurt their feelings.

"Sometimes it's less painful for everybody if I just say something like we don't own our home, or the house is brick," she said.

The article she's quoted in is one of the goofiest I've seen on the new "do not call" list, all about how people are conflicted over whether to sign up for the do not call list because they don't want to put people out of jobs.

OH PLEASE!

This Elder chick in Missouri needs a life, although it's clear from her history of buying from telemarketers (detailed in the article) that someone will probably call her soon to offer one, cheap. Several others in the article are similarly goofy. Not signing up because you want someone to have a job that is predicated on calling you to offer you things you don't want, interrupting things you do want to do? Bizarre. And the telemarketing companies themselves - why don't they see the do-not-call list as a boon to their industry? In effect, the government has done their marketing research for them and pulled out of the pool those people who won't buy. So their percent purchases per calls made should go up - right? It does none of them any good to call me. None. No matter what they offer, how fast they talk, what they add on when I've said no, I say "I'm not interested, thank you" and hang up. It's no less polite - probably more polite- than them calling me to begin with.

But these people - sheesh.

Posted by susanna at 09:31 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Some questions answer themselves

Instapundit notes that Big Media in the US isn't much covering the Iranian protests and the government crackdown, then asks if similar activity was going on against the US in Iraq, would the Big Media cover it?

As he says, some questions answer themselves.

Posted by susanna at 09:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Slap-down on the way out

I've never read The Juice before today; it's a weblog on MSNBC.com that is ending today. Nice that after riding the wave of a trend, The Juice's writer, Jan Herman, takes a shot at bloggers on his way out the door:

Good-bye to The Juice and all that: Self-importance, the occupational hazard of bloggers, gave rise to the claim that they were responsible for the resignation of Howell Raines, the former executive editor of The New York Times, because they prolonged the life of the Jayson Blair scandal. Some media observers have pointed out the absurdity of that claim. What’s not absurd, though, is the occupational hazard. It grows on bloggers like a fungus. Show me a blogger and I’ll show you someone who needs to be fumigated every once in a while. There are exceptions, of course, like yours truly.

I'm not thinking Mr. Juice is an exception to his slur at all; in fact, maybe he developed the idea looking in the mirror:

You’ve been so loyal and so many, you made The Juice far and away the most popular Weblog on MSNBC.com.

Now you can take that however you wish; I would assume he means he got the most hits, but he doesn't give us a criteria by which he measures "most popular". But the very fact that he has to puff his own self-importance on the way out shows that the fungus took solid root despite his claim of being fungus free.

I know nothing about Mr. Herman and his blog except that he and MSNBC are parting ways (apparently the blog popularity didn't spread vertically) and he's being a snarky little snot on his last day. Sounds like good riddance to me.

[Link via Poynter]

Posted by susanna at 08:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Dixie witches and a liberal brew

The Dixie Chicks appeared before Congress yesterday to testify about the persecution of their poor lil ole selves after singer Natalie Maines shot her mouth off in Europe. Seems Big Business used its Lack Of Diversity™ preferences to Keep Them Down™ - never mind that the decision by Cumulus Media to pull the Chicks off the air temporarily was in response to public demand, which would seem to be the standard for a business. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-that-state-that-is-a-liberal-cesspool) was shocked, SHOCKED:

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she was stunned by what happened to the Dixie Chicks. It sends "a chilling message to people that they ought to shut up," she said.

So why don't you get the message, Barb?

It's amusing and more than a little disgusting that the Dixie Witches are stirring this liberal brew to help foster their image as Victims Of The Hegemon. And I'm sure it's working, in some venues. Look for the Witches to show up on stage during the Democrat Convention next year, hanging out with whoever the party picks to run for prez. They're now officially members of The Axis Of Victims™, the strongest coalition in the Democratic party.

Posted by susanna at 08:10 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Media as musical

The Doggerel Pundit scores a big hit with his media version of the song, “I am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General" from the Pirates of Penzance.

I give you - I am the very model of a modern Media-Journalist

(Very very good)

Posted by susanna at 07:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

A lovely bloggish kind of day

After over a year of being buddies, I finally got to meet Bryan Preston today, while he was in NYC for a trade show. He's just as smart and funny (and cute) as you thought he was. We walked the hot and muggy streets of the city before finally winding up in one of those delis with a buffet with 50 different dishes. It was actually quite yummy, and the conversation very interesting. You'll be happy to know that we settled the majority of the world's problems. Hopefully we'll get to the rest of them sometime soon.

When I arrived home, tired and sweaty and dehydrated from the heat, it was a wonderful surprise to find an Amazon box next to my mailbox, and I hadn't even ordered anything! Reader John McCrarey very generously sent me two Celtic CDs, which I have already been listening to. A perfect way to end a very nice day.

I hope yours was just as good. But I doubt it.

Posted by susanna at 09:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

There's hope

I just returned from my third visit to the doctor in three weeks (and will be returning the next two weeks too, but that's another post), and had to report my encounter with my doctor's physician assistants. One of them learned I was working on my dissertation proposal on the intersection of media and policing, which got the three of us off on a riff about media. These two ladies - one probably in her late 30s, the other 10 years older - are obviously very intelligent and sharp people. Not only are they physician's assistants, which requires a demanding educational program and much dedication, but they work with one of the top physicians in a teaching hospital, so they're likely at the top of their own profession.

Without any reference to liberal media or any specific outlets - or to politics - on my part, one of the women said she could never watch CNN anymore, did not trust them, after the fiasco in Florida during the 2000 election. She expressed no preference for either Bush or Gore, but said she thought that CNN announcing that Gore had won Florida prior to the count being completed was the catalyst to the whole recount mess. If CNN hadn't jumped the gun - and the other media followed hot on its heels - the outcome in Florida would have been announced in the proper way, and none of the recount hysteria and Supreme Court involvement would have happened. I then mentioned Eason Jordan and his mea culpa about not covering the Iraq government accurately prior to the Iraq war, and she both was familiar with it and agreed that it had underscored her conviction that CNN was not to be trusted. The second PA came up right then, heard CNN mentioned, and immediately, without having heard that part of my conversation with the first PA, said she thought CNN was responsible for the whole Florida recount mess.

I was amazed and very very excited to realize that these two smart and thoughtful women get it. Not just that they share my disgruntlement with CNN, but more that they are properly critical consumers of media in general. We talked about a few other media examples, and I asked them who they did listen to. They both said Channel 13 (public television, here in NJ), and one mentioned the BBC (of course I had to immediately point out their current crisis in bias). The first PA also said (again without my prompting) that she knew that news couldn't be presented without bias, but that she thought Channel 13 came the closest to it.

Very very cool. I feel a bit of despair at times that a lot of people aren't filtering the media with a clear understanding of bias and the larger picture, but encounters like this are very encouraging. I don't know the politics of these ladies - we didn't go there - but it's not material. What is material is that they are listening critically to all the media they come into contact with. And that's the other side of the media coin. If we have media that is striving for accuracy yet honest about its biases, and informed media consumers filtering the news properly, we'll have the best possible situation.

Posted by susanna at 12:06 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Support Iranian democracy

Today is the day of demonstrations for democracy in Iran. Send the demonstrators your prayers, for success and safety. Jeff Jarvis has been on top of this from the get-go, so check out his blog throughout the day to see what's going on.

UPDATE: CANCELED - I should have checked out Instapundit first. Apparently the protest has been canceled. Glenn explains why, and gives additional links about efforts outside Iran to bring democracy there.

Posted by susanna at 08:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Aw, shoot

It seems the UN is testy about the amount of guns owned by private citizens in the US:

In the various chapters of the yearbook, we have attempted to document how small arms availability and misuse can undermine the prospects for human development and to bring to light available evidence wherever possible...

But, given an American population of some 287 million in 2002, either firearms figure leads to the conclusion that the United States is statistically approaching one gun per person, with roughly 83 to 96 guns per 100 people.

By any measure, the United States is the most armed country in the world. It far surpasses second-highest Yemen, home to roughly 33 to 50 firearms per 100 people, or third-highest Finland with 39 per 100.

Disclosure: Those two pieces of information likely came from very different parts of the report; I lifted them from Steven Den Beste so I don't know. I juxtaposed them because I wanted to show their pre-formed opinion followed by what they see in the US.

Speaking of Steven, he says most of what I'd want to say on this, so I suggest you go read his take too. (And send him get well wishes.)

I've lived by myself for most of the past 20 years, and I've thought frequently about getting a gun. I'm not by nature an easily frightened person, and I'm pretty savvy about safety issues, so I've never felt an urgency. I've talked here before about getting one, and I probably will in the next year; I didn't want to get one until I had the time and focus to learn to use it really well. Last night reminded me why I want one.

I was lying on my bed talking to a friend on the phone, looking toward the hallway. In my apartment, there are two back rooms, two front rooms and a hallway running the length of the apartment side to side in the middle. I have a bunch of framed mirrors of different sizes hanging in the hallway, and I could see in one a part of the darkened entrance into my kitchen, where the back door is also located. I had a sudden thought - what would I do if I saw a face or movement or the quick reflection of a shoulder or knife in that mirror? There wouldn't be time to close my bedroom door, someone in the kitchen would be between me and any means of escape, I'm on the third floor, I might not be able to dial 911 quick enough, I have no weapons unless you count piles of books I could throw at him. What would I do?

And I thought, I need a gun.

It's when thoughts like that occur to me that I realize how thankful I am to be living in the United States, because here that thought could lead to action. I can get a gun. Somewhere else, that frightening scenario would be followed by a realization that I could do nothing at all. It's not a happy feeling.

Like Steven, I don't own a gun now. And also like him, I like the knowledge that I could, when I want to. And if the UN thinks the US is too violent, then I suggest they pack up their toys and go park their precious headquarters in Bosnia or Rwanda or even France. Then we'll talk about safety.

As a side note, I realize that yesterday a man shot and killed five fellow employees and injuring others before killing himself at a factory in Mississippi. Is that an argument for getting rid of guns? No. It's more an argument for letting the foreman have a gun at work. And if the man was intent on killing, would he have to use a gun? No. Steven points out that in Rwanda, most of a genocide was accomplished using machetes. Gun control advocates use those types of situations out of context and without invoking the whole picture, for the purpose of making a point. It has about as much value as someone using photos of fatal car accidents to advocate for more people using public transportation.

Posted by susanna at 08:09 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

July 08, 2003

Very curious

TomFlocco.com yesterday reported that US Rep. Katherine Harris, R-FL, was killed in a plane crash in Canada. Today the site retracts it, with all kinds of curious little caveats. Very odd.

And it goes to show that sometimes it doesn't do to break news before the Big Guys, when it's something like this.

UPDATE: Well, well, well, what an idiot.

Posted by susanna at 11:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Kinda cool

One of the best parts of a hit counter is seeing who's linked you that you didn't know about. Just this week, I found this and this. Very cool. It's especially nice because they're portals through which those not very familiar with blogs might find mine.

So, a big thanks to Andy Campbell. Those of you who like sports - check 'em out.

Posted by susanna at 11:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bummer

Media Minded no longer minds.

The Last Page has closed the book.

The Blogosphere has lost two of its best, most distinctive voices.

I'll miss you both.

(My only question is - was it a blogicide pact?)

Posted by susanna at 06:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is it The North County Times, or FARK? You decide

Managers at The North County Times, a newspaper in the San Diego, CA, area, are red-faced today as they apologize to their arch rival, The San Diego Union-Tribune, because their sports guys photoshopped a sports photo to remove the Union-Trib's name - then ran it on the sports front page as if it was accurate:

A sports editor and copy editor-writer said they changed the photograph that showed a coach giving pointers to a softball player because the words "San Diego Union-Tribune" ---- the team sponsor and the North County Times' chief competitor ---- were visible on the player's uniform...

North County Times Publisher Dick High said he personally phoned Gene Bell, president and chief executive officer of the Union-Tribune, late Monday afternoon to apologize. The North County Times also is publishing an editorial today acknowledging, and apologizing for, the mistake.

Oopsy.

The brouhaha is calling attention again to the fact that with digital photography, it's easy to change photos without it being apparent to the average viewer unless they have some inside information (like knowing the jersey should show a team name). Some are even tsking that they said this would happen when digital photography came along! Give those crafty photojournalists the ability to do so, and those little buggers will lie like dogs in the hot summer sun! We saw this coming!, they say in self-congratulations. As, I'm sure, they also said when the LA Times got caught with its photoshop open earlier this year.

Well, yes, that's all true, and I'm sure when the printing press was invented, someone said, Oh, no, we're in for it now! They can print lies and spread them all over everywhere and who will gainsay them?! Invent new technologies and liars will come! It's a good argument for Luddism. But the bottom line is, as the North County publisher said about his own newspaper:

Integrity is everything to this newspaper. It is the absolute bedrock.

All journalism has to separate it from gossip over the fence is its integrity - and the media is increasingly showing itself to be sadly lacking there. Not all, or most, of journalists, and editors, and publishers, and not all of the time. But a lot more than the reading and viewing public likes to see, and a heck of a lot more than the media is willing to admit. They understand that they're supposed to be honest, but somehow they aren't quite sure what that looks like.

A case in point: I attended the July meeting of the Fabiani Society last week, and the speaker was Jonathan Foreman, who was embedded with the Scout Platoon of the 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, for weeks during the Iraqi war. He said that after Baghdad was taken and the heaviest fighting over, he left the unit and moved to Baghdad to cover what happened next. When he got there, journalists who had parked their sorry butts in the Palestine Hotel for the duration, interviewing each other, lead about by the noses by Saddam-picked handlers, going no further than a few blocks from the hotel to find locals to interview who supported their own view of what was going on, not venturing further to get a broader picture of things, said to him (paraphrased), "So you're going to cover the real war now?" And these are people we're supposed to believe have a clearer vision of things, who are so full of integrity it oozes from their pores when they walk, getting all over the carpet. These are people who would never photoshop a photo.

And back in California, the North County Times apparently didn't make it clear enough to their staff (one of them has been with the paper for more than a decade, the other six years) that altering things was always a no-no. I learned in my photojournalism class in J-school that even so much as flipping a photo so that the subjects faced right when they faced left originally is a Very Bad Thing. And as a blogger, with no Holy Journalism Ethics Code binding me, I'm still very meticulous about indicating what is quoted, what is paraphrased, what is altered, what is opinion. Through it all, I point out to my readers that I'm biased, I can't help but be, and please take what I say and link with that grain of salt.

Why is all this so hard for the folks who get paid to do it for a living?

Posted by susanna at 06:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

If God's involved, it must be bad or unworthy

Chuck Colson details two examples of bias in the media about Christian initiatives. Certainly Colson himself brings his own bias to the analysis, but even with that it's apparent that the media in these instances are guilty of seeing what they want to see - or not seeing at all, as the case may be.

This weekend I was reviewing Mark Fishman's 1978 journal article on the media creation of crime waves, and this link reminds me of one of his points. Events happen in a dizzying array that has to be assessed and encapsulated by the media so they can present it coherently. To do so, they establish themes or stories that bring occurrences together under a common umbrella - for example, ten different events in the White House, Congress, on the street and in Iraq may come together as "the War in Iraq" because each of those instances had some aspect associated with the war. It's a useful tool, but using it blindly or too much results in an inability or unwillingness to see the aspects of the event that don't fit the theme. Maybe an anti-war (or pro-war) demonstration was more about local politics than international politics, a factor that could significantly change how the event should be categorized. But because the editor is looking for "things to do with Iraq", he doesn't look much deeper. The net result is a news segment that is not accurate in either fact or effect.

I think that's happened with Christian issues. There are a limited number of themes that the media operate with, and they usually don't take the time to deconstruct a theme to find if it truly is a fair or honest representation of what's happened. It's unfortunate, and the only way to fix it is to call the press on it every time it happens. I don't think that issues and news events involving Christians should be covered with a universally approving tone. But I do think they should be covered fairly.

[Thanks to Curt Coman for the link]

Edited to change "Mark Fishburn" to the correct "Mark Fishman". Goes to show I shouldn't write citations off the top of my head. At least the year's right.

Posted by susanna at 07:46 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 07, 2003

Nailing it

This is perfect. All it's missing is frenetic hit count checking.

Posted by susanna at 10:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Should the Death Penalty die?

(A sidebar to this piece is posted below)

My opinion on the death penalty for years was pretty straightforward:

“Kill ‘em! Kill ‘em all!”

Well, not really all, but I’ve always strongly advocated the death penalty. And while I knew that, most likely, there was an over-tendency to put the needle to black offenders, I didn’t think that meant they didn’t deserve it – I just thought a lot of white men who also deserved it were getting off easy. I thought not enough people were sentenced to die, and it took far too long to execute the sentence.

In some ways, I’ve not changed - I still think it takes too long. But now I think too many are sentenced to die.

Before you think I’ve gone soft on crime, let me explain my position. Our sentencing structure is hierarchical, the more severe sentences tracking with the more severe crimes in a steady progression that, in most states, culminates in the death penalty. At least that’s the ideal. But the reality isn’t exactly that way. With mandatory sentencing, quirky juries and prosecutors, and the rapid cycle of politicians who all need to “do something about crime”, the sentencing structure has been jimmied until it allows things like a convicted murderer (for example, vehicular homicide or manslaughter) getting 5-7 years, while a first time drug mule can get 10 years. That plays havoc with justice, as well as proportionality. I think we need to return reason to the sentencing structure, and I think the death penalty is one area ripe for reform.

Our society’s response to crime is predicated on a variety of needs: the need for safety of the populace, the need to punish for a wrong, the need for vengeance to right a harm, the need to maintain the social order. Over the past several hundred years, the concept of prisoner rehabilitation emerged as a major force, initially from the idea of redemption in the Christian tradition. In more recent decades, it has been a combined emphasis of religionists and those who believe the genesis of crime rests in society, not the person. And thus rehabilitation of offenders stands shoulder to shoulder in uneasy alliance with the concept of retribution, ideas that are at once complementary and diametrically opposed.

The tension between the death penalty and life without parole as terminal sentences originates with that uneasy alliance – those against capital punishment believe we are killing people who have redeemable good, or are the way they are because society made them that way. How can we kill the potential for good, or those who have not acted, but have been acted on? Those for the death penalty rest their arguments on the concept of justice, an eye for an eye – a life for a life. Anything less is not godly mercy, but rather a godless abrogation of our responsibility as a society to exact justice for the victim and, to a degree, for society as a whole.

Over time, these positions have become so polarized that to give on any aspect is to lose the whole, which makes reform difficult. Time will fix some of that - a lot of change has already occurred. In 2002, 71 inmates in the United States were executed; 66 were executed in 2001, a number comparable to the average yearly execution rate in the 1950s. But when you compare the charts for executions in the US since 1953, and numbers of inmates on death row in those same years (excluding 2002), it’s readily apparent that, by percentage, we’re sentencing many more to die and killing far fewer. Given the extreme variation in the charts, it seems likely that it’s a statistically significant finding.

One of the major objections to the death penalty is the possibility that an innocent person may be wrongly executed. It’s happened; it could happen again. But with modern technology, it’s increasingly unlikely. We’re actually releasing people from death row who’ve been exonerated, some due to DNA technology not available at the time of their convictions. The ACLU reported in June 2002 that 108 people had been exonerated, including 12 from death row, since 1973; according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 4 were released from death row in 2002, and 6 so far in 2003. (The DPIC has a brief synopsis of each exoneration since 1953.) The Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Initiative has a lot more information.

So we as a country are committed more to seeing justice done than in killing, but many of us still see the widespread and active invocation of the death penalty as a measure of whether we’re being “tough on crime”, as the mantra goes. It has become as much symbol as sentence, to the detriment of both the sentencing structure and the effectiveness of the sentence itself in accomplishing its top two justifications: safety of the populace and vengeance for the dead. How do we fix that?

I believe the range of crimes for which the death penalty can be invoked is too great. Just because previous civilizations killed their citizens for everything from stealing bread to murder doesn’t mean that we are weak, irresponsible or abrogating our duty if we don’t set a fairly low bar for capital cases in our own society. I think we need to look again at the reasons for sentences: the need for safety of the populace, the need to punish for a wrong, the need for vengeance to right a harm, the need to maintain the social order. I believe the death penalty, as our greatest punishment, should be administered only to those who seriously threaten all of those areas. Ted Bundy and serial homicidal predators like him are a good example. As long as they are alive, they are an active threat to society, even in prison. Their wrongs are so egregious that there can be no spark of humanity that can break through the darkness. The blood of multiple victims cry for vengeance. And if we don’t, as a society, humiliate and kill these predators, they will serve as icons for new generations of predators. There needs to be a clear message: You do this, you die – and die soon.

The second part of that last phrase is also a crucial piece. The concept of deterrence is best expressed through behavioral psychology, most specifically conditioning. If you want a behavior to extinguish, it is more important that the negative response be consistent and close in time than that it be severe. But in our execution of the death penalty, we have it exactly backward: it is a shockingly severe punishment that is often threatened, infrequently exercised and delayed sometimes by decades. Of course, the death penalty is the sentence that has the lowest recidivism rate – zero. But we’re seeking to deter not just the offenders but others from these crimes, so the pattern holds. If it is not consistent and rapid, it will not deter. And in our society, I do not think it does, significantly.

So what is the answer? I think we should limit capital cases to the very severe, where the aggravating circumstances outweigh any possible mitigation – cases where even the most hard-bitten anti-death penalty activist must shake his head and say, this case gives even me pause. Then I think we should limit the judicial reviews to a certain time frame – say, two years – and at the end of that time, the execution occurs if no new evidence or procedural mistakes are found. I don’t know if I would have advocated this even 10 years ago, but with new DNA analysis and other forensic technologies, I think the most severe cases would contain irrefutable evidence of guilt. All states should have the option of life without parole, and many cases that now receive the death penalty would go that way (see the post below for more on this).

Of course all current cases on death row would continue operating under the law extant at the time of their conviction; the change would apply to new cases. But I think we should never again have an inmate on death row for three or five or 15 years. And we shouldn’t have almost 4,000 people there either, unless the society gets a lot rougher than it is now. The death penalty advocates would win because the truly irredeemable felons would die and die soon. The anti-death penalty activists would win because far fewer people would wind up on death row. And the country would win because its top penalty would not only make sense, but would accomplish what it was meant to do.

[Not all problems would be solved – certainly the relative prevalence of black offenders both on death row and in prison in general needs to be addressed. But that doesn’t empty the central premise of this post of its validity.]

Posted by susanna at 08:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

A case study in the death penalty

(This post is a sidebar to the one above on the death penalty)

Capital punishment has been a polarizing issue in this country for at least the last 30 years, since Furman vs. Georgia struck down most state death penalty laws as unconstitutional. Since then, only 38 states have re-enacted death penalties following the U.S. Supreme Court's guidelines. The top penalty in non-capital punishment states is life without parole, and increasingly states with the death penalty are offering that option as well. Some activists would abolish the death penalty altogether; others would add a laundry list of crimes to the capital crimes category, going far beyond murder.

What's the right thing to do?

An article in The New York Times Magazine this weekend presented a classic case, one that exemplifies most of the difficult issues. All 12 jurors chosen in the case had to sign an affidavit that they could impose the death penalty if they believed the crime warranted it, so it was in essence a stacked deck going in. This is the story they heard:

At 2:40 a.m. on Aug. 26, 1998, along a main drag on the west side of Indianapolis, 18-year-old Jeremy Gross approached a convenience store with a friend. They intended to rob it… He knew the store well, since he worked there part time, and he also knew the young man, Christopher Beers, who was the lone clerk that morning…

Gross stood outside the glass doors, behind his accomplice, Joshua Spears. He held a small, black semiautomatic pistol at his side, out of sight. Gross was jumpy, turning his head from side to side to make sure no one was in the parking lot. Beers buzzed them in. Gross took long, hurried strides into the store, raised his right arm and started shooting. It happened so quickly that Beers didn't have a chance to say anything. The first shot hit him in the abdomen. Gross continued to fire. Three shots missed, but a fourth hit Beers in the chest. ''Oh, God, please, no,'' he pleaded. As Beers stumbled into the back office, Gross followed and, to get a better angle, shifted the pistol from his right hand to his left. From close range, Gross shot Beers in the face. With blood now gushing from his eyes, Beers reached out for Gross, as if he were asking for support. Gross pushed him away, and he crumpled to the floor. ''Why, Jeremy, why?'' Beers asked. Gross told him to shut up.

Gross's partner, Spears, had headed for another room to get the surveillance tape, but he couldn't get the eject to function, so he grabbed the VCR. Meanwhile, Gross emptied the cash register and office safe of $650, then ripped the two telephone cords from the wall. This all happened in less than a minute. The two fled by foot, through a neighborhood of mobile homes to their trailer park not more than half a mile away. Along the way, Gross and Spears threw the gun and the VCR over a wire fence into a retaining pond.

After they left, Beers lifted himself off the floor and shuffled out the door to a pay phone, where he again collapsed. He died under a dangling phone, rivulets of blood running from his head.

On first reading, it sounds like the perfect capital case, as these cases tend to run: An innocent victim pleads for his life to a man who knows him personally, a man who for $650 coldly shoots him. There’s even a videotape from the store’s security system that shows the murder of Christopher Beers in stark, horrific detail. The question of guilt or innocence was not a difficult one, and the jury quickly returned a guilty verdict. It was in the penalty phase, where the defense is allowed to use all in their power to convince the jury to spare the life of their client, that things took a different turn. After hours of hearing about Gross’s terrible childhood, his miserable life, his potential cruelly crushed by both his parents and the state, the jury returned a penalty of life without parole.

The magazine article is well worth reading, if for no more than the discussion of the process and the new realm of mitigation development. But I think it presents the issues clearly, from the perspective of real jurors who walked into the jury room willing to sentence Gross to death. I think they made the right decision.

What do you think?

Posted by susanna at 07:50 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

More to come

I'm writing a huge post on the death penalty that's sucking up all the air in my head, not that there's much to begin with. I'm wrestling to get it shorter, more focused and less like a grad school paper complete with annotations. Ack. Anyway, I anticipate posting it later today so while I apologize for the low posting today, you should soon have something to print out and read into the small hours of the morning.

At least, I hope you do.

Posted by susanna at 03:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

NEWS FLASH: Controversy OK unless we don't want it!

Two students at a student newspaper in California discovered, while researching one of their teachers who had made national news with her push for getting junk foods out of schools, learned that she also had apparently lived with a 16-year-old in a "quasi-spousal relationship" a few years previously. She was 29 at the time. A little more digging, and the students learned a few other things that could raise parental eyebrows. They decided to run with the story; the principal said no. The teacher threatened to sue. The school newspaper didn't run it.

But the Los Angeles Times sure did.

Gossiping about teachers regarding things that are outside the realm of the school and would not affect their ability to teach or their interaction with their students - say, that someone is a member of the VRWC - aren't appropriate for school newspapers. But this was fine reporting on the part of the students, and the school violated the tenets of free speech in trying to suppress it. If I were a parent, I'd want to know that a woman who was teaching my 16-year-old son had lived in a "quasi-spousal relationship" with a boy his age. And I wouldn't let him take her classes either. Funny that the lady with the liberal cause waxed intolerant of free speech when it bit her. And funny that the school with the students' best interests in mind (we all know that, right?) wanted first to protect the teacher makin' time with a boy the age of her students.

Ah, California.

[Link via Martin Devon]

Posted by susanna at 02:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Classic bias

In case you missed it, go read all of Glenn Reynolds' post about bias at the BBC. It's a classic case of how bias develops in the media, and how those who are at the center of it can't see it - they perceive themselves as edgy and unaffected by ideology. The reality couldn't be more different.

Posted by susanna at 09:16 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No rush to the altar in Canada

The issue of gay marriage is one of the hot debate tickets in the US right now, but it's something that's already been resolved to some degree in the governance of our neighbor to the north - and it's not created a cultural shift:

Weeks after an Ontario court invited gays to wed, a decision enthusiastically feted at Toronto's Gay Pride events, The Washington Post claimed "hundreds of gay Americans are streaming north to get married." But in fact only about two dozen or so couples have signed on for a major-league commitment...

Recently The New York Times added gay unions to its marriage announcement pages. At first there were many gay partnership announcements. The numbers then began a steady decline. Over four issues, I have seen only one such announcement...

The Field of Theory is landscaped and ready. Where are the players?

The writer answers that question by saying there are no players because the issue is driven by activism, not widespread interest in the gay community as a whole.

[Link via Capt. J.M. Heinrichs, head of the COTB Canadian bureau. Captain, sir, I still hate you, even though I've not made it yet. Maybe this weekend.]

Posted by susanna at 09:10 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Ouch!

Dorothy Rabinowitz fillets Ann Coulter and her new book, Treason, which seeks to rescue Sen. Joe McCarthy from the ash heap of vilified public figures. Ouch, ouch, ouch:

You can read all about McCarthy's downfall, and the alleged dupes and traitors responsible for it, in "Treason," a new book by Ann Coulter, the Maureen Dowd of the conservatives. It derides McCarthy's critics and brands the notion of McCarthyism itself as a myth and "the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times." She also thanks her publisher for his bravery--a suggestion that it took courage to publish this work. Here we are, only up to the acknowledgments page, and already enjoying a laugh.

Ouch.

I'm not a Coulter fan, as you likely know, but this from the WSJ has to hurt. It's pretty rough when being compared to Maureen Dowd is not the harshest thing said.

Especially when Dowd, just yesterday, added another fine entry to her own efforts to join the ash heap of vilified public figures. Ritalin for America? Dowd discovers a country-wide Adult Attention Deficit Disorder that she somehow morphs into a Bush-specific case, winding up as Empire Attention Deficit Disorder (ha ha ha! I worked in empire! I'm so good). In a meandering, nonsensical piece that really strains to find a point, she brings up Wile E. Coyote (obviously suffering AADD too) and Willy Loman, managing as well to recall being referred to as a "bold, brazen piece", which she obviously considers a compliment. Actually, I'd say the mental disorder here is more Narcissism, with Paranoia and Delusions of Grandeur rising.

Hey, maybe Coulter is the Dowd of the Right.

Posted by susanna at 08:20 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 06, 2003

A question

Say you believe that Behavior A is wrong. You know someone who is doing Behavior A. You also are doing Behavior A.

Are you being a hypocrite to tell the other person that they're wrong for doing Behavior A, as long as you aren't making excuses for why you aren't wrong for doing the same thing?

Isn't the point of hypocrisy not that you are also doing the behavior, but that you are saying it's wrong for the other person but somehow not admitting that it's wrong for you? Or not admitting that you're even doing it?

This is the kind of thing that occurs to me when I'm driving and nothing's on the radio. I think I need to get a CD player in my car.

Posted by susanna at 07:20 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

America's best

On this Independence Day weekend, another reminder that we owe that independence to average, normal, everyday people who are willing to go out and do extraordinary things for the security of not only their own country, but the countries of other peoples half a world away.

/archives/America_sBest_Hillary_7_06_smaller.jpg

Specialist Hillary Morton, 450th Civil Affairs Battalion, 82nd Airborne
Division
(right)
Reservist activated in August 2002 and deployed to Afghanistan in September. (No identification for Hillary's friend)

Hillary's dad, commenter John McCrarey, says:

My daughter Hillary has been in Afghanistan since September and will be coming home next month. I can tell from her messages that things are more intense than they have been, but she is in good spirits and believes her mission is an important one. To see this "party girl" blossom into the fine young woman she has become has left me shocked and awed. And very, very proud.

I think a lot of young people - and older ones too - will come back from Iraq and Afghanistan changed, most for the better. Soldiering builds confidence and deepens the sense of what's important in life. I think completely aside from what good things these strong Americans have done over there, our country will benefit from the experience as a society, from having in our midsts hundreds of thousands of men and women who've stared death in the face for their country and came home victorious.

We should all be very very proud.

Posted by susanna at 08:07 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 05, 2003

Ending racial data collection

Ward Connerly wants the government of California to stop collecting data on race. It's a good idea in some ways, and in others a very bad one in my judgment - this being the primary one:

Opponents say the referendum would erase information from vital statistics and cripple efforts by researchers to collect data that help them understand why certain minorities suffer more from illnesses such as heart disease, prostate cancer and AIDS, as well as certain groups are more likely to become teenage parents, smoke at an early age and drop out of school.

It's a delicate balance - I don't think we should be basing our decisions in this society about who gets what, or gets to do what, on a person's race. On the other hand, it's always better to have richer data - that is, more categories - when you're doing research, the better to tease out what's going on, especially in medicine.

I received a publication from the feds this week on the pros and cons of collecting racial data. I've not had a chance to look it over, but I'll get to that this week and tell you what it says.

Posted by susanna at 09:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

It's a trend

Where have all the Lisas gone?
Long time passing!
Where have all the Peggys gone?
Long time ago!
Where have all the Ethels gone?
Gone to Emilys, every one!
When will they ever learn?
When will they ev...ver...learn....?

[With apologies to Pete Seeger. Link via Betsy's Page]

UPDATE: Don't mess with me about Bob Seger, you cretins. Pete Seeger wrote the song I parodied, not Bob. See "more".

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE
words and music by Pete Seeger
performed by Pete Seeger and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

©1961 (Renewed) Fall River Music Inc
All Rights Reserved.

Posted by susanna at 09:37 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Gamaliel: the first century Scrappleface

Gamaliel was one of the premiere Jewish scholars of the first century, the man that the apostle Paul studied under before he became a follower of Christ. From the New Testament's references to him, it's clear that studying with him was the First Century Jewish equivalent of attending Harvard or Oxford. Well, it appears that Gamaliel counted sarcasm amongst his qualities - modern scholars are discovering that he apparently wrote a parody of the Gospel of Matthew sometime during the A.D. 70s.

Gamaliel - the first century Scrappleface.

That kind of detail is fascinating in its own right, but it also has larger importance. According to scholars, this evidence also serves to date the writing of Matthew much earlier than recent scholar-skeptics had thought. This article explains it all, as well as serving as a very interesting history of the attacks on Biblical authorship that have been launched from inside the Christian community in the past two centuries.

[Link via Theosebes]

Posted by susanna at 09:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 04, 2003

Two holiday observations

I know I should leave the previous post at the top, but I just couldn't believe this.

Observation 1: I am a royal pain in the bum, the person you hate to get behind at the grocery.

I love blueberries. Let me be clear on this: I ADORE blueberries. So imagine my delight when I found them on sale for buy-one-pint-get-two-free at my grocery store. And no posted limit. Woohoo! A dollar a pint. So I started socking them away in my cart until I noticed another little sign beneath the original one that looked exactly the same - only it said "buy one get one free". Sneaky little things, I thought. But I'll get my price - you just wait and see. So I finished shopping, went through the line, waited quietly while the cashier rang things up... and when the blueberries appeared as two for $2.99, I said, Wait a minute. It said buy one get two free. The cashier said, maybe you need a Pathmark card, so since I didn't have one he borrowed the one of the lady behind me. Didn't change things. So I marched over to the blueberry display, yanked down the buy-one-get-two-free sign and handed it to the cashier. He called over someone, I am assuming the manager on duty.

Observation 2: The manager on duty is an idiot. This store is doomed to bankruptcy.

I waited while they looked at the sign, looked at the cash receipt, looked at the computer, pondered. The manager went over to his little cubbyhole and figured and frowned and wrote and carried on. The lady behind me was no doubt contemplating beaning me with her purse. Finally the manager came back with a raincheck voucher and told the cashier to use it to ring off $17.94!!!?? Huh? Let's look at this math: They charged 2 for 2.99 for a total of 9 packages, which should have been minimum $13.50, and $14.95 if they charged the full price for the 9th one. With the 3 for $2.99, it was about $9. So yes, I created all that trouble for a maximum savings of $6, more likely a savings of $4.50. Instead, I saved $18! What was up with that? I looked at the cashier in shock and said, um, excuse me. Not to be trouble or anything, but I think I should only have saved $3. (I wasn't doing good math in my head.) He gave one of those "hey, I'm just the cashier" shrugs, so I got $62 of groceries for $46.42 (for some reason 69 cents came off the sweet cherries too).

Now, I ask you - at the profit margin grocery stores operate under, will that place last long?

(And yes, I'm a penny-wise, pound-foolish kind of girl. I'll buy enough food that I have to throw away $10 of it when it ruins, but I will mentally calculate square feet and one-vs-two ply on the toilet paper to decide which package of TP is cheapest. I really need a keeper.)

Posted by susanna at 06:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Celebrate America

It's the Fourth of July, and throughout the world the United States continues to symbolize the very freedom the Revolutionary War was fought to gain.

/archives/freedom_in_liberia.jpg

Anti-government protesters in Liberia wave a U.S. flag near U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. (AP)[From the Washington Post]


/archives/Saddam_status_and_us_flag.jpg

US Marines cover the statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with the US flag in Baghdad's al-Fardous square on April 9 as they prepare to bring it down. They removed the flag shortly afterwards and replaced it with an old Iraqi flag. Photo: AFP[Photo from Sydney Morning Herald]

The flag was placed over Saddam's face by Corporal Edward Chin, 23, an American soldier of Chinese descent.

"'He [Chin] wanted to show the Iraqi people that they were free, that they were liberated, that the US was there to help them and that Saddam is over," [His fiancee Anne Fu] said.

Corporal Chin and his family are ethnic Chinese from Burma. They moved to the United States when Corporal Chin was one week old and live in Brooklyn..."

No matter what the Democrat leaders say, the leftists say, the French or any other group that thumbs their noses at the US - we're the standard for freedom, however imperfect, and today is the day to celebrate this wonderful country.

God bless America.

Have a happy 4th.

Posted by susanna at 01:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 03, 2003

How do you spell Democrat? C-L-U-E-L-E-S-S

I'm sure a lot of you have seen articles about this lately:

BORDEAUX, France, June 26 — Something was missing from the country's largest wine fair here this week, and it wasn't just the air-conditioning (in one of the exhibition halls, temperatures rose so high that corks popped on their own). The usual contingent of American wine merchants were mostly absent, confirming to many at the fair that American ill will over France's opposition to the war in Iraq bruised more than egos.

Or maybe something like this:

First it was French wines. Then French fries. Now it's French exchange students who are getting the cold shoulder from American families still smarting over France's opposition to the war in Iraq.

Program coordinators and others say that the drooping economy, global tensions and the recent outbreak of SARS have all cut into the summer ritual of students from various countries spending the summer in American homes.

But the programs that seem to have it worst are those selling Americans on the virtues of taking home a little bit of France this summer.

So naturally, the Democrats are pushing... a celebration of Bastille Day to "honor the independence of our most enduring ally". Yes, France.

We don't have to beat the Dems in 2004. We just need to get out of their way. They're doing it all by themselves.

[Link via Junkyard Blog]

Posted by susanna at 11:59 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Another reason to go barefoot

Like I needed one. But this is just bizarre.

Posted by susanna at 01:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Will ink become the way to celebrate?

This just in:

Ink for home printers is now seven times more expensive than vintage champagne.

Ink in a typical replacement cartridge costs about £1.70 per millilitre, compared with 1985 Dom Perignon at 23p per millilitre.

The news comes as a Which? survey shows that many cartridges say they are empty long before they are. Some printers warn users that the ink is about to run out.

Ignoring the warnings can nearly double the printing output.

Wow. No wonder I get so many spam emails about cheap printer ink. And no wonder the printers with proprietary ink cartridges are so cheap. Hmmmm... (Of course I'm assuming this ratio is the same in the US.)

Oh, and anyone who isn't shaking and tapping and generally slapping around their printer cartridges to get that one last clean copy isn't getting their money's worth.

[Link via Drudge via my brother]

Posted by susanna at 10:36 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Day by Day by Day by...

Chris Muir just keeps proving his greatness, and today's cartoon is a perfect example. Die well, indeed. Sometimes we can be right and still put our foot in our mouths clear up to the ankle. Oops!

Posted by susanna at 10:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

WaPo making Web push

The Washington Post, seeing blood on the water with the New York Times, is moving to increase its presence in the online news cycle:

The Washington Post has a big plan to duke it out with the New York Times. The plan calls for extending the Post's reach into national and international news markets where the Times has always had an edge. Nimbler deadlines, more aggressive reporting, and sharper writing are all part of the formula.

And to pull it all off, the Post will hire two additional staffers.

The new hires will be reporters-cum-rewrite-specialists whose names may not appear too often in the Post's print editions. They'll be working on the paper's freshly constituted Continuous News desk, a cluster of about five employees charged with feeding the paper's Web site, WashingtonPost.com, and making it a household name from Boise to Berlin.

Should be fun to watch. (Although apparently the WaPo staffers in general are testy about the extra work it will require.)

[Link via Romenesko]

Posted by susanna at 08:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

That is, of course, what matters

Andrew Cuomo and Kerry Kennedy, married for 13 years, are apparently planning to divorce. That's certainly their business, and I hope we aren't hearing about it forever and ad nauseam. But this just got me a little, because I think it's an example of one of the big problems in our society:

A source close to the couple said, "Kerry has always lobbied for the rights of women - and that includes being able to chose to leave a situation that did not make her happy."

That's right. If she's not happy, then that's all that matters. Respecting her vows, refocusing her life to put her marriage and family first, etc., well, those just aren't things to consider. I have a right to be happy! It's a modern mantra.

Don't pile on me about how women were forced to stay in miserable, damaging relationships for centuries, eons, before they had the freedom to divorce and make their own lives. The same freedom that allows divorce also allows you to make the right choice of partner and lifestyle to be able to stick with your promise to "love and cherish". It's a decision. Yes, the outside lives of women and men often aren't affected the same ways by marriage and children. But still, you go into it with your eyes open, you negotiate and you make it work. What's the point of getting married if you're going to spend 80 hours a week at your job? What's the point of having children if you're going to send them to a day care for 12 hours a day, getting them home in time to kiss them and put them in bed? Even more, why have kids if you're going to hire a nanny to care for them 24/7?

I would never stand in the way of a woman pursuing whatever path she wants in life. But making the choice to marry, and to have children, should be making the choice to adjust your career path to put your family first. I think the same is true of men - I don't have a lot of respect for men who don't know their kids but by golly made enough money to send them to Harvard with a BMW! - but right now I'm just chewing on this "I got a right to be happy!" thing with Kennedy. I don't know her situation, and before ACD gets after me for making assumptions without full knowledge, most of this diatribe is triggered by Kennedy, not directed at her.

I'm not someone who thinks the 1950s television family is the ideal. I'm thoroughly impressed with, for example, how James Lileks and his wife have worked out their life. It's not traditional, but it works and Gnat is being raised by her parents, not someone else. I'm also not ignoring the realities of people in rough financial situations. But I think if we're focusing on what's best for the family, and not just "Am I happy right this minute?", then we'll be more likely to make decisions that are in the best interests of everyone. And maybe I'm a Pollyanna here, but if both partners in a relationship are guiding their lives by what's best for their relationship and by extension their family, won't that, in the long run, bring the best kind of happiness?

I think so.

Posted by susanna at 08:36 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Dumpster decor

The rug on my bedroom floor, a nice deep red with a print that looks like a Persian design, came from the detritus of an apartment in Jersey City, as did the small wooden card file painted gray that sits beside my computer. A dress form, now draped in a Noah's Ark woven throw because I can't think of what else to do with it right now, came from the same section of town. It was a real bear to get up three flights of steps, with its heavy cast iron stand. My pride and joy - a hybrid Mission-Victorian style oak reclining chair - sits piled with pillows in my living room, its regal lines and claw feet belying the depths it fell before I rescued it from the trash pile behind a house in rural New Jersey.

I've been a trash picker for home decor for years, since I lived in New Jersey the first time and realized that people threw out good stuff here. I haunted yard sales and flea markets too, because I like my place to have the lived in look you only get from things that didn't come fresh from Ethan Allen. What I didn't know is that I am actually on the cutting edge of home design, expressing with my rescued street leavings a philosophical approach to environment that is almost existential in its transcendent acknowledgement of the transition from history to obsolescence.

At least, that's the case if you listen to the New York Times in this article about decorating with dumpster decor:

The essence of outsider décor, unlike that of outsider art, is a relationship with time, but it is not a simple one. It is not, for instance, an aesthetic of permanence, like the passion for restoring old objects to their former glory. Instead, it looks backward to an object's moment of obsolescence — the instant, for example, that a cabinet goes from being a part of a household, with a family history etched in layers of paint, to being a piece of refuse. Outsider décor freezes the objects in this moment of transition, extending it to fill the present tense.

The article is actually about Justin Theroux's apartment, which he's furnished by picking through dumpsters and other piles of trash. I have to say that the whole article is very like a steamy ripe dumpster behind a Chinatown seafood store on a humid summer afternoon - rank and over the top. Am I truly to believe that Theroux furnishes his home with junk because of a thought-out lifestyle philosophy? Or because he likes junk, the challenge of dumpster picking and the attention it brings him to be so iconoclastic? I'll take c, Alex, "the attention it brings him".

The bonus round answer is: "Because he's a pompous idiot who would think elephant dung is art." Alex, the question would be: "Why did the article's author write such drivel?" That's right! You win $20,000 and the right to return next show.

Seriously, folks. I love my street leavings and yard sale rescues, but it's not some deep spiritual approach to creating environment. I call it "fun", "cheap" and "finding very cool stuff that gives a home character". That's all. Theroux and Leland need to go digging in the dumpsters again - to find a life.

Posted by susanna at 07:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 02, 2003

More on autism

Earlier today I posted on the possibilities of a connection between autism and vaccinations. I just learned about a post by Steven Den Beste from a couple of years ago, a thorough discussion of the dangers of vaccinations vs the dangers of not vaccinating. If you're interested, I highly recommend you check it out.

Posted by susanna at 10:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fisking the lame down under

Tim Blair gives a brisk fisking to a fawning article on Che Guevara's daughter Aleida Guevara in Australia's The Age. A classic.

Posted by susanna at 05:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pregnant women told to stop eating

Okay, not really. But this article by Collin Levey in Opinion Journal points out that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the health police, which results in a likely unintentional irony:

Apparently a woman has the right to do anything she wants with her body, except drink wine, smoke cigarettes or now have milk with her cereal. She can abort her unwanted child if she wants, but in the meantime the Institute of Medicine plans to strike whole food groups from the national menu in case she doesn't.

The article doesn't focus on abortion, but the point is grimly amusing. The most important part of the article is near the end, where Levey points out that many of the studies that resulted in health scares are actually done with atypical doses or with atypical subjects, with the results extrapolated to the typical person. It doesn't necessarily compute, just as we understand that two Tylenol pills will kill your headache and two bottles of Tylenol will kill you. Something that hurts you in massive doses can actually be a benefit in small ones. And yet the science behind some of these health recommendations ignore that truth.

So the next time someone tells you something is unhealthy, tell them to prove it scientifically. And don't let them play games with the data.

Posted by susanna at 05:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Credibility in activism

Sometimes political activism is both classy and effective. Sometimes it's offensive and counter-productive. Ryan at Dead Parrot Society contrasts what works and what doesn't.

UPDATE: Shanti at Dancing with Dogs links a very good article looking at the lengths activists will go.

Posted by susanna at 05:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What was I thinking?

I haven't linked Brent at The Ville lately, and I clearly need a tap with the cluebat for that omission. This post on the current hysteria over fat in foods and the surge of obesity in our society shows him in just Olympic form - no excerpt, it needs to be read in its entirety. And once you're there, just keep scrolling. It's all tasty.

UPDATE: Uhoh, we're sunk - this anti-fat activist is a real bear.

Posted by susanna at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Krugman love letter

Noooooooooo!! Not from me, I'm a right-wing small-government anti-tax fundamentalist-Christian anti-feminist mind-numbed Bush-loving robot idiot nutjob! From this guy.

[Thanks for the link from Ryan at Dead Parrot Society, who knew it'd get me.]

Posted by susanna at 03:25 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The American Muslim and the Middle East career diplomat

A couple of days ago I posted a fisk of my fisk of an Arab News article, from a career diplomat stationed in the Middle East. Afterward, I came across this post on Disaffected Muslim, the blog of an American woman who converted to Islam that I've linked before. I sent the diplomat - we'll call him Hatcher just to make things easier - a link to the post and asked for his reaction. I'm not endorsing or agreeing with what he says, nor am I necessarily disagreeing. I just thought it would be interesting for me and my readers to see something of an exchange between two people who know Islam, Muslims and the Middle East much better than me. So here is her post, with his commentary (received via email and posted unedited) in italics.

I've been so depressed and disillusioned with the state of Islam lately, I can hardly stand to read about it or write about it anymore. And I'll share with you one big reason for that--the local imam's attitudes. I have had a few conversations with him about Islam, and he actually is something of a moderate (he is upset about how some Wahhabis/Salafis want everybody in this American mosque to follow their ways, imported directly from Saudi Arabia, instead of taking a more "live and let live" attitude), but at the same time, that's what makes some of what he says so depressing, even though it actually is just par for the course. I should mention that he is Sunni, accepts the Shafi'i law school, comes from a "moderate" Arab country, and has even become a US citizen. Herewith a listing of what I find less than pleasant:

* Vitriolic Jew hatred (all too common among Muslims, unfortunately, so nothing out of the ordinary). He has described Jews as "monkeys" and "the worst of people," insisted that there is a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, says the US media and government are dominated by Jews in order to support Israel, refers to suicide bombings against Israelis as "martyr operations" and says that even if another Muslim is killed in one of them, "both will be rewarded" in heaven for being "martyrs." Muslims are duty-bound to drive out the "monkeys" from the third-holiest Muslim site, Jerusalem, and from the rest of "Palestine," as they have no rights to "Muslim land." It's the same old crap I read all the time in Muslim publications and on Muslim websites, but it's always a shock to me to actually hear it said out loud. But what makes it hard to take is that this imam has attended numerous interfaith meetings, and even a Thanksgiving multifaith service in a synagogue, calling for peace between religions. I'll be honest: if I were Jewish and knew what I know about Muslims' attitudes towards Jews, I'd have a hard time trusting Muslims unless I knew for sure that they were not antisemites.

Hatcher: This is a real problem. I put it at the feet of an utterly inadequate education system and a particularly narrow interpretation of Islam. Yes, the Koran/Quran has lots of anti-Jewish commentary, but it needs to be taken into context, both textual and historic. The rabid Muslims who repeat these lines out of context are not only wrong, they're stupid. As much as the Old and New Testaments, the Quran doesn't have much good to say about earlier religions, but it makes an exception for a handful: Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrians and the "Sabeans," whoever they happened to be. These are people with a divinely revealed religion and were to be treated differently and better than pagans and polytheists.

But historically, the early Muslims had political problems with Jewish tribes, which were scattered throughout Arabia. The city of Medina, for example, was a predominantly Jewish city before Mohammed undertook his "flight" there. (The other inhabitants were pagans.) I believe the remarks in the Quran can best be seen as commentary on contemporary events, particularly when taken in light of other remarks about Jews.

Those who are ignorant or malicious can quote out of context and get people's ire up. And there are those that do it. But I see exactly the same thing taking place in other fundamentalist interpretations of other religions. The Christian fundamentalist movement is not noted for enlightenment or an expansive worldview.

Saudi Wahabbism has more than a little in common with Christian fundamentalism, from proselytizing to narrow-minded interpretations of morality, the role of women, and a view of end-times.

* The position of women. Women should not work unless they have to, they should not leave the house "too much," and only with their husband's consent (though they should not be locked up in their houses--that's what "moderate" means in Islam), they are emotional and weak and need men to protect and provide for them, they should never be alone with a man, since that will invariably lead to illicit sex (talk about your self-fulfilling prophecies!). A wife must obey her husband in everything unless it is "against Islam," and should never refuse him sex or else the angels will curse her until morning (this is a hadith from Muhammad himself; another is that women will make up the majority of people in hell, since they are ungrateful to their husbands.). Although she is not supposed to have sex during her period, there are "other things" she can do with him, and she must not refuse him that. She should accept him taking up to three other wives without complaint, since that is his right in Islam (her permission or even acceptance is not required, but it does make it easier--otherwise he has to sneak around to visit his other wives, something that is not at all uncommon). In school, women can attend classes with men, but should sit in the back. They should wear the head scarf and long clothes, but do not have to wear the niqab (face veil). He has said that regarding the Qur'an mentioning that a man can "correct" his wife by beating her (4:34), he should not do it with anything bigger than a siwak, a tiny stick used to clean the teeth, and that Muhammad, the best of men, never hit his wives, so that's definitely a good thing (unlike the claim often made in Muslim nations that it is nobody else's business if a man beats his wife; after all, she deserves it).

Hatcher: Of course, I should note that Muslim women are often some of the least submissive, least shy women I have met, yelling and fighting with their husbands and other men to get what they need or want. Common is the threat to literally murder a husband who takes another wife--and they mean it, too! It's one of the reasons polygamy is dying out--women with any kind of self-confidence simply refuse to accept it.

Saudi women, on the whole, believe that their situation is far from that of captives. They do have rights and exercise them. Something Fatima misses mentioning above is that just as a man has rights to sexual satisfaction from his wife, so does the wife of her husband. Either side's not showing up for the performance--so to speak--is grounds for divorce. And it has to be satisfactory sex, too! Women want more autonomy in their professional lives. They're not terribly eager to drive, other than as a measure of economy (driving here is absolutely lethal).

A man cannot legally take a second (or later) wife without his first wife's permission. It's grounds for divorce to do otherwise. Too, multiple wives must be treated in an absolutely evenhanded manner. Again, it's grounds for divorce to do otherwise.

What they don't want is westerners telling them that they're poor benighted souls who don't know enough to know that they're being treated badly. They instead insist on defining what feminism in Saudi Arabia will be. It does not involve burning bras, but does involve being able to work directly in the businesses they own.

The business about beating wives is just simply odd. That some goes on, I would not deny. That some claim religious authority/necessity for it is probably true. But it is far from common practice.


* Jihad. This imam has never denied that "jihad" means "holy war," as against those who claim that it is an "internal struggle" (a Sufi definition with essentially no applicability in Islamic history or law). He does seem to think that eventually the armies of jihad (real armies, with real weapons) will reach American shores and conquer America for Islam, though even he seems to realize that this is an utter pipe dream (unlike many other Muslim men who pray for the day, so they can take any number of infidel sex slaves). I asked about the ruling that Muslims should not live in the land of the infidel. He didn't deny it, but said that it was OK if one had the intention to spread Islam (I suppose it might be called "jihad by the pen or mouth"). In every Friday sermon, he prays for those Muslims fighting in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, the Sudan, Iraq, or whatever Muslim country happens to be in the news. The suicide bombers in Israel are of course completely justified, as part of the jihad against Israel, though interestingly enough, he hates Arafat, saying he is working for the Israelis and that a true Islamic ruler would declare jihad. I think he was genuinely upset at 9-11, appearing at many prayers for peace and blood drives for the victims, but on the other hand, whenever a terrorist attack occurrs, he generally is only concerned about how Muslims will be treated because of it, not for the (non-Muslim) victims (though this seems to be the attitude of every Muslim I have met). He doesn't hate Shi'ites, unlike many Wahhabis or other Sunnis who do not even consider them real Muslims, and has said that Iran is a real Islamic state.

Hatcher:This imam is giving Fatima a pretty idiosyncratic reading of Islam. Saudis I know insist that the first meaning is the internal struggle; the other can only be put into play in very restricted circumstances, legally.

Her remarks about Saudi views of Shi'ism are sadly right. Saudis are taught next to nothing about other manifestations of Islam, and what they are taught is mostly untrue. This is changing, though. About 10 days ago, the Crown Prince (de facto head of government) met with a group of Sunni, Shi'a, and Ismaili religious leaders. (Islmailis are another Shi'a sect) They met to discuss how to reduce the friction between them. I personally think the situation will improve on this count. But I could be wrong.

*Apostasy. Interestingly, he has said that apostates should NOT be killed but just left alone (though I don't know if he really believes this and was saying it for my benefit). However, when I asked about the murder of Rashad Khalifa in 1990 by some Islamic extremist group (since the Submitters, his "sect" of Islam, is active in my town), he said that he was "glad" it had happened, since he was preaching a "distorted" version of Islam (and maybe in the employ of the Jews to boot).

Hatcher: Yep, the Saudis--as well as other Muslim countries--are really strict about apostasy. It's a capital crime here. There is no freedom of religion. Yet.

But it wasn't always this way nor need it stay this way. There was a Christian church in Jeddah until the 1960s. There are ruins of a 12th C. church in the Eastern Province. But right now, it's Islam or nothing.

That's plenty! I have heard plenty of the same kind of stuff from other Muslims, unfortunately, and the Islamic rulings are common knowledge, but still, I guess I was hoping for something...well, maybe a bit more "Westernized." I don't know if a Western-born imam would be any better, as many converts and second or third-generation Muslims do their best to out-zeal those living in Muslim countries, though they might bring to the table some attitudes that a Middle Eastern Muslim would never have. But then I think about people like John Walker Lindh (aka Sulayman al-Faris) or the American Shariffa Carlo Al-Andalusia (her fanatical writings are widely published on Islamic websites--check out her article Unconscious Muslims, where she makes the blatantly treasonous remark that "to side with the United States against The Islamic Empire of Afghanistan is clearly a horrendous sin"--I wish I were making this up, but I'm not!) or Maryam Jameelah, who has written many anti-Western screeds, and I wonder!

Will things get better? I really don't think they will unless something big happens, and I can't even imagine what that might be.
posted by Fatimah at 2:22 PM

Hatcher: Try to imagine--horrifying thought--that the US were run by Christian fundamentalists. What you'd have is not a whole lot different from what you have in Saudi Arabia, though of course the church services would be different. Women would be pregnant and in the kitchen; dancing and booze would be forbidden; religious orthodoxy would be the only show in town; no evolution in the schools; etc.

Saudis have got a screwy country, have made major mistakes in the past in not paying attention to what was going on, and have been incredibly careless about where their religious donations go. Most of has been careless, though, not malicious.

I do think you have to recognize the bias both people bring to their analysis; I'm not saying either of them have it "right". But it's likely that together they illuminte some additional corner of "truth" that we may not have considered before.

The part about the level of the hatred of Jews is something I think we can't hammer home enough. I think most of us, while carrying a few little quirky feelings about various groups because of our experiences, are not particularly prejudiced and certainly don't wish wholesale harm to any group because of their religion or race or ethicity. That's a whole different thing from the kind of attitude a lot of Arabs, and non-Arab Muslims, have about Jews. In fact, I think it's so different that a lot of Americans have a hard time fathoming just how bad it is. Folks, it's Holocaust bad, or would be if that particular segment of Muslims got their hands on any Jews where they thought they could do their work in secret [that is, without retaliation from the US]. I think in all our dealings with those countries, we have to keep the mantra going: This is not acceptable. This is not acceptable. This is not acceptable. It doesn't help that the left in this country joins hands with the anti-Semites amongst the Muslims by making everything in the Middle East about Palestine.

I have to raise my eyebrows too about Hatcher's view of fundamentalist Christians. Yes, there are a number of people who are Christians that I sure am glad don't run this country. They give me hives, and I can assure you that I would give most of you hives if I ran things. But I think it's unfair to Christians to make that comparison, because only a very tiny percentage would actually seek harm against non-Christians, and those few are soundly denounced by the rest of the Christian world. In addition, I think it's a mistake to compare fundamentalist Christians with fundamentalist Muslims because that waters down the true level of virulence and willingness to harm that those Muslims have. Are most Muslims that way? I think not. But it's more than a tiny percent that is, and some of those people run whole countries.

Interesting to see what Fatimah and Hatcher have to say. The more perspectives we can get, the more likely we'll see what's true about the situation. But always, always, keep an eye out for the writer's bias.

Even mine.

Posted by susanna at 12:10 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Autism and vaccines

A lot of people think that vaccinations are not good for children, especially babies, and my friend Desiree is one of them. She's not a particularly credulous person, and I have a lot of respect for her intellect, so I've grown a bit cautious about vaccines over the years. Desiree thinks that autism is increasing because of vaccinations, and sent this link:

Although once considered rare, during the last two decades the chance of a child being diagnosed with autism has skyrocketed from one in 10,000 to one in 150...

For years there has been a debate about the cause or causes of autism, but the vast majority of finger-pointing has been directed at childhood vaccines as the culprit.

It's a good article to read, because it seems balanced and doesn't hysterically say, "Don't vaccinate your kids!" but rather says, "There are issues here, you should know about them and consider them." I have also found that Sydney Smith at Medpundit provides good analysis on this (as well as many other) issues, so I recommend you read her posts on it as well: here, here, here and here. If you're really into it, here is a search function on her site that will give you a list of all her posts on autism. If the Blogspot archives are hosed, you can manually get to the posts by seeing when they were posted, choosing that week in the archives list on her site, and searching for "autism" on that page.

I'm not saying vaccinations cause autism. I'm not saying they don't play a role. I'm saying - it's a question worth researching, especially if your children are in the process of receiving vaccinations.

Posted by susanna at 11:34 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Oh, baby! This ain't Skippy - or even JIF

My friend Dory has gotten me started on a new and dangerous thing - flavored peanut butter. I love peanut butter, the crunchier the better, but this is something new to me. She gets it for me at Peanut Butter & Company, a store in Manhattan's Greenwich Village; you too can browse their offerings on their website.

Today's selection is White Chocolate Peanut Butter, which I am eating with a fork. Not a lot. Some. The lid's closed right now. I make no promises for how long, though.

She also got me a second jar of the flavor that introduced me to the store: Cinnamon Raisin. I love raisins. I love cinnamon. I love peanut butter. This is so good I almost get cold chills. I think I have a cinnamon raisin bagel here someplace that I can have for lunch with peanut butter...

Mmmmm.

Posted by susanna at 11:16 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 01, 2003

Judgment Calls for new author Alafair Burke

(This book review is cross-posted on Blogcritics)

Deputy DA Samantha Kincaid, looking for variety and advancement, takes on a possible rape case turned down by the Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney in charge of the Major Crimes Unit - and plunges into a maelstrom of trouble. The victim, a 13-year-old girl by turns sullen and vulnerable, began turning tricks to support a drug habit nurtured by her erstwhile stepfather. Raped, beaten and left for dead in a ravine, she's found by hikers and survives to identify one of her attackers. But there's a problem with the evidence, quickly exploited by a fire-breathing defense attorney determined to fight hard for her client. And the question of whether the girl agreed to rough sex for pay isn't an easy one to answer.

Add the complications of a former and maybe future lover, Det. Chuck Forbes, as an investigating officer; obstructive behavior from the Major Crimes Unit DDA Tim O'Donnell; and a seemingly unrelated death penalty case suddenly all too connected, and you have the makings of a tangled puzzle that Kincaid must unravel - and it appears someone is after her too.

Judgment Calls, the first entry in a new mystery series involving Kincaid, is the first published book by Alafair Burke, a former deputy DA herself who now teaches law. It’s a solid plot, and the characters are engaging; Burke does an especially nice job with the victim, Kendra Martin. But the story suffers from a couple of flaws. Foremost is the lengthy exposition Burke uses to explain the intricacies of the court system and the progress of the case itself. It's as if occasionally the writer turns off the story to explain things to you - it's necessary information, but it's not integrated into the story itself. She would do well to see how other writers of mystery and courtroom drama use dialogue, action or less expository asides to keep technical information from slowing the story. Because of this expository style, the first half of the book moves quite slowly at times and may make readers impatient (I was, a few times).

Another flaw - which may be as much reviewer sensitivity as author imperfection - is the political views of two of the main protagonists, Forbes and Kincaid. Forbes, one of the detectives who was instrumental in the convictions of two accused killers scheduled for execution, expresses doubt about the death penalty as a punishment as the execution date nears. While certainly law enforcement officers aren't always for the death penalty, in Forbes’ case the sentiment is not well integrated into his character - there’s no real sense of what struggle he's going through that would lead to his views. With Kincaid, the problem is less pronounced, feeling as if the author is dropping in her own political potshots with Kincaid as a conduit. An example, on page 278, occurs as Kincaid is finishing a midday run, noting that she "finished it in twenty-two minutes. Not quite as fast as our current president, but I work a lot harder at my day job." Not a deal-breaker, but again, the kind of comments that don’t ring fully true with the rest of the character.

All in all, the book was worth my time, and I liked both the characters and the plotting well enough to want to read the next installment. But I also came away with the feeling that it would have come out first in paperback, not hardback, if Burke's father weren't famous crime fiction writer James Lee Burke.

Posted by susanna at 11:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Katharine, good and bad

Katharine Hepburn, gone at 96 and missed by everyone. She was a wonderful actress, and in many ways a role model. But it's interesting that what is to me a serious character flaw in her is actually admired and lauded in the articles about her. This puts it as well as any:

Her life and career were dominated by her love affair with Spencer Tracy, which created one of the great romantic legends and brilliant movie pairings of their day. Tracy was unhappily married and the father of two when they met, and he remained married until the end of his life. He and Miss Hepburn lived together for 27 years, until his death in 1967, and made nine films together.

What an absolutely rock-bottom awful thing to do to another person - take a woman's husband and keep him, leaving the legal remnants of the marriage behind so Mrs. Spencer Tracy every day gets to be "that woman married to Katharine Hepburn's lover". For 27 years. Of course Tracy himself shares equal if not more responsibility - he was the one who promised to love all his life, to be there for better or worse, and chose instead to put his shoes under Hepburn's bed when things were unhappy at home. While Hepburn was a great actress, I can't admire her for this behavior. It isn't a great romance, it's sordid and selfish.

I understand about soulmates, about breathless lust coupled with deep friendship that makes you want to be with one person only. But I also understand about promises, about living kindly. I believe Tracy was Catholic, and the fact he and his wife never divorced was due at least in part to that. Perhaps it's even the way she preferred it. But that doesn't excuse Hepburn's behavior. "Independent" is sometimes just shorthand for "I want what I want and I don't care who gets hurt in the process".

It's not romantic to have an extramarital affair. That's the reason I could never watch or read The Bridges of Madison County - I couldn't fathom finding either main character someone to admire and relate to. I'm sad that Hepburn is gone, because she brought much beauty to the world. We're right to mourn her. But it's wrong to cast her life with Tracy as anything other than two people taking their pleasure together at the cost of the happiness of a woman and two children.

Posted by susanna at 03:35 PM | Comments (35) | TrackBack

Classy NPR

Sometimes I wonder why I listen to National Public Radio, when they're in the midst of some clearly biased report. But then something happens to remind me that they do a classy job, sometimes, and enough times that it's worth my effort to listen even when I disagree.

Last night as I was driving home from work, NPR aired a report on mourners of Strom Thurmond in South Carolina. A lot of media types, mostly liberal but some conservative, have all but danced on Thurmond's grave, which is pathetic and shows a deep lack of character. But this report was quite even-handed, respectful, not glossing over his segregationist past but putting the complexities of the man in context. The mourners interviewed were all supportive of Thurmond, but one in particular caught my attention: An African-American man praising Thurmond for his efforts resulting in the financial soundness of the college this man had attended. It is a historically black college, he said, and without Thurmond's help it is likely it wouldn't have lasted - and a lot of black students would not have gotten a college education.

Thurmond did not live an exemplary life in a number of ways, but he also was not evil incarnate. He did many good things, and he hurt a number of people. On net, it's not much different from the rest of us, only on a larger scale because he performed on a broader stage. If we die having caused more good on this earth than bad, then we can say we lived a good life. I think Thurmond did.

CURIOUS UPDATE: Diane McWhorter has a column in today's Slate saying that Thurmond fathered a daughter with a black woman in 1925 - that he didn't acknowledge her but came about as close as possible without announcing it. Of extra interest, given the information above from the graduate of Morris College, is this passage:

If he didn't exactly claim Essie Mae Williams, neither did he disown her. He gave her money and paid her regular visits (and probably tuition) at the black South Carolina college where she was a "high yaller" sorority girl while he was governor of the state.

Could that have been Morris College? It seems likely. And that does put a little different light on his support for the school. Interesting.

Posted by susanna at 12:20 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Somewhere in a university, far far away...

Setting: A university, somewhere in the South, five years hence.

Characters: A professor - me, of course - and a student seeking to work with me because of my outstanding reputation in the criminal justice field.

Scenario: Student B, a fine hardworking student who is at the top of her class and wants to work with me on research into rural policing, writes an email to me asking if there is the possibility of a place in my program. As a part of her vita, she notes that she has worked extensively as a volunteer with Planned Parenthood. I write back the following email:

"Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the abortionists take the moral high ground from the appalling treatment of women in the past, and then inflict gross human rights abuses - murder, even - on innocent unborn children merely because they wish to be born but are an inconvenience to their mothers.

"I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had worked with Planned Parenthood. As you may be aware, I am not the only criminal justice professor with these views but I'm sure you will find another program if you look around."

Plot/conflict point: How quickly would my career be washed away in the flood of leftist outcry? Not just leftist, but liberal? Not just liberal, but conservative outcry from those who understand that differing political views do not justify discrimination in unrelated contexts?

Discussion: Apparently the incongruity of a scientist making decisions based on non-related social issues didn't quite get through to Andrew Wilkie, the Nuffield professor of pathology and a fellow of Pembroke College, who sent this email to Amit Duvshani, a student at Tel Aviv university seeking to work with Wilkie in a PhD program:

"Thank you for contacting me, but I don't think this would work. I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they [the Palestinians] wish to live in their own country.

"I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army. As you may be aware, I am not the only UK scientist with these views but I'm sure you will find another lab if you look around."

Fortunately Wilkie is facing quite a little fallout from this email, fallout I think is justified. He has apologized, and claims that he is neither racist nor anti-Semitic. I suppose he believes it (I'm not sure I do), although I suspect that he also would be uncomfortable with anyone who disagrees with his belief system (and wouldn't that go over well to, if I rejected, say, a Buddhist from working with me because I didn't agree with his belief system. When are the leftists going to realize that their beliefs are as much a religion as any ever followed by Jerry Falwell?).

Wilkie's extending of his personal prejudices into the academic sphere is not the first time that a British professor has discriminated against Israelis solely for their nationality, as is mentioned in the article. What is truly appalling is that these academics see their behavior as fully justified, at least until it threatens their jobs. And it's not limited to anti-Israel actions, although that seems to be either the most egregious or the most frequently reported. Academics are trying to shut down dissenting opinions all over the US, unable or unwilling to see the rank hypocrisy. The good thing about it is, we know about it - which means it's being noticed, reported and increasingly countered. Perhaps in the future we will have universities where all views are at least given an airing, and where your nationality or religion aren't the basis for deciding whether your scholarship is worthy of nurturing.

Personal rant: This is not directly related to the Wilkie issue, but an extension of nurturing diverse paths of scholarship. While there are certain standards of quality that must be preserved - methods of statistical manipulation and interpretation, hypothesis development and testing, rigorous adherence to quality research methods, honesty in scholarship - the academic world, and through it the world of knowledge, is significantly diminished by limiting the viewpoints that actually get access to the secure nest of academic pursuits. I'm not an advocate of affirmative action in that I think we need to have diversity for the sake of diversity. What I am an advocate of is nurturing academics with differing perspectives because of the potential they bring to research, in every field.

I think that I, as a Southern conservative religious woman, bring something different to the table even in researching criminal justice than a Northern liberal atheist male. While naturally I'm going to think my course is best, in the aggregate it's important to have both perspectives because in reality we're neither one likely to hit "the truth", whatever that is, squarely on the head. We are led to new insights others may not have in part because of who we are and what our history is, and that to me is why it's crucial to have liberals and conservatives, all races, male and female, any permutation of potential intellectuals, in our nation's universities. It's not to give minorities a role model - although that's not a bad side benefit - but to introduce a different way of seeing the questions a certain discipline seeks to address. I personally think the ability to best use that perspective is clouded when the person is caught up in some ideological fervor that seeks to impose personal belief or ethnic or political overlays onto their work. My view of the world is informed by my religious beliefs, but my willingness to listen and consider other perspectives shouldn't be limited by them.

It's just a personal annoyance of mine. Homogeneity in scholarship limits the possible range of findings. Why can't the liberals - who fought this battle 50 years ago - see that now they're the limiting status quo?


[Thanks to Ryan at Dead Parrot Society for the link]

Posted by susanna at 06:27 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Uh-oh... is this actionable?

Apparently someone at the Wall Street Journal reads my blog.

Or at least has a mind like mine. Scary.

It's a good article though.

I wonder if someone there really does read my blog, sometimes? It's not as if you see that phrase very often. Unless you're a seamstress. Hmmm....

[Thanks to Arthur Silber for the heads up]

Posted by susanna at 05:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack