A man lays naked and dead in a seedy motel room in upper Manhattan. His teenage niece is missing. When Lt. Peter Decker responds to a frantic call from his half-brother, another uncle of the missing girl, he finds himself far from his Los Angeles home, caught between family and a psychopathic killer.
But is that killer the one who killed the missing girl's uncle? Was he actually the girl's ticket to safety? Could he be both?
Faye Kellerman's Stone Kiss is a recent addition to Kellerman's Peter Decker series. Decker is a Los Angeles detective trying to balance his life between the violence his job immerses him in, and the quiet life of an observant conservative Jew that he shares with his wife Rina Lazarus at home. It's a sometimes uneasy coupling, since Decker came to observant Judaism as an adult when he married Rina, who herself made sacrifices to meld her religious observances to the reality of sharing life with Decker. Rina is an active part of this case as she is all the books in the series.
In Stone Kiss, Rina and Decker travel to NYC with their young daughter Hannah for a few days to visit with their college-age sons, Rina's children from a previous marriage, after Decker's brother Jonathan's call. At first Decker just meets with the NYPD detectives working the murder case, but when a psychopathic killer from his past resurfaces with a role in the case Decker finds himself drawn deeper into a confusing miasma of sexual exploitation, twisted loyalties, family obligations and the increasing evidence that all is not right in the Jewish community the young girl comes from. The dead man worked with his father and brother in the family's electronics stores, recovering from drug addiction and serving as a confidant to his young niece. The girl's father, the dead man's brother, at first welcomes Decker, then suddenly attacks him viciously and orders him gone. And without Decker's knowledge, the killer from his past gets in touch with Rina, who herself faces choices about helping Decker or lying to him.
The story is complex but deftly handled by Kellerman, who is strong in both characterization and plot. The book stands alone as a worthy read, but the series as a whole is an interesting and thoughtful look at how very religious Jews accommodate their faith and rituals to the pressures and temptations of modern life - and much of the insight would apply to those of other faiths as well. However, the insight is a byproduct of the characters Kellerman has chosen to tell her tales; the point is the story, and Kellerman succeeds in making Stone Kiss difficult to put down.
(For those new to the series, Sacred and Profane is the book where Decker first meets widow Rina Lazarus, and their romance begins. Also, The Quality of Mercy is Kellerman's first non-Decker/Lazarus novel.)
Sometimes, you can spell Democrat "H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E":
Day By Day, January 12, 2003
And things don't change much over time either.
Day By Day, August 30, 2003
And yes, I know, you can find Republicans who aren't exactly walking the chalk line. But the two-faced, talking-out-of-both-sides-of-their-month hypocrisy of Democrat leaders on the race issue is just bizarre - and they're not called on it! I'd say it's matched only by... say... the chutzpah of Barbra Streisand's "love for the little people" and "concern for the environment".
Chris Muir - my hero.
A Spanish-language newspaper in Chicago went with a one-source story claiming that matriculas, a Mexican identification card, were being successfully forged. It turned out to be untrue. For complex reasons (explained in the linked article), the Mexican community there was furious, and has demanded an apology and other concessions from the newspaper.
It does appear that the newspaper, Exito, seriously screwed up. However, what's up with the apology thing? It seems to be a trend. They don't just want a correction, they want the newspaper to be sorry for doing it wrong. On one level I can see that, but... ? Holding hands, air kissing each other and singing "Kumbaya" together doesn't make the newspaper any better or the community any less ill-informed. Don't ask for sorry, ask for accurate. As with any other emotion, actions speak louder than words - if the newspaper is truly sorry, the behavior will change. And if they're not, no amount of words will accomplish the change. It just seems to me another example of a kissy-face liberal symbolism, where being sorry is in some way a substitute for action. In this instance, the newspaper did apologize (which is okay) but then the community decided they weren't sorry enough - so they asked for another one.
But Exito does need to get their act together. This is a clear case of wanting a huge scoop and being too quick to believe it was happening.
[Link via Romenesko]
London had their own little blackout yesterday, not so little to the thousands left stranded by it but nothing like the mess in the Northeast earlier this month. I will admit that as soon as I heard it had happened, I thought - is it terrorism? And is our country not telling us the truth - was ours terrorism too?
I admit I'm not fully convinced as yet that it's not.
I foresee a trip to Vermont in my future, to see the Shelburne Museum (which I have heard much about) and most especially to see this exhibit:
Three shows that give new visibility to the permanent collection are up and running. The most dazzling of the three is "Art of the Needle: 100 Masterpiece Quilts From the Shelburne Museum." Shelburne, which owns more than 400 quilts, lays claim to being the first to display them as art rather than as decoration. With examples from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, including more than 20 never before on public view, this show is quilt-lovers' heaven.
Organized by Henry Joyce, the museum's chief curator (and Ms. Alswang's husband), it represents three years of new research into the collection by the museum staff in consultation with Amelia Peck, associate curator and textile expert at the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum. The quilts are hung according to eight principal design themes: album, Amish, appliquĂ©, chintz appliquĂ©, pieced, Victorian (crazy and log cabin), white work and whole cloth.
Among the prizes are two "crazies": a similar pair made in the same family, by Delphia Noice Haskins (1816-1892) or her daughter Ada Haskins Pierce (born 1848). They are allover patchworks of disparate images sewn together every which way; cutout and stitched bits of cloth that make a heady mix of figures, portraits, animals and such, interspersed with scraps of geometrically patterned fabric.
I will go in late September or early October, to catch some of the fall colors. I will move some quilting project along so that I will have a piece to hand quilt, sitting outside, inspired by the work of women for whom quilting was not just an art but a necessity. I wonder if it's too early to make reservations...
(Have I mentioned that in amongst my tubs of fabric are silks, satins and velvets just waiting to become a crazy quilt? Yes. Soon. Soon.)
The NY Times has a long article about the Port Authority transcripts released from 9/11. It's heart-wrenching.
On reflection, I think it's probably inevitable that they be released, and perhaps some good will come of it. I just wish it taken longer, to give the families more room to heal first. It's apparent from the transcripts that a number of people who might have lived died because they followed recommendations not to leave the building. That information isn't new, but what is new are the words they used to ask if they should leave, and the inevitability of their acquiesence. I find myself wanting to reach out and say, leave! Please leave! but they've all long gone to dust. I don't know what I would do with the anger I'd feel if that had been someone I loved.
But there are tales of heroism too. And maybe, just maybe, this will draw people's hearts back to 9/11 and the pain and anger from that day, and stiffen their resolve again not to pander to terrorists or use that tragedy as political leverage or even for commercial advantage.
Well. I don't hold out a lot of hope for that last, because there are always people who cannot think beyond their own lives. At any rate, if you read the article, be prepared to revisit the feeling of hollow horror in your chest. I'm reading it in pieces, because I find I can't read it all at once.
Now they're gaming education for real:
Mario, Luigi, and their compatriots from the world of PlayStation and Xbox - who for years have been familiar faces of student dorm life - are jumping to the next level in higher education: the classroom.
Long the bane of professors who'd rather students do less game-console thumb-clicking and more schoolwork, video games are entering the curriculum and the realm of academic research - to the cheers of some and the boos of others.
Indeed, "video game studies" is an oxymoron to many faculty. As a result, the study of video games - in computer science, art, and sociology - is often cloaked in euphemisms such as "interactive media" or "digital arts." .
"I call it 'the medium that dare not speak its name,' " says Celia Pearce of the Game Culture & Tech Lab at the University of California at Irvine. "Nobody wants to call it 'games,' so they call it something ... acceptable for the academic palate."
I think this is great, as long as the students also get a good liberal arts education along with it. It has as much legitimacy as film or advertising, both in terms of craft and theory. Current games don't attain the level of Shakespeare, it's true, but then Shakespeare wasn't writing in a relatively new form. He just took a very old form to new heights.
People who don't read speak sneeringly of "book larnin'". People who don't use computers sniff about shallow new technology, and the sad decline in attention spans among those who need constant stimulation. And those who don't play video games see it only as the black hole that teenagers (and a lot of adults) disappear into instead of doing something productive. There's a bit of good reasoning in each group's disdain, but they're focusing on the negative at the expense of the very real positives. The games are, I think, a reflection of the life we live today and a training ground for skills we'll need in the future. People who as kids spent hours tethered to their computers are now making the world a different place on an almost daily basis, using knowledge that goes so deep it's almost muscle memory precisely because of those hours. They have an understanding of the technology that makes it almost a background issue, in much the way I consider a telephone or a pad and paper. I don't think about how those work, I only consider what I can do with them.
The technology and creativity that emerged first in video games will make that same transition, and having it taken seriously in an academic setting will hasten it. Of course, before long we'll have long-haired traditionalists talking about the purity and simplicity of Pac Man, and how everything after it was just an abomination. You'll see some really bizarrely titled dissertations. But you'll also see technology take its next step forward in ways most of us can't really envision now - but these kids who grew up tethered to their video games can:
For Todd Booth, though, it's all about the game. A fine-arts graduate of Oregon State University, he is newly enrolled in SMU's video-game design program. Bored in high school, he says he wants to create educational software as entertaining and compelling as the multiplayer online games he played in college.
"We'd be playing 'Starcraft,' you know, and you'd have your dorm-room door open, and someone would yell, 'Ah, you just smashed my station,' " he says. "We'd be battling into the wee hours of the morning. Well, I really think education software could be that much fun. It just hasn't been very successful yet."
I expect he'll do it, and if not him, then someone else and sooner rather than later. That's a very good thing.
And you know what? I think a boy who trained his lightning fast reflexes for hundreds of hours in intense video games is going to be precisely perfect for running the military technology, the deep space exploration, the exacting surgeries of the next generation. I hope I live to see it, because it's going to be awesome.
I point out a lot of problems in journalism on this blog, but here is an example of an editor who chose to resign rather than compromise her professional ethics. She was told by her newspaper's management to run a restaurant review written by the paper's marketing director after the restaurant complained about an earlier review. Romenesko summarizes:
Virginia Gerst, an editor at Hollinger's Suburban Chicago Pioneer Press Newspapers, quit this week after the marketing director was allowed to write a review to satisfy a restaurant owner who was unhappy with an earlier food critique. Gerst, who has been with the chain for 27 years, writes in her resignation letter: "More than a year ago, I took on the editorship of the Central area papers - a 1/3 increase in my work load - at no increase in pay, because I understand that these are tough times for newspapers. But economic concerns are not sufficient to make me sacrifice the integrity of a section I have worked for, cared about and worried over for two decades. My departure date depends on when the 'review' will run, as I do not want my name associated with the section when it appears."
It's clear from Gerst's letter that she took personal umbrage at the newspaper's action, and as always there's likely some internal politics involved of which we are unaware that had an impact on the situation. But the straight facts of the case are sufficient for me to support Gerst's choice, and admire her for it: She was told to run basically an editorial advertisement written by a non-editorial staff member specifically for the purpose of praising a ruffled advertiser, and to disguise it as something legitimate.
Having written several of them myself, I know that newspapers regularly produce supplements that are advertising thinly disguised as news/feature content. But those are advertising supplements, and people pretty much understand that. There are also influences on what does and doesn't make it into the straight editorial news hole that aren't strictly objective, so in some sense promotion occurs regularly in the newspaper. But that's different from establishing a restaurant review column, specifically for the purpose of honest estimations of a restaurant's food and service (always subject to the personality of the reviewer, as is clearly understood), then using that forum to sneak in a flagrant advertisement.
It's not an earth shattering instance - it's relatively minor on the grand scale. But the principle is foundational, and such behavior on the part of newspaper management puts their decision-making under suspicion in many other ways too. As others have learned, it's a post-Jayson world, and the jig is up.
I generally lean toward the side of law enforcement in issues dealing with the prevention and investigation of crime, but the Justice Department in their anti-terrorism efforts are beginning to make even me quite edgy. Nat Hentoff's column in E&P is what brought me over to the "what are they doing?" side:
...Section 213 (actually called in the act "the sneak and peek provision")... allows the FBI to go into your home or office when you're not there, and search and seize your property.
Under a warrant from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, issued with only a government agent present and with lesser evidentiary standard than traditional "probable cause," the FBI can examine your records and hard drive, and insert the "magic lantern" in your computer -- a device that records every keystroke you make. During a subsequent covert search, the FBI can download that information.
There is no exception for a citizen who regards him or herself as a journalist.
Section 213 weakens a section of the U.S. Code which requires that agents leave a copy of the warrant, and a receipt for what's been taken when they leave. In those cases, the search then can be immediately challenged -- on the basis of a wrong address, or the agents exceeded the limits of the warrant. But under Section 213, no notice need be given for 90 days, which can be delayed indefinitely. (Previous pre-Patriot Act delays were authorized if, for instance, there was danger of flight to evade prosecution, but 213 applies to all these secret searches.)
To be honest, one of the reasons I've been slow to oppose Attorney General John Ashcroft's efforts is that he has been so unfairly attacked for his religious beliefs that I'm reflexively suspicious of any criticism of him. But I think it's very clear that these provisions go beyond what's right, and I also think it's naive of anyone to think they wouldn't creep into regular criminal investigations eventually.
We're at a crossroads in this country in many ways, and I think a lot of us find ourselves at a loss because of the erosion of traditional rights and priveleges that have made this country great. I'm watching religion in the public place get purged by liberal courts and liberal activists in a way that I think is unconstitutional, but at the same time I am concerned that people feel free to find God in their own way (which isn't the same as saying I think their way is right). I don't think the Constitution requires the separations we're finding forced on us, but I don't know how to take a stand against the predations while preserving the freedoms. Similarly, I think it's crucial that we protect this country against terrorism, which is becoming more diffuse into the community as a whole and thus more difficult to track down and eradicate. At the same time, I don't want the rights of US citizens to be eroded in the name of fighting terrorism. At what point do you have a law of diminishing returns? When is losing this or that right too high a price to pay?
In the case of terrorism, I think it likely that if we block off the easier routes that involve making inroads into our rights, the ones responsible for our safety will find other ways to do their job. There is too high a price to pay - if in protecting this country we lose what makes the country great, haven't the terrorists won after all? And if we fail to protect our right to practice our religion, even in public spaces, are we losing another piece of what makes the country great?
It's all about the Constitution, and the law of the courts, and the increasing cacophony of clashing ideologies in this country. And I agree with Hentoff - the US media is failing dismally in bringing the richness and urgency of these debates to the average American.
(I'm looking forward to seeing what Dodd has to say about Hentoff's column.)
(This entry is cross-posted on Blogcritics)
The bones of the dead give up their secrets to Dr. Temperance Brennan, a forensic anthropologist, in the mystery series by Kathy Reichs, herself a forensic anthropologist. Those who enjoy the Dr. Kay Scarpetta novels by Patricia Cornwall will find themselves on familiar ground. The mystery is the point, but the puzzle is unraveled from the bodies.
Dr. Brennan, known as Tempe to her friends and coworkers, began her career as a forensic anthropologist working for the state of North Carolina; somewhere along the way, she also accepted an assignment with Quebec. Although she divides her time between the jurisdictions, in the two novels Iâ€™ve read sheâ€™s been based in Quebec, working for the Laboratoire de MĂ©decine LĂ©gale. The novels are engrossing, with graphic details about the corpses under Brennanâ€™s knife, about the ravages Nature brings to bodies left in her grasp, and about the human emotions that swirl and swing out of control in any death investigation. No doubt due to the similarities to her own work â€“ Reichs works for both North Carolina and Quebec as well, and is of an age with Brennan â€“ the author, writing in the first person, brings to vivid life the mysteries of the dead and the lives of those who try to solve them.
In DĂ©ja Dead, Reichsâ€™ first Tempe novel, Brennan is living and working in Montreal, dealing with her divorce, her daughterâ€™s new college career, and the gnawing hungers of a recovering alcoholic. Into this mix falls a mystery â€“ who dismembered a young woman, carefully slicing through joints, and dumped the body in separate plastic bags? Tempe finds herself locking horns with the lead detective as she begins to connect the case with earlier cases, connections he refuses to see. She fears it is a serial killer, and every new find of old bones confirms her fears â€“ but is slow to convince the detectives. Finally she starts digging into the mystery herself, literally, drawing the attention of the killer not just to her, but to her daughter and best friend as well.
Tempe is working an excavation in Guatemala as Grave Secrets opens; she and her team had volunteered to identify the residents of a small village who were killed during the Guatemalan civil war some 20 years before, their bodies dumped unceremoniously into common graves. The sadness is sharp but the terror distant until a frantic satellite call from colleagues heading to the site makes Tempe a helpless witness to a deadly attack. As the team struggles to learn what happened to their friends, Tempe is approached by Sergeant-Detective BartolomĂ© Galiano of Guatemalaâ€™s National Civil Police. He brings with him photos of an oozing bundle of bones found blocking a septic tank in Guatemala City, and asks for her help in properly recovering the rest of the body â€“ likely in pieces in the same tank. Her dual investigations lead to questions about the disappearances of four young women from good families, taking her from Guatemala to Montreal and back, before all the mysteries come together in a resolution that puts Tempe in more danger than she could foresee.
The Tempe Brennan series promises to be an excellent one, exciting and intriguing with familiar faces enmeshed in fresh plots each time. Reichs already has written several books in the series, and I look forward to reading the others. For those interested in forensic science, these are a must-read.
In two weeks we will commemorate the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the WTC and Washington, DC, and the deaths of the brave souls on Flight 93.
The words of those trapped in the Towers will be heard for the first time by the public after tomorrow - last Friday a state judge ordered the Port Authority to release transcripts of all emergency calls from the WTC on the request of the New York Times.
Some victims' families are upset:
Leila Negron, whose husband was killed at the World Trade Center, dreads hearing the details of the emergency calls made from the twin towers that day.
"For me and my children, it's like being slapped in the face with it happening again," said Negron, 36, whose husband, Peter, worked at the trade center as an environmental specialist...
Laurie Tietjen, whose brother Kenneth Tietjen died in the attacks, is not optimistic about how the media will react.
"People are looking for the horror stories, not the good things," said Tietjen, 31, who said she has read the transcripts. "A lot of the information there is pretty personal. It doesn't help to have it out there in the public. It's just extremely hurtful to the families."
Tietjen said her family already knew about the actions of her brother, a Port Authority police officer, from his partner, who survived.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it is legally public record and we can't abrogate the law just because it may be personally hurtful to a few. On the other, it could well reopen wounds that are just beginning to heal from screaming pain to a constant deep ache. We'll see how the media handle it. And I will admit that I will likely read some of what is printed about the transcripts.
While we're discussing 9/11, make sure you take the time to read Michele's living history record of people's reactions to 9/11, recorded in the comments to the post. There's room for more, if you care to add, but even if you don't, you must read. You mustn't forget.
Michele also points out that the coverage of 9/11 by the major media will not be very indepth or comprehensive, which is just incomprehensible to me. I think the reason why must be because of the ambivalence toward the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. Whose ambivalence? Well, not of average Americans. I'm sure you can connect the dots.
Make your own personal memorial on 9/11. Say a prayer, light a candle, bow your head, remember not only the nearly 3000 who died, but the families left behind, and the people whose lives were changed even though they themselves were not there, and did not lose loved ones. Also take a moment to say a prayer for those who have died in the fight to make sure it never happens again - from CIA operative Mike Spann, among the first to die in Afghanistan, to the most recent soldier to lose his life in Iraq. They too are casualties of 9/11. And they are heroes.
Mike Spann with his family
Mike Spann a few months later
"I believe in the meaning of honor and integrity.
I am an action person who feels personally responsible for making any changes in this world that are in my power...
because if I don't, no one else will".
A passage from his CIA application
UPDATE: TheYeti has words for those who would forget, and his readers do as well.
Is your favorite blog taking a vacation? Tired of the same old rants? Just need some new fodder for your brainmill?
(Cross posted on Blogcritics)
In a post 9/11 world, John Case’s the first horseman seems eerily prescient. Published in 1998, the novel begins with three events: the murder of a couple in upstate New York; the mysterious disappearance of a tiny North Korean village; and an expedition to the Arctic Circle by a team of scientists set on exploring a mystery locked deep in the ice at Kopervik, an abandoned mining town dating to the early 1900s. Frank Daly, a reporter on leave from the Washington Post, misses the boat to Kopervik and sits shivering in small Russian towns waiting for it to return. When it does, the people he was supposed to travel with – including his contact, scientist Annie Adair – are hustled into a waiting car by clean-cut American men in dark heavy topcoats and wingtip shoes, not allowed to say a word to Daly.
Thus begins the weaving of a taut, thrilling tale from the very disparate beginning story threads. Daly works against time and his ability to get information out of the government as he tries to piece together a story he can almost, but not quite, see. He finally convinces a hesitant Adair to join him, and the two combine their knowledge and research skills. As they uncover the plot of the man calling himself “The First Horseman”, the size and complexity of the plot begins to overwhelm them – people fall sick mysteriously in several parts of the country, ordinary citizens refuse to talk to them out of fear, and both of them are attacked. The portrayal of plot's leader answers the question, "What is a human monster like?"
It’s difficult to write much about the plot without mentioning something that may lessen your tension in reading the book, which would be a shame because Case has done such a nice job. Its weaving of ecoterrorism, rogue states, a government wanting to do right but caught in bureaucracy, and the technical plausibility of an attack on the United States invokes shades of the 9/11 attacks as it highlights our risk and vulnerability. Those living in New York will never look at steam rising in the streets in the same way again. I know I won’t.
And I may not drink Pepsi again either.
It seems a lot of people in this world don't have hobbies, and it's just something I don't understand. Not that I'm critical of it, it's just foreign to me. Everyone in my family has what I call "enthusiasms", things other than work and family that enthrall them. It's more than just an interest - it's something that, every where you go, you carry it with you.
For example, both of my parents have enthusiasms. For my mom, it's gardening. She loves it. She gets excited like a child at Christmas when she goes to a greenhouse. When she goes on vacation, she wants to visit gardens. She buys books on gardening, she buys knick-knacky things for her gardens, she pores over gardening catalogs all winter long planning for the spring. And when she fusses in the summer, it's often about gardening - either she hasn't done enough, or she's done too much, or the weather isn't just right, or she can't decide what to do about this corner or that.
I like that about my mom.
My dad, on the other hand, is all about hunting and fishing. He gets like a kid at Christmas over hunting season, any hunting season, but most especially deer season. I grew up eating game - deer, quail, squirrel - and a standing joke in our family is that we can only see Dad's head - because he's dressed in camouflage. He reads about hunting. When he's out driving around, he's looking for "sign" of some critter or another. He plans hunting holidays with his friends, and almost daily (in season, of course!) he heads out on walks around his property with a gun over his shoulder, even if he isn't really intent on hunting. What does he want at Christmas? Hunting things. He's asked for boxes of shells, and he's gotten them. Not my favorite thing to buy, but he's my favorite dad so he gets what he wants.
They have other enthusiasms - my mom loves decorating, and my dad is a beekeeper, and has this affinity for fowl of all kinds (you haven't lived until you've woken up early in the morning to the shrill caw of a guinea). But their main passions are what I think about when I see them in my mind. When you hear about ways to be healthy as you get older, one prominent way is to stay interested in the world around you. I always think to myself, Mom will be looking at gardening catalogs when she's 90, and Dad will be cleaning his gun.
It's not surprising, then, that I have my own enthusiasms, which to some extent have gotten enmeshed with my professional life. I love to read. I love to write. I love learning about and thinking about and watching shows about crime, criminals, criminal justice, policing. My family is never surprised to hear the most gruesome things from me ("unsurprised" doesn't mean "happy about it" though). I buy books on crime and forensics just out of interest, unconnected with work or school.
My other main enthusiasm is needlework. My grandmother introduced me to sewing when I was five, and through the years I picked up crochet, quilting and cross-stitch. I have big Rubbermaid tubs of fabric, hundreds of patterns, stacks of books, more than I will use in my lifetime. And I love it. Like my mom with her gardening books, or my dad with his hunting guides, I can sit down with my needlework books and be absorbed for hours.
Maybe some day I'll do a murder quilt. Hmmmm...
I wonder sometimes what people do with their lives if they don't have enthusiasms. What keeps them going? What draws them into another day when family and work obligations seem overwhelming? How do they lose themselves in something that refreshes them, and recharges them? I don't know. But I do know that I will die with too much left to do, and that's just way I like it. Because that means up until the end, I will always have hope for a new day.
Here are photos of my parents and their enthusiasms (in MORE because this site is photo heavy of late):
Dad with a deer head
Mom with part of her garden
Low posting today was due to general malaise, itself a result of ongoing issues from my surgery five weeks ago. Sometimes small problems that just... won't... go... away... for... weeks... can pull you down. I'm going to see my surgeon again tomorrow, so hopefully that'll help. For now, I'm going to watch TV, sew, and then go to bed early.
And I'd direct your attention to Lt. Smash's page, where he tells us all about his trip home, and joy at being here. Lt., we're just as overjoyed and grateful that you're home, and appreciative of your service. God bless.
Tony Woodlief has posted again. Warning: Do not read the post while eating hummus. That's all I'll say.
Well, I'm just going to rename myself, "Your Guide to Theosebes and The Nieces". Alan's got several good posts up today, already, while I've been getting back on track with my Bible study, nursing a sore toe and trying to get to work on time (and failing as usual).
He opines on Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments kerfuffle in the light of a Christian's responsibility to the law vs God; he reports on a food scam at the US Open (I'm not sure what that post has to do with Scripture - maybe pointing out how far we've come since Jesus fed the 5,000? Maybe pointing out that this is that in reverse - divesting the 5,000+ of food?); he points out another example of a federal judge using a liberal interpretation of the Constitution instead of the Constitution itself to toss out public prayer, this time at the behest of a Wiccan; and finally, he says that while the death of child molester/former priest John Geoghan wasn't one he wished, he isn't particularly sorry Geoghan is dead.
On that last point, I have to agree. If I were the one in charge at the prison, and knew the propensities and prejudices of Druce, I would have made sure Geoghan was somewhere else. In other words, I wouldn't deliberately put him in harm's way hoping that he would be killed. But at the same time, Geoghan is the personification of evil - evil with the face of a vulnerable old man, which makes it harder sometimes to be condemning, but that sad old face hides a deep conceit, an arrogant selfish evil that placed his own desires and pleasures ahead of the well-being of dozens, maybe hundreds, of children. If I knew that Geoghan was going to die, and I couldn't stop it, I also would have chosen a quick and painless death for him. At the same time, I think there is a certain justice in the horror of his death, because it was horrible - but no more horrible than the damage he did to the lives of children.
Druce is also evil - don't mistake me on that. But sometimes God uses evil to destroy evil. Geoghan didn't just rip the innocence from many little boys, he damaged the lives of all their families, and undermined their ability to believe in a good and loving God. The damage he did to the religion of not just those families, but other families, and people the world over who's ability to believe was harmed by his actions, is immeasurable. I wouldn't have wished this death on him, and I'm not saying that God willed it. But I'm not saying he didn't either.
And even though they may not admit it, I'm sure this brings some measure of peace to the adults he abused as children. For them, I'll say a prayer.
It's a tea party! Where's mine?!
Haydon and Molly Katherine hold a tea party at Rock Fence Park
Are we beginning to see a theme here? Maybe I should just change the name of my blog to "All Nieces, All The Time".
And don't forget I have another niece. (And a nephew, I need to dig up his photo.)
This post is two fairly large photos of my lovely nieces Haydon and Molly Katherine. Since I later received and naturally had to post the above photo of same, I decided for the sake of those of you with dial-up to move these two to the MORE section. So if you want to see, there they are. And I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to see.
Haydon - the girly movie girl
Molly Katherine, nearly walking on her own
Not that I'm a fond aunt, or anything.
Last year Michele gave herself a wonderful birthday gift.
A new husband.
Her new husband gave her a wonderful birthday gift.
And he got a wowser freebie - Michele! And it wasn't even his birthday!
Now, a year later, Michele celebrates both birthday and anniversary.
Happy, happy, Michele and Justin! I wish you many good years together.
I'm still not quite sure how Tim Burton fits in.
My niece Haydon is just 3 1/2, but today she had a true girl moment - her first of this sort, but one that is familiar to men everywhere.
She cried during a movie.
Her mom Traci told me about it, and said Haydon had seen the movie (The Little Princess) before, but this time the emotion in it caught at her heart, and she came to find her mommy with tears streaming down her face. She said she felt sad. Traci took a few minutes to help her calm down.
Then Haydon watched the rest of the movie. Insisted on watching the rest.
Crying the whole time.
Ahhhh... a woman in the making.
Alex Whitlock does a good job removing all excuses for marital cheating in this post.
In any infidelity, the fault rests mainly at the feet of the cheater, no matter how difficult the marriage. But Alex also does a good job of pointing out that sometimes one partner makes it easier for the other partner to stray, or they both allow the intimacy to dissipate and leave them vulnerable to the excitement of a new love.
Take a minute to say a prayer of thanks for his return, and one of hope for our military personnel still overseas.
Thanks, Lt. You're a hero.
On August 7, the San Francisco Giants played.
On August 8, an article by sportswriter Jim Van Vliet ran in the Sac Bee.
Last week, Van Vliet bit the dust, fired from his Sac Bee job for watching the game on television and reporting it as if he was there. (I can't find the article - they must have taken it down.)
Van Vliet says, what's the big deal? Discipline me, yes, but firing me? Welcome to the post-Jayson world, Jim, says Sac Bee ombudsman Tony Marcano, who has some reasonable things to say about journalism and the ethics of coverage:
Some readers may ask, What's the big deal? The game story that Van Vliet wrote was accurate -- he got the score right, he highlighted the turning points of the game, and he quoted some players. What difference does it make if he watched the game on TV? And what's wrong with using old quotes? The players really said them, didn't they? And why suspend a sportswriter for copying directly from a press release? Don't all reporters do that? All reporters at one time or another have relied on press releases, but printing those releases verbatim is a tacit acceptance of its information. That's stenography, not journalism.
Van Vliet's trangressions were more subtle, but no less important. It wasn't a matter of accuracy, but credibility. Readers have to be able to trust every word that's in an article, dateline included. It's akin to a cop taking a free cup of coffee -- no big deal in the greater scheme of things, but it lends excuses to those who are seriously on the take and damages the credibility of the great majority who aren't...
At some newspapers, such an offense might have led to a suspension or a transfer to a different job. But as the newspaper industry seeks to regain credibility and reinforce ethics in the wake of the New York Times scandals, ethical violations are likely to bring harsher punishments.
It seems obvious to me that you can't ethically write about something you didn't attend, unless you make it clear you didn't. I'd say covering sports would be a particular temptation in that way, since you really can watch it on television and get most of the important bits. But that's not always true, and you certainly can't get quotes from the players and coaches without being there. Van Vliet took care of that by lifting old quotes from other articles - another very bad no-no, even if he did attend the game, because quotes are about context as well as words (not that that fact stops a lot of journalists and pundits from taking quotes completely out of context, all the time, out of laziness or ill will or anything in between).
The fact that Van Vliet was there 34 years might make you think he should know better. But it could well be that Marcano's invocation of newsrooms past might catch Van Vliet too:
...(T)here have always been protestations that it's unfair to hold someone accountable today for what was acceptable yesterday.
I've heard that sentiment from the start of my career, at the Daily News in New York. In those days, there were bottles of Scotch in reporters' desk drawers, if not actually out on the desk. The place had all of the sophistication of a high-school locker room. What would have been considered bawdy banter in those days would get a newsroom employee fired today.
Eventually, standards got tougher. The bottles of Scotch disappeared. Most people adapted, but some decried the changes as the death knell of the spirit and camaraderie that kept newspapers lively. Some just couldn't let go, and they were left out in the cold.
Looks like Van Vliet is the one with the chill this time.
From a larger perspective, Marcano's column is interesting for the clear evidence that l'affaire de Jayson Blair au New York Times* casts a long shadow over journalism, one that won't go away quickly. And in this instance, that's a good thing.
It just seems appropriate to refer to Jayson Blair and the NY Times in French, for some reason. Heh.
Jordana might not like it, but I think her son is pretty much on target.
I really didn't need this economic assessment of the value of my in-process PhD degree:
The mistake that the PhD degree seekers often make is believing that by getting a PhD, they are getting objective economic value. They believe that after 4 years of college, 5 or more years spent pursuing a PhD, being published in journals, and writing and defending a thesis in front of scholars of their chosen field, they have something that is intrinsically valuable.
But as the Austrian school reveals, nothing is intrinsically valuable. Nothing has objective economic value. Job training, specialization, postgraduate degrees, certification, etc are only valuable if others value them enough to exchange wages for the labor of those who obtain them.
Thank you, Jonathan Wilde, that's exactly what I needed to hear! But there's more, this from the Guardian article Wilde discusses:
The estimate is that only 8% of graduates in this mainline subject will get tenured or tenure-track posts equivalent in status and earning power to those of the professors who taught them. The lucky ones among the rest will get something in second-rate colleges. Many will be stuck in dead end, treadmill, "adjunct teaching" positions - hired help. No security, no prospects, no encouragement to prosecute the research that earned them this wretched toehold in academia. Up to half will drop out of the academic rat-race altogether.
Okay, so there they're talking about English PhDs. But still! Ouch!
I have to say, though, that it all sounds quite reasonable to me. Or, as I said to my brother, "in the context he's discussing, it has a lot of utility", when you're talking strictly about obtaining a job like the ones your professor has.
But that's not everyone's goal.
You can't assess the value of something - be it a car or a degree - solely on the potential for monetary gain, nor can you assess the monetary value of something to one person based on what someone else thinks it is. Wilde uses a super burrito as his example of exchange, so I'll carry that out a little further. Maybe I buy the burrito not because I'm hungry, but because my friend owns the restaurant and I want to help him out; or I'm homesick and they're just like the ones my grandma used to make; or I intend to freeze it to eat when I am hungry.
Which gets you back to a degree. Some people get a PhD because they want to have the whole academic career, from soup to nuts, and yes, those people are in competition for a relatively fixed number of jobs in a market with increasing numbers of people trained for them. (The available positions vs the popularity of the degree varies wildly too, so you can't talk about PhDs as a completely generic state.) But there are other reasons. Some people get PhDs, shockingly enough, because they just want them. Usually they want to get some utility out of them, but they would get the degree even if they were fairly sure there would be no teaching job at the end, because they want the knowledge and the experience. Plus, in many fields there are commercial applications for the knowledge that would keep people out of academia on their own preference. And sometimes just the PhD designation itself has utility as a certification that a person has expert status.
There's not a lot, at least in the humanities, that you can't learn without going through a PhD program. Before I started mine, I talked to a woman who was finishing up hers in the same school I'm in now. She said, a PhD isn't about getting the knowledge, you can do that on your own. It's about jumping through hoops to show that you have it. And I've found that to be true in many ways, although there's great value in being around others on the same journey, exchanging ideas and smoothing theories against the rough stones of blunt questions from fellow students and professors.
In my own case, I re-evaluated my career goals before deciding to return to my PhD program after having left it for six years. I wanted to write about criminal justice issues, and teach on the college level. Having a PhD would, I thought, give me a leg up on legitimacy in my writing career, as well as telescoping the years required to get that expertise. And I would have a much better shot at teaching with a PhD - many schools won't even consider hiring you without it. Plus - and don't discount this in anyone's decision-making process - there's more than a little bit of ego involved in being able to say you have a PhD. And I'm not locked into the concept of a tenured position at a major research university - my focus is much more modest. I want to teach at a small teaching university or a community college (which have their own kind of student, who can be uniquely rewarding to teach). I want to write and be published. And I want to have enough time left over to spend with my family and hobbies. That means it's unlikely you'll see me appointed to any Congressional committees or lauded for publishing major breakthrough research. And that's okay. I think my goals will result in a lot of satisfaction for doing important things, important to me. And that's the real value of any educational pursuit.
I agree that getting a PhD isn't a fast ticket to a cushy tenure position, pontificating to students 9 months a year and taking summers off to Europe for "research", just like getting a law degree isn't a fast ticket to millionaire status. But in both cases, it's a good way to position yourself for that. And having the knowledge has its own rewards.
At least that's what I tell myself when I look at the next 18 months of study and research.
(Eight percent? That's harsh!)
Alan at Theosebes links an excellent column exploring just that question.
Mel Gibson's The Passion is involved too.
A man in New Zealand is building a cruise missile.
With materials he got off the Internet, mostly.
For under $5,000.
You think that'll be the new TLC reality show? "We're going to build modern technological weaponry with components from your home and local hardware store - and all for under $5,000."
This is pretty scary.
UPDATE: Corrected as per comments. Sorry, Silent Running folks!
A radio station in Los Angeles has a Sunday morning show that channels Jesus:
He's a very, very busy guy, but we've managed to get him into the KFI studios to answer your questions once a week. Christians and heathens alike are invited to listen and learn. Click the button below to send Jesus email.
The button is labeled "Holy Mail". Ha ha! Clever Monty Python allusion.
Arthur Silber sent me the link (as he did for the post below), wondering what I thought about this (here's his take). Well, I'm definitely into parody, and satire, and not paying a lot of attention to sacred cows when they're representing tradition that needs to be kept in perspective. But there really and truly are things that shouldn't be done, and this is one of them.
In my judgment, it's sacrilegious.
I wouldn't picket out in front of the station, or demand that it be taken off the air, or otherwise give it more attention than it deserves. And since I've not heard it, I can't say whether it is a complete mocking of Jesus or just using a clever approach to dealing with legitimate religious questions. I might even back off the " sacrilegious" if it uses the New Testament in a very straight forward way to answer questions (which is possible - it's obviously a conservative talk radio station). But even then, it's ill-advised and in poor taste. It's Collyforneyah, though, what would you expect?
With 12 million Americans tuning in daily, controversial syndicated radio-show host Laura Schlessinger â€” known to all as "Dr. Laura" â€” is arguably the best-known Orthodox Jew in the United States.
Rather, she was.
In a shocking if little-noticed revelation, Schlessinger â€” who very publicly converted to Judaism five years ago â€” opened "The Dr. Laura Schlessinger Program" on August 5 with the confession that she will no longer practice Judaism. Although Schlessinger said she still "considers" herself Jewish, "My identifying with this entity and my fulfilling the rituals, etc., of the entity â€” that has ended."
Arthur is surprised that he'd not heard of it anywhere else, and so am I, especially given the vociferous attacks on her in the past. I don't know how to evaluate the article's take on the situation, since I can't find other sources to triangulate, but it doesn't sound like she had the best reasons:
Schlessinger began her August 5 program by noting that, prior to each broadcast, she spends an hour reading faxes from fans and listeners. "By and large the faxes from Christians have been very loving, very supportive," she said. "From my own religion, I have either gotten nothing, which is 99% of it, or two of the nastiest letters I have gotten in a long time. I guess that's my point â€” I don't get much back. Not much warmth coming back."
Schlessinger even hinted at a possible turn to Christianity â€” a move that, radio insiders say, would elevate her career far beyond the 300 stations that currently syndicate her show. "I have envied all my Christian friends who really, universally, deeply feel loved by God," she said. "They use the name Jesus when they refer to God... that was a mystery, being connected to God."
...Of her conversion to Judaism, Schlessinger said, "I felt that I was putting out a tremendous amount toward that mission, that end, and not feeling return, not feeling connected, not feeling that inspired. Trust me, I've talked to rabbis, I've read, I've prayed, I've agonized and I came to this place anyway â€” which is not exactly back to the beginning, but more in that direction than not."
I used to listen to Dr. Laura a lot, before she was pulled from WABC 770 in New York. I liked a lot of her stances, disagreed with others, and sometimes cringed at her frontal assault method of confronting people. From what I saw, her basic message of doing the right thing is not religion-specific - that is to say, the tenets behind her commentary are generally common to at least Christianity and Judaism, and often to other major religions as well. I don't think her validity as a moral commentator is particularly damaged (although Arthur, an atheist, thinks it shows a shallowness that is damaging). I know that as a Christian, I had no difficulty in finding a lot of good in what she had to say, and the fact that her faith was in Judaism really was immaterial in my decision about whether to listen.
Would that change now? I don't know, depends on how her epiphany affects her commentary. Religious struggle is common, and - again - as a Christian naturally I disagree with some major tenets of the Jewish faith, so I can't fault her for questioning it herself. However, it seems from this article (and again, I didn't hear the original show, or see other articles) that her reasoning had more to do with the Jewish community than Jewish doctrine. This is troublesome, because decisions on how to approach and serve God should have to do with your study and decisions about how he wants you to reach him, not about whether others who've found the same way are treating you like you think you ought to be treated. Her website doesn't give any additional insight.
Dr. Laura hasn't violated her own principles as expressed on her show, as far as I can tell, so this rocky theological water she's going through will likely be an issue of concern mostly to fellow conservative Jews who had come to see her as something of an icon or ambassador for Jewish religious values. I see it as a family issue (as in, religious groups are families), not one of general credibility or failure to hold to her own core values. But I do find it sad that she's struggling, and that she's given up on the practice of religion, even if she's not given up religious principles. Because the rituals and practice of religion are necessary to reach your goal, and having the right ideas without taking them that extra step is getting it only half right.
Themed holidays are not new, and neither are writer's workshops. But apparently there's a new trend to combine writer's workshops with luxurious spa vacations. Hey, it's cool if you can spend the $$!!
Emily Hanlon, a creativity coach based in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., who leads an all-women's writers retreat in Tuscany, which will take place next month and costs $3,650 for the week, said she uses rituals and guided meditations to help participants "access their inner writer."
In one exercise, she arranges students in a circle and has them pass around a stone. Each student tells a story inspired by the rock. Graduates of her program refer to themselves as members of the Clan of the Turtle Weavers, a reference to one of Ms. Hanlon's favorite maxims: "The creative process is like a turtle," she said. "It's slow, and you have to stick your neck out."
My big question is: I wonder how many people who go on vacations like this ever actually publish? Not that it's a sign of lack of seriousness, but... perhaps a shifted focus. Not that I've had fiction published on dead tree stock either.
And this is the best:
As part of a planned "sober academic study" of D. H. Lawrence, the British author Geoff Dyer skipped from one picturesque setting to another, not writing in any of them. He turned the experience into the critically acclaimed "Out of Sheer Rage," a book about his failed effort to write a book about D. H. Lawrence.
There you go. Maybe my ticket to being published is to write about my long struggle to be published.
Oh, wait. I've not struggled yet. I'll have to get right on it. Where's that literature on Bali Bali?
I didn't post anything on August 24, and that empty space on my blogcalendar is starting to seriously annoy me. I see it and fume, knowing full well that on that day I did NOT want to post, and the me on Aug. 24 wouldn't have given a dry piece of moldy cheese to save the me of today (Aug. 28) from this frustration. So I'm posting this entry and backdating to August 24, which makes the today me happy, but writing this goofy little fume-y idiocy so the Aug. 24 me won't be betrayed by others thinking I posted then when, really, I didn't.
Yes, I'm precisely this nutty. You got a problem?
Kevin Tuma is awesome, isn't he?
That's it for me today! Have a great Saturday.
I just came across this and had to post it, even though it's almost a year old:
VANCOUVER - A new ad campaign by an animal rights group compares the murder of women on a B.C. pig farm to the treatment of animals killed for food.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) says the full-page ad is a legitimate campaign, but the families of the murdered women say it's disgusting.
The Vancouver Province was to have run the ad Wednesday, but decided to pull it.
The ad featured a series of headlines describing the B.C. murder victims, who were drugged and slaughtered, their heads sawed off and their body parts refrigerated.
It doesn't refer specifically to accused killer Robert Pickton, but the allusions to the case are clear, referring to unconfirmed reports of body parts being found on Pickton's pig farm.
PETA says the comparison is justified.
"The grotesque tragedy of these poor women is similar to what happens to chickens, pigs and other animals every day," said Bruce Friedrich of PETA.
PETA issued a news release saying, "People who are appalled by Pickton's alleged acts think nothing of sitting down to a dinner featuring the cut-up bits of a tormented animal's body."
The ad ends with the words "If this leaves a bad taste in your mouth – become a vegetarian."
Jack Cummer, the grandfather of Andrea Joesbury, one of the women Pickton is accused of killing, says he's horrified by the ad.
"That is the most disgusting thing I've heard in my whole life," he said.
The families of the victims say PETA is exploiting the tragedy to further its cause.
"It's unethical in and of itself. It angers me, but it also saddens me," said Ernie Cray, whose sister Dawn has been missing for two years.
This of course predates their using the Holocaust in a similar way:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Virginia-based nonprofit that cultivates a reputation for shocking the public, is touring the West with a set of banners that compares the conditions on animal farms with those in concentration camps during the Holocaust.
The series of 6-by-10-foot signs was erected in Balboa Park for two hours yesterday – and quickly prompted an outcry from leaders in the Jewish community.
"Their lack of compassion and sensitivity is stunning," Morris S. Casuto, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said yesterday. "If the PETA individuals hope to gain sympathy for their cause, they've made a serious error in judgment."
You know, it's enough to make me want to take busloads of people to the PETA headquarters, and pay for all of them to eat a KFC original recipe meal (the only one really tasty) and dump the chicken bones on PETA's front lawn. I'd love to live nearby so I could marshall groups to sit on the public thoroughfare in front of their offices every day and eat meat. In winter we'd wear fur. All of us would wear leather. On holidays, we'd have barbeques and distribute free chicken sandwiches and burgers to everyone passing the PETA headquarters. If I had the money, I'd pay people to go to PETA meetings and rallies and eat meat while listening to their lectures. I'd have them stand in rows outside the PETA meetings and wave raw meat at the PETA people as they entered and left. I'd put a billboard across the way from their headquarters with a huge photo of a steak, saying, "Hey, PETA, what's your beef?"
If I had the address for the president of PETA, I'd get him (her?) on every list for junk mail involving meat. I'd send him Omaha steaks for Christmas, and a lobstergram on his birthday. I'd make sure that everywhere PETA went, they'd find hordes of meat eaters chomping their favorite tasty animal. I'd put up big signs saying, "PETA: Tinfoil logic, terrorist morality".
I need to win the lottery. I'd have a big time.
(And they're continuing with their Holocaust comparisons. Here's the place to track it.)
Scrappleface has the exactly right solution to the 10 Commandments monument dispute in Alabama.
And that's no joke.
A Wisconsin attorney is saying 14 year olds have the right to choose to have sex with other minors:
When an Oak Creek woman found her 14-year-old daughter nude in the woman's bed with a 14-year-old boy, the teens didn't strike her as being overly concerned...
Their case takes a course through the intersection of morals and law, a bustling crossroads at a time when sexuality has become a greater focus of youth culture. While authorities say their prosecution is meant to help, not punish, the teens, a lawyer for one of them contends 14-year-olds have a right to privacy that allows them to consent to sex with each other, and has challenged the constitutionality of the law...
Don Linke, the boy's attorney, argues that children's privacy rights include the right to make "important decisions."
"One of those types of decisions is whether to engage in sexual relations," says Linke, who will argue his position today at Milwaukee County Children's Court. If Circuit Judge Tom Donegan rules against Linke, the case could go to trial.
From reading the article, I think it's obvious that the point behind Linke's defense is an effort to protect the boy involved from being convicted of a felony offense. Both teens have a history of delinquent behavior, and come from troubled homes. And from what the prosecution says, they're pursuing the charges to an unusual degree because the teens need help:
"The reason I charged this case was because of their attitude," [Assistant District Attorney Lori] Kornblum says. "I believe they had to be brought before an authority."
Not to punish the children, she said, but to help them through various court-ordered services.
So raising the privacy rights issue for teens is not a legitimate concern about rights on the part of the defense attorney, but rather a volley in the ongoing prosecution-defense battle in this case. The problem is that for the sake of gaining a point, the defense may erode a major protection for teens. I'm not naive enough to think that sex between teens, even preteens, isn't unusual in some areas, although I wish it were vanishing rare. But the laws about sex under 16 create an oasis of protection in a world that is sexualized beyond all reason, a protection that has already been significantly eroded to advance the political agendas of adults. How long before the argument is made that if a 14 year old can have an abortion without telling her parents, why can't she have sex without the permission of either her parents or the state? As it stands, it has the same logic as saying an 18 year old can vote for president and die for her country, but can't drink until she's 21. Logic says, set an age of adulthood and stick to it. And logic says, if you can make the decision to have an abortion without guidance, you can make the decision to have sex without it too.
Maybe since one illogical pattern is sustained, this challenge to the logic of teen privacy rights won't open the door wider to children having sex with children with the same attitude as earlier generations had about going skating together, or going to a concert - fun, but nothing that would make you spend much time wondering about the morality or consequences of it.
[Link via I Am Always Right, soon to be Rosen Rants :D ]
UPDATE: Uhoh, I was unclear - Spoons couldn't tell which side I was on. So I'll be more direct.
Our society is sexualized to a bizarre extent, to where sex is a slick and voluptuous overlay for virtually everything. Girls too young to have breasts wear halter tops and lipstick; middle school children have oral sex parties. Sleeping with multiple partners is a rite of passage into adulthood and beyond, virginity or even monogamy are freakish anomalies for the singles crowd. A "youthful first marriage" seems to also have become a rite of passage for many, and the concepts of fidelity and commitment flow in and out of vogue. And it seems more acceptable to have sex in a church than to pray on the public square.
One of the things that makes this work is the wide availability of and social support for abortion. I'm not saying that having an abortion makes you a proponent of unrelieved bacchanals. But the ability to wash away undesired consequences of sex is a necessary condition for its unfettered practice, which in turn is seen as a right women have been denied for millenia and one they insist on now. Those who fear that any limitations on abortion will threaten its general legality have pushed for and gotten the ability to protect it at any cost, including undermining the right of a parent to raise his child the way he sees fit. As a result, a school can be sued for giving an aspirin to a child without parental permission, yet that same child can get an abortion with her parent never being the wiser.
Against this backdrop we have the issue of consensual sex between minors. Ostensibly the reason for the law is that young people don't have the emotional maturity to make decisions about something as important and with such potential consequences (pregnancy, emotional damage, disease) as sex can have. Generally we think of these laws as protecting a minor from the sexual predations of someone older, and that doesn't mean that the sex wasn't consensual - that's actually the genesis of the laws on statutory rape, which say that while a minor may be agreeable to having sex, he or she doesn't have the standing to agree to it. Therefore, the person having sex with her or him is committing rape. (That's also the genesis of the laws allowing a parent to sign for his child to marry under the age of consent - in essence, he's giving his legal permission for her to have sex, and to enter into a legal contract.)
The attorney in Wisconsin is tackling this on the basis of privacy rights, which is also the area of law where the right for a minor to have an abortion without parental notification is located. I think the right to a minor abortion is more about adults with an agenda to protect abortion generally than for any real concern about the youngsters involved (although I don't doubt that some young people are in material danger if their pregnancy is found out, there are other avenues that could deal with that). The same logic that would say a 14 year old has a right to an abortion without parental consent would say that the same 14 year old has a right to consent to sex, especially with someone of the same age, without parental consent. I don't see a way around that, unless you use the logic that allows an 18 year old to vote and die a soldier but won't let him drink beer.
I'm against it. I'm against abortion without parental consent for a 14 year old. I'm against that 14 year old having sex with anyone, even if it's just oral sex. I'm also against this attorney triggering a legal review of a tenuous protection for the sake of shielding a teenager from unusually harsh prosecution by the state. And finally, I'm against the prosecutor using this route to get her way.
(I'm also against someone dying for his country who can't even drink a beer.* But I already did that post.)
* Actually, I think this world would be a better place if we didn't have alcoholic beverages at all. I'm not for the lowering of the drinking age. I'm just saying, the logic is all wrong.
Jeff Jarvis informs us that Howard Stern will not be able to interview Arnold Schwarzenegger on his show, and he has a lot to say about it:
Thanks to the innane FCC equal-time rule -- and to his company's spineless lawyers and bosses -- Howard Stern was forced to cancel an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger this morning.
This was going to be Schwarzenegger's first major interview and it would have been informative. Stern is a great interviewer and he'd be asking the questions the voters would want asked. On the weekend gab shows, they tried to make fun of Schwarzenegger's media choice but George Stephanopoulos got it right: He said Stern's is the No. 1 show in California and Schwarzenegger is going where the voters are.
But the voters won't get to hear what Schwarzenegger has to say under questioning because of the equal time rule. Stern's dimwitted station manager and wimpy lawyers said that if he talked to Arnold, he'd have to talk to all 130 candidates. Stern begged them to fight and get an FCC exemption but they didn't.
This is wrong on so many levels. Stern's show is facing this fight because he's not considered news ... and also because the FCC has a hard-on for him. The FCC -- the government -- should not be in a position to determine what is news and what isn't and what we can and cannot hear.
This is wrong, I think. Stern isn't my idea of a show to listen to, but I'd probably listen to his interview with Ahnald. And sometimes the most revealing information comes from interviews with people who can't lose a serious news position asking tough direct questions because, well, they didn't have one to begin with. That's not to say that Stern isn't good at what he does; it's actually saying that he can be more honest in his approach because he's not hampered by the pseudo objectivity in the Mainstream Media world.
Jarvis says, "you can email FCC Chairman Michael Powell. Tell him you want the FCC to give Howard Stern an exemption from the equal time rule so Stern can interview Scharwzenegger." Sounds like a plan to me.
He's also got some other suggestions, so check those out too.
And since we're talking about Stern, I have to tell you this, because it just made me laugh and laugh. You know what's coming. During the blackout last Thursday, one of the news anchors was interviewing "on the street witnesses" via telephone, so all we could see was the anchor looking serious and holding onto his ear bud as if the voices were dim and faint (although you know they were loud and clear, they were being broadcast too). He was asking questions of some guy who's name I didn't catch, and it sounded like a typical interview until the guy said something about "and Howard Stern's balls are under your chin". Quite obscene. To his credit, the anchor just sort of smiled wryly, shook his head and said, 'Obviously we need to screen our callers a little better." And I thought, score one for the Stern trolls.
This is the funniest thing I've seen in a while.
Unless you're Mike. Or Joseph or Lisa.
(requires PowerPoint or a download)
The closest I can come to that is last Thanksgiving, when friends were in town for the holiday. I spent quite a bit of time running down a nice restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner that didn't charge the price of an economy car for the meal. I found one that promised a truly excellent meal (with all kinds of pointers to their accomplished lead chef) and a live jazz band (my friends love jazz). I was very happy.
Then we got to the restaurant.
The band didn't show up. The meal tasted like the turkey was from Kroger's deli and the corn was from Del Monte. The stuffing was Stove Top. I was embarrassed.
And we still had to pay $30 a head.
TheYetiman's got some mad coding skillz.
Check out his new game.
It's nothing I would have thought of.
Bryan Preston has posted a photo of what the blackout looked like from space, in the context of the US as a whole.
In some odd way, that photo is scarier to me than the blackout itself was. I guess because you can see the true impact, and think about the implications if it happened on a larger scale, or by other means.
UPDATE: Well, it's a fake. Sigh. Confirmed by Bryan in comments. Oh, well, it is a great image. But like so many, it's been altered. So! But the implications if it did happen for real on a large scale are still worth considering.
I've recently been looking over the American Red Cross recommendations for an emergency survival kit. My favorite: Comfort food. Why couldn't they just list "chocolate"?
I've not said anything before about the bus bombing in Israel that killed 20 people on Wednesday, because it's happened so many times that it feels like a blow on a bruise hit so often that you've ceased to react. You take the hit. But you never forget who hit you. (And I feel presumptuous even saying that much, because the hit for me is in my sympathetic heart and mind; no one I know has died, and my family are not automatic targets because of who they are.)
My thoughts on the Israel/Palestinian situation are complicated. I do have sympathy for the Palestinians who simply want their own country and are being yanked around by their leadership and their clerics and their Arab "brothers" for the purpose of acheiving a larger goal: ending Israel. But that sympathy is waning, because it seems there aren't any Palestinians - at least none I've heard of - who would truly be satisfied with a country of their own that lives in harmony with Israel. Some may say the words, but no statement of desire for peace can be taken with seriousness unless it is preceded by, "Suicide bombings are wrong, and all those who incite or support the practice should be executed or imprisoned. No mitigation." Absent that declaration, there's no common ground for discussion.
As far as the land itself goes, the Jews have as much right to it as the Palestinians, if not more. What criteria do you use to judge? If possession is the main point, then Israel wins because they've got the land. If historical possession is the point, then Israel wins because it's their ancestral home. The fact that in between times a country called Palestine was built there gets no support from either the possession or historical arguments. And if we're going to set today's boundaries based on historical possession, how many populations in the world are going to have to pack up and move? Most of them - including many of the Arab ones. And at what point do you fix the boundaries and the populations? The history of humankind is riddled with migrations, wars, conquerings and expansions. In the process, populations have intermingled, expanded, moved and moved again.
In the final analysis, the answer is: the Palestinians want it because some of them had it in the lifetime of some still living. And the Arab world wants them to have it because they hate the Jews. Not because the Arab world loves the Palestinians - that's patently untrue, as evidenced by the refusal to allow settlement of Palestinians in other countries. It's an old animosity between races and religions, played out in modern times with Israel as the point of conflict in a much larger battle.
I'm not saying either that the situation is always fair to the Palestinians. I think some form of compensation for ancestral land is appropriate. I think some type of foreign aid to get a Palestinian country up and running - if it could live in peace - would be wholly reasonable. And I would say it's likely that there's a good deal of hatred for at least segments of Palestinian society on the part of Jews, that sometimes gets played out through abusive behavior toward Palestinians. Hurting someone just for the pleasure of seeing his pain is never right, no matter how just your overall cause.
I don't know how to fix this, but I know what's happening now is not the way. There is nothing - nothing - that justifies what suicide bombers are doing to Israel. The kind of virulent hatred that doesn't just encourage mass killing of innocents but lauds it, that dances on the graves of babies, is something that sinks so deep in the soul that I don't know if it can be excised. Yes, Israel responds to it by killing Palestinians, but there is a tremendous moral difference between initiating and responding to suicide attacks. The answers to these questions make that clear: If there were no more Palestinian suicide bombings or attacks on Israel, would there be any more Israeli attacks on Palestinians? If there were no more Israel bombings or killing of Palestinians, would there be more suicide bombings?
You know the answer to both of those.
This is my visceral reaction to these suicide bombings, and the culture that breds them: In the Old Testament, on several occasions, God ordered the children of Israel to kill entire populations. In one memorable case, God ordered Saul to kill all the Amalekites, including their animals, as punishment for their attack on the Israelites as they made their way from Egypt. It was because Saul preserved their king, Agag, and the best animals, disobeying God, that the line of kings left Saul's family line. I've often wondered why God ordered that - it had to involve killing not just fighting men and women, but babies, children, teenagers, old women on their death beds, old men fit only for rocking in their chairs at the city gate. But then I look at the Palestinians and I begin to understand. A hatred and viciousness can last so long, sink so deep, permeate an entire culture so thoroughly, that as long as one person of that group remains the hate remains, and is potent. The only way to end the hate is to end the culture completely.
Don't misunderstand my point - I'm not in any way advocating genocide, or saying that all Palestinians deserve to die. I'm saying that their hate for Israel and Jews has become so tied to their culture and concept of themselves that it almost defines them, and to end that hate would almost require the end of Palestinians. In the face of that reality, the solution to the Israel/Palestinian conflict seems remote. But I think that reality needs to be accepted, and the Pollyanna proposals of peace scrapped. Build the wall. Separate the societies. Make it clear in flat words that there will be no more concessions. And maybe in a few generations, if the acid of hate isn't continually fed by the hate-Jews crowd, some of the hatred may begin to fade as Palestinians find better things to do with their lives.
The foreign minister wanted to say that a large proportion of Saudi society rejects social, political and economical changes, and the reason lies in an upbringing based on inherited traditions that stand in the way of change, especially regarding Saudi women.
When King Faisal decided to allow education for girls many religious leaders objected that education for women was sinful. But because King Faisal believed that women had a right to public participation, introduced girlsâ€™ education, though he initially made it optional. In other words, families that wanted their daughters to learn would be allowed to send them to school and those who did not would not be obliged to do so. Because of this, he was able to contain the problem. That was the beginning of progress for Saudi women.
Now that Crown Prince Abdullah has established the first National Center for Dialogue, a cornerstone for the political reforms that Saudi intellectuals have petitioned for, many Saudi women including myself are asking: Will women have a place in this forum or will all the decisions be taken as usual by men? There are certainly many qualified and educated Saudi women who are capable of expressing the concerns of women in an environment that severely restricts them.
It's an interesting column, also touching on fears in Saudi society of the encroachment of Western culture. This was a bit startling to me:
Arab societies must start make changes to their social structures, if only so as not to give the West a pretext to come in and blow up the roof over our heads on the grounds that our houses are unfit for human habitation.
My first response was, "Oh, please!" My second response was, "Well, yeah, now that you mention it..." But the reason for the "Well, yeah" has less to do with wanting to change Arab society on general principle and more to do with this:
...The curriculum teaches that anything that comes from the West must be rejected, as if our society were so fragile that it might disintegrate if it comes into contact with anything else.
But as a result we fail to prepare future generations for the social changes that are a natural result of social development without necessarily conflicting with moral principles. The upshot has been that we now have terrorists and extremists among us who resort to violence to express their demands. This means that nothing short of a revolution in the school curriculum is needed...
That's a big 10-4, Zainab! The West (which really means "The United States") will cloud up and rain all over you if the hotbeds of anti-West sentiment continue to be nurtured and allowed to fester by Saudi Arabia.
But the basic point of her column is encouraging - increasing the role of women in Saudi society will serve the dual purpose of improving the lot of women and breaking the hold of the more extreme elements that are more likely to foster terrorism. And I don't think many, if any, Americans have any interest in changing Saudi Arabia's ways on general principle. I don't like a lot of their attitudes, especially toward women, but I don't think it's my business for the most part. But the second it comes outside their borders and harms an American, yeah, it's my business.
Speaking to the religious angle, it'll be tough to change the men who have decided that women are property and theirs to use as they wish. Men like to run things, and be in control*. When tradition and their perception of their religion gives them the right to control women, they will, and will resist vehemently any changes. There is a similar tradition in Christian history, which was more about societal traditions getting tangled with doctrine than about any Scripture setting women as second class citizens*. How emerging from that tradition changed society is for another post. I've not read the Koran, so I can't say what doctrinal pegs Muslims hang their control-women beliefs on. But accepting as equal someone you have ruled all your life, and have seen yourself superior to, is not easy and not something that happens societally in one generation (see: Slavery. Caste system. Aristocracy.)
So it's good to see this kind of commentary, from a woman, published in a prominent Arab newspaper. It's a move in the right direction, and we'll see if the Dialogue does include women. It's to their benefit - and indirectly to ours - if it does.
* I'm not saying it's a bad thing for men to want to run things and be in control. I think it's a strong trait inborn in most men, and is stronger on average than the same trait in women. By control I mean external control, not control of self or one's own life. And to be honest, it's a trait I admire in men who apply it properly. But men who only want to throw their weight around and be the boss without consideration for others... those men I despise.
** Not to get into a big doctrinal discussion here, but just to let you know where I'm coming from. In summary, I believe that women and men are equal in God's eyes, and have equal responsibilities in religious and secular life. However, I also believe that God set up specific relationships in formal church worship and in marriage, where he places different responsibilities on men and women. I don't believe women can be formal leaders in church affairs. And I do believe that in a marriage, while the couple are partners the man does lead the household. How I think that happens would require an exposition I don't have time to do, but suffice it to say that I'm a very independent sort but it's not an arrangement I find unreasonable.
That's germane to this discussion because it's probable that the Koran does have situations where men and women have different roles, which means efforts to give women a fuller role in society and greater rights will need to take that into account. It's not just a matter of sending Gloria Steinem over there to get it done. Because I am myself a woman believing God has a role for me that isn't always the same as a man's role, I can understand the delicacy of the task before Saudi women.
Sometimes life just really bites, and it's handy to have someone to dislike intensely or disdain, even briefly, so that you can displace those difficult feelings. Because I'm just that way, I'm willing to share two facts with you that will allow you to target me with your animosity.
1) I've not received any spam sent because of the latest worm.
2) I've never seen the original or the sequel of The Matrix.
Oooo... I can see your disdain and anger simmering already. That's okay. I can take it.
Need more? Okay.
I don't like Robert Heinlein. I thought Stranger in a Strange Land was boring and self-absorbed, and locked in the 1960s. And I don't care that it was ahead of its time.
Still more? Wow, you're really needy tonight. Oookkayyy. But don't blame me if you never like me again.
Stephen King's The Stand was not one of his best efforts, and the original edited version was about twice as long as it should have been. The unedited version is an offense to mankind.
John Denver and Barry Manilow were both really good.
Sometimes wearing polyester is a good thing.
More?? Well, okay, but this is it. I've no desire to trigger a stalking incident.
A Final Fact:
I've never seen Katherine Hepburn, Sharon Stone, Spencer Tracy, Grace Kelly, Meryl Streep, James Dean or Vivian Leigh in a movie.
Now I'm going to go put on my kevlar body suit with the flame-retardant sheath.
UPDATE: Did I mention I haven't done laundry in over three years?
There's some benefit to making sure it's your name on the doctor's list:
A Brazilian who went to a surgery complaining of earache is suing doctors after they performed a vasectomy on him instead.
Valdemar Lopes de Moraes, 39, went to his local surgery in Montes Claros and told the receptionist he had been feeling pain in the ear for days.
On the same day there was a vasectomy scheduled for a man called Aldemar Rodrigues, 29 and when the receptionist called "Aldemar", Valdemar thought he was being called and went in.
Oopsy! They're going to fix it though, but Moraes is still annoyed that he has an earache.
This guy... well, I don't feel so much compassion for him:
A New Zealand email spammer has shut his business after receiving abuse following the posting of his personal details on the web.
Shane Atkinson said on a good day he and his associates would send out 100 million messages.
But his identity as the man behind the spam promoting penis enlargement pills, was revealed by the New Zealand Herald last week.
He said since the article was published anti-spam activists had been "having a field day". He had received more than 20 phone calls, five of them obscene.
His street address and phone numbers were "plastered all over the web", he had been subscribed to a gay-dating site and his email address had been added to "tons of email lists".
Of course, without this spammer we might have missed out on the first participant observation scientific research conducted on a product purchased through spam and reported in detail on the Internet. Let's hope if this scientific New Yorker proves the efficacy of his chosen product, some spammers somewhere will make sure males worldwide have access to this important life changing pill.
I found this article and knew that Mike would do it more justice than I would. And of course he did. I have to say, though, that she reminds me forcibly of several girls I went to high school with, one of whom slapped me in the face in the cafeteria because someone reported to her that I had made a comment in homeroom about how tight her jeans were.
Well, they did look like she had to put them on wet. But I promise I just whispered it to my best friend. I don't know who told...
(Yes, I was a teenager too, for a few years, with the same flashes of pettiness and snide remarks that have always and will always plague teens.)
Yesterday I posted about the tragic death of Mazen Dana, a Palestinian journalist working in Iraq for Reuters. I closed with this:
I'm particularly interested in the extent Dana's heritage and coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will be tied to his death at the hands of the US, a close Israel ally.
Well, that didn't precisely happen, but it didn't take long for Dana's family, and The Palestinian Chronicle, to accuse the US of killing Dana deliberately, and intimating he'd been a thorn for a while:
The brother of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana said he was deliberately murdered for discovering mass graves of U.S. troops killed in Iraqi resistance attacks.
"The U.S. troops killed my brother in cold blood," Nazmi Dana told IslamOnline.net in exclusive statements...
...Mazen's wife, Umm Hamza, did not rule out that the U.S. troops targeted her husband personally, noting they had agreed to give him a permit to film Abu Gharib prison and then he was directly shot dead by two U.S. tanks.
Resolved as she was, Umm Hamza said the death of her husband came as a bombshell, especially that she expected him to be killed while covering the developments in Palestine for his bravery and rare heroism...
Mazen’s camera was the Israeli settlers' archenemy, given that he exposed to the entire world their terrorism against the Palestinians and their wildcat outposts sprawling in four Al-Khalil posts.
His death cast a pall of sadness over the Palestinian territories and reporters, who mourned him as "a matchless colleague."
The theory about mass graves of US soldiers is really bizarre, and highlights the fact that these Palestinians, at least, have no concept of how the US works. There is no way that masses of US soldiers could be dying, and the US government be successful in hiding it. But of course there are some in the hate-America-first, hate-Bush-the-most crowd trying hard to believe it - and Dodd at Ipse Dixit busts them hard for it, both morally and logically, with a particular focus on the lies against American military personnel.
The US is always accused of lying, of creating elaborate ruses to hide the "truth" of what's going on. Yet when someone suggests to those believing the accusations that maybe, JUST maybe, the ones making the accusations have more reason to spout lies than the US govt, and less accountability in doing so, that becomes further evidence that the anti-US stories are true. These people are truly the tinfoil crowd.
I'm not one to assume the government or military almost always gets it right, and when it gets it wrong there's no self-interest or negligence involved. I know better from personal experience and observation. But as Dodd says, you have to impugn nearly every American, and really all military personnel, to believe these things. And I also know, from personal experience, observation and research, that the majority of both are good and decent (even if, in the case of liberals, wrong headed).
I wonder if this sign would work here?
I've been in a lot of places that could use it - but rarely more than once.
Yesterday my parents went to the Newport Aquarium with my brother and his family. Here's the photo album:
As you can see, my mom clocks in as the shortest adult. To get a sense for how tall I am, when we hug she fits neatly under my chin. That's fine now, but was fairly amusing when I was 12. That's when she took me to the doctor, where I had to get a shot, and I was terrified. I wrapped myself around her and begged not to get the shot - and no one could see her from the other side. Not quite what Shaq's mom puts up with, though. Anyway. As you can tell, it's quite a handsome family and I'm proud of them.
My sister's family is handsome too, but just not on this trip.
And here's one of the cutest photos I've seen in a while:
Not much to say other than, "Awwww!!" Just precious.
Kansans have flipped out over new science alleging that Kansas, as some have suggested, is not as flat as a pancake.
So concluded some fancy laboratory comparisons between Kansas and a well-cooked sample from the International House of Pancakes. The research was done by a Southwest Texas State University geographer and his colleagues...
Here's how they did it: First, they bought a pancake from the pancake specialty restaurant, then made a topographical map of it using a fancy laser microscope. They compared that information to the same kind of a topographical image of Kansas.
That's what led them to conclude that, scientifically, Kansas is mighty flat.
"I think they're dead wrong," said Monte Engelkemier, a bike mechanic and salesman at Wheeler's Cycle and Fitness in Shawnee. "I'd say they've never biked across Kansas."
Pretty funny. Poor a little Vermont maple syrup over Kansas, and you've got breakfast!
I've updated my highlighted links on the sidebar, so take a few minutes to check them out.
Finally, this week's Site of the Week is All Agitprop. All the Time. by Paul JanĂ©, who lives in Montreal. I told him in an email this morning that he's making me reconsider my cherished preconceptions, none of them good, about Montreal. Hate when that happens.
Remember the article on Dodd Harris of Ipse Dixit that was in the Louisville Courier-Journal? Of course you do, it quoted me about how wonderful he is. Well, the article was in USA Today, well, today (although what I said about Dodd isn't there - just the quote about bloggers piling on people who make mistakes). How cool is that?
So far I've been quoted in the LA Times, the Washington Post, the Louisville Courier-Journal and now USA Today, as a result of my blog. Hmmm... how do I get into the NY Times? Find some big story? Ride the wave of a new trend?
Eh. I'll just make up something.
Right now on The History Channel, there's a program on about a serial killer who targeted gay men in Indianapolis in the early 1990s. Apparently desperate to make the point that people in that part of the country weren't concerned about the deaths of gay men because they were gay, the show says that Indianapolis is proud to be "in the middle of the Bible Belt".
Excuse me? What, did this country suddenly decide to move its belt up under its armpits?
As far as I know, the Bible Belt pretty much includes the Southern states, which typically have more fundamentalist and charismatic religious groups than the North, Midwest and West. If I had to draw it, it'd start somewhere off the coast of North Carolina, and encompass a swath from southern Kentucky to northern Florida, out to the mesquite and tumbleweeds of west Texas. It would not include the Midwest (all those cool Lutherans! No open avowals of ... well, anything, there). Indiana is firmly in the Midwest. Them's Yankees.
If you need more proof, here's an article that identifies it as the South (although it takes it all the way to California, which is so wrong for so many reasons).
It's little comments like that, basically throwaways in the context of the whole program, that reveal the depth of the biases of the people involved. They really do see the middle of the country as this monolithic entity filled with tight-lipped illiterate and hateful people, except for the few who happen to have coastal sensibilities or alternative lifestyles. The comment about the Bible Belt was clearly meant to be derogatory, indicative of religious bigotry and callousness toward the pain of others because they're different. Yes, there are people who claim religion as the reason for their hatemongering, but then there are people who claim love for animals as good enough reason to kill the animals called Man. Doesn't mean that many staunchly religious people are callous bigots, just as all those concerned about aiding the plight of mistreated animals don't see killing humans as a reasonable means to accomplish it.
I get really really tired of this. I can't think of a single person I know, and I know a lot of very religious people, who would condone the murder of a gay man (or lesbian), or think it was in any way less important to investigate and prosecute than the death of any other innocent human. Yes, a lot of gay communities operate as something of an underground in more conservative cities, especially the parts of it living a more promiscuous lifestyle. Yes, Indianapolis is likely among those more conservative cities. And yes, people who are outside the mainstream for whatever reason aren't missed as quickly as those with tighter community ties, when they go missing. But that's no excuse for vilifying an entire region and an entire group of people, just to make a throwaway point on a show on The History Channel.
FYI, the show is History's Mysteries, and the episode is "Perfect Crimes?: Baumeister Killings/Gardner Museum Heist". Here's the part of the blurb dealing with the killings mentioned above:
In the early 1990s, young men in Indianapolis began disappearing. No one paid much attention until private investigator Virgil Vandagriff claimed that a serial killer stalked the streets. Eventually the investigation led to Herb Baumeister's estate, where police found thousands of bones buried in the backyard. With arrest imminent, Baumeister took his life.
As an additional note - my comments on the Bible Belt and where it's located should not be construed as my saying that those in the Bible Belt have a more heart-felt religion than those in other parts of the country. I'm not saying that at all.
Looks like Newark International, LaGuardia and JFK airports top the list in a three-way tie for worst in the country. Hah. No surprise there. I've not flown out of JFK, but taken other people there for their flights, so I know that it is "an almost-constant traffic jam". Newark is the one I've flown out of most, as well as taken other people to, so I can agree that it's "an enormous construction site, a dreadful, disorganized mess of a terminal". And I've flown once out of LaGuardia as well as, again, delivered others to their doom there, but "dark terminals, predictable delays and reports of lax security" aren't what I'd pick out as most awful there. It's just... confusing. I've driven there as well as taken a bus, and it's a nightmare to find where you need to be. It's like that house in California where the owner kept adding rooms and stairs and doors going nowhere for her entire life because she was afraid she'd die if she stopped building. Me, I was afraid I'd die before I found my gate, and then on the return trip, before I found which bus to take back to Manhattan.
I flew out of LaGuardia in a misguided attempt to save about $50 or so in airfare. So instead of driving to Newark Airport, a familiar and fairly short if annoying jaunt for me, I took the subway into Manhattan, walked for blocks to Penn Station, took a little bus to Grand Central, caught a bigger bus to LaGuardia, then manuevered my way through the honeycomb halls, all hauling around more luggage than Zsa Zsa Gabor would need for a week in the country. Then when I returned, I got to do it all in reverse and in the rain. Happy happy, joy joy.
I also took the public transportation route to Newark Internat'l once, from work, because I didn't want to pay $40 for a cab or $40 to park my car there while I was gone. This time, I got to haul that Zsa Zsa luggage down an escalator, through a narrow gate and down a long stairway - and that was just to get on the PATH. I took it to Newark Penn Station (not the same one in the previous paragraph), where I caught the train to the airport. Of course they advertise the convenience and joy of public transportation, but nobody told the engineers who designed the train station - I got to nearly sprain my back yanking my mongo suitcase over the 8" gap between platform and train steps, a gap opening over a yawning drop to the earth below. I managed to get to a seat, threading through wan passengers huddling with their own luggage in the little antiroom at the top of the steps. Wait a minute - did I say that train went to Newark Internat'l? I'm sorry... wroonngggg! It went to the monorail station at Newark Internat'l - there I got to do the train thing in reverse, figure out where to catch the monorail, push me and the Zsa Zsa luggage into a crowded standing-room-only monorail car, and finish the last leg to the airport. And there try to find where to check in, where my gate was...
You get the picture.
I can say, however, that I've never felt tempted to do this:
...a passenger grew so irritated with a gate agent after waiting in a long line that he body-slammed him to the ground, breaking the airline employee's neck. The incident happened in an area that airport workers call "the dungeon." The employee survived, but the passenger prevailed in a resulting lawsuit filed by the airline against him.
My advice? Move to wherever it is you feel such a pressing need to fly to all the time. And leave the Zsa Zsa luggage at home.
Just when you thought it was safe...
Out of caution, due to recent changes at work, my posting is going to be done more before and after work. I'll probably do a post or two during the day, since it's realllyyy slllooowwww right now, but not much. Maybe I'll kick into a Gut Rumbles schedule.
At least I'm not alone.
Two days ago, Mazen Dana, a Palestinian journalist working for Reuters, was killed by US soldiers in Iraq. It sounds like an honest mistake, although from fellow journalists and friends of Dana who were nearby, it was at least gross negligence and possibly actual malice:
Dana was working outside the Abu Ghraib prison after a mortar attack there Sunday in which six prisoners were killed and about 60 wounded. Witnesses said Dana was dressed in civilian clothes.
"We were all there, for at least half an hour. They knew we were journalists. After they shot Mazen, they aimed their guns at us. I don't think it was [an] accident. They are very tense. They are crazy," said Stephan Breitner of France 2 television.
It definitely needs to be investigated, but at the same time, it's not precisely like they're covering the best cake contest at a county fair:
U.S. soldiers come under attack an average of a dozen times a day, military officials say. Since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1, at least 60 soldiers have been killed in action and hundreds more wounded; the latest death occurred today, when an explosive device killed an American soldier in Baghdad's Karadeh district, according to the U.S. Central Command.
Under the current rules of engagement, Shields said, troops do not fire warning shots. "It's still a battlefield," he said.
An investigation like that is difficult to do, and we're likely not to get a very clear picture of it. The military people, while I think they're well-intentioned and for the most part honest, at the same time view the environment as a live battlefield and are going to give their people the greatest latitude. And it's hard to argue with that. At the same time, the journalists, especially non-American journalists (and some American journalists), are mostly reflexively anti-American military, anti-Bush and anti-war-in-Iraq. They are unlikely to admit to any mistakes or contextual justifications that would mitigate this tragedy. To them, it will always be murder, no matter what an investigation shows. To the military, it will always be an accident unless there's open evidence otherwise - the question for them is two-fold: What degree of negligence was involved? And what can be done to prevent future incidents while still accomplishing the military's goals and not compromising their own people?
And even in the Washington Post article, which I thought was generally a fair overview of the situation, there's a little bias that sneaks in:
While the U.S. military keeps a fastidious count of its own dead and wounded, it usually does not track civilian casualties, which are often reported anecdotally and spread via word of mouth in a city where phone service remains spotty.
In the context of the article, the disapproval and contrast is clear: The US counts it's own dead, but doesn't care about who else dies. I sincerely doubt that's true, but the wording of that graph is all about the contrast. An unbiased way of making that point - and I do think it's a valid point to include in the article - would be along these lines: "The US military keeps track of incidents where their personnel is killed or injured, but there is no similar list of civilian deaths and injuries." The contrast is made, but the pointed wording is absent.
I'm going to follow this, and see what articles are run about it in the future. I'm particularly interested in the extent Dana's heritage and coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will be tied to his death at the hands of the US, a close Israel ally.
Cost-cutting measures, anyone? A little Aardvark has some experience in that arena:
...(T)he cost cuts weren't supposed to come from the EXECUTIVES, only the peons. One year, the emphasis was for every store to save a postage stamp a day. That was the year we started paying for the president's country club membership and dinners at the most exclusive restaurant in town (typical bill for 8 people $2,000 to $4,000 depending on the wine order). They cut out quarterly department luncheons about the same time they instituted off-site executive 3 day retreats ("We'll get more done without the interruptions"). The topper for me was the year that raises were capped at 2% - 3%, but we spent $50,000+ putting a colored gravel design on the roof (between the towers) so the CEO would have something nice to look at out of his window. On any given year, whenever the cost cutting measures were announced, our department led the way. "Aardvark, we need to set the example." We led by example all right. Problem is, no one else in the company followed.
I could get into the fancy schmancy perks in government too, but I'll keep my job, thank you. Although I can call your attention to Gov. Jim McGreevey's jaunts to Ireland and Puerto Rico as examples of what not to do on the taxpayer dime - or at least, don't get caught doing it.
A couple of thoughts. First, I'm reflexively suspicious of anything the leftist Guardian comes up with, but at the same time I don't like agricultural subsidies in the US. I'm still willing to look at arguments for and against them, though. And it's definitely a case where everyone needs to stand down at once if it happens; I wouldn't advocate the US ending subsidies that give it a market advantage if, say, France or Canada are going to continue subsidies and gain market share unfairly over our agriculture industry.
Second, I'm fascinated by this spread of the blog format into the marketing sphere. It's a natural form for any news event or topic where daily short updates are appropriate, but I think the way its done has a huge role in how successful it will be.
For example, the blogs of presidential candidates are not-even-thinly-disguised efforts to be cool and with-it in the campaign, yet everyone knows the information in them will not have any of the value that make blogs interesting. The content will not be spontaneous, but carefully controlled for effect - a rolling press release, in effect. It's rather like Howard Dean or John Kerry donning a cowboy hat and boots to campaign in Texas - everyone knows it's a costume, with no history or legitimacy.
On the other hand, for something like the Guardian's anti-subsidy efforts, a blog is a natural. Although the information is biased heavily toward one idea, it's honest about its intent and makes no pretense of being anything other than what it is. The sponsors and bloggers are passionate about their cause, and as someone interested in the topic, I can go there to see what they think is important in making their case. I may disagree with them, even think they're nuts, but I can keep track in real time with what they think and are doing. For their part, they can post a flurry of information, updated frequently, and set up an easily navigable resource center without dealing with the limitations of a regular newspaper article - more immediacy, more information, less restrictions.
I think the Guardian's effort is going to be more representative of how blogs will be integrated into the professional world; pseudo-blogs like Dean's are anti-thetical to what makes them work - like Marie-Antionette wearing a shepardess costume. Over time, I think the blog form will continue to spread into business, organizational and media entertainment applications (I'll point again to the way the Spokane Spokesman-Review is approaching blogs - I think they're leading the way here). Some day I think there'll be a Smithsonian Institution blog, a National Geographic blog, an American Red Cross blog, a Hewlett-Packard internal blog. Blogs solely for advertising won't work; blogs that offer real information, briefly and cleanly packaged, will, across many contexts - even if the purpose is mainly marketing and driving website traffic. It's a perfect way to guide people through a lot of information in a world that has a lot more information than most of us can handle. The only requirement is that information given is genuinely useful to people with those interests, not an effort to manipulate or use a consumer.
It will require a shift in how information is collected and disseminated internally, though. Most organizations are accustomed to grooming and polishing information, focusing more on form than speed of dissemination. The 24-hour news cycle and Internet are altering expectations amongest consumers, however, and the blog format is a perfect bridge between old and new. If I were scrambling for a job (which I may be, before long), I think I'd be developing ideas for blogs at established institutions, and offering my obvious expertise in blogging as just what they need to move into the 21st century in information dissemination.
How much attribution to another media source is enough? Allan Wolper, ethics columnist for Editor & Publisher, had a brush with not enough:
I heard about it over dinner in the Vermont woods. My friend, John Freidin, mentioned that The New York Times had published a story that was very much like the one that I had written. It isn't every day that the paper of record picks up one of my ethics columns, so I interrupted my vacation and clicked onto the Times' Web site.
There it was: a 1,340-word article headlined, "Glimpses of a Leader, Through Chosen Eyes Only," by Elisabeth Bumiller, a writer I admired. It seemed to be an interesting twist on my E&P column, Handout Photos Don't Tell the Whole Story (June 9).
Bumiller even used the same technique I had employed. She started with an anecdote about President Bush being photographed by one of his picture people, and then went on to explain how the White House kept independent photojournalists away from him.
To add compliment to compliment, Bumiller interviewed Eric Draper, the White House photographer I used to illustrate my story, noting, as I had, that his work often appeared in the Times, among other publications.
She also confirmed my theory that the Bush White House had managed like no previous one to manipulate the images coming out of the Oval Office, as well as the journalists who report on them.
Deep in her story she noted that an article in Editor & Publisher had reported that newspapers "often run White House photos without crediting the White House."
I immediately recognized the article as my column.
I would call this plagiarism, although Wolper does not. What he does do is point out that this kind of behavior may be actionable in courts under copyright laws:
Anyone in the media world who feels his or her work product has been improperly pilfered can possibly win compensation in the courtroom. It's all about something called copyright infringement.
George Galt, a lawyer for the Associated Press in Washington, D.C., spends his time tracking down news thieves. Galt says news organizations can no longer get away with simply giving credit when they borrow facts from someone else's story. "Attribution does not excuse a copyright violation," he said...
Even more interesting in these days of all the news all the time, E&P could plausibly sue the Times for the 75 hours of leg work I put into that column.
"The courts have said that sometimes facts are copyrightable," Galt told me. "You can't protect an idea. But there is something called Hot News Misappropriation, which means that you can protect the facts of your story for a specific amount of time."
Wolper shakes his finger at the NY Times for their abuse of other media in putting together their own product, but even Wolper is subject to the Times idol worship that has protected The Gray Lady far too long:
It is highly unlikely that my editors are going to the legal mat to get back at the Times for allegedly misappropriating my reporting in the same story that the newspaper credited us.
I certainly wouldn't want them to. My piece got out there and the Times, by picking it up, probably sent hundreds of journalists to our Web site to find out what we said about it.
But this is the land of capitalism. It is absolutely wrong when a Big Brother of Journalism uses the resources of the little guys as unofficial stringers.
Interesting that the NY Times, such a champion of the little people and so concerned about whether the Bush administration is throwing its weight around, uses its own power and fame to get away with abusing smaller media organizations. Wolper's cautionary tale is valid for all media in considering how to use stories from other media organizations as sources, but it certainly puts another brick in the wall detailing The Gray Lady's cavalier careening through the world of truth and attribution.
In the slow blogdog days of August, take some time to read up on what's happening with our military in Iraq - still working to do the right thing. Here's the blog of Chief Wiggles; here's Lt. Smash - don't miss the post from Mrs. Smash that speaks of the ambivalence she has about his return. I'd say she speaks for a lot of military wives.
Also, I saw a report on television this weekend (I can't remember where) about the soldiers who have been injured in the recent wars and are recovering there. The segment included interviews with soldiers who have lost an arm, a leg, or parts of both legs. One military wife mentioned she knew a soldier who had lost both legs and one arm. Remember when you hear about "soldiers injured" that some of them have permanent disabilities as a result - disabilities because they were fighting for us. Take some time to thank them in your heart, say a prayer for them and their families, and if you can, reach out in some way to help. Many of them are being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. I'll call there today to see if there's anything those of us who are not in the vicinity can do.
(As I've mentioned before, I'm in the process of developing a new blog on criminal justice issues, titled for now, "The Crime Resource Room". I'm generally posting at least one thing a day on it, but it's not completely up and running right now. I'm going to start double-posting, putting the things here that I post there, so you'll have the benefit of that information without clicking over. When it's more online, I'll probably stop double-posting. But who knows when that will be?)
Comparisons between the blackout this past week and the ones in 1965 and 1977 are inevitable, especially in the New York City area which was an anarchic mess in 1977. This article in Slate by David Greenberg tackles the question of why there was relative calm this time around:
Even if news reports prove to have been overly rosyâ€”this morning Mayor Michael Bloomberg reported just one blackout-related death in New York City overnightâ€”neither Gotham nor Detroit nor Cleveland suffered anything remotely like the anarchy of 1977. "New Yorkers showed that the city that burned in the 1970s when facing similar circumstances," Bloomberg said, "is now a very different place."
...It seems probable, though, that even if this latest blackout had happened before the 2001 attacks, we still wouldn't have seen a replay of 1977. A post-9/11 civic responsibility may have augmented the exemplary behavior, but it didn't create it. The real difference between 1977 and 2003 is the change in the condition of New York and America's Northeastern cities, including in their poorer enclaves.
Greenberg speculates that the differences lie in both the context of the recent blackout and the city and population changes as a whole. The context differences include the timing of this week's outage - late afternoon, so more people had time to get home, and the city had more daylight hours to prepare for nightfall - and the availability of police, who in 1977 were involved in a dispute with the city and did not turn out in force as they did this time. On a larger scale, Greenberg says, the city and its people are generally more prosperous now, and the racial tensions and class differences are not as sharp edged now as then. It's an interesting speculation, and the topic is one that will get a lot of attention in the next while. For a look at the type of analysis that will be done, take a look at this excellent piece by scholar Kathleen Tierney, about the reaction of NYC city, both officially and unofficially, to the 9/11 attack. For a history of the blackouts in 1965 and 1977, check out this comprehensive website.
Josh Chavetz of Oxblog details the history of the BBC's arrogant bias and denial of same in this Weekly Standard article dealing mostly with the framing bias that led to the evasions, distortions and outright lying in the story on the British intelligence leading to the Iraqi war.
Chavetz does an excellent job, and in the process highlights many weaknesses of a tax-funded press. They have no overseers, including market pressures - the only judges of their choices that they give credence are themselves. Very incestuous. A commercial press, which is mostly what we have in this country, has its drawbacks. And our tax-funded press - PBS, NPR - also skids off the rails in numerous ways. But on balance, both do a better job than the Beeb, and that's in large part because neither has the monolithic control of the airwaves that the Beeb does.
[Link via Instapundit]
Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker's as a great discussion of an anomaly in the power grid that occurred at 9 a.m. Thursday, before the power outage at 4 p.m. The man's an electrical engineer and former nukie, so as he says he knows enough to be dangerous.
And yes, it's interesting - I was able to follow it even though I was reading it through one eye at 6 a.m. And what was I doing awake at that time on a Saturday? Good question - and the answer is, a wrong number in Spanish at 5:45 a.m., which started a cascade of behavior on my part. Funny how that is.
Oh, and Sparkey has charts! Go, Sparkey!
Yes, I finally got home about 5:30 p.m. to find that my electricity at home apparently came on about 20 minutes after I left this morning. Oh well. Now I get to clean out my fridge and decide if I'm going to actually heed the requests to not use my air conditioners until the situation stabilizes.
Okay, I decided. They're on, but at 72 instead of 68 as a concession.
I'm worn out after the night of little sleep (did I mention lying awake, hot and sweaty, listening to the thrumming of my neighbor's air conditioner because he had electricity all night? yes, 12 feet away from my window. I thought about chucking a rock at it). Of course, the side trips to Staples (resume paper, a notebook I didn't need, pencil boxes I didn't need, a PDA as a gift from a friend), BJ's Wholesale (books, soup, books, mints, books and cereal and books) and CVS Pharmacy (nail polish, milk and bandages) had no role in my tiredness. So I'm going to rest, watch TV, read, and bask in my 72 degree domicile.
Have a lovely evening. And thanks for the glut of emails wishing me well.
(all three of them)
Mayor Mike Bloomberg is on live on WABC radio in NYC, so I'm blogging this as he talks; he's being interviewed by radio host John Gambling. He's later joined by Governor Pataki. This is paraphrased, and there are holes - I can't type as fast as they talk. But I'll get what I can.
Gambling: 10,000 police officers answered 80,000 911 calls.
Bloomberg: It's incredible... most of the time, most of the things work. So last night will go down as a calm night, not an inordinate amount of time... An inconvenience, yes... If you step back and look at it things did work.
What's happening now is that ConEd has brought back all the transmission facilities, and that's good. They're still having problems up state though and we're not getting the electricity we should... We hope in the next few hours that they'll resolve things upstate and we will get more power; we can't turn on more power until we get more power.
To the best of my knowledge, ConEd has done what it should be done, but at this point we have to ask if the people upstate are doing what they can do... We can't be held hostage by the utilities upstate, and if they have to shed load so we get more power, we have to find a way to force that.
(Gov. Pataki joins the two.)
Gambling: Upstate having problems?
Pataki: The whole grid has to be stabilized before things can come up. Upstate they've got power, in Long Island it's 90%, in New York it's 50%. But you can't power up until it's stabilized and can be brought back without risk.
Gambling: Some are saying there's a historic bottleneck of electricity.
Pataki: Part of it's geography, part of it's politics. We had a proposal to have access to more electricity, and it was blocked.
NYC has handled it really well.
Bloomberg: It's good that we can call on the state and federal governments. Right now the problem is upstate so we stopped turning on electricity.
Gambling: So when's that going to be?
Pataki: We have some plants won't be on for 24 hours, as a matter of safety. We're not going to have as much power in the state for 24 hours, so we have to conserve energy. The power is less than it was 24 hours ago. If you use a lot of power you're taking away the power from people waiting to be restored.
Bloomberg: The southernmost borough, Staten Island, got their power early because it came from NJ. How you get your power depends on where it comes from... We get a lot of power from Canada, and maybe the problem started there... what we need to do is get power back to everyone, and starting Monday sit down to see what worked and didn't work. But you don't want to while you're trying to get power on, go beating up on anyone.
Gambling: This exacerbates the discussion about taking Indian Point offline.
Pataki: We had enough power yesterday. But today, don't use power unless it's necessary. We have to solve this. It comes down to just like the city got through last night - helping each other out.
Gambling: What about the subways?
Bloomberg: MTA did a great job yesterday getting the people off the trains... Now the question is, when can we get the subways back. It takes a good deal of time after the electricity comes back to get the trains back. You have to get your employees back, then you have to do testing to make sure it's all working right. You're not going to see the subways back for tonight's rush hour. Hopefully sometime tonight and overnight the subways will come back.
(They stopped for a commercial break; I'm posting this and will type up the rest if they discuss it more.)
I've been posting updates about what's going on at The Command Post. I'm going to reproduce all those here, leaving this post at the top of that group. And in a few minutes I'll tell you more about my own experience during The Great Blackout of 2003.
I am, btw, at work this morning with electricity, air conditioning and Internet access. I still had none of those three at home this morning when I left at 7 a.m.
Originally posted on The Command Post
Electricity in northern New Jersey is still spotty. I live right across the Passaic River from Newark, and I had no electricity, even this morning. But my neighbor did, and I listened to the steady thrumming of his window air conditioner all through the long hot night. This morning I drove into Jersey City to take a shower at a friend's house, and it took 45 minutes to do what is normally a 20-30 minute drive. The approach to the Holland Tunnel was tightly packed; only one lane through the tunnel was open.
There's no subway service in Manhattan, although the PATH train from NJ is running into NYC. The commuter trains for the most part are down, and they're still saying they won't be up until 6-9 hours after all electricity is back up. Officials are telling non-essential personnel to stay home, and encouraging everyone to "treat it like a snow day, only much warmer."
In Jersey City, electricity is the same as Kearny - spotty. My friend has electricity but the building next to her does not. There's two blocks without it, but sections flanking that area do have it. A lot of traffic lights are still off. As we walked to the business area from my friend's place, we passed a woman sitting on her stoop putting on makeup - she had no lights inside.
For the most part, the mood is pragmatic to cheerful. The line was long where I stopped to get a bagel for breakfast, but no one complained. Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's and Burger King were open, so no one is starving just yet. People are planning to have DVD parties where the electricity is working; I'd say malls and movie houses that are open will do booming business.
And I overheard this conversation between two men, one with a shopping cart, as a bought my newspaper at a local stand:
1st man: Someone stole my cart!
2nd man: That's awful! What are you going to do?
1st man: (spreading a towel over a store stoop and sitting down) I have another one, but it's the principle! No one should steal from a homeless man who's disabled!
So I guess there are worse things than being without electricity for a couple of days.
(Yes, I laughed. I'm a bad person. But the guy didn't look like he'd missed any meals lately, and if he was disabled it wasn't visible.)
Originally posted on The Command Post
I just walked through Jersey City, downtown, and the power was back in some places. According to my friend, the traffic lights were working and businesses had power at the Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel. The traffic lights worked along Newark Avenue, but one street over on Chris. Columbus they were out. Not many cars, no traffic jams, but people were out on sidewalks talking in the areas without electricity still. It's a patchy pattern - my friend has electricity but the guy two doors down on the same block does not. In one place, a group of people had opened a fire hydrant and were spraying people.
At least no one will go thirsty - in the window of one restaurant, as dark as the rest of the street, was a big hand-lettered poster - THE BAR IS OPEN!
We're going to turn off as much electricity as possible here, so I'm off. Enjoy your air conditioning.
Originally posted on The Command Post
People in the NYC area have been asked not to use water unless they have to, and to turn off air conditioners and other appliances. The police are on full alert but there are no plans to call out the National Guard. The sun will set in less than an hour, so there's some concern about looting, but the police say they've got it covered.
Also, Hannity reports that the power outage may have spread as far as Oklahoma.
I've got to go. I'll update as I can.
Originally posted on The Command Post
The WABC radio news just reported that the electricity in NYC may be out for about five more hours. No more details yet. For those of you wanting your news live from a local station, you can live-stream WABC talk radio here. Sean Hannity is staying on live there until 8 p.m.
Cell phones are still spotty in the NYC metro area, people are lining up at pay phones to try to reach family and friends at home. NJ Gov. Jim McGreevey is scheduled to speak about the outage in a few minutes.
Originally posted on The Command Post
I'm sitting right over the river from lower Manhattan, recovering from that little bit of fear from wondering if the outage involved terrorism. Below is my account of what it felt like from here; it's in the extended entry section so as not to use up front page space.
It started with the lights going out – my computer at work stayed on, as did the radio. Then the lights came back up, the surge protectors throughout the office began shrilly protesting, and the radio went silent – but the light showing it was on still showed red. The radio station – WABC in NYC, where Sean Hannity was doing his show live – had gone off the air. For 15 minutes, the lights and computers alternated turning on and off. I ran into other parts of the office, where everyone else had gone home, to turn off the computers. At first I thought, it’s this building. Then I realized, it’s the whole NYC metro area. Finally I heard on the radio that Detroit was affected too, and I thought – terrorism? Did they hit the power grid? I was, for about five minutes, very scared and nearly in tears. I was driving to work on 9/11 and saw the towers burning; I was in this office when they came down. It was just too eerily familiar.
During the first hour I had either the computer, radio or television working at all times, so it wasn’t long before I heard “It’s not terrorism”. Our electricity became stable pretty quickly – I work for a public safety agency, so our backups are secure. It took a while for the surge protectors to quiet, but suddenly I realized they had stopped.
My friend Dory works in Manhattan and lives in Jersey City, with her two dogs. I tried to reach her but her work phone rang and rang, and the cell phone yielded only a friendly voice saying, “All circuits are busy!” I made plans to go care for her dogs if she couldn’t get out of the city. On the radio they were saying people were stuck on elevators, in the subways. I heard the mayor say on the news that some trains were stopped under the river. Those are the trains I take into the city. I could almost feel the moist still darkness, the heat of the people, and the loud complaints from frightened commuters. The tunnels are round, water pools between the tracks, and sometimes rats run across them. I wouldn’t want to be down there in the dark, not knowing what was going on.
Finally Dory called, and she was headed on her way to the ferry, the only public transportation running. I saw on television that the port entries were packed, thousands and thousands of people trying to get into Jersey. She was at the Holland Tunnel and said, Should I hitchhike? I’m right here! It’ll be so much faster! So she stayed on the phone, knocked on the window of a stopped car and asked the couple inside if they minded giving her a ride through the Tunnel. They agreed, she climbed in and I made her tell me their names before we got off the phone. Both were from Russia – what story they’ll have for the home folks. She told them Happy New Year in Russian, and laughed.
It’s 6:50 now, almost three hours since it began. Dory is waiting for me outside on the stoop of my office building; she says traffic at the Holland is heavy but moving well. Jersey City looks like it always does. A few minutes ago, the lights dimmed down again. Just now, the surge protectors went off briefly, but the lights stayed strong. I’m heading off to Dory’s apartment – she may or may not have electricity. But sitting with a friend drinking lemonade on a warm August night, as the lights come up in NYC, is an acceptable way to end an involuntary lights out.
The bare facts:
On Sunday, three fishermen, two of them teenagers, run their boat aground at the end of the JFK Airport runways, which face Jamaica Bay. They are caught only after having roamed around a bit. The Port Authority and Coast Guard are questioned about their security measures.
On Monday, the NY Times runs an article by Thomas Lueck about it.
On Wednesday, the NYT runs a feature-y piece about it by Corey Kilgannon.
Also on Wednesday, Kilgannon and company are picked up in Jamaica Bay by the Port Authority marine unit about 100 feet from JFK's runways; the security zone of the airport extends 100 yards into the water.
On Thursday, the NY Times has this to say:
"They were not doing anything wrong, and there was no intent to violate any laws or any kind of regulations," said the spokesman, Toby Usnik.
Also on Thursday, Susanna Cornett, writer, editor and publisher of Cut on the Bias, a premiere weblog, had this to say:
Stay tuned for further facts about the case as it develops.
Ralph Peters has a wonderful, pointed look at the differences between Old Europe and The New World (US). Yes, I know Instapundit linked it, but this is for the three readers who haven't been there yet. Go read the piece - it's excellent.
The Chinese have apparently been successful at combining human and rabbit DNA to make an embryo that lived for at least a few days. On a moral level, I think it's really horrible. But...
... you know...
Wouldn't a man-rabbit be just so efficient? He would have sex, fertilize the egg and promptly die when he's successful. No rush to the drugstore for a pregnancy test! No long waiting for lab results!
"Maggie! How do you know you're pregnant?"
"Well, Robert died right after we had sex. He was a good man."
It would certainly cut down on the population explosion.
Hmmmm... I wonder where I can donate to the Chinese Cloning Factory...
(Sometimes my sense of humor just gets all out of hand.)
UPDATE: Sheesh. I didn't know I was being obscure. More in "MORE".
I'm not somehow confusing honeybees or any other insects with rabbits. I get the whole mammal/insect divide. I'm referring, apparently a bit obliquely, to the test for pregnancy that involved rabbits prior to the drugstore kind. For several generations, a bun in the oven as often as not was announced by the phrase, "The rabbit died!" Ergo, my saying hey! a man-rabbit would serve the dual purpose of impregnating and testing for successful pregnancy! Cool!
Of course even Snopes had to get in on this one. Apparently the rabbit didn't die, at least in the way we usually think.
For those of you who have ever moved, or struggled through a honey-do list, or just had a day where you thought, "If one more thing goes wrong... !!!" - here's a slice of the life of Theosebes.
UPDATE: It appears that Alan is not the only Husband and Father on the firing line.
Do you know your programmers from your perverts? Your Cobol innovator from your cannibal? Take this quiz and find out.
I scored 8/10. Those *&%$ Russians!
Spoons shoots down the Chicago Tribune's patent bias and misrepresentation of gun research and policy. Go, Spoons, go!!
Ken Waight, the partisanship watcher of the blogosphere who does a yeoman's job of tracking columnist partisanship at Lying in Ponds, has reviewed Michael Tomasky's research and decides his findings are essentially correct:
A central goal of Lying in Ponds has been to try to discern the difference between ordinary party preference caused by sincere ideological belief, and excessive partisanship. While it's possible that the difference between the WSJ and NYT could be merely an indication that the WSJ is ideologically closer to George W. Bush than the NYT was to Bill Clinton, Mr. Tomasky's separation of issues into "Policy" and "Politics/Process" is very helpful and revealing. The Tomasky data for the NYT shows exactly the pattern I would expect to see if it were ideologically liberal but not very partisan. The NYT editorial board only occasionally diverged from Bill Clinton on policy issues (e.g. welfare reform), but very frequently opposed him on non-ideological process issues, such as the secrecy of Hillary Clinton's health care task force. In contrast, the WSJ data shows exactly what I would expect if it were ideologically conservative but also very partisan. Their editorials occasionally criticized George W. Bush on policy issues (e.g. steel tariffs), but supported him almost completely on questions of process (17 positive editorials, 1 mixed and zero negative editorials)...
Even allowing some room for Mr. Tomasky's biases, I think that his fundamental conclusion is correct -- editorials in The Wall Street Journal have been systematically more partisan than those in The New York Times over many years.
I've followed Waight's analysis of columnists periodically, and I see no reason to think he's got a bias agenda of his own. So it appears that Tomasky may have identified a greater tendency on the part of the WSJ vs the NY Times to hold the party line in general. That's an important finding, but I think it's also important to recognize two things: Tomasky's sample was not broad enough to render his findings representative of liberal vs conservative newspapers as a whole, and his study dealt strictly with editorials, not the news content of the papers. It would take another kind of study altogether to determine if the NY Times' liberal ideology spills over significantly into its supposedly objective news coverage. And the same is true of the WSJ's news coverage.
So I will accept that Tomasky found a difference between the NY Times and the WSJ. But I'm calling foul on any and all efforts to generalize beyond that duo, especially to say that liberals are typically less partisan than conservatives.
NOTE: For those of you who spent the last few days under a beach umbrella on a remote Jamaican atoll and need to catch up, my earlier posts are here and here. The second one links to an analysis by Rhetorica's Andrew Cline, who found the study flawed.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago, points out academic hubris and the failure of our society's elites to allow religion its place in the area of serious ideas:
So reflexive is the role of the intellectual as negator, so free from accountability, that the very meaning of dissent has been obscured. Hence in the wake of 9/11, those who disagreed with claims that America somehow brought the attacks on herself were said to be "stifling dissent." But the true measure of dissent isn't whether the vast majority of one's countrymen and women agree with what one is saying but, rather, that one has the freedom to say it. The widely repeated notion that no space exists within American society to make contrarian arguments is risible. Less frequently heard, in fact, is intellectual assent from academic and intellectual circles to something the government is doing or that America is undertaking...
Once again we hear it said that America is intolerant of political dissent. But if there is something missing from our public discourse, it is not the voices of those who—like Duke University's Frank Lentricchia—argue that "America is threatened by the most powerful enemy in its history, the administration of George W. Bush." Those voices are coming through loud and clear. What we hear far too little of is serious reflection on religion. Religion is epiphenomenal to Marxism and its various offshoots still powerfully influential in the academy. Religion is "false consciousness" par excellence. Osama bin Laden's talk of infidels is thus a quaint rhetorical turn; the "real" reasons for his murderous ideology must lie elsewhere.
With many others, I am convinced that Islamism owes at least as much to the totalitarian movements and ideologies of the 20th century as it does to any version of Islam. But the religious claims are not just a cover for some deeper materialistic imperative. As a result of the suppression of serious discourse about religion in many activist circles, we grow less able to appreciate what is going on in the war on terrorism. Issues of religious liberty, separation of church and state, the possibility that one might have a secular state in a society in which religions flourish, the dignity and status of women—all these matters and more can be seen clearly only if we take religion seriously, on its own terms.
The column excerpted is in turn an excerpt from Elshtain's new book, Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World.
I think Elshtain is precisely correct about the way religion is discussed and treated in our society. The academic elites, the social Christians and agnostic/atheist contingent in the country has gained the upper hand by marginalizing religion as a legitimate part of the national policy debate. Yet the majority of Americans not only claim some religious affiliation, but also to a small or large measure guide their lives by religious principles. There's a big difference between forcing my religious beliefs on someone else and demanding that religious considerations be a part of discussions on issues of morality and law. And the tendency of unbelievers and social believers to treat any true religious belief and commitment as some type of mental illness seriously impedes their ability to understand the motivation behind the more virulent adherents of any religion. In essence, their own religion of unbelief blinkers their ability to see the truth of religion in the world.
[Link via Arts & Letters Daily]
WALDO [FL] - The feud over speeding tickets between the AAA Auto Club and Police Chief A.W. Smith has reached new heights with the placement of billboards warning motorists of traffic enforcement in Waldo and Lawtey.
Two full-size billboards were installed last week on U.S. 301 at Hampton. Both are black and yellow with big block lettering. Both have the words "Speed Trap" in a caution sign.
The southbound sign warns that Waldo is six miles ahead, while the northbound billboard alerts motorists that Lawtey is 14 miles up the road.
Now why would AAA do something like that [and don't miss the photo with the story]? Well, it has something to do with this:
AAA and Smith have been blasting horns at each other since the mid-1990s over the number of speeding tickets issued in town and the income it earns for the city.
A recent Sun review of the 82,765 traffic citations turned in to the Alachua County Clerk of the Court between Jan. 1, 2002, and April 30, 2003, showed that 8,347 were written by Waldo Police.
That number ranked Waldo second among the cities in Alachua County with their own police departments. Gainesville Police issued the most tickets.
Bly said an analysis of city budgets showed that the fines levied by Waldo Police are about 105 percent of the department's budget, while Lawtey's fines are about 98 percent of its budget.
"In other words, the city makes more money from tickets than it spends on the entire Police Department," [AAA Community Relations Director Randy] Bly said. "The Police Department is a profit center for the town."
That's not the only place where the police department is a profit center for the town - check out New York City or Jersey City parking laws and ticketing practices for more on that. But it is pretty funny that AAA has done this. I wonder why these towns, though - are they the worst in the country?
[Link via Romenesko's The Obscure Store]
I'm going to use a good thing to make a point about a bad thing, so just bear with me. As most of you know, Fidel Castro cracked down on independent journalists in Cuba back in March, behaving completely in character with his usual manner toward his people but this time focusing on a target with more sympathy in the outside world. Castro has made Cuba his little socialist playground for over 40 years, with the kissing and fawning of journalists and politicians - including Americans - almost without pause. The United States has been villified in the press here and internationally for its sanctions against Cuba for all manner of human rights violations and generally hostile attitudes toward the US. Sometimes it was a matter of journalists quoting others, but more than occasionally it was journalists expressing their own dissatisfaction with the US.
However, now that Castro has specifically focused on a sizable group of journalists to shut them down, the international journalism scene has mobilized, with major results:
In raids March 18, Cuban secret police arrested 28 journalists who practiced their craft in defiance of the draconian "Law 88" and other anti-press statutes. Castro may have calculated that world public opinion would be too distracted by the impending Iraq war to care. Instead, furious protests only increased after the journalists were tried in secret and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years.
More recently, the Miami-based Inter American Press Association (IAPA)
convened a meeting of Latin-American diplomats to urge them to increase pressure for the journalists' release. Havana-bound tourists in Paris received postcards titled, "Cuba: The World's Biggest Prison for Journalists" from Reporters Without Borders. The protest is working. The traditionally friendly European Union, for instance, imposed sanctions that so angered Castro he turned a celebration of the Cuban revolution's 50th anniversary into a rally against Europe.
There's more in the E&P article, and you should read it. But what strikes me is that, as I said before, Castro is not behaving out of character. His actions are not new, but his targeted group is. Not that he's not harassed and mistreated journalists before, but apparently not with such a focused effort for a while. Notice the power they wield too - even the EU has been pressured into sanctioning Castro, a move again that many Europeans have railed against the US for doing. Just imagine what could have been done to save that country if journalists were at minimum reporting Castro's behavior objectively over the years, rather than treating him as some icon of greatness. It's not just this case - if you remember, there was great consternation and heavy reporting any time a journalist in Iraq was killed, or when there were fears the hotel where many stayed in Baghdad had been deliberately targeted for attack by Americans (which was untrue). But the case of Castro highlights the bigger truth:
Some negative actions are not newsworthy unless journalists are the victims.
I have no problem with what the journalist groups are doing to get Castro to let their jailed colleagues go - but I think all political prisoners of Castro should be let go, not just journalists. And I find it sad and disgusting that the very group that has been complicit in Castro's successful strangling of Cuba for decades is now up in arms because their own are targeted. Either they're wrong now, or they've been wrong for decades.
Maureen Dowd today pokes fun at the Democrat candidate blogs in a column that's both amusing and right on the money. Who would have thought it? And since I just read it yesterday, I can vouch that this is a correct assessment of John Kerry's blog:
John Kerry has given more grist to critics who label him aloof and insincere by assigning staff members to write his cheesy blog. (It's like trying to prove you're a sportsman by making an aide go fishing for you.)
Of course, that's only fair criticism if you think any of the other candidates know their way around HTML. But who wants to be fair? Just enjoy The Day Dowd Was Right, and laugh at the Dems.
They don't get any prettier than this:
The little princesses. Of course.
(Mommy Traci made the cake and the hats - gorgeous too.)
Fred Kaplan of Slate apparently has no problem accusing the Bush administration and/or the US military of fabricating evidence of WMDs in Iraq. In his article today, he isn't even very subtle:
Maybe a ton of VX will be unearthed in Ahmed's basement tomorrow, but this is unlikelyâ€”and, at this point, few would regard such a find as authentic.
There's only one way to interpret that last little phrase. He's saying, if WMDs are found now, well, the fact that it took so long is in itself sufficient evidence that it's planted. By whom? Possibly Iraqis, but what would be the point? The only ones with much to gain by locating WMDs now is the Bush administration. It's just outrageous. And there's more - he also says that it's likely the telephone conversations in Powell's presentation to the UN were staged:
If the word had gone out, to friends far and wide, that Rumsfeld was looking for this sort of evidence, is it not conceivable that someone with an interest in seeing Saddam overthrownâ€”and there were many parties who had such an interestâ€”might have "staged" a phone conversation that they knew the National Security Agency would intercept?
Kaplan offers absolutely nothing substantial to support his allegations other than the fact that we did go to war and we have not found stockpiles of WMDs yet. With this thin justification, he cherrypicks the information available so he can construct this ugly piece. And no where does he mention David Kay - who is in a much better position to know if WMDs have been or will be found.
That alone is more evidence of Kaplan's agenda than he gives for the accusations he makes. Unless, of course, David Kay is lying too. Maybe someone should check Kaplan's hat for tinfoil.
Is it just me, or is Carlson someone who just looks like he should be wearing glasses? And I don't mean that in a bad way.
I talk to my brother Alan on MSN IM most days; we both have the IM box open at home and work, so the conversations start with good morning, meander through the day with holes lasting several hours, and generally end when one or the other of us goes to bed. It's a nice way to stay connected, and gives me ample opportunity for the harassment required of an older sister. Not that any of my bitterness is associated with the fact that he often beats me in using the Word of the Day. I thought you might enjoy this little exchange we just had, about his moving, that is pretty typical of our conversations:
I've been packing some boxes this morning
I want to get my books packed soon
which will be a bad job out of the way
esp since you will likely need to pack each in moisture-controlled archive quality paper, then silk, then 100% cotton flannel, followed by bubble wrap and then stiffened boards taped together
[No conversation for few minutes]
I don't know what to have for lunch
how about a knuckle sandwich?
for your rude book packing comments
I do plan to wrap some books in packing paper
you're pretty funny
so can I use that exchange as a post?
why would you want to do that?
if you wish to show some people how rude you are, sure
just because I think it's funny
it will only expose your bad attitude
Yes, pretty typical. It may help to understand the exchange to know that my brother is Mr. Careful With Books, while I'm Ms. Toss It In The Backseat. When he finishes reading a paperback book, there are no creases along the spine. Me, I bend it back and stick it in my pocket folded to keep my place. He puts clear library book sleeves on the dust jackets of hardbacks; I remove them so I won't damage them, forget where I put them, and wind up finding a stack of them covered with dust under the living room couch. I actually don't have a problem with how he cares for his books. I just don't borrow them very often - it makes me nervous.
And even if he beats me getting to the Word of the Day, when I win my word usage is always more clever.
Alan needs to move more often, if this is what it does to his posting schedule. He's got a couple more good posts today, one on the sexy clothes parents allow their pre- and young teens to wear, and the other on (again) Mel Gibson's movie about the last hours of Christ's life, focusing this time on the ADL's objections to it.
The ADL and others continue to paint Gibson's movie as anti-semitic, and try diligently to toss the baby out with the bathwater in the process. If Gibson's movie is anti-semitic, then fine, burn it in bonfires - I have no patience or sympathy with anti-semitism. However, as I've said before, it's not anti-semitism to say that Jews of Christ's time were heavily involved in the events leading to his death. To say otherwise is to deny the New Testament accounts, and while that's fine for someone who is a practicing Jew and doesn't believe the New Testament anyway, it's not fine for me as a Christian. And quite frankly, even though I've been taught literally from the cradle that most of the Jews in Jerusalem during Jesus's time wanted him dead and went about seeing that it happened, I've never felt any animosity toward Jews today as a result. I've never heard, in any of thousands of hours of Bible classes, the first intimation that Jews today carry any remaining taint because of Christ's death. In fact, I have always felt an affinity for Jewish people as a whole because I know we serve the same God, because my Lord was a Jew when he was here in the flesh, because the first Christians were Jews and because the Jewish people through their service to God prepared the world for Christ's coming. I disagree theologically with what modern Jews believe about Christ, but I have never and would never hold them responsible in any way for his death. And I refuse to accept that I should allow God's Word to be rewritten just because some people who should know better have used it to cause great harm. The harm is resident in the people, not the Word.
UPDATE: Another thought, since I'm in trouble anyway. The Bible has always and will always be used by arrogant and wicked people for their own ends, because religion is a powerful thing. The Jewish leaders who sought the death of Jesus to solidify their own hold on power are just the same underneath it all as the Catholics of the Spanish Inquisition or any Christian today who uses Scripture to justify wreaking harm on any group. Jesus himself describes these people:
26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 "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.
28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Jesus was speaking there to the very Jewish men who would seek his death soon afterward, but the words are not about Jews in general but about evil people who hide their wicked ways behind a whitewash of religion. And that has not changed over the centuries. The religion they claim may change from century to century or country to country, but the attitude and its lack of godliness are common threads through all. And any so-called Christians who use the New Testament to justify anti-Semitism are just as much whitewashed tombs as anyone of Jesus's day.
And one quick theological point, called to my attention by a friend - if I'm going to lay blame for Christ's death, I'm going to start with me. While the power-hungry Jewish leaders of Jesus's time were directly involved in his death in an earthly way, the real reason for his death is the sin of all the men and women who have lived or ever will live. I know where the blame lies, and what I need to do about it. I don't need to go looking for a scapegoat.
A study out of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Center for Child Health Research has found that "at least 4%" of American adolescents have something called metabolic syndrome, which is a risk factor for a range of serious illnesses. And the adolescents who have this syndrome are more likely than not to be obese.
So the march against fat goes on.
I wouldn't argue that excess weight is a major health problem, and increasingly an issue for Americans. But it seems to me that no one is truly serious about fixing it - instead, the focus of both activists and lawyers is to jump on food companies in an effort to extort money and change corporations who market food. At the same time, they have in their control the exact way to teach children better - through the schools, focusing on things that really would make a difference rather than relentless PCism.
It's no secret that too many calories + too little exercise = excess weight. And behavior modification is a highly developed field that if applied correctly and consistently can produce excellent results. Now ask yourself - where are the majority of young people for the majority of the day during the majority of the year? In school. So where should efforts to improve the health of our youth be centered? The schools.
I'm not saying schools should be responsible for every aspect of making people good citizens - the home is really the most important, and if the right habits are taught there then the rest will take care of itself. But education about nutrition, and helping to establish healthy habits, are more legitimate roles of schools than a lot of what they get involved in. So how would that work?
I think, starting with kindergarten, children should be taught about nutrition in interesting and engaging ways that deal with real life choices and consequences. And it should continue throughout the school years. It's about having an understanding of how nutrition and body functioning integrate - which is education at its best, learning facts in useable context. As children mature, the particular interests of a specific age could play into the teaching - for example, an adolescent might be motivated to pursue good nutrition because how good it makes him look. If good nutrition were a cornerstone of health education in schools, nobody could legitimately sue McDonald's either.
And the school meals are another area desperately needing attention. Any meal where ketchup is officially considered a vegetable is following desperately flawed standards. Yes, it would be more expensive to provide healthful, tasty food. But the savings in later health problems would be substantial. Why are schools anywhere serving deep-fried anything? Maybe someone should be suing schools for their children's weight.
Finally, exercise is the remaining piece of the school triad. I remember having physical education and long recesses where I ran wildly around the playground when I was in elementary school. It's not the focus now that it was then. I think teaching about the importance of physical exertion should start in kindergarten too (before then, but that's for parents). Stretching and exercise should be a part of every day, and health classes should emphasize the effect on the body of eating right and exercising. And it's something that can easily be made interesting to young people of all ages - learning to play volleyball, or skateboarding, basketball or rock climbing, yoga or power walking. We assign projects that involve writing papers and learning skills - why not assign projects each semester that require tracking healthy choices, or learning a new sport?
Of course these efforts can be stymied by bad attitudes in the family home, but that's true of any kind of education. And it's not going to fix the problem for everyone, but it will, I think, help a great deal and in the long run make the country healthier. Teaching good health habits is not a ideological thing (as long as nobody lets PETA in the place). And it's much less intrusive than suing everyone and every thing to force compliance to certain notification practices that no one will pay attention to anyway. If the goal is health, and not lawyer financial enrichment or ideological gain, then the mechanism and context are readily available. There's a way - there's just no honest will.
As for adults... well, there's a way there too, but that's another post.
Kevin McGehee somehow managed to slip into a meeting with Ah-nald and his supporters, and has this sobering report.
Do not drink coffee while reading it.
I pointed out the new Harvard study on media bias yesterday - remember, the one where the new editor of The American Prospect says that liberal newspapers criticize liberal presidents more than conservative ones criticize conservative presidents? I've still not read the study, but fortunately for us all Andrew Cline at Rhetorica - himself a professor and excellent analyzer of media - has done the heavy lifting. Here's his initial discussion of the study, and here is his analysis of why it's very flawed. Worth your time.
I'm still going to read the study, and will report back.
Don't miss this little gem of a smackdown by LittleA at A little Aardvark never hurt anyone. It seems some editor at the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, TX, decided he'd spread his little leftist spite on Dennis Miller, FoxNews and any conservatives standing close enough to get sprayed by his spittle. LittleA puts him in his place.
And I ask you - is it possible for Mr. Spittle to be objective in putting together either an op-ed page or a Sunday edition of the newspaper? I'd say not nearly as likely as FoxNews being fair and balanced. You know I think a clearly declared bias is not a bad thing; then you know where you stand. It'd be pretty funny if it weren't so pathetic that people like Mr. Bob Davis Spittle think they can write this kind of thing and still be objective when they think no one with conservative views can do something similar.
For some reason, this makes me sorry for federal prisoners.
It can't be good that the head of the United States Parole Commission is egotistical enough to have his photo and just about nothing else as the opening page of the Commission's website. Sheesh.
To my most excellent reader who wrote me earlier about firewalls -
For some bizarre reason your emails get dumped in my junk mail folder, and after reading your email today instead of telling Hotmail that it was not junk mail, I read something else and then thoughtlessly cleared the junk mail folder. Yes, your email is gone. I'm sorry! The answer to your query is yes, I would love more information. And I promise next time to make sure your email goes in the right place.
[Sometimes] Very Blonde About Computers
Alan at Theosebes links to an article to make two excellent points - that the more the Episcopal church moves away from traditional Bible doctrine, the smaller its membership goes; and that the new gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson, himself admits that his behavior and his promotion to the bishopric despite it goes against tradition, church doctrine and the Bible. Alan's discussion in both links is good, but this quote from Robinson really caught my attention:
'Just simply to say that it goes against tradition and the teaching of the church and Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong,' he [Robinson]told the Washington Post.
Okay. Let's look at this a little closer. He claims membership in two groups - one is Christianity, which has as its founding document the Bible, and the other is the Episcopal Church, which draws on the Bible to formulate its church doctrine and traditions. Both groups are actually defined by those things. Without Christ, there is no Christianity, and without the Bible we know nothing specific about Christ. And without its creed and traditions, the Episcopal church loses its separateness as a denomination. Yet Robinson, to fulfill his own desires, is willing to set aside the very foundation of the two groups he ostensibly holds most dear and important in his life.
Let's see how this works in another setting. Say I am a tennis player for the University of Kentucky. I realize going in that to be a tennis player I have to play tennis, that tennis has rules that make it tennis, and if I do something other than what the rules say, I'm not playing tennis, I'm doing something else. However, I find a tennis racket too unwieldy, and just plain don't like it. It's not me. I want to be a tennis player, though. So I bring a bat with me to practice, and argue with my coach that it's unfair to keep me off the team because I want to use a bat. The point of the game is to get the ball across the net, after all, and if I use a bat instead of a racket, what's that to the other players? Don't I have a right to play tennis as I see in my vision? What's more, don't I have a right, just by virtue of being a sentient product of the universe, to use a bat to play tennis? And who are you, those of you who think the rules mean something, just who are you to tell me I'm wrong? Setting yourself up as a judge, like you're any more important than me?
That has about as much reason as trying to claim Christianity when you refuse to play by those rules. If the Bible is the foundational document for Christianity, yet can't be used to determined whether or not someone is behaving like a Christian, on what basis do you judge? There is no other basis. Period.
I think Robinson is unqualified for his position for a variety of reasons, but I think his biggest drawbacks are his arrogance, self-absorption and sheer selfishness. He thinks he's better than God, and that his choices in life deserve more respect than any silly old thing like the Bible. We've already seen that he left his wife and children to pursue his own gratification. Why be surprised that he's abandoned God as well?
A couple of years ago I joined NetZero and ponied up for their Platinum account, six months flat rate for unlimited use. Three months later they canceled my account with no real explanation and refunded the balance. They said only that they "could not support my usage pattern", or something along that line, and I decided they'd canceled me because I was online so much. I was quite disgusted with them.
Turns out I wasn't the only one. Today I got in the mail a copy of a class action lawsuit against NetZero for dumping a whole passel of folks, with the accusation being that they had done precisely what I suspected. Here it is in legalese:
The lawsuit alleges that Defendants marketed and sold NetZero-brand "Platinum" Internet access plans to Plaintiffs and others as providing unlimited Internet access for a "guaranteed" period, or for a period that would "lock in" certain rates or prices. The lawsuit further alleges that Plaintiffs and other NetZero Platinum customers who exceeded a certain usage level during that period were then send a notice saying their NetZero service was being cancelled. The lawsuit alleges that Defendant's marketing of NetZero Platinum service was thus misleading, and asserts claims against Defendants for improper, unfair, and deceptive practices and false advertising under California law.
For a more normal summary, here's the law firm's page.
I'm not normally very high in class action lawsuits, which seem to me a way for lawyers to pick off low-hanging financial fruit where they're the ones who end up with the bulk of the produce. This is no different - if the proposed settlement is approved, the lawyers will get $270,000, the named plaintiffs $2,500, and me - well, I'll get at the most $20. However, NetZero basically went trolling for low-hanging fruit themselves, sucking in all comers and spitting out the non-profitable ones. That's kind of like an all-you-can-eat place that tosses you out after the second plate, saying, "Well, that's all you can eat!" Enough with the food metaphors - they were thoroughly greedy jerks, they got caught, and now they get to pony up themselves. And yes, I'm sending in the claim form, because it may just be $20 but I'm still annoyed with NetZero for their behavior. I can't watch their commercials on television without sneering.
At least I now have DSL with the expectation I'll be on 24/7. Oh, bliss. And that NetZero settlement will buy me two weeks worth.
Here's the headline from an Editor & Publisher article:
'Liberal' Papers More Likely to Criticize Clinton
Study: While 'Conservative' Ones Leave Bush Alone
Interesting! Here's the basic findings:
NEW YORK -- So-called "liberal" newspapers tend to be more open-minded and willing to criticize a like-minded U.S. president than their "conservative" counterparts, according to a report released last week.
In a study for The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, Michael Tomasky looked at 510 editorials over the past decade. He found that on their editorial pages The New York Times and The Washington Post criticized the Clinton administration 30% of the time. By contrast, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times opposed the Bush White House 7% of the time.
Tomasky also found a "striking difference in tone between the two sides as well," with the conservative papers using far "harsher" language in responding to Clinton and engaging in ad hominem attacks. The two sides, therefore, "represent two different models of journalism. The conservative editorial pages are more likely to think of themselves as being 'on the team,' as it were..."
Who's Tomasky, you ask? Now, why do you want to know that? Are you implying that the study could be skewed by the personal views of the author? I'm shocked, shocked I am! I mean, it's sponsored by Harvard! Appalling to questi...
Oh. Well, if you insist:
Tomasky has been a political columnist for the New York Observer, the Village Voice, and, most recently, New York magazine. He will assume the post of executive editor at The American Prospect on September 1, 2003.
Wipe that grin off your face! He was a fellow at Harvard when he wrote it. Doesn't that mean by definition that it is a neutral academic endeavor?
We shall see. I've printed it out to read. I'll report more later.
AP reporter Scheherezade Faramarzi tells a horrible, sad story of innocent Iraqi citizens shot down by American troops:
BAGHDAD -- The night air hung like a hot wet blanket over the north Baghdad suburb of Slaykh. At 9 p.m., an electrical transformer blew up, plunging the neighborhood into darkness.
American soldiers, apparently fearing a bomb attack, went on alert. Within 45 minutes, six Iraqis trying to get home before the 11 p.m. curfew were shot and killed by U.S. forces.
Anwaar Kawaz, 36, lost her husband and three of four children. "We kept shouting, 'We're a family! Don't shoot!' But no one listened. They kept shooting," she said.
When asked about the shootings, Lt. Col. Guy Shields, coalition military spokesman, said: "Our checkpoints are usually marked and our soldiers are trained and disciplined. I will check on that. That is serious."
Yes, it's serious. Yes, it's absolutely a tragedy. But the vaunted balance of reporters and coverage isn't present - there's nothing in the story by Faramarzi that mentions US soldiers being killed in those dark streets, and the newspaper that published her story - the Newark Star-Ledger - doesn't mention anything good the US has done in Iraq. For today, August 11, the articles on the war carry these headlines:
U.S. rewards add to ranks of rich and preferably not famousWelcome to the age of the mega-reward, where U.S. payoffs are available in unprecedented amounts for information authorities need to neutralize America's enemies around the globe.NAHRAN OMAR, Iraq -- Violence spread yesterday through the sweltering southern region surrounding the city of Basra, where protracted shortages of electricity and gasoline sparked a second day of angry demonstrations in the country's second-largest city and in nearby towns and villages.
A demonstrator and a security guard were killed.BAGHDAD -- The night air hung like a hot wet blanket over the north Baghdad suburb of Slaykh. At 9 p.m., an electrical transformer blew up, plunging the neighborhood into darkness.
American soldiers, apparently fearing a bomb attack, went on alert. Within 45 minutes, six Iraqis trying to get home before the 11 p.m. curfew were shot and killed by U.S. forces.
Where's the positive story? I realize that death and horror are more newsworthy, in terms of selling newspapers, but that doesn't foster the image of balance and objectivity. But back to Faramarzi. She is a freelance journalist based in Beirut who investigated the Jessica Lynch rescue story after John Kampfner's "expose" that it was all made up:
In a piece over-stuffed with Pentagon denials of various sorts ("Lynch's Rescue Called Overkill"), reporter Scheherezade Faramarzi nonetheless found the story to be accurate. (The Brits were our allies, but you wouldn't want to take their reporting, when at variance with our government's myth-making, at face value…) Faramarzi adds one delectable detail to this already tattering tale of heroism:
"The U.S. commandos refused a key and instead broke down doors and went in with guns drawn. They carried away the prisoner in the dead of night with helicopter and armored vehicle backup - even though there was no Iraqi military presence and the hospital staff didn't resist. In the tale of Pfc. Jessica Lynch's rescue, this is the Iraqi side."
I believe this represents a new Pentagon policy in action: "Don't knock, don't tell."
That excerpt, by the way, came from the leftist site TomDispatch. The only problem with both Faramarzi's story and Tom's nastiness is that they're both... well... totally wrong, a fact that has been exhaustively detailed.
And this is how Faramarzi leaves the article about the family of Iraqis killed by US troops:
The Kawaz family, also Shi'a, also said they would leave revenge to God.
"I wish Saddam (Hussein) would return and kill all Americans," Anwaar Kawaz said. Under Saddam, "we used to go out at 1 in the morning. We went out at 9 now and they killed us.
"I want to drink Bush's blood. They are all criminals," she said, beating her chest.
I understand her deep grief and pain - if the story is true, she lost her husband and three of four children. But even if it is truth in one sense, is it truth in the larger sense, when presented by Faramarzi and the Star-Ledger as a major aspect of the Iraqi reconstruction? I don't think so.
Perhaps Faramarzi is living up to the reputation of her famous namesake.
UPDATE: Is it fair to judge spin based on one day's coverage? Perhaps, perhaps not. To give you more information to assess, in the MORE section is a list of all the articles on Iraq in the past two weeks from the Star-Ledger.
Bottled water drains military
A quick fix for Desert Storm troops becomes financial and logistical burden today
U.S. seizes a bodyguard of Saddam
Capture in Tikrit follows find of fresh cache of weapons
U.S. Army nabs more key figures in Tikrit
Increasing tips and raids net guard, militia leader
Iraqi leadership will be by alphabetical order
Council's 9-man rotation begins with al-Jaafari
Aide claims progress in arms search
Inspection adviser: Evidence grows and Iraqis are helping
U.S. to pay $30 million reward to tipster
Saddam's daughters take refuge in Jordan as $25 million is offered for discovery of deposed leader
Aide claims Saddam was bluffing about weapons
Strategy designed to deter a U.S. invasion backfired in aftermath of 9/11
For these Marines, 'G' stands for gleeful return
Jersey-based unit back from Iraq without single casualty
Postwar Iraq tourists brave their way
Hitchhikers from Russia depend on locals to get by
Poles getting cold feet over mission in Iraq
Populace wary about peacekeeping duties
'Ring closing' around Saddam, U.S. warns
Army says it just missed capturing dictator's aide in a night raid in Tikrit
Shi'a preacher gathers Iraqis to resist U.S. effort
So far, occupiers see Sadr's army of loud youths as just an irritant
U.S. civilian dies in Iraq blast
American was delivering mail to Army when bomb blew up vehicle
U.S. says it nabbed Iraqi guerrilla chiefs
Four snared in pre-dawn raids are suspected of organizing and arming Saddam loyalists
Car bomb explodes in Baghdad, killing 11
Terrorism feared in blast near Jordanian Embassy
FBI takes over probe of Baghdad blast
U.S. military names al Qaeda-linked group as suspects in Jordanian Embassy bombing
Bush points to gains in Iraq
Administration marks 100 days since war
A reservist who went AWOL when his unit was mobilized for the war with Iraq is claiming conscientious objector status; the military is court martialing him.
NEW ORLEANS -- A Marine reservist facing a court-martial says he's being unfairly prosecuted for criticizing the military at anti-war rallies and for publicizing his application for conscientious objector status.
The Marine Corps says Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk faces charges because he went AWOL while his support unit was being mobilized for the war in Iraq...
Funk's attorney, Stephen Collier, intends to ask the judge to dismiss the charge of "shirking important duty" on the grounds that Funk has been selectively targeted.
"People go AWOL (absent without leave) all the time and they don't get court-martialed," said Collier, a San Francisco lawyer who has handled military clients since the first Gulf War. "He's a conscientious objector who went public with his beliefs, and that's something that should be respected, not retaliated against."
A prosecutor is expected to ask the judge to disallow any evidence of Funk being a conscientious objector.
"We don't care why he didn't show up, we just needed him to show up," said a Marine spokesman, Capt. Jeff Poole...
Funk seems like a confused young man in general - certainly one not above pushing any buttons he can, and prone to making life decisions without due thought:
Funk, 21, says he joined the Marines because he wanted the discipline but acknowledges now that it was a mistake.
He also recently made public that he is gay. He thinks he is being treated unfairly because of his sexual orientation, but says that was not an issue in his application for conscientious objector status.
"I could have just said that I was gay and I would have been gone in three weeks, but it wouldn't have been honest. It's not why I'm opposed to being in the military," Funk said.
"Certainly, I'm oppressed in the military, but I can deal with that. That's a personal problem. But if I was forced to go to war ... then I would be perpetuating oppression and violence against others," Funk said.
Poole said the charges have nothing to do with Funk's sexual orientation.
Uh huh. If you say it's not a problem that you're gay, why bring it up? Why make all this brouhaha? Sounds like a fallback position to me. And suddenly you decided war is "perpetuating oppression and violence against others"? Only after you're called up? Huh. It's not like the nature of war is a closed secret in peace time. For the military, it's simple - one more time:
"We don't care why he didn't show up, we just needed him to show up," said a Marine spokesman, Capt. Jeff Poole.
I think there are people who legitimately are conscientious objectors; I knew a man who was in WWII, and who served his time without complaint as an aide in a mental hospital during the war years - not the most pleasant of places to be, either. And I'm sure it's possible to have a revelation of sorts about your views on war as you work through a military career, reservist or active duty. But Funk fails the test on both timing and attitude. I hope he has a year in the brig to develop that discipline he so desperately needed.
And I hope others at home get the message those abroad already have - don't mess with the military.
UPDATE: Corrected per Kevin's generous pointer in comments.
Very sad. He was a tremendous talent.
Curmudgeonly & Skeptical pulls out a nugget of nastiness from the Dallas Morning News - shows a little bit of partisan preference there, don't you think?
[Thanks to Spoons for the link]
Apparently now even following the law in a polling place is intimidation:
The NAACP says it's concerned about an effort by Republicans to recruit poll watchers in the west end of Louisville, which has a high population of African-Americans.
Raoul Cunningham, state coordinator for the NAACP, called the recruitment a "form of intimidation."
"It's a Republican ploy that is used across the country in areas of African-American populations," Cunningham said.
Cunningham's concerns came in response to a letter sent last month by Mike Czerwonka, a Republican and activist in Louisville's Portland neighborhood.
In his letter to Jefferson County Republicans, Czerwonka said Republican Ernie Fletcher's campaign for governor had asked him to recruit poll workers to "protect the integrity of the voting process."
Cunningham said elderly voters, particularly, tend to feel uncomfortable when partisan poll workers are present, even though state law allows "certified challengers" from each party.
"In some polls, people who have been voting for years, they know the workers when they go in and vote," Cunningham said. "In areas that are not used to this kind of participation, it intimidates people. And in Louisville, it just hasn't worked."
But Czerwonka said it's merely a part of the democratic process.
So, let me see if I've got this. Every polling place is allowed by law to have both a Democrat and a Republican at the poll as an observer. For years the Republicans have fallen down on this responsibility in a predominantly black part of town, and now they want to resume the practice. And this is intimidation, because the elderly black voters will see new faces they haven't seen before.
Now, envision this scenario: The Democrats have not for years been able to recruit poll watchers in a predominantly white Republican part of town.... Wait, that scenario crashes right there, doesn't it? Because the Dems don't miss that kind of trick. And it's pathetic that the Republicans have fallen down on the job all this time. Apparently it had an effect that maybe a little intimidation might cure:
Last year, Czerwonka lost to Paul Bather by 695 votes in a 43rd District House race. The district includes part of western Louisville.
Czerwonka said fraud played a part in the loss. One precinct, he said, included 15 more ballots than signatures of people who voted.
Czerwonka said the FBI is investigating the election, but David Beyer, an FBI spokes-man, said he could neither confirm nor deny any investigation.
Cunningham called Czerwonka's assertions sour grapes.
Accusations of vote fraud are sour grapes? Um, Dem Sir, can you say "F-l-o-r-i-d-a"?
I've never been quite sure what kind of intimidation a Republican poll watcher could engage in, especially in a place like Louisville where the Dems will be thick on the ground. What, they're going to bare their teeth and rattle chains at people who look like they might vote Dem? I know it's happened before, I know in some areas of the country it's more likely than others. But it's just patent political spin to level that accusation here.
Not that we're surprised.
And who's to say that, for all these years, those elderly black voters weren't intimidated into voting Dem and will be happy and relieved to be able to vote their conscience instead?
Just when you think the allotment of idiots has lowered, your hope is dashed. First up - career-ending idiocy:
An Air France co-pilot was in police custody Saturday after allegedly telling an airport security screener that he had a bomb in his shoe.
Philippe Rivere, 50, was arrested Friday night at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Port Authority spokesman Tony Ciavolella said. Rivere was charged with falsely reporting an incident and could face up to seven years in prison.
Rivere, who was to co-pilot a flight from JFK to Paris, was going through a security checkpoint when he allegedly said he had a bomb in his shoe, Ciavolella said. Ciavolella would not say whether Rivere was joking.
Police determined there were no explosives in Rivere's shoes, Ciavolella said.
[Comments about his being French deleted.]
And then we have "kids will be kids":
Two Michigan State University students missing since July 26 were found Saturday in a hotel near Walt Disney World, police said.
"They're fine -- according to what they told us, they were taking a vacation," said Elise Camille, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office in Orange County, Florida.
The couple, 21-year-old Justin Gouveia of Lowell, Massachusetts, and 19-year-old Danela Alfaro-Lopez of Dearborn, Michigan -- were found after police came across their blue 2002 Kia Rio during a routine check in the parking lot of the Inn Town Suites just outside Orlando, Camille said.
Alfaro-Lopez told police that her mother told her not travel with her boyfriend to Florida from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and, to avoid being found, they did not use their cell phones or credit cards, Camille said.
"She said she was 19 and was going to do whatever she wanted to," Camille said. "We just told them to call their parents."
So you allow your parents to think you're kidnapped or dead by accident or murder, for days and days, use up the resources of the local police, etc., so you can go play at Disneyworld without having to hear mom harangue.
Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking? Who bought their vehicle, who pays their schooling, who gives them play money? If it's mom and dad, and I was that mom or dad, all financial support would end as of today. After all, she's 19 and can do whatever she wants to. Let her bankroll it.
Very scary, these people.
For more than a week, it's been raining in New Jersey. Not just any rain. Torrential rains. Gully washers. Cloudbursts. And many days, they hit about 4 p.m. and end about 5 or 5:30 p.m. This makes driving home fun - one day I had to turn around and go another route because the water was high enough in one place to get in my floorboards if I tried to make it through.
The only other time I remember rain like this, in timing and force, was when I lived in Florida. But if New Jersey has become Florida, where are the palm trees?
I linked yesterday to the article by Dr. David Hill comparing bloggers unfavorably with Rush Limbaugh. Today I decided to take advantage of my Rush 24/7 subscription to hear what he had to say on the air about the article. He was not kind, and arrogant in a way that made me suddenly get why the liberals have hated him for years. I was, quite frankly, disappointed in him. Thus the email. First, here is the excerpt from the show that he has posted on his site (it's behind the 24/7 wall, so if you're not a subscriber you can't get to it):
In the audio links below, I treat you to my analysis of pollster Dr. David Hill's column headlined "Bloggers Won't Match Limbaugh." A blogger is a citizen who gets a website and just opines on various topics unrealted to politics. A friend of mine defined the term, derived from "web log," as "a nerd with a journalist degree and no social life who spends most days and all nights writing e-mails to himself and his friends in hopes of attracting attention from traditional media outlets." Andrew Sullivan is perhaps the best-known political blogger.
Many people write that bloggers are the Next Big Thing. Liberals, forever in search of something to kill talk radio, think Bloggers will return them to their positions of unquestioned power in the arena of ideas. But nothing is going to supplant talk radio because talk radio isn't going to cede the territory it now holds. "[S]hould Rush and other talkers start to worry about competition from the 'Blogosphere'?" Bloggers actually take credit for forcing Trent Lott to resign! "Although estimates are that just 4% of the online community reads blogs, they are followed by a better-educated and more upscale, influential audience than that for talk radio."
I disagree with that, based on our exhaustive polls and audience surveys. One thing you have to do when you get into this business, is know who you are. You can't lie to yourself about things. And if there are people on the Internet that think they forced Trent Lott to resign, they're going to have to get a grip. The Democrats and Republicans who joined them forced Trent Lott out along with help of the press and Lott himself. Continuing, Hill cites "four key elements" of EIB's success that bloggers lack.
#1: "Show prep." #2: "Master production technique." #3: "Limbaugh understands that entertainment value is essential to building a mass audience for political communication." #4: " Limbaugh builds bonds with his audience." Here he cites some of the personal details I share with all of you. I owe Mr. Hill some thanks because he's one of the few people that gets it. He gets it because he's a research consultant, which means he listens and tries to understand why what I do works - something the overwhelmingly vast majority of daily elite media journalists have never taken the time to do. Some have tried, and some have gotten close, but no one has ever done anything like this.
Well, Hill may have gotten why Rush is successful, but both Hill AND Rush are clueless about bloggers. And Rush should know that second hand knowledge and snarky little conversations with his buddies on the golf course do not constitute a "flawlessly researched piece on why bloggers will not be the EIB of the future". First, we haven't claimed we will be. Second, we don't want to be. Third, it's a different medium. So. On to the email - this is what I wrote to Rush:
Here is a copy of the email you just sent to Rush Limbaugh, The Doctor of Democracy
Rush, I have been a fan of yours since 1989, and have listened to you consistently over those years. I have defended you repeatedly to friends and others, and have always admired you on many levels. I even joined Rush 24/7 almost two years ago, and was considering reupping. I'm reconsidering now.
Why? Because I'm a blogger, and you dismissed me and all the other bloggers on your show Friday with a hubris and lack of knowledge that was startling from one normally so well informed. Yes, the vast majority of blogs are personal diary sites. But many are not, and do not deserve your scorn.
Neither I nor any other bloggers I respect say that we individually will ever be Rush Limbaughs. However, collectively I think we have made an impact, and as the genre spreads to other countries the collective impact will grow. We aren't navel gazing lamers - amongst the political bloggers in my corner of the "blogosphere" are well-respected law professors, journalists, economists, physicians, scientists, and just really smart average joes and janes. They provide a source of information and commentary that the mainstream media doesn't. I would see them as a complement to your program, not a threat or a copy.
It is very very obvious from your commentary that you have spent little if any time reading blogs, and what time you did spend was apparently done with a mocking sneer. We do not deserve that, and I for one did not expect it from you. I didn't expect wild accolades, either. But I did expect at least a fair hearing.
The article you referenced was a total joke. I refer you to the excellent James Lileks, a newspaper columnist beloved of the blogosphere, who responded to Hill's article with exactly the kind of response I wish I had written. Here's the permalink: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/03/0803/080803.html. The section on Hill's article referencing you begins about halfway down, with "Instapundit linked to this piece..." By the way, Lileks doesn't trash you - and you were once on his radio show, in the late 1980s.
If you want a little better education in blogging, I suggest you start with www.instapundit.com, www.volokh.com, www.medrants.com, www.janegalt.net, and www.overlawyered.com. And just for the sake of full disclosure, my blog is *cut on the bias*, at bias.blogfodder.net. I don't offer it as a definitive example of the importance of blogs, although I've done some very good work on media bias and on crime coverage in the 18 months since I started it. And more than once, I've defended and spoken well of you, Rush. I just wish you had shown the same courtesy to me and my corner of the blogosphere.
Yeah, I'm pretty disappointed in him. I know he's not perfect, and don't expect him to be. But I do hold him in high esteem generally, and I think he's been a powerful positive force for good in the last decade plus. So that makes it all the more difficult to see him miss it so very badly on something I know a great deal about.
Will he read the email? I don't know; it has a better chance since I'm a paid subscriber to his site. Will he read the links? I'm not holding my breath. But it would make me respect him more if he did finally do some real research on the topic instead of just sucking up the fawning from Hill.
Theosebes has the scoop on another round of criticism for Mel Gibson's movie about the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ.
Theosebes comments on and links this article, ostensibly about an archaeological expedition purporting to look for evidence of Noah's Ark, but actually a not-at-all thinly disguised slap at Christians:
Religious truth does not stand or fall by the historicity of its scriptural narratives. It will survive only if it enables people to find meaning and value when they are overwhelmed by the despair that is an inescapable part of the human condition. When we are discussing the meaning of life and the death of meaning, the historicity of the flood becomes an irrelevant distraction from the main issue. We are dealing not with history or science but with myth.
And that's her big point - that the Bible is all about myth, and anyone who attempts to see it as having historical import or connection is just deluding him- or herself for the sake of feeling better about believing in an obviously non-existent God. I've railed on this theme a number of times, and I won't take the time to do so again. But I will just say this: I'm disgusted and sickened by the overwhelming arrogance, condescension and sheer idiocy that her position requires. The only mythology here is the carefully constructed one in her mind. And I am also disgusted by all the people who agree with her, and dismiss Christianity as so much psychological neediness. I don't condescend to them about their beliefs, even though I think they're patently wrong. And I'm tired of acting nice about the fact that they act as if I have the brain of a three-year-old.
Civil rights attorney and talk show host Leo Terrell has broken his ties with the NAACP after years of volunteering with the organization:
...Leo Terrell (search) ...accused the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search) of "an old-fashioned backdoor power-play," and vowed to use his weekly radio show to incriminate the 94-year-old civil rights organization.
"How dare the NAACP tell me who I can or cannot endorse on an individual basis. That is the part that makes this so outrageous," Terrell told Foxnews.com. "I am going to tell the whole world what the NAACP did to me."
I like to see things like this. I don't expect Terrell to become a conservative; I'd say he'll be just as vocal as before against Bush and others. But it shows cracks in the foundation of the NAACP's plantation house, and maybe it will come crashing down sometime soon. And if you doubt that they mean for it to be just that kind of group cohesiveness that punishes individuality, check this out:
"Our strength is in the pack," said Mississippi Democratic Rep. Tom Wallace. "I don't think it's healthy for a bunch of us to go out individually. We need to ride with what the group stands for."
That's right. It's not healthy for blacks to think on their own. Now, you tell me - who's racist, and who sees blacks as less than capable of full engagement with society? It's certainly not me. I'd vote for Condi Rice as president in a heartbeat. I don't always agree with Colin Powell, but I don't for a second question his ability, integrity and fitness for his position. If anybody's keeping blacks "down on the plantation", it's the NAACP.
Gun control activists nationwide are pressuring newspapers to stop accepting legal classified advertising of firearms for sale by private citizens. Advocates of gun owners' rights said Thursday that anti-gun forces apparently aren't content with ignoring the Second Amendment and now want to ignore the First Amendment as well.
"The issue is not guns, but the way guns are sold," claimed John Johnson, coordinator of the so-called National Campaign to Close the Newspaper Loophole, in a press release Wednesday. "In an age of increasing concern for public safety, we find it difficult to defend a newspaper's part in the private sale of firearms by unlicensed sellers without a criminal background check of the would-be buyer."
The campaign acknowledges that it is completely legal for private citizens to sell guns to other private citizens but wants to use privately owned newspapers to inhibit such sales.
"We recognize that classified ads for guns are perfectly legal under federal and [your State] state law," the campaign writes in a sample letter for activists to send to newspaper publishers. "But just because something is legal doesn't mean that it is good policy."
You know... we need to get a grassroots organization together to combat these folks. Not the NRA - although membership there is a good thing- but something like "Citizens for the Right to Freedom From Stupid Leftists". We could do all kinds of things, like oppose the anti-gun people, PETA and others who are incrementally chipping away at our freedoms. We could put pressure on private newspapers NOT to pay attention to idjits.
Who wants to help me put it together?
Apparently UT's president took the Boeing in a bad way. Now he's taking it out of town.
JEDDAH, 9 August 2003 â€” Saudi Arabia yesterday released five Britons, a Canadian and a Belgian convicted of carrying out a wave of bombings in the Kingdom in 2000 and early 2001...
The men were accused of carrying out several bombings in the Kingdom, including a Nov. 17, 2000 attack that killed Briton Christopher Rodway. Several other Western expatriates working in the Kingdom were wounded in separate attacks.
They were convicted, and apparently some confessed, although all are now saying they're innocent. The article doesn't go into details about the cases, but this is just so weird to me. If the men really killed Rodway, then they should be kept in prison, Saudi or otherwise, for the rest of their lives. If they didn't, then they shouldn't be released with clemency, but because they're not guilty. Do the home countries think the men innocent, and sought the clemencies instead of exoneration to let the Saudis save face? The reason it matters so much to me is that they are supposed to be cracking down on terrorism, and the bombings, from the article's description, fit that category nicely. It shouldn't matter where you're from or what your cause is. You should be locked up and kept.
UPDATE: It appears the "saving face" thing was correct, at least according to UK's The Guardian:
The release of the men, two of whom faced the death penalty, is the climax of months of secret negotiations between London and Riyadh designed to ensure that the authoritarian Saudi regime did not lose face despite mounting evidence of the men's innocence.
A Guardian investigation last year established that the Saudi case against the men was deeply flawed, and that associates arrested as part of the same operation had been tortured by Saudi officials seeking confessions to the bombings. The revelations led Amnesty International and other human rights organisations to call on the British government to act.
Interesting. But who did kill Rodway?
Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss has resigned after investigators revealed they had evidence of improper transactions between Bliss and Patrick Dennehy, the Baylor player murdered this summer.
What a total mess.
Dodd Harris of Ipse Dixit is featured in this article on blogging in his hometown paper, the Louisville, KY, Courier-Journal. It's an excellent piece, complete with a fine picture of Dodd, and rightly portrays him as smart and savvy. And, to top it all off, yours truly is quoted twice. I think the reporter did a good job at presenting blogging in its current State of the Art, complete with a Professional Journalism Type's Skepticism that served the dual purposes of dissing blogging while sucking up to the C-J.
Dodd, I talked to him for an hour, and said way more and nicer things than he quoted, but hey. You know I love ya, man.
Galactic cannibalism, gay country singers and "keep it in your pants, Kobe!" - all at Theosebes.
And yes, I do link it a lot. He's my brother. The father of my nieces. With control over when I can visit them. I rest my case.
(He's pretty sharp sometimes, too.)
I've been tinkering for a couple of days with a longish post on the article by Dr. David Hill comparing the blogosphere unfavorably with Rush Limbaugh. Short version: Apples and oranges. And Hill is an idiot.
Well, I'm done with tinkering because Lileks has said all that needs to be said, and then some, with his usual wit and style that leave the rest of us writers checking the classifieds for jobs under "fast food service".
And I just had to pull out this one phrase:
old people with the posture of a comma
You have no need of context to fill in the entire picture. That, my friends, is great writing.
Excuse me, I need to fill out that application for McDonald's. Would you like fries with that?
I'm working on (another) new blog, this one with a more long range and serious purpose. I'm not going to advertise it much just yet, as I set it up last night and it's way way way long from Ready For Prime Time. But it's about criminal justice, and if you're interested you're welcome to check it out as it goes through birthing.
Julie Neidlinger gives extensive instructions on her weblog of how to rescue a species from extinction in your own back yard. Well, maybe not extinction. But at least from a horrible death-by-lawnmower.
It's complete with illustrations. I recommend it highly. Now, excuse me, I have to go get my plastic bucket and rubber gloves.
I didn't realize lox had ramifications, but Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly is refusing to consider them in this hilariously spiteful column slapping the NCAA's investigation of Utah's Rick Majerus.
The Columbus, OH, Dispatch, which is in the town where the baby formula Similac is made, pulled a cartoon that featured a breast-feeding mom dissing baby formula. The editor says he pulled the cartoon without realizing what it was about, just because he had an ad that needed that space.
Was it a conspiracy? Or just a layout glitch? You decide.
(I tend to think "glitch", but it's a funny story.)
Former NYTimes managing editor Gerald Boyd spoke at the National Association of Black Journalists convention yesterday, where he said he accepts responsibility for some of the atmosphere at the Times that led to the Blair fiasco, but that he did not mentor Blair, he did not directly oversee him, and he thought race was not a factor in Blair's rise or fall. I'm a bit skeptical, myself.
Boyd's reception at the convention was mostly positive, with a few lingering questions, according to the article. This quote amused me:
Dori J. Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute in Oakland, said Boyd "took the high road and I commend him for that, not nit-picking to death what happened, not dwelling on the past, but to say, 'I'm moving forward.' I think the audience appreciated that. Two standing ovations have to count for something."
There you go. Standing ovations count for something. What? I'd say it's a fairly difficult thing to assess under the circumstances. Me, I would have stood up just to stretch my legs. But that's me.
[Link via Romenesko]
Arianna Huffington is putting her column on sabbatical while she runs for governor of California (along with 3,459,731 others, at least half illegals - after all, just being illegally here is no reason not to partake of the advantages of being American, right?).
Her syndicate will miss her:
"From my perspective, she's a terrific candidate," said [Tribune Media Services] Vice President/Domestic Syndication Walter Mahoney, adding that if Huffington wins and decides to drop out of syndication, "we'll miss her column and so will her readers."
I would love an opportunity to miss Arianna - for years and years. Wouldn't you?
Although I think having her as head of the fifth largest economy in the world is a big price to pay for not having to read her drivel in print. Can you see California as an SUV-free zone? Heh.
In response to a Rush Limbaugh riff saying Ahnold Schwarzenegger is no true Republican, Blaster at Overpressure says, yes, he's a Republican, he's just not one of the really conservative ones.
He makes an interesting case. I know that I choose to identify myself mainly as a conservative, as opposed to a Republican (even though I'm registered as one), because I find many Republican policies to be unconservative. I make the distinction because I don't want Republicans thinking they've got a lock on my vote - they don't. So it makes sense to me that moderate to somewhat liberal folks may identify with the Republicans legitimately; the Republican policies are closest to their own stance as a whole, despite some major divergence from traditional conservatism on their part. Michael Bloomberg leaps to mind, albeit awkwardly.
I'm willing to accept that Ahnold is a Republican, as long as everyone else is willing to accept that I think he's way too far on the liberal side of things socially for my comfort.
A prankster sends a chicken into the air tied to balloons. A cop brings it down by shooting the balloons with an air gun. The police department investigates him for using a non-regulation gun; the cop brings a reporter with him as his representative to a closed door internal affairs interview - without telling the interviewers that the guy was a reporter. Everyone is steamed or fried - except the chicken, who is living in good health.
A Law & Order episode? No. San Francisco reality.
Additional note: You should never use "probed" and "chicken" in the same headline. Just sayin', is all.
Ken Sands of Spokane, WA's The Spokesman-Review is interviewed about blogging and its role on online newspaper sites, in this week's Five Questions in Editor & Publisher. They run two types of blogs - ones by regular columnist/bloggers, and event-specific ones, including a war blog and sports blogs. Here's their central blog page, with a list of their current blogs down the right. I think this is an excellent integration, cleanly and attractively done, and a good model for other newspapers.
It is a completely unrelated fact that one of the bloggers at The Dead Parrot Society is a Spokane journalist. Really. Would I lie to you?
The Supreme Court is looking beyond America's borders for guidance in handling cases on issues like the death penalty and gay rights, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (news - web sites) said Saturday.
The justices referred to the findings of foreign courts this summer in their own ruling that states may not punish gay couples for having sex.
And in 2002, the court said that executing mentally retarded people is unconstitutionally cruel. That ruling noted that the practice was opposed internationally.
"Our island or lone ranger mentality is beginning to change," Ginsburg said during a speech to the American Constitution Society, a liberal lawyers group holding its first convention.
Justices "are becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives," said Ginsburg, who has supported a more global view of judicial decision making.
Ginsburg cited an international treaty in her vote in June to uphold the use of race in college admissions.
Quite frankly, I think using international standards as a factor in making a US Supreme Court decision should be grounds to impeach a judge (can you do that?). While I'm not surprised by this, I'm horrified by it and shocked that I've not seen more on it. I know the article is almost a week old - did I just miss the brouhaha? Jubal at Dead Parrots Society, where I found the link, has a few more comments from his perspective as an attorney himself.
I went searching and found that, of course, Eugene Volokh - bless him - discusses it at length. From what he says, he thinks looking outside the US for precedent is sometimes acceptable, and he would consider my reaction overwrought. But somebody needs to be overwrought about it, so it doesn't go too far. Right? Anyway, Volokh makes me feel a little better about it, but it still makes me nervous.
There's a lot to read out there today, so I'll point you in the way of a few things while I get ready for a meeting this morning.
Lileks has an excellent column today as he returns to us from a couple of days of being down - he assures us it was NOT his MAC at fault, but rather the server. And then he has a wonderful section on the new gay Episcopal bishop and on men who leave in general:
The guy left his wife and kids to go do the hokey-pokey with someone else: that’s what it’s all about, at least for me. Marriages founder for a variety of reasons, and ofttimes they’re valid reasons, sad and inescapable. But “I want to have sex with other people” is not a valid reason for depriving two little girls of a daddy who lives with them, gets up at night when they're sick, kisses them in the morning when they wake. There's a word for people who leave their children because they don't want to have sex with Mommy anymore: selfish...
I made a promise when I married my wife, and I made another when we had our daughter. It's made me rather cranky on the subject of men who don't stick around. They're letting down the side. They're reverting to type. They're talking from their trousers.
There's a lot more, and it's all good.
Theosebes has been posting up a storm lately, and hits on several things: Mary Magdalene - prostitute no more; church-state relations; Christianity and taxes; and, of course, that previously mentioned gay Episcopal bishop.
Posting a list somewhere of "good protocol for weblogs" is a great idea; a lot of new bloggers are a bit bumfuzzled about usual protocol at first. I know I was. But that's a long way from some kind of code of ethics, which will always and forever be a list of preferences by some that will then be used to pummel others who don't comply, no matter what the good intentions of the originators. There are enough examples of really good blogs out there for a general protocol to be implicit; and the market will deal with those who choose to operate outside it.
It's pretty simple to me: You link your sources, both original material and link sources. You quote accurately both in facts and intent. You respect the privacy of others. If you change your post so that it means something different than it did originally, note that in an update; if it's cleaning up typos or grammatical mistakes, no harm no foul. And deleting or not deleting comments is a personal choice; the only time I would object would be if a blogger edited a commenter's comments to say something other than they did originally.
Is that worthy of a code of ethics? No. It's basic courtesy, and as I said before, in obvious use throughout most of the corner of the blogosphere that I usually frequent. I don't see a need to set up any kind of formal guidelines. It's neither rocket science nor a medium requiring formal standardization for market purposes.
I encourage you to make a list of usual protocol. I think it's overdone to call it a "code of ethics" that people would sign on to.
I haven't commented on the Kobe Bryant thing much because, really, there's nothing to comment on yet - and won't be until the trial. If he raped her, throw the book at him. If she is lying, I hope he sues her in civil court. But we don't know yet. This media hype is ridiculous.
And today it just hit the peak of absolute absurdity. He appeared for his arraignment today, and what did I hear commented on at least a dozen times? That he wasn't dressed appropriately for court, that the commentators were all shocked and appalled that he was showing such disrespect. So what did he have on? Some slinky number borrowed from Dennis Rodman? Ghetto pants and a doo rag? A belly shirt with an expletive on it?
No. He had on a very nice beige suit with a white shirt - and no tie. Apparently it was the lack of a tie that freaked everyone out.
All I can say is... we are supposed to listen to these people when they attempt to pontificate on real news like the war in Iraq or federal policies? Ha. Ha ha ha.
I've had a bit of a healing setback that's keeping me from sitting for very long today. But I won't leave you without something to ponder. I took this photograph a couple of weeks ago in Jersey City - your job, should you decide to accept it, is to guess what it is:
Well? What do you think? Tomorrow I'll post what was on the little card with the item. And those of you in the Jersey City area - no peeking at the real thing.
Here's your only clue: It's art.
UPDATE: It has a name. It either is something specific or is supposed to represent something specific.
Arnold Schwarzenegger just officially announced his candidacy for California governor.
May the puns begin.
It's something of a national joke now that everything in West Virginia is named after one of its senators, Robert Byrd. Ann Coulter, who I don't always agree with but who did a yeoman's job of research on this issue, has a partial list:
Some items funded by taxpayers â€“ but still somehow named after "Robert C. Byrd" â€“ are: The Robert C. Byrd Highway; the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam; the Robert C. Byrd Institute; the Robert C. Byrd Life Long Learning Center; the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program; the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope; the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing; the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse; the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center; the Robert C. Byrd Academic and Technology Center; the Robert C. Byrd United Technical Center; the Robert C. Byrd Federal Building; the Robert C. Byrd Drive; the Robert C. Byrd Hilltop Office Complex; the Robert C. Byrd Library; the Robert C. Byrd Learning Resource Center; the Robert C. Byrd Rural Health Center.
Lovely. Just lovely. I think it's all about pandering to an ego much larger than his home state; certainly a lot of people in West Virginia deserve at least something named for them besides Byrd. I in general abhor naming things after people currently in a position to provide you with more of whatever it is, especially if that person is using my tax dollars to do so. And now we get to something new in Kentucky along that line that I managed to miss when it happened in June:
Frankfort, Ky.- (June 10, 2003) - Yesterday before U. S. Congressman Hal Rogers knocked down the tollbooth on the Daniel Boone Parkway, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary James C. Codell, III announced that the parkway would now officially be named the Hal Rogers Parkway.
Rogers obtained $13 million in federal funding earlier this year that allowed the state of Kentucky to eliminate tolls on the Daniel Boone and Louie Nunn (Cumberland) Parkways. At the time, the state owed $26 million in bonds for four toll roads in the Commonwealth. The funding obtained by Rogers relieved a large portion of Kentuckyâ€™s parkway burden.
Codell said, â€śHal Rogers has done many great things for southern and eastern Kentucky including public works projects to provide flood control and clean drinking water; business and tourism development projects to create jobs; job training and education programs; and of course, removing the tolls from the Daniel Boone and Cumberland Parkways. We are thanking him today by renaming this road the Hal Rogers Parkway.â€ť
First, let me say that Hal Rogers represents the district where I grew up, and he's done very well by the citizens there. I think he's a fine politician, in a place where those two words don't usually belong together, and I wish him ever how many more years in Congress that he chooses to serve. I'd vote for him, if I lived there.
That said, I think naming Daniel Boone Parkway after him is just ridiculous. The Parkway is in roughly the place where Boone and the settlers coming over the mountains would have traveled, and Boone is also an historic figure that evokes good thoughts about eastern Kentucky (at least in my mind). The Dan'l Boone Parkway is a very good name. The name Hal Rogers Parkway makes me feel like I'm about to lose my hat, purse, car and possibly house to the giant sucking sound coming out of Frankfort's Dept. of Transportation. And does that mean we will now have "Hal Rogers Forest" instead of "Dan'l Boone Forest"? Will clinics and schools, offices and parks all over the Fifth District suddenly take on a Rogers name?
Much as I hate the government fiddling around with the Constitution, I'm about to suggest an amendment that says no taxpayer-funded project can carry the name of a public official until that public official has been out of office for at least 10 years. Is that too much to ask??
I don't read NewsMax.com a lot because it seems the spin there is so hard as to make it almost entirely an opinion site - they do have facts and sometimes shed light on things that need to be heard. But too often they strain to portray liberals and leftists in the worst possible light regardless of whether the situation covered actually warrants it. And this is a perfect example:
"CBS Evening News" didnâ€™t want to use blacks in a story about how the economy is hurting working people, a watchdog media Web site has reported.
A shocking e-mail memo proves "Bias" author and former CBS News correspondent Bernard Goldberg was right when he charged that blacks are not welcome as story subjects at CBS.
I don't know about the charge that blacks aren't welcome at CBS, as news sources, subjects or reporters. It seems unlikely to be a blanket thing - and after reading Goldberg's book, I don't consider him a fully trustworthy source. But even if CBS systematically disses blacks, the email News Max quotes does not on its own support their conclusion:
"CBS Evening News is doing a series, Making Ends Meet, to air this month. They seek to interview individual, single parent, or family who went from welfare to work, and then to being unemployed without any safety net-meaning they lost their job for reasons other than quitting, are not eligible for unemployment insurance, and/or they hit their limit for receiving welfare benefits. Reporter prefers the individual/family NOT be African-American. If you know anyone who might fit the bill, please contact Karen Conner at EPI â€¦"
Connerâ€™s explanation to Matthew Sheffield at RatherBiased.com: Her network contact believed that featuring black Americans down on their luck would ruin the impact of the story. "The producer said she didn't want it to come off badly. She said she didn't want the report to further the stereotype that only African-Americans are on welfare or are the only ones who need it."
Therefore, no blacks are welcome.
There may be bias going on here, and an argument could be made for it. But it would be a bias that refuses to present blacks as the "stereotypical" welfare recipients, not one that refuses to use blacks in their coverage because they're wanting to appeal just to whites. In other words, it's the liberal racism of white guilt going on, not the open "no blacks need apply" racism that News Max is alleging.
But bias is bias, right? Actually, no. News Max loses a lot of credibility, in my judgment, by frothing at the mouth about something that is not what they present it to be. There are enough genuine examples of media biases without News Max going out of its way to twist this into something it's not (or if it is what they claim, they haven't made the case at all). Such transparent but in adequate attempts to trash CBS serve no good purpose for the cause of conservatism.
UPDATE: Edited to correct a mistake: in the sentence, "I don't know about the charge that blacks aren't welcome at CBS, as news sources, subjects or reporters.", I originally had "blacks are welcome", which substantially changes the point. I meant "aren't", and the correction reflects my original meaning.
I spent an hour this morning on the telephone talking to a reporter about Dodd Harris's blog and blogging general, so that ate up a lot of my blogging time. I hope to get back to it later today, but we have an event tonight that's requiring a lot of preparation, so I don't know when that will be.
Nat Hentoff makes a great case for why every major newspaper should have a reporter covering just the Constitution beat; he points out that Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News is the only person currently doing that:
If James Madison could have foreseen Judge Napolitano, he would have been reassured, because the judge upholds the Madisonian tradition of protecting Americans against overreaching government. On a recent broadcast, Napolitano reminded the president and Attorney General Ashcroft that "National defense implies not just defense of real estate but defense of our values, and our most basic value is the rule of law."
...I asked the judge how he had come to be so fierce a paladin of the Bill of Rights as well as the rest of the Constitution. "When I was on the bench," he replied, "I saw what some police and prosecutors do to bypass the constitutional rights of suspects and defendants."
I tend to come down on the side of police and prosecutors - that's my bias coming through. But I recognize that every aspect of government in our society needs a watchdog, and the media styles itself as a major player in that arena. It continues to fail miserably in some of its charge, as Hentoff points out.
I think it's also an area where the blogosphere has shined. Glenn Reynolds often hits on Constitutional issues, as does Eugene Volokh and cohorts, and Howard Bashman. And there are others - for example, Dodd Harris, also an attorney, brings his libertarian sensibilities to the issues of the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. I don't always agree with him, but I've learned a lot from him that makes me better at fairly assessing government policies.
It is precisely the blinkered biases of the media that make it unable to see the need for just the type of reporting that Hentoff recommends, and the blogosphere does. They see themselves as unbiased, which is patently untrue but lends itself to dispassionate or no coverage of important issues in a Constitutional context. A few more Hentoffs and Judge Napolitanos would be a good thing - and more attention to the coverage of the government's actions in a Constitutional context by the likes of Reynolds, Volokh, Bashman and Harris would go a long way to alleviating the dearth.
This week's Site of the Week is Rushroom.com, a bright yellow website with something for everyone, from politics to movie reviews to Dating Advice From A Bachelor to the ladies. Can't say I agree with all he has to say, but I do agree with a lot of it. Lots to see and read.
Now for a mini-rant - what's up with Jennifer Lopez? Clearly she's not heard of something called "brand overexposure" which can quickly lead to "brand fatigue". I have had serious Jennifer "J-Lo" Lopez brand fatigue since... well, at least 2000. The woman has been married twice, did both men wrong, catted around with middle-class-upbringing bad-boy-poseur Sean "P-Diddy" Combs, and is now shacking up with Ben Affleck, who I cannot think about without hearing a goose saying, "Aff-lack!" Lopez and Affleck are all over the place, like Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt were there for a while, and may I say I'm sick of both their faces!, not to mention seriously sick of J-Lo T&A. I would be content if she were relegated to the ash heap of stardom, which apparently (given her latest movies) is where she belongs. And to top it all off - what's with this 1960s high school prom hair? I could, if paid large sums of money, produce a photograph of me circa about 1970 with exactly the same hair, a semi-toothless grin, and fingers poised above the keys of our old upright piano, just before some endless annual piano recital. Why is J-Lo wearing hair that made me nauseated at 9?
Whew. That's been stewing for a while. I feel much better.
I'm going to go get a slice of pizza for lunch.
I decided to get the car taken care of this morning after all. I literally stopped traffic on my side street to ask people if they would give my car a jump. One guy did, but it wouldn't take, so I had to call for a tow. No, I'm not a member of AAA. Yes, I will be VERY soon. The tow guy was very nice, and vouched for the repair garage I've used several times already, so I was happy to get that confirmed. I'm at a complete loss with cars, so I have to rely on what information I can glean. I hover, though - when I first take a car somewhere to be fixed, I'm right there in their face in the garage saying, "What's this? What are you doing now? What's wrong?"
So. It was the battery, after all, and they replaced it. Probably realistic, since it's a 1996 Nissan and had the original battery. Now I'm going to take it in for a tune up in a couple of weeks, something it's not had before either and it's at 93,000 miles. Almost. While they're in there, I'll have them fix the air conditioning, and then I'll just think I have a new car. Whoohoo!
Now, on to the serious business of making Your Local Government work - I have table ribbons to make!
Those of you who read this blog consistently know Hatcher, a US government employee in the Middle East who has commented on this site several times. I've also posted a couple of emails from him about Middle Eastern issues. His view of the Saudis and their country is different in a lot of ways from what you can see usually in the US. On one hand, he's got a lot more experience in the area than 99.999% of the rest of us; on the other, he's definitely got some biases of his own in analyzing the situation. But having biases makes him similar to that same 99.999% of us, so as long as he's honest about what he has to say, then that's okay.
My car won't start. I turn the key, the little test lights come on, the radio blares, I turn the key more, and the engine grinds... whir, whir, whir...! The whirring starts fast, then dies. No starting.
I can't miss work tomorrow to get the car towed to a garage. I'm going to have to leave my house over an hour before work so I can catch a bus, then walk half a mile to the PATH station to catch the train. Meanwhile, my car will sit primly in its place, which happens to be the side that the street sweeper runs on tomorrow. Yes, I have a $30 ticket to look forward to when I get home. Which will be about 90 minutes later than usual because I have to take the train, walk half a mile, catch the bus and then walk home. The morning in reverse. And then on Tuesday I'll have to get it taken care of.
I called my dad to tell him about it. I did the "whir whir whir!" thing for him over the phone. He said, "How did it go again?" So I did it again. When he asked the second time, "How did it go again?" I realized he was just wanting me to make silly noises repeatedly. Ha ha.
I would really dislike my dad sometimes if I wasn't just like him.
So I've spent most of the day resting (ok, brooding), using Motrin to get the terrier to let go, and reading. Sitting down at the computer has not been a top priority. I will, however, bravely rise above my adversities and post tomorrow.
No, I don't want to hear about how 99.9% of the world has it worse than I do on my very worst days. It's my pity party and I can whine if I want to.
(And no, this hasn't diminished the pleasure of my birthday yesterday. Sometimes wallowing in pity is its own pleasure. As long as it doesn't go on too long.)
Go out and have a fantabulous day in honor of my 42nd birthday!
Judge turned around, grabbed the afterbirth, put it in her shoulder bag, and headed upstairs.
Yes, you read it correctly. This woman gave birth on the subway - you have to read the whole thing to get just how very weird it was.
And on a writerly note, I was amused by this sentence, which just preceded the one quoted above:
After leaving the train and heading for the stairs up to the station's main lobby, witnesses said, the placenta fell to the platform.
According to that sentence, the placenta left the train and headed for the stairs under its own steam before falling to the platform. Now that's imagery for you! I'm assuming that, in actual fact, Judge left the train before the placenta fell out of her to the platform. Remember, that sentence was written by a paid professional and reviewed by at least two other paid professionals before finding its way to you. Now, what is it we always hear about how bloggers can't write properly...?
[Link lifted from DaGoddess, although I'm of mixed mind as to whether I should thank her for making me read it...]
I know blogging has been light lately, in both quantity and depth. I'm truly sorry. I have all these things in my mind that I want to write about. But it's hard to focus when your backside feels like a small terrier has sunk his teeth into it and has been hanging on firmly for over a week now. The terrier won't be letting go until at least next Wednesday. So I'll try to focus, and do some longer posts, but right now I'm beginning to sound remarkably like a demented terrier myself, barking at anything and everything with absolutely no reason at all. Days and days of low grade pain will do that - at least it does that to me. I'm not that stoic.
And tomorrow is my birthday. I may post. I may not. I may stay in bed all day. I may go into New York shopping. I'll be 42 - I can do anything I want.
Except make that nasty little terrier let go of my butt.
They say that the colors around you affect how you feel. Well, this is what's been around me for four years, in both the front and back stairwells of my apartment building. Looking down the stairs:
I try not to think about it as I walk up and down several times a day. But then... then, a few weeks ago, they repainted the dingy yellow-beige walls in the hallways at work. I've worked there three years, and they've never been painted. To my knowledge, my landlord doesn't know the guy who chose the paint at work. But... well... Just see!
So do you then find it odd that lately I've found myself here?
I think I'll start wearing red too. Doesn't show stains, you know.
I'm in the midst of a project this morning, so posting will be light and more inane than usual until I catch a break around lunchtime. Then you'd better look out!
Fifteen years ago Rush Limbaugh started his daily talk program on WABC 770 in New York City, the station I listen to all the time now. The golden EIB microphone held residence there for most of those 15 years, until Rush moved to Florida. Today, we celebrate 15 years of Rush, and I'm happy to listen to it on his home station.
I started listening to Rush in 1989, and I've been fairly faithful since; I go months at a time without listening, but I always come back and I always enjoy his show. I don't always agree with him, and sometimes I think he's totally wrong, but he's unfailingly entertaining and insightful - and I love him, even if for no other reason than that the libs detest him with all their little beings.
Happy, happy, Rush. Here's to 15 more, pulling the chain of the libs and losers.