Saturday, May 07, 2005

If there was ever a time for scare quotes
I support nudism as much as the next guy, but this headline should read "2,000 brave cold for nude 'art.' "

Think we're approaching theocracy?
Here's an exhaustive post that explains why theocracy is a misleading term in this context. Highly recommended.

Professor Reynolds isn't thinking straight
It must be the fact that he's surrounded by so many bloggers and it's overwhelmed him, but the InstaPundit seems to have made a serious mistake in a recent post. He said, simply:

IF YOU'RE AT THE BLOG CONFERENCE, you want to use 'nashvilleblog' as your SSID.
So what's wrong with that? Well, let's think about that.

An SSID, or service set identifier, is used by a wireless network to distinguish itself from other networks. In other words, if you're in an area with more than one network, you choose the one you wish to connect to by its SSID. Furthermore, some networks—like Yale's, for example—do not broadcast their SSID, so if you do not know what SSID to use, you cannot connect to the network.

That's the only reason Professor Reynolds might need to share the SSID with people at the conference—without it they can't get online. Very generous of him, I agree, but maybe you're starting to see the problem.

If they can't get online, how are they supposed to get to to find out the appropriate SSID?

Admittedly, Professor Reynolds has spread far and wide within the blogosphere. Surely he hasn't gone so far off the rails to think that people can telepathically read his blog... or has he?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Cut the kid a break
From the list of the ridiculously absurd:

A high school student was suspended for 10 days for refusing to end a cell phone call with his mother, a soldier serving in Iraq, school officials said.

The 10-day suspension was issued because Kevin Francois was 'defiant and disorderly' and was imposed in lieu of an arrest, Spencer High School assistant principal Alfred Parham said.
You know what, let the kid talk to his mom. If it was during class, I could understand asking him to hang up. When he says it's his mom in Iraq, let him leave the room to talk to her. If it's a lunchtime, which it was, let the kid talk to his mom.

Now, the article goes on to say that he may have used profanity when told to hang up. If he did, I hope his mom chewed him out from Iraq, and he probably ought to get detention or something. But a ten day suspension, no matter what, is uncalled for.

UPDATE [5/6/2005 - 21:22]: Taranto has more:
Assistant principal Alfred Parham says Francois could have been arrested for being defiant. He adds that students are not permitted to use cell phones "for conversating back and forth during school because if they were allowed to do that, they could be text messaging each other for test questions."

Which raises the question: Do people who think "conversating" is a word have any business administrating tests in the first place?

Not that big a surprise has a whole special banner with faded nuclear reactors, a map of North Korea, and a nuclear symbol to accompany an article stating that the Pentagon thinks North Korea is preparing for a nuclear test.

Maybe we'll get lucky and it'll be just a toy nuclear bomb filled with gun powder.

There goes underage drinking
This might have unintended consequences.

You're forgetting something
There's been lots of coverage of Tony Blair's recent victory in British elections. What people have failed to point out in everything I've read, however, is that this is one more victory for the major allies of the Iraq war.

UPDATE [5/6/2005 - 21:32]: Apparently I spoke too soon.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I apologize that blogging has been so light today. I had an interview of sorts in New York this morning, so spent most of the day traveling back and forth. In addition, I'm trying to finish up the second to last paper of my college career in time for tomorrow, so I haven't had a boatload of time. I will return tomorrow afternoon—though probably not with a vengeance.

I have my final paper due Monday—and Mother's Day activities—so I'll be pretty busy over the weekend. I'll make sure to get a little blogging in there. And, folks, as of Monday afternoon, I will be done with my college career. As such, I imagine that there will be large amounts of blogging (and sleeping) next week.

Thanks for your patience.

Oh, and keep your fingers crossed that I come up with a semi-decent job. Thanks!

The Kingdom of Heaven
When I first saw a trailer for this upoming Ridley Scott movie, I turned tot he person sitting next to me and said "it'll be interesting to see who they make out to be the bad guy." She responded that, of course, it'll likely be a balance. I replied that I wasn't so sure—in today's climate, I thought, it's entirely possible that there will be over-compensation for the Islamist position (and let's be serious, that's who the Christians fought in the Crusades, even if they were equally horrific back then), and the Christians will be made to look far worse than the Muslims.

Well, it appears that I may have been right. I submit for your reading pleasure this and this review—both of which conclude very similar things about this film. I'll still see it, but I have a feeling that I may be offended by it. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

This guy knew what he wanted, and made sure to get it done (via The Man):

A man whose body was pulled from the Mississippi River on Sunday had shot himself five times with a .22-caliber handgun before driving from his Godfrey home to the Clark Bridge in Alton and fatally throwing himself into the waters below, authorities said.

Who and why?
Who are the Dems filibustering, and why? Peter Kirsanow looks at two theories and finds some strength for both.

Paul Campos is spot on:

One of several hundred books I'm never going to write is a study of how the 24-hour news cycle has created the need for a default story of the moment, which can be talked about endlessly on cable news networks that live in terror of boring their fickle viewers.

Thus it came to pass this weekend that, instead of spending precious air time covering, say, the battle over the future of Social Security, cable news devoted most of its resources to its two favorite story lines: Celebrity Justice, and Photogenic White Girl in Distress.
Read the whole thing.

The Future of Space Flight?

Best. Idea. Ever.
I think I need to pick up some of these.

The lot I lease space in here in New Haven has no lines in it, but for some reason everyone feels the need to park so there is exactly space for one car in between every other, so long as no one plans to open their doors to get in or out. Effectively, this creates for the most inefficient use of space possible, and despite tons of room in the lot, it's almost always "full." I should but the 100-pack and just walk around slapping them on every car in sight. Sigh.

Always Remember
Miracles happen:

Ten years after a firefighter was left brain-damaged and mostly mute during a 1995 roof collapse, he did something that shocked his family and doctors: He perked up.

"I want to talk to my wife," Donald Herbert said out of the blue Saturday. Staff members of the nursing home where he has lived for more than seven years raced to get Linda Herbert on the telephone.

It was the first of many conversations the 44-year-old patient had with his wife, four sons and other family and friends during a 14-hour stretch, Herbert's uncle, Simon Manka said.

"How long have I been away?" Herbert asked.

"We told him almost 10 years," the uncle said. "He thought it was only three months."
I hope and pray that he continues to improve and that he can return to his family in a relatively normal capacity. Just an unbelievable story.

Monday, May 02, 2005

It's worse than you think
I just saw a trailer for Episode III (that's Star Wars, for you neophytes) that I hadn't seen before. It opens with Mace Windu (that's Samuel L. Jackson's character, for you neophytes) saying "I believe there is a plot to destroy the jedi," or something similar to that. I can't help but think to tell him "not only that, Mace, but your lightsaber, holographic, and other technologies are going to regress over two decades by the time the rebel alliance starts to have some victories."

Some Thoughts
Make that some coherent thoughts on the filibuster.

Oh boy, Paul...
Paul Krugman just loves making conclusions that aren't as inherently true as he'd like to pretend:

The important thing to understand is that the attempt to turn Social Security into nothing but a program for the poor isn't driven by concerns about the future budget burden of benefit payments. After all, if Mr. Bush was worried about the budget, he would be reconsidering his tax cuts.

No, this is about ideology: Mr. Bush comes to bury Social Security, not to save it. His goal is to turn F.D.R.'s most durable achievement into an unpopular welfare program, so some future president will be able to attack it with tall tales about Social Security queens driving Cadillacs.
I do believe that Bush's plan is ideologically driven—but maybe that just means that Bush is trying to turn the program into something effective for the people who need it most? Yeah, he's trying to destroy the FDR version of Social Security, but maybe that's because "social security" is now needed far less than it was in the Depression. Maybe we should be focusing instead on "social improvement."

Let's help the poor stop being poor, instead of spreading the money around people who don't need it nearly as much as Krugman wants us to believe.

Riding Sun makes me laugh out loud yet again.

The Changing GOP
Conventional wisdom usually says that Bush's 'Faith-based initiatives' were a bow to the radical evangelicals of the party. I always thought they were an attempt to help out social programs that were doing good work. Now there's a new theory: maybe they're helping pull black voters into the Republican Party. Harold Jackson gives his take:

While reviews are mixed on whether Bush's so-called faith-based initiative will ever successfully supplant government-run social welfare programs, it has been a bona fide hit in winning African American support for the Republican president. Was that planned or a coincidence?
African American ministers who had been shy about being linked to the Republican Party no longer felt so constrained after the White House began directing federal dollars to church programs that truly have been the saving grace in many downtrodden inner-city communities. And once they touched a toe to the water, many black preachers decided the baptismal pool was warm enough for full immersion.
Seems plausible to me. If you read the whole thing, you'll see some of the evidence of the gains Bush has made among black voters. I don't know that any linkage between faith-based initiatives and increases in black Republicans can be proven, but it seems logical. Remember, Democratic candidates always make a point of visiting big black churches in urban areas—maybe the Republicans have figured out a way to tap into those same vibrant communities without so visibly entering those churches.

The Truth Should Be Told
Unfortunately, the press doesn't always seem to agree. John Leo takes on the behavior of the media in reporting on the John Bolton nomination, and the accusations leveled at him:

John Bolton stands accused of nonsexual harassment (rudeness or crudeness, in plain English) by a woman named Melody Townsel. She says Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chased her through the halls of a Moscow hotel a decade ago when she was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. government.

Does it matter that Townsel is a liberal Democrat and founder of the Dallas chapter of Mothers Opposing Bush? Maybe not. Even anti-Bush liberals can find themselves pursued through Russian hotels by rapidly moving Republicans. But it matters a lot that most news outlets withheld her partisan connections in reporting the story.
Read the rest.

Not sure how Social Security will turn out?
Why not consider Michael Barone's perspective?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Happy May Day, Everyone

Some Vietnam Realities
The New York Post makes it clear that conventional "wisdom" regarding Vietnam is, in many ways, entirely wrong.

Setting the Record Straight
There has been a lot of talk recently (mostly revolving around the filibuster debate) about the fact that Senate Democrats actually represent more constituents than Senate Republicans do. Prompted by this Political Wire piece, I feel that something needs to be cleared up. The piece says, among other things:

The forty-four-person Senate Democratic minority, therefore, represents a two-million-plus popular majority—a circumstance that, unless acres trump people, is at variance with common-sense notions of democracy.
So here it is, much as we may not like to hear it: the United States is not a democracy! Certainly, while the Senate itself operates on democratic notions (with the exception of arcane rules like filibusters and anonymous holds), its make-up was never intended to be democratic.

The Founders were concerned with many different things, but near the top of the list was inequal distribution of power between the states. The entire reason behind having two houses instead of one was to split the balance of power between large states and small.

At the writing of the Constitution, there was a serious fight between these two groups. States like Virginia and New York wanted a popularly apportioned legislative body, states like Rhode Island and Delaware wanted equal power between states, lest they sacrifice the autonomy they'd had under the Articles of Confederation. The result? A House, appportioned according to population, and a Senate with its power divided evenly among the states.

So the entire idea behind the Senate is, in fact, not that acres trump people, but that states trump people. The Republicans have won more state-wide elections, even if the Dems have won more votes. Sadly for them, that isn't the measure by which the Senate's power is divided, and it was never intended to be.

That's not the point
Frank Rich tries to take on South Park Conservatives:

But a funny thing happened on the way to the publication of 'South Park Conservatives': Emboldened by the supposed 'moral values' landslide on Election Day, the faith-based right became the new left. Just as Mr. Anderson's book reached stores in early April, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone, true to their butt-out libertarianism, aimed their fire at self-righteous, big-government conservatives who have become every bit as high-handed and meddlesome as any Prius-pushing movie star. Such is this role reversal that the same TV show celebrated by Mr. Anderson and his cohort as the leading edge of a potential conservative victory in the culture wars now looks like a harbinger of an anti-conservative backlash instead.
I don't think Mr. Rich gets it. Those shows, making fun of the Christian Right, are a big part of what South Park Conservatism is about. South Park conservatives support gay rights quite strongly, for example. These people are not conservatives who enjoy South Park, they are people who support the pragmatism of South Park comedy, making fun of the excesses of both sides, and, on the balance, coming down in favor of a moderate conservative philosophy.

This demands a fisking
A Miss Mary Anne Gruen writes a letter in the New York Times, in response to an editorial of April 26, titled The Disappearing Wall, which asserts, among other things, that: "the assault on judges is part of a wide-ranging and successful Republican campaign to breach the wall between church and state to advance a particular brand of religion." Miss Gruen's response is titled "Religious Freedom, in Danger," and, not surprisingly, supports the position of the NYT editorial board. Are we to believe that, among the thousands of letters that the NYT receives every day, there was not one, coherent, well-argued letter that disputed teh idea that the Republica Party is pushing one brand of Christianity at the expense of all others? I don't buy it—and that's part of the reason I also don't buy the NYT except on rare occasions.

Either way, Miss Gruen's letter is ridiculous, and I couldn't pass the opportunity for a fisking, which I haven't done in a while. The text of the letter will be in italics to distinguish it from my response. Here we go:

She begins: What the Republicans are doing threatens to destroy one of our most precious freedoms - freedom of religion.
Well, we'll see about that.

I am a Christian and my husband is Jewish. We are not affiliated with any organized church. Yet I read the Bible daily and pray many times throughout the day. I do not count myself any less a Christian than others who refer to themselves as such.
I cannot speak to Miss Gruen's Christianity, except to say that reading the Bible and praying do not, in and of themselves, make one a Christian. I have several friends, one of whom is in the process of converting to Judaism, many of whom are either atheistic, or irreligious, who fit this description, but are in no way Christian.

That said, I do not want any religious dictator (Christian or otherwise) telling me how to worship, what to believe or what prayers to say.
Who does? Well, ok, papists do, I suppose. But, of course, for a few centuries Catholicism has been a choice, and even within the Catholic Church many choose to follow a different spiritual path than the one prescribed by the Pope. Just look at how upset liberal Catholics are about Benedict XVI.

But in all seriousness, can anyone point to a single Republican official who is advocating one Church over another, or one set of prayers over another? Even if they ask for prayers on a specific matter ("pray for our troops," etc.), they are not advocating a legal mandate that people pray. (We should keep in mind that Congress prays before each session, of course, and that they always have. Must be part of that Republican assault, right?)

The only place she may have a legitimate objection is on the "what to believe" clause. Christian Republicans believe that Christians should be allowed to serve on the court, and they believe that some laws can reflect the determinations of society be they based in religion or not. But is this telling people what to believe? No, it's saying "hey, we believe this, and we should be able to legislate on issues that matter to us." People are still welcome to disagree, but that doesn't mean they get to write the law. I disagree on some environmental laws that have been passed. Is the fact that they were passed an indication that the government is telling me what to believe? How about wellfare? I don't think cash handouts are the most effective way to help people out of poverty—does government endorsement of precisely that mean they're telling me what to believe? No, of course not.

My relationship with God is private, just as my relationships with the members of my family are.
Apparently, her relationship isn't all that private since she feels quite confident in holding it up as an example to the world in a letter to the editor of the NYT. So, relationships with God don't have to be private as long as they're being used to condemn the relationships that others have with God? I'm confused...

If we had children, I would not want the Republicans or any of their agents telling my children what church to belong to or what beliefs to hold. The last time I looked, we were not in Iran.
It appears, then, that she looked quite recently because we are, in fact, not in Iran. Of course, (again) I have yet to hear a single Republican tell the public what church they should join. And, as far as "what to believe," (again) I've heard plenty of Democrats telling me that I should support gun control, fight ANWR drilling, raise taxes on the wealthy. How are these forms of telling me what to believe any less invasive to my personal freedom of thought than anything the Republicans are saying? Oh, right, you don't like their version of the world. My mistake.

Men and women who want to center their lives on religion should seek jobs as ministers in the churches of their choice.
Now who's telling who what to believe? I believe that every human should have the right to center his or her life around his or her faith of choice. I may become a priest some day, but does the fact that I'm more likely to go to law school mean I can't try to hold myself to my faith?

They should not be serving as judges, where they will be called upon to judge those who do not hold their religious beliefs, unless they can swear to give a totally fair and impartial judgment, outside the confines of faith.
At least she's honest. What this is about is that she doesn't want (devout) Christians serving on the bench. Period.

And that's just wrong. Period. Separation of Church and State means that we cannot distinguish between people because of their faith. We cannot keep someone out of federal office simply because he worships a different God than we do, or even because he worships the same God more stringently than we do.

She eases off of this, of course, by demanding only that judges can render a verdict outside of their faith. I'm sorry to say, again, that I think this is wrong. Or, at least a big inaccurate. I think judges should be able to render a verdict outside of the confines of opinion period. We no longer execute children in this country because public opinion has decided it's wrong—instead of because it's legally wrong. That's a judgment based on personal opinion (whether it was religious or not, I don't know) and that makes it wrong. Roe v. Wade claims a constitutional protection for abortion, but no one can tell me where the Constitution discusses abortion. Again, this was a judgment made on belief instead of literal analysis of the text. It doesn't matter whether it's religious or not. To borrow—paraphrase—a line from the West Wing: "I don't dispute that there are natural laws, I only dispute that it is the provenance of judges to arbitrate them." Religion isn't the issue.

I would think that those Republicans who aren't bullies would be happy that only 10 of President Bush's appellate court nominees have been blocked by filibusters. It certainly doesn't smack of any kind of prejudice. Are we to lose our precious religious freedom just because of these 10?
It does smack of some kind of prejudice, though it was sneaky to try and slide that sentence in there. These judges were determined unfit for the bench by the Democratic leadership long before hearings were held—isn't that the definition of prejudice?

As to the "they should be happy it's only 10," is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard. Should we have been happy that the Founders only sought to restrict the rights of blacks in the Constitution? Should we have been happy that Germany only wanted France in the first World War? Should we have been happy that the Nazis only wanted to wipe out Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals? Sure, these are all extreme examples, but they make the same point: the number isn't the issue, the principle is.