Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Oreo Update

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele of Maryland now admits that he was never pelted by oreos. In an interview that was aired this evening on WTOP, a Virginia (Charlottesville, I think) news radio station, the Lt. Governor said that he only saw a few oreos on the floor and that he only assumed that they had been thrown at him. How horrifying! Junk food on the floor of a convention center! What is the world coming to?

I sympathize with the Lt. Governor. I once saw crackers--or at least cracker crumbs--on the floor, and I was traumatized! Not only did I take it as a personal insult, but my mother made me clean them up. Well, at least Mr. Steele didn't have to suffer through that!
Permalink 11:02 PM

Paranoia Strikes Deep in Ohio

Via Avedon Carol's The Sideshow, this report in The Free Press says that something strange happened in Ohio voting. Again.

Issue Two was designed to make it easier for Ohioans to vote early, by mail or in person...The November 6 Dispatch poll showed Issue Two passing by a vote of 59% to 33%, with about 8% undecided, an even broader margin than that predicted for Issue One.

But on November 8, the official vote count showed Issue Two going down to defeat by the astonishing margin of 63.5% against, with just 36.5% in favor...

Issue Three involved campaign finance reform...Though again opposed by the Christian Right, Issue Three drew an extremely broad range of support from moderate bi-partisan citizen groups and newspapers throughout the state. The Sunday Dispatch poll showed it winning in a landslide, with 61% in favor and just 25% opposed.

Tuesday's official results showed Issue Three going down to defeat in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33% of the vote, with 67% opposed.

How in the world were the polls before the election that wrong?
Permalink 10:43 AM

Monday, November 14, 2005

Republicans: The Party of Torture

(Via MyDD)

Here's an interesting contrast: In a recent poll by Newsweek on the question of when is torture justified, 59% of Republicans answered "often" or "sometimes", while 60% of Democrats answered "rarely" or "never".

"Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, can sometimes be justified, can rarely be justified, or can never be justified?"
ALL adults-
often: 17%, sometimes: 27%, rarely: 18%, never: 33%, unsure: 5%

often: 25%, sometimes: 34%, rarely: 14%, never: 24%, unsure: 3%

often: 11%, sometimes: 25%, rarely: 20%, never: 40%, unsure: 4%

often: 17%, sometimes: 25%, rarely: 21%, never: 31%, unsure: 6%
Permalink 1:58 PM

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pat Robertson Had Better Not Get Sick.

But if he does--God forbid--get sick, he'd better not go running to science. No hospitals, doctors or drugs for you, Pat. You have totally rejected science.

(For the record, I would never advocate withholding medical care to anyone. Nor do I pray for God to smite, or even turn his back on, those with whom I disagree.)

(But I do pray for the Republicans to lose big-time next year.)
Permalink 10:56 AM

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Republican Setbacks (almost) Everywhere

In Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine defeated Republican Jerry Kilgore.

In New Jersey, Democrat Jon Corzine defeated Republican Doug Forrester.

In California, all of the ballot initiatives supported by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar were defeated.

(For details, follow the links in this Washington Monthly article.)

In Ithaca, Democrat Gwen Wilkinson defeated Republican George Dentes for District Attorney. I wasn't up on the issues in this race, except that I know that Dentes was not enthusiastic about Drug Court, a local effort to get drug treatment, rather than incarceration, for nonviolent drug offenders.

On the other hand, in New York City, Republican Mayor Bloomberg won reelection handily. Of course, in New York State, Republican politicians are more liberal than the Democrats in most southern states.
Permalink 11:26 AM

US Used Chemical Weapons on Fallujah

I certainly hope this report turns out to be wrong:
Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

(From The Independent)
Permalink 11:23 AM

John Fowles Dead at 79

Wow! Two literary posts in a row!

John Fowles, a British novelist who wrote The French Lieutenant's Woman (which was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons) died November 7 after being in ill health since suffering a stroke in the late 1980s.

Fowles is classified as a "postmodernist", which I think a lot of people associate with being pretentious and empty, but his novels are an interesting combination of heaviness and fun. "The French Lieutenant's Woman" had a very somber story at its core, but the author gives the reader the choice of two alternative endings---you can have a happy ending, if you prefer. "The Magus" was another novel of Fowles' that I read, and that was one of the weirdest, most confusing stories I've ever read. A young Englishman takes a teaching job on a Greek island, where he becomes acquainted with the rich old man who owns the island. This "mentor" of sorts leads the young man through a bizarre series of experiences involving faked deaths, pagan rituals, and perhaps magic. I found it enjoyably weird.

His last major work was "A Maggot" set in 18th century England, as weird as the other two, I gather (I haven't read it).
Permalink 11:06 AM

Cybernetic Dylan Thomas Reads Dylan Thomas

A computer-generated Dylan Thomas reading one of the poet's most famous works is due to be launched in Swansea.

A 3D film version of Thomas, recreated from his death mask, old photographs and voice recordings will read Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

No moving film footage of the poet, who died in New York in 1953, is believed to have survived.

Photographer Bernard Mitchell and Swansea animation firm iCreate are behind the project.
You can view it at the BBC:
Permalink 10:55 AM

Kansas Board Knocks Evolution

Public schools in the US state of Kansas are to be given new science standards that cast doubt on evolution. The Board of Education's vote, expected for months, approved the new language criticising evolution by 6-4. Proponents of the change argue they are trying to expose students to legitimate scientific questions about evolution.

...Teachers have been ordered to tell pupils that Darwin's theory of evolution is unproven, and that the universe is so complex that it may have been created by a higher power.
Meanwhile, in Dover, Pennsylvania, voters rejected the school board members advocating the teaching of Intelligent Design in the public schools.
(article in the York Dispatch).

So, you win some, you lose some.
Permalink 10:32 AM

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Republican-Led Investigation Leads to Republicans

Via Atrios, CNN reports:
Trent Lott stunned reporters by declaring that this subject was actualy discussed at a Senate Republican luncheon, Republican senators only, last tuesday the day before the story ran in the Washington Post. Lott noted that Vice President Cheney was also in the room for that discussion and Lott said point blank "a lot of it came out of that room last tuesday, pointing to the room where the lunch was held in the capitol." He added of senators "we can't keep our mouths shut." He added about the vice president, "He was up here last wek and talked up here in that room right there in a roomful of nothing but senators and every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper." He said he believes when all is said and done it may wind up as an ethics investigation of a Republican senator, maybe a Republican staffer as well. Senator Frist's office not commenting on this development. The Washington Post not commenting either.
Maybe in the future, the Republicans will include Democrats in their secret meetings, so they'll have someone else to blame in case of leaks.
Permalink 5:14 PM

Saddam's Lawyer Killed in Iraq

From Yahoo!News:

Gunmen killed a second defense lawyer in the trial of Saddam Hussein and his aides on Tuesday and the former Iraqi president's own counsel demanded the court be moved abroad, out of reach of the U.S.-backed government.

Was that random violence, or were Saddam's lawyers targets? If so, to what end were they killed? It seems to me very unlikely that Saddam's lawyers were going to get him off. Maybe Saddam supporters killed his lawyers so that Saddam can argue that there is no way for him to get a fair trial?

Weird stuff.
Permalink 4:00 PM

Quick Response by Congress on Reports of Secret Prisons

Via YahooNews

The Washington Post reported Nov. 2 on the existence of secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe for terrorism suspects. Today, Republican lawmakers react forcefully:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker
Dennis Hastert are circulating a letter calling for a congressional leak investigation into the disclosure of secret U.S. interrogation centers abroad.

..."If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks," stated the letter, which Hastert's office said the House speaker had signed. There was no immediate word on whether Frist had given it his signature.

They don't have any problem with the existence of such secret gulags, but only with disclosing their existence in public.
Permalink 2:37 PM

In Virginia, Voting Machine Problems

From the web site of WDBJ News (Roanoke, VA)
News 7 has received calls from several voters in at least four different precincts who say their votes for Tim Kaine were not recorded or took several attempts to go through.

They contend the electronic touch screens repeatedly indicated they were voting for Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore instead of registering their intended vote for his Democratic opponent Tim Kaine.
Obviously, the problem is voter error. It’s probably Microsoft autocorrection at work: The voters surely intended to vote Republican.
Permalink 2:18 PM

In Virginia, Kaine Just as Guilty?

Kyle has pointed out to me that in the Virginia governor's race, Kaine is guilty of doing some of the same dirty tricks as Kilgore.

From the web site of WVIR-TV, Charlottesville:
Just days before voters head out to the polls, the Kaine campaign is slapped with a fine by the Virginia Board of Elections. Additionally, a complaint is being turned over to the commonwealth's attorney to determine if the Kaine camp went so far as to purposely break the law. All of this controversy surrounds a flyer that the Kaine campaign sent out by mail.

The mailer looks to be sent out by the Republican Party and in fact, has the party's logo on the cover, but the message inside the flyer is clearly against republican candidate Jerry Kilgore. And only in tiny print, does the flyer ever say it was created by the Democrat Kaine campaign.
Permalink 10:41 AM

Generic Democrats Way Ahead in Polls

According to MyDD, the latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows a preference among voters for a generic Democratic congressman to a generic Republican congressman of 52% to 37%. Unfortunately, Democrats never run a generic congressman, they always run a very specific one, who is typically much less popular.
Permalink 10:22 AM

Monday, November 07, 2005

IRS Harasses Liberal Church

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.
This is unbelievable, given the churches that have openly opposed liberal politicians from the pulpit:

From the Denver Post
Bishop Michael J. Sheridan, who heads the Colorado Springs Diocese,...wrote to those in his diocese and urged them not to vote for abortion-rights candidates in the November election, including Sen. John Kerry for president and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar for U.S. Senate. Further, he suggested any Catholic who did so should be denied Holy Communion.
From The Washington Post
Members of the small East Waynesville Baptist Church say (Pastor) Chandler led an effort to kick out congregants who did not support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town about 120 miles west of Charlotte. Forty others in the 400-member congregation resigned in protest.
From The Yurica Report
David Barton, deputy chairman of the Texas Republican Party, [spoke] at Eugene's Willamette Christian Center. Reporters for the Register-Guard and the Eugene Weekly were not allowed in, and had to be content to interview those who attended as they walked to the parking lot after the noon luncheon talk. I also could not get in. but gained insights from one of the church representatives who described the occasion for me afterward.

The IRS seems to be specifically and exclusively harassing liberal churches. It's become an enforcer for the GOP. More and more, every government office is becoming an arm of the Republican Party. Scary.
Permalink 3:09 PM

Dirty Tricks in Virginia Governor's Race

Via Majikthise

Supporters of Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore for Governor of Virginia are distributing fake voter guides for Democrats and progressives: "2005 Official Democrat and Progressive Voter Guide-Governor of Virginia". Not surprisingly, the guide recommends that Democrats and progressives vote for Russ Potts for Governor, rather than the Democrat, Tim Kaine. The pamphlet gives fake contact numbers for Potts and Kaine.

Permalink 2:02 PM

Action on Global Warming Not Expensive

From an editorial in the New York Times:
President Bush has long argued that a nationwide program of mandatory controls on carbon dioxide and other global warming gases would saddle the country with crippling electricity costs. He may be surprised to learn that his own Environmental Protection Agency no longer believes that to be the case.

In the course of a study comparing costs and benefits of various clean air bills rattling around Capitol Hill (including Mr. Bush's Clear Skies program), the E.P.A. found that under a measure sponsored by Senator Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat, the cost to electric utilities of controlling carbon dioxide would be only $1 per ton, imposing little burden on consumers and business.
Permalink 10:45 AM

Mixed Messages on Torture

From YahooNews

President Bush vigorously defended U.S. interrogation practices in the war on terror Monday and lobbied against a congressional drive to outlaw torture.

"There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again," Bush said. "So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law."

He declared, "We do not torture."
Meanwhile, back in Washington DC:
Over White House opposition, the Senate has passed legislation banning torture. With Vice President Dick Cheney as the point man, the administration is seeking an exemption for the CIA.
Permalink 10:40 AM

Avast! Freebooters Abast!

It's really not funny, but there was an actual attack by pirates in the Seychelles (an island chain in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar):

MAHE, Seychelles - A cruise liner that was attacked by pirates over the weekend docked safely on this Indian Ocean archipelago Monday after changing its course to escape. Passengers described their horror as pirates in speedboats chased their luxury cruise liner at sea, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles — with smiles visible on faces otherwise hidden by ski masks.

[You can get information about the Seychelles from the CIA's website]
Permalink 10:24 AM

Saturday, November 05, 2005

US Medical Care: Most Expensive, Most Error-Prone

From Consumer Affairs

Not only do Americans pay much more for medical treatment than anyone else in the world, they also bear the brunt of the most medical errors, according to a survey covering the USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Almost 7,000 patients were consulted.

The survey supported by The Commonwealth Fund finds that one-third of U.S. patients with health problems reported experiencing medical mistakes, medication errors, or inaccurate or delayed lab results -- the highest rate of any of the six nations surveyed.
Permalink 7:05 PM

Friday, November 04, 2005

Delay and Impartial Judges

Tom Delay managed to get assigned a different judge to oversee his case (he was indicted on charges of money laundering as a means to get around campaign finance laws; I hope I have that right.) The basis for removing the original judge was that he was a Democrat, and so was likely to be prejudiced against Delay.

There is something wrong with this picture. In our country, just about every politician (and judges are often elected officials, so they are politicians as well) is either a Democrat or a Republican. It can't possibly work to require that a judge be political neutral before he can preside over a trial involving a politician accused of wrongdoing. It seems to me that it makes more sense not to prejudge, but instead wait until there is actual evidence of prejudicial treatment on the basis of political party. At that point, the defendant can ask for a new trial or appeal to a higher court.

As a country, we have become completely disfunctional if it is impossible to expect justice from people of the opposite political party. Have we reached that point?
Permalink 5:08 PM

Time Warp Art

(Via Matt McIrvin)

Here's some weirdness for you. A University of Tokyo project uses high powered computing to generate time warping art. The concept is this: Imagine a thick stack of photos, each taken at a slightly later time. So we have basically a 3D brick of images, in which two of the dimensions represent space, and the third dimension represents time. We take a 2D "slice" through this brick, and display it. As we move the slice back and forth, we see earlier and later images. Now, here's where the "warping" comes in: each little piece of the viewing slice can be showing different points of time.

The researches have a developed a flexible display screen that allows you to literally push a single point on the screen to a later time. It's hard to explain, but take a look at this demo: (if you can play wmv files).
Permalink 2:52 PM

Patent Office Follies

Via 3quarksdaily

Andrew Knight, a rocket engine inventor, registered patent agent, and graduate of MIT and Georgetown Law, was awarded the first patent on a fictional story idea. This patent covers any use of the idea, including motion picture manufacturers and distributors, book publishers and distributors, television studios and broadcasters, and movie theaters.

Unbelievable. I don't know whether this guy is a money-grubbing jerk, or if he's trying a reductio ad absurdum of the idea of intellectual property.

[Update] I guess he's after the money; he has a company dedicated to storyline patents. I'm thinking of patenting the idea of the plucky hero who faces overwhelming obstacles to win the girl of his dreams.
Permalink 12:30 PM

Ithaca News: Penelopiad

(Via 3quarksdaily)

Margaret Atwood has written a novel, The Penelopiad, that is the story of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, during the time her husband was off galavanting on his Odyssey. The reason this is Ithaca news is (of course) because Odysseus and Penelope lived in the original Ithaca.

This adds to the list of novels that are retellings of familiar tales told from the point of view of the female characters. Off the top of my head are:

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, which tells the biblical story of Jacob's family from the point of view of his daughter Dinah, a tragic figure from Genesis.

Ahab's Wife by Sena Naslund.

Maid Marian by Elsa Watson.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Permalink 11:39 AM

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mud Slinging

I had lunch today with a (somewhat) conservative co-worker. He was complaining about how nasty politics has become. I opined that this has been largely the conservatives' doing. David Neiwert has a good post on the subject. I know that it's true: liberals do it too. But I do not think there can be any doubt that the conservative leadership (both the political leaders of the Republican party and the conservative punditry: Limbaugh, O'Reily, Hannity, Coulter....) has been responsible for essentially tossing aside the Marquis de Queensbury rules. Sure, both sides broke the rules--often. But it was the conservative leadership who decided that they were not even worth having anymore--except as one more club with which to bash liberals whenever they dare to start fighting by the new rules.

On this same subject, there was an episode of Ben Wattenburg's "Think Tank" which stuck out to me as a really excellent example of conservative bias in the media. He was discussing the subject of the loss of civility in politics, especially in Congress. He asked his guests what had caused this, and one of them suggested that it boiled down to the Democrats being unused to being in the minority. Wattenburg and his other guest looked a bit uncomfortable for a minute, and then they went on to talk about other things. No other reasons were considered. I tried to find a transcript of this episode recently. I know that I saw it in the fall of 2002: September, October or November. I found what I am pretty sure was the right show on their web site, but that particular passage was missing. I'm pretty sure that one guest was Norman Ornstein, congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who more recently has said that "[Republicans] have been gradually using, on a regular basis, techniques that violate all the norms of conduct and behavior. And they've gotten away with it." Weird, and more than a little suspicious.
Permalink 11:45 PM

Why are Testicles a Metaphor for Courage?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mr. Sulu is Out

From Macon.com (via Battlepanda)

LOS ANGELES - George Takei, who as helmsman Sulu steered the Starship Enterprise through three television seasons and six movies, has come out as a homosexual in the current issue of Frontiers, a biweekly Los Angeles magazine covering the gay and lesbian community
Permalink 1:52 PM

Methodists Boot Lesbian Minister

From the New York Times:

In a pair of decisions that bolstered conservatives, the highest court of the United Methodist Church defrocked an openly lesbian minister yesterday and reinstated a pastor who had been suspended for refusing to allow a gay man to become a member of his congregation.
...But church experts said the most significant decision could prove to be the little-known case of the Rev. Edward Johnson, pastor of South Hill United Methodist Church in South Hill, Va. Mr. Johnson's decision to keep an openly gay man from joining his congregation was upheld by the Judicial Council as the rightful exercise of his pastoral discretion. He had been suspended for a year without pay by fellow ministers in Virginia, but the Judicial Council ordered his regional leaders to find a new appointment for him.
I was raised Methodist, and I was always a little smug about Methodists being more enlightened than Baptists, but I guess I was wrong. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and the church decides that gay ministers and gay parishioners are the sins to worry about. In both of these cases, the "sin" was being openly and unrepentently gay. Supposedly, the church welcomes gay people who pretend to repent.
Permalink 12:56 PM

"American Girl" under fire

MILWAUKEE - A Roman Catholic school is canceling a fashion show by the manufacturer of American Girl dolls and books amid conservative groups' criticism of a girls organization that receives support from the company.

So the "American Girl" manufacturers donated money to a radical group, and the school is protesting. Which group was that? Girls Inc., formerly known as Girls Clubs of America.

While I believe that religion can play a positive role in a person's life, it seems to me that the role that organized religion plays in public life is as likely to be detrimental as beneficial.
Permalink 12:49 PM

Crime Does Pay

Via The Daily Kos.

Has anyone noticed that the coverup worked?

In his impressive presentation of the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week, Patrick Fitzgerald expressed the wish that witnesses had testified when subpoenas were issued in August 2004, and "we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005."

Note the significance of the two dates: October 2004, before President Bush was reelected, and October 2005, after the president was reelected. Those dates make clear why Libby threw sand in the eyes of prosecutors, in the special counsel's apt metaphor, and helped drag out the investigation.

So Scooter Libby obstructed the Fitzgerald investigation long enough to make sure Bush got re-elected without the distraction of White House staff being indicted. Mission accomplished!
Permalink 12:44 PM