Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cartoon Violence

Recent headlines about "cartoon-related violence" makes me think of anvils dropping on people's heads and exploding cigars. But the Muslim reaction around the world to a Danish newspaper's publishing of cartoons mocking Mohammed brings up some serious issues.

On the one hand, rioting and setting fire to embassies is a ridiculous response to images on paper. On the other hand, the Danish newspapers were very insensitive. No western newspaper would ever make fun of Jesus that way. As a matter of fact, the same newspaper that published the Mohammed cartoons had refused to publish cartoons making fun of Jesus as too offensive. Clearly, there is a double standard here. Muslims are not treated with respect by Westerners, and the Muslim rioting is an after-the-fact justification in the minds of many. It's a vicious circle: if you don't treat people with respect, they are not inclined to behave civilly towards you, either.

Maybe western news should hold a "freedom of speech" week in which nothing is taboo in political cartoons. Let's make fun of Jesus, and God, and Bush, and the Pope, and the Jews, and black people, and white people and Christians, and every other group we can think of. Prove that the west really believes in freedom of the press. Would that make a difference?
Permalink 2:36 PM

Bush Justice Deprt Wading into Partisan Fight

This sure seems like an abuse of power to me.
The Bush administration has come to the defense of Texas in a legal battle with political overtones, telling the Supreme Court in a brief filed yesterday that the state's 2003 congressional redistricting plan, drafted by Republicans, is fully consistent with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The redistricting plan, drawn up at the request of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who was House majority leader at the time, was designed to give Texas's House delegation a Republican majority to match the state's overall voting preference. After the 2000 census, the state's delegation grew from 30 seats to 32, and the shift to a Republican majority in Texas helped cement GOP control of the House...

Justice Department lawyers initially recommended rejecting Texas's plan, saying it would harm black and Hispanic voters, but were overruled by senior Justice officials. The legal standards used in the lawyers' analysis, however, were different from those at issue in the current case, which focuses on a separate section of the Voting Rights Act.
Permalink 2:30 PM

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Two Black Eyes for NASA

First, this story in the New York Times:
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.
Next, this story in CNN:
NASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb is under investigation after subordinates complained that he failed to investigate safety violations and retaliated against whistle-blowers, The Washington Post reported Friday.
With the Bush administration, corruption seeps into absolutely every branch of the federal government...
Permalink 5:05 PM

The Worst Person in The United States

The title of "Worst Person" is regularly bestowed by MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. The recipient is often a journalist/pundit, such as CNNs Glenn Beck, or Fox's Bill O'Reilly, or talk radio's Rush Limbaugh. As deserving as these people are for recognition, there is really one person who literally makes my skin crawl thinking about him, and that is Rev. Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist of Topeka, Kansas.

Among his greatest hits from him and his congregation:
  • Congregation members picketed the funerals of
    AIDS victims with protest signs that read, "God Hates Fags."

  • Congregation members picketed the funerals of West Virginia coal miners with signs saying: "Thank God for Dead Miners," "God Hates Your Tears" and "Miners in Hell," arguing that the miners' deaths were a sign of God's wrath at America for tolerating gays.

  • After the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, Phelps suggested building a monument with an inscription reading "MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22."

If Hell exists, then surely that's where Phelps is going. (If he's going to Heaven, then please, God, I'll take Hell.)

In response:
States are rushing to limit when and where people may protest at funerals — all because of a small Kansas church whose members picket soldiers' burials, arguing that Americans are dying for a country that harbors homosexuals.
I think that such legislation is pointless. The way to fight against Phelps is to stand in solidarity with the people he persecutes.
Permalink 9:11 AM

Supersize Big Mac Meal, with a Diet Coke

The administration's new budget projects that this year's deficit will soar to an all-time high of $423 billion, surpassing the old mark in dollar terms of $412 billion set in 2004...
But finally, George W. Bush is getting serious about cutting the federal budget. His proposal: cutting $63 billion over the next five years:
$36 billion in Medicare, $5 billion in farm subsidy programs, $4.9 billion in Medicaid support for poor children's health care and $16.7 billion in additional payments from companies to shore up the government's besieged pension benefit agency.
He also proposes extending his tax cuts, which will cost $1.4 trillion over the next decade.

"I'll have a diet coke---oh, and also a supersize Big Mac meal, while you're at it."
Permalink 8:47 AM