Thursday, November 30, 2006

Have you ever heard the name Tom Vilsack?

I hadn't either, until he declared that he was running for president.

He [Governor Vilsack] said he wanted "to replace the America of today with the hope of tomorrow and guarantee every American their birthright - opportunity". (BBC)

An interesting exercise...

I was forwarded this article in an email today, about Keith Ellison (the first Muslim Congressman elected) who is planning to take his swearing-in oath with his hand on the Koran instead of the Bible:

He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.

First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism - my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

What do you think? This is what I quickly typed up as an initial response:

How, exactly, does a representative taking his oath on a religious book other than the Bible "undermine American civilization?" It's just not logical. Also, "America" in the sense of all voting-age citizens (whom Dennis Prager feels he can speak for), doesn't decide the specifics of how representatives are sworn in. In the strictest sense, we don't even decide what laws are passed most of the time (besides state referendums, which are voted on by the population): we're a Representative Democracy, so our representatives decide which laws are passed-- not us directly. And in the case of what book to use while swearing in elected officials, the Constitution is the decider (ha):

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." (Article

First: an oath isn't even required -- an "Affirmation" will work. That provision was put in because some people thought the Bible objected to swearing, just like Baptists do in most cases. Second, the Constitution forbids the requirement of swearing on a Bible specifically. A Bible is conventionally used, but if a representative couldn't serve unless he swore on a Bible, it would be a "religious test."

If, while taking an oath with the purpose of pledging to uphold the Constitution, a Bible were required to be used -- it would violate the Constitution itself.

Then I looked up the article on the internet to see if anyone else had responded to it, and Eugene Volokh raised the same points as I did (in National Review, of all places):

Yet this would literally violate the Constitution’s provision that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” For the devout, taking an oath upon a religious book is a religious act. Requiring the performance of a religious act using the holy book of a particular religion is a religious test. If Congress were indeed to take the view that “If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book [the Bible], don’t serve in Congress,” it would be imposing an unconstitutional religious test.

What’s more, the Constitution itself expressly recognizes the oath as a religious act that some may have religious compunctions about performing. The religious-test clause is actually part of a longer sentence: “The Senators and Representatives ... [and other state and federal officials] shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required ....” The option of giving an affirmation rather than oath reflects the judgment — an early multiculturalist judgment — in favor of accommodating members of some denominations (such as Quakers) who read the Bible as generally prohibiting the swearing of oaths.

Read the rest of the National Review article here, and another good summary of the controversy is here.

It's kind of funny that this whole thing was over nothing. Members of Congress are all sworn in at once, and none of them use the Bible or any other religious book. Oh well, it was a good exercise in reason.

Pictures from spring break in Istanbul.

The Pope is scheduled to visit Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul tomorrow. Last spring break I went to Turkey, and spend a few days in Istanbul. This is Haghia Sophia:

Haghia Sophia was a Christian church in the 6th century, then it was converted into a mosque in 1453. Now it's a museum, but there are calls from Christians and Muslims to re-open it as a church or mosque again.

I took these at the Blue Mosque:

I don't remember exactly, but I think these are different views of Haghia Sophia:

Update: The Pope's visit to Turkey.

Pope Benedict XVI has called for an "authentic dialogue" between Christians and Muslims in a speech at Turkey's directorate of religious affairs. (BBC)

I speculated here on how the Pope would approach the differences between Muslims and Christians, and what he would say specifically:

If the Pope glosses over this [the differences] with generalities, conveying the idea that both religions could be true, then he would surely anger millions of Catholics.

He went the diplomatic but completely non-committal route: calling for a "dialogue." I understand why he said this, but calling for more communication isn't really saying anything at all. He didn't explain anything and he didn't help the relationship between Muslims and Christians. We should talk about this. Let's have an authentic dialogue. Those words are intended to make people feel good, but they don't have any substance to them.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wise words from Lindsay Lohan: "Be adequite."

The 20-year-old actress, who scored a part in [Robert] Altman's last movie, A Prairie Home Companion, made the interesting decision to go public with a condolence letter she wrote to the Altman family in the wake of his death from cancer last week. The passion was certainly there - she, like many dozens of actors before her, clearly adored the experience of working in Altman's characteristic freeform style - but the letter was also spectacular in its incoherence and disregard of basic grammar and spelling.

"I am lucky enough to of been able to work with Robert Altman amongst the other greats on a film that I can genuinely say created a turning point in my career," she began, less than certainly. "He was the closest thing to my father and grandfather that I really do believe I've had in several years... He left us with a legend that all of us have the ability to do." A little lower down, she fell into improv philosophy, apparently riffing on the notion that life is too short to waste: "Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourselves' (12st book) - everytime there's a triumph in the world a million souls hafta be trampled on. - altman Its true. But treasure each triumph as they come." And she signed off, "Be adequite. Lindsay Lohan." (The Independent)

She touts the "fact" that she was a straight-A student back on Long Island. My head hurts.

Bill Frist isn't going to run for president.

His decision caps a 12-year stint in electoral politics in which he rose from an underdog in his 1994 Senate campaign to the position of majority leader a mere eight years later.

The decision by the Tennessee senator leaves Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the most nationally prominent contenders for the Republican nomination. (AP via CNN)

Rudy Giuliani would run an interesting campaign, and I look forward to seeing what his bid for president will bring. He doesn't have an overwhelming pretense of seriousness to hold up, which might work in his favor -- especially with young voters. Running a country is serious business, but it could be beneficial for everyone to take themselves a little less seriously. Are campaign ads that make people laugh too much to hope for?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What the....?

I don't know what to say about this. You'll have to read it for yourself.

Word(s) of the day: Google Bombing

Definition: "A Google bomb or Googlewash is Internet slang for a certain kind of attempt to influence the ranking of a given page in results returned by the Google search engine, often with humorous or political intentions." (Wikipedia)

Fighting over a Peace Sign: Update

The community war in Colorado over a woman's peace-sign shaped wreath (which I wrote about here) has ended: the community board raised their white flag today.

"I'd like to say a good word about Michael Richards..."

"...And before you jump to any conclusions, Mel Gibson, too. As long as I'm at it, why not throw in Sen. George Allen? I'm sure I've overlooked others who have recently waxed bigotedly, but these three will do. This is what I have to say: Thank you.

"I say this not because I approve of what they've said but because their remarks have been so roundly condemned that I can see the responses only as signs of remarkable progress. This is particularly the case since the statements exist solely in the ether, largely disconnected from the actual harmful deeds that have often followed such words. In these cases, we have moved past ugly behavior to ugly words. We consider them deed enough." (Richard Cohen, WaPo)

This is an argument that morality (or, at least, society's conception of the degree of wrongs) is relative, and it's pretty hard to refute. Fifty years ago we were still dealing with widespread racist violence, so mere words didn't seem that bad. Now that racist acts have been suppressed dramatically, racist words are "deed enough" to warrant a huge negative reaction.

I wonder what will happen 50 years from now, if suspicion of racism will be enough to warrant similar reactions. I hope we know where to draw the line between actual words and actions and suspected beliefs.

ADDED: Here is the YouTube video of Michael Richard's "racial outburst." I think it's interesting that the press called it "racial," and not "racist." Is a "racial outburst" better or worse than a "racist outburst?"

"There is something about the Web that brings out the ego monster in everybody."

Michael Kinsley writes about the blatant self-absorption on display thanks to the internet in an op-ed in today's Washington Post:

There is something about the Web that brings out the ego monster in everybody. It's not just the well-established tendency to be nasty. When you write for the Web, you open yourself up to breathtakingly vicious vitriol. People wish things on your mother, simply for bearing you, that you wouldn't wish on Hitler.

It's true! Facebook and MySpace are forums to talk about yourself in socially accepted, and even encouraged, ways. And blogs, oh my.

I haven't heard about people wishing things on my mother, but I have received some "hate" emails. Any public person will encounter people with whom they disagree, and I try to deal with them and move on.

Google is taking over the world.

Google bought YouTube back in October, and now YouTube is working with Verizon to host a version of YouTube on Verizon cell phones.

This year, Christmas costs $18,920.

That's the cost of the 12 days of Christmas according to MSN. The cost rose 3.1% this year.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Fighting over a peace sign.

A homeowners' association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. (AP via

This is the first of the barrage of "human interest" stories that appear every Christmas. I expect at least a dozen more with the phrase "war on Christmas" from now until January.

Not that I'm cynical; I actually love Christmas. But come on, they're making a big deal out of a peace sign? If you have kids serving in Iraq, you should support a call for peace! The sooner peace can be made, the sooner your kids will come home.

A different kind of fanaticism.

"World football boss Sepp Blatter has warned that financial corruption in
football is making the job of the referee harder than ever. In a tough address to the Soccerex football business gathering in Dubai, he put the issue at the top of a list of problems the sport faces, including corruption, racism, club v country, the wealth of many European clubs, and the issue of home grown players." (BBC)

When I first clicked on this link, I was thinking "corruption in football" meant American football, but it makes more sense that it was referring to soccer. I was born and raised in Alabama, where football fans are notoriously hard core, but an Alabama fan's devotion to his team is mild compared to the hysteria surrounding soccer in the rest of the world.

ADDED: Deadly football fanaticism. A man in South Carolina shot his friend over a $20 bet on the SC-Clemson game!

The Pope's visit to Turkey.

"Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused of snubbing Pope Benedict on his first official trip to a Muslim country, says he has agreed to meet the pontiff when he arrives in Ankara on Tuesday.

"The Turkish leader had initially said he could not meet the pope because of a scheduling conflict with the two-day NATO summit in Latvia which begins on Tuesday.

"Many saw the move as a snub in light of recent tensions following a controversial speech in Germany in which the pope quoted a 14th century emperor who said Prophet Mohammed's teachings were "evil and inhuman." (CNN)

I'm anxious to see how this visit will turn out, and what the Pope will say in his addresses. The Catholic church -- assuming that the Bible is a good indicator -- blatantly considers Islam to be false, wrong, etc (John 14:6). Christianity holds that no other way exists to heaven except Jesus. If the Pope glosses over this with generalities, conveying the idea that both religions could be true, then he would surely anger millions of Catholics. But Catholics don't generally kill people and burn buildings when they feel slighted (today -- I'm aware of the offenses of the church in the past).

The Pope is the head of the Catholic church, but his visit has a definite political purpose. It's another addition to the mess that results when religion and politics are mixed, but this time it's on a worldwide scale.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fat Studies

“Why should I be ashamed?” said Ms. Director, 22, a graduate student in women’s studies at San Diego State University, who wields the word with both defiance and pride, the way the gay community uses queer. “I’m fat. So what?”

During her sophomore year at Smith College, Ms. Director attended a discussion on fat discrimination: the way the super-sized are marginalized, the way excessive girth is seen as a moral failing rather than the result of complicated factors. But the academic community, she felt, didn’t really give the topic proper consideration. She decided to do something about it.


At the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the subject has emerged in a course, “The Social Construction of Obesity,” taught by Margaret Carlisle Duncan, a professor in the department of human movement sciences, who takes a skeptical view of the “war on obesity.” (New York Times)

How long will it be before students can major in Fat Studies? And what would someone do with that degree?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why did your Thanksgiving day plane ticket cost so much?

And how do airlines determine prices anyway?

I flew from Charleston, SC, to San Diego this summer for a little over $300, and a round-trip ticket from Charleston to Baltimore (less than a quarter of the distance) is almost that much. Flying on Thanksgiving is ludicrously expensive, and Melonyce McAfee explains why.

It's basketball season again...

...And College of Charleston has a new coach: Bobby Cremins, the legendary former Georgia Tech coach. Is there hope for us?

Scott Adams on Iraq.

"Iraq has its own 99 thoroughly unpredictable factors. But there is one factor we know for sure. As long as American forces occupy Iraq, there will be substantial American losses. That’s why the decision appears uncomplicated to me. While it’s impossible to know the RIGHT decision, since no one can see the future, it’s simple to know the RATIONAL decision. You should base your decision on the one factor that is both important and known: troop casualties."

Scott Adams is the creator of the comic Dilbert.

DNA testing clears a man of rape. He's been in prison since 1992.

"Authorities are reviewing the conviction of a man imprisoned for a 1992 rape after he was cleared by DNA tests that the original lab analyst refused to conduct.

"Marlon Pendleton's lawyers received the results of the new tests Wednesday and filed a motion seeking to vacate his conviction. Prosecutors were reviewing the case and Pendleton's conviction in another rape, said John Gorman, spokesman for State's Attorney Richard Devine." (CNN)

Cases like this push me to oppose the death penalty. The justice system is very good -- perhaps the best in the world -- but it's certainly not perfect.

Coincidental Conspiracies.

When I hear the word "conspiracy" in reference to the government, I usually stop listening. Not because I have faith in the inherent goodness of the system; I just don't think the government is competent enough to secretly pull off the various evil schemes that have been alleged. A Hollywood conspiracy, however, is much more believable.

Bobby comes out this weekend, which is astonishingly good timing for new evidence of a conspiracy involved in Bobby Kennedy's death to surface. Coincidence?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Canadian PM Stephen Harper declared Quebec a nation within Canada.

Texans: take heart.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I live in Charleston, SC, but my parents live in Annapolis, MD. I made that horrible, horrible drive yesterday. It usually takes 9 hours, but yesterday it took 13. I bet everyone who traveled this week has a story like mine. It's good to be home!

This morning I realized that I've never watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. So I'm camped out on our huge couch with my little sister watching the parade, but now it's time to catch up on news that I missed yesterday (news radio is just not adequate)...

ADDED: I see the weather isn't ideal for my first time watching the parade -- the balloons aren't flying as high as usual because of the wind and rain. I think I can get over it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Barbara Bush's purse was stolen, even though she was being guarded by Secret Service agents.

"First Daughter Barbara Bush had her purse and cell phone stolen as she had dinner in a restaurant in Buenos Aires, Argentina, even though she was being guarded by a detail of Secret Service agents, according to law enforcement reports made available to ABC News." (ABC News)

That's embarrassing!

"She was 14...It was just shocking and horrific... She didn't want to get married."

A Utah court is deciding if Warren Jeffs should be tried for rape for forcing a 14 year old to marry her 19 year old cousin.

On Faith

The Washington Post wants to start a conversation about faith.

I just heard this recently, but every time I hear people arguing about faith or abstract concepts lately-- like truth, love or knowledge -- my mind returns to this poem by John Godfrey Saxe:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

Each man touches a different part of the elephant and declares that elephants are exactly like a certain thing:

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," -quoth he,- "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

Even though each blind man only touched one part of the elephant, he thinks he knows and can describe exactly what elephants are like.

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean;
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

And so, when I hear people arguing over what they can't know (which happens often enough, especially on college campuses) the last two lines echo in my head: "And prate about an Elephant/Not one of them has seen!"

AIM for professionals.

Can you see it catching on? Up until now I've considered instant messaging a casual way of keeping in touch with people, but I can see why the format would be good for businesses. Chats with more than two people would be like conference calls, but with a few more seconds to compose your thoughts. I'm much more thoughtful on AIM, usually, because if I phrase something too bluntly I can revise it before hitting send. You get the chance to see your thought as it will be communicated, and edit it before anyone else sees it. With conference calls, whatever you say it just out there -- no taking it back.

Conversely, it could be easy to abuse if you take it too lightly. Email has gotten people in trouble because it feels like such a casual way to communicate, and people have sent inappropriate things to the wrong people. Also, the language for different ways of communicating varies greatly, and business conducted on AIM would surely use different words than casual conversations on AIM. And no spell check! There is all sorts of potential for miscommunication using instant messengers. Mark Foley's AIM conversations got him in trouble last month, and I'm sure there will be many more instances of misuse as AIM becomes more common for business purposes.

News and entertainment sources are starting to catch on: New York Magazine printed the AIM conversation between two writers as they watched the TV show Heroes; it's a sort of first-impression review.

You've just boarded a plane and six Muslim men are seated near you.

Just before takeoff, the men stand up and say prayers. What would you do?

On a US Airways flight from Minneapolis, a passenger wrote a note of concern and gave it to a flight attendant. The captain asked the men to leave the plane, and they were forced off after they refused to leave by themselves. (CNN)

Monday, November 20, 2006

OJ Simpson's book and interview are cancelled.

But before you applaud the move as a moral stand: the decision probably had to do with not being able to get ads to run during the interview segment. (CNN)

Oh no, he didn't.

Please tell me Tom Cruise didn't really do this.

Oh yes, he did. Tom Cruise sang "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" to Katie Holmes at their wedding reception.


"Five Myths about the Midterm Elections"

"MYTH: The losses Republicans suffered this election were no different than what you usually see in a President's sixth year in office.

"REALITY: Redistricting minimized what might have been a truly historic shellacking." (Time)

Hmm. This is always true, no matter which party is in office. Gerrymandering always solidifies the safety of incumbent seats.

This one, however, I agree with:

"MYTH: The election was all about the war.

"REALITY: It's the dishonesty, stupid."

Shooting at Annapolis Mall.

"At least four people were shot at the crowded Annapolis mall last night,
including an off-duty Secret Service agent who opened fire on a teen involved in a food court gunfight.

"At least six shots rang out just after 7:15 p.m. near the Cingular wireless store in the Westfield Annapolis mall, police and witnesses said, sending hordes of panicked shoppers running for cover." (Capital Online)

I grew up in Alabama but went to high school in Annapolis, MD. I do my Christmas shopping in this mall every year.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Will people judge Hillary Clinton because of Nancy Pelosi's leadership style?

It makes sense that they probably will. In my mind, the two are linked because of their political party and positions of power. Even though I disagree ideologically with them, I'm excited that women are reaching these positions.

I hope that judgments about women in power can be withheld until enough women have reached these positions to make a legitimate judgment. It's a huge amount of pressure to be the first.

ADDED: I forgot to link to the article which made me think about this in the first place. It's a London Telegraph piece titled "Republicans plot to bring down Pelosi...and Clinton with her."

The walk to Kudu (coffeehouse).

I took some pictures on the walk to the coffeehouse I'm in now. This is College of Charleston's main building, Randolph Hall.

ADDED: The front of this building faces the cistern, where there was an orchestra concert that I took pictures of last week. Those pictures are here.

The faculty offices at CofC are in historic houses, not huge buildings. This is the Philosophy and Religious Studies house, where I spend a lot of time:

The houses promote a relaxing atmosphere. A lot of meetings I've had with professors have taken place on the porches of houses like this, where there are benches and swings. They're much more conducive to good conversation than traditional offices.

Judith Regan attempts to justify her decision to print OJ's "If I did It."

Regan was beaten by her husband and went through a horrible ordeal to get him convicted. She tries to explain printing OJ's book in light of her past:

"My son is now 25 years old, my daughter 15. I wanted them, and everyone else, to have a chance to see that there are consequences to grievous acts. That the consequences of pain and suffering will ultimately be brought upon its perpetrators. And I wanted, as so many victims do, to hear him say, “I did it and I am sorry.” (Newsweek.)

If she wanted to show her son and daughter that there are consequences to horrible actions, she wouldn't have provided a forum for a killer to gloat about his actions and how he flouted the justice system. He's bragging about how he escaped punishment, and he's making money from it (possibly for his children -- though I'm skeptical). Regan says that she's not making money from the deal:

"What I do know is I didn’t pay him. I contracted through a third party who owns the rights, and I was told the money would go to his children."

However, her stock is surely going up from all the publicity, and OJ is taking pleasure from the whole thing: "malignant narcissism" as Regan calls it. But "malignant" means harmful, and OJ's narcissism -- thanks to Judith Regan -- is getting OJ exactly what he wants.

"We'll succeed unless we quit." -- President Bush

Open-ended justifications make me suspicious. This one could go forever: "If we quit now, we'll lose." could be used indefinitely. It reminds me, in a bad way, of divine right of kings. "God put me here, so God approves of everything I do."

Bland, uninformative articles annoy me.

Magazines like Time and Newsweek present a special challenge for journalists. The weekly magazines present news to the masses, people who are more interested in current events than the most apathetic portion of the population, but who pay for their news magazines as sources of entertainment. They'll only keep reading as long as it's interesting, and the writers have to reduce complex stories to their most important parts and frame them attractively to keep readers. This either results in brilliant philosophical brevity, or unfortunate pieces like this one.

To be fair, this is a summary of the Time story on Pope Benedict XVI and Islam; the whole story might be more substantial. But I came away from this one having learned nothing and feeling like my time had been wasted. Take a chance! Do something proactive! This article just describes the situation as it is with minimal historical context. Boring.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

News for you to read while I go to the gym.

The election made me tired of rigorous political analysis, so I've neglected it for a few days. My interest will return soon and solid posts will follow. In the meantime...

The killer cookies sent to the Supreme Court justices were Ann Coulter's fault. David Lat at Above the Law explains why.

Inside Fox News: How to be Fair and Balanced (Slate)

CNN's story of the day is about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding. Aren't there more important things going on?

A man passes out while driving and slams into a house, knocking a hole in the wall.

The hole reveals 58 dogs and 2 cats in cages inside the house.

Secret Santa

"For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the streets every December quietly giving people money."

He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret Santa has been handing out $100 bills, sometimes two or three at a time, to people in thrift stores, diners and parking lots."

This is in Kansas City, Missouri.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Killer cookies.

There was a plot to kill all nine Supreme Court justices last year with cookies. Yes, really. But the worst part is that each package had a note saying that the cookies were poisoned.

"Every member of the Supreme Court received a wonderful package of home-baked cookies, and I don't know why, (but) the staff decided to analyze them," the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted O'Connor as saying at the legal conference November 10 in the Dallas area. "Each one contained enough poison to kill the entire membership of the court."

The letters did not seem to pose much of a real danger since the threatening note told the recipients the food was poisoned. In court papers submitted with the plea agreement, prosecutors said each of the envelopes contained a one-page typewritten letter stating either "I am" or "We are" followed by "going to kill you. This is poisoned."

"Contraception, abortion foe to head family-planning office."

"The Bush administration, to the consternation of its critics, has picked the medical director of an organization that opposes premarital sex, contraception and abortion to lead the office that oversees federally funded teen pregnancy, family planning and abstinence programs.

"The appointment of Eric Keroack, a Marblehead, Massachusetts, obstetrician and gynecologist, to oversee the federal Office of Population Affairs and its $283 million annual budget has angered family-planning advocates." (CNN)

Restated: Keroack is head of an organization that opposes contraception, and he's now head of the federal office that oversees teen pregnancy and family planning programs. I don't think it's possible to overstate how proactively irresponsible this is.

The Netherlands is considering a ban on burqas.

Does this mean they're progressive because they're banning something oppressive, or would the ban itself oppress women by taking their right to wear what they want?

Would such a ban ever be considered in the US? (Assuming that women are wearing burqas in the US. I've never seen it here, but I did see several women wearing burqas and walking behind men in Turkey. It was unsettling -- not because it was a huge cultural difference, but because the woman looked so subservient. Is it subservient if the woman chooses to wear a burqa? That probably depends on her individual situation.)

"The burqa, a full body covering that also obscures the face, would be banned by law in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and the law courts. The cabinet said burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety."

I've never thought about it before, and it's probably not a practical consideration (yet), but there is a public safety issue involving people covering up their faces. During Halloween I saw several stores with signs banning Halloween masks inside the stores, and that makes sense. If the face is completely covered, there's no accountability because identity can't be verified. The stores were afraid of being robbed. I'm not aware of any cases of crimes being committed by women wearing burqas, but if it becomes a cultural norm to cover the face completely, it is a possibility.

Just a picture...

...of friends and me in Greece. I love this picture because it looks like an album cover from the '70s.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"And, just like that, drinking and shooting and driving fast and screwing are cool all over again."

Andrew Wright deems Casino Royale, the new James Bond movie, "Really, really, really good."

Can OJ Simpson be charged with anything for his "If I Did It" stunt?

OJ is coming out with a book called "If I Did It," which I talked about here. He's also doing a televised "confession" telling how he did it, if he did it.

"If Simpson did end up in court, could his televised "hypothetical" confession be used against him? Yes. The fact that he's beginning every sentence with "If I did it … " might give him a little bit of wiggle room, but it doesn't grant him any kind of immunity. His hypothetical confession will still be damning if it reveals any new information about the case that only the killer could have known.

Slate's The Explainer explains under what circumstances OJ Simpson could land in court again.

"I think we should pity them..."

Matt Frei of BBC News doesn't have much respect for America's electoral process.

"Forget America's notoriously low turnout - this year saw a bumper crop of voters bloated by popular anger with the Bush administration.

"I think we should pity them and marvel at their dogged determination to have their voices heard. "

Pity? That's a strong word.

"...And once the voter has emerged from the electronic voting booth, blinking into the daylight, and has the misfortune to switch on the TV, what does he
find? The circus has already moved on to the next race: The Big One. The Main Dish. The presidential elections of 2008. Americans live in a perpetual election campaign and the next one has already started."

Do Americans look at other nations like this? Do we point out disagreeable qualities in their political processes and harp about how we pity them? If an American columnist wrote that they "pity" a nation, they'd be attacked with a tidal wave of indignant responses.

The "perpetual election campaign" critique is common. We've heard that one before. But the rest of the column is here -- Frei has more to say.

I find outsiders' perceptions of our political system interesting. The pretentiousness that Americans are attacked for exists other places as well.

Rolling Stone has Borat's only out-of-character interview.

Sacha Baron Cohen talks to Rolling Stone as himself. This surprised me (from the RS interview, which took place in a restaurant):

"Baron Cohen continues to grill the waiter: "What kind of fish?"

"It soon becomes clear that he is not merely curious or vegetarian or allergic to peanuts. He keeps kosher and is making sure that there is no shellfish, pork or other forbidden food or food combination in the dish. A devout Jew, Baron Cohen also keeps the Sabbath when he can, which means that he doesn't work from Friday evening to Saturday evening."

It's been well publicized that Baron Cohen is Jewish, but it turns out that he's very devout.

"Borat essentially works as a tool," Baron Cohen says. "By himself being
anti-Semitic, he lets people lower their guard and expose their own prejudice, whether it's anti-Semitism or an acceptance of anti-Semitism. 'Throw the Jew Down the Well' [a song performed at a country & western bar during Da Ali G Show] was a very controversial sketch, and some members of the Jewish community thought that it was actually going to encourage anti-Semitism. But to me it revealed something about that bar in Tucson. And the question is: Did it reveal that they were anti-Semitic? Perhaps. But maybe it just revealed that they were indifferent to anti Semitism."

It's understandable that people who grew up in parts of the US where there weren't many Jews would be indifferent to the anti-Semitism in the song. Sure, books about the Holocaust were read in elementary school, but lingering racism just isn't made real unless you've had personal experience with it. My guess is that those people in Tucson would have reacted differently if the song had been about African-Americans, because that particular horror took place in their own country and they've been taught more about it. In any case, that paragraph seems to go easier on the Americans. The next one doesn't:

"I remember, when I was in university I studied history, and there was this one major historian of the Third Reich, Ian Kershaw. And his quote was, 'The path to Auschwitz was paved with indifference.' I know it's not very funny being a comedian talking about the Holocaust, but I think it's an interesting idea that not everyone in Germany had to be a raving anti-Semite. They just had to be apathetic."

And here's the tease so you'll buy the magazine and read the rest of the article:

"There are two things Baron Cohen doesn't like talking about: his background and his creative process -- how he creates his characters, how he procures interviews with highly inaccessible figures like Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, and how he gets them to take seriously his preposterous questions.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

McCain for President!

A job on John McCain's presidential campaign is perhaps the one thing that would convince me to postpone law school. Just, you know, putting that out there.

McCain/Rice '08? Maybe that's a little too much to hope for.

“Anything that might sully their sexiness—a long-standing drug problem or boorishness toward small pets.”

-- People managing editor Larry Hackett, on what the man deemed Sexiest Man Alive should avoid doing while "wearing the crown." The winner this year is George Clooney, for the second time.

How much of the internet is pornography?

The US government participated in a study which has concluded that about 1% of internet pages contain pornography. The study also evaluated methods of blocking minors' access to porn, and found that content filters are the most effective way to block pornography. They work between 89 and 98% of the time.

The study is significant because it validates a US Supreme Court decision from 2004 that overturned the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which Clinton had signed into law. The act required pornographic websites to get a credit card number before people could access the sites, in theory to verify age. But the problem with this act was that it could only apply to US companies, not overseas ones. It created a substantial burden on adults wanting to access those websites while not doing much to protect children.

The Supreme Court upheld a law in 2000 that required libraries receiving federal funding to install filters on their computers, which makes much more sense as a law.

This is interesting:

"About 6 percent of searches yield at least one explicit Web site, he [Phillip B. Stark, the California professor who oversaw the study] said, and the most popular queries return a sexually explicit site nearly 40 percent of the time."

OJ Simpson: "If I did it, here's how it happened."

This is repulsive. OJ Simpson wrote a book and is doing a series of interviews describing, "theoretically," how he would have murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman if he had done it.

The obvious (and now irrelevant) ethical issue is OJ's culpability in the first place. The trial was probably flawed, but because of double jeopardy he can't be tried twice for the same offense even if he confessed publicly. Double jeopardy is limited to being tried twice by the same sovereign, or authority, but he's clear on that because the murder happened in California and he was tried in California.

His book and these interviews are exploiting the public's obsession with this trial. He's also exploiting a painful situation and renewing the agony of the victims' families, who have already lived through it once. And what about Fox's responsibility? Is Fox being unethical by profiting from a mistake that the justice system made?

I think so.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Christopher Hitchens stands up against Borat...

...and says the movie shows that "Americans are almost pedantic in their hospitality and politesse."

Hitler: Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

I'm in History 102, even though I'm a senior, because it's required and I kept putting off taking it. The next oldest student in my class is a sophomore. Oh well, I can deal with it.

We're studying World War II now, and my class gasped when this picture came up on the professor's powerpoint slide. That's right: in 1933, Adolf Hitler was Time Magazine's Man of the Year.

"I don't know about marijuana's effects on the mind, I don't know if it has medicinal properties..."

"...but I do know this: marijuana will cause your body to be thrown in jail." -- Judge Carr in class this morning.

"...patients are treated to patronizing encouragement, a capricious merits-and-demerits system and open contempt."

"...Moreover, the “integrity” of the patients, which mostly means their willingness to rat out fellow inmates for common young-women stuff like swearing, smoking in the bathroom, getting tattoos and trading prescription pills, is constantly called into question. It’s exhausting. And after all this restraining of their evil ways, the women can only conclude that they are undisciplined, depraved and out of control..."

It sounds like my high school experience, but it's really from a New York Times review of "Thin," a documentary about anorexia treatment.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The citizenship test is getting an overhaul.

"In an effort to make the citizenship exam more meaningful, the federal government said Monday it will test an exam that relies less on trivia and more on an applicants' grasp of American democracy.

"[...] The current test is heavy on historical facts and includes questions about the colors of the U.S. flag and the name of the form used to apply for citizenship. The new exam will ask about the Bill of Rights and the meaning of democracy." (CNN)

This sounds appropriate. The Bill of Rights and democracy are the foundations on which the rest was built, and having a citizenship exam that focuses on the most important aspects of the country is a good idea.

"All U.S. citizens -- not just new ones -- could brush up on their civic knowledge, said Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative think tank that supports the assimilation of immigrants.

"It's also good for the people who are already here, because there will be fewer problems and fewer friction if we all understand what America is all about," he said."

"Fewer friction?" Less friction? Anyway, if only we could all agree on "what America is all about." It sounds like this is a good change to the test, but let's not idealize it.

"I would ban religion completely."

"...there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion," he said. "From my point of view, I would ban religion completely. Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate." -- Elton John, via

It's sad that this is his perception of religious people, but I don't doubt that he's encountered a lot of hateful religious people because he's such a public gay man.

There's a pervasive idea around now that we should tolerate everything and disapprove of nothing ("to each his own" and all), but should we tolerate sets of beliefs that are intolerant? This argument (against tolerating intolerant beliefs) is the strongest I've encountered against cultural relativism. I've heard it used against Islamic fundamentalists.

The view that I've settled on is that everyone can believe whatever they want to believe. You have the right to believe that the sky is green or that gay people are sent from the devil, but you don't have the right to treat people badly because of your beliefs.

I believe that hell resembles Alaska more than a fiery pit, but I don't hate on Eskimos.

It's not an airtight, rigorously logical position, but it's one I can live with.

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

The groundbreaking for the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial is today in DC. I spent my freshman year of college at Villanova University, where we studied some of Dr. King's writing and speeches. Everyone has heard parts of the famous "I have a dream" speech, but his other writings were most interesting to me. Here's "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Castro's cancer.

It's been pretty apparent that Fidel Castro is ill, but CNN is reporting that he has cancer of the stomach, colon, or pancreas.

The first Muslim congressman ever in the US.

Keith Ellison of Minnesota will be the first Muslim ever to serve in Congress starting in January, and Slate catalogues the reaction to his election.

Dispatch from the library.

G. Love and Special Sauce is at the Music Farm (a small venue in Charleston) tonight, but I'm at the library doing homework. Trying to do homework. Intending to do homework.

Okay, offering moral support to my roommate who is actually doing homework.

I've been a fan of G. Love since high school, and this would have been my fourth time seeing him play. I saw him in Columbia, SC a few years ago in a tiny show with maybe 100 people in the audience, and again in Philadelphia in a sold-out show at the Electric Factory. Oh well, there will be other shows.

"A Visit to the Gayest Place on Earth."

Noel Black at The Stranger describes the design of Ted Haggard's church, calling it "the gayest place on earth," and Benjamin Nicholas comments on hooker ethics. He says that Mike Jones, the gay ex-prostitute who outed the reverend, violated the ethical code of the "profession."

I love the irreverent writing style of The Stranger, partly because of how well they do it, and partly because I know I couldn't get away with it. The content is consistently interesting: topics that we think about but wouldn't bring up as legitimate questions about things in the news (like the "gay decor" of Ted Haggard's church).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Music Under the Oaks

I went to see the College of Charleston orchestra today, which played in the Cistern. It was about 80 degrees and beautiful.

The Cistern is this wide open outside area shaded by huge oak trees. Graduation is held here every year.

Not the end of partisanship, but...

"So voters kicked out Republicans but did not swing to the left. For the most part they exchanged moderate Republicans for conservative Democrats."

Ann Althouse discusses the new moderate Congress here.

McCain for President.

Have you started thinking about who you want to run for president in '08? I'm hoping that what succeeded in this election -- moderate candidates from both sides -- will succeed in the next.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"Evangelical Haggard claims he was molested by Republican Congressman."

Oh, how I love The Onion.

UPDATE: "Meat now America's number 2 condiment."

I love The Onion x2.

An accurate interpretation of the election results?

I've read about a hundred different interpretations of the election results, but this one strikes me as most accurate:

"The GOP strategy of the past several elections - of mobilizing its most committed voters at the expense of appealing to swing voters in the middle - is fading fast." (CS Monitor.)

When I said that this is the most accurate, I mean that this account matches my experience. The people I know at college who usually vote straight Republican voted for a mix of Republicans and Democrats this time, because they weren't happy with what the Republican party was doing. Isn't this the most rational way to vote: look at the issues, look at the recent past and vote for who you think will work in the direction of your goals?

The BBC calls the war in Iraq the "American project in Iraq."

"President Bush himself seemed to get the message. He was open to new ideas, he insisted. He was not stubbornly clinging to the mantra of "stay the course."

The debate has been heated, at times over-heated. " (BBC)

How would a carbon tax work?

Timothy Noah explains.

Vandals behead a statue of George Washington.

"Vandals beheaded a statue of George Washington at one of the world's largest cathedrals and left a dollar bill on what was left of the neck, police said Friday.

"The damage was discovered Sunday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, near Columbia University, Officer Kathleen Price said." (CNN)

Any speculation on what the dollar bill means? It must be a political statement. Maybe they were saying that America's current leaders have sold out -- exchanged the ideals of the founding fathers for money. (Halliburton? Enron?)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

SC Amendments

Even though it's irrelevant now, the Charleston City Paper has a comprehensive (and quite funny) guide to the amendments that you voted on if you voted in SC.

Pelosi's ambitious agenda for the first 100 hours (hours?) of her speakership.

"Pelosi also has said that in the first 100 hours of her speakership she will push for action implementing all 9/11 Commission recommendations on national security, raising the minimum wage to $7.25, eliminating corporate subsidies for oil companies, allowing the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices, imposing new restrictions on lobbyists, cutting interest rates on college loans and supporting embryonic stem-cell research." (CNN)

Notice that the national security goal is the first listed. I'm encouraged by the Dems' hopeful stance and ambitious goals. The party in power is always calling for bi-partisanship, and although I'm skeptical, I still hope that they both will mean it this time. At least for a little while.

One more time.

Since Borat came out this weekend and everyone has been asking, I'm republishing the links that I posted a couple weeks ago:

"Newsweek follows up on the "regular" people who appeared in Borat and their reactions as they find out they're in a soon-to-be blockbuster movie. The Explainer describes the release forms they signed, and how the crew convinced them to sign away their rights to sue. Linda Stein was one of those people, and tells her story in more detail here."

Which is better: to stay steady in your ideology and vote for candidates whose views align with yours...

or to choose candidates who you perceive to have integrity, and vote for them even if you disagree with some of their positions on the issues?

Candidates are people, so of course they are fallible. But ideologies can fail us too. Strict ideologies can't adequately address every situation. For example, conservatism advocates small government, but conservatives hailed No Child Left Behind as a fix for our broken school systems. There are many other examples of government interference in daily life that self-identified conservatives have hailed, especially in times of national crisis or recession. The same is true the other way around, with liberals and contradictory policy.

I just don't see politics as choices between right and wrong. It's a game: what policy is best for society? What candidate will most effectively advocate that policy? How can we balance the interests of everyone?

Ever since I've been old enough to care about politics, Republicans have been in charge. The reversal on Tuesday may prove that the system works; people were unhappy with the way things were going and demonstrated their discontent at the polls.

So I'm going to reserve judgment of the new leadership until they produce something to judge. The answer to my question above is this: blind commitment to either -- ideology or candidates -- is foolish.
"CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Part of a Nazi leader's speech was played over the public address system before a high school soccer game, prompting an apology by the home team's principal.

Forestview High School principal Robert Carpenter said neither he nor his team's coach knew about the speech before the 90-second excerpt was played during warmups Saturday, according to a letter he sent Monday to visiting Charlotte Catholic High School.

The speech, by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, was in German. Carpenter said in the letter the team had adopted the slogan "On to victory," and a German exchange student who plays on the team had taught other students how to say the phrase in German.

"Some of our more zealous students sought to capture this slogan in German and to play it on the PA," Carpenter wrote."

Oops! The principle apologized.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

News of the day:

Rumsfeld "steps down" (...was asked to leave.)
Dems take Congress.
Dems take Congress.
Dems take Congress.
Partial birth abortion debated in the US Supreme Court.
Speculation on the future by Republicans.
Faith Hill shows her true stripes (accidentally.)

I've spent today frantically running around and catching up on work after being gone all weekend. More substantial commentary is on the way.

Red Soup

"I'm enjoying your delicious foods. I go to a restaurant named McDonald's. I eat 600 packages of red soup named ketchups." -- Borat

Madam Speaker speaks:

"Maybe it takes a woman to clean house." -- Nancy Pelosi


"Number of civil rights voting complaints 'low.'"

"It will take a day to sort out exactly what complaints were received," one of the officials said. Justice Department officials would not comment on any specific problems that arose Tuesday." (CNN)

Would a poll worker choking a voter count as a "civil rights voting complaint?" (Houston Chronicle)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Ha! Wonkette is at the CNN blogging party too. And they don't even do real news...

[Irrelevant gossip: My roommate in Greece was a student at NYU and good friends with Alex Pareene, the editor of Wonkette. Alex was discovered very young (he's younger than I am,) and I've heard some very embarrassing/amusing stories about Alex. Let's just say it made me want to read Wonkette regularly.]

So sleepy, but...

I'm staying up to watch the Daily Show/Colbert Report hour long election show at 11. Right now I'm watching CNN and checking various news sources online, but can you imagine the frenzy at Comedy Central? They have to have people watching all the news networks for funny footage, plus a group of staffers handling phone calls and emails from viewers submitting funny pieces of local networks' election coverage(s?).

For me, election day is like a birthday that comes every 2 years. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert celebrate with me every other year.

CNN projects Rick Santorum defeated.

How can they project results at this point? The data they have is from exit polls, and it's only 9:30. This might be right, but at this point win/loss projections are just glorified wishful thinking.

CNN blog party.

Our little Election Returns Party is tiny compared to this one. CNN is sponsoring a blogging party: they flew in bloggers from all over the country and have them in a room, blogging all at once. They keep cutting to shots of the bloggers on CNN.

I hate the word "blog." I'm always hesitant to tell people "I'm a blogger" because it sounds so antisocial, like I'm holed up in a dark room all day hunched over my computer. Hey, CNN recognizes us!

I was pleasantly surprised when the man behind me in line to vote today said "So you're a blogger" in a tone of recognition, like one would say "So you're a musician" or "So you're a student." Usually people say it in the same tone that one would say "So, you're an...undertaker."

News on voter intimidation: there is no news. Less than last time anyway.

"Justice Department officials reported that the number of calls to the Voting Rights Hotline dipped sharply on this national Election Day compared to the last, with roughly 200 calls having rolled in by 6 pm EST. At the same time on Election Day 2004, 1,200 calls had come in."

And yet the lack of news is still front page news. Although I suppose any interference should be news, because any interference is unacceptable.

"He was on Saved by the Bell, and this is what his life has come to?"

"...I'll be bagging groceries before I'll be dancing with the stars." -- Dr. Ford, chair of CofC's political science department, about Mario Lopez on Dancing with the Stars. Why are we watching Dancing with the Stars at the election returns get-together? Good question.

Amendment 1

Amendment 1 is the "marriage amendment" in SC that would double-ban gay marriage. Gay marriage is already against the law in SC, but the amendment would add the ban to the state constitution. Amendment 1 is passing with about 75 percent support at this point.

Gov. Sanford was turned away from the polls.

The governor of my own state, Mark Sanford of SC, forgot his voter registration card this morning. His license listed his address in Columbia, not Sullivan's Island (about 20 minutes from Charleston) so he was sent to the voter registration office to get new card. He came back and voted about an hour and a half later.

You'd think that his staff would have taken care of this little detail. It's comically egregious.

Election Returns "Party"

I'm here now, at the political science department Election Returns "Party." There are about 20 of us here, half with laptops, watching the returns on the news. There's a professor (who I don't know...hmm) with a remote, switching between CNN, Fox News and Friday Night Lights (they're showing the returns at the bottom of the screen.) I want to watch CNN, but majority rules (ha, majority rules. Get it?)

Ok, Charleston. Exit polls are showing mostly Democrats winning, but exit polls are always skewed that way. I didn't know why until today, when I heard an interview with the RNC chair Ken Mehlman on the radio. Exit polls are conducted by volunteers, and for some reason a majority of the volunteers are women. Women are more likely to approach other women walking out of the polls, and women voters are more likely to answer women pollers (voters are not obligated to participate in exit polls.) Since women tend to be Democrats, the exit polls reflect it. Also, since the most efficient places to conduct exit polls are in densely populated urban areas, polling places in metropolitan areas have more exit polls. And which way do urban areas lean? Bingo, Democrat.

So exit polls leaning left is built into the system -- it's not some huge conspiracy against Republicans, as Rush Limbaugh was alleging today on the radio. However, I think exit polls are going to be misleading anyway. And they're only useful for satisfying our impatience; they're not the actual result.

...But here I am, watching the exit poll results come in with a bunch of other people.

I'm back!

I'm back in Charleston and soaking up the news coverage because I didn't have internet in Birmingham. I voted right when I got back to the city -- before even going home -- but now that I'm here it's time to be productive again.

[I listened to Rush Limbaugh on the way home for as long as I could stand it, and he was ranting about the Democratic conspiracy to disrupt voters at polling places. I voted at an elementary school by my house, and tonight was uneventful. No evil Democrats bullying anyone.]

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sibling Revelry

I've been in Tuscaloosa for the past few days, which explains the lack of posts. I'll pick back up on Tuesday. I have to drive back to Charleston early(ish) so I can get back in time to vote. The political science department is having an election returns "party" on Tuesday night, so I'll be there and update as I watch the returns.

My brother is 20 and a sophomore at the University of Alabama, and his college experience is very different from mine. College of Charleston is wonderful, but it doesn't have a football team (one of the most popular CofC t-shirts says "College of Charleston Football" on the front, and
"STILL UNDEFEATED" on the back. I own one.) We went to the UA game on Saturday -- my first time going to an Alabama game:

It's been about 5 months since I've seen the rest of my family, so it's been nice to hang out with my brother this weekend. I'm applying to the law school here at UA, so I'm taking a tour early tomorrow morning before I leave.

A joke from Jonothan Broadbent.

A linguistics professor was lecturing his class. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. But in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains negative. But there isn't a single language, not one, where a double positive creates a negative."

A voice piped up from the back, "Yeah, right."

"Dick Cheney to Spend Election Day Hunting."

Hunting...Democrats, perhaps? This was the headline of a Fox News story, and it made me laugh.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

How to beat Stephen Colbert if you're not a bear.

Do you have an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor or The Colbert Report coming up? Slate has you covered with guides to surviving the experience: How to Beat Bill O'Reilly and The Colbert Retort.

BBC coverage of the US elections. has a good reference map for the elections coming up. Click on your state.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The latest on the Colorado pastor...

This is the newest in the story about the Colorado pastor, Ted Haggard, who was publicly accused of having an affair with a male prostitute and buying drugs from him. Haggard admitted that he bought meth from the man, but said he never used it.

Meth isn't something that you seek out and buy unless you've used it before and know what it's like. Most people (including myself) wouldn't even know how to use meth! And if he wanted to get into drugs, common sense says it would have started with something else. It's a sad story either way, but I don't buy his version.

Bama Drive

I'm driving to Tuscaloosa today for fall break. My brother is an undergraduate at University of Alabama and I'll be staying with him for a few days. I met Governor Sanford and went to a fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Bauer yesterday, and I'll write about them tonight.


Letters to God...

...found in the Atlantic off the New Jersey coast.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Just because you're smart doesn't mean you're not crazy..."

"...and just because you're crazy doesn't mean you're dumb."

-- Judge Carr in class this morning. The class? Constitutional Rights of the Accused.

The first case of genital mutilation recorded in the US.

"This was a violation of her rights as a child, her rights as a woman, and most of all her rights as a human being, she will never be the same." said Fortunate Adem, the mother of a 7 year old girl whose father was just convicted of genital mutilation, the first such conviction in the US. The father was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

This practice, and the idea behind it, are appalling. It deprives women of sexual pleasure for life, besides causing horrible pain and infection. This man deserves more than 10 years in jail.

Bush's approval ratings.

The BBC has a comprehensive graph of Bush's approval ratings. This is over the last year, and this is over the last five years. It tracks the ratings according to Fox News/Opinion Dynamic, Gallup/USA Today, and CBS News/New York Times polls. Look at the differences, especially this year. The Gallup/USA Today line seems the most reactive -- look at how it jumps up and down from July-September. Maybe USA Today readers are most sensitive to economic factors, such as gas prices.

Conventional wisdoms says that the NYT's respondents would be the most liberal, and they are generally the lowest source for approval ratings of the president. However, they're not as reactive as the Gallup/USA Today respondents; the NYT line is pretty consistent. What could that mean? General disapproval, no matter what the economy does? Also contrary to conventional wisdom, the Fox News respondents were not consistently more approving of the president. I wonder if presidential approval ratings are indicative of Republican party approval ratings -- and if the graph will change after next week.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Are you a Jelly Belly?"

That was the title of a memo sent to a police department in Florida by Police Chief Paul Goward. In it, he asked that the officers "take a good look" at themselves and get into shape (CNN) if they needed it.

"In his memo, titled "Are You a Jelly Belly," the chief never singled anyone out, and apart from the title, didn't call anyone names.

"Instead, he provided a list of 10 reasons police officers should be in shape. He said overweight police poorly represent the profession, poop out when chasing suspects and might have to resort to "a higher level of force" if a criminal got the upper hand in a fight. He said out-of-shape cops are a liability to the city and their families.

"Take a good look at yourself," he wrote. "If you are unfit, do yourself and everyone else a favor. See a professional about a proper diet and a fitness training program, quit smoking, limit alcohol intake and start thinking self-pride, confidence and respectability. And stop making excuses for delaying what you know you should have been doing years ago. We didn't hire you unfit and we don't want you working unfit. Don't mean to offend, this is just straight talk. I owe it to you."'

Chief Goward was fired because the memo offended some of his officers.

Police work is physical, and being in shape is relevant to the job. I don't see any reason why this would be inappropriate in a police department.

How does a person become a Cock-Fighting Lobbyist?

This is an ad by Andre Bauer's campaign for Lt. Governor accusing his opponent, Robert Barber, of "earning over $500,000" as a cock-fighting lobbyist. It's probably not the best angle to attack your opponent from if the words make people giggle. Cock-fighting lobbyist. Ha.

And this ad by Robert Barber's campaign isn't likely to be effective either. The biggest accusations are that Andre Bauer is "too liberal" and used his influence to get out of a speeding ticket. As a Republican, the "too liberal" charge isn't credible, and the speeding ticket allegation will only make the frat boys rally around him.

John Kerry regrets that his words "were misinterpreted."

Kerry issued a non-apology apology today for his "botched joke" at a campaign event yesterday.

"Kerry said he regrets that his words "were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended."'

That's like saying "I'm sorry you were insulted" after you "accidentally" make a joke about your mother-in-law's bad cooking. Come on, he mangled the delivery of a joke and in print it looks like he insulted the troops in Iraq. I highly doubt that he personally thinks American soldiers are uneducated or too dumb to be in college, but he did owe them the courtesy of a real apology.

I'm glad the troops are taking it in stride though:

If you're in Charleston, this is for you.

Tomorrow, Nov. 2 from noon-2:00 there's a meet and greet hosted by College Republicans in the Stern Center ballroom. Governor Sanford and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer will be there, along with Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and Thomas Ravenel, a candidate for State Treasurer. The fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Bauer is tomorrow evening from 6-8 at the Patriot's Point Harbor Hilton.

"I'm telling you, I'm not going to let these guys lie and smear, and they put their whole machine out to do it, and they ought to apologize."

That's John Kerry demanding an apology for the Republican demand for an apology for his comment about soldiers in Iraq being uneducated. Got that?

He's also, by "mutual agreement," canceling his scheduled events campaigning for Democrats who are up for reelection. Kerry's not up for reelection this year.