12/29/2007

Fred the Quiet

Last year, I wrote favorably about Fred Thompson for a Beacon election symposium. Since then my fondness for him has only increased. And it's not that I've grown more attracted to his issue positions; his demeanor on the trail has been the turn-on.

The former senator isn't glitzy or done-up. He avoids showboating and is never shrill or self-righteous. He's not dull or dumb, of course, just entirely unpretentious. His words are natural, his tone easy, his presentation unhurried, with a grandfather's sense of confidence.

Most impressively, Thompson doesn't seem eager to please. You won't find him pandering on the street corner. You won't find him hollering from atop the soapbox, that bully's puplit.

So, naturally, the rat race that is 21st electoral politics rubs him the wrong way. Witness these wonderful remarks:

BURLINGTON, Iowa -- Fred Thompson said Saturday he does not much like the modern form of presidential campaigning and that he "will not be devastated" if he doesn't win the election.

"I'm not particularly interested in running for president," Thompson said, but rather he feels called to serve his country.

"I don't know if you have a desire to be president," Burlington attorney Todd Chelf told Thompson during a question and answer session raising an issue that has dogged his campaign.

"I am not consumed by personal ambition," Thompson responded. "I'm offering myself up."


This understanding of the democratic process recalls the thinking of earlier times, when politics was more than a beauty pageant and charm contest.

Thompson knows himself as a public man: it is his duty to present himself honestly, to articulate his platform with clarity. Then, he must step back and let the people do as they may. There's no bread and circus; he's no Roman patron (though he may be something of an American Cincinnatus, sort of).

We have suffered eight years of Clinton ambition, and eight years of dogmatic neoconservatism. I, for one, am tired of ideological zeal. I am sick of worldly men, regardless of their stripe.

The American republic would do well to have a drowsy administration for a while. Of all the viable candidates, Thompson is really the only one under whom federal interventionism would be curtailed, and federal expansionism slowed.

That brings to mind a nice campaign slogan: "For peace and quiet, Fred '08."

12/24/2007

'Tis the Season

There isn't a better time to pray -- or, if that's not your style, just to hope -- for peace and love on earth. Whether you believe Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah or simply a well-meaning Jewish carpenter, it's hard to deny the inspirational core of his life and teachings.

Eat and drink, be happy and safe. Merry Christmas!

The Giuliani Question

The anxiety of social conservatives over Rudy Giuliani has greatly shaped public discourse regarding his potential nomination and election. This narrative has left another begging for notice: that is, concern over Rudy's so-called "authoritarian" tendencies.

Unease about the mayor's strong-man rep proliferates across the political spectrum, alarming Democrats and Republicans alike. While this has been a favorite liberal meme, it's now being assumed by entities that fall significantly right-of-center.

The new issue of The American Conservative, for example, features Giuliani dressed in what can only be described as a fascist uniform (complete with flashy armband). The accompanying articles decry Rudy as a warmonger, a libertine, and, yes, an authoritarian.

It's difficult to disagree with the first couple of accusations. Indeed, the mayor is quick with the bellicose rhetoric (but is it Reaganesque huff-and-puff?), and his social stances are charmingly moderate. How many other GOP candidates are serial monogamists who've paraded about in dresses and lived with gay men in a Manhattan penthouse? Exactly...

However, I am bothered by the authoritarian claim, and I notice that author Glenn Greenwald (of Salon fame) fails to really substantiate his bold assertion. He uses next to no hard examples; the most damning evidence produced is a quote (taken out of context?) from 1994.
It reads:

"What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do. "

Granted, this is a garbled -- not to mention extraordinarily Catholic! -- articulation of "freedom." I doubt if he would stand by those words, particularly given his apparent admiration of "strict constitutionalist" judges.

Still, I am hard-pressed to figure out when (if ever) Giuliani actually imposed state power to the genuine detriment of liberty. Yes, he supports Bush's questionable surveillance and detention programs, but so do many Republicans, including nearly every one running for the nomination. As much as you may disagree with the operations (and I largely do), they aren't off limits until the Supreme Court says as much.

Plus, American history is loaded with over-bearing and over-reaching executives, some of which are fully canonized civic saints (Abraham Lincoln, FDR, even JFK).

Now, as mayor of NYC, was Giuliani a bully? Probably. Is this a bad thing? Hardly. Rudy's drive, muscle, and demand/ability to micro-manage helped turn NYC from an ungovernable, post-industrial waste to a thriving, 21st century metropolis.

"[Giuliani] crushed seemingly immovable bureaucracies, took control away from the most sacrosanct municipal fiefdoms, and forced the city’s powerful unions and political factions into submission," Greenwald strangely whines in The American Conservative.

That's just fine by me. If he can do the same to the federal government, more power to him (literally). So long as his exertions aren't aimed at rolling back civil liberties, he's free to be as aggressive as he pleases.

A president isn't a mayor. The federal Constitution cannot be as easily side-stepped as the "long-standing limits on mayoral [power]", which Greenwald bemoans Rudy for having violated. Particularly after Dubya, Congress (all Democrats and a lot of Republicans) are going to have a hawk-eye for executive power abuse. Similarly, one would like to think SCOTUS has learned something of a lesson.

In short, a mountain has been made out of a mole hill. Giuliani is a tough-fibered cosmopolitan, an able administrator and tireless manager, a tested enemy of public corruption. In his time, he has tackled squeegee-men, white collar crooks, and everyone in between. A hard Catholic upbringing instilled in him a sharp sense of justice, and a limitless capacity for work. Isn't this precisely what we want -- what we need -- in a national leader? After sixteen years of scandal, equivocation, and incompetence, we must say: enough is enough!

A bit of wisdom -- fitting, I think -- to leave you with. It brings the of-so-Roman mayor to mind, and offers revealing commentary on his character, and his potential.

At daybreak, when you loathe the idea of having to leave your bed, have this thought ready in your mind: I am rising for the work of man." Should I have misgivings about doing that for which I was born, and for the sake of which I came into this world? Is this the grand purpose of my existence-to lie here snug and warm underneath my blanket? Certainly it feels more pleasant. Was it for pleasure that you were made, and not for work, nor for effort?

Look at the plants, sparrows, ants, spiders, and bees, all working busily away, each doing its part in welding an orderly Universe. So who are you to go against the bidding of Nature? Who are you to refuse man his share of the work?

To live each day as though it were your last-never flustered, never lazy, never a false word: herein lies the perfection of character. --Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations"

12/16/2007

I (Don't) Heart Huckabee

It is a shame to devote the first post of this blog to Mike Huckabee, but he is a very dangerous man who deserves more than a little scrutiny. So let us hold our noses and proceed.

The Huckabee phenomenon is horrifying but of little surprise. In most every way, he is George W. Bush's natural successor. The two are remarkably similar. Both had less-than-stressful governorships, both exhibit ideological confusion, both lead public lives characterized by guiltless participation in the spoils system. (Both like running...)

More importantly, both are married to political Christianity. However, where Bush's relationship with evangelicals seems calculated and fairly exploitive, Huckabee's is natural, genuine, and proud. Critics have long bashed Dubya for his overt religiosity, but next to the preacher from Arkansas his exhibitionism seems rather timid.

Plus, Bush's faith rarely serves as the driving policy force. Christianity informs his decisions, yes, but it does not act as the one and only source of context. On the contrary, the president has been smart enough to surround himself with clever men, men far too cynical to use the whole heaven-and-hell routine as a regular inspiration for earthly governance.

Huckabee, on the other hand, is a self-branded "Christian leader." His political thinking emerges solely from his spiritual orientation. For example, he is skittish about Iraq because, well, the Bible says war is bad. Christ, that Hebrew hippie, was a peace and love sorta guy. And Huckabee seeks to emulate his messiah.

That's why he wants the state to play dear mommy: to care for the people's health, to regulate their morals, to lift the poor and embrace the foreigner, etc. Never mind that his policies wouldn't facilitate any of this ('FairTax' help the poor!?), it's the thought that counts.

To make matters worse, the governor has clear disdain for expertise. "I may not be the expert that some people are on foreign policy," he declared recently, "but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night." The only thing more depressing than a person reveling in his own ignorance is a person who wants to be president reveling in his own ignorance. Michael Dale Huckabee: The Aww Shucks! Candidate. His international stances -- presented this month in Foreign Affairs -- are facile and unambitious.

Small-minded, bleeding heart conservatism isn't good for the GOP and it isn't good for America. It would destroy the Republican coalition by alienating Wall Street, defense hawks, libertarians, and the few remaining moderates. More pressingly, it would really harm this country. Huckabee's election would mean unabashed statism, ruthless culture war, and disastrous foreign policy.

Some will quibble with calling the governor a conservative. I understand this objection. At his core, Huckabee is a right-wing religious populist. His presidency would mean a win for pedestrian ideas and values which are reactionary even by my standards.

That isn't what America needs right now. It isn't what America requires.

9/28/2007

Gen. Peter Pace mouths off

AP: 9/26

Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, caused a stir at a Senate hearing Wednesday when he said he believes homosexual activity is immoral and should not be condoned by the military. Pace, who retires next week, said he was seeking to clarify similar remarks he made in spring, which he said were misreported.

"Are there wonderful Americans who happen to be homosexual serving in the military? Yes," he told the Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing focused on the Pentagon's 2008 war spending request.

"We need to be very precise then, about what I said wearing my stars and being very conscious of it," he added. "And that is, very simply, that we should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land, condone activity that, in my upbringing, is counter to God's law."


This is out of line. I don't care where Peter Pace stands on Don't Ask, Don't Tell and homosexuality in general, he should keep it to himself. The fact that an acting Joint Chiefs chairman would say something more befitting the now-defunct Crossfire than a Senate hearing is mind-numbing. Aren't military leaders supposed to maintain apolitical positions?

I don't care that Pace espoused a conservative stance: he's entitled to his point-of-view. He could have said he wants all the troops out of Iraq tomorrow. It would have been equally inappropriate.

Traditionalists may complain about the lack of discipline in today's military, but who would've guessed that would be manifest in the soapbox preachings of an out-of-line General at a Senate hearing?

9/16/2007

The journalist jury?

This week's incident involving O.J. Simpson and a robbery is a bit surreal. When the story first broke, CNN displayed a large red headline saying "O.J. Simpson suspect in armed robbery." It's enough to keep anyone glued to the channel and create considerable buzz about the story.

Any story involving Simpson is too good to be true for the media, since Simpson's murder trial in 1995 redefined the concept of media spectacle.

It's also a bridge the media will never let him burn.

Simpson re-ignited the spectacle by nearly releasing a book called If I Did It, which would have described how he murdered ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman -- if he had done it, of course. The concept is highly suspect, but no one can really be sure if he is guilty. Only a jury can decide that, and the message they left between the criminal trial (not guilty on all counts) and 1997 civil trial (guilty of wrongful death and battery) was mixed.

So this incident involving a Simpson's theft of his own memorabilia in Las Vegas had me wondering: does the media (and the consumer, as well) want to see Simpson guilty of something?

Alan Keyes? This is getting rediculous...

He ran for President in 1996 and 2000 and has recently decided he will do the same in 2008.

That's right, the GOP savior is here. Alan Keyes is running for President of these United States.

The Republican field is already bloated with candidates no one has heard of, even more so than the Democratic one, so I don't think this move was sanctioned (or is being smiled upon) by Republican higher-ups. This seems to be a maverick, inconsequential candidacy announced by a public figure whose effectiveness and popularity has clearly lapsed. Think Ralph Nader, but with a "R" next to his name.

But it's funny as hell. (Also funny as hell: Keyes's website)

Bill Richardson was the last Democrat to announce his candidacy, and he did so on May 21. The voices begging Al Gore to jump into the race have grown hoarse and have finally subsided, but then again, they very well may have given their support to Clinton, Obama, or Edwards. After the withdrawal of Tom Vilsack in February, there are eight Democratic candidates. The field is solidifying, and potential voters are settling in.

There are ten Republicans, but twelve have tried to win the nomination: Jim Gilmore and Tommy Thompson ended their campaigns over the summer.

Yes, it's only three more candidates than the Democrats, but it suggests restlessness, a lack of enthusiasm, and volatility among Republican devotees. Fred Thompson's candidacy, however, could change all that. Chances are, this other September announcement won't matter.

9/06/2007

Fred Thompson jumps in, comments on coldness of water

On last night's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", Former Sen. Fred Thompson announced what most of us already knew: "I'm running for President of the United States."

After months of hemming and hawing and waiting for the perfect moment, the GOP's most-hpyed choice for the nomination is now officially in the race.

Yesterday's GOP debate (broadcast by Fox News) brought some gentle chiding from other candidates in the Republican field. "Maybe we're up past his bedtime," Sen. McCain joked.

On last night's Colbert Report, the captions of "The Word" seemed to sum up political sentiment towards Fred Thompson. In describing opening Christmas presents, Colbert likened Thompson to an unopened present still under the tree as February approached, where one could hope and dream about what was inside (caption: Reagan), only until the present was opened and its true contents were revealed (caption: Fred Thompson.).

Is it too late for Thompson? I don't think so. Republicans have expressed dissatisfaction with their choices for President, and at this point in time, most Americans (even likely primary voters) have taken only superficial interest in what figures to be a marathon campaign. National polls are more of a reflection of name recognition and residual opinions than a calculated decision on a candidate of choice (see McCain, John and Hilary, Clinton).

Of course with the game of hopscotch going on with primary dates, the first wave of primaries could take place anytime in December. This of course will benefit firmy established campaigns, so for Thompson wants to win, his campaign will have to be decisive, sharp, and message-oriented -- a 180 from how it is operating right now.

8/29/2007

Call 1-800-LARRY-CRAIG for a good time

The recent barrage of Republican scandal can add another chapter to its book of misadventures: the airport sex-capades of Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

Craig has scored top marks from socially conservative groups like the Family Research Council, and has been lauded as a defender of “family values.” In recent years, Craig has worked to add a definition of marriage amendment to the Constitution and voted against a bill to extend hate crime protection to acts motivated by sexual orientation.

And now this.

It is past ironic that so many conservative Republicans have been caught engaging in such reprehensible sexual behaviors when their political personalities are defined by social conservatism—the least part of which is public sex between strangers. Maybe that’s it—there’s the political personality, and then there’s the person. The two are two, not one. With all the graft, deceit and hypocrisy in this era’s American politics, these facets of our politicians have become more exaggerated and divergent than ever before.

There is something quite Puritanical about it all—that while trying to expel the demons and impurities of society at large, these men themselves fall victim. In these conservative circles there seems to be a denial of any and all human urges, an unwillingness to recognize the innate, biological justification for homosexuality, and an insistence on hiding behind the veneer of a super-human, saintly and sinless shtick.

Many Evangelicals have created a false sin hierarchy, placing homosexuality near the top, and greed and hatefulness near the bottom. Within this system, even discussing the possibility of homosexuality within Larry Craig-ian circles is dangerous at best.

In so tirelessly fighting homosexuality in American culture, Craig’s feelings of self-loathing and the repression and denial of aspects of his sexual being have resulted in the senator’s anonymous, reckless pursuit of public sex.

Pastor Ted Haggard, former President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), resigned his post in November after news of his involvements with male prostitutes were made public.

In Jesus Camp, Haggard put his face close up to one of the documentary-makers’ cameras and chided “I think I know what you did last night[…]If you send me a thousand dollars, I won’t tell your wife.”

Haggard’s words turned out to be stunningly on-the-mark. But instead of describing the behaviors of others, they described his own: secretive sexual involvement with a male prostitute. Haggard stepped down as pastor of his mega-church and as President of the NAE last November.

In fairness, Democrats are not any less guilty of similar activity (there is no evidence that such inappropriate sexual behavior is motivated by political party). Gary Condit, Jim McGreevey and Bill Clinton all immediately come to mind.

It is possible these people are not even gay. Maybe they were so repulsed, so revolted, so horrified at the concept of their own potential gayness that instead of rationalizing and thinking and praying about the matter, they engaged in this destructive, unexpected behavior. The sad thing is, stories like this will be less and less unexpected from this point forth.

8/27/2007

Why hello there

I'm Chris Girard, one of captains of the opinion section ship this upcoming year, along with Chris Auclair (my co-editor. I'm sure Chris will be blogging here posthaste). I am a Sophomore Political Communication/Theatre Studies double major and a contributor to last year's opinion pages.

It is a little odd I am so involved with the Beacon and journalism is neither of my two majors, but I feel Emerson's PoliCom courses will render me sufficiently equipped for what is to come. I have a lot to learn and a tough act to follow. Last year's editor, Pat Boyle (a fellow PoliCom major), brought professionalism and wide coverage of issues to the opinion page, and his impact on the section is evidenced by the sizable pack of talented writers contributing to the section. I look forward to a good year filled with provocative, well-informed writing and comprehensive coverage of the issues of our time.

I'll start on that later. Right now, I must feed my cat.

4/28/2007

Out with the old, in with the new at the Beacon Opinion Blog

Hey guys,

First, I want to thank all those who have followed this blog since Mike and myself launched it last semester. Your comments and feedback have been valuable.

I will be leaving The Beacon to begin a co-op with The Boston Globe next semester. My assistant Britt will be moving on to the sports page and our editorial cartoonist, busy with his BFA, will not be staying as a weekly contributor.

So that means I will no longer be maintaining this blog. That job will go to the new opinion co-editors, Chris Auclair and Chris Girard, who will begin in September. Both currently bloggers, they should have no problem taking over and improving the blog.

Thanks again and see you in September,

Pat

4/19/2007

Congress Takes a Crucial Step for DC Representation

The results are in according to the Associated Press, and the House has made a 241-177 decision to grant DC voting representation in Congress. This legislation would increase the body of the House from 435 to 437 seats (additionally adding an extra seat for Utah as well to maintain Democrat/Republican balance). The bill now moves on to the Senate, then finally to the President (who has, once again, threatened a Veto).

I watched the debate preceding the vote on C-Span, and was pleased to see champion of such legislation and frequent Colbert guest Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) lay a verbal smackdown to the opposition. Hopefully this footage will surface online soon, because it was AWESOME. Tom Davis, a Republican of Virginia's 11th district (my home turf), also showed his support, stating that his fellow Republicans needed to "see through the fog of armchair constitutional analyses and do the right thing."

The "fog" that Davis is referring to is the argument that the language of the Constitution states that members of the House shall be chosen "by the people of the several states." Many Democrats, however, cited multiple examples where similar language has been bypassed by Congress in order to apply certain federal principles to DC citizens (i.e. Income Taxes, etc).

Furthermore, it is my sincere belief that this matter should be observed from a perspective that looks to the inherent morals and values of this country. We are a Representative Democracy. The 23rd amendment already affords DC residents the right to vote for President. There is no reason these people should not have equal say in the coequal Legislative branch. A citizen of DC is a citizen of the United States, and now for the first time in over 200 years, our government is treating them like one.

***EDIT***

Yes, I found it!

4/17/2007

UK Press Union Boycotts Israeli Goods

The National Union of Journalists, a 40,000 member union in Britain, has voted to boycott Israeli goods in protest of their military policies in the occupied territories.

While I understand the mindset behind such an act, I'm surprised and a little disappointed that it is coming from a journalists union. Does such a policy not compromise the objective perspective reporters are supposed to have? A journalist union should not be in the business of taking one position over another in such a tangible way.

Tragedy in Virginia

Here at the Beacon Opinion Blog, our thoughts go out to all those affected by the savage shooting at Virginia Tech.

4/13/2007

The Presidents' Cash Out

According to an Associated Press article published by Yahoo News, the Bush family reported an annual income of $765,801 last year. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Mary, reported approx. $1.6 million. I suppose I should not be surprised, and its understandable that families in such a position would have some serious investments (we all know about Dick Cheney's). Still, I find concern in these numbers being so high.

The Presidential salary is $400k. The Vice President makes $200k. Considering the time commitment these jobs require (or SHOULD require), it seems inherently excessive that so much extra money is being collected. When exactly are they taking a break to pursue other financial interests? SHOULD they be pursuing other financial interests? I imagine they have people working for them who do all of their investing, and that they probably don't forgo their administrative duties to direct these people. However, based on Cheney's ties to Halliburton it is not far fetched to theorize that such investments may affect policy decisions.

To put things into perspective, the Clinton's actually left the White House in debt. The Washington Post reported that they were approx. $12 million in the hole (due to campaign and legal fees) to be exact. Sure they're worth a combined $60 million now, but at least they waited until AFTER Bill's Presidential term to make that money (it came almost entirely through book deals and speaking fees for non-charitable events).

It seems practical that a President's financial sources should be limited to taxpayer dollars. It would certainly help to fix the problem so many have with lobbyists and the private sector holding too much sway over the federal government.

***UPDATE***

Obama's family income came in at $991,296 last year. This number, while also high, has been fully accounted for by the newsmedia. $506,618 are from book royalties, and the rest is largely salary money from him and his wife (who technically makes more than he does). I suppose its fair to say that transparency along these lines would be adequate and perhaps more ethical than restricting income for politicians.

4/12/2007

Fox News's love of Tony Snow

First Cal Thomas. Now Bill O'Reilly:

One of the reasons I cut the Bush administration some slack is that Snow answers my questions on and off the record. And if Tony Snow tells me something, I can bank it. He doesn't lie or mislead, ever.
Wow.

Bringing the Sudan conflict one click closer

In our age of rapid technological advancement, there is naturally much commentary about its potential dangers, from tangible things like how the Internet is an effective tool for hate groups to the more vague, as in how it is eroding real human relationships.

The future of technology in general and the Internet specifically remain to be seen. But The Christian Science Monitor has reported a really fascinating story that shows how it is now easier than ever to take a close look at the world thousands of miles away without ever leaving your computer.

Even more interestingly, that world is the war-torn nation of Sudan in Africa. From the article:

"Now anyone with a high-speed Internet connection can zoom in on satellite images of any of the 1,600 devastated villages and get detailed information provided by the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington.

The collaboration is an effort to raise awareness about the three-year-old conflict that has killed more than 200,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million people by giving ordinary people access to images generally available only to spies, diplomats, and heads of state."

How truly incredible this story is. If the Internet can be used in this way, imagine how it will change our very concept of history. The genocide in Sudan can never be denied; the evidence, in the form of decimated villages, is right here on our hard drives.

RIP Vonnegut

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

The world lost one of its funniest and most irreverent voices with the passing of Kurt Vonnegut. I'm not going to describe his wit and brilliance for you. He can do that himself:

"Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe."

* * * *

"The best jokes are dangerous , and dangerous because they are in some way truthful."

* * * *

"Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or conservative."

4/09/2007

The possibility of progress

One last shot, says William F. Buckley:

"The effort to stabilize Iraq is making strides, if Gen. Petraeus is to be trusted. But one wonders how many politicians, looking at the next elections, can shake themselves free from Weltschmerz long enough to greet, with gratitude, the possibility that time, finally, is working in behalf of the great endeavor to maintain an element of freedom in that critical area of the Middle East."

4/07/2007

Absolutely Unacceptable

This Chicago Tribune article makes me ashamed to be an American. This type of homophobia is disgusting. Our illogical policy of disallowing gays in the military has gone on long enough.

4/06/2007

Dumb and dumber

Has Bill O'Reilly lost his mind? That's the only conclusion one can draw after watching his spitting, trembling exchange with professional goofball Geraldo Rivera. It gets really good about 2 minutes in until the end.



Jesus Christ.

Harris versus Warren

After taking on Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan and countless others, Sam Harris was invited to debate Rick Warren, pastor and author of the ridiculously popular Purpose Driven Life. The conversation was for Newsweek. Thanks to my Dad for the tip. Here is the link. And from the conversation:


HARRIS:
It is intellectually dishonest, frankly, to say that you are sure that Jesus was born of a virgin.

WARREN: I say I accept that by faith. And I think it's intellectually dishonest for you to say you have proof that it didn't happen. Here's the difference between you and me. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong in certain areas, and you are not.

HARRIS: Oh, I am absolutely open to that.

WARREN: So you are open to the possibility that you might be wrong about Jesus?

HARRIS: And Zeus. Absolutely.

....

WARREN:
There's no doubt where you're born influences your initial beliefs. Regardless of where you were born, there are some things you can know about God, even without the Bible. For instance, I look at the world and I say, "God likes variety." I say, "God likes beauty." I say, "God likes order," and the more we understand ecology, the more we understand how sensitive that order is.

HARRIS: Then God also likes smallpox and tuberculosis.

...

I just picked some of the exchanges that I liked or thought were funny. Some will find Harris smarmy, but I think that is too easy a dismissal. This entire article is absolutely worth a read.

Uh-oh, Rudy

The National Review unequivocally takes Giuliani to task for his "bizarre" stance on public funding for abortions. Courtesy of the Editors:

"Instead, we are sorry to say, he has mostly gone into reverse. Since his announcement, he has said that, in his mind, a strict constructionist judge could as easily rule to keep Roe as to scrap it. He has continued to misrepresent pro-lifers as seeking to throw pregnant women “in jail.” He has refused to rule out signing federal legislation codifying Roe should it be presented to him as president. And, most troublingly, has reiterated his longstanding support for taxpayer funding for abortion."

So what now? I am actually surprised that, given the opportunity in the past few weeks to clarify his stance, Giuliani has continued to stress that he is a pro-choice moderate. I suspect the campaign has decided at this point that it is better to be seen as strong and unwavering than a pro-life flip-flopper. Romney is struggling, and it is no doubt due to his almost daily reversals of position.

This isn't going to get any easier for Rudy. He's a Weekly Standard conservative, not a National Review one. But we'll see what the voters ultimately say.

4/05/2007

The opinion section's 2008 picks

This week in the opinion section, I asked most of my usual contributors and staff writers to come up with a brief statement about who they liked among the current 2008 candidates or rumored candidates and why. The article is here, although it's formatted in a rather confusing and ugly way, so I suggest you check out the PDF.

Although the 11 people who agreed are far too few to draw any conclusions about the Emerson body, I was very surprised to see that not one chose Barack Obama. Two, however, did pick Hillary Clinton.

Under the bridge downtown

When do justified concerns about the safety of a community turn into hysterical mob-mentality? When sex offenders are involved.

CNN is reporting that a number of child molesters in Florida are being forced to live under a bridge because the state's strict regulations have left them with little other options. From the article:

"The Julia Tuttle Causeway, which links Miami to Miami Beach, offers no running water, no electricity and little protection from nasty weather. It's not an ideal solution, Department of Corrections Officials told CNN, but at least the state knows where the sex offenders are.

Nearly every day a state probation officer makes a predawn visit to the causeway. Those visits are part of the terms of the offenders' probation which mandates that they occupy a residence from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m."

Sex offenders are probably the most hated and feared people in the States today, as evidenced by the attitudes towards them when they attempt to reintegrate into society, the attention they get in the media and the laws that we allow our state and local governments to pass.

They are difficult to defend, but this situation is simply unacceptable. I am also opposed to Jessica's Law because I believe it punishes people beyond their jail time and probation, stigmatizes them for the rest of their lives and puts one category of crime way, way above all others.

We must never as a society let our instinctual reaction to a crime or type of criminal let us come in the way of our obligation to humane and fair treatment for all.

4/03/2007

Hyperbole Alert

"Nobody dislikes Tony Snow. By acclamation, people who know him say the White House press secretary is the most decent, kind and encouraging human being they have ever met."

--The always credible Cal Thomas.

Fawning over the president's press secretary? Is this journalism?

4/02/2007

Hold the phone

Newspapers are dead, they say? Not so fast, pundits and so-called "experts"!

Smell-ads to be featured in some USA Todays

4/01/2007

3/29/2007

Today I Called the White House Comment Line

I opened up my email today to find a message from the Save Darfur Coalition signed by Sen. Bill Frist. It was a long email, so I'll just give you the most important part:

"Please join me in calling the White House comment line today to urge President Bush to launch "Plan B," his tough, three-tiered plan to push Sudan to end the genocide, before more lives are lost in Darfur.

It will only take two minutes of your time and could make a world of difference for millions of people in need. Just follow the steps below:

1. Dial 1-800-671-7887 (toll-free)
2. Once you've been transferred to the comment line leave your comment using the talking points below: I'm calling to urge President Bush to implement "Plan B" to help bring an end to the genocide in Darfur. Specifically, I am asking him to: Enforce tough sanctions against Sudan; Work with the UN to authorize and enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur to protect civilians from Sudanese bombers; and Press the UN for faster deployment of UN peacekeepers to protect civilians in Darfur.
3. Click
here to report your call back to the Save Darfur Coalition (this step is crucial - please don't skip it.)"

Now there are many out there who are skeptical about the relevancy of small actions on behalf of Darfur. There are many more who are cynical about anything like this. Personally, I didn't feel I could do anything about Darfur until I met Rev. Lauren Stanley at a Northern VA. church last January.

Rev Stanley had just returned from the Sudan, where she had been serving as a missionary for almost half a year. Actually, returned is not be the right word, as she was forcibly withdrawn by the church in the interest of her own safety. Her sermon spoke of hope , community, and God. Afterwards I approached her an told her how much I respected what she had done and was doing. She thanked me, and with a hard stare told me one thing: SaveDarfur.org.

I stayed for a luncheon at the church following the service. There, out of her robes and eating as one of us, the reverend continued describing her past six months. The stories she told of the Sudan were as riveting as they were unsettling. She spoke of a government abusing its people, of militias committing atrocities, of violence, of people being dragged from buses and shot without cause or sympathy. She spoke of people she'd known and lost, and of what more the United States could do. There was a deeply personal emotion in her voice. I did not eat anything.

Currently, President Bush has taken one of the most active positions on Darfur and the Sudan of any major leader in the western world. Rev. Stanley stated that he was already revered by many in the Sudan for his support of the AU (despite not following through with funding). This shows that he has a willingness to act, but requires incentive to do so. What the Save Darfur Coalition is striving for is creation of that incentive through public opinion on a mass scale.

Even if you feel like you can't help. Even if you feel like it won't matter. Just take a look at the website. This coalition is trying to achieve something truly commendable, and you can help them.

3/27/2007

Amendment Against Troop Withdrawal Fails

As shown on C-Span and reported by The Hill, Senate Democrats (along with Chuck Hagel) defeated an amendment to legislature within the Iraq budget plan that would call for troop withdrawal by March of next year. The amendment would've struck such language from the legislature and instead called for President Bush to deliver periodic updates to Congress on the status of the war.

As quoted in the Hill's article, amendment supporter Sen. John McCain called the timetable provision “one of the most shameful things I’ve ever seen.” But he and other Republicans (along with Independent Joe Lieberman) failed to amend it by a margin of merely two votes (50-48).

If this is good news to you, don't start celebrating yet. The White House has already pledged to veto the bill, sending it back to the senate and what could be months of filibustering. That said, it's nice to see a contemporary Congress doing something gutsy for a change.

Hillary Clinton goes to South Park

Tomorrow night's episode.

This is going to be awesome.

3/22/2007

One of a million political belief tests.

I never liked these online political barometers -- I always wish there were more options. But this one is slightly less superficial than the rest. If you're really, really bored, try it.

I got "Strong Liberal (11)" on "non-fiscal issues" and "Moderate Liberal (28)" on "fiscal issues."

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards


CNN: Edwards's wife's cancer returns, campaign goes on

So how long before Ann Coulter claims this is a campaign trick?

Israel distortions

Today's Beacon features an opinion piece by staff writer Andrew Bruss entitled "The Israel Double Standard."* It makes the case that media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is filled with distortions on both sides -- distortions that ultimately hurt the peace process. Bruss concludes that Israel is treated far more unfairly by the mainstream media:

"However, the double standards held by many of these journalists, which scrutinizes Israeli aggression while ignoring that of the Palestinians, has presented the conflict in a light that deprives people of an accurate assessment.

This delays the peace process and hurts the people who need the most help: those caught in the middle."

Although a thoughtful piece, I feel it is worth noting its shortcomings. What Mr. Bruss argues is certainly is not the case in the American mainstream media. One need only look at the response to Jimmy Carter's latest book or "The Israel Lobby" to see that criticism of Israel will inevitably be met with a swift and overwhelming response. In the case of "Lobby," perhaps the most discussed academic paper in a decade, the reaction of the mainstream media is one of utter indifference. All of the reaction to that came from other academics and commentators.

Mr. Bruss is quite right to note distortions in our perceptions of Israel and Palestine. The distortion he misses, however, is the consensus that our steadfast and unwavering support for Israel helps America or the peace process.


*Transparency note: As the opinion editor of the Beacon I was responsible for editing this piece. I am also friendly with its author.

The Emerson Conservative

Beacon contributor and sometimes-commenter on this blog Phil Primeau has started The Emerson Conservative*, which to my knowledge is Emerson's first right-wing opinion publication. At the very least, it's the only one available at the moment.

Despite its similarity in appearance to its anarchist counterpart, Emerson's Urban Pirate, it is refreshingly sophisticated and serious in content. Some of its targets, including The Pirate and performance artist Karen Finley, are fish in a barrel, but it also contains a strong retort to a piece I wrote a few months ago supporting gay marriage and an interesting profile of rogue war documentarian Pat Dollard.

I suggest you all pick up a copy.


*Transparency note: I am friendly with the creator of this publication.

3/19/2007

A bit of a surprise

Here's a surprise from today's oral arguments in the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case (from the AP):

"Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote several opinions in favor of student speech rights while a federal appeals court judge, seemed more concerned by the administration's broad argument in favor of schools than did his fellow conservatives.

''I find that a very, a very disturbing argument,'' Alito told Justice Department lawyer Edwin Kneedler, ''because schools have ... defined their educational mission so broadly that they can suppress all sorts of political speech and speech expressing fundamental values of the students, under the banner of getting rid of speech that's inconsistent with educational missions.''

3/18/2007

Free speech in school

Student banner going to the Supreme Court

What a vital case this will turn out to be. In 2002, an 18-year-old high school senior created and displayed the above banner at a public, non-school related event and was suspended for it. From the linked article:

"At stake is the 1969 landmark ruling Tinker v. Des Moines, which said that students do not 'shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'

Since then, the Court has narrowed that ruling, giving schools the right to censor speech to maintain order and protect students from harmful messages."

I agree that the function of a school is to provide an unobtrusive learning environment for students and that, in some situations, it is justified for speech to be limited when it could interfere with that purpose. This is no such case. The principal here totally overstepped his bounds, punishing a student because of his ideas and not because the student was in any way impeding upon a learning environment.

For the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the school would be a disturbing setback for free expression in general - not merely within the classroom. It seems that this case hinges on the opinion of one man, Justice Kennedy, whose swing vote may be the decising factor.

3/14/2007

Global Warming: Evangelicals Clash with the Christian Right

A recent CNN piece highlights a growing divide between the Evangelical community and the Christ Right regarding climate change.

If nothing else, this debate is an exemplary display of moralistic sincerity on the part of Evangelicals like Rev. Richard Cizik, who states in the article that "to harm this world by environmental degradation is an offense against God." It also serves to break the Leftist cultural stereotype that Evangelicals interests always parallel those of the GOP. As Boston-risiding Emersonians, myself and my fellow students consider ourselves generally alienated from such communities. In fact, the liberal community as a whole often expresses its believe in such a divide. This important insight may serve as a stepping stone to bridge the gap between those of us who feel we cannot relate to Evangelicals and the devout.

3/04/2007

Selma, Alabama


This afternoon I watched the entirety of Barack Obama's speech at the African-American Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama on CSPAN. The speech commemorated the 42nd anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," which I honestly was not familiar with before today. I was, however, familiar with the "How long, not long" speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. which came at the end of the march.

Not surprisingly, Obama's speech was incredible: a powerful sermon about race, heritage, and responsibility. He was particularly powerful when addressing the "not black enough" claims made about him.

The speech didn't move me one inch closer or further from supporting Obama in 2008 because he didn't say anything about policy. But it was the rare speech by a politician that actually inspired. He is going to be tough to beat.

Oh, Hillary Clinton also spoke at an African-American church, apparently about 300 feet down the road from Obama. I did not watch and don't know if it was even televised. There was no need to -- I already napped today.

3/03/2007

Whoops!

The Swiss accidentally invade Liechtenstein...

This can only be the first sign of WWIII.

New Orleans Sues the Army Corps of Engineers

According to a CNN story, the city of New Orleans has filed a $77 billion lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers (the group responsible for constructing the levee system which failed during Katrina). Currently, approximately $53 billion of the $110 billion Congress agreed to pay for the city's reconstruction have been spent. This lawsuit, according a quote in the article from New Orleans City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields, is an attempt "to preserve the city's claim".

Over 18 months after Katrina, it's truly depressing that an American city which fell victim to such travesty still feels compelled to have to sue to get the attention it deserves. Have we become so wrapped up in foreign affairs that we forget the victims of a disaster on our own doorstep? Katrina did and still does serve as an important manifestation of the abandonment of practicality for hypothetical logic that so embodies our current government. It's reconstruction should have been an immediate, number one priority the moment the disaster occurred. Leaders have a Constitutional and moral responsibility to protect their people, and Katrina was a crash course in ineptitude and finger pointing that we, as Americans, must not forget to learn our lesson from.

3/02/2007

Agents of intolerance


"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot, so..."
-- Ann Coulter at the Conservative Political Action Conference

The troubling thing to me is not the remark, because I think Ann Coulter is primarily an actor, but the applause that it generated among the conservative crowd. First there was some oohing and aahing, but sure enough, that evolved right into raucous support.

Here's the audio, sans audience reaction.

Consider that reaction. Consider the fact that Mitt Romney has to go to this conference and brag about his opposition to allowing gay couples from outside Massachusetts from going in and get married. The trend has becomes obvious. What was once a party of unobtrusive government, anti-communism, and low taxes is now openly supporting a bigoted agenda. Not merely that, it is a dealbreaker for many conservative voters. The fact that Romney runs on that position and not away from it is staggering. And the fact that a conservative crowd would go wild after someone just called John Edwards a "faggot" is disgusting.

Howard Dean is right: every Republican presidential candidate who spoke at CPAC must condemn these remarks. Not merely for the gay Americans who were no doubt appalled, but for the moderate, tolerant Republicans who no longer recognize their party.

The last time I saw Paris

The Associated Press didn't cover Paris Hilton for an entire week.

What do they want, a medal? From the article:

"No, editors just wanted to see what would happen if we didn't cover this media phenomenon, this creature of the Internet gossip age, for a full week. After that, we'd take it day by day. Would anyone care? Would anyone notice? And would that tell us something interesting?"

Journalism is not "giving the people what they want," an offensive phrase so commonly heard when news producers are defending their inane broadcasts. It's a public service.

2/25/2007

Academy Award predictions


And now for something completely different, my Academy Award predictions for tonight's show.


Best Picture
  • The Departed
  • Babel
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • The Queen
Prediction: The Departed


Best Actor
  • Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
  • Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
  • Peter O'Toole, Venus
  • Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Prediction: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland


Best Actress
  • Helen Mirren, The Queen
  • Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
  • Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
  • Penelope Cruz, Volver
  • Kate Winslet, Little Children
Prediction: Helen Mirren, The Queen


Best Supporting Actor
  • Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
  • Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jackie Earl Haley, Little Children
  • Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
  • Eddie Murphey, Dreamgirls
Prediction: Eddie Murphey, Dreamgirls


Best Supporting Actress
  • Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
  • Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
  • Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
  • Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Adriana Barraza, Babel
Prediction: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Best Director
  • Paul Greengrass, United 93
  • Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Babel
  • Martin Scorsese, The Departed
  • Stephen Frears, The Queen
  • Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Prediction: Martin Scorsese, The Departed

2/21/2007

An amended position on Chris Dodd

In a recent online discussion with two friends about the Democratic contenders for the 2008 nomination, I ranked my choices of those officially in the running. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd came in pretty low on that list, which admittedly had more to do with my knowing virtually nothing about him than with any actual objections to his politics.

However, a new John Nichols piece in The Nation shows that Dodd, while he "can't be mistaken for a front runner," is a serious candidate worth paying attention to. From the article:

"He has in recent days made the defense of the Constitution and the restoration of the rule of law central to his outreach to voters.

"One of the saddest days I've spent in public life, in the United States Senate, occurred last fall when the Senate of the United States passed the Military Commissions Act," Dodd says of the Bush-administration sponsored law that eliminates Habeas Corpus protections and retreats from traditional commitment of the U.S. to respect the Geneva Conventions.

"I want to see us get back [to being] a nation that supports the rule of law," argues the senator, who has proposed legislation that would restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."

Amen. The current administration's contempt for the rule of law is one of its most deplorable traits. Even if Dodd's campaign is designed mostly to bring attention to the issue of presidential power, its a welcome one.

2/20/2007

Amnesty in Afghanistan: Reconciliation or Concession?

Recently, according to a BBC article, the upper house of the Afghan parliament passed a bill granting amnesty to many accused of war crimes over the past three decades. Though President Hamid Karzai may still veto the bill, many supporters claim that it would be an important step towards reconciliation with members of the Taliban and others who may cause further violence if they continue to be marginalized. This theory is congruent with the result of the US government's dismantling of the Iraqi military and Baath party after successfully ousting Saddam Hussein. The byproduct of that, of course, was placing over 300,000 armed, unemployed, and angry Iraqis on the street, which was very bad.

The issue with this theory in my view, however, is that in Afghanistan the Taliban has already surfaced as an oppositional group. As such it seems unlikely that reconciliation with such a group is possible, especially from the interim government that effectively replaced them. Furthermore, this move is marginalizing the victims of those it seeks to pardon, therefore decentralizing a base of support within the country. According to the article, some MPs in the lower house of the Afghan parliament are claiming they did not understand the bill's full implications when they passed it last month, a mistake that could prove very costly.

The unspoken prejudices

In the ever-prolonged buildup to the 2008 presidential elections, there has been much discussion over whether Americans are "ready" for a female, African-American or Mormon president. A mid-February Gallup poll reveals some surprising trends and, unfortunately, some not so surprising ones.

The poll question was as follows:

"Between now and the 2008 political conventions, there will be discussion about the qualifications of presidential candidates -- their education, age, religion, race, and so on. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [see below], would you vote for that person?"

The following percentages of respondents answered yes when the following words were plugged into this equation:

Catholic: 95%
Black: 94% (!)
Jewish: 92%
A woman: 88% (I was surprised that this was lower than "black")
Hispanic: 87%
Mormon: 72% (Consider that evangelical Christians make up about 25% of the electorate, and this number makes some sense)
Married for the third time: 67% (Uh-oh, Rudy)
Seventy-two years of age: 57% (Big uh-oh, McCain)
A homosexual: 55% (sadly, I'm surprised its even this high)
Atheist: 45% (infuriating but no surprise)

2/19/2007

Nobody ***** With Da Jesus!

Pastor with 666 tattoo claims to be Jesus

From the article:

But Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is not your typical minister. De Jesus, or "Daddy" as his thousands of followers call him, does not merely pray to God: He says he is God.

"The spirit that is in me is the same spirit that was in Jesus of Nazareth," De Jesus says.

De Jesus? Does that sound familiar to anybody?

An inconvenient truth for Al Gore


A recent Gallup poll finds that Al Gore's approval ratings have not changed much despite "high visibility" in regards to his film, An Inconvenient Truth.

From Gallup's analysis:

"Gore's current image in the eyes of Americans stands at 52% favorable and 45% unfavorable. His favorable rating is up four percentage points from June 2006, but that is not a statistically significant change and is also not significantly different from measurements in 2003 and late 2002. Gore's unfavorable rating has not changed at all over this time period."

This is disappointing news for those, like me, who are very excited by the possibility of a Gore candidacy in 2008. I'm not terribly surprised by the polling data though. Global warming ranks pretty low in the priorities of most Americans (as I detail in my piece in last week's Beacon). His film also only grossed about 23 million in the United States. (Fahrenheit 9/11 grossed 119 million.) Now, these numbers might be somewhat misleading considering that Inconvenient Truth was screened for free in a number of places, but the point stands: the movie has simply not changed opinions all that much across the board.

The revolution will not be televised

In a President's Day speech, Bush compared our Revolutionary War to the current conflict across the world in Iraq. He said:

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life... And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."

By now, Bush has compared Iraq to every other war America has fought in except the most relevant one, Vietnam. The invocation of our own war for independence when discussing our role in Iraq is particularly offensive. Democracy and freedom were not subjected upon our nation. We fought for them. Ultimately, this is the only way democracy can be won: not by the overwhelming military force of a third party, but by the individuals living in tyranny. The sacrifice and passion and desire must be theirs. Democracy can't come by the barrel of our gun. This is the lesson we must learn. And it is those who initially supported the war, myself included, who must certainly remember this history, lest we become doomed to repeat it.

2/15/2007

2/13/2007

One year later


One year later, Golden Mosque is still in ruins

The New York Times reminds us that it has been one year since Sunni insurgents destroyed the beautiful and sacred (and Shiite) Mosque of the Golden Dome. The moment was a dark turning point in this conflict and made many over here realize the lengths some were willing to go to in this civil war. The violence hasn't slowed since.

How will more U.S. troops quell the hatred between these groups? Will our presence erase the humiliation that the Sunnis feel or the thirst for revenge of the Shiites?

2/12/2007

Hillary and the War

Hitchens highlights, in greater detail than we're used to reading, Hillary Clinton's conflicting statements on Iraq.

2/10/2007

Wat is happenin 2 0ur langu@g3?

Students using "AIM" lingo in school essays

I don't know whether this is disturbing or hilarious (LOL!), but it definitely irritates me. What does it say about our youth culture that they can't tell the difference between what is acceptable in an online or text message conversation and what is acceptable in an essay?

There is no way to blog about this issue without, even at age 20, sounding like a grumpy old man (get off the AIM and read a book, you punks!), but what would Orwell think?

Andrew Sullivan gets it wrong on Rudy

"Giuliani is not, pace the NYT, gently shifting to the "right" on abortion and marriage. As best I can tell - and Ann Althouse has done more spadework here - he's simply favoring a federalist answer to divisive, difficult, social and moral questions. As readers know, that's what I've been favoring for quite a while as a small-c conservative truce in the culture wars."

Sorry, Andrew. Rudy Giuliani has not only flip-flopped once, but twice, on the issue of abortion. Except him to flip-flop again, moving back to the center, if he wins the GOP primary (which I happen to think he has a pretty good chance of doing).

Before he became mayor of New York City, Rudy was staunchly anti-abortion, opposing it except for cases of rape and incest. This hurt him in the city and he changed his tune. He then opposed a ban on so-called partial birth abortions. He now supports it. Now he hints that he will elect judges who want to overturn Roe.

This is not, regardless of what Sullivan says, a consistant stance regarding federalism. What will the voters think?

Okay, NOW he's running


Obama is officially official. His "I'm in it" speech had some nice imagery but was pretty straightforward. The theme was hope and change, which, if I'm doing my math right, is the theme of roughly 100% of political speeches these days. I guess they do the best in focus groups.

I'm waiting to see what the senator actually has to say. It's a bit too early in the campaign for substance. His fresh face is a welcome addition, but the lack of experience does bother me. I don't buy the line that he can surround himself with experienced people (How did that work for George W?), but it may not be a deal breaker.

I'm still holding out for Gore, anyway.

2/08/2007

Plagarism at Slate

More credibility issues in the media, this time from a webzine.

2/07/2007

The YouTube Effect

This attack video against John McCain that's posted on YouTube is, I feel, incredibly effective. Imagine: this technology is available to so many. It's also not limited to 30 seconds, as is traditional for TV spots.

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2/05/2007

Who would want to pay to attend school in Oklahoma, anyways?

Oklahoma school auctions tuition on eBay.

A little something to make you feel even worse about the $40,000+ you are spending on tuition this year.

For just over $4,000, you can attend Oklahoma Wesleyan University. You can even have someone bid on the tuition as a gift. The only disclaimer? You must "meet the university's requirements."

Basically, if you are an evangelical Christian, congratulations. Head on over to eBay and win your dream auction: a year in rural Oklahoma learning in a "Christian environment for Wesleyan youth."

A religious atmosphere within the college community, not to mention an array of scientific and mathematical majors? It's every Emerson student's dream.

The latest Bush-ism.

Courtesy of Slate Magazine:


"I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."
-- George W. Bush

1/31/2007

ATHF is the Bomb

Here is the reason why the T was so slow this morning.

"Davis said police 'are going to fully investigate this and get to the bottom of it.'"

Ha!

1/30/2007

Information vs Image: Political Pressure and Science

Recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Government Accountability Project (GAP) released a detailed Report regarding political pressure in the scientific study of climate change. This report, entitled "Atmosphere of Pressure", targets politicians and federal forces alike who have (and continue to) impede the study and communication of scientific research on global warning and other major climate changes. This report was highlighted in today's House Oversight Committee hearing, citing some of the following information:

In the report's survey of 1,600 scientists, 279 of which responded:

"Forty-six percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or other similar terms from a variety of communications. "

"Forty-three percent of respondents reported they had perceived or personally experienced changes or edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their scientific findings."

"Forty-six percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work."

"Twenty-five percent of respondents perceived or personally experienced situations in which scientists have objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings."

"Fifty-eight percent stated that they had personally experienced one or more incidents of interference over the past five years. The number of incidents totaled at least 435"

(Excerpts courtesy of GAP)

Here's a quote from within the report from an anonymous scientist in the USDA:

"Policy should be based on sound science; results of science should not be diluted or... adjusted to justify policy. This particular Administration has gone beyond reasonable boundaries, on this issue. To be in denial on climate change is a crime against the Nation."

The report also contains in-depth interviews with 40 climate scientists and government officials. These interviews pinpoint a major source of political pressure emanating from within the Bush administration. The report refers to this as "...a large pattern of attacks on scientific integrity". The report goes on to list recommendations for ensuring that scientific freedoms and integrity are maintained, calling on Congress to guarantee a federally employed scientist's right to express their findings in private to colleagues and associates. It also states that scientists should assume a greater role in allocation of federal funding and have the final say regarding their own publications, establishing a so-called "Right of last review".

The Report itself goes into far more depth on all of these issues. It's a tremendously important read and I suggest everyone take a look.

1/29/2007

Hagel: What McCain is supposed to be?



This is worth watching in full. I don't agree with a lot of Hagel's bread and butter issues, but I admire his willingness to stand up to the administration, something he has done long before most Republicans started abandoning ship.

1/28/2007

Jimmy Carter: Smears, Not Debate



When it comes to Jimmy Carter's new book, seen above, or Walt and Mearsheimer's Israeli Lobby paper, one wonders what supporters of Israel have to fear. There is not a single United States senator unsympathetic to their cause. Israel is militarily a very powerful nation, able to withstand attacks and respond with great force. Support for Israel by the US is as strong now as it has ever been. Can a simple discussion about the needs of both sides to make concessions shake any of that?

The instant and relentless attacks on both these works serves only to prove that dissent is being discouraged. Making a counterargument is one thing. Charging Jimmy Carter, of all people, with anti-Semitism is quite another. It's a brutal line of attack which raises entirely new questions about the nature of those so willing to smear a man for looking beyond the black and white myths so present in the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

Is all the recent Jim Webb love going to go unchecked?

The National Review isn't going to let that happen.

1/24/2007

The MPAA: Going Further?

There is a really interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about the MPAA's rating system for movies, seen above, and how it is largely ignored by parents with small children.

As a frequent filmgoer and somewhat of a cinephile, this is a definite trend I have noticed even in the past few years. Like many of the parents quoted in the piece, I have been disturbed at the seemingly increasing level of younger and younger children being brought to R rated movies by their parents. Just a few months ago, I saw Borat, a film with graphic sexual content and a profoundly racist main character, and was astonished to find a couple had brought two young boys that couldn't have been older than ten.

Now, I understood what Larry Charles and Sacha Baron Cohen were doing and the point they were making with the character of Borat. A ten year old will not. Borat is mentioned in the article as well, and one of the mothers quoted claims in her defense that she explained and contextualized the film after letting her young sons see it. Perhaps, but are preteen children really going to be able to grasp the irony? Are they going to really comprehend, even after being told, that Cohen's character is making a point about global antisemitism and intolerant trends here in the US? I'm skeptical.

That said, what can really be done? There are really only two options: educate families more on the content of the movies, which is the benign approach the MPAA seems to be taking, or make more movies NC-17, which really does prevent anyone under that age from entering the theatre. There is a certain level of personal responsibility here. If the parents are going to bring their kids along, there is no way to stop them, nor should there be. In my mind, there's nothing wrong with increasing awareness about what exactly is in the films to make them R. But it has to stop there. I thought I would never, ever say this, but kudos to the MPAA and CARA for recognizing this trend but not overstepping their bounds in addressing it.

Now how about dealing with those damn cell phones in the theatre?

Absolute Hogwash!


From CNN: Cheney: Talk of blunders in Iraq is 'hogwash'

In a certain sense, I think it must be liberating to hold office and never have to run for re-election again. Cheney has no intention of running for anything after he leaves the White House in shame (and I doubt he could even be re-elected to his old spot as a Congressman from Wyoming), so what does he care? He's free to be as arrogant, hostile, and divorced from reality as he wants.

It is scary, however, when you consider how powerful the Vice President was in the first five or so years, especially in crafting the failed Iraq strategy. To be contemptous of the facts and politically impotent is one thing, but this man is second perhaps only to Rumsfeld in being responsible for what we see in Iraq today.

First there was "last throes" and now this (and plenty where those came from). I can't tell if he just doesn't give a damn what he says or if he really thinks no one is listening. Well, it's on the record, Mr. Cheney. You might not be running again, but historians are paying close attention.

The State of the Union (Follow Up)

Click here for video and transcript of last night's speech courtesy of C-Span.

So last night at around 9pm I plopped down on my couch with remote in hand and switched it to any network loosely affiliated with the news. I was curious to see how a new speechwriter and an all too apparent loss of popularity would affect the typically all-too-predictable Bush State of the Union rhetoric.

What I witnessed was a more somber Bush for sure, quite possibly aware that his words would not garner much applause. Perhaps he feared the majority of Democrats before him, or was worried that his segments regarding immigration would get him a few boo's from within his own party, or maybe he simply felt uncomfortable about being framed by a woman (Nancy Pelosi, first female Speaker of the House). Whatever the case, the approx 49 minute speech gave the American people little new to chew on.

The all too familiar statements regarding the War on Terror were there, though they felt a bit later than usual. The same "We cannot lose in Iraq" mentality that we've all come to know and love/hate. Earlier on, however, we got a piece of presidential humor:

"Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching."

I've yet to run into anyone who thinks earmarks are a good thing. It was nice to hear mention of a specific reform that may actually be within this administrations grasp. Hopefully we'll see some action taken on this one. Other bits I actually liked included the energy reform blurbs, one of which also felt specific:

"Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years."

Normally I'd be skeptical, but with the Democrats (being traditionally the more environmentally sound party) in Congress, I suppose anything is possible. Then again, it's not the first time we've heard Bush talk about energy efficiency, and little within the public sector has really affected the private movement towards energy efficient vehicles. Time will tell.

Aside from that it was certainly nice to see the president reaffirm his immigration beliefs and make a statement I absolutely agree with:

"Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program."

Securing the border without reforming our current legal immigration system would be xenophobic and historically backwards in terms of American principles. I'm glad to see Bush go so blatantly against more socially conservative members of his party on this one.

My only truly major and unexpected disappointment was the unfortunate glossing over of Darfur. It got a grand totally of 2-3 seconds of airtime. It may be true that Bush has been one of the most proactive world leaders regarding Darfur, but there's so much more he could be doing, starting with raising public awareness. He should've used this opportunity to reaffirm to the American people the true nature of the conflict and the horrors of life in the Sudan.

With that, I leave you with Jim Webb's well articulated Democratic rebuttal. I found it to be world's better than any I've seen out of the Democratic party over the past six years.