Turkey Pardoning

I've wanted to write this post since the 25th, when I saw this bit on the Maddow podcast, but the video wasn't up. Also, my daughter was in town, and frankly, I think the furious pace of pre-election blogging has finally kicked me in the head because I'm really having trouble finding stuff to write about lately. (I am still enjoying the limited traffic I'm getting from the right-wing blogs who are palpitating over my anti-Wal-Mart post, however.)

The point of this post, though, is best summed up by the following video, starting at about 1:43 in. It's a behind-the-scenes look at the show that is the Presidential turkey pardoning process. It's actually a disturbing story.



"While President Bush will pardon the turkeys he receives, Subway customers can look forward to enjoying a tasty turkey sandwich from those beautiful alternates." Yikes.

I'm not a vegetarian by any stretch--I'd chase down a cow in a field with a fork and knife and a butane lighter. Seriously, though, I think it's important that we actually know where our food comes from. There was a lot of dismay over Governor Sarah Palin's turkey pardoning photo op, because turkey slaughtering was going on in the background, but I was actually glad to see it. See, when I was seven, my family moved to south Louisiana, and we lived in the boonies for the better part of three years. We got some chickens from a person who sold eggs for a living--they were headed to the slaughterhouse otherwise--and we raised a series of calves purchased at dairy auctions, with the foreknowledge that they would wind up on our dinner table eventually. My sister and I named one of them "Steak;" we had a dark sense of humor from an early age.

My point is that we knew where the meat we ate came from, even though we bought a fair amount of it from the store. One of the problems with our processed food system is that we don't see where the meat comes from. If we did, factory farms wouldn't exist, and if they did, they'd be a lot less horrible than they are. And things like the turkey pardoning ceremonies wouldn't be as cutesy as they are. Maybe that would be a good thing.

Isn't this inevitable?

This story about how grandparents are using video-conferencing to stay in touch with grandchildren is interesting. It makes the obvious point--that staying in touch via a computer screen isn't the same as face time, but that it's better than no time--but it wasn't until the end of the story that I started thinking about how this development is probably inevitable.

Sherry Turkle, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, worries that ever-more-real virtual encounters (holograms may be next) could make us forget what we are missing in the case of a grandchild: the smell of a grandmother’s cooking, the warmth of an embrace. In interviews, older grandchildren who video chat with grandparents say they visit them less, feeling that they have already “seen” them.

“It’s important that we not start to equate what the technology can deliver with what we can deliver to each other without the technology,” Ms. Turkle said.
I doubt we'll ever get to a point, technologically speaking, where we will actually forget what an embrace is like, but I think that the advances in communication and transportation that we saw in the 20th century really did change the reality of the multi-generational nuclear family in industrialized countries. We just don't see three generations or more of the same family living in the same general area. It's too easy to travel and communicate.

I'm of the opinion that technology that enables video-conferencing will, in the short term at least, make it easier for generations to stay in contact with each other over great distances. I don't see us as a society going back to multiple generations living in the same communities, and if we're smart as a species, we'll be looking to expand outward from this planet in the next couple of generations at most, so the need to communicate outside of physical contact will be even more important. What's more important--smelling Grandpa's pipe or hearing his stories? To me, the one that gives me an insight into their world, and you don't have to be face-to-face to get that.

Never a problem for me

One of the few upsides to being a continually broke spendthrift is that I never have to worry about this happening.

Scott Sistek of Mukilteo, Wash., saw the value of his Visa gift card melt away when he put it in a dresser drawer and forgot about it for about a year. He was “shocked” to learn the $50 card was only worth $26.50. After a grace period, the bank charged him a monthly maintenance fee of $3.50. Plus, Sistek was dinged $2.50 when he called to check on the balance.
I've given and gotten my share of gift cards over the years, and I've never had this happen to me, at least on the receiving end--that thing is generally spent in a matter of days, not months.

But here's the truly disturbing part of the story to me.
In bankruptcy court, gift card holders are unsecured creditors. They can file a claim, but they go to the back of the line.
I don't understand how this is the case. How are gift cards not the equivalent of cash? The company who issues the gift card gets money up front for them, and it's not like the user is getting extended credit when using it. Gift card holders should be at the front of the line, not the end. What am I missing here?

I hate Wal-Mart

I've hated that store and what it stands for for a really long time, probably since I lived in Fayetteville, AR, which is pretty close to the epicenter of evil that is the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville. So it should come as no surprise that I hold Wal-Mart largely responsible for the the tragic events at one of their stores on Long Island this morning.

But this story is bigger than just Wal-Mart. This is a story that really shows just how desperate people are getting to continue the lifestyles they've become accustomed to during the last two bubble economies. We've spent the better part of my adult life being told that we, as a nation, can have it all: a strong economy built on outsourcing manufacturing, offshoring profits, and processing, slicing up and securitizing debt. We're told we can have the brand new cars, the huge house in the exurbs or the loft in the city (or both), all filled with the latest gadgets, because we've found yet another way to beat the system. And when, as is inevitable, the system beats us, we don't want to admit it, so when a company like Wal-Mart (and they are far from alone--they're just the trendsetter as the largest) says that if you show up at 5:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, we'll give you one more hit of what you want, we shouldn't be surprised when the public reacts the way it did.

Let me be clear here--I have nothing but loathing for the people who were in such a hurry to get to the sales that they trampled a man to death, and then complained later when they were told they had to leave because the store was now a crime scene. But let's not pretend like they're the only ones responsible here. Shopping on Black Friday (which has a slightly different meaning to a lot of people now, I think) has been a tradition for quite some time now, but every year, the stakes get higher, and the early shoppers get more desperate. That someone died today wasn't surprising--the only surprise was that it hadn't happened earlier. For crying out loud, the Sawgrass Mills mall opened at midnight, and there were over 30,000 people there in the first two hours.

30,000 people, all chasing a limited supply of deals.

And the deals are all lies, because we never actually get to see the real cost of any of these items. We don't hear about the labor conditions the people who make this stuff have to work under. We don't see the polluted groundwater or the carbon emitted into the air. We especially don't see the damage being done to our own economy as we continue down this road of unsustainable debt. We just see cheap plasma televisions and Coach bags and trample people in order to get to them.

Desperation makes otherwise reasonable people into monsters, and I'm afraid we're only seeing the beginning of the desperation.

For a completely different take on this--an amusing one, from my perspective--you can go here. It's been a while since I've been called part of the "Neo-Stalinist left."

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm going to try to pull myself away from the computer for the next couple days, and see if I explode or not. Happy holidays, y'all.

I'm a little behind

I saw this story yesterday about the Florida judge who overturned Florida's 31 year old ban on gay adoption in several places, but didn't blog about it, probably because I saw it in several other places, and I have an irrational thing about doing the same story everyone else is doing, unless I think I have a unique take on it. That's stupid of me.

From everyone here at Incertus, congratulations to Martin Gill and his family, thanks to Judge Lederman, and a request to the Florida Supreme Court to allow this ruling to stand. All our best.

Meme Time

It's been a long time since I've been hit with an internet meme, and I've never been hit by one from as big a blog as Balloon Juice, so I guess I have to respond to it. So here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
So, six random things about me.

1. I still know all the words to "If I were a rich man," from Fiddler on the Roof. I learned it as a child because one of the few albums my mom owned was the soundtrack.

2. I talk a lot more about drinking than I actually do it. Since I'm a poet, I think this is a failing of sorts, and I will attempt to rectify it in the future.

3. I curse way more in real life than I do online, which I understand is an anomaly of sorts.

4. I have a Silent Bob action figure on my desk at work, along with a Mattel Pro Football handheld game.

5. I reread The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about every two years, just to remind myself of how good it is. Same goes for Inferno and Purgatorio.

6. I took five years of French between high school and college, and about all I can do is conjugate avoir.

So, six people to tag. Well, I'll hit my co-bloggers up for three--Amy, SOS, and Sedmikrasky (though y'all can put them in the comments if you don't want to do full-on posts), and I'll tag the people at Alterdestiny, Rick at South Florida Daily Blog, and Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Party Purity

It's still fun to watch right-wing bloggers puff their chests out and talk tough about cleansing the GOP of any semblance of moderation. The article that has them up in arms today is this one from Politico, wherein an unnamed Republican Senator says that the Republican party hasn't learned from the last couple of beatings it's taken at the polls. He calls for a bit more moderation, and then the howls arise.

This diarist at Redstate tells the unnamed Senator that he's welcome to leave the party (which would, if he took the diarist up on it, move the Democrats that much closer to 60). Macsmind seconds the motion. But my favorite so far comes from Rob at Say Anything. Look at this brilliance.

First, isn’t John McCain - the guy who just got shellacked in the election - a moderate? And a pro-amnesty-for-illegal-immigrants moderate to boot? And, despite protestations from the left, hasn’t Bush governed as a moderate as well?
I believe the answers to those questions are, respectively, no, not in quite a while, and start taking your meds again. Seriously--Bush has governed as a moderate? In what universe?

I may have to keep a tab open at Memeorandum all day just to see the meltdown.

"We've lionized dimwits."

In those three words, Bob Herbert pretty much summed up what may be the biggest problem in the US today. Forget the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health-care crisis--our biggest problem in this country for the last, well, as long as I've been awake to the world of politics it seems, is that we have lionized dimwits. We have not only made anti-intellectualism socially acceptable, we've praised and honored it. Say what you will about the Know-Nothing party--at least they didn't win.

But our modern Know-Nothings have won, and won regularly since at least the eighties--not every election, and not always by overwhelming majorities, but they have won, and what's more, they've dominated the discourse, especially for the last 10-15 years. Rush Limbaugh on the radio, and his internet counterpart Matt Drudge, are the dimwittiest of the dimwits who've been lionized in recent history, with the Fox News Channel as a whole taking the television prize in a romp. National newspapers provide a bi-coastal whammy, which Jonah Goldberg in LA and William Kristol in NY, neither of whom, it seems, can write a column without including at least one factual error.

And the most lionized dimwit of all for the past eight years has been the Dimwit-in-Chief, George W. Bush, who we won't have to kick around much longer, thankfully. Sure, he's provided hours upon hours of blogging material, but at what cost? And look at the dimwits he's given us over the last eight years: Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff, Alberto Gonzales, Harriet Miers, Hank Paulson, Stephen Hadley, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby. Even Karl Rove's vaunted genius was really nothing more than a willingness to wade deeper into slime than anyone else, and that only works part of the time.

The early indications from President-elect Obama are that he won't be lionizing dimwits, that he will be choosing stable, experienced, intelligent people to run his departments and offer him advice. And given the way he ran his campaign, I think we're in good hands.

A good decision from GM

General Motors, in an attempt to hold onto some cash, has ended its endorsement of Tiger Woods.

Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president for North American marketing, said GM and Woods started discussing an end to the deal earlier this year and it had nothing to do with the Detroit Three automakers' quest for $25 billion in federal loans. But GM's statement said the decision was made as part of "the search for budget efficiencies during a difficult economy for General Motors."
It's true that in the overall scheme of things, the money that GM paid to Woods probably wasn't the kind of thing that would put a company the size of GM over the edge, but it's good that they're dropping the endorsement deal all the same. I, for one, never understood the point of the partnership. GM claimed they were hoping to make the Buick label seem younger by tying it to Woods, but they didn't do much to change the vehicles, and while Woods may be relatively young, golf is still perceived as an old (white) man's game. I don't have any way to know if the partnership resulted in more cars sold for GM, but even if it did, it can't have been all that many or they'd keep advertising there.

In the meantime, this does show that GM is getting a little less tone-deaf when it comes to their bailout requests, which frankly, don't seem all that exorbitant when put next to AIG and Citi, and will probably keep more working class people employed in tough economic times.

Myriam Marquez nails it.

I guess that's why she's the columnist and I'm just a blogger. Marquez really gets not only the history of funding for higher ed in Florida, but also the problems with the current system. And best of all, she drops some cold, hard numbers on us.

Crist is trying to offer a sensible fix for the state's 11 universities: allow each to raise tuition by up to 15 percent, which would not be covered by Bright Futures but would be honored for those families buying into the prepaid college plan. This would add about $370 next year to the average $3,800 tuition and fees for a full-time in-state student. That's still a great deal considering that the national average is $6,585.
Fifteen percent sounds like a massive jump, and in some ways, it is. After all, I'd be ecstatic if the state offered me a 15% raise next year (as opposed to the 1% and a one-time, non-recurring bonus that's currently on the table, while the university president gets a 10% raise). But when compared to what the national average is (and remember, since we're so cheap, we're instrumental in bringing that average down), a 15% jump is a pittance.

And we're going to need every penny, because the state budget is looking even grimmer than previously estimated. When that happens, universities have to give money back to the state, money we don't have, frankly. Being able to raise tuition outside the Bright Futures program is imperative if the university is going to be able to offer even the services it currently provides. Again, and I can't emphasize this enough, you cannot judge the health of a university by the quality of its athletic teams. Even UF is hurting from these cuts, and they're the flagship state university. Those of us at smaller universities are feeling it even harder, even as we're pressured to enroll more students.

Is this childish of me?

Republican lawmakers from South Carolina are wetting their pants over the idea that prisoners currently held at Guantanamo Bay might be transferred to the Navy brig at Charleston, SC.

Rep. Henry Brown, a Republican whose 1st Congressional District includes the Consolidated Naval Brig, introduced a bill Wednesday that would block the use of federal funds to move Guantánamo detainees to Charleston.

"Bringing these extremely dangerous war criminals, deemed too high of a threat to be sent home, would add an unnecessary terrorist threat to our community," Brown said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican who played a leading role in establishing military commissions at Guantánamo, also opposes holding any or all of its 250 remaining detainees in the Charleston brig.

"It doesn't make sense to hold them in an urban center like Charleston," Graham said. "We should recognize that where they are detained will automatically become a terrorist target."
Seems to me that if there's any place in the US that would be ready to handle a terrorist threat, it just might be a Naval base that includes the Consolidated Naval Brig. Now I know President-elect Obama is all about reaching across the aisle, but my attitude would probably be more along the lines of "tell me again why I should do you any special favors," assuming, of course, that I wasn't openly mocking them for being so scared.

Via Shakesville, the fallout over Prop 8 continues in California, particularly in Hollywood, because of the large gay population in the entertainment community. Some people have lost their jobs or have been under pressure to resign as a result of donations made to the Yes on 8 campaign; there are boycotts of both local and national businesses; and there are questions as to whether people should be blacklisted because of their Prop 8 support.

A big part of the difficulty with this debate is that it rubs up against the boogie-est of boogiemen, religious belief. Look at this response, for example:

Condon, the gay writer-director of "Dreamgirls" and a Film Independent board member, offered this retort to what he calls the "off-with-his-head" crowd: "If you're asking, 'Do we take discrimination against gays as seriously as bigotry against African Americans and Jews?' ...the answer is, 'Of course we do.' But we also believe that some people, including Rich, saw Prop. 8 not as a civil rights issue but a religious one. That is their right. And it is not, in and of itself, proof of bigotry."
Condon is wrong here, plain and simple--religious belief and bigotry are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, I would say that in this specific case, they are inextricably connected. Mormons--along with many other religious groups--preach bigotry against the LGBT community from their pulpits and we shouldn't pretend otherwise. That it is bigotry dressed up in religious garb does not excuse it--in fact, I think it makes that bigotry more dangerous, because it usually provides, as we see in this case, social cover for offensive positions, and makes it that much harder to challenge said positions.

It becomes more difficult because we have, in this culture, a bias against criticizing religious belief. It has been a get-out-of-jail free card--all you have to do is wave your God card and you can be a bigoted piece of crap toward certain groups of people. That used to be the case with race, but not so much anymore, because somewhere along the way, we decided as a society that we wouldn't accept it as an excuse anymore. That's where we need to get with religion on the way we treat the LGBT community. We have to stop allowing gay-haters to hide behind religious belief as an excuse for their bigoted behavior. And that means we'll have to criticize religious institutions and people, and point out that we're talking about civil and human rights when we talk about same-sex marriage.

Brewtopia

Thanks to an invitation from a couple of dear friends, Amy and I got to spend Saturday night in Boca at the Brewtopia Festival at the Morikami Gardens. If you get the chance to go to the next one, I urge you to do so, especially if you love beer like we do. The fact that it raised money for a decent cause was lagniappe.

The festival featured both local brewers and distributors bringing in the best beers from around the world--my favorite was the table where they were serving Caracole, St. Bernardus and Duchess de Bourgogne. The table right next to it had a surprisingly delicious Raspberry Framboise which smelled like cough syrup but tasted like heaven.

There were some experiments that I felt didn't go so well. The blueberry smelled great but didn't come through on the taste. The ginger flavored beer overwhelmed me.

The brewery that produced the most memorable moment was Inlet Brewery home of Monk in the Trunk. I told the guys serving that they should do an ad to the tune of "My Humps." (Whatcha gonna do with all that Monk, all that Monk up in that trunk. I'ma getgetgetget you drunk, get you drunk up on my Monk.) They apparently hadn't heard the suggestion before. I was surprised. And the beer was quite good too--almost my favorite beer of the night.

I say almost because the best beer of the night was our last, and it was provided by this wonderful gentleman. It's a beer that's not sold in Florida, called Allagash Black, and it was heaven in a bottle. Smooth and creamy and silky, a perfect end to the evening. Here he is, pouring up the last into Amy's sample cup.



Next year, I plan to be there when the gates open.

so I found this story particularly funny:

Nude pics in phone lost at McDonald's; end up online
The Associated Press
2:12 AM EST, November 23, 2008

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Here's some food for thought: If you have nude photos of your wife on your cell phone, hang onto it.

Phillip Sherman of Arkansas learned that lesson after he left his phone behind at a McDonald's restaurant and the photos ended up online. Now he and his wife, Tina, are suing McDonald's Corp., the franchise owner and the store manager.

The suit was filed Friday and seeks a jury trial and $3 million in damages for suffering, embarrassment and the cost of having to move to a new home.

The suit says that Phillip Sherman left the phone in the Fayetteville store in July and that employees promised to secure it until he returned.

Manager Aaron Brummley declined to comment, and other company officials didn't return messages.
I blame this entirely on the total lack of a moral center you find in "small town life": city people know better than to eat McDonalds.

The Miami Herald has a good interview with Mark Rosenberg, who recently stepped down as chancellor in the Florida university system to return to FIU. The interview ranges all over the place, but a lot of the early focus is on the budget problems and Charlie Crist's call for as much as a 15% hike in tuition in order to allow Florida universities to be competitive in faculty salaries (which I wrote about earlier this week). It's an interesting interview (well, the first couple of pages, anyway), although more because of the questions than the answers.

Q.Florida ranks 50th in faculty-student ratio. Money per student has fallen. There are budget cuts. There are fewer class options. Programs are being cut, like FIU's industrial engineering program, despite growing demand. If you're a student in Florida hoping to go to college and you wanted to stay in state, is that a very encouraging picture?

A.Let me speak as a parent. I'm a parent with two kids in the state university system. I'm very proud of the fact that they're enrolled in the state university system. (Both attend FIU.) I think they're getting a very good education.

Our university system is very efficient. We'd like to see the ratios improve so that our students have more faculty members. Looking forward, I think you're going to begin to see that happen, largely because there is a growing recognition of the problems you've identified. There seems to be a consensus that they have to be addressed.
Rosenberg tries to avoid giving tough answers as much as possible, but the questions lay it all out there. Florida is dead last in some important categories: faculty-student ratio and money per student, and you can't have an elite university system if you're overcrowding classrooms and not spending any money on the people in them (whether students or faculty). Top twenty-five football programs are not what I would call a leading indicator off a university's academic prowess.

Which is why I'm glad to see that Crist's plan to allow Florida universities to raise tuition is getting some bipartisan support in the legislature. Yes, the economy is in bad shape, but that's actually when enrollment increases the greatest amount, so education spending in this case is a bit like infrastructure spending. Money invested in education during tough times can help a struggling economy, and it's also important to recognize that Florida's tuition rates are so low compared to much of the country that even with the increases, they're still a great deal.

The following ad may be the worst example of poor communication to an intended audience since McDonald's ran its online "I'd Hit It" double cheeseburger ad in 2001.



Credo Mobile is what used to be the Working Assets mobile phone service. I like Working Assets. I like what they do and what they stand for and how they're attempting to co-opt the market into helping make changes in the world.

But this is a horrible ad, because speaking as a progressive, the last person I want to see on an ad for things that matter to me is Joe Effing Lieberman. And I really don't want to see it with the tagline "switching is easy," because I interpret that as an insult. See, I didn't take Lieberman's words on the campaign trail lightly. When he blithely suggested that a question about whether President-elect Obama was a socialist was "interesting," I took offense to it. When he said, in his speech at the Republican convention, that "eloquence is no substitute for a record," and that Obama had cut off funding for troops on the ground, when John McCain had voted for precisely the same thing, I took offense to it. And when, after the election, the Democratic caucus voted to retain Joe Lieberman as Chair of the Homeland Security committee when he didn't offer so much as a public apology for his statements, when he so easily switched his allegiance back to the group that he had so vilified repeatedly on the campaign trail, I took offense, not only at the Democratic caucus who let him off the hook, but at him, for making it clear that his personal honor is a joke, that he never gives more than lip service to anything he claims to care about.

I'm guessing that Working Assets means this as a tongue-in-cheek joke, but it's falling flat on me right now. It's a little too soon for that kind of humor, especially since Lieberman is in a position where he can do great damage to progressive causes if he desires, and given his recent record, there's no reason to imagine he won't, if only out of spite.

Obama Tilts to Center?

That was my reaction when I saw this headline, largely because I've seen Barack Obama as a pragmatic, centrist politician pretty much since I watched him give his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. So what's going on in this article? Let's take a look.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party, fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq and by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.
This is a great example of how marrying an accurate statement with a semi-accurate one and some utter crap can help form a powerful narrative. Let's break it down.
Accurate: President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party.
This is true, but it's hardly controversial. The left wing of the Democratic party, first of all, isn't all that left--this is the US after all--but it's also pretty pragmatic after having spent the last 28 years in the political wilderness. If we weren't, then Dennis Kucinich would have done far better in his two Presidential runs.
Semi-accurate: fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq
Obama's opposition to the invasion of Iraq certainly fueled his run--that's not at issue, seeing as it was probably the difference-maker, policy-wise, in the contest with Senator Clinton. But vehement? That's a loaded word, and brings to mind images of Cindy Sheehan at Camp Casey, of Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11--that was never Obama's scene, though many of us on the left sure would have liked it. No, Obama was again pragmatic in his opposition to the Iraq War. He said it would be a wasteful war, and that we would be bogged down in Iraq. That's hardly vehement opposition.
Utter crap: by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.
I'm never surprised to learn that every four years, the Democrats manage to have all the Senators who are running for President turn out to be the most liberal in that body. In 2004, the most laughable example of that wasn't John Kerry's position atop the National Journal's list--it was John Edwards coming in at number 4. Now I originally supported John Edwards in 2008, but he wasn't the same guy he was in 2004--he was talking a much different, much more progressive game. The writer of this piece, David Sanger, hedges his bets a bit by saying "one of the most," but the reality is this: Obama's Senate voting record is fairly middle of the road by any objective standard. He's no Bernie Sanders, but he's also no Bill Nelson.

What's the point of writing a piece like this? I think it's to reinforce the narrative that the US isn't actually leaning leftward, now that the Reagan Revolution seems to have imploded. The Republican party spent a lot of time trying to demonize President-elect Obama, calling him socialist, and he won anyway. The implications of that win are pretty clear--socialism doesn't scare the public the way it once did. This is their next attempt to claim the winner. Make a big deal of the fact that the new President isn't as far left as the Republicans attempted to cast him, and they can continue to marginalize the left.

But you know something? As long as the country is moving left, I don't really care.

Maybe it's a little early

Or maybe not. After all, Barack Obama has already pulled off what few thought was possible by winning. Getting a street named after him seems like it's not all that out of line.

The Opa-locka City Commission voted on the name change consideration at the Nov. 12 meeting. The idea was proposed by former Vice Mayor Dorothy Johnson, who said no other city in Florida has yet named a street after the next president.
No doubt some right-winger who has made a big deal of Obama's celebrity will call this presumptuous, or will call it the latest example of Obamamania, and so on. Whatever. Opa-locka wants to get in on the ground floor, I say good for them.

Edit: On second thought, how about changing the name of the city to Obama-locka? That would be awesome.

Dingell Out Waxman In

There's a lot of focus on the H.R. Clinton as Sec'y of State story, but there's far more meat in this little bit of government reshuffling: after 30 years as the highest-ranking Dem in charge of energy policy and the environment, John Dingell, representative of the auto industry and no one else, is out, and will no longer be able to block legislation that will actually improve fuel economy, help the environment, and allow the 21st Century to take over from the 20th. Who is replacing him? Henry Waxman, a reliably pro-environment liberal. Elections matter, but not just because of the diplomatic posts and the bully pulpits; elections matter because they enable a change like this, a real change in the halls of law-making. Oh, Henry Waxman isn't perfect, no mere mortal is, but he isn't, at the moment, beholden to an industry that stands to benefit were he so gracious as to fail to do his job -- which is exactly what Dingell was. Hurrah for change!

Merci buckets to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for this:



The world I want is the one in which the masses at their masses show this intense an emotional reaction for human suffering and inequality around the world, but watch quietly and thoughtfully when a statue falls. 

Please leave my mind alone

Oh, how I attempt to avoid subjecting myself to advertising. I’ve cut back on television, stopped listening to the radio, jam my fingers in my eyes when I’m in the supermarket check out line. It’s never enough, we’re constantly being worked on by advertising, and, as Tivo becomes increasingly popular, advertisers are coming up with new and interesting ways to mind-screw us. Today, the Sun-Sentinel ran an editorial talking about a proposal in California that would generate dolla-dolla bills by running advertising on alert signs over the highway. The editorial is critical of it, as they should be, because it would distract drivers and undermine the entire point of having an alert system. I’m critical of it because I’m tired of having my sense violated by advertisements for buy one get ones at Walmart. Where’s Bill Hicks when you need him . . . oh, that’s right, damn.

With new car sales plunging like my hopes of ever getting caught up this semester, dealers are trying any number of tricks to get people in the door. This is a new one on me, but I have some doubts as to how effective it will be.

University Dodge in Davie is making an offer a truck buyer can't refuse: Pay full sticker price on a four-door pick up in the $30,000 to $40,000 range and get a two-door truck thrown into the deal.
All right, I'll bite. If I were a truck buyer, I might consider this at first glance, but let's take a look at the parameters of the deal. I'm going to work under the assumption that the two-door truck is new, by the way, because no one is going to go for the deal if we're talking about getting a beater on the side.

The logic of the deal depends on whether the buyers actually have a use for the second truck. If they do, then maybe this is okay. But if not, then the new buyer has to count on some pretty unlikely events to break even on the deal. First, they have to be able to sell the second truck for the difference between the sticker price of the new truck and whatever deal they might have struck. That may sound easy, but consider: you'll be selling what is now considered a used truck on an already flooded market and as a private owner, you probably won't have the financing options available that a dealer will. How much are you really going to be able to get for that truck in this market?

Second, they have to be able to carry the expense of a second vehicle until they can sell it. That means it has to be insured, it has to have tags, and it has to sit somewhere until it finds a new owner. This can be alleviated if the buyer has a deal worked out with a friend or partner, but that's a complicated dance at best.

Third, this is south Florida. There's a limited market for trucks at the best of times, and these aren't the best of times. Meanwhile, you've paid too much for your primary vehicle, and if something happens (and these are Dodges, which means the certainty of something happening approaches 1 pretty quickly), you're not just upside-down on the loan for your truck, you're pinned under a boulder and can't even reach your pocket knife to cut your own arm off. Good luck getting out from under that loan in 4 or 5 years when you're trying to upgrade.

And that's all assuming that you're getting a quality truck as the free half of the deal. This will no doubt be a good deal for some people, but I don't see how it works for the average car shopper.

Here's the Random Ten. Put your iTunes on Party Shuffle and post the next ten songs to pop up; no skipping songs to make yourself look cooler. "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" sucks no matter what kind of story you try to use to justify it. Here we go.
1. Orange Crush--R.E.M.
2. I Got a Woman--Snooks Eaglin
3. Mardi Gras in New Orleans--Professor Longhair
4. Zimzallabim--Mos Def
5. Nowalaters--The Coup
6. The Monkey--Dr. John
7. Who Do You Love--Jack Johnson and Ben Harper
8. Jane--Barenaked Ladies
9. Space Age Love Song--A Flock of Seagulls
10. Cato as a Pun--Of Montreal
So what are you listening to?

Since it seems that every lazy tv person in the world has decided that the Minnesota Senate race recount has the potential to be just like the Florida 2000 recount (even though the similarities are tenuous at best), I thought it would be interesting to take a look in on the proceedings, seeing as they're being open about it and all. And so far, no mobs of Republican "activists" who look suspiciously like interns have popped up to scream "shut it down!" We can dream, however.

But in order to pass the time while the count continues, you can always go to the Minnesota Public Radio website, where they're posting images of some of the rejected and challenged ballots. This is my favorite, of course.



You can also vote for who you think should get the vote, or if the ballot should be rejected. They're not giving any answers, but you can see how everyone else voted.

Another Gitmo ruling, another loss for the Bush administration.

In the first hearing on the government’s justification for holding detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, a federal judge ruled Thursday that five Algerian men were held unlawfully for nearly seven years and ordered their release.
By the way, the judge who ordered the release was appointed to the bench by Bush himself the First, and in 2005 had ruled that the defendants in question had no habeas corpus rights, so this certainly isn't a case of a liberal judge tweaking the nose of the outgoing administration.

As I've said before, I'm really glad that President-elect Obama has made closing Guantanamo Bay a priority; it's a stain on our national reputation. We cannot claim to be a nation of laws when our own government is trying to use every possible dodge to keep prisoners from proving their innocence.

Governor Crist apparently supports a plan to allow all Florida universities to raise tuition.

Crist's plan would expand "differential tuition," which is a rate higher than the one set by the state to all 11 state universities. Right now, it's only available at five schools: the University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida International University, the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida.

The money would have to be used for faculty recruitment and retentions, programs to improve graduation rates and need-based financial aid.

Florida Atlantic University President Frank Brogan said at a meeting Wednesday that State Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, plans to introduce a bill in the Legislature. He said all state university presidents support it.
We've written about the state of higher education in Florida before, most recently when talking about the joke of a raise our union was offered this year. Getting the legislature to permit a tuition increase of this scope when they're still paying the lion's share of the tuition for many students is a big deal, which is why having the Governor on board is a big deal. It's especially a big deal since Crist hasn't exactly been friendly to the plight of Florida universities in the past, so his support might give some cover to legislators who would otherwise oppose this bill. Here's hoping.

Wading into the cesspool

I try to avoid places like Our Lady of Perpetual Outrage, but sometimes the stupid that emanates from them is like fluorescent light to the blogger's moth. This is one such occasion, because Malkin is outraged (as she generally is) that teh gay isn't being suppressed vigorously enough, and so some might get on her.

To be fair, the story she's gotten twisted about is one I'm ambivalent about at best. It's the eHarmony story, and Paul the Spud from Shakesville points out a few of the problems with the specific narrative, one of which is that the guy who filed the lawsuit isn't the best test case. But he filed, and eHarmony settled and will offer a separate (but equal, they claim--sound familiar?) service which will match up same-sex couples with the same degree of failure as their regular service does.

Oh, but Malkin doesn't see it that way.

So, this is “progress?” eHarmony, a Christian-targeted dating website, gets sued by a gay man demanding that the business match him up with a same-sex partner. The New Jersey Attorney General intervenes on behalf of the gay plaintiff and forces eHarmony to change its entire business model. To be clear: The company never refused to do business with anyone. Their great “sin” was not providing a specialized service that litigious gay people demanded they provide. This case is akin to a meat-eater suing a vegetarian restaurant for not offering him a ribeye or a female patient suing a vasectomy doctor for not providing her hysterectomy services.
See what I mean about how the stupid just draws you in? It's mesmerizing, isn't it?

Where to begin? Well, people who've dealt with eHarmony may know that the founder is a conservative Christian, and that he built his "system" around some version of how he understands the Bible, but that's not really clear from going to the website. For instance, if you click around on the links, specific religious points of view don't tend to pop up very often. In the section on their 29 dimensions of compatibility, they have a piece on "Values and Beliefs" that reads this way:

Values and Beliefs are at the center of most of our life experiences. How we feel about spirituality, religion, family and even politics influence how we think about the world and who we are going to be most comfortable sharing our lives with. The dimensions that determine your Values and Beliefs are: Spirituality, Family Goals, Traditionalism, Ambition, and Altruism.
And that's the most straightforward section on religion I could find. That's weak sauce if the site is targeting Christians primarily.

But the claim that the company never refused to do business with anyone is the one that really bugs me, because of the disdain that it represents. It's a modified form of the argument that current federal marriage law isn't discriminatory against LGBT people because they have the same right to marry a person of the opposite sex as straight people do. It's naked hate, an argument that refuses to acknowledge the biological desire of a significant group of people to pair up with each other and have their relationship accepted by society.

And here's where I lose my ambivalence about this case. See, it's possible to argue that there are plenty of other dating services that gladly offer matching for LGBT singles looking to get together, so why pressure eHarmony to do so? It all comes back to gay rights being the next major civil rights issue. eHarmony was discriminating against LGBTs by refusing to serve them. We wouldn't put up with a restaurant that refused to serve people of a certain skin color, or one that refused to serve gay people, so why should we put up with a dating company that similarly discriminates? Sure, LGBT's have other options for dating services, but African-Americans had other eating options in the 60's as well. That didn't stop them from sitting in at lunch counters and requesting service.

When eHarmony got into the matchmaking business, they took on the responsibility to be non-discriminatory. There would be great outrage if they refused to match people of different ethnicities because it conflicted with their belief system--the same should be occurring over their refusal to match same-sex couples. And if it continues to freak out Our Lady of Perpetual Outrage, then so be it.

Prop 8 Arguments

The LA Times notes that the California Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the constitutionality of Prop 8, and is planning to make a ruling that will answer all the issues at stake, from whether Prop 8 was a revision instead of an amendment to the Constitution, to whether or not the 18,000 couples who got married between the Court's earlier ruling and the passage of Prop 8 will have their marriages wiped out. I don't know if the LA Times planned it this way, but they really illustrated well the intellectual differences between the two camps it summarized their various arguments. Here's the view of the people who want to overturn Prop 8.

Gay rights advocates argue that the measure was a constitutional revision, instead of a more limited amendment. A revision of the state Constitution can be placed before the voters only by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature or a constitutional convention. Proposition 8 reached the ballot after a signature drive.

In addition to asking for more written arguments on the revision question and the status of existing marriages, the court told lawyers to address whether Proposition 8 violated the separation of powers doctrine under the California Constitution.

Gay rights lawyers have argued that the measure took away the ability of California's courts to ensure equal protection for minorities who have historically suffered discrimination.

The lawsuits also contend that the initiative was a constitutional revision because it denied equal protection to a minority group and eviscerated a key constitutional guarantee.
And those in favor of Prop 8.
Supporters of Proposition 8 counter that it merely amended the Constitution by restoring a traditional definition of marriage.
Certainly, mere verbiage is not an indicator of the strength of an argument, much as my students may think otherwise, but it does seem to me that the opponents have marshaled much stronger arguments in their favor than supporters have.

It also seems to me that the California Supreme Court is going to have to make an all-or-nothing decision on this. Either they overturn Prop 8 for one of the many reasons mentioned (and I'd really hope that they go for the equal protection argument--human rights should never be put up for a vote) or all the same-sex couples who got married in the interim will have their marriages annulled. I just can't see a logical way that the Supreme Court can play the middle ground here.

There's a hearing in the spring, so the legal side of this discussion will pretty much be on hold until then, but the debate won't be. This is the next big civil rights campaign, and one where young people are overwhelmingly on the right side again.

There's an interesting story in the NY Times about how what many call Big Brother public surveillance is actually working out for a couple of murder suspects. But there's a deeper issue that doesn't really get talked about in the article, and it goes back to those old bugaboos in our society when it comes to crime--race and economic class.

Here's the basic story. Two brothers are accused of murdering a person who had been a witness in federal drug and gun cases. When these men are picked up by the police, they say they had been far away from the scene when the shooting took place, and offer a timeline to prove it. The police ignore their story and take the word of an eyewitness instead, and the two men go to trial in federal court for murder, which carries a possible death sentence.

Notice I used the word "ignore," because according to the story, that's just what the police did. The lawyers for the defense hired a private investigator who was able to prove one defendant's story was accurate, based on his MetroCard use and a photo from the place where the defendant cashed his paycheck. That's the interesting part of the story from the technology side.

But the real question is "why didn't the police follow up on the defendant's story?" It didn't seem from the story like the private investigator did anything too out of the way--he simply followed the defendant's story and it checked out. In fact, the Times's story points out another case where the police used the same sort of information to help get a conviction.

In at least one instance, a MetroCard helped lead to a conviction. In 2002, on Staten Island, a man was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend after the police used his MetroCard to prove that he was not on a bus when the killing occurred, as he claimed, but had in fact boarded it shortly afterward.
So this sort of action isn't unusual, at least when it can help the police prove their case. But it didn't happen this time. Why?
The Jones brothers already had a spotted past. Corey had convictions in two drug cases, Jason in a drug case and for stealing a car.
What do you suppose the chances are that the Jones brothers are from the economic underclass? Pretty good, based solely on that, but the story also points out that while Jason was working, he was working a temporary job as a forklift operator. This guy probably wasn't living high on the hog. Did that fact make it less likely that the police would ignore exculpatory evidence?

I'm not suggesting that the police here had it in for these two men. It seems more likely to me that they had a witness, a couple of suspects with a shady past, and what sounded at first hearing like a flimsy alibi. Why burn time chasing down something like that when you have other cases to work?

But if the suspects had been upper-middle-class professionals let's say, and they had a similar alibi, do you think that the police might have followed up a little more closely? After all, when Jason Jones pulled out his MetroCard and asked the police to track it, he was ignored. But why? It's easy to let your assumptions about people from certain strata of society get in the way when it comes to figuring out what happened in a situation. I do it myself (though I try to watch out for it) in the everyday judgments I make about people I ride the train with, or about students in my classes, for example. It's instinctive. It's second nature. But when I do it, the people I make those judgments about aren't likely to face the death penalty if I get it wrong. These guys did, and it was only a detective and technology that will likely keep him out of jail for a crime he doesn't seem to have committed.

Leonard Pitts's column in the Herald this morning is fairly uncontroversial to anyone who watches the American political scene. Here's his basic thesis: Republicans have lost power, but they'll be back, and hopefully, without the race- and gay- and feminist- and religion-baiting that has led them to power since Nixon.

This isn't a particularly controversial position to take. Yes, the pendulum of power will swing back right again (sad to say) and barring some unexpected occurrence, the Republican party will be the party that represents the right. The one thing that Republicans and Democrats have consistently worked together on in this country is making sure that no matter who's in charge, all the political power is being shared by those two groups.

But facts are irrelevant to Babalu:

What can be said in response to this hateful diatribe? It shows that Leonard Pitts, behind all the flowery talk about unity and hope and equality, is a hypocrite who doesn't have a clue what the vast majority of Republicans and conservatives really stand for. That's because he probably doesn't know more than a handful of Republicans/conservatives.
No real counter-argument, no counter-claims, not even an acknowledgment that the Republican party lost every demographic group except white men and even saw their margins shrink in that group during this last election. Nope, their response is that Pitts is ignorant because, ummm, because shut up! is why.

Pitts's point that Republican electoral strategy has been based on othering certain groups of people is also pretty uncontroversial. Nixon's Southern Strategy and Reagan's Cadillac-driving welfare queen set the stage for it, and King George the Lesser scapegoated gays and Muslims like nobody's business, especially in his second "win."

I mean, there's a reason African-Americans voted more than 90% of the time for Democratic Presidential candidates before we nominated Barack Obama and it has a lot to do with the lack of welcome they feel inside the Republican party. Democrats usually win women--the margin changes depending on the circumstances--because we give more than lip service to their issues. The same goes for Latino/as and gays and union members. We're a diverse coalition, and it shows in our caucuses in Congress and in state legislatures and Governor's mansions. And the Republican party, now more than ever before, is pretty much the party of white men.

But not if you're Robert M at Babalu. No, the problem isn't that Republicans have othered so many groups that they're having trouble finding voters who'll hang out with them. No, the problem is that Pitts is uninformed. Keep on with that logic, Robert M. I'm sure it will serve you well in the future.

Update: if Robert M. felt this way toward Leonard Pitts's column, I can't wait to see how he barfs all over Kathleen Parker's. After all, she's a conservative, and she's even more pointed about it than Pitts.

Not a solution

Look, the problem of homelessness is an intractable one, and it's often worse in south Florida than in other places because our climate makes it possible to live without shelter for much of the year. But this is not a way to address the problem.

The proposed ordinance outlaws sleeping outdoors on public or private property without permission of the property owner. It also forbids carrying on cooking activities, making a fire, doing any digging or earth-breaking activities, urinating or defecating on public or private property without permission.

First-time violators would have the option of being taken to a homeless shelter. Repeat offenders could be fined up to $500 and jailed for 60 days.

Only those who carry proper ID and are not taking drugs or doing alcohol could opt to go to a shelter.

Under the proposed ordinance, anyone who does not qualify for placement at a shelter would get a notice to appear in court to answer to the code violation.
Let's be clear about what's going on here. Davie has decided that rather than deal with the actual problem with homelessness inside its limits, it would rather push the problem off onto the neighboring towns. Homeless people, once they've been harassed, will find ways to get to Dania or Plantation or Fort Lauderdale. Others will be in shelters for a while, but the ID requirement and the alcohol ban will severely limit the number able to take advantage of that option.

In the meantime, some group that advocates for the homeless will sue Davie, and the Town Council will burn money that could be used on just about anything else defending a law that doesn't really serve any purpose other than to make the lives of some already downtrodden people even more miserable. And nothing will change, not in the short term, and probably not in the long term either, because there's no real effort to even make affordable housing an option down here, much less housing for the homeless. There's little political will and even less money to bring about change on this, and that says loads about us as a community.

And then there were two

Ted Stevens lost his bid to be the first convicted felon to be elected to the US Senate when Mark Begich found himself with a 3,274 vote lead with only 2,500 votes to be counted. That bumps the Democratic caucus (what with Joe Effing Lieberman's return to grace) up to 58, with Al Franken's recount and Jim Martin's runoff left undecided. Nate Silver liked Franken's chances a week ago, and barring any new evidence, I'll keep my hopes high for 59.

If Martin makes it 60, though, holy crap. And let me tell you, I would love to see Saxby Chambliss go down in flames. That it might give the Democrats 60 seats is gravy--the real beauty would be to see the pondscum who dodged Vietnam with the grace of a prima donna and who morphed triple-amputee Max Cleland into Osama Bin Laden lose in his re-election campaign, and disappear into the political void he so richly deserves.

Get Your War On

Since it's pretty clear that Lieberman's sucking up worked, I thought I'd post the latest from Get Your War On.

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Remember E. D. Hill? Here's a reminder.



Say goodbye to her.

I do have to say, though, that Hill's description of a pound as a "terrorist fist jab" has given me hours of pleasure in the months since she uttered those fateful words. I keep hoping that Facebook will add it to the list of Superpoke options, but it hasn't happened.

Anti-choice activists might wonder why, for all the power they once wielded in Washington, they were never able to reach their holy grail, overturning Roe v. Wade. They were close, and frankly, if another test case came before SCOTUS right now, I wouldn't lay bets that it would stand--you never want to rely on Justice Anthony Kennedy as your deciding vote, after all. But it does seem pretty clear that President-elect Obama is going to get to replace a couple of Supreme Court justices in his first term, and will be able to do so with a healthy majority in the Senate. (We'll see if the Republican minority holds to its former position about filibustering judicial nominees--I'm betting they won't.) And given his rhetoric on the matter in the past, not to mention the pressure he'll feel from women's rights groups, he'll expect new justices to stand in favor of choice.

And that's good, because as the title of this post says, choice is the mainstream position.

That can't be emphasized enough. Samantha Bee brilliantly punctured Republicans at their national convention when it came to Bristol Palin's pregnancy. The way that convention-goers twisted and turned to avoid using the word "choice" showed a couple of things: 1, that choice is a natural position to take and 2, that Republican anti-choicers know it. That's the reason that they call themselves "pro-life" instead of the far more accurate "anti-choice."

Choice, it has to be said, involves more than just the choice to have or not have an abortion. A small group of anti-abortion advocates have started to recognize this fact, and have changed their rhetoric a bit, and I'm glad to see it, frankly, because they're moving in a direction that gives women greater freedom.

Frustrated by the failure to overturn Roe v. Wade, a growing number of antiabortion pastors, conservative academics and activists are setting aside efforts to outlaw abortion and instead are focusing on building social programs and developing other assistance for pregnant women to reduce the number of abortions.

Some of the activists are actually working with abortion rights advocates to push for legislation in Congress that would provide pregnant women with health care, child care and money for education -- services that could encourage them to continue their pregnancies.
Pro-choice advocates have long argued that no one wants more abortions, and that the most effective way to reduce them is not to ban them, but to make more options available to women, from easy access to birth control to social programs that make it easier for women to raise kids in tough economic times. Those suggestions are generally rejected by anti-choice groups--the groups mentioned in the above article are being accused of treason to the cause by the more hard-line groups--which is just more proof that they're not so much interested in reducing abortions as they are in punishing women for daring to have sex outside the limited set of circumstances they have delineated.

These groups are pragmatic, and that's at the very heart of the pro-choice movement--let's give women honest, reasonable options and let them make the most pragmatic choice for themselves. Choice is the mainstream position, and more people are recognizing that.

I'm in the paper!

Okay, not me personally. But I am one of these people.

"We've seen a slight drop off, but it's still considerably above last year," said Tri-Rail spokeswoman Bonnie Arnold. "People are saying they'll stick with the train because it is less stressful than getting into their cars and driving."
Yeah. I've long been a believer that if you could just get people into the train for a while, show them that it doesn't suck, that some would be sold on it and wouldn't go back immediately. I do think that if gas prices stay relatively low (who would ever think that $2.20 a gallon would seem low?) that more people will abandon the train for driving, but not me. I was sold on the train when I lived in San Francisco, and now, after getting off the train in Boca having watched the Rachel Maddow Show podcast, I'm in a fine mood, as compared to when I used to get out of my car, ready to eat a live baby because I just spent half an hour watching people zoom by in the HOV lane while inching along from Hillsboro to Glades listening to NPR and hating life.

Give it a try if you haven't yet.

Provocation

These people are lucky--bone-stupid, but lucky, because they got out of this situation without getting hurt.

In San Francisco's Castro District, people on both sides of the same-sex marriage controversy confronted each other on Friday night, as police tried to keep the peace. Proposition 8 passed in a close vote and eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Joe.My.God has video of the group being escorted by police out of the Castro, and while I understand his and Pam Spaulding's positions that a violent reaction to this sort of invasion is probably not the best idea from a public relations standpoint, I think it's a perfectly logical and reasonable reaction given the circumstances.

Let's be frank here--what this group did by going to the Castro and doing "outreach" in the gay community so soon after the passage of Prop 8 was the equivalent of going to a rally celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. dressed like James Earl Ray, only less tactful. I can't look into these peoples' hearts and say that they were trying to start a riot, but they sure didn't act as if they cared how the locals felt.

Most weeks, I suspect, the locals regard this group with bemusement, much like the way I do Brother Micah, but this wasn't just any other week. This was the week after the gay community was told, by people much like those doing "outreach," that they were less than human, that they were not worthy of the same human rights as the rest of the state. To show up so soon and throw that in their faces, in their own streets, in front of their businesses, especially given the history of that particular neighborhood, makes me wonder if they weren't hoping to provoke an incident, if they weren't out to cause some trouble.

There's always the possibility that they just didn't realize how offensive their appearance would be--people this deeply involved in their beliefs often don't understand just how they come off--but if that were the case, then you'd think that the group would have packed up and left the second the crowd started to get ugly. No, my suspicion is that they knew that this was going to be a bad scene, and decided to do it anyway, whether because they're ugly people inside who want to jam Jesus in the faces of those they perceive as sinners, or because they thought it would be a good way to prove their faithfulness.

I'm glad they weren't hurt, and I'm glad the SFPD showed up to get them out of an ugly situation, but let's not pretend like the Castro was solely to blame here. You stick your thumb in a bulldog's eye, the bulldog is likely to bite, and you bear a lot of the blame for the resulting stitches. Don't want to get bit? Keep your thumb out of the Castro.

Next up, Mel Martinez

It may feel like it's a little early to start talking about the 2010 elections--after all, I complained loudly about how the 2008 presidential race started before the polls closed on the 2006 midterm elections--but we live in the world of the perpetual campaign now, and so no time like the present to start thinking about taking on freshman Senator Mel Martinez in 2008.

Now it's true that he hasn't officially said he's going to run for re-election, but if we wait until he announces to get ourselves in gear, we won't have a chance at beating him or whoever takes his place on the ballot. This piece in the Miami Herald points out that he may be vulnerable--in fact, some Democrats are saying right now that Florida might be the best pickup opportunity in the Senate in 2010. That may be true, but I don't want to get too excited about this just yet, for a few reasons.

1. We won't have Republicans to kick around in 2010. In other words, Democrats own the government now, and we're in tough times, so if things don't improve swiftly--and there's plenty of reason to believe they won't, given the depth and breadth of the problems we face as a nation--Democrats will be on the defensive in 2010, not the offensive, which we have been for the last two cycles.

2. Florida's not really blue just yet. In some ways, it seems that Obama won Florida in spite of the state party, not because of it. Our pickups in the rest of the state were meager, to say the least. We didn't knock out any of the Miami 3, and we only netted one seat in the House, winning FL-8 and 24, and losing 16. And on the state level, we netted one seat in the House and none in the Senate (from what I can find right now--I could be wrong). The presidential win certainly lifted Democratic party spirits and resulted in a lot of new voters, but it didn't change the immediate landscape much.

3. Let's assume that the Democrats sweep the three Senate seats still left to be decided--and that's highly unlikely. Begich looks to be winning in Alaska, but the Minnesota recount is anyone's guess and the Georgia special election seems very unlikely at this point. That puts them at 60 votes (counting Lieberman). Martinez will be able to make a very convincing argument that a Democratic win will give President Obama too much power, and again, if the economy hasn't improved significantly by then, that argument will be persuasive to a state that's still more red than blue.

Now, we've got some good people in Congress, and in the state legislature, and they're relatively young, too, so our bench is deep, but we have lots of work on the local level to do between now and 2010, regardless of how unpopular Martinez is (assuming he runs). We have to run a good candidate and convince Floridians that our ideas are better for the greater number, and last but not least, we have to outwork the Republicans. We have some party building to do, so let's get after it.

How kind of them

So the CEO and six other execs at Goldman Sachs won't be taking their bonuses this year, because, as their spokesman says, "they think it’s the right thing to do." I'll admit to being a little cynical on this, but it seems to me that the top executives at a major firm that nearly failed this year, and that was certainly part of the reason why the US government is dumping hundreds of billions of dollars into a money hole shouldn't have an option in this matter. They shouldn't be offered bonuses in the first place, much less be able to turn them down.

Her name was Molly Ivins

And not only was she a hero to a number of political writers, she worked for your paper at one time. So why can't you give her the credit she deserves in this otherwise decent article about Phil Gramm?

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Gramm became the most effective proponent of deregulation in a generation, by dint of his expertise (a Ph.D in economics), free-market ideology, perch on the Senate banking committee and force of personality (a writer in Texas once called him “a snapping turtle”).
The full quote, from the Texas Observer, is “Gramm both looks like a snapping turtle and has the personality of one. When he ran for president in 1996 and finished fifth in Iowa, all the profiles written of him included the line ‘Even his friends don’t like him.’” Would it have been so difficult for the Times to replace "a writer in Texas" with "Molly Ivins"? Give her her due.

Bill Moyers on This Moment

Or the moment 3 days after Obama was elected: at the start of his 11/7 show, Moyers described the events leading up to Obama's election. If you don't shed a tear at the end of this, well, the election must've drained you of all your vital fluids. Go re-hydrate!

I understand that we may be dealing with legal distinctions and the names of various charges, but I really don't see how this is anything other than rape.

DAVIE - Strapping a gun to your side and coercing a woman to perform a sex act is usually called sexual battery. Doing it to an intoxicated woman while on duty and wearing your police uniform can lead to abuse-of-power charges and years behind bars.
There doesn't seem to be any disagreement over the nature of what happened in this case--in fact, the article itself says that "Police deleted the woman's name from all records because the crime is considered rape." So why not call it that all the way through the article?

But that's nothing compared to the real outrage in the article. Here's the basics of the story.

The woman, who admitted to being "quite tipsy," said Sanders told her "You don't want to be any trouble, do you? I need you to do me a favor," and then exposed himself.

The woman said she felt she would be jailed if she refused his advances.

After the encounter, Sanders gave the woman $5 and threatened to arrest her if she told anyone what happened, she said.

Thirty minutes later, he approached the woman again while she was walking along Southwest 39th Street and told her to meet him at the Bergeron Rodeo Arena. She said she worried he might arrest her if she didn't show up. At the arena, she said, he told her "I want some more" and unzipped his pants.

The woman said she felt she had no choice but to follow the officer's orders again.

"It seemed like it was either that or go to jail," she told detectives.
For this, Sanders pled no contest in May to unlawful compensation, spent 60 days in jail on a 90-day sentence and was not formally designated a felon. And why? (Warning--if you haven't been triggered by this story already, you may be now.)
Prosecutor Michael Horowitz acknowledged the woman had committed no crime and could not legally have been arrested, despite Sanders' threats.

He said his office agreed to the plea based on a review of all the evidence – including the fact the victim had been drinking all day and taking the drug methadone to treat an addiction. The difficulty of proving sexual battery led to the felony plea and ensured Sanders would never again work as a police officer, he said.
Yep. Blaming the victim. Never mind that a cop--a person who is supposed to "protect and serve"--abused his power to an extraordinary degree. No, what came into play was that she had been drinking all day.

No. If anything, that makes Sanders' actions even more heinous, because he took advantage of a person who was in even less of a position to defend herself, and he's been aided and abetted by the Davie Police Department and the prosecutors who refused to take this case where it should have gone.

The victim is suing, and I hope she wins.

We got to the protest about 90 minutes after it started and it was still going strong. There was a good couple hundred people there, with happy chanting, cheers when supportive people in cars passed by. There was an overwhelming wave, and I hope I don't sound too hippie here, of love and joy in the air. I've posted the other pictures I took today at a Flickr page here, and I've chosen a few for the blog.


This was an early one of the crowd. They lined an entire city block and wrapped around to one side, in places 4 or 5 people deep, many with signs and with a number of rainbow flags.



When I saw this woman, I immediately thought of Melissa McEwan's teaspoons, and even though I have no idea if that's what the wearer meant with the shirt, it was a good note for the day. Side note: if you're a Shakesville reader, then drop by over there and share some love and some coin if you have it.



Another crowd shot. This was the primary corner where the protest took place, where most of the police were, and where most of the positive responses came from.



These were guys across the street, trying to get responses from westbound traffic. I got lucky with this shot, as the two previous tries I'd gotten blocked by traffic.



As we were leaving, I ran into a former student of mine who had been at the protest earlier and was returning with a sign. I was quite pleased to see her.

It was a good turnout, and I was proud of my fellow Lauderdalians (is that a word? Firefox says no). One of the really good things to hear was the chant "black, white, gay, straight, we do not discriminate!" rising from the crowd every few minutes. There's been a lot in the news for the last week about tensions between the black and gay communities (with black gays being caught in the crossfire) over the perception passed along by CNN and others that blacks were responsible for the passage of Prop 8 in California. There was none of that here, and in fact there were a large number of people of color in the crowd, chanting and waving signs and cheering when cars honked.

Feel free to use the comments to tell us of your experiences at the Join the Impact protests today, or share other stories.

I'm talking about the conspiracy theory that makes "Bush and Saddam planned 9/11" people seem like sober-minded members of the community: that Barack Obama isn't a citizen of the US and is therefore ineligible to be President. It's a story that's been pushed by a varied cast of clowns--No Quarter is one of the more prominent--and is the subject of a lawsuit by Philip Berg. But no story about stupidity in politics is complete, it seems, until Alan Keyes gets involved. The Moderate Voice has a press release from Keyes' people.

Presidential candidate Alan Keyes, vice-presidential candidate Wiley S. Drake, and the Chairman of the American Independent Party, Markham Robinson, have filed suit in California Superior Court in Sacramento seeking to bar Secretary of State Debra Bowen from certifying to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger the names of Electors, and from transmitting to each presidential Elector a Certificate of Election, until documentary proof is produced and verified showing that Senator Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States, and does not hold citizenship of Indonesia, Kenya or Great Britain.
This would have to grow exponentially over the next six months, aided by the cosmic power of the Silver Surfer just to reach the level of a non-story, which means, of course, that at least five Republican congresspeople will be demanding Congressional investigations, perhaps even before President-elect Obama is sworn in.

Hopefully, we'll have eight years of this to deal with. And I thought I'd have trouble finding stuff to blog about.

And I figured there might be once I saw the title: "What Happens If You're on the Gay "Enemies List". See, a title like that makes it pretty clear that the story will be one-sided, which I don't generally have a problem with when there's no real equivalence between the two sides battling it out. But in this case, there's a clear equivalence.

That article is about the protests against Amendment 8 in California and around the nation--we'll be heading to our local one in a couple of hours--and about the boycotts, soft and otherwise, that gay activists have been leading against businesses in California who gave money to or otherwise supported the Yes on 8 campaign. But you know what's missing? This.

ProtectMarriage.com, the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, sent a certified letter this week asking companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.

"Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error," reads the letter. "Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published."
That story hit on October 23, before the election. How is this any different from gay activists pointing out that certain businesses supported Prop 8? I mean, other than the protection-racket rhetoric in the letter?

But the Time piece, written by Alison Stateman, doesn't mention that this has been going on for a while, and what's worse, ends with this load of self-serving and dishonest crap from Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Yes on Proposition 8.
"No matter what you think of Proposition 8, we ought to respect people's right to participate in the political process. It strikes me as quite ironic that a group of people who demand tolerance and who claim to be for civil rights are so willing to be intolerant and trample on other people's civil rights."
Sorry, Frank. You don't get to play the part of the aggrieved victim when your whole purpose has been to deny a significant portion of your fellow citizens their civil rights, especially when your allies not only did the same, but used it as an opportunity to shake down businesses for donations.

Electoral Map Magic

Check out this article at Sciam.Com with 7 different maps showing the presidential election results. My favorite is also the most processed: this is a county-by-county reflection of how "blue" (Obama) or how "red" (McCain) people voted, using shades of purple to show the degree. (For example, a 60-40 win for Obama will show as a bluer shade of purple than an outright 50-50 split.) The counties have also been resized to reflect their population, instead of their land area. The standard state-by-state all-red or all-blue geographically-sized electoral map gives many false impressions: it implies uniformity of views in states, it suggests battle-lines being drawn between parts of the country, and it suggests that vast swaths of American farmland and forest is full of McCain voters (instead of non-voting boar and squirrel). So while this view takes some getting used to, it better represents the human reality.




Some kind of fun things I noticed: the San Francisco Bay Area is HUGE, even compared to the rest of California. There are many voters there. Same is true of the out-sized Florida and the super-huge Northeast. You can see Broward County (us) in Florida is bluer than either Miami-Dade or Palm Beach counties, to our South and North, but only by about a shade. By this view, Texas is tiny.

One other thing, and I don't know what to make of this: the map appears as streaks of red over a base of blue, rather than as spots of blue laid on a base of red. I'm guessing this is because the blue tends to be centered, major cities and metropolitan areas, while the red runs in streaks, suburbs, exurbs, and rural communities along highways and interstates. It gives the map the appearance of a blue country caught in an unfortunate red web. 

Friday Random Ten

Here's this week's Random Ten, and since it's a standalone edition, I'm going to drop a video or two in beneath the list. Here's how it works--put your iPod or computer's music program on party shuffle and post the next ten songs to pop up. No skipping songs that show bad taste. Revel in your dirty little secrets--lots of people downloaded "Don't Stop Believing," and we know you're probably one of them. Here we go.

. Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner--Warren Zevon
2. The World is Yours--Nas
3. Cruel Summer--Bananarama
4. After Party--Ozomatli
5. When the Lights Go Out--The Black Keys
6. Mocking Bird--Big Smith
7. What They Want--Young Jeezy
8. The Shining Path--Thievery Corporation
9. John Cockers--John Mellencamp
10. We Live Again--Beck



Warren Zevon on David Letterman



Ozomatli--After Party

What are you listening to this fine Friday?

Join the Impact

I wrote briefly on Tuesday about Join the Impact, which is organizing a day of protest in support of LGBT rights, particularly in the wake of the passage of Prop 8 in California and Amendment 2 here in Florida. Here's their website where you can locate your local protest area. The local Incertus crew will be out showing our solidarity, tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. on the east coast. Join us, please.

On Tuesday, Georgia Republican Paul Broun lost his mind and started comparing Barack Obama to Hitler, Stalin, and was headed for Genghis Khan when an aide wrestled him to the floor and told him to shut up. Before that it was my former student with the Hitler "Yes We Can" Facebook image, and all the crap that came out during the political circus. I mean, at least when lefties made ill-advised comparisons of Bush to Hitler, they were basing it on Bush's push for unnecessary war and desire to take away civil liberties. It was still a bad comparison, but it was based on more than his ability to give a speech, which is what most of the Obama comparisons are based on.

Notice I said most. Babalu, which is a Cuban-exile community version of Little Green Footballs, complete with all the irrational hate, has gone the biographical route instead.

I spoke on behalf of the downtrodden including persecuted minorities such as Jews, but my actual views were not widely known until after I became my nations leader. However, anyone could have easily learned what I really believed if they had simply read my writings and examined those people I associated with. But they did not.
I missed the chapter in The Audacity of Hope where President-elect Obama talked about how the Jews are responsible for the economic meltdown. Is it in the paperback edition? Maybe the appendix?

I just don't get the need to go overboard with the rhetoric like that. Do they think anyone will really take them seriously? Do they think they're performing some sort of public service? Do they think they're channeling Martin Niemoller or something?

Charter for Compassion

Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for pointing this out: with the power of TED, a "Charter for Compassion" is being drafted online. It's a wiki-style document: you have to become a member, but then you can contribute to what they're billing as a pan-religious statement on compassion, a sort of "let's all get along" based on the common "faith" of peoples of the world.


PZ is (rightly) peeved to see that the charter makes no mention of people who don't happen to hold a particular faith. But I see the wiki-style construction as an opportunity to fix that. My contribution:
Compassion is universally valued among humans, whether they have a specific or general faith or not. In fact, there is even evidence that compassion is practiced and valued among other animals, and between animal species. Compassion is indeed a precious quality of life itself. So long as people believe that their empathy and compassion, their humanity itself, comes from a particular religion, lineage, or revered text, humans will continue to mark peoples with "different" religions, lineages, and revered texts as "other," as "the enemy," as non-humans undeserving of empathy and compassion -- as "evil" creatures undeserving of humanity itself. This "othering" is a wicked compulsion that will, if left unchecked, destroy us all. It is desperately necessary that all humans, worldwide, no matter their beliefs or non-beliefs, no matter their backgrounds, no matter their literature, see each other as living, feeling, human beings -- that we experience empathy and compassion even for those who may seem very different from us. Religions are not always sources of absolute good: religions may inspire their followers to compassion with the left hand while the right hand inspires followers to bloodshed. In order to come together, we must transcend religious faith like all particulars of culture, and experience our common humanity together. We must set aside genetic and cultural differences like complexion, language and dress, and religion -- we must see that those things are mere trappings that express our humanity within our cultures and disguise our humanity among them. It is only once we have accomplished this that we may evolve as a planetary human race, together, to a greater, more peaceful, more powerful, more interconnected society, beginning a new era of humanity, a new age of discovery and creation and wonder.
If you join, you can rank the various suggestions (for the preamble) in the following categories: "Insightful," "Inspiring," "Inclusive," "Impact." I don't know about the other categories, but I should win "Inclusive" hands down, since the other entries are very God-y. (At least the ones I can read are -- many of them are in other languages.) I encourage everyone to head to the Charter website and contribute. And, hey, try to rate a few entries that acknowledge the humanity of non-believers while you're there, will you? You know, like, maybe, mine? :-)

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