Friday, March 30, 2007

Franken on Letterman

I especially like the comment that starts about 5 minutes in. I told my husband that I almost wish I could move to Minnesota so I could vote for him.

Sampson Testifies

NYT - Ex-Aide Rejects Gonzales Stand Over Dismissals
The former chief of staff to Alberto R. Gonzales testified on Thursday that he had consulted regularly with the attorney general about dismissing United States attorneys, disputing Mr. Gonzales’s public account of his role as very limited.

The former aide, D. Kyle Sampson, who resigned two weeks ago, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Mr. Gonzales’s statements about the prosecutors’ dismissals were inaccurate and that the attorney general had been repeatedly advised of the planning for them.
I'm sure that is true. It hard to believe otherwise really. I'm still convinced that Sampson is not telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, however. Take for example the inconsistency between this statement:
Mr. Sampson also acknowledged publicly for the first time that he proposed replacing Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago, at a White House meeting in 2006. Mr. Fitzgerald was then prosecuting the case involving the leak of the identity of Valerie Wilson, the C.I.A. officer. That led to the conviction this month of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, on perjury charges.

“I said Patrick Fitzgerald could be added to this list,” Mr. Sampson said, recalling a conversation with Ms. Miers and an aide. The suggestion, which he said he regretted, was immediately dropped. “They looked at me like I had said something totally inappropriate, and I had,” Mr. Sampson said.
And this statement:
None of the dismissals were intended to interfere with political corruption investigations, he said. “During this process, I never associated asking the U.S. attorneys to resign with any investigation,” Mr. Sampson said.
So he admits that he suggested Fitzgerald be added to the list but we are supposed to believe it had nothing to do with the Libby trial. Yeah, right.

As an Alabamian I'm glad to see this:
Many of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, including Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, made it clear that like the Democrats they remained extremely disappointed with the way the dismissals had been handled and explained.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Interesting quote of the day

Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.
- George Jean Nathan

I should probably be asking my priest, but. . .

This post is actually a culmination of many thoughts I've had for some time now. Most recently, however, I was reading a post over at Poliblog about Dobson's comments about Thompson and what makes a person a Christian. And it made me think of something that occurred to me the other day when I was listing to an AudioSlave song, Like A Stone. The line in the song that particularly struck me was this:
On my deathbed I will pray
To the Gods and the angels
Like a pagan to anyone
Who will take me to heaven
As a good Christian (or at least a good Episcopalian), I've been trying to observe Lent this year, including some religious introspection. That said, the question occurred to me: Is it wrong to be a Christian (or any other religion for that matter) just because you want to go to heaven? That is not to say that it is necessarily wrong to want to go to heaven, but is it wrong for that to be one's only reason for being religious? Somehow that just seems too self-centered to me.

Considering some of our recent discussions at church, I'm sure some would suggest that if wanting to go to heaven encourages an individual to follow the teachings of Christ and be helpful and kind to others, then it is not a bad thing. It is undoubtedly true that it is not a bad thing for those being helped, but the question remains whether it is bad for the person who is actively seeking heaven.

It seems to me that Jesus taught that thoughts and motivations matter. I think most all Christians have heard the story of Jesus saying that it is as much a sin to lust after a woman as it is to commit adultery. This seems to me to indicate that what we want, what we truly madly deeply want, is just as important as what we do. So if we truly want the reward of a mansion on the hill or pearly gates or streets paved with gold, and we are willing to put up with some lowly earthly toils to get it, does that really comport with what Jesus was teaching? I'm not sure it does.

Seriously, do we think it is right in an Earthly relationship to only want to be with a person for what they can give us? For example, Anna Nicole Smith married an elderly millionaire. She was willing to fulfill her wifely duties and produced a child with him. She did what was expected of her in hopes of a lucrative reward. The problem is the whole world saw her as a gold digger.

And then there are also those churches that recruit converts with stories of the power of Christianity. I've heard radio commercials for a church in a nearby city that says something to the effect of ". . .having faith that can swing out over the pit of hell on a shoe string and spit in the devil's eye". Somehow that just doesn't sound very Jesus-like to me either. To me it sounds like something that will appeal to people who want to have the power to condemn others. And I just don't think that is what Jesus had in mind either.

Which brings me to the ultimate question: What should be want, as Christians? I feel like we should have love in our hearts. We should truly want to ease the suffering of those around us. We should really want to be helpful and kind for it's own sake. And if we do have a desire of a heavenly reward, it should not be about golden streets, it should be about wanting to be with God, whatever that means. And it certainly shouldn't be about having the power to condemn, but about having the tools to save them.

Now this may be evidence of my lack of faith, I don't know, but one question has recurred in my mind for many years. What would you do if you found out that your religion was wrong? What if there was nothing that came after this life? Would you feel like being good and behaving like a Christian was a waste of time? My personal answer is no. I don't think it would be a waste of time. I think it would be just as important if not more so. If this life is all we have, we should definitely make it as easy as we can for all concerned.

I'm reminded of the story of Moses. He was given the task of leading the Israelites to the Promised Land even though he knew that he would never get to enter it himself. Maybe that kind of faith is not necessary for the common person. Moses was obviously and extraordinary person. I don't know, but it is something I often contemplate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

International He said She said

NYT - Britain Steps Up Pressure on Iran, Freezing Business Ties
Escalating its dispute with Iran, Britain today froze all “bilateral business” with Tehran to retaliate for the seizure of 15 British naval personnel six days ago in what the Royal Navy insists were Iraqi territorial waters.

“It is now time to ratchet up international and diplomatic pressure” on Iran to demonstrate its “total isolation,” Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament after the Royal Navy made public details of what it said was the sailors’ position when they were apprehended.

[. . .]

He said the boarding took place at these coordinates: 29 degrees 50.36 minutes north, 048 degrees 43.08 minutes East. That placed it 1.7 nautical miles — around two miles on land — inside Iraqi waters.

In diplomatic contacts, Iran had provided Britain with an initial set of coordinates for the position of the boats that placed the incident in Iraqi waters.

“We pointed this out to them on Sunday in diplomatic contacts,” Vice Admiral Style said. “After we did this they then provided a second set of coordinates that places the incident in Iranian waters” over two nautical miles away from where they were said to be by Britain, he said.

“It is hard to understand a legitimate reason for this change of coordinates,” he said.
Iran says they were in Iranian waters; the British say they were in Iraqi waters. I'm not sure how it will ever be proven one way or the other. It's not like this is an episode of CSI or Numb3rs, and it's not like the Iraqi are just gonna say, "Oops, we were wrong" even if the British can produce strong evidence for their side of the argument. And now this game of he said, she said appears to be heating up. I hope that a diplomatic solution can be found (and feel certain it will) because we really don't want a regional war on our hands.

Is a withdrawal date a good idea?

There was heated debate in the Senate yesterday over the necessity/folly of setting a withdrawal date in Iraq. Here are some of the arguments presented by the opposing sides via the NYT - Senate Supports a Pullout Date in Iraq War Bill:
Pro deadline arguments-
“There will not be a military solution to Iraq,” Mr. Hagel declared. “Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. It doesn’t belong to the United States. Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost.”
I agree with this statement whole-heartedly. The administration keeps repeating that our troops need more time so that we can win, but I don't see how a real victory is possible in Iraq. In many ways, we were defeated before we ever started. We never should have gone into Iraq, and I've held that position from the beginning.
“Rather than continuing to defy the will of the American people and Congress by threatening to veto this legislation,” Mr. Kennedy said, “President Bush should put the Iraqis on notice.”
I also agree that the Iraqis need to be put on notice. If democracy is not something they are willing to fight for, then it is not something they are going to have for very long even if we hand it to them on a silver platter. Ideally democracy is a bottom-up process. It's like winning in sports - you have to want it bad enough to get it.

And the Anti-withdrawal date arguments-
“This bill should be named the Date Certain for Surrender Act,” said Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican. “A second-year cadet at West Point could tell you that if you announce when the end will be, it’s a recipe for defeat.”

[. . .]

“We cannot give up,” Mr. McCain said, “just as we are starting to turn things around in Iraq.”
I've never been a cadet at West Point, so I don't know what they know, but it sounds reasonable. The only problem is, as pointed out above, I agree with Senator Hagel that there is no military victory on the horizon in Iraq. Starting the war in the first place was the recipe for defeat. Continuing to pour money and troops into a bad situation is the epitome of the old adage of throwing good money after bad.
“It would be the bugle of retreat,” Mr. Warner said. “It would be echoed and repeated from every minaret through Iraq: the coalition forces have decided to take the first step backward. We cannot send that message. Not at this time.”
He's right. I will be "echoed and repeated from every minaret through Iraq," but there is little we can do to stop it. The problem is that the terrorist win either way. If we continue to stay and fight, we look like an occupying force and we are an easy target those who want to accuse the US of neo-Imperialism. Terrorist organizations can use our mere presence as a recruiting tool.

On the other hand, if we leave, they appear to have defeated us. I have heard it argued on many occasions that Osama bin Laden was emboldened by the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, giving him the belief that a relatively small band of rebels could defeat a superpower. And it was this belief that gave him the will to attack the US on Sept. 11th.

The ultimate problem is that this administration has already placed us in a no win situation. If we had only gone into Afghanistan, which we had wide international support to do, and stayed the course until the mission was truly completed, we wouldn't be in this mess right now. Bush was hell bent on attacking Iraq for a reason that is not fully evident at this point, but I doubt it had much to do with the phony intelligence we were given at the time (I suspect it had something to do with proving something to his Daddy, but I could be wrong). I fear this is a mistake that we will be paying for for years to come.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Senate votes on troop removal

CNN - Withdrawal timeline survives Senate vote
Defying President Bush, the Democratic-led Senate turned back a Republican attempt to remove a call for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq from a $124 billion war-spending bill, Tuesday.

Though the 50-48 vote is far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto, Democrats said the measure was a sign of growing support for bringing the four-year-old war to an end.

[. . .]

Two Republicans -- Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon -- joined 48 Democrats to turn back the GOP-backed amendment. (Watch Hagel question claims of progress in Iraq Video)

"The American people are demanding that we develop a bipartisan consensus for an honorable and responsible exit strategy from Iraq," said Hagel, a possible Republican presidential candidate. "If we fail to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder, one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead."

One Democrat, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, joined Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman to vote with the Republican leadership. And Virginia Sen. John Warner, a leading GOP opponent of Bush's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq, rejoined the Republican fold on Tuesday's vote, warning that calling for withdrawal would sound "the bugle of retreat."
Obviously this will never make it off the President's desk. I feel like the Democrats know that they need to do something to make it at least look like they are trying to change the current policy even though they know it won't make it into law. I'm actually a little glad to see some cross party voting. I feel like Senators should vote their conscience (or at least their constituency's conscience) and not always just toe the party line.

Monday, March 26, 2007

More sad news for UNC - UNC student, mascot dies
Jason Ray, the North Carolina student who performed as a mascot for the school's basketball team, died three days after he was struck by a car hours before an NCAA tournament game. He was 21.

Ray died Monday morning, said Steve Kirschner, the university's associate athletic director for communications.

Ray had been in critical condition at Hackensack University Medical Center since the accident Friday afternoon. He was hit from behind while walking on a highway shoulder near his hotel in Fort Lee after going to a nearby convenience store.
It is sad news to hear of someone so young dying so suddenly. I'm sure he will be dearly missed. One has to wonder if his condition affected the team's game yesterday. Something certainly did.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The state of Russian Democracy

BBC News - Russian opposition demo quashed
Russian riot police have arrested dozens of demonstrators who staged an anti-government rally in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on Saturday.

Protesters were dragged into waiting police vans and driven away.

The marchers were defying a ban on protests to demonstrate against what they see as attempts by President Vladimir Putin to stifle democracy.
It appears that Russian democracy continues to suffer under the rule of President Putin (for earlier evidence see here). Far be it from me to defend Putin or Russian democracy, but it certainly could be worse. Arresting protesters happens in the most consolidated of democracies. It is also significant to note that the people are willing to hold such protests, something that would not have been too likely two decades ago. The fact that the protesters were arrested and taken away in vans is a far cry from being ran over by tanks. There are certainly problems, and Russia may be headed in the wrong direction, I don't know, but I wouldn't count the Russian people out just yet.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Speaking of Poison. . .

MSNBC - Rat poison found in deadly pet food
Rat poison was found in the pet food suspected of causing kidney failure that killed at least 16 cats and dogs, but scientists still don’t know how it got there, state officials said Friday.

The toxin was identified as aminopterin, which is used to kill rats in some countries, state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said.

The poison may have been used on wheat imported from China, NBC News correspondent Tom Costello told MSNBC TV.

[. . .]

There have been several reports of kidney failure in pets that ate the recalled brands, and the company has confirmed the deaths of 15 cats and one dog.
At least they are getting to the bottom of the story.

Was Houdini Murdered?

No, it's not an upcoming episode of CSI, it's a read life conspiracy theory running its course. MSNBC has the story (from the AP) - One final trick for Houdini: Exhumation
For all of his death-defying stunts, Harry Houdini could not escape the Grim Reaper: the unparalleled performer, age 52, died on Halloween 1926, taking with him many of his trade secrets. The rumors that he was murdered, however, soon took on a life of their own.

Eighty-one years later, Houdini's great-nephew wants to exhume the escape artist's body to determine if he was poisoned by enemies for debunking their bogus claims of contact with the dead. A team of top-level forensic investigators would conduct new tests once Houdini's body was disinterred, the legendary star's relative told The Associated Press.
All of the new focus appears to stem from a new biography of Houdini's life that suggests he was murdered. I've always heard the story of how he was sucker-punched in the gut, but I've actually never heard of the murder conspiracy theory before.

I can see that an exhumation could possibly show evidence of poisoning, but I feel like any examination of the appendix would be impossible at this point. Eighty-plus years is a long time to spend in the ground. I can't imagine there is much left in way of internal organs. But then again what do I know.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . .unless they are at Guantanamo

NYT - New to Job, Gates Argued for Closing Guantánamo
In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantánamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible.
This idea was shot down, however, because some members of the administration wanted to make sure that the detainees didn't gain any Constitutional rights.
There is widespread agreement, however, that moving any detainees or legal proceedings to American territory could bring significant complications.

Some administration lawyers are deeply reluctant to move terrorism suspects to American soil because it could increase their constitutional and statutory rights — and invite an explosion of civil litigation. Guantánamo was chosen because it was an American military facility but not on American soil.
It is funny (ironic) to me that the United States was founded with the grand notion that all men are created equal, but when it comes down to it, we don't seem to think that all men (human beings) are entitled to the same rights or considerations. If they are not American citizens or housed on American soil, we don't have to treat them in the way that we claim to believe all of human-kind should be treated.

If we truly believe that our justice system is the best possible (although not perfect) form of determining guilt or innocence and doling out judgments while preserving the inalienable rights of the individual, why are we so bound and determined not to use it in the case of terror suspects. The short answer, of course, is that we think they don't have any rights. They are guilty until proven innocent. Actually they are guilty. Period. Or maybe even exclamation point. They are guilty, we know it, we shouldn't have to prove it. We should just be able to torture them and execute them. End of story.

I'm sorry, but that is just not the moral foundation that my country was founded on. It seems to me that if we can't try and convict them according to our stated standard of justice, the same standard we hold our own citizens to, then we have no business being the ones to punish them.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I like my cat, but this is ridiculous

CNN - Pet owners file class-action suit over tainted food
Jacqueline Johnson of Madison, Wisconsin, filed the suit Tuesday. The complaint contends her gray tabby, Gumbie, became ill after eating food from an Iams Select Bites pouch in early February. Gumbie became lethargic, refused food and lost weight, she said, and a veterinarian diagnosed acute renal failure. The cat was "pet-hospitalized" and prescribed intravenous fluids.

[. . .]

Since coming home, Gumbie has required a great deal of care. "It is stressful to have to stick a needle in the cat every day," said Johnson, who has had to administer daily subcutaneous fluid-and-drip injections since bringing Gumbie home.

Gumbie is likely to require medical tests and monitoring every few months, and Johnson expects this will increase her expenses considerably. She said she already has paid more than $3,000 in veterinary bills.
I like my cats, 2 out of 3 of them anyway, but I'm not gonna spend $3,000 in vet bills or sue the catfood company over it. Wow!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

So true

Any cat owner will recognize the accuracy of this chart.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Splitting Hairs?

WaPo - Clinton, Obama Camps Spar on War
A brewing argument over Iraq between the presidential campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama broke into public view here Monday night when Clinton's chief strategist challenged Obama's credentials as a consistent opponent of the war.

[. . .]

Clinton (N.Y.) voted for the October 2002 resolution authorizing the Iraq war, while Obama (Ill.), then a state senator, publicly opposed the war. The exchange marked the most substantive clash to date between the Obama and Clinton campaigns and reflected frustration among Clinton advisers over the Illinois senator's use of the issue to distinguish his candidacy.

Penn, responding to a question about Clinton's vote for the resolution, used the opportunity to attack Obama, arguing that he had said in 2004 that he was not sure whether he would have voted against the resolution had he been in the Senate.

"Obama said he didn't know exactly how he would have voted in Congress because he didn't have the full intelligence," Penn said.
I've seen some clips of what Obama had to say about the war at the time and I've read some transcripts. I think what he said and how he said it is perfectly in line with what he is still saying today. The "I didn't have all the info" caveat is just normal procedure. It's like when I was little and my mother would say that we were going to do something but she would always add, "unless something happens." It's just one of those things you have to say. I think that is even more true in politics than it is when dealing with children.

The Clinton camp also points to this:
The Clinton campaign later supplied several Obama quotations from 2004 to buttress Penn's attack. One came from the New York Times, in which Obama declined to criticize the Democratic Party's presidential and vice presidential nominees, Sen. John F. Kerry and then-Sen. John Edwards, for supporting the 2002 war resolution. "But I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports," Obama said, according to the Times. "What would I have done? I don't know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made."
At that point in the Presidential campaign, what else is he supposed to say? Once the party has its candidates other party members are expected to back them up, not rock the boat. I think he was as true to his beliefs as he could be in that statement while trying not to tear down the party's candidate.

Let's just say this whole exchange doesn't make me dislike Hillary any less than I did before. In fact, it just reinforces the feelings I already had for her. But then again, I've never made any secret of the fact that I'm not a fan of Sen. Clinton.

Monday, March 19, 2007


WaPo - Military Is Ill-Prepared For Other Conflicts
Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge.

[. . .]

The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises, whether the internal collapse of Pakistan, a conflict with Iran or an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula. Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces, they said. An immediate concern is that critical Army overseas equipment stocks for use in another conflict have been depleted by the recent troop increases in Iraq, they said.
Hopefully, we will not find ourselves caught up in any of the conflicts listed above anytime soon. However, this does underscore the folly of starting a war that was not necessary for National Security and illustrates how it has, at least to some degree, weakened our National Security instead of strengthening it.

In addition, if other countries are aware that our military strength has been diminished by the Iraq conflict, or that we are too tied up in Iraq to be able to effectively combat threats elsewhere, this could embolden groups into action that might have otherwise been deterred by a fear of U.S. intervention.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Heroes Personality

Matt Parkman

You scored 70 Idealism, 33 Nonconformity, 33 Nerdiness

I don't want to be a chump.

Congratulations, you're Matt Parkman! You're a great person: caring, hard-working, and honest. You might not have the best of luck, but you do your best in all areas of life. Your kind and responsible nature is rare, and you should be proud of it.

Your best quality: Heart
Your worst quality: You may take more abuse than you deserve

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Idealism
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Nonconformity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Nerdiness

Link: The Heroes Personality Test written by freedomdegrees on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
H/T: PoliSciFi

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pet Food Recall

MSNBC - 60 million containers of pet food recalled
Eukanuba, Iams and store brands tied to kidney failure, deaths

A major manufacturer of dog and cat food sold under Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger and other store brands recalled 60 million containers of wet pet food Friday after reports of kidney failure and deaths.

[. . .]

Menu Foods did not immediately provide a full list of brand names and lot numbers covered by the recall, saying they would be posted on its Web site — — early Saturday. Consumers with questions can call (866) 463-6738.
My cats don't eat wet food, but my dog does eat Wal-Mart wet dog food in the foil pouches. She doesn't seem to be showing any of the symptoms they mention, but she has been eating less lately. I hope she is okay.

China moves further toward capitalism

NYT - China Approves Property Law, Strengthening Its Middle Class
After more than a quarter-century of market-oriented economic policies and record-setting growth, China on Friday enacted its first law to protect private property explicitly.

The measure, which was delayed a year ago amid vocal opposition from resurgent socialist intellectuals and old-line, left-leaning members of the ruling Communist Party, is viewed by its supporters as building a new and more secure legal foundation for private entrepreneurs and the country’s urban middle-class home and car owners.
Wow, at first blush this sounds very promising, doesn't it? These first two paragraphs make it sound as if the Chinese legislature held a debate on a policy issue and in true democratic fashion reached a decision that will ultimately lead to a stronger middle class, and raising hopes of increased capitalist growth and democracy. Well, read on my friends, the rosy glow fades quickly.
But delays in pushing it through the Communist Party’s generally pliant legislative arm, the National People’s Congress, and a ban on news media discussion of the proposal, raise questions about the underlying intentions and the governing style of President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, experts say.

[. . .]

The leadership did not so much overcome opposition to the property law as forbid it. Unlike in 2005, when leaders invited broad discussion about property rights, the latest drafts of the law were not widely circulated. Several left-leaning scholars, who favor preserving some elements of China’s eroded socialist system, said they had come under pressure from their universities to stay silent.

When one financial magazine, Caijing, defied the Propaganda Department’s ban on reporting on the matter and published a cover story last week, it was ordered to halt distribution and reprint the issue without the offending article, people associated with the magazine said.
So while it would appear that China is still moving forward in their advance toward capitalism, a similar move toward democracy is still a long way away.

While strengthening the Middle Class is often a necessary step toward establishing democracy, it is not a fait accompli. As long as the Chinese government continues to suppress civil liberties, democracy is not likely to take root. There is still a long battle ahead before that happens, if it ever does.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mohammed confession update

For those of you who are interested, the full (well, as full as the government will allow) transcript of the hearing can be found here.

'No Child Left Behind' may get left behind

WaPo - Dozens in GOP Turn Against Bush's Prized 'No Child' Act
More than 50 GOP members of the House and Senate -- including the House's second-ranking Republican -- will introduce legislation today that could severely undercut President Bush's signature domestic achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, by allowing states to opt out of its testing mandates.

[. . .]

Some Republicans said yesterday that a backlash against the law was inevitable. Many voters in affluent suburban and exurban districts -- GOP strongholds -- think their schools have been adversely affected by the law. Once-innovative public schools have increasingly become captive to federal testing mandates, jettisoning education programs not covered by those tests, siphoning funds from programs for the talented and gifted, and discouraging creativity, critics say.
It does not surprise me that the Republicans are taking some heat from their constituency over "No Child". I live in a red state, and of all the people I've ever heard talking about "No Child Left Behind", I can't remember a single one that was saying anything positive about it. And I have talked to college students majoring in education and current teacher at the elementary school. It's all about testing and little about actual learning, combined with extra requirements for the teachers that seem to disadvantage the veteran teacher, or at least that is the impression I've gotten from the complaints I've heard.

However, the most telling statement to me in the whole article is this:
"Republicans voted for No Child Left Behind holding their noses," said Michael J. Petrilli, an Education Department official during Bush's first term who is now a critic of the law. "But now with the president so politically weak, conservatives can vote their conscience."
It seems to me that there is something wrong with our political system if the elected officials don't feel that they can vote their conscience all the time. I thought that was why they were elected, to represent the need of their constituents, not just to pull the party line. But then again, I've always been too idealistic, I guess.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed confesses to 9/11 plot

NYT - Suspected Leader of 9/11 Attacks Is Said to Confess
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, long said to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to them at a military hearing held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Saturday, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon yesterday. He also acknowledged full or partial responsibility for more than 30 other terror attacks or plots.

“I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z,” he said.
I find it interesting that some of the plots he confessed to were assassination attempts on former US Presidents.
Though American officials had linked Mr. Mohammed to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to several others, his confession was the first time he spelled out in his own words a panoply of global terror activities, ranging from plans to bomb landmarks in New York City and London to assassination plots against former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II. Some of the plots he claimed to plan, including the attempt on Mr. Carter, had not previously been publicly disclosed.
Later in the article it notes that the assassination plot against Clinton was back in 1994, which would have been while he was still president, but it is not clear if the attempt on Carter was way back when he was president or if it was a more recent plot. Considering Mohammed's age, I would think it would have to be a more recent plot, since he would have only been about 15 when Carter left office. I wonder why he would want to assassinate a former president?

I also found this statement by Mohammed to particularly interesting:
His actions, he said, were like those of other revolutionaries. Had the British arrested George Washington during the Revolutionary War, Mr. Mohammed said, “for sure they would consider him enemy combatant.”
I find the analogy so interesting because I have heard it made so many times by one of my former professors. It is just interesting to hear the exact same analogy made by the terrorist himself.

One does have to wonder, however, if he is really responsible for all the things he has confessed to or if he is just boasting.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Taxation without Representation

Via WaPo - Bill to Give D.C. Full House Vote Advances
A congressional committee approved a bill yesterday granting the District a full vote in the House of Representatives, giving the measure its first victory in what will probably be weeks of fierce wrangling as it moves through Congress.

[. . .]

Even if it clears the House, though, the bill faces big hurdles. It would have to be approved by the Senate, where so far it has elicited little support from Republicans. It also would have to be signed by President Bush, whose staff has expressed doubts about its constitutionality. If it succeeds in becoming law, it will almost certainly face a court challenge.
I find this whole issue very interesting, but find I have little to actually say about it. The system does seem flawed to have the residence of the nation's capitol not represented in the legislature. And it seems wrong that the issue seems to be tied to the partisan leanings of those residence. I'm sure the only way the issue will ever be resolved, however, is for Maryland to re-annex its part of D.C. like Virginia did.

After first reading this article, probably 2 hours ago, I decided to look up statehood requirements and found myself chasing one rabbit after another. First reading about Hawaiian statehood issues that I was totally unaware of, and then reading about other areas within states (and across state lines) that have sought independent statehood in the past. Interesting stuff, but ultimately nothing ever comes of it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Madam and a little black book of sorts

CNN - Alleged D.C. madam shares client records
The former owner of a Washington-area escort business said she reached a deal to share her records of up to 15,000 client phone numbers with a media organization.

"I have decided to hand over all phone records, logs and invoices (including those presently unknown to the government) to what I believe to be one of the most reputable and respected investigative news organizations in the country, to assist me with my needs," Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 50, wrote in an e-mail to WTOP Radio.
There is not much info in the article, but this sounds like a story that could get very interesting before it is all said and done.

Don't Count Edwards Out

WaPo - New John Edwards Sells Less Biography, More Liberal Issues
there is a new John Edwards on the campaign trail. His demeanor is more serious and his elbows far sharper than four years ago. Two years after leaving the Senate, he rarely mentions his time in Washington. Nor does he talk about his experience as Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry's vice presidential running mate.

His political positions also have more edge. An emphasis on biography has given way to a focus on issues, where there has been a demonstrable shift to the left -- on the Iraq war, health care and the federal budget deficit. The changes have given him entree to the liberal voters and constituencies who are influential in selecting Democratic presidential nominees.

Although he labors in their shadows, Edwards has drawn attention from the party's two glamour candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), this year's fresh face. Both rivals recognize the potential threat he carries to their candidacies, particularly in Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina and New Hampshire, states where the nomination battle begins.

[. . .]

Aides to rival candidates and unaffiliated party strategists describe Edwards as an undervalued stock in the Democratic race, despite the attention given to Clinton and Obama.

They believe he is well positioned to win some of the early states, starting with Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses. Edwards has led most of the polls of Iowa Democrats, and the organization he built last time is still highly regarded. His visit this weekend was the 19th since the 2004 election.
It seem to me that if Edwards is in a position to win some of the early primaries, the media would (should?) be giving him more attention than they seem to be. The primaries and caucuses are still a good way away yet and things could change, but it does seem like the media is neglecting some of its duties here.

Note: The article has some interesting info on Edwards current stand on some of the issues, if you are interested in that sort of stuff.

The Naked Truth?

BBC News - Israel recalls 'naked ambassador'
Israel is replacing its ambassador in El Salvador after the envoy was found outside the embassy, drunk, wearing only bondage gear, officials said.

[. . .]

Haaretz website reports that police found Mr Refael in the Israeli embassy compound two weeks ago.

He was inebriated, his hands were tied and he was gagged with a rubber ball in his mouth.

In spite of his drunken state, the naked figure was reportedly able to identify himself by his full name and job title.
I have to agree that this sort of behavior does call into question the appointment process for these positions.

Chirac says Goodbye

NYT - After 40 Years in French Politics, Chirac to Retire
After more than four decades as a politician and a dozen years as president, Jacques Chirac announced his retirement from politics on Sunday. . .

In a brief and deeply personal address to the nation carried on television and radio, Mr. Chirac said he would not seek a third term in next month’s election.
Although Chirac was undoubtedly right to oppose the Iraq War, he was hardly a shining light in French Politics.
his dissolution of Parliament in 1997 led to an unwieldy and unworkable division of power with the Socialist Party known as cohabitation.

His popularity plummeted in 2005, when the French people rejected the European Union’s proposed constitution in a referendum, the country’s troubled ethnic Arab and African Muslim immigrant communities were gripped by unrest and he suffered what has been called a “vascular incident” that was widely believed to have been a slight stroke.

He will leave office failing to fulfill his promise in 1995 to end the “social fracture” between the haves and the have-nots; he leaves France little better off economically than when he took office in 1995. The unemployment rate remains 9 percent; economic growth is at 2 percent.

Clinton v. Obama - the sparring continues

WaPo - Obama, Clinton Sparring Early
In the month since the presidential nominating contest got underway, Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) have barely mentioned each other's names in public or even greeted each other in the Senate halls. But each campaign has increasingly fixated on the other, engaging in a shadowboxing match in which they intentionally cross paths but dodge to avoid each other's subtle jabs. With an intensity unusual for this stage of the campaign the two are indirectly engaging, invading each other's terrain and going to great lengths to contrast their candidacies.
I really feel like Hillary's behavior as of late does not reflect well on her. It makes her seem almost desperate at times, but I have to wonder if she is just trying to force Obama's hand. Obama claims to want to play the game differently
Obama, meanwhile, has promised to run a "different campaign" that does not allow for unseemly political tactics -- a message and strategy imperiled each time he responds to his rivals, by name or otherwise.
I wonder if Clinton's strategy is to force him into playing by her rules. If he loses his moral high-ground, he could loses some of his appeal, and I think she may be banking on that.

I've heard a lot of people talk about the possibility of a Clinton/Obama ticket in November, but I wonder how their current dynamic affects that possibility. I know that candidates will generally run with whomever they believe is most likely to get them elected, but if they spend all their time tearing each other down, coming together to win a national election seems unlikely to me.

Oh well, neither one is my favorite candidate (although I do like Obama much better than I like Hillary) so they can tear each other to shreds as far as I'm concerned, so long as neither one gets the nomination. But they do need to remember that ultimately they are on the same team and I would assume that neither one wants to see the Republicans win again in 2008. I know that neither side has really gotten ugly yet, but if the sparring has started this soon, I can only imagine what it will be like when the gloves come off closer to the primaries.

Thompson Considers a Run

WaPo - Actor Thompson Considers Role in Presidential Race
Thompson, who plays District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's drama "Law & Order," said yesterday, "I'm giving some thought to it, going to leave the door open," and said he would decide in the coming months. "It's not really a reflection on the current field at all," he said.

"I'm just going to wait and see what happens," Thompson added. "I wanted to see how my colleagues who are on the campaign trail do now -- what they say, what they emphasize, what they're addressing and how successful they are in doing that, and whether or not they can carry the ball in next November."

Thompson, 64, said he is pondering a run after former Senate majority leader Howard H. Baker Jr. and other Tennessee Republicans began mustering support for his possible GOP candidacy, citing his conservative credentials.
Yup, you heard right, actor and former Senator Fred Thompson is considering running for the GOP nomination for President. It is hard to say at this point whether he would have a chance or not. I've heard that a lot of the conservative Republicans feel like they don't have a good candidate at the moment and he does have some name recognition and some political experience. I'm not really familiar with his political background other than simply being aware that he was once a Senator from Tennessee, but he does bill himself as a conservative and seems to think he would appeal to that side of the aisle. I've never been a fan of his character on Law and Order, but then again, I'm not really his target audience. I guess we will have to just wait and see if he actually decides to run or not.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Remember to Spring forward

BBC News - US time switch set to save energy
The US is switching to daylight saving time, or summer time, three weeks earlier than usual to cut fuel consumption and help the environment.

At 0200 EST (0700 GMT) clocks will move forward by an hour, shifting an hour of daylight from morning to evening.
Not that I really needed the BBC to tell me that I needed to change my clock, but I thought I'd link to the article anyway. I did find this paragraph interesting:
"Not only will Americans have more daylight at their disposal for four additional weeks in the year, but we will also see wide energy saving, less crime, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity.
Who knew?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Lowering the Trade Deficit

BBC News - Strong exports narrow US deficit
Exports from the United States have reached a record-high, helping to narrow the country's trade deficit.

During January the gap between imported and exported goods fell to $59bn (£31bn), down from December's $61.5bn.
This is a good thing, right? Well, as you read on in the article, it almost begins to sound like a bad thing.
The strong performance of the US export industry, with exports of goods and services rising by 1.1% to a historic high of $126.7bn, was mainly driven by sales of aeroplanes, computers and agricultural products, especially soybeans and wheat.

US shoppers, meanwhile, held back spending their money on foreign cars, toys and television sets.

The trade imbalance with the European Union fell to its lowest level in three years, a reflection of the weak dollar and the strong euro, which makes US exporters more competitive and European products very expensive to American shoppers.
So we are evening out a little bit because we can't afford to buy expensive European stuff as much anymore, and Europeans finally want to buy our stuff because it is cheap. Hum. . .

I'm no economist (and really have no desire to be one), but it sounds like something of a mixed bag to me. I guess you've got to take the bad with the good.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

French combat "happy slapping" - 'Happy slap' crackdown sparks row
A new law in France makes it a crime -- punishable by up to five years in prison -- for anyone who is not a professional journalist to film real-world violence and distribute the images on the Internet.

Critics call it a clumsy, near-totalitarian effort by authorities to battle "happy slapping" -- the youth fad of filming violent acts -- which most often they have provoked themselves -- and spreading the images on the Web or between mobile phones.

The measure, tucked deep into a vast anti-crime law that took effect Wednesday, took media advocates by surprise with what they say is an undesirable side effect: trampling on freedom of expression.
This is an excellent example of attacking the symptom instead of the real problem and overgeneralizing the solution. Since kids are acting violently and then filming it, they decide to outlaw filming and displaying violent acts (recorded by anyone other than professionals). As the story points out, this includes filming police brutality.

I just don't understand why people are so willing to go too far in an effort to gain some small amount of safety, never realizing what they are giving up in the process.

Necessary but not sufficient - No military solution to Iraq - U.S. chief
U.S. and Iraqi security forces cannot solve the problem of violence in Iraq without political action and reconciliation with some militant groups, the U.S. commander in Iraq said on Thursday.

General David Petraeus, in his first news conference in Baghdad since he took command last month, also said he saw no immediate need to request more U.S. troops, but reinforcements already requested would likely stay "well beyond the summer."

"There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus said.

"Military action is necessary to help improve security ... but it is not sufficient."

He said political progress would require talking to and reconciling with "some of those who have felt the new Iraq did not have a place for them."
It sounds to me like the General is right on the money with that one. The military, by itself, is not going to solve the problem. Unless the current Iraqi government is just going to kill every group that disagrees with them (which we certainly would not advocate), they are going to have to find a way to bring them into the political process or the problem is never going to go away. Unless the insurgent groups can be convinced that they have a chance to gain some influence through legal, political channels, the violence is going to continue.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

There are no words - Formerly half-ton man can leave house at last
A man who once weighed well over half a ton left his house for the first time in five years Wednesday -- wheeled outside on his bed to greet neighbors and see a mariachi band.

[. . .]

Though still unable to leave his bed, Uribe has lost 395 pounds since he began a high-protein diet a year ago. He now weighs about 840 pounds.
I just can't imagine how it is possible for a human being to consume enough food to weigh that much. Even if he has some sort of medical problem to cause the weight gain (which the article does not necessarily suggest) over a half a ton is incomprehensible and really inexcusable in my book. It is good to hear that he is loosing the weight, but still. . .

Mickey D's goes Angus

CNN Money reports - McDonald's tests a bigger burger, report says
Fast-food chain trying out a high-end, one-third of a pound Angus beef burger priced at $3.99, according to newspaper.

[. . .]

The Chicago Tribune said the new Third Pounder is currently available only in about 600 restaurant locations in Southern California. At one-third of a pound, the burger is the biggest on the McDonald's (Charts) menu at outlets where it is being tested.

[. . .]

Only the double Quarter Pounder with cheese compares to the calorie count of the new burgers. The Angus Third Pounder ranges from 720 calories to 860 calories, while the double Quarter Pounder contains 740 calories. McDonald's signature sandwich, the Big Mac, is 540 calories, the report said.
Angus burgers really don't do anything for me personally. I'm really just not that fond of Angus beef. And really, the only reason it merits a blog post is to ask this question:
Wouldn't a double Quarter Pounder be a half pound of meat (precooked weight, I'm sure), at least in theory? Isn't a half pound larger than a third of a pound? So how is this new burger the biggest on the menu? If there are flaws in my logic, feel free to point them out.

Libby Guilty, Is Cheney Next?

NYT - Questions About Cheney Remain
In legal terms, the jury has spoken in the Libby case. In political terms, Dick Cheney is still awaiting a judgment.

[. . .]

With Tuesday’s verdict on Mr. Libby — guilty on four of five counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice — Mr. Cheney’s critics, and even some of his supporters, said the vice president had been diminished.
I'm sure it is true that his reputation has been damaged by the trial, and history will remember his role in the case, but what exact political judgement the article is referring to, I'm not sure. It's not like Cheney was planning a 2008 bid for President or anything. I can't imagine he was planning to run for any elected office again. And, as the article points out, it hasn't diminished him in the area that matters most:
Ms. Matalin said Mr. Cheney remained as influential as ever where it counts — with Mr. Bush.
Of course there is always the impeachment talk:
Still, liberal critics of the administration had a field day with the trial. They are hoping the Democrats who now control Congress will use the case to investigate Mr. Cheney’s role further. Mr. Schumer, who was among the first to call for a special prosecutor in the case, suggested in an interview that they might.

“I think there is a view in the public that Libby was the fall guy,” Mr. Schumer said, “and I do think we will look at how the case shows the misuse of intelligence both before and after the war in Iraq.”
But I can't see that happening, not even with the Democrats in control of Congress. Even if they do bring charges against him, I can't see how they could get enough votes to remove him from office. If they can't remove him, it's just a waste of time and money to go through the motions.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Coffee and a video

I was reading a BBC News article about the effects of coffee on alertness (which was generally useless) but it reminded me of an old episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where Johnny Fever was taking part in an experiment to show the effects of alcohol use on alertness. He was supposed to get less alert but steadily got faster instead of slower. I looked at YouTube and GoFish but couldn't find a clip of it. I did find this clip, which is just classic and so representative of what a great show WKRP was. So here is a totally unrelated clip: Johnny Fever runs from the phone cops

Monday, March 05, 2007

Geez, I'm behind the times

I really haven't had the time to read much news in days. All the discussion of Obama and his lack of slave ancestry, and then the reference to him being descended from slave owners, got me searching the news of Obama's ancestry. I found this article from Thursday - A new twist to an intriguing family history from
Many people know that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas.

But an intriguing sliver of his family history has received almost no attention until now: it appears that forebears of his white mother owned slaves, according to genealogical research and Census records.
I really can't understand why this is supposed to make a difference. The man has no control whatsoever over what his ancestors did or did not do. We should judge a candidate by his merits, not by the sins of his father, or great-great-great-great grandfathers as the case may be. I like Obama, I don't really think he has enough experience yet to deserve to be President, but please, let's leave his family's ancient history out of the discussion.

I'm glad to hear it

CNN - Companies to pull ads from Coulter's Web site
At least three major companies want their ads pulled from Ann Coulter's Web site, following customer complaints about the right-wing commentator referring to Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards as a "faggot."
I'm glad to hear that her bigotry is costing her financially. That's the only thing has any chance of affecting her. I'm sure she won't change, because she's made a career out of acting that way and there are plenty of people out that want to hear her brand hate-based propaganda.

I did like the fact that the article credited a blogger with the withdrawal of the ads:
A diarist at the liberal blog posted contact information for dozens of companies with ads on Coulter's site after the commentator made her remarks about Edwards at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Friday. (Full story)

"One of the best ways to communicate one's distaste for Coulter's repeated incidents of hate speech is to respectfully but firmly let her advertisers know you are deeply troubled by their indirect support of bigotry through their advertising on Coulter's Web site," the blogger VolvoDrivingLiberal wrote on on Sunday.
Keep up the good work VolvoDrivingLiberal!

A negative image?

BBC News - Israel, Iran top 'negative list'
A majority of people believe that Israel and Iran have a mainly negative influence in the world, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests.

It shows that the two countries are closely followed by the United States and North Korea.

The poll asked 28,000 in 27 countries to rate a dozen countries plus the European Union in terms of whether they have a positive or negative influence.

Canada, Japan and the EU are viewed most positively in the survey.
I guess it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. The countries that rank most negative are the one that have been "starting things". It hardly seems like a scientific poll, however. I wonder what all countries were included in this list. I presume there were only 13 (a dozen + the EU). Was Lebannon included? What about Sudan? I think the article would have been better if it had included the entire list, and I'm sure the survey would have been better if it had included more choices.

Update: I see they have updated their graphics to include a complete list of the countries used in the survey. And as suspected, neither Lebanon nor Sudan were included.

So I was only half right

Last week I posted my theory about Heroes and Simone's apparent resurrection. It would appear that I was half right and half wrong. I was right that Simone did not have a power of her own that resurrected her, but someone else had a power that affected her. I was wrong about it being Peter, and it appears that she remains dead. But as we have seen so far on Heroes, appearances are often deceiving.

I just hope they don't kill Peter and Mohinder. Waiting until April 23 is going to hard, but I guess I'll survive.

Disturbing and yet not surprising

NYT - Basra Raid Finds Dozens Detained by Iraq Spy Unit
Iraqi special forces and British troops stormed the offices of an Iraqi government intelligence agency in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, and British officials said they discovered about 30 prisoners, some showing signs of torture.

The raid appeared to catch Iraq’s central government by surprise and raised new questions about the rule of law in the Shiite-dominated south, where less than two weeks ago Britain announced plans for a significant reduction in its forces because of improved stability.

[. . .]

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a conservative Shiite, condemned the raid in Basra. He publicly said nothing about the evidence of torture.
It is, without a doubt, disturbing to find out that a government intelligence agency in Iraq is detaining and torturing people. I'm not sure how anyone can be surprised to hear the news, however. If one thinks about it, our own Central Intelligence Agency has been caught doing the exact same thing. This does not in any way justify the actions of the Iraqis, but it certainly reduces our ability to be indignant about the whole matter.

What I find interesting about the article is that it invokes the word torture, but gives no actual examples of what was done to those who were detained. Obviously one man's "torture" is another man's "'tough' but 'lawful and necessary'." Let us speak in terms that we all understand, instead of using politically charged terms that are designed to evoke particular emotions.

I am not for one minute trying to justify what the Iraqis are doing. I would never try to justify the use of torture. (I think it is morally wrong, but I also think it is unreliable just in practical terms as well.) What I am trying to suggest is that we should get the log out our own eye before we spend too much time trying to get the speck out of someone else's (to use a Biblical reference). We cannot take the moral high ground, while we are playing around with semantics trying to justify our own behavior.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Storms

My immediate family was quite lucky yesterday, our home was not affected by the storm and all my family is safe. (My Aunt Janan's home was damaged by the storms, but I don't know yet to what extent, but no one was hurt.) Many others here in Alabama were not so lucky. There does not yet seem to be a consensus on the death toll, but just the fact that there were deaths is saddening to all.

I have to wonder if the events at Enterprise High School will have any affect on schools' severe weather procedures. Many schools sent their children home yesterday while others kept them in and followed the traditional severe weather plan of sitting in the hallway and covering one's head. Enterprise obviously chose to implement the latter plan. reports:
Students at Enterprise High School were taking cover when it was hit. (Watch scenes of destruction Video)

"The whole building just collapsed on everybody," said Chase Baldwin, a student at the school. "A bunch of people were trapped under cinder blocks, and people had their heads cut open."
This would seem to indicate that the traditional plan is really quite useless in the event that the building is actually hit by a tornado. It is true that there is little one can do if the building receives a direct hit from a tornado, but it is still clear that the current procedure does not actually make the children any safer.

It would seem to me that schools could (should) provide a safer plan. They could either build storm cellars or cancel school on days when they know the weather is going to be severe, as many schools did yesterday. This was not a surprise storm system. The news weathermen had been predicting severe storms for Thursday for several days.

Anyway, it just seems to me that yesterday's events should call into question the efficacy of the current severe weather plan for Alabama schools. I will be curious to see if any changes result from it.

Clintons and Obama set to remember Bloody Sunday

WaPo - At Site of '65 March, an '08 Collision: Sunday's Selma Event to Be a Stage for Obama -- and Clinton(s)

Sen. Barack Obama and both Hillary and Bill Clinton plan to attend events on Sunday in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the anniversary of "Bloody Sunday". I'm not 100% sure how I feel about that. I know that the event has always had as much political significance as it does historical significance, but it has garnered bi-partisan participation in the past that appears to be lost this year.
Lewis -- an icon of "Bloody Sunday," whose skull was bashed by Alabama police as he helped lead a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965 -- organizes a pilgrimage back each year, traditionally with a group of both Democratic and Republican members of Congress in attendance (though this year, few Republicans are expected to attend, in part because the event appears poised to become dominated by Democratic politics).
On the one hand, it shows that the candidates are interested in the black vote, which seems to be fitting as a way to commemorate the event and show how far voting rights have come. On the other hand, however, it seems to me that the popularity of the Clintons and Obama could have the potential to draw in a large crowd that is really unconcerned about the significance of the day, which bothers me on some level.

It is possible that it could be a good thing. Those who do not feel passionately about the voting rights struggle or Black history, but attend due to the celebrities involved, could learn somethings and gain a greater appreciation for the struggles of others. On the other hand, the significance of the event could get overpowered by a political and media circus due to the celebrities. I hope for the former, not the latter. We shall see.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Heroes Theory (Simone Edition)

I meant to post this Monday night but forgot to. Right or wrong, I wanted to post it before the next episode on Monday, so here goes.

In the scenes from next week, they showed Simone standing up and saying something to the effect of "Are you gonna shoot me again." This would seem to indicate that she was not so injured by what initially appeared to be a fatal gunshot wound from Isaac's gun on last week's episode.

Here is my theory. Since we already have Claire with the ability to regenerate, I doubt that they would give Simone that same power, or a power so similar. My guess is that Peter has the power to heal other people, a power that he most likely picked up from his encounter with Silar, and Simone does not actually have a power of her own. That is my guess, now we just have to watch to find out if I'm right or wrong.

Who can you trust?

NYT - U.S. Concedes Uncertainty on North Korean Uranium Effort
For nearly five years, though, the Bush administration, based on intelligence estimates, has accused North Korea of also pursuing a secret, parallel path to a bomb, using enriched uranium. That accusation, first leveled in the fall of 2002, resulted in the rupture of an already tense relationship: The United States cut off oil supplies, and the North Koreans responded by throwing out international inspectors, building up their plutonium arsenal and, ultimately, producing that first plutonium bomb.

But now, American intelligence officials are publicly softening their position, admitting to doubts about how much progress the uranium enrichment program has actually made. The result has been new questions about the Bush administration’s decision to confront North Korea in 2002.
This just further illustrates why we should not take the government at it word. And really not just this administration, but any administration. When anyone says anything, it is always necessary to determine whether that person might have some ulterior motive for saying it. Often times they do.

It doesn't seem to matter whether it is the CIA overstepping the bounds of logical reasoning (as many argue was the case here) or if it is someone like James Cameron making a documentary full of speculation and faulty logic, or whether it is Al Gore making an Academy Award-winning documentary on global warming, one has to be willing to ask one's self if the source might have some reason to lie or distort the truth. The answer is often yes they do. It is true that we can never have all the information necessary to make the absolute right decision all the time, but we should avoid blind faith in any particular authority. We should always be willing to question. I'm reminded of something I read at one time, it's good advice:
This section [the Lost Legends section] graphically demonstrates the pitfalls of falling into the lazy habit of taking as gospel any one information outlet's unsupported word. We could have put up a page saying "Don't believe everything you read, no matter how trustworthy the source," but that wouldn't have conveyed the message half as well as showing through direct example just how easy it is to fall into the "I got it from so-and-so, therefore it must be true" mindset. That's the same mindset that powers urban legends, the same basic mistake that impels countless well-meaning folks to confidently assert "True story; my aunt (husband, best friend, co-worker, boss, teacher, minister) told me so."

No single truth purveyor, no matter how reliable, should be considered an infallible font of accurate information. Folks make mistakes. Or they get duped. Or they have a bad day at the fact-checking bureau. Or some days they're just being silly. To not allow for any of this is to risk stepping into a pothole the size of Lake Superior.
With Iraq, we stepped into a pothole the size of Lake Superior, there is little doubt at this point. The article above indicates that we probably made the situation in N. Korea worse by making our accusations in 2002. It is not always best to assume the worst case scenario and it is important to realize when you are dealing with a source that likes to deal in worst case scenario, i.e. the CIA.

That leads me back to my title question, who can you trust? I don't really have an answer to that, unfortunately. In each situation you have to judge for yourself. There are, however, two question you should probably ask yourself before you decide:
1. Does this person/group have something to gain from making me believe this?
2. Do I have some ulterior motive for wanting it to be true or false?
Answer these questions honestly and you are probably off to a good start.

Okay, I'll stop ranting now.