Sunday, July 31, 2005


Movies just don't matter

Movies just don't matter: "None of this would matter for the box office were it not that celebrities' real-life sagas � what I call 'lifies' because they combine life with the narrative appeal of movies. Lifies provide many of the same satisfactions as movies do. Once upon a time, these peccadilloes might have advertised stars' films. Now they don't so much advertise the movies as replace them. In the battle of competing narratives, people are likely to prefer the real-life ones with real-life consequences to the fictional ones on screen. Most movies suffer by comparison."

Gabler makes some really good points as to why American cinema is now on a downturn, but I can add to the reason...the movies are awful. Anyone who has seen "Empire Falls" and compares it to any movie they have seen in the movie theater in the past five years, there would be no comparison. I would wager that the pilot of "Over There" would also win over any movie going experience. I loved "Chicago", but it doesn't even closely compare to my television examples. It was entertaining, but it was not a close race to the others. "Empire Falls" was like the book that you cried at the end, not because of the story, but rather because it was over. You wanted to know more about these characters that you came to care so much for. You wanted more very badly. Movies are losing money, because no one cares about the characters. They don't leave the theater thinking that they had a life experience. FX, the cable channel, has led the way in bringing great television to its viewers in shows like "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me", to a lesser extent. When we have better fare at home, why go pay $20 for a bucket of popcorn?


Another Face of Terror

Another Face of Terror - New York Times: "Then on Jan. 2, Dr. Shazia woke up in the middle of the night, and at first she thought she was having a nightmare. 'But this person was really pulling hard on my hair, and then he started pressing on my throat so I couldn't breathe. ... He tied the telephone cord around my throat. I resisted and struggled, and he beat me on the head with the telephone receiver. When I tried to scream, he said, 'Shut up - there's a man standing outside named Amjad, and he's got kerosene. If you scream, I'll take it and burn you alive.' ... Then he took my prayer scarf and he blindfolded me with it, and he took the telephone cord and tied my wrists, and he laid me down on the bed. I tried hard to fight but he raped me.'
The man spent the night in her room, beating her, casually watching television, raping her again and boasting about his powerful connections. A 35-page confidential report by a tribunal describes Dr. Shazia tumbling into the nurse's quarters that morning: 'semiconscious ... with a swelling on her forehead and bleeding from nose and ear.' Officials of Pakistan Petroleum rushed over and took decisive action.
'They told me to be quiet and not to tell anybody because it would ruin my reputation,' Dr. Shazia remembers. One official warned that if she reported the crime, she could be arrested.
That was a genuine risk. Under Pakistan's hudood laws, a woman who reports that she has been raped is liable to be arrested for adultery or fornication - since she admits to sex outside of marriage - unless she can provide four male eyewitnesses to the rape.
Dr. Shazia wasn't sure she dared to report the crime, but she begged for permission to contact her family. So, she says, officials drugged her into a stupor and then confined her in a psychiatric hospital in Karachi."

Kristof goes on to tell about a gynecologist who tells women who have been raped not to go to the police because the police will rape them too. How absolutely ridiculous is it that she has to endure this merely because the sperm and egg that joined to create her happened to be in that god-forsaken place and the sperm and egg that created me happened to be here in a free and open country? How did I get so lucky? How could a God let her be left there with those people? What makes this all the more disgusting is that it is not rare or relegated to Pakistan. It is common all over the world. Aren't the "news" networks doing us a disservice by not making these things important to their viewers, or at least making the viewership aware of this stuff? Is Nicholas Kristof the only one who has the wisdom to continue to make us think about these things? As those that pray for Natalee Holloway (and other covered sad stories) continue lowering their heads, maybe they could take a moment for women all over the world who experience this or fear it everyday. Thank you, Nicholas.


This is a No-Brainer

For Security, Follow the House - New York Times: "Earlier this month, the Senate was faced with a fateful choice. It could have voted for Ms. Collins's irresponsible formula, which showers antiterrorism money on rural America, or an alternative formula backed by all six senators from New York, California and Texas to direct more money to high-risk states. In a low moment for the war on terror, the Senate voted for the Collins amendment. That was good news for rural areas that face little real threat of terrorism, but the chemical plants, ports and subway systems that terrorists are likely to take aim at would be left unnecessarily vulnerable.
After the Senate acted, the House voted for a far superior formula. It adopted an amendment sponsored by Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, and John Sweeney, a New York Republican, that would distribute more of the Homeland Security funds on the bases of threats, vulnerability and consequences of an attack. It would do this in part by using substantially lower 'state minimums' - money that is guaranteed to small, low-risk states regardless of whether they are in serious danger of being attacked.
Now it is up to the two houses to reconcile their funding formulas. There are reports that the Senate may be considering dropping the misguided Collins amendment, now that the House has passed a superior formula that would do more to make the nation safe. That is the right thing to do.
If the Senate stands by its formula, when the time comes to reconcile the House and Senate formulas, Dennis Hastert, the House speaker, and Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, should make sure that the House holds firm. Defending America from acts of terrorism will not be easy in the best of circumstances. It will be a lot harder if the Collins amendment's formula becomes law, and scarce Homeland Security."

I am not a Susan Collins fan anyway, but this proves that I have very good tastes. She is trying to get Homeland Security money funneled to Maine in equal measure to NY and other high risk areas. Not only does this not make sense, but it is dangerous. The NYT Editor is right again, and we all need to read and then write letters to make sure that Susan loses this ignorant fight.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Creativity at its Finest

The Cincinnati Post - Couple's new home being built with bales: "Always interested in 'getting back to basics,' Terry said they got the idea to build a straw bale house from an article they read 20 years ago in Mother Earth News, an environmentalist publication.
Since then, they have been reading any book they could get their hands on about so-called 'green construction.'
'It has to do with using resources well, preserving the environment. Green construction has a more positive and integrated relationship to the environment,' said Jud Gerwin of Cincinnati-based RWA Architects Inc., who toured the Abshires' house last month as part of a monthly activity for the Cincinnati branch of the American Institute of Architects' Committee on the Environment.
Straw bale construction has many advantages, he said.
'Straw has an excellent insulation capacity, it is not difficult to build and it uses natural material very well,' he said. And a straw bailer is the only machine needed for construction.
Building with straw also saves trees.
'Straw is rapidly renewable. You are using a material that can replenish itself every year versus trees, which take years to grow,' Gerwin said, who said he was interested in building a home using straw bales.
Gerwin said his company is 'more and more interested' in sustainable construction, which reduces the impact of buildings on the environment.
Building with straw bales is also cheaper than building with conventional construction materials.
Aside from contracting out work on the roof and the tresses, the house has only cost the Abshires $25,000 in building materials.
Terry said she was just excited to get a 2,000-square-foot house with no bank note."

I tend to like the tradtional wood and such, but I applaud their creativity.


Unimaginable Horror

U.N. Report Details Rampant Sexual Violence in Darfur: "Sudanese security forces and other armed groups continue to rape and abuse displaced women in Darfur with impunity, according to a U.N. report on sexual violence in the troubled Sudanese province.
Louise Arbour, the United Nations' high commissioner for human rights, wrote that victims are routinely subjected to humiliating treatment at the hands of the authorities if they say they have been raped. Sudanese police frequently fail to register or investigate sex crimes, and courts sometimes try rape victims as adulteresses if they cannot prove they are telling the truth, she wrote.
'Rape and gang rape continue to be perpetrated by armed elements in Darfur, some of whom are members of law enforcement agencies and armed forces, and the government appears either unable or unwilling to hold them accountable,' the 29-page report said. 'Many women do not report incidents, out of fear of reprisals, and are discouraged from reporting by the lack of redress for sexual violence.'"

Life without war is hard enough in places like Darfur. Now with daily war, killings and rape as a tool of war, it seems unfathomable. In fact, it thankfully is unfathomable. We are very lucky. When so many are eager to shut the UN down or pull our money from the institution, this report and others like it remind us that they are doing some good work. There are few others who could get in to see what is happening, and we should know. More importantly, we should care!


Tough Times For the Terminator

Tough Times For the Terminator: "Arrayed against him is a coalition led by public employee unions and their private-sector allies. They have mounted an expensive ad campaign that has contributed to a severe slump in Schwarzenegger's poll ratings. The Public Policy Institute's July poll put his job approval at 41 percent among likely voters, down 22 points from January.
Polling on the budget proposal indicates it, too, faces an uphill battle, because it would trim education spending. Defeat on that issue would send Schwarzenegger into the last year of his term on a downward slide.
That explains why one of those directly involved in managing his initiative campaign said, 'We're preparing for war, but we're praying for peace,' a last-minute compromise with the legislature that would make it possible to cancel the special election. But the odds are against any such deal; a senior Schwarzenegger strategist gives it only one chance in five. The special election ballot also includes two issues of particular importance to conservatives. One would require notification of parents before a minor could receive an abortion. The other would force public-sector unions to get annual approval from each of their members to use their dues for political purposes. The GOP hard core wants to vote this year on those issues."

I just got an email from the local Republican party to attend a "Support Arnold" rally. The request made me realize that I had no reason to support him. I haven't a clue as to what he is doing. His press people have taken on the low-profile strategy, and so even those who would be most likely to support him don't know what he is up to. I do know that he was working diligently to make nurse to patient ratios lower, a healthcare decision that is just plain dangerous. Anyone who has visited a hospital recently knows that they actually tell you to keep family with you at all times, because nurses are so overloaded. That is a nationwide problem, so that is one clear strike against the Governator. I could care less about his magazine/supplements scandal. It just sounded like an easy strike for his opponents, not anything of real value of danger to the state. Because I am unsure of how I feel about parental notification and those types of issues, I wouldn't don an Arnie shirt and make up a sign for that. As far as the union dues issue, I don't really know enough about that either. It sounds like the conservative union members nationwide are being heard with the break-aways from the AFL-CIO. The memberships main objection, from what I understand, is the amount of due money being used for politics, but not used to increase membership. With MBA students learning how to become better employers so that unions are less necessary, it is no surprise that unions are losing numbers. There is still a place for them. Don't get me wrong. It is just not surprising that there are fewer places where they are as desperately needed as they once were. So I say to the local Republican party, rally away! I'm staying home.


Maybe They Get It

: "France ejects 12 Islamic 'preachers of hate'
By Colin Randall in Paris (Filed: 30/07/2005)
The gulf between British and French treatment of preachers of hatred and violence was thrown sharply into focus yesterday when France announced the summary expulsion of a dozen Islamists between now and the end of August. A tough new anti-terrorism package was unveiled by Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and a popular centre-Right politician. Nicolas Sarkozy: 'We have to act against radical preachers'
His proposals reflect French determination to act swiftly against extremists in defiance of the human rights lobby, which is noticeably less vocal in France than in Britain.
Imams and their followers who fuel anti-western feeling among impressionable young French Muslims will be rounded up and returned to their countries of origin, most commonly in France's case to its former north African colonies."

I just love this story. With what happened in Britain and what is feared in Italy, France is taking reasonable steps to stop the terror recruiters from making France a home place for hate. Deport 'em!

Friday, July 29, 2005



Robin Hood and Air America�-�Editorials/Op-Ed�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "In late June, city officials designated the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, a nonprofit organization that runs mentoring programs for children and day care for Alzheimer's patients, a 'non-responsible city contractor.' Investigators found 'significant inappropriate transactions and falsified documents that were submitted to various City agencies.' The city subsequently suspended the club's contracts, which run well into the millions.
It turns out, according to sources quoted anonymously by the Bronx News, that the mishandled money went to Air America. One source claims that $480,000 was wrongly transferred. The city investigation is concentrating on Charles Rosen, the club's president for 15 years, and Evan Cohen, the development director, who is a former chairman of Air America. Mr. Cohen resigned from Air America in May after the network's leasing plans in Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere fell through.
No one has claimed that Messrs. Cohen or Rosen sought to profit personally from any transfers. The money was said to have been a 'loan' from the community center to Air America, which Air America would repay with interest at some point in the future. But why the public till should be tapped to rescue a foundering news outlet was a question no one seemed to consider. Maybe Air America officers thought spending public funds on their network was a truly compelling public interest. It isn't, of course, and if the allegations are true, they reveal a misuse of tax dollars to support a partisan organization.
Air America's parent corporation Piquant LLC issued an 'explanation' yesterday but did not deny the allegations. It instead tried to pin them on Air America's previous owners, on whose watch the transfer"

No comment.


A Sense of Proportion at Ground Zero - New York Times

A Sense of Proportion at Ground Zero - New York Times: "But this is not really a campaign about money or space. It is a campaign about political purity - about how people remember 9/11 and about how we choose to read its aftermath, including the Iraq war. On their Web site,, critics of the cultural plan at ground zero offer a resolution called Campaign America. It says that ground zero must contain no facilities 'that house controversial debate, dialogue, artistic impressions, or exhibits referring to extraneous historical events.' This, to us, sounds un-American."

Isn't it interesting that when Richard Clarke spoke to the committee that it was all about the 9/11 families, but now that it is about a museum unrelated to 9/11 at that site that the 9/11 families are misguided or giving false impressions? To clarify, this is not just for the famlies of the victims, it is for everyone, so it should not just be their opinions that matter. Having said that, there seem to be a lot of ordinary, unconnected (to 9/11) Americans who agree that the museum should be elsewhere. There is no shortage of space in major cities all over the country to house such a museum. They seem to be urging the planners to merely plan that for another space, and not use those federal dollars for such an exhibit. There is nothing un-American about that request. To have what may be or possibly could be seen as anti-American historical exhibits worries many of us. Touting the wrongs Americans have made over our history seems in bad taste at the site of a tragedy where the perpetrators were using those very historical events, among others, to justify their actions. The fear is that what is planned there, these exhibits, would give aid and comfort to the very ideology that caused the tragedy in the first place. Maybe it is too early to have a sense of that, but when I saw the planner/President of the association in charge of this space speak to Neil Cavuto, he gave me little solace that their plans were anything but exactly what Debra Burlingame suggested. By many, she is dismissed out of hand, because she spoke for the President at the Republican National Convention. We all may need to become more familiar with both sides of this battle. How we design the legacy of this event, how we are portrayed and who is making these plans could affect us all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


What an Interesting Story

Free Huda Ammash: "Free Huda Ammash"

I haven't a clue as to the validity of his plea, but the story is truly worth your time. To be the childhood neighbor of "Mrs. Germ", or whatever we call her must be the most bizarre childhood connection to history. Whether she is a danger is for those that have spoken with her and know her history more than this WaPo writer, but just that she was a relatively normal kid only to become an internationally known germ warfare expert for a dictatorial regime makes this story one that you don't easily forget.
I was blessed yesterday to read about people that I went to elementary and middle school with. I found myself in the "ugly cry" (as Oprah calls it) very quickly. I knew these people when they merely wanted sunny days to play in the woods. Now, they have found their callings and are living out their dreams, many of them. There was one little girl, Lydia, who came to my birthday parties and was in many of my classes as a little girl. I remember clearly when we studied manatees, she and I were both captivated, her a bit more. I loved the animals and their nickname, dinghy, as I remember it. I would call Lydia dinghy, and then tease her that I was just calling her a manatee. Hey, it was third grade. I read that she is now a marine biologist living in Florida. I think of her often as she was just one of those girls who was always bright, curious, and engaged in school, something I did not have nearly the patience for. I was charmed to know that she became what it was so obvious she was meant to become! Another little girl, Heather became a teacher. She was another really very smart girl. It seemed perfect given who she was as a child. Joseph, the son of the superintendent, was a quiet child who walked with a purpose, always close with his thoughts. We walked home on the same route, and he never needed chatter, just to walk and think. He is now a PhD doing his residency in psychiatry. Another perfect outcome for this boy who I knew would do great things. Randy is a mechanical engineer. His future was not as easily read as some of the others, but it tickles me to know that he is successful. Chelsea, who was in my carpool, is an interior designer. Lindsay, who attended my birthday parties and hung out with my friends, is now a lecturer in a London college. She was quiet and smart, a perfect combination for a patient English professorship. Kim works for the Department of Homeland Security in anti-nuclear terrorism. She was always bright, and while I may not have guessed that outcome, I am proud of her for this work, in particular!
Whenever you get a chance to see how people "turn out", take it. What it proved to me was that children are just young adults. Who they are and what they can become is not nearly the mystery having seen this short registry of my childhood friends. It also says that parents who recognize that their children show interest or aptitude in an area should encourage them as opposed to steering them to studies with more prestige. Some of these successful stories are proof that some of us are born to do what we do. I feel blessed to have gotten the opportunity to watch these people grow up!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Reminder of How Blessed We Truly Are

U.N.: N. Koreans Scavenging for Food - Yahoo! News: "BEIJING - North Korea's government and international aid agencies are running short of food, forcing hungry people to scavenge for acorns, grass and seaweed, the U.N. food agency said Tuesday as talks on the North's nuclear program began in China's capital.
The United States has promised to send 50,000 tons of cereals to help feed millions of malnourished North Koreas, but that aid is not expected to arrive for three months, said Gerald Bourke, a Beijing-based spokesman for the World Food Program.
There is 'very little' left in WFP stockpiles in the North, Burke said, though he did not give exact figures. About one in three North Koreans are chronically malnourished, he said."

This is another story that we need to keep our eye on if only to remind ourselves of how amazingly good we have it. We should all thank the press for making human rights issues front page news today. My hope is that this will continue.


Why Haven't We Heard This Before?

50,000 Iraqi insurgents dead, caught�-�World�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or arrested more than 50,000 Iraqi insurgents in the past seven months, a former top general who has headed repeated Pentagon assessment missions to Iraq said yesterday."

Is anyone else just wow'd by that number? That is huge!! Why isn't anyone else putting this on their front pages? Seems like news to me.


Why Not a 'Million Muslim March'? - Why Not a 'Million Muslim March'?: "Sadly, only the voices of Western political leaders constantly remind us that Islam is a 'religion of peace.' Where are the Muslims, especially those living in the West, who have the freedom to organize and make their voices heard? It seems that the only time we hear from the Muslim masses is when there are alleged desecrations of the Quran, or of prisoner abuse in Iraq. Where is the Muslim outrage, the mass protests to defend Islam, in whose sacred name murder is committed nearly every day, against what Western leaders describe as a 'perversion of its true nature'?
Alas, the battle against Islamism -- and also for the heart of Islam -- has become a battle for the West to fight. As a Muslim, these acts of terrorism committed by fellow Muslims -- and yes, they are Muslims, from whom we cannot distance ourselves by the sophistry that asserts that their version is but a perversion of Islam -- are a great source of shame. But what is more shameful is that there are no mass Muslim protests to speak of against terrorism that is committed in our name. In the same way that Muslims have protested against alleged desecrations of the Quran, they now should be out in full force in the streets of Cairo, London and New York, sending a clear message to the Islamists that Enough is Enough. Why not a 'Million Muslim March' on Washington, of law-abiding Muslim citizens clamoring to reclaim their faith from those who would kill innocents in its name? Muslims must no longer stand by while murder and suicide bombings are committed in their name."

Ahmed H. Al-Rahim is an Iraqi-American who has taught Arabic and Islamic studies at Harvard. It is heartening to see a professor of America's best and brightest saying things like this. After Sami Al-Arian, Americans were starting to think that colleges and universities were just another haven for Muslims who wished Americans and the West harm.


NYT Makes Two Good Editorial Points in One Day

Truth Telling on Zimbabwe - New York Times: "She has now reported that the forcible clearances, which began in May and have cost 700,000 people their homes or livelihoods, were carried out in an 'indiscriminate and unjustified manner' with 'indifference to human suffering.' The damage from this 'virtual state of emergency,' she reported, will take years to undo. In the name of the United Nations, she demanded that the razing of homes and businesses be immediately halted, that the campaign's architects be prosecuted and that the victims of this 'manmade disaster' be compensated. It is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and hundreds of thousands of uprooted people, many of them women and children, are shivering in tents.
Mr. Mugabe, a tyrant, is increasingly out of touch with reality in the style of Stalin and Mao. He is starving and killing his own people, and the unwillingness of some of Africa's most prestigious leaders, like Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, to challenge him publicly is especially disturbing at a time when these same leaders prate on about a commitment to accountable governments and peer review of one another. Mrs. Tibaijuka's unflinching honesty shames their silence."

While our diplomats have to be very careful how they handle these things, this is another story that the public isn't thinking about or weighing in on. The diplomats may see it differently if the public were pressuring them to do something. Polls probably couldn't even be done about this here in America, because so few Americans even know this is happening. This is not to say that just because the American public wants something done, the government would be able to do anything any differently. We have found, however, that the collective American voice can initiate change. As we sit in our air conditioned homes on our fluffy couches, we should take some time to put thought to how to draw a collective voice and what that voice should utter.


Good Point, Nickie

All Ears for Tom Cruise, All Eyes on Brad Pitt - New York Times: "When I've asked television correspondents about this lapse, they've noted that visas to Sudan are difficult to get and that reporting in Darfur is expensive and dangerous. True, but TV crews could at least interview Darfur refugees in nearby Chad. After all, Diane Sawyer traveled to Africa this year - to interview Brad Pitt, underscoring the point that the networks are willing to devote resources to cover the African stories that they consider more important than genocide.
If only Michael Jackson's trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur."

I am a bit embarassed that I haven't sought out more information on it as well. I have been captivated by the blond girl in Aruba, but cared little to write about genocide. I will take Kristof's challenge and learn more about this.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Unbelievable!! - News - Rendell: Slain Marine's Family Will Get Apology: "PITTSBURGH -- Gov. Ed Rendell said written apologies will be sent to the family of a dead Marine who was upset about Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll's appearance at the man's funeral last week.
The funeral was held Tuesday for Staff Sgt. Joseph Goodrich, 32, of Pittsburgh's Westwood section. Goodrich died July 10 in Iraq.
Family members said Knoll came to the funeral uninvited, passed out her business cards and made a remark about the government being against the war."

Tacky is far too kind a word. Thoughtless also fails to cover this act. It is perfectly okay to be anti-war. We need all voices. At the funeral of a fallen soldier, however, there is no way to justify her behavior. She can write op-eds. She can do speaking engagements. She can soap-box on the corner of the busiest street in Pennsylvania, but to say that there at that time shows such poor taste as to question her position in the government of Pennsylvania. Rendell is a good man, and I have no doubt that he will do what he can to make this right. There is little, however, that Knoll can do to right this very disturbing wrong.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Today a Measured WaPo

The President's Choice: "If confirmed as the successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, it is likely that he will shift the Supreme Court toward the right. But his nomination is not a provocation to Democrats -- as some other possible nominees would have been. Mr. Bush deserves credit for selecting someone with the potential to attract broad support...In the days that come, the cacophony of voices promoting or opposing him could easily drown out any serious discussion of a man who deserves careful consideration. The Senate needs to make sure that a fair, open and substantive confirmation process takes place even amid the noise."

Like nearly everyone else, I am just now learning about John Roberts. I was surprised by this WaPo editorial. It is not an approval, but it is more measured than anyone who pays attention would have expected from this particular publication. This may be a bit of a "thank you for not testing our patience" sort of thing. I don't know. I don't envy Roberts or the Senate given the confirmation process to ensue. Regardless the choice, it will be a challenge (and likely impossible) to crystal ball his future rulings on issues that have yet to arise. I haven't a feeling on the matter, and seriously doubt I will feel knowledgeable enough to have strong opinions throughout this process. I will enjoy watching the political fight, but will leave the opining on his suitability to the experts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Oh how I love funny politicians!

WorldNetDaily: "McCain on sexy film: 'I work with boobs every day'"


Listen to Luke Stricklin, The Ultimate Singing Soldier
I just heard him singing on Fox News, and it made me emotional. Great voice and the sentiment is more than just patriotic, it's personal.
Of note from the bo on his website: "Some of his achievements while playing drums in high school were, being chose 1st chair 2nd band all-state jazz band, 1st chair 1st band all-state jazz band his junior year, also his junior year he was chose as the lead drummer for the four states jazz band (Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma) which was directed by guitar legend Les Pac (the third time he worked with Les) and had the opportunity of playing with a sax player from the prestigious 1:00 lab band from north Texas."
For those familiar with university jazz programs, North Texas has been one of the best for decades. My uncle, a professional musician, was first chair saxaphone player there. He beat out Lou Marino (best known for being the saxaphone player in Blues Brothers in the scene with Aretha Franklin, but now playing with James Taylor on tour) for first chair. He has never said it, but I think it is one of the accomplishments he is most proud of (even maybe prouder than playing for President Johnson at the White House with Stan Getz and Duke Ellington). He recently sent pictures of that day and tells a great story of drinking the leftover champagne with the guys. They were just drinking there on the White House lawn with Stan and Duke. Apparently, all of them, including Stan and Duke, felt it necessary to tend to nature's call there on the lawn of the White House.
Anyway, Luke has a very impressive background, even just to get to study with those in the program at North Texas.

Monday, July 18, 2005


Where is John McWhorter When You Need Him?

San Bernardino County Sun - News: "Incorporating Ebonics into a new school policy that targets black students, the lowest-achieving group in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, may provide students a more well-rounded curriculum, said a local sociologist.
The goal of the district's policy is to improve black students' academic performance by keeping them interested in school. Compared with other racial groups in the district, black students go to college the least and have the most dropouts and suspensions.
Blacks make up the second largest racial group in the district, trailing Latinos.
A pilot of the policy, known as the Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, has been implemented at two city schools."

Top companies in the country have exhibited year after year that they need employees who speak properly, write well, and have a well-rounded education. This program ignores that in full. Oakland, CA may view ebonics as a language, but corporate America does not. If we want kids to get educated and prepared for good jobs (and the American dream), this disallows that for these kids. It makes acceptable the simplest reason why many of these kids cannot succeed our country. It sets them apart in a way that destroys their hopes. If we really want what's best for the lowest levels socio-economically (regardless of race), then we should teach them proper English. We should encourage them to assimilate verbally, not stick out like an uneducated sore thumb.


Mammoth Cave is Great, But Not All Kentucky Has to Offer

Mammoth, in Depth: "With about 365 miles of explored passageways -- and counting -- Mammoth Cave is one of the nation's oldest tourist attractions. It began luring visitors just after the War of 1812, when it was mined for saltpeter, one of the raw materials for gunpowder.
Its charms were obvious: passageways the width of boulevards, underground rivers, towering vertical shafts and concert-hall-size chambers. Often led by slaves, early tours attracted European adventurers, famous actors and even transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who mentioned the cave in an essay. A national park since 1941, Mammoth ranks with New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns and South Dakota's Jewel Cave among the country's most impressive underground attractions."

My Dad was wise to take me there when I was a kid, an experience that I will never forget. I saw the beautiful Barren Lake on that trip as well, but little in that area of the country compares to the cave. One of the best momentos from the cave is a picture of my mother with her grandmother and grandfather sitting with a tourist group ouside the general entrance in the early fifties. While it may have been a destination for the rich and famous, it was a destination for ordinary families who wanted to experience something so natural and amazing. Remember, there are tons of caves in this region, but this one is deserving of its claim to be one of the top tourist spots in Kentucky. Anyone bothering to make the trip to Kentucky should also make the horse park a priority. For Bourbon drinkers, Maker's Mark distillery does tours too. Though it may not seem it, Shaker Village, also in Kentucky, is a really interesting look into a small, extinct religious sect. Another close attraction that I can personally and emotionally vouch for is the Cincinnati Art Museum. It may come as a surprise for people not from the area, but it is one of the best museums in the country. When I skipped school, you could find me winding through the exhibits, calmed by merely being there. The entrance to the museum is not unlike the entrance to any grand building, steps that lead up to a series of columns that dwarf anyone only to enter a room that makes you feel even smaller. Another thing that is happening in Kentucky, as tobacco has become less profitable, is the art of winemaking. A couple of the counties who are taking this very seriously are Owen, Campbell, and, I believe, Henry. They are in the early stages of this craft, but that is why it is all the more important for tourists to support them. The best times of year to visit are May, June, Late August and September. It is so green at those times of year that you wonder if your eyes are deceiving you. The fall months, while still green have the added blessing of brilliantly colored leaves. The vibrant reds, yellows, and auburns make for a calm that will have a lasting impression. Kentucky also has a history worthy of boasting. While we may have been south of the Mason-Dixon line, we were the key to the North, which makes parts of Northern Kentucky the last stop of the Underground Railroad. Some of those homes, now restaurants or tourist attractions, allow tours of these tunnels to the Ohio River. Kentucky also boasts a history of historic homes. One site not to miss is the Dinsmore House in Boone County. This tour should be taken in Spring or early summer, because they have a nature trail up to the cemetary. The guide will introduce the visitors to plants and flowers like Jack-in-the-Pulpits, one of my favorite finds in that tour. When my mother and I went there years ago, the last remaining relative still lived in the home even as tourists gawked. It had been a stop for soldiers in the Civil War, and had other great connections to the area's history. Another great tour is a historic home in Covington, Kentucky, whose name has escaped me. In that area, for science buffs, there is Big Bone Lick State Park. A salt lick, home to the wooly mammoth, and now a thriving campground, this area is worth the drive. Kentucky is not just horses and rednecks, though they certainly have both. It is a state very proud of its history and its basketball. If you go, say hi to Tubby for me.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Improving Yourself is a Good Thing

You're not good enough!: "Five companies in the U.S. alone are competing to bring memory pills to market. No wonder. They could be a bigger commercial blockbuster than Viagra. They promise not only to ban the senior moments of the baby boomers but to revolutionize education of the young. Think of what it will do to language acquisition alone. Some analysts believe that it could increase our kids' SAT scores by 200 points or more."

This guy is saying that these types of pharmaceuticals and such are bad, but I will be the first in line for the memory pill.


Cooper on Russert-Some Clarification

Matt Cooper said on Meet the Press he learned Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA and on WMD from Rove. He says pretty clearly that Rove was his first source.
Matt Cooper also said on Meet the Press that his lawyer called Rove’s lawyer on the morning of the Grand Jury appearance that he would have been sent to jail for not testifying and worked out a deal. From what Cooper had said on that day to reporters, it sounded like he had received a phone call from Rove himself. I wasn't the only one to misunderstand him.
So far, I haven't seen a reason to think Cooper is conspiring against the Administration. There is no doubt that he is a critic, but it looks like he has been truthful. He also wisely capitalized on the experience, by not saying too much at the press conference that day, so that he could write about it in Time. No one can fault him for that.
Given the nature of the law (see earlier post), none of what has come to light so far, from Cooper and others, necessarily suggests Rove broke any laws. What it does do is suggest that he was talking without thinking it through. Here's part of the problem. He is so smart, and such a good strategist that his critics think that whenever something like this happens, it must be that he was acting on a plan. This time, I think he was just talking without thinking it through. Let's face it. If her friends and neighbors knew that she worked a desk at Langley, "outing" her was not a brilliant strategy from one of the most accomplished political minds of our day. What he seemed to simply be doing was correcting the reporters by saying that the rumor (that Wilson started) about Wilson being sent by Cheney is false. By taking it one step further and saying that "Wilson's wife, who apparently works for the CIA" was the one who got him the assignment, he has landed in a scandal. There is still lots of information we do not know, but from what has already been made public, it seems safe to say that he didn't choose his words very carefully.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Isn't This Interesting?

What do the terrorists want?-Commentary-The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: "Osama bin Laden, in 1998, issued the following 'fatwa,' or religious edict: 'The killing of Americans and their civilian and military allies is a religious duty for each and every Muslim to be carried out in whichever country they are until Al Aqsa mosque has been liberated from their grasp and until their armies have left Muslim lands [emphasis added].'
So, Islamic fascists demand that 'infidels' leave 'Muslim lands.' But define 'Muslim lands.' Arabs, after all, dominated Europe from the eighth-century AD until 1492 AD, occupying lands as far west as Spain and modern France.
'One day the black flag of Islam will be flying over Downing Street,' said Anjem Choudray, a spokesman for Al-Muhajiroun ('the immigrants'), described by the Jerusalem Post's Ori Golan as a radical Islamic organization based in Britain. In calling for jihad, Mr. Choudray says, 'Lands will not be liberated by individuals, but by an army. Eventually there'll have to be a Muslim army. It's just a matter of time before it happens.'
Wall Street Journal reporters Ian Johnson and John Carreyrou recently noted that Muslim extremists define Arab lands to include Europe. 'Fatwas,' they write, 'are traditionally only valid in the Islamic world, so [Ayatollah] Khomeini's [1989] fatwa implied something profound: Europe was part of the Islamic world [emphasis added]. It was a revolutionary change that now is accepted by many Islamic theologians and thinkers.' Europe was part of the Islamic world?"

What this indicates is that our Saudi base and other straw men are not exactly what are at issue here as the left would have us believe. This says that in order to appease radical Islam, we must reinquish Europe to them as well as take all Anglos out of Muslim countries. No different than great wars of the past, the radicals we fight today are fighting to build an empire, it would seem. If that is so, then the idea of trying to better "understand" or attempt to appease them is futile and silly.


Not "As Seen on TV" - Going Online for Your M.B.A. May Mean Showing Up for Class: "The student cost for this kind of hybrid approach to online business degrees ranges from school to school, though it is usually comparable to, or even more than, the cost of an on-campus M.B.A. Duke University's Cross-Continent M.B.A., which includes nine weeks of on-campus residency, runs $86,900, versus about $70,900 for regular daytime tuition. Whitman's iM.B.A. tuition is about $45,000, not including books, travel and hotel stays (Whitman's charges the same tuition for its day program). Missouri charges $28,560 for Professional M.B.A. students, compared with $15,600 for its evening program.
But are the students learning the same stuff? According to one report, yes. Researchers at Kent State and Colorado State University found in a 2002 study of 83 M.B.A. students that distance learners came away with equal, if not better, skills than their on-campus counterparts."

Distance learning is not what it used to be. When I was a kid, they would advertise for mail order courses, but this article proves that distance learning is really different now.


How Can We Support This Guy?

Ex-Shrimper a Self-Taught Genetics Expert - Yahoo! News: "Brad Margus was making a killing in the shrimp business and living happily in South Florida with his wife and three young boys. Then his two youngest were diagnosed with a fatal genetic brain disorder that's as rare as it is unpronounceable.
It's called ataxia-telangiectasia, better known as 'A-T,' and it afflicts about 500 youngsters in the United States.
Since doctors told Margus in 1993 that his toddlers Jarrett and Quinn would soon be confined to wheelchairs and probably dead before they were old enough to vote, the Harvard Business School graduate has been on a mission to save the boys from their genetic fate.
In the process, he has become a self-taught genetics expert, a lobbying fixture on Capitol Hill and head of his own startup biotech company, making him a learned colleague alongside the field's leading scientists."

Let's face it. What this guy is doing is amazing. The press doesn't choose to cover these stories often enough, but to hear of a man who is a self-taught geneticist is beyond a normal person's imagination. I have only known one other person to do that, and he finally did attend college to round out his knowledge. When people are trying to cure extraordinarily complex diseases, complete with his background, we need to do more than admire him. We need to find a way to support him.

Friday, July 15, 2005


The Actual "Leak" Law

§ 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources
Release date: 2005-03-17
(a) Disclosure of information by persons having or having had access to classified information that identifies covert agent Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
(b) Disclosure of information by persons who learn identity of covert agents as result of having access to classified information Whoever, as a result of having authorized access to classified information, learns the identify of a covert agent and intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
(c) Disclosure of information by persons in course of pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual’s classified intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
(d) Imposition of consecutive sentences A term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be consecutive to any other sentence of imprisonment.
§ 422. Defenses and exceptions
Release date: 2005-03-17
(a) Disclosure by United States of identity of covert agent It is a defense to a prosecution under section 421 of this title that before the commission of the offense with which the defendant is charged, the United States had publicly acknowledged or revealed the intelligence relationship to the United States of the individual the disclosure of whose intelligence relationship to the United States is the basis for the prosecution.
(b) Conspiracy, misprision of felony, aiding and abetting, etc.
(1) Subject to paragraph (2), no person other than a person committing an offense under section 421 of this title shall be subject to prosecution under such section by virtue of section 2 or 4 of title 18 or shall be subject to prosecution for conspiracy to commit an offense under such section.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply
(A) in the case of a person who acted in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, or
(B) in the case of a person who has authorized access to classified information.
(c) Disclosure to select Congressional committees on intelligence It shall not be an offense under section 421 of this title to transmit information described in such section directly to either congressional intelligence committee.
(d) Disclosure by agent of own identity It shall not be an offense under section 421 of this title for an individual to disclose information that solely identifies himself as a covert agent.

I thought it might be good to have a copy of the law. That way, when people are getting overheated, we can look at it more objectively, good or bad.


More on CIA Leak Investigation

Rove fight escalates-Nation/Politics-The Washington Times, America's Newspaper: " A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an 'undercover agent,' saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.
'She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat,' Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times."

If this is true, then it begs the question...why is there a Grand Jury on the matter? The article also notes that she had not had an overseas assignment for over five years due to the birth of her twins. As I understand the law that applies here, the agent has to have been in an overseas covert position within the last six years in order for it to be a crime to "out" them. I may not understand it correctly, but that is what I think I remember. There must be more to it, because there would be little need to continue the Grand Jury if it is that simply dismissed.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


What We Don't Know

Oh my, how the left is enjoying the Rove Leak Scandal. The press room is getting Flash News and News Alerts with live coverage. Joe Wilson and Chuck Schumer today calling for either his firing or at least a lifting of his security clearance. Given the secrecy of the Grand Jury, we don't yet know if he is the one who leaked the information to Novak, who is the one who actually wrote the first story. While we know he had access to finding out whether she was covert, we don't know if Rove actually went to verify that. We do not even know if she was covert or any real explanation of her job there. Most in the general public couldn't deny that she was just a secretary, because we just don't know. We don't really know who the Fitzgerald Grand Jury is truly investigating. We still don't know who Judith Miller is protecting. With the myriad unknowns, it seems as if the bloodthirsty folks out there have the chance, not necessarily a remote one, of stepping on their tongues on this one. I understand them not liking Rove, as he has helped win the White House and Congress for the Republicans as of late, but wouldn't it be wise to wait until there is something of value to hang your hat on before arguing his ouster? The reason this is so bothersome is that we are all starting to truly appreciate the value of a two party system where both have some power in order to check the other's power. When the Democrats jump out on a limb like this, they lose credibility at a time they need it most. I'd much like to see a split Congress after the next election, but as they make such obvious missteps, they risk that future for all of us. Democrats with a calculated winning strategy might just benefit us all.


My Eyes Bug and My Stomach Hurts

Alfies Blog Blog Archive Tubes really are cunts. So are terrorists. And Tony Blair.: "Neville Chamberlain Says:
July 13th, 2005 at 5:50 pm
I believe we have mistreated the Jihadist. If we only understand them and treat them nicely I think things will be alright."

Don't mistake this. Neville and tons of others believe this. If a guy comes up and punches me in the nose, my first reaction is not to try to understand him. It should be to gather and defend myself, not sit down for a chat about how I have wronged him. That does not mean that after the event a thorough understanding of what caused him to punch me shouldn't occur, but rather that it is much further down on the to-do list. Another thing to consider is that we had many years to look into what caused these jihadists to take up arms against us. They didn't really just roll into the picture on 9/11. They had been bombing things including the WTC long before that fall morning. Governments and intelligence agencies all over the world have been working to try and understand them for years. If there was some creedence to their argument, anything at all, wouldn't that have been introduced by now? Wouldn't we have been parsing those valid arguments? What is sad is that folks like Neville see the "unfair" argument as a valid complaint. "It is unfair that democratic countries have more money, more freedom, more power, and therefore they are fully justified in trying to bring them down a notch." The better way to attempt to balance the scale is to do what India chose to do. They got in the game. They educated their people and enticed international companies to their shores. Through these jobs, the population had less to feel inferior about and more to protect (less likely to wage war). There is a grand wisdom in this strategy as opposed to those that choose to blow themselves and innocents up. Simply, it is the 'build yourself up' strategy as opposed to the 'woe is me' mindset. Now, even if you only believe that there a grain of truth in my analysis, it would be hard to formulate a strategy against these people. How would we now go about 'helping them' in order to keep them from blowing us up? I think there are also a lot of people that think that we should have let them blow us up a little more before going overseas so we could have had more international support. Is that support that important, such that we would be willing to lose even just one more of our countrymen in order to gain the acceptance of France, Germany, or Russia? Another question. How were we, democratic countries, not "treating them right" as they were forming the jihadist groups? We have been friendly to Saudi Arabia (where many of them have been from) for years, buying their resources, creating wealth in those countries. Even our bases create wealth in those countries. We have shown an overwhelming openness to Islamic immigrants, even after 9/11. We have never disallowed them into this country to share in our opportunity, etc. We trade with many of the Islamic countries, even sometimes, it seems, to our own detriment. We welcome, even now, Islamics into our neighborhoods and our lives without question. If that is not enough, then what would Neville and others like-minded folks have us do?

Thursday, July 07, 2005


There Are No Words

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | 'The whole of the front of the building was covered with blood': "'Whoever they are I don't think it takes great bravery to blow up large numbers of people on London Transport. None of these [injured] people have taken up arms against them or done them any harm.'"

CB's sympathies to Londoners and their families around the world.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Wind Power Isn't Perfect

Inside Bay Area - Alameda Times-Star - Local: "A California Energy Commission study estimated wind turbines in the Altamont kill 881 to 1,300 birds of prey a year, including as many as 116 federally protected golden eagles."

Drudge's headline called this news an "environmental shocker". It isn't. Bird deaths due to wind turbines has been an issue from the beginning.

Friday, July 01, 2005


Few Coincidences in Washington

It seems that we are witnessing strategy play out in the timing of Supreme Court retirements. While we must leave the possibility of Rehnquist staying on the Court, it is highly unlikely. We must also leave open the possibility that there is some kind of "ladies or associates first" mentality here, but higher level strategy strikes me as more likely. In my head, the strategy goes something like this. Knowing that this will be a battle, it has been decided that the Republicans can make the Democrats look bad over the confirmation of an Associate Justice, thus giving them more power to push through a Chief. The Republicans are gambling that the Democrats do not know how to wisely use their political capital. There is some history to support that notion, especially considering all of the less-than-muffled screams over the most recent non-Supreme nominees.
I don't know who would have devised the strategy, but if this is as described here, it may be a real winner. Further proof that this might work is the recent polls that suggest the public looks poorly on the Congress. Where there may be copious causes for ill feelings, the Republicans have to owe it, at least in part, to the Democrats filibuster threat. Taking that a step further, the Republicans feel comfortable gambling that if they continue to threaten to shut down the Congress, that Americans will be increasingly upset with them. Democrats, over the past couple of years, have been unwise picking their battles, so Republicans are smart to assume that this will continue.
I read on Drudge in the past couple days that the rumor mill suggests that Rehnquist will hold his announcement off until October. That headline is part of how I came to this conclusion. While we will be ever tired of all of this by the time it has been decided, the "replacements" fight will be an interesting ideological battle.


A Big Round of Applause for Mrs. Shields

War of Words - New York Times: "In a strange way, it was comforting to me when my obstetrician told me that my feelings of extreme despair and my suicidal thoughts were directly tied to a biochemical shift in my body. Once we admit that postpartum is a serious medical condition, then the treatment becomes more available and socially acceptable."

"Socially acceptable" is the operative word here. Back in the eighties, Newsweek did a piece on Prozac. It was a cover story making any and all that needed the drug feel guilty and ashamed. Now we have Scientologists who "know the history of psychiatry". What it is clear they know is luck. They have not dealt with real chemical depression, because if they had, they would know of the difference between what can be affected by diet and exercise and what is so innate and chemically based that the person feels helpless. Little good can come from Kelly Preston and Tom Cruise telling everyone how wrong they are for seeking help with "street drugs". What I hope comes out of this is that people see just how absolutely silly they sound, and it begins a public discussion that makes this socially acceptable. How many people end up killing themselves because they didn't want to take the medicines for fear someone would find out? How many people kill others for the same reason? Another problem with the Scientologist's rant is that they are villifying all psychiatric drugs. Can all of these drug companies and private researchers be wrong? To blame the whole industry on corporate greed is simple and false. What was also simple was Tom Cruise's rant on the Today Show. To filibuster in that way was all but saying that he did not know how to justify his thoughts. He behaved as a five year old would. Repeating Matt's name over and over and then claiming he had studied the whole history of psychiatry, but not offering any of what he had learned that might support his position. I am proud of Brooke standing firm. We need others to speak out too, so families, like mine, don't feel ashamed or shunned for seeking help when it is so desperately needed.

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