Thursday, June 29, 2006

Some phonies never change

Ahhh, Joe Biden. I remember back in the late 80's when I was clerking at the national desk of the NYT and Maureen Dowd broke a great story. Joe Biden, running for President, as always, used a stump speech that described the days of his childhood. His description was stolen word-for-word from the campaign stump speech of a British politician, Neil Kinnock. Once exposed, Biden dropped out of the race.

A quarter of a century has since passed. Joe Biden, still running for President, told a group of young supporters last Thursday that he doesn't want the job all that bad.

“I’d rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep,” he said.

As Ariana Huffington points out:

Biden's youngest child is his 25-year-old daughter and his two sons are in their mid-30s. So does the Bidens' foreplay include a quick call to his children to make sure they're all asleep (and wouldn't this defeat the purpose by waking them up?).

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

George Bush and Woodrow Wilson

Interesting comparison by Joseph Nye of my 2 least favorite presidents:
Both are highly religious and moralistic. Both came to power as minority presidents focused on domestic politics. Both responded to an international crisis with a bold policy, and both defined a vision that failed to balance ideals with national capacities. Their rhetoric about democracy is quite similar, though Wilson was interested in international institutions while Bush is not. But perhaps most important, both were poor managers, failing to organize diverse information flows in their administrations, and were resistant to new ideas. Persistance can be an admirable quality in a leader, but not if it means resistance to course corrections. Then it becomes blind stubborness. As Robert Lansing, Wilson's secretary of state noted in 1917, "even established facts were ignored if they did not fit in with his intiutitive sense, his semi-devine power to select the right."
Also, Bush and Wilson the only U.S. presidents I know of who claimed that God put them in office.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Republican corruption watch 2

From today's Washington Post:
A Republican House member from California, meanwhile, received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away. And another California GOP congressman obtained funding in last year's highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Motorcycle helmets

My brother, an orthopaedic surgeon and motorcycle rider, offers an unconventional view about the safety of motorcycle helmets here. My view: ride a bicycle instead.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Way to go, Cokie!

These young men embody all the values of tradition and tenacity that foes of gay marriage say they believe in. The whole idea that they endanger the institution of matrimony by wanting to join it is absurd. And they are hardly unusual.

Cokie and Steve Roberts, on attending a local celebration for a gay couple who are going to Canada to get married. Gary and I were married in Canada in August, 2003.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sponsor of a law to display the Ten Commandments can name only Three

Colbert: What are the Ten Commandments?

Westmoreland: You mean all of them?--Um... Don't murder. Don't lie. Don't steal Um... I can't name them all.

Video-WMP Video-QT

Republican corruption watch

$2 million

-- The amount of profit that the U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hassert made in 5 months on a land deal.

$207 million

-- The amount of tax money Hassert appropriated in Congress to put a highway next to his land before he flipped it.

Civil liberties watch

"The majority's 'substantial social costs' argument is an argument against the Fourth Amendment's exclusionary principle itself. And it is an argument that this Court, until now, has consistently rejected."

-- Justice Stephen Breyer in his dissent on a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling. In the majority opinion, Justice Scalia suggested that a person's Bill of Rights protection in the Constitution against illegal searches had to be weighed (by him, of course) against the "social costs" of letting a criminal go free.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Republicans are the new liberals

China harvests organs from executed murderers and sells them for transplant on the open market. Anderson Cooper reports that:
Congressman Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, has written a letter to the President of China calling on him to put an end to this practice.

"That smacks of Nazism, when people were reduced to mere commodities that were wanted only for the organs they could provide," Smith told me.

National Association of Closet Queens and Ghetto Gays, Pt. 2

We just received this letter in the mail. While the cryptic return address may lead you to believe that it came from a mortgage broker or a pornographer, it is actually a fund-raising letter from the local gay and lesbian organization. What does B.P. stand for? Boulder Pride, believe it or not!

The hi-gloss calendar inside, complete with underlayed photos of kissing couples, stands in sharp constrast to the closeted envelope.

The reason for the envelope's secretive initials is that some gay people have, in the past, complained that they don't want the postman to know that they are gay. But for gods sake, in Boulder, Colorado, in 2006, is the postman really going to chase someone with a baseball bat for being gay? Fear of violence or retribution is not the issue here. It's shame.

Gay organizations have to stop being enablers of closets, ghettos, and shame, even if it complicates their fund raising.

If you are ashamed to receive (or send) a letter that says "Boulder Pride" on the envelope, then you really can't really be all that proud, can you?

How rich people die

From Slate, "Deathstyles of the Rich and Famous"
The Kennedy family is in a risk category all its own. One wonders if the surviving members are insurable at all, given the family history of driving off bridges (Teddy), smashing into trees while playing football on skis (Michael), death by drugs (David, Christina Onassis), [non-commercial] plane crashes (John, Jr., Joseph Jr., Kathleen, Alexander Onassis, and, very nearly, Teddy), and assassination (JFK and RFK). These are terrible fates, but ones that members of the struggling middle class do not have to worry much about.

Animals need box-office mojo

The Los Angles Times reports on Bush's decision to create the waters around Hawaii into the world's largest marine reserve:
A turning point came in April, when Bush sat through a 65-minute private White House screening of a PBS documentary that unveiled the beauty of — and perils facing — the archipelago's aquamarine waters and its nesting seabirds, sea turtles and sleepy-eyed monk seals, all threatened by extinction.

The film seemed to catch Bush's imagination, according to senior officials and others in attendance. The president popped up from his front-row seat after the screening; congratulated filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the late underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau; and urged the White House staff to get moving on protecting these waters.
It's great that we are preserving the marine life around Hawaii. But I wish our conservation policy had a more rational basis than what niffty movie George Bush happened to have seen. Don't we end up saving only land and animals that look entertaining on film to a not-very-bright guy?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Micheal wants some of that Katrina action

"To give the royalty rights, that’s a lot of money to give away"

-- Micheal Jackson, in a court deposition regarding his plans to publish a "charity" single titled "
What More Can I Give." The song beseeches people to give money to Katrina victims, while Michael pockets the royalties everytime the song is played.

On the song "We are the World," which beseeches people to give money to starving children in Africa, Micheal splits the song royalties 50-50 with Lionel Richie.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Gee, and here I thought he was making fun of my gayness!

This fellow was accosted in L.A. by a group of Scientologists which included actor Bodhi Elfman and his wife, 'Dharma and Greg' star Jenna Elfman.

"Hey, man, you're making fun of my religion," Mr. Elfman is reported to have said, while making threatening gestures with his arm.

The National Association of Closet Queens and Ghetto Gays

From Newsweek:
"We have to make sure that the [anti-gay-marriage] initatives never see the light on day," says Human Rights Association president Joe Solomonese, who would prefer to press his case in court.
That's the sort of thing that makes me sympathetic to the marriage bans, and I'm IN a gay marriage.

The national gay organizations see their mission as playing the legal and policy game in Washington so as to make things comfortable for gays in their closets and ghettos. Unsurprisingly, the Human Rights Campiagn does not have the name gay in its name, it's located in a gay ghetto just down the street from Dupont Circle, and practically all its employees live in the gay ghetto surrounding Dupont Circle.

When Gary and I visited the HRC offices in D.C. about 10 years ago, the comment made to us was "how can you live in a place like Colorado that's so intolerant?" (As if Boulder hosts weekly Klan rallies).

  • You cannot change social policy and social acceptance without changing public opinion.
  • History and polls show that people have a favorable opinion of gays only when they know gay people personally.
  • A large portion of the public can know gay people personally only when gays come out of not only their closets but also their ghettos, which are just large, communal closets.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Start wearing garlic cloves, Brad!

From the National Enquirer

Mission Impossible
star Tom Cruise is on a new mission — to convert new mom Angelina Jolie to Scientology! The action star personally called Angelina and Brad Pitt in Africa to congratulate them on the birth of Baby Shiloh — and he even invited them to his Beverly Hills home when they return to the U.S., pals say. But before the conversation ended, Tom tossed out the idea of Angie and Brad coming to check out the Church of Scientology

Saturday, June 10, 2006

2006 is "significant transition in Iraq" year

"We passed a law in the Senate by 79 votes that 2006 will be a year of significant transition in Iraq." -- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

The Tuesdays-are-be-nice-to-gramma law may get even more votes in the Senate, like 85 or something!

Could Colorado become a blue state?

From The Atlantic, which notes that in the last Presidential election "fewer than 70,000 votes among Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, with their collective nineteen electoral votes, could have swung the election just as surely as Ohio’s 60,000. And with George W. Bush winning by margins of 5 percentage points, 3 points, and 1 point, respectively, these were swing states by any definition of the term."

In addition to growing numbers of Californian and Mexican Democrats here, the ideological shift in the Repubican Party appears to be painting my region blue:

As the South has become central to Republican Party strategy, its particular flavor of social conservatism, moral certitude, and activist government has infused the national party’s character. This is slowly alienating the other major bloc in the Republican coalition: small-government conservatives, especially those who value individual liberty most highly.
. . .
In balancing the religious Right against the libertarian Right, the GOP balances the South against the West. (The Midwest is something of a muddle in between.) Bush-style big-government conservatism has tilted the party’s regional balance and put the West in play.

The only thing I want from cable is Comedy Central and HBO

From the Washinton Post:

Evangelical Christians are on the front lines in the battle over indecency on cable television, calling for a pick-and-choose pricing plan that would allow viewers to keep certain channels out of their homes.

But on the opposite end of the battlefield is an opponent familiar to and even respected by evangelicals: Christian cable stations.

The fear among Christian broadcasters is that a proposal to allow consumers to reject MTV or Comedy Central would also allow them to drop the Trinity Broadcasting Network or Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. Cutting off that access could hurt religious broadcasters.

When did freedom of choice become such an alien concept?

Kyoto is nothing compared to China

Here are some really interesting highlights from today's NYT article on coal-burning power plants in China:
  • The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.
  • Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.
  • China has more than tripled the number of air-conditioners in the past five years, to 84 per 100 urban households.
  • India is right behind China in stepping up its construction of coal-fired power plants — and has a population expected to outstrip China's by 2030.
  • Chinese pollution is already starting to make it harder and more expensive for West Coast cities [in the U.S] to meet stringent air quality standards.
  • The sulfur pollution is so pervasive as to have an extraordinary side effect that is helping the rest of the world, but only temporarily: It actually slows global warming. The tiny, airborne particles deflect the sun's hot rays back into space. But the cooling effect from sulfur is short-lived. By contrast, the carbon dioxide emanating from Chinese coal plants will last for decades, with a cumulative warming effect that will eventually overwhelm the cooling from sulfur and deliver another large kick to global warming, climate scientists say.
This really shows that the Bush Adminstration had a legitimate point in insisting that China and India participate in the Kyoto reductions before the U.S. would. Without curbs on China and India's emissions, CO2 reduction by the rest of the world is pretty much meaningless.

Friday, June 09, 2006

al-Zarqawi the loser

From The Atlantic

[He was] a man who was fired from a job as a video-store clerk and whose background included street gangs and, according to Jordanian intelligence officials, prison for sexual assault.


Everyone I spoke with readily acknowledged that as a teenager al-Zarqawi had been a bully and a thug, a bootlegger and a heavy drinker, and even, allegedly, a pimp in Zarqa’s underworld. He was disruptive, constantly involved in brawls. When he was fifteen (according to his police record, about which I had been briefed in Amman), he participated in a robbery of a relative’s home, during which the relative was killed. Two years later, a year shy of graduation, he had dropped out of school. Then, in 1989, at the age of twenty-three, he traveled to Afghanistan.

Then there is Osama Bin Laden, a failure at his family business who found Mohamad. And there is George Bush, a failure at his family business and an alcohlic who found Jesus.

At least they now all feel like big men.

Gay marriage and bigotry, part 2

"I'm really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we've never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship."

-- Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), displaying this photo of his children and grandchildren on the floor of the U.S. Senate during debate over a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Gay marriage and bigotry

From Andrew Sullivan in Time:

The latest protestation from those who favor amending the federal constitution to ban civil marriage for gay couples is that they are not bigots. Some have a good point. Sincerely believing that it's better for society that only heterosexual couples should have the right to marry is not inherently bigoted. There's an argument there, not just a prejudice or feeling.

Nevertheless, when opponents of marriage rights for gays never even mention gays in their arguments, never address some of the legitimate concerns that many gay couples have, and refuse even to allow minimal domestic partnerships that allow us to visit one another in hospital without the threat of other family members intervening, then I think we're onto territory where complete uninterest in the fate of gay people blurs into bigotry. To have no social policy toward gays, except that they should repent or be cured or shut up, is a function of profound disrespect, intelligible only through the prism of prejudice.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Soprano's "Kaisha" episode

The creator of the Sopranos, David Chase, was pressured into churning out an extra season of the series -- the this last "official" season was it. The season began with Tony shot and in a coma. Like the series itself, he almost died but was miraculously revived.

As Time said, the point of this season's pointlessness maybe "to show us that people don't truly change, that life resists neat closure, that we all return, like drug-addicted Christopher, to our old patterns and habits in different ways."

The "Kashia" episode in particular (and this season in general) seems to tease the viewers who like to watch the Soprano's see someone get "whacked." When Christopher was at the diner with his mistress/gumar, all the foreshadowing indicated that Christopher would get whacked by the NY family, Micheal Corleone-style. But then he didn't. Instead, things get resolved without violence:

  • Tony diffuses the building NJ/NY war by visiting Phil at the hospital.
  • AJ gives his bike to the street kids in exchange for going be loud somewhere else.
  • Tony gets Carmela off of Adrianna's trail by taking care of the stop-work order on Carmela's spec house.
As Lee Seigel comments in TNR:
Some people were disappointed that the finale ended without violence or drama. Not this fanatic. The closing scene has the Soprano clan and friends sitting in Tony and Carmela's living room on Christmas Eve watching Casablanca. How perfect. The impossible idealism of holiday and movie reinforced the perception of the widening chasm between these people's illusions and the truth of their lives, which is becoming less hidden every day. So did Meadow's phone call from California, the headquarters of the American Dream. (Do you think she'll escape? I don't.) The season began with the question of whether Tony could change. It ended with the certainty that Tony and everybody in his world can only change--like everyone in our actual world--along the lines of their own nature.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Horror movies 1950's and 2000's

The LA Times today observes that:
We've seen 13 horror films released so far and next Tuesday we'll be seeing one more when "The Omen" hits theaters on the ominous date of 6/6/06. Most of these films — shot on small budgets with unknowns — grossed more than $40 million.
The Times poses that question "why now" to some film directors and gets mostly lame responses from them. But it's still a great question. It has seemed to me that post-9/11 American culture has had a feel of the 1950's,
when we were feeling terrified of communism. The 50's was also a big time for horror movies.

It's also interesting to compare what horror movies were like in the 50's compared to today. The 50's horror movies has lots of monsters, aliens, and invasions.

The one contemporary horror movie I've seen, "Hostel," has a lot of torture as well as a kind of xenophobia -- fear of vulnerability in a foreign land.

The first picture is from the horror movie "Hostel." The second picture is the Bush Administration's treatment of prisoners in Iraq.