31 October 2006

Sex is the Devil

Ok, so Bitch beat me to the punch, but I still gotta say something about this (I know, I know, it’s USA Today, but that’s where I saw it while waiting in line at the deli for lunch. Sorry). Shrub's folks have decided that targeting abstinence only education at middle and high schoolers just wasn’t getting the job done. No sir, no way, no how…we’ve gotta aim for the ones that are having all of these babies out of wedlock, after all, and it’s not the high school crowd. Federal grant guidelines for 2007 are aimed to funnel millions of dollars to the states for abstinence only programs for 19-29 year olds!!!! You can buy cigs, drink booze to your hearts content, pick up a Playboy, and even die for your country…but for God’s sake, DON’T HAVE SEX!

Give me an effin’ break! Come back to reality folks. What’s the first thought you have when I say don’t eat candy? Damn, I could go for a Snickers…that’s what it is. High schoolers are gonna have sex. College kids are gonna have more sex. Post college…well…it could be better, but we’re still trying. The point is, teach them how to do it safely. Teach them how to avoid disease. Teach them how to not end up with little bundles of joy that they’re not ready to care for. Teach them to use a condom. Teach them about birth control. And, for crying out loud, come to terms with the fact that they’re gonna have sex no matter what you say.

Happy Halloween

What better way to scare yourself on this All Hallow's Eve than by watching this Rick Santorum attack ad that equates Rick's Democratic challenger Bob Casey with Kim Jung Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while implying that Casey supports terrorism. Ghouls, goblins, terrorists, and Bob Casey. Scary, huh?

30 October 2006

Not So Liberal Democrats

Heath Shuler is a former star football player at the University of Tennessee. After a brief and unimpressive stint in the NFL, Shuler went back to college, finished his degree, and became a real estate mogul in Knoxville. The 34 year old Shuler is also an evangelical Christian who opposes abortion rights and gun control. And why am I writing about a has-been quarterback with socially conservative tendencies? As you might know, Shuler is the Democratic candidate for congress in North Carolina's 11th district.

The Times has pretty good read about Shuler and other moderate to conservative Democrats running for congressional seats across the country. The Democratic leadership is turning to these types of candidates in hopes of winning seats in socially conservative, often evangelical, rural areas that have been ransacked by Republicans in recent years. While these so-called New Democrats, or Blue Dog Democrats, might more closely fit the profiles of their districts, is it really worth supporting them since many of their views are so far removed from those of the party's base?

To be honest, I don't know. These candidates have the best shot at winning in conservative districts, but what's the point of winning an election if you're going to, in effect, maintain the status quo. A conservative under the guise of a Democrat, a candidate who will not support abortion rights, who will not be a true progressive on other social issues, and who will side with the Bush administration on hugely important debates, is not much better than a conservative Republican. Is it?

29 October 2006

A Contradiction

I want to talk about a contradiction in reaction to reader Evan’s comments a couple of weeks ago and to a post by Spaz about the neo-con hijacking of feminist arguments (followed up by some great comments by humbition and SteveR). Liberalism entails a certain allowance for a difference of opinion over many subjects. We don’t have to agree to get along. We should be able to debate and find a middle ground in which we can both work. The certain contradiction that’s bothering me lately, and I haven’t yet come to terms with, is the disparate beliefs that we should at the same time allow, by our belief in religious freedom, the practices, beliefs, myths, and experiences of other religions, whatever they may be, and yet morally condemn certain of those practices, beliefs, etc.

Spaz points out in her piece that the neo-cons are pimping feminist arguments to bolster support for imperialist actions in Muslim nations. This is a legitimate criticism, and, as humbition pointed out, a move that has often been a part of imperialist arguments. But shouldn’t someone be trying to change the way women are treated (or better, work toward equality for women) in these traditional Muslim nations? Humbition believes it to be the right/duty (I’m not sure exactly) of the women in these countries to take up this battle themselves. However, is it always that case that the oppressed know that they are oppressed and that there is a way out? And do they always have the means to fight their own oppression? We have a moral obligation; it seems, to intervene when we see a wrong being done; to offer our assistance. Now, this does not mean that I in any way condone imperialist moves in this type of situation. I am simply pointing out here what I see as an obligation.

But why do we allow ourselves this contradiction. I can say that I believe that all religions should have equal right to carry out their practices, rituals, etc. In the next breath, I can say that I despise the Muslim practice of forcing women to wear the burqa or some other practice that puts women in the place of another class of citizen. But because of the first, do I prevent myself action on the second? It doesn’t seem to be the case domestically. We all, as liberals, seem to be willing to fight for equality for women, gays, races in spite of religious beliefs held by other groups within our borders. We will openly condemn the Catholic church for not allowing gay marriages or women priests. We will point out all their hypocrisies. It seems, though, that when we try to transplant those same beliefs into another cultural realm, somewhere outside our borders, we fail to be able to act. We prevent ourselves from fighting for the rights of the individuals, the basic human rights.

It occurs to me that this is a case of affording cultural relativism too much power. When the rights of the culture (or the nation, or the religion) trample the basic rights of the individual as a human being, we are required to intervene. Not through force, not by military action, but with argument, with dialogue, and maybe with economic pressure. Freedom is not realized by exporting democracy; by transplanting a one-in-a-million-shot political system to the rest of the world, but by working for the rights and freedoms of the individuals; and by placing those basic rights above cultural, social, and religious customs.

I’d really like to hear some other thoughts on this…as it’s something I’m working through continually in my head. Anyone got anything for me…maybe even some direction toward some good reading?

25 October 2006

Betting on Global Warming

This piece came on while I was driving home this evening, and I wasn’t quite sure how to react. Now that’s it’s had some time to sink in, I’m pretty flabbergasted by it.

KAI RYSSDAL: We begin more than a thousand miles straight north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, on the western shore of Canada's Hudson Bay. Marketplace's Stephen Beard set out from the Sustainability Desk for Churchill, Manitoba.
STEPHEN BEARD: Darren Ottaway is in his element — tramping through the snow around Churchill, the tiny, frozen outpost that he used to administer in Northern Canada. In the 10 years he was the town council's chief executive, Darren learned to listen to the snow:

DARREN OTTAWAY: You can tell the temperature by the sound of the snow. So this is sort of a . . . You know, when you're walking and you hear a bass sound, it's because the snow is wet and it's starting to melt, so it has a different sound. When it's minus 40 out, it's a sharp, crisp sound that you can hear under your feet. It makes a completely different noise.

He doesn't hear that sharp, crisp sound as often as he used to. The snow melts earlier in the year. The ice that once covered Hudson Bay until August now melts a full month earlier. The signs and sounds of global warming are everywhere. But Darren Ottaway is not complaining:

OTTAWAY: You know, nature's going to respond to global warming. It'll adapt on its own. What global warming really represents is an economic issue. That's really what it is. How do we adapt to changing weather and climate? And how do we capitalize on that economic opportunity? And this is really, I think, where we're going to come ahead of the game because we're not looking at it as being a negative impact. It has a lot of positive impacts.

This small, rather ramshackle town of 1,100 people has been declining for years. But now it's putting its hopes in the revival of its port.
Vince Pirelli, the port's operations manager, is supervising a shipment of canola grain. At the moment the port is ice-free for only four months of the year, but that's one month more than a decade ago. Ships are making it through the Arctic waters earlier each year. The shipping season could get longer still, says Pirelli:

VINCE PIRELLI: There's global warming, they say, that's going to help Churchill.
BEARD: Do you think it will?
PIRELLI: I could see it one day happening. I could see it happening. If the global warming is really going to happen, I could see Churchill being open eight, nine months out of the year.

At the moment Churchill is still a small operation, shipping every year about half a million tons of Canadian grain, peas and canola to Europe and Africa. That's a small fraction of the cargo handled by the Atlantic ports — like Halifax or New York. But Churchill could have a big future:

ROB HUEBERT: Anyone who looks at a globe, and anyone who flies, knows that the shortest distance between North America and Europe is, of course, over the Pole rather than the long way across the Atlantic.

Dr. Rob Huebert, an expert on the Arctic. He says that the current owners of Churchill — a rather secretive American railway company called OmniTRAX — bought the port specifically in the hope that it would benefit from global warming.

HUEBERT: What OmniTRAX sees — and why OmniTRAX has been so attracted towards Churchill — is that what Churchill provides, if this ice diminishment continues, is a new Arctic shipping link that is going to join Northern Canada to Northern Europe.

Russia might use it to ship oil and minerals into North America. European exporters could be interested too as a way of avoiding the congested Atlantic ports of New York, Baltimore and Boston. Churchill could in time generate revenues of $100 million a year. Not bad, says Dr. Huebert, when you consider that OmniTRAX bought it as a derelict facility from the provincial government of Manitoba for just $10.

HUEBERT: The provinical government, I think, will look back at one point and go: Ooo, we made a dumb decision on that!

But the people of Churchill are not complaining. They are happy that OmniTRAX spotted the port's potential. And they welcome climate change for the higher standard of living it could bring. Even though, says Darren Ottaway, other places further south may suffer:

OTTAWAY: Since the port was built back in the 1920s-30s, we've been the underdog. So, I think that it's our . . . you know, it's our turn to take the opportunities that really are ours. And I don't think we need to apologize about doing that.

Churchill needs a boost. On the local radio station they're playing a well–worn, scratchy old 45. A local favorite: "The Churchill Blues."

"When I came here, I got off the train. It was the coldest day of the year. I picked up my bags, I stepped outside. I almost froze off my ear."

It's not the acute cold here that gets people down. It's the chill winds of economic decline. Global warming will mean floods and storms for much of the planet. But here it's considered benign.
In Churchill, Northern Canada, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

"I got nothing to lose. I'm in Churchill with the Churchill blues. . . ."

From today’s Marketplace.

I think what strikes me the most about this segment is the “Churchill-centric” attitude of some of the interviewees. It’s one thing to observe that this small, northern-Canadian community may actually see economic benefit as an effect of global warming, but it’s wholly different to say “it’s our turn.” Saying it’s our turn implies that, the rest of the world be damned, we’re going to finally make a living up here. It ignores any semblance of a world community…of humanity, and places the well-being of this one tiny 1,100 person town above the good of the globe as a whole. Nations cavalierly go about business with this type of worldview, but it’s not what I’d expect of a frontier town. I would have expected naturalists, worries about the environment and how the melting snow and ice could negatively impact the land on which they live and the world in which they live. But economics changes all of that…corporations change all of that…capitalism changes all of that. The show-me-the-money attitude of this little town truly frightens me.

The other aspect that I find interesting here is that a shipping company has bet on global warming. Forget Kyoto, this is capitalism gone way awry. There’s no incentive to stop global warming, so we’ll make a bet that it’s going to happen and try to make some money off of it…again…all others be damned. Any thoughts?

24 October 2006

Quote of the Day: Rush Limbaugh

It was only a matter of time until quite possibly the biggest creep of them all, Rush Limbaugh, crept his way into my little quote of the day segment. Alas, that time has come.

Eric Alterman's blog at Media Matters pointed me in the direction of this incredibly insensitive and disturbing comment about actor Michael J. Fox from the king of conservative talk radio: "... he was either off the medication or he was acting. He is an actor, after all."

Of course, Rush is referring to those new ads for Senate hopeful Claire McCaskill that show Fox, swaying back and forth because of his Parkinsons, lending his support to McCaskill because of her support of stem cell research, unlike the Republican candidate running against her.

That quote is completely ridiculous. Why would Fox exaggerate his symptoms? Why would he not take his medication and allow himself to suffer even worse than he already does? In the words of funny man Al Franken, Rush Limbaugh really is a big, fat idiot.

23 October 2006

Obama in '08?

Sunday morning, Senator Barack Obama told Tim Russert on Meet the Press that he has "thought about the possiblity" of making a bid for the White House in 2008, contradicting his previous statements about his lack of interest in the position. The Senator, however, said that he would wait until after the November 7th midterm elections. So, if Obama runs, is he the Democratic frontrunner?

I'll answer that question with a decisive "maybe."

This guy has been the Democratic posterboy since bursting on to the scene at the 2004 Democratic Convention, where he delivered that rousing keynote address that sent the Boston crowd into a frenzy. Since then, his stock has sky-rocketed. The Senator's well-liked, incredibly charismatic and passionate. Not to mention the fact that he's never endured any sort of ethical scandal or had his character called into question some pretty valuable attributes for a viable presidential candidate.

But is charisma, alone, enough for Obama to win the candidacy? Again, in this wide open race, I have to say maybe, although he has some major obstalces ahead of him. While some of his stands provide nice alternatives to those of fellow Democratic contenders, particularly Hillary Clinton, his experience is kind of limited; he's only been on the national scene since 2004, only a senator since January of '05. Additionally, I can't write a piece about the possibility of an Black presidential candidate without mentioning the fact that no major party has ever nomiated an African-American as its candidate. I know, I know, it's 2006 and it's terribly sad that skin color is still an issue, but it is.

In spite of those hurdles, that aforementioned charisma, that seemingly ubridled enthusiam and optimism, sort of sets Obama apart in a world filled with stonefaced politicians, who, at times, seem aloof and out of touch. Having endured Dubya' for eight years, that charisma, that message of hope that he set forth back at his address to the Democratic Convention, could be exactly what this country is looking for. I know it's something I'd love to see.

19 October 2006

Funny... and true

I don't know if any of you have seen this new (I think) commercial from the September Fund, a 527 organization "established to communicate with the public on issues of national and local importance in the 2006 elections." Aside from being pretty damn funny, it's poignant and definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

That's all, just thought everyone could use a little laugh.

18 October 2006

Quote(s) of the Day: Michael Savage

I normally don’t pay too much attention to conservative talking heads. Pundits like O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Sean Hannity are nothing more than stubborn, unyielding media bullies who knowingly blur the line between factual journalism and biased commentary. They really have nothing of value to say, and therefore don’t warrant my attention.

I did, however, stumble on these utterly disturbing quotes by Michael Savage, host of the hugely popular syndicated radio show The Savage Nation, thanks to Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

After a Eurocentric tirade about the inability of immigrants from non-European, non-Christian countries to assimilate into American culture, Savage says, “there's been no Middle Ages for the Muslims coming into America. It's insanity to be bringing in millions of people who have no Middle Ages yet, they haven't even gone through the Middle Ages. They're never going to be compatible with America.” No Middle Ages? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Not compatible with America? Islam is the fastest growing religion in the U.S. and has become the country's 2nd largest religion. Seems to me like Muslims, in large, are doing quite well here.

Savage didn't stop there. Oh no, he just kept running his mouth, making a claim so preposterous that it doesn't even warrant any sort of response: "It will happen overnight, and it could lead to the breakup of the United States of America, the way the Soviet Union broke up."

Was he done after that zinger? By no means as he finished his October 13th broadcast with the following terribly misguided comments about gays in California: "California, unfortunately, is in the hands of the far-left homosexual mafia. They unfortunately don't even understand what's good for them. They don't understand that voting on the left side of everything is actually in their disinterest, not in their interest -- that if they gay community ever understood what's in their interest they'd become conservatives, by and large. But they are also very confused, as anyone could figure out by their death-style." Please, Mike Savage, explain how it would be in the interest of the "homosexual mafia" to back conservatives? Simply look at the voting record of most conservatives on Capitol Hill and tell me how your statement is not utterly false.

It's remarks like those that remind me exactly why I dont pay much attention to Savage, O'Reilly, and the like. They really could care less about the content of their comments, as long as they grab some attention, build their egos, and climb the latter to being a made man in Godfather Bush's neo-con mafia.

17 October 2006

Madonna, Adoption, and the Fight on Poverty

This article by Simon Hooper at CNN.com brings up some interesting issues in the debate over the value of celebrity adoptions of 3rd world children.

In the wake of Madonna's recent efforts to adopt a 13 month old boy from Malawi, one of the least developed and AIDS stricken countries in Africa and all of the world, I can't help but question the motives of celebrity adopters. I can't doubt that they love the adopted children and provide nourishment and care that far exceeds the type of treatment that the kids could've received in their homelands, but doesn't this growing trend seem more and more like an effort to get positive press, bolster a global image, and appear like a major player in the fight against global poverty? It seems to me like these children are taking on the role of glorified accessories, as sorts of living status symbols.

If celebrities were truly interested in fighting poverty, wouldn't it make more sense for them to donate large sums of money that could, if managed properly (which in and of itself is a tough task), possibly save thousands of impoverished, malnourished children instead of only 1?

Any thoughts?

13 October 2006

Go Feminism!

Yesterday while picking up my daily cup of coffee at the chain that will one day rule the world I noticed the cutest little girl playing with her mom out front. She was probably about two with beautiful golden blonde curls. She an her mom weren't playing with barbies or baby dolls...no, this little girl was laughing and joyfully and excitedly playing with a Tonka truck! It warmed my heart :-)

12 October 2006

Scrupulous Fun

Let’s chat a little bit about language today, specifically the chasm between the meaning and the intent or connotation of certain utterances. Veiled compliments… “You’re very astute,” does that mean I pick up on things quickly, am a keen observer, or did I just get called a dumbass? I suppose in that case context is everything. If a teacher tells me that I’m probably taking it as a compliment. If my old frat buddy tells me that after I make an obvious observation…not so much. The difference is pretty easy to see.

But what of this situation: a good friend today was told by her boss that she is “scrupulous.” The context was fairly mundane…they were discussing the work of some coworkers and my friend said she would have a talk with them about their performance. Her boss told her that’s a good idea “you’re very scrupulous.” Is this a compliment? The word by definition means adherent to a strong sense of right and wrong or being precise and accurate. Not bad things. One would definitely take it as an insult to be called “unscrupulous” or told that one “has no scruples.” But is the inverse necessarily true? It seems to me that the connotations associated with this word have dissociated it from this original meaning. In our game of common discourse to call someone scrupulous has become quite akin to calling them a tight-ass, a stickler for the rules, and one who is a slave to minute details. A scrupulous person probably wouldn’t be much fun to grab a beer with.

We collectively get to decide when the intent of the words we use change. They’re not static and a dictionary definition can never fully capture them. So is this a word that has? Or maybe it’s stuck somewhere in the middle. Maybe it hasn’t yet become its own antonym. After all, in this context it seems to be if not a compliment, at least a reinforcement of why my friend should have the talk. Her coworkers are missing the details, and her boss knows that she pays attention to them. However, the fact that she came away from the dialogue thinking about whether it was an insult or not implies some underlying shifts taking place in the game. The word, if not fully dissociated from its meaning, at the very least triggers a reaction that its original form did not intend. It’s interesting to think about these little anomalies…after all, language is fun!

Or maybe I should just get this stick outta my butt and stop being so scrupulous…

05 October 2006


Just found that great picture courtesy of the O'Reilly Factor. Now that's bringing spin to an all new level.

Republican strategy for handling Foley fallout:
Step 1) Ignore it... make it a non-story
Step 2) Make excuses... "He's an alcoholic."
Step 3) Blame everyone but Republicans
Step 4) Keep blaming everyone but Republicans
Step 5) If steps 1-4 fail, deem the culprit a Democrat

Seriously, though, what are the chances that the cronies at Fox created that caption on purpose?

Beer Blogging

Tried a new brew tonight at what could quite possibly become a regular watering hole in downtown Silver Spring. The Quarry House Tavern is a local dive bar tucked down in a basement below a Chinese restaurant. It’s been around since the mid-30s, with wood paneled walls, a low ceiling, and classic beer memorabilia all around it’s a great place for a few friends to gather for a few brews and some great bar food.

Tonight I went with a few coworkers and tried some beers from their extensive menu. A classic Belgian style ale / cherry lambic blend from the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY, Three Philosophers definitely pleased my palate. A very dark, almost creamy ale with hints of dark chocolate, cherries, and malt, this brew also packs a punch with a 9.5% ABV. So if you’re ever in the mood for a good after dinner beer or need something to wash down a roast, check out Three Philosophers…you’ll also get a kick out of some witty labeling.

Anyone try anything good lately?

04 October 2006

"Back at you, Santorum"

Brian McGory at the Boston Globe had a great column in yesterday's edition that's definitely worth the read.

He takes direct aim at everyone's favorite senator from Pennsylvania, aiming particularly at Slick Rick's 2002 comments in the internet journal Catholic Online: "Priests, like all of us, are infected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element of it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."

McGory writes that "he (Santorum) is probably the best lesson in what goes around, comes around. Santorum seemed to be all but gloating when he blamed Democrats, liberal academics, and everything Boston for pedophilic priests. Yesterday, White House spokesman Tony Snow was urging all parties to allow investigations to proceed, rather than, in his words, to say, ``OK, how can I get political advantage out of this?"

Oh, how the times have changed.

03 October 2006

Science in the Community

Female Hormone May Help Heal Brain Injuries

I’m just not sure what my reaction should be to this piece from Morning Edition on NPR. Dr. Art Kellerman has published a piece in the Annals of Emergency Medicine relaying results of an initial study into the use of the female hormone progesterone as an emergency treatment for brain injury patients. It appears that progesterone, being a steroid, acts as an anti-inflammatory and protects brain cells. This first round of testing has shown the results to be significant and promising. Obviously, this wonderful news for emergency medicine and for all of us who come to rely on it from time to time. To this point, there has been no really promising treatment for traumatic head injuries and they kill thousands every year.

The problem for me arises in the race and gender issues that Dr. Kellerman was forced to work through before he could consider carrying out his tests. It wasn’t enough to leave the decision to the families of victims; Kellerman felt compelled to turn to the community at large for permission. Why? In the Doctor’s words: “This is a female hormone being used to treat a condition that occurs primarily in men; men get hurt critically much more often than women do…what in the world are they doing at that hospital?” Saving lives? Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that what we ask them to do? To think that the fact that progesterone is a “female” hormone could have potentially prevented groundbreaking medical science from moving forward is disgusting to me. How are these gender stereotypes still so engrained in our collective psyche? Kellerman feared the community reaction. Will this treatment “feminize” these young men of our community? Is the implication here that it is better for these young men to be dead or maimed than to be “feminized?”

And then the racial angle…Because this study would be carried out in a trauma unit in a hospital that serves a predominantly black community the Tuskegee experiments had to be raised. We’re talking about good science done out in the open by respected researchers working with a respected university; should they feel the need to get political and community approval before conducting their research? “Well in the black community you just don’t mix male and female hormones,” said Rev. Timothy McDonald, when asked of his first reaction. This line is still drawn. He didn’t say he was worried of the reaction or worried of the consequences of giving progesterone to a male patient. He said “you just don’t” do it “in the black community.”

But then I have to ask myself, is my gut reaction the scary one? Do I sometimes give “good science” too much credit? Shouldn’t science that affects the lives of people have to answer to the community? I think, to a degree, it should. If science is striving to find explanations and answers to make the world a more livable place, it should take into consideration the culture, the community, the atmosphere in which the experiments are being conducted. Dr. Kellerman indeed made a bold move in asking permission first, as there was a good chance he would not get the answer he sought. But in making that move, he enlightened the community to the science behind what his ideas. He broke down some barriers and he made some new allies.

What do you all think? Should science have to answer to the community in this way? And if it should not, would you agree that it might be helpful if it chose to do so?