Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Quip of the day

People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.
- Dave Barry,
author and columnist (1947- )
(via A.W.A.D.)

Standing up for principle

A high-ranking FDA official has just resigned in protest of the agency's decision to block approval of the "morning after" pill against the recommendations of its own commission.
femsign"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."
Always good to see a principled breaking of ranks, but a shame to imagine that she could be replaced with another mindless yes-man.

(via Armando at dailykos)

Out-takes from a tragedy

The news is filled with images of the hurricane destruction in New Orleans and along the coast from there, and coverage of the magnitude of the storm. However, a couple of bloggers noticed things that weren't the intentional focus of the camera:
  • Making Light notices the extent to which class and race affect the experience and coverage of the disaster and its aftermath. Specifically, for victims sorting through the wastage for supplies, it appears that white folks "find" things, while black folks "loot" things . . . (via

  • Meanwhile, Medley looks at the inadequacy of the response to the foreseeable disaster through the lens of our preparedness for "homeland security" crises, and finds the nation no better coordinated, despite the billions, than four years ago.

  • Update: It turns out that reinforcement of the levees around New Orleans, as well as other improvements to the preparedness and infrastructure, were a direct casualty of spending on the Iraq war. (via Bob Harris at This Modern World)

  • Update 2: Greg Saunders notes the President's choice to give a speech to boost support for the war rather than visiting the site of one of the nation's worst natural disasters.
Oh, and in case you need another reminder, the right way to help out is through the Red Cross -- I take it as a good sign that their server is slow today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In a nutshell (viewpoints edition)

Peter Daou posits a fascinating key difference between how the left and the right approach our involvement in Iraq and our foreign policy generally, different frames by which they judge success and failure. In essence, he claims that the left is concerned with our moral standing relative to the world, while the right is concerned with our material success and strategic standing.
The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent. They see the left's protestations as appeasement of a ruthless enemy. For the left (broadly speaking), America’s moral strength is of paramount importance; without it, all the brute force in the world won’t keep us safe, defeat our enemies, and preserve our role as the world’s moral leader.

War hawks squeal about America-haters and traitors, heaping scorn on the so-called "blame America first" crowd, but they fail to comprehend that the left reserves the deepest disdain for those who squander our moral authority. ...
I felt that the assumptions were different, but couldn't quite put my finger on it -- this feels about right. No wonder we are so often talking past one another . . .

donkey and elephant, head to head
He makes some useful diagnoses of how these differences play out in rhetoric, and also how they explain the heat surrounding particular controversies:
If the left values moral strength over material strength and the right values material strength over moral strength, the common ground between the two, and the place where Bush would find his widest base of support, is a case where material strength is put to use for a moral cause. Bush et al want desperately to prove that Iraq satisfies both conditions. That’s why the Sheehan-Bush battle revolves around the words "noble cause."
This seems like helpful fodder for those thinking about how to make the case against the war more persuasively, as well as how to understand their opponents in that effort. Digby makes the point that many feel that Democrats need to be more comfortable in using the language and notions of faith; this certainly presents itself as a natural application.

(via Hullabaloo)

Shifting motivations

Needlenose tracks the evolving rationale for the Iraq war.
Maru suggests more ideas Bush could trot out . . .

(via WTF)

Update: apparently we might have saved a world of trouble by learning from history. Sigh.

Sad news

Playwright August Wilson is considered one of the great American writers of our time, and he has brought the 20th century history of the black community to life one decade at a time in his cycle of plays about life and choices in a small neighborhood of Pittsburgh -- the last one was just recently completed. I feel a certain bond to him, having seen one of his plays in development, first at New Haven's Long Wharf theater and then later (with a different ending) elsewhere. Anyway, he has just announced that he has inoperable liver cancer and isn't likely to see the new year. Thanks for all the insights, and best of luck on the rest of your journey.

photo of WilsonLinks:
  1. Dartmouth bio
  2. Wikipedia entry, which includes a list of all of the plays in his cycle
  3. CNN profile as one of America's Best artists and entertainers
  4. A recent NPR profile/interview about his encounter with Bessie Smith's music and its transformative effect on his writing

Musing of the day

Nobody waves to me anymore. I’ve driven the same truck since 1994, and whenever anyone saw my little blue Ranger (may it rest in peace) puttering along they’d say, "Well there's Chris" and throw up their hand. But nobody recognizes me now. People see the outside and don’t know who's on the inside. The town suddenly seems a lot less friendly.

Now we do something very similar with people. We see the outside, and don't always keep in mind who's on the inside; if we did, we might treat people differently. We want to put people in categories based on what we see from the exterior: panhandlers, rebellious teens, conservatives, homosexuals, liberals, fundamentalists, drug addicts, prisoners, gossips, grumpy old men, ne'er-do-wells, know-nothings, etc. But we often forget that on the inside, each person we encounter is a precious child of God. Let's get beyond the outward appearance and keep the inner reality in mind. redbudsLet's recognize that the persons we meet every day have value in God's eyes and that God longs to accomplish God's saving work within them. Let's train ourselves to see the worth of each person we meet and treat that person accordingly.
Chris Morgan at Assembled Reflections

Of course . . .

An unforeseen but immediately natural-seeming use for new technology: churches making their sermons and readings available to parishoners and others online via "godcasting." A lot easier than making tapes for individuals, and it allows for anonymous visits by seekers as well, all for pennies. Spiff.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Monday, August 29, 2005

What goes round...

Venezualan President Hugo Chavez intends to bring suit against Pat Robertson for his Christian fatwah:
"I announce that my government is going to take legal action in the United States ... to call for the assassination of a head of state is an act of terrorism." Chavez said in a televised speech.
A very gratifying threat, if rather unlikely to ever come to anything...

(via Echidne of the Snakes)

No winning scenario

Ampersand doesn't usually post completely about foreign affairs, but today he offers a post that summarizes the outlook for Iraq and our involvement there, and it's worth your reading. Whatever your take on how we got in or what we hoped to accomplish, it looks like we have no prospect of making things better to any realistic degree at this point, given the degree of support at home and the steep requirements of manpower and other sacrifice to accomplish a "win." Amp wraps up with this:
Too many hawks discuss our options in Iraq as if we're choosing between withdrawal and victory in Iraq. What is "victory in Iraq"? I'd suggest that, at a minimum, victory requires the establishment of a stable democracy in which (to quote Johnson) "the average Iraqi can move around the country without fear of being killed or kidnapped." (And remember, the average Iraqi is a woman). That doesn't seem too much to ask for - but it's far more than the American military or executive branch is realistically capable of offering.

Bottom line: It doesn't matter how morally correct an outcome is if it's not something that we can feasibly bring about in the real world.
Well said, if far from heartening. And I'd add, if you have no shot at the "morally correct" outcome, then perhaps you should be weighing the realistic alternatives, rather than pretending that such consideration is in itself treasonous. (Or maybe this chirade of gun-point constitution-writing is driven by exactly that idea. ugh.)

A nation of vigilantes

forehead slapI still remember the images of Sikh taxi drivers in New York after 9/11 loading their taxis with American flags to stave off the "towel head" epithets and attacks. Now Fox News is pointing the citizenry to the homes of suspected terrorists, as though vigilante justice were the proper response to such suspicions (or as though the people in question even still lived at the address, which now requires round-the-clock police protection). Makes ya' proud . . .

That's not just hot air!

I was pretty impressed this morning to hear that most of New Orleans has been evacuated -- that's a serious number of folks. I can't imagine packing up family, pets, the objects or records you'd be most crushed to lose, etc. and clearing out to wait for the news of whether you still have a home. Anyway, the seriousness of this National Weather Service prediction for the breadth and severity of expected distruction is a real mind-blower!
storm imageBest wishes to all those beginning the vigil . . .

(via Medley)

actually, Medley has been tracking the storm news while I was oblivious. See her additional/previous reports on the storm path and previous models of a hurricane hitting New Orleans, which was classed with a California earthquake disaster or terror strike on New York. eep.

Update 2:
the brunt of the storm missed New Orleans and hit farther east, spreading the damage along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts.

Friday, August 26, 2005

An image for the weekend

This photo just blows me away. It comes from here, where really all the images are spectacular (but the page a bit long).

Have a great weekend.

You say flypaper, I say tomato

Turns out that, contrary to the party line from The Top, the generals in Iraq think that having a concrete timeline for withdrawel would "take the wind out of the sails of the insurgents" like nothing else. I guess it's hard to drum up support for your effort at ousting your oppressors once they announce that they're already planning to leave...

Daily Show out-take

the TeeVee!Sometimes I watch The Daily Show because I need a giggle, but mostly I watch it because it's such an incredible relief to see that *somewhere* there's a public figure willing to call the Powers That Be on their crap and dissembling. A good example was last night, as summarized here. Imagine, the defeat of cant by coherence! It's enough to give one the strength to carry on . . .

Give that boy a prize!

A British teenager found a way to harness the pesky wheel-running of the family's hamster to charge his cell phone!
"Every two minutes Elvis spends on his wheel gives me about thirty minutes talk time on my phone."
Eco-friendly and, beyond, that, irrationally satisfying. If you have to put up with the squeaking all night long, you might as well be harnessing the power for something!

(via boing boing)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Quote of the day (blogger edition)

The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial.
- Virginia Woolf
(via whiskey river)

Don't you fear, more kittens here!

A new batch of photographic adorableness has allowed me to stave off that terrifying prospect -- a lack of Thursday kitten blogging here at JBS. Thus, the latest installment, theme warning: sometimes we nap *hard*.

[Yawn caught purely by accident.]
Note: take a look at the larger version of this one. That glimmer that you see on her flanks isn't just a flash effect, but an example of "glitter," a sparkling characteristic of some bengals' fur (resulting from air in the hair shaft, apparently). Quite striking in person!!

Nothing helps a day of frustrating news like a cute sleeping kitten!

Bonus shot (teaser edition): what am I getting into?!

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (a fave), 9, 10, 11

And then I never want to discuss this again

Two different blogs are devoting valuable e-space to the amazing issue of the trauma of the childbirth process -- for men. First Nick Kiddle at Alas is frustrated that a magazine advice columnist expressed no sympathy for a woman feeling upset at her partner's unwillingness to support her during childbirth, but instead focuses on explaining the roots of the guy's discomfort.
It makes no difference to this woman why her partner doesn't want to be present. She's the one going through labour, he won't support her, she feels let down. That's the problem she's asked for advice about, and the advice to see things from his point of view is suspiciously close to telling her that her feelings aren't as valid as his.
That seemed like enough of a head-banger, until Bitch, Ph.D., reported an entire NYTimes article from earlier this week, describing the emotional scarring that men experience in seeing their partners give birth.
Where many of us might be tempted to focus on the difficulty of, say, the expectant mother squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of a hole the size of a dime, Dr. Ablow wants to remind us that there's another person suffering in that delivery room: the male partner forced to view his woman's cooter in a way he never wanted to see it.
Geez, we wouldn't want to expect the men to be grown-up and supportive, now, would we? They've been coddled for so long . . . grrr!

Sometimes I think this is a weird, weird country

But anyway, score one for the rationalists over the abortion-obsessed wingers: a medical study concluded that fetuses are unlikely to be capable of experiencing pain in the first 6 months of gestation. That about fits with my general understanding of neural development, but should come as a blow for those attempting to add to the guilt heaped on women already facing a difficult decision.

(via Bitch, PhD)

Not the religion that *I* know...

Christian fishHunter at dailyKos has an excellent rant at the televangelicals who have taken over American Christianity and turned it into a dangerous extremist movement.
I am very, very tired of hearing from Pat Robertson, Falwell, Dobson, and the rest of the Christian Pundit Class. Truly, they are little more than the Vegas showgirls of Christianity, and bear as little relationship to true, deeply felt religion as a Vegas topless show does to the more nuanced works of theatre. But damn, look at the costumes! The sets! The music!
He has a powerful list of parallels between fundamentalists here and in the Middle East, expanding on the theme discussed here previously*. For example:
  • Though not strictly part of government, hold such substantial political power as to be able to dictate many government policies, with well-known religious figures holding forth in frequent public court on government policies and actions.

  • Extremely distrustful of science as being contrary to religious values. Generally anti-intellectual.
Read the whole thing.

The sound you hear . . .

. . . is my head banging on my desk. We've all heard that the Bush Administration has been eyeing Iran for its next possible military intervention (see prev. notes on this here and here), but they're actually having the Pentagon draw up plans to invade Iran in response to a future terrorist attack in the US, whether or not there's reason to think that the two are linked in any way.
Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing – that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack – but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.
Tell the emperor that his outfit looks lovely, boys! aaaaaaugh!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Who is held responsible?

Medley catches a good piece from Gary Hart on how the Republicans will be judged for their mishandling of the war, and the Democrats for their silence.grow a spine!
My generation of Democrats jumped on the hot stove of Vietnam and now, with its members in positions of responsibility, it is afraid of jumping on any political stove.
There do seem to be a lot of openings for anybody to show some spine on current events -- didn't Dean win a lot of lifelong loyalists by simply saying what everybody was thinking? It's gotta be orders of magnitude easier (and clearer) now...

Great quotes on feminism

Gendergeek has a "quotes" page which turns out to be a collection of inspired and amusing quotes about feminism and related matters.
"We must not allow ourselves to be deflected by the feminists who are anxious to force us to regard the two sexes as completely equal in position and worth."
Sigmund Freud
"Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions.. for safety on the streets... for child care, for social welfare...for rape crisis centers, women's refuges, reforms in the law." [If someone says] 'Oh, I'm not a feminist,' [I ask] 'Why? What's your problem?"
Dale Spender
Worth a couple visits.

Female professors stressed by expectations

Female professors report feeling more stressed in their jobs than their male counterparts. A new study tries to tease out whether that's all in their heads or a result of real added loads, and finds good evidence of the latter. Women on average teach more courses, get fewer of the lighter seminars, and are expected to provide more support for the students that they interact with than are their male colleagues.
Summing up the problems female faculty members face with students, the authors wrote that “women felt students expected them to balance authority and nurturance in the classroom in ways that their male colleagues were not. Having to consider this balance while trying to deliver a course that is meaningful certainly contributes to stress related to teaching and students.”
I can remember in graduate school (in biology) that a female professor warned female students of the dangers of being one of few women in a department; if nothing else, you would be tempted to carry an excessive committee load, as each such group's desire for "diversity" meant that they wanted you as a member. A definite Catch-22 there, as the need to protect professional time and personal resources must be balanced against the need to have female perspectives represented in decision-making bodies and mentoring positions. feh.
mortarboard and diploma
The study had some concrete recommendations for countering these problems, ranging from increased hiring of women to reviewing course and committee loads by gender. An interesting can of worms for some colleges to open, but certainly worthwhile. I've also known particularly nurturing men who got overloaded with student demands (office hours and the like) in small colleges, but at least they're generally free of the effects of other kinds of environmental biases.

(via Knotted Knickers)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Speaking of countries we can barely think about

Apparently there was a terrorist bombing in Bangladesh last week -- actually, hundreds of coordinated bombs all over the country (more here) -- and it didn't get a single mention in the U.S. despite a large number of injuries. I guess we expect palm-tree countries to get natural disasters (in keeping with their, um, primitive lifestyles), while subway bombs are more the fear of "civilized" countries like England (and New York, heh). yeesh.

Like push-ups for your brain

Dave Pollard suggests that we use the lesser-utilized avenues of our brains to increase our creativity and receptiveness to the world around us. Perhaps his 12 Ways to Think Differently will offer something you haven't considered. His point that we occasionally need to do things that are unusual or difficult for us, as opposed to the routine and natural, is very well taken.

(via kottke)

Update: in a similar vein, a paean to the benefits of mindfulness (paying attention to things and tasks around you).

(via Follow Me Here)

More uncomfortable parallels

army helmetBig battles for small hills that we don't even want. Heartening.

What everybody's thinking

Several people (pundits as well as some bloggers) have remarked or implied that the lack of protection for women in the new Iraqi constitution (see prev. post) doesn't matter. It's possible that they just don't understand the notion of human rights or what it's like to have been born into the wrong category, but I think that Echidne has nailed the real reason here:
The usually unspoken argument of those who find women's social rights unimportant for democracy is that democracy in places like Iraq can take a different form: one limited to men only, because democracy elsewhere, including in the United States, once assigned equal rights to only some people, such as white men. Yet over time these rights were extended to others, including women. In other words, Iraq and other countries such as Afghanistan are viewed as outdated forms of our own country. Medieval, perhaps. But with the passage of time surely these countries will emulate what took place in the West? And if not, well, the men who are making the U.S. decisions right now are unlikely to suffer. And maybe the people "over there" are really different. Maybe they don't want democracy, after all. At least for the women. After all, we let the women vote, too, and look how they voted! Mostly they voted for their religion so they must want to be oppressed.
The latter part becomes the rationalizations, but I think that the first part is exactly what's going on -- we can't expect other countries to jump right to a modern concept of justice and equality without going through the evolution. Because, um, they're culturally and presumably personally backward (obviously!).

(Of course, they should expect to be trusted with a modern military, but perhaps their wives will be ok at home for a few centuries.)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Expectations of privacy

I tend to be paranoid about privacy issues -- automatic traffic cameras make me more nervous, not less, as do the prospects of national ID cards and forms of vehicle tracking. My friends (or spouse) sometimes argue that I'm fighting too hard against the slippery slope -- that we're a long way from losing our civil rights to the government's view of our safety needs. But this post makes clear that that's not really true: safety from "unreasonable search" depends on the current definition of "reasonable," so the more used people become to ever-more-intrusive monitoring, searches, and the like, the more justifiable those measures (and more) become. A scary, scary cycle.
I don't want chips or transmitters that can be read from a distance on my person or in my car. I don't want these things even if in some rare cases they would lead to an arrest that wouldn't otherwise happen. That's what being for liberty means, that some people are able to get away with bad things sometimes so that the rest of us don't have to live in fear of our government.
And that's even before you get into discussions about whether any of these measures have any real effect in increasing our safety. I suspect that no bag-search in a New York subway will ever nab a terrorist. But I'm not so convinced that no subway bombing will every happen there. Let's not sacrifice real freedoms for phantom protections.

A fable of the courts

scales of justice?A fascinating post at Wampum makes the case that the crisis need for tort reform is based purely on propaganda -- that the "classic cases" that are cited as examples of courts or juries gone wild are frequently fabrications, and that much of the reason for what frivolous cases do occur is the public misperception that civil suits are pretty much a lottery in which real damage has little to do with the awards (a perception perpetrated by the tort reformers). In fact, there is no evidence that lawsuit frequency or size of awards are increasing at all!
The tort reform lobby is quite willing to accept an increase in trivial suits if they can create a political climate that allows them to limit the exposure of businesses and insurance companies on the really bad cases. Perhaps the media should expose that game. It would not even have to make stuff up.
Given how much play this gets in certain political circles, we need to stop buying it hook, line, and sinker. In those rare cases when victims really need redress, it should be available, and sky-falling hysteria could make that impossible. Read the whole thing, really.

[Also catch this amusing quick follow-up question.]

Our crazies are better than yours

Amanda at Pandagon has a short piece that gets at something I've been feeling increasingly -- that ordinary citizens of both the US and Iraq are becoming victims of their local fundamentalist wackos. Both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists put the purity of their ideals above any human rights consideration or above the pesky arguments of fact, and both share a focus on authoritarianism and mysogyny.
If you look at it from that angle–that fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians are just two flavors of the same patriarchal religion–then one thing becomes quite obvious. The winners of the Iraqi War are not the Americans and not the Iraqis, but the fundamentalists. On both sides of the conflict, fundamentalists have been able to use this war as leverage to make progress towards their ideal society–a strict hierarchy where the men on top of society have absolute power over other men and men have absolute power over women.
Hard not to agree...

(via Pseudo-Adrienne at Alas)

Update: as if on cue, Pat Roberston calls for the assassination of another nation's leader. Fatwah, anyone?

Update 2:
evidence that the American Taliban is training its up-and-comers to use religious tests for all policy decisions.

Uh... sorry about that!

femsignNothing about the Iraqi constition is going quite as imagined in the fluffy clouds of the Bush Administration, but the worst of it is going to be had by the country's women, who are finding their secular state reverting to an opporessive theocracy. This political cartoon from the Sunday paper really made me come to a full stop, as only a pithy image can. Ouch.

Anyway, Medley is a bit disconsolate over the whole situation, and she points the way along to Jeanne, Bilmon, and Digby each singing different parts of a similar tune. The pithiest take may come from Reuters:
U.S. diplomats, who have insisted the constitution must enshrine ideals of equal rights and democracy, declined comment.
Our emissary seems to be one of the advocates for more religious grounding, which is shocking and dismaying, given what we've sacrificed to get to this point and the result that we claimed to want. However, Billmon makes this insightful remark:
Actually, if it staves off civil war long enough for the Pentagon to withdraw the bulk of the troops from Iraq, then I'd say it's precisely what the American people want.
No political considerations here, nossir! It's all about the deeper principles (which we water down until they fit the current circumstances)...

Update: wow, taking the watering-down thing to heights of artistic insight -- this cheetos of freedom metaphor.

Update 2: in a less humerous vein, Obsidian Wings demonstrates how bad things are already . . .

Friday, August 19, 2005

A closer look at John Roberts

Robert Gordon (Yale law professor et al) takes a look at the gradually focusing picture that is emerging of the current Supreme Court nominee, and concludes that there are areas in which serious questions should be asked (although not necessarily the ones getting most press). In particular, he notes plenty of Reagan-vintage evidence that Roberts favors expanding the powers of the executive (think "enemy combatants") and limiting the legal recourse of individuals (as for civil rights violations).
I expect this nominee will prove too agile for the Senate's Democrats: he will show he is familiar with arguments on all sides of contentious questions, emphasize his regard for precedent and judicial restraint, and politely decline to answer specific questions.
Well, get him on record where you can...

Update: more divining work here, where Roberts appears to pull a page from Santorum's book on the proper place of women...

Quote of the day/weekend

colorful thoughtsAll the limitative Theorems of metamathematics and the theory of computation suggest that once the ability to represent your own structure has reached a certain critical point, that is the kiss of death: it guarantees that you can never represent yourself totally. Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, Church's Undecidability Theorem, Turing's Halting Problem, Turski's Truth Theorem - all have the flavour of some ancient fairy tale which warns you that 'To seek self-knowledge is to embark on a journey which ... will always be incomplete, cannot be charted on a map, will never halt, cannot be described.'
- Douglas Richard Hofstadter
(via whiskey river)

If I stay there will be trouble . . .

Excellent points made by Digby here in response to Kevin Drum -- both arguing that Democrats either need to give good strategies for Iraq or support withdrawel. The whole "it's a mess but we need to stay the course" empty rhetoric has ceased having even a pretense of utility -- stay and do what? else, why more lives every day? Our current "course" seems to be all about the appearance of resolve, and that's not worth the sand you wrote it on.
I think that we are seeing a Democratic pincer movement that is going to fatally squeeze the Republican policy. On the one side we have the growing Cindy Sheehan withdrawal movement, very emotional very compelling. It's the right argument, but its main purpose is to weaken Bush --- there is no chance in hell that it will force a complete troop withdrawal. On the other side he has the Democratic establishment calling for more troops and a greater effort to gain international support. Bush cannot do that either. He is trapped. All he can say is "stay the course" which is not adequate to win and ensures that we lose slowly and painfully.
Not a happy outcome for Iraq, among many unhappy outcomes, but one that may at least allow the current U.S. leadership to be held accountable -- and then replaced.

Looks suspicious to me!

In case you missed it, the "suspect" shot in England after the subway bombings, because he "looked suspicious and was running away," was actually wearing a normal jacket, had bought a paper, and was running a little bit for his train. Blinq has the links, but the story looks worse with each round of updates...

(Am reminded too of this story of a guy who got tasered for his moves at a salad bar. How careful can an ordinary person be these days?)

Gas hogs

gas!We Americans prefer not to think about our casual use of gas -- after all, we have a lot bigger distances to cover than those puny European nations, right? But when you look at this chart of gas prices around the world it's hard not to notice that once again we're down among the third world countries. (Most of Europe pays 2-3-fold what we yell about here, and most of the nations paying less than we do are big oil producers.) If gas prices better reflected their costs of production and pollution, they might spell the end of more than the Hummers on our roads...

(via kottke)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Another apt giggler

The Onion comes through again, with an excellent satirical piece:

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity with New "Intelligent Falling" Theory

(hat tip to boing boing)


Calvin Trillin waxes poetic about the John Bolton nomination.
The job's too vital, Bush has said,
To leave unfilled, and so instead
He'll simply stiff the Senate now,
And name John Bolton anyhow.
The whole thing's short -- go read it for more giggles.
(If you run into a subscription notice, then read it here instead.)

(via The Washington Note)

Quote for the day

smushed enso
Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you.
--Maori proverb
(via A Mindful Life)

Good thoughts never go stale

Two tidbits that aren't from today (or even this month) but make good points, if only the right people could heed them...
  • An NYTimes editorial calls for fairness in drug sentencing, pointing out that disparities between terms for use of crack versus straight cocaine are racially biased and unsupportable.
    Congress spawned a national trend toward discriminatory sentencing when it drew a false distinction between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine for law enforcement purposes during the 1980's. Crack is simply powdered cocaine cooked in baking soda. The theory at the time -- that it was more addictive and generated more violence than powder -- was later proved false. By then, however, Congress had made crack the only drug that mandates a sentence for a first offense and fixed high sentences for people caught with relatively small quantities.
    Experts have called on Congress to fix this, but it's the kind of hot political potato that could be destined for years of malevolant neglect.
    (via How Appealing)

  • Folded space reads the books on whipping your finances into shape so that you don't have to.
    The best books seem to have the same goal in mind: not wealth, not riches, but financial independence. According to Your Money or Your Life, which I consider the very best of the financial books I've read, "financial independence is the experience of having enough — and then some". More practically, financial independence occurs when your investment income meets or exceeds your monthly expenses. Financial independence is linked to psychological freedom.
    Lots of distilled wisdom there, made easy to understand and straightforward to put into practice.
    (via Medley's furlings)

Thursday kittenage

Just one pic today, because I'm bored with the other ones that I have right now -- could be the last installment for a bit, I guess. Anyway, I removed the background from this one because it was so busy (quilt!) but left the flash-eyes because they fit with the near-constant witching mood of this kitten. pounce!!

more mauveness
(worth clicking for a better image)

Update: Actually, here's a great shot of one of our older cats -- she may be 13, but she's taking no guff from a 13-week kitten! go, Yogi!

Yogi in sunlight

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Everyday hardships

femsignReminders aplenty that it's not easy or pleasant being a woman in many parts of the world (even without Santorum's influence) -- the latest:
  1. Wife-beating is common in Nigeria, where harsh punishment for "willfulness" is widely accepted by both men and women. The stories here are pretty galling...
    (via Follow Me Here)

  2. That reminded me of the story of the Ethiopian girl saved by lions (who apparently responded to her cries and chased away her attackers) -- she was the victim of an attempted kidnapping for forced marriage. (And then that reminds me of this previous bride-napping story... shudder)
    (CNN story, no longer accessible, via boing boing)

Nothing to see here!

Just, you know, no particular kitten*, looking cute at 5 weeks old.

new face

(click for bigger image)

Sharing a different perspective

Boing boing shares an idea that appeals to me more than any in a long time, both amusing and intellectually satisfying. In a combination of performance art with small acts of meaningful resistance, you can join the Ministry of Reshelving, promoting Orwell's 1984 from "Fiction" or "Literature" to "Current Affairs" or perhaps "Politics" (with notes left behind to explain the move). Wonderful.

Additional commentary not required

Sexual images really can make you blind.

(via Follow Me Here)

News from the world of science

testtubesA handful of spiffy techno-stories from the last short while:
  • Scientists are about to begin testing a nasal spray that may help dissolve the neural plaques that disrupt brain function in Alzheimer's patients. The chemicals in the spray induce the brain's own natural clean-up cells to work on the beta-amaloid that forms the tangled disruptions.
    (via dangerous meta)

  • A bunch of amateur tinkerers have come up with ways to boost the efficiency of hybrid cars, and conservation lobbiests are now pursuing their ideas, which could result in passenger cars that get up to 250 mpg. Most importantly, unlike the fantasy of hydrogen-powered cars and the like, these plug-in variants could be on the road tomorrow.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Scientists have discovered that mosquitos are actually more attracted to people infected with malaria, especially in its transmissible stage -- in essence, it looks like the disease has found a way to hijack the insect's homing signals for its own benefit. If we can figure out what the odor signal is, perhaps we can use it as a tool to help inhibit the spread of malaria in many parts of the world.
    (via boing boing)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Well, somebody had to show them who's boss!

The babies that is -- the ones with suspicious names from the TSA's no-fly list (greatly expanded in the last couple of years). Nobody bothered to check those guys with the pilot traiining, but somehow I'm supposed to feel more secure because some infant is kept off a plane while the parents get birth certificats faxed. COME ON! We can't do any better than this?!

(via a commenter at The Poor Man)

Malkin v. Malkin

Greg Saunders has a nice piece over at This Modern World showing the two-facedness of a conservative pundit (and by extension, of much of the conservative argument in similar situations) by pitting her own statements against one another in a pseudo-debate format. Ah, I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning...

Experience breeds confidence?

femsignKnotted Knickers catches a story that indicates that the degree of female participation in higher levels of science and engineering (i.e., majoring in those subjects in college and possibly going further) depends on a different combination of factors than we might have thought.
Girls' higher achievement in maths or science did not seem to be related to the number of graduates, nor was cultural support for equal opportunities a good predictor of which countries had the most women Comp Sci graduates.
. . .
Instead, it seems that restricting the choices available to adolescents, and making it mandatory for all pupils to study maths and science subjects throughout their secondary education, correlates with a higher proportion of women going on to study computer science at university.
It's easy to make the leap from this to the conclusion that women aren't inherently worse at computational sorts of tasks, but have been conditioned to think that they will be -- once they get their feet wet (by being forced to take the required courses) and find out that they do just fine, they are often interested enough to pursue those very subjects further. Good reasons not to let anybody limit their options based on the sense of reality that they have in highschool.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A quote for a new week

It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct.philosopher's journey Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
- Viktor Frankl
Man's Search for Meaning
(via whiskey river)

Amusement of the day

The Economist's style guide to avoiding Americanisms . . .
In an American context you may run for office (but please stand in countries with parliamentary systems) and your car may sometimes run on gasoline instead of petrol. But if you use corn in the American sense you should explain that this is maize to most people (unless it is an old chestnut).
and so on.

(via a Medley furling)

How many fronts make a good battle?

Interesting discussions underway about how the Democratic party should reclaim Congress, and/or what is the best way to rebuild its base nationwide. For example, the DCCC would like to focus on the tight races, and pretty much abandon candidate recruitment in areas where the GOP incumbent has high approval; in contrast, the netroots and other liberal trouble-makers would like to see challenges all over the place, where Hackett-style close defeats could provide a base for more successful subsequent campaigns.
"The challenge the bloggers are laying on the table is to not concede and not accept becoming a minority party," said Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, a centrist Democratic group that has befriended Internet activists. "Their argument is correct. If we really want to win in 2006 and 2008, we have to expand the playing field."
Certainly, if you let entire states lie fallow, you'll discover there's no bench to turn to when those seats open up (or weaken) later, as several committees have found out the hard way recently. Obviously, however, resources are finite, and you don't want to lose the close ones because you didn't take them seriously enough. Am happy to see that the leadership is at least agreeing to widening their scope a bit, although I can't tell whether they're thinking about long-term strategic ends or just trying to keep the netfolks quiet.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has responded to the pressure from liberal activists by saying he intends next year to fund Democratic challengers for 50 Republican-held seats, about double the number the campaign committee backed in 2004.
Of course, the bigger the fundraising pie, the larger the number of candidates you might throw a critical chunk, so here's hoping we can, um, build the pie higher!

In related musings, a local Philadelphia organizer questions the "clear the decks" approach to annointing a candidate early rather than having a contested primary. He asks whether, instead of draining campaign coffers and building animosity, we couldn't find ways to use a primary to raise the candidates' profiles and increase the party's chances in the general election. I don't know whether the civic events proposed would really help voters make up their minds on primary choices, but they could certainly raise the level of public faith in the parties and maybe in government generally.

Update: kos has more, especially about local groups who are taking matters into their own hands and making sure there will be candidates and support, even where incumbents are strong.

I'm sure we'd *all* like to move on

Kos has a fairly withering take on Bush's unwillingness to meet with Cindy Sheehan or to face the consequences of his war at all -- and he ties it to the increasing realization elsewhere that nothing good is likely to come of our involvement in Iraq. The piece concludes thusly:
So Casey and 2,047 US and allies have died to establish an anti-women, anti-Israel, terrorist-harboring Islamic regime that is actually less free than Saddam's Iraq. How the hell they managed that is beyond belief, incompetence of breathtaking proportions. And nearly four Americans are dying every day to help establish Iran's new client state.

But Cindy needs to understand -- Bush is ready to move on. The hell with all the families of the dead, wounded, divorced, and mentally messed up thanks to his war. He's got a Little League game to attend.
If just a fraction of that anger is seeping out into the country at large, there could be major changes ahead . . .

Update: Eliot is angry in a different way, and his post on how today's anti-war sentiment doesn't add up to the power of the Vietnam-era anti-war movement is excellent and worth the length. Take-home: there's a long way from "discomfort with our involvement" to making change happen.

Vacation snark round-up

lounging in a hammockToday's "Cheers and Jeers" at dailyKos has a collection of comedian jabs at President Bush's lengthy vacation. All worth a quick visit.
"President Bush is on a five-week vacation. From what?"
--David Letterman
About right...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Accept no subsitutes

A sad view of what the US has become, in reality and perception . . .

(via a Medley furling)

Bucking the common wisdom

One piece of common wisdom is that Hillary Clinton looks like a frontrunner for a Presidential nomination, but also that she's too controversial nationally to have any chance. Carl Cannon argues otherwise, including overlooked poll data indicating higher approval than Some imagine, as well as making the point that conservatives have been attacking her for so long that there's not much new ammunition left...
My advice to my Democratic friends is to ignore your inner elitist, and trust the American people to tell the truth, and, moreover, to do the right thing.
Veeeery interesting. I honestly don't know how I feel about any of it, particularly not knowing who the other choices might be as we get a few years down the road.

Friday serious (or "all in one place")

Think Progress continues their impressive tradition of public service by compiling a list of the 21 Administration officials involved in the leak of Valerie Plame's CIA status -- with notes and timelines on what they knew, when they've denied facts subsequently proved, and generally what part they played in the scandal. Connecting all the dots makes a rather grim picture...

(via kos)

Friday fun

Here for your weekend enjoyment is a smattering of silliness that I've filed away over the last week or two. Don't blame me for your time-management choices...grin!

Keeping your hand in play

Digby has a good recent post supporting NARAL in its single-issue activism, despite recent criticism (see here) that its endorsements may undermine its interests in the long run, as by keeping a generally anti-choice party in power. Digby counters that interest groups that "play along" with a generally sympathetic party end up being taken for granted, and thus losing any power to keep their interests on the agenda.
[quoting Brad Plumer] Parties always pander towards groups that are in danger of defecting; they know they can screw over the loyal core somewhat, so long as there are no consequences. Unless NARAL shows that there are consequences, such as endorsing a pro-choice Republican in a blue state, they'll get taken for granted. Maybe that's due to sexism on the part of the Democratic leadership, but mostly it's just the way coalitions work.

[back to Digby] I understand that we all need to stick together, but if I were NARAL I'd be getting very, very concerned about some Democrats' willingness to "soften" their stance on the issue of choice because it's allegedly hurting the party --- you know, moral values and all that. I might just think it's smart to show some muscle. There is no way I'd blindly trust anyone in this environment to fight this battle for me.
I'll admit, there's increasing willingness among Democrats to support pro-life candidates if they seem "the most electable." It's easy to support that strategy in individual cases (as in my own state of PA, where getting rid of Santorum is a huge concern), but it might not be the best place to make compromises -- letting up on gun control, for example, has even more appeal in "red states" out west and could be a better place to change positions. (In fact, Digby thinks that the NRA is a good example to look at for how sticking to principle has in fact ended up giving a group big weight within a party that they didn't mindlessly support.) There just seems to be a quickness to let women's issues slide in these discussions . . . Fight on!

Skin deep

It's becoming increasingly clear that flag-waving America-shouting folks often show a different side when it comes to the idea of making any sacrifice themselves for their country or its undertakings.
"Military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people," she told him.
Well, I guess you've made yourself pretty clear *now*.

(via Armando and Atrios)

Update: Pilecki at the Huffington Post was a bit struck by this same quote.

Update 2:
and Tom Tomorrow, an emailer is even more eloquent.

Baby steps

stethoscopeThe standard treatment for HIV is retrovirals, which help block additional replication of the virus but do nothing about the cells that are already infected but lying dormant. Thus, it's a lifetime regimen, and scientists are eager to find ways to target the dormant infected cells (and thence get rid of the infection for good). Apparently they've found the first drug that could be effective in this way:
The study, led by Dr. David Margolis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tested the ability of valproic acid to reduce the number of infected dormant cells. Four patients on standard therapy were given the pills to take twice daily for three months. The size of this pool of infected dormant cells decreased by 75 percent in three out of the four patients, the study found.
Not a cure, but a proof of principle, and amazingly quick effects (compared to the years of retrovirals). Check out Eliot's further discussions of this drug, which is used as an anticonvulsant and antidepressant -- there may already be a host of fortuitous "test subjects" out there who could be re-examined in light of the new findings.

(via Follow Me Here)

In (some of) your own words

Mudslingers sometimes make a trade of mangling quotes from their targets so as to distort the intended meaning. Rather than stew in the outrage, Paul Begala, who was spanked by some deliberate misinterpretation of pronouns (see story here), decided to find the humorous center of the turd-pop by setting up a contest for Most Inexcusable Misquote. The winner and runners-up are delightful scramblings of quotes and intent of famous speakers...
Abraham Lincoln: I Hate America
Illinois Senate candidate Abraham Lincoln revealed yesterday that he loathes his country. Describing the nation as a "house divided," Lincoln admitted that he "cannot stand" the United States
Duncan Stevens
Very funny (in that slightly painful Orwellian way that's becoming increasingly familiar) . . .

(via XOverboard)

Hanging with the right crowd

hard hatI'm not up on all the ups and downs of organized labor in this country, but I must say it looks like bad news when your employer can dictate whom you hang out with outside of work . . . (just for Big Brother reasons, even before you get to infringement of the right to organize)

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Dooce meets someone that's never heard of a blogger, and comes up with just the right way to avoid ruining that for them . . .
If only I could think so quickly on my feet!

The face of public grief?

Another astute observation by BagNewsNotes about an image from Time Magazine that seems to capture the increasing national dismay at the course of the Iraq war -- not faces of those who've lost loved ones, but of other folk drawn to a memorial service. As ever, a thought-provoking analysis.

Completely hypothetical

So, imagine that you have two 12-year-old cats, who are friendly but generally prefer a good loll on the couch to any sort of string-chasing-type action. And then imagine that you add to the household a 3-month-old kitten, who almost never holds still, pouncing on any piece of lint or moving object of whatever size, and crawling in, behind, or over anything in the environment. pile of kitties! You could be forgiven, I think, for suspecting that these are members of completely different species. You might also reasonably speculate that, even if the latter settles down after a year, they may continue to be more different than alike.

So then you might find yourself musing about whether four cats was indeed a completely ludicrous number that would automatically qualify your household as Crazy Cat People. Or whether it might be best for all concerned that you consider a youthful playmate for the current kitten, say, um, something along these lines... Just hypothetically speaking, of course.

Quote for the day

In a pond koi can reach lengths of eighteen inches. Amazingly, when placed in a lake, koi can grow to three feet long. The metaphor is obvious. You are limited by how you see the world.
-Vince Poscente,
Olympian (1961- )
(via A.W.A.D.)

Thursday kitten pics

More action shots, because, well, she's always in action...
(preferably being entertained by her human companions)

Pixel strikes back!
Every game improves if played from a perch!

Pixel discovers the joy of rolling on what you're reading...
(look at that pink tummy!!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Another good one from the Onion

onion logoIn the general category of semi-funny insights into deeper truths, this week's Onion headline story is Bush Vows to Eliminate U.S. Dependence on Oil by 4920.
"Our mission is clear," Bush said in a speech delivered at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. "We must free ourselves from dependence on fossil fuels within 85 generations. A cleaner, safer America is my vision. And it is our great, great—great-times-80 grandchildren who will realize that vision."
Sigh. There's also a photo with the caption "Above: U.S. soldiers prepare to withdraw from Iraq in the unfathomably distant future."

Injecting a little levity

Guerilla artist Bansky has taken on the security wall in the West Bank, decorating it with everything from spoof ladders to fake windows looking out onto scenes of luxurious countryside. Soldiers appear not to have been amused...

For previous tales of Banksy's strikes, see this (sneaking his own paintings onto the walls in the British museum) or this (various escapades documented on his website).

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Brits increasing citizen surveillance?

Wired reports that the U.K. is experimenting with new automobile license plates with embedded microchips that broadcast their identity hundreds of feet around and to make it possible to track the movements of individual cars.
Proponents argue that making such RFID tags mandatory and ubiquitous is a logical move to counter the threat of terrorists using the roadways, and that it will scoop up insurance and registration scofflaws in the process.
Already, electronic toll-passes in the U.S. are being used for other purposes (as for monitoring traffic flow on highways), so there's no telling what uses law enforcement (or private sector geniuses) could come up with for this kind of data.
Civil libertarians don't object to an RFID automatic toll-collection system that "anonymizes" vehicles in databases once a transaction is completed. But they doubt the government -- given its thirst for intelligence -- will use such privacy-protection measures. From a law-enforcement perspective, "there is no reason to have privacy for anything," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Unnerving. Luckily, these are unlikely to jump the pond soon, because they cost 10x more than regular plates, which would probably cause nationwide outrage more quickly than the privacy concerns . . .

(via Follow Me Here)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Youth in politics

Today a local Philly politician blogged in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and asked, in essence, how we can get young people reconnected with the political process.Rock The Vote logo As if in answer, Charlie on MyDD tells the tale of the recent convention of Young Democrats of America, traditionally an organization of folks more concerned with making connections to advance their careers than in any set of issues or actions -- this year reform-minded progressives took over the organization and reset its goals. They hope to get behind the campaigns of 1000 progressive candidates in the next two years, and to support a number of progressive actions:
At the convention, the dominoes fell in favor of those who would like to see the YDA take a bolder progressive stance, and put action behind it. Single-payer healthcare, withdrawal from Iraq, immigrant rights, and improved union organizing rights all made it into the new YDA platform. And the Action Caucus resolution passed unanimously, both in committee and on the floor of the convention.
Only time will see whether this organization can re-invent itself and re-energize young voters, but every bit helps.

The value of enigma

Also at Bag News, a study of images of John Roberts and what they convey...

(See more pointed ruminations about Roberts at dailyKos here and here.)

Notable silence

This past weekend marked the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima,snip of chalk drawing photo and I found the handful of stories and memorializations in the paper almost too much to take, even skimming. But it hasn't gotten much noise, despite the round number (60 years) and the huge turn-out for the memorial on the memorial site in Japan. The incomparable BagNewsNotes as a great image from a temporary New York memorial that's worth a visit. Also, I'm reminded of my own trip to Japan a decade ago, and the stop in Hiroshima is captured in an old archive here. I can still recall that wall of letters from Hiroshima mayors to the nuclear powers of the world...

A first victory against overuse of antibiotics

Somehow I missed the original announcement, but at the end of July the FDA announced a ban on a poultry antibiotic, Baytril, which is related to the human drug Cipro and has been implicated in increasing bacterial drug-resistance. Yay!!
Margaret Mellon, director of food and environment at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the FDA's move was ''a big deal.''

''It's the first time FDA has withdrawn a veterinary drug on the basis of antibiotic resistance concerns, fearing that use of the drug in animals is going to erode the effectiveness of the drugs in human medicine,'' she said.
Indeed, this drug as a feed supplement does nothing for the health of the chickens, but puts a constant selective pressure on their natural gut bacteria, resulting in mutations which could make critical classes of human drugs ineffective. Now if we could just get moving to stop similar abuses in feeding of hooved livestock...

(via Mike the Mad Biologist)

Right, it's all about the economics

A group of "Minutemen" show up to demonstrate against the hiring of immigrant workers, and seem strangely unbothered when they are joined by a bunch of neo-Nazis waving swastika flags . . .

(via Bitch, Ph.D.)

Firing a warning shot?

Arlen Specter confounds his critics (and supporters) again by writing a letter to Supreme Court nominee Roberts suggesting that he should expect pointed questions about specific cases and the boundaries of the rights of the legislature. The Commerce Clause is not as sexy as Roe, but perhaps more pressing to Senators, at least, and a recent source of wider concern.
In a three-page letter to Judge Roberts, Mr. Specter raises pointed questions about two recent court decisions invalidating legislation Congress passed under its authority to regulate interstate commerce. That power has for decades been used to produce expansive legislation, including environmental protections, civil rights laws and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The current court has been trimming back the authority, however, and Democrats have vowed to make interstate commerce a big issue in the Roberts hearings. Now Mr. Specter, a Republican who is widely regarded as the panel's sharpest constitutional lawyer, is suggesting that he shares the Democrats' concerns.
scales of justiceApparently some lawmakers have taken offense at Rehnquist's, in particular, dismissiveness of their deliberations.

(via Armando at dailyKos)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Making it trendy to keep yourself well

Two interesing brief stories lately about designers making allowances for the way that ugly medical aides lead to resistant users (and spiffy devices might be more happily welcomed):
  1. Hearware: attempting to do for hearing aides what the last few decades have done for eyeglasses -- style!! (and working with other sound-control devices too)
    (via boing boing)

  2. Beadin' Bangle: making medical-alert bracelets and necklaces you'd actually want to be seen in public in.
    (via knotted knickers)

The perspective is the gift (Quote of the Day)

When people come to speak to me, whatever they say, I am struck by a kind of incandescence in them, the "I" whose predicate can be "love" or "fear" or want," and whose object can be "someone" or "nothing" and it won't really matter, because the loveliness is just in that presence, shaped around "I" like a flame on a wick, emanating itself in grief and guilt and joy and whatever else. But quick, and avid, and resourceful. To see this aspect of life is a privilege of the ministry which is seldom mentioned.
-- Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
(via A Mindful Life)

A church divided?

Apparently the Catholic church is divided over the acceptability of evolution. Almost a decade ago, Pope John Paul II made news when he said that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis" -- indeed, he spoke as one aware of the breadth and depth of the explanatory power of the theory:
It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.
But, as usual, Vatican scholars can find room for many interpretations in the interstices of what their predecessors have and haven't spelled out. At least one Cardinal seems to think that scientific approaches to the origins of life are inherently incompatible with faith, but many of his colleagues disagree. The opinion of the current pope is unclear -- he's been involved in previous statements of principle that endorsed the compatability of scientific research and religious faith, but he also stated at his installation that an individual is "the result of a thought of God" rather than "casual and meaningless product of evolution." Not known whether he will wade into the present debates . . .evolving Christian fish

(first article via Follow Me Here)

Update: a group of Catholic scientists are asking the pope to weigh in.

Stop running from your own values

Atrios reiterates the blogistan drumbeat that the Democrats need leaders who can articulate our values, rather than trying to apologize for or run away from them. Even the Republicans are reconsidering their right-wing positions, so there's no reason for the left to try to pick them up!
So, other than hating the gay and maybe the evils of video games, the nation is pretty much on our side. Why are we always running from these issues?
Dem donkeyYes, let's get on with the leadership already!

Digby pipes up in a similar vein:
We should sit tight. We're already in the middle, right where most of the public is. It's just that the public didn't realize it until recently. When the wingnuts start devouring each other we should tie them together and run against the whole lot. I know this because I watched it happen in the 80's. To us.
Well put.

It's us against us!

Fafblog reflects on the ideological divisions within the Democratic party...

(via Atrios)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Weekend outing

Via the ever-amusing mimi smartypants, a trash-talking trip to the aquarium . . .
Hey, catfish, Sylvia Plath called: she wants her depression back. Snap out of it, sad sack. I didn't pay seventeen bucks to watch some half fish/half cat have a nervous breakdown. Been there, done that, fish.
With photos of the offending critters, of course. tee hee.

Now *that's* some Friday cat-blogging

These acrobatic/flying cats pretty much blow my mind. A little normal kittenish jumping is enough to throw my quiet house in disarray -- one can only imagine what these beasties could accomplish in a witching hour...

Pixel face!(via kottke)

Bonus Pixel recap for the weekend:

I'll take hypocrisy for, oh, $500, Alex

You. Must. Be. Kidding.
Priests, meet Catholic dogma...

All better now!

Apparently the best way to end criticism of the treatment of Guantanamo detainees is just to ship them elsewhere, as though that excused their prior treatment and were consistent with previous claims of the serious danger they posed. Sigh.

Putting the question a different way

Rebecca Bood asks the unexpected and intriguing question, "What happens to the First Amendment when the US government recognizes Indian land as holy ground?" Apparently the answer is something along the lines of Cultural sensitivity comes up against the nonendorsement of religion!
In one case, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against an 8-foot cross that had stood since 1934 on a hill in the Mojave National Preserve in California commemorating US soldiers lost in World War I. Yet another panel of judges from that same appellate court ruled that the owner of property in Arizona could not extract sand and gravel for commercial concrete from his land because Hopi, Navajo, and Zuni tribes considered it to be sacred.

Critics say that declarations of hallowed ground by the federal government - just as in cases involving Christmas crèches and other religious displays - go against the First Amendment.
To what degree does/should the historical uniqueness of Native American symbols and sites exclude their handling from standards regarding the equitable treatment of religions?
Among the more well-known sites at least partially protected because of their religious and cultural importance to native Americans are Medicine Wheel and Devil's Tower in Wyoming, Rainbow Bridge in Utah, and Cave Rock on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
These cases could require the generation of new language for describing judicial rationale -- certainly "sacred to tribe X" is different from "historically significant to the United States because of its traditional position in native culture," and they may not demand the same kinds of protections.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

What I believe in this microsecond is what counts...

Senator Rick Santorum professes uncertainty about whether Intelligent Design belongs in the classroom...

(via Atrios)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Do Family Values folks really value families?

In an appropriate follow-up to this previously noted story, Echidne looks at the policy positions of the "family values" clan and then looks around herself in Europe (vacationing) at the families who have restricted working hours, supported daycare, and extended vacation time to spend with their children.
These are all things that the wingnuts oppose. They also oppose environmental protection, even though that would keep children healthy, and work safety regulations, even though those could keep the parents of children healthy and alive. They oppose limitations to the amount of overtime firms can demand from workers, even though overtime means that a parent might never be at home when the children are awake. They oppose subsidized daycare, even if this means that the children of the poor are unsupervised during the day. In fact, the wingnuts oppose everything that makes family values more than just talk.
Once you recognize that their arguments don't really support families trying to get by, you're left with some unpleasant options about where their deeper loyalties lie.

parties butting heads

Can't really add much to this one.

Men whose masculinity is challenged become more inclined to support war or buy an SUV, a new study finds.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

You gotta' take some down time

...and I'm greatly reassured to discover that in these war-waging and terrorism-hunting times, Bush has managed to spend almost a quarter of his Presidency on vacation. And that's not counting the naps. No midnight oil for our boy, nosiree; he's all beauty rest.


Thursday kitten blogging

Today's edition is brought to you by Pixel the Possessed. Yes, our darling kitten gets the witching spirit quite frequently, most often taking the form of wild racing around and attacking of toys, but recently also involving the tormenting of innocent older cats. (They hiss, but still must resemble potential playmates, given her relentless returns to the fray.) So today, some crazed kitten photos.

Doesn't take much to fluff her up -- look out, dangling quilt!!

Must kill paper ball at all costs!!

Attack, then run away!
(lather, rinse, and repeat)

In related news, the Onion reports "War On String May Be Unwinnable, Says Cat General"

For past installments of Pixelly goodness, see 1, 2, 3, 4.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Good-news blogging

As an antidote to bad or wearing recent news, two glimmers of hope in difficult circumstances: First, a newly designed water pump for water-poor regions of the world combines play and necessity by using a children's merry-go-round to power the water into a tank, from which people can then collect it as needed.
The Play-Pump is capable of producing 1400 litres per hour at 16 rpm from a depth of 40m, and is effective up to a depth of 100m. A typical hand pump installation cannot compete with this delivery rate, even with substantial effort.
Less toting, more effectiveness, and encouragement of fun. That's good humanitarian effort!
(via boing boing)

In a related story, an experimental eco-village has proved that sustainability works in the most inhospitable climates.
“They have planted millions of trees, thus regenerating an indigenous rainforest. They farm organically and use wind and solar power. Every family enjoys free housing, community meals, and schooling. There are no weapons, no police, no jail. There is no mayor.”
Animal waste fuels the furnace at the local hospital, which is cooled by funneled breezes. And on and on -- amazing.

(via Rebecca's Pocket, I think...)

From the referrer logs...

Most disturbing search to lead to my site today: "Was Benjamin Franklin an Arian?"
[Answer: spell check first, then GO AWAY!!]

But it looks so clean and sparkly!!

cool condensationAn op-ed at the NYTimes puts the lie to people's convictions that bottled water is better than what comes out of the tap. Public water undergoes more stringent regulation for bacteria and contaminents, and study after study finds that many bottled waters are worse than the average toilet bowl, but somehow the marketing gurus have convinced our hygenically paranoid populace to believe otherwise. Furthermore, the packaging, chilling, and waste disposal for all those plastic bottles is an enormous environmental cost (and nearly infinite when compared with drying off your glass).
Of course, tap water is not so abundant in the developing world. And that is ultimately why I find the illogical enthusiasm for bottled water not simply peculiar, but distasteful. For those of us in the developed world, safe water is now so abundant that we can afford to shun the tap water under our noses, and drink bottled water instead: our choice of water has become a lifestyle option. For many people in the developing world, however, access to water remains a matter of life or death.
Use a filter on your tap (or in your fridge) if you worry about your local sources, but stick with drinking fountains and tap water over the high-priced crap.

(via boing boing)

In what company?

femsignAn article looking at maternity/parental leave policies finds the US rather out on its own in neglecting this aspect of family support.
To put it another way, out of 168 nations in a Harvard University study last year, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave, leaving the United States in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.
They cite different views on population growth (and effects of immigration) as well as different approaches of feminist movements in different parts of the world. It would be pretty easy to make an argument based on American obsession with business rights over family issues as well. Anyway... Swaziland? Sigh.

(via Alas, a blog)

A sobering history

Juan Cole takes a historical look at American cultivation of Islamic militants in the last 25 years in a way that lays the shape and effectiveness of the current terrorist threat uncomfortably close to our own feet. It starts with Reagan's enthusiastic arming of Afghani rebels to fight the Soviets, includes our helping them find private sources of funding (including the bin Laden family), and traces lots of wrangling of ever-better armaments for various factions throughout the Mideast. The kind of dot-connecting that's mighty hard to ignore...
By giving the Muj weaponry like the stinger shoulderheld missile, which could destroy advanced Soviet arms like their helicopter gunships, Reagan demonstrated to the radical Muslims that they could defeat a super power.
. . .
[forward to 2005] The American Right, having created the Mujahideen and having mightily contributed to the creation of al-Qaeda, abruptly announced that there was something deeply wrong with Islam, that it kept producing terrorists.
Sigh. Seems long, but there are lots of pictures, so check it out.

(via a furling at Medley)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Off-season horserace fix

During last year's elections, I was watching more than the President and my local Senatorial race -- through kos and other sites, I became interested in and knowledgable about a bunch of promising races around the country where Dems were claiming new voting blocs and reaching out with new messages. Many of those races were long-shots, but they got some new people excited and involved.

Anyway, whether or not you were a political junkie last year, you might be intrigued by things going on in an Ohio special election right now with a dark-horse progressive candidate named Hackett. DavidNYC has a starting place...

[Also, here's a lengthy insider's take on the race.]

and here's a take on the outcome. An expected blow-out became a squeaker, and the Dem. contender is likely to come back as a statewide candidate. wow!