Friday, June 20, 2008

Telecom Amnesty

I'm far too angry right now to write properly on the topic, so I'll direct you to Glenn Greenwald, who does a great job of it.

Apparently, the Democrats in congress have come up with a "compromise" (presumably of any morals and beliefs they may have held about Americans' civil rights) which gives the White House exactly what it wants; effective immunity to the telecoms for wiretapping without a warrant, solely on the say-so of the President. The only concession that the Democrats apparently bothered to get was that the bill comes up for reauthorization in 2012. A bill which declares that judges must dismiss legal action against anyone who breaks the law in the aid of intelligence gathering on terrorists if the President approved it. Because that power would never be abused. Meanwhile, McCain says he approves of this bill, and Barack is nowhere to be found. We're all so screwed.


Listening to: BBC - Doctor Who
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Last Father's Day

So I found this ad (via Andrew Sullivan) from the Family Research Council yesterday, and it's just one of those things that really bothers me. "The next step will be to remove 'Father' from birth certificates." On what world? This is part of that "slippery slope" argument that says, if we allow gay marriage, soon all our families will be destroyed, and people will engage in bestiality and polygamy...AT THE SAME TIME! Which honestly, is just so much BS. The only reason we'd have to remove "Father" from birth certificates is if there were widespread options that no longer required both sexes to produce a child. If science could fertilize an egg with another, modified egg, then yes, we have no need for "Father" on the birth certificate. Until then, I suspect it's sticking around.

As to the idea that suddenly everyone is going to want to marry goats, or inanimate objects, or children...that's even more crazy than the birth certificate idea. Marriage, as administered by the US Government, is simply a contract between two people. As you may be aware, animals, furniture and children are all incapable of entering into a legal contract, as they are not legally recognized as being able to give consent.

Oh, and this will destroy traditional marriage? People still seem to be happily married in Massachusetts. People aren't abandoning their families, and this isn't going to convince anyone that they shouldn't get married to the person they love. If it does, perhaps they shouldn't be getting married to that person anyway. People aren't going to suddenly discover they're gay, and run off on their wife to marry another man.

Also, since this is a legal contract, filed with a secular body (the US Government), I'd suggest that religion should play absolutely no part in this argument. Yes, 71% of Americans are some form of Christian. Some major denominations allow openly gay clergy, and even marry their gay members. So don't pretend that there's some overwhelming national desire to deny people the right to marry in a secular society. Your church is not going to be required to marry them, so don't require the government to abide by all the rules of your church.

Stop blaming the "activist" courts. Simply disagreeing with you doesn't make a court "activist." "But they're opposing the will of the people," you might say. Well good. That's what courts are there for. If you want will of the people, talk to your legislator or your executive. The courts are there to uphold the constitution, and protect the rights of minorities from abuse by the majority. In the case of California, what the courts did was reinforce the idea—from Brown v. Board of Education—that separate can never be equal. That California had set up homosexuals with a parallel system of civil unions, including all the rights and benefits of marriage. What these civil unions did, which made them unequal, was to say, by merit of being the same thing under a different name, "You are different, and are not allowed to engage in the same kind of contracts as everyone else because of your sexual orientation."

Sexual orientation, of course, is biologically wired in, likely before birth as a new study shows. As such, it is as immutable as your race, and thus discriminating on that basis is unconstitutional. This was the reasoning of the court, and sound reasoning at that. This is not some liberal court full of people trying to change society. This is, by all accounts, a conservative, cautious court. All but two members were appointed by Republican governors, and most have been confirmed by popular vote of the people. This is also not entirely against the will of the people. Twice, the California legislature passed gay marriage laws, and both times (if I recall correctly) they were vetoed, by Governor Schwarzenegger. He said that he was leaving this to the courts. Now the courts have decided, and he is standing behind that decision. The Republican governor of California is opposing the attempt to alter California's constitution in order to outlaw gay marriage.

So I hope people enjoyed Father's Day. You should enjoy the one next year, too, 'cause it's not going away anytime soon.


Listening to: Foo Fighters - Cheer Up Boys, Your Makeup Is Running
via FoxyTunes

Water, Water Everywhere

Just a point of oddness. Up here in Wisconsin, the flooding hasn't been as bad as for Iowa and other places southward. Not that Lake Delton draining didn't cause some problems.

So, I-94, the main east-west corridor, has 30 miles shut down in the 80 miles between Milwaukee and Madison due to the flooding. They're beginning emergency construction to create a crossover from westbound I-94 to get onto eastbound, avoiding the need for an overly-long detour.

In other news which, when I found it next to the first story, I thought was fairly ironic. US and Canadian officials will be in Wisconsin this week to discuss the near record low levels of water in Lake Michigan.

That is all.


Listening to: Foo Fighters - My Hero
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pres. Bush: Democrats Caused High Gas Prices

I'm just watching the brief speech George Bush gave on his new idea for energy policy (that John McCain started using last week); specifically, that he wants congress to lift the ban on off-shore oil drilling, and in return he would lift the Presidential prohibition on such drilling. He also spoke of oil shale and ANWR, though they seemed secondary. I'm not entirely opposed to these ideas, though with the stipulation that they be performed with strong environmental safeties, and that the American people understand exactly what we get out of this.

What we get is not cheaper gas. At least, not cheaper that you'd ever notice. Most studies I've seen cite something along the lines of a $0.02 decrease in gas prices in about 5 years. It would take time to prospect for the oil, then construction of drilling rig, piping, or whatever is necessary to carry it to refineries, and then we can start pumping. All of which will likely take a couple years, maybe under one year if everything is rushed. Then we run into the problem of refining it. We need more refineries. We have for a while. The newest refinery in America is, I believe, almost 10 years older than I am. So if we get the oil from our own shores, at best it will replace oil coming from elsewhere, as refining is currently a bottleneck in getting usable forms of energy to the market. This is often cited as part of the idea of "energy independence" and as a national security issue. While it may be somewhat true, if America stops buying Arabian oil (or any other foreign oil), China, India, and many other industrializing nations will quickly snap up the difference. That's part of the problem.

There's lots of blame to be had with the price of oil right now. Democrats are inclined to blame George Bush, and his unnecessary war in Iraq, today in his speech, George Bush blamed the Democrats in control of Congress (who came back to power when oil prices were already much raised, as opposed to his own tenure for the entire length of this price spike) and effectively suggested that the voters hold the Democrats responsible for high oil prices. He also put blame on former-President Bill Clinton for the ban on offshore drilling, despite the fact that his own father, the first President Bush, is the one to ban offshore drilling in the first place. Every party in government (with the possible exception of the handful of Independents) holds some responsibility for this. More than once before, oil has spiked to levels which leave people desperate. But they go back down eventually, and no one does anything to solve the problems. There are also a number of very real reasons why oil prices are on the rise.

First, the American Dollar. Our economy of late has been weakening as we skirt recession, lose jobs, deal with inflation (much of which is, itself being pushed by rising fuel prices), see widespread home foreclosures, and spend billions in Iraq on a war that is widely unpopular. The end result is the falling value of the Dollar. With the value falling, all imports become more expensive, and our exports become cheaper. What this means is that the quantity of our exports are rising, as people want more American products at the newly reduced prices. We've avoided a technical recession by merit of our increased exports, preventing by slim margins our economy from having two sequential quarters of losses. Internally, we're suffering the effects of import prices rising. Necessities (food, clothing, fuel, etc.) are rising faster than the rest of the marketplace, due to an inflexible demand curve. Part of the high price of oil and gas right now is simply an extension of the fact that our Dollar is so weak right now.

Second, China. But not just China. India as well, and a number of other nations. Africa is rising somewhat, as well as other countries in Southeast Asia and South America. Specifically, all these nations are industrializing. China and India of course comprise about half the world population (compared to America and Europe's combined 17%), and in the last few years, they've really begun pushing forward with modernizing their nations, building cities, commercial centers, and getting their citizens in automobiles. As more people in industrializing nations try to live like Americans, they'll be taking up more resources that we want in America. This is another reason that we need to set an example on alternative energy, and efficient use of energy; other nations are trying to emulate our quality of life, and if we continue to be as wasteful as we have been, we're setting a very poor example. America uses far more energy per capita than Europe, especially Western Europe, and the newly developed countries are going to be less efficient anyway. So imagine for a moment: China and India, as they try to match our lifestyles, using 10 times as much energy as America...if they're that efficient. Perhaps 12 times as much, or 15. That isn't a level of energy usage that the world can sustain for long. At this point, America needs to show leadership. It's been a while since we showed true leadership. We've spent a while now simply issuing dictates that we seem to expect other countries to follow. We're the greatest country in the world, or so I've been told. It's time that we take the lead again, and develop cleaner, more efficient technologies, and hopefully we can begin to create ones which run on a renewable resource. If all our world's resources are burned up by China and India, we all suffer.

Third is the suggestion that we are now, or soon will be, at the point of peak oil. Peak oil is the point in time where maximum possible worldwide petroleum production is reached. After that point, oil production will begin to drop off, never to recover. We've known for a long time that there's a finite amount of oil under the surface of the earth, but there's little suggestion of what to do once it runs out. Even the optimistic projections put the time for peak oil in the 2030's. Rumors of peak oil approaching seem to be driving prices upward. Some people suggest that peak oil is a lie, and that petroleum is formed by natural processes of the earth, meaning that there is an infinite supply of oil, and that peak oil is simply a conspiracy to make us give up comfortable lifestyles for ones that use renewable resources. Until serious scientists support their theory, they are (like Young Earth Creationists) officially crazy. Don't pay attention to them. Leave it to professionals.

I suppose the moral of the story is this: We need to reduce our overall need for oil, not just foreign oil. Whether that's making lifestyle changes, or just technology changes, it doesn't matter. We can't keep going forever (or quite possibly, even for the rest of my life) on the track we're on. We need to take a leadership role in the world again, and get us on to renewable resources to power our world. A stronger economy will dent the price of fuel, but won't bring it back down to where it was in 2000. Unless we make changes of some kind, we're going to run into a wall on energy, because petroleum is a finite resource. You know, unless these guys make it renewable.


Listening to: Punchline - Flashlight
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Barack Obama's Ad

Sorting through Barack Obama's YouTube channel is a little difficult. He has more than 1,000 videos, and more than 100 that respond to a search for ads. Barack has not yet begun general election advertising, so it was interesting trying to pick one out. I did come across one that could be used as a general election ad, and is an example of a good one:

It of course begins with Barack giving a speech, which is always good for him. He takes this opportunity to establish that he's not the usual Washington pol, coming up with only short-term answers. Then, over the video of his speech, he lays out a bulleted list of actual goals; $1,000 middle class tax cut, raising fuel efficiency, etc. This is an excellent commercial for a higher-information voter like myself. I also find it to be a fairly friendly and warm ad, like the second McCain ad I posted. Barack especially, though, has to watch out, in some of his other ads, that he does actually explain what he's going to do, and not just give a great speech. He's accused of being all words, and no policy. I know that he has good policy positions, and it's important for him to get them out there.

I'll probably come back to this issue as more campaign advertising comes up.


Listening to: Daft Punk - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
via FoxyTunes

John McCain's Ads

I was spurred to write this post as John McCain's ad came on the air once again, as I prepare lunch. Checking out his YouTube channel, it seems he does have more commercials than that one, and I'll have to check them all out. But this one ad has been getting on my nerves:

It's a fine commercial, not so grating as some campaign ads I've seen over the years. The problem is, what does this actually tell me about John McCain? He's a veteran from a line of veterans? Okay, check. I think everyone already knew that, but maybe not. He wants to keep America safe? Alright. Good. So does your opponent. Only a fool or a fraud talks tough or romantically about war? Is this an attempt to distance yourself from the administration? They've certainly talked both tough and romantically about war. I'm gonna be generous, I suppose, and take George Bush to be a fool, then, rather than a fraud. If there's a fraud in the White House, it's probably Cheney. But that aside, this commercial really doesn't explain the candidate, or his positions on the issues, even issues of security, defense and foreign policy. Simply that he thinks war is bad. Looking at his stated positions, that doesn't seem to bar him from wanting to prosecute the war we're in, or an additional war with Iran. It doesn't even inform me about his existing record.

Maybe I view these differently because I'm so steeped in politics, especially this year. I can certainly guarantee I'm following all of this much closer than the average voter, and probably am looking for something different in an ad than said average voter. I'm interested in getting more detail, some actual specifics. Doesn't have to be a lot, I know you've only got a short timeslot to make yourself look good in, but give me something other than just a feel-good message. Not that I don't like a well made feel-good message. I certainly do. But I want to see some suggestion of where you're going with my country; at the very least I'd like a heavily biased look at your record. Give me something to like or hate about your politics, not just your biography.

John McCain yesterday released a new ad:

This ad actually does a much better job of portraying him. It gives him a bit of distance from George Bush, bringing up his disagreements on environmental policy. The ad also advances an issue that he can clearly point to for Independents as evidence that he isn't a partisan ideologue. In addition, while it does not actually contain any policy points, it does a very good job of feeling like it gave you information. At the very least, it did present that John McCain is concerned about the environment and intends to work for Green issues; implying alternative energy with the dam and the solar panels. It even brings in the economy. Overall, a much better ad for John McCain than his first one. If you're interested in seeing more ads from John McCain, check out his YouTube channel.


Listening to: Omni Trio - Earth Song
via FoxyTunes

AP Threatens To Become New RIAA

The title may be somewhat exaggerated, but it was my first thought when I read the articles. The AP has decided to issue take-down demands for blogs quoting and linking to AP articles. The center of this is The Drudge Retort (the liberal one, not the Drudge Report), which the AP filed 7 DMCA take-down notices against. The majority of the complaints that I've found seem to be the use of the AP article headline, combined with a short blurb from the article, and with the link inherent, usually in the title, or alongside it. Apparently, the AP doesn't want bloggers to present the news in their posts, but rather have the link up, and get the blog's readership to click through and read the article themselves. Examples from the Drudge Retort can be found here.

That's all fine and good, except that I know most readers don't click through even on suggested reading links. Links are there to provide you with information if you want it. The problem is, people aren't inclined, for the most part, to read those anymore. Articles longer than a few paragraphs are no longer worth reading. So we'll read whatever the blog has to say, and click on the next blog post, or next blog. I know that I, and certainly some others, do in fact open up those links to read later, and sometimes I even do read them. I also know that most people I've spoken with never do, and unless it's a special case, probably never will. They got the information they wanted from the blog post, and that's not what the AP even wants. The thing making me more likely to click through is what the AP is upset about. The headline, and a blurb about it. If I like what I see, I might want to find out more. I saw on the Washington Post that the AP is already backtracking somewhat on this issue, though not withdrawing the take-down notices. I just hope the AP figures out a way to handle this that doesn't involve licenses for bloggers, or open warfare with the blogosphere.


Listening to: Lupe Fiasco - Daydreamin' (featuring Jill Scott)
via FoxyTunes

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Do Like Chocolate

I happened to stumble across this rather delicious-looking recipe for Chocolate Truffle Pie. It's actually quite similar to the chocolate portion of a trifle that I made for my father's birthday. Now I just need to get a few ingredients...

Listening to: VersaEMERGE - In Pursuing Design
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Words To My Father

This is, I'm now realizing, Father's Day. This is not the post (or message) that I might have posted had I realized initially what today was. Unemployed at the moment, however, I'm a bit fuzzy on which day of the week it is.

This morning, I was in a mood to write an email to my father, in regards to the Presidential contest currently underway. He was an early supporter of Barack Obama, though partly because he couldn't stand Hillary Clinton. He felt that Barack offered something different, and really was the same kind of leader that JFK was. Then the Reverend Wright happened, and FOX News started slapping that together with a bunch of other rumor-stuff, and fed it to my early-fifties, white male, blue-collar father. I tried to combat it, but he had his mind made up. I have really never understood why he watches FOX. Yesterday, as I passed by him, reading his paper, he made a comment about how "this wife of his is gonna be what sinks his campaign." So I argued. He's not entirely convinced, but he also doesn't know anymore who he'll vote for. He seems unwilling to entirely discount the internet rumor-mill regarding Barack, but still hopes he's a JFK figure (he's also quick to note that Barack might be a good President, but will be assassinated faster than any other President has been, by some racists who don't want a black man in the White House). He has also held the view of McCain left over from 2000, of the maverick. Lately, however, he's noticed that McCain seems confused. "If he didn't have Lieberman there to lead him around, he'd never get anything right," he informed me yesterday. So this morning, I felt I had to pop off an email to explain these rumors, and address the new John McCain. It was something I sank a good deal more energy into than I originally intended (I was shooting for a short paragraph, maybe two), so I've decided to share it here, as my thoughts on the chain emails going after Barack and his family.

Barack Obama has been getting a lot of crap from anonymous people online, sending chain emails and such, a lot of which get picked up by FOX News, especially people like O'Reilly and Hannity. The attacks all claim that Barack (or his wife) are un-American, or are secretly Muslims (though she's usually an atheist in the stories). They say that Barack and Michelle Obama hate America, hate white people, and want to destroy everything that America is founded on.

They take film clips of Michelle saying that she has "never before been this proud of [her] country," and chop out one word; now Michelle in the clip says "I've never before been - proud of my country." She was referring to the fact that one of the major-party nominees would be either a black man, or a woman. But leave it to the people who send these emails, and the Republican Party (which did the same edit job in Tennessee) and suddenly, Michelle has never found anything to be proud of in America. FOX News runs a banner declaring her "Obama's Baby Mama." A "baby-mama" of course, is often defined as "a woman you got pregnant on accident during a fling, who you can’t stand but you have to tolerate because she has your child now." This of course carries some real negative connotations, which stand in stark contrast to their marriage and relationship. It does, however, fit neatly with the message that the Obamas are different, and dangerous, and very Black.

Barack doesn't wear a flag pin all the time. As he explained it, he felt that the pin had become too much a stand-in for real patriotism. He wears it sometimes, but not all the time, so the anti-Obama crowd declare that he NEVER wears one, and provide a half-dozen photos of him without the pin. Of course, John McCain almost never wears a flag pin, but no one can question his patriotism—even when McCain recently said that it can be "very tough" to be proud of America lately. Or Barack doesn't put his hand over his heart for the national anthem, or refuses to say the pledge of allegiance, and was sworn in on a Koran instead of the Bible. All to paint him as foreign and frightening. Someone who hates white people and America.

There's lots worse that's been suggested. Basically, that Barack is a rapist, murderer, thief, and just about anything else you could think of. So now he has started a website to address the attacks. Also, the always popular Snopes site, which addresses the truth of rumors, myths, and urban legends, has a page on the rumors about Barack Obama.

On the other hand, John McCain no longer represents what he stood for in 2000. He doesn't represent what he stood for 2 years ago. He opposed the Bush tax cuts, saying they only benefited the wealthy; now he thinks they need to be made permanent. He once denounced Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and the like as "agents of intolerance." He recently sought out, and then had to reject the endorsements of Evangelical preachers who suggest that Hitler was doing God's work with the Holocaust, and that America was founded solely to destroy Muslims. He helped write and pass the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law, and has now violated at least two different provisions of it. Fortunately for him, the Federal Election Commission only has 3 out of 6 seats filled, so they can't even hold him accountable for his violations. He has opposed the use of torture (for obvious reasons), but then voted against a bill formally outlawing the use of torture by American forces. In 2003, 2005, and 2006, he advocated shutting down Guantanamo Bay, and transferring all the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, where they would be put on trial as criminals. Now, when the Supreme Court rules that these people have the right to challenge their detentions in US Courts, he declares it "[o]ne of the worst decisions in the history of this country." He now responds as if taking them to Fort Leavenworth and giving them a trial, as he himself repeatedly suggested, is the same thing as just setting all of them loose on the streets of America. It's simply terrifying that we might hold on to our foundational American principles, freedoms, and rights in the face of terrorists. John McCain isn't the man he used to be, and even though he was my choice in the 2000 elections, I cannot support him in any way anymore. He has become worse than George Bush, and his principles have left him.

I'm glad that Barack is choosing to take on these vicious rumors directly. John Kerry never did, and they never went away. Barack has to deal with far worse ones, and despite his pledge to campaign cleanly, he is not going to simply take these attacks lying down.


Listening to: Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Democrats need to unite.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton officially suspended her campaign and endorsed Barack Obama as the Democratic Presidential Nominee. She spoke on a variety of topics, and while I appreciated the overall message she carried, I was a bit disoriented with the sharp gear-shifts during the speech. It was somewhat awkward, seeming to be a half-dozen different speeches stitched together, though she often had that problem throughout the campaign.

But this post is not about the quality of her speech. What this post is about is disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters.

When this campaign started, I would not have voted for Hillary Clinton if you paid me. She was divisive, had almost no real experience, and honestly just rubbed me the wrong way. She had negatives in national polling hovering around 50%, which is not a good sign for a potential nominee. I was supporting Barack Obama, though before he got in, I was hoping that we'd get some of our other women leaders to join this race. Janet Napolitano, Kathleen Sebelius, Diane Feinstein, etc. We have quite a few women who have proven their political strength and abilities as Governors and Senators. Not as many as perhaps we should, but still a reasonable pool to draw from. I wanted them to join because I want to see a woman break that last barrier and become President of the United States. That would be a great day for America. I just could not take Hillary.

Bill Clinton has been arguably the best president in my lifetime. He did not significantly alter the political landscape, but he did bring the country 8 very good years. Our economy was strong, we were fairly well-liked around the world, and it was just a good time all around. My only problem was that Bill Clinton was one of the worst forms of politician. He would use minority groups, such as the African-American community, or the gay community to get himself elected, and once in office, he would ignore them, or even harm their interests. He had a long history of womanizing, and when it finally came down on him, it was beyond him to take any responsibility for what he did. It was all about the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. While I don't doubt that much of the actual problem resulted from the actions of right-wing talk radio, preachers, and politicians, the fact remains that Bill Clinton has never been able to admit his mistakes. It is always someone else's fault, and watching Hillary's campaign unfold, I've often felt that a similar principle applies at her campaign HQ. The whole of the Clinton administration was filled with high drama, and I wanted to avoid that.

But things have changed. There are plenty of new things I've found to dislike about Hillary Clinton over the course of this campaign. Her surrogates have really pushed the idea of Barack as being just a Black Candidate. Someone that white people can't and won't vote for. They've pushed the idea that the campaign coverage is sexist, and biased against her. Her campaign is full of some really questionable people; Mark Penn, Harold Ickes, Howard Wolfson, etc. Bill Clinton seemed to really lose it over the course of this campaign. But through all of that, I realized: I can vote for Hillary Clinton. I think it's actually Barack that convinced me. When he spoke of Hillary, he was always respectful, would talk about the things that she's accomplished, and about the similarities in what they hope to accomplish in the White House. When Barack won, he would acknowledge Hillary Clinton, and how hard she fought. When he lost, he would congratulate her, talk about the number of people turning out and the strength of the Democratic message, and keep his message positive. Hillary may not have always (or almost ever) returned the feeling when she lost, but it started to matter less to me. Barack had a strong underlying message, rarely ever brought to the surface, but always just under it, that if he was not the nominee, we still needed to pull together, and stop another term of these same ruinous policies that George W. Bush put in place, and that John McCain is largely promising to continue.

What I'm now concerned about is that apparently, many of Hillary Clinton's supporters, especially in the blogosphere, did not receive the same message. Hitting some of the big names (, yesterday, I found anger. I'd even go so far as to call it hatred. Pure vitriol being spewed in the direction of Barack Obama, the DNC, and the media. Barack stole the election, Barack will never get our votes, we're voting for McCain or we're writing in Hillary. Barack is a tool of the media, the media which hyped Barack Obama, and smeared Hillary with a campaign of misogyny and accusations of racism. While I'm sure that is something that Hillary supporters would like to believe, evidence would seem not to support it. First off, it felt to me as an Obama supporter, that the media was focusing almost entirely on digging up dirt on him to try to make him look as un-American and radical as possible. I actually stopped watching CNN entirely early on because I felt their anti-Obama coverage was so strong, and they favored Hillary so heavily. Geraldine Ferraro (who said that Barack had an advantage because he was black) recently wrote an op-ed for the Boston Globe which, among other things, asked that a study be undertaken by
The Shorenstein Center at Harvard to determine how biased the coverage was against Hillary, and to determine what action should be taken to prevent this sort of thing. The thing is, the day before the op-ed was published, The Shorenstein Center released a study on just that topic. From the Press Release:

Barack Obama has not enjoyed a better ride in the press than rival Hillary Clinton, according to a new study of primary coverage by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University...

Clinton had just as much success as Obama in projecting one of her most important themes in the media, the idea that she is prepared to lead the country on “Day One.” She has also had substantial success in rebutting the idea that she is difficult to like or is cold or distant, and much of that rebuttal came directly from journalists offering the rebuttal.

So it would seem that both sides simply read what was mostly unbiased coverage (I'm sure you spotted as many Barack supporters on the air as I did Hillary supporters) as being against their own candidate. I suppose we never like to admit that our chosen candidates, which we have invested so much time, energy, emotion, and possibly money into have flaws. We would hear only the things that didn't fit what we wanted to hear: negatives about our choice, positives about the competition. I'm sure there was sexism to be found in the coverage. I suspect much of it was unintentional, some (such as what Ferraro suggests) is blown completely out of proportion after being taken out of context. There was also racism in the coverage, though a lot of it was restricted to FOX.

I'm seeing that Hillary's supporters are mad at the DNC, and the party leaders, because they took what was rightfully Hillary's. I'll grant that I also disagreed with the 69-59 split of Michigan. I would have accepted easily a 73-55 split. It would not have changed the results in the end. I'm seeing allegations that the DNC conspired to make sure Hillary couldn't get the nomination. If you're talking about the leadership, some of them (Nancy Pelosi, maybe Howard Dean) were probably for Barack, but there were also others (Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel) that I saw rather convincing evidence were for Hillary. If you mean the superdelegates themselves, it's hardly a valid argument. Even if it were true, it was Hillary herself arguing that they should vote for whoever they feel like. Even her own supporters, people who advocated very strongly on her behalf were endorsing Barack Obama once he reached the required number of delegates.

I know that it hurts for your candidate to lose, especially after coming so close; we all remember Florida in 2000. What we can't do is let this turn into votes against Barack Obama. If Hillary's supporters decide to vote for John McCain, or stay home, or write-in Hillary, they're all in effect supporting John McCain. Some of them simply declare him the lesser of two evils, some say that we just have to suffer for 4 more years and then we can elect Hillary. I can assure you of this: If it seems like Barack loses this fall because Hillary's supporters voted for McCain or if there's a lot of Hillary write-ins, this is going to mean that Hillary takes the blame for Barack's loss. It's already possible. Don't make it reality. More importantly, don't make John McCain a reality.

John McCain, for his part, is about as bad a candidate as you could choose if you support the rights of women. Women for Barack Obama has a pretty good breakdown of his positions, and Salon (which has now been thoroughly parodied for its sometimes overly-strong support for Hillary Clinton) Also has a piece on McCain's positions on reproductive rights. Interestingly, referring to focus-group meetings in Minnesota and Virginia:

Even women who described themselves as "pro-life" said that the latter positions cast McCain as a man who is "unrealistic," "out of touch" and "stuck in the past," according to the memo. And those same women were especially disappointed because they had expected him to hold the moderate views that the media has so often ascribed to its favorite.

If you're looking for someone that the media loves, and ignores the faults of, it's John McCain. Since his 2000 run, he has been a media favorite, being very friendly with the reporters, and garnering largely positive coverage, even as he appears to have no idea about how many troops we have in Iraq (unless he was talking about the present as the past from the future, and simply doesn't know what year it is), or the difference between Shi'ite and Sunni, among other notable facts he seems to be lacking. Meanwhile, John McCain is staffing his campaign with people who feel that George Bush hasn't gone far enough in his prosecution of the War on Terror, or the wars in the Middle East. He is hiring on people who believe that the founding fathers wanted the President to have "near-dictatorial" powers.

Lastly, I'd like to say that Hillary Clinton, even if she doesn't run again is not the last chance for a woman president "in our lifetimes" as I've heard many a 30 or 40 year-old proclaim. At the start of this season, I was hoping for some of our other promising female politicians to run (Janet Napolitano being my personal favorite). Many of them are at least as qualified as Hillary Clinton, and hopefully next time one of them will be on the top of the ticket. Don't despair. Hillary is not the last, but the first.

Also, if you're interested in why you should vote for Barack Obama, I hope to get up a post on that topic. In the meantime, you can go to the Issues page of his website, or download his Blueprint for Change. I encourage you to do so.


Listening to: Paramore - Miracle
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Controversial Education Standards

We've heard from places all across the country and the internet about controversies surrounding school science curriculum. Specifically, that of biology. There is a conflict going on in this country regarding evolution being taught in schools. This is not to say that there is an argument among scientists as to whether evolution occurs. Evolution is observable on a fairly consistent basis, and in more places all the time. The only question at hand is the causes and the processes by which evolution occurs. There is certainly room enough there for disagreement. However, we have seen calls for Creationism to be taught in our schools and, more recently, Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design effectively amounts to personal disbelief; an argument that the world is simply too complicated for people to believe that it arose by "random chance." Evolution is about anything but random chance, but that's not what I'm here about today.

On Friday, the Dallas Morning News ran an article about the Texas State Board of Education, and their approval of a new set of standards for the English curriculum in the state of Texas. A collection of teachers and experts have spent the last two and a half years putting together a set of standards on how English should be taught. This plan was passed over by the board in favor of a tentative approval of a curriculum proposal from the group StandardWorks, which was brought in to facilitate the approval process. That tentative approval came with a 9-6 vote in favor, but a rewrite was undertaken by the three members of the board who are apparently the social conservative bloc. They seem to have merged various aspects of both plans into some sort of hybrid document, in an attempt to bring around the remaining six board members. In theory, this is perfectly fine. But here is where the problem comes in:

"I'm appalled by the process that we've taken part in," said board member Bob Craig, a Republican from Lubbock. There's been "no opportunity to review it, no teacher group is involved, not even the (Texas Education Agency) staff was involved or had seen it."

Apparently, this new set of standards was slipped under the hotel doors of the board members less than an hour before they met to vote on the proposal. They were given insufficient time to review it, and then when they arrived at the board meeting, Don McLeroy, chairman of the SBoE proceeded to rush them through the changes, not allowing time to find the pages that said changes were made on. When complaints were made about the speed with which this was being covered, "... you're being dilatory in dragging this out," McLeroy said. This new package was then sent for a vote; it passed, 9-6. The stated goal of the rewrite was not achieved, and at least to me, raises questions as to what the results might be from this hodge-podge of standards. It could of course be just fine. But at the same time, doing an overnight redraft, without sufficient time to review, mistakes can be made.

Up next, science curriculum standards. Chairman Don McLeroy is a stated skeptic on the issue of evolution, and he's not the only one on the board. There is a good deal of interest in pushing textbooks that present "minority views" on evolution. Specifically, that it doesn't happen. If that's the view to be found in textbooks in Texas, I worry for the future of students in Texas. Advancements these days in almost every portion of the biology field requires knowledge of evolution, because it is based on evolution. It will be important to keep an eye on that meeting, and watch for this same kind of actions. If board members are again asked to vote on something that they effectively have not been allowed to review, Texas is in trouble.


Also referenced:
KXAN News - Austin, TX
Dallas Morning News

Listening to: Arash - Tike Tike Kardi (Sodaclub remix)
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Politics

If one of the primary topics here is going to be politics, I suppose I should lay out my own views, if only in a general sense, right at the start.

I am current registered as a Democrat, though I have in the past (and almost certainly will in the future) voted for Republican candidates. I think of myself as fairly moderate, and I'd like to think that I listen to the opinions of the other side, so long as they're supported by some kind of facts. Honestly, my biggest problem with Republicans right now is that they're no longer standing up for conservative principles. George Bush has taken the party off a cliff, and almost every Republican member of Congress has been content to vote for whatever the President says, because he's a Republican, and the leader. What we need is people who can think for themselves.

I've been politically classified as a libertarian-socialist. Specifically, I think that less government involvement in day-to-day life is better. Privacy from government intrusion, especially into our homes is important to me. If you can imagine, I'm not much of a fan of the Patriot Act. I'm not going to go into all my policy positions here, I'm sure that over time they'll mostly be brought up.

I suppose one of the more current barometers for political position is the US Presidential race. I'm supporting Barack Obama. He's been my candidate from the start, and despite what's approaching 10 years of interest in politics, this is the first time I have made a donation to a political candidate of any sort. At the start of this whole mess of a primary, the two candidates I was most worried about were Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani did his best to out-hawk George W. Bush. Hillary Clinton was horribly divisive, and watching how she has worked ever since the 90's, she would seem to offer the same style of governing we've seen from George Bush, if somewhat more intelligent; lots of unnecessary secrecy, people appointed for loyalty over ability, abuses of power, etc. I actually liked Romney and Huckabee initially. Romney has an excellent resume, and I felt that even if I didn't care for many of his policies, he could at least likely be trusted with the budget. Mike Huckabee had a populist message that I liked a fair portion of. He kind of lost me when he suggested that the US Constitution should be changed to match the principles of the Christian Bible. Ron Paul...well, he's Ron Paul. Half of what he had to say made a lot of sense, the other half was kind of crazy. The only other candidates I liked on the Democratic side were John Edwards (who was my second choice after Wesley Clark in 2004) and Bill Richardson, who certainly had the experience argument down.

In the end, I had to go with Barack Obama for his inspriational message, and his honest attempts to reach out to younger voters. He's the first national-level politician that I've felt honestly cares about issues important to us. Admittedly, we don't usually vote, so caring about us is not normally something that gives returns. I also really like Obama's policy papers on technology and transparency in government, and his history of actually reaching across the aisle and working with people who don't always agree with him initially in order to actually get things done.

My second choice was John McCain, right from the start. He was the candidate I was rooting for in 2000, and I was rather upset that he lost the primary. It essentially left the 2000 election as a choice between Boring (D) and Stupid (R). I supported Boring, because there are worse sins, though I never expected the level of damage that was to be dealt by Stupid. In any event, while I disagree with John McCain on many policies, I at least respected him greatly for standing for what he believed in , rather than simply following party lines (not that he often diverged). He was someone who would say what he thought, and that counted for a lot with me. Then he seemed to lose his way. He sought out endorsements of Evangelical preachers spouting hate speech, ones he would have labeled "agents of intolerance" back in 2000. He abandoned the idea of a balanced budget in favor of Bush's tax cuts.

At this point, I don't think I could support John McCain anymore, but if Hillary were to snatch away this Democratic nomination, I don't think I could support her, either. Likewise, I would lose a good deal of faith in Barack Obama were he to select Clinton as his VP. She runs so counter to his idea of what government should be that an appointment of her as VP would be a betrayal of what he seems to stand for.

I refuse to be swayed by fears of potential terrorist attacks. I refuse to be influenced by personal attacks on the candidates. This year, I am going to vote on the issues that truly matter to me. I'm going to vote my hopes, rather than my fears.


Listening to: Powerspace - Sleep, Everyone
via FoxyTunes

Starting Out

For any readers here, I'd first like to say welcome. I never expected to see you here. I've really only started this because I have so many things that I want to express to people, but after I've told a few friends, the issue will still be bothering me, and I want to just find people to tell. I'm just a little crazy like that.

This blog will cover whatever topics happen to be of interest to me when I think to write about them. The largest portion of this is likely to be politics-oriented. Whether national or local (and not even necessarily my local), politics have long been of interest to me. This includes economics, foreign policy, civil rights, etc. Aside from that, you're likely to find odd bits of other stuff; internet humor, technology, video games, movies, and anything else that strikes my fancy.

Yes, I realize that this will likely be far from original, and may not bring anything notably new to the conversation, but at this point, I felt like I had to join in. In the interests of continuing the conversation, I'm leaving comments open. I'm hoping (against all previous evidence) that any comments left here will be of a vaguely positive/constructive tone, rather than name-calling/personal insults. Please, let's keep it civil.

So, having covered all that I can think of for now, once again, welcome.

Listening to: Foo Fighters - Disenchanted Lullaby
via FoxyTunes