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Monday, April 12, 2004  

Revisited: Conservatives for Kerry

Several bloggers are curious about the Conservatives for Kerry weblog I wrote about recently. They wonder if its proprietor, Jim Cook, is serious about opposition to the Bush regime. The entry that has us asking questions appeared after I had written about the site.

Another Alternative to Bush? Draft Roy Moore for President

A reader has alerted me to another alternative to George W. Bush for conservatives: Roy Moore is apparently considering a run for the presidency under the banner Constitution Party. Those of you who have been paying attention know Roy Moore as the judge who refused to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, and lost his job as a result.

If you can't stand thinking of voting for Bush, you're looking for someone else who is definitely conservative, and you're curious (and I must say I am, although I still lean to John Kerry), Click here to visit a clearinghouse of links to the budding Draft Roy Moore movement. [Link omitted.]

You may recall Mac-a-ro-nies broke the story that ultraconservative Moore might seek the presidential nomination in the blogosphere. And, was not sanguine about the prospect. No, I haven't changed my mind. If the entry supporting Moore had been on Conservatives for Kerry when I looked at it earlier, it would've given me pause. In subsequent examination, I wasn't able to find anything on the blog that implies Cook is not serious about his opposition to Bush. The links to other sites promoting Kerry are legitimate. Cook's opinions are consistent in regard to opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which seems to be his motivation for rejecting the likely GOP nominee.

However, CFK has done it again. 'It' being express support for a celebrity Right Wing religious, um, personality.

Another Conservative Against Bush - Pastor Chuck Baldwin

Thanks for the great link, Jim. . .I want to follow it up with another one, a resource called The Bush Record. It's compiled by conservative talk show host Pastor Chuck Baldwin, a true American patriot who I think speaks for a lot of Americans who believe that protecting America's heritage of freedom and decency is more important than letting the Republican Party bosses threaten us into giving them a party-line vote. [Link omitted.]

Thanks for putting this resource together, Pastor Baldwin, and keep up the good work!

That entry appeared April 1, but I don't think they're just fooling. Cook and Edward Plancke, a second person posting entries at the site, seem to have a weakness for the religious Right.

In addition to being anti-abortion and pro-theocracy, Chuck Baldwin is a supporter of the neo-Confederate movement. If anything, he is even a more unattractive choice than Moore and Bush. Among the links you will find at his site is justification of slavery, under the guise of defending the Confederate Flag, by a 'scholar' from the infamous Bob Jones University.

So, where are Cook and Plancke coming from? I still don't believe Conservatives for Kerry is an intentional mockery of opposition to Bush. Perhaps they don't see the inanity inherent in replacing Bush with a person who proposes establishing a race, gender and class-based theocracy to rule the nation, like neo-Confederate Baldwin. Maybe anti-war fervor has blinded them. Could be that they are supporters of everything reactionary except the invasion of Iraq.

The intrepid Brian Flemming presents us with a way out. We can wonder about Conservatives for Kerry and welcome its contribution to the movement to oust Bush simultaneously, he says.

. . .but, what the hell, they're making trouble for Bush, so I enthusiastically support Conservatives for Kerry.

Not that Brian is ignoring how very strange the situation is.

Hmm. . .let's see. . .John Kerry or Judge Roy Moore? Boy, that is a close call, isn't it? Almost as tough as choosing between, say, Dennis Kucinich and Pat Robertson. Six of one, six of the other, really. Also, I can't decide what to eat tonight -- spaghetti or a giant plate of ten-penny nails.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. So, I may end up temporarily sharing a cause with people I would not otherwise give the time of day. Works for me!

No, we're not picking on Cook and Plancke. I would love to know their explanation, but efforts to locate an email address have proven fruitless.

8:15 AM

Thursday, April 08, 2004  

The news desk

•Rice testimony genial, unrevealing

Condoleezza Rice worked hard for her money today. The emphasis seemed to be on presenting the presidential advisor on national security as attractive and pleasant -- not substance. That is normally a good ploy for women seeking approval. But, the audience for hearings related to the most controversial issue in the world today, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, is not typical. Will being 'nice' be enough?

The Los Angelos Times covered Rice's testimony before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

National security advisor Condoleezza Rice today conceded that the nation was "tragically" not ready to fight a war with terrorists prior to 9/11, but she defended the Bush administration's terrorism policies in a high-stakes appearance before the independent investigative panel.

The three-hour hearing was punctuated by some contentious moments as Rice responded to questions about the White House and her response to intelligence data about terrorist activity in the months leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In an intense exchange with a commission member, Rice said a crucial presidential briefing memo issued a month before the attacks — titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States" — did not warn of a pending attack against New York or Washington, D.C., and lacked information that warranted immediate action.

. . ."There were some frightening things" in the Aug. 6, 2001, memo, Rice said in response to a question by commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, but there was "nothing actionable."

Some members of the audience, which included relatives of those killed in the attacks, broke out in applause as Ben-Veniste repeated his question to Rice as to whether she had told the president that there were Al Qaeda terrorist cells in the United States prior to the Aug. 6 memo. That information had been forwarded to Rice by the administration's former counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke.

"I really don't remember, commissioner, whether I discussed this with the president," Rice said.

Rice's evasive answers were presented in a careful, businesslike tone. The memo under discussion could be made public if she or her superiors agreed to release it. They have refused to.

It is unclear how the public will interpret evasions such as claiming the memo was not sufficient warning because it did not identify the cities attacked as targets, which, of course, is not even proven as long as the paper remains classified.

•Iraqi militants seize hostages

Iraqis continue to repudiate the claim they are pleased by the invasion and occupation of their country. Their latest form of repudiation -- in a week that has seen more backlash than any since the occupation -- is hostage taking.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Militants seized a number of foreign nationals as hostages in Iraq on Thursday, threatening to burn alive one group of three Japanese unless their country withdrew its troops.

Seven South Koreans, seized while doing missionary work on Thursday, were later freed unharmed, Seoul's foreign ministry said

But the three Japanese as well as two Israeli Arabs and a Briton were reported still to be hostages after being seized by militants. An Iranian television station said the two Israeli Arabs were kidnapped by the Ansar a-Din group, and the uncle of one of the men identified him as an employee of a U.S. aid agency.

Gunmen frequently stage hold-ups on Iraq's lawless roads but taking hostages would mark an escalation of the growing conflict between U.S.-led forces and Iraqis and foreign militants opposed to the occupation.

Some of us in the blogosphere questioned the presence of Christian missionaries in Iraq after a newspaper articledescribing their presence there March 18.

At least nine evangelical churches have opened in Baghdad in the last eight months, many supported by American organizations contributing up to $100,000 per church. More than 900,000 Bibles in Arabic — along with hundreds of tons of food and medical supplies — have been sent to Iraq (news - web sites). About 30 Christian evangelical missionaries are working in Baghdad, and 150 others have visited since last summer. Some Christian groups focus on offering aid and avoid proselytizing.

These missionaries' humanitarian and religious labors are fraught with peril. Four Americans affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention were killed and one was critically injured Monday after gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in Mosul, north of Baghdad. A spokesman for the International Mission Board said the Americans had been scouting locations for humanitarian and evangelical work.

An influential Shiite Muslim leader, Sheik Fatih Kashif Ghitaa, said, "Iraqis already see the American occupation as a religious war." Ghitaa said Shiite and Sunni clerics have discussed issuing a fatwa, or religious edict, against missionaries.

The missionaries — a mix of professional proselytizers and novices with little or no preparation — are buoyed by President Bush's evangelical bent, his oft-repeated biblical references and his vision of freedom spreading out from a saved Iraq.

We wondered if welcoming naive and unprepared persons with a religious agenda that most in Muslim culture consider insulting to the occupied country is counterproductive. Though the current seizure of captives does not include any American missionaries, militants taking them as hostages may be inevitable. Doing so will send a more direct message to the United States -- that even a country as strong as it is vulnerable in some ways.

The Japanese received a chilling threat from the hostage takers.

"We tell you that three of your children have fallen prisoner in our hands and we give you two options -- withdraw your forces from our country and go home or we will burn them alive and feed them to the fighters," the group said.

"You have three days from the date of this tape's airing," it said in a statement, accusing Japan of betraying Iraqis by supporting the U.S.-led occupation.

Their response is mixed.

A Japanese government spokesman demanded their immediate release and said there were no plans to pull out troops. Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi urged Japanese civilians, including journalists, to leave Iraq immediately.

It will be interesting to see if the United States also curtails the presence of civilians in the war-torn country -- before American hostages are taken or killed.

3:37 PM

Wednesday, April 07, 2004  

News: Witnesses say police shot docile man

Eye witness accounts of the shooting of James Jahar Perez, the second African-American killed in Portland by police in ten months, are consistent. They say he was not aggressive. Perez, who was unarmed, was shot and killed less than 30 seconds after two police officers stopped him for not signaling a turn. The Oregonian is investigating what happened.

Its reporters spoke with four people who had viewed the scene from different angles.

Two witnesses say Officer Jason Sery had his gun drawn when he approached James Jahar Perez's car for what Portland police have said was a routine traffic stop in broad daylight.

Within seconds, Sery and his partner were shouting at Perez, the witnesses said. Both heard someone scream, "Get out of the car," and Perez's question, "What did I do?"

One witness who said he had direct view into the driver's side of the car said he saw Sery's partner, Sean Macomber, briefly pull on Perez's left shoulder.

Moments later, according to four people who were present, Sery and his partner backed away from the car, with Sery firing three shots from a crouched stance in rapid succession. One witness recalls hearing one of the police officers shout, "Don't do it," shortly before the first shot rang out.

. . .The witnesses said they saw nothing that would explain why the North Precinct officer fired. Police have said Sery, 29, had the "subjective belief" that Perez had a gun. Perez did not.

The complication for three of the four witnesses described in the Oregonian today is that they have aspects of their lives that may damage their credibility. Two are convicted felons. One has settled a lawsuit again the PPD for use of excessive force in arresting him. Among the policemen cited in his suit was Sery, who fired the fatal shots.

Two of the four witnesses interviewed by The Oregonian have felony convictions. All four say they did not know Perez or either officer by sight. One of the witnesses, Martin Dennis, filed a 2003 lawsuit against the city charging excessive use of force three years go by several officers, including Sery.

"I've been on parole. I hope that doesn't make me an incredible (sic) witness. But my statement isn't going to change," said Kim Sundquist, 47, who was convicted of drug possession. "Whoever it hurts or helps, I want people to know the truth and not for any other reason."

All say they are willing to testify at an inquest or grand jury. Richard Brooks, who is on probation for a burglary conviction, was interviewed by police shortly after the shooting. He reported the contact to his probation officer the following day and underwent a urinalysis. But he has yet to be contacted by investigators.

Prosecutors, who are inclined to agree with the police anyway, will doubtlessly take the criminal records of the witnesses into account. The testimony of the pair will be discounted because of their own run-ins with the law. Though Griffin's arrest resulted in no charges, he will likely be treated as if his testimony is dubious, too. The same issue of credibility will arise if the two officers are indicted and a case actually goes to trial. Prosecution of police officers rarely occurs in such shootings.

Who comes forward as a witness in these situations impacts the outcomes, I believe. In the Kendra James shooting last year, the eye witness with the best view of what happened, her boyfriend, was also a convicted felon. Darnell White was in the car with James and saw all that occurred. James was shot and killed when she moved into the front seat of the car and tried to drive away. White disappeared after the shooting. He was taken into custody on unrelated charges later. His criminal record and shady behavior effectively undermined what he told investigators and a grand jury.

About 30 percent of Americans have had an encounter with the criminal justice system. I don't understand why the persons willing to testify in police misconduct cases seem likely to come from that demographic, which means they are less likely to be believed. Perhaps citizens who have not been arrested, or accused of a misdemeanor or felony themselves are indifferent about police abuse they witness or afraid to get involved.

The policemen involved in the Perez shooting may have violated departmental policy.

The witness accounts raise questions about the tactics chosen by Sery and his partner. In an ordinary traffic stop, Portland Police Bureau officers approach a car on either side with their guns holstered. In what police call "high risk" stops involving a potentially dangerous motorist, officers are trained to wait for additional backup, draw their guns, take cover and instruct occupants to leave the vehicle.

But, if the witnesses are dismissed as not to believed, their accounts of the encounter will not matter.

11:45 PM

Tuesday, April 06, 2004  

Analysis: Portland police shooting predictable

In Portland, we recently had the second shooting of an unarmed African-American in just 10 months. For the record, the black population of Oregon is about two percent. Less than 4,000 black men between 15 and 29 reside in the region. (And, nearly all African-Americans in Oregon live in Portland, Salem or Eugene.) Yet, despite the tiny population of African-Americans, police stops and arrests of persons of color are extremely common. There are good grounds for attacking racial profiling here.

I haven't written about the latest police shooting before for several reasons. One of them is that I feel like I would just be repeating myself in regard to the Kendra James shooting. You may remember that she was a young, drug-addicted mother of two who was shot to death by an incompetent cop.

I have been busy looking into a local news story. A young African-American woman was shot and killed early this morning by the Portland police. So far, what is known is that the woman, Kendra James, 21, allegedly tried to drive off in a car that had been stopped.

I've also learned the woman has a history of drug abuse and may have been trying to avoid a check for warrants. She was shot once in the chest. James appears not to have been armed.

The main issue is whether the shooting was justified. From what I am aware of, it appears doubtful James would have escaped even if force had not been used. There were several police vehicles blocking the exit route.

She is survived by two small children.

Deja vu all over again.

The latest victim of a police shooting is a man with an impressive record of felony convictions and drug use. James Jahar Perez, 28, had nearly toxic levels of cocaine in his system and baggies of the substance stuffed in his mouth and pockets when shot by the police -- 24 seconds after he was told to get out of his car. Since the shooting occurred eight days ago, the city's minority citizens have expressed both outrage and fear.

There is a good fact-based argument to be made that this shooting should not have occurred. There doesn't seem to have been probable cause to stop Perez. Less than 30 seconds is not very long to give a driver to get out of his car. The two policemen Tasered him for three minutes after shooting him. The manufacturers of the Taser say they have never heard of anyone using a Taser that long. (The blast is supposed to last a few seconds.) The cop who fired the shots has a record of pulling his weapon on unarmed people. His psychological profile says he was borderline mentally for being hired as a policeman.

Which brings us to a second reason I have not written about this episode until now. Exasperation. Both with the police and some civil rights activists. Some people protesting the shooting want to deny that Perez was anything but a choirboy. Instead of going with the legitimate argument that the police over-reacted, these people are trying to fit a halo onto a head where it doesn't belong. Some say the evidence Perez used illegal drugs, his lengthy criminal record and strange lifestyle (no visible means of support) are all made up. Yet, any reasonable person looking at his life story would disagree. Ignoring the facts that are inconvenient to a political argument one wants to make is dishonest and undermines one's position. The activists making these claims have turned what should be a sober assessment into a bad joke.

The Oregonian, in the course of covering the Perez story, published a feature about the day-to-dayl fear of the police many African-Americans live in. Among the people interviewed was a middle-aged bureaucrat who has probably been stopped by cops scores of times in his 50-plus years. Jimmy Brown says the first occurred when he was a high school student with his leg in a cast and on crutches. The police said they were looking for someone who had stolen a television. Things did not improve over the years. Tigard, Oregon settled a lawsuit with Brown last year after falsely arresting him, roughing him up and claiming he had been driving under the influence. Tests showed he had no alcohol or other prohibited substances in his system at all. This man is the kind of person one could put forward as an upstanding citizen. Perez is not.

Does that mean the police were right to shoot a poster boy for wrongheadedness like Perez? Based on the information I've seen, it does not. Scott McCollister, the cop disciplined for killing Kendra James, is not the only incompetent one on the force. But, the protests should focus on the wrongful actions of those policeman, not pretending James Jahar Perez was an asset to the community, or even to his family. He was not.

6:55 PM

Monday, April 05, 2004  

Reading: McLeod's The Star Fraction disappoints

Why do I read writers who frustrate me? I find Ken McLeod's novels flawed in execution and reasoning. So, why did I pick up The Star Fraction? Well, Borders was closing earlier than I realized it did and I didn't want to leave empty-handed. There was no Maureen McHugh in the sci-fi Ms. I espy a known name. Grab book. Race to checkout counter. When I get home and sit down in the oak rocking chair with the novel, I realize I've bought a book by a writer who has frustrated me in the past.

What McLeod attempts to do in his novels -- blend political theory and science fiction -- sounds enterprising. But, in my opinion, his schemes often fail. The worst of his attempts I have read so far is The Star Fraction. It is the first in the four books that make up a series about the theories of futurist and philosopher Jonathan Wilde. The book revolves around three ideas. Oops! I mean characters. Actually, the characters are more ideas than people. Moh Kohn is a security mercenary who has inherited more than he knows from his brilliant software engineer father. He represents libertarianism with socialist inflections. Jordan Brown is a youth who will escape the Christian fundamentalist enclave he has grown up in to become a leader of a more capitalist form of libertarianism. A research scientist who will take her belief in an unstructured, 'barbarian' society into space, Janis Taine, finishes the triumvirate.

The plot is simple, despite misleading twists and turns. A computer directed shadow government has been waiting to overthrow the regime that rules Britian and much of Europe for decades. Under the Settlement, control is in the hands of the Hanoverians, who follow a capitalist model we would recognize, but allow enclaves to opt out -- as long they don't challenge the larger power. There is an impasse in regard to space exploration. Though there are asteroid mining operations, access to space is strictly limited. Furthermore, big guns guard the skies from space, ready to wipe out both any computer-generated viruses that might threaten Space Defense or solid weapons that appear to be a threat. The goal of the Black Planner, an artificial intelligence, is to break the power of the Hanoverians and their allies all over the world. It also wants to end the reign of Space Defense. Those objectives will be achieved by using Moh Kohn as an interface between machine intelligence and the minds of men.

Kohn is so lacking in believable personality that he might as well be a machine anyway. McLeod substitutes macho derring-do for character in a doomed effort to humanize Kohn, but it doesn't work. But, most of all, Kohn is a carrier for his pedestrian beliefs about libertarianism. In McLeod's imagined world, Kohn and other characters reveal their freedom by smoking, drinking and drugging continually. Indeed, if people actually behaved as he describes, they would be dead by 25 from lung cancer alone. Another oddity of McLeod's libertarian world is that no one ever complains about the excesses of the air polluting free people. I am embarrassed for McLeod. This is the kind of pose one expects to see in the papers of college freshmen who believe they are being oppressed by laws that require them to wear motorcyle helmets, not in the works of a significant writer. The female character is mainly and adjunct to Kohn. Janis Taine carries out his orders and services him sexually. Jordan Brown, who is supposedly only seventeen, may be the fastest learning character in sci-fi. He is pressed into service whenever the plot needs to pan away from Kohn. Except for one act he performs, Jordan is redundant.

McLeod describes his intentions for The Star Fraction in an introduction to the novel. As is my habit, I skipped the front matter until after I had read the narrative. I like to form my own opinion of what a book is about before being influenced by its author.

. . .One constraint on the possible arrangements of a future society was indicated by the Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises. He argued that private property was essential to industrial civilization: "without property, no exchange; no exchange, no prices; no way of telling if any given project is worthwhile or a dead lost." Given that every attempt to abolish the market on a large scale has led to the collapse of industry, his Economic Calculation Argument seems vindicated. Unforunately, there is no reason why the Economic Calculation Argument and the Materialist Conception of History [Marxism] couldn't both be true. What if capitalism is unstable and socialism is impossible?

The Star Fraction is haunted by the uncomfortable question.

McLeod's attempt to write a novel of speculative fiction that encompases that connundrum is not convincing. The societies he presents are too obviously ideological constructs to contain real people. Predictably, his characters fail to behave as anything other than pieces on a chessboard.

Furthermore, McLeod's acceptance of paleo-conservative Von Mises' critique ignores the Keynesian theory of equilibrium prices, which may be the answer to how prices can be set fairly in a mixed economy.

Another of McLeod's books that disappoints me is The Sky Road. It is too weighed down by more philosophizing about political theory. The Stone Canal also suffers from too much of the long-winded egoist Jonathan Wilde, but manages to be a readable novel anyway. I've been told the fourth book in the series, The Cassini Division, the only one I have not read, redeems Ken McLeod's vision somewhat. So, I guess I will be going, reluctantly, back to the stream for another drink.

10:05 AM

Friday, April 02, 2004  

Around the blogosphere

Calpundit moves to Washington

The Washington Monthly, that is. Kevin Drum, the Calpundit, has moved again. Last year, he bid Blogger good-bye for Movable Type. Now, he has a new blog at the Washington Monthly. He says being a part of Big Media (well, middling media, really) will not cramp his style. For readers not familiar with the Calpundit, he focuses on politics, but also probes business and does his share of cat blogging.

Forwarding Address. . . As promised — assuming you take a generous view of "a day or two" — starting today I will be blogging for the Washington Monthly magazine's new blog, Political Animal. Here's the new address:


I will probably still post a few personal items here occasionally, but basically my entire blog is being transplanted to the Washington Monthly's site. Nothing much will change, really, at least at first. It will still be me doing the same thing I do here, unedited and unplugged. We may add some guest bloggers in the future, but the details are a bit murky at the moment. We'll work it out as we go.

So please add Political Animal to your bookmark list, and if you're a blogger please add it to your blogroll. See you there!

NOTE: The link above is a direct link to the blog. It will be right smack in the middle of their newly redesigned homepage. It should become active around 7 am Eastern time on Wednesday.

UPDATE: Honest, I really am blogging over there now. Go read all the new posts. Go now!

And add Political Animal to your bookmarks. Just click on the link above with your right mouse button and then click "Add to Favorites. . . ." It's easy!

Long time readers of Mac-a-ro-nies know Kevin is one of the big dogs who led me to become interested in blogging and helped me become a good blogger. His address may have changed, but I am sure the quality of his blogging has not, I have updated my blogroll to follow Kevin to Political Animal. You should, too.

Wolff has a beat

Phil Wolff has been actually getting out of the house or office and talkingto real live newsworthy people. One of those folks is the drafter of a new constitution for Iran.

Last week I dined with Pedram Moallemian who blogs the eyeranian. He wants a secular Iran. I asked him what he thought America's policy on Iran should be. He answered:

  • Respect the right of self-determination for Iran and Iranians.
  • Condemn any possible military action against the people who are doing a great job fighting tyranny by themselves.
  • Acknowledge big mistakes were made on both sides in the past and choose to move on towards a better relationship.

Tyrants ruled Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no meaningful chance for reform, no hope for self-determination. Do the people of Iran, at home and in diaspora, have enough faith in the current system and the system's ability to change incumbents? 

Pedram clearly does. He and others are drafting a new Iranian constitution. This is an ambitious exercise, imagining a new government that fits a whole people. It's an embrace of liberty worthy of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

Now, I'm feeling guilty about not getting out and talking to sources more often myself. The reporter in me wants to. But, the anonymous blogger says no.

Phil's weblog is A Klog Apart.

Skippy, Condi and the plank

Does Condoleeza Rice's agreement to testify about her role in misleading the public about the invasion of Iraq have you dancing? You might want to sit down for a moment. Skippy the Bush Kangaroo has noticed something about the Bush administration's 'liberality.'

rice and white house make skippy's new poll awol to relevancy

now, we're not saying we had anything to do with it, but. . .

the day after we set up a new poll asking if condoleeza rice should testify before the 911 commission, the white house does the one flip flop we like to hear, and announces that dr. rice (and her uncle ben) will indeed testify publicly, and under oath, too!

however, there is a condition (and we're not talking about awol's skin blotches): the
tells us:

the decision was conditioned on the bush administration receiving assurances in writing from the commission that such a step does not set a precedent and that the commission does not request "additional public testimony from any white house official, including dr. rice,'' white house counsel alberto gonzales said in a letter to the panel.

well, one hand, they apparently don't have a dictionary handy, because once you do something the first time, that's the very definition of "precedent."

on the other hand, this administration is never one to worry about precedents.

I have mulled what Rice's testimony would mean a bit. Not so much in regard to information, which she will try to divulge as little of as possible. But, in regard to mind games and group psychology. Rice would make a good sacrificial victim. You know, the person who gets thrown overboard as an offering to the gods when a situation becomes theatening. Her constituency is neglible and her support soft. Of course I am aware that conservatives like to cite her as a Negro they approve of. But, that kind of thing is always dubious. The support can be retracted at the blink of the eye since the supporters perceive the person as only a token. Support from the African-African community? Don't make me laugh. I do need to clarify that I use the term 'sacrificial victim' for convenience. Since Rice, proudly, is as responsible as the other architects of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, she is just as guilty as they are.

Visit Skippy, the blogger who posts big thoughts in small letters. Tell him you are sorry about his poll.

What's the art?

The picture at the top of this entry depicts the path a blog entry takes from its home blog to the broader Internet. John Lebkowsky blogged the topic at Weblogsky. Read his theory there.

7:25 PM

Thursday, April 01, 2004  

Politics: Conservative blogs for Kerry

Sometimes a weblog is memorable because it is different. I had to look at Conservatives for Kerry just because of its name. Did the proprietor mean something different by 'conservatives' than most of us do? Is he in Canada and therefore unable to vote? Is the sobriquet a hoax like all those far Right groups named to sound pro-civil rights, pro-environment or pro-sex?

The answer is 'no' on all counts. Conservatives for Kerry is a blog created by someone who leans to the Right in his politics, but does not support returning George W. Bush to the White House. He has decided to march to his own drummer, not to the beat of Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage. The weblog's introductory statement explains why it exists.

Conservatives have historically stood as guardians of America's moral heritage, civic standards and national resources. Recently, however, this proud tradition has been sullied by an administration that uses the word "conservative" but betrays fundamental conservative principles. We have concluded that John Kerry is our best hope for the reinvigoration of our national pride, security and prosperity.

Blogger Jim Cook believes Bush has broken faith with conservatives as well as liberals. He says Bush has violated conservative principles. Cook identiifies those principles as:

Personal Freedom
Honorable Conduct
Fiscal Responsibility
Moral Accountability
Focus on the Family
Long-Term Vision

The weblog has existed for two months. Among current entries, topics featured include the Bush administration's betrayal of security expert Richard Clarke, its outright lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a pearl about one of the reasons the GOP says Democratic hopeful John Kerry is not fit for the office he seeks.

GOP: Kerry has the Wrong Ethnic Heritage for the Presidency

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I read this snippet at 2004 Reasons to Boot Bush, and I couldn't agree more:

"Bush's attack dogs at the Republican National Committee have dug up what they think is the ultimate dirt on John Kerry: he has a cousin who is. . . French! Do Bush and his cronies really want to argue that a man is unfit for the Presidency because of his family's ethnic heritage? Apparently, yes. (Source: Republican National Committee Briefing, "International Man of Mystery, March 8, 2004)"

In addition to a grounds for not supporting Bush's reelection, Conservatives for Kerry provides campaign information and grass roots organizing tips. It is a good resource for persons who might be reconsidering whether they will vote to return Bush to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

5:05 AM

Tuesday, March 30, 2004  

Blogospherics: Blogger puts money where mouth is

I sometimes refer to the blogosphere as an echo chamber. It is where way too many copycats assemble an echo every word of Atrios and Glenn Reynolds, sometimes including the uhs and ahs. But, one rarely sees a blogger live up to the values he mouths day in and day out, especially in the liberal blogosphere.

So, I am pleased to bring your attention to a liberal blogger who is living what he writes. Blogger David Anderson has a project he would like the blogosphere to take notice of. He resides in Costa Rica, a poor but promising country. He is the president of Grupo Utopia, a software development and consulting company. David is the parent of two young Costa Ricans, who are also American citizens. Unfortunately, most of their peers will not have access to the English language at home. They need to learn it in school. That requires books. So, David developed Project Appollonia. He explains.

Project Background

English has always been an important part of the school curriculum in Costa Rica and is an important part of the learning process. Recent cuts in government spending has effected the governments ability to purchase and maintain English language libraries, and in an attempt to help fill the gap, Grupo Utopia is joining with children’s book author Nancy Gilliam, The Chamber of Costa Rican Software Producers, and various chapters and individuals of Mr. Anderson’s College Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, and Sister Sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, as well as Masonic Organizations and The Order of the Eastern Star, and a number of U.S. based philanthropic groups. We are pleased at the Support we have received so far from the Brothers and Sisters of the Zeta-Phi Beta Sigma Family, and from the affiliate organizations like Sigma Doves and Sweethearts.

Our initial Goal is to Donate 1,000 Children’s Books to Costa Rican Schools by June of this year (2004), and 10,000 by the end of the year. Momentum has been building for this effort primarily through the incredible generosity and spirit of Ms Gilliam, but also through the enthusiasm generated by members of the Blue Phi family who have offered to take on Appolonia as a Project.

We are also honored by the support of Federico Cartin Arteaga of Caprosoft (The Chamber of Costa Rican Software Developers). We have also approached the American Embassy here in Costa Rica in an effort to get them involved, as well as several multinationals who have offices in Costa Rica.

In the United States, Sharon Green a Manager with Los Angeles Law Enforecement is working to get commitments of support from the Law Enforcement an Firefighting Communities in Los Angeles.

The Plan

We have begun phase two of the plan. In this phase we will organize Project Apollonia as a non-profit corporation in Costa Rica, and work to organize a Board of Directors composed of the leadership of the Costa Rican and expatriate business and political community. We are awaiting news from the U.S. Embassy as to whether we will be able to use some of their resources to import the books.

What we need right now is for people to begin the process of collecting the books. We will be able to provide a U.S. address of freight forwarder in the case that we don’t have an Embassy P.O. box available. We ask that all interested parties begin their individual efforts immediately and begin the process of collecting books. We would like to formally present the first batch of books to the Ministry of Education by the first week of June. We also plan on a special visit to Limon Province, one of the poorest provinces in Costa Rica, in July for a special presentation. With God’s help and the continuing support of generous people, we can make this a very special year for Costa Rican School Children.

The project is named after David's infant daughter, the adorable Apollonia Anderson Calderon.

Costa Rica is home to about four million people. About thirty percent of the Costa Rican population is under the age of 14. Ninety-six percent of Costa Ricans are literate in Spanish. Learn the basics about peaceful, sultry Costa Rica. Interested in visiting? Learn more.

You can contact David at http://www.grupo-utopia.com. Visit his weblog, In Search ot Utopia, to keep up-to-date on Project Appollonia. And, collect those books. A good source of cheap books is thrift stores, such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, if, like me, you don't have discarded children's books around the house. Also, watch for used book sales at bookstores. I'll be all over the next one at Powells, which is headquartered in Portland.

4:56 PM

Monday, March 29, 2004  

Entertainment: The Practice leaves us wanting more

Will The Practice have three lives? Though the television program will end this summer, its legacy of excellent acting in a drama about a law firm will carry on. The two latest members of the cast, fired renegade lawyer Alan Shore (James Spader) and British legal assistant Tara Wilson (Rhona Mitra) will join a new practice. Denny Crane, veteran actor William Shatner, who appeared in "The Case Against Alan Shore" and episodes leading up to it, is a rainmaker in that new firm.

LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- David E. Kelley's Emmy-winning legal drama The Practicewill bow out May 16 after eight seasons.

The final episodes of the ABC show will set up a spin-off series, which has been given a 22-episode order by the network for the fall.

Sources said Kelley, ABC and producer 20th Century Fox TV evaluated creatively the options of picking up The Practice for a ninth season or spinning off the series into a new drama before mutually agreeing on the latter.

The Practice's first life focused on Bobby Donnell (Dylan McDermott), a working-class striver who achieved his ideal -- partnership in a professional, profitable law firm. McDemott's smoldering good looks and chronic angst kept viewers tuned in for seven years. His supporting cast, particularly (Camryn Manheim) Ellenor Frutt and (Steve Harris) Eugene Young, could be depended on to provide fireworks. The Practice became a favorite of the Emmy Awards. However, after a move to Monday nights from its long lease on Sunday's at 10 p.m., the program lost momentum and audience. Kelley surprised the industry and viewers by firing most of the original cast last year.

A reversal of fortune occurred when versatile actor James Spader (pictured above) took on the role of Alan Shore, an ethically challenged litigator. Spader has performed the role as a fascinating mix of avenging angel and annoying heckler. His performance last night, in which he managed to be righteous and offensive simultaneously, was the best yet. "The Case Against Alan Shore" highlighted the difficulties inherent in employing professionals. Young, fed up with constantly being challenged by Shore, fired him. But, Shore brought in more money than the rest of the lawyers combined during his eight-month stint. To walk away with only pocket change would have been an admission of defeat. It is not possible to demand specific performance, i.e., maintaining an agreed upon relationship, in regard to employment. Shore sued and won. Predictably, he was ambivalent about the result. I still don't know what Alan Shore wants. I don't think Alan Shore knows what he wants either. Perhaps the not knowing is what keeps us coming back for more.

In the spin-off, the characters Shore, Wilson and Crane will mix their quirky chemistries.

. . .according to the Hollywood Reporter, Shatner's role will carry over to the new law drama that David E. Kelley is dreaming up to showcase the talent of Spader, who has been such a hit as the witty, amoral Shore.

Spader's character will reportedly join the law firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt, which is expected to include English-born Fay Masterson as a fiercely competitive rival to Shore and Lake Bell (recently Victoria on Miss Match ) as a naïve law grad. They will be introduced to audiences in the final episodes of The Practice.

One of the aspects of last night's show that endeared it to me is that The Practice finally took a clear-eyed look at what it means and doesn't mean to be a lawyer. In his closing argument in the case against him, Shore told the jury he was an ethically challenged player in an ethically challenged game. He stripped away the romanticization of practicing law, which Young had embraced, to expose the nuts and bolts beneath. Lawyers provide a service for pay. That service is dispute resolution. Sometimes, the way a dispute is resolved is equivalent to justice. Sometimes the way a dispute is resolved is not.

The Practice focused on criminal law most of the time. The firm in the new program will be larger and have a more varied practice, including labor. I believe the spin-off will provide new opportunities for looking at the practice of law, both as we wish it was, and, as it is.

Reasonably related

The Practice does history.

•The end is near.

3:42 PM

Saturday, March 27, 2004  

Law: Bush administration assails abortion

Congress deems fetus separate victim

Fetuses of any age are now a step closer to being considered people.

WASHINGTON, March 25 — The Senate approved legislation on Thursday making it a separate offense to harm the fetus in a federal crime committed against a pregnant woman, sending the measure to President Bush for his signature.

Opponents denounced the bill, adopted on a vote of 61 to 38, as an effort to undermine the constitutional right to abortion by recognizing the fetus as a person.

The House passed the measure on Feb. 26, 254 to 163.

The putative point of the legislation is be able to prosecute perpetrators of violent crimes against women twice if the women are pregnant when they are violated. The real point of the legislation is to give a fetus separate standing from the woman carrying it. That is, of course, the fundamental requirement for deeming abortion murder. If the fetus is a person, the individuals responsible for terminating a pregnancy, both the pregnant woman and the doctor, are as guilty of murder as the perpetrator of a homicide with a gun or knife.

The anti-abortion forces have a long way to go before they can impose that perspective on the populace. This legislation, called Unborn Victims of Violence Act, is a step down that road. Coupled with the ban on late term abortions, it shows us where we can expect to go in regard to the right to abortion if George W. Bush is reelected.

Opponents of the proposal, while saying they sympathized with the desire to severely punish anyone who would attack pregnant women, said they were troubled by the definition of the "child in utero" covered under the bill as "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb."

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, and others said they believed that once that definition was written into federal law it would ultimately be used as an argument to overturn existing laws protecting abortion rights.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, likely Democrat nominee for the presidential race, voted against the bill.

Partial birth abortion case begins Monday

Samantha Blackmon, at Dr. B's Blog, has been following the Bush administration's determined efforts to pry information about women who have had late term abortions from hospitals. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who is deeply opposed to abortion, has not left a stone unturned in his quest. Samantha muses about the issue at Blog Sisters.

A month ago, Ashcroft ordered the release of abortion records (edited of course) during the course of an investigation of partial birth abourtion. Well, a 'federal judge ordered the University of Michigan Health System on Friday to turn over edited abortion records for possible inclusion in a case about a law that bans a particular abortion procedure." The Justice dept. is claiming that these records are central to the claim by some doctors that the procedure may be, a times, medically necessary. Excuse the conspiracy theorist in me, but I have a hard time believing that under the current administration any such records would be used to further an argument against the wishes of the White House.

Whether the records should be released, with the names of the women blacked out according to the Justice Department, has been a football in the courts. The latest appellate ruling was yesterday. Well-known jurist Richard Posner [pictured] rejected the government's contention that it needs the medical records of women who have had partial birth abortions.

Chicago's best-known federal judge late Friday shot down the U.S. government's attempt to get records of 45 women who had late-term abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

That means the government will have none of the medical records it sought as a case begins in New York on Monday that could determine the future of Congress' Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.

The National Abortion Federation and seven doctors sued to block enforcement of the ban on the procedure known medically as "intact dilation and extraction" -- removing a fetus from the uterus while it is still alive.

. . .A New York federal judge ordered three hospitals to comply with subpoenas. They have not and plan to appeal. On Friday he ordered New York Presbyterian Hospital to surrender records by noon Monday. A Michigan court ordered a hospital there to comply, but the hospital said the doctor had not performed any abortions that met the subpoena's criteria. A Philadelphia hospital has challenged the subpoena, but there has been no ruling yet.

It seems to me the courts could rule on this issue based on expert testimony. We will see if that happens when the case is called Monday.

4:05 PM

Friday, March 26, 2004  

News: Gay marriage kettle boils in Oregon

I have been trying to do play by play coverage of the ongoing controversy over gay marriage in Oregon. But, the players and plays change day by day, sometimes hour by hour. This is one flavorful kettle of fish. I'll summarize what has occurred since my last entry on the topic at Mac-a-ro-nies.

I blogged Benton County's decision to become the second in Oregon to grant gays marriage licenses. The county has now delayed issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals. Instead, Benton County will wait until there is a ruling on whether refusal to marry gays violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution. Meanwhile, no couples will be granted marriage licenses. Yes, I said no couples. Heterosexuals will also have to wait, surely not the intention of conservatives who flooded the Benton County commissioners with emails and phone calls opposing the plan to grant licenses to gays.

Multnomah County continues to issue licenses and gay couples continue to marry. Data show that many of those tying the knot are from out of state. Some traveled significant distances to reach the only jurisdiction in the country allowing homosexuals to marry. The Associated Press found that sixteen percent of the couples came from a state other than Oregon during the first week alone. With Oregon the only place to go, the proportion has likely increased.

Opinion polls reveal a continuing increase in Oregonians opposed to gay marriage, even as the vows are spoken. The figure is approaching 60 percent. Both in the state and nationally, age and gender are often indicia of whether a citizen favors or opposes gay unions. Women and younger people tend to favor gay marriage. Men and older folks are more likely to oppose it.

So far, the organized opposition has mainly come from the pre-existing network of fundamentalist Christians that supported the anti-gay Oregon Citizens Alliance.

Commission Chairperson Diane Linn, a Catholic from a conservative background, says she will not back down. That is in spite of a recall effort against her and the other three commissioners who agreed to allow gay marriage -- and the Oregonian's editorial urging they be driven from office. The Portland Tribune profiled Linn (pictured above) in a recent article.

She concentrates on job and family these days, showing no apparent sign of strain. In the course of her day, she gets occasional words of encouragement but nothing disparaging. She's lauded by the lines of license applicants just as loudly as she's berated by the critics. And clearly she thinks she and the other three commissioners will be remembered in the end more for the social change they wrought than the process used to get there.

The cost, though, may be high. At one point last year, Linn considered running for mayor, but now her political prospects seem changed.

"I'm not worried about my career at all," she said. "This is my career. What you strive for makes you stronger."

Opponents of gay marriage have switched from seeking new statutes defining marriage as between a man and a woman to pursuing a constitutional amendment banning gay unions.

A statewide initiative campaign to block same-sex marriages will focus on amending the Oregon Constitution because of recent legal opinions from Attorney General Hardy Myers and others, organizers said Wednesday.

They will withdraw another proposal that would have changed state statutes to specify marriage as being only between a man and a woman.

Their reason: Myers and other government lawyers have made clear the critical question is whether blocking same-sex marriages violates the constitution.

"Everyone is now pointing to the constitution," said Tim Nashif, a spokesman for the Defense of Marriage Coalition.

The lawsuit filed by Bruce Broussard, a darkhorse Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, has been dismissed. Broussard lacked standing to complain about Multnomah County granting marriage licenses to gays, since he is not effected by the practice.

However, a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other parties will likely go forward -- fast.

The civil-rights group filed the suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of gay couples whose marriages were not recognized by the state’s Office of Vital Statistics.

Multnomah County commissioners decided to grant the licenses three weeks ago. The county, which encompasses much of metropolitan Portland, is the only part of the country currently issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Kevin Neely, spokesman for Attorney General Hardy Myers, said the state will file its response by April 5, and a decision by Multnomah County Circuit Judge Frank Bearden is expected by the end of that month under an expedited process agreed to by gay-marriage opponents and supporters.

That would set the stage for an immediate appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, but it is unclear when the high court would hear or rule on the case.

Some Republican state legislators did not want the kettle boiling without their names prominently displayed. They sought to intervene in the lawsuit and were told to bug off.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Multnomah Circuit Court judge has turned down a request by 14 state lawmakers who wanted to join a lawsuit over the legality of gay marriages in Oregon.

Judge Frank Bearden on Friday rejected the Republican legislators' "motion to intervene" in the suit filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, because he said it would slow down proceedings.

Bearden said the controversy over Multnomah County's decisions to begin issuing marriage license to same-sex couples demanded a prompt decision.

"This court is merely a speed bump on the road to the (state) Supreme Court," he said.

So much for the free publicity that would help them in their next runs for office.

We wait. While we wait we will see what additional twists and turns occur as Oregon becomes the first state to decide what the rights of an emerging minority are.

Reasonably related

•The beginning of the backlash.

•Oregon becomes the only place gays can marry.

•The antis lose a round.

3:35 PM

Wednesday, March 24, 2004  

Health: FDA decision harms consumers

I believe the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a mistake by bowing to pressure from consumers. "Huh?" you say and with good reason. Just about every entry I have written about a health issue has been from a pro-consumer perspective. Have I decided it is time for me to befriend the megacorps that manufacture prescription drugs? No, not at all. This situation is rare because I believe the federal agency has made a decision to please a vocal minority of drug users that is actually anti-consumer.

WASHINGTON -- Doctors who prescribe some popular antidepressants should monitor their patients closely for warning signs of suicide, especially when they first start the pills or change a dose, the government warned Monday.

The Food and Drug Administration asked makers of 10 drugs to add or strengthen suicide-related warnings on their labels.

The drugs of concern are newer generation antidepressants: Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, which are called SSRIs or SSRI-like drugs, and Remeron, Serzone and Wellbutrin, which operate differently.

The pressure was brought by families of people who have committed suicide while using antidepressants. There was special pleading by parents of dead children that proved to be particularly effective. Though no studies have established a link between antidepressants and suicide, the British claim there may be a causal connection between being a minor on antidepressants and committing suicide.

British health authorities sounded the alarm last year, saying long-suppressed research suggests serotonin-affecting antidepressants might sometimes increase the risk of suicidal behavior in children and teenagers. Excepting one drug, Prozac, that has been proved to alleviate pediatric depression, Britain declared the other six SSRIs or SSRI-like drugs unsuitable for depressed youth. Britain didn't mention the other three drugs in the U.S. notice.

The FDA issued a caution on pediatric use last year but says it doesn't have proof the drugs are to blame. Among 25 studies of the suspect medications involving 4,000 children and teens, there were no completed suicides. A total of 109 patients experienced one or more possibly suicide-related behaviors or attempts -- but the studies varied dramatically in what was considered suicidal behavior. For example, among 19 patients classified as cutting themselves, almost all were superficial, with little bleeding.

Though there is no conclusive evidence that any of the ten drugs cited has caused even one suicide, the FDA's recommendation will likely lead manufacturers to comply. They will not want the negative publicity that may ensue if they don't. Furthermore, by seeking a general warning, the FDA is applying the poorly researched claim to all users of antidepressants, minor and adult. For me, this is an easy call. The answer should have been 'No.' During the years I spent working on personal injury, product liability and wrongful death cases, I developed an appreciation for having a reason for holding defendants responsible for harms they legitimately cause. Allowing warnings on drug labels without a basis in research is the first step toward assigning liability without a reason in wrongful death cases involving suicidal users of antidepressants. I believe the irrationality of that will be a blow to plaintiffs with real reasons to sue and further fuel the drive for 'tort reform.'

How can I be unmoved by facts like those that influenced the FDA's decision?

. . .critics flooded an FDA meeting last month demanding stronger action -- and days later, the issue again made headlines when a 19-year-old woman taking part in a study of Eli Lilly & Co.'s experimental antidepressant duloxetine hanged herself in a company-run facility.

The evidence suggests that persons who commit suicide while taking antidepressants were risks for killing themselves before they began the medications. The drugs don't cause the deaths, their preexisting conditions do. Indeed, publicity that encourages the public to believe antidepressants cause suicide may actually lead to more deaths by frightening people who should use the drugs away from them.

"We do a disservice to a population of people who could benefit from these medications" by overreacting, said Dr. Bela Sood, chairwoman of pediatric psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Not every national government pressured has succumbed.

New Zealand has decided not to ban a group of anti-depressants that prompted a ban in the UK and warnings in the USA, after a study found potential links to teenage suicide.

The Ministry of Health said today that after reviewing international data, it did not plan to change the way the anti-depressants, known as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) were prescribed to teenagers here.

The parents of the suicide victims may feel they have won by pressuring the FDA to intervene. However, their 'victory' is a pyrrhic one. Though it may comfort them to shift blame to the drugs for the loss of their offspring, they are ignoring what appear to be the real reasons for suicide, and, undermining remedies that might prevent future deaths.

3:30 PM

Tuesday, March 23, 2004  

News: Gay marriage amendment on shaky ground

Our national nannies are redirecting their fire in regard to the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The Washington Post has the story.

WASHINGTON, March 22 — The Congressional authors of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage introduced a slightly reworded version on Monday, saying the changes were intended to make it clear that they do not seek to bar same-sex civil unions allowed by state law.

As they prepared for a Senate hearing on Tuesday to examine the wording of potential amendments, advocates said the mainly technical revisions were meant to broaden support for the initiative and blunt the appeal of alternatives that could leave the definition of marriage up to individual states.

"This has got the ingredients that we need to have in it," said Senator Wayne Allard, the main sponsor along with a fellow Republican from Colorado, Representative Marilyn Musgrave. Mr. Allard said the changes would "reinforce the authority of state legislatures to determine benefits issues related to civil unions or domestic partnerships."

The original plan cobbled together by the Christian Coalition and other Right Wing organizations was meant to keep even the proverbial camel's breath out of the tent. It was to be made explicit that none of the rights of marriage were available to homosexuals. As I previously wrote, that proposal was rejected because the more moderate backers believed it would never attract the needed support, even from fellow conservatives.

But almost as soon as the Arlington meeting began, the discussion turned to a debate over the language of an amendment. For years, the Alliance for Marriage, an ecumenical group, had pushed for a constitutional amendment to prevent courts from forcing states or the country to recognize same-sex marriages. Echoing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the proposed amendment would allow state legislatures to recognize gay civil unions, a provision that had alienated many conservatives. Though the proposed amendment had been introduced in Congress last spring, the Christian Coalition was one of the few organizations in the Arlington group to support it. [The New York Times.]

Though some of the most hardline left the fold, the proposal that emerged fit the model the Alliance for Marriage wanted. It offers a compromise, recognition of quasi-marital rights in lieu of allowing gays to wed.

Right Wingers who believe the sanctity of marriage is being assailed don't want to compromise.

But the revisions quickly drew criticism as a gay rights group said it left the status of civil unions uncertain and a conservative group said it went too far in recognizing such unions.

"They are using that as a selling point; we find it as a detriment," said Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, which is affiliated with Concerned Women for America, a conservative group. "Why is that a good thing, when civil unions are gay marriage by another name and will lead to the destruction of marriage?"

Advocates for gay marriage are concerned about what they perceive as increasing ambiguity in the language of the proposed amendment. They fear such language would be used to deprive homosexuals of benefits even in states that allow civil unions.

In the revised amendment, the first sentence remains intact: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman." The second and final sentence, which had come under fire for being hard to interpret, now says: "Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and woman."

The main change was a dropped reference to state or federal law, a revision that backers say should erase concern that it would ban same-sex civil unions in states where the legislature had voted to allow them. However, they say, the amendment would not allow courts to recognize civil unions strictly on the basis of an interpretation of the federal or a state constitution.

I am doubtful the constituional amendment as currently phrased would win the votes of two-thirds of the House and Senate, the requirement for it to pass. It seems that I am not alone in my skepticism. But, is there a solution? Any language that does not make a Plessy v. Ferguson-like accommodation between gays and straights will dissatisfy the Christian fundamentalists who are most opposed to gay marriage. A refusal to allow homosexuals more marital-type rights than they have now will alienate gays and their straight supporters. In my opinion, that is all the more reason to let the states decide this matter. After a few years of experimenation, I believe most of them would allow gay marriage. Eventually, a reconstituted Supreme Court of the United States might rule on the issue, probably favorably.

7:47 PM

Monday, March 22, 2004  

Around the blogosphere

Let me apologize for not outlinking as much as I have in the past. That has happened mainly because I've been very busy. It is easier to write an entry than to read weblogs until I find something that strikes a note with me, and, is both timely and blogworthy. There is a list of about 150 fine blogs under Links. I hope you took it upon yourself to visit some of them. I have been out reading and do have some suggestions today.

A not so new, new blog

Funk Digital is a year old, like Mac-a-ro-nies, but I discovered it recently. The proprietor, MetalFace, focuses mainly on music and technology, but doesn't neglect politics and current affairs. His music of choice is hip hop, a genre not covered nearly as much as mainstream pop in the blogosphere.

Among MetalFace's links currently are pieces about Iraq and the problem of out of control sexuality among low-income adolescents. I believe it is becoming more and more difficult for bloggers not to consider politics and current events as the country gets into deeper and deeper trouble both domestically and internationally. Heck, even network television is exploring the implications of Bush-era policies, as you know if you caught The Practice last night.

Not MYOB in Iraq

My old blog friend composer Richard Einhorn is back from a break and blogging strongly at Tristero. He is skeptical about evangelical Christians' efforts to convert Muslims -- in Iraq, of all places.

Invade Their Country, Kill Their Leaders, And Convert Them To Christianity

Ann Coulter had it exactly right. And that's how many Iraqis look at the Bush occupation of their country. And in the LA Times today is a disgraceful article that makes the idiotic buffoons who are over there trying to "save souls" look like some kind of heroes. Buried towards the end, finally a voice of reason:

"[The evangelical prosletyzing in Iraq] adds to a growing perception that all Americans want to convert Muslims," said Leanne Clausen with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an American aid group that does not proselytize. Nonevangelical Iraqi churches have been vandalized in recent weeks. Newspaper editorials and Islamic clerics charge that Americans are in Iraq on a religious crusade. Clausen warned: "The missionaries coming here don't realize the danger they are placing us in."

Some of those dangers extend to missionaries visiting Iraq who are unprepared for violence. Independent missionaries working in Iraq have little or no formal training for war zones. Some are just American pastors who fly to Iraq and begin working on behalf of a new church.

Once again, there is a huge difference between Christianity and Christianism. It's time to stop confusing them.

I believe the combination of Christian evangelism and occupation of Iraq simultaneously is potentially combustible. Allowing the missionaries there undermines the claim that the United States and its allies are not engaged in a war against Islam. I also fail to understand why untrained missionaries have free access to a dangerous country while Americans are dissuaded from traveling to other predominantly Muslim nations by our government.

What can I, a former reporter, say about journalists who don't actually see the major issues in what they write about? Well, contrary to the image of 'the liberal media,' most reporters I've known are mainstream people. They don't necessarily question the status quo. Furthermore, there are some who are just plain inept. I don't mean the Jayson Blairs of the field either. There are thousands more reporters who fail in their mission -- understanding what news is and writing articles to reflect that -- every day. Their failures are usually in unflamboyant ways such as not questioning whether it is a good idea for Christians to be be in Iraq seeking converts.

Ph.D from a black hole

I avoid pseudoscience about relationships like I do perfume sections in department stores (I'm really allergic), so I have not read any of the books in which John Gray claims to explain the genders to each other. Sociologist Kieran Healey clued me in on a not so secret secret about Gray.

Men from Mars, Women from Venus, Ph.Ds from Uranus

Via Kevin ‘the Animal’ Drum we learn that John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is pretty touchy. He’s threatening to sue a blogger who pointed out last November that Gray’s Ph.D was of dubious provenance. I thought this was pretty well known — I mean, I knew it, and it’s not like I keep up with the news. He got it from Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited diploma mill somewhere in California. There was a TV story about it a while ago. But though CPU may be defunct (by the by, what computer scientist would not want a degree from CPU?) there are plenty of others. Enroll at Strassford University, for example (discussed further in this CBS news report), or Glencullen University, notionally located in the heart of Dublin1, or just cut to the chase and design your own degree — literally — at Ineedadiploma.com. This last site helpfully reminds you that, although “All our diplomas are printed on high quality parchment paper [and] all transcripts are printed on tamper proof, security paper,” and that  ”You also have the option of adding a security hologram to any transcript”, nevertheless “none of our items are intended to be used for unlawful misrepresentation or fraudulent purposes.” 

1 Glencullen also operates as the University of Wexford, which I suppose isn’t that far from Dublin, but also as the University of San Moritz, which makes you hope the students don’t have to walk across campus to get from one lecture to the next.

Say it ain't so. Surely, a fellow who knows the names of two of the planets doesn't have a fish wrapper Ph.D.

What do I think about Gray's threatened legal action? He might as well save his money. It appears the claim his doctorate came from a diploma mill is true, and truth is a complete defense to claims of defamation. Relax, Gavin.

8:00 PM

Friday, March 19, 2004  

Technology: Lifeblog isn't what is seems to be

What do you think when you read the word "Lifeblog"? Blogging software, for sure. A new API client? A competitor for Blogger and Movable Type? A blog search engine that really works? That was my reaction, too. But, we're wrong. Lifeblog is new software from Nokia for mobile phones. The first to use it will be Nokia 7610. But so far, Lifeblog doesn't have anything to do with blogging.

Wired asked Nokia why.

Where Apple has expanded on the success of the integration of iTunes and iPod by releasing a suite of music, video and photography tools under the iLife banner, Nokia is attempting to bring that same level of integration to the growing mishmash of data captured by the current round of cell phones: sound, text, photography and even video.

After connecting your phone to a Windows-based PC with the Lifeblog software, photos and messages will not only be downloaded and saved to the computer, but they will be organized and available for searching and editing, according to the Nokia website. Users will even be able to mark certain items as "favorites" to be held in the phone's memory, forming sort of a "greatest hits" scrapbook, a digital version of a wallet stuffed with beloved photos and important notes, only sleeker.

In other words, Lifeblog will serve as both a way to create content and a conduit from the wireless device to the computer, much as a PDA or an iPod does. Nokia acknowledges the name is misleading.

"Maybe log would have made more sense," said Keith Nowak, spokesman for Nokia. But he does see Lifeblog as a useful tool for bloggers, helping them to organize their words and pictures. "You can look, day by day, here's what I did, here's what I saw."

Nowak sees actual weblogging as a possible future direction for Lifeblog. "It's a possibility," he says. "The interest is there."

Christian Lindholm, a blogger who is also Nokia's director of multimedia applications, has tried to end the confusion by explaining Lifeblog on his weblog.

More on the misunderstandings:

1.) Q: Why a logging tool or as Nokia prefer to call it a multimedia diary?

[A:] Nokia feels that blogging is a subset of your electronic life, not the whole life, hence our focus on the PC initially. The first version will not have any features enabling blogging (you can send e-mail from PC version, but I do not call that blogging).

2. Q: Why does Nokia call it Lifeblog? A: We added the 'b' in front of the 'log' as we wanted the name signal a longer term intent. Nokia['s] mission is connect people and that is what blogs do.

3.) Nokia Lifeblog will not be available for the Nokia 6620, but some other terminal.

At least one citizen of the blogosphere, San Francisco blogger Russell Beattie, has urged Nokia to get blogworthy.

Here's what I told Christian: Just make sure there's an open API of some sort. I've been weblogging for several years now and in my time lots of fads have come and gone. But the idea is that the memes that stick and are accepted by "the community" are the ones that allow participation and expansion. APIs are especially popular (XML-RPC, Google API, Amazon API, Trackback, Technorati, Atom), but also concepts (FOAF), graphics (those little xml icons) and anything you can stick on your webpage (BlogChalking, BlogRolls, etc.). In terms of desktop clients mostly the focus has been on news aggregators, but there's a few attempts to create better ways of posting using the APIs out there. Bloggers want to play, so you've got to let them.

Eventually Lifeblog *needs* to integrate with a weblogging service. But for now? Just an API to get access to the Lifeblog data would be fine and let the independant developers take it from there. Seriously - the application does so much - synching and organizing multimedia and text data from your phone, now all it needs is some hooks for the hackers out there to do cool stuff with it. An application that has blog in the name, but doesn't have anything to do with the web is a bit amusing since blog is short for the contraction between web and log, but at the core of it, blogs are simply easy-to-update digital diaries, which is what Nokia is trying to with this app. Let those motivated independant developers out there do the rest. . . .

So far, blogging by a miniature device, such as a phone or PDA, is more hype than reality. I've described my less than stellar results blogging with my 802.11b capable Palm Tungsten C. I've yet to find any software that is reliable. Most of the programs, such as Kablog and Vagablog, don't function with Palm OS 5 at all. Other would-be bloggers on the spot report similar results. The most we're able to do is take notes and turn them into blog entries on the computer later. Perhaps the currently misnamed Lifeblog will develop into a program that will ease the frustration of bloggers on the go. But, that relief has not arrived yet.

2:48 PM

Thursday, March 18, 2004  

Law: Second Oregon county will marry gays

Then there were two. A second county in Oregon has decided to grant marriage licenses to homosexual couples. If you have been following the developments, you know Multnomah County decided, following the vice of counsel, that gays could marry at the beginning of March. The licenses were issued beginning March 3. Hundreds of marriages have taken place since, but under dark clouds, both real and symbolic. Opponents of gay marriage were refused pretrial relief. Last Friday, the state issued a legal opinion saying the applicable statutes allow only female-to-male marriage. However, the attorney general also said those statutes may violate the equal protection clause of the state's constitution. Multnomah County Chairperson Diane Linn released a statement saying the county would continue to issue marriage licenses.

Now, Benton County has joined the fray.

Benton County commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning next week, a decision that caught all sides of a fractious debate off guard.

Benton joins Multnomah as the only counties in Oregon to approve same-sex marriages, broadening the fight over an issue that everyone expects to eventually be settled by the Oregon Supreme Court.

An interesting aspect of life in Multnomah County and Portland I have not mentioned before is what the disapproving refer to as "government by girls." Most elected officials, including Linn, most of the county council, half the city council and the mayor, are women. The scuttlebutt around town blames the approval of gay marriage on "GBG." Poll data suggests there may be something to that. Women are about ten percent more likely to favor allowing gays to marry than men. In Benton County, government by girls has struck again.

Linda Modrell, chairwoman of the Benton County Board of Commissioners, said Tuesday's vote came after a 21/2-hour meeting in which both sides of the debate were well represented, and it came against the advice of the board's attorney. She said commissioners read legal opinions from Vance Croney, Benton County counsel; Multnomah County; the legislative counsel's office; and Attorney General Hardy Myers, all of whom said the state law probably is unconstitutional.

Modrell said that although she went into the meeting thinking the county should wait until a definitive decision from the Oregon Supreme Court, compelling testimony changed her mind.

"If it's unconstitutional a month from now, it's unconstitutional today," she said. "That coupled with the example of Japanese Americans returning from World War II who were not allowed to own property. We don't need to wait to decide that kind of thing was wrong."

The two women on the commission voted to allow gays to marry. The man was opposed.

Croney said he advised the Benton County board that state law prohibits same-sex marriage. Although the law has not been ruled unconstitutional, Croney said he told the board that it probably would be overturned if challenged.

"This is one of those issues where half the people are going to be displeased and that somebody would file some kind of a lawsuit regardless of where they stood on the issue," Croney said. "I think the board made a well-informed decision, and as their attorney, I will back them."

But Jay Dixon, the commissioner who voted against the decision, told The Associated Press that he thought the county was moving too quickly even though he expects the Supreme Court to eventually allow same-sex marriages.

. . .County officials said they would begin issuing the licenses at 9 a.m. March 24.

Currently, Oregon is the only state in which gay marriages are occurring. Massachusett's will go down in history as the first state where a legal opinion held gays have the right to marry under a state constitution. However, the plan was for those marriages to begin May 17. Now that the legislature has passed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, when or whether gay marriage will occur there is quite murky. The earliest Massachusetts' voters can vote on the issue is 2006. California's courts will likely rule on the issue before Massachusett's election. In the meantime, its Supreme Court ordered San Francisco to stop issuing marriage licenses to homosexuals last week. The status of those already married will remain unclear until the high court rules on the merits of gay marriage. Oregon, whose courts have often led the nation in matters of human rights since the California courts ceded that role to them in the 1970s, may again wear the mantle of leadership as a result of the issue ripening much more quickly than anyone expected.

5:45 AM

Tuesday, March 16, 2004  

Business: What's red and yellow all over?

I may eventually have to return to the corporate employment. Working for oneself definitely has its limitations, most notably in regard to income. However, when I read articles about what the corporate world puts employees through, particularly those without much power, I remember why nonconformist me left it. My attire on a given day varies from jeans and tee shirt to a suit if I am doing something that makes one appropriate. But, at least, I get to decide. Workers at DHL Worldwide Express don't. And, they are paying the price, embarrassment, for a choice they never made. One of DHL's websites tells the suits' side of the story -- without describing employee reaction.

Sweden, Stockholm, February 13th, 2004 - For some six weeks, couriers and drivers within DHL Express Sweden will participate in a global trial of trousers, sweatshirts, jackets, caps etc., starting in the first week of February. The trial will also be carried out in Germany, Spain, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico and the United States. The purpose is to evaluate the functionality, quality and design of the test collection. In total, more than 3600 DHL Express employees will be participating in this research.

Every year close to ten million customer visits are made by the couriers and drivers of DHL Express in Sweden. It is an advantage for the customer to be able to identify a courier picking up/delivering an express shipment at a glance, or a driver picking up/delivering packages and heavier goods. Apart from being practical and easy to recognize, the uniforms should also convey a message compatible with the brand.

By doing thorough research on our test collection involving couriers, drivers and even customers we stand a good chance of being able to produce corporate wear that is both uniform and attractive. The work wear needs to meet the heavy demands on functionality in different countries, but they should also give the wearer a feeling of solidarity and pride, says Lars Sundman, Managing Director, DHL Express (Sweden) AB.

The viewpoint from down on the ground is different. There is no question the new uniforms are uniform, but they are hardly attractive. "Solidarity and pride?" Please. As someone who lives in one of the eleven international test cities, I've seen the attire in person and can't help but cringe for those forced to wear it. Fashion columnist Jill Spitznass agrees.

As Michael Jackson can tell you, sometimes even the most well-intentioned makeover can go horribly wrong.

Witness the DHL Worldwide Express courier team, now sporting the alarming results of a recent corporate rebranding.

Once resplendent in navy blue and classic red, the DHL crew now greets the dawn wearing a combo of tomato red and mustard yellow. Passable hues on their own, when these colors come together some kind of chromatic alchemy occurs. It can't be helped: The first thing that comes to mind is a popular fast food chain.

"Hey, I didn't know McDonald's delivered," a fellow said to a DHL delivery guy downtown the other day, a razz that was met with stony-faced silence from the vividly dressed employee.

It is difficult not to associate a burger and side of fries with the red and yellow uniforms. An Airborne Express delivery to my door yesterday resulted in an effort not to hurt the DHL employee's feelings that I barely controlled. As soon as the door was shut, I laughed so loud I nearly dropped my package. I hope the fellow didn't hear me.

Employees have been told they can opt out of the test. A Portland delivery man says he has and others are doing so as well.

Feedback, schmeedback. Many workers aren't waiting around to hear the guilty verdict on the new design. Portland DHL employee Lew Yocom already has gone back to the gray Airborne Express duds he used to wear, saying the red and yellow get-up was getting him down.

"It got to where I couldn't do my job," says Yocom, a nine-year veteran of the company. "I didn't want to go into my stops because of what people would say. The girls at Ann Taylor were calling me Pooh Bear, and of course you get the McDonald's and the clown jokes. It's funny for a day or two, and then it's not."

However, big business rarely likes it when employees take matters into their own hands. I can't help but wonder if there is a price to pay if DHL workers rebel. Is there a black mark next to Yocom's name now? Have those fellows in Sweden been noted as troublemakers? Have DHL's employment lawyers noticed dissatisfaction and wondered if the more vocal complainers might be potential union leaders? Those are the kinds of questions disagreement between management and labor bring to my mind.

Corporate DHL says everything is copacetic. The trial is occurring now, and, if the uniforms are not successful, they will be rejected.

When the research period is over, employees will have the opportunity to give their views on materials, colour, cut, etc. The Swedish result will then be combined with the evaluation from the other seven countries, and after a complete review of all suggestions for improvement a final collection will be produced. The launch of a quality uniform that is durable, functional and brand building is scheduled for the end of 2004.

But, what is success in this context? I suspect the leadership of DHL, not lowly workers, will decide. Employee Yocom hopes the new uniforms will go away. But, they may not. Then, he will be forced to look like a kindergartener's idea of color coordination for years to come.

7:55 PM