12.25.2005 | Making a list, checking it twice

Let's see, what has Bush done to put him on the naughty list this year?

  • Lying to the American people. In 2004 ("for years," according to this AFP article) Bush said that in fighting the war on terror, when it came to wiretaps, they were not performed without warrants. He insists today that he is protecting American civil liberties, but suddenly warrants (and the Fourth Amendment) aren't necessary anymore. Charles Krauthammer argued in a Dec. 23 Washington Post Op-Ed that the Supreme Court in a 1972 ruling effectively allowed monitoring of "foreign agents" without a warrant. Yet what he doesn't address is that the monitoring the Bush administration has done is on U.S. citizens. This isn't to say monitoring isn't necessary. But even Bush's defenders have admitted getting a warrant isn't exactly difficult.

  • Making propaganda. In January 2005, we learned that Bush paid a conservative commentator using taxpayer dollars to spread his conservative "No Child Left Behind" agenda. This came after 2004 revelations that Bush's Department of Health and Human Services also illegaly used taxpayer dollars to fund a public relations campaign promoting the Bush Medicare agenda in an election year.

  • Waiting to provide aid. In the January 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami, we only raised our amount of aid to stricken countries after we saw other countries surpassing our contribution. With Hurricane Katrina in August, aid came only after we saw unnecessary suffering at the hands of a crippled FEMA in the wake of a Homeland Security reorganization that was supposed to make Americans safer. Say what you want about state and local responsibility; in the past FEMA was there with support.

  • Still more lying – Bush promised to fire anyone involved in the Valerie Plame scandal. Karl Rove still has his position, and only Scooter Libby resigned after being indicted.


And all this is on top of how America was misled into war in 2003. Another year, another list of misdeeds. Hopefully the Bush administration can turn itself around for the sake of the American people, but from my standpoint it seems high time for new leadership. For the sake of improved checks and balances, I'm hoping for a Democratic majority in at least one house of Congress in 2006. Any change in Washington – from either party – cannot come too soon.

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The color of temptation

"What is the color of temptation?" is the question posed by a recent Panasonic ad for high-definition TVs. For me, the color of temptation is black and yellow (incidentally, yellow was the color of the fire hydrant in the Panasonic commercial eyed by a small dog – it's also one of my school colors). These are the colors of the new Sprint, and this snazzy new phone that's currently available buy one get one free for $49.

I'm tired of Cingular's two-year agreement (I'm currently one year through), and I'm so unhappy with my phone that I'm going to pay the $150 termination fee just so I can take advantage of Sprint's offer. They have fairer terms, and only a one-year commitment. I'm going to the store tomorrow to try out the phone in person, but from what I know of Samsung before, it's a sweet phone (my current Motorola loses its charge in a day and locks up every now and then, less than a year out).

Update (12/27/05): I went to go try out the phone at the Sprint store the other day, and it's not so great after all. Though the prospect of greater network coverage (at least in Va.) is tempting, the voice quality is not as good as Cingular. The phone was also cheap and plasticky just like the current Motorola I despise so much. There just are no good cell phones anymore. I might get a Nokia 1100 because at least I know it won't fall apart.

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12.20.2005 | Praying for the President

Pray for the President. Seriously. If, as he claims, Bush is a man of faith, as I am, he needs our prayers. Many of my faith support the president blindly, as if he were God's representative on Earth and we must follow what he says. I, on the other hand, understand that he is human and is just as capable of making mistakes as we are. Regardless of your political affiliation, even if you believe Bush is a hopeless cause, pray for him. I urge you. His failings and human fallibility only means he needs our prayers just that much more.

I was originally going to launch on a rant about how supporters of the President who claim to have faith can't have true faith since much of what he does (tax breaks for the rich at the expense of the poor, invading countries as the initiator of violence) doesn't match what I believe are the true values of the Christian religion. But then I found this Web site, and I realized: one thing all Christians, and possibly even non-Christians can agree upon this Christmas is that the president needs our prayer.

And right at this moment, what I'm praying to God that Bush understands most are these words from our Constitution, our sacred ruling document that no man claim himself above:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This isn't just about upholding two centuries of human progress, individual liberties and making sure our government reflects the values of the country we've come to know and love. And it isn't just about Bush's personal political career or legacy, which would greatly be improved if he recognized the error of his ways. It's about Christmas, a time of coming together despite our differences in a spirit of reconiciliation, peace and love. Pray that Bush receives this Christmas message, and Merry Christmas to all. To all a good night.

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12.17.2005 | Wake up! Global warming is real

 

The atmosphere now holds more than one-third more carbon dioxide than it did before the Industrial Revolution. In fact, European scientists reported last month that analysis of ice cores from Antarctica shows that today's level is 27 percent higher than any previous peak looking back 650,000 years.


As temperatures rise and global warming talks stall, it seems global warming is increasingly becoming an inescapble fact. Inescapable that is, for all but the U.S., who staunchly refuses to participate in any forced reduction of carbon emissions. China and India, rising giants whose economies still hover somewhere between developing and industrialized, sit on the sidelines as well.

The problem with modern environmental regulation is that countries that have already polluted to build up their economies (or in our case, still want to pollute) have to contend with developing economies that want to be able to waste their environment just as much as the industrialized nations have. Between these two factions we could find a balance if we had a leader willing to work out the compromises. But the U.S. under the Bush administration, as it does on other matters, continues to hold its head in the sand.

Bush once escaped the problem by saying "we need more study." But the facts are in, even in a report released by his own administration last year. Global warming is real, and between tons of emissions on a daily basis and rampant deforestation (trees, if you recall, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen), we are at least partially to blame.

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Bush: 'I'm violating your rights for your own good'



The cowboy in the background is appropriate for describing the attitude Bush takes toward every civilized precedent in the world. From international law to civil liberties here at home, Bush isn't interested in letting silly little rules or – say, the Constitution – get in his way. He once joked that his job would be "a lot easier if this were a dictatorship." No one's laughing.

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12.14.2005 | In the News

Bush finally takes responsibility for Iraq invasion, but not without insisting it was the right decision. Elsewhere in the Bush administration, the EPA wants to reduce industry's "regulatory burden" by relaxing pollution reporting rules, making it harder to keep track of exactly what toxic chemicals we're drinking in our water or breathing in the air. And last but not least, more than 100 religious protesters were arrested outside a Congressional office building, but not for the cause you might think.

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12.13.2005 | No Christmas for Tookie

I don't usually have sympathy for gang co-founders, but Mr. Williams has dedicated his life to anti-gang activism, writing a number of books denouncing his former ways. Critics complain that he never apologized for the crimes he was convicted of, but I ask how it is possible to apologize for a crime you say you never committed. Some have said that admitting to the crime would have saved his life, but I wonder what that says about our justice system. Does a person deserve to die for maintaining his innocence?

I think Williams' attempts to make amends through his anti-gang activism were enough to grant the mercy of clemency – and even then only life without parole. Williams, now an old man, could have lived the rest of his days in confinement and continued his activism against gang violence.

I think our society has moved too far from a corrections and punishment mentaility toward a revenge mentality when it comes to the death penalty. In the Bible, Jesus saved the life of the adulterer, saying "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Granted, more of us have struggled with sexual sin than committing the high crime of murder, but I think Jesus' mercy and forgiveness are aspects sorely missing from our justice system today.

This is not to say that we should let criminals out on the streets. Crimes, like sins, have their consequences, and people have to live with them. But the key word is live: death provides an escape for some people while prematurely cutting off a chance of reform for others. In this case, I think we lost a powerful voice against gang violence. And all this after the 1,000th execution in the United States since the death penalty was resumed in 1977, while questions are surrounding the exoneration of many death row inmates after review of DNA evidence. A message to think about this Christmas, what is supposed to be a time of peace and reconciliation.

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I've got the Verve

Check out The Verve Remixed Complete Box Set on Amazon.com. A friend recently introduced me to the collection via (legally purchased) CD. iTunes also has a version that costs $10 more but comes with bonus tracks. It's an eclectic collection of some old jazz standards electrified with some funky fresh beats. Here are my favorite (non-bonus) tracks from the collection:



Spanish Grease 7:26
Willie Bobo (Dorfmeister con madrid de los austrias muga reserva mix)

How Long Has This Been Going On 4:57
Carmen McRae (MJ Cole Remix)

Return To Paradise 5:52
Shirley Horn (Mark De Clive-Lowe Remix)

Strange Fruit 3:19
Billie Holiday (Tricky Remix)

Hare Krishna 6:57
Tony Scott (King Britt Remix)

Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby? 4:58
Dinah Washington (Rae and Christian Remix)

Summertime 6:50
Sarah Vaughan (UFO Remix)

Manteca 6:53
Dizzy Gillespie (Funky Lowlives Remix)

Sinnerman 4:35
Nina Simone (Felix Da Housecat's Heavenly House Mix)

Whatever Lola Wants 4:40
Sarah Vaughan (Gotan Project Remix)
Blues From Brother George Jackson 5:11
Archie Shepp (Mondo Grosso Next Wave Mix)

Do What You Wanna 5:24
Ramsey Lewis (Mr. Scruff's Soul Party Mix)

Soul Sauce 4:16
Cal Tjader (Fila Brazillia Remix)

Fried Neckbones And Some Home Fries 4:30
Willie Bobo (Dan The Automator Remix)

Just One of Those Things 4:48
Blossom Dearie (Brazilian Girls Remix)

Little Girl Blue 5:18
Nina Simone (Postal Service Remix)

Sing, Sing, Sing 6:07
Anita O'Day (RSL Remix)

Fever 4:38
Sarah Vaughan (Adam Freeland Remix)

The Gentle Rain 6:01
Astrud Gilberto (RJD2 Remix)

Peter Gunn 5:08
Sarah Vaughan (Max Sedgley Remix)

Stay Loose 3:20
Jimmy Smith (Lyrics Born Remix)


There's also a parallel set of albums called Verve Unmixed – the old jazz standards without the funky fresh beats. The best ones of these worth downloading are "Strange Fruit" and "Do What You Wanna."

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Design achievement

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

I finished the last project of my media graphics class today. The assignment was to design the front page of a newspaper with five assigned headlines. It's called the "Richmond Reporter," and it focuses on Richmond stories with a section highlighted in yellow called the "National Beat." I didn't like the name of the paper at first, but in the end I'm really happy with the way the layout turned out (the "National Beat" part was my idea). If you want to see it in all its full-size glory, e-mail me and I'll send you a high-resolution copy.

Update (12/17/05): Better image uploaded. I also now have a PDF available.

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12.11.2005 | New Dem buzz word: 'community'

A sense of community. What better non-partisan way of communicating what's wrong with America today. Or as Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois put it, "striking a balance between individual and collective responsibility." He equated the GOP's plans for privatizing Social Security and an "ownership society" as "social Darwinism," probably the most stinging indictment I've yet heard of the GOP's policies – and not a moment too soon.

Really that's what it's all about: leaving people to fend for themselves. Social conservatives, who subscribe to the rags-to-riches gospel of laissez-faire capitalism, have been yearning for decades to end the semi-socialist policies of FDR's New Deal, Social Security among them. The code words of "ownership society" and "personal accounts" are just lipstick on a pig, "reform" intended to disguise the policy for what it really is: turning the clock back on a century of social progress.

It's interesting that, in searching for a message, Democrats have settled on the idea of community. After George Lakoff's call for progressives to frame their issues, progressives have been calling for a community or "strong community" theme. In this time when most Americans believe America is on the wrong track and 40 percent of children no longer believe in the American dream (I could be counted among those), maybe a sense of community is just the thing we need.

Update (12/13/05): Obama's description of the GOP's policies as "Social Darwinism" has earned its own headline.

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12.07.2005 | Air marshal shooting: bait and switch?

When the U.S. was first pressing for air marshals on international flights in 2003, the issue was painted as one needed to prevent the hijacking of airplanes, which would be an in-flight proposition. Why, then, did this latest shooting happen not in the plane, but in the gate leading to the airport? My understanding of the air marshal program was that it was supposed to prevent a plane in the air from being used in 9/11-style hijackings, or maybe even keep it from blowing up. But killing a person in an airport gate? This isn't what we signed up for. According to this BBC News article, 'Sky marhsals should be the last option', the last resort to protect people in the air. The article also mentions how Israel's air marshals use secret buttons to signal the pilot to dive and throw anyone standing off balance – certainly not a shoot-to-kill policy. We need to reconsider what we're using our air marshals for, and if people's rights aren't being violated in the process.

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Déjà vu

After a similar shooting in London earlier this year, U.S. air marshals have opened fire on a bombing suspect at the Miami airport. Not only was the man they shot not on the plane, but he obeyed their order to leave the plane.

I don't want to jump to conclusions – the media was rife with speculation that if a Marshal had opened fire there "must have been a grave threat." I don't want to say that there wasn't. But this latest incident raises the question of whether a shoot-to-kill policy is the best to follow in protecting people from terrorist attacks

Why isn't it possible, for example, for non-lethal rubber bullets or tasers to be used? In fact I had assumed up until this point that marshals were armed with tasers. It's disturbing to me that these people can fire live rounds on an airplane.

While it can be argued that these measures are necessary for our safety, I wonder how much further we will be willing to tolerate the loss of innocent life at the hands of policies like these. In the London case the man was posthumously exonerated and found to be an innocent victim of misunderstanding – it was also later revealed that he didn't jump a subway turnstile as police had claimed. All signs seem to point that a similar misunderstanding may have taken place here.

I was especially disturbed by the appearance of a Florida Congressman on CNN (presumably a Republican) who said he didn't "really care" about the fact that the shooting victim might have been a victim of bipolar disorder. He called the death "unfortunate" and cited the billions of passengers who have flown with air marshals who hadn't been shot. As if that were some sort of comfort.

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Record lows

I wonder... does this recent spate of record cold weather have anything to do with the 30 percent drop in the Gulf stream current reported last week? May be coincidence, maybe not.

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12.06.2005 | Global warming: U.S. snubs Canada, senators ask, mayors act

As global warming talks continue in Canada and the first Pacific islanders move to escape the effects of global warming, the United States has taken a specifically stubborn approach to the talks: no compromise. It's a wonder we're even there at all, considering we refuse to recognize the 1998 Kyoto agreement that led to the world's first measures to reduce carbon emissions. Canada tried to make a compromise and have talks with the U.S., China and India under a 1992 agreement, but no dice. We remain the world's number one source of carbon dioxide, providing a full 25 percent of the world's total emissions.

Meanwhile, a group of 24 U.S. Senators has asked Bush to participate in the discussions in a constructive way, arctic and tropical indigenous peoples are uniting in the fight against climate change, and 192 U.S. cities, along with a few states, are moving ahead with their own measures. It seems the only people being left behind in all of this is the Bush administration and their stubborn insistence that we do nothing to solve the problem.

Bush's complaint about Kyoto was a good point: exempting India, China and other developing nations from any final agreement on global warming is not an option. But Bush doesn't understand the patience and time needed to work out diplomatic agreements (hence our virtual silence at the global warming talks, and our overly single-minded attempts to bring in more allies in the Iraq invasion). Rather than put pressure on China, India and others to join the agreement and cut emissions, Bush has used the exemptions, along with his continued (and possibly feigned) doubt that global warming exists, to excuse the U.S. from any action entirely. It's like a child throwing up his hands when he doesn't get his way. I wish it weren't possible to make a comparison like that to our own president, but I don't know how else to describe it.

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12.03.2005 | Iraqification

Senior Daily Show Correspondent Rob Corddry presents a hilarious analysis of the situation in Iraq, citing President Bush's oft-repeated quote, "As the Iraqi army stands up, America will stand down" -- the goal being to train Iraq's army to defend itself (much as we tried with Vietnamization in another era). The picture to the left, according to Corddry's report, is the system the Defense Department has come up with to track the progress of freedom in Iraq, with the western provinces "still a little kidnappy." Definitely a clip worth checking out. The most priceless quote comes at the end, in response to Jon Stewart's question about how we will know when we've won the war:

"This war will be won when we leave Iraq not as a failed nation-state eviscerated by a quarter-century of a tyrant's rule, but as a military and economic superpower, ruled by islamists with an enormous grudge against the United States."

Corddry explains earlier that we "botched" the end of World War II by pulling out as early as we did, leaving Germany and Japan "without a military-industrial complex to drain its resources," allowing them to become economic powerhouses. Apparently we won't let that become the case in Iraq. To watch the clip in full, click this link and then click on Corddry's piece, called "De-Weakening Iraq."

Update (5/16/07): New video link

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Political commentary

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12.02.2005 | Global warming 'worst-case scenario' realized


This NASA photo shows the minimum extent of the arctic ice cap in September 2005. The yellow line shows the cap's normal size.


As Tropical Storm Epsilon, the season's record 26th named storm, reached hurricane strength today (a hurricane in December?), another effect of global warming is being realized further to the North. Meet Canada's arctic waters, which are steadily being melted by rising arctic temperatures that are rising twice as fast as the average in the rest of the world. Together with the New Scientist report that the Gulf Stream current is slowing due to melting glacial waters, it's clear that the effects of global warming are upon us.

Arctic temperatures are expected to rise significantly by the end of the century, according to experts, which will melt even more glaciers.

"What we are seeing in the Arctic, and what we are seeing further south with the hurricanes, are the most pessimistic models of global warming," said Louis Fortier, an oceanographer who has just returned from an expedition to the region on the Canadian research vessel Amundsen.

Lasserre predicted that within 30 years it would probably be possible for ships not normally equipped for the Arctic to tackle the Northwest passage.

About 20-30 ships currently take it each summer now.

Melting in the Arctic is getting so bad that, according to this same article, the U.S. and Canada may be about to enter into a territorial dispute. Canada wants, and has claimed since 1986, jurisdiction over its northern waters to be able to enforce shipping regulations like environmental protections and safety training. The U.S., on the other hand, argues that any waters between two oceans are international waters.

Ironically, the melting of ice in the arctic will make it easer to access oil reserves in the Arctic Ocean, so we'll be able to burn even more oil to raise global temepratures even further to be able to melt more ice and find... more oil. There's also one reserve in the Arctic that is split by the Yukon-Alaska border between the U.S. and Canada, setting up the scene for yet another territorial dispute. Canada had better get its hands on a decent military, and fast.

Update (12/5/05): Arctic feels the heat from climate change – Reuters article on roughly the same subject, with a Canadian biologist pointing out a sharper than expected decrease in the extent and thickness of the Arctic ice cap.

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12.01.2005 | Interesting poetry

Be prepared; this stuff is explicit and downright sacreligious. But it's fun, and it shows the power of poetry to expose truth where words (or, gasp!, pictures) might otherwise fail.

The Pope's Penis
Sharon Olds

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver sweaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat — and at night
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.


The Solution
Sharon Olds

Finally they got the Singles problem under
control, they made it scientific. They opened huge
Sex Centers – you could simply go and state what you
want and they would find you someone who wanted that
too. You would stand under a sign saying I Like to
Be Touched and Held
and when someone came and
stood under the sign saying I Like to Touch and
Hold
they would send the two of you off
together.

At first it went great. A steady stream of
people under the sign I Like to Give Pain
paired up with a steady stream of people from under
I Like to Receive Pain. Foreplay Only – No
Orgasm
found its adherents, and Orgasm Only – No
Foreplay
matched up its believers. A loyal
Berkeley, California, policeman stood under the sign
Married Adults, Lights Out, Face to Face, Under a
Sheet
, because that's the only way it was legal in
Berkeley – but he stood there a long time in his lonely
blue law coat. And the man under I Like to Be Sung
to While Bread Is Kneaded on My Stomach
had been
there weeks without a reply.

Things began to get strange. The Love
Only – No Sex
was doing fine; the Sex Only – No
Love
was doing well, pair after pair walking out
together like wooden animals off a child's ark, but
the line for 38D or Bigger was getting unruly,
shouting insults at the line for 8 Inches or
Longer
, and odd isolated signs were springing up
everywhere, Retired Schoolteacher and Parakeet – No
Leather
; One Rm/No Bath/View of Sausage Factory.

The din rose in the vast room. The line
under I Want to Be Fucked Senseless was so long
that portable toilets had to be added and a minister
brought for deaths, births, and marriages on the
line. Over under I Want to Fuck Senseless – no
one, a pile of guns. A hollow roaring filled the
enormous gym. More and more people began to move over
to Want to Be Fucked Senseless. The line snaked
around the gym, the stadium, the whole town, out into
the fields. More and more people joined it, until
Fucked Senseless stretched across the nation in
a huge wide belt like the Milky Way, and since they
had to name it they named it, they called it the
American Way.

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