Archive for April 24th, 2008

Discounts For Me, But Not For Thee

Hey, remember when the Republicans made that huge stink about MoveOn getting a discounted rate for their General Betray Us ad (as we know, The Most Horrible And Unpatriotic Ad Evar)?  Wonder if they’ll have anything to say about this:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain got a deal when his campaign rented gathering space from the city of Homewood for a private fundraiser earlier this week.

His campaign was given a discount of about 80 percent off the standard booking rate for Rosewood Hall. In September, Jefferson County Democrats rented the same facility and were charged the full rate.

The McCain campaign was charged $250 to use two rooms in the hall, which normally would book for $1,200 on a weeknight. The campaign also was given free labor from Homewood City Jail inmates to set up tables and chairs for the event, avoiding a $100 set-up fee, but did pay a standard $50 cleaning fee.

Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley said the rental rate was discounted because the event was on Monday, a slow day for business. City Council members say they always vote on such discounts but didn’t get a say in this deal. They’re upset, as are local Democrats.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Robert Yarbrough, chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party and a Homewood resident.

“I was charged full book rate. I was never offered any free inmate services to set up for my event. Mayor McCulley owes an apology to every citizen in Homewood as to why he arbitrarily changed the fee for this out-of-state senator from Arizona.”

(…)

McCulley said he and City Council President Ginger Busby agreed on the lower rate for McCain’s event. He said minor policy changes such as this don’t require council approval.

(…)

City Councilman David Hooks said that the council typically debates and votes each time there is a request to discount or waive the rent, but that didn’t happen this time.

“I’d be concerned with the legal ramifications of that, from the city’s perspective,” Hooks said. “It could be a problem for the city to have made in-kind donations to a political candidate by charging less rent or having inmates do work for the event.”

Yeah, I’m sure the Republicans will be denouncing this preferential treatment any day now.  A-ny day now…

April 24th, 2008 at 10:56pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,McCain,Politics,Republicans

Great Moments In Capitalism

What could possibly go wrong?  Hey, maybe they should clone some dinosaurs while they’re at it, to really lock in the excitement.

[Llewellyn] Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is pouring millions of dollars into developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum. It is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland. “The people need this kind of positive influence. It’s going to have a huge psychological impact,” Mr Werner said.

(…)

Mr Werner, who has been sold a 50-year lease on the site by the Mayor of Baghdad for an undisclosed sum, says that the time is ripe for the amusement park. “I think people will embrace it. They’ll see it as an opportunity for their children regardless if they’re Shia or Sunni. They’ll say their kids deserve a place to play and they’ll leave it alone.

Riiiight.  That’ll totally happen.

The project will cost $500 million (£250 million) and will be managed by Iraqis. Under the terms of the lease, Mr Werner will retain exclusive rights to housing and hotel developments, which he says will be both culturally sensitive and enormously profitable. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t making money,” he said. “I also have this wonderful sense that we’re doing the right thing – we’re going to employ thousands of Iraqis. But mostly everything here is for profit.”

Wow, what a humanitarian.  I’m all verklempt.

The park’s most popular attraction will be Not-Getting-Shot-At-Land, but I hear they’re having some trouble constructing it.

(h/t MoJo)

April 24th, 2008 at 09:42pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Iraq,Wankers,Weirdness

Thou Shalt Not Have Any Other Religious Denominations Before Me

How crazy and intolerant is the Religious Right?  This many:

In 1952, when Harry Truman called for a National Day of Prayer, now celebrated annually on the first Thursday of May, it was meant to encourage Americans of all faiths to pray with one another in whatever way felt best to them. It would be an ecumenical celebration of faith that would draw people together in common religious and spiritual contemplation. One can only imagine what Truman would think of this year’s event, the planning for which has been marred by bitter squabbling over who should be allowed to participate.

Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson, the conservative founder of Focus on the Family, is this year’s chairperson of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a non-governmental organization based in Focus on the Family’s offices in Colorado Springs and charged with organizing various events. According to Jay Keller, national field director of the Interfaith Alliance, Dobson has made a point of “excluding Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Buddhists, and even mainline Christians” from the National Day of Prayer.

Thanks to Dobson, this year’s task force volunteers are required to sign pledges, stating: “I commit that NDP activities I serve with will be conducted solely by Christians while those of differing beliefs are welcome to attend.” Volunteers must also affirm that they “believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of The Living God” and that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation and have an ongoing relationship with God.” Such oaths violate the non-sectarian nature of the National Day of Prayer and clearly align “a government-sponsored event with a particular Christian denomination, in violation of the basic provisions of the First Amendment to the Constitution,” says Keller.

If that isn’t enough to make Truman roll over in his grave, try this: Dr. Ravi Zacharias, the honorary chairman of this year’s event, has refused to invoke the name of Jesus Christ in his official prayer, so as not to offend the faithful of other religions. (Read the text of his prayer here.) This has sparked outrage among Evangelicals, such as those at the Christian Newswire, which issued a press release—titled, “Ashamed of Jesus at the National Day of Prayer”—which attacks Zacharias and, if you can believe it, takes aim at Dobson for not doing enough to uphold Jesus’ name in the upcoming events.

An excerpt from the release:

According to the truth of God’s Word, the entire counsel of God, we do not pray in “God’s Holy Name” to God the Father. We pray to God the Father in the name of His only Son, Jesus Christ, who alone provides us access to the Father. It is appalling that Dr. Zacharias is willing to capitulate to the un- Scriptural, interfaith ecumenism and discard the name of Jesus. NDP Chairwoman, Shirley Dobson, owes a biblical explanation to Christians around the nation as to why the name of Jesus is absent from the official prayer. We are not here as Christians to appease those of other world religions. We cannot come to God except through His Son’s righteous merits. To pray as “Christians” in any other way is both a farce and a mockery. While other believers around the world are dying for that name, in America, Dr. Zacharias will not even breathe that name in his official public prayer because it might “offend”.

If evangelical leaders want God’s help in the midst of America’s deepening national crisis, we must come to Him on His stated terms, not ours. Either God’s Word is truth, or it is not. There is no middle ground. There are no special interfaith prayer models in Scripture for evangelical activists hoping to maintain conservative political coalitions. Such tacit denial of Jesus Christ will court God’s righteous wrath, not His blessing. Dr. Zacharias owes an apology to those throughout history who have paid the ultimate price for their fealty to King Jesus. May God grant repentance to those pragmatic evangelicals who place cultural concerns before Scriptural truth.

Yes, God forbid you should show any respect for other religions, because that would totally make the Baby Jesus cry.  I swear, the fundie God must be the most insecure deity ever.

1 comment April 24th, 2008 at 08:40pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Religion,Republicans

Because This Is Totally Not Creepy At All…

babymonitor.jpg

I mean, this wouldn’t scar a kid for life or anything, right?

When Deb Roy and his wife, Rupal Patel, learned of their impending bundle of joy, they did what many first-time parents do: They got a video camera. Actually, they bought 11 video cameras and 14 state-of-the-art microphones. Then they built a temperature-controlled data-storage room in their basement and loaded it with, among other gear, five Apple Xserves and a 4.4TB Xserve RAID, backup tape drives, and robotic tape changers. No, Roy and Patel hadn’t instantly become the world’s most doting parents; instead, they had hatched a plan to record practically every waking moment of their son’s first three years.

The high-powered academic couple—he directs of the Cognitive Machines Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, and she directs the Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory at Northeastern University—scrambled to convert their suburban Boston home into a state-of-the-art research center that would host the most ambitious study ever conducted on how children acquire language. They named the linguistic data-mining odyssey the Human Speechome Project (HSP)…. In addition to their roles as primary investigators in the study, Roy and Patel are, along with their now two-year-old son, the central research subjects.

“My ultimate goal is to understand how language works,” Roy explains. That’s a tall order, and the logical place to start, he maintains, is with children. Decades of inquiry involving video and audio recordings of children interacting with caregivers and psychologists in institutional “speech labs” have laid a foundation to begin answering questions about how children develop language skills. The day-in/day-out interactions between children and adults, Roy points out, are key to the way children grasp language. “But for all of the interest in how children learn language, there’s no comprehensive data of even a single child’s development,” Roy says. “Most researchers rely on speech recordings that cover less than 1.5 percent of a child’s complete linguistic experience.”

And that simply isn’t a dense or broad enough data set to answer the kinds of deep questions that Roy thinks are necessary to uncover the steady process of language acquisition. Truly understanding how human beings acquire language requires “stepping into a child’s shoes.”

So, from the moment he arrived home from the hospital, Roy and Patel’s son has lived under the almost constant observation of the 14 microphones and 11 video cameras that are embedded in the ceiling over every major room of the house. “Somewhere around 80 percent of his waking hours at home are being recorded,” says Roy. For the other 20 percent, privacy considerations permit mom, dad and other caregivers to turn off the cameras or microphones using wall-mounted touch panels in each room. Roy also equipped each controller with an emergency “oops” switch, marked with a giant exclamation point, to erase any particularly embarrassing family moments.

(…)

Twenty-two months into the project, Roy says the storage network holds approximately 250TB of data, and by the end of the project in another year he expects it to grow to a full capacity of 1.4 petabytes (million gigabytes). That’s enough room to hold digitized copies of every book in the Library of Congress–10 times over.

I’m sure this could end up contributing valuable information to the study of linguistics, but I have to ask how it affects their relationship with their kid when he realizes that he was a test subject for his whole childhood, that 80% of said childhood is on tape, and all without his informed consent.  That kid is going to have ISSUES.

(h/t Engadget)

April 24th, 2008 at 07:40pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Science,Weirdness

Cartoon Characters I Am Just Like

Yeah, baby.

I am the microwave master.  If it’s microwaveable, and it has clear, simple, easy-to-follow directions, I am all over it.

April 24th, 2008 at 11:16am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Comics

Gotta Run, My Coalition’s Collapsing

Dang, I sure hope Blumenthal’s right about the right:

Bush’s second term has witnessed the great unraveling of the Republican coalition. After nearly two generations of political dominance, the Republican coalition has rapidly disintegrated under the stress of Bush’s failures and the Republicans’ scandals and disgrace. The Democrats have the greatest possible opening in more than a generation — potentially. They should pay strict attention to how Bush has swiftly undone Republican strengths as an object lesson.

(…)

In 2004, Bush swaggered through his reelection campaign, still swept along on the momentum from September 11. He and Rove did not consider the perverse and unprecedented illogic of Bush v. Gore as anything but a rightful decision. They did not see the means by which he became president as artificial, making his position inherently weak and unstable. Bush took occupying the office itself and September 11 as tantamount to a resounding mandate for his radicalism. Nor did Bush or Rove view Bush’s steady and precipitous decline in popularity as cause to reconsider their preconceptions. After the Afghanistan invasion, Bush’s numbers tumbled until he ramped up the campaign for the invasion of Iraq, after which his standing dived again, only to spike once more after the capture of Saddam Hussein, only to fall again. Nonetheless, Rove drew no lessons from these warnings, except that war and terror served as indispensable political weapons to sustain Bush. On this rock, Rove proposed to build a reigning party.

(…)

The scale of the Bush disaster is larger than any cataclysm since [the Democratic collapse in 1968]. Whether or not there is a powerful geopolitical analogy between Iraq and Vietnam wars, as Bush first insistently denied, then vehemently argued, there is a pertinent domestic political analogy. Vietnam ended a Democratic era as definitively as Iraq is closing a Republican one.

(…)

Every time the conservative Republican period seemed to be exhausted it gained new impetus through openings created by Democratic fractiousness and incompetence in politics and governing. With each cycle conservatism reemerged more radicalized — a steady march further to the right. After Nixon’s disgrace in Watergate came Reagan; after the conservative crackup that engulfed George H.W. Bush came the radical Congress elected in 1994, led by Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay; and then came George W. Bush. Bill Clinton’s presidency served as an interregnum that might have broken the Republican era for good had his vice president Al Gore been permitted to assume the office he won by a popular majority. But the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court ultimately thwarted him. When the court in Bush v. Gore handed the presidency to Bush it gave him an extraordinary and unnatural chance to extend Republican power.

Only through the will to power in the Florida contest, the deus ex machina of the Supreme Court, and the tragedy of September 11, was Bush able to gain and hold the presidency. But he and the Republicans have been living on borrowed if not stolen time.

Karl Rove believed he could engineer a political realignment by recreating his work in Texas where he marshaled money and focused campaign technology in order to destroy the Democrats. But the analogy of the nation as Texas writ large was faulty from the start. In Texas he had the wind at his back, regardless of how elaborate and clever his machinations. The transformation of Texas in the 1980s and 1990s into a Republican state was a delayed version of Southern realignment. Yet Rove came to Washington believing that the example of Texas could be transferred to the national level. With the attacks of September 11, this seasoned architect of realignment believed he possessed the impetus to enact his theory. It apparently never occurred to Rove or Bush that using Iraq to lock in the political impact of September 11 would ever backfire. In his First Inaugural, Bush spoke of an “angel in the whirlwind,” but the whirlwind was of his own making. For all intents and purposes Rove could not have done more damage to the Republican Party than if he had been the control agent for the Manchurian Candidate.

The cataclysm has consumed Rove’s theory, his president, his party, and prospects for a Republican majority. The Republicans may take years if not decades to recreate their party, but that project would have to be on a wholly different basis.

The radicalization of the Republican Party is not at an end, but may only be entering a new phase. Loss of the Congress in 2006 is not accepted as reproach. Quite the opposite, it is understood by the Republican right as the result of lack of will and nerve, failure of ideological purity, errant immorality by members of Congress, betrayal by the media, and by moderates within their own party. They may never recover from the election of 2004, when they believed their agenda received majority support and they ecstatically thought they were the “Right Nation.”

Herbert Hoover did not transform his party but became its avatar through failure. By contrast, Bush has remade the Republican Party, turning it into a minority party as a consequence of his radicalism. Bush’s discredited Republicanism has further provoked the radicalization of its base where religious right and nativist elements are increasingly dominant. The party is in the grip of an intolerant identity politics — white male semi-rural fundamentalist Protestant — that seems only to alienate women, suburbanites, Hispanics, and young people. By the end of his presidency, Bush had achieved the long conservative ambition of remaking the Republican Party without an Eastern moderate wing. Once a national coalition, embracing New York and California, Alabama and Illinois, the Republican Party has retreated into the Deep South and Rocky Mountains.

(…)

But the Democrats have not yet solidified a new coalition. They may be on the eve of becoming a majority national party for the first time in their history without conservative Southerners at their core. But they may still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, mesmerized by grandiose delusions as if the past were weightless. Just as the Republican collapse under Bush has given the Democrats an unprecedented opening, the Democrats may still find a way to reinvent the Republicans. Even if they win the presidency, the Democrats can only consolidate their future coalition through skillful and successful governing. Only then they will be the sun. In Bush’s final days, a new era has not yet dawned, but an old one is setting.

In other words, Rove managed to suppress America’s gag reflex just enough to keep the Bush and Republican toxins in our system for an extra four years, and now everyone is far more sick of Republicans than they would have if Bush and the Republican majority had gone away like they should have in 2004.

I think there’s something to that, but the question is whether the Democrats can capitalize on it – especially after doing so little to oppose the Bush agenda, even after they assumed the majority in 2006.  I have to admit to being amused by Blumenthal’s worry that the Democrats might blow it by becoming “mesmerized by grand delusions” – if there’s one thing the post-2000 Democrats have not been guilty of, it’s overreach.  It’s underreach that I’m worried about – that even with control of Congress and the White House, the Democrats will be too timid and cautious to effectively roll back and repair all the damage BushCo. has done.

In which case they’ll hand power right back to the Republicans, who will probably have retooled and reinvented themselves by then. I mean, who would have thought that we would have a Republican president just 6 years after Watergate?  The Republicans are more resilient than cockroaches.

2 comments April 24th, 2008 at 07:16am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Politics,Republicans


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