Archive for November, 2004

I don’t watch Desperate Housewives, and I haven’t seen a clip of the Sheridan/TO ad, but this is a good article about the hypocrisy of the family values movement.

Ah, the government. We’ve now got proposals to keep federal records of college students and a refusal by the Bush administration to work on privacy protection for the microchip passports-to-be.

In a bit of good news, the Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. This, of course, doesn’t mean that they’re supporting ruling, but are declining to hear the case because the folks who filed suit have no standing to do so. If you think about this, you’ll find that no one could possibly have standing to sue to prevent gay marriage. This is true for a number of things, really. Seems silly to criminalize things that don’t harm anyone enough to give them standing before the Supreme Court.

They aren’t perfect, but I kind of like this court. I hate to see what Bush is going to do to it.

Interesting article in the LA Times about potential disagreement among conservatives as social conservatives and free-market conservatives duke it out. The focus here is on two cases about to be heard by the Supreme Court, one dealing with medical marijuana, the other with the direct shipping of wine to consumers, but it’s certainly an issue with broader implications.

Based on past actions of this court, it looks like the free-market conservatives have the edge here. But as this article points out, in the big cases (eg, US vs Lopez, overturning a federal law prohibiting possession of a gun on school property) it’s been traditionally conservative issues which benefit from restricted federal power. Now, it’s traditionally liberal issues which stand to benefit.

We’ll see.

Last night Johanna and I went to see The Motorcycle Diaries at Midtown Cinema. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Che Guevara and Traveling with Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary by Alberto Granado, chronicling their eight-month journey through Latin America in 1951-52. I wanted to see it because I’m always up for a good travel movie; I didn’t know anything about Che Guevara, and have always had disdain for anyone wearing a t-shirt with his face on it.

The movie, of course, idealizes him. There is no mention of the racism, homophobia, or anti-Semitism apparently present in his book. It barely mentions Guevara’s later life, and makes absolutely no value judgment about it. It does, however, show the seeds of his thinking. It captures some of Latin America’s troubling aspects without being heavyhanded, or trying to tell the viewer what to think.

But this would be an enjoyable movie even if Guevara had not gone on to change the world (for better or worse). The friendship between the two men is heartwarming. The scenery is stunning. The adventures are enviable but sometimes harrowing. The whole thing is done subtly enough that it feels like a glimpse into an important time in someone’s life, and you can take from it what you will.

I was reminded that, however deeply buried, at some point, there was a glimmer of good beneath the communist revolutions. I hate being reminded of that.

Which means The Motorcycle Diaries is probably worth seeing.

The New York Times published an interesting article about California’s new stem cell initiative. I’ve been really excited to see a state doing something like this as a result of federal inaction, but this article draws attention to the potential problems that arise when any government body does anything. Well, the scope of the article isn’t that broad, but it’s what it’s got me thinking about.

I would like to see stem cell research being conducted. My first reaction to anything, though, is that I don’t want to see government spending money, especially on things a large number of people object to on moral grounds (I know, I know, this is not a robust argument). This kind of research apparently doesn’t happen with private funds, though, so it does seem like it’s going to take government dollars. A state ballot initiative is, I think, a great way to address the issue. States can decide whether or not they want to spend money on it, those who do have the opportunity to attract scientists and companies to work on it; those who don’t can pay less taxes.

But it also seems like the further the decision making process is removed from those funding the program (IE, the taxpayers), the less responsible the spending will be. The NYT article makes it sound like the initiative includes safeguards to prevent abuse of the funds, but, of course, only time will tell.

Anyway, I always hear fiscal conservatives and libertarians (including myself) argue that less government intervention leads to more innovation. It doesn’t seem to be true in this case, though — perhaps partly because the drug industry is so well established and profitable. The possibilities seem great enough that this is the kind of thing that should be pursued *somehow*, and it’s frustrating to me that there is no easy answer as to how.

The Heritage Foundation has published a list of the “earmarks” included in the spending bill passed over the weekend.

Some highlights:

$3,000,000 – Center for Grape Genetics, Geneva, New York
$3,000,000 – Grape Genomics Research Center, Davis, California
$25,000 – Develop curriculum to study mariachi music, Clark County School District, Nevada
$150,000 – Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program, Lady B Ranch, California
$99,000 – Train students in the motorsports industry, Patrick Henry Community College
$1,500,000 – Transport naturally chilled water from Lake Ontario to Lake Onondaga
$100,000 – “No Workshops, No Jumpshots,” Virginia
$1,750,000 – Parents Anonymous
$470,000 – Swine and other animal waste management research, North Carolina
$300,000 – Wool research

…And the list goes on and on.

We should be very proud that Congress is working so hard for us.

Perhaps more alarmingly, the same bill also included a clause allowing hospitals and insurance companies to refuse to perform abortions. Even though many states already have laws allowing individual doctors to refuse, they felt it was important to allow entire institutions to decline. I believe that individual doctors should always have the right to not participate, and that there should be some protection for religious hospitals to not have to offer abortions (although perhaps not those receiving government money, which probably leaves very few). However, this clause (the wording of which I am afraid I cannot find) goes way beyond that. According to Salon, the Senate will hold a vote to repeal the clause in April. One can only hope that, on its own, support for the measure will wane.

Clive Thompson at Slate has played JFK Reloaded so that we don’t have to. It’s a decent article.

Also, in some much needed feel-good news:

A pod of dolphins circled protectively around four people swimming 300 feet off a New Zealand beach to fend off an attack by a great white shark, according to a report Tuesday by the New Zealand Press Association. The four were swimming when several dolphins began herding them by doing tight circles around them. When one swimmer, Rob Howes, tried to drift away, one of the larger dolphins herded him back. It was then that Howes spotted a 9-foot great white shark swimming toward the pod. “I just recoiled. It was only about 2 meters away from me, the water was crystal clear and it was as clear as the nose on my face,” Howes said. “They had corralled us to protect us.” If the report is accurate — and a spokeswoman for the environmental group Orca Research says the behavior fits these marine mammals — then dolphins are treating us with a lot more respect than we’re treating them these days.
Tony Long

It would have felt better without the dig at the end, but still, pretty cool.

Anyone who saw last Thursday(?)’s Daily Show probably already knows about this, but I just saw it, and it was so weird I had to look into it. Apparently, back in September, students at Pitt and IUP were approached by “student-aged” people asking them to sign petitions supporting things like medical marijuana reform. Those who did received new voter registration cards in the mail a few days later, informing them that their registration had been changed to Republican. In a PA primary, this would make a differnce. Unless the students’ addresses have changed, though, it wouldn’t affect them at all. So what’s the point? Apparently no one knows. But here are two articles about it:

Here’s an equally ancient article about dirty tricks in general:

In more recent news, Kerry has said that he & his people will be “participating” in the Ohio recount. Keith Olbermann has more.

And, finally, a far cry from the $1 grilled cheese sandwiches sold at Phish shows, has bought a sandwich bearing the image of the Virgin Mary. For $28,000.

A Scottish company has released a game called “JFK Reloaded“. This has nothing to do with John Kerry. Instead, you, the player, are Lee Harvey Oswald. Your goal is to mimic the three shots of the original LHO.

The company says the idea is to show people that Oswald was acting alone, and that conspiracy theories have sprung up because of how hard his task was. They’re offering £53,800 to the first person who can recreate the shots.

The game is available for download for $9.95. I had a terrible time trying to find the download site; it seems that much of the media doesn’t want Ted Kennedy to think they’re “despicable”. Yahoo came through, though, with their press release service. Predictably, the site is swamped, but if you want to download it, it’s I won’t be grabbing it, so if you do, let me know what you think.

I leave tomorrow (well, today, really) morning for Wisconsin for the rest of the week. Jancey and I are checking out Beloit College in the hopes that it will either be so wonderful that we will not mind spending the next few years in Wisconsin, or bad enough that we can be relieved that we don’t have to move to Wisconsin. Either way, it should be a good trip. I’ve never been to the state, so I get to check another one off my list. Woohoo.

Anyway, I don’t know what kind of internet access I’ll have while there, so I might not post again until the weekend. I know you’ll miss me.

My parting tidbit — looks like Bush picked Condi to replace Powell. This means, presumably, that any tempering effect the Secretary of State had over the last four years will no longer be applicable. One interesting note — Bush Sr’s SoS thinks it’s a bad move.