Exiled from the Underworld

Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tonga

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

This may explain a lot.

From a Harvard School of Public Health press release:

Public release date: 27-Jun-2006
Harvard School of Public Health

Smoking and obesity may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction

Physical activity associated with a lower risk of impairment

Boston, MA -- A prospective study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found that obesity and smoking are strongly associated with a greater risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). Meanwhile, regular physical activity appeared to have a significant impact on lowering the risk of ED. This is the first large-scale prospective study to examine the links between ED and smoking, obesity, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle. The study will appear in the July 2006 issue of The Journal of Urology.

(there's more here)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A memorial day barely observed

From Jurist:

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tulsa race riot began
On May 31, 1921, the Tulsa race riot was touched off after a black elevator operator was alleged to have attacked a white woman in an elevator in downtown Tulsa. Armed whites attacked, burned and looted the local black business community of Greenwood in violence that killed more than 300 people and destroyed more than 1200 homes.

Learn more about the Tulsa race riot. A special commission set up by the Oklahoma legislature decades afterwards submitted this report [PDF] on the riot in 2001.

[The picture above is part of the collection of the Greenwood Cultural Center.]

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Literacy Test

Read the first article's extract, then the second.

From the 1 April 2006 British Medical Journal [note: always check the date]:

BMJ 2006;332:745 (1 April), doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7544.745-a


Scientists find new disease: motivational deficiency disorder

Ray Moynihan


Extreme laziness may have a medical basis, say a group of high profile Australian scientists, describing a new condition called motivational deficiency disorder (MoDeD).

The condition is claimed to affect up to one in five Australians and is characterised by overwhelming and debilitating apathy. Neuroscientists at the University of Newcastle in Australia say that in severe cases motivational deficiency disorder can be fatal, because the condition reduces the motivation to breathe.

Neurologist Leth Argos is part of the team that has identified the disorder, which can be diagnosed using a combination of positron emission tomography and low scores on a motivation rating scale, previously validated in elite athletes. "This disorder is poorly understood," Professor Argos told the BMJ. "It is underdiagnosed and undertreated."

Professor Argos is an adviser to a small Australian biotechnology company, Healthtec, which is currently concluding phase II trials of indolebant, a cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist. Although . . . [Full text of this article available to subscribers]

Follow-up article from the 22 April 2006 BMJ:

BMJ 2006;332:932 (22 April), doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7547.932-a

News Extra

People are easily duped about new diseases, conference is told

Newcastle, New South Wales

Bob Burton

The enthusiasm with which news outlets uncritically reported the spoof disease motivational deficit disorder and the drug indolebant took their creators by surprise (BMJ 2006;332:745, 1 Apr).

David Henry, the convenor of a conference on disease mongering held last week in Newcastle, New South Wales, said the media coverage showed "that it is relatively easy to get [out] the concept of a disease that doesn't exist and a treatment that doesn't exist."

Dr Henry, who is clinical pharmacologist at the University of Newcastle, said the explanation for such gullibility was that "when it comes to health, people suspend the scepticism they use in other areas of their life."

Martin Palin, the founder of the Sydney based medical public relations company Palin Communications, disputed the suggestion that public relations companies "created" new diseases for drug companies. Public relations people, he argued, "do not dictate . . . [Full text of this article available to subscribers]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Another invitation to promiscuity

Remember Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy operations commissioner of the FDA, who was ordered to give a deposition on her objection to the emergency contraception, "Plan B"? Dr. Woodcock refused to approve over-the-counter access to Plan B because of her concerns that teenagers would become promiscuous and form sex-based cults?

Who knew that the FDA has no standards for the safety of dyes used in body art-- that is, tattoos? It's about time to get some standards, Dr. Woodcock, because impermanent tattoos might lead to promiscuity.

Tattoos made of 'disappearing' ink

27 April 2006

From New Scientist Print Edition.

IF YOU are planning to express your undying love for someone with a tattoo, you might want to wait a little while before going under the needle. New inks that are safer to use, and far easier to remove should you have a change of heart, are set to be launched next year.

The US Food and Drug Administration has no standards for the safety of dyes used in body art. Carbon black, metal salts and other compounds more commonly used in printing or car paint are among those used. Heavy metals and other toxic chemicals in these pigments can seep into the lymph system, says Martin Schmieg, president of the company Freedom-2 in Philadelphia, which is planning to introduce a range of dyes that have already been approved by the FDA for use in cosmetics, food, drugs and medical devices.

Such dyes have not been used in tattoos before as they are readily absorbed by the body. To get round this problem, Rox Anderson at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has developed a way to encapsulate the dyes in protective polymer beads just 1 to 3 micrometres in diameter. This is small enough to allow them to be injected into the skin and absorbed by skin cells to form a tattoo.

The pigment can be removed with a single laser treatment. This splits the beads open, dumping the dye into cells where it is absorbed. The tattoo then quickly fades away, in stark contrast to standard tattoo pigments. Applying a series of up to 10 laser treatments can usually bleach them, but only half of tattoos can be completely removed.

(From issue 2549 of New Scientist magazine, 27 April 2006, page 25)

FDA prude, concerned that emergency contraception may lead to promiscuity...

...is named after a dildo.

FDA grilled about Plan B

Newsday Staff Writer

April 24, 2006

Attorneys for a New York women's group plan to grill Food and Drug Administration officials this week about their failure to decide whether an emergency contraceptive pill called Plan B may be sold without a prescription.

Former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, Dr. Janet Woodcock, deputy operations commissioner, and Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA's drug evaluation center, are to testify in court-ordered depositions to be taken by attorneys for the Manhattan-based Center for Reproductive Rights on April 26, 27
and 28 in Washington, D.C. and Rockville, Md.

The women's group seeks to force approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse.

Simon Heller, one of the attorneys, plans to quiz Woodcock about a March 23, 2004, staff memo suggesting she was concerned Plan B might lead to teenage promiscuity.

The FDA is only supposed to consider the safety and efficacy of drugs.

In the memo released by the FDA during the discovery process, Dr. Curtis Rosebraugh, an agency medical officer, wrote: "As an example, she stated that we could not anticipate, or prevent extreme promiscuous behaviors such as the medication taking on an 'urban legend' status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults centered around the use of Plan B."

Rosebraugh indicated he found no reason to bar nonprescription sales of Plan B.

"This was the level of scientific discourse, so to speak," Heller said in a phone interview, referring to concerns attributed to Woodcock. "I find it very odd that these people who are supposed to be responsible scientists and doctors are making up wacky reasons."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Franklin Amanat who represents the FDA had no comment. FDA spokeswoman Susan Bro said: "It is against FDA policy to comment on pending litigation."

Conservative groups contend Plan B causes abortions and have lobbied against non-prescription sales. The manufacturer, Barr Laboratories of Pomona, N.Y., says it simply prevents pregnancy.

The FDA rejected Barr's application for Plan B non-prescription sales in May 2004. On May 6, 2004, Galson, now head of the FDA drug center, wrote in a memo: "Some staff have expressed the concern that this decision is based on non-medical implications of teen sexual behavior, or judgments about the propriety of this activity. These issues are beyond the scope of our drug approval process, and I have not considered them in this decision."

In January 2005, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued the FDA in Brooklyn federal court on behalf of two advocacy organizations and nine women from a group called the Morning-After Pill Conspiracy. The lawsuit alleges the FDA ignored a statutory deadline for a Plan B decision.

Last August, the FDA said it needed more time to consider a revised application from Barr to allow Plan B sales without a prescription to women 16 and older but with a prescription to girls 15 and under. Dr. Susan F. Wood, the FDA's top women's health officer, then resigned in protest over the repeated delays.

In September, Dr. Frank Davidoff, editor emeritus of the Annals of Internal Medicine, resigned as consultant to the FDA's Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee -- also over the Plan B issue. Davidoff served on the panel when it recommended over-the-counter sales of Plan B in 2003 -- advice the FDA, in a rare move, did not follow.

In November, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, said the FDA decided not to approve non-prescription sales of Plan B even before agency medical officers finished reviewing it. A group including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had requested the investigation of the FDA's handling of Plan B.

And in December, Brooklyn federal Judge Edward Korman refused a government request to dismiss the lawsuit. Korman said: "This has all the earmarks of an administrative agency filibuster."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Send greetings to Queen

A good friend sent me this article from The Sun:

Send greetings to Queen
Sun Online
THE Queen turns 80 tomorrow and we are creating an online birthday card for her.

You can send your birthday wishes for the royal and we will run the best online.

Just email your message to yourviews@the-sun.co.uk with the subject heading 'Queen's birthday'.

Some of the messages:

Happy Birthday your Majesty!

As an ex-pat living in the US (born and raised in Chester) it is wonderful to see how well she is still ruling our great nation.

With such dignity, pride and enthusiasm. I am a royalist and thank God every day for making me an Englishman.

"there is a nay, almost forgotten word that means more to me than any other; and that word is England" - Sir Winston Churchill

Michael Owen

Dear Queen,

Wishing you a lovely birthday!

Sarah Mc & Sarah D

A very Happy Birthday your Majesty.

Ma'am may you and the Royal family have a glorious day.

Mary Gair
And then this curious message:
Dear Queen,

Although you've never recaptured the magic you had when Freddie Mercury was alive, I'm still a big fan.

Next time American Idol asks if the contestants can use your music, however, you should tell Simon to get stuffed.



p.s. Tony Blair is SUCH a poodle.
Really. Even Daddy says so.

"...the freedom to buy, and to sell, and to produce..."

President Bush, introducing President Hu of the People's Republic of China during a ceremony on the White House lawn:

(From the White House transcript; emphasis added)

PRESIDENT BUSH: As the relationship between our two nations grows and matures, we can be candid about our disagreements. I'll continue to discuss with President Hu the importance of respecting human rights and freedoms of the Chinese people. China has become successful because the Chinese people are experience the freedom to buy, and to sell, and to produce -- and China can grow even more successful by allowing the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship .

The United States will also be candid about our policy toward Taiwan. The United States maintains our one China policy based on the three communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. We oppose unilateral changes in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by either side, and we urge all parties to avoid confrontational or provocative acts. And we believe the future of Taiwan should be resolved peacefully. The United States and China will continue to build on our common interests; we will address our differences in a spirit of mutual respect. We have made progress in building a relationship that is candid and cooperative -- and President Hu's visit will further that progress.

And so, Mr. President, welcome to the White House. We're really glad you're here. I'm looking forward to our meetings, and I'm so thrilled to welcome Madam Liu, as well. Thank you for coming. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT HU: (As translated.) President George W. Bush, Mrs. Bush, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. I'm glad to visit the United States in the lovely season of spring, at your invitation, Mr. President. I wish to convey to the great American people the warm greetings and best wishes of the 1.3 billion Chinese people.

I have come to enhance dialogues, expand common ground, deepen mutual trust and cooperation, and to promote the all-around growth of constructive and cooperative China-U.S. relations in the 21st century -- (audience interruption)

PRESIDENT BUSH: You're okay.

What was the "audience interruption"? CNN:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a surprise outburst that cast a diplomatic shadow, a screaming protester confronted President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao and interrupted the welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn Thursday. Bush later apologized to the Chinese leader.

"President Bush, stop him from killing," the woman shouted, to the surprise of hundreds of guests spread across the lawn on a sunny, warm day. "President Bush, stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong" -- a banned religious movement in China.

Standing beside Bush, Hu had just begun his opening remarks when the woman started yelling in Chinese and English. Bush leaned over and whispered to Hu, "You're OK," indicating the Chinese leader should proceed.

Who was this protesting woman?

From Dana Milbank at the Washington Post:

If only the White House hadn't given press credentials to a Falun Gong activist who five years ago heckled Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, in Malta. Sure enough, 90 seconds into Hu's speech on the South Lawn, the woman started shrieking, "President Hu, your days are numbered!" and "President Bush, stop him from killing!"

Stratfor has even more:

Wang Wenyi, a Chinese-American doctor who has written for the Falun Gong-related Epoch Times and was a main speaker at a March 27 Falun Gong rally in Lafayette Park near the White House, was whisked away by security personnel -- but only after she had shouted at Hu for several minutes from the press area, calling for him to stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners and to stop killing Chinese

Falun Gong. Does the name ring a bell?

The Chinese government condemns the spiritual movement Falun Gong as a cult. China began a crackdown on the group in 1999 . The Epoch Times, which disavowed the protest, is affiliated with the Falun Gong movement.

But-- who would guess that she might do something here? Wouldn't the White House need some sort of protocol-- like a security check, or a background search, or, well, something-- already in place to protect the President? Oh, right.

Wang apparently was granted access to the press area because of her affiliation with the Epoch Times, in order to report on Hu's arrival, and government officials told news media she had been on the White House grounds before without causing problems. While that may be the case, there was something odd about her admittance to the grounds for Hu's arrival.

Thursday's disruption was not the first time Wang had confronted a Chinese president about the Falun Gong. On July 25, 2001, she managed to slip through a security cordon surrounding then-President Jiang Zemin, while he was taking an unscheduled tour of Mdina on a visit to Malta. Wang came face to face with Jiang and confronted him over crackdowns and killings of Falun Gong practitioners, before security officers pulled her away. In that incident, Jiang called her back and spoke to her briefly, reportedly telling her that Falun Gong practitioners were killing themselves -- a common commentary in Chinese state media at the time, which was meant to help justify the government's crackdown against the organization.

Wang's previous encounter with Jiang, and her participation as a key speaker at the March 27 rally in Washington, D.C., should have been enough to tip off the White House that she might cause trouble at Hu's arrival ceremony. Either White House security totally missed these prior events in security reviews before approving Wang's press pass, or they overlooked them. It would not, at first, seem plausible that her history could have been overlooked -- since one of mandates of the security services is to protect the president from such embarrassments -- but on close review, it appears to be the more likely of the two scenarios.

Luckily, no real harm came from the White House's lapse in security competence. President Bush apologized for the disruption.

Ah, you say--what an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the high regard in which the United States holds "freedom to assemble, to speak freely, and to worship" !

Hu, who had paused briefly, resumed speaking even though the woman kept screaming for several minutes before security officers forcibly removed her.

The woman had obtained temporary press credentials as a reporter for a Falun Gong newspaper and positioned herself on a camera stand in front of the two leaders. A cameraman tried to put his hand over her mouth before uniformed Secret Service officers hustled her away.

Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said she had been charged with disorderly conduct and that a charge of intimidating or disrupting foreign officials also was being considered.


At least nothing happened on the White House lawn to endanger the freedom to buy, to sell, and to produce.

We're lucky, because China owns us now.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In a moment of irony, the cosmos laughs-- no, guffaws...

Perhaps one day these two will be star-crossed sorority sisters.

Note: I wonder what happens to Scientologists' babies? Do they inherit their mothers' Thetans (do Thetans cross the placenta?), or do they get their own personal set? If the mother is "clear", will the baby be as well? If the mother is not clear, will the baby get both its own personal set of Thetans and another set inherited from its mother? What's the father's part in this? Are Thetans small enough to travel inside sperm? If Scientologists procreate through in vitro methods, or with cryogenically preserved sperm, can Thetans survive the extremely low temperatures? If a baby inherits from both parents, and it also gets its own set of Thetans, will the baby be a projectile vomiter?

So much to learn.

Posted on Tue, Apr. 18, 2006

Text of statement on the birth of Cruise-Holmes baby

Associated Press

The following is the complete text of Tuesday's statement from Tom Cruise's publicist announcing the birth of the Cruise-Katie Holmes baby:

"Tom Cruise, 43, and his fiancee, Katie Holmes, 27, joyously welcomed the arrival of a baby girl, Suri, today.

"The child weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces and was 20 inches in length. Both mother and daughter are doing well.

"This is the first child for Mr. Cruise and Ms. Holmes. Mr. Cruise also has a daughter, Isabella, 13, and a son, Connor, 11.

"The name Suri has its origins in Hebrew meaning 'princess,' or in Persian meaning 'red rose.'"


Posted on Tue, Apr. 18, 2006

Brooke Shields has baby No. 2

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - It's a girl, again, for Brooke Shields.

The actress gave birth Tuesday to Grier Hammond Henchy, who weighed 7 pounds, according to spokeswoman Pat Kingsley.

Shields, 40, and husband Chris Henchy, a 42-year-old television writer and producer, also have a daughter, Rowan, who turns 3 next month. The couple has been married since 2001.

The birth came the same day as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes welcomed the arrival of a baby daughter, Suri.

Shields and Cruise had a public spat last year after the "Mission: Impossible" star criticized the actress for taking antidepressants following the birth of her first child.

Appearing on the "Today" show, Cruise said there was no such thing as
chemical imbalances that need to be corrected with drugs, and that depression
could be treated with exercise and vitamins.

Shields called those remarks "a disservice to mothers everywhere," adding the drugs helped her survive feelings of hopelessness after the birth in 2003.

"I'm going to take a wild guess and say that Mr. Cruise has never
suffered from postpartum depression," she wrote in an op-ed piece published in The New York Times.

Shields said she considered swallowing a bottle of pills or jumping out the window at the lowest point of her depression. A doctor later attributed her feelings to a plunge in estrogen and progesterone levels and prescribed Paxil.

Shields chronicled her post-childbirth experiences in "Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cindy Sheehan, Beverly Young, and that suspicious foreign-looking dude over there

Let's review the list of "Don'ts" for the State of the Union speech. That is, these are tips on what not to wear, to do, or to be if you do not wish to give rise to "reasonable belief" (since "probable cause" is soooo pre-9/11) that you are suspicious, dangerous, or anti-American:

1. Do not wear anything that might make a political statement. Yellow ribbons and flag pins (which seem to have been appropriated by one side in particular) are fine, however.

2. No demonstrations are permitted. Unless you're raising a purple finger and parading around.

3. It's acceptable to interrupt the President's speech with loud applause. You may interrupt as often as you wish. Unless, of course, you're a Democrat and applauding at times when Republicans are not.

4. You may be detained and interrogated as a suspicious person if you are Asian or Middle Eastern. Unless, of course you are Ahmed Chalabi--then you get to sit with Laura.

TIME reported another person pulled out of the SOTU audience last week:

The State of the Union's Mystery Suspect

An anti-war activist and a congressman's wife weren't the only ones
detained by the Capitol PoliceBy MELISSA AUGUST/WASHINGTON

Posted Saturday, Feb. 04, 2006

T-shirts, it turns out, aren't the only things that get you in trouble with the Capitol Police at the State of the Union address. Much has already been made of the fact that both anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young, the wife of Republican Congressman Bill Young, were ejected from the speech for wearing shirts with political messages; in Sheehan's case, her t-shirt read "2,245 dead. How many more?", while Young was sporting a sweat shirt with the words, "Support the Troops-Defending Our Freedom." Both have denounced their treatment-and both have received apologies from the police.

But on the same evening that President Bush was lauding democracy and freedom, there was one other person in attendance whose rights were infringed upon. The man, who did not want his identity revealed after the disturbing incident, was a personal guest of Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings. He is a prominent businessman from Broward County, Florida who works with the Department of Defense-and has a security clearance. After sitting in the gallery for the entire speech, he was surrounded by about ten law enforcement officers as he exited the chamber and whisked away to a room in the Capitol.

For close to an hour the man, who was born in India but is an American citizen, was questioned by the Police, who thought he resembled someone on a Secret Service photo watch list, according to Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer. Eventually, the police realized it was a case of mistaken identity and let him go. Gainer has assured Hastings that the Capitol Police, Secret Service and FBI will investigate why the man was detained for so long, and try to "sharpen our procedures." But the man was "very, very scared" by the incident, says Fred Turner, a spokesperson for Hastings. On Tuesday night, he told the congressman that the experience was "maybe just the price of being brown in America," Turner says.

"He shouldn't have gone through the ringer as long as he did," Gainer says. "He did get caught up in the morass of Secret Service FBI, Capitol Police. Everybody was trying to figure out whether he was a threat. And he absolutely, unequivocally clearly was not." Gainer apologized to the man afterwards, only one of the many apologies he has had to make this week. He met with Congressman Young at least twice, as well as with Young's wife. "There is no prohibition against simply wearing a T-shirt that states your particular cause," Gainer stresses, taking full accountability for not providing clearer direction to his officers.

Gainer says he will work with the House Sergeant at Arms to clarify the rules of the House of Representatives, and to ensure that officers have a better understanding of what constitutes a protest and demonstration. Before he finalizes the new rules, Gainer has asked his staff to look into previous arrests and ejections in the gallery to see what he can learn. One of the first protests at a State of the Union speech occurred in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson was speaking and a group of suffragettes sitting in the gallery unfurled a large yellow banner with the words, "Mr. President, what will you do for woman suffrage?" The Capitol Police prepared to arrest the women, but the chief doorkeeper ordered them to leave them alone. An assistant doorkeeper on the floor, however, did manage to pull the banner down. Compared to what happened at this week's speech, that almost seems civilized.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What Would Jesus Watch?

I usually don't keep up with new television shows-- not because I'm a selective, intelligent person (I only wish!), but because I'm pretty busy most evenings and am rarely home when the shows air.

Therefore, I must send along my thanks to Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association for bringing attention to the new NBC series, "The Book of Daniel."


NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- American Family Association Chairman Donald E. Wildmon is claiming another victory, this one against NBC’s mid-season replacement “The Book of Daniel.”

First-- what was replaced mid-season? A show about infertility titled ""Inconceivable."

"Inconceivable" is an ensemble drama in which the doctors of the Family Options Fertility Clinic help desperate couples give birth. The Clinic co-founders are attorney Rachel Lu and Dr. Malcolm Bowers and their staff, including psychologist Lydia Crawford, Nurse Patrice LoCicero, office manager Marissa Jaffee, and attorney Scott Garcia.

I did not watch "Inconceivable" because I was disappointed that Wallace Shawn would not reprise the role of Vizzini.

Back to "Daniel"-- what's wrong with the show? According to an emailed message from the AFA, anti-Christian bigotry. Two bullet-points in the email note:

The program's main characters include Daniel Webster, a drug-addicted Episcopal priest; his alcoholic wife; his son, a 23-year-old homosexual Republican; his daughter, a 16-year-old drug dealer; a 16-year-old adopted son who is having sex with the bishop's daughter; his lesbian secretary who is sleeping with his sister-in-law; and a very unconventional white-robed, bearded Jesus who talks to the priest.

It is written by Jack Kenny, a practicing homosexual who describes himself as being "in Catholic recovery," and is interested in Buddhist teachings about reincarnation and isn't sure exactly how he defines God and/or Jesus. "I don't necessarily know that all the myth surrounding him (Jesus) is true," he said.

Funny-- all the characters sound positively Biblical. Kind of like the people with whom Jesus purportedly hung out.

Kind of like The Very Revved Lonnie Latham of South Tulsa (A/K/A "white Tulsa") Baptist Church, currently on administrative leave while his congregation decides what to do with him after his arrest in Oklahoma City. His offense? Soliciting an undercover officer (male) to perform an "act of lewdness" in his hotel room. Latham was caught up in a prostitution sting.
(This story is really getting around! Chant the words "Baptist", "pastor", "lewdness", and "Oklahoma" to bring forth powerful blog magic.)

Although I don't generally care what consenting adults do, I admit to certain...pleasurable sensations ... whenever someone is outed as a hypocrite. Latham got a lot of mileage out of being a Moral Authority, publicly denouncing homosexuality, gambling, and a host of other sins. Greed apparently is off the sin list, by the way. According to one news source, "Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, [police Capt. Jeffrey] Becker said."

Latham's defense?

"I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police."

So that's what they're calling it now.

(By the way, the South Tulsa Baptist Church website states, "Since Brother Latham has arrived, the church body has a renewed zeal for reaching people in the heart of South Tulsa." Brother Latham has taken his ministry down the Turner Turnpike where his zeal would like to reach just a little more.)

I just don't see "anti-Christian bigotry" in a show about a minister who actually has to minister to real people. After all, if they were perfect, he'd be out of a job.

Maybe Wildmon means that anti-Christian bigotry exists because of Jack Kenny's personal traits and interests. Wildmon obviously disapproves of Kenny, who, in turn, seems not at all concerned with Wildmon.

Wildmon's center-of-the-universe perspective would not be irrational in a two-year-old, but it is truly weird to have an adult claim that someone who sees the world differently demonstrates bias, let alone bigotry. By that standard, most of the world (both fauna and flora) demonstrates anti-Christian bigotry. In the meantime, someplace, somewhere, someone must be accusing Wildmon of anti-Zoroastrian bigotry, or anti-Confucian bigotry, or anti-Muslim bigotry.

Oh, wait. That one's true. Not because Wildmon is not practicing Islam properly, but because he has publicly denounced Islam and Muslims in general.

In the email message, Wildmon claims that one-half million people are with him in his crusade against NBC. Why? Who knows. Perhaps they've been chained to their chairs and forced to watch hours of re-runs. Maybe they've lost their remotes, maybe their televisions are defective and lack the "OFF" capacity. Maybe their Christian lives are unsatisfactory and empty unless spent in front of the tube.

If Wildmon is consistent, his criteria for claiming anti-Christian bigotry in "Daniel" should mean that ALL television shows demonstrate anti-Christian bias. Shows as sappy as "Touched by an Angel" , or as vitamin-enriched as "Dobie Gillis" (the actor who played Zelda was --like Lonnie Latham--from Tulsa). All have imperfect characters; all are written by real people.

Not flawed, exactly, just human. Like Jesus.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dumb as...

From now on, "box of rocks" will no longer serve as the standard for "dumb." Intelligence testing is available in the deli section of your supermarket.

Here's a story from yesterday's Washington Post about a criminally stupid woman:

Woman Allegedly Hires Hit Man for Cheese

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 6, 2005; 7:01 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- In an unusual case of mistaken identity, a woman who thought a block of white cheese was cocaine is charged with trying to hire a hit man to rob and kill four men. The woman also was mistaken about the hit man. He turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, was arrested over the weekend and remains in jail with bond set at $1 million on four charges of attempted murder and four counts of soliciting a murder.

According to police, Booth was in the Memphis home of the four intended victims last week when she mistook a block of queso fresco cheese for cocaine _ inspiring the idea to hire someone to break into the home, take the drugs, and kill the men.

An informant described the plot to police, who arranged a meeting between Booth and the undercover officer.

The undercover officer gave Booth some nonfunctioning handguns, bought ammunition for her because she was too young, and the two proceeded to the home under police surveillance.

Booth told the officer that any children inside the house old enough to testify would have to be killed, police said.

A search of the home with the permission of the occupants revealed no drugs _ only the white, crumbly cheese common in Mexican cuisine.

"Four men were going to lose their lives over some cheese," said Lt. Jeff Clark, who heads Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Kind of gives new meaning to "Cheesehead", doesn't it? Sorry, Wisconsin.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

And my sign is Aquarius...

As Kos said, this Political Compass test is making the rounds. Here's how my little arc looks:

The Political Compass

Economic Left/Right: -6.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.87

The graph of these coordinates is here.

The authors describe this point as "Voluntary Collectivism".

That's a pretty fair assessment, actually.

It's certainly more accurate than astrology.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Sorry State of Texas: a "No-Hitching" post

A couple of weeks ago I looked at the Texas ballot, especially Proposition 2. What I saw was a poorly drafted constitutional amendment that facially failed to enact what it purportedly was intended to enact and inadvertently destroyed that which it was intended to support.

Specifically, Proposition 2 was supposed to capture Texas's distate for legal protections for same-sex unions, and to enshrine heterosexual marriage.

Well, Texans must not have read the Proposition or the proposed amendment, because yesterday 17% of the registered Texas voters turned up at the polls, and 76% of those voters approved Proposition 2.

Apparently, this statistic reflects the percentage of functionally illiterate adult Texas bigots.

I still contend that Proposition 2 eliminates heterosexual marriage or even civil unions. Moreover, if you were married or otherwise united in a different state, Texas can no longer recognize your marriage.

Here's the exact wording of the Proposition:

The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

Texas has defined marriage, and then said that it cannot create or recognize marriage or anything like it.

It's the itsy-teeny hitch that stops hitching.

The good news, I suppose, is that the Texas legislature identified a few of the many kinds of particular documents that any couple may use to secure certain property and liberty interests. The Joint Resolution that put Proposition 2 on the ballot says in Section 2:
This state recognizes that through the designation of guardians, the appointment of agents, and the use of private contracts, persons may adequately and properly appoint guardians and arrange rights relating to hospital visitation, property, and the entitlement to proceeds of life insurance policies without the existence of any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

Call this the Family Lawyer's Job Enhancement provision.

It almost makes me want to cross the River Red and practice in the Loon Star State.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Epithetically yours

Michael Bérubé reasonably proposes that we discard epithets and slurs that describe a person's capacity in favor of terms that describe performance. He's absolutely right. "Idiot," "moron," "imbecile," and other like words carry historical freight that has nothing to do with poor judgment or poor performance.

On the other hand, Bérubé follows his suggestion by arguing in favor of using words like "asshole" and "jackass"-- both of which mark a status, rather than performance.

Still, he has a good point, and his "asshole" illustration warmed my heart.

When I was very young-- probably around six years old-- I sternly denounced a playmate by describing him as a "son-of-a-bitch." In the mid-1950s, speech of this variety could stop dinner table conversation instantaneously. My parents glanced at my sister and brothers, and my father gently set his fork down on his plate, the prepared bite of food still on the tines.

"You must NEVER use that term again. It is a horrible thing to say, and I do not want to hear it from anyone here ever again.

"Likewise, you must NEVER use the word 'bastard'. That's another detestable word.

"Both 'son-of-a-bitch' and 'bastard' reflect upon someone's mother. If you are angry with someone, deal with that person-- not that person's mother. The mother is not in your disagreement.

"You may, however, call that person an asshole. Although the word is hard and angry, we all have assholes; each of us can be reduced to asshole level at times; and they are necessary. We'd die without assholes."

Well, I trusted my father completely, and never used the forbidden words again.

And when I got in deeeeep trouble at school for calling a classmate an asshole, my father stood up for me in front of the principal.

What a great example. I miss him.

Monday, October 24, 2005

That's Right--You're Not from Texas

Why Texas needs more (and better) lawyers in its state legislature:

On 8 November 2005 Texans will have the opportunity to vote on a number of ballot initiatives. Proposition 2 relates to marriage. My guess is that the two chambers of the Texas Legislature wanted preemptively to invalidate any proposed statute that might legitimize same-sex partner civil unions, marriages, or other accommodations.

Tom DeLay's TRMPAC successfully changed the political composition of the Texas legislature, however, and the current crop of statesmen have written a proposition that would, on its face, eliminate heterosexual marriage (or civil unions) as well.

The language on the initiative (from the Texas Secretary of State's website) reads

Prop. 2 HJR 6 Chisum - Staples

Ballot Language

"The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

"Enmienda constitucional que dispone que en este estado el matrimonio consiste exclusivamente en la unión de un hombre y una mujer y que desautoriza, en este estado o en alguna subdivisión política del mismo, la creación o el reconocimiento de cualquier estatus jurídico idéntico o semejante al matrimonio."

Brief Explanation

HJR 6 would provide that marriage in Texas is solely the union of a man and woman, and that the state and its political subdivisions could not create or recognize any legal status identical to or similar to marriage, including such legal status relationships created outside of Texas.

The "Brief Explanation" fails to explain the proposition at all!

Furthermore, the language of the actual Joint Resolution clearly states that neither the state nor its subdivisions "may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

H.J.R. No. 6


proposing a constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman.


SECTION 1. Article I, Texas Constitution, is amended by adding Section 32 to read as follows:

Sec. 32. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.

(b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

SECTION 2. This state recognizes that through the designation of guardians, the appointment of agents, and the use of private contracts, persons may adequately and properly appoint guardians and arrange rights relating to hospital visitation, property, and the entitlement to proceeds of life insurance policies without the existence of any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

SECTION 3. This proposed constitutional amendment shall be submitted to the voters at an election to be held November 8, 2005. The ballot shall be printed to permit voting for or against the proposition: "The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Don't you just love it when hate shows itself as truly stupid?

If the Proposition passes, Texas could revise its state motto. I anticipate license plates that read "Texas: The Lone State."

Or church signs that read "Go forth and sin. More."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Here's an accurate headline...

... on an AP article by David Kravets, just up on the Washington Post webpage:

Justices Protect Children of Calif. Gays .

Announcing decisions in three related cases, California's highest state court just extended the legal protections of custody and support to children of same-sex couples. Like the movement that finally eliminated "bastardy" laws (discriminating against children born outside state-sanctioned marriage), this decision promotes equal protection for all children and greater social stability.

I hope that this marks the beginning of a trend, although I doubt that it will spread our way soon. Last year our state government enacted a statute that refuses recognition of same-sex parent adoptions from other states.

The same people who denounce divorce because of the potential for damaging children are all too eager to inflict harm on the children of same-sex parents. Go figure.

This little understatement appears toward the end of the article:

Groups opposing same-sex marriage decried the justices' actions.

The New York Times's Adam Liptak tells the story from a different perspective:

California Justices Rule in Favor of Same-Sex Parental Rights

This angle showcases the absurdity of the opposition.

"You've essentially begun to undermine and unravel the family," said Mathew D. Staver of Liberty Counsel, which submitted supporting briefs arguing against recognition of two same-sex parents.

"Undermine and unravel the family"?
Absolutely not.

The California Supreme Court just validated parental responsibility, eliminated unjust discrimination against vulnerable children, and affirmed the family as the center of child-rearing.

Furthermore, a child's right to support from both parents reduces the likelihood that the state will end up paying for the child's needs, to exactly the same degree that states (and the federal government) argue when ordering child support from different-sex parents. Kravets' Post article captures this clearly.

Emily B., an El Dorado County woman whose former lover must now pay to support the children following the court's ruling, said she might be able to get off of welfare now.

"I'm absolutely overjoyed today," she said.

I'm overjoyed, too.

Anyone who believes in the concept of equal justice has reason for celebration. Congratulations to all the families in the California cases. Regardless of which side of the litigation you were on, today you helped to make "family" a real home.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hello? Am I still here?

Yes, I am still here. At least, I'm back, now that August's heat has sucked the oxygen from the air.

July deserves more from me than this nominal post, and I will fill in details later.


Friday, July 01, 2005

In honor of PFC Avery Abbott...

... and all the other young idealists who joined the military to bring peace, rather than to wage war:

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The (9/11) Three (9/11) Bears (9/11)

Did anyone else get a "three bears" feeling during the President's speech last night?

Bush spun a fairy tale riddled with mobile straw men and Al Qaeda monsters. We'll be safe if we-- good children that we are-- follow the Prez without question.

Without questioning statements like this:

Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions.

Unless things have changed dramatically since February, that number is wildly inflated. Countering the "official" White House mid-January estimate of 136,000 Iraqi security forces, Senator Joseph Biden wrote in the Washington Post:

By one measure the Bush administration is right: As of today, there are about 136,000 "trained and equipped" Iraqis. But that measure is meaningless. Indeed, a year ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld boasted of 210,000 Iraqis in uniform and called it "an amazing accomplishment."

We should focus on real standards, not raw numbers. The real standard is straightforward: Can an Iraqi soldier or policeman do what we ask American soldiers to do -- provide law and order, protect the infrastructure, defend the borders and, above all, defeat the insurgency? There are nowhere near 136,000 Iraqis capable of accomplishing these goals.

Biden, whose own estimate ran between 4,000 and 18,000 acceptable Iraqi forces, then explained discrepancies in training and equipping those forces. Biden may have underestimated the available security forces (who knows for sure?), but I think that his point is right. The White House numbers exaggerate the readiness of Iraq to manage its own security.

Moreover, the on-ground security situation has worsened in the past months, and the demand for expanding the security presence has confronted the reality of Iraqi defections as well as increasing insurgent attacks on security forces and security leaders. Recruitment is not a current problem because the employment situation in most areas remains bleak.

Bush would prefer that we not question the other statements from the speech, thank you very much. And, by the way, those references to Afghanistan? Don't examine them too closely.

Other than the repeated references to September 11, the most notable elements of the speech were its condescending attitude toward the American people and lack of animation in the Fort Bragg audience.

Regarding the latter, at least the President's staff didn't have to screen away dissenters. No armed services members would risk the consequences of appearing to offer anything but respect to the Commander-in-Chief.

As to the former, here is a perfect illustration that came about two-thirds of the way into the speech:

I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed, and not a day longer.

Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.

Here's the condensed version:
We can't send more troops because it would look as if we planned to stay, and we can't give an exit timeline because it would look as if we planned to leave.

The first course of action would be too hot; the second would be too cold. Trust the President-- his fuzzy course would be "just right."

And, by the way, troops, the President will pay attention to "the sober judgment of our military leaders" just as long as they agree with him, and not one day longer. Just ask General Shinseki (Ret.) and his buddies.

Michael Froomkin at the always-enlightening Discourse.net enlisted his brother Daniel's "White House Briefing" column to brush away Bush's straw men. Go read them-- both of them. [In fact, you should make reading the Froomkin brothers a habit, like brushing and flossing.]

The Al Qaeda monsters are still out there and getting larger, thanks to Bush's foreign policy.

The story is over, the speech ended. Good night, and sleep well.

Would you like me to leave the lights on?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

DOJ Ball

Our tax dollars, soldiering away in the War on Terrorism, support the Department of Justice website. Its page-top banner reads:

"Preserving Life & Liberty"

On 28 April 2005 United States Attorney Ken Wainstein, appearing on behalf of the DOJ, testified before House Committee on the Judiciary in hearings on reauthorizing PATRIOT Act provisions that are set to expire at the end of this year. One controversial provision, Section 215, allows law enforcement to obtain a secret, uncontested order from a clandestine court in order to search the business records of... just about anyone. The person on whom the court order is served may NOT disclose to anyone the anything about the order or the search-- including the fact of the order's existence.

From Mr. Wainstein's testimony:

To some, section 215 has become known as "the library provision". This moniker, however, is a gross distortion of the provision and makes about as much sense as calling all grand jury subpoenas "library subpoenas." Section 215 does not single out or mention libraries, and the Attorney General has recently declassified that as of March 30,2005, the provision had never be used to obtain library records.


The Department has not requested a section 215 order to obtain library or bookstore records, medical records, or gun sale records.

Should I feel comforted by this fact? Does the DOJ takes seriously its charge to preserve my liberty-- my right to free speech, to have access to a free press, and my right to privacy.

WAIT a minute-- Eric Lichtblau reports in tomorrow's New York Times that law enforcement has made at least 200 formal or informal inquiries to libraries for information on reading material and other internal matters since October 2001. The American Library Association conducted a study to determine how frequently federal, state and local agents are demanding records from libraries.

The study does not directly answer how or whether the Patriot Act has been used to search libraries. The association said it decided it was constrained from asking direct questions on the law because of secrecy provisions that could make it a crime for a librarian to respond. Federal intelligence law bans those who receive certain types of demands for records from challenging the order or even telling anyone they have received it.

As a result, the study sought to determine the frequency of law enforcement inquiries at all levels without detailing their nature. Even so, organizers said the data suggested that investigators were seeking information from libraries far more frequently than Bush administration officials had acknowledged.

"What this says to us," said Emily Sheketoff, the executive director of the library association's Washington office, "is that agents are coming to libraries and they are asking for information at a level that is significant, and the findings are completely contrary to what the Justice Department has been trying to convince the public."

The Times article details an incident at the Whatcom County Library System in northwest Washington where law enforcement attempted to fish for information from library records.

Joan Airoldi, director of the library district in Whatcom County, wrote an opinion column for the 17 May 2005 USA Today about the incident. Her piece exactly identifies the differences between a standard subpoena process and the process set out under Section 215.

It was a moment that librarians had been dreading.

On June 8, 2004, an FBI agent stopped at the Deming branch of the Whatcom County Library System in northwest Washington and requested a list of the people who had borrowed a biography of Osama bin Laden. We said no...


Undeterred, the FBI served a subpoena on the library a week later demanding a list of everyone who had borrowed the book since November 2001.


For our trustees, this sense of responsibility to protect libraries as institutions where people are free to explore any idea ran up against their desire to help their government fight terrorism. But they were resolute and voted unanimously to go to court to quash the FBI subpoena. Fifteen days later, the FBI withdrew its request.

But there is a shadow over our happy ending. Our experience taught us how easily the FBI could have discovered the names of the borrowers, how readily this could happen in any library in the USA. It also drove home for us the dangers that the USA Patriot Act poses to reader privacy.

Since the passage of the Patriot Act in October 2001, the FBI has the power to go to a secret court to request library and bookstore records considered relevant to a national security investigation. It does not have to show that the people whose records are sought are suspected of any crime or explain why they are being investigated. In addition, librarians and booksellers are forbidden to reveal that they have received an order to surrender customer data.


With a Patriot Act order in hand, I would have been forbidden to disclose even the fact that I had received it and would not have been able to tell this story.

The real story is that law enforcement has tried to skirt the exisiting statutes regarding procedures for investigating suspected criminal activity, and that the provisions of the PATRIOT Act essentially forbid any inquiry into government overreaching or abuse of process in a "terror"context.

The library survey found that almost 40 percent of libraries had fielded user inquiries about the effects of the PATRIOT Act on library practices, and about 5 percent of libraries had changed professional practices because of PATRIOT Act issues.

Representative Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, who sponsored a bill (which passed 238 to 187) to cut Section 215 as it applied to libraries, said,
"What this demonstrates is that there is widespread concern among the American people about the government having the power to monitor what they are reading."

No-- that can't be true, because this is the first story on the DOJ website:

Majority Supports Renewing USA PATRIOT ActThe USA PATRIOT Act continues to receive broad support from Americans:

From Wainstein's testimony:

One piece of legislation a majority of voters support is renewal of the Patriot Act. A 57 percent majority says the Patriot Act is a good thing for America, up from 54 percent last year (April 2004). Similarly, support for extending the act is up slightly (3 percentage points), as today 56 percent support and 31 percent oppose renewing the legislation.

By 50 percent to 35 percent voters think the Patriot Act has helped prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.

More about the USA PATRIOT Act's broad appeal here:

How are we to evaluate this apparent discrepancy in public opinion?

First, we start with the site that the DOJ promotes to explain the PATRIOT Act's "broad appeal". We go to Fox News to read this headline:

06/16/05 FOX Poll: Congress 'Out of Touch'; Majority Supports Renewing Patriot Act

Actually, the poll covered much more than the PATRIOT Act, but you can read it for yourself.
Who was surveyed?

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900
registered voters for FOX News on June 14-15.

There is no information concerning the numbers of those who identified with specific parties, although the poll breaks down responses to many of the questions by party.

The poll asked 34 questions, including such gems as number 25, "Who do you think is tougher-- Hillary Rodham Clinton or Condoleeza Rice?" (Answer-- Clinton by a big margin) . The poll's structure looks suspiciously, uh, leading. The five questions immediately preceding those dealing with the PATRIOT Act discussed Guantanamo; the last of these asked,

At the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Muslim prisoners are given copies of the holy Muslim book the Koran. If Muslims were holding Americans as prisoners, do you think the Americans would be given copies of the Bible?

In addition to failing to be neutral, the poll failed to ask specific questions regarding the Section 215 or any other controversial provision.

21. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act which, in part, gives federal officials wider authority to use wiretaps and other
surveillance techniques. Some people say the Patriot Act is a necessary and effective tool in preventing terrorist attacks, while others say the act goes too far and could violate the civil liberties of average Americans. Which comes closer to your view -- overall, would you say the Patriot Act is a good thing for America or a bad thing for America?
Good ----Bad---- (Mixed)---- (Not sure)
14-15 Jun 05 57% 30 na 13
21-22 Apr 04 54% 28 11 7
29-30 Jul 03 55% 27 9 9

22. Do you think the Patriot Act has helped prevent terrorist attacks in the United States or not?
1. Yes 50%
2. No 35
3. (Not sure) 15

23. Based on what you know, do you support or oppose extending the Patriot Act, which is scheduled to expire at the end of the year?

Support ----Oppose---- (Not sure)
14-15 Jun 05 56% 31 12
21-22 Apr 04* 53% 32 15
*"…scheduled to expire in one year"

By the way, the question about whether Congress is "out of touch" gets position number 10, smack in the middle of a five-question run on Congress-- and completely separated from the questions about the PATRIOT Act. The initial question for the Congress set asks,

8. Do you favor or oppose limiting the number of terms members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, including your own senators and representatives, can serve?

If Fox News can get away with calling itself "fair and balanced", the DOJ gets to tell us that it is "preserving life and liberty."

I just wish that I didn't smell formaldehyde.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Miller-El v. Dretke

The Supremes knocked down another Texas death penalty prosecution this morning. In Miller-El v. Dretke, a case involving an African American defendant on trial for murder, the Supreme Court of the United States found that the prosecution had manipulated the jury pool to eliminate most other African Americans. Additionally, the Court found the prosecution's "neutral" arguments in support of its jury selection process unconvincing. The SCOTUS website should have the complete opinion available around noon today (EDT).

Hope Yen wrote the AP story for the Washington Post:

Death Row Inmate's Conviction Overturned
The Associated Press
Monday, June 13, 2005; 11:02 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a black death row inmate who said Texas prosecutors unfairly stacked his jury with whites, issuing a harsh rebuke to the state that executes more people than any other.

The 6-3 ruling Monday ordered a new trial for Thomas Miller-El, who challenged his conviction for the 1985 murder of a 25-year-old Dallas motel clerk. It was the second time justices reviewed the case after a lower court refused to reconsider Miller-El's claims...

Justice Souter,joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, hit the Texas court hard, saying that the court's conclusion (that jury selection was not racially determined) was "unreasonable as well as erroneous."

"The prosecutors' chosen race-neutral reasons for the strikes do not hold up and are so far at odds with the evidence that pretext is the fair conclusion, indicating the very discrimination the explanations were meant to deny," Souter wrote.

"At least two of the jury shuffles conducted by the state make no sense except as efforts to delay consideration of black jury panelists," Souter said, adding that it "blinks reality" to deny jurors were struck because they were black...

Justice Thomas, joined by Rehnquist and Scalia, dissented. They really prefer "rational basis" to closer scrutiny, and were satisfied with the prosecution's assertions.

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that Texas prosecutors had offered enough evidence that exclusions were made for reasons other than race.

For instance, the state's explanation that jurors were struck based on their hostility to the death penalty is plausible, and the alleged racial motivation behind prosecutors' decision to shuffle the jury pool is only speculative, wrote Thomas, the court's only black member.

"In view of the evidence actually presented to the Texas courts, their conclusion that the state did not discriminate was eminently reasonable," Thomas wrote in an opinion joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Antonin Scalia.

Texas has a pretty flat learning curve regarding its criminal justice system--especially when applied to capital cases.

Last year, the Supreme Court overturned two Texas death sentences because jurors were not told of the defendants' learning disabilities. They were LaRoyce Lathair Smith, convicted for the 1991 killing of a Taco Bell manager in Dallas, and Robert Tennard, charged with killing a Houston neighbor in 1985.

The court also lifted Delma Banks' death sentence and delivered a strong criticism of Texas officials and lower courts, saying that prosecutors had hid crucial information that might have helped Banks' case.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Up-or-down is a merry-go-round formula

What a rapturous day for hypocrisy! Barely catching a breath after the controversial Priscilla Owen's confirmation to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and oath of office, the Senate granted lifelong tenure to a judge whose record identifies her as so far out of the mainstream that she can't even feel the current.

Brown Approved For D.C. Circuit
Senate Confirms California Justice, Sets Vote on Pryor

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 9, 2005; Page A01

The Senate confirmed Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday, handing President Bush and his conservative supporters a long-sought addition to the nation's second most influential court.

Brown, a California Supreme Court justice whose forcefully stated views have infuriated liberals and delighted conservatives, was approved 56 to 43 after two days of often emotional debate. Democrats had blocked her since 2003, but they were forced to accept her confirmation -- and those of two other appellate court nominees they strongly opposed -- when a bipartisan group struck a deal last month quelling a Republican threat to ban filibusters of judicial nominations.


Minutes after confirming Brown, the Senate voted to end debate and schedule a confirmation vote today for former Alabama attorney general William H. Pryor Jr., appointed by Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. If Pryor is confirmed as predicted, he will join Brown and Priscilla R. Owen -- sworn in this week to the 5th Circuit -- as the trio of sharply contested nominees whose approval was the price that liberals paid to retain the right to filibuster future nominees, possibly including those to the Supreme Court.

I can hardly wait for the William Pryor vote.

Remember the Republicans railing against the Democrats for refusing to bring Senate nomination hearings to a close?

Their chant: Up-or-down vote.
Their message: The undemocratic evil of needing a 60-vote majority.

President Bush on judicial nominees:
"I have a duty to nominate well-qualified men and women to the federal judiciary. I have done just that, and I will continue to do so," he said. "The Senate also has a duty -- to promptly consider each of these nominations on the Senate floor, discuss and debate their qualifications and
then give them the up or down vote they deserve.

Senator Doctor Frist on judicial nominees:
All 100 members of the U.S. Senate will soon decide a basic question of fairness. Will we permit a fair, up-or-down vote on every judicial nominee?

Or this one:
"They've been waiting years for an up-or-down vote, and now they'll get one," he said. "It's about time. We're making some progress."

Vice Prez Cheney on judicial nominees:
“I support bringing those nominees to the Senate for an up or down vote,” Cheney said.

Bush on Bolton:
"I thought John Bolton was going to get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, just like he deserves an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, and clearly he's got the votes to get confirmed. And so I was disappointed that once again, the leadership there in the Senate didn't give him an up-or-down vote."

Wow. Three times as powerful.

Everybody wanted to get into the act.

"All judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote. It's a matter of fairness," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference at the Justice Department.

Senator John Sununu on judicial nominees: “A 60-vote standard for all nominees is not fair to the President or the Judiciary itself. Nominations reported out of the Judiciary Committee deserve and [sic] up-or-down vote on the floor.”

...and so on.

But tonight the AP reports:

Brownback Puts Diplomat Nomination on Hold

By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jun 8, 8:48 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Sen. Sam Brownback has put a hold on the White House's nomination of a prominent abortion-rights supporter to a diplomatic post.

Kind of refreshing to see the old "pyramid" journalism style in use-- leading with the most salient information.

The Kansas Republican, a strong abortion opponent with presidential aspirations, says he has concerns about Julie Finley's nomination as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Brownback is chairman of the Helsinki Commission, an independent U.S. government agency that formulates policy on OSCE issues. The Vienna-based organization monitors compliance with human rights and security standards in Europe established by the 1975 Helsinki Accords.

"I have some concerns about Ms. Finley and I would like to have assurances about these issues before I make any final decisions on the nomination moving forward," Brownback said in a statement. "She is a wonderful lady that I have worked with before, but not yet on issues relevant to the OSCE."

Finley, a longtime Bush supporter and Republican fundraiser, is a founding member of the WISH list, a political action committee that raises money for female Republican candidates who support abortion rights.

Brownback's office declined to specify his concerns, but a spokesman said the senator is meeting with Finley on Thursday to discuss her nomination. Finley declined to comment.

A single senator can block a nomination from moving forward by placing a hold on it.

What-- no up-or-down vote?

No comment forthcoming from the Senate Republicans on the undemocratic evil of a one-man veto.

Some anti-abortion groups mobilized last month to stop Finley's nomination based on her abortion views. The Republican National Coalition for Life has urged its members to contact the White House to oppose the nomination.

"Because of ongoing attempts to promote taxpayer funding of abortion and the distribution of abortion-causing drugs overseas, we are concerned that, given her history of support for liberal abortion policies, she will be able to promote her pro-abortion views through the OSCE," said a letter on the group's Web site.

James Geoffrey, a commission spokesman, said the issue of abortion is not typically addressed by the organization.

"The commission doesn't take a position on things like that, and we don't expect it to be an issue," Geoffrey said.

Finley's views on abortion did not come up during her Senate confirmation hearing last month, where she testified that she is a strong advocate of NATO expansion and spreading democracy to former Soviet Union nations.

Finley is a trustee and treasurer for the National Endowment for Democracy. She was a founder and board member of the U.S. Committee on NATO.

Sam Brownback--more evidence of the decline of Kansas.

Looking for adventure and whatever comes our way...

More good news from the AP, via CBS associate KOTV :

Waste Shipment Rolls Through Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The first of what is to be 15 shipments a day of radioactive waste has been trucked across Oklahoma.

We should all cheer! Good for business! McDonald's restaurants all along the highways!

Two steel canisters of 20,000 pounds of a mixture of uranium combined with fly ash was carried from a plant in southwest Ohio to a storage site in Andrews, Texas, near the Texas-New Mexico state line.

I guess that the Yucca Mountain facility isn't ready yet.

The waste is carried along Interstate 44 to Interstate 40, traveling through Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

I wonder if the potholes on I-44 and I-40 have been repaired?

State Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Monty Elder says officials aren't worried about the radioactive material and are satisfied it's safely packaged.

Okay, maybe... but what about the Department of Homeland Security? Any assurances from those people? Got a note from Michael Chertoff?

A total of about 2,000 shipments of the waste will be trucked across the state and officials say there will be about 15 shipments per day, seven days a week, later this summer.

I'm still waiting on that DHS note.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

He's got the Bible and a loaded 44

I came back to the office this evening around 9:30 to work on a little extra-curricular stuff. Specifically, I needed to put together some material in anticipation of a public hearing to be held Tuesday morning before the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board. This board has authority over the Tulsa Zoo, a pretty nice place for involuntarily captive animals. Better than Guantanamo, anyway. Back in November it won $25,000 from Microsoft Game Studio's "Zoo Tycoon 2" America's Favorite Zoo Contest (we're number one).

The only reason that I will be attending the meeting is a small "action item" on the agenda, listed as "Creation and Intelligent Design-- Dan Hicks."

Dan Hicks-- obviously not the Dan Hicks who, performing with his band the Hot Licks, created such memorable songs as "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?" and "Milk Shakin' Mama."

No, this is Tulsa's Dan Hicks, who complained recently upon hearing that Tulsa's gay community would be having a "Gay Day" at the zoo for families and friends of gays and lesbians.

Its one of several events for Gay Pride week. Donna Jones: "That is something that we do frequently on Saturdays is go to the zoo and that's not something I would want to take my children to." Dan Hicks: "I just think it’s very inappropriate to have a gay demonstration at the Tulsa Zoo where young children are and they're not ready for their parents to have to discuss these kinds of issues."

Issues like, uh, adults and children enjoying the zoo? What could he be thinking? I wonder if he thinks parents won't already have enough to discuss with their children when the children watch animals copulating, defecating, urinating, etc. Let alone asking-- as my darling babies asked-- why some of the animals had such big penises and others had such tiny penises.

I remember a third-grade trip-to-the-zoo with one of my sons' class where the entire class laughed until they ached over the feces fight at the chimp house, and how some of the parents had some difficulty explaining that, no, the male rhesus monkeys knew perfectly well that they could not get trees and rocks pregnant-- let alone the other male rhesus monkeys-- no matter how energetically they tried to mate with them.

Tulsa's Dan Hicks must not visit the zoo very often.

At any rate, I thought that Chris C. Mooney and P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula would likely have some good evolution material to support my rather dry legal presentation, so I wandered over to find that--*gasp*-- Pharyngula's taken the Bible hostage! He has a LOADED 44! Well, actually, he has a 44-oz. Diet Coke that he threatens to unload into himself, fully cognizant of the consequences!

Alright, people, I'm gonna get tough. You know what I want, and you'd better give it to me.

I've got a bible here, and a 44oz. Diet Coke…lots of liquid containing a diuretic, to boot. In about an hour, I figure my bladder is going to be pretty full. You know what could happen.

I don't need information from you, and I sure don't want your money. This is a weblog, and the currency here in these parts is the link, the trackback, the comment. Fork 'em over, or I'm taking this Bible down the hall. You know I'd do it. I'm a godless atheist—I don't think your Bible means doodley-squat.

Intimidated yet?

YES! I AM INTIMIDATED![Can one claim to be intimidated using all capitals?]

So, in exchange for marauding through his trove of clear and enlightened argument, I hereby note that he is NOT KIDDING. If you can link or trackback to his site, do so NOW. He is a godless atheist and a Commentist who deserves every little trackback ping he gets.

Deep Throat, Deep Rectum

From this morning's Washington Post:

Prosecution of Felt Called Unlikely

Associated Press
Saturday, June 4, 2005; Page A18

NEW YORK, June 3 -- W. Mark Felt, the former FBI official who was "Deep Throat" during the Watergate scandal, probably will not be prosecuted for leaking information to reporters three decades ago, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said Friday.

The Justice Department "has a lot of other priorities," Gonzales said.

Asked whether he considered Felt to be a hero or a villain, Gonzales said he will leave that to history. His boss, President Bush, has also refrained from expressing an opinion on Felt.

Felt leaked tips about criminal wrongdoing at the White House to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation.

As attorney general, Gonzales is overseeing an investigation into who gave the name of an undercover CIA officer to journalists.

Following his immediate predecessor's fine example, Mr. Gonzales fails to note that the information that Mark Felt leaked was not illegal to leak. In the thirty-two years since Watergate I haven't heard of anyone trying to roust out the identity of Deep Throat in order to prosecute him. Does anyone recall Ben Bradlee, Katharine Graham, Carl Bernstein, or Bob Woodward being pressured to reveal Deep Throat because he had acted illegally?

Of course not.

Furthermore, if Felt had acted illegally Gonzales should state so clearly and unequivocably rather than obliquely promoting that implication with that "other priorities" evasion.

Oh, and how is that other investigation going?

Back in mid-April, the House Intelligence Committee Democrats wrote to Mr. Gonzales asking the same question, since it had been nearly two years since Robert Novak-- shall we call him Deep Rectum?-- had illegally published the name of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame.

Here's how CNN reported it:

In response to the Democrats, Gonzales said he is confident that Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney from Chicago who is the lead prosecutor on the case, is "proceeding on a basis that he thinks is appropriate and that at the appropriate time the matter will come to a head."

Gonzales noted that he recused himself from the matter after taking office. His predecessor, John Ashcroft, also recused himself in December 2003 after complaints from Democrats. Ashcroft's office said he took that step to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.

The Democrats' letter noted that Fitzgerald wrote in March court filings that the factual investigation "was for all practical purposes" completed in October, yet no charges were filed.

Oh. All right then. It's... moving right along.

But if our Attorney General isn't working on the Plame case, what's he doing? What is "overseeing the case"? Just more of the same kind of diversion we are used to getting from this bunch.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised that a Deep Rectum probe results in a lot of crap.