Friday, February 09, 2007

John Edwards And His Bloggers

Left: Godzilla vs. King Kong (from Lincolnsblog).

I'm a big supporter of John Edwards, and I'm glad he's chosen to keep on his staff his newly-hired bloggers, the ones who raised the ire of many Catholics with their insulting rhetoric.

Edwards released the following statement on his blog:
The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwen's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.
What the bloggers said was offensive, but they said it on their own blogs, and not speaking on behalf of the Edwards campaign. Their insults appeared to be aimed (mostly) at Catholic beliefs (with the likely exception of some of what Marcotte wrote), rather than Catholics per se (which would be bigotry), and as pointed out by Cenk Uygur, in a free society, religious beliefs are fair game for debate:
And therein lies the big difference between actual bigots like Donohue and the views of Marcotte and McEwen. Donohue attacks people for who they are. Marcotte and McEwen challenge people for what they believe.

Attacking someone's religious identity is unacceptable. Attacking their religious views, on the other hand, must be fair game. Saying all "Catholics are bad people" is crazy talk; saying "Catholic ideology on contraception is wrong" is obviously a perfectly acceptable opinion.
As Friend Gabe points out, at least one blogger got Catholic doctrine incorrect, but then again, it's usually not a firing offense to be wrong, particularly when you were speaking on behalf of yourself at the time.

Does Edwards taint himself by associating with bloggers who disdain Catholic beliefs? Maybe, which is unfortunate, because Edwards does not manifest any ill will towards Catholics, but the bloggers are rather low in his organization, and it's impossible to police the beliefs of everyone in his organization.

What annoys me is, since when do the staff members of any political campaign have to pass a litmus test imposed by a member of the political opposition (i.e., William Donohue)? If that's the new test, then, given all the inflammatory right-wing bloggers that will likely work on the campaigns of the 2008 Republican candidates, it will be a long two years indeed as we left-wing bloggers get to work.

Gabe also points out this Web Site catering to Catholics, where the discussion is just excellent. I agree with several people there including the suggestion of what Edwards should have said:
"I think Marcotte's post goes beyond simply criticizing the Church's positions on contraception, etc. on the merits and attacks the institution as a whole in ways that resonate with traditionally anti-Catholic rhetoric from the bad old days. There are plenty of substantive grounds on which to criticize the Church's position on contraception without resorting to rhetoric that consciously aims to offend."

"For Edwards to take Marcotte at her word -- that she did not intend to offend -- is pretty much to tell those who are offended that there is something wrong with them. If he felt he could not fire her (perhaps because of a fear of being viewed as having caved in to hacks like Donohue and Michelle Malkin), it would have been better for Edwards to draw a different line, saying that he would not hold people responsible for blog posts written before they came to work for him, or something like that. To say that he actually believes that she did not intend to offend Catholics either means he is a sucker (because he believes her, even though she clearly did intend to offend) or he thinks Catholics who were offended are suckers (because he thinks they'll believe that he believed Marcotte did not intend to offend)."

"Well, then, is sauce for the goose sauce for the gander? I took a look at Brownback's presidential committee, and on that Committee is Father Frank Pavone, the anti-abortion activist. His language is not much different from Donahues on some topics. There are pro-life activists, and strategists, who are less prophetic--if you will--in their rhetoric. How would people respond if there were a demand to take Father Pavone off the committe because of his pro-life rhetoric, which insults people who morally disagree with him, and doesn't merely express those disagreements politely?"

"To be honest, I think people who are willing to say things no holds barred using images that shock is valuable. I think, for instance, that the abuse scandal was a lot worse because no one stood up in a public forum and asked quite graphically why the bishop was willing to put up with what Father So and So had done. I can never stop thinking that they depended on the decency and rectitude and yes, the hang ups, of their parishioners. Similarly, when someone stood up in a public forum and asked Antonin Scalia whether he has anal sex with his wife and Scalia said it's none of anybody's business, well, a rather valuable point was made about the mismatch between Scalia's expectations of privacy for himself and his legal theories that dismiss other people's expectations of privacy for themselves. It is abundantly clear that many people profess shock when, in truth, they just can't or don't want to address pointed criticisms of their own beliefs or actions. Having said all of that, I was a bit shocked that Edwards hired Amanda Marcotte because, to put it mildly, nothing she says is temperate, but then, she never set out to be a politician and I think it might have occurred to both of them that it was unlikely to be a good fit. But anti-Catholic? No, more just like, she's willing to say out loud what a lot of other people, yes, even Catholic people, are already thinking."
Albuquerque Fit, Las Vegas Fat

Or so says Men's Fitness Magazine.

Looking at the list, I have the gnawing suspicion that they just put city names in a hat, and drew up their list at random....
New Mexico's largest city was listed as the fittest city in the United States in March's issue of Men's Fitness magazine, up from a 13th-place showing last year.

...The magazine's nonscientific survey of 50 cities listed Seattle as No. 2 in the most-fit rankings, followed by Colorado Springs; Minneapolis; Tucson, Ariz.; Denver; San Francisco; Baltimore; Portland, Ore.; and Honolulu.

It's Top 10 fattest cities are Las Vegas, Nev., up from No. 2 last year; San Antonio, Texas; Miami; Mesa, Ariz.; Los Angeles; Houston; Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Detroit; and San Jose, Calif.

... Albuquerque - where about 40 percent of the population is Hispanic - has plenty of Mexican restaurants, a cuisine not known for its low-fat content.

(Mayor Martin) Chavez said the traditional American diet is high in fat, "not just Mexican food but every good food."

However, nearly every restaurant offers some heart-healthy menu items, and Chavez said fit Albuquerque residents choose those.

"All Mexican food is healthy," he joked. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
Update: Here is a funny!
Men's Fitness in a "Fit or Fat" survey has named Las Vegas the fattest city in the United States. In a relative sense that means you will appear thinner here when standing next to other people then anywhere else in the country: another reason to love Las Vegas.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Prosecution Rests

In the Libby case.
RIP, Anna Nicole Smith

Age 39. So young!
More On Polygamy and Gay Marriage

After the previous discussion, there was a bit of clarification. Friend 1 continues:
Marc, since you were baffled by my argument, let me try to clarify. I did not dispute (in that memo) the gay activists' claim for a biological argument. What I meant to say was that a claim for a biological origin of homosexuality fails as an argument for acceptance of the gay agenda. Opponents of gays believe that homosexual behavior is either (1) morally wrong, or (2) emotionally unhealthy. In either case, acceptance of the biological theory for the behavior would not change anyone's mind about the morality or emotional health of homosexuality. The reason for opposition to the gay agenda would remain, even if the opponent agreed with the theory. It is a logical red herring.

Example: If I believe that alcoholism is emotionally unhealthy, I will still believe it even if alcoholism is proved to be genetically controlled.
I reply:
OK, that's clearer....

There is also another level too, where a person could find nothing morally wrong or emotionally unhealthy about homosexuality, yet still oppose the gay agenda, simply because it is a political agenda, that necessarily must vie for time and attention with balanced-budget agenda, troop deployment agenda, etc., and may be led by leaders whom one might not like. I remember once offending a local actress simply because I made that distinction. She thought that anyone opposed to the gay agenda must axiomatically be opposed to gays, but not necessarily.

(I guess I should be using the word 'agendum', not 'agenda', but nevermind....)

Right now, I don't see much of a constituency advocating on behalf of polygamy, so I don't think it's likely to advance by much. If it's an elite phenomenon, the Hollywood types will pick up on it first: if otherwise, you'll see it down the block first.

Doing the musical theater stuff, it's easy to effortlessly blend right into the homosexual milieu. Several months ago, I saw one fellow I hadn't seen in a number of months, and without even thinking, gave him a big smooch right on his lips. Afterwards, I wondered about that, but it was all quite sincere and in the moment.

Yeah, I know, I'm just a tool of the Left Coast gay agenda.....

Another time, in the early 90's, I saw a crew of young, flamboyant gay rowdies, with spiked hair, studded tongues, and outrageous clothing, who had been bussed into Sacramento from San Francisco to make an in-your-face political demonstration in front of the State Capitol, charge onto the K Street Mall in harrassing packs at the same, exact moment a large, somber group of Catholic mourners, many with small children, were leaving the Cathedral onto the K Street Mall, where a funeral service for the local Bishop had just occurred. Talk about a culture clash! Surprised, even panicked traditionalists, shouting excitedly and clutching small children, ran down the streets to escape the activists. A lot of wounded feelings that day. I always wondered whose lame idea that was....
And to clarify further regarding that particular political demonstration, I don't think the demonstrators deliberately planned to harrass the mourners, only that they came to town to offend the sensibilities of the political class, and they happened upon the mourners as targets of opportunity, quite by accident.

Political demonstrations are always risky because they will inevitably offend someone. The calculation that must be made is whether the heightened visibility is worth alienating people who might otherwise be supporters.

The "Act Up" AIDS demonstrators of the 80's were willing to risk great offense, because the danger of lack of public awareness about AIDS was extreme. By the 90's, the calculation was much harder to make. When I have time, I should look more into this particular demonstration, see who organized it, and whether they thought it was a success, or not.
Celibate Gay Refugees Not Wanted In Canada

Presumably Canada only wants promiscuous gay refugees? Am I missing something?
Ask Dr. Science

Mark Twain wrote in "Life on the Mississippi" that when he could look at a beautiful sunset on the great river, yet see nothing but the snags and sandbars in the water, he knew it was time to leave steamboat piloting and head West.

I'm not at that point yet, so it's still fun to put the scientist goggles on and look at the natural world....

My co-workers write the following about this picture:
1.) This is way cool.
2.) VERY cool! Marc, why does it do that??
1.) I think there is heat coming off the drill rig and the ceiling is so low that it is blowing a hole in it. Maybe???
2.) Either heat or turbulence, or maybe both, is my guess too.
3.) Only a couple of engineers would have this kind of discussion ;-)
I write:
It looks as if the clouds are altostratus and are actually miles above the ground. The hole appeared in the cloud deck and the clever photographer maneuvered themselves so that the top of the drilling rig pointed at the hole's center.

Regarding why the hole would appear, most of these clouds are likely made up of supercooled water droplets, meaning their temperature is below freezing. In order for water droplets to freeze, ice nuclei have to make contact with the droplets. In a big pool of water, like a pond, water will freeze at the freezing point, since some ice nucleus is almost always present somewhere in the pool, but if you finely-divide the water into tiny droplets, even if you dramatically lower the temperature, the water droplets remain water, because there isn't a ice nucleus available in each droplet. Only if temperatures are -40 degrees, or lower (deg F or deg C), will all the water droplets freeze without ice nuclei needing to be present.

Ice nuclei are not very common in the atmosphere, so clouds at -20 degrees or -30 degrees can exist for hours or days without freezing. Some materials, like leaf litter, make good ice nuclei, but leaf litter is uncommon high in the atmosphere. Probably what happened was, several hours before the photo was taken, a plane flew through the cloud deck, and scattered some particulate material, perhaps exhaust particles, or even dirt, but adequate to serve as ice nuclei. New ice crystals grew at the expense of the supercooled droplets (since the saturation vapor pressure of ice is lower than that of water) and slowly snowed out, leaving a nice, circular hole in the cloud deck.

Indeed, just to the left of the tip of the drilling rig, you can see the hint of an optical phenomenon, a "sundog", the brightest part of an incomplete halo, indicating that ice is present in the cloud deck in the hole, but nowhere else.
Kylie's Clothes Travel To London

Left: Off to the opening! Kylie Minogue and her stylist, William Baker.

Does a museum damage its credibility by featuring a pop star? I suppose it depends on the museum, but I would think anything that brings in the people is better than empty halls!:
Are Kylie Minogue's gold lame hotpants art, or even culturally significant?

That was the question being asked in London as an exhibition of the Australian pop star's costumes opened at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A).

Advance booking records have been broken by the Kylie show, which displays costumes ranging from leopard skin catsuits and pink-bejewelled corsets to the dungarees she wore in 1988 as mechanic Charlene in Neighbours.

Also on show are the gold hotpants, bought for 50 pence and sported in the video for her 2000 hit single Spinning Around.

"I was absolutely speechless," Minogue, 38, said after touring the exhibition. "It is a very strange feeling, I am honoured and overwhelmed," she said following a private viewing before an opening night show which was more like a glitzy film premier than a museum launch.

Minogue, appearing days after announcing her split from long-term boyfriend Olivier Martinez, dazzled on the red carpet in a purple, backless Dolce and Gabbana gown. ... But the exhibition, already seen in Sydney and Melbourne, has provoked claims the V&A is dumbing down to appeal to the masses - chasing crowds not quality.

Cultural commentator Stephen Bayley said he feared current London exhibitions featuring Minogue and Kate Moss were "a capitulation to the cult of celebrity". Minogue was unfazed by the row.

"Art is what you like or what you don't like," she said. "There's all the questions about should the V&A do this, if people are so concerned about the V&A and respecting what they do, this was the V&A's invitation to me and I gladly said yes."

V&A director Mark Jones said the show was a way of understanding celebrity. "We are a museum for design in all its forms. The V&A is not an art gallery. It is a museum of contemporary and historic design," he said.

... "Were it not for my parents, I'm sure this collection would be the size of a suitcase rather than an exhibition space."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


A woman who boarded the wrong bus on an attempted shopping trip from Thailand to Malaysia has returned home after 25 years.

Jaeyana Beuraheng told her eight children she accidentally boarded a bus bound for Bangkok instead of Malaysia, and once there she boarded a second incorrect bus because she could not read or speak Thai or English, The Times of London reported Wednesday.

Beuraheng, who speaks only the Yawi dialect used by Muslims in southern Thailand, said the noise and traffic of the big city confused and disoriented her, leading her to board the second wrong bus to Chiang Mai, near the border with Burma.

The woman said she spent five years begging on the street in the city and was often mistaken for a member of a hill tribe because of her dark skin tone.

She was arrested in 1987 on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant and was sent to a social services hostel when authorities were unable to determine her origins.

However, last month, three students from her home village arrived at the hostel for training, and they were able to communicate with Beuraheng and help her find her way home.
Out Of The Florida Swamp....

Good God! Covered in kudzu vine, guess who is back in town? Sacramento performance poet, and Luna's Cafe favorite, Gil Rodriguez! He tells scary stories about retirement-home hell; golf carts and the slow, slow pace....
Best Light Pillars Ever!

Or at least that I've ever seen pictures of (thanks, Frank!):
Light pillars are a common sight in Fairbanks during winter. These pillars are originating from the airport runway lights about 1.5 miles from where this photo was taken. Gently rocking plates behave like miniature mirrors that reflect the light towards the observer.

The usual suspects that produce most of the optical phenomena tend to be hexagonally shaped plates and columns. Plates are responsible for the sun dogs, parhelic circles and circumzenith arcs, and the columns are responsible for the 22° and 46° halos as well as the upper and lower tangent arcs. It has been shown that both shapes can generate light pillars.
Whatever Became Of Manhua Wonderlands?

Left: Madz, and her innovative latex costume.

Doggone it, leave Brisbane too early, and miss out on the creative stuff, like Karaoke Bedlam! And the realization that you can never have too many breasts. I mean, Ziegfeld recognized that eighty years ago, but every generation has to go about the same discovery process in its own, unique way....

Doggone it, where are those photos of the beautiful Asian women wearing SARS masks? Come on, disease and desire both start with the letter "D"! Just like Rudyard Kipling swooned when he caught glimpses of the eyes of Persian women in chadors in the 19th Century, the SARS masks have the same effect on me today. Don't tell me to ride a frickin' Hong Kong subway. Don't tell me I have to go see my dentist, Dr. Woo (former Miss San Francisco Chinatown 1986) - I stayed up too late recently, subconciously in order to oversleep my appointment, so as to avoid the pain of catching her delightful, masked visage (not so much the pain as the bite on the wallet). Stop teasing me now, because, the Internet is supposed to be all about interconnectivity, and imagery, and the moment, and those spectacular images are just nowhere on the Internet.

Yeah, I know, I know. If you want the beautiful images, you gotta pay the artists....
Polygamy, And Its Discontents

The college roundtable discussion continues (after an interlude which I did not post) regarding the touchy subject of whether gay marriage will eventually lead to the widespread acceptance of polygamy:

Friend 1 opens:
I’m kind of proud of this idea I had, which predicts that legalization of polygamy should follow on the heels of gay marriage. I didn’t read it or see it on TV; it’s my own thought. I’ve bounced it off of several of my friends, who generally agree with it. I wasn’t sure what you guys would think.

Both of you immediately locked polygamy into a conceptual model of Mormon male domination of under-age wives. However, I was not thinking so narrowly. Some years ago I did have an acquaintance with a polygamous trio. It was composed of a man, his legal wife, and a second woman who shared their house, bed, and finances. The three of them acknowledged that only two of them were legally bound, but nevertheless thought and spoke of themselves as being in a three-way marriage. The legal wife was bisexual, the second woman was lesbian, and the guy liked sleeping with two women. Are they still together? I rather doubt it. I do know that they were consenting adults, they were secular, they each were economically self sufficient, and they each got something out of the “marriage”.

The legalization of gay marriage, if enacted, would involve a re-definition of the purpose of marriage, an institution which is thousands of years old. The traditional purpose is twofold; the first, as you point out, is to promote responsibility for child rearing. A second purpose, according to religious people, is to conform to God’s wishes --marriage as a sacrament. Only the first reason could apply to polygamy, and neither apply to gay marriage. Acceptance of gay marriage depends on redefining marriage in terms of the pursuit of happiness, as Marc pointed out. Since the US was founded on a pursuit of happiness ethic, it may be that gay marriage will eventually be accepted here.

Jumping from straight to gay marriage is a very big step, which requires changing the very purpose of the institution. Is a second jump from gay marriage to polygamous marriage also a big jump, or is it a small one? It requires merely extension of the right to the pursuit of happiness from one group of consenting adults, to another group. A very small step, isn’t it? I’m not trying to make a “slippery slope” argument; I am not criticizing either gays or polygamists. Legalized polygamy just seems like a logical consequence of redefining marriage away from children and religious practice, and towards the pursuit of earthly happiness.

In your memos, I sensed some resistance to extending the “pursuit of happiness” franchise to polygamists. One implied reason was that homosexuality is claimed to be biologically based, while no such claim is made for polygamists. I don’t think this is relevant. A “biological basis” is not a prerequisite for being allowed to live one’s life as one sees fit. Must I prove a genetic urge to associate with animals in order to be allowed to own a horse? Of course not. Even if homosexuality is genetically based, as claimed, and polygamy is not, marriage enfranchisement based on a pursuit of happiness ethic would not depend on any “biological” arguments.

The putative biological basis for homosexuality is given great weight by activists. It has been an effective political argument, but logically it is pointless. The argument goes that since gays were (supposedly) born that way, it is unreasonable to treat them differently than straight people, by analogy to racial differences. That would be true only in the absence of any moral or emotional dimension to homosexuality. If someone believed that homosexuality is immoral or emotionally unhealthy (like alcoholism, or extreme shyness), then the “biological basis” could not reasonably modify any decision. If a job applicant for a policeman or airline pilot is judged to be emotionally unhealthy and therefore ineligible, the question of whether the applicant’s emotional state is genetically based, or has some other origin, is really not germane to the issue. The “biological origin” argument is persuasive only for those who already think homosexuality is moral & healthy; it preaches to the choir, and to nobody else.

Some may think polygamy is emotionally unhealthy. Should polygamous marriage be disallowed on that basis? Many who oppose gay marriage feel that homosexuality is emotionally unhealthy. If “emotional unhealthiness” is a legitimate reason to deny marriage rights to one group, it is also valid against the other group. Anyway, we’re back to my original idea. If marriage is redefined on a pursuit of happiness ethic, and gay marriage is permitted, I think that polygamous marriage is a logical followup.
Friend 2 responds:
Polygamy is pretty much an unknown topic as far as most people in this country are concerned. I cited the fundamentalist Mormon culture because it is the only significant example of it that has played any role in US history, hence it becomes the starting point for many discussions of the subject.

I tend to agree with you that legalization would not necessarily be a bad thing but I do have some reservations. Specifically, aside from the case you cited of an acquaintance who was married and had a live in girlfriend, all cases of polygamy in the US have involved either Mormons or other cult religions (Rajneesh, Branch Davidians etc.) and the women involved were not exercising free will. Defining what constitutes free will is a tricky proposition and in a culture like ours where religion plays such an important role it is nearly impossible to legislate. In general I agree that any person of their volition should be able to enter into a gay marriage or a polygamous marriage provided that all other parties--exercising free will--are in agreement.

The main reason for marriage in a non-religious sense is to create a healthy and nurturing environment for raising children. There have not been many studies on the mental and physical health of children raised by two gay parents or in polygamous homes but the studies that have been made (from what little I have read) do not indicate any significant ill effects. I recall one television interview with a young man who was raised by two gay men and he seemed very reasonable and comfortable with his identity--and he remarked that he was not gay himself because that was not his inclination. It would be interesting to see a thorough study of the subject; I wouldn't be surprised if there is one out there somewhere.

In any case, legalization of either gay marriage or polygamy remains a moot point. Neither will ever be legalized outside of a few states or regions. I would not be surprised to see some states allow gay marriage on a county option basis, though such marriages would not be recognized in most other states. A national acceptance of such marriages would, I believe, have to be settled by the Supreme Court--and with the current makeup of the court that would be highly unlikely.

I see a more likely outcome as more a continuation of the current situation. Gay unions will still be accepted in many areas with the attendant legal rights for the parties involved and polygamy will still be accepted in Utah. This situation will probably continue because the alternative would be largely unenforceable. By this I mean that we can either accept the choices people make in their private lives--even if we do not fully agree with them--or we can try passing new laws or enforcing existing ones. The latter option is not likely to be accepted in view of the embarrassment that anti-sodomy or anti-adultery laws cause states or municipalities when a zealous prosecutor tries to enforce them. Most Americans, I believe, are not going to support the arrest and detention of men or women based on who they choose to live with, but religious sentiment also prevents a full recognition of non-traditional marriages. The result will be that straight unmarried couples will continue to live together, gay unmarried couples will continue to live together and multi-partner relationships will appear now and then. And as long as they are all based on the free will of all parties involved (and absolutely no child abuse) they should be accepted as lawful citizens of our nation.
I respond:
I was kind of baffled by part of Friend 1's argument, so I I'll focus just on that part. He says: "The 'biological origin' argument is persuasive only for those who already think homosexuality is moral & healthy; it preaches to the choir, and to nobody else."

Not necessarily. There are plenty of other states of mind that are emotionally or physically unhealthy that have genetic bases. I'm thinking principally of addictions and obsessive/compulsive disorders, many of which have genetic associations and physical expressions in the brain. Some can even be altered or controlled by drugs, so biological origin arguments are not just preaching to the choir.

What makes sexual preferences different than addictions is the moral, ethical, and cultural dimension that people have brought to them since time immemorial. What gay marriage advocates have been saying is that the custom of marriage should be available to them since their status as citizens outweighs whatever benefit might come from denying them marriage.

I doubt that gay marriage will be available to all, nationwide, anytime soon, since marriage customs, by tradition, have been reserved to communities and the states. No Supreme Court for this stuff! Unlike civil rights, gay marriage will have to be argued, county-by-county, state-by-state, for years, across the country. That may be for the best, as our Constitution forsees.

Sometimes I think gay marriage advocates underestimate the roadblocks to their project. On the other hand, they've proceeded an impressive way in a surprisingly-short period of time, nonetheless. I easily remember when no one discussed the issue - at all!

Polygamy can work, and has worked, in many settings. In Arab countries, and North Africa, marginalized women who might otherwise starve can find protection and community in polygamous marriages. Same in Utah. I remember when I lived in Salt Lake City, a TV station did a story on a local man who made it is mission to restore the pride to polygamous marriages. He had grown up in a traditional Mormon polygamous household and he saw it as being the very best kind of upbringing possible. He may have even been right! Outsiders often wonder what women see in such marriages, but a closer look reveals lots of hidden advantages, particularly regarding safety and community, that soothe some of the more glaring disadvantages.

I think what I resist about polygamous households in the U.S. is that it is a political threat. Anglo-Saxon tradition, based originally on small-farm freeholders, eschews arrangements where power is overly-centralized, where (name-your-enemy: pope, king, emperor, guru, etc., etc.) holds too much sway. People who grow up in households where power is invested largely in a father figure will apply their experiences by freely-choosing anti-democratic political arrangements - witness Arab countries, North Africa, and, yes, even Utah. That is one reason, I think, that 19th-Century Americans were mostly so dead-set against polygamy: it represented an Old-World phenomenon that, if it reached full expression, would prove an impediment to their own children's prospects in the New World.

Of course, it is possible to design much-more diffuse, modern polygamous marriages that might not be so dangerous. On the other hand, they might not be so stable either, which would be bad for the kids.

In comparison, gay marriage poses little political threat at all. Gay marriage advocates want to emulate the stability of traditional marriage. It is not a recipe for revolution - anything but!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dyer Went To Africa

Northern Tanzania, principally, and he got some fine photographs!
Where's My 2004 State Income Tax Refund Check?

Yeah, so the routing number wasn't correct.... That shouldn't make a difference.... Should it?
Inopportune Jaywalking

Every once in a while, driving down the road, you encounter aggressive pedestrians who endanger themselves with their brinksmanship as they try to cross against the red traffic light and force you to stop for them.

I encountered two such pedestrians on 19th Street just now. After I passed them both, I checked in the rear view mirror, and lo and behold, the motorcycle cop following behind me decided to stop them and look into their judgment....
Awkward Valentine's Day Out In The Wild Blue Yonder

NASA administrators must be aghast:
NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak was ordered released Tuesday on an additional $10,000 bond on an attempted murder charge.

... Police suspect Nowak intended to kill Colleen Shipman, 30, based on the fact that she traveled about 900 miles, wore diapers so she didn't have to stop and had deadly weapons in her possession when she was arrested.

The additional charge came hours after Nowak, considered a rising star at NASA, posted $15,500 bond for charges stemming from the alleged kidnapping plot, a jail spokesman said.

"She was about to be released when the Orlando police showed up with additional attempted first-degree murder," Orange County jail spokesman Allen Moore said.

The attempted murder charge is the most serious one that the married mother of three faces for what police said was an attempt to kidnap Shipman after allegedly pepper-spraying her Monday at the Orlando airport.

In addition, Nowak, 43, faces charges of battery, attempted kidnapping and attempted vehicle burglary with battery.

Nowak, a Navy captain, and Shipman, an Air Force captain, were both "in a relationship" with Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein, another astronaut, according to a police report of the incident. (Watch how police say a NASA love triangle went awry )

... According to the police report, Nowak drove from Houston, Texas, to Orlando International Airport to meet Shipman, who was flying the same route, according to the report.

Police said Nowak pepper-sprayed Shipman through her car window at the airport. Evidence found in Nowak's bag prompted police to file the attempted kidnapping charges, according to the report.

... Shipman told police she arrived at the airport about 1 a.m. Monday but had to wait two hours for her luggage to arrive. Once she retrieved her bags, she said, she took a bus to the lot where her car was parked. She noticed a woman wearing a trench coat who appeared to be following her.

Fearing for her safety, Shipman quickly entered her car, the police report said, adding that she reported hearing "running footsteps" behind her. Shipman closed and locked her car door as Nowak slapped the window of the car and tried to open the car door.

Nowak told Shipman her ride had not arrived and asked for help, but Shipman refused, saying she would send help instead. When Nowak complained she couldn't hear Shipman and started to cry, Shipman opened her car window "about two inches" -- and Nowak sprayed pepper spray into the car, police said.

Shipman, her eyes burning, drove away and found police, who returned to the bus stop and found Nowak, who was wearing a different coat. As he approached to bus stop, an officer observed Nowak put some items into a trash can. Those items were found to be a wig and a plastic bag containing a carbon dioxide-powered BB pistol, the report said.

Inside a bag Nowak was carrying, the officer found a tan trench coat, a new steel mallet, a new folding knife with a 4-inch blade, 3 to 4 feet of rubber tubing, several large plastic garbage bags and about $600 in cash, the report said.

Nowak admitted the details of Shipman's story, according to the police report, and permitted a search of her car.

Inside the car, police found an a half dozen latex gloves, MapQuest directions from Houston to Orlando International Airport, e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein, diapers that Nowak said she wore to reduce stops along the highway, a letter indicating how much she loved Oefelein and directions to Shipman's home address in Florida.

It is standard procedure for astronauts to wear diapers when they suit up for launch and re-entry.

Asked about the BB pistol, Nowak told police it "was going to be used to entice Ms. Shipman to talk with her."

"Mrs. Nowak stated that she was not trying to cause any bodily harm to Ms. Shipman and that she only wanted to scare Ms. Shipman into talking with her," the police report said.

Shortly after the incident, Shipman sought a restraining order on Nowak in Brevard County, where Shipman lives and works, according to a copy of the order on Brevard County's Web site.

In the paperwork for the order, Shipman said that Nowak had been stalking her for two months. The hearing for that order is scheduled for February 20.

Nowak, an astronaut since 1996, flew her first shuttle mission in July as a mission specialist aboard the Discovery. Oefelein, 41, was the pilot of the last shuttle mission, also aboard Discovery, which flew in December.
So You Think You Have It Rough

Fascinating feature article in the Wall Street Journal today (available to subscribers here) regarding the effects that the global economy and fashion trends are having on fashion models. WSJ uses American model Bianca Gomez to illustrate that, as brutal as the competition among models is in the U.S., it's even worse overseas. Turns out, the restrictions the U.S. has on H-1B visas (which aren't much) has nevertheless helped to stymie the influx of Eastern European models (among others) that have effectively pushed U.S. models off the runways in Europe and elsewhere. Plus everywhere, the new cachet is celebrity, which, by definition, is much rarer than beauty and therefore far more valuable. Pretty faces are everywhere, but not so the faces that make people buy beautiful clothes. So, in a weak manner, our fashion model market is - protected! It's not the 90's anymore! Farewell Naomi! Hello Natalia! Good luck Bianca!:
Bianca Gomez, an 18-year-old model from Los Angeles, is rail-thin at 5'11" with almond shaped green eyes, honey-colored hair and translucent skin. She attracted interest from famous New York design houses well before she'd arrived in town to audition for their runway shows.

But in the brutal new calculus of high-fashion modeling, the odds of becoming a big-time mannequin have grown even slimmer. Competing with a deluge of fresh faces from Russia, Eastern Europe and Brazil, Ms. Gomez has faced many rejections. Expenses -- such as foreign travel costs -- have siphoned thousands of dollars from her fees.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Whooping Crane Disaster

The recent Florida storms decimated a young flock of the exceedingly-rare bird.
"Fiddler On The Roof" - Magic Circle Theater, Roseville

Pictures from final bows. Left, the cast.

Left: Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly, as Tevye

Left: Apologies for the bad moonwalk shot: Chava (Samantha Ellinwood) and Fyedka (Rick Zimmerman).

Met the DMTC gang at Magic Circle and saw "Fiddler On The Roof" on Friday. It was fun seeing old friends play familiar roles, and see how different people created new and interesting characters from the script.

Jeffrey Lloyd Heatherly made a great Tevye: excellent characterization, with fine touches. We'll have to keep our eye on him in the future.

At first, I thought there was something wrong about Tevye's three daughters, but I couldn't quite place it. Finally it dawned on me that the Tzeitel (Ada Schmidt), Hodel (Jenna Cook), and Chava (Samantha Ellinwood) were all approximately age-appropriate. The iron law of musical theater, however, is that 70-year-olds play 40-year-olds, 40-year-olds play 20-year-olds, and teenagers play children. So, is this tradition? Well, I suppose our traditional ways were once new too....

(Motel the Tailor) Jason "Clocky" McDowell and Lazar Wolf (Richard Spierto) were fine as well. For some reason, Clocky played the role better here than I remember him at Woodland Opera House: he didn't rush quite as much.

The Bottle Dancers (the most important part of the show) were excellent - no dropped bottles!

One strange faux pas, however. At the wedding reception, the Rabbi (Bob Eggert) briefly dances with Hodel and Chava, but he does so via a handkerchief: he never holds hands with them. My understanding is that he does so in order to maintain proprieties: while other men are not forbidden from dancing with women (and neither is he), he (presumably) is forbidden to touch women who are dancing. But immediately afterwards, the Rabbi joins hands with Chava and Hodel and joins a circle dance. Ouch!

Jackie Clauson played a fine Yente, but I wondered about the blocking in the scene where she talks to Golde. Golde faces towards the stove, away from the audience and away from Yente, basically leaving Yente to yammer on alone. Looked a little lonely up there....

I liked Samantha Ellinwood as Chava - she's improved over the last several years as a dancer, and the audience felt real sympathy for her portrayal as the daughter who marries outside the faith and is shunned. In most productions, she is literally pushed out of Annatevka, but here, she implores the village for understanding, and is abandoned, center stage, utterly alone. Very effective, new, staging.

The biggest surprise of the evening was just how good a job Rick Zimmerman did as the character of Fyedka. Fyedka is blessed with some of the most wooden dialogue in all of musical theater, and the script is utterly opaque, positively unhelpful in showing an actor how it should be played. I've seen several Fyedkas, and they've all done as good as they could with the character, meaning they were all horrible: as wooden as gnarled, stunted pine trees on the Siberian taiga.

Nevertheless, Zimmerman played the role as shy, smiling, diffident, and therefore very winning. He also affected an incredibly effective Russian accent. The net effect was to bring this neglected character to life, seemingly for the first time. No wonder Chava likes him - heck, I like him too! Wow! At last, Fyedka lives!

An excellent production!

A pleasant Sunday afternoon, watching an ultralight aircraft, near Lincoln.
Card Tossing

Saturday win: $375. Sunday loss: $800. Net loss: $425.
Missed Connections

Stood up twice this weekend. Nice!