Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Religious Tolerance of the Governor of Alabama

In the category of "you can't make this stuff up" comes the religious bigotry of new Alabama governor, Robert Bentley, who yesterday said, "Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother." Bentley made this statement at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church after his official inaugural ceremony.

Not sure where that puts people of Jewish, Buddhist, or Islamic faith -- not to mention Scientologists. Are they now second-class citizens? Or is Bentley offering to convert them?

What is upsetting about this is Bentley's apparent ignorance of the First Amendment. The first 16 words of the Amendment say, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That means government may not favor one religion over others. It also means that there is a separation of church and state. While the term does not appear in the Constitution, founding father Thomas Jefferson (who should know what was meant in the Constitution) wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 citing that the language of the First Amendment and said that it built "a wall of separation between Church and State."

When our elected officials are ignorant of -- or refuse to adhere to -- the Constitution, it is a frightening state of affairs.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Important News According to the New York Post

An important news item from today's New York Post:

"Curvy "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks lived through her own Golden Globes drama when she lost an $850,000 diamond bracelet on the red carpet.

The voluptuous redhead was horrified to find out that after making it up the carpet Sunday at the Beverly Hilton, one of the two bracelets loaned by Chopard had slipped off. Inside the ballroom moments before the show started, the panicked actress asked us, "Have you seen a diamond bracelet? I've lost one that looks like this," pointing at the one glittering bracelet left on her wrist.

As the stars were being urged to take their seats, Hendricks -- wearing a figure-hugging red gown -- then hurried out of the auditorium back onto the red carpet to look for the bauble.

Outside, an event worker had found it and handed it back to a relieved Hendricks. But once back at her table, she found she couldn't get it back on due to a tricky clasp. So she decided to turn it over to her publicist, who was outside, for safekeeping.

But security blocked her as she tried to leave the auditorium, as no one is allowed in or out once the show starts. She begged, "Please let me out, I have to give my diamond bracelet to my publicist!" The guard watched wide-eyed as Hendricks pulled the bracelet out from her ample cleavage. He opened the door a crack and she passed the jewels through to her publicist outside. [Emphasis added]

A rep for Chopard confirmed Hendricks was wearing 200 carats of their diamonds at the show and a security guard was on hand to make sure nothing went missing. The jewels included a 49-carat emerald and Marquise-cut diamond bracelet set in platinum, and a 124-carat, pear-cut and fancy-shape diamond bracelet set in platinum.

The Chopard rep said the bracelet that fell off was the 124-carat one worth $850,000, and it was returned by her publicist. The rep added, "Whoever put it on her wrist may have not closed the safety clasp correctly. But both bracelets and her earrings were returned in perfect condition today."

Hendricks' rep didn't get back to us."

Gee, I wonder why Hendricks' rep didn't get back to the Post.

I'd comment more, but I think the story speaks volumes about Murdoch-owned news outlets.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Misunderstanding Net Neutrality

Rachel Alexander is the editor of the Intellectual Conservative. Based on her column on net neutrality, she is definitely conservative. Intellectual, not so much.

Alexander argues that "net neutrality," a term that refers to Federal Communications Commission rules aimed at preventing Internet providers from blocking access to websites and online services, "will increase regulation and costs by restricting companies from making marketwise choices. Moreover, additional government rules and regulations rarely increase freedom of speech." Alexander further argues that "The Federal Communications Commission selectively took information from those left wing organizations to justify its new rules. Alexander provided a link which purportedly supported this charge, but which, instead, linked to a Free Press commentator who criticized the new rules.

Additionally, Alexander charged, "This is unnecessary government intervention seeking to solve a problem that doesn’t exist." Really?

In November 2010, shortly before the FCC was to issue its net neutrality rules (and while the FCC was still studying the effect of its merger with NBC) Comcast was accused of violating the principles of an open Internet when it demanded that Level 3 Communications, an Internet company that carries Netflix's video feeds, pay a fee for sending data over Comcast's network. It is just this practice -- practices that could result in a tiered Internet in which network operators would be allowed to deliver their own content via a "fast lane," while relegating their competitors' traffic to a "slow lane" -- that net neutrality rules are trying to prevent.

The FCC rules really didn't result in true "net neutrality." The rules do not ban "paid prioritization," leaving open the possibility that Internet providers might favor the delivery of their own traffic, or that of partners who pay an extra fee. "Managed services," a somewhat ambiguous category that includes voice and video subscription offerings from broadband operators, were also exempt from the rules. The rules are hardly radical, and contain many features that the industry itself wanted.

It would be wise that Ms. Alexander, before launching into an attack on the FCC, that she know what she is talking about. Unfortunately, she is all-too-typical of many commentators these days -- not letting the facts get in the way of a good theory.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Michelle Malkin's Idiocy and bad legislative proposals

People can debate the merits of President Obama's speech in Tuscon Wednesday night. I fully expect liberals to say that the speech cinches Obama's second term, while I predict conservatives will say the speech cinched his place in the annals of the Top 5 Marxists of alltime.

But, Michelle Malkin's criticism of Obama is -- as is fairly typical of her -- several standards deviations away from reasonable. Her major criticism is this -- that the tragedy in Tuscon is being "branded."

"President Obama used to preach that there was no “Red America” and no “Blue America,” just one America.

But tonight at the memorial for the Tucson massacre victims, it will be a sea of blue as the White House unveils the “Together We Thrive” logo and slogan.

Yes, the Tucson massacre is being branded."

Malkin continues: "All the University of Arizona buses in Tucson have been flashing the slogan on their digital signs.

Attendees at the memorial tonight report that they are being handed out the blue and white t-shirts as they enter the venue.

A reader in attendance tells me via Twitter that volunteers will be wearing red-and-white shirts."

... "Will there be giant foam fingers and blue cotton candy, too?

Isn’t the churning of the instant messaging machine a bit, well, unseemly?

Can’t the Democrat political stage managers give it a break just once?"

Ah, the ceremony at Tuscon was being managed by the Democrats. And the proof?:

"As noted above, the University of Arizona announced the Together We Thrive event — and a few readers write in to say that the campus initiated the logo/campaign. Given U of A president Robert Shelton’s embarrassing, thinly-veiled partisan cheerleading for Obama tonight, it may indeed be a 100 percent-campus-initiated campaign. Given the Obama White House’s meticulous attention to stage prop details, however, I would say the odds of involvement by Axelrod/Plouffe & Co. are high."

Oh, I see. The proof that the ceremony was staged managed came out of Malkin's speculation. In other words, she just made it up -- which, by the way is her modus operandi. Her book, Culture of Corruption, had just enough facts in it to not get her sued for libel. For example, she was correct that Barack and Michelle Obama lived in Chicago. Everything else was pure fiction. [Note: I suspect that Malkin really could have been sued for libel, but the people she smeared in her book did not want to give her any more attention than she deserved.]

Seriously, if the conservative movement wants to be taken seriously, they need to take her platform away -- such as carrying her in Townhall magazine, and her appearances on FOX News.

Speaking of being taken seriously, in the wake of the tragic Arizona shooting, Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA) says he plans to introduce a bill criminalizing the use of certain forms of threatening imagery against lawmakers and judges, stating "You can't threaten the president with a bullseye or a crosshair." The bill would also ban symbols or language that threaten "a congressman, senator or federal judge," such as the map published last year by Sarah Palin in which House Democrats (including Rep. Giffords) were targeted for electoral defeat with crosshairs over their districts.

Rep. Brady shouldn't bother. First, this is a thinly veiled attempt to get at Sarah Palin. Actually the more she communicates (such as the "blood libel" comment, the more likely she is going to self-destruct). Second, it gives the conservatives an opportunity to resurrect the specter that the Democrats will try to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine to eliminate conservative talk radio. There is no such movement, and with the House in the hands of Republicans, no such legislation could be passed. Besides, the Tea Baggers in the House went ballistic two weeks ago when the FCC passed weak net neutrality rules to try to keep access to the Internet the same for individuals as for corporations. To Tea Baggers, "equality" and "fairness" are socialist terms, and must be squashed at every turn.

Better Rep. Brady work on legislation that would prevent crazy people from buying guns -- or at least work hard to defeat proposals to allow Congresspersons from packing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Then there is Tom Delay (and poorly reported polls)

In November, Tom DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose strong-armed behavior earned him the nickname "the Hammer," was convicted of money laundering by using his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.

DeLay was on "The Today Show" this morning with his lawyer Dick DeGuerin and the performance was highly amusing.

First, DeLay said he was convicted because the trial was held in Austin, TX, the most liberal district in the United States. Gee, I thought conservatives believed San Francisco -- home of Nancy Pelosi -- held that distinction. Not only was the trial held in a liberal district, the jury foreman was a "Greenpeace activist." So, I guess being a "Greenpeace activist" disqualifies one from being a fair juror. I guess the prosecution's more than 30 witnesses (compared to DeLay's five) and volumes of e-mails and other documents had nothing to do with the verdict.

Second, DeLay believes he was "Tea Partied" out of office -- that the anti-government atmosphere created by the conservative Tea Partiers created a climate that made the jury not like people associated with Washington. I find that to be a great irony -- a Tea Partier before being a Tea Partier was cool being "Tea Partied" into a conviction.

Third, DeGuerin argued that the Supreme Court last year ruled that corporations could contribute to political campaigns. Unfortunately, the crime was committed in 2002, years before the Supreme Court decision.

But the best was DeLay criticizing those who want more gun control in the wake of the shootings in AZ. He is even against the legislation being proposed to re-institute the ban on extended gun clips used by the shooter in Tuscon. DeLay further claimed that he would welcome people coming to his meetings carrying guns because that way a crazy person would not be the only person with a gun. News flash, Tom. A number of folks at the meeting in AZ had carry permits. None of them used their guns on the shooter, so how does that make anyone safer when a crazy person decides to open fire?

DeLay also said that states with carry permits have lower crime rates. Despite the discredited research of author John Lott, the evidence on this is mixed. Vermont has carry permits, and has the lowest violent crime rate in the nation. Alaska also allows carry permits, and has a very high murder rate, higher than Illinois (which contains Chicago).

It really is fun to watch the clueless. I wonder what nickname DeLay will go by when he is in prison and meets a fellow inmate who comes up to him and says, "You're my little princess now." "Screamer" comes to mind. Maybe "Bug" -- in reference to DeLay's occupation as a pest exterminator before becoming a corrupt Congressperson -- is another possibility.

Enjoy your eventual stay, Tom.

** An tangentially related note: the media have been misreporting a poll by USA Today/Gallup that suggest the majority of Americans reject the notion that hateful political language by conservatives was a factor behind the Arizona shooting. In the poll 53% of those surveyed call the link between inflammatory political rhetoric and the shooting mostly an attempt to use the tragedy to make conservatives look bad. Over a third, 35%, say it is a legitimate point about how dangerous language can be.

But that is not the real finding in the poll, which showed the public is precisely evenly divided on whether the heated language generally used in politics today was a factor in the shooting: 42% say yes, 42% say no. Another 15% have no opinion. That's the major news takeaway from the poll. While the half that see a link between hateful speech and the shooting do see politicians using the tragedy for their own gain, the fact is that they do see the link. That's the story that should be reported.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love that Sarah!

It's hard to believe that it has been over a year since I have posted. Part of that has been an intense work schedule, and part has been the political debate has gotten so bad that I just got too turned off. There were just too many idiots in America to talk about.

But it's time to jump back in.

This weekend, what I had been fearing actually happened. The political rhetoric has gotten so ugly that I feared someone would get hurt. After all, the ugly anti-abortion rhetoric stirred up by Bill O'Reilly and his ilk created an environment that contributed to Dr. George Tiller's assassination. Now, six people in Tuscon, AZ, lie dead, and several others, including the target of an assassination attempt, Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, are hospitalized -- Giffords from a head wound.

Is any single individual spewing forth hateful political rhetoric personally responsible for the shooting? No. A nut job who couldn't get into the Army and who was kicked out of community college for disruptive behavior -- but who could get a gun and an extended clip -- is responsible. He deserves to be locked up in a psychiatric hospital for the rest of his life.

But conservatives, particularly the Tea Baggers, need to take responsibility for what they have to say. Yes, I am singling out political conservatives. There are a number of media pundits who say hateful rhetoric has been spewed by both sides. Yes, that's technically true, but when it is 95% conservative and 5% liberal, there's no equivalence here. It's like arguing that there's a scientific debate over evolution, when 99.9999% of all qualified scientists believe in evolution.

The best example is Sarah Palin. During the campaign, both her website and Facebook page had a map with crosshairs "targeting" 20 Democratic representatives for defeat in the fall 2010 campaign. Rep. Giffords was one of those in the "crosshairs," and complained about violent nature of the image.

Now the media have talked about Palin's map as an example of irresponsible political discourse. Yesterday, Palin issued a video in her defense, complaining that "within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."

Several Palin critics have jumped on her use of the term "blood libel," a term that refers to the charge from the Middle Ages that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood to make matzoh for Passover. I wouldn't expect someone who makes up words such as "refudiate" to know what "blood libel" actually means.

But, I do hope that someone who has become identified with her statement "Don't retreat, reload" will stop blaming what she calls the "lamestream media" for her own contribution to our hostile political environment.

Given that her political team has tried to say in recent days that the "crosshairs" were not "crosshairs" but "surveyor marks," I am not holding my breath.