The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Prudish Americans

From the normally astute Chinese journalist "Angry Chinese Blogger" comes an interesting interpretation of American children's cartoons and our society. His argument suffers from combining very offensive and only slightly offensive subject matter in one list, as well as making some rather broad generalizations about American youth. If we are sheltered for not wanting to show our kids many of the things on the list below, does that really make us prudish? I honestly can't say "prudish" is the word that comes to mind when I consider American television or society in general:

"King of the Prudes?

With American companies being keen to able to deliver imported animation to as wide a market as possible, they are often unwilling to include any content which may cause offense to conservatives, or which might trigger a boycott among of programs or merchandise by free spending parents.

As such, anything that may be deemed 'controversial or contentions' is often emoved.

Elements commonly cut from imported children's animation in the US include.
Sex, (including non-sexual activities associated with love, romance or dating, or the showing of underwear)
References to puberty (excluding pimples)
Curse words (including mild curse words)
Violence involving physical contact (for example, martial arts) or wounding with blades
Foreign religions
References to the death of friends or family members
References to history made from perspectives that differ from that of the US
Deep social issues.
All of which US culture is uncommonly sensitive to.

References to taboo topics of the day; including school shootings, terrorism and environmentalism, are also removed on an irregular basis. As are guns that fire physical ammunition, or depictions of bladed weapons.

Similarly, many animations imported into the US are often 'dumbed down' when they are distributed, or dubbed into English.

This is done because US animation audiences are commonly several years younger than their foreign counterparts, and they generally lead more sheltered lives, making them unlikely to watch the same shows, or be able to deal with the same issues, at the same ages as the original intended audience.

In some instances such rewrites and 'dematuring' have resulted in the removal of up to 1/3 of footage form an imported animated franchise, the rearranging of episodes so as to lessen/greaten the emotional impact of certain plot lines or to increase the prominence of certain characters, or even the wholesale re branding of foreign franchises to make them appear to contain American characters and to be set in American cities."

Monday, March 27, 2006

Global Security going well by some measures

March 26, 2006

We have never lived in a more peaceful world than we do today — never.

I know that statement goes against everything you've been told by the mass media, and I realize it contradicts the amazing climate of fear that's gripped this country since 9/11.

But it's absolutely true.

Our world today is more crowded than it's ever been, and yet we've never had a smaller percentage of humanity either engaging in or preparing for mass violence. We're not entering an age of perpetual war, as some would have it. Instead, we're moving into the century that will feature more peace than any before it...

Newsflash: Many school administrators are still *bleep*ing idiots

Boy, 8, accused of sexual harassment
BETH STALLINGS, Morning Journal 03/25/2006

LORAIN -- Lorain school officials this week executed an ''emergency removal'' of an 8-year-old boy who they say sexually harassed a girl in gym class.

The boy's mother, Tammy Barth, said yesterday her son was playing in gym on Tuesday when a girl student said he and two other boys may have grabbed her buttocks.

He was then questioned in an informal hearing by school officials and he admitted he had been passing love notes to the same girl.

The second-grader then asked to sign a notice of emergency removal form for sexual harassment without a parent present, Barth said. The boy printed his first name on the portion of the form asking for his signature.

School documents provided by Barth and the boy's father, Frank Johnson, did not give specifics on the incident but showed that the second-grader was removed from school on Tuesday for ''sexual harassment during gym.'' It also states the student ''admits to writing notes saying ÔI love you' and giving them to a student.''

''It's an embarrassment to me and it's an embarrassment to him because he doesn't understand what's going on,'' Barth said.

Lorain schools spokesman Dean Schnurr confirmed yesterday that a student was sent home on an ''emergency removal'' for inappropriate actions. Schnurr insisted that his removal was a minor, precautionary action.

''It's not a disciplinary action,'' Schnurr said yesterday, adding the allegation will not be placed in the student's permanent record. ''We don't want to put something in the permanent record of a youngster who may not understand what they did wrong.

''He admitted to what he was being accused of,'' Schnurr said, unable to give specifics but said they were ''inappropriate'' in nature.

However, the student's mother said the school assumed her son touched the girl because he had written her a love letter a few weeks ago.

''Apparently, they had to treat it as sexual harassment,'' Barth said, adding the girl has been friends with her son for a long time. ''And then he was given a day off of school because of passing notes that say ÔI love you.'''

Johnson said the incident was harmless and referring to it as sexual harassment is what was ''inappropriate.'''

''Little kids are going to do stupid things like that,'' he said of his son passing love letters.

The student was temporarily removed from school for a day, March 23, and instructed to come back to school on March 24 with a parent.

''It's our job to teach students at a young age that inappropriate behavior is unacceptable,'' Schnurr said. ''The student did something wrong, admitted he did something wrong and received the proper discipline.''

He added it is unfortunate that this discipline is not emphasized at the student's home.

The second-grader's parents are still wondering how to discipline their son because they are not sure of what he did wrong. Barth said being reprimanded for passing love notes to another student is not and should not be a disciplinary matter.

Johnson said his son has had a difficult time with the whole ordeal.

''He started crying and he thinks he did something wrong (by passing a love letter),'' Johnson said. ''He's a good kid and he's very, very shy. And now he's emotionally distraught.''

Barth and Johnson are planning to remove their two children from Frank Jacinto, and the Lorain School system altogether, sometime next week and enroll them in the Clearview Schools District. She said she and Johnson are also looking into taking civil action against the school.

All four of her children are honor roll students, she said, adding that any school system would be happy to take them.

''I want them out of there before (the school system) does some damage.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What are we going to do with Iraq?

Georges Sada, an Iraqi general and former number 2 in Saddam Hussein's air force, has recently released book that may throw America's left for a revelation. For three years, the left, myself included, has been chastising the Bush administration for its invasion of Iraq. We were in a war with Al-Qaeda which was based in Afghanistan and there was and still is not a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Lacking any sort of explanation other than:

"First, just if I might correct a misperception. I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein... but I was very careful never to say that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on America. The truth of the matter is the whole world thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. might remember, sir, there was a Security Council vote of 15 to nothing that said to Saddam Hussein, disclose, disarm, or face serious consequences. The basic premise was, you've got weapons. That's what we thought. When he didn't disclose, and when he didn't disarm, and when he deceived inspectors, it sent a very disconcerting message to me, whose job it is to protect the American people and to take threats before they fully materialize. My view is, he was given the choice of whether or not he would face reprisal. It was his decision to make. And so he chose to not disclose, not disarm, as far as everybody was concerned."

What is troubling about General Sada's book, "Saddam's Secrets", is that he states that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, materials related to weapons of mass destruction, etc. and that Saddam had them moved to Syria. For three years we have critiqued the Iraq invasion for insufficient intelligence of a threat and the non-existence of WMDs, and for three years we have been embroiled in a struggle in Iraq that has seen the loss of 2000+ American military deaths and 30,000+ Iraqi deaths. It is March 2006, more than 5 years after the deadly attack on the World Trade Center and Osama Bin laden is still at large. A mission unfulfilled 5 years after the fact and the only reason Bin Laden's name reappears in the US media is because he sends video tapes reminding us that he still looms in the shadows. It almost doesn't matter anymore, we have concentrated ourselves on Iraq, our responsibilities to rebuild Afghanistan and bring Bin Laden to justice seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Many on the American right will look at the reasons for war and dismiss them for what seems to be a burst of pragmatic consideration. "We are in Iraq, it doesn't matter why we are there, but what we are going to do now that we are there" a friend said to me on my trip home to Jacksonville during winter break. It seems however with this recent revelation by General Sada that soon the left and the right will be on the same page. We on the left will still not understand why we shifted from Afghanistan to Iraq, but we will acknowledge the threat Saddam posed with WMDs (if Sada's claims are found to be true). The million dollar question is how we proceed with the 'War on Terror'.
The right's strategy is to occupy Iraq for the remainder of the decade, training Iraqi forces to transfer security responsibility, and establish a government. The left has been increasingly pressing for the US military to leave Iraq immediately and devote our efforts to new threats that are emerging. The strategy of the right represents a belief that we can set up western institutions and they will work in the Middle East. The strategy of the left acknowledges a belief that we need to leave because we are engaging in an illegal war and inciting violence simply by virtue of our presence. Neither view suggests that the problem in Iraq is not sectarian violence, Islamic extremism, but the Islamic faith itself.

The United States has a history of social struggle, racism, sexism, war, economic inequity, and a host of other problems, but these issues have been met with a tradition of progressive thinking and they have slowly been addressed and ameliorated. We are a nation of mixed religions and races; our ability to peacefully co-exist on the macro-scale leads us to believe that our gaping differences have been pragmatic set aside so that we are able to function as a social entity. It is this foundation that most of my generation derives concepts of ethics and morals, and perhaps it is also our naivety that causes us to apply these morals homogenously when we try to put ourselves in someone else's shoes.

We can look at an example: In the United States we have organizations like PETA advocating the protection of animal rights and their humane treatment. While some may find PETA a little extreme for their tastes, a little too righteous, I think we can say that the majority of America has some sort of moral compass involving abuse of animals; we probably don't kick dogs and cats and throw alka-seltzer at seagulls. Although we have such strong convictions about these things it is a little ridiculous to apply the same set of morals to primitive man that was required to be a hunter and gatherer in order to survive. It is comedic to picture one of our caveman brethren screaming at another because he was pounding a wild deer to death with a boulder.

I'm surprised that I'm asking this question, but are we making an error in giving every religion the benefit of the doubt in believing that they are on the same ethical/moral level with us? I concede that ethics and morals are social constructs that don't have comparable levels of worst, bad, good and best. I believe however, that we often assume that because we live in the 21st century, a time of vast technological breakthroughs and relative peace, that the global populace has adopted similar beliefs concerning preservation and promotion of life, helping one's neighbor, and generally working together for pragmatic means. After reading quite a bit of Sam Harris' book "The End of Faith", it doesn't seem to be too ridiculous to say that the Middle East and the West are not functioning on the same plane of morality. Harris tries to show that Islam is a faith of expansionism and has a textual basis for intolerance towards other religious beliefs. Further he explains that Muslims are angry that the US is occupying its territory and by the military's presence and trying to solve problems, the US is threatening the grasp Islam has on its followers. Islamic imperialism however is not "imperialism" but a manifest destiny that the Qu'ran calls its followers to take up.

With 9/11 and the War in Iraq as his evidence, the Muslim world is portrayed to be ready to strike at the heart of Western values. The Muslim world may be everything he has described, but regardless if it is because of the strength of non-Islamic nations halting expansionism or some other reason, it is a truth that the vast majority of Muslims have not taken up arms to wage a global Jihad against all non-Muslims. The war of caution that Sam Harris is waving in our faces shouldn't be lost though, as there is a lot to fear. We can see that Islam is not trying to fly to our country and blow it up. Terrorism is a product of radical Islam and its followers. What Harris wants us to see is that although attacks originate from radical Islam, there is little large scale outrage directed at the terrorism, there does not exist a moderate Islam in the Middle East, moderate in the sense that we understand in the West (the difference between moderate and fundamentalist).

So we must wonder where the Middle Eastern leadership's response to terrorism? As of now I am unaware of any such response, I'm not sure if the Arab nations simply do not care or if they eat dinner and watch their televisions thinking "Another terrorist attack by Bin Laden, how terrible, they are infidels anyways"? There has been no organized condemnation or fatwa against Osama Bin Laden for whatever reason. There have been more than a few Muslims condemning terrorism, suicide bombings, killing of innocents, and Bin Laden from America, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. but these are just the voices of ones among hundreds of millions. The only country I know of that has issued a fatwa against Bin Laden was Spain following the bombing of their trains, perhaps it has happened in London and the US, but I was unable to find any such decree by local Muslim leadership. Such a powerful doctrinal decree is important in fighting the war on terror; there is a hesitance to do so. In fact I believe the last time I heard Iraqis denounce terrorism was when other Iraqis bombed a holy temple in Iraq, and still many chose to implicate American presence as the cause. Sam Harris attributes it to the text of the Qu'ran and hadith. In just the passages that he cites, there are ~ 60 passages from the Qu'ran describing a God that has no tolerance for infidels and that Muslims are encouraged to take up physical action to protect threats against Islam. This is not in my opinion enough to motivate collective peoples to incite a war with the West, but it is reason enough to believe that given a religious fervor catalyst by extremists others will join the cause.

I think we've seen that defense of Islam is not limited to extremists. Defense of Islam does not even need to be as extreme as flying a plane into a building across the Atlantic Ocean. It was only last month that we witnessed a series of protests turned riots caused by the anti-Muslim cartoons published by a Dutch newspaper. As a response to the cartoons, the Danish consulate in Beirut was burned, Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus burned, grenades thrown at Danish embassy in Tehran, Italian consulate in Libya burned, a NATO base in Afghanistan was attacked, mass rioting across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Christian churches burned down in Nigeria, EU headquarters in Gaza attacked, death threats issued for the cartoonists along with rewards for their deaths, fatwas issued against offending cartoonists and newspapers, and many Muslim demonstrators were killed by crowd stampede, riot by product, and police fire.

Moral relativism is important when we analyze how we as a country must proceed against terror and Muslim violence. In the United States and throughout the EU, there have been many denunciations against terrorism and the perversion of Islam by each respective Muslim community. We must remember that the EU-Muslim and American-Muslim attitudes are very different from those of the Middle East, as American culture requires the blending of religion with secular humanism. We fight for progressive values in the United States, we fight for equal rights of all of our citizens and it is only natural that Muslims within our borders assume a Western influenced understanding of Islam and the teachings of the Qu'ran.

The only feasible option I envision for Iraq if we are to ensure American safety is to create a culture of Western influence in Iraq. Middle Eastern nations are currently able to remain economically independent; they are oil rich nations that do not bother to tax their citizens. Western nations rely on Iraq for oil; Iraq relies on us to buy the oil. As long as we continue and build economic interdependency we can perhaps survive another day. The religious divide between our two cultures is a problem that is ready to strike at any time. America has its share of religious extremists, but in modern times there are no instances of American religious fanatics undertaking a holy war against believers in 'false gods and idols'. Why these terrorist extremists are able to exist and permeate through Middle Eastern nations and cultures is a question that must be directed at Islam itself.

"Any systematic approach to ethics, or to understanding the necessary underpinnings of a civil society, will find many Muslims standing eye deep in the red barbarity of the fourteenth century. There are undoubtedly historical and cultural reasons for this, and enough blame to go around, but we should not ignore the fact that we must now confront whole societies whose moral and political development-in their treatment of women and children, in their prosecution of war, in their approach to criminal justice, and in their very intuitions about what constitutes cruelty-lags behind our own."- Sam Harris- "End of Faith"

It seems obvious to Western thinkers that terrorism and extremism is a gross bastardization and misinterpretation of the Qu'ran and Islam. It is dangerous to maintain such idealized conceptions as the war in Iraq rages on with no resolution in sight, fundamentalist schools continue to receive funding, Iran seems more dangerous than ever, and more people on both sides of the conflict die as each day passes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Whiny Conservatives, Confident Liberals

A study tracing 98 people from childhood through adulthood has found that those who were identified by their teachers and family as whiny children were much more likely to be conservatives, and those identified as confident and self-reliant were more likely to grow up to be liberals.

But the picture is not really that black and white. Read the article; it does a good job of exploring the variables that might cause such results.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The New Republic discusses Columbia's antagonism towards ROTC

I think that Mr. Beinart hits the mark in this article dead center. The continual leaning of the military towards the right is a shame, particularly since its root cause is disenfranchisement of military servicemen and women from liberal politics and the democratic party. Couple this with progressives' marked (and more often misplaced) mistrust of the military, both the institution as a whole as well as individual members and veterans, and you make it very difficult for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to support the democratic party, dispite progressive political leanings on other issues such as gay rights or privacy and first amendment rights.
I think he leaves one argument out, though, and that is Civic Duty. Over Low Library and inscribed in a stone over the library is a founding mandate that Columbia stands for public good. Part of the public good is to protect and defend. Indeed, just to the left of Low, underneath the American Flag are inscribed the words "cherish and protect it." Just as we, the Citizens of the United States of America have a duty to protect and defend the United States and its Constitution, Columbia as an institution charged with the development and education of leaders, has a DUTY to produce leaders in the defense of this nation. Columbia supposedly takes very seriously its civic responsibilities, but few seem to find fault with this great Ivy League University reneging one of the most important charges to which it can be granted - to educate this nation's future military officers. Instead it relegates this charge to lesser institutions and lower classes, using CONGRESS'S law (that is THE PEOPLE'S LAW) prohibiting open homosexual conduct in the military, as an excuse to do so. This way, Columbia can continue to have its cocktail parties and its John Jay awards dinners without being confronted with the possibility that one of their...or I should say our... fancy, high-falutin', fortune-donating graduates has died in battle, in the service of this country. The country from which Columbia derives its name!

War College
by Peter Beinart
Post date 03.10.06 | Issue date 03.20.06

Hillary Clinton, congratulations. You're the lucky recipient of a winning political issue, which has the added virtue of being morally important. Send your thanks to Columbia University and the U.S. Supreme Court.

This week, the Court unanimously upheld the Solomon Amendment, which denies government funding to universities that prohibit military recruiting on campus. The ruling's practical implications aren't entirely clear, but they thrust an old, ugly issue back into the national spotlight: the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC).
Read More:

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Military retaining more gay soldiers

ARTICLE: "Military retaining more gays, Lawyers see growing acceptance in ranks" by Rryan Bender, The Boston Globe, 19 March 2006

The US military allowed at least 36 gay soldiers last year to stay in uniform, despite efforts by their commanders or fellow soldiers to have them discharged under the ''don't ask, don't tell" policy, according to a review of hundreds of cases in which soldiers sought to remain in uniform without denying their homosexuality.

For many years the Pentagon's public position was that the policy was crucial to maintaining ''good order and discipline" and that having gay soldiers serve openly in the ranks would harm unit cohesion.

But recently, the military has stopped defending the policy, and merely notes that it is the law.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Saddam's Internal Troubles

A NYTimes look at a classified military report (soon to be published broadly) finds that, among other things, Saddam was more worried about Shiites than Americans, didn't tell his generals until the last minute that there were no weapons of mass destruction held in reserve, and micro-managed war efforts.

Who would have thought, months ago, that a picture so completely damning for the Bush administration would become a reality? The sad thing is that we seem to have lost our anger after this long, as we instead contemplate depressing questions regarding the possibilities for Iraqi civil war. Even while we deal with Iraq today, let's not shove under the rug the issues that took us there in the first place.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Slobodan Milosevic dead

Milosevic was found dead in his cell, after a long period of illness that continually delayed any attempts at full trial. One lesson that can be taken from attempts to try him, Pinochet, Hussein, and other world leaders is that the simplest resolution is more likely to be death than trial--court cases inevitably run into dead end after dead end when trying high-level officials.

Good riddance to a man who caused so much suffering.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Total Information Awareness

John Poindexter has created a number of interesting and useful programs through DARPA that have been prematurely shutdown by congressional ignoramuses. One was the Terrorism Futures program (refer to,1848,59818,00.html and ) which was an 'idea market' and one of the most promising and accurate intelligence tools for predicting future terrorist threats. Congress's decision to cut funding was purely an example of political posturing and, as is often the case, had no basis in logic or a desire to actually enhance our intelligence capabilities. This "Policy Analysis Market" as it was called was part of the larger Information Awareness Office which, to which the article below refers, and was supposed to be dismantled when funding was cut. Thankfully the IAO programs were reassigned to another intelligence agency: DoD's Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) at Fort Meade in MD.

TIA Lives On

By Shane Harris, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006

A controversial counter-terrorism program, which lawmakers halted more than two years ago amid outcries from privacy advocates, was stopped in name only and has quietly continued within the intelligence agency now fending off charges that it has violated the privacy of U.S. citizens.

It is no secret that some parts of TIA lived on behind the veil of the classified intelligence budget.

Research under the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program -- which developed technologies to predict terrorist attacks by mining government databases and the personal records of people in the United States -- was moved from the Pentagon's research-and-development agency to another group, which builds technologies primarily for the National Security Agency, according to documents obtained by National Journal and to intelligence sources familiar with the move. The names of key projects were changed, apparently to conceal their identities, but their funding remained intact, often under the same contracts.

Read More:


We reported this LAST WEEK:

McCain to Talk at CC Class Day
Senator Joins the Ranks of Prestigious Former Speakers

By Theodore Orsher
Spectator Senior Staff Writer

March 08, 2006

Arizona Senator John McCain will address graduating Columbia College seniors and their families at Columbia College Class Day on May 16.

Columbia Spectator: Supreme Court Upholds Solomon Amendment

Supreme Court Upholds Solomon Amendment
Unanimous Ruling Affirms Military’s Right to Recruit on College Campuses

By John Davisson
Spectator Staff Writer

March 08, 2006

Colleges and universities that accept federal funding must allow equal access to military recruiters, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. The decision delivered a major legal defeat to Columbia and other schools that oppose the Defense Department’s policy on admitting homosexuals.

In an 8-0 decision, the court rejected arguments by a group of law professors who maintained that schools have a First Amendment right to ban recruiters from their campuses if those schools consider the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy unfair.

“A military recruiter’s mere presence on campus does not violate a law school’s right to associate, regardless of how repugnant the law school considers the recruiter’s message,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s opinion.

New Justice Samuel Alito, who was not yet on the bench when oral arguments were heard in December, did not participate in the vote.

The ruling on the case, Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, upholds the 1994 Solomon Amendment, which first barred the deployment of federal funds to schools that block military recruiters. Under the amendment, if one element of a university—such as a law school—denies or limits access, funding can be withdrawn from the entire institution, including research subsidies and most types of financial aid.

But Roberts noted in the opinion that the amendment does not stop a college or its students from voicing opposition to the military’s policy, even by posting warnings where recruiters operate. In recent years, law schools have drawn particular scrutiny from the Department of Defense for limiting or denying access to recruiters.

In 2002, after resisting the terms of the amendment, Columbia bowed to pressure and agreed to suspend its nondiscrimination policy with respect to military recruiters.

A statement issued Monday by Columbia said, “We are disappointed in today’s Supreme Court ruling but will of course continue to abide by the law.” In 2004, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of FAIR and issued an injunction against enforcement of the law, which Monday’s decision reversed.

The Solomon Amendment also states that any institution denying access to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps can have its funding revoked. Though this particular portion of the amendment was not under review, it has been reactivated along with the rest of the law.

In May 2005, Columbia’s University Senate rejected a proposal to drop its prohibition of ROTC by a vote of 53-10. Monday’s decision means that the Defense Department could, in theory, choose to establish an ROTC program or satellite office on campus, as was the case for the first decade of the amendment’s existence.

“I think that if the Department of Defense wants to take this up, which is likely, they will target Columbia as needing to have a regional program,” Nate Walker, TC ’07 and former co-chair of the Columbia University ROTC Task Force, said Tuesday night, speaking at a lecture titled, “Military Access v. University Autonomy: The Case of Columbia University.”

Sean Wilkes, CC ’06, president of Columbia Advocates for ROTC, and an ROTC cadet through Fordham, said that the decision is not likely to have a noticeable impact at Columbia, as the Department of Defense would probably not target a campus that has been historically unfriendly to ROTC.

“The Supreme Court ruling probably has more of an impact at a school like Princeton,” he added.

Some students and faculty at Princeton have advocated removing the university’s active ROTC program, an effort which Wilkes said would likely subside with the ruling. He added that an ROTC is not likely to start operating at Columbia unless the University drops its opposition to the program.

Bikers roll to military funerals to oppose anti-gay protests

Bikers roll to military funerals to oppose anti-gay protests

Tuesday, February 21, 2006; Posted: 7:55 a.m. EST (12:55 GMT)

FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky (AP) -- Wearing vests covered in military patches, a band of motorcyclists rolls around the country from one soldier's funeral to another, cheering respectfully to overshadow jeers from church protesters.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No anonymity?

Matt Drudge, bless his slimy soul, does us a public service by noting a NJ bill that would prohibit anonymous posts on the Internet to cut back on defamatory and libelous comments. While the end goal is admirable, the means is utterly ridiculous. The bill's sponsors may not realize the severity of their mistake, but in my mind at least, the complete abolition of anonymity, whether it be in journalistic sources, online posts, or public actions, reeks of a government that is unconsciously embracing a quasi-totalitarian mindset, where it can't imagine why anyone would seek the ability to make comments without being identified.

The Bush administration has said something similar along these lines to justify invasions of privacy: "If you have nothing to hide, then you of course won't mind if we dig around in your life. If you do have a problem with this, we'll need to have a talk, you stinking communist. Terrorist. Fascist. Fan of Britney Spears."

Let's hope more capable minds prevail in NJ.

Solomon Amendment Constitutional

As expected, the Supreme Court rejected claims that withdrawing funding from schools that discriminate against military recruiters is unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision by the Court, with no dissent from even the most liberal Justices on the bench, the Court ruled that, since schools are still free to speak out against military policies with recruiters present, the Solomon Amendment does not deprive them of their expression. Instead, it regulates their behavior, not speech. Furthermore, the Supreme Court noted that Congress is authorized by the constitution to raise an army, and thus could literally force recruiters in by law if it wanted to do so. As Chief Roberts’ noted in his opinion, "It is clear that a funding condition cannot be unconstitutional if it could be constitutionally imposed directly.”

In short, federal dollars can indeed be tied how military recruiters are treated, and can constitutionally be revoked if military recruiters are not allowed an equal opportunity to be heard. Amen.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Gay Bashing

So I followed this Oscar season closer than I have in many years. Particularly because of how poor the press treated the run up to the awards. It was this overdramatic love affair with presumptions, assumptions and the slaughtering of movies into small phrases: gay cowboy affair, race drama, gay crime drama, terrorism drama, etc. Now, overall, the films were moving but maybe I am getting a bit jaded, none of them popped out at me as something supremely transcendent. You are always looking for that film: that one that changes your life and everyone else around you. Brokeback was pretty close, but it had the incompleteness about it, an austere emptiness in the middle of the film that made me lose concentration until the slow and meticulous climax and the tearful denouement.

And as my rant could go longer, I will go right out and say it: the Academy turned out to be cowards. The best movie of the year did not win. The best was Brokeback, and not Crash.

Why would I like Brokeback so much? Well, aside from the way it kind of tickled me to see a film actually deal with real gay themes, the movie itself was the most powerful of the year. Succinct, direct, beautiful, and as an ode to society: disengaging and enveloping at the same time. It was the most complete cinematic experience I had this year. And for sometime, most of the world agreed.

So what is up with this come from behind business? In queer irony, it serves to exclaim how controversy brews in society: so much so that society actually goes as far as to stereotype a movie. As a film-goer I am immediately attracted to stories of desolation and loss; of longing and hope. The paradoxical formations that most movies form (under this paradigm) can be uplifting or at its worse: parody. But there was something fresh, interesting and almost chic about Brokeback. It certainly did not live up to my dream of it being a hot gay love affair, but what I got was something slower, a pace that grabs you.

I should say the one weakness you feel in the movie is that the leads are almost so strong in their roles; you forget that they are (apparently) supposed to love each other. Notwithstanding my own complaints: this film has grown on me since December when I saw it and almost snidely left the film disappointed. It has shown resilience and beauty. As commentators have tried to describe it (only to concede they have never seen the film) it has begun to strike a chord with me. How could they not see it!? It was one of the most engaging experiences I have had with a film, so much that I can still hauntingly see the images on the screen, in that packed theatre, and the gentle nudge that I gave Matt as I told him: “In almost bitter irony, I am happy I was allowed to see this movie with you right next to me.”

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A failure of execution

Friday's Washington Post editorial sums up, months after the fact, the core issue that we must focus on when discussing the human costs of Hurricane Katrina. Riffing on the new AP-released video of the president asserting government preparation before the Hurricane fully hit, the editorial makes the point that the most important issue was not preparation, but in fact execution. Evidence now shows that resources, while important, were underutilized due to failures of execution at the federal, state, AND local levels, where various politicians of both parties denied reality until disaster had already struck again and again.

As the Post notes: "Moreover, at the time of the conference the White House had no idea whether federal emergency services were truly prepared. On the tape, the president doesn't ask any questions about preparedness, and there is no evidence in documents since released that he was any more engaged before or after the conference. Had anyone called the Defense Department? Was the National Guard en route? Were local Army bases prepared to help? Were emergency food and water supplies in place? The president, like everyone around him, appears to have assumed that everything would run like clockwork, just as it was supposed to on paper."

They may have been prepared, they may not have been. But the president didn't know.

That, the Post concludes, "should tell the nation something about the value of leadership."

I've found myself being an apologist at times for the president, only because I can't contemplate that someone with such power and resources could be so culpable for so many failures over his two terms. But honestly, now, with the port deal showing his tone deafness, and many issues illustrating the imperial nature of the Bush administration, I've finally got to stop apologizing. While not going anywhere near the continued liberal calls for impeachment, I am finally (way too late in many peoples' minds) convinced that this administration is ruining the nation. Is my conclusion too little, too late? Likely, but the sheer flood of events in recent months has sealed the lid on the Bush administration.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Wrestling the Military-Academic Complex

A very interesting article. Overly critical in my opinion (as one who is able to afford college thanks to the Military-Academic complex) but it grants quite a comprehensive purview of the great amount of academic research, analysis, and funding that goes into our defense policy, strategy, and development.

"The reach of the military-academic complex goes far beyond schools like West Point and Annapolis; today almost 350 civilian universities conduct Pentagon-funded research."

Extreme skewing of X chromosome inactivation in mothers of homosexual men

From the Journal of Human Genetics:

Extreme skewing of X chromosome inactivation in mothers of homosexual men
Sven Bocklandt * Steve Horvath * Eric Vilain
Human sexual preference is a sexually dimorphic
trait with a substantial genetic component. Linkage
of male sexual orientation to markers on the X chromosome
has been reported in some families. Here, we
measured X chromosome inactivation ratios in 97
mothers of homosexual men and 103 age-matched control
women without gay sons. The number of women
with extreme skewing of X-inactivation was significantly
higher in mothers of gay men (13/97=13%) compared
to controls (4/103=4%) and increased in mothers with
two or more gay sons (10/44=23%). Our findings support
a role for the X chromosome in regulating sexual
orientation in a subgroup of gay men.

Researchers in this study examined large numbers of cells from women who had at least two gay sons - 42 in total, appx 23% of participants.
As you probably remember from high school biology, in the case of the sex chromosomes, women carry two X chromosomes (XX) while men carry an X and a Y (XY). However, while women have two X chromosomes, only one is activated (in rare cases both are, and certain genetic disorders can result).
In most cases, X chromosome inactivation occurs at random: half of the cells in a woman's body will have one X chromosome inactivated, while the other half inactivate the other chromosome. They found something different in the case of these women: in nearly every cell that they examined the same X chromosome was inactivated.

Much of the previous scientific work has indicated that differing sexual orientation result from changes in multiple genes, rather than involving any one single "gay gene." These results suggest one possible mechanism that may be involved in the causation of homosexuality, whereby genetic shifts or alterations that would normally be "corrected" by introducing the normalizing factor of random activated X-chromosomal distribution would be negated by only one of the two X chromosomes being available for the use of genetic propogation.

The authors also state at the end of their discussion section:

"Recently, several identified autosomal loci suggested a multi-gene regulation of the sexual orientation pathway, as expected for a complex behavioral trait. We hypothesize that one central neuronal pathway establishes sexual attraction to either males or females, usually towards the opposite sex. However, a variety of genetic and non-genetic biological effects might intersect this pathway. Hence, there might be several subgroups of gay men and women, each with their own specific biological origin."

The implications of this are interesting, though not entirely novel. Essentially they purport that actual genetic or neurological causes for homosexuality may vary widely from one person to the next (where this skewing of chromosomal inactivation might only be one of many). This begs the question as to whether there are indeed varying "degrees" or even "classifications" of homosexuality, and whether these can be influenced entirely by differing genetic factors.

[Author'ss Note: I am of course leaving out of this discussion the possible involvement of environmental factors - the so-called nature vs nurture debate. That is not to say that I dismiss them in the slightest, only that they must be analyzed at a different level and with methods and tools beyond the general purview of a geneticist. They constitute an interesting and valid discussion in their own right]

McCain at Columbia

Anonymous sources have indicated that John McCain will be the graduation class day speaker for Columbia College Class of 2006!

Stay tuned for updates as they come through.

From today's Spectator

Presidential Public Relations

Politicians have long benefited from adopting public relations tactics to shape image and spread key messages: kissing babies, making speeches in front of overtly multicultural audiences, using rhetoric to define the terms of debate.

Presidential politics has been no different, especially under the Bush administration. Yet now the PR machine that bolstered the president for so long is starting to appear as effective as the little Dutch boy who tried to plug a dam’s leak with his finger, and the president’s image is under attack from all corners.

A new CBS News poll has placed the president’s popularity rating at an all-time low of 34 percent, a number that bodes very poorly for a Republican Party that has become very closely linked to his administration in the last six years. Where has the mighty Bush PR machine failed in recent months? A closer look at three events reveal chinks in the administration’s armor that, if not addressed, threaten to speed up the process of “lame-ducking” the president and handicapping his dual-house majority.

Port Nowhere: Seven out of ten Americans in the CBS News poll had a problem with the UAE-based Dubai Ports World takeover of American port operations. Yet President Bush can’t understand what the fuss is about. The disconnect is almost embarrassingly obvious—the president spends years telling the voters that America is waging a war on terror, then semi-secretly signs over six (recently revealed by AP to be 11 and by Reuters to be 21) American port terminals to the operation of a company partially controlled by an Arab state previously linked to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. Bush has failed to consider and plan for the political ramifications of his actions, and that has hurt his continuing appeal as a president who is a man of the people.

PR Rule 1: Never send your audience contradictory messages and expect them to understand your thought process.

Cheneygate: Cheneygate, the non-story arising from Dick Cheney’s accidental shooting of a fellow hunter, has thoroughly played itself out with Americans. But the media has not yet forgotten that they heard about the shooting 16 hours after the fact, when a private citizen made the announcement. The media, for right or wrong, has a prickly sense of entitlement to information that politicians are better off accepting and dealing with, especially during times of uncertain support. The Fourth Estate won’t be changing any time soon—get used to it. Assuming that the White House knew of the shooting immediately, full and immediate disclosure would have garnered more sympathetic portrayals in the media. Instead, the sixteen-hour gap incensed reporters, leading them to consider conspiracy theories and other aggressive angles.

PR Rule 2: Stay on good terms with mainstream media outlets; they remain the largest shapers of public opinion.

Congress and the Trailing Wires: Though the issue of executive wiretapping has been in the news for a while, congressional reactions to being largely left out of the loop have greatly hurt the administration’s ability to encourage legislation. The administration claims to have justification for its warrant-less wiretaps, but Congress, like the media, has a strong sense of entitlement when it comes to issues affecting its constituents. For the Bush administration to continue to work around Congress, on top of ignoring public sentiment over the ports deal, is a guaranteed method to burn bridges.

PR Rule 3: Every major actor you don’t consult with is a potential opponent to future plans.

The real turning point was Hurricane Katrina, where federal failures were immediately evident. But the president could have bounced back; voters have fickle preferences as time elapses. Instead, these three aforementioned events heaped insult upon injury, destroying any chance the administration had of making a speedy image recovery. It is essential for the administration to engage in a large amount of public relations clean-up work to revitalize its image. If it does not pay closer attention to maintaining its public image, lofty ideals and moral righteousness will constitute ineffective sideshows.

At the moment, no major changes appear to be in the air for the administration, and that can only spell trouble in the face of recent events. With Congress, the media, and the American people rankling over an assortment of poorly sold decisions, the future of the second-term Bush administration appears at its bleakest, with no light on the horizon.

How to take a kidney punch

Professional boxers will throw a light jab that he hopes will fake out his opponent and then deliver a crushing blow as the opponent stumbles. Sometimes though, this leaves his body open and his opponent deals him a bone crunching hook into his kidney or ribcage. [ok. I made that entire thing up, the only thing I know about boxing is Punch Out! for Nintendo and that one Dreamcast game].

The Bush administration has been extremely adept and I'll give them credit, famous for (at least to those paying attention) dodging blows and making the American public think one thing while they are doing another. You're really doing something right when a big enough percentage of the American populace actually believes that Saddam Hussein, given the evidence, was responsible for 9-11 and not Al-Qaeda. That's a scary thought that the propaganda machine works so well or that the American people are so easily mislead.

After 9-11, George W. Bush sat in an elementary school classroom frozen by the news of the terrorist attack on our nation. He continued to read to the children, the response to the crisis was delayed, he had no idea what to do, no idea what initiative to take. He was scared and lost.

After Katrina devastated New Orleans, George W. Bush said:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we have to deal with it and will."

"[Katrina] exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government".

"And to the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility... I want to know what went wrong or what went right ... It's in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on so we can better respond."

Hindsight. It is easy to be a strong leader after you contemplate what has happened after it sinks in for a few days. It is easy to roll up your sleeves and be the macho guy that America is looking towards in its days of and after crises. Today the damning news came out. There is now video evidence of presidential briefings where George W. Bush, FEMA chief Michael Brown, and Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and other federal and local officials met to discuss the hurricane and were warned about levees breaking, not enough resources etc.

In Florida we know what category 5 hurricane does. Hurricane Andrew in '92 wasn't even the strongest hurricane from the Atlantic Ocean, but we got... to be blunt, fucked.

It's not like the damage done to New Orleans wasn't something that people had predicted for years prior to Katrina. Bush steadfastly said, we're fully prepared. In the past months, former FEMA chief Michael Brown was getting dumped on, people called him stupid, incompetent, and a litany of other salacious things. Just earlier during the actual Hurricane we heard from Bush, "you're doing a heckuva job Brownie", and not the support from the White House was silent.

Sorry guy.

You can only get dumped on for so long though, and because of spite or for moral whistle blowing reasons, the private video made its way to the Associated Press. I bet "Brownie" is giving himself a little chuckle right now.

The video almost vindicates him.

"A top hurricane expert voiced "grave concerns" about the levees and then-
Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told the president and
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren't enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome."
"I'm concerned about ... their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe,"
"We're going to need everything that we can possibly muster, not only in this state and in the region, but the nation, to respond to this event," Brown warned. He called the storm "a bad one, a big one" and implored federal agencies to cut through red tape to help people, bending rules if necessary.

"Go ahead and do it," Brown said. "I'll figure out some way to justify it. ... Just let them yell at me."

All on video.

What did Bush do? He sat silently. He assured everyone that the government would do everything in its power to help. He assured everyone things would be fine.

As of today, about 1300 people are dead due to Katrina. You could almost say that Bush's optimism and lack of action increased their probability of death about ten-fold.

After 9-11. Inaction. After being warned about Katrina's potential for destruction. Inaction. Heroic after people have died, our President is not supposed to be a hand waving queen figure. History will remember you Mr. Bush, mourning families will as well.

"We are fully prepared."- George W. Bush.