Even a Stopped Watch...

Cal Thomas, writing in WorldMag, (via Andrew Sullivan) manages to be both terribly wrong, then terribly right about gay marriage and civil rights in general:

"As Iowa and other courts continue to dismantle the foundations of our nation without the approval of its citizens (each time the public gets an opportunity to vote on marriage, it votes to uphold the male-female version), they have an obligation to say where they intend to take us. What is the new standard for human relationships? Or do we make this up as we go, bowing to whatever pressure group makes the most noise?"

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Bill Murray summed this up best in GhostBusters: "Dogs and cats! Living together!" And humans marrying dogs and cats, or one human marrying 'leventy-seven humans, all to-be-expected when gays, gasp, are allowed to marry.

Connecting the Taliban

The Washington Post reports on the propensity of Islamic extremist groups to host their internet presence on American servers:

The Taliban's account was pulled last week when a blogger noticed the connection and called attention to it. But the odd pairing of violently anti-American extremists and U.S. technology companies continues elsewhere and appears to be growing. Intelligence officials and private experts cite dozens of instances in which Islamist militants sought out U.S. Internet firms — known for their reliable service and easy terms that allow virtual anonymity — and used them to incite attacks on Americans.

"The relatively cheap expense and high quality of U.S. servers seems to attract jihadists," said Rita Katz, co-founder of the Site Intelligence Group, a private company that monitors the communications of Muslim extremist groups. Even al-Qaeda has sometimes paid American companies to serve as conduits for its hate-filled messages, said Katz, who has tracked such activity since 2003.

We may be infidels, but at least we're technically adept infidels.

GOP Trying to Regain Its Sanity, Failing

From HuffPo:

A self-identified Republican called in to tell Rush Limbaugh he was a "brainwashed Nazi." Here's a juicy excerpt: "We're not supposed to be torturing these people. This is not Nazi Germany, Red China, or North Korea." He then added, "I hate to say it...but I think you're a brainwashed Nazi." This did not go over well. Limbaugh shot back with a brainwashing accusation of his own, and blamed Charles and people like him for Obama winning the election. "I didn't vote for him," Charles protested, "I voted for McCain. I voted Republican." No matter. Rush signed off by saying, "Charles, Barack Obama is president of the United States today because of stupid, ignorant people who think like you do. You pose—you and your ignorance are the most expensive commodity this country has."

Must be heard to be fully appreciated.

Again with the HuffPo, Rachel Maddow has fun with right wing videos "proving" that Obama is a satanist. Sad when the GOP becomes a pajama party of teenagers shining flashlights in their own faces and playing stuff backwards. Now Fox anchors have joined in to support a newborn Tea Party movement. These guys aren't mad at the banks that spent all our wealth on magic beans, they're mad at the Prez who's fixing their mess. No wonder even David Horowitz had to tell the GOP to get a grip on itself.

Sugar Tariffs and the Bible

What can Passover teach us about international relations?  Dan Drezner explains.

This is hardly news to the couples' therapists out there but kids stress marital bliss. An eight-year study of 218 couples found that 90 percent experienced a decrease in marital satisfaction once the first child was born.

"Couples who do not have children also show diminished marital quality over time," says Scott Stanley, research professor of psychology at the University of Denver. "However, having a baby accelerates the deterioration, especially seen during periods of adjustment right after the birth of a child."

The research appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and shows that couples who live together before marriage experience more problems after birth than those who live separately before marriage. As did those whose parents fought or divorced. However, some couples said their relationships were stronger post-birth. Longer-married couples  or those with higher incomes had fewer marital problems after a baby than those with lower incomes or who had been married more recently.

On the other hand, another study in the Journal of Family Communication found that fighting couples live longer. Not happier, I guess. But longer.

Yet another study had the audacity to point out the fact that the happiness of the world at large also hinges on your decision to have or not have a kid. You know, the 10,000-megaton-carbon-footprint baby. Not to mention the 3,800 diapers.


 

Quote of the Day - 4.8.09

From Major Randy Schmeling, a 43-year-old Army National Guardsman who commands the American police mentoring teams in Ghazni, on the endemic corruption in Afghanistan:

Right now, there is no meritocracy here. It's, "Hey, your sister has a pretty mouth — do you want to be a general?"

There's nothing in this article to be surprised about if you've been paying even the slightest attention to Afghanistan.  But you should read it anyway, just to remind yourself all over again of just what we're up against there.

Unemployment Armageddon

According to the minutes of the latest Fed meeting, their staff economists believe that weaker than expected economic growth will result in "the projected path of the unemployment rate rising more steeply into early next year before flattening out at a high level over the rest of the year."  An artist's conception of unemployment growing steeply all the way through the first quarter of 2010 is shown below.  I sure hope the Fed economists are just kidding about this.

Boys Are Pilots. Girls Are Stewardesses.

Back in the '70s everything was so much simpler. This collection of gender unbending images apparently exists in the nebulous space between satire and not satire.

Washington Post Scolds Itself

The fact that Washington Post op-ed star George Will has been accused of inaccurate reporting isn't so surprising. What is surprising is that the accuser is The Washington Post.

In a story published yesterday, WaPo writers Juliet Eilperin and Mary Beth Sheridan cite evidence they say "contradicts data cited in widely circulated reports by Washington Post columnist George F. Will that sea ice in the Arctic has not significantly declined since 1979."

Grist writer David Roberts notes, "I can’t think of another instance when a news story at a newspaper explicitly called out an op-ed writer in the same paper for lying, by name." The closest I can think of is when New York Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt publicly reproached Maureen Dowd for gender bias. But that was an opinion, not a rebuke of reporting.

The paper's decision to call out Will was no doubt difficult, but props to them for doing the right thing—even if it leads to some awkwardness around WaPo.

The Sunlight Foundation has long worked to bring transparancy to the lobbying process, and yesterday the good folks there made something of a breakthrough. They've developed an online lobbying disclosure form. That may not sound important, but here's why it matters.

Currently, lobbyists file disclosure forms four times a year. They are required only to disclose who their clients are, how much they got paid, what topics or bills they worked on for each client, and whether or not they visited the House, the Senate, or the executive branch. What that means is that if a defense contractor is using a lobbyist to make sure it gets a piece of the pie in an upcoming DOD budget, the public gets no info about the specific appropriation being targeted or the lawmakers who got the full-court press. We may only find out that the contractor was lobbying at all after the budget is passed.

The online disclosure form that Sunlight has developed -- you can see a mock-up here -- changes all of that. A lobbyist can pull up this form on her BlackBerry after each lobbying contact and easily fill out a very comprehensive range of fields: date and time of the meeting; name and client for the lobbyist; name, agency, and position of the federal employee(s) lobbied; topics discussed and specific actions promoted or urged.

If every lobbyist filled out a form like this after every meeting, a group like the Sunlight Foundation could build a constantly up-to-date database of lobbying contacts that would allow the public to sort by lobbyists, clients, federal agencies, bills, topics -- any and all relevant metric by which money in politics can be overseen and rooted out. John Wonderlich, writing on Sunlight's blog, adds, "This is just the beginning. What else can you imagine tracking? Would you set up an RSS feed of all lobbying related to your interests? Would you, as an agency head, track all lobbying directed at your agency?"

Now it's just a matter of getting folks in government to see the (sun)light.