Friday, October 21, 2005


Fashion Statement of the Day

As recently as this week, [Homeland Security Secretary] Chertoff told a House Katrina investigation, "The report — last report I got on Monday [Aug. 29] was that the levees — there had not been a significant breach in the levees. It appeared that the worst was over."

In contrast, [FEMA staffer] Bahamonde, who was dressed in a dark suit and spoke somberly to senators for nearly three hours, said: "I believed at the time and still do today, that I was confirming the worst-case scenario that everyone had always talked about regarding New Orleans."

—Spencer S. Hsu reporting in the Washington Post

For years critics of the media have lambasted reporters who persist in describing how women in the news are dressed. Hsu has rectified this gender bias. Now isn't that better?


Appalling Commentary of the Day

What does Harriet Miers' money tell us about her? The Supreme Court nominee has filed financial disclosure forms for the last five years as a requirement for her White House job. The most remarkable fact that emerges from her filings is this: She managed to work for nearly 30 years as an attorney in private practice without getting rich. Chief Justice John Roberts ... amassed a fortune worth at least $3 million and probably much more; Miers finds herself at age 60 with a net worth of about $675,000, which unfortunately does not make her wealthy.
— Henry Blodget, former securities analyst writing in Slate

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Redistricting amendments in California, Ohio on November 8

I've said before, over a chorus of objections, and will say again—the greatest threat to representative democracy is not vote fraud but gerrymandering, the deliberate drawing of Congressional districts to favor one party over the other.

The Republicans didn't invent the gerrymander, but Tom Delay took it to new heights. Remember when all the Democratic state legislators from Texas fled to Oklahoma? It was an effort to prevent a unique political act—redrawing the boundaries of Congressional districts after they had already been drawn following the census.

Tom Delay understood the power of redistricting and used it. The Texas redistricting plan was tested in the Supreme Court and passed muster. Ultimately Delay may go to jail for it—not because the plan was illegal but because he broke the law to achieve it. Yet he may have guaranteed a Republican majority in the House of Representatives for years to come.

Consider what Joshua Green has written of the problem the Democrats face in regaining control of the House of Representatives—

[The] head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), [Rahm] Emanuel has taken on his biggest challenge yet: to win back the House of Representatives after more than a decade of Republican control. To pull it off, the two-term congressman will have to overcome odds far greater than those the GOP faced when Newt Gingrich engineered his historic takeover in 1994. Back then, according to a study by the National Committee for an Effective Congress, 117 seats were "marginal" -- that is, close enough to be considered competitive. Last year, thanks in large part to Republican-friendly redistricting, the number of close races shrank to only thirty-four.

We do not live in a democracy.

Typically, congressional districts are drawn by the state legislatures, so states such as California, which have Democratic majorities, have districts drawn to favor Democrats. Ditto for Republican-controlled states such as Ohio and Florida.

The situation hasn't been lost on Governor Schwarzenegger, who is trying to get a redistricting amendment passed in California. He even got Senator McCain to come help—

One day after announcing that he is considering another run for the presidency, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) jetted to California to show support for a set of state ballot initiatives the GOP governor is championing.

Voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to change the way California legislative districts are drawn, limit teacher tenure, restrict union political activity and hand the governor more power over the state budget.

McCain used his reputation as a bipartisan negotiator to portray the redistricting measure as an effort to create a more moderate state legislature -- not the divisive power-grab Democrats describe. "We need more competitive races," he said. "We need more moderation."

Meanwhile, on that same date the voters of Ohio will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment known as "Issue 4."1 Since Ohio districts favor Republicans, the Republicans are opposing the amendment, and Governor Arnie is pissing off some top Ohio Republicans by supporting the Ohio amendment—

A leading Ohio Republican said yesterday that Mr. Schwarzenegger should "worry about California" instead of Ohio.

"I think they've got more problems of their own that he might need to attend to," said Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering).

Some of the Ohio churches and "faith-based" groups have weighed in on the issue. Opponents of gay rights, abortion and pornography also appear to be opponents of democracy.

Partisans of the Democratic Party should vote against the California amendment and support the Ohio amendment. Partisans of democracy should support both.

10/23/05 — Edited to correct date in the title

Related posts
The latest political weapon: Redistricting (12/7/04)
Jean Schmidt elected to lifetime appointment as U.S. Congresswoman from Ohio (8/3/05)
Some feedback on the Ohio election (8/5/05)
In case you were looking to the Democrats for your salvation (8/19/05)


1As redistricting methods go, this is a strange one. It allows anyone and everyone to submit a redistricting plan, which is then evaluated by a 5-member commission.

The text of the amendment is here. [back]

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Firsts of the Day

Hurricane Wilma swirled into the most intense Atlantic storm ever recorded today, a Category 5 monster packing 175 mph wind that forecasts warned was “extremely dangerous.” .... Wilma’s confirmed pressure readings today ... dropped to 882 millibars — the lowest minimum pressure ever measured in a hurricane in the Atlantic basin.
—National Hurricane Center as reported in the Toledo Blade

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Enterprise of the Day


A reminder: "The Torture Question"

PBS' Frontline is showing "The Torture Question" tonight. Producer Michael Kirk has written a mealy-mouthed blurb for it in the Washington Post. But this is pretty clear—

In an examination that begins at the White House and ends in the public debate about alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib, policy makers, government interrogators, and their subjects talk to Frontline about their experiences as part of this internal battle.

Kirk will answer questions about the program online at 11:00 am EST tomorrow.

PBS will send the feed at 9 pm EST this evening, but check your local PBS station for actual broadcast time.


Warning: Do not feed the hookers. Violators will be prosecuted.

Let's cut to the chase—

As part of a new police vice crackdown, employees at McDonald's and Shur Brite Car Wash were arrested last week and charged with aiding and abetting prostitution.

Brooke Caron, 17, an employee at the McDonald's on Franklin Road, was arrested by Metro Police last Tuesday, accused of selling a Big Mac to an undercover policewoman posing as a prostitute.

Caron, a Hillsboro high schooler who works at McDonald's after school to earn spending money, was led away in cuffs with tears running down her face.

"That lady comes through the drive-through all the time," she said. "I thought it was weird when she said into the microphone, 'I am a prostitute and I would like a Big Mac,' but people say all kinds of strange stuff. I just got her food, and then they arrested me."

"It wasn't just a Big Mac; it was a combo, with fries and a Coke," noted Police Chief Ronal Serpas. "Providing nutrition to prostitutes is directly abetting their illegal activities," the chief added. "Their bodies are the commodity that is being sold, and the food fuels the body. It's a clear legal connection."

Later that same day, police arrested Shur Brite Car Wash employee Jimmy Lee Borden after he allegedly washed, waxed and vacuumed a car being driven by an undercover Metro police officer posing as a pimp.

"This guy came in and said in this real loud voice, 'I am a local pimp and I would like my ride detailed,' " Borden said. "I just thought, you know, 'Whatever, dude. Just tell me what you want done.' "

After the detailing was complete, Borden was arrested and booked on charges of aiding and abetting prostitution.

"No self-respecting pimp will ride around in a dirty car, and these car washes are a real piece of the vice puzzle in Nashville," Serpas said. "And this is a puzzle that I intend to solve. I'm going to clean this place up, just like I did New Orleans."

It is simply appalling how callous our reporters have become. If prostitutes should declare themselves to be a religious sect, this treatment would be forbidden under the U.N. Convention on Genocide.1 But religion or no, even prisoners of war may not have food withheld.2

But James Lewis, newsman for WSMV-TV of Nashville, Tennessee, wasn't thinking about the welfare of prostitutes. His intent was merely to report on the Nashville cops' undercover prostitution sting—you know, show what the authorities were doing to clean up the neighborhood. So Lewis prerecorded a segment. I didn't get to watch it, but Liz Garrigan, who writes for the Nashville Scene, says it was "a solid piece of reporting."

On the evening his segment was shown, reporter Lewis turned to the anchors and told the MacDonald's story after the prerecorded portion had ended. Lewis said,

In one case, they even arrested a McDonald’s employee because the police officer pressed the button and said, ‘I’m a prostitute. I want a Big Mac.’ They sold it to her and busted her because it’s against the law to give nutrition to a prostitute....

Reportedly surprised, one of the anchors asked,

James, a little more on that. What kind of crime is that, to provide food to a police decoy? It is actually a crime?”

According to Liz, this was the moment of James Lewis' epiphany. While doing his research he had googled and found the article with which I began this post. It was from an unattributed column in Nashville Scene known as "The Fabricator." At the bottom of each installment it says,

(The Fabricator is not reality. Sometimes it just seems like it.)

Lewis was mortified. Liz writes that—

In the end, an embarrassed Lewis, who after a radio and newspaper career started in television when he was 50 years old, resigned. He says that his unknowing regurgitation of fiction as fact was “a bad mistake.” Finlayson [the WSMV news director] accepted Lewis’ resignation with “personal regret and with understanding.”

A reporter actually resigned for "regurgitating fiction as fact"?!!! If reporters in Tennessee resign over such a piffle, what are we to make of reporters such as Judith Miller? Or of the NY Times, for that matter?

[Notice to journalists: 'Most anything you read here at Simply Appalling likely came from another journalist. Be careful.]


1From Article 2 of the convention—

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;


2Article 26 of the "Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War" clearly states: "Collective disciplinary measures affecting food are prohibited." [back]

Monday, October 17, 2005


The gay fungus of Vancouver Island

If the universe has any intrinsic significance, it's certainly hard to fathom. But some who delve in the Bible find some sort of teleological meaning in heterosexuality. They construct a moral syllogism that goes—

Heterosexuals exist to reproduce the species.
Reproducing the species is good (God-ordained, that is).
Therefore heterosexuals are good.

This leads to another argument: Homosexuals do not reproduce the species; not reproducing the species is bad; therefore homosexuals are bad (not God-ordained). This is frequently paired with the erroneous belief that homosexuality is a strictly human predilection and is therefore "unnatural."

Now a species of fungus is giving the lie to all this. It seems there's been some same-sex mating going on. Researchers at Duke University have been studying a strain of the fungus Cryptococcus gattii that has appeared on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The fungus is capable of attacking the central nervous system and can be acquired by a walk in the park. Through genetic analysis the researchers believe this strain may have arisen by the mating of same-sex pairs.

Now before visions of microgenitalia begin to dance in your head, I'll let the press release explain

In plants and animals, sexual identity is governed by sex chromosomes.... In fungi, however, sexual identity is determined by so-called "mating type loci," genes arranged contiguously, but which typically do not span an entire chromosome. Cryptococcus exists in two mating types, "a" and "alpha," determined by a single genetic region, or locus.

Earlier studies by the Duke team found that most Vancouver Island outbreak isolates are sexually fertile, but all are of one "sex," a trend that would seem to preclude the normal sexual cycle.

"Sex within the same mating-type may confer an evolutionary advantage when the opposite mating type is unavailable," Heitman [one of the researchers] said. "Other human pathogens or parasites may harbor cryptic same-sex cycles that contribute to produce progeny with altered virulence, geographic or host range or other advantageous characteristics."

This fungus is normally found only in the tropics and subtropics, suggesting that Canadian attitudes of sexual tolerance may have played a role.

10/28/05 - Correction. "New Brunswick" changed to "British Columbia."

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Freshly Minted Myth of the Day

Men are born with the horsepower-gene. (just as some women are born with the shoe-gene)
—section title for a description of the engine of a pick-up

Atom feed

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by
Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Blog Search Engine

Blog Top Sites

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?