Saturday, April 12, 2008

The July Suprise?

After watching the Senate testimony with General Petraeus, I am not sure if it matters whom the Democratic Super Delegates chose, er, I mean the Democratic voters, select as the Democratic Nominee. In conditions that exist now, I believe that no matter who the nominee is, Senator Obama or Senator Clinton, the odds favor either candidate in becoming the next president, though I do believe one has a better shot because I doubt that the Democrats will win Florida.

But, the question remains, what conditions between now and November will change? The answer to that question is Iran, where are the testimony, the argumentative foundation was laid for attacks on Iran, as Iran is the new al-Qaeda and Iran, according to Gen. Petraeus, is sending money and arms to be used against U.S. troops. In addition, according to The Washington Post, the vice-president visited right wing talk-radio to provide additional bricks: the Iranian leadership consists of apocalyptic zealots who yearn for a nuclear conflagration to bring about conditions for the return of the 12th Imam.

Of course, everyone's favorite intellect, William Kristol, met with President Bush yesterday and the president stated that attacks may not be out of the question. According to the same
The Washington Post article: "After suggesting that Iran may 'have to pay some price at some point on their own soil,' Kristol said that President Bush authorizing an attack of some kind before he leaves office is not 'out of the question.'" While this means little, it allows the ghost to remain in the room.

According to Seymour Hersh, the US has been preparing for this for some time. You can read his work in The New Yorker about the U.S.'s policy with Iran from April 2006, July 2006, November 2006, March 2007, October 2007, February 2008. While preparing for a conflict is the responsibility of the military, the similarity between arguments in 2003 and 2008 seem to uncanny.

While there may be legitimate reasons for attacking Iran, (depending on the circumstances), the attacks will no doubt alter the elections in the United States. Attacks ensure that the deliberation about the elections concern Iraq and Iran, which plays to the strengths of Republicans. To expand this conversation means that there is no need to discuss the original war in Iraq and its entailments: the definition of victory, the purpose of the war, and the ability to withdraw (now this is the way to employ heresthetics).

The best part, for Republicans, it that there is very little the Democrats can do about this. If they move to impeach the President if strikes were imminent, then the public support for Democrats will drop. If they wait and do not impeach, then may lose their standing for the November elections and make the election about national security instead of the economy.

This is how one wins elections.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ending some Speculation...

According to MSNBC, Condi Rice attempted to angle herself for McCain's VP vacancy, though she repeatedly denied it.

Well, you can rule that out now, according to ABC News, unless you want to debate the merits of torture as an effective tool in the War on Terror. And, for some reasons, I do not think McCain wants to have this debate.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

At the time, the Principals Committee included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Oh well. I hoped that the US could finally get around to having this conversation though I do not have enough faith that the country would reach the correct results on the issue. The country did reelect President Bush after the torture stories broke.

I guess it is time for the McCain camp to break out the McCain/ Romney stickers after all, especially if the economy is in the gutter.

George is a Monkey...

A few weeks ago, Harrogate talked about the feel-good premise of Clifford, the Big Red Dog. As he tacitly suggests in his post, Emily Elizabeth arguably has the greatest parents in the world, as they happily relocated their family to Birdwell Island after recognizing that their dog Clifford was too large to live in the city.

I would like to continue Harrogate's discussion of children's programming. Specifically, I want to comment upon--or perhaps more accurately, complain about--Curious George. Oxybaby and I watch this cartoon daily; on our PBS channel, it airs right before Clifford. Readers who regularly view this show with their children will mistakenly assume that my complaint is related to the constant re-airing of episodes (the same four or five, it seems) day after day. While this is indeed a concern, today I wish to instead complain about the commentary that follows the cartoon. (Please note that the commentary to which I refer might be specific to my local PBS channel, which features Miss Laurie and a number of preschoolers).

After each episode, a child's voice is heard over the credits. He says, "George is a monkey, so he can do things that we can't." The statement is then elaborated upon. And I always expect that it will focus on things that monkeys can do and that humans cannot: "Because George is a monkey, he can fling pooh at people and not get thrown in jail. People will laugh at his pooh-flinging, as it is socially acceptable--and, frankly, expected--that monkeys engage in such behavior"; or "George is a monkey, so it's cute when he picks fleas off of Hunley [the doorman's dachshund] and eat them; it is not considered gross because monkeys are disgusting animals and gross is, as we know, a relative category."

But instead the child voice-over always describes something that George did from the immediate episode. And each time, it is something that I could do. It is not--I repeat, NOT--something that is enabled purely by virtue of George being a monkey. Last week, for instance, George and Betsy were in a race with Steve to see who could deliver the most mail in a set amount of time. George had the brilliant idea of organizing his parcels numerically by address so that he could deliver them in order as he and Betsy walked down the street. Bill, on the other hand, was running back and forth, back and forth. George's strategy led his team to victory. The voice-over: "George is a monkey, so he can do things that we can't: he put the packages in order...." Come on! I can do that, too.

I give credit where credit is due, so I applaud George. He is a smart monkey who does a lot of good in his community. But let's not put him too high on a pedestal. Most of us humans can do the same things that he does.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A First Amendment Dilemma...Or is it?

This is a very interesting first amendment/ discrimination case that involves the ability of a photographer to select whom she photographs and the ability of a same-sex couple to find a business to photograph their ceremony.

Elaine Huguenin is the co-owner of Elaine Photography in New Mexico. In September of 2006, Vannessa Willock approached Elaine Photography to inquire about her services to photograph Willock's wedding ceremony, which was to be a same-sex marriage ceremony. Huhuenin responded that she only photographed traditional marriages and would not be able to capture the event. When Willock inquired about the meaning of "traditional marriage," Huhuenin responded that we (her and her husband) d0 not "photograph same-sex marriages."

After having her request denied, Willock then filed a complaint under New Mexico Human Rights Act and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission held that this action by Huhuenin violated the act. The photographer was fined $6,637.94 for refusing services.

Now, there are a few competing issues involved with this case.

First, is this a case of discrimination whereby a business, Elaine Photography, refused a customer because the business did not like a characteristic of the customer, which is in a protected class. If your business refused on the account of race, you would face a penalty for this. If a larger business were to deny this, they may not be able to get away with this or even for a family portrait. If you were to apply certain analogies, business and hotels would not be able to deny services based on sexual orientation so why would this photography studio: because it is a smaller business or because its business relates to artistic expression?

Second, do the facts of this case suggest that the photographer has a first amendment right and that no one should be able to force her to accept a job just as no one would be able to force her to write something she did not choose to or speak about something she did not choose? This follows the liberty of conscience argument, which if the first amendment is to mean something, it should mean this. Photographs are artistic expressions, even the mind-numbing wedding photos. While there is no clear precedent for this, if the government cannot make children salute the flag or say the pledge of allegiance, then it would not be unreasonable to suggest that the government cannot force you to take pictures via the New Mexico Human Rights Act. Or is this like the Boy Scouts controversy where the group refused to allow a homosexual to be a troop leader?

Further complicating this is that same-sex marriages are not recognized in New Mexico. This may provide an out for the photographer.

There are clear points at which the analogies break down, such as children are compelled to go to school. While business restrict the speech of employees and business can limit the speech of customers (as malls can kick people out because it is private, not public, ground), there is no precedent to suggest that a business can deny services to a customer based on the views of the business.

While I know photography, such as the works of Ansel Adams or our Iconic images, constitutes art, is the claim that wedding photography is art diminished by the fact that the work is commissioned? John Berger in Ways of Seeing would argue that wedding photography, just liking paintings in the 16th & 17th centuries, would not be art.

Third, there is a very delicate balancing argument between competing legal claims, artist expression and legal discrimination. Which is more important, the art or the commerce? If this goes to a court and side with the photographer, do you strike the law down as being unconstitutional or just provide a narrow decision, hoping this issue will not resurface. This will become a court case and wonder through the legal system, most likely to the 9th circuit. If it reaches there, it may reach the Supreme Court because of the contrasting ideologies between the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court.

Fourth, if the photography studio in question uses other employee or sub-contracts out some of the jobs, could this be one of those jobs? This way, the business does not discriminate but the Elaine does not have to violate her liberty of conscience.

Fifth, if you are the person who contacted the photography studio, would you even want the photographer to work your wedding? If the photographer does not believe in same-sex marriages, do you want someone who may work under conditions of bad faith?

I am quite unsure of what I think in this case. For some reason I think that there may be a distinction between the photography studio and a hotel or restaurant. However, every time I try to rationalize that distinction, my arguments do not stand. Maybe this is just my draw to my position on the first amendment. However, in this case, I am unable to state that a business activity, even photography, is "speech" where I can argue that campaign donations constitutes speech. The analogy would be if Willock did not choose Elaine Photography because of her views rather than Elaine Photography not considering to offer services to Willock because of the Studio's position.

Pragmatically, I hesitantly think four and five are the best positions. I think that the photographer in question is discriminating and, further, is not being smart with her business. If she opposes same-sex marriage, see if you can contract it out or have another employee work the wedding. If she refuses, then she should face some repercussions over her actions, especially social protests. If you run a business, which Elaine Photography is, then the person should not be able to discriminate as she would not be able to if an interracial couple inquired about services or she would not be able to if she ran a hotel or restaurant.

Additionally, if I am Willock, there is no reason why I would want this photographer at my wedding and a complaint against them seems slightly vindictive though deserved because of the discrimination. If I find someone who wants to discriminate against me, I do not believe I could trust them to do high quality work.

How do others see this case?

Thanks to the Volokh Conspiracy for the inspiration for this post.

When Politics and College Basketball Collide

From Politico:

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who's uncommitted, makes the comparison:

"I was thinking at the game last night that the last 90 seconds were so extraordinary, you think it's the kind of thing that keeps Hillary Clinton in the race," Bredesen told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"You're just a couple of mistakes on the other person's part and a lucky break … away from totally turning that game upside down," he said. "And I'm sure that's the kind of thing that's going through her mind at the moment."

UPDATE: A pro-Obama blog goes the same direction, sort of:

In a move that's sure to be seen as controversial, Hillary has contacted the NCAA Board of Directors to argue that Memphis is actually better qualified to be National Champion.

Ms. Clinton stated that Memphis, while losing the game, had actually shown more ability to act like a National Champion on Day One. She argued that Memphis had passed every test during the game, including scoring more points than Kansas for 38 minutes. For 38 minutes they had shown the experience necessary to be National Champion. "Just because some team comes along in the last minute and scores more points than the other guy doesn't mean they're necessarily able to be National Champion on Day One."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Four Days in Denver

West Wing writer Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. has written "Four Days in Denver," a fictionalized version of the Democratic Convention the is in the latest New York Magazine. Here's a snippet:

Barack (deferentially): Mr. Chairman.
Baucus: Thanks for coming.
Hillary: Max, I thought—
Baucus: It’s time for you two to work this out.
Baucus starts to leave. Hillary follows Baucus toward the door, then Barack follows Hillary. Baucus herds them back into the room.
Baucus: Listen up. Your health-care bill (shifts glance from one to the other) has to come through my committee. So does your tax bill, the changes you wanna make to NAFTA—I could go on and on. You walk out of here now, and one of you somehow makes it to the White House, I guarantee you you’re gonna have the worst first year ever. (Exits.)

Barack: Well, here we are … Hillary, I—
Hillary: You’re a better speaker than I am.
Barack (confused): Uh …
Hillary: Way better. Better than Bill. Best I’ve ever seen.
Barack: Uh, thank—

Hillary: When you go out there and accept the nomination, it’s gonna be the best speech of this convention, no question about it. (beat) Even if you’re accepting the nomination for vice-president. You’re gonna be the rock star on the ticket no matter what I do.
Barack: I don’t want to be VP.
I'm dying to read the whole thing, so feel free to join me and discuss.

Raising Awareness or Showing Victimage

CNN has a video report on a women who sells the T-Shirt "I Was Raped." From the report, the T-Shirt is true in the literal sense and the woman in question hopes to sell shirts to raise awareness for the issue so other women will speak out. You can read more about the cause here.

The article also discusses whether or not this message is appropriate. One objector states that the person should not show their victimage, which of all possible refutations, this is terribly weak and not convincing, as it just sounds as if the person does not want to hear about any really bad news that occurs around her.

I can see this may be a controversy in a school setting as it may be so controversial that it disrupts the education process; however, I would still allow the student to wear it though most school administrators would choose to ban it, especially after Morse v. Frederick, aka "Bong Hits for Jesus." Yet, this controversy has not spread to a school.

Also, I think that, from the video, the analogy to the other banned T-Shirts, such as when the Seattle Mariners banned the "Yankees Suck" shirt, does not hold up because of the public/ private setting of the event.

Finally, there may be some concern that the meaning of the message loses its power if it is worn on a T-Shirt, i.e. The Chicken Little Argument. But I am unconvinced about this as well as every argument may lose some luster after it is used.

Very, very wrong

There is something very, very wrong with the world when the former co-host of "What Not to Wear" opens a boutique in CBGB's.

Farewell, Sweet Carolina

Having marinated in Tar Heels basketball since November, having invested imaginative energy into that particular group of players, it is only now, a little over 24 hours since their defeat by Kansas, that Harrogate finds the fortitude to blog this farewell. Of course, one can only be used to such cruel endings. The National Championship is an elusive prize that it would be foolhardy to expect, regardless of the team in question.

How such things end. They rolled into San Antonio with seemingly everything going for them--seemingly that is, because one had no idea as to the actual health level of their point guard, Lawson, who sat the bench at the crucial midway point of the second half, with Carolina only four points down and with Kansas staggering on the ropes. Not that Lawson's absence on the floor is to be given excessive weight. But that long riding of the pine haunts Harrogate still, filling him with questions, what ifs, and inexpressible longing.

But, at the beginning of the game and at the end when it counted the most, Kansas was absolutely awesome. At times it looked as though Carolina was only moving, and jumping, at half speed against those guys. You have to give them their props. And so now the Showdown tonight, with Memphis, who will likely be favored. A defensive grind out this game shall not be. Threes, dunks, flying bodies aplenty await all who tune in this evening.

Harrogate, at this point, harbors no preference. Heartbroken, he will watch. But, he will not neglect this opportunity to thank Carolina for one of the most exciting seasons they have ever mustered. And already, he is open to "hot-stove" Discourses regarding next season.

Until then, Carolina, Harrogate has three words for ya: "Buenas Tardes Amigo."

A few interesting reads...

Here are a few things to chew over as the majority of the country waits in anticipation of the conclusion to March Madness. If we could only conclude of the madness in the same month that it started....

Insert UNC joke here....

From The New Republic: If the Democrats were to win the general election, which major policy should the Democrats attempt to achieve first: Global Warming or Health Care?
Some climate scientists think we have less than a decade to start reducing carbon emissions in the United States if we want a shot at avoiding the worst effects of global warming (we'd also need to figure out how to get China and India to start curbing their emissions—and soon). So that's a decent contender for the top of the to-do list. Then again, health care costs and access are extremely pressing issues, too, and universal coverage is the kind of thing that could help cement a Democratic majority for years to come. (Plus, universal health care might be easier to pass during an economic slump than a cap-and-trade bill that will raise energy prices—even if there are ways to cushion the pain from a climate bill.)
The article assumes that the Democrats will only be able to target one major initiative in the first term and I am assuming that Iraq magically disappears for the country to focus on Global Warming or Health Care.

From Slate: One third of women make more than men and the refutation here. This is interesting because of the class involved in the debate as this article discusses women in elite positions. My question: when we argue that there is sexism because men make more than women are we having the wrong argument because we remove class and power from the conversation?

From The New York Times: Stanley Fish examines French Theory in the US. It is an interesting introduction into the basics of the theory and why there is a rejection to it in the US. It would serve as a decent introduction to deconstruction if you needed to teach it to undergrads.

Oh, and Senator Clinton will be on Ellen to best Senator Obama'a 37. Early takes suggest that Chicago should not worry. And now please can we talk about something important.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I mean no disrespect....

Ok, actually, yeah I do. Let's go get those guns.