Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shameless Plug and the Bowl Season

On December 6th and 7th, the University of Iowa Mock Trial team will be hosting its annual competition on campus. Some of the best teams in the country will be present. If you are interested at all about mock trial - it's a great public speaking, drama, and analytical thinking activity - come check us out at the IMU and EPB this weekend. If you know any local lawyers or journalism professors/TAs that might be interested in judging a defamation case let me know.

Now for something completely different...

I'm always torn this time of year when it comes to collegiate football. The BCS systems is a crock of shit. Too much weight is given to pre-season polls which swoon over brand-name institutions. If you don't start in the top 10, it's almost impossible to get into the championship game under the current system. The purest in me says, damn it use a tournament just every other collegiate sport or competitive activity.

But here's my dilemma. I love the bowl season. It's like the grand finale during the 4th of July fireworks display. The teams have weeks to prepare and the waiting only makes the games that much better. The beauty of college sports is the ever-present hope that the underdog will succeed. The bowl season gives you ample opportunity to see the over-rated favorite get crushed or the last-second field goal that sends bitter rivals to their knees in tears.

Yeah it's over-commercialized. So what if it relies on a computer program no one understands and bowls chose teams based on revenue. The games are good. More importantly, the sheer number of quality games makes off-season almost bearable. I'll admit that this season will be sweeter than last season when the Hawkeyes stayed home, but that didn't affect my ability to spend dozens of hours watching college football last winter.

Besides, once college football is over we are left with Hawkeye basketball to keep our sports fix alive, which is the real reason people in Iowa get depressed in the winter.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Fajita Day

When my parents finalized their divorce ten years ago my first thought was, "Well, it's about time!" My second thought: Extra holidays! I guess I've always been jaded. The whole double holiday thing was pretty sweet at first. My brother and I were spared the unnecessary anxiousness and drama of interaction with our extended family and, for the most part, we got more presents. However, the excitement of extra celebrations soon wore off. My freshman year in college, after a semester of unsatisfying cafeteria food and whatever else I could manage to procure, I was looking forward to a big turkey dinner with all the appropriate fixings. I was disappointed to learn that it was my father's Thanksgiving, but I was not disheartened. I offered to make the turkey dinner or, if worse came to worse, suggested we purchase our Thanksgiving meal from Hy-Vee. "I don't really care for turkey," my father explained and went on to brainstorm about alternative meals. When my mother and brother came to pick me up from school, James announced that we would be having fajitas. I was crushed, no, I was angry. I sent out emails to all my friends wishing them a happy fajita day and slandering my father's good name. It has been a Thanksgiving tradition ever since. If Thanksgiving happens to be my father's holiday, I can be certain I will not be having turkey.

This year was unique. My parents, in their old age, had forgotten whose holiday it was or, perhaps, they no longer care. A friend of mine invited me to Thanksgiving at her home in Iowa City. It would be a rag-tag group of friends and regulars from my favorite pub. I reluctantly told her I was uncertain of my Thanksgiving plans, but assured her that I would make it if I could. When her husband sauntered over to me and whispered, "I bough us single malt scotch for Thanksgiving." I was sold. I negotiated Thanksgiving arrangements with my parents and set off for Iowa City with my brother in tow. Thursday morning we appeared around noon with a cherry pie, a six-pack of Shlitz (it was on sale at Hy-Vee) and a bottle of Jameson. My friend and her husband were busy at work in the kitchen and refused to let us help with anything. So James and I sat, munching on appetizers and entertaining our hosts. Slowly, our other friends trickled in. There wasn't enough room at the kitchen table for everyone so some of us were relegated to the basement. It was reminiscent of the kids' table of Thanksgivings past, but far more entertaining. The food was not at all like the Thanksgiving of my youth, but still delicious. We played a rousing, chilly game of croquet, a little fusball, and hours of euchre. The night reached a crescendo when Spike announced that he had confused the hot mulled apple cider for gravy. Thanksgiving with the family you choose is immensely more successful and entertaining (in my experience) than with the family you have.

As for the family I have, we have had a stunningly calm Thanksgiving. My brother and I celebrated with my father Friday night. Sticking to tradition, we made homemade deep dish pizza. Thanks to poor planning and even poorer communication, the pizza ended up more like lasagna, but it was pretty good. Glutton-fest 2008 is only 2/3rds over. As I enter this blog, my mother's house is a bustle of noise and chaos. This is the Thanksgiving I remember. Everyone is on edge, my mother is certain the homemade bread is ruined, my niece (left unattended at the kitchen table) added extra pepper to the stuffing, and my brother is hiding in the basement. I can barely imagine bringing myself to eat anything, but there is nothing better than my mother's cooking (especially her homemade bread) so I will likely end up stuffed to the gills, propped on the couch, my pants unbuttoned, and moaning under the crushing pain of an immense meat wave. When this weekend is over I think I'll abstain from food until 2009. Ah, the holidays.

Power Is Back

CNN reports:
Samantha Power, the Obama foreign policy adviser who stepped down from her post earlier this year after labeling Sen. Hillary Clinton a "monster," is now working for the president-elect's transition team.

According to the Associated Press, Power is part of a team of foreign policy experts tapped by President-elect Obama to help ease the transition at the State Department — the agency Clinton is expected to head up.

Power is also formally listed as part of the State Department agency review team on the president-elect's official Web site.

This is excellent news--and something I wrote about wanting to happen several weeks ago. Check out that post to watch a video of Power giving an excellent talk on genocide. And there's also this article I wrote last year when she campaigned for Obama at the UI.

I'd really like to see Power in a permanent role at the State Department. It would be pretty immature of Hillary Clinton to have a problem with that. I guess we'll see.

About That Deadly Wal-Mart Mob

The BBC reports:
A shop worker has died after being knocked to the ground by bargain-hunters who stormed into a superstore in New York's suburbs as it opened.

The 34-year-old man, along with several other workers and shoppers, was trampled in the rush at the Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, Long Island.

US stores opened early and offered steep discounts on Friday.

The day after the Thanksgiving holiday is seen as the start of the Christmas shopping season.

I feel sorry for the guy who was killed because he was just doing his job. It's too bad it wasn't one of the crazed consumers who suffered such a fate. Seriously, what kind of psychos are willing to wait in line all night in front of a Wal-Mart of all places? It's just disgusting.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Forty Years Of Reason

Reason magazine recently put out its 40th anniversary issue:

Though I've never subscribed to the print edition, Reason's online edition and blog are two of the most cherished feeds in my reading list. The magazine's libertarian voice is an excellent counterweight to the vulgar liberal or conservative biases present in many ideologically slanted publications.

You can read the entire December issue for free here.

The Real Meaning Of Thanksgiving

Nausea-inducing gluttony:

(Via Slog, Dosenation.)

Enjoy the leftovers, everyone!

(Cross-posted at D-(eye) on Arts.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sullivan On Milk

Andrew Sullivan discusses the movie and his reaction to it:
The tidiness of Harvey Milk's martyrdom gave the Gus van Sant movie a shape and a narrative. And within that tight frame, he let this life breathe a little with its contradictions and complexities. I remembered that Milk understood two things: that organizing a gay community from the ground up was essential if homosexuals were ever to be free of threat, persecution and violence; and that such a ghetto would never be enough - because the most vulnerable gays and lesbians and transgenders are destined to be born every day in the great heartland between the coasts.

This is the paradox of gay existence that is often the source of so much misunderstanding. The outside world sometimes puts us in a box of cultural otherness - "San Francisco values" - while we are also, simultaneously, as integrated into normality as any heterosexual. Because we are your kids. We grew up in your homes. We can never be totally other when we are also totally mainstream.

Continue reading.

Iowa City had damn well better get this movie when it is released nationwide in a week. I haven't been this eager to see a movie in some time. Well, at least not since The Dark Knight and that was primarily because of my minor Heath Ledger obsession.

I've posted it before, but here's the trailer:

Christmas Too Early? No Such Thing...

I love Christmas music. I love Christmas music so much that I see no problem with listening to Christmas music BEFORE Thanksgiving!

I recall driving through Iowa City one morning listening to a mix CD (I think it was like Sum 41 or something, go figure) and I happened to stumble across Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You." I'm not quite sure what it was doing on my Sum 41 CD, but even though it was June, you can bet I cranked that shit up and started singing along! I'm sure the family sitting in the mini van next to me with their windows also down (it was pretty hot that day) probably thought I was delusional or something, but I didn't care. I refuse to keep my love for Christmas music a secret!

That being said, if you don't like Christmas music, tune your radio to the polka station or something and shut the hell up! If you really feel that listening to Christmas music before the holidays is like fingernails on a chalkboard, don't listen to it. But please don't spoil it for those of us who do.

Maybe I'm brainwashed. But I seriously don't think that listening to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or listening to Bing Crosby croon out "White Christmas" is going to make me go camp out in front of Best Buy on Thanksgiving night to beat down small children and elderly women in walkers at 4 AM on Black Friday, just so I can buy my theater-sized flat screen TV.

Christmas only comes one a year, and with Christmas comes the Christmas music. Don't be a Scrooge. Quit complaining and let me enjoy my Christmas music.

Bush Pardons A Very Large Turkey

In Thanksgiving Tradition, Bush Pardons Scooter Libby In Giant Turkey Costume

The Last Great American Holiday

It's Turkey Day. By and far, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; it's the premiere holiday of my favorite season, autumn. I also believe it to be to the epitome of "an American holiday." Now, I realize that 4th of July has a pretty good case for being the all-American holiday with it's drinking, patriotic barbecues, and blowing shit up. However, I truly believe that Thanksgiving is the best representation of America and the American psyche. Anyone can celebrate a birthday; but, it takes true American ingenuity to come up with a holiday like Thanksgiving. And forget all this tomfoolery about big buckled Puritans sitting down with a local Native American tribe to eat a bountiful feast. The irony of using this imagery given the mass genocide committed in the name of God, country, and Manifest Destiny is almost suffocating. But anyway...

There are 4 reasons why Thanksgiving is the all-American holiday.

1. The parade
Sure, 4th of July has a parade. But even the most blue-blooded American can stomach only so much John Philip Sousa, tacky star-spangled outfits, and green-body painted and foam crowned Lady Liberties throwing cheap candy before the absurdity of the parade becomes apparent. Whereas, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is an American icon. The streets of Manhattan are filled with 4-story tall balloons and celebrities gather to sing, dance, and promote their newest movie or Broadway show. NBC, ABC, and CBS cover the event for hours; other the other hand, 4th of July fireworks in NYC are 45 minutes at best. Nothing says "Americans are too strong willed to succumb to an economic crisis" like the millions spent on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It's almost reminiscent of Roman victory parades to celebrate the conquest of another ethnic group... oh wait, now it makes sense.

2. Football
I not talking about that crazy European sport where they actually play with their feet either. I'm talking about good ol' manly gridiron football. A truly American sport - which is probably why it's not followed or watched outside of North America. Nothing says "All-American holiday" like an all-American sport where men beat the hell out of each other for money. Three football games will be played today. The annual Thanksgiving day games are almost as an iconic as the Butterball(TM) turkey or Stove Top(TM) stuffing . Today, unlike any other day on the NFL calendar, three games will be spaced out so that every minute of every game can be watched in full. Don't want to talk to your family? You're in luck over 6 hours of football are available to keep your interest.

3. The food
The only thing Americans love more than their football is large quantities of food. Let's face it, Thanksgiving is a celebration of gluttony and sloth; and I, for one, love it. The sheer amount of carbs and starches consumed today under the cover of gravy is true Americana. It's also the only day of the year where Americans ape their European brethren and celebrate the siesta. A holiday filled with food and sleeping is a true reason to celebrate. Now if we could just get rid of all those dishes that need to be cleaned afterwards, it would be a perfect day.

4. Black Friday
The only thing Americans love more than football and food combined? Spending massive amounts of money on worthless shit in the name of Christ and limited-time sales. Only in America would a national holiday honoring the celebration of giving thanks for our families and our good fortune be used as a spring board into a month of greed, mindless spending, and a race to see who can out spend whom, or who gets the best new toy. Every year the news stations covers shoppers fighting at 5am over the new "must-have" item. One day we are giving thanks for being blessed with freedom and a healthy life, and the next day we are pushing and scratching either to save $50. God Bless America.

Snarky commentary aside, I love Thanksgiving. It's not just the food, although the food is a large part of it, I won't lie. There's just something about Thanksgiving that is admirable. Families coming together and celebrating life over food is beautiful for its simplicity.

Happy Turkey Day!

Minor side note: I received an e-mail from the ACLU instructing me how to handle "When Uncle Harry brings up Prop 8". I don't have an Uncle Harry, nor do I think my military career based family is going to bring up Prop 8; however, if you seek instruction on how to handle the situation, let me know and I will forward you the e-mail.

A Majority Of Iowans Favor Civil Unions

The Iowa Independent reports:
A statewide poll conducted by University of Iowa political scientists found that 28 percent of Iowans support same-sex marriage. Another 30 percent support civil unions and about one in three oppose both.

“Iowans are not yet ready to support gay marriage completely, but they are clearly ready to legally acknowledge same-sex relationships,” said David Redlawsk, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa. “For many the idea of marriage may still be a step too far, but at the same time they are willing to recognize committed relationships.”


A majority of Iowa voters under age 30 are already in favor of gay marriage, suggesting that support for it could grow as time goes on. Less than one-fifth of younger voters oppose any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

This is truly excellent news. Hopefully it bolsters the courage of either the state legislature or supreme court to act.

Also, I'm glad to see that Iowans under 30 line up with that age group nationally in offering majority support to full marriage equality.

To the likes of Bob Vander Plaats and Ted Sporer, I can only say that the future doesn't belong to you. Your political party must change or die. Either one would be fine with me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's a very special Thanksgiving prayer from William S. Burroughs:

(Via Reason.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On Athletics

It's a real shame that a small number of Hawkeye athletes have disgraced our good names with their (alleged) illegal sexual encounters. If it weren't for these mounting scandals, I would have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for the sportsmen and sportswomen who represent the black and gold. I pretty much love athletes altogether. I'm not one of those people who think they get too much attention or too much money, because I accept a fact that many jealous attackers do not: athletes (at least most of them) are larger than life. And no matter how much you argue, I will never shake the belief that athletes are not normal people.
They're just not. They are larger than life, and that's just how I like them. I don't like thinking of an Iowa football player as just a regular student like me; I like thinking of him as a monster who could rip my head off. Sports are just more fun that way.
That said, there are those few rare moments that can make us think that maybe, just maybe, athletes are ordinary people (capable of extraordinary things, let's not forget). Maybe one of these moments was when the paparazzi was following Tom Brady last year and asked him how both his ankle and his supermodel girlfriend Gisele Bundchen were doing. Maybe one of these times is captured in the Youtube clip of Charles Barkley's horrifically embarassing golf swing (you should check that out). Or maybe one of these moments happened when I saw Shonn Greene (the record-holder for most rushing yards in a single season for a Hawk) near the Old Capitol Mall last week.
There he was. Just chillin. And altho he looked normal in his baseball hat and hoodie, I knew that he was not. I knew this because I felt the same kind of excitement when I saw him that I did as a little kid getting ready to watch Michael Jordan on TV. Oh he acted normal enough, and so did I. I just shot him the casual head-nod and offered, "Good luck, congratulations." But this encounter considered, that man is not normal.
He is not normal because he just broke the record for most rushing yards in a single season by an Iowa Hawkeye. I am normal because I've played 3-on-3 pick-up basketball in my high school gymnasium everyday this break, and I'm so sore I can hardly fucking walk. So the next time you want to claim that athletes get too much money and they're good for nothing and they have huge egos, just you remember: they can do things you and I can't. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Go Greene. Go Hawks. Outback or bust.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smoking Ban Thoughts

Check this out. It's from the short-lived Andy Dick Show on MTV a few years ago, and I think it's appropriate for what I'm going to talk about.

It seems like the only real purpose of the smoking ban was to keep things politically correct.

All the time I see people smoking on campus. Don't worry; this does not bother me. But everyone made such a big deal about the smoking ban, so shouldn't it be enforced? There are always folks enjoying a drag strolling through the Pentacrest, or chilling outside of dorm buildings, or probably even walking back to the dorms. If this smoking ban is as big an issue as everyone made it out to be, I would expect on-campus smoking to be put out just like bar-smoking was. But it hasn't, and I think this shows that smoking doesn't bother as many people as we earlier thought.

Granted, it's a lot easier to enforce the smoking ban in bars, because it would be obvious if a person lit up in a bar. But still, after the ban, smoking in bars shot down to zero. Smoking on campus is probably exactly where it was before the ban. This is because the only people who actually cared about this issue were the groups who dictated the coverage of this issue; those people were the extremists on each end of the spectrum: either the anti's who claimed asthma and slightly-irritated eyes, or the traditionalists who thought that cocktails and cigarettes had gone together for years and should for years more.

The rest of us probably didn't care what happened with public smoking. So officials did what they had to do. They kept the peace, made people happy, and instituted the ban. And now that it's in effect, the only way it will have an effect is if it is enforced. What are people supposed to think when there is absolutely no smoking in bars, but virtually the same amount happening on campus?

Well, I'll tell you what I think. I think the smoking ban is a law that holds no real weight in the greater scheme of things. Indoor public places should be smoke-free, but if we're trying to set an example for the rest of the nation, we should enforce the smoking ban everywhere it's supposed to be enforced.

Surface Selves

How far into our fantasies do we allow ourselves to get? Oh, I don’t mean psychotic breaks or shrines to a secret admiree in the closet, but the smaller fantasies, the day-to-day moments we play out. Body image fantasies, let’s say: the perception of the body as flawed, “wrong,” too fat, too bald, not enough muscle, weird earlobes, hairy knuckles, that yellow toenail…It can go on and on. But the scary part isn’t the initial body fantasy, but when people try to “correct” their flawed bodies with absurd diets, overindulged fitness programs, Just For Men, the whole array of body-adjustment—some of it healthy, some not—that our culture provides. This always seemed strange to me. If the body is made up of these overlapping fantasies, then why do people try to fix it with more fantasy? And that’s what I mean when I ask how far do we go. How tangled and complex do we allow our daily fantasies to get, and how much control do we grant them?

A man in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, Canada, was charged with murder last month. Mark Twitchell is a filmmaker, whose only complete accomplishment is a prequel to Star Wars that he wrote, directed, produced and starred in. His other project was halted in the middle of filming: an eight-minute short depicting a man being tied to a chair and tortured by a vigilante out for undone justice. Eventually the man is decapitated. This little gem sadly won’t be the darling of the Sundance short-film category, because Mark Twitchell was arrested for killing a man in much the same fashion as his character does on screen. He even used the set designs of his film for the actual murder.

If the fantasy line is almost entirely blurred away by this point, then it was erased when Edmonton police discovered Twitchell’s obsession with the television show Dexter and his idolization of its main character. On the program Dexter is a serial killer, claiming that he has no feelings or emotions, and who blends into society by wearing a constant mask of cheer and friendliness. This allows him to hunt his victims without drawing attention to himself, and his victims are all themselves murderers or serial killers. Anyway, the premise of the show and Dexter’s psychology apparently resonate with Twitchell, who first translated his own version into film, and then reality. I want to know why.

Sometimes characters in movies, books and TV shows seem pretty real. They have traceable, defined habits and mannerisms, and they are generally bound by premise to behave in certain ways towards their circumstances or other characters. I often find myself wishing I were Dr. House, smart enough to get away with pissing everyone off. A friend of mine wants nothing more than to have lunch with a real-life Rory and Lorelai Gilmore. I’m pretty sure my uncle wants to be Humbert Humbert. I have to stop myself, and remember that real people aren’t like that. People aren’t coherent, or defined by cause and effect, and overall just don’t make sense. We are messy creatures with histories and hang-ups we ourselves can’t even parse out. Maybe that’s why befriending a character is easy—they never change, or if they do, it’s in a straight shot, tied to events themselves grounded in story. In fantasy.

But where is that line again? What makes a man descend into himself so fully that he can’t recognize his fantasy? Catharsis in watching a torture-porn flick like the latest Saw, sure, why not, if it works for some. But when a man watches the blood and gore go dripping down the screen and says to himself, “I will make this happen,” can it be called the same thing? Mark Twitchell must have at some point noticed that Dexter isn’t real, otherwise he wouldn’t have felt the need to create such catharsis in his very own garage.

Or maybe I have it backwards. Maybe he just finally felt he’d found someone who was similar enough that he could learn something. We all have our idols, don’t we, those fake-people who for whatever reason seem like they have something to say, even if it comes from fiction. Mark Twitchell might have thought he’d really learned from Dexter, really seen some kind of shining possibility for his own life.

So I come again to the nature of fantasy. How enmeshed in ourselves, and the things we incorporate into ourselves, are we? How do we create for ourselves a reality that seems so concrete when it ultimately just isn’t? (I am thinking of the Buddhist concept of absolute reality, wherein nothing has inherent meaning and therefore everything is nothing, unless we convince ourselves otherwise...more or less). It’s necessary, I guess, this world-building that we do, otherwise we wouldn’t go to work, do our chores, learn, fight for causes, or even write. We have to generate for ourselves these less-than-realities. But that line again, that blurry line will always be there, and I worry sometimes whether I’ve stepped across it without knowing. I wonder if Mark Twitchell worries about that, as well.

Noise Violators Punished with Barry Manilow

Sorry, I felt compelled to post this!

On Solitude

I seem to be intimidated by silence. Even sitting here in my bedroom I always have my stereo on, providing that background structure of noise necessary for my habitation of the space while I work. I switch it off, and the quiet blooms around me, and the corners appear messier, busier than they did before, the ceiling and walls a little farther away, as if everything were stepping back in breathless expectation of something. Maybe that’s it—silence waits to be filled, an acoustic hole in the air, and perhaps it is this sensation of perpetual almost-slipping-into that has me so nervous of it. In any case, it is perhaps the chief reason why I can’t stand to be alone.

I drive with the radio on, or a CD playing or my iPod jacked into the auxiliary, and when I’m not listening to music at home I have an episode of some TV show or other streaming through my laptop (sometimes I’m watching it, more often not): these are stand-ins for other people, they provide what feels like another presence, linear and indifferent, and as the song or episode ends there’s that awful falling-off that comes with the fade out, the roll of credits. I feel it coming, and my gut goes through a brief jitter as the sound cuts out, as I am left again alone, and I fairly scramble to hit play on something else before I have to spend too much time like that.

But these in proxy to the real thing, to real people peopling my span of atmosphere. There are very few nights I can’t be found at my preferred pub downtown, which serves as my second office. I might be up at the bar prattling with others, perhaps themselves like me, these lost souls suffering the crushing weightlessness of their own respective silences, or sitting back in my booth with a bourbon in one hand and a book in the other. It doesn’t matter so much that I interact, simply that there are bodies nearby. In daylight this compulsion subsides somewhat, and music or TV works to fill whatever hole I feel myself being drawn towards. But at night, when dark settles (and it’s doing it much earlier these days), I’m struck by an almost debilitating loneliness, which isn’t loneliness in the usual sense but simply a craving for some break in the solitude.

I’ve never understood it when people tell me they like being alone. That they have their personal, solitary rituals and relaxations—it let’s them gather their thoughts, they say, or, it helps them unwind. Reading the morning paper, walking the dog, biking to work, that sort of stuff. I don’t quite know what this sensation is, this enjoyment of solitude, what it really feels like; it’s never what they do alone, that doesn’t seem to matter, but the simple manner of doing something alone transforms it to some sacred process. Perhaps others wreak a fantastic magic out of these little activities, there are flashes of light and angelic singing, perhaps these alchemists of solitude work in it a gilded quality that can’t be achieved in the presence of others. I don’t know.

My mind and body work better, smoother, have more fun with themselves in company. Things people say or do, or don’t, their existence within my space and others’, their almost gravity-guided movements between them: I watch it, think about it, enjoy it for its novelty, or familiarity, I take it all in and I feel like I truly am of the world. In silence I feel oddly divorced from reality, and at night, looking out my dark window at the construction site now emptied of workers and barely visible in the gloom, the feeling swells into a great expanse of not-there, as if something has happened to the world before it’s filtered through my senses to make it thinner and farther away.

And so I retreat to my cozy den, meeting place for my kind, the silence-fearers, hole-fillers, reluctant roamers of the world’s weird wall (to borrow a phrase)—where do we get that from, I wonder? What silent trauma have our line experienced, what damage done in the depths of history to birth this species drifting along with the other, silence-embracing breeds of human? What happened to make me need company, down the steps into the well- but diffusely-lit room strung with beer signs and TVs in the corners of the ceiling, and another person, if only the barkeep, occupying airspace opposite me. Silence is banished beneath waves of sound, from conversation and jukebox tunes to the tiny thud of glasses being set on the bar. Reality snaps into place for a moment, being so occupied with itself, and I find I’m able to move through it instead of anxiously edging past it.

People seek out their dens in other places, I suppose. The library is a similar space, a sort of solitary togetherness where we trace the aisles, fingers on book spines. Or coffee shops, or the gym. For my grandmother, back in her day, socializing happened in the grocery store, chatting with neighboring housewives in the produce section. But I wonder if this drive for being among others is so driven by fear of solitude (my reason), or more for other, further nuanced reasons unique to the person? I might then be the only one of My Kind, in that sense, and only the symptoms of loneliness bring us together at our various watering holes, and not some categorizable mass neurosis. I imagine much could be inferred by the ways in which a person chooses to come into contact with another. Perhaps it is a sign of loneliness, true loneliness now, that I even consider that others who have my ways—you know, barflies—suffer them for my reasons. It makes me wonder, at the end, how lonely people are, and what loneliness even is.

Finger-Pointing Must End

Struggle and oppression are nothing new to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community. The gay rights movement has had its share of ups and downs over the past few centuries. At one point in time, two men or women who shared a romantic or sexual relationship were violating most state laws. If a person were to label him or herself as a homosexual, this person could be declared mentally insane. A man who dressed in women’s clothes because this is how he truly felt about his gender identity would have likely been arrested for violating his state’s cross-dressing ordinance.

But in 1962, Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. In 1973, homosexuality was removed from The American Psychiatric Association’s official list of mental disorders. Around the same time, cross-dressing ordinances began to lose their legal validity.

This year’s election was monumental, not only because we elected the first African American president, but because of the issues at stake. For the GLBT community, one of the most critical issues was quite justifiably Proposition 8. Earlier this summer, the proverbial closet door began opening in California, only slightly, to allow gay and lesbian couples to move forward into the world of equality.

But after the election and after Proposition 8 was passed, the closet door slammed shut, and the GLBT community once again has been forced to revel in a reality which consists of second-class citizenship and inequality. Gay and lesbian couples-many who have been together for longer than many heterosexual marriages even last- rushed to the alter after California began allowing same-sex marriage, but are now being told that the declarations of love and devotion they made in front of friends, family, and society at large, are no longer valid.

Let me just begin by saying that I am just as outraged that Proposition 8 passed as everyone else. If this is the way that America treats its citizens-all of its citizens –by granting rights to those who pass some ridiculous “normalcy” test and denying rights to those who just don’t correctly fit the mold-then I am no longer proud to be an American.

But regardless of how outraged we are as members and allies of the GLBT community, all of this finger-pointing has to end. Leaving flaming bags of blame on the doorsteps of our opponents is doing nothing to further our cause and is only pulling our society farther away from equality. We may know that Mormon churches dedicated millions of dollars to hinder opponents of Proposition 8. And we may even know that the African American vote contributed to some of its success.

Nevertheless, both sides have gone too far. The militant gay group, Bash Back, interrupted church services in Lansing, Michigan by pulling fire alarms and screaming things like “It’s okay to be gay” and “Jesus is a homo.” In other parts of the country, anti-Proposition 8 protesters have also resorted to similar strategies.

The way to defeat our opponents is definitely not to become them, using questionable morals and scare tactics to further our cause. Sure, these things may prove that the GLBT community is no longer willing to just sit back and continue being treated like the plague of society. In the long run, though, this will get us nowhere. Change and progress come slowly. The GLBT movement has faced challenges before, and the post-Proposition 8 world has already proven to be one of these challenges. The only thing we can really do is keep plugging away at our cause and show our opponents (nonviolently) that the GLBT community and its allies will not be forced back into the closet. Connecticut and Massachusetts have taken the lead in this struggle, and even though a great deal was lost in the passing of Proposition 8, there still exists a beacon of hope that some day in the near future, the GLBT community and its allies will finally secure the equality for which we have long battled.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Opening Pandora's Box: Online Responses to Editorials

The opinions page is the central nervous system of a newspaper. Messages are sent from the audience, or the Metro section, and analyzed by the brain. Information is collected, processed, and then sent out in to the rest of the world in the form of an opinion or debate. Whereas the Metro section is the heart of the paper; an integral part of the machine that brings life to the newspaper. However, the Metro section is largely an involuntary organ; in other words, it’s without thought. Now before every member of the Metro section grabs a pitchfork and torch, hear me out. A Metro reporter is bound by impartiality. Fairness, accuracy, and thoroughness guide a story based on the facts collected by the reporter. Metro is the opening statement of the case – a statement of fact; whereas, the opinions page is the closing argument – an element designed to persuade through argumentative language.

My point being, that an opinions section is, by its very nature, biased. The columnists and editors of the opinions section are not employed to be impartial. We exist for the sole purpose of opining about current events or judging ideologies. Our job is to critique, condemn, and condone. At times, our job is to be objective about two contrary views; while on other occasions, we may aim for provocation. We exist to simulate thought and discussion through salient and terse editorials; our section is not designed to be “fair and balanced” or to “stick to the facts” when constructing an essay that cannot be more than 700 words.

In other words, the myriad of online critiques we receive about “only presenting one side” of the story is a straw man argument. Of course the essay is a one-sided argument. It’s an opinion. It’s a subjective essay designed to persuade or stimulate a debate. If you’re looking for objectivity or in-depth coverage, you are reading the wrong section. Seven hundred words may sound like a lot to those of you that struggle to write a cohesive or complete term paper, but it’s actually quite difficult to present and defend an argument in a concise and persuasive manner in less than 70 lines.

Put differently, try really hard to come up with a better rebuttal than “Why didn’t you mention [insert some tangentially related topic]?” Case in point, among the recent responses to the Chief Illiniwek editorial some responders felt the need to start arguing non sequiturs like the origin of state names, the Washington Redskins, and the Florida State Seminoles. The editorial wasn’t about any of those topics. It was focused on the resurrection of Chief Illiniwek. Bringing up red herrings doesn’t do anything to further the intended discussion. If you have a topical rebuttal, please share; otherwise, save your digression for your own letter to the editor or guest column.

Part of the problem is that the online forum lacks the filtration system offered by traditional responses to an editorial piece. Anyone with a computer is free to write a diatribe, no matter how relevant or offensive. While I hold freedom of speech to a very high degree and encourage online or person-to-person commentary on editorial pieces, I also value accountability. You know my name, my stance, and my contact information. Contrarily, my editorials or columns are subjected to personal attacks or diatribes left my anonymous posters.

I welcome the tit-for-tat nature of being an editorial writer. I love the adversarial nature of the opinions section. But come on, have the fortitude to stand behind your opinions and arguments. We are part of a forum of ideas and debates. Be willing to take responsibility and ownership of your ideas and words, or go whine somewhere else. Posting anonymously just allows users to spew vitriol without any accountability. If you feel moved enough to respond to an editorial or column, why aren’t you willing to release your name? They are your thoughts, your opinions, and your arguments - take credit for them. If you’re worried someone might think less of you based on what you wrote, either you should decide whether the response is appropriate, or you should stopping worrying about people disagreeing with you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"How To Do Defense, When The Money's Gone"

Wired's Danger Room blog reports:
Today we hear from John Robb, a software entrepreneur and former Air Force special operations pilot. He is the author of Brave New War.

The current global economic and financial meltdown may yet become something worse: a protracted global depression. As with the last century's Depression, which spawned fascism and WWII, it could recast the world at a fundamental level. As such, it may soon represent our biggest security challenge in over 50 years. Here's what a global depression means...

Continue reading.

Also, check out Robb's blog: Global Guerrillas. It's unquestionably one of the most interesting sites I follow.

"Fainting spell" my ass

I love to make fun of the conspiracy theorists, but I've gotta call bullshit on this explanation of Michael Mukasey simply having a "fainting spell" last night.

Watch the video and tell me this is a "fainting spell." Typically, in my limited experience with folks who have had fainting spells, they've never slurred their speech, stammered, repeated themselves, or slowly and casually fallen to the ground.

Mukasey is old, 67. I'm guessing he's got a condition (possibly one they just discovered). That didn't look like "the flu."

I'm not saying he's going to retire in three weeks to "spend more time with his family" or whatever other crock of shit they spin to explain it away, but this really doesn't appear to be what they say it is.

All in all, hope the man is well.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Blunt Truth

(Via DoseNation.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Al-Qaeda Lashes Out Against Obama

In an interesting turn in the "war of ideologies" al-Qaeda's #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri - assuming the audio track is in fact al-Zawahiri - has used the words of Malcolm X to cut down the first African-American president-elect. A transcript of Malcolm X's dichotomy between the "House Negro" and the "Field Negro" can be found here, otherwise watch the speeches on YouTube.

Fox News reported that al-Zawahiri called Obama "dishonorable" as well. Sound familiar?

But anyways, the point being that the reason al-Qaeda is portraying Obama as more of the same rather than change in US foreign policy is because he is pro-Israel. Black, white, purple or green, all that matters to the racists demagogues of Al-Qaeda is that if you support the "Zionist enemy" then you are nothing more than a continuance of the "Zionist-Crusade" against the Muslim nation (umma). Al-Zawahiri has to castigate Obama quickly and link him to a continuing "plot" to rid the world of Muslims or else the young disaffected Muslims that al-Qaeda preys on might stop listening to the twisted ideology and adulterated Islam that comes from Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.

On a different note, doesn't it scare anyone else that if the racist Americans that shouted "off with this head" and other racial slurs re: Obama sat down with people like al-Zawahiri that they would find they have a lot in common?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Offensive Christmas Schlock of the year

The American Family Association is distributing these classy, er, interesting crosses for the front yards of good American Christians.

Someone in their design and research department isn't pulling his or her weight, though. From more than five feet away the thing looks like a burning cross.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ted Haggard Blames His Attraction To Men On Child Abuse

(Via--big surprise--Towleroad.)

The AP also has a story up about this.

If Haggard was actually molested as a child, I truly feel sorry for him. No one should ever have to suffer such a terrible trauma. Because I am not a victim of such abuse, I can't even imagine how damaging it could be.

However, asserting that being molested turns people gay is not only unfounded, it's quite harmful. Sadly, many fundamentalist Christian groups claim that the psychological harm caused by events like child abuse is a primary cause of homosexuality. This belief is in no way supported by legitimate psychological research. The reason this notion is so pernicious is that it convinces many religiously conservative parents of gay children that their kids must have been abused. Obviously, this can make the coming out process even more difficult than it generally already is.

Gay people aren't sick. Arguing that we are is incredibly insulting. And irresponsible. It needs to stop.

Anyway, I promise the blog won't be so homo-centric next week. There really are other things I'm interested in.

Why Is God Still Punishing California?

CNN reports:
A wind-driven brush fire roaring through the canyons of Santa Barbara County has burned more than 100 homes, injured 13 people and charred more than 2,500 acres, a county spokeswoman said.

Michelle Mickiewicz said residents of more than 4,500 homes were ordered to evacuate as flames from the Tea Fire engulfed multimillion-dollar mansions and modest ranch-style homes north of Los Angeles. The blaze began Thursday evening.

Several weeks before the election, I blogged about this guy, who claimed that God might send more fires to punish Californians if they didn't vote to ban gay marriage in their state:

So, what's his explanation for the fires raging now? Did God fail to notice Prop 8's passage? Or is this evidence that God actually opposed the anti-gay ballot initiative?

Of course, I think it's simply yet another reason why religious people should stop claiming that natural disasters are evidence of divine wrath. It makes them look not only insensitive but also incredibly silly.

Jon Stewart Versus Bill O'Reilly


The exchange on marriage equality is particularly telling. Stewart obviously gets it. He's an excellent spokesman for his viewers who line up solidly in the demographic most supportive of gay rights. O'Reilly, on the other hand, serves as the ideal foil on this issue, standing in for his older, more bigoted audience. Thankfully, time and history march on.

(Via Towleroad.)

Rachel Maddow Stands Up For Bloggers

(Via Towleroad.)

If only it were the case that wearing a suit and being on television meant that a person was necessarily intelligent and insightful. Sure, some of the blog entries I read and share each day contain crude humor or other controversial content that wouldn't be acceptable in the mainstream media. However, many of the blogs I follow engage in the kind of extensive expert analysis that simply can't be crammed into the broadcast media's sound byte-centric format. Thus, dismissing all bloggers because some of them aren't serious doesn't make any more sense than saying Charlie Rose must be as terrible of an interviewer as Sean Hannity just because they both appear on television.

Why Continue Fighting AGAINST Gay Equality In The U.S.?

World War II officially ended with the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. But some Japanese soldiers stationed in isolated regions either didn't receive or didn't believe the news of their side's defeat. These men held out for years, refusing to give up on a lost cause.

Likewise, though it is clear that the long and painful struggle for gay equality in this country is at last nearing its end, increasingly marginalized anti-gay culture warriors fight on.

Though the passage of anti-gay ballot initiatives in several states on Nov. 4 proved that opponents of gay rights remain vigorous and numerous enough to win a few more battles, public-opinion data prove that they have already lost the war. I've cited the relevant polls in several past columns and editorials, but I will do so again because many people still just don't seem to get it.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in May showed, as such polls almost always do these days, that a majority of Americans under the age of 30 are in favor of legalizing gay marriage. And the silver lining of the California gay-marriage ban's passage was that voters in that age group opposed the measure by an overwhelming 22 percent, according to CNN's exit poll. As I wrote last week, without the votes of Californians over the age of 65, who favored the ban by 22 percent, it probably wouldn't have passed.

Regardless of these facts, powerful figures in the Republican Party refuse to admit defeat in their hard-fought struggle against gay rights.

Bob Vander Plaats, who ran unsuccessfully for Iowa lieutenant governor in 2006 and later served as former Gov. Mike Huckabee's campaign head in the state, this week added his name to the list of Iowa Republicans who remain in denial over where the country is headed.

"Republicans rev up their base by declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman, only to walk away from the issue when it poses a threat to personal ambition. The result is no trust … no vote," he wrote in the Des Moines Register. "If Republicans are to win again, they must authentically embrace their core principles and effectively communicate a compelling message of bold-color conservatism that inspires faith, family, and freedom."

Of course, gay marriage was not the only issue Vander Plaats addressed in his guest column, but it's obviously something that he feels strongly about. And I don't expect that to change. It's absolutely his right to believe what he wants about the moral status of gays and lesbians. However, pretending that opposition to gay marriage will continue to be a winning campaign strategy in the future is nothing short of delusional.

But I won't deny social conservatives such as Vander Plaats their due. Ultimately, it turns out that they were absolutely right about at least one thing. Positive portrayals of gays and lesbians in the mainstream media have had an enormous effect on young people's attitudes regarding homosexualiy. Most Americans who have grown up over the last 30 years haven't been indoctrinated with the anti-gay propaganda that used to saturate our society.

Some might argue that it's still possible to turn back the clock, but that hardly seems realistic. Homophobic attitudes can only be maintained through ignorance and fear. Now, most young people understand that gays and lesbians aren't scary, that we're ordinary people who just want to be treated equally.

And we will be. Given demographic reality, time is on our side.

So why do social conservatives continue wasting so much time and money in their doomed struggle on this waning front of the culture war?

Like the Japanese holdouts after World War II, some people are unaware that they have lost. This is likely the case with many ordinary voters. Others, such as political leaders who are well aware of public-opinion trends, must be in denial.

Nationwide, CNN's exit-poll data indicate that the Republican Party lost the 2008 presidential election by an astounding 34 percent among voters under the age of 30. If the party wants to win in the future, it needs to attract more of these people. And continuing to oppose gay rights is not a good strategy for doing so.

(Cross-posted at the DI's main site, where the headline unfortunately got scrambled.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dan Savage Versus Tony Perkins

(Via Slog.)

Also check out Savage's firsthand account of the gay rights protest in New York City last night.

There will be similar demonstrations across the country this Saturday--including in Iowa City. There will be more on that in my column for tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Many Congressional Democrats Are Part Of The Problem

Glenn Greenwald reminds everyone that merely electing Barack Obama president has done nothing to change the contemptible status quo in Congress:
Though it hasn't happened yet, it is appearing increasingly likely that Senate Democrats -- led by Barack Obama (who seems to be playing a much more active role in all of this than his spokesperson yesterday suggested) -- are going to choose Joe Lieberman to serve as their Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the next Congress. If that happens, there will be one important silver lining: it will remind many people, who have understandably forgotten due to the euphoria last week, exactly what most Beltway Democrats are, what their priorities and beliefs are, and to whose opinions and concerns they do and do not pay attention.

It is worth remembering that the Democrats who are going to exert dominant political control are the same ones who have provoked so much scorn -- rightfully so -- over the last several years, and particularly since 2006. This is the same Democratic Party leadership which funded the Iraq War without conditions (and voted to authorize it in the first place); massively expanded the President's warrantless eavesdropping powers; immunized lawbreaking telecoms; enacted the Patriot Act and then renewed it with virtually no changes; didn't even bother to mount a filibuster to stop the Military Commissions Act; refrained from pursuing any meaningful investigations of Bush lawbreaking; confirmed every last extremist Bush nominee, from Michael McConnell to Michael Mukasey; acquiesced to even the worst and most lawless Bush policies when they were briefed on them; and on and on and on. None of that has changed. That is still who they are.

Continue reading.

Connecticut Begins Allowing Gay Couples To Wed Today

(Via Towleroad.)

Looking back on the last several posts, this seems to be turning into something of a gay opinions blog. But there's a lot going on with gay rights now, so that's what I'm following.

In any case, way to go Connecticut.

Come on, anti-marriage equality bigots, just give up already. You've lost the war--stop wasting time and money fighting more pointless battles. A generation from now there will be an overwhelming national consensus in favor of full marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Learn to live with it.

Dan Savage Discusses Gay Marriage On The Colbert Report


Savage remains my hero.

He also has a great op-ed in the New York Times:
But while Californians march and gay activists contemplate a national boycott of Utah — the Mormon Church largely bankrolled Proposition 8 — an even more ominous new law in Arkansas has drawn little notice.

That state’s Proposed Initiative Act No. 1, approved by nearly 57 percent of voters last week, bans people who are “cohabitating outside a valid marriage” from serving as foster parents or adopting children. While the measure bans both gay and straight members of cohabitating couples as foster or adoptive parents, the Arkansas Family Council wrote it expressly to thwart “the gay agenda.” Right now, there are 3,700 other children across Arkansas in state custody; 1,000 of them are available for adoption. The overwhelming majority of these children have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their heterosexual parents.

Even before the law passed, the state estimated that it had only about a quarter of the foster parents it needed. Beginning on Jan. 1, a grandmother in Arkansas cohabitating with her opposite-sex partner because marrying might reduce their pension benefits is barred from taking in her own grandchild; a gay man living with his male partner cannot adopt his deceased sister’s children.

Continue reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Protect Marriage By Prohibiting Divorce

See more funny videos at Funny or Die


Sign the petition here.

(Via Towleroad.)

"Shaking Hands With The Devil"

Samantha Power talks about genocide and how the international community responds to it:


Power was one of the Obama campaign's top foreign policy advisers until she resigned after referring to Hillary Clinton as "a monster" who was "stooping to anything" to win the Democratic presidential nomination. However, months prior to that unfortunate statement, Power spoke on Obama's behalf at the UI. She gave a fascinating talk that I covered for the Daily Iowan.

Hopefully, Power will end up being a major figure in the incoming Obama administration.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Keith Olbermann On Prop 8

(Via Towleroad.)

Amen, Keith. Amen. Thank you, sir. Thank you. This truly, truly means a lot to me.

Print, pixels, and objectivity

Unfortunately I must resort to this blog as my primary means of communication with our readers, as one of our editorials has been censored and I cannot use the printed page to convey news, information, and opinion to you all.

The editorial was pulled not because it was factually inaccurate or used inappropriate language, but because it's nature was self-deprecating. Though this editorial may have been self-depricating to the printed page and to the tradition of it as we have come to know it so far it is - in fact - a matter of actual events that are occurring as we speak.

I have grown up with comics on Sunday mornings. I've come to love getting ink smudges on my fingers from combing through the paper. I love searching the internet for news but it doesn't come close to holding a sudoku in my hands or folding the page containing the crossword into quarters. I need the smell of ink in the morning as much as I need the smell of coffee or orange juice. There is something of a visceral osmosis that occurs from holding the front page and taking in the printed pictures, the headlines, and the saw-toothed edges of the page. Newspapers are my life, and I love the printed page.

That said, it would take an incredible amount of ignorance, arrogance, and narrow vision to dismiss the massive trends sweeping printed media, namely the hard times that our fellow media members are experiencing at papers like the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and Christian Science Monitor. We don't welcome them, we don't like them, quite obviously, but the fact of the matter is this; news is moving to electronic format and away from the tradition of the major daily. Is it sad? Surely. But it's hard fact, and to deny that fact is simply dishonest.

Neal Schuett has written a solid editorial that discusses some of these changes, and I was made aware of the fact that it will not be running well after deadline Thursday night. This is not my decision, and I have unsuccessfully appealed it, and will continue those efforts as I think ignoring editorial content and/or news because we (as professionals) do not care for it's intonations is completely against what journalism is about.

Though we may have disagreements from time to time (now being one of those times), please understand that I am immensely proud of my fellow staff at the Daily Iowan. Even those that I may disagree with. They are people of incredible talent, and they make decisions that they believe are best for the paper. They are not without integrity, and they are good people. They have nothing but my utmost respect.

I'll keep you all updated and inform you of any news. Thank you for your readership.

Nate Whitney


As the editorial in question will never see printed page, I have been granted permission to run it, in full, here on The Podium.

I hope that in reading this we can further a discussion on these issues, because they ARE out there and they ARE happening, and a frank discourse with our readership concerning these issues is imperative, if only because I feel - as journalists - it's our job to bring you all the information that's available to us, and not just the things we care to talk about.


The Monitor: Harbinger of Change or Kiss of Death?

On October 28, 2008, just under a century after the Christian Science Monitor first began publication, Editor John Yemma announced that the Monitor will shift in April 2009 to a predominately online news site with a weekly print magazine. In an industry that is witnessing circulation numbers slip and a steep decline in revenue, the Monitor’s decision to go almost completely paperless is an experiment many fear signals the end of an era.

Almost every American is familiar with the Norman Rockwell-esque picture of the family bread winner with a cup of hot coffee in one hand and with the other holding the daily newspaper as the kids sit down at the breakfast table to eat. Rockwell’s memoriam to the quintessential American family has gone wireless. Mom in her office with her morning brew staring at a computer screen while Dad tinkers with his BlackBerry and kids listen to their iPod Touch doesn’t invoke the same warm fuzzy feeling. Morning routines are completed with checking e-mail and reading RSS feeds at broadband speed instead of taking the time to peruse the Wall Street Journal or complete the New York Times Crossword.

The Chicago Tribune reported that when New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was asked about whether the Old Gray Lady will still be in print ten years from now he responded, “The heart of the answer must be we don’t care. But we do care.” Traditionalists cling to the print form as a symbol erudite American culture. However, nostalgia for reading daily prints certainly hasn’t stopped the five percent decrease in circulation, reported by the Audit Bureau, over the last six months. Nor has it stopped the decline in revenue from print advertisements. Faced with less revenue, the Tribune reports even Time, Inc. and Gannett Co. are laying off six percent and ten percent of their work force respectfully.

During an economic crisis, consumers won’t tolerate the rising subscription fees for daily and weekly prints when they are struggling to pay the utility bills. Furthermore, tech-savvy consumers are demanding online forums, interactive news feeds, and up-to-the-second news updates all to be at their fingertips via their mobile phones or at the click of a button. News prints are cumbersome, wasteful, and are becoming less cost-efficient in comparison to the free blogs and RSS feeds popping up on the Internet daily. Why subscribe to the Times, the Post, or the Tribune for information that comes up for free in Google Reader when you open your Internet browser?

While iGoogle widgets themselves may be free to users, as anyone at the Daily Iowan can tell you, the news won’t deliver or write itself. Your favorite blogger, Facebook notes, and Twitter feeds depend on someone to relay and compile the news as it happens around the globe. The future of news may be online; however, it won’t be free of charge. Selling online ad space alone won’t pay for the cost of running a newspaper. The Christian Science Monitor’s profits depend largely on daily subscription fees. Even with the move to a predominately online medium, Managing Publisher Jonathan Wells told the Tribune, “Ad revenues from our Web site and circulation revenue from our print and e-news editions form the basis of our business model” (emphasis added).

Hopefully the Monitor’s great experiment will work; thus, encouraging more national and international papers to take the plunge into unknown future that is e-news. Switching to paperless news mediums will lower production costs, decrease the amount of fuel and energy required to print and deliver a daily paper, and it will decrease the substantial amount of waste that is created by once-read daily prints. Traditionalists may be resistant to an e-news future; however the Monitor’s resolve to go paperless should be supported as not only a smart business decision but an eco-friendly choice as well.

A Great Weekend to be a Hawkeye!

By now every corner of Hawkeye nation has heard the echo of the victory drums after this weekend's historic upset of Penn State. Fans and players alike braved the cold weather under the common banner of black and antique gold, the same banner that both parties raised as thousands flooded the field after the game-winning field goal of Daniel Murray split the uprights and gave the Hawkeyes their biggest upset in the Kirk Ferentz era.

Three hundred miles to the north of Iowa City a bevy of undergraduate Hawkeyes braved the cold for a different, yet competitive, purpose. Over thirty University of Iowa students climbed into a caravan of University Fleet Services vehicles Friday morning and drove to the Twin Cities. They returned in the dark of Sunday night victorious, even dominant. However, unlike their Kinnick-playing brethren the victory of these students will go unnoticed. Their efforts will not be covered by web sites or newspapers. Their representation of the black and gold means little to anyone but their peers and parents. The title of "undefeated tournament champion," and placing four teams in the top ten of a forty-four team tournament will, for no other reason than they don't play at Kinnick or Carver, earn these students absolutely no respect from the University community.

Every year upwards of fifty University of Iowa students compete in a season that lasts longer than college football and college basketball combined. They spend an average of nine hours a week, all extra-curricular, honing their skills and practicing while balancing their heavy course loads and jobs. By the end of their season these students will have traveled to both coasts and many cities in between, sometimes four to five weekends in a row. Unlike their west campus peers, they pay for almost all of the expenses out of their own pockets -whereas most of their adversaries boast school-provided budgets in the tens of thousands of dollars. Distinct from their west-side peers, these students graduate - many with multiple degrees, and with honors. Contrary to their peers who play at Kinnick and Carver, over the last ten years this competitive Hawkeye squad has not only made it into post-season play, they have consistently placed with high honors.

Even though their banners are not hung from the rafters of Carver; their accolades are not carved in brick, marble, or metal; their plentiful stock of trophies and medals gather dust in an unadorned cabinet, or various apartments closets, rather than being displayed with the fanfare of a three-story hall of fame; and even though their historical back-to-back national championships and seven year national top five finishes streak will not be used to recruit anyone to our institution, these students will continue to strive for greatness and will work tirelessly to uphold the name of "The University of Iowa." The University of Iowa Mock Trial students have pride in what they do for the University community, even if the substantial majority of campus and alumni refuse to honor their accomplishes and efforts. They bleed Black and Gold just as much as every person that was able to watch the football team win at Kinnick this weekend; and they deserve the same recognition for their accomplishments and success just as much as those that wear an Iowa jersey.

To all the students that competed over the last month in St. Louis, Des Moines, Washington D.C., Mt. Vernon, and St. Paul, that continue to earn the respect of other schools across the country, and uphold the level of competitiveness associated with "The University of Iowa", I would like to say, "Thank you. Keep doing what you do." It truly was a great weekend to be a Hawkeye!

The Lamest Of Lame Ducks

CNN reports:
As President-elect Obama visits the White House, a new national poll suggests that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the most unpopular president in the six decades since presidential approval ratings were first measured.

Seventy-six percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday disapprove of how George W. Bush is handling his job as President. That's an all-time high in CNN polling, or in Gallup polling dating back to World War II.

"No other president's disapproval rating has gone higher than 70 percent. Bush has managed to do that three times so far this year," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That means that Bush is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate with a 66 percent disapproval rating."

Wow, 10 percent more unpopular than Nixon. Way to go, Bush!

Clearly, Only Unemployed Losers Smoke Pot

(Via Radley Balko.)

So when will our government give up its idiotic propaganda campaign? Probably not any time soon, but that would be change I could believe in.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More On Prop 8 And The African American Vote

Via Dan Savage:

Savage also draws attention to an article containing this key data point:
Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams said her chapter was so divided it chose not to take a position on Proposition 8, although the California NAACP opposed it.

"We were split right down the middle," Williams said, with younger people tending to oppose rather than favor it.

Overall, California voters aged 18 to 29 rejected Prop 8 by a whopping 22 percent margin. So, regardless of how frustrated and angry I am about the initiative's success this time around, the demographics point to an inevitable reversal. With sincere apologies to the socially progressive senior citizens I know, I'm really looking forward to the political landscape 20 years from now when the only age group currently strongly opposed to gay rights has passed away.

Maybe that's the only way humanity ever really progresses.

Political diversity in the media, too much of a good thing

I'm glad the election is over. Two years of divisive finger-pointing has finally come to a close.
Better yet, I'm glad that the Bush administration is in its waning hours. Yes, because I don't like Bush and what he's done to this country (they won't give you media credentials if you don't say these things) but I'm glad it's all over for a bigger reason. I couldn't take MSNBC much longer.

With the interwebs growing like crabgrass and spreading its tendrils of influence into every possible nook and cranny of our society, with satellite TV broadening it's strength by the minute and cable television double-fisting protein shakes and Power Bars our media is becoming insanely diverse. There is literally a smörgåsbord of information, an all-you-can-eat buffet of anything for everyone available. Demographics are becoming increasingly narrow, and our interests - it seems - can always be satisfied, no matter how ridiculously specific they may be.
You're an atheist vegetarian crochet-nut who enjoys rock climbing and Thai takeout? There's a channel for you. Have a thing for alligators? Wish there was a magazine about alligators that also satisfied your thirst for hunting knowledge and was printed in Chinese? Just wait, it's around the corner, I'm sure. Are you of Lithuanian ancestry, have a passion for black velvet paintings and wish there was more erotic cinema out there that included lesbians and dill pickles? You've obviously never seen

All that aside, MSNBC has become so liberal that it nauseates me nearly as much as FOX News, though FOX is still a much purer form of epicac because it blatantly denies it's own form of existence with the tired "fair and balanced" line. MSNBC is the blue network, parading Olbermann and Maddow and Matthews in a seemingly endless conga-line of Democratic party flag-waving. A strange transition has started, however, now that the Bush era is coming to a close. Instead of continuously jumping up and down on what little remains of the proverbial dead horse of the GOP administration, MSNBC is now glowing in the post-election aura of the sacred Obama administration. It's less informational broadcasting and more inspirational broadcasting. I've got high hopes for our next administration, but these clowns in New York at MSNBC's headquarters are ridiculous. I'm beginning to wonder if Barack will be attempting to fly a NASA crew to Mars under his own power (boy, will his arms be tired).

I know diversity in media is a good thing, and I know it's increasing. I know that the days of purely objective media are nearly over, and I can tolerate a slight leaning one way or the other when I disseminate information, but I've about had it. CNN has become futile and gaudy, focusing on sideshow technological flare like (fake) holographic reporters and maps that pop up in thin air. FOX News is in mourning, and Sean Hannity is giving himself bruises from his agressive hand writhing, whimpering like a puppy about "conservatism in exile." I've got my BBC America, bits from Jim Lehrer on PBS and Lakshmi Singh on NPR, and I continue to check and Agence France. But what is there out there for the less-disseminating of the masses? Is there anyone out there that can give it to me straight? That can give it to us straight?

Sadly, the answer is no.

The Past And Future Of The Internet

Kevin Kelly points out the fact that the worldwide web is only just over 6,500 days old and predicts how it will evolve over the next 6,500 days:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama has created a website for his transition team:

He's using the site as a way of making the transition more transparent and participatory than it has ever been in the past. So far, so good. Hopefully he keeps this up.

Election Results Retrospective

The day before the election, I predicted that Obama would win the popular vote by 6 percent and the electoral college with 382 electoral votes, leaving McCain with only 156.

Though the popular vote total isn't yet fully cemented at this point, the margin seems to be somewhere between 6 and 7 percent. And, as Missouri seems to have very narrowly tilted in McCain's favor, the electoral college numbers are 364 to 173. My only mistakes were putting Georgia and either North Dakota or Montana in Obama's column. In Georgia I was overly optimistic about Bob Barr's numbers. But overall I think my guesses were pretty good.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Prop 8 And The African American Vote

I took a lot of heat yesterday from a regular commenter/troll for mentioning my frustration with the disproportionate support for Prop 8 in California's African American population, so I decided to back off the issue until I'd had more time to consider it.

Now I have and I stand by my original thoughts.

I think it's tragic that a group that has suffered as much as African Americans have in this country don't express more as opposed to less sympathy for other persecuted minorities. And it annoys me that African American civil rights leaders don't spend more time focusing on this issue.

Though I greatly appreciated hearing Obama address this problem on the campaign trail, I wish he'd put more effort into delivering this message in California to help defeat Prop 8. I'm not saying that Obama should have only targeted African Americans with this message, but I do think that he has the standing, particularly in African American churches, to help people see gay rights as part of the wider civil rights movement rather than as something immoral and to be fought against.

Ultimately, it's impossible to know for sure whether overwhelming African American support for Prop 8 put the measure over the top. But exit polls can give us an idea. And they indicate that it might have.

Obsidian Wings' Sebastian writes:
It appears that black people in CA may have voted in a greater share than that of their representation of the population. Right around 10% of the vote.

That would mean that given each 1000 voters black people in CA represent 100 of them.

At 69% Yes on 8 that would be 69 Yes and 31 No for each 1000. If they had voted like White voters they would have voted 45 Yes and 55 No. That would make the final vote equal 496 Yes and 504 No (proposition loses 49.6% to 50.4%).

Interestingly, at the 10% vote share level, if a small majority of black people voted against the measure it would have lost (49% Yes, 51% No gives the measure a loss at 49.9%).

Basically, if the black voter share is 10% or higher, the black vote difference from the white vote made the difference so long as the final total is at or below 52%. And if the black voter share is any higher than 10%, it made the difference even if black voters had only split 50-50 instead of the 45-55 shown in white voters.

Commenting on all of this, Dan Savage writes:
African American voters in California voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8, writing anti-gay discrimination into California’s constitution and banning same-sex marriage in that state. Seventy percent of African American voters approved Prop 8, according to exit polls, compared to 53% of Latino voters, 49% of white voters, 49% of Asian voters.

I’m not sure what to do with this. I’m thrilled that we’ve just elected our first African-American president. I wept last night. I wept reading the papers this morning. But I can’t help but feeling hurt that the love and support aren’t mutual.

I do know this, though: I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there—and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum—are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.

I'm with Savage 100 percent.

Clearly, this isn't really about race. Race is purely a social construct anyway. This is about culture. And, for whatever reason, the African American community has a bigger problem accepting gay rights than many other groups in this country.

My goal in pointing this out is to encourage African Americans who support gay rights to speak out more forcefully to their friends and relatives.

I have on several occasions strongly criticized several of my aunts and uncles for making racist remarks. All I ask is that more African Americans make a special effort to do the same when they hear homophobic comments. That sort of pressure from within one's community is one of the best ways to facilitate change.

Finally, the greatest blame for Prop 8's passage obviously falls at the feet of the Mormons and other far-right religious extremists who largely funded and staffed the despicably dishonest campaign against gay marriage in California. And while I hope to see African American voters gradually become more accepting of gay rights over time, I would prefer to see groups such as the Mormons go extinct. Of course this is unlikely to happen, so I'd settle for them giving up their attempts to use the democratic process to force their sectarian religious beliefs on our society as a whole. But that won't stop me from dreaming of a substantially more secular future.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 to the Rescue is looking after the fingers, hands, and blood pressure of online buyers. The internet-based company is moving to "Frustration Free Packaging." Forget about all of those hard plastic shells that require high powered rifles to open and create sharp jagged edges protecting the item you just purchased like razor-wire. A purchase from will come in consumer-friendly and eco-friendly packaging.

Kudos to for finding a nexus between taking the stress out of opening your gift or purchase and helping Mother Earth.

Colorado Amendment 51

In a follow up to my "Palin Paradox" column in the DI, Amendment 51 appears to have failed.

Two Steps Forward And One Step Back

Prop 8, California's ban on gay marriage, seems to have passed.

CNN breaks down the exit polls--make of them what you will...

Men - 51% yes, 49% no
Women - 50% yes, 50% no

White - 47% yes, 53% no
African American - 70% yes, 30% no
Latino - 51% yes, 49% no
Asian - 47% yes, 53% no
Other - 50% yes, 50% no

18 to 29 - 37% yes, 63% no
30 to 44 - 53% yes, 47% no
45 to 64 - 53% yes, 47% no
65 and older - 59% yes, 41% no

Obama Wins

Joshua Cohen and Glenn Loury discuss Obama's victory:

[Technical problems again. Click the link to watch the video.]

Topics covered:
Coastal elites jubilant over Obama’s victory... Has this election changed the character of American democracy?... How will Obama govern?... Barack Hussein Obama. Say it loud, say it proud.... But the moral struggle continues, says Josh... Glenn admits he was wrong about Obama...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes. We. Did.

Obama '08!

No news yet on Prop 8. We'll see exactly how good tonight is. But good enough.

Hell, yeah!

The First Victory Of The Night

Google reports:
All eyes are on the presidential election today, but another important vote just took place at the Federal Communications Commission. By a vote of 5-0, the FCC formally agreed to open up the "white spaces" spectrum -- the unused airwaves between broadcast TV channels -- for wireless broadband service for the public. This is a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications.


I've always thought that there are a lot of really incredible things that engineers and entrepreneurs can do with this spectrum. We will soon have "Wi-Fi on steroids," since these spectrum signals have much longer range than today's Wi-Fi technology and broadband access can be spread using fewer base stations resulting in better coverage at lower cost. And it is wonderful that the FCC has adopted the same successful unlicensed model used for Wi-Fi, which has resulted in a projected 1 billion Wi-Fi chips being produced this year. Now that the FCC has set the rules, I'm sure that we'll see similar growth in products to take advantage of this spectrum.

Now people in rural America may finally get decent Internet access.

Apples and Oranges?

CNN was just talking about minorities voting for Barack Obama merely because his skin pigment is closer to theirs than John McCain's (Their phrasing, not mine). In other words instead of party lines they are voting on racial lines, issues be damned.

So I ask you, readers, assuming limited-to-no knowledge regarding the policies of each campaign:

1) Is there a difference between voting straight party lines and voting straight racial lines?

2) Is there a difference between deciding to vote for Obama because he is black and deciding to not vote for Obama because he is black?

Are all uneducated votes the same, or does the voters intent matter?

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President