Mr. Sandman's Sandbox

The musings of a Deaf Californian on life, politics, religion, sex, and other unmentionables. This blog is not guaranteed to lead to bon mots appropriate for dinner-table conversation; make of it what you will.

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Books, Tomes, Novels, Treatises, and Bestsellers Galore

Well, it's that time of year again-- The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. I wrote about this last year, for those of you that care. This year's edition is this weekend: today and tomorrow. I'll be heading over there tomorrow afternoon, when it's not as gloomy as today. (For the record, I still haven't gotten around to reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. *blush*)

In honor of a great weekend (and anticipated overdose!) of books, I'm posting yet another book meme. This one is slightly different from the one I did last month, but it's revealing in its own way too. Thanks to Verde for finding this. :)

Book Meme!
1. Copy & paste.
2. Bold the ones you’ve read.
3. Add four recent reads to the end.
4. Tag!

I won't tag anyone, but you're welcome to use this on your own blog, provided of course that you link back here. *grin* I'll put those that I've read in GREEN, and leave those that I haven't read, should read, will never read sans color.

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter 6) - J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) - J.K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) - J.K. Rowling
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter 5) - J.K. Rowling
Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Book 1) - J.K. Rowling
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) - J.K. Rowling
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Ender’s Game (The Ender Saga) - Orson Scott Card
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland
The Nature of Blood - Caryl Phillips
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules -Ed. David Sedaris
Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Notes From the Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fathers and Sons - Leo Tolstoy
We -Yevgeny Zamyatin
Chromosome 6 - Robin Cook
Ceremony - Leslie M. Silko
No Man Is an Island- Thomas Merton
One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
S. - Slavenka Drakulic
The Earth Shook, The Sky Burned- William Bronson
Don't Know Much About Mythology- Kenneth C. Davis
Fables: Homelands- Bill Willingham
Hawaii- James Michener (my current read!)

As you can see, Russian Lit isn't my thing. Oh, well. :) Happy Reading!

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Ghost of Wilbur Mills

There's been quite a number of scandals in D.C. and the country in general these days. From Enron to Katrina to Plame to Iraq-- sometimes it's hard to keep up. Don't you just long for the days when a good ol' fashioned sex scandal dominated the news 24/7? After all, titillating news about Oval Office blowjobs is SO much better than hearing about manipulation of energy for capital gain, mismanagement and neglect during a natural disaster, revealing the name of a covert intelligence agent, or lying the country into war, don't you think?

Well, the good news percolating over the web today indicates that if the story has enough legs to carry through the weekend, we may just be due for a good ol' D.C. sex scandal. As Georgia10 over at DailyKos relates, it seems that the lobbyist involved in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal invited quite a few others to "pay to play" with gifts of cash, favors, and, um, "hospitality suites." This wonderful euphemism indicates our Congressmen have spent their free time in D.C. frolicking with "ladies of the night." The DailyKos article links to an earlier story in the San Diego Union-Tribune, and a piece posted yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. It's not only the WSJ that's picked up the story; apparently MSNBC is sniffing around as well. So this story potentially has legs-- it's not just the blogosphere, it's the Corporate Media that's perking up its ears, and whispering: sex scandal!

This one looks so far to be a Republican sex scandal, and depending on how it plays out, could really wound them this fall during election season. It depends on how soon some of the key players start to sing, and how fast investigations (if any) move. Still, if I was involved, I'd be scared: it's one thing to obfuscate the public in somewhat complex unethical situations, but messing around with prostitutes is something anyone that isn't living under a rock can understand.

Quite a few Republicans have had their share of hypocritical family values lately; here's a list of some of them. To be fair, sexual misconduct is a bipartisan affair (*snicker*); Wilbur Mills, Wayne Hays, Gary Hart, and Mel Reynolds are examples of some of the Democratic members across the aisle who have gotten caught with their pants down, or their hands where they don't belong.

No matter how this current scandal du jour plays out, I'm willing to bet it won't have the cachet of exposés of years past. From naughty tales of cigars and boat cruises to frolicking in the Tidal Basin, simply boinking in a hotel room doesn't carry the same heft of illicit romance. Still, power and misconduct is an old story on Capitol Hill. Someplace, somewhere, the ghost of Wilbur Mills is smiling.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Goodbye, Horatio Alger, or Where Have You Gone, Ragged Dick?

One of the great cultural bastions in American society is the belief that with hard work and a bit of luck, one can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and become "somebody." This cherished axiom has wended itself through American history, from the early days of the Puritans to the supposedly self-reliant American West, whose fiercely independent farmers discreetly tuck away the gummint subsidy in the bank while loudly proclaiming the virtues of self-sufficiency as a truly American way of life.

This lovely myth has been exploded in a recent study published the other day. Yep, despite the uplifting tales of lowly immigrants and orphan boys rising from the gutters of the urban slums to the halls of the wealthy, the chance that someone starting out at the bottom and reaching the creme de la creme of American society is just one percent. Yep, 1%. On the other hand, you have a one-in-five chance of joining the moneyed classes if you already began life with a silver spoon in your mouth. George W. Bush may have gone to San Jacinto Junior High, sure, but Daddy went to Andover, so Junior went to Andover as well. The average kid at San Jacinto certainly didn't wind up in prep school, but then again, the average kid didn't come from a family with a fortune founded in the China opium trade a couple generations earlier.

The same is true for tons of other trust-fund kids all over America. The sad truth is that close to 99% of us are never going to be rich; we're gonna live and die poor, working class, or middle class, at best. For every example you can come up with of someone like Andrew Carnegie, there's a million more that never reach that zenith. Remember that the next time you feel like giving Bush and Congress a pass when they mention tax cuts for the rich.

Monday, April 24, 2006


I'm by no means recovered, so I'll keep this fairly short.

Seems like things are spiraling out of control, and despite the rumors and rhetoric, it looks like we're already in Iran. This is a very depressing thought, I'll tell you that...

The only bright spot is that Smirk's administration now has exactly 1000 days left (1000 days too long, but it's still a countdown...) -- hopefully the measures wending through the Illinois and now the California legislature (thank god I live in a state with halfway sensible pols!), thanks to Assemblyman Paul Koretz (*my* representative! *grin*), will push the issue of impeachment front and center, where it belongs, and short-circuit this disastrous administration.

Speaking of 1000 days, here's a good editorial piece from Arthur Schlesinger, one of the elders in my former profession. I hope there's an increased groundswell against any further action in Iran (some rather prominent scientists already have gotten the ball rolling-- thanks to Surdus for drawing my attention to this letter!). Any aggressiveness or military action will be disastrous for the world, and will cast the U.S. as a pariah. You think gas prices over $3 is a pain in the ass? Wait til Smirk decides "nukuler" weapons is a great option to act on, and see the price of oil skyrocket. You know, the only two nations boasting that a pre-emptive nuclear strike is A-OK are North Korea and the U.S.

Wanna re-define that Axis of Evil again, Smirk?

Friday, April 21, 2006


No, I haven't disappeared. But I'm sick. When you're sick, sometimes you're still able to function. But when your head feels like it's going to explode, you definitely can't mentally function.

SO... no dazzling flashes of wit, no tangential discussions, no brilliant analysis for you... at least until my head/health cooperates.

I hope I recover fairly quickly-- I have a beach party to attend tomorrow- the guest of honor is celebrating the big 3-0. I'd hate to not be able to welcome the birthday boy into a great decade.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hearing the Voices

Well, our "Decider"-in-Chief thinks Crummy's doing a heckuva job, and that all's right in the world. He "hear[s] the voices" and "read[s] the front page," but I can tell you one thing he's not currently reading (or if he is or has, it probably isn't sinking in quite yet): Carl Bernstein's piece in Vanity Fair. These are the kinds of "voices" Smirk needs to be listening to, and his henchfolks also should be thinking it over as well, because Bernstein is just the latest in a chorus of voices calling for further examination of the administration's tactics, actions, and missteps.

Bernstein starts off by posing the question, "Worse than Watergate?" While Woodward is definitely in the administration's camp these days, Bernstein seems not to have suffered any fading memories of Watergate and executive abuses of power. Neither has John Dean; his appearance at the censure hearings on April 1 underscored the need to shed full and complete light on everything, from Smirk's admitted wiretapping in violation of FISA to Smirk and Blair's hell-bent push for war in Iraq to the Valerie Plame leak-- and that doesn't even take into account the administration's foul-ups before, during, and after the fury of Katrina last summer.

So far, even though he admitted breaking the law (here as well), Smirk has yet to be called to account, or even compelled to explain why listening in on any citizen's conversations in violation of FISA. The Senate Intelligence Committee, under Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), decided to abdicate its responsibility to fully investigate the matter (see here and here); the committee has yet to fully wrap up though, allowing Democrats to use the lame excuse that because the matter was still under "investigation," they wouldn't comment on or support Senator Russ Feingold's (D-Wisconsin) call for censure.

Some polls of late show more and more people believing Smirk lied about Iraq, and that if he did, impeachment is warranted; considering that just about everything that has been claimed about Iraq has turned out to be false, it's appalling Congress hasn't stepped up to the plate and assumed its constitutional responsibilities. From the Downing Street Memo to the recent information that Bush and Blair discussed sending in a decoy U-2 plane in U.N. colors to precipitate war in Iraq, it's pretty clear (to me at least) that Bush was determined to foment war, whether there was concrete evidence or not, and under false pretenses. How can something like this not be impeachable, or at the very minimum, censureable? For a straightforward overview, check out Wikipedia's entry. For excellent coverage of all the pertinent points, try

I've covered the Plame leak, but again, how can a gummint ride roughshod over national security, expose a NOC CIA agent, and potentially place in danger everyone she's ever worked with, and not expect repercussions? The current indictment and pending trial of Scooter Libby (aka Fibby) for fibbing about being a total blabbermouth will hopefully lead to finally answering some heretofore unanswered questions.

Bernstein posits that it is necessary for "the American political system... to acquit itself," just as it did during the Nixon era. To do so, he states that any investigation
needs to start from a shared premise and set of principles that can be embraced by Democrats and Republicans, by liberals and centrists and conservatives, and by opponents of the war and its advocates: that the president of the United States and members of his administration must defend the requirements of the Constitution, obey the law, demonstrate common sense, and tell the truth. Obviously there will be disagreements, even fierce ones, along the way. Here again the Nixon example is useful: Republicans on the Senate Watergate Committee, including its vice chairman, Howard Baker of Tennessee ("What did the president know and when did he know it?"), began the investigation as defenders of Nixon. By its end, only one was willing to make any defense of Nixon's actions.
I have no idea where the Howard Bakers of today are; Specter, Hagel, and others pretend that they fit this mold, but it is actions that count, not just words. Words are hollow, and anyone with a voice can say whatever they want. Feingold is the only one thus far (backed by Tom Harkin and Barbara Boxer) who has stepped up to the plate and suggested that it is incumbent on Congress to act as a check and balance on the Executive Branch.

Bernstein goes on to outline the case for an investigation (and potential censure/impeachment), and closes with the following words:
After Nixon's resignation, it was often said that the system had worked. Confronted by an aberrant president, the checks and balances on the executive by the legislative and judicial branches of government, and by a free press, had functioned as the founders had envisioned...

There was understandable reluctance in the Congress to begin a serious investigation of the Nixon presidency. Then there came a time when it was unavoidable. That time in the Bush presidency has arrived.

I fully agree. The voices are calling, and Bernstein, who witnessed the decline and fall of one President, has firmly and strongly made the case for the need for Congress to frankly assess the decline of the current occupant of the White House. The voices I'm hearing, including my own voice, are voices of frustration, dismay, and most of all, honesty-- tell us the truth, even if it hurts. Tell us the truth, because our government, our country, our society cannot, should not be about deception.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Search for a Leader

If you're even remotely aware of the Deaf world, you know the big topic du jour (or rather the month-- perhaps the year...?) is the impending selection of Gallaudet's next President. I've had some time since to reflect on the matter, observe other blogs and commenters, and discussed the issue with friends and alumni alike.

I've been posting in various blogs (and in various incarnations) on the topic. My opinions are still evolving, but they've shifted not only because of the qualifications (or lack thereof!) of the final three candidates, but also from considering what it means to be deaf/Deaf in today's world, and what the future bodes for the community. While they are two separate topics, they are not mutually exclusive, and judging from various quarters online, the two have been inextricably intertwined at times. My first stop of late has been Gally President Watch; unfortunately, a lot of the commentary there has been less objective than I'd like-- at times, it's deteriorated into highly biased opinions based on brief incidents and hearsay. In the latest commentary on its front page, under "White Noise," the as-yet-publically-named creators of the site state, in part:

Talk on the candidates is fast turning to talk of protest. In disregarding Glenn’s illustrious background, postings say, the Search Committee has sidelined their ideal of diversity. Was the dismissal of Glenn's candidacy color-blind, as was his appointment to the BoT in 1994, or was he whitened out? Roz, an administrator with a nearly unmatched history of professional and community achievements, did not merit an interview. Why was Roz blackballed?

A look at history: we’ve had a Hispanic dean (Davila) and a Black dean (Redding). That’s not exactly color-inside-the-lines hiring. But are we wrong for thinking what we all have been saying? How black and white is this thing?

First of all, this is *NOT* DPN2, nor *should* it be. Despite the claim of the creators to be "alumni," their commentary, their opinions, and their statements of "keggers and sleeping in until noon" demonstrate that either they are a) not quite alumni, b) young alumni, or c) somewhat immature alumni. The issue is a lot more complex than the black-and-white situation they claim it to be. Second, DPN was born of injustice, of a sense that the deaf/Deaf community was being dominated by hearing people, being patronized by "those who know best," and being left behind in a world where black universities had black leaders, women's universities had female administrators, etc. Third, DPN occurred *after* the final announcement was made-- the selection process was allowed to come to completion, even though there were rallies beforehand in favor of a deaf president. It was only when Zinser was chosen that the gates were thrown open to full-blown dissent.

Today's student population grew up in a world where Gallaudet had a deaf president, captioning on television was a given, ADA has been law for more than ten years, more and more deaf/Deaf people possess advanced degrees, and the population at large is more exposed to Deaf culture/ASL than ever before. 2006 is a different world from 1988-- at Gallaudet in 1988, the campus still had a interpreting services center, where hearing graduate students, hard-of-hearing undergrads, and burgeoning interpreters interpreted phone calls for students. Relay was still relatively in its infancy then. Mainstreamed students were just coming into their own, and cochlear implants were rudimentary and just starting to become a viable option for some people (and a flashpoint of controversy!). The students of those days and today occupy and occupied completely different worlds. The social issues, history, and background of the Presidential search process in 1988 are almost wholly different from today. Even the Board of Trustees, the "villains" last time around, was composed of mostly hearing folks, with a hearing leader presiding. Since then, we've had Phil Bravin, Glenn Anderson, and now Celia May Baldwin chairing the board. Sure, politics was then and is now still a factor, but the board makeup and attitude is light-years away from what it used to be.

I'm still hazy on student opinions/rationale behind the rallies, protests, and campus mood these days, but staging protests based on the inclusion/exclusion of candidates based on gender/race isn't viable as far as I'm concerned. You can be righteous and PC all you want, but to me, the process should be based on merit and the ability to conduct the job fairly. The only area where I may be biased regards the ability to hear; but the fact that the official press release stated that 21 deaf and hard-of-hearing people applied for the position lays to rest that particular concern. Beyond that, I couldn't care less about the gender or ethnic makeup of the candidates. What I care about is, do they have the appropriate credentials? Is their work history relevant? Can they effectively lead the campus? Can they act in a manner befitting the University? Can they be as inclusive as possible (i.e., they don't need to be a "uniter, not a divider," but they shouldn't be too polarizing)? Can they be successful at fundraising and dealing with Congress? You could have a black, deaf-blind, lesbian female candidate, or a white, hard-of-hearing, straight male and none of those subcategories would matter to me. What makes a difference to me is what they bring to the job.

Additionally, a lot of the sound and fury seems to be focused on an anti-Fernandes movement. I'm totally against that; while Fernandes may not be the best choice to lead the university, embarking on a highly emotional crusade to exclude one specific individual gets no one anywhere. A lot of what I've seen in the way of opinions/comments/examples has been vague, based on hearsay, and quite emotional, and at times volatile.

You can see examples of this at the next blog I check, Observe But Do Not Interfere. While there is a mix of commenters/commentary, there's also a fair amount of bias. While it's interesting to observe what people have to say, a lot of it isn't logical/objective. To be fair, Ridor has commented here and elsewhere that he is privy to information against Fernandes. Ok, I'll buy that. She's not known for people skills. Additionally, I haven't been as plugged in to the Deaf grapevine as I used to be. Still, I keep wanting to know more about WHY the candidates are qualified/unqualified based on more than just anecdotal evidence.

A more thoughtful mix of opinion/commentary is at Deaf in the City, whose host is an MSSD graduate. Surdus has commented on the fact that Gallaudet's President serves in a unique capacity; not only as an academic leader, but also as a representative of the American Deaf community. He has also briefly covered candidate Steve Weiner's presentation, and concluded by asking, "what bold things would you like to see happen at Gally? What would make you want to be a student there?"

Good questions. Balancing dual roles is a bit tricky; as I've previously stated, on paper Fernandes has the upper hand in terms of serving as an academic and administrative peer in the world of academia. Either Weiner or Stern would put a Deaf face on Gallaudet's role in the national and international Deaf communities. But as I've already stated, none of them really complete the whole package; Weiner comes closest, but all that I've heard and read thus far is unenthusiastic regarding Weiner. I previously said that he could be the "stealth candidate," the one who has just enough of everything to be able to pass muster. That could still turn out to be the case. That does not mean that the two aspects have to be separate; merely that the job involves more than what is required of the average college/university president. Sure, women presidents at all-female schools and black presidents at black schools juggle the same type of dual roles, but there are quite a few such institutions. For better or worse, there's only one Gallaudet. That means there are various constituencies fighting over who gets to be "their" president and what that all means as a whole. Is this right? Should this be happening? How do we best determine what Gallaudet needs, and what/who is best for Gallaudet? For the Deaf community? For those deaf who are not part of the Deaf community? This of course leads us down a different path to a much broader discussion, one that I'll probably tackle soon.

I've already been a student there, so the second question doesn't exactly apply to me. But Gallaudet, the Deaf/deaf communities, and the world is going to change, and whoever's leading the University next needs to have some sense of what might (or might not) happen, and how best to guide Gallaudet, and by extension, the Deaf community through the next several years.

Over at, Adam Stone has also been covering recent events surrounding the Presidential search. He attended Dr. Weiner's presentation, and shared that
The content of his presentation, however, left much to be desired. I felt like I was at a Youth Leadership Camp workshop listening to his interpretation of the eight strategic goals rather than a clear articulation of his vision of Gallaudet at age 150. An inclusive deaf university. Okay, isn’t that already what we all want? I wanted to hear something new. Something bold... Also, for someone with his longevity as a Gallaudet student and employee, I was surprised at many of his answers. He didn’t have satisfactory responses for the graduate student community, for oral/mainstreamed students, or for non-traditional students. He was flying by the seats of his pants through other answers, sometimes appearing even amateurish.

That disappointed me. I expect the presidential candidate to know more about what’s going on in his campus, especially if he has a home-turf advantage.

Having known Weiner for several years, and interacted with him, that's rather disappointing to hear too. But it's difficult to assess that, since I'm "hearing" this through another person: Adam Stone. I really wish there had been a way that Gallaudet could have provided a feed or videotape to its alumni chapters, or to various sites around the country where interested persons could observe what was going on and what was being said. While I don't think the students should be permitted to hijack the process (sorry guys-- you were too young for DPN, but that doesn't mean each time in the future that Gally conducts a search for the top post, that protests and the like become de rigueur. Don't get me wrong; I support students and student's rights, but knowing how to pick and choose battles is crucial. Plus, given how Homecoming turned out, I'm not sure I want to trust *this* bunch!), they do form one vital group: students. They are also eventually going to be part of another crucial group: alumni. These two groups deserve to know what's going on.

Yet another recent source of information is Jamie Berke over at her post at in their Deafness/Hard-of-Hearing section. She is herself an alumni of Gallaudet, and has also attended NTID/RIT. While she didn't have a whole lot to say compared with, say, Ridor, her comments on Fernandes were very enlightening. Rather than excerpt, I encourage you to read it in full. It's only one opinion, and I am still reserving ultimate judgment, but this type of conduct is NOT what I want to see in the next President of Gallaudet University.

That's it for the blogosphere. In person, I've heard a lot of mixed opinions: some say Weiner would be okay, nearly all were anti-Fernandes. More than a fair share opined that Stern was a distinct possibility, but the universal lament (including mine!) was that he didn't currently possess a Ph.D., and that his experience in higher education was noticeably lacking.

A few got into further discussion with me, talking about the final pool (What the...?!?!), the exclusion of Roz Rosen and Glenn Anderson, and ruminations on the politicking within the Presidential Search Committee.

I agree- the major question here is why these three candidates?? Of all the people who threw their hat in the ring, why these three? No one outside the Search Committee is ever going to know why, and one has to conclude that the interviews, resumes, and personal biases all played a role in the decisions made thus far. While Rosen has her champions, I know that quite a few faculty/staff aren't completely thrilled about her. It could be that while she has a clear segment of the student body/Deaf community/alumni behind her, she was polarizing in her own way towards other constituencies. Hard to say.

Anderson was previously chair of the Board of Trustees, and has worked with the Gallaudet community in the past. Given such advantages, it's very possible that he did not "interview" well, or that other issues cropped up. I've served on a hiring committee before, and sometimes the most promising candidates do not come across well in person, or their answers to certain questions fall thunderously flat. It's hard to second-guess the process, really.

I'm still reserving ultimate judgment; for one thing, Fernandes and Stern have yet to make their presentations. Second, the entire process needs to play out before anyone can do anything-- it may be the Search Committee is bent, and everything has been rigged, but to try to protest and subvert the process would be to delegitimize it, and that in itself isn't ethical. Even during the days preceding DPN, no one stood up and said, "Do it our way, or you'll pay." Everyone let the process play itself out, and acted only when the final decision was announced. I'm disappointed at how many people have been jumping the gun here. Third, I'm still educating myself, and learning about what's going on bit by bit.

Still, given what I currently know now, I'm still leaning towards Koko. I'm not in favor of any of the three finalists; Weiner still looks like a potential compromise choice. It could be the eventual "winner" will go on to do a fine job. But when you have a polarizing candidate like Fernandes, a candidate like Weiner who most folks agree isn't up for the job, and a third candidate, Stern, who would never have even made the first round at any other school (he does not have Ph.D. yet, and possesses no academic/administrative experience in higher education-- other schools pay attention to this. Gallaudet's reputation wouldn't be the best in the DC academic community if they picked him. Even junior/community college presidents have doctorates and usually have some kind of experience as a professor/dean/department chair/administrator), it speaks ill of the entire results so far. My current verdict? None of the above.

I know I. King Jordan has announced his intent to leave come December of this year. But perhaps the wiser course for the Search Committee and Board of Trustees would be to ask Dr. Jordan to extend his stay until June 2007, then scrap the entire proceedings thus far, and start over again. While this would be exhausting and time-consuming for all involved, it may result in a far better prognosis than what's happened so far.

Of course, this super-lengthy post is solely my opinion. Thoughts? Comments? Disagreements? Go right ahead.

Monday, April 17, 2006

L.A. Easter Traditions

Spring has sprung around here, and we decided it was time to get out of the house and do something totally L.A. While the rain has been dreary at times, it's also been just intermittent enough that we aren't as gloomy, soggy, and in danger of being afflicted with SAD (Seasonal Afflictive Disorder) as our relatives and friends in Northern California are. Saturday was a somewhat cool day, but sunny and warm enough to hop in the car, hit the freeway and get active this Easter weekend.

While we've never been to the Easter morning services at the Hollywood Bowl (and given the frequent jams in and around that part of town, we probably never will), we decided to trek to Olvera Street for yet another festive event. This one is the Blessing of the Animals. If you've ever read the children's book Juanita by Leo Politi, then you know a little bit about this tradition. Since the 1930's, people bring their pets and other animals to the old plazaat Olvera Street to be blessed by the clergy. The tradition is an old one, and dates to at least the Middle Ages, if not earlier. Some say the ritual started with St. Francis of Assisi (San Francisco de Asis), who was known for his devotion to the animal kingdom. Others say that it was St. Anthony the Abbot (San Antonio de Abad) who initiated the ceremony. In any event, here in L.A., the Blessing of the Animals is not held on the feast day of either saint, but on Easter Saturday.

When we arrived, there were already tons of people there, many with dogs. I think about 90% of the animals that ended up being blessed were canines. We did see a number of birds and cats, but it wasn't until the procession started that we saw a wider range of beasts. Since the actual procession and blessing wasn't going to begin for a while yet, we decided to walk through Olvera Street past all the puestos. We did so, and ended up stopping for tacos. L.A. is definitely Taco Town, and it's become quite a challenge to find the tastiest taco in this city; there are so many good ones, from old, respected restaurants down to taco carts on street corners. Some are close to the tacos that most of you have probably had. Other versions are very authentic in terms of what you'd find if you crossed the border-- no cheese or other fixin's, just a handful of meat and some type of salsa on a corn tortilla.

After our repast, we walked back to the Plaza to snag a spot, since it was almost time for the main event to commence. We then started seeing some unusual pets-- a python, a boa constrictor, and a pot-bellied pig, for starters. Quite a few people had tiny cats or dogs (and yes, some of them were chihuahuas) with little sombreros on their heads. Finally, Cardinal Mahony and other officials walked around the plaza towards the stage, followed by the traditional cows (cows are always first, as they are considered the animals most beneficial to mankind), festooned with garlands of flowers.

The usual speeches began, including one by Mayor Villaraigosa. Throughout the crowd, I noticed quite a few people with t-shirts denouncing the anti-immigrant stance of Congress-- they may have been there on their own, or have come over to relax after participating in another rally downtown that was taking place at about the same time. Once the politicking and self-congratulations or whatever was being said was over, the cows were brought in front of the Cardinal, who used some sort of metal aspergill or other container to drench each animal in a shower of holy water. Behind the cows were a virtual menagerie: geese, chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, snakes, and all kinds of two-and-four-footed critters, carried by official marchers, Aztec dancers, and group dressed as vaqueros and dons from the days of the Californios. Once this group went through, then everyone else who had brought their pet(s) were guided in front of the Cardinal. At the end, any bipedal mammal that wanted to be blessed could come up in front of the stage and do so. I was standing close enough that I ended up being blessed. Well, I've always thought I was blessed to begin with, but it's good to be officially recognized as blessed. *grin*

Afterwards, we wandered around looking at some of the many animals, munching on churros from a churro stand on the Plaza. I also went to see one of my favorite sights on Olvera Street-- Leo Politi's mural of "The Blessing of the Animals," painted on the wall of the Biscailuz Building, which houses the Instituto Cultural Mexicano. All in all, it was a good start to the Easter weekend.

[If you're an Angeleno, this year is the 225th anniversary of the founding of the pueblo that became the monster that ate Southern California. If you want to celebrate this birthday year doing typically L.A. things, try some of the to-dos on this list from, which borrowed the idea from Los Angeles City Nerd. I've done about half of the fifteen items listed so far; not too shabby...]

Friday, April 14, 2006

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

If you take a globe or an atlas, and look at central Asia, you'll see several countries. Those to the north ending in "stan" are offspring of the departed Soviet Union. Those in the south are part of the Arabian penisula. In between is a country called Iraq, which I'm sure you're no doubt familiar with; our current involvement there is three years and counting. On the other side is a little place called Afghanistan, which for thousands of years has been both a meeting place and a bloody ground, from the Aryans to Alexander the Great to the Russians and British playing "The Great Game" to the Soviet Union's disastrous invasion to our current engagement, also at 3+ years (although you don't hear a lot about that-- perhaps the potential resurgence of the Taliban and the increase in opium production isn't exactly cheery news our gummint wants to spread?). [if you're interested in skimming through what Afghanistan has been like in recent years, an excellent graphic novel by Ted Rall, To Afghanistan and Back, is worth checking out]

In between these two present-day war zones is an old pal of ours: Iran. In the last fifteen-odd years or so, Iran has been making its way back from the Iran-Iraq War (a conflict that raged with no small help from us; anyone remember Iran-Contra...?). Now Iran has joined the Nuclear Age by achieving the ability to enrich uranium. Neo-cons and alarmists in this fair nation of ours have spun this information into panic over the potential for a nuclear holocaust sparked by Iran's possession of nuclear knowledge. Given our present Secretary of State's previous pronouncements on nuclear hubris ("We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."), I'm highly skeptical of our administration's trustworthiness in its statements and the veracity of any materials or "evidence" it might produce. Also, given our long history of meddling in Middle East affairs, and specifically, Iran, I'm also doubtful that the current saber-rattling over Iran and nuclear technology is going to go away overnight. The official chorus is coming from people like Smirk and Scowl (who has echoed earlier statements the gummint made on Iraq-- anyone remember Smirk stating that we should avoid war in Iraq by all possible means? Well, now Scowl says "We don't want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it." Oops, too late, Buckshot. We're already in a war in the Middle East. Let's not try to spread it, shall we?), but now such "luminaries" *cough* as Newt Gingrich are piling on the bandwagon. Makes you wonder what this paragon of values knows that we don't...

The current alarmist meme is that Iran could produce the Bomb in sixteen days. Just makes you want to go out there and beat them back with more than just a stick, eh? But this latest pronouncement from the State Department conflicts with something called facts. The New York Times published yesterday an article stating that several analysts and experts see Iran as joining the Bomb Club in oh, say, ten years and sixteen days. One of the more responsible Republicans out there (though he's not totally in the clear, not by a long shot), Chuck Hagel, announced he didn't see military action as a viable option in dealing with Iran. For an excellent breakdown of the REAL issues involved on both sides (Smirk's saber-rattling and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's equally shrill responses), go read Juan Cole's Informed Comment(s) on the political realities of what's going on.

Personally, I think a war or any military attack on Iran would be nothing short of disastrous; for one thing, the global community would *not* be supportive-- I doubt any "coalition" would be rushing to our side anytime soon. Second, oil supplies would be derailed, and the price of oil per barrel would skyrocket, as Middle Eastern reserves are disrupted, and other oil-producing nations retaliate by withholding petroleum. We're already approaching the end of the Oil Age, and the consequences of Peak Oil-- why exacerbate and hasten that time? Additionally, why destroy nations, cultures, and people all for the sake of political expediency?

Not only that, but I think it's rather hypocritical of us to pretend that harboring nuclear technology and weaponry is something reserved for an exclusive inner circle of nations. We opened this particular Pandora's Box in 1945, and since then several nations have joined us, either in accumulating weapons or harnessing nuclear knowledge. Why, practically the other day, Smirk agreed to exchange mangoes for nuclear technology. What makes this deal even more fun is that India has accelerated its nuclear development in defiance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it hasn't signed. We're okay with India possessing nuclear technology/weaponry, but not Iran? As you probably know, India's bitter enemy, Pakistan, is always looking to level the playing field (if not gain advantage) over India. Who's to say Pakistan won't try to make a similar deal? Is it really beneficial for *any* nation to utilize nuclear weaponry (including our own)?

What makes it even more puzzling is that, to me at least, North Korea is far more dangerous than Iraq was before we invaded. North Korea is far more unstable than Iran. Yet we treat that nation and its leader, Kim Jong-Il, with kid gloves. Could it be due to the fact that Dear Leader has nukes, and Iran and Iraq don't? Gee, maybe you think Iran's paying close enough attention that it figures that if nuclear capabilities are achieved, the rest of the world will leave it alone? Perhaps India has similar thoughts?

Whatever happens next with Iran, it's definitely between Iraq and a hard place when it comes to the U.S. and its foreign policy. If we really want to influence Iran and effect positive change, perhaps we need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to foreign policy and diplomacy, and leave the swords at home.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Odds & Ends II

Top of the News...
Well, my post last night was rather fortuitous-- or better yet, timely. This morning, I received a couple of pages on my SK: the Gallaudet Presidential Search Committee announced the final three candidates, one of whom will become Gallaudet University's ninth president. By now, just about everyone who's plugged into the Deaf grapevine knows who they are: Jane Kelleher Fernandes, Steve Weiner, and Ron Stern (and if you're paying attention at Gally Watch, I understand Koko is still in the running as well).

Alas, Koko's no longer my choice; neither are the other three, sadly enough. Each has something that the next President needs, but none of them is "it." I can't really second-guess the search committee, but my humble opinion is they could have done better. According to the press release, 21 deaf/hard-of-hearing applicants threw their hats in the ring- that's the good news. A much smaller pool of such viable candidates surfaced nearly 20 years ago, and the fact that 21 people felt they qualified is a positive comment about the Deaf community today.

I am merely commenting from afar; not only am I not privy to the search committee's thoughts, I don't even have the benefit of being on campus to saturate myself in the fury of the gossip machine that is Gallaudet. I also won't be able to attend any of the upcoming campus presentations (if you're in the DC area and so inclined, the press release and presentation calendar is here).

On paper, Fernandes is the clear-cut choice; she has the academic bona fides and administrative experience. She also didn't get where she is solely through luck or sheer politics, so despite the lack of enthusiasm about her in many quarters, she obviously has accomplished enough in her various jobs to get her to this point. Although I don't have any personal stories to draw upon, it seems quite a number of people are, as I said, unenthusiastic about her that her selection may not be quite so beneficial for the university.

Gallaudet's homeboy choice is Weiner. While he obviously has his champions on (and off) campus, he also has his detractors. While he may be personable, charisma is not the sole criteria of the job. I'm not so sure he has what it takes for such a demanding position; then again, he may surprise people. His academic background is adequate-- there's nothing particularly outstanding about it, but he does have a doctorate, did serve as Dean (there was some perception at the time of his appointment that it was a reward for working on a massive overhaul of Gallaudet programs, and not necessarily due to other factors), and has taught. The more I think about it, really, the more I think Weiner may be the stealth choice here. He's not the most inspiring or obvious choice, but he does satisfy a fair number of criteria.

The sole "outsider" is Ron Stern. Stern's strength is his reputation within the deaf education community, his "outsider" status, and his jobs at Fremont and now at NMSD, which afforded him the opportunity to develop some politicking skills with state and local pols. His two biggest drawbacks (which are also my biggest concerns) are his (current) lack of a Ph.D. and his job history, which so far has been limited to K-12 education. The Deaf community may be willing to overlook that, but from my (brief) sojourn in academia, I can tell you right now that not having a Ph.D. or experience working in higher education does not merit even advancing to the interview round at most colleges and universities, and could be looked at askance by quite a few people, including those sitting on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the DC academic community. My take is if Stern had earned his doctorate long before this, and had done a stint, however brief, at the college/university level, the red carpet would have been rolled out for him for this job long ago.

The ideal candidate would have Fernandes' academic credentials and work history, Weiner's personability and campus ties, and Stern's intimate knowledge of K-12 education and "hearing" political know-how. Unfortunately, that's not what we have here. Each of the three has something the other needs; none of them has the whole package.

To be fair, I. King Jordan wasn't a complete package either when he applied for the job. He was a well-regarded dean with the appropriate academic degrees and experience in academia, but his footing within the Deaf community was not as strong as some might have wished. Additionally, he didn't have any "political" skills either.

It's hard to say what the final outcome will be. I want to muse on this some more, but feel free to share your own thoughts as well!

It's Let's Dump On Crummy Time...
Yesterday I mentioned Lt. General Newbold's missive against our modern day Minister of Ares. Well, when it rains, it pours. Two more from the ranks of the top brass say (C)Rummy needs to retire, pronto. This time, it's a bit more influential: Major General John Batiste commanded our forces in Iraq in 2003-2004, and thus has a bit more credibility regarding criticism compared with earlier criticism (all of which is valid, of course). He was quickly followed by another retired general, Charles Swannack. I guess it's time to start a pool to see just how many days until a certain someone decides he needs to *ahem* spend more time with his loving family...

Right Around the Corner
Well, come Tuesday, we'll be remembering the Great Quake and Fire of 1906-- I covered this nearly a month ago, but in the last few days, the San Francisco Chronicle has been running a great series detailing the events of that long-ago April. If you have some time, you may want to check it out.

The Boob Tube
Yeah, yeah-- I bet you're thinking I'm going to make some sophomoric joke about soft-core porn and television-- well, you wouldn't be too far wrong. I think TV is pornographic in a lot of ways, even though there are bright spots here and there ("Lost" and "24" definitely qualify). But what's really shocking (or maybe not so much...?) is this report from the Center for Media and Democracy. Apparently 77 television stations, quite a few of which are owned by Sinclair, have aired what are basically corporate-sponsored PR segments and passed them off as "news." Some of you may remember Sinclair from one of its greatest hits, the airing of an anti-Kerry film just days before the 2004 election, pre-empting its regular programming. This is the same corporate broadcasting behemoth that pulled a special "Nightline" program showing the names of those soldiers who had died in Iraq. So I guess Sinclair's involvement in airing "fake news" isn't too surprising. As for me, it's just yet another reason to avoid getting my news from television.

On that note, it's time for me to stop sating my news junkie fix and hit the sack. Later, folks.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Odds & Ends

A while back, I posted about Relay Review, a website developed by Tayler Mayer of TaylerInfomedia. Since then, Tayler's been busy. As you may have noticed elsewhere, his latest creation is Fomdi. Fomdi is a rather strange-looking robot with movie tickets in his hand. The appeal of Fomdi for me is that by typing my zipcode or my city and state in the search box, I can find out which movies near me have open captions or rear-window captioning. While individual websites are still quite valid for this purpose, the beauty of Fomdi is you can quickly call up all movies in a geographical radius for one particular day, rather than opening up several tabs/windows simultaneously. Again, it's a labor of love for Mayer-- he doesn't receive a penny for all this work. Several blogs and websites have Fomdi buttons there, and I'll be putting one up myself.

While Fomdi is Tayler's personal project, TaylerInfomedia was hired to do another project recently-- an independent website chronicling the search for Gallaudet University's new president. This is a topic of high speculation within the Deaf community, since Gallaudet's first deaf president, I. King Jordan, was chosen for the job as a result of Deaf President Now! This new site, Gally President Watch, is supposedly run and operated by Gally alumni. I haven't caught up with the latest comments, but when I checked it out in the first few days, the comments for each potential (or actual) candidate sounded like they'd been written by Gallaudet students. I'm sure by now others from "outside" have chimed in, or at least lurked on the site for more than thirty seconds. I suspect that for the larger Deaf and deaf community, it's a topic of interest and speculation, sure, but that on-campus, it's a virtual vortex of gossip and speculation. My suspicion is that the "alumni" running this website are either not quite alumni or are alumni within a certain radius of DC.

As for the candidates? I've met most of them; personally, I think one or two of them might turn out to be good for Gallaudet and the community at large. If the number of views is any indication, at this time MJ Bienvenu is a shoo-in. Personally, I initially wanted Koko (and no, I'm not kidding). Part of the problem here is that Gallaudet is unique; not only does the person selected need to possess bona fide academic credentials and have some management experience in academia, whoever succeeds Jordan will be working with and on Capitol Hill. Finally, as the leader of *ahem* "the world's only liberal arts university for the deaf," the final choice will have to be acceptable to the Deaf community on some level.

And that's just the *external* qualifications necessary. Even more important, the next president will need to be someone acceptable not only to the students, but also to the faculty and staff, if not the upper echelons of the administration. That definitely weakens or eliminates quite a few potentials.

I'm not sure I'm backing Koko at this point-- for one thing, she's not deaf. Second, we already have a chimp for a leader in DC-- we don't need two. I'll have to think it over-- I have one or two personal preferences, but I also see one or two politically acceptable choices (i.e., the person a majority of the search committee will find feasible for all of the University's needs and constituents). Right now those invited for interviews are converging on Kendall Green, so I think we'll find out fairly quickly where things lie.

According to the grapevine, students are bothered by the possibility the choice will be announced over the summer. Well, we already had one DPN; we don't need another. I'm sure the board/search committee has taken this into consideration, and will pick a relatively "safe" choice. Given that it seems the pool is composed entirely of deaf/Deaf candidates, I don't think we'll have a reprise any time soon. A more eloquent expression of these thoughts is at Queen Alpo's blog: "DPN2? What for? Rebels without a cause."

Elsewhere in the universe, Saturn isn't the only planet these days with ring around the collar-- it seems Uranus has rings of red and blue. They even have moons within the rings. Look for future elementary students everywhere to make sophomoric jokes about the red and blue hemmorrhoids surrounding Uranus. Oh, was that in itself a sophomoric joke? Pardon me.

Back in this part of the galaxy, controversy still surrounds our so-called "mission" in Iraq. Crummy comes in for some hits, this time from a retired general, Lt. General Greg Newbold. I don't know about this administration, but aside from Crummy and a handful of others, most of them have never bothered to participate in a war; they just play at it. Newbold, on the other hand, knows whereof he speaks, and right now he thinks it's time for us to get the hell out. I fully agree-- ideally, I'd be happier in a world where there was no war, there were no armies, and everyone cooperated for the benefit of humanity. But as a historian and realist, I know that's never going to be possible. Thus, I'd rather we reserved our military and our wars for the "best" of reasons: defense. No war in history has been "necessary," but as Newbold remarks, being in an unnecessary war is certainly no way to conduct one's affairs. The fact that people like him are speaking out tells me that not only did the gummint jump the shark when it invaded Iraq, but it's now jumping the shark in public opinion. There's no way we're going to "win"-- the best solution is to end things before more lives are wasted, and hit the road. Then again, this is Smirk, Buckshot, Lice, and Crummy we're talking about... Hopefully commentary like Newbold's will help turn the tide, so the country can stop being a backseat driver and start taking the wheel, cause our current driver doesn't know when to admit a mistake.

*whew* On that note, that about wraps up these various bits and pieces. See you next time...

[and in the spirit of the departed, dearly missed Ann Landers: Confidential to my Jewish readers-- a good Passover to you!]

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Brave New Warming

You know, I'm a big worrier. I worry about future employment. I worry about my wife. I worry about money. I worry about a lot of things. These days, when I read the newspaper or scour online news and blogs, it's very easy to be worried. Especially about things like global warming and peak oil. I often wonder what the future is going to be like, not just nationally but globally.

Then I come across bits and pieces here and there that remind me of human ingenuity, of resilience, of the willingness of humanity to confront and plan for the future. It's then when I think, "Hm, maybe things won't be *so* bad after all."

Despite Leaker's (aka Smirk) insistence that global warming hasn't been proved yet, that we have to wait until all the evidence is in, others seem to be moving on without him. Al Gore recently addressed a group of corporate leaders and investors on the topic, and they were willing to listen. Gore stated that we have to start thinking of subjects like global warming and the environment as moral issues, not as political issues. Amen. The fact that these executives and businessfolks were amenable to discussing the topic demonstrates not only a familiarity with reality, but perhaps a social sea change; our gummint may want to drag its feet, but like it or not, the planet is rapidly changing, and these changes aren't going to be all that fun.

Additionally, I ran across this article discussing how folks in Oslo, Norway, are using sewage to heat their homes. The first sentence of this article cites this endeavor as an "extreme energy project." No kidding. But I'm heartened to learn that there are adaptable and alternative ways of dealing with our energy problems. Considering the vast sewage systems of places such as oh, say, Los Angeles makes me wonder if maybe our industries should start examining and implementing similar systems here, and start investing some of their obscene profits into developing such new techniques.

The polar caps are melting-- glaciers are vanishing. It's a Brave New Warming, a new world that is dawning, and if we don't seize the moment and start dealing with it, it's going to be a bumpy ride. The fact that some folks are starting to do so isn't wholly comforting, but it's a positive step forward.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Onward, Christian Soldiers

This morning, as usual, I settled in with the paper over breakfast, ready to see what was going on in the world. One particular headline caught my eye: "Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies." This piqued my interest, and I read the story.

Lately, there have been rumblings among the Religious Right about a "war" on Christians and "persecution" of Christians in this country. I find it amusing that evangelicals feel themselves under attack, considering the head of our gummint is a born-again Christian, his Supreme Court nominees are religiously conservative, and he has proposed, among other things, "faith-based" initiatives. Not to mention the U.S. has a majority Christian population-- so where's all these persecutions coming from? At a two-day conference on the subject, one speaker told the audience, "You have become the Jews of the 21st century." Now is it me, or have I missed the round-ups on the streets of Salt Lake City and Houston? Am I turning a blind eye to the concentration camps in South Dakota? It would be one thing if we were talking about Christians in China, or Afghan Christian converts. But somehow I don't see the Mormon Temple down the street being burned, nor am I hearing about devout folks in Orange County being denigrated, tortured, or "disappeared."

But I digress. I was curious to see if perhaps this morning's article was in the same vein, or if perhaps there was some true injustice going on. Apparently one of the initial objections one religious student had was being unable to criticize gays. "[Ruth] Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality."

Um. I don't recall hearing anything about churchgoers being forced to speak out about anything. Somehow I don't think her pastor is "compelling" her to denounce homosexuality.

The article continues by stating, "[b]ut the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation." Therefore, Malhotra is suing for the right to, uh, be intolerant.

So let's see-- Christians don't want to be criticized, challenged, or persecuted, but it's okay for them to treat gays that way? Is it me, or does that seem like a double standard?

In championing such lawsuits as Malhotra's, the Reverend Rick Scarborough, "a leading evangelical," stated "Christians are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."

I have no problems with Christians being Christian; I do have problems with Christians not acting Christian. I don't know what Bible these people are reading from, but I was always taught that tolerance was the hallmark of Christianity. You know, turning the other cheek and all that. Fellowship of man and all that, you know. I don't recall anything in the teachings of Jesus about intolerance. Correct me if I'm wrong on that one.

The article continues: "The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant."

Ok. Let's look at that for a moment. These policies "discriminate" against conservative Christians. Let's take the word "gay" and replace it with "Christian"-- anti-Christian t-shirts. Denunciation of Christian Pride Month. Hm. You know what? I think I have no problem with granting Christians their wish. Let them wear these t-shirts. Let them speak out. But if they're going to do it, then I have the same right to do it as well. After all, if they are allowed to be intolerant, then isn't it okay for me to be intolerant as well? Oh, you say- that's unchristian? That's what I thought too.

Quite a few of the religious conservatives interviewed for the article defend their position by stating that homosexuality is a "lifestyle," not a trait or genetic predisposition. While I agree that the jury is still out on whether some folks are born homosexual or bisexual as opposed to being heterosexual, I blanch every time I read the word "lifestyle." One definition of "lifestyle" is "the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture." Another definition is "a way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group." Put that way, being a conservative Christian is a "lifestyle." Again, if religious conservatives can be intolerant of the homosexual "lifestyle," then what's to stop me from being intolerant of the religious "lifestyle"? Fine by me-- I can attack people who come to my door, trying to educate or convert me. I can shout down people who offer their testimonies of being born-again. I can crumple up and stomp on pamphlets that I'm given as I walk down the street.

Sure, I could do some of these things-- but I can't do any worse. That's because religion is protected in this country (despite what those who are being "persecuted" might have you believe). That's okay with me-- I happen to believe freedom of religion is an inherent right of every human; but I also think it's an inherent right of every human to be respected, to be tolerated. That's where I disagree with Ms. Malhotra and her brethren. No one is forcing her to be gay, or to spend time with gays-- but by the same token, no one should have to be forced to endure mistreatment or intolerance from people like her.

This is one of my biggest issues with organized religion-- in their mission statements, their testimonials of faith, I have yet to encounter a religion that openly encourages intolerance and rejection of peoples. But in the leap from the abstract to reality, many religious leaders and adherents practice their religion with an eye to exclusion. The track records of most denominations leaves something to be desired. This current case is just another example of that. But hey, don't mind me-- I'm a comparative heathen in all this. Don't mind me-- just continue your brand of intolerance in your crusade towards hegemony. Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Our Leaker in Chief

Yeah, yeah, I know-- that twist on "Leader" is probably splashed across the title of every other blog this weekend. Not to mention quite a few newspaper headlines as well. So sue me.

The big news over the last couple days, of course, has been the somewhat surprising (but also somewhat unsurprising!) indication that Smirk leaked information from the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate, for those of you beyond the Beltway), ostensibly to support his case for war in Iraq. According to the WaPo, Fitzgerald "specifically said Bush was not aware of the leaking of a CIA agent's affiliation," but indeed knew "about efforts to disseminate sensitive information -- and also as orchestrating them."

This is all in the context of the Scooter Libby perjury case-- for those apologists reading this right now, the indictment has nothing to do with the validity of the intelligence, has nothing to do with Plame's status, has nothing to do with Iraq-- as yet. Scooter Libby was indicted on charges of perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of justice. In other words, Libby lied to Fitzgerald/the grand jury. Eventually, of course, there most likely will be other charges or additional aspects of the entire situation coming into play-- and at that point, we can have a grand ol' discussion about the deeper issues regarding Plame, Wilson, the Niger forgeries, and all of that.

However, the knowledge we now have so far indicates (to me at least!) that Smirk, Scowl (aka Buckshot), and crew have a whole lot of 'splainin' to do. Let's look at it.

1) AG Gonzales claims that Smirk has the "inherent authority to decide who should have classified information." In other words, it's okay for the President to determine what, if, and when information should be declassified. Given this administration's predilection for clamping down on presidential papers and allowing the ongoing re-classification of materials that were already available for public acccess, it strikes me as particularly funny that Smirk now has decided out of the goodness of his heart to let us know what's going on.

2) The material leaked was only bits and parts of the total NIE-- the portions conveniently left out included our intelligence agencies' acknowledgement that there was serious dissent over the legitimacy of claims that Iraq obtained or was trying to obtain nuclear materials from Niger. If there exists (or existed) a need for the public to understand the gummint process on determining how and why we went to war over these claims, then it would be the professionally responsible and ethical course to release the entire NIE. By sharing half-truths, the leakers lied to the country.

3) If, as Smirk and the rest of our gummint officials claim, Joe Wilson's assertions that the Niger information was bogus, then it would seem that our gummint would have more information or evidence from which to bolster their arguments for challenging Saddam Hussein and invading Iraq. Wouldn't it? I mean, our whole rationale for going into Iraq can't just hinge on the Niger documents, can they? The fact that our gummint leakers fought tooth and nail against Wilson just demonstrates to me that their "evidence" was a pack of cards, ready to fall at a moment's notice.

This doesn't even begin to touch on other questions. For example, let's assume the President has the right to declassify information. Isn't there some procedure in place for doing so? Who has to be informed of this? So far the only people mentioned are Smirk, Scowl, and... Libby. What about the good folks over at the CIA? Even if they're not legally required to be informed, wouldn't it have been professional courtesy to let them know information they gathered was going to be exposed to daylight? Assuming this was going straight to the press, don't our Congressional leaders deserve to know that portions of national intelligence are being shared with the Corporate Media? I find it hard to believe that only the President, the Vice-President, and the Veep's right-hand man can unilaterally make decisions on declassifying/sharing intelligence information.

Another consideration... why was this information being shared at all? The gummint is probably going to offer quite a few "explanations"/rationales on this in the next few days, desperately hoping the whole thing will go away. But when you look at the broad, big picture, the direct result of Libby's tete-a-tetes with various reporters was the disclosure of Valerie Plame's NOC status with the CIA, and an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to discredit Wilson. In other words, political payback.

There's that word: politics. This was a political game, a full-court press using leaked information, national intelligence, and national security, all for the sake of preserving official talking points on the war in Iraq, during an election year. The last time we had political games like this, it also occured during an election year. It also took a while to get out. But the end result? A president resigned. What was that about history repeating itself...?

Yet another point to this whole affair: it was our dear Smirk, in the last couple of years, who has emphatically decried leaks. Let's revisit some of Smirk's greatest hits:

* THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks at the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of. [Emphasis mine; Press conference, 30 Sep 2003]

* Q Given -- given recent developments in the CIA leak case, particularly Vice President Cheney's discussions with the investigators, do you still stand by what you said several months ago, a suggestion that it might be difficult to identify anybody who leaked the agent's name?

THE PRESIDENT: That's up to --

Q And, and, do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. [Press conference, 10 June 2004]

There are quite a few other quotes, but I think you get the picture. Funny-- guess all he had to do was look in the mirror... But it's really not all that funny. At best, our "President" is a hypocrite and untrustworthy; at worst, he actively orchestrated the misuse of intelligence for partisan political purposes. To my mind, it's Watergate redux.