Entries in News (12)
Let's start with the most outrageous major news story from this morning. Yes, AIG payouts to banks with TARP funds it received is outrageous. And yes, we need to know more about the relationship between Goldman Sachs and AIG. But I am referring to the Pope's opinion that condoms either can worsen or already worsen crises in Africa. I hope that we've reached a point in our history in which the words of a politician or religious leader cannot override scientific fact. Perhaps the right thing to do is to ignore Pope Benedict XVI, as we live in a secular world and shouldn't have to listen to what the leader of a shrinking, anti-sexuality, minority religion thinks about condoms, and the role they play in worsening crises in the world's poorest continent.
But I am a strong birth control and HIV prevention advocate. I'm going to try a bad analogy here, but condoms are to the fight against HIV and unintended pregnancy what the AK-47 is to to rise of insurgent warfare. In other words, condoms are cheap, effective, and have changed the landscape in the context of their use (in this case, barrier birth control, not civil war). If anything, this world needs more condoms, not less (OK, that's where the AK-47 analogy ends - there's over 70 million Kalashnikov rifles in the world). The world still has a deadly pandemic on its hands, and the HIV virus is most transmitted in Africa and Asia. Condemning condom distribution and/or their use is an opinion that is not grounded in scientific fact, logic, or reality itself.
It certainly seems to this author that the Pope discounted the effects of civil war, genocide, poverty, and refugee crises, and pointed a finger at a life-saving medical device for making life worse in Africa.
Embarking on his first visit to Africa, the Pope said that distributing condoms is 'not the answer' to figting HIV in Africa. Well then, seat belts are 'not the answer' to reducing deaths in motor vehicle accidents. And immunizing children against polio is 'not the answer' to keeping the disease nearly extinct in the human population.
Considering that Africa is the only continent where Roman Catholicism is growing, and the very conservative, irrational views of both the African senior clergy and the Vatican on issues of human sexuality and birth control, I think it is a fair prediction that the next pope will be African. It was my prediction last time, and I'm sticking to it the next time around. The growth of Catholicism in Africa has been explosive, thanks primarily to the strategic evangelical projects under Pope John Paul II, who visited the continent 16 times.
To his credit, the Pope did make this statement when he arrived in Cameroon:
"In the face of suffering or violence, poverty or hunger, corruption or abuse of power, a Christian can never remain silent," he said on his arrival.Certainly the Catholic Church is a powerful voice for peace and justice. I just feel that attacking condoms is highly ill-advised.
Freedom is on the Retreat: Coup in Madagascar hands power to Andry Rajoelina, a man too young to become president under the current constitution. While I understand that outgoing president Marc Ravalomanana is not a poster child for democracy, I have to agree with the African Union that his ouster is an undemocratic coup d'etat.
Late-breaking changes to Formula One rules: And there are a few of them. Drivers must put in more autograph session hours and be more available to the media. Low-budget teams will have the option to operate under a $42M annual budget cap in-exchange for more freedoms regarding technical and aerodynamic changes during the season. And car weights will now be announced (and published online) after Saturday qualifying. But most significant and surprising of all, the FIA has announced that the number of race wins will determine the drivers championship, with points only being used in the result of a tie. That's huge. Had that rule existed in years past, Philippe Massa would have won the driver's championship last season, and Nigel Mansell would have three F1 titles instead of one.
My take is that this rule change is risky. What would happen if a driver won 6 or 7 races before August? Would he and the team have an incentive to sit-out consecutive races and coast-in for the championship come October? Races in F1 are all run on team strategy. So will the new strategy be to win the first race, and then do everything short of foul play to knock-out contenders in subsequent races? This will be interesting, but I fear it is going to be a bad experiment. There was a reason F1 used a points-based championship for decades. The current teams were asking for a restructuring of the points system and the FIA imposed a radical rule change instead.
And last on my list, a recycled Slate St. Patrick's Day article: The man behind the green beer and myth, by David Plotz (originally published on March 17, 2000).
Leave it Jon Stewart and the staff at The Daily Show to nail CNBC's Rick Santelli and his faux, bullshit populism. Jon Stewart is one of the only people in the mainstream media to have a rebuttal for Mr. Santelli's absurd, yet highly popular rant from the floor of the CME in February.
David Patterson may have ruined his political future this month, not to mention put a Democratic US Senate seat at risk in the 2010 election. I can't re-hash the entire story. But I can offer some highlights and reactions.
Let's begin with an event that the vat majority of NY State residents have forgotten - the governor's State of the State speech. According to insiders, the Governor spent over 60 hours writing and memorizing the speech, which the governor later confirmed. After it received mainly bad reviews, the governor publicly stated that he was ill the day he delivered the speech.
Allow me to put-aside the poor judgement and lack of politician-grade speaking skills ('you know') of Caroline Kennedy. And I'll put-aside the governor's selection of Congresswoman Kristen Gillibrand.
Here's just a sample from the mainstream NY press on how Patterson's month began with a forgettable speech and ended with him putting both a Democratic Senate seat and his own tenure as Governor at risk.
NY Daily News: Caroline Kennedy was in over her head, but Gov. David Paterson crew stoops low
If Paterson looks indecisive, he has no one to blame but himself. Within a single seven-hour span, he told reporters in Washington he had a "good idea" who he would pick, then told Katie Couric he was "not totally sure," then assured one contender he had not made up his mind.NY Daily News:
Paterson's brain trust didn't think to circulate a 28-page questionnaire to the candidates until early January. Later, though, the governor admitted he had not read the answers.
He refused to share a blank copy of the form with the public. Yet when a world-famous candidate filled one out, her sensitive answers got to the press.
Paterson was turned off when Kennedy first called him and asked if she "could" be considered for the seat.NY Times (registration required): In Selection Mess, Paterson Dug Hole Deeper
By asking if she could, rather than saying she wanted to be considered, Paterson immediately felt she wasn't really interested, the source said.
In meetings, the governor and his aides decided she had no political depth, the source said.
In the aftermath, many top Democrats and even friends of Mr. Paterson see his governorship as reeling and troublingly disorganized. They believed that this was to be his defining year, one in which he could move beyond the unusual circumstances of his ascension to high office and prove he could lead the state through a perilous fiscal crisis.NY Post: GOV SAYS CAROLINE TURNED 'NASTY'
Some were unusually open in questioning the approach — and judgment — of the governor and the people around him.
Paterson said that Kennedy had called him to say she was having second thoughts and "he asked her to wait a day and he thought she had agreed," another attendee recalled.
Then, he said, he couldn't get her on the phone for hours.
"He was absolutely frustrated that he couldn't reach her," the guest said of how Paterson described the scene. "He thought maybe she was sick. He felt she was being nasty to him, that she showed great disrespect."
Miscommunication happens at all levels in this advanced electronic age. But in retrospect, if Governor Patterson needed to track-down Ms. Kennedy at a critical time, he had several options and resources available to him. He has staff in New York City who could have tracked her down. He knew her address. He even has a private train that can transport him to Penn Station in just over 2 hours. For him to be upset that he couldn't call her back, then make his selection anyway, and then allow his staff to insult Ms. Kennedy as the process came to a close is simply unacceptable, and may surely cost the governor his first formal bid for election in November 2010. For a man who has a reputation of being professional, humorous, and fair, this month has shown us a David Patterson who has been anything but.
It's been a month of fake controversies for Barack Obama. Let's try to recap briefly.
The 'vault copy' of Obama's Honolulu birth certificate? Not Obama's problem. He couldn't release a 'vault copy' even if he sent feds or his lawyers to Honolulu to retrieve it. It stays in the vault. And the state employee who saw it and validated the public copies says there's no controversy whatsoever. Oh, and there is Obama's 1961 birth announcement in the newspaper. Conspiracy theory, indeed. The wingnuts say that Barry could kill this controversy by answering questions about the circumstances related to his birth. But do wingnuts deserve a second of our time outside of our wonderful left-wing blogosphere)? No. Besides, do you really think a Barry tell-all would shut them up about this? No. Moving on.
The unknown number of liberals and Hispanics upset with Obama's cabinet and security selections? Please. A new NBC/WSJ poll shows that nearly 70% of Americans approve of Obama's selections. And really, did any rational Liberals think Obama was going to appoint hippies, activists, and community organizers to the most powerful board in the Federal government? We want competence and accountability in the Obama White House. On paper alone, his cabinet beats Bush's previous two.
The arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? Not Obama's problem. In fact John Dickerson's analysis of Obama's clean denial is utterly ridiculous. Dickerson used to be a rational critic of Bush's press conferences. But to argue that Obama's voluntary answer on the Blagojevich arrest suggests he has something to hide is infuriating. This is the Liberal media at work. And Dickerson was not the only reporter trying hard to bend and twist the story to somehow tie Obama to it. Of course I think Barry was either told to stay away from Blagojevich, or learned first-hand how corrupt he was. His office (David Axelrod or Rahm Emanuel) might have even dropped the dime on the governor. But that's the end of the story. This is not Obama's problem.