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Friday, September 29, 2006

Florida Congressman Mark Foley

Reading this story this afternoon (about the Congressman who resigned for sexual text messaging with teenage male pages) was like reading a copy of The Onion or watching a SNL skit - it was so ridiculous that it seemed like satire. What he did was bad enough, but he's pushed legislation to protect children from sexual predators, and he founded and co-chairs the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.

Regardless of his actual intentions toward the teens, Foley, who is unmarried, just isn't a viable candidate anymore. It's further evidence for the famous political axiom: the only thing that can permanently ruin your political career is a dead girl or a live boy.


It turns out that the real story here is that the Republican leadership, including Dennis Hastert, knew for quite some time about what Foley had been doing, and other than telling him to cut it out, had turned a blind eye. What I really like is how the Repugs are spinning this - somehow the whole thing is a malicious political move on the part of the Democrats to win Congressional seats. Though how exactly the Dems forced Foley to prey on kids, and then tricked the leadership into letting him, is a pretty clever set of machinations, especially considering how inert they've been for the last 5 years.


The Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, is trying to hold onto his job amid calls for his removal, so he's going on the offensive. Today he asserts that Dems held onto this information for "a year or two" so it would come to light just before the election. Of course, two years ago, as I recall, there was an election that the Dems would have wanted to influence!. More to the point, the Reynolds aide who resigned today (who had formerly worked for Foley) claims that he reported Foley to Hastert's office three years ago. Even if Hastert claims that the timing is politically motivated, Hastert can only look like he handled it badly, and hid what was going on for a very long time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Torture as a political issue

I was quite intrigued today by some election analysis I heard on NPR. Several panelists were discussing the upcoming Congressional elections, and one analyst was asked how the torture issue resonates with voters. The analyst said that it's unclear how Republicans respond to the issue, but left-leaning Democratic voters (that would be me) are completely outraged by it. That struck me for two reasons - one is that it's totally true of me (I guess that makes me a typical left-leaning Democrat) and the other was how surprising it is that these analysts don't have a read on this issue's impact among Republicans. Is that because Republicans have mixed feelings, or because they don't really care. As one of the "outraged" people, naturally I'm mystified that anyone feels anything different (especially indifferent)!!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Welcome to suburbia

I can't believe this - a neighbor two doors away, who I've never met or spoken to, asked me not to walk on her lawn today, because it makes her dog go "crazy." I only walked up on her grass because the mail truck was coming, and there's no sidewalks in this sub-division. But more to the point, her dog always goes crazy when I walk by with our dog, Roxy, whether or not I walk up on her grass. I guess I could avoid her house altogether, and walk around the block in the other direction, but that seems a bit extreme. I have to say, that's the nastiest reception I've gotten here - mostly people have been fairly friendly (although what they say about us behind our backs is another story I'm sure, since I get the feeling it's Gossip Central around here).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Pope and Islam

I have such mixed feelings about the furor created by the Pope's quotation of a 14th century writer who stated that Islam brings nothing to the world but evil and inhumanity (though to be fair, this was in the context of a scholarly lecture at a German university on the topic of violence and religion). In any event, these are harsh words and it's no surprise that Muslims objected. And it seems odd that the Pope didn't even consider that his words might offend. On the other hand, Muslim extremists were so upset by this slander that they fire-bombed two churches in the West Bank. Can you imagine if Jews burned down a couple of mosques every time a high-ranking Imam or Mufti or Ayatolla criticized Jews or Israel? The mind boggles.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The state of education

I'm struggling with a recent story on the cover of Newsweek, discussing the possibly excessive pressure on younger children (kindergarten and first grade) to succeed in traditional school subjects like reading and writing.


While the story itself was both thought-provoking and heart-breaking, my friend Suzanne (gradgirl) and I agree that it seems odd to focus on the "difficulties" of these priviledged students who are being lavished with extra resources and attention, when an equal or larger number of students are failing completely and who are rarely the focus of the media (or many others, for that matter).

Friday, September 08, 2006

The furor over "The Path to 9/11"

I had heard of this 5 hour mini-series, made by ABC and Disney, but I just heard about the protests over it yesterday, when my friend Raj sent me a NY Times article about it. Then I surfed around and read more. What's most shocking to me is that ABC and Disney have deliberately promoted the program through conservative talk shows and blogs, so how can anyone claim that the show is a balanced account of the events? The network is planning a disclaimer regarding the "dramatization" of the events, but that's so disingenuous - many people will tune in after the disclaimer and therefore won't even see it. More importantly, no one watching will know what in the show is fictionalized and what isn't, so the disclaimer does nothing to help clarify the veracity of the depiction. If they want to present the material, why not just do it accurately and eliminate the need for the disclaimer? Frankly, it's frightening to me that a large media company would produce and broadcast what amounts to a propaganda piece just weeks before an important election. In addition, the "docudrama" is being provided to schools through the Scholastic company. Hopefully students will get to see the disclaimer!

Parenthetically, conservatives went balistic when CBS produced an unflattering film about the Reagans, which was never shown on CBS due to the protests, though it was eventually broadcast on Showtime (I watched it - it was a silly movie). How much more important is it for the events preceding 9-11 to be really understood, rather than what seems to be happening here, which is that the film is being used for political purposes?