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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Google adds rainbow for Gay Pride

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

If you search for the word “gay” on Google, the search results and Sponsored Links will be separated by a rainbow, rather than the usual thin blue line. It’s a wonder the AFA hasn’t sent out one of their Action Alerts trumpeting another attempt by The Gays to advance their Agenda.  It’s only a matter of time; can’t allow gay people to search for stuff on the internet, after all.

On the plus side, the search provides another opportunity to find the almost-certainly-fake but still funny Gay Bands List.  There appear to be new parentheticals since the last time I looked at it – my favorite is “George Michael (texan).”


Posted in internet, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Is the Kozinski story less than it seems?

Posted by Fred on June 13, 2008

By now everyone knows the story of Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who recently suspended an obscenity trial due to some issues of his own:

A closely watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.

Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore “a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a . . . sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here.”

That’s a story bound to attract attention, what with the sex and the alleged hypocrisy.  Prof. Lessig, however, says all is not as it appears to be:

What I mean by “the Kozinski mess” is the total inability of the media — including we, the media, bloggers — to get the basic facts right, and keep the reality in perspective. The real story here is how easily we let such a baseless smear travel – and our need is for a better developed immunity (in the sense of immunity from a virus) from this sort of garbage.

Here are the facts as I’ve been able to tell: For at least a month, a disgruntled litigant, angry at Judge Kozinski (and the Ninth Circuit) has been talking to the media to try to smear Kozinski. Kozinski had sent a link to a file (unrelated to the stuff being reported about) that was stored on a file server maintained by Kozinski’s son, Yale. From that link (and a mistake in how the server was configured), it was possible to determine the directory structure for the server. From that directory structure, it was possible to see likely interesting places to peer. The disgruntled sort did that, and shopped some of what he found to the news sources that are now spreading it.

Cyberspace is weird and obscure to many people. So let’s translate all this a bit: Imagine the Kozinski’s have a den in their house. In the den is a bunch of stuff deposited by anyone in the family — pictures, books, videos, whatever. And imagine the den has a window, with a lock. But imagine finally the lock is badly installed, so anyone with 30 seconds of jiggling could open the window, climb into the den, and see what the judge keeps in his house. Now imagine finally some disgruntled litigant jiggers the lock, climbs into the window, and starts going through the family’s stuff. He finds some stuff that he knows the local puritans won’t like. He takes it, and then starts shopping it around to newspapers and the like: “Hey look,” he says, “look at the sort of stuff the judge keeps in his house.”

This analogy, I submit, fits perfectly the alleged scandal around Kozinski. His son set up a server to make it easy for friends and family to share stuff — family pictures, documents he wanted to share, videos, etc. Nothing alleged to have been on this server violates any law. (There’s some ridiculous claim about “bestiality.” But the video is not bestiality. It lives today on YouTube — a funny (to some) short of a man defecating in a field, and then being chased by a donkey. If there was malicious intent in this video, it was the donkey’s. And in any case, nothing sexual is shown in that video at all.) No one can know who uploaded what, or for whom. The site was not “on the web” in the sense of a site open and inviting anyone to come in. It had a robots.txt file to indicate its contents were not to be indexed. That someone got in is testimony to the fact that security — everywhere — is imperfect. But this was a private file server, like a private room, hacked by a litigant with a vendetta. Decent people — and publications — should say shame on the person violating the privacy here, and not feed the violation by forcing a judge to defend his humor to a nosy world.

According to Jesse Walker (linking to conservative pundit Patterico), the lawyer with a grudge who outed Kozinski was Cyrus Sanai.

I don’t think the professor’s analogy is entirely apt – the server in question was accessible to the world at, although the index page just provided a message telling a visitor to go away.  That’s not really private, and blocking the Google spider via a robots.txt file doesn’t make it private either.  It could have been private with a password or other security, but it wasn’t.  So it’s not really the same as Judge Kozinski’s house.  But it’s not a “publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos” either.  Nor is the material revealed to date a “sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial” before the Judge.  It appears to be far more akin to the sort of mildly offensive viral email that would have gotten Kozinski in trouble had he forwarded it from work.

None of this should bar Judge Kozinski from presiding over this trial, of course.  Who is really aggrieved by any of this?  This offended lawyer with a grudge, to be sure.  People who hate judges generally or the 9th Circuit in particular.  People who think pornography should be excised from society by any means necessary and are afraid Judge Kozinski won’t put this particular smut-peddler in jail where he belongs, even if he didn’t actually break any laws.  That’s not necessarily a huge group, but it is a loud one, so this story isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, truth be damned.

Posted in internet, law, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

AFA: We hate gay people so much we won’t even use the word gay

Posted by Fred on May 7, 2008

It’s no secret that the Tupelo Troglodytes at the American “Family” Association hate homosexuals. They call for boycotts of any corporation that tries to sell things to gays and lesbians, or who acknowledge that homosexuality exists, or who fail to promote Christianity as the one true faith. But now, apparently, they have some sort of vendetta against vowels:

Following its support for the h-mos-xual agenda, Procter & Gamble established a toll-free number for people to register their opinions for or against P&G’s promotion of the g-y agenda, including open mouth kissing between g-ys. It gave a toll-free number which was heavily promoted on g-y Web sites for a week to give those favoring the promotion of h-mos-xuality an opportunity to call. Monday, after AFA had put out the word that P&G wanted to hear from AFA supporters, P&G abruptly ended it.

AFA is encouraging supporters to call P&G and ask the company why it is promoting the g-y lifestyle and why it quit using the toll-free number to receive opinions only after AFA notified AFA supporters about it. We urge you to spend a few cents to register your complaint with P&G. Here is P&G’s corporate number to call: 513-983-1100. (Please get others to call P&G at this number!)

P&G has added h-mos-xual lovers to its soap opera “As the World Turns.” The soap opera now includes scenes of h-mos-xuals with passionate open mouth kissing. The motive behind P&G’s push is to desensitize viewers, especially younger viewers, to the h-mos-xual lifestyle. The ultimate goal of h-mos-xual activists is h-mos-xual marriage.

That’s amazing – they’re so offended by homosexuality that they can’t even write the word.  For what it’s worth, that particular soap introduced the first gay character twenty years ago. They were the first daytime drama to include a homosexual kiss, and the P&G action the AFA is up in arms about resulted from a movement among fans to get the show to include more kissing from the two gay characters (the producers cut back on such scenes almost completely, in the hopes of appeasing people like the AFA, who almost certainly never watch the show). Because the AFA protests things that they don’t actually watch, they miss the sorts of content that could be legitimately troublesome:

Webber and Newcomb said they’ve been more bothered by other things they have seen on the soap, like when a 14-year-old boy shot a man who was attacking his mother. One character is so desperate for a baby that she slept with her ex-brother-in-law, and was nearly caught having sex in an elevator. Another woman led her children and ex-husband into believing she had a brain tumor, just to get him back.

Apparently that’s all OK; just don’t acknowledge that homosexuals exist.

Posted in Politics, TV | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

AFA says KY not keeping gay people properly underfoot

Posted by Fred on March 4, 2008

I no longer live in Kentucky, but if I did, I’d find the American “Family” Association’s latest attempt to browbeat the state legislature incredibly aggravating.  Here’s how they describe their latest favored pro-families-that-look-like-us legislation:

Senate Bill 40 – An Omnibus Pro-Life Bill: This bill: 1) mandates that an abortion-seeking woman be given the opportunity to see the abortionist’s ultrasound image of the unborn child, 2) bans partial-birth abortion, and 3) requires face-to-face consultation with the physician (rather than a taped recording). It has already passed its Senate committee and the full Senate (32-4). It only has to pass its House committee and the full House to become law. Kentucky is currently ranked 11th in the nation regarding good pro-life legislation. This would move the Commonwealth into the top five. More importantly, this will save the lives of unborn children! And, it will protect women from unbearable pain in later life. (As many as 50% of women who see their unborn child in an ultrasound choose life!)

There’s nothing particularly novel here, just the usual sort of “ban abortion through the back door by making it a pain in the ass” rigmarole.  It’s not clear, however, why the legislation is necessary. Are their really physicians who refuse to show a patient an ultrasound of their own body upon request?  After all, an ultrasound image is first and foremost an image of the woman’s body, not an illustration of the fetus and its temporary living quarters.  The US Congress has already acted to ban intact dilation and extraction, so passing a state-level ban is mere piling on, a bone to throw to the ravenous pro-life lobby.  Finally, while an argument can be made that physicians should consult with patients face-to-face rather than by recording, shouldn’t this requirement apply equally to all consultations, and not just pre-abortion consultation?  Writing the statute this way makes its true intent transparent — throw roadblocks in the way of a practice that, like it or not, is legal.  These sorts of statutes appear harmless on their face even to those who favor abortion rights, in that a woman who should not or does not want to carry a child to term can still terminate the pregnancy, but they’re not.  They’re not harmless for the same reason that incremental restriction on smoking (for example) is not harmless.  These types of laws restrict liberty and are designed for the sole purpose of eventually banning a legal act. If the AFA wants to ban abortion, if the AHA wants to ban smoking, if MADD wants to ban drinking, they should have the cojones to do so directly.

Senate Bill 112 – Legislation Barring the Creation of “Partner” Benefits: This bill bans state universities and state agencies from creating “domestic partner” benefits and it has passed its Senate committee and the full Senate (34-3). This is the “carry-over” issue from last year’s General Assembly and now it only has to pass its House committee and the full House to become law. UK and U of L continue to defy the 2004 Marriage Protection Amendment and to discriminate against family members of employees while covering live-in lovers and roommates.

This is one of the AFA’s favorite dead horses to beat.  The AFA sent out an “Action Alert” in February 2007 warning that UofL was “re-defin[ing] marriage by granting marriage benefits to unmarried, live-in partners.”  They sent out another one in March 2007 urging members to flood the legislature with calls and messages to get their “legislator to fulfill his oath of office by granting him the opportunity to vote to ‘support the constitution’.” Apparently there are no women in the Kentucky legislature.   The AFA followed these “alerts” with more of the same in May, July and August 2007, and again on February 1 of this year.  It’s always the same — those liberal universities in Louisville and Lexington are subverting the constitution and the will of the people by giving health benefits to unmarried partners of employees, and “discriminating” against families.  Neither is true.

First, while the AFA clearly wishes it were so, it’s not at all clear that the state constitution bans health benefits to unmarried individuals.  Here’s what it says:

Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

Only the state can create a legal status “identical or substantially similar” to marriage.  Neither UofL nor UK, though state institutions, can create any sort of legal status for unmarried individuals.  Furthermore, granting health benefits to live-in partners hardly creates a legal status similar to marriage.  Such individuals can’t inherit property via intestate succession, they don’t have hospital visitation rights, they can’t sue for spousal or child support, they can’t seek custody of children, and they can’t file a joint tax return. Spouses can do all of those things.  Arguing that this legislation is needed to protect the 2004 constitutional amendment puts the lie to the argument that the 2004 vote was about protecting marriage. It was about punishing gay people, as the AFA admits in encouraging Kentuckians to tell the legislature that “[w]e stated in the 2004 Marriage Amendment that we do not want relationships other than marriage elevated.”  The AFA probably hopes that denying medical care to homosexuals will lead to a few early deaths.

The legislation is also not needed to prevent discrimination (a subject the AFA is rarely heard on when it’s discrimination against anyone other than white, heterosexual Protestants).  There are probably some UK employees taking care of adult children or aged parents or alcoholic siblings, who are not able to extend their health benefits to such people.  It is not clear, however, that this is a sizable group. The universities should be able to define their health plans to cover whomever they deem appropriate, and the AFA’s proposition that they must either restrict coverage to married heterosexuals or else cover everyone is nonsense.

Finally, the AFA can’t resist a final plea that the legislature mandate a society based on their particular view of morality, economic freedom be damned:

And while you’re on the line, deliver another blow to casinos by saying: “And stop casinos – Focus on families, not casinos.”

That is, however, a subject for another day.

Posted in Politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

W&M Board member resigns in protest, says Board to dismantle Nichol’s policies

Posted by Fred on February 20, 2008

The carefully-constructed narrative spun by social conservative critics of ousted William & Mary President Gene Nichol is beginning to fall apart.  Nichol’s opponents argue that the decision was performance-based, not ideological, the unanimous decision of a Board of Visitors comprised almost wholly of Democrats with no intention of dismantling the controversial decisions of the former President.  It now appears that very little of that story is true.  Board of Visitors member Robert Blair has announced his resignation from the Board, and says that the decision was not unanimous and that the Board will not keep Nichol’s policies in place.

After much soul searching, and input from my family and from alumni I respect, I will tender my resignation tomorrow from the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary to the Honorable Timothy M. Kaine, Governor of Virginia.

I was one of several members of the Board who argued forcefully for the renewal of Gene Nichol’s contract as President of the College. Although no vote was taken, one was not required if the contract was not to be renewed. Those for renewal were given ample opportunity to argue their points. We ultimately found ourselves in the minority.

I was confident at the time that most of those speaking for non-renewal based their positions on non-ideological grounds and without animus towards Mr. Nichol.

Given that no vote was to be taken, the decision cannot be said to have been unanimous in any sense of the word.  Once it became clear that a majority of the Board wanted to get rid of the President, Nichols’ supporters gave up, comforted by the belief that the Board would keep Nichol’s policies in place.  Nichol would suffer, to be sure, but perhaps the students of the College would not.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be true either.

Suffice it to say that dozens of our incredibly talented students (and others) called me both before and after the Board’s decision, pouring out their hearts with love and admiration for President Nichol and the College. After President Nichol’s resignation, I was initially reassured by public statements of Board Rector Michael Powell and other members of the Board of Visitors that the Board would not change the policies put in place by Mr. Nichol, including that dealing with the Wren Chapel Cross. Based in good measure on such statements, I tried to calm the fears of President Nichol’s ardent supporters and assure them that while they mourn his loss, the important policies he put in place would remain. I strongly encouraged their continued commitment to the College.

Why then am I resigning from the Board at this juncture? Because there has been an incipient effort by some members of the Board of Visitors to pick apart President Nichol’s accomplishments. To what end? They gained their stated objective. I have also seen mean-spirited communications that are not worthy of the professional deliberations of any managing board, but most especially not the Board of Visitors of William and Mary. Such communications call into question the real motivation for the initial decision not to renew the President’s contract.

I know the reasoned reactions, as well as the emotional ones, of Board members are in response to the President’s message of February 12th to the William and Mary Community. Would I have refrained from some of what Mr. Nichol said? Certainly, but then I knew more than he. Several of us Board members are actually baffled by the surprise of other Board members regarding the content of the President’s message. President Nichol is a proud, intelligent and charismatic leader and visionary who demonstrated his love for the College in many ways while being under relentless, vicious attack since the Wren Cross decision. That he held his tongue for so long is remarkable.

That members of the Board would already be dismantling the policies of the former President, less than two weeks after he was ousted and before the ink on the Rector’s press release naming an interim president was even dry, demonstrates clearly the real motivation here.  This was not, as is claimed, a practical decision by a unanimous and impartial governing body to replace an ineffective administrator.  This was a decision by a faction of the Board acting under the duress imposed by members being called before a General Assembly grand inquisition, a capitulation to conservative critics who disagree with Nichol and Blair that “William and Mary is not a private, religious school. It is a public university that must be open to all who qualify for admissions based upon academic achievement and other accomplishments.”

Blair closes with a message to the remaining members of the Board, a statement more judicious than Nichol’s February 12 e-mail but no less forceful:

My conscience now tells me it is time to move on. And I am. I hope my leaving will give Rector Powell and the Board pause, and cause them to follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice contained his letter to John Tyler in 1804: to open the doors of truth and test their necessary deliberations by reason. I hope the Board will conduct those deliberations in a professional and civil manner worthy of our venerable institution and will defend their decision (as they are being asked to do by the faculty and students for whom the College and the Board exist) in a similar fashion.

One hopes they take this message to heart, but one despairs at the unlikelihood that they will do so.

Posted in education, Politics, religion | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Michelle Obama puts foot in mouth, Hillary wishes Bill more like Cindy McCain

Posted by Fred on February 20, 2008

Now that Michelle Obama has been quoted as saying that, for the first time in her adult life, the 44 year old is proud of her country, how much do you think Hillary wishes Bill hadn’t called Obama’s anti-war record a fairy tale, or that Obama would likely win in South Carolina because of his race, or that President Hillary would send Bill and George H.W. Bush on a mission to clean up George W. Bush’s mess?  You just know Hillary would love to have her surrogates come out hard (the way Cindy McCain did), but she doesn’t have much credibility on that front.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Google accused of collaborating with … Republicans ?!?

Posted by Fred on February 19, 2008

Clarification: Doc Searls says I misunderstood his point, and I agree that I was less than clear. See more below.

On Friday, the GOP named Google its Official Innovation Provider, in a press release clearly written for the sole purpose of attracting the attention that all press releases mentioning Google get.  Says the GOP:

Embracing technology that will propel the 2008 Republican National Convention to the forefront of the digital age, the GOP today announced that Google Inc. will serve as the Republican National Convention’s Official Innovation Provider. Convention President and Chief Executive Officer Maria Cino made the announcement in a unique video posted to the convention’s new YouTube channel ( The video is also showcased on the convention’s website (, and highlights Google’s cutting-edge, computer-generated SketchUp graphics of the Xcel Energy Center, where the convention will be held.

That’s notable mostly for stating the obvious (convention stuff is on a YouTube channel) and for creating yet another meaningless title (Official Innovation Provider) which bears no resemblance to reality (Google is innovative, sure, but there’s no sign they’re doing any actual innovating between now and September 1st).  Nevertheless, the announcement drove some people insane.  Literally insane.  Marc Cantor proposes boycotting Google for “helping” Republicans (he also gets McCain’s actual record almost 100% wrong, but that’s another story).  Doc Searls compares the Republicans to the Chinese government, implying that selling services to the GOP is doing evil.  What the hell?  Disagree with Republican policies all you want, but to suggest that an American technology company should refuse to do business with an American political party is really just insane. There is an argument that Google should refuse to do business in China (it’s not a particularly persuasive argument, but it’s a legitimate argument).  Refusing to do business with the GOP would simply be crazy, and Google’s not particularly likely to seek out retribution from American politicians.  What is it about the Republicans that drives people so crazy?

In the comments, Doc says he wasn’t saying that it was evil for Google to do business with the GOP, but that “[w]hether one likes or dislikes Google’s engagement with China, or the GOP, at least it’s engaged. For some things it may be in a better position to make a positive difference than if it were not engaged.”  This is a good point regarding China, and closely tracks my own view.  What struck me about Doc’s post was that he appears to be suggesting that doing business with the Republicans has more in common with doing business with the Chinese government than with, say, Walking Tree Travel (which uses Google Apps Team Edition) or Clemson University (Google Apps Education Edition) or Holiday Home Rental (Google Custom Search Business Edition) or Proctor & Gamble (Google Apps Premier Edition). That Doc thinks it notable that Google is providing services to the Republican Party, that the GOP is an organization with which Google should be “engaged” in order to “make a positive difference” is telling.  Doc does say he’d say the same thing if it were the Democrats.  In my view, it’s no more notable that Google has a contract with the GOP than it is that they have one with P&G (and I’m not a registered Republican either).

Posted in Politics, Technology | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Post-Nichol Spin Begins; Verdict: Still an Ideological Purge

Posted by Fred on February 19, 2008

It’s now been over a week since President Nichol was shown the door by the W&M Board of Visitors, and as politicians are wont to do, the post-action spin machine is running at full throttle.  Jim Bacon, for example, says that “it looks like Nichol is neither someone who can be trusted with the truth nor someone who holds the interests of the College above his own.”  In a comment to my Boycott W&M page, Amelia Peabody points to two editorials (one, two) in the campus Flat Hat and one from the Daily Press that “best sum up why his contract was not renewed.”  Many from the anti-Nichols camp note that all but one of the current BOV were appointed by Democrats (which is not particularly surprising, given that the last Republican governor left the mansion in 2002).

So which is it, incompetent administrator kicked out because he’s a bad manager, or victim of a political witch hunt?  Let’s start with the editorials from the local media, papers that allegedly turned on a President they once supported.  The second Flat Hat editorial (which is actually from November 2007) goes a long way in explaining the first.  Writing about an email between Nichol and Tim Sullivan, which may or may not have indicated that Nichol was dishonest about a revoked $12 million donation from James McGlothlin, Flat Hat columnist Max Fisher says that

We, who understand the pettiness of Nichol’s detractors and the importance of his contributions to the College, are unsure if we can still defend him. The revelations of this e-mail may be too much to forgive. So, the dream of a better College dies with our faith in Nichol. Nichol’s real betrayal, his real crime, more than anything else, no matter what they say, is allowing that dream to die. It was his dream, too. Now cracks a noble heart.

The issue of the donation clearly became a huge issue for the campus paper.  After Nichol was fired, the paper concluded that “the Board of Visitors was right not to renew College President Gene Nichol’s contract.”  Why?  The fundraising issue was paramount:

But our opinion on Nichol evolved as we studied his presidency, with recent editorials expressing deep skepticism. His relationships with donors soured and serious ethical questions arose concerning whether he knowingly misrepresented fundraising figures. Controversy made Nichol himself the issue, and this has impeded his ability to lead effectively.

As are many campus papers, the Flat Hat has always been well-stocked with children styling themselves the next Woodward or Bernstein.  College administrations are rarely the source of scandals rising to that level, so you take what you can get.  In this case, what you get is a $12 million donation pledged by a seventy-something law school alumnus but then revoked in outrage following the Wren Cross controversy.  Nichols announced the successful conclusion of the Campaign for William and Mary before news of the revoked donation came out, and the junior journalists seized on this “falsehood”, arguing that Nichol knew the donation had been revoked.  The email exchange, however, can easily be read to say that Nichol knew only that McGlothlin would not be giving any more money in the future, which would make his statements about the endowment campaign truthful.

In any event, in November Fisher acknowledged the obvious, that opposition to Nichol came not from concern about his fundraising ability or his management skills, but about his overall vision for the College:

I am saddened that this is how Nichol’s presidency may well end. I am saddened that Nichol’s enemies — who have not been fighting Nichol so much as the loss of the regional, WASPs-only, good-ol’-boy college they remember — may be brought closer to their goal.

In the end, the Flat Hat concluded that firing Nichol was the right thing to do, but their opinion is clearly driven in large part by their months-old effort in investigative journalism to prove that the President lied about when he knew that the troglodyte McGlothlin didn’t want to give $12 million to a school that was so open to non-Christians.

The Daily Press never actually comes out and supports the firing of the President, but they are clearly put off by the email with which Nichol announced the news:

But Nichol also needs to go back and read his own resignation statement one more time, when he writes, “Mine, to be sure, has not been a perfect presidency. I have sometimes moved too swiftly, and perhaps paid insufficient attention to the processes and practices of a strong and complex university. A wiser leader would likely have done otherwise.”

That is, in fact, a fair self-assessment. A wiser leader might not have written this e-mail at all. A wiser leader might still be president of William and Mary.

Even while saying this, the editorialists again note the obvious, that opposition to Nichol has everything to do with the Wren Cross and very little to do with management ability:

But there’s more to running a state-supported college than being a charismatic champion of liberal arts or a bulldog for progressive politics. The position takes executive leadership in planning, administration, fundraising, cultivating influence on behalf of the institution. There are many puzzle pieces — students, faculty, parents, alumni, legislators, governors — and it takes considerable skill to knit them together and keep the peace. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” can be monumentally problematic when steering the course of a complex college community.

Was Nichol unjustly vilified in what he characterizes as a “committed, relentless, frequently untruthful and vicious campaign”? Yes. Did members of the Virginia House of Delegates inappropriately seek to intimidate board appointees during a hearing in Richmond last week? Yes. Will his ideological opponents now dance in the streets and claim victory? Yes.

So we return full-circle to the question. Was it ideology and politics, or was it fund raising, alumni relations and management?  Nothing that’s come out in the last week changes my view that it was the former.  I have no particular affection for Gene Nichol.  When I left Williamsburg, the President was still Tim Sullivan.  I have no idea whether Nichol was a good administrator or a bad one.  Student applications kept rising while he was in office and the overall reputation of the College’s academic programs remained high, but he may well have been an incompetent, bumbling fool.  But allegations about his management ability are latecomers to this party, while offended Christians have been hanging around the open bar for a good while.  The BOV may be made up of Democratic appointees, but they remain political appointees who keep their positions only by the good graces of the General Assembly, and oversee a public university largely dependent on the public trough in Richmond.  That they kicked Gene Nichol out the door a week after Republicans called some of them before an inquizatorial board to grill them on why they hadn’t fired Nichol for messing with the cross doesn’t pass the smell test.  It may not have been all ideology, but ideology clearly played a major role.

It bears repeating — Nichol may have been a bad president.  William & Mary may well be a better place in a couple of years under different leadership.  But he was removed from office because he attempted to make non-Christians feel welcome in a publicly-owned building on a secular campus by reserving a religious icon of no particular historic significance for religious functions. He was removed from office because he refused to squelch student expression with which he disagreed.  He was kicked out because he attempted to make the campus as welcoming to a Muslim from Detroit as a Baptist from Suffolk.  You don’t have to be a liberal or champion of progressive politics to be offended that college personnel decisions were informed more by outside agitators than by concern for the education of students (I’m not the former, but I am the latter).

The BOV has the power now.  Make it clear that they (and Nichols’ successor) are going to stand up to the troglodytes now carrying Nichols’ head on a bloody pike, and this will all fade.  Do anything else, and the New PC will have won.  What’ll it be, Rector Powell?

Posted in education, Politics | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

AFA Says TVLand, Zappa, Sir Mix-A-Lot All Blasphemers

Posted by Fred on February 14, 2008

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Shooting the American “Family” Association Fish in the Oh-My-God-Do-They-Need-To-Get-A-Life Barrel.  In today’s episode, the AFA gets their panties in a bunch over TVLand’s use of “Ohmigod” in a commercial to promote the netlet’s That’s So 80s Weekend:

The TV Land network has a new feature starting this Saturday (Feb. 16) called “OHMIGOD, That’s so 80’s weekend.” The series features movies from the 1980’s. “OHMIGOD” is an irreverent exclamation for “Oh, my God!”

The promotional ad is playing on the television broadcast and on their website at (WARNING: If you visit their website, the ad plays automatically.)

I can’t tell you in words how offensive it is to listen to the advertisement for this new show as they must say “OHMIGOD” five times in 30 seconds.

Disrespect for Christians and God have gone on for some time with this phrase, but now we have a network that feels it appropriate to name an entire program series with this phrase.

It’s not a “feature” and it’s name does not include the word “God”.  It’s a bunch of movies from the 1980s over the course of the weekend, specifically Footloose, Flashdance, Say Anything, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club. One hopes no one at the AFA decides to actually watch the movies, as there’s a whole lot more there to offend uppity moralists than in a harmless 80s catchphrase, especially in Footloose, the satire of which is well beyond troglodytes like Don Wildmon.

More to the point, however, we stopped stoning people for blasphemy a long time ago (though the AFA probably wishes we didn’t), and use of the phrase Ohmigod! stopped being blasphemous a long time ago.  The AFA must really be hard up for things to be offended about if this is the best they can do.  I for one am going to use the phrase as much as I can today, just to make a statement that moralists like Don Wildmon don’t own the English language.  Courtesy of Sir Mix-A-Lot, here’s the single greatest use of the phrase from the 90s:

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McCain, Obama sweep to victory in Potomac Primaries

Posted by Fred on February 13, 2008


Yesterday’s so-called Potomac Primaries saw resounding victories for Barack Obama in DC, Maryland and Virginia.  The results in DC and Maryland were not surprising, as each has substantial African-American communities, which turned out in force for Obama.  The margin of victory in Virginia was a surprise, with Obama beating Clinton by 29 percentage points (pre-vote polls suggested a margin of more like 18%).

On the Republican side, McCain won in all three states as well.  Again, his victories in DC and Maryland were expected, as neither state boasts the sort of conservative, evangelical base that makes up virtually all of Huckabee’s support.  Neither state is even remotely in play in November, as either Obama or Clinton would beat the Republican handily.  In Virginia, early returns suggested that Old Dominion conservatives might be sending a message to McCain about his conservative credentials (or lack thereof), but in the end McCain managed to get half the vote in the open GOP primary.

On a county-by-county basis, both Huckabee and Clinton found their support largely in the rural Southwest corner of the state.

VA_counties_demObama’s support was solid in all counties east of Lynchburg.  Clinton picked up support in the SW, plus Shenandoah (50%), Warren (55%) and Page (59%) counties.

VA_counties_repMcCain, like Obama, did well in the more urban and suburban east.  Huckabee polled well in the SW and Cumberland, Amelia and Dinwiddie counties west of Richmond, plus the conservative parts of the SE (Charles City, Isle of Wight and Surry counties plus the cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk).

What are the lessons to be drawn from this?  First, Obama is clearly able to pick up support from rural whites, as David Weigel notes at Reason:

Highland County, which borders West Virginia, is 99 percent white, and it went 54-45 for Obama. Floyd County, deep in Appalachia, is about 97 percent white, and it went 49-48 for Obama. Virginia has 11 congressional districts, all but two of them with white majorities, and Obama only lost one of them, the ultra-conservative 9th, which looks more like eastern Tennessee than the rest of Virginia.

Second, the not-McCain vote is far stronger than the pro-Huckabee vote.  Look at where Huckabee did well, areas that are incredibly conservative and have as much chance of voting for a Democrat as choosing polo over NASCAR.  Listen to Huckabee’s supporters.  Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell said that McCain “has some work to do to convince Republicans and independents that he’s the man. . . . There are a lot of people still searching.”  Voters aren’t any more fired up about the Huckster than are the politicians:

In Loudoun County, Huckabee found support yesterday among some voters who said former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney had been their first choice, and among others who wanted to send a message. Former Romney supporter Mark Vayda, 82, chose Huckabee because he said McCain is weak on immigration.

Janice Schell, 45, of Purcellville, a self-described conservative Christian, voted for Huckabee even though she acknowledged that his chances are slim. “I’ll support John McCain if he gets the nomination. I guess it’s just to make a statement,” she said.

The conservatives are tilting at windmills, as McCain now has 821 delegates, needing only 370 to secure the nomination.  Upcoming primaries where McCain would be expected to do well include Wisconsin (Feb. 19: 40 delegates), Indiana (May 6: 57 delegates), Ohio (March 4: 88 delegates) and Pennsylvania (April 22: 74 delegates).  Huckabee’s chances to even be a gadfly until the convention will probably be determined by the March 4 Texas primary.  McCain victories in Ohio and Texas would give him another 228 delegates.  A McCain victory in Ohio or Texas would also make it mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win outright.

Momentum is now clearly with Obama, who has won eight straight contests over the suddenly-shaky Clinton, and McCain, who has broken a recent string of Huckabee protest vote victories.  It’s certainly far from over, at least on the Democratic side.  A President Huckabee would be a disaster, a strange amalgam of tax increases, statist policy and an ultra-conservative social agenda. You’d get an amendment to remake the Constitution in God’s image, policies to ban unapproved food, drink and other vices, and tax increases to pay for it all.  President Clinton redux would be equally bad; her aborted efforts at remaking the health care system the first time around show just what to expect, and the fact that her support comes from old-line Democratic interest groups suggests that she wouldn’t even be able to claim the centrist New Democrat mantle her husband tried to claim.  McCain and Obama may not be ideal (McCain’s anti-First Amendment campaign finance reform agenda comes to mind), but they look positively wonderful in comparison.

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