Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Lawsuit May Bankrupt Phelps’ "Church"

31.10.2007 (5:03 pm) – Filed under: Free Speech,Law,Religion ::

art.protest.gi.jpg

After members of Reverend Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church demonstrated at the funeral of Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder his father was justifiably upset.  But Albert Snyder didn’t just get mad – he got even:

A grieving father won a nearly $11 million verdict Wednesday against a fundamentalist Kansas church that pickets military funerals in the belief that the war in Iraq is a punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Albert Snyder of York, Pennsylvania., sued the Westboro Baptist Church for unspecified damages after members demonstrated at the March 2006 funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. 

The jury first awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages. It returned later in the afternoon with its decision to award $6 million in punitive damages for invasion of privacy and $2 million for causing emotional distress.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett noted the size of the award for compensating damages "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," according to financial statements filed with the court.

That’s a shame.  A real shame.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of cretins.

More:

Snyder claimed the protests intruded upon what should have been a private ceremony and sullied his memory of the event.

The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that the deaths of soldiers are due to the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Their attorneys argued in closing statements Tuesday that the burial was a public event and that even abhorrent points of view are protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and religion.

Earlier this year a young Marine who lived in the next town up the road from me was killed overseas and Phelps’ church was planning to bring their traveling show down to Texas to "protest" there.  The next thing you know cars from Kansas were driving around town, scoping things out.  Just as quickly the rumor mill in this little town was churning and axe handles were suddenly in short supply at the local feed store. 

Luckily, they decided to call it off and vanished without a word.  The boy’s funeral was held in peace and no blood was spilled. 

Snyder’s victory, though perhaps temporary, is a win for common sense and decency.  The question of free speech is an important one.  Any legal experts out there care to weigh in on whether the verdict will be overturned? 

As for the religious angle, all I can say is that Phelps doesn’t represent any branch of Christianity that I’m familiar with or willing to acknowledge as legitimate.

Diplomats Say "No" to Iraq

31.10.2007 (4:25 pm) – Filed under: Iraq ::

US embassy in Baghdad under construction - 11/10/2007

There is a lot of good news coming from Iraq these days:

Violent deaths of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians appear to have fallen sharply in Iraq in October, according to the latest Associated Press tally.

The AP’s figures mirror other reports that the levels of bloodshed are falling here. But the meaning of these statistics is disputed, and experts generally agree that the struggle for security and stability is far from over.

The number of Iraqi civilians killed fell from at least 1,023 in September to at least 875 in October, according to the AP count.

That’s the lowest monthly toll for civilian casualties in the past year, and is down sharply from the 1,216 recorded in October 2006. The numbers are based on daily reports from police, hospital officials, morgue workers and verifiable witness accounts.

The count is considered a minimum based on AP reporting; the actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported.

The drop in deaths among U.S. military personnel in Iraq was even more striking, according to AP’s records – down from 65 in September to at least 36 in October. The October figure is by far the lowest in the last year, and is sharply lower than the 106 deaths recorded in October 2006.

The relative period of calm – if that’s what it is – came during the Muslim fast of Ramadan, a time when militants have in the past escalated their attacks on U.S. forces.

One bit of information that is not as good is the rebellion going on inside the U.S. State Department over possible mandatory postings to Iraq:

Hundreds of US diplomats have protested against a government move to force them to accept postings in war-torn Iraq.

About 300 angry diplomats attended a meeting at the state department, at which one labelled the decision a "potential death sentence".

If too few volunteer, some will be forced to go to Iraq – or risk dismissal, except those exempted for medical or personal hardship reasons.

Iraq postings have previously been filled on a voluntary basis.

If diplomats are forced to go to Baghdad it won’t be the first time.  Africa and Vietnam were mandatory assignments in past decades.

Still, it is a small but important data-point in measuring how much progress we’re making in Iraq.

Someone – I forget who – said that we would know that we had succeeded in Iraq when a single pair of Iraqi police officers could walk the streets of Baghdad as safely as our own police do in the U.S; i.e., in relative safety.

A similar measure might be that we’ll know we’re getting close when State Department officials start volunteering for postings there.

Of Youth and Discipline

30.10.2007 (9:10 pm) – Filed under: Child Care,Crime,Education ::

The NY Times Board wrote today:

The Government Accountability Office exposed a national outrage earlier this month in a report that found thousands of allegations of abuse and neglect at treatment programs that sell military-style discipline as a way to set delinquent youngsters straight — sometimes known as boot camps.

The GAO report, unveiled at congressional hearings chaired by Rep. George Miller, Democrat of California, cited case after case in which employees at these largely unregulated camps endangered the lives of teenagers left in their care.

The report focused on the harrowing deaths of ten teenagers, including 15-year-old Roberto Reyes, whose case has now been referred to the FBI for closer investigation. 

No criminal charges were filed against the program, its owners or any of its staff. The FBI should take this case seriously. Beyond that, federal and state legislators need to bring these often dangerous programs under closer regulatory control.

The GAO’s report is fascinating reading – highly recommended. 

It’s hard to argue with the idea that camps in the business of dealing with and trying to reform teenaged miscreants should employ qualified personnel, follow safety procedures, and be accountable for their results.

Is another government program the way to do that?  Or would transparency into the camps’ operations and outcomes be a more effective way for consumers to make decisions about where to send their delinquents for remediation?

It’s not like any of the kids who end up in these camps do so by accident.  They’re sent there by parents who don’t have the will or ability to or the interest in dealing with their offspring any longer.  It seems to me that these decisions, if they must be made, should be made with full knowledge of where the child is going, with whom, and what the standards of treatment will be.

Boot camps probably aren’t going away any time soon.  Too much demand exists.  Parents don’t want to send their kids there – they must feel that they have to.  Why is that?  Bad, reckless, even criminal, behavior, obviously.

Bernhard Bueb, the former headmaster of Germany’s elite Schloss Salem boarding school, says, “Children and young people have the right to be disciplined.”

True, and parents have the right – and the duty – to discipline their young. 

Boot camps are hardly the ideal expression of this authority.  Rather, they represent the radical end of the family discipline road, a parent’s last gasp chance at redeeming a child whose behavior is leading him or her toward prison or worse.

Why do kids end up in such situations?  The question is particularly vexing in prosperous countries in which even the poor have advantages not available in many parts of the world.

Bueb, who ran Schloss Salem for over 30 years, thinks the reason is a systemic failure caused by the removal of discipline from the lives of most children.

Fox News recently published an interview with Bueb that should be required reading for educators and parents alike:

Father Jonathan: Dr. Bueb, you started as headmaster of the Salem boarding school in 1974. What were things like at the time?

Dr. Bueb: When I started, we were going through an extreme revolution of the youth. Until 1968, young people were quite normal. Everything was about order and discipline, perhaps a bit excessive, I admit. But then, as a reaction, the authority of teachers and parents was abolished. When I started in 1974, the school had no idea of where to go. People were uncertain about what is the right way to educate children. Even the conservatives decided that liberalism was the best way to educate.

Father Jonathan: What do you mean by “liberalism”, in relation to education?

Dr. Bueb: I mean “laissez faire,” don’t interfere, discuss everything with the kids. The big thing back then — and still today — was to be against “anti-authoritarian” education. And I agree that we shouldn’t be authoritarian, but what they meant was that you shouldn’t practice authority as a father, mother or teacher. “Just let them grow,” they would say. These people were pupils of Rousseau … they were followers of the Enlightenment. They insisted young people should use their own brains, but I would say how will young kids find the way to use their brains if they are not taught? These people thought educators should give kids freedom at a very early age.

Father Jonathan: And what exactly did they mean by giving kids “freedom”?

Dr. Bueb: They meant independence. Don’t interfere. Don’t ever compel kids to do anything. Then their good natures will help them find the way.

Father Jonathan: It sounds like you disagree with that philosophy?

Dr. Bueb: Well I saw in my own school, and all over the country, adults just got tired. Kids got used to arguing about everything. They had to discuss why they should have to empty the garbage or help in the kitchen. This is still the problem in Germany. And the result is teachers can’t cope any longer.

Father Jonathan: If the system has not been working, why have they followed it for so long?

Dr. Bueb: They said it was a recall of national-socialism. Authority, obedience must go. But the problem is not authority and discipline. It is when you exercise them without love. Now there is a general movement toward more discipline, more order. 95 percent of people in practical education are in favor of my proposals. I mean, the teachers and the kids have no problem with going back to being more strict. It is the 5 percent of people who only dedicate themselves to academic theory who are against it.

Father Jonathan: In the United States we have similar challenges. In a study released by U.S. News and World Report a few years back, the biggest discipline problems in high schools in 1940, as reported by teachers, were talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls, cutting in line, dress-code violations and littering. Just 50 years later, in 1990, teachers listed the biggest discipline problems as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery and assault. How does your educational philosophy relate to what seems to be a moral decay in American society?

Dr. Bueb: You should have the courage to demand discipline of children. You should stand up for your authority, with love, but you should also be more strict. People have said to me, “but this is the same thing that the national-socialists demanded.” But those are just the academic elite who say that, and some older people. But teachers and young people and children agree with me. As long as you educate them with love, then there is no danger of falling back into national-socialism. Very strict education helps people to become democratically-minded. Absolute freedom is not the way. Self-discipline is not learned by too much freedom, too early.

Father Jonathan: When you talk about “strict education” and “discipline” what are you referring to?

Dr. Bueb: The requisite of all culture growth is asceticism … learning to postpone or renounce wishes and desires. You have to learn to work. Kids need to live a rational life, meaning to submit themselves to reason. You shouldn’t barter with your child. To a three or four-year-old boy or girl, you just say, “You have to do this or that.” People say you need to discuss everything with a child as young as possible. I am proposing finding the middle ground, a third way, to be strict with love.

Father Jonathan: How did you do this in your boarding school?

Dr. Bueb: I am for punishment. The kids knew that there were consequences. They would have to spend the weekend at the boarding school, for example, if they misbehaved. They didn’t like that. Or they would have to stay indoors. Or in the case of sports, if they missed a practice, they would have to go jogging on Sunday morning.

Father Jonathan: What about the moral decline in society as a whole? Isn’t the problem bigger than just discipline in schools? Do you have a sense of why we are going in this direction?

Dr. Bueb: When a nation gets too rich, people begin to lose morals. Riches are hard to cope with. My book is now in eight languages. Germany is not the only country with the problem. Taiwan, China, and Korea, for example, are now trying to cope. When you are rich, you are seduced to enjoy life and not to work on yourself as a person. On the other hand, the poorer you are, the harder you must work to get along. Also, I think that families no longer exist in the same way as you had 50 years ago. Divorce, single mothers, we see the very negative effects in education.

Father Jonathan: OK, so what are the solutions?

Dr. Bueb: The best solution would be to renew family life, but I think it is almost impossible to educate adults. I wish we could bring back the family culture from one day to the next, but I don’t think this is possible, so we must find ways for young people to grow up in a well-settled environment. The real enemy of education is television and internet because children just live through the media. I think, instead, we need to help them live their own experiences and live these out with their peers under the leadership of adults who enforce discipline. Especially in poor, urban communities, we should compel children to get involved in extra-curricular activities. Lots of sports, games, music, theater, outdoor events. We need to create community for them, and you can’t have community without discipline. They will then see that happiness is the consequence of hard work, and not just being beautiful, or doing drugs and alcohol.

Father Jonathan: Any final thoughts?

Dr. Bueb: My main message is this: Parents and teachers should be adults again.

Personally I’m not keen on the government making anything compulsory, even something as beneficial as recreation and exercise.

Fundamentally, though, Bueb’s arguments are sound.  Children should be given consistent discipline, love, guidance, and correction from a very early age.  Despite what elitist intellectuals would have us believe, it’s the failure of parents to do these things that leads young people to places like boot camps and jails.

Freedom of thought and expression are wonderful things that can lead young people to reach their potential in ways that structured learning can never match.  Yet without discipline, immature minds with too much time and freedom on their hands too often end up in trouble.

Not everyone agrees, of course.  Soundandsight.com has a summary of Manfred Schneider’s review (no longer available, evidently) of “In Praise of Discipline”, Bueb’s 2006 book.  It said:

Schneider sees this as a stiff, top-down pedagogy of do’s and don’ts, meant to replace independent experience: “Why does the teacher begrudge others this experience? Why shouldn’t youth, too, follow the crooked path strewn with errors and disappointments, instead of stumbling along from one guidepost of discipline and authority to the next? The modern world even broke the authority of organized religion, because modernity wanted to promote experience and experiment over belief.”

The answer to Schneider’s question is this:  Youth, in their earnest, unchecked bumbling down the path of life, commit far too many heinous, barbaric acts against themselves and innocent others for parents and educators to release them on the world without the proper upbringing.

In this regard, as in others, liberal thinking has proven itself a dangerous, destructive failure.

SCOTUS to Halt Executions?

30.10.2007 (7:21 pm) – Filed under: Death Penalty ::

The NY Times says:

Moments before a Mississippi prisoner was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring.

The issue in that case is not the constitutionality of lethal injection as such, but rather a more procedural question: how judges should evaluate claims that the particular combination of drugs used to bring about death causes suffering that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Even without a written opinion, the Supreme Court’s action Tuesday night clarified a situation that had become increasingly confusing as state courts and the lower federal courts, without further guidance from the justices, wrestled with claims from a growing number of death-row inmates that their imminent executions should be put on hold.

I imagine anti-death penalty activists are dancing in the streets tonight at the thought of the Supreme Court denying the states the ability to mete out justice according to their own standards.

We need, after all, the federal government to define each and every standard for states because they are too small, too insignificant, and therefore unable to make such determinations for themselves. 

Yet Texas, the state that performs the vast majority of executions in the U.S. is larger than France in terms of area and has a population that’s more than twice as large as Belgium and 50% larger than the Netherlands.  All of the generally accepted forms of republican government are followed here and, despite the disdain in which liberal east and west coasters hold the state, 3 of the last 8 presidents were Texans.  If the Supreme Court decided to permanently restrain its enthusiasm for interfering in the state’s business Texas would make out just fine.

The only reason that state courts have become “confused” is because of the federales’ meddling and the latest excuse – the perceived need for a nationwide standard of cruel and unusual punishment – even is more contrived than usual.  Make no mistake, CaUP is all about obliquely challenging the right of the state to execute murders, nothing more and nothing less. 

As far as I’m concerned, arguments about cruel and unusual punishment should be restricted to the punishment phase of murders’ trials.  Being murdered, after all, is rather a cruel fate, though not so unusual as it should be.  Certainly it’s far cruel than a sanitary medical procedure preceded by a good meal and a chance to make one’s peace with God.  The entire discussion is ridiculous.

Yet in a perverse sort of way I hope the SCOTUS does involve itself in the morass.  If the high court does take on the CaUP question and/or the death penalty we can at least hope that they will make a definitive ruling on the subject, one that would clear the way for justice to be done without every death penalty case being litigated again and again for the better part of two decades.

There’s not 1 chance in 1000 that the SCOTUS will ban capital punishment nationally.  None.  Zero.  Nada.  So let’s have a final ruling on subject already.

Blackwater Shooters Given Immunity

29.10.2007 (4:55 pm) – Filed under: Iraq,Military ::

Why?

Three senior law enforcement officials said all the Blackwater bodyguards involved — both in the vehicle convoy and in at least two helicopters above — were given the legal protections as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to find out what happened. The bureau is an arm of the State Department.

The investigative misstep comes in the wake of already-strained relations between the United States and Iraq, which is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution of the Blackwater bodyguards.

The FBI took over the case early this month, officials said, after prosecutors in the Justice Department’s criminal division realized it could not bring charges against Blackwater guards based on their statements to the Diplomatic Security investigators.

Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally — and not for criminal prosecutions.

It’s not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so.

Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Richard Griffin last week announced his resignation, effective Thursday. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said his departure was directly related to his oversight of Blackwater contractors.

That anonymous statement may be the clue to the mystery.

This is clearly wrong. 

Given that the military subjects Marines to murder charges in cases like Haditha, charges that could result in severe criminal penalties being handed down, how can the State Department justify giving blanket immunity to Blackwater’s "freelance" soldiers?

They can’t.

Donnie McClurkin Strikes Back

29.10.2007 (12:01 pm) – Filed under: Gay Rights,Politics ::

Peter Hamby at CNN writes:

The controversial Gospel singer at the center of a gay and lesbian backlash against Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign struck back at his critics Sunday night

"Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay, when I have been touched by the same feelings," McClurkin went on. "When I have suffered with the same feelings. Don’t call me a homophobe, when I love everybody … Don’t tell me that I stand up and I say vile words against the gay community because I don’t. I don’t speak against the homosexual. I tell you that God delivered me from homosexuality."

Nearly all of the African-American concert-goers interviewed by CNN expressed support for McClurkin. Some referenced the First Amendment, saying McClurkin had the right to say what he pleased. Others agreed with McClurkin and said that homosexuality is a choice. Several more invoked the Bible and said homosexuality is simply wrong.

A September poll conducted by Winthrop University and ETV showed that 74 percent of South Carolina African-Americans believe homosexuality is "unacceptable."

That it’s not only "homophobic" white Republicans and the Religious Right who feel that way might be an epiphany for some.

Yet what exactly does "unacceptable" mean?  It’s exactly not a term designed to draw out the strength or nuances of a person’s views.

In any event it’s nice to see a man who will stand by his views and defend them against criticism rather than caving in to pressure from a small minority that demands toeing of the politically correct line.

Presidential Press Coverage

29.10.2007 (11:45 am) – Filed under: Media,Politics ::

Journalism.org has an interesting post up in which the press coverage of the 2008 presidential election is analyzed by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.  Check it out.

Highlights:

  • Barack Obama was 3 times more likely to receive positive coverage than negative while John McCain was 4 times as likely to be treated oppositely.  Can anyone say, "It’s because of their relative positions on Iraq"?  I thought so.
  • 63% of stories focus on political gamesmanship, 4 times more than was spent on the candidates’ backgrounds and policy proposals. 
  • 77% of participants want more coverage about candidates’ stands on important issues.
  • The press has homed in on 5 candidates – Clinton, Obama, Guiliani, McCain, and Romney – in what amounts to a pre-primary selection process.  I guess we have to add Thompson to that list.
  • Excepting Obama and McCain, press coverage has been essentially party-neutral.

I’m not quite sure I believe that last one.  I’d like to, though.

Of Reporters, Hacks

28.10.2007 (8:06 pm) – Filed under: Media,Politics ::

Earlier today Glen Greenwald published what he believes is an email sent to by him Colonel Steve Boylan, the spokesman for General Petraeus.

Boylan – or a clever imitator – gives Greenwald grief about his ethics and objectivity, providing him a tailor-made opportunity for a righteous riposte.  Greenwald eagerly exploits this by decrying the military’s preference for releasing information to media outlets that are receptive to it.

Speaking about Boylan, Greenwald says:

We communicated as part of a matter of public interest about which I was writing — namely, Gen. Petreaus’ selection of blatant right-wing hacks as his interviewers. Of course I was going to write about the communications I had with his spokesman on that issue — that was the whole point of my writing to him — and unlike Tim Russert, I don’t write about things I learn only after I first obtain the permission of government and military officials. The fact that Boylan expects journalists (or anyone else) to keep what he says a secret unless he gives permission speaks volumes about the state of our “political press.”

And later, writing about Steve Schmidt:

The fact that the White House dispatched to Iraq a pure political hack — the former Bush/Cheney ’04 communications official — to incorporate into the U.S. military those communications techniques is obvious evidence of the White House’s deliberate effort to politicize the military’s war communications.

Everyone who disagrees with Greenwald, it seems, is a hack, an incompetent, a tool of the right-wing conspiracy that denies him the ability to make his world view a reality.

This phenomenon is not unique or even isolated to the left side of American politics. But liberals certainly are working hard at it, as the NY Times demonstrated today in the form of a snide editorial by Frank Rich:

“Americans do not yet realize how far outside of the mainstream of conservative thought that Mayor Giuliani’s social views really are,” declared Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council leader, in February. But despite Rudy’s fleeting stabs at fudging his views, they are well known now, and still he leads in national polls of Republican voters and is neck and neck with Fred Thompson in the Bible Belt sanctuary of South Carolina.

There are various explanations for this. One is that 9/11 and terrorism fears trump everything. Another is that the rest of the field is weak. But the most obvious explanation is the one that Washington resists because it contradicts the city’s long-running story line. Namely, that the political clout ritualistically ascribed to Mr. Perkins, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Gary Bauer of American Values and their ilk is a sham.

These self-promoting values hacks don’t speak for the American mainstream. They don’t speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves.

James Dobson is a self-promoting hack? I’m not an expert on Dobson, but I dare say that his Focus on the Family books and videos have done far more good for more American families than Rich’s writing ever will.

The common theme in these articles is one that has been frequently noted before. At the risk of tainting this article with Ann Coulter’s name, I like the way she describes the methodology when she says that that liberals’ strategy is to “Always advance as if under attack”.

Anyone who disagrees with them is a hack and an enemy, an approach to politics that reminds me of the Bush administration’s post-9/11.

Given this, is it any wonder that no middle ground can be found in Congress on issues like S-CHIP?  And if there’s so little room for negotiation in that body it’s not surprising that there’s even less give in the offerings of left-leaning writers like Greenwald and Rich.

Read Frank Rich’s article closely and you’ll see that he misses no opportunity to add the additional adjective, to slide in the extra, unnecessary slur. Examples:

  • Rudy Guiliani’s lead is “the great surprise of the 2008 presidential campaign”
  • Christian’s use of their voting power is “bullying and gay-baiting”
  • Voters who like Rudy are “ignorant”
  • James Dobson’s influence is “ritualistically ascribed” to him
  • Members of the Values Voters Summit who didn’t list liberal issues among their own “didn’t even think” to do so
  • Christian leaders are “hypocritical” for not endorsing a hopeless candidate like Sam Brownback
  • Guiliani’s hard line with Iran is not just wrong, it’s “apocalyptic”
  • Christian leaders are “reigning ayatollahs”

Rich gloats without the least shame over the apparent decline of the Religious Right, celebrating Rudy Guiliani’s lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination as proof of a more secular, liberal, conservative party.

Huh?

Rudy Guiliani is both a flawed man and a flawed candidate. In another electoral cycle he would not fare nearly as well as he is presently. But his perceived advantage over Hillary Clinton in the general election is his teflon armor, the magic alloy that will deflect his opponents’ attempts to shoot him down. That’s why Rudy is winning, make no mistake. As long as he can maintain that perception the race is his to lose.

It is true that the Religious Right’s influence may be on the decline at the moment. Certainly many fiscal conservatives would like to re-focus the Republican party’s message back on financial discipline and responsibility.  I, for one, don’t blame them for that.  George Bush has been a dreadful failure from the fiscal perspective.

It’s ironic, then, that Frank Rich should work for another American institution whose power and influence is fading. The Times’ stock price as been sliding badly this year and is at a 10 year low. Morgan Stanley, the Times’ parent company’s second-largest shareholder, recently sold its entire stake in the company.

Not exactly a vote of confidence, is it? Add to the paper’s financial woes the rumours have been flying about the Times possibly being up for sale and it sounds like the long-standing ability of the Times to influence Americans’ thinking may be dwindling fast.

If Frank Rich’s latest is any indication I can see why.

The question of the day is, who exactly are the hacks here?

Make-or-break Time Coming for Paul

27.10.2007 (11:23 am) – Filed under: Politics ::

Ron Paul will be spending a sizable amount of his recent haul of campaign contributions on radio and television ads in New Hampshire and other early primary states:

Hoping to defy more expectations, Rep. Ron Paul is ratcheting up his maverick Republican presidential campaign by launching TV and radio commercials in early primary states and setting an ambitious $12 million fundraising goal.

With just over two months until the first primaries, experts question whether the libertarian-leaning congressman from Lake Jackson can expand his intense following to make a credible showing in these early contests.

Officials with Paul’s campaign acknowledge they have an uphill battle, but say they plan to broaden his support with an advertising campaign that includes $1.1 million in television spots that begin airing Monday in New Hampshire.

More:

A new poll of likely Granite state voters for the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College showed Paul garnering 7 percent of the GOP primary vote, ahead of Mike Huckabee and Thompson.

In New Hampshire, state GOP chairman Fergus Cullen cites evidence of support for Paul in campaign signs that appear to outnumber those of other candidates.

Cullen noted the signs are on private property, not on the side of the road, indicating that individual owners, rather than the campaigns, have taken the time to put them up.

$12 million is a lot of cash – about as much as Fred Thompson raised last quarter – and would give Paul a chance to spend dollar-for-dollar with his rivals for a change.  Can his campaign do it?  I can’t put a dollar figure out there but my sense is that he will do well raising funds again this quarter, barring a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.

That’s one thing I would be surprised to see happen, at least at this early stage.  Why?

Glenn McCall, the GOP chairman in York County in South Carolina, said Paul has come across in debates as more sincere than his rivals.

Voters “feel that some of the other candidates are too polished and not true to themselves,” McCall said. “Dr. Paul, they feel, is being natural. He is being himself.”

New Hampshire will be put-up-or-shut-up time for Ron Paul.  I think he will up his numbers there compared to what they are now, especially considering the little state’s love for underdogs and lost causes, both of which Ron Paul represents. 

Love him or loathe him Paul is the most interesting person to hit American politics in recent memory. 

The Last Supper On-line

27.10.2007 (10:37 am) – Filed under: Technology ::

image

The Houston Chronicle says:

As of today, all you need is an Internet connection. Officials put online an image of the “Last Supper” at 16 billion pixels — 1,600 times stronger than the images taken with the typical 10 million pixel digital camera.

The high resolution will allow experts to examine details of the 15th century wall painting that they otherwise could not — including traces of drawings Leonardo put down before painting.

Check it out here.  Very cool.