Wednesday, February 28, 2007

For Want of a Tooth

The following appeared on today:

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

To paraphrase John Scalzi’s excellent blog, I’m not going to complain about Medicaid, or the lack of dentists who accept it. I’m not going to rip the government (federal, state, or federal), nor criticize his family for letting things slide so far.

In a nation of such obvious wealth, blame need not be assessed for such an event. It’s a sin. Period.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another Adherent to the Hypocritic Oath

The following lede appeared in Yahoo News last Thursday:

The lawyer for a former Baptist church leader who had spoken out against homosexuality said Thursday the minister has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman.

I think “former” may be the key word there. The Constitution may be mute on this point, but I hope his congregation – excuse me, former congregation – has something to say about it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Toensing Up for a Fight

Every so often some allegedly responsible and respected authority goes so far off the rails that common sense demands a public flogging. Today’s subject is Victoria Toensing, described by the Washington Post “a deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, [currently] a Washington lawyer.” In other words, a member of the Republic Party.

Ms. Toensing fancies herself not just a brilliant legal scholar, but clever. Her op-ed piece, “Trial in Error,” is written in the form of a legal brief, defending Scooter Libby from as nefarious a conspiracy of ne’er-do-wells as have trod the earth since The New Deal.

According to her screed, if Libby is on trial, then so should the following: Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the CIA, Joe Wilson, the media, Ari Fleischer, Richard Armitage, and the Justice Department.

On what grounds? Fleischer, for doing just as Libby is alleged to have done, lie under oath about who he told what about Valerie Plame. DOJ, for abdicating their responsibility by appointing Fitzgerald in the first place. Everyone else? For ignoring what she considers to be a time-honored tradition of ignoring perjury if the lies don’t cover up a crime.

Her logic: Plame was not undercover, so no one was legally prohibited from talking about her. Since talking about her was not a crime, lying under oath about talking about her is also not a crime. Therefore, Libby stands unjustly accused.

Toensing’s premise that Plame was not undercover is refuted in tedious detail here. It’s the lesser of her offenses, a mere misstatement of facts. Republicans have made a science of that for several years now. It’s the entire premise of her piece that offends common sense. If Libby is unjustly accused because there’s no perjury without a precedent crime, then what the fuck was the rationale for impeaching Bill Clinton?

I occasionally back away from political comment because even I think I sound like a broken record. (For those of you too young to remember broken records, ask someone.) Still, the disingenuousness of Republican comment over the past six years continues unabated, and must be contested. We all know what happens when the same lies are told often enough and shrilly enough. And we all know what happens after that.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What's in a Name?

I taught a class for an internet computer application several months ago, and a discussion emerged about Apache Web Servers. For those less familiar with the inner workings of the web, Apache is a common, and well-respected, software that actually hosts and serves up the web sites you see when you’re surfing.

One class member asked repeatedly and pointedly why it was named Apache. I didn’t know, but inferred from his tone and insistence that he was somewhat put out, if not offended.

My curiosity being what it is, I found out where the name came from, and emailed him the following, from Apache’s entry in Wikipedia:

The author claims the name was initially chosen as a catchy name in order to be original, but the most widespread interpretation (which almost immediately surfaced) is that the name comes from the fact that when it was developed in early 1995, it consisted of changes in the code to the most popular HTTP server of the time, NCSA HTTPd 1.3 and was therefore "a patchy" server. However, in the FAQ on the server's official site, it is stated: "The name 'Apache' was chosen from respect for the Native American Indian tribe of Apache (Indé), well-known for their superior skills in warfare strategy and their inexhaustible endurance.

He graciously thanked me for my reply, including this phrase in his email:

In one aspect it seems like it could be honorable to the Apache nation that the company chose the name and in another it seems kind of insensitive.

I’m tempted to write back to tell him further research has shown the name was originally supposed to be Godless Dirt Worshipper, but that didn’t test market well, especially in Oklahoma and the Great Plains.

This is why I don’t have any friends.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Glutton For Punishment

Yesterday I took Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to task because he lacked the huevos and chutzpah to do anything like what Republicans just did unto him back when we were losing civil liberties faster than Ford loses money. Imagine my surprise this morning when I received the following email, from none other than Senator Reid himself:

Dear Friend, (Bad start. A man only calls another man “friend” in two circumstances: he’s a Quaker, or he’s thinking of kicking the other guy’s ass. Picture Richard Boone in Hombre.)

Senator Reid continues:

There are very few men and women in America who believe the Iraq war is not worthy of debate. They are the Republican Members of the United States Senate. Yesterday, they did our country a grave disservice…

By voting against a real debate on Iraq, Republicans voted in favor of the President's plan to escalate the war. Numerous Republican Senators are on the record opposing this escalation. Do these Republicans stand with the President or do they stand with the American people?

Help me send a message to Republicans in the Senate.

Help you? How about send it for you, since you have already failed. If one message came out of the recent election, it’s that the American people want a debate on the Iraq war. The Elephant Men saw a chance to snooker Reid, and took it. I’d be madder if it indicated anything beyond their superiority in playing the Senate rules game.

I didn’t email any Republican senators. I’m not a contributor, and many of them are already ignoring their constituents. The guy I wrote to was Harry Reid, in a reply to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee email I received:

Dear Senator Reid,

I have a question. Can someone please explain to me how the Republican minority can hold up a non-binding resolution through the exercise of Parliamentary procedure, and, I presume, the threat of a filibuster, while you were unable to take similar action during your tenure in the minority to halt (or even slow down) the Military Commissions Act, the suspension of habeas corpus, and various other offenses to our Constitutional rights, and to common sense?

I am regularly accosted for contributions by enthusiastic, eager, young Democrats here on the streets of Washington. A life-long Democrat, I'm telling you what I tell them: I'll not give a dime to see the party be run in the same feckless manner as we have been forced to become accustomed.

I liked using feckless. It almost sounds dirty. Not nearly as offensive as seeing “Majority Leader” and “Harry Reid” strung together, though.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Peter Principle - A Case Study

The Democratic Party today announced a plea for someone, anyone, to please forward a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order to Harry Reid, c/o The U.S. Senate Majority Leader’s Office. It seems the Republican minority has already stifled what Senator Reid considered his primary order of business: passing a non-binding resolution.

It may be recalled that Senator Reid, until recently Senate Minority Leader, was unable to muster such a parliamentary challenge to the Military Commissions Act, the more onerous provisions of the Patriot Act, of the suspension of habeas corpus. Looks like the Majority Leader job may be too much for him, and he’d like his old job back.