Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ron Paul Earns Respect

The audience of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno yesterday was filled with enthusiastic (and vocal) Ron Paul supporters. (For those of you who missed the interview with Dr. Paul, check out the official Tonight Show web site here and choose "October 30" and "Chapter 5." The segment has also been posted to YouTube, but I can't guarantee that it will stay there long.)

There is no doubt that many more American voters saw Ron Paul on The Tonight Show than had seen him on any of the GOP presidential debates. (It's also likely that more Americans heard the term "Austrian economics" last night than have ever heard the term in the past century.)

While media attention matters, so does the fact that Ron Paul's campaign and his principles are earning the respect even of those who disagree with him on some issues.

One example of this is found in an opinion column in The Hoya, the oldest continuously-operating student newspaper at Georgetown University. (The Hoya has been published since 1920. Full disclosure: I contributed a couple of articles to The Hoya as an undergraduate.)

In the article, regular columnist Stephen Kenny, a supporter of Rudy Giuliani, explains "Why Ron Paul Matters":

[Ron] Paul is a model for Americans who support fewer big government solutions to problems, and try to confront difficult social issues with private, community-based efforts and personal sacrifice.

My favorite aspect of Ron Paul’s public service career is his strong fidelity to the Constitution. Too many members of Congress vote for bills that are popular, or support legislation based solely on how much funding their districts will get. Paul actually consults the Constitution to see if a bill falls under the enumerated powers of Congress. The Constitution offers many safeguards against government intrusion and remaining faithful to it is the best way to protect individual and states’ rights. Paul’s profound respect for the duties of his office is something sorely missing from many of our representatives in Congress.
Kenny, a Georgetown College senior, continues:
Ron Paul has definitely played an important role in the Republican debates this year. Aside from his defense of an isolationist foreign policy, Paul has posed uncomfortable questions to the GOP frontrunners that will hopefully be answered during the course of the campaign. Most of the issues addressed by his campaign relate to the domestic response to the terrorist threat, such as the proper balance between civil liberties and security. He also stands resolutely against the use of torture on enemy prisoners and warns of the consequences of the enlargement of executive authority in the War on Terror. The separation of powers, Paul maintains, is an essential component of our Constitution that prevents tyranny and keeps the branches of government answerable to the people. These are principled stances that must be considered by the Republican Party as it formulates its platform for the 2008 presidential election.

Ron Paul's constitutionalist approach to government and his loyalty to the principles upon which this country was built has provided an important contribution to the Republican primaries. Hopefully, he will have a major influence on the direction of the party. His voice for a smaller federal government and individual liberty is a welcome one in the Republican Party, and I am grateful for his strong presence in the debates.
With praise like that from one who supports Ron Paul's leading opponent, what can we expect from uncommitted voters during the upcoming primary elections and caucuses? It is clear that Ron Paul's message is resonating with many people who have been disengaged from politics in the past. An MSNBC report this week noted:
A small sample of Ron Paul’s supporters in Iowa in recent days found them to be a mix of young and old, mostly male, but some women.

They include traditional Christian social conservatives and homeschoolers, and fresh-faced fervent college students such as [Iowa State's Jacob] Bofferding, who embrace his free market ideas and an anti-interventionist foreign policy.
According to another MSNBC report, Dr. Paul told 700 supporters (described by the reporter as "whooping fans") gathered at Iowa State University last weekend:
“There is something rather amazing about the Internet,” he told his Ames supporters, about two-thirds of whom appeared to be under age 25. “I’ve been used to delivering a message very similar to what I’m delivering tonight for many, many years and not getting a whole lot of responses. And all of a sudden, there’s a whole generation of people now very excited about hearing about the message of freedom.”
MSNBC correspondent Tom Curry quotes a well-known political operative on Paul's chances of success in Iowa:
Joe Trippi, a 25-year veteran of Iowa caucus politics who served as Howard Dean’s campaign manager in 2003 and who’s now a top aide to [John] Edwards, said, “From what I see, Ron Paul is doing much better than his better-known opponents think he is doing. He is at that stage of the Dean campaign when all the other campaigns are laughing at him and have no idea of how strong he really is.”

Trippi added, “This kind of candidacy can be surprisingly strong in a caucus state particularly if it stays just below the radar.”
It is just 64 days until the Iowa caucuses. Is the momentum with the maverick from Texas?

Arin Sime Receives Newspaper Endorsement

In what might come as a surprise to everyone except those who have been following the campaign in the 24th state Senate district closely, the Waynesboro News Virginian, one of the larger newspapers in that district, has endorsed Arin Sime over his opponents in next Tuesday's election.

The newspaper's editorial was quoted in a news release from the Sime campaign today:

Arin Sime, Libertarian State Senate candidate for the 24th District, has been endorsed by the Waynesboro News Virginian today in a lead editorial entitled “Fresh-thinking Sime our pick.”

Mr. Sime commented that “I am honored and humbled by the endorsement today of the News Virginian. I think it is incredibly important that we begin to think outside traditional party lines, and I’m very pleased to see the News Virginian’s editorial board agrees.”

In their editorial, the News Virginian had the following to say:

“Among the three, Sime’s views are the most alluring. He favors a constitutional amendment to block the abuse of eminent domain, has compiled a detailed platform on open government, backs school choice and promises he will not raise taxes. Sime supports many of his positions with well-reasoned plans for making them work.”

The editorial continued to say: “Fresh thinking such as his is a rarity in an era of knee-jerk, party-line politics … Our support of Sime is not so much a reflection on Hanger as it is driven by an interest in a candidate whose approach reaches outside traditional boundaries.”
The News Virginian editorial endorsement follows on a complimentary opinion column from veteran political correspondent Bob Gibson of the Charlottesville Daily Progress. (Several precincts of the 24th district are within the Daily Progress circulation area.) Referring specifically to the television ad posted here a couple of weeks ago, Gibson wrote in his regular Sunday column on October 14:
The most honest, positive and straightforward political ads this season, with issues and positions spelled out in plain English, without highly selective, emotional attacks, appear to be those of Libertarians.

Smaller government has an appeal to people that big political parties preach but rarely practice.

Libertarians are honest about not having all the answers - and they don’t think government does, either.

Something for everyone?

Democrats are attracted to Libertarian ideas because they don’t put big government in the bedroom.

Republicans are attracted to Libertarian thinking because it doesn’t welcome big government into everyone’s wallets.

Both major parties spread fertilizer on different roots of the great government oak.

Libertarians are a party small enough for everyone.

Crozet resident Arin Sime, which rhymes with rhyme, is a Libertarian candidate with a message that Charlottesville-area residents are likely to see on TV soon. They can watch it anytime just by Googling Libertarian Arin Sime.

Sime is challenging state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon, in a three-way contest that also includes Democrat David Cox, an Episcopal minister from Lexington.

Hanger’s 24th Senate District stretches from Lexington up the Shenandoah Valley to Rockingham County and east of the Blue Ridge to include Greene County and the Batesville, Crozet and Free Union precincts of western Albemarle.

No mudslinging here

Sime’s television advertising features local families making a simple appeal for preserving family farms, property rights, educational choice, gun rights and in favor of lower property taxes.

The ads do not mention or savage Hanger, who survived a withering series of attacks from an anti-tax challenger in a June Republican primary contest.

Instead, Sime lays out Libertarian positions, with local couples making the pitch for him and his ideas.

“It’s time for real property tax reform,” Crozet homeowner Tina Munchmeyer says in the ad while sitting next to her husband, John.

“It’s time to empower parents with choice in education,” says Earlysville home-schooling mother Silvia Barrett.

“It’s time to protect our family farms,” says Staunton-area farmer Guy Freesen, who regularly sells his farm’s meat at area farmer’s markets and is active in groups seeking to ease regulations on family farms.

Sime appears at the end of his ad and makes the pitch: “If you believe in small government like I do, please vote for your principles.”

One reason Libertarians can be so straightforward is that they don’t govern anything much more than a small party and themselves.

Sime is a computer-savvy small businessman with a relentlessly honest message.
After noting similar ads from Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, Gibson concludes:
More voters will start seeing ads for Sime and Paul, because the Libertarian “purists” have done well in the hard work of raising campaign cash.

Paul raised more than $5 million in the third quarter of 2007, putting his campaign cash ahead of that collected by some of the bigger names in the crowded GOP presidential field.

Sime has outraised Democrat Cox in Virginia’s 24th Senate District.

Sime raised more than $35,300 through August to just over $11,000 for Cox and more than $305,000 for Hanger, the favorite to win another term in the heavily Republican district.

Virginians may get their first looks at Libertarian TV ads this fall and may just like the straightforward messages.
Bob Gibson also discussed the honest libertarian style with Coy Barefoot on "Charlottesville ... Right Now" on WINA-AM. (A later interview with Arin Sime on that afternoon drive-time program can be heard here, courtesy of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.) The News Virginian editorial endorsement of Arin Sime does not yet appear on the newspaper's web site (last updated, it seems, on October 25) but here is a scan of the article as it appears in the print edition:

(Click image to embiggen.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Ron Paul Ad for New Hampshire TV

Presidential candidate Ron Paul has a new television commercial, produced specifically with New Hampshire viewers in mind. The ad already has been posted on YouTube, and now you can see it here:

The new commercial has been unveiled just in time for the highly anticipated appearance by Congressman Paul on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which is scheduled for Tuesday, October 30.

The other guests on The Tonight Show that evening will be Tom Cruise, who is promoting his soon-to-be-released film, Lions for Lambs, and the Sex Pistols, who will perform a song (if that's the right word) from their new CD, Spunk: The Official Bootleg.

In the anti-war movie Lions for Lambs, coincidentally, Cruise plays a congressman who is aiming to win the White House. That could make for an interesting meeting on the couch.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I Should Be Glad I Work from Home

According to Friday's Washington Post, today (Saturday) has been designated "Cranky Co-Workers Day." Whether that's a holiday or not is another question, but the Post's Vicki Elmer describes it like this:

Cranky Co-Workers Day is designated as the time to recognize the role of the unhappiest in our midst.

One blogger suggests that you take that cranky cubicle dweller out for a drink -- a martini -- to try to turn around his or her mood, at least temporarily.

Another says that having the grump as a regular character in your personal blog may help put things in perspective, or at least give you a regular joke that people will find relevant.

We figure most workers have at least one cranky colleague, if not in the same row of cubicles, then in the same building. About three in 10 workers in an OfficeTeam survey say a colleague is rude or unprofessional, and among those, two-thirds say the bad behavior is frequent.

Telecommuting has more advantages than saving gas and reducing traffic congestion, doesn't it?

One more question, though: Why does Cranky Co-Workers Day fall on a Saturday? Don't most people still work M-F, with weekends off? Is this just a way to avoid another office party with stale cake and flat sodas ito celebrate yet another employment-related holiday?

That was more than one question. Here's the last one: What would Samuel Gompers say about this?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dr. Ron Paul in Sunday's GOP Debate

Courtesy of a Congressional Quarterly transcript posted on line by the New York Times, here are the responses to questions posed by Fox News panelists to Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, one of the candidates for the Republican party's 2008 presidential nomination.

The debate was staged in Orlando, Florida -- home of Disney World and Universal Studios, among other tourist attractions.

The first question directed toward Dr. Paul was asked by the chief political correspondent for Fox News, Carl Cameron. Brit Hume introduced him:

Carl Cameron has the second round of questions.


CAMERON: Thanks very much, Brit.

Congressman Paul, to you, on the subject of one of the core debates in the party, over social issues: gay marriage.

You've been quoted as saying, Any association that's voluntary should be permissible in a free society. And you've expressed your opposition to a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Many of your rivals on that stage disagree. Why are they wrong?

PAUL: I'm afraid I haven't been able to get most of your question. I know you brought up the subject of gay marriage, but I didn't get the point of what you're saying. I can't hear it that well.

CAMERON: Why are on those stage who support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage wrong?

PAUL: OK. Well, if you believe in federalism, it's better that we allow these things to be left to the state. My personal belief is that marriage is a religious ceremony.

PAUL: And it should be dealt with religiously. The state really shouldn't be involved. The state, both federal and state-wise, got involved mostly for health reasons 100 years or so ago.

But this should be a religious matter. All voluntary associations, whether they're economic or social, should be protected by the law. But to amend the Constitution is totally unnecessary to define something that's already in the dictionary.

We do know what marriage is about. We don't need a new definition or argue over a definition and have an amendment to the Constitution. To me, it just seems so unnecessary to do that. It's very simply that the states should be out of that business, and the states -- I mean, the states should be able to handle this. The federal government should be out of it.

There's no need for the federal government to be involved in this. You can accomplish this without waiting five or ten or 15 years. The authority can be put in the states by mere voting in the Congress.


The second question for Congressman Paul came from Wendell Goler, the Fox News White House correspondent:
GOLER: Congressman Paul, you say that insurance companies and government programs have made health care simply unafforable. You objected so strongly to Medicaid that, as a doctor, I'm told, you simply treated patients on your own, at your own expense.

Is charity the way we should provide health care for the poor right now?

And how are you going to encourage doctors to do that -- primary care doctors to do that, when their salaries have been declining for more than a decade?

PAUL: Well, we've had managed care, now, for about 35 years. It's not working, and nobody's happy with it. The doctors aren't happy. The patients aren't happy.

PAUL: Nobody seems to be happy -- except the corporations, the drug companies and the HMOs.

You take care of poor people by turning the medical care back into the system, where people have some choices.

Now, we have a mess because we have -- a lot of people are very dependent on health care. But I have the only way we can afford to take care of people now, because we're going broke, with $500 billion going to debt every single year. And we have a foreign policy that is draining us.

I say, take care of these poor people. I'm not against that. But save the money someplace. The only place available for us to save it is to change our attitude about running a world empire and bankrupting this country. We can take care of the poor people, save money and actually cut some of our deficit.

So you don't have to throw anybody out in the street, but long term you have move toward the marketplace. You cannot expect socialized medicine of the Hillary brand to work.

And you can't expect the managed care system that we have today, which promotes and benefits and rewards the corporations -- because it's the drug companies and the HMOs and even the AMA that comes to us and lobbies us for this managed care, and that's why the prices are high.

PAUL: It's only in medicine that technology has raised prices rather than lowering prices.


Chris Wallace, moderator of Fox News Sunday, also directed a question toward Ron Paul, eliciting a comment on the Republicans' bete noire, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, the all-but-certain and certainly-the-GOP's-heaven-sent-choice-for Democratic presidential nominee.
WALLACE: Congressman Paul...


WALLACE: Congressman Paul, you're against the Iraq war. So is Senator Clinton. So what are the differences between you?

PAUL: Well, there's a very big difference, and I think the American people, if we as a party realize this and understand it, 70- some percent of the people in America want the war over with. They're sick and tired of it and they want our troops to come home.

Now, Senator Clinton has nothing new to offer. She's endorsing the same policy. She said that the troops would be there for another five years, continue to build this embassy that's going to be bigger than the Vatican, continue to build 14 air bases as are going on there, these private bases going on there, and never change.

PAUL: We in this party have to realize the American people are sick and tired of big government, big government overseas, an empire we can't maintain, the bankruptcy of this country, and also the attack on our personal civil liberties. We don't have privacy left anymore, and Hillary Clinton offers no solution to that, and neither does any of the Democrats. And we are not doing a very good job either.

If we don't recognize that, we don't have a chance because we need to get back to the basics, believe in the Constitution, believe in the rule of law, and not allow our government to spend endlessly and bankrupt this country.


HUME: Congressman Paul, thank you.

Brit Hume, who moderated the panel and the debaters, asked Dr. Paul to follow up on a question about Social Security and retirement savings for Americans that was posed to another candidate:
HUME: Congressman Paul, your thoughts on these issues?

PAUL: it's a mess. And it proves that the government is not very good at central economic planning, even for retirement.

PAUL: The money was taken from the people with good intention. We should do our best to return it to those that have taken it.

But we need to allow the young people to just flat out get out of the system. Because, I tell you what...


... if you have the government managing these accounts, it's not going to work.

And the other thing that you have to consider if you're really serious about protecting people's incomes, each and every one of us, is how you're going to protect the dollar. If you don't have the dollar maintaining its value, no matter where you put the money you're not going to have any value. That's where the crisis is coming.

You're going to go up with all these cost of living increases but you'll never keep up with the cost of living because the dollar's going down, the cost of living is going up.

Our dollar today is worth 4 cents compared to the dollar of 1913, when the Federal Reserve took charge of it. And if you don't deal with the dollar there will be no retirement for anybody. We're going to have chaos.

And that is why you have to cut spending. That's why we need a new foreign policy. We need to tie it to people over here in this country, the people who are dependent, but we need to let the people get out, whether it's Social Security or medical care or education. The Constitution doesn't advise that we do any of that anyway.

PAUL: That's the only way we can solve the problem.


Carl Cameron asked this question of Senator Fred Thompson, and then asked the other candidates, including Congressman Paul, for their opinions on the same issue:
CAMERON: Senator Thompson, violence escalated again today on the Turkish-Iraq border. The terrorist group, PKK, took Turkish soldiers hostage. If as President Bush says, we are fighting terrorists in Iraq to protect our homeland, shouldn't the Turks be able to go into Iraq to protect their own?

Dr. Paul's reply:

PAUL: This is a -- this is a result of a foreign policy of interventionism. The founders advised non-interventionism. And even our president won the election in the year 2000 to have a more humble foreign policy, not to go into nation-building, and not get involved in the internal affairs of other nations.

And we won an election on that.

But here we are. We're over there and we've invaded this country and this is just another unintended consequence. The war is spreading, the war is likely to go into Iran, nobody's willing to take anything off the table.

What would it be like if somebody came in here into Mexico and did some of these things -- say, like, putting missiles in Europe? We're just looking for trouble. It's so unnecessary. And we jeopardize ourselves. And, quite frankly, we're not able to afford this.

So we don't need to go looking for trouble. We don't need another Cold War. And all we have to do is start talking to people and trading with people.

We don't need to assume that the world is going to blow up. Just think of...


PAUL: When I was drafted into the military, and I served five years in the military, the Soviets had 40,000 nuclear weapons.

And here, we're now learning about agitating and putting missiles in Europe.

PAUL: It's the Turks' business. It's not our business.



The last question addressed to Dr. Paul came from Wendell Goler, and it really gave the congressman a chance to shine: The question, intentionally or not, sparked a brief summary of the political philosophy and policy stance that has drawn so many activists to the Ron Paul campaign (or, as it is affectionately known from coast to coast, the "Ron Paul Revolution"):
GOLER: Gentlemen, I want to ask you a series of questions on no particular subject. These are simply questions I haven't had a chance to ask yet.

Congressman Paul, I want to start with you. You have drawn some of the strongest reactions of any person on the stage, both pro and con, sir. When Ronald Reagan became a Republican, he said he hadn't left the Democratic Party, the Democrats had left him.

Given your differences with the other gentlemen on the stage, has the Republican Party left you? Have these gentlemen left the Republican Party?

PAUL: I think in many ways they haven't followed our platform and they don't follow the Constitution. So they're really not following (inaudible). I think in many ways we have become big spenders. Republicans are the big spenders. Our big-government conservatives, they're part of the neo-conservative movement. They've lost their traditions about traditional conservatism and the Constitution.

We have benefited for so many years and decades by having a position of less use of force. Eisenhower won his election in 1952 by trying to clean up the mess that Democrats created in Korea. Nixon won in '68. We continuously won in taking this position of a more commonsensical foreign policy.

Like I said, even George Bush won criticizing this interventionism, and now all of a sudden, just in this short period of time, we have accepted the Democrats' position on foreign policy, on entitlements, on deficits. I mean, we have lost our way.

No, I think that the position of the Republican Party today has not fulfilled their traditions.

And that's why we lost last year. And if we don't go back to our traditions and believe in the Constitution, limited government, personal liberties, and a foreign policy that's noninterventionist, that won't bankrupt us, so that we can defend this country -- we can't even defend our own cities while we're prancing around the entire world.


Dr. Paul also appeared with Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes on a post-debate wrap-up show, and he was in excellent form for that interview, too. When Hannity tried to pooh-pooh the cell-phone/text message poll that showed debate viewers favoring Ron Paul with 38 percent of their votes, Dr. Paul explained that this was just the enthusiastic response from discerning Fox News viewers across the country.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dumbledore Is Gay!

While the New Criticism tells us not to care -- authorial intent be damned! -- word comes from New York that J. K. Rowling has pronounced that the beloved character of the Harry Potter books, Dumbledore, is gay.

Reuters reports:

J.K. Rowling has outed one of the main characters of her best-selling Harry Potter series, telling fans in New York that the wizard Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts school, is gay.

Speaking at Carnegie Hall on Friday night in her first U.S. tour in seven years, Rowling confirmed what some fans had always suspected -- that she "always thought Dumbledore was gay," reported entertainment Web site E! Online....

Rowling said she had read through a script for the movie adaptation of the sixth book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and corrected a passage in which Dumbledore was reminiscing about past loves by crossing it out and scrawling "Dumbledore is gay" over it.

The author says so; so it is. (New Critics be damned!)

Tinky-Winky was unavailable for comment.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Someone Is Searching for Your Burritos

There is a (probably) apocryphal story, dating back four decades or more, about the Reader's Digest, whose editors had hired a consultant to determine which of the magazine's articles were most popular, and how they could use that information to increase sales, especially at newsstands and supermarket check-out lines.

After researching several years of editions and sales, the consultant came back with a report that the most popular items in Reader's Digest were biographical pieces on Abraham Lincoln, human interest stories about household pets, tales of Cold War espionage, articles about Nazis, and first-person accounts.

To maximize sales, the consultant suggested, the magazine's cover should place this headline prominently:

This came to mind when I saw a Reuters report this week on the most popular Google search terms around the world. The dispatch, datelined Berlin, begins:
Internet users in Egypt, India and Turkey are the world's most frequent searchers for Web sites using the keyword "sex" on Google search engines, according to statistics provided by Google Inc.

Germany, Mexico and Austria were world's top three searchers of the word "Hitler" while "Nazi" scored the most hits in Chile, Australia and the United Kingdom, data from 2004 to the present retrievable on the "Google Trends" Web site showed.

Chile also came in first place searching for the word "gay," followed by Mexico and Colombia.
Reuters lists the top ten search terms (and the countries where they reign highest) as follows:
"Jihad" - Morocco, Indonesia, Pakistan

"Terrorism" - Pakistan, Philippines, Australia

"Hangover" - Ireland, United Kingdom, United States

"Burrito" - United States, Argentina, Canada

"Iraq" - United States, Australia, Canada

"Taliban" - Pakistan, Australia, Canada

"Tom Cruise" - Canada, United States, Australia

"Britney Spears" - Mexico, Venezuela, Canada

"Homosexual" - Philippines, Chile, Venezuela

"Love" - Philippines, Australia, United States
Pulling up the rear on Google's list -- as reported by Reuters and other sources -- were these eight search terms:
"Botox" - Australia, United States, United Kingdom

"Viagra" - Italy, United Kingdom, Germany

"David Beckham" - Venezuela, United Kingdom, Mexico

"Kate Moss" - Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden

"Dolly Buster" - Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia

"Car bomb" - Australia, United States, Canada

"Marijuana" - Canada, United States, Australia

"IAEA" - Austria, Pakistan, Iran
Except for "Dolly Buster" (which was unknown to me but seems to refer to a Czech-born porn star popular in Central Europe), all of these key words are fairly mundane. Only in the context of where they are popular do they raise eyebrows.

As frequent readers of this blog know, there are some odd search terms that bring people here. Some are odder than others, and some become less odd through repetition and the formation of patterns. For instance, from among the last 4,000 visitors, there were a cluster looking for presidential candidate Ron Paul in various configurations:
ron paul, tom coburn
ron paul, thoughts on global warming
ron paul university of virginia
ron paul tinky winky
ron paul thoughts on gay people
ron paul satanic hand gesture symbol
ron paul opposes dadt
ron paul on gay and lesbian issues
ron paul minority gay individual rights
ron paul judaism
ron paul don't ask don't tell catholic
ron paul and dadt
ron paul "reading list"
This should be expected, given Ron Paul's high profile on the Internet. (By the way, it is now confirmed that Dr. Paul will be a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC on Tuesday, October 30. Check your local listings.)

Then there is another cluster of search terms, all of them focused on the male torso:
shirtless teen idols
shirtless students photos
shirtless rudy guliani
shirtless robert redford
shirtless ricky nelson
shirtless prince william
shirtless prince harry
shirtless pictures of ricky nelson
shirtless pictures of jeremy sumpter
shirtless pictures of daniel radcliffe
shirtless pics of jesse palmer
shirtless missionary calendar
shirtless male postings
shirtless malcolm frankie
shirtless lou taylor pucci
shirtless josh hutcherson pics
shirtless josh hutcherson
shirtless hunter parrish
shirtless dave
shirtless college students
shirtless blogs
Most of these terms are too specific to show up on Google Trends. Some of these, however, might rate a Google Trends report:
penis size report
penis size percent
penis size debate
penis size blog
penis length in vergina
older women and penis size
At least "penis size" without qualifying terms shows up there. (It turns out Australians are most interested in penis size, followed by Americans, Canadians, Britons, and Indians.)

A lot of readers like to put their searches in the form of a question. Either they are used to playing Jeopardy or they cut their web teeth on Ask Jeeves. Here are some of those questions, just those beginning with the word "is" (and not, so far as I know, dependent on what the meaning of "is" is):
is virginia an open primary state
is this the right way to say fish fry's
is sweeney todd appropriate for preteens
is ron paul gay friendly?
is joshua bell circumcised?
is josh hutcherson circumcised?
is jeremy sumpter circumcised'
is hunter parrish gay?
is harry potter circumcised?
is frankie muniz circumcised
is former porn queen jennifer wells evading taxes?
is cuba theocratic
is bob fosse still alive
has bob fosse been found?
is aaron carter circumcised?
Then there are just the inscrutable search terms -- some of them in the form of a question, some not -- that just boggle the mind. What were they thinking? What were they really looking for?
how to say the american national anthem in pig latin
homoerotic spelling bees
hayek et olim meminisse juvabit
10 reasons why frankie muniz sucks
mike huckabee "respects" sexual deviants
family bestiality
yiddish translation for underpants
what is it with judy garland and gays?
And, finally, there is this recent search, from a reader in Kenya:
pictures of circumcision in progress in uganda
Check back in a few months. This collection will grow and grow and the time will come to revisit the topic.

By the way, thanks to Vodka Pundit for linking to my recent post on Sir Ian McKellen's appearance on the Craig Ferguson show. That link has more than doubled my traffic this week.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sir Ian McKellen on Coming Out and Cannabis

Sir Ian McKellen, star of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the X-Men series, and Gods and Monsters, among other movies, is appearing on stage in Los Angeles in productions of King Lear and The Seagull.

Sir Ian (who is openly gay) appeared on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS Wednesday night (or was that Thursday morning?) to promote the two plays and to talk about his career. During the course of the interview, he endorsed -- perhaps inadvertently but clearly not insincerely -- the importance of coming out for gay people and, in the process, suggested that it would be best if marijuana were decriminalized.

Here is a partial transcript that I made from the interview. (There was some cross-chatter, so this transcription may not be completely accurate.)

Craig Ferguson: You've been touring a lot with this play, you're going around everywhere, right?

Sir Ian McKellen: We started in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born and where the Royal Shakespeare Company has its home. Then we went up to Newcastle in England, then we went to Singapore.

CF: Singapore! How lovely!

IM: Do you think so?

CF: I've never been, no.

IM: I was really looking forward to Singapore. I'd heard you couldn't chew chewing gum ---

CF: No, there's no chewing gum in Singapore.

IM: -- and there's a very, very strict regime that organizes the country. Of course, it's only a city on an island, a bit like Manhattan, but the rules are very strict, and I didn't realize as a gay man that I would be a criminal once I arrived because it's illegal for a man to make love to another man --

CF: Really?

IM: -- in Singapore. And I was rather naughty because I was on an early morning show. You know, the sort of show that happens all over the world on TV where you get a couple who are clearly not married or related in any way but flirt all the time --

CF: Yes, yes, that's right.

IM: -- usually an elder man with a younger woman. And at the end of the interview they said, what was I looking forward to doing whilst I was in Singapore, so I looked at the man who was clearly straight and I said, well, can you recommend any decent gay bars?

(audience laughter)

IM: -- which of course would be an illegal thing in every possible way. I looked at a playback of the programme afterwards and I've never seen the credits come up so quickly.

CF: You've been quite outspoken about gay rights, haven't you? Do you feel --

IM: Well, you have to be, if you go to places that are going to point at you and say, because of the way you've been born you should be illegal, it's like pointing at cannabis (pause) Don't you love it --

CF: Cannabis?

IM: -- when politicians pointed at a little weed in the road and said, "That is illegal." Isn't that rather up to God, and not the politicians?

(audience applause)

CF: Yes. I'm beginning to feel like a breakfast television presenter in Singapore. I've been put on the spot a little bit. But ... but you are quite outspoken about that. You've been outspoken about gay rights in the UK and in the U.S., as well. Do you think that it ever has worked against you as an actor? Do you feel you've ever lost work because of --

IM: It did before I came out and was honest and said I was gay. I certainly lost a couple of jobs, I know. But since (thoughtful pause), no. Everything's taken off --

CF: Well, not in Singapore --

IM: -- no, not in Singapore, no.

CF: I have to ask, by the way --

IM: So you say.

CF: -- did you break the law when you were in Singapore? I don't know why I have to ask, but I feel I do.

IM: Let's say I tried.

CF: Right, ok. I think that's fair enough.

(audience laughter, applause)
This interview -- along with another he did with Michael Caine a couple of nights ago -- solidifies in my mind the notion that Craig Ferguson is the most intelligent of the late-night chat show hosts on the major networks. His monologues are well-written and actorly (not just a series of jokes from a stand-up comedian, but playlets with a beginning, middle, and end), he asks serious questions of his guests even while maintaining a light and convivial atmosphere, and he clearly engages his guests in conversation rather than merely asking them questions culled from a pre-interview by producers.

A recent poll on AOL asked readers to rate their favorite late-night hosts, and Ferguson only scored about 14 percent. He deserves far better than that.

Seeing Sir Ian on television reminds me of something I observed five summers ago, during the Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center.

It was the opening performance of Company, and Lynn Redgrave was playing Joanne ("The Ladies Who Lunch"). As you might recall, Redgrave co-starred with Sir Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters, and received an Academy Award nomination for her role.

During the interval -- intermission for you Americans -- I strolled out onto the Kennedy Center terrace along with much of the rest of the audience. The terrace overlooks the Potomac River and has several fountains, as well as long marble planters with flowers and shrubbery, which serve as benches for people who wish to sit.

I was seated on one of these marble benches when I noticed, to my right, a young male couple -- probably 18 or 19 years old -- in a rather intimate composition. (I think one was sitting with the other laying his head in his partner's lap.) Both young men were, by anyone's account, attractive.

As I turned my head in the other direction, I saw an older gentleman exiting the lobby through to the terrace, and his eyes were fixed on the young couple I had just seen. He was walking toward me, but his head was turned in their direction; his body moved forward while his head held steady. He was about to trip over me when I thought, "This man looks just like Ian McKellen."

At that very moment, before he tumbled over me and the others seated nearby, his attention was shifted when someone called out, "Sir Ian! How are you?" He regained his bearing and began to chat with his acquaintance.

I had to smile to myself.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Colossus of Idaho?

According to a news story in the Idaho Statesman in Boise:

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig was honored Saturday evening for his many years of public service at an Idaho Hall of Fame ceremony.

David Leroy, the emcee for the ceremony and former lieutenant governor, noted at the opening of the event that the board had been criticized by media outlets nationwide for its decision not to pull Craig from their group of inductees, which includes Gov. Butch Otter and Boise State University President Bob Kustra.

"The Idaho Hall of Fame board has well considered each of these nominees," Leroy said, adding later that the Hall of Fame honors a history of achievement.

In his introduction of Craig, he entertained the audience with quotes about the price of fame, including one by author Truman Capote, who said, "Fame is only good for one thing — they will cash your check in a small town."

Given what Senator Craig has told us about himself, does this honor make him the "Colossus of Idaho"? Take a look:

Just asking.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

From Toledo to Putnam County

As I have previously done with Tonye Patano and Caroline Stefanie Clay, yesterday morning I interviewed (by telephone) an actor who will be performing in a play at the National Theatre in Washington. In this case, the actor was Kevin Smith Kirkwood, who is -- like me -- the product of eight years of Jesuit education. (He attended St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo and Fordham University in the Bronx, while I attended Marquette University High School in Milwaukee and Georgetown University in Washington.) So we immediately had something in common to drive the conversation.

What follows is the article, based on our interview, which I have submitted to The Metro Herald for publication in next week's issue. The play Kevin is performing in, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, opens in Washington on October 23.

From Toledo to Putnam County:
An Actor’s Journey
Rick Sincere
Metro Herald Entertainment Editor

(WASHINGTON) --- A Catholic priest was the catalyst that led Kevin Smith Kirkwood from Toledo, Ohio, to the Broadway stage and, this month, to the National Theatre in Washington in a Tony Award®-winning musical comedy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Arriving as a new student at St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Kirkwood “had never done a play.” Then the late Father Ron Torina, S.J., persuaded the freshman to join the chorus of Hello, Dolly!, and his life has not been the same since.

Speaking to The Metro Herald by telephone from Detroit, where “Spelling Bee” is on tour, Kirkwood said that “the Jesuits were instrumental in getting me into the theatre.” Father Torina, he explained, “was the one who pointed me in the direction of New York and said I should consider theatre as a career.” (Kirkwood also attended a Jesuit college, Fordham University, which landed him in New York City.)

“I give [Father Torina] all the credit for being in this business at all,” Kirkwood said, adding with a chuckle: “I wanted to be a lawyer.”

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, in which Kirkwood plays Mitch Mahoney, was his Broadway debut, but the musical theatre veteran already had several major productions under his belt, including a European tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and a national tour of Godspell.

Kirkwood has also appeared at the Weathervane Theatre in New Hampshire, the Actor’s Playhouse in Miami, and the Engeman Theatre on Long Island. “Spelling Bee” marks his first appearance in Washington.

For those unfamiliar with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Kirkwood offered this summary: “The show takes place at a spelling bee – the 25th anniversary, of course -- and it's a qualifying round for nationals. There are six spellers who are regular characters,” played by professional actors. There are also four volunteers from the audience, which “makes things more spontaneous.”

“That's a big selling point for the show,” Kirkwood noted. “Thirty minutes before the show, members of the audience can sign up. It gives the audience someone to root for.” The audience participation also, he said, “keeps it fun and fresh for us every night.”

The character he plays, Kirkwood said, “is a young, African-American, urban guy who's probably in his early 20s. He’s definitely an adult, and he comes from a different side of the tracks than all of the spellers” in the show. Mitch, he said, “brings a different perspective on life to the Bee. He probably has had some issues with the law and he comes with a chip on his shoulder; but he also grows up and learns some things about himself over the course of the show.”

With regard to Mitch and the others, he continued, “all of the characters are archetypes; it would be easy to slip into stereotypes. I know guys like Mitch. I knew them growing up in Toledo. I portray him with as much humanity as I can, but he has an edge to him.”

Kirkwood added, for emphasis: “I'm serious when I say I know this guy. He's definitely real to me and he has a definite [character] arc throughout the show.”

Over the course of the play, he said, “we learn about the lives of the six characters through flashbacks and vignettes, and through great quirky melodies by William Finn.”

Asked if he had any final words for Metro Herald readers, Kirkwood replied;

“The show has something in it for everyone. It has a lot of heart that you sometimes don't expect because it's so funny. Definitely prepare to laugh.”

“Spelling Bee” is directed by James Lapine, the Tony Award® and Pulitzer Prize-winner (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods) who also directed the Broadway production. The musical, conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with additional material written by Jay Reiss, features music and lyrics by Tony Award®-winner William Finn (Falsettos, Elegies, A New Brain) and a Tony Award®-winning book by Rachel Sheinkin. “Spelling Bee” features scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Jennifer Caprio, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Dan Moses Schreier and choreography by Dan Knechtges.

In addition to Kevin Smith Kirkwood, the cast includes Katie Boren, James Kall, Andew Keenan-Bolger, Justin Keyes, Vanessa Ray, Eric Roediger, Dana Steingold, and Sally Wilfert.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens at the National Theatre on October 23 and runs through November 4. Tickets are priced $41.50 to $86.50, with a limited number of premium seats at $151.50 (all plus applicable service charges). Tickets are available through Telecharge at (800) 447-7400 and online at Tickets are also available at The National Theatre box office. For groups of 20 or more, call (866) 276-2947. For additional information, call (202) 628-6161 or visit


(Photo of Kevin Smith Kirkwood as Mitch Mahoney by Joan Marcus; courtesy of the National Theatre)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Judge Rules on Al Gore's Truthiness

Speculation is strong that, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee announces its choice for the Nobel Peace Prize today, the winner's name will be Al Gore.

In the category of "wish-I'd-said-that," Damian Thompson writes in today's Telegraph:

The former US Vice-President has already taken over from Michael Moore as the most sanctimonious lardbutt Yank on the planet. Can you imagine what he'll be like if the Norwegian Nobel committee gives him the prize?
(That comes from an opinion article headlined, "What has Al Gore done for world peace?" Good question.)

The Nobel announcement, if it happens -- and there's no guarantee that it will; being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize is almost as easy as being nominated to be president of a middle school student council -- will occur under the cloud of a negative legal ruling against Gore and his film, An Inconvenient Truth, from a British High Court judge.

According to news reports, the movie contains errors and inaccuracies that require it to be shown in British schools only with a disclaimer or warning that indicates it is a political film.

Judge Michael Burton isolated nine significant examples in his ruling, which were summarized in yesterday's Telegraph:
# Mr Gore claims that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland "in the near future". The judge said: "This is distinctly alarmist and part of Mr Gore's "wake-up call". He agreed that if Greenland melted it would release this amount of water - "but only after, and over, millennia"."The Armageddon scenario he predicts, insofar as it suggests that sea level rises of seven metres might occur in the immediate future, is not in line with the scientific consensus."

# The film claims that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls "are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming" but the judge ruled there was no evidence of any evacuation having yet happened.

# The documentary speaks of global warming "shutting down the Ocean Conveyor" - the process by which the Gulf Stream is carried over the North Atlantic to western Europe. Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the judge said that it was "very unlikely" that the Ocean Conveyor, also known as the Meridional Overturning Circulation, would shut down in the future, though it might slow down.

# Mr Gore claims that two graphs, one plotting a rise in C02 and the other the rise in temperature over a period of 650,000 years, showed "an exact fit". The judge said that, although there was general scientific agreement that there was a connection, "the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts".

# Mr Gore says the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro was directly attributable to global warming, but the judge ruled that it scientists have not established that the recession of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro is primarily attributable to human-induced climate change.

# The film contends that the drying up of Lake Chad is a prime example of a catastrophic result of global warming but the judge said there was insufficient evidence, and that "it is apparently considered to be far more likely to result from other factors, such as population increase and over-grazing, and regional climate variability."

# Mr Gore blames Hurricane Katrina and the consequent devastation in New Orleans on global warming, but the judge ruled there was "insufficient evidence to show that".

# Mr Gore cites a scientific study that shows, for the first time, that polar bears were being found after drowning from "swimming long distances - up to 60 miles - to find the ice" The judge said: "The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm."That was not to say there might not in future be drowning-related deaths of bears if the trend of regression of pack ice continued - "but it plainly does not support Mr Gore's description".

# Mr Gore said that coral reefs all over the world were being bleached because of global warming and other factors. Again citing the IPCC, the judge agreed that, if temperatures were to rise by 1-3 degrees centigrade, there would be increased coral bleaching and mortality, unless the coral could adapt. However, he ruled that separating the impacts of stresses due to climate change from other stresses, such as over-fishing, and pollution was difficult.
Gore's tendency toward bluster and braggadocio is not new. Reviewing Gore's then-recently published book, Earth in the Balance, Jonathan H. Adler (then an environmental policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington) wrote in the summer (north)/winter (south) 1992 issue of terra nova (a quarterly journal I then edited):
Billed as Gore's "journey in search of a true understanding of the global ecological crisis and how it can be resolved," Earth in the Balance is clearly the author's attempt to be all things to all people -- a committed green to the environmental establishment, a thoughtful and measured politician to the policy community, and an insightful and forward-looking leader to the average reader, it is this very presentation that makes the book so formidable. Founded on questionable premises and leading to woefully misguided political solutions, this book was carefully crafted to bring its author, and his green agenda, to the forefront of American politics.

The central premise of Earth in the Balance, as with so many other volumes of this sort, is that the world is facing an impending catastrophe of tremendous magnitude. Gore and other environmentalists learned this tactic from Cold War worriers who were concerned with the much more realistic threat of nuclear armageddon. During the Cold War, the nation was -- for all intents and purposes -- mobilized around a central organizing proposition: the fight against communism. Gore seeks to establish a parallel in the fight to protect the environment, but his arguments have little basis in scientific reality.
Prefiguring much of the criticism of An Inconvenient Truth, Adler continues:
Rather than using scientific evidence to establish the need for action, Gore adopts scare tactics so as to provide the impetus for decisive action, even in the face of uncertainty. "The burden of proof ought to be with those who claim that the most likely outcome is something that will be good for us." Innovation and development must be halted, until they can be proven to be without risk. However, he does not seem willing to apply the same standard to those programs he endorses as the appropriate political responses. The enormous economic costs and social dislocations to be imposed are of less concern to Gore than dubious claims generated by admittedly inaccurate computer models.
(Adler's full review, "Off Balance," can be found on pages 64-68 of Volume 1, Number 4 of terra nova. Kudos to the reader who can track it down in a public or university library.)

Of course, if somebody more deserving wins the Nobel Prize for Peace today, this whole discussion will have lost its pertinence.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Arin Sime Takes to the Airwaves

Arin Sime, the Libertarian candidate for the Virginia State Senate in the 24th District (his opponents are incumbent Republican Emmett Hanger and Democratic challenger David Cox, who is running a tepid campaign), has released a campaign commercial that will run on local TV stations during the last week of the election campaign -- which is fast approaching.

The 29-second commercial hits all the major themes that have animated Sime's campaign, which began well over a year ago and has been taken throughout the sprawling district. This may be the first time in the history of Virginia electoral politics that a Libertarian candidate has aired a television ad, which is itself a credit to both Sime's ingenuity and his fundraising prowess.

Here's the ad, which has been posted to YouTube in advance of its broadcast debut:

A news release from the Sime campaign notes:
Those appearing in the commercial are:

Property Taxes: Tina and John Munchmeyer are homeowners in Crozet who express their displeasure with drastically rising property taxes.

Second Amendment: Skip Plitt and his son Austin are Albemarle County residents, as well as avid hunters and 2nd Amendment enthusiasts.

Educational Choice: Silvia Barrett is a homeschooling mom from the Earlysville area who is active in the homeschool movement.

Property Rights: Gerard Labrecque and his family live in Staunton, and were threatened with eminent domain in 2006 on a property he is renovating.

Family Farms: Sue and Guy Freesen own a farm in Staunton and regularly sell their meat at area farmer’s markets around the 24th District. They are also active in organizations seeking to remove excessive regulations on family farms.

In the final scene, Mr. Sime is filmed at the Ashton Country House in Staunton, which is a recently re-opened Bed & Breakfast owned by his father-in-law Dick Chamberlain.
With fewer than 30 days left in the campaign for control of the Virginia General Assembly -- most pundits seem to agree that a Democratic takeover of the state Senate, if not the House of Delegates, is within reach -- you can be sure that the race in the 24th District will become more heated. It's nice that Arin Sime's advertising budget allows for light as well as heat.

Visitor from La-La Land

My old friend, Dan Blatt, who moved from Northern Virginia to Los Angeles a few months before I settled in Charlottesville, is back in Virginia on a brief visit. I last saw him in July at Buddha's Belly, an Asian restaurant in LA, when I was on my own cross-country odyssey.

Some readers may recognize Dan as the contributor to GayPatriot who blogs under the name "GayPatriotWest." He left the Pacific Coast on Sunday and arrived in Charlottesville around 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday. He plans to be in D.C. on Wednesday and Thursday, where he will be meeting with friends and blog-readers. Then it's on to New York and New England for him.

I don't think I could manage to drive coast-to-coast in just under 72 hours. Dan has either more stamina or more craziness than I do. But here he is, apparently in one piece and good (mental and physical) health.

In any event, we have passed a pleasant evening, with dinner on The Corner at the College Inn and a brief tour of the main grounds of the University of Virginia. (Dan is a UVa Law School alumnus and lived in Charlottesville for three years in the early 1990s.)

Dan is blogging about his journey as he stops along the way.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mormon Beefcake?

One of the more entertaining and touching movies of the "coming out" genre in recent years was Latter Days, which features Steve Sandvoss as Elder Aaron Davis, a Mormon missionary who, while on mission to Los Angeles, discovers his long-buried gay identity with the help of party-boy Christian Markelli (played by Wes Ramsey). The film also includes performances by the wonderful Mary Kay Place as Aaron's mother, up-and-coming art house favorite Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a fellow missionary, and the luminous Jacqueline Bisset as a restaurateur-cum-mother hen.

In his review of the movie, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote:

Is there a way in which the movie works? Yes, it works by delivering on its formula. We sense immediately that Davis and Christian are destined to be lovers, and so we watch patiently as the screenplay fabricates obstacles to their destiny. We identify to some degree with them because -- well, because we always tend to identify with likable characters in love stories. Maybe the fact that they're gay will help some homophobic audience members to understand homosexuality a little better, although whether they will attend the movie in the first place is a good question.
Latter Days is, more than anything else, a story about family -- both the family we're born with and the family we choose.

But Latter Days is not without its homoerotic titillation. A serious drama, it also has comic scenes and some very steamy love scenes, as well.

Latter Days' homoeroticism came to mind when I was reading the religion page of today's Washington Post. Yes, you read that right -- on the religion page. Beneath one article subtitled "As Their Numbers Dwindle, Christians In Iraq Feel Increasingly Vulnerable" and another headlined "Candidate's Religion Can Be Telling but Shouldn't Be the Whole Story" is one entitled "Calendar Shows Another Side of Mormons."

And what a side it is! In the lower right-hand corner of the page is a shirtless hunk straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. The photo comes from the cover of "Men on a Mission," a 2008 calendar that can be purchased at (That sounds like a web site for the schlock silent-film classic, Trapped By the Mormons or its campy 2005 remake, but in fact it also sells t-shirts with slogans like "I heart Mormon Boys" as well as the calendar and other items.)

In the article, distributed by Religion News Service, correspondent Lilly Fowler writes:

Hoping to debunk the popular image of Mormons as strait-laced corporate types, a steamy new "Men on a Mission" calendar features 12 former missionaries, each of them shirtless, sculpted and looking seductive.

There's Jonathan, looking like a Mitt Romney clone, and there he is again, sitting shirtless on a park bench with a sultry come-hither stare. And Shane, holding his Book of Mormon near the Las Vegas Strip and then looking like, well, he's the one going to strip.

Brandon Beckham, an actor and filmmaker who spent his two-year mission spreading the Mormon message in Mozambique, auditioned for a spot in the calendar after his agent told him about the project.

"It was kind of a different type of audition," said Beckham, now 32 and playing the role of Mr. August 2008 in a bathing suit.

Beckham, who was born and raised in Southern California, said that as a Mormon in the entertainment industry, he's used to having to make some tough decisions.

"I made up my mind a long time ago that I wouldn't engage in things I wouldn't approve of, that I wouldn't show my kids," he said.

But he said that after meeting the men behind the calendar, he felt good about the project and decided he could help change some of the misconceptions about Mormons.

They call it "bare chests and handsome faces as a conduit for change."
Having seen Barack Obama dressed skimpily on the beach, can Mitt Romney be far behind?

And will we now be encountering Jehovah's Witnesses as they hawk calendars door-to-door?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sputnik Plus 50

Archbishop Ussher might have placed the creation of the world, with academic precision, at the evening preceding October 23, 4004 BC, but future generations might have a less speculative date upon which to base their calendars.

Most calendric systems today are built on religious foundations. The most common calendar is Christian in origin, devised at the direction of Pope Gregory XIII; year one is more or less the year of the birth of Christ. (This event is now calculated to about 4 BC, owing much to Archbishop Ussher's research.) The Muslim calendar begins with the hejira in AD 622. The Jewish calendar dates its year one to the creation of the world, and so forth.

If humanity someday decides to replace its religiously- and mythologically-based calendars with something else, it would come as no surprise if "year one" is what we now know as 1957, with year one beginning on October 4.

October 4, 1957, was the date that the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite to orbit the earth, and thus the beginning of the Space Age -- and the opening of the wider universe to human exploration.

Setting aside the Cold War context of Sputnik's launch -- Khrushchev wanted to demonstrate Moscow's military and technological superiority over the United States, which had its own satellite launch planned for only weeks later -- one can take pride in it as a human achievement.

In George Furth and Stephen Sondheim's musical play, Merrily We Roll Along, a key scene is set in October 1957, with three young people on a New York rooftop, scanning the skies for Sputnik overhead. One of them says to the others, "Too bad it's not ours," and gets the reply, "It belongs to all of us." The scene ("Our Time") is meant to portray the unlimited optimism of a generation, and of those three individuals in particular. (Never mind that they are destroyed by cynicism, infidelity, and substance abuse in the next two decades ....) Despite its militaristic origins, Sputnik represented the sort of horizonlessness that characterized the 1950s and early 1960s.

Within a dozen years, humans walked on the moon. Before the end of the century, manmade objects had traversed the solar system (and are still moving farther away). Satellites have transformed daily life in communications, agriculture, transportation, telemetry, cartography, meteorology, and -- of course -- astronomy.

The Cold War is over. We can simultaneously acknowledge that Sputnik was a propaganda ploy with little intrinsic scientific value and that it was the first step on a millennial journey whose final destination is still unknown.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Paul Campaign Raises Over $5,000,000 In Third Quarter

In a press release comes impressive fundraising news from the Ron Paul for President campaign:

October 3, 2007

Paul Campaign Raises Over $5,000,000 In Third Quarter


ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - The Ron Paul 2008 presidential campaign raised $5,080,000 during the third quarter of 2007. That is an impressive 114 percent increase from the second quarter.

Cash on hand for the Paul campaign is $5,300,000.

"Dr. Paul's message is freedom, peace and prosperity," said Paul campaign chairman Kent Snyder. "As these fundraising numbers show, more Americans each day are embracing Dr. Paul's message."

Ron Paul's 114 percent increase is in stark contrast to the decrease suffered by Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain. Romney's fundraising was down 29 percent. Giuliani was down 40 percent. McCain was down 55 percent.

It looks like Paul's campaign is husbanding its resources carefully -- not wasting anything (as a good fiscal conservative would be expected to do) and keeping its powder dry for when the best opportunity to use it comes along.

According to Klaus Marre, writing in The Hill:
Fundraising in the third quarter slowed for most candidates other than Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), but in terms of growth, nobody was as successful as Paul.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Modesty Becomes Her

I seldom find something admirable in liberal Democratic lawmakers. Not only are the policies they prefer inimical to liberty and individual responsibility, they pursue them with what Hayek warned us about, a "fatal conceit" that "my way is best because it is my way."

So it was refreshing to learn that a Democratic Member of Congress from New York has resisted this temptation and is taking her time before trying to put her stamp on what otherwise would be ill-advised public policies.

According to an article on Politico, freshman Representative Yvette D. Clarke (D-New York), who succeeded longtime Brooklyn lawmaker Major Owens in one of the country's most liberal, urban districts, has yet to introduce a piece of legislation, something exceedingly rare among the ambitious types who populate Capitol Hill.

According to Politico correspondent Josephine Hearn, writing on September 27:

It’s been eight months and 22 days since Rep. Yvette Clarke was sworn in as a member of Congress.

Yet more than a third of the way through her two-year term, the New York Democrat has yet to introduce any bill, resolution or amendment on the House floor.

That fact makes her unique among 54 House freshmen; every other new lawmaker has proposed some floor legislation, if only a symbolic measure to congratulate a victorious golfer (from Iowa Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack) or celebrate the bald eagle (from Tennessee Republican Rep. David Davis).

Setting aside the fact that Clarke's colleagues Loebsack and Davis are wasting the time of Congress and the money of taxpayers on trivial pursuits, Clarke's reticence is itself delightful. Her reasons for her delay in introducing legislation are prudent and commendable:
Clarke said in an interview Wednesday that she has been occupied with other responsibilities.

“I have not really concentrated that much on crafting legislation,” she said. “Part of it was getting my bearings. I do have interest. I just haven’t made that my ultimate focus.”

Constituent work and hiring qualified staff for her district and Washington offices have trumped lawmaking, the lawmaker said.
Clarke should be held up as a model of respectable humility, moderation, and self-reflection. Understanding and acknowledging one's limits in any profession -- especially one that affects the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans -- is a trait that should be encouraged, not mocked or sneered at.

To be sure, my views of Clarke's form of legislative restraint are colored by a wish that government as a whole would be restrained, something noted in the Politico article by Hearn:
Proposing legislation and shepherding it through Congress is a seminal responsibility of members of Congress.

With the exception of anti-government crusaders who believe proposing bills promotes government, most lawmakers relish the opportunity.

Clarke's style of self-restraint should be matched by changes in the rules to slow the growth of government that inevitably results from unlimited legislative activity.

One place to start would be by passing the Read the Bills Act, which would require legislators to -- as the title suggests -- read proposed laws before voting on them.

There is another proposal I have long favored, for the Virginia General Assembly, in particular, but also for Congress. (Richmond legislators consider upwards of 2,500 bills during a session that is scheduled to last less than three months.) That would be a requirement that, for every bill that proposes a new law, a legislator must also introduce a bill that repeals an old law. Alternatively -- and this would work especially well in state legislatures that meet for limited periods -- one session of a two-year term would be devoted to repealing old statutes, with the other reserved for revising or introducing new legislation.

Whatever her views on public policy issues, Representative Yvette Clarke is -- at least temporarily, until she drops that first bill in the hopper -- a libertarian heroine.

Let's hope that the 2008 election cycle brings more like her to Washington.