Archive for January 2007

Crossing the Divide #2: Alleviating the Need for Abortion?

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

I think it was Bill Clinton who said that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.” And Mrs. Clinton goes even further (quoted by William Saletan in Slate, emphasis his):

Abortion is “a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women,” said Clinton. Then she went further: “There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances.”

Does not ever have to be exercised. I searched Google and Nexis for parts of that sentence tonight and got no hits. Is the press corps asleep? Hillary Clinton just endorsed a goal I’ve never heard a pro-choice leader endorse. Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never.

Once you embrace that truth—that the ideal number of abortions is zero—voters open their ears. … Once we agree that the goal is zero, we can stop asking which party yaps more about fighting abortion and start asking which party gets results.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the answer to the abortion question may lie not in strangling the supply, but in drying up the demand. An elective abortion, by definition, terminates an unwanted pregnancy. It stands to reason that if you reduce the unwanted pregnancies, the abortion problem goes away too.

As reported by Julie Rovner on NPR’s Morning Edition (listen), some moderate members of Congress have put forth compromise bills. For instance, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) has introduced a bill calling for more money for pregnancy prevention and incentives for carrying babies to term. However, their bills have been met with skepticism from both the far left and far right.

It’s been 34 years since Roe v. Wade, and the country has been divided ever since. It’s really hard to find any sort of common ground on abortion, because you’ll either be accused of being anti-freedom or a supporter of murder. Perhaps one day rhetoric will be set aside in favor of results, and one day abortion will be unheard of. I’m not holding my breath, though.

Crossing The Divide #1: Environment and Evangelicals

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

If you take a look at my blogroll (click the link to your right), you’ll notice I identify myself as a political moderate, although I do lean left and vote Democratic (with a few exceptions). It’s my firm belief that the real decisions in this country are made not by the strict partisans, but by the moderates, those on both sides of the aisle who are willing to buck their party on occasion and work with those on the other side to get things done.

In the past four years, it’s been a one-party show, with the Republicans being the haves and the Democrats being the have-nots. Now that Democrats now control both houses of Congress while the Republicans still control the house on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, we now have a golden opportunity to reach common ground.

National Public Radio, recognizing this, has started a weeklong series known as Crossing the Divide:”

So what is bipartisanship? Majorities always give it lip service because they know they should, and because they know they need some of it to succeed. Minorities always ask for it because it’s their only access to a share of power.

In one sense, true or pure bipartisanship is impossible in a political system almost entirely organized around partisanship — the rivalry of major parties. It is akin to asking for agreement between two sets of lawyers hired to be adversaries. Arguing is what they do, and they are paid to insist on their viewpoint.

But in another sense, the American political system is about satisfying the majority without making life too onerous for the minority. We expect all sides in any controversy to state their principles and serve their interests, but we also ask them to respect the need for resolution in the end. The more important the issue, the more important it is to reach that resolution.

Everyone who enters the public arena soon learns that the struggle is not the end product. The struggle is a means. In the end, all parties have to find some means of give and take. They have to cross the space that divides them.

One of the first reports was about a Harvard biochemist and a leading evangelical Christian leader who have joined forces to fight global warming:

Richard Cizik is the vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He believes God made the world in matter of days. Eric Chivian is a biochemist from Harvard University who maintains that man evolved from matter over billions of years. …

Unlikely allies? Perhaps. But that’s exactly what they’ve become in their mutual quest to fight global warming. The two men have launched what they’re calling a dialog between leading figures in science and religion, specifically evangelical Christianity. They’re not pushing any specific legislation, but they’re trying to raise the public profile of environmental issues.

As a moderate-liberal church-going Christian who goes to an evangelical church, I’ve always felt a cognitive dissonance between the biblical assertion that the earth is God’s creation, and the fact that the Christian right has been largely dismissive of the environmental agenda, lumping it in the same category as abortion and gay marriage. Indeed, Civik and Chivian’s alliance has not found universal acceptance:

But not everyone is on board. Other leading evangelicals have heavily criticized Cizik, saying that he is diluting the Christian agenda with his environmental crusade.

Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that evangelicals are finally coming around to the idea that we need to fight to protect the planet’s future. After all, didn’t God create Adam and Eve to be stewards of His creation?

That is SO 20th Century

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

I never thought I’d see the day. XHTML and CSS working together to form a page that looks like what the web looked like ten years ago. Bruce Lawson has done just that in his tribute to the state of the Web in 1996, applied against the iconic CSS Zen Garden.

Bring your sunglasses. Your eyes will hurt.

Six Degrees of Satoshi

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

It’s said that the Internet has made the world a smaller place, and that the phenomenon known as Web 2.0, referring to the current trend of social networking services, is shrinking the world down to manageable proportions.

There is the notion that every person living on earth is, on average, six people removed from anyone else in the world. This notion launched party games such as “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” and also serious research such as the Milgram small-world experiment. In that experiment, randomly selected residents in Omaha and Wichita were asked to get packages to a contact point in Boston by sending it to people they knew on a first-name basis. The packages that made it to the destination did so within 5 to 6 steps on average.

Which brings me to what has become the Find Satoshi project.

Mind Candy Games, a British game publisher, has put together a game known as Perplex City in which people try to solve puzzles on cards in order to find a buried treasure somewhere on Earth for which there is a real-life US$200,000 reward. One of the clues to the puzzle is held by an ostensibly Japanese man known only as Satoshi. His picture appears on the card, along with these Japanese words: 私を見つけなさい。(“Find me.”) His picture was taken in Kayserberg, France. It is not known whether he lives in France, Japan, or somewhere else. The puzzle involves making contact with him to get a certain clue as to the larger game.

Fortunately, Satoshi himself has agreed to be part of the project and is not consciously hiding. At the same time, though, I’m not sure whether he really knew what he’s getting himself into.

This is by far the most ambitious test of the “six degrees” hypothesis to date. Has the Internet really made the world a smaller place? Is there really no place for people to hide? We shall see. It seems hard, but I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility.

さとしさん、世界は是非見つけると思います。

Satoshi, I think the world WILL find you.

(hat tip Digg)

The Hawaii Chair: Gyrating to Fitness?

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

Ryan at HawaiiBlog did a double-take when he found out about the newest gimmick that the fitness “industry” has come up with to bilk money out of unsuspecting consumers.

Introducing the Hawaii Chair:

“Anyone who has been to or seen anything on Hawaii has come across this unique dance form. The traditional Polynesian Hula dance encourages the combination of cardiovascular exercises with small, controlled movements throughout the buttocks and abdominal region, promoting weight loss and increased abdominal muscle tone.

The Hawaii chair will bring the hula dance into your office, and home… That’s right, you get all the benefits without all the hassle. No traveling to expensive classes. No wasting precious time, it’s all in your home and office. Get all the benefits and none of the fuss.”

Opines Ryan: “Huh. And here I thought the hula was an ancient, spiritual performance in which the culture and history of a dwindling indigenous population is preserved and fiercely protected by practitioners that are revered and respected. Turns out it’s just an ‘exercise’ that’s still too much work for lazy people.”

I’m with Ryan with this one. Hawaiian culture has taken cheap shots before, but this takes the cake. And at $419.94 a pop (six monthly payments of $69.99)? Goodness gracious.

My personal observations? I took a look at the video on their site and on YouTube, and it seems to me like what’s being pictured isn’t the hula at all, but rather the Tahitian tamure, which is much more gyration-oriented that hula. From what I’ve seen, hips sway in hula, but they don’t shake.

Besides, everyone knows. It’s all in the hands.

One contributor to HawaiiThreads.com likens it to “a toilet for octogenarians.”

And another contributor observes:

Hula as a weight-loss plan…yeah, I’ve seen it done as such, but I gotta tell you, many of the best dancers I’ve ever seen have been momona [Hawaiian for chubby]. They don’t gotta be skinny to be captivating and graceful.

Something that the developers of the Hawaii Chair didn’t realize. I wonder if any of them had ever been to the islands. Didn’t think so.

The Year in Review (a little late, sorry)

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

Sorry for the delay on this one, I know we’re already a week into the new year. I recorded this little blurb at about 11:00 p.m. December 31, and meant to get it up before it became midnight Hawaii time, but my DivX Converter kept insisting on getting my audio and video out of sync, so I looked and sounded like an actor on a badly dubbed kung fu movie. What did go up has my closing sequence clipped. I think the DivX Converter has trouble with static slates at the beginning and end of sequences.

At any rate, here it is, clipped and all, my 2006 retrospective and initial 2007 resolution.

So Much for Power, Strength, and Stamina

Saturday, January 6th, 2007

So I was reading the letters to the editor in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin yesterday morning and suddenly found myself in ’07—1907. This letter is short, so I’m going to quote it in its entirety:

It is God’s blessing that men are stronger, more powerful and free from time-consuming personal care. Therefore, our men’s tasks involve all of the above endowments and differ from women’s tasks.

Full-time or part-time makes no difference. Power, strength and stamina answer the requirement of a wage gap.

The ironic thing was, I was reading this while walking from Starbucks to my workplace, where men and women are assembled together, doing different duties, but pretty much doing the same thing physically: sitting on their glutei maximi and tapping on computer keyboards using nothing more than fingers and wrists.

So much for “power, strength, and stamina” as an argument defending a gender wage gap. Next?