Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Thursday, May 18, 2006
I Also Heart Russ Feingold
Via Pandagon:

Feingold Tells Specter Off w/r/t Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

It's like Gore and Feingold are having a competition in political awesomeness. I am seriously torn about whether I should be driving to Nashville or Madison in a year.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I Heart Al Gore
Go. Watch.

The sound you hear? Maureen squealing like a little schoolgirl.

Monday, April 17, 2006
Activism for the Lazy
Because Free Speech is Important

Many of you in the literary blogosphere probably know all about this, but for those of you in the political blogosphere...

The Italian province of Perugia has arrested a journalist for muckraking.
From his co-writer Douglas Preston:

My dear colleagues,

Today, the police came and arrested Mario Spezi, my close friend and
writing partner. They lured him outside his apartment in Florence
with a false story and manhandled him into a car. I spoke to his
wife, Myriam, and she says the police refused to show an arrest
warrant and refused to let Spezi call his lawyer. It later turned out
the arrest had been ordered by "Gides," a special police unit led by
Michele Giuttari. Spezi was taken to Gides headquarters for
questioning and, as far as I know, was then taken to Perugia and

The accusations against Spezi, according to press accounts, are
slander and defamation, disturbing the public order, and obstructing
a criminal investigation. He was, essentially, arrested for doing his
job as a journalist. One news report says that he is also being
charged with an unsolved murder that occurred thirty-one years ago --
an utterly absurd charge.

Spezi's and my book, DOLCI COLLINE DI SANGUE, is slated to be
released in Italy by RCS Libri on April 19. The book criticizes
Michele Giuttari as well as the Pubblico Ministero of Perugia,
Giuliano Mignini, who is in charge of the investigation Spezi is now
accused of obstructing. As many of you know, I was taken into custody
last month in Italy by detectives from Giuttari’s unit, and
interrogated for hours by Mignini about our journalistic activities
related to the book. In the end I was slapped with an “avviso di
garanzia” for perjury and allowed to return home.

It is no coincidence that this arrest comes just twelve days before
the release of our book.

As of this writing, the U.S. State Department has asked Judge Mignini
to clarify my legal standing in Italy, and, as I understand it, to
explain on what grounds I was taken in for questioning and charged
with perjury. But what happened to me is nothing: Mario has taken the
full force of this astonishing abuse of power and his freedom as a
journalist and a human being hangs in the balance.

I ask all of you, please, for the love of truth and freedom of the
press, come to Spezi’s aid. This should not be happening in the
beautiful and civilized country that I love, the country that gave
the world Galileo and the Renaissance. Many of you belong to
organizations such as PEN or other writer’s organizations that could
bring pressure to bear. Others of you have blogs that could spread
the news.

Letters (always respectful in tone) should be addressed to:

Roberto Castelli
Il Ministro della Giustizia
Via Arenula, 70
00186 Roma

Giuseppe Pisanu
Il Ministro dell’Interno
Piazzale Viminale
00184 Roma

Italians care a great deal what Americans think. I have seen early
press reports in Italy and much of it is filled with dismay at this
treatment of one of Italy's most respected journalists. This is not
"business as usual" in Italy and it can be reversed, if we make a big
enough noise.

Thank you so much for your previous support, and I am deeply grateful
for anything you can do.


Go. Write. I'll even supply you a letter:

Your Excellency,

I was gravely disappointed when I learned journalist Mario Spezi had been arrested for slander, defamation, obstruction of investigation, and disturbing the public order by the “Gides” unit led by chief Perugian prosecutor Michele Guittari. I understand that the provincial government of Perugia has previously attacked Spezi on spurious charges; moreover, I understand that Spezi’s forthcoming book “Dolci Colline de Sangue” criticizes the role that Guittari played in the investigation of the Florentine serial killings of the 1970s and 1980s. To my eyes, at least, it appears that Guittari has arrested Spezi for the grand offense of critical journalism.

I have always admired the Italian people’s great contributions to the arts and sciences, from Fibonacci and Dante to da Vinci and Galileo to Fermi and Fellini. It would be a pity if this legacy were stained by overarching officials attempting to deny freedom of expression. I understand that Article 21 of the Italian Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, and I ask you to defend this freedom. Thus, I urge the (Ministry of Justice/Ministry of the Interior) to press for the removal of all charges against Mr. Spezi.

Respectfully yours,

Copy it into a word document, figure out which office you'll send it to first, print, address an envelope (put "Your Excellency" in front of the minister's name, they like that), add 84 cents of postage to the envelope, and repeat for the other office.

See, wasn't that easy?

(cross-posted in various forms to various message boards, etc.)

Monday, March 06, 2006
Time to pull out the world's smallest violin
for John Menges, recently out of a job because he won't dispense the morning-after pill.

Except that unlike the women of Collinsville, IL, where Menges's counter at Walgreens was the only game in town for overnight Plan B, Menges has options:

"He could work in a hospital or a mail-order facility or a nearby state [Menges works in Illinois, near St. Louis--MC]," said Robert Buerkl, a pharmacy professor at Ohio State University and an expert in industry ethics. "Why would you want to work in a place where people get in your face?"

I'm not really sure why. Apparently Menges doesn't want to dispense the morning-after pill because he believes it can prevent a fertilized egg from adhering to the uterus, even though there's no scientific evidence for that occuring. (Personally, I prefer my pharmacist to base his or her medical opinions on science, and not on anti-contraception pamphlets, but that's just me.) There are plenty of Catholic hospitals in the St. Louis area which would be more than happy to have Menges as a pharmacist; why is he setting himself up as a victim?

Thursday, February 23, 2006
Shameless Candidate Plug
I'm sure all of you know about Cook County Hospital--it's one of the most famous public hospitals in the nation; it's the hospital of last resort; it's the hospital on ER. Unfortunately, it--or rather, as it's now called, Stroger Hospital--is being mismanaged by the Cook County Board of Commissioners' President, John Stroger. (Yes, he named the hospital after his family.) Currently the Cook County public hospitals are severely understaffed; a baby died in the hallway at Provident Hospital because the staff was too busy with other patients. And yet Stroger does nothing.

But Forrest Claypool will. Vote in this primary for Forrest Claypool, for a government that all of Cook County can be proud of.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Bloggers Have Brought Down A President
Unfortunately, it's Lawrence Summers, not Bush.

And now will come the complaints that feminazis attack any academic who doesn't conform to their beliefs. Yes, well, if you're the president of America's most famous university, saying something that controversial can result in economic consequences--such as alumnae withholding their annual donations. I'm sure that Dr. Summers as an economist understands how people express their political beliefs through the pocketbook.

UPDATE: A few days ago I was wondering if Lawrence Summers's rather pronounced tendency to put his foot in his mouth was due to a mild case of Aspberger's Syndrome. Apparently some at Harvard were already considering that theory, noting everything from his table manners that would shame a first-year to his habit of falling asleep during lectures by world leaders.

Monday, February 20, 2006
Those who live in Buckingham Palace shouldn't throw stones
An British MP is trying to prevent Pakistani Britons from marrying their first cousins. Seems that there's a pretty large incidence of genetic diseases among the Pakistani population in Britain, much of it stemming from the common practice of marrying relatives. Now, my first thought to this was: "Wait, marrying your cousin is legal in Britain?"

Then I suddenly remembered: Victoria and Albert. First cousins whose great-grandchildren included the hemophiliac Tsarovich Alexei of Russia and the epileptic, possibly slightly autistic Prince John, "the lost prince".

So if we're going to ban cousin marriage in Britain, let's ban it for all Britons--including the most celebrated cousin-marriers of them all, the Royal Family.