Why does CitySearch …

… (you know, CitySearch) think I’m gay?

I’m online looking for a vacation hotel in Austin, TX [jeesh ... I probably shouldn't have said that out loud -- now my groupies will give me no rest when I'm there], and CitySearch — proudly owned by Barry Diller’s own InterActiveCorp — is serving me ads for a very gay version of Match.com. Undoubtedly, this is due to some kind of behavioral targeting technology they’ve developed.

All’s I can say is … Well, it’s very bad.  My real-life alter ego is an online media buyer … let’s just say that this is noted.

Battle of the Pseudo Archaeologists

I love archaeology … have ever since I first watched “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (the first of approximately 50 viewings).

Of course, unlike James Cameron, I understand that the adventures of Indiana Jones do not constitute actual science.

I find myself strangely compelled by this new Jesus saga Cameron’s brought to life.  On one hand, if actual physical evidence of Jesus were to be found, doesn’t that ultimately strengthen the position of the various Christian churches?  Leaving aside the larger theological and ecclesiastical questions it would raise, in my opinion physical evidence of the existence of a figure that’s been heretofore somewhat mystical can only give additional weight to the faith and to the faithful.  On the other hand, there are those for whom the theological and ecclesiastical questions are tantamount … the Catholic Church may as well have the motto “never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” and the same can be said for many of the Protestant denominations as well.

What’s really interesting to me about this is that, so far at least, it seems like Cameron’s “research” is about as scientific as that which shows that Noah’s Ark is resting atop Mr. Ararat, or that the dinosaurs and man lived together in peace and harmony only 6500 years ago.

If Cameron’s trying to be ironic, and point out the limitations of the pseudo-science snakes like the Discovery Institute use to cow the faithful, he’s picked a very clever way to do it.  I can only imagine what the religious right must think about this … now they’ll be forced to actually critically examine psuedo-evidence and refute it using things like “logic” and “reason” … the anethema of too many social conservatives.  And for some of them, the exposure to using the power of their minds to draw reasonable conclusions based on actual — scientifically valid — evidence can only be a good thing.

Colorado River Troubles

Following up on last week’s post, where I alienated all of our Southern Nevada readers by refusing to provide them with adequate water supplies, John Judis writes [$] in The New Republic today about a new study on the fate of the Colorado Basin.

There are two main reasons for the crisis: one, the massive influx of people to the American Southwest over the past few decades, and two, global warming, which is reducing snowpack and evaporating some of the water that remains. Judis concludes:

The report predictably recommends a “comprehensive, action-oriented study of Colorado River region urban water practices and changing patterns of demand.” That’s what one would expect from academics. But one cannot read the report without imagining a darker scenario–one in which desert cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas, which were built largely for tourism and leisure, will eventually go the way of the gas-guzzling Concorde. They will be victims of capitalism’s unsuccessful attempt to subdue nature, while older cities like Cleveland–once termed “the mistake by the lake”–may have the last laugh.

The study is here.

Greenspan’s Long Reach

Oy. Exit stage, already, Alan.

NYT notes in an article discussing the sleigh ride that the market’s become:

… investors were still digesting comments by the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, who told a conference in Hong Kong on Monday that a recession in the United States is likely.

When in human history has so much depended on the cryptic utterances of a stoop-shouldered old man? Especially one who is nominally retired?

Talks!

Talking with North Korea turned out so well, it looks like the U.S. may finally be getting ready to talk to Iran:

The announcement today that the United States will take part in two sets of talks between Iraq and its neighbors, including Iran and Syria, represents a major shift in President Bush’s foreign policy, which has eschewed direct, high-level contact between Washington, Damascus and Tehran.

While these talks are to focus on stabilizing Iraq, they crack open a door to a diplomatic channel, which has long been sought by administration critics who say that Washington should do more to engage Iran and Syria to help stem the violence in Iraq.

Caveats, of course: the talks are limited to Iraq policy, not the more direct issue of Iran’s nuclear program. But it’s a start.

Richardson Surges!

Well, not really. But he’s now the clear 4th-place candidate among national Democrats. Suck it, Biden! Clearly all the positive press has been helping.

Lots of interesting nuggets in the poll. For one, Edwards’ supporters are the most fervent — just one in four think they’ll bail on him, compared to half of Clnton’s and Obama’s folks. Also, Obama beats every Republican nominee in the general.

Climate Change

Five Western States have banded together to create a common carbon market in an effort to reduce climate change. Witness the boldness of Gov. Gregoire:

“We must implement what we all have put in place, and work together to develop a regional market approach. Together, we can reduce our climate pollution, grow jobs and move toward energy independence,”

Gregoire added, “but it’s also really important that we build a giant, pollution-spouting elevated roadway through the heart of our state’s largest city.” *

* – no, she didn’t really say that.

Update: similar thoughts from Erica Barnett.

They Oughta Learn English!

That’s what the anti-immigrant folks say, right? “They oughta learn English, or they should go back home!” Well, they’re trying to learn English, but there aren’t enough classes. ESL classes are chronically underfunded. Kudos to Sen. Lamar Alexander for doing the right thing, putting money where his mouth is:

Advocates for more English classes say the state-federal financing split leaves an adult education system whose quality and reach vary widely from place to place — and is lacking most everywhere. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, where the immigrant population has tripled since 1990, largely because of an influx of Mexicans, sponsored a bill last year that would have given legal immigrants $500 vouchers to pay for English classes since so many of the free ones were full.

“Most education policy is the prerogative of state and local governments, but I would argue that the prerogative to help people learn our common language is a federal responsibility,” said Senator Alexander, a Republican who was education secretary under the first President George Bush. “If we make it easier for people to learn English, they will learn it. I think that ought to be a priority of our government, and I don’t think it has been.”

Sounds like the bill didn’t pass. Maybe next time he and his Republican buddies put up a show-pony bill making English the official language, they’ll provide the funding to make it actually happen.

Ah, who am I kidding, it’s too easy to demagogue to actually waste time legislating.

What is Darfur?

At my office, there’s a stack of National Geographic magazines in the breakroom. I’ve been browsing the February 2003 issue on and off, especially an article on Sudan. I was hoping that maybe the article would shed some light on the current Darfur conflict. So imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find the word “Darfur” anywhere in the article, not even on the accompanying map (which only shows an area in western Sudan called “Fur”).

Does Darfur actually exist, I thought?

The NG article focuses the Sudanese Civil War (basically Northern Arabs versus Southern Africans), and in fairness, it pre-dates the current conflict, which began in July 2003. (Most gut-wrenching sentence: “I hope oil helps create a new era of stability in Sudan.” Because the discovery of oil always brings stability!) But Wikipedia’s Darfur entry treats the “Darfuris” like a separate ethnic group.

Browsing the NY Times archives, there are several pages of articles from pre-2003 on Darfur, so it’s not like the word was unknown before the NG article. It’s just odd that it wouldn’t even garner a mention in a 5,000+ word piece.

Anyway, the important thing is that Darfur is in trouble and you should really help save it. That’s far more important than my little mid-afternoon journalistic sleuthing.

Will Somebody Please Tell That Dirty Old Paul Haggis To Quit Sniffing Around Here?

This is better than a film script:

Reeling from the news that his great-grandfather was once enslaved to the family of Strom Thurmond, the Rev. Al Sharpton said yesterday he wants a DNA test to learn whether he and the segregationist senator share a bloodline.

“I’ll do it,” said Sharpton. “I can’t find out anything more shocking than I’ve already learned.”

. . .

Sharpton’s great-grandfather Coleman Sharpton Sr. was owned by a white woman named Julia Ann Thurmond shortly before the Civil War, according to an 1861 slave contract uncovered by Ancestry.com at The News’ request.

Her grandfather was the great-great-grandfather of Sen. Thurmond, who came to symbolize Southern white resistance to integration.

. . .

Sharpton broke the news Saturday night to his father, to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and to the daughters of late singer James Brown. Jackson and Brown were Sharpton’s mentors – and both grew up within 60 miles of where his great-grandfather was a slave.

“I told [Brown's] daughters last night about this, and we all wondered whether some of James Brown’s family might have been slaves with my [great] grandfather,” Sharpton said.

Sharpton, who has not spoken with Thurmond’s family, said he met Thurmond just once, when Brown introduced them in Washington in 1991, after Thurmond had refused to intervene when Brown was jailed.

And spruce up your third act with this:

She is white and related to a U.S. senator who championed segregation.

She also shares the surname of a prominent black civil rights leader – not because of any blood connection but because of her family’s long-ago ties to the slave trade of the South.

Sharon Sharpton Hyatt, a 61-year-old widow who lives in a ranch house along a dirt road in this rural section of Jackson County, was unaware of the connections until the News contacted her.

. . .

The genealogy experts also determined that Hyatt shares her maiden name, Sharpton, with the Rev. Al Sharpton because her great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Sharpton, was the son of Julia Thurmond, whose family enslaved the reverend’s great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, in the 1860s.

“Oh my God, that’s horrible,” Hyatt exclaimed. “I’m from the South, but slavery is something I would never condone. If I had lived back then, I would not have approved. I’d be ashamed of it. The concept of owning anyone is awful.”