As I'm back from a few days of being away, I'm catching up on the New York Times — the online version. Here are a few items that've caught my eye this afternoon:
- City Smokers' Ranks Drop 19%, Study Says:
They said that in 2002, about 1,305,000 city residents smoked, or about 21.6 percent of the adult population, and that in 2006, about 1,065,000 residents, or 17.5 percent, smoked. The study was based on interviews with 10,000 city residents and used the same measures that the C.D.C. uses. The sharpest drops were in the Bronx, where smoking dropped from 25.2 percent of the population to 19 percent, and in Manhattan, where the rate dropped from 21.2 percent to 16.1 percent. Staten Island was flat, at 27.3 percent in 2002 and 27.2 percent in 2006.The change is attributed to a combination of New York's non-smoking laws, higher cigarette taxes, and anti-smoking advertising.
- NYC Has Reason to Celebrate Gay Pride.
The lower state legislative house, the New York State Assembly, passed a bill a week ago permitting same-sex marriage. The Assembly passed it by a vote of 85 to 61. It's supported by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and by Governor Eliot Spitzer... but not by State Senate leader Joe Bruno, and so it's not likely to come up on the Senate floor very soon. But having it pass with a handy margin in the Assembly is a good start.
- School Officials Black Out Photo of a Gay Student's Kiss.
Things are not so copacetic in nearby Newark, New Jersey, where a photo of a high school boy kissing his boyfriend was inked out, by hand, in the 250 school yearbooks before they were distributed. The district superintendent gave the order, and now looks to be regretting her decision and backing off from it. Still, it “was unclear Saturday if the school would redistribute the yearbooks.”
- Faith Has Role in Politics, Obama Tells Church:
But Mr. Obama said that religion has a rightful role to play in American politics, and he praised people of faith who he said are now using their influence to try to unite Americans against problems like poverty, AIDS, the health care crisis and the violence in Darfur.Sigh. As much as I like some things about Senator Obama, and as much as his charismatic speaking captivates me, I can't support him as long as he insists on keeping religion in politics. No, religion does not have a “rightful role” in politics. Yes, people of influence can and do take action against such problems as he lists, and unite Americans in that regard. It doesn't take religion to do that, and religion has been a terrible divisive force, in recent years as well as for many centuries before.
“My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling God"s will unless I go out and do the Lord's work,” he said, speaking before more than 9,000 people at the Hartford Civic Center in front of a red and black backdrop with the church's marketing slogan: “God is still speaking.”
I'm happy if Senator Obama's faith is what has prompted him to become a force for change, but that's a personal issue for Senator Obama. It must not be part of his political campaign, at least not if he's looking for my support.
A federal district court judge, Royce C. Lamberth, reminds us that the separate branches of government are there to protect us all from abuse:
“The executive has to fight and win the war at all costs,” he said. “But judges understand the war has to be fought, but it can't be at all costs.” He added: “We still have to preserve our civil liberties. Judges are the kinds of people you want to entrust that kind of judgment to more than the executive.”And this isn't just any federal judge: Judge Lamberth was appointed by President Reagan, and was chief of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — that's the one that ought to have been issuing the wiretap warrants, had they been requested — from 1995 to 2002.
- Larry King to Interview Paris Hilton.
I cannot think of a single thing more stupidly useless for Mr King to put on his show. But, well, it just points out how stupidly useless Mr King's show is. And I'm disappointed that the NY Times thought it to be “news”. In any case, Ms Hilton will apparently get more money just by being released from jail than many people will have earned in their lifetimes.
- Woody Allen's Universe, Still Expanding, Is as Absurd as Ever.
I'll leave you with a quote from Woody Allen, as related in Adam Cohen's commentary on the former's books:
But always lurking is what he regards as the great cosmic joke. A man in “Getting Even” asks his uncle: “Could it not be simply that we are alone and aimless, doomed to wander in an indifferent universe, with no hope of salvation, nor any prospect except misery, death, and the empty reality of eternal nothing?” The uncle replies, “You wonder why you're not invited to more parties.”