Saturday, July 05, 2008

Kitties in the Catbird's Seat

Here's what's currently the most popular spot in the house.

So popular, in fact, that the screen now has a giant hole in it (through which, thankfully, no cat escaped - or if it did, it came back before we noticed) and the window has to be shut now. And because we exist to serve our cats, we'll be replacing the screen and hoping they don't claw through another one in their excitement at seeing the birds and squirrels and occasional bunny outside...

posted by Miriam


Still Losing

Well done, Bush:
As they cope with rising food and energy costs and declining home values, more Americans took another financial hit in June: the loss of their paycheck.

The U.S. economy shed some 62,000 more jobs in June — the sixth straight month of losses.



The US was party to a lot of them in Korea:
The American colonel, troubled by what he was hearing, tried to stall at first. But the declassified record shows he finally told his South Korean counterpart it "would be permitted" to machine-gun 3,500 political prisoners, to keep them from joining approaching enemy forces.

In the early days of the Korean War, other American officers observed, photographed and confidentially reported on such wholesale executions by their South Korean ally, a secretive slaughter believed to have killed 100,000 or more leftists and supposed sympathizers, usually without charge or trial, in a few weeks in mid-1950.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Twisted Free Speech

It must be a long and torturous road that leads to the point where one says to oneself, "I should drive a truck to show schoolchildren aborted fetuses."

A federal appeals court gave an anti-abortion group the go-ahead Wednesday to drive trucks with enlarged photos of aborted fetuses past California schools, saying the Constitution protects the display of disturbing messages.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies interfered with free speech by ordering the driver of one such truck to move away from a middle school, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The deputies had cited a state law barring disruptive activities near public school grounds.



Bush is really flailing now:
Americans should contact Congress and tell their elected representatives to open up a part of the Alaskan wilderness and the area off the country’s coast to oil exploration, President Bush said Wednesday.

“I fully understand why Americans are concerned about gasoline prices,” Bush told reporters. “But I want them to understand fully that we have got the opportunity to find more crude oil here at home in environmentally friendly ways and they ought to write their Congress people about it.”


Swearing Is Bad

Very, very bad, apparently:
An Indiana teacher who used a much lauded bestseller, The Freedom Writers Diary, to try to inspire under-performing high-school students has been suspended from her job without pay for 18 months.

The effective book ban by the school authorities in Perry Township has outraged teachers and education reformers.

The Writers Diary, a series of true stories written by inner-city teenagers, was put together by a teacher, Erin Gruwell, and has been celebrated as a model for transforming young lives.

Teachers' union officials say that a single board member objected to swearing in the book. The school board member allegedly persuaded the other six officials to ban Heermann from teaching the book. It remains available in school libraries.

Heermann and the union say there was no explicit ban on the book when she handed it out to pupils on November 15. But later that day she received an email from the board advising her not to teach the book. "That was the pivotal moment of my life, when I saw how my students were taken with the book, how they loved it, and then I am told not to let them read it? I said no," she said.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sometimes the Stupid Hurts

Sometimes it's just hilarious:
The American Family Association obviously didn't foresee the problems that might arise with its strict policy to always replace the word "gay" with "homosexual" on the Web site of its Christian news outlet, OneNewsNow. The group's automated system for changing the forbidden word wound up publishing a story about a world-class sprinter named "Tyson Homosexual" who qualified this week for the Beijing Olympics.

The problem: Tyson's real last name is Gay. Therefore, OneNewsNow's reliable software changed the Associated Press story about Tyson Gay's amazing Olympic qualifying trial to read this way:

Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.

His time of 9.68 seconds at the U.S. Olympic trials Sunday doesn't count as a world record, because it was run with the help of a too-strong tailwind. Here's what does matter: Homosexual qualified for his first Summer Games team and served notice he's certainly someone to watch in Beijing.

"It means a lot to me," the 25-year-old Homosexual said. "I'm glad my body could do it, because now I know I have it in me."

Now I need to go read the AFA's take on the dropping of the atomic bomb by the Enola Homosexual.


Homophobia Costs

Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about this decision. On the one hand, sure, the photographer is a jerk (and the couple is likely better off not having her anywhere near their wedding). But this doesn't quite seem to rise to the level of a pharmacist refusing to dispense birth control or a restaurant refusing to serve gay people:
An appeal was filed Wednesday by an Albuquerque photographer who was fined over $6,000 for refusing to take pictures of a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony.

In April the state Human Rights Commission ruled that Elaine Huguenin, owner of Elane Photography, violated the Human Rights Act by discriminating against Vanessa Willock and her partner on the basis of sexual orientation.

Willock filed the complaint after Huguenin said she would only photograph traditional marriages.

Following an investigation and hearing the commission issued a one-page ruling, finding that Huguenin had violated the state Human Rights Act and ordered her to pay $6,637 for Willock's attorney's fees and costs.

In its ruling the commission likened the business to a public accommodation, similar to a restaurant or store.


The American Way

We learn the worst things from those we call enemies:
The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base atGuantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.


On It Goes

The notion of priestly celibacy continues to prove very costly:
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver will pay $5.5 million to settle 16 lawsuits filed by victims of sexual abuse by priests, both sides said on Tuesday.


Everything Old Is New Again

This story was mentioned to me by my brother-in-law:

Fingerprint the lot of them: the idea had the satisfying smack of firm government. Now the Italian government was doing something tough; something long overdue.

The Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, a leader of the rabble-rousing Northern League – close allies of Silvio Berlusconi on the government benches – has explained his next step in his assault on the "emergenza di sicurezza", the "security emergency": fingerprinting all Gypsies.

It was the only way, he told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, for Italy to guarantee "to those who have the right to remain here, the possibility of living in decent conditions." For this purpose the Roma – those with Italian nationality and those without, EU citizens and those from outside the Community – will all have their fingerprints taken. And the rule will even apply to Gypsy children – for reasons that to many of Mr Maroni's supporters must have sounded obvious: "to avoid phenomena," as he put it, "such as begging". The new measures, he said, were indispensable "in order to expel those who do not have the right to stay in Italy".

For anybody not swept up in the wave of anti-Roma fury, the campaign has a strong whiff of Mussolini and Hitler about it.

The task of counting and identifying the residents of Italy, citizens or otherwise, who happen to belong the most despised minority in Europe is, in fact, already under way.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Scary Gay Mayo!

Seriously, these people should turn their energies toward actual problems:

The American Family Association, a powerful Christian group, has emerged as a key player pressuring Heinz to pull its Deli Mayo commercial featuring two men kissing – even though it was never broadcast on US TV.

Heinz's US HQ was flooded with emails complaining about the Deli Mayo ad, which was only broadcast in the UK, after the AFA found out about it via the internet and mobilised its 3.5 million members.


It's a Different World

I love the idea that pure cannabis spliffs might be a "cure for idleness":

Dutch coffee shops, long considered as synonymous with the Netherlands as tulips or attacking football, face a new challenge from today when a ban on smoking tobacco in restaurants and cafes comes into effect.

The owners claim the law, which will allow customers to light up potent tobacco-free pure cannabis joints but ban milder spliffs in which tobacco is mixed with cannabis, threatens to put hundreds of them out of business.


Mark Jacobsen, chairman of the BCD, a nationwide association of coffee shop owners, said proper implementation of the law would require inspectors to check each cannabis joint for tobacco content.

"It's absurd. In other countries they look to see whether you have marijuana in your cigarette, here they'll look to see if you've got cigarette in your marijuana."

The health minister, Ab Klink, said the law would stay, arguing that as well as helping to improve people's health it might help to stamp out idleness. "Consumers who spend the whole day hanging out in coffee shops will find other things to do," he said.


Let the Disappointment Begin

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and - in a move sure to cause controversy - support their ability to hire and fire based on faith.


We're Number One

Unsurprising, since America is pretty much the number one consumer of just about anything it can get its hands on:
Americans are the world's top consumers of cannabis and cocaine despite punitive US drug laws, according to an international study published in the online scientific magazine PLoS Medicine.


Deadliest Month

Our "victory" is Afghanistan is not going so well:
At least 45 international troops, including at least 27 Americans, died in Afghanistan in June, the deadliest month since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, according to an Associated Press count.

It was also the second straight month in which militants killed more U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan than in Iraq.