Monthly Archives: November 2010

Long-Awaited Pentagon Report on DADT is Out

And guess what…

From The Washington Post:

The Pentagon's long-awaited report on gays in the military concludes that repealing the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" law would present only a low risk to the armed forces' ability to carry out their mission, and that 70 percent of service members believe it would have little or no effect on their units, according to sources briefed on the report's findings.

According to a survey sent to 400,000 service members, 69 percent of those responding reported that they had served with someone in their unit who they believed to be gay or lesbian. Of those who did, 92 percent stated that their unit's ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor, according to the sources.

Combat units reported similar responses, with 89 percent of Army combat units and 84 percent of Marine combat units saying they had good or neutral experiences working with gays and lesbians.

The amusing thing to watch will be John McCain, who was for repeal of DADT back in 2006 so long as the Joint Chiefs were for repeal.  And when the Joint Chiefs testified in 2008 that they were all for repeal, then McCain hemmed and hawed and said, well, we have to see what our men in uniform think.

And now we know.

Wanna bet that McCain backtracks again?

Not The Same Thing, Sarah — Part II

Re: my previous post, Sarah Palin elaborates on Facebook:

We all applaud the successful thwarting of the Christmas-Tree Bomber and hope our government continues to do all it can to keep us safe. However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.

First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a “journalist,” any more than the “editor” of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a “journalist.” He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?

What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?

Most importantly, serious questions must also be asked of the U.S. intelligence system. How was it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?

The White House has now issued orders to federal departments and agencies asking them to take immediate steps to ensure that no more leaks like this happen again. It’s of course important that we do all we can to prevent similar massive document leaks in the future. But why did the White House not publish these orders after the first leak back in July? What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?

We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.

– Sarah Palin

It seems pretty clear to me that Palin is less concerned about the supposed damage to the U.S. credibility and more keen to use this story as a way to bash what she considers to be poor enforcement by the Obama Administration.

But the truth is that once the leak was in the hands of Assange, there is little the U.S. could have done.  We don't have control over Wikileak's servers (in fact, no single country does).  This is the nature of cyberspace, which a ten year old can understand, but Palin (apparently) can't.  Which is why she is unqualified to become President.

It's also worth noting that there is no evidence that Assange has "blood on his hands." In a review of a previous round of leaks on Afghanistan, the Pentagon found no evidence that anyone had been endangered.

Finally, does anyone still buy the line "American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms"?  I wish she would list for me what those freedoms actually are.  Platitudes.

Not The Same Thing, Sarah

Inexplicable?

Spleak

I've sort of been busy lately, so I haven't followed the Wikileaks things closely.  But if I were to offer a premature uninformed opinion, it would be along the lines of "so what?"

Is it an embarrassment to the U.S.?  Of course.  Is it surprising that we might diss our allies behind their back?  No.  And we know they diss us, too.

Is there any social utility to leaking and publishing this stuff?  Not that I can see.  This isn't the Pentagon Papers, i.e., there's no evidence that the government is covering up something or worse, lying about anything.  It just seems to be about transparency for the sake of transparency, and I don't think every tiny aspect of our government should be transparent.  That includes FBI investigations in progress, war plans, and, yes, diplomatic strategy.

Should the person or person who leaked this be prosecuted?  Absolutely.

But other than that, I'm largely "meh" about the whole thing.

Now some cat's fighting, with an awesome soundtrack.

 

OK. Must set the alarm for 2am so I can get to Kohls at 3am for Black Friday. No. I’m kidding. Who would be so insane? Seriously, who?!?

Matt Miller On American Exceptionalism

I'm glad someone is saying this:

Oooh, you're so strong, baby, so handsome. You're the greatest.

I'm talking about you, America. You're . . . why, you're exceptional!

Does anyone else think there's something a little insecure about a country that requires its politicians to constantly declare how exceptional it is? A populace in need of this much reassurance may be the surest sign of looming national decline.

American exceptionalism is now the central theme of Sarah Palin's speeches. The supposedly insufficient Democratic commitment to this idea will be a core Republican complaint in 2012. Conservatives assail Barack Obama for his alleged indifference to it. It's part of their broader indictment of Obama's fishy cosmopolitanism, his overseas "apology tours," his didn't-wear-the-flag-lapel-pin-until-he-had-to peevishness. Not to mention the whole anti-colonial Kenyan resentment thing the president's got going.

Real men – real Americans – know America is the greatest country ever invented. And they shout it from the rooftops. Don't they?

Let me be clear, because I know the mail's coming. I love my country, and cherish that America was founded on the ideals of liberty, equality and self-government. We're imperfect – who isn't? – but always in the process of evolving toward that "more perfect union." So I write this as a patriot.

Because, speaking as a patriot, I worry we're looking a little too needy these days.

You can tell a lot about a country by what it requires its politicians to do to win. In Switzerland, do candidates have to proclaim that "Switzerland is the greatest nation ever created in human history"? In Brazil, do ambitious pols insist that "Brazil is the most special country ever to grace the world"?

***

The conservative use of American exceptionalism as a political sword today is perversely revealing. There's something off when the first generation of Americans that is less educated than its parents feels a deep need to be told how unique it is. Or that a generation that's handing off epic debts and a chronically dysfunctional political process (among other woes) demands that its leaders keep toasting its fabulousness. Especially when other nations now offer more upward mobility, and a better blend of growth with equity, than we do – arguably the best measures of America's once-exceptional national performance.

Wouldn't it bolster Americans more to be told that we can meet the challenges of this moment? Wouldn't we be better off striving to be exceptional at solving our common problems?

 

Tonight’s earworm: “See You in September”. It won’t get out of my head. Bye bye, so long, farewell.

Today Is Unfriend Day

Today has been designated by … uh…. Jimmy Kimmel… as the day when you unfriend people from your Facebook friends.

WHY should you do this?

Because you have too many friends, and you miss the statuses of friends you actually care about, because they get lost in a sea of Farmville updates from the kid who sat two rwos behind you in high school biology who you barely talked to anyway, that's why.

Common concerns about unfriending:

Question: Do they know if I unfriend them? (And, do they get a notification that I unfriended them?)

Answer: No. What happens when you unfriend someone on Facebook is that you simply disappear from their friend list (and them from yours). There is no notification given, no email sent. Both of your friend numbers will decrease by one (e.g. decrease from 1009 to 1008).

They might notice that their number of friends has decreased, but unless they go through all their friends to see who is gone, they won't know that it's you specifically.

Question: Will they still be able to see my updates? (And, will I still see their updates?)

Answer: No. You will no longer appear in their newsfeed and they will no longer appear in yours. They won't be able to post on your wall or send you a message (well, depending on how your privacy settings are set, they won't) – nor will you be able to post on their wall or send them a message (again, depending on their privacy settings).

People you unfriend are more likely to notice that you stop appearing in their newsfeed than they are to notice when you actually unfriend them.

Question: Can they try to refriend me after I've unfriended them?

Answer: Yes. They can send another friend request at a later date unless you have blocked them from friending you. However, at that point, you have the choice whether to accept the friend request, ignore it, or block them from friend requesting you.

 

Overreaction to Palin on Dancing With The Stars

No, I don't care for Bristol either, and no, she isn't a better dancer than Brandy (who was kicked off last week despite having near perfect scores, while Bristol consistently has the lowest cores)…. but I keep it in check.  Unlike this guy in Wisconsin:

Allegedly set off by Bristol Palin’s appearance on “Dancing with the Stars,” a rural Black Earth man kept police at bay outside his home for 15 hours Monday and Tuesday before he surrendered to police.

Steven N. Cowan, 66, railed at the television as the daughter of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared on the ABC program, his wife told police Monday after she fled from the town of Vermont house, according to a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.

Cowan had also been under stress because of a financial situation and was receiving care for a mental health problem, the complaint states. Cowan’s wife, Janice, told police that her husband had been drinking, but she did not think he was intoxicated.

The complaint charged Cowan with second-degree reckless endangerment.

According to the complaint, Cowan and his wife were watching “Dancing with the Stars” when Cowan jumped up and swore as Bristol Palin appeared, saying something about “the (expletive) politics.” Cowan was upset that a political figure’s daughter was on the show when he didn’t think she was a good dancer, the complaint states.

According to the complaint:

Cowan went upstairs for about 20 minutes and returned, demanding his pistols, which had been taken by his daughter about a month ago for safety reasons. He was carrying a single-shot shotgun, which he loaded and fired into the television.

Cowan continued to yell, demanding his pistols. He re-loaded the shotgun and pointed it toward his wife. She left the house and drove to Black Earth, where she called 911. She told police she was afraid for her safety.

Cowan kept sheriff’s deputies at bay outside his home until 11 a.m. Tuesday, when he surrendered without incident, sheriff’s spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said.

On Tuesday night's results show of "Dancing with the Stars," Bristol Palin advanced to next week's finals of the competition.

 

Nude Body Scanner or Groping Patdown?

Nude body scanner for me, please.

And I can't believe that some people are so vain that they actually think a TSA worker, who is being sentenced to see nude-ish outlines of people all day, are suddenly going to get off on their body.  We live in Fat America.  You're no more beautiful nor more ugly that 90% of other people out there.  Certainly not to arouse or disgust Mr. TSA security man.

I don't think this is an issue, people.  I mean, obviously it is an issue, but the only folks with a legitimate gripe, as far as I can see, are the pilots.

I suppose we could NOT have full body scans, and no pat-downs.  And then we'll have another 9/11 and everyone will complain about how lax airport security is.

Or we can suck it up, and walk through the damn machine.  And if you don't want to do that, or have the patdown, take Amtrak.  It's really that simple.

What’s Next For Android

Android 2.3 comes out in a few weeks, and it includes a new technology known as "Near-field communication".  As far as I can understand it, it basically means that your phone will know where you are and what you want, so it will give you a steady stream of information.  If you're in a CVS, it will present you with coupons…. that sort of thing.

Ultimately, it looks like Google, who creates the Android operating system, would like Android phones to replace credit cards… which seems entirely do-able in this day and age.

More here

Thin-Skin Palins

It all started like this:

During the premiere of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” Sunday night — a boy named Tre who went to school with the Palin kids wrote a status update that read, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska, is failing so hard right now.”

The thing to do, if you're a Palin, is ignore this, but Willow Palin — the unmarried child who hasn't had a baby yet — is just a teenager:

The comment sparked an intense response from Willow — who replied on the boy’s wall, “Haha your so gay. I have no idea who you are, But what I’ve seen pictures of, your disgusting … My sister had a kid and is still hot.”

Willow followed up that comment with another that read, “Tre stfu. Your such a f**got.”

Bristol Palin took the Twinkie out of her mouth to join in:

Bristol Palin also got in on the smacktalk — writing a message to Tre saying, “You’re running your mouth just to talk sh*t.”

Eventually, a message board war erupted — and Bristol took aim at another person named Jon — saying, “You’ll be as successful as my baby daddy, And actually I do work my ass off. I’ve been a single mom for the last two years.”

Yes, she actually said “baby daddy”.

And “work my ass off”? Suuuure.  Bristol, you're probably the only person in the history of Dancing With The Stars who actually gains double-digit weight during the run of the show.

Then the class war began:

After more users began to gang up on the Palins, Willow dropped another message that read, “Sorry that you guys are all jealous of my families success and you guys aren’t goin to go anywhere with your lives.”

Class.

At the movie premiere and a bit medicated

Movie Premiere

Well, my movie premiers tonight, and when I say "my" movie, I mean (of course) the movie in which I may make a brief appearance assuming that I don't end up on the cutting room floor.

It's called "Hellphone" and the premiere takes place at the Carousel Theatre on Battleground Avenue at 6:30pm in Greensboro, with the film commencing at 7:30.  Then there's the after-party at 9:30pm, Vintage 301, 301 MLK Jr. Drive, downtown Greensboro, but I just canNOT deal with the paparazzi tonight.

"Hellphone" is a movie wherein a demonic cell phone wreaks havoc on a small Southern town, and only the rag-tag team of a deputy sheriff, her boyfriend and her ex-fiancé can stop it.

Here's the trailer.  Scott Stevens, who was my co-star in "Rounding Third", plays the demon who possesses phones (from beyond the grave) and you can see him at the beginning of the trailer as he makes some gruff noises and demonic laughs (even as he is getting buried alive).

 

Finally

Beatles* are on iTunes.

* "Beatles" or "The Beatles": a rock group from Liverpool (England) who, between 1962 and 1970, produced a variety of hit songs and albums (most of them written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon)

UPDATE:  Who is still missing from iTunes?

  1. Kid Rock
  2. Bob Segar
  3. The Smiths
  4. Tool
  5. Garth Brooks
  6. Def Leppard
  7. AC/DC
  8. Black Sabbath

….and we can do without them,

Remains Found

I haven't posted about this story — it's too depressing.  But now maybe that her remains appear to have been found (and we all knew it would end up that way), focus can go elsewhere:

HICKORY, N.C. – Investigators said Friday they believe they have found the remains of a disabled North Carolina girl who was reported missing about a month ago.

Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins said investigators matched a bone found a couple of weeks ago with 10-year-old Zahra Baker's DNA.

"I've been dreading this moment from early on in the investigation," Adkins said. "We have recovered enough physical evidence to think we have found Zahra."

Police also found a child's remains earlier this week in western North Carolina in an area near where Zahra's stepmother once lived. The remains will need to be tested to make sure they also belong to Zahra, Adkins said.

The freckle-faced Zahra, who had bone cancer that forced her to use a prosthetic leg and hearing aids, was reported missing by her parents Oct. 9. They said she was last seen in her bed at their home in Hickory, about 50 miles northwest of Charlotte.

A couple of weeks later, her prosthetic leg and the bone were discovered in some brush, about five miles away from where the other remains were found buried.

"Investigators, agents, officers and staff who worked on this case are devastated that we were not able to find Zahra alive and bring her home safely," Adkins said.

 

Facebook Before Facebook

I'm really enjoying the series over at Mental Floss entitled "Talking Pictures".  The author, Ransom Riggs, has been collecting old photographs with writing on them, and now he's sharing his collection.

Today's installment is Glamor Shots and includes photos like:

Peggy Ruth was feeling purtty good that day.

More Talking Pictures include….

Times of Trouble
Haunting Pictures of the Dead
Love and Marriage
Hide This Please
Life During Wartime

Breakup Season Coming

You've probably seen this before, but I haven't posted it, so I'm here to fix that.

It's an informal study conducted by two guys at Information is Beautiful.  They basically did Facebook status searches for the phrase "We broke up because…", cataloged them, and plotted them out over a timeline, resulting in this graph:

Breakups_latest_640
You will note:

  • A big peak right before Spring Break
  • Most breakups are announced on Mondays
  • People like to start the summer being single
  • A big peak right before Christmas
  • The lowest day throughout the whole year is Christmas Day (because that's just "too cruel")

Anyway, it's that time of year for break-ups.

I should add that this data was compiled in 2008.  Now, Facebook is a young person's medium, and it was even more so in 2008.  So a lot of this data reflects the school year, and may not necessarily pertain to those of us beyond college.

Speaking Of Death….

It's going to be awesome in the future….

E-tombstone

Continue your life after death: instead of just simply visitng you at the graveyard, your freinds and relatives can upload photos, videos and stories to your tombstone and visit your personal webspace via bluetooth.  Yeah, it's real.

New Cigarette Packages

Well, that's not very subtle.

Or that.

Okay, wait.  WTF?  I'm not so sure that cigarettes are entirely at fault here.  The mother is exhaling cigarette smoke directly into the child's face!  Call family services somebody.

On the other hand, there needs to be some connection between the harmed child and cigarettes.

Thank you.  I wasn't sure what the word "fatal" meant, but now that I see a toe tag on a corpse….

This might be overkill as well.  I know smokers don't have the greatest mouths in the world, but if you have to exaggerate, then you're losing the PR war.

A flow chart.  Interesting.

I know.  I think everyone knows.

I guess I'm okay with all this, although I do have a little empathy for the libertarians here who think this is government over-reaching.  I mean, if they want us to not smoke, then they should just ban cigarettes.  But they can't do that, so they're trying to scare people into not smoking.  

And while that's fine, I wonder… what's next?  Obese dead corpses on your Big Mac packaging?  I mean, why not?  What's the difference between that and this?

“The Social Network” Update

If you saw the movie "The Social Network" — also known informally as "The Facebook Movie" — you'll know that the world's most popular thing evah has been the subject of many lawsuits since its inception in 2003.

And the end of the movie, you are left with the impression that the lawsuits were over — i.e., that Eduardo Saverin received an undisclosed sum and got his name back on the banner as the co-creator of Facebook.

Then there were the Winklevoss twins (aka the "Winklevi") and Divya Narendra got their $65 million in settlement. They claimed to have created the idea and code for something called ConnectU, which was (in their mind) Facebook-like, and that Facebook founder Zuckerberg had stolen the idea and code.

The litigation never went particularly well for the Winklevosses.

In 2007, Massachusetts Judge Douglas P. Woodlock called their allegations "tissue thin." Referring to the  agreement that Mark had allegedly breached, Woodlock also wrote, "Dorm room chit-chat does not make a contract." A year later, the end finally seemed in sight: a judge ruled against Facebook's move to dismiss the case. Shortly thereafter, the parties settled for $65 million.

And that's basically what you get from the movie… roll credits.

Thesocialnetwork But no, my friends, the lawsuits continue.

You see, the $65 million settlement with the Winklevi was part cash, part securities.  $45 million in securities, to be precise.

The Winklevi later contended that the $45 million in Facebook stock was overvalued, and what they really were given as part of the settlement was only $11 million in securities.  So they're still suing Facebook.  AND they suing their original lawyer for malpractice, alleging that he failed to obtain recent valuations of Facebook’s common stock before negotiating the settlement.  And their original lawyer is suing them back, because he wants to get paid.

Anyway, this morning a court ruled that the Winklevi (who are still rowing by the way) still owe their former lawyer $13 million, his contingency fee for getting the $65 settlement.  And they have to pay up.

I’m watching Fargo North, Decoder and Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader. Can it be that life was oh so simple then?

Palin Doesn’t Buy The Groceries

Sarah Palin, earlier this week, complaining that the Fed's monetary policy will drive up inflation::

All this pump priming will come at a serious price. And I mean that literally: everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher."

Yeah, um, except the truth is that Sarah Palin obviously hasn't gone out shopping for groceries anytime recently because inflation is basically non-existent.

But far from "rising significantly," overall prices have moved at historically low rates in recent months — just 1.1 percent in the past year. The Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy dug deeper into the numbers and found there was even less evidence to back up Palin's specific groceries claim — inflation for food and beverages was less than .6 percent for the first nine months of the year. That's the slowest rate of price increases for food and drinks since the Labor Department began keeping track in 1968.

By the way, when a writer for Slate tried to raise this point on Palin's Facebook page, he quickly discovered that it doesn't take much to get deleted from the world of Sarah Palin.:

About an hour after Palin's post, I made this point in a few sentences and posted them on Palin's Facebook page in the space allotted for readers to participate in the conversations she starts. I wanted to see if any of the other participants would respond, as they sometimes do. They didn't—because within two minutes, my post had been deleted from the steady stream of acclaim from Palin fans congratulating her for tweaking the media and urging her to run for president. It's the first time I've been kicked out of a place of worship.

He kept trying.

The New House Republicans Off To A Great Start

Press release from the Republican Study Committee:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
11.8.2010
 
Tackling Spending: Save $25 Billion by Restoring Welfare Reform 

 

Washington, Nov 8 - With the national debt quickly approaching $14 trillion, Washington needs to get serious about cutting spending. One option the next Congress should consider is to restore welfare reform, one of the most successful bipartisan initiatives of the 1990s.

The 1996 welfare reform law created incentives for states to help people get back on their feet and off of taxpayer assistance.  However, the 2009 stimulus package created a new “emergency fund” under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program which actually incentivizes states to increase their welfare caseloads without requiring able-bodied individuals to work, get job training, or make other efforts to move off of taxpayer assistance.  Specifically, a state must increase its welfare caseloads in order to receive any funding, and states receive an 80% match to cover all expenses associated with increasing their welfare caseloads.  This costs taxpayers $2.5 billion each year.

“The goal of welfare programs should be to help people get back on their feet as quickly as possible rather than simply expanding dependence on government,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA).  “In addition to saving taxpayers $25 billion over the next 10 years, cutting the emergency fund from the President’s failed stimulus package will refocus temporary assistance on its rightful role.”

This is just one of the many common sense spending cuts proposed by the Republican Study Committee.  For more, check out the RSC Sunset Caucus and our FY 2011 Budget Plan.

Okay.  Fine.

Except that the program you wanted to cut — the TANF — expired over a month ago (the word "Temporary" is in the title itself), so there's no savings there.

Any other ideas?

Mystery Solved

This seems to be the explanation for that "mystery missle": it was merely a jet going across the sky, but due to the angle, the contrail only looked vertical.

See? Look at this:

That's not a photo of the November 3 "mystery missile".  Rather, it's from December 31, 2009.  And it's the same thing going on.  Just a jet.

It's all explained at contrailscience.com.  They got tons of pictures like this.

This of course leads to an even bigger mystery:  WHO THE HELL DEVOTES THEIR TIME TO STUDYING THE SCIENCE OF CONTRAILS?!?

Disconcerting Missile Off California

The story so far:

A massive ballistic missile streaking across the sky off the coast of California last night.

Anyone want to claim it? Because the U.S. military says it's not theirs.

A news helicopter for CBS station KCBS captured stunning video of what appeared to be a missile launch 35 miles off the California coast, just north of Catalina Island. The video shows a giant streak across the sunset sky, leaving a column of white smoke in its wake.

For now, though, the missile's origins and purpose are a mystery.

A Navy spokesman told CBS affiliate KFMB in San Diego that the missile did not belong to them and that there had been no Navy activity reported in the area.

Officials at The Pentagon also did not know any details about the launch and said that it could not have been a planned military action, NBC San Diego reported.

Video shot by a news helicopter operated by KCBS/KCAL shows a contrail ascending high into the atmosphere.

Fifth Circuit Fines Cheerleader For Not Cheering For Her Sexual Harassers

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, one of the most right-wing courts in the country, sanctioned a former high school cheerleader because she brought a lawsuit claiming that she shouldn’t be required to cheer for her alleged rapist

The former cheerleader and her family are appealing the ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which includes an order to pay the school district’s legal fees on the grounds their suit was far-fetched and frivolous. […]

H.S., then 16, attended a party in her hometown of Silsbee, Texas, in October 2008. She said she was dragged into a room, thrown onto the floor by several youths and raped by Rakheem Bolton, a star on the school’s football and basketball teams.

Bolton and a teammate were arrested two days later, but were allowed to return to school after a county grand jury declined to indict them. They were later indicted on sexual assault charges, but in the interim came the February 2009 incident on the basketball court.

H.S. joined in leading cheers for the Silsbee High team. But when Bolton went to the foul line, and the cheers included his name, she stepped back, folded her arms and sat down.

The cheerleading coach removed her from the squad for the rest of the year.  And she sued.

I've read the opinion (PDF), trying to make sense of the Fifth Circuit's reasoning.  Now, some of it I agree with.  For example, I don't think H.S. had what could be called a "property interest" in her cheerleading position.  I mean, I see why her lawyer put that claim in there; it's just not a very good one.

But I was curious about the First Amendment argument.  H.S. asserted that her decision not to cheer was protected free speech, and so the school's decision to bump her from the squad was punishment for exercising free speech.

The lower court held that H.S.'s symbolic speech was not particularized enough to be considered protected speech.  In other words, by sitting down and not cheering, most objective observers would not know what she was "saying", and therefore that speech isn't protected by the First Amendment.

The Fifth Circuit apparently didn't go along with the lower court on that, choosing to breeze by it.  However, the Fifth Circuit went on to write these bizarre paragraphs:

Even assuming arguendo that H.S.’s speech was sufficiently particularized to warrant First Amendment protection, student speech is not protected when that speech would “substantially interfere with the work of the school.” Tinker, 393 U.S. at 509. “The question whether the First Amendment requires a school to tolerate particular student speech . . . is different from the question whether [it] requires a school affirmatively to promote particular speech.” Hazelwood School Dist. v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260,270 (1988).

In her capacity as cheerleader, H.S. served as a mouthpiece through which SISD could disseminate speech – namely, support for its athletic teams. Insofar as the First Amendment does not require schools to promote particular student speech, SISD had no duty to promote H.S.’s message by allowing her to cheer or not cheer, as she saw fit. Moreover, this act constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of Appellants’ First Amendment claim against SISD, Bain, Lokey, and McInnis.

[Emphasis mine].  Now that's just messed up.  I don't think cheerleading constitutes the "work of the school" and even if it does, losing one cheerleader for part of the time does not constitute "substantial interference" with that work.

in other words, pity the school, whose First Amendment rights were taken away by the dumb cheerleader who refused to do her job.  That's what the Fifth Circuit is saying.

I can understand a legal argument for denying the cheerleader "H.S." her day in court.  It goes something like this: one, you have no right to be on a cheer leading squad; it is purely voluntary and by doing so you agree to abide by the rules of the team insofar as they are non-discriminatory. Two, one of the rules of the team, I imagine, is to cheer for the players. Three, if you cannot abide by that rule, you have the option to quit; as no one can physically force you to cheer, or you can be removed from the team. Four, you do not have the right as a member of the team to advance your own views on behalf of the team.

But I don't think the lawsuit was so frivolous that the cheerleader failed to present an arguable claim.  She shouldn't be burdened with the school district's court costs.

The Unhealthy Diet

I saw the headline earlier today about some guy who lost 27 pounds on a "Twinkie" diet.  

This afternoon I read the full story — the guy was a nutrition professor:

Twinkies. Nutty bars. Powdered donuts.

For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.

His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food.

The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.

Also his "good" cholesterol went up, and his "bad" cholesterol went down.  He also reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent.  His body fat dropped from 33.4 to 24.9 percent.

Still, he can't wholeheartedly recommend his "diet".  Eating processed junk foods will increase your likelihood of diabetes and cancer.

But the point he was trying to make, and he seemed to prove is, that we don't necessarily have to eat grains and dirt to lose weight.

High School Theatre Facepalm

Oh dear:

The Flagler Palm Coast High School production of To Kill a Mockingbird in Palm Coast, FL, has been cancelled due to the script's use of the "N"-word, according to the Miami Herald.

A Nov. 12 opening had been planned for the production of the play, based on Harper Lee's classic novel about a white Southern lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape during the Depression.

Yes, there's a reason why the "N"-word is in there.

I’m Sorry, But my Head Exploded

Look, it's a free country, and you can vote for anybody you damn well please for any damn reason.  But why oh why is this happening?

Exit polling reveals that gay and lesbian voters played a critical role in the Republican Party’s historic gains in the U.S. House on Tuesday night. According to CNN, 31% of self-identified gay voters supported Republican candidates for the U.S. House. This number is a dramatic increase from the 19% GOP House candidates won among gay voters in 2008. “Exit polling makes it clear gay voters played an important role in bringing conservative leadership to Congress,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud, the only national organization representing gay conservatives and their allies.

Now, I think Mr. Jimmy LaSalvia is overstating things a bit when he says that gay voters played an important role in bringing about the GOP sweep.  He has to say that; he's the Executive Director of GOProud.

But still — the fact that nearly one-third of all gay voters went Republican is disturbing.  Again, I understand that it is possible to be gay and be in favor of, say, the Republican's plan to…. well, the Republican's policies (whatever they are).  But I still don't know how one can pull the lever for a party which increasingly works hard to deny you civil rights.  What's going on?

Quote Of The Day: “How America Works”

Spare me your TV pundits — I think this guy mentioned in the Washington Post is onto something:

But if we'd gone to an actual party, then we would've missed a special lesson from a Murray supporter named Buddy Foley, 65, a pianist and handler-wrangler who won't say what he handles or wrangles (besides the Stella Artois in his hand).

"Let me tell you how America works," says Foley, who wears a plaid shirt, a mallard-print tie and a woodpecker feather in his fedora. "You have Democrats voting for Democrats and Republicans voting for Republicans and then you have these people down the middle who are — " he lowers his voice " — undereducated, and are trying to make a living and do the best for their children, but they're so busy that they realize two weeks before an election that, 'Gee, I better start watching TV to get some news,' and by then the richest [expletives] in America have shoved their [expletiving] money into attack ads and that's what this middle group of people sees, and they vote accordingly and they're the ones who steer the country."

 

My Girlfriend Scares Me

She's on this kick of doing things she's never done….

Like going to a firing range and shooting a gun…..

Now I don't know if she's any good….

But she be the toughest-looking gal in the hood.

UPDATE – 

 This brings up a West Wing classic, where CJ (Alison Janey) goes to the FBI to use their gym, and discovers they have a firing range and asks for lessons from the agent on her security detail (Mark Harmon)

 

Of course, in subsequent episodes, they fall in love, although that didn't turn out well….

 

Quote Of The Day

"Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don't cry…  I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn't that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren't going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin."

– Rick Tepker, the first member of the University of Oklahoma School of Law faculty to try a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, on the referendum passed by Oklahoma citizens which bars state judges from — I am not making this up – considering Islamic or international law when making a ruling.

Which is kind of like passing a law which says that FEMA can't set up death camps to indoctrinate your kidnapped children into socialism.

It's very disconcerting what these right wingers actually believe.  They think liberal judges might come along and apply Sharia law?  Seriously?  As Digby once said: "Somebody's got to stop all those liberal judges from imposing ultra-conservative Sharia Law and stoning gays and women who stray from God's path. Oh wait…what are we talking about again?"

Is there anything better than the smell of blueberry muffins cooking?

The GOP Class of 2010

Over 100 freshman Republicans will join Congress as a result of last night's election.

Here is a snapshot of the GOP Class of 2010’s extremism:

ENVIRONMENT

– 50% deny the existence of manmade climate change
– 86% are opposed to any climate change legislation that increased government revenue

IMMIGRATION

– 39% have already declared their intention to end the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship
– 32% want to reduce legal immigration

TAXES/SPENDING

– 91% have sworn to never allow an income tax increase on any individual or business – regardless of deficits or war
– 79% have pledged to permanently repeal the estate tax
– 48% are pushing for a balanced budget amendment

This is a little scary.

Unfortunately, these young uns are going to learn pretty fast that there's not much they can actually do, which is kind of what the GOP wants in the first place.

Really?!?

Former President Bush says the worst moment of his presidency was when Kanye West implied that he was a "racist".

You might have thought the "worst moment" would be, say, having to watch the bodies of dead U.S. soldiers come back from overseas.

Or 9/11 maybe.

But nope: it's when Kanye called him a bad name.

Ballsy Megachurch Pastor

Yeah, why bother with tithing or even asking for donations?  Pastor Ed Young of the Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas has taken to the next level: just give him your bank account number and bank routing number… he'll take it from there, thank you very much.

Ed Young Goes After Access to Bank Accounts of Church Members from FBCJax Watchdog on Vimeo.

Also, in God news, Justin Bieber Talks Jesus & Marriage.

bieberIn his new autobiography, Bieber reveals that he deals with temptation in a tried-and-true way: by turning to a higher power.

"I'm a Christian, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins," Bieber says in a new interview about the memoir. "I believe that I have a relationship and I'm able to talk to him and really, he's the reason I'm here, so I definitely have to remember that. As soon as I start forgetting, I've got to click back and be like, you know, this is why I'm here."

Oy.

Election 2010 Thoughts

You'll get fuller analysis — and better analysis — from, well, just about anywhere else.  These are a couple of things that I thought were noteworthy, and shouldn't be overlooked:

(1)  Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats in the House, did VERY badly.  Essentially, they were cut in half.  Of the 39 Dems who voted against Health Care Reform, 12 are going to be returning in the next Congress.  Conversely, 95% of the members of the “Progressive Caucus” won re-election.  The lesson to be learned there is that if you think you're a Democrat, then playing conservative isn't going to help you.  You might as well become a progressive, because they're going to call you a dirty hippie socialist anyway.

(2)  Three Supreme Court judges in Iowa who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage there, were ousted.  This is why judges should never ever ever be subject to popular vote.  Because the last thing you want a judge to do is to make legal decisions based on what will be well-received.  If that were the case, we'd still have segregation.  Folks, if judges make a constitutional ruling that you don't like, you change the constitution, not the judges.

(3)  Most of the focus is on the national races and governorships, but state legislatures really reflect the GOP wave.  The North Carolina state legislature, for example, has a Republican majority for the first time since 1870. But they also gained control of chambers in the states of Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

(4)  Rand Paul is going to be fun for the next few years.  Especially if he's going to say things like this:

There are no rich. There are no middle class. There are no poor. We all are interconnected in the economy. You remember a few years ago, when they tried to tax the yachts, that didn’t work. You know who lost their jobs? The people making the boats, the guys making 50,000 and 60,000 dollars a year lost their jobs. We all either work for rich people or we sell stuff to rich people. So just punishing rich people is as bad for the economy as punishing anyone.

(5)  Speaking of Kentucky, the city of Lexington just elected an openly gay mayor, which is pretty amazing, considering it's Kentucky and all.

(6)  Sharon Angle seems to be a sore loser.

(7)  The Tea Party helped Republicans in some races, but didn't deliver the goods in others.  The same could be said of Palin endorsements.  What does that mean?  It means that the Tea Party still gets to play.  They'll become a double-edged sword for the GOP.

(8)  Evan Bayh is right about where Dems go from here:

First, we have more than a communications problem — the public heard us but disagreed with our approach. Democrats need not reassess our goals for America, but we need to seriously rethink how to reach them.

Second, don’t blame the voters. They aren’t stupid or addled by fear. They are skeptical about government efficacy, worried about the deficit and angry that Democrats placed other priorities above their main concern: economic growth.

… although I'm not sure I agree on the specifics.

(9)  Apparently, dressing up as Nazi is still over the line, as Iott lost.

(10)  And finally…. WHY WE LOST

Blog_election_2010_turnout

Youth didn't turn out this time; seniors did.

GOP’s Dirty Tricks in NC

(via Digby)

RALEIGH, NC —With less than 24 hours until the close of polls tomorrow night, the North Carolina Democratic Party is getting reports of disgraceful repeated robo calls to unaffiliated and Democratic voters from conservative interest groups meant to anger voters and suppress turnout.

These unsolicited robo calls, which are coming to a voters sometimes up to eight times in a row, include a Democratic candidate asking for support in tomorrow’s election. Not surprisingly, many people hang up the call before they can hear the full message. The NCDP expects these robo calls to continue being made to unaffiliated and Democratic households into the middle of the night.

“These robo calls are a desperate, despicable, and unfortunately, predictable, attempt by the GOP to keep Democratic voters away from the polls tomorrow,” said Andrew Whalen, Executive Director of the NCDP. “It seems like there is no line Republicans will not cross in order to secure victory. North Carolina voters need to know who is behind these calls, and the NCDP will do everything in its power to ensure these likely illegal calls are stopped as soon as possible.”

These robo calls are not the first dirty tricks Republicans have played in the days leading up to tomorrow’s election. On Sunday, an organization named Americans in Contact PAC (AIPAC) started sending out unsolicited text messages to voters in the districts of Congressmen Heath Shuler and Larry Kissell. These text messages, which could violate FCC regulations, provided a phone number to the Democratic candidates’ campaign offices, leaving voters with the impression that the text messages were sent from their campaigns. 

******************

I should probably suggest that you vote, and if you don't know where to vote, then you should find your fucking polling place.

The Most Interesting Race In The Election

… is in Rhode Island.  There's a proposition on the ballot this year to change the name of Rhode Island from "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" to simply "Rhode Island." The idea is that the appendage "Providence Plantations" is redolent of slavery and should go. 

That would be a shame of it did.  The first and probably the most important point is that the "plantations" in Providence Plantations has nothing to do with slavery. That's a meaning of the word that only became current maybe a century or more after Roger Williams named his little colony in the early-mid 17th century. In the 17th century a 'plantation' was what we'd now call a 'colony' or a 'settlement'. The 'plant' in plantation wasn't (or at least wasn't primarily) a cash crop you were growing but the people you were inserting onto the landscape.

Yet that isn't the end of the story. Rhode Island started as two colonies. One was Providence Plantations, the settlement Roger Williams established in modern Providence along with a couple other small towns in what is now Northern Rhode Island.  The other was Rhode Island, the folks living on Aquidneck Island, the main Island in Narragansett Bay.

The folks in 'Providence Plantations' were among the first principled opponents of slavery anywhere in the Americas, certainly in New England and by most measures everywhere in North America. The roots of slavery in Rhode Island, both as an internal institution and as a key force in the slave trade, came from the other original colony, Rhode Island and settlements in southern Rhode Island that were tied to it.

So if Rhode Islanders really wanted to wipe the taint of slavery from its name, they would keep the "Providence Plantations" part of their name, and get rid of the "Rhode Island" part.

Anyway, we'll see how that plays out tonight….

The Sanity Effect

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann announced that he is suspending, perhaps permanently, his "Worst Person In The World" segment in an effort to reach a new tone on his show.

Will such a move be made by Fox's Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck?

Don't hold your breath.

RIP Ted Sorenson

I didn't realize he died yesterday, but he did.  He was the last of the Kennedy circle.  He was Kennedy's speechwriter, so we can give him credit for "Ask not what your country can do for you…." (although, as classy speechwriters do, Sorenson never took credit for the line).  He probably also ghost-wrote "Profiles in Courage", which won Kennedy the Pulitzer.

Scenes From The Mall, Part Quatre

Just some of favorite signs, in no particular order:

 ALSO:  His commentary is a little late to the game, but I liked what Robert Reich wrote:

The true center of American politics isn't found where most of us agree. We fiercely disagree. That's not a problem. Democracy assumes disagreement.

The true center is about how we resolve those disagreements. Most of us believe we should work them out respectfully.

We don't believe in winning political arguments through bullying, name-calling, lying, intimidating, or using violence.

In other words, the political center isn't about what we decide It's about how we decide. A central tenet of American democracy is a commitment vigorous debate, done honestly and civilly.

That's why some of what we've been witnessing recently is troubling.

Consider the foot-stomping incident in Kentucky by Rand Paul supporters, just outside a Senate debate. Or Alaska GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller's security detail handcuffing a reporter from a liberal-leaning website.

Consider last year's congressional town hall meetings where members of Congress were shouted down, a Tampa town hall meeting turned violent, and gunshots were fired at Democratic campaign headquarters in Arizona.

Consider the outright lies about "death panels," "government takeovers," and the President's nationality.

Consider Rep. Joe Wilson's "you lie" outburst against the President on the House floor.

And the vitriol emanating at all hours from rage radio, yell television, and Fox News – against immigrants, intellectuals, "coastal elites," gays, and the President.

We're better than this.

This is not respectful disagreement. It's thuggery. It has no legitimate role in a democracy. And most Americans are fed up with it.

Sadly, we needed two comedians to remind us.

 

Scenes From The Mall, Part Trois

From time to time, I've featured here some videos from the student journalists known as New Left Media.  They're the young guys who go to things like the Tea Party Rally and Glenn Beck Rallies and ask simple questions, and let the rally-goers bury themselves in their own words.

I guess they figured that the only fair and balanced thing to do was to go to the Sanity Rally and do the same thing.

Fortunately, the participants, for the most part, didn't come off like total idiots trying to pretend they possessed a knowledge they actually lacked (like when tea baggers try to explain that Obama is a socialist AND a fascist without knowing what either word means).

For the most part.  The guy at the end though…. yikes.  

To Those Planning To Vote Republican Tomorrow….

before you do…. answer these three questions:

Questions:

  1. What was the average monthly private sector job growth in 2008, the final year of the Bush presidency, and what has it been so far in 2010?
  2. What was the Federal deficit for the last fiscal year of the Bush presidency, and what was it for the first full fiscal year of the Obama presidency?
  3. What was the stock market at on the last day of the Bush presidency? What is it at today?

Answers:

  1. In 2008, we lost an average of 317,250 private sector jobs per month. In 2010, we have gained an average of 95,888 private sector jobs per month. (SourceThat's a difference of nearly five million jobs between Bush's last year in office and President Obama's second year.
  2. In FY2009, which began on September 1, 2008 and represents the Bush Administration's final budget, the budget deficit was $1.416 trillion. In FY2010, the first budget of the Obama Administration, the budget deficit was $1.291 trillion, a decline of $125 billion. (SourceYes, that means President Obama has cut the deficit — there's a long way to go, but we're in better shape now than we were under Bush and the GOP.
  3. On Bush's final day in office, the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 closed at 7,9491,440, and 805, respectively. Today, as of 10:15AM Pacific, they are at 11,1082,512, and 1,183That means since President Obama took office, the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P 500 have increased 40%, 74%, and 47%, respectively.

I'm just saying that if you want to vote Republican, that's fine, but please know that they got us into this mess.