Monday, April 30, 2007

Soon gamers won't even have to give their thumbs a workout!

Scientists are developing devices that can read brain-waves... for incorporation into toys.
A convincing twin of Darth Vader stalks the beige cubicles of a Silicon Valley office, complete with ominous black mask, cape and light saber. But this is no chintzy Halloween costume. It's a prototype, years in the making, of a toy that incorporates brain wave-reading technology.

Behind the mask is a sensor that touches the user's forehead and reads the brain's electrical signals, then sends them to a wireless receiver inside the saber, which lights up when the user is concentrating. The player maintains focus by channeling thoughts on any fixed mental image, or thinking specifically about keeping the light sword on. When the mind wanders, the wand goes dark.

Engineers at NeuroSky Inc. have big plans for brain wave-reading toys and video games. They say the simple Darth Vader game — a relatively crude biofeedback device cloaked in gimmicky garb — portends the coming of more sophisticated devices that could revolutionize the way people play.

Technology from NeuroSky and other startups could make video games more mentally stimulating and realistic. It could even enable players to control video game characters or avatars in virtual worlds with nothing but their thoughts.

Adding biofeedback to "Tiger Woods PGA Tour," for instance, could mean that only those players who muster Zen-like concentration could nail a put. In the popular action game "Grand Theft Auto," players who become nervous or frightened would have worse aim than those who remain relaxed and focused.

NeuroSky's prototype measures a person's baseline brain-wave activity, including signals that relate to concentration, relaxation and anxiety. The technology ranks performance in each category on a scale of 1 to 100, and the numbers change as a person thinks about relaxing images, focuses intently, or gets kicked, interrupted or otherwise distracted.


While NeuroSky's headset has one electrode, Emotiv Systems Inc. has developed a gel-free headset with 18 sensors. Besides monitoring basic changes in mood and focus, Emotiv's bulkier headset detects brain waves indicating smiles, blinks, laughter, even conscious thoughts and unconscious emotions. Players could kick or punch their video game opponent — without a joystick or mouse.

"It fulfills the fantasy of telekinesis," said Tan Le, co-founder and president of San Francisco-based Emotiv.

The 30-person company hopes to begin selling a consumer headset next year, but executives would not speculate on price. A prototype hooks up to gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.


CyberLearning is already selling the SmartBrain Technologies system for the original PlayStation, PS2 and original Xbox, and it will soon work with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The EEG- and EMG-based biofeedback system costs about $600, not including the game console or video games.

Kids who play the race car video game "Gran Turismo" with the SmartBrain system can only reach maximum speed when they're focused. If attention wanes or players become impulsive or anxious, cars slow to a chug.

I'm already imagining an Avalon-style RPG.

I wonder how many of these people decry moral relativism, too

Via Tapped via Atrios I was introduced to this webpage, full of anecdotes about people who are supposedly pro-life who are suddenly struck by reality and need to get an abortion.

These people apparently cannot fathom the idea that the other patients there are just like them; they have their own set of circumstances that led them to the decision to have an abortion. No, the only valid choice is their own--everyone else are sluts who use abortion as birth control. I think one of the main problems is plain ignorance. They are told lies about people who have abortions, they've never known anything other than that. Since their experiences that led them to obtain an abortion contradict what they've been told, they think that they're "not like those people" and that therefore it's okay in their case. "But it's still immoral for the rest of people because they don't have the same problems that I do."
"In 1990, in the Boston area, Operation Rescue and other groups were regularly blockading the clinics, and many of us went every Saturday morning for months to help women and staff get in. As a result, we knew many of the 'antis' by face. One morning, a woman who had been a regular 'sidewalk counselor' went into the clinic with a young woman who looked like she was 16-17, and obviously her daughter. When the mother came out about an hour later, I had to go up and ask her if her daughter's situation had caused her to change her mind. 'I don't expect you to understand my daughter's situation!' she angrily replied. The following Saturday, she was back, pleading with women entering the clinic not to 'murder their babies.'" (Clinic escort, Massachusetts)


"My first encounter with this phenomenon came when I was doing a 2-week follow-up at a family planning clinic. The woman's anti-choice values spoke indirectly through her expression and body language. She told me that she had been offended by the other women in the abortion clinic waiting room because they were using abortion as a form of birth control, but her condom had broken so she had no choice! I had real difficulty not pointing out that she did have a choice, and she had made it! Just like the other women in the waiting room." (Physician, Ontario)


Sunday, April 29, 2007

I guess "spare the rod, spoil the child" doesn't apply to Iraqi legislators

On Iraq:
President Bush will not support a war spending bill that punishes the Iraqi government for failing to meet benchmarks for progress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.

On education:
Everyone would like to see "no child left behind." But NCLB is a "test and punish" law, not a school improvement plan. It uses achievement gaps to label schools as "failures" without providing the resources or strategies needed to eliminate them. Federal education policy should support public schools, not undermine them.

Although I suppose I should, in all fairness, point out that Bush decided that a different word was appropriate for NCLB:
President Bush, acknowledging public frustration over his No Child Left Behind Act, said Thursday the point of the law is not to punish schools that fall short, but to help them.

Bush suggested the White House and its allies must do a better job of explaining the goal of holding schools accountable.

Accountability, President Bush? If only you'd start applying that concept to your war in Iraq.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

We need more lesbian biker gangs

Saw this article yesterday: a senior in a Catholic high school in Massachusetts tried to take another woman to the prom as her date. The school refused (and refunded her the $55 for her date's ticket):
Rosanne Strott invited a friend to tonight's prom, but after she bought a ticket and her date paid for new clothes, the 18-year-old senior at Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro learned that administrators would not allow her date to attend.

The problem: Her date is a woman.


[S]he plans to put on her orange and yellow dress and Swarovski crystal necklace -- to comport with the prom's "007: Diamonds are Forever" theme -- and go on her own to the Rhodes on the Patuxet hall in Cranston, R.I.

"I decided that if I couldn't go with who I wanted, I wasn't going to take anyone at all," she said.

Now, what is the school's rationale for this? Religion? Some obscure set of rules? Not quite....
Administrators say they have banned same-sex couples because they want the prom to remain traditional.

"We're not looking for trouble at our prom," George A. Milot, superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Fall River, said yesterday. "Having boys bring boys or girls bring girls opens the door to all kinds of scenarios that could lead to problems. We're not willing to open the door. We're sticking with tradition; we have enough problems as it is."
Emphasis mine.

Trouble? Problems? What, do you expect them to show up leading a motorcycle gang and trash the hall? Do you think that they'll spike the punch? Maybe they'll beat up the other dancers for money? Or maybe you're so afraid that your students will be subjected to reality that they'll begin to question your arbitrary rules?
Ryan Palanza, the student head of the school's prom committee, said that if he could make the choice, he would allow Strott to bring her date.

"I think it's ridiculous that you can't bring a friend of the same sex -- it shouldn't really matter," said Palanza, who expects about 500 people at the prom. "But since it's a Catholic school, I could see why the school has a problem with it. We have to adhere to the diocese's rules. This is just a diocese thing."

Oh no, it's already begun!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Atavism Edition

Image taken from Charles Carroll, The Negro a Beast

Reading these old racist screeds, it's interesting to note what beliefs they had about science in general. For instance, Professor O.S. Fowler believed in maternal impression:
A woman, some months before the birth of her child, longed for strawberries, which she could not obtain. Fearing that this might mark her child, and having heard that it would be marked where she then touched herself, she touched her hip. Before the child was born she predicted that it would have a mark resembling a strawberry, and be found on its hip, all of which proved to be true

I recall another person discussing the luminiferous aether, which obviously had to exist because how else would light reach Earth? I forget exactly what point he was trying to make, though.

One belief was that if you had some black ancestry, even if you looked pure white, and you married someone who was pure white, your child could be pure black. In fact, it seems to be the case that people believed that eventually, one of your descendants was sure to be pure black, somewhere down the line. There were plays and stories written about such an event: a man, or woman, who has a few drops of black blood in them, has their ancestry revealed when their child turns out to be fully black. One such story, entitled "The Rushing in of Fools", was printed "by request" in the February 14, 1902, issue of the Chicago Tribune. I reprint it here in full:
The Kingston Woman's club was in session and the President leaned back in her chair and sighed with relief as she saw the approach of recess, for she had just won the last of many hard battles and she was a little weary after the fray. During the recess and the musicale which followed, and even as she bade her co-workers good-by, and, entering her carriage, drove slowly home, she still remained quietly thoughtful as if in a dream.

"I feel so queer—so depressed, and a foreboding of some unknown evil seems to hang over me; yet I know I am right, perfectly right," she mused, as she reached her room and sank into a chair before the fire. "Ah, there's Saville; I will change my gown and have her come up here and we will have a nice long evening together."

She had risen at the sound of opening doors and a merry, soft voice and light footsteps in the hall below. Presently the arrangements for a cozy hour were perfected and the mother and daughter were sitting near the little table, which was supplied to suit the tastes of two dainty, gentle-nurtured women.

"Now I will tell you all about the work done today, as your guest kept you from attending, and I want to talk over some points with you, my darling girlie," began the older woman.

"All right, mamma; I know next to my own silly self that woman's club is the dearest thing on earth to you, but really I was not sorry to be absent from the business and debating session today, for to me it's all tiresome, and I am not a born leader, as you are," returned the pretty, fair girl, with a sunny smile. Her mother sighed.

"No, you are more soft and clinging, and while it is nice to have such an affectionate, dutiful child, still I wish you were more ambitious. Why, at your age I was President of a young ladies' literary society and leader and—"

Chief cook and bottle washer, mamma, dear, in the Kingston Woman's club since its birth, and it does you great credit," interrupted the daughter gayly.

"Yes; I thought today as I sat and looked over the large audience-room and could see the reception-room, the library, the studios, and other apartments between curtains and half-opened doors that it was all different from the little dingy hall where we first met, or even the stuffy old-fashioned parlors we occupied later on. I have worked and thought almost night and day for over twenty years to build up a club that would be a credit to the city and to the sex, and I—"

"And you have succeeded, Mamsie, dear; there isn't a doubt of that—but tell me what was the fight about today?"

"Well, you remember that about a month before you left school I wrote you that I had made the acquaintance of the mistress of that elegant new mansion out in the Lake district, known as Magnolia Grove?"

"Yes, you said they were wealthy, that is, the lady was a widow with a grown son and daughter, that they were from New Orleans, and highly cultured—most desirable acquaintances."

"And so they are; that is, the mother and daughter are simply perfect in appearance and manners; the son is traveling in Europe, but they expect him home in a few weeks, and from the accounts of his standing in social circles over there, especially in Paris, he is a most talented young man. They are all musical and Mrs. Dalrymple does the most exquisite art embroidery and painting. She speaks French, Italian, and German, and reads Greek and Latin, and is an addition that any society might long to gain, and then to think that some of those women who can hardly more than read and write would dare to oppose her name as a member to our club."

"But why? On what grounds, mamma?"

"O, the most narrow, un-Christianlike pretext you ever heard. Mrs. Livingston, the nasty cat, has friends in New Orleans, and she wrote to them, making inquiries about the Dalrymples, and it seems that spiteful people down there whisper that there is a drop or two of negro blood in the family, and so they are called 'niggers' and ostracized from good society in the South."

"That's cruel. They cannot help their color. Do they look as if they had negro blood?" asked the young girl.

"No; that is, since I heard the report, I have noticed a bluish tint around the finger nails, and Mrs. D.'s hair is a glossy black and wavy, though not at all kinky, and even if she and her daughter did show the darker race in their skins I should still keep my position. It's time this color line was broken down. God made us all children of one great family, and he is no respecter of persons, so how can we shut out such sweet, refined women as Mrs. Dalrymple from our clubs just because some ancestor generations ago was a poor slave that cruel white men had stolen from her native land/"

"It doesn't sound fair at all, and I wonder at women who profess to be Christians bringing up such objections. I for one shall be glad to meet these new friends of yours," returned the daughter sweetly.

"That is just like my own dear little girl, who never opposed me in her life. Now, I have arranged for a theater party with the Dalrypmles and you are included, and I intend to show Kingston society that I am loyal to my convictions, and not ashamed of a woman whom it is a delight to honor."

* * *

The above sketch shows the stand of Mrs. Baxter Dare, a prominent club woman in a prosperous Northern town. She had made the acquaintance of the Dalrymples during her own daughter's absence at an Eastern school and now proceeded to carry out her plan of a closer friendship and protection of those whom she considered persecuted through race prejudice. If the mother was an equal at her club, the daughter was a fit friend for her own pretty girlie, and they soon became quite intimate, and the two young girls rather prided themselves on their own warm friendship and took delight in parading their affection by appearing in public together as often as an occasion presented itself.

Time flew by and the son and brother from across the sea returned home, and then all of the romantic, girlish heart of Mrs. Dare's daughter passed into the keeping of this handsome young hero. Indeed, his lithe young form and gentle grace would have attracted any artistic nature, but added to that were a pair of large, dreamy dark eyes, glossy hair with a silken wave and classic features that were the mirror of an Apollo.

He was highly educated and accomplished and possessed a fine mind and a gentle nature. His love and admiration for Saville Dare was instant and lasting, and the two mothers watched the rapid, ardent courtship with delight and prepared for a grand wedding with pleasure, and not a qualm or misgiving crossed the mind of Mrs. Baxter Dare as she gave her fair, golden-haired daughter into the keeping of a man whose blood for generations ran blue and aristocratic enough, but in whose veins lurked the distant taint of a savage ancestor. They were married and went to live in a Southern city after having traveled for some months.

Two years passed by; the daughter made a visit to her former home and at parting whispered a secret in her mother's ear that made them both smile in anticipation of a happy event to occur in the early spring. As that time drew near both mothers—Mrs. Baxter Dare and Mrs. Dalrymple—felt anxious, and the former started South with a foreboding which she strove in vain to overcome.

At St. Louis she was intercepted by a telegram which realized her fears, for in its cruel terseness it read:

"Saville died last night at 7 o'clock."

With a trembling soul she continued her journey and reached her son-in-law's home at an early morning hour. A black footman opened the door and ushered her into the reception-room. She told him who she was and asked to see his master.

"Mr. Dalrymple is prostrated with grief, madam, but I will send the nurse at once," he said courteously and withdrew, to return shortly with a tall, massive looking woman whose rich brown skin and Southern accent were a contrast to the ebony features of the footman, although he was her own son. Her great black eyes were soft with compassion and she took the weary traveler's arm and said:

"O, honey, you is all worn out. Come right up-stairs now. I'se done got yo' room all nice an' warm fo' you."

"Tell me about—my daughter—is, did the baby live?" entreated Mrs. Dare, in an agonized voice.

The other's face went to an ashen gray.

"O, yes, hit's all right—but never you min' about anything now. Yo' jes' come along and res' an' you will feel bettah bime by."

It was a spacious, well appointed room, luxuriously furnished, to which the nurse conducted her, and she soon had off her wraps and was reclining on a couch near the fire. Weary and worn with grief and sleeplessness, she scarcely touched the breakfast the pleasant looking maid so deftly served, and impatiently greeted the nurse's entrance by saying: "Come and tell me all about my darling girl's death. See, I am quite strong now, and I must hear all the details."

To her surprise the poor soul broke into a silent fit of weeping, and sobbed under her breath in a most heartrending way, and shook her head, saying almost in a whisper:

"O, missis, I cayn't tell you. I always said the black and white oughter keep apart. O, the pore lamb, her life went out like the flame from a candle, an' he was so well, too, but I done mistrusted she overheard through the door bein' left ajar, she must er heard some one say somethin' about the pore little baby—"

And here the brown woman wept afresh. Mrs. Baxter Dare half rose from her cushions with a paling face. "But what could she have overheard? What's the matter with the baby—is it crippled, deformed in any way?" she gasped miserably and sank back again.

"No, no, missis; it's a strong, healthy little fellow, only—only the doctor he thought she had better not see it till she got stronger, an' jes' after them gals passed her door a-talkin' about it I came in an' she was lookin' wild an' I cayn't never furgit them big blue eyes an' hair a-shinin' all over her piller, an' she cried out to me: 'O, Milly, is my baby&mdash?' and then she done stop, fur she see her answer in my face, an' she turned to the wall and died without a sound. O, missis, the black blood did it!"

Mrs. Baxter Dare rose to her feet with a stony gaze in her eyes. "Where is that child? I want to see it at once," she demanded with an unnatural calm. The other looked at her, and, placing her hands on her shoulder, gently forced her to sit down. "Wait here. I'll fetch it," she whispered, and left, to return almost immediately with a bundle of dainty flannels and laces. The grandmother rose and stepped forward and as Milly threw back the coverings and she saw a tiny, jet black face surmounted by thick negro wool she gave a low moan and sank senseless at the nurse's feet.

Saville Dare had been beautiful in life, but as her still form lay in funeral robes, upon its pitiless bier, it seemed to shed a radiance cold and clear as the naked truth that gleams from a mountain peak. Eternal snows send a chill to the warmly beating human heart, but they in their isolated purity are not more cutting than the lesson we learn through mistaken sentiment. At the feet of his bride knelt the distratcted [sic] husband, and he had no eyes or memory for that other one who sat gazing on the features of her martyred child, and who held a burden in her arms which slept on peacefully, unconscious of woe or sorrow, untroubled and at rest, although beneath its tiny head a heart broke in wordless grief.

This story was published in 1912, and the idea was very popular. One newspaper article, apparently from 1916, wrote,
[A] play now running with much interest and success ... presents with great artistic ability and skill the tragic problem of a man apparently white, but with a slight and perhaps questionable strain of negro blood from some remote ancestor, who marries a white woman, only to have his secret and shadowy misfortune shouted to the whole world by the birth of a black child!

The motif, of course, is not new, any more than that of Shakespeare's most famous plays, but has been utilized to a vivid and harrowing effect in a score of different stories, novels and plays on both sides of the Atlantic under such titles as "The Black Frankenstein," "The Inescapable Blot," "The Dark Secret," etc.

Further than this we have all heard lurid and sensational stories, usually rather vague as to name, date and place, but most circumstantial and convincing in all other details of similar catastrophes. In fact, the belief that an apparently white man or woman, even one whose ancestors on both sides have passed for white for several generations, may at any time be suddenly confronted by his or her family skeleton in shape of a negro child, is as universally believed and well attested as William Tell's apple, George Washington's hatchet, madstones, centenarians and hoopsnakes.

The article continues by explaining that a recent study by the Carnegie Institution, using the re-discovered views of Mendel, had concluded that such a "throw-back" wasn't possible.


Hyperbole meets reality

Over at Feministe, there's a post that reproduces a comment from this blog post about a man who was put into the alien situation of having to decide whether or not to abort his and his wife's child.

This anonymous commenter wrote, in part:
I am strongly pro-life (of the baby). I would always choose the life of my child over my own life or anyone else's life, including my wife. Harsh? Think about it. What's more precious, an innocent life of a child who has their entire life ahead of them or a grown adult who has had a fair opportunity to live their life and have whatever experiences they have been blessed to have?

In your case there was no way to save the baby, they tried, they did everything they could but because of the dilation it was an inevitable loss and I'm terribly sorry for that. But I congratulate you on your efforts to do everything within your power to at least try to save your baby, even to the point of losing your wife. And I applaud you for hesitating as to whether or not to abort.

I am not against aborting if there is no possible alternative to saving the mother.. but if the child can be saved at the loss of the mother then I would choose the child. There is no logic to losing both, but it's a risk worth taking, to take it as far as you took it should happen in every case, in my opinion.
Emphasis mine.

At least in this case (and maybe some others) the slogan seems to be true: they simply care more for fetuses than they do for women.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

This is what I get for getting my hopes up

Remember the Office of Special Counsel's proposed investigation of Rove? Well, the guy running the show is himself under investigation, for some of the same things.
A federal investigation into the political activities of Karl Rove, announced late Monday, is being headed by a Bush appointee who is currently the target of an internal White House probe - calling into question the integrity of the administration's efforts to conduct an independent review of Rove's work as White House political adviser.

The news underscores how deeply the Bush administration is mired in scandal.

Scott J. Bloch, who heads the Office of Special Counsel, told the Los Angeles Times Monday that his office will launch a wide-ranging investigation into Rove's involvement in the firings of eight US attorneys, his behind-the-scenes work to influence elections, and his use of a Republican National Committee email account to conduct official White House business, in what appears to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

However, the Los Angeles Times failed to inform its readers that Bloch had been accused of retaliating against employees who disagreed with his policies, and intimidating them before they were questioned about a whistle-blower investigation inside the Office of the Special Counsel. The whistle-blower probe was launched by the White House's Office of Personnel Management inspector general nearly two years ago, according to a February 16, 2007 story in the Washington Post.


In fact, some of the issues Bloch would be in charge of looking into related to Rove's activities in the US attorneys scandal, such as claims that some federal prosecutors were not in sync with White House policies on a variety of issues, mirror Bloch's alleged behavior involving his own employees.

"The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general has been investigating allegations by current and former OSC employees that Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch retaliated against underlings who disagreed with his policies - by, among other means, transferring them out of state - and tossed out legitimate whistle-blower cases to reduce the office backlog," the Washington Post reported. "The probe is the most serious of many problems at the agency since Bloch, a Kansas lawyer who served at the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, was appointed by President Bush three years ago. Since he took the helm in 2004, staffers at the OSC, a small agency of about 100 lawyers and investigators, have accused him of a range of offenses, from having an anti-gay bias to criticizing employees for wearing short skirts and tight pants to work."

A January 13, 2005 story in The New Standard said employees in the Office of the Special Counsel retained a private attorney to protest Bloch's orders that at least 12 staffers in the department move to another city or lose their jobs so Bloch could hire individuals who agree with his policies. In a strange twist, these employees accused Bloch of selectively "purging" employees from his department, a word now associated with the US attorney firings, and an area that Bloch says he will investigate to determine if wrongdoing took place.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stop jerking me around, Kucinich!

Okay, looks like Kucinich submitted articles of impeachment after all.
After a series of delays, late in the day on Wednesday, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a candidate for president in 2008, announced a series of charges against Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington, DC. Kucinich alleged that the Vice President had committed a series of impeachable offenses and stated that he was therefore introducing Articles of Impeachment against Cheney in the Congress today.


The Ohio Congressman, who is running for president for the second time, noted three charges in his Articles of Impeachment, which were submitted as House Resolution 333. The first concerned manipulation of intelligence about Iraq's threat to the US. The second concerned manipulation of intelligence on the Iraq-Al-Qaida relationship. The last concerned what he called having "openly threatened aggression against the Republic of Iran."

Kucinich claimed in the press conference that the charges were "deeply researched" and insisted that his accusations were not just a political stunt.

Maybe it is, maybe it's not. It's probably not going to pass, given what other Democrats have had to say:
The former Cleveland Mayor further acknowledged in the press conference that he had not recently spoken with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the matter. Pelosi had said last year that impeachment was "off the table."

In a conference call with today, the Speaker went further, telling RAW STORY that "President Bush was not worth it" because impeachment proceedings would be a distraction from passing Democratic policies that would ensure the party's future political victory.

"We will do more work to make for our own reelection, and maintain a Democratic Congress, and have a Democratic President," she said. "And frankly, for impeachment, George W. Bush is just not worth it. We have great work to do for the American people."

Asked why impeaching Cheney and not Bush, he answered "It is very important that we start with Mr. Cheney because if we were to start with the President, Mr. Cheney would then become president." And also, "We'd have to go through the constitutional agony of impeaching two presidents consecutively."

Um... can't you impeach both the president and the vice-president at the same time?

Anyways. The full articles, and "supporting documents", are available on Kucinich's website.

Fun with footnotes

Footnotes and endnotes are useful things for people engaged in research--I read the endnotes of my books obsessively and often try to track down any reference material that I think might be interesting. But they can also be horribly abused in any number of ways.

You can cite something which does not appear to exist. You can cite something that nowhere says anything like you claim it does. You can cite something that has been thoroughly debunked and repudiated as shoddy scholarship. And so on. Still, the presence of footnotes gives your paper a form of legitimacy in the eyes of those too lazy to actually read the footnotes or follow up on them.

Today I was shown, via Ex-Gay Watch, perhaps the most flagrant abuse of footnotes ever.

Here's the beginning of an FAQ on the website of Exodus International:

Note the use of footnotes. Surely this is some scholarly work!
Well... here's the footnotes themselves:

That's right. They just leave the footnotes blank, I suppose hoping that no-one with a critical eye would scroll down to the bottom of the page.

[Edit] The FAQ in question has been removed.

Mexico City: More Progressive than the U.S.

First Mexico City allows civil unions, now their legislature has legalized first-trimester abortions:
Mexico City lawmakers voted to legalize abortion during the first three months of pregnancy, a landmark decision likely to heighten church-state tensions in the Roman Catholic nation and lead to a bitter court battle.

Abortion-rights advocates said they hoped the vote would be the start of a new trend across Mexico and other parts of Latin America, where only Cuba and Guyana permit women to have abortions on demand in the first trimester. Most other Latin American countries allow it only in cases of rape or when the woman's life is at risk. Nicaragua,
El Salvador and Chile ban it completely.

But the debate in Mexico appeared far from over. Opponents vowed to challenge the law before the Supreme Court, saying it violates individual rights.


The bill, approved 46-19, with one abstention, will take effect with the expected signing by the city's leftist mayor. The new law will require city hospitals to provide the procedure in the first trimester and opens the way for private abortion clinics. Girls under 18 would have to get their parents' consent.

The procedure will be almost free for poor or uninsured city residents. Mexico City is a federal district similar to Washington, D.C., with its own legislature. The district includes the capital and its suburbs and is home to about 20 million people.

But wait, there's more!
On March 16, Mexico City began performing civil unions for same-sex couples, giving them most of the rights of marriage. City leaders attended the first ceremonies, ran newspaper ads publicizing the civil unions, and even hired mariachi bands to serenade the couples. There were almost no protests.

The northern state of Coahuila began performing same-sex unions on Jan. 31. In February, a lesbian couple from Texas became the first foreigners to be united there.

Mexico City also recently began allowing conjugal visits for homosexual prisoners. And in February, Mexico's Supreme Court ruled that HIV-positive soldiers cannot be expelled from the military.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ah, heck

Kucinich is "postponing" his plans to impeach Cheney because of the vice president's medical condition.
Now there's this at Rep. Dennis Kucinich's congressional website:

News reports this morning indicate the vice president was experiencing a medical crisis. Until the vice president's condition is clarified, I am placing any action on hold.

Kucinich is referring to this news, as reported by the Associated Press:

The blood clot in Vice President Dick Cheney's left leg is improving, according to doctors who checked his leg Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. Cheney was taken to his doctor's office for an ultrasound of the clot, then returned to the White House to resume his normal schedule, said Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for the vice president.


Blessed Be, y'all

My brother sent me an e-mail about this yesterday: the Department of Veteran Affairs has reached a settlement in a lawsuit and added the Wiccan pentacle to the list of available emblems of belief for tombstones.
Facing lawsuits by veterans and their families, the Bush administration relented yesterday and agreed to allow the Wiccan pentacle -- a five-pointed star inside a circle -- on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. military burial grounds.


[F]or nearly a decade, the department had refused to act on requests for the pentacle, without a clear reason. VA spokesman Matt Burns said that approximately 10 applications were pending from adherents of Wicca, a blend of witchcraft and nature worship that is one of the country's fastest-growing religions.


"This is a complete capitulation by the administration," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed suit last year on behalf of Wiccan veterans.

This is certainly a great victory. The settlement also says that the VA will compensate the plaintiffs with $225,000 for attorneys' fees. But I found this interesting:
The settlement stipulates, however, that the plaintiffs must not keep or disclose any documents handed over by the government during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. Lawyers familiar with the case said that some documents suggested the VA had political motives for rejecting the pentacle.

During his first campaign for president, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush told ABC's "Good Morning America" in 1999 that he was opposed to Wiccan soldiers practicing their faith at Fort Hood, Tex. "I don't think witchcraft is a religion, and I wish the military would take another look at this and decide against it," he said.

Lynn, of Americans United, said references to Bush's remarks appeared in memos and e-mails within the VA.

"One of the saddest things is to learn that this wasn't just a bureaucratic nightmare, there was a certain amount of bigotry," he said. "The president's wishes were interpreted at a pretty high level. . . . It became a political judgment, not a constitutional judgment."

VA officials didn't respond to those assertions, and the New York Times article mentions that part of the settlement, but claimed that Americans United didn't assert that Bush had any part in this issue.
In reviewing 30,000 pages of documents from Veterans Affairs, Americans United said, it found e-mail and memorandums referring to negative comments President Bush made about Wicca in an interview with "Good Morning America" in 1999, when he was governor of Texas. The interview had to do with a controversy at the time about Wiccan soldiers' being allowed to worship at Fort Hood, Tex.

"I don't think witchcraft is a religion," Mr. Bush said at the time, according to a transcript. "I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made."

Americans United did not assert that the White House influenced the Veterans Affairs Department. Under the settlement, Americans United had to return the documents and could not copy them, though it could make limited comments about their contents, Mr. Katskee said.

Anywho. You can get a PDF of the settlement from the AU's website.

I can only imagine that it won't be long before the real lunatics like Stop the ACLU or WorldNetDaily start lambasting this decision. Some people already have (though from my skimming, comments have mostly been very positive):
lucyrau One more example for Christians which illustrates why we shouldn't complain so loudly for religious provision in government. Separation of Church and State has come to mean separation of Christianity and everyone else. This trend will not change. Christians will continue to be discriminated against, so ultimately fighting for religious freedom gains us nothing, but only benefits non Christians.

Now if only they'll start allowing Wiccan chaplains....

Maybe as an atheist I can sue any bookstore that exposes me to the Bible

Wow. Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, I've found what is truly one of the stupidest stories ever: a man is demanding $20,000 because his sons found a book about lesbians in the library.
A Bentonville, Arkansas man is demanding the city pay him $20,000 for the pain and suffering of his sons after they discovered a book on lesbian sex in their local library.

"[They were] greatly disturbed" said Earl Adams his letter to the city. "[We had] many sleepless nights in our house."

Adams wants $10,000 per child, the maximum allowed under the Arkansas obscenity law.

Adams also wants the city to fire library director Cindy Suter.

Two teenagers spent many sleepless nights after finding a book about lesbian sex? I'll just bet.

The book was removed to "an inaccessible area of the library" at first, then removed altogether later. However, the library says that they're looking for a replacement on the same topic, and if they can't find a suitable one the book will be reinstated. Says another article:
The library's advisory board voted earlier this month to remove the book from circulation. Board member George Spence says he found the book crude, but say it could be replaced with one taking a -- QUOTE -- "more sensitive, more clinical approach."

Adams credited this to--what else?--God:
"God was speaking to my heart that day and helped me find the words that proved successful in removing this book from the shelf," Adams stated Thursday.

And Suter did resign, but says that it has nothing to do with the incident:
The flap about Newman's book happened shortly before Suter announced her intention Monday to resign effective May 31, but Suter said it had nothing to do with her decision.

Both Spence and McCaslin concurred that there is no connection between the two.

"I know Cindy, and she is not an impulsive person. She would not have done it without a lot of thought," McCaslin said. "Assumptions can get you in big trouble."

Suter said she needs to devote more time to her downtown business, Fusion Fine Art Gallery, which she opened in June 2005.

Suter has given most of her attention the last few years to planning the new Bentonville Public Library, which opened in October at 405 S. Main St.


Another investigation

It looks like there's going to be an investigation of Karl Rove, too:
The obscure federal investigative unit known as the Office of Special Counsel generally confines itself to monitoring the activities of relatively low-level government employees, stepping in with reprimands and other routine administrative actions for such offenses as discriminating against military personnel or engaging in prohibited political activities.

But the unit is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than seven years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.

The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees throughout the government attuned to GOP political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush administration.

First, the new inquiry comes from inside the administration, not from Democrats in Congress. Second, unlike the inquiries being pressed on Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified investigation covering many facets of the political operation in which Rove played a leading part.

"We will take the evidence where it leads us," Scott Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said Monday.

Bloch said the probe would be independent and not coordinated with any other agency or government entity.

"This is a big deal," said Paul Light, a New York University expert on the executive branch of the federal government. "It is a significant moment for the administration and Karl Rove. It speaks to the growing sense that there is a nexus at the White House that explains what's going on in these disparate investigations."

Apparently these efforts are growing out of two other investigations that were being conducted: one on the firing of a U.S. attorney, David Iglesias; and the other on a PowerPoint presentation. I don't know much about the former, but you can get a taste of the latter's impropriety here. That page has a link to the slides in question (in PDF format), and a video of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing where Representative Bruce Haley was questioning General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan about the presentation.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Holy shit

Don't want to get too excited about this, but supposedly Dennis Kucinich will hold a news conference tomorrow to announce his plans to impeach Cheney.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

John Lynch, Governor of New Hampshire, recently announced that he would sign into law a civil unions bill that recently passed in the House, and is expected to pass in the Senate.

In response, the Union Leader wrote up this editorial castigating his decision. It is truly a marvel of muddled thinking. First they whine about passing a law for the benefit of "a small group." But at the end of the article they go on about imaginary "fiscal cost[s] to the New Hampshire taxpayer and to its relief system when these couples start demanding their welfare and health benefit rights." Is New Hampshire's budget in such a sorry state that health benefits for "a small group" would ruin the state?

They also complain that passing the law would "push New Hampshire to the very fringe of liberal social policy-making", yet admit that "[f]ew people want to discriminate against others concerning basic human rights. Most people, certainly in New Hampshire, are of the live-and-let-live kind." Polling in New Hampshire has consistently shown around half of the population in favor of civil unions--hardly "the very fringe." In fact, the Union Leader itself reported
Bill supporters yesterday pointed to a February survey that showed 74 percent who responded to a University of New Hampshire poll said they would not be bothered by civil marriages, with 61 percent supporting the idea.

"Had the survey focused on civil unions, the politically safer ground in HB 437, the results would undoubtedly have indicated even higher levels of support," said Dawn Touzin, chair of the state Freedom to Marry Coalition.

Even on an internet poll of Union Leader readers, 46.7% favored the bill. And those who were against it... well, let's look at what they had to say:
"Do you really think that two April Nor'easters on the exact same days of the voting of this bill ... are a coincidence? I personally think God is not entirely pleased with the way the state of New Hampshire is voting in regards to gay and lesbian lifestyles. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah?" wrote Isaac Masana of Somersworth.


David Holt of Derry commented that allowing anything other than a marriage between a man and woman would lead "to a tragic downfall of our society."


Bill Maynard of Manchester, however, believes the "same-sex union concept is totally misguided. We are not talking about equal rights. We're talking about perversion of nature and of God's will. It's immoral and unnatural. ...Next misguided ignorant perverts will request marriage of minors, multiple persons, animals, trees, whatever. The perversion must be stopped now!!"

Kevin Jordan of Nottingham also believes it is wrong. "The nation was built upon marriage between one man and one woman ... This tradition goes back 10,000 years. Who are we to play God and change the order of the universe?" he wrote.

But no, it's the people who talked about basic fairness and equality that are on "the very fringe" of society.

And that's just scraping the surface of the idiocy of that editorial. It goes so much deeper.

Gays have children

Gays can't have children, therefore they can't marry!

Women might soon be able to produce sperm in a development that could allow lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters, according to a pioneering study published today.

Scientists are seeking ethical permission to produce synthetic sperm cells from a woman's bone marrow tissue after showing that it possible to produce rudimentary sperm cells from male bone-marrow tissue.

The researchers said they had already produced early sperm cells from bone-marrow tissue taken from men. They believe the findings show that it may be possible to restore fertility to men who cannot naturally produce their own sperm.

But the results also raise the prospect of being able to take bone-marrow tissue from women and coaxing the stem cells within the female tissue to develop into sperm cells, said Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Creating sperm from women would mean they would only be able to produce daughters because the Y chromosome of male sperm would still be needed to produce sons. The latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer.

Although, there may be complications:
The research also raises questions about the long term genetic effects of creating sperm in this way which could have implications for the health and development of embryos and the children and adults they eventually become.

However the general consensus amongst scientists is that this is unlikely because embryos generally require genetic material from both a male and a female to develop normally.

I wish they'd, you know, quoted any such scientists. And all the other articles I looked at didn't say anything of the sort, but that may not mean much.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

More good news for gays

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire today signed a law allowing domestic partnerships in her state:
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Saturday a measure to create domestic partnerships, giving gay and lesbian couples some of the same rights that come with marriage.


"It offers the hope that one day, all lesbian and gay families will be treated truly equal under the law," said state Sen. Ed Murray, who is one of five openly gay lawmakers in the Legislature.

One day, maybe, but note that the opening paragraph says it only provides some of the same rights as married couples get. This article provides a bit more comprehensive list of the benefits given.
To be registered, couples have to share a home, not be married or in a domestic relationship with someone else and be at least 18.

Unmarried, heterosexual senior couples will also be eligible to register if one partner is at least 62. Lawmakers said that provision, similar to one in California law, was included to help seniors who are at risk of losing pension rights and
Social Security benefits if they remarry.

Naturally, there were opponents of the measure. Joseph Fuiten, a pastor, said "Giving marriage-lite benefits without the benefit of marriage strikes me as not a good idea."

Agreed, Mr. Fuiten. So let's give them marriage, wot?

Welcome to a world where the sky is the color of sarin gas

Glenn Greenwald has a post noting some conspiracy theory cooked up by a man named Dave Gaubatz, which has been trumpeted by right-wing blogs (and even politicians like Curt Weldon and Peter "mustard gas from 1991 proves that Saddam had WMDs in 2003" Hoekstra). Gaubatz's theory? As Mr. Greenwald puts it,
(a) WMDs really were found in Iraq after the invasion, (b) they were located in vast underground bunkers (c) which contained "nuclear, chemical and biological materials", but (d) the U.S., through negligence, failed to secure those sites and, as a result, (e) the WMDs were stolen by The Terrorists and/or Syrian agents, who now have them and are actively plotting (along with China, Russia and North Korea) to use them against the West, but --

(f) because the Bush administration is so embarrassed by their failure to prevent the theft of all these dastardly weapons, and because Democrats are embarrassed by this discovery because it proves that Saddam really did have WMDs all along, they have all jointly created a vast conspiracy where they conceal the discovery of WMDs in order to cover up for their negligence.

Gautz's evidence? From the NY Times article:
Stationed near Nasiriya, he and a colleague headed out in a utility vehicle at 6 a.m. and spent their days talking with anyone they saw — Bedouin tribesmen, farmers, hospital workers, former military officers, police officers and city bureaucrats.

Eventually, by his account, Iraqis led him to four places where they said they thought that chemical weapons were hidden in underground bunkers or, in one case, under the Euphrates River.

And of course, everyone is in on the conspiracy to cover this up:
To his horror, however, when they tried to access his classified intelligence reports, they were told that all 60 of them — which, in the routine way, he had sent in 2003 to the computer clearing-house at a US airbase in Saudi Arabia — had mysteriously gone missing.

Although actually, given the administration's track record with "mysteriously losing" potentially embarrassing documents....

[Edit] Swell. In addition to being a conspiracy theorist, he's also a white supremacist.

Been sitting on this one for a while

Image taken from this post

I read about this weeks ago, but I was waiting to get a copy of the actual decision. A couple, Nancy and Thomas Andrews, used in vitro fertilization to get pregnant and had a baby. However, the baby born to them was black, and neither parent is. Three DNA tests confirmed that the father wasn't Thomas. So the couple sued the clinic. From the judge's decision (which, I should note, only allows the case against one of the doctors to proceed):
This is a medical malpractice action and negligence action which also includes causes of action for lack of informed consent, breach of contract, fraud and assault and battery. The action arises out of an in vitro fertilization ("IVF") procedure that was performed at defendant New York Medical Services for Reproductive Medicine ("NYMSFRM"). Plaintiffs Nancy Andrews and Thomas Andrews, a married couple, allege that the IVF procedure which they agreed to undergo was intended to result in the fertilization of Mrs. Andrews' eggs with Mr. Andrews' sperm so that they could have a child who would be biologically their own, but that defendants negligently used someone else's sperm to fertilize the eggs.

According to plaintiffs, shortly after their daughter Jessica was born in October 2004, they knew something was amiss based upon Jessica's physical characteristics. Mrs. Andrews "was born in the Dominican Republic and has a complexion, skin coloration and facial characteristics typical of that region" while Mr. Andrews is Caucasian. (Andrews' affidavit, ¶ 11). The Andrews describe Jessica as "darker skinned" than both of them, with "skin, facial and hair characteristics more typical of African, or African-American descent."(Andrews' affidavit, ¶ 11). Nancy Andrews says that she questioned Dr. Keltz about this "abnormality" and that Dr. Keltz responded that it was normal, that the IVF was performed properly, and that Jessica would " 'get lighter over time' ". (Andrews' affidavit, ¶ 11).

The Andrews explain that by December 2004 they knew that something was clearly wrong, so they purchased a home DNA kit and sent it to a lab for processing. The results confirmed that Mr. Andrews and Jessica lacked the genetic markers that would be required if he were her biological father. Two subsequent DNA tests confirmed this result.

So far, nothing terribly interesting. But here's part of the plaintiffs' complaint:
The Andrews have particularized their injuries as follows:
. . . Uncertaintly [sic] about the genetic makeup health & future of the child JESSICA; in that JESSICA & both parents have been forced to raise a child that is not even the same race, nationality, color & descent of them & other family members; in that same will cause confusion, ill ease, depression and emotion [sic] strain and damage for the entire life of all the parties involved as well as the unnamed siblings, unnecessary curiosity, questioning & emotional damages all of which have yet to be played out & identified; that JESSICA & her parents have, are, & will in the future be caused to suffer extreme emotional distress & uncertainty as to her identity; that it is not possible & even less, not desirable, to identify the sperm doctor [sic] as this would cause irreparable harm to all parties & potentially invoke rights & privileges & infringe on the exclusive rights of JESSICA, and NANCY & THOMAS as parents; in that the parents have been caused to suffer exactly what they intended to avoid & exactly what they were NOT promised by the process provided by the answering defendant; that there is continuing uncertainty & distrust as to whether the genetic material of either NANCY &/or THOMAS has been inappropriately used for others; that they may have natural children or half children that they are unaware of . . .
[Bill of particulars for defendant Acosta, ¶ 11, emphasis in the original]
Plaintiffs also assert that Jessica has been injured in that
. . . she may be subjected to physical & emotional illness as a result of not being the same race as her parents & siblings; that invariably JESSICA will learn of the events of this case & suffer undefined physical & emotional damages thereby; that JESSICA will be or that she & her parents will be emotionally damaged by the anticipation or reality of her ridicule . . .
[Bill of particulars for defendant Acosta, ¶ 11]

It is the complaint that they are forced to raise a child of another color--which the Andrews, not the judge, emphasized particularly--which caught the eye of many. Later in the decision, Judge Abdus-Salaam wrote
The Andrews allege that due to defendants' negligence, they have been forced to raise a child that is "not even the same race, nationality, color . . ." as they are (Bill of Particulars for Acosta, ¶ 11). They aver that "[w]hile we love Baby Jessica as our own, we are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her; it is simply impossible to ignore. This brings with it an unending feeling of helplessness and despair. We are conscious of, and distressed by this mistake, each and every time we appear in public."(Andrews' affidavit, ¶ 13).

It seems to me exceptionally callous, and even contradictory, to write that they "love Baby Jessica as [their] own", but that because she is "not even the same race, nationality, color & descent" that this "will cause confusion, ill ease, depression and emotion[al] strain and damage for the entire life."

Anyways. From what I've read, the judge dismissed every complaint that they had except for the "claim that there is continuing uncertainty and distrust as to whether the genetic material of either or both of them has been inappropriately used for others and that they may have natural children or half children that they are unaware of, and that they fear that Jessica's natural father may someday claim rights to Jessica, thereby interfering with their rights and relationship as her parents." So she's allowing the suit to continue on those grounds. The decision, by the way, is available on-line: go to this page, choose "E-Courts", then "Case Information: Civil - Supreme". Then do an Index Search for '109263/2005', choose "Show Decisions", and pick the one scanned on April 12, 2007. Or if you're lazy, don't. Won't bother me none.

Fighting for the freedom to discriminate

Via a commenter at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, I was lead to this editorial by Wade Fickler in the Oregonian. As you may recall, Oregon's House passed a bill this week allowing for "domestic partnerships":
On a bad day, or even a good day if one ever existed, "inescapable" might be how religious persecution seemed to Pentecostal Christians living on the fringe of society in the former Soviet Union and in the early days of its successor states. Today, however, it is positively escapable if a person can cobble together a story of oppression or demonstrate family ties to someone already living in the United States.


Truth be told, during my 27 months in Ukraine, I heard not one personal account of fundamentalist Christians experiencing religious persecution in contemporary Ukrainian life. But that doesn't mean it was not or is not happening. Ukraine's new government is certainly no leader on the human rights front, and evidence that the mainstream Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a powerful religious and political institution abounds. But the most noticeable development in religious life in the country is the burgeoning number of Ukrainians practicing some brand of Western evangelicalism.

For many of these Ukrainians, claims of maltreatment have been their ticket to freedom in the United States, and many religious refugees have settled in Portland.

What does this have to do with the gay rights bill?
On the Monday after Easter, a House committee heard four hours of testimony on House Bill 2007, a domestic partnership bill, and Senate Bill 2, an anti-discrimination bill. The most visible opposition to both bills came from hundreds of Slavic immigrants who helped fill five hearing rooms and the corridor.


"We hate government oppression of religious freedom and family values, whether in Russia or California," said Galina Bondar, a Ukrainian immigrant in Sacramento also quoted in the Times. "We just have more we can do about it in California."

Mr. Fickler ends the editorial with these astute paragraphs:
In Oregon and elsewhere, religious refugees from the former Soviet Union, many of whom are not U.S. citizens, are boldly exercising their newly obtained right to free speech in an orchestrated effort to deny American gay-rights activists a victory in their struggle for equality.

Clearly, what this story lacks in moral clarity it makes up for in irony.


Friday, April 20, 2007

It's a nice couch, though

Due to a careless Chinese-English translation program, one woman bought a couch that's the color "nigger-brown":
Doris Moore was shocked when her new couch was delivered to her home with a label that used a racial slur to describe the dark brown shade of the upholstery.

The situation was even more alarming for Moore because it was her 7-year-old daughter who pointed out "n----- brown" on the tag.


Kingsoft Corp., a Chinese software company, acknowledged its translation program was at fault and said it was a regrettable error.

"I know this is a very bad word," Huang Luoyi, a product manager for the Beijing-based company's translation software, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

He explained that when the Chinese characters for "dark brown" are typed into an older version of its Chinese-English translation software, the offensive N-word description comes up.

"We got the definition from a Chinese-English dictionary. We've been using the dictionary for 10 years. Maybe the dictionary was updated, but we probably didn’t follow suit," he said.


Huang said Kingsoft has worked to correct the translation error. In the 2007 version, typing "dark brown" in Chinese does not produce the racial slur in English. But if the offensive term is typed in English, the Chinese translation is "dark brown," he said.

I'm also interested that the owner of the store where the woman bought the couch didn't know the meaning of the word.
"It's amazing. I've been here since 1972 and I never knew the meaning of this word," said Vanaik, a native of India.

This was in Canada, though... maybe that's why? I dunno.

Anyways. The Toronto Star not only actually prints the word "nigger" on its website but also has a picture of the couch and the offending label, which I have saved for posterity:

As another article notes, the couch "is beautiful – she and her husband saved up to buy it." That article also describes some of the history of the use of that phrase as a color:
The audience of Lady's Pictorial magazine in London, circa 1914, would have wondered what all the fuss was about. Ads for soft taffeta hats in nigger-black were common then. A 1915 edition of the British Home Chat magazine described cloth as "nigger-brown." Writers D. H. Lawrence and John Dos Passos wrote about nigger-grey and nigger-pink. And as late as 1973 The Times wrote of autumnal colours in a shade that "used to be nigger brown."

The couch bearing the offensive label landed in Brampton last week by way of China, where things like paint and shoes for men are still being sold today with the description.

"Nigger-brown" pigment is available for purchase from the Wenzhou Kunwei Pearly-Lustre Pigment Co., Ltd. Men's shoes from the Nanhai De Xing Leather Shoes Habiliment Co., Ltd., are described this way on its website: "this product is leisure & fashion, Comfortable, beautiful outside Size 39#-46# Color French rose, 'nigger-brown.'"

"If it was used with impunity in the first half of the 20th Century in England, it is possible that it survived in the manufacturing byways of Hong Kong as a kind of imperial excrescence, as a kind of colonial marker," says Jack Chambers, a professor in the University of Toronto department of linguistics.

They also note some other times that colors have caused a stir:
Colours have caused controversy before. Crayola has revised its original colour palette numerous times since launching the popular crayon in 1903, changing "flesh" to "peach," in 1962, and "Indian Red" to "chestnut" in 1999. The name "flesh," was dropped partly in response to the civil rights movement. The company says Indian red was not meant to represent the skin colour of Native Americans, but referred to a reddish-brown pigment found near India.

Prussian Blue was changed to "midnight blue" in 1958, at the request of teachers, according to Crayola's website.

That last one gave me pause.

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Red in Tooth and Claw Edition

A sequel to this post:
The whole anatomical structure, the feet, the hands, the limbs, the size and form of the head, the features, the hair, the color, the tout ensemble of the negro being, as it is revealed to the sense, embodies the negro inferiority when compared with other races; and as regards the white man or Caucasian, it presents a contrast so striking and an interval so broad and unmistakable that it seems impossible any one's senses could be so blunted, or his perceptions so perverted as to be rendered incapable of perceiving it. The flexible grace of the limbs, the straightlines of the figure, the expressive features, the broad forehead and transparent color, and flowing beard, all combine to give a grace and majesty to the Caucasian that stamps him undisputed master of all living beings, and even the creatures of the animal world perceive and acknowledge this supremacy. It is not an uncommon thing in India for a tiger, rendered desperate by hunger, to suddenly leap into a crowd and to carry off a man, but instead of a European he invariably selects a native, and while such a thing as the seizure of a white man is unknown, the negroes in Sierra Leone are frequently carried off and eaten by lions. The instinct of the animal leads it to attack the inferior, and therefore feebler being, as even our domestic animals are far more likely to attack children than adults.

--John H. Van Evrie, White Supremacy and Negro Subordination, pp. 96-97, 1861.

Interestingly enough, this is the same reason why black characters always die first in horror movies.

Limbo's left in limbo

The Catholic Church has decided that it no longer believes in limbo, saying that it reflects an "unduly restrictive view of salvation" for a God who "wants all human beings to be saved."

I wonder if we can get them to give up Hell by the same reasoning.

And it took me a long while to properly parse this sentence:
It says grace has priority over sin, and the exclusion of innocent babies from heaven does not seem to reflect Christ's special love for children, CNS, which is owned by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference, quoted the document as saying.

At first I kept thinking that it was saying that CNS was some abbreviation for Christ's special love for children, and that it was owned by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference. I guess you can trademark God.

Stepping up for a woman's rights

After the Supreme Court reversed itself Wednesday and upheld a ban on "partial-birth abortion", Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Jerrold Nadler vowed to introduce legislation that would make abortion rights the law of the land.
Two US lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday aimed at codifying a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy, one day after the Supreme Court banned a controversial late-term abortion procedure.

The proposed law would codify abortion rights for the first time, said Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, who joined the effort launched by Senator Barbara Boxer.

The legislation "would bar government -- at any level -- from interfering with a woman's fundamental right to choose to bear a child, or to terminate a pregnancy," Nadler said.

"We can no longer rely on the Supreme Court to protect a woman's constitutional right to choose" he said.

I haven't been able to find out what the bill says exactly, but this site calls it the "Freedom of Choice Act" and says only that it
would restore critical protections for women's health, a core principle of Roe v. Wade that was undercut by yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling. It would protect the right of women, in conjunction with their doctors, to make personal medical decisions and prohibit the government interfering in those decisions.


Science--demystifying the mystical for hundreds of years

One annoying cliché that people bring up when discussing religion is that some things are intangible, just like God, therefore God exists. Or something. One of the most common is love--I actually had a Mormon quip "What about love?" when I told her that I believe in things that can be measured. I wanted to yell at her--perhaps ask if she'd ever had an original thought in her life--but I had class to get to.

Anyways, the answer is yes.
Sexual behavior includes a lot more than sex. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, argues that three primary brain systems have evolved to direct reproductive behavior. One is the sex drive that motivates people to seek partners. A second is a program for romantic attraction that makes people fixate on specific partners. Third is a mechanism for long-term attachment that induces people to stay together long enough to complete their parental duties.

Romantic love, which in its intense early stage "can last 12-18 months," is a universal human phenomenon, Dr. Fisher wrote last year in The Proceedings of the Royal Society, and is likely to be a built-in feature of the brain. Brain imaging studies show that a particular area of the brain, one associated with the reward system, is activated when subjects contemplate a photo of their lover.


And the beat goes on....

So, Wednesday was the national Day of Silence, dedicated to stopping harassment and violence against gays. Naturally, Christians are appalled that people would want gays to be safe from violence in schools.
Tensions over a Day of Silence in support of gay rights led to a lockdown at New Castle Chrysler High School.

Superintendent John Newby would not confirm students' claims that a student had threatened to take a gun to school Wednesday.

"We didn't have a specific threat," Newby said. He did say that a student was disciplined Tuesday for remarks made during a classroom discussion.

Students were taken to the New Castle Fieldhouse while police searched lockers Wednesday morning. No weapons were found. Police used metal detecting wands on students as they returned to class. Extra police officers remained at school throughout the day and access to the building was limited to three entrances.

About 150 of the 1,000 students at school left early, according to figures reported by the principal's office. About 80 students did not show up for school. School officials said students would not be penalized for the unexcused absences.

Crap like this just goes to show how badly events like Day of Silence are needed. I imagine some of the people would be in favor of it if they actually bothered to know what it was about, but once they hear that it's supportive of gays their brains shut down.

That article currently has over 400 comments on it... and some of them are, to say the least, discouraging.

Indy7 What a shame! These people (homosexuals) are never happy and always seem to be causing a problem! If I were a parent of a normal student at this school, I would have them transferred to another school. The homosexuals causing this problem should be immediately expelled, period, end of discussion!

Yes, a pox on those uppity Negroes homosexuals!
Deciding One Society is heading downhill fast. Now they demand to be able to spread homosexual propaganda in public schools. Is there no limit to this insanity?

I'm betting this guy is one of those fellows who doesn't have a clue what Day of Silence actually is about.
Mike Stop and visualize what these "rights" your supporting really mean. Are you familiar with the sexual acts themselves? Can you visualize two men “coupling” and you say this is a "right" and it is not an "abomination.” Do you really believe that God or whoever or whatever you believe that is responsible for the evolution of mankind intended for humans to perform sexually in this manner? Think about and visualize what physically transpires and not just respond from some theory-based rhetoric.

Ah, yes. The crux of the matter: gay sex is "icky". And gay rights really means anal sex, which is perverted and unnatural--when gay people do it.
melissa You're kidding right? High school students are being allowed to have a day in support of Gay rights? What is wrong with this picture? Seriously.

As one commenter put it, "How terrible. American citizens exercising their rights as American citizens in a public space owned by American citizens."
glowing-horizon This stinks. If a group can use our schools to indoctrinate our children without us having any say in it, I feel MY RIGHTS have been violated too.

And,yes, it makes our children extremely angry to have such complete trash pushed at a school where they are legally compelled to attend.

Why shouldn't the violated majority be angry? If not angered by this, then what would a Christian person be angered at?

Gasp! People are saying things that I disagree with--my rights are being violated when I'm forced to notice viewpoints from outside the little bubble I live in!
Deciding One They can't have kids, and they know that the only chance their "lifestyle" has to survive is to recruit kids. They have to convince innocent children that their "lifestyle" is ok while they're young, because a child that develops normally will see it for the disgusting deviance that it is.

Ah yes, once again Defending One shows off his ignorance about this event. Day of Silence is organized by the students, not some outside group "recruiting" kids.
jmar If a gay person wopuldn't be "in your face" with all of this there would not be this big of an issue. I know I am really tired of groups of people blacks, gays, musluims, etc. telling me I have to accept or tolerate their beleifs and life style's.

One of the things we should have learned on the 70's is Tolerence leads to acceptence. There are things that I do not want to either tolerate nor accept. So you live your life but get out of my face and do not expect me to accept how you live.

It's amazing how many homophobes are also racists, innit? You'd think the two mindsets and arguments used would have something in common.
Gary Whether you are white or black isn't a choice. Whether you are male or female (as you are born) isn't a choice. Sexual Orientation (gay, lesbian, or transgender) is a choice.
Why does there need to be "rights" over our choices. This doesn't make sense to me.

Good point! Let's get rid of those stupid rights to religious freedom, while we're at it.
Jim Well said "Deciding One", this is a mental sickness that is attacking our youth and must be stopped.

No it is not okay to be a homosexual, it is wrong behavior.

I am glad that the silent majority is finally starting to speak up.

...I can't even make fun of this one, it's so flamingly bigoted.
FedUp Just another of the many reasons to home-school my daughter....because it's better than having this "multi-culti / tolerance for everyone but straight white people" crap shoved down her throat, let alone forcing her to try and get an education in IPS while she's surrounded by thugs and criminals.

Yet another person who couples their hatred of uppity gays with their hatred of uppity Negroes, all of whom are thugs and criminals.
Readytopuke The activities of the homosexuals spread disease. Just thinking about what the male species like doing is very repulsive.

I'd comment about the idiocy of condemning homosexuality for "spread[ing] disease", given that world-wide the vast majority of AIDS is spread heterosexually, but I'm still hung up on his referring to males as a "species."

And that's only in two out of twenty-one pages of comments. I fear to tread much further.

There are, of course, a lot of supportive comments, too, and many mock and point out the stupidity of these commenters.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why do we let these people vote?

While Iowa is letting a gay rights bill rot, Oregon today passed two gay rights bills: one which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, and another which "creates same-sex domestic partnerships"--just in time for the Day of Silence, too.

Not everyone was happy with it:
Some lawmakers against the bills said they struggled with how to explain their vote. Many cited their Christian faith as part of their opposition to the measures. Representative Greg Smith is a Republican from eastern Oregon.

Greg Smith: "If I get emotional, it's because I truly am about to speak based upon the faith that I hold close to me. And if that offends, I apologize."

Some lawmakers weren't so delicate. This is Republican Fred Girod of Stayton.

Fred Girod: "I'll be voting no and I'm proud of it."

Oh, that Jesus. All about discriminating against people he doesn't like.

But that's typical. Some other reasons for being against the law are some of the most breathtakingly inane things I've ever read:
Alan Beals: "It creates a new class of people based on behavior, versus being based on the other protections of the United States citizen -- you know, race, gender, those kinds of things."

And then there's the comments on another article, which make me weep for the future.

ourworldissad I always find it interesting that people get so upset with us christians for wanting to abide by the truth of Gods word. I am not a hateful person at all, but I do believe in God and by believing in God you must believe what He says. He says not to murder so there are laws against it. He says not to steal, so there are laws against it. He says not to commit adultery, so there are laws against it. He says that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, so there needs to be laws against it to protect us and our children from not only witnessing it but also from the effects that it will have on our society. It is revolting to see gays pretending to be families and pretending to have "Their own" children. I don't know if you can understand this or not but gays cannot have their own children. There is a reason for that. They are not meant to partner. So they try to play God by having babies by other means and then try to construct a family from it. I know, I know...we should leave them alone and let them do what they want. We should also leave alone the pedophiles "cuz they were born that way and cannot help it". We should leave alone the murderer, the adulterer, the thief, etc. After all, none of these people can help the way they are. They were born that way.

So much stupidity in there: "our laws are based on God"; "murderers and thieves are 'born that way'"; "gays are only 'pretending' to have families." It's sickening.
MattB I want to know, what rights gay couples don't have, that everyone else in the united states has?

Nnnggh! So fucking idiotic!
MattB I don't give a damn who you want to fornicate with; what ever their Gender, race, wether or not they are walking upright or on all fours. But, just because you may have a...biological stray away from what is "normal", doesn't mean you should have special rights beyond what everyone else gets. Hell, that even goes for your race, nationality, color....whatever the "P.C." term is for it, also.

Oh, joy. Not only does he whine about "special" rights for gays, but for other minorities. What the fuck?
grayfox1930 Gay and rights should not be allowed in the same sentence. If we didn't have this crud pushed in our faces all the time, if those people's sex life was kept private from society and they stayed in the closet, we would never have to hear about special rights for them. They have the same rights as the rest of society but, no, that's not enough for them. Maybe they have it right, however, I did see this cute female billie goat that I just might try to marry. That seems no more foolish to me than marrying a man.

Comparisons to bestiality, more fucking idiocy about gays having all the rights straights do....
Smama Someone mentioned common sense. Can you please tell me how much common sense you need to realize that two men or two women cannot procreate? It is so unnatural. So subnormal. Why should these people who choose to live such a deviant lifestyle get SPECIALrights? And what of the gender identity issue? Do we really want persons who are transvestites, crossdressers, transsexuals who enter a public restroom of their choice to be protected under SB2 to the point that you as a business owner could be sued, if you asked a man dressed as a woman not to enter the women's restroom? What are we exposing our children to? And what next? Special rights for people who choose to have a 'domestic partner' that is an animal? God help us. May God have mercy on our state.

More special rights and bestiality crap.
mahzeltoffee If 2 homos want to live together they have the freedom to do so in America. They can achieve any rights heteros have with wills, a POA and other documents. And what 2 people do in the privacy of their bedroom is their business.

But they should not expect the rest of us to endorse their way of life. they should quit name calling. Homophobe? fear of homosexuallity. HAH! It's not fear. It's disgust. Sure Christians and Jews and Muslims are against it. But homos have the same rights as heteros.

They say Christians should leave them alone; yet the homos have the parades to seek publicity.They are given the freedom to live as they wish yet seek a positive endorsement from the state. They say any committed relationship is good as a way of rationalizing. They convince themselves with "rational lies."

The homos know what they do is not normal. They figure if others, like the legislators, endorse it then they can claim it's ok. I have a gay cousin. He told me the reason gays drink and party so much is to try and forget just how miserable they are. I feel sorry for them.

Again, gays supposedly have the same rights as straights. Oh, and they "know" they're "not normal", and are secretly all miserable drunkards. What a god-damned fucking imbecile.

All that was just on the first page of comments. Geez, how the hell do you communicate with idiots like that? Not a single coherent argument. They don't have a fucking clue what a gay person even is, and yet feel they can declare them equivalent to pedophiles and zoophiles, say they're aberrations, abnormal, perverts, they're all miserable, &c. ad infinitum.



Monday, April 16, 2007

Luddites--I mean, computer scientists demand the destruction of the internet!

An interesting idea: scrap the internet and start over.

One of the biggest things computer scientists have to deal with is backward compatibility. For example, suppose a company has created a program that connects to their remote server and performs some operation. If the company decides to update their server, and radically change the way it operates, they can't just write completely new code. If they did, then all the clients who were using their old software could no longer interact with the new server. So the company has to keep this in mind and make sure that the new server can also accept the same commands that the old server did.

This is one of the reasons that the Internet is rather messed up. The internet's precursor was very lax about things like security and authentication:
The internet's early architects built the system on the principle of trust. Researchers largely knew one another, so they kept the shared network open and flexible — qualities that proved key to its rapid growth.

But spammers and hackers arrived as the network expanded and could roam freely because the internet doesn't have built-in mechanisms for knowing with certainty who sent what.

The network's designers also assumed that computers are in fixed locations and always connected. That's no longer the case with the proliferation of laptops, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices, all hopping from one wireless access point to another, losing their signals here and there.

Engineers tacked on improvements to support mobility and improved security, but researchers say all that adds complexity, reduces performance and, in the case of security, amounts at most to bandages in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.

The internet, at its core, is not a very secure thing. Protocols have been added on top of it to try to add security, but its all very ad hoc. So these people are proposing replacing the current internet with something that is secure at its very core:
Although it has already taken nearly four decades to get this far in building the internet, some university researchers with the US federal government's blessing want to scrap all that and start over.

The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a "clean slate" approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on September 2, 1969.

They may be right, but it'll be almost impossible to actually do it.
A new network could run parallel with the current internet and eventually replace it, or perhaps aspects of the research could go into a major overhaul of the existing architecture.

These clean-slate efforts are still in their early stages, though, and aren't expected to bear fruit for another 10 or 15 years — assuming Congress comes through with funding.

Guru Parulkar, who will become executive director of Stanford's initiative after heading NSF's clean-slate programs, estimated that GENI alone could cost $350 million, while government, university and industry spending on the individual projects could collectively reach $300 million. Spending so far has been in the tens of millions of dollars.

And it could take billions of dollars to replace all the software and hardware deep in the legacy systems.

It would be an interesting development, though....

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Not so much has changed in 50 years

Separate but equal, still isn't equal:
Shannan Hauser and Jennifer Bonfilio of Hamilton say they will form a civil union in two weeks. In theory, it should give them the same benefits that married couples have.

So when the law creating civil unions took effect last month, Bonfilio, who pays $431 a month for health insurance, inquired about being added as a beneficiary on Hauser's medical plan at the New Jersey Carpenters Funds.

"I called to ask if they were going to be honoring that law and providing me with the same coverage that they would any married couple, and I was told no," Bonfilio said. "The woman on the phone actually said to me: 'We do not have to obey New Jersey law.'"

Many other same-sex couples in civil unions are encountering similar problems. At the gay rights organization Lambda Legal, attorney David Buckel said he has gotten scores of complaints, mostly concerning refusals to provide couples in civil unions with the same health benefits provided to married couples.

Buckel said in some cases, employers are refusing to provide benefits because they simply don't know the law. In others, he added, self-insured employers or unions are using a federal law that allows -- but does not require -- denial of coverage for same-sex couples.

In either case, he blames the state's decision to label the relationships of committed same-sex couples "civil unions" rather than marriages.

"In the employment sector in particular, folks don't understand civil unions, and then when they come to understand what they are they find ways to disrespect them," Buckel said. "After all, the state has said that these relationships aren't worthy of marriage."