aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Friday, December 15, 2006
Gwinnett to keep Harry in school libraries
A woman who fought to have Harry Potter novels banned from her children’s suburban school district is considering an appeal after the Georgia Board of Education voted Thursday to keep the books in county libraries.
Board members voted without discussion to uphold the Gwinnett County school board’s decision to deny Laura Mallory’s request to pull the books from school libraries.
Mallory, whose children attend J.C. Magill Elementary School, has worked for more than a year to get the books banned from Gwinnett schools, saying the popular fiction series is an attempt to indoctrinate children in religious witchcraft. “It’s mainstreaming witchcraft in a subtle and deceptive manner, in a children-friendly format,” she said.
There are crazies in every town… I pity her children… And all of us when they grow up.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Emerging evangelical moderation?
Probably not. But with two Colorado Megachurch pastors revealed as gay, some church members are beginning to wonder:
Coming out just one month after prominent evangelical leader Ted Haggard resigned as head of the National Association of Evangelicals amid allegations that he had paid a former male prostitute for sex, Barnes has sparked discussions over the Church’s attitude toward homosexuals.
“We (evangelicals) may have talked about the evils of homosexuality in attempts to justify our position and not been as evenhanded or fair in representing the homosexual community as we should have been,” Craig Willford, president of Denver Seminary, told the Post. “At times, we have probably over-generalized the lifestyle and made villains out of people who live in homosexuality.”
Meanwhile, in Alabama:
Walk into Covenant Community Church of Birmingham, Alabama, on a Sunday morning, and you’ll see a scene reminiscent of any other evangelical church across the state. The sanctuary is crowded with congregants greeting each other before the service. The minister chats with the deacons, the organist arranges his music on the stand, and children escape their parent’s grasp momentarily to run up and down the aisles. But Covenant is unlike most churches in Alabama. Its pastor, J.R. Finney II, is gay. So are most of its congregants. Founded in 1981 with 12 members in an unmarked storefront, today Finney preaches to a flock of 350 in a two-building complex that can barely contain the congregation’s growing numbers. And, while Covenant is the largest gay church in the state, it is not alone. From major cities like Montgomery and Huntsville to working-class towns like Gadsden, gay-led, gay-founded churches are flourishing in the heart of the conservative South, providing gay Alabamans with a supportive environment in which to worship. Across the state, there are six gay-focused churches, and even more “open and affirming” Episcopal, Unitarian, and United Church of Christ congregations.
Yet these churches represent more than the spiritual side of Alabama’s gay community; they act as its political center. Since 1969, when the rebellion at New York’s Stonewall Inn gave rise to the modern gay rights movement, gay communities across the country have fought for equal rights mostly through secular organizations. But, in Alabama, where 78 percent of residents identify themselves as born-again Christians, these churches are at the forefront of the gay rights movement. [...]
To be sure, secular organizations contribute greatly to Alabama’s gay rights movement. Equality Alabama reaches 2,000 people through its e-mail list and has experience lobbying the legislature that the churches lack. But, with just a handful of gay-friendly representatives in the state parliament, its influence is limited. In Alabama, where there are more than 8,000 same-sex couples--four times the number in Vermont, which became the first state to grant civil unions in 2000--the fundamental problem is invisibility. “I had my own legislator tell me there were no gay people in his district,” Fontaine says. According to one Covenant member, “Many [gay] people still believe what they were taught--that we’re unworthy of God’s love and that we’re second-class citizens.”
The church, however, convinced fellow church member Luwanna Rhodes to speak up. “Several years ago, I never thought I would be political,” she says. “But as I’ve grown spiritually and realized that God is OK with who I am, I can be a voice for people that are not able to come out.” With that mustard seed, a new kind of gay activism is taking root across the state of Alabama.
NBC: No gay Heroes
An article on AfterElton.com by Brian Juergens prompted an NBC publicist to notify readers that Zach, Thomas Dekker’s character on the NBC show Heroes, is not gay. The article theorizes that either Dekker’s management or NBC itself pulled the plug on any story lines that would involve addressing Zach’s sexual orientation.
The network has come under fire for portraying the character as a gay teen in a small town, specifically on his MySpace Web page where he declares his sexual orientation as “not sure.”
Zach is the sidekick to Texas high school cheerleader Claire Bennet, played by Hayden Panettiere. He seems relatively unphased by his peers’ gay-baiting but never admits to being gay or straight.
The show’s creator, Tom Kring, responded in an e-mail to the claims, saying that he regrets that the character seemed to be gay because he is not.
“We apologize for misleading the audience and wish that we could have handled things better on our end,” Kring wrote. “But making a TV show is often a very imprecise business. As you stated, Heroes is a big sprawling drama, and there is no reason to believe that a gay character will not be represented on our show in the future. It is my hope that if we do, we do it with honesty and dignity. That will certainly be our attempt.”
From the AfterElton.com post:
An NBC publicist told AfterElton in a phone conversation that Zach “is not gay”, that it was something that was “for sure” and “in all certainty.” AfterElton contacted NBC for confirmation after being told by Thomas Dekker’s management (Dekker plays Zach), the character of Zach is absolutely straight.
For those that have followed the show closely and taken even a cursory look at NBC’s marketing efforts around the show (which have repeatedly insinuated, implied and led most viewers to believe that the character is gay), this is interesting-and troubling-news. READ ON
Via Gay News Blog.
Holiday drinking. And driving.
I’m on record as believing that the drinking age should be lowered. Last night’s conversation with my nieces and nephews could call that belief into question, if not for the fact that they’re all of age.
The tales they tell! But then, it was revealed, I have some of my own.
So this morning my niece sent this:
If you need any more reasons not to drink and drive, consider this: A driving-under-the-influence conviction is a financial wrecking ball. A typical DUI costs about $10,000 by the time you pay bail, fines, fees and insurance, even if you didn’t hit anything or hurt anybody.
The penalties are intended to be discouraging. Alcohol played a role in nearly 40% of U.S. automobile fatalities in 2005. That’s 16,885 deaths, a figure nearly unchanged over the past decade, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Hardly a statistician, I don’t know, does that mean things have gotten somewhat better because there are more people on the road so fewer deaths per capita? Per mile driven? Whatever, it doesn’t sound good.
Living in NYC, I would get in a cab or take the subway. Now I’m always the designated driver and most everyone in my peer-group designates one too. But it doesn’t look to me like the problem is age, or that financial and criminal penalties are working.
I’d be likely to support ignition interlock breath alcohol devices required - like seat belts and air bags - on all vehicles. Requiring them only of those convicted is too little too late, will lead to more innocent pleas (and more rich lawyers) and more poor people convicted.
The pervasiveness of the devices will improve their performance, drop the price, and reveal to the medicated teetotaler that they shouldn’t be on the roads either.
32” flat panel HDTV
I want one. $500 is my price point (remember, I live on a state salary). We’re getting darned close!
Guns & bloggers
Digby’s commentary from last night - “you have idiots making policy about things of which they don’t even have a basic understanding” - concludes with this important juxtaposition. From CNet:
Cathy Milhoan, an FBI spokeswoman, said on Friday that the FBI “continues to support data retention. We see it as crucial in advancing our cyber investigations to include online sexual exploitation of children.”
Other data,though, not so much. Remember this?
March 8, 2005
Dozens of terror suspects on federal watch lists were allowed to buy firearms legally in the United States last year, according to a Congressional investigation that points up major vulnerabilities in federal gun laws.
People suspected of being members of a terrorist group are not automatically barred from legally buying a gun, and the investigation, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, indicated that people with clear links to terrorist groups had regularly taken advantage of this gap.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials and gun control groups have voiced increasing concern about the prospect of a terrorist walking into a gun shop, legally buying an assault rifle or other type of weapon and using it in an attack.
The G.A.O. study offers the first full-scale examination of the possible dangers posed by gaps in the law, Congressional officials said, and it concludes that the Federal Bureau of Investigation ‘’could better manage’’ its gun-buying records in matching them against lists of suspected terrorists.
F.B.I. officials maintain that they are hamstrung by laws and policies restricting the use of gun-buying records because of concerns over the privacy rights of gun owners.
LATER: James Joyner says the requirement is hardly an onerous one; Red State sees it as an attempt to score some cheap points with the GOP base.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
An inappropriate hug from a 4-year-old?
I thought this had to be a hoax:
WACO, Texas - School administrators gave a 4-year-old student an in-school suspension for inappropriately touching a teacher’s aide after the pre-kindergartner hugged the woman.
A letter from La Vega school district administrators to the student’s parents said that the boy was involved in “inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment” after he hugged the woman and he “rubbed his face in the chest of (the) female employee” on Nov. 10.
They later changed the offense to “inappropriate physical contact;” it’s disturbing nonetheless.
Via Capt. Fog.
Reinventing research journals
Despite the arrival of the internet and multimedia, the scientific paper looks remarkably like it did 50 years ago. My thesis is that despite most journals having an electronic version, the information age is yet to hit journals in a major way. We are still at the beginning of transformation of medical journals; and yet, I believe, they cry out to be transformed. [...]
First, I don’t think that it makes any sense to continue with paper copies of research articles. Instead of the “quasi-legal” document that is the current scientific article, we should be moving to full data being available on the web together with the software that might have been used to manipulate the data, as well as multimedia presentations to back up the data. [...]
If an absence of peer review (or post-publication review, as I call it) is a step too far, then we should have an author (or rather funder) pays model. These fees could support a peer review mechanism, which should be open in that both authors and readers would know who was reviewing studies. It’s ethically unacceptable that such important judgements should be made an unidentified judge. [...]
At present credit comes from publishing in prestigious journals. Often the impact factor of the journal (a dubious and manipulated statistic) is allocated to the paper, which is wholly unscientific because there is little correlation between the citations to studies and the impact factor of the journals in which they are published, because the impact factor of a journal is driven by a small number of highly cited studies (Seglen, 1997). In the new world I’m imagining, credit would come from the buzz from researchers and hits on the study. These hits can be disclosed in real time, unlike citations, which come years after studies are published.
Via IFTF’s Future Now.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
My little town’s still there
Roosterville, Hemp, and Cloudland are also among the nearly 500 towns removed from the state’s official map, nuked because mapmakers say there isn’t enough room to fit ‘em all. Creative typography could help—mapmaker Rand McNally won’t be killing these communities off, because their map designers use varying font types and sizes. It’s also nice to know this problem need not exist with digital maps
Here’s the AP story. I’m in PA this week, NYC next week. I’m confident that my town, the antebellum capital, will still be on the maps when I get home.
The Christian Embassy & The Pentagon
GUY RAZ: The Pentagon’s outer ring of corridors is called the E-ring and if you’re an important functionary or military chief, you get an office in the E ring. If you’re really important, you get an office in the E ring with a view of the Potomac, like the defense secretary.
Now if you’re really, really important inside the important place that is the E ring, you get access to the Pentagon’s executive dining room. And early every Wednesday morning, the executive dining room is turned into a breakfast prayer hall run by a private evangelical group called the Christian Embassy. It’s a group that is lucky enough to have an office inside the Department of Defense.
Here’s a recording of a recent prayer breakfast held in that dining room. The speaker is a prominent evangelical minister, James Kennedy.
Mr. JAMES KENNEDY (Christian Embassy Prayer Breakfast): And I often thought that the only reason anybody would not accept the gift of eternal life and Christ was either they hadn’t heard of it or they were insane.
RAZ: Insane is precisely how Mikey Weinstein would describe that prayer breakfast you just heard, not because it happened, but because it happened at taxpayer expense inside the Pentagon. So Mikey Weinstein and his group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is on a - well, a crusade.
Mr. MIKEY WEINSTEIN (Military Religious Freedom Foundation): To try to wake the American people up to understand that we apparently have a radicalized evangelical Christian Pentagon within the rest of the Pentagon.
RAZ: Mikey Weinstein is a lawyer and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. His dad was a career naval officer. His two sons are cadets at the Air Force Academy now, and one is off to Iraq in a month. He’s preparing a possible class action lawsuit against the Pentagon for allowing what he calls -
Mr. WEINSTEIN: The creation of a theocracy of a particular fundamentalist perspective within our own military branches.
I wish Mikey Weinstein and the folks at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation well.
Consider the lobster
Today was my first exposure to David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, his August 2004 feature on the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet magazine. Now, I hate to admit it but I am one of those who always believed the myth that Lobsters feel no pain. Turns out, duh, being boiled hurts:
Cooking live lobsters does not result in a quick and painless death. “According to marine zoologists,” Wallace writes, “it usually takes lobsters between 35 and 45 seconds to die in boiling water.”
He also notes, “However stuporous the lobster is from the trip home, for instance, it tends to come alarmingly to life when placed in boiling water. If you’re tilting it from a container into the steaming kettle, the lobster will sometimes try to cling to the container’s sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof.”
Lobsters suffer from the minute they are trapped until the last agonizing seconds of their lives. Like other animals used for food, lobsters are torn from their natural habitat and transported long distances. “They come up alive in the traps,” Wallace writes, “are placed in containers of seawater, and can, so long as the water’s aerated and the animals’ claws are pegged or banded to keep them from tearing one another up under the stresses of captivity, survive right up until they’re boiled.”
Wallace confesses that he has “not succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system” in which eating lobsters is morally defensible. “[A]fter all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot. Standing at the stove, it is hard to deny in any meaningful way that this is a living creature experiencing pain and wishing to avoid/escape the painful experience.”
His piece is a great read. READ IT
Slate says NYC Health Board bungled transgender birth certs
Last week, New York City’s Board of Health scuttled a proposal that would have given people more freedom to change the sex on their birth certificate. The proposed plan would have been the first in the country to permit individuals to declare a gender without making any anatomical changes. But before it could get off the ground, the plan spawned a furor. In failing to anticipate that backlash, the board did a significant disservice to the transgender community. [...]
If it had enacted the new proposal, New York City would have again gone where no jurisdiction has before. Under the plan, an individual who is over 18 can change her sex so long as she 1) has changed her name; 2) has “lived in the acquired gender for at least two years”; and 3) has submitted “two affidavits, demonstrating ... full transition to and intended permanence in ... her acquired gender.” One affidavit must come from a physician licensed in the United States who has demonstrated at least “two years experience ... related to transgender treatment.” The other must come from a mental-health professional with similar experience.
As a New York Times article observed, the new law sought to reflect a better understanding of the transgender community. Many transgender individuals do not have the funds to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, which has been estimated to cost between $10,000 and $20,000. Other people cannot have surgery for health reasons. Perhaps most importantly, many do not feel they need to have surgery to redefine their gender, which they understand to be more than the sum of their physical parts. As City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden recognized, “Surgery versus nonsurgery can be arbitrary.”
All of which sounds enlightened. But the health department, surprisingly, did not anticipate the wave of practical concerns that surfaced when the plan was publicized. These included the worry that the plan would conflict with rules adopted by New York state, or possible new federal rules, concerning identification documents. Reservations were also voiced by institutions like hospitals, jails, and schools, which routinely segregate according to sex. These concerns led the Board of Health to withdraw the proposal, settling instead for a minor amendment permitting individuals to change, rather than to delete, the sex on their certificate after surgery. “This is something we hadn’t thought through, frankly,” said Dr. Frieden. “What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond just what the birth certificate shows.”
That may be what the good doctor said but I’m not entirely sure that’s the truth of what happened. A friend was closely involved in this issue; I’ll be in New York next week. I’ll wonder then what the real story is.
Monday, December 11, 2006
The Southern Cross
I don’t know enough about the rebel flag. Today I learned more. Ken Burns speaking with Campus Progress last spring:
I’m always astounded by the prevalence of confederate flags and confederate memorabilia in the South and the frequent controversy that surrounds the issue. As a someone who is tremendously knowledgeable about the Civil War and as a Northerner, what do you make of that? Do you consider it a symbol of racism?
A lot of my relatives fought for the confederacy, but some fought for the north as well. First of all, the Civil War was, in addition to the biggest thing that has ever happened within this country by far, a deeply psychological event. There is an ultimate paradox at its heart, that in order to become one we kind of tore ourselves in two. Before the Civil War, when we referred to our country we said the United States “are,” and now we say ungrammatically the United States “is.” So the war in a funny way made us a one thing. We used to speak of a union and then we became a nation. A union is a collection of things and a nation is one thing. So there are deeply important psychological issues that continue to reverberate about the Civil War.
But the point you bring up about the confederate flag is a hugely disturbing thing. The confederate flag was adopted by many of the states as their flag, not before the Civil War, not during the Civil War, or not even in the immediate period afterwards, that much misunderstood period called Reconstruction. Those flags were instituted in the 1950’s and there’s only one thing that happened in the 1950’s that would have caused the southern states to add the confederate flag. They took one of the battle flags, and it wasn’t even the most popular confederate battle flag, and made it the symbol of segregation and resistance to civil rights and codified it in their flags. In that regard I find that the enthusiasm for the confederate flag today is both misplaced, misunderstood, and absolutely a symbol of racism.
[T]he ”Southern Cross” was the naval jack of the Confederacy, not the official flag. Georgia went through a controversy some years back when it removed the Confederate flag from the state flag, but the flag they have now is actually closer to the original Confederate flag
Another gay pastor in Colorado
If this keeps up Dobson and the ex-gay crowd will have plenty of practice. And we’ll all have more evidence that ya’ are what ya’ are:
In a tearful videotaped message Sunday to his congregation, the senior pastor of a thriving evangelical megachurch in south metro Denver confessed to sexual relations with other men and announced he had voluntarily resigned his pulpit.
A month ago, the Rev. Paul Barnes of Grace Chapel in Douglas County preached to his 2,100-member congregation about integrity and grace in the aftermath of the Ted Haggard drugs-and-gay-sex scandal.
Now, the 54-year-old Barnes joins Haggard as a fallen evangelical minister who preached that homosexuality was a sin but grappled with a hidden life.
State reliance on religion
“The state has literally established an Evangelical Christian congregation within the walls of one of its penal institutions, giving the leaders of that congregation, i.e., InnerChange employees, authority to control the spiritual, emotional and physical lives of hundreds of Iowa inmates,” Judge Pratt wrote. “There are no adequate safeguards present, nor could there be, to ensure that state funds are not being directly spent to indoctrinate Iowa inmates.”
InnerChange, which has been widely praised by corrections officials and politicians, operates similar programs at prisons in Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Arkansas and, by next spring, Missouri. Officials in those states are monitoring the Iowa case, but several said they believed their programs were sufficiently different to survive a similar challenge.
The full article persuasively reports that “a growing number of programs use tax dollars to pay for religious activities aimed at prisoners, recovering addicts, job seekers, teenagers and children.”
I’m really not so upset about this on religious grounds, though it clearly is the state offloading an obligation to religious organizations and sanctioning the religious message in the process.
I am bugged by the state’s abdication of its obligation to address the issue of what happens to an imprisoned human population. We’re locking up more people than ever and not giving nearly enough thought to the consequences.
As to God, I have no objection to God playing a role in an individual’s restoration. But from a state point of view that God must be the AA version, a God you choose freely from “your own conception.”
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Same sex unions recognized around the world
While state after state in the United States closes its doors to the prospect of same-sex marriage, lesbian and gay relationships have been gaining acceptance in the rest of the world.
Last month, South Africa joined the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Spain in opening civil marriage to same-sex couples, allowing them equal economic benefits, legal rights and social status as families. The law, passed by an astounding 230-41 margin in Parliament, was in response to an equally notable unanimous decision last year by the South African Constitutional Court. It ruled that the post-apartheid constitution ensures the dignity and equality of all people—and that includes lesbian and gay couples wishing to affirm their love and commitment through civil marriage.
Days afterward, when faced with five Israeli lesbian and gay couples who had married in Canada, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the government is required to officially register them as they would any other foreign marriage. [...]
Denmark in 1989 became the first nation to legally recognize same-sex relationships, and Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland swiftly followed. Much of Europe, including France, Germany, Portugal and Hungary, now recognizes same-sex partnerships for a range of purposes, including inheritance, property and social-benefits rights. Countries in formerly communist blocs—the Czech Republic and Slovenia—recognize partnerships, and Croatia has extended some economic benefits to same-sex couples.
In September, the Senate in Uruguay voted 25 to 2 to pass a broad partnership law, positioning that country to be the first Latin-American nation to extend legal rights when it is passed by the full legislature. New Zealand’s and Australia’s domestic-partnership laws allow some of the most important benefits, such as immigration, inheritance and property rights. In Brazil, Argentina, Italy and Switzerland, some economic and legal rights have been extended by city and regional authorities. Just last month, Mexico City broke ground as the first government entity in Mexico to recognize same-sex civil unions.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
RIP: Pre-roll ads
Pre-roll ads are going the way of popups and other intrusive ads. They won’t be around in a couple years. And the online video services that use them to monetize their audience won’t be around either.
Because the thing you have to understand about digital media is its pervasive and abundant. There is always somewhere else to get the same thing. Digital is write once, read everywhere. Digital media is like a virus. It spreads like crazy.
So if you want to build a business around digital media, you have to be the best place to view/consume the media. Being the only place to see it is a naive strategy that won’t work. You have to make digital media easy to find, easy to watch/listen/view, easy to comment/tag/share, and easy to replicate/reblog/republish.
That’s the way two way media works. If you don’t understand/accept that, get out of the business because you’ll be out of it sooner or later.
He’s ok with post-rolls. Me too. He says mid-rolls may have a chance. I hope not. More from Online Media Daily.
Social conservatives discover Romney’s gay rights record
So finally they notice:
Gov. Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts Republican who has built a presidential campaign on a broad appeal for conservative support, is drawing sharply increased criticism from conservative activists for his advocacy of gay rights in a 1994 letter.
Mr. Romney’s standing among conservatives is being hurt by a letter he sent to the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts saying that he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Senator Edward M. Kennedy, his opponent in a Senate race, in a position that stands in contrast to his current role as a champion of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
“We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,” Mr. Romney wrote in a detailed plea for the support of the club, a gay Republican organization.
The circulation of the letter by gay rights groups in recent weeks has set off a storm of outrage among social conservatives, and by Friday was looming as a serious complication to Mr. Romney’s hopes. [...]
“This is quite disturbing,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who had praised Mr. Romney as a champion of traditional values at the group’s conference in late September. “This type of information is going to create a lot of problems for Governor Romney. He is going to have a hard time overcoming this.”
Paul Weyrich, a founder of the modern conservative movement, said: “Unless he comes out with an abject repudiation of this, I think it makes him out to be a hypocrite. And if he totally repudiates this, you have to ask, on what grounds?”
I love Sears
There are no Sears stores in Manhattan. I lived there for nearly 30 years without one; and never missed it (though I did once make a trip to Newport Centre - and never returned).
Here I love Sears, even though I have to drive an hour to Macon to find one. Our local K-Mart has yet to make the switch to a Sears Grand. I’m still hoping.
I like Craftsman and Kenmore and Lands End and today found yet another reason to love Sears. No it’s not the out-of-stock George W. Bush Elite Force Aviator 12” action figure.
In an email alert to AFA members chairman Donald E. Wildmon says “Sears advertising is financing LOGO’s push to legalize homosexual marriage in addition to promoting the homosexual lifestyle.”
Wildmon says Sears ads will appear on shows like “Sex 2K Drag Kings,” “The Gayest and Greatest of 2006,” and “Transgeneration.”
He is urging members of the conservative Christian group to email Sears asking the retailer to cancel their advertising on LOGO and to “call your local Sears store and ask why Sears is supporting the homosexual network with its advertising.”
Let’s all watch for the boycott announcement together now shall we?
Ubuntu for non-geeks
I just have to find the time to rebuild my home-office system with Ubuntu Linux. Until them, I’m all talk. But Cory’s already done it, and he urges all of us to take the plunge:
GNU/Linux is a many-headed beast. Remember that free software gets written when a programmer has an itch to scratch. Sometimes a group of geeks will get fed up with a clunky way of installing software, or editing a text file, or configuring your WiFi, and just hack up an entirely new way of doing it. Much of the time, the new way is better, or at least not worse, and that’s great.
But this also means that there are sixty-leven ways of doing anything, from renaming your hard drive to setting your network up. And when you find a cool tool or the right fix online, half the time it seems to rely on you knowing how to do something that you haven’t encountered yet.
Moreover, the essential Unix philosophy is do nothing until your owner tells you to—plugging in new hardware doesn’t necessarily trigger a “helpful” dialog box offering to predict what you intend to do with your widget and make it so. This has its good points, but if you don’t know how to get a drive mounted already, it can be a little bewildering, not to mention frustrating. Ubuntu does a pretty good job with some hardware, but it’s not consistent with my expectations after a lifetime of MacOS computing.
Enter Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks. It reads like one of David Pogue’s excellent Missing Manual books—a fast, crystal-clear topical tour of the amazing collective accomplishment embodied in Ubuntu. I learned something new in every chapter, and ended up with a computer that did more of what I wanted it to do, faster.
This book should come with every Ubuntu Live CD—it’s just the documentation I needed to take some of the mystery out of my machine.
Define illegal pose
CNet’s report on the McCain “Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act” requiring website to report illegal images, linked to another story about an Alabama man indicted as a child pornographer for photos of fully clothed teens:
In a federal indictment announced this week, the U.S. Department of Justice accused Pierson, 43, of being a child pornographer--even though even prosecutors acknowledge there’s no evidence he has ever taken a single photograph of an unclothed minor.
Rather, they argue, his models struck poses that were illegally provocative. “The images charged are not legitimate child modeling, but rather lascivious poses one would expect to see in an adult magazine,” Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Alabama, said in a statement.
So what’s a lascivious pose?
In a 1986 case called U.S. v. Dost, a federal judge suggested a six-step method to evaluate the legality of images. Here’s an excerpt from the opinion:
1. Whether the focal point of the visual depiction is on the child’s genitalia or pubic area.
2. Whether the setting of the visual depiction is sexually suggestive.
3. Whether the child is depicted in an unnatural pose, or in inappropriate attire, considering the age of the child.
4. Whether the child is fully or partially clothed, or nude.
5. Whether the visual depiction suggests sexual coyness or a willingness to engage in sexual activity.
6. Whether the visual depiction is intended or designed to elicit a sexual response in the viewer. [...]
That leaves judges and juries faced with the difficult task of making distinctions between lawful and unlawful camera angles and facial expressions--an exercise that proves to be impossible to do without running afoul of the First Amendment.
“How do we distinguish pictures like these (on child modeling sites) from the everyday photos that our culture tolerates and even prizes?” said Adler, the NYU law professor. “For instance, who’s modeling in Vogue? A lot of those people are 15 and in scantily clad or suggestive photos.”
McCain bill to require Web sites to remove sex offender profiles
Millions of commercial Web sites and personal blogs would be required to report illegal images or videos posted by their users or pay fines of up to $300,000, if a new proposal in the U.S. Senate came into law.
The legislation, drafted by Sen. John McCain and obtained by CNET News.com, would also require Web sites that offer user profiles to delete pages posted by sex offenders. [...]
Internet service providers already must follow those reporting requirements. But McCain’s proposal is liable to be controversial because it levies the same regulatory scheme--and even stiffer penalties--on even individual bloggers who offer discussion areas on their Web sites.
“This constitutionally dubious proposal is being made apparently mostly based on fear or political considerations rather than on the facts,” said Kevin Bankston, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Peter Gabriel on Camera Power
From Ted Talks:
Musician and activist Peter Gabriel is co-founder of the international human-rights organization Witness, which provides tools, technology and training to ordinary citizens in order to prevent injustice. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 14:50)
Via Lost Remote.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
CWA, Mary Cheney, Barbie & the transgender menace
I saw your diary yesterday about conservative reaction to Mary Cheney’s pregnancy and I think you overlooked a really interesting milestone.
Now that the Concerned Women for America apparently has a woman spokeperson, the whole of the transgender part of the LGBT movement is going to need to recalibrate. I felt so much joy being accused of “gender confusion” by the men at Concerned Women for America, which was done several time with no apparent irony.
This is really a great advance. Maybe I won’t be so gender confused now that women speaking for CWA are actually women.
For a delicious sampling of what Mara’s referring to, let’s remember Barbie the transgender menace. Last January Bob Knight, Director of CWA’s Culture and Family Institute, was shocked to find an “I don’t know” answer option to an “are you a boy or a girl” question on the Barbie doll website.
With “policy analyst” Martha Kleder he parses the acronym LGBT ("and some of them add Q [for questioning]") to explain the “homo-sexual activist agenda” to his listeners. “This transgender movement is very dangerous,” he warns:
MARTHA: Well Bob obviously things could get a lot worse but we wanted to alert our listeners to the fact that the Barbie.com website might not be safe for surfing for young girls…
BOB: ...It’s really steering girls away from the idea of womanhood as predominantly, in terms of Christians, serving the lord, getting married, having kids, you know, building a home. You don’t see any of that with Barbie… Barbie’s suspect to begin with but once they start throwing this transgender question at little girls they’ve really crossed the line.”
More of the gay-friendly Romney
Bay Windows excerpts its Aug. 25, 1994 interview with Mitt Romney:
“I feel that as a society and for me as an individual, it’s incumbent on all of us to respect one another, regardless of our differences and beliefs, our differences in sexual orientation, in race and that America has always been a place, and should be a place, to welcome and tolerate people’s differences.
“I personally feel and one of my core beliefs is that we should accept people of all backgrounds and recognize everyone as a brother and a sister because we are all part of the family of man.” [...]
“I think the gay community needs more support from the Republican Party and I would be a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts.”