aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, March 26, 2007
The Onion News Network
Let’s hope the network’s better than the promo.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Wolfgang Puck steps up to the animal welfare plate
The NYTimes has an editorial supporting Wolfgang Puck’s decision to use products only from animals raised under strict humane standards in all of his culinary businesses:
Mr. Puck is not the first chef and restaurateur to decide to forgo factory-farmed meat and eggs. You can find a few restaurants upholding these standards in nearly every major American city. But Mr. Puck runs an empire, not a restaurant. His outreach is enormous, and so is his potential educational impact. In fact, he has come late to this decision, perhaps because it affects a corporation, not the menu of a single restaurant.
For one thing, Mr. Puck’s new standard will help correct a misimpression. Many diners assume that most of the cruelty in factory farming lies in producing foie gras and veal. But Americans consume vastly more chicken, turkey, pork and beef than foie gras and veal, and most of the creatures those meats come from are raised in ways that are ethically and environmentally unsound. Until recently, most Americans have been appallingly ignorant of how their food is produced. That is changing. And Mr. Puck’s gift for showmanship will help advance Americans’ knowledge that they can eat well and do right all at the same time.
Fired for sex change. Update.
I’d rather if he had been able to keep his job. But in our modern world, his best option is to write a book. And sue.
LARGO - The door closed Friday night for Steve Stanton.
Largo’s city commission voted 5-2 to uphold its Feb. 27 decision to begin the firing process for its city manager. After listening to six hours of presentations and public comment during Stanton’s appeal, all seven commissioners repeated their earlier votes.
Stanton said he was fired because he revealed his plans to become a transgendered woman named Susan.
He would not say, though, whether he planned to file a lawsuit against the city. Stanton was asked if he was disappointed.
“I am,” he said. “But it shows the difficulty of evaluating this type of situation. I was optimistic, but realistic that it would be hard to slow down the train. It is closure. And it was an opportunity to inform and educate people. They listened to information they did not have the first time.”
He had served well for 14 years. This is modern bigotry pure and simple. It’s tragic and sad.
Incremental progress against don’t ask, don’t tell
In a March 13 press briefing, in response to a question about what gay servicemembers serving in Iraq should take from General Pace’s comments on gays and morality, Dan Bartlett said, “ the President appreciates the sacrifice and service of every service member.”
The Bay Area Reporter now tells us that:
Steve Ralls was stunned. The spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, the leading group working to repeal DADT, said, “As far as I’m aware, this is the first time the Bush White House has said they appreciate the sacrifice of gay troops.”
“In late February, after Congressman [Marty] Meehan re-introduced his repeal legislation, Tony Snow said, ‘We’ll wait and see what Congress comes up with,’ when asked if the president would support the bill. That wasn’t a flat no, and I had to read that transcript twice, too!” Ralls added.
SLDN also released the latest of its annual reports on DADT. It showed that 612 service members were kicked out of the military under the policy during fiscal year 2006. That is down from 742 in 2005. The total number has ebbed each year since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, when it was more than twice as large as today.
“The Pentagon’s data shines a bright light on the hypocrisy of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said SLDN Executive Director C. Dixon Osburn. “When military leaders need the talent, skills, and qualifications of gay personnel, dismissals decline. The Pentagon’s own data shows that, during times of war, when unit cohesion is most important, fewer gay troops are dismissed. The ban on their service, and not their service itself, is what erodes cohesion most.”
RELATED: Pam’s House Blend blogged last night’s SLDN 15th Annual National Dinner and Clarence Page’s Don’t ask, don’t tell—and don’t leave column from yesterday.
Waiting for news of Julie Amero
Rick Green has a piece in The Hartford Courant telling the whole sad story of the Connecticut substitute teacher convicted and awaiting sentencing for exposing children to porn on a classroom computer. She’s scheduled to be sentenced this week:
The school district and police department are not talking. Returning a call Friday morning, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane declined to comment about the case.
But Kane, [assistant state’s attorney David] Smith and others connected to the case have been deluged - and widely ridiculed - by computer security experts who say critical evidence was not considered and officials are now searching for ways to avoid Thursday’s sentencing. The state’s attorney’s office in Norwich is reconsidering its aggressive prosecution of Amero, sources close to the case say.
Smith, whose persuasive arguments convinced the jury of Amero’s guilt, would say only that before next Thursday, things “could very well change.”
Amero will ultimately be vindicated. Whether or not she can recover her reputation, the money spent, her emotional health or the two years and two months of her life eaten up by this is another question. But my concern is greater. My concern is this: Amero is not the only one.
Green notes that, “Before blogs, instant e-mail and the omnipresent Internet knitted the world together, Julie Amero might have merely faded away. Her trial generated little publicity beyond the local Norwich Bulletin newspaper, which has accepted Amero’s guilt with little questioning.”
This case shows that when overaggressive law enforcement is combined with limited computer forensics expertise, technophobia and sex panic combine in a toxic mixture to find innocent people guilty. For all the others who have not gotten our attention, this is the plea I’ve appended to all of my Amero posts:
WE NEED A COMPUTER FORENSICS INNOCENCE PROJECT; a Barry Sheck and Peter Neufeld of the computer forensics world. We need experts who believe in the presumption of innocence and are willing to spend the time it takes to dig through logs, registry entries and hard drives to find exculpatory material when present. This is hardly the first case of its kind and, unfortunately, it’s not likely be the last. Prosecutors who look for - and presume - guilt do selective searches for data supporting guilt; those accused rarely have the resources to pay computer forensics experts to counter that selective evidence.
Amero’s innocence is obvious to most of us on its face. Imagine if there were even just a bit more ambiguity. It wouldn’t make her guilty, but it would leave her a convicted felon and sex offender.
UPDATE: Sentencing has been delayed again, this time until April 26.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
THIS AMERICAN LIFE on Showtime. And the web.
The preview is amazing:
LATER: End of Act I, our reaction, THEY HAVE SUCCEEDED BEYOND MY WILDEST WISHES. The show is visually stunning; beautifully shot; artfully constructed. It didn’t hurt that the first act brings together a number of my interests: cloning, animals, love.
This American Life has a new website. And a new free podcast (I’m not exactly sure how they’re doing it, “We offer each of our radio episodes as a free mp3 for exactly one week, beginning the Monday after broadcast.") The first is titled, ”What I Learned from TV.”
Hillary courts waiters
Last night Hillary Clinton - along with Bill Richardson and Barack Obama - addressed the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas. Jonathan Singer of MyDD:
Sen. Clinton spoke first, highlighting her experience busing tables in her younger years, a comment that elicited a fairly strong response. Clinton’s biggest applause line, however, came when she said she believed the IRS should stop harassing tip earners and start looking into the improper use of loopholes by corporate CEOs.
A waiter in NYC for ten years, I believe that too.
Clickthrough for the audio of all three.
Move On sues Viacom claiming Fair Use
NEW YORK - Activist groups sued the parent company of Comedy Central on Thursday, claiming the cable network improperly asked the video-sharing site YouTube to remove a parody of the network’s “The Colbert Report.”
Although the video in question contained clips taken from the television show, MoveOn.org Civic Action and Brave New Films LLC argued that their use was protected under “fair use” provisions of copyright law.
They said Viacom Inc. should have known the use was legal and thus its complaint to YouTube to have the video blocked amounted to a “misrepresentation” that is subject to damages under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Meanwhile, Dimiti Martin looked at the Viacom YouTube suit on The Daily Show Thursday night:
Friday, March 23, 2007
Damn Cool Canyon
At a damn high price:
The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a tourist attraction, commissioned by the Hualapai Indian tribe, to be opened to the public on March 28, 2007, along the Colorado River on the edge of the Grand Canyon in the U.S. state of Arizona. The Skywalk will be charging $25 per person in addition to other entry fees.
The glass bridge is suspended 4,000 feet (1 219 meters) above the canyon. The bridge’s walls and floor are built of glass 4 inches (10.2 cm) thick. The horseshoe shaped bridge protrudes 65 (20 meters) feet from the edge of the canyon. The Skywalk is able to hold 70 tons of weight, allowing for 800 people weighing 175 lbs. (80 kg) each to stand on the bridge. The allowed capacity, though, will be limited to only 120 persons. All visitors will be provided with shoe covers to protect them from slipping and to prevent scratching of the glass floor.
Hillary 1984 whodunit: How Arianna Unmasked De Vellis
While the rest of media was tripping over themselves to do the same story of the Hillary ad, weeks after it came out, and idly wondering who made it, Arianna dispatched her troops to do real reporting. She said about 30 people were involved at first, making phone calls and digging into what they knew, debunking some leads and following others. Finally, it came down to contacts and a little technology. Arianna said that YouTube revealed nothing about the video’s maker or his account. But the guy apparently left some turkey tracks with his email. And a Huffpo person knew someone who knew someone — and so on — who confirmed the identity of the mysterious video man, Phil De Vellis.
Then Arianna called him. She said he was genuinely surprised and thought he would never be unmasked. She offered him the chance to write a post about what he did and why. After some delay — when he apparently dealt with his employers and become a former employee — he came back and delivered that post.
Arianna is admiring of him. She said he put out a message without any desire for fame. She says he told no lies in the ad.
I look at it differently. I think he hid, the chicken, behind online anonymity. It’s also quite possible that he did his man Obama no favors, as some will think the candidate made this and will think less of him for starting the attacks so early.
But Arianna and I agree that the campaigns, which are all about control, are going to be less and less in control as more people use YouTube and the internet to get their own messages out.
I’m glad to see Jeff critical of De Villis - I quite agree he did Obama no favors. He may even have helped Hillary. He was a paid political operator acting unprofessionally outside of his job; he deserved to be fired.
Yes, yes, yes, he has his freedom of speech. And Blue State Digital has freedom to fire. I wold think he hurt them most.
As to any selfless political expression power-to-the-people points he made, I don’t quite see it. I see this particular “citizen” as particularly well-connected, well-trained and well-equipped.
The rest of us are heading there, but we’re not there yet.
In The New Republic, Cass R. Sunstein & Richard H. Thaler review Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink. Their review, The Survival of the Fattest, is behind a pay wall. An important piece, I quote liberally.
The initial problem is that if we see food, we are likely to eat it, even if we aren’t hungry. People tend to eat whatever is put in front of them. Wansink demonstrates this point through a series of somewhat mischievous experiments, some of which would have been great material for Candid Camera. A few years ago, moviegoers in Chicago found themselves with a free bucket of popcorn. Unfortunately, the popcorn was stale; it had been popped five days earlier and stored so as to ensure that it would actually squeak when eaten. People were not specifically informed of its staleness, but they didn’t love the popcorn. As one moviegoer said, “It was like eating Styrofoam packing peanuts.”
As the experiment was designed, about half of the moviegoers received a big bucket of popcorn and half received a medium-sized bucket. After the movie, Wansink asked the recipients of the big bucket whether they might have eaten more because of the size of their bucket. Most denied the possibility, saying, “Things like that don’t trick me.” But they were wrong. On average, recipients of the big bucket ate about 53 percent more popcorn--even though they didn’t really like it.
Another experiment required some special equipment. People sat down to a large bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup and were told to eat as much as they wanted. Unbeknown to them, the soup bowls were designed to refill themselves (with empty bottoms connected to machinery beneath the table). No matter how much soup the subjects ate, the bowl never emptied. Many people just kept eating until the experiment was (mercifully) ended.
The general rule seems to be, “Give them a lot, and they eat a lot.” Those who receive large bowls of ice cream eat much more than those who get small bowls. If you are given a half-pound bag of M&M’s, chances are that you will eat about half as much as you will if you are given a one-pound bag. The reason is simple: packages “suggest a consumption norm--what it is appropriate or normal to use or eat.” In fact, most people do not stop eating when they are no longer hungry. They look to whether their glasses or plates are empty.
The name game:
Names matter a lot. “Traditional Cajun Red Beans With Rice” is far more popular than “Red Beans with Rice.” You might well order “Home-Style Chicken Parmesan,” even if you would turn up your nose at mere “Chicken Parmesan.” People aren’t terribly enthusiastic about “Zucchini Cookies,” but they will happily eat “Grandma’s Zucchini Cookies.” Not only are people more likely to ask for, and to eat, appealingly named dishes; they will also rate those dishes as tastier. Those who have had restaurant items with the foregoing names are more likely to describe their meals as “great” or “fantastic.” The right names for dishes can even produce more enthusiastic attitudes toward restaurants as a whole, leading people to characterize them as “trendy and up-to-date.” Wansink thinks that if restaurants without particularly good food seek to increase sales, they might choose from a range of effective labels, including the geographic ("Kansas City Barbeque"), the nostalgic ("Classic Old-World Manicotti"), and the sensory ("Hearty Sizzling Steaks"). In this way, Wansink helps to systematize what savvy advertisers already know.
Wansink’s lesson is that “we taste what we expect we’ll taste.” To support this claim, he notes that in the dark, people are willing to believe that chocolate yogurt is strawberry yogurt--and apparently to enjoy it just as if it were strawberry. A military chef found himself with a group of sailors who were tired of eating lemon Jell-O and insisted on getting their favorite flavor, which was cherry. Not having any such Jell-O, he colored lemon-flavored Jell-O red--and the sailors ate it happily. Indeed, even many wine connoisseurs cannot tell the difference between red and white wine when the wine is served in dark, opaque stemware.
Social influences also have a large impact. An especially good way to gain weight is to have dinner with other people. On average, those who eat with one other person eat about 35 percent more than they do when they are alone; members of a group of four eat about 75 percent more; those in groups of seven or more eat 96 percent more. We are also greatly influenced by consumption norms within the relevant group. A light eater eats much more in a group of heavy eaters. A heavy eater will show more restraint in a light-eating group. The group average thus exerts a significant influence. But there are gender differences as well. Women often eat less on dates; men tend to eat a lot more, apparently with the belief that women are impressed by a lot of manly eating. (Note to men: they aren’t.)
Awareness is the first step:
Social influences have a powerful influence in many domains; they greatly affect decisions about how much to drink, whether to stay in school, to bring lawsuits, to take precautions against natural disasters, to support a particular political campaign, to make charitable contributions, and to commit crimes...Much of the time, it is sensible to use those cues. The problem is that Wansink, advertisers, restaurants, and other savvy people can manufacture cues to manipulate us in their preferred directions.
But there is some good news here. As Wansink shows, awareness of our vulnerability to manipulation can provide a degree of inoculation against it. If we want to lose weight, we can insist on small portions, split a main course with our dining partner, aim to eat less than our friends at social occasions, and feel bemused, rather than seduced, by attractively named foods or unnecessarily large portions.
Thaler and Sunstein draw far greater lessons:
The same point holds for government programs involving Social Security, prescription drugs, discrimination, health care, poverty relief, the environment, and much more. Many of these programs ask citizens to make choices while also offering confusing, distressing, or bad signals… Armed with an awareness of the power of contextual cues, many people have been exploring new forms of paternalism, sometimes called “weak” or “thin” or (our preferred term) “libertarian.” The central idea behind libertarian paternalism is that it is often possible for decision architects to steer people toward better decisions (as judged by the decision-makers themselves, not the architects) without restricting freedom of choice.
Via James Joyner, “This is interesting stuff, which undermines the notion that people always make informed choices. Sometimes, we operate on auto-pilot.”
I hope that comment suggests some sympathy for the Libertarian Paternalism argument.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
NBC’s no competitive threat
NBC/Universal think they are launching a “competitor” to YouTube. But all it is a place to stream their own content. It’s funny how little some of these old-school companies understand the internet. YouTube is hugely popular because people can upload their own content, not because they are being force-fed whatever drivel the media companies churn out.
Hillary 1984 whodunit: Less “citizen” than meets the eye
Hi. I’m Phil. I did it. And I’m proud of it.
I made the “Vote Different” ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it--by people of all political persuasions--will follow. [...]
I’ve resigned from my employer, Blue State Digital, an internet company that provides technology to several presidential campaigns, including Richardson’s, Vilsack’s, and—full disclosure—Obama’s. The company had no idea that I’d created the ad, and neither did any of our clients. But I’ve decided to resign anyway so as not to harm them, even by implication.
This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed.
The LATimes on Blue State Digital:
In its statement, Blue State Digital said, “Pursuant to company policy regarding outside political work or commentary on behalf of our clients or otherwise, Mr. De Vellis has been terminated from Blue State Digital effective immediately.”
Blue State Digital was founded by techies who worked on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. It is viewed as one of the top Internet firms working for Democrats.
The company has provided technology, software development and hosting for Obama’s campaign, and one of the firm’s founding partners has taken a leave to work for Obama.
I get that there’s a revolution going on here but this was not just any politically active citizen; this was a professional acting unprofessionally.
Virginia is for virgins
Coming in the NYTimes Book Review this weekend, a review of Virgin: The Untouched History, by Hanne Blank:
When St. Agatha of Sicily refused to give up her virginity to a Roman governor, she had her breasts torn off with pincers, while the equally stalwart St. Lucy was doused with boiling pitch. Lucy turned out to be a kind of heroic virgin Rasputin, because she survived to further spread the word of God, only to have her detractors then slit her throat and pluck out her eyes. Undeterred, with blood gushing from her throat and with her eyeballs in her palms, she continued preaching. I went to Mass regularly for the first 18 years of my life, and they never told us these stories in Sunday school.
Or consider the case of the 16th-century Hungarian countess Erzsebet Bathory, who believed she could preserve her beauty by bathing in the blood of virgins. The first victim, according to Blank, was the countess’s own chambermaid, and 600 more followed, hung upside down like animals before their throats were slit.
Other delicious facts are scattered throughout: Virginia, the first English settlement in North America, was named for Queen Elizabeth I’s most celebrated attribute (which makes me wonder whether the state’s tourism officials want to reconsider whether Virginia really is for lovers).
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Issue the subpoenas! II
BROOKE GLADSTONE: ...a few years ago, two communications professors, Donald Shields and John Cragan, had a hunch that something odd was afoot in justice, so they set out to catalog federal investigations and indictments of some 375 elected officials. Cragan was struck by what he found.
JOHN CRAGAN: What we found is that about seven to 8 out of 10 times they investigated a Democrat over a Republican. And the statistical analysis says that the chances of that happening by random, about one in ten-thousand. There are roughly 50 percent Democrats and 41 percent Republicans and 9 percent Independents nationally, so if they were doing their job, we should have found an investigation rate of that same ratio.
Instead, we found 79 percent Democratic, about 17 percent Republican and the rest of the few percents Independent.
God, gays, Judas and a bloodthirsty God
In his WaPo column today, God and His Gays, Harold Meyerson looks at the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, who wrote in his blog last month that scientific evidence suggests that gays are born that way - but there is biblical justification to use hormonal science to fix them.
Meyerson observes that:
Mohler’s deity, in short, is the God of Double Standards: a God who enforces the norms and fears of a world before science, a God profoundly ignorant of or resistant to the arc of American history, which is the struggle to expand the scope of the word “men” in our founding declaration that “all men are created equal.” This is a God who in earlier times was invoked to defend segregation and, before that, slavery.
This is a God whom vast numbers of this nation’s self-professed believers (not to mention its nonbelievers, such as I) neither heed nor like very much, particularly the young, who in growing numbers support gay marriage and certainly don’t consider gay coupling any more sinful than they do straight coupling.
Meyerson’s reluctance to believe people will accept “the God of Double Standards” reminds me of a Fresh Air interview with religion scholars Elaine Pagels and Karen King about their new book, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity.
These two scholars tell of early Christians’ - on the losing side of history - reluctant to accept the notion of a bloodthirsty God:
Ms. PAGELS: I’d like to go back, too, to the question, you know, why would, you know, finding meaning in the death of Jesus. The fact is that as Karen and I were thinking about it, we realize that this is what all of the gospels do. I mean, these are people after the fact, after the fact of this brutal execution saying, `What does it mean?’ And “gospel” means good news so the question is what kind of meaning can you find in this kind of story, and all of the gospels look for that.
GROSS: Now, if you just look at the gospel of Judas, is Jesus’ body resurrected?
Ms. PAGELS: After the death of Jesus, we know that many people quit the movement because they said they just thought they were wrong. They gave up. Then, as you know, some people said he was alive and the stories about what--how he was alive, some people said he was physically alive, some people said they saw him in a dream or a vision or something like that. And so the stories, many of them in the New Testament suggest that his body came out of the grave and that became what most people think of as the Easter story, you know.
This text takes a very different point of view and says, no, Jesus is alive, yes, but it’s not about a body getting out of a grave. It’s about the spirit that lives even when the body is killed.
GROSS: So, do you think if you were actually able to ask the person who wrote this gospel that they would tell you they did not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?
Ms. PAGELS: Yes, what we love about this text, what is adventurous about looking at gospels like this or the gospel of Mary or the gospel of Thomas, is that they don’t give you the answers that Christians think they expect, like Jesus died for your sins or Jesus rose from the dead, you know, or this kind of thing. They will say, yes, we’re Christians but they take the gospel to mean something quite different and we realize that there were many ways of exploring it, and that’s what we lost when we lost all these other texts.
GROSS: So there’s no reference in the gospel of Judas to Jesus dying for the sins of others?
Ms. PAGELS: Many Christians think that, you know--what does it mean to be a Christian? It means you believe that Jesus died for your sins, that God loves the world and sacrificed Jesus to show how much he loves the world. This is a Christian who says, `Well, what kind of God are you talking about then? I mean, are you saying that God wants to--God will not forgive sins unless his own son is tortured and killed in a horrible way? I mean, is this a bloodthirsty God like those gods that wanted human sacrifice like the Inca gods or something like that? So this author says that’s a horrible picture of God.
Does it suck?
My objection to Comedy Central’s video vs YouTube
I’d like to post last night’s Colbert Report opening monologue (on Stephen’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, Americone Dream). I’d even endure the awful ad implementation to do it, but apparently Viacom’s Motherlode producers don’t think that clip merits inclusion in their “Fresh Stephen” collection.*
Given the Viacom lawsuit and takedown order, I won’t bother searching YouTube. I’m confident that if it were up to fans the clip would be there. So even if Viacom has come up with a nifty new embeddable video player, it doesn’t solve their problem. Their problem is that they don’t trust their fans; they want only to own, control and monetize them. I’m no fan of that.
* If the clip is on the Comedy Central site, that’s another problem. I can’t find it. I’ve never had that problem on YouTube.
LATER: Found it. But can’t figure out how to link to it.
Issue the subpoenas!
...some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials…
I offer two words in response: Whitewater. Impeachment.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Bravo Georgia Democrat David Scott!
Tonight the US House of Representatives defeated an Amendment to the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act of 2007 by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, that would have required 20 hours a week of approved “work activitiesÃ¢â‚¬Â� to receive housing aid.
Think Progress quotes Georgia Democrat David Scott‘s impassioned response to Hensarling:
This amendment is cruel, it is cold, it is calculating, and it is pandering to the schizophrenic dichotomy that has plagued this nation since they first brought Africans on these shores from Africa. And that is the issue of race and poverty. Let me tell you something, gentleman. Where were you, where was your amendment when the Twin Towers were hit and the people in New york suffered that catastrophe? There was no cry before we gave them help. “They got to go get a job.” Everybody was there and poured in help, as they should, the American way. Where was your amendment down in Florida when the hurricanes hit down there? Nobody said, “Make ‘em work before we help them.”
In honor of Ken Starr: a hookah’s not a bong. Re-hashed.
But it does give me reason to recall that I only learned a month or so ago how hookahs work. From an article in Slate on medicinal marijuana:
Marijuana need not be burned to release its medicinal components. When the plant is heated to a degree short of combustion, its active ingredients become vapor and are released without the accompanying smoke.
That’s the secret of the hookah - vaprization! No nasty tar and nicotine. So does that mean when you use a hookah you are not really “smoking?”
No tolerance for gay-tolerant teacher
WOODBURN, Ind. School district officials have suspended the journalism teacher at a Fort Wayne-area high school two months after the student newspaper published a sophomore’s editorial advocating tolerance for homosexuals.
Woodlan Junior-Senior High School teacher Amy Sorrell says she was told yesterday that she had been placed on paid leave while East Allen County School officials review whether her contract should be terminated.
After the editorial ran in the Woodlan Tomahawk’s January 19 issue, school district officials told Sorrell and the newspaper’s staff that Principal Ed Yoder would need to approve all content before future issues were printed. Yoder also gave Sorrell a written warning for insubordination and failing to carry out her responsibilities as a teacher.
In recent weeks, the school corporation has tweaked its student newspaper policy to clarify that the principal of a building is to serve as the publisher of the newspaper and should be familiar with its content before distribution.
The change was primarily in the wording of the policy and does not change the intent, Melin said.
“The principal has the ultimate obligation to know what the content is,” he said. “We’re holding everyone accountable for what’s occurring with student publications. We’re not saying it’s all on the adviser or the students. The principal has the ultimate responsibility, but it’s a shared responsibility of the adviser and principal. That’s why it’s critical that they work together.”
Advance Indians says, “The problem here is the students are actually better informed, more mature and apparently more educated than the people trying to run the school. How sad.”
Pam has the full text of the student editorial.
Without Sanctuary: Photographs and Postcards of Lynching in America
Last week a panel of Georgia lawmakers signed off on a plan to create a Confederate heritage month here in the peach state. This week our Senate put off its resolution apologizing for slavery. Initially expected Monday, now they say maybe later in the week.
In that context I note two posts this week from Andrew Sullivan. One points to a Thinkery post about an art exhibit in Tallahassee depicting the lynching of the confederate flag. The other to the website Without Sanctuary: Photographs and Postcards of Lynching in America.
For some background on the Without Sanctuary photo exhibit - and the book and Emory University conference that was organized around it - see Peter Rachleff’s Lynching And Racial Violence: Histories & Legacies Report From A Conference:
In the 1980s, James Allen, a white southerner sympathetic to the struggle against racism, began to collect these photographs and postcards while making his rounds of antique and junk shops, flea markets, and private dealers across the South. The images captured the horrible history of lynchings in trees, bridges, and towers, and atop bonfires.
He also purchased posed shots of the mobs, their members staring unabashedly into the camera’s lens. As Allen’s collection grew, the idea of exhibiting the images publicly occurred to him, and, in 1999, they made their first appearance in a small museum in New York City--thirty-odd worn snapshots and postcards, collectively titled “Without Sanctuary.”
Viewers had to get close to see the images, and they had to stand close to each other. Waiting lines circled the block, even in cold, wintry weather. The exhibit eventually transferred to the New York Historical Society, where a collection of anti-lynching movement tracts, posters, and materials from the 1890s through the 1930s were added, with notebooks provided for viewers to record their thoughts and emotions.
I’m with those who are ambivalent about an apology. Who needs it; way too little, way too late. I particularly oppose it if it turns out to be nothing but cover - or “balance” - for a Confederate heritage month.
Back in 2005 as the United States Senate was considering its resolution apologizing for slavery - passed that June, not unanimously - Nightline did an excellent piece on lynching. In it Ted Koppel said:
Records can be found for about 5,000 lynchings between 1882 and 1968. The actual number is almost certainly much greater. And the dragging death of a black man, James Byrd jr., by a southern white man in 1998 should serve at least to keep an awareness of lynching alive into the lifetime of every American Adult alive today. For whatever reasons, racial sensitivity, National shame, lack of curiosity, lynching has never received the historical attention it deserves.
An apology is lip service; a national monument better; but still only the least we can do.
Animal Rights v. Animal Welfare
I’ll use the story of the Berlin animal rights activist calling for the death of the zoo-born polar bear to quote again from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Pollan believes “animal rights” is a parochial, urban, ideological and anthropocentric construct (page 325):
It could only thrive in a world where people have lost contact with the natural world, where animals no longer pose any threat to us (a fairly recent development), and our mastery of nature seems unchallenged. “In our normal life,” [Princeton bioethics professor and Animal Liberation author Peter] Singer writes, “there is no serious clash of interests between human and nonhuman animals.” Such a statement assumes a decidedly citified version of “normal life,” certainly one no farmer-indeed, no gardener-would recognize.
The farmer would point out to the vegan that even she has a “serious clash of interests” with other animals. The grain that the vegan eats is harvested with a combine that shreds field mice, while the farmer’s tractor wheel crushes woodchucks in their burrows and his pesticides drop songbirds from the sky; after harvest whatever animals that would eat our crops we exterminate. Killing animals is probably unavoidable no matter what we choose to eat. If America were suddenly to adopt a strictly vegetarian diet, it isn’t at all clear that the total number of animals killed each year would necessarily decline, since to feed everyone animal pasture and rangeland would have to give way to more intensively cultivated row crops. If our goal is to kill as few animals as possible people should probably try to eat the largest possible animal that can live on the least cultivated land: grass-finished steaks for everyone.
The vegan utopia would also condemn people in many parts of the country to importing all their food from distant places. In New England, for example, the hilliness of the land and rockiness of the soil has dictated an agriculture based on grass and animals since the time of the Puritans. Indeed, the New England landscape, with its rolling patchwork of forest and fields outlined by fieldstone walls, is in some sense a creation of the domestic animals that have lived there (and so in turn of their eaters). The world is full of places where the best, if not the only, way to obtain food from the land is by grazing (and hunting) animals on it - especially ruminants, which alone can transform grass into protein.
To give up eating animals is to give up on these places as human habitat, unless of course we are willing to make complete our dependence on a highly industrialized national food chain. That food chain would be in turn even more dependent than it already is on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizer, since food would need to travel even farther and fertility - in the form of manures - would be in short supply. Indeed, it is doubtful you can build a genuinely sustainable agriculture without animals to cycle nutrients and support local food production. If our concern is for the health of nature - rather than, say, the internal consistency of our moral code or the condition of our souls - then eating animals may sometimes be the most ethical thing to do.
More, better, best
Bill McKibben’s Reversal of Fortune in Mother Jones observes that, “Up to a certain point, more really does equal better.”
Apparently that point is $10,000 per capita; money really does buy happiness up to that point - “it’s like the freezing point of water, one of those random figures that just happens to define a crucial phenomenon on our planet.” We in the U.S. passed that point long ago. McKibben’s conclusion, economic growth no longer makes us happier:
If happiness was our goal, then the unbelievable amount of effort and resources expended in its pursuit since 1950 has been largely a waste. One study of life satisfaction and mental health by Emory University professor Corey Keyes found just 17 percent of Americans “flourishing,” in mental health terms, and 26 percent either “languishing” or out-and-out depressed.
The article makes many good points, then concludes with a call for “re-localizing economies” and, for its concluding example, looks at sustainable agriculture:
We assume, because it makes a certain kind of intuitive sense, that industrialized farming is the most productive farming. A vast Midwestern field filled with high-tech equipment ought to produce more food than someone with a hoe in a small garden. Yet the opposite is true. If you are after getting the greatest yield from the land, then smaller farms in fact produce more food.
If you are one guy on a tractor responsible for thousands of acres, you grow your corn and that’s all you can do-make pass after pass with the gargantuan machine across a sea of crop. But if you’re working 10 acres, then you have time to really know the land, and to make it work harder… According to the government’s most recent agricultural census, smaller farms produce far more food per acre, whether you measure in tons, calories, or dollars. In the process, they use land, water, and oil much more efficiently; if they have animals, the manure is a gift, not a threat to public health. To feed the world, we may actually need lots more small farms.
But if this is true, then why do we have large farms? Why the relentless consolidation? There are many reasons, including the way farm subsidies have been structured, the easier access to bank loans (and politicians) for the big guys, and the convenience for food-processing companies of dealing with a few big suppliers. But the basic reason is this: We substituted oil for people. Tractors and synthetic fertilizer instead of farmers and animals. Could we take away the fossil fuel, put people back on the land in larger numbers, and have enough to eat?
The best data to answer that question comes from an English agronomist named Jules Pretty, who has studied nearly 300 sustainable agriculture projects in 57 countries around the world. They might not pass the U.S. standards for organic certification, but they’re all what he calls “low-input.” Pretty found that over the past decade, almost 12 million farmers had begun using sustainable practices on about 90 million acres. Even more remarkably, sustainable agriculture increased food production by 79 percent per acre. These were not tiny isolated demonstration farms-Pretty studied 14 projects where 146,000 farmers across a broad swath of the developing world were raising potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava, and he found that practices such as cover-cropping and fighting pests with natural adversaries had increased production 150 percent-17 tons per household. With 4.5 million small Asian grain farmers, average yields rose 73 percent. When Indonesian rice farmers got rid of pesticides, their yields stayed the same but their costs fell sharply.
“I acknowledge,” says Pretty, “that all this may sound too good to be true for those who would disbelieve these advances. Many still believe that food production and nature must be separated, that ‘agroecological’ approaches offer only marginal opportunities to increase food production, and that industrialized approaches represent the best, and perhaps only, way forward. However, prevailing views have changed substantially in just the last decade.”