31 May 2009

Fun with public records.

Scott Philip Roeder, the suspect in the Dr. Tiller homicide, is no stranger to the courts. Only last month a default civil judgment was lodged against his deadbeat ass, his credit union account was garnished, and it was empty as his fucking head.
The record of filings from his 1996 divorce was um...interesting. The Mrs. filed for divorce subsequent to his arrest for explosives. After divorce was granted, an  "income withholding order" was delivered to "Prophecy Club." I googled them, and they're just all kinds of crazy, but they've got plenty of end-times shit for sale. Roeders' probation on the felony charges was revoked about the same time, (but the explosives charge was overturned on appeal). Father of the Year also contested the court-imposed supervised visitation of his son, but kept blowing off his hearings. That's rarely a winning legal strategy.
There was a lot to cover, but this was my favorite:
An anti-abortion crusader who refuses to support his own kid? Well, of course. The preborn are precious, and Almighty God demands their protection. The born ones? Meh, fuck'em. They're somebody else's problem. That's why God invented orphanages and welfare. 
Except Roeder is one of those "sovereign citizen" douchebags, so between being a bogus "tax protestor" and a sporadically employed deadbeat, he doesn't really pay taxes or recognize the authority of the government — so orphanages and welfare aren't something he even indirectly supports either.
Is it fair to judge his parenting based on a case that's more than 10 years old? Perhaps not.
In 2005 there's a Pennsylvania case. This one involves visitation of a three-year-old girl he produced from another relationship, but again, he has no relationship with the child. He's suddenly decided that he wants to "share his Biblical values" with her. 
His Biblical values.

Words fail.

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The evolutionary advantage of transvestism.

This cracked me up:
In a recent journal article, researchers from the University of Whitwatersrand (South Africa) and the University of Sydney (Australia) reported that young male Augrabies lizards avoid older predatory males by, basically, cross-dressing (pretending to be female by suppressing their extravagant male coloration until they are fully developed and able to defend themselves). Thus, they avoid being attacked and, at the same time, increase their own freedom to hit on females. (They must still be careful, say the researchers, because the older males might whiff their male scent, which cannot be suppressed.) [Agence France-Presse]
Not only did I find the content amusing, I was amused by the editor's gratuitous use of 44 parentheticals to describe the other 47 words. Kudos.
The researchers dubbed the female-appearing males "shemales." The female Augrabies lizards apparently welcomed the shemales into their company, often pairing off to enjoy lunch, shopping, and late-night phone calls where they dish about the appearance of the other lizards.
Okay, I made that last bit up. But I didn't make up this part:
...the immature males took advantage of their ease of approach to the females that their disguise gave them, and actively courted the true females. While they might initially be surprised at the approach, the females are usually not unwilling to mate with the juveniles.
Upon further investigation, the researchers noted that female Augrabies lizards seem to respond enthusiastically to the taste of cherry Chapstick. Even more strangely, this behavior is seen much more frequently during "sweeps week" and undergrad.
For your reference, here's a female and shemale Augrabies lizard. See if you can tell the difference:

29 May 2009

A nation of serfs.

If you had to pay every cent of your healthcare insurance out of your own pocket, could you afford to carry insurance? 
Lose your job, lose your healthcare and abandon all the money you paid into the system forever. Get insured elsewhere and they'll happily take your premiums, but you risk being denied coverage for a claim for "pre-existing condition."
People work jobs they hate or are stuck under abusive bosses just to keep healthcare coverage for themselves or their loved ones because it's otherwise unaffordable. The oppressive expense of healthcare insurance has made us a nation of serfs — and the serfs think they're lucky compared to the poor bastards who aren't even serfs. 
They're right, too. Health insurance is an important benefit that comes with a good job. What's a bad job? One that doesn't have healthcare benefits. Consider this — every time minimum-wage Joe buys a product or service from Corporation, Inc., he's paying toward CI's subsidy of its employee's healthcare. Every time minimum-wage Joe pays a tax, he's paying toward the government's subsidy of its employee's healthcare. Minimum-wage Joe doesn't have health insurance, but he's paying for it anyway.
Why is this so goddam expensive, anyway? If you ask insurance companies, doctors, or hospitals, they'll say "lawyers!" Insurance companies have done a brilliant job of pitting the healthcare industry against lawyers. It's easier and more fun to blame lawyers rather than look inward to discover the incompetent, greedy, or fraudulent practices of one's colleagues. 
Lawyers aren't billing $365 for a pregnancy test or $380 for a bag of saltwater. Lawyers aren't letting people die on the floor after hours in an ER waiting room. Lawyers aren't diluting your chemotherapy meds, leaving hemostats in your abdomen, or prescribing daily adult antidepressants to two-thirds of the elementary school student body. "Well," say the doctors and hospitals, "it's the frivolous claims brought by lawyers that artificially ratchet up our otherwise reasonable costs." Hm, interesting concept, because it's patients who bring lawsuits, lawyers just do the paperwork. Unless the patient is also a lawyer...but you get the idea. No lawyer woke up today and sued a hospital on a lark. In any case, docs and hospitals also employ lawyers to represent them, but I've never heard a doctor or hospital credit lawyers for containing healthcare costs, although every triumph over one of these "frivolous" suits should be considered exactly that. Telling, isn't it?
Some doctors are taking it in the shorts, too. Like healthcare insurance, medical malpractice insurance is expensive and inflationary, and often prohibitively expensive for providers that aren't going to make a shitload of money doing a particular gig. Insurance companies run the same "blame the lawyers" jive to businesses when they demand the annual double-digit employee premium increases too. Then they offer to pay for a "wellness" fair, which gathers a tremendous amount of health info from the employees for use against them subsequently. The insurance company's threats motivate businesses to create policies that dictate what employees can do even when they're not working, and so far no court or legislature has any problem with business' newfound penchant for converting private citizens into corporate property because so far it only affects smokers and fatties, and who gives a shit about them? 
When was the last time you heard about a healthcare or medmal insurer going bankrupt? Meanwhile, medical bills remain the #1 cause of individual bankruptcy filings in the US. 
People have been saying something must be done for a couple of decades. Rather than taking responsibility for their own reform, the healthcare industry has ratcheted up the cash-grab. As long as the money's flowing and politicians are unwilling to challenge a status quo that is very, very good to them, why would they? This is America, Inc. where the object of the game is to pillage harder and faster than the other guy, otherwise he's going to get some poor dumbshit's money before you do.
Beloved and I were talking yesterday about how she expects some movement toward healthcare reform during Obama's first term. I just laughed. The serfs will be persuaded by their insurers to fight against healthcare reform that is in their self-interest. 
The failure to understand the source and extent of one's own power is what makes serfs, serfs.

26 May 2009

It's worse than I thought.

Okay, I've consumed some of the 186-page Prop 8 decision and frankly...I'm just stunned
It's pretty nuts when the court decides a few months ago that there's a constitutional right to marry, then backpedals clumsily thus:

Although the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases generally referred to this state constitutional right as the “constitutional right to marry,” at the same time that opinion explained that this constitutional right is distinct from the right to have one’s family relationship designated by the term “marriage.” [citation omitted]  Because in common speech the term “right to marry” is most often used and understood to refer to an individual’s right to enter into the official relationship designated “marriage,” and in order to minimize potential confusion in the future, instead of referring to this aspect of the state constitutional rights of privacy and due process as “the constitutional right to marry,” hereafter in this opinion we shall refer to this constitutional right by the more general descriptive terminology used in the majority opinion in the Marriage Cases — namely, the constitutional right to establish, with the person of one’s choice, an officially recognized and protected family relationship that enjoys all of the constitutionally based incidents of marriage (or, more briefly, the constitutional right to establish an officially recognized family relationship with the person of one’s choice).

Slipping on my lawyer-to-English decoder ring: 
We previously decided there was a "constitutional right to marry." The "constitutional right to marry" is commonly understood to mean "the right to enter a marriage." When we said there was a "constitutional" and "fundamental" "right to marriage," we did not intend for that to be interpreted as "a constitutional and fundamental right to enter a marriage." Duh! Fortunately, we did not decide there was a constitutional right to call marriage "marriage."  A-ha! So, for the purposes of this opinion, forget we ever said all that crap about "marriage" being a "right." Obviously, we were on crack or something. Hereafter in this opinion, we shall refer to this constitutional right by the more general descriptive terminology, "farfegnugen."
I gotta hand it to the author, he's really tapped into the importance of the romantic commitment underlying the question at bar. I can just imagine how he dealt with the issue in his own life...
Justice Ronald M. George: [kneeling and holding out a ring] Barbara? Will you make me the happiest judge on Earth by entering into an establishment of an officially recognized and protected family relationship where we'll enjoy all the constitutionally based incidents of marriage, or, more briefly, an officially recognized relationship with the person of your choosing which is...me?
Barbara: Ron, are you asking me to marry you?
Justice George: No! Was I somehow unclear?
Okay, getting serious now: a lot of folks are writing that grandfathering the existing marriages is a small victory. This is in no way a victory. This decision is 100% weapons-grade toxic.
When SCOCA decided the Marriage Cases, they did it on Equal Protection grounds. In this case, they've decided the constitution permits unfettered mob rule by initiative; therefore, the majority is free to carve out "exceptions" to the minority's constitutional guarantees and fundamental rights.
As of today, every Constitutional & fundamental right California's gays enjoy is fair game.
Beloved hastens to point out that every minority's rights are now fair game. That's true enough, but every minority is not at risk that a confederacy of religions will attack them.
So to LDS, the Catholics, the Evangelicals, the judges, and all who have labored diligently to prove that "rights" are the privilege of the politically powerful, I salute you:

Some pigs are more equal than others.

Last year, the Supreme Court of California (SCOCA) decided that homosexuals are, for the purposes of California law, a "suspect classification." SCOCA decided that homosexuals met the criteria of being (1) a discrete or insular minority that (2) possess an immutable trait and (3) share a history of discrimination, and (4) are powerless to protect themselves via the political process.
That was a pretty big deal. 
Legally, it means that any time the government treats a suspect class differently, that discrimination is presumptively unconstitutional and requires the court to apply strict scrutiny to the state's action. To overcome the presumption, the government must show that the disparate treatment is (1) legitimate, (2) the least intrusive method possible, and (3) essential for the state's function.
A court that properly applies strict scrutiny on behalf of a suspect class would prevent a government from, I dunno, enforcing a law that Jews may never marry Gentiles. 
It would also prevent the state from enforcing a law that says Jews may not claim certain government benefits, may not teach in public schools, must surrender their real and personal property to the state, must wear identifying badges, must relocate to special compounds, etc. 
Obviously I'm exaggerating. 
No modern Western government with an educated Christian majority would ever do anything that nutty based upon some unfounded mass hysteria that a statistically small, educated, and wealthy minority is determined to undermine society's morals.

25 May 2009


I just have a sign. This is vastly superior.

Let's move forward on a brave horse.

It would seem that Lil Kim got a functional nuke.
Earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, John Bolton wrote, "Despite Kim Jong Il's explicit threats of another nuclear test, U.S. Special Envoy Stephen Bosworth said last week that the Obama administration is 'relatively relaxed' and that 'there is not a sense of crisis.'"
Beauty. It's just a bugfuck lunatic attention whore with nukes. But y'know, don't get up or nothing. Not long ago, Kim snatched a couple of American journalists from the Chinese border, and those gals are scheduled for trial to become bargaining chips early next month. I bet they don't share the administration's sweet mellow groove.
Here's the latest Nork propaganda poster campaign:
Blue: "Let's move forward on a brave horse!"
Flag: "150-Day Battle"
Nice missile there.
UPDATE: Now they're fired a short-range missile, too.
I've been watching the scant news coverage, and it seems that the consensus is the Nork nuke is too big to be delivered by Nork missile technology. 
Perhaps. But know what other kind of delivery technology the Norks possess? Trucks and boats.
One simply cannot ascribe anything remotely approaching rational behavior to the Norks. Sure, the "I'm so ronery" shit is funny, but the Kim is not a buffoon. Most people aren't aware of the tremendously weird shit these Nork freaks have done and continue to do. They don't live on the same planet as the rest of us. 
Hell, I don't think that the God-King Kim is as rational as Saddam was. If Kim faced the imminent annihilation of his country, I'm virtually certain he wouldn't step down and attempt to negotiate his retirement to a luxury estate in the south of France — he'd burn everything. There is no me without Korea, and there is no Korea without me.
Republicans like to point to the diplomatic failures of Democrat administrations, and Democrats like to point to Republican failures. Truth is, virtually all diplomacy with the Norks has been a failure. and The Norks are very accomplished at getting others to do something now in exchange for their promises that they will do something later. Unsurprisingly, when later finally rolls around there's always a "reason" why the Norks decide they don't have to do whatever they promised to. They don't negotiate in good faith — they negotiate to buy time. It worked then, it worked now, and it'll continue to work until sane people dispense with their optimism.
Obama has promised action. North Korea better brace itself for the deployment of a strongly worded letter.
Oh, and China — fuck you for making this shit possible. Fuck you right in the ear.

24 May 2009

Ima sperymentin.

Beloved is a foodie, but not a coffee drinker. I'm a caffeine junkie to the point that I sometimes travel with a tiny package of coffee and a little french press because I'm unwilling to risk the miserable headache if I miss my fix.
At Beloved's behest, tonight I'm cold-brewing coffee for our experimental consumption tomorrow morning.
I've done some research, and although I was not told there would be any math, I believe that with my equipment: 1 1/3 c. ground coffee in 2 2/3 c. water, soaked overnight in a 1 liter french press, should produce a coffee concentrate that can then be diluted for drinking at a 1:4 to 1:6 ratio.
If this goes awry, with any luck I'll also be able to quickly calculate a trajectory which will allow me to take advantage of the moon's gravitational force to slingshot me back into fucking reality.

The arrogant habits of rule.

I swiped that spectacular turn of phrase from a John F. Burns piece in the New York Times called Beneath a British Scandal, Deeper Furies. Burns' article is an examination of a Sunday Telegraph investigation of widespread corruption in the House of Commons.
Ministers of Parliament were cleaning their country estate's moats at taxpayer's expense. Moats! ferfucksake. Trimming hedges around their helipads, buying home theaters, prescription glasses for spouses, insurance for their antiques, a new roof, a duck island for their pond — these entitled bastards thought it was the working public's purpose to pay for their private amenities. Some of these dicks were expensing their relative's apartments, expensing for mortgages that didn't exist, and being repaid double for taxes paid. One jagov was given taxpayer money to run a "constituent office" that was 370 miles from his constituency, and another was paid to hire a chauffeured car to drive him around the bleak slums in his own constituency.
Here's the part that amazed me: among "The Saints" (MPs who are not deemed by the investigation to be gouging) is Hilary Benn, whose government salary is the equivalent of $225,815. Mr. Benn claimed $67,033 over four years for his second home. According to the investigation this is one of the good guys with reasonable expense claims
Wait — what? A guy pulling down a quarter-million annually also needs a massive taxpayer subsidy? Yes of course, because the representative must have a "constituency home" in the area they represent, and a second in London near Parliament. I suppose a modest amount for a practical temporary dwelling is reasonable where commuting is impossible, but some of these assholes already live nearby. Take MP Alan Keen. Mr. Keen expenses his home 20 minutes commute from Parliament. He also expenses another home located...wait for it...nine miles away. 
It seems that nothing is beneath Mr. Keen. He also put his son on the payroll. The UK doesn't have any restrictions on Parliamentarian's nepotism. Get the kids to stuff a few constituent-response envelopes, and suddenly their expenses are converted to public expenses. According to this London Evening Standard report, 30 elected officials shamelessly engage in nepotism — because they can
Mr. Burns writes:
There have been no angry mobs storming the House of Commons, nor much of anything in the way of organized protest. But the mood of anger is palpable in every pub and on every bus and train. It concerns far more than the latest scandal, touching grievances that have been building gradually for at least 30 years — perhaps for nearly a century — about the growth of a self-serving political class, arrogant habits of rule and an inward-looking cadre of senior civil servants, for all of which the most appropriate adjective seems to be “high-handed."
To say the least.
As I read about our cousin's latest scandal I couldn't help but consider our local version of this problem. In Kansas City we have a mayor who, since his election, has decided that he is above the law, and neither bound by his own employment contract nor even the Constitution of Missouri. Having lost the argument in the council, he petulantly removed the Office of the Mayor from City Hall to his private home and also sued the city. More recently, he's just quit attending to his public obligations to pursue his entrepreneurial side-business.
Mayor Funkhouser has done all of this is in his high-handed and mistaken belief that as an elected official, he has the absolute right to engage in virtually any kind of behavior that he may, at his sole discretion, choose to engage in; but particularly in his absolute right to create a co-mayor position for his wife, and a government job for his daughter's summer break.
I admit I gladly voted for Funkhouser because I believed that he would be different from our last imperial mayor who required chauffeurs and bodyguards, and spent her term mostly figuring out ways to transfer taxpayer money to rich private commercial property developers. I also gladly signed the Funkhouser recall petition because the only way he was different was that he was worse.
Despite the Memorial Day holiday, City Hall will be open on Monday for a single purpose: to receive those recall petitions. The organizers claim they'll have enough signatures. I hope they do.
The question then becomes who will succeed to the office? Another member of the self-serving, inward-looking, high-handed political class who fail to even notice their arrogant habits of rule?

22 May 2009

I'm not holding my breath.

California will announce its decision on the constitutionality of Prop 8 on Tuesday, noon CST. Frankly, I'm not optimistic. 
There are some really interesting speculations of what the riot barrier deployments mean, what the Tuesday unveil means, that sort of thing, elsewhere on the innertoobs. It may be terribly relevant, or not. I dunno. I'm just going to focus on the law and the court itself. 
The law is conservative. Courts, even more conservative. Really, really conservative. In the judiciary, a conservative will unblinkingly analyze current social and medical issues in the context of what was normative to conservative jurists two, three centuries ago. A person who, in any other context, would be viewed as "middle-of-the-road" is invariably referred to as "liberal" judge. A genuinely liberal judge is a fucking unicorn, folks.
Courts are not populated with crusading leaders. Courts are populated by academics and the politically connected who have somehow never pissed anyone off. Judges didn't end up involved in the last big civil rights movement by choice, it was by default when the progressive public forced the issue into the courts because the legislatures were unresponsive. Lawyers and judges now take a lot of pride now about what happened then — but that ignores how little the judiciary did for a century or two previously. Racial equality wasn't a judge's fight because judges weren't black. Likewise, judges didn't (don't?) deal with women's issues with any sense of urgency because judges are still mostly male. In short, when they don't have a dog in the fight, social justice issues just ain't what most judges are willing to risk their nice respectable career over. 
I had an awesome professor — a real renaissance woman — who used to routinely say that lawyers are smart, but lazy thinkers. Nothing says "I'm not a big fan of thinking" like the argument, "Uh, we've just always done it this way." This argument is so embarrassingly lame, lawyers had to hide it under Latin so junior high students wouldn't laugh: stare decisis
Obviously, following precedent has its place in terms of not reinventing the wheel in every case; particularly where the original decision was on-point, well-reasoned, of relatively recent vintage, and made by a similarly situated court. When an issue decided the prior year is revisited by the same court, the reasoning underlying any holding should be revisited, even if the holding answers a new question. This is precisely the situation that SCOCA faced with the Prop 8 case.
So, while stare decisis is generally the enemy of progressive social justice cases, in this instance it may be the saving grace of marriage equality in California. Last year, the California Supremes arrived at a decision on the topic by reasoning:
...the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process.
So I suppose there's a glimmer of hope.

21 May 2009


Sara Lampe (D-Springfield), had a problem: some neo-nazi degenerates in her district joined Missouri's Adopt-A-Highway litter abatement program to get their organization's name inscribed on state signs. These knuckledragging toenail-chewers were very proud of it, too. ("NSM Adopt's a Highway." Heh.)
Alas, there is a 2005 SCOTUS case directly on point where the KKK did the same thing, Missouri resisted, and the Klan won*. The degenerates clearly had the law on their side. The Department of Transportation's hands were tied.
Things look bad, but this is where it gets awesome
Undeterred, Rep. Lampe got an amendment placed on the state transportation bill renaming their adopted segment of West Bypass Road the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel Memorial Highway.
Representative Lampe — you are pure gold, madam. 
Fully story here (don't miss the neo-nazi's comments either — much like Christian gay-baiters, they're not motivated by hate — oh no, they're doing it out of love.)
(* the Klan was subsequently dropped from the program for failure to perform, and that stretch of I-55 was subsequently renamed the Rosa Parks Highway.)

20 May 2009

The Audacity of Nope.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is a law and public policy manifestation of two patent falsehoods:
1. A characteristic unrelated to job performance of a small percentage of military personnel must be presumed to undermine the job performance of all other personnel whether or not that is the actual situation.
2. Requiring a small percentage of personnel to continually deceive their colleagues and superiors is essential to high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion.
Even the author of DADT, Professor Charles Moskos, admitted in a magazine interview that #2 was bullshit. "Fuck unit cohesion. I don't care about that...I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay." Huh? What? Did he actually imply that women and gays will necessarily be overcome by lustful thoughts arising from the merest glimpse of his weener, and the knowledge that somebody might possibly have those thoughts would make him uncomfortable, which justifies the ruination of thousands of careers and lives, and hundreds of millions of dollars of training wasted. Really? Wow. Awesome.
Frankly, DADT is the military's version of the idiotic and discredited "gay panic" legal defense. Isn't it odd how some straight fellas become so frightfully delicate when they believe they might prospectively get what they give? I suppose that if receiving an unwelcome sexual advance was a legal defense, there would scarcely be a man alive today.
HE: Hey gorgeous, how about you and me...
[BLAMMO! He falls to the floor, a cavernous hole in his chest, a ruby red pool begins to form around the body.]
SHE: Yes, I shot him, your honor — but he was hitting on me!
JUDGE: You have my sympathy and gratitude, ma'am. Case dismissed.
...and scene. Anyway, Obama the Audacious campaigned on the promise of scrapping DADT as bigoted and wasteful — which it is. On this and other promises, Gay Allied America overwhelmingly supported and voted for Obama the Audacious.
Gay Allied America got Obama the Ambivalent.
Okay, implying that Obama doesn't give a shit about gay rights may actually be too generous. He's on the record saying he's against marriage equality on the basis of his Christianity — which is, frankly, a bizarre Constitutional argument for a lawyer and scholar to make. He later invited Reverend Rick "gays = pedophiles" Warren to speak at his inauguration, and then invited Coach Tony Dungy (a devotee of the rabidly homophobic Family Research Council) to his newly created Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In both cases, after negative publicity he subsequently invited a token homo to the table, too.
So yeah, okay — I read the news, there's an economic crisis. Nonetheless, Obama's somehow managed to find the time to expand Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives program, but he's just been too damn busy to lift a finger on behalf teh gheys who helped him get elected. Clearly, Obama feels that escalating the transfer of tax revenue and public property to religious organizations that loathe him is a more compelling agenda than ensuring equal protection and due process for everyone.
Granted, I didn't expect much, but I also didn't expect nothing. I'm ashamed I voted for him. Not that the Republican alternative was any better. When I read that Meghan (daughter of John) McCain essentially said that queers might as well join the Republican for all the good that the Democrats do, she sorta has a point. I've made the joke that the Democrats promise to never, ever screw you — then they do. Republicans promise to screw you, then they do. You're screwed either way, but at least the Republicans aren't liars.
It should be noted that in the debates that led to Colin Powell's DADT "compromise," it was Democrat Sam Nunn that ran point for the military's existing "no fags/dykes" policy, and it was Republican Barry Goldwater who argued most forcefully for that policy's repeal.
Which gets me back to my original point. Like Clinton, Obama initially promised to "repeal" DADT. Later, Obama committed to "change in a sensible way." More recently, he vaguely indicated that such change "will take some time," blaming Congress in large part for the delay.
Hm. I don't suppose that he happened to notice that he is not only the chief executor of US law, but also the commander-in-chief of the US military? In both capacities, he has the power to choose not to enforce certain military law and policy on the basis of its questionable constitutionality. He not only has the power, he has the obligation, given that he took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
Obama says he disagrees with the policy, and recognizes that it is ruining honorable people's lives and wasting taxpayer money. Obama the Audacious could sign an executive order to suspend enforcement of DADT, but Obama the Ambivalent simply can't be bothered to fight for the people that fight for him. Contemptible.
This country and it's leaders are unworthy of the people who protect them. Did we learn nothing from the grotesque historical spectacle of asking black men to risk all to defend the country that legally regarded them as something less than human?
If you agree that the president needs to get off his butt and do something, go here and sign the petition.

16 May 2009

Good. Better. Best. (An homage in photos)

14 May 2009

The implications here are potentially HUGE.

For a long time I have maintained that convictions based on Breathalyzer™-type machines are suspect. When faced with criminal charges, the Constitution guarantees that you have the right to confront your accuser in court. How do you confront a machine? 
Moreover, how do you confront a machine that determines your blood alcohol level by extrapolating that information from measuring your breath alcohol level? And how do you confront that extrapolation when the manufacturers withhold the extrapolation code from independent examination citing "trade secrets"? 
Furthermore, the metric doesn't actually measure intoxication because intoxication is determined by a number of issues including an individual's personal alcohol tolerance, body mass, hematocrit percentage, gender, race, etc. If you're diabetic, have acid reflux, gum disease, dentures, a small woman, or eat a low-carb diet, you'll score artificially high. What's more, these instruments make an abundance of calculations based, not on the individual tested, but on presumed averages — your size is average, your breathing is average, etc. Oh, and it also assumes that in the past day or so you haven't inhaled any solvents or other vapors with methyl compounds like gasoline, glue, or paint — which will falsely register as booze.
When folks first started drafting DWI laws, they went to the American Medical Association to inquire what blood alcohol percentage would impair an "average" person. After extensive testing, the AMA determined it was .15. Over the years, via political pressure primarily from MADD, that number has been cut by almost half. Essentially, legislators have accepted an arbitrary number — .08 in  most states — and fashioned it a one-size-fits-all determination of "impaired." It's not unlike a legislature adopting 150 lbs. as officially "fat."
If you refuse to submit to testing out of concern for scoring a false positive, you're basically deemed automatically guilty — despite the presumption of innocence and the Fifth Amendment guarantee that the state cannot compel self-incrimination. 
Holy hell. Conviction on this basis is just kafkaesque.
So I was interested to note that New Jersey addressed the question, "Are alcotest instruments scientifically reliable for establishing blood alcohol levels in prosecutions?" in the case of State v. Chun. The instrument was the Alcotest 7110, called by its manufacturer "the single best microprocessor-driven evidential breath tester on the market." The defense attorneys spent two years trying to get the instrument's source code. They finally got it and had it analyzed. Money quotes from the analyst:
"Base One...did an extensive evaluation, finding 19,400 potential errors in the code"
"the patchwork code...is not written well, nor is it written to any defined coding standard"
"The Alcotest Software Would Not Pass U.S. Industry Standards for Software Development and Testing"
"Sections of the original...and modified code show evidence of using an experimental approach...or use what is best described as the 'trial and error' method. Several sections are marked as 'temporary, for now'"
"Readings are Not Averaged Correctly"
"This is a loss of precision in the data; of a possible twelve bits of information, only four bits are used"
"Catastrophic Error Detection Is Disabled"
Really? We're using this technology as evidence to convict people of felonies
This case is on my radar. Stay tuned.

06 May 2009

Congratulations! Now Bangor.

Most of New England has caught up with Old England. Maine passed marriage equality.
What does this change? Apparently everything. As you can see in the following video, it leads to intolerance — that is, people become unwilling to tolerate fundamentalist's intolerance. Then, once religious people aren't permitted to extend their creepy bigotry into public school classrooms, school administrators become free to teach kindergardeners "homosexual behavior." 
It's true, and I can prove it. 
In the video "Gay Agenda in Schools 1" by Pastor Bob Emrich http://mainejeremiahproject.blogspot.com/, at 1:47 you can see such homosexual behavior as a colored-pencil sketch of two gay men...preparing lunch. That's right. Little children are being taught that it's okay that two men cram some meat between two taut but yielding slices of...? Holy shit. I can see how this might upset decent Christian folks. 
Their argument is the same crap that's finally losing traction in the United States: gay people are morally inferior, and so should be legally inferior.
By the way, Pastor Bob only objects to other people's agendas being taught in public schools. Naturally, he has his own agenda of foisting religious symbols and prayers upon other people's children.

04 May 2009

What? Seriously?

Every night there's murder and mayhem in news and entertainment, punctuated by ads about erections, bigger wieners, bush whackers, and lube. Criminy, I saw Dennis Franz's bare fat ass waddle across my Trinitron in primetime — deliberately. I saw Julie Andrews' boobs during a 60 Minutes segment. I dunno, maybe it was 20/20. 
Anyway, one Superbowl, with a viewership of 8,864,000, produced a nip slip for 9/16 of a second, and 540,000 people complain — meaning that a fleeting glimpse of a boob offended 6% of all possible viewers of a show where people have tuned in to see giant dudes in skintight pants grapple and beat the hell out of each other. And let's face it — most of the complaints were filed by prudes who sought out grainy grabs on the intarwebs the next day. Apparently 85% of the complaints arrived via form letter, and one delicate individual complained 37 times. Was the song and performance pretty tasteless and inappropriate for the venue? Sure, yeah. Was anyone injured? Hell, no
Of all the spectacularly fucked up stuff going on, manufactured outrage over Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson's nipple five years ago, and Bono's dropping an F bomb at the Golden Globes is the sort of compelling First Amendment issue the Supreme Court of the United States feels it must address?
It. Caused. No. Actual. Harm. 
Simply being upset by something seen on TV is not actionable, and SCOTUS shouldn't pretend it is just to accommodate the delicate sensibilities of some godbothering bitches who wish it to be.
People act like watching TV is compulsory.