Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Hope Blogging

Flint, Michigan has an elected government once again:

A judge has ruled that the state violated the Open Meetings Act in appointing emergency manager Michael Brown.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina invalidated Brown's appointment and also reinstated the authority of Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and the Flint City Council at a hearing regarding a lawsuit from a city union representative.

The order also invalidated all the orders and actions Brown has taken since he was appointed Dec. 1....
The Susan G. Komen Foundation continues to struggle with the totally unforeseeable consequences of lying shamelessly, playing politics with women's lives and generally being unrepentant assholes:

The chief executives of the Greater New York and Oregon affiliates, among the most outspoken in their criticism of Komen's unsuccessful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, are leaving. Three officials at the Dallas headquarters have left or announced their resignations, a spokeswoman said.

At the same time, questions are being raised about the breast cancer charity's ability to raise money after the public relations fiasco. The New York affiliate postponed two events, including its annual awards gala, "because we were not certain about our ability to fundraise in the near term," spokesman Vern Calhoun said Wednesday.

The severely conservative NH legislature has refused to strip gay citizens of marriage rights:
One hundred Republicans were among those who opposed HB 437....

State Rep. Keith Murphy (R-Bedford) cited a gay relative who has been in a same-sex relationship for two years when he spoke against HB 437. State Rep. Cameron De Jong (R-Manchester) referenced his faith as he testified against the marriage equality repeal bill that state Rep. David Bates (R-Windham) introduced.

"God is my judge and today I ask you to support equal rights under the law," he said.

NOM's not-at-all-sexually-conflicted president Brian Brown has vowed to hold these lawmakers accountable for pounding him in the ass with Teh Gay Lifestyle. For some reason, this puts me in mind of Mickey Mouse's response to the threats of his arch-enemy Eli Squinch: "More likely, you'll choke yourself to death hatin' people."

Speaking of which, NOM is trying to boycott Starbucks for being rampant and ululant queer-fanciers. Although their coffee is ghastly and their tea is even worse, I'll buy it on principle. I just hope our Gay Overlords won't mind if I don't swallow.

Utah's governor has vetoed an abstinence-only sex education bill:
On Friday, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) vetoed the proposed abstinence-only sex education bill, which would have made all sex ed classes “opt-in” instead of “opt-out” and prohibited any discussions of contraception or homosexuality. Explaining that he found the current sex ed provisions sufficient, he explained he could not sign a bill “that deprives parents of their choice.”
Disability advocates achieved several notable victories in Wisconsin:

Big Win #1: Defeat of the ALEC-Sourced school-voucher bill targeting students with special needs, the so-called "Special Needs Scholarship Program Act"

Big Win #2: Lifting the enrollment caps on Family Care and other long-term care programs for elders & people with disabilities

Big Win #3: Limiting the use of seclusion and restraint in Wisconsin's public schools

Big Win #4: Replacing the outdated and pejorative term "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" in Wisconsin statute

In a moderately heartening display of relative non-viciousness, the three frontrunning GOP primary candidates have acknowledged that hunting black teenagers for sport is not socially acceptable. For instance:
Santorum, campaigning in Lousiana, said the failure to “immediately go after and prosecute this case” is a “chilling example of horrible decisions.” He added that he thought shooter Geroge Zimmerman was not abiding by Florida’s “stand your ground law.”
Presumably, Dr. Ron Paul has asked an anonymous staffer to write a statement on the Trayvon Martin case. Presumably, he won't bother to acquaint himself with this statement until it turns out to contain racial slurs, at which point he'll accuse the MSM of character assassination.

"Joking" aside, I was not entirely ungobsmacked by this question from a member of Your Liberal Media:
Mr. President, may I ask you about this current case in Florida, very controversial, allegations of lingering racism within our society....
Be it known: It's controversial simply to allege that vestiges of racism may linger — somehow! somewhere! — in American society. Probably because of how views differ and all. For example, some folks think the word "nigger" has some sort of offensive racial subtext, while others think it's just a funny thing to call bad people. Also, some folks will go out of their way to discern racial animus in a photoshopped picture of a black president sprawled in the dirt with a bucket of fried chicken between his legs, while others protest that this interpretation is fundamentally dishonest.

Of course, some irresponsible demagogues [waves modestly] would argue that the mere existence of such "debates" demonstrates that our culture is racist down to its corpuscles. But no one listens to them, thank God, because what would become of Civility?

Onward, sort of, and upward, more or less. It seems that the new president of the World Bank is not named Larry Summers:
Obama pushed for a nominee with broad development experience and was particularly drawn to Kim’s innovative work fighting the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis....

Obama picked Kim over several more well-known candidates, including Susan Rice, current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; and Lawrence Summers, Obama’s former director of the National Economic Council.
A federal judge has ruled that the FDA must regulate the use of antibiotics in animal feeds:

U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin proceedings unless makers of the drugs can produce evidence that their use is safe.

If they can't, then the FDA must withdraw approval for non-therapeutic use of those drugs, the judge ruled.


The U.S. government is about to bar contractors who use computers bought with federal dollars from dumping the devices in landfills, an official said on Wednesday.

Also, Mitt Romney — that brilliant executive with unmatched real-world experience in visioning and leveraging bleeding-edge HR best practices to help build effective teams capable of seamlessly and efficiently achieving world-class mission-critical synergies in support of top-priority core objectives — has made himself even more unelectable by hiring a catastrophically stupid campaign aide. While Fehrnstrom's Etch-a-Sketch comment is rightly getting most of the laughs, we shouldn't overlook the strategeristical cleverosity of using the term "reset button" in reference to a candidate who's widely mocked as a soulless automaton. Given Romney's shrewd professional eye for talent, judgment and discretion, it's pretty exciting to think about his cabinet picks.

Last, Jim Robinson has advised his Freepers to "fight like banshees." So don't tread on 'em unless you want to hear mournful wailing.

Beetlecam. Amazonian street views. Ads for sea monkeys: a child's portal to the wide world of crushing disappointment. Badge hunting. Evolution of the moon. Photos by Stanko Abadzic (via wood s lot). Eleventwentyseven. And Lisboan vistas nocturnas:

In addition: Aymara time-mapping. Anatomical animation. Anthropogenic sediments. Archiving Eden. Ancient Egyptian headrests. Chymical works. Terrestrial magnetism. Caffeine, empire and effeminate babbling layabouts [waves modestly]. Photos by Olivo Barbieri. And photos by Sergey Makarenkov:

In summation: Watercolor cartography (via things). Camera lucida drawings. Photos of jellyfish. Computer marketing brochures. Big-time sensuality (warning: this cannot be unread). "Dysfunctional family implied as mother has left children and father is not alive" (ditto). The new architecture and the London Zoo. And images of Sydney Harbor Bridge:

(Photo at top by Thomas Smillie, 1890.)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Hope Blogging

Here's an obligatory dose of gall before I slather you with healing balm: I've had several more helpings of the Catholic bishops than I can stand. If this reptilian gaggle of world-hating closet cases would put an eleventillionth as much energy into helping the poor, opposing the death penalty, punishing child abusers and excommunicating war profiteers as they put into officious panty-sniffing misogyny, I might give two strictly procreative fucks about their "conscience." As matters stand, however, I'm in favor of stripping these intolerably smug reprobates of their tax exemption and using the additional revenue to launch them headlong into the sun.

Apropos of which: Given the amount of existential dread produced by sex in general and female sexuality in particular, it's obviously time to classify sexually active women as terrorists. That being the case, someone needs to come up with a color-coded threat advisory chart, and it might as well be yours truly:

Joke, ha ha, as Eeyore would say.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, one of the Republican WI state senators facing a recall will resign:

State Sen. Pam Galloway, who faces a recall election this summer, plans to resign from the Senate shortly, leaving an even split between Republicans and Democrats.
Against all odds, Ken Cuccinelli has somehow managed to say something that's both true and significant:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) fears a Romney nomination would neutralize the health care reform issue, noting that because RomneyCare was so similar to the Affordable Care Act, “you are effectively giving that issue up” by selecting Romney as the nominee.
As has James Inhofe:
I was actually on your side of this issue [climate change] when I was chairing that committee and I first heard about this. I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.
And Megan McArdle:
I'm not an expert, and I'm not planning to become one. I've basically outsourced my opinion on the science to people like Jonathan Adler, Ron Bailey, and Pat Michaels of Cato—all of whom concede that anthropogenic global warming is real, though they may contest the likely extent, or desired remedies.
I suggest that we remove "In God We Trust" from our money, and replace it with "I'm not an expert, and I'm not planning to become one."

Speaking of intellectuals, some callow youth from Facebook is buying The New Republic. It's probably not realistic to hope that he'll make all its writers tour the county-fair circuit in a dunking tank filled with raw sewage, as Infinite Justice demands. But we can at least pray that Leon Wieseltier -- a chattering husk who recently called Rachel Maddow's new book "an anthropologically useful document of the new American disaffection with American force" -- will eventually be handed his walking papers. (One of the things Wieseltier objects to is Maddow's "perky self-adoring voice," which is pretty rich coming from a guy who makes George Will sound like Beckett. Physician, fuck thyself!)

Our Indo-Kenyan Islamo-Muslim Usurper-in-Chief continues to ram Teh Gay Lifestyle vigorously down our throats.
Earlier this afternoon, the Senate confirmed Judge Michael Fitzgerald to a federal court in California by a 91-6 vote....Fitzgerald joins Nathan, Oetken and a Clinton appointee named Deborah Batts as one of the only four openly gay lifetime tenured federal judges in American history.
An attendee of Grover Norquist's Purity Ball has apparently fallen off the chastity wagon:

Freshman Republican Rep. Rick Crawford will propose a surtax on millionaires Thursday morning, a crack in the steadfast GOP opposition to extracting more money from the nation’s top earners. [...]

Crawford will propose the additional tax— expected to be north of 2.5 percent — on individual income over $1 million as part of a broader fiscal responsibility package.

The DOJ has blocked right-wing attempts at voter suppression in Texas and Wisconsin:

The U.S. Justice Department yesterday told Texas officials the state failed to show that the statute signed into law by Governor Rick Perry last year won’t have a discriminatory effect on Latino voters while a Wisconsin state court judge held that an ID law enacted by fellow Republican Governor Scott Walker last year, unconstitutionally burdens the rights of eligible citizens....

“Voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression,” Dane County, Wisconsin Circuit Judge Richard Niess said in his ruling yesterday barring enforcement of that state’s law. “Indeed they are two heads on the same monster.”

It's just barely possible that clearcutting rainforests is not in humanity's best interests:
The world may soon benefit from a plant long-used by indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon for toothaches, eliminating the need for local injections in some cases. Researchers have created a medicinal gel from a plant known commonly as spilanthes extract (Acmella Oleracea), which could become a fully natural alternative to current anesthetics and may even have a wide-range of applications beyond dental care.
African leaders are establishing the world's largest conservation area:

In a ceremony this week, leaders from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe have agreed to establish a sprawling 170,000 square mile preserve to span respective borders for the sake of wildlife. Up until now, the five nations had each independently maintained a total of 36 unconnected conservation zones, but that model proved insufficient from protecting migrating animals along their cross-border migrations.

Global poverty has apparently decreased over the last 20 years:
The new estimates show that in 2008, the first year of the finance-and-food crisis, both the number and share of the population living on less than $1.25 a day (at 2005 prices, the most commonly accepted poverty line) was falling in every part of the world. This was the first instance of declines across the board since the bank started collecting the figures in 1981.
(h/t: Cheryl.)

Hooray for eventual, shame-driven consumer semi-choice!
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer schools choice in ground beef buys amid growing concern over an ammonia-treated filler critics call "pink slime."

Under the change to be announced Thursday, schools will be able to choose between beef patties made with the filler or bulk ground beef without it. The policy will affect food at schools this fall because of existing contracts.

Pink slime notwithstanding, the kids are alright:

I am 8 years old and like most kids I like balloons. But I’m really worried about what they are doing to our environment and wildlife. Why is throwing trash along the side of a road illegal, but releasing balloons in the sky to explode and fall to the ground in pieces legal? To me it seems that releasing balloons into the air is the same thing as littering and laws need to be put in place to protect both our marine and terrestrial wildlife.

Meerkat pups (via Feministing). Seeds from Hiroshima (via Cheryl). Seeds from the Pleistocene (via Karin). A subterranean clock, and the looming threat of socialized time. Photographer hlaus explores Iceland. Photographer Sarah Elliot explores New Orleans. Photographer Lewis Hine explores one of Newt Gingrich's big ideas. And photographer David Creedon explores the abandoned homes of Irish emigrants:

The Siege and Commune of Paris, 1870-1871
. Designing Canberra. We are here. What the censor saw. What the censor didn't see. What a robot saw (via things). Planetary Folklore. A galactic atlas. Fifty-five female photographers. And a Swiss collection of sheet music.

(Photo at top: "Western Skies Motel, Colorado" by Ernst Haas, 1978.)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Design for the One Percent

A Daily Caller columnist recently argued that the government should force food stamp recipients to buy low-grade food in drab packaging, in order to teach these soi-disant "poor people" a tough lesson about freedom and responsibility and taxation and so forth.

I seem to be suffering from outrage fatigue, because instead of fantasizing about the guillotine, I found myself pondering the logistics of setting official specifications for poor-quality, revenge-oriented food, and of creating a style guide for socially stigmatizing package design.

With these interesting issues in mind, I've taken a stab at designing some product labels for a new taxpayer-funded line of shameful, marginally nutritious foodstuffs. While I can't pretend that they'll deliver the stern dose of humiliation hungry poor people and their hapless children deserve — only the withering patrician scorn of a God-appointed billionaire can do that — I do hope they'll inspire crueler people to produce uglier work.

(Image at top: "The Rich Man and Lazarus the Beggar" by Gustave Doré.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Hope Blogging

The Obama administration will no longer defend the constitutionality of denying veterans' benefits to same-sex couples:

The Obama Justice Department has concluded that legislation banning same-sex couples from receiving military and veterans benefits violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment and will no longer defend the statute in court, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders on Friday.

“The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans,” Holder wrote. “Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.”

Teen pregnancy rates are down, no thanks to aspirin:
In 2008, the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate reached its lowest point in more than 30 years (67.8), down 42% from its peak in 1990 (116.9). Among women younger than 15, the pregnancy rate fell even more in that period (62%), from 17.5 to 6.6 per 1,000.
Things We Used to Know, Chapter MCXLIV:
Quality public schools benefit everyone – including those without school-aged children – and therefore everyone should play a role in maintaining them, according to a study by two Michigan State University scholars.
Debt collection and credit reporting agencies may eventually face a little more regulation, assuming they don't mind too much:

Debt collectors and credit reporting companies are bracing for intense scrutiny after the government’s consumer finance watchdog unveiled a broad plan to regulate financial firms that have largely evaded federal oversight....

“Debt collectors and credit reporting agencies have gone unsupervised by the federal government for too long,” Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director, told reporters on Thursday. “It is time to provide the kind of oversight of these markets that will help ensure that federal laws protecting consumers in these financial markets are being followed.”

Someone has leaked a number of interesting confidential documents from the Heartland Institute:

Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.

In a well-thought-out plan that exemplifies HI's firm grasp of risk assessment, they're threatening to sue journalists who covered this story:
The threat was spelled out in an email sent to media outlets (including by Jim Lakely, Communications Director at the Heartland Institute. The group said it will "pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation" from "individuals who have commented so far on these documents", prior to the Heartland Institute's official response.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is irresponsibly attacking the black soot that made our nation great:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Thursday announced a new global initiative to reduce short-lived climate pollutants....

The initiative targets three pollutants that together account for more than one-third of current global warming - black carbon, or soot; methane; and hydrofluorocarbons, which are gases used in air conditioning, refrigeration, solvents, foam blowing agents and aerosols.
Chinese manufacturer FoxxConn is raising workers' wages in response to public outcry:
The move comes after nearly 250,000 individuals signed a petition on demanding Apple hold its suppliers accountable for violations of fair labor practices.

FoxxConn is best known in the United States as Apple Inc.’s largest supplier, manufacturing the technology giant’s popular iPad, iPhone and signature Mac computer products, in addition to dozens of other gadgets for other technology companies. But it has also gained a reputation as a chronic violator of human rights and fair labor practices.
In tangentially related news, the actress in Pete Hoekstra's repulsive anti-Chinese ad has apologized for her involvement:
As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.
Apropos of which, designer discusses Hoekstra's use of "chop suey fonts" to conjure up the furrin ways of the Heathen Chinee.

The Obama administration may raise oil-drilling royalties:
Public lands belong to all of us, so when the federal government decides to lease them out to oil and gas drillers, those companies have to pay for depriving taxpayers of environmental and recreational benefits. And the Obama administration has decided that they're not paying enough. So the Interior Department's budget includes a proposal to raise royalties for oil and gas projects by 50 percent.
Hmm. Is this really what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Bible? Wasn't there a guy named HITLER who tried to "benefit taxpayers" by impoverishing an unpopular minority? I'm not saying that's what's going on here but you can't deny that it's basically the exact same thing.

Speaking of Nazis, the People's Republic of Los Angeles has socialistically turned a communist mass-transit bus yard into a collectivist public park at the taxpayers' expense!
It took three years and more than $26 million to turn an old MTA bus yard in South Los Angeles into what it is today: a sprawling park and urban wetland that will store and clean millions of gallons of storm water — while also giving children a place to play.
In Washington, a federal judge held a factory farm responsible for local water pollution:
This first-ever ruling holding a CAFO accountable for its pollution was a result of a lawsuit by the nonprofit Community Association for Restoration of the Environment (CARE) against the Nelson Faria Dairy in Royal, Wash. The ruling upholds the terms of a 2006 settlement CARE had with the dairy’s previous owners, which the current owners subsequently ignored.
Attentive readers will note that the correction of the vassalees-fiction-syntax-grammar-pleadings is with the correction-participation-claim of this babble-indictment-evidence and: bad-probation-syntax=grammar-evidence. They may accordingly wonder why the vassalees did this case with a void-communications. The answer is simple: For the void-drogue-law, void-oath of an office, void-judge’s-oath, void-docking-court-house-vessel in the Washington-state-dry-dock and: void-original-lodial-land-title. (Duh.)

On top of which:
The nation's Republican governors are pressing forward with policies that promote the green economy—and in some cases they have moved further than their Democratic counterparts.

A new report by the National Governors Association (NGA) showed that 28 states enacted more than 60 new "clean" economic development policies between June 2010 and Aug. 2011. Among those states, more than half, or 16, have Republican governors. In five of the states, the policies were started under Democratic governors and were continued by Republicans who replaced them.
Nine cave-dwelling invertebrate species have won habitat protections in Texas:
[T]he U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized protection of 4,200 acres of critical habitat today for nine rare, cave-dwelling invertebrates in Bexar County, Texas. The designation cut roughly 1,700 acres from a February 2011 proposal, but is still nearly quadruple the size of a 2003 Bush-era designation that left out a number of places where the species live and failed to protect enough land adjacent to the caves.
A California court has blocked the construction of yet another doomed sprawlscape near the Tejon Pass:

“This is an extremely important habitat area for scores of threatened, endangered, and rare species, including the California condor, so it’s important that any development be carefully thought out,” said Adam Keats, urban wildlands director at the Center. “This is a huge victory for smart planning, especially considering the tremendous pressure from developers this area has been under.”

Bangladesh has designated three new sanctuaries for endangered freshwater dolphins:
"Declaration of these Wildlife Sanctuaries is an essential first step in protecting Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins in Bangladesh," Brian D. Smith, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Asian Freshwater and Coastal Cetacean Program, said in a press release. "As biological indicators of ecosystem-level impacts, freshwater dolphins can inform adaptive human-wildlife management to cope with climate change suggesting a broader potential for conservation and sustainable development."
And the Republic of the Congo has expanded a national park to protect chimpanzees:
The Republic of the Congo has expanded its Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park by 37,295 hectares (144 square miles) to include a dense swamp forest, home to a population of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) that show no fear of humans. Known as the Goualougo Triangle, the swamp forest is also home to forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) and western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The expansion of the park to include the Goualougo Triangle makes good on a government commitment from 2001.
Japanese whalers have lost their suit against anti-whaling activists:

A group of Japanese whalers has failed to win an injunction against U.S. anti-whaling activists, as a federal judge refused their request for protections from boats owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The ruling was made in Seattle, where the whalers' group, the Institute for Cetacean Research, had filed suit. In addition to restraints on Sea Shepherd, the whalers were hoping the judge would impose a freeze on the activists' finances.

Florida governor Rick Scott's insane bid to expand the privatization of the Florida prison system has failed:
A massive expansion of private prisons in Florida collapsed in the Senate Tuesday as nine Republicans joined a dozen Democrats in handing a setback to Senate leaders and a victory to state workers.

As a result, the state will not undertake what would have been the single greatest expansion of prison privatization in U.S. history, affecting 27 prisons and work camps in 18 counties and displacing more than 3,500 correctional officers.

Last but nowhere near least, Mitt Romney is currently spending millions of dollars and alienating countless independents in hopes of eking out a meager victory over Rick Santorum, an unelectable buffoon and national punchline who doesn't even have a campaign office.

This, that and the other: The voice of the tarsier is heard in the land. Stardust melodies. Nuclear slide rules and dials. More of the same (I still have the proportional scale pictured here, and use it often. Old and in the way!) Breaking Out and Breaking In is a "distributed film fest" on the spatial and architectural aspects of prison and bank-heist films (but where's the infrastructure-as-prison classic Kanal?) Furthermore, photos by Juan Manuel Castro Prieto:

Spomeniks. Blimps and medicine wheels in the Stinkingwater Mountains. Culinary curiosities. Designing Canberra. The aesthetics of the photo booth. And photographs from the Community Service Society Records, 1900-1920:

(Photo at top: "Vue aérienne du quartier de l'Etoile" by Nadar, 1868.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Hope Blogging

In recent weeks, "conservatives" have proposed that cops should not be able to arrest people (i.e., men) for domestic violence unless they witness it, that U.S. school textbooks should be purged of references to slavery, and that we must act now to keep aborted fetuses out of our soft drinks. For some reason, I'm reminded of this old Onion article.

Much like "trangressive" music acts in any number of genres, social conservatives have been tying to outdo each other in striking shocking, uncompromising poses. And like any other form of witless adolescent attention-seeking, this eventually gets boring...not just for outsiders who wonder why the fuck these socially maladroit oddballs can't lighten up, but also for the target audience, many of whom are less true believers than lazy consumers exploring a fantasy. To extend the musical metaphor, today's social conservatives are a bit like teenagers who've abandoned Scandinavian black metal in favor of white-supremacist power electronics. For people who are committed to plumbing the depths of their own inhumanity, it's a new thrill that'll temporarily excite a jaded palate. But for most other people, it's the point at which extremity starts paying diminishing returns and 1970s singer-songwriters start sounding comparatively good.

My point being, this competition for political capital is inherently self-defeating for the simple reason that most people aren't really ruthless sociopathic assholes, even if it sometimes pleases them to pretend otherwise. The more Teabaggers flex what they imagine are their muscles, the less they overawe people. That's "power" for you. And I can only hope that they hold on to what's left of it long enough to pull the GOP's temple down on their own heads.

Meanwhile. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has come up with the daring theory that discrimination for the sake of discrimination is unconstitutional:

Reinhardt, joined by Judge Michael Hawkins, invoked two past U.S. Supreme Court rulings. One was a 1973 decision overturning a federal law that barred households of unrelated people, such as "hippie communes," from qualifying for food stamps. The other, in 1996, struck down a Colorado initiative prohibiting local governments from enacting civil rights laws protecting gays and lesbians.

In both cases, the high court said the government violates equal protection when it withdraws rights in order to harm a politically unpopular group or express disapproval of a vulnerable minority.
So it's the hippies' fault? I knew it. Even when I thought it was the gays, I knew it was the hippies.

Here's my favorite part of the decision:
Schools teach about the world as it is; when the world changes, lessons change. A shift in the State's marriage law may therefore affect the content of classroom instruction just as would the election of a new governor, the discovery of a new chemical element, or the adoption of a new law permitting no-fault divorce: students learn about these as empirical facts of the world around them. But to protest the teaching of these facts is little different from protesting their very existence; it is like opposing the election of a particular governor on the ground that students would learn about his holding office.
Washington has passed a same-sex marriage bill:
Governor Christine Gregoire plans to sign newly passed legislation on Monday to legalize gay marriage in Washington state, making it the seventh with a law on the books to recognize same-sex nuptials, her office said on Thursday.
Here's what Republican state representative Maureen Walsh had to say on the matter. Read it and weep.

You know, I was married for 23 years to the love of my life and he died 6 years ago. I think of all the wonderful years we had and the wonderful fringe benefits of having 3 beautiful children. I don’t miss the sex, and to me that’s kind of what this boils down to. I don’t miss that… I mean I certainly miss it, but it’s certainly not the aspect of that relationship, that incredible bond I had with that human being, that I really really genuinely wish I still had. And so I just think to myself: how could I deny anyone the right to have that incredible bond with another individual in life. To me it seems almost cruel.

See, that's a person who has an actual, functioning conscience. By contrast, someone who demands taxpayer funding for discriminatory policies is simply a constitutionally illiterate grifter. I'd really like to spend my declining years in a country whose media can tell the difference.

Speaking of which, what if bigots threw a tantrum and no one cared?

On "CBS This Morning," Thursday, jcpenney chief executive officer Ron Johnson, said the company "shares the same values" as DeGeneres and that the decision to have her as a spokesperson was a "no-brainer."

"We don't look at it like a controversy. One of the great things about America is people can speak their mind. And you know, the organization that believes one thing has spoken and it was great to see Ellen share her views yesterday. And we stand squarely behind Ellen as our spokesperson and that's a great thing. Because she shares the same values that we do in our company. Our company was founded 110 years ago on The Golden Rule, which is about treating people fair and square, just like you would like to be treated yourself. And we think Ellen represents the values of our company and the values that we share."

As part of its terrifying reign of environmental terror, the EPA is forbidding ships from dumping their waste in California coastal waters, just as France did when they removed the pillar of God-given rights and told you who you were and it became the guillotine!

A federal rule banning ships from flushing their sewage into the sea within 3 miles of the California coast was approved Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The prohibition, which will go into effect next month, means cruise and cargo ships will no longer be able to discharge treated or untreated effluent or gray water anywhere along the coast, a practice that regulators blame for spreading bacteria and disease in marine mammals, fish and people.

Five years after San Francisco transformed itself into a dystopian hellscape by restricting the use of plastic bags, its Board of Supervisors is preparing to pound a final eco-friendly nail into civilization's coffin:
Almost five years ago, San Francisco became the first American city to ban plastic shopping bags from supermarkets and chain pharmacies. Now the city is poised to expand that ban to all retail stores and restaurants within the city limits. Only certain products, like newspapers, fish, poultry, fresh flowers, and bulk goods are exempted from the ban. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to expand the ban, and it’s expected to be officially approved next week.
Soon, plastic bags will be illegal for everything but hi-def BDSM videos. What would the Founding Fathers say (Ben Franklin excepted)?

In related news, the Obama administration has just made it illegal to drink water while hiking in the desert Southwest:
As a Climate Friendly Park, Grand Canyon National Park's staff, partners and stakeholders have made a commitment to take a leadership roll in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and educating the public about what they can do to reduce their impacts on the park. In order to reduce plastics in the park's waste stream, litter along trails and walkways and green house gas emissions Grand Canyon National Park will soon be eliminating the sale of water packaged in individual disposable containers and encourages everyone to reduce, reuse, refill.
The inevitable next step? Restricting our intake of "unhealthy" foods in order to protect the coyotes who'll gnaw our bones after we die of thirst.

Toronto's tough-guy mayor Rob Ford has suffered a well-deserved humiliation:
In a stunning blow to Mayor Rob Ford -- who, on his first day in office in 2010 scrubbed the "Transit City" plan in favor of an ill-thought out and unfunded subway scheme -- the Toronto City Council has quashed his plans and resurrected the old one....

[Ford] ignored the host of transit experts who called his vision nonsense. He refused to take his plans to city council, bypassing the city’s supreme democratic body. He spurned the [Toronto Transit Commission] manager and TTC chair who dared to question him. But on Wednesday, council struck back, handing the mayor his worst defeat and rubbishing his transit blueprint.
Scott Walker and his cronies have some additional woes this week:
Nearly all of Wisconsin's Republican state lawmakers took the unusual step of signing a legal agreement in which they promised to not comment publicly about redistricting discussions while new GOP-friendly maps were being drafted, a newspaper reported.

The agreement was included in newly released documents in a federal lawsuit challenging the new district lines. Also included in the documents was a GOP memo outlining talking points that stressed anyone who discussed the maps could be called as a witness in the case. The memo also warned Republicans to ignore public comments about the maps and focus instead on what was being said in private strategy meetings.

As does Rupert Murdoch:

The editor of Rupert Murdoch's Times of London conceded today that the newspaper misled a British public inquiry in 2009 regarding an incident in which a Times reporter hacked into the email of an anonymous blogger who wrote about police activities....

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the FBI if focusing its investigation into allegations that British tabloid employees, working for the U.S.-based News Corp., may have violated American law by paying police officers in exchange for news stories.

Rice University is experimenting with nonprofit textbook publishing:

According to Inside Higher Education, OpenStax plans to compete with pricey $200 hardback texts from for-profit publishers by offering digital books for five common introductory classes for free, starting with sociology and physics texts this spring. OpenStax is beginning with introductory texts because the information in them is relatively basic and less likely to change year to year. Publishers are frequently accused of filling their coffers by updating textbook editions at random and then convincing professors to adopt the new version. If the OpenStax plan works, the multi-billion-dollar textbook industry could be in trouble.

Vehicles became 14-percent more fuel-efficient over the last four years:
After what seemed like an eternity of mostly stagnation, average fuel economy for new vehicles has been going up in the United States. Researchers at the University of Michigan have conducted a study showing that for current model year vehicles, fuel economy is 14% higher than just four years ago, which might not sound like much, but it's much better than what we've got in the recent past.
Spain now has a second solar tower:
Clean tech company AROA recently installed their second energy-generating Solar Tulip power tower in Spain, and the soaring flower-shaped power plant just went online this week. The beauty of the system stems beyond the elegant solar energy capturing tower - the system is designed to be modular, unlike any other concentrated solar power (CSP) electrical generator out there. The system also uses much less water than steam solar generators, enabling it to conserve precious resources on its hot desert site.
This is a fascinating idea:
The Oral Citations Project is a strategic research project funded by a Wikimedia Foundation grant to help overcome a lack of published material in emerging languages on Wikipedia. The idea behind the project is a simple one. Wikipedia privileges printed knowledge (books, journals, magazines, newspapers and more) as authentic sources of citable material. This is understandably so, for a lot of time and care goes into producing this kind of printed material, and restricting citation sources makes the enterprise workable. But books - and printed words generally - are closely correlated to rich economies: Europe, North America, and a small section of Asia.
Word on the street is, Obamacare is forcing small businesses to set up fascist lactation chambers, which will almost certainly be presided over by gay communist lactation panels:
Tom Stemberg, co-founder of the Staples office supply chain, complained in a recent interview that the Affordable Care Act (known by opponents as “Obamacare”) will cost jobs by mandating that employers set up “lactation chambers.”
You can set this clever fellow straight by clicking here.

Oh, and lest I forget...the GOP is attacking contraception. In an election year. And a recession. For the benefit of a small and wildly unpopular base. I'm looking forward to their late October campaign against female drivers, which will be based equally on scripture and 1970s "Lockhorns" cartoons.

Now, then. The Moist Towelette Museum. Portable signs of rural America. Dr. Seuss: pedantic literalist. Gay gay gay! Vintage Mexican ads. Photos by Arthur K. Syer. And photos by E.O. Hoppé.

Impossible cameras. The song of a Jurassic katydid. The wooden work boats of Indochina. Anatomical cross sections made with quilled paper. And a gorgeous survey of advertising and commercial photography:

Broken houses (via things). Jewish children's books. Our three-dimensional moon. Polaroids by Mikael Kennedy. A scrapbook from Tajikistan. And images of the frozen Black Sea:

(Painting at top: "Hidak Bridges" by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1921.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Hope Blogging

In an important ruling, the Supreme Court upheld 4th Amendment privacy rights:

On Monday the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision protecting privacy in the digital age. In U.S. v. Jones, a unanimous Supreme Court held that the police and FBI violated the Fourth Amendment when they attached a GPS device to Antoine Jones’s car and tracked his movements for 28 days. While the case turned on the fact that the government physically placed a GPS device on Mr. Jones’s car, the implications are far broader. A majority of the justices acknowledged that advancing technology, like cell phone tracking, gives the government unprecedented ability to collect, store, and analyze an enormous amount of information about our private lives.

Congress has reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act:

A coalition came together at the last minute to pass the legislation. With vital support from the White House, the group spanned traditional partisan lines and included leaders from conservation as well as the commercial and recreational fishing communities.

Initially, the discussion stalled on technical matters, as many debates in Congress do. In the end, however, the effort led to a well-considered compromise that balanced the many competing needs and pressures on our oceans. The linchpin was a new federal mandate promoting more sustainable practices on the water and embracing the usage of strong, science-based catch limits to restore and maintain fish populations at healthy levels.

It's better to preserve old buildings than to build new "green" ones:
[A] new report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab concludes that constructing new, energy-efficient buildings almost never saves as much energy as renovating old ones. Renovated buildings outperformed new buildings on energy savings in every category: single-family homes, multifamily complexes, commercial offices, “urban village” mixed-use structures, and elementary schools. Though the conclusion may seem counterintuitive in an age of ambitious LEED standards in many new buildings, consider that it uses more energy and creates more impact to construct an entirely new building than to fix up one of the same size for the same purpose.
In related news, protecting wetlands is better than restoring them:

Even after 100 years have passed a restored wetland may not reach the state of its former glory. A new study in the open access journal PLoS Biology finds that restored wetlands may take centuries to recover the biodiversity and carbon sequestration of original wetlands, if they ever do. The study questions laws, such as in the U.S., which allow the destruction of an original wetland so long as a similar wetland is restored elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to give more weight to factors including affordable-housing policy in deciding which local mass-transit initiatives will get federal money....

Under the proposal, the agency would consider a project’s effects on air pollution, energy use, greenhouse-gas emissions and safety, and “social equity impacts” such as affordable housing and job creation.

One of Scott Walker's staff members appears to have struck a deal with investigators:

Two staffers who worked directly for Gov. Scott Walker while he was county executive were charged Thursday with illegally doing extensive political work while being paid by taxpayers to do county jobs.

One of the two, Darlene Wink, cut a deal with prosecutors under which she agreed to provide information in a related investigation about the destruction of digital evidence and to aid in further prosecutions.
Georgia will restrict harvesting of freshwater turtles:
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Board of Directors today unanimously approved its first-ever state rules regulating the commercial collection of wild freshwater turtles. Georgia had been the only state in the Southeast without limitations on harvest or regulations on the export, farming and sale of native freshwater turtles. The new rules help address population declines of native southern turtle populations caused by unregulated harvest and export for international food markets.
Also in Georgia, a local rattlesnake roundup is being replaced with a wildlife festival:
The Evans County Wildlife Club is replacing its annual rattlesnake roundup with the Claxton Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival, which will feature displays of the imperiled eastern diamondback rattlesnake and other native wildlife. Educational programs, entertainment and a variety of other activities will be offered at the event, held during the second weekend in March.
Make of this what you will:
Scientists from the University of Bristol have developed a soap, composed of iron rich salts dissolved in water, that responds to a magnetic field when placed in solution. The soap’s magnetic properties were proved with neutrons at the Institut Laue-Langevin to result from tiny iron-rich clumps that sit within the watery solution. The generation of this property in a fully functional soap could calm concerns over the use of soaps in oil-spill clean ups and revolutionise industrial cleaning products.
In other news, please take a few moments to read about Google's new "privacy" policy, if you haven't already. My personal opinion: Fuck these goddamn jackals in both eye sockets with 800 megatons of white-hot bituminous death. If you feel the same way, let them know. (But do it politely. Otherwise, you may end up getting targeted with ad content based on phrases like "fuck you goddamn jackals in both eye sockets with 800 megatons of white-hot bituminous death.")

You are here. Nearby attractions: The deep. The Ouleds-Nails. The Corricks. The aurora. Volcanes de papel. The Kazakhstan subway. And the Museum of Water:

Also: The voice of trees. The poetics of space. Josephine the singer, or the mouse folk. New hope for the dead. The riddle of the sands. And the work of fire:

(Photo at top: "Crystal Palace, Hyde Park" by Benjamin Brecknell Turner, 1852.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Hope Blogging

The United Methodist Church has divested its stock in the private prison system:

Religious collusion with destructive forces is a horrible thing to openly confess and even more difficult to break.

So, it was stunning to begin 2012 learning that the United Methodist Board of Pensions, the board that controls the investments of the United Methodist Church, decided not only to divest from CCA and GEO Group entirely, but to permanently put into place a screen that will not allow us to invest in the future into any corporation that has gross revenues of 10% or more from private prisons.

Craig Stowell fought with the U.S. Marines in Iraq in 2004 and now is fighting for the right of gays, like his brother, to marry in New Hampshire....

"When New Hampshire extended marriage to gay and lesbian couples, two years ago, he finally felt accepted. He finally felt like he belonged. Since that day 1,800 loving and committed gay and lesbian couples have married."

As the New Hampshire Legislature prepares to vote on whether to repeal the law, HB 437, Craig Stowell - who serves as the Republican co-chairman of Standing Up For New Hampshire Families - has launched an online campaign to keep the law as it is.

Nine Native Americans have served in the Minnesota state legislature since the state's founding, and all of them have been men. But on Tuesday, The Land of 10,000 Lakes chose via special election its first ever Native American woman to serve on its state legislature, and the first Native American lesbian to ever serve in any state legislature anywhere.
Apropos of which, the anti-gay zealot Mike Goeke asks an interesting question:
Homosexuality is the only sinful behavior that has a cultural identity and movement surrounding it. What other sin is encouraged to be celebrated? What other sin has a “pride” movement attached to it?
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say greed. And wrath. And bearing false witness.

So far, Girl Scouts of America seems to be shrugging off a boycott of its cookies by sex-obsessed busybodies:

Last October, Girl Scouts USA welcomed a 7-year-old transgender girl among its ranks. The organization released a surprisingly but welcomingly progressive statement: “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

The action provoked outrage among cissexist parents, who have been– at least, as it appears in pro-boycott videos– teaching their daughters that these transgender girl scouts threaten the safety of others and the integrity of the program. These parents and scouts have indicated that it’s now easy for young “boys” to rape girls, since they simply have to pretend to be transgender at age six, then rape and assault other girl scouts while sharing a tent with them. Because it’s that easy to be a sexual predator who pretends to be trans, with your parents’ support, when you’re barely old enough to read.

This just in: When your ideology obliges you to demonize seven-year-olds, it's a safe bet that there's something seriously wrong with it. If you want to reward GSA's good behavior -- or punish the boycotters' bad behavior -- consider donating to Girl Scouts of Colorado. Failing that, you could always buy some cookies.

The Obama administration has finalized a 20-year-ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon:
Today’s Interior Department “record of decision” establishes a 20-year ban on new uranium mining and mining of current claims without valid permits across 1 million acres (more than 1,500 square miles). The ban will protect Grand Canyon’s springs and creeks, as well as imperiled species like the humpback chub, from uranium-mining pollution.

“This landmark decision closes the door on rampant industrialization of Grand Canyon’s watersheds,” said Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust. “Uranium mining imposes well documented and unacceptable risks to the people and natural resources of our region.”

In 2011, no rhinos were killed by poachers in Nepal:
"This is the first time in 29 years that Nepal has gone an entire year without a single poached rhino, and it’s a testament to the efforts of the Government of Nepal, WWF and many partners," said Barney Long, Asian species expert at WWF. "We hope the new year will bring additional good news from other countries like South Africa as they continue to crack down on rhino poaching."
And India has gone a full year year without any reported cases of polio:
"It's an incredible milestone for polio eradication," said Rod Curtis, a New Delhi-based specialist with UNICEF. "But complacency is perhaps the biggest threat to the program today. You could get down to the last three children in the world, but unless you [immunize] those kids, it could explode again."
Behold our best and brightest:
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio got schooled at his own game while Congress is at recess. Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, may have underestimated the trolling habits of Internet techies scorned by his Stop Online Piracy Act....

Vice found that Smith’s official campaign website featured a background photo of a lush forest scene–without a photo credit. After a quick search, they found the image belonged to DJ Schulte, a photographer who captured the scene in Bear Creek, Texas.
I blame Teh Gays.

Citizens in Wisconsin have gathered enough signatures to recall Scott Fitzgerald:

Recall organizers still have the rest of today and all day tomorrow to increase their margin to help fight off any challenges from Fitzgerald.

This is the one they said couldn't be done. The Democratic Party and United Wisconsin both passed on this opportunity, so one local citizen, Lori Compas of Fort Atkinson, started the recall against Fitz on her own.

The EPA has launched a new website that allows you to identify the largest greenhouse-gas emitters in your area:
Carbon pollution is pretty abstract for most people, and they don’t where it comes from and who’s responsible,” said David Doniger, policy director for the Climate and Clean Air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These kinds of right-to-know tools are very popular and can make a difference. Once people know the level of greenhouse gases in their backyards, they will demand to know what company officials and elected officials will do about it.”
German researchers are working on an alternative to animal testing:
"We're basically using a test tube to study the effects of chemicals and their potential risks. What we do is take living cells, which were isolated from human and animal tissue and grown in cell cultures, and expose them to the substance under investigation," explains Dr. Jennifer Schmidt of the EMFT. If a given concentration of the substance is poisonous to the cell, it will die. This change in "well-being" can be rendered visible by the sensor nanoparticles developed by Dr. Schmidt and her team.
In Lowell, MA, veterans rallied around an Iraqi woman whose restaurant was vandalized:

An area veterans group pledged to fill every seat in Babylon, a downtown Iraqi restaurant where owners feared hatred drove a man to throw a 20-pound rock through a window last Wednesday....

Ahmed Al-Zubaidi said the incident drove his wife to tears, and prompted her to question whether the family should close the restaurant. The show of support from veterans and the community drove her to tears of joy last night, he said.

"This solidarity gives us the courage to stand," said Al-Zubaidi. "There is no more fear in my heart because there are such nice people behind us."

Gordon Hirabayashi, a brave Japanese-American who refused to report to an internment camp during WWII, died this week in Canada at the age of 93. His argument against obeying an unjust power bears repeating, at the very least:

“If I were to register and cooperate… I would be giving helpless consent to the denial of practically all of the things which give me incentive to live,” he said then. “I must maintain the democratic standards for which this nation lives. I am objecting to the principle of this order which denies the right of human beings, including citizens."

Photographs by Adam Magyar (take the time to watch the video; it's gorgeous and oddly moving). A Man Escaped, or The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth. Abandoned love hotels. Photographs by Hein Gorny. Contemporary pinhole photography. The photographic collection of the Austrian Geographic Society:

(Painting at top by Brion Gysin, 1959.)