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.)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Friday Hope Blogging

Civil unions are now legal in Delaware and Hawaii:

Several same-sex couples came together in the first minutes of New Year's Day in Honolulu to become the first in the state's history to enter into civil unions.

"We really don't want to wait any longer because we have been together for 33 years waiting for the opportunity and our rights and everything that goes with it," said Donna Gedge, who was with her partner Monica Montgomery, speaking to CNN affiliate KITV. "So why wait?"

Virginity tests are now illegal in Egypt:

Forced "virginity tests" on female detainees were ruled illegal in Egypt on Tuesday, after a court ordered an end to the practice.

Hundreds of activists were in the Cairo courtroom to hear the judge, Aly Fekry, say the army could not use the test on women held in military prisons in a case filed by Samira Ibrahim, one of seven women subjected to the test after being arrested in Tahrir Square during a protest on 9 March.

Jamaica's new prime minister is taking a stand against homophobia:
Jamaica's newly elected first female prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, says discrimination against gay people is wrong.

"No one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation," Simpson Miller said during a recent election debate, adding that unlike her predecessor she would be open to appointing a qualified gay person to her cabinet.

Read more here:
Ha ha ha:

After a four-year legal battle, a black Baptist church in South Carolina now is the legal owner of a building housing the infamous Redneck Shop, which operates a Ku Klux Klan museum and sells KKK and other racist clothing.

The Rev. David Kennedy, a long-time civil rights activist and pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church in Laurens, S.C., told Hatewatch today he can’t wait to turn the racist landmark “into a place of diversity.”

Furthermore, ha ha ha:

When the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center launched its political blog last month, newly hired chief executive Lance Dutson predicted in an editorial that “we’ll no doubt have kinks to work out along the way.”

Well, a big kink developed this week when other Maine bloggers pointed out that one of the center’s newly hired writers, Leif Parsell, has a long history of espousing white superiority and may even have ties to neo-Nazi organizations.

Those revelations led to Parsell’s firing on Tuesday, Dutson confirmed today to Hatewatch.
Isn't it odd how few neo-Nazis seem to understand that Hitler was a lefty? It's certainly not for lack of spending time on Free Republic.

Speaking of which, Obama has made four recess appointments, just like Hitler!

Obama's decision to recess appoint both these NLRB members and Cordray to the CFPB doesn't just put qualified people into the government—it enables the government agencies themselves to function. That functioning, not the specific individuals, was what Republicans hoped to obstruct. It goes without saying that the GOP will be outraged all over again, despite the fact that the last three Republican presidents all made recess appointments to the NLRB. Kudos to Obama for braving the outrage and doing what needs to be done to keep government working.

The EPA is creating jobs, just like Hitler!

A new report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation highlights the job creation numbers — 240,000 full-time jobs — expected to come from achieving new pollution goals set by the EPA’s “Total Maximum Daily Load” restrictions. Finalized in December 2010, these rules require a 25 percent reduction of pollution flowing into the Bay by 2025 and have already spurred state and federal investment in stormwater mitigation projects, upgrades at sewage treatment facilities, addition of power plant smokestack scrubbers, and improvements to management of agricultural runoff and livestock waste management.

And scientists have discovered various new species on the seafloor near Antarctica, just like Hitler!

"Hydrothermal vents are home to animals found nowhere else on the planet that get their energy not from the Sun but from breaking down chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide," said Professor Alex Rogers of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, who led the research. "The first survey of these particular vents, in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, has revealed a hot, dark, 'lost world' in which whole communities of previously unknown marine organisms thrive."

Highlights from the ROV dives include images showing huge colonies of the new species of yeti crab, thought to dominate the Antarctic vent ecosystem, clustered around vent chimneys. Elsewhere the ROV spotted numbers of an undescribed predatory sea-star with seven arms crawling across fields of stalked barnacles. It also found an unidentified pale octopus, nearly 2,400 metres down, on the seafloor.

The last asbestos mine in Canada has gone bankrupt:

Production at one mine has been halted until it can get refinancing, and another miner – Thetford Mines, Que.-based LAB Chrysotile –filed for bankruptcy Wednesday, leaving no active operations in Canada.

The wood stork population in the Southeast is recovering thanks to the ESA:
The Center for Biological Diversity said today that the wood stork should be downlisted from “endangered” to “threatened” because its population has grown dramatically since it was protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The change will not reduce the species’ legal protections, but is an important step toward full recovery and removal from the Act’s oversight.

“The beautiful wood stork is just one of hundreds of species the Endangered Species Act has successfully put on the road to recovery,” said the Center’s Marty Bergoffen. “From the brink of extinction, the wood stork multiplied to 12,000 nesting pairs in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.”
While we were busy debating whether it's government's place to repair crumbling bridges, China built the world's largest battery:
China just took a massive step forward for renewable energy as it flipped the switch on the world’s largest battery, which will help integrate a solar project and a wind farm into a smart grid. Capable of storing 36 megawatts hours of power and taking up the area of a football field, the giant battery bank was built as a joint venture between solar and electric car company BYD and the State Grid Corporation of China to improve a large wind and solar electric installation’s efficiency by 5-10%.
Electronic coupons save paper, which saves trees:

Do your coupons often end up scrunched up and tossed into your garbage (or recycling) bin? Think about this: an estimated 1.135 million trees are cut down and processed to print paper grocery coupons every month.

That is roughly equivalent to 2,500 acres of woods. A total of 13.62 million trees are used each year to print coupons.

These days, more consumers are discovering a way to reduce such paper use, while gaining more convenience and reducing clutter. Instead of clipping paper coupons, they are opting for electronic grocery coupons.

Last, John McCain has refused to pass the official torch of unelectable douchebaggery to Rick "Everyone Hates Me But Teabaggers" Santorum. Instead, he bestowed it on his old pal Mitt "Everyone Hates Me Including Teabaggers" Romney in this touching ceremony:
[McCain] grimaced when he was introduced, and as Romney delivered his own stump speech, an increasingly impatient McCain pulled up his sleeve and checked his watch. McCain gave his endorsement address without mentioning Romney’s Iowa win until the end. “By the way, we forgot to congratulate him on his landslide victory last night,” he said, laughing. Romney ignored him.
May they walk many miles together.

Meanwhile: Chromolithographs by E.L. Trouvelot. Prints by James Gillray. Watercolors by John Abbot. Paintings by Curzona Allport. Illustrations by Lee Brown Coye. Photos by Mel Rosenthal. Photos by Seiji Shibuya. And photos by Hugh Mangum:

In addition to which: London, 1753. Comic strips, 1898-1916. Sheet music, 1800-1922. Oregon, 1940. Nineteenth-century children's literature. Nineteenth-century performers on the Overland Trail. Night thoughts of a baffled humanist. An ABC of travel. The Yukon delta. Photos by Graciela Iturbide. And photos by Clint Grant:

Therefore: Medicine and Madison Avenue. Arte publicitario. Dogon blacksmiths. Oregon trademarks. Yiddish sheet music. Texas postcards. North American panoramas. Botanical New York. Pictures of children. Pictures of showgirls. The Rocket Book. And photographs by William Gedney:

(Photo at top: "Foreleg of a male diving beetle" by Spike Walker, 2011.)

Monday, January 02, 2012

Protect the Queen!

Many years ago, someone published some racially insensitive commentary under Dr. Ron Paul's name while he was out defending the Constitution. Ever since then, the Democrats, the RNC, the media, ZOG and the rest of the usual suspects have been using a desperate "guilt by association" strategy to link Dr. Paul with the writings published for years beneath his name and above his signature.

Unfortunately for the statists, this slander is doomed to fail because no hard evidence supports it. Where's your 48 kHz ADAT recording of Dr. Paul expressing solidarity with the KKK? Where's your hi-def video of him burning a cross on a black person's lawn in June of 1980? Where are his white-power tattoos? On which Skrewdriver album does he sing backing vocals? Where's his tweet that says "I hate darkies and I don't care who knows it"?

Face it: In the absence of compelling evidence, all you Paul-haters have is a bunch of racially charged rants published under his name for his direct financial and political benefit.

Which amounts to less than nothing, because Ron Paul is no racist, as evidenced by the fact that he can't be a racist because he isn't one, period. Ron Paul's supporters aren't racists either. When they found themselves receiving newsletters containing these arguably offensive comments, they immediately complained that someone was writing potentially horrible things under Dr. Paul's name. And as we all remember, Dr. Paul promptly reassured his subscribers by apologizing publicly for the articles and severing all ties with the person or people he paid to write them. Most important of all, he conceded that as the captain of his soul and the master of his fate, the whole dreadful episode was nobody's fault but his.

And I'm sure we all recall how shocked Dr. Paul was when he started getting letters and phone calls from subscribers saying things like "thanks for giving us God's honest truth about the nigras!" Once again, he identified the cause of this misconception, took Full Personal Responsibility™ for it, and announced that he'd prefer to do without the support of people who were praising him for hateful views that he doesn't actually hold.

To the limited extent that none of this actually happened, it's possibly because not only did Ron Paul not not not write the newsletters, but he also didn't mail them. Why? Because no one subscribed to them. Why not? Because subscription lists are a form of collectivism and the USPS is an outpost of Soviet Russia, where the mail checks you. To imply that Dr. Paul would use The Socialized Mail despite his steadfast adherence to the consistent principle of principled consistency is utterly beyond the pale, even for his reptile detractors. Furthermore, it's quite possible that when his subscribers received the newsletters they left them sealed on purpose. They probably said, "To open this newsletter and read it would be to subject Dr. Paul to an interrogation of sorts. It runs the risk of vandalizing the private property of his thought, without giving him the opportunity to defend it against my accidental misapprehensions or — God forbid! — my inadequate purity of intent."

That's what I'd do, anyway. And I don't flatter myself that I'm unique in that regard. If I'm right, as we have reason to believe, then not only did Dr. Paul not write the newsletters but his supporters didn't read them and the whole thing's a teapot in a tempest.

This is not to suggest that Ron Paul's views are necessarily in perfect lockstep with those of the multiculturalist elite, especially as regards homos. But consider this: He's a product of an earlier era and a different culture. Surely you don't expect the poor man to transcend these early formative experiences through the self-interested exercise of Willpower and Rationality? He can't help how he was raised! Cut him some slack, for Christ's sake.

And remember, a vote for Paul is a vote for peace in our time. There's no other unelectable third-party candidate you can say that about, anywhere. And even if there were, that person probably has some baggage too. After all, nobody's perfect!

And now, let us never speak of this again.

UPDATE I: I was perfectly well aware when I put the careful thought and ran the grave personal risk into and of compiling this unexceptionable summary of facts that only moral pygmies could deny, that the aforementioned moral pygmies would not only deny them, but also put their inquisitorial zeal on display by attempting to torture my words into revealing some consequence, some omission or some agenda that I could then be said somehow to have overlooked or attempted to obscure. These self-appointed Witchfinders General believe that by literally plunging their needles into my arguments, they will find some rhetorical devil's mark that will excuse them from the sad duty of facing the uncomfortable facts that shroud them in guilt. Regardless, ipso facto and notwithstanding, I will continue to speak the truth and literally let the chips fall where they may.

UPDATE II: Given their Manichean zeal to act as Lord Inquisitors against principled voices of dissent -- no matter how calm, rational or impossible for a good-hearted person to disagree with -- one can easily imagine the sort of Kristallnacht my bland statements of demonstrable fact are even now driving the Enemy to plan and launch. This robotic devotion of literally brainless shills to falsehood and viciousness not merely as political tactics, but as supreme ends in themselves, is the litmus test that distinguishes the Obama era's ever-dwindling authentic humanity from hyperpartisan personality cultists. Suffice it to say that the binary thinking to which these apologists for evil are prone typifies everything that any reasonable person must concede is wrong with people like that.

UPDATE III: It pains me to imagine the lengths some people will undoubtedly go to twist my remarks here into something other than what I have already repeatedly stated that I intend them to be; viz., an honest assessment of a situation that others have not only failed to examine in any depth — for reasons we hardly need to guess at — but also to notice at a time when noticing them was in fact a moral obligation of citizenship, properly so called. Has it really come to this? Q.E.D.

UPDATE IV: What can one even begin to say when the putatively highest soi-disant "principles" of one's opponents are manifestly the mere delusions of situational ethicists who literally wallow in the entrails of the foreign babies they murdered by proxy for the greater glory of the assassins who slaughtered these innocents in their name? All one can hope is that if these cultist shills can't bring themselves to agree with me when circumstances ineluctably demand it, they can at least be honest about their motivations. They can say, "I don't care who the President hunts down and kills in this Brave New World of foreign adventurism; it's all worth it because some coal plant got closed down in Kentucky, even if that's probably just a prelude to invading Wales." Is that too much to ask? Apparently so.

UPDATE V: I consider this matter closed. Those who wish to beat this dead horse are welcome to chase their tails in perpetuity, or until their batteries run down.