The truth isn’t always what you want it to be.

So, there’s this video going around of Al Franken (whom I truly admire as one of our more sensible-seeming Senators[1]) taking Tim Minnery–who services in some sort of capacity with the anti-gay Focus on the Family organization–to task for misrepresenting a study about the correlation of the well-being of children and the type of family they come from.

Now I support same-sex marriage, and *love* to see bigots of all stripes get schooled, but I’m not sure Franken is necessarily right on this one.

Specifically, if the study defines a “nuclear family” as a married couple—and you can hear Senator Franken use the phrase “who are married to one another” at 1:59, when he says he is reading the definition the study uses—then Minnery’s interpretation is at least legitimate, and perhaps even more correct: because same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in all but a scant handful of states, they are going to be excluded from the “nuclear family” category in almost all cases.

There may be more to it that’s not in this clip, but in this case, I’m not sure the evidence as portrayed holds up to scrutiny.

fn1. Many years ago, Anne and I were seated at a table adjacent to his in a restaurant in Harvard Square.

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead

And I have to say: “So what?”

As many of the news stories are pointing out, many thought he’d been dead for years.

bq. On a long enough time-line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.[1]

The question is, are we doing what we need to do to be safer, and considering that large parts of American foreign policy *still* revolve around shooting at people, I suspect the answer is still, “No.” Considering that large parts of American security theater is ineffective and pointless, I suspect the answer is still, “No.”

As an incidental question, I wonder how many of the Republicans who have, of late, been decrying our involvement in Afghanistan as “Mr. Obama’s War” will now be trying to take credit for OBL getting hit?

fn1. Chuck Palahniuk, _Fight Club_

Michael Ford: Ayn Rand and the VIP-DIPers

It doesn’t surprise me in the least to find that Ayn Rand abandoned her principles when the time came that they were truly tested–many, perhaps most, people would do the same.

The thing that annoys me is that she, and her followers, would actively seek to deny others the same option of which she took advantage, justifying it with a “philosophy” suited only to tedious jeremiads masquerading as novels.

“Read it and weep”:

Obama may be better than Bush or McCain, but that ain’t much of a bar, and he’s doing the absolute minimum to clear it

What better evidence than “[“Patriot Act renewed”:]”.

Parenthetically, you want to know what’s destroying our way of life? It’s not Healthcare Reform, (which would save lives and money and infringe your freedoms not at all), and it’s not the fiscal stimulus (which even Republican economists agree helped keep unemployment from growing and the economy from slowing even more than it has), it’s the continuous encroachment of the “law-enforcement elements of our government on our civil liberties under the guise of making us safer”: It is the “intelligence agencies conspiring with communication companies to relieve us of our right to privacy using warrantless surveillance”: who are “then let off the hook for breaking the law”: It is our “willingness to approve of immoral acts done in our name”:

Unfortunately, we haven’t left most of those things behind by electing Obama, and we’re not even getting appropriate levels of bread and circuses in compensation.

Why Health Insurance is simply different

“Jim Henley”: has “a post”: that points to and condenses a couple of other posts that I think do a great job articulating the fundamental difference between health insurance and other types of insurance.

I think that understanding that health insurance is a fundamentally different beast from, say, your car insurance is an important part of being able to have a rational conversation about what an appropriate place for the government might (or might not) be.

I *also* think he makes a clear statement of why the individual insurance model doesn’t seem to work; while you may not agree with his conclusion as to the appropriate response, I think he lays out the choices one has clearly and pretty inarguably.

It’s nice to know The Daily Show isn’t in the tank for Obama

It would be easy for people of a certain mindset to assume, given the last 8 years, that _The Daily Show_ is simply a liberal outlet, happy to roll over and play dead now that there’s a Democrat in the White House.

The very evening of the Inauguration, they went to work to dispel that, neatly skewering Obama’s speech and it’s use of language that sounds, in many instances, reminiscent of Bush’s speeches:

I find this heartening for a couple of reasons. First, I am allergic to sycophants, so I would have to stop watching the show. Second, this suggests that what _The Daily Show_ is for is *good government*. That is something that will always need watchdogs, even after disposing of the heedless incompetence of the Bush administration.

I guess a nation of millions wasn’t enough…

Sorry, with all of the “Fear of teh Negro” crap that have been let fly of late, making a Public Enemy reference seems my patriotic duty.

I am still hopeful that North Carolina will break for Obama–I don’t want there to be any question that Obama has a mandate to do what needs doing. Every electoral vote will make the message that much less deniable.

The Republican I find myself unable to dislike…

is Mike Huckabee.

I know that on certain issues we stand diametrically opposed–I would never vote for him, and I wouldn’t expect him to vote for me if I were running for President. But at the same time, he strikes me as being most truly thoughtful and compassionate. Maybe that’s why the press seemed to paint him as a rube during the Republican primaries. He also has a pretty good sense of humor. He seems like someone you could actually work with, even if you did disagree on certain things.

Maybe that’s an incorrect assesment, but I don’t think so–in every appearance I’ve seen of his (admittedly not many) he seems truly at ease with himself. I don’t think you see that when you’re putting up a front.

What Sarah Palin wants

Sarah Palin wants your daughter to be given abstinence-only education about sex–which seems to have not been very effective with her unmarried five-month-pregnant daughter.

Sarah Palin wants to make sure every woman or girl who becomes pregnant is legally bound to deliver her child no matter whether she was raped or a victim of incest.

I will piss and moan about FISA and the bankruptcy bill and whatever, but, in the end, I will vote Obama/Biden for these reasons.

So, um, yeah, Obama *is* winning

There has indeed been a lot of hand-wringing on the Left and crowing on the Right about the fact that “Obama’s lead is within the margin of error,” as if this somehow means he’s not leading.

Please go read Kevin Drum so you can understand why “Obama is still in the lead”:

A fascinating video concerning abortion protesters

Someone interviewed anti-abortion protesters. The inverviewer asked them, politely, for the most part, the logical question: “If abortion were to be made illegal, what should the punishment be for those women who would have them anyway?”

Admittedly, there may have been people who had coherent, affirmative answer to the question and weren’t included in the video, but the only person who ended up in this edit that was willing to actually say yes was obviously conflicted and unhappy about saying so.
Cognitive dissonance like that is, in my experience, a sign that you’re on the wrong track–if you’re driven by your conscience to do something, but your conscience also tells you that the logical outcome of your actions is wrong, you *must* step back and reasses what you really want to achieve.

It’s definitely worth watching.

(via “Bitch Ph.D.”:

I guess it’s just as well I’ve been throwing away the Emily’s List solicitations

I mean, if “they’re going to support candidates that indulge in race-baiting”: I just don’t think they need my money. And I’m happy to make sure that people know what they’re involved in.

The funny thing is, I actually hold those with whom I have more in common to a higher standard than I do those with whom I disagree. It pisses me off a lot more when people that I am (generally) ideologically aligned with sell out than when people who I am in opposition to do. I guess it’s a soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations thing.

But it means that the inevitable calls I’ve gotten from the DSCC or the Obama campaign have all ended with me explaining that I won’t give money to a candidate or candidates who are willing to grant retroactive sanction to illegal wiretaps.

I seriously, seriously cannot come up with an epithet.

All the ones that spring to mind are laden with too much irony for a link to “Hal Lindsey proclaiming that Barack Obama is to the Anti-Christ what John the Baptist was to Christ”:

Seriously, even for Pre-Millenial Dispensationalists nut-jobs, that seems to be putting a little too much weight on the fact that he made a speech in Berlin.

Law and sausages

Supposedly–though you can find cites on the ‘net, well, it’s the ‘net–Otto Von Bismark said, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

I got to see a little bit of the lawmaking process firsthand, and I will agree with him that laws are like sausages, but I would suggest that, as a smart, ethical consumer, you should be very aware of how both of them are being made.

So, some background. For hundreds, probably thousands of years, people drank milk out of cows. There was no refrigeration, and it’s very perishable, so the milk never travelled far. It was nourishing. Occasionally people got sick from it, perhaps even dying, but probably not many, because it was easy to see when the animal was sick, and you wouldn’t drink milk from a sick cow.

About a centry ago, as our society began its move away from a largely agrarian populace, milk producers started to find it necessary to transport large quantities of milk relatively long distances to get it to consumers in larger, more metropolitan areas. People started to get sick because standards for hygiene and such were not up to the task of handling such large quantities of such a perishable product. Someone had noted that pastuerizing milk tended to kill most–though not all–of the dangerous critters, so many places enacted laws that required that all milk for commercial sale be pasteurized. Some places left loopholes or varying sizes that generally took the form of a very direct producer-to-consumer relationship–either so-called “cow-shares” programs, or allowing the sale only at the farm where it was produced.

North Carolina used to have a “cow-shares” program, but someone slipped language that stripped that protection away in an unrelated spending bill several years ago.

There remained one loophole–milk sold for pet consumption. Many animals find cow milk nourishing, and it can be used for weaning animals–say if you run a goat dairy–or in some cases it is simply for pets–say, for people who don’t want to accidentally feed their cat melamine.

Well someone–presumably related whoever decided that the “cow-shares” program had to go–decided that this represented a loophole: people could buy the milk pretending it’s for their pets and drink it themselves! The nerve!

So a regulation was passed at the Department of Agriculture decreeing that all such “pet milk” must be dyed a charcoal color, because presumably the animals wouldn’t care but humans would be so put off that the state would finally have succeeded in truly forbidding people from consuming raw milk.

I think you can probably guess what side of the argument I’m on.

A bill was introduced in the legislature to disapprove that regulation. I went to a hearing of the legislature’s Agriculture Committee this morning to show my support. Though the bill was recommended by the committee, it still needs to go to the Health Committee and then, hopefully, be voted on on the floor before the legislature goes into recess–or the regulation goes into effect.

The disenheartening thing was what I have a hard time not characterizing as duplicity on the part of those supporting the regulation.

The CDC reports that between 1993 and 2006–a period of 13 years–there were roughly 2000 people in, if I remember correctly, 89 incidents, made ill by outbreaks of food-borne pathogens transmitted by unpasteurized milk or milk products. In a population of between 250 and 300 million in this country, this is .008% of the population. 100 of those people were hospitalized. There were no deaths. The number of outbreaks from 1972 to 1992 were 46.

Now one of the pathogens that can be present in unpastuerized milk is _Listeria monocytogenes_, which cause in miscarriage or stillbirths. One case was presented where a cheese made of unpasteurized milk caused the miscarriage or stillbirth of 9 women.

In 2002, an outbreak of Listeriosis caused “seven deaths and three stillbirths”: The culprit? Chicken.

It is for reasons like this that it seems absured that the response to all this is to *forbid* any sale of unpasteurized milk for human consumption, and to place stringent demands on producers in an effort to make it so unpalatable that people won’t consider doing anything to get it through the back door. It was characterized by one presenter–an MD–as a medical, scientific necessity.

On the other hand, salmonella infected spinach, or tomatoes–more than 160 people sickened since April of this year, 43 hospitalizations, with at least one death that may have been hastened by the disease–aren’t subject to such stringent measures. In those much more far-reaching incidents, the producers at fault are found and dealt with while everyone else is free to sell.

This makes absolutely no sense to me. No fucking sense at all.

I hate conspiracy theories, but good lord, when there’s this sort of willful blindness, when the decision is made to take such extreme hard-line measures in the face of risks that are not only objectively small, but smaller than that borne by eating many foods that are merely regulated, it’s hard not to wonder what the hell is up?

So riddle me this…

if, as an expert being consulted on “Talk of the Nation”: just suggested, it is impossible to abridge Habeas Corpus through any act committed overseas–since the Constitution only applies in US territory–is it then also impossible to commit treason when outside the US?

Obviously I think it’s ridiculous to say we, as citizens and/or part of our contituted government, can pretend Habeas Corpus doesn’t exist when it’s convenient. But it seems to me that the two issues are directly analagous, and if you admit to one, you must admit to the other.

Might _The 1/2 Hour News Hour_ succeed?

“Mark Evanier”: (a funny guy in his own right, as co-creator of “Groo the Wanderer”: (yes, there’s a Wikipedia article for it (YNCAN))) “has a couple of points”: about the attempt to create a conservative version of _The Daily Show_.

The one that made me laugh was simply on conservative comedy:

bq. It’s like (I’ve said this before) making a Marx Brothers movie and trying to make Margaret Dumont the funny one.

And, of course, there’s a much more devastating point:

bq. The Executive Producer of The Half-Hour News Hour has been quoted as saying he looked around and didn’t see anyone making fun of Hillary or John Kerry. Which only tells us he’s never seen Jon Stewart’s show, the program he’s supposedly replicating.

And yeah, that producer is the same guy who produces _24_, and who was written about in “the recent _New Yorker_ article”: wherein he suggests, among other things, that all those professional intelligence-gathering guys don’t know anything about interrogation, and really, they should do like Jack Bauer and just beat the information out of suspects.

Because you never pick up the wrong guy or anything.

Gaaah, I only read half the article on the web, finished it in the print edition last night, and I’m still vaguely nauseous.

The Jim Henly one-two punch

Over at “Unqualified Offerings”:, Jim Henly has, first, “a solution”: for when your 17-year-old wants his girlfriend to sleep over. Best of all, it should be fun for the parents in a number of ways.

Second, he has “the fortune cookie response”: to neoconservative fortune cookie plans.

I agree with the article, I suppose

“but what Ryan Bigge doesn’t seem to realize”: is that being outside the 18-34 demographic should *help* you you get the “More Cowbell” sketch–I mean, _Don’t Fear the Reaper_ dates to 1976, so it’s only people who are at the top end of that demographic who are likely to remember it as anything other than a track that had AOR traction when they were 10.

I was fortunate

My parents were willing, and able, to pay for me to go to college, even though I spent four years doing what would certainly appear from the outside (and often from the inside) to be drinking and goofing off.

I’ll ruminate on what I learned in college, and how differently I would approach it now, some other time. Right now, I’m here to note that the interest rate of student loans has been raised _35%_.

I don’t know how much the government spends on student loans, it’s true. I would be surprised if it’s more than a billion dollars a year (remember, all domestic programs except Social Security and Medicare are *dwarfed* by military spending in this country), and I can’t think of a better investment than making it easier for people to make the choice to go to college.

Yet, when the time comes to try to rein in the budget deficits created by tax cuts that go overwhelmingly to the very rich (like the 72 billion dollars that the super-wealthy stand to reap by elimination of the estate tax, which is “paid by only .3% of all estates”:, or a projected 6300 estates out of 2.3 million in 2006), the Republican government decides that people who are not wealthy trying to get an education are the ones should have their lives made harder.

Many years ago (though the paper I reference is dated 2004, I seem to remember reading a draft of it quite some time earlier), “Phil Agre”: suggested that to understand the agenda of the Republican party, “one needed to think about what conservatism was”:–and he suggested that “the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality”.

Making it harder for people without wealth to send their kids to college will certainly help fullfill that goal, and it’s shameful that it’s happening in this country.

I don’t even think Fafblog could make me smile over this

Under the guise of collecting signatures to change Massachusetts blue laws to allow grocery stores to carry beer and wine (the lack of which I don’t remember from when we lived there, but we came from AL, where it’s similarly not allowed), some people have been fraudulently gathering signatures for “a petition to ban same-sex marriage”:

This is the first bit of news I’ve read in a while that has made me want to go be violently ill. All I can say is that these people have given up their souls if they’re willing to go to such lengths to forbid people to do something that, as the saying goes, neither picks their pocket nor breaks their legs. Some day I hope to be enlightened enough to be sad for them, but right now all I can manage is revulsion.

The myth of rural ignorance, set alight by small children.

So, “Ogged”: links to a Guardian column that has an “amusingly incisive commentary”:,,1606559,00.html that reminds me of a line from ??The Stand?? which Stephen King quoted in his introduction to trade edition for ??Sandman: World’s End?? collection, “Country don’t mean dumb.”

bq.. At university I once came across the following true story in a textbook. A young teacher from Leeds had accepted a temporary job teaching a class of four-year-olds out in one of the most isolated, rural parts of north Wales. One of her first lessons involved teaching the letter S so she held up a big colour photo of a sheep and said: “Now, who can tell me what this is?” No answer. Twenty blank and wordless faces looked back at her. “Come on, who can tell me what this is?” she exclaimed, tapping the photo determinedly, unable to believe that the children were quite so ignorant. The 20 faces became apprehensive and even fearful as she continued to question them with mounting frustration.

Eventually, one brave soul put up a tiny, reluctant hand. “Yes!” she cried, waving the snap aloft. “Tell me what you think this is!” “Please, Miss,” said the boy warily. “Is it a three-year-old Border Leicester?”

p. Of course, I have to admit that I thought the payoff was going to be more, err, sexual in nature. But that’s just the sort of gutter mind I have.

Delay compares Houston to Iraq…

…in “a Houston Chronicle story”: The story includes this paragraph:

bq. “You know, if Houston, Texas, was held to the same standard as Iraq is held to, nobody’d go to Houston, because all this reporting coming out of the local press in Houston is violence, murders, robberies, deaths on the highways,” DeLay said.

Which prompted this exchange between “Chet”: and I:

bq. (11:13:32) Michael Alan Dorman: Shit, I didn’t know you needed a $35K escort to get to and from the airport. That’s gonna make getting to the wedding a whole lot more expensive.
(11:13:59) Chet Farmer: yeah, yeah, yeah. I got guns I can loan.
(11:14:22) Michael Alan Dorman: Guess we’d better get the full coverage on the rental, though.

I will also note that this paragraph:

bq. “Everybody that comes from Iraq is amazed at the difference of what they see on the ground and what they see on the television set.”

can be easily interepreted in two ways. The desired interpretation, no doubt, is that everyone comes from Iraq and is amazed at how negative the coverage is. But it can also be easily interpreted as people being amazed at how coverage glosses over the level of death and destruction.

More posts from Debian Developers

So, decided to cave in and get that grocery store discount card that makes Ben & Jerry’s a buck cheaper, but hate the fact that you’ve just given them a window into your buying habits?

Benjamin Mako Hill “has the answer”: He and some compatriots put together “”: so you can meet up with people and swap cards. Yeah, they’ll still collect information, but it’ll be kinda strange.

Reviewing history of Amtrak with John Goerzen

John’s a Debian developer, and I keep up with his blog through the “Planet Debian”: aggregator.

I was very interested to read his “post on Amtrak funding”:

I think having public transportation is a significant public good–one of the things I have liked most about the times I have lived in large cities (Boston, Miami, DC) is the ability to get to places without a car. That public transportation occasionally provides Chet with an opportunity to note, “That woman had pierced nipples.” (a fact I had not noticed in my still-somewhat-hung-over state) is just icing on the proverbial cake.

That one of the few downsides to the place I live now is miserable air quality because of excessive automobile traffic just reinforces this for me.

I don’t have anything insightful to add…

…but I will note that during the three months I was in Washington, the two local, non-political things that dominated the news were the opening of the Krispy Kreme in Dupont Circle and the jubilation of some that they would no longer have to drive to Baltimore to see pro baseball.

Nevertheless, I don’t see how paying for a new stadium for a team would be anything other than a boondoggle.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder…

“I hope your children turn out to be as perfect as you are, sir.”

— Bill Clinton, quoted by the “New York Daily News”:, allegedly to a man “pushing a stroller” in Central Park who called him “an embarrassment.”

Josh Marshall pretty much sums it up

“Read it here.”:

Discussing the Bush Administration’s plan to privatize Social Security:

bq. In other words, we have to start phasing out Social Security now because if we don’t we’re going to face some big borrowing in a few decades. But we can avoid that horror of horrors by doing some big time borrowing now to finance abolishing Social Security we won’t have to face that terrible fate a few decades from now.

Now I’m really not the biggest fan of entitlement programs myself, but the fact is, before Social Security there was even more of a problem with rampant poverty among the elderly than there is now. I don’t see how dismantling this program–which, just in case you missed it, _is not insolvent or in trouble at this time or likely any time in the next three decades_–can be a good thing.

Or, as an alternative, why not just be honest about what you’re doing. State, “Social Security is over.”, arrange to borrow the money to handle everyone over, say, 50 now, and then let me save my money how I wish. None of this forced saving bullshit.

Oh, yeah, I forgot, this isn’t about true choice–this is about how to funnel money from the pockets of the poor into the pockets of the well-off. So we’ll force people to invest in the stock market, which will mostly help stock brokers.


My local NPR station has a problem with the phrase “reproductive health and rights”

A local organization was told that it would have to remove the word “rights” from its on-air sponsorship spot.

bq. The conflict between Ipas and WUNC has drawn national attention. Last month WUNC informed Ipas that it would have to remove “rights” from its on-air acknowledgement, which had read, in part, “Ipas, a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit that protects women’s reproductive health and rights at home and abroad.”

Joan Siefert Rose, WUNC’s general manager, said the phrase could be interpreted as advocating a political position, potentially running afoul of Federal Communications Commission regulations.

I have to say, I think they’re being lily-livered, and I’m not sure they deserve my money. But, it is an interesting fact that a lot of media outlets are now becoming concerned about the apparently arbitrary and capricious nature of enforcement of FCC rules; that this also involves an organization that is, you know, pro-choice, is doubly worrisome.