Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Fun list. I find it interesting in that it contains a lot of characters that are loved by some, hated by others. I've always loved Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre for example, but he did some not nice things. Similarly, it includes a lot of the "Mary Sue" type characters - characters that you can tell are idealized versions of the author and that can do no wrong. Anita Blake is on the list and this is one I wholeheartedly agree with.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Excellent post that explains why Christians saying they hate the sin but love the sinner isn't helpful. First of all - GAY KIDS ARE DYING.
"But it doesn’t follow that every moment is an appropriate time to do so. It doesn’t follow that every conversation about homosexuality is an opportunity to showcase your theological position on marriage (as opposed to, say, your theological position on the dignity of all persons).
If Christians would spend even half as much time denouncing anti-gay violence as they do denouncing gay marriage, I might have more sympathy for Savage’s letter-writer. But the denunciations of violence are usually tepid, and they’re too often followed by a “BUT.” BUT we want to make it clear that we still think gay sex is wrong. BUT marriage is for a man and a woman. BUT we Christians are persecuted too, you know.
Even if one accepts the premises, such responses exhibit skewed priorities. They’re akin to saying that you are really concerned about feeding the starving, but first you want to make sure that they’re not going to burp at the dinner table."
Five Books is an impressive site with a simple idea...ask an expert in a subject to talk about five books most important on a topic. It is like hearing a mini-lecture that helps a layperson understand a topic while recommending books to get a more detailed picture. Kind of perfect for a librarian. ;-). Here, for an example, is the Five Books page on obstacles to political reform in China.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
In this blog post he gives one of the clearest and most honest explanations I've seen. He gives blame to both parties where blame is due. But if you're one of those who say you don't like the Republicans on social issues, but vote for them because of their fiscal policies, pay attention. Republicans talk a lot about cutting spending, and they do cut taxes, but what happens is they cut taxes, don't cut spending, and so increase deficits.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
In this particular battle I'm on the side of the Catholics. I grew up Presbyterian, but that whole predestination thang, among other matters of doctrine, eventually squashed that flat.
And, just where in the Bible does it say that only humans go to heaven?
This actually points to one of the beliefs of Paganism that helped convert me, that all things partake of the Divine and are in their own way sacred. So, yeah, a rock can be sacred.
Friday, October 15, 2010
The accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom dispelled the myth of effective corporate governance. These days, the idea that our banks were well capitalized and supervised sounds like a sick joke. And now the mortgage mess is making nonsense of claims that we have effective contract enforcement — in fact, the question is whether our economy is governed by any kind of rule of law.
The story so far: An epic housing bust and sustained high unemployment have led to an epidemic of default, with millions of homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments. So servicers — the companies that collect payments on behalf of mortgage owners — have been foreclosing on many mortgages, seizing many homes.
But do they actually have the right to seize these homes? Horror stories have been proliferating, like the case of the Florida man whose home was taken even though he had no mortgage. More significantly, certain players have been ignoring the law. Courts have been approving foreclosures without requiring that mortgage servicers produce appropriate documentation; instead, they have relied on affidavits asserting that the papers are in order. And these affidavits were often produced by “robo-signers,” or low-level employees who had no idea whether their assertions were true.
Now an awful truth is becoming apparent: In many cases, the documentation doesn’t exist. In the frenzy of the bubble, much home lending was undertaken by fly-by-night companies trying to generate as much volume as possible. These loans were sold off to mortgage “trusts,” which, in turn, sliced and diced them into mortgage-backed securities. The trusts were legally required to obtain and hold the mortgage notes that specified the borrowers’ obligations. But it’s now apparent that such niceties were frequently neglected. And this means that many of the foreclosures now taking place are, in fact, illegal.
This is very, very bad. For one thing, it’s a near certainty that significant numbers of borrowers are being defrauded — charged fees they don’t actually owe, declared in default when, by the terms of their loan agreements, they aren’t.
Beyond that, if trusts can’t produce proof that they actually own the mortgages against which they have been selling claims, the sponsors of these trusts will face lawsuits from investors who bought these claims — claims that are now, in many cases, worth only a small fraction of their face value.
And who are these sponsors? Major financial institutions — the same institutions supposedly rescued by government programs last year. So the mortgage mess threatens to produce another financial crisis.
What can be done?
True to form, the Obama administration’s response has been to oppose any action that might upset the banks, like a temporary moratorium on foreclosures while some of the issues are resolved. Instead, it is asking the banks, very nicely, to behave better and clean up their act. I mean, that’s worked so well in the past, right?
The response from the right is, however, even worse. Republicans in Congress are lying low, but conservative commentators like those at The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page have come out dismissing the lack of proper documents as a triviality. In effect, they’re saying that if a bank says it owns your house, we should just take its word. To me, this evokes the days when noblemen felt free to take whatever they wanted, knowing that peasants had no standing in the courts. But then, I suspect that some people regard those as the good old days.
What should be happening? The excesses of the bubble years have created a legal morass, in which property rights are ill defined because nobody has proper documentation. And where no clear property rights exist, it’s the government’s job to create them.
That won’t be easy, but there are good ideas out there. For example, the Center for American Progress has proposed giving mortgage counselors and other public entities the power to modify troubled loans directly, with their judgment standing unless appealed by the mortgage servicer. This would do a lot to clarify matters and help extract us from the morass.
One thing is for sure: What we’re doing now isn’t working. And pretending that things are O.K. won’t convince anyone.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Want your Halloween pumpkin to be extraordinary? This site has printable stencils you can use to make beautiful and/or fun carved pumpkins, and there is a slideshow for each category that is fun to see. Categories are faces, fall designs, silly faces, more (miscellaneous), Halloween, cat breeds, dog breeds, celebrity, vampires and werewolf, Halloween (another gallery), flames, and two additional "more" sets.
Great post from Ed Brayton that points out that saying the U.S. is not about to be conquered by Sharia law does not mean one supports it, and that paranoia about Muslims that tars them all with the same brush makes it harder to fight the violent jihadists by radicalizing moderate Muslims.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Some days the world seems bleak indeed, filled with incompetant and too often corrupt leaders in politics and business. Then along comes a story like that of the Chilean miners, and I marvel anew at the strength of the human spirit. Rescuing the miners took enormous strength to endure from them, and great determination and coordinated efforts from those who rescued them. To everyone involved, thanks for the inspiration!
Terrific news. She bans the military from continuing investigations or enforcing DADT:
"In language much like that in her Sept. 9 ruling declaring the law unconstitutional, Judge Phillips wrote that the 17-year-old policy “infringes the fundamental rights of United States service members and prospective service members” and violates their rights of due process and freedom of speech."
Exactly so. The state should not be able to discriminate against a legal class of citizens.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Judge upholds ruling on "don't ask, don't tell"
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- Judge upholds key part of Obama healthcare lawThu, Oct 7 2010
- Ex-Guantanamo detainee sues U.S. for damagesThu, Oct 7 2010
- Court considers anti-gay protests at funeralsWed, Oct 6 2010
- Pentagon pitches austerity plan to nervous Wall StreetTue, Oct 5 2010
- Special report: The Pentagon's new cyber warriorsTue, Oct 5 2010
WASHINGTON | Tue Oct 12, 2010 4:15pm EDT(Reuters) - A judge on Tuesday ordered the Pentagon to stop banning openly gay men and women from serving in the military after ruling last month that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in California rejected the administration's request to limit her ruling to only military personnel who are members of the Log Cabin Republicans, the organization that sued to overturn the policy.
Phillips said in a 15-page order that because she had ruled that the policy was unconstitutional, the only proper remedy was to grant the organization a broad injunction barring the U.S. military from enforcing its policy.
The law had barred homosexual acts in the military but allowed gay men and lesbians to serve in the armed forces so long as they keep their sexual orientation private. Otherwise, they are to be expelled.
Phillips found that it violated the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution and asked the two sides for comment on possible remedies, including a permanent injunction against the policy.
Phillips enjoined the Pentagon from enforcing the policy against anyone under its jurisdiction and told the Defense Department to suspend or end any pending investigation, discharge or other proceedings under the policy.
A Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the ruling.
The policy was introduced in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and enacted into law, overturning a previous policy of excluding gay men and women altogether based on a premise that homosexuality was incompatible with the military.
President Barack Obama had pledged to repeal the policy but has faced strong opposition from Republicans in the U.S. Congress.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates imposed tougher rules of evidence and generally made it more difficult to discharge openly gay military personnel. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has surveyed service members on the issue.
The case in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, is Log Cabin Republicans v. United States of America, 04-08425.
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Bill Trott)
*We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language or appear to be spam and review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters.
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Monday, October 11, 2010
Great post advocating we go beyond looking at bullying to why high school, which can be great for some, is so dreadful for so many. I was a shy fat kid, and high school was not fun for me, though I had a couple of friends who made it bearable - thank you, Frances, and thank you, Joe Earl.
Excellent post from Ed Brayton. I really hate it that one can't point out that the Muslim world has legitimate grievances without being accused of supporting terrorism. Understanding that some anti-U.S. feeling has been driven by U.S. actions does not mean supporting violence against innocents. Nor is it unpatriotic to point out that not all U.S. actions against the Muslim world have been justified or wise.
As much as I criticize the way things are in the U.S., I am so very happy to have the freedom to make those criticisms. China's jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo is in jail for criticizing the Chinese government, just won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, and now his wife is under house arrest. I have to say I find it highly amusing (with a dark edge) that the Chinese government describes the award to Liu as "blasphemy". I thought a Communist government didn't have any deity to blaspheme. If they consider themselves sacred they are badly deluded.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Animals (not just people) likely have spiritual experiences, according to a prominent neurologist who has analyzed the processes of spiritual sensation for over three decades.
Research suggests that spiritual experiences originate deep within primitive areas of the human brain -- areas shared by other animals with brain structures like our own.
The trick, of course, lies in proving animals' experiences.
"Since only humans are capable of language that can communicate the richness of spiritual experience, it is unlikely we will ever know with certainty what an animal subjectively experiences," Kevin Nelson, a professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky, told Discovery News.
"Despite this limitation, it is still reasonable to conclude that since the most primitive areas of our brain happen to be the spiritual, then we can expect that animals are also capable of spiritual experiences," added Nelson, author of the book "The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain," which will be published in January 2011.
The finding is an extension of his research on humans, which has been published in many peer-reviewed journals. A Neurology journal study, for example, determined that out-of-body experiences in humans are likely caused by the brain's arousal system, which regulates different states of consciousness.
"In humans, we know that if we disrupt the (brain) region where vision, sense of motion, orientation in the Earth's gravitational field, and knowing the position of our body all come together, then out-of-body experiences can be caused literally by the flip of a switch," he said. "There is absolutely no reason to believe it is any different for a dog, cat, or primate’s brain."
Other mammals also probably have near-death experiences comparable to those reported by certain humans, he believes. Such people often say they saw a light and felt as though they were moving down a tunnel.
The tunnel phenomenon "is caused by the eye's susceptibility to the low blood flow that occurs with fainting or cardiac arrest," he said. "As blood flow diminishes, vision fails peripherally first. There is no reason to believe that other animals are any different from us."
Nelson added, "What they make of the tunnel is another matter."
The light aspect of near-death experiences can be explained by how the visual system defines REM (rapid eye movement) consciousness, he believes.
"In fact," he said, "the link between REM and the physiological crises causing near-death experience are most strongly linked in animals, like cats and rats, which we can study in the laboratory."
Mystical experiences -- moments that inspire a sense of mystery and wonderment -- arise within the limbic system, he said. When specific parts of this system are removed from animal brains, mind-altering drugs like LSD have no effect.
Since other animals, such as non-human primates, horses, cats and dogs, also possess similar brain structures, it is possible that they too experience mystical moments, and may even have a sense of spiritual oneness, according to Nelson.
Marc Bekoff, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, also believes animals have spiritual experiences, which he defines as experiences that are nonmaterial, intangible, introspective and comparable to what humans have.
Both he and primatologist Jane Goodall have observed chimpanzees dancing with total abandon at waterfalls that emerge after heavy rains. Some of the chimps even appear to dance themselves into a trance-like state, as some humans do during religious and cultural rituals.
Goodall wondered, "Is it not possible that these (chimpanzee) performances are stimulated by feelings akin to wonder and awe? After a waterfall display the performer may sit on a rock, his eyes following the falling water. What is it, this water?"
"Perhaps numerous animals engage in these rituals, but we haven't been lucky enough to see them," Bekoff wrote in a Psychology Today report.
"For now, let's keep the door open to the idea that animals can be spiritual beings and let's consider the evidence for such a claim," he added.
"Meager as it is, available evidence says, 'Yes, animals can have spiritual experiences,' and we need to conduct further research and engage in interdisciplinary discussions before we say that animals cannot and do not experience spirituality."
Earlier this week, Boyd K. Packer, president of the Mormon Church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, gave a sermon that endorsed discrimination against gay people and claimed that they could be converted into heterosexuals.
Conveniently, Packer failed to point out that the keynote speaker at the Mormon "ex-gay" group Evergreen's September conference was John Paulk - the supposedly cured family man that I photographed in a Washington, DC gay bar in 2000.
No matter how many millions of dollars religious organizations squander on this fatal fantasy, or how loudly they preach this destructive lie - there is no evidence that one can pray away the gay. The idea that millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people will abandon rich, satisfying lives to become "ex-gay" is equal parts propaganda and pipedream.
Given the fact that LGBT people exist and are not going anywhere, the Religious Right has two choices:
1) It can accept that LGBT people are on a trajectory to be embraced by mainstream society
2) Or, it can suppress this rapidly growing trend through intimidation and violence
In the past year, I believe, the LGBT movement has reached a tipping point, where there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. Polls are in favor of equal rights and widespread acceptance is seeping into nearly every sphere of society.
Anti-gay activists see the writing on the wall and are reacting rabidly by spewing unprecedented amounts of biblical bile. The attitude of these extremists can be summed up by The Call's Lou Engle, who said at an anti-gay seminar in Lynchburg, Va., earlier this year, that without a Godly intercession, the LGBT movement would win.
Of course, there will be no Godly intercession, anymore than there will ever be a mass exodus into the silly "ex-gay" ministries. And, this is precisely why organizations like Focus on the Family, The Minnesota Family Council, and Exodus International fight tooth and nail against programs that would stop anti-gay bullying.
The horrible truth is that the Religious Right needs the threat of violence and selective use of terror to keep young people from living openly and honestly. They even have entire websites, such as TrueTolerance.org, and annual events, like the "Day of Truth", to ensure bullying remains a bloody right of passage for many gay students.
Indeed, Focus on the Family's True Tolerance website smarmily states, "Concerned about homosexual advocacy in your child's school? You've come to the right place."
Our foes would deny that violence is their intention, and no doubt many of them would prefer a neat and clean conversion, before a messy reversion to brute force. But, Dr. Joseph Berger revealed how the right genuinely believes gender norms should be enforced.
"...let the other children ridicule the (gay or transgender) child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world," wrote Berger, a "Scientific" Advisory Committee member of the "ex-gay" therapy group NARTH. "Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary."
How do such "academic" ideas play out in the real world?
Ask 11-year old Tyler Wilson, a victim of such boundary enforcement. Last month bullies broke his arm because he joined his school's cheering team. Also last month, at least six gay youth committed suicide, by way of bridge jumping, hanging, and gunshot wound.
The closet is also enforced for adults by roaming thugs who use violence to let LGBT people know their place. In the heavily gay neighborhood of Chelsea, a group of friends were attacked this weekend with fists and a metal garbage can, while the assailants yelled, "Go home faggots. This is our neighborhood."
Actually, this is my neighborhood, with my apartment only one block away from where this gay bashing incident occurred.
I have also had drinks at the historic Stonewall Inn - birthplace of the modern LGBT movement and the scene of an equally horrific anti-gay hate crime this past weekend.
On a street corner where I have held hands with my partner, I now must look over my shoulder. In a bar where I once imbibed carefree, I must now be on guard. Even if the perpetrators are caught and jailed, the damage to all LGBT people is done.
Breeding such insecurity, at root, is why the Religious Right vehemently opposes efforts in schools to stop bullying. As long as no place feels completely safe, the church-inspired closet will maintain the illusion of a safe haven.
The unholy marriage of the bully and the pulpit really is all anti-gay activists have left in their arsenal to defeat the LGBT movement. No matter how many youth commit suicide or adults are gay-bashed, don't expect our foes to give up their trump card of violence anytime soon.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book "Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth."
The troubling spate of student suicides and extreme distress resulting from bullying and taunting in the first weeks of the new school year have brought the nation’s attention, at least briefly, to a very serious, structural and endemic problem.
The cases are well known, from a 13 year old who hung himself in reaction to relentless anti-gay taunts, to the Rutgers freshman who jumped from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate posted a video on the Internet of him having sex with another male. Then there was the openly-gay student body president at University of Michigan who was subjected to relentless harassment by a deputy in the Michigan Attorney General’s office. And there have been others.
Credit various national groups and sympathetic celebrity spokesmen for jumping in to address this problem swiftly, including the Trevor Project, Kathy Griffin, Chris Coffer (the openly-gay star of the TV hit series “Glee”) and many others, including the organizers of vigils and “Purple Wednesday,” an Internet-led call to wear purple on Oct. 20 in memory of the suicide victims. Special kudos also go Anderson Cooper, who has devoted his “360” show on CNN every night this week to the subject of bullying.
What is too often overlooked in addressing the problem of bullying (a satisfactory catch-all phrase for all sorts of intimidation and sadism expressed by certain young people against others) is the extent to which such behavior mimics the behavior and attitudes of various adult role models, especially parents.
Since the onset of the latest recession and the election of Obama, there has been an unprecedented permission given in our society to grown ups behaving like angry playground bullies. The conduct of those unleashed by pro-Wall Street groups such as Freedom Works to disrupt and shout down discussions of health care reform at congressional town hall meetings in the summer of 2009 was far beyond the pale.
Any parent concerned for the behavior of their child pushing weaker classmates around should look into the mirror first, and look at what the major media and certain political forces have encouraged to be unleashed in the land.
For example, as the “free speech” case of the hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church goes to the U.S. Supreme Court this month, it has provided tons of free publicity for the hate-mongers, who are shown on national TV over and over again holding their repulsive signage.
The fact is that but for the media, there would be no point to the tiny handful of Westboro Church’s bigots engaging in their antics. Just like the minister in Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Koran. He was simply a media creation. Had he been ignored, then his actions would have had no impact, and Internet exposure would not have changed that.
Sadistic assaults by the stronger against the weaker, the sad fact remains, is at the core of modern society, and bullying is only a symptom. It is traced, among other places, to the British all-boys school system, where the scions of global financial empires are taught to systematically cut their teeth, as it were, on the flesh of their juniors. The accounts of these systematic practices are legion.
Organized sports has also played a major role in this, with teams forming a fraternity of the privileged, empowered to lord it over the less-physically talented or strong. The language of taunting is routinely sanctioned, often with subtle encouragement by coaches. Athletes are groomed to be set against aesthetes as they’re trained to be fodder for the battlefields of war.
Not just the overt victims of bullying are affected by this. We all are. Most of us have grown up learning to adapt to the bully culture, often by crafting ways to avoid the attention of a bully and staying silent in the face of brutality and injustice. Our self esteem remains tarnished by this and we learn never to really stand up for anything.
Most of U.S. law, in principle at least, is based on protecting the weak from the excesses of the strong in the name of “equal justice under the law.” But what should we do when laws are not enforced or punishments are not commensurate with the crime?
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Good article giving some of the issues in the current case before the Supreme Court about Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church protest at the funeral of Matt Snyder, a soldier killing in his country's service. It also talks about some of the great counteractions provolked by WBC.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I agree wholly with this post by Ed Brayton. I've seen this sentiment - I refuse to call it an idea - that Islam is not a religion several times. You can almost hear the wheels turning in the tiny brains of people who utter this inanity. Not a religion means no pesky religious freedom. Sorry, won't work.
Cyoot Kitteh of teh Day: Puttin Mah iPadz 2 Gud Yoos - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I don't know the answer to that, but some conservatives are managing it. I wonder if they've seen the videos of conditions in puppy mills?
I have a friend who has three small dogs rescued from puppy mills. She's had them for a few years, and they are still shy, frightened, and not well-socialized. Puppy mills are an atrocity, and should be regulated, though in a way that doesn't penalize responsible breeders who take care of their dogs.