Sunday, February 28, 2010

Study on Intelligence

Now this is going to set the cat among the pigeons....dunno if I believe it, but it is interesting.

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Frank Rich on the Growing Violent Tone

Two articles in a row positive aobut the right before this one, so to balance it I point to Frank Rich's column today which I also think makes valid poiints about the growing violent talk of some of the Tea Partiers.  He thinks it quite possible it could lead to Oklahoma-city like violence.  I think Glenn Beck is an irresponsible demagogue, to put it mildly.


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Tom Friedman on Lindsay Graham and Climate Change

More good news about the right... Tom Friedman has this article about Lindsey Graham and his willingness to take steps to help the environment.  It's a great sign, and Graham makes the point that those under 30 are not having a debate about climate change... they see it as all too real, and the party that denies its reality will have no appeal to them.

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Nick Kristof on Christian Aid Work

Nick Kristof has this eye-opening column in the New York Times on the wonderful work that some Christian evangelical organizations are doing to help the world's poor, sick, and needy.  I often give voice to my dislike of Christian fundamentalism for a variety of reasons... I want to be fair and poiint to the good they do as well.

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Yoith u Can't Take it W

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gonna redefine “Grateful Ded” - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?

Why I'm Proud to be Associated with Georgia Tech

The big news is that the U.S. News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities in the WORLD has Georgia Tech ranked #12 in engineering and IT.  I'll admit there are lots of problems with college rankings, but it is still quite an honor.

On a smaller scale, but a story I like even better, is about a music competition here for new musical technology.  It is the 2nd annual event.  I just love this kind of innovation!





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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Admiral Ackbar for Ole Miss Mascot?

Cool... a bunch of students at Ole Miss  (see; I can't get the linking to work) are voting for Admiral Ackbar, the alien rebel admiral in Star Wars, whose most famous line was "It's a trap", to be the new Old Miss mascot. 

The news I find most pleasing about this is that Ole Miss has abandoned the Colonel Reb mascot.  In my book, its about damn time.  I'm a native Southerner, but I've always despised the Confederacy and I always will.  People who say it was about states' rights are deluding themselves, in my opinion.  It was about the right of one human being to hold another in slavery, and that is one of the greater evils there have ever been on this planet.  The deader the Confederacy the better I like it.



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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Real Education

Good piece from Bob Herbert on some schools that seem to be getting it right.  They are investing in people, finding and developing good teachers who are passionate about what they do.  Deborah Kenny, who has founded three charter schools in Harlem, is the focus of the piece, and I also like what she asks of her students:

"“I had five core things in mind for my kids, and that’s what I want for our students,” she said. “I wanted them to be wholesome in character. I wanted them to be compassionate and to see life as a responsibility to give something to the world. I wanted them to have a sophisticated intellect. I wanted them to be avid readers, the kind of person who always has trouble putting a book down. And I raised them to be independent thinkers, to lead reflective and meaningful lives.”

Those are excellent values, and not necessarily tied to any religion, so something that can be taught in public schools.


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Don't Ask, Don't Tell - Petreus in Favor of Repeal

Blog post from the ACLU that reports Gen. David Petreus joins Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mike Mullen and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in favoring a repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy and allowing gays to serve openly.  It also mentions studies of other countries that have allowed gays to serve openly, and that it hasn't affected unit cohesion and hasn't caused large resignations, indicating there aren't a lot of soldiers unwilling to serve with LGBT soldiers.



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Fun Article on Science and the Movies

From CNN, this story on how Hollywood uses or abuses science.


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I’m All Ears « Daily Squee

My, Grandma, what big ears you have!

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A Passion for Justice

Inspiring story of straight wrestler who is passionate about equal rights for all, including LGBT people and women.


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Color Me Bemused

CBS is turning a twitter feed into a comedy series.  Television 2.0 has arrived.



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Republicans of 1956

This post from Ed Brayton talks about the Republican party platform from 1956, and shows how moderate it is compared to today's Republican party.  NOW I'm nostalgic.



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krazy - Loldogs, Dogs 'n' Puppy Dog Pictures - I Has A Hotdog!

Do pugs have any other expression than worried?

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I VEHEMENTLY PROTEST - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?

This is the perfect picture of any cat who ever got wet!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Krugman on Health Care

Specifically on how California's health insurance death spiral shows that conservative plans for health care won't work.

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Library in a Box

Literally.  Now that's a kind of recycling I can particularly approve of.  And since it's not blue, no one is going to mistake it for a Tardis. :-)

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Skip This if Not in the Mood for Philosophy

Assume that over this whole post is a huge IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, so I don't have to keep saying it.  This is a set of philosophical/metaphysical/religious musings brought on by seeing the movie Avatar and by a book I'm reading by Charles de Lint called Eyes Like Leaves.  None of what I'm thinking here is entirely new, but carries a new clarity for me about the fundamental nature of the universe, who we are, and who we are becoming.

Avatar, in my mind, is an environmental movie.  The overall feeling it left me with -and do remember that I'm Pagan, so it is in Pagan terms that I frame this - is that the movie Avatar is a tool of Mother Earth to fight back against those who would destroy her.  It is tool to enhance awareness of something fundamental, that we are all interconnected.  Thus we should be careful of what we destroy, because it may destroy a part of ourselves.

Another piece of the puzzle came from the book mentioned above.  In it, wizards use magic, and do so by reaching into the stillness within themselves.  Here is a place where language fails, but Pagans use the concept of "centering" before doing magick, and centering is, essentially, finding that still place within, because that still place is the center point of the universe, the place where everyting is connected.  It is also very similar to Buddhism, which holds that individuality is an illusion, and which uses meditation to cut through the illusory nature of the world.

So, in trying to reach that still place, and in bringing together all that has made me the person I am today, a few things occur to me about the universe.

(10  The basic mode of operation is evolution.  Everything evolves - the stars in the sky, life on earth, our minds, our societies, EVERYTHING.  That which is static is illusory, and change is our fundamental constant.  Trying to hold on and prevent change is like tying to stop the wind.  The way to manage change is to keep that sense of connection that comes from the deep stillness.  The word "religion" comes from a word that means "to link back" or "to reconnect", so religion is our way of finding the deep stillness, the connection point, and that is what mysticiam accomplishes.

(2)  There are basic units in the universe which connect into units of greater complexity.  Sometimes those greater units break down, but then reform into other units of greater complexity.  Elementary particles form atoms, which form molecules which form cells which form organisms which form .... societies, minds, greater minds.  I think that humans are like neurons in a greater mind, a mind that is All That Is.  You can call it divinity if you want, but all terms of divinity have a lot of useless baggage attached to them that obscure what is real.

(3)  Put these two together, and it seems that God/dess is evolving.  Humans need security.  So the idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing God that takes care of everything, including us, is very attractive.  But this conception has a very big real problem of then why is there so much suffering?  A scholar I greatly admire, Bart Ehrman, left Christianity over the question of suffering, and he explains it much better than I ever could in his book God's Problem - How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer.  The reason is that there isn't an all powerful all knowing deity - there is All That Is, evolving constantly.  Equally, as humans evolve, our cultures and societies evolve.  Slavery was an idea once widely accepted,for example, but once the idea of individual liberties took hold slavery was doomed.  it still exists, because there are individuals who still practice it, but to more and more people it is fundamentally wrong, and so society evolves, and so does All That Is.

(4)  Errors happen.  Evolution is a process of trying something new.  Some of these new things fail, some are improvements.  A mutation that is maladaptive dies out.  In this way life on earth has evolved over billions of years from one-celled organisms to human beings, and all the wonderful diversity of life on this planet.  On other planets in other galaxies life has evolved in ways we can't imagine, though we try and those attempts are a part of our evolution too.  If our errors become cumulatively too much to bear, then humanity will cease to be and probably take much of this planet with it.  But life continues elsewhere and will arise elsewhere.

(5) Nothing and no one is ever lost.  Just as all the memories of our life are still available in our subconcsious, All That Is contains the sum of all of us.  It knows what it feels like to spend millions of years as a rock, feeling the warmth of the sun.  It knows what it is to be an atom born in a star that travels over light years to a planet to be incorporated into a sunflower that dies and that atom becomes part of a human, over and over a new life, an end, then another life.  So even if the Earth dies, and in the longest of long terms it will, All That Is will remember Shakespeare.  And Kuan Yin.  And Van Gogh.  And Fannie Lou Hamer.  And my cat Shannon, who was the most loving cat I've ever known.  And on and on, til the stars now being born grow old and die, and yet longer to an end none can forsee.


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Friday, February 19, 2010

Augmented Reality Tattoo

Now this is kind of cool!  I assume that you could change the tattoo that the bar code is associated with, too, so you avoid that whole a tattoo is for life thang...




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Competing Parody Political Ads

One Democratic, one Republican video, each a parody of tech ads, on the one year anniversary of the stimulus bill.


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Too Young For Prison! « Daily Squee

This picture is Just the Cutest Ever (at least for today).

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Interfaith Dialog

I posted what is below as a comment to an op-ed by a Christian minister who asked other Christians to respect other beliefs.

"Thanks to the Rev. Buie for the above article.  As a Pagan, he offers all that I ask of Christians - a respect for my beliefs though he does not agree with them, and a willingness to learn what Paganism is about rather than bashing us based on ignorance, which is what we get from many Christians.

Most Pagans have no wish to convert others, but welcome those for whom our religion speaks to their spiritual needs.  Most Pagans believe that the Feminine is as divine as the masculine, that all things are sacred and interconnected, that the Earth is sacred and needs to be treated with respect.

The problems of this world are many and profound.  We welcome the opportunity to work with people of all faiths to make life better on this planet for all its inhabitants."



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A Dog Hero Story

This story hits me where I live, as I've had my blood sugar crash before, though never lost consciousness.  Animals are amazing.  If you don't know about Best Friends, they are a terrific animal sanctuary and share many great animal stories.



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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rachel Maddow on Glenn Beck

They're having a back and forth on who said what.  I, naturally, like Rachel Maddow and despise Beck - who I believe is damaging the country severely and having a nasty effect on the state of public discourse in this country, so I think she wins this round.


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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

VA Governor Rolls Back Discrimination Protections for LGBT State Workers

McDonnell ran on business issues, not on culture war issues, even though he has been tied to the right wing on the culture war issues in the past.  I fear that this is just the first of what he will do.

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Fun Typo of the Day

From The Slate top stories of the day:

      "Nimitz Dicks in Hong Kong Despite Tense U.S.-Sino Relation"

The original article, from the BBC, uses the correct word "docks", FYI.


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yeah, well, - Loldogs, Dogs 'n' Puppy Dog Pictures - I Has A Hotdog!

Today with a lot to do and blossoming cold, I sort of feel like this. ;-).

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

AFTER A BUSY DAY OF ORCHESTRAL REHEARSALS - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?

How Many Innocent People Are In Prison? : Dispatches from the Culture Wars

« Dumbest. Legislation. Ever. | Main | Obama Argues for Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking »

How Many Innocent People Are In Prison?

Posted on: February 15, 2010 9:09 AM, by Ed Brayton

That's the very difficult question that Radley Balko attempts to answer in an essay at Reason. He begins by noting why this is so difficult to calculate:

Calculating the percentage of innocents now in prison is a tricky and controversial process. The numerator itself is difficult enough to figure out. The certainty of DNA testing means we can be positive the 250 cases listed in the Innocence Project report didn't commit the crimes for which they were convicted, and that number also continues to rise. But there are hundreds of other cases in which convictions have been overturned due to a lack of evidence, recantation of eyewitness testimony, or police or prosecutorial misconduct, but for which there was no DNA evidence to establish definitive guilt or innocence. Those were wrongful convictions in that there wasn't sufficient evidence to establish reasonable doubt, but we can't be sure all the accused were factually innocent.

But there should be little doubt that the number of exonerations brought about by DNA testing is only the tip of the iceberg:

Most prosecutors fight requests for post-conviction DNA testing. That means the discovery of wrongful convictions is limited by the time and resources available to the Innocence Project and similar legal aid organizations to fight for a test in court. It's notable that in one of the few jurisdictions where the district attorney is actively seeking out wrongful convictions--Dallas County, Texas--the county by itself has seen more exonerations than all but a handful of individual states. If prosecutors in other jurisdictions were to follow Dallas D.A. Craig Watkins' lead, that 250 figure would be significantly higher.

He then blasts Justice Scalia's absurd reasoning in claiming that there are very few innocent people in prison:

If the numerator is tough to figure, the denominator is even more controversial. One of the more farcical attempts at writing off the growing number of DNA exonerations came in a concurring opinion that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 2005 case Kansas v. Marsh. Scalia began by dismissing the idea that an innocent person may have been executed in America, explaining that if such a tragedy had occurred, "we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby."

Scalia has probably since become acquainted with the name Cameron Todd Willingham, the Texas man executed in 2004 who was likely innocent. But the justice's pique also betrays an unfamiliarity with how death penalty opposition organizations work. While Scalia is right that proof of an executed innocent would be good rhetorical fodder for death penalty abolitionists, legal aid groups aren't about to waste their limited resources hunting down mistaken executions when there are living, breathing innocents still to be discovered. Moreover, in many jurisdictions, prosecutors destroy the case files after an execution, making any post-execution investigation rather difficult. That we don't know for certain about more executed innocents doesn't mean they haven't happened.

Scalia then cited some absurd math from Josh Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor who has held various executive positions for the National District Attorneys Association. According to the Marquis formula Scalia endorsed, at the time there had been about 200 DNA exonerations. For posterity, Marquis then arbitrarily multiplied that number by 10, to come up with 2,000 wrongful convictions. Marquis then took every single felony conviction over the previous 15 years as his denominator, to come up with a meager .027 wrongful conviction rate. Move along, America. Nothing to see here. Your criminal justice system's performing just fine.

The figure is absurd. First, the subset of cases for which DNA testing can prove guilt is exceedingly small. It's generally limited to most rape and some murder cases. You can throw out the entire body of drug charges and nearly all burglary, robbery, assault, and other classes of felonies. As University of Michigan Law Professor Samuel L. Gross wrote of Marquis in a 2008 article (PDF) in the Annual Review of Law and Science, "By this logic, we could estimate the proportion of baseball players who've used steroids by dividing the number of major league players who've been caught by the total of all baseball players at all levels: major league, minor league, semipro, college and Little League--and maybe throwing in football and basketball players as well."

If the aim is to calculate the percentage of people who claim they're innocent and who actually are, you might throw out all cases decided by a guilty plea, too. But this can also get tricky. According to the Innocence Project, more than a quarter of DNA exonerations included a false confession or guilty plea. The plea bargaining process can also induce innocent people to plead guilty to lesser crimes to avoid charges with more serious prison time, particularly in drug cases.

So what's the correct percentage, or the closest we can get based on the data we have?

The Innocence Project cites a study by Seton Hall's D. Michael Risinger that puts the percentage of innocents in prison at 3 to 5 percent. But that study looked only at capital crimes, and there's yet more debate over whether data gleaned from those accused of crimes that are eligible for the death penalty would translate into higher or lower wrongful conviction rates for those accused of lesser crimes. (Those who argue that it would be higher note that there's more pressure on prosecutors and jurors to hold someone accountable in murder cases. On the other hand, defendants tend to have better representation in capital cases.) But even dropping below the study's floor, using the 2008 prison population, a 2 percent wrongful conviction rate would mean about 46,000 people incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit.

Whatever the percentage, DNA testing has exposed some gaping flaws in the system, calling into question traditional assumptions on the value of eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence, confessions, and the appeals process. (In several cases in which a defendant was later exonerated by DNA testing, appeals courts not only upheld convictions, but noted the "overwhelming evidence" of the defendants' guilt.) Scalia stated in Marsh that an exoneration "demonstrates not the failure of the system but its success," but it would be naive to believe the same systemic flaws exposed by these exonerations in the small subset of cases for which DNA testing is available don't also exist in the much larger pool of non-DNA cases. Put another way, if we now know because of DNA testing that misconduct by police and prosecutors produced a wrongful conviction in a high-profile murder case, it's probably safe to assume that the same problems led to the wrongful conviction of a number of routine drug suspects over the years, too. The difference is that there's no test to clear those people's names.

So these 250 DNA exonerations aren't proof that the system is working. They're a wake-up call that it isn't. Instead of falling back on groups like the Innocence Project to serve as unofficial checks against wrongful convictions, lawmakers, judges, and law enforcement officials should be looking at why there's so much work for these organizations in the first place.

Hear, hear. A few ideas for fixing this:

1. Establish innocence commissions in every state whose sole purpose is to review the record in every conviction and look for cases where the testimony and the evidence is conflicting, where details were left out before the jury and so forth.

2. Stop electing prosecutors -- and judges. It is the need to run for reelection that forces prosecutors and judges to be concerned about their conviction rate rather than their rate of being right.

3. Overturn last year's appalling Supreme Court decision and explicitly grant a right to access to DNA evidence for all defendants and set up a lab to provide such testing at public expense. Congress can do this without a problem (the court ruled that there is no constitutional right to such evidence, but Congress has the authority to establish a statutory right to it).

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What's even worse is the number of people who are innocent of a crime who plead guilty to reduced charges in order to avoid the possibility of being convicted of a more serious offense and being sentenced to a longer jail term.

As defense attorney F. Lee Bailey relates in one of his books, when a potential client tells him that he is innocent of a crime, his response is that that's fine but unfortunately being factually innocent is not a defense.

Posted by: SLC | February 15, 2010 9:22 AM


You're dreaming. There is a built-in 30% of the electorate that will NEVER go for this - the right-wing fundies. Then bullshit emotional appeals by Republicans will guarantee they get well over 50%.

Not to say that you shouldn't try, but I would not hold my breath. The vast majority of judges out there honestly believe that before DNA testing was invented, the number of wrongful convictions was ZERO. And the right-wing political apparatus is 1000 times better funded and equipped for judicial elections, so those are going to be the vast majority of judges til the end of time.

Excuse me while I go throw myself off of a building in despair.

Posted by: Disgusted Beyond Belief | February 15, 2010 10:10 AM


Equally bad: (I've said it before) For every innocent person in prison, a guilty one is walking free.

Posted by: Reverend Rodney | February 15, 2010 10:24 AM


Stop electing prosecutors -- and judges.

Hear, hear; and toss in police chiefs as well -- your country is simply insane to continue doing this . If I explicitly offer money to influence a public official to arrest, or prosecute, or convict someone (or refrain from doing any of those), that's bribery and I can be arrested. But implicitly offering my vote (and collectively, a large number of votes) for such actions? Apparently, that's just democracy.

Posted by: Eamon Knight | February 15, 2010 10:30 AM


Now, I don't want to specifically argue doing anything obviously illegal, but wouldn't be so delicious if Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and Sotomayor got a visit from the DEA based on some trumped up false charges of drug dealing and getting some bad stuff planted at their homes? Ahh...Scalia doing a perp walk. I would pay money to see that.

Posted by: Shawn Smith | February 15, 2010 11:14 AM


I would also allocated at least a small portion of the blame to bad jurors.

Posted by: richardp | February 15, 2010 11:24 AM


I have one nightmare regarding DNA proof of evidence.
How many people are chimeras, and do their tissues seggregate to a large extent?

Posted by: rnb | February 15, 2010 11:51 AM

Excuse me while I go throw myself off of a building in despair.

I've got to start reading slower. I first read that as "building in disrepair" and wondered why you needed to be so selective.

Posted by: Scott Hanley | February 15, 2010 12:17 PM


I agree that wrongful convictions are a serious problems. However, appointing, rather than electing, prosecutors and judges would not solve the problem. Canada has it's share of wrongful convictions and here prosecutors are civil servants and judges are appointed. Perhaps the answer would be more individual responsibility for wanton disregard of due process in addition to payouts from the public purse.

Hard questions, difficult answers.

Posted by: Canadian Curmudgeon | February 15, 2010 12:23 PM


rnb, it would depend on what stage the fusion of the two embryos occurred.

If fusion occurred early enough, the distribution of cells of each genotype would be completely random within any given tissue, and a typical DNA typing would pick up the presence of two sets of DNA.

If fusion occurred later, however, a given lineage of cells could be the product of only one genotype or the other, and it would be possible that (for example) a semen sample and a blood or cheek sample from the same person would give different results.

As far as anyone can tell, chimerism in humans is extremely rare, and early fusion of embryos is more common than late fusion. The number of people wrongly exonerated by DNA evidence is likely to be vanishingly low.

Posted by: bio grad student | February 15, 2010 12:38 PM


I'll tack on one more item to the list: make it so prosecutors, judges, etc. can be held legally responsible for bad trials/convictions. This immunity crap's gotta go, can you imagine how much worse our problem with overzealous cops would be if they had the de facto immunity others in the criminal "justice" system have? I don't know if I've ever held a job where I couldn't be held somewhat liable for doing the job wrong and causing harm to someone. Your average burger jockey probably has to salt the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, and would be liable for someone slipping and falling on poorly maintained conditions. Why not do the same for someone in a position of power like DA or judge? Crap, "position of power," think I just answered my own question. ;)

Posted by: Rob Monkey | February 15, 2010 1:55 PM


There is also the subset of abuse crimes, which bad as they are, are accompanied by a presumption of guilt unless one can prove the negative case of one's innocence. For a particularly egregious example, here's the story of a boy arrested at age 13, and at age 15 tried for a heinous crime for which no physical evidence was presented, without a jury, (before a single judge) without a shred of physical evidence, conflicting witnesses, charges of physically impossible acts, witness tampering, witness coaching, witness leading, ulterior motives, and so on. He did not express contrition--because as an idealistic youth he thought his innocence was shield enough--and has been incarcerated for 10 years:

Posted by: Grumpy | February 15, 2010 2:02 PM


Remember the big Supreme Court prosecutorial misconduct case came from Iowa, where judges and prosecutors aren't elected, so that only gets you so far.

Posted by: Ace of Sevens | February 15, 2010 3:56 PM


First, by law, the definition of guilty is simply the conviction by a jury of your peers in a fair trial. Fair being defined as the defendant being adequately represented by counsel as paid for by the defendant or provided for according to community standards. The community, by allocating funds to the PD, defines what is meant by adequate. It can be quite low. But low, vastly overworked counsel, is perfectly legal. Sad as it may be that communities don't allocate funding for DNA testing on behalf of the defendant using the PD office it does not make the conviction any less fair according to community standards.

Once your convicted you are, by definition, guilty unless there is either proof of a mistrial or substantial material evidence that the person convicted could not have done the crime. The state has no reason or motivation to dig up evidence after the fact. The trial is over, the case has been tried and the person found guilty. By law he/she is guilty.

Then again just call for a show of hands in your average jail ... surprise ... they are all innocent.

I think the election of judges and the use of the position of prosecutor as a stepping stone to political office to be appalling. I also thing that there has to be some more reasonable way to allocate funds to the PD than just leaving them the crumbs left over from the DA's table. With funding the PD might get DNA testing.

Posted by: Art | February 15, 2010 4:40 PM


Stopping the practice of so called 'expert witnesses' for hire would improve the judicial process.

Expert witnessing is big money so the professionals opinion tends to agree with whatever illusion the purchasing side wants to conjure up.

What I find especially absurd is when two psychiatrists, one hired by the defense, one by the prosecutor, both examine a defendant for thirty minutes and reach a conclusion. Its' a safe bet the prosecutor's expert will find the accused is sane enough to stand trial and was sane at the time of the crime, while the other expert will report the entirely opposite conclusion.

Should a juror flip a coin to gauge which witness is correct or how each expert comports themselves on the witness stand - does the best actor win?

Posted by: Pinky | February 15, 2010 4:56 PM


Followup to #9 from Canadian Curmudgeon:

Of course since Canada has no death penalty (until our current PM, Little Father Harper, reinstates it by diktat), there is at least a chance for the wrongfully convicted to be freed, usually.

Posted by: Metro | February 15, 2010 5:32 PM


C'mon people, we KNOW that the fact that someone is arrested and charged with a crime PROVES that they're guilty of that crime!!!!!eleventy!!!!!

-----end psychotic rant------

Scary thing is, I've had students, and a couple of parents either come flat out and make this claim, or something along the lines of "if you were arrested, you must have done something wrong."

Posted by: dogmeatib | February 15, 2010 5:48 PM


Well if you read what Marquis wrote you'd discover that he took the number of 400 from Professor Gross' own study published in the same journal Marquis' article was published in (Journal of Criminal Law at Northwestern Law School, Winter, 2005) and agreed that were probably some more actual innocents (not OJ innocent but like really didn't do it innocent) so he took that number and multiplied ten times to 4000 (for the same time period Gross used 89-03) and then divided that by JUST the number of forcible rapes and willful homicides for the same period. So not just felonies but only the most serious ones likely to be litigated. The result is an error rate of .0026% or put another way an accuracy rate of 99.84%
You're more likely to be injured by a clumsy doctor than wrongly convicted. Doesn't mean you should ignore it or that the people wrongly convicted don't deserve compensation but at least it is not the absurd claim by 5 out of 100 people in prison are factually innocent.

Posted by: Bunky | February 15, 2010 8:06 PM



2. Stop electing prosecutors -- and judges. It is the need to run for reelection that forces prosecutors and judges to be concerned about their conviction rate rather than their rate of being right.

Don't forget to disable their egos while you're at it.

Anyway, how does the logic for not electing judges/prosecutors not also imply that we shouldn't elect legislators or presidents? Or, at least imply that we should elect them for life. After all, if they don't need money for re-election, they should be totally immune to influence by special interests, right?

Also, I haven't ever heard of a judge failing to win re-election. Is that something that has actually happened even once?

Posted by: Miko | February 15, 2010 8:32 PM


Miko @ 19:

. . . I haven't ever heard of a judge failing to win re-election. Is that something that has actually happened even once?

Michigan voters threw out an incredibly defective conservative ideologue that was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2008. Democrat Diane Hathaway not only unseated a Chief Justice, but it ended a nine year reign by conservatives.

I concur with Ed however that prosecutors and judges should be appointed not elected. I'll take that one step further on a slight tangential angle and also advocate that County Commissioners should also appoint the County Sheriff rather than Sheriffs running for elected office.

These roles require functional excellence from people formally trained in the profession, they should not be construed as political positions.

Posted by: Michael Heath | February 15, 2010 9:03 PM

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Important article on the number of innocents in prison. There's lots of reforms that need to be made in the American criminal justice system. Brayton suggests a few at the end of the article, which is a good discussion of why it is difficult to estimate how many innocents have been convicted and are in jail.

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The Cling-on’s - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?

Some Lolcats/dogs I love for the picture, some for the caption, some for a lovely marriage of the two. This one is mostly the caption.

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Kincaid Defends Ugandan Anti-Gay Law. Again. : Dispatches from the Culture Wars

« Submarine Officer on Lifting DADT | Main | Justice Hillary Clinton? »

Kincaid Defends Ugandan Anti-Gay Law. Again.

Posted on: February 11, 2010 9:09 AM, by Ed Brayton

Cliff Kincaid, the uber-nut head of Accuracy in Media, is defending the Ugandan anti-gay law yet again against the "loud-mouthed homosexual lobby." Yeah, those uppity gays - thinking they shouldn't be murdered for being gay. And he's quoting from one of the leading voices in Uganda calling for the murder and imprisonment of gay people.

A leading pro-family activist in Uganda says that Christians in that East African country need help resisting the schemes of the international homosexual lobby. Charles Tuhaise tells AIM that he is also disturbed by the general silence of conservatives in the U.S. to stand up for Uganda and its emerging Christian culture.

Yeah, stand up for their "emerging Christian culture." That's what it's all about. It's not about them wanting to destroy the lives of gay people, it's about their "emerging Christian culture." And you conservatives should be ashamed of yourselves for not backing them up on it!

"Many Ugandans are shocked at the reaction to this bill and the extent to which homosexual activists can intimidate everyone to silence," Tuhaise said.

Yes, that's exactly right. Homosexual activists have intimidated everyone into not wanting to murder them for being homosexual.

Tuhaise is chairman of the board of Agape Community Transformation (ACT), a Christian organization dedicated to improving the spiritual, physical, economic and societal conditions of their communities.

Except for the gay people in those communities. They're going to improve their spiritual and physical conditions by murdering them in the name of God. Positively Orwellian, isn't it?

"I am a Ugandan and I'm writing to thank you for your bravery," Tuhaise said in his message to AIM. "The articles you've written in support of the right of Ugandans to exercise self-determination on the issue of homosexuality have thrown fresh light on the American scene [and show] that not every American is scared of the loud-mouthed homosexual lobby."

Ah yes, the ridiculous old argument that groups of people have "self-determination" to violate the rights of individuals. They reject the notion that individuals have any right to self-determination, the only level on which any such right could possibly exist, but endorse a collective right to kill anyone they don't like. Welcome to crazy town.

Showing disdain for Uganda's sovereign right to chart its own course in domestic and foreign affairs, the "gay rights" lobby has mounted an aggressive strategy to undermine the government of Uganda and threaten the cut-off of foreign aid if the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda is passed.

Gee, how do you think Kincaid feels about the "sovereign right to chart its own course in domestic and foreign affairs" when it comes to, say, Iran allowing honor killings? Wanna guess whether he was defending the "sovereign right to chart its own course in domestic and foreign affairs" when we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq?

Ah, but such rhetoric is only used for convenience. When he agrees with what another country is doing, as he does here, it's all about their sovereign rights; such sovereign rights end when another country does something he doesn't like.

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Iran, Iraq, etc have the SAME sovereign right to spread Christianity that Uganda does, just like everyone (gay or straight) has the SAME right to marry an individual of the opposite sex in this country. Granting special priveleges to those countries to enact Muslim laws would be so repugnant because this Earth was founded on Judeo-Christian values, by God.

Posted by: Odie | February 11, 2010 9:25 AM


The proposed Ugandan law does not simply call for the execution of some gays and lesbians (i.e., those who have more than one relationship or sleep with the same person more than once) it also calls for jail time for anyone who knows a gay or lesbian person and does not turn them in, as well as extradition of any Ugandan citizens who violate Uganda's law while abroad. It can't be possible that so many churches are speaking out because they want parishioners to be able to confide in pastors right?

The really scary thing is that the laws in the US weren't that different just 40 or so years ago. The Advocate Magazine published a column by Dave White on a 1967 TV special on The Homosexuals that was aired on CBS. In the documentary, one man talks about his psychotherapy to change his orientation, therapy he entered only after being arrested multiple times for the crime of being gay and facing a life sentence if he's arrested again. Pretty scary stuff: ( )

Posted by: CPT_Doom | February 11, 2010 9:48 AM


After reading Kincaid, Odie is a Poe.

Posted by: MarkusR | February 11, 2010 10:01 AM


"... I'm writing to thank you for your bravery," Tuhaise said...

You were asking elsewhere about what the rad rights could do to look weak - how 'bout having one of their own laud (in words probably written for him) their courage in flapping their lips?

Posted by: Pierce R. Butler | February 11, 2010 11:05 AM


I would argue that supporting the sovereign right of a country, any country, to support religious indoctrination is a pretty *fu**ing* stupid thing to defend, on so many levels of confliting interest and wrong that I think I may have just sh*t my pants.

Countries (governments) have a sovereign right to protect their constituents and their constituent's rights and it should pretty much stop there. I don't see any other system that ends up sustainable in the long (long... long) run.

Anyway, all these gay hating christians are anachronistic and what we are seeing is the separation difficulties as the majority moves away from traditional christianity. Unfortunately, the religion of science in its proper form is much too cold to succor the masses. God [sorry] help us all.

I really wish we could start truly separating republican from christian and democrat from environmentalist. All these political speaking points of vapid and unanswerable questions (If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a woman has an abortion in the first trimester, is it still a baby? Give me a break.) make me sick.

Posted by: Buffoon | February 11, 2010 12:31 PM


Wasn't it these same asswipe christian activists who interfered with Uganda's sovereignty to get the hate law passed in the first place? I suspect their messiah wouldn't think too highly of their treatment of their fellow man.

Posted by: MikeMa | February 11, 2010 12:56 PM


Where exactly is this "International Homosexual Lobby? I'd love to go see--I bet the decor is FABulous.

Posted by: Uzza | February 12, 2010 3:24 AM


Uzza - you think the "International Homosexual Lobby" is FABulous, wait 'till you see the offices, they're to DIE FOR! Seriously. :) - (pinkish) Dingo

Posted by: DingoJack | February 12, 2010 7:01 AM


Oh boy. Another Christian. What a man. Real Jesus-like, ain't he? When are humans going to realize that Mayan gods, Greek gods, Hindu gods, Aztec gods, Roman gods, or just old God, are all based on superstition. Why would God make a Universe fifteen Billion years ago, and then wait until just 2,000 years ago to invent Heaven, and then only Christians could go there? It makes NO sense whatsoever. All religion can be understood by just looking at who claims to be God's spokesmen. They're all phonies and prey on the the weak and fearful. They want your money and don't want to have to look for a real job. Lazy conmen. That's all they are.

Posted by: 1Greensix | February 12, 2010 9:01 AM


The simple word for this kind of law is genocide. I don't understand why it isn't being used to talk about this: call it for what it is.

I wonder what groups will be next for this "emerging christian culture". The Jews? Or white people? Or politicl dissidents? The law they're pushing through is the thin edge of the wedge of this kind of programmatic murder. What groups will be next?

Posted by: M | February 12, 2010 10:42 AM


Ed, I think you're extremely cute. Please don't kill me for that!

Posted by: Bilhelm | February 12, 2010 12:00 PM


It's not just Uganda that's violently anti-gay:

The Economist, Feb 11, 2010 - ONCE a fortnight, 50 or so Nigerians furtively log on for an online Bible study class. “This is the only way we can worship because of the stigma,” says one of them. The reason for the secrecy is that the participants, ranging from students to married men, are gay. To go to a mainstream church in Nigeria would risk beatings or even a forced exorcism. So hundreds are turning to House of Rainbow, Nigeria’s only gay-friendly church, which is flourishing online after almost meeting a violent end two years ago.

Many Nigerians strongly disapprove of homosexuality. The dominant role of religion is widely seen as the root of the country's homophobic culture. Punishing gays is one of the few common themes that politicians can promote with equal zest in the mainly Christian south and the largely Muslim north. Under federal law sodomy is punishable by a 14-year jail sentence. An even more stringent bill to ban gay-rights groups and homosexual displays of affection is also under consideration.

Posted by: R Hampton | February 12, 2010 1:23 PM

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That anyone in the U.S. would defend the Ugandan bill is horrible. I don't call much evil, because it is a term that is too simplistic and loaded with connotations I don't agree with, but I would call this law evil.

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Book Aid International - Camel Mobile Library

Camel Mobile Library

The Camel Mobile Library Service in North East Kenya must be one of the most unusual libraries in the world. Each year, the camels bring more than 7,000 books to nomads in Kenya's impoverished North East Province, often because camels are the only means of crossing the inhospitable terrain. Many of the books are supplied by Book Aid International.

Each morning three camels - one carrying two boxes of books, one loaded with a tent and one spare - set off to villages and pastoralist communities. The North East is a predominantly Muslim province, where few adults ever visit a permanent library. The illiteracy level is 85.3 per cent compared to the national figure of 31 per cent. Many of the adults are farmers forced into a nomadic existence by drought or famine. They must follow where their camels and goats go in search of pasture and water. This often means their children have to abandon school.

Rukia, aged 14, is an avid camel-library reader.  'I want to be a doctor when I leave school,' she says. 'My parents died from tuberculosis when I was six. I hope they would be proud of me.' 

Here's a kind of library service not often used... I love it!

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How Christian Were the Founders?

Excellent article on the Texas School Board controversy and the faith of the Founding Fathers. Lengthy.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Favorite Ad Ever

I was so glad to see this ad on YouTube.  I first saw it with Alice Eve (hiya!) while living with her in Philadelphia in the mid-1980s.  I can still remember how we looked at each other in disbelief then burst out laughing.


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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just Too Cute

No, I mean really.  This article from CNN on the biological effects of love and attraction quotes one University af Texas, Austin researcher.  His name?  Timothy Loving.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Having It Both Ways on Medicare - Paul Krugman Blog

February 10

Having It Both Ways on Medicare

Republicans are denouncing Obama for proposing Medicare cuts, while themselves proposing deeper Medicare cuts.

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As DADT Repeal Talk Gains Steam, A Gay Guardsman Is Back With His Unit | TPMMuckraker

A National Guardsman who became a cause celebre among gay-rights groups last year, after announcing on The Rachel Maddow Show that he is gay and being recommended for discharge, has returned to training with his unit.

The move doesn't appear to be evidence of an explicit policy change on Don't Ask Don't Tell, but it does count as more potential evidence of a shift in attitude in military circles.

Last June, Dan Choi announced on MSNBC that he was gay, prompting a National Guard board to recommend that he be discharged under the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. Though the discharge was never finalized, Choi, an outspoken advocate for the repeal of DADT, hadn't been with his unit since then -- until this weekend.

The news of Choi's return was first reported on the website Bilerico.

It appears that the development was prompted, if indirectly, by the increasing likelihood that DADT is on the way out.

Sue Fulton, an activist with Knights Out, an organization of gay West Point graduates, explained to TPMmuckraker that Choi's commanding officer decided that while Choi's case was pending -- as it still is -- he should be temporarily "excused" from Guard duty. "The officer said, 'You have a lot of other stuff going on, go do those things,'" said Fulton.

But last week -- amid news reports that senior military figures supported ending DADT -- Choi was contacted by the commanding officer, who invited him to rejoin the unit.

Fulton surmises that the commanding officer invited Choi back because, like many observers, he had come to believe that DADT may well be repealed, and therefore that Choi might not ultimately be discharged. "I would view it as a recognition by his unit that Dan's discharge may, after all, NOT be confirmed by the Army," she said.

Fulton stressed, though, that it's unlikely that the decision was made by anyone higher in the chain of command. "National Guard commanders have wide latitude in terms of their units," she said. "This is not a change in Army policy, nor any action from 'higher headquarters' that we are aware of."

The military isn't saying exactly what triggered the move. "He's been on duty," Eric Durr, a spokesman for the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, which oversees the New York National Guard, told TPMmuckraker. "He has never left the National Guard." Durr referred all questions on DADT to the Department of Defense.

And in an email to TPMmuckraker, Choi explained his return to his unit by saying simply that he rejoined "because we needed to train on critical infantry skills for a possible upcoming deployment."

Choi warned that he may still be on shaky ground. "Good to be back with my unit," he wrote, but added, "although I can still be fired at any moment for DADT."

Dan Choi may be back with his National Guard Unit - great sign of things to come.

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Muppets + Digg + YouTube Commenters = FIRE! [VIDEO]

Yay! Muppets! And NEW Muppet video!

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Muffin denied her addiction - Lolcats 'n' Funny Pictures of Cats - I Can Has Cheezburger?

I resemble that remark, except I can't hide my addiction to food, sigh.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

World's Longest Married Couple Answer Queries Via Twitter

Wow... How absolutely amazing. Article mentions Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher, who married in 1924 and are 104 and 102 years old.  Now there's proof that love can last!


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Monday, February 8, 2010

Photo Collection of the Smoky Mountains

Of all the places I have managed to visit in the world, the Smoky Mountains is my favorite location.  Here's a collection of photos of the Smokies taken from the 1920s to the 40s.  From the University of Tennessee.

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iPad on the Cheap

...and nonfunctional side... but hey, it looks good!


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Astronaut Tweets Beautiful Pictures from Space

See some of the images in this Mashable article.

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Loldogs of the Day

Great picture.  Reminds me of a marvelous picture my brother John took of his stepdaughter Eve... she was in profile with the bubble right above her outsstretched hand.


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Military Add Morning After Pill in all Military Facilities

There is so much talk about gays in the military that people forget there is a lot of heterosexual military relationships, and in a couple of ways this is an even bigger problem.  One is the number of female soldiers who get pregnant, which this addresses.  But also I've seen quite a few reports of large numbers of rapes and of sexual harassment, and insufficient attention given to the problem.


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Evolutionary Role for Homosexuality?

Interesting article from the American Psychological Society on a possible evolutionary reason for homosexuality.


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Frank Rich on Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Rich's usual excellent job on the Republican Party's response to Admiral Mullen's declaration that allowing gays to serve openly in the military is the right thing to do.  Here's a core quote:

"Mullen’s heartfelt, plain-spoken testimony gave perfect expression to the nation’s own slow but inexorable progress on the issue. He said he had “served with homosexuals since 1968” and that his views had evolved “cumulatively” and “personally” ever since. So it has gone for many other Americans in all walks of life. As more gay people have come out — a process that accelerated once the modern gay rights movement emerged from the Stonewall riots of 1969 — so more heterosexuals have learned that they have gay relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers and co-workers. It is hard to deny our own fundamental rights to those we know, admire and love."



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Paul Krugman - More on the Senate Dysfunction

Yeah, I do think it is that serious an issue.


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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book Review The Sheen on the Silk

Title The Sheen on the Silk: A Novel
Author Anne Perry
Rating *****
Tags novel, historical, constantinople, crusades, women, doctors 

I've read most of Anne Perry's books and liked them, but this one far surpasses the others. Perhaps it is just that it is easier to break free of constraints in a stand alone novel, one that is set in an entirely different time and place from her series.

The story is set in Constantinople in the 1270s. Anna Lascaris Zarides has come to Constantinople from her home in Nicea. Her twin brother Justinian has been exiled for his role in the death of the popular Bessarion, who was leading the fight against a union of the Orthodox Church and the Roman. The emperor, Michael Peleogus, has agreed to the union with Rome in order to save Constantinople from being attacked by Crusaders as it was 70 years previously, an attack from which it has not recovered.

Anna is a physician, but in order to operate openly in the city she pretends to be a eunuch. She gathers what information she can over a few years, treating everyone from the emperor to the poor while doing so.

The strength of this epic work is in its characters. Anna is an outstanding character, but there are others, from all sides of the various conflicts going on. The most amazing character is Zoe, who saw her mother raped and murdered in the sack of the city in 1204, and who will do anything to avoid a repeat of that disaster. Zoe is Constantinople, beautiful, old, cunning, a master of plots and counterplots. Other important characters include a papal legate, a Venetian soldier, the Orthodox clergyman who is determined that the city will not abandon its faith, and others. They are rich and complex characters, driven by the needs of their positions and beliefs, some convinced they know God's will, others seeking God's grace.

It is a long book, but tightly written... not a wasted page in it. I think that when 2020 comes around, this book will be considered one of the best of the decade.

Disclaimer: I received my copy of the book free from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I would have reviewed this book the same, however, if I had not gotten it free.

Publication Ballantine Books (2010), Hardcover, 528 pages
Publication date 2010
ISBN 0345500652 / 9780345500656

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Iran Current Situation

This Economist article mentions that there are likely to be more protests in Iran next week, and the government seems to respond ever more harshly, with several people condemned to death for protests.  May the leaders soon understand the futility and horror of the course they are set on.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Frank Rich on Stalled Government

In my humble opinion, what Frank Rich is talking about here is the single worst problem facing the country now, the inability of the government to actually accomplish anything.



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Obama Condemns Ugandan Anti-Gay Legislation

Very good, and about time.  And at least the Fellowship (also known as The Family) has publicly condemned it.


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On the bright side - Loldogs, Dogs 'n' Puppy Dog Pictures

This is just too good, given the title of the book...

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