Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Sho Yano: Boy, Interrupted 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"If you do well, people get jealous. If you do badly, people laugh at you. If you stay the same as others, people ignore you. Do you change who you are because of people? No. If you change, you are not you anymore, you become a leaf blown away by the wind from the mouth of people who do not know you, do not really care about you, and are very busy for their own self interests."
--- advice to Sho Yano, the University of Chicago's youngest medical school student, from his father.
The prodigy's hair is sticking up. As he strolls into the tiny kitchen...Sho Yano is met by the disapproving eyes of his mother, who quickly pats down the errant patch of black hair. Moments later, he grabs the brown-bag lunch she prepared, jumps in the passenger seat of the family car, argues with his 7-year-old sister over which classical music CD to play and heads off to another day at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine....since he was a toddler, Sho has been exceptional, shocking primary school teachers and his parents with his uncanny ability to absorb all kinds of information. As a young boy, his IQ measured above 200, putting him well into the genius range.

[read more From "Boy, Interrupted," by Meg Sherry McBreslin, in the Chicago Tribune]
Sho Yano just finished his first year here at University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine.

He is 13 years old.

The Phenomenon of SPAM™ 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Not to be confused with the seminal theological work by Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man: sometime this summer, I plan on fulfilling a longtime dream by visiting the SPAM™ museum in Austin, MN. If you're not a hardcore fan of this quintessential American meat product, you may not be aware of the full scope of the phenomenon of SPAM™.

While I shun similar foodoids, like Cheez Whiz™, Velveeta™, and marshmallow Fluff™, I do have a genuine culinary and cultural appreciation for the pink gelatinous pork-prisms. Behold:

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
New York Mandates Self-Extinguishing Cigarettes 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From the Champlain Channel, WPTZ-TV in Plattsburgh:
State First To Require Cigarettes Be Self-Extinguishing - Local Smokers Like Idea

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -- More than 900 people are killed by fires ignited by unattended cigarettes. New York is taking a giant step to change that by becoming the first in the nation to require cigarettes to be fire safe. They're supposed to put themselves out.

"I think it's a good idea, especially if you have pets," said one smoker. "A lot of times I set a cigarette in the ashtray, leave the room and never know what a pet is doing."**

The smokes with special ultra thin paper just hit stores today. If not puffed on regularly, the cigarette just goes out. The new cigarette is something firefighters have been trying to get implemented for years. With the help of the Plattsburgh City Fire Department, NewsChannel 5 put the new cigarettes to the test. After just one drag, the cigarette was set down on a metal surface just outside the fire station. It took over seven minutes to burn out.

"I expected it to go out sooner than it did," another smoker said. "I thought after two or three minutes, it would go out." Even so, Chief Squires said in most cases that is an improvement. "If it burns down to the filter, it takes 10 minutes or longer to extinguish. That couple of minutes may make a difference," Squires said. Squires said he still wants smokers to see the light.
CBS News.com had a June 11th story detailing the mechanism behind the Self-Extinguishing Cigarette, which sounded far more optimistic than the informal Channel 5 test:
New York's regulations call for all cigarettes sold in the state to be wrapped in the special paper, in which ultra-thin bands work like speed bumps to slow the burning of cigarettes that are not being puffed. A lit cigarette that is dropped onto bedding or a sofa can smolder unobtrusively for as long as 30 minutes before a fire erupts. Approximately 900 Americans die each year and another 2,500 are injured by fires started by cigarettes, according to the American Burn Association and the federal government.

In theory, if a smoker lights a self-extinguishing cigarette and falls asleep or leaves the cigarette unattended, it will go out on its own after a few minutes.

Greensboro-based Lorillard Tobacco Co. has been selling self-extinguishing cigarettes in New York state since March, company spokesman Steve Watson said. "We haven't received any complaints, only a few inquiries from smokers whose cigarette self-extinguished while they were smoking them," he said.
** Well, I don't like my cats smoking when I'm not in the room, either; it's bad for their little lungs and gives them such an annoyingly raspy meow. ;)

The Difference Between Gargoyles and Grotesques 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
No, they're not really the same thing at all...I love gargoyles, but I just learned the difference today and discovered I actually own three grotesques. Feh.

Walter Arnold is a professional gargoyle and grotesque carver from Chicago, and he has a most excellent G&G page with plenty of images and links - love the "corrupt politician" gargoyle on the homepage:
The word "Gargoyle" shares a root with the word "Gargle"; they come from "gargouille", an old French word for "Throat". A true gargoyle is a waterspout. An unusual carved creature that does not serve that purpose is properly called a "Grotesque".
This also explains the title of the season 3 X-Files episode called "Grotesque," about a murderous living gargoyle...ahem...grotesque. He/she/it did not have a drainspout, at least that we could see on-screen.

Speaking of X-Files, now that the official FOX site has been abducted by aliens, if you're a 'phile you may want to try some alternative, homegrown XF sites, like wearehere.net (named after the ethereal repeating lyric in Mark Snow's "Scully's Theme"). Come to think of it, if you're a 'phile, you've probably sought out the sites already! I also keep an infrequently-updated X-Files related blog called "The X-Log," if you are curious...caveat: it's far from complete, and it's by no means a season-by-season guide.

Hot for Teacher in Tampa 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From Tampa, Florida:
(Associated Press) A 23-year-old middle-school teacher was charged with having sex with a 14-year-old student in a classroom, at her apartment and, once, in a vehicle while the teen's 15-year-old cousin drove. Detectives said that the cousins provided matching statements incriminating Debra Beasley Lafave and that the 14-year-old described Lafave's apartment and her tattoos and birthmarks.

Lafave, who teaches reading in the Tampa suburb of Temple Terrace, was arrested there last week on lewd and lascivious battery charges, accused of having sex with the teen earlier this month at her apartment and in a portable classroom at Greco Middle School.

The teen told investigators that he and Lafave got to know each other during a class trip last month, and their sexual relationship began June 3. The boy told detectives that Lafave told him that her months-old marriage was in trouble and that she was attracted to him because having sex with him was not allowed. Lafave, who has worked with the Hillsborough County school system for two years, has been placed on administrative duty and could be suspended without pay at the next school board meeting, officials said.

In Marion County, authorities say Lafave had sex with the student in the back of her sport utility vehicle while the cousin drove them around the Ocala area.
One thing caught my eye about this story: the relatively gentle treatment Lafave is receiving pending the outcome of her case. Somehow, I think that if the genders of the teacher and student were reversed - and evidence like the student's cousins' corroborative descriptions of the teacher's tattoos and birthmarks were were available - if the teacher were male he probably wouldn't still be working desk duty at the school.

Sunday, June 27, 2004
Movie Unreview: Fahrenheit 9/11 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
No matter how much I'm looking forward to seeing a movie, I generally avoid seeing it on opening weekend to steer clear of crowds and lines. I made a bit of an exception yesterday afternoon, and went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 up in Evanston - I wanted to see if it really was up to all its advance hoopla, negative and positive.

The evening showings were sold out, but we managed to get a pair of tickets for a 1:50pm showing - fortunately we showed up almost an hour in advance because the line was huge: oddly, it was like a little flash of Burlington, Vermont. People of all ages (no kids, however) in polo shirts, tank tops, college tees, shorts, sandals, shirts with designs reading "Bush: Operation Enduring Stupidity" and "Dean for America," etc. Not too many signs of Kerry's campaign around, except for one guy selling buttons and bumperstickers outside.

It seemed more of an "anybody but Bush" crowd than a Kerry crowd, but a pervasive excitement was there - everyone talking about their advance impressions of the film, their political viewpoints and opposition of the Iraq war made it seem like more of a political rally than a movie experience. The buzz was like a real-life Lord of the Rings and Star Wars rolled into one, except there was no clearly-defined "good guy" - just a bunch of Orcs using the Dark Side of the Force and their allies, and most everyone else.

How was the movie? Powerful and masterfully executed to make its desired impression; like an expert speaker and storyteller, Moore orchestrates the film as an uneasy rollercoaster dance between horror and laughs, so that just as you're loosened up with a comedic interlude, the action does a 180° and crashes you into a stunning stomach-drop. Fahrenheit 9/11 is very hard to watch at times, especially with its unflinching images of both American and Iraqi war casualties.

An especially strong sequence is Moore's montage of the events of 9/11: it starts cleverly in radio-style, the screen fading to black, and all the "blinded" audience hears is raw news footage audio of the dreadful whine and sickening crash of the jets striking the twin towers twice, then the sound of the crash in Washington, and the sounds and screams of ground-level panic in Manhattan. Then, as visuals return, absent any shots of the towers or the planes...we only see the numb, stricken faces of eyewitnesses helpless as the the unbelievable happens before their eyes. I have to say it's the most wrenching depiction of the attacks I've seen put together.

To be clear, Fahrenheit 9/11 is definitely not spinfree: it has an agenda, and there are several moments where I thought to myself, "well, correlation does not equal causation..." but the moments where George Bush makes the biggest monkey of himself require absolutely no clever editing or effecting. Sadly, these unfortunate soundbites and bits of video that ended up on the White House press room's cutting room floor, so to speak, really speak for themselves.

What I find most interesting about this film is that it is not only an "media event" but a unique experiment in wag-the-dog political moviemaking, timed fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) proximate to the 2004 election season. How will this film affect the elections? It didn't change my mind (I wasn't planning on voting for Bush before, as you can surely guess), and judging from the audience I saw, quite likely it's preaching to the converted.

But one person I know well, a conservative, staunch Bush supporter, also saw the movie yesterday in another part of the country and came away changed by it. She said didn't know who she was going to vote for in November.

"There's no way [Bush] can be re-elected after this," she said. That's only one person's opinion, but only time will tell.

Friday, June 25, 2004
Schwarzenegger: Shelters Should Kill Strays Sooner 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Arnold will likely get the nickname "Pet Terminator" for his latest cost-cutting proposal - to have California animal shelters euthanize stray pets in three days, rather than six. From CNN:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to repeal a state law that requires animal shelters to hold stray dogs and cats for up to six days before killing them. Instead, there would be a three-day requirement for strays. Other animals, including birds, hamsters, potbellied pigs, rabbits, snakes and turtles, could be killed immediately.

Schwarzenegger has told the state Legislature that the changes could save local governments that operate shelters up to $14 million. "Because of space limitations, the shelters are being forced to euthanize animals who are otherwise highly adoptable immediately after the holding time," Palmer said.

Despite Schwarzenegger's huge popularity, some political observers think the proposal will meet stiff resistance. "There is no organized constituency of cats and dogs, but certainly the pet owners of America will find this reprehensible," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento.

"Cats and dogs are like mom and apple pie," she said. "Don't mess with the pets. Most people prefer them to other people." The 1998 law is named for former state Sen. Tom Hayden, who said the governor's proposal "will inflict heartbreak on a lot of owners and people in the animal adoption world."
Shall we organize a Gravy Train to California? A kibble airlift? I can see this proposal doing wonders for the Governator's approval ratings...wonders.

Reporters Get Look Inside Heemeyer Bulldozer 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson shows News reporter John Aguilar around the Heemeyer bulldozer. Photo © Rocky Mountain News, click to visit articleYesterday, reporters were allowed a close-up look for the first time inside the bulldozer that leveled 13 buildings in Granby, CO on June 4th. The Rocky Mountain News details the items found inside the cab of the 'dozer, and its meticulous construction:
Unopened cans of Slim-Fast, a box of Band-Aids and two plastic jugs of water were beside Marvin Heemeyer in the cab of his armored bulldozer when he pressed the barrel of a .357-caliber Magnum against the roof of his mouth and pulled the trigger.

The space where Heemeyer spent his final hours steering a 60-ton Komatsu D355-A bulldozer on a mission of destruction through downtown Granby was opened to reporters for the first time Thursday. All that's left in the bulldozer's cab now - a back brace, two rolls of paper towels, a pair of locking pliers, two aerosol cans of starter fluid - are items you might find in the average American garage.

But there was nothing average about the planning and craftsmanship that Heemeyer put into preparing his bulldozer for the attack he would launch June 4 that damaged or leveled 13 buildings.

...Heemeyer had managed to weld and place his impenetrable plating so that not one vital piece of the bulldozer's mechanics was vulnerable to gunfire. Lawmen could do little until Heemeyer's bulldozer became wedged in the rear of a Gambles hardware store. Finally immobilized, Heemeyer shot himself.

The bulldozer, which is being stored in a county facility near Fraser, will remain there indefinitely, Johnson said. "We're going to seize it and get ownership of it and then decide," he said. One possibility is to disassemble Heemeyer's handiwork and restore the bulldozer to working condition. As far as selling it as is on eBay or moving it to back to Granby as a tourist attraction, [Grand County Sheriff Rod] Johnson is skeptical. "I certainly wouldn't agree with that," he said. "A year from now, who's going to pay to see that thing?"
The Denver Post also gives readers a peek inside the monster machine:
County officials plan to obtain the machine in civil court, possibly to sell it and give the proceeds to Heemeyer's victims, he said.

Although the contents of Heemeyer's machine give some clues about his strategy, the purpose of other items will remain a mystery, Johnson said. For the most part, Heemeyer's plans showed amazing forethought, [Sheriff Rod Johnson] said.

Receipts for sheet-metal purchases indicate he had a long time to plan. Heemeyer bought the metal more than a year ago, [he] said, [and] the craftsmanship that went into building the nearly impregnable 25-foot-long, 13-foot-high bulldozer was astounding.

"I don't think I could do this in a lifetime," he said.
Perhaps it's no coincidence the Rocky Mountain news is advertising the 2004 Hawgfest alongside the bulldozer article - the headliners for the July 24-25 show in nearby Winter Park include Vince Neil, Eddie Money, Slaughter, RATT, Rick Derringer, ZZ Top and WAR. If that's not tailor-made bulldozer music, I don't know what is...and that bulldozer strikes me as the "ultimate hawg."

Thursday, June 24, 2004
Check Your Attitudes with Harvard's Implicit Association Tests 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
If you're like most websurfers, you've probably taken more than your share of online quizzes and questionnaires. Instead of telling you which flavor of ice cream or "Sex and the City" Babe you are, this one offers something much more scientific, self-revealing, and potentially transformative: Harvard University's Project Implicit usus "IAT's" [Implicit Association Test] to measure your conscious and subconscious attitudes towards age, gender, race, political associations, sexuality, weight, religion, and so on. It appears to work by measuring amount of time it takes you, as a test participant, to make associations between certain words, such as "male" or "female" and "science" and "liberal arts."

Sounds deceptively simple, but it appears as though it's quite hard to cheat the tests - over the span of about 10 minutes it takes to complete each one, it's hard to maintain a uniform forced attitude. You can opt to take the tests as a demonstation, or you can actually register as an official Project Implicit participant. I've just taken the "gender" IAT, which measures the relative cognitive link between gender and science-or-liberal arts, and it turns out I'm just as biased as the largest part of the population (26% of test-ees) in having a "moderate automatic association between male and science." In any case, your results are bound to be enlightening. [thanks to Jason at Positive Liberty]

Translated: to paraphrase George Clinton, "if you free your a__, your mind may not necessarily follow."

The Berlin Überbaby 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From the New York Times News Service:
The moment the little boy was born, the hospital staff knew there was something unusual about him. His muscles looked nothing like the soft baby muscles of the other infants in the nursery. They were bulging and well defined, especially in his thighs and upper arms." Everybody noticed," said Markus Schuelke, a pediatric neurologist at Charite University Medical Center in Berlin. The baby, it turned out, had a rare double dose of a genetic mutation that causes immense strength in mice and cattle...

The boy's story, written by Schuelke, appears Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine ["Myostatin Mutation Associated with Gross Muscle Hypertrophy in a Child," by Markus Schuelke, M.D. et al]. At the baby's birth, Schuelke said, his doctors were worried. The infant was jittery, jerking his limbs, much the way people sometimes involuntarily jerk their legs when they are falling asleep. "At first we thought it might be epilepsy," Schuelke said.

After two months, the jerking movements had subsided, but the puzzle of the baby's muscles remained. Then Schuelke had an idea. He knew that Se-Jin Lee at Johns Hopkins University, working with mice, had found that when both copies of a gene for a protein called myostatin were inactive the animals grew up lean and so muscular that Lee called them "mighty mice".

It turned out that cattle breeders, decades ago, had stumbled upon the same genetic trick, developing a strain known as Belgian Blue, or double-muscle cattle. The cattle are hefty, meaty, extremely muscular and lean, and they, too, researchers later found, had inactive myostatin genes.

"We had a big discussion about what to do," Schuelke said. "We remembered the mighty mice and the Belgian Blue cattle. This child looked like that." The child's mother was strong - she had been a professional sprinter in the 100-meter dash - and she came from a strong family. Her grandfather, a construction worker, had unloaded curbstones by hand, hefting stones weighing at least 330 pounds. There was no information on the baby's father.
Photos of the tot from the torso down at 7 months of age are posted at AZCentral.com, but except for his rather bulky calves, the child looks fairly normal. It's a little disturbing that he will probably be a scientific test subject the rest of his life, as researchers try to use his unusual genetics to not only help cure diseases like muscular dystrophy, but to find ways of boosting athlete's peformance and increasing commercial meat production:
Some researchers are trying to turn off the myostatin gene in chickens to produce more meat per bird. And several breeds of cattle have natural variations in the gene that, aided by selective breeding, give them far more muscle and less fat than other steer.

Fisking the Bible? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Good 'post'-age on Chuck Currie's blog on the Bible and homosexuality [via Gay American], which cites an essay by theologian Walter Wink:
"Sexual issues are tearing our churches apart today as never before. The issue of homosexuality threatens to fracture whole denominations, as the issue of slavery did a hundred and fifty years ago. We naturally turn to the Bible for guidance, and find ourselves mired in interpretative quicksand. Is the Bible able to speak to our confusion on this issue?

The debate over homosexuality is a remarkable opportunity, because it raises in an especially acute way how we interpret the Bible, not in this case only, but in numerous others as well..." [read full essay by Dr. Wink]
Wink's essay is an eye-opening exegesis (or perhaps a "Bible-fisking" - a point-for-point critical examination - whereas I believe much of what we have come to know as interpretations of the Bible are really eisegesis, or taking a preconceived idea and "fitting" it to scripture.) of a number of scriptural passages commonly interpreted as unequivocally condemning homosexuality, and he (as other scholars have) presents a clear and valuable argument in favor of alternative interpretations.

More than anything else, as an agnostic looking at religious arguments against homosexuality, I am reminded of the parallels between this cultural battle and similar ones throughout American history: "Women's Lib", the fight against slavery, the women's vote, Prohibition, civil rights, and even interracial marriage, and others.

I also think it is difficult to separate out the emotional content of arguments, regardless of one's side of the fence, when they involve primal, deep-seated issues such as sexuality and gender. Some will say there's "no fisking the Bible" - like the fundy bumperstickers say, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" - but the point is, what is the Bible really saying, and what are the political intentions of those who seek to interpret it? After all, religion is political, and faith is often closer to emotion than either law or logic.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
The Midnight Corpse 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Speaking of strange, surreal experiences...last night around midnight, as I was blissfully in the throes of sleep, I heard a very odd noise outside our partially-open bedroom window. It sounded like an aluminum ladder being open and dragged across the ground, exactly where I couldn't tell.

I think I was starting to have a weird dream where I was in the military with a group of Native Americans, and I had to drive some heavy machinery. A bulldozer, I think. It was one of those back-in-high-school time-shift dreams that seem perfectly normal until you wake up, astounded and bemused by the nonsense that your brain conjures at night. I heard something rattle in the dream. Squeak rattle squeak. Have you seen the X-Files episode called "Badlaa"? It's about a short-statured, vengeful Hindu ascetic who gets around on a small squeaky platform, controls people's visual perceptions and travels around the world in a most gruesome manner. The squeak rattle squeak sounded exactly like that, and believe me, that's not an image you want to conjure up in the middle of the night.

Not being fully conscious, I didn't pay too much attention. Then, a few minutes later, the sound returned, and it was getting closer. What was it? As I started to wake up nervously, it occurred to me it might be someone outside the apartment window trying to get in with a ladder - not the most comforting of thoughts on an otherwise quiet urban midnight.

My better half, who tends to wake more easily than me (then again, probably most of the world wakes up more easily than I do) also heard the rattle rattle squeak and popped up out of bed, put on her glasses an went to window to have a look. As the blinds lifted, the room glowed bluish-orange from the streetlights.

"Oh, my god - do you know what that is?"
"Mmmmh. What is it?" I reply, half-asleep, half-curious.
"It's a dead body!"
I didn't even want to speculate how a dead body could be making that weird sound; the possibilities were just too horrible.
"They're carrying it across the ground!"
"A dead body?" I say, incrementally more awake but somehow not entirely surprised.
"Two guys are out there, and they're taking away a body and putting it in a hearse. It's kind of a big body, and it's covered in a brown blanket."

The squeaky metallic sound were the wheels on the gurney the men were using to wheel away the deceased. We're still not sure if the body came from our apartment complex, and because of the leisurely speed and lack of alarm displayed by the hearsemen of the Apocalypse, we speculated that it might have been one of our neighbors - a large older man who has cancer, and who has looked very poorly in recent days. What a way to end up - being wheeled down the sidewalk on a squeaky gurney in the middle of the night. I suppose there are worse ways to go, at midnight in the city.

I never got up out of bed to have a look at the scene outside my window: the descriptions and my imagination were quite sufficient, thank you. It also reminded me of a truly creepy scene in the 1976 movie Burnt Offerings, where Oliver Reed is tormented by nightmares of a skeleton-thin, pale hearse driver in shades who bangs and drags a coffin up the stairs to his bedroom.

Now, if we see "Bob" walking around tomorrow, we'll know he hasn't given up the ghost; and we'll probably never know whose body was under the brown blanket on the squeaky gurney.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Ultimate Smashup: Osymyso 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
In the words of one person who posted a comment on 3hive, "Someone alert the RIAA. That 10 minutes has more copyright infringements than an hour spent on Kazaa..." Osymyso's Introinspection is an amazing 12:12 of hooks and samples melded into a mindblowing musical kaleidoscope. Every moment contains at least two smashed-up songs, continuously overlapping one another [sample moment: The Who's My Generation smashed up with You Take My Breath Away by Berlin, and 10cc's I'm Not In Love with Ultravox's Vienna].

At moments veering close to a mad wedding party DJ's experiment, the sequel Introinspection II is great fun too; it features the "Oompa-Loompa Song" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory smashed up with the Trammps' Disco Inferno and Eminem, along with many other chocolate-meets-peanut-butter moments. Download the mp3 now, before it's illegal! [Osymsyo homepage w/bio and more downloads]

Jack Ryan: Stone-Throwing Republican in a Glass House 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
So, the big gossipy news around Chicago today involves Illinois GOP Senate candidate Jack Ryan's now-unsealed divorce papers. For those who haven't been following the story, Ryan is the ex-husband of actress Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager, Boston Public), and there have been whispers for a long time regarding the reasons for their divorce. I won't go too deeply into the allegations here (you can read them for yourself all over the Web) but let's just say Ryan is accused of doing exactly the sort of national-morality-sullying things Republicans constantly accuse us damned loose-moralled Liberals of doing. From CNN:
Several Chicago media organizations had sued for release of documents relating to the Ryans' divorce, saying the public interest outweighed their concerns about privacy and the possible effect on their now 9-year-old son. Friday, a judge in Los Angeles, where their divorce was litigated, agreed to unseal portions of more than 360 pages of documents, although large parts remained blacked out.

Both Ryans had objected to the release of details in the documents, but they opted not to appeal the ruling.

Jeri Ryan said her then-husband took her on three "surprise trips" in the spring of 1998 to New Orleans, New York and Paris, during which he took her to sex clubs. She said she refused to go in the first and went into the second at his insistence. "It was a bizarre club with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling," she said in the court document, adding that her husband "wanted me to have sex with him there, with another couple watching. I refused."

She said on arriving at the third club, in Paris, "people were having sex everywhere. I cried. I was physically ill. [He] became very upset with me and said it was not a 'turn on' for me to cry." In his legal response to her allegations, Jack Ryan said while he did arrange "romantic getaways" for the couple, they "did not include the type of activities she describes."
Let me say for the record that I don't think it's anyone's business - except Jack and Jeri's - what they did in their bedroom, in a sex club, wherever. I don't believe that consensual private 'kinks' necessarily make one a bad politician, and I'm sure we'd be shocked at what that many straitlaced politicos do when the shades are drawn. Regardless of either party's claims, being a politician has never been the same thing as being a moral role model - in fact, I think the two are virtually oxymoronic. But if the accusations in these divorce papers are true, then Ryan deserves all the opprobrium he gets, not the least for his sheer hypocrisy. When a candidate or political party harps about the low morals of the opposition, they shouldn't be surprised to find their own behavior under a microscope.

Jack Ryan has been riding a high horse for some time about "family values" and "morality," and has not only strongly opposed same-sex marriage in Illinois, but even civil unions and domestic partnership registries in the interest of "preserving the traditional family." He'd like to deny Illinois same-sex families the full legal protections his own family enjoys, because he considers gays and lesbians "immoral." I suppose he believed that separating his private peccadilloes from his home life by arranging out-of-town "romantic getaways" gave him reason to claim clean-hands moral superiority. From NBC5 Chicago:
Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Jack Ryan began publicly trying to salvage his candidacy Tuesday, defending his character and calling the uproar over allegations that he urged his then-wife to have sex in front of others "a new low for politics." Calls for Ryan to exit the race came almost immediately after the revelations, contained in court documents stemming from his divorce from former "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Boston Public" actress Jeri Lynn Ryan, were made public late Monday.

"I think this is a new low for politics," Ryan said Tuesday morning during an appearance on Chicago's WLS-AM. "It seems to me it's just a new standard, and I don't think it's healthy for our democracy." Ryan said he was fit for high public office, noting that the court documents reveal no violations of earthly or higher laws.

"There's no breaking of any laws. There's no breaking of any marriage laws. There's no breaking of the Ten Commandments anywhere. And so I think if that's the worst people can say about me in the heat of a difficult dispute I think it speaks very well about my character."
Spare us, Jack, please. It's not a 'new standard' or a 'new low in politics' - it's precisely same fingerpointing conservatives have been engaged in for years; only now, the finger is pointed at you. Good luck in November...if you're still in the race at that point.

[excerpts from the Ryan divorce papers on NBC5]
[view the Jack Ryan thread on Daily Kos]

From the Jack Ryan 2004 campaign site, on "The Defense of Marriage" with a little snarky commentary:
"I believe that marriage can only be defined as that union between one man and one woman [and lots of whips and chains and people watching!].

I am opposed to same-sex marriages, civil unions, and registries ... Homosexuals...should not be entitled to special rights based on their sexual behavior. [er...no, only heterosexuals are entitled to special rights based on their sexual behavior? Civil unions and domestic partner registries are not a 'special right,' but rather, second-class political concessions settled for when barred the option to marry.]

The breakdown of the family over the past 35 years is one of the root causes of some of our society’s most intractable social problems-criminal activity, illegitimacy, and the cyclical nature of poverty." [Doctor, heal thyself.]
Blah, blah, blah...

Rocket Fuel Found in California Cow Milk 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Now, that's one of the more bizarre headlines I've seen - or written - lately. From CNN:
The study released Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group comes as state and federal regulators consider setting new standards to regulate perchlorate -- the explosive ingredient in missile fuel that has been linked to thyroid damage.

"Perchlorate exposure is more widespread than we have been led to believe," said Bill Walker, vice president for the West Coast office of the EWG, a research and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. The EWG did not call for Californians to stop drinking milk or giving it to their children, but said it does advocate tougher standards for perchlorate.
The EWG's website reports,
Perchlorate is a powerful thyroid toxin that can affect the thyroid’s ability to take up the essential nutrient iodide and make thyroid hormones. Small disruptions in thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy can cause lowered IQ and larger disruptions cause mental retardation, loss of hearing and speech, or deficits in motor skills for infants and children...

Neither the EPA nor the state of California have taken into account the numerous common anti-thyroid chemicals which may worsen the effects of perchlorate, notably the drinking water contaminant nitrate. Neither the EPA nor California have taken note of epidemiological studies that found effects on infant thyroid hormone levels at 1 to 6 ppb.

And neither the EPA nor California have adequately considered the extra perchlorate that may be consumed by eating lettuce or other produce grown with contaminated water. Documents obtained and published by EWG in December 2002 showed that a 1997 study in San Bernardino, Calif., of leafy vegetables growing in perchlorate-contaminated water found that the crops took up and stored perchlorate and concentrated it by an average factor of 65. This high rate of bioaccumulation means that a pregnant woman who ate a two-ounce serving of the vegetables would get a dose of perchlorate more than 100 times higher than what the EPA recommends as safe in a liter of drinking water...

Perchlorate is used in fireworks, safety flares, matches and car air bags, but 90 percent of it goes into solid rocket fuel for military missiles and the NASA space shuttle.
Whoooooosh goes Bessie!!!

Saturday, June 19, 2004
Colorado School Board Proposes "Promoting Heterosexual Families" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From Colorado Springs, a report the local school board has drawn up one of those seemingly bland "feel-good" initiatives that actually contains a much more disturbing agenda:
From ABC7 News - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The debate over gay marriage has reached the Colorado Springs school board, which will discuss whether one of its goals should be promoting "stable, heterosexual, two-parent families."

Board member Willie Breazell got the resolution on Wednesday's agenda despite the skepticism of at least one other board member. "How does this relate to our goal of student achievement?" board member Karen Teja asked. "I think it's part of the problem we have in this district," Breazell replied.

Two other school trustees agreed to put the resolution on the agenda, giving Breazell the three informal votes needed. The proposed resolution asks Colorado Springs' delegation to the Legislature to promote state policy "which defines, defends, maintains and nourishes stable, heterosexual, two-parent families." Breazell said Thursday he believes families are better off if parents stay together. "The single-parent household is at a tremendous disadvantage in our society," he said. "You need someone available for PTA meetings and all."

Teja said the school district is responsible for the learning environment, not the family environment.

"My guess is that the majority of our students do not live in what this resolution is calling a 'traditional' family," she said. Teja questioned whether the resolution would run afoul of state and federal bans on discrimination.
Yes, two-parent households are preferable to single parent households, for many reasons other than having "someone available for PTA meetings and all," but I fail to see how the school board plans to "promote heterosexual families" without discriminating against gay families.

Will this initiative involve parent-school meetings where people are told, "...you know, it would be a really good idea if you found yourself a real husband/wife," or, "the reason little Johnny's having trouble in school is because you're gay"? Will partners of the "wrong sex" be discouraged or shunned from the aforementioned PTA meetings? And for that matter, single or divorced parents have enough to worry about without having school administrators meddling in their personal romantic lives. Does the school board plan on getting involved in matchmaking and divorce mediation?

In fact, I fail to see how parental marriages and relationships are any of the school board's business whatsoever. Colorado Springs school board, you need to put your money, your efforts and concerns into your classrooms, not parents' bedrooms.

Heemeyer's Truck Found at Omaha Airport, and Jeffcoexposed's Zinna Gets Raided 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
An interesting development in the Granby bulldozer case, from the Omaha World Herald:
June 19th, 2004 -- In the eight days before he tore through a Colorado mountain town's buildings and trees in an armored bulldozer, Marvin Heemeyer parked his truck at Omaha's Eppley Airfield and rented a van.

The connection to Omaha and the contents of Heemeyer's truck came to light Friday in an interview and court documents obtained by The World-Herald. Authorities in Colorado couldn't be reached for comment. Omaha police detectives searching Heemeyer's truck last week also found pages torn from a phone book and a hand-written note, according to court records.The connection to Omaha was made through a rental car with Nebraska license plates that authorities found at Heemeyer's business after the rampage, said Eppley Police Chief Gary Shillito. Omaha police became involved in the investigation on June 9. In Colorado, a Grand County Sheriff's Office deputy contacted a detective in the Omaha Police Department's homicide unit about Heemeyer's truck being found at Eppley.

Items seized by Omaha police include a disposable camera, a checkbook, a hand-written note, four pages from a phone book, Colorado vehicle registration card, one .22-caliber revolver, magazine for a .45-caliber handgun, one .50-caliber bullet, two bags of bullets, [and] five LC53 bullets.

He said Heemeyer had parked his 2002 GMC Sierra at the airport, then rented another vehicle to return to Colorado. According to a man interviewed by the Denver Post who worked in Heemeyer's building, Heemeyer may have used the rental van to move around town without being recognized. The deputy asked the Omaha detective to impound Heemeyer's truck for safekeeping and search it. It isn't known why Heemeyer chose Omaha or why he left his truck here with a wood-handled revolver, ammunition and a disposable camera inside, according to court documents.
So, why would Heemeyer end up leaving those items in the truck? Considering how meticulous he was in Colorado, it's odd he'd be so careless in Nebraska with traceable evidence like a checkbook, vehicle registration and a camera [not known if any exposed shots]. Is it possible he had a less-careful accomplice or friend? Curiouser and curiouser...
Records showed the pickup had been in Omaha since May 27, eight days before the rampage. "I don't know what his connection to Omaha is at all, unless he thought he was going to somehow get out of it, or he had someone going to take him there," Granby Town Manager Tom Hale told The Associated Press late Friday. "It gets stranger all the time," he said.
And, what happened to Heemeyer's body? Last we heard, the weekend of June 5-6 it was taken to Grand County for final autopsy, and the local coroner told news reporters no family members had come forward at that point to claim his remains. I can't find any reference to a funeral or burial, but I suspect it may have taken place in South Dakota, where Heemeyer was born and where some of the his relatives live.

On a related domestic-terror-meets-free-speech note, the Rocky Mountain News reports that Jefferson County, CO newspaper cartoonist/gadfly Mike Zinna received a surprise visit from "two FBI agents and a bomb-sniffing dog" after publishing a cartoon depicting a bulldozer tearing down a county building:
...[h]e thought the request was odd, but knowing he had nothing to hide, Michael Zinna told the [FBI] agent OK. He just wanted his lawyer to be present. The agent agreed. "Two agents show up! Five hours early!" Michael Zinna rages. "Trying to sandbag me! They say they've got more bad guys to catch, that they've got a bomb-sniffing dog on board, that they'll be in and out!" Bombs?

"I write a column!" Michael Zinna shouted at them. "You want to send in a dog on my a--? I thought this was America!"

The agents ultimately relented, and waited for the man's lawyer. They and the dog swept the place and found nothing. It has been reported that Jeffco officials contacted the FBI after receiving complaints about the cartoon. Michael Zinna says he filed an open-records request for the complaints, and that there were none. "They totally made it up," he says.
Shh. Nobody say a word.

Double, Double Toil and Trouble 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
In the spirit of this Monday's coming Summer Solstice, a few random notes...{Ahem}...that's pretty good Three Buck Chuck. :) We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, June 18, 2004
Feel the Spin: The Politics of Science Looking at Sex 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I've just read an excellent post by Jason over at Positive Liberty, 'The Psychology and Politics of Love and Lust', which explores some political underpinnings of "fact" and how radically scientific discoveries can be colored by ideology. Here he looks at a recent article by researcher Lisa M. Diamond that has serious potential implications for civil liberties, the SSM issue and more broadly, privacy policy. Jason writes:
A few days ago I discovered a new fact, and right away I began asking myself about its politics. The fact comes from the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol 13 no. 3; the article is by Lisa M. Diamond and is entitled simply, "Love and Sexual Desire." A PL reader passed the article to me, but it is apparently unavailable online. Dr. Diamond's professional page can be found here.

The relevant fact comes from the article's abstract:
Although sexual desire and romantic love are often experienced in concert, they are fundamentally distinct subjective experiences with distinct neurobiological substrates. The basis for these distinctions is the evolutionary origin of each type of experience. The processes underlying sexual desire evolved in the context of sexual mating, whereas the processes underlying romantic love--or pair bonding--originally evolved in the context of infant-caregiver attachment.
In other words, you can all breathe easier: It's okay if your loves and lusts don't perfectly coincide with one another. It doesn't mean that your brain chemistry is wrong. It certainly doesn't mean that you've picked the wrong life partner. And no, some traumatic childhood event is probably not worming away at your subconscious. Multiple sexual desires are natural, even in the context of a committed, long-term relationship. You feel them because you're human; you're just built that way. The author then gets even more specific:
Consequently, not only can humans experience these feelings separately, but an individual's sexual predisposition for the same sex, the other sex, or both sexes may not circumscribe his or her capacity to fall in love with partners of either gender... [E]xtensive cross-cultural and historical research shows that individuals often develop feelings of romantic love for partners of the "wrong" gender (i.e., heterosexuals fall in love with same-gender partners and lesbian and gay individuals fall in love with other-gender partners). Although some modern observers have argued that such relationships must involve hidden or suppressed sexual desires, the straightforward written reports of the participants themselves are not consistent with such a blanket characterization. Rather, it seems that individuals are capable of developing intense, enduring, preoccupying affections for one another regardless of either partner's sexual attractiveness or arousal.
Here is where the politics comes in. Given that romantic love and sexual desire are independent, what relationship should they have? The implication of the article itself is that homosexuality still allows an otherwise "normal" life, including romantic love--with either a same-sex or an opposite-sex partner. The politics, then, are tantalizingly ambiguous. [read more at Positive Liberty]
This kind of scientific research [Diamond's] is often a lot like an optical illusion, full of ambiguities and contradictory interpretations. But no matter how essentialist theory tries to explain the minutiae of human behavior by evolutionarily-ingrained pathways, like art, love and sex can't be explained solely by the cold cage bars of numbers and charts.

Of course choice, free will and individual rights all come into play as well, in re I would love to recommend a very good post on Galois, "Choices and Marriage" and a comment post by Gabriel Rosenberg on Marriage Debate.

Second-Generation Traffic Calming: Let's All Do it in the Road! 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Magic Roundabout in Swindon EnglandSalon.com has a very interesting article on second-generation traffic calming by Linda Baker, "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" [registration required], which
...[r]eject[s] the idea of separating people from vehicular traffic...a concept that privileges multiplicity over homogeneity, disorder over order, and intrigue over certainty. In practice, it's about dismantling barriers: between the road and the sidewalk, between cars, pedestrians and cyclists and, most controversially, between moving vehicles and children at play...
Sounds intriguing in theory, but could it work in the hot-tempered daily snarls of American cities?
Reversing decades of conventional wisdom on traffic engineering, [traffic researcher Ben] Hamilton-Baillie argues that the key to improving both safety and vehicular capacity is to remove traffic lights and other controls, such as stop signs and the white and yellow lines dividing streets into lanes. Without any clear right-of-way, he says, motorists are forced to slow down to safer speeds, make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, and decide among themselves when it is safe to proceed. [via Kottke]
Maybe there is something to it: how else can we explain the daily accident-free function of a vehicular nightmare scenario - and early example of second-generation traffic calming - the "Magic Roundabout" in Swindon, England [above]?
"The next thing they mentioned was the Magic Roundabout. One of the locals asked us to explain how it works. My brother said 'Oh, it's easy. You just go clockwise on the outside and anti-clockwise on the inside'. They just looked even more baffled. On all other roundabouts in the UK you always go clockwise.

Swindonians called the new roundabout the 'Magic Roundabout' from the very beginning. Firstly because it did seem to be magic - solving the traffic congestion - but also as this is the name of a children's TV series popular in the 1960s and 70s."
Perhaps the Magic Roundabout isn't a pure example of '2GTC,' but it illustrates the point that behavior change can ease the shared used of congested traffic areas, here an exceptionally messy five-point freeway. Drivers and pedestrian users would have to rapidly become accustomed to cooperative use of traffic areas rather than what often happens, "competitive use." This, of course, would require a major shift in many U.S. drivers' "me-first" self-perception - urban Chinese-style intersections or "magic roundabouts" are no place for road rage:
For their part, many American traffic engineers say one critical ingredient is missing for a system built around shared spaces to work in the United States: a communal sensibility. "We live in a culture that gives so much value to the individual and the expression of that is how we act in a car," says Robert Burchfield, a city traffic engineer in my home town of Portland, Ore., which is nationally recognized for its preservation of public space and its dedicated network of cycling lanes and pedestrian pathways. "I'm not comfortable with less order when I can't get people to go below 50 or 60 miles per hour."
I think I've experienced something like 2GTC when I drive through the International Marketplace section of Devon Avenue (roughly between Leavitt and McCormick) on a busy Saturday afternoon, when crosswalks mean nothing, and drivers and pedestrians alike make a Chicago street feel like a multiculti souk. No one seems to mind much, though. Few horns ever blare in frustration, and no one seems to get ticketed for jaywalking or driving through stop signs. Although the chaotic feeling takes some getting used to, I think the trick - as a driver - is to look and move about like a human being, not like a metal box with an engine.

Thursday, June 17, 2004
Off the Deep End, Episode 1 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Investigators could not immediately determine whether the victims had suffered horribly, or if the end came mercifully swift. All that remained of the body were clean, bare bones splayed in three startling dimensions on the still-damp grass. The killer had struck violently, with the full element of surprise. The neck joint was snapped at a 45-degree angle with cruel calculation, the naked shiny limbs exposed and broken in the harsh light of day. What struck the investigators most was that the flesh was completely eaten away, as if the corpse was boiled in a corrosive solution or left to the depredations of flesh-eating beetles. It made no sense. No matter how many times they'd seen this kind of savagery before, this case pained the officers in a new place in their souls. This one was bad - really bad.

After extensive canvassing of the South side neighborhood, no witnesses to the overnight butchery were found, no neighbors or passers-by who might have heard a scream. No one reported seeing anything the least bit suspicious. Even more strangely, no DNA evidence was left behind, meaning the murderer was experienced, cautious, and had used gloves. These circumstances only compounded...

...the Mystery of the Murdered Umbrella.

Now Hear This: 3hive 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I love this site: 3hive features new [absolutely free and legal] mp3 indie and alternative music files every day, to listen via stream or download. This summer, some of my favorite tracks are by RF (cool, lazy electrobeats), Oranger (late-60's-meets-oughties-pop), !!! and Anna Oxygen (both reinvent early 80's New Wave without resorting to nostalgia, sounding like a fresh amalgam of the Clash, Duran Duran and Martha and the Muffins) Heavy rotation: Say Hi To Your Mom's "Super," a scathing college-days slap at the banality of the 'popular' kids' life-trajectory, the sameness that befalls the jock, the cheerleader and Prom King and Queen...
You're super
you really are
just like your teeball trophy says, you've come so far

it's just a matter
of a little time
before you've got the dog, the tots, the pretty wife
the postman waves
the cashier smiles
the boss is glad you please the clients
you take a bow
the crowds all cheer
it took a lot of super stuff
to get you here

You're super
you really are
you'll talk the meter maids out of the parking fines

you'll read the paper
you'll sip your mug
while little Bob and Janey stay between the lines
the postman waves
the cashier smiles
the boss is glad you meet deadlines
you take a bow
the crowds all cheer
it took a lot of super stuff
to get you here
I first heard of the site on Dooce's sidebar [she's got a hilarious story today about poop-n-politics] and 3hive's become a favorite daily stop: highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Dirty Bomb? It's "In The Bag" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
One of the more feared (but rather misunderstood) new terrorist weapons is the "dirty bomb," a conventional explosive surrounded by pieces of radioactive material such as medical waste or spent nuclear fuel instead of ordinary shrapnel. While fatalities from the actual explosion would be relatively limited, the amount of contamination produced by even a small bomb could be considerable - entire city blocks could be rendered off-limits because of hazardous fallout.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission calls dirty bombs "weapons of mass disruption" rather than "weapons of mass destruction" - they create more fear and panic than actual damage, although the financial costs of cleaning up after a dirty bomb could be enormous.

A Canadian company, Vanguard Response Systems, has developed a unique containment system that can be deployed in the event a dirty bomb is discovered before it explodes. It uses a patented "tent" made of several layers of bullet-proof-vest type material, and a special shock-absorbing liquid foam that not only damps the blast, but binds the bomb fragments and radioactive fallout dust produced. Discovery Channel Canada [video stream] shows the containment tents in action using real radioactive material.

This sounds like an intriguing invention - but one with some real-life limitations. I'm afraid the caveat is that bomb squads have to locate the dirty bomb, evacuate the area, and assemble and fill the foam tent before the bomb explodes; very likely if and when one does go off somewhere, it may be without any warning at all. Still, it's some small comfort knowing a device like this exists. Vanguard says the tent and foam system can also be deployed using robotic methods. [via Samizdata]

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Quiz: Which American City Are You? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Take the quiz: "Which American City Are You?"

San Francisco

Liberal and proud, you'll live your lifestyle however you choose in the face of all that would supress you.

Oyez, oyez! However, the list of cities on the quiz is:
New York (You scored 0)
Las Vegas (You scored 0)
Cleveland (You scored 0)
Washington DC (You scored 0)
San Francisco (You scored 2)
Seattle (You scored 1)
Los Angeles (You scored 1)
Memphis (You scored 0)
Boston (You scored 1)
Orlando (You scored 1)
Hello, where's Chicago? :)

[via Greengrl]

Free Speech, Even When It's Ugly Down to the Bone 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Brigitte Bardot, from an undated Reuters file photo, photo modifiedOne can get caught up in the popular ideal that all celebrity animal rights activists are open minded, freewheeling, liberal-leaning souls - and then along comes...{Chrissie Hynde Voice} Breeezhee Barrdoh! {/Chrissie Hynde Voice}...who was fined €5,000 (her fourth such speech-related fine) for "racial hatred inciting" remarks made in her recent book, A Scream In The Silence.

Not sure what - if any - conclusion to draw from her choice of title, how it co-opts the name of the legendary 1984 anti-abortion documentary, Silent Scream. Probably her analogy to the equally helpless, silent nature of animals and foetuses against euthanasia, vivisection and abortion, but that's just my guess. However, race isn't her only sticking point; Bardot has a broad menu of antipathies.

From Reuters:
The Paris court sentenced Bardot, 69, on Thursday for remarks made in her book "A Scream in the Silence", an outspoken attack on gays, immigrants and the jobless which shocked France last year. In the book, she laments the "Islamisation of France" and the "underground and dangerous infiltration of Islam". "Mme Bardot presents Muslims as barbaric and cruel invaders, responsible for terrorist acts and eager to dominate the French to the extent of wanting to exterminate them," the court said.

She told the court that France was going through a period of decadence and said she opposed inter-racial marriage. "I was born in 1934, at that time inter-racial marriage wasn't approved of," she said. "There are many new languages in the new Europe. Mediocrity is taking over from beauty and splendour. There are many people who are filthy, badly dressed and badly shaven."

In her book, she also attacks homosexuals as "fairground freaks", condemns the presence of women in government and denounces the "scandal of unemployment benefit". Bardot's attacks on Muslims prompted anti-racism groups to launch legal proceedings against the former star, who turned her back on cinema after 46 films to concentrate on animal welfare.

Bardot, in her 1960s heyday the epitome of French feminine beauty, was already fined $3,250 in January 1998 for inciting racial hatred in comments about civilian massacres in Algeria. Four months earlier, a court fined her for saying France was being overrun by sheep-slaughtering Muslims.
France may have a policy of punishing their versions of objectionable speech with monetary fines, but here in the U.S., the FCC is basically doing the same thing on a giant-killer scale, with a different standard for what's unacceptable. Record-setting fines, like the recent $1.75 million judgment against Clear Channel for Howard Stern's 'obscenity' are becoming commonplace - but if you plugged Bardot's lines into a conservative shock-jock's mouth you'd barely get a whimper from the peanut gallery.

The FCC seems to think words and images referring to sex and excretion are more harmful to our society than racist, classist, homophobic or any other form of hate speech, and a disturbing message seems to be emerging: you can't love who you want, but you're free to hate whomever you please.

If she was in the United States I would have to say that my belief in the ideals of free speech means I would categorically defend her right to say or write whatever she wishes, regardless of how petulant, crotchety and all-around misanthropic those ideas seemed. I wonder if Bardot held these beliefs when she was "on top of the world," a Star, well-regarded, perpetually-papparazzi'd and not the recluse she is today. To me she sounds like a profoundly unhappy person with little joy in her life, which animals' unconditionally forgiving nature seems best suited to provide.

She hasn't aged well at all, and it has nothing to do with wrinkles or gray hair. There's not a thing wrong with being an outspoken grande dame, as Katherine Hepburn and others have amply proven. The truth is, hate is plain ugly, regardless of the hater's age, race, religion or gender. "Beauty may only be skin deep," but Bardot is doing her part to prove that ugly really goes down to the bone.

Monday, June 14, 2004
One Man, One Vote: It's All Perspective 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The 14th Amendment may have given our nation "one man, one vote," but sometimes it appears that ideology hasn't quite sunk in in some quarters. An interesting take, on Talking Points Memo by Josh Marshall:
...Republicans (and also non-Republicans)...[at times]...argue that non-white voters somehow aren't quite real voters. The point is often framed as noting how up-the-creek Democrats would be without black voters.
[From a question posed by Bill Schneider to Judy Woodruff on CNN]

Bill: "Judy, how dependent are Democrats on the African-American vote?

Judy: "What would have happened if no blacks had voted in 2000? Six states would have shifted from Al Gore to George W. Bush: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oregon. Bush would have won by 187 electoral votes, instead of five. A Florida recount? Not necessary.

Nebraska and Wisconsin don't have many black voters either, but Ben Nelson would have lost Nebraska without them and Russ Feingold would have lost Wisconsin, too, in both cases by less than half-a- percent. Bottom line? Without the African-American vote, the number of Democrats in the Senate would be reduced from 50 to 37.

A hopeless minority. And Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP would not have meant a thing."
True, of course. But what's the point exactly? Presumably any political party would [be] put at something of a disadvantage if one of their major constituencies was suddenly struck from the rolls. [more...]
And another thoughtful look at this, by Sara Butler at Diotima:
...what it comes down to is that if conservatives continue to have an attitude of "if it weren't for the [women, blacks, Indian reservation], we'd be in charge" then you better believe that women, blacks, and the Indian reservation will never, ever, ever vote conservatively. Various voting blocks aren't an electoral obstacle to get around, but a group of people who need to be persuaded by our message. And, folks, I'm sorry, but the way we deliver our message these days pretty much sucks. It's just not enough to know that we've got answers to everyone's problems, and they would of course agree if they would just be rational about it. [more...]
If the sun's glaring in your teams's eyes, that's unfair. If the sun's glaring in the other team's eyes, that's just their rotten luck. ;)

Heemeyer: "Folk Hero for the New Millenium?" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Click to visit the Denver Post's multimedia Flash animation of 'The Revenge Machine'

Courtesy of the Denver Post, a Flash animation multimedia show of Marvin Heemeyer's Revenge Machine, and the work shed he built it in. Clearly I'm not the only person fascinated by the whole affair...{cough cough}...and the folk hero analogies are starting to be heard:
When some people talk about Marvin Heemeyer - Colorado's, and perhaps America's, most famous gadfly gone bad - you can almost hear Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie strumming in the background.

In the space of a week, Heemeyer made the long journey from criminal to, in some quarters, mountain folk hero who dared to take on City Hall with a homemade, armor-plated bulldozer.

His exploits are being discussed in Internet chat rooms by people all over the nation, cheering the "little guy" and that "justice was served A-Team style." Others are considering making T-shirts with symbols of Heemeyer on them.

And closer to home, some citizens who have been angered by decisions made by their own hometown leaders say they do not agree with Heemeyer's Mad Max actions - but they understand.
However, I can't say much about Heemeyer's taste in movies:
Heemeyer's staples of life remain spread on a card table: oatmeal, bread, peanut butter and jam, instant coffee, canned fruit and vegetables, and a bottle of vitamins called "Men's Mega Men." A sparsely stocked mini-fridge contains sandwich spread and lunch meat.

On a wood shelf above the fridge, the man plotting revenge stacked a select library of videos, including "RoboCop," "Adrenaline Rush," "60 Seconds" and "Independence Day."

One of the movies, "A Man Apart," is a story he may have used for inspiration. A studio advertisement says the movie starring Vin Diesel is about vengeance: "Nothing left to live for, everything to fight for. When they took his love, they took his life. On April 4th, he's taking it back."
Okay, I admit I liked "RoboCop" and "Independence Day"...but now we know what happens when you let people watch Vin Diesel flicks.

Web Commentary on Heemeyer

(Disclaimer: farkleberries does not claim to agree with or endorse any commentary on other sites listed here)

"Marvin Heemeyer" on Chuckland:
"Marvin Heemeyer realized what's wrong with this country because he experienced it first hand. What did he do? He didn't re-register as a Democrat and wait patiently to vote for Kerry. He snapped. He turned his bulldozer into a tank and destroyed the physical representations of the forces that wronged him. He is a warning, because he is not going to be the last...He was making a statement. That, in the end, is why he took his own life. He made his statement complete by giving his life to it.

He wasn't coming out of that big cement box, and he knew it.

Heemeyer is a tragic figure. It is an unfortunate perversity that, though he is responsible for himself and for his own actions, that the people that drove him to this will not be punished. They are as responsible for what he did as he is. In the end, he will bear the responsibility. The problem lies in the simple fact that there was nothing else he could do..."
"Lying Liars!" on NO B.S. NEWS by Russell Bingman
Marvin Heemeyer was a 6 foot-4 inch, 230 pound, gentle giant, according to most of the people in Granby and Grand County who have bothered to speak up. Those who have spoken against him seem to be at a loss as to why nobody is corroborating their statements, or disputing them. Others are pointing out the city’s greed factor — the insatiable lust and desire for MONEY — and their indifference to whom they hurt in their pursuit of that capitalistic gain...
"Marvin Heemeyer's Strange Ride" on Synthstuff [note - the comments here are quite interesting]
"When a man has had it "up to here!" with all the bullshit that the corrupt officials dish out, he can do things others may find unreasonable yet are totally justifiable. This man will go down as a folk hero not just in Granby but across the nation. Around 200 years ago people were fed up and took matters into their own hands and its time those government officials who all seem to consider themselves royalty take note. This is just the beginning of the new revolution by those of us who are tired of "taxation without representation". Let the battle cry be "Remember Marvin Heemeyer!" God Bless him, he's my new hero." [comment by 'Curtiss']

And a comment from a Granby area resident:

"...I at least do live here, and am proud to live here, and will do my part to help rebuild what this coward destroyed! A HERO...?? Marvin was not standing up for your sorry ass or any one elses, he was trying to fuck up a bunch of people he hated, THATS ALL IT WAS! Folk Hero to Granby and the rest of the country...? There is not a person in Granby that would piss on that asshole if he was on fire. Well maybe a couple of his close friends. And for him never hurting anyone, he was trying to blow up Giant propane tanks that would have leveled a 4 squard block area that was only a block from my apartment and a half block from the Senior center..." [response by Donald A Jensen, Jr.]

Sunday, June 13, 2004
The Reagan Era Palimpsest: Painting Over the Rough Spots 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Yesterday's Miami Herald column by Leonard Pitts, Jr. [registration required] offers the kind of black-and-white perspective (as opposed to all-white) on Ronald Reagan's passing that most media outlets have been afraid to publish, perhaps because our current leadership is protegé and extension of the Reagan ethos, and to speak any ill of the past in this instance is to speak ill of many of the Bush administration's founding principles. Pitts opines
To the degree those things are missing from their analyses, news media have embarrassed themselves this week. They have rewritten history and slapped on a happy face.

It's not an issue of respecting the deceased. It is, rather, an issue of telling the whole truth, fulfilling our obligation to write history's first draft. Imagine analyzing a recently departed Bill Clinton and leaving out Monica Lewinsky or memorializing Richard Nixon and forgetting Watergate. That would be what this is: dishonest. Lies of omission.

So let me say this for the record: Some of us watch these proceedings with the sober respect you'd have for any loss of life, but also with dry eyes. The media have sold us a fraudulent version of history. Everybody loved Ronald Reagan, it says.

Beg pardon, but 'everybody' did not.


It's hardly uncommon to speak well of the recently departed. And there is certainly much about the former president's tenure that merits celebration. He restored "can do" to the American lexicon, his vibrant optimism a jolt of adrenaline after the dour Carter years and the criminality of the Nixon gang. He pushed communism to the breaking point. He famously called the Soviet Union what it was -- an empire of evil. He changed the political landscape.

But my point here is that some of us also knew another Reagan, and he is conspicuous by his absence from much of this week's coverage.

Some of us remember his cuts in federal lunch programs for poor children and his claim that ketchup is a vegetable.

Some of us remember his revival of the old canard that Martin Luther King was a communist.

Some of us remember Americans dying by the thousands from AIDS while their president breathed not a word.

Some of us remember finding homeless people sleeping under freeways.

And some of us were there when the cities imploded, rent by a cheap and insanely addictive new drug called crack. It turned our mothers into prostitutes, our fathers into zombies, our children into orphans, our communities into killing fields. We looked to the White House for help and received in response a ruinous "war on drugs" and this advice from the first lady: 'Just say no.'

[via Mutinous Winds]
Many of my recollections of the Reagan years were not that pleasant, either. Yes, the Wall came down, and the Soviet Union collapsed; these were dreams come true for the Cold War generations. But like a monochrome Hollywood Western, that era's administration frequently window-dressed America's image to the world with "shining city on the hill" sentiment - while concealing the truth of hunger, poverty, disease and growing unrest behind a freshly painted, single-sided movie-set facade, even to ourselves.

My memory of the Reagan years were of being quite poor in a small rural town in New York near the Canadian border, going to a high school with ever-decreasing budgets, "Just Say No," the Star Wars initiative - teachers telling us that nuclear war was extremely likely in the next few years, and we'd just better get used to the concept.

In my eyes, the Reagan years were national implementation of the 'actor's strategy': people will believe you are what you pretend to be. If we dressed ourselves up as the uniformly well-to-do, faithful, 2-point-5-children-per-home-plus-the-dog, white-picket-fence Mayberry RFD nation we believed ourselves to be on Golden Age TV, then just maybe, magically, that's what we would be. No racial unrest, no hunger, no AIDS, no crack, no nuclear weapons here. Sweep, sweep.

Unfortunately, we still have all these problems, and then some. The difference is, I think many of us are accustomed to living in a more cynical, more grey-area world than were were willing to concede to 20 years ago. And certainly, all the cheerful bromides we were dispensed couldn't soothe a young person's fear of the everpresent Doomsday Clock.

Our old enemies are now our 'friends', but I'm not that crazy about the enemies we've traded them in for.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think believe the Reagan Years were all bad back then, or that it's all bad now. It's just that it wasn't "all good," either, and if we propagate the myth that it was, then we're only brushing a fresh layer of paint on the old movie set, and writing half-truths on a piece of used parchment.

Reminds me of blue-eyed UK soul singer Paul Young's first obscure hit from 1982's No Parlez: "Iron Out the Rough Spots." I used to know the words, but that was a long time ago. The problem is, when you only paint over rough spots, the rough spots don't really go away. They get bigger, broader, and harder to eradicate.

Friday, June 11, 2004
Americans Drinking More, But Fewer Are Alcoholics 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
In the spirit of the weekend, some interesting news on the state of national tippling:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More Americans are abusing alcohol than in the 1990s, but fewer are technically alcoholics, U.S. government researchers. They found that the number of American adults who abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent rose to 17.6 million or 8.46 percent of the population in 2001-2002 from 13.8 million or 7.41 percent of the population in 1991-1992.

"The fact that alcohol disorder rates are highest among young adults underscores the need for concerted research on drinking patterns that initiate in adolescence," said Dr. Ting-Kai Li, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one of the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers cannot say why heavy drinking is up. The NIAAA study defines alcohol abuse as causing a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home; interpersonal social and legal problems; and/or drinking in hazardous situations. Across the decade, the rate of alcohol abuse increased to 4.65 percent of the general population from 3.03 percent, while the rate of alcoholism fell to 3.81 percent of the general population from 4.38 percent, Li's team reported in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Bridget Grant, who led the study [said], "That alcohol abuse seems to be increasing presents intriguing questions. What is clear is that no single environmental cause can explain the increase. Further research is an important public health priority."
Perhaps today's drinkers have higher tolerance levels than some years ago, or they are fudging their answers regarding dependency? Or, provocatively, since today's young adults are not considered "adult" until age 26, perhaps those with fewer responsibilities have less trouble fulfilling them when they drink heavily?

All speculation, of course. Reminds me of those old T-shirts that read, "I don't have a drinking problem. I drink, I get drunk, I fall down. NO PROBLEM!"

Newspaperman Patrick Brower Recalls Being Chased by 'Dozer 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Jonathan Maziarz, a reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza points out,
"It is every journalist's worst nightmare. Someone who you publicly disagreed with, editorialized against or simply reported on in an unfavorable light plots an intricate and violent plan for revenge and then executes it. [Sky-Hi News' Patrick] publisher Brower, who gave me my first job in journalism and taught me much of what I know about the craft, ended up in the position most journalists hate - being part of the news instead of reporting on it."
Brower contributes a gripping first-hand account of Marvin Heemeyer's bulldozer attack to the Idaho Mountain Express. Brower's lucky: he was one of the people on Heemeyer's "hit list," and was literally feet from the massive machine's blade:
I knew we were in trouble when I saw the aspen tree in front of the Sky-Hi News office slam into the front window of our building.

Up until that moment it seemed unreal that the huge, ironclad behemoth rumbling down Granby’s main street had targeted me and the newspaper. Marv Heemeyer sat at the controls of the massive armored and armed bulldozer, a menacing and dark ironclad behemoth. For a second or so, probably less, Harry Williamson and I stood mesmerized by what we were witnessing. The aspen tree whipped gracefully, almost, into the window.

The machine was relentless and the front wall of our building cracked and tumbled with a sickening thud. The entire wall — drywall, windows, trim and bricks — shattered and fell like a sheet of shattered glass. It was that fast. The bulldozer roared forward toward us, unfazed, passing through as if the wall was made of tissue paper.

We turned and ran. I felt fear for the first time as I ran toward the back of the building, the clanking monster following.

Breathless, Harry and I ran out the back door. The bulldozer was now plowing down the building, right over my office, walls falling as it worked its way toward us. Shots fired by sheriff’s officers sounded tinny and small, insignificant. Only then did I realize my foolishness.

It was Marv Heemeyer. He had a grudge against me. He knew where I lived, where my wife and son were even then sleeping soundly. The house was not far away. "My house is next. He will kill my family." I thought to myself, now angry at myself for having lingered at the office, all for the sake of a big story. [read article]
Very scary stuff. Of course, leave it to New Zealand's News Herald - halfway across the globe - to publish a facetious op-ed piece in Te Radar:
Who hasn't at one time or another considered converting a bulldozer into a steel fist of retribution to smite those faceless bureaucratic emasculators who have rendered us impotent.

Unlike Marvin Heemeyer, we tend not to follow our impulse, as we generally don't have access to bulldozers.

This is why I found myself regarding Marvin's actions with a degree of astonishment and respect. The Colorado resident was aggrieved that his local council let a cement plant expand around his muffler shop. He blamed the resulting dust and noise for effectively closing his business. Not one to mope, Marvin found a new enterprise. He spent months encasing his bulldozer in steel and concrete, rendering it impervious to bullets and bombs.

I was disconcerted to see these actions described by the media as a "rampage". I don't know how many headline writers have ever had the pleasure of operating a bulldozer, but their lack of speed tends to render them virtually impossible to rampage.

One local described Marvin's actions as domestic terrorism. But he was clearly taking up the cudgel in the War against Terror - the terror of the innocent by the faceless apparatchiks of the state. He was the archetypal lone warrior waging war on an oppressive regime. What could be more American?

Marvin Heemeyer might have been an ordinary guy pushed too far by a faceless bureaucracy, or he might simply have been as mad as a bucket of spanners. But, trapped inside the cabin of his improvised behemoth, Marvin killed himself. Maybe the thought of trying to get off the inevitable parking ticket was too much for him to bear.

Thursday, June 10, 2004
Another Reason to Hate the French* 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Pas de Hummer? Paris plans to ban SUV's:
Denis Baupin, a leading Green party councilor who tabled the resolution, says the designer jeeps are "not suited to towns" and he could not understand why people drove the fashionable "off-roaders."

"They're polluters, they're space-occupiers, they're dangerous for pedestrians and other road users. They're a caricature of a car. We have no interest in having SUVs in the city. They're dangerous to others and take up too much space, " he said on Europe 1 radio.
I suppose no bulldozers, either.

* I didn't say I hated the French, but those pushing "Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast" will have a field day with this, certainement.

Blood is Thicker Than Liquid Nitrogen 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
From California, an important legal precedent in the evolving realm of reproductive technology, involving the case of Social Security survivor benefits denied to a twins born from frozen sperm banked by their terminally-ill father. From the Monterey Herald:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Twins conceived from frozen sperm after their father died of cancer are eligible to collect Social Security benefits, a federal appeals court ruled. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that an Arizona judge erred in ruling that the 7-year-olds could be denied survivor benefits.

"Developing reproductive technology has outpaced federal and state laws, which currently do not address directly the legal issues created by posthumous conception," Judge Betty B. Fletcher wrote in the three-member panel's unanimous decision. The ruling could affect cases in nine states under the court's jurisdiction. About 400,000 frozen human embryos exist in the United States, and thousands of men have preserved their sperm for future use.

The federal case involved a lawsuit filed against the Social Security Administration by the wife of Robert Netting, a University of Arizona anthropology professor who died of multiple myeloma in early 1995. After Netting was diagnosed and warned that chemotherapy might leave him sterile, he deposited some of his frozen sperm with his university's Health Science Center. Before dying two months later, he confirmed that he wanted his wife "to have their child after his death" using the sperm, according to the appellate court decision. About 10 months after he died, his wife became pregnant and gave birth in 1996 to twins, Piers and Juliet.

When Gillett-Netting applied for children's insurance benefits from the Social Security Administration, however, she was turned down on grounds that the children couldn't be dependents of Netting because he had died before they were conceived. The appellate court, however, concluded that under the Social Security Act "the vast majority of children are statutorily deemed dependent on their deceased parents."

Gillett-Netting was "absolutely thrilled" by the outcome, she told the Los Angeles Times. Dealing with Social Security officials was "frustrating," she said. "It was very difficult to communicate with them. That's why I went to a lawyer." The ruling is a "really important victory for children," said Hagit Elul of the New York law firm of Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, who worked on the case for free. "It affirms that all children should be treated equally regardless of the circumstances of their birth."
A very positive ruling, I think, and one seemingly mindful of both the needs of the children and the situation. While some people might argue the ruling in some way erodes the rights of a sperm donor to be free from financially supporting their IVF offspring, or might compel the government's payment of survivor benefits when not appropriate, I think the issue is actually more circumscribed in the legal sense.

In the case of anonymous sperm bank donors, the law recognizes that the donors clearly do not wish to be financially or socially responsible for the resulting children conceived - and they are not, as is explicit in most donor contracts, but this was not the case here. This was also not a case where a deceased man's sperm was extracted postmortem without his consent and used to conceive a child, as has been attempted. The court found that Robert Netting clearly wished his wife to be able to conceive after his anticipated medical sterility or death, and donated sperm specifically for the purpose.

Still, it would seem to be in the best interest of people planning this type of donation - that may result in posthumous conception - to have their intentions made clear in writing, with some type of will or other legal document. Not doing so would open up the argument that the donor might not have intended to produce children, even with a surviving partner, after his death.

But should the government be responsible for providing survivor benefits? In this case, I think the answer is "yes," considering that survivor benefits would have been authorized to children born to a man who died even hours or minutes after fathering a child. In its ruling, Arizona could have also negated the heirship of Netting's children, essentially "bastardizing" the twins because their father no longer existed, even though his wishes and his biological material survived. I think the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made the correct, compassionate decision to give his children the survivor benefits they are entitled to. Even more importantly, it shows that the law needs to maintain flexibility, vision and clarity in an ever-changing world.