Friday, January 28, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 52 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Postcards From The Edge 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Screenshot from PBS' Postcards from Buster's withdrawn 'Sugartime!' episode set in VermontTwo "gay cartoon" media flaps in one week? Must be a record. Yesterday, Sponge Bob. Today, it's a PBS episode of the Arthur spinoff, Postcards from Buster that's caught the ire of our new Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings.

The offense? The as-yet-unaired pulled-before-airing episode "Sugartime!" features a jaunt through maple sugar country with cartoon bunny Buster - and one of the families he meets is a real-life Vermont couple who happen to be lesbians. As if this was an unusual occurrence: in Vermont, pretty much anywhere you stand is a stone's throw from the nearest lesbian. Speaking of throwing stones, from the Boston Globe:
...[N]ew US secretary of education, Margaret Spellings, denounced PBS for spending public funds to tape an episode of a children's program that features Pike, a lesbian, her partner, Gillian Pieper, and their 11-year-old daughter, Emma. The installment of "Postcards From Buster," which is produced locally at WGBH-TV (Channel 2) and which had been scheduled to air March 23, was promptly dropped by PBS, which is refusing to distribute the footage to its 349 member stations.

"It makes me sick," said Pike, a 42-year-old photographer in Hinesburg, Vt., who united with Pieper in a civil union in 2001. "I'm actually aghast at the hatred stemming from such an important person in our government. . . . Her first official act was to denounce my family, and to denounce PBS for putting on a program that shows my family as loving, moral, and committed."

The decision by PBS caused a ripple across the nation yesterday. Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, charged in a statement that the secretary is "confined to a very narrow and selfish agenda if her first action in office is to threaten an American institution like PBS. While America's schools are crumbling and our students are falling behind in basic skills, Republicans in Washington are too busy pursuing an intolerant agenda to try to solve the real problems." [read full article]
According to Champlain Channel.com/WPTZ, "Vermont Public Television plans to air the program on March 23. Several other affiliates have also agreed to air the show." Good on you, Vermont ETV, for standing up to this backlash.
At least one member station said that it would not air the episode, even though WGBH will make it available. Jeanette Thornbrue, a manager in the programming department at OETA-TV (Channel 11) in Oklahoma City, said her station will download whatever is on the PBS satellite feed that day instead.

"Oklahoma is very conservative," she said. "We've had off-the-wall phone calls when nothing was happening." She added that one viewer complained about an episode of "Teletubbies" in which the characters were dancing. "They thought that was too much," she said. [Boston Globe]
Ms. Spellings: I know you're new in the White House, and you've been charged with upholding the administration's party line in regard to education - and by extension, educational programming funded by Federal money. But as Terry McAuliffe pointed out, you could have chosen a more pressing policy issue as your first public act in office.

Is lashing out against a children's PBS show because it dares to show that loving, committed same-sex familes exist genuinely the most pressing item on your agenda? Considering one of the first things your boss and his party did since inauguration was have the now-festering Federal Marriage Amendment stitched together like Frankenstein for another go-round through Washington, it's clear that annoying little educational problems - like crumbling public school infrasructures, student violence and disenfranchisement, dropping test scores and an increasing "technology gap" with the rest of the world just aren't as pressing as ideological steering and censorship.

As we'd say here in Chicago, now we know what side yo' bread be buttered on.

MORE: New York Times, "Culture Wars Pull Buster Into the Fray"
The Boston Globe
"PBS Gets Spongebobbed," BlueMassGroup

farkleberries Links du Jour 51 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 50 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
The Dogs of War, Drug-Style 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: Pete at Drug WarRant hit the nail on the head when he named the problematic kernel at the heart of Monday's Illinois v. Caballes decision:
"...this notion that a device (in this case a dog) that can detect specifically illegal items is not, by definition, an invasion of privacy, since there is no right to possess illegal items."
By using this standard to define what constitutes a "search," the Supreme Court has set a very dangerous precedent. Potentially, any police efforts to search you for 'contraband' might fall outside Fourth Amendment protection, since "you don't have a legal right to possess those items" in the first place! Some would answer, "well, if you aren't doing anything illegal, you've got nothing to worry about." Sorry: that's not how our system is supposed to work, and that's not what the framers of the Constitution intended. The Fourth Amendment does not say you're protected against unreasonable search and seizure without a properly issued warrant - unless you're doing something illegal, in which case, tough luck, Charlie.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that when police use drug-sniffing dogs during routine traffic stops, without probable cause (or even reasonable suspicion) that narcotics laws have been broken, the practice does not constitute a search. In its decision re: Illinois v. Caballes,
The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision Monday, ruled that police do not violate the Fourth Amendment when they use a drug-detecting dog to locate illegal drugs in the trunk of a car during a legal traffic stop. In an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court declared: "A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment."

The Court majority stressed that it was ruling only narrowly, in a situation where a dog was used only to check out the exterior of a car stopped for speeding. Thus, the Court appeared to leave open the question of conducting a dog-sniff investigation outside of a home, if that were capable of detecting legal activity going on inside the residence. A number of cases are pending at the Court challenging the use of dogs to sniff the exterior of homes.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter dissented, but each indicated they were not saying police could not use dog-sniffs to detect explosives or biological weapons, perhaps used by a terrorist. [SCOTUSBlog]
Drip, drip, drip...is that sad, hollow sound of civil liberties being eroded one drop at a time. Since the 1980's, the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure have shrunk and receded like ice floes in spring...or perhaps Antonin Scalia's hairline...but please, how does one rule with a straight face that allowing a dog to sniff your vehicle for contraband is not a "search"?

Apropos, Fourth Amendment searches were the subject of my last term paper, and I recall that a similar, if more high-tech, means of indirectly detecting evidence (using infrared cameras to "see" excessive heat generated by drug grow-lamps emanating from buildings) was held unconstitutional (Kyllo v. U.S. (2001)). I wonder: would the Court have ruled similarly if police were not using dogs, but rather, portable electronic "sniffers" (another type of "off-the-wall," or passive, detection device; as opposed to "through-the-wall" or active devices like radar or X-ray machines) that would detect traces of drugs, explosives, etc., during routine traffic stops? What if traffic patrols were outfitted with "sniffers" as part of their standard equipment, and an officer would not have to wait for the nearest K-9 unit to arrive to perform a sniff search?

My understanding is that if a traffic officer has reasonable suspicion that the occupants of a vehicle may be in possession of narcotics - i.e., the driver or occupants seem intoxicated, or there is a suspicious odor in the car - then the officer may legally perform a search, dog or no dog. Without this sort of reasonable suspicion, using an animal or mechanical device to detect drugs amounts to a "fishing expedition."

If an officer performing a routine traffic stop must call for a narcotics dog unit - to sniff the vehicle - the assertion that no search is taking place is absurd.

While today's ruling may strike some as a narrow, well-defined provision to assist law enforcement in the "War on Drugs," I (and without a doubt many others) see it as nothing so benign.

The word arrived in my inbox via ACLU Alerts, and good commentary is available at Drug WarRant, The Volokh Conspiracy [who cover the Kyllo aspect], and Grits for Breakfast. Freespace takes a closer look at the "gaping holes" in the Court's decision, and further links a detailed analysis over at Jurispundit.

farkleberries Links du Jour 49 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Friday, January 21, 2005
Is Sponge Bob Part of the 'Gay Conspiracy'? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Sponge Bob Squarepants, Gay icon? Image courtesy Paramount PicturesRemember the great "Tinky Winky is Gay" Teletubbies® scandal? Well, James Dobson's Focus on the Family has discovered another alleged sexually subversive stuffed toy - this time, it's everyone's favorite Poriferan, Sponge Bob:
LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Conservative Christian groups accuse the makers of a video starring SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney and a host of other cartoon characters of promoting homosexuality to children.

...The video is a remake of the 1979 hit song "We Are Family" using the voices and images of SpongeBob, Barney, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, the Rugrats and other TV cartoon characters. It was made by a foundation set up by songwriter Nile Rodgers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in an effort to promote healing. Christian groups however have taken exception to the tolerance pledge on the foundation's Web site, which asks people to respect the sexual identity of others along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race.

"Their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity" within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line," James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said in a statement released Thursday. Dobson was quoted by the New York Times on Thursday as having singled out the wildly popular SpongeBob during remarks about the video at dinner this week in Washington, D.C. [read full article]
Somehow, the image of James Dobson railing against the sins of Sponge Bob at a coalition dinner strikes me as absurdly funny. After the outing of Tinky Winky, media pronouncements like this only give frightened conservative parents nightmares about the Pedophiliac Sponges of Sodom.

Nile Rodgers responded in yesterday's New York Times,
...[Rodgers] said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism.
In this case, however, the Reverend Dobson seems to be beating not only a dead horse, but a straw man:
The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site.

Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We Are Family," which supports gay youth. "The fact that some people may be upset with each other peoples' lifestyles, that is O.K.," Mr. Rodgers said. "We are just talking about respect."

Mark Barondess, the foundation's lawyer, said the critics "need medication."
MORE: "Conservatives Pick a Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge" New York Times, 1/20/2005

farkleberries Links du Jour 48 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, January 20, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 47  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Will Texas Students' BMI Make the Grade?  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Or: The No Child's Behind Left Behind Program.

It almost goes without saying that the seeds of a good idea often bloom into twisted weeds in the hands of politicians. Case in point: a bill proposed by Sen. Letitia Van de Putte [D-TX] that would require Texas schools to include information on students' Body Mass Index [BMI] on report cards. Considering that one third of Lone Star State kids would be classified as "overweight" or "obese," I can (in a way) understand the bill's "good intentions," for alerting parents about children's potential health problems caused by excessive weight. However, as Eric Allen of the Association for Texas Professional Educators stated,
'...most parents don't need to be told their child is overweight...'
Neither would most students, I might add.

In addition there is a logical error in Van de Putte's argument: BMI alone does not actually calulate body fat based on height [a "pinch" test, waist-to-hip ratio or ideally a hydrostatic (underwater) weighing is needed], as this online BMI calculator from the Centers for Disease Control shows - but mass in proportion to height. Although statistically there are more of the former than the latter, a "heavy" (over-fat) youngster and a heavily-muscled high school wrestler of the same height could both have 'unacceptably' high BMI indexes.

Rather than being a useful indicator of students' overall health, BMI indexes on report cards seem to unfortunately associate body weight/appearance with scholastic acheievement - and personally, I think the last thing kids need is another "number" to live up to.

Frankly, reporting student's BMI numbers to parents is probably next to useless. As Eric Allen stated above, parents don't need report cards to tell them their child is overweight, and getting a report of a "bad" BMI doesn't automatically translate to the long-term motivation and lifestyle change required for kids (and in most cases, their families) to achieve lasting weight loss and improved overall health.

Here's a better idea, I think: have school health departments screen kids for serious but "invisible" problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and send home basic health reports in which student BMI's could be also included. Considering that many students from poorer or uninsured families may not receive even routine checkups, this sort of preventive screening might be a more effective way of catching chronic disease early and saving lives.

Now if only schools would stop cutting physical education programs and budgets - and stop accepting soft-drink and fast-food onsite sales dollars - maybe we'd make some progress (and as Cindy mentions in the comments, if schools would address the issue of the "six hundred candy bars [kids are] supposed to whore around town so the school can have [a] computer lab?" Indeed!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 46 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Monday, January 17, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 45 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Friday, January 14, 2005
Unintended Consequences: Missing Women, Three Strikes, and Graying Bush 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Thursday, January 13, 2005
GovTrack.us: Cool Technorati® Tool 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Even the least paranoid would now concede the government is watching us...so, wouldn't you love the chance to watch back? Well, now you can...after a fashion.

Technorati's announced the winners of their recent Developers' Contest, which challenged folks to find innovative uses for Technorati API data - in other words, "the information is out there...put it to good use!" The $2,500.00 grand prize winner is Joshua Tauberer, creator of a dandy site called GovTrack.us:
Want to know the status of a bill on the floor of Congress, who misses the most votes, or who gets the most bills passed? GovTrack.us is like School House Rock on steroids for adults (oh, and children). Govtrack.us uses the Technorati API to show what bloggers are saying about bills as they work their way through Congress.
The site automatically tracks governmental statistical data, compiles it, even allows to place a "watch" on specific representatives' proposed bills and voting records. In light of the way intrepid bloggers cast Virginia HB 1677's fate to the wind, we should all find good use for this portal! The stats page also features some informative (and fun) political numbers, such as the representative with the highest voting absentee rate, the lowest bill success rate, and the most talkative (currently Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], who has reportedly given 5 speeches so far this term).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Virginia HB 1807: "No Condoms For You!" 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
There's another bad bill in the Virginia House, as seen on Democracy for Virginia: HB1807, which aims to make some instances of providing contraception to minors a felony.
HOUSE BILL NO. 1807 :: Offered January 12, 2005 :: Prefiled January 5, 2005
A BILL to amend the Code of Virginia by adding a section numbered 18.2-63.2, relating to providing birth control to a minor in certain circumstances; penalty.
Patrons-- Marshall, R.G. and Black, Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 18.2-63.2 as follows: § 18.2-63.2. Providing birth control to minor in certain circumstances; penalty. If any person knows or has reason to believe that a minor is engaging in sexual relations with a person three years or more older than the minor and such person provides the minor with a contraceptive or contraceptive device, he shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony*.

2. That the provisions of this act may result in a net increase in periods of imprisonment or commitment. Pursuant to § 30-19.1:4, the estimated amount of the necessary appropriation cannot be determined for periods of imprisonment in state adult correctional facilities and $0 for periods of commitment to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.
First of all, "knows or has reason to believe" is a criminal element that might be tad hard to prove or disprove. Notice the wording doesn't say "adult" - but "three years or more older" - and "provide," not "sell." This stretches the bill's scope to include cases where the contraception is given free of charge, and where both the minor and their sexual partner(s) are under 18.

Essentially, any Virginian who gives their teenage child, brother, sister or friend a condom might be setting themselves up for felony jail time if said teen engages in sex with someone three years older.

I think the main gist (and the main problem) with HB 1807 is that its loose wording also potentially makes the selling or giving of contraception to minors by pharmacies or clinics (like Planned Parenthood) a legal minefield, which (cynical me!) I suspect may have been the sponsors' intention. Consider that anyone who was found guilty of violating such a law would have to list themselves as a "convicted felon" in many instances (job applications, for example) - which seems ridiculous, and ridiculously harsh.

While never directly addressing the issue of sex between minors and older teens or adults, HB 1807 aims to criminalize efforts at preventing teen pregnancy, or the spread of sexually transmitted infections. What would be the public benefit of such a law? It's the proverbial case of creating a second wrong, in a misguided effort at preventing or correcting the first.

Have these Virginia legislators nothing more useful to do than making sex-related criminal laws? You'd think there weren't any more pressing matters; like child poverty, failing schools, and the War on Terror.

On the other hand, let's not give them any bright ideas.

* Other crimes classified as Class 6 felonies [punishable by prison terms of one to 5 years] in Virginia include:Priorities, priorities...

Kill Bill [VA HB 1677], or The Blogosphere Strikes Back  
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Virginia House Bill 1677, the proposed law that could potentially impose jail sentences of up to one year [and/or a $2,500.00 fine] on women who fail to report a miscarriage within 12 hours to police, is dead - for now.

Fascinatingly, no traditional major news outlets picked up on the story. Only a few local television newscasts bothered to mention HB 1677, and then only after Del. John Cosgrove withdrew the bill in the face of a grass-roots uproar stirred up when blogger Maura Keaney of Democracy for Virginia "broke" the story on January 6th. Yesterday's Virginian-Pilot carried this unusual piece about the blogs that killed the bill:
Del. Cosgrove pulls bill after Internet fuels fiery protest

By CHRISTINA NUCKOLS, The Virginian-Pilot
© January 11, 2005

RICHMOND — A Chesapeake lawmaker withdrew a bill on Monday that would have required women to report fetal deaths, after he received more than 500 e-mails from people concerned that the measure would punish women who have miscarriages. Opposition to the bill, HB1677, was generated by "blogs," personal Web sites set up by individuals who post information and encourage discussion about topics of interest to them.

Del. John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, was shaken by the speed and volume of the response as word of his bill traveled across the country via the Internet. "I’ve never been blogged before," he said. "The tone of the e-mails has been disgusting. It’s, 'You’re a horrible person. You ought to be crucified.' And those were the nice ones." [read full article]
V-P Columnist David Addis has a good follow-up story today in that paper. He writes,
"I first heard of [the bill] late Friday, from a reader in Charlottesville who'd picked it up from an Internet source. The reader, Eric – I'll protect his family name here, for privacy reasons – was angry. His wife, he said, had lost five children in four pregnancies over the years.

They didn't believe that their personal trauma needed any enhancement from the cops or the legislature. Each event had left his wife 'heartbroken,' he said. 'Our country,' Eric wrote, 'is turning into a frightening place – e.g., where the government pays media personalities to back their policies, where the wealthy create a faux 'crisis’ to rid themselves of the burden of social security – but, thankfully, it doesn’t appear that we’ve slid completely off the edge into a police state yet.'

When I shared these developments with the woman who shares my household, her reaction was a 'WHAT?!?' that might have loosened shingles on the roof. Putting our heads together, we came up with four such traumatic pregnancy losses – they’re called 'fetal death' in Cosgrove’s bill – among our immediate family. And those are just the ones we know about.

The idea that those women, who are so close to us, might have been required to call the police on themselves within 12 hours of the event was repugnant. We wondered about the workings of a mind that would require it." [read full article]
Personally, the news of HB 1677's demise came as a very nice birthday "present" yesterday. I'm breathing a little sigh of relief, and have a little extra spring in my step knowing that we bloggers helped spread the word about a bad piece of legislation, and genuinely made a difference; then again, it might have been the Geritol®. Addis adds,
"Poor Cosgrove. He said he’d never been "blogged" before – nailed by the Internet’s "Web log" community, which heaped e-mail on him, some of it nasty, from all corners of the nation.

Well, I have. From the political left, the political right, and the political sideways. It can be painful, but it can be instructive as well, as we all learned over the weekend. A lot of the bloggers are morons, but a lot are savvy, dedicated, and on target. Just ask Dan Rather.

My parting advice: Grow scales, Cosgrove, or do a better job of writing your bills, because these people aren’t going away. And good on ’em, too."
Chalk one up to the power of a free press.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Nothing Important Happened Today 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
* Today's date in Mayan Long Count is Bak'tun 12:Kat'un 19:Tun 12:Win'al 13:K'in 13 [Each part corresponds to one of the Mayan celestial periods, ranging from cycles of about 400 years (Bak'tun) to K'in, the Mayan "days." For more, visit the excellent Maya Info site, or if you're into techno-shaman-y type stuff, fUSION Anomaly's Tzolk'in page.

Monday, January 10, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 44 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Friday, January 07, 2005
"Have a Miscarriage in Virginia? Go to the Police, or Go to Jail." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
[UPDATE: Eternal Vigilance and the Power of the Blog. Democracy for Virginia's posting on HB 1677 has provoked a rapid, vigorous response from both the 'blogosphere' and other concerned individuals - to the extent that John Cosgrove has backpedaled refined and reworded his legislative proposal. DfV has two important updates well worth reading - a clarification of the bill's intention and a reply from Delegate Cosgrove. In his reply, Cosgrove claims HB 1677 was never intended to force women to report miscarriages to police - but rather, was meant to discourage "dumpster baby" abandonments - never mind that VA already has laws allowing a mother to drop off her newborn anonymously at a hospital or medical facility without legal penalty. Unfortunately, the wording of HB 1677 was so broad it very easily could be interpreted as a requirement for women to report miscarriages at any gestational stage to police. Readers' comments are also very informative here.]

Yes, Virginia, the bright shiny New Year brings yet more draconian Handmaid's Tale-ish proposed legislation, this time from VA delegate John Cosgrove. The proposed law? Making a woman's failure to report her miscarriage to police within 12 hours a crime, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $2500.00 fine. From Greengrl:
Delegate John Cosgrove (R-VA House of Representatives) has introduced a bill that will make it a Class 1 misdemenor in VA to have a miscarriage and not report it to authorities within 12-24 hours. Now, most (all, I would assume) women who experience miscarriages are in tremendous pain and trauma, but if HR1677 [the link is the full text of the bill] is allowed to become law in Virginia, they will also have to report to the cops with very personal information at such a painful and traumatic time.

According to the blog, Democracy for Virginia:
...this bill means that a woman who experiences a spontaneous loss of pregnancy will have her privacy violated significantly more than if she had chosen an abortion. Though Virginia requires that induced terminations of pregnancy be reported, those reporting forms require only a “patient number” and information on the procedure. The “report of fetal death” asks for the woman’s full name, her history of prenatal care, her marital status, her education history, her previous deliveries (if any), and a number of other very intrusive data items.

If the miscarriage occurred under a physician’s care, all of this information would be provided by the physician out of the patient’s medical records. Physicians and/or funeral directors are given 24 hours to file this report. Delegate Cosgrove’s bill gives women who experience miscarriage without a doctor only 12 hours to report, adding insult to injury. [Thanks, Democracy for Virginia. Emphasis mine.]
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so f***ing insensitive and downright cruel in my life. Add to a woman’s misery at losing a baby by treating her like a criminal? My God, what the hell is wrong with this guy?

I suggest other bloggers pick up on this story, in the hopes of giving it national coverage. It’s shameful what Delegate Cosgrove is trying to do in VA. Knowing the amount of trauma miscarriage causes, it’s absolutely reprehensible what he’s trying to do with this bill.
Read more at Democracy for Virignia; the post is both enlightening and greatly disturbing. So this is the "compassionate conservativism" we're getting as a result of the so-called "new Republican mandate"? I think it's utterly misguided, misogynist legislation.

Importantly, nowhere in the wording of the proposed bill is there any mention of how old the fetus must be before the proposed law would be triggered; which is a problem since many women may not know they are having a miscarriage, especially in early stages of pregnancy. Early miscarriages can also present as nothing more than heavy, prolonged menstrual periods: will these need to be reported to the local police department, as well?

HB1677 isn't a law to protect women, children, mothers, fathers, or "family values." It seems designed to placate the twisted consciences of those heartless enough to attempt to criminalize one of a woman's deepest personal (and family) tragedies - as evidenced by the bill's provision calling for personal information, such as a woman's prenatal health care, education level, and previous birth history. In other words, information that might be able to place blame on the woman for her miscarriage.

Shame on you, John Cosgrove; I'm quite sure there's a special place in Hades for "philanthropists" like you. [Click on link for his contact info, if you feel like letting him know how you feel about HB1677] Let's hope this House bill gets soundly flushed down the crapper.

* John Cosgrove is also the chief sponsor of 2004 HB1, Virginia's broadly (and vaguely) worded feticide law*, VA Code Ch. 1026 Section § 18.2-32.2.

Thursday, January 06, 2005
Adventures In Noodling: The Vietnam-Czech Connection? 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Vifon Shrimp Noodles, with captions in English, Czech and SlovakToday's lunch features another interesting packaged noodle product, manufactured by the Vifon-Acecook Company of Saigon.

Forget the old standby college ramen noodle brands like Nissin, Marukan, or Top Ramen (sorry, guys) and give your nearest Asian grocery's typically well-stocked and diverse instant noodle section a whirl. Granted, you can often buy whitebread college ramen noodles for less than a dime per bag, but for a few cents more (between $.25 and $1.00) you can have an authentic Instant Noodle Experience.

With imported brands like Korea's NongShim (makers of Honey Twist, Cuttlefish, Sweet Potato and Onion Ring snacks!), Vietnam's Vifon, Thailand's Wai Wai or Kung Fu (from Taiwan, I believe) you'll still probably get more than a day's worth of sodium and fat in each packet - but you can make a healthier version by opting for non-fried noodle packs (or those with rice noodles, which are generally prepared without the traditional palm oil-dunk) and using only part of the enclosed flavor packets, rather than emptying the whole salty bag into your bowl.

Unlike the hallowed chicken-beef-pork college ramen trimvirate, noodles prepared for palates abroad tend to have unusual noodle textures* and seasonings - like pho, squid and seafood, pumpkin, curry pork, kimchi, Chinese Onion...and rather than a single one-size-fits all seasoning packet, imported instant noodles often have three or four separate packets containing not only the main flavor mix, but a flavoring oil (often onion-scented), a "heat" packet with ground chillies, and "toppers" like dehydrated vegetables, seaweed, etc., so there is considerable leeway for customizing your finished noodles.

Which brings me to this post's title. Intriguingly, the above Vifon package from today's lunch contains translations in English, Czech and Slovak: why? Are Czechs in the U.S. especially fond of Vietnamese instant noodles (I suppose I could answer that question myself) - or is there a supply line of noodles being exported to Eastern Europe? It turns out the latter is true, in part because many native Czechs have been introduced to that nation's dishes, brought there by a vibrant Vietnamese community now residing in the Czech Republic:
The Czech Republic boasts a large Vietnamese community, dating back to the days when the two countries were part of the Communist bloc. Today there are an estimated 40,000 Vietnamese here, the large majority of them working as market traders. The focal point of Prague's Vietnamese community is a huge open-air market known to Czechs as "Little Hanoi", and to Vietnamese as "Sapa", after an area of outstanding natural beauty in Vietnam.
More: Radio.cz's Rob Cameron interviews Mimi Nguyen, a 26-year old woman who has lived in the Czech Republic with her family for more than a decade.

* One brand of Vietnamese "won ton" style instant soup has the product name transliterated as "Hoành Thánh," but rather than the expected noodle wrappers stuffed with filling, hoành thánh are square "flocks" of noodle in broth.

Monday, January 03, 2005
farkleberries Links du Jour 43 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 

Chicago Gets New Nostalgia TV Station: "Me" on 23 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
WWME-23 'Me-TV'Over-the air broadcast TV just got a lot more fun in the Chicago market: "Me TV" - or - WWME-23, a low-power sister station to UPN indie Channel 26 hit the airwaves January 1st with a wall-to-wall lineup of 60's, 70's and 80's classic television programming (a lot like cable's TVLand, but without the cost of cable). Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Feder details:
With [programming director Neal] Sabin at the helm first as vice president and general manager of Channel 26 and, since 1997 as executive vice president of Weigel Broadcasting, the station has grown in ratings, revenue and respectability. On some days, in some time periods, it's even been known to lead the market. No less an authority than Joe Ahern, who's been president and general manager of both WBBM-Channel 2 and WLS-Channel 7, marvels at what Sabin has done with so little. "He's taken chicken s--- and made chicken salad out of it," an admiring Ahern says.

On Saturday -- 10 years to the day after he launched "The U" -- Sabin will serve up more chicken salad when Weigel's low-power WWME-Channel 23 premieres as "Me-TV" (for "Memorable Entertainment Television"). Boasting a full-time lineup of classic reruns, "Me-TV" will be available initially over the air on Channel 23 as well as on DirecTV, Comcast Digital Cable (in the city of Chicago only), RCN Cable and WOW Cable. Dish Network will begin carrying it later in 2005.
It may not be 'fresh,' but I'll take classic Boomer TV fare over Extreme Makeovers any day. With ingredients like All in The Family, Mary Tyler Moore, The Carol Burnett Show, The Jeffersons, The Addams Family, The Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Barney Miller - and even Underdog, MeTV is pretty tasty chicken s--- - ahem, salad. I wish both the "U" and "Me" best of luck in their new venture.

WCIU and WWME broadcast schedule (from TVtitan.com)