Saturday, July 30, 2011

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Digby does have a way with words:
America in the 21st century is a post-modern epistemological relativist state in which the right creates its own alternate reality in real time. And there's nobody to sort it out because the press gives equal weight to everyone. This is the world that produced Tea Partying congressmen who believe that default on the national debt is a rational policy to shrink government. Post-modern epistemological relativism

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Most Boring Post Ever

I don't usually write about technical things, partly because I'm not that interested in them. I love computers, I love to program them, I love the idea that a computer can simulate any system -- the concept of the universal Turing machine is beautiful and amazing. But I do not find it exciting to pick up somebody else's program and spend weeks trying to figure out how they expected me to use it, and I do not enjoy it when the computer breaks down or runs slow. I am not a gadget guy or a fixit guy.

I am actually going to put this online because I have seen a hundred techie web sites where people asked how to fix this problem, and nobody gave them the right answer.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a little Acer Aspire One D255 netbook for $199, refurbished, at Micro Center. It looked like fun, it's a tiny wine-red thing with a 10.1-inch screen, I figured I could throw it in my backpack and take it places, surf the web from wifi hotspots, use it to draft notes to myself and blogs and work on papers. It's not a powerful computer but it could be a handy little workhorsepony.

But the stupid thing kept crashing. It'd work for a few minutes and then bog down and you couldn't shut it down or do anything, it's got Windows 7 Starter OS but you had to hold down the power button to turn it off. Several times I was working on text documents and they got irrecoverably corrupted, which is very frustrating, trust me. I went into Task Manager and discovered that a process called "NT Kernel & System" would run at zero to two percent CPU for a long time, and then all of a sudden it would jump to fifty percent or more and stay there, and that's when the thing went dead.

But what does "NT Kernel & System" do? That was the question. It is a generic-sounding process, nobody seems to be able to tell you what it does. I ran programs to find malware, I scanned the whole hard drive with a virus checker, I took everything out of my Startup menu. I went through the Task Scheduler and disabled nearly everything and the thing still crashed on me. Uninstalled all the stupid games that came with it, commercial junk they hope I'll buy, anything I didn't think I'd need I got rid of. Still no good.

I noticed that if I started in safe mode it was okay, though of course the computer was not very useful like that. In safe mode it would run forever without crashing. So I knew the problem was being caused by one of those things they take out to make safe mode safe. Windows 7 has something called "Safe Mode With Networking," and I discovered by accident that if I started it that way it would crash. Aha -- it's the network driver! I tried disabling the ethernet and wireless adapters and then re-enabled each one, and narrowed it down to the wifi adapter.

Once I knew that, I went to the Acer Driver page for this particular model. Device Manager said I had a Broadcom adapter, so I uninstalled it and downloaded the one from the Acer site. Since I had disabled the driver I didn't have wifi, duh, so I downloaded it to my MacBook and then copied it over to the Acer and ran the Setup routine and rebooted.

I know what you're thinking: he has a MacBook? So why is he wasting time on a Windows machine? Ah, grasshopper, the human mind is inherently irrational, that's all I can tell you.

Now I have been sitting here watching the Task Manager for a couple of hours. "NT Kernel & System" has jumped as high as three percent for one fraction of a second, now it normally sits at 0% CPU. System Idle Processes are ninety-seven to ninety-nine percent, just like I like them.

I think I fixed it. Now this seems like a kind of neat little machine, and did I mention cheap?

When I used to play music for a living there would be nights in a bar when everybody was drunk, you'd have a crowd but nobody paying attention, bartenders and waitresses are bored and cranky, nobody's listening to the music. Sometimes on nights like that I would say into the microphone, "I'll give you five dollars if you just come up and ask for it," and nobody would do it -- that's how you know they really aren't paying attention. Nobody ever came up and said, "Sure, give me five bucks," not once. This blog post will be like that. I could probably offer you five bucks right now (but I won't) and leave this up on the Internet for the rest of my life and nobody will ever read this far and ask for it. Most boring post ever.

That's okay, I have been trying to figure this out for about two weeks and I think I finally can claim a little victory, and I'm glad to have it. I am posting this so that guys like me who Google Acer "NT Kernel & System" might find it, after reading a hundred techie sites where some guy with a lot of experience says, "It sounds like malware to me." Check your network driver. Disable it in Device Manager and if that fixes your problem replace it with a newer version.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's Time to Let Gay Men Donate Blood

This is something that is w-a-a-a-a-y overdue…
A policy that bars gay men from donating blood for life is “suboptimal,” the Obama administration said on Tuesday, and needs another look.

The Health and Human Services Department asked a committee of experts on blood and tissue donations to reexamine the policy and see if there is a way to let at least some gays donate blood.

“If the data indicate that a change is possible while protecting the blood supply, we will consider a change to the policy,” HHS said in a statement.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an HHS agency, has banned blood donation by any man who has had homosexual sex because of the risk of the AIDS virus. Soon after the AIDS pandemic began in the 1980s, people such as hemophiliacs who received frequent blood transfusions or blood products began to become infected with the deadly and incurable virus. U.S. to Take Another Look at Gay Blood Donation Ban

I'll grant that at some time in the 1980s, when this new disease seemed to come from nowhere and target gay men, a rule like this may have made some sense. You didn't know who had it because the incubation period was so long, the virus had not yet been identified, tests were nonexistent, and a few people did get HIV from blood transfusions. So far 120 people have been infected by transfusions, of the many millions who have had them.

Meanwhile, lots of gay people donate blood, especially closeted ones -- what are you going to say, "Naw, I just don't feel like it today!" A well known example is New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey who came out in 2004, but he donated blood before that, even staged a photo op for the media to promote blood donation, which is the kind of good-guy thing that politicians love to be associated with. Now that he's out of the closet he can't donate any more.
Men who have sex with other men, including gay and bisexual men, have an HIV infection rate 60 times higher than that of the general population, the FDA says.  They have an infection rate 800 times higher than first-time blood donors and 8,000 times higher than the rate of repeat blood donors. Tests cannot pick up a new HIV infection in the blood with 100 percent accuracy; because blood is often pooled, many people may be at risk from a single infected donor.

But the Red Cross, always struggling with blood shortages, and other groups such as gay-rights organizations oppose the blanket policy. They say that there are other ways to screen out donors at high risk of HIV infection. Sen. John Kerry, D–Mass., has also been pushing for a change in policy.

“We’ve been working on this a long time in a serious way, and I’m glad Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius responded with concrete steps to finally remove this policy from the books,” Kerry said in a statement. “HHS is doing their due diligence, and we plan to stay focused on the endgame – a safe blood supply and an end to this discriminatory ban.”

“This announcement by HHS means we’re moving in the direction of finally ending this antiquated and discriminatory policy,” agreed Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.  “Senator Kerry and I will continue to push for a behavior-based screening process both in the name of fairness and a safer blood supply.”

There are those who use the AIDS epidemic to demean gay men -- you might have seen the picture of the genius at the NOM protest the other day with the sign that said "GAY="Got AIDS Yet?" They would like to portray all gay people as dirty, diseased, and evil. It's time to step back from that though and let the researchers work out the percentages, see if there is a way to screen potential blood donors, let's see what we can do to create a policy that is nondiscriminatory and also does not put people at risk. At least it's time to treat it as a serious issue, and not simply continue the pattern of prejudice out of habit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Colbert: It Gets Better

This is cool. Stephen Colbert steps out of character for a minute to speak directly to kids who get picked on by bullies. He has a pretty good story to tell.

I don't know why, I found this one surprising. Surprising and cool.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Marriage Comes to NYC

Today was the first day gay and lesbian couples could marry in New York. Good As You has a nice gallery of photographs of happy newlyweds. I hope they don't mind if we just link to some of them.

Here is the line stretched around the block to get marriage licenses:

A happy couple:

On the other hand, the National Organization for Marriage and the Westboro Baptist Church also showed up. It is reported that NOM brought in as many as twelve busloads of protesters. I guess they couldn't find enough people in New York City.

It takes a hard heart to make love and marriage an ugly thing.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hot Enough For You?

A story from CNS News, February 9, 2010: – The family of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) had some fun at former Vice President and global warming spokesman Al Gore’s expense over the weekend after record snowfall blanketed the nation’s capital.
The family spent Saturday and Sunday building an igloo near the U.S. Capitol building, and the Oklahoma senator posted photos of their handiwork on his Facebook page. They added signs to the snow dwelling that read, “AL GORE’S NEW HOME!” and “HONK IF YOU (LOVE) GLOBAL WARMING.” Sen. Inhofe’s Family Builds Igloo for Global Warming Spokesman Al Gore in Snow-laden D.C.

Isn't global warming just the funniest thing?

It's too hot today to go out and see how Inhofe's igloo is holding up. I have the feeling it may have melted by now.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Franken Demolishes Anti-Marriage Spokesman

They're having hearings about repealing the Defense of Marriage Amendment. Naturally The Nutty Ones showed up in fine form. Here are a few amusing moments when Al Franken takes Tom Minnery from Focus on the Family and reveals him flat-out lying about a study he cites.

Isn't that fun?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Republican Victim of Homophobic Attack

There is something strange to me about any gay person wanting to be a Republican. GOProud is an organization that represents LGBT conservatives who support concepts like smaller government and lower taxes. I assume they do not support anti-gay Republican candidates ... who does that leave?

This happened back behind Union Station.
The head of the conservative gay Republican group GOProud was attacked on a secluded street behind Union Station while riding home from work on his bicycle on July 15 by a male teenager who called him a “faggot.”

Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud’s executive director, said the unidentified youth punched him in the chest about 8:30 p.m. as he rode past the youth and six or seven other male teenagers who were with the person that struck him on 2nd Street, N.E. just north of L Street.

“I was on my bike when I approached them,” LaSalvia told the Blade in an email. “Just as I got up to them, the assailant lunged off the sidewalk toward me on the street and delivered a punch across my chest. The momentum of my bicycling driving me into his fist and arm caused a shocking pain like I’ve never felt before,” he said.

“Just as I began to realize what was happening, I heard it. The words are still ringing in my ears as I write this today – ‘F____ faggot!’ LaSalvia said in his email. “It was clear to me in that moment that my sexual orientation had motivated this attack.” GOProud head attacked in anti-gay assault

Sounds like he wasn't hurt too badly.

This wasn't a political attack, the bad guys couldn't tell he was a Republican, but they assumed correctly that he was gay, and that was enough to get him beaten up.
The attacker and a few of the others with him “puffed up their chests and were clearly ready to continue the attack,” he said. But seconds later, the group fled the scene after he kept his hand inside his backpack, “allowing them to wonder if I was reaching for a gun.”

Well I guess you have to do something.

This sounds pretty bad.
According to LaSalvia, on Saturday morning, July 16, he went to the headquarters office of the police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, which is located in the Sun Trust Bank building on Dupont Circle. Upon his arrival, no one answered the door bell, said LaSalvia, even though he noticed people were inside the office. He said a sign on the door advised visitors to call the GLLU’s pager number, which he did, he said. However, as of Monday morning, no one from the GLLU returned his message.

It isn't really news, you know, a gay guy gets beat up on the street, it happens all the time. But this man was a little bit famous, and he was that paradoxical animal, the gay Republican, and you have to see it in the light of his politics. The logical connection between small-government, tax-cutting conservatism and small-minded, fundamentalist bigotry is not an obvious one. I think it is mostly a matter of overly prosperous capitalists keeping ignorant people from acquiring enough knowledge to be dangerous to them. It is a dangerous symbiotic relationship that helps those in power obtain even more power.

Whatever, the Republican Party has made a habit of stirring up resentment against our LGBT friends and neighbors, treating them as a threat rather than as people, and you can't be too surprised if some not-overly-educated tough-guys on the street take it seriously. Honestly, I'm glad LaSalvia was not badly hurt. I hope this makes him re-think his politics.

Something for our Straight Readers

Here is an old questionnaire, recently reprinted in Psychology Today. Take it and see how you come out:
Questions for Heterosexuals
developed by Martin Rochlin, Ph.D., 1977

1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?

2. When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?

3. Is it possible your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?

4. Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?

5. Isn't it possible that all you need is a good gay lover?

6. Heterosexuals have histories of failures in gay relationships. Do you think you may have turned to heterosexuality out of fear of rejection?

7. If you've never slept with a person of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer that?

8. If heterosexuality is normal, why are a disproportionate number of mental patients heterosexual?

9. To whom have you disclosed your heterosexual tendencies? How did they react?

10. Your heterosexuality doesn't offend me as long as you don't try to force it on me. Why do you people feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual orientation?

11. If you choose to nurture children, would you want them to be heterosexual, knowing the problems they would face?

12. The great majority of child molesters are heterosexuals. Do you really consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexual teachers?

13. Why do you insist on being so obvious, and making a public spectacle of your heterosexuality? Can't you just be what you are and keep it quiet?

14. How can you ever hope to become a whole person if you limit yourself to a compulsive, exclusive heterosexual object choice and remain unwilling to explore and develop your normal, natural, healthy, God-given homosexual potential?

15. Heterosexuals are noted for assigning themselves and each other to narrowly restricted, stereotyped sex-roles. Why do you cling to such unhealthy role-playing?

16. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?

17. With all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

18. How could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual, considering the menace of overpopulation?

19. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed with which you might be able to change if you really want to. Have you considered aversion therapy?

20. Do heterosexuals hate and/or distrust others of their own sex? Is that what makes them heterosexual?

How did you do? Are you normal?

Friday, July 15, 2011

LGBT Added to California Social Studies Curricula

The Post:
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill making California the first state in the nation to add lessons about gays and lesbians to social studies classes in public schools.

Brown, a Democrat, signed the landmark bill requiring public schools to include the contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in social studies curriculum. The Democratic-majority Legislature had passed the bill last week on a largely party-line vote.

“History should be honest,” the governor said in a statement Thursday. “This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.” California governor signs landmark law adding lessons about gay history to social studies classes

I am not sure how this will actually be implemented. I don't think kids have to take special classes about LGBT topics, there will just be textbook chapters and mentions in class lessons. Of course a problem is that until recently sexual orientation and gender identity were kept secret -- what is a teacher going to say about J. Edgar Hoover? What about Leonardo da Vinci? Even Liberace stayed in the closet. Only in recent years have gay, lesbian, and transgender people come out in the open, so much of history is unclear.
California law already requires schools to teach about women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor. The Legislature over the years also has prescribed specific lessons about the Irish potato famine and the Holocaust, among other topics.

I wish we'd had these things when I was growing up.

Of course you've got these guys...
Randy Thomasson, president of, a conservative family group, said under the new law parents will have no choice but to take their children out of public school and homeschool them to avoid what he said was “immoral indoctrination.” The new law applies only to public schools, not private schools or families who homeschool.

“Jerry Brown has trampled the parental rights of the overwhelming majority of California fathers and mothers who don’t want their children to be sexually brainwashed at school,” Thomasson said. “This new law will prohibit textbooks and teachers from telling children the facts that homosexuality is neither healthy nor biological.”

Neither healthy nor biological. That's good.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

O'Malley to Get More Involved Next Time

Our courageous leaders in Annapolis failed to pass a law allowing same-sex couples to marry this year. Then, New York passed a similar bill in both houses of its legislature -- even when the state Senate was dominated by Republicans -- and the governor signed it. Maryland is definitely a more liberal state than New York, you have to wonder how that happened.

After the dust cleared, a lot of fingers have pointed to the involvement of the governor. Our governor O'Malley made it clear he would sign the bill but he did not campaign actively in its support. Vulnerable politicians feared negative feedback from church groups and others if they came out in favor of the bill, they needed to know the governor would back them up and there was no clear guarantee of that. In New York, on the other hand, governor Cuomo took a solid stand in favor of the bill, he got on the phone, made public statements, and got the job done.

O'Malley is saying he will do more next time. The Post:
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is weighing whether to sponsor a same-sex marriage bill during next year’s legislative session and is likely to make a decision soon, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Supporters of the measure, which fell short in this year’s session, have been pushing O’Malley (D) to play a more visible role next year in the wake of the passage of a gay-nuptials bill in New York, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) played an instrumental role.

O’Malley has had recent discussions with lawmakers who would like him to make a bill part of his formal legislative package next year, spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said.

“It’s definitely an option that’s on the table,” Guillory said. “We are in discussions as to what steps we might take next .... We’re looking at all options to ensure success.”

During this year’s session, O’Malley expressed support for the bill, but his lobbying efforts were largely limited to private conversations with lawmakers. He made no mention of the legislation in his agenda-setting State of the State speech. O’Malley considers role in gay-marriage legislation

It is risky to take a clear stand on an issue like this. A politician might say he favors marriage equality, but then give it tepid support or even undermine the bill as it flows through the process, in an attempt to please everyone, and in fact that might be safer politically than sticking your neck out.

It's good to see O'Malley stepping up to the plate this time around, but his failure to do so in the most recent legislative session will always count against him, especially in comparison to the process -- and outcome -- we saw in New York.

Now let's see if he can get behind a good gender identity nondiscrimination bill that includes public accommodations.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

DADT Is History

This is unexpectedly cheerful news. A panel of judges ruled that the military must stop enforcing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

From Politico:
The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on openly gay service members must be immediately lifted, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, although it’s not clear whether the ruling will accelerate the Defense Department’s end of the policy.

A three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a brief opinion that because the Obama administration has said it’s unconstitutional to treat gay and lesbian people differently under the law, the ban on their open military service must end now.

The Pentagon and the branches of the armed forces are in the process of preparing for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but until the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the defense secretary sign off, it does not go into effect. Fed court: End 'don't ask' now

I have never understood why it would take months, why you need extra training, to stop firing people. Just stop firing them. You don't need a team of counselors to soften the impact, you don't need to teach people to be civil to one another, nothing. Just stop firing them.

Sounds like that will finally happen.
The judges noted that Congress passed the repeal of the policy in December and that the Obama administration has made clear its support.

In a February letter cited by the judges, Attorney General Eric Holder told House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that “there is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities” and that it must end.

Because most members of the armed forces will be trained by mid-summer, the judges said in their ruling, they could not support the continuation of the ban.

I wish I could have heard what Boehner said back to Holder.

Now, this is weird. Republicans passed the marriage equality bill in New York, Republicans sued to overturn DADT. What's up with that? You'd think our courageous Democratic leaders in Washington would have taken up the fight they pledged to fight, wouldn't you?
Dan Woods, the lawyer representing the Republican gay rights group Log Cabin, which brought the suit, told The Associated Press after the ruling that unless the Obama administration appeals the case to the Supreme Court, “’don’t ask, don’t tell’ is over.”

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization founded to fight the ban on openly gay service members, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the decision “is most welcomed.”

Yes, it's about time.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Maryland and New York: The Sun Opines

The Baltimore Sun has a thoughtful article about the Maryland legislature's failure to pass a marriage equality bill in light of New York's success at getting the job done.
The passage late last month of a gay marriage bill in New York has renewed hope among advocates in Maryland who were disappointed by the narrow defeat of similar legislation here this year. New York's law doubled the number of people living in states where same-sex marriages are legal, it pushed President Barack Obama even closer to embracing gay marriage, and it proved that a gay marriage bill can even succeed in a legislative chamber controlled by Republicans. New York's vote, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's quick signature of the bill into law, unquestionably added to a sense that the issue has momentum nationally. New York's lessons for Maryland on gay marriage

And while all that is true, as the article notes there is no guarantee that the momentum will carry over into the Maryland legislature, where our courageous leaders jump up and stand on their chairs shrieking "Eek! Eek!" whenever a little controversy runs across the floor.

The way the story is usually told, Governor O'Malley is depicted as being ready to sign the bill if the General Assembly would pass it, he waited patiently while a confused and frightened little-league legislature bobbled the ball and finally dropped it. Yet as we look at New York, Governor Cuomo obviously took a hands-on role in convincing hard-headed politicians -- and significantly Republicans -- to vote in favor of granting marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples.

The Sun nails it here:
The Cuomo case [...] shows the benefit of the governor, rather than gay rights activists, taking the lead. Mr. O'Malley said he made phone calls at advocates' direction this year to try to sway a dozen or so wavering votes. That's similar to the role Mr. Cuomo, then New York's attorney general, played in a previous, failed attempt to legalize gay marriage. This time around, he took charge and produced a more forceful, organized and strategic lobbying effort. There is no reason to believe the same wouldn't be true in Maryland. Governor O'Malley's chief legislative aide, Joseph C. Bryce, is the best in the business. With all due respect to Equality Maryland and the other advocacy groups that worked on this issue, the governor is delusional if he thinks they know better how to round up votes in Annapolis than Mr. Bryce does.

That is some careful wording, and well said. Certainly activists can have an effect, they can get in and talk to legislators, they can rally the public, but what is going to matter in the long run is getting the bill on the floor and making sure you have the votes for it. Politicians need to know somebody has their back if they vote for something controversial, they need to know exactly what the consequences will be before they stick their necks out. It's just how they are. The governor needed to make clear statements that he would throw his weight behind those who supported marriage equality, and he did not.

This unsigned opinion piece is exceptionally well written, I think, and I suggest that anyone serious about seeing a marriage bill passed in our state should read it. Regarding the risk to politicians who decide to change their opinion to favor marriage, The Sun offers this anecdote:
Senator Brochin had long opposed gay marriage, insisting on civil unions instead, until he changed his mind during a committee hearing this year. After the legislative session was over, he sent out his customary annual letter to constituents he had met over the years by knocking on doors, some 8,800 households and 14,000 voters.

"While my decision to support same-sex marriage did not come easily," he wrote, "I am convinced that it was the right decision. In the end, I could not let my preconceived notions and my own uneasiness over the word 'marriage' trump my commitment to provide equal protection under the law, and to allow same-sex couples to raise their families in peace, without fear of discrimination."

Before the letter went out, he said, people in his district were "pretty skeptical." But not now.

"When I'm at swim meets with my daughter, or at the Giant, or wherever, overwhelmingly people come up to me and say, 'I got your letter, and I understand why you did what you did. I'm not crazy about the word marriage, but I understand,'" he said.

And that, more than a sense of momentum from New York, is why gay marriage proponents should feel good about their chances next year.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunday Morning Rambling

Man, did you hear that thunder last night? Today it's cloudy and humid, a lazy July morning. They're playing a lot of perky acoustic guitar, folksy-sounding open tunings, fingerpicking, on WPFW this morning, and that's okay with me. I'm sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, I just uploaded a recording of the band to Facebook, which was harder to do than it should have been. Everybody in the band took vacations in June, all at different times, so we haven't even seen each other for more than a month. And we are going to play a show Friday, with no rehearsal. I think it will be fun, we'll have to be alert, pay attention, we will certainly screw up the occasional ending and harmony part, but let's see what happens! I need to pick up the guitar every day this week to build my calluses back up -- don't let me forget.

Did you see this? Treasure found in India:
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India, July 2 (UPI) -- A hidden treasure worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been discovered below a temple in southern India, officials say.

The diamonds, emeralds, and gold and silver coins and figurines were found in underground chambers at the 16th century Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala state, the BBC reported Saturday.

Inspectors are cataloguing the items, which have not been officially value but are believed to be worth about 28 billion rupees, or more than $600 million.

Don't you love that?

I am not following the ugly case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn closely but it appears he's going to get out of it. Gee, who would have ever guessed that a jet-setting gazillionaire, one of the most powerful men in the world, would prevail over an immigrant hotel maid? Nobody knows what happened in that room but everybody knows how it's going to come out. Interestingly, when I was in France people talked as if obviously he is innocent, they see it very differently from us.

The media talk as if the "DSK" story is a sex scandal, like Monica Lewinsky or like John Ensign's mess, but it is not that at all. He is not accused of having sex with someone he is not married to, he is accused of a brutal rape. Sure the guy looks like something out of an ad for an expensive Scotch, and sure the girl might be lying, and all of that will come out eventually. In the meantime, Strauss-Kahn is not involved in a sex scandal, he is accused of rape, a violent crime. Can we please have the sophistication to distinguish the two?

Oh, and while I'm rambling, here's an interesting turnaround, and probably a significant one, too, in this morning's Post:
In a strongly worded legal brief, the Obama administration has said the federal act that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman was motivated by hostility toward gays and lesbians and is unconstitutional.

The brief was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco in support of a lesbian federal employee’s lawsuit claiming the government wrongly denied health coverage to her same-sex spouse.

The Justice Department says Karen Golinski’s suit should not be dismissed because the law under which her spouse was denied benefits — the Defense of Marriage Act — violates the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

“The official legislative record makes plain that DOMA Section 3 was motivated in large part by animus toward gay and lesbian individuals and their intimate relationships, and Congress identified no other interest that is materially advanced by Section 3,” the brief reads, referring to the section in the act that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Though the administration has previously said it will not defend the marriage act, the brief is the first court filing in which it urges the court to find the law unconstitutional, said Tobias Barrington Wolff, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Justice opposes law against gay marriage

This is a big deal. It is embarrassing to think that the United States of America has a federal law that withholds benefits from marriages that don't pass a certain test. With the Fourth of July coming up, everybody is talking about "our freedom" and all that, and you have to wonder how a country where freedom and liberty are patriotic slogans can have anything like the Defense of Marriage Act on the record at all. Really, it's embarrassing. If any country should push the limits of freedom and liberty, it should be us, but no, that is not always the case.

President Obama has said that his opinion about same-sex marriage is "evolving," and that's ridiculous. Everybody's opinions are evolving, of course, but you know when he says it he means that public opinion is evolving and he's just going to keep his mouth shut because he's afraid of controversy. There is no argument against two consenting adults marrying one another, it makes no sense for them to have to pass a gender-complementarity test. If you belong to a religion that does not accept marriages between two people of the same sex then fine, don't do it, that's easy. But the church has no business telling nonmembers who they can marry, and it's not the government's job, either. The President is smart enough to know that. He has gone back and forth in public statements and now he says he's evolving instead of leading.

So in that light it is encouraging to see the administration putting its foot down and declaring that DOMA is legislated bigotry. The only reason the federal government has a law about marriage is because some voters don't like gay people, and I'm sorry but it doesn't work that way here. The marriage-equality train is running down the track, I don't think anybody can stop it now. New York was the final blow -- and did you see how upset everybody was when Rhode Island passed a law recognizing civil unions? It did look rather wimpy after NY passed the whole package. Gay people fall in love, they want to have a home and a family, let's call it what it is: marriage. Homes, families, love, these are things our society wants to encourage, we want to make it easy for people, not harder.

Nice slide guitar on WPFW now. Coffee's all gone. It's hot out, I'm glad I got the grass mowed last night when it was still cool. Something happened this week and I am thinking about going fishing. A couple of bluegill on the end of a flyline sounds pretty good to me, I'll toss them back but it might do me some good to stare at the water for a while. And I guess there is a chance that a trout will bite. I'd throw that back, too. Unless it was a big one.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Just Like the Fourth of July

Oh boy, this is fun. The New York cops confiscated more than 5,000 pounds of illegal fireworks. So what do you suppose they do with them? Blow 'em up, of course!