Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CA Court: Religious schools can discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation

This is the natural consequence of allowing religious exemptions to discrimination laws. School can expel lesbian students, court rules. (LA Times) California law prohibits businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. A state appellate court has ruled that a private Christian school could legally expel two students for having an allegedly lesbian relationship. The court reasoned that the school was not a business and therefore wasn't subject to the law. The girls' attorney is planning to appeal to the California Supreme Court.

No Mail on Saturdays?

Postmaster General: May need to cut Saturday mail delivery Yikes!

Snow Days

For everyone whose lives have been interrupted by the bad winter weather this week, a corrective: Nature's Way of Telling Us to Chill Puts things in nice perspective.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coffee is Good

I always like to see an excuse to drink coffee. Coffee Reduces Risk of Dementia Maybe this explains why you always see so many older people drinking coffee.

Photo by javaturtle on flickr.

Change continues - Obama Reverses More Bush Policies

Obama has already made some great moves to undo Bush's policies. It's exciting to see a new announcement practically every day.

1. Obama Directs Regulators to Tighten Auto Rules. During the Bush years, some states wanted to pass more liberal laws than the federal government. The feds argued that federal law superseded state law in these instances. Now, Obama has enabled states to impose more strict regulations on vehicle emissions than required by federal law.

2. "President Obama repealed rules...that restricted federal money for international organizations that promote or provide abortions overseas, sweeping aside a pillar of the social policy architecture of George W. Bush’s presidency." Obama Reverses Rules on U.S. Aid for Abortion This policy has been batted about by Republicans and Democrats since Bush I, I believe. It was sad to see Bush 2 reinstate it. Now it's a relief to see Obama restore sanity to US aid in this area. From the NYTimes: "The restrictions Mr. Obama lifted on Friday barred the United States Agency for International Development from providing money to any international nongovernmental organization that “performs or actively promotes abortion as a method of family planning” in foreign countries, and covered a wide range of activities, including providing advice, counseling or information regarding abortion. The restrictions did not apply to counseling for abortions in the case of rape, incest or danger to the life of the pregnant woman."

3. I mentioned these earlier, but it's worth mentioning again, as this is a huge development. Obama Reverses Key Bush Security Policies "Mr. Obama signed executive orders closing the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prisons; and requiring all interrogations to follow the noncoercive methods of the Army Field Manual." An open democracy with a bill of rights should not have implemented these policies to begin with - it was embarrassing.

Here's the Washington Post's rundown of Obama's changes: Effort to Roll Back Bush's Policies Continues

Monday, January 26, 2009

US to World: Sorry for Interruption in Service

This is an e-mail making the rounds. I thought it was funny.

Dear World:

We, the United States of America , your top quality supplier of the
ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for our
2001-2008 interruption in service. The technical fault that led to
this eight-year service outage has been located, and the software
responsible was replaced November 4. Early tests of the newly
installed program indicate that we are now operating correctly, and we
expect it to be fully functional on January 20. We apologize for any
inconvenience caused by the outage. We look forward to resuming full
service and hope to improve in years to come. We thank
you for your patience and understanding.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Daily Show on Republican Reaction to Obama Presidency

This is just priceless.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This is Change

I can't tell you how thrilled I was to read this headline this morning in the Washington Post: Obama Starts Reversing Bush Policies So exciting. Closing Guantanamo and tightening lobbying rules. Yeah!

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Political Views
I am a left social libertarian
Left: 4.6, Libertarian: 5.23

Political Spectrum Quiz

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Reaction - mini

My brain is fuzzy from a cold, but I have to say, it was mighty satisfying to see Bush ride away over Washington in that helicopter today.

Beyond the miracle of Obama's swearing in, another highlight was Obama's mention of "non-believers" in his inauguration speech. That's got to be a first. I'm not sure it outweighed the unpleasantness of hearing the homophobe Rick Warren deliver an invocation which was thoroughly drenched in thanks to God and Jesus and made you think this was a religious occasion. I totally resent the inclusion of ministers and prayers in official government ceremonies like this. (Moreover, all the religious figures featured in the inaugural concert and today's ceremonies were Christians.)

Moving beyond the crabbyanne-ness of that statement, I was very moved by the inauguration and I teared up at several points. I still can't believe Obama is the president. It's amazing.

It was very cold and damp here in the Washington area today, even with some sun, so I applaud all the people participating and watching in the cold for many, many, many hours. I watched from a warm living room, with easily accessible bathrooms and much food and drink.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Obama Inauguration Concert

I watched some of this on TV. I thought the production was very well run, from what I could tell. The lineup of artists was pretty amazing, although it was weighted in favor of genres I don't care for (soul, R&B, country). I thought it was quite moving at times. I loved seeing James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and a number of others. Renee Fleming sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel," which always makes me tear up (sucker for musicals). And Beyonce's outfit was fabulous.

The weather in DC was warmer than it has been for the last couple of days, thankfully for the performers and audience. It was still gloomy, cold and damp, however. I was thinking that the Obamas are having the coldest weekend of their lives. Although they're used to Chicago weather, which sucks big time (I lived there for a number of years).

It was exciting just to see the beginning of the inaugural events and see the crowd's excitement. The setting in front of the Lincoln Memorial was wonderful and evocative. Shades of Martin Luther King Jr's famous speech, how far we've come since Lincoln freed the slaves, etc.

The Caucus Blog (NYTimes) on the concert, with photos

Although this event was supposed to be viewable by all for free on HBO, my mother couldn't seem to figure out how to watch it. Obviously, there was a flaw there somewhere. I don't know whether the feed wasn't available in her area, or what. It's supposed to be viewable on their website.

Yesterday, Fox News was already talking about when Obama's "honeymoon" will end. Sigh. Come on, Fox News, give us a little time to celebrate, why don't you?

Hallelujah! Bush Says Farewell

I thought this day would never come. What a relief. Bush Says Farewell to the Nation

I was horrified when Bush first announced he was running for president way back before the 2000 election and all the Republican politicians were jumping on his bandwagon. I couldn't see the appeal. I thought he seemed like an idiot. My opinion never changed. I just found out he was a dangerous idiot. I never believed his "compassionate conservative" shtick. It didn't jibe with his past. I was sorely disappointed when Gore and then Kerry lost to him. (Let's not get into the resolution of the 2000 election here. That could be the subject of another rant. Suffice it to say that I was completely disgusted, particularly as a lawyer. I thought the Supreme Court acted politically, which I never thought I'd see, and was very disillusioned.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

This is Why China Should Not Have Been Awarded the Olympics

China should not have been awarded the Olympics because it does not believe in human rights, especially freedom of speech, and an impartial legal system. Would-Be Olympic Protester Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison China set aside several parks in Beijing for protests. This was apparently just for show, however. When Chinese people applied for permits to protest they were arrested! According to this New York Times article, no protests were held in any of the parks. Two women in their 70's were arrested for applying to protest and were then sentenced to "re-education through labor". This is the infamous punishment used throughout the era of Mao to send people away to remote labor camps.

This is what happened to Ji Sizun, the subject of this article:

Mr. Ji, from the coastal province of Fujian, met with a similar fate [being arrested]. He arrived in Beijing planning to hold a protest against government corruption, an issue that angers many Chinese and that undermines the legitimacy of the government.

On Aug. 9, Mr. Ji went to the Deshengmenwai police station to apply for a permit to protest at the Purple Bamboo Park, one of the three designated protest areas. Mr. Ji had several reporters accompany him because he feared being arrested. He tried to submit his application but was questioned intensely by police officers. The reporters who accompanied him said they were harassed. Mr. Ji left the station that day, but returned two days later to check on the status of his application. The police arrested him then.

And now he's been imprisoned for three years. For applying to protest. I'd like to know what the International Olympic Committee and the United States have to say about this. How can they justify awarding the Olympics to China when this kind of thing happens? Clearly, the Olympics did not improve human rights there at all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Culture Minister for the U.S. - Yes!

Quincy Jones is spearheading an effort to get Obama to appoint a "culture czar" for the United States. Does U.S. Need a Culture Czar? (NPR story); Quincy Jones Lobbies Obama for Secretary of Culture Post (Rolling Stone). You can sign an online petition in support of the position here. I think this is a great idea at a time when public schools are cutting down on music and art classes, cultural institutions are shrinking and groveling for money, and the arts in general are denigrated as a career option. Not to mention that many other countries have a minister for culture. It would highlight the importance of the arts in our lives.

Obama cookies!

Obama cookies! Acquired at my local Safeway.  Washington is overrun with Obama memorabilia, but I never expected to see his face on a cookie. Too funny.

And here's the cookie post-3 year old munching.  Hopefully it's not an omen for the fate of the Obama administration.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Further Adventures of Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber becomes Mideast war correspondent for a conservative website. Incredible. What are his qualifications?

Calvin Trillin Inauguration Poem

I heard Calvin Trillin reading a poem he wrote called Anticipating The Inauguration Of Barack Obama on NPR today. It's quite wonderful and I wanted to share it. You can see the poem and listen to him reading it here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

You Know You're a Lawyer When...

You drive past a church in your neighborhood and wonder whether churches are zoned for commercial activity or if they have their own special zoning. (Noticing how churches are interspersed in residential neighborhoods with no other businesses.)

Atheist Bus Messages

Akira Suemori/Associated Press

Atheists Send a Message, on 800 British Buses

I love this.

Similar bus messages apparently are appearing in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the American Humanist Association(link is to their campaign website), but they don't seem as fun, and they're geared to Christmas. Leave it to the Brits to be drolly cheeky.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Illinois Senate Seat Circus Continues

Burris is Blocked from Taking Senate Seat This is so dramatic. Apparently Roland Burris, appointed to replace Obama by alleged felon Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, walked into the Senate today and presented his credential to the Senate Secretary, who denied him the Senate seat. What a mess! It was also the day the new Congress was sworn in.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Reader

Go see this movie! Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star in an adaptation of the bestselling German (Swiss) novel of the same name by Bernhard Schlink. Here's the description from Oprah's Book Club selection:
Originally published in Switzerland, and gracefully translated into English by Carol Brown Janeway, The Reader is a brief tale about sex, love, reading, and shame in postwar Germany. Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her, and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past, and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: What should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust? "We should not believe we can comprehend the incomprehensible, we may not compare the incomparable.... Should we only fall silent in revulsion, shame, and guilt? To what purpose?"

Kate Winslet plays Hanna, and Ralph Fiennes plays the grown-up Michael, who is featured mostly in the last third of the movie. Kate Winslet's performance is exquisite and subtle in a role that is not always sympathetic or attractive. Fiennes nicely portrays the conflicting motivations of Berg. The younger Michael, who is on screen for most of the movie, is well played by David Kross. Stephen Daldry directed. (He also directed The Hours, a beautiful movie.) I've always liked Kate Winslet and I admit to having a bit of a thing for Ralph Fiennes (even when he was playing an SS commandant in "Schindler's List"); I think it's the eyes.

Official Movie website Trailer:

The Reader on

This is depressing

Bill Richardson withdrawing from Commerce Secretary cabinet appointment This is disconcerting. I've always liked Bill Richardson. There must be some pretty bad evidence if he's withdrawing completely. Or Obama didn't want to fight for him.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Damages on FX

Here's a show I forgot to mention in my preview of January TV to watch: Damages on FX. The first season of this aired quite a long time ago, perhaps the year before last. A second season was apparently waylaid by the writer's strike last year, but it's going to start airing in January. I really loved this show. It stars Glenn Close and Ted Danson. It's a twisty thriller that takes place in the NYC legal world. Rose Byrne plays a beautiful new lawyer who gets hired by Glenn Close, a very successful personal injury attorney with a lot of secrets, for whom the end usually justifies the morally questionable means. Ted Danson played the bigger than life business magnate under investigation for questionable financial dealings. I'm not sure if he's in Season 2, but William Hurt as coming on board, and he's always an interesting actor. I can't really tell you more without giving away crucial plot points if you watch Season 1. Suffice it to say that this a show with fantastic twists and turns and a lot of nasty surprises.

Trivia note on Rose Byrne for Doctor Who fans: She played the older Casanova's (Peter O'Toole) storytelling audience in "Casanova", which starred David Tennant (who plays the Tenth and current Doctor in Doctor Who). Casanova in "Casanova" was written by Russell T Davies, the creator of new Doctor Who and Torchwood (object of my fannish obsession, see sidebar, which sometimes lops over onto Dr. Who and David Tennant) and was a mini-series on BBC and PBS in the US in 2005, available now on DVD.

You can watch previews and recaps of Season 1 here.

And here's a preview of Season 2. (It looks like they've really glammed up Rose Byrne for the 2nd season.) Just watch. It's as good as it sounds.


I'm adding a Sphere widget to my posts. This enables you to connect to related articles on the topic of the post. This is an experiment. Theoretically, Sphere is supposed to list my blog also. So if you click on the globe below a post, you can go to related articles.

Iraq, Chinese Milk Scandal Update, Vatican and Italy

Happy New Year! (if anyone is reading this blog other than a couple of my friends, haha!) A round-up of recent news items of interest to me.

* How could I have missed this? Somehow I had no idea this was going to be happening, and it seems very important. Baghdad Green Zone Handed Over to Iraqi Control at Midnight, New Year's Eve Despite the formal handover, however, American soldiers will be in charge of security for the next 90 days. And some Iraqi soldiers in the Green Zone said they would still be under American supervision. So it sounds like the situation is in flux and somewhat uncertain.

* This is an update on the Chinese dairy scandal. An executive in the dairy company responsible for tainted dairy products plead guilty to charges that she knew of problems for months before informing authorities. At least someone is being held accountable. However, it's disturbing that the death penalty is a possible penalty. China's legal system leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, they impose the death penalty for relatively minor crimes. I didn't approve of the Olympics being given to China because of the appalling human rights situation there. And there's no indication that holding the Olympics there improved the situation at all. China Dairy Executive Knew of Problems with Milk

* Vatican severs ties to Italy's laws I don't know why I find this kind of fascinating. Must be the lawyer in me. The Vatican will no longer automatically adopt new Italian laws as its own, as some are at odds with Catholic doctrine, according to this news blurb. I wonder why this is happening now? How strange that the Vatican even exists as an independent political entity. It seems so medieval. It's as if the White House were an independent country, at least on a physical level. The Vatican is just a collection of buildings smack dab in the middle of Rome. Obviously, it's the headquarters of the Catholic church and the home of the Pope, but the fact that it's technically its own country seems bizarre.