Jesurgislac’s Journal

March 25, 2008

Heh: he said “Echo chamber”

Ironically, when in response to Steve Gillard’s claim that ObWings is an “echo chamber”, I attempted to post this here:

Among the many reasons I have little to no respect for “pro-lifers” is their silence about woman.1.2 million women each year in the US are not forced through unwanted pregnancy and childbirth against their will, but instead get a safe, legal abortion. (No pro-life organisation in the US supports access to contraception, the most reliable means of preventing abortions: Planned Parenthood is the most effective anti-abortion charity in the US.)

70 000 women die each year worldwide because they cannot get access to safe legal abortion. Pro-lifers never care one whit about the women who suffer and die because they cannot get access to contraception, healthcare, or abortion.

I would have said all of this at Obsidian Wings, but I chose not to enable Feddie’s attempt to use a post about the 4000 US soldiers who had died in Iraq to score his cheap political point about forced pregnancy.

…and it was blocked as “spam”.

March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke: 1917-2008

Filed under: writers and books — jesurgislac @ 1:11 am
Tags: ,

“It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.” – The Exploration of Space (1951)

“I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka as soon as possible,” he said, referring to Asia’s longest-running war in which the Tamil Tigers’ campaign for an independent homeland has left tens of thousands dead.

Although the conflict started in 1972, fighting has been escalating in the island since late 2005, when a Nordic-brokered truce unravelled.

“But I’m aware that peace cannot just be wished — it requires a great deal of hard work, courage and persistence,” he said in a taped message released to reporters here before the celebrations.

Clarke, who also wished for evidence of extra-terrestrial life and for the world to adopt cleaner fuels on his birthday, said he did not feel “a day older than 89″ as he completed “90 orbits around the sun.”

“I have no regrets and no more personal ambitions,” said the writer, who was confined for the past three decades to a wheelchair because of the effects of post-polio syndrome. Sydney Morning Herald, March 19 2008

I was re-reading Imperial Earth just recently. He wasn’t an especially good writer of fiction: while his sexual orientation didn’t intrinsically have to be a handicap – a good writer can transcend the social restrictions, a great writer transform them – I notice the real feeling between Karl and Duncan, and wonder if Clarke could have been better at writing human relationships if he had not grown up in a country, at a time, when his normal sexual orientation would have got him two to five years in jail. But he was an astonishing writer of ideas.

“No, merely mildly cheerful.” – Arthur C. Clarke, if questioned on his sexual orientation. Bless.

March 14, 2008

DOMA and the anti-marriage amendment, or; the problem with repealing Article IV of the Constitution

(This was originally published on Livejournal, 24th April 2006.)

Sooner or later, this will happen.

Albert and Brad get married in Canada. Brad is a US citizen with Landed Immigrant status in Canada. Albert and Brad adopt three kids (Ellen, Fergus, and Gloria) and run a business together: they have a structure of financial planning to support each of them and their children after the other one’s death, including pension plans, mutual survivor wills, life insurance.

Brad travels a lot for their business. Brad spent a lot of time in Virginia, setting up a branch office there. He had an affair with Caitlin, and married her: Caitlin and Brad have a child, Deirdre.

This marriage is legal (as far as Brad can find out from the Internet – he really doesn’t want to ask a lawyer) in the state of Virginia, which explicitly does not recognize any same-sex relationship in any way. It may be legal in the US, thanks to DOMA. It makes Brad a bigamist in Canada, but after all, he didn’t marry Caitlin in Canada. Caitlin knows Brad has to travel a lot for his job: Albert is appreciative that Brad does the long trips to Virginia without complaint.

Brad dies.

As far as Caitlin knows, Brad never made a will: but according to Virginian law, as his spouse, she inherits from him anyway.

According to the law in Canada, however, Brad’s marriage to her is invalid: she gets nothing.

Albert – once he recovers from discovering that Brad was a faithless lying scumbag who was leading a double life – is moderately inclined to let Caitlin have something, and his lawyer advises him that Deirdre, as Brad’s daughter, is probably entitled to be treated equally with Ellen, Fergus, and Gloria. However, under no circumstances is he prepared to let a stranger inherit Brad’s half of their business: their financial planning was all based around him and Brad controlling and running this business together.

Caitlin, discovering that under US and Virginian law she could be entitled to millions if she inherits everything Brad owned, is not inclined to settle: especially as (her lawyer tells her) she has a rock-solid case as Brad’s only legal spouse. She’s freaked to discover that Brad was a faithless lying scumbag who was leading a double life with a man, but cannot believe that any court would recognise Brad’s “gay marriage” as equal to his real marriage to her. She’s not about to acccept the “something” Albert offers: she wants what she’s legally entitled to, and she wants Deirdre to inherit Brad’s half of the business, not take a quarter-share after Albert dies.

That’s the situation. The Canadian courts are on Albert’s side; the US courts are required by DOMA (and, if Bush’s base get their way, the anti-marriage Amendment) to be on Caitlin’s side. The business is based in Canada, but has branches&c in the US.

If Albert were Alberta, Caitlin would have no case. If DOMA hadn’t partially repealed Article 4 of the Constitution, Caitlin would have no case. If the anti-marriage amendment is passed, Caitlin theoretically has a Constitutional case – but the Canadian courts have no reason to bow to the US. Does the US Supreme Court repeal DOMA, or offend Canada, or refuse to hear the case?

Sooner or later, this will happen.

March 11, 2008

Eason Jordan: what’s the real scandal?

I originally posted this on my livejournal, 22nd February 2005. There’s a contemporary comment thread there, which I cannot figure out how to import over here.

At the 2005 World Economic Forum, held in Davos, CNN’s chief
news executive Eason Jordan said something in answer to a question. Precisely what he said is unknown, since the WEF is held under the Chatham House Rule: “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” No tapes of any session held under the Chatham House Rule can be released, either video or audio.

Eason Jordan was just back from Iraq. A blogger (Rony Abovitz) present at one of the discussions, either ignorant of the Chatham House Rule or deliberately breaking it, wrote: “During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted.”

Eason Jordan had already been the target of a right-wing blogmobbing in April 2003, after an Op-Ed he wrote for the New York Times was distorted and used to smear him. It’s not surprising that he resigned when it was clear this off-the-cuff comment at what should have been an off-the-record meeting was going to be used as fuel for another blogmobbing.

Arguments have blazed up over whether the real scandal is what Eason Jordan said, or what happened to him as a result (though curiously enough, I’ve seen no one arguing that the real scandal is that Rony Abovitz egregiously broke the Chatham House Rule and, quite possibly, the organisers of the WEF and other such groups will consider banning amateurs who can’t keep the rule from such meetings in future). A few people have pointed out (Jeanne at Body and Soul for one) that the real scandal is that US soldiers have been killing journalists in Iraq – and no one in the American MSM seems to care very much.

(more…)

March 10, 2008

“It must be true! I read it on the Internet!”

Filed under: Google-fu — jesurgislac @ 12:19 pm
Tags: , , , ,

There’s a post here on Engadget which claims that in Brick Lane, London, the charity Living Streets is experimenting with padded lampposts for distracted texters.

Over on Iowa Liberal, the original Iowa Liberal wrote, in a post entitled The World Is Going To Hell: “Call me old fashioned, but how about letting them run into the posts until they friggin’ learn to look up?”

I checked out the website of the charity Living Streets (you can too: it’s www.livingstreets.org.uk) to find out if this story was actually true, rather than irresponsibly – and gullibly – just assuming that because I “read it on the Internet” it must be true. And yep: no reference to this anywhere on the Living Streets website.

I see the website links to an ITN video on YouTube, which looks to me very like the kind of short clip British news often put at the end of a news broadcast for light relief: it’s labelled “Comedy”. On Google News, “padded lampposts” gets six hits, not one of them a local London news source.

Call me old fashioned, but how about a little less gullibility and a little more research? If I could find out this is a joke, not a real Living Streets project, in something under ten minutes of easy research requiring no significant google-fu: so can you!

Not that this matters all that much: it has all the hallmarks of a delightful practical joke. But as a means of stopping the spread of lies through the Internet, nothing beats asking yourself “Just because this is a good story, is it true?” and looking up the facts for yourself.

Update: To do him credit, Jeromy found a followup link. It’s not a hoax, exactly: it’s an advert for a mobile phone company. (Though the local council was fooled into sending down contract cleaners to remove the padding from the lampposts, but the padding had already gone.)

March 9, 2008

Yes, torture is BOTH unacceptably cruel and completely pointless, why do you ask?

Supposing that, through the blogosphere, the following argument regularly surfaced:

Since invisibility would be a godsend to US forces, and since it’s known that if you put a living black cat in boiling water until the flesh is boiled off its bones, one of those bones will, if held in a person’s mouth, render that person invisible, it’s only sensible to keep boiling black cats alive until there are enough of those bones to make it possible for any US battalion to become invisible.

Clearly, boiling a cat to death is a horrifyingly cruel thing to do.

Equally clearly it is completely pointless, since there is no such thing as a magic bone of invisibility.

Yet, we read news reports all the time of US military confiscating cats, keeping the pure black cats, and no one ever sees them again. There exists video and photographic evidence that US soldiers have thrown living black cats into huge pots of boiling water. And here is this person, persistently arguing that it’s only sensible to keep doing this because invisibility would be so useful, don’t you care about US soldiers more than you do a bunch of cats?

Now, if I argue – as I would – that I oppose taking cats and boiling them alive: that this is unacceptable under any circumstances (even supposing a person were starving hungry enough to eat a cat, they could kill the cat before boiling the meat…): that I see this as objectionable and disgraceful behavior -

- I would also point out that it’s completely pointless, since no matter how many black cats they boil to death, they’ll never find even one magic bone of invisibility, and therefore arguing how useful invisibility would be is futile.

Exactly so with torturing prisoners for information.

(Posted originally on Slacktivist – LB: Buck’s New Friends.)

March 8, 2008

Bread and Roses: International Women’s Day

Filed under: Feminism — jesurgislac @ 11:57 am

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: “Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

(more…)

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