June 28, 2011

SCOTUS decides in favor of speech

In Monday’s decision striking down the California law preventing sales of violent video games to minors, the Supreme Court worked hard to make sure we understood the difference between pornography, which is not protected speech, and violence, which is protected speech.

In case it’s confusing to you, as it is to me, here are some clarifying points, courtesy of Justice Scalia’s majority opinion.
"Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas – and even social messages – through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world. That suffices to confer First Amendment protection."
"Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California's statute mimics the New Yokr statue regarding obscenity-for-minors... "
"...disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression."
Just one question, though.  Why is it that a baker's dozen of naked folks plotting to explore another character's development, complete with steamy background music and clearly expressive (albeit limited) dialogue, is not considered protected speech?   I mean, it's got all of the elements - characters, dialogue, plot, and music - that Justice Scalia said make the violent video games protected. 
Oh wait - it's that disgust factor, isn't it? 

June 27, 2011

Rand Paul: Spending to Save

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s comments last week during a committee hearing on Primary Health and Aging brought controversy to something that would typically have flown under the radar.

The hearing including panelists who related stories from senior citizens who often struggle to make ends meet and don’t always get enough of the right nutrition; speakers also encouraged additional spending on nutrition programs under 1965’s Older American Act.

The committee presented a lot of research on the impact of senior nutrition programs which can be read here. One interesting fact to keep in mind from that research: One day in a hospital is equivalent to the cost of a one-year supply of home-delivered meals.  Wow. Almost seems like the money spent on the food programs would save money down the road, if our seniors were home, health and well fed instead of in the hospital, right?

 Not if you ask Rand Paul:
 “It’s curious that only in Washington can you spend $2 billion and claim that you’re saving money,” he said. “The idea or notion that spending money in Washington somehow is saving money really flies past most of the taxpayers.” 
Really?  Do “most of the taxpayers” not understand how this works?  Here are a handful of easy examples. 
  • Home owners, auto, life, and health insurance.  
  • Oil changes, tune-ups, and checking the air in the tires of a car.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors.  
  • Home security systems and car alarms.  
These are the kind of things that most tax payers have at least some working knowledge of and that fall under the bucket of spending money to save money.  I'd hazard a guess that, even in Kentucky, these are not foreign concepts. Rand Paul may even partake of some of this kind of spending for saving himself.

But back to that committee hearing. Paul went on to question whether the federal government should spend even more than the $2 billion. He asked Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Aging, “If we are saving money with the two billion we spend, perhaps we should give you 20 billion. Is there a limit? How much money should we give you in order to save money? If we spend federal money to save money, where is the limit? I think we could reach a point of absurdity.”

Leave it to Minnesota’s Saturday Night Live Senator Al Franken to reply “I think you just did.”

June 26, 2011

Shots Fired: NY Marriage Equality

Author's note: this post was updated to correct a formatting issue. The content is the same as when originally published in June 2011.

Not surprisingly there've been many quotable moments leading up to and since the NY Senate voted 33 - 29 to allow same-sex marriage and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill Friday night.  Here's a sampling:
"I just probably committed political suicide." Republican Senator Mark Grisanti to a Buffalo News reporter after the vote. Grisanti, a lawyer and a Catholic, also noted that he could find no legal reason to deny same sex couples the 1300 rights that he and his wife enjoy because they're married.
"With the world watching, the Legislature, by a bipartisan vote, has said that all New Yorkers are equal under the law." Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a statement after the vote. It was barely bipartisan, but it was enough.  
"I'm sure our committee will comply with that." Onondaga County Conservative Chairman Austin Olmstead, on his state party's promise not to support anyone who voted in favor. No surprise here.
"I knew there were countless people who would welcome my vote and I knew that there were countless people who would be angered by my vote." Republican Senator Stephen Saland, the first of the undecided to support the bill. Saland was instrumental in securing the religious exceptions and ensuring that if those don't past legal muster, the whole bill becomes null and void.
"You can't teach something that you don't have, so two men will never be able to show a woman how to be a woman."  NY Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree.  Wondering how single moms and dads are handling this today with their sons and daughters, respectively?
“Heck, I work for Fox, man, they’ve got Glee on T.V.”  Michael Strahan, another NY Giants hero, on the potential for repercussions on supporting same sex marriage. What a great line!
“You don’t see two male dogs sleeping in the same dog house together." Clinton County legislator Sam Trombley, who also noted there would be an "HIV epidemic if this passes." Um, really? When I was younger, we had two male dogs. Winnie was a shepherd/husky mix; Sam was a spaniel/dog-down-the-street mix. The two slept curled up together all the time. Maybe it was because they had such gender-neutral names?  
At the end of the day, the world did not come to an end after the vote; it probably won't come to and end when the next state passes it, or the next one, or the next one. 

June 18, 2011

More Palin Poetry

Not everything Governor Palin had to handle was critical business. For example, here's an exchange on health and wellness, from November 20007:
If someone could pick up some fresh fruit
and the girls say the sunbed
should go up
in the cedar closet
If you can squeeze it up there.  
Listen for an elliptical thingy if you can. 
That’s easier on my knees
than treadmill.
And any old weights. 

And there's this directive, from July 2008, when the team got something accomplished that folks thought they'd never get done:
Can you let the public know of this?  
Remember critics said we’d 
never follow through with this.
Alaskans need to know
of your great work with this.
We can do a presser. 

And then there's this note to staffers about that pesky media, from August 2008:
It may drive me crazy trying to catch
all the corrections
we’ll be reading and seeing in the media.
But please
help me catch them.

More to come.

June 17, 2011

Garden Notes, 6/17/11

Earlier this afternoon, I was sitting in the gazebo in the back garden, being entertained by a woodpecker hammering away on a locust tree a couple of yards up the street and by a houseful of baby wrens about twenty feet away from the gazebo.  When they’re awake, they keep up a constant chirping which turns into quite a clamor when their mom or dad comes by with food.  When I first went out to the gazebo, I was heckled by one of the parents, who eventually figured out I was not a threat. The parents remain very vigilant when they’re pestered by the cats that now call our garden home.  

Last December we lost our cat, Michael T Michael was a great garden cat.  He was no threat to the birds, or to our thriving woodchuck population either. We used to think MT and the chucks hung out, watching TV, drinking beers and sharing stories. And I was convinced that a bird could land on his head and he wouldn’t care. 

While he was a friend to most garden creatures, it was only on the very rarest of occasions that we’d see another cat hanging around.  Now that Michael’s gone, we have several. There’s a fluffy black and white one we’re pretty sure is Bubbles from next door. There’s a petite gray tiger (with a collar) who has a regular path she follows when she stops by, meandering through the garden closest to the house then down the shady walk leading to the rose garden, checking everything out along the way. 

We also have another larger (collarless) grey tiger, who stalks the area around the bird feeders, which is very troubling. There’s a Mutt and Jeff pair of white cats, liberally decorated with gray. The smaller one’s short haired and skittish; the larger one’s long-haired and grumpy, usually snarling at or actually fighting with his mini-me. And last, there’s a long-haired black cat; this one we also think might be a neighbor, as we’ve seen a similar one in the upstairs window next door.

My Sweet Baboo tells me that a garden needs a cat. I know it’s hard for him this year without Michael, who kept him company here for 14 summers. And I'm honestly trying to get comfortable with the idea of letting ours outside, free-range, instead of keeping them be in their kitty playpen.

But I think everyone would agree that having six that don’t belong to us is a bit much.

June 12, 2011

Poetry: Sarah Palin Emails

In case you didn't know, emails from Sarah Palin's aborted governorship of Alaska were released, long after they were requested when she was John McCain's running mate.  Thoughtfully, the New York Times has posted the entire set on their website, and offered readers the chance to review and flag anything we found interesting. 

What I found interesting right off the bat was that the governor had a Yahoo mail account. You know, the kind like us normal folks have -- which means that many of the emails she sent as governor of the The Last Frontier included pitches for Yahoo's services. I wonder if the Times could find out if there were any contributions to the state coffers or Permanent Fund Dividends paid to Alaskans as a result of the advertising?

Here, in verse, are the Yahoo tags on emails from January and February 2007. 

Tired of spam? Quit your job.
Take classes online and earn your degree in one year.
Start today! Ahhh…imagining that irresistible “new car smell”?

Bored Stiff? Loosen up….Download and play hundreds of games for free.
We won’t tell! Get more on shows you hate to love (and love to hate).
Don’t be flakey. Want to start your own business?

Learn How. Be a PS3 game guru.
Have a burning question? Looking for earth-friendly autos?
Fire up a more powerful email and get things done faster.

Don’t get soaked. Take a quick peak at the forecast.
Find a flick in no time! Finding fabulous fares is fun!
Need a quick answer? Get one in minutes from people who know.

Sucker punch spam with award-winning protection.
Turn searches into helpful donations. Make your search count.
The fish are biting.

Get more visitors on your site. Now that’s room service!
Food fight? Enjoy some healthy debate.
Need mail bonding? No need to miss a message. Cheap talk?

It’s here! Your new message!
Don’t pick lemons.
Get your own web address. Have a HUGE year.

Now, don't worry - there's a whole lotta poetry in those emails, you betcha.  I'll have some of the Gov's own words coming up this week.