2007 - %3, March

SC Passes Mandatory Ultrasound-Viewing Bill, Sees Through Shady Abortion-Getters' Tricks

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 3:32 PM EDT

In yet another scheme to guilt-trip women out of having abortions, the South Carolina House passed a bill yesterday that requires women to view their own ultrasounds before having the procedure.

Yelling and crying ensued as several representatives begged for inclusion of an amendment waiving the requirement for victims of rape and incest. It failed. So did one that would exempt women in cases in which a judge had found probable cause or issued a warrant for sexual assault charges.

Supporters of the bill, whose churches are evidently not-so-separate from the state building in which they were standing, combatted the pleas for compassion with such infallible arguments as "Are you saying God creates mistakes with the lives he creates?" Others rejected the amendments because women [who want abortions are a bunch of lying, manipulative sluts who] "would make up sexual assaults" in order to get around the bill.

In 2005, Focus on the Family announced plans to spend $4.2 million equipping pregnancy centers nationwide with ultrasound machines. Their ministry is becoming law: Seventeen other states have or are considering some kind of ultrasound-before-abortion legislation. (Mississippi has a "listen to your fetus' heartbeat" offer on the table.)

But South Carolina is the first to require that women actually look at the ultrasound. No one in the House would answer Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) when she asked whether the women would have to be held down and forced to view the images.

—Nicole McClelland

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More Rich Urbanites Bring Pretension to Living Simply

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 2:23 PM EDT

In today's New York Times (where else?) there's yet another story about super-rich urbanites sacrificing delivered meals and cab rides in the name of environmentalism. Meet the Beavens: Colin, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction; Michelle, 39, a writer at BusinessWeek; and Isabella, 2, who live together in their Eames-furnished, "elegant prewar on Lower Fifth Avenue" that Michelle bought in 1999.

The Beavens are doing their darndest to live an entire year with No Impact, meaning no waste. They will only eat organic food grown within 250 miles of Manhattan, will make no trash except compost, will use no paper (including toilet), and have unplugged all their household appliances. However, Michelle will continue using her Kiehl's and Fresh moisturizer, laundry will be done by machine, and the cleaning lady (thank you Jesus!) gets to keep using the vacuum.

It's admirable that the Beavens are trying to reduce their impact on the earth, albeit, only for a year. But it's annoying that their No Impact lifestyle is possible only because they have the enormous funds and spare time to do so.

Who would have the time to make bread from scratch if not Mr. Beaven, who writes during the day? Who has the money to buy and eat only organic food from the Farmer's Market? Who would clean their apartment, if not their hired cleaning lady? One can't help but wonder if the experiment wouldn't be more interesting and more applicable to most Americans if the Beavens were not rich, married Manhattanites, but instead a single mother living in the burbs? Or if the Beaven's actually left Manhattan (horrors!) to live on a farm (double horrors!) in Ohio?

Albeit, the Experiement will reduce the Earth's wasteload, if only a little, and will make for interesting reading. As the Times puts it, the Experiment "...may seem at best like a scene from an old-fashioned situation comedy and, at worst, an ethically murky exercise in self-promotion." Touche, The New York Times, touche.

—Jen Phillips

Creator of Hillary 1984 Owns Up, Proves Me Right

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 10:39 AM EDT

The creator of the Hillary 1984 ad has owned up, and I firmly believe that the back story proves correct the theory I blogged earlier: this was the creation of a web-savvy person working on their own, and only a response in kind will effectively combat its popularity and power. (See Hillary's response here.)

The Huffington Post did the digging, and got the creator ("ParkRidge47") to fess up in a blog post. His name is Phil de Vellis and he works (well, worked) for Blue State Digital, an internet consulting company with roots in the Dean campaign and a long track record of working for high profile candidates. Thing is, Blue State Digital now works for Obama. Was Hillary 1984 a premeditated and conventionally-conceived campaign ad? Nope -- de Vellis did the work on the weekend, with his own time, equipment, and creative direction. But surely he was doing the work for BSD in a nudge-nudge sort of way, right? Just because he did the work on his personal computer on a Sunday doesn't mean he wasn't working for the company, and indirectly, Obama. Well, de Vellis has resigned upon being outed, which makes a pretty solid case that he was acting on his own, and in a way that the company wouldn't approve of. The ad, after all, is not in the style of the high-minded campaign Obama is trying to run.

So the facts support my theory. This campaign ad was created by someone working on their own -- an insurgent if you will. If it had been created within the official framework of a presidential campaign, it would have been more careful, more respectful of convention and boundaries, and thus far less interesting.

And FYI - the ad in its various forms has now been viewed almost three millions times on YouTube.

Update: Howard Fineman of Newsweek sees this as part of the "New Uncontrollable Campaign." The old, controllable campaign was controlled by the candidates, their staffs, and prominent members of the major media. Wonder who that would include...

UK National Security Priorities Similar To Ours--Oh Baby!

| Thu Mar. 22, 2007 12:26 AM EDT

A terrorist can look like this. Or this. Or maybe even this.

Four-month-old Eden Lurie of Manchester tried to get a passport, but her photo was rejected because her hair was judged "too spiky." The rules require that hair and eyes are clearly defined and that the face take up at least 65% of the photo. The British Passport Service says it makes allowances for children in that they may be facing away or have their mouths open, but no spiky hair. Eden was given a really bad "virtual haircut" for her photo.

In other news, it turns out that the British Home Office issued nine passports to Dhiren Barot, Osama bin Laden's "U.K. General." Barot was planning to murder thousands of people in a series of terrorist attacks. Barot, you can see, had a good passport photo, but because of his passports, Baby Eden looks like a wind-blown Marine.

Global Warming Saps Halliburton Profits

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 9:27 PM EDT

Halliburton reported yesterday that lower natural gas prices and less drilling in North America due to a late winter affected their first-quarter profits. In fact, Halliburton shares took their steepest dive in 8 months, dropping nearly 10%. The company is the "world's second-largest oilfield services company" and issues affecting them often herald industry-wide trends.

The slump in profits was caused, analyst James Halloran told Bloomberg, by a late winter (quite possibly global warming related). A late winter meant that the ground froze later, so heavy drilling rigs could not move across Canadian and northern US oilfields until later in the season. That translated into fewer completed drilling projects. Not to mention, with the warmest winter on record this year, people may be using less gas and oil to heat their homes.

"Last fall, there's no question there was a weather issue," Halloran said. "And prices have not been exactly booming for people. My guess is there's been some ongoing reluctance to get large drilling projects going again."

One of Halliburton's "large drilling projects" affected by the weather is in Alaska's North Slope, a place heralded by National Geographic as "largest remaining piece of US wilderness" Drilling in valuable wilderness areas is just one of the reasons Halliburton shareholder meetings are regularly protested. No wonder they moved their HQ to Dubai.

--Jen Phillips

Tom DeLay, Revealed in His Tell-All, Tattle-Tale Book

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 9:10 PM EDT

delay.jpgAll this time, we've thought Tom "The Hammer" DeLay was a vicious partisan. Well, turns out he might just be vicious. As CNN reports, DeLay's new book attacks even his conservative peers, and "[o]nly DeLay's wife and daughter escape unscathed." Gingrich is vain and "an ineffective speaker of the House." Armey is "so blinded by ambition as to be useless to the cause."

On the other hand, anyone who calls W. "compassionate, but ... certainly no conservative," lies far to the right of anything but crazed partisanship, so maybe it's more accurate to say DeLay is a vicious partisan and just a dick.

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Say It Isn't So: No, It's NoSo

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 8:44 PM EDT

noso.gifWhether it's the ultimate reaction to Web 2.0 or a hypocritical, post-modern, flash mob-inspired game penned as art, NoSo is yet another trendy, techy art project. But this doesn't mean that it isn't intriguing, fun, and hopelessly ironic in true hipster form. NoSo is a response to the ubiquity of online social networking produced by Christina Ray of Glowlab. It's about the ironies of connecting on the social web and the way there isn't always much social in this web. According to official project language, "NOSO offers a moment of relief to the technology wearied." But, ironically, being predominantly a web-based project, it is still tech-centric.

Last Friday marked the project's opening event at Southern Exposure gallery in San Francisco at which there were a few ground rules: "no networking, no texting, no cellphone use, no laptop use, no downloading, no blogging, no vlogging…etc." Yet the project is about networking. You can set up a user profile on the NoSo site where you get to choose an online ID and trendy silhouette reminiscent of those made popular by Apple's iPod ads to represent your online personality. To complete your NoSo profile, the site provides prompts like "Where I do NOt live" and "NOt my favorite music."

Only one portion of the project actually takes place in cyberspace. The part that is concretely grounded on real turf sounds a lot like flash mobs (maybe flash NObs?). The NoSo site publishes information about the time and location of said anti-socializing meet-ups, which consist of a few people walking into a pre-determined location such as a cafe or park, snapping a few photos on a digital camera, then uploading them to flickr tagged as "nosoproject." If this isn't an act of participating in the social web, I don't know what is. But at least the project makes us think about what it means to live in this age of ubiquitous internet technology.

—Rose Miller

Stoning Deaths Continue In Sudan

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 6:20 PM EDT

Two allegedy adulterous women were recently sentenced to stoning deaths in North Sudan. The defendants had neither lawyers nor interpreters in a capital crimes trial that wasn't even conducted in their first language.

The man charged in one of the women's cases got off due to a lack of evidence that was for some reason sufficient enough to condemn the woman, who currently has her child with her in prison.

Reuters reports that Sudan's penal code mandates execution by stoning for convicted adulterers. Single people caught having sex out of wedlock are subject to lashing.

Two years ago, a woman's stoning sentence in western Darfur was "reduced" to lashing after activists launched a campaign on her behalf. Since the country seems unlikely to voluntarily clean up its human rights act anytime soon, here's hoping Oprah, or Jesus, will intervene.

--Nicole McClelland

Stricter Enforcement along Border Effective - Or is it Wishful Thinking?

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 6:12 PM EDT

exodus_265x164.gif "It's as if Mexico and the United States are at war," said one migrant who couldn't make it across for all the National Guardsmen stationed along the border. Border Patrol offices along popular pathways into the United States are reporting significant drops in the number of (failed) migrations, according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition to more patrols, new strategies include jailing everyone, even first timers, for up to 2 weeks. Writing for Mother Jones, Vince Beiser argued that the so-called border fence would be a fiasco. Charles Bowden also rejects worker permits and an open border.

The Border Patrol says with the increased punishments and patrols, apprehensions are down by as much as two-thirds. But Bowden, who has spent his life reporting on the border (and shares some of his sun-baked wisdom in his MoJo piece), writes, "On the line, all numbers are fictions. The exportation of human beings by Mexico now reaches, officially, a half million souls a year. Or double that. Or triple that."

Seasonal declines notwithstanding, one of two facts will have to change before migrants stop coming: There are no jobs in Mexico. There are jobs for Mexicans in the United States. Even the optimistic Times piece acknowledges that. It quotes Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego, who says "The modes of entry do change. Location of entries change. But the basic dynamics of the process don't change, because the economic factors and family ties that drive the movement haven't changed."

Radical Knitters Stitch for the Senate to Bring Our Troops Home

| Wed Mar. 21, 2007 3:58 PM EDT

helmets2.jpgCharitable knitting during wartime is an American tradition the art project Stitch for Senate is carrying on in an effort that combines art, patriotism, and resistance. The project that was launched this week, on the four year anniversary of the Iraq war, was organized by professor and electronic artist Catherine Mazza. It encourages knitters to create helmet liners for every US senator, as a call to support the troops by bringing them home. Mazza would like to encourage more dialogue about the war, and since the knitting circle has a history as a site of discussion, she chose a knitting-based project, as she explains this article. The collaborative nature of the project means that you, too, can participate.

—Rose Miller