This week, there have been many interesting developments in the world of frog:

And most urgently:

 

To answer Kevin's question, apparently Arlen Specter was not able to reach Chuck Grassley on the phone to admonish him for saying that health care reform means the government decides whether or not to pull the plug on Granny. The two of them are duking it out on Twitter instead. (Grassley's latest: "So change ur last Tweet Arlen.") I wonder if the increasing numbers of senators on Twitter finally spells the end of the Senate's famed (and often feigned) comity? You can't very well be liberally referring to "my friend, the Senator from Pennsylvania" when it uses up a whole 101 characters.  

Bwahh?! Michael Vick, star football quarterback and notorious dog fighter, has reportedly agreed to sign a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, worth as much as $10 million. This is surprising for a few reasons. First, $10 million seems like a lot for a QB who is only getting older and has been shunned by much of the football world. Also, Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been known for his loyalty to another aging Eagles QB, Donovan McNabb, who will now have to fight with Vick for the top spot.

As a former Philadelphia resident, I was disappointed that the Eagles decided to sign Vick. For the past few years, the Eagles have been a scrappy team that never succeeded as much as it deserved to. The public can get behind this kind of team. But signing Vick undermines that underdog status. Now they're just another middle-of-the-pack team hoping to capitalize on an aging star...who also happens to be a dog killer.

Unsurprisingly, many animal rights groups are outraged. In a statement on its website today, PETA wrote that Vick has given little indication that he regrets his actions. "At this point, all Eagles fans can do is cross their fingers and hope that they won't ever have to explain to their sons and daughters what a 'rape rack' is and why their favorite player was using one, as Falcons fans once had to," it said.

But others take a more... uh... sportsmanlike approach. Citing Vick's recent volunteer work with the Humane Society, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a HUGE football fan, said "I also believe strongly in the tenets of rehabilitation and redemption. I believe Michael Vick has paid a strong and just penalty for his horrific acts, but he has endured that penalty with dignity and grace. He seems to be genuinely remorseful for what he has done."

Who knows? Maybe Vick will become a leading advocate against the torture and murder of animals. I can see it now: "I don't torture dogs anymore and neither should you." Thanks for the heartwarming PSA, Mike.

Just because I'm in Pittsburgh doesn't mean you don't get Friday catblogging.  Today I present "Still Life With Cat – 2009."  Clearly a masterpiece.

Classic: One of California's top tort-reform advocates has gone and filed one of the very lawsuits he's long campaigned against. Legal Pad has the full story on excessive litigation opponent-turned-excessively litigious plaintiff Fred Hiestand:

The man whose name is synonymous with tort reform — he’s the Civil Justice Association of California’s general counsel — has filed a class action against the city of Sacramento, the city’s police chief, city police officers and a tow truck company for towing his car after he left it in a no-parking zone.

What’s more, Hiestand is seeking damages from the tow truck company under Business and Professions Code Section 17200. That, in case you don’t recognize it, is California’s Unfair Competition Law, the very law that CJAC and business groups successfully curbed in 2004 via the voter-approved Proposition 64.

[...]

“It’s hysterical,” said Timothy Blood, a Coughlin Stoia partner who specializes in UCL suits. “The whole PR campaign during Prop 64 was that 17200 was driving businesses out of California. So what does [Hiestand] do? He sues a small business.”

“We’ve never said that all class actions are meritless,” Hiestand said. When you’ve exhausted all your other administrative options, they’re a viable choice, he said.

And just to show he’s not some money-hungry litigant, Hiestand pledged to give any award money left over from paying his costs to “fighting frivolous class action lawsuits.”

Hiestand's not the first foe of "lawsuit abuse" to seek legal redress when the going got tough. Robert Bork filed a personal injury suit against a club where he fell and injured himself. Former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott railed against "jackpot justice" until Katrina destroyed his home and he joined a class action suit against his insurance company. That's not to say that they were being frivolous; both settled out of court. But Hiestand's filing has the mix of disingenuous literalness and inflated self-regard that are the hallmarks of truly pointless lawsuits. He contends that he knowingly left his car in a no-parking zone only to be towed illegally because there were no signs saying that might happen. Sounds a bit like the judge who unsuccessfully sued his dry cleaners for $54 million  because they didn't live up to their "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign. Funny how no one thinks they're gumming up the wheels of justice when it's their case on the docket.   

 

Last week, I blogged about the College Sustainability Report Card (CSRC), which evaluates colleges' and universities' greenness based on criteria like energy use, building practices, recycling, and investment priorities. It's an interesting tool, but the program only looks at the 300 best-endowed schools in the US. Bummer, since little schools are often home to the most creative green initiatives.
Treehugger has a slideshow up today profiling ten green colleges, a few of which were passed over by CSRC on account of their small endowments. Warren Wilson, for example, gets props for its solar-powered streetlights and campus carts and its trash-to-treasure store. And the tiny-but-mightily-green College of the Atlantic stands out, too:

In 2006, the college announced it was the first carbon neutral college in the U.S. Not to mention, students all study one thing: human ecology, or the way humans interact with the environment. Since 1972, the school has dished up local and organic food in the cafeteria. Food is all composted or given away, meals are tray-less and meat is confinement and antibiotic-free. Dorms come with composting toilets, ultra-high insulation and heat comes from a wood burning pellet boiler: Getting back to nature and interacting with the environment, indeed.
 

Composting toilets! In a dorm! Totally doable at, say, a Harvard or a Princeton, but would the aesthetics be too icky for the Ivies?

Yesterday, I wrote about pop-propagandist Shepard Fairey's decision to put a graffiti-resistant coating on his LA studio's brick walls. This morning I received a friendly email from him saying he thought I'd been unfair in questioning the move. That was a accompanied by a far less friendly message that he says he sent to Eastsider LA, the site that originally reported on this:

Jesus,

Your post about the sealer on our building was very obnoxious. Do you just not give a shit about objectivity? My practice as a street artist has NEVER included putting my work on pristine or operational buildings unless asked to do so. I'm not mad at the graff artists who have hit our building, I just like the brick  unadorned. I've always been a champion of street art and graffiti in the same way I'm a champion of free speech. I think it is important for people to be able to speak freely, but if I'm watching a channel whose content is not my cup of tea I may choose to change the channel. It does not make me an opponent of free speech. Preferring my brick unadorned does not make me anti-graffiti. Every time I put a piece of art on the street I know it may be cleaned. That is the nature of the art form. Our building houses a fucking gallery and we show street artist's work there and on banners on the side of the building. For you to portray me as anti-street art is very revealing about YOU and YOUR agenda. Are you pro-street art or graffiti? If the answer is yes, then I'd assume based on your portrayal of me, that you'd welcome graffiti on your house or business lest you be revealed to be an anti-art hypocrite. If you have any integrity you will post my response along with your home and office address as an invitation for people to display their art there. Your attempt to portray me as hypocrite was thinly veiled incitement for people to tag our building. I have been arrested 15 times and know the risks of street art. Do you know the risks of being an irresponsible journalist? I responded to your inquiry very politely and you disrespected my candor by taking a cheap shot... writing something irresponsible and sensational to get people to your site. You could have written something more sophisticated and balanced that could have created a worthwhile discussion about public art. Instead you were lazy and obnoxious. Maybe the economy has made you desperate, or maybe you are always slime. Either way, you should be ashamed.
-Shepard

Jesus, indeed! Worthwhile discussion of public art aside, this is way off the mark. If you read the original Eastsider post, you'll see that the only openly critical part is its headline: "This is one wall Shepard Fairey wants to keep free of self-expression." The rest is pretty straightforward reporting. It was the commenters who accused Fairey of hypocrisy and suggested that his studio might now be an even bigger target for spraypainters. C'mon, Shepard—you know how to tell the difference between mild-mannered bloggers and their less restrained commenters. Just as you no doubt appreciate the difference between, say, a street artist who says he never messes with other people's property without permission and the anonymous fans who plastered gazillions of his Andre the Giant Has a Posse stickers around the world.  

 

 

I think the White House Flickr feed is a cool idea and staff photographer Pete Souza has taken some great shots since it launched. Sometimes, though, his images can be a little self-consciously tricky for no apparent reason, as Ana Marie Cox and Jason Links have hilariously documented over at The Awl. For instance, this rather arty shot symbolizes...that the cleaning staff does an awesome job of polishing the tables?

Arlen Specter just told the Netroots Nation audience that as soon as he got off the stage he was going to call Chuck Grassley and set him straight on the whole death panel thing.  "Come on out and watch me dial," he said.  I wonder if anyone did?

UPDATE: From comments, apparently Specter did indeed dial but couldn't get hold of Grassley.  A Twitter war ensued.

This week, the American Sociological Association held its annual meeting here in San Francisco. Researchers from Indiana University and the University of Utah presented findings from a national survey of 815 people on family and gender issues. Apparently, 71 percent of Americans believe a woman should take her husband's last name, and half believed it should be a legal requirement.

The results shocked even the researchers:

"The figures were a bit sobering for us because there seems to be change in so many areas. If names are a core aspect of our identity, this is important," said Brian Powell, professor of sociology at IU Bloomington. "There are all these reports and indicators that families are changing, that men are contributing more, that we're moving toward a more equal family, yet there's no indication that we're seeing a similar move to equality when it comes to names."

So the government should not be heavy handed when it comes to legislating things like health care or banking, but it should determine how women identify themselves after marriage?

Not quite. It seems that for the majority of Americans, the issue is less about naming conventions and more about who (ahem) wears the pants in society. One of the researchers said that respondents "told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family." The family identity, however, is not tied to the name itself. Half of respondents said it would be fine if men changed their names, because "a man should be able to do it because he's a man."

Survey responses also reflected the belief that if we cannot assume that a woman will automatically change her last name, the resulting confusion will lead to catastrophe: "They said the mailman would get confused and that society wouldn't function as well if women did not change their name."

As it so happens, I am one of the 5-10 percent of American women who did not take my husband's last name. But, I'm pretty sure the United States Postal Service functions the same way in the rest of the country as it does in the Bay Area, which means they deliver based on address. Which is why I've received mail addressed correctly to me, to my first name with my husband's last name, and to the cringe-inducing "Mr. and Mrs. Husband's First and Last Name." Then again, I also get mail addressed to the last four tenants.

My husband and I have also managed to file our taxes, utilize health and car insurance, and open a joint credit card with last names that don't match. Thus far, "society" hasn't come to a screeching halt. But then, we also live in a state where larger issues surrounding marriage are questioned (our marriage license even reads "Party A" and "Party B").

The researchers believe that the study reveals more than just what Americans think about last names, "Because it's not politicized, people just answer the question without really thinking about it...It sort of taps into people's views about all kinds of things." In other words, things like who should be able to get married, what a family should look like, and just what types of gendered identities we should adhere to.