In Texas: Core principles

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court on Friday threw out a jury award over injuries a 17-year-old girl suffered in an exorcism conducted by members of her old church, ruling that the case unconstitutionally entangled the court in religious matters....

Justice David Medina wrote that finding the church liable "would have an unconstitutional 'chilling effect' by compelling the church to abandon core principles of its religious beliefs."

[From The Associated Press: Texas high court rules exorcism protected by law]

But most of all to get his picture taken

CHICAGO, IL- The Obama campaign announced today that Senator Obama will be traveling overseas to assess the situation in countries that are critical to American national security, and to consult with close friends and allies.

[From Lynn Sweet: Obama to meet with French, British, German leaders; also traveling to Israel, Jordan. Iraq-Afghanistan visits also planned. UPDATES]

Don't want to hurt the polar bears, do we?

DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

[From Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects - NYTimes.com]

Just one more guy the Bushies can't find

Nearly seven years after the toxic letters were mailed, killing five people and sickening at least 17 others, the case has not been solved.

[From U.S. to pay millions for anthrax innuendo - International Herald Tribune]

But hey, maybe if they listen in to enough phone calls and confiscate enough laptops, some day, who knows.

At least Osama has the decency to hide in some other country.

Scalia: If only Gore were more like Richard Nixon

"Richard Nixon, when he lost to Kennedy thought that the election had been stolen in Chicago, which was very likely true with the system at the time," said Scalia. "But he did not even think about bringing a court challenge. That was his prerogative. So you know if you don't like it, don't blame it on me.

[From The Raw Story | Scalia: Gore to blame for 2000 decision]

Everything's up to date in Phoenix, AZ

Women at the club are not permitted to have lunch in the men’s grill room with their husbands after a round of golf; they have been barred from trophy ceremonies after tournaments, even ones they have sponsored, and may not participate in one of the most sacred rituals of the men’s grill room — sealing a deal over a beer with a client.

[From Phoenix Journal - Nice Spot to Eat After Golf, but Women Are Barred - NYTimes.com]

And to think that only a few short weeks ago sexism was dead.


Please, please, please make it go away

UNITY, New Hampshire (CNN) -- The day began with a kiss.

Sen. Barack Obama, on the tarmac at Reagan Washington National Airport, reached out to shake Sen. Hillary Clinton's hand and leaned down to kiss her cheek.

It went on from there. Wearing a tie that matched her suit, he put his hand on her back, guiding the way up the plane steps....

[From Crowley: A picture-perfect day in Unity - CNN.com]

Girls whistle at construction workers: Oh no, bunky, it don't work that way

A further education college has banned its female students from wolf-whistling at builders.

Girls at West Kent College have been advised that whistling constitutes harassment and is unacceptable

Officials sent an email to all pupils warning that the behaviour was "totally unacceptable", and saying any students caught harassing contractors would face disciplinary action.

[From Ananova - Girls banned from whistling at builders ]

Somehow I think this says it all

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil leapt to a new record high near $142 a barrel on Friday, extending gains after surging nearly 4 percent in the previous session, as tumbling global stock markets triggered a wider commodities rally.

[From Oil jumps to new record near $142 as equities wilt - Yahoo! News]

"Commodities rally." Not a word about low production or high consumption or even the wimpy dollar.

When did oil break $100 - late March or early April? About three months ago? Am I supposed to think production fell 40% in three months? Consumption went up? Some combination of the two, even considering the dollar's sorry state? Forty percent in three months? No way.

This isn't about offshore drilling. Or about people driving SUV's. This is about people making money.

"It has a lot to do with asset allocations. The equity markets are under serious pressure, breaking support levels. When equities are going nowhere, the money is parked into commodities," said Olivier Jakob at Petromatrix.
PS: Krugman begs to differ. Or so it seems.


Wait a minute - where have I heard this kind of thing before?

Dennis McDonough, a foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign, said in a conference call this morning that legislation expanding presidential power to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications is acceptable to Senator Obama because the United States Inspector General will ensure accountability.

[From M.S. Bellows, Jr.: Obama Adviser On FISA: We'll Trust The Inspector General To Prevent Surveillance Abuses - Off The Bus on The Huffington Post]

(Emphasis mine)

I'm wracking my brain here. Is that sort of like trust us, we won't spy on you in a bad way?

Very cool

Someone in my Excel class made an error entering a formula this afternoon, typing "&" where a "+" should have been, producing an interesting result; it turns out you can concatenate strings with the operator, "&" as well as with the "concatenate" function. Who knew?

One of the really nifty things about software is that even after working with it for years you can still learn something new just by accident. Or, well, I can. Maybe you actually read the book.

Bush would give sewage plant a bad name, says utilities commission

The Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is engaged in an effort to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the "George W. Bush Sewage Plant." ...

A spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which owns the plant, says that while his agency understands the humorous intent of the endeavor, the award-winning facility has been efficient at keeping the streets and ocean clean, thus the plant should be "the last place" the group should use to make a negative statement about George Bush.

[From Proposed Bush Memorial May Become More than a Pipe Dream | Center for Media and Democracy]

And then there was that time...

Drinkers at a watering hole in the Australian outback found themselves toasting a baby saltwater crocodile that wandered up to the pub's door Sunday....

But unusual creatures are all in a day's drinking for the tavern, said bartender Leila Naray.

"We've had a lot of horses pop up. We've had cane toads, which are yukky," she said. "We have had a big buffalo come in, wander around. There's a photo of him with a beer."

[From Crocodile visits bar, poses for photos - CNN.com]


OK, scratch the part about how he'd nominate liberal judges

CHICAGO - Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday he disagrees with the Supreme Court's decision outlawing executions of people who rape children, a crime he said states have the right to consider for capital punishment.

[From Obama disagrees with high court on child rape case - Yahoo! News]

Can't eat just one

Ringtones. They're as bad as potato chips.

I mean it. I spent most of the afternoon fooling around with ringtones. I have so many ringtones now I could use a different one for each call until the end of the year. The current fave is a piano-rag riff from Copeland's "Billy the Kid." But there's a sweet little passage in Joe Henderson's "Felecidade" that's running a close second. And for formal occasions, there's always Beethoven's Fifth.

Nostalgia in Poland

"The staff are rude, the food is awful and the service is non-existent. It's just like it used to be," said one delighted customer.

[From Ananova - Bad old days make comeback ]

Oh yeah...

...this goes right to the top of my things-to-see list.

MOSCOW—A monument to the enema, a procedure many people would rather not think about, has been unveiled at a spa in the southern Russian city of Zheleznovodsk. The bronze syringe bulb, which weighs 800 pounds and is held by three angels, was unveiled at the Mashuk-Akva Term spa, the spa's director said Thursday.

[From Russian spa opens monument to the enema - Boston.com]

I wonder what they'd pay for a couple of blog posts

House Democrats who flipped their votes to support retroactive immunity for telecom companies in last week’s FISA bill took thousands of dollars more from phone companies than Democrats who consistently voted against legislation with an immunity provision, according to an analysis by MAPLight.org.

[From The Crypt: Dems who flipped on FISA immunity see more telecom cash - Politico.com]

Safe to go back in water, court says

The Supreme Court on Wednesday cut the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster to $500 million.

[From The Raw Story | Court cuts judgment in Exxon Valdez disaster]

News from YA panet

The ["consumer confidence"] survey found that consumers are increasingly pessimistic about their job prospects and chances of getting raises. Barron’s Econoday calls the no-confidence news a “very rare statement of discontent” notable for the fact that “there is an expansion still underway and this is not a time of war, which makes the results difficult to figure.”

[From CJR: Opening Bell: Wrong Track]

(Epmphasis mine)

Naww, we don't do the high crimes thing any more

THE heads of major fossil fuel companies who spread disinformation about global warming should be "tried for high crimes against humanity and nature," according to a leading climate scientist.

[From Prosecute climate change liars - NASA expert | NEWS.com.au]

One in two calls it a zoo

One out of every four working Americans describes their workplace as a dictatorship....


After all we did for them

Fox political commentator Bob Beckel said on last night’s O’Reilly Factor that Iraq owes American oil companies 100-year leases.

[From The Raw Story » Bob Beckle: ‘The Iraqis owe us’ century-long oil leases]

We won!

Tonight, The Washington Note confirmed that the Bush administration will “ask Congress” to de-list North Korea from America’s “terrorist watch list.” This request will be made on Thursday — if there are no last minute, unexpected interventions.

[From The Raw Story » Report: Bush admin wants N. Korea off terror watch list]

Or maybe they did. Or...wait a minute...North what?

And best of all, they get to use the channel zapper

The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the patriarch of the family died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.

They dress like men, adopt a male swagger and spend their lives in the company of other men.

[From Sworn to virginity and living as men in Albania - International Herald Tribune]

And it's only by chance they haven't lost it

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

[From White House Refused to Open Pollutants E-Mail - NYTimes.com]

Follow the money

In the abstract, fixing the health care system sounds perfectly unobjectionable: it’s about reducing costs (and then being able to cover the uninsured) by getting rid of inefficiency and waste. In reality, though, almost every bit of waste benefits someone.

Doctors who perform spinal fusion surgeries, despite decidedly mixed evidence that they’re effective, are making a nice living. Hospitals that order $1,000 diagnostic tests, even when a cheaper one would work just as well, are helping their bottom line. Medical equipment makers selling walkers for $110, while Wal-Mart sells them for $60, are fattening their profits.

The current fight to protect those profits is a microcosm of what you can expect to see if a larger effort to rein in health costs ever gets going.

[From Economic Scene - High Medicare Costs, Courtesy of Congress - NYTimes.com]


There'll always be an England

Venus Williams opens title defense with victory win British wild card

[From Venus Williams opens title defense with victory win British wild card - International Herald Tribune]

Or, there'll always be a headline writer. Take your pick.

See? You're a legal hero...

In a novel approach, the defense in an obscenity trial in Florida plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought.

In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.”

[From What’s Obscene? Google Could Have an Answer - NYTimes.com]

...and all the time you thought you were just surfing porn.

Recording industry wants its payola back

Broadcasting music without payment is akin to piracy, the industry says.

[From Recording Industry Decries AM-FM Broadcasting as 'A Form of Piracy' | Threat Level from Wired.com]

Finally, good news

The Large Hadron Collider will not eat the world

[From Scholars and Rogues » The Large Hadron Collider will not eat the world]

Just about everything is the fault of some grammar teacher, somewhere

When the Times of London reported in 1837 on two University of Paris law profs dueling with swords, the dispute wasn't over the fine points of the Napoleonic Code. It was over the point-virgule: the semicolon. "The one who contended that the passage in question ought to be concluded by a semicolon was wounded in the arm," noted the Times. "His adversary maintained that it should be a colon."

[From Has modern life killed the semicolon? - By Paul Collins - Slate Magazine]



Can you spell "oxymoron"?

I think what you're seeing is two things. One, Barack is a politician, an honorable politician.

[From Lynn Sweet]

(Emphasis mine)

And you were thinking...?

THERE IS no "straight talk." There isn't "a different kind of politics." There are just two men who really want to be president.

[From Obama and McCain - flip-flop, flip-flop - The Boston Globe]