Saturday, March 24, 2007


In January of 2001 Jordon Barab, then an appointee of several years as "a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for OSHA" turned into a self-described pumpkin when the new winds blew through Washington.

A year and a half later, in March of 2003, he started up "Confined Space," a blog intended to cover workers safety and health issues.

And did it so well that it was voted a Kolfax award for "Best Single Issue Blog" in 2005

Unfortunately, the fields had been sown thickly with dragon's teeth, with all too much to tell about roll-backs in safety standards, the eviscerating of OSHA, and the toll of injury and death to America's workers, with more than 15 workers killed every day, and a workplace injury every 2.5 seconds.

Well, with the new winds again blowing through Washington, in January of this year, "Confined Spaces" turned into a pumpkin and Barab turned into a horse-drawn coach an appointee to the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor. Barab has decided that, from the viewpoints both of time and conflict-of-interest, he has given up being an active advocate in phosphor, and will fill that role in the halls of the U.S. Congress

Confined Space will stay up, with its archive as a resource, and some of the focus points will be taken on by other writers.

Even more than wage issues, unions got legs because of worker safety issues. Maybe some unions have adopted some practices that are counter-productive, (even spawning words like "featherbedding").

But the "free market" is one that grinds up workers and discards the carcass, and unions are still desperately needed.

The paradox in all that is that more and more rank-and-file workers think that the unions have had their day, and that management will magicly become altruistic and safety-conscious. I saw this sea-change in my own mother, as she, a woman who had worked for decades as a charwoman and then as a postal worker, bought the free-market lies whole-heartedly.

At the bottom of his last post at Confined Space Barab linked a video from YouTube that shows the need, and the solution, far better than I. I've copied it here.

Keep fighting Jordon, keep fighting.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Student's Free-Speech rights vs Orderly School

Banner used to gain '15 minutes of fame' at parade in Juneau

The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on a case that balances a student's free-speech rights with the rights of a school to control the atmosphere, through limits on student speech, of the school itself. In January of 2002 Joseph Frederick, then a senior at a high school in Juneau, Alaska, unfurled a 14-foot banner near Juneau-Douglas High School proclaiming "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

Frederick's display of the banner occurred during the relay of the ceremonial torch for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Fredericks, now studying and teaching in China, claims that the banner was a publicity stunt, with nonsensical wording, just to gather attention and make a point about free speech. Deborah Morse, then the principal of the high school, saw, instead, a pro-drug message, and suspended Frederick for 10 days. (originally 5 days, but Frederick refused to name his fellow-travelers in crime, and the principal upped the sentence on, umm, principle, when he quoted Thomas Jefferson to her)

Frederick appealed the suspension to both the school Superintendent and the district's school board, both of whom upheld the suspension but reduced it to "time-served" of eight days (the days from the incident to the appeal to the Superintendent).

In April of that year Frederick filed suit in the United States District Court for Alaska, stating that his federal and state rights to free speech had been unnecessarily curtailed.

The District Court held for Morse and the school board, but the 9th Circuit court, on appeal, reversed with a unanimous decision and held that Frederick's rights of free speech had been violated.

The School Board, and Morse, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

There is a peculiar cast of supporting characters, as well -- Kenneth Starr (yes, *that* Ken Starr) is representing Morse (now a Juneau schools' administrator) and the School Board. The U.S. D.O.J.'s Solicitor General, Paul Clement has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the school authorities. The brief calls for near unlimited control of speech in the schools, based on the thought that "it may be banned if it is inconsistent with a school’s basic educational mission ." This kind of control is just ripe for abuse, considering that, like the "war on terror," the definition of a school's "basic educational mission" can be pretty slippery.

The ACLU is representing Frederick, along with Juneau lawyer Doug Mertz. The briefs filed show that the ACLU is framing the case as a "simple" free-speech case, and not necessarily one of "student's rights," noting that the banner exhibition did not cause disruption (some thought "it was dumb."), the display occurred on public property, and it was not an official school-sanctioned "event."

'Though the school did release students to watch the relay parade, Fredericks did not make it to school that morning, arriving at the parade after the school had let the students out, so Frederick had never been under the school's control up to that point.

Along with the ACLU and Mertz, support for Frederick's actions is coming from the American Center for Law and Justice , who have filed an amicus brief in the case. The ACLJ is a right-wing group that must be feeling somewhat nervous being on the same side of a case as the ACLU (indeed, one of their lead items on their web site's home page is attacking the ACLU).

Along with the ACLJ the Rutherford Institute has filed an amicus brief. At least the Rutherford seems a little more comfortable working with the ACLU -- the two organizations have cooperated in several cases in the past.

Others that have filed amicus curiae briefs in support of Frederick:
- Drug Policy Alliance - amicus brief
- Alliance Defense Fund - amicus brief
- Center for Individual Rights - amicus brief
- Christian Legal Society - amicus brief
- Lamda Legal Defense Fund - amicus brief
- The Liberty Counsel - amicus brief
- Liberty Legal Institute - amicus brief
- National Coalition Against Censorship - amicus brief
- Student Press Law Center - amicus brief
- Students For Sensible Drug Policy - amicus brief

Of course, this mix-master of organizations all have their own agenda -- but the one that is most to look after is the right-wing one, as groups like Liberty Legal (these were the people who represented the two women who were fired after they "prayed over" and "anointed" the desk, chair and cubicle of an absent co-worker) and Christian Legal want to try to find a wedge so they can go back to forced prayer and proselytizing in the public schools.

The transcript of the oral arguments before, though the Supreme Court can be found

It's always a chance if you presume that what questions are asked will be probable indicators of where the decision may go. If that were the case, the decision may hinge on the fact that the then-student was on public property and that his "speech" was not disruptive.

On the one side is the student claiming free-speech utterances of a nonsense phrase, and the school board claiming that a "reasonable person" would view "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" as an endorsement of drug use.

The arguments that the lawyers for Morse and the school board were putting forth to support the "drug endorsement" message really seem a stretch.

The court is expecting to issue a ruling before the summer.

A few background notes: the student was harassed by police several times, and he won a lawsuit against the city, and his father was fired from his job with the city's liability coverage, at least partly because he did not intervene to shut his son up. When the elder Frederick sued for wrongful termination, he got a $200,000 from his lawsuit.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Neb. High Court characterizes repeated, persistent bullying as "Stalking"

For far too long bullying in schools, especially of girls, has been dismissed as being "just a stage" or that the victims just need to "get a thicker skin." Schools often say they cannot do anything about the situations, and that it should be handled by the parents

In at least one case, however, persistent bullying has been recognized as the brutalizing and fear-inducing act that it is.

Neb. court says bullying was stalking
LINCOLN, Neb. --A teenager who called a schoolmate "fat penguin" and other derogatory names in front of other students for months committed misdemeanor stalking, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday

The ruling overturned an appeals court finding that the 16-year-old's actions were intended only for his "own juvenile amusement."

According to court documents, the teen identified only as Jeffrey K. yelled at the girl close to 200 times over two months in 2004 at Omaha Westside High School. He shoved a chair directly into her path, causing her to stumble, repeatedly called her a "whore" and threw food at her, yelling "eat some more, fat ass."

Lets see, bullying that was repeated each day, every school day, for months. Where the hell was the school system all this time, that these actions were permitted to continue for such a long period, and in such a public fashion? Never mind that the incidents with the chair and the thrown food could also be classed as "assault."

A Juvenile Court found that the boy had committed misdemeanor stalking, but an appeals court overturned that judgement.

But I guess they figured it was just a case of "boys will be boys," because the victim, herself a minor, testified that the tone of voice was "mean, but not, really -- like, threatening."

On the face, the victim changed her daily routine in order to avoid her harasser, presumably out of fear. But, because the appellate court viewed the statute only in a subjective manner, they reversed the Juvenile Court.

The state supreme court in its decision (In re Interest of Jeffrey K.) took an objective view of the case, and decided that, from an independent, external view,
based upon our review, we determine that the record contains evidence beyond a reasonable doubt demonstrating that a reasonable person would be “seriously . . . intimidated” by Jeffrey’s ongoing verbal and physical attacks as required under § 28‑311.02(2)(a).
It's about damn time some of this behavior is called for what it is.

Ancient Mayan site purified after GW visit

Temple Square of pre-Columbian Mayan site IximcheThis is just chock full of pre-loaded snark...

Guatemalans perform rituals after Bush exit
IXIMCHE, Guatemala -- A whiff of incense, a sputter of candles, a hum of prayer.

Mayan Indian activists yesterday offered the gentlest protest yet to the recent Latin American tour of President Bush as they held a purification ceremony to drive out the "bad spirits" they said he had left behind during a stop at their ancient pyramid.

The activists said the bad spirits were roused by Bush's policies, including the US-led war in Iraq and the immigration raid last week in New Bedford, Mass. Several Guatemalans were among the 361 alleged illegal immigrants detained.

Bush visited Iximche, capital of the pre-Hispanic Kaqchiqueles kingdom, during his daylong trip to Guatemala as part of a five-nation trip to the region.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kroger's and EC in Georgia

Kroger's Pharmacy commercial art It's nice when I can quote a news story that shows corporate responsibility (even is that "corporate responsibility" will translate into customer's regarding the company as one that wants to actually serve customers, instead of serving well-heeled pressure groups that won't spend money in the chain's stores anyway).

"Kroger reminds pharmacists of company policy after Ga. complaint"
ATLANTA -- Kroger Co. said Friday it was reiterating its drug policies to all of its pharmacists after a Georgia woman claimed she was denied the so-called ”morning after” pill at one of the company’s stores.

The Cincinnati-based grocery chain said if its pharmacists object to fulfilling a request, the store must ”make accommodations to have that prescription filled for our customer.”

”We believe that medication is a private patient matter,” said Meghan Glynn, a Kroger spokeswoman. ”Our role as a pharmacy operator is to furnish medication in accordance with the doctor’s prescription or as requested by a patient.”
Supporters of the drug say widespread availability will cut down on unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Critics argue it encourages promiscuity and unprotected sex and some consider it related to abortion, although it is different from the abortion pill RU-486.

Lets look at that again, "encourages promiscuity and unprotected sex."

In other words, men and women being responsible about not bringing unwanted children onto the planet is to be punished and regarded as "bad."

I'd say that Kroger's was being the responsible one here.

I'm sure that there is also no lack of those who will call this move by Kroger's management as "caving to the forces of immorality!"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Think of it as "evolution in action"

Proof that some people need to learn to read
There isn't a lot you can say about this....
Man burned trying to copy movie stunt

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. --Attempts to duplicate a movie stunt landed one man in the hospital with burned genitals and another facing criminal charges.

The men were trying to do a stunt from one of the "Jackass" movies, in which a character lights his genitals on fire.

Jared W. Anderson, 20, suffered serious burns to his hands and genitals, according to the criminal complaint. Randell D. Peterson, 43, who sprayed lighter fluid on Anderson and lit him on fire, was charged with felony battery and first-degree reckless endangerment Tuesday in Eau Claire County Court
According to one published report, the first attempt failed to ignite, so they, of course, used more lighter fluid.

And, to answer the inevitable question whenever this kind of thing happens:
Witnesses told police that Anderson, who was drunk, volunteered to do the stunt Sunday after watching the movie

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Passport denied because name change not recognized.

front page of application for a U.S. passport

Last week's [Worcester, Mass.] Telegram & Gazette detailed a small story where the U.S. passport office has refused to recognize not the marriage itself, but the name change involved in a person choosing to alter their legal name under which they are known when they are married.

On May 20, 2004, three days after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages in the Commonwealth, Alicia Lison and Amanda Ginese were legally married in a small ceremony. Amanda elected to change her last name to Lison. Under Massachusetts state law, that made her name change a legal fact, not requiring a trip to the Probate Court Department. For the past three years she has used that as an identified for such things as her state driver’s license and her Social Security card.

A few months back Amanda sent in photographs and the required fees in order to obtain a U.S. Passport. This was in preparation for a vacation cruise. A week before her cruise was due to leave, however, she received a letter from the Passport Office saying that the application was being denied because her name change was not being recognized as valid.

The agency said it refused to recognize Amanda’s married name, even though she had wed three years earlier and had legally changed her surname to that of her spouse.
According to the federal government, Amanda had married the wrong gender.

“I guess I’m not all that surprised,” said Amanda, sans passport, as she waited for her cruise ship to sail out of New York City last Thursday. “I should have known. It was amazing to be able to get married. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. But I never had an issue until this passport thing.”

Of course,this kind of intrusion is inevitable, given the language of the so-called "defense of marriage act."
A spokesman from the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., said same-sex couples seeking a passport under a married name can’t do so absent additional documentation, and that the government doesn’t recognize such name changes based solely on marriage certificates, as it does for heterosexual married couples.
[Worcester, Massachusetts] City Clerk David Rushford said Amanda’s case is the first he has heard of a gay person being denied a passport based on her married name, partly because many gay couples have kept their own name. Both he and Mr. Bell [Bruce Bell, a lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders] said that, because a name change is a state issue, Amanda’s name change should be legal.

“So what they’re really rejecting is the change in marital status,” Mr. Rushford said. “They’re not treating people equally with that kind of action.”

Amanda, 23, said she’s contacted the offices of state Sen. Edward M. Augustus Jr. and Gov. Deval L. Patrick, and is angry that the Boston Passport Agency has refused to refund her money. She didn’t have time to get another passport in time for her Eastern Caribbean cruise, which left Thursday from New York. Speaking by telephone from the dock, she said she’s nervous to be without one because if she had to fly home for any reason, she’d have a hard time getting back into the United States.

Mostly, though, she’s sad that her cruise has been dampened by a federal law she thinks is all wet.

“No one told me this could happen and I had no way of knowing it,” she said. “It’s just not fair. We went through so much to legalize gay marriage, and to deny me something like a passport doesn’t make much sense.”

This is just another data point on how that prejudice and unfounded fear of a few is continuing to affect the many. The DOMA is an unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of people who are citizens of this nation, and enshrines an effective religious test into the recognition of marriage, because the arguments in favor of this particular definition of "marriage" all fall back to appeals to "tradition." A "tradition" which is based on a particular religious "standard" itself.

One of the fears of these prejudiced few is that the U.S. Supreme Court has itself declared that the freedom to marry of one's own choice is itself one of the "unenumerated rights" declared in the Constitution -- see, in a Supreme Court case involving involuntary sterilization of criminals, that marriage is “one of the basic civil rights of man.” (SKINNER v. STATE OF OKL. EX REL. WILLIAMSON, 316 U.S. 535 (1942) ). And the supreme Court reiteratd that view when they referenced Skinner v State of OKL in the miscegnation case "Loving v VA" (1967)

In the comments to the T&G piece, someone claims that they were able to get the Passport Office to give them the passport under their married name, apparently when they notified the passport office that they were represnted by legal counsel.

Lets look at a couple of pieces of law

First, some old, really “settled” law

Article. IV.
Section. 1.
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
Section. 2.
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.

Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Now some law that hasn’t really been validated yet by confirmation through the U.S. Supreme Court

(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 115 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 1738B the following:
`Sec. 1738C. Certain acts, records, and proceedings and the effect thereof
`No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.'.
This second, to my unlettered eye, contradicts both cited sections of the first.

These are, of course, the Constitution of the United States () and the “Defense of Marriage Act”

The analysis by the DOMA sponsors claims that they have, in essence, their own little set of extra-judicial rules akin to what are commonly referred to as the “presidential signing statements.” Their claim is that they can substantially bypass the “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the U.S. Constitution that would normally compel all the states in the nation to recognize a “same-sex” marriage. However, this interpretation is illustrated by affirmative examples (requirements for the states to recognize and enforce child custody and child support orders), while this legislation allows the several states to effectively ignore the judicial proceedings, and civil contracts, of another state. The analysis itself is a little contradictory, -- in the last paragraph of the analysis:
“DOMA is not meant to affect the definition of "spouse" (which under the
Social Security law, for example, runs to dozens of lines). It ensures
that whatever definition of "spouse" may be used in Federal law, the
word refers only to a person of the opposite sex”.
Either you are “affecting” the definition or not, guys – you cannot have it both ways.

Both Skinner and Loving hinged on the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, and that may be the eventual road taken to overturn DOMA. Also, of perhaps more direct import, is ROMER v. EVANS, ___ U.S. ___ (1996) which decision directly confronted a CO state constitutional amendment that directly precluded the granting of equal rights, based upon gender roles. Romer also hinged on the Equal potection language.

My own feeling is that the Full Faith & Credit clause may be more important, and I really don't see the free-market zealots being willing to weaken the part of the U.S. Constitution that relates to the enforcement of civil contracts.

The above is, of course, old news, but it needs to be kept in our minds as an example of how simple it is for the rights of the citizens to be abrogated.

After this, who knows? Maybe the federal government will decide that they can bypass the constitutional protections against warrentless searches, and the requirements of habeas corpus and the guarantee of a speedy trial and to be able to face your accusers. Oh, well. Never mind....

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Korean Government wants the US to ban a Book used in U.S. middle schools

Cover for 'So Far From The Bamboo Grove' - art by Leo and Dianne Dillon
A few months ago (in November) I saw a note about a book challenge to local school district, where a fictionalized autobiography was being challenged as "racist."

Since the book in question, "So Far From The Bamboo Grove" by Yoko Kawashawa Watkins is one I had read myself and am planning to have my older boy (who will be age 10 this year) read and discuss.

The book, originally published in 1986, is now raising controversy due to a concerted effort from a small, but vocal, group of protesters who claim that the book "distorts history," "is racist," "brands Koreans as villains" and "refuses to treat the Japanese as criminals."

The book depicts the flight from northern Korea, just before the end of WW II, of an 11-year old Japanese girl, her sister, brother and mother.

The novel describes the flight from Korea from the viewpoint of the 11-year old, including their passage on a medical train where they are sheltered and protected from Japanese and Korean Communist soldiers, and the further efforts they make to leave Korea and be repatriated to Japan, and their troubles there, without a male relative to sponsor/protect them.

The main thrust of the non-local opposition to this book seems to be because the book doesn't paint the wartime Japanese as vicious or brutal enough. There have also been repeated attempts, completely without any evidence, to link Ms Kawashawa Watkins, who is married to a U.S. citizen and now lives on Cape Cod, to the head of the Japanese "disease prevention and water purification" Unit 731,(this was actually a site where experimentation on human subjects, including vivisection, was performed, some in aid of CBW aims, others on the same "spirit of investigation" that led the U.S. health authorities to conduct experiments where men and women with venereal disease were purposely left untreated, without the subjects knowledge and consent.)

From the netizen attacks on the book, and author, I have seen, it appears that most have not read the book at all, and focus their attacks on a very few points in the book -- there are two points where, very briefly and without detail, attacks and rapes by uniformed soldiers is described. There is also, for some attackers, a "significant point" that the "bamboo grove" alluded to in the title could not have survived in Northern Korea. Others complain that the (presumably Korean Communist) soldiers depicted on the paperback version's cover art doesn't show accurate N. Korean uniforms.

Others claim that Kim Il Sung's forces were still in China at the end of 1945( he was actually withe the Soviet Army units in Siberia).

Others claim as Watkins is being a "hypocrite" when, as she sees groups of school children to discuss her book and experiences with them, she apologizes for what her nation had done during and before WW II.

In the Dover-Sherborn district, the book was first announced to be removed from the curriculum in early November.

In what I had thought was a relatively minor bubble, concerning a local Massachusetts school district, is actually turned into an international event, with Asian English-language web portals-sites showing a lot of activity on the subject. Especially see the discussion at Japan Probe and Marmot's Hole, and at occidentalism( "Yoko Watkins defends memoir" "Review of 'So Far From The Bamboo Grove'") and the reports of misquotes of an american expat journalist by the Yonhap News Service. For more articles at Marmot's Hole enter "Bamboo Grove" into their search window.

My post title alludes to the Korean Government activity shown in this quote:
The Korean Consul General in Boston Ji Young-sun said the issue was first raised last September, when Korean American parents near Boston and in New York publicly complained about the book being used as a set text. This prompted an organized campaign against the book. Ji said many Korean students were shocked by the book and experienced discrimination because of it.

Ji said the fact that the book is taught in U.S. schools was “in a way racial discrimination and violation of human rights,” adding Korean parents will file formal complaints with U.S. education authorities and state government. The consulate has already written to federal and state education authorities.

The publisher claims that the book cannot be published in China because it does not vilify the Japanese enough, and that it cannot be published in Japan because the viewpoint character's mother , early in the book, criticizes the Japanese government for starting the war with the U.S.

The Dover-Sherborn school district has decided, with a unanimous vote, to reinstate the book into the school curriculum, and to beef up other curriculum in order to provide more context for discussion.

As I said, I've read this book, and plan on discussing it with my son after he reads it.

It will be interesting to see what all comes out of this.

Friday, March 02, 2007

OK, where have you *been* for the past month?...

IBM z/900 mainframe
OK, OK, Yes, it's been a while, but I've got a good excuse, or reason, or dodge, or something.

I've been working for a living and commuting about 1.5 hours each way.

And Ledasmom has taken to pointing to pictures on the side of milk cartons and telling the boys "say 'Good morning!' to your da."

I've got this huge list of things I've wanted to write about, and many are no longer timely, but some still are, so I'll be writing about some of them anyway...