Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Are the Feds in the Marriage Business?

While watching an old episode of Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List on DVR, Mrs. Kid and I heard that there are over a thousand rights that gays are denied because they can't marry. Mrs. Kid mentioned (twice) that she was curious about what the thousand rights are, so I had to find the list.

A GAO memo to the Senate: Defense of Marriage Act: Update to Prior Report includes the entire list and this description:
... as of December 31, 2003, our research identified a total of 1,138 federal statutory provisions classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving benefits, rights, and privileges.
So, my initial question was: Why are the feds so tied to marriage? Then I realized that they have no other option. If you want to tie a benefit, right, or privelege to people who are commited to each other in a real and legally-binding way, then the only way to do it in the U.S. is to tie it to marriage.

I want the U.S. federal and state governments to create and recognize civil unions. Without this, we'll keep on having these big problems with people denying rights to gays because they perceive that doing so would have religious implications.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rats, Blue M&M's, and Ethics

A bit ago, Slashdot had an article titled Dye Used In Blue M&Ms Can Lessen Spinal Injury. Here is a quote from the Slashdot synopsis of the original article:
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that the dye used in blue M&Ms and other foods can, when given intravenously to a lab rat shortly after a spinal injury, minimize secondary damage caused by the body when it kills off nearby healthy cells.
As usual, the article is somewhat interesting, but the comments that followed are where the real fun is.

Query in one comment:
Are rats less deserving of our sympathies than "intelligent" humans?
Someone's reply:
Are these humans lawyers, music industry executives, or Microsoft programmers? Context is key.
I understand that saving human lives is really important, but I am wary of getting cavalier about what we do to other animals in the name of progress. I'm not sure how this relates to my stance on eating meat, but disliking sport hunting and maim and release fishing. Killing animals to eat them is a totally different thing from hurting them for sport, but scientific research seems to be in a more ambiguous place. The potential for benefit to humans is great, but the cruelty seems great as well.

I'm not about to join PETA, but I hope the people who perform and benefit from this sort of research think about the terrible things these animals have been subjected to for our benefit.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Education Reform

The Post's Outlook section had A Chance to Say Yes that describes the situation for Obama's education reform agenda. Obama's ideas for changing our schools are:
  • Merit pay
  • Get rid of ineffective teachers
  • Try more charters, but with accountability
Full disclosure #1: I am a public school guy. I attended, taught at, and send Boy Kid (and soon Girl Kid) to public schools. I even married a public school woman.

Full disclosure #2: I work for a company that runs virtual charter schools. We also run our own private academy and provide curriculum to some private schools.

Merit pay and getting rid of ineffective teachers are opposite sides of the same coin and are tough challenges. Determining which teachers are getting it done and which are not is easy to talk about, but isn't easy to accomplish. Educating kids is not like building cars or selling widgets or hitting a baseball. Success in the classroom is dependent on many factors.

We need innovation in our schools nand charters provide a reasonable pathway to innovation. As long as each school is held accountable, I am all for charter schools (and have been since before my time working for a company that has skin in the game). On the other hand, I am not a fan of vouchers that allow parents to send their kids to private schools.

My problems with vouchers are two-fold. First, I take the separation of church and state seriously. Having public funds going to support church schools is a big problem. Second, we need to find a way to make our public schools work. Taking money out of public shools and putting it in to private schools seems like giving up.

I hope Obama is able to get some real traction with his ideas. It's a difficult road, but an important one to travel.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Music Monday: Thoughts on Great Jazz Albums

Amazon's list of 100 greatest jazz albums of all time inspired others to try their hand at listing their 50 favorites (ranking 100 would be a daunting task). As you might expect, each list is drastically different.
Why do I find these lists interesting? First, there is no one right list. Second, I learn something new every time I look at a best jazz albums list. I always find several entries that fall into one of these categories:
  • an artist I have never heard of
  • an artist I have heard of, but not heard
  • an album I didn't know existed by an artist I love
  • an album I own, but don't listen to much
As I look through these lists, my strategy is to find a list that has a top ten that looks great, then start digging into the rest of the list. My jazz collection is pretty weak, so this could point me in some good directions as I look to broaden my jazz horizons.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mr. Tony Returning to His Show?

I have never been a morning zoo radio guy. Howard Stern, Greaseman, Don & Mike, and their like have generally not been appealing to me.

On the other hand, I am a big fan of Tony Kornheiser's radio show. Why do I like Tony? I dunno. He's kinda funny, he's pretty smart, and he has great guests. Also, it's not exactly a morning zoo, but I do like his crew: Jeanne McManus, Sally Jenkins, Liz Clarke, and Tracee Hamilton all make for interesting foils for Tony and his ample neuroses. The topics they discuss are generally interesting:
  • Sports: Tony has a bunch of great sports writers as guests on his show. Tim Kurkjian, John "Junior" Feinstein, Mitch Albom, Sally Jenkins, and Richard Justice to name but a few. These people know their stuff.
  • Music: Tony's knowledge of music is amazing. Some of his musical taste skews slightly old for me, but I like music and like to listen to people who are passionate about music.
  • American Idol: I don't watch American Idol, but I enjoy listening to Tony and his guests (including Lisa de Moraes) analyzing the show.
  • Current Events/Tony's life: The dude is neurotic, but I like his stories and his take on things.
Why do I mention this today? On, Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog had an entry Kornheiser Getting Ready for Radio Return. Oh happy day! I won't really believe it until I see the press release from WTEM that includes a specific start date and time, but this is definitely reason for optimism. Once he is back, I will watch Satchmo's show on News Channel 8 for:
  1. Updates from the front lines of the animal revolution
  2. Haikus
  3. The OPN
  4. Old Guy Radio
And remember. If you're out on your bike tonight, do wear white.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Music Monday: Music from Bobby, Part 2

My friend Bobby introduces me to great music. I have written about Music from Bobby before, but she keeps the music coming.

Wolf Parade
Album: Apologies to the Queen Mary
Videos: I'll Believe in Anything and Modern World
Powerful rock.

Modest Mouse
Album: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Videos: Dashboard and The World At Large and We've Got Everything
The energy reminds me of early XTC.

Mexican Institute of Sound
Video: A Girl Like You and Cha Cha No. 29
Fun, interesting music.