Posts tagged ‘china’

California Supreme Court backs gay marriage! and other news, too

Whoa! It seems I was totally wrong when I expected the California Supreme Court to uphold the ban on gay marriage. Instead, they struck down the ban as unconstitutional, allowing same sex marriage in the state. Conservatives are already rallying to try to get a constitutional amendment banning it on the ballots in November, but it seems pretty unlikely that they’d be able to get the two thirds majority needed to pass it. Edit: it only takes a simple majority, which seems much easier. I don’t know if it is likely to pass. Hooray, progress!

Also, there is currently some finegaling in Congress these days over funding the Iraq invasion. It would be awesome if the legislators finally grew a spine and started passing bills that would, you know, stop wars of aggression and ban torture and provide education and medical benefits to veterans (admittedly, that last one is not related to Congress, but it’s despicable enough to mention along with the rest of this crap). but unfortunately I doubt this will actually go anywhere, and even if it did, Bush would almost certainly veto any such measure.

In natural disaster news, the cyclone that hit Burma and the earthquake in China have each left tens of thousands dead. Burma is in trouble because it is a poor country that doesn’t have the infrastructure to help the refugees or to rescue the people still trapped. China is in trouble because the areas worst hit are in hard-to-reach mountainous areas, and the earthquake coupled with heavy rains the next day wiped out most of the roads and airports, so it’s hard to send aid to the victims.

Hooray, getting my blog back onto the “Civil Liberties and World News” bit, rather than the “and computer science and stuff” part. I had begun to wonder if I needed to change the title of this blog.

News dump

There’s been a lot of news recently, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

Despite the inaction of the country as a whole, the western states have banded together to reduce carbon emissions, thereby joining the rest of the world in combating global warming. It’s pretty cool to watch the whole world (with a couple idiotic exceptions) come together to work on this stuff.

A battle has moved through the British courts over how far the freedom of the press extends: there is currently a scandal over a deal made by Tony Blair’s fundraisers, wherein they offered honours to various people in exchange for off-the-record loans during the campaign season, and then tried to cover up the whole thing. The government, claiming it would mess up the police investigation of the events, repeatedly tried to bar newspapers from discussing the evidence. However, it looks like the high court has sided with the press, and they can publish stories about the scandal. Much of this hinges on an email between Lord Levy and Ms. Turner discussing their deal, but I can’t seem to find a copy of the text online. I suspect this will damage even Tony Blair’s reputation, though I could be wrong about that.

Speaking of scandals and cover-ups, “Scooter” Libby has been found guilty of obstructing justice in the whole CIA leak thing (remember, the one with Valerie Plame?). It’s nice to see that his comeuppance has arrived, but it’s kinda too bad that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald couldn’t get enough evidence to try others; I strongly suspect Libby was the “fall guy,” and there are others who are equally guilty but will go free.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have been trying to put a timetable on the Iraq war and bring our troops home before Bush leaves the oval office. I strongly doubt this will actually happen, but it’s nice to see that they’re trying to hold him accountable, if only symbolically.

As usual, Bush has been greeted with violent protests every where he goes, because most of the world is reasonable and sees this man is a greedy warmonger. This is happening pretty consistently across all of Latin America, on top of Hugo Chavez’s scathing words against him (Bush is on a tour of the area at the moment).

Finally, the UN is beginning to consider an embargo against Iran over its nuclear programme, but China and Russia are expressing their doubts. We’ll see what happens, but Iran will probably not be faced with strong penalties.

As always, remember to use BugMeNot if you can’t access these or other articles.

News and typesetting snobbery

It’s worth noting that China has frozen Korean money transfers in protest over North Korea’s recent missile tests. I’m a bit surprised that China is willing to take such a strong action against what I thought was a close ally.

The more interesting news is that more chinks in the Bush administration’s monolithic confidence over Iraq are beginning to emerge. October, despite the observance of Ramadan, is already the most deadly month in Iraq for US troops since April. Most importantly, American diplomat Alberto Fernandez told al-Jazeera that the US acted with “arrogance and stupidity” in Iraq, and is now in a nigh unwinnable position. He was later forced to retract his position. The White House seems to be claiming that his statement was a mistranslation, despite the fact that Fernandez is fluent in Arabic (and presumably English, too).

Finally, I give you a history of Arial and Helvetica fonts, including a reason to like Helvetica and dislike Arial (Helvetica:Arial::Java:Javascript, one might say). I also include a guide to spotting the differences between the two. This was brought to my attention on the tex_latex community. I feel weird saying this, but it’s kinda fun being a typesetting snob and noticing the papers that lack ligatures and do paragraph/page spacing wrong.

Some not-so-bad news

Today the Senate voted down a gay marriage amendment, 49-48 (it needed 60 votes) (thanks to mikasaur2000 for the link to the article, which is a rather good one). I watched the Daily Show yesterday, in which John Stewart debated the topic with Bill Bennett and made some excellent points. For instance, Mr. Bennett claimed that marriage was threatened by this, and gave a slippery slope argument that if we allow gay marriage, we might eventually need to allow polygamy and other commonly disliked practices (he also noted that in every religion and culture, marriage is between men and women). Stewart turned this around and made the opposite slippery slope: if the government can ban gay marriage, they could then go further and ban interracial marriages (which are also looked down upon in almost every religion and culture).

The thing that bugs me about this issue is that proponents of such an amendment say it’s necessary because otherwise judges will strike down the current laws banning gay marriage as unconstitutional. If such laws are unconstitutional, my first impulse is not to change the constitution to fit my whims, but to question my viewpoint and wonder if it could be incorrect. Imagine what would have happened if, instead of fighting a civil war, the government had simply made a constitutional amendment to allow slavery, since the majority of the country at the time was for slavery but could see a vocal and growing number of people opposing it? If we can make constitutional amendments for laws that would otherwise be unconstitutional, what keeps us from making constitutional amendments for all laws? It seems like the proponents of the ban are attempting to keep the courts out of the battle because they know the courts will strike down any such law, and that by making a constitutional ban, they can circumvent the courts entirely.

On an interesting but less significant note, China seems to be blocking Google and a number of other websites from the outside world. Although this in itself is not new, this time they’re causing a lot of inconvenience and people are starting to complain. In particular, Google has been censoring the results on but not on (which until now could still be accessed from China). This is certainly not a surprise, but it’s interesting to note that this is starting to stir up a lot of discontent.

With any luck, there will be more news posts now that summer is in full swing.

With Liberty and Justice For All?

It’s now all but official. The government can detain people indefinitely, without charging them, without giving them a trial, even if they are an American citizen arrested in America. Ironically enough, today China agreed to improve its human rights record.