29 August 2008

I made a joke about Gov. Palin, and I think it's funny

"I know Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a friend of mine. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton."

I can't wait until the vice-presidential debate.

26 August 2008

"Am I Hot Or Not" -- nuns edition

An Italian priest says he is organising the world's first beauty pageant for nuns to erase a stereotype of them as being old and dour.
BBC News.

I've found a ton of links to news articles about the contest, but I can't find the blog itself. If you find it, please follow up here!

25 August 2008

Monday art house: greeting cards

Call it performance art. The American Family Association, which spends a lot of time focusing on gay people, has provided a quick and E-Z form to send outraged e-mail to the CEO of Hallmark for marketing "congratulations on your gay marriage" cards. But you can modify the text of the message to say whatever you want. Here's a suggestion:
Dear Chairman Hall:

I am surprised so very pleased that Hallmark is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle the recognition of same-sex unions which is illegal will surely soon be legalized in 48 states. There was a time Hallmark told us to send the very best. Sorry I'm very glad to see you have taken a giant step down forward. No more. Now, American Greeting Cards, your competitor, will be getting less of my business.
Have at it yourself and send your support letter today on AFA's dime! Then, when you're done, tell them you're a pastor and give them an e-mail address so you can hear about these alerts in future.

24 August 2008

The "What to Expect When You're Aborting" blog

Via the Abortion Clinic Days blog, What to Expect When You're Aborting. Start at the author's realization that she's pregnant ("fuck.") and then work your way backwards through her problematic visit to Planned Parenthood and the conversation with her dad. Her mindset is about as opposite from Juno as you can get.

Also, her morning sickness cure looks pretty much like what I ate throughout my entire pregnancy, even down to the brand of all-natural ginger ale. While I didn't have hyperemsis gravidarum, as a friend of mine did, I experienced "morning" sickness 24/7 until my ninth month. At which point it changed into constant heartburn. And people ask me why I never had a second baby.

(The name of the blog is a parody of the title to a well-known mainstream guide to pregnancy.)

22 August 2008

Friday jukebox: John Mellencamp

Rolled in last night from a few days out in Potter County, Pennsylvania. Coming out this side of the Lehigh Tunnel after a half-week up there is like entering a different country.

Dang, the city sure is noisy this morning.

18 August 2008

Monday art house: vacation

The daughter and I are off to north central Pennsylvania for a vacation in the woods. Though it's a mostly unstructured vacation, we do have a few activities planned: picking apples, fishing in pristine trout streams, and avoiding being shot or run over by gun-slinging ATV-driving wingnuts. We'll be roughing it at a friend's old family homestead, which he and his siblings and uncle use nowadays as a vacation cabin and hunting camp. No land line, no internet, no cell phone coverage. It's like paradise, this yearly unplugging from constantly being informed and updated. Except that it can get darn cold at night, even in August.

The last time he was up at the cabin, my friend saw 5 bears wandering in the hills around the house. That's about 6 bears too many for me, but I don't own my own vacation cabin, and beggars can't be choosers. We'll just have to build bigger campfires at night for the fish we catch.

On the way to the cabin is the fabulous metropolis of Coudersport, home of the Olga's Living with Art gallery and shop: hand-painted glass, fiber arts, pottery, and intricately painted Ukrainian eggs. The shop features a wider variety of work by Pennsylvania artists than what you usually see in my area, which is dominated by work by Pennsylvania Dutch artists or those working in that style. Which is very nice work, but you can have only so many hex signs tacked up to the garage and so much salt-glazed blue-hued pottery in your cabinets before it starts getting a little monotonous.

If you ever do the historic Pennsylvania Route 6 tour, a stop at Olga's Living with Art is probably worth your while. The building is just a block from the county courthouse, and Coudersport is a good place for lunch or dinner.

17 August 2008

Remember the anti-choice slippery slope

So John McCain and Barack Obama answered questions for right-wing religious zealot Rick Warren recently by appearing at a megachurch in California. Asked when a human being acquires human rights, McCain replied, "At the moment of conception."

But you have to remember what logically follows from that answer. (And note that these are hilarious questions to ask friends and family who assert the same or similar beliefs.)

If people have human rights from the moment of conception, then abortion must be murder, right? (Or simply: do you believe that abortion is murder?)

Murderers should be punished, correct?

Accessories to murder should be punished, correct?

Do you believe in the death penalty for murderers?

Do you believe in the death penalty for accessories to murder?

If a woman consents to an abortion, isn't she an accessory to murder? Should she be punished? Should she be imprisoned?

Aren't, then, her nurses or other medical professionals who assist the abortion provider accessories to murder? Should they be punished? Should they be imprisoned?

Aren't any friends or family members who help a woman travel to her abortion procedure and help her recover afterward accessories to murder? Should they be punished? Should they be imprisoned?

Do you know anyone who's had an abortion? Should she be punished as an accessory to murder? Should she be imprisoned? Dig the following 30-second video from Brazil, where abortion is legal only in cases of rape or where the woman's life is in danger, and a woman who gets an illegal abortion may be imprisoned for 3 years. Portuguese with English subtitles, and with narration in English:

I'm not just playing syllogistic games here. This actually is a black-and-white issue with no grays to it. A person who truly believes that a fertilized ovum possesses the full complement of human rights is being intellectually dishonest not to follow through and support the criminal prosecution of women who get abortions, their abortion providers, and anyone else who assists her.

15 August 2008

14 August 2008

Chinese girl lip-sychs singing in the opening ceremonies, and I'm OK with that

A lot of people are righteously angered that the little girl singing in the Olympics' opening ceremonies was actually lip-synching, because, according to officials, the real vocalist is not as cute.

You know what? That wasn't a terrible thing. It's show business. It happens all the time. The most "egregious" case is probably Marni Nixon, soprano and musical film star extraordinaire. Actors who have lip-synched to her voice include Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Deborah Kerr (at least twice), and Margaret O'Brien. Most of the time, she wasn't even credited.

Where's the outrage?

Oh, yeah, there is none, because it's show business. Both of these Chinese girls had their unique talents -- one is adorable and can skillfully lip-synch, and the other has a beautiful voice -- and the talents were put together for the show. Likewise, Audrey Hepburn could fake a Cockney accent just fine, but she couldn't sing her way out of a paper bag, as we all learned in Breakfast at Tiffany's. So, like the Chinese singer, Marni Nixon took one for the team (and a paycheck) by singing Hepburn's part in My Fair Lady. Nixon was and still is an accomplished actress on her own, as she demonstrated earlier this year by playing Professor Higgins's mother in a touring production of My Fair Lady.

Although, the conventional wisdom is that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences snubbed Hepburn for even a nomination for Best Actress as Eliza once word got around that she hadn't sung a single note herself in the film. But the scandal, if I may use that word to describe the situation, wasn't that Hepburn didn't sing her own songs. The problem was that Nixon's performance hadn't been credited. People were upset that the wool had been pulled over their eyes, not that Nixon had been considered too ugly to perform the role on-screen.

I think it's the same thing here. The issue isn't that the girl everybody saw wasn't truly singing. The only real issue is that nobody was upfront about it.

You know what was really worse, though -- when that little girl sang the French national anthem at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. She was six or something, a sweet tiny little girl, and here's my professional translation of some of the relevant lines of La Marseillaise:
The bloody flag of tyranny has been raised against us! (Contre nous de la tyrannie / l'Étendard sanglant est levé.)

[Our enemies] are coming among us to disembowel our children and our families! (Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras / Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes.)

I drink your milkshake! I drink it up! (Qu'un sang impur / Abreuve nos sillons.)
And that's just the first verse and refrain. Some of these lines are sung twice!

(Actually, I lied about that last line I quoted. The more correct English is, "May our neatly plowed fields slurp up the impure blood of our enemies.")

13 August 2008

Speaking of Kenzinger

Speaking of Kenzinger, I was at a bar last night where the bartender answered my date's request for two pints by saying, "Two Kennys, here you go."

I'm not sure if that's neat, or if the bartender was being oh-so-hipster.

But I do know that he was wearing earplugs, and today I'm sorry I wasn't.

12 August 2008

News flash: do the math, and buying in bulk doesn't save money

A Christian Science Monitor article on bulk warehouse food shopping explains the obvious concept that, if you buy more than you really need, but then you consume it faster (or let a portion of it spoil), then you're not saving any money. The article brings up two further points I'd like to highlight:
Often, prices are cheaper per unit at warehouse clubs, [Clarkson University Professor Larry Compeau] says. But they aren't always less, and customers may overspend because it's difficult to comparison shop between wholesale clubs and regular grocery stores.

Some stores reveal price per unit in terms of ounces, while others in pounds, or even by package. Going between grocery store and warehouse club "takes effort, and unless you have a photographic memory, memorizing even the dozen products you buy most often is a significant task. And if you can't remember it, you have to write the product price down at one store before you go shopping in another," he says.
Keeping a notebook of prices is a well-known and very effective frugal strategy. I don't keep one myself, because I find that, between the four grocery stores I can walk to, I can remember which one has the best produce and which one sells my toothpaste cheapest.

I think Compeau in the article there is referring to convenience foods (boxed macaroni and cheese, baking mixes, frozen dinners, bagged salads, etc.), frou-frou cleaning products (stuff above and beyond your basic ammonia, bleach, vinegar, scouring powder, cheap dish soap, and sponges), and other things I can't think of because I'm such an atypical consumer. I mean, I had to get something at KMart a few days ago -- only place in Center City where I can get a mattress pad and similar housewares -- and it's weird to me to see the aisles upon aisles of stuff that either I never, ever buy, or I never buy new. Scented candles, cases of blue sodapop, canned cheese, bubble bath, food storage bags, junk food and cookies, etc.

Though I admit I do buy cookies once in a while. It's more satisfying than I care to admit that Nestlé did not change the recipe for LU cookies when they bought the brand recently. As for McCormick when they bought Old Bay Seasoning from the Old Baltimore Spice Co. sometime in the 1990s: -shakes fist- Damn youuuu!

Anyway, my point is that, once you quit buying things you don't really need, and then move from name brand stuff to generic stuff, and then move from convenience foods to making foods from scratch, you don't need a bulk warehouse any more. You will automatically save money on your weekly groceries. The groceries that are "cheaper" at a bulk warehouse are almost solely name-brand convenience and junk foods.

And meats, from what I understand. The impression I get is that you can save a bundle on good cuts of meat at bulk warehouses, especially if you have a deep-freeze. But for myself, I went vegetarian in the early 1990s and started eating fish again only a few years ago. My local supermarket sells canned tuna at a deep discount a few times a year, so I buy a dozen cans when I spot the sale. While I'm certain that a bulk warehouse does better than that price as a rule -- unless it's only for the larger cans, which I don't use -- I can't otherwise justify a trip to the closest bulk warehouse.

Can I get a wild Alaskan salmon steak at the closest warehouse store? I'll do that as a treat for myself or guests once or twice a year. I wonder if they sell wild salmon or only the artificially colored farmed Atlantic salmon. But to continue:
Buying in bulk isn't always a bad idea, Compeau says. Shoppers probably won't roll through toilet paper any faster whether they have 30 rolls on hand or five. But overbuying food products often creates a different outcome.

"If you buy cases of soda, you're more likely to consume it faster than if you only have a six-pack," he says, adding that people consume a bounty of food more quickly than if they must conserve the same food product.
And this is why you should be able to buy beer by the six-pack in Pennsylvania, rather than having to get it a case at a time at a distributor. If I have six bottles of Rowhouse Red in the fridge, I'll have one with dinner. If I have a case of Kenzinger, though, I'll have two with dinner, a third while my daughter is taking her shower, and a fourth that makes me pass out before her bedtime.

'Cause I like Kenzinger a little better. It sure does taste good on a hot summer afternoon when I have to console myself at having blown almost all of my weekly food budget on farmer's market produce, and when I get maudlin about how nowadays Old Bay doesn't taste as good as it used to.

11 August 2008

Monday art house: Popeye

A pal of mine sent me a postcard from L.A., where his friend and writing partner is shooting a television show pilot. The show -- as far as I know -- has nothing to do with Popeye, but the postcard had a pair of early strips on it.

Here's what Popeye looked like when he first appeared in the 1930s:

And for anyone who's curious to know what I actually look like in real life:

08 August 2008

I think there's some big sporting event series starting today

As usual, I've been teased about my incredible, bad taste in music. While I make no apologies for my Friday jukebox choice this week, I will help the post move on down the screen by putting up some different eye candy. Barcelona, 1992:

Friday jukebox

Bryan Adams:

06 August 2008

Where helicopter parenting begins

Katie Allison Granju, author of Attachment Parenting, on exposing your kid to germs and letting her get hurt every once in a while:
[R]egular, old, everyday germs are good for kids. So is regular, old dirt, disappointment, boredom, frustration, conflict, and the occasional playground accident. All of these help children to develop their own coping skills, creative and spiritual core, and sense of self.

When parents micromanage children's lives, overly investing themselves in their kids, everyone loses. Mothers and fathers lose themselves in their roles as parents, while kids never find themselves.
Yesterday's Stepford Wives are today's helicopter parents.

Though, unlike Granju, I don't regularly hang with anyone who would buy a stroller from Bugaboo ($760) or Peg Pérego ($400) or Maclaren, where parenting is a "lifestyle" ($200). We went through three strollers with my daughter. One was a hand-me-down and the other two were $15 consignment-shop specials. The last one wore out about the same time my daughter grew too big to ride in it.

Speaking of which, I live near a well-known historical area here in Philadelphia, so on some days I see literally hundreds of tourists -- and some of 'em have kids who are so big for their strollers that they're folded into them like frogs. I guess when I was a kid on vacation I complained as loudly as the next kid about having to walk around all the time, but c'mon! Kid turns 3 or 4, and kid can leave the stroller behind!

My point, and I do have one, is two-fold. First, I wish I had enough money that I could drop several hundred dollars on a childcare accessory that I would use for 3 to 4 years per child. If I did, my daughter's college fund (not to mention my IRA) would be much larger than it is at the moment. And second, I want to make it clear that I don't actually want my daughter to break her other arm when we go up to the mountains again later this month for vacation. Last year's tumble out of the apple tree was enough.

Chevrolet includes electronic tire pressure monitors in its vehicles

Guess who told me on the radio this morning that I should keep my tires correctly inflated to help maximize fuel efficiency? Chevy, that's who, and they directed me to their website. You can tell the conservation information is for real because the web page theme is green:

(Click to embiggen.)

It's in the last paragraph:
Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by up to 3%. . . . Seems small, but if everyone in the U.S. had properly inflated tires, we could save millions of gallons of gas each year.
Why does Chevrolet hate America?

05 August 2008

Accountability at Philadelphia DHS; with luck, 34 South 11th Street will follow

"If you are not prepared to take the action that needs to be taken, if you cannot keep up and stay on top of things, then you should leave this city government right now. We don't need you, and we don't want you."
Today, Mayor Michael Nutter announced that as of yesterday he's suspended 7 employees, all management-level, at DHS. The suspensions follow resignations and criminal charges arising from the Danieal Kelly case (do not read).

I don't think a lot of public employees in Philadelphia know what accountability means. I've worked at Family Court at 34 South 11th Street, and I've worked at City Hall. I use SEPTA buses and subways daily in town, and I use the regional rail to get to various suburban destinations a couple of times per month. Whatever kind of active dysfunction that could possibly exist in an organization, you find it in Philadelphia city government and the other regional authorities here. Whether Peter Principle, nepotism, institutional inertia, turf wars, resentment at other workers who make you look bad because they simply do their job while you sit on your ass and collect your paycheck and health insurance -- it's all here, often in combination in a single office.

No one ever gets fired, and a negative evaluation of a worker means nothing. Letters to SEPTA customer service must be placed in a specially designated circular file, for all the change they effect. Ticket agents are still rude and still can't do math.

And I hope you never have to try to get a Protection from Abuse order in Philadelphia. First, you go to 34 S. 11th St., where the security guards are unintelligible (or inexplicably rude when they are intelligible). You navigate a warren of corridors with misleading signage to find the correct waiting room, which smells of cigarettes because city workers smoke in their cubes behind the security door. You wait your turn and then fill out the form with a largely unhelpful and unsympathetic city employee -- note that a lot of women come in with limps and fresh bruises -- and then you wait. You wait hours for the paperwork to be transferred to the judge down the hall. In the meantime, the clerks smoke more cigarettes and the judge goes to lunch. If you leave, you may miss getting your paperwork back, and you'll have to start the entire process over again. If you stay, you can't eat, because no food or drink is allowed in the waiting room. Note also that a lot of women, along with their limps and bruises, must bring their children along with them. There's no nursery; the bathroom by the elevators is filthy and outdated; and you can't have food with you.

When you get your paperwork back, though, you don't have a Protection from Abuse order. You have to serve the papers on the person you're taking the order out on, so that he knows to come to court for the hearing where you're pleading for the actual order. Got that? You've been beaten up, and now you have to go find the abuser and personally serve papers on him.

Philadelphia is the only major city in the country that requires you to do that. Everywhere else, either you get the order right away because your bruises and your story are plausible enough, or you can serve the abuser by mail or the sheriff will serve him for you.

Why is there no electronic transfer of paperwork between the clerks and the judges? Why is there no judge or master seated 24/7 to hold hearings immediately? Why is there no nursery? Why is no food allowed in the waiting room? If food can't be allowed, why not have a cafeteria or vending machines? Why do abused women have to serve papers on their abusers in person?

Nothing at 34 S. 11th St. has changed in decades because there's been no accountability in Philadelphia city government. And the clerks and judges there don't want people to know how horrible the situation is, to the point where they won't let law students help abused women fill out their petitions for Protection from Abuse orders. Students are allowed only to give out information about shelters and agencies and listen to horror stories. And court employees come over to the student table and "test" the students by asking, for example, if it's possible to get a Protection from Abuse order against a rowdy neighbor. (Answer: no, you go next door to get a restraining order.)

Family Court at 34 S. 11th St.: Outdated facility, turf wars between departments, resentment at workers who actually do their job, and institutional inertia against improvement and change. Plus abject fear that people outside the building will find out how bad the situation is. It can't possibly be a surprise that DHS was -- and is -- any different.

I say "is" because yesterday's suspensions came from the mayor, when they should have come from DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose on the day she was hired. Ambrose wept during the grand jury indictment press conference. That's sweet. But what was she doing in June and July? She should have been firing people left and right. She should have fired every last person who was involved in Danieal Kelly's file.

04 August 2008

Disney princess P.S.

I'm terribly disappointed that I got no fan mail regarding the toothless love child of Jiminy Cricket and Uncle Remus in Saturday's post about the newest Disney princess.

Monday art house: SEPTA follies

Groovy old photo from Wikipedia. Philadelphia, like many cities, used to be crawling with trolleys. Then General Motors racketeered buses into cities for the low, low cost of $5000, and the federal government started tying transportation funding solely to the building of highways. Bye-bye, trolleys!

SEPTA has refurbished a few old-timey trolleys like this one and is running them on Girard Avenue. They're neat to look at from the outside; but inside it's harder to see the cross streets than when you're in a modern trolley or a bus, with larger windows.

My day got started a little late this morning after I dropped off my daughter at day camp, off Girard Avenue. On my way to work, I accidentally got on a Broad-Ridge Spur train, because (1) I hadn't remembered that the Spur served that stop at all; (2) the train was on the express track, so I thought I would be saving a couple of minutes on my way back to Center City; (3) there was no announcement, neither from the bizarre new automated recording nor from the train operator; and (4) I didn't notice the light configuration on the front and sides of the train. I didn't realize what I'd done until the train stopped at Fairmount, a local-only stop, and the doors opened on the "wrong" side. Next stop: Chinatown!

I've taken the Spur on purpose once or twice. The abandoned Spring Garden station is a hoot of graffiti and spooky corners. Today it made me even later for work than I already was, since my daughter is at a different camp this week.

I didn't know that Spur goes all the way north; I thought it terminated at Temple University. I knew that there is no free interchange with the El at the Spur's 8th Street terminus -- it should be done, but it looks like a heck of an infrastructure problem to solve. What I didn't know is that you can't use a 75-cent transfer from the El to the Spur. There was a sign in the SEPTA fare window that said something like "No Market-Frankford transfer accepted here." You have to use a pass, another $1.45 token, or another full $2.00 fare.

That's criminal, or at least nonsensical. I mean, it was a handwritten sign, so maybe it was just the window agent. But the sign didn't look new, and ragged, sub-literate, handwritten signs are kinda par for the course in SEPTA windows. But still, who takes the Spur? Poor people from North Philadelphia, that's who. Temple students and workers; people who mistake it for an express train because it uses the same tracks where the non-Spur BSL lines run; and low-wage workers at the Gallery. Of course, if you get a weekly or monthly pass, then you don't have to buy transfers or subsequent fares at all. But still.

SEPTA is its own racketeering conspiracy that merely fills the void of the National City Lines holding company. It'll never change. But it's too bad and really weird that you can't use a transfer between the El and the Spur.

02 August 2008

Disney's kidding me, right?

Next year, Disney will be releasing an animated musical version of the old fairy tale "The Frog Prince." The company's original plan was to (1) use the title The Frog Princess; (2) make the girl an African-American servant to a young white woman; (3) name the girl "Maddy"; and (4) set the film in 1920s New Orleans.

First of all, recall that the girl in Walter Crane's "The Frog Prince" was a king's daughter. She was the youngest of three daughters, and she was the most beautiful. While the Brothers Grimm don't include siblings, in both versions, it wasn't the princess who had frog-body-image issues. But Disney, which apparently has been living under a rock since Song of the South, the intervening year of 1964, and Condoleezza Rice's becoming Secretary of freaking State, modernized and improved the story by making the girl a black chambermaid and using the working title of The Frog Princess.

Imagine pitching that with a straight face. She's a servant, see, and she's Disney's first African-American princess. It worked for Cinderella, right? An evil stepmother keeping her stepdaughter from going to the ball is just the same as a young white American woman ordering around her black servant, right? It's not like we're setting this during the antebellum era or anything.

So someone fussed that the girl's name, "Maddy," was too close to "Mammy," and now she'll be named "Tiana." Someone else must have fussed that, in the source story, the girl starts as an actual princess, not a servant, so now rumor has it that Tiana will, in fact, be a princess. Only she'll be from another country, since we don't have titled nobility here.

Query why Disney imports royalty for its version of the story, rather than make Tiana the daughter of a wealthy Creole family in New Orleans. Or why not put our heroine in the Harlem Renaissance? (Though, of course, using the word heroine begs the question of whether Disney ever creates heroines, as opposed to princesses.)

Don't get me wrong. It's great that Disney, for the first time in its 85-year history, is giving the princess role to an African-American girl. I mean, leaving the issue of the character's anorexic-Barbie proportions for another day, it's nice to see the studio recognize the largest ethnic minority in the country, now that they've portrayed brunette, blonde, redhead, auburn, American Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern princesses. And then, when they've strayed into non-princess stories, they've gone with dysfunctional Hawai'ian sisters without parents, orphaned witches, and, and, well, I was going to reference The Emperor's New Groove, but not only does it have only a vague ancient Incan setting, but also it's about a prince, not a princess. I'm left wondering how many other ethnicities Disney was afraid to snub before they decided it was time to give an African-American girl a tiara.

If nothing else, imagine the economic opportunity loss in the past 10-odd years since the characters have been marketed as a group of princesses!

Apparently, the next princess movies scheduled to come down the Disney pipeline are Rapunzel and then some Scottish tale. No Latino or -- forgive me -- Jewish princesses in sight.

One last point. Disney also changed the film's title to The Princess and the Frog, because apparently The Frog Princess -- and remember, in the source story, it was never the princess who was turned into a frog -- is offensive to the French. Is it just me, or is that only offensive to the French if you think the French are too stupid to understand that the word frog in this context is referring to a fairly tale first published by Crane in 1874 -- and the Brothers Grimm in 1812? The French know the story as well as we do, after all. France, being right next to Germany, has had access to German literature since long before a German invented the printing press. They call it "Le Prince grenouille," and it's so commonly recognized a title that someone's even named their hotel after it.

But I digress. Dig the teaser trailer for The Princess and the Frog:

Jumping Jehosaphat on a pogo stick -- that firefly! It's the toothless love child of Jiminy Cricket and Uncle Remus! This is "respect and sensitivity"?

01 August 2008

Friday jukebox: The Tragically Hip

"Last American Exit"

Right-wing blogger: 11 dead American soldiers = continued success

Dan Cirucci headlines a blog post as "Iraq: Continued Success."

The first phrase of the post: "Eleven US soldiers were killed in Iraq in July[.]"

It takes a sick mind to think that 11 American deaths are indicative of success. General David Petraeus, quoted further on in the article, characterizes the death toll as merely "a level of normal or latent violence" showing "a degree of durability." That is, the rate of soldiers' deaths may be down to 11 per month, but it's likely to stay there.

This is how a conservative defines success?

What about Afghanistan, Dan? Do you call 20 American servicemembers killed before the end of July success, too?

Grand jury indictment of 9 after gruesome child neglect death in Philly

Do yourself a favor and do not read yesterday's grand jury indictment (263-page PDF with pictures). It's a case about the parents and social services workers of a 14-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was found dead, starved, covered with bedsores, and probably eyebrow-waxed, in a windowless bedroom during a 2006 heatwave in Philadelphia.

Honestly, how many more kids have to die under the watch of DHS and its trained monkey subcontractor, MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, before the organizations are keel-hauled and replaced? Poor Joshua!