Archive for June, 2008

Our tireless constitutional watch dogs, sitting in droopy robes within their Greco-Roman temple to the venerable 1787 document, decided yesterday that gun restriction laws written to protect people over the past 127 years may be moot. According to Justice Antonin Scalia, issuing the majority opinion,

“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. [Our heroes] BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined.”

National Rifle Association VP Wayne LaPierre heaped another stone on the grave of the word “freedom,” so descrecrated by this administration and its Operation we supposedly accomplished five years ago, in saying:

“This is a great moment in American history. It vindicates individual Americans all over this country who have always known that this is their freedom worth protecting.”

Dear Justices, please come visit scenic East Baltimore and tell us what freedom handguns bring.

My invitation to Justice Scalia et al: Visit Baltimore, and explore the rights our firearms have brought us. Your field trip starts just one street east of the Baltimore Block, on Guilford or Greenmount. Wander up north, admiring distressed woodwork covering windows, and the flair of graffiti on vacant storefronts. Wave to folks enjoying a refreshing beverage in brown paper; observe entrepreneurial activity on the corner. With few inhabitants left, your walk will offer you quiet, if not peace, a startling contrast from bustling northwest Washington.

Baltimore was one of the biggest 10 American cities until 1980. Then, the people bleed beginning wtih the violent riots of 1968 began to accelerate. from 1990-2000, Charm City lost more than 84,000 people. We’re down to a brave 631,000 souls.

Where have all the people gone? Each year during the 1990s, more than 300 people were killed here. Black people, white people, anyone who could get out, left dodging bullets.

Wait, bullets from guns? Don’t guns protect us and ensure our freedom?

Let’s put the sarcasm on ice and eyeball some numbers… According to the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, there is a gun in one in four households. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1.3 million crimes are committed with guns every year. There are about 108,000 defensive uses of guns recorded.

Another number: #1 level of gun violence of all developed countries in the world. Our rates are nearly as high as murderous, impoverished South Africa and historically drug-addled Colombia. 

Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and sympathizers: Welcome to Baltimore. Pack a thick vest.


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Block Women for Change?

My daily email from Jon Carson is asking me to join in a Unite for Change house meeting near me, this Saturday, June 28. He linked to a video dispatch from Sr. Obama explaining that we can help them turn out independents, and even those voted for an alternate Democratic candidate in the primaries. Carson, the National Field Director for Obama for America, invited me to browse through Change We Believe in to see which of 3000 national events are in my area. Well, there are 424–no, 531 (the count just went up, I swear)–events within 100 miles of 21202, including phone banking, fundraising and house parties. And you can host your own event, for example, a Women for Obama House Party. How cool would that be? An excuse to barbecue again? A slip and slide block party? Or we could have a strategy-filled Obama-tea party.

Update: The Patapsco River Power Squadron thought of this idea first. They are having a “Politics, Women and Tea: The Perfect Blend” fundraising summit in Riviera Beach, Maryland. If I knew where that was I might crash.

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India Blogs

One of the most fun winter weekends I spent this year was inside a North Carolina biotech facility [cue geeky snort]. The Science Blogging conference in Research Triangle Park was one of those rare meetings-of-minds where you shovel in ideas faster than the barbecue chicken served at dinner. Participants were either bloggers, researchers, journalists, or advocates, and I (like many people) benefited hugely as a hybrid of all four categories.

Today on Global Voices Online I read a synopsis by Amit Gupta of a similar meeting in New Delhi, an inaugural BlogCamporganized by the Indian Blog and New Media Society and sponsored by Microsoft India. This camp is part of a network of “user-generated conferences” (more often called Un-conferences) focusing on new web applications, open-source technology and other second generation web tools.

Organizers invited bloggers to bring laptops, ideas, and free accounts “for that new app you just launched.” Like the organizers of Science Blogging ’08, they created a conference wiki for the community to update.

Abhishek Kent from Microsoft India presented on Corporate Blogging Strategy (I could have benefited from this talk at my last gig) and others talked about Open Access, marketing blogs, Twitter, and Search Engine Optimization.

Those attending marveled that most people didn’t skip sessions, amazing considering even Bollywood films don’t keep audiences in their seat.

Clearly, the topic has weight. On the subject of Bollywood, recent celebrity news has focused on superstars who blog, witness cricket-blogger Shah Rukh Khan, “Big B” Amitabh Bachchan, and the “Bollywood bad boy” Salman Khan.

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Passion for Pitango

When it comes to frozen sweets, TangySweet has cornered the market for trendy toppings with its expansive/expensive spread of berries, kid cereal and coconut. TangySweet, as many Washington ladies have discovered, makes a great accessory on 95 degree Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, on such days, it disintegrates rapidly into syrupy, iridescent glop.

Yesterday, I rediscovered the creamy, sweet gelato know as Pitango (sounds like tango… coincidence?) , which makes me want to jump up and click my heels together. You can buy it on Broadway in Fell’s Point, but plunk down your change only after sampling, uber-fresh Banana, orange peel-tinged Creme, or velvety Pistacchio… And on and on (unlimited sampling beckons, my friends). The $4.50 regular size goes a long way, possibly towards Salvation. It’s made locally, on a Pennsylvania farm called Spring Wood Organic Farm. Roman Stoltzfoos, the proprietor, seems to have cute offspring.

But the taste… Could it be the grass-fed, organic milk used within? The Illy beans in the coffee flavor? That Ecuadorian organic chocolate, the Bronte pistaccios flown in from Italy (ooh, food miles)?

Those on the Baltimore Block can buy it at Iggie’s.

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Click for the source of this ungodly image

Sometimes news headlines are so surreal you have to wonder if you are reading fake news or genuine reporting. An example of the gray area between these two poles is this recent report from Reuters, “Johnny won’t sing for McCain,” that John McCain has dumped the Chuck Berry song he had been using for his campaign theme, “Johnny B. Goode” after Berry came out in support of McCain’s rival.

McCain had apparently looked to ABBA, adopting “Take a Chance on Me” as his campaign theme. According to ABC News, he “pumps himself up” by listening to the Swedish pop group’s 1977 hit song before big speeches.

Aside from the weakness conveyed in this slogan, it appears that the Swedes aren’t keen on McCain either. “It’s my understanding [Abba] went berserk,” said the 72 year-old politician, according to the London newspaper the Independent.

In related news, ThingsYoungerThanMcCain.com reports that the LP, invented in 1948, is younger than John McCain.

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Ladies of the Block (the Calvert Block!): For a fun time, log in to see what people search for to wind up here, on our Baltimore Block blog. Pretty cool. “images of dogs eating poop” was a popular one for today. Yum, Frosty!

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The Frosty, Reinvented?

Frosty heaven

Just when I thought my Frosty obsession couldn’t get worse (Nahyun can vouch for my single-mindedness when it comes to finding an “Old Fashioned” drive-through) I see Wendy’s has introduced Frosty Shakes, “Hand-spun just for you.” How did they know to find me? Normally, the pop-up ads in my yahoo email account are easily ignored, but this giant strawberry colored stuff brimming at the top of a jumbo plastic cup trumpeted for my attention, and I found myself clicking through to Wendy’s homepage. A classic 5pm workday mistake!

[Sidebar: On the agenda today there is, or was, the “hot vinyasa” class at Midtown for which I so do not need to have Frosty in my belly. In fact, it would be to the detriment of the entire class.]

To top it off (apart from whipped cream), Dave Thomas is giving $.50 of every Frosty purchased this weekend to foster children. Your Frosty can “Warm a Child’s Heart.”

Now all I can see is slithering chocolate treats beckoning through the sweaty summer afternoon, the withering cup with delecate beading, the impotent straw (as we all know, the Frosty consistency does not lend itself to straw-sucking). Will it be a Frosty “Classic”? Frosty Shake–whipped with fresh cocoa!–the new-classic Float, or the “Twisted” McFlurry knock off?  

Did I mention I already had Ben & Jerry’s for lunch?

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