Yahya Jammeh came to be head of state of The Gambia in 1994 through a bloodless and possibly accidental coup. His regime has become increasingly paranoid and repressive. About a year ago, Jammeh issued a decree that any hotel housing a homosexual would be closed and any homosexuals found discovered in The Gambia would be beheaded. Jammeh has always been obsessed with juju (aka black magic or witch craft). He has recently become convinced that his aunt was killed by witchcraft early this year and has launched a broad campaign of retribution among his own people.

Up to 1,000 people have been kidnapped… since early February and taken to detention centres or to [President Yahya Jameh’s] farm in Kanilai, accompanied by the President’s personal protection guards, the police and the army, according to an Amnesty International communiqué released on 18 March.

Amnesty says in its communiqué that witch doctors were invited to Gambia in early 2009 soon after the death of President Jammeh’s aunt; the President reportedly believes witchcraft was used in her death.

Victims [say] they were held for up to five days and forced to drink herbal concoctions that made them hallucinate. Many said they were severely beaten, some at gunpoint, in many cases nearly to death.

“I was among several villagers who were forcefully abducted from home by a group of armed soldiers and some civilians on 9 March,” Kebba Saneh from Makumbaya village in Kombo district told IRIN. “I was forced to drink drugs which made me unconscious. There was no way we could try to escape.”

read the full report at iriniews.org

Sometimes the great Google overmind does the cutest things. See here where it gathered together stories about mental patients being released early and put a nice photo of President George W. Bush right next to them as an illustration.


Via the Daily WTF.

Orwelian Propaganda

December 14, 2008

I heard this on the NPR news quiz, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”  bluff the listener game. I thought it was a joke, but it’s real: “Frosty the Coal Man”!

There is a coal industry lobby group that is attempting to “green wash” coal via new lyrics to the classic and beloved Frosty the Snowman song.

Disturbing stuff. It turns out that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity received so many complaints about their desecration of Frosty, that they pulled the anthracite carolers from their website but not before they were immortalized on YouTube.

This is America, Jack. How dare you defile my childhood animated winter TV special?

The Atheist Song

December 3, 2008

Lyrics by Don Davis

There are a lot of songs about religious holidays out there,
But not a single one about Atheism!
So I wrote a song for all those nice little atheist Kids, who don’t get to hear any atheist songs 
God help us, here we go:

Put away your faitheism, here comes atheism
Just because you’re secular, you shouldn’t have to risk your neckula
 Atheism is, the festival of Enlightenment,
 Unlike many religions, it doesn’t depend on crazy enfrightenment
So when you feel like the only kid in town, without a God-like idol,
Here’s a list of famous atheists, so you don’t feel sui-cidal:
 Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison, the Fathers of Invention,
 Also Sigmund Freud, who discovered anal retention
The Piano Man, Billy Joel, refused to join a sect
Now we know why Rodney Dangerfield, never got any respect
Angelina Jolie, astronomer Carl Sagan
Put them together– not a bad-looking pagan [Sagan was really agnostic]
You don’t need a bar- mitzvah, or even baptizm
Cause you can get blessed — by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens
Put away your faitheism, here comes atheism
Tell your friends the atheists, come out of the closet like the gaytheists
Many people think, that Atheists are wusses,
Just tell it to Bruce Lee, though dead, he’ll still kick you in your pusses
OJ Simpson, not an atheist, not that we can tell
But even atheists pray, that Juice is goin’ straight to hell!
 Some folks also claim that atheism’s looney
 They point to all the heathens, arranged on the desk of Andy Rooney
So many Atheists, are in show biz or the arts
They simply don’t believe, that thunder represents God’s farts
Tell your friend Huckabee, don’t be a shmuckabee
I hope you don’t get pissed, cause I’m a secular humanist
So eat your Jesus-shaped toast
And worship your plastic Buddha
I’ll just pray to Bill Maher
Who I’ve carved out of Gouda
Have a happy, happy, happy, happy, ATHEISM!

From SatiricalPolitical.

Previously, I wrote about the color rules in the FCI standard for the Azawakh breed. The FCI or Fédération Cynologique Internationale is the governing body for purebred dog standards throughout Europe and most countries. At a high level, the way this works is the main body sets standards and policies in Belgium and then member kennel clubs in each country administer a registry. The big exception is the USA and England which have their own kennel clubs which set their own breed standards. I don’t know this definitively, but I’m guessing that since the Kennel Club (KC) and American Kennel Club (AKC) were founded in the 1890s by a number of uptight pretentious men they had very little interest in taking orders from a wholly separate set of uptight European pretentious men who only got around to organizing themselves in the 20th century.

The point I’m getting at here is that the AKC and KC can have totally different rules and standards for a breed than the FCI. In fact, they don’t even have to recognize the same breeds as the FCI.

Take Azawakh, for example.

The FCI recognizes Azawakh as an official breed with a rigid standard. The AKC recognizes Azawakh as a rare (foundation stock) breed which cannot even be shown in regular dog shows. The status as a foundation stock breed means that things like the registry and conformation standard for the Azawakh are in flux with the AKC and considered fungible. Some things have already been changed relative to the FCI standard: colors, for example.

The standard proposed by the American Azawakh Association for use by the AKC is the same as the FCI standard except where colors are concerned.

FCI Standard

Color: Fawn with flecking limited to the extremities. All shades are admitted from clear sand to dark red. The head may or may not have a black mask and the list is very inconsistent. The coat includes a white bib and a white brush at the tip of the tail. Each of the four limbs must have compulsorily a white “stocking”, at least in the shape of tracing on the foot. Black brindles are allowed.

Eliminating faults:

Absence of any white marking at the extremity of one or more limbs.
Light eyes; ie. bird of prey eyes.

Proposed AKC Standard

Color: Fawn, clear sand to dark fawn, brindle, white, black, grey, blue, grizzle, parti-color, and all shades of brown to include chocolate. The head may or may not have a black mask. There may be white markings on the legs, bib and at the tip of tail.

Eliminating faults:

Absence of any white marking at the extremity of one or more limbs.
Light eyes; ie. bird of prey eyes.

The standard proposed for the AKC is much better that the FCI one. Since it now includes everything but the kitchen sink, is it even meaningful or is it just a complicated tangle of words that nobody can possibly remember? Also, there are combinations of acceptable colors that would guarantee the eliminating fault of “light eyes”, such as homozygous blue dilution with homozygous liver (dd + bb). The light eye prohibition seems to be baseless.

Field studies conducted by ABIS have found that there Kel Tamasheq do not systematically select for particular colors. It seems to me that we should adopt the same lack of criteria. After all, the dogs are much more theirs than ours. 

Color is a distraction that shouldn’t be driving the selection of Azawakh. I propose a straightforward and easy to remembe simplification that would make color a non-issue.

Straightforward Standard

Color: Any color combination is acceptable.

Eliminating faults:

Absence of any white marking at the extremity of one or more limbs.
Light eyes; ie. bird of prey eyes.


The Obama’s have chosen to send their two daughters to Sidwell Friends School, which is a great school and the same one that Chelsea Clinton attended. Sidwell has a lower and upper school campuses they offer Quaker education from K through High School. The other Quaker school in town is the School for Friends preschool which offers early childhood education through pre-K, also.

Our children attend/attended School for Friends and I can’t say enough good things about School for Friends and its director Jim Clay. It is a wonderful place where children blossom. I’m told that Sidwell is also a great school. There’s just one major difference. Sidwell is an “elite” school and the tuition is eye-popping.

Last year we were looking at kindergartens for our older daughter. Our local in-district public school is deplorable on every level. We looked at private school programs and were shocked at the expense. Sidwell topped the list at roughly $26,000/yr plus the expectation of donations. Sidwell is setting the trend. Other schools have tuition within 10% of the ceiling set by Sidwell. The really frightening thing is that tuition prices are rising at about 10% a year, well above the rate of inflation and certainly faster than our salaries could possibly increase. This year the tuition to the lower school is $28,500 and for the upper school it is $29,500. “Aftercare” programs are additional. If you and your spouse/partner have jobs that will not allow you to pick up your children at 3pm then factor in another $10,000 – $15,000.

In DC, the real estate prices are so high that a small three bedroom 16,000 square foot town house is a minimum of $450,000 in a bad neighborhood and more likely $600,000 to $800,000. That translates into mortgage payments of $3,000 to $5,000 per month. Sending one child to a private school like Sidwell amounts to payments of about $3,000 per month. Two children, is $6,000. For a family with two children, that’s about $10,000 per month just for housing and school. That’s $120,000 after taxes which requires a combined pre-tax salary of $160,000 just to pay for school and housing. We haven’t taken into account health/life insurance, car payments, fuel, utilities, food, clothing or entertainment. Let’s peg those items at a minimum of $3000 per month at DC prices or $36,000 per year.

Basically in order to send two kids to private school while living in DC, you have a household income of over $200,000 per year. Even that number is optimistic because it means that you have zero savings for anything, including retirement. If, like the vast majority of DC residents, you make less than $200,000 and you cannot get your children into one of the good public schools, then you have no choice but to leave the city. The deplorable state of DC public schools and the impressive expense of private schools are forcing a steady exodus of young and talented families from the city out to Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, MD.

I had a small hope that if the Obamas put their children into a public school, then it would have put wind into the sails of public school reform, but that clearly isn’t going to happen.

Ted Stevens is Gone

November 20, 2008

Ted Stevens will not be returning to Washington. It’s the end of an era and I am not nostalgic.

After more than two weeks of ballot counting, it’s now clear that senator Ted Stevens will not be returning to Washington. That lets the Republican senate caucus off the hook a bit. It was looking like they might have to decide whether to kick the guy out or filibuster to keep a convicted felon in his seat.

I guess I’m happy at this little piece of sanity. It means that even in Alasksa a majority of people don’t want a felon to represent them. By his own description Stevens has always been a “mean, miserable SOB”. I’m not sorry to see him go.

Off-topic a bit. Wouldn’t it be nice if the government paid you a check every year instead of you paying to fund government services? It might skew your perspective on your government leaders a bit. I can imagine thinking this guy is creepy but everyone is getting a check for $1654. Good job!

The state of Alaska writes oil dividend checks to its citizens. Also it is the happy recipient of millions of dollars from “rich uncle Ted” in the Senate. Remember that bridge to nowhere that Sara Palin claimed to have said “thanks, but no thanks” to? That’s not exactly what happened. Alaska took the money (“thanks”) but didn’t build the bridge (“but no thanks”).

Get your girls the puppy they deserve and that you promised them.

A friend commented today that Mr. Obama should not feel compelled to get a shelter dog. I couldn’t agree more. Mr. Obama should not feel compelled to get a dog from a shelter. He should get the dog that is right for his family.

The primary criterion for the Obama household is that the Malia Obama is allergic to dog dander. They need a hypoallergenic dog. That list is fairly rarified1:

  • Poodle
  • Wheaton Terrier
  • Schnauzer
  • Portugese Water Dog
  • Bichon Frise
  • Mexican Hairless (Xoloitzcuintli)
  • A few miniature breeds

The thing is that all of these are purebred. Why isn’t that OK? Mr. Obama noted that most shelter dogs “tend to be muts. Like me.” The problem is that it is harder to be sure that the dog will be hypoallergenic.

The AKC ran a poll this summer which concluded that the Obama’s should get a poodle. A standard poodle is a great dog. If that is too French or something, then I suggest a Portuguese Water Dog. I generally think a medium to large dog is best with kids because they are both energetic and durable enough to be a lot of fun and a great companion.

While it is is possible to get a great dog from a shelter it is more likely to get a dog that has some emotional and/or health problems. Is that the best thing for children to experience as their first dog?

Futhermore, I watched Mr. Obama give a very moving victory speech November 4th. He promised those kids a puppy. A puppy is not the same as an adult shelter dog. There is a special magic to raising a puppy. The Obama girls are in for a whirlwind of craziness. They deserve to have the special joy of raising a puppy as a part of their childhood.

Mr. Obama, don’t let the Animal Rights lobby take that away from your girls. Give them the puppy you promised.

1This list is not comprehensive.