December 5, 2012 archive


Originally posted August 31, 2011.

Frigid Hare

On This Day In History December 5

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 5 is the 339th day of the year (340th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 26 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1933, The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and bringing an end to the era of national prohibition of alcohol in America. At 5:32 p.m. EST, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, achieving the requisite three-fourths majority of states’ approval. Pennsylvania and Ohio had ratified it earlier in the day.

The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for national liquor abstinence. Several states outlawed the manufacture or sale of alcohol within their own borders. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. On January 29, 1919, the 18th Amendment achieved the necessary three-fourths majority of state ratification. Prohibition essentially began in June of that year, but the amendment did not officially take effect until January 29, 1920.

The proponents of Prohibition had believed that banning alcoholic beverages would reduce or even eliminate many social problems, particularly drunkenness, crime, mental illness, and poverty, and would eventually lead to reductions in taxes. However, during Prohibition, people continued to produce and drink alcohol, and bootlegging helped foster a massive industry completely under the control of organized crime. Prohibitionists argued that Prohibition would be more effective if enforcement were increased. However, increased efforts to enforce Prohibition simply resulted in the government spending more money, rather than less. Journalist H.L. Mencken asserted in 1925 that respect for law diminished rather than increased during Prohibition, and drunkenness, crime, insanity, and resentment towards the federal government had all increased.

During this period, support for Prohibition diminished among voters and politicians. John D. Rockefeller Jr., a lifelong nondrinker who had contributed much money to the Prohibitionist Anti-Saloon League, eventually announced his support for repeal because of the widespread problems he believed Prohibition had caused. Influential leaders, such as the du Pont brothers, led the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, whose name clearly asserted its intentions.

Women as a bloc of voters and activists became pivotal in the effort to repeal, as many concluded that the effects of Prohibition were morally corrupting families, women, and children. (By then, women had become even more politically powerful due to ratification of the Constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage.) Activist Pauline Sabin argued that repeal would protect families from the corruption, violent crime, and underground drinking that resulted from Prohibition. In 1929 Sabin founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR), which came to be partly composed of and supported by former Prohibitionists; its membership was estimated at 1.5 million by 1931.

The number of repeal organizations and demand for repeal both increased. In 1932, the Democratic Party’s platform included a plank for the repeal of Prohibition, and Democrat Franklin Roosevelt ran for President of the United States promising repeal of federal laws of Prohibition.

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As anyone watching the news knows by now that the major topic of discussion is the coming expiration of the Bush/Obama Tax cuts and the mythical “fiscal cliff”. President Obama has said that he will not extend them again and that any budget agreement from congress that does not raise taxes on income over $250,000 will be vetoed. So far, he’s sticking with that story. Over the weekend Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was dispatched to the Sunday talk show rounds to pitch the budget proposal while the president took to the road and social media to sell it to the public. Needless to say the Republicans roundly rejected the proposal with House Speaker John Boehner calling it a “La-La-Land offer.” That’s a real adult response.

Former policy analyst to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Bruce Bartlett, who lost all his conservative credibility when he made the case that the Bush/Cheney administration agenda didn’t make any sense, joined the discussion of the Grover Norquist‘s tax pledge for Republicans and the pro’s and con’s of increased taxes. Gov. Dannel Malloy, Democrat of Connecticut; Veronique de Rugy, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Elizabeth Pearson, fellow at The Roosevelt Institute; and Dedrick Muhammad, senior economic director at the NAACP join host Chris Hayes and Mr. Bartlet to discuss the “story of the week”: the tax battle

The Great Recession’s Untold Story: State Budgets

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Democratic Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (@GovMalloyOffice) joined the panel on Up with Chris Hayes to discuss the untold story of the Great Recession: how cash strapped states and local governments are dealing with the aftermath of the financial crisis and how they could be affected by the outcome of so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations. Host Chris Hayes, along with Gov. Malloy, talk about austerity on the state level cash strapped states resort to extreme measures to balance their budgets and the different way states are finding to raise cash.

They are joined in the discussion by Elizabeth Pearson, fellow at The Roosevelt Institute; Maya Wiley (@mayawiley), founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion; Veronique de Rugy (@veroderugy), senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; and Dedrick Muhammad, senior economic director at the NAACP.

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Ogle 12

Toys for Girls

I think gender stereotyping is the moral equivalent of teaching children gibberish instead of a language.  It is wrong for the child and bad for society and it’s amazing to me that people defend it on the basis of biology.  Balls does not equate to brain, quite the opposite.

Easy-Bake Oven accused of sexist marketing by 13 y.o. girl (and she’s right)

by Chris in Paris, Americablog

12/4/2012 7:03pm

As someone who loves to cook, does all of the cooking at home, and who has enjoyed cooking since I was a kid, I would say most definitely, yes – the Easy-Bake Oven’s marketing is sexist (see a sampling below).

Just as it’s sexist to dissuade young girls from math, it’s completely sexist to suggest cooking is not for young boys.  And that’s what Easy-Bake Oven’s entire marketing scheme is about – girls, to the exclusion of boys.

What makes all of this a strange topic is that in the world of “top chefs” in the restaurant business, there’s also a heavy dose of sexism against women. Most of the big name chefs are men, though fortunately there are more women that are getting the respect that they deserve. Even in the context of sexism, cooking is odd since it discourages one sex or another depending on age (it’s okay for men to cook but not boys, and women’s place is in the kitchen unless it’s a really big famous kitchen).

What’s so complicated about being a boy or a girl, a man or a woman and wanting to cook without regard to your gender?

‘Worst Toy Awards’ Target Lego Friends

By KJ DELL’ANTONIA, The New York Times

November 29, 2012, 6:15 pm

The Lego Friends line may promote gender stereotyping. It may be an unnecessary segmenting off of would-be girl Lego builders into “girly” Legos and away from more basic brick sets that offer the complex challenges of creating your own models and worlds (although no more so than any branded Lego kit, all of which are too limiting in the eyes of many Lego fans). It might have provoked all sorts of debate, here and elsewhere when it was introduced, over whether the sets (designed for more role play and storytelling) exploit girls’ natural play patterns or embrace them.

There’s much to consider in the realm of gender-targeted marketing and products, and as I wrote earlier today, it’s all too easy to find yourself grabbing the pink Lego set for a girl without thinking about whether she’d rather just have the Volkswagon Camper Van. One of my girls loves the pink Legos. The other prefers the classic stuff. But they’re both sitting in there on the floor building and whispering stories to themselves, and that’s scarcely destructive to their childhoods.

Lego may have created and marketed its Friends line in the hope of selling more girls on its product, but that’s what toy companies do – and that product, no matter what color it is or what it can build, is still one of the least commercialized options out there, still without batteries or screens, and still, at its core, a building toy.

I love Legos, it’s still just about my favorite toy.  As a point of information it’s structurally possible to build a tower 2.17 miles high out of 2 x 2 bricks, but professional Lego engineers say it’s a practical impossibility because they don’t stack straight enough.

How tall can a Lego tower get?

By Ruth Alexander, BBC News Magazine

3 December 2012

“There isn’t a chance you could do it in reality,” Johnston says. “Long before the brick fails, the tower would fail as a structure itself, by buckling. The other thing you have to remember is that we were very careful to load this equally down the middle, so that all four walls were loaded.”

A 3.5km tower would have to be built so straight that it was no more than 2mm off centre at the midway point, he says.

“And I’d be delighted to meet a Lego builder who could make a 3.5km tower so accurately.”

Cue Duncan Titmarsh, the UK’s only certified Lego builder – and one of only 13 worldwide – and Ed Diment, his partner at company Bright Bricks.

They built the 12.2m (40ft) Lego Christmas tree that stood in London’s St Pancras station last Christmas, and the 5m x 3m advent calendar standing in Covent Garden.

Do they think they could take up the challenge? No.

“If you try stacking 2×2 bricks as soon as you get beyond 3 or 4m tall there’s almost no way you can take out all of the kinks,” Ed Diment says.

And their computer games are as highly structured as their bricks.

Lego The Lord of the Rings – review

Simon Parkin, The Guardian

Monday 3 December 2012

The Lego games, which seek to rebuild colossi of contemporary family cinema franchises in miniature bricks, have rather less to do with the plastic stuff from which they take their name than appearances suggest. The physical toy is a creative material that allows us to build from the imagination in near limitless ways. From a relatively small palette of interconnecting bricks – which click together with all the reassurance of a lipstick lid – one can fashion everything from a lopsided hot-rod to a lumpy dog to the Taj Mahal. Therein lies its simple wonder and universal appeal.

Traveller’s Tales’ games, by contrast, are entirely prescribed. You squeeze a button and the loose collection of bricks at your character’s feet assembles itself in a magical micro-hurricane into a bridge or a ladder or whatever object is needed to facilitate minifigure Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones’s pre-laid story. There is no capacity for personalisation; a player may only affect the rate at which they move towards the conclusion. If Minecraft is the true freeform construction game, offering players a world of blocks to heave into a world of shapes, the orthodox Lego games have us closely following an instruction manual. Piece by piece we reveal the predestined finished article, meticulously prepared for us by the game’s designers.

The basics of the recipe remain consistent – each cinematic plotline split into 18 sequential stages; the characters divided into “types”, each with their own set of exclusive abilities which must be called upon to overcome obstacles; the post-completion secret hunting – but the structure is ever-changing.

Lego Lord of the Rings presents the most dramatic overhaul yet, retaining the 18-stage structure, but granting players the run of Middle Earth in between these climactic chapters. It’s not quite Lego Skyrim, but these hills and valleys are filled with nooks and secrets, valuable bricks hidden behind waterfalls and deep inside yawning caves, the land seasoned with eager minifigs waiting to send you off on fetch quests. It’s this expanse of hub that gives Lego Lord of the Rings a rare sense of scale and place, one articulated by a map that, more than in Tolkien’s prose or Jackson’s film, allows one to understand exactly how Shire links to Mordor in geographical terms.

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