Grumbly about spreadsheets.. I use GNUmeric for spreadsheets - I am not a spreadsheet guru, but I've learned enough to do some reasonably sophisticated things with them. Unfortunately, the upgrade from 1.6.x of gnumeric to 1.8.x that's part of the Fedora9 upgrade broke a feature a lot of my spreadsheets used that a little bit of poking around suggests was an uncommon feature: aggregate statistics on computed values. I used to be able to say things like =min(A1:A9/B1:B9) or even =min(if(B1:B9,A1:A9/B1:B9)) and have them work nicely. Excel isn't able to do it this way, neither is Google Spreadsheets. 1.8.x boasts of "better Excel compatibility", the pursuit of which, I imagine, is what broke this.
There have been two recent tales of child abuse in the news, one in Austria (incidentally, did you know that Austria is an anglicisation of Österreich, which breaks down into Öst and Reich, "East" and "Reign/Realm", respectively? ), and one in Texas. The latter is connected to a branch of the Mormons, and being Americans, after the kids were separated from their parents and the compound, they decided to do their national duty and sue the government and rally anti-"big brother" folk. This is part of what I don't like about Texas culture - distrust of the government has grown so culturally prominent that even the most healthy, necessary, and positive actions receive a knee-jerk condemnation. In general, I think social workers working in matters of custody should have broad lattitude to act in the best interests of children - living beings cannot be owned and parents are guardians (and only by default), not property owners. Any time the best interests of children are not served by remaining in custody of their parents and would be better served by other guardians or being a ward of the state, as judged by social workers with access to psychologists, there is a duty to remove them from the parents (note that best interests should be read very broadly though - frequent change in custody and even the simple fact of separation from parents represents a certain amount of harm that needs to be considered against the other factors). This particular case, to me, goes far beyond a simple "we think you would be better off with a mother who has issues with substance abuse" into "you are being forced into marriages and sexual situations against your will, so we'll remove you from the situation" - I hope that apart from rural Texans, most people would at least recognise that parents who, as a group, permit such things to happen to their children should not retain custody over them.
In the more general case, I think the US Government should take an active role in dispersing any subculture that:
- Teaches subjugation/obedience of women to men (or vice versa) as a moral imperative
- Institutes slavery or anything sufficiently close to it
- Marks one of their living members as a deity
- Institutionally or regularly forces marriage and/or sex on unwilling participants, where "force" can be understood as either through physical violence, infliction of emotional trauma, or disowning/dissociation
- Institutionally or regularly denies access to common medical science to its members using force (as defined above)
- Performs or makes a regular practice of "female circumcision"
- Suggests/encourages violence towards a minority (e.g. blacks, homosexuals, hispanics)