Monday, December 26, 2005

US Going to Abandon Afghanistan Again?

Sounds like 'yes'. Nato's Afghanistan troop dilemma.

It didn't end up well the last time, when we skipped out on them in 1989. So, what happens if we do it again? The Taliban -- that Al Qaeda-friendly regime -- just takes back over?

Again?

"Robust Executive" Must be Code for Something Else

In Beyond the imperial presidency, Steve Chapman suggests it's "reckless".

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent Design

What's wrong with intelligent design, and with its critics

I disagree with the author's reasoning, but agree with the result: evolution, not "intelligent design", should be taught in science classes. My view of the purpose of science education is teaching the scientific method by example, and that drives the curriculum in the same direction the author advocates: toward presentation of the best science. So what do I disagree with? Putting the emphasis on exclusively on finding the "best science" to put into the classroom. For two reasons: it (inadvertantly?) frames the discussion about evolution and intelligent design as a theory v. theory debate, which it's not (and the author touches on this point), because intelligent design is only a theory in the lay meaning of the term, not the scientific one. But, also, because illustrating the scientific method with "bad" theory may be just as effective -- or more so -- than teaching it with "the best".

In a modern college level physics curriculum, you find out you've been "wrong all along" in your use of the classical model of physics, and begin to explore the strange, charmed world of quantum mechanics. But on the gross level (human sized stuff, as opposed to subatomic particles), classical mechanics still works great. QM equations reduce to their classical forms, basically. However, this means classical mechanics, is, technically, 'flawed', because it doesn't really reflect out current understanding of how things actually work.

And yet, QM's just too abstract, too complicated, etc., to try and get into high schooler's heads. So, go ahead and teach classical mechanics -- you can actually do experiments in class on that, without spending too much of the school budget, you know? It works. Even though it's only an approximation...even though it's not actually the 'best' science available.

Besides, the author starts off by asserting without proof there's no such thing as the scientific method. A point on which I strenously disagree. It's also the point at which I wonder if we're not speaking the same language. To me as a scientist, science is knowledge gained via what we refer to as the scientific method. The author seems to have a broader definition, perhaps scienter as it is meant in a legal framework, as "knowledge", regardless of the method by which it is acquired.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

DIEBOLD Up For Fraud

And high time, too.

SECURITIES FRAUD LITIGATION FILED AGAINST DIEBOLD, INC!

Pollution Map

Dutch Scientists Create European Pollution Map

Canada saying no to US Patriot Act?

Canada drafts proposals to shield personal data from U.S. anti-terror law

A federal proposal would allow government departments to immediately cancel a contract with an American firm if it hands personal information about Canadians to U.S. anti-terrorism investigators.


From The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, thanks to a tip from Faz at Fusion Reaction

Supreme Court to hear redistricting case

Supreme Court to weigh Texas redistricting

The last time the Court attacked this question, they couldn't answer it. I mean, they really couldn't. Under the political question doctrine, they said, in a political gerrymandering case about 5 years ago, Vieth v. Jubelirer, that the Court had no standards to apply. Justice Kennedy concurred in the decision but said if standards did emerge, the issue could be revisited. Looks like maybe it is. This should be interesting. Makes me want to take Con Law over again in the Spring semester, just to work the problem in class.

Author Podcast Interview Now Available!

Interviews with authors of "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol. 21" - Show posted Dec 12, 2005

Me, Floris, and John!

For information on listening to the interview, whether you have an iPod or not, please visit DragonPage's main page.

Monday, December 12, 2005

We are about to lose New Orleans

Death of an American City

We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum.
We said this wouldn't happen. President Bush said it wouldn't happen. He stood in Jackson Square and said, "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans." But it has been over three months since Hurricane Katrina struck and the city is in complete shambles.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Torture By Any Other Name

Would be just as apalling.

The defining of torture in a new world war

The Torture Memo By Judge Jay S. Bybee That Haunted Alberto Gonzales's Confirmation Hearings
Tracing the Torture Memos

"[T]he Bush Orders of January and February, 2002, denying Geneva Convention protection to captured members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda appears inherently flawed. Acts carried out in furtherance of those orders, if themselves violations, might, accordingly, constitute war crimes."



And yet, Rice defends US policy. Even when records show 'serious mistakes have been made'.

My Country's Secret Prisons:

Q&A: CIA jails allegations
Rice visits Germany amid CIA row

And, in other 'stunning' news: US 'is failing to protect itself'

Well, hully gee.

***

There's something about this that bugs me that I've expressed before in various ways. Call it an overdose of literalism if you will. Call it the cheating society America has become. "Everyone does it." So long as we obey the letter of the law, we don't have to live up to the spirit. The appearance, but not the truth.

Well, frankly, I find that unacceptable. Would you like to know why? It's simple: because torture is wrong. That's why. No matter who does it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Privatizing our Honor out of Existence

AmericaBlog hits this one out of the ballpark, regarding the apparent suicide of military ethicist Col. Ted Westhusing:


wrote Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach, "He could not shift his mind-set from the military notion of completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for businesses."

Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach is the one with the problem, not Westhusing. Our military is not intended to work for profit of private corporations - its purpose is to support U.S. foreign policy with force.


Our military is our *military*. Our businesses are our businesses. They serve different goals. (And, while I'm pointing out the obvious, our state is our state and our churches are our churches.)

They're not *supposed* to be the same.

When Honor Is No Longer Possible: A Nation Beyond Forgiveness, by Arthur Silber. Longer, more eloquent. Worth reading. So, go read it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

No More Human Rights NGOs in Russia?

Russia is pondering legislation right now that will dramatically affect human rights orgs' ability to work in that country.

http://www.times.spb.ru/story/16159 -- The Duma giving money to "promote civil society" and "defend the rights of Russians in the Baltic countries." Critics, however, say this is another step in a campaign to bring NGOs under the Kremlin's wing [which would substantially reduce their effectiveness].

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20051124/42204325.html -- In defense, "the new amendments aim only at blocking the operation of those who use the cover of public activities to import [revolution] to Russia."

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/23/international/europe/23cnd-russia.html
[New York Times article, seems to cover the various sides]

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Right Moment Passed By

The Problem with Bush and Cheney's "Faulty Intelligence" Defense

Re-writing history may be wrong, but reviewing it is instructive. The record shows that Bush and Cheney's claims that they were duped by bad intelligence are disingenuous.


Sources close to Powell told Bamford that Cheney's chief-of-staff, Scooter Libby, drafted Powell's now-infamous UN speech. While writing it, Libby was in constant communication with David Wurmser of the Policy Counterterrorism Group. Powell's people also told Bamford that the secretary of state knew that much of what was in the script was false. In the end, Powell's people were furious at Libby, but the secretary of state didn't have the courage to not deliver the speech. AP special correspondent Charles J. Hanley did a thorough job of identifying the false and misleading statements in Powell's speech.


Why, Powell? What stopped you? Loyalty to the commander in chief? You weren't in uniform any more.

That moment, that speech, represented a chance to act. That was a fulcrum moment. A world-changing moment. And it was lost.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Diebold TSx Going Under Scrutiny

Remember kids, I worked with these an election inspector in San Diego. I was not impressed. There was the fact that there were two executables on the PC card, there were multiple reboots, there was the guy who said his vote kept changing when he tried to cast it, and, of course, the complete mismatch in physical voter count v. ballots the machine said were issued.

And then there are other problems with anything that runs on a fricking Access DB.

###

Permission to reprint granted, with link: http://www.blackboxvoting.org

BLACK BOX VOTING INVITED TO HACK DIEBOLD VOTING MACHINES

Nov 23, 2005: The California Secretary of State has invited Black
Box Voting to hack away at some Diebold voting systems. The testing
is set for Nov. 30, 2005.

Diebold Election Systems has been trying to re-certify its “TSx” touch-
screen machines in California. Diebold has added stronger passwords
and encryption, but even the consultant hired by California to evaluate
the system reported that the voting system remains vulnerable to
alteration of vote results. (More on consultant report and vulnerabilities: http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/1954/14296.html)

This week, officials at the California Secretary of State's office invited
Black Box Voting, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group for elections,
to try hacking into the Diebold system. A specific testing protocol was
provided by Diebold and the California Secretary of State’s office.

Though the opportunity was welcomed by Black Box Voting, negotiations
remain on the procedures. Black Box Voting contends that the proposed
testing violates California Election Code §19202, which governs the
request for voting machine testing formally submitted to the state of
California by Black Box Voting on June 16, 2005. Also, Black Box Voting
identified areas of bias in the proposed procedures, which would violate
normal scientific protocol and cause voters to lack confidence in the results.

At issue is Diebold’s insistence on being involved in setting up the testing
procedures, and Diebold’s provision of hand-picked machines, using new
voting systems not currently in use in California.

LET'S LOOK AT WHAT'S AT STAKE FOR DIEBOLD:

Black Box Voting had formally requested replication of the work by experts
Harri Hursti and Dr. Herbert Thompson. If Diebold does not survive the tests,
the firm may face a nationwide product recall, rivaled in notoriety only by the
exploding gas tank fiasco that afflicted the Ford Pinto. Diebold is dependent
on a particular outcome. Failing this test might cost them their elections business
altogether.

Diebold’s stake in the outcome is compounded by financial problems in the
Diebold ATM division, which produced a restatement of corporate profits and
caused a significant collapse in stock prices.

Though the formal request for replication of Black Box Voting security tests
was made over five months ago, Diebold delayed the test required by §19202
for more than five months. Diebold is now “permitting” the testing only under
conditions Diebold controls, using machines only Diebold provides.

THE PROPOSED PROCEDURES CONTAMINATE THE RESULTS

Black Box Voting has offered to resolve procedural defects in such a
way as to “enhance public confidence” as required by §104 (c) in the
California certification procedures. Instead of voting machines hand-
picked by the vendor which have never been used in elections, Black
Box Voting wants to test a randomly selected voting system used in
the last election -- the machines that elected the California governor
and the president.

Black Box Voting also proposes selecting machines from county
elections offices which have not shown a bias for Diebold, recommending
Alameda County for the evaluation of the touch-screens and Placer,
Modoc, Trinity or Santa Barbara County for evaluation of the optical
scan system. Within these counties, Black Box Voting proposed random
selection of the machine. The five counties suggested by Black Box
Voting are the Diebold customers who did not take part in a pro-Diebold
advertisement copied on back of the official flyer containing the agenda
for the certification hearing. Sec. State’s office’s Bruce McDannold
disavowed the flyer, saying his office had nothing to do with its distribution.

The scientific method attempts to minimize bias by removing the influence
of any party who profits from one outcome or another. In testing, those
who design the system are not supposed to be the same as those who
test the system.

Therefore, Black Box Voting is confident that the California Secretary
of State will comply with these reasonable adjustments.

# # # # #

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Australian Aborigines and Welfare

Aborigine leader warns on welfare

A prominent Aboriginal leader has called for a radical overhaul of Australia's benefits system to help native communities escape from poverty.
Noel Pearson has warned that a reliance on state handouts has caused psychological harm in many settlements.


National Indigenous Times
Traditional Aboriginal Music
ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA ART & CULTURE CENTRE - ALICE SPRINGS

Doing More than Soothing the Savage

How singing unlocks the brain

All I can say is my Grandma seemed a lot happier and alive, once she moved in with her sisters in Tennessee, got some meds for her dementia, and started singing and playing guitar with her siblings.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Edwards: I was wrong

The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.

George Bush won't accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at almost every step: twisting intelligence to fit their pre-conceived views about Iraq's threat; failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops; not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for peace.


I think Senator Edwards is too kind: twisting intelligence to fit pre-conceived views is not a "horrible mistake". It was not a mistake at all. It was deliberate.

Going to be Ruined? Try "Has Been"

McCain: Torture Ban Needed for U.S. Image

I feel about John McCain the way a lot of people feel about Colin Powell: he failed to stand up when necessary, and is thus a failure. His moral authority has been squandered.

Going to be ruined? Try already has been ruined.

Why is it so hard for a representative of the people to speak the truth? I think we should ban incumbents' campaigning or something.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Indigenous People and Unrest in Columbia

Columbia Unrest

I read a couple of articles that talked about FARC when I was writing a paper on guerrilla warfare earlier this year (for my international humanitarian law class), but there was nothing on indigenous peoples' issues.

Columbia timeline

What Happened to the U.S.?

Carter 'Disturbed' by Direction of U.S.

"Everywhere you go, you hear, 'What has happened to the United States of America? We thought you used to be the champion of human rights. We thought you used to protect the environment. We thought you used to believe in the separation of church and state,'" Carter said Friday at Unity Temple.


Huh. I wonder if Jimmy could win if he ran in '08.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Genetic Component to Loneliness?

Loneliness could be in your genes

The researchers suggest that loneliness may stem from prehistoric times, where hunter-gatherers may have deliberately shut themselves away from others so they did not have to share food.
That would have meant they were better nourished and therefore better able to survive and have children.


Um. How? That is one of the most astonishingly simplistic explanations I've ever heard for anything as complex as the human psyche. How is someone who hides themselves away from other people going to survive better, much less attract a mate? Survival is more than the eating of food, you know.

I mean, honestly.

First, hunting and gathering - both - are communal activities. Human beings, you may have noticed, are soft, squishy, and don't have sharp teeth. We're such awful natural hunters that we have to make spears and knives and stuff, to compensate for our complete lack of claws or ability to run quickly on four legs, and we have to work together to kill one fricking gazelle.

How, pray tell, is refusing to share food ever going to get Thag invited on a hunt again?

And what about Ooga? Who gathers tubers and insects and plants in a squad of other women and youngsters - some watching for danger from outside, some watching over each other, and some grinding nuts into a tasty paste, even though there's no grape jelly, or come to mention it, bread, for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Back then, kids, we were all Communists. I know, I know, but we were.

Second, did I not just mention our complete lack of predatory characteristics? A lone human can't watch his or her back, even with one of those cool spear thingies.

In kindergarten we learn the most fundamental lesson of human society: share. For alone, you die.

Loneliness may be in my genes, but it's not to make me a reclusive lone hunter-gatherer.

America's Moral Crisis

Buzzflash makes a darn good point in their comments on the review of Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter, in the St. Petersberg Times:

Carter, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is living proof that the radical right wing fundamentalists don't give a hoot about Christ. Otherwise, they would have embraced him and his presidency.


That's a darn good point. A darn good point.

Oh, and blaming the CIA for 'bad intel'? Maybe not so much.

Prewar CIA report questioned al Qaeda-Iraq ties (Well, so did I, and no one listened to me, either.)

CNN on Thursday obtained a CIA document that outlined the history of the claim, which originated in 2002 with a captured al Qaeda operative who recanted two years later.
The CIA report appears to support a recently declassified document that revealed the Defense Intelligence Agency thought in February 2002 that the source, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was lying to interrogators.

Habeas Corpus? What's That?

Senate Bars Detainees From Filing Lawsuits

The Senate voted Thursday to bar foreign terror suspects at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from filing lawsuits in American courts to challenge their detentions, despite a Supreme Court ruling last year that granted such access.


As TalkLeft put it, No Habeas for Them, No Habeas for Us.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Greenhouse Gas projected increase

Greenhouse gases 'to rise by 52%' by 2030.

The IEA's warning comes at a time when the Kyoto climate change agreement calls on developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12.


There are days when I fear for our survival as a species.

Bird Flu Map

How Bird Flu Has Spread

Monday, October 31, 2005

Naval Sonar and Dolphins

I'm not up to more than a link salad these days:

Navy denies Tasmania whale deaths

One thing I noted in Why sonar may harm whales and dolphins is this quote:

"Can marine life hear it [the sonar]? Yes. Does it have a major effect? We don't know."
This uncertainty alarms wildlife groups. They're now threatening legal action to protect sea-life from the sonar.


It's the 'we don't know' that has my attention. I'm taking a lot of environmental law or related topics just this second, and there's this idea, the precautionary principle, that gets a lot of airtime -- deservedly so. It goes like something like this:

Uncertainty is normal, and people have to make decisions anyway, even if they're not 100 percent sure what the best course of action is. That's no excuse for refusing to make a decision. Nor is it an excuse for being a putz -- if you don't know what the results of your action will be, BE CAREFUL.

Call for study on impact of sonar

Disorientation Seen in Mass Australia Whale Deaths

NAVY SUED OVER HARM TO WHALES FROM MID-FREQUENCY SONAR

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fractal Food (and other cool links)

Wow. That's really cool.

Fractal Food

Non-scientists, just scroll down past the diagrams and stuff and get to the pictures, they'll tell you quite effectively what 'fractal' means: a thingy of a certain shape, made up of the same thingies of that same certain shape, only smaller ones, who are themselves made up of the same thingies of that certain shape, only even *smaller*, and so on, and so on, smaller and smaller, yet still the same shape, until your eyes cross.

(edited to add)

Ooo! Ancient Indus Valley - thanks to Fusion Reaction for finding this. Oooo!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Third Follows as a Matter of Course

In order to be happy, a woman needs only a good digestion, a satisfactory complexion, and a lover. The first requirement being met, the second is not difficult to obtain, and the third follows as a matter of course. (link)

I am *definitely* writing a story with that as the title someday.

And, sometime, when I have time, I may sit down and explain how it is that this instruction boils down to love thyself. For it is from self-love, contentment, and satisfaction that inevitably follows a good digestion, and thus, a satisfactory complexion.

And the third follows as a matter of course.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

In the midst of death, life.

In the midst of law school, self-aggrandizement.

Writers of the Future v. XXI. Yours truly's story starts on p. 155.

You are permitted to read the other tales - and even to enjoy them more than mine if the mood strikes you. That's OK.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cronies, cronies, everywhere, not a competent one in the bunch

Inexpert Selection NY Times editorial.

The list of Bush appointees who seem to be rising on political connections rather than expertise continues to grow. A recent example is President Bush's choice to head a key office at the State Department that coordinates the delivery of life-sustaining emergency aid to refugees of foreign wars, persecution and natural disasters. The nominee is Ellen Sauerbrey, the former Maryland state legislator and twice-defeated Republican candidate for governor who was state chairman of Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign.

[...]
Ms. Sauerbrey has no experience responding to major crises calling for international relief....This is a post for an established expert in the field.


And so many are.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fame. Fortune. Really Fast Cars.

It looks like I may be appearing in an 'podcast' interview in another couple of days, to talk about the Writers of the Future anthology and constest.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Time to weigh in on the Flu

I haven't posted anything because I figure anyone reading me is reading Medley, anyway, and I'm only cribbing from her.

However.

Pandemic Influenza: Risk Communication: The Teachable Moment by Peter M. Sandman and Jody Lanard.

Georgie seems to think that military personnel would be well put to use in a pandemic. What are they going to do, shoot at viruses? I remain oddly unconvinced by anything this administration says. I wonder why. Oh, yes, that's right: September 11th, Iraq, Osama, Katrina, FEMA, gutting the Endangered Species Act, 'clean air' that isn't, tax cuts for the wealthy as opposed to the poor, rampant cronyism and incompetence, torture in my name, extraordinary rendition, and the current saber rattling with Iran and the always-exciting North Korea.

The Flu Wiki

World Health Organization

Pandemic Flu Awareness Week

I tell you what I want, if I have to hunker down. I want a LifeStraw, because you know what? I can afford to spend $15 on a 50 pounds of rice, and I can trap squirrels if I darn well have to, the cats would love that, but I don't have the money to be stocking and rotating water.

What disturbs me, deeply, is that I live in a city with a high population of 'annual transients' -- college students. Who may or may not have money, but certainly won't have their heads screwed on straight if something happens. Not to mention live in cramped environs.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another WTF Moment: Call A Scientist for Scientific Testimony, Would Ya?

Not a science fiction author.

Now bear in mind, I have great respect for both SF authors and scientists, given that I'm both myself but COME ON, PEOPLE, if you want an *expert witness* get a damn expert witness.

Michael Crichton's latest novel, State of Fear, is an action-packed thriller in which the hero is a scientist who discovers that climate change is all a fraud. The novel has sold well, but it was still something of a shock yesterday to find its author as an expert witness testifying on global warming in front of the United States Senate.
Crichton had been summoned to give evidence by Senator James Inhofe, a Republican senator from Oklahoma, who recently called global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people".


Oh, come on. I'm writing a letter to Senator Inhofe.

Novel take on global warming .

Discussion of Crichton's appearance before the Senate subcommittee.

Critique of Crichton's 'science' in State of Fear.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Happy Birthday to US

Happy Birthday to me and my Twin.

(Wanna gimme a gift? Amazon gift certificates, or money (via Paypal), are always acceptable.

This concludes the grabby portion of our birthday.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Yesterday's Protest

In pictures: Washington protest: Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters gather in Washington to call for US troops to leave Iraq.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I refuse to support

An adminstration that condones torture.

3 in 82nd Airborne Say Beating Iraqi Prisoners Was Routine

You, too, Attorney General Alberto "Quaint Geneva Conventions" Gonzales.

In separate statements to the human rights organization, Captain Fishback and two sergeants described systematic abuses of Iraqi prisoners, including beatings, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, stacking in human pyramids and sleep deprivation at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja. Falluja was the site of the major uprising against the American-led occupation in April 2004. The report describes the soldiers' positions in the unit, but not their names.
The abuses reportedly took place between September 2003 and April 2004, before and during the investigations into the notorious misconduct at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Senior Pentagon officials initially sought to characterize the scandal there as the work of a rogue group of military police soldiers on the prison's night shift.


He said he had acted under orders from military intelligence personnel to soften up detainees, whom the unit called persons under control, or PUC's, to make them more cooperative during formal interviews.


Interrogators pressed guards to beat up prisoners, and one sergeant recalled watching a particular interrogator who was a former Special Forces soldier beating the detainee himself. "He would always say to us, 'You didn't see anything, right?' " the sergeant said. "And we would always say, 'No, sergeant.' "


Not the acts of 'rogue' soldiers. Systemic.

[Edited Sunday: Human Rights Watch's New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops. Download the report in PDF format.]

Thursday, September 22, 2005

WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Record

GO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS.
http://www.who.int/csr/don


World Health Organization - Weekly Epidemiological Record e-mail
bulletin service

DISEASE OUTBREAK NEWS Item(s)published on the World Wide Web

http://www.who.int/csr/don

-------------------------
Avian influenza - situation in Indonesia - update 31



22 September 2005

The Ministry of Health in Indonesia has today confirmed a further human
case of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. The case, in an
8-year-old boy, was confirmed as positive for H5N1 infection by a WHO
reference laboratory in Hong Kong. The boy remains in hospital for
observation and treatment. Current investigations in Indonesia have
produced no evidence that the H5N1 virus is spreading easily from person
to person.

Background on avian influenza in Indonesia

Since mid-2003, Indonesia has experienced outbreaks of avian influenza
in its poultry population. Prior to the new case announced today, two
human cases of H5N1 infection in Indonesia have been laboratory
confirmed, one in July and another in September. All three cases have
been investigated by the Indonesia health authorities, with WHO support,
and searches for further cases have been conducted.

As investigations have produced no evidence that the H5N1 virus is
spreading easily from person to person, WHO has not raised its current
level of pandemic alert. WHO will, however, continue to monitor the
situation closely. Given the experience of other H5N1 affected countries
in Asia, the detection of further human cases in Indonesia or elsewhere
would not be surprising.

Laboratory confirmation of cases in Indonesia has led to heightened
public concern, intensified surveillance for further cases, and
strengthened government commitment to contain the disease. As a result,
several patients with respiratory symptoms and a history of possible
exposure to the avian virus are being evaluated as part of ongoing
surveillance efforts. Samples from these patients have also been sent
for analysis by the WHO reference laboratory in Hong Kong.

Overall assessment

In all affected countries, most human cases of H5N1 infection have been
linked to contact with poultry. In a few instances, limited
human-to-human transmission of the virus may have occurred following
close contact with a patient during the acute phase of illness. In all
known instances, such transmission has been limited and has not led to
larger outbreaks in the general community, indicating that the virus
does not spread easily among people at this time.

WHO has sent all countries a document outlining recommended strategic
actions for responding to the avian influenza pandemic threat.
Recommended actions aim to strengthen national preparedness, reduce
opportunities for a pandemic virus to emerge, improve the early warning
system, and accelerate vaccine development.
-------------------------

[snip some listserv specific stuff]

This service is provided by the World Health Organization as a
complement to the web sites http://www.who.int/wer and
http://www.who.int/csr/don.

Carter Says it Was President Gore in 2000, not Bush

Carter says Gore won 2000 election

He also said about FEMA, the agency Carter founded,

When I founded FEMA "we put it together with three specific commitments," Carter remarked. "One, that it would be led [by] highly trained professionals in dealing with disasters. Secondly, that it would be completely independent and not under another agency that would submerge it. And third, that it would be adequately funded."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bush's Suspension of Davis Bacon Act Illegal?

BUSH WAGE CUTS FOR RELIEF WORKERS MAY BE LEGAL ERROR

this emergency statute was one of numerous authorities that were rendered dormant by the National Emergencies Act of 1976, and that can only be activated by certain procedural formalities that were absent in this case.
In particular, the President must formally declare a national emergency under the National Emergencies Act, and he must specify which standby legal authorities he proposes to activate so as to permit congressional restraint of emergency powers.
Strangely, however, President Bush proceeded as if the National Emergencies Act did not exist.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I try to limit my use of "WTF", but WHAT. THE. F?

If this is some import-export bullshit, then my response is, Bush can wave acts to permit wages less than the national minimum due to Katrina, but not this?

EXCLUSIVE: UP IN FLAMES: Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans

The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq.

"The Police Start *Shooting* at Us"

Story re: Gretna closure right now on NPR. More than one incident b/w people trying to leave and cops keeping Gretna from being "another Supredome down here".

"Callous racist" accusations - city officials say "reputation blemished" b/c "New Orleans expected us to evacuate their city w/o any prep, notice, or contact". They were "completely unprepared" and not contacted by anyone from New Orleans. Gretna is the first exit after Crescent City, basically.

I'd expect the first time people tried to cross would be sufficient notice, wouldn't you?

However, note that Gretna ferried 5000 evacuees prior to their shutdown (which would also serve as notice, wouldn't it)? Some remark about someone committing arson, too.

Basically, they're saying their responsibility was to *their* people (Gretna, Jefferson's Parish), with the implied corollary that everyone else could take a flying leap. How Christian of them.

Some townspeople support(ed) the closure action, scared of "looting" and "shooting".

Others: "it was the wrong thing to do". People were trying to get across to get to TX.

Sheriff, etc., says would do the same thing again. And ask how long does it take a city to reach the (logistical) limits of its compassion?

New Orleans had a good rebuttal: how were we supposed to escape our drowned city, if you didn't let us through?

I think New Orleans wins the argument on this one.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Abu Ghraib

Records Detail Treatment of Iraqi Captives

Army officers in Iraq told their superiors last year that soldiers often lacked the training to handle detainees, did not always understand what constituted abuse and sometimes used techniques against prisoners that they "remembered from movies," according to military records made public Thursday.
In two incidents described in the reports, bound detainees were shot and killed by soldiers. Although the circumstances were unclear, officers or Army lawyers said afterward that the killings could have been prevented with better training, facilities and understanding by soldiers of the rules of engagement.

Rove, Off the Record

And off his nut, too, apparently. Rove Off The Record

This is the bit I want to tease out from his remark on Cindy Sheehan.

On The Anti-War Movement: Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally...


It's interesting that Rove assumes that anything that doesn't have a politician willing to 'show his face' cannot be a movement. This perspective completely ignores actual people, from whom, just to show off my fancy education for a moment, all mandates, all sovereignty, and all power in the nation flow.

When I Ask if You Could Get Any Lower Than This?

It's not meant as *encouragement*.

Looking for a Corpse to Make a Case: Senators look for a wealthy casualty of Katrina as evidence against the estate tax.

It's been hard. Only a tiny percentage of people are affected by the estate tax—in 2001 only 534 Alabamans were subject to it. And for Hill backers of repeal, that's only part of the problem. Last year, the tax brought in $24.8 billion to the federal government. With Katrina's cost soaring, estate tax opponents need to find a way to make up the potential lost income. For now, getting repeal back on the agenda may depend on [legislation co-author] Apolinsky and his team of estate-sniffing sleuths, who are searching Internet obituaries among other places. Has he found any victims of both the hurricane and the estate tax? "Not yet," Apolinsky says. "But I'm still looking."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Racism, Gretna, and New Orleans

Divinest Sense on The Gretna Bridge Incident (and others)

I also know that the local, state, and federal governments, under the spell of the religious right, the anti-"PC" whiners, the enemies of the welfare state, and yes, the bigots, are ultimately responsible for tacitly, if not blatantly, encouraging this behavior. You will hear a lot of arguments like this:


"We're not racists, we just think that some people are given an advantage in this world that they don't deserve."


Yeah, the people with the undeserved advantage? That's us white people.

And if you believe that "those people" -- those black people -- *like* being on welfare, *like* being so poor and unemployed and trapped in ways that New Orleans and Gretna quickly became a nice pretty metaphor for, then may I suggest you remove your head from your ass with all speed?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy

INTERROGATING AUSTRALIANS: A Group Interview My fellow Writer of the Future Cat Sparks Speaks!

More Katrina Fallout

'Sun-Sentinel': Katrina Only Latest of FEMA Foul-Ups. Two-day investigative series starting September 18 at The Sun-Sentinel.

Louisiana's Environmental Assessment(s)

Some links that came up in my Environmental Law class last week re: Katrina.


Katrina Environmental Issues 'Almost Unimaginable'

Louisiana's Dept of Env. Quality Secretary makes the state's first major assessment of the "havoc" in southern La. 140K-160K homes unsalvageable (where do you put that much debris?) and "years" to restore full water service. Two major oil spills, and 500 sewage plants damaged or destroyed.

Few Choices To Rid New Orleans of Poisoned Water
NOLA's water not toxic per se, but polluted, and there's really no place to pump it except into Lake Pontchartrain or the Mississippi, which could prompt fish die-offs and poison area wetlands.

Global Warming Making Hurricanes More Ferocious?

Study Links Hurricanes to Global Warming: Fiercer storms may be due to greenhouses gases, but more data needed, scientists say

Global Warming and Hurricanes
...the hurricanes that do occur near the end of the 21st century are expected to be stronger and have significantly more intense rainfall than under present day climate conditions.


From last week:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/dispatches/050901.html
NOVA weighs in.

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/8/31/173242.shtml
Downplays idea pretty straightforwardly, after an overaggressive opening.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1099102,00.html
Superficial analysis of how warming could create stronger hurricanes, comes down in the "maybe" department. (Pump more energy in, put or keep temperature gradients in the hurricane-creating zone more often.)

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/09/01/katrina.warming.ap/
Brief descriptions of the discussion space: warming as cause v. 'normal' multi-decade cycle.

http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,372179,00.html
Paints a very politicized picture of what different German papers are saying.

http://service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,372176,00.html
Includes link to the paper by Kerry Emanuel, "Increasing Destructiveness of Tropical Cyclones Over the Past 30 Years", published in Nature, and which is not a hard read. Only 3 pages.

http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2005/8/29/12237/4650
Points out there will never be a "smoking-gun" type link between global warming and any particular disaster, which is well worth remembering.

Bush Admin looking to blame anyone, everyone, but themselves

E-mail suggests government seeking to blame groups

Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.
The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."


Whoever is behind the e-mail may have spotted the Sept. 8 issue of National Review Online that chastised the Sierra Club and other environmental groups for suing to halt the corps' 1996 plan to raise and fortify 303 miles of Mississippi River levees in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
The corps settled the litigation in 1997, agreeing to hold off on some work until an environmental impact could be completed. The National Review article concluded: "Whether this delay directly affected the levees that broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain."
The problem with that conclusion?
The levees that broke causing New Orleans to flood weren't Mississippi River levees. They were levees that protected the city from Lake Pontchartrain levees on the other side of the city.[Emphasis added --sid]
When Katrina struck, the hurricane pushed tons of water from the Gulf of Mexico into Lake Pontchartrain, which borders the city to the north. Corps officials say the water from the lake cleared the levees by 3 feet. It was those floodwaters, they say, that caused the levees to degrade until they ruptured, causing 80 percent of New Orleans to flood.
[Sierra Club Attorney David] Bookbinder said the purpose of the litigation by the Sierra Club and others in 1996 was where the corps got the dirt for the project. "We had no objections to levees," he said. "We said, 'Just don't dig film materials out of the wetlands. Get the dirt from somewhere else.' "

Nibbling Away at the Doctrine of State Sovereignty?

UN ‘must never again be found wanting on genocide’

This promise, part of a new doctrine called the responsibility to protect, reflects a profound shift in international law, whereby a growing sense of global responsibility for atrocities is increasingly encroaching upon the formerly sanctified concept of state sovereignty.


The Responsibility to Protect

From the summary:

Throughout the humanitarian crises of the 1990s, the international community failed to come up with rules on how and when to intervene, and under whose authority. Despite the new focus on terrorism, these debates will not go away. The issue must be reframed as an argument not about the "right to intervene" but about the "reponsibility to protect" that all sovereign states owe to their citizens.


Responsibility to Protect: Engaging Civil Society Project

THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty

Friday, September 16, 2005

WTF

Holy Crap. Karl Rove in charge of the New Orleans reconstruction effort?

Who's in Charge? Karl Rove!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Landfill in New Orleans

Love Canal-type landfill submerged in New Orleans floodwaters

Katrina Quotes, Compiled

Did They Really Say That?

Yes, yes, they did.

Oh, look, there's history, repeating itself

Republicans block efforts to amend relief bill, hold vote without providing copy of bill

Democrats said no one had even seen a copy of the legislation.
Voting along party lines, Republicans denied a measure that would have allowed for two hours of discussion and opened up the measure to be amended.


Well, that's just great. The PATRIOT Act was the same damn way. Can we not learn from our mistakes? Maybe just once?

Congress takes up $51.8 billion Katrina relief bill

The bulk of the money would go into a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief fund that is offering the debit cards. FEMA anticipates handing out 320,000 cards, at a cost of $640 million, to help displaced residents buy clothing, pay for transportation and other "emergency supplies they need," Director Michael Brown said.


Now that article is from the 8th of September, but if they're not going to do the debit cards after all, where will the money go, and how?[*]

FEMA, Red Cross Programs Confusing

The plan to give displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina instant financial help by issuing debit cards seemed, to many, like a good idea at the time."


[*] Evacuees Grow Anxious in Houston Mentions FEMA stopping distribution of cards, but from other news-googling it's not clear if that's a temporary halt in that locale, or discontinuing the program entirely.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

National Response Plan, or lack thereof

Breakdowns Marked Path From Hurricane to Anarchy

On the DHS's "National Response Plan":

The National Response Plan set out a lofty goal in its preface: "The end result is vastly improved coordination among federal, state, local and tribal organizations to help save lives and protect America's communities by increasing the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of incident management."


I think we can all agree that it failed to meet that goal, eh? The upsetting thing is that -- wait, let me rephrase that. One of many upsetting things is that --

Mr. Knocke, the homeland security spokesman, said the department realizes it must learn from its mistakes, and the department's inspector general has been given $15 million in the emergency supplemental appropriated by Congress to study the flawed rescue and recovery operation.


I thought we did that already. Studied, I mean. And that's why the Department of Homeland Security got created, and plans like this one established. Because of the lessons of September 11, 2001.

No?

Well, then, what was the point?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Al Gore & FasterCures Airlift New Orleans Victims

Al Gore helps airlift New Orleans victims

The FasterCures Airlift from New Orleans

What was I saying about needing a can-do President?


And, just to pull something out of the play-by-play (the FasterCures article),

At this point Catherine Berger pulled up a story from the DOD saying they had two medical teams evacuating people from the hospitals and the airport and that the ship COMFORT was sailing to New Orleans from Baltimore. That did not sound like it was going to help that many people for at least another day or two. We carried on. (As it happens, the COMFORT never reached New Orleans).


Why didn't the Comfort reach New Orleans?

And more,

We were now desperate to find a contact on the ground at the New Orleans airport to help triage ambulatory medical patients into these planes. FEMA in Washington was non responsive. We spoke to the aide to one of the deputies at FEMA and was told they did not need or want our help since the hospital evacuation was going fine. We looked at the reports from CNN about the conditions at the field hospital at the airport and discounted that opinion immediately. [Emphasis added -- sid]


...Gore said that on the second trip to New Orleans, the doctors at the airport told him that the evacuation of the first 90 ambulatory patients had been the tipping point in their ability to adequately care for the other bedridden patients. They also noted that the military evacuations did not really pick up steam until after we “motivated” them with our private effort.
Of note:

Throughout the entire operation in Tennessee, EMS operations in Chicago had stayed prepared to handle patients or evacuees. None ever arrived because the military did not want us to use Chicago. The volunteers in Chicago were amazing in their desire to help. Mayor Daly had been rebuffed earlier when he offered a complete mobile hospital unit for the airport and a tent city as well. Sen. Barack Obama called Gore and asked how had Gore managed to land in New Orleans when the Senator had been refused landing rights to help.
None of the airlines involved required a contract or any written guarantee of payment before sending their planes and volunteer crews – the first time Steve Davison had ever witnessed that in 15 years of chartering planes for political campaigns and other events. One official said if Gore promised to pay, that was good enough for them.


I know who the real Americans are in this story.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Downing Street Update

Rep. Lee Introduces Resolution of Inquiry into Iraq War Planning

Great article on computer security

The Six Dumbest Ideas in Computer Security

Around the time I was learning to walk, Donn Parker was researching the behavioral aspects of hacking and computer security. He says it better than I ever could:

"Remote computing freed criminals from the historic requirement of proximity to their crimes. Anonymity and freedom from personal victim confrontation increased the emotional ease of crime, i.e., the victim was only an inanimate computer, not a real person or enterprise. Timid people could become criminals. [Emphasis added -- sid.] The proliferation of identical systems and means of use and the automation of business made possible and improved the economics of automating crimes and constructing powerful criminal tools and scripts with great leverage."
Hidden in Parker's observation is the awareness that hacking is a social problem. It's not a technology problem, at all. "Timid people could become criminals." The Internet has given a whole new form of elbow-room to the badly socialized borderline personality.


Beautiful. That's *so* incredibly accurate. Absolutely brilliant.

Needing a Leader

Fuck yeah. I agree with every single word. Where's my "can-do" President?

My problem with Bush -- and here, I do indeed address Bush individually, as a guy -- is that during the time that the crisis was developing, from Monday to Friday, he never seemed to experience any actual sense of urgency as a result of the simple fact that people were, minute by minute and hour by hour, dying.
Let's give him the benefit of the doubt that he was being prevented from acting by bureaucracy and the sheer magnitude of the situation. Where are the stories of how he was in his office freaking the fuck out because there were tens of thousands of Americans trapped without food and water? Where's the story of how he ripped a strip off of somebody, demanding to know what the holy hell the holdup is getting water and food to those people?
I want to hear about how he was demanding that extraordinary steps be taken. I want to hear about how he sent his lawyers into a room -- he had four days, you know -- and demanded that they come back in an hour with a plan for him to send the Marines into New Orleans with 100 trucks of food and water, posse comitatus or not.


Say what you want about the mayor and governor -- those people were in pain. They saw people suffering and dying and took it as a given that it couldn't go on that way, and that if it did, government's response would be a failure. The mayor cried at the top of his lungs for help. I want to hear that Bush cried at the top of his lungs for help. I want to hear that he called every corporate hotshot he's befriended in the last twenty years and told them that if they ever wanted another invitation to the White House for dinner, they were going to pony up a fat wad of cash to the Red Cross, and they were going to do it yesterday.


No matter whose fault the slow relief effort was, the fact of the matter is that these are Americans, and this is their president, and the fact that they were homeless, starving, dying
of thirst, and deprived of medication never once seemed to actually bother him.


Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

President Oblivious and CYA

Dems Assail White House on Katrina Effort

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."
She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.
"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.
"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"
"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added.


Great Scott.

The press are being banned from New Orleans. Why? What national security interest is threatened here?

Bush banning media from New Orleans

It's censorship, it is. DON'T LET IT HAPPEN.

FEMA accused of censorship

When U.S. officials asked the media not to take pictures of those killed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, they were censoring a key part of the disaster story, free speech watchdogs said on Wednesday.
The move by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in line with the Bush administration's ban on images of flag-draped U.S. military coffins returning from the Iraq war, media monitors said in separate telephone interviews.

Katrina Timeline

Katrina Timeline

Note that the Gov of La declared a state of emergency on Aug 26th, and a federal state of emergency was declared on Aug 27th.

Just heard the Barbara Bush broadcast on NPR

The various quotes of her remarks I've read appear correct:

"Almost everyone I’ve talked to wants to move to Houston."

"What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed with the hospitality."

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle)--this is working very well for them."


Translation: those people have nothing to go home for, and look, we're giving them free stuff. Their lives are better now, thanks to Hurricane Katrina.

These people lost their homes, their communities, and in many cases, family members. They lost their entire lives. But because their lives were apparently meaningless -- it's not like they're real people or anything, handouts and a cot are a "step up".

I'm afraid I must given in to penchant for the obvious: W.T.F.?

We as a species have a long way to go.

FEMA just told Massachusetts our help's not needed

NPR tells me that FEMA has said our help -- housing evacuees at Camp Edwards in Cape Cod -- is "not needed at this time".

You know, I know the program is saying people don't want to go so far away from Louisiana, but gee, that really kinda sounds like what FEMA's said all along to people chomping at the bit ready to help. To the Red Cross, to volunteers, to everybody. Browneyedgirl's got a list.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Al Gore *Rules*

Haven from fury: Mercy Flight Brings Evacuees to ET[*]

Former Vice President Al Gore arranged the flight and was on board, but he declined to take credit for the airlift, fearing it would be "politicized."
The patients and evacuees arrived aboard an American Airlines MD-80 about 3:15 p.m. The unloading process took almost two hours, as some walked hesitantly down a staircase beneath the rear of the aircraft. Others were rolled down a ramp from the front of the plane to waiting wheelchairs. Personnel from Rural/Metro and the Tennessee Air National Guard volunteered their services, as did others, to get the patients and evacuees loaded onto buses or ambulances for the ride to area hospitals to be assessed medically before going to a Red Cross shelter.


One of the doctors on board the flight was Dr. Anderson Spickard of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, who said he had a "personal and professional" relationship with Gore.
Spickard said Gore called him about 11 p.m. Friday to ask him to participate in the flight.


Portrait of a hero, folks.

[*] Registration required, use BugMeNot's.

Link Roundup

Climate change raises risk of hunger

Hurricane Katrina Analysis - CFR Global Health Program

Bush to New Orleans -- Drop Dead Really, it should be 'Bush to Poor People -- Fuck off'. It amazes me, sometimes, that the leader of the free world only considers himself beholden to *some* of the citizens of the US, as opposed to ALL of the citizens of the US.

Mr. Bush's performance last week will rank as one of the worst ever by a president during a dire national emergency. What we witnessed, as clearly as the overwhelming agony of the city of New Orleans, was the dangerous incompetence and the staggering indifference to human suffering of the president and his administration.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

US Chief Justice Rehnquist dies

US Chief Justice Rehnquist dies

We Need to Drop these All Across the Delta

The Lifestraw. Kills the bacteria that cause Typhoid, Cholera, Dysentery and Diarrhoea. One straw can clean 700L (one child's daily water req for 2 years, or an adults for 1 yr) of water or more.

What we need is a low-flying scattered drop all across New Orleans and other areas still drowning in unsafe water of about a quarter million of these things. A person starting out healthy can go without food for much longer than they can go without water. Fix the water problem in situ, immediately, which would grant more time and free up resources to solve the other problems.

The Gutted Carcass of FEMA: Today's Cracked UnFairy Tale

Once upon a time, FEMA sucked. Then, a guy who actually cared about doing the job came along and whipped it into some semblance of shape.

Then, a guy who never cared about doing any job, who failed upwards all the way to "President", gave a similarly-minded crony the directorship of FEMA. And lo, FEMA came to suck again, delaying paperwork to get airlifted supplies from agencies and orgs ready to send 'em in, just waiting for orders, because FEMA is supposed to be in charge during an "emergency". Why that is it's very purpose, if you will.

Now, FEMA stands for Fucked Everyone, Minus Apology. Or, Fucked Everyone Massively Awful.

One of the Many Reasons

Actually, it's one of the three or four that I'm not talking about Hurricane Katrina laying, let's face it, Biblical hand-of-God type waste to the Gulf Coast, a whole lot of my time is that I just can't, physically.

I was in tears Friday morning, in Boston, on my public transit -- which runs through a major Amtrak hub, and thus connects me to the rest of the country even though I don't have a car, and which, if I needed to, I could whip out the Amex card and buy a ticket on, or rent a car with, because though I am currently impoverished by choice to go to law school, I'm not actually "poor", I have credit if I need it, that magic thing that gives me credibility -- reading a free newspaper talking about these poor people, these poor-in-every-sense-people, these tragic people who are poor, who were being left to die by our own government because they couldn't afford to get themselves out, who have no food -- and I had breakfast yesterday morning -- and no water -- and I was carrying a bottle full of cold Brita-filtered water yesterday morning with me on the T -- and no medicine -- and I am healthy and strong -- these poor people who have no sanitation -- and I showered that morning, I washed and conditioned my hair -- and they are dying.

And I was in tears because that moment when a living, breathing, conscious, desiring to live human being becomes nothing more than a piece of meat that would now start rotting is one I have carried with me constantly since I learned my father was found in his apartment dead in Anchorage, Alaska, on July 13th of this year.

I make up stories. Not for a living. Not yet. But I carry that writer's imagination around with me every day, and Hurrican Katrina stops me in my tracks, on the sidewalk, in the sunlight, here in Boston, where my stomach curls into a ball and I feel like I'm going to fall down and it is stupid pride that keeps me on my feet, so others won't know that I just had a moment of shaking terror that I was there, that I was there and drowning, there and dying, viscerally there and smelling dead bodies, and surrounded by water getting more toxic by the day, and crying exhaustedly because there is nothing to do, there is nothing to do, and no one is coming for me. That I would do no different than these poor people, who trusted their government to help them in time of disaster, to rescue them, because that's what it's for, the welfare of the people, and had that trust betrayed, vilely.

There but for the grace of God, there but for the stroke of sheer, blind, uncaring luck, go you and go me. May at least one person reading this realize it, deep into the marrow: we are not any better than those dying right now. We would die too, it's just not our city that's devastated. This time.

No one is better because they have money.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Radio Appearance by Yours Truly

I will be on Jordan Rich's show just after the 1 a.m. news on WBZ 1030 AM in Boston, talking about the Writers of the Future contest and my story in this year's anthology.

(Later: it went OK. I didn't hyperventilate or faint on-air, so I survived my first time and mostly spoke in complete sentences. I think.)

The Government COULD Have Been Prepared

But the Bush Administration decided invading Iraq for "political capital" mattered more than being prepared.

Disaster in the making September, 2004:
Bush administration policy changes and budget cuts, they say, are sapping FEMA's longterm ability to cushion the blow of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornados, wildfires and other natural disasters.
Among emergency specialists, "mitigation"--the measures taken in advance to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters--is a crucial part of the strategy to save lives and cut recovery costs. But since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now, communities across the country must compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars.
As a result, some state and local emergency managers say, it's become more difficult to get the equipment and funds they need to most effectively deal with disasters. In North Carolina, a state regularly damaged by hurricanes and floods, FEMA recently refused the state's request to buy backup generators for emergency support facilities. And the budget cuts have halved the funding for a mitigation program that saved an estimated $8.8 million in recovery costs in three eastern N.C. communities alone after 1999's Hurricane Floyd. In Louisiana, another state vulnerable to hurricanes, requests for flood mitigation funds were rejected by FEMA this summer.


And the result? One year later, Federal government wasn't ready for Katrina, disaster experts say August 31, 2005.

The federal government so far has bungled the job of quickly helping the multitudes of hungry, thirsty and desperate victims of Hurricane Katrina, former top federal, state and local disaster chiefs said Wednesday.
The experts, including a former Bush administration disaster response manager, told Knight Ridder that the government wasn't prepared, scrimped on storm spending and shifted its attention from dealing with natural disasters to fighting the global war on terrorism.
The disaster preparedness agency at the center of the relief effort is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which was enveloped by the new Department of Homeland Security with a new mission aimed at responding to the attacks of al-Qaida.
"What you're seeing is revealing weaknesses in the state, local and federal levels," said Eric Tolbert, who until February was FEMA's disaster response chief. "All three levels have been weakened. They've been weakened by diversion into terrorism."
In interviews on Wednesday, several men and women who've led relief efforts for dozens of killer hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes over the years chastised current disaster leaders for forgetting the simple Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.


Cause? Effect.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

FDA's Credibility Tanks

FDA Official Quits Over Plan B Pill Delay

"I have spent the last 15 years working to ensure that science informs good health-policy decisions," Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, wrote in an e-mail about her departure to agency colleagues. "I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended by the professional staff here, has been overruled."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Brit Armed Services Actively Recruiting Gays.

Fighting Under the Rainbow Flag

Read all the quotes Pam's House Blend culled...it just boggles the mind, really, the assumption that straight men are so deliriously attractive to everything else on the planet that gays won't be able to keep their hands off them.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sidra's Seattle/WOTF Report

The awards ceremony was quite a lot of fun, my folks were there.

I shook hands and talked with authors who've been rocking my world for the past 20, 25 years. Fred Pohl, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, and it was Jerry Pournelle and Fred Pohl who gave me my award.

I also met Eric Kotani, and who told me a cute little story about astronaut Pete Conrad while we were at dinner on Thursday night. And, lucky me, I chatted with yummy and charming Stephen Hickman, the artist who did the illustration for a favorite cover of mine, Steve Brust's /Jhereg/ (there's just something about the rendition of lizard skin, I love it), and is an afficionado of traditional Irish music, whereas I'm fast becoming one now that I've been to the Galway Sessions.

Lots and lots of other authors -- Kevin J. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta, Sean Williams (dead sexy from Down Under), Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Jay Lake, Robert Sawyer, and those are just the names I remember, I'm better at actual conversations rather than names. Met Greg Bear at the dinner thing on Thursday night, didn't hear him say his last name, which saved me from saying something like, "You wrote that book! That one! That I loved! Whose name I can't remember!" (and that would be The Infinity Concerto, btw).

So, it was a good gig, and now I have this huge lucite thingy on top of my bookshelf, pretending to be a bookend for my old IASFM and Analog magazines.

And now, I get to go and be an associate for the New England Journal of Criminal and Civil Confinement. Go figure.

WTF?

All I can do is mimic Medley on this one...WTF?

Anti-Gay Church Protests at GI Funerals

Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq...


I'm sorry, what? What? WHAT?

Because soldiers have so much control over where they get deployed to. Yeah.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Telling "Moral" from "Immoral"

Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers of Mayflower Church, Oklahoma City says,

We've heard a lot lately about so-called "moral values" as having swung the election to President Bush. Well, I'm a great believer in moral values, but we need to have a discussion, all over this country, about exactly what constitutes a moral value -- I mean what are we talking about? Because we don't get to make them up as we go along, especially not if we are people of faith. We have an inherited tradition of what is right and wrong, and moral is as moral does.


[...]

I'm tired of people thinking that because I'm a Christian, I must be a supporter of President Bush, or that because I favor civil rights and gay rights I must not be a person of faith. I'm tired of people saying that I can't support the troops but oppose the war.


read the whole thing

Friday, August 26, 2005

Order Today!

Writers of the Future, v. XXI is hitting stores even as I type. Pre-order your copy today, and admire my name in lights, or, actually, in the table of contents.

Enjoy the stories, too, while you're at it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pretty and Witty and Gay

DC Black Leader Under Fire For Homophobic Rant

"Sisters making more money than brothers and it’s creating problems in families … that’s one of the reasons many of our women are becoming lesbians."


I have several questions:

  1. How does more economic power than someone else make you gay?
  2. Gay is now apparently defined as "financially independent"?
  3. Don't we all strive to be gay, then?


and,

  1. Does money generally make people gay?
  2. Isn't the Republican Party the one with gobs of money?
  3. Ergo, the Republican Party is gay. I think.


Honestly, I think this 'women earn money = lesbianism' concept is the same kind of prejudiced bullshit people used to say about people whose skin is brown or black -- that they can't handle money or being 'real' citizens like white folk. They're mentally/morally weak or something, and someone has to take care of them. That someone is a plantation owner/master/sponsor/husband, etc., father-figure.

Iraq Marshlands Re-flooding

Water returns to Iraqi marshlands

The marshlands of Iraq, which were drained during the early 1990s, are returning to their original state.
Under Saddam Hussein, the area of marsh was reduced to a tenth of its former size, as the government punished people living there for acts of rebellion.
The latest United Nations data shows that nearly 40% of the area has been restored to its original condition.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Writers of the Future Awards

Tonight/last night was the awards ceremony for the Writers of the Future contest -- I was one of this year's winners and in the running for the "Gold Prize". Which is basically more money, more prestige.

I see that WOTF has not updated their website so I am going to politely refrain from scooping them -- I just want you all to know that I *could*. I will let the cat out of the bag to such an extent as to say that winner was not myself. More, I shall not reveal, so there are three other people it could be and I won't tell you.

But I *could*.

I've just returned to my hotel room after an evening of booksigning, and giving an acceptance speech to an audience that included such luminaries as Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Anne McCaffrey, and Frederick Pohl, all names you know if you read any science fiction and fantasy at all. It was quite an experience and I'm very glad to have participated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Greetings, Earthlings!

I come in peace.

Actually, I come and go, in peace. I'm at a fiction writing workshop for part of this week, so this is me, not posting regularly. Sorry about that, expect to see more of me soonish.

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article on The Iraq War and the Politics of Grief.

Gaza pullout resulting in strife -- gee, big surprise there. Soldiers clash with Gaza settlers

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Why a threat today?

Why is Cindy Sheehan a Threat to George on Thursday, but Not Today?, by Amy Branham.

For the last couple of days I have been hearing that Cindy Sheehan will be considered a threat to national security if she does not leave her post by Thursday. At this point, it’s important to ask: why Thursday? Why is Cindy not a threat today or tomorrow? Why wasn't she considered a threat to national security Saturday when we first marched out to the ranch? What is the difference between Thursday and now?


Branham goes on to explain -- because the president is leaving Crawford today, and he'll have to drive past Cindy Sheehan to do it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Beautiful Quote

From Assorted Ramblings of Gwen's Petty, Judgmental, Evil Thoughts:

So I posted bad thoughts about that, but then I went back and erased them. Screw those people and the sour grapes they rode in on, you know? Lately I've been making a really forceful attempt to be less angry. (Can you tell? No? Die and go to hell, then.)


That just totally cracked me up.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Fortified Peanut Butter in Nigeria

Hope for Hungry Children, Arriving in a Foil Packet

A fortified peanut butter nutritional supplement is saving the lives of starving Nigerian children.

The use of this supplement not only saves the kids themselves, but frees doctors up to tend those suffering other illnesses.

Traditionally, malnourishment meant hospitalization and fortified milk. Plumpy'nut can be given to mom and fed to the child at home, which means fewer beds and medical resources taken up by starving children. Plus, Plumpy'nut can be manufactured relatively locally.

One of the virtues of Plumpy'nut is that it can be made almost anywhere with local materials and a slurry of vitamins and minerals prepared by Nutriset. Versions of the same product are being manufactured in Malawi and in Niger's capital, Niamey, and Nutriset has welcomed the notion of local partners - from charities to women's groups - who might make Plumpy'nut under license or even as franchisees.


Do you see what that means? Not only can children be fed, but so can a local economy.

Pre-Approved for Terrorism, No Waiting!

Bruce Schneier articulates so much better than I have why these 'pre-approved' programs are a bad idea.

Orlando Airport's CLEAR Program

...the only purpose of [this verified identity] card is to divide people into two lines -- a fast line and a slow line, a "search less" line and a "search more" line, or whatever....
The reality is that the existence of the card creates a third, and very dangerous, category: bad guys with the card. Timothy McVeigh would have been able to get one of these cards. The DC sniper and the Unabomber would have been able to get this card. Any terrorist mole who hasn't done anything yet and is being saved for something big would be able to get this card. Some of the 9/11 terrorists would have been able to get this card. These are people who are deemed trustworthy by the system even though they are not. [Emphasis added.]
And even worse, the system lets terrorists test the system beforehand. Imagine you're in a terrorist cell. Twelve of you apply for the card, but only four of you get it. Those four not only have a card that lets them go through the easy line at security checkpoints; they also know that they're not on any terrorist watch lists. Which four do you think will be going on the mission? By "pre-approving" trust, you're building a system that is easier to exploit.

Downing Street Memo

These Are The Crimes That Try Men's Souls

...a leaked memo from Downing Street finally confirmed that Bush fabricated the entire war. On May 5th, 88 members of Congress signed a letter that gives the president a chance to explain himself.


British Intelligence Warned of Iraq War: Blair Was Told of White House's Determination to Use Military Against Hussein

"Military action was now seen as inevitable," said the notes, summarizing a report by Richard Dearlove, then head of MI6, British intelligence, who had just returned from consultations in Washington along with other senior British officials. Dearlove went on, "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."


I just keep stumbling every time I read that word, "fixed". It's just so this Administration. "We don't like the real world, so we'll live in a pretend one, instead, where Saddam had WMDs and was behind those planes on September 11, 2001". Well, he didn't. And, he wasn't. And we invaded his country, deposed him, and installed -- let's be honest -- something remarkably like a puppet government, as his replacement.

That's freedom on the march, baby.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

What the Hell: A Music Meme

Last week, someone tagged Medley with a song meme, and now that I'm back from Ireland, I thought I'd foist on you all what I've been listening to.

Sliabh Notes -- heard them in person in Galway, bought a CD in Doolin. I love the song "Galway", which I also heard them perform live. That's a beautiful song. And the Galway Sessions -- two weeks of music, music, music -- was just amazing as a whole.

Andy Irvine and Paul Brady -- bought on the shopkeeper's recommendation in Doolin. Definitely a good choice.

A couple of collections of 'essential Irish music' -- pub songs to instrumental airs.

George Michael's Listen Without Prejudice, vol 1 -- a fantastic album, especially Praying for Time and They Won't Go When I Go.

And I'm about to go hunting for the minidisc with 4 songs on it by Bright Eyes, because I could use some of that right about now.

While I was *in* Ireland, I listened to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, a mix of Hot Topic bands that I put together last year, and Ottmar Liebert (flamenco), all on my minidisc player -- I only brought 4 discs, and one (some bluesy stuff) I never listened to at all. And I listened to the Sliabh Notes album, but I had to borrow W's CD player and adapter to do that.

But, since I can't listen to people singing and study at the same time, I mostly had to stick to the LOTR and flamenco.

It's Still Not Science

But Is It Intelligent?

Fanning the Controversy Over 'Intelligent Design'

I don't have anything new to say about 'intelligent design' today, I've blogged about this subject before:

Science is a method of asking questions based on observations, predicting behaviours, and testing if those behaviours occur. Science is not a thing, it is a process of analyzing the world we live in.


Go ahead, teach ID -- please. But teach it as philosophy or theology or something else, because unless you can make predictions based on intelligent design and then test those predictions, you are not doing science and you should not be teaching it in a science class.

This Novak Walking Off The Set Thing

There's just no visible motive. I've seen the clip -- they weren't yelling, really. I've read the transcript:

HENRY: And the "Strategy Session" continues on INSIDE POLITICS. Still here: James Carville and Robert Novak.
Katherine Harris made a name for her self during the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential race. She was then Florida's secretary of state. She went on to the House of Representatives.
Now she wants to move over to the United States Senate. Today she got the news that the speaker of the Florida House won't challenge her for the Republican nomination. In the meantime, Harris is blaming unnamed newspapers for tarnishing her image by doctoring her makeup with Photoshop. -- that computer program. Bob Novak, have you been investigating this make-up story?
NOVAK: No, but I've had the same experience that she did. A lot of my trouble in the world is that they've doctored my make-up and colorized me in a lot of newspapers on my picture. So, I sympathize with her.
HENRY: This is breaking news. I've haven't heard this.
CARVILLE: Breaking news. Who did it? What paper?
NOVAK: Well, I don't. I can't tell you.
CARVILLE: Yes. You know the two happiest people in America today about this decision, is Bill Nelson and Jay Leno. I mean --
HENRY: Bill Nelson the Democratic Senator.
CARVILLE: The Democratic Senator and Jay Leno. That -- I mean, they're going to go nuts over this. They're messing with my make-up, but you really don't know who it is. I mean, let's say this: She's going to be good for the humor circuit. She's going to be good for the speech circuit and she's good for a lot. And I think that Nelson -- I think, it's probably no secret that the White House wanted the speaker to run and I suspect that the Nelson people are, you know, feeling pretty good here today.
NOVAK: A couple of points here: The first place, don't be too sure she's going to lose. All the establishment's against her and I've seen these Republican -- anti-establishment candidates who do pretty well. Ronald Reagan, I guarantee you that the establishment wasn't for him. We just elected a senator from Oklahoma, Senator Tom Coburn, everybody in the establishment was against him. She might get elected -- So, wait. Just let me finish what I'm going to say, James. Please, I know you hate to hear me, but you have...
CARVILLE: He's got to show these right wingers that he's got backbone, you know. It's why The Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em you're tough.
NOVAK: Well, I think that's bullshit. And I hate that. Just let it go.
(Novak leaves set.) HENRY: OK. James, what do you think though, seriously about this Senate race, James, that the -- that basically the Katherine Harris and Bill Nelson, if they do square off, what do you think -- what will that mean for Bill Nelson? He's considered an endangered incumbent.[...]


He just gets up and leaves. I mean, Novak and Carville weren't even in each other's faces. That's what surprised me. Where's the impetus to get up and leave? What the hell was that?

Not that I care, much, except that Novak is the guy who ought to be strung up and vigorously sued if not held criminally liable for outing CIA agents and stuff.

Friday, August 05, 2005

US To Play Shell Game With GTMO Prisoners

Just sounded cooler that way. Possibly more true, too.

US aims to empty Cuba terrorist camp by 70%

The Bush administration is negotiating the transfer of nearly 70 percent of the detainees at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to three countries as part of a plan to share the burden of keeping suspected terrorists behind bars.


You know, the only burden this is going to reduce is that now the US can express horror and dismay at the treatment of prisoners in some other country's prison, as opposed to one of our own.

I Blame the Patriarchy

You should, too.

The current craze for pretending that certain kinds of knowledge do not exist, for the purpose of promulgating antediluvian godbag superstitions about “Baby Jesus” or “Creation” or “The Virgin Mary,” is chapping my hide almost as hard as the current infestation of Austin-based singer-songwriters who continue to employ the overwrought phrase “I’m down on my knees!” and then rhyming it with “please” (but never “cheese”) in their trite masterworks, and that goes double if the singer-songwriter also tries to yodel. The godbags are completely insane with no hope of a cure, sure, but one could argue that it’s because they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and now can’t help it. Whereas lame poetry accompanied by acoustic guitars is an entirely preventable atrocity. What’s more, it’s never art, and it’s rarely entertainment, and of course yodeling should never be attempted by anyone whose cousin is not also her brother.


Sheer poetry. Of the good variety.

I also love Shakespeare's Sister, who you should go read right now, especially when she lays the smack down on Christians Who Support President "Liar Liar Pants on Fire" Bush.

This is what will always irritate me about conservative Christians who adore Bush. They genuinely don’t seem to care that he constantly behaves in unchristian ways. They genuinely don’t seem to care that he doesn’t even attend church regularly. Their biggest concern seems to be that he “isn’t afraid to show” that he believes in God, which isn’t even an honest claim; he isn’t afraid to say he believes in God. He, in reality, does precious little to show it.