Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cloned meat

FDA Calls Cloned Meat, Milk Safe

Scientists make clones by removing the DNA from an egg cell and replacing it with DNA from the cell of an adult. The cloning process appears to reset the adult's genetic code so that it can execute the developmental program of an embryo, but that transformation may not be perfect in all cases. Some scientists believe the embryonic clone may use, or "express," its genes in ways that could affect the clone's health when it grows up.

Suspicious creature that I am, my first thought upon reading this was: "which scientists?"

Scientists representing the other side get mentioned by name. Why not these "some" scientists?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon

What did Carl Sagan do for me?

He taught me that it was OK to ask "why", forever. He served as a role model in that regard.

He also served as a role model of scientist as communicator.

Because of Carl Sagan, when we got an Encyclopedia Britannica (we may have been poor, back then, in the pre-Internet days, but we with the Britannica were wealthy beyond dreams) I browsed it. And romped through it. And chewed my way across it.

I learned about special relativity long before taking a physics class. What cool stuff! Such knowledge! All in one place! I reveled in it. REVELED IN IT.

Because of Carl Sagan, I knew science was cool, education was cool, learning was cool, long before anyone came along to try and peer-pressure me out of it. (Whether because I was a girl or because of some mistaken belief that ignorance = hip.) The peer pressure didn't take.

I learned about history, geology, DNA, evolution, Galileo, gravity, Voyager, and the birth and death of the universe from Carl Sagan. He opened up all of human knowledge to me, and did it with passion and articulate grace.

As if I were a little duckling, he imprinted me to science. Thank you, Dr. Sagan.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Honestly, I Could Just Close Up Shop, Right Here

"When Kepler found his long-cherished belief did not agree with the most precise observation, he accepted the uncomfortable fact. He preferred the hard truth to his dearest illusions, that is the heart of science."

Carl Sagan, Cosmos.

The beating heart of science, what makes us move mountains and extend horizons, is this simple, terrible preference: rather to be pierced by truth, than a whole fool.

Thank you, ciroccoj, for letting me know about tomorrow's Sagan blog-a-thon. I will be there.

"Carl was a candle in the dark," said Yervant Terzian, the David Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and former astronomy department chair, after Sagan's death. "He was, quite simply, the best science educator in the world this century. He touched hundreds of millions of people and inspired young generations to pursue the sciences."

Did he ever.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter in Europe cancelled?

Concern over Europe 'snow crisis'.

That's global warming for you. And people who think the environment and the economy have nothing to do with each other? You're wrong: "Already banks are refusing to offer loans to resorts under 1,500 metres as they fear for their future snow cover."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Interesting and Amusing, in Different Ways

Reconsidering Star Wars IV in the light of I-III. R2-D2 as key spy for the Rebellion? Obi-Wan lying to Luke out of fear he'll turn out like his father? Hm. It kind of works.

Global Orgasm for World Peace Scheduled for Dec 22, 2006. I'm confused how it can really be synchronized if you can, you know, whenever you like that day. Plus, the site plays music at you. (Not terribly annoying music, rather classy guitar.) Fun with a serious purpose, as one of the GlobalO blog posts put it (Keep Spreading the Word).

I can understand how the connection between sexuality and the problems of the human race might seem tenuous, frivolous or in bad taste. But when you understand that most male human behavior, from violence and war to generosity and kindness, is a form of sexual display, the whole perspective changes. What better way to bring attention to, and perhaps make less acceptable, the kinds of displays that are threatening us and every other organism on the planet than the root cause of all the
displays - the orgasm? [Why the Global Oh!?]

Okay. I'm down with that.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

N.J. Okays Civil Unions

All the rights, different name. New Jersey legalises gay unions

World's tallest man saves dolphins

Wow. World's tallest man saves dolphins.

There's just something about the low-tech nature of this solution that I love. Wanna talk about ingenuity, common-sense, and making do with what you got? Talk about wrapping a towel to blunt a dolphin's teeth and then sticking your arm down his throat.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

True Colors of Religious Right Showing

Christian Coalition president-elect quits over agenda qualms

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Fla., said he quit as president-elect of the group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson because he realized he would be unable to broaden the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.

The resignation took place Tuesday during an organization board meeting. Hunter said he was not asked to leave.

"They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues; that's not our base,'" Hunter said. A statement issued by the coalition said Hunter resigned because of "differences in philosophy and vision."

Doing the stuff Jesus told Christians to do? "[N]ot our issues; that's not our base."

The teachings of Christ? Not their issues.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Good Question

"So How Come We Haven't Stopped It?" John Prendergast in The Washington Post asks, when will we take real action about Darfur?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stunning Photos

A great series of nudes from Leonard Nimoy's "Full Body Project".

[Obviously, if nudity is not safe for work for you, then these images are not safe for work.]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Truer words were never spoken

But [Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney's director of communications, Eric Fehrnstrom] said the loss also "might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Republicans. It might take a one party system for the voters in Massachusetts to see what a healthy two-party balance means for democracy.”*

Yeah, I think so. Let's just hope that applies at the national level, and we've reclaimed some of that necessary balance across the country, in the Senate, and in the House.

*Patrick makes history: Milton lawyer is first black gov. of Mass.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

from the skeletons in the closet of Parenthetically Speaking.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

New Look For Parenthetically Speaking

A new look for Halloween, the upcoming election, and life in modern America -- hell-bent, it seems some days, on returning to the Middle Ages.

Images used are Medieval Macabre, a most awesome looking site, part of Gode Cookery, whom I plan to patronize at the first opportunity.

Excellent Article on Abortion

UK-specific, and well worth reading.

Time to Speak Up

(Hat tip to Medley, for furling this one. I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.)

Tell me, my invisible audience, when you read this: do you think someone could get this article published, in America today? Riddle me that.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Report from the Pragmatism and Paramecia Dept

In flu crisis, we all can't stay home: Harvard survey raises realities of a pandemic

Ask Americans whether they would hole up at home to keep from spreading a super-strain of flu, and at first they pledge to cooperate.

But probe deeper, and here come the doubts. One in 4 adults says there is no one to care for them if they got sick, raising the specter of Grandma gasping alone in bed or a single mother passed out while her children wail.

Another 1 in 4 could not afford to miss work for even a week.

And 1 in 5 fears the boss would insist they come to work even if they were sick and contagious.

This is bizarre. It's like they're surprised that people aren't all rich, living together, and/or have nannies.

No, this is America. We all work our asses off for too little money, with an ethic that demands we work no matter how bad we feel, with little to no job protection. And yes, there's a hell of a lot of elderly living alone, single moms, and just generally a lot of people out there who live alone.

Oh, and all of us with no health insurance.

Well, duh.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Oh. My. God.

Holy flying muskrats. That's my aunt Tammy.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fiscal Irresponsibility

Deeper and Deeper

For the first time during President Bush’s tenure, the government’s interest bill is expected to rise in 2006, from $184 billion in 2005 to $220 billion this year, up nearly 20 percent. That increase — $36 billion — makes interest the fastest-growing component of federal spending, and continued brisk growth is likely. According to projections by Congress’s budget office, the interest bill will grow to $249 billion in 2007, and $270 billion in 2008.

All of that is money the government won’t have available to spend on other needs and priorities. And much of it won’t even be recycled back into the United States economy. That’s because borrowing from foreign countries has exploded during the Bush years. In 2005, the government paid about $77 billion in interest to foreign creditors in China, Japan and elsewhere.

"It means that a growing share of America’s future collective income will flow abroad, leading to a lower standard of living in the United States than would otherwise have been achieved."

The Republican Party is not the party of fiscal responsibility.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Son of a Bitch

A man walking with his young son goes up to the Vice President at a public appearance and tells him his Iraq policy is "reprehensible." He's later arrested for "assaulting" VP Cheney. Now he's suing.

And well he should. That's not assault.

The Rocky Mountain News has some things to say about it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Read it. THE KISS OF DEATH: How the frenetic, heated, and borderline-insane race to oust Democratic Senate hawk Joe Lieberman brought new meaning to the term “partisan politics” By Kenneth Cain.

How to win a primary: stand up for what's right.

Long Tortuous Trip

Orcinus reminds us of how many opportunities we -- that's America we -- to behave like Americans. Like humans. Handmaidens to Torture.

Suppressing news reports.
Condoning torture all the way up the chain of command.
Pretending the Geneva Conventions don't apply to a practice like waterboarding.
Pretending one state (the U.S.) can define a preemptory norm that applies to the entire community of nations, that is just about the most basic international norm we have.
Barring the invocation of the Geneva Conventions in a U.S. court.
A president who apparently thinks torture will actually get you good intel.

Tracking the Torture Taxi

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Yeah, I hacked the Georgia Election"

Will The Next Election Be Hacked?Fresh disasters at the polls -- and new evidence from an industry insider -- prove that electronic voting machines can't be trusted

We had control of everything.

Read the whole thing. Look, I understand that people are willing to cede a great deal of power to us geeks who care nothing for power and everything for knowledge, but CUT IT OUT. Stop basing fucking ELECTION SYSTEMS on INCOMPLETE SOFTWARE.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Speaking of Bad Voting Systems

Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine

This paper presents a fully independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine, including its hardware and software. We obtained the machine from a private party. Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine's hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures.

The Definition of a Hacker

Bruce Schneier wrote:

A hacker is someone who experiments with the limitations of systems for intellectual curiosity.

I'd say, for INTJ hackers, at least, this definition is incomplete. An INTJ must understand the system, it's our nature to do so, and the only way to understand a system is to watch it flex, to get down underneath it, around it, surround it, and know its every aspect. Because only then do you see the true boundaries -- where it cannot shift, and where it can. Only then do you achieve true understanding of how, and quite frequently, why, the system is the way it is.

The vague definition Schneier provides encompasses this quite well: "Understanding how the...system worked -- that was the true prize."

"I can't imagine basing the success of an election on something so fragile as these terrible, buggy machines."

And that's Avi Rubin's report of the Maryland primary, 2006, in a nutshell.

I hope that we got it right in my precinct, but I know that there is no way to know for sure. We cannot do recounts.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Feeding that fear is a true crime

And the media and the Bush Administration are guilty as hell.

I Remember Townsend... -- on VJ Day, Pearl Harbor, Sept 11th, and reporting the truth.

FDR was right. Fear itself is the enemy. It makes you do stupid things. It makes you close your eyes because you think it'll make the monsters in the closet disappear, too. Wallowing in fear does nothing. Feeding that fear is a true crime. Lying about it to entertain the masses or make a political point, however...well...that's just a sin.

We know it. And it's time to show it. Boycott ABC and Disney, and vote the bums out of office.

It's incumbant [sic] upon us as citizens to get it right, and you can't get it right if you're selective with the facts. The only way to get the facts is to listen and investigate. We as a nation have yet to do either in any satisfactory way.

We have a duty to the truth, neighbors. Don't back down.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Clinton, et al., should sue ABC for libel

In ABC's '9/11' Libel By Fiction Exposure, Michael Froomkin points out:

[Generally, in the United States, it is very difficult for a public figure to win a libel case.] Plus, libel claims based on fiction are obviously much harder than claims based on assertions in supposed non-fiction. But neither of these bars is insurmountable. And on the facts as reported, they could be surmounted surprisingly easily.

As one New York court put it not so long ago, a claim of "libel by fiction" requires that "the description of the fictional character must be so closely akin to the real person claiming to be defamed that a reader of the book, knowing the real person, would have no difficulty linking the two." The novel Primary Colors didn't meet that test as it didn't use real names, nor were the physical description of any character like the plaintiff in that case. But the 9/11 show differs from Primary Colors in a very basic way: It uses actors portraying real people with their actual names involved in activities that are a blend of real things they did and of the partisan imagination. I suspect it wouldn't be hard to get a court to see the difference from Primary Colors-like facts. Furthermore, even if ABC were to run a big disclaimer with the episode, that wouldn't necessarily suffice.

It's even harder to make out a case of libel when the victim is a public figure. Basically, to win you have to show that the author of the libelous work demonstrated a "reckless disregard for the truth." Given the public nature of the warnings that various scenes are false, if in fact they are false then I think this part of the case should be pretty easy.

If I were at ABC or Disney I'd be having a serious talk with my lawyers right about now.

And AmericaBlog points out that American Airlines is about to get smeared:

As I first noted yesterday, I have the entire "Path to 9/11" video. And one of the very first scenes makes it explicitly clear that American Airlines had Mohammad Atta in its grasp, warning lights flashing on the computer screen, yet the airline simply blew off the threat and helped Atta kill 3,000 Americans.

Unfortunately, it's a total lie.

Wrong airport, wrong airline, and an implicit accusation of negligence.

Was Mrs. Wilson Outed to Muddy the Waters about Iraq's Invisible WMDs?

What Valerie Wilson Really Did at the CIA

She was operations chief of the Joint Task Force on Iraq, a unit of the Counterproliferation Division of the clandestine Directorate of Operations. For the two years prior to her outing, Valerie Wilson worked to gather intelligence that would support the Bush White House's assertion that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was loaded with WMDs. This means that Armitage--as well as Karl Rove and Scooter Libby--leaked classified information about a CIA officer whose job it had been to look for evidence of Saddam's WMD programs. During this part of her career, Valerie Wilson traveled overseas to monitor operations she and her staff at JTFI were mounting. She was no analyst, no desk-jockey, no paper-pusher. She was an undercover officer in charge of running critical covert operations.

[S]he had spent two years trying to find proof of the administration's claims that Iraq posed a WMD threat. She and the Joint Task Force on Iraq, of course, came up empty-handed.

"Thanks for the Fear"

Thanks for the Fear, from On the Left Tip. Read the whole thing, even if you can't bear to read a "where I was on September 11" story.

That's real fear. It's real fear when you immediately notify authorities (whoever is closest) when a bag is abandoned on the Metro or in front of a building or in the Dulles Airport. It's ever-present. It's livable, but it's always there and it's tied to real-life concerns.

So it really fucking pisses me off when the terror alert level is raised, right before and election, based on information that is four years old.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Followup to yesterday: And now the EU wants to know where they are

EU lawmakers demand to know location of CIA jails

Bush said on Wednesday the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had interrogated dozens of suspects at undisclosed overseas locations and 14 of those held had now been sent to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

A leader of Europe's chief human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, said the revelation vindicated the investigation the body had conducted after the Washington Post reported last year that the CIA had run secret prisons in Europe and flown suspects to states where they could be tortured.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rumsfeld Wrong Again

New Enemies Demand New Thinking

He asks, or complains, actually:

• With the growing lethality and availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that vicious extremists can somehow be appeased?

• Can we really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?

• Can we truly afford to pretend that the threats today are simply "law enforcement" problems rather than fundamentally different threats requiring fundamentally different approaches?

• Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America — not the enemy — is the real source of the world's troubles?

The law enforcement remark is my fave -- given that it's the one approach that seems to have some effect.

Rumsfeld's point in this article, however, is that criticizing America is a Bad Thing.

No, Mr. Secretary. This is a democracy. Criticizing America is the Patriotic Thing. For it is only a sharp eye on our methods and motives that will see us through to a brighter future.

Conservative Rhetorical Tricks

Rhetorical Strategy

All of them boil down to "avoiding the actual argument".

The Latest from Black Box Voting

Tampering, sending machines home with poll workers (like we did when I was asst inspector in San Diego, as well as more recently), oh, yes, let's just make it easier and easier to steal an election.

Permission to excerpt or reprint granted, with link to

See photos below - a couple of 54-year old women from Black Box Voting bought $12 worth of tools and in four minutes penetrated the memory card seals, removed, replaced the memory card, and sealed it all up again without leaving a trace. This experiment shows that the seals do nothing whatever to protect against access by insiders after testing, and the seals also are worthless in jurisdictions like Washington, Florida, California, and many other locations where voting machines are sent home with poll workers for days before the election.

The Busby-Bilbray contest in San Diego now has proof that the optical scan machines sent home with poll workers subjected the tamper-friendly memory cards to an non-recoverable lapse in chain of custody. The recipe for tampering has been on the Internet for over a year:

The photos below blow apart claims by elections officials that voting machine "sleepovers" -- sending voting machines home with poll workers for days or weeks prior to elections -- are secure because of seals over the memory card.

Two Black Box Voting studies in Leon County, Florida proved that election results can be altered in such a way that the supervisor of elections cannot detect the tampering. Not to worry, we were told by elections officials. The memory cards are sealed inside the machines.

But then Black Box Voting purchased an optical scan machine and obtained discarded voting machine seals from King County, Washington. Here's what we found:


The cover can be removed without detection by removing five screws. Inside, all that stands between a pollworker (or an insider at the warehouse or elections office) and the open-for-business memory card is a washer which you can unscrew.

See the memory card: It is the item in the slot that says "this side up." Diebold's first line of defense is a metal door that pivots down over the memory card slot.

See how the door works: The hole in the right side of the door is over-large, so you can move the right-side bolt in and out at will. Therefore, they seal the right-side bolt.

See the hole in the top of the right-side bolt: The plastic seal is threaded through that.

See the plastic seal: This plastic seal was used by King County. It had been broken and discarded, so we used the high-tech method of putting an orange rubber band on it to hold it together for this demo. The seal is pointless anyway, as you'll soon see.

See the screws holding the Diebold AccuVote optical scan machine together: There are five. We tried a Phillips-head screwdriver on the thing.

See the screws come out: What's inside?

See the left-side bolt. Can you remove it? We stuck a small Allen wrench into the bolt.

See that nut on the screw: (Red arrow) We got out a pair of pliers.

Is it possible that Diebold does not know this??? Grasp nut with pliers, twirl Allen wrench and see what happens.

See the bolt come off. But can you get the memory card out?

See the metal door pivot to the right: Remove the memory card.

We then put it all back together without leaving a trace. Cost for materials: $12. Time: 4 minutes to open, remove card, re-insert card and re-seal everything.

San Diego, June 6 2006: Sent these voting machines home with poll workers for sleepovers. They said the seal on the memory card bay made it secure.

STILL GOING HOME FOR SLEEPOVERS in King County, Washington: King County elections officials told citizens on Aug. 29 2006 in a videotaped statement that they are using the door and plastic tab seal as shown in these pictures, and they are sending the voting machines home with poll workers for the September primary election.


Black Box Voting has prepared a Citizen's Tool Kit -- basically a brain dump of the things that worked during our last three years in the field. It is organized into modules, each only a few pages long, bullet points, easy to follow.

Two modules can help you address this issue in your area:
Media Module: (tips to get this into the media in your location)
Adopt a public official module: (tips to educate, persuade, and hold public officials accountable)

Full 20-Module Tool Kit is FREE: It is a Declaration of Independence for Citizens. You can download it here: (Adobe Acrobate 7 or higher recommended)

- It's time for you to recognize your own power.
- You don't need us.
- You don't have to find someone to follow.
- Pick any module. Pick a single action in it. See it to its completion.
- You've just opened the door to an unexpected evolution.

"Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." -– Declaration of Independence

* * * * *

Black Box Voting is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501c(3) elections watchdog group supported entirely by citizen donations. We refuse funds from any vendor or vested interest.

To support Black Box Voting: click to or send to:
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA 98055

* * * * *

Friday, August 18, 2006

On "Gifted" Children and Adults

It's all so, so true.

Parenting a Highly Gifted Child:

Many people think of profoundly and highly gifted children as having it easy. They do not. They are special needs children as surely as the mentally retarded. They have extreme difficulties fitting in, accepting life. They are lonesome little people. They need constant guidance of a kind few are prepared to give. Endless patience on the part of the parent. It is. Exhausting. [Emphasis added.]

Oh, God, yes.

Understanding People Like Me

For instance, gifted adults are more likely to be morally outraged at issues that don't seem to concern other people very much. We are more likely to be highly emotional, and to express it. We are more likely to think idependently, challenge authority, and question norms that everyone else take for granted. We are more likely to be seen as weird.

So, pretty much a crock, then

Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?

Short answer: no.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What was the point?

Bombs Aimed at G.I.’s in Iraq Are Increasing

The real nugget is at the end:

Bush administration officials now admit that Iraqi government’s original plan to rein in the violence in Baghdad, announced in June, has failed. The Pentagon has decided to rush more American troops into the capital, and the new military operation to restore security there is expected to begin in earnest next month.

Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq’s democratically elected government might not survive.

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,” the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”

Given it was never about democracy, this is not actually too surprising.

What was the point? Something about WMDs that weren't there, or revenge for "tryin' to kill my dad", or enforcing UN resolutions?

No, no. *holds up hand* It'll come to me.

Gambled and Failed

The dice have come up SNAKE EYES.

[t]he war in Iraq is wholly irrelevant to the means chosen by the London terrorists, and the means that thwarted them—dogged police work, lawful surveillance, international co√∂peration—are precisely those which have been gratuitously starved or stymied on account of the material, political, and human resources that have been, and continue to be, wasted in Iraq. Why not change the game to one that relies less on gambling and bluff and more on wisdom, planning, and (in every sense) intelligence?

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Revenge of the Irate Moderates"

"Revenge of the Irate Moderates"

That's a misnomer, if you ask me.

The rebellion against Mr. Lieberman was actually an uprising by that rare phenomenon, irate moderates. They are the voters who have been unnerved over the last few years as the country has seemed to be galloping in a deeply unmoderate direction. A war that began at the president’s choosing has degenerated into a desperate, bloody mess that has turned much of the world against the United States. The administration’s contempt for international agreements, Congressional prerogatives and the authority of the courts has undermined the rule of law abroad and at home.

"Attempting to regain the real center becomes a radical alternative."

It's not revenge. It's revolt. It's revulsion. It's repair.

It's entirely sensible, is what it is.

What We Know and Don't Know

Editorial: What we know / A deadly airline plot and failed Bush policies

In the What-We-Know column:

We know that the war in Iraq is not a "war on terror."

We know that the loss of 2,600 good Americans, the injuries of 19,000 others and the wartime expense of $320 billion have been a tragic waste.

We know that because of the cost of Iraq, measures that might truly enhance homeland security, like technology that would spot sinister liquids at airport checkpoints, are hardly affordable.

We know that while the president has cut taxes for the rich, at a time when he says all Americans must do their part, U.S. borders are porous, cargo ships are vulnerable and sophisticated identity scanners remain a fantasy.

Yes, there is much that we don't know. What we do know, based on the foiled plot against U.S.-bound aircraft, is that five years of policies by George W. Bush and the Republicans who control Congress have made the country no more secure and its people no more safe. It is time for a change.

Looking Cool v. Dismantling the System

Turning (toward) Black III, by Professor Zero. (thanks, Granny Gets a Vibrator, for the tip.)

Speaking of Eldridge Cleaver (and so, necessarily, of patriarchy) and of women, I have talked to a few men over the years. Some of these, I would classify as unreconstructed patriarchs, but gentlemen. Others have been unreconstructed patriarchs, but not gentlemen. Still others have been working towards feminism, with varying degrees of success. And then there is a fourth group, which calls itself 'modern'. This ostensibly mild-mannered group accepts, gladly, some of the effects of feminism: birth control, better sex, dates who share checks, wives with good incomes, paternity leave. They would not describe themselves as feminist. In this they are correct, since they in fact resemble the unreconstructed patriarchs, with the difference that they demonstrate the requisite characteristics in a covert, rather than an overt way.

Perhaps we can draw a loose parallel between these 'modern' guys, and white people who wish to be absolved of racism and then move, instantly, to reap the cultural or other benefits of 'integration'. Yes, you can go out to the zydeco, and be effusive, and say some theoretically sophisticated things. But you looking cool, is very different from you being cool, and that again is very different from dismantling the system.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Authoritarian Personality

A 2-part series over at Orcinus, courtesy of guest blogger Sara Robinson. She starts off in this post with a discussion of the personality summarized from John Dean's book, Conservatives Without Conscience.

Dean is also emphatic that authoritarianism, in all its forms, is completely antithetical to both classical conservatism (he still considers himself a Goldwater conservative), and to the founding ideals of America. We must be clear: when right-wingers threaten liberals, they are directly threatening the seminal political impulse that created our nation. An operative democracy depends on having a populace that is open to new ideas, able to think for itself, confident in its abilities, willing to take risks, and capable of mutual trust. America was founded as the world's first radically liberal state. History has shown us that the nation's best moments, past and future, are created by people with a strong liberal orientation.

In her second post, Robinson goes deeper, first noting:

Cut loose from our moorings, in over our heads, we all look for something solid to hold onto. No matter how strong we are, we've all got areas where we are brittle and vulnerable. It's hard for any of us to say for sure that we'd walk away from an authoritarian leader who promised us precisely the right kind of salvation in precisely the wrong moment. This is something to bear in mind whenever we deal with authoritarian followers: they have simply responded to an impulse that exists -- at least to some degree -- in all of us.

And then, she discusses what it's like to leave fundamentalism, in terms that remind me most of what it can be like for gays to come out: personal enlightenment at what can be an enormous cost, personal, professional, and social. And yet, we still do it -- for what will it cost a man to keep the world when it means losing his soul?

Many of the ex-fundies I know made their break in the aftermath of sexual abuse, ruinous financial treachery, public humiliation, or power grabs that threatened their marriages or children. They saw, in devastatingly vivid color, what their leaders were capable of. Their endless loyalty was shattered, because they realized it was not being returned in kind.

The Bush Administration is not loyal to us Americans. It's time to change.

"It's not security, it's security theater"

Last Week's Terror Arrests "It's not security, it's security theater: measures designed to make us feel safer but not actually safer."

But only temporarily. Banning box cutters since 9/11, or taking off our shoes since Richard Reid, has not made us any safer. And a long-term prohibition against liquid carry-ons won't make us safer, either. It's not just that there are ways around the rules, it's that focusing on tactics is a losing proposition.

It's easy to defend against what the terrorists planned last time, but it's shortsighted.

As noted in my previous post below, law enforcement did its job catching these guys. They were under extensive surveillance by enforcement professionals who knew what they were doing.

And then, the U.S. pushed to get arrests early, when, let's face it, the pros wanted to wait a little longer to see who else they could draw in. Why is that? So BushCo could hit the Panic Button?

Bottom line: The British have had a hell of a lot more practice dealing with terrorism effectively. LISTEN TO THEM.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Wait, Aren't You Scared? -- NO.

firedoglake has a link to a great post by a blogger called Kung Fu Monkey: Wait, Aren't You Scared?

As the initial "OH SWEET MOTHER OF GOD THEY CAN BLOW US UP WITH SNAPPLE BOTTLES!!" hysteria subsides, we discover that these guys had been under surveillance, completely penetrated, by no less than three major intelligence agencies. That they were planning on cell phones, and some of them openly travelled to Pakistan (way to keep the cover, Reilly, Ace of Spies). Hell, Chertoff knew about this two weeks ago, and the only reason that some people can scream this headline:

"The London Bombers were within DAYS of trying a dry run!!!"

-- was because MI-5, MI-6, and Scotland Yard let them get that close, so they could suck in the largest number of contacts (again, very spiffy police work). The fact that these wingnuts could have been rolled up, at will, at any time, seems to have competely escaped the media buzz.

This is terrorism's A-game? Sack up, people.

Again, this is not to do anything less than marvel as cool, well-trained, ruthless law-enforcement professionals -- who spent decades honing their craft chasing my IRA cousins -- execute their job magnificently. Should we take this seriously? DAMN STRAIGHT we take this seriously. Left unchecked, these terror-fanboy bastards would have gone down in history. These cretins' intent was monstrous; they should, and will, all go to jail for a very long time. This is the part where we all breathe a sigh of relief that there are some actual professionals working the job in some countries.

But God gave me a brain, and a modicum of spine. Taking something seriously, and panicking over it are two different things.

Ain't that right!

I'm sorry the Republican Party is overflowing with panicking children. Even more so, I'm sorry a bunch of cowards are running my government.

I am willing to put my life, my fortune, and my sacred honor on the line, just like our Founding Fathers were over two hundred years ago. But if you think screaming at everyone to hide under the covers instead is going to help, rather than working to solve the problem, well, then, you're no patriot.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

If it don't work, DON'T BUY IT

On July 13, the Pensacola, Florida based law firm of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed a “qui-tam” lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging that Diebold and other electronic-voting- machine companies fraudulently represented to state election boards and the federal government that their products were “unhackable.”

If that's what they said, they were definitely lying. We know, thanks to Black Box and others, that these systems are hackable.

"Nasty Liberal Bloggers"

Man, those right-wing bloggers sure have no shame, do they? It's interesting that it's really only innate human decency that keeps liberal bloggers from being as nasty as certain right-wingers rabid types in the first place, -- who suggest killing us (and the occasional Supreme Court Justice) -- and yet, we get *called* nasty.

Nasty Liberal Bloggers

I feel like starting a group blog just so I can name it that.

Supporting the Democratic Candidate in CT

Hillary Clinton keeps her word and supports the Dem candidate for senator in CT.

I haven't said anything about the Lamont-Lieberman race, but I am extremely disappointed by Senator Lieberman's hubris in his apparent assumption that Connecticut voters owed him a job just because they voted him in before.

I'm glad to see a new guy, with new ideas, taking the field. And I'm *extremely* glad to see Democratic leaders keeping their word.

"Backbone" is the watchword for 2006, friends.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Aw, crap.

Susan Butcher died on Saturday.

If you don't know who Susan was, then you've missed a vital part of the history of the Great Race -- the Iditarod. Susan was an icon, a giant, and she owned that race -- one of the toughest endurance tests of human and animal you can imagine, that simulates the desperate dash across Alaska by dog sled made in 1925, to deliver diptheria serum to Nome -- for most of the 1980's.

I remember when her team tangled with a moose in 1985. Two dogs dead, over 10 injured. I'd say that moose is probably the only reason the first woman to win the Iditarod wasn't Susan.

But she came back and won the Iditarod four times -- three of them in a row, prompting T-shirts like

"Alaska: Where Men Are Men, and Women Win the Iditarod."

Susan retired in the mid-90's, but she left an indelible stamp on the race, the sport, and the state. Alaska's most famous athlete, she was tirelessly dedicated to good dog care, and a gracious, inexhaustible champion who deserved to be called "the toughest dog in the team."

Susan was one of my very first heroes. R.I.P.

Oh, no, Canada!

Tories axe website in Kyoto assault

The Conservative government is trying to push global climate change off the federal map, shutting down the main federal website on the topic and removing mention of it from speeches and postings, opposition MPs and environmentalists say.

What, do you think if you ignore it, it'll go away?

That technique didn't work when you were in school and it won't work now.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Blackwater: Inside America's Private Army

After Blackwater contracters were killed in Iraq, their families have decided to sue the company.

Firedoglake has a great entry on all this, and informs us:

The company’s defense is that "although it is a private company, it has become an essential and indistinguishable cog in the military machine and, like the military, should be immune from liability for casualties in a war zone."

Well, well, well. If it's part of the military, it's going to have to act like the military and *integrate into it*. Be subject to -- and accountable through defined channels -- the UCMJ, the laws of war, etc.

You do not get to have your cake and eat it, too.

Global Warming and Non-Helpful Mutations

If you've never thought about it, take a moment and reflect on the fact that the reason strictly-white-bread colored people exist is b/c a low-melanin mutation was non-harmful, and even beneficial, in Western and Northern Europe.

Still with me? That was a lot, compressed. Evolution, race, and geography. (Even some bits on Intelligent Design, if you're interested.)

But, really, it never occurred to you to ask why low-melanin slobs like me never evolved in sub-saharan Africa?

Now, what about a warming globe, with the potential for higher and higher rates of skin cancer?

That mutation's maybe not so beneficial anymore, is it?

So here's my message to all the white supremacists out there: time to do something about emissions, bucko, before skin cancer gets you. 'Cause you can only slather on so much SPF 3000.

Just a thought.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Muslims and Jews: Common Ground

Muslims and Jews: Common Ground

The author says a lot of things that make sense, and has an interesting suggestion about the introduction of a stronger role for the clergy in negotiation of a peace.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Haditha probe supports accusations against Pendleton Marines

Haditha probe supports accusations against Pendleton Marines

I used to live in Oceanside, CA, which is just south of Camp Pendleton. When the Marines shipped out, the town really felt it.

I was driving along in my truck one day, on the...south, yes, south side of the 78, running some errand, when I spotted a Marine on the side of the road and pulled over to give him a lift. He was trying to reach a cell-phone store and wound up on the wrong side of the highway, so I saved him about 20 minutes of hoofing it in major heat with a big ol' backpack.

We talked. It's not like we bared our souls or anything -- it wasn't a long ride.

He'd just finished training in something and was looking forward to shipping out to Iraq. When I let him out in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart, I told him to "stay safe".

This was back when we were still the good guys. It never occurred to me to tell him, "stay true". Because he was a Marine, and they've always been faithful.

When I talk about honor being stained, I'm talking about Semper Fidelis being spat on. I'm talking about oaths betrayed. About a proud military tradition being sullied.

This is no small thing. This is about our character as a nation.

Jimmy Carter on the Current Mid-East Situation

It is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens [referring to the kidnapped Israeli soldiers], but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response. The result instead has been that broad Arab and worldwide support has been rallied for these groups, while condemnation of both Israel and the United States has intensified.

Stop the Band-Aid Treatment

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Diebold Electronic Voting -- Worst Flaw


I would just like to remind the world that when I worked as an election inspector in Southern California, the number of voter ballots allegedly issued (by my machine) and the number of voter signatures counted (by one of my colleagues) had nothing to do with one another.


Monday, July 31, 2006

U.N. to U.S.: Close Secret Jails

U.S. Should Close Secret Detention Centers, UN Panel Says

The U.S. ``should immediately abolish all secret detention and secret detention facilities'' as well as ``grant prompt access'' by the International Committee of the Red Cross to prisoners, says the 12-page report, published today. The U.S. must also stop transferring prisoners to countries where there is a risk they will be tortured and ``acknowledge the applicability'' of international law for individuals.

And the U.S.'s response? "Hey, man, North Korea's even worse."

The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it was ``disappointed'' with the findings of the report and the committee ``loses perspective and credibility'' by spending more time criticizing the U.S. than ``countries with no civil and political rights'' such as North Korea, it said an e-mailed statement.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Reverend Says Churches Should be Apolitical

Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock

Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul — packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals — was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.

But there were also congregants who thanked Mr. Boyd, telling him they were moved to tears to hear him voice concerns they had been too afraid to share.

“Most of my friends are believers,” said Shannon Staiger, a psychotherapist and church member, “and they think if you’re a believer, you’ll vote for Bush. And it’s scary to go against that.”

That title is a misnomer, you know that? He didn't rattle his flock, he rescued 3/4s of them to speak their minds.

Mr. Boyd said he never intended his sermons to be taken as merely a critique of the Republican Party or the religious right. He refuses to share his party affiliation, or whether he has one, for that reason. He said there were Christians on both the left and the right who had turned politics and patriotism into “idolatry.”

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek “power over” others — by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have “power under” others — “winning people’s hearts” by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

“I am sorry to tell you,” he continued, “that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

Way to go, Reverend!

This problem politicization of religion is why, if I ever were to run for office, my response to any religious question will include a reading of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution:

Article VI

All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.[Emphasis added.]

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Global Warming is Real

California Heat Wave Deaths Near 100

Heat Wave State's Deadliest

Elderly, Isolated are Heat's Quiet Victims

CountyCurrent heat waveAverage per year 1989-2004Most per yearYear of Maximum deaths
Imperial83.581995, 1996, 2000
Los Angeles93.9101990, 2000
Riverside32.451990, 1994
San Bernardino91.841989, 1990, 2001, 2003
San Diego32.672001, 2004

Scientists Expect Scorching Heat in Future Summers

Illinois Braces for Heat Wave

It's Going to Be Hot

[Not all blame for a given heat wave is due to climate change, but] [h]eat waves and global warming “are very strongly” connected, said Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis branch chief at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

[W]hat global warming has done is make the nights warmer in general and the days drier, which help turn merely uncomfortably hot days into killer heatwaves.

Measuring the true cost of heat waves

The severely hot weather that withered crops, dried up rivers, and fueled fires in the summer of 2003 took a massive human toll. The full magnitude of this quiet catastrophe still remains largely an untold story, as data revealing the continent-wide scale have only slowly become available in the years since.

All in all, more than 52,000 Europeans died from heat in the summer of 2003, making the heat wave one of the deadliest climate-related disasters in Western history.

Projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global body of some 2,000 scientists, show more extreme weather events ahead as the planet heats up. By the end of the century, the world's average temperature is projected to increase by 2.5-10.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius). As the mercury climbs, more frequent and more severe heat waves are in store. Accordingly, the World Meteorological Organization estimates that the number of heat-related fatalities could double in less than 20 years.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Checking in at PS's Paramecia Department

West Nile virus found in Mississauga mosquitoes

Mosquitoes caught in a southwestern part of Mississauga, Ont. have tested positive for West Nile virus, once again raising fears about the potentially deadly infection.

A group of mosquitoes were captured on July 25 in the QEW and Clarkson Road area of the city, just west of Toronto.

And, in unrelated news:

HIV hides in gut to escape attack

These results lead some to suggest that immediate treatment after HIV infection may be warranted, and that anti-inflammatory drugs in tandem with antiretrovirals could be more effective than antiretrovirals alone.

New Reply to the News

up at The 3rd WWWave.

Friday, July 28, 2006


British Take Dim View of Blair’s Close Ties to U.S.

Mr. Blair has long maintained that standing close to Mr. Bush in times of crisis enables the British leader to exert some influence over American actions.

So, Tony, I gotta ask -- are you successfully exerting influence over Bush?

Detainee Abuse Charges = Honor. Stained.

Detainee Abuse Charges Feared

So, get this:

Back in 1996, the then-Republican Congress passes the War Crimes Act, to make prosecution of those who commit war crimes possible in US courts. The Pentagon says, "yeah, mates, this is good: let's hold ourselves to this standard," thereby setting it nice and high for anyone who might wind up with one of OUR servicemembers in their clutches. We are the best, the best-trained, and the best-equipped. WE fight with honor.

Alls well and good until Bush II gets a war in his hot little hands.

And now, instead of

* treating prisoners properly, in accordance with military guidelines,
* as in, avoiding maltreating the hell out of them,
-- and stopping their maltreatment when a "few bad apples" swing into play,

The Bush Administration would like to change the law, rather than what they're doing.[*]

These fuckers -- these fuckers -- are taking away our honor. Our honor as Americans, our honor as serving military and civilian, the honor of every man, woman and child in America. I am proud of the military service of my family members.

These bugs have besmirched everything a military uniform stands for.

It's time to kick them out. It's so far past time it hurts. Kick them out. Kick them out. KICK THEM OUT.

[*]The Human Rights Watch asks the obvious question: "The military has lived with" the Geneva Conventions provisions "for 50 years and applied them to every conflict, even against irregular forces. Why are we suddenly afraid now about the vagueness of its terms?" asked Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch.

Nuclear Energy and Dropping Water Levels

Heat Wave Shows Limits of Nuclear Energy

France has 58 nuclear power plants, which produce almost 80 percent of electricity generated in the country. Of these, 37 are situated near rivers, and use them as outlet for water from their cooling systems.

The drought accompanying the hot summer has reduced the volume of water in the rivers, and might force some power plants to shut down.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Whole New War"

A Whole New War

President Bush and national security adviser Stephen Hadley yesterday for the first time publicly acknowledged the momentous shift in the role for U.S. troops in Iraq, from fighting terrorists to trying to suppress religious violence.

This sea change was described in such understated terms that it was eclipsed by news about the crisis in Lebanon. Bush described a change in tactics; Hadley called it a repositioning.

But it's a[n] historic admission: That job one for many American troops in Iraq is no longer fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, or even insurgents. Rather, it is trying to quell an incipient -- if not already raging -- sectarian civil war, with Baghdad as ground zero.

Just Say "No" to Bolton

Bolton Confirmation Hearings Start Today

Firedoglake has a whole roundup of good links at the above location.

Could you afford to be poor?

Could You Afford To Be Poor? by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Human Rights Watch is Watching

Human Rights Watch has just released a new report on abuses by the US Army: “No Blood, No Foul”: Soldiers’ Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq. [If you can't get it at the previous link, try here.]

Obsidian Wings has a great post about this. OW quotes:

Some of the [Powerpoint] slides were about the laws of war, the Geneva Convention, but it was kind of a starting-off point for them to kind of spout off, you know: why we don’t have to follow these Geneva Convention articles and so forth. Like, you know, inhumane and degrading treatment, well, this specifically relates to POWs, so we don’t have to do this. So basically, we can do inhumane and degrading treatment. [Emphasis added.]

And then they went on to the actual treatment itself, what we were doing, what we’d signed off on and those types of things: cold water and nudity, strobe lights, loud music—that’s not inhumane because they’re able to rebound from it.

So, we can do inhumane and degrade treatment, even though this isn't! So, either way, we're covered!!

Yeah, we're covered, all right. In the same mud and shit and dishonor as those we maltreat.

Obsidian ends on a hopeful note, a reminder that we -- America "we" -- contain multitudes: The horrible things in this report--yes, they are part of what America is, now. But so are the human rights workers who wrote it. So are the soldiers who came forward. So is every citizen who decides this has to end.

Let's all be citizens who decide it has to end.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Protests in London

Israel Kills More In Lebanon: Media Black Out Protests

Senator Inhofe is Blind to the Truth

Because it's so damn inconvenient for him, isn't it?

Sen. Inhofe: ‘Gore Is Full of Crap,’ ‘All Recent Science…Confirms This Thing Is A Hoax’

You sure about that, Senator? Because there's an awful lot of recent science says it ain't.

Maybe if he wasn't using fiction authors as expert witnesses, this would be more obvious.

Orcinus on Eliminationism

The Origins of "eliminationism"

The eliminationist mind-set that characterized virtually all who spoke out on the "Jewish Problem" from the end of the eighteenth century onward was another constant in Germans' thinking about Jews. For Germany to be properly ordered, regulated, and, for many, safeguarded, Jewishness had to be eliminated from German society. What "elimination" -- in the sense of successfully ridding Germany of Jewishness -- meant, and the manner in which this was to be done, was unclear and hazy to many, and found no consensus during the period of modern German antisemitism. But the necessity of the elimination of Jewishness was clear to all. It followed from the conception of the Jews as alien invaders of the German body social. If two people are conceived of as binary opposites, with the qualities of goodness inhering in one people, and those of evil in the other, then the exorcism of that evil from the shared social and temporal space, by whatever means, would be urgent, an imperative. "The German Volk," asserted one antisemite before the midpoint of the century, "needs only to topple the Jew" in order to become "united and free."
Of course, I'm struck in that passage by how easily one could replace "Jewishness" with "liberalism" and "liberals" in much of the current environment -- as well as a number of other targets for right-wing elimination, particularly illegal immigrants.'

As am I.

NASA Mission Statement

NASA's mission statement changed oh-so-quietly. NASA’s Goals Delete Mention of Home Planet

From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”


Several NASA researchers said they were upset that the change was made at NASA headquarters without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or informing them ahead of time.

As usual. Why do publicly what you can do secretly? That's the White House motto.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gateway Drug? Not really.

Gateway to Nowhere? The evidence that pot doesn't lead to heroin.

I never saw much of a connection -- other than risk-taking -- between the two myself. One is a cigarette type thing, eminently familiar, the other, a Big Scary Honking Needle, And You Don't Know Where It's Been.

The federal government's last National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted in 2004, counted about 97 million Americans who have tried marijuana, compared to 3 million who have tried heroin (166,000 had used it in the previous month). That's not much of a rush through the gateway. And a number of studies have demonstrated that your chances of becoming an addict are higher if addiction runs in your family, or if heroin is readily available in your community, or if you're a risk-taker. These factors can account for the total number of heroin addicts, which could make the gateway theory superfluous.


Prehistoric humans roamed the world's largest desert for some 5,000 years, archaeologists have revealed.

...far from the inhospitable climate of today, the area was once semi-humid.

Between about 14,000 and 13,000 years ago, the area was very dry. But a drastic switch in environmental conditions some 10,500 years ago brought rain and monsoon-like conditions.

Nomadic human settlers moved in from the south, taking up residence beside rivers and lakes. They were hunter-gatherers at first, living off plants and wild game.

Eventually they became more settled, domesticating cattle for the first time, and making intricate pottery.


Humid conditions prevailed until about 6,000 years ago, when the Sahara abruptly dried out. There was then a gradual exodus of people to the Nile Valley and other parts of the African continent.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Gender Difference? Try "Discrimination".

Transgender Experience Led Stanford Scientist To Critique Gender Difference

I agree with Dr. Barres about the optimism thing. The scientific method is supposed to be objective and unbiased, so of course scientists tend to believe we're pure-intellect merit-based untouched-by-emotional-biases, etc., because we're educated to believe that's the way we're supposed to be in the field, and we want to believe in ourselves as having achieved that behavior. We're just blind to our faults, as humans tend to be.

Responsibility, Accountability, Democracy -- I'd love some, please

Bad Legal Advice For Bush

Now that Congress has been forced by the Supreme Court to partake in the separation of powers on the issues that Mr. Yoo cites — and others arising from this decision — I wonder (though may never find out) how the president feels about how his place in history has been marred by the advice of Messrs. Yoo, Addington, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Bybee, Flanigan and Haynes — these names should be remembered. Mr. Bush, clearly and deeply committed to protecting national security, has been crucially misled by his advisers, as have many other Americans.

I have two remarks to make:

1. The Bush Administration is headed by a fratboy incapable of taking responsibility for any action. Hell, when he falls off his mountain bike, he probably kicks it and says "stupid bicycle" under his breath. This attitude has permeated the Executive Branch.

2. This blame-the-counsellors approach is a very interesting one, and one quite evocative of a different ruler: a king. I had the good fortune to take a history class this past spring semester, on the development of human rights law. I found it quite eye-opening. One of the first things we read was the following:

Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom;

By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament; [Emphasis added.]

That's the English Bill of Rights, from 1689. I had it pointed out to me by my professor at the time that this was/is par for the course in such documents' treatment of a monarch. Hands-off blaming the king directly, blame the counsellors instead.

And so, I think to myself, when George Washington became President of these United States, and settled on the simple, non-monarchical, "Mr. President" as the appropriate honorific for his position, one that refused to emulate the ways of European courts, oh, how things have changed, subtly and otherwise, from those days to today. Today we can read articles that both treat George Bush as though he were king, blaming the failings of his Administration on the advice of "evil counsellors, judges and ministers", and from a more modern perspective, perpetuating the Culture of Buck-Passing in constantly seeking excuses for those failings of the Bush Administration. They are, it seems, always Somebody Else's Fault.

Monday, July 17, 2006

This isn't about partisanship

This is about the fundamental structure of American government.

The Real Agenda NY Times. Worth registering to read.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Once, we were the city on the hill. Now, this:

When Torture Isn't Good Enough

This is what America stands for in the 21st Century: the torture of innocent children to make their fathers confess.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

50 Questions

50 Questions to Ask Republicans

1. What are the Top Seven best things that the Bush Administration has done?

2. Is the Iraq War is going well?

3. After three years thus far, when do you think Iraq might be able to "stand up" so that America can "stand down"?

4. For his part in the event, how would you rate the job the President did protecting New Orleans from devastation?

5. How do you think the rebuilding of New Orleans is going?

6. When Dick Cheney and the oil company and energy executives met in private to plan America's energy policy, how much of their goal was to benefit consumers?

7. Do you believe in the President's call for an Era of Personal Responsibility?

8. Since Republicans control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, how personally responsible are they for conditions in America today?

9. Why do you think they haven't been able to find anyone who can verify that George Bush ever showed up for National Guard duty in Alabama?

These are good questions, mostly, I think. Read 'em all.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dominionist Theocracy

Deconstructing the Dominionists -- part I, part II, part III.

Won't Let Him Off The Hook

Exactly, but, if true, I'm glad to have it come out.

Man indicted in phone jamming case will argue Administration approved election scheme

Shaun Hansen, the former owner of the company that placed hang-up calls to jam Democratic phone lines, was indicted in March for conspiring to commit and aiding and abetting the commission of interstate telephone harassment relating to a scheme to thwart get out the vote efforts on Election Day, 2002.

His lawyer's motion signals that Hansen intends to argue that he was entrapped because the Administration allegedly told his superiors the calls were legal. The filing indicates, however, that Hansen does not have firsthand knowledge of Administration intervention.

Hansen’s lawyer offered an inside look of his defense strategy in yesterday's filing: his client will assert that he believed he was acting on behalf of the government and the Republican Party through his work with GOP Marketplace, the company which subcontracted the phone jamming efforts.

Phone Jammer to Argue DC Officials Approved

Rather, his defense strategy will be to persuade a jury that he may have been persuaded not just that the phone jamming was legal, but that he would be carrying out the scheme on behalf of the United States government.

Climate Change and Wildfires

Climate Change Blamed for Western U.S. Wildfires

"When you have a warm spring and early summer, you get rapid snowmelt. With the snowmelt coming out a month earlier, areas get drier overall. There is a longer season in which a fire can be started and more opportunity for ignition."

Friday, July 07, 2006

Statutory Poetry

US Copyright Code, in verse!

Canadian First Nations with No Safe Water

Water may be deadly

"We've got death at the tap," said Tony Stienhaurer, who says the reserve has also been under a boil-water order since 2004.

True Patriotism

Patriotism and Participation

Government is not a service we buy, it's a process we participate in. Many of us in my generation have forgotten this, and in outsourcing our government we've allowed a lot of the process to go wrong. As long as we treat it as a service, we've no standing for complaining when it's provided to us as a service, just as the Coca Cola corporation provides us soft drinks that may not be terribly healthy for us but taste good at the time.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Advisory? I think not.

Endless War on Terror (Phase Two)

For his part, Bush has hinted that he may treat the Supreme Court’s [recent Guantanamo] ruling as more of an advisory opinion than a binding decision.

Responding to a reporter’s question shortly after the court’s decision, Bush rhetorically put quote marks around the word “ruling.”

“Yeah, I – thank you for the question,” Bush said, “on a quote, ‘ruling’ that literally came out in the midst of my meeting with the prime minister [of Japan], and so I haven’t had a chance to fully review the findings of the Supreme Court.”

Between the quote marks around “ruling” and the later reference to the court’s “findings,” Bush conveyed a sense that he didn’t necessarily consider the decision to be binding on his actions.

Now, I'm not sure how much of a sense Bush actually conveyed, but I'll tell you this:

The Court does not issue advisory opinions, and it has refused to do so, when asked. The Court *only* sits "cases and controversies", as the Constitution authorizes it to do.

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

The Quote That Changed My Life

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nail. Hammer. Bang.

Simple and succinct, from the Booman Tribune:

I still can't understand why Middle America thinks the threat of terrorism warrants the loss of our inalienable rights. We live with all these live in a fantasy land. We are not afraid. We would give up no rights to protect ourselves. You call us coddlers of terrorists and tell us the NSA must spy without warrants. Fuck you.
[thanks Medley, for the tip]

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Republican Party is full of wimps. Wimps who would rather cower, afraid, then stand up and be real patriots.

Maybe they could ask us to leave?

Iraqi demands justice in rape-slay case

The justice minister demanded Tuesday that the U.N. Security Council ensure that a group of U.S. troops are punished in the alleged rape and murder of a young Iraqi and the killing of her family, calling the attack "monstrous and inhuman."

Surprise! Fat People Not Jolly!

Well, I really only have one thing to say -- duh.

Fat people not more jolly, says study

Fat people are not more jolly, according to a study that found obesity is strongly linked with depression and other mood disorders.

Whether obesity might cause these problems or is the result of them is not certain, and the research does not provide an answer, but there are theories to support both arguments.

Depression often causes people to abandon activities, and some medications used to treat mental illness can cause weight gain. On the other hand, obesity is often seen as a stigma and overweight people often are subject to teasing and other hurtful behaviour.

No! Really! Boy, here in weight-obsessed America, I would never have noticed that, "pleasingly plump" woman that I am, if someone hadn't told me.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

UK Creates Wetlands

Wow. Huge marine wetland starts life

Salt marsh is more rare than rainforest, and is important to people, particularly as a flood and storm defence, and to wildlife.

Monday, July 03, 2006

UK to US: You are cruel, arrogant, and racist

British trust in 'arrogant' US leadership plummets to just 12%

The YouGov survey found that only 12 per cent of Britons trusted Americans to deal wisely with current world problems - half the number who had faith in the 1975 White House.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

New UN body approves disappearance treaty

Geneva - The United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday unanimously approved an international treaty that would ban states from abducting perceived enemies and hiding them in secret prisons or killing them.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance would require states to keep registers of detainees and tell their families the truth about their disappearance, as well as paying compensation.

It still has to be adopted in the UN General Assembly, and then individual governments would need to approve it.

Rights experts say the United States, in the spotlight over allegations that it has been transferring terrorism suspects to secret jails in other countries, is not expected to ratify the pact.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Al Gore Interview in Rolling Stone

Al Gore 3.0

Bush is insulated -- his staff smiles a lot and only gives him the news that he wants to hear. Unfortunately, they still have this delusion that they create their own reality. As George Orwell wrote, we human beings are capable of convincing ourselves of something that's not true long after the accumulated evidence would convince any reasonable person that it's wrong. And when leaders persist in that error, sooner or later they have a collision with reality, often on a battlefield. That, in essence, is exactly what happened in Iraq. But we have to keep that from happening with the climate crisis. Because by the time the worst consequences begin to unfold, it would be too late.

On Air-Conditioning

Fascinating pair of articles on air-conditioning in America:

Air-conditioning: Our Cross to Bear

America's Air-Conditioned Nightmare

What they're saying is, "I am God."

You ain't seen nothin'...

In every religion, it seems, you'll find a group loudly proclaiming its allegiance and submission to the dictates of scripture -- the Bible, the Koran, the Pentateuch, Dianetics, it doesn't matter which. Their every action, every aspect of their lives, they say, is shaped and determined by the commands of their holy book.

Such sternly obedient believers face an epistemological dilemma. How can they know, with certainty, precisely what it is that their scripture demands? Most of us believer types, in every religion, tend to interpret our holy books through the lenses of reason, tradition and experience. But for these biblicists, reason, tradition and experience must all also "submit" to the dictates of the scripture. The meaning of scripture, therefore, has to be treated as self-evident and unambiguous -- two things which scripture tends self-evidently and unambiguously not to be.

Suggest any form of scholarship, textual, literary or linguistic criticism and the biblicists tend to get angrily defensive. These are all useful and important tools for determining what it is that scripture says and means and requires of its adherents. But the biblicists aren't interested in refining or clarifying their supposedly self-evident interpretations. They reject all such study as a potential threat to their own preferred interpretation.

And that, right there, tells you all you need to know about their supposed allegiance and obedience to their scripture. The scripture is not their true starting point after all. Their starting point is their own preferred interpretation, their own preference. They, and not their supposed Word of God, are the ultimate arbiters of truth, reality and meaning.

That's why whenever you hear someone say that the Bible is "inerrant" and "infallible," what they're really saying is that "My reading of the Bible is inerrant and infallible." What they're really claiming is, "I am inerrant and infallible."

What they're really claiming is, "I am God."

Friday, June 30, 2006

An Open Letter to Fellow Environmental Activists

On the viewing of An Inconvenient Truth by your friends:

Do not say, "I told you."
Do not say, "I told you over and over."
Do not say, "I've been screaming about this all my life, why did it take you so long to listen?"

Do not say these things.

Welcome your new activist fellows. Do not resent them because a cool documentary may be making environmental political activism fashionable. Welcome them, and encourage them to stay active. Do not bore them with stories about how it was twenty years ago, for you and the rest of the "real environmentalists". Do not assume they are like you. Do not asume they are unlike you.

Do not make them feel out of place because their eyes opened when they did. Their eyes opened. Be grateful. We still have a chance to change the world, if we open enough eyes.

If you care about the future, your own, your children's, your company's, you must care about the environment.

Do not resent the winds of change. Give your new fellows a leg up toward the future. Tolerate.

Why do I write this? Because I must learn this lesson.

I used to dislike eggplant

A Memo from the Puff Pastry Department of Parenthetically Speaking:

Well, I had eggplant once, in a curry, and disliked it. But that was the winter we were starving and literally foraging rather than go to the grocery store. We ate it anyway.

And now? Over the years, my opinion changed and I considered the eggplant "tolerable". Then, with the introduction of The China Moon Cookbook, "downright tasty".

A recent dish has, born from desperation (cf., invention, mother of), raised the taut-skinned purple oblong to new heights in my estimation.

To wit, Eggplant Ratatouille:

slice an eggplant and salt slices to remove excess water. Weird, but do it anyway.

Cube eggplant slices.

In a wok or heavy skillet, cook 1/2-1 onion, chopped, in olive or corn oil, with a couple of cloves of garlic (minced).

Add a couple of tomatoes, quartered;
A bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin;
1-2 zucchini, cubed;
The cubed bits of eggplant;
Or any other vegetables that strike your fancy. It's a casserole. Go nuts.

Top with a few hearty dashes of olive oil, and some chopped fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro).

Cook on low heat, covered, for 45 minutes, then uncovered until the stuff is the thickness you find appealing. How about the length of time it takes you to cook up a pot of rice? That's probably good.

Scarf down.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"An Inconvenient Truth"

I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" this afternoon.

Let me say the end first: go see it. Those of us who have lived with this data as it's been released over the years (ice cores, and glaciers, ocean currents and species migration), seeing all this at once may be personally overwhelming. It was for me.

That is not sufficient reason to avoid this film.

For those not already in the choir, I expect this film to be revelatory. The truths in it are inescapable: global warming is real, and we must do something about it. If you have family, tell them to see it. And make sure they do -- buy them a copy for Christmas when it's available. Make sure they sit all the way through it until the end, and read aloud the list of things we all can do to make a difference. And then go do them.

Gore clearly, and very plainly, links CO2 and temperature rise, explains how the greenhouse effect works, explains the importance of the polar ice caps to the engine of the Earth, demolishes the faux "debate" business in the modern media about climate change, and works his way methodically through a host of the impacts of human endeavor on this planet. Human beings are a force of nature, Gore calls us, and I think that's entirely accurate.

There is one thing that I thought demonstrated his target audience was more of a college-student level than older adults, and that was the sparse reference to parenting. I think bringing that closer to the fore might make sense. Because what parent wouldn't sacrifice for their child, so that they can have a better life than we do?

So, I'll close with a reference to the Roger Ebert review of "An Inconvenient Truth": "In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Values party", was it?

I do hope that illusion is fully burst, oh fellow voters?

[GOP] Political consultant and ad producer Carey Lee Cramer is expected to testify today defending himself against charges he sexually molested two young girls.

Defendant expected to take stand in sexual harassment case

And don't forget, there's Hookergate, and more Hookergate. And don't forget the just general perviness of the Republican administration.

And bribery, always the act of high-moral-road Christian Coalition types.

And spying! Let's not forget spying! Got to have that. And, of course, it's OK, because the President approves it. Presidental approval of an act automatically confers high moral and legal standing, dontchaknow.

And then there's that never-vindictive nature so many advocates of true tolerance show, such as in the case of Joe Wilson's wife, also known as Valerie Plame, whose husband had the astounding hubris to try to do a good job, and wound up going to Africa and then -- gasp! -- agreeing with the Nigerian embassy "that it was highly unlikely that anything between Iraq and Niger was going on."

And all along, through and around, there's the lying. Let's never forget that.