Friday, December 31, 2004

Who the Fuck Does Robert Novak Think He Is?

As always, use Bug Me Not to avoid giving the NYT your first born

I've written about this before, but it still baffles me. I think it's perhaps the most egregious example of this regime's complete lack of concern for the "reality based" community, i.e., those of us actually concerned with, on the one hand, the possibility that this regime deliberately sabotaged ongoing undercover investigations into WMD proliferation and, on the other hand, the fact that this regime is tossing journalists in jail. The NYT article above provides some insight into this perplexing question.

Seriously, why is this fuck still not talking? One journalism ethics professor put it this way:

"What I see is a distaste for what Novak did, for this whole sorry mess, and an antipathy towards the type of journalism he practices and a perception that he practices it on behalf of an administration many people don't like," said Edward Wasserman, the Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University. "But there's no upside to him talking. There's nothing exculpatory he can say, nothing that he can do to ease the pressure off them."
No, there is in fact something he can do to ease the pressure on his two journalistic colleagues who've gone to jail: fucking reveal who leaked. True, that doesn't get the other journalists around their contempt charges, but it'd be pretty silly to continue to hold them when there's no longer anything to hide and their contempt (itself a debatable issue) is meaningless.

And of course there remains the minor issue of who revealed the deep cover identity of a weapons of mass destruction specialist, something he may not be ethically bound from a journalistic standpoint to help rectify, but something one would hope he'd do if for no other reason than out of sanity and a concern for the safety of our nation. But, unfortunately, most nowadays would say: "You digress."

One the one hand, I completely agree that journalists should not be compelled to reveal their sources except in the most extreme of circumstances. On the other hand I think "outing" a NOC agent working on WMD qualifies as just such an extreme circumstance, especially as the outing was obviously a direct response by the current regime to the political damage caused by her husband's now famous NYT op ed.

So the question remains: why has the one person who knows for certain who leaked Ms Plume's identity not under more pressure? Hell, by this regime's standards someone who destroyed a long established network keeping us safe from WMD should be held in as an enemy combatant in solitary without counsel and facing a "special" military tribunal with the power to hand out death sentences.

Hat tip to the Agonist.

If I Die and Go to Hell This is What Happens to Me, Part II

My favorite excuse:

Passengers initially had to wait onboard because the Grant County International Airport was not equipped to screen international travelers. Officials cleared a terminal and posted sheriff's deputies at the entrances before allowing passengers to leave but not until more than after 18 hours after boarding the flight.

Evil Memes

Somehow, somewhere an evil meme lurks at my office, infecting me over and over.

Every day for nearly two weeks now, at some point the old Wham! song Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go starts playing in my head. Worse, it doesn't even play in the original; in my head, two different versions alternate: a Mexican mariachi band version and Japanese karaoke version.

I don't know what sets this off. I suspect it has to do with the weather which is "chilly," a word from the first phrase of the song. So, perhaps when I think of the temperature or someone mentions it, it sets off the evil that is Wham!

Raid needs to begin making Meme Off. Soon.

(Apologies to Bravus for stealing his idea to link meme to the wiki entry)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Risk Aversion and Cumbre Vieja

My friend Bravus published the following comments on his blog about the political consequences of risk avoidance:

I linked this story, Can governments save us from disasters?, as a comment to Fragile, below, but thought it was an interesting enough discussion to get into on its own. This issue was kind of a subtext in what I wrote there, but I was concerned more with honoring the dead and their families in that post than with trying to understand the issues.

…in the open global society now emerging, people are demanding more economic and individual freedom but are willing to live with less personal risk. In Australia this can be loosely measured by the inverse relationship between the rate of economic deregulation over recent decades and the rate of social regulation.

In the 1970s, Australians had to go cap in hand to the bank manager to beg for a housing loan but could smoke while doing so. They would pay up to 125 per cent duty on an imported car but not be overly concerned if the children’s seatbelts were undone.

Gregory Hywood’s article wavers around the point a bit, and ends with a whimper rather than a bang, but the point is an important one: for perhaps the past decade and a half, and accelerating since the end of 2001, the global political climate has essentially been about who is seen as being able to shield us from risk. The risks associated with terrorism have been cited as the justification for almost everything in politics, in one way or another.

What this earthquake and the resulting tsunamis reminds us of is that life is dangerous, and all the preparation in the world can’t make you perfectly safe. The best you can do is prepare to react, and prepare to rebuild. Of course we want to make ourselves and our families as safe as possible, but letting go of the assumption that perfect safety (zero risk) is even possible can help us make much better choices about how much risk we’re willing to tolerate, and the cost/benefit analysis of the things we’re willing to give up to reduce risk.

I happened to be reading (again; it's kind of old news) about the western flank of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palmain the Canaries and the potential for the aforementioned flank to slide into the sea crating a mega tsunami: a tsunami big enough to wipe out the entire East coast of the US and Canada and seriously fuck up parts of Europe and Africa.

Back to the issue of risk, what would you do even if you know such an event was imminent? About this Gwynne Dyer wrote:

But hold on a minute. Haven't we heard about this threat before? What's new this time? Nothing, except that there hasn't been a stampede to cover La Palma with seismometers. Now, why do you think that is?

Suppose that the governments whose coastlines are at risk, from Morocco to the US, did get a warning that Cumbre Vieja was waking up again. What would they do with the warning? Evacuate one or two hundred million people from the low-lying lands indefinitely?

They don't know if there is really going to be an eruption (seismology is not that precise), or how big it will be, or whether this will be the one that finally shakes the side of the mountain loose. It could happen in the next eruption, but it might not happen for a thousand years.

No national leader wants to evacuate the entire coast for an indefinite period of time, causing an economic and refugee crisis on the scale of a world war, for what might be a false alarm. But nobody wants to ignore a warning, and perhaps be responsible for tens of millions of deaths. From a political standpoint, it's better not to have the warning at all.

Bravus made the point that a more rational culture than ours at present would more selectively prepare for imminent threats instead of the more ephemeral, ephemeral from a risk-preparedness standpoint, ones of terrorism. Some risks - like the very real possibility of a mega tsunami or a near earth object impact - may be simply too devastating no matter how well we prepare. In that case what little preparation is possible becomes as unthinkable as the disaster is unimaginable.

And, yes, I know: it's small comfort to the victims of the disaster in South Asia.

Nuclear Capabilities May Elude Terrorists

A somewhat reassuring article from WaPo (use bug me not to bypass the soul-sucking registration process) discussing the difficulties a terrorist organization would have procuring a working nuclear device. According to this, it's a lot more difficult than may be popularly believed:
Such difficulties have led some nuclear experts to believe bin Laden would be more likely to try to build an improvised nuclear weapon using a combination of uranium and conventional explosives. That design, known as a gun-type device, was used in the atomic bomb over Hiroshima.

While the technology is relatively simple and has been described in dozens of published scientific studies and policy journals, the path to development is filled with technological and logistical challenges -- the most significant of which is obtaining at least 50 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium. That amount would yield a slightly smaller device than "Little Boy," the code name for the Hiroshima bomb, but would be enough to obliterate any life or structure within a half-mile radius of the blast zone.

"If they got less material than that, it would be really dicey that they could build such a bomb," said Ferguson, at the Council on Foreign Relations
Not that this lessens the dangers of proliferation one bit, but it does make those of us living very close to the last major attack in the US feel perhaps a little better. A little if the current regime gets off its collective ass and actually does something about proliferation in the first place.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Animals Survived Tsunami

Strange, very strange, and the first good news - relatively speaking of course - to come out of this mess. They must have known well in advance.

Link from Boing Boing

Military Lab Proposed Gay-Aphrodisiac Chemical Weapon

Total cost through fiscal year 2000: $7.5 million
Having enemy soldiers throw down their guns and start humping each other: Priceless

Methinks the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell policy may have chaffed a little?

OK, one more, I can't resist: is that a gun in your pocket or....

Navy Seals and Tort Reform

I'm not sure what's a more telling symptom of our nation's advanced decay: Navy Seals torturing prisoners, someone taking photographs of Navy Seals torturing prisoners, or Navy Seals suing people who publish pictures of them torturing prisoners.

Somehow, I don't think this is what President Bush the Younger means when he speaks of tort "reform."


glasses stuck together
Does anyone know how to get two thick glasses unstuck from each other?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


This has got to be the weirdest blog I've ever stumbled upon since I've been stumbling upon them. It's not what you think, believe me. It is, however, SFW.

The author of the above is also apparently the author of this.

We Need to Get these Two Talking

Richard Branson's soon-to-be-launched Virgin Galactic needs to meet up with Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable space stations.

And I still want my flying car, gosh darnit. You thought we forgot about the flying cars, didn't you?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Christmas Everyone

And let the Festavus airing of the grievances begin!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Kids naughty, so dad sells their gifts on eBay

The man obviously doen't have a taster and enough duct tape.

Link from fark.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Peor es Nada

A spanish language blog from a guy living in Holland. Strange. Check out the picture of the bike in the second entry.

Why I find this interesting when I can read only about 20% of I have no idea.

Meat Scented Air Fresheners

FINALLY somebody gets it. I'll take 5 of each, please.

(via boingboing)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Crusade against "the big stupid blue place"

For all you fellow Ikea love/haters out there. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

BSE, It's What's for Dinner

Praise the Lord and pass the ketchup.

Two Must Read Articles

Not because they tell us anything we didn't already know, but because they lay out the problems so adroitly.

The first is Bill Moyers' Harvard Medical's Global Environment Citizen award acceptance speech (republished at In it, he makes the critical connection between the world view of the current regime and their backers and how this affects environmental policy. Writing about reporting on environmental issues, he says:
As difficult as it is, however, for journalists to fashion a readable narrative for complex issues without depressing our readers and viewers, there is an even harder challenge—to pierce the ideology that governs official policy today. One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval office and in Congress.
He goes on to elucidate the very frightening - and very real - view of many in the current regime and many more still of their supporters that the immanent coming of the Christ renders the need to protect the environment moot. Worse, by hastening the destruction of the natural world, these deluded fundamentalists believe that they are in fact speeding the Second Coming.

The next article is by Stanley Morgan writing in the Brooklyn Rail Express. It discuss the end of universal retirement benefits and outlines how the current regime and large business have colluded to eliminate as much as possible of the public and private safety net the elderly now have (not that it's much of a safety net to begin with in this country.) The article is also notable for underscoring how the current economic situation is not a normal trough in the business cycle and what that means for pension plans and social security.

Both articles lifted from my Cryptome rss feed.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Dartmouth Robotics Lab

Origami folding robots and tips on how to teach your robot to free itself when stuck in a trench. Just in case.

War Amputees

Blog about the huge and largely unreported number of amputees returning returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Ironically, as we save more lives on the battlefield than ever before, we also create more men and women left alive but maimed.

It's good to see someone is finally paying attention to these folks. I completely disagree with why they're over there, but we should all keep in mind that they're only doing what we asked them to. They're being over there is our fault, not theirs.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Table of Elementary Particles

The coolest table you'll see all day, courtesy of NOVA.

EPIC FOIA Request Shows Postal Machines Take, Store Photos

Just in case you think it can't get any worse than being secretly photographed while you engage in that most questionable of activities - buying stamps - it does: the system running the surveillance is Win XP.

Invasive AND stupid. What's not to like?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Mass Gov Calls for Police and Citizen Spies

This is exactly what we don't need to become, a fearful nation regarding every transaction with our fellow citizens as suspect.

When people, mostly sarcastically nowadays, say we should or shouldn't do something because that would mean the "terrorists win" they should be thinking about ideas like this one. Radical Islamists and the terrorists and insurgents informed and partly motivated by them don't want to change the US and Europe into strongholds of some idealized and pure Islam. They just want us to leave them alone (although what they'll do to their own countries if "left alone" is another thorny problem). To this extent when they bomb us, they're not trying to win some military victory, but they are trying to change our lives in exactly the way described above: to confuse us into believing every one of our neighbors may harbor dark secrets and even darker intentions.

This technique seems so far to be working pretty well. A little more dissension and confusion at home, a lot more money spent fighting wars afield...and we lose our will to fight them.

And that's what they want and how they plan to win. Until we remove the impetus for them to attack us, this so-called war on terror will continue to bankrupt us and eat our democracy from the inside out like a cancer.

Why Are All the Best Stations Low on the Dial?

I think it's to hide them from the forces of darkness that inhabit the higher channels.



Both with streaming audio, for those so inclined.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The "C" Word

I just spoke to an old friend of mine. He is the same age as me (37 going fast on 38) and was diagnosed with lung cancer just before Thanksgiving,

After the initial biopsy came up malignant, they assumed the cancer was small and localized. A lobectomay would do. Once they got in, however, they discovered more metastasis than they'd imagined, and removed his entire left lung. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes between his lungs, and they dutifully removed those as well.

At this point, they're hoping it hasn't matasticised any further than that, but he's probably going to have to undergo chemo and/or radiation therapy anyway.

This friend, let's call him Bob, was my roommate my freshman year in college, that intense year when everyone around you is close in a way only being released from the nest for the first time can engender. I feel guilty about a lot of things I've done, and the way I treated Bob is high up on that OCD induced list. Yes, this was all nearly 20 years ago, but I still feel like less of a human being for the way I treated him: dismissively, patronizingly, manipulatively - hell, I even made out with the girl he'd been after for years in our shared bedroom one night (although though, if it's any consolation, she immediately become a card carrying lesbian after that).

Not that I was merely some cruel interloper: I did introduce him to recreational drug use, which makes the fact that he never smoked a day in his life all the more ironic. I did introduce him to self confidence, something that at the time I had in an unwarranted abundance. And I was his friend in the best way I could be at the time, which admittedly wasn't very good given my various problems at the time which were indeed manifold.

I'll admit that it was strange (although less strange than I'd imagined) to speak to him after probably ten years tonight. I called mostly out of a sense of wanting to do the right thing. But I must admit that I also called feeling my own mortality quite acutely, like a sore on the inside of your mouth you just can resist tweezing with your tongue. I've been a smoker for 20 years, the last 15 heavily, and I've had my close calls as well. In fact, I've nearly died in accidents three times and was in the hospital with an acute kidney stone attack for two weeks once. When you add the two suicides of good friends and the birth of my son to this, you'd have think I'd have wised up about how I treat my body and my soul. I like to think that being as selfish as I am I'm driven to treat those I know - at least lately - very well indeed, being generous to a fault on occasion. And I like to think that this might buy me some time my mistreatment of my body an mind might otherwise not.

But I events like this make me realize that, no, in fact biology doesn't give a genetically modified rat's ass about how I "feel" I'm doing and that the old karmic wheel grinds slow but exceedingly fine. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but even before this I've been thinking of some. I'm coming fast up to 40, and I don't want to be the kind of man I don't want to be at that age. One more straw or one more strange attractor, only the leafless days of winter will show.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Russian High Energy Physics - Coming to a Grocery Story Near You

Originally uploaded by digitalprimate.

What a bang!

(So shoot me - it's been a slow day)

When is it Time to Leave?

The above is a rather rhetorically heated rehashing (yes, I'm going to alliteration hell) of the new intelligence "reform" bill.

Fuck me with a stick. I mean, it's not like they couldn't already spy on and arrest people without cause then hold them in solitary confinement without legal representation indefinitely - but do we really have to institutionalize it? Is Congress really that shortsighted? or perhaps just really that afraid of the current regime?

Isn't this like the speed limit? You set it at 55 mph hoping people will only do 65 mph? What the hell is 65 mph in this scenario?

I suppose the real question is how bad does it have to get people really start leaving. At this point, I don't personally know anyone who's lost their job or been hustled out of their homes in the middle of the night. I'm wondering if it's going to get to that point.

/inarticulate rant

NEJM -- Caring for the Wounded in Iraq -- A Photo Essay

Stolen from BoingBoing. A powerful reminder of the often hidden costs of this war and an equally terrible reminder of the amazing advances in technology warfare unfortunately produces: less than one in 10 soldiers injured in combat now die.

Warning: some of these images are quite graphic and possibly NSFW.

Home-Brew IPod Ad Opens Eyes

Brand managers all across the world wet themselves. They then soon feel confused, ashamed...out of control.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Crows and monkeys and men.

Two interesting articles about our feathered and furred friends. The first discusses a paper coming out in Science suggesting that the corvid family (crows and jays) are as intelligent as the great apes. That in itself is fascinating enough, but the following quotation caught my eye:
"What's so interesting is that while Western scrub jays may not have language, the research shows they've got many of the intellectual abilities that humans have. This suggests that many of our intellectual abilities which we think we need language for perhaps we don't in fact need language for. That then makes us try to understand these abilities in a different way."
Which made me immediately think of the issues involved in understanding cetacean intelligence. It stands to reason that if an intelligent being had no need to use tools (as whales and dolphins obviously don't), than we may have a very difficult time understanding what the majority of their thoughts are about; consider the difficulties in talking to another human without ever referencing something that required tools in one way or another.

And, as the following article points out, tool use and more importantly production is increasingly understood to be more common even among the "lesser" species than we thought.

Coming Soon, to a Theocracy Near You....

Bloomberg story about President Bush the Younger's regime supporting the display of the 10 Commandments in US courts, arguing that it's part of our cultural heritage.

One the one hand, burning witches and lynching blacks is also part of our cultural heritage; on the other hand, I'd be willing to cut this administration some more slack on this issue if they actually followed the 10 Commandments.

900 Scammers for Democracy

This "900" scam came over our company fax yesterday. I've got to hand it to them: it's the first time I've seen someone trying to take advantage of both stupidity AND Democratic angst. Only $3.95 per minute to fax some folks in England (450 High Road, Essex, UK - a place apparently without a postcode) to express your outrage. I'm a little curious, though, as to how they intend to fulfill their promise that "The results obtained from the poll will be sent directly to our congressional leaders" since they don't have any. I assume they mean our congressional leaders.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

In Germany, a Christmas-season contest: Santa vs. St. Nicholas

The above is a neat piece detailing how Santa Claus is slowly pushing out the more native Christmas traditions like some exotic and invasive species in a delicate ecosystem. Some background from the article:
The myth of Santa Claus evolved from the fusion of two figures: gift-bearing Saint Nicholas and the representation of the infant Jesus known as "Christkindlein" (Christ child), which later became "Kriss Kringle." After Dutch immigrants brought Sinter Klaas to the US, German immigrant Thomas Nast drew a lasting image of a man with the white beard and sparkling eyes. Then in the early 1930s, Coca Cola, in need of a spokesman to boost sales, tapped the merry figure, completing his path from saint to salesman.
I too watched Sinterklaas (usual Dutch spelling) get shoved aside for Santa during my years in Holland. Sure, while I was living there I could have done without the little gifts on December 5th - and the nasty things they're packed in (e.g., fish soiled newspapers) and the nasty poems that composed just for you by the gift giver highlighting your bad habits and gaffes. I probably would not have missed the teenage girls in blackface (zwartepieten) and the screams of little children as they approach them to give the children candy and not, as the children have been told by their parents all year, to take them back to Spain in a burlap sack to work in the mines.

Still, I may not personally enjoy vaudeville or pork rinds, but like Sinterklaas, it's nice to know they're still around somewhere.

Old Hippie with Flag under the "El"

I managed to snap a camera phone pick of this guy a week after the election. As far as I know, he walked around the Bronx for a couple of days with his head down carrying the cheap plastic flag, never speaking to anyone, just sort of all Indian-with-tear-in-eye. I felt compelled to approach him, but he seemed to be doing some kind of personal penance. I left him be and took the photo as discreetly as possible. I never saw him again after that.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Two-thirds of school-age children have an imaginary companion by age 7

This showed up on Boing Boing this morning, and I was stuck by this line:
57 percent of the imaginary companions of school-age youngsters were humans and 41 percent were animals. One companion was a human capable of transforming herself into any animal the child wanted. (emphasis added)
This instantly reminded me of Philip Pullman's excellent trilogy, His Dark Materials. The trilogy is a retelling of Paradise Lost as a "children's story" set in multiple worlds. I put children's story in quotations because, as with all good children's lit, the books are edgy enough to please adults - and perhaps make them wonder if their child should be reading it (always a good sign, IMHO).

But, more to the point, in the central world that Pullman imagines, one very much like ours, people's souls are manafest as animals that live outside of the person, talking to them, comforting them, sometimes getting them into trouble and never wandering far from them. The daemons, as he calls them, have the ability to change into whatever animal they wish (they, not the child) until the child enters puberty at which point the daemon's animal form becomes fixed. In addition to being a great plot and character device, it looks like Pullman's daemon's are more accurate portrayal of the childrens' inner lives than some adults (myself included) had realized.

Activists Crawl Through Web to Untangle U.S. Secrecy

Someone over at the Agonist just put this up. It's a article detailing how public advocacy groups are using the Internet and associated resources to circumvent the current regime's attempt to hide its activities from public scrutiny.

The article also highlights a new umbrella organization for groups dedicated to insuring Americans have access to the tax funded activities of their elected representatives and lackeys, I mean appointed officials. This group - Open the Government - has a new website (it's quite buggy), but hopefully they'll add an RSS feed soon (which I'd suggest but their mailto isn't working).

This dovetails nicely with the article to which I referred yesterday.

Basil Hayden's

basil_160x240After much deliberation and many an evening spent seaching the depths of my soul (and many a morning wishing I hadn't), I've come to the conclusion that, indeed, my friend newpaltzer was correct: Basil Hayden's is the suprior small batch Bourbon for sipping.

Dave Broom of Wiskey Magazine calls it, "A sassy little glass: the charmer to Booker’s bruiser. A midday Old Fashioned."

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Secret Intelligence and the 'War on Terror'

This is a fantastic article by Thomas Powers laying out the case that the current problems at the CIA are a symptom of a what he calls a "sea change" in world affairs. He deftly describes the nature (and changing nature) of the Agency's dual responsibilities to the President and the nation, and how the current administration has subverted this relationship. He describes exactly how dangerous a flunky-ridden CIA could be - and in fact has been in Iraq:

Think about this for a moment. Before the war, working with the barest smattering of fragmentary information, the CIA could conclude with high confidence that these stockpiles existed. But now we are asked to believe that after the war, with unimpeded access to every file, every person, and every street address in Iraq, the CIA could not, over the course of a year, decide whether the stockpiles were there or not?

The obvious answer to this question compels us to register a fact which everyone who pays attention to American intelligence has grown far too accustomed to accepting without comment. By that I mean our reluctance to criticize, or even to note in any audible way, the obvious explanation for Tenet's faithful echoing of the President's tactics of delay. Tenet was protecting the President—not from foreign enemies abroad, but from political opponents at home. Why did Tenet do this? Because he was part of the President's team. What does this tell us about the integrity of American intelligence? What should Congress and the people do about an intelligence service they cannot trust?

I haven't read a more concise explication of the intelligence failures behind 9/11 and the Iraqi invasion, nor have I encountered plausible an assessment of what this means for the future. A must read.

'Brainwave' cap controls computer

The future is closer than we think, literally.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Lone Activist Group Submits 99.8% of FCC Complaints

From /. Just in case you doubted that a few determined people can't seriously fuck shit up.

Dog Island

Dear jumpin jebus this is weird. Kind of Dr. Doolittle meets James Bond -esque. What the fuck are these people doing with all these dogs?

Blogs May Be a Wealth Hazard

Interesting bit from wired news about the unintended consequences of blogging. Or, rather, blogging things you shouldn't and getting caught. Most of these examples have been in the news before, but this little article puts them in the same place and into context.

Who'll collect your back taxes now?

"Now, the IRS is preparing to assign late next year $13 billion in owed taxes to private companies for collection."

So you just gotta wonder if these private collection companies have to obey the Do Not Call list.

No, I didn't think so either.

Where Do They Get This Stuff?

As I've gotten into blogging, I discovered that I'm becoming loathe to reveal the contents of my RSS feed list as this is my main source of content I don't write myself. I was just about to put a permalink to We Make Money Not Art on my sidebar when I realized that now everyone else will know about this cool site - and I will become subsequently less cool. No more, "where does he find all this stuff" (not that there was too much of that anyway in all likelihood.)

Also, I frequent the William Gibson Board quite a bit, and Mr. Gibson and I both steal extensively from The Agonist; so if I see something there I want to blog, I've got to do it quickly lest it look like I stole it from him (few people will bother to look at the timestamps of the times he and I have posted the same thing.) Why stealing if from The Agonist who in turn stole it from, say, the CSM is any better than stealing it from Mr. Gibson is just part of the twisted world of putting content on your blog.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Little Tree of Faith

Last night Mrs. Primate and I went to see the late showing of The Incredibles (a fantastic flick, by the way), and as we were driving out of our neighborhood, the road we usually take was blocked by pylons. We had tremendous winds in New York yesterday, and I live in a neighborhood with many old trees, so I figured that one of them had been blown over. I was a little surprised when, returning home three hours later at about 11:30 in the evening, the pylons were still there as ConEd usually takes care of these problems post haste.

So, as Mrs. Primate went up to get ready for bed, I walked down the street to see what was going on and have a last cigarette. Two blocks and one skulking skunk crossing later, I still saw no tree down, bit I did pass a marked police cruiser parked perpendicular to the road. Two blocks after that, there was an unmarked (why are they always so obvious?), and I approached it and spoke with the two officers inside.

Turns out, there was large tree on the lawn of the house on the corner across from the Middle School that was in danger of falling, but, because it hadn’t actually fallen yet and because it was on private property, neither ConEd nor the city could do anything about it unless and until it fell. Supposedly the property owner had called someone to do something about the tree – an obviously hollow one my more observant wife pointed out to me – but whoever was supposed to take care of the tree was not coming until the morning, the cops told me. However, this morning at 8:30 the roadblocks were still up as all the children walked past the tree on their way to class.

This got me thinking: this tree clearly presented a danger to the houses around it (it was at least 25 meters tall, maybe more) as well as to the power lines under it and any people or animals unlucky enough to be around when it fell. Yet nobody but the house owner was allowed to do anything about it, and he was either unable or unwilling to take immediate action to neutralize this quite imminent threat. I wondered about the safety and economic sense of having two patrol cars sit around all night waiting for a tree to fall rather than just dispatching those monster ConEd tree killing trucks and about the rights of the other home owners in the nearby houses. How do these concerns stack up against the rights of the property owner on whose lot that tree precariously leans? Put another way, how do the principals of self determination stack up against the rights of others to be free the effects of your self determination?

So, replacing the obvious if a tree falls in the woods does a neocon fundi believe in it metaphor with a bunch of equally sketchy ones, the property owner is like the neocon fundi and the tree is like many of the issues waiting to crush this country and our rights. The owner doesn’t think the government should tell him what to do with his tree (I don’t need Social Security to tell ME how to save for retirement); or he denies the tree’s about to fall (it’s ok to have a big war and cut taxes on the rich at the same time ‘cause we’ll produce our way out of the deficit); or he simply believes faith and some hard prayin’ will keep that tree from falling (abstinence works); or, most insidiously and perhaps closet to the truth of all, he doesn’t care if the tree falls on someone else’s house or car or if it takes out power to half the neighborhood (really, Iraq and the Middle East are zipping right along according to plan, thank you very much) because once the tree falls, it’s someone else’s problem – and his problem’s solved.

The way I see it is his right to do with his tree what he will stops when it starts leaning toward my house. If I lived next door to this guy, I’d be out there with an axe making sure that when that baby goes, it’s falling the other way. I’d only be looking after my self interest….

Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens (ya think?)

This story on the front page of the Washington Post today details how our tax dollars are being used to instill "shame-based, fear-based, medically inaccurate messages" to our children. Wonderful fairy tails about the dangers of becoming pregnant from mutual masturbation and darker stories of how nearly all gay teen boys are HIV positive. I'm so glad that our leaders are concentrating on fucking up the next generation - god knows it's a time consuming job that no one else wants.

These fundi fucks. They talk about being repressed and persecuted. Reading things like this makes me want to repress and persecute them indeed. Actually, I don't want to actively persecute them (much), just be a fly on the wall when their doctor tells them their ignorant as shit daughter is pregnant and has a full blown STD.

They will only change when they experience the consequences of their actions.

Edit: I did too post this before WG did, although I'm pretty sure we both stole it from the Agonist.