Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Can-Do Americanism

September 6, 2005 Comments off

Incompetence tends to build up like a static charge in high administrative levels.  But with people who know how to do things, it’s a different story: BBC Online Water pumped from flooded city.  The breach is closed, the pumps are running again, and water is moving out.

Here’s a description of how the water will be pumped out.  As the city’s water coverage has already fallen from 80% to 68%, I predict the water will be all pumped out and the cleanup begun long before any media predictions of a few days ago.

My prediction for New Orleans is based on what happened with the oil-well fires in Kuwait after Gulf War 1: the fires were out far earlier than anyone thought they would be.  Dire media predictions of “burning for years” fell in a couple months as actual experts from all over the world came in and put them all out.

Apparently some refineries are coming back online too.

Damn it’s good to see some good news.

UPDATE: 12 October 2005… BBC: New Orleans Pumped Dry (Just as I predicted)

Categories: News

New Orleans Stories post, rev. 1

September 3, 2005 3 comments

Rather than write a whole bunch of little posts, I will add to these lists as I run across items of interest. 

Heroism – Inspiring stories of people who wrote a chapter into their lives that marks them as rising above fear, danger, and horrible conditions to help their fellow man.

  • HCT:A Hero in New Orleans… The amazing story of a doctor in New Orleans for a conference, who stays to give medical aid to victims.  A makeshift hospital is created from a commandeered hotel and drugstore… go read!

  • The Interdictor, keeping lines of communication open.
  • More as I find them.  There will be plenty before it’s all over.

Incompetence – the equally amazing story of how it took a week to get serious help to New Orleans:

  • Vitamin Sea: Memo to Christian Zealots, people who say “they got what they deserved,” people who have never been through a hurricane, FEMA, etc.
  • CJR-Daily: Tip of the hat in which FEMA director Michael Brown is grilled by Ted Koppel
  • Scripps-Howard: Where was FEMA?
  • A question: why didn’t the mayor of New Orleans send every city bus and city school bus out in circulating routs to evacuate people before the hurricane?  Save the people AND the busses? Don’t tell me ‘he didn’t think of it.’  That is what an evacuation plan is for, and he’s had years to come up with one. 
  • Here’s another: I saw many photos of highways gridlocked leading out of the city, with the inbound lanes completely empty.  Why did it take so long to reverse the flow of the inbound lanes?
  • More as I find them.  There is plenty to go around here.

Absolute Freaking Idiocy


Categories: News

Drop your daughter off here

August 19, 2005 3 comments

Apparently jokes about sexual predation are still considered funny:

Stephanie Oberlander, The Pantagraph, 19 Aug 2005

Classy, very classy.  It’s Fall semester move-in time, and I’m sure the university appreciates the image these fine young men help project.

That reminds me; I’ve been meaning to write about Lynn Johnston’s comic strip, “For Better or Worse” and her treatment of a stalker/rapist.  She is a pioneer who introduced the first gay character to a mainstream newspaper comic and raised the realism of family life portrayal to a new level.  In a recent story line, she has written one of her main characters in danger from a co-worker:

To my knowledge this is the first portrayal of sexual violence in a mainstream comic.  There are so many levels on which the series illuminates the horror of such an attack; the main character is someone we readers have followed since childhood – in a sense she is daughter to each of us.  She is panicked, and her attacker is having a great time, totally oblivious to or even enjoying the pain he is causing.

Maybe it will make people think.  The next time someone says; “She said no, but I knew she meant…” the response will be hard opposition instead of silence.

Unfortunately Johnston is planning to retire soon because of a painful neck condition that interferes with her drawing.  But her writing is first-rate and I wish she could get someone else to draw.

Quote for the day:
“Men are afraid women are going to laugh at them.  Women are afraid men are going to kill them.”
Gavin DeBecker, author and security consultant

1. This post was edited for clarity after its original posting. 

Categories: Issues, News, observations

An interesting take on the bombing

July 7, 2005 1 comment

I was wondering if the experience British citizens have had with the IRA would influence how they react to the awful bombings there.  Here’s a post over on Gran’s On Bran that suggests to me that they might.

We’ve been through it before but when you get the bombs going off one after the other you just fear that it will never stop.

I remember a book of WWII photos that included a London milk deliveryman, stepping over rubble in a shattered urban landscape with smoke still rising from broken buildings, four bottles of milk in a wire carrier.  He had a grin on his face that seemed to be saying; “Damned if the bloody Nozzis will keep the little blighters from getting their milk with porridge!”  Admirable.

Categories: News

Nope, I can’t do it.  I just can’t be serious today

July 7, 2005 Comments off

What could I say about the bombs going off in London?, except sympathy to our allies and friends in Britain.  Or I could write something else really serious, like a suggestion for supreme court justice, based on just one news story.  But although there’s plenty of serious stuff going on today, I’m just too tired.  I need a laugh.

And here it is: the iPod “Flea”; world’s smallest MP3 player (click the picture).

Ironically the video does not come in QuickTime version, only in “Real Player” (Just say NO!) and Windoze Media.

Categories: News

Rich, famous, seldom guilty

June 13, 2005 Comments off

This just in: rich, famous people are seldom guilty of crimes.  But obscure poor people are sent in large numbers to prison, with little notice from the press.

Who knew, that rich, famous people were so much less likely to be guilty?

Categories: News

‘Cause I’m The Tax Man…

April 15, 2005 3 comments

Let me tell you how it will be
There�s one for you, nin’teen for me

  Cause I’m the tax man
  Yea I’m the tax man

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all

  Cause I’m the tax man
  Yea I’m the tax man…
- The Beatles, Tax Man

I remember being astounded to learn that “one for you, nineteen for me” wasn’t poetic license… it was an actual tax rate in England before Margaret Thatcher came along and set everyone straight. 

NO MORE subsidies for uneconomic coal mines because “it was a way of life” that had to be preserved for some reason.  Programs had to start pulling their weight. Entire government bureaucracies were wiped out and what do you know?  Merry Ol’ England went right on as before.  Well, not exactly as before; the economy started to grow like crazy. Cheerio, I say, old chap!

Makes you wonder what we could do without here.  Lots of well-intentioned flabby bureaucracy on this side of the pond, too.  Luckily not as bad as pre-Thatcher England, but still…

Categories: News, Politics

Theocracy II

April 13, 2005 5 comments

I don’t want to believe that our country could fall under the thrall of some local flavor of Taliban, but I keep seeing indications that keep me up at night wondering.  It’s the curse of consciousness; the brain is a pattern-seeking engine and when you see a pattern that someone else doesn’t see, they look at you funny.

Over at Two Percent Company, they’re seeing it too:

“…Laugh at us if you will. Hell, we wouldn’t blame you if you did. We used to laugh when people said that we were headed for a theocracy — we used to think that ridiculous far right legislation would never make it through the Senate. But then “Terri’s Law” was passed in the blink of an eye even though most Americans were against it, and we stopped laughing. At this point, it looks like we need some more people to stop laughing, and start yelling. And we’d better start yelling soon, because if we wait too long, we can yell ourselves hoarse, and it won’t make a bit of difference.”
- Two Percent Company; So, When Does The Backlash Come?

Their entry covers the “Constitution Restoration Act of 2005,” and efforts to muzzle the judiciary from ruling on any church/state issues.  You’ll find links to Alabama’s many attempts to codify religious intolerance, and Mississippi’s proposed law to pretty much make Christianity the official state religion complete with monuments in public places.  And much, much more, all for the low-low price of…

Just keep telling yourself: it couldn’t happen here.

Categories: News, Religion

Could the United States become a theocracy?

April 10, 2005 1 comment

The answer might lie in the title of Robert Heinlein’s 1939 story, “If This Goes On,” in which the United States in 2100 is held firmly in the grip of a technologically advanced theocracy, begun by a backwoods preacher named Nehemiah Scudder.  Heinlein, explaining why the story took place after Scudder’s death, wrote; “I did not write his story because I disliked the character too much.”

Heinlein was writing fiction, but there are some disturbing parallels.  A 1995 conversation between Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson strategized evangelical Christian rule for the US.  The American Family Association wants to put a bronze plaque in every classroom in America that reads, “In God We Trust”  And the Republican-controlled Congress seems to be gearing up for a battle with the judiciary that may trigger a constitutional crisis.  There are any number of attempts to force schools to teach a non-scientific world view in service to literal biblicalism.

There are many, many more examples.

Original cover of 1953 anthology featuring
If This Goes On.

It is the avowed purpose of many evangelicals to control the political process in our country.  But does that equal a theocracy?  Granted they want to call the United States a “Christian nation” but no one sect will be in control.  It wouldn’t be like Iran, would it?

Maybe we ought to think about this a little bit.  Thanks to religious freedom, Christianity is the “Baskin-Robbins” of religions: there are lots of flavors – but they all contain the same basic ingredients.  There’s more difference between ice cream and hamburgers than there is between any two flavors of ice cream. 

We had an attorney general who hailed from the Assemblies of God church.  Currently a great number of Southern Baptists are feeling the reigns of power.  This is like chocolate and Rocky Road flavors.  (The metaphor breaks down here: I like ice cream.)  So it’s still a theocracy, even if more than one sect is in power.  When it comes to keeping heathens in line, they can agree on some things.

Our theocracy, like everything else about us, would bear the stamp of our culture.  It would NOT be like Iran – but would it be what the founding fathers (evangelical reconstructions of them notwithstanding) envisioned?

Categories: News

Handy guide to killing

April 3, 2005 4 comments

In the wake of Terri Schaivo’s killing, there seems to be a bit of confusion about when it is OK to kill a human being.  If you are involved in killing decisions, print out this handy guide:

Stem Cell Research Absolutely not.  Those frozen cells left over from in-vitero fertilization procedures may be destined to be discarded anyway, but they are persons just like you and I, and have the same rights.
Contraception Since it prevents the sperm and egg from meeting each other in the first place, this is probably not killing.  But it’s still bad.
Morning-after pill No. It prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall.  See Abortion
Abortion Never. A first-trimester abortion of a developing foetus that does not have brain waves yet, is the same thing as a grisly partial-birth abortion, which is only done by heartless people who just like to kill babies for no reason.
Cop shootings Almost always OK.  The cop will impartially tell us his or her good reasons for opening fire on the citizen.  We can’t second-guess them.
High-speed chase Sure – cops know best.
Impaired driving Usually OK.  As long as we prosecute drunk driving (to show we care) it’s OK to tailgate a motorcyclist while exhausted, angry, on cold medicine, and talking on a cell-phone.
Corporate negligence What are you, anti-business? Hippy.
War Perfectly acceptable. You’re not going to get a case of the vapors because of a little unavoidable “collateral damage,” are you?  They’ll thank us someday, once they get over their dead kids.
Other intelligent species Not even an issue. Whales, dolphins, and elephants have convoluted cerebral cortexes like ours, complex languages like ours, and apparently mourn their dead.  But it doesn’t mean they are sentient beings.
Assassination No.  Most people are against assassination even if it would avoid a war, let political prisoners go free, or correct a long-standing foreign-policy mistake (such as in supporting a tyrant.)
Death penalty Sure, that’s fine.  After all, they’re usually guilty anyway.
Health policy Irrelevant. Millions of children all around the world die every year of cheaply preventable diseases.  It’s a shame, really, just a shame.  Would you like some coffee?
Unhealthy habits Really more of a suicide issue than a killing issue.  We’ll sit on our asses watching Survivor eating takeout pizza, then demand incredibly expensive medical care when we have a heart attack. (And then sue our doctors)
2nd hand smoke Nonsense. Hey, they shouldn’t bring that asthmatic kid to the restaurant in the first place.  Our legislatures are apparently not smart enough to distinguish between restaurants and bars.
Medical errors Hey, nobody’s perfect. Thousands of people die every year from medical errors – usually the wrong drug prescribed or delivered.  The problem is that people sue and it drives up the cost of health care.  The solution is to keep them from suing.
Prescription drugs Surprisingly OK. Mostly a by-product of the FDA fantasy that all risk can be avoided, so trusting consumers tend not to study the risks of the drugs they’re taking.
Aids It’s their own fault. Millions of people are dying of aids and condoms really do help prevent it.  But that offends some people.  So we’ll just tell ‘em all to “keep it zipped” and they’re sure to understand and comply.
Street violence We accept it. Mostly a by-product of the “war on the American people” also known as the “war on drugs.”  It’s supremely important that people aren’t allowed to get high, giggle, listen to Pink Floyd, and get the munchies.
“Pulling the plug” Almost everyone agrees: they don’t want to live hooked up to a machine.  But if you are unlucky enough to fall into that state without putting your wishes in writing, we must assume you want to be hooked up to any extraordinary medical measures available, no matter the suffering, the prospects for recovery, the agony it causes for their loved ones, the indignity, or the cost.  Well, except in Texas, where the law says if you can’t pay, no feeding tube for you.
Euthanasia What are you, a Nazi?  We want to make sure everyone feels all their pain, no matter how bad it gets!  And even if by some miracle they do get the palliative care they need, they should not be able to decide their own fate.  We, who are feeling just fine, decide that for them.

There!  I hope that clears everything up.  If you think of any others, hit the comments and I’ll add ‘em to the list.

Categories: Issues, News