Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The First Step towards a new draft?

According to the AP, the Army is activating the Individual Ready Reserve. Can the draft be far off?

Terrorism 101

My friend Lou suggested that if Bin Laden got ahold of a old soviet nuke, he could detonate the damned thing in the Saudi oil fields. That would effectively deny the world access the world's largest oil supply for 100,000 years and Westerners would lose interest in the Muslim holy land.

It would also precipitate a world-wide depression as a fringe benefit.

Biodiesel

The Christian Science Monitor ran this story about biodiesel today. My brother, Dale, is far more knowledgable about biodiesel than I am, and sent me this page of links on biodiesel.

Biodiesel sure looks a lot cheaper when you factor in the 120 billion dollars we've spent on the occupation of Iraq so far. If it weren't for the oil, you know Bush would just bomb the place back to the Stone Age and move on.

Monday, June 28, 2004

What a crazy day

The Supreme Court's decision on the enemy combatant issues is good news. Zwichenzug has nice coverage over at the Bellman.

Most days I really like working at the law library. The law is a vast topic and I like the stimulation the job provides. Today was hectic, but pleasant.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Summer Reading List

Future Power has a guide to recent books and movies about corruption within the current administration.

I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 yesterday. While Michael Moore is a bit over the top, at least he cares about the direction our country is moving and puts his money where his mouth is. I liked the documentary.

I did see this item in the Guardian where Richard Clarke states that the Iraq War was a huge mistake, but it was Clarke who let the Saudis and Bin Ladens out of the country on Sept. 13th.

Clarke's comments were taken from his keynote address to the American Library Association meeting. We librarians care about the future of our country too.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Neal's Summer Travel Plans

I'm leaving for Kansas on the 7th of July. After touring Kansas, I'll arrive in Tulsa on July 11th or so.

I will return to LA on August 18th.

Let me know if you're going to be in Tulsa, Oklahoma or in Kansas during this timeframe. I will probably spend time in Lawrence, Manhattan, and Wichita.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Now that's cyberpunk

Microsoft has patented the body bus. A bus is an computer term, defined (using the old paradigm) at Webopedia.

It's about time too we started using skin as a bus. This paves the way for subdermal impants. You know you want one. Resistance is futile.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Cell phones and Indoor GPS

GPS World has an article by Frank van Diggelen and Charles Abraham about the design challenges of putting better GPS into cell phones. This article is pretty technical, but if you're an ubergeek, like me....you'll dig it.

What good are mosquitoes anyway?

James Gorman asks an environmental ethicist in the NY Times.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Fire Next Time

The BBC has a page devoted to the looming water crisis on the planet.

I saw this over at Map Service, a blog by a geographer.

Is the Pentagon spying domestically?

The answer appears to be yes. They even want their investigations to be given more legal protection according to Wired.

Thanks to Spammy T for the link.

NATO is tapped out in Afghanistan

Today's print edition of the Wall Street Journal has an article by Philip Shishkin talking about how NATO is having difficulty fulfilling its mission in Afghanistan. This makes taking on more duties in Iraq logistically difficult, if not impossible.

Selected quote:


[T]he alliance's military limitations pose a more practical problem and raise questions about NATO's ability to sustain several operations at once and to expand its theater of operations beyond Europe. "In Afghanistan, we are already operating to the limits of our ability," says a government official from a NATO country. "I don't see much evidence that there would be enthusiasm for engagement in Iraq that would require new troop contributions."


Bush's desperate attempts to get NATO to bail him out of the Iraqi debacle do not seem likely to bear fruit prior to the November election.

I think the Bush administration has made a total mess out of Iraq.

Zwichenzug (over at Bellman) has some more analysis of the pending Iraqi civil war.

I remember before the war in Iraq Bush saying that Saddam's denials were a re-run of the same old movie and he was tired of it. He wanted to see the war movie instead. Well, he got his wish.

There's a Turkish proverb about being careful what you wish for. I am glad that Saddam is gone, but I don't think war was the only option, and it certainly wasn't the best option. I think America's security and image abroad have been sorely damaged by Bush's conduct of the war.

If Kerry wins the election and inherits the clusterfuck that Bush has created, I feel sorry for him.

If Bush wins, well, I feel sorry for America.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Voice of the Whirlwind

I'm really pumped, I may get to meet Walter Jon Williams while I am in Tulsa. I'm going to a science fiction convention called Conestoga in Tulsa.

Williams is one of my favorite authors. His Voice of the Whirlwind is one of my all-time favorite books. The Bellman and I both read it back in high school, and as I recall the Bellman didn't like it b/c the main character seemed sociopathic to him. It was a long time ago, I'm not sure if he recalls the book clearly.

I've read it several times and I like it more every time. I like the koan of the main character about "mind like water". I find that very calming. When I'm really stressed I try to make my mind like water and allow reality to wash over me.

I think of the main character simply as Beta, because he is the clone of his Alpha. The book really spoke to me as a teenager who was struggling with issues of patriotism and militarism having been raised in a military family. I love this country and I want America to prosper. But I also think of myself as a citizen of the world. The fate of the United States is caught up with the fate of all humankind. We are bound together and I think we should try to consider the best public policy for the human race. The Beta is a character whose memories owed allegiance to a corporation that no longer existed and a wife who'd divorced him.

I found this review on Amazon.com [link]:

A veteran's story told through authentic cyberpunk., June 29, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from Charlotte, NC USA
An intense story with three dimensional characters and realistic portrayals of action, this is a fast-paced, gritty ride into the future. This novel is based on plot and characters (not technology or glitz) and is a real literary contribution to the cyberpunk movement. An enduring classic the day it was published, it addresses issues that are common to veterans of any war--what is life like in peacetime (after the struggle) and what is the value of a so called "broken" veteran of a horrible conflict.


Angel Station and his anthology, Surfacing, are other titles of his that I've really enjoyed. Anyone else out there a Walter Jon Williams fan? I think his work has gotten better over time while William Gibson's work has become less interesting over time.

It's too bad about Gibson, because Neuromancer and Count Zero were so totally cool. Maybe the muse will touch him again....I hope so.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Pop Songs about Libraries

Professor Furner played a song called Library for my Subject Cataloging class. You can find the video here and lyrics here.

My favorite line is:

Librarians are often sexy.

Reagan Revisited

If you aren't already sick to death of Reagan, Mark Morford has a nice retrospective.

Thanks to Brian for sending me the link.

My friend Mark suggested that I visit Pravda recently. I think Pravda's legal editor, David R. Hoffman, has the best last word on Reagan:

A popular adage goes: "Never say anything but good about the dead."

Ronald Reagan is dead.

Good!


Thanks to both of them for the links.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A response to the Bellman: The Evolution of Privacy

The Bellman accused me of being a internally inconsistent in response to my last post about the Vatican RFIDing their library collection. Maybe he was being facetious, but since I've no sense of humor, I'm going to respond to him in my usual dour and long-winded manner. Because I am so long-winded, I'm posting my response here instead of in the comments.

I don't think that tagging library books will have any impact on privacy, because people don't tend to keep their library books with them all the time. The library book is usually sitting at home. Sometimes we carry them around with us, but not that often. No one in their right mind would try to track someone by what library book they are carrying around.

We are much more likely to be tracked by our cell phones, pdas, wristwatches, cars, or even by some transmitter directly attached to our bodies.

Now, the loss of privacy through tracking what books we check out is an entirely different issue. And whether we use old-fashioned bar codes or RFID's, the same records are kept. So again, RFID in library books has no privacy impact here.

Privacy, however, is a complex topic. I've posted some of my research on privacy here, if you're interested.

I contend that some aspects of privacy have been lost in our society, but other aspects maintain, and some new aspects of privacy are being developed. The idea is to choose the right compromise between our desire to interact with the world through the web and our desire to keep some aspects of ourselves private.

Michael Gorman, the current president of ALA, has argued that we are in many ways going back to the village of the middle ages where there was no privacy. With all due respect to Mr. Gorman, I think this is totally alarmist.

Privacy is becoming ever more complicated, but it is not totally going away.

Informed consent is what I encourage. We should be aware of how we are being tracked and what is being tracked so that we can make informed decisions about what rights we can retain and whether it's worth it to us to retain them.

I think in the future there will be gigabytes of data tracking us all. All of our cell phone calls, all of our movements, all of our emails, all of our web surfing, all of our credit card purchases, etc. will be archived somewhere.

But that information overload will also lead to a certain amount of conditional anonymity. It's only when someone has the incentive to dig all of that information up that we will have our privacy infringed.

But we'll never know who has done this or when...so we'll live knowing that we are leaving tracks. But not what tracks necessarily or to whom they are accessible.

Let me move on to how new modes of privacy are developing. The internet gives the illusion of anonymity. It is a false impression, but that makes it no less psychologically powerful to most people. This is like folk wisdom of internet privacy.

According to this folk wisdom, the internet is a forum where people can suggest anything because they aren't physically connected to what they post. No one sees their face when they post...

Now, it is a bit unsettling to me when I'm at a party and people go: "Oh, you're Safety Neal," in that knowing sort of way.

I'm sure that children growing up now will adjust to these new facts of life seamlessly, it's only people stuck in the old paradigm of privacy like me who need to catch up with the changing times.

So I think a sense of privacy will endure.

What I am more afraid of is the chilling effect that this ability to research a person's life will have on political protest and free speech.

So it may be our freedom that we are losing more than our privacy....

Monday, June 14, 2004

Vatican Library implements RFID tags

John Hooper's article shows that RFID tags make a lot of sense in libraries.

Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change

26 more rational people call for regime change in the United States.

War in Iraq radicalizes Iranians

Just when you thought the good news would never end, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of Knight-Ridder News Service has an article talking about how many Iranians are being radicalized by the US violence around Shiite holy sites.

Too much Queer Eye

My wife told me yesterday that I've been watching too much Queer Eye, which I thought was really funny. I do like the show, even if it is all about stereotypes and humiliation. It was my secret shame until just now...

I asked my wife if I should get laser hair removal for the hair growing on my neck. I saw an episode the other day about a guy whose neck and beard hair did seem to be growing together. I'm in the same boat. Managing my body hair is a bigger issue every year as I grow ever hairier. I used to feel even more like a wolf-man before I started man-scaping.

Actually, I like several reality TV programs. Ground Force on the BBC is a lot of fun. I'm really a gardener at heart.

I also like Fox's Cops and the World's Scariest Police Chases.

Jonah McMichael has an interesting piece claiming that these types of shows reveal that the public is sick and pathetic.

Selected Quote:

What's worse? Knowing that there is an insatiable market for suffering, humiliation and gore and providing that service? Or being the consumer who ultimately supports it? It makes me more than just a little concerned about our society to know there are literally millions of people across the country fascinated by the sight of human anguish and carnage.


I am that public.

In my defense, I think Cops is a fascinating study in what happens on the street. Watching an hour of Cops does give you an appreciation of the difficult situations cops encounter every day. I've seen some very good police work and some very bad police work on Cops.

While watching Cops, I often think that suspects aren't being beaten only because the camera is there. Fox's videographer is creating a valuable record of real police work. As a defense attorney, I always wanted to see the video of my clients being arrested if it existed. Usually they were really boring, but once in a while, you would get something that totally changed your opinion of a case.

In the rape case of Sherrif Deputy's son Greg Haidl in Orange county, Haidl's home-made video tape of the rape of a 16-year-old female is the main piece of evidence.

Last week, prosecutor Dan Hess finished presenting his case that Haidl, Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann videotaped themselves assaulting Doe, then 16, after they’d given her beer, marijuana and a drug-laced glass of gin at Haidl’s Newport Beach house on July 6, 2002. The confiscated video begins with Doe saying she felt “so fucked up” and resisting Haidl’s attempt to remove her top. The defense says the girl’s outward defiance was, in fact, an act, the beginning of a coy consent for the gangbang that followed. Filming resumed eight minutes later with the defendants using Doe — now naked and unconscious — for sex on a garage sofa and pool table. Later on the video, they can be seen laughing, dancing and mugging for the camera as they penetrate the girl’s vagina and anus with a Snapple bottle, juice can, lighted cigarette and pool cue.

Haidl isn’t bright. He lost the video at the Newport Beach rental. The people who found it thought the boys had had intercourse with a corpse. One of them, Fontana resident Lindsay Picou, 20, testified that she “felt ill” after seeing the tape and decided to turn it over to police. Investigators eventually found Jane Doe, who said she recalled passing out, waking up and vomiting but none of the sex. [Link]


I think we ought to require officers to wear little mini-cams on their lapels or in a mandatory helmet that beams the information back to a digital recorder in their car. There should also be a GPS module in the camera to geocode the images so that a court can know precisely where the events shown took place.

As to the police chases, what can I say? I come from a long line of poor, white trash. It's much better than NASCAR.

NASCAR is really all about the crashes. Who can be interested in cars driving in a circle 500 times?

It's all about the crashes, and the World's Scariest Police Chases has lots of crashes. I love it when some moron on a motorcycle tries to run from the police. Fools and their heads are soon parted...

I've never seen When Animals Attack, but maybe I should check out.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Car Free Cities

This site points the way to designing cities that are designed to be humane and free us from our enslavement to the automobile.

The six lobed design of cities with 80% green spaces and 20% urban space sounds idyllic to me.

Clusterfuck Nation

I like to consider myself a futurist. I'm interested in predicting what is going to happen in the future based on current trends. I'm a science fiction junkie and a news junkie, so it's a natural preoccupation for me.

Clusterfuck is probably my favorite word. So when I saw James Howard Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation Chronicles, I felt an instant affinity.

My friend John pointed me to Kunstler's site with a link recently...Kunstler shares my interest in future trends...and my pessimism.

I don't agree with everything Kunstler writes, but he's provocative.

While written prior to the invasion of Iraq, his essay Clusterfuck Nation: A Glimpse Into the Future brings together several trends that are shaping America and the world. These trends include:

1. The growing indebtedness of Americans and America (personal debt, trade deficits, national debt) and the inflated value of American real estate

2. The total reliance of American commerce on cheap oil

3. Suburban sprawl and cities that require car transportation

4. The dependence of the US on Saudi Arabia's stability and continued good will for cheap oil

5. The total failure to plan for the peak oil phenomenon (ie, oil is a finite resource, and we will soon hit the point where more than half of the world's oil reserves have been used up)

6. Allowing a few large chains (like Wal-Mart) to run our entire commodity distribution network

7. Large-scale factory-farming which is poisoning the land and are themselves dependent upon cheap oil to get food to consumers

8. Environmental Degradation leading to global warming, climate shifts, rising sea levels, and reduced agricultural production

9. Overpopulation and demographic shifts to both seaboards and southwestern US

10. The spread of difficult-to-treat diseases including AIDS, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, Mad Cow (or TSE's) and malaria (abetted by global warming)

I would point out that he neglected to mention the fact that the planet is running out of unpolluted fresh water....or that a breast-fed infant receives its so-called "safe" lifetime limit of dioxin in the first six months of drinking breast milk

But Clusterfuck Nation is still a nice little disaster essay with a catchy title.

Kunstler does offer some suggestions on what life will look like after the crash here.

With this background, his blog seems more reasonable.

I hope that he's wrong, I really do. And I'm willing to entertain any arguments that Kunstler is a lunatic, or that nuclear power will save us.

Or that our debt will never catch up with us. And the environment isn't really a problem.

Dioxin levels appear to be falling according to the Chlorine Chemistry Council. Why am I suspicious of a group called the Chlorine Chemistry Council?

Given these trends, are there suggestions about how our society can be saved? Or should we just prepare for the end of the world as we know it?

We should probably ignore this all and have one big end of the world party....

How big would the bonfire need to be to see it from the space station?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Only in LA...

I was reading the LA Weekly today when I noticed the ad for Designer Laser Vaginoplasty.

Are there any bike friendly cities?

My friend the Bellman recently asked me if LA was a bike friendly city. I'm not sure that any large American cities are bike friendly. They're too big to bike across and it's almost impossible to get around without biking on the highway at some point or the other.

I've never been hit by a car...knock on wood. But there are lots of jerks out there and you have to watch out for them. Bicyclists have the same trouble as motorcyclists, which is that we are hard to see and most drivers aren't paying that much attention to the road to notice something as puny and insignificant as a biker.

At least LA has a climate that is conducive to bike riding year-round. In my native Kansas, there are 2-3 months of the year that are really too cold to bike in and another 60-90 days of the year that are too wet to bike in safely.

Neal's safety tip of the month: Follow at a reasonable distance

Like most safety tips, this one is obvious. Of course following too closely leads to accidents. We all know this. And we all follow too closely.

I violate this safety rule all the time myself. If you leave a following distance of two car lengths in LA traffic, some son-of-a-bitch will slide into it within 10 seconds, and you end up with one-half of a car length between you and the son-of-a-bitch.

We are always muscling for position when we drive. The driving manual instructions to leave 3 seconds between cars seems dumb because it doesn't speak to our experience of driving with SOBs.

Another time I tend to follow too closely is when turning left.

The unwritten rule of LA traffic is that 2 cars always get to turn left on red, sometimes 3. It depends on how brazen the 3rd driver is. You must do this b/c there is so much traffic eight hours per day that you could never turn left otherwise.

Like everyone else in LA, I crowd into the intersection and follow the other car as close as I dare.

But when I have the chance, especially on the highway, I like to give the driver ahead of me a reasonable amount of space. I suggest leaving one car length for every 10 miles per hour you're traveling.

(Eg 3 car lengths at 30 mph and 7 car lengths at 70 mph)

(If you have trouble estimating a car length, it's the same as one second's distance. You can learn to gauge a second's distance by picking a roadside object. When the car ahead of you passes the roadside object, start counting. The time it takes you to pass the object is how many seconds you are behind the car in front of you.)

As you may have guessed, I don't like LA or its traffic. Tool has a great song called Aenima that really sums up my feelings about LA.


Friday, June 11, 2004

Rico the Wonderdog

Wired has a summary of an article in the journal Science about a german border collie named Rico that has a vocabulary of over 200 words.

So now I feel even more justified in saying that most people are no smarter than dogs.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Brits to put active RFID tags in license plates

RFID News has an article indicating the British government is considering putting battery-powered RFID tags in car license plates.

That will certainly make it easier to enforce the congestion charge in London, I think.

Bias in the Media

Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, the NPR ombudsman, recently discussed the shortcomings of the recent Pew study about bias in the media.

I think Dvorkin is correct that the politics of media management executives and the media ownership is far more important than the politics of the individual reporters.

But I contend that objectivity is a flawed idea. Everyone has his or her own perspective and that perspective is shaped by that person's life experiences. This perspective affects how a person views the world and what arguments are persuasive or resonate with that person.

My view on this is shaped by what I've read about standpoint epistemology. Samuel Trosow has written an essay on how standpoint epistemology is an alternative methodology for information science and Nancy Hartsock has also written on this topic.

I think this is a much more honest way of going about things and acknowledges our humanity rather than pretending we are objective. No one is truly objective. There may be an underlying reality, but all we can ever know of it are our perceptions and the perceptions of others as communicated to us.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Why people hate Lawyers

I was going to try to post something light-hearted and funny today. Really.

But then I got an email today from the Chancellor of UCLA saying that Dubya and the Governator have ordered federal and state buildings to fly the flag at half mast for 30 days to honor Ronald Reagan's passing.

When I think of the 800 odd American soldiers who have given their lives in Iraq for Dubya's pack of lies and Cheney's greed and their families only get a form letter and free funeral out of the deal....well, it makes my blood boil.

Then my friend Spammy T was telling me about Ashcroft courting contempt of Congress yesterday.

So I wander over to the Bellman and I see this post about Ashcroft refusing to answer direct questions about whether Bush ordered the torture of Iraqis and refusing to give to Congress the legal memos on torture that are all over the Internet anyway.

I listened to Nina Totenberg's audio piece on the NPR page Midkiff links to, and it is so damned infuriating to listen to the Inspector General of the US deny that the executive branch makes the sort of bullshit hair-splitting legal distinctions on torture that are available in print.

Which reminds me why people hate attorneys so much. Hiding torture behind semantics is pretty fucking despicable.

The torture itself is a crime. But when I think about these Republican fat-cat attorneys sitting in their air-conditioned offices in DC trying to think up cute, little legal arguments about when torture isn't really torture......

It makes me ashamed that I'm an attorney.

But that reminds me of a joke.

How do you get a lawyer out of a tree?
Cut the rope.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Why rapid climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism

Renato Redentor Constantino has written a fascinating piece over at Common Dreams.org outlining the dangers to civilization posed by rapid climate change brought on by global warming.

He does work for Greenpeace, but I think what he says is worth a read.

An email from Representative Henry Waxman

Earlier I posted on my blog the letter I emailed to my congressional representatives expressing my outrage at the Abu Ghraib torture (and murder) cases.

Today, Representative Waxman wrote me back. I've edited his email slightly and inserted his hyperlinks.

* * * * *

June 7, 2004

Dear Mr. Axton:

Thank you for contacting me about the deplorable situation created by the Bush Administration in Iraq. I'm glad to know we are in substantial agreement on this matter of crucial importance.

The abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by members of the United States military, as well as civilian contractors, is unconscionable. I've called for the resignation or dismissal of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld because it is clear to me that the source of the misconduct extends beyond the seven soldiers facing court martial.

While I share your outrage about these abuses, I voted against H.Res. 627, a resolution condemning the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, because it did not go far enough. I hope you will take a moment to read my statement in the Congressional Record, which explains my thinking on this issue in greater detail. The statement is available on my [website].


From the bad intelligence and misleading statements that were used to justify this war; to the no-bid process and conflicts of interest in issuing contracts for rebuilding; to the revelations of prison abuses and the Administration's disregard for the Geneva Conventions; to the poor understanding of what would be needed for post-war planning, this Administration has failed the military, the American people, the Iraqi people, and the international community. It has consistently refused to acknowledge failures, let alone accept any responsibility to rectify them.

Last year I introduced legislation to establish an Independent Commission on Intelligence about Iraq (H.R. 2625). I have also compiled a searchable database called "Iraq on the Record," a collection of the more than 230 specific misleading statements made about the Iraq threat by the President, Vice President, and other officials at the highest levels of the Administration. You may review the database [here].

You can be sure that I will continue my efforts to hold the Bush administration accountable for its policies in Iraq. To learn more about these efforts, please visit my website at www.henrywaxman.house.gov.

Thank you again for writing and please keep in touch on
issues of concern.

With kind regards, I am

Sincerely,

Henry A. Waxman
Member of Congress

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Ronald Reagan is dead, may his evil die with him

Ronald Reagan was an actor playing a president. Ronald Reagan was a war criminal and should have been imprisoned for the human rights atrocities he ordered in Honduras and Nicaragua.

The fact that these crimes were committed in violation of the Boland Amendment merely indicates that Reagan should have spent time in a federal prison before being moved to a cell under the Hague.

Make no mistake, Bush the elder should have been sharing Reagan's cell along with Oliver North and Admiral Poindexter.

Should it be any surprise to us that Dubya has no respect for international law, the Geneva conventions, or human rights? He is merely following in his father's footsteps. The fact that Poindexter went on serve in Dubya's administration just points out how criminal the current administration is.

The Bellman has some good resources on Reagan here.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Drug Up Your Teen Today

Read Mark Morford's satirical take on the new study indicating that prozac is the best treatment for teenage depression.

Turkish Prime Minister issues rebuke to Sharon and Bush

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has stated that Israel is conducting state-sponsored terrorism in Gaza and in so many words says that the US is losing credibility abroad according to the BBC.

This is particularly damning when you realize that Turkey is Israel's closet ally in the Middle East and is typically considered a US ally. Of course, that all may be changing under the Project for the New American [Imperialist] Century.

Since Dubya doesn't read newspapers, I hope one of Dubya's aides will mention Prime minister Ergodan's comments to him.

[Turkish prime minister Ergodan] stood by his earlier accusation that Israel was practising "state terrorism" against Palestinians.

Selected quote:

"When you look at the structure of what has happened, how else can you interpret it?" he said.

Israel usually enjoys very close relations with Turkey, its strongest military and trade partner in the Middle East region.

Mr Erdogan went on to make an apparently veiled criticism of another ally, Washington, calling for a more multilateral approach in its "global war on terrorism".

"Saying 'I am the strong one, so I can name anyone I want as a terrorist and anyone I want as a criminal and just kill them and go' - that mentality is wrong," he said.

"All those responsible are losing their credibility with every passing day... You must have followed what kind of reactions the pictures of the abuse in Abu Ghraib prison [in Iraq] received," he added.


I don't get to vote in the Israeli elections, but I am voting against Bush and his mad war machine in the presidential election. I'm not sure what sort of president Kerry will be, but he cannot be any worse that Cheney, Rove, and their puppet, Dubya.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Educators Against the War

I helped organize a forum to discuss the war against Iraq today with four education grad students. About 60 people came total. I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad over that. That was about the perfect number of people given the size of our room. But we're talking about a campus of 40,000 students and we put up a lot of flyers.

One of my professors, Mary Niles Maack, attended. My friend, Julie Huffman, was also there. Julie and I are co-Presidents of the UCLA student chapter of SLA (Special Libraries Association) next year.

I put up another blog about the peace forum, which has a lot of anti-war and alternative info links, if you're interested. The education students kept calling it a teach-in, but I just think of it as a forum. I cannot take credit for the links, actually. My friend, Noah, put them together.

One of the speakers, Rosa Furumoto, talked about how No Child Left Behind requires military recruiters be given access to high schools in return for federal moneys. She also had a GIS display of the high schools with J-ROTC and middle schools with cadet programs. She then overlaid the points with census tract data about the predominant ethnicities in areas with J-ROTC programs. As you might expect, latino and african-american areas have a very healthy number of J-ROTC programs.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

$100 Barrels of Oil

The Guardian's Terry Macalister has an article about potential sabotage of the oil industry in Saudi Arabia.

Selected quote:

"I cannot think of any more logical target for terrorists. It [Ras Tanura] is the nerve centre for the Saudi oil trade but also for global exports. If you can blow up the Pentagon in broad daylight, then it cannot be impossible to fly a plane into Ras Tanura - and then you are talking $100 [per barrel] oil," he says.

Saudi Arabia is the linchpin for world crude supplies, a key to setting prices and yet sitting on a political tinderbox due to internal dissent and having trouble securing itself against terrorism.

The repressive desert kingdom is the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, provided 15 out of the 19 attackers on 9/11 and its future problems could ultimately make petrol too expensive for us to take our cars out of the garage.

Not only is Ras Tanura or the refining centre of Abqaiq dangerously exposed to being knocked out of action by militants, but Mr Gheit also believes regime change in Saudi to a more hostile Islamic government is as inevitable as it was in Iran a quarter of a century ago. "It's only a matter of time," he claims.

But this is no headline-grabbing polemicist. The Egyptian-born American is employed by investment house Oppenheimer & Co to provide sober assessments of future oil supply and demand to investors sitting on billions of dollars worth of Wall Street financial funds.

* * *

Not everyone is willing to even consider the "nightmare scenario." Gerald Butt, an editor with the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) newsletter, is dismissive of suggestions that the country is in a politically fragile state. "The royal family is very large and very influential. It will stand together to face a common threat and sees al-Qaida as a security issue and not a political one," he says.

As for the threat to oil installations, the MEES editor believes they are well guarded, pushing terrorists to attack softer targets such as compounds of western workers.

In Beirut, the Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, assured the meeting of Opec last night that oil facilities in the kingdom were "very secure". He said: "The paranoia about terrorism in the world threatening all the oil establishments in the world, that's not true."

Back over the Atlantic, Mr Gheit remains convinced that there is a real and continuing threat which would cripple the world economy. He was in the past accused of being irresponsible by critics who said doom mongers had been predicting regime change in Saudi for 20 years, but the current situation frightens economists and consumers alike...


The situation defintely bears watching. As the June 30th date for the US "withdrawal" from Iraq draws closer, things in the Middle East are likely to become even more interesting.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Rollerderby Rules

This past weekend I was in Austin, Texas for a wedding. While there, I hooked up with my old friends the Bellman and Zwichenzug. Sunday night we went to the Thunderdome to see the Lonestar Rollergirls. Bellman has a earlier post about the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls here.

The Slate article by Felix Gillette Bellman mentions is interesting. It points out that there are two rollerderby leagues in Austin right now.

In the match we saw, the Putas del Fuego defeated the Hellcats by a single point on Sunday night, it was a really close game.

I enjoyed the match quite a bit. It is certainly a dangerous sport. Two players were taken out on backboards...I hope they are both ok. I have great respect for the athleticism and toughness of the competitors. I can skate, but not with much confidence. Being able to tackle while on skates is an impressive skill.

I'm not as certain as Felix Gillette that the fights are all staged. I think there might be some real antipathy between the teams. Especially after the second Hellcat was taken out on a stretcher.

Either way, it made for good white-trash theater. The crowd was very interesting as well. I cannot recall the last time I saw so much latex under one roof. There were lots of hipsters and tattooed individuals in attendance.

Austin is an interesting mixture of punks, hipsters, and cowboys. I think that our society's tolerance for deviance is in many ways a barometer of how free we are. Texas is not known for its tolerance, quite the opposite. But Austin has in many ways become an oasis of irreverence in conservative Texas.

Rollerderby seemed mildly deviant to me Sunday night and I thought the crowd was almost as much fun to watch as the action on the banked track.

If you're in Austin in the future, check it out.