Thursday, September 30, 2004

The enemy of my enemy...

Jesus Politics, referred me to Why Kerry is Wrong for Mormons. Oddly enough, these are all reasons why Kerry is right for me.

Democracy hijacked by Corporate Interests

Spammy T sent me this NPR item criticizing the partisan and corporate control of the presidential debates.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Bush family fortune built on war profiteering?

The Guardian is reporting on new claims that Prescott Bush (Dubya's grandfather) made the family fortune by doing business with the Nazis, both before and after Pearl Harbor..

The claims, based in part on documents from the National Archives, will be laid out in a book by John Buchanan.

Along these lines, have you seen Steven Bell's new political cartoon depicting Bush at the UN? [Link updated Sep. 30th]

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Strategies for a Small Planet: the politics of energy and barometic pressure as an energy source

Popular Mechanics reports a new system that uses differences in barometric pressure (and the Bernoulli effect) to power turbines. The article is called Power from Thin Air and is very exciting to me.

[Anthony] Mamo estimates it would be possible to produce power from his [barometric power] system for less than 1 cent per kilowatt-hour, compared to 4 to 6 cents for windmills and 11 to 14 cents for nuclear plants. |Link|


Imagine a source of power that is cheap, clean, and infinite.

Of course, that already describes solar power, wind power, and wave power.

I ask myself over and over again, what is wrong with our society that we aren't implementing these technologies on a massive scale?

What defect in national character or native intelligence keeps us from adopting sustainable energy policies?

Jim Hamilton recently posted an interesting piece on campaign coverage of oil politics and the difficulties of America's continuing love affair with middle eastern oil over at the Bellman.

Campaigndesk.org frames the question this way:

[W]hich do we want more: a comfortable standard of living, or a foreign policy that keeps us out of regional conflicts?

I'm afraid that I already know the answer to that one...

But there are some people who are working hard to protect the environment.

Slashdot recently covered an experimental house design that is virtually energy independent sponsored by the Portland Office of Sustainable Development. The Office of Sustainable Development has assembled a list of the top ten green choices for home builders and remodelers.

The Canadian Broadcast Network has an article on building your own solar-powered bicycle/scooter. The promised free blueprints do not appear to be available yet.

Those rabid environmentalists over at the Christian Science Monitor have an article by Mark Clayton discussing how Americans can help save energy without putting much of a crimp in their lifestyle by using more energy efficient materials and designs.

Selected quote:
Efficiency has worked before, these experts add. From 1977 to 1985, the nation's gross domestic product rose 27 percent while oil use fell 17 percent, Mr. Lovins points out. At the same time, net oil imports fell 42 percent and imports from the Middle East fell 87 percent. OPEC lost half of its oil market and its pricing power....To Lovins, the key is weaning a nation from its dependence on oil imports with a new generation of ultralight automobiles made from ultrastrong carbon fiber. Powered by hybrid and eventually fuel-cell technology, such vehicles would vault the US ahead of other nations technologically and help it "win the oil endgame," he says. "Some day our cars will be made of carbon fiber materials that weigh half as much and are twice as strong," Lovins adds. "We'll fly on airplanes that have better engines, but are lighter and more aero-dynamic. Cars and planes will still look the same, but the greater efficiency and lower fuel costs will pay for themselves."


Of course, the current administration's response to something as simple as energy conservation is contempt:

"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy," said Vice President Dick Cheney in dismissing the idea two years ago. |Link|

Friday, September 24, 2004

Saletan and Morford on Kerry

Saletan has a nice rundown of Kerry's position on the Iraq war.

Morford sums the election up well in his usual style.

Kerry ain't exactly a firestorm of magnetism and inspiration. He is, unfortunately, more than a little staid, pedestrian, beige. On Letterman, on "The Daily Show," on Leno, he was finely honed and well groomed and grinning and likable enough, a true die-hard patrician politician almost completely devoid of modern-day TV-ready sparkle and zing. He's just so ... solid. And book learned. And experienced. And deeply intelligent. American translation: yawn.

But is this really why many moderates just can't get themselves to like Kerry all that much, even if they agree with his policies and his stellar environmental record and his Vietnam heroism and even if they know Bush really, really has to go? Because he's just too sober and conventional? Or is it the hair? The WASP entitlement? The booming, deadening oratory style?

Or is it the lack of a winking charm, of a flirtatious Clintonesque gleam in the eye that says he's onto this whole bulls-- game and knows how to play it better than anyone and can flaunt the well-known fact that any 8-year-old can outmaneuver George W. Bush in a contest of intellect and acumen and simple algebra? Yea, verily.

Simply put, Kerry is disliked because he is just not enjoyably slick enough. Or cleverly cold blooded enough. Or deftly manipulative enough. And in this day and age, if you ain't massively and strategically calculating on a hundred different levels (or if you don't, like Bush, have a snarling team of demon dogs to orchestrate it all for you), you're hamburger.

This, then, is the bizarre conundrum. Where Bush is all bumbling mispronunciations and massive stacks of warmongering lies and foreign policy like an international cancer, Kerry is simply "annoying."

Where Bush has let more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers die in Iraq with nary a shrug and has allowed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians -- women and children included -- to be killed over his bogus and lie-strewn war and when he openly refuses to admit his appalling mistakes and holds an absolutely unwavering and imbecilic brick-headed conviction that war is good and God is on our side and money and stick size decide all conflicts, Kerry is ... what, again? Oh, right, a little bit "flip-floppy."

Normally, Kerry would be an impressive enough contender, especially against Dubya. Kerry can, after all, speak in complete, polysyllabic sentences. He can read above a high school level. He can speak extemporaneously, without a TelePrompter. He is not loathed the world over and is not widely considered the most dangerous and reckless and hostile leader of any free-world country on the planet.

On facing death

Almost every day, another person is beheaded in Iraq. The terrorists are using the beheadings for maximum political effect. Since the beheading of Daniel Pearl, this tactic has become very popular.

In Iraq they've been using hacksaws to behead captives, although murdering non-combatants is quite likely contrary to the teachings of the Koran.

As I watch the news unfold about the beheadings, I have to wonder why any Westerner in Iraq allows himself to be taken prisoner. If I were working in Iraq, I would always keep a hand grenade in my pocket.

When the guys with the Kalishnakovs show up, they aren't there for a social visit. They are going to take you prisoner and then execute you. I think your only option at that point is to die with your boots on. Make them kill you then and there while trying to take as many of the bastards with you as possible.

Maybe you think I'm being overly dramatic, but similar advice is given for dealing with kidnappers here in the US.

Sanford Strong, a retired San Diego cop, in his book Strong on Defense gives advice on dealing with kidnappers by not cooperating. If someone carjacks your car and tries to kidnap you, crash the car, don't let them get out of the parking lot. [B&N]

People with experience against violent crime know they must expect injury. It's a lousy expectation. But if criminal violence strikes, you have only lousy choices. Do something: try to escape, take the risk now, accept the injury, or Do nothing: obey, do everything he says, and take the risk later. |Link|


Kidnappers will always move victims from where they find them (crime scene number one) to someplace even less desirable from the victim's perspective (crime scene number two). It's better to risk a bullet at crime scene number one, where you might get some medical assistance, than to take a bullet (after being raped and tortured) at crime scene number two where the chances of getting medical attention are slim to none.

The same thing applies in Iraq. If you agree to work in a combat zone like Iraq, you assume a certain amount of risk. If you are an American especially, you know that if you are captured, it will end badly for you.

Death comes for us all eventually. How we choose to face death is up to us.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Stamps of Approval

My wife sent me this article from the Smoking Gun about the Postal Service's new personalized stamp program through Stamps.com. It's amazing that a monster like Nicolae Ceaucescu can look so kindly.

Actually, earlier today Snapfish sent me an email suggesting that I could put my child, dog, or business on my stamps. I do have a really cute dog.

Personally, I hardly ever use snail mail anymore, but we'll probably make some up some personalized stamps for our Christmas cards this year just to prove that we are totally decadent.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Atom and RSS readers

I've added RSS and Atom functionality to by blog.

The RSS 2.0 sitefeed is here and this is the Atom sitefeed.

You can download an RSS reader for a variety of OS's here.

If you want to add RSS functionality to your blog, check out Blogfeed and Feedburner.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Tuberculosis making a comeback

Just in case you were having a good day, read Slashdot's coverage or this article from Wired.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

US life expectancy stagnant

Our failure to provide basic health care to the poor and Americans aversion to a healthy diet and exercise are taking their toll, according to Robin McKie's article in the Observer.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

FDA approves home defibrillators

The FDA has approved Automated Emergency Defibrillators (AED) for over-the-counter sales.

These devices dramatically improve the odds of survival for heart attack victims if the shock is applied within six minutes of the heart attack. The design of these AED's has become almost fool-proof and thus the FDA's decisions to allow anyone to own the devices.

If you live with someone who has heart disease or is otherwise at risk, these devices could be life-savers.

Of course, a healthy diet and reasonable amounts of exercise are your best bets for long-term heart health.

Because the legs are the largest muscles in the body, strengthening the legs has special benefits for the heart.

So check out National Geographic's Mountain Biking Tours.

Friday, September 17, 2004

A decisive liar

Jon Stewart in his interview of Pat Buchanan last week summed up my feelings on Bush being decisive: "He drove us into a wall, but he never blinked."

I'm not overly fond of John Kerry and he's not my first choice for President. But he strikes me as an intelligent, considerate man who is basically honest.

I don't believe Bush is an idiot. (Not anymore anyway.) But I do believe him to be fundamentally dishonest and without compassion. And that disqualifies him from being a candidate for President of the United States of America in my opinion.

A USA Today editorial titled Glowing promises can't hide dark turn of events in Iraq from September 16th warns that Bush's lies about Iraq should be discounted and we must face the fact that the insurgency is growing ever stronger if we are to respond effectively to this distressing reality.

Andrew Greeley said it well when he wrote:

If ever there were high crimes and misdemeanors, the lies about the war in Iraq fit that category. We are an odd people. We impeach a president because he lied about his private sex life, which killed no one and harmed no one beyond his family. Yet we support and may well re-elect a ''strong'' president whose lies are responsible for so many flag-draped caskets, so many poignant obituaries, and so much grief. How many women are sobbing in church these days because of Bush's lies?

Thanks to Istvan the Mad for pointing me to Greeley's short essay.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Keepin' It Unreal: Sex and Violence in Grand Theft Auto

I don't know about you, but I've been waiting with bated breath for the new Grand Theft Auto (GTA) video game.

Today, I ran across this item by Martin Bright discussing how the glorification of gangsta culture has led to a "lost generation" of young black men.

Since the GTA series is put out by a bunch of Brits, the discussion of the glorification of gangsta violence in Britian is apropos. The newest addition to the Grand Theft Auto franchise is called San Andreas and is due out in stores in mid to late October, 2004.

GTA has been groundbreaking because it allows you to interact in an open-ended way with the gaming environment and has tons of mini-games, puzzles, and hidden items to increase the interactivity. You add to this incredible soundtracks, excellent voice-acting, a manageable camera angle, and a dose of humor...and you have the best selling video game series of the last two years.

I agree that GTA glorifies violence. It makes violence fun and entertaining. GTA boasts a wide cast of characters including dirty cops, pimps, prostitutes, crooked lawyers, the Yakuza, mob hitmen, Haitan drug dealers....

My wife refers to GTA as "the hooker game". It is one of the few video games that I'm aware of that actually has hookers in it.

Speaking for myself, I had violence tendencies long before GTA. While I haven't touched another human being in anger in over a decade...I've certainly been tempted.

I think GTA has been a healthy outlet for my violent tendencies and allows me to help keep my rage internal. But that's just me.

People react to video games depending upon a wide variety of factors. I don't think GTA is appropriate for children, although millions of children in this country have played the game judging by some of the forums I've read recently.

Anyway....social commentary aside, here are some previews of GTA San Andreas.

Gaming World X, Game Rankings, GameSpot's Previews

Strategies for a Small Planet: carbon dioxide acidifies the world's oceans

Peter N. Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor reports that much of the carbon pushed into the atmosphere by humans ends up in the world's oceans and this is turning the oceans more acidic over time. No one knows how bad this really is for ocean life yet...

But it's just one more reason to leave your car in the garage and hop on a bicycle.

Jesus is soft on Crime and Defense

Mad Magazine has developed George Bush's ad message if he were running against Jesus for President. Jesus Politics has reposted the ad here.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Bloodbath in Belsan

The Guardian's Susan Sevareid has an article about Arab reaction to the attack at the school in Beslan, Russia.

Selected Quote:

[A] prominent Arab journalist wrote that Muslims must acknowledge the painful fact that Muslims are the main perpetrators of terrorism. "Our terrorist sons are an end-product of our corrupted culture," Abdulrahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al-Arabiya television, wrote in his daily column published in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. It ran under the headline, "The Painful Truth: All the World Terrorists are Muslims!" ....Arab TV stations repeatedly aired footage of terrified young survivors being carried from the school siege scene, while pictures of dead and wounded children ran on front pages of Saturday's newspapers in the region. Ahmed Bahgat, an Egyptian Islamist and columnist for Egypt's leading pro-government newspaper, Al-Ahram, wrote that the images "showed Muslims as monsters who are fed by the blood of children and the pain of their families." "If all the enemies of Islam united together and decided to harm it ... they wouldn't have ruined and harmed its image as much as the sons of Islam have done by their stupidity, miscalculations, and misunderstanding of the nature of this age," Bahgat wrote.

Of course, the headline is false that all the world's terrorists today are muslims. A few recent examples spring to mind, Eric Rudolph was a christian terrorist while Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold were atheist terrorists.

Thomas R. O'Connor, a professor of criminology, has a fascinating page on the history of terrorism that discusses the many different definitions of terrorism used by governments and academics.

Selected quotes:
Terrorism has been around as a major nuisance to governments as long as recorded history. The Bible advocates terror, assassination, and annihilation in several places (see the book of Numbers and book of Joshua). Regicide, or the killing of kings by rivals, and the brutal suppression of loyalists afterwards, has been an established pattern of political ascent since Julius Caesar (44 B.C.). The Zealots in Israel (100 A.D.) fought Roman occupation with hit-and-run tactics in public places. The Assassins in Iraq (1100 A.D.) fought the Christian Crusaders with suicide tactics. The Thuggees in India (1300 A.D.) kidnapped travelers for sacrifice to their Goddess of Terror, Kali. The Spanish Inquisition (1469-1600) dealt with Heretics by systematized torture, and the whole medieval era was based on terrorizing a countryside. The Luddites (1811-1816) destroyed machinery and any symbol of modern technology. A Serb terrorist (1914) started World War I. Hitler's rise to power (1932) involved plans for genocide. Nations like Ireland, Cyprus, Algeria, Tunisia, and Israel probably would have never become republics if not for revolutionary terrorism, and more than a few people would say the United States was founded on terrorism. However defined, it is clear that terrorism has helped shape world history in a variety of ways, and it has long meant different things to different people.

* * * *

There is no one, good definition of terrorism. In fact, it might be impossible to define because it is intangible and fluctuates according to historical and geographical contexts. Some forms of it are indistinguishable from crime, revolution, and war. Other forms of it are easily distinguishable. Each and every person knows that they would in some way, some day, under some back-against-the-wall condition, support some form of terrorism (as a tactic of last resort) in the name of some deeply cherished cause or value. You may already be a supporter of terrorism, or you may live under a government that practices terrorism, and not know it. There is no universally accepted definition of terrorism (Long 1990).


Cite: T.R. O'Connor's Definitions of Terrorism (Last Updated July 24,2004). MegaLinks in Criminal Justice.