Monday, February 28, 2005

Escaping the prison of the flesh

Wired has an article by Richard Martin on what I refer to as direct neural interfaces or mindjacks. The article profiles a product called the Braingate which was surgically implanted in the brain of a quadraplegic. The article discusses other less invasive procedures.

Using Cell Phones to Warn of Disasters with a Privacy Metric

I've been discussing the idea of using cell phones to warn people in the path of a flood or chemical spill for close to a year now. Glad to see the Japanese Government is thinking along the same lines.

Short-term projects include using satellites to send alerts on natural disasters - such as tsunamis - straight to mobile phones. [Japan] recently signed up to a global satellite disaster network..."aimed at improving satellite photo responses to major disasters". |Link|


One of the problems with implementing a project like this in the United States is partially one of privacy. I think Americans will be very leary of the government tracking them through their cell phones for the one-in-a-million chance that they're in the path of a calamity.

I think Americans will suspect that this information would be used to track them for non-emergency uses and fears of Big Brother spying on them incessantly will lead to a backlash against giving law enforcement and disaster managmenet professionals access to GPS information from cell phones, except when the user dials 911.

With that in mind, I propose the development of a hierarchy of privacy needs that is tied to a numeric scale. 1 would be the lowest level of privacy, or things that everyone can know like your name or your favorite rock star. 10 would be the things a person never wants anyone to ever find out about, a person's most intimate secrets ( like a phobia or a socially unacceptable act carried out one night while really drunk).

By articulating the level of privacy we could argue for more or less privacy protections based upon specific situations and contexts. In a national emergency or a terrorist attack, items that were otherwise secret would become available to FEMA or CERT teams, thus something that was Level 9 would become Level 6 for the duration of the emergency.

The identity and location of registered sex offenders might be reduced to Level 1 or Level 1.

Other individuals might have their privacy levels increased because being stalked or being put in the witness protection program.

There would be lots and lots of decisions that would have to be made such as how every aspect of our lives should be rated and whether there should be opt-in and opt-out procedures. I am just sketching the idea here to get feedback.

I think this system could also be used to establish different sorts of penalties for different crimes. Hacking into the Pentagon's control of nuclear weapons should be far more frowned upon than stealing all of Citibank's money. Although both would generally be considered bad.

Civil Rights Watch: The Long, Quiet Struggle of Jose Padilla

Jose Padilla has won yet another victory in his case against his illegal detention by the Bush administration. He still remains in prison because of a procedural error by his attorneys....and he will probably have to suffer through another round of appeals.

The NY Times is carrying the Reuters story on Padilla here (reg'n req'd).

How many times is Bush going to have to be told that he cannot detain American citizens indefinitely without charges?

You'd think the guy was stupid or something.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Why does Bush hate women?

The Bushies are taking their assault on civil liberties international as they push the United Nations to remove any language that could in any way conceivably be seen as justifying abortion from the UN's new declaration on the rights of women.

Why are they so scared of a woman anywhere in the world being able to make decisions about her own health and welfare?

It really pisses me off when people try to impose their religious values on the entire world. And it pisses me off even more when it's done with my tax dollars.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Optimism and the Solitary Blogger...

My brother called me today. He told me to be optimistic three times in a twenty minute period. He doesn't visit the Fireside anymore as I depress him.

At least he still talks to me on the phone.

I wish I were optimistic. But I look around me and I see a culture that is about to drive off a cliff. I see a country at war, alienating its allies, living like the oil will never run out. Well, guess what? There's going to be one hell of a hangover after this party is over.

We are a society seduced be pleasure. There are so many distractions, so many diversions, so much fun, that very few people can see past the commercials. And among the ones who see the writing on the wall, there is nothing approaching a consensus about what to do.

George Bush's refusal to acknowledge climate change is like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

I look around me and I see clusterfuck nation.

What do you see?

Guns or Butter

The Guardian's Chris McGreal has a piece on the economic and social costs of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The cost of the latest intifada has been particularly high. The economy contracted from 8% growth in 2000 to nearly 1% three years later as foreign investment dropped sharply and tourism collapsed. The health service, social security and education budgets were severely cut.

"Their cumulative effect can probably be compared to the structural changes introduced into eastern European countries in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, or to the structural changes imposed by international financial institutions on countries that had undergone severe financial crises."

As unemployed has risen and poverty widened, many social benefits have been sharply reduced, including a cut of almost a third in income support for the poor and single mothers. "The most tangible outcome has been the mushrooming of soup-kitchens and of 'hand-out' societies, previously unknown in Israel except in the Orthodox Jewish communities," the report says.

The cost will continue to rise even as Israel extricates itself from the Gaza Strip, paying compensation to settlers and possibly dismantling other settlements as part of a final agreement with the Palestinians.|Link|


Vietnam had a tremendous impact on the US economy. I think Iraq threatens to damage our economy seriously as well. Of course, letting Iraq turn into a failed state would be even worse in the long run. But maybe Bush will go for the hat trick and damage our economy, weaken our military and turn Iraq into a failed state.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Fisticuffs and Fight Clubs

When I was in fourth grade, my family moved to Fort Riley, Kansas. My brother and I got jumped by three other kids on the first day of school. That my introduction to kidney punches. I became a runner in fourth grade. Few people wanted to chase me down just to beat my scrawny little ass.

In fifth grade I got tired of seeing my friends get beat up and my brother too. I got tired of being picked on and I stopped running. There's nothing quite as gratifying as going toe to toe with someone who weighs almost twice what you do and smacking the living shit out of him in front of the entire school.

It's been more than a decade since I struck another person in anger. I've been threatened a few times, but I've always found that my total refusal to back down at the threat of physical violence has persuaded the other party to look for a softer target.

To be honest, I miss it sometimes. There's nothing like the thud of fists on flesh. I would take up boxing except for the evidence of neurological damage associated with extensive boxing. But I do enjoy working with a speed bag and the heavy bag.

But not everyone is as worried about brain injury as I am, according to this article on a real life version of Fight Club.

"Boxing is more exciting to watch. For the common man, there's nothing better than seeing one person hitting another person in the face," he says, adding that the general public doesn't appreciate the strategy and technique that go into putting an arm-splintering submission hold on somebody. |Link|

Hard Luck Childhood

I don't remember how I ran across Strip Mining for Whimsy, but I've been a devoted reader ever since. I used to think I had it rough growing up. I realize now that I was totally deluded and self-centered. Maybe I still am...

Not that everything Joshua writes about his parents is necessarily true, but if even one-tenth of it is true....it just proves to me that some people shouldn't be allowed to have children.

RFID and the Politics of Cigarette Smuggling

The EU is cracking down on Phillip Morris International (PMI) for allowing their products to be smuggled around the world. While I find the death merchants at PMI to be totally noxious individuals, I have some sympathy for their plight. We're not talking about nuclear waste here, how much time and effort are these manufacturers supposed to use to track their goods?

Regardless, the Europeans are demanding the cigarette maker take action.

The 25-nation EU is, in effect, ordering the cigarette maker to implement a supply chain system that will keep track of every Marlboro, Bond Street and Parliament carton—as well as Philip Morris' other brands—from the time the cigarettes are packaged to the time they're sold by anybody, anywhere, in the world.

It's a demand that the EU could easily impose on manufacturers of liquor, apparel, pharmaceuticals, hazardous materials or other products that want to do business in its surging $12 trillion-a-year common market. And other governments—particularly those facing financial deficits, like the U.S.—could be easily motivated to follow along with their own actions.

Leaks in the distribution of cigarettes conservatively cost national, state and local governments more than $30 billion a year in tax revenue, according to the World Health Organization. Smokes are not the only trade of unauthorized distributors. Illicit supply chains move more than $500 billion a year in smuggled and counterfeit goods, from pocketbooks to steel, says the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

"This is just the beginning for manufacturers in many industries," says Kara Romanow, an analyst with AMR Research. "Either by force of regulation or from a large customer such as Wal-Mart, companies are being forced to get their supply chains under better control." (emphasis added) |Link|


Of course, RFID is discussed as a possible option, but it's probably too expensive to implement in this instance at least on the cigarette pack level. The economics change a bit for the cigarette carton or pallet of cigarette cartons, but the ability to track the items is also greatly reduced.

These sort of regulatory efforts create even more impetus for implementing the Internet of Things. For the record, I don't think the the world will be a fun place to live after the Internet of Things is fully operational. I believe the Internet of Things will make totalitarian control of society vastly easier.

But I also think we are inexorably sliding down that slope.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Learn to Swim

Mark Hertsgaard speaks the unpleasant truth when he writes:

At the core of the global warming dilemma is a fact neither side of the debate likes to talk about: It is already too late to prevent global warming and the climate change it sets off.

Environmentalists won't say this for fear of sounding alarmist or defeatist. Politicians won't say it because then they'd have to do something about it. The world's top climate scientists have been sending this message, however, with increasing urgency for many years. |Link|

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Little Counseling Before Dying

The Guardian's David Adam has more information on the MDMA trials to help terminally ill patients here.

The ecstasy is not a chemical fix for the patients' anxiety, instead it is intended to help them to open up and get the most from conventional counselling. Halpern says the drug allows people to talk about topics they would otherwise avoid.

"It's really tough doing psychotherapy with people who have anxiety disorders because when you get to the heart of the matter it causes a panic attack. For somebody who has a particularly gruesome time trying to talk about important end-of-life issues it bubbles into anxiety and nothing gets achieved," Halpern says.

"MDMA may be potentially useful in that it doesn't induce that reaction. We want to see if that can translate into decreased anxiety and meaningful increases in the quality of life for these people."

The alternative, he says, is heavy doses of sedatives such as Valium. "At the moment these people have a choice of being over-sedated and not having anxiety or being alert and suffering panic attacks." |Link|

People are such bundles of contradictory emotions, it seems obvious to me that empathogens (or drugs that affect emotions) could be wildly beneficial to humanity.

Note: This is posted as a comment on my blog over at the Bellman.

Playing with HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank)

The Mudville Gazette has a post of an interview between a journalist (Jules Crittenden of the Boston Herald) and Milblogger discussing the attack on the Palestine Hotel during the US assault on Baghdad.

The post also contains a substantial excerpt from David Zucchino of the LA Times' book Thunder Run.

This is in the context of the Eason Jordan affair, in case you missed this:

On January 27, 2005, Jordan claimed that American troops are targeting journalists in Iraq. The charges were said to have been made during the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. He has since backtracked from the statement. Tapes of the event are being withheld from the public. |Link|


I am not inclined to believe that the US military had intentionally been killing journalists, but I would not totally discount the possibility. I'm not going to take a stand for or against what Mr. Jordan said, but I think the Mudville Gazette piece does show the insanity of war and the inherent dangers of military action.

That is why as citizens, we must demand honesty and accountability of our political leadership on the rationale for war. I do not beleive this administration was forthright about the reasons for the war or the cost in human life, treasury, infrastructure, opportunity cost, and human misery involved in the war.

Remember how the oil revenues were supposed to pay for the war? Pipe dreams....

I think Iraq was an elective war and a huge gamble. It may pay off and provide more security in the Middle East in the long run. I am encouraged by the movement on the Israeli-Palestinian matter and I'm glad Libya gave up its nukes. But there's still a lot of uncertainty around Iran and Syria and the fate of Iraq. And then there's Turkey and the whole Kurdish nation issue festering. Bush's Iraq adventure may just turn into the end of the world as we know it. Stay tuned for more details.

But terrible accidents happen in war fairly frequently and that is why war must be the very last option for our Republic, and never the first option.

Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) was interviewed on NPR recently and he stated that this administration had avoided the hard work of rooting out terrorists and instead taken the easy route of just invading an unpopular Arab country.

Nota bene: I searched NPR's site, but I don't think the interview made the archive. Too bad, because he's a very thoughtful analyst.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Chowhound

One of my professors is quite the epicure and swears by Chowhound.com. The ethics statement at the bottom of the front page made me smile.

Librarians are Often Sexy

Last June, I posted about Cursorminer's Library song. Cursorminer makes the curious claim that librarians are often sexy.

Today Professor Chu sent me this item in the Daily Princetonian.

Selected Quote:


For people who are really interested in finding out about things and engaging ideas, the excitement of libraries is sensual and visceral as well as cerebral. Emerson, the greatest of all oped writers, and the most quotable of all the Victorian sages, says that "A man's library is a kind of harem".

* * * *

In [the movie It's a Wonderful Life] Stewart plays a guy dissuaded from suicide by an apprentice angel who shows him—through a series of cinematic flashforwards — all the good he can achieve by continuing to exist. Apparently the chief good thing he can do is save Donna Reed the horrible fate of becoming a librarian by making her a suburban housewife. Donna Reed was quite a dish, and it was hard to make her look unattractive; but Capra thought he could do so by giving her a pair of glasses and putting her hair up in a bun — that apparently being, in the iconography of Tinsel Town, a sterile and joyless coiffure.

This seemed to me ridiculous even at the age of 11, since it was obvious to me then, and has become only more so as the years go by, that libraries are the sexiest places, and librarians the sexiest people, on earth. Furthermore I've always had a particular thing about librarians with buns, especially when the bun is complemented by a long yellow Eberhard Faber number two lead pencil worn behind the ear. Such librarians are a vanishing breed, to be sure, but to my delight I encountered one a couple of summers ago in a small town library in Vermont. While I, to my shame, was busy using the Internet to check my email — which incidentally consisted almost entirely of unsolicited offers to extend my credit line and my manhood — she was busy extending horizons, talking with quiet excitement to a couple of teenagers about books and ideas.

John V. Fleming is the Louis W. Fairchild '24 professor of English. |Link|(emphasis mine)


I too am attracted to women in buns, as my adorable (and intellectual) wife can attest.

As I write this I sit ensconced in the quiet confines of the UCLA Law Library. It's a nice place and there is so much knowledge here. But I've never thought of it as sexy before...

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Jaundiced Eye: Fox News and Al-Jazeera, who is more biased?

Dennis Ross, a Fox commentator, discusses Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That Is Challenging the West by Hugh Miles in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

Miles claims that Al-Jazeera is less biased than mainstream American news media.

I think Ross has some interesting counterpoints. But he totally ignores the fact that Fox News is the most biased network on Earth.

If you haven't seen Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism yet, let me know and I'll lend you my copy. Rupert Murdoch is a clever son-of-a-bitch. As I recently said in another context, I don't shoot a man for being incompetent in the Devil's work, I shoot him for being competent in the Devil's work.

And Rupert Murdoch ignited a race to the bottom in the American media. The American news media has gone from self-absorbed fluff to a pile of worthless, jingoistic crap in my humble opinion.

I don't believe in real objectivity, I'm a standpoint epistemologist, but I do think that you can at least seek out other viewpoints and try to appreciate them.

Bizarre Crime Trends: Vivisections of Pregnant Women

What is going on? Has this entire country gone stark, raving mad? Ok, don't answer that.

But do read this article from the Guardian for the story of a pregnant women who apparently killed her assailant in self-defense. Here's a quote:

Several pregnant women have been killed in recent years by attackers who then removed their fetuses, in some cases to pass the children off as their own.

In December, a Missouri woman was strangled and her baby was cut from her womb. The baby was later found alive, and a Kansas woman was charged with kidnapping resulting in death. In 2003, a woman was shot to death in Oklahoma, allegedly by another woman who then pretended the 6-month-old fetus was her child. That fetus died.

And then there's the Laci Peterson murder that garnered so much attention recently, although it was the husband who committed the murder there.

No mention of Satanism in any of these cases. It's usually blamed on mentally disturbed individuals. Scott Peterson was in his right mind, it was just an immoral, sociopathic mind. Hadn't he ever heard of divorce? Hadn't these other people ever heard of adoption? Talk about sociopathic behavior....

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Super AIDS strain suspected in New York City

I heard about this on NPR as well, but the Guardian has a short article by Robin McKie here.


'Risky behaviour may be even more dangerous now since there is a chance of infection with a virus we may not be able to treat,' said Jay Dobkin, director of Columbia University's Aids programme.

The patient with the new strain is also known to have been using crystal methamphetamine, a drug that can wipe out inhibitions and which has been linked to sex marathons....

John Moore, an Aids researcher at Cornell University medical school, said the fact that only one case of a multiple drug resistant strain had been reported was important. 'If there was a cluster of these, that would be different,' he said.

Most experts warned of the need for vigilance, however. 'It is certainly premature to say we have a new killer that is drug resistant going round,' said Weiss. 'On the other hand, it is clear we should be concerned and careful.'


So, use protection and lay off the crystal meth. ;-)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Alternative Energy Blog

A recent addition to the blogosphere is the Alternative Energy Blog.

Recent posts discuss the Solar Tower going up in Australia and China, wave power, and small hydroelectric installations.

All of which seem like excellent mechanisms to help protect the environment and the quality of life of future generations.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

California DNA registry snares murderer

A recent ballot initiative in California requires all felons to submit a genetic sample and all new felony arrests will have to submit a genetic sample.

This DNA registry recently solved a murder from 2001.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Those Wacky Apocalyptic Christians and the Military-Industrial Complex

Spammy T sent me this link to the Star Tribune. Because this article is so important, and something everyone who isn't an apocalyptic Christian should read right now, I'm re-printing it in its entirety.

There is No Tomorrow
by Bill Moyers dated January 30, 2005

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. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.

Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.

Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.

That's right -- the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right warrior Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.

As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144 -- just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer -- "The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming apocalypse.

As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total and more since the election -- are backed by the religious right.

Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"

Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, "America's Providential History." You'll find there these words: "The secular or socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the world as a pie ... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "[t]he Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth ... while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."

No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?"I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."

I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe that -- it's just that I read the news and connect the dots.

I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration:

• That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand whether actions might damage natural resources.

• That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport-utility vehicles and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.

• That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the public.

• That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting, coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies.

• That wants to open the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America.

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million -- $2 million of it from the administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council -- to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

I read all this in the news.

I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's friends at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists who believe catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."

I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides; language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environmental review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.

I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer -- pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."

And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?

What has happened to our moral imagination?

On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly.'"

I see it feelingly.

The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free -- not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient Israelites called hochma -- the science of the heart ... the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you.

Believe me, it does.

Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs series "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers' remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.


Another fun little article on this topic by Neal Pollack is available from The Stranger here.

Disclaimer: There is no relationship between Safety Neal and Neal Pollack except that they both spell their names the cool way.

Is it real or is it memorex?

I was taking a nap today and Sarah, my wife, came and told me it was time to get up. According to her, I looked up and told her I needed to finish sending an email, and went back to sleep.

Another time, back when I was practicing law, my wife came into the bedroom after I'd already been asleep and I started talking to her. She said something to me and I responded: "But you're the opposing party."

I do tend to talk in my sleep, usually gibberish, but sometimes whole sentences. Anyone else out there talk in their sleep?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Vote or Die

The Smirking Chimp claims that Iraqis were required to vote in order to obtain their food ration. I don't know if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I think the Republicans stole the 2000 US election, I don't think they'd take even a moment's pause before rigging Iraq's election.

Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi exile, provides some historical perspective on voting during US occupations by drawing parallels between voting in Vietnam in 1967 and the Iraq vote last Sunday.

On September 4 1967 the New York Times published an upbeat story on presidential elections held by the South Vietnamese puppet regime at the height of the Vietnam war. Under the heading "US encouraged by Vietnam vote: Officials cite 83% turnout despite Vietcong terror", the paper reported that the Americans had been "surprised and heartened" by the size of the turnout "despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting". A successful election, it went on, "has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam". The echoes of this weekend's propaganda about Iraq's elections are so close as to be uncanny....

I really hope that a stable gov't can be established in Iraq. As much as I dislike Bush and company, they are going to be with us for the next several years, and I wish them luck.

Zwichenzug suggested that other day that the Bushies are getting ready to bomb Iran. I hope they aren't foolish enough to bomb Iran because that would definitely louse things up in the Middle East.

But that's the unfortunate thing about hubris, hubris knows no bounds.

Note: This is cross-posted at the Bellman.