Monday, October 30, 2006

Update on Sarah's recovery

Sarah's doing well, her recovery from the surgery is encouraging. She has been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, though, called metaplastic cancer. I've been collecting some of the information Sarah's been sending me on metaplasia and breast cancer at this site.

St. Jude's
defines metaplastic carcinoma this way:
A general term used to describe cancer that begins in cells that have changed into another cell type (for example, a squamous cell of the esophagus changing to resemble a cell of the stomach). In some cases, metaplastic changes alone may mean there is an increased chance of cancer developing at the site. |Link|

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Test post

How many Harvard law professors does it take to change a lightbulb?

One. They hold the bulb up and wait for the world to revolve around them.

Why Lou Dobbs gets it Wrong on Immigration

The immigration issue has been a frequent topic of discussion over at the Bellman, from discussing "nativist paroxysms of the Republican base" to discussing reform proposals such as granting green cards to guest workers more easily or amnesty programs for illegal immigrants.

Lou Dobbs just wrote a book and has been doing the talk show circuit. One of his big issues is immigration, but I think he gets it badly wrong and I'm curious what others think.

For instance, Dobbs wrote for CNN:

"I've said from the beginning that we can't reform immigration laws until we control immigration, and we can't control immigration unless we control our borders and our ports. Constructing the border fence certainly is a good beginning to our efforts to control our borders, but let's be honest about the legislation: It isn't nearly enough, and far more must be done. A congressional victory lap isn't in order for funding only half of a 700-mile fence along a nearly 2,000-mile border." |CNN|

I think Dobbs is making a couple of arguments here. He's been repeating these arguments elsewhere, but I think the above quote is a succinct statement of his view.

He seems to argue that we need to reform our immigration policy, but the prerequisit e for an improved immigration policy is something approaching total control of the immigration across our southern border.

This strikes me as a naïve argument and bad public policy.

It's naïve because in the real world we almost never have the luxury of having total control over a problem and then deciding how we want to regulate it. Some problems are long standing and it seems unlikely that we'll ever be able to control them entirely. I'm thinking of issues other than immigration such as drug abuse, mental illness, poverty, sexism, racism, and resistance to the metric system. Should we wait until we've total control over these issues before improving our laws? Then I think the laws would never be improved.

Law enforcement policies almost never entirely eradicate problems, you don't judge them that way. The best we can hope for by switching law enforcement tactics is to get a comparative advantage1, moving us slightly closer to our desired public policy goal.

It's bad public policy because Dobbs ignores the underlying cause of Mexican immigration: the lack of jobs in Mexico. Our southern border is the only place in the world where a 3rd world country shares a border with a 1st world country according to Charles Bowden's article in Mother Jones.

The way to resolve the immigration problem is to improve the Mexican economy, not to build some stupid fence.

The whole idea that any fence (regardless of funding and congressional support) would stop illegal immigration is absurd. Immigrants will still cross the border in planes, trucks, trains, or simply tunnel under the border.

1 I use comparative advantage in the sense it is used in policy debate |See the Debate Outreach Glossary's entry|, not the term as it is used in economics.|See Globalise Resistance's Glossary|

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Changing Course on the Ship of State

Earlier I posted about the Muslim veiling debate going on in the UK. As the debate grows more acrimonious, some now fear it may result in running street battles. |Jurist|

As the street battles threaten to re-ignite in France, one has to wonder how we landed in this predicament. I think Osama bin Laden lit the match that set the world on fire. But that match caught in the us or them mentality espoused by George W. Bush.

Reza Aslan has pointed out that when Dubya declared that you're with the US or you're with the terrorists...this forced people to decide who they supported. Unfortunately, billions of people knew they weren't on the side of the US.

A new poll indicates that 70% of Americans now want a different foreign policy, they have come to realize that Dubya has us on the road to ruin.

I just wonder if it isn't too late. Too late to rescue what prestige and respect we may have once had. Too late to stop the spiraling deficit Bush has amassed. Too late to save Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Getting it in the end

According to a new poll, a majority of voters in the UK want British troops to come home. So it looks like the tide of public opinion has turned against the Iraq war. I think it's only a matter of time until we declare victory and leave with our tail between our legs.

I'm disappointed that Iraq is failing as a state. This isn't good for anyone. The really shocking thing is that Donald Rumsfeld still has a job. Talk about rewarding obstinancy and myopia.

Non Lethal Weaponry

I'm reading a book titled Non Lethal Weapons. There are not many truly Non Lethal Weapons or NLWs. Rubber bullets kill lots of people. Tasers kill people without any warning. Pepper spray is potentially fatal to people with asthma. Probably the closest thing to a true NLW right now is light. You can use a bright light to stun people when it's dark outside. Blinding a person a night really decreases their combat effectiveness. And if it's a nice heavy flashlight, you can then beat 'em with it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Recovering Nicely

Sarah is doing well. She was pushing a bit too hard when she first got home from the hospital and there was more bleeding, but she's taking it easier now and she is healing nicely. Sarah's parents left today since she seems to be out of the woods. They were very helpful, not only did they help take care of Sarah, but they also mopped the entire house, did our laundry, raked the leaves, and organized our coat closet.

We're calling it the coat closet now since that's where we store most of our winter clothes, but when I bought the house it was advertised as a wine cellar. I fail to see how it can be a wine cellar without any racks...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Reality-based Politics

Spammy T sent me a link to the Nonist. In his FAQ, I found this definition of Nonism:
n. \'nä "ni-z&m\ An unwillingness to bind your world view to any ideology; to embody an objective view point, assuming little, guided by reason.
I think that's a worthy aspiration. I think one of the lessons of the Foley scandal (and almost the entire Bush presidency) is that excessive loyalty to any political party is poison to the Republic.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sarah's home

Sarah has been released from the hospital and is now home recuperating. I realize that I messed up my last link to Sarah's Caring Bridge site, so here it is again.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gland Power

During my downtime while Sarah's been in the hospital I've been reading a book by Bruce Sterling titled Holy Fire that's partially about his vision of the medical-industrial complex at the end of this century. My favorite line from the book so far is:
The brain is a gland, not a computer.
That really helps explain why the world is such an irrational place, doesn't it? The Stoics believed that emotion could act as false reason and were distrustful of emotion. I think emotion certainly has a place in our lives and in our public policy. Emotion helps us decide what our public policies goals should be and what methods are unacceptable in achieving those goals.

However, I often feel that emotion has crowded out all reason on certain hot button topics. A few that come to mind are abortion, the "war" on drugs, the "war" on terror, eugenics, euthanasia, and gun control.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Prognosis is Good

I just finished talking with Sarah's surgeon and the surgery went well. There were no complications and she only lost about two ounces of blood. The tumor was removed and they removed two lymph nodes. They performed a preliminary dissection on the lymph nodes and no cancer was found. It's possible that cancer might be detected in the more thorough analysis, but usually the initial dissection is a good indicator of the ultimate result.

Sarah's in the recovery room now and will spend the night so they can check for complications like internal bleeding, but chances are good she that will be able to return home tomorrow.

We will get a check-up with the surgeon next week and they'll probably schedule our appointment with the oncologist then. You have to heal from surgery before the oncologist meets with you.

Oh, Sarah also had a PET scan yesterday and it did not reveal anything worrisome.

And I also wanted to say thank you for all the wishes and prayers we've received during this trying time.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Virtual Journalist

Reuters has assigned a reporter to cover news events from Second Life. Seems obvious to me...

I tried Second Life a couple of times but my connection was infuriatingly slow for me. But I'm glad someone likes it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


You know Winter is on its way when the high temperature for the day is supposed to be 37 degrees.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

In God We Trust?

“The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.” (emphasis added)

“Despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbors believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue.”

- Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

Jesus Camp: Best Horror Flick of the Year

Previously I'd blogged about the movie Jesus Camp, but this weekend Sarah and I actually saw it. It was terrifying. It'd be a good thing to see on Halloween, much scarier than any Friday the 13th movie, because it's all true.

The speaking in tongues (or war talking) is especially disconcerting to me.

At the risk of repeating myself, I think Bush's War on Terror is a thinly-veiled war on Islam and the people in Jesus camp make explicit that they want to make a generation of Christian warriors who are as willing to become martyrs as any Muslim.

The religious fanatics (of all stripes) are laying waste to our beautiful planet because they think the planet is disposable, they believe (as an article of faith) that they are headed for an incorporeal realm and thus they can strip-mine, clear-cut, and irradiate this planet at will to support their suburban notions of prosperity.

You take it as it comes

In case you haven't heard already, Sarah has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I've learned a lot about breast cancer in the last week.

Sarah has set up a Caring Bridge site where we will post updates on her condition and treatment.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Straw takes on the Niqab

Jack Straw, the former UK Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter to the editor of his local newspaper suggesting that muslim women refrain from wearing facial veils (or the niqab). The headscarf is the hijab. Islam For Today has more information on Muslim dress codes and their Quranic inspiration.

While America has been mesmerized by the Foley foolishness, the UK has been debating religious tolerance and how best to integrate minority cultures.

Echoing his contentious comments of yesterday, Mr Straw said he had seen more women wearing the veil in the street and he had "picked up quite considerable concerns about this being a rather visible demonstration of separateness".

He warned against the "development of parallel communities", adding: "Unless we bring some of these issues out which lead to parallel development, we will all be worse off."

Mr Straw said that the increasing trend towards covering facial features was "bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult. You cannot force people where they live, that’s a matter of choice and economics, but you can be concerned about the implications of separateness and I am."|Times Online|

The BBC has a short piece comparing the law of the different European countries on hijabs and niqabs.

France bans hijabs and niqabs as does Turkey. I ran across a site called Protect Hijab that has a lot of information about the hijab debate, although the site definitely is pro-hijab.

The book Private Lies, Public Truths has an interesting discussion of how in Turkey, if hijabs were optional, then social pressure would force women who don't want to wear a hijab into wearing it because of the social consequences of appearing less than devout are stark.

An example in this country of preference falsification would be how Arlen Specter warned that the Torture Compromise bill would set back the law of human rights 900 years by essentially repealing habeus corpus, and then voted for the law, because he didn't want to appear soft on terrorism or go against the President.

But I digress...I think the niqab issue is an interesting example of an issue that is divise among muslims and between muslims and wider western society.

I'm not sure what the role of society should be in encouraging one side or another in an internal religous debate, but the niqab is definitely a very visible part of the Islamic community's difference from the society around them.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Alone in the Woods

Some peace and quiet is always good for the soul. Last week I used my day off to go hiking. I went with some friends, but they preferred to fly fish rather than hike.

I'd never seen fly fishing in person before, I don't think there are any trout streams in Kansas.

Fly fishing is far more interesting to watch than the line and sinker style of fishing. Not that I would call fly fishing a spectator sport...but fly fishing is meditative.

Cry not...

The news just gets stranger by the day. There is so much potential and yet so much that is simply wrong with human beings.

The Beat poet Gregory Corso wrote the following poem that speaks to my ambivalence about the world we live in.

The fall of man stands a lie before Beethoven,
A truth before Hitler —
Man is the victory of life,
And Christ be the victory of man —
King of the universe is man, creator of gods;
He knows no thing other than himself
And he knows himself the best he can;
He exists as a being of nature
And sustains all things in being;
His dream can go beyond existence —
Greater the rose?
The simple bee does not think so;
When man sings birds humble to piety;
What history can the whale empire sing?
What genius ant dare break from anthood
As can man from manhood?
King Agamemnon! Mortal man!
Ah, immortality —

Monday, October 02, 2006

The War on Civil Liberties & the Military Commissions Act of 2006

The satirist Bill Hicks once warned that the War on Drugs is really a war on personal liberty. The same is true of the War on Terror.

I've often wondered why the Bush administration uses torture when it doesn't deliver good intelligence, people will admit to anything under torture. Juan Cole suggests that maybe these false confessions are exactly what the Bush Administration is after to support its never-ending war on terror. Cole writes:
Why is the Bush administration so attached to torturing people that it would pressure a supine Congress into raping the US constitution by explicitly permitting some torture techniques and abolishing habeas corpus for certain categories of prisoners? [...]

Boys and girls, it is because torture is what provides evidence for large important networks of terrorists where there aren't really any, or aren't very many, or aren't enough to justify 800 military bases and a $500 billion military budget.|Informed Comment|(emphasis added)
Over at the Bellman we've been discussing the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, some bloggers contend that the Supreme Court will probably approve of this power grab, while the Law Librarian Blog has a post quoting Eugene R. Fidell current president of the National Institute of Military Justice for the proposition that the denial of habeus corpus jurisdiction is unconstitutional.

Now, these issues will undoubtedly take years to wind through the courts and therefore the Military Commissions Act is now the law of the land, at least until the Court gets around to reviewing it. And it's impossible to predict how the Court might rule because the underlying facts of a challenge will influence the Court's ability to address the issues.

This law is not the end of the Republic, but I think it is several nails in the coffin.