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Radically Inept
Saturday, March 27, 2004
  In Birmingham Gone to Birminghan for an overnight with my brother and an old friend, which actually consists of playing a lot of video games (mostly them, since I don't play much except Solitaire; the learning curve hardly seems worth it). So expect few posts until tomorrow morning.

Go Yellow Jackets! But a little disappointed that UAB lost, and Alabama is not looking pretty with no time,so... I really like rooting for old favorites when they are the under dogs, but it's better if they go on to win..

It was by my brother and I, with him driving, and we stopped at the last exit on I 20, just before the Alabama line. The gas station billed itself as the number one Georgia lotto seller. One of those truckstop/convenience store combination, one side is all diesels and pull thru's, the other is the regular fuel. Anyway, went inside and it was fairly crowded. I thought that was odd at first, and then noticed in addition to the usual truck stop/convience store fare, people seated on two long lunchroom tables and another grouping in a seperate glassed in area on fast food furniture. When I looked closer, they were all playing scratch offs or watching the video numbers game. From the piles of used scracth-offs and numbers slips, they were spending money.

Alabama voters decided against a state lotto system as a source of revenue, and these people in someway argued the voters case. These people bet what looked like hard earned money. The 30ish looking woman at the counter said the biggest pay outs to date were one for $1k and another for $7k. Georgia sees big revenue from these places along the Alablama and I think the Tennesee border, which argues the counter-point: state revenue. Alabama's inability to control on-line gaming funds and item purchases from streaming out of state, a difficulty shared among the states, may not be politically resolvable in the near term. This is a related issue, but it generates a whole a whole different set problems, now that I think of it, not germane to my goal here.

I'd say as long as people gamble on Bingo, office pools, Thursday night poker and church raffles Alablma might as well get some of the action. Of course, Alabama can boast about the poor amount and quality of the services, including health services, the state provides citizens and the poor school system provide to the children as proof that it really doesn't require the revenue. However, I think this might be a little short sighted. If the legislature crafts the enabling legislation properly, well then surely the resulting graft flows to the good ol' boy network regardless. A change in the collection system means nothing if they allocate the funds into the same coffers, and an advantage lies in the cost savings realized from paying labor with state tax dollars.

Looks like we're going somewhere...
[I'll cite this later] "When the going gets weird, the wierd get going" still holds true.

Wow, absolutely required a re-edit, and might need more (re-edited 3/29) 
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Friday, March 26, 2004
  The original Rollerball still holds up in many ways

Okay, it was a post from over at The Blogging of the President: 2004 concerning Viacom's publishing and publicizing of Richard Clarke's book, and the point Marcy Wheeler was making about corporate motivations. Specifically:
You think you have the good guys and the bad guys all sorted out. And then one of the bad guys turns around and does something--motivated though it may be out of pure self-interest--invaluable.
[ ]So all of a sudden, Viacom has contributed to what is certainly an important political moment and stimulated the anti-Bush book market.

That reminded me that I had meant to post this today:
Last night, I could find nothing all that good to watch. My PBS affiliates were showing one of those reality TV programs (which I concede are decent) on one station, and the other some snakeoil salesman because it is pledge week. The news networks weren't showing any news, and why do those corporate shills 'Cud-chew and Crammer' have a program? Actually, I will come back to this point - I think. Well during my surfing, I landed on and stayed on the original Rollerball (1975) with James Caan and John Houseman; not the pointless knock off [why do they insist on re-making the good movies, when there are so many bad movies that might actually be improved in the right hands]. And, it dawned on me that Rollerball stands up well almost thirty years later. I mean the performances are pretty good, though it does suffer from some of those attempts at psychedelia that so was common in the seventies [see the original Crown Affair, much better then the remake, but the original does suffer from this same malady]. Fashion wise, flat screen TV wise, a real lack of morality and a fixation with violent sports and the sports' heros, well, it maybe that nothing has changed much, but I thought it actually does hold up. And the idea that corporations might someday blatantly run the planet, seems perhaps even less far fetched today than back then.

Well, point being, if you haven't seen it in a while, you might want to check it out. It's no Godfather, but it is a solid movie, even if some of the editing and film style are a little outmoded.

Oh yeah, the point about 'Cud-chew and Crammer', I think they are perfect evidence that the media and the supposed 'news' programs really support the point about corporate power. We don't get news anymore, we get corporate PR spin. And, I have seen a serious change since Rollerball came out in the what passes for news, and it looks like Rollerball. 
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  Get Presidential fundraising information on your friends and neighbors!! From my brother, who heard on NPR, this site
Fundrace.org

Wow, I just went to the neighbor search section and typed in my zipcode. Excellent results. And, since I used to have a delivery business here for four years, I'm real familiar with many of the neighborhood zipcodes. So, I plugged a bunch of them in, to get a feel for how the individual neighborhoods were contributing. As expected, North Georgia has given a great deal to the Baby Bush campaign, and Metro Atlanta was mixed.

Anyway, I don't think the listing is complete, but it is fun. 
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  Civil Rights and Atheism? Found an interesting article, Is Atheism a Civil Rights Issue?, at Agnosticism / Atheism - Skeptical Inquiry, Freethinking, & Religious Philosophy, which concerns a couple of articles published in Free Inquiry. This is the closest I could get to a direct link: About.com : http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/tabash_24_4.htm

August Kline concludes:
I'm inclined to side with Grothe and Dacey. If "civil rights movement" is to mean anything, it seems to me that it must at the very least be a movement to achieve and establish the "civil rights" of some group that generally doesn't get the same basic civil rights as everyone else. In other words, it must be a fight for rights not currently recognized rather than for rights that are recognized, but not very happily and willingly.

Well, I'm not sure that I'd ever want to raise atheism to the level of a civil rights issue, but I will say my rights have upon occasion been run over rough shod. One example that comes to mind is that when I first went on active duty, I was basically coerced into putting Protestant on my dog tags in the religion section. Actually, I think I was finally able to get 'no preference' after some resistance. But, I was not 'allowed' (highly discouraged) from having none or atheist printed on them. Sort of the religious equivalent of 'don't ask, don't tell'. I did go out later to an army/navy surplus shop and have my own tags made. If memory serves, I had Pagan Druid, or something similar put on my tags, which I then wore in place of those the government provided.

And if overt prejudice is enough to warrant civil rights protection, well then maybe a case can be made for an atheist civil rights movement, especially here in the South. In high school in Alabama, I had a teacher mock my atheism, and the school counselor quietly informed my father that 'free thinkers' really weren't welcomed, though I think she said that for my benefit and not as a disparagement. She seemed to be fairly enlightened. And semi-recently, at my twenty year high school re-union, I had two women come up to me, and the first question out of their mouths, was something like 'Hi. Have you found god yet, or are you still a nonbeliever?'. When I told them quite honestly that I was most certainly still an atheist, they began crying, and informed me that they would pray for my soul. Now I appreciate the good karma that might come from having people care enough about me to pray for me, but talk about embarrassing.

And, while I now live in Atlanta where things like this don't happen as often, anytime I leave here for the hinterlands of Georgia and Alabama, the first thing I am often asked by people I meet is, "What church do you belong to?" Now, I don't go around with a pin, sign or even bumpersticker proclaiming my beliefs or lack their of, but I'm not going to lie when asked. This often leads to having to try to politely, or even upon occasion rudely, extradite myself from someone suddenly desperate to save my soul. And, if I was in anyway trying to conduct business, I can just forget it. In fact, I'm sure my lack of godliness has cost me at least one job at interview time. In hindsight, it would not have been a very pleasant work environment anyway. But, I guess that does raise the fact that while the work place is supposed to be free from religious pressures, it is not often the reality. And while I'm sure it may be difficult for Jews, Muslims, and possibly even Catholics down here, I can assure you atheist are at the bottom of the food chain. One further point along this vein, much business is done in churches down here. If your not at church functions, you'll miss out on a lot of business.

In the end, no, I don't think we need a civil rights movement, I'd settle for an education system that teaches critical thinking skills. I think that would largely destroy most current religions. And here, I'm not referring to teaching evolution, or any particular scientific subject, I think simple logic classes would go a long way to make people question their creation myths and the power they allow the church to have over them. Of course, they might also then begin to question the stupidity of rampant materialism and the advertising they see, which could have the unintended consequence of destroying our economy. "You mean I don't need a new car every year to get a girl?" "I could actually be happily married to someone who is not filthy rich?"

No, maybe our entire system requires massive ignorance to survive. And, that in itself may be even sadder then the prejudice in generates. 
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  Okay, now I understand how to put the site feed on the blog. Silly me, I thought when I chose it for an option, it would just happen. Oh well, continuous improvement is our goal. 
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  Conflict of Interest? The LA Times has this article, Perchlorate Information Withheld, Suit Alleges by Miguel Bustillo, that I found through a newsletter I get from Center For Public Environmental Oversight.
The Bush administration is illegally withholding information about the ill effects of ammonium perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient that has tainted water supplies in at least 29 states, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in L.A. by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The environmental group contends that the administration has broken the law by failing to turn over documents in response to requests for perchlorate-related records under the Freedom of Information Act...

...Studies of laboratory rats have shown that tiny doses of perchlorate can affect the thyroid's production of hormones crucial to development in early childhood. However, the level at which it poses a danger to humans is unclear.

Now I a have a few of problems with this (besides how the lead paragraph is worded; I'm allowed to editorialize, I don't want my news to do so). First, this administration's continued efforts to stifle the people's right to access environmental health information, whether or not it is true in this particular case, the administration has a policy of finding reasons for not complying with any FOIA requests unless forced to comply. Second, I have been following the perchlorate contamination issue for sometime, the administration appears to be once again practicing their policy of 'sound' science, which is code for "make the science fit what we want". Third, is what I alluded to in the title, the appearance of a conflict of interest.The fact that Papa Bush is a member of the Carlyle Group which is reportedly the 11th largest US defense contractor. And its membership reads like a who's who of former high ranking officials of past administraions, both here in the US and England:
The Carlyle Group : Senior Management Team: "Team Members
Chairman Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.
Chairman of Carlyle Europe The Rt. Honorable John Major, CH
Chairman Emeritus Frank C. Carlucci
Founders William E. Conway, Jr.
Daniel A. D'Aniello
David M. Rubenstein
Senior Counselor James A. Baker, III
Senior Advisors Richard G. Darman
Arthur Levitt"

And, in this case coupled specifically with this item:

The Carlyle Group: Aerospace & Defense Investments: "For more than a decade, Carlyle has been the leading private equity investor in the aerospace and defense industries completing 27 transactions representing a combined purchase price of more than $5.8 billion."

So, if I'm Baby Bush, not only does my father and his friends stand to lose big if perchlorate is found to be a pollutant on the magnitude of what many scientists believe it to be, and then are subsequently held liable for damages and clean up, but I stand to lose a sizeable chunk of my inheritance. And, I'm just not sure why the American media isn't on this. There is plenty of coverage in the 'fringe' media, but I've really heard nothing in the mainstream, though even the Economist, hardly a member of the American SCLM, had this Economist.com | The Carlyle Group to say in its June '03 article, "The Carlyle Group: C for capitalism":
"You need not be a conspiracy theorist, though, to be concerned about what lies behind Carlyle's success. Can a firm that is so deeply embedded in the iron triangle where industry, government and the military converge be good for democracy? Carlyle arguably takes to a new level the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower feared might “endanger our liberties or democratic process”. What red-blooded capitalist can truly admire a firm built, to a significant degree, on cronyism; surely, this sort of access capitalism is for ghastly places like Russia, China or Africa, not the land of the free market?"

In fact, I was surprised that the US SCLM media did not make a big deal of this from the outset, when Baby Bush was appointed president.

Though this is not specifically a perchlorate item, fourth, considering the range of weapon systems, military equipment and vehicles the Carlyle Group produces, how much directly does Baby Bush stand to inherit from this endless war? Every time an item is damaged or destroyed a replenishment order is generated, and I have no idea but I bet if someone were to give me a penny on the dollar, I would be extremely happy.

So, the current situation concerning the administration's unwillingness to allow the EPA to establish a perchlorate standard, coupled with its refusal to allow citizens to know the extent of the contamination whcih potentially affects the health of their children, make me at least wonder, is it all to protect the Bush family wealth? Should not the president of the US be beyound these doubts of conflict of interest?

Well, don't worry, when these matters go to court, and ultimately to the Supreme Court, we can expect to find impartial, Air Force 2, duck hunting justice.

Ah, the first rant of the day feels good.  
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Thursday, March 25, 2004
  Titles! I've discovered titles. Interesting what you can learn if you actually take the time to look through the options (and someone provides a little guidance). Also many thanks to Mithras at Fables of the reconstruction for his advice and tips. I have now enabled the RSS feed function, which I don't really understand yet, but is supposed to make it easier to know when I've generated new posts if you subscribe or something. I'll try to learn more, I promise. Oh, and Mithras was kind enough to tell me the html for indenting quotes (which is really simple).

Hey, as I told Mithras, I'm not only Radically Inept, I'm blogging and html inept. But, I'm learning, so expect improvements overtime. So, this is the R1A1 version of the blog. 
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  I'm beginning to like this site: Agnosticism / Atheism - Skeptical Inquiry, Freethinking, & Religious Philosophy

Seems to cover the news pretty well. 
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  Via pandagon.net - your fifth rental is free a story concerning Georgia's passage of a law outlying female genital mutilation. There heart was in the right place, : "involves a 27-year-old man, Khalid Adem, who has been accused of circumcising his 3-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors".

But they went a little overboard in the legislative wording: Female Genital Mutilation in the United States
No exception for voluntary 'mutilation' i.e., piercings, even by adult females. And only female genital mutilation was outlawed. 'Course, it would have been a problem for circumcision if they had included males genital mutilation.

No more clitoris piercing allowed here. Oh well, never was my cup of tea anyway. 
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  Found this via How Appealing: Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index!

What a great way to find out what the cartoonists of America are drawing on a subject by subject basis. This site may wind up on the permanent link section. 
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  Somehow, I just felt the need to check up on ol' Manuel Noriega today. Actually, I've been meaning to check on him for the past few days. Well, turns out to be pretty decent timing, or I would have missed this item completely. Remember Manuel Noriega? As much as I thought he was a putz, though not quite as bad as Saddam, I was against an armed invasion into Panama to oust him (though I did wish I was part of the force that went in to get him). My memory of the trial, if memory serves, includes the fact that all the administration witnesses testifying under oath stated that Noriega had always complied with all official support requests, and the only people to testify against him were accused or convicted drug dealers given deals in exchange for their testimony. I didn't trust the whole thing, mostly cause I didn't trust Papa Bush, the CIA and the whole cocaine thing.

Now it turns out, that the federal judge who sentenced him came out in support of parole, but the U.S. attorney's office in Miami and the Department of Justice in Washington objected:

The Miami Herald | 03/11/2004 | Former dictator Noriega denied parole

Yep, the Baby Bush administration - like father like chimp. No pattern here, nothing to see, move along...
 
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  From an NPR report today, this link to the truth about the dangers of DiHydrogen Monoxide:

Facts About Dihydrogen Monoxide

Just how safe are we, and why haven't we banned a substance that poses this level of danger to humans? 
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  Whoo Hoo!!

Via MaxSpeak, You Listen!.

The Globe and Mail: "The producers of 1979's Life of Brian are bringing the controversial biblical spoof back to theatres in North America and Britain at the end of April. And they're blatantly marketing it against Mr. Gibson's equally contentious, but horribly grim, The Passion of the Christ, which has earned almost $300-million (U.S.) at the box office.
The Python distributor, Rainbow Film Company, is promising that movie trailers will appear in cinemas on Good Friday, using tag lines such as 'Mel or Monty' and 'The Passion or the Python.'" 
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  Well, I've been meaning to do this for a while (the road to hell, and all that), I've put the blog into the blog ecosystem over at The Truth Laid Bear. If you look over to the side panel, you'll see that this blog is an insignificant microbe. However, the ecosystem won't have any of this sites traffic data until later tonight, so tomorrow, once the system has this sites traffic data, you can expect to see this site rated as...drum roll...an insignificant microbe.

Hey, I never really wanted to be on the top of the food chain anyway.

Well, maybe a little higher then that. 
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  Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly directs readers to this new blog - The Panda's Thumb. Apparently devoted to disparaging the idiocy of Intelligent Design 'Theory'.

It appears that there is a huge controversy over at the Harvard Law Review concerning a particular book review. See The Leiter Reports: Editorials, News, Updates: Harvard Law Review Embarrasses Itself.

As readers know, I'm am a radical atheist, so I am certainly going to support any group that is fighting to keep religion out of public schools, or allow religion to sneak its way in under the guise of science. 
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  I ran across this site today, PR Newswire - A United Business Media Company, and the lead paragraph got me very intrigued:

"NanoMarkets, LC, a leading
nanotechnology market research and analysis firm based here, today announced
the release of the first in a series of white papers that examines business
and market trends for the emerging nanotech space. Entitled "What Will the
Future Nanotech Industry Look Like?" this paper discuses some of the
fundamental issues facing the nanotechnology sector and draws some interesting
conclusions on how and where it may wind up. The paper can be accessed from
the firm's website at http://www.nanomarkets.net."

Well, based on the legal disclaimer, I am not going to post any of the content of the white paper, but I am going to recommend that those interested in nanotechnology, or just financial investments in new technologies, go to the web site, NanoMarkets, and sign up. It is a fairly painless process, i.e., free, and their response time is very quick. And most importantly, it's a pretty good paper, concisely written.

For those with more of a policy bent, let me recommend
NANOTECHNOLOGY AND REGULATORY POLICY: THREE FUTURES by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. This is a very solid policy paper, and I think Reynolds does a great job of keeping the paper very readable. And, for those new to nanotechnology, Reynolds includes a five page beginner's guide to nanotechnology immediately after his introduction. 
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  In keeping with the idea that someitmes readers like to hear good news, this really is a pretty good piece of news, and the Army can use the good PR:

U.S. Army: United States Exceeds Completion Requirements Under Chemical Weapons Convention:

"In December 2003, the United States achieved the significant milestone of destroying more than 80% of the nation's original chemical weapons production capabilities 16 months ahead of schedule as defined by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This milestone is a major CWC mandated milestone. This achievement occurred during ongoing destruction work at the former Integrated Binary Production Facilities at Pine Bluff Arsenal (PBA), White Hall, Ark. The United States formally claimed credit for the milestone today in a report to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international agency charged with overseeing chemical weapons destruction worldwide." 
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004
  Woah! Noam Chomsky is blogging, Turning the Tide!! Please drop by and welcome him to the fold. Via Crooked Timber
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  Okay, here's the latest slant on the 70 mercenaries that are being detained in Zimbabwe, and presumably facing the death penalty.

The Scotsman - International - 'Plotters' say they targeted Taylor

It appears, as you would expect from mercenaries, they were after money. But, the latest spin is that it was US reward money for the capture and return of Charles Taylor to face war crimes charges.

"But a South African newspaper yesterday said the plan, which it claimed was put together by a British military company, Northbridge Services Group, was to capture Taylor and bring him from his exile in Nigeria.

The paper claims the suspected mercenaries were planning to snatch Taylor and deliver him for trial to a United Nations court so they could collect a $2 million reward."

In yet one more of those great story twists, it appears that there are now allegations that the "State-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) has been under pressure to clarify its ... sale of a large consignment of weapons to the alleged mercenaries..." [link does not seem to be working, or they are at 14.4 kbs. I'll check back occasionally on this link through AllAfrica.com]

And because Warren Zevon should be remembered for this kind of writing, and even though I'm not original with the thought - "Send lawyers, guns and money". That, and I've had a fondness for mercenaries since my early youth.
 
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  Via lies.com: "Kaplan on Clarke" to Dick Clarke Is Telling the Truth - Why he's right about Bush's negligence on terrorism. By Fred Kaplan, an excellent piece from someone who's known Clark personally, and appears to respect him, not so much like him:

"There were good things and dubious things about Clarke, traits that inspired both admiration and leeriness. The former: He was very smart, a highly skilled (and utterly nonpartisan) analyst, and he knew how to get things done in a calcified bureaucracy. The latter: He was arrogant, made no effort to disguise his contempt for those who disagreed with him, and blatantly maneuvered around all obstacles to make sure his views got through."

That's not the summary someone blinded by the light.
 
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  An anonymous source directed me to this link: Eyeballing Series

Absolutely fascinating to know that one can get Aerial and satellite views of so many government installations on the net. I must say, the only reason that I am evening posting this link, is that it appears to be 'open source' information. If I thought it at all classified I wouldn't post it, and if at some future date I learn that it does contain classified information, I will promptly remove it. 
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  Well, I'm back from what turned out to be a great conference, well actually, two separate forums - Sam Nunn & Founder Day Forums. I will give a brief summary of some of what I thought were the highlights here, and am trying to contact several of the presenters for copies of their remarks, and clarifications of some of their statements. Actually, in reference to Founder's Day, I was only able to attend "The Impact of Terrorism on Society: Global Perspectives" panel. All four panelists made great presentations:


I have written Dr Ursana of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, to ask him for a copy of his slides. If I get them, I will try to figure out how I can post them and link to them. They contained a great deal of information, and while not as good as hearing his insights in person, they would be worth reading.

Mr. Gilles Andreani, head of the policy planning staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France and Advisor to the Foreign Minister, delivered a fine presentation, and did touch on US-French relations following 9/11 and the Iraqi War. He stated that Europe as a whole supported the Afghan invasion, and in fact the French still have a significant presence in Afghanistan, but thought the Iraqi invasion was not related to the 'war on terrorism', and was ill advised. I will attempt to contact him through the local French consulate (who is a very nice gentleman in his own right) to get a copy of Mr. Andreani's remarks (as he was the key note speaker at lunch the following day for the Sam Nunn Forum, I will try to get a copy of that as well). I see no reason to attempt to paraphrase him on many of his points, unless I am unable to get copies.

I have also written Commodore Uday Bhaskar, Deputy Director of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, India, for some clarification of his remarks, and hopefully a copy of his notes. He brought a very different view to the discussion. He ran a little long, but some of what he said startled me a little. Here's a teaser: I thought I heard him state that the US and China both had a hand in Pakistan's development of a nuclear capability. I certainly hope he replies and provides clarification, but the statement was certainly provacative. He also had some interesting thoughts on the evolution of terrorist activities and their goals within the region, which I will go into more detail later, if I do not receive the info in his own words.

The following day, I was able to attend the entire event: The Sam Nunn Bank of American Policy Forum "Bioterrorism Preparedness: The Imperative for Public Private Partnerships". This was my second, Sam Nunn Forum, and if any of you are in Atlanta next spring, you should try to attend. Both of the events I have attended were first class in every way. There were four sperate panels of four speakers each, so again, I will not attempt to cover all of them at this time. I will say that therre was a great deal of valuable information put out, and I will try to go more into depth on some of the subjects in the coming days. For now, let me address two specific incidents where I found answers wanting.

The first one seems to be a confirmation of what David Neiwert over at Orcinus has been saying for quite awhile now. After Sam Nunn made his opening remarks (brilliant as usual), he was followed by Gen John A Gordon. Gen Gordon spoke on what the president is doing in general on preventing and responding to terrorism, and then focused specifically on bioterrorism. During his entire presentation, he seemed focused only on Middle-Eastern/Islamic terrorists, so during the question and answer segment, I asked him about it; I mean, how often am I going to get a chance to ask a question of an advisor to the President of the US?
Anyway, my question was something like, "Sir, in view of the activities of ELF, ALF, the recent Krar Incident and the fact that the anthrax attacks appeared to have origniated domestically, what is the president doing in reference to domestic terrorism?" HIs reply was something along the lines of 'the FBI handles domestic terrorism, and the Director of the FBI briefs the president daily on any incidents'.

My thoughts were, wow, really, even after all the talk we've had about integrating the intelligence community and the FBI, and that the second largest terrorist incident in our history involved the domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, the best that the advisor on homeland security to the president can tell me, is that the president get's briefed by the FBI on incidents. No, 'I meet with the director of the FBI, and we coordinate information on ongoing investigations to brief the president', or 'good question, as the president's advisor on homeland security, it is my job to coordinate the information between various agencies on potential domestic threats as well as foreign terrorist threats'. Obviously there is still a huge disconnect in the administration on just what terrorism and homeland security mean. I was very disappointed.

I will pause for now to watch the repeat of the Daily Show, since I missed it last night. I will add to this post later...

On to the second incident upon which I wish to comment on tonight. This one concerns the presenation by James J. Augustine, MD, Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University and Medical Director, Atlanta Fire Department. He made a fairly stellar presentation. My issue revolves around the fact that he sited the value of Sara Title 3, part of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, in reducing the hazards to first responders and the community. However, during the question and answer period, I pointed out that under current law (I believe it was included in the Homeland Security Act, I'll have to confirm) chemical companies which pass thier information on to the Department of Homeland Security, basically avoid the
Community Right-to-Know intent of this and other recent environmental laws. His response was that trade offs are necessary, and that the first responders would still have that information. I found this response failing on a couple of levels.

The first part of what I think is a failing, is in the area of risk communication. If you were to let me know the real risks in the event of an incident at a local chemical plants to me and my family, I might justifiably not buy a residence in the neighborhood of the plant. My level of risk averseness is such that I'm not buying in a neighborhood with any sort of real risk of a poisoness gas cloud or something similar, has even a low probability of occurance.

In a sort of strange relationship in this case, is that it flies in the face of free market theory. I could well be paying more for property in the area of such a plant, than I would if I knew the risks. And, if the information comes out after my purchase, my asset value in the home purchased could potentially plummet. Consider what the value of a home in the area of the old Monsanto plant in Anniston is now that the level of PCB contamination is known. So, this provision creates an information asymmetry in the real estate market.

In a different vein, in view of how much information was presented on the stress, including financial, to the public health community in the event of an incident (interestinglye nough, there is no hospital in the US today, that can handle the sudden influx of 500 patients in an emergency situation), allowing this risk makes no sense in relation to public finance. In fact, it might well be cheaper to pay the company to relocate the plant outside of populated areas than incur the costs of an accident or act of terrorism. One might argue that by placing plants like this they become obvious terrorist targets, but it is my contention that once these plants are removed from populated areas, their value as a terrorist target, with some possible exceptions, begins to approach zero.

Edited 8:27 pm, 03/24

As usual, reserve the right to re-edit at a future time...
 
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Monday, March 22, 2004
  And now for something completely different, via KurzweilAI.net.

New Scientist:

Earth faces sixth mass extinction
19:00 18 March 04

"The crisis could be foreshadowing a sixth mass extinction, warn the researchers. Life on Earth has already seen five mass extinctions in its four billion year old history. The last one, which wiped out the dinosaurs, happened 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period and was possibly caused by a giant meteor collision.
The current extinction is being precipitated by the widespread loss of habitats because of human activity, according to Tefler. The remaining habitats are small and fragmented, and their quality has been degraded because of pollution.

Nitrogen pollution

This claim is strongly supported, at least for plants, by a second study published alongside Thomas' paper in Science. Carly Stevens of the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK, and her colleagues studied the diversity of plants in 68 grassland sites in the UK. The number of species in each site varied greatly, from a mean of 7.2 to 27.6 species per site. Nitrogen pollution was found to blame for this variability."

A little depressing for a Monday, I know. I did try to find and link the article in Science mentioned above on Staturday, but they want way to much to even see the summary. In fact, if any readers have access to the extinction article in the most recent issue of science, I'd really like to see a copy. I promise not to reproduce it (no violating copywrites, and the like), I would just like to get an idea of their methodology. My first inclination is to think that these are fairly limited studies, and I'm not sure they are robust enough to extrapolate the next great extinction. I don't doubt that this is a very real possibility; I just wonder if a couple of studies doen in England are enough evidence to reach that conclusion.

And, what to do if in fact we are facing a mass extinction? Let's just move to another dimension...

Popular Science | Journey to the 10th Dimension:

"The basic point of what follows -- and by the way, what follows is not fanciful provocation but has been worked into contemporary consciousness by the brainiest physicists alive today -- is that everything that you have ever experienced has in some small but significant way been an illusion. Why? Because everything you have ever experienced you have understood as happening in three dimensions of space -- up-down, left-right and front-back. Yet this is not how things happen. Things happen in more than three dimensions of space; to see them in only three is to succumb to a trick that the universe is constantly playing on us."

Now that should make your Monday a little brighter! Albeit, a little more puzzling, but much better than that all that mass extinction talk.

[Side note: Can anyone tell me a quick way to indent? I think it would help readers know to what I've pasted v. my comments, but I haven't figured it out yet.] 
|
  Couldn't resist this one, via KurzweilAI.net.

Wired News: Nokia Edges Toward Phone Blogging:

"Lifeblog is part of the growing trend towards making the interface between data devices and data interfaces as seamless as possible.
Where Apple has expanded on the success of the integration of iTunes and iPod by releasing a suite of music, video and photography tools under the iLife banner, Nokia is attempting to bring that same level of integration to the growing mishmash of data captured by the current round of cell phones: sound, text, photography and even video.
After connecting your phone to a Windows-based PC with the Lifeblog software, photos and messages will not only be downloaded and saved to the computer, but they will be organized and available for searching and editing, according to the Nokia website. Users will even be able to mark certain items as 'favorites' to be held in the phone's memory, forming sort of a 'greatest hits' scrapbook, a digital version of a wallet stuffed with beloved photos and important notes, only sleeker.
The greatest potential for Lifeblog, however, is in the promise held by the little 'b' in 'blog.' In spite of the name, the first version of the software does not include a blog interface.
'Maybe log would have made more sense,' said Keith Nowak, spokesman for Nokia. But he does see Lifeblog as a useful tool for bloggers, helping them to organize their words and pictures. 'You can look, day by day, here's what I did, here's what I saw.'"


Soon, when someone sees a Rodney King type incident, they won't have to worry about losing the video. The images can be sent directly to your home computer, and from there... 
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Sunday, March 21, 2004
  I am not going to being posting very much for the next couple of days. I plan to spend tomorrow morning calling and sending out resumes to some potential employers (feeding the family must come first), and in the afternoon, I plan to attend 2004 Ivan Allen College Founder's Day Celebration: "The Impact of Terrorism on Society: Global Perspectives" at Georgia Tech.

Panelists:
Gilles Andreani: Head, Policy Planning Staff, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, & Advisor to the Foreign Minister, France
Uday Bhaskar: Deputy Director, Instiitute of Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA), India
Lawrence Papay: V ice President for the Integrated Solutions Sector, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), San Diego
Robert J. Ursano: Chair, Department of Psychiatry, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD
Moderator:
Susan Cozzens: School of Public Policy, Georgia Tech (one of my former teachers).

And on Tuesday, all day (it includes free breakfast and lunch : ) ), I will be attending The Sam Nunn Bank of American Policy Forum, "Bioterrorism Preparedness: The Imperative for a Public-Private Partnership".

These two events, coupled with my "Mandatory Mondays" at my local American Legion, and my weekly Tuesday night attendance at the "Democratic Government in Exile" (local DeKalb and Fulton County, and Atlanta and Decatur cities) at Manuel's Tavern, will probably ensure that I don't have much time to post. I might sneak some time in for posting, but I really doubt it.

Oh, quick note, I'm not necessarily a committed democrat (though arguably I should be committed somewhere), as much as I am anti-corporatist, and according to a recent libertarian test, a 'libertarian lite'.

So, I hope to have some good information to post on Wednesday. 
|
  I just finished watching the "60 Minutes", CBS News | Did Bush Press For Iraq-9/11 Link? | March 21, 2004�19:30:31, interview with Richard A. Clarke, and I was going to give a short rant (and, I still might), however, lies.com March 20th posting does a credible job of dealing with much of what I was going to say, and provides some good links. So, I'm not going to go there right now. (For a blow by blow analysis, see also comment secton of Eschaton: "Richard Clarke's Book, posted 11:37pm)

As to the follow on story concerning Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, I was struck by the resemblance his biography, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri: Profile and Biography: "Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri " has with that of former communist revolutionary Ernesto (Che) Guevara, Che Chic- Newsweek: July 21, 1997. Wealthy family, studies medicine, and then leaves what is virtually a life of luxury, and goes on to fight for a 'social cause' they believe in, albeit, a losing cause in hindsight, at least in the case of Che.

I just can't resist contrasting these guys with Baby Bush's record on fighting for causes he believes in. I would link here to his brave efforts to fight against the communists in Vietnam, which he said he believed in, but I can't find any such record.

Quick side note: I find it interesting that the first link I found (and used) came from an atheistic organization:
Agnosticism / Atheism - Skeptical Inquiry, Freethinking, & Religious Philosophy. Just interesting. 
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  First, another confession. I am a C-SPAN junkie. It's about the only place where you can get a lot uncensored, unfiltered news, as opposed to what passes for news on the networks. I say this as an explanation of what I'm doing at 8 o'clock on a Saturday night watching C-SPAN, I like it.

So, last night, I caught Who's Funnier: The Left or the Right? - - Center for American Progress, which was excellent. The panel included:
CAMPBELL BROWN
Co-Anchor, Weekend Today and Panel Moderator
GARRTRUDEAUAU
Creator, Doonesbury
JOHN PODESTA
President & CEO, Center for American Progress
DREW CAREY
Actor-Comedian-Producer
STEPHEN COLBERT
Senior Correspondent, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
MIKE MURPHY
Principal Partner, Navigators
PHIL HENDRIE
Host, The Phil Hendrie Show
MATTHEW COOPER
White House Correspondent, TIME
GREG PROOPS
Actor-Comedian

Well, what I want to point out was a comment made by Phil Hendrie, which starts on page twenty-seven of the transcript, :

"HENDRIE: Right. This is not an attitude that's reflected in America. That's why they
got fooled with Howard Dean. That's why they thought this guy was really something,
27
and he turned out to be nobody cared, nobody wanted to listen to this guy. He wasn't
going to be anybody's president.
John Kerry won't get elected president for a couple of reasons. One, people are going to
look at this guy-
COLBERT: Yeah, exactly. [laughter]
HENDRIE: They're going to look at this guy-
COLBERT: Instruct me, Phil. [laughter]
HENDRIE: They're going to look at this guy.
COLBERT: Write this down, get it down! Write it down. The truth is coming down from
the mountain! I see the [inaudible under cheers] coming off your head. Go ahead.
HENDRIE: John Kerry will not get elected President because they're going to whip
this-
COLBERT: Do it in character!
HENDRIE: --they're going to whip this out in probably September, that John Kerry
stood before the Senate and called his fellow soldiers 'rapists and murderers' back in
1971. Guy's not going to make it. Nobody is going to-
CAREY: Oh, come on.
HENDRIE: At this time in the history of this country, nobody is going to vote for that
guy.
PROOPS: You may be right."

And, I think Hendrie has point. Hendrie himself, a self proclaimed democrat who supports Baby Bush, comes across as a fairly strange and somewhat obnoxious individual, but I do think he has a point. If Kerry is going to win the presidency, he has to get past this point now.

So, I have spent a litle time this morning researching this topic and found Statement of John Kerry, which appears to be a pretty good accounting of the actual testimony, from a link posted at American Civil War Game Club (ACWGC) Forum - John Kerry, Vietnam Vet: by "Col Ross McDaniel
AoG ". [In fact, this story appeared to be a pretty hot topic on that board for a few days at the end of February, and if your interested in a conservative view on this, please check it out. Lot's of retired military officers, many of them Vietnam Vets, discussing Kerry as...well, a traitor. You should maybe go read those comments for yourselves.]

I find their comments, in light of the Pentagon Papers and SecDef Histories - Robert McNamara, fairly recent revelations on the Vietnam War a little strange.

[His book, "In Retrospect" by Robert S. McNamara: "IN RETROSPECT:
THE TRAGEDY AND LESSONS OF VIETNAM
ROBERT S. MCNAMARA
WITH BRIAN VANDEMARK
FROM THE PREFACE:
'We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.'"

Here is a good interview by CNN with him: CNN Cold War - Interviews: Robert McNamara]

Anyway, I was trying to go somewhere with this, so let's re-start. The point was that in Kerry's testimony to the Senate in '71, he basically said that rape, and other crimes were rampant by the military serving in Vietnam. I wasn't there. My dad did two tours in Vietnam, and I never heard him say that this stuff was rampant. He did tell me the story of the GI who sent the Zippo lighter company a letter stating he was so thrilled that he was able to burn down an entire village with his Zippo lighter,and that he would happy to become one of their spokesmen (the company declined his offer). None, of the Vet's I've known over the years have told me that they raped women. But, I have had a few tell me that they shot civilians, and sometimes not by mistake. And, I've had more then one tell me that the interrogation techneique of throwing one guy out of the helicopter, to get the other prisoner to talk, was in fact done. And, while many people are familiar with the My Lai Massacre, Documents relating to the court-martial of Lt. William Calley, this has always been portrayed as an aberration, a single incident. Yet, another Senator Kerrey (Nebraska) recently had his presidntial ambitions derailed when his participation in a massacre came out: Kerrey Admits Vietnam Killings Former Nebraska Senator Had Role In Civilian Massacre: "Former Nebraska senator and governor Bob Kerrey, a potential Democratic presidential contender, has revealed that he commanded a raid on a village during the Vietnam War that killed only women, children and older men.
Kerrey stressed that members of his seven-man Navy SEAL team began shooting after they were shot at and assumed they were facing fire from Viet Cong soldiers." So, I don't know how often this type of stuff happened.

And more recently, I had a friend tell me that while in Iraq, serving with the 4th ID, about an incident where his unit had come under fire from a building. Being in a lightly armed support unit, they wound up having to get support from a tank in the area. After the tank turned the building to rubble, they found twenty weapons, but over sixty bodies. Leading to the conclusion that many of the dead where civilian non-combatants. So they decided not report the incident, and buried the bodies (this may also be why so many senior officers are unaware of these types of incidents). He also told me about how he and some of the other members of his unit, took an Iraqi, who was trying to lead his company commander into an ambush, around behind the dune and summarily executed him. So, are these incidents a massacre and the murder of a civilian? I don't think so. I think war is very ugly. And, I think soldiers have to make some decisions, which look bad to arm chair quarterbacks with the advantage of hindsight.

Back to the rape charges. Considering the news of rapes been coming out of the Air Force Academy, several of the air force bases, and reports of rapes of US Service women in Iraq, I find it difficult to say that it is not a wide spread crime. But, I also think it would be wrong to cast a blanket over all soldiers, airmen and sailors. But, how many have to participate for it to be termed widespread?

But, this is one of those cases where the truth or falsity of the statement do not matter. It is American popular opinion and reaction to the statements that can probably hurt Kerry. Most Americans today know nothing about military service, especially in war, except what they get from the popular media. In the seventies and even into the eighties, the military suffered from a very bad reputation. But that has since changed. They are no longer baby killers, they are America's finest, and you can't be on the wrong side of this issue while there is a war on. Oh, yeah, I happen to believe we are still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the 'mission accomplished' banner.

So, Kerry and Kerry's people need to get on this issue, and get it behind them. They need to do it now, and not let the republican attack dogs, under Rove's control, use this against them in September. I think the more that people blog on it, the more likely this issue will be addressed now. So, consider this post my first active effort in support of Kerry. Actually, consider this my first active effort in the anybody but Baby Bush campaign. I'm personally not all that sold on Kerry.

Oh, here are some stats on committed by the military while serving over seas. The first two take on slant, and the third the opposite:

MDN: Politics

U.S. Military in Korea

U.S. Military Crime in Okinawa: Myth or Reality? (areastudies.org)

I will say, when I was serving in Mannhiem, the only people that committed murders in the area while I was there, were in fact American soldiers or terrorists like the Baader-Meinhoff Gang. In fact, we had two or three incidents of troops shooting a cab driver outside the gate for cab fare. That is one thing I'll say, no German would kill for thirty dollars. That takes an American. Just look at the violent crime and incarceration rates here at home.

Enough for now.... 
|
GEORGE W. BUSH - TOUGH ENOUGH TO TORTURE CHILDREN
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