Radically Inept
Saturday, April 10, 2004
  Wasn't That A Party -- A Doofus Drinks To Environmental Collapse

Wow, found this happy little tune via Organic Agriculture Protection Fund: Wasn't That A Party -- A Doofus Drinks To Environmental Collapse. Don't really remember how the Wife found the link, but I think the title and tune seem to fit the current administration mind set on the environment. Take a listen. 
Friday, April 09, 2004
  What dead guy are you most like?

Thru a link from The Corpus Callosum comes SimilarMinds.com >Non-Serious Personality Tests. Please note the 'non-serious' part, because on the 'leader' test, I wind up Test Results, but I guess it's not a permanent link, but regardless, I wind up an Abe Lincoln, which says in effect, I doomed to be assassinated, and I'm a good mediator, except for the occassional civil war.

You know, there may be some truth to that. 
  Your one stop conspiracy connection link

I haven't played here much, but it looks fun: NameBase

Just put a name in, say Rothschild, or Bush or Clinton. And when you get the opportunity, click the connections link (in pink), and look at the pretty diagram it generates.

Hell, try your own last name and see what comes up. You may be better conected than you ever knew.

Sadly, I am in fact not. My last name generates no hits. The only thing that makes sense, is that I'm living under and alias and don't know my real name. Well, it makes a better story than the truth. 
  Osama's Hair Stylist

You know, it's not often I have a brush w/ greatness. I know that may come as a surprise to many of you, but it's true. I, Rick Eddy, rarely get a chance to pal around w/ the rich and famous nor even those near the rich and famous.

When I was growing up, I remember my dad telling me that every true story he heard while in Vietnam always started with, "No shit. There I was..." He told me that if the story started that way, you could actually count on it to be true. It might not have actually involved the person telling the story, but the story was probably true.

So: No shit. There I was on my way home, and traffic sucked; I mean, it is Atlanta, but tonight it really sucked. So, I was jammed in traffic on College Avenue over in Avondale, and I decided I might as well hit a happy hour as sit in traffic. About that time, I saw James Joyce's coming up on my left, and I put my left blinker on, let it flash a couple of times and pulled across a couple of lanes of traffic. Hell, I'm in an old work van, and these yuppie Atlanta people drive BMWs, Jags, and Lexi (that is the plural of Lexus, isn't it?), so I knew they'd gladly stop rather than hit a dinged up work van. I sure most of the oncoming traffic intuitively knew by the maneuver and the shape of the van, that the van wasn't actually insured.

Enough about that. I got inside, and it was fairly crowded, but I got lucky and grabbed a seat at the bar in front of one of those bar top bandits. I got the Irish bartender's attention; I think his name is Jame's or Pete, or something single syllable, and ordered a Sierra draft. I gotta confess, I'm addicted to Boxxie (yeah, I'm sure it's trade marked, but I don't know how to make the symbol), so I threw a $five in, and started tappin on the screen. I'm pretty good at a couple of the games on these boxes, but I OWN this one. Well, I was doin' pretty well, when the seat next to me goes vacant, and some lady slides in. She stands out in this neighborhood, though Atlanta, as a whole, is startin' to get it's own Arab population. Well, she looked Arabic or something to me, and older. If she wasn't on the far side of at least sixty, then she been road real hard, and put up soaking.

Now, I don't mind bar conversation, but I've learned to wait and let other people initiate. Gives you a chance to make up your mind whether you really want to talk to them based on whatever they start with, and she started by staring at the game and watching me play. I knew she'd ask what I was playin' and what were the rules. It took her a while though. She probably had three or four vodka tonics, and I had dumped another five in the machine before she started. But I was right; it was about the game. That's all right. It's safe.

Well, I wasn't sure if the drinks were hittin her or not, between the accent and the bar noise, I just had a hard time making out what she was sayin for the first while. Eventually though, I caught on to the accent, figured if the drinks were hitting her, it wasn't much. A couple of beers for me later, and at least three more vodka tonics for her, I gave up playin' the games. I'm addicted, but I somehow maintain a limit on what I throw in at one setting.

"So, what's your name?"

She smiled, and said, "You may call me Sarah."

I said, "Hey, not all of us Americans are complete ignoramuses, some of us can pronounce names in other languages."

Now she grins real big, and tells me her name.

I say, "Sarah, it's nice meeting you. I'm Rick. What brings you to Hotlanta?"

"Oh, my Sayyid is over at Emory getting a kidney dialysis done."

"Sorry to hear that. Your boss have to do that often?"

"Oh yes, frequently."

"Does he always go to Emory for it?"

"Oh no. It's almost always a different hospital or center. But for me, it's a chance to get out and travel."

"Oh, where ya'll from?"

"Well we've had to move around a bit, but lately we spend much of our time in Afghanistan."

"Afghanistan?" Well that threw me, "Is your boss some sorta humanitarian worker?"

Well, you've always read about someone having a sparkle in their eyes, but this woman's eyes just started dancing! I hate it when I'm not in on the Joke. So I asked, "Something funny 'bout what I just said?"

"Well, if you knew who my Sharis was, you'd understand." She almost giggled that out, so the drinks must finally have started getting to her, but hell, I'd lost count after nine or ten, and she must have been up somewhere around her 14th or 15th drink. If nothing else, this lady could hold her booze. For a while at least.

"So, who's you boss?"

She leaned in close, and tried to whisper, but with all the noise in the place, wound up just saying, "Osama."

"Osama, who," like it was some knock-knock joke comin'.

"Why bin Laden, of course."

"Yeah, right. You know Osama bin Laden, hell you work for him, and you to just get up and sneak out of Afghanistan, fly all the way to Atlanta for him to get a dialysis treatment; is that what you're sayin'?"

"We do it all the time," she says matter of factly. She starts fumbling around in her purse for something. Finally she finds what she's lookin for, and hands me a fairly old photo, while she goes on to say, "Different places, but very frequenly. Osama will die without regular treatment, and do you have any idea how many dialyisis machines there are in the Afghan-Pakistan region?"

I look down at the photo, look up, and signal whatever his name is for another beer, and this time a Glenlivet, neat, 'cause, I mean, it's HIM, man. Well, she's damn well the center of my world now, and I want to keep her talking, so I order her another vodka tonic. I mean in the photo, it's him. And, her. But, he looks a lot younger, like back in the days when he was fighting the Soviet occupation. And Sarah? She don't look a day younger than she does now. I don't have a clue now, as to how old she is.

"Well, sure, I get that, but you guys can't just sneak out! The whole US military and the CIA are after him."

"Oh, no. Just the military. The CIA provides the flights."

"The hell you say. Osama is the most wanted man in the world today."

"Well yes, of course, but if the Americans truly wanted to cpature my Sayyid, wouldn't you think they would be able to find HIm? All that they would have to do, is monitor the few kidney dialysis machines in the region? My Sayyid is wealthy, but do not see how impossible it would be to set up a hidden, hygenic, sanitary kidney dialysis machine in a cave? And of course, there would be many medical supplies needed, as well as a dependable power source. No, sir, business is business."

"Business? What business?"

"Well, opium is certainly a profitable venture. That is part of the reason why the US removed the Taliban government. They were making things very difficult on everyone, and they stopped all opium cultivation. That is one of the reasons. The other is that the Taliban refused to negotiate reasonalbly on the oil pipe line rights through Afghanistan. And, with out that pipe line, the UNOCAL and the other companies would have been forced to go through Iran to get to the see. Well of course, that would have been far to expensive with so many people to have to bribe at higher rates than the poorer Afghans. Hamid Karzai tried in good faith for years to reach an agreement with the Taliban, all to no avail. But everything was made so much easier when they selected Bush as your president."

"What you mean? Oh, yeah, he didn't actually win an election that's true, but that still doesn't explain Osama."

"Sir, you are aware the bin Laden family and the Bush family have been close for years, correct," she asked, and pulled a cigarette from her purse?

Did I mention she was smoking like a chimney? Well, she I was. I was too, but than I always smoke more when I'm drinking. Anyway, when 'whose it' brought the round over, he finally emptied the mountain of butts that were in both our ash trays. So, I lit her smoke, and said, "Well, sure, anyone whose anyone knows that. Anyone who gets there information from somewhere besides the TV , at least."

Well, she started rummaging around in her purse again, and pulls out another old picture, and hands it to me, "Oh, and the Bush' are such a nice family. Besides, Barbara, I mean. Oh, she is such a troll, but, all the boys are just such sweet, fun loving partiers. They used to visit a much more frequently before it was decided that my Sharis should lead the fight against the Russians. It was most convenient that the father was than head of your CIA; it allowed the CIA provide a great deal of the support. It worked very well. Your CIA would bring in the Stingers and Red Eyes to Afghanistan, and would load their planes w/ Opium for the return trip. Surely you are aware that the CIA could not afford to do everything they do, if they were forced to rely only on the money your government provides? Ah, business was good in those days." She's handin' me the picture, and says, "Those were good days for my Sayyid."

I look down at the picture, and it's like the whole bin Laden clan is sittin' around some hotel room(could be Houston), with like, the entire Bush family! I mean, there's George H., and Jeb, and Neil, and Ws laid out on the couch with a beer can layin' sideways across his lap, and Laura's in the background with this real pissed look on her face. Barbara's doin' something with wax figures and needles off to the right side. "But, hey," I says, "We're at war now, man, those days are over."

She gives me that look. You know, the kind you can't help making, when you're dealin' with somebody who just ain't grokkin' the obvious. Yeah, the, like, 'geez, just how dumb are you, and okay, I'll explain it one more time' look. And, says, "Oh, that. That was planned of course. Business was getting bad for all the families since the Soviets decided that crime paid so much better than actually trying to run a government. And they were so inept at it anyway that their corruption was not paying nearly enough in comparison to virtually anyone, but maybe China. However in defense of China, they have to spread their bribes so much further, so it is not really a fair comparison. Now peace did not come to the globe, but all the wars following the fall of the USSR were just too small for anyone to make any real money by supplying both sides arms. To really profit in the global arms market, it really is necessary to have major western economies involved. Besides selling a few replenishment rockets to Israel there was little market for the high profit items. I mean, no one would give Millosovich, or anyone in the Balkans any credit, so they weren't going to be a profitable market, and the drug cartels had already bought the best available, so something had to be done."

The Vodka effect was finally becoming obvious. Her eyes were glazing over, and she started waving her vodka tonic around when she talked, occassionally spilling alittle. And, yeah, maybe intuitively it seemed like what she was talkin' made a lot of sense, but..."So, what you're saying, is that this whole war is a sham (like how could a war be a sham??!!)?"

"Oh no, the war is real. Just the idea that Bush and the CIA are on one side, and my Sayyid is on the other. That's where the game is. Just like your famous 'big mouth, said, "follow the money.'" Baby Bush (okay, I used my term here. I just can't stand the guy.) had to find a way to get the military out of Afghanistan. It would not seem real the US kept had a 100,000 soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, and they were unable to catch my Sayyid. YOu saw what happened to Saddam. No, that was in the plan from the beginning. My Sharis starts the war so that everyone can make a lot of money, and Baby Bush (yeah, still me) moved the war out of Afghanistan so that your president could keep using terrorism and al Quiada when anyone questioed his actions. You know, TERRORISM." She actually held her hands up and wiggled the pointer and bird fingers in that quote gesture when she said TERRORISM. Oh, and it was just dripping with sarcasm. "You Americans are so easily led."

"You know, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night," throwing in my own sarcasm, and raising the ante with Southern colloquialisms, "Just what do you do for your boss, Osama?"

"I have been with bin Laden family since I was very young," she said, "I was the head Shaghalla for years until it was decided I should follow my Sayyid on his travels.

I aint sure if it was now just the booze talking or what, but she got this huge smile on her face, and laughed a little and added: "I am also his hair dresser. Whenever my Sayyid makes one of those tapes, well, he has pride deal of pride in his appearance. He wants to look nice. I make sure his hair and beard are trimmed, and I even make sure that the camouflage, robes and the AK-47 work well as a complete ensemble."

Hell, I knew she was lit, and after 7 or 8 Sierras and a Glenlivet, I had a little buzz going and it was time to go to the little boys' room. Just then, as I swung my bar stool around, I caught some action in the parking lot, through the windows on the far side of the dining area. I mean, I saw three of those all black, big ass SUVs, with no markings pull into the lot. They didn't even bother to find a parking space before I saw four or five guys start heading to the door.

This didn't look good. Somebody'd found her, and she was going down. And I knew, I didn't even want to be part of that scene. So, I just kept headin' for the head, and walked straight out the side/back door to the place. Now, I did want to watch the action, I just didn't want to be part of it. So, I dropped down the seven feet to James Joyce's back parking lot, wandered over to an old oak or something, growing in the lot and climbed up. [quick note: If you hang out at a place regularly, you really should know the lay out for those days when you need to get out quick.] Anyway, because the tree started in the lower lot, I was amongst the branches and leaves (luckily, spring comes early to Atlanta), looking across the upper lot at the three black SUVs.

And then, I got a couple of surprises. First thing was, that just when I got up into the tree, three of those guys in black suits who'd come out of the SUVs came out the side door of Joyce's looking around for something or somebody. Why? I mean Sarah was still sitting at the bar. They had her. Why were they looking for someone else? Well, maybe I can guess, but I sure didn't want to tangle w/ these guys. About then, I saw four of these guys bringing Sarah out into the parking lot. Only, she wasn't in 'cuffs. In fact, they looked like limo drivers taking a drunk patron to his car to drive him home. Hell, they put her in the back of the middle SUV and handed her a phone. Well, I might not be the brightest bulb on the tree, but the electrons are still flowin': Somethings f'd up. When the interior lights came on as they were putting Sarah in to that SUV, I caught a glimpe of the passenger in the front SUV. Man, I swear it looked like Ashcroft! You know, a skull on a stick figure body, sitting on one of U-shaped blow up cushions? And, when I looked a little closer the front of the SUV, I could tell it had one of those air-brushed vanity plates you buy at gas stations and tourist shops along the Red Neck Riviera. This one read, "God saves only who I say", well that conviced me it was him.

Anyway, it meant at least two things. First, it meant I didn't get a good count on the number of these guys back when I was looking through the window. And they weren't arresting her, as much as sequestering her. And, I needed to get out of there ASAP.

Well, what's his name got stiffed on the tab for eight Sierras, a Glenlivet and a vodka tonic until the next time I go back. And since I didn't have a good count of the MIB, and I wasn't at all sure if all of them were accounted for when that little convey left the lot, About then, I heard a helicopter, so climbed down, took off my top shirt and threw it in the back of somebody's pick-up, and headed down the road to the Avondale MARTA station. I figured I was out the $750 for the van, but I wasn't about to go back for it. If anyone traced prints back to me, I'd just tell 'em, 'Yeah, I bought it from an old friend in Tennessee for about $750 (true), but someone had come by and offered me a even $k for it, so I sold it to 'em a couple odd days ago(false).' And since the van was over twenty years old, all I did was give the guy a bill of sales. Sorry. I knew what's his name didn't know me any better than I knew him. And, hell, Sarah wasn't likely to remember shit come morning. I figured I was pretty safe.

So, I just dropped a couple hits I had with me, and figured I'd spend the time 'till dark peaking on MARTA.

Oh yeah. Ah, by the way, I never gave Sarah that last photo back. I'm putting it up on eBay. So if any of you people want a photo of the bin Ladens and the Bushies, with W passed out in the background, come bid for it. I figure I need a grand quick, so I can make my bank balance match my story. 'Sides, it might be worth real money someday.

No shit. There I was...
[edited for content and grammer - 04/11 12:42] 
  Slow to blog

I won't be posting much until this evening. Just finished washing the car; needed it bad, and now going to mow and edge the lawn. Haven't even looked at any news today, so I can't really comment on anything.

Also, I plan to spend sometime over at Rogue Analyst working on "Ambiguous Absolutes Creates Absolute Ambiguity". So time will be shared between the sites. 
Thursday, April 08, 2004
  The promised post on atheism is in the works

I have ceased to procrastinate, and have begun what looks like will turn out to be a relatively indepth and lengthy look atheism over at Rogue Analyst, Ambiguous Absolutes Creates Absolute Ambiguity. So far, I'm still defining my terms and haven't even gotten to the part about atheism yet. At this point, I am not sure what approach I will take to addressing the subject of atheism, and I'm going to try to back my way into something approaching an actual argument. Anyway, you might find what I've entered so far interesting, and I certainly will welcome any criticisms you may wish to share. 
  Defining mercenaries vs military contractors

Ran into an excellent article on the involvement of Private Military Companies (PMCs) at Kathryn Cramer, and specifically this article: Iraq: The Secret Policeman's Other Ball. It is well researched and sourced, and there have been follow up articles the subject since this one, which I have not read in depth. Also, she had asked that the comments be directed at defining the term 'mercenary(ies)', and she apparently has diverse readership and many of the comments were very insightful.

Sadly, she has recently come under attack by some group over on the left coast, which has escalated to threats of legal action. Some of you may find the tactics of lynch mobbing a blogger worth your time. If so, just go to her main page, Kathryn Cramer, and start reading, you'll see what I mean. Oh, and she's a published Sci-Fi author.

Anyway, I tried to define 'Mercenaries' and came up with what I think was a reasonable point:

"As to the point of whether these 'contractors' are mercenaries, or should be looked at in a different category, let me add function to the definition and see if that moves it forward. Security is a military function, but it is a function that also belongs to the police and even to private security guards hired for sporting events,and what not.

A truly military function is to close with, engage and destroy the enemy. I'm not suggesting this is the only criteria to be used, but it is the most obvious. If the contractors are hired to close with, engage and destroy the enemy, then by all means they are mercenaries in the truest sense of the word. If their function is strictly to provide for the security of personnel and property, I think mercenary may not be entirely appropriate as a label in many cases.

I would not be surprised to find that there are some contractors who have been hired specifically for offensive operations, especially operations that we might want to distance ourselves from, but if this does exist, I would expect it to be a very small number, and the employers would not be traceable from the bank accounts back.
I, myself, am actively seeking contract work in Iraq, though my function will presumably be logistical planning and support. I am most certainly motivated by the financial incentives involved, however I would agree w/ some of the previous commenters that there is also that sense of camaraderie and adventure that is rare to find here in civilian life."[edited grammar and spelling]
It may not be the best definition, but I do think the function being performed by the contractors must be the criteria used to determine if they fit the definition of mercenary. 
  Damn, it looks like a pseudo retraction is in order

In reference to the posting below concerning a critical review of a thesis by Condi Rice, comes this semi-rebuttal from a lefty,Asymmetrical Information:
I'd also point out that from what I know, reviews in academic journals outside of your discipline are likely to be especially brutal, because there's no need for collegiality--a history professor isn't worried about what a political science professor could do to his career.

This has more personal application for me: I think my aunt was Condoleeza's advisor on that dissertation. Aunt Cathy is no moron, and I'll fight anyone who says different. She's also pretty damn knowlegeable about eastern european military matters. And she's sure as hell no Republican shill--she's a loyal Democrat who served in Clinton's defense department.
But after watching some of her performance on CNN at the 9/11 Commission hearings, I still think Kevin Drum's summary statement rings true:
Problems distinguishing facts from propaganda. Too quick to pass judgment without adequate knowledge. Failure to properly assess sources who have an obvious axe to grind. Ignorance of regional history.
Sorry, what I saw today was not very impressive.

[Oh, the link above, 'posting', is my first internal link! Thanks go to The Corpus Callosum for posting a link to one of my posts for finally getting me to figure out how to do this. Though I'm probably still missing the easy way of doing this. So, expect to see more internal links, and some new additions to the sideboard, such as a permanent link to my bio, and the Cheney satire piece. Also, as long as I'm noting progress, I have moved up the evolutionary scale at The Truth Laid Bear: The Blogosphere Ecosystem. I am now a slimy mullosc.
  John Ashcroft in porn pictures!!

Okay, he didn't make or star in any porn films, but somebody took the time to make a montage of his face using porn photos: HubLog: Smell the satire. Thanks to corrente / Leah, Lambert, Tresy & the Farmer for providing the link. 
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
  This is why I Blog, GROUPIES!!
Okay, so that was a cheap attempt to get your attention, but, I mean, well...
Salon.com | A mash note to the blogosphere: "April 7, 2004 |
I've got a confession to make. I've got a big-time crush. I'm talking weak-in-the-knees infatuation. But it's not Brad or Orlando or Colin or any of the cinematic hunks du jour who have set my heart aflutter. No, it's Atrios and Kos and Josh Micah Marshall and Kausfiles and Kevin Drum and Wonkette. Bloggers all. Yes, when it comes to the blogosphere, I'm a regular cyberslut. And I don't care who knows it. Bring on the fines, Michael Powell!

Although I've only recently stuck my toe in the fast-moving blogstream, I've been a fan -- and an advocate -- ever since bloggers took the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, ran with it, and helped turn the smug Senate majority leader into the penitent former Senate majority leader, a bit of bloody political chum floating in a tank of hungry sharks. Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene."
Hey, Arianna Huffington!! Since she has found 'Common Sense', well, she's turned into a babe.

Alright, one more procrastination vehicle, but hey, blogger groupies! Geek revenge!! Ah, what more could you want? Well, a paying job, but other than that...
  Wow, and we thought it was a new phenomenom

From Kevin Drum at The Washington Monthly comes this sweet little find: "Joseph Kalvoda, a history professor at St. Joseph College, apparently had a bit of trouble of his own figuring out whether Rice was male or female, but otherwise his criticism of Rice's methods in the American Historical Review still rings eerily true two decades later:
Rice's selection of sources raises questions, since he frequently does not sift facts from propaganda and valid information from disinformation or misinformation. He passes judgments and expresses opinions without adequate knowledge of facts. It does not add to his credibility when he uses a source written by Josef Hodic; Rice fails to notice that this 'former military scientist' (p. 99) was a communist agent who returned to Czechoslovakia several years ago.

....Rice's generalizations reflect his lack of knowledge about history and the nationality problem in Czechoslovakia. For example....Rice's discussion of the 'Czechoslovak Legion' that was 'born during the chaotic period preceding the fall of the Russian empire' (pp. 44-46) is ridiculous. (It was 'born' on September 28, 1914.) He is clearly ignorant of the history of the military unit as well as of the geography of the area on which it fought."
In a probably stupid attempt to avoid being an obvious plagerizer, I'm not going to past Kevin' conclusion (so keeping my standing as an un-obvious plagerizer). 
  Geez, just how much deja vu can a person take?

I'm really trying hard to avoid blogging on Iraq. Absolutely not because I don't think it is the most important story going on right now, but because I think most of you are well aware of current events. But I found this story via 'alex' in the comment section over at Whiskey Bar: Body Counts:
Headline news from Sky News - Witness the event: "130 SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ - REPORTS
A Pentagon source has said up to 130 US troops have been killed in fierce fighting in Iraq.
The large scale battle, described as 'intense', has taken place in the town of Ar Ramadi, 20 miles west of Fallujah.
Sky News' David Chater said: 'None of this is official yet - none of it is confirmed.'"
I'm just wondering how accurate these figures are. Because if they are at all accurate, then let the escalation begin!

Geez, if these people (our administration) had any capability to think outside of the box, we could still salvage some good out of the current mess. But if all we do is add more troops and use more force, I think the body count (US soldiers), just goes up w/o accomplishing a thing. 
  North Georgia "D"

I'm not sure what the 'd' stands for in NGD, but I think the NG is North Georgia. Maybe they'll let me know, or maybe I'm just too obtuse to find the info on their site. Regardless, I really like NGD: Blogdom's Triple Threat. I especially like debating/arguing w/ 'ricky'.

They do a great job of staying curent on the issues, and I'd put them a little right of center, but if you look at their content, it strikes me as more center (sorry, ricky). Anyway, I'm updating my links, and they're one of the new ones.

Besides, they're Georgia boys. 
  Atheism in court

I was checking out Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall, and I caught an ad for this is an excellent article:The New Republic Online: Under God and Over on his sidebar and felt compelled to post a couple of excerpts (from about half way into the article):
"...Some of the individuals to whom I am attributing a hostility to religion would resent the allegation deeply. They regard themselves as religion's finest friends. But what kind of friendship for religion is it that insists that the words 'under God' have no religious connotation? A political friendship, is the answer. And that is precisely the kind of friendship that the Bush administration exhibited in its awful defense of the theistic diction of the Pledge. The solicitor general stood before the Court to argue against the plain meaning of ordinary words. In the Pledge of Allegiance, the government insisted, the word 'God' does not refer to God. It refers to a reference to God. The government's argument, as it was stated in the brief filed by Theodore B. Olson, was made in two parts. The first part was about history, the second part was about society. 'The Pledge's reference to 'a Nation under God,'' the solicitor general maintained, 'is a statement about the Nation's historical origins, its enduring political philosophy centered on the sovereignty of the individual.' The allegedly religious words in the Pledge are actually just 'descriptive'--the term kept recurring in the discussion--of the mentality of the people who established the United States. As Olson told the Court, they are one of several 'civic and ceremonial acknowledgments of the indisputable historical fact that caused the framers of our Constitution and the signers of the Declaration of Independence to say that they had the right to revolt and start a new country.'..."
And from further in the article comes this:
Needless to say, Newdow's objection did not disappear, because it is one of the admirable features of atheism to take God seriously. Newdow's reply was unforgettable: "I don't think that I can include 'under God' to mean 'no God,' which is exactly what I think. I deny the existence of God." The sound of those words in that room gave me what I can only call a constitutional thrill. This is freedom. And he continued: "For someone to tell me that 'under God' should mean some broad thing that even encompasses my religious beliefs sounds a little, you know, it seems like the government is imposing what it wants me to think in terms of religion, which it may not do. Government needs to stay out of this business altogether." So the common ground that Breyer depicted was not quite as common as he thought it was. In fact, Breyer was advocating the Lockean variety of toleration, according to which it would be based on a convergence of conviction, a consensus about the truth, among the overwhelming majority of the members of a society. The problem with such an arrangement is that the convergence is never complete and the consensus is never perfect. Locke himself instructed that "those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God." The universal absolute is never quite universal. And there is another problem. It is that nobody worships a "very comprehensive supreme being, Seeger-type thing." Such a level of generality, a "generic" God, is religiously senseless. Breyer's solution was another attempt to salvage religious expression by emptying it of religious content. But why should a neutralized God be preferred to a neutral government? The preference is attractive only if religion is regarded primarily from the standpoint of politics...
And, still further into the article, this:
Many modern believers, and modern commentators on religion, resent this. A recent historian of atheism, a Jesuit scholar, laments that in modern theology "religion was treated as if it were theism," as if it had no resources of its own to guarantee anything generally binding and true. But if religion is not theism, if its ground is not an intellectually supportable belief in the existence of God, then all the spiritual exaltation and all the political agitation in the world will avail it nothing against the skeptics and the doubters, and it really is just a beloved illusion. Others denounce the abstraction of the God of the philosophers, and the impersonality. Before such a deity, Heidegger demagogically complained, "man can neither fall to his knees in awe nor can he play music and dance." But this is not philosophy's problem, or even religion's problem, if by religion you mean something other than an excuse to fall to your knees or to dance with your feet. If the impersonal God does not exist, I do not see how the personal God can exist.
In fact, I have been meaning to share my atheistic vision of existence for some time, but keep procrastinating. I think I will gin something up this evening for posting. But in the mean time, I suggest you go read this article. I hope not to continue my procrastination, though I may not publish this tonight because to present a well reasoned position, may take a little while. So, much for ginning something up. 
  We couldn't help if we wanted to, and I doubt we want to

I really hope Kofi is wrong about this:International News Article | Reuters.com: "By Thomas Atkins and Nima Elbagir
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Wednesday a Rwandan-style genocide may be in the making in Sudan and said international military force could be needed -- a suggestion at once rejected by the Khartoum government.
The U.N. chief issued his warning in a speech in Geneva on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, in which about 800,000 died. He left no doubt he feared something similar might be under way in west Sudan, where U.N. officials say 'ethnic cleansing' is carried out.
'The international community cannot stand idle,' declared Annan, who has acknowledged more should have been done to halt the orgy of killing in Rwanda in 1994. 'The risk of genocide remains frighteningly real.'
Annan said humanitarian workers and human rights experts needed to be given full access to Darfur, a western region in Africa's biggest country, to administer aid to hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes, many into neighboring Chad.
'They need to get to the victims,' Annan said in his speech to the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
'If that is denied, the international community must be prepared to take swift and appropriate action. By action in such situations, I mean a continuum of steps which may include military action.'"
But, as I alluded to in the title, we can't help if something goes down. Our military is stretched so thin, we could spare the units needed to help. Of course, I doubt Baby Bush would want to help...well, wait a minute, Sudan does have oil. 
  Dividing the future by five

Also courtesy of "Institute for Alternative Futures" comes this blurb from a summary of the July 18-20, 2003 World Future Society Conference in San Francisco:
Five Regions of the Future. Joel Barker, president of Infinity Limited, Inc.,
wowed the closing plenary by introducing five regions of the future he calls
TechnoEcology. Different world views determine the technologies that are
emphasized. SuperTech stresses technological solutions; LimitsTech stresses
limits to growth and conservation thinking; LocalTech is centered on
community-based solutions; NatureTech takes its design cues from the biological
world; and HumanTech supersedes and surrounds the other regions and relies
upon breakthroughs and insights in human consciousness. His new system will
be described in an upcoming book, Five Regions of the Future.
I haven't been successful in getting anymore information on Joel Barker's book, so I'm guessing it has yet to be released. Found lots of teasers for the book, and he seems very adept at self promotion, which is neither here nor there, just an observation. Also, I can't seem to locate a web presence for Infinity Limited, Inc., which seems ironic given how often is press releases mention the company.

Well,I'm not sure, obviously, how he defines his terms, for instance, the distinction between LimitsTech and NatureTech, but it sounds intriguing. So, if anyone out there has any more info on the topic, I'd be interested in hearing about it. 
  Nanotech and Military apps

A little slow in finding this, but thought many of you might find it of interest. This is from the May 2003 newsletter put out by "Institute for Alternative Futures"
Emerging Issues
Military applications for nanotech in R&D. Military applications of nanotechnology
will develop in three stages, according to Senior Futurist Richard Smith speaking April
22 at the WINFORMS 2nd Joint Symposium. WINFORMS is a DC area operations
research professional organization.
The three stages of development will be passive nanoscale materials, active
nanodevices, and active self-assembled nanosystems. Smith described current R&D
with military applications. The new Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) at MIT
will be staffed by 150 researchers at a cost of $90 million over five years ($50M from the
government and $40M from MIT’s industry partners DuPont, Raytheon, and Mass
General Hospital). The objectives of the ISN are to:
• Create a bullet-deflecting soldier exoskeleton
• Cut the weight of soldiers’ packs from 90 lbs. to 15
• Create clothing that can shield against chemical and biological agents and even
"heal" an injured soldier
• Create networked soldier health sensors
• Develop other innovations like night-vision contact lenses
Nanotech R&D at the Naval Research Lab includes:
• Sensors (e.g., fiber optic chemical and biosensors; high performance structural
• Materials (e.g., controlled release antifouling paint additives; machinable ceramic
superconductors; laser direct-writing process)
• Electronics (e.g., advanced silicon-on-insulator technology, microfabricated
electron source)
• Optics (e.g., electrode-less high-intensity light source; portable pulsed x-ray
• Oceanography (e.g., high-resolution seafloor classification survey system;
localization of submerged lost towed body)
• Artificial Intelligence (e.g., machine vision for the integrated autonomous
At this stage, nanotechnology research isn’t risk-free nor intimidating. “Until we have
developed active nanodevices, such as “mechanical solvents”, the risks are not
substantially different from those we are already accustomed to—like asbestos,” Smith
said. In another decade or two, this may not be the case. Informed managers,
researchers and policymakers should begin now to consider what plausible dangers
might lie ahead. A logical first step, Smith said, is to study whether molecular assembly
techniques (MAT) are reasonably likely (as suggested by Eric Drexler), highly unlikely
(believed by many chemists and physicists) or somewhere in between. With MAT, the
prospects for revolutionary advances and frightening risks are far greater.
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
  Google explained in 'almost' layman terms

Found this post via Brad DeLong's, Topix.net Weblog: The Secret Source of Google's Power:
"Much is being written about Gmail, Google's new free webmail system. There's something deeper to learn about Google from this product than the initial reaction to the product features, however. Ignore for a moment the observations about Google leapfrogging their competitors with more user value and a new feature or two. Or Google diversifying away from search into other applications; they've been doing that for a while. Or the privacy red herring.

No, the story is about seemingly incremental features that are actually massively expensive for others to match, and the platform that Google is building which makes it cheaper and easier for them to develop and run web-scale applications than anyone else.

I've written before about Google's snippet service, which required that they store the entire web in RAM. All so they could generate a slightly better page excerpt than other search engines.

Google has taken the last 10 years of systems software research out of university labs, and built their own proprietary, production quality system. What is this platform that Google is building? It's a distributed computing platform that can manage web-scale datasets on 100,000 node server clusters. It includes a petabyte, distributed, fault tolerant filesystem, distributed RPC code, probably network shared memory and process migration. And a datacenter management system which lets a handful of ops engineers effectively run 100,000 servers. Any of these projects could be the sole focus of a startup."
I'm no computer wiz, but even I got a lot of info out the post. I recommend going to Topix.net Weblog and reading the comments from the readers over there. Very informative. 
  Armed Services Chairman's Statement on Iraq transfer of power

In its entirety:


Hunter Statement on Transfer of Power in Iraq

Washington, D.C. - House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), responding to suggestions that the transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government be delayed, today made the following statement:

"It would be a mistake to postpone the transfer of power to an Iraqi government. Any delay would represent a victory for the terrorists and subversives who have attacked coalition forces and civilians in recent days. If the transfer were delayed until June of 2005, we could be assured that the same upsurge in violence would occur.

"The recent attacks are the isolated actions of a small anti-democratic minority. This is not an issue of troop levels in Iraq.

"Our task is not an easy one. What we must do is hold steady, maintaining a high state of alert and, working with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Iraqi Governing Council, and the United Nations special advisor to Iraq, craft a smooth transition of power."

Hunter also stressed that the transition of governmental power would not constitute a transfer of security responsibilities. Coalition forces would continue to maintain a security apparatus in Iraq. Also of note is the nation's progress in providing for its own security. Iraq is on its way toward completing the largest law enforcement training program in history with 25,000 new police officers. Hunter further noted he is confident that a national assembly will be elected by the end of January 2005.

  Cheney and his secret game

This is an issue I have been following since the Baby Bush/Cheney Energy Task force released its report, so here's the current status:CNN.com - Supreme Court accepts Cheney appeal on energy taskforce - Dec. 15, 2003: "WASHINGTON (CNN) --
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Vice President Dick Cheney's challenge to a court ruling that would force him to disclose details of meetings between his energy policy task force and the industry.

The high court Monday accepted Cheney's appeal and will hear the case sometime after February, with a ruling expected in June.

Cheney has balked at turning over documents relating to the controversial energy policy task force that he headed for the Bush administration. A lawsuit claims he had made improper contacts with the energy industry when developing government policy.

Cheney is appealing a federal court's order that he release internal files of the task force. The White House has argued the courts and Congress have no business making inquiries, even limited ones, into the decision-making power of federal agencies and offices. Cheney has said executive power needs to be increased in such confidentiality cases."
And maybe, just maybe, they'll be forced to go back to the original policy recommendations and actually cite their sources. It's the only time I've ever seen a 180 page policy paper,smack full of numbers and graphs, w/o citing a single source. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

For those of you who haven't, it does make interesting reading. You can learn to measure oil production in gallons so the numbers look really big, and measure oil spills in barrels so that the number looks real small in comparison. It's really not a policy report, it's a learning aide for those trying to master spin in an academic formatted paper. 
  Refusal by justices thwarts developer

Well, this isn't a Supreme Court ruling, but it is in many ways a victory for clean water ways. Refusal by justices thwarts developer:
"Nationally, developers, environmentalists and regulators were interested in the outcome of Newdunn Associates v. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As is its custom, the Supreme Court offered no explanation Monday when it disclosed it would not hear Newdunn and two similar wetland cases in Maryland and Michigan.

Conservationists and regulators are happy. Developers feel crushed.

The Supreme Court's refusal leaves intact an earlier decision by the federal 4th Circuit, which affirmed the Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction over wetlands - even lands that aren't wet most of the year or near major waterways.

Wetlands can be swamps or marshes, but they can also be upland areas that flood or have saturated soils for part of the year. Wetlands are important because they filter water and provide habitat for plants and animals.

The court's decision is horrible news for landowners in the 4th Circuit, which includes Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas, said Douglas Kahle, attorney for Newdunn."
In effect, this allows three lower court rulings to stand for the time being. These rulings basically come down as allowing the Army Corp of Engineers to regulate water ways, and anything that flows into those water ways including drainage ditches. It would be nice though to have a clear ruling from the Supreme Court on exactly falls with the Corps' authority, but for now, this is good news. 
  DSL is on the fritz It looks like posting will be lighter today than I had planned. My DSL just came back on a little after eleven, but I'm not convinced it will stay that way. Oh well... 
  USATODAY.com - Pentagon delays U.S. troops' trip home Via Eschaton comes this article USATODAY.com - Pentagon delays U.S. troops' trip home: "WASHINGTON -
A decision by the Pentagon to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq is a reversal of its plan to steadily reduce the U.S. force level there.

[Photo caption from story: Senior military leaders gave assurances to troops and their families that Iraq duty would be no longer than a year.
By Gervasio Sanchez, AP]

Since the war began a year ago, senior military leaders have given frequent assurances to troops and their families that Iraq duty would be no longer than a year.

Now, those assurances have met the reality of Iraq, where military leaders are planning for the possibility that anti-U.S. violence will spread. U.S. troops are stretched thin around the world, and the Pentagon has few options to increase the force in Iraq if necessary.

On Monday, a senior official with U.S. Central Command said that the return home of about 24,000 U.S. troops who were scheduled to leave in the next few weeks would be delayed as their replacements arrive. Central Command's responsibility includes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
I don't know, but I think this is how it could start, a large military build up in Iraq. Call it a troop rotation, but only do half a rotation, and double your military presence, which would get you very close to the Gen Shinseki told congress we would need in post-war Iraq and was promptly re-moved for his candor and accuracy. Okay, the part about candor is editorializing, but it's what I believe.

Now, there are some obvious repercussions to a move like this. One, I suspect enlistment and re-enlistment rates drop even further. Two, if the military was stretched thin before, it will be wafer-like if they go in this direction. Third, you are really going to have to ramp up your logistics team if your supporting a force double the size originally planned for, so more contracts for KBR and others. All of the above will mean ultimately a greater financial cost for this war, one that many suspect could have been predicted and planned for, but that the administration did not want to present.

Monday, April 05, 2004
  Internal links/anchor tags

I don't know why I feel obligated to confess these things, but maybe it will help anyone reading this who's starting their own blog.

As it turns out, the template that BLOGGER(TM) provides includes auto anchor tags:
You shouldn't have to enter anchor name tags manually, since your template
should already include them at the top of each post. If you click the time
stamp at the end of a post on your published blog, you should see that it
will take you to the permalink for that post.
Courtesy of Graham at Blogger Support, who also corrected my major malfunction. And don't I feel like a maroon. I probably could have just read the instructions on the support page. But hey, instructions only help to save you time, and to make things work better. Other than that, they're about worthless ; )
  Secret prisons

I really don't know that I can add much to this article, so I am just going to provide the teaser below, and highly recommend you read the article. What it describes, is not what I think most Americans would consider appropriate actions by our government, and it's one more step deeper into secrecy. And, I whole heartedly echo his call for journalists to investigate these hidden 'detention' systems, and thier consequences. This is an area that needs a little sunhine put on it.

TomDispatch: Into the shadows
"In a rare piece on the subject in a major newspaper, last December as Saddam entered our offshore prison world, James Risen and Thom Shanker of the New York Times wrote of 'what has developed into a global detention system run by the Pentagon and the CIA...a secretive universe...made up of large and small facilities scattered throughout the world...Officials described the network of detention centers as a prison system with its own unique hierarchy, one in which the most important captives are kept at the greatest distance from the prying eyes of the public and the media. And it is a system in which the jailers have refined the arts of interrogation in order to drain the detainees of critical information.'

Ah, those 'arts of interrogation.' You would want to keep them from 'prying eyes,' wouldn't you? And the Bush administration has done so with remarkable success. It seems that, for them, even Guantanamo is too exposed and so, oddly enough, that ultimate lockdown facility seems to hold no significant al-Qaeda or Taliban figures. They are held 'elsewhere.'

Around us, as Americans, the shadows have been deepening. They weren't first cast by this administration, but its powerful urge to scare us all into 'preventive wars' and unparalleled global domination has caused them to deepen immeasurably. Every now and then, as with Richard Clarke's testimony or in Fallujah recently, something in those shadows is, unexpectedly, sometimes horrifyingly illuminated, whether we care to exercise our prying eyes or not. Under an assault of almost unbelievable brutality, lit up last week was the semi-secret world of private armies in Iraq -- those four dead and mutilated men, working for a firm called Blackwater USA, part of a $100 billion global-boom business for which our government is the largest customer.

Just for a second, that business sat in the spotlit glare and we learned that the second largest force in our Iraqi "coalition of the willing" was not the British military contingent of 8,000-plus in southern Iraq but the 15,000 well-armed, well-paid mercenaries who protect everyone from U.S. and British officials to private business contractors. Some of them learned their skills under the old South African Apartheid regime, some under the brutal Pinochet dictatorship in Chile; some are Gurkhas from Nepal (reminders of a British colonial past), some islanders from Fiji, and some like the four who were dismembered in Fallujah had backgrounds in the U.S. Special Forces. As a legion, they truly make up a "coalition of the billing."
Coincidently(if you believe in coincidences), it makes a great lead in for the post below. 
  A better way to fight terrorism?

My brother forwarded me this one. titled: Calling for the adoption of a Sensible, Multilateral American Response to Terrorism (SMART) security platform for the 21st century It is a concurrent resolution, which means it really is only a 'call' and not an actual new program, but it can lead to change. I would highly recommend you call your Representatives and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors. The text includes the following:
"Whereas to effectively implement such a response to terrorism, the United States needs a SMART security platform for the 21st century that--

(1) prevents future acts of terrorism by strengthening international institutions and respect for the rule of law;

(2) reduces the threat and stops the spread of weapons of mass destruction and reduces the proliferation of conventional weapons;

(3) addresses root causes of terrorism and violent conflict in the Middle East and other regions;

(4) shifts United States budget priorities to fulfill unmet security needs; and

(5) pursues to the fullest extent alternatives to war: Now, therefore, be it..."
And, from there goes on to provide specific policy suggestions/guidance each of the five points, which make more sense then our current policies, in my opinion at least. 
  Science Mondays

Rather than make a bunch of separate posts, I'm going put the links I find most interesting from the KurzweilAI.net newsletter into this one post. And as I find more Science related articles today, I will just add them below, so that in fact, this single post will grow. It's organic posting?

PhysicsWeb - Physicists move closer to the quantum limit:
"The researchers positioned the arm about 600 nanometres away from a single-electron transistor - which acts as a motion detector - and coupled the two together via a capacitor. They then applied a voltage to make the arm vibrate and cooled the system down to a few millikelvin. Cooling the system to such low temperatures reduced thermal vibrations close to the point where just 'zero-point' quantum fluctuations remain. This zero-point motion results from the uncertainty principle, which prevents the arm from remaining completely at rest.

As the arm moved towards the detector, and then away from it, the amount of current flowing through the transistor changed. By measuring this current, the physicists were able to measure the displacement of the arm with a sensitivity that is only about a factor of 4.3 larger than the amplitude of zero-point fluctuations."

I saw an article concerning this in yesterday's AJC. I knew they were going to try to generate super computer power in a 'flash mob' type setting, but had lost track of the date. Anyway, they didn't get to their goal of breaking into the top 500 super computers, but I'd call it a qualified success non the less:

Computer networking event doesn't compute as planned:
"``It's something you can't practice,'' said Patrick Miller, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a part-time USF computer science professor, at midafternoon as the crew struggled with balky computers. ``You'll never find a thousand identical laptops . . . when you're begging and borrowing.''

By the end of the day, FlashMob was a partial success. The crew managed to get 256 computers working together at almost half the speed required for the top 500 status.

More important, the organizers demonstrated that their idea for bringing ordinary PCs together as a temporary supercomputer isn't an idle college daydream.

Modern supercomputers are made by clustering together hundreds or even thousands of the same processors used in PCs, then unleashing the behemoths to work on hugely complicated problems such as weather forecasting, designing new pharmaceuticals and making aerodynamically efficient automobiles.

Supercomputers cost millions or tens of millions of dollars, putting them beyond the reach of almost everyone except government agencies and giant corporations.

If the FlashMob software can be perfected, a typical mid-size corporation or university could have almost unlimited supercomputing time by tapping its existing PC network on nights and weekends.

USF is making its software freely available, and researchers from as far away as Australia and England are looking to stage their own FlashMob events.

The University of Virginia built the world's third-fastest supercomputer last year by purchasing 1,100 PowerMac G5 computers from Apple and wiring them together. That was relatively easy compared with Saturday's FlashMob, because the G5s were identical to each other -- so no hardware problem had to be solved more than once."
Okay, this isn't so much science related, as much as it points to the juncture of science, technology and politics: Bush Calls for Universal Broadband by 2007:
"President Bush has set a goal of broadband access for all Americans in three years to boost competitiveness with other nations and create new business opportunities at home.

'We ought to have a universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing the broadband carrier,' Bush said during a recent campaign swing through the Southwest.

In addition to economic advantages of broadband, Bush said the technology could advance tele-medicine and distance learning.

For years, IT firms pushed plans to deliver high-speed Internet access rural areas not served by cable of digital subscriber line service, only to stumble in a thicket of questions, such as who would pay for the extension of infrastructure into rural areas?

Bush didn't raise the issue in his speech and an administration spokesman did not return a call seeking additional details."
Great idea, but just like the whole 'we're going to Mars thing', no follow through on how this should be financed, or even could done. That's a lot of cable to be laid in three years, and it's not like would be dealing with one company like the ol' Ma Bell, a monopoly that had significant power and political support during the rural electrification days.

On the other hand, Baby Bush has actually finally said something I agree with. Well, okay, there may have been one or two other things in the past, but they've been so long age, I don't remember them. Anyway, he said:
In his remarks, Bush also criticized some lawmakers for attempting to block a bill that makes the ban on Internet access taxes permanent.

"We don't need to tax access to broadband," Bush said. "The Congress must not tax access to broadband technology if we want to spread it around."
I think trying to tax access to the internet is an absolutely terrible, and totally unmanageable policy. As more and more items access the net, like cars, and phones and toaster ovens, this would become a tax collection nightmare.

Wow, another step toward designer diseases and/or cures I guess. For me, this is a troubling area. Certainly we shuld continue to do the research, my fear is the capacity to do massive harm is just that more readily availabel to nuts:KurzweilAI.net:
"Reuters, March 31, 2004

Scientists have completed the final analysis of chromosomes 19 and 13, a major step toward developing personalized antidotes.

Chromosome 19 has nearly 1,500 genes, including ones linked to inherited high cholesterol and insulin-resistant diabetes.

Chromosome 13 has 633 genes, including the BRCA2 gene, linked to breast cancer, and others for the eye tumor retinoblastoma, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia."
You better not be shootin' anything up my nose! KurzweilAI.net:
"NewScientist.com news, April 1, 2004

A new 'air cannon' device can track an individual, shoot an aroma directly at their nose, and leave the person next to them completely unaffected.

Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan developed it for directing evocative smells to people exploring virtual-reality environments.

The device tracks the person it is aiming at with a camera mounted on top, which follows the target's eyes. Software on a PC analyzes the video images and controls motors that steer the gun in three dimensions. Once it has a fix on the eyes, it aims low to direct the puff of air at the target's nose.

Marketing specialists could seize on the air cannon as a way of tempting shoppers by wafting the scent of the latest perfume or an expensive blend of coffee in their direction -- perhaps in conjunction with in-store video ads. Or street poster sites could fire ad-related odors at you as you wander past."
And, please, please keep this out of the hands of marketers. My wife can go into an asthma attack just from getting the mail due to the perfume samples they stick in the magazines. Of course, it might be that this is not the way they are used. My wife is not alone in these reactions, and I can just imagine the laws suits that will result from firing the 'wrong' scent at the 'wrong' person.

"Life! Life, I say!!" Okay, so this isn't about sewing dead body parts together and re-animating a corpse, but it sure has the potential to rock a lot of people's world views.Science on verge of new `Creation': South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
"Such concern is escalating as more than 100 laboratories study processes involved in the creation of life, and scientists say for the first time that they have just about all the pieces they need to begin making inanimate chemicals come alive.

Unlike any other technology invented by humans, creating artificial life will be as jarring to our concepts of ourselves as discovering living creatures on other planets in the universe would be. It also would bring into sharper focus the age-old questions of 'What is life?' and 'Where do we come from?'

'The ability to make new forms of life from scratch--molecular living systems from chemicals we get from a chemical supply store--is going to have a profound impact on society, much of it positive, but some of it potentially negative,' said Mark Bedau, professor of philosophy and humanities at Reed College in Portland, Ore., and editor-in-chief of the Artificial Life Journal.

'Aside from the vast scientific insights that will come, there will be vast commercial and economic benefits, so much so that it's hard to contemplate in concrete detail what many of them will be,' he said.

But the first artificial life also is likely to shock people's religious and cultural belief systems."

Sunday, April 04, 2004
  Taxes disrupt blogging

While I have several things in mind to blog, including a commentary on tonight's 60 Minute's story of the slurry spill, I am being forced to turn over the computer to my tax advisor (wife). On the positive, we (she) are doing it before the 14th or 15th of April. In contrast to my previous history of attempts to comply w/ federal tax laws, which has always resuted in my reception of courteous notices explaining where I had made mistakes in my filing of the return (including penalties and interest) (and usually, two or more years after the filing date), these are improvements. Since I have delegated this function to her 10 years ago (she refuses to allow me any input as she thinks I'm inept and would cost our household money), we have successfully filed on time, and apparently accurately, so this too, is a positive.

In the brief time I have, I would like to ask one question that has always troubled me: If the IRS is going to go to all the work of pointing out my mistakes, why can't I just pay them a nominal fee to go ahead and just figure out what I owe w/o me having to spend hours filling out incomprehensible forms and getting the instructions wrong?

Just a thought. I'll resume blogging in the morning, and since it will be a Monday morning, expect a lot of science and environmental info. Thank you for your patience... 
  Al jazeera.Net v NYTimes v CNN coverage of Iraqi protests turned violent

Thought it would be interesting to compares sources and style of coverage between these three media outlets. As it turns out, the similarities are far greater than the differences, and it's my impression that the NYTimes might be the most alarmist in coverage style. So, here are some cut and pastes, and the links to the stories, I intentionally tried to be overly redundant in selecting the quotes below. If you go into the articles, you'll see they are largely in agreement on the facts.

Aljazeera.Net - Iraq protests turn bloody:
"Occupation soldiers have clashed with Iraqi demonstrators marching in support of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, leaving at least 25 people dead and more than 150 others injured.

In a separate incident at least seven people were wounded in clashes between US forces and the al-Mahdi Army, al-Sadr's militia, who seized a number of police stations in the al-Sadr City suburb of Baghdad on Sunday.

The al-Mahdi Army earlier occupied at least three police stations in the area, forcing police forces out of the buildings.

Earlier, Spanish occupation forces killed at least 20 Iraqi demonstrators and injured more than 150 others in the southern city of Najaf, reported Aljazeera's correspondent Muhammad al-Sharif.

Four occupation soldiers from El Salvador were killed and nine wounded near Najaf, said the Spanish Defence Ministry.

Some 15,000 of al-Sadr's supporters staged a peaceful protest heading towards the Spanish headquarters in the southern city."
Violent Disturbances Rack Iraq From Baghdad to Southern Cities:
"At nightfall today, the Sadr City neighborhood shook with explosions and tank and machine gun fire. Black smoke choked the sky. The streets were lined with armed militiamen, dressed in all black. American tanks surrounded the area. Attack helicopters thundered overhead.

'The occupation is over!' people on the streets yelled. 'We are now controlled by Sadr. The Americans should stay out.'

Witnesses said Mr. Sadr's militiamen had tried to take over three police stations in Sadr City, a poor, mostly Shiite neighborhood of northern Baghdad named after Mr. Sadr's father.

Franco Pagetti, an Italian photographer, said he was caught in the crossfire and witnessed several American tanks firing into the ground.

'The tanks were shooting into the pavement, not at the height of the people,' Mr. Pagetti said. 'It looked like they were trying to clear the streets.'

Mr. Pagetti also said he had watched a group of militiamen launch three rocket propelled grenades at American Humvees but the militiamen had missed each time.

'The situation is getting worse,' Mr. Pagetti said. 'I saw injured people getting put in cars. The people said they had been wounded by American helicopters.'

As the fighting raged, Mr. Sadr called on his followers to 'terrorize' the enemy as demonstrations were no longer any use. Last week, his weekly newspaper, Hawza, was shut down by American authorities after it had been accused of inciting violence. The closure began a week of protests that grew bigger and more unruly at each turn.

'There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples,' Mr. Sadr said in a statement distributed by his office in Kufa today."
CNN.com - Seven U.S. soldiers die in ambush - Apr 4, 2004:
"The chief U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq denounced Shiite protests in Najaf Sunday, saying the lethal demonstrations had exceeded the democratic rights to protest, speak and use the media.

'A group of people in Najaf have crossed the line and have moved to violence,' Paul Bremer said. 'This will not be tolerated by the coalition. This will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people. And this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces.'

Protesters opened fire on a Najaf garrison housing Spanish troops, and troops responded with return fire, a coalition spokesman said. Maj. Vicente Bizarroso said one coalition soldier was killed and 10 were wounded. Some news agencies said there were more troops killed, but the coalition did not confirm the reports.

Whether protesters were killed or wounded in the clashes remains unknown."
What stood out to me was this quote:
'A group of people in Najaf have crossed the line and have moved to violence,' Paul Bremer said. 'This will not be tolerated by the coalition. This will not be tolerated by the Iraqi people. And this will not be tolerated by the Iraqi security forces.'
Um, not that this stuff is spreading, why are we assuming it won't be tolerated by the Iraqi people.

Lastly, while this certainly is no 'Tet Offensive', it is most certainly not a good omen for things to come in the coming months. This type of stuff will not bode well for Baby Bush's re-election efforts. The more the situation appears out of control, the more Kerry can point. Just point might be all he has to do if this keeps up. 
  Ah, contrast the Tyco verdict with the one on James Olis Modulator pointed me over to this: the talking dog: April 2, 2004, Don't Trust Your Soul to No Urban Northern Jury...:
"J'Accuse', and leave it at that.=; Juror No. 4, a 60-something retired schoolteacher who went to law school in her 50's, flashed the 'OK' sign to the defense table, to signify that the brown paper bag arrived where it was supposed to (this is all on information and belief, and IMHO; I have no idea HOW Koslowski and company managed to get the juror to side with them-- maybe they even did it with their case; I'm just playing the odds). Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau's office has already vowed to re-try the pair of corporate pig-whores.

You see, when you steal over $600,000,000 from shareholders, and thereby help the Bush Administration along in its holy mission of destroying the Middle Class for the benefit of a privileged few, there are probably a few bucks left lying around to buy yourself a recalcitrant juror. It became obvious that Juror NO. 4 was not-- ever-- going to vote guilty, despite the firm convictions (as it were) of the other 11 jurors. Yes, that's what the jury system is all about: if she did not feel the prosecutor didn't prove its case, its her sworn duty to hold out for an acquittal-- regardless of the other juror's opinions if they could not sway her (nor she them)."
I like the Talking Dog's style, and we agree.

Now contrast how you feel about the Tyco acquital w/ this:
"The judge said he was required to give Olis a sentence of between 24 and 30 years, five years shy of the maximum, based on the massive losses Dynegy shareholders suffered as a result of Project Alpha's repercussions.
Which outcome fills your heart w/ joy?

For more on the James Olis CONVICTION, see my post below on April 1st.

Sorry, still haven't learned how to link to posts w/in the blog. Last time I tried to but in an html anchor, I lost managment access to a couple of weeks worth of posts, so until I get some better guidance, I'm not trying it.  
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