Saturday, December 31, 2005

10...9...8...

I can't honestly say I'm one of those whoop & holler types when it comes to New Year's. I loathe champagne, find noise-makers highly unpleasant, and generally don't give a damn about a dropping ball or Dick Clark (no offense, Dick).

Still, in an effort to be magnanimous, I'm trying to stir up a degree of enthusiasm for the annual calendar-morph this year. Why? Well, beyond "why the hell not?", it's beyond obvious that if we all need a change, it's now.

Had I any photoshop skills at all, Baby New Year would have had Fitzgerald's face pasted in, so you'll just have to imagine that for yourselves. And, I must confess that the rumors of Abramoff's plea deal being announced "as early as Tuesday" fill me with an anticipation akin to that normally felt by kids on Christmas Eve. And it's not pure schadenfreude, incidentally (though that is part of it, I can't deny). I'm simply in the mood for a reckoning, plain and simple. I want the karmic wheel to spin around and serve us up a hot, steaming pile of justice. A naive desire? Perhaps, but mine nonetheless.

Eons ago, I studied the fluffier things in the world like astrology, tarot cards & numerology (it's ok, you can snicker, I won't hold it against you). It was fun, it was intriguing, and like anyone else searching for the Big Why, it provided equal parts relief and bewilderment. I took all of it with a grain of salt, much like I do all things "metaphysical" or "religious", and from time to time, I let my imagination wander back that way, if only in search of a diversion from the sea of Legos, Sesame Street, utility bills and dirty laundry that I'm surrounded with each day.

So, putting on my cob-web covered numerologist hat (and my apologies in advance to those more "serious students" that object to my half-assed, and arguably incorrect, methodology), I contemplate the coming year.

The basic rules are this: To find the "vibration" for a thing/person/event, you add the individual digits together until you reduce to a single number. If we were going to use my birth year for example, we'd add 1 + 9 + 6 + 8. That yields 24. Then we add 2 + 4 to yield 6. If we wanted to explore the numerological significance of the year I was born, then, we'd look up 6.

So, let's do the same for 2006. Easy peasy. 2 + 6 (obviously the zeros don't count) yields 8. My rusty memory chirps up to tell me that 8 is a number of transformation, and given the impending elections, this strikes me as rife with potential. Some say it's also a number of justice, of authority and strength. It's also alleged to represent intensity, so if any of this means a hill of beans at all, it sounds to me like the coming year may be quite a roller coaster ride, indeed. Following along, 2007 will be a "9" year (last in a 9-year cycle) and 2008, just in time for the presidential election, will put us in the lap of a fresh "1" year, that of new beginnings.

Naturally, it's as likely as not that all of this is pure poppycock, but for the moment, it's a thought I like to entertain. Some people pick up their Bibles, some people read their horoscopes. Institution and tradition aside, we all search for the same thing: A reason larger than ourselves, a cause larger than our own tempestuous wills, a purpose larger than the screaming of the id.

I'd like to believe that this year will herald the change we, and this country, so desperately need, since the alternatives, to me, seem dire and bleak. Focusing on the latter is apt to do little more than lead us all to drink heavily and carry weapons in our cars, so even if our inspiration comes from something as questionable as back-of-the-napkin numerology, that's alright by me.

So, raise a glass to a better world, no matter how likely you are to find it. Barring insanity, optimism is really our only option.

Blessings to you and yours, and thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tough Read

but worth it. "Meet Specialist McCoy"

I Wonder How the Easter Bunny Rates

From a recent Harris poll:

About 22% of U.S. adults believe Mr. Hussein helped plan 9/11, the poll shows, and 26% believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded. Another 24% believe several of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqi...

So much for an informed electorate.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Working My Way Back

So, I've been in this bloggy fog lately.

(as if it's not been totally obvious, right?)

Not that the news inspires any less rage than it ordinarily does, of course, but as any other blogger will tell you, sometimes the urge to blather on about it wanes considerably. Now that the holiday craziness is starting to wind down, I'm trying to get my noodle in gear and get back to providing you dear readers (all 3 of you) with the snarky commentary you've grown to love.

Until the hamster in my head gets up to full speed, let me point you at some of the more interesting things lurking in my bookmarks:

James Wolcott provides one of the best descriptions of right-wing bloggers (and commenters) I've seen yet in "Headhunters". I love that man.

Some of you may have heard about a UCLA "study" that "proves" the MSM suffers from the ever-dreaded Liberal Bias. If you can stop laughing about that long enough to click the mouse, Media Matters decontructs this study beautifully.

Here's a couple of interviews from some of my personal heroes, Phil Donahue and Bill Moyers. Don't miss either.

Here's a good Rolling Stone article on Bush's Propaganda Boy, John Rendon. A must read for those of you interested in the myriad of Whys behind the Iraq clusterfuck.

And, just to round out such heady subjects with some Point 'n' Laugh levity, be sure to pay a visit to Fundies Say the Darndest Things. It will amuse, disturb, perplex and tickle you. (you might want to drink heavily while reading, incidentally)

More later. Hope everyone had a good holiday. I now have more little multi-colored plastic things in my house than should be allowed by law. And wouldn't you know it? My son is far less interested in the Legos than he is in wearing the clear plastic container over his head like some kind of Space Helmet by Hasbro. Go figure.

Any exciting New Year's plans? I hope for inebriation, but that's about it for the time being.

What a thrilling life I lead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dover, PA: ID Trial Ruling

December 20, 2005

Judge rules for the Plaintiffs! Hallefuckinglujah! Personally, I didn't expect anything else, but good news is good news, no matter how well anticipated.

Screw you, Discovery Institute. Go peddle your pseudo-scientific nonsense somewhere else.

And if you do, we'll look forward to seeing you in court.

Lily's BitchPOD Challenge


The holidays are in full swing here at Hydrogen and Stupidity!
Ok gadget sluts: listen up. I think I have the perfect Holineutral gift idea. My new bitchPOD. Does it shuffle your favorite Dusty Springfield or secret stash of the Clash? No. Does it shuffle nerdy podcasts of "All Things Considered"? No.
What it would shuffle are a playlist of responses to Fundie freaks, thumpers, misogynist slobs,consumptive bastards, crazed rednecks, and stupid people on line behind us at the store that complain about the speed of the cashier.
And I propose a site to download quips, snark, and general bitchery for .99 a download. When the offender opens their stupid mouths, hit a button and spare yourself the aggravation. A little speaker will proclaim anything from your position on reproductive liberty to your angst about the holidays. And the beauty of it is this: you don;t even have to formulate your own view if you don't feel like it! Just download an opinion!
If you had this imaginary device, what would your shuffle include?????
Happy Holineutraldays! -Lily

Monday, December 19, 2005

Colored Bubbles Are Coming



People tell me that I'm overly tangential, that its tough to see where I am going with things. That its a leap of faith, an investment on spec. Sometimes its worth the wait to know, but other times it amounts to a psychotic dead end. I'm not sure how my credit stands with you.
The point though is not to express my glee about colored bubbles, but rather to broach the subject of patents- because of course patents make profits possible. And profits get us talking about markets and policy matters, and so it goes.. back on the blognarrow track. Right?
Now in my post about automobile tracking devices, the subject invariably simmered down to what many of my rants simmer down to: the love/hate relationship with the long arms of legislation.
(My issues come from having a communist mom and a libertarian father, neither could cope with the fucking government)
At what point does the law play a role in personal responsibility, manipulating behaviors for some desireable, collectively good result? Like the seatbelt law? See, the subjects we talk about here: reproductive liberty, parental/spousal consent for abortion, obscenity laws, censorship, seat belts, patents, surveillance... have as a binding agent the question of this role of law and weighing its intrusiveness with its potential to protect. Even the hurricanes prompted discussion about the role of individuals,bureaucracy, and the roles of society in its organized multiplicities..
Much can be learned about our own views in reflecting on current events.
Take the bird flu and the push by politicians like Kucinich to ease patent restrictions. One side: public good, excessive profits disproportionate to investment, implications/costs of pandemic, role of government to interfere in markets for noble cause, precedent for interference in capitalism set by such noted commies as Reagan... (yeah, I said Reagan-recall the Air Traffic Controllers?)
Other side: Fucking around with patents can be equated to intellectual genocide. Nobody will work on innovative pharmaceuticals if they are robbed of the future rewards of cashing in and those implications extend to other technological advances. While the short term goal of serving the public interest might sound compelling, how many future lives will be taken because potential treatments were not wholeheartedly explored? Patent protection should be upheld for the public interest, or weakened?
Next: Blackberry and the patent lawsuit from hell. This begs a different question: if you have a patent, should you be compelled to use it? Is it fair to simply own the rights to an idea and forbid anyone from bringing it to fruition? One side: thats the beauty of the patent, the right to determine its use or lack of. Other side: what about the customers who will be essentially victimized by the demise of Blackberry? How much is a market worth? How can we extract the value of technology from the subsequent post-theft marketing?
Katrina: Can a citizen sue the government because they were negligent or ill equipped to handle a natural disaster? One side: Its bullshit, people primarily have an obigation to solve their own problems and natural disasters are faultless acts. People should stop looking to government to do for them. Get your own water!
The other: The purpose of government, at its core, is to 'provide for the general welfare' of its citizens, especially in cases of large scale interstate manuevers like disaster response, or less acute examples like trade and currency. To be that bureaucratically incompetent is like having an emergency room without a doctor. There is a reasonable 'presumption of care', a contractual covenant wherein taxes are paid and public officials are paid for stated purposes and that egregious failure to assist is negligence.
Certainly there are other recent cases: Smokers or big tobacco, who's at fault? Spying on citizens- necessary for security or sodomy by Big Brother? Google- autonomous company permitted to archive your search behaviors (and if you don't like it don't use google) or an example of information abuse?
Colored bubbles are coming, but why? That brings me to the last question: do we patent and create what the market asks for and demands, a responsive market...or do we create needs and wants and set about convincing the public via marketing? And how much of our wasteful economy can be traced to the answer? -Lily

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Big Google is Watching

I was trying to ignore the articles in my inbox from my well meaning friends about internet censorship because-truth be told- I really do not want to wrap my brain around the implications of that right now. But as an admitted insomniac I seem to have plenty of sleepless down time lately to infuse my wakeful hours with the remnants of my nocturnal paranoia fest. I used to think that if I purged my angry brain, elusive sleep would tap the peaceful void... but its like an exponential eradication...the more I vent, the more bubbles to the surface, and so it goes.
So my mind goes to the blogosphere, this quiet corner, the good folks that rant and read and share like little bics at an Elton John concert during "Candle In The Wind" before it became "English Rose". Contrived smart-ass flickers- at times. But they are little boxes of conversation. Good,bad, stupid,profound.
What does this freedom mean to us? Anything?
To me, they represent yet another form of dissent. One whose days could be numbered like so many other things. One cannot help but think about the recent news about internet censorship without getting the creeps. Its nothing new in other countries, and tech saavy folks know that search engines are manipulated all the time. Simultaneous searches in different countries, after all, yeild different results. How long before anti-war or anti-administration search terms get puched downward, before the internet goes the way of MSM?
I heard a story on public radio about google. Maybe some of you caught it. Now google has no difficulty in admitting that it keeps and archives ALL transactions. Your searches, your emails, your deleted messages, your porn, your personal chatter. Now consider how fast and efficient searches have become, and consider an internet with a matrix of behavioral formulae and couple that concept with a near limitless capacity for storage and VOILA- big brother is watching. And recording, and archiving, and profiling. With no limit in sight on its use. No discussion about ethical dilemmas. No outrage.
Now it used to be that collecting data on citizens was too long and impractical to merit use of the time required and the energy. Paranoid radicals that believed that they were being monitored were accused of grandiosity. Who would track harmless hippies? But now that the machinery is in place, such tracking is effortless. And it has seeped into our culture slowly, on cat feet. And there is no need to be discerning with its use or stingy with its scope.
We are all used to supermarket cards and EZ Pass to get through tolls quickly, all tools that can track ordinary citizens. We are used to the erosion of our civil liberties and the forfeit of our privacy in the name of security. And now we hardly blink when we consider the meaning of google's position. How long before the search records attributed to your traceable ISP are fodder for the courts? Subject to subpoena? Subject to spying? How hard would it be to do a search in this massive google archive on redhaired crazy women that hate Santorum and buy soy chai?
This is bad, folks. This needs our notice.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Click,Clack, and Tattling Cars

My love for NPR's "Car Talk" remains one of my quirks, along with a fondness for Cuban conga cds and orange tic tacs. Just some of the things that I like without examination. Who knows why?
Now TMPO can relate to this: I also like to drive other people's nice cars. I know, I know. I'm not a materialist and car appreciation is a guy thing, right? (joke)It goes against who I am. Really. But even hippie chicks have some weaknesses.
Once I drove my mom's beamer with Maria Callas, along a fifteen mile stretch of double ocean views on a Long Island inlet, and had to admit: I had love for a damned machine. It was smooth, it was beautiful, the sound was amazing. It's a car that I would never buy,and quite frankly my desire for it was astonishing, but humans are full of contradictions. At least I am. Sadly.
What does this have to do with politics? Or NPR?
Well it is common knowledge that BMW and other cars have technology that communicate via satellite about the status of the car. This is a value added feature, like so many other devices on these vehicles.Some people are familiar with OnStar and other such features that enable cars to interact remotely. Anyway, a caller to "Car Talk" asked about a device installed on her car as part of an insurance company research program. The insurance company had asked her to participate, and she wanted to know what types of information could be recorded from the various components of the typical dash. Interesting.
The answer? Everything. Speed, seat belt use, nature of starts and stops, acceleration. At this time, the tattling car would reveal patterns for research purposes only. But how long before Auto Insurance companies get such tracking devices turned into standard equipment? To track your behavior and adjust the rates accordingly? To see how safely and responsibly YOU interact with the item they insure. Yes, your car would be able to potentially tell them how badly you treat it. And if you obey the law. It would be able to tell your insurance company what you do even when you are not caught doing it.
Now one brother at "Car Talk" said it might not be so bad. There are crazy people.
It forces me to ask: Would such a device function as a deterrent for the crazy driver? Again it comes down to the question of balancing rights with societal good. What if tracking driving habits led to a ten percent reduction of fatalities per year? If it forced parents to buckle up babies or risk a rate hike? Would it hurt some populations more than others, say, families that share cars? Would you feel violated, watched, spied on, tracked like a kid? Would you buy a car with this if your rate were to be cut by 50%?? Would you buy into this idea?
What happens between a car and a woman is nobody's business, I am inclined to say.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pic of the Day

Just for Bill O'Reilly.

Not Dead, Just.... Juiceless?

In case any of you have been wondering where the hell I've been....

Dealing with the mundane, mostly. Kid, family, house, work... you know, all that stuff that happens between blogging. To those of you still checking in regularly, thank you. I see Lily's been posting and for her continued contributions, I'm grateful.

As for me, I'll get back in the swing of things here, soon enough. I think my little brain has just needed a bit of a break. Enjoy the pre-holiday business and all that.

If I forget to post something in a more timely fashion, here's wishing all of you a warm and wonderful holiday season (yes, I said "holiday". Neener neener).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Day The Music Died




















October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try.
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too.
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one.
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

Monday, December 05, 2005

News Junkie

At another blog, a blograde was lamenting the quiet news week. "There isn't much to write about these days."
Slap me senseless and call me Paris, but huh? Perhaps because I am a certifiable news junkie I hardly ever feel that way. I decided to dig deeper. One thing I love about CB here is her ability to wade through the swamplands of MSM and save me time because I simply cannot get to it all.
Nothing to write about? What did this chick mean? Why did I care? Why didn't I just go warm my feet at My Left Wing? Turns out that what she meant was that there was an absence of sensational stories, an absence of Schiavo-like sparring, an absence of scandal. There were no stories with which to catapult her pet topics, no venue for her commentary. No little Mclaughlin party, just for her. She did not want to reduce herself to Hollywood news. Did not feel like researching ConRice's remarks on torture. Did not feel compelled to follow the Global warming conference in Canada. Where is the news that everyone is talking about???
If everyone is talking about it, we don't need to. I think its a given that several billion people are more capable than I am. I ask about conformity and suggest that we can write about more of the under reported things, one of the compelling reasons to read a blog is to get a broader perspective. When I go to ten blogs and eight of them are saying the same thing, I feel kinship, which has its place, but I also find many have lifted their content from some of the others like a big bloggy bandwagon. Everyone wants to be the next Kos. Can't blame them.
"I'm not like you, I can't masturbate to NPR, with more boring opinions and criticisms than my little typing fingers can carry." she snorts. ouch
But the beauty of the blogosphere is that nobody has to agree with what I think is important. There are so many blogs- truly there is a niche for everyone, whatever your political persuasion or your recreational leanings. Some people feel strongly about an issue and see it as counterproductive to dilute their energies into dozens of topics when they can stay on top of some key developments on matters they feel able to speak to. Perhaps it is a matter of understanding product. And as neighbors, we need to see the value in millions of little soap boxes, good or bad, shitty or brilliant, critical or compliant, recipes or rebellion.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Oh, For the Seduction of Organic Hysteria

Ever hear of the Nuremberg code? Many have not. Some think its about Nazi behavior. It is. Sort of. Any parallels expressed or implied are completely coincidental. Check back here later to read it. Moving on...

Organic Consumers Association is an organization that sends out periodic consumer alerts, worth a plug. Now before you groan and say "oh great, a granola head in our midst" I just want to let you know that despite my penchance for histrionic fact collection, this latest has me pacing around in spite of the whispers from the CB-like muse on my shoulder that says "beware hippie hysteria". I've been following this for a while, though. Its evil.

(Sigh) I know that I rant off the cuff and that I have more than one grassy knoll post under my belt. My suspicions are often fodder for mockery, I talk about 'feelings' and diversity... my angst has been the subject of attacks by even those in close blogmind proximity that do not know of my personal real-time work, that assume that I regularly whore and hack for Democrats, Chomsky, Guthrie, Phish, or the Bonotypes... whatever...reading "Mother Jones" all day lamenting my apathetic mind. Yeah, I suck at contriving posts that are snarkaliciously juicy. A pit bull, I'm not. I have a kid named after the weather, after all. I am an emotional train wreck and this impedes my clarity. I don't blog to win.

What can I say? BUT- being a stereotypical liberal does not mean I bleed marijuana or cannot speak to truth. I am about awareness, not making a sport of being a contrarian. Sometimes a clumsy heartfelt post is all I can manage, sans the linkopedia. But I offer my rant here regardless, because it involves testing on children. And ok, I'll throw in some links.

Per OCA: "Public comments are now being accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its newly proposed federal regulation regarding the testing of chemicals and pesticides on human subjects. On August 2, 2005, Congress had mandated the EPA create a rule that permanently bans chemical testing on pregnant women and children, without exception. But the EPA's newly proposed rule is ridden with exceptions where chemical studies may be performed on children in certain situations like the following: Children who "cannot be reasonably consulted," such as those that are mentally handicapped or orphaned newborns, may be tested on. With permission from the institution or guardian in charge of the individual, the child may be exposed to chemicals for the sake of research. Parental consent forms are not necessary for testing on children who have been neglected or abused. Chemical studies on any children outside of the U.S. are acceptable. "

Yes, it does suggest the convenience of utilizing abused children, such expedient permission!!! And the spectre of institutional abuse, a staple of American progress!

Now in an earlier thread, we touched briefly on the theme of "The Constant Gardener" and pharmaceutical testing in Africa. While this is fiction (and I am digressing, see the problem?) there have been many documented cases involving pharmaceuticals, HIV, TB, and opportunistic infections on African populations. This is not a new topic in some circles. But it is arguably a new topic in mainstream America because until recently little attention has been paid to chemical testing in general- not among our military, our children, or the world's children.

Last year when the media began reporting proposals to test chemicals (pesticides, etc.) on American children for modest compensation, groups got on board to campaign for congressional intervention to reign in the EPA. Citing discrimination against the poor, and legal challenges- they forced the EPA to revise their standards. "Revise"=key word:

70 FR 53865 26.408(a) "The IRB (Independent Review Board) shall determine that adequate provisions are made for soliciting the assent of the children, when in the judgment of the IRB the children are capable of providing assent...If the IRB determines that the capability of some or all of the children is so limited that they cannot reasonably be consulted, the assent of the children is not a necessary condition for proceeding with the research. Even where the IRB determines that the subjects are capable of assenting, the IRB may still waive the assent requirement..."

Now according to the OCA:
"Under this clause, a mentally handicapped child or infant orphan could be tested on without assent. This violates the Nuremberg Code, an international treaty that mandates assent of test subjects as "absolutely essential," and that the test subject must have "legal capacity to give consent" and must be "so situated as to exercise free power of choice." This loophole in the rule must be completely removed. "

Read the EPA request for public comment, and learn more about the EPA's perspective here.

Read the National Academies Press Response "Intentional Human Dosing Studies for EPA Regulatory Purposes: Scientific and Ethical Issues" and the NRDC statements here.

For information about the Snopes entry, which was actually not directly related to this alert, read the response here.

Whether it's testing of pesticides, medicine, immunizations, MKULTRA, exposing innocent people to white phosphorous or depleted uranium, I believe that we need to take a stand against the exploitive use of 'disposable' or 'ass-owned' populations. While I can support PETA and groups defending humane treatment of animals, lets see Hollywood come out for children who cannot speak out against the use of their bodies, who must rely on the sanity of adults and the scant protections afforded by law. Lets see Americans valuing children, not reducing them to test subjects. Lets see parents get involved, not try to make a quick buck on exposing their kids to pesticides. Lets see Veterans and military families rage about the injections, exposures, 'lost records', babies born to Gulf war vets with chromosomal abnormalities... Lets see bloggers pause from sparring about the President, the neocons, and the war for five minutes to consider the prospects of these children. How 'bout it? Humor the hippie?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Well, This is Disturbing

Remember hearing, years ago now, that Los Alamos was suffering from "accounting problems" with its plutonium? Well, evidently those problems still lack a solution.

From the SFGate:

Enough plutonium to make dozens of nuclear bombs hasn't been accounted for at the UC-run Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and may be missing, an activist group says in a new report.

There is no evidence that the weapons-grade plutonium has been stolen or diverted for illegal purposes, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said. However, the amount of unaccounted-for plutonium -- more than 600 pounds, and possibly several times that -- is so great that it raises "a vast security issue," the group said in a report to be made public today.

(snip)

UC spokesman Chris Harrington said Los Alamos "does an annual inventory of special nuclear materials which is overseen by (the Energy Department). These inventories have been occurring for 20-plus years. Special nuclear materials are carefully tracked to a minute quantity."

The report concludes that at least 661 pounds of plutonium generated at the lab over the last half-century is not accounted for. The atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945 contained about 13 pounds of plutonium.

"The security implications . . . are extremely serious, since less than 2 percent of the lowest unaccounted-for plutonium is enough to make one nuclear bomb," the report said.

How comforting to know that such progress has been made. If this stuff is tracked "to a minute quantity", one has to wonder how 661 pounds is defined, exactly. Does this not fall well OUTSIDE "minute"?!? When I think of such small quantities, typically decimals are involved. I mean, that's a little more than a bookkeeping error, don't you think? It's not like rounding 0.6 to 1.00 because some bean counter forgot to format his spreadsheet properly. Now that I'd be willing to call "minute".

Even still, I'm no chemist, but I'm working on the assumption that even tiny amounts of plutonium (for fucksake!) are dangerous, and that it would be sloppy, at best, to "lose" say, just an ounce or so. But 661 POUNDS?!?!

I expect the story (should it actually gain any real traction in the press) will eventually be explained away by some Los Alamos rep saying, effectively, "Heh. Found it. Sorry... Never mind", but even if such a benign tale were true, that's a rather cold comfort, don't you think?

Abhorrent moral implications of nuclear weaponry aside, you'd think the very LEAST these guys could do is keep track of their materials.

Many years ago, while working for Wells Fargo, I spent the better part of a day tracking down $.06.

Yep, six measly cents.

Since the pennies involved were the net result of several million dollars representing several dozen transactions, it had the potential to be quite a pain in the ass. When I was ready to climb the walls after nearly 5 hours into the process, two other people got involved. We did finally find it, but we sure as hell weren't going to leave for the day until we did. And that was just $.06. Easy to write off with relative impunity, but it was the principle of the thing. When you balance out at closing, your totals should be zero. Everything accounted for. Every last penny. To miss such a basic benchmark would be shoddy work, and simply beneath us, to say nothing of required.

Are we now to believe that NUCLEAR WEAPONS MANUFACTURERS don't hold themselves to the same standards? One could reasonably argue that the accounting protocol for plutonium be just a tad stricter than the mundane rules of municipal bond processing. Then again, maybe I'm being a hard ass.

Maybe the staff at Wells Fargo should trade jobs with the boys at Los Alamos. I can at least vouch for the unyielding regulations of the former.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Love Note to my Blogrades

(This spilled out of my head as a comment on another site, but after re-reading it, thought it deserved a spot here, for any of my fellow bloggers lurking in the audience....)

"Over the holiday weekend (while not much was happening on blogs), I wandered back into two usenet forums I used to frequent. Not surprisingly, the same ditto heads are still there, spouting their same vacuous bullshit (global warming is a myth, evolution is deeply flawed, torture is just fine, thank you) and like a moth to a flame, I've been responding to these idiots. All it's doing is raising my blood pressure and stirring my (formerly latent) insomnia.

Why? For the love of everything holy, WHY do I do it???

Well, not because I have any illusions of changing the minds of the especially dim, but rather for the benefit of the observers. I figure chances are, more than a few of them are "moderates" for lack of a better word, and the kinds that we all know are out there -- Too Busy With Living (bill paying, kid raising, etc etc etc) to catch anything more than soundbytes. And heaven forbid those soundbytes come courtesy of Faux News.

I wandered in originally while I was finishing school. The arguing was good for my paper-writing and I always like a chance to work on my debating skills, no matter what the incentive or environment. But after a couple of years, I was frustrated blind by some of these people, to the point in which I could easily envision decking any one of them squarely in the jaw on our first encounter. So, I split. I don't need that, my son and husband don't need that. Hell, my PETS don't need that. Mommy really doesn't want to SEEK OUT Xanax at this point, you see.

Morbidly curious on a slow holiday weekend, my resolve faltered. (Forgive me father, for I have sinned)...

Maybe my recent return had a little more to do with hubris than I'd like to admit [...]
...exchanges with adversaries does wonders for clarifying one's own perspectives and arguments -- I'd be lying if I didn't confess to taking sincere pleasure in really spanking some of the especially moronic with LOGIC and FACT (Wonder Twin Powers Activate!). I was smugly satisfied watching them try to change the subject mid-thread after a particularly sharp & substantiated lobby from me.

But, the victory was hollow -- it always is. I walk away from those exchanges so disheartened, so disappointed, so demoralized... And I'm reminded why I finally got off my ass and thought "I should go find out what this blogging thing is all about". This is not to say that I'm content to live in an echo chamber (my ego isn't THAT fragile), but seriously, getting to read the contributions from Genuine Progressive Citizens on a variety of leftie blogs has renewed my faith in people. I hate to sound schlocky, but it's true.

I LOVE you people.

Monday, November 28, 2005

An Eloquent RSVP

Don't miss this.

Where's the revolution? (Part 2)

Over the last several years, largely since the Right assumed control (a nicer thing to say than outright ownership) of all three branches of the Government, those on the left have been positively inundated with two terms: "We won, you lost, the majority has spoken" and various forms of "The robed Oligarchy". While folks with a higher IQ than that of your average brick believe this be pure crap, we are sometimes hard pressed to explain why neither term has merit. So, I'm going to give it a shot.

This whole majority thing has puzzled me for years. We are constantly told that not everyone of voting age registered to vote, though the increase in registration during 2000 and 2004, and not all those who registered actually voted. So I wanted to find out what this majority consisted of, and what it amounted to.

The population of the US, according to the Census Bureau, is around 298 million people. Of this population, 197 million are citizens of voting age, which represents 66% of the total population. Of those citizens capable of voting, 142 million of them are registered to vote, which represents 72% of the voting age population and just about 48% of the total population. At this point, it becomes pretty obvious that a "majority" of people CANNOT vote. But, lest we dilute the stats, let's move on to those who actually voted. According to the Census doc linked to above, approximately 126 million registered voters actually voted. This represents 88% of those registered and 42% of the total population. Wait, it gets worse. Wikipedia asserts that around 123 million people voted for president, which represents 97% of voters (sounds good, right?), 86% of those registered to vote, 62% of voting age citizens, and 41% of the total population.

And President George W Bush, the man with the mandate, acquired just over 50% (50.77% according to Wikipedia) of that presidential vote. So, he got 62 million votes, or thereabouts. That amounts to 43% of registered voters, 31% of voting age citizens, and 20.8% of the total population of the country. That's not a majority, that's not a plurality, that's not a mandate for jack shit.

Now, I'll be a lot more concise about this whole judicial oligarchy meme. There are 535 members of Congress, 9 Justices in the Supreme Court, 15 Cabinet positions, The President and The VP, to run the country. 542 of those positions are elected, the remainder are appointed or hired. Knowing that all the Federal power in this country is concentrated in the hands 0 .000001% of the country's population puts a different complexion on the whole oligarchy thing. As if that wasn't enough, according to Heritage.org, incumbents enjoy an overwhelming advantage in their re-election campaigns in terms of name recognition, access to party money, and contributions from "business interests" whose positions they support. They also tend to get re-elected more than 90% of the time. In fact, the leadership of the both party's tend to retain their seats for DECADES, and achieve seniority positions on committees that control how the government functions. They appoint judges, particularly to the Federal bench, to LIFETIME appointments.

Yeah, there's an oligarchy all right, but it goes much deeper than the incurious parroters of the current "majority" talking points can begin to believe. You know the key difference? Legislators make the law, but judges are bound by it. They are reliant on precedent and on established law, which naturally curtails the lengths to which they can go. Not so the legislators who can create law with a single person as the target (Terry Schiavo), can abridge the rights of a minority in egregious ways (homosexuals), and can overreach their offices in the most ridiculous of ways by legislating sentencing laws. I don't care to have judges in charge any more than I do politicians, but I can't help viewing those in the "unelected judges" camp with the same mild pity I view Intelligent Designers, Young Earthers, and the Heavens Gaters.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Evolution Site Under Fire"

:::banging head on desk:::


Via Yahoo:
California couple has sued the operators of a University of California-Berkeley Web site designed to help teachers teach evolution, claiming it improperly strays into religion.

Jeanne and Larry Caldwell of Granite Bay say portions of the Understanding Evolution Web site amount to a government endorsement of certain religious groups over others because the site is partly funded through a public money grant from the National Science Foundation.

In the lawsuit filed last month, the Caldwells contend the site is an effort "to modify the beliefs of public school science students so they will be more willing to accept evolutionary theory as true."

The plaintiffs are not proponents of "intelligent design" — a theory that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher intelligence — but they object to the teaching of evolution as scientific fact, Jeanne Caldwell said.

The site is run by UC Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology and paid in part by a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Two university scientists and a foundation official were named as defendants.

An attorney representing the Berkeley scientists said the courts have repeatedly rejected the argument that teaching evolution in itself is teaching a religious idea.

And who are the Caldwells? Are they scientists? Biologists? Geologists? Armchair palentologists? You know, are they, in any way, qualified to assess the veracity of the Berkeley site's information? Good question. Then again, like that matters, right? After all, the fundamentalist Christian meme is "teach the controversy", totally ignoring that science is not now, nor was it ever, democratic.

(This is the most egregiously twisted spin of political correctness in this whole "ID" mess, by the way. And to the moderates that are falling for it -- Pull your heads from your nether regions, please. You're being had.)

Apparently all you have to believe is that "evolution is flawed" to get your day in court, expert consensus to the contrary be damned. I mean, it's not like our court systems aren't already crowded with frivolous lawsuits, right?


The Mercury News article elaborates in further detail:

The suit, which was filed last month, specifically objects to portions of the Understanding Evolution Web site that deal with the interplay of science and religion. For example, it challenges the site's linking to doctrinal statements from a variety of religions to demonstrate that "most Christian and Jewish religious groups have no conflict with evolution.''

That amounts to a government endorsement of certain religious groups over others, the suit contends, and is an effort "to modify the beliefs of public school science students so they will be more willing to accept evolutionary theory as true.''

An attorney representing the Berkeley scientists said the lawsuit makes a variation on an argument that courts have repeatedly rejected -- that teaching evolution in itself is teaching a religious idea.

"The courts in many cases have said evolution is a scientific idea and there is no prohibition on the government teaching a scientific idea even if it conflicts'' with some people's religious beliefs, said university counsel Christopher Patti.

Larry Caldwell, who has two children in Roseville schools, also has sued administrators in the Roseville Joint Union High School District in an evolution-related controversy. The suit stems from his efforts -- which he says were frustrated by the district -- to persuade the school board to give students material challenging Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The Pacific Justice Institute, a Sacramento non-profit that focuses on religious freedom and parental rights, has joined Caldwell in preparing both lawsuits.

Not surprisingly, the Pacific Justice Institute looks like another JDs-for-Jesus outfit. As some of you may recall, the defense firm in the Dover suit actively sought out a school board willing to insert Pandas into the curriculum and hit paydirt with Bonsell et al out here in Pennsyltucky.

Hopping aboard the Wanton Speculation Express, I'd say that I won't be the least bit surprised if the PJI heard of the Caldwell's earlier suit and "invited" them to file this grievance. "And we won't even CHARGE you!" Hey! What zealot could refuse that deal? A little press, a little lawyering, all for the low-low price of sacrificing a 4th graders reading of the 1st Amendment. Woo hoo!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

In Case There's Still Any Doubt

Exhibit A:

Brushing aside international criticism of the CIA-run prisons set up in eight countries, Bush said that the nation is at war with an enemy "that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet, we'll aggressively pursue them, but we'll do so under the law." Bush, who spoke to reporters during a brief visit to the capital of Panama, also asserted, "We do not torture."

His comments followed efforts by Vice President Cheney to lobby lawmakers to exempt the CIA from an amendment that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The exemption would cover the secret prisons.


Exhibit B:

Al-Jamadi was captured by Navy SEALs on November 4th, 2003, and after a "roughing up" (in which six of his ribs were broken), taken to Abu Ghraib and handed over to the CIA. Guards under the direction of Mark Swanner handcuffed his arms behind his back to a window five feet above the ground - a technique known as "Palestinian hanging" (a variant of strapado which causes intense pain possible dislocation of the shoulders, and eventual death by asphyxiation, in much the same way as crucifixion). 45 minutes later, he was dead. The guards called to assist when he stopped responding found him hanging with all his weight on his hands and wrists; one noted that he "had never seen anyone's arms positioned like that, and he was surprised they didn't just pop out of their sockets."

When the body was lowered to the floor, "blood came gushing out of his nose and mouth, as if a faucet had been turned on". Attempts were made to surreptitiously dispose of the corpse, and some evidence (including the bloodied hood that had covered al-Jamadi's face) was destroyed - but the body was eventually autopsied, and the death labelled a homicide. The pathologist performing the autopsy was not told of the circumstances of al-Jamadi's death, and judged that he had died of "compromised respiration" and "blunt force injuries". But experts approached by the New Yorker are clear; while al-Jamadi's beating was a contributing factor, the cause of death was asphyxiation caused by the way in which he had been hung. The man had been tortured to death.


Exhibit C:




Are we clear now?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pic of the Day


(really hoping the copyright gods don't smite me, but this was too good not to share. Source)

Harvest

If Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, then it must be preceded by an accounting of what we have, what we have lost, what we have yet to achieve.

To this end, I suggest you read Andrew C White's diary "I've been thinking a lot lately about war".

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Note to Seeman's Critics

Jeff Seemann, Democratic candidate for Congress (Ohio, 16th Dist.) is doing something I think is quite remarkable period, much less for a would-be politician.

From his own diary of last Friday:

Most people do not understand the difficulties that our neediest Americans have each and every day. It's hard to fully comprehend issues until you've personally tackled them...and that's what I intend to do.

[...]

In two days, I'll be going homeless. I'll be out on the streets for 100 hours, learning the harsh lessons that countless people go through every day of their lives. I believe that this is the best way to represent people...by walking a mile in their shoes.

Starting this Sunday, I will spend 100 hours homeless in Stark County, Ohio. From Sunday afternoon until late Thursday evening, I'll disappear into the city. No cell phone, no hot shower in the morning, no evenings with my girlfriend, no money in my pocket, and no Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I believe I need to immerse myself into the life with no cheating. If I want to understand what homelessness is like (and how to confront it legislatively), I need to experience it for myself.

Every day, I will make one phone call so I can check in with one friend. That friend will post my experiences online, and I will personally post a recap at the end of the 100 hours.

I will NOT be notifying the local media of this experience until it is complete. I do not view this as a photo-op or a hot story, and I do not want any reporters looking for me while I'm trying to learn from experience. Also, this is no joke and I am not trying to gain anything from the plight of homelessness, except an understanding of what it takes to survive...

Evidently he's checking in by telephone (with change he manages to scrounge up off the street) with his friend Michelle, who's been relaying his experience on several blogs (dKos links here, here and here).

Generally, most of the comments from readers are supportive, and rightfully so. It's one thing to work on behalf of charitable organizations, but it's another thing altogether to actually walk in the shoes of those you wish to help, no matter how temporarily. His exercise is clearly one of perspective-broadening, with the intent of bringing that viewpoint to bear on his future work as a legislator.

The reason I mention it here, beyond simply bringing it to your attention, is to scold the (admittedly small) number of people that reply with any number of ridiculous comments -- that he's going this primarily as a fundraising exercise, that he's just trying to evoke sentiment from the bleeding-heart-liberal crowd, and that he can't possibly ever REALLY know what it's like to be homeless what with a finite cap on his tenure on the street.

The first two claims sound like dismissiveness run amok, and while the third may have some merit, I have to ask this: Could you imagine, say, Tom Delay getting out there and doing such a thing? How about Hillary Clinton? Bill Frist? Nancy Pelosi? Sam Brownback?

HA! Never. Never in a million years. Not if their very re-elections depended on it.

But just imagine if they did. Imagine that, in a parallel world, every member of Congress were required to do something like this before taking office. How much attention and effort do you then think they'd put into addressing the multitude of problems plaguing our social services? Do you think their detached apathy would last beyond the first night? Do you think any of them would have the nerve to suggest that people ever CHOOSE to be homeless? Do you think they'd be so eager to cut support program funding at every opportunity?

Back in the real world, where such Congressional passage rites don't happen, these critics need to pull their heads out of their asses for a minute and consider this:

You don't get to bitch, moan and whine about how out-of-touch politicians are, and then condemn their efforts to get IN touch. You don't get to piss all over an effort like Jeff's when you've been screaming incessantly about the chronic ambivalence of career politicians.

Get it?? You can't have it both ways, kids. Grow the fuck up and understand that, especially now, ANY candidate that shows an interest in walking his talk should be supported, praised and respected, without reservation. Period. Full stop.

Reform Judaism’s Leader Criticizes Religious Right for Intolerance

:::Standing Ovation:::

We are particularly offended by the suggestion that the opposite of the Religious Right is the voice of atheism. We are appalled when "people of faith" is used in such a way that it excludes us, as well as most Jews, Catholics, and Muslims. What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God and that anyone who disagrees with you is not a person of faith?

More after the jump...

So we ask our neighbors on the Religious Right to take note: We are religious Jews, gathered in Houston to study, pray, and commit ourselves to God. And yes, we are generally liberal in our politics. But our liberalism flows directly from our religious commitments.

And we worry that you don't understand what this means, or what it means for anyone to be a liberal religious believer.

What it means is this: that we bring a measure of humility to our religious belief. We study religious texts day and night, but we have no direct lines to heaven and we aren't always sure that we know God's will.

It means believing that religion involves concern for the poor and the needy, and giving a fair shake to all. When people talk about God and yet ignore justice, it just feels downright wrong to us. When they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy.

It means that "family values" require providing health care to every child and that God cares about the 12 million children without health insurance.
It means valuing a child with diabetes over a frozen embryo in a fertility clinic, and seeing the teaching of science as a primary social good.

And it means reserving the right for each person to prayerfully make decisions for herself about when she dies.

It also means believing in legal protection for gay couples. We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read that text in a very different way. But we cannot understand why any two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society. We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations. And today, we cannot feel anything but rage when we hear about gay men and women, some on the front lines, being hounded out of our armed services. Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry.


More here and here.

Hat tip: BiMP

"Army Admits It Dumped Tons of Toxic Poisons..."

I feel like I should be suprised by this news, but I'm not. In fact, I'd nearly presume it's par for the course.

In an alarming piece of news courtesy of the Newport News Daily Press, we find that the Army has been dumping chemical weapons at sea for decades, and some of it is now a toxic sludge that is poisoning all of us in more ways than we can imagine. Even though a select few have known for years that the Army was disposing of chemical weapons in ways not healthy for any of us, we are told that "records obtained by the Daily Press show that the previously classified weapopns-dumping program was far more extensive than had been suspected." The Army now admits it dumped 64 MILLION pounds of nerve and mustard gas agents, 400,000 chemical filled bombs, landmines, and rockets, and more than 500 TONS of radioactive waste into the seas. This is a disaster beyond description, and affects every living thing on Earth.


Catch the rest.

Pic of the Day


Here's wishing you and yours a yummy holiday.

This should be a good occasion for me to pontificate a bit on the nature of national holidays and/or thankfulness, but honestly it's not in me today. Suffice to say, be grateful that 2008 is just a little bit closer than it was last Thanksgiving.

Instead, I'll direct you to Robert Jensen's "A National Day of Atonement" over at Greenlily's Lose the Noose. It'll serve as a sound helping of iconoclasm if you're weary of commerical cliches and mental gluttony.

Enjoy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

"Blame the People"

Creeping back incrementally from his recent hiatus, Michael Reynolds replies to Cheney's latest blame-dodge. As is his norm, it's succinct, to the point, and very well done. Enjoy.

AFA Claims Palmdale Parents Eat Their Young

Ok, well, not really, but they might as well. Their recent fit is equally silly.

During a brief visit to a forum I used to frequent, I came across this post. It's an email from that wonderful group, Champions of the Narrow Mind, the American Family Association.

I'm reminded, once again, that these people don’t give a rusty fuck about actual details or facts. What they are interested in, however, is invective and fear-mongering. To wit:

Activist Judges say they, not parents, have final say in teaching sex education to our children

Activist Federal Judges Strip Rights From Parents

As shocking as it may seem, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that courts--not parents--have the final authority on when and what to teach children about sex education.

In their ruling, the Court determined that parents DO NOT have a fundamental right to control when, where and how their children are taught about sex. Rather, the Court ruled, that right belongs to activist judges.

I know you probably aren't believing this, so I have provided a link to an article on the recent ruling written by Kathleen Parker, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. Click here to read the column.

This is simply another encroachment by activist federal judges to take away the rights of parents and turn those rights over to the judges. These liberal activist judges feel they know better how to raise your children and grandchildren than you do!

It is time for parents and grandparents to tell activist judges to back off! Sign the petition. Forward the petition to your friends and family. We will forward the petitions to the U.S. Supreme Court where this case will eventually be decided. Hopefully, by then, Supreme Court nominee Justice Samuel Alito will have been confirmed and this crazy ruling by the Ninth Circuit can be overturned.

Click Here To Sign the Petition to the Supreme Court Now!

Sincerely,

Don

Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman
American Family Association

P.S. Please forward this e-mail message to your family and friends!


(I've stripped the above of its native links. I am not sending traffic to those yahoos.)

As you might imagine, curiosity got the better of me, so I did a little research.

Not surprisingly, the AFA’s problem isn’t “activist judges”. Their problem is that these judges weren’t activist ENOUGH. This particular suit was rightfully decided for a number of reasons relating to jurisdiction, scope and, well, “cognizability” of the plaintiff’s arguments. In short, the plaintiffs presented a lousy case.

Here’s a good case analysis, in case you don't have the time to wade through the 20+ page ruling:

In Palmdale, California, public school officials and a psychology graduate student administered a survey to students aged seven to ten. The parents had previously consented to the administration of the survey, but to their surprise, their kids came home and told them that the survey included lots of questions about sex. One group of parents found this absurd, intrusive, and offensive; they consequently sued the school district, claiming that the administration of the survey was a violation of their rights. The District Court dismissed the case, holding that the parents had not raised a valid claim under the law. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's dismissal, stating in their opinion that "there is no free-standing fundamental right of parents 'to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs'"

As you can imagine, this decision irked a lot of people, including some religious conservatives who immediately tarred it as another loopy liberal decision from the Ninth Circuit. This description is a bit off the mark: The Ninth Circuit actually refused to "discover" or "invent" a new Constitutional right, which is a stance normally thought of as conservative (or at least constructionist). To be fair, some conservatives did acknowledge this point.2 Others, however, were less calm. Teeth were gnashed, garments were rent, and the imminent death of society was predicted; the more excitable commentators fumed that "school administrators...[had] arrogate[d] to themselves the right to raise such topics with [a] child,"3 and that the state had seized the power to to completely override the parents' wishes in the matter.

That is not a correct interpretation of this decision. To understand why not, you first need to understand what a United States court actually does in a case like this. Conceptually, it's fairly simple: The parties to a case bring a question before the Court, which does its best to provide an answer based on precedent, existing law, and general legal principles. With some important exceptions, particularly at the level of the Supreme Court, the Court only answers the question it's asked and does not spontaneously volunteer answers to other questions. (Sometimes it drops hints, though.) In other words, there may be several valid claims that the parents could raise, but they--not the Court--must bring them up.

With that in mind, here is the question that the Court was asked:
1. If you are a parent of a child in public school, does the Fourteenth Amendment give you the right to be the sole provider of information about sex?
That sounds a bit less contentious and a bit more technical, doesn't it? Just to drive the point home, here are some questions the Court was not asked:
1. If you are a parent of a child in public school, does the First Amendment give you the right to be the sole provider of information about sex?
2. If you are a parent of a child in private or parochial school, or if you home- school, does the Fourteenth Amendment give you the right to be the sole provider of information about sex?
3. Shouldn't they have notified the parents that the questionnaire asked about sex?
4. Aren't these obnoxious questions to ask of a seven-year-old?
5. In fact, isn't this questionnaire completely asinine?

The answer to these questions could be "Yes" in every case, but the Court would still have arrived at the same decision. In fact, I have not researched the first two questions at all, but I suspect that the answer to questions three and four is "Yes." As for question five, the sex-related questions appear to come from the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (or the Young Children variant), which is in fact a published and well-utilized survey. I have never used this instrument and cannot speak to its utility at all. Frankly, though, I have my doubts: Seven-year-olds often have some pretty weird ideas about what sex is, and even if they do know, they're most likely to spend their time doodling gigantic penises in the margins of their answer sheet.

But none of this is really relevant--what about the question before the Court? To judge by the opinion (which is not always a safe thing to do), the parents' argument is extraordinarily weak. The basic reasoning goes something like this: Parents have the right under the Fourteenth Amendment to make decisions about their children's care, custody, and control. This right is not absolute, however, and can be regulated by the state to some degree, particularly with regard to kids in public school. The administration of a questionnaire falls well within the range of activities permitted to the schools and their regulators, and therefore there is no legal basis on which to restrict it. Likewise, parents have a right to privacy, defined here as the right to make important decisions about their child's welfare, but again that right does not allow--and has never allowed--parents to prevent schools from providing certain information to students. (I think this is a bit wide of the mark, since the survey was really asking questions instead of disseminating information, but that only makes the parents' argument weaker.) Thus, the Court unanimously--and quite appropriately--affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the case.

Does it end there? Maybe, but as I suggested earlier, the Court's dismissal doesn't mean that the parents have absolutely no case whatsoever. Perhaps I'm influenced by my experience as a researcher, but I think the real issue here involves informed consent. In almost every case, researchers must obtain the informed consent of the people who will be participating in a study (45 CFR 46.116). When children are the participants, as is the case here, their parent or guardian must provide informed consent on their behalf (45 CFR 46.408)4. Most of the time, participants must at the very least read a document explaining the study and sign a statement agreeing to participate.
The parents in this case provided informed consent for their children to participate. They could have refused--I strongly suspect that other parents did--but they did not. Questions of privacy and due process are rather irrelevant once consent is provided. You can hardly consent to something and then claim that it violates your right to privacy--if, that is, the consent process was adequate.

In my view, however, the consent process was not adequate at all. Federal laws and regulations state that the consent form must provide "a description of the procedures to be followed" (45 CFR 116(a)(1)), but they do not establish how detailed that description should be. The specifics are left up to the Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is a group of researchers, lawyers, clinicians, and ethicists affiliated with the researcher's institution. In general, IRBs maintain that the consent form should provide all the information that a "reasonable person" would want to know about the study; said reasonable people should not end up unpleasantly surprised by anything that happens. Along similar lines, California state law requires researchers to give participants a copy of the Research Subject's Bill of Rights, which states that participants have the right to an explanation of "discomforts and risks reasonably to be expected." Normally I loathe the vagueness of the "reasonable person" standard, but in this case it seems clear: I strongly suspect that nearly every parent, regardless of his or her political orientation, would want to be informed that his or her child would be asked questions about sex. In my experience, most IRBs would require language to that effect; your average IRB takes a very broad view of what "reasonable" means and generally insists on the fullest possible description of the study procedures5. The consent form's warning that "answering questions may make [your] child feel uncomfortable" doesn't cut it. Sex is different, and the consent form should have included specific language to that effect.

So the parents might have a case if they raised this issue--but then again they might not. The relevant law is far from clear, and there seems to be very little case law on this topic. What is clear, however, is that this particular case is mostly trivial; it simply reaffirms existing law, and it is nothing to get upset about in the slightest.


While I applaud the analysis above, naturally, I have some editorializing to add.

To me, the punch-line of the AFA’s reaction to this case has to do with one of the original plaintiff claims. From the ruling:

Therein, they alleged that their “basic constitutional right to control” their children’s upbringing had been “robbed” by the defendants’ actions. Their claim was denied and they subsequently filed a complaint in district court alleging four causes of action: (1) violation of their federal constitutional right to privacy; (2) violation of their California constitutional right to privacy; (3) deprivation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (4) negligence.


Did you catch that? However indirectly, the AFA, through their support of the plaintiffs, is now asserting state and federal privacy rights. BWAHAHAHAHAHA The religious right has been busier than one-armed paper hangers over the last 30+ years insisting that there IS NO right to privacy, but now(!), when such a right would actually protect their interests, suddenly it DOES exist??

What a steaming load of crap. The zealots at AFA are apparently unaware that one can’t have it both ways. And in insisting that they can, indeed should, have their cake and eat it too, by railing anew against the 9th circuit for it’s “activism”, they reveal what they’ve always been: small-minded hypocrites ready to throw toddler-esque tantrums when the courts refuse to abandon things like PRECEDENT to rule in their favor.

As for the zeal with which this was passed along to the aforementioned forum, it was a perfect example of the sheepish behavior of too many people that fancy themselves "conservatives". I'll be willing to grant that in forwarding such a message along, they truly believe they're doing something good. Problem is, these kinds of messages aren't meant to be vetted by the recipients, nor are the conclusions of the AFA meant to be questioned. Like those ridiculous chain letters that promise doom in varying degrees depending the number of people to whom they are forwarded, these "bulletins" are meant only to panic, inflame and invigorate the fear and loathing of the Scapegoat du Jour.

The 9th circuit has been the whipping boy of the Right for ages now, so the AFA's reaction here comes as no surprise. What never fails to surprise and disappoint, however, is the ready willingness with which people will just climb aboard the bandwagon with seemingly no qualms at all. It would be darkly funny if these people weren't VOTERS.

Geek Joy

Just a tardy mention for your belated enjoyment:

I really sucked at chemistry as a kid. It was the math. Never could get my head around it. And as a result, after two tear-filled weeks in chemistry class, I gleefully transferred out to a benign and far more understandable earth-science class instead.

While I never mourned the loss much, every once in a while I'm reminded of just how shockingly much I don't know. The up side is that when I go poking around in various science-related sites, I'm like a little kid again, gasping with awe and wonder.

In hunting for a graphic for this site, I fell across this place. Not only does it provide some rudimentary explanations that I found, in some cases, fascinating, but it also has some dazzlingly wonderful graphics that are worth the visit alone.

So, for the geek that lurks below your surface, enjoy.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Like an Angel Passing Through

(a little political respite for your Sunday morning)

Like many people, I like to listen to music while I work. And like any other geek, I'm still in a state of bliss over the invention of mp3s. Since I'm at this computer for a ridiculous portion of my day, having my cherished tunes right at hand is about as sweet as it gets.

Anyway, I finally moved all of the music from my old PC onto the new Mac and queued up some things I hadn't listened to in a while. Among the artists drifting through my ears was Eva Cassidy. Chances are, most of you haven't heard of her. She enjoyed relative obscurity while she was recording and preferred small-venue performances. That said, her music has been featured in TV shows and commercials, so you may have heard her without attribution.

I'm not a reviewer, and have no set of stock phrases to poetically describe Eva's music, so just humor me for a minute while I try.

While I understand she did write some of her own material, I've heard her described as an "interpreter of other people's music". I suppose this can be dismissed as an eloquent way of simply saying she did covers, but that would really understate what she did.

And she was a dearly gifted singer. No, she didn't have one of those acrobatic 5-octave ranges, or the lung capacity to make whales envious. Instead, her voice had a kind of purity you don't often find; a sweet, clear sound with absolutely no pretense at all, and an expression as nakedly honest as any you're likely to find.

And what she did with the songs she sang was simply amazing. She found a way to bring depth and grace to songs that you wouldn't think could be improved. Despite the quality of the original artists' work, her covers of Judy Garland's Over the Rainbow and Sting's Fields of Gold made those familiar versions sound like a half-hearted demos. And it wasn't just those two songs -- everything she did was like that. It was as if she could hear what the writers meant, but the performers could never quite do.

Every time I hear her sing, I'm inspired and moved to awe. As a musician and singer myself, I tend to be hard on other singers, knowing how easy it is to simply make noise, and how tough it is to be genuinely good. And in my book, Eva was flawless.

Wondering about all the past tense verbs in this narrative? Well, that's the tragic ending, of course. Eva passed away in 1996, at the ripe age of 33. It was cancer that took her, and as I understand it, she died just a few months after her initial diagnosis. So, knowing that, her music always makes me a little sad, since the loss of such a graceful, moving talent has left a hole in the world. My husband reminded me that at least she was able to leave something of herself behind, and he's right, of course. Sometimes I think people like this (the gifted ones that leave too soon) were really just angels passing through.

At any rate, if you have any love of music at all, you owe it to yourself to track her stuff down. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Big Picture Check: On Reproductive Choices - ALL of Them

As is her usual, Shanikka has written a superb diary on elements of the "choice wars" that regularly get lost in the abortion din. A piece of the intro for context:

MediaGirl has written a comprehensive diary on the case of Gabriela Flores that is on today's recommended list at DailyKOS, as well it should be. In the comments, Moiv mentioned the case of Regina McKnight in passing. Someone else expressed surprise, saying that they did not know about the McKnight case. The rest of the discussion was more of the same old same old argument about Republicans, women hatred, pro-lifers, politics in the name of God, Casey's pro-life stance, and how the country is in the hands of a cult ever since the ascension of George W. Bush.
I admit that my reaction to all this was anger. Angry at the expressed suprise. Angry at the fact that we're still saying all the same things and spouting the same party lines, all focused on abortion. And angry that the only thing that even generates this much rage in progressives where women's reproductive rights are concerned is abortion.

When in fact Ms. Flores' abortion dilemma would likely not exist at all had we just gotten 1/2 as mad, 1/2 as determined, and 1/2 as dogmatic about Regina McKnight and another woman named Cornelia Whitner.


Her entry is long, but well worth the time. In it, she raises some highly valid points about the various manifestations of "choice", and includes case histories that some of you may be unaware of (as I was). As with so many good posts, it's hard to quote without losing something in the process, so get the rest, study up, spread the word.

A Little Levity

Sent by an H&S reader. File under "oldie but goodie". Enjoy.

A major research institution has announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science - "governmentium." It has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons and 111 assistant deputy neutrons for an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons that are further surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like sub particles called peons.

Governmentium has no electrons and is therefore inert. It cannot be detected however since it impedes every reaction it comes into contact with. A tiny amount of governmentium can take a reaction that normally occurs in seconds and slow s it to the point where it take days, weeks, months and even years.

Governmentium has a normal half life of three years. It doesn't decay but "re-organizes", a process where assistant deputy neutrons and deputy neutrons change places. This process actually causes it to grow as in the confusion some morons become neutrons, thereby forming isodopes.

This phenomenon of "moron promotion" has led to some speculation that governmentium forms whenever sufficient morons meet in concentration , forming critical morass. Researches believe that in Governmentium, the more you re-organize, the morass you cover.

Partisan Eye Candy

Pretty pictures.

Where's the revolution? (Part 1)

Most of you don't know, and even fewer of you will care, that I wore the uniform of this country in the 80's, during a singularly undistinguished tour in the USMC. I didn't particularly care for the regimentation of the Corps, and they reciprocated by bringing my tour to an early end. The discharge was honorable, but there was no love lost between the Corps and I. However, I took my oath, and the principles of the Corps very seriously. Honor, integrity, duty to unit and country, and the rules of engagement were stamped on us, with serious consequences for those who chose to ignore them.

More after the jump...

It is against this backdrop that I see Senators trying to make law that will exempt "certain agents of the United States" from the rules regarding torture. I hear of an effort to strip the meager protection of a lawyer from the Gitmo detainees. Which fucking passed. (It's interesting to note that Graham, the halfwit author of the measure, misstepped something awful and called them "enemy combatants" instead of "illegal combatants".) What? I hear about "black sites" and the hand over of terrorist suspects to governments that use torture as a matter of course. What the fuck? Uzbekistan, an ally in the war on terror, has BOILED people in its custody. Look it up. Donald Rumsfeld hailed them as a staunch ally in February 2005, just months before their aid was pulled by the State Department for human rights violations, holding that human rights rights are only one "aspect" of the US-Uzbek relationship.

Some of the "evidence" obtained from suspects in the custody of these black sites wound up in Colin Powells presentation to the UN. "Evidence" he now says was in error, and sometimes deliberately misleading. Gee, I wonder how it could be that information obtained through torture could be in error, or deliberately misleading?

Dick Cheney fought a losing battle against the McCain Amendment to prevent the mistreatment of detainees, threatening the veto of a military appropriations bill that would provide money for the war effort in Iraq. This was followed shortly thereafter by his hillbilly meat-puppet of a President, in a moment of idiocy, if not insanity, opining that "We do not torture" when the CIA report of the black sites hit the airwaves.

He says we will pursue them under the law, while keeping the status of those detained at Gitmo's Camp X-Ray...murky. Nicely done, George, you fucking moron, maybe you could put down the fifth of Jack, and have someone read you the Fifth Amendment. (Those of you that believe in the God of Christianity should get down on your knees and thank your deity that this mildly sentient fraction of a man cannot be re-elected to the office of the President of the United States.)

We are signatories to the Conventions on Torture and the Geneva Conventions, and the beacon of freedom to the world, and we have a responsibility, a duty, to be better than the opponent we face. This has nothing to do with what other countries think of us, goddamnit, this is about what we think of ourselves!! And, while I know that references to Nazis makes people (hard line conservatives) go absolutely batshit, when you get on the path of government mandated, and funded, torture and murder, that's where that road ends.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Pic of the Day: Conduits of Theocracy

Last week in Narrowsburg, NY, I took this photo from the street.

It captures one in a series of banners created by more than 100 residents with paint on canvas as part of the community "Art in Democracy" project facilitated by poet/organizer Laura Moran in conjunction with JoAnn Moran of rePublic Art.

Ten banners were created to adorn the streets, depicting visual representations of the contents of the US Constitution. I thought that this one was particularly appropriate for Hydrogen and Stupidity readers given our dominant themes.

"The We The People" banners reflect the community's desire to revisit the Constitution as a relevant, live document. Beyond, they sought to articulate its role through images of community and symbols of society.

Bill of Rights : Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


This is the crux of it, folks. Whether your pet issue is Intelligent Design, the Pledge of Allegiance, displaying the "Ten Commandments", or defining rights through inherently religious vocabulary - it is important for us to talk about this constant tension that stretches this document to the extent that tiny holes continue to appear- conduits for theocracy.

I do not begrudge anyone their religion or their spiritual path. I am not anti-affiliation or Deity X or Y. I am against that which violates the above, that which seeks to lay claim over my mind or my soul, via self-appointed authorities. Why not take a minute today and reflect on what the First Amendment means to you? How would you render its meaning for you, your family, your community?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Pic of the Day


Just because Lily found the gorilla "disturbing".

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Morality is the Botox of Our Society

The previous Pitts-linked post of course echoes the sentiments of many of us who screech about deception, corruption, and a value bucket that hardly runneths over. We are right to ask these questions on torture, and we are right to call the answers 'bullshit". Questioning that which violates not only multiple charters and articles, but also our sensibilities, SHOULD be a priority of everyone in America. Challenge is the only enemy of corruption, culpability only comes from an assertion of truth. The media will continue to fail you, folks, and propaganda will prevail unless people speak out. Even if you do it here, or express it wearing a hat and sunglasses- now is not the time to demand purity of our dissenters. Speak with force or speak with futility, but say something. Anywhere. Urgency compels you.

We know that our history is riddled with both a distrust of the populace to which we also simultaneously owe our gratitude as much of what we credit ourselves with was bourne of citizen initiative. America must reconcile the paradox of "government by the people, for the people" and a detached, arrogant "representative system" that suggests these "mandates" on policy and direction- that suggests a blind trust and obedience to elected leaders who allege to altruistically and benevolently serve. But our founding fathers could not have foreseen the degradation of our social-scape. Did they envision a society so numb and disengaged that the checks and balances, the Constitution, would become so contested? Consider the conservawhores that are willing to publically state their scorn for the First Amendment! Hard to believe that people came here for freedom of religion when even our money proclaims our affinity for self contradiction. And inherent to contradiction is distrust in authority, right? Hypocrisy yields resentment? We've seen that play out. What is powerfully unique here is that fear cancels this out. And we remain in fear, our vulnerability has been shown in hundreds of clips from 9-11.

Election results do not constitute statements of consensus. They constitute elements of machinery that force people into 'issue camps". Many believe that Bush won re-election not because of the war or approval, but because the determination to prevent gay rights trumped everything in people's paths to the polls in some states. Is it not possible to mentally multi-task, America? Chew gum and hatemonger at the same time?

Is it not possible to consider innocent children being killed in Iraq while we contrive this "pro-life" agenda? Is it not possible to look at the fact that we have not had another 9-11 and suggest that maybe, JUST MAYBE, it has something to do with the fact that we have more involvement with these groups than we care to admit? We know that logic forces us to look at rampant incompetence. So how is it that we view Bushco as sources of safety, not puppetmasters? Because suggesting that we are that depraved is unpatriotic? Those that can protect in the face of incompetence must have more control than we realize. Logic: they are very competent but choose to ignore disaster and global problems. Or, they are grossly incompetent as evidenced by the responses we've seen and there is another explanation for why there has not been another attack even during vulnerable times. If they are so determined, why not then? These groups that are so hellbent? Are we supposed to believe our loose borders, chaotic ports, and intelligence" have saved our asses? You be the judge.

I might have thought so. But facts speak volumes over pundits and opinions. So many arsenals destroyed in the Middle East were easily read because they were in fucking English. Fact, not opinion. I want to know why we were able to use Bin Laden effectively against Russia, but to suggest an unholy alliance later amounts to treason? Speculation, but the relationship is based on documented fact. You see?

The question of American moral authority only exists in America (and Tony Blair's ass). Just like we view war in glossy sunrise photography, sans blood and limbless babies, we also have a glorified self congratulating sense of morality that much of the world cannot share. True, we have purchased some love and gratitude over the years. But we have no "authority". Pitt writes:

We ignore our lying eyes, I think, because we are afraid, because we saw what happened Sept. 11 and we never want to see it again. I'd never suggest we ought not fear terrorism. But we should also fear the nation we are becoming in response. We should fear the fact that we have abrogated moral authority, retreated from moral high ground, become like those we once chastised.


Becoming? Far be it from me to question such lucid commentary, but I maintain that we retreated from the moral high ground years ago. Morality has been the fucking botox of our society! A rationalization to police and dominate. We killed the native Americans, we dropped the bomb, and covered up intelligence failures resulting in massive death in Viet Nam. We turned our backs on famine, genocide in Rwanda and Darfur. We had children languishing in factories, boatloads of people brought to a life of servitude, rape, and inhumane treatment. Are these opinions?

Morality is a tool for the wicked- as touted by slave owners that claimed they looked after their slaves and 'gave them God'. Morality wants a girl to have her father's baby. Morality wants to define love, trust, law, and parenting.Morality supposedly brought us to liberate the oppressive Taliban and certainly the pipelines were just coincidental. Need I go on about mythic morality? Grin, America, and plump those lines with lies.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

"A Betrayal of Our Most Precious Values"

This editorial is getting a lot of blog coverage, and rightfully so. In case you missed out, Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald cuts through the hyperbole on the question of torture and reminds us of (what should be) the obvious:

Well, I guess that settles that.

"We do not torture," President Bush said on Monday. Never mind all those torture pictures from Abu Ghraib. Never mind all those torture stories from Guantanamo Bay. Never mind the 2002 Justice Department memo that sought to justify torture. Never mind reports of U.S. officials sending detainees to other countries for torture. Never mind Dick Cheney lobbying to exempt the CIA from rules prohibiting torture.

"We do not torture," said the president. And that's that, right? I mean, if you can't believe the Bush administration, who can you believe? No torture. Period, end of sentence.

But . . . What does it say to you that the claim even has to be made?

...Yes, Bush says we don't do that kind of thing but, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, who you going to believe, him or your lying eyes?

We ignore our lying eyes, I think, because we are afraid, because we saw what happened Sept. 11 and we never want to see it again. I'd never suggest we ought not fear terrorism. But we should also fear the nation we are becoming in response. We should fear the fact that we have abrogated moral authority, retreated from moral high ground, become like those we once chastised.

"We do not torture," says the president.

I can remember when that went without saying. (emphasis added)

Get the whole thing. There's been a head-spinning amount of commentary on the subject lately, but this is truly some of the best.

Hat tip: BIPM