Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Get out the Big Bowl

Doesn't every family have one? You know, a place in which vomit should be deposited by young children who are unable to make it to the toilet? Since my tv is not located in the bathroom, I needed that Big Bowl right beside me this evening as my family and I sat down for the annual Oh My God I Can't Believe He Really Said That Speech, otherwise known as The State of the Union.

Obviously, the richest moment was the Democrats standing ovation for themselves for thwarting Bush's SS reform. Tip of the hat for that gag.

We got perhaps 5 minutes, possibly less, of speech untainted by a 9/11 reference. Has no one told this man how hackneyed a ploy that is? Has no one told him that IT'S NOT WORKING ANYMORE?

Speaking of 9/11. Heard some folks on talk radio (Kathy and Judy on WGN, if you must know) wondering aloud whether A&E was part of a Republican conspiracy to bring our minds back to 9/11 right at the State of the Union time, with their airing of "Flight 93". I spent a half an hour or so looking around online, trying to figure out the answer to that question.

A&E isn't owned by Fox; it's owned jointly by GE and Disney. And I found complaints from both sides of the aisle about A&E content. Right wing complaints like gun rights freaks bitching and moaning about a piece on the NRA and anti-gay activists noting the bias for transgendered people in a piece on them competed with left wing complaints that the network features too many Republicans and not enough Democrats in its biographies.

My conclusion? Still hanging. A&E probably simply anticipated that George would mention 9/11 about a billion times so such a showing would be timely, if nothing else.

My 13 yr old sat with us for much of the speech, taking notes so that she can argue point for point with a few of her more vehement Republican friends at school. I'm proud to say that she's the class liberal. My husband and I enjoyed pointing out all of Bush's lies and misleadings to her, though it really wasn't necessary. She gets it.

One of my favorite topics was the addiction to oil segment of the show. His solutions were amusing, to say the least. "Advanced Energy Initiative." Somehow, it's always clear that he's taking something really seriously, totally not smirking about it at all, if he names it an Initiative. There's a great post over at Grist Mill giving us the true picture of Bush's commitment to alternative forms of energy.

Oh, and that bit about the importance of stopping any animal-human clones. LOL! That's a serious concern of mine that I am SO happy he addressed. I've been really worried that someone would clone Bush and a donkey . . . oh. It happened long ago.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, January 30, 2006

Something to sink your teeth into

Not. Just had 'em cleaned this afternoon, and I am so not interested in chewing on anything, inncluding my own trenchant prose. But I'll see what I can do.

By the way, my teeth are exceptionally well-maintained. Flossed and brushed and ready to roll. But I need a crown to replace one of my many old fillings. Now I suppose I should research whether crowns are just as bad as fillings for that whole mercury issue. Why can't anything be simple? Why can't I just rely on my dentist to make that choice for me and be assured that he will, of course, choose what is healthiest for me?

Harrumph. No offense to my dentist intended, with whom we are all very satisfied. Except for this issue, which I haven't even discussed with him.

So why do my otherwise exceptionally well-maintained teeth have to throb so much from a simple cleaning? I say Harrumph again. While I'm babying my pearly whites, I've been reading, of course. There was a very interesting discussion over at Political Animal about public vs. private schooling. Basic take was that, after controlling for demographics and location, private school students score lower on a particular achievement test than public school students.

There was then a fair amount of discussion about why that was and lots of anecdotals about how great public school was for X or Y. But what I didn't see discussed was the reason I sent my daughter to a private school for the past three years: social issues. My daughter's a bright munchkin. She was receiving a perfectly acceptable education in our public schools. And she's receiving a perfectly acceptable education at her current private school. What flipped the coin for us in favor of sending her to the private school was size and culture.

She would have been at a junior high with over 1000 other squirrelly middle schoolers whose culture has taken over and turned the school into what I have seen (through my first born's attendance there) as a cesspool of bullying and overfocus on socializing. Instead, she is in a class with 20 some 8th graders and 20 some 7th graders. Parents on are the stick about bullying, and most of us are pushing academics over socializing (ok, at least as well as socializing!).

Additionally, values and ethics are discussed as part of her education. Now, are they always my values? Well, no, not always. But, believe me, I do plenty of proselytizing of my own beliefs with my kids. Hearing another viewpoint is ok with me--gives them something to think about.

Are there downsides to the private education she's receiving? Probably. Not coming up with any at the moment, though. And we are happy with the choice we made three years ago. Next year, she'll be attending the very good local public high school. Her choice, as she wants to go to school with all of her friends, from both schools.

Interesting study released today about ethanol and it's efficacy (or lack thereof) in reducing greenhouse emissions. Says that ethanol made from corn only reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 13%, but same made from "willow trees and switch grass" reduces emissions significantly. Funny. Never have heard of ethanol being made from those others things here in Illinois. Could that be due to the large amount of corn produced here? Will there be fields of willow trees and switch grass in our future?

Last note. The Boys Choir of Harlem may be losing its home in Harlem. It's a pretty sad story of adults failing in their responsibilities to kids, filled with scandal and a touch of intrigue. The Choir got notice that it will no longer be able to use NYC public school buildings after it returned from a tour of the Midwest.

I took that private school Munchkin and a friend of hers to see this Choir on that very Midwest tour. Both girls were floored by how great these kids were at all kinds of music. It will truly be a shameful thing if this choir goes under because adults can't get their act together. Check here if you're interested in supporting them. But you might want to read about what's going on before you put your money into it. :-/

Until tomorrow,

Friday, January 27, 2006

Life: It's a Risky Business

I'm in my kitchen. As I am merely a housewife, I'm usually in my kitchen. It seems like a safe place. It's got sunny east windows, warm food (when I cook it), a great papasan for catching up on naps and grueling novel-fests that I must hold when my library books become overdue and, of course, my computer.

So I'm a bit concerned to find out today the dangers that can befall me in my wonderful house, including my kitchen. It appears that the EPA has actually done something positive that will protect us. (That noise was a huge collective gasp from the teeming throngs of people who've come to expect that the EPA will do nothing about pollution of any kind.)

It appears that the EPA is actually BANNING a toxic substance: PFOA. Huh? The NY Times says, "PFOA makes high-performance plastics resistant to fire, grease and stains. Its presence may be best known in Teflon, made by DuPont, but it is also found in fabrics, leather, automobile parts, wire insulation and microwave popcorn bags."

I can give up my Teflon pans. But my microwave popcorn bags? What's the risk here? Cancer. Strokes. Oh. Guess that popcorn goes, too. Frankly, the risk is probably pretty high, if the EPA is actually doing something to avert our exposure. It's going to be classified as a
"persistent bioaccumulative toxin--a pollutant that builds up in people and animals and takes years to break down." Other stuff like that is mercury, lead and PCB.

But the EPA assures us there's no reason to be concerned about using products that have PFOA in them. And I'm certainly going to follow that advice. After all, all I'm doing is sauting my food in my Teflon pan, rolling it around endlessly in a heated area which probably releases those toxins into my food so that I can regularly ingest them . . . .

I'm going to metaphorically move from my kitchen now. It's too dangerous. Think I'll pick up my camera and move to the living room. Maybe take some snap shots of my doggy.

But wait. No. Photographs are a risky business, too. Just ask President Bush. Those photos of him with Abramoff are so potentially devastating to his veneer of honesty and integrity that he's not only refusing to release them, but he's had someone get after the company who held them, removing them from the internet.

Never mind the photos. They might become incriminating evidence if poor Schafer does something awful like meet with corrupt guys like Abramoff. Then I'd have to go around, cleaning up after him like he'd had an accident in the house. And that's a bit demeaning, isn't it? Too bad Bush doesn't think it's demeaning to have these accidental, meaningless meetings with scum in the first place.

OK. Ditch the living room with the potentially problematic photos. I'll go call watch TV news in the den. Hmm. Fox News is on. Now there's a news source you can trust. Can't you? Not if you're reading foxnews.com columnist Steven Molloy. Apparently he's been paid to shill
against global warming and the dangers of second hand smoke by oil and tobacco interests. Now, that's a journalist you can trust. And Fox has apparently known about this since last spring. Nice.

Maybe I should call someone and talk out my paranoid fears of being misled by news sources. Calling. On the telephone. Where our government is spending countless hours wiretapping heaven and earth. Hey, what am I worried about? As long as I'm calling locally, my call is domestic. What if I want to call someone in London? Well, than that's international and the fact that I'm domestic (an American citizen with civil rights including the right to not be spied on without a warrant) makes not a whit of difference. My phone call and I become international and immediately up for spying on.

Speaking of stupid logic, read the intriguing but ultimately failed logic of Richard Posner on a way to make wiretapping us ok. He says that the government should be allowed to do all the eavesdropping it wants as long as there's a law that says that they can't USE the information for any prosecution other than one affecting national security. Given how much attention the President and his administration have given to following rules and laws, this law wouldn't make me feel a whole lot better, Judge. Our President doesn't "honor" much of anything these days unless he wants to.

I'm feeling better unsafe in my little abode right now. I think I'll take a drive. In my car. That requires gas. Good thing I'm not overseas in Georgia right now. Glad that disaster couldn't happen here.

Forget the car. I'm going to hide under the covers until it's safe to come out.

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Two, two, two topics in one post

About the Palestinian election and Hamas. Seems good to me, though relatively little do I know about Palestine and Israel. Yes, Hamas are the bad guys, the terrorists. But isn't it better to deal with them in the building than out on the streets? If the US is so all fired up about bringing Sunnis and Shiites to the same table in Iraq, isn't this the result we want in Palestine if we believe representative government is a positive step forward? Shouldn't the actual residents of the Middle East get a true voice in their relationship (or not) with Israel?

Besides, I'm always open to having an opposing party in office, flexing their muscle at dealing with the difficult problems of the day. You think you're so smart? Then fix Palestine and be quick about it.

There was an interesting commentary in the Guardian today, rejecting comparisons between the inclusion of the IRA into Irish government and the inclusion of Hamas into Palestinian government. The author claimed that Hamas and the IRA are not comparable because Hamas' ideology is not a flexible one, demonstrated by the fact that their respective tactics were different and, in the case of Hamas, unyieldingly unchangeable.

I don't buy it. While Hamas may seem immovable, the very fact of its participation in this election demonstrates that it may be more flexible than it seems. And tactics, however explanatory of a group's ideology, are not necessarily defining. I'd like to hold out hope that participating in a representative process could lead to change and growth and even possibly compromise, as it did with the IRA. Could it hurt to try?

About car companies. I was born and raised in Michigan. Grew up in a small town next to a GM Proving Grounds, where many of my friends' parents were employed. My brother is a CAD designer, and has worked (and not, as in the life of auto workers) in the auto industry for years. These items establish my credentials as a auto industry commentator. Or not.

Look. Here's the deal, folks. You start making good cars that consistently outperform my Honda Accord and Element, I'll start buying it. Cars that are reliable and long-lasting. Cars that need only routine maintenance for the first five years, then need only routine maintenance (replacing parts that really need replacing) for the next fives years. And the next five after that. Start putting all those Ford and Chrysler and GM cars on Consumer Reports used car reliability charts, and I'm totally with you.

But until you do, I'm not buying. And neither are most of my neighbors. And the ones who do end up taking their car to the shop a lot more, spending more money in the long run than I do. So don't bitch and moan to me about how I'm hurting America's economy. Cheap, poorly designed and crafted cars are hurting America's economy. Greed corporate outsourcing (to non-union states and beyond our borders) are hurting America's economy. And greedy executives who make literally millions more than the average worker, even now after those bloody employee cuts into both GM and Ford are hurting America's economy.

Car workers, if you want to save your jobs, clean up your union. Then, make it work for you. Demand that your executives feel your pain a little bit. Demand to make a better, more reliable product. And for God's sake, vote Democrat each and every time, so that our country is run by folks who actually FAVOR working class stiffs, even if they've never been one, over rich executives whose money does NOT trickle down to anyone but the pool boy.

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tip toe, through the tulips . . .

Is that what you think I've been doing, these ten days that have come and gone without my insightful, perceptive bloggy blogs? Pushing up daisies? Becoming Ferdinand the Bull and just sitting and smelling the flowers?

You would be wrong, my friends. There are no flowers in Oak Park, Illinois in the winter. Errant buds, here and there, as the oddly warm January fools trees into thinking spring is coming sooner than expected. But no flowers, except those chemically smelly ones I pass each week at the grocery store. What's the point of
that? Flowers are not simply meant to be seen, lovely as they are. They need to be smelled. The olfactory factor is absolute for me, and I can't abide the notion of spending money on something so beautiful yet so sadly lacking in dimensionality.

But I digress. :-)

I have not been tip toeing, nor pushing, nor smelling. I've been bored and overwhelmed, all at once. Call it two parts winter lethargy/SAD, one part what the hell else can I say about George Bush, NSA, Iran, and Iraq that I (or someone far more articulate than me) have already said. I've been applying my light lamp, my depression-busting artificial rays of sunlight designed to perk me and my metabolism back up to normal levels, on a daily basis. And I've pulled back from reading news online (gasp). Just to see what would happen if I did.

It appears that the news, the happenings of the day, the truly meaningful events of our time, move as slow as molasses. In fact, reading all my old favorites today (that would be BBC, WaPo, LA Times, Kos, Pol Animal, and Talking Points), made me check and recheck my calendar. Little has changed since I last checked in. And I ask again, what's
that about?

Really, it's like watching a soap opera. Back in college, I got hooked on "General Hospital". I watched faithfully until I became a stay at home mom. Then I stopped because it seemed to me, Puritanly speaking, that I should use that time more constructively. Fourteen years later, I started working out at a health club, where I glued my eyeballs to a screen to overcome exercise boredom. That screen happened to have on it, yes, "General Hospital".

I had no trouble following the story lines. Only a few new characters. Why do people watch these shows? Nothing ever happens in them! How boring. Maybe that's just life, though. Our own personal dramas don't tend to move at lightning speed, either. Maybe we enjoy watching lives that are somehow intrinsically more interesting than our own just because they are televised. Or maybe we like watching beautiful people live boring lives.

I dunno. And I've digressed once again. The point was, Bush is still actually nervy enough to continue to insist that he's done nothing wrong in the whole eavesdropping on Americans fiasco. Even better, funnier, more amazingly moronic, he has attacked the media for publicizing it all (yes, I'm sure it was an absolute shocker to Al Queda to learn that the US was spying on them). The entire administration has come forth with all manner of dreck about why the need to spy was so pressing that Bush couldn't apply for an after the fact warrant, the latest disproven one that Bush had to bypass the warrant process because the spying was much more technologically advanced than anything the process had foreseen.

Not really, according to General Michael Hayden, the deputy director of national intelligence. Apparently it's just the standard stuff. Hmm. Gives us even less reason to buy the Bush line. Maybe this is all part of my non-writing phase. I'm writing this and becoming outraged once again. But where is the societal outrage? Why isn't this continuing to be big bold headlines? Why isn't it dominating the talk shows? We were way more interested in those poor guys who died in a mine shaft than we are in our own shafting process.

Will the last stuff on Katrina perhaps move us from our collective lethargy? Bush and Co. are refusing to cooperate in the investigation into how Katrina was handled, citing (of course), executive confidentiality and security. Me, me, me. It's all about Bush and protecting his bully pulpit. Josh Marshall says, "(T)hey have an ideological affinity -- perhaps even a compulsion -- for presidential assertions of extra-constitutional authority. Just on principle."

Or it could be that the White House has an affinity for using extra-constitutional authority assertions as avoidance for bad press. We already know that the White House had advance notice of just how bad Katrina would be. And what did they do? Not nearly enough. Perhaps Bush thinks that it's better to have bad press over his continued assertion of executive authority as opposed to his continued poor choices of administration officials that are unable to manage crisis situations.

And, as I noted early on in this return blog, that's not new news. That's darn old news. The more things change . . . .

Until tomorrow (probably),

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Iran, Mr. Bush, and Oil

Good thing we've stabilized the Middle East with our interventions in Iraq. Now, it's time for us to take care of Iran, apparently. We know Iran has resumed some kind of nuclear activity. They've told us so. And we've got the photos to prove it--even though we don't quite know what these photos prove. Are they making power or arms? Dunno.

But we don't want them playing with uranium. Period. Neither do any of our other big time playmates. So we're working on getting Iran referred to the UN Security Council for its possibly symbolic gesture of ripping the UN-placed seals off their uranium purifiers. Even Russia appears on-board. Only China is recalcitrant.

Why? Well, Iran apparently isn't run by stupid people. They have oil. Everyone wants oil. And if we keep pursuing this issue to the Security Council, Iran has threatened to jack up oil prices. And they're pretty blunt about it, referring to Iran's "cheap means" of achieving its nuclear "rights", with its President saying, "You [the west] need us more than we need you. All of you today need the Iranian nation."

The intelligent solution, it seems, would be to take the issue to the UN Security Council. But the US seems bent on achieving stupid solutions these days. So we've got Senators (even McCain, alas) sounding bellicose, even though they reserve a military solution as a "last option." McCain said, "There is only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option, that is a nuclear-armed Iran."

But we may not have to do the dirty work ourselves. Israel has apparently been considering the option of taking out Iran's nuclear arena by military force for years. Perhaps this explains Iran's otherwise odd anti-Semitic focus on the Holocaust, and its latest announcement of a Holocaust Conference focusing on the scientific evidence of whether or not it actually happened. Israel might well have the grounds quickly to argue the legitimacy of a preemptive strike at Iran, given the hostility being shown them right now.

So we'll continue to fight on in Iraq, spending billions of dollars and thousands of lives in a war that was declared over long ago. Next door, we could have one of our closest allies fighting a similarly unwinnable war. Would we lend a hand? Bush never backs down from a fight, particularly when it has to do with oil.

I'm not terribly comfortable with Israel these days. Don't like the way the Palestinians have been treated. Like most other bloggers, I'm loathe to talk about it (someone had a good talk about this recently--Kevin Drum, maybe?), as I will be outtalked by anyone who truly knows the area. But we really couldn't let Israel go down without a fight.

As for the oil, we really WOULDN'T let it go down (or would that be up or away?) without a fight. If I've learned nothing from reading The Oil Drum or watching that great mysterious movie Syriana, oil runs the world. Bush would like to be King. But he's not. Oil is. And he is slave to it, hoping to be master. The US will do every and any thing in its power to make sure that Iranian oil is available to us, including backing a preventive or preemptive strike by Israel--or anyone else who wants to make one. Including US.

Until tomorrow,

Friday, January 13, 2006

False Positive?

Houston's school district is following in the footsteps of others and introducing merit-based pay. What merits higher pay, in their opinion? Higher scores on standardized tests, of course. Teachers can receive up to $3000, while administrators can get a boffo $25,000.

Interesting choice of plans, given Houston's problems with cheating on those vary same standardized tests. Teachers' incentive to "help" their students achieve higher scores on these standardized tests, as well as principals' incentives to do likewise, rises incrementally with the pressures and cash values placed on those scores. Hell, on a teacher's salary (particularly a Houston salary, pretty low), the risk-benefit analysis could make anyone lean toward a bit of subtle coaching on test answers.

Not that I'm defending teachers who cheat. Because I'm not. I'd prefer to see teachers' unions fight standardized testing as an inadequate method ALONE for measuring student progress. And connecting those test results to merit pay, given all that a teacher can't control about a student's progress and performance (let's see: breakfast, sleep, preschool prep or lack thereof, exposure to high educational values . . .), seems misguided, at the very least.

Got any stats that prove me wrong, that show good teaching alone equals higher test results? Love to see them.

My kids have been in these schools. Not the Houston schools. Nor schools with merit-based pay. But schools that, like all schools now under Leave No Child Behind, are pressed to achieve certain test results. My experience is that teaching becomes significantly less creative. Teachers are forced to "teach to the test", preparing their pupils for particular types of problems. Writing is the worst of these areas, with creative writing practically non-existent in some of these schools. The five paragraph essay, in all its various permutations, is king. All else is useless.

How do we determine who are the good teachers and reward them? Geez. Ask any parent. We know who the good teachers are. And not in a rigid sense. We know that Mrs. A is great with kids who need a firm hand. Miss B is lovely and warm and creative, and her room is probably too stimulating for kids who need calm to survive school. Mr. C is strict and likes really bright kids and pushes a bit more than some kids like. And Mrs. D? She's the one no one wants. Maybe she's riding out her last five years until retirement. Maybe he choose teaching for the wrong reasons and doesn't want to leave now because she's a single mom with kids to feed. Or maybe she just doesn't get kids.

Yes, that would be called subjectively evaluation of teachers. Evaluation by both administration and parents, to avoid totally political outcomes. How about we combine that with test scores? Or how about we simply pay teachers high enough salaries to attract quality candidates in the first place?

I'll leave my last thought to Daniel Koretz, an Ed Prof at Harvard to teaches educational measurement (quote from here). "Cheating is not the most fundamental problem. It's the canary in the coal mine." The coal mine, he says, is the "dumbing down" of education to get the desired results.

Doesn't seem like getting dumber is what we're looking for in education. Is it?

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Do you hear what I hear?

Following the live blogging over at SCOTUSblog of the Alito hearings. What is there to report? Not much surprising. Alito says he respects stare decisis. Alito says he'd keep an open mind on abortion. Alito believes in a Constitutional right to privacy ala Griswold. Alito says that "no person in this country is above the law."

Well, as usual, NOW I feel much more comfortable with Judge Alito becoming Justice Alito. All of my fears have been abrogated.

Let's join others at the dissection table, shall we? As part of an exchange of ideas regarding abortion with Senator Spector, Alito said that stare decisis is a "very important doctrine that must be considered." Then he said, "Now, I don't want to leave the impression that stare decisis
is an inexorable command, because the Supreme Court has said that it is not." Neatly done. Leaves him plenty of room to thoughtfully consider previous cases the Supreme Court has decided then ditch them when it suits his purposes without being called a liar.

Doesn't "exchange of ideas" sound civilized? I wish our Democratic Senators weren't being so damn civilized right now.

Anyway, next up, Alito's view of abortion. He admitted that the 1985 statement (stating that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided) was his personal viewpoint on abortion at that time. Then he said, if he were to make that decision today, he'd consider precedent. After that? "If the analysis would get beyond that point, I would approach the question with an open mind." Because judges don't have agendas.

Of course they do. Their personal opinions are constantly reflected in their interpretation of the law. It's ridiculous to state otherwise, though judges do state it, ad nauseum. They have personal opinions and they have interpretations of law to back up those opinions. Which are also personal opinions. That we pay them to make.

Alito said that no one is above the law. He tried to backtrack from his much earlier statements about the "supremacy" of the Executive Branch, said that this was an "inapt" statement and that he believes in the equality of the Three Branches.

Then there was this whole discussion of the "unitary executive theory". Guess Constitutional Law was too long ago--can't pull out a thing from my head about this. Also can't find any exact quotes of what Alito said, just commentary about it, and commentary about what he's said in the past.

Apparently, for Reagan Republicans, unitary executive theory means that "the Constitution gives the president the executive power, and it includes the power to superintend and control subordinates in the executive branch." Bush's broad view of this means that he don't answer to NO BODY. He's King.

That's not a direct quote, you understand.

Alito helped form this legal viewpoint when he worked for Reagan. And he continued to endorse it as recently as 2000, in a speech to the infamous Federalist Society. Does he view it as broadly as Bush does? We dunno. (Of course, we DO know. But we're supposed to pretend we don't, since he's squirmed around the issue.) And he didn't feel the need to delineate his beliefs that clearly today. Let's hope the Judiciary Committee will find some ways to push him to do so over the next few days. Certainly the liberal blogs have plenty of suggestions for doing so.

There's more unitary executive theory stuff here and here. And the WSJ article is quite good, as well.

The Judiciary Committee's performance has been disappointing today. Not enough nailing Alito to the wall. Not enough pointed questions on his lying. No pointed questions on his lying. Let's hope tomorrow is better.

Until then,

Friday, January 06, 2006

Disaster Check In

Not sure if there have been more disasters, natural or otherwise, than usual. Or if The Media is simply obsessed with the photo-friendly ones we have had such that I think there have been more disasters than usual. But I've spent the afternoon checking in on a number of them.

In two separate incidents, Kashmiri quake survivors took control of two helicopters and forced them to fly out of the frigid, supply-devoid mountains to cities below. In a statement showing true mastery of understatement, a UN coordinator said, "I presume they were coming down from the mountains and basically wanted out. It's very cold there." Uh huh. 9 degrees in pretty damn cold for living in a tent. With cold rain or snow pelting you.

Roads have been closed in the mountains, restricting humanitarian workers from distributing supplies to those farthest up in the mountains. Probably the folks who grabbed hold of those helicopters. Still sounds like a disaster to me.

As does NOLA. Still stinks there, figuratively and literally. The Chicago Tribune headline a few days back says it all: "Katrina's garbage rates a Category 5." Here's an interesting little garbage tidbit. "
So much garbage was left behind by the storm that the federal government estimates that if stacked in 1-yard cubes, it would wrap around the Earth more than once."

But we Americans are great at making silk purses out of sows' ears. Witness the Hurricane Katrina: America's Worst Catastrophe bus tour. One person's exploitation is another person's opportunity knocked and answered. Me? Whatever floats your bus. Er, boat.

Interesting Time interview with
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who ran the Federal government's post-Katrina response. As much as I believed that FEMA dropped the ball in NOLA, I enjoyed his take on personal responsibility in times of crisis.

In the area of pending disasters, I'm back on the avian flu thang in Turkey. 3 kids have died now (apparently they lived on a poultry farm and were playing with the heads of dead chickens), and there are up to 30 people being treated for flu-like symptoms. If even half of those people turn up with the flu, that's a scary prospect. Might indicate the disease is beginning to mutate and spread more easily--or is spreading more easily between humans. This map gives you an idea of where it's spreading and how, showing the migratory paths wild birds follow. Yes, we're fine for now. But Europe? Not so much.

In disasters a little closer to home, The NY Times reported today that, once again, our government failed our soldiers. A secret Pentagon study says that 80% of those soldiers in Iraq who were killed due to upper body injuries would have lived had they had extra body armor. Hey. Why should we spend money doing that when we can, instead, give money in tax cuts to millionaires?

Wonder why that report was kept secret?

So many disasters, so little time. We haven't even talked about the possible Hastert Disaster (what happens if we impeach both Bush and Cheney), yet another potential starvation situation in Somalia
(drought equals lowest harvests in a decade) or the
Constitutional disaster that is our President (who essentially declared, on signing the McCain Anti-Torture amendment, that he'll decide if, and when, he wants to follow this law).

There are only so many disasters one can take on in an afternoon.

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Or Not

I'm currently trying to talk with my dad via Google Talk. It would be nice to save a bit of money and talk off the PC. And I'm sitting here on my fairly large rear fairly often, anyway . . . . But we're having some trouble at his end, I think. He's on a network from his employment pre-retirement, which makes anything new a challenge. I feel inept trying to assist, as I've no experience with networks, alas.

Or not.

We've got more bird flu creep happening. Human death has crept into Europe's backyard, landing in Turkey this week. When last we spoke, avian death had already moved into Europe, with domestic poultry in Romania hit in November. But don't worry about this, folks. It could turn out to be Swine Flu.

Or not.

Grist has a great photo essay on the relatively new fair trade tea plantations in India. As a sporadic but devoted tea drinker, I enjoyed both the photos and the info on fair trade. Try here for a fair trade tea (search fair trade, of course). Don't know if our local tea emporium, Todd & Holland, sells fair trade. I'll have to ask.

Or not.

Nice, that newest Pat Robertson opinion of God's actions toward our fellow humans. This time, it's Ariel Sharon's strokes being divine retribution for splitting Israel. Over at Political Animal, Amy Sullivan noted with some glee Pat's own health "punishment" of prostate cancer a few years back and wondered what, exactly, the punishment was for. Kinda fun to read the comments in response.

Or not.

If you'd like a bit more indepth discussion of God and us and all that kind of stuff, check out Street Prophet.

Or not.

Why do we spend more time debating, commenting, and bemoaning abortion when there are so many more babies throughout the world killed (sic) each year from diarrhea? And why aren't we celebrating, dancing in the streets, that not one but two vaccines have been developed to prevent this killer? And for all that Microsoft drives me nuts, you gotta (ok, I've gotta) admire the heck out of Bill Gates for almost $2 million in grants toward this incredibly underreported issue.

Or not.

Speaking of issues that need more attention, why haven't I read much in the dailies about the Andrea Mitchell interview in which she suggested that the NSA may be tapping journalists' phones or otherwise eavesdropping on them? Talking Points Memo says that, while NBC withdrew that part of the interview from its website, it has indicated that it is still conducting an "inquiry" into the issue. Hardly seems likely that Mitchell would just drop that bombshell into casual conversation without something to back it up. And hardly seems likely that NBC would continue an inquiry into something unless there was an issue into which needed inquiring. (Did that work, folks?) So there must be something to it, eh?

Or not.

On that note, I'm going to go let my mind fester and watch some version of Animal Cops on Animal Planet. We all must have our vices.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, January 02, 2006


Ha. You thought I was going to blog about my New Year's resolution to run regularly, didn't you? The running in question belongs to my nose, not my feet. It's a veritable faucet at the moment. Highly unholiday like, don't you think? There I was, enjoying the post-Christmas slowdown. Lazing about. Unblogged. Full of books. Visiting relatives.

Then I get home and, whammo. On the faucet turns and red my nose gets.

So I'm not feeling particularly opinionated or wordy. Don't have the inclination to rage or pontificate, observe or muse. Primarily, I feel like blowing and dabbing. Sitting quietly with my mouth slackly open, breathing, while trying not to drool.

There's something quite ignominious about trying not to drool on one's birthday. Particularly as one (that would be me) gets older and older. 44 today, and that sounds quite old, for some reason. Don't you find that, that some numbers sounds much older than others? Not rational, but there it is, all the same.

Could be that I'm feeling old because my boy child turned into a man yesterday. He's 18, and I'm now the parent of an adult. Legal, able to add one more tally to the Democratic vote count, and Selective Service-eligible. No wonder I feel ill.

It's not only my nose that's leaking. The sky is leaking all over the world. It was leaking on the Rose Parade, for crying out loud. It never rains on the Rose Parade. Not since 1955. The year I marched in it (1982? 83?), it was a beautiful sunny morning. Cool.

I believe that God made it rain on the Rose Parade because She doesn't like it being held on my birthday. It's suppose to be held on January 1st so we can watch it on my son's birthday. Throws the earth off its rotational axis or something when they change it like that.

Don't know what reason God has for making it rain and snow over in Muzaffarabad. A foot of snow in the mountains. Sheets of rain in the valleys. Mudslides from the rains. What more can happen to these people?

And, no, I don't believe God made it rain and snow on them. Just a figure of speech. Nor do I believe God is making my nose run, though I might rant and rave at Her about it if I get to feeling particularly mucus-full.

Have you seen those Mucinex print ads, with the ugly Mucus couple? When Annie was in the hospital for her big asthma episode, we hung up one of those ads, giving her a focus for wellness: get rid of that mucus! It made a very attractive and conversation-provoking wall accoutrement.

Well, now that I've finished running at the mouth, I'll go back to tending my running at the nose. Good to be back, and I'm sure my opinions will return soon, as well.

Until tomorrow,