May 23, 2005

I want my name back...

Our government seems to think it is unaccountable. Despite laws on torture, we still torture people. I never said this was ok, not I nor most of the population, which happens to agree with me. And for good reason - the idea pushed forth last week that discussing what we're doing and admitting it's wrong is the cause of the recent backlashs is, well, naive. Had we never done such horrible things, horrible things that the military refuses to document success in using, then there'd also have been no backlash.

I want my name back.

What's really sick about all this, is that it's all happened before. Very bad men have done this in world history, and world wars were the result, to try to stop them. Only, this time, our administration has learned from the past. We're not torturing and killing people on our own soil. We're doing it in marginal, confusing-ly legal places not on our soil. Which makes it much harder for the opposing forces to invade us to stop it. And Guantanamo is much smaller, and easier to protect. Even more evil, if no one's going to invade us, they're certainly not going to invade Uzbekistan to try to stop the tortures going on there, also in our names.

I recently commented on an extremist's blog. He responded. He starts off wrong to begin with: “All I did was agree with Ann Coulter”. Hello? Has he done any critical thinking at all about what Ann Coulter says? Let's just say that she's misinformed and alarmist. Bringing the level of discourse one level lower (She thinks the best way to talk to liberals is with a baseball bat). Uh huh. Thanks for participating in the discussion.

Let's continue. QC suggests that I'm a pacifist, and that I think we should all just sit down and take it. I don't. I agree that we should fight for just causes, but torturing people doesn't fall into that list. Wide-spread acts of violence don't solve the problem, either. Not only do neither solve the problem, it makes people angry -- making the problem we're trying to solve, worse. If we want to do something constructive, we need to follow our own laws, or else those against us (and there are a lot more of them than there are of us) will prevail, as purely a matter of numbers.

More should be said on this subject, and if QC or anyone else wants to continue the discussion, please do. I'm moving this week, so I've put less into this post than I'd like to, but I will pick up the baton if it gets passed back to me.

January 28, 2005

BSE-like disease found in another species...

To all those who have been wondering whether BSE is going to jump to other species, the answer has been found

Yayh. Too late to turn vegetarian? Maybe not, but it seems like it might be necessary.

November 03, 2004

Mood: Sad, disappointed.

That's how I feel after yesterday. Those dang early exit polls had me all charged up for a happy result.

My faith in America is somewhat lessened. But, then again, it was a really darn close election, and the division lies along the same lines it did the last time. Kerry just wasn't a good enough candidate to swing voters (and/or the slacker 20-something crowd was too lazy to show up...), and Bush was too busy passing the buck.

Ugh. 4 more years of a president who refuses to critically analyze, acknowledge his mistakes, or take any kind of responsibility. And those are the better parts of his character....

My home state of Ohio really let me down, though. Voting Bush is one thing - it was pretty close, and they've voted Bush in the past. But, come on, has anyone read the awful, blatantly discriminatory new anti-Gay law?

I successfully kept my dinner down, but I still feel ill....

August 10, 2004

Guest Blog: The FDA on BSE

Hi again, everyone,

So, by virtue of my university affiliation, was able to attend a seminar last week given by none other than Lester Crawford (DVM, PhD), the acting commissioner of the FDA. The title of the seminar was “BSE AND BEYOND -- HOW THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS TACKLING SOME OF TODAY'S BIGGEST HEALTH THREATS.”

I should state that though he had intended to talk about bioterrorism as well, due to copious pointed questions during his BSE (bovine spongeiform encephalopathy) section, he ran out of time… actually, ran over by about 15 minutes. This, should tell you, before I even get started, that he wasn’t very good at adequately answering questions. If you don’t want to read any farther in this post, the take-home message is that I am in no way reassured about the state of beef in this country after this seminar, and am possibly even more worried by Dr. Crawford’s apparent inability to give straight answers to a group of 40 or so scientists.

For those reading who don’t know, I gave up eating beef shortly after the first American mad cow was identified back in December 2003. What follows is the story of the seminar.

Continue reading "Guest Blog: The FDA on BSE" »

August 03, 2004

We The Media, Creative Commons....

One of the nice things about the Creative Commons, and licensing stuff therein, is that you get some flexibility with the works, albeit at some cost in proceeds to the author.

In my case, I'm looking forward to reading Dan Gillmore's new book We The Media on my Treo 600. But, having not seen it in any trivial format yet, and just announced in PDF under CC, I figured I'd take a stab at doing my own conversion.

First, I fetched the PDFs. Then I used JoinPDF to combine them in order. The resulting PDF is just over 1 megabyte. Unfortunately, Adobe Reader for Palm doesn't seem to sync with my Treo under Mac OS X, so I gave up on that route quickly. Besides, the PDF it created to be readable on the Palm was somehow 6x as large as the original PDF, which would not really do.

I proceeded to hunt around for Mac or Linux-based tools that would text or HTML-ify the PDF. I ended up going with xpdf's "pdftotext" with the "-layout" option, and hacking a bit of extra markup with my favorite lay-markup tool, Markdown. The resulting text should be both Palm readable, and make nice HTML for those who prefer HTML (perhaps via Plucker or something).

And, no, it hasn't taken longer to do this than to just read the text. Well, not as slowly as I read these days, at least... Oh, right, you should know that as of this posting, I'm only done with the first 2 chapters. It's going quickly, although I think I've been leaving the endnotes dangling. Sorry 'bout that.

HTML version
Markdown text version

July 29, 2004

Reactions to the far right....

Well, it's a sure-fire way to demonstrate how leftist I've become, but I couldn't help but cobble together a response to this extremist essay by Michelle Malkin after reading it. I have included her entire text inline for side-by-side rebutting.... which I hope is permissible. If it's somehow a threat to her copyright, I'll be happy to change to excerpts, though, thus decreasing greatly the value to political discussion this post might possibly serve.

Proceed with care...

Continue reading "Reactions to the far right...." »

April 22, 2004

Censorship and fear

Wow. I first heard about this on Air America, but it's atrocious.

Yes, she broke the "rules". But she wasn't even a journalist, and it's not clear that such policies are realistic. But, then, I have a real beef with the way information rights (like the semi-implicit one that "if I see something, I can show others that, unless I had already promised not to") are bleeding away these days. How long until I get a notice from Coke for having a funny picture with a Mt. Dew in it on my website (link not included, and it's not even easy to find...)

Give me a break. Not another free-speech zone.

April 13, 2004

Wide-scale BSE testing not even allowed?

For all those who know I'm not eating beef right now because of the BSE controversy, you should know that something fishy is going on. According to this NYT article, a beef producer which wants to export its beef to Japan, can't, because the Department of Agriculture decided it "implies a consumer safety aspect that is not scientifically warranted." And, yeah, there's a law which stipulates that the Department of Agriculture can decide these things - to prevent producers from doing more than they're required.

Sheesh. Yeah, this is pretty scary. The beef lobby is definitely in control here...

Via Joi Ito via Plastic

March 02, 2004

BSE testing in the USA

Ever since Joy pointed out that since BSE (that's Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - Mad Cow) testing isn't really being done at all to cows in the US, and that, given the fact that the disease transfers to human if we consume any neural tissue which contains the proteins-gone-wrong which cause Mad Cow, and slaughter houses aren't totally known for their clean conditions, I've been avoiding beef in the US.

Joy was looking for some other supplies lately, and came across a supplier who actually has tests available. In fact, there are now 5 different tests for BSE approved by the European Commission. However, if you try to track any of them down to, say, purchase one of them, you'll quickly discover that they're not available to US customers (note the box on the left, under "Animal Health Tests/Systems").

I can certainly understand why they might be hard to get, or for "evaluation only". But, please! One of the tests, InPro, was developed at the University of California San Francisco!

Perhaps I'm just missing something. And, sadly, all of the tests are done against neurological tissue sampled from the animal shortly after it is butchered, so there's no do-it-yourself solution to the tainted beef problem yet. But, really, folks, where's the BSE tested beef? With an incubation period as long as 30 years, vCJD, the human version, could be the next-big plague. Why are we taking such chances?

February 26, 2004

Guest Blog - gay marriage

Hello, world!

Well, we seem to have, at long last, found a subject for which I care enough to acquiesce and forge my debut into the blogging world, or blogosphere, as I am told it is called.

Let's talk gay marriage. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few weeks, or this is far in the future and you need to be reminded, the proposition of a constitutional ban on gay marriage is a pretty hot topic these days.

My stance: Undeniably, indescribably PRO gay marriage...
That said, let's look at the reasons people have stated for being opposed:

1) Tradition says marriage is between a man and a woman. ---Uh, okay. I guess I'll go acquire some shackles, then, and start eating table scraps. Did you hear that the sun is still circling the earth after all? And that they're officially un-registering all female voters for the upcoming election. Likewise, the navy's going to start manufacturing cannon-firing warships again. So what if they're obsolete. Traditionally the best armed forces have the strongest navies. Obviously, just because something is traditional, doesn't make it right. Likewise, just because something is new, doesn't make it right either. But here, we're talking about more fair or less fair. But I'm getting ahead of myself. More on that later.
2) Gay marriage undermines the institution of marriage. --- This is a stance which is almost laughable. In fact, I do laugh at it, by querying a coworker of mine daily as to whether the latest spate of gay marriages have caused marital problems for he and his wife. Sound absurd? Well, it certainly should. If your commitment in marriage is so tenuous that it depends on the marital state of another couple, then you have a lot bigger problems than your support of a constitutional amendment. Gay people are wonderful spouses, mothers, fathers, and that does NOT weaken the institution of marriage one bit.

The fact of the matter is that loving another human being is right. No one disputes that. Likewise, devoting yourself to another human being because of that love is also right. The only way you could possibly be mean-spirited enough as to try to dictate that one couple's love is less deserving of legal protection than another's simply because the people concerned are of the same gender is if you believe, since we've determined that love and devotion are good things, that being gay is wrong. Or that homosexual love is inferior or irrelevant as compared to heterosexual love.

That's it exactly, you say, I've couched it in terms of tradition and upholding societal values, but really, deep down, I believe gayness is wrong.

The most common reason for such a view is one of religion. "Scripture says blah blah blah." Well, you know what? You can hold whatever religious belief you want, but TOUGH. The state is under no obligation to honor your specific religious creed, just because your holy book says YOU have to. Separation of church and state, baby. You can believe gay people are sinners, going to hell, worthy of contempt and possibly attempts at salvation, but certainly not equal protection under the law. But it is precisely because our country is so great, that your rules don't apply to everyone.

The second most common reason is some unspecified "feeling" of revulsion to the idea that homosexual love is equivalent to heterosexual love. Which can't be too fair, because you aren't gay and straight at the same time, so how can you compare? You probably feel this way because most people you know are all opposed to it, and you aren't allowing yourself to consider the alternative properly, or fairly. If you fall into this category, I urge you to figure out why you think gayness is a threat to you or to America. If it's because "everyone says so," that's not a very good reason. If you figure out it is actually becase of some latent religious beliefs or vestiges of a religious upbringing, see the preceding paragraph.

The fact of the matter is that homosexual behavior is not unnatural. Speaking as a biologist, homosexual behavior is WELL documented in other primate species, not just humans. And anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of history should know that gayness has been a documented part of human existence since history began. I just LOVE the argument that homosexuality is some deviant behavior people choose. Like anyone would choose to be scorned by society, be the victim of a hate crime, or be possibly disowned by their parents.

How many people reading this have ever heard the expression "jumping the broom"? If you're not black and you said you haven't heard of it, I'm not surprised. Despite references to it still today. Jumping the broom is an expression that goes way back to the days of slavery. As you may expect, slaves were not allowed to legally marry. So when two such people decided they loved each other and wanted to wed, they would hold secret ceremonies with the other slaves whereby a broom handle was laid on the ground and the couple jumped over it together, signifying their committment to one another. This, of course, conferred no legal rights whatsoever, and the partners could be (and were) still sold away from one another.

The bottom line is this, people: banning gay marriage isn't going to stop people from loving one another, or from committing themselves to one another. All it's going to do is use the government to institutionalize the type of discrimination we've prided ourselves on moving away from for a couple generations now.

Support for the ban=homophobia=bigotry, plain and simple.

As far as what you want to call it, marriage or "civil union", that's not important. If it's the same rights, eventually, it will sink in that it's an equivalent love...

Thank you for your time.

February 17, 2004

Continual erosion of our rights...

This from a recent Salon article, though I think it originally appeared in the Oakland Tribune last year sometime. A statement by Mike Van Winkle, spokesman (yes, the actual mouthpiece) for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, defines what they might consider terrorism:

"You can make an easy kind of link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest," he said. "You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

Uh, what? Protesting a war against terrorism is terrorism? How many other crimes are going to be elevated because of this? I mean, yeah, civil disobedience can be a crime, but it doesn't make you a terrorist.

Anyway, read the Salon article. There's way too much good stuff in there for me to summarize.

January 28, 2004

Check your presidential candidate alignment!

Found this site interesting - PresidentMatch . I'm not sure what it reveals about me, but here's my ranking:


Hrm, Bush at the bottom? No surprises there.... All of the candidates but Bush were ranked nearly 80% or more.

October 07, 2003

Ok, so, it's a hoax...

Anyone taken in by my last post ought to read this, and stop being so appalled.

October 04, 2003

Someone save us!

I was just going to deliver on a promise to provide this link to the Creationist Science Fair 2001.

But then I started poking around their website.

I ran across this post, on their site news section:

We have moved again. While closely rereading the Statement of Faith of our previous webhost, Cross Spot, we made the sad discovery that they are not firm enough in their opposition to the erroneous doctrine of triclavianism.

Apparently they're referring to Cross Post, a site entirely targeted "... to provide web services and tools for Christian Ministries." Which was inadequate because they didn't have a strong enough stance against "Triclavianism , or, in other words, a belief held by some Christians that Jesus was nailed up with exactly 3 nails. It's a belief that, since it's not based in bible doctrine, should be vehemently opposed. This incites the good humor of Kissing Hank's Ass. How can you be so strict about your faith that you miss all of the glaring inconsistencies.

John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."