Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Too late for Superman
Stories like this give me hope. Just because Bush has foolishly turned his back on avenues for medical advances, doesn't mean the rest of the world needs to fall behind.
Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since an accident in 1985 damaged her lower back and hips. Afterwards, she was confined to her bed or a wheelchair.
Today, she can walk again, thanks to Stem cells. She's the first person in the world to have been treated and cured in this way, but she won't be the last.
What's more, even the religious arguments against stem-cells fall short in this case, as the doctors managed to isolate the stem cells from umbilical cord blood. And while I'm not a doctor, I'm pretty certain that that blood can be sampled without killing the foetus.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the amazing doctors in South Korea who made this possible.
Ex scientia per ardua ad astra.
Monday, November 22, 2004
I wrote this yesterday, but blogger is being a whorebitch again.
I'm different to most people. I don't remember where/when I was, when I heard about Kennedy's death. It's all sort of a blur. But I do remember trying to put the newspaper together, and having to write about it. (Owners and Editors face deadlines too, and this was not something you could have prepackaged and sitting around.)
I can still remember that, in a fit of idiotic hubris, I had allocated the entire second page for my own piece. All text, and no photos. And then discovering over the course of hours that I did not know as much about the man as I would have liked. I knew more, much more, about his public image.
I remember letting the minutes slide by, staring into space, as I tried to remember anything that might give a human side to the man, who was even then, becoming larger than life. A legend. A White House messiah cut down in his prime. But I didn't want to write some fawning adoration to a fake god-head, when chances were that future revelations would tarnish the mans reputation. I wanted to write something that would last. (One of the reasons I got out of that business too... Daily news was becoming ultimately disposible.). But this was different. I knew that. This news wasn't disposible. It was history in a way that few stories are. And there was a lot of white space to fill.
I used to have a sign in my office, a motto of sorts. Words to live by anyway, which I used to keep in mind every time I sat down to write. It can be loosely translated as "Don't fuck it up".
The years between then and now, have not been kind to Kennedy. But the public has. They have more or less forgiven his indiscretions. The Cuban missile crisis is regarded as his brave unblinking stare-down of the communist menace. The most common speech that people remember, is either the one that launched the space race
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard"
or the one from his Inaugeral address
"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country."
And these are good words to remember.
I could do a better job these days, of writing about the human side of Kennedy. His mistakes, both personal and political. Certainly, I could tear into some of the decisions that he made, or the reckless or illegal or immoral acts of his administration. But what would be the point? And on his anniversary, at that?
J.F.K. wasn't a saint. He was a man, caught in the riptide of history, fighting forces that were beyond the comprehension of normal citizens. He was victorious sometimes, and bowed when he had to be. But he wasn't the type of man to break.
Some can argue that that is why his removal was "approved" by those who hold the real power. I'm not trying to say that.
Rather, I would say that that is why he remains a good role model, and an inspiration to many.
Requiat In Pace
Sunday, November 21, 2004
I had often heard that the recently dead visit our dreams.
Obviously, I don't believe that. I don't think you can attribute any particular signifigance to dreams. They're just weird mental neuron firings. But that said, I wanted to use the blog to record my mental state in dealing with my fathers death.
I mentioned that I had not exhibited any real grief to any great extent. In my dreams it's different though. A few nights ago for example, I had a rather upsetting dream. I was in a bedroom that looked, for all intents and purposes, like a AOD's room from about 20 years ago. My dad and I were getting into an argument, over something I can't even remember. And it started the way these things usually did. Neither of us were shouting just yet, but each of us was projecting our voices at louder and clearer volumes. It ended with us shouting at each other, and my ultimate rejoinder was along the lines of "What do you know? You're DEAD
!!" In the dream, I was quite upset.
It woke me up, as these things sometimes do. My face was dry, and I got back to sleep. And had another dream about my dad. This time, my family were gathered at a crossroads I know, and my father was coming up the hill towards us. He was walking slowly, and dressed in a smart overcoat. When he drew level to us, we knew he was going somewhere, and couldn't stay long. We were all talking at once. My Dad looked sad and nervous. And on some level I remembered he was gone, and the idea occurred to me that he was on his way to judgement. I reached up and straightened his tie, and tried to reassure him that he was a good man. When he left, we stayed at the corner watching him walk away. It was upsetting. He disappeared before he turned the corner and went out of sight.
My sleep patterns over the last few weeks have been erratic. And while I normally remember my dreams easily, there majority of recent nights, I don't remember them. But when I wake, the ever-present loss I feel, is diminished. So I think I'm dreaming about my dad nightly, even if I don't remember it.
I'm still not grieving in my waking hours. It's strange to me. I can go through periods of the day where I don't think about it or him for hours at a time. But then I see something, read something, think of something, and my first inclination is to want to tell my Dad, or to wonder what he'd think of it.
Being a huge fan of cell phone technology, I've got numbers and sim cards for almost a dozen countries. I can't remember the amount of times I could have been just walking along a street, or waiting at an airport, or something, and I'd call my Dad just to chat for a few minutes. Distance was never a factor, I used to tell him. A cell phone meant I was always just in the next room.
Now I carry him with me. And we talk and hug and fight in my dreams.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
So good I watched it twice.
Holy shit. That was good. "DS9" good.: Comment seen on talkback at Aint It Cool News
I'm not a fan of Star Trek. Haven't really watched or enjoyed an episode, with any regularity since DS9 season 2.
But having heard that Manny Coto had taken up the reins for this season of Enterprise, I wanted to give it a look. Manny has talent, and knows and respects the Trek universe. He is, in many ways, the anti-Braga.
Tonights' episode of Enterprise was stunningly good. I watched it spoiler free (always the best way, IMO) and while not entirely unpredictable, it contained enough surprises and "Oh Cool!" moments to keep me focused.
10 out of 10, and please sirs, can we have some more of this?
Friday, November 19, 2004
One Law For All?
Okay, so maybe someone can explain this to me.
Jim Taricani, a TV reporter with WJAR, was found guilty by a judge after a 45-minute trial and could get up to six months behind bars when he is sentenced next month.
His crime? Protecting a source. He is refusing to say who leaked him an FBI videotape of a politician taking a bribe.
So how come Robert Novak is still walking around as a free man?
Are some "sources" more important than others?
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Why American Voter Reform is a pipedream
Sometimes I despair. This is one of those times.
Picture the scene. You're in a sports bar, watching whatever sport happens to be your poisen. (Mine happens to be football, or Soccer as Americans insist on calling it.) It is a tight game between your favourite side, and their bitter rivals. As their rivals are pounding towards their goal getting ever closer towards making a vitally important score, there is a rough tackle from your teams defense.
And it is a foul.
Immediately the whole bar (both sets of supporters) shout their outrage at that foul.
It just couldn't happen, could it?
The more likely scene is that to one team, it is a blatantly obvious foul and the player should be penalised. To the other side, it was simply a rough tackle, and the "injured" player isn't even injured, he's faking, and if anyone should penalised it should be the great big faker.
When the game is over, the winners never say "We won because we cheated" or "We won because we played roughest". At best, they might say "We kicked their asses!" but never in a way that is less than supportive of their team. "Kicking their asses!" is not something to be ashamed of.
Since the election, I've been trawling through a large amount of websites from both sides of the fence, trying to understand their mindset. My exposure to those involved in the two-party system way of things, gives me every indication that the majority of Americans treat their politics like a sport. Two opposing teams, bitter rivals; with your team consisting of noble stalwart men and the opposition consisting of cheating whining craven crawlers who bring shame to the glorious game. And after each clash, whoEVER winds up on the losing side, sees the worst in every "rough tackle". Attributes the meanest of motives to their opponents. Vows the result will be different, next time. Scores will be settled.
Sure, there are exceptions. We heard quite a lot of them in the run up to the last election. People (and even politicians) who broke with tradition and their party loyalty to move to the opposing side. But one of the reasons those moves are news worthy is that they are so rare.
It is the same attitude that underlines the rallying cry of "My country, Right or Wrong!".
American politics is just WWE wrestling, writ large. Cheering our "heroes", Booing the "villains". When the villain smacks the hero with a chair, we scream in outrage at its illegality. When the hero dives into ring to assist a tag-team partner without being tagged, we cheer.
It's ridiculous. (Especially if, like me, you think that the games and results are orchastrated by those with the real power and money, purely to keep the masses occupied and the money flowing in.)
Until the majority no longer own such slavish loyalty to any party or political figure, they will be incapable of looking at any issue objectively. And I doubt that any winning party (or its supporters) will want to change the system that put them in power.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Calls for Vote Reform are not a partisan issue:
It's not just the Democrats being pissed off that they lost
For some time now, the opposition has been trying to overthrow Chavez in Venezuela. The populace had a chance to speak on the matter in a recent referendum. This was the first widespread use of electronic voting in that country. I would like to use it to illustrate a point about the calls for American electronic voting to be more closely examined, changed, or dropped.
The Venezuelan voting process used thumbprints for verification of voter identity, had heavy international monitors including the Carter Group, used open source voting machines whose code was open and reviewed by thousands of programmers months before the election, and had no less than THREE
paper trails (one which was given to the Carter group, one given to the election board, the other kept by the voter for verification purposes).
The process of the electronic voting machines was highly scrutinized and available on the web
for months for review by anyone who might have been interested.
Diebold did none of this. The process was highly unknown and obscure. There were no paper trails. The source code was not presented for review. When parts of the source code were leaked, they were found to be very badly written and full of security holes and bugs.
Chavez won by 18
This was verified by both the voting comission as well as by the Carter center.
The process was standardized and each ballot looked the same and each voter was given the same experience.
Exit polls were excellent indicators of the actual results.
The opposition were forced, reluctantly, to conclude that they had lost. The people had spoken. There was no foul play.
Bush, on the other hand, won by 2 percentage points. TWO
percentage points. There were no paper trails. The voting process was NOT standardized. The exit polls matched the final results in most states, but in the swing states (the key ones) they did NOT match the final results. In those states, the exit polls were all off by anywhere from 5 to 10 per cent, and always in Bush's favour. Then all these other problems arise, slowly being recognised by the mainstream meadia.
If there had been even HALF the problems in Venezuela that the US has seen, the opposition in Venezeula would NEVER have accepted the results. They would have demanded another referendum. If 4000 votes were put for Chavez that didnt really exist, the opposition would go apeshit. If some voting machines were found to discard all the votes cast that morning, there would be cries of condemnation of the Chavez regime. As it is, the international monitors were still called upon to verify the results and that was with an EIGHTEEN PERCENTAGE POINT win.
Now why are we so sure that Chavez won? Because the system was near-perfect.
Why was it near perfect? Because the Venezuelan opposition puts enormous pressure on Chavez, and would have refused to accept the results ANY OTHER WAY. It also helped that Chavez genuinely believes he has the support of the masses, so did not resist all attempts at transparancy and security. In the end, both sides wanted the system secure, and accurate.
So yes, there are some people who say Kerry got more votes, or should have won, or whatever. At this point, it doesn't matter if they're right or not. Bush ain't leaving the White House no matter how much they might want otherwise. But the calls for proper voter reform should not be dismissed as the partisan whining of the losing side. Americas voting system is flawed. Diebold is a fucking joke. And if the mid-west is in favour of brutally exporting democracy to other nations, they might just want to consider getting on board with what a fair election actually looks like.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
They admit, Computers gave Bush extra votes in Ohio
I've been reluctant to start blaming Diebold for Bush's win. But in the last 2 days, there's been a couple of new developments.
First, we have CNN going ahead with the story (found here
) that Bush got more votes than he should have. Of course, they downplay the seriousness of it.
The thing is, they can't explain how it happened. And they refuse to conclude that since the code which was deployed on one machine is the same code that is deployed on all machines, that the problem could have occurred elsewhere.
No, that's just one logic chain they'd rather not look at too closely.
They also make a passing reference to the problems that happened at other touch-screen voting stations around the country. But it's just that, a passing reference to a "handful" of problems. But if you read the actual story at CNN (see here
) you see that they refer to over 1,100 problems.
So all of this was at least enough to reawaken my doubts about whether Diebolds known system flaws were exploited for any one candidates gain.
Then finally, Greg Palast got into the nitty gritty of it.
Now Greg Palast
is a far cry from the "loony left" or tin-foil-hat-wearing-conspiracy freaks. He deals with facts. He's been called one of the most important journalists of our age, and is often used by British publications and tv, but for various reasons he is little known in the US. He's one of the only people (the only person?) that the Bush family tried to sue. They had to drop the case because Palast could prove everything he was saying was true. His investigation into Katherine Harris' exclusion lists in Florida 2000 were ground breaking, and his best selling book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" was on the New York Times best seller list for something like 6 months to a year.
Palast reckons not only that Kerry won Ohio, but he reckons he can prove it. I haven't looked at his evidence yet, so I can't say for certain if I'm going to find it convincing or not, but based on his previous work, I suspect it will be good stuff.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Florida 2000 : Ohio 2004
At this point in time, it looks like Ohio is the make or break state
So it is with a heavy heart that I recall the words of Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
Bush is the President.
God help us all.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
A platform you can believe in
Okay, so maybe these are too well known to really come as a shock to some people. But then again, maybe not.
For your consideration, a man stands for election with the following platform. How many of these are you in accordance with?
Man has the right to live by his own law --
to live in the way that he wills to do:
to work as he will:
to play as he will:
to rest as he will.
to die when and how he will:
Man has the right to eat what he will:
to drink what he will:
to dwell where he will:
to move as he wills over the face of the earth.
Man has the right to think what he will:
to speak what he will:
to write what he will:
to draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build as he will:
to dress as he will.
Man has the right to love as he will:
Man has the right to resist those who would thwart these rights.
Does it sound reasonable to you?
Over the years, I've given this list to a few people, and asked their opinions. The most critical ones have tended to focus on the apparent pro-euthanasia or pro-homosexual aspects. Also, the last one sometimes reads "kill" instead of "resist", but that too often met with disapproval.
Some even pointed out that these "rights" as it were, do not prohibit things like incest or pedophilia. To which I generally respond, well, neither does the ten commandments. Take them at face value, and in the spirit in which they are intended, and don't look for "gaps" where you can fill in some hateful acts because they are not in the spirit of the rules as they are written.
Had a think about it?
I'll tell you what Church advocates those beliefs, which a very small sampling has shown me are generally
applicable to both the left and right ends of the political spectrum.
(Highlight for answer)
The Church of Satan
The gullibility of the left
I have insulted a fair number of Republicans in the last few weeks, by posting and commenting repeatedly, how such findings as the Pipa report, show they have a tenuous grip on reality at best. And how this is okay, because the Bush administration vocally rejects "reality" as a mere inconvenience, not worth bothering about.
In the interests of fairness though, I have to point out the following. I received an email from a leftist friend of mine, which contained a report that said "Stupid people are more likely to vote for Bush."
Now, it's a sentiment I agree with, for various reasons, but this email claimed to be citing a report from some thinktank in South California. Does it sound plausible? Yes, especially if you're a smug and sanctimonious lefty who likes looking down on "foolish" Bush supporters. But is it true
Well, there we have a different story.
You can google for this alleged report, and find many references to it online. Despite the fact that it was allegedly released only a few days ago. (It certainly seems to be spreading rapidly.) But so do virii-hoaxes and chain letters.
The first clue (to me) that this report was complete crap, (aside from the natural tendency to reject the idea of a Californian think tank as an obvious oxymoron) was that the doctor cited in the report was called "Louis Friend."
Has anyone on the Left who is promulgating this missive, seen "Silence of the Lambs"?
Louis Friend is a made up name. An anagram of "iron sulfide", also known as fool's gold.
Some further research failed to find any reference to this alleged Think Tank anywhere else. Maybe the article was originally written as a joke, but I found no clear cut reference to it being a joke. (Though it reads like a really bad Onion article.)
You might think "Where's the harm?", and wonder why I get so annoyed when I see stuff like this. Especially since I kind of agree with the conclusions it claims to support.
The answer is simple. Because it's bullshit. And the choice between Democrat and Republican should not be about winning by any means. There are plenty of reasons to be against Bush, and (if you must) to mock the unthinking followers of his administration. You don't have to make shit up. And if you believe a bullshit report just because it says something you agree with, well, you're no better than those who reject "reality-based" facts.
The left needs to be more sceptical. (It's the only way we'll ever get to the truth about issues like global warming.)
Monday, November 01, 2004
"I think the puppet on the left represents my views"
As told by that great American prophet, Bill Hicks
Tomorrow is election day in America. And like about 80% of the rest of world, I am fervently hoping that George is kicked out. Sadly, I don't think that's going to happen. For the same reason that Ahnold got elected, there is simply too much money at stake for those who hold the real power.
There is a natural knee-jerk tendency to dismiss certain types of stories (especially when found on the internet) as mere "conspiracy theories". Which is a shame, especially when this reaction prevents one from looking at evidence objectively. When it comes to electronic voting, particularly by Diebold, I think anyone who looked at the evidence knows that the potential for extreme chicanery exists, whether or not it will actually be used.
There have also been many verified
stories of potential voter disenfranchisement. Greg Palast, award winning journalist, has been a major figure in bringing this to the attention of the main stream media, albeit outside the U.S.
So it should be obvious to the most objective viewers, that there are factions of Republicans who want desperately to win, and will fight any sort of dirty fight to do it. And those individuals clearly do not have as much to lose, as the segments of society (with true wealth and power) who have benefitted hugely from Bush's theocracy.
The rather depressing part, is that I'm not entirely convinced that Bush would have to steal the election. CNN's poll shows that 2/3rds of people think Kerry will win the election, even though most other major media polls show that it's too close to call.
The UK news paper, The Guardian, was one of a few non-US places which tried to bring a foreign perspective to the attention of the US voter. The responses followed a general trend: Republicans were outraged and extremely aggressive and offensive in their responses. They also displayed a remarkable ignorance of history and foreigners, relying on stereotypes, racism, and in the case of England, various references to the revolutionary war.
As unlikely as it might seem, I think it's very likely that Bush will carry enough votes to take the election. The cognitive dissonance of his followers is just a part of it. The savage enslavement to religion is a larger part. But I'm also afraid that the US is now more clearly than ever on a path towards a facist hegemony, and that that movement has too much momentum to be stopped now.