Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Shhhh... We Don't Want to Jinx Anything....

But I have eight... count 'em... eight days until I have graduated with my bachelor's degree.

Act natural. We don't want to make The Fates suspicious.

(I said, "Act natural." Sheesh.... )


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Our Bodies, Our Selves

This is another example of what I like to call "Christian extremist terrorism." Susan Wood, an FDA official who quit when the agency refused to legalize over-the-counter access to morning-after contraception, says she believes that the next step is to refuse to grant access to potentially life-saving vaccines for human papillomavirus (genital warts), which can lead to cervical cancer, and any AIDS/HIV vaccine that could be invented in the future.


Because the same neocon Christian "family" groups that are pressuring the FDA to withhold approval making the "morning-after" pill (so-called "Plan B") available OTC are putting pressure on the agency to withhold approval of these vaccines. These groups believe that such medical treatments encourage sexual activity in young people. So, the logic amongst Christians (whose "good intentions" are becoming harder and harder to ascertain, I must say) is that, if you provide medical care for a woman's sexual wellbeing, you are encouraging her to have sex outside of marriage -- a crime which has apparently become punishable by death.

No word yet one when the FDA is planning on rescinding its approval of Viagra....


Monday, November 14, 2005

As We Suspected....

This article from the UK (originally published in September, '05) uses statistical evidence compiled from several sources to study whether what evangelical Christians are claiming is actually true -- that religion and the worhipping of deities in general, and a monotheistic God with a son named Jesus, in particular -- are the only things standing between mankind and all-out, Helter-Skelter-like pandimonium.

The results were mind-boggling even for those of us who suspected the truth.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, not only does this turn out to be untrue, it turns out to be the opposite of the truth. In countries which maintain a degree of secularism, crime rates, suicide rates, abortion rates and the rate of infection of STDs is markedly lower. The more secular a given nation was, in fact, the lower their cases of the above maladies.

Additionally, the study's author Gregory Paul found that the United States is the only advanced democracy where murder rates, though on the downslide, are still very high, particularly in comparison to the rates in countries like the UK, France and Japan, which have all the same technology that we do and a fraction of the murder rate.

So, it would seem that the presence of religion in a society is not only not helpful, but is actually harmful. It's devisive and preachy and self-righteous and self-absorbed. It's suppressive and repressive and unhealthy and more than a little seditious. It makes people believe things that are not true, and puts them in the paths of unscrupulous snake oil salesmen to boot.

One of these days, I'm going to have to move myself to one of them secular countries, just to see what it feels like living in a place where people are halfway sane.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yes, Mr. Governor... We Are Trying to Tell You Something.

Dear Governor (and I use the word in its most titular sense) Schwarzenegger:

I suppose your wondering by now if it was all a horrible dream. You probably had that slow realization, after you awoke this morning, where you forgot that you had been handed your head on a silver platter by the electorate of this state. That must have been a terrible moment for you. My heart goes out to you.

For someone like you, who is so accustomed to snapping his fingers and having the world jump, the results of Tuesday's elections must have really knocked the wind out of you. You thought you had us all figured out, didn't you. You figured if you couldn't get those idiots in the state capitol to do it your way, you would by-pass them completely. I guess getting handed your hat like that really gave you pause.

Let me try to explain what happened. Here, in America, unlike other countries that shall remain nameless, we have a system called representative democracy, or more accurately, a democratic republic. That means that we elect local folks that we think represent our point of view, we buy them a bus ticket to Sacramento and we pay them a bit of dosh to sit around and pass state laws that are conducive to our way of thinking. This has, so far, proven to be a fairly effective way to run the state. Oh, sure. We've had our rough spots. But by and large, we've come through them alright using this technique.

It is especially effective because people in L.A. and people in, say, Anaheim, or Riverside, don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on what's best for the state. So having representatives working it out in Sacramento, with each other and the governor (that's you, sir, in case you've already lost the thread of this little epistle) is both expedient and fairly civilized. Now, the governor does not always agree with the representatives that we send to the state capitol. Sometimes, he even dislikes them. And in rare cases, he downright hates their guts. See, the beauty of this system is that we pay people to do the bargaining and compromising and negotiating for us, so that we can get on with the meaningless, mundane tasks at hand -- such as feeding our families and trying to find affordable daycare and health plans.

I am not in a position to ask you what your stand is on the state representatives -- any of them -- currently serving terms in Sacramento. The truth is (and I think I speak for most Californians here), I don't give a flying fandango what you think of them. You don't choose them. We do. When you insult them, you're insulting us. Not that that seems to matter much to you. You have made it clear at every turn that you have no respect for this state, for this form of government and for the people who live here.

We just spent a few million dollars on a special election that we neither asked for nor wanted. Ostensibly, we had to dip into an already over-burdened state budget, strained to the brink by your refusal to follow the mandates of the state senate (I refer to the continued rollback of automobile registration fees, which was supposed to be completed two years ago), because you couldn't play well with others. How many school supplies do you think $300 million buys? A lot, I reckon.

So, here's what we're trying to tell you in a nutshell, Mr. Governor. We're trying to tell you that we are NOT going to do your dirty work for you. We are trying to tell you that we are very sorry you aren't getting carte blanche to do whatever suits your rich-ass, Eurotrash fancy, but we have a mode of government here that works well for us, and we're not prepared to change it at this time. We're trying to tell you to get your ever-expanding Teutonic ass back up to Sacramento, plant it in the nearest leather wingback chair and get to work. Real work, Mr. Governor. Not like movies.

This is politics. It's the real world. It's not an Arnold Schwarzenegger ass-kissing festival, where you get to be crowned Queen of the May every day. It's hard work, serious work, for serious folks, and if you're not up to the task, then step aside and let someone who has the meat do the job. Otherwise, get in that 7-miles-to-the-gallon-in-the-city Hummer of yours and find your way back to the state capitol and get busy. Our time is valuable, and our money even more so. Do NOT bother us again with your trifling bullshit.

That is pretty much all that we wanted to say to you, sir -- what we were trying to communicate with our votes on Tuesday. I just thought I'd make that clear, so you didn't misunderstand and take it too personally. Because, as shocking as this may be for you to fathom, sometimes it is just not about you.

Have a nice day, Mr. Governor. Best to the Missus.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Oh, Bitter Irony...

Wouldn't it be ironic if it turned out that the only weapons of mass destruction that turned up in this war were launched by us? White phosphorous is the chemical used in flash grenades and flares. When it comes in contact with human flesh, it burns... and burns... and keeps on burning, until it hits something that doesn't burn as easily -- like bone. It has been banned by the Geneva Convention since 1980. It is worth noting that the United States has never put its signature to the ban.

An Italian documentary which aired this week charges that the US dropped white phosphorous bombs on Fallujah, in areas where civilians congregated. According to a man the documentary identifies as a former US soldier who served there, white phosphorous creates a cloud that destroys every living thing within 150 meters. The US denies the charges, though acknowledges that it did drop "fire bombs" (MK77s) on military targets in Fallujah only. MK77s are similar to the napalm that was dropped in Vietnam in the 70's, though the chemical composition is slightly different. Still, the results are designed to be the same -- to sear human flesh from the bones in as broad a pattern as possible. What the precise distinction is that the US military is making between white phosphorous and "fire bombs", I'm not sure.

In a document that the Italians claims supports their story, an informal memo was sent by British Armed Forces minister (Rumsfeld's UK counterpart) Adam Ingram, claiming that the US used 30 of the MK77s in the spring of '03, on military targets only. However, the memo goes on to say that, due to the unpredictable nature of the weapon, they are rarely "used in urban terrains or in areas where civilans are congregated." Fallujah is listed as having a population of 256,000 (presumably based on a pre-war census). I would call Fallujah an "area where civilians are congregated."

But then, I never went to West Point.

It's all very confusing and unconfirmed right now, admittedly. The documentary can be found here (there is an English version). I must warn you. The images in this documentary are extremely graphic and difficult to see. War -- any war -- sucks. But civilian casualties, particularly the children, are almost impossible to bear.

Like I said... wouldn't it be the supreme irony?


Monday, November 07, 2005

Phew. What a relief.

It's okay, everybody. No need to get all up in arms. President Bush says, "We don't torture."

And he's made Dick Cheney point man to attempt to exempt the CIA from the "no torture" policy, just in case, in the middle of all this non-torturing, someone in the CIA should actually have a need to torture, they can with impunity. With Dick Cheney at the helm, I'm sure this ship will be steered straight and true, by golly.

Let's set aside the moral objections for the moment (since Republicans seem so free and easy doing that). Torture is a monumentally lousy way of extracting reliable information. If you're twisting my nipple with a pair of pliers, or pulling my toenails out one by one, I'm going to tell you anything you want to hear, whether its true or not. We learned this during the Salem witch trials in the 17th century. (Cheney's almost old enough to remember those, right?)

Then again, this entire post is moot. Because President Bush says, "We don't torture." And when has President Bush ever intentionally misled us?


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Who is Samuel Alito, and Why Should We Be Afraid of Him?

Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings are congealing at this very writing. Thanks to Think Progress, we get a little information about just how this man might rule on various issues.

Alito isn't just a conservative. He's antediluvian. This guy makes Antonin Scalia look like Bono. Write your congressional and senate representatives today -- now -- and let them know you want them to fight this confirmation with any weapon in their arsenal, including the filibuster (we knew that thing would come in handy at some point, didn't we).

George Bush is doing everything he can -- from this outrageous appointment to bird flu -- to take the focus away from Rove, Cheney and Libby. As hard as it is for those of us with ADD to maintain the attention to specific issues, we must attempt to do just that.

The slow implosion that we hoped for is here. Let's not let another thing slide. 2,000 young people are dead because we lost focus in 2003. We can't afford to make another mistake like that.