Kalends of April

Fool me once...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Bush's speech, and not

A very sensible decision was made by skippy the bush kangaroo to go to the Madonna concert instead of listening to that man on television. A poinient account:

one of the more touching moments was when madonna, in army fatigues, sang a rendition of john lennon's imagine. in a flashback to times so reminiscent of today that no flashback was needed, the audience held aloft flaming cigarette lighters as she sang, while pictures of the children of the world flashed behind her.

I agree wholeheartedly agree with non-Bush related program activities. I smack the mute button on the radio every time he comes on, scowl for fifteen seconds while he stumbles through the sound bite and then turn it back on. Yes, I acknowledge the need to know about him. I just can't stand listening to him.

So thank goodness for folks who can, and give us a "look at all these totally exciting ideas Bush has come up with since things started turning to shit."


Monday, May 24, 2004

Control Room

New film by Jehane Noujaim, an Egyptian-American documentary filmmaker who spent a month with Al Jazeera at the beginning of the current war in Iraq.

"Control Room" reviews, via mediacritic.com:

  • The Christian Science Monitor
    "Control Room," a riveting new documentary about the Arab-run Al Jazeera network, reminds us that news programming can vary so widely from place to place that journalistic myths of "objectivity" and "impartiality" seem more naive than ever.

    Jehane Noujaim is an Arab-American filmmaker, but the view of Al Jazeera presented by "Control Room" doesn't seem especially skewed toward Arab perspectives. Compared with many US cable shows, in fact, it seems ... well, fair and balanced.

  • New York Daily News
    Michael Moore's coming anti-Bush movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" may be attracting more attention, but the documentary the administration should be scared of is Jehane Noujaim's unsettling look at the inner workings of the Al Jazeera cable channel.


    The CPA leaders come across as master manipulators, but Noujaim doesn't sugarcoat the unabashed bias of local coverage, either. In fact, if her movie teaches us anything, it's that no reality remains unspun.

From an interview with filmmaker Jehane Noujaim (interviewed by Danny Schechter, author of Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception: How the Media Failed to Cover the War on Iraq):
I think that there's still this feeling among journalists in the West, like the NBC reporter, for example, that they want to be reporting international politics, looking deeper into stories and making more in-depth stories rather than just taking the sound bites. But I think a lot of them feel the pressure to appeal to a public that wants everything simplified. And I myself haven't figured that out: what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Is it the public that really wants to simplify press, or is it the press that is providing and conditioning people to only want this simplified, sound-bite-y kind of news? As one of the journalists says, television is for entertainment, and now news has turned into entertainment. If you want to actually understand anything, then you can't watch television news. [emphasis added]

I am looking forward to seeing what Noujaim brought home after a month with Al Jazeera.


Sunday, May 23, 2004

Weekend fun

This post at Kitten of Doom inspired the purchase of this* so that we could make these:

Trilobites are extinct marine animals which lived gazillions of years ago. Real trilobites may or may not have tasted like chicken. (who knows?) These cookies are the result of my most recent research into what ancient trilobites would have tasted like if primitive biochemical processes were based on jam/chocolate/cookie molecules. Independent paleoconfectionary laboratories often ask for my formula, so I have placed it here for the world to enjoy.

So bake a batch of 'bites...

Trilobite cookies are highly recommended. Especially the raspberry flavor. A bit labor intensive, but very tasty.

*Pricey, yes, but this is the high quality, deluxe model. Trilobite attachment included.


Friday, May 21, 2004

And Then... reports on the Maine State Democratic Convention

Scout at And Then... has a first-hand account of Day 1 of the Maine State Democratic Convention, plus political commentary. Here's some insider info for potential Nader voters on how not to count:

Campaigns look at those who are registered to vote to trim down the number of people (and amount of money) they have to spend. Following this cut, they then look at people who actually voted. These are the people who get phone calls, who get surveyed, who get the political literature and who get encouraged to come out. It's simply a matter of economics. And so when I, as a Nader supporter, voted Green in 2000 as a way to get Democrats to pay attention to me- I failed completely. All I did was tell the Democrats that I wasn't interested, and they went after Joe Moderate who sincerely can't decide if he is a republican or a democrat. (I never understood these people, and I especially do not understand them now.) But if you are considering voting Green or for Nader as a means of teaching Democrats a lesson, and that they have to come after your vote, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Let hear that last bit again:
...if you are considering voting Green or for Nader as a means of teaching Democrats a lesson, and that they have to come after your vote, you're barking up the wrong tree.

As it turns out: vote third party, get ignored by the Dems. Good to know.

I also voted for Nader the last time around, not as a Nader supporter per se, but as an active Green supporter. I believed that voting Green -- building the Green Party -- was a way to achieve real reform of the political system. I had given up on the Democratic Party all together and had no interest in sending them a message -- I wasn't thinking much about them at all. I just wanted the Green Party to get the magic percentage of votes (5%, if I recall) to qualify for matching funds, so that it could run an even bigger and better campaign the next time around, and then we would have a lovely multi-party system and everything would be all better.

Here's what was wrong with that: we have a two party system. Pretty obvious, right? Well, in 2000, and even for a while after, I thought we could change that. With more parties, there would be more seats at the table, representation of more of the diversity of American views. A more democratic-with-a-small-d system.

It finally sunk in that if it wasn't going to happen in 2000 -- with a nationally recognizable candidate*, a concerted effort from the Greens**, what seemed like a safe election to many*** -- it wasn't going to happen at all. Nader got what, 2%, 3%? Political reform in this country will not by achieved by establishing a multi-party system. And that's a practical conclusion.

So, what will work? Sending the Dems a message by not voting for them? Well, no. Now we know that won't work either. But Scout has the solution: vote Democratic. The good news is, if we vote for Democrats in the general election, the Party will notice. Our job is make sure that they respond. That's a ray of hope.

*A lot of folks respected him way back in 2000.
**Ralph Nader is not running as a Green this year. A vote for Nader this year is pure protest, not Green Party building. And sorry, but the Green Party isn't going to get 5% or whatever in 2004.
***OK, this is another huge, sticky topic.

UPDATE: Day 2 of the Maine State Democratic Convention at And Then...


Evolution vs. creationism: It's not a scientific debate

Today on NPR's Science Friday biology teacher Robert Dennison made a point which can't be stressed enough: the "debate" about evolution vs. creationism (recently redubbed the more palatable "intelligent design") is a social debate, not a scientific one. Scientists recognize that the understanding of evolution informs the basic understanding of biology. There is no debate among scientists about this.* It is the creationists who want to debate, not on scientific grounds, but based on their religious beliefs.

When asked how much time he spends teaching evolution, Dennison responded (to the effect of): from the first day of class until the last day. This is biology.

The book discussed on the segment is Evolution: the Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory by Edward Larson, who was also a guest on the show. Looks like a good read.

Evolution web sites:

*Disputes of the my-fossil-is-older-than-your-fossil variety (for example) are not debates about evolution. These are debates within the framework of evolution.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Short fiction at Positive Liberty

Good short fiction at Positive Liberty. I don't know why I swoon over subversion architects, but as it turns out, I do.*

In those days, Thomas Frage was a subversion architect; quite possibly he was the best that ever lived. Frage's work cropped up anonymously, uninvited, all over the duchy. Usually no one noticed until it was entirely too late.

Oh, yes, a good read.

*Perhaps because architects (of a different, but ultimately subversive, sort) play a prominent role in the piece short fiction that lives in my heart. (Maybe someday it will live on this blog, too. Maybe.)


Prescription drug costs: some good news and some bad news

Some good news for a change:

  • Making Drugs, Not Profits: A married couple attacks neglected diseases of the developing world
    To make drugs affordable in places where annual family incomes were often less than the cost of an MP3 player, the first thing that would have to be jettisoned was the profit motive.


    The first obstacle was bureaucratic: getting Internal Revenue Service approval for a nonprofit pharmaceutical company, a designation that, at first glance, seems like an oxymoron--and one that the agency had difficulty grasping.

And business as usual:
  • Rising Co-Payments Prompt Some to Forego Medications
    "In the last five to seven years, employers have dramatically shifted the cost of prescription drug spending to employees, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but they're doing it in a way that could have adverse effects," said study co-author Geoffrey Joyce...


    ...many people with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol stopped taking their medication when the price increased. These are serious health problems, and not taking essential medications could cause an increase in hospital visits and other health-care expenditures, possibly negating any prescription drug savings, the study found.


Legos of Biblical proportions

The Brick Testament: the Bible illustrated with Legos. Little Lego people star in stories about prostitution, incest, violence and other old-fashioned family values. (And that's just Genesis!)

Via Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty and his plague-based post about the brood-x cicadas. (That's an Exodus story!)


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The importance of abortion rights to John Kerry

Just a little bit anti:

Democrat John Kerry said Wednesday he's open to nominating anti-abortion judges as long as that doesn't lead to the Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 ruling that made abortion legal.


Kerry said he has voted in favor of "any number of judges who are pro-life or pro-something else that I may not agree with," some of whom were nominated by Republican presidents. "But I'm going to make sure we uphold what I believe are Constitutional rights and I'm not going to pick somebody who's going to undermine those rights."


"But that doesn't mean that if that's not the balance of the court I wouldn't be prepared ultimately to appoint somebody to some court who has a different point of view. I've already voted for people like that. I voted for Judge Scalia."


Asked if he regretted that vote, Kerry said, "Yes. Given what he has done on a number of cases." Kerry said he didn't see at the time "such a level of ideology and partisanship" he now sees in Scalia.

Kerry regrets voting to confirm Scalia. Kerry couldn't tell that Scalia was a bitter partisan ideologue until it was too late!

The AP wire story was updated. Removed is the revelation of Kerry's fundamental misreading of Scalia. But added is a clarification from the Kerry camp that Kerry won't kill Roe v. Wade -- really! -- as well as the reaction from NARAL:

Later, aides said "some court" was not a reference to the Supreme Court, only lower federal benches. Kerry tried to clear up the matter with a written statement that said: "I will not appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who will undo that right" to an abortion.

That statement soothed at least one abortion-rights leader, Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "There's a huge difference between Bush and Kerry on choice and this is not going to undermine the pages-long documentation that Kerry is pro-choice," she said.

Yes, we still have to vote for him. John Kerry: Really not as bad as Bush.


Meta news in Iraq

Did Peter Kenyon report on NPR today that the Iraqi wedding bombing story had pushed the Sivits court martial sentencing story "out of the lead" in both US and Arab-language news today?

I do believe that is just how he ended his lead news report on the wedding bombing today. (I was driving and most certainly not taking notes.)

The next news story was, yes, the Sivits court martial. So, accuracte reporting.


EU: GMO corn OK; US: We're still suing you.

The European Union lifted the ban on the sale of BT-11, a sweet corn produced by Syngenta, a Swiss biotech company:

The European Commission defied public opinion and environmentalists on Wednesday by giving the go-ahead to a Swiss company to import the genetically modified sweet corn BT-11, effectively lifting a five-year ban.


Wednesday's decision will certainly please the United States, the world's biggest producer of GM foods and the leader of a group of 12 countries petitioning the World Trade Organization to overturn the European ban and open up the EU for GM products.

What remains less certain, however, is who will actually buy the bio-engineered food. A recent survey conducted by the EU shows that more than 70 percent of Europeans are against so-called "Frankenfoods." The advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FOE) says there is virtually no market for GM foods in Europe as consumers have overwhelmingly rejected them.

Despite the lifting of the BT-11 ban, there are a number of other applications to sell GMO food in Europe currently in process. So, the Bush administration is taking no chances:

The Bush administration, which accused the EU last year of violating international trade rules, welcomed the approval Wednesday but insisted its complaint at the World Trade Organization would go forward. The initial ruling is expected in September.

"The approval of a single product is not evidence that applications are moving routinely through the approval process in an objective, predictable manner based on science and EU law rather than political factors," said Richard Mills, spokesman for the U.S. trade representative in Washington.

Ah, yes. That's what we need: an "objective, predictable" process that just happens to coincide with the biotech industry's interests, instead of "political factors" such as what the people of Europe happen to want.

What will the lifted BT-11 ban mean for the EU commission and for GMO foods in Europe?

Friends of the Earth Europe also warned the commission - often derided as an arrogant bureaucracy out of touch with average Europeans — that it will face "increased public hostility if they force through the approval."


Meanwhile, the biotech industry has begun to retrench, especially in Europe, where polls show wide majorities do not want to eat genetically modified foods.

Last week U.S.-based Monsanto shelved plans to offer farmers its genetically modified spring wheat due to a lack of market demand. A month earlier, Germany's Bayer Cropscience gave up attempts to grow genetically modified corn commercially in Britain.

So. The will of the people may yet prevail through power of the marketplace despite the best efforts of the biotech industry. I have little hope that we will ever ban GMOs here in the US, but wouldn't it be nice if we could get GMO labeling? Then we could vote with our pocketbooks, too.


Added Site Meter

As with my first post, filed under let's see what happens.


Sonia, why?

Why has Sonia Gandhi declined to become prime minister of India? She led her Congress Party to a decisive upset victory against the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Manmohan Singh, the father of Indian economic reforms will become prime minister with Gandhi's full support. Gandhi will remain president of the Congress Party.

There were a number of concerns about Sonia Gandhi as prime minister:


[Gandhi] would likely have led a coalition government dependent on the outside support of two communist parties, who oppose continuing economic reforms such as privatizing state-run companies.

That prospect spooked investors and caused financial markets to tumble Monday, when the Bombay Stock Exchange registered its biggest drop in its 129-year history.

The benchmark index rose again Tuesday on news that Singh could be the new Congress party candidate for prime minister, though it was unclear how his coalition would be any different from the one Gandhi might have led.

Religious and personal:
"The post of prime minister has never been my aim. My aim has always been to protect the secular foundations of our nation."

But some reports also said the decision was influenced by pleas from her son, Rahul, and daughter Priyanka, who feared she would follow her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, and her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, by being assassinated.

And let's not forget, nationalist:

"It is naked racism on the part of the BJP. They are simply trying to polarise the country over the issue," said Jayanti Natarajan, a Congress MP from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

However, nationalist MPs were unapologetic. "It would have been a national shame if Sonia Gandhi was to become prime minister. Anybody else is acceptable," said Sushma Swaraj, a member of the Indian parliament's upper house.

Will Gandhi's decision demoralize her supporters? Or by renouncing has she claimed the moral high ground and cleared the way for a new era of reform?

All the best to Sonia, her party and her nation.


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