May 23rd, 2009


The Democrats Who Aren't

I am increasingly frustrated by the bunch of Democrats who are undermining the kind of things that Democrats generally stand for. If we can't make serious progress on issues with this much of the government under Democratic control, then it's not going to happen -- and some of it is really urgent, like making sure we don't destroy the environment and kill ourselves, or making sure that everyone has health care so we don't all frigging get sick and die.

Dems May Make Trouble for Climate Bill
Lisa Lerer and Patrick O'Connor, Politico: "California Rep. Henry Waxman has spent most of the year catering to the concerns of other Democrats on his Energy and Commerce Committee. Now it's everyone else's turn."

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship | Rx and the Single Payer
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout: "In 2003, a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama told an AFL-CIO meeting, 'I am a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program.' Single payer. Universal. That's health coverage, like Medicare, but for everyone who wants it. Single payer eliminates insurance companies as pricey middlemen. The government pays care providers directly. It's a system that polls consistently have shown the American people favoring by as much as two to one."

Security Issues

I am perennially frustrated by the fact that more and more sensitive information is transferred to electronic format and poorly protected. In many instances people are forced to have their information uploaded, even if they do not wish it. Once information is electronic, it is much less secure than hardcopy information: no matter how "good" the security is said to be, it is always possible to hack ... but far more likely that someone will simply be careless enough to cause a breach. Here is an example of the latter:

National Security-Related Hard Drive Missing
Eric Zimmermann, The Hill: "A massive amount of sensitive, national security-related information from the Clinton administration has gone missing from the national archives. The Inspector General of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) told congressional committee staffers Tuesday that a hard drive containing over a terabyte of information -- the equivalent of millions of books--went missing from the NARA facility in College Park, Md., sometime between October 2008 and March 2009."

The Bees Are Back

A couple years ago, a colony of honeybees moved into a tree not far from our house. They were close enough to the house that I tried to convince them to move, somewhat reluctantly since wild bees are struggling to survive. Last year I didn't see them. This year, however, the tree is again humming and bees are visible to-ing and fro-ing at the crack. Colony collapse disorder and other dooms have progressed to the point that I've decided to let the bees stay. As long as they don't bother us, we won't bother them. I wish they'd chosen a more out-of-the-way place, but I don't currently feel justified in arguing about it with them.

Earlier this year I wrote a Gaiatribe post on ways of helping honeybees.

My Activism in Action

Today I had reason to mention some of the activism that I do. If you're curious about what I'm doing to make the world a better place, these are places with a high density of examples: tracks how many causes and organizations you support and how many actions you've done for each. Currently my causes are: Gay Rights, Stop Global Warming, Sustainable Food, Poverty in America, Education, Women's Rights, Immigration, and Stop Genocide.

You might also want to check out my Digg page. Not everything I Digg is something I necessarily agree with, but most are worth reading, and my leading topics are Environment, Political News, World News, Space, and General Sciences.

If you want ideas on how YOU can make the world a better place, I recommend both Bloggers Unite and as good starting places. Also many of my activism posts include action calls (sign this petition, call your representatives about Topic X, etc.) or a "What You Can Do" list.

News from the Culture Wars

Here is a collection of great links and resources dealing with racism and other flavors of oppression.

I am particularly entertained by the letter by the freedman to his old master, which is a splendid example of the African-American style of insulting people sideways while being polite on the surface, a skill useful to the survival of any underclass. I'll have to keep this in mind while writing the dogsbody tales.
gold star

A Demonstration of Waterboarding

Here is a video demonstrating the use of waterboarding on a volunteer, Mancow, who had initially thought it would not be all that bad.

He changed his mind, and subsequently described it as "absolutely torture."

I admire his courage and honesty; changing stance on an important issue can be hard. He gets a gold star for journalistic integrity: when in doubt, do your own research, and if you were wrong then admit it.

Aliens Meme

Gakked from fayanora:

1. If aliens were invading, what would you do, hide or wait by your TV?

Once violence ensued, I would be part of the resistance plotting to kill them and steal their starship(s). Given my particular talents and lack of heroic physique, that means I'd be trying to crack their language. Ergo, I would most likely be hiding in a bunker watching surveillance videos of the aliens talking to each other.

2. The aliens have landed and they haven't blown the planet to bits, how would you react if they looked like us?

I would be suspicious, but would give them the benefit of the doubt. This form would be worrisome because it implies a higher chance of competition.

3. What if the aliens were disgusting looking (like a pile of rotten cheese), then how would you react?

I would be suspicious, but would give them the benefit of the doubt. This form would be somewhat less worrisome, but competition is always a possibility. I would be curious about their home environment.

4. The aliens are about to make an announcement and all communication goes out. Your neighbor says that she/he heard that the aliens have announced they are going to destroy Earth. Do you believe him/her? Why?

No. If our power is out, usually the neighbors' power goes out too. I would, however, continue to observe the aliens to the best of my ability until their true intentions were revealed. Rumor is not really sufficient grounds to make such an important decision.

5. The aliens have announced that they will share their knowledge with humanity if a certain person has sex with one of them and they call your name. To make it more palatable, the alien can change into any porn star that you want. Knowing that your partner will find out if you say yes, will you do it?

Probably, if it was physically safe; otherwise more creative accommodations would be required. At any rate, I'd need my partner to handle the video camera. Not sure I'd want the alien taking on a human guise, though, unless it went all the way down to neural mapping; otherwise it would be really hard to figure out what sort of stimulation to apply where.

*ponder* It would be tremendously gratifying to make them route all the shared knowledge through me since, after all, I'd be the one paying for it. There are some things I probably wouldn't want to release, and some things that I would make certain people get down and beg for before releasing. And in the interest of balancing some scales, I'd pick some moderately important stuff and hand it off to representatives of various oppressed groups, to release or not as they chose.

By this point the poor aliens would either have the worst case of morning-after regrets in the history of the galaxy, or would be laughing their balls off and offering hive marriage.