Friday, March 31, 2006

The longevity genes

As we age, our bodies lose the ability to regenerate cells at the rate that they do when they are younger. Why that is and what processes guide the regeneration of cells are questions that biologists have been trying to discover for years, if not centuries. Answering this question may lead scientists to discover all sorts of treatments that could extend the human lifespan.

Yet we and other researchers have found that a family of genes involved in an organism's ability to withstand a stressful environment, such as excessive heat or scarcity of food or water, have the power to keep its natural defense and repair activities going strong regardless of age. By optimizing the body's functioning for survival, these genes maximize the individual's chances of getting through the crisis. And if they remain activated long enough, they can also dramatically enhance the organism's health and extend its life span. In essence, they represent the opposite of aging genes--longevity genes.

Scientists are now finding that individual cells divide for a period, but over time a "mother" cell, which is a cell that has divided many times, ends up having stray copies of DNA rings that have spun off the main DNA chain when it copies itself. Cells that build up stray rings become crippled and die.

But there is an enzyme in cells that controls how tightly DNA coils around host proteins, preventing them from releasing stray rings leading to the deterioration of the cell.

This sounds complicated, but the article explains it well. The authors are trying to find out and explain what produces or activates the enzymes, and they think that it is biological stressors. Things that stress our systems (not emotional or psychological stress) into fighting for survival. For instance, they discovered that reducing the caloric intake of certain simple organisms and animals, that they lived longer and were healthier.

Restricting an animal's calorie intake is the most famous intervention known to extend life span. Discovered more than 70 years ago, it is still the only one absolutely proven to work. The restricted regime typically involves reducing an individual's food consumption by 30 to 40 percent compared with what is considered normal for its species. Animals ranging from rats and mice to dogs and possibly primates that remain on this diet not only live longer but are far healthier during their prolonged lives. Most diseases, including cancer, diabetes and even neurodegenerative illnesses, are forestalled. The organism seems to be supercharged for survival.


The phenomenon was long attributed to a simple slowing down of metabolism--cells' production of energy from fuel molecules--and therefore reduction of its toxic by-products in response to less food.

But this view now appears to be incorrect. Calorie restriction does not slow metabolism in mammals, and in yeast and worms, metabolism is both sped up and altered by the diet. We believe, therefore, that calorie restriction is a biological stressor like natural food scarcity that induces a defensive response to boost the organism's chances of survival. In mammals, its effects include changes in cellular defenses, repair, energy production and activation of programmed cell death known as apoptosis.

They then spend much time talking about the enzyme SIRT1 and how it might be the key in how the body reacts to reduced caloric intake.

Over the course of a lifetime, cell loss from apoptosis may be an important factor in aging, particularly in nonrenewable tissues such as the heart and brain, and slowing cell death may be one way Sirtuins promote health and longevity.

So they haven’t really discovered why it is that caloric reduction causes sirtuin reaction to delay cellular decay. But it’s a really interesting article, and fascinating to think that scientists are on the verge of extending life another 20 or 30 years with the knowledge.

I’ve been finding it hard to reduce my diet lately. My lovely wife cooks way to well, and I really enjoy food. I have this tendency to dress down in cold weather, liking cold weather as I do, and I tried to convince her that perhaps I’m just stressing my body into some sort of survival mode that’s increasing my siruins, and so by wearing shorts on cold days it’s actually increasing my lifespan and improving my health. I don’t think she’s buying it.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Men's rights

In regards to the post I made last week regarding “Roe v. Wade for Men” here is another situation that is getting attention.  Unwed fathers who want to raise their children when the mother does not have very little power to override whatever the mother decides. 

In this case it’s a man who did not know that he was a father, but the mother was putting the baby up for adoption.  The father tried to get custody of the child, but was forced out of the equation because he didn’t file with the Putative Father Registry.

      Today, partly as a result of several legal controversies in which unmarried fathers successfully contested adoptions, the majority of states have "putative father registries" by means of which a man can assert his paternity. But the purpose of these registries often seems to be less to protect the rights of the father than to protect the rights of everyone else: the mother who wants to give up the baby, the adoption agency, and the adoptive parents. Some would say that they also protect the rights of the child. But that depends on whether you believe that a child is better off being adopted than being raised by the biological father.

      In most states, the unwed father has to file with the registry either within a certain period of the child's birth—from five to 30 days—or, as in Massachusetts, at any time before the adoption petition is filed. But neither the mother nor the adoption agency has any obligation to notify the man of the adoption, or of the fact that he is a father or father-to-be. Even when the father is notified, he may not be told about the putative father registry—which is what happened to Jones, whose attorney, Allison Perry, refers to the Florida registry as a "well-kept secret." That is the situation in most states. Not only are most men unaware of the registries' existence, even some lawyers don't know about them.

In both cases, whether the father wants responsibility or not, there’s a good argument that what’s good for the woman should be fairly applied to men.  My impression is still that “fairness”, in regards to case law, would indicate that both of these cases will end up giving men this latitude.  I’m only encouraged by the above application of men’s rights, rather than the one in my post last week, will be better for society as a whole.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


According to the book, Operation World, the country to pray for on the 23rd was Chile. I didn't cover it then, but since the book has China scheduled until April 5th, I thought I would cover it now.

Chile is that long stringy looking country next to Argentina, and stretches from Peru in the north to the arctic tundra of Tierra Del Fuego at the tip of South America. It's area is about 750,000 square Km, which is just slightly bigger than California and Oregon put together. With a population of about 16 million people, it's about as well populated as the two states.
The terrain ranges from arid deserts along the coast in the north part of the country, to alpine glaciers in the Andes between Chile and Argentina, to fertile valleys and arctic tundra.

Prior to the conquest by Europeans, the narrow strip of land between the Pacific and the Andes was ruled by the Incan Empire, although it hadn't been that way for long. The Incas only captured the area early in the 15th century, just before the Spanish got there. The country became independent of Spain fairly early in the grand scheme of things. They got their independence in 1810. The northern parts of the country were captured from Peru and Bolivia in 1884, and finally subdued the Mapuche of the south, who had kept the Incas and Spanish in fits for centuries.

Chile has had a representative democracy for almost all of that 200 years, although some of the pathways have been rocky. As recently as 1970, a Marxist government came into power, but soon was resisted by the right-wing military and the CIA helped Augusto Pinochet Ugarte take hold of the government. Pinochet didn't relinquish power until 1989. His entire reign was rife with oppression and human rights abuses, which are even now still getting sorted out.

They just elected a new President, Michelle Bachelet, one of the first female presidents ever in Latin America. Although she is liberal, the relative state of politics in South America makes her look conservative.

There is still a dispute with Bolivia over northern parts of the country. Bolivia wants the territory it lost in the 1884 war with Chile because otherwise it is land locked. Evo Morales called for the OAS (Organization of American States) to help with the dispute, but Chile doesn't want the OAS to get involved.

Chile's population is 90% Christian, of various denominations (although majority Catholic). The Catholic church has been hit hard by identification with liberation theology (with it's Marxist presuppositions), and many have left to protestant denominations. The wounds of the Pinochet years are still sensitive, and continue to haunt life and politics there.

Lite blogging caused by March Madness

OK, I've gotten over Gonzaga losing in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. But only just. They end up being like the Portland Blazers every year; promise, but can't gut out the playoffs. I was pretty depressed, but I'm back now, so prep for some posts.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Men's Roe v Wade

I saw this last week on CNN, and I thought, “Oh, no.  There goes male parental responsibility.”  Really.  This guy Matt Dubay is suing  his ex-girlfriend because she is trying to get him to make child support payments for a child he plainly said he never wanted.

Jeff Jacoby states the issue pretty well.

      A 25-year-old computer programmer in Michigan, Dubay wants to know why it is only women who have "reproductive rights." He is upset about having to pay child support for a baby he never wanted. Not only did his former girlfriend know he didn't want children, says Dubay, she had told him she was infertile. When she got pregnant nonetheless, he asked her to get an abortion or place the baby for adoption. She decided instead to keep her child and secured a court order requiring him to pay $500 a month in support.

      Not fair, Dubay complains. His ex-girlfriend chose to become a mother. It was her choice not to have an abortion, her choice to carry the baby to term, her choice not to have the child adopted. She even had the option, under the "baby safe haven" laws most states have enacted, to simply leave her newborn at a hospital or police station. Roe v. Wade gives her and all women the right - the constitutional right! - to avoid parenthood and its responsibilities. Dubay argues that he should have the same right, and has filed a federal lawsuit that his supporters are calling "Roe v. Wade for men." Drafted by the National Center for Men, it contends that as a matter of equal rights, men who don't want a child should be permitted, early in pregnancy, to get "a financial abortion" releasing them from any future responsibility to the baby.

      Does Dubay have a point? Of course. Contemporary American society does send very mixed messages about sex and the sexes. For women, the decision to have sex is the first of a series of choices, including the choice to abort a pregnancy - or, if she prefers, to give birth and collect child support from the father. For men, legal choices end with the decision to have sex. If conception takes place, he can be forced to accept the abortion of a baby he wants - or to spend at least the next 18 years turning over a chunk of his income to support a child he didn't want.

      All true. But it is also true that predatory males have done enormous damage to American society, and the last thing our culture needs is one more way for men to escape accountability for the children they father. Dubay wants more than the freedom to be sexually reckless - he wants that freedom to be constitutionally guaranteed. Truly he is a child of his time, passionate on the subject of rights and eager to duck responsibility.

Truly this is just a natural extension of the legal precedents that women’s rights groups have been asking for all these years.   Instead of their choice ending with the decision to have sex, the woman is afforded all sorts of options after that fact, and the men are not. 

But if I’m indignant about that situation it’s because I’m being consistent about the issue.  Having sex comes with the risk of consequences, and considering the result of there being a new and completely unique human being growing inside the mother, the choice should be over the moment that happens.  For both participants in the sexual act.

Will pro-abortion (pro-choice if you must) groups look hypocritical unless they fully support what Dubay is fighting for?

Military casualty by President

Instapundit links to RedState, who has some interesting numbers.  Here is the breakdown of how many people died in the military during the first terms of the last four Presidents:

George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . . 4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)

Not statistically that different, is it?  Take away the 2500 or so that we’ve lost in the two theaters of battle, Iraq and Afghanistan (which leaves training accidents, diseases and other causes), and Bush’s numbers drop to 2687, or half of what Clinton lost in an era of relative peace.  What does this mean?  I think that all it means is that you can’t say that more soldiers are dying now than in past presidencies.  All you are changing is the circumstance, and given the threat that certain countries in that region of the world, it’s not a bad circumstance.

Note that the size of the military was far greater in the 1980s, before significant downsizing by Clinton, which makes the numbers for Reagan and H.W. Bush smaller by proportion.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Afghanistan drops the ball

A man who converted to Christianity 16 years ago is on trial for the crime of converting from Islam, and by Sharia law that means he could get the death penalty.  The court is maintaining that since one of the articles of the Afghani constitution is that “no law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam” that means that constitutionally the man should be punished.

The article points out that their constitution also says, “followers of other faiths shall be free within the bounds of law in the exercise and performance of their religious rights.”

So we appear to have a contradiction in the fundamental law governing this new democracy.  The US should push hard to get this law clear and clarified in the direction of religious tolerance. 

Monday, March 20, 2006

Cape Verde Islands

I bought this book from my local Christian book store called Operation World. The idea of the book is to make Christians aware of the world that they live in and what the situation for Christians and other people is in every country of the world. Each day of the year is a different country (weekends are one country for both days). The idea is to pray for the peoples of each country of the world in the course of a year, for missionaries, and for non-Christians too.

For instance, today's country is the Cape Verde Islands, a small set of islands off the west coast of Africa. Specifically it's about 600 km off the coast of Senegal. The total area of the islands is about 4000 sq km, or about the size of Rhode Island, but the population is less than a half a million.
Cape Verde was discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century, as a part of their ongoing slew of discoveries along with the Spanish. They used it as a trading center, notably slaves to America.
It became independent of Portugal in 1975 and began a slow transition that ended with multi party elections in 1990. It continues to be one of the most stable democracies in Africa. It has a President, whose powers are fairly strong due to constitutional changes in 1995, a 75 person legislature and a judicial branch. There is also a Prime Minister appointed by the President.

About 95 percent of Caboverdians are listed as Christians, but that's in name only. Tribal customs and superstitions remain a strong part of lifestyle, and so that's one of the things we are supposed to pray for: the true conversion of those who consider themselves in the faith.

Cape Verde is a member of NATO.

Chinese Blogger Arrested

For those of you who don't think that China is a police state.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Friend sent this to me today. If you follow the link you get to view a little Flash clip that mocks a pizza delivery call. During the call you see what, apparently, the delivery company call person sees on her screen. Which includes just about everything having to do with the caller's life you can imagine. The phone they are calling from, where they work, their health history, what they have spent on their last vacation and the status of their visa card.

If you follow the link at the end of the flash clip, you are taken to the ACLU site and a page warning you to take action now or suffer this fate in the future because of some project called MATRIX (not like the movie). The MATRIX program is data on individuals, compiled in a database, for use in law enforcement. Currently the project compiles, according to the government, your name, address, family members, property ownership, bankruptcies, liens and judgments, voter registration and criminal history.

Now the ACLU likes to freak out about a lot of stuff, and I'm not sure this isn't one of them. The example in the flash clip has us believing that eventually anyone, or any business, will have instant access to all sorts of information because of this collection of stuff. But the fact is that all this stuff on the MATRIX list is all public information, possibly except for the criminal history. But the real question is how is this stuff getting used in the future. If it'’s solely for criminal justice use, then we don'’t have too much of a problem here. I think that the police should have every tool they need to get their job done.

However, I do think that the government should be explicit about what is being collected and how it'’s going to be used. There should be definite guidelines and boundaries in order to protect rights. But the ACLU is notorious for placing that borderline in extremely hard to defend locations, so I don't exactly trust them to define this one. Make your own decision.

Update: Welcome readers of The Gentile Cricket. He's got some words and a link to another guy. I think that we are all having the same tentative optimism about the project, but know that most tools that law enforcement uses have the potential for abuse.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Time to myself and family

I just got back from a wonderful weekend filled with skiing and a short trip to the beach with my son. A sort of father/son sort of weekend. We need that bonding every once and a while, and lately I had wondered how close he felt our relationship was. Since he is 10, my wife and I thought that I should take some time with him and talk about the next phase of his life, which is going to contain many physical and emotional changes. The venerable, and often controversial Dr. Dobson often says that it’s better to prepare than repair. And so the preparation begins.

Blogging might be light, as it’s March Madness, and I'll be following Gonzage like a Bulldog. I’ll be reading up and watching the mayhem and filling out my bracket.

I'm just a kid at heart myself, you know.

Biological conundrums

You may be one of those who believe that Saddam didn’t have any biological weapons when we invaded the country of Iraq a few years ago.  You may believe that he did and they are still at large because he got rid of them (Syria, whatever).  You may believe that he once did have them, but dismantled the program years ago.  You might think that bio-weapons are unthinkable and we should start an international commission to make really stern statements and try to coddle all the worlds government, dictator or not, to give them up for good.  Or you might think that there are some great legitimate reasons to have and use weapons that contain viruses and other organisms that do nasty things (I don’t).

But either way, I think that they are around to stay.  Not that I’m happy making that statement, but it seems that due to the sins of man there will always be men whose lust for power and fear of their fellow man will go to great lengths and insane means to protect themselves and destroy those who they hate and fear.

Glenn Reynolds had some thoughts recently that we shouldn’t relax on the issue just because we took Saddam out.  Old Soviet programs that manufactured bio-weapons probably weren’t disposed of properly, and we would be kidding ourselves if we conceded that Iraq was the only third world country with links to terrorists that maintained weapons that kill through chemical or biological means.

It should make sense that the more we grow to understand how the body works, and the more detail that scientists glean on what makes the body function, the more ways those with bad intentions will discover to destroy the body.

Secretary of the Interior

Our new interim Secretary of the Interior, Patricia “Lynn” Scarlett, has some interesting views, some of which you hear from the right, but mostly what you would hear from a hard core Libertarian, not a Republican. 

Back in the 80s she argued for the legalization of drugs.  She has been responsible for many controversial DOI rulings, like Snowmobiles in Yellowstone and more development on federal land.  Her environmental philosophy is dead center Milton Friedman:

      Thus, in our analysis, the fundamental causes of environmental problems can be reduced to two: the tragedy of the commons and the inability of people to defend themselves against pollution harm. This explanation of pollution differs from what is frequently taught in economics courses. There, pollution is an “externality” that constitutes a “market failure.” That is, somebody engages in a lawful activity such as manufacturing a product but allows waste—smoke or chemicals or heavy metals—to enter the air, water, or soil. Because the cost of this pollution is external to (that is, not paid by) the people producing or purchasing the product, it is a “negative externality” that adversely affects third parties (Fullerton and Stavins 1998, 433). The proposed remedy is usually government action that requires the producer to reduce the waste or pay a tax designed to discourage its production.

      The precautionary principle is used to defend efforts to moderate global warming through tough limits on the use of fossil fuels. However, scientific uncertainty about climate change impacts suggests that resilience may be more appropriate. Twenty years ago, some scientists expressed concern that global cooling might be occurring (Schneider 1976). Had we had the same determination to “do something” as we do today about global warming, we might have accelerated burning of fossil fuel to hold off cooling.

      Banning pesticides is likely to increase the costs of food so that lower-income people eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Since eating fruits and vegetables is believed to reduce the risk of cancer, eating fewer of these foods may cause more harm than did the pesticide residues the regulation was designed to eliminate (Ames and Gold 1996, 12, 27).

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Solomon Amendment

Noticed that the students at Yale are up in arms over the Solomon Amendment (get it, up in arms?)(ok, sorry it was dumb). A couple of organizations on campus called Outlaws and SAME (basically the same organization: Student/Faculty Alliance for Military Equality) are filing a complaint against the Amendment, which allows the military to recruit on campus, no matter how the school or students feel about the military’s don’t ask don’t tell policy, as long as the campus accepts government funding.

But this is, of course, after the Supreme Court in Washington (yes, that one) upheld the amendment last week. This article, talking about that event, notes that the Penn Law School is also challenging the amendment. Although their argument might be a bit better, this is almost a moot point, as I don’t see SCOTUS taking this up again unless there’s a really good reason. You take federal bucks? You need to allow fed access to your campus for recruiting. End of story. Penn Law argument is that they already allow access to the military through Career Services, as other employers do. Sure, but those other employers probably don’t give thousands upon millions to your school either.

Anyway, back to the Yale argument. They maintain that the amendment violates the First and Fifth amendments to the Constitution.

Put aside that they are basically challenging the wisdom of judges with more experience studying the Constitution in their pinkies then these law students have in their whole bodies. Take a look at the first and fifth amendments.

First: free speech. Really, no one is taking away anyone’s right to say what they feel here, as evidenced by SAME’s ability to vigorously oppose this in the first place. Perhaps they are talking about the Military’s suppression of gay people’s right to declare themselves gay. But that really doesn’t apply here. If that’s the case they should be suing the military. But that’s been tried, hasn’t it.

Fifth: Trial and punishment. What? What does this have to do with trial and punishment? The fifth amendment was a protection against the government holding you without cause or taking your property without compensation.

OK I'm reading the legal complaint filed by SAME here, and I'm no legal expert, but it seems pretty thin to me. They are arguing that they have reasonable cauzation or "injury in fact" to bring before the court. I.E. they have to argue that they will suffer "injury" in some way or form from the amendment. Since there is no personal, financial or bodily injury that they will suffer, I think they are relying on the grounds of the amendment defying certian constitutional rights, but like I said it seems pretty thin.

The right includes the right not to associate, and government actions that force "intrusion into the internal structure or affairs of an association" may unconstitutionally burden this right.
Basically they are saying that since it's against the policy of the school to associate with any organization that discriminates against any group of individuals for reasons of race, sex, etc. And the Federal government is forcing them to because the Solomon Amendment forces them to allow the military to use school resources to recruit. And the military discriminates with the "don't ask don't tell" policy.

But I think the problem here is that the federal government isn't really forcing them to do anything. It's a condition of the money that they get from the feds. If they really believe they shouldn't associate with the military, if they are willing to accept the consequences for their moral positions, then all they have to do is stop accepting money from Uncle Sam. How is that discriminating?
Their position on the First Amendment to the Constitution is exceedingly thin. In another section they try to prove that the Solomon Amendment somehow prevents the school from communicating with the students its message that discrimination against gays is wrong. I'm not sure how they are going to prove that.

More later.

UN and NATO to Darfur?

Noticed something in this article that Austin Bay didn’t make a note of (but might have seen anyway).  Basically the article is talking about how the UN and NATO are considering replacing the overwhelmed African Union troops who are there keeping the peace.  Genocide continues, and the Sudan government and peoples living in the north part of the country are speaking out against UN intervention.

Really, that means they are opposing someone coming in to break up their little genocide party.  I found this statement kind of funny:

      “In the south they are there to help, but in Darfur this will just be a front for Israel and America to come in to get our oil,” said demonstrator Amal Jaafar.

      Sudan produces roughly 330,000 barrels per day of crude, mostly from fields in the south.

That last line thrown in by Reuters makes the statement by the demonstrator look pretty foolish.  But I was thinking that the statement is far more hypocritical seeing as China has most of the interest in the oil coming out of the Sudan, and the oil interest in the Darfur region in particular. 

So let me get this straight, you trust that the UN and NATO have the best interest of the people in mind in the south were most of your oil comes from currently, but trying to stop mass murder in Darfur is only because we want to come in and “get” your oil.  Hmmm.

Frankly, a statement like this infuriates on so many levels it’s staggering.  They sound a tad concerned about the people’s in the south, but up until a few years ago they were doing their best to practice the art of genocide down there too.  The difference being that those in the south seem to know how to organize and fight back.

Sudan is railing on about how the UN is going to “invade” their country.

      “The UN invasion of Sudan” — that’s what replacing the African Union peacekeepers with UN troops (and NATO-supplied troops) will amount to. Why? The Sudan government objects to the change, for many reasons. One reason: the peacekeepers would mo e from monitoring to peace enforcement. NATO troops would serve in strike and rapid reaction units– meaning the militias of all stripes would be out-classed and out-gunned. NATO would provide air strike and air lift support (so far the UN has asked for air lift, but made the request in terms of “air support”). NATO would provide maintenance assistance.

Color me skeptical that transferring management of the peacekeeping mission from AU to the UN is going to help the Darfur peoples from their aggressors.  My hope for them here is that NATO sounds like they want an active roll, and they are more likely to provide direct relief in the form of military exercises against those terrorizing the civilians.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Armed Liberal takes a look at accident rates in the United States and regulation designed to help keep accidents down. He found that California is trying to get smart about regulating safety in the workplace.
So basically, instead of periodic or post-incident inspections, citing and fining the contractor when violations occur, the inspectors visit on their own schedule, identify problems, and if the contractor fixes them, no further action is taken.

Now if you credit the 15 possible injuries to the 23 reported ones, you still have an accident rate less than half the typical construction project.

More press distortion

Since we’re on the subject (I was complaining about the recent media resurrection of the Katrina issue), here’s an interesting look at how the media is “fixing” information coming out of Iraq to support their exaggerated claims about the faux civil war they seemed to want so badly to cover.  The reporting is in regards to a press conference by General George Casey, commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq.

      The media is free to dispute the General's claims - that's expected of them. But in this case they aren't, they are simply using his words selectively in a manner that supports their own previously published fictions.

I read the news stories this morning, and frankly found them strange.  They way they were worded and the way they were reporting what the General said sounded very contrary to how military leaders have communicated with the public throughout the entire war and occupation.  I should have known it was media distortion.

Hat tip to Instapundit, who has much more on the subject.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Attack of the Living Katrina

From the sound of this article, the AP is actually tempering the hubbub regarding whether Bush knew the levees in New Orleans or not.  The release of a report by the Senate blaming officials at every level of government for the poor response to the disaster seemed to prompt the media to start the Bush-blaming game all over again.  Much ado was made about a video showing the President in conference with FEMA coordinator Michael Brown where Brown in telling Bush that the levees might just break.  This is used as proof that Bush lied when he said a few days later that they could not have imagined that the levees could have been breached. 

I’m not sure what to make of that statement.  My guess is that it was taken out of context, because in other reports now surfacing, Brown also makes statements to the effect that he thought Bush asked a lot of good questions regarding the situation, and in the transcripts (what isn’t being shown about the meetings) is that Brown is convincing Bush that FEMA has the situation in hand.  Bush believes this, and considering that the last few major hurricanes that hit Florida were handled well, he certainly has reason to have faith in the agency.

The problem, again, that the national media likes to ignore is the difference between the state and local responses to the disaster and the fact that Florida is far better equipped to deal with hurricane events. 

Now we get this information about what Blanco was saying the day after the storm hit:

      "We heard a report unconfirmed, I think, we have not breached the levee," she said on a video of the day's disaster briefing that was obtained Thursday night by The Associated Press. "I think we have not breached the levee at this time."

So Blanco didn’t believe, and certainly didn’t know.  She is the one heard on several tapes being asked what the situation is, and she told FEMA that she couldn’t be sure whether the levees had been breached or not. 

      The video shows weather forecasters predicting the storm's path and also briefly cuts to White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin asking Blanco about the status of the levees and the situation at the Superdome in New Orleans.

So the White House, while knowing that a breach COULD have happened, didn’t know until well after the storm left – because the local officials didn’t know.

But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the local response is what happens first and foremost and the feds don’t come in until later.  They can’t move faster than that, and their role in this situation is that of support and resources.  How do you reconcile what the critics of the federal response are saying to this gem from Col. Jeff Smith, Louisiana director of emergency preparedness:

      Still, "the coordination and support we are getting from FEMA has just been outstanding," Smith said.

Yes, considering that the federal response to the last big hurricane in Florida was 5 days, and this time it was about 3 days, I would say that it was outstanding.

But no evidence to that effect would ever deter self-promoting politicians on Capitol Hill from trying to be the loudest voice of dissention. 

      Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said it "confirms what we have suspected all along," charging that Bush administration officials have "systematically misled the American people."

      Reid and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California renewed their calls for an independent commission to investigate the federal response to the hurricane. The House and Senate have conducted separate investigations of the federal response, and the White House did its own investigation.

I’m sure another commission and another investigation is going to be exactly what we need to make everything right (read:  blame Bush).

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Civil war in Iraq?

I’ve been seeing these stories in the paper for the past few days.  It’s not that I disagree with the information presented here, I suppose as much as the way it’s presented and the information that is not included.

In every one of the articles I have read in the AP, NY Times service and Knight-Ridder, the journalists make the situation sound on the edge of insanity.  Civil war might break out any minute!  There’s nothing but chaos in Iraq.  All Sunnis hate all the Shiites and civil war is inevitable!

Oh perverse and detestable media, how long shall we be forced to live among thee.
Iraq the Model lists the actual figures of casualties that the press got wrong, and describes on Monday how life is getting along and that people aren’t really fooled about who destroyed the mosques in the first place.  Most normal people in Iraq do not want a civil war and are wary of people who do.

Ralph Peters reports in the NY Post that the bombers will keep bombing, but life goes on.

      It's more like a city suffering a minor, but deadly epidemic. As in an epidemic, no one knows who will be stricken. Rich or poor, soldier or civilian, Iraqi or foreigner. But life goes on. No one's fleeing the Black Death — or the plague of terror.

And there’s no civil war he reports while walking through the streets of Bagdad.
Max Boot reports that things were pretty hectic, but that the Iraqi police had things under control for the most part, and generally things didn’t turn violent.

One thing important that the press didn’t cover AT ALL was the numerous protests around Iraq.  They’re not what you think.

Then there’s the stories today about the President’s continuingly collapsing approval numbers and the poll of Military personnel by Zogby that reported that a large majority now think we should get out of Iraq by the end of the year.  As Gateway pundit details, these polls are suspect AT BEST, and considering the polling demographics of the Presidential approval poll, not very representative of the population at all.

If we didn’t have blogs, none of this would be revealed to the American Public.  Really.  Have you seen any of this in the paper?  Or the networks?  Cable?

Cosmos: War of the Planets!!!!

This Monday night was one of those evenings that you can never forget, nor will you ever be able to quite get your head around explaining why it was so unforgettable.

The first part of the evening, actually, is easier.  It was the occasion of my daughter’s 5th birthday.  We decided to allow her to pick the place for her celebration and she chose, of course, Yucky Cheese.   Wait, sorry, I mean Chucky Cheese.  Well, even if the pizza isn’t top quality, the kids love all the stuff there is to do.  The rides, the tubes, the Skee-ball, and video games.  They spend all night accumulating tickets you can redeem for prizes that come $1 for 1000 in bulk anywhere else.

We went there on a Monday night, not only because this was the actual day, but because we thought that the crowds would be smaller, as Ch-Ch is an insane asylum when it’s packed with people.  Unfortunately, Monday happens to be one of those days when it’s packed with people. 

Anyway, we survived.  And the kids had a great time.  And the pizza wasn’t all that bad.
When we got home, we put the kids to bed and decided to take the evening together and watch Batman Begins, which had been sitting on our TV for the better part of a week.  We get movies by mail these days, and since the Olympics have been our focus, movie watching has been on hold. 

Anyway, I put the disk in the player and we sat down to watch, but what appeared on screen was not what I expected.  The menu screen blazed with scary lettering:  “COSMOS, War of the Planets.”  The image on the screen looked very much like something out of the 50s, ala Forbidden Planet.  After taking the DVD back out and realizing that the on-line movie warehouse put the wrong DVD in the sleeve (or just didn’t check it), we decided to give the campy Sci-Fi a chance.  So here you are; Cosmos, War of the Planets!

The first thing I should say is that after watching this, I looked it up online and discovered that it was inexplicably made in 1977, not 1957.  It was made in Italy, so I guess you can consider this a spaghetti sci-fi, although the actors were mostly English or American B movie actors (or C movie after being in this).  All the voices were dubbed in the film, even though it appeared that the actors were speaking English when the filming was done.  The dubbing is terrible, and sometimes doesn’t resemble what the actors are doing on screen.  Some characters speak that don’t have to move their mouths, like the robot or the sage of the underground people who talks with his mind, but the dialog is so bad it hardly matters either way.

Oh, I should also note that the title has nothing really to do with the plot either, as there is no war, but that’s just nitpicking, right?

I decided to give the movie 10 minutes before turning it off, but it was so bad I couldn’t take my eyes off it.  It was like I was watching a museum piece representing the worst the entertainment industry of the 20th century had to offer and had to be fully informed lest society cascade into utter oblivion of cheesy cardboard special effects and dialog written by Elmo.

In this human society, most of the decisions are made by consulting a master computer called the “WIZ” (to which I hum “Ease on Down the Road”) and the whole point, I guess, was that the society they find on the planet they crash land on was destroyed when the computers they built took control, thus offering an object lesson for the hapless humans.  It gets so silly that after learning about the evil computer, they go back to their ship and consult their own computer who tells them that the “Bad computer will have a destruct button, probably red.”  But that’s only a probability, of course.

The Plot Outline on IMDB reads thus:  “A spaceship investigates an out of control planet and discovers a computer that controls an underground civilization.”  That’s pretty loose considering how the plot is structured (or not structured).  They do crash land on a planet, but the fact that the robot actually controls this civilization is only sort of developed.  The master computer has this robot minion that looks like a furnace with legs.  Those vents that are glowing are it’s eyes.  

The music is dreadful too.  At one point when confronting the robot, the music switches suddenly to Bach’s Toccatta and Fugue in D minor, but most of the time is randomly littered with bizarre 50s style sci-fi synthesized sounds.  Yikes!

I wonder if Mystery Science Theatre got a hold of this one, or if they passed it up as being too easy to make fun of.