Friday, September 30, 2005

Supreme speculations

scales of justiceNow that the shouting over Roberts is simmering down, folks are turning to speculations over the next nominee. In addition to the candidates discussed the first time around (such as Alberto Gonzales or Priscilla Owen; see here) there is a lot of curiosity about whether Bush could dig up another "dark horse" like Roberts, with no paper trail to be held accountable for but with powerful conservative credentials. The most intriguing such speculation, to me, is laid out by Will Bunch: Harriet Miers. Die-hard Bush loyalist? check. Little or no judicial history? check. Has some political owage? check! (Bunch thinks she "knows where the bodies are buried" on Bush's National Guard shame.) Other promising parallels? check: Cheney was asked to help pick a Vice Presidential running mate and eventually suggested himself; Miers was in charge of the short-list for Supreme Court, and after Roberts . . .

Soothing troubled waters

Barack Obama voted against the confirmation of Justice Roberts, but he advises against the harsh assaults that have been made (from the left) against the Democrats who voted for the nominee (and he generalizes this advice to other controversies as well).
Russ Feingold, the only Democrat to vote not only against war in Iraq but also against the Patriot Act, doesn't become complicit in the erosion of civil liberties simply because he chooses to abide by a deeply held and legitimate view that a President, having won a popular election, is entitled to some benefit of the doubt when it comes to judicial appointments. Like it or not, that view has pretty strong support in the Constitution's design.
He makes good points, and speaks with typical eloquence and rationality. It puts "big tent" arguments into a valuable perspective.
... to the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, "true" progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive "checklist," then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems. We are tying them up in a straightjacket and forcing them into a conversation only with the converted.
. . .
Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.
Read the whole thing, really.

Quote for the day/weekend

dry weedsTo live with the conscious knowledge of the shadow of uncertainty, with the knowledge that disaster or tragedy could strike at any time; to be afraid and to know and acknowledge your fear, and still to live creatively and with unstinting love: that is to live with grace.
--Peter Abrahams
(via A Mindful Life)

Good idea of the week

An MIT professor is attempting to develop a PC that would be cheap and hardy: his prototype is foldable in various ways, amenable to hand-cranking when power is unavailable, and should cost under $100. [As a bonus, the machines run on open-source Linux, meaning that freeware may be available for many of the user's software needs.]
Professor Negroponte came up with the idea for a cheap computer for all after visiting a Cambodian village.

His non-profit One Laptop Per Child group plans to have up to 15 million machines in production within a year.
The first models will go to Brazil, China, Egypt, Thailand, and South Africa, and Massachusetts' governor Romney intends to buy them for every middle- and highschool student in the state. Now that's empowerment.

(via the Huffington Post)

These give good math

In the spirit of "best movies of the millenium" and the like, some top mathematicians offer The Hundred Greatest Theorems of all time, including favorites from 500 BC to 1976 AD.working on the board

(via kottke)

A modest proposal (scientific version)

A brilliant piece by Dahlia Lithwick at Slate points out that rationalists have been overlooking the potential benefits of Intelligent Design-style arguments:
Let's face it: The problem with science has always been that each new discovery unleashes thousands of new questions and ambiguities. So really, the more we discover new stuff, the stupider we get. Clearly, that isn't working. ID says we shouldn't bother ourselves with resolving scientific inconsistencies or untangling puzzles. We should recognize that what God really wants is for us just to stop learning.

(via a Medley furling)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hard to be sure what's good news sometimes

More Abu Ghraib photos have been ordered released. Good for accountability and truthfulness, but certain not to be fun or uplifting. yay.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Thursday kitten blogging!

Another round of pictures of Pasha, here about 11-12 weeks old. These are teasers for the next batch, which will show Pixel and Pasha in full roll-and-wrestle kitten play. But I thought Pasha deserved another solo outing, lest she suffer from Second Child Syndrome . . .

Pasha leans out
Here's a great shot, from her favorite new pastime of
leaning out toward the TV to see what all the action is about...

Pasha dancing
Here she's doing a sideways dance/arch toward Pixel, inviting some chasing
(never a hard sell).

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order): 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

From the Department of Better Late Than Never

A recent poll gives slivers of hope that the American people may be able to draw conclusions for themselves (if not foresee likely outcomes -- hey, it's a start!):
The war in Iraq has left Americans skeptical about the use of military force as a tool to spread democracy, according to a poll released on Thursday.
On the downside, the Bush strategy of "get some kind of paper approved, however feeble and undemocratic" appears to be working, as most Americans think we should withdraw if the Iraqis have a referendum on some kind of constitution. Too bad for the Iraqis, but maybe it means this will all end some day...

(via kos)

Roberts is in

The Senate confirmed Roberts this morning, with about three-quarters approving (half the Democrats included). Not the highest approval margin (O'Connor was 99-0), but hardly the most embattled either (Thomas was 52-48) [*]. On to the next, I suppose.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Protest wrap-up

memorial shoesI haven't said much about this past weekend's anti-war rally in D.C., because I was on the wrong coast at the time, but I think this photo-summary at The Tattered Coat is great, from the amusing to the sobering. People sometimes wonder about the effectiveness of marches, but their ability to renew one's sense of hope and interconnection is hard to overestimate...

Quote of the day

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.
--John Steinbeck,
novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Good strategies aren't always obvious

doggy hugIt looks like one of the lessons of Katarina will be an unexpected one: you will save more people if you're willing to save their pets as well (Philly paper; registration required).
"We've always assumed that pets would be left behind," said Thomas Sullivan, Montgomery County's director of public safety. "But it's unrealistic to think we're going to be able to force people, in great numbers, to do something they're not going to want to do."
Lots of the anecdotal stories have shown people sticking it out because they couldn't put their dog in the back of a friend's car and didn't want to leave it to starve; many pet owners would feel the same way. We don't want to abandon large numbers of people because they value their four-legged friends --- widen the compassion a bit and everybody wins. Many things seem obvious in hindsight.

Below the radar but not forgotten

The investigations into corruption among Tom DeLay's associates has been going on for a while, but pretty much nobody thought that DeLay himself would actually be indicted, given the walls of protection around him, the willingness of his colleagues in the House to change the rules to protect him, and some stupid legal technicalities as well. Well, he was indicted and has resigned as House Majority Leader. Wow!

For those needing a refresher, the case concerns questionable use of funds by an organization under DeLay's control:
State law bans corporate money being spent in connection with political campaigns and Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, has spent almost three years investigating whether Republican groups and their business allies violated that ban. The groups helped elect a Republican majority to the state Legislature which, in turn, drew new Congressional districts that benefited Republican candidates.
(See previous rantage here, here, and here.) He's being included in the mess now under a conspiracy charge, rather than a direct election violation charge. Expect to hear more about this in the next few days than you ever wanted to know . . .

(via kos)

Update: looks like there's reason to believe that DeLay was charged as part of a plea bargaining deal, and may go for "nolo contendere" when the time comes...

A retroactive savings plan

Or, um, belated realization by the Bushies that conservation is key to our future -- although I have to say that I'm not sure there's actual belief here, beyond the belief that Words Speak Louder Than Actions . . . Sigh.

I know you are, but what am I?

Sociologists and scientists never seem to lose their fascination for the study of boys and girls (of whatever ages), who does what better, why they should be treated differently, blah blah. Gendergeek had a good rant about one such recent study here, reiterating the seemingly obvious point that conclusions about groups tell you little about individuals, and that there are countless social and cultural factors that confound our ability to make causal links between much of anything in human behavior.

Anyway, Knotted Knickers now points up a meta-study looking at a range of previous comparisons of girls and boys or of men and women, which finds that the sexes are more alike than different on a host of measures (cognitive, social, and other). Not as exciting for headline-writers, I fear, but perhaps a little voice of reason in the maelstrom of political and social agendas . . .

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


forehead-slapI guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that a government that consistently rewards its thieves and criminals (see, e.g., this) should appoint a disgraced national figure to evaluate, in essence, his own previous effectiveness.

Out of the frying pan...

It appears to be possible that organic produce can bring some risks of its own (due to a commonly used plant-derived pesticide), raising the ever-difficult question of what is "natural," let alone "healthful" . . .

(via Follow Me Here)

Tracking the narrative

Coverage of the Katarina aftermath was rich with the sense of chaos -- refugees looting stores, killing one another in the stadium and other shelters, etc. Now it turns out that the violence was exaggerated:
The vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees — mass murders, rapes and beatings — have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law-enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.
Conditions were as terrible as reported, supplies just as low, help as far from arriving; but strangely, the people weren't falling upon each other as seemed to be so quickly circulated. Make sure that you don't buy into the narrative that the victims here are to blame for their suffering or unworthy of a better outcome -- it's just part of the smokescreen attempt to cover for massive official failure.


Tuesday Josh-blogging

I know that onetime blog mascots Sid and Josh have been rather overshadowed of late by the irresistable cuteness of kittens, but they are not forgotten. Today's installment is sparked by the occasion of Josh's posting some wedding and honeymoon shots (awwwwww), which included this excellent snippet, demonstrating the philosophical/existential reflections that such life changes can elicit . . .

Josh and mirror-Josh

Monday, September 26, 2005

Today's randomness injection

Here's a website that reviews species of animals, from the perspective of design or perhaps just general worthiness.
[from an endorsement of the guinea pig]
+ Comes in a variety of shades and styles
+ Use for old toilet rolls
+ Cuddly & snuggly
+ Mother-in-law deterrent
+ Can put it back when you've had enough
+/- Need to clean cage regularly but much smaller poo than usual domestic pets
. . .

So we’ve established that the Anaconda is a stone cold killer. But to his credit, he’s a killer snake who doesn't crave the limelight the same way as cobras or asps. Indeed, comparing the anaconda to these try-hard badboys is rather like comparing Clint Eastwood to Colin Farrell. Clint could strike you down with a glance. Colin would probably resort to a pool queue.
Also includes a debate about who started the legend about the existence of the platypus, as well as a version of "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon" to lead to a "llama number." Most amusing.

(via kottke)

Apropos of nothing

sillinessHere's your opportunity to set classic Microsoft applications against their rivals for your time, in a battle of the desktop icons. Silly and strangely satisfying . . .

(via pal BKF)

More positive news from small-scale efforts

I like stories like this: folks focusing on how inexpensive solutions can help ordinary people maintain their livelihoods, where larger efforts and more ambitious plans are lacking or unfunded.

Trickle-Up Economics

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Things aren't always as they seem

femsignAmpersand has an excellent post looking at the prevalence of teen pregnancy among poor black teens and providing evidence that it's not the cause of their problems but a rational response to their life conditions. Sadly, his case involves the diminished health and career expectations of a black girl growing up under impoverished circumstances, which make her more likely to have a healthy baby before she gets too poisoned by pollution (!) and less likely to see any negative impact on her already limited options for economic advancement. Makes it a little hard to support the punitive approaches to family planning that are so popular these days...

I guess slavery is just a *stage*... least to judge from Bush's willingness to set aside sanctions against pal Saudi Arabia for sex trafficking, forced labor, and the like. Bastion of liberty, indeed...

(via Ampersand at Alas)

Quote of the day

candle flame
There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.
-Henry van Dyke,
poet (1852-1933)
(via A.W.A.D.)
for Eloise Seibert, 1906-2005 :
there aren't enough like you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Another lame excuse

Well, I'm sneaking away again, this time for a long weekend, so nothing here tomorrow or Friday. A smattering of links and a token kitten photo to get you through.
  • Anybody feeling jumpy about disasters might want to see this general preparedness guide or this short post on preparing for a pandemic (such as the avian flu).

  • Here's an excellent post from a while back on rape as a hate crime, and specifically how it represents a dead weight on the potential freedom of wome (because they are expected to live in a smaller and smaller world in order to avoid potential assault).
    (via Medley)

  • Here's another excellent essay, providing evidence that most women don't have abortions for selfish reasons, but to allow them to keep their current families and responsibilities afloat.
    (via Bitch, PhD)

  • It turns out that gossip may serve a purpose, namely clarifying and reinforcing social norms and expectations.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • Make your own magazine cover, out of a photo on FlickR and any amount of silliness. The applications of this seem endless...
    (via kottke)

  • A Last Supper lunchbox. No, really.
    (via Above Average Jane)

  • Also from the land of the bizarre, witness the World Beard and Moustache Championships. help!
    (via Blinq)

  • And finally, see the art of pencil chewing carving taken to new heights of artistry at this pencil carving site.
    (via boing boing’s greatest hits)

sometimes you need to recharge
Between kitten-wrestling sessions and other mania,
sometimes even Pixel needs a nap...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Not too reassuring

The conservative National Review thinks that Roberts' performance in his Senate confirmation hearings both tricked Sen. Specter (who has now endorsed his approval) and gave clues, for those in the know, that he may well hope to overthrow Roe v. Wade.
It is a testament to Roberts's skills as an advocate that his remarks at his confirmation hearing on abortion and stare decisis have been understood by Specter and many other supporters of Roe as suggesting that he would not vote to overrule Roe. What seems not to have been noticed is that Roberts in fact deftly repudiated Specter's notion that Roe is some sort of "super-duper precedent" entitled to "super stare decisis." In so doing, he marked the path for the eventual overruling of Roe.
scales of justiceOf course, everybody is guessing, but I sort of prefer to see the conservatives as unhappy over the uncertainty (see, e.g., this) as the liberals are . . .

(via How Appealing)

At some point...

...surely we're going to get back to prioritizing helping people over bureaucratic perfection, yes? But apparently not yet.


Subversive resources

For those bemoaning the NYTimes' decision to make its columnists available only to paid subscribers (starting yesterday), one avenue of work-around may be this Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive, which has transcripts of his public appearances and some kind of mirror of his biweekly columns (at least, until the Times hunts them down). Of course, you have to remember to drop by there...

(via Booknotes)

Update: actually, his column from yesterday addresses the same issues that Jeanne covered (here) about racism and American views of class and poverty.
And who can honestly deny that race is a major reason America treats its poor more harshly than any other advanced country? To put it crudely: a middle-class European, thinking about the poor, says to himself, "There but for the grace of God go I." A middle-class American is all too likely to think, perhaps without admitting it to himself, "Why should I be taxed to support those people?"

Above all, race-based hostility to the idea of helping the poor created an environment in which a political movement hostile to government aid in general could flourish.
He's pessimistic that things will change, at least not until the burdens on the poor (such as the poor distribution of health care in our country) start to bother the middle class as well . . .

Quote of the day

Insanity in individuals is something rare -- but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
- Friedrich Nietzsche,
philosopher (1844-1900)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

A three-legged stool

An interesting piece by Peter Daou takes a look at the question How influential are bloggers? and concludes that they can accomplish nothing without simultaneous (even if not coordinated) actions by the mainstream media and establishment leadership -- that all three together can begin to affect the conventional wisdom and/or bring an issue into the spotlight, but that bloggers acting alone are just barking in the dark. However, he doesn't claim that the blogosphere is toothless, just that it has to work by persuading the real power-brokers that its views are important.
That is not to say that blogs can’t be the first to draw attention to an issue, as they often do, but the half-life of an online buzz can be measured in days and weeks, and even when a story has enough netroots momentum to float around for months, it will have little effect on the wider public discourse without the other sides of the triangle in place. Witness the Plame case, an obsession of left-leaning bloggers long before the media and the political establishment got on board and turned it into a political liability for Rove and Bush.
. . .
To understand what happens when the online community is on its own, look no further than electronic voting. The progressive netroots has been hammering away at this for years, but the media and the political establishment is largely mute. Traction = Zero. The conventional wisdom puts it squarely in the realm of conspiracy theories.
battle of the parties Lots of good points for would-be online activists to consider, and insights into differences between how the right and left succeed in getting their ideas mainstreamed.
Rightwing bloggers will thus do everything in their power to prevent another Katrina triangle, where the confluence of blogs, media, and Democratic leadership exposes the real Bush and shatters the conventional wisdom about his ability to lead.
Worth reading the whole thing (Salon Premium), or a short version distilled by Kos.

I'm almost out of woe-circuits

But it appears that, with global-warming warnings going unheeded by those whose attention is most needed, we may now have passed the tipping point in terms of melting of Arctic ice -- where the warming that has already occured sets off a self-reinforcing cycle of additional methane release and further melting of the ice floes and permafrost regions. Swamping of island nations and increased ferocity of tropical storms is only a fraction of what we'll see in coming decades.

(via Plutonium Page at dailyKos)

What does it mean to be "a Christian country"?

Echidne has a fascinating reflection on this question, one brought to the fore repeatedly these days by the Christian right. She notes the remarkable ignorance of most American Christians about the tenets of their own faith, and speculates on the vacuum that that creates for introduction of misinformation and for redefinition of religious identity along social/political lines. Worth a read and some mulling...

Maybe God *does* speak to you

grin..., but you're not listening...
Bill Maher has advice for the President.

(via Follow Me Here)

Time to turn over some rocks

Jeanne has a fantastic post over at This Modern World, typically insightful and difficult, about the way that Americans tend to look at race and poverty in ways that mislead them about the sources and possible cures for the latter -- she starts with Katrina but makes clear that this is an issue we can't just let slide when the clean up of the Big Easy is over.
Remember both pieces the next time somebody complains that when Democrats talk about race and class, it "alienates independents and moderates." Something is clearly out of whack when we can't tell "independents and moderates" that keeping victims from fleeing a disaster is wrong. In fact, something stinks if they can't see it for themselves.
. . .
If we don't confront the way the myths of savage and irresponsible poor, and mostly black, people are shaping this story, that's going to become the story. And a year from now, you can try all you want to tell "independents and moderates" that the Republicans made them less safe, but all they'll remember is that responsible and industrious people got out. And they will be sure that, in a catastrophe, they would be among the virtuous and hard-working few who escape.

A lie, certainly. A dangerous and self-deluding lie. One no one could support except on a crutch of racism.
We have to keep pushing back the boundaries of modern racism, a little bit more with each generation, and not just rest in the comfort of surrounding ourselves with enlightened friends and neighbors. The country can't afford the continued knee-jerk hatred of the south or the unspoken assumptions of leaders in other parts of the nation.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sometimes you get better than you deserve

As demonstrated by the comments to this post, which is kind of an ignorant skeet and yet elicits an excellent scatter-shot of humor and analysis. Best line? "I don’t trust this Administration to 'shake up' a bottle of YooHoo, never mind re-organize complex agencies."

Quote for the weekend

Enlightenment is found only on the way, while sojourning through the ordinary world in an extraordinary manner, that is, by greeting each incident as an opportunity for improvisation. fall whirlImprovisation is the spontaneous creativity that occurs between one person and another or between people and events. There is always an established melody within which a particular note or chord surprises us. It can cause us suffering when we dwell on its departure from the rhythm or tonality of the established song. Or it can be taken as inspiration for an improvisatory riff. Enlightened beings are masters of spontaneity and improvisation. They have rooted out suffering by freeing themselves from the personal narrative which would otherwise have reacted to interruption and discord with pain. Those who are enlightened wander through the world without goals and find opportunity for creative spontaneity everywhere.
- Peter Hershock
(via whiskey river)

News from the world of science

An assortment of interesting and hopeful findings of late:
  • There has been some controversy through the years about whether birds might be direct descendants of dinosaurs -- new evidence may give credence to that theory, as scientists have found that most dinosaurs may have been covered with fluffy scales or feathers. Most amazing may be the new images that result when the naked-reptile versions of familiar dinosaurs are updated to incorporate this new information -- a showy display of feathers for T. Rex!
    (via kottke)

  • A new form of insulin may allow diabetics to inhale, rather than inject, their regular doses. Some further data is still sought regarding the long-term effect on users lungs.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • An accidentally produced strain of mice appears to have remarkable regenerative capacity, which could provide huge insights into how such processes are controlled.
    (via Follow Me Here)
In related news, it appears that scientific journalists may be shooting too low when they "dumb down" research reports for the general population, which not only frustrates those who have an interest in the subject, but sets the public up for the deliberate distortions of faux experts -- worth reading the whole thing.
(via Knotted Knickers)

We're doing all we can

No, really!

Those forgetting to visit The Onion will be rightfully punished

Top winner headlines from These Troubled Weeks:
Onion logo
God Outdoes Terrorists Once Again
Bush Appoints First-Trimester Fetus to Supreme Court
More Kids Being Home-Churched

And now this thing too

At any other place or time, I'd think this was a joke, but sadly we know better: one unqualified (but loyal) Bush pal, Michael Brown, proves he's no match for the logistics of disaster recovery, and then he's replaced by, um, Karl Rove?!? I'm sure Rove has a lot of experience putting out political fires, but I honestly don't think that's quite the same thing, Georgie . . .

(via XOverboard)

Note: Post title taken from this haiku by Richard Wright (in his collection This Other World):

And now this thing too:
A drunken girl vomiting
In the autumn rain

Thursday, September 15, 2005

On Roberts

scales of justiceSeveral days of hearings seem to leave much of the enigma we started with. Every pronouncement could be reassuring or a circumlocution of the essential bits. Anyway, I suspect that Alan Dershowitz has better perspective that I do on the hearings, so check out his predictions about future Justice Roberts behavior.

Update: Bitch, PhD, provides an opinion round-up . . .

Update 2: The question is asked: do we want a Supreme Court Justice who doesn't have a thesis statement? (also via Bitch, PhD)

One of the best ideas ever

Lord knows bloggers are hard to distract (oh, wait, I mean...), so the brilliance of this idea was immediately apparent to me: Temptation Blocker, by means of which you can freeze your own access to a list of time-wasting software on your computer for a set chunk of time. Even better would be an extension to disable all but a subset of work-related URL's in your favorite browser, but this is a start. Discipline in whatever form . . .

Note: Windows only, and no forward-going support, but free!

Thursday kitten blogging -- new face edition

Yes indeed, the hypothetical nothing-behind-the-curtain second kitten (hoped to be a savior of older cats unprepared for constant demands to play) has arrived. Her name is Pasha, and she is a snow bengal (technically, a "seal mink spotted snow bengal"), 10 weeks old.

lazy second
Her eyes are incredibly blue!

an illusion of length
She's actually a stubby toddler, but she's trying to look long here...

couch lion
Just for comparison of colors, here's Pixel at about 14 weeks
(just starting to be a leggy adolescent)...

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order): 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 (a fave), 3, 2, 1, 0

The return of humor, always a good sign

I remember distinctly the relief and gratitude I felt when the Onion had the nerve to declare 9/11 open for non-reverence with the headline "Holy F*%cking Sh$t!" and so forth. Humor programs have largely skirted New Orleans for the first week+ (although I appreciated somebody's passing along the anecdote of a refugee noting that she "didn't want to die in this" off-color souvenir t-shirt) but I think we can all use the relief.

Anyway, all of that blather by way of introduction to this very short yet pointed topical joke:
Q: What's George Bush's position on Roe v. Wade?
A: He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans.
(via boing boing)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The unexpected upside to disasters

Apparently the next generation, in the wake of 9/11, tsunamis, and worsening economic inequality, is responding with an unprecedented ethic of compassion.
As an eighth grader, her youngest daughter, Hazel, transformed a basement storage room in a Brooklyn homeless shelter into a library stocked with 5,000 volumes. At 13, she mobilized her fellow students to paint walls, hire librarians and design a functioning library-card system linked to a computer database. "We were floored," Ms. Grossman said. "And it's not just Hazel. A lot of kids out there are like this. They are like C.E.O.'s of community service."
Perhaps they will bring a wave of hope out of their graduation ceremonies and into the world...

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

this reminds me of the sentiments in Dar Williams' song "Teenagers, kick our butts":
Teenagers, kick our butts, tell us what the future will bring
Teenagers, look at us, we have not solved everything
The country could sure use it.

More clips from the margins of a tragedy

Stories not getting primary coverage, but perhaps just as telling:(This group intended as a sort of follow-up to this post, which turned out to be highlighting the central themes of subsequent debate...)

Quote for the day (and beyond)

"Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent."
-- Mignon McLaughlin
(via Bill in Portland Maine at dailyKos)

I am reminded of an aphorism

help!...attributed to Confuscius, which says "The man who says a thing cannot be done should not stand in way of the man doing it." If only FEMA would listen!
Ow ow ow. When do we get to start feeling better about things?

(via Atrios)

Not a single metaphorical association occurred to me

Apparently researchers have discovered a way to satisfy the preferences of American chicken consumers by converting dark meat into white meat, in a form suitable for cooking into chicken patties, nuggets, and the like. So clever, and yet so disturbing...

(heard on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me)

Get your Krugman while you can

NYTimes columnist and insightful Bush Administration critic Paul Krugman is among the many opinionizers who are about to go behind a subscription-only barrier (starting Monday) and thus out of the blogosphere. His column today is about the Katarina response inadequacy and what it might indicate about the government as a whole:
But what we really should be asking is whether FEMA's decline and fall is unique, or part of a larger pattern. What other government functions have been crippled by politicization, cronyism and/or the departure of experienced professionals? How many FEMA's are there?
We know that people have left the state department because of political twisting of their reports, that scientists have quit the FDA and EPA because of redacted scientific findings and overridden recommendations, and that the CIA has been replacing experts with loyalists -- Krugman mentions these and others that I was less aware of, such as the Treasury Department (!) and even Homeland Security.
The point is that Katrina should serve as a wakeup call, not just about FEMA, but about the executive branch as a whole. Everything I know suggests that it's in a sorry state - that an administration which doesn't treat governing seriously has created two, three, many FEMA's.
matters of stateAll of those changes tend to go below the public radar, but I suspect that their impact on our nation are substantial and will last (and need repairing) for many years after Bush has gone back to the golf course...

(via Follow Me Here)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Being poor

Scalzi has a good concrete depiction of what it means to be poor, in a hundred little ways that make clear how much the rest of us get to take for granted, even when the weather is kind.

(via kottke)

Cause there are so few *real* things to be upset about...

The wingnuts are up in arms over a truly ludicrous issue -- the best explication I've seen is via the incomparable BagNewsNotes, who finds the visuals to demonstrate the stupid.

Comic relief

Difficult news cycles require not only regular kitten input, but also solid comic relief. In service of both, I present the following bonus edition of kitten-blogging, in which Pixel is caught in less-than-flattering moments:

choking on the news
I can relate to this reaction to the news! gaaaah.....

pardon me!
Somehow she brings cuteness to even the most compromising of positions!

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order): 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0 (background)

Trudeau doesn't miss much

See today's Doonesbury, if you haven't already, for a good summary of the (sorry) condition of our ship of state...

(via coworker BF)

Noodly goodness

FSM logoIn case anybody has managed to miss it, there's a wonderful movement afoot to demonstrate the absurdity of Intelligent Design by clever analogy: the Flying Spaghetti Monster cult, which demands equal time in schoolrooms. Read their open letter to the Kansas School Board at a site that also gives some philosophical background for the movement, demonstrates the critical link of global warming to a decline in worldwide pirate population, and provides the full range of visuals developed in support of the cause (now popular on many sites and forums).

(via Follow Me Here)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sometimes political cartoons...

...just summarize so much with so little.
This one is almost, but not quite, too obvious to need saying.

Contractors in Iraq continue to be a source of pride

Or something, anyway. A British mercenary group private contractor that has been providing security at the Bagdad airport has apparently been staging work shut-downs in response to a lack of payment. That situation was made even more embarassing this weekend when Iraqi troops sent to reopen the airport and were blocked by US security forces at a checkpoint. eesh. See this previous summary of the great successes we've had thus far with privatization of critical military functions...

Update (tangential variety): also under the hurricane-dominated news radar, a general lets the cat out of the bag that we never really intend to leave Iraq.

Facing into the wind

Yes, I'm back, but I find that I don't have much to say today. Even getting my news via Le Monde (and only once all week), I got a pretty complete dose of the toxic mix of empathy overload with outrage burnout. The whole New Orleans thing is very hard to watch, let alone talk about, and I defer to the stauncher constitutions of others.

Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
- Flannery O'Connor,
writer (1925-1964)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Meantime, always good for difficult times, a little bit of kitten tummy:

Pixel tummy

Update: Examples of how I can hardly process all of this: one of a dozen stories of officials making things worse, and Wal-Mart appearing to be doing more good than the government can manage . . . (via Atrios)

Friday, September 02, 2005

The mice will play . . .

Given the chaos here, it feels quite odd that I'm planning to leave the country tonight, but there it is -- a much-anticipated vacation. Otherwise I'd be very tempted to fly to Houston and get in the way try to help. Anyway, we can't completely neglect our own lives and relationships, so off I go. For those of you who need diversion next week while I'm gone, a collection of links of varying degrees of amusement or intrigue -- don't use 'em all at once! Talk to you again on September 12.

First the serious:
  • A report showing the increase in US arms exports since 9/11 -- whose side are we on in all this?

  • Those with annoyance to spare for the ongoing discussion of Intelligent Design should check out this excellent recent piece at Pacific Views.

  • A civil attempt at rapproachment between Left and Right, as the Christian Conservative interviews Ampersand from Alas, a Blog on a variety of moral and personal matters: Parts I and II.

  • Uninterested in rapproachment, Campus Progress offers a creepy piece on conservative pundits savant, explicating the right-wing strategy of having a token spokesperson for every issue or demographic subgroup.
    (via Follow Me Here)

  • In a similar vein, Mithras calls the horses (a much-linked short course on the right-wing blogs).

  • On a lighter note, it turns out that your parents were right: piano lessons really do change your life.
    (via dangerous meta)

  • And in the good news department, a declining national bee population could be saved by the open spaces surrounding power lines.
    (via Rebecca's Pocket)

  • Finally, to celebrate the approach of fall, here's an image of turning leaves.

And then the silly and random:noname bengal kitty
And, just for good measure, a little kitteny cuteness. This one should become real when we get back! [click for a better look]

Quote for day

It would be worth while, once for all, fairly and cleanly to tell how we are to be used, as vendors of Lucifer matches send directions in the envelope, both how light may be readily procured and no accident happen to the user.
Henry David Thoreau
Journal entry of January 28, 1841
(via Thoreau Blog)


When Bill in Portland lines up the crisis-time reactions of our national leaders (from shoe-shopping to denial to maintaining their focus on tax cuts), it really just blows my mind. See for yourself. (Then send some aid!)

A good idea

care packageThe aftermath of hurricane Katarina is likely to be the biggest national disaster of our lifetime, and it will require ongoing aid for months if not years. Why not decide now to make a serious contribution -- DavidNYC at DailyKos suggests foregoing Christmas presents with your family this year and instead donating the amount that you would have spent to the Red Cross (see link at right) or other relief efforts. Do it now, while the magnitude of the crisis is still clear in your mind, and give your loved ones a card when the holidays come around. You'll be glad you did.

I'll take unintended irony for $800, Alex

The Department of Homeland Security tell us that September is National Preparedness Month. Maybe they're only advocating preparedness for regions occupied by extremely white blonde families . . .

(via XOverboard)

Long-term dangers for hurricane-battered areas

It's not just clearing the debris, getting insurance assessments, and rebuilding (which may have to wait up to a year); there are toxins from flooded industries and freed sewage that could make regions like New Orleans uninhabitable or dangerous for decades (registration required):
Louisiana, a center of the oil, gas and chemical industries, "was known for its very weak enforcement regulations," Kaufman said, and there are a number of landfills and storage areas containing "thousands of tons" of hazardous material to be leaked and spread.ouch
. . .
"This is the worst case," Hugh B. Kaufman, a senior policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, said of the toxic stew that contaminates New Orleans. "There is not enough money in the gross national product of the United States to dispose of the amount of hazardous material in the area."
The worst of what's on the ground will be pumped into the Gulf by default, where it could hover and require ongoing monitoring. Officials are encouraging families to register their children in other school districts -- essentially, this mess could relocate a half a million people all over the country, and they'd probably be safer that way than trying to return.

(via Medley)

Thursday, September 01, 2005


The NYTimes has some sharp thoughts about the lack of leadership right now, and about how much of this disaster could have been prevented by putting planning above profit. Crazy talk!

(via Echidne)

Update: Tom Tomorrow points out that "this is what you get when you elect leaders ideologically committed to the notion that government isn't good for anything." Sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy...

All about priorities

As an exercise in reality-checking, kos compares the Republican and Democratic party web sites for yesterday, in the midst of hurricane Katrina's arrival . . .

(Of course, the picture that speaks for Bush's own concern about the storm is this one.)

Productive choices

Yes, our emergency response system is really working well when it finds itself ill prepared for a natural disaster but decides not to let Canadian aid workers enter the country . . .
Canadian agencies are saying that foreign aid is probably not being permitted into Louisiana and Mississippi because of "mass confusion" at the U.S. federal level in the wake of the storm.
(Generous on their part.) I get more reassured by the minute, guys.

We could all use some kittens right now

Tough time in southerly climes call for some comforting furriness. So, without further ado...

kitten at play
This one is a couple of weeks old, but a cute pose. All games are better if you can involve climbing, clawing, or jumping on the column!!

glamor shot
Here, for contrast, is a current Pixel glamor shot.

Past kitteny goodness (reverse order): 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 (a fave), 3, 2, 1

Wow -- mysogyny meets anti-intellectualism!

...who could ask for anything more?

I can't do justice to the rant at Knotted Knickers about the latest Horowitz academic muzzling crap -- it's short, so just go read it.

Only beginning to see the damage

The news outlets continue to cover Katarina as though it were just a weather story. Get some shots of the water and fallen buildings, show some boats with rescuers. All reasonable enough, given the scope of the human tragedy still being sorted out. But there are much wider implications to this, not just those having to do with our preparation for national emergencies, but those specific to the importance of the New Orleans area (and especially its port) for national economic health:
The Port of Southern Louisiana stretches up and down the Mississippi River for about 50 miles, running north and south of New Orleans from St. James to St. Charles Parish. It is the key port for the export of grains to the rest of the world -- corn, soybeans, wheat and animal feed. Midwestern farmers and global consumers depend on those exports. The United States imports crude oil, petrochemicals, steel, fertilizers and ores through the port. Fifteen percent of all U.S. exports by value go through the port. Nearly half of the exports go to Europe.
I suspect that if the federal government was poorly prepared for the logistical needs of this crisis, the small farmers, oil refiners, and other businesses that depend on this port will have even less idea how to manage their lives around it. We won't be able to assess the impact of those losses for quite some time, but it could be almost as large as the destruction wrought by the hurricane itself.

(via Medley)