March 1, 2010 archive

Afternoon Edition

C’est moi, encore. ek is still resting from two weeks of boycotting NBC, so I am attempting to take his place. My version of the Afternoon Edition may not be as colorful but, hopefully, at least as informative.

The search for news about Haiti in the media is getting scarcer except for the rare analysis and comparison to the earthquake that occurred in Chile. Some of the analysis is thoughtful and well done, some of it is, well, tripe. The rains have arrived early and it has been raining everyday filling the streets with contaminated water and flooding the make shift camps that are home to over a million displaced people. The rain also adds to the difficulty of distributing food, clean water, shelter material and medical aid. If we thought it was bad in January, the early rains have compounded the misery.

Children’s Messages of Hope for Haiti

Haiti’s Futile Race Against the Rain

There were floods on Saturday in Les Cayes, in southwestern Haiti. It rained in Port-au-Prince on Thursday, and again on Saturday and Sunday night, long enough to slick the streets and make a slurry of the dirt and concrete dust. Long enough, too, to give a sense of what will happen across the country in a few weeks, when the real storms start.

Mud will wash down the mountains, and rain will overflow gutters choked with rubble and waste, turning streets into filthy rivers. Life will get even more difficult for more than a million people.

New misery and sickness will drench the displaced survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake – like the 16,000 or so whose tents and flimsy shacks fill every available inch of the Champ de Mars, the plaza in Port-au-Prince by the cracked and crumbled National Palace, or the 70,000 who have made a city of the Petionville Club, a nine-hole golf course on a mountainside above the capital.

The rainy season is the hard deadline against which Haiti’s government and relief agencies in Port-au-Prince are racing as they try to solve a paralyzing riddle: how to shelter more than a million displaced people in a densely crowded country that has no good place to put them.

This is an Open Thread.

From 1984 to Brave New World


From the ACLU:

Congress Drops the Ball on Upgrading Patriot Protections

We’re sorry to say, but is anyone surprised that Congress has capitulated to post-underpants bomber fear-mongering and passed the three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act without so much as a debate?

Oh, you didn’t hear about that?

Wednesday night, the Senate passed a straight one-year extension by voice vote, and last night, the House followed suit.

That’s right. No changes. Nothing. Nada. Zip, zilch, zero. (You get the picture.)

That leaves ordinary Americans like you and me without the civil liberties safeguards proposed by several bills last year. Both the House and Senate had bills that would have improved the Patriot Act…

And of course, President Obama signed the bill with nary a public statement, no muss, no fuss.

Accountability NOW! now w NYT links


… for Teachers.

War Criminal Torture Champions roam free, teach Law, and show up as guest/experts on the Sunday Talk Shows, but failing to teach all those brown kids to pass those tests is just … wrong!


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – President Barack Obama says a Rhode Island school that recently fired all its educators is an example of how there needs to be accountability.

He made the comments Monday in Washington at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He called for “accountability” if a school continually fails its students without improvement.

He said that is what happened at Central Falls High School, where the school district’s board of trustees voted last week to fire 93 teachers, administrators and other staff. No more than half could be hired back under federal law.

Obama pointed out that just 7 percent of students at the high school have tested proficient in math.

Right. That’ll fix it. Fire them. Just fire them all.

Open Transition


Health Care Reform Starts with Those Who Are Willing to Change Existing Policies

I again write today about what has become a completely inadvertent, but nonetheless growing series of personal anecdotes which reveal both the depths of our broken medical system and the shocking limitations and abuses of a system of social services designed to care for the poor and disabled.  In so doing, I have uncovered a tremendous number of objectionable practices that would never be considered acceptable among the more fortunate.  Established policies designed to assist and give comfort instead punish the genuinely needy.  For example, in the process of applying for a variety of safety net programs, I have been threatened with complete termination of coverage if I didn’t follow every step exactly as requested and in a supremely timely, if not obsessively punctual fashion.  In some states and municipalities this sort of conduct would be not just be bad form, it would also be against regulations.  Not here.  

In the District of Columbia, no one apparently sees the problem in treating low-income and disabled residents like criminals.  To make my case once more, let me provide a bit of backdrop.  The District is a very unusual place in lots of ways.  Though technically it is merely the physical location for the seat of national government, it is governed as a kind of odd mix between a state and a city.  Like most American cities, its population consists of an often uncomfortable combination of the affluent and educated, most of whom are relatively financially secure whites, and a core of heavily impoverished and undereducated residents who are usually black.  If DC were a state, and much larger based on surface area alone, there would be more of a middle ground between the have-everythings and the have-nothings, but this is simply not the case here.        

The District contains its own particular system of distributing food stamps, low-income medical insurance, prescription drug coverage, and providing disability benefits to those unable to work.  In roughly six months of trying to work a system that is both ridiculously ineffective and unnecessarily complex, what I have come to realize is that it is also a system based on punitive retribution, which is neither fair to applicants nor particularly effective to everyone.  With every step of the process, regardless of what it might be this time, the necessary paperwork I was provided screamed out in bold, block letters, often capitalized lest I overlook it, that I better fill this latest form out perfectly and as soon as possible, else I’d find myself without anything at all.

The existing system itself is so unwieldy that I have often been provided incorrect, or at best inexact information.  I don’t fault those who gave me wrong information because learning all the particulars takes months, if not years, and turnover in social service agencies is often quite constant based on the fact that the job promises low pay and high stress.  I was, for instance, told that I would only need to re-apply for food stamps once every six months.  However, within two months I received a letter in the mail, one printed so cheaply and faintly that often reading the words was a challenge, specifying that I needed to re-certify how much income I was currently making, else I be denied next month’s allotment.  The return envelope was just as difficult to read and after affixing a stamp to cover the cost of postage, I took the time to write out by hand the return address, else some postal carrier not be able to discern its destination.  

The implication of this was quite clear.  The instant I could be have my monthly allocation reduced, or even trimmed from the rolls altogether, the better.  I do certainly recognize that we’ve all been hurting and will continue to suffer so long as this recession, or at least the lingering effects of it doggedly persist, but I hardly think the solution is in weeding out those who depend on these services, particularly since so many of them are the very definition of working poor with their own children and families to support.  When I had the benefit of an increased income and decent benefits, no one ever made me certify that I still needed them.  I was trusted, for the most part, to not abuse the system.  Now, I am automatically suspect.

The low-income health care coverage I use via the District’s own program is sufficient, but hardly convenient.  After filing for disability, I assumed once granted it that I would also receive Medicaid.  Medicaid, while it certainly contains its own limitations, still provides a greater sphere of coverage than the DC program.  Medicaid would allow me to have my prescriptions filled at a conventional pharmacy like a CVS, Rite Aid, or Walgreens, whereas the only way to get my medications via the other coverage plan is to visit the sole pharmacy in the District that stocks the drugs I require on a daily basis to maintain my health.  It is located in a tremendously inconvenient part of town to get to, based on where I live, and it takes thirty to forty-five minutes via public transportation to arrive.  Often I end up expending the better part of a morning from start to finish once one factors in sitting in a waiting room, trying to be patient while the drugs are filled.  As it turns out, no one told me that according to District-only procedure I needed to apply for Medicaid separately and go through another time-consuming process.  Of course, this is a means of saving money and reducing cost on their part, but in my opinion, it is silly to assume that someone who is DISABLED and has to subsist on a minimal monthly allowance wouldn’t need basic health insurance as well.

To chalk this up to something as relatively straightforward as racism, classism, abelism, or the like would only be confronting a small sliver of a larger problem.  I fault those who set policy in the first place, whomever that might be.  To return to my own struggles once more, I believed originally (and even wrote in an earlier entry) that one of my medications was available to be filled at the low-income on-site pharmacy, though there was often a substantial delay in getting it in stock.  As it turns out, I was once again told wrongly.  The drug is not stocked at all because with it comes the threat of a hypertensive crisis if very specific dietary restrictions are not adhered to exactingly.  Obviously, no one wants the bad press or potential lawsuits that might transpire if a patient had one of these (or if, God forbid, he or she died as a result), and this goes for doctor and District government alike.  But to be deathly afraid of litigation, regardless of how baseless it might be doesn’t so much reflect upon a problematic legal system as a complete lack of basic trust and compassion for our fellow beings.  We could make sure that frivolous malpractice lawsuits were minimal, but unless we get to the reason why people file them in the first place, any legislation passed into law will not achieve its purpose.

Returning again to my medical situation, the particular medication I take is absolutely essential to assure my continued basic functionality and it works so well that the difference between not being on it and being on it is like night and day.  That I am able to manage the restrictions competently speaks partially to my willful desire to stay healthy, but also that I am educated enough to recognize what foods I need to avoid and to do my research accordingly.  The assumption in not stocking the med, regardless of whether or not it could really help someone in need, is that a person with barely a high school diploma, having grown up in utter squalor and with all the problems that result from it might not have the same capacity and level of personal responsibility as me.  Yet again, here we have a punitive, blanket response when basic compassion and an examination of people on a case-by-case basis would be much more effective.  Once more, we opt for the quick fix instead of really examining the full picture.              

As for whether Congress will pass health care legislation, I’ll leave that never-ending speculation to someone else for today, at least.  What I do know is that whatever reform measures we pass will need to take into account whether we treat fellow human beings as numbers, money drains, or as only waiting for the next opportunity to take a mile once we grant them an inch.  We certainly don’t seem to wish to grant anyone who we perceive as other than us the most basic of trust, nor do we take into account that all humans make mistakes, are fallible, and aren’t perfect.  We read about drive-by-shootings, petty crime, and drug deals and think that anyone born into such circumstances must be guilty by association.  Fifty-two years after the film Twelve Angry Men was released, we’re still stuck in that same way of thinking.


Juror #8: Look, this kid’s been kicked around all of his life. You know, born in a slum. Mother dead since he was nine. He lived for a year and a half in an orphanage when his father was serving a jail term for forgery. That’s not a very happy beginning. He’s a wild, angry kid, and that’s all he’s ever been. And you know why, because he’s been hit on the head by somebody once a day, every day. He’s had a pretty miserable eighteen years. I just think we owe him a few words, that’s all.

  Juror #10: I don’t mind telling you this, mister. We don’t owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn’t he? What do you think that trial cost? He’s lucky he got it. You know what I mean? Now look, we’re all grown-ups in here. We heard the facts, didn’t we? You’re not gonna tell me that we’re supposed to believe this kid, knowing what he is. Listen, I’ve lived among them all my life. You can’t believe a word they say. You know that. I mean, they’re born liars.

  Juror #9: Only an ignorant man can believe that… Do you think you were born with a monopoly on the truth?

Homeland Security-Bio Division

Chinese sodium flouride contaminated with arsenic and lead!…

Weapons of Mass Prescription.…

10 billion dollar vaccine scam by Bill Gates…

HPV Vaccine Blinds 16 year old girl.…

Bitter Melon Blocks Breast Cancer…

Scientific Link to Autism Identified- Not mercury…

India:Illegal to criticise GMO foods


Russia Lashes Out At NATO for Protecting Afghan Drug Production…

FLASHBACK: Ban the Bulb? — “If all 4 billion incandescent sockets were filled with CFLs we’d have nearly 50,000 pounds of mercury spread around every single US household”


See Rule Number One.…

Docudharma Times Monday March 1

Monday’s Headlines:

Frantic Rescue Efforts in Chile as Troops Seek to Keep Order

Green fuels cause more harm than fossil fuels, according to repo


Gun case presents quandary for Supreme Court justices

Things are looking up for U.S. airlines


Atlantic storm kills 55 as it rages across Europe

Karadzic opens defence as Hague genocide trial resumes

Middle East

Iraqi PM accused of handing out guns in bid to buy tribal votes

Two Dubai Suspects Traveled to U.S.


‘Invincible’ Taleban routed in raids on border camps

India ready to walk extra mile if Pak acts against terror: PM


Al-Qaida growing in strength and numbers in Africa

Latin America

Haiti confronts a monumental disposal problem

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning


(Click on image for larger view)


We are being lied to, and being told to get used to it.

And I have to say I’m death on outright lies being told to me, personally, and then being expected to help and support that person despite the lies.  Yeah, yeah, there’s the political process that has been inculcated into each one of the American would-be serf cognoscenti, again and again and again.

Things about coalition building.  Tactics such as “vote for me on this bill and I’ll let you vote no on that bill, so as to look better to your constituents.”  Things about so-called political pragmatism which is as opposite to the actual pragmatism of running a country for the benefit of its people.

People on liberal blogs will tell you that the Republicans are 100 times worse, and so the natural thing to do is to work for and vote for Democrats to keep the Republicans from getting office.

And, if you subscribe to that theory, yeah, there’s some truth in it. There are many names for this reasoning — it’s called “extortionist reasoning” with much truth by some, but from people who employ it sincerely I’m going to call it the “keep the boogeyman at bay” argument.

You see, there’s a dangerous boogeyman outside your door.  What he wants to do is take all your belongings, rape your spouse, sell your children into indentured servitude and burn your livestock — what you are a serf and you don’t have livestock?  Ok, your pets then.

I’ll circle back to that.

In America of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, we’ve been steeped in a culture of lies.  Much of it comes with a wink and a nod, and through an initial culture of consumption.  And despite the fact that people bemoan that Americans are clueless, unschooled and unsophisticated in some ways, for example not being able to find Afghanistan on a map, we have become very sophisticated (I might prefer the term “jaded”) in some ways.

When we see advertisements on TV, or on the radio or in print media, we’re totally used to being lied to with wild abandon.  We know that the products and services we’re being sold come with a passel of lies.  We know that vacuum cleaner just will not work flawlessly for years and as a side effect clean the air we breathe.  If we are sophisticated, we know that the paid programming with the latest get rich quick scheme is a total con job.

So, we’re expected to be sophisticated about it, and if we’re not sophisticated, we’re gullible dupes.  Because of this expectation of sophistication, no one else has to take any responsibility for their lies, on the expectation that those who were sold a bill of goods should have known better.  That TV station that aired the total con job with the criminal liar isn’t responsible for any lies the criminal liar tells — heck they even SAID they weren’t responsible!

Late Night Karaoke

Open Thread

A Nation of Cowards

You should read this-

Whale trainer’s death jars safe world of adventure

By TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press Writer

Sun Feb 28, 1:22 pm ET

ORLANDO, Fla. – It is billed as a leisurely boat tour. The shark surfaces, its fin slicing through the water.

The boat’s captain, armed with a grenade launcher, blasts away at the bloodthirsty monster. Nearby gas lines explode and a column of fire erupts into the blue sky. We feel the heat from the flames, hear the shark’s body churning in the water. A child hides her face in the crook of her mother’s arm and whimpers as chilly water sprays everyone on the boat.

Of course, it isn’t real. It’s the “Jaws” ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, an attraction that runs hundreds of times a day.

Pique the Geek 20100228: Energy from Fusion. Overview

Nuclear fusion is often proffered as the final solution to our energy needs.  That well may be, but hardly anyone understands what it means, and almost no one, outside of physicists, knows how it relates to nuclear fission (the power source that we use now).

It all has to do with Dr. Einstein’s simple, but seminal equation, E = mc2.  This means that mass can be converted to energy in a huge fashion.  Let us take a kilogram of mass, any mass, and convert it to energy.  Using the formula, and it has been proved over and over to be correct, one kilogram of mass (think of a big sirloin steak, for example) becomes a LOT of energy.

According to the equation, that kilogram of mass becomes thus:

E = (1 kg)(2.9979 x 108 m/s)2  = 8.99 x 1016 Joules

This is almost 90,000 billions of Joules.  We are talking big energy.  But it does happen quite like this.  Only in matter-antimatter annihilation does all mass become energy.

Load more