Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Monkey Trial all over again

Latest episode in the evolution vs. Intelligent Design smackdown to take place in Pennsylvania, starting this week.

I really don't care if they want to teach Intelligent Design in addition to Evolution in schools. Provided they point out the tomes upon tomes and fossil records that support Darwin and the cricket song that supports I.D. And, perhaps more importantly - that they also teach other non-scientific, non-Christian creation "theories". Like those of Native Americans.

The Apache myth sounds eerily like Intelligent Design, doesn't it? "In the beginning was only Tepeu and Gucumatz (Feathered Serpent). These two sat together and thought, and whatever they thought came into being. They thought Earth, and there it was. They thought mountains, and so there were. They thought trees, and sky, and animals etc, and each came into being. But none of these things could praise them, so they formed more advanced beings of clay. But these beings fell apart when they got wet, so they made beings out of wood, but they proved unsatisfactory and caused trouble on the earth. The gods sent a great flood to wipe out these beings, so that they could start over. With the help of Mountain Lion, Coyote, Parrot, and Crow they fashioned four new beings. These four beings performed well and are the ancestors of the Quiché. "

So does the Maya. And the Norse. Chinese. African, etc. All "theories" of higher beings who created or made the world fit for human habitation. Bonus - most also include a myth of a great deluge.

But please - do not call it "science" unless you precede it with "social" or follow it with "fiction". And make sure you give equal time to the "theories" of other ancient cultures besides Judeo-Christian-Muslim.

I really, really do not understand the Right's insistance on trying to get Intelligent Design labelled as a viable scientific theory. In fact, I think they're shooting themselves in the foot by doing so. Science is only meaningful when placed into practical application. In the laboratory. So I have 2 questions for the I.D. community: 1) How do you propose to prove this "theory" using the scientific method; and 2) what do you plan to do with that information?

Getting them to answer these questions takes them somewhere I don't think they really want to go: Cloning. Genetic Engineering. Global Warming. Mankind playing God. Pure and simple. In fact, you can take those legitimate scientific disciplines as proof that an intelligent being can create life, manipulate global climate and manipulate the laws of evolution. By doing so, it is perfectly reasonable to speculate that a more advanced being may have created us. Or terra-formed an inhospitable world to make it safe for us. We do it to lesser species everytime we create a pretty hybrid tulip. Or breed Dachsunds. Or clone kitty cats. The difference, of course is everytime we do that we also prove Darwin in the process. But you could argue that we also prove I.D.

But if they introduce Intelligent Design as a legitimate scientific field of study, what are they going to use as their textbook on the subject? Can I nominate author David Brin's "Uplift Saga" series?? Sci-Fi for the fundies. Sounds like a plan to me. Next up maybe some Heinlein?.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Happy 6 months, Duncan!

The Critter, he turned 6 months old back on the 14th. And got 2 bright, shiny and very, very sharp lower cuspids to mark the occassion. These come in handy now that we've begun to feed him solids on a daily basis. He loves the bananas with the rice cereal, tolerates the yams and pears but shudders adorably at the sight of applesauce. Those pediatricians, they say feeding solids doesn't help babies sleep any better but I tell you - they LIE!!! Either that or it was absolute coincidence that the week after we began giving him solids he began, once again... to sleep through the night. ***sigh*** 10pm - 5 of 6 am. Except for the nights when said two toofs broke through the gums. Those two nights were a bit hellish but their respective nights after?? Blissful sleep. Well, except when he does the occassional shange up and sleeps from 8 - 3:30. Those nights are a little brutal because inevitably, we choose those particular nights to stay up late to watch the premier of Lost or something.

His ped is amazed at his motor skills. Wonderfully average in all other respects but he has remarkable control over his digits, that one. In the last week he has learned to pull himself up to a stand like nobody's business. In fact, he whines bloody murder if you're not assisting him in this endeavor every available moment. He'll scoot & roll to get where he wants to go but didn't have much use for crawling until he discovered that getting up on your knees gets you 6" closer to getting up on your feets! So he's working on that - gets up on all fours and starts to rock back and forth, back and forth with the sides of the crib as a block to better perfect his starting technique. We put him on the floor and watch with baited breath for the moment when he'll build up enough confidence to take off on his initial baby dash & stick his finger/tongue in the non-babyproofed electrical socket on the other side of the room.

And the damned dog isn't helping. She keeps bringing her slimy, nasty toys and dropping them 2 feet in front of him. Which, of course are so much more enthralling than the nice sanitary plstic rattle we just pulled out of the dishwasher. Though the sooner we can teach the Critter to throw her back her balls instead of sticking them in his mouth the sooner we can let them entertain each other.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Worrywart and Rita

When I mentioned my bro is in the Coast Guard, did I forget to mention that he's stationed at Galveston? And that he and my wonderful SIL just bought their first house about 12 miles from there, which was under a mandatory evacuation order? And that she's 6 1/2 months into her first pregnancy with a "high risk" flag due to high blood pressure already? Oh, and on Monday they sent her to an Oncologist because they were worried about high white cell counts on her last blood draw? (who did allay their fears by saying he didn't see any signs of the big bad C... and was inclined to chalk up her lab results to the pregnancy or a lingering illness/cough she's had, but took some more blood to be sure).

I'm a little freaked out. Having bad dreams on their behalf (would you dream people pick up a damned power drill and piece of plywood already and get busy already??!!). She's already evacuated to her Dad's north of Houston but bro will be riding out the storm in Reliant stadium and will then deploy for search & rescue. Bro says they're fine, they have insurance and isn't worried. SIL says she's doing OK and it's just stuff. But it was really hard not having him there when she was driving away from her home, and the nursery and all the hard work they've done and not know what would be left when they came back. She knew it would be this way when she married him but this is the first big test and it's harder than she thought.

I'm not really worried about them physically. I'm more worried they'll come home to a nightmare of matchsticks for a crib (and everything else) and a waterlogged nursery full of moldy toxic stuffed animals and baby clothes which insurance will find some way to weasel out of paying to fix/replace. And the stress and trauma of dealing with the clean up will cause her more problems with the pregnancy, etc. etc.

So that's fine guys - don't worry. I'll do it for you. I'm really, really good at that. Not quite as good as Grandma, but close.

**Update: As you know by now Rita veered to the east and spared Galveston/Houston a direct hit. Word is my bro and SIL had a fence blow down in the backyard but that was it, other than some cosmetic damage. Crisis averted.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Finally, some answers

Newsweek's breakdown of the breakdown. Doesn't paint a rosy picture of the locals but realistic, I think. And puts the ultimate blame where it belongs - lack of imagination, lack of initiative/leadershop and the sad result of bad policy. I gotta give Shrub props for finally stepping up and accepting responsibility for once.

Oh - and you gotta love the Coasties: "He was replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen. The Coast Guard was one agency that performed well, rescuing thousands."

Have I ever mentioned my brother's in the Coast Guard? His crew alone rescued 700 in one day. In this entire nightmare the Coast Guard was one shining example of how shit should be done.

"Indeed, while state, local, and other federal officials appeared not to fully comprehend the magnitude of the disaster at hand, the Coast Guard acted with the urgency the crisis demanded.

Admiral Robert Duncan, head of the Eighth District in New Orleans, dispersed cutters, helicopters, and other vessels ahead of the storm. He also requested additional forces from the commander of the Coast Guard's Eastern Area, in Norfolk, Va., which is responsible for everything east of the Mississippi, according to Coast Guard officials.

''We don't have to get approval to execute," said Richard J. Dein, a retired Coast Guard commander and a search-and-rescue specialist. ''The Coast Guard is organized by geography. All of those districts act autonomously. They each have a command and control center. What you had was a ready response network."

But then, they do this every. single. day. Save lives, relieve suffering. And get no credit (not that I'm bitter or anything). In all the recriminations about what went wrong, I want to remind folks of what went right. And I'm proud to say my bro was part of what was in all likelihood one of, if no the largest search & rescue effort in U.S. history.

In the Coast Guard, they train to respond in the most adverse, hostile conditions imaginable. And more importantly, they have a standing mandate to act on their own recognizance to save lives threatened by the worst of Mother Nature. It seems everybody is looking for an answer to the red tape and beaurocratic hoopjumping that plagued Katrina. And the more I think about it, the more I realize you've got your answer right there.

Separate the emergency first response duties from all the other accounting bullshit. In times of natural disasters, just hand over that authority to the Coast Guard. Expand their mandate, give them a bigger budget and there you go. They're already on-call 24/7. They have assets deployed & ready to go at a moment's notice in every geographical area. They have ongoing operations in every geographical area, which means they have ongoing relationships with state and local Emergency Services agencies (fire, police, medical - etc.) . Like the National Guard, they have law enforcement authority besides rescue authority. And they deal with pollution, environmental and hazmat situations on a daily basis.

Or, revamp the National Guard (or a portion thereof) to model the Coast Guard in it's mandate. Cut all the red tape - if a Governor declares a state of emergency, then the Nat'l Guard is automatically activated and authorized to mobilize on their own. None of this "Gov. has to specifically ask and that request must be specifically approved by the President" bullshit.

Can you say "that was awkward!"

I started using the office of the CEO's assistant M (who is out on maternity leave) to pump at work last week. Previously I'd been going out to my car but what with gas prices being what they are, sitting there idling the engine for the sole purpose of powering my boob-juicer was getting a little expensive. Then too, there was the whole environmental guilt going on (i.e. how many penguins are going to die as a result of the global warming resulting from my burning precious petrol for the sole purpose of feeding my baby? Why not just pour Penzoil in his bottle?) So in the context of formally requesting a lactation room be included in the build out of the new office we just bought and will be moving into in about 6 months (though I may or may not still need it then) my boss said I was welcome to use M's office instead of my car for the time being, since it had a lock on the door. And I took him up on the offer.

Well apparently that lock doesn't work too well if the CEO's easy ability to poke his head in this morning without knocking is any indication. Judging by the awkwardness that accompanied the embarassed blush, my boss apparently did not tell him that I would be availing myself of his assistant's office for the purpose of juicing the girls.

It's a good thing I don't embarass myself too easily and managed to cover myself up before much damage was done. If I'm lucky he might even take that embarassment and channel it into approving my request for a lactation room in the new building.

So do I a) go back to using my car; b) ask them to fix the lock or c) cross my fingers and hope it doesn't happen again? And do I mention it to my boss to make sure he's told the CEO that I'll be borrowing the office periodically? Have I mentioned how much I hate having to ask my employer to make special accomodations for my baby and his little juicers? I know I shouldn't, but I still do. I hate drawing attention to myself.

They're playing Hockey in Hades

OhmyGawd! Hell has officially frozen over! Shrub is actually taking personal responsibility for the failures of the federal response to Katrina! Guess he can afford to be the fall guy now since he won't be running for reelection next year.

Friday, September 09, 2005

When amateur legal hobbyists go wild

I was thinking that the local and state governments do bear some of the responsibility for the Katrina fiasco long before the Republican spin machine started hounding it. Primary responsibility? No, but some. There were those buses, floating in the floodwaters abandoned, unused. There were the shelters - apparently undersupplied. I had assumed that no city would send tens of thousands of evacuees to a shelter without supplying it with enough food & water to take care of those evacuees. Thanks to the Spin machine, I'd even begun to wonder if maybe, just maybe the mayor and governor HAD done everything in their power to ameliorate the tragedy. Maybe they hadn't jumped through the correct beaurocratic hoops. Maybe they hadn't formally asked for the right amount of help early enough. Maybe it was just a tragic legal misunderstanding, where the Feds DID have their hands tied until the locals did something.

Then I started to wonder - who does bear that primary responsibility? And here's what I found, right on their own mission statements:

FEMA: On March 1, 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.

DHS: Specifically, the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will have three primary missions: 1) Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, 2) Reduce America's vulnerability to terrorism, and 3) Minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.

Within the DHS charter, under "Emergencies & Disasters" it simply states:
"In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.

Nothing at all about "the Feds will only provide EXACTLY what the state/local gov'ts request", which is the most recent spin (i.e. Gov. Blanco did not *specifically* request x number of troops, just "send me everything") . Just simply "we will bear primary responsibility for any large-scale crisis or natural disaster".

Part of the Louisiana governor's letter to the President asking for a federal Declaration of Emergency says "Pursuant to 44 CFR § 206.35, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal.

The states DID their jobs - they declared the natural disaster 3 and 4 days ahead of time. Bush even declared the national disaster a couple of days ahead of time. The ball was clearly, and I believe legally in the Fed's court. And they dropped the ball.

Many many questions still remain in my mind. At the moment, it's unclear who, exactly prohibited the Red Cross from entering the city immediately after the storm. Lefty sites blame FEMA, of course (why was busy keeping everyone and everything out of the city - from donated supplies to fuel to search & rescue personnel) but the wingnuts (via Fox news) apparently have video proving it was Gov. Blanco.

Given the source, Fox News - I'm not inclined to find that credible but I won't get a chance to watch the video myself until I get home. If true, however I'd like more information as to context. I'm not one to paint the locals entirely blameless - I just want all the facts.

On a sidenot, I watched the author of this book "Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 & How It Changed America" on CSPAN overe the weekend and he provided some fascinating background. Amazing how history repeats itself. Sad, but amazing. Anyway, it gives some clues as to what we can expect in the coming months. Even if Shrub & Co. were totally oblivious to the fact that Katrina presented a threat of Biblical proportions (despite all warnings to that effect), the rest of the country is not so unaware. Floods in the past have proven to be major watershed events, and Katrina should prove no different in causing consequences of a historical nature. Political fallout in the form of rolling heads first... but secondarily also in the sheer number of displaced Americans which will have a significant impact on local & state politics.

The Red State/ Blue State deadlock may finally be broken - though events will yet prove to whose benefit. You can bet that Rove & his strategists are busy trying to figure that out right now, however. We need to get on top of it before they do.
Still stewing, lots more thoughts but if you're like me you're desperate for some good news. In the last couple of days I've been following some of the animal rescue stories:

Rescue Journal of Oregon Humane Society rescue volunteers and MSNBC's Katrinablog, who've been desperate to find one evacuee's Miss Kitty. I'm planning to drop some more $$'s to Noah's Wish next payday and encourage everyone else to do so too.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Just totally speechless I’m so angry and pissed and feel so powerless. We can send robots millions of miles through the vacuum of space to land on a ball of dirt a mile wide but we can’t evacuate a few thousand people from downtown New Orleans? I feel like Queen Amidala… “My people are suffering and DYING while you discuss this in a committee!!”.

Would it help get things moving if it were a terrorist named Katrina who had blown up the levees instead of a Hurricane? Can we just pretend that happened? I know, the hurricane obviously makes things difficult. I’m just furious – you clear a road to the Superdome, confiscate every bus or personnel carrier in a 300 mile range, drive ‘em in filled with water, food, ice & medicine and pull them out. What's holding that up? What if this HAD been a terrorist attack? Do we not have plans in place to deal with millions of displaced people in this country? Clearly, not.

If the Army can’t do it then get the Disney people over there – they know how to fucking move large amounts of people in a short period of time. In the meantime, you have supplies for setting up refugee camps airdropped to shelter locations to be waiting for those folks to show up. I’m sure local charities would be more than happy to help set them up, or the refugees themselves.

Yes there are a handful of very angry people there with guns. It's understandable. I'd be pissed too. You tell me to go somewhere to be taken care of. I go like a good citizen and they you leave me to rot and die.

Here's what we do. We send in choppers to the evacuation point with the buses to provide air cover. You have a bullhorn. You say “there are 500 busses behind this one. We'll get you out. But in the meantime, we need to get the grandma's and babies out first. Put down your weapons. Anyone holding a weapon will be shot”. Count to 3. Shoot anyone still dumb enough to hold a gun. You have able-bodied refugees offload critical supplies. Note - this keeps them too busy to grab the guns. You get families with kids & old/sick folks on the bus first. Anyone not of those two categories who tries to mob the bus will be shot. Leave supplies with them until it's their turn.

Or if people are so unwilling to open their homes, their churches, their community centers as shelters. You confiscate cruise ships, as one online buddy suggested. We did it in WWI and WWII – if ever there was a natural emergency that justified that kind of act this is it. Carnival says they’re “considering that” but nobody has asked them to do it. What’s so difficult? Supposedly we have the money, supposedly we have the OK from Georgie to use WHATEVER resources are needed. So what’s the hold up?

I think it’s the will to use those resources. I think this administration has an unwillingness to demand companies sacrifice anything for the greater good. It’s the whole “faith based charity” bullshit. Apparently you can’t get your ticket to heaven by paying tax dollars that go toward relieving human suffering and saving lives. They can only be purchased via church-sponsored charities. Run by Pat Robertson.

I hear stories of tons of folks waiting to go in "as soon as they get the word" as soon as it "gets safe". You know what? The quickest way to make it safe is to get those people out. They're not getting any happier, any healthier and sure as hell not any more patient.