Friday, December 31, 2004

Now that's more like it!

The U.S. is increasing it's humanitarian aid to tsunami victims tenfold to 350 million dollars. And all it took was 5 days of worldwide humiliation for our pitiful attempts at response.

Policy change...back to sanity.

Just in time for Robeto Gonzalez's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department has released a memo that "modifies" it's original stance on what constitutes torture, directly contradicting previous guidelines.

The previous guidelines drew the ire of concerned citizens because it stated that torture had to include "excrutiating and agonizing pain". With these guidelines, Abu Ghraib was made possible. And most Americans who saw those photos believe that the tactics they showed constituted torture.

Bur even more toubling F.B.I. memos have been obtained by the ACLU. These memos repeatedly refer to an “Executive Order” — the existence of which the White House denies — as justification for the techniques military interrogators used in Guantanamo: “We have also instructed our personnel not to participate in interrogations by military personnel which might include techniques authorized by Executive Order but beyond the bounds of FBI practices,” the top FBI official in Iraq, who is unnamed, said in a memo to officials in Washington.

Great. The F.B.I. has to reign itself in because it knows that these actions are illegal no matter what the executive branch is telling them.
But has there been any public outcry about these orders? Not much. But neither was there much interest in the Watergate scandal until it was revealed that the Oval Office was bugged and Nixon's actions could be directly examined. Perhaps if these memos come to light and people can connect the dots to those with their hands on the levers of power, the public will hold someone directly responsible. And as Iraq continues to drift toward anarchy, and as the American economy begins to feel the effects of war, deficit and isolation, the American people just might start looking around for someone to take the fall for this mess.

All of this reminds of a Mort Sahl anecdote I heard on Fresh Air yesterday. Remember when John Ashcroft had the statue of nude Justice covered up? Sahl says that was the last time justice was exposed in this administration. So funny 'cause it's true.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

What the heck do we care?

Are we stingy? Yes. While we give 40% of the world's total humanitarian aid, the US gives far less aid as a total of its GDP than any other western nation. (You'll need to register for this New York Times content if you haven't before. The New York has a ton of online content and is a link I always check when I surf.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The world responds...

The U.S. is taking its first steps to responding to the worst natural disaster of our lifetime.

The U. N. is proposing a tsunami warning system for Asia.

Public outcry (plus an abysmally low aproval rating) has forced Bush to become engaged in this event. But how much pressure will it take to get him to cooperate with the U.N. on building this system? Well, this could be a way to foster good will in the region and mend fences at the U.N. (as well as coopting a "liberal" viewpoint). Lets hope a cynical attempt at political cover forces him into doing the right thing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Video from Asia

Terrifying video of the Tsunami in action. The only link I could get to work on my crappy player from work was the one from Phuket. I wonder what was the fate of the two tourists who were washed away?

Unimaginable suffering

As of this writing, more than 50,000 deaths have been reported in the Indian Ocean tsunami tradegy, and that number will no doubt grimly increase. More than one third of the dead are thought to be children. People were killed as far as 10 miles inland and entire islands are thought to have been swamped. This disaster has stopped two civil wars and forced at least some cooperation on the combatents. And the catalysmic repercussions will continue with disease, displacement and starvation.

And as this event grows to rival the most serious natural disasters in history, we are left feeling utterly powerless. It's even disturbing that we didn't cause it (like, say, global warming), because we know we can't even blame ourselves. Mother nature can be a heartless bitch.

But there are a few precautions that we can take.

From the New York Times:
In Japan, a network of fiber-optic sensors records any seismic activity and passes the information to a powerful computer at the Meteorological Agency, which estimates the height, speed and arrival time of any tsunamis and the coastal areas most at risk. Within two minutes of a quake, the agency can sound the alarm.

It turns out, there is an early warning system that tracks tsunamis. Begun in 1965 after a magnitude 9.2 earthquake caused flooding in Alaska, it serves the nations of the Pacific rim. But these are mostly affluent nations who can afford to install and integrate such high tech systems. Will the developed world step in to help prevent another catastrophe? Don't hold your breath.

Here is a harrowing first person account from an American tourist who was injured by the deluge. Note what she has to say about the American embassy's help compared to other countries' embassies.

Monday, December 27, 2004

They're grading hospitals now?

Ever wonder which hospital in your town is really the best? Well, that may be impossible to ever know, but Medicare has started tracking treatments for 3 life threatening ailments, and they are going to be adding more. They even plan to track individual doctors results in the not so distant future. Here's a great article explaining it all-

And here's a link to the page that lets you compare the hospitals in your city side by side-

Guess which hospital graded out the best in my fair city? Why little old University Medical Center did! And it's a (gasp) charity hospital! I'm so proud.


This site has the best optical illusions I have ever seen.

Current internet addiction

I have found a great way to waste some of the precious moments of your life-

What makes it so unusual, is that it is a free site (for now) where you can win actual cash value prizes.

From the wbsites FAQ:
@Delphi works in 2 week contests where participants are asked to submit predictions on a wide variety of topics including, but not limited to, sports, current events, politics and entertainment. Predictions are submitted and graded in numerous formats. Users might be asked for the final score in a college basketball game, or for a short answer on what they think will happen in the Middle East next week. Players are limited in the amount of predictions they can make. Each week users are asked to focus their predictions in their area of expertise. Users are able to allot 25 restricted (weekly) predictions on about 50 available questions. There will also be several daily predictions always available; players that have spent their weekly predictions still have a reason to check @Delphi, everyday. Weekly predictions are generally worth more than daily predictions. Contests are decided by point totals. Updated rankings are available on the leader board, and users can check their progress through the "my account" section of the website. The top ten users each competition earn prizes.

I visit this site every day to make predictions, check the leaderboard, etc. I've won 80 bucks in Amazon gift certifs. I figure I'm making about .03 cents per hour on this site, which is much more productive than anything else I do on the net. Like blogging...

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Here we go...

..into the blogosphere. Hello world! This will be a record of the musings of a GUY WHO GOT LUCKY (tm). I'm white, male and a US citizen, so I was pretty much born on 3rd base. (Warning- many baseball metaphors to come). Plus I am married to the most beautiful woman who ever had anything to do with me (I talk a pretty good game...) and have 3 amazing children. I love my job and have some of the best friends a guy could have. Hate me yet? Well, I'll promise to try not to be an insufferable asshole if you promise to read without predudice. So, onward and upward...