Odds and ends

Today I’m doing laundry (because damn it, if I’m going to be without power for a week, at least I’ll have clean sheets!), and cooking what I can of what’s in my freezer. One friend told me to make sure to loosen the strings on my guitars, because the humidity may warp the necks. (Thanks, Steve!)

All these supplies… so much more canned food than I’m used to having in the house. And crunchy things, like taco chips. What is there about stress that makes us want to really chew something?

I really, really hate these LED lights; they hurt my eyes. I think if I have to read by these for an entire week, I’ll go mad.


I can’t remember the last time I agreed with Tom Friedman:

In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”

“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” And there is no way that respect for the sanctity life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s ovary, no matter how that egg got fertilized, but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon. I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a “legitimate” rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax.

The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society.

Respect for life has to include respect for how that life is lived, enhanced and protected — not only at the moment of conception but afterward, in the course of that life. That’s why, for me, the most “pro-life” politician in America is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes, to his requirement for posting calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, to his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and other forms of common-sense gun control, to his support for early childhood education, to his support for mitigating disruptive climate change.

Now that is what I call “pro-life.”

The permanent war creates more enemies

B at Moon of Alabama:

Mass assassinations by drones, as the U.S. practices in Pakistan and in Yemen, have in both countries increased antipathy towards the U.S. and the number of people willing to actively fight against it. Currently U.S. drones also create new enemies in east Libya:

Locals considered the drones they now hear buzzing overhead “a form of occupation,” he said, and Libyans would wage “jihad” to force them out.
Obama and Brennen must know of this effect of their assassination campaign.

There is another danger in this war by drones. They are complicated machines and the software they use, which will make drones increasingly autonomous, is faulty and will always be so. As someone who has worked developing and implementing information technology this doesn’t surprise me at all:

In March 2011, a Predator parked at the camp started its engine without any human direction, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines closed. Technicians concluded that a software bug had infected the “brains” of the drone, but never pinpointed the problem.

Currently software is getting developed that automatically scans through drone reconnaissance videos to find the “signature” of “terrorist behavior”. That guy is loading the trunk of his car? Now that might be a car bomb. The visual recognition software will pick that out and when further bits of circumstantial “evidence” gets added it may well recommend the assassination of that person in a “signature strike”.
Aside from the incredible stupid believe in the existence of any “terrorist signature”, how many bugs will such a software have? Would their users even be able to identify a software mistake? Would they find its cause? Of course not.

No one with any bit of moral left in them should argue for the “permanent war” the Obama administration is implementing here. What it really creates is a permanent growing number of enemies and certain blowbacks to come. Drone assassinations and harassing drone critics create more terrorism. They are a problem, not a solution. As the people in the White House are not all stupid the must know this and their motivation to wage a permanent war must be a different one than the one they claim.


At 7:30 this morning, the supermarket was packed. I felt bad for an elderly man who had a huge stack of frozen dinners – “They were on sale,” he told the cashier.

“What if your power goes out?” I said.

“Ah, I’ll be fine.”

Then I went to the Home Depot, which was a lot less crowded, but still pretty crowded for early Sunday morning. There, I had the happy task of buying a 5-gallon bucket with lid, as I was instructed by a friend who’d been through extended power outages. For what? Don’t ask.

Last night, I bought a few bags of ice at the local convenience store. “If this runs out tomorrow, are you getting more Monday?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, we’ll get more. I don’t know why everybody’s buying so much ice.”

“Because of the big storm. We’re going to have power outages,” I told her.

“But only for a day, right?”

“They’re saying to prepare for at least a week,” I said.

Her eyes got big. “But I have a baby on an apnea monitor,” she said.

I didn’t know what to say; she was doing shift work at a convenience store, I knew she couldn’t afford a backup generator.

“The hospitals always have power,” I told her. “If you have a problem, call them.” I didn’t know what else to say. In a visceral way, I really got it: The working-poor folks who went through Katrina were too busy holding their lives together to deal with a hurricane. Who has time to watch the news?

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