Sunday, October 21, 2007

I am now 50

I am now 50.

AS you can see, I have changed the name of my blog. It will no longer be the ramblings of a naive rustic looking at a too too complex world.
I am, after all, one of the most educated and informed individuals that has ever lived.
As you are, of course. We have all received educations far better than that of Egyptian scribe or Greek philosopher, and an order of magnitude better than any farmer, slave, or warrior prior to the last 100 years.
We are also, however, at the same time the least knowledgable group in generations. There doesn't seem to be a single fact, from the teachings of Jesus to the nutritional value of wheat, that has not been challenged outright.
Worse still, the idea of the evidence-based fact has fallen out of favour. Counter-arguments for ideas like global warming, antidepressant overuse, and rule of law have devolved down to little more than "Oh, yeah? Well I say you're wrong! So there!"
No one offers any evidence. No one CARES about evidence! The Da Vinci Code sold a million copies after it was proved - actually proved - that much of the basic arguments were based on a half-century old fraud.
Today, instead of fact, we have credibility. Perceived credibility, I should say. Someone is telling the truth if you believe that someone is telling the truth. Evidence and proof be damned - if Rush says it, it must be true, and all the evidence against him have been fabricated by a conspiracy of anti-Rush lunatics.
Our own technology has turned against us. We now believe that all pictorial evidence that doesn't agree with our worldview comes out of George Lucas's special effects lab, and that all documents we hate were created by some nerd on his laptop.

In such a world like this, we are left with "truthiness" - the truth as confirmation of existing beliefs. And as we sort ourselves into small microcultures of like-minded internet chatterers, we isolate ourselves from our neighbours, our culture, and our national ideals.

The end of that path is balkanization - the breaking up of a nation into a thousand mini-nations.
I wonder which group will get the nukes?

I wonder if that group will believe that they can survive a nuclear war?

I wonder if that group will believe that God wants a nuclear war?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Islamic Fundamentalism a fundamental difficulty in fighting Polio

Poliomyelitis, better known as polio, is a contagious viral disease that has been all but eliminated in most of the Western world thanks to a vaccine invented in the 50s by Jonas Salk. It has been eliminated in the First World, and almost eliminated in the Third World. India, one of the few countries where polio still kills children, reported just 66 cases of the disease last year, down from 1600 in 2002. This year, however, 325 cases have been reported already, 23 of them fatal.
Why? A few ultraconservative Muslim clerics are telling Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh that the polio vaccine is really a drug to sterilize Muslim children and lower the Muslim birth rate. 70% of those infected with polio this year are Muslim, even though Muslims account for only 13% of India's population. Dr Hamid Jafari, the regional advisor for the World Health Organization (WHO) on polio eradication, says "in certain places, fatwas have been issued against the vaccine."
Uttar Pradesh is a very poor region, and their hospitals and health services are marginal at best. All too many Muslims are able to believe that health workers, who ignore them otherwise, are not giving them medicine to fight polio, but to get rid of them.
This is not merely a problem for India. Genetic analysis shows that the Uttar Pradesh strain of polio has left India, and spread to at least three African countries - Angola, Namibia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – which are fighting their own strains of polio. In addition, the virus has re-infected two neighboring countries which were polio-free - Bangladesh and Nepal.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

To stop the shooters

The recent shooting in Montreal and in Pennsylvania display a fatal flaw in the Bush administration's plan to combat terror.
All of the wiretaps, all of the renditions, all the camps are based on one assumption - that the terrorists work in groups.
There is no strategy in place to deal with the lone bomber, the lone shootist.

There is a certain irony in the Republican's repeated claim that the Democrats are mired in a pre-9/11 world, and have not yet grasped the new face of the future.
The Republican War on Terror is right out of the 50s. It assumes a monolithic foe, organized though hidden, which must be ferretted out through intelligence efforts.
They fail to grasp both the ubiquitousness and the anonyminity of the Internet society.
Today's would be terrorist doesn't need an organization. He has Google to find him his firey rhetoric and his bomb-making plans. The little man in his mother's basement can shop for weapons online and have them delivered, can scope out his targets in real time using satellite pictures, and can do up his suicide note as a slide show presentation using PowerPoint.
If he's at all competent with computers, his keyboard can double as an intelligence agency, digging up the details he needs on security and vulnerability.
The day of the one man army is here.

The idea of limited war vs. total war has been talked about elsewhere. We are treating the War on Terror as a limited war right now. The military are off somewhere dealing with it - Go on about your business, citizens!
But the hallmark of total war is the absense of the civilian - everybody is a target, everyone must fight. That is what we need right now. Total war.
We need 100 million sets of eyes, watching those guys in their basements. We need to get out of our houses, meet our neighbours, set up watch programs. We need to know the people around us, if only so that we can spot the dangerous ones.
We need to become a village again, where everybody knows everybody else, and is willing to warn their neighbours if they see Joe coming out of his house with a lumpy bulge around his middle, carrying three guns.

When anyone can be a terrorist, it takes everyone to stop him.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea the new head of U.N.?

South Korea's foreign minister, Ban Ki-Moon, will almost certainly become the new Secretary-General of the United Nations, replacing Kofi Annan.
He still must then go before the 192-country General Assembly, but this vote is almost always a "rubber stamp" of the Security Council's decision.
“It is quite clear that from today's straw poll that Minister Ban Ki-Moon is the candidate that the Security Council will recommend to the General Assembly,” China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said.
The 15 Security Council member countries each checked one of three boxes on a secret ballot for each candidate - “Encourage,” “discourage,” and “no opinion.” Mr. Ban received 14 votes in favour and one “no opinion” ballot. Every other candidate received at least one veto.
The United States has made it known in the past that it does not approve of the job that Kofi Annan has performed during his term of office. They appear to view Ban Ki-Moon more favorably.
“We're very pleased with the outcome here, very pleased,” U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lebanon Resolution to call for "calm".

Members of la Francophonie yesterday voted for a resolution calling for hostilities to cease in Lebanon; a compromise decision after acrimonious debate on the original resolution. The original resolution, which would have condemned the attack on Lebanon by Israel, was opposed primarily by Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, who asked that the body of French-speaking nations recognize the suffering of everyone involved. Lebanese Culture Minister Tarek Mitri stated that he would have referred a resolution more supportive of his country.

10th Canadian soldier dies in a month.

A tenth Canadian soldier died yesterday as a result of stepping on a booby trap in Afghanistan. This is the highest toll among Canadian troops in combat since the Korean War.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Armed Coast Guard in Great Lakes are OK

The arming of U.S. Coast Guard craft on the Great Lakes was authorized by both governments, stated a report released today. The agreement, made in 2003 as a result of the 9/11 attack, allows the Coast Guard to equip rubber craft with .30 caliber machine guns, in order to better enable them to prevent illegal border crossings. So long as they remain in U.S. waters, treaties dating back to the War of 1812 are not violated.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Too bad his name was Duane

53-year-old Duane Morrison, a petty criminal who had been living inside his Jeep, walked inside a Bailey, Colorado school Wednesday with two handguns and a backpack that he claimed contained a bomb. A few hours later, after taking six female hostages and molesting them, he killed one of them, 16-year-old Emily Keyes, and then himself as policemen stormed the school.
Too bad his name wasn't Ahmed.
After all, America has a huge bureaucracy designed to deter men named Ahmed from killing Americans with suicide attacks. The President himself has said that America is safer because of what he and the Republican leadership have done since 9/11.Much of the current campaigning by Republican congressmen is about how they have gone to great lengths to make sure men named Abdul or Ahmed cannot commit such acts.
Yes, it's too bad the man's name was Duane.