Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Now that's a good question.

In the midst of her recent battles with the Hungarian healthcare system the Total Drek European Correspondent appears to be considering a change of career. This presents an interesting question: what kind of life change should the TDEC actually go with? More importantly: what sort of career change do a bunch of random assholes on the internet think she should go with?

So far, I've had a few thoughts:

-She could rent herself out for ad space. This option does seem to be gaining some popularity in the U.K.

-She could become the first female master of Tie Dang Gong (i.e. Iron Crotch Qigong). This art has been getting some attention lately and I'm sure the time is ripe for a female practitioner.

-She could move to the U.S. and run for the Kansas State School Board, although given certain revelations I'm concerned the TDEC might be overqualified for the job. More qualified that certain current members anyway.

So, anyone else have some ideas? What other careers might the TDEC embark upon?

And, as long as we're on the subject (sort of), best wishes for your health. Doctors are frustrating in all countries, but it sounds like you've got a real doozy here.

More merriment

I am contemplating throwing over my nice yet somewhat inconveniently located corporate job. There are other corporate jobs beckoning in exciting places like, er, Guildford (UK). Or I could try doing this in London. Any excuse to be naked in a bank.

A bit of merriment

For those of you who take an interest I will say that I am now back to a state of (very) relative good health. I am in a foul, foul mood, but even that feels like an improvement. You know what? I'm going to see if I can't get anyone to go here with me. Short of that two week break on the Bahamas it's a good as it's going to get...


PS: Not that Budapest is so bad when it's a crisp winter day and you're in a good mood.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More of the same

28/11/05
To continue from that last post, I’ll say that on that same 24th, I spent about seven hours waiting for a doctor to show, in spite of the fact that they had told me the night before that if my blood test that morning was negative (which it was), I could go. When my patience finally wore out, I pressed that little emergency bell and got things moving. I was to find out that, while being pushy is not done in Hungary, it does actually help.

An English speaking doctor was found. He told me that my „real” doctor was not there, and would not come in until the next morning, and yes, could I please hang around until that time. This is where it gets fun – with some considerable browbeating and bullying my friend Marieke and I convinced him that, really, I could go home for the night and come back the next morning. I promised to be there by eight.

Being a woman of my word, I accordingly walked in at 7.50 am, and was tested again, and seen by a doctor who, in spite of a colleague’s protestations that he spoke English, did not appear to understand or speak any. No indication of what needed to be done followed. By lunchtime I was utterly fed up and decided to call in some help. This help took the form of a Hungarian friend, who by phone interrogated one of the nurses and got the number of the doctor. After several attempts she talked to him. He confirmed that, well, they didn’t really know what was the matter with me and could I stay over the weekend.

A while later I decided to hijack some nurse or other to get more explanation – however, in doing just that I was rebuked by another doctor, who now magically spoke English, saying the yes, Dr Pinter (my aptly named doctor) was on his way. Said doctor appeared in my room five minutes later. I was a little taken aback as he was alone and he spoke no English.

That’s what I thought anyway. In fact the man spoke, and speaks, perfectly good English, and he patiently explained to me why I should stay, why I shouldn’t travel and what exactly they didn’t know. He also told me that they were scheduling a CT scan for me.

You see, this past weekend was supposed to be my weekend in London, planned long ahead and much anticipated. It was to be my first trip for a year that was not boyfriend or family related. I cancelled it.

Sunday morning was supposed to be the end of my stay at Szent Imre Hospital. Saturday evening, however, Dr. Pinter dropped by and asked my in a positively friendly manner whether I was patient enough to stay until Monday morning. And then, really really, they would let me go until the scan. I negotiated some hours of freedom on Sunday and acquiesced in another night in hospital.

This morning then I was woken up at 4:30 am for the xth blood test. A pair of strangers in white coats walked in on me at 6:30, and one of the nurses said, as an afterthought while walking away, „go home”. Considering their knowledge of English the could mean that they wanted me to go home, or that I could go home, or that I would be able to go home. Dr Pinter was supposed to give me some paperwork so I waited for a bit. Then I talked to the nurse again, trying to make clear what I wanted. He pointed at his watch, indicating the the doctor would be in, or would see me, at nine. At 9:30 I was getting impatient again and ventured out into the hallway, where I spotted the aformentioned doctor. I concluded that he was on his way.

Well, one must never overestimate the expedience of anything in Hungary. Nothing happened. At 9:50 am I went out again, attacked a nurse and was shown an English speaking doctor. She explained that I needed to talk to Dr. Pinter who rather fortuitously meander past at that moment. She explained everything and soon the sound of printers was heard. After another 15 minutes the Honourable Pinter gave me a stack of papers and an explanation in Hungarian as well as an amused little smile. I nodded, and skipped out of the building.

I feel like an innocent prisoner finally vindicated.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Giving Thanks

It is 24/11/05. I am in a hospital in Budapest, in Buda to be precise. It is a snowy day here.

I have my laptop with me.

It seems like the perfect time to write a post about how people who live in foreign countries are, essentially, stupid. Or about the Hungarian medical system.

As it is, I could complain about Hungarian hospitals, but it seems futile to do so in an American blog. The fact, you see, is that while I have no tv, no phone and hardly any access to English speaking staff, I am being treated.

Let me explain what I mean when I say that. In the three days that I have spent in two different hospitals over the last two weeks I have had:

- 4 blood tests
- 3 urine tests
- 2 X-rays
- 3 ultrasounds, 2 abdominal, 1 gynaecological
- 2 normal gynaecological exams

I have been seen by:

- at least 5 GPs
- 2 gynaecologists
- 1 urologist
- 1 reumatologist
- 2 gastro-intestinal doctors
- 2 surgeons

This is not including nursing staff or technicians. Moreover I have received all this treatment, including one overnight stay (which I really didn’t want) entirely free of charge, though „free” is a dubious concept in a country where people like me pay 50% tax.

I could complain that the doctors here are particularly incommunicative. I have been here for 18 hours and no one is telling me much, especially today. I am being kept here for unclear reasons and for an unspecified duration. All this while I feel fine, with only the slightest abdominal pressure/pain.

One of my American friends, recently in hospital with a heart complaint, told me about how the nurses would completely ignore her and refuse to answer questions; perhaps medical staff are just not very forthcoming generally. I wouldn’t know would I? I haven’t been to hospital (for myself) since I was six.

Perhaps I should be grateful for all this incomprehensible care.

The truth is that I just want to go home. I want them to tell me what I have and stop sticking needles in me. The one permanently attached to my arm (though I haven’t been given a drip) is itching like hell. Also I want people to stop prodding me in painful places and then tell me to relax. Finally, it would be nice if people could stop poking me with random objects.

Yes?

Thank you.

If I post this then the good news is that they have released me. Fingers crossed.

PS: I did actually get released last Thursday, if only temporarily. The rest of the story will follow as soon as I can find time to write it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Total Drek Thanksgiving.

In lieu of an actual post today* please enjoy this excerpt from last year's Thanksgiving post. It still, more or less, sums things up pretty nicely.

Today in the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving. If you're a member of the immigrant majority, this is a time to be grateful that European firearms and diseases were sufficient to allow foreign invaders to wrest control of this land from its original inhabitants. If you are a descendant of those original inhabitants, this is mostly a time to be sorrowful over the events of the last several centuries. On the other hand, you can be grateful that the legal fiction of sovereignty granted to your enclaves by a semi-guilty immigrant majority at least provides justification for casino gambling. So, in short, we all have something to be thankful for, no matter how absurd or degrading.

Now, I am an atheist, and so really don't have anyone to be thankful towards, but this holiday is still about more to me than sheer gluttony. It is a time to consider what I have in my life that I may be grateful for. I am, of course, thankful for my health and that of my family and friends, thankful for having a job I love, a warm home, and a relatively safe life. I am thankful that I have the time and education to think about issues larger than my next meal, or where I will sleep. I am thankful about all these things, but even more I am thankful for all those things that I don't have.

Human existence is defined as much by our goals and aspirations as our accomplishments. In order to truly be a full human being, in order to grow and develop, one must experience lack and hardship as well as plenty and satisfaction. Though I surely bemoan the tragedies in my life when they occur, I am grateful that they do occur, for without them I would not be the man I am, or be able to grow into the man that I will become.

I am thankful for my life, in all of its joy and its sorrow, and am grateful that I may live it, whatever the future may bring.

To all, a happy Thanksgiving.


* I would like to write more, and make this more of a retrospective event, but my Sainted Girlfriend and I have agreed to bring vegan mashed potatoes, two cranberry pies (one vegan, one non-vegan) and a pumpkin pie to this year's collective grad student Thanksgiving dinner. At the moment she's entering full stress mode with the cooking and I'm needed away from the computer. I wouldn't even have posted this much except I needed to send some results to a coauthor today, and so had to spend this morning bonding with STATA. So there. Nyah.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A lazy day at Total Drek

Okay, that's not an entirely accurate title. A better one would be, A day when Drek is too busy to blog about much of anything. That just doesn't have the same ring, however. Indeed, I am too busy and under too much time pressure right now to write some sort of post. So, in lieu of my usual "wisdom" allow me to direct you over to Jesus' General where a quite striking post on the current political situation recently appeared. It begins as follows:


Forgive me for interrupting, but for the last few hours I've been struggling with a post juxtaposing the Christian right's obsession with sexual morality and theocracy with their lack of concern about torture and murder. I can't finish. It's too painful to address satirically.

I've been in a funk for the last few weeks. I'm absolutely horrified by what my country has become. Corruption has replaced the rule of law. The media has sold its watchdog role for a few pieces of silver and invitations to the ruling class' cocktail parties. The owners in our ownership society are rigging the system to enslave the rest of the population through debt.

Worst of all, where we were once a nation that at least pretended to value human rights, we now celebrate torture and eagerly commit murder in the name of promoting freedom.

America has lost its soul.


It's worth reading, even if it makes for depressing fare on the day before Thanksgiving.

Have a look.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An open letter to the guy with the cock rooster in my neighborhood.

Dear Sir and/or Madam,

I am sorry to be communicating with you for the first time in such an impersonal fashion. While I am not what you might call a "people person" I do like to be somewhat more cordial with those near whom I live. This is particularly true if it should become necessary to discuss a matter of some importance with them, as is indeed the case now. Sadly, however, I have not made your acquaintence- most likely because you are not out and about the neighborhood in the morning when I go for my daily jog and thus, unlike Self-Confident Asian Man*, Angry Woman With a Bandana**, and Out-of-Shape Mr. Clean***, I have not been given the opportunity to know you.

Yet, despite our lack of introduction, I find that I must speak with you about an important subject: your cock. I find it uncomfortable to have to discuss someone else's cock, but I see no other choice. You are keeping a cock in a residential area. Possibly you have several cocks and, perhaps, the hens to go with them. I cannot imagine why you feel the need to keep your cock in such a state- the price of eggs is, indeed, rather low and a cock would be of minimal help in procuring them anyway. As for meat, while I am certain that you do love cock, I doubt that you have the land to raise an adequate number of cocks to supplement your diet to any worthwhile degree. My sainted girlfriend suggested that your cock might live in a fort. She then continued, noting my rather obvious confusion, by pointing out that they keep cocks in forts to, in her words, "Wake up the soldier people." While I can't argue that forts don't contain many cocks, I think her hypothesis unlikely for two reasons. In sum these are: (A) we do not live in the nineteenth century and, thus, soldiers have access to more reliable alarm mechanisms and, (B) there is not a particularly large military presence in my neighborhood. If you do in fact live in a fort, in or out of the nineteenth century, I apologize. In any case, given the rising concerns about Asian bird flu, there are ample reasons to think that keeping poultry in a residential zone is unwise. I can only assume that you keep it as a pet, and that perhaps your children or friends enjoy playing with, and petting, your cock too much for you to consider finding other arrangements for it. So, while I do not object in principle to keeping your cock in the neighborhood, it seems that in practice you lack a good reason for doing so.

I am not writing, however, to object to your cock, but rather to draw your attention to the very real possibility that your cock is ill. As I said before, I run daily in the morning. Usually I am out at, or before, dawn and thus am accustomed to hearing your cock crowing at the sun. However, last night after using the restroom, I overheard your cock crowing. This crowing was rather frequent, taking place about once every thirty seconds or so, and continued for at least an hour. This, by itself, would not be an issue, and I can admire a bird with such dedication to duty, but unfortunately the sun was nowhere to be seen. Moreover, as the time was 3:30 AM, I can safely assure you that dawn was far from imminent. Since cocks are, as a general rule, supposed to remain torpid until around dawn, this behavior seems strange. I am forced to conclude that either your cock is ill in some way, or is too stupid to successfully distinguish night from day. While, certainly, there have been in the past elaborate rules for telling when dawn has arrived (Mohammed, I believe, indicated that it was dawn when a white thread could be distinguished from a black thread with the naked eye) I think that cocks have no need for such precision and, in any case, should have noticed that it was still quite dark out.

I think you should, perhaps, take action to deal with this situation. You could try sending your cock to some sort of remedial or vocational training as its job-skills are obviously or low quality. If this is not an option you might try exercising your cock rather heavily during the day in the hope that it will sleep until the actual dawn. This probably won't work, however, as cocks are not known for being able to work out for more than relatively short spurts- although the ones that can work for very lengthy periods are highly prized. Finally, you could take an axe and just kill the little fucker now before he resumes making that infernal racket. This would have the added advantage of preventing a bird too dumb to tell light from dark from breeding. Certainly, without this one cock it's possible that poultry will evolve into some sort of super-intelligent master race, but that's a chance I'm willing to take.

Thank you for your attention, and I wish you luck throttling your cock.

Sincerely,

Drek the Uninteresting

* Self-Confident Asian Man is a gentleman of, apparently, Asian descent that I see walking in my neighborhood most mornings. Periodically he raises his fist towards the heavens as though to say, "Fuck yeah!" Thus, since he seemed to engage in such regular self-affirmation, I considered him to be Self-Confident. Recently I have determined that he is blocking out the sun when he crosses east/west streets, but the name just seems fitting. Also: he vaguely reminds me of Manuel Noriega (Who is not Asian) so I have the weird feeling that the former dictator of Thailand (or some similar country) lives in my neighborhood. At least he's keeping busy. And positive.

**Angry Woman with a Bandana can been seen in my neighborhood at around 6:45, walking her two Jack Russel Terriers. She always wears a bandana over her hair and always glares at me as I run past. As I have never done anything to harm this individual, I can only conclude that she is a generally angry woman. In a bandana.

***Out-of-Shape Mr. Clean is another individual who walks dogs in my neighborhood. He can usually be seen around between 6:15 and 6:30 and has two weiner-dogs that yap at everything. He is entirely bald and looks basically like Mr. Clean would look if he (Mr. Clean) stopped exercising and gained about sixty pounds.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Perfect.

For those of you who don't regularly listen to National Public Radio, this morning we had another installment of their regular series, This I Believe. This is a series where different individuals give a monologue on what they believe about life, and the world. Think of it as witnessing without all the hellfire. Of note, however, is that this morning Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller was up to bat, and he gave a stirring, heart-felt account of his views. Why do I care? Well, for a simple reason: Penn is a skeptic, and an Atheist. So how well did he do really? To find out go listen to it yourself but, to be honest, I think I have never heard such a remarkable explanation of how Atheists view the world. For example:

But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.


Honestly, I'd like to reproduce the entire thing but... well... I guess I'd rather you click the link and let NPR know how much impact they have. Go check it out.

As for Penn Jillette- I salute you, sir. Your talent with words humbles us all.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kansas: The Edukation Steat

Have you seen this newsletter, written by Connie Morris of the Kansas State Board of Education? If not, you need to go read it right now. I'm not even kidding you people.

Go. Read. It. Now.

Then weep for the poor children of that state, who will be learning that Ignorance is Strength, Peace is War, and Freedom is Slavery.

Thanks to the folks over at the Panda's Thumb for bringing this to my attention.

I'm just... absolutely overwhelmed by this.

UPDATE: For more on Connie Morris, see this article from Kansas City's "The Pitch." I don't want to ruin it for you, but they've got some fascinating characters on the Kansas State Board of Education:

In December 2002, Morris sent an e-mail to an anti-immigration group claiming that Garden City's then-mayor, Tim Cruz, was an illegal alien.

Morris apparently became upset with Cruz after she was forced to cancel a From the Darkness book-signing event in Garden City. (Cruz had received a call from a would-be picketer and approached the store manager about his concerns about the planned protest.)

"It was really like a hate group," Cruz says of the Emigration Party of Nevada, which included Morris' statements in a newsletter e-mailed to its members. "I was concerned, not only for myself but my family, because you never know how people who read that stuff take it, and a lot of things could happen. Of course, nothing did. But you never know in today's world."

The Emigration Party's e-mail made the rounds from the county commissioners to the newspapers to the TV stations.

"I find it appalling that a person can break the law and enter the country illegally and end up as mayor," Morris told the Associated Press.

When questioned by reporters, Morris said she'd had a phone conversation with Cruz in which he admitted to being a "past illegal immigrant."

Cruz, however, is a third-generation resident of Garden City. His parents were born in the United States; he was born at St. Catherine Hospital in 1959 and graduated from Garden City High School in 1977.

Cruz served eight years on the city council and has twice been elected mayor. He also serves on several boards, including the Garden City Chamber of Commerce, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Kansas State Historical Society.

"At first, I thought, what's this lady's problem?" Cruz tells the Pitch. "Because I hadn't done nothing to her."


Just... wow.

Well that was sensible.

For folks who weren't paying attention, the U.S. House of Representatives passed some rather substantial reductions in spending last night. [NOTE: The preceding link has been on the fritz so here is an alternative report courtesy of NPR. Hey, you can call me a caustic fucker, but I backup what I say pretty thoroughly.] How substantial, you ask? Oh... to the tune of fifty-billion dollars, or so. You know, what folks keep in their couch cushions.

You might be wondering where these cuts came from. Well, as you might expect from the party of compassion the cuts came primarily from domestic programs aimed at helping the poor. Or, as the Washington Post sums it up:

The House narrowly approved a broad five-year budget plan early this morning that squeezes programs for the poor, for college students and for farmers, handing Republican leaders a hard-fought victory after weeks of resistance in GOP ranks.



The plan, which would save the government just under $50 billion, passed 217 to 215, with 14 Republicans joining all House Democrats in opposition. Just last week, Republican leaders were forced to pull the bill from consideration after it became clear they lacked the votes for passage.


So, this was a bill that involved so many cuts, of such a severe nature, that Republican party discipline broke down. That's a good sign right there. For slightly more detail on the cuts, please check out the helpful info-graphic that I lifted from an unsuspecting Washington Post, and will drop as soon as they request me to.

Now, the Republicans report that these cuts are intended to manage and, indeed, to help eliminate the ridiculous budget deficit the United States is presently running. This of course is a budget deficit that the Republicans ran up so, you know, it's nice to see their sense of fiscal responsibility kicking in. Better late than never, I suppose. And, I guess we can't blame them for cutting domestic programs. I mean, priorities have to be made, and some programs are just more important than others. Let's just consider some of the vital programs that Republicans, as responsible stewards of the public trust, just couldn't cut:

-A system of secret prisons where we can keep foreign nationals (and, hell, maybe Americans we don't like much) without having to deal with pesky human rights inspections.

-Training for our corps of CIA-employed torturers. Oh, wait, sorry, since President Bush says that we don't torture, I guess we'll rename these folks "cruise directors." My mistake.

-The purchase of cruel and deadly white phosphorous munitions that we did not did use in Iraq.

-An essentially non-functional, but kinda neat-sounding, national missile defense program that should prove highly effective in protecting U.S. citizens from an array of current threats.

-A huge cut in taxes to stimulate American business into producing more tax revenue. Believe it or not, this approach has a long and illustrious history of failure. But, in the U.S., we're determined people and we'll keep on trying an idea even if we've shown it to be stupid.

-Reimbursing religious groups for providing charity during the recent hurricane Katrina disaster. Which, you know, only makes sense given that churches are tax-exempt in the first place and certainly have other things to spend their money on. You know- things that the government should obviously be subsidizing.

-Developing a federal set of standards for the teaching of intelligent design, the "theory" that's so revolutionary virtually the entire scientific community rejects it as utter nonsense.

So, as you can see, the Republicans definitely have their priorities straight.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go kill myself.

As a side note: I got a laugh this morning when I noticed that the Wikipedia entry for the U.S. House of Representatives began with the following text: "GET A LIFE LUKES. The Unibooooooo ted States House of gay Representatives is one of the two houses of the Congress of the United States, the other being the Senate." I imagine it's been corrected by now, or will be soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

In the eye of the beholder.

I'm always amused when people try to interpret the bible to determine the will of god. This isn't because the process is inherently funny, but rather because I find the idea quite ludicrous. The bible is so long, and so internally contradictory on so many different points, that you can support virtually any position no matter how strange or, indeed, hateful. The bible is more like a Rorschach test than anything else, allowing readers to find whatever it is that they are seeking. This property is only made worse when we consider that many people develop a position and then seek to support it using the bible, rather than going at it the other way. So, given this, it's fairly amusing to me when I run across something that illustrates this point. I refer, of course, to a recent letter to Computer Games Magazine that reads as follows:

Four Word Nudity

This is a response to the complaint in the October Rebound labeled "Four-Word Nudity" by Jon Camp.

The human breast was designed by God for only one purpose: to feed a human infant. So, by design, God intended every living human being to know exactly what a breast looks, feels, smells, and tastes like. To be offended at the site of a woman's breasts goes against the will of God, and is therefore blasphemous. Furthermore, to be ashamed of the human breast is to be ashamed of one's own mother and what she sacrificed for the well being of her child. This is a transgression of God's fifth commandment: "Thou shalt honor thy father and mother."

Be not ashamed of the breast for it is the fountain of life, which nourishes the human race.

Sincerely,

MeLikesTheBoobies

[Spelling original]


Well hell, I'm convinced. God loves boobies, I love boobies. When you get right down to it, boobies are just great! Spread the word, folks!

And just between you and me: I can't wait to see the look on Pat Robertson's face when the Topfree activists get ahold of this argument.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"I didn't mean what I said then because I was trying to get a job..."

"But now, for this job, I'm, like, totally telling the truth."

Or, in any case, so goes the response of Samuel Alito to concerns about his views on abortion. I mentioned the revelation that Alito has come out fairly strongly against abortion rights. Today he responds to these revelations. As reported on in the New York Times:

Seeking to tamp down a political uproar over a 1985 document in which he denounced racial quotas and said the Constitution did not protect the right to abortion, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. told senators on Tuesday that the sentiments were simply the views of "an advocate seeking a job."

...

"He said first of all it was different then," said one of the two, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. "He said, 'I was an advocate seeking a job, it was a political job and that was 1985. I'm now a judge. I've been on the circuit court for 15 years, and it's very different. I'm not an advocate; I don't give heed to my personal views. What I do is interpret the law.' "


I'm divided as to what to think here. On the one hand I can understand how we sometimes talk ourselves up in interesting ways for job applications. Further, I respect and appreciate someone who is capable of changing their mind with experience. Intellectual honesty and open-mindedness would seem to be desirable properties in a supreme court justice. On the other hand, George W. Bush is about as conservative as they come, and the defeat of his previous candidate clearly revealed the strength of the extreme right wing of his own party. So... I guess I'm inclined to doubt Alito's excuse on this matter.

Besides, given Slag's recent post I'd say it's fairly clear this administration forgets, alters, and ignores the facts as it suits them. So, thanks for the effort Sammy, but I'm still not impressed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

WMDs found in Iraq!

Well, loyal readers, what the media predicted has finally come to light. Weapons of mass destruction were used in the battle at Fallujah in November 2004.

I'm not sure I believe the Army's claim that they never used white phosphorous on civillians. But even in this claim is true, I wonder... how do you think the media would cover this had the Iraqi army used white phosphorous against American troops?

Well shit.

This just in:

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, wrote that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" in a 1985 document obtained by The Washington Times.
"I personally believe very strongly" in this legal position, Mr. Alito wrote on his application to become deputy assistant to Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III.

...

"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."


Well, y'all know my position on this issue:



It's time to get to work, folks.

A Modest Proposal (That doesn't involve eating babies).

Not to be unkind to Jonathon Swift or his humanitarian efforts but I prefer other sources of nutrition. What I want to discuss, instead, is a deal between those of us on the left side of the political fence and those on the right side.

Recently we were notified (see also here) that a vaccine has been developed for cervical cancer. The vaccine protects against infection with several strains of Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. The potential for this vaccine is, indeed, substantial. As the New York Times explains:

If widely used, the vaccine could save many lives. Worldwide, there are about 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer a year, and 290,000 deaths. Most of the cases and most of the deaths occur in poorer countries where women do not have regular Pap tests, which can detect cancers or precancerous cells early enough for them to be cured. In the United States, where Pap tests are common, 10,400 new cases are expected in 2005, and 3,700 deaths.

"The potential, particularly in the undeveloped world, particularly if they can overcome the logistics and get the vaccine to those women, could be enormous," said Dr. Deborah Saslow, director of breast and gynecological cancer at the American Cancer Society. The vaccine could prevent at least 70 percent of the deaths from cervical cancer, Dr. Saslow added.


So, this vaccine is very promising. Medical professionals have been recommending making the treatment mandatory, and administering it before females become sexually active- which is at around age 15 in the United States (that's the median age, actually). However, this recommendation has been meeting with disapproval from some Christian group who are worried about the message this sends:

At the ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control] meeting last week, panel members heard presentations about the pros and cons of vaccinating girls at various ages. A survey of 294 pediatricians presented at the meeting found that more than half were worried that parents of female patients might refuse the vaccine, and 11 percent of the doctors said they thought vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease "may encourage risky sexual behavior in my adolescent patients."

Conservative groups say they welcome the vaccine as an important public health tool but oppose making it mandatory.

"Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teen-agers that, 'We expect you to be sexually active,' " said Reginald Finger, a doctor trained in public health who served as a medical analyst for Focus on the Family before being appointed to the ACIP in 2003.

"There are people who sense that it could cause people to feel like sexual behaviors are safer if they are vaccinated and may lead to more sexual behavior because they feel safe," said Finger, emphasizing he does not endorse that position and is withholding judgment until the issue comes before the vaccine policy panel for a formal recommendation.


In other words, we shouldn't use a vaccine that appears almost one hundred percent effective because it might encourage sexual activity. Now, I have to admit, I find this argument highly questionable. Primarily, I just don't think the possible risk of contracting HPV is really holding adolescents back right now anyway, so eliminating that threat is unlikely to make a meaningful difference. Besides, compared to the risk of contracting HIV the possible, long-term, risks of HPV will seem speculative to most young adults. Yet, despite my skepticism of this conservative position, my role today is to act as a uniter, not a divider. This is where my "modest proposal" comes in.

We know (Miller et al. 2002) that female participation in organized sports and other athletic pursuits reduces the likelihood of participation in risky sexual practices. We, similarly, know (Whaley 2001) that over the long-term reductions in male/female inequality result in lower rates of sexual assault which, you know, is bad. The sexual assault is bad, I mean- reducing sexual assault is good. Finally we know that the new HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing a disease that kills thousands of Americans every year. So, knowing all this, let's make a deal.

Conservatives: you will let us wacky liberals use a validated technology to save thousands of lives. We, in return, will allow you to set up programs encouraging women to participate in organized and team sports, so as to reap the benefit of lower rates of risky sexual behavior. In combination these two policies should allow us to save lives without experiencing a rise in dangerous sexual behavior. Hell, we might even see a decline! Since we're in a good mood, we'll even let you enhance programs to reduce gender inequality which should reduce rape- perhaps the riskiest sexual behavior of them all.

I know, I know, this may seem a little crazy- I mean, we're just letting you go wild with this agenda, but we have to be willing to make concessions if we're going to be a part of the political process. Still, this is no wilder an idea than Midnight Basketball leagues and, let's face it, this approach is bound to work better than the abstinence only crap you've been pushing so far.

So how about it? We get to vaccinate kids against a life-threatening illness, you get a program that reduces promiscuity, and women get safer lives- physically, emotionally, and sexually.

Sounds good to me.

References

Miller, Kathleen E., Grace M. Barnes, Merrill J. Melnick, Donald F. Sabo, & Michael P. Farrell. (2002). "Gender and racial/ethnic differences in predicting adolescent sexual risk: Athletic participation vs. exercise." Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 43(4). 436-450.

Whaley, Rachel Bridges. (2001). "The Paradoxical Relationship between Gender Inequality and Rape: Toward a Refined Theory." Gender and Society. 15(4). 531-555.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A sincere warning.

Some time back I wrote a post introducing a little something known as the "Badger Scale." The badger scale is a system for rating movies that, unlike most systems, assumes that the average movie sucks. So, a movie receives a rating equal to the number of badgers that would have to attack you to equal the amount of pain inflicted by the film in question. Thus, positive badger scale ratings indicate a bad movie, while negative ratings indicate a good movie. At the time, I was rating the film Crossworlds which earned a 6. This may sound pretty bad but, in fact, really isn't. The current record holder has either a 12 or a 14, depending on which of the rating team members you talk to. What movie is this record holder? I'm not telling- it would ruin the surprise.

What I am telling, however, is about a dire new threat that has emerged. This is a new movie, a threatening movie, a movie that is capable of tearing away your sanity like the dreaded Cthulu himself. I refer to the movie Hotel. Now, based on the plot summary, you might think that this sounds like a good movie. To wit:

While a British film crew are shooting a version of The Duchess Of Malfi in Venice, they in turn are being filmed by a sleasy documentary primadonna while the strange staff share meals which consist of human meat. Then there is the hit man, the call girl and the hollywood producer all managing to become part of the madness...


So, a quirky darkly-humorous film. In reality, however, this is a movie that could have been created by a couple of goth teenagers with ready access to meth amphetamines and a videocamera. The acting, directing, film work, and so on, are about at that level. Please understand that I watched this entire film with my Sainted Girlfriend and we both concluded that it was equivalent to a two-hour mindfuck. And I don't mean "mindfuck" in the sense of "a bold ride through the human psyche" so much as in the sense of "the director pried open my skull and stirred my cerebrum with his penis."

This is a bad movie- so bad that it, frankly, achieves something that only one other movie ever has. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this film is off of the badger scale. I don't feel competent to actually assign a badger scale rating to this sucker it's so bad. It exists in an existential realm of such pure, unadulterated suck, it exceeds our imperfect human attempts to describe it. The only other film to accomplish such a feat was the infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space, which is widely regarded as the worst movie ever made. Ever. Having seen Plan 9 I more or less agree, with the caveat that I'd actually rather watch Plan 9 than Hotel. Yes, you read that right: I've actually found a movie worse than Ed Wood's sci-fi debacle.

So, good readers, consider yourself warned. Avoid Hotel, avoid it at all costs. The sanity you save may be your own.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go look at something that makes more sense. Hopefully that will wash the memory of Hotel from my consciousness.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blessed is he who is on the do-not-call list.

Recently I returned to my office to find a voicemail notice on my cell phone. Given that my Sainted Girlfriend was out of town at the time, and that I am involved in long-distance negotiations with a man in New York over the damage his daughter caused to my car, I eagerly listened to it.

Instead of either of these things I instead found a message from "Marilyn" in which she shared an "uplifting" bible passage with me. Specifically, she shared Psalms 1:1 and 1:2 with me. For those of you born to non-Christian faiths, or who simply were more successful in avoiding bible school than I, they read as follows:

1:1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

1:2 But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Marilyn then remarked, "Isn't that uplifting?"

In the hopes of answering her question, let's break down the psalms:

Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Translation: You're lucky if you don't have people giving you bad advice.

nor standeth in the way of sinners,

Translation: You're also lucky if you don't waste your time trying to help other people.

nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

Translation: You're still luckier if you don't sit in uncomfortable chairs which, according to Google Images look like this. On the other hand, if you aren't a Biblical-literalist I suppose you might interpret this to mean: You're still luckier if you don't judge people. That sentiment I can (largely) agree with.

But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD;

Translation: But, instead, the lucky man loves being told what to do by his invisible-friend in the sky.

and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

Translation: And most assuredly if he thinks about nothing but the commands of the invisible-friend in the sky.

So, in short, the luckiest man is one who is lucky enough never to receive bad advice, who doesn't lift a finger to help others, who doesn't judge those others that he isn't helping, and who is so completely absorbed by superstition that he can't spare a thought for anything else.

So, given the above, my answer can only be, "No, you crazed Rexella wanna-be, it isn't uplifting."

I mean, crap, if you're gonna preach to strangers, can you at least put a little thought into it first? Seriously, I'll still be here in a few days- try again with something better.

As a side note: At one point while writing this post I did an image search for the word "moron." I'm really not sure why this was among the search returns. Personally, I just think it lends support to my theory that virtually anything entered into a search engine will, sooner or later, produce pornography or something similar.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Handy Reference: Telling Intelligent Design from Creationism

Some of you have been writing in since my recent remarks about Intelligent Design and Creationism, asking whether or not they're really the same thing. I had earlier claimed that they are but, as it happens, the folks from The Panda's Thumb have corrected me on this point. As it turns out, Intelligent Design and Creationism are not the same thing- Intelligent Design is vastly more vacuous a theory than Creationism

Yeah, you heard that right.

To aid you in the complex task of distinguishing these similar, but distinct, theories from each other, please see the handy chart provided by the thumbers. I think it will answer all your questions.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a human subjects authorization with our local IRB to work on. Those of you in research fields probably know exactly how fun this kind of experience is.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

One step forward, two steps back.

For those who haven't heard, today is a mixed-day for the continuing battle between science and Intelligent Design "theory." For those of you who have been hiding under a rock, I.D. is a repackaged version of creationism that is meant to bypass the U.S. prohibition on the merging of church and state. (For those of you who dispute the sameness of creationism and I.D.- see this post from over on The Panda's Thumb.) In any case, attempts to ram I.D. into the school system have been rampant in recent years, and have been opposed by responsible scientists and constitutional rights activists alike.

Today, however, we had both a victory and a defeat. First, the Dover, PA schoolboard, which voted I.D. into the curriculum and was subsequently sued over it, has been removed by a popular vote. This is an incredibly encouraging development. At the same time however, the school board for the state of Kansas has voted in new standards that not only encourage the teaching of I.D., but redefine science itself. To be more specific:

Sue Gamble said the board, by dropping a phrase that defined science as "a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena," was opening the door to supernatural explanations.


Indeed, today is a day full of both joy, and disappointment. Above all else, however, it drives one simple point home: no amount of education will ever overcome willful ignorance.

And I always thought that the regular kind of ignorance was bad enough.

Kids Students say write the darndest weirdest things.

As regular readers of this blog know, I rather enjoy teaching. I like the interaction with undergrads, I enjoy guiding discussions, and I love seeing students grasp new concepts. While I wouldn't say that teaching is my main love (research is, after all, quite alluring) it is something I like. Moreover, it seems that I have reason to believe that I am somewhat good at teaching. This may be somewhat shocking to y'all, but I find it reassuring.

In any case, despite my enjoyment of my students they still, from time to time, rather surprise me with some of the things they write. This experience is also shared by my officemates, who have noticed some rather fascinating statements over the years. So, today, we're going to share some of those statements with all of you, and the comments we would have liked to have written in response. Hopefully this will be amusing but, if not, what did you expect? This is a blog, and you get what you pay for.


"He tries to prove that the extinction of mammoths and other megafunds was caused by Earth's crustal displacement."


While Tom might disagree with me, I'm pretty sure Mammoths were not a form of financial planning.

"Foe example..."


Look, I know I'm from the South, but I do know how to spell.

"Collaboration is important because it helps scientists to reach a conclusion with ease."


You've obviously never met my co-authors.

"Negativism is the opposite of positivism."


Well, it's hard to argue with that.

"This is a huge concern for scientists because if a scientist only chooses to sue certain findings..."


Legal action is certainly an innovative approach, but I doubt it will really help.

"I would not trust the result of this even if the big man above himself told me to."


That's an interesting epistemological stance you've got there.

"...one could hypostulate that this relationship could be contingent on other factors..."


Sadly, "hypostulate" isn't a word, but keep trying, Mr. President.

"...do too the fact..."


I just wish they'd spelled it "FAQ't."

"...a violently gruesome demise."


Well, that does indeed sound rather unpleasant.

"I play the game Halo 2 a lot more that I probably should, and as a result, my room has suffered quite a bit of damage."


I don't understand- is the game real for you or something? Because we have a term for that.

"Gender would be considered the control variable because it is the variable in the relationship that is constant."


We need to go over what a "variable" is again, don't we?

"An example of intervention/interpretation would be marring an affectionate husband causes bad grades.

...

I have a husband who needs constant attention and doesn't understand that I have to study and the affect of this is poor grades. I love my husband, but highly recommend putting marriage or any serious relationship on hold until you have completed ALL of your education. In fact if you want any good grade don't date at all."


I don't think I've ever been this uncomfortable reading a student paper before in my life. Thank you for not providing detail as to what sort of attention your husband requires.

Ah, students- what would we do without them?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dream the impossible dream.

Well, folks, it finally happened: I actually apologized to someone.

Sort of.

Don't get too used to it- I've managed to avoid the necessity for more than a year and, with luck, that record will only get better.

Or, you know, I'll stop caring about intellectual honesty. Either way.

Excuse me?

This morning I was doing a semi-professional (I am vaguely involved in a vague future health initiative at my lovely corporate workplace) search on health topics to add to the obvious workplace health and safety stuff. I am a longtime, if somewhat lazy, supporter of local and organic produce. The latter is hard to find in Budapest, but the city does have a beautiful foodmarket with plenty of local products; in addition to this Hungarians eat much more seasonal produce, which means less food import from, say, Kenia, therefore less fuel pollution, etc, etc.

Anyway, that is beside the point and while I am happy to defend my point of view on food production that is not what is occupying my mind at the moment.

The point is that I was checking out a seemingly sensible (ie in line with both my reading and my experience) site on nutrition, the benefits of organic food, the awfulness of fried food, and so forth. The standard stuff. I checked out some of the links and then realised that the site actually has some rather surprising little headings such as "Allah or Jesus?", "Intelligent Design", "Islam Revealed" and my favourite, "End Time Facts".
For those who haven't clicked on the link to "Islam Revealed", I just want to point out that it says in nice, colourful letters across the top that:
"You know I've been enlightened and surprised to find out there is actually a group of Muslims that are apologizing for 9/11. There is HOPE!"
Grrrr.
Grrr.
Welll I am glad to hear there is hope, but since when did we start believing that all muslims need to apologise for 9/11? When did it become clear that ALL muslims were involved in the attack, rather than an handful of fanatics as we initially assumed? I won't even comment on the other article headings. There is quite enough steam coming out of my ears as it is.

You know, the reason why all this upsets me is not because the opinion in itself surprises me. I know that there are many people out there who feel this way, or who feel that all muslims are evil. It makes me angry - but it doesn't surprise me. What is upsetting is to find these people in "my" camp. That people who believe in balanced nutrition and a different kind of agriculture are also the people who think that the muslims are collectively responsible for 9/11. I guess we all like to believe that our beliefs are not compatible with others that we see as wrong. That intelligent, educated people are not racists. That kind people aren't bigots, and that our friends are none of all this.

How stupid of me. It is good to remember that things are not so simple, and that there are no walls enclosing the Good People. Can I find these things extra disappointing though?
I guess this is how my Nice Christian Boyfriend feels a lot of the time.


*btw, I would like to make clear that as far as I can see there is no link between the politics of the cyberbreezes.com site and Dr Mercola's site, which is well-reputed.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Something to talk about

I really wanted to comment on this story, but it is too discouraging. It has long been known that certain Parisian "banlieus" or suburbs are unstable and unsafe, but the extent of the riots going on there now is shocking nonetheless. The fact that the riots are racially motivated only makes matters worse, as does the government's superior reaction. Hard line stances are not going to help the issues underlying this outbreak; the sheer speed with which the riots are spreading across France show that the racial relations there have been, for a long time now, an accident waiting to happen.

Can somebody please find something positive to say about all this?

I would really like to think that, like the riots of May '68, this violence could chance the fabric of French, and European, society in a positive way.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Football, and why I hate it

Football (=soccer) sucks. No, seriously, it does. I been subjected to a lifetime of enforced boredom through friends and family. I have had to endure the continuous repression of other, more interesting sports, in favour of this silly sport.

Yet if that were all it would be bearable.

But no - the above was not sufficient suffering. Now my favourite team is screwing up too.

I hate football.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

But will there be body-slams?

Those of you who read this blog are aware that I routinely defend evolution from unreasonable and often irresponsible attacks. Of late, this has focussed mostly on the intelligent design "debate," which, for all its sound and fury, is little more than a rehash of a battle that was fought and won by evolution eighty years ago. But, as many of you probably realize, there is no idea so stupid that nobody believes it so we get to argue this whole thing again.

Well, as it turns out, for those who are curious, you can see a clash between pro-I.D. and pro-Evolution advocates today from the comfort of your own home. Boston University has organized a so-called Great Debate between the sides. Supporting the pro-I.D. side we find:

Edward H. Sisson, Esq.
Partner, Arnold and Porter, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Sisson advised witnesses at the Kansas evolution hearings.

Professor Bill Dembski, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture

Nick Barber
Broadcast Journalism major, Boston University College of Communication


And on the pro-Evolution side we find:

Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D.
Executive Director, National Center for Science Education.

Professor James Trefil, Ph.D.
Robinson Professor, George Mason University;
co-author, Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.

Neil St. Clair
Broadcast Journalism and Political Science major, Boston University College of Communication and College of Arts and Sciences.


So, you know, science has the edge in actual Ph.D.'s while intelligent design has... a lawyer. Yeah, sounds about right to me.

In any case, you can watch the debate via a free webcast accessible here. It runs from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM Eastern Standard Time.

Check it out, if you have time- it's always fun to watch science kick ass and take names.

Thanks to William "Bill" Dembski for bringing this to my attention via his blog. It's nice to see something useful coming out of it instead of an endless stream of ad hominem and misrepresentation.

U.S.-S.R.

This Washington Post article reveals that the CIA is holding captured terror suspects in secret prisons in Eastern Europe. These prisons were set up soon after 9-11, known to only high-level CIA operatives, and only to a few government officials in the nations where they are located. Prisoners are kept in complete isolation, but almost nothing else is known about conditions within these "black site" prisons.

The U.S. looks more like the U.S.S.R. every day.

Is anyone surprised? No? Moving on...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Turner Tuesday Volume IV

Well, folks, it's that time again- time for another installment of our "popular" series Turner Tuesday. In this series, we take a probing look at the white supremacist classic, the Turner Diaries. This is, to put it mildly, one of the less enjoyable blogging assignments I've ever taken on and, in perfect honesty, has made me keenly aware of the similarity between "blogging" and "flogging." Change one letter, and yet sometimes it's basically the same goddamned thing.

Last time, as you'll recall, we joined our protaganist, Earl Turner, as he retreived weapons from a secret cache in Pennsylvania. We also witnessed the first open clash between the terrorist "Organization" and the U.S. Government, in which the Government came off rather the worse for wear. Because, you know, a couple of poorly-trained thugs are really a match for the FBI, local police, and a national guard unit. So, you know, it's nice to see that Pierce has a firm grasp on reality.

And so, without further delay, let's dive right in.

Chapter 4

As this chapter opens we discover that the mind-numbing lectures delivered in chapter 3 are still with us. Specifically, Turner begins this chapter with a thrilling (and by "thrilling" I mean "staggeringly dull") explanation of the clandestine communications system in use by the Organization.

Our plan for setting up the network was simple and straightforward, but actually doing it has required a terrific effort, at least on my part. The difficulties I've had to overcome have emphasized for me once again the fact that even the best-laid plans can be dangerously misleading unless they have built into them a large amount of flexibility to allow for unforeseen problems.

Basically, the network linking all the Organization's units together depends on two modes of communication: human couriers and highly specialized radio transmissions. I'm responsible not only for our own unit's radio receiving equipment but also for the overall maintenance and supervision of the receivers of the eleven other units in the Washington area and the transmitters of Washington Field Command and Unit 9. What really messed up my week was the last-minute decision at WFC to equip Unit 2 with a transmitter too. I had to do the equipping.

The way the network is set up, all communications requiring consultation or lengthy briefing or situation reports are done orally, face-to-face. Now that the telephone company maintains a computerized record of all local calls as well as long-distance calls, and with the political police monitoring so many conversations, telephones are ruled out for our use except in unusual emergencies.

On the other hand, messages of a standard nature, which can be easily and briefly coded, are usually transmitted by radio. The Organization put a great deal of thought into developing a "dictionary" of nearly 800 different, standardized messages, each of which can be specified by a three-digit number.

Thus, at a particular time, the number "2006" might specify the message: "The operation scheduled by Unit 6 is to be postponed until further notice." One person in each unit has memorized the entire message dictionary and is responsible for knowing what the current number coding of the dictionary is at all times. In our unit that person is George.

Actually, it's not as hard as it sounds. The message dictionary is arranged in a very orderly way, and once one has memorized its basic structure it's not too difficult to memorize the whole thing. The number-coding of the messages is randomly shifted every few days, but that doesn't mean that George has to learn the dictionary all over again; he just needs to know the new numerical designation of a single message, and he can then work out the designations for all the others in his head.

Using this coding system allows us to maintain radio contact with good security, using extremely simple and portable equipment. Because our radio transmissions never exceed a second in duration and occur very infrequently, the political police are not likely to get a directional fix on any transmitter or to be able to decode any intercepted message.


So, as is common for Pierce's work, we have less a work of fiction, and more an explanation of terrorist tactics. In this case, we have suggestions to avoid phone calls and personal meetings as much as possible, and to dispense with complicated ciphers (which can be broken) in favor of short messages that require an involved codebook to interpret. Moreover, while the codebook is involved, it should be straightforward enough for one man to memorize. This, as you can guess, improves operational security- as long as none of those message-men have turned against you, your code remains largely unbreakable.

From this inauspicious beginning, Pierce describes the receiving equipment for these coded messages, which amounts to a radio receiver attached to a hand calculator. Now, at this juncture I think it's important to point something out. Pierce is arguing for more or less total reliance on radio communications but, in so doing, he demonstrates a profound lack of understanding for radio. I, as it happens, have an amateur radio license and was a member of both my local civil defense, and disaster response, groups during my time in Florida. Now that I am elsewhere, and without my equipment, my membership is largely irrelevant, but that isn't the point. The point is that I know something about radio communications. One of these things is that given the proper equipment and a trained staff the origin points of even short signals can be determined. This isn't conjecture, either. American Radio Relay League affiliated clubs often have what is known as a "fox hunt." During these events amateur operators report to the clubhouse with radios, and the materials for making antennas. They then divide into teams and build jury-rigged antennas with which they locate transmitters hidden in the area by the club officers. Now, it's important to realize something: this is being done by a bunch of men who are often drunk off their asses and are using antennas made of everything from aluminum foil to coat hangers. Yet, despite the unconventional nature of the equipment, and questionable skill of the operators, they usually find the transmitters. Does anyone seriously think that sober Federal agents with modern equipment would be worse at this task than the amateurs? And, considering that the Turner Diaries are set largely in Washington D.C., the U.S. Capital city, I think we can assume that Federal agents and sophisticated gear are plentiful.

For all of Pierce's attempts to lay out instructions for his would-be terrorists, he does a rather poor job of it in spots. An intelligent person might ask what this says about his other technical instructions, but a more intelligent person would go further and question all of his content- not just the technical details. Which begs the question: which sort of person are you?

Moving along, we come to one of the rare instances where Pierce may have caught a glimpse of the future.

One thing on which they are working is a computerized, universal, internal passport system. Every person 12 years or more of age will he issued a passport and will be required, under threat of severe penalties, to carry it at all times. Not only can a person be stopped on the street by any police agent and asked to show his passport, but they have worked out a plan to make the passports necessary for many everyday operations, such as purchasing an airline, bus, or train ticket, registering in a motel or hotel, and receiving any medical service in a hospital or clinic.

All ticket counters, motels, physician's offices, and the like will be equipped with computer terminals linked by telephone lines to a huge, national data bank and computer center. A customer's magnetically coded passport number will routinely be fed into the computer whenever he buys a ticket, pays a bill, or registers for a
service. If there is any irregularity, a warning light will go on in the nearest police precinct station, showing the location of the offending computer terminal-and the unfortunate customer

They've been developing this internal passport system for several years now and have everything worked out in detail. The only reason it hasn't been put into operation has been squawks from civil-liberties groups, who see it as another big step toward a police state-which, of course, it is. But now the System is sure it can override the resistance of the libertarians by using us as an excuse. Anything is permitted in the fight against "racism"!


There are several issues here worth discussing. First, in many ways this vision isn't entirely unreasonable. As it stands now, most people can be tracked relatively easily by their cellphones, debit and credit card usage, and other similar electronic means. The only problem from a government repression standpoint is that this information isn't centralized, but rather is dispersed in multiple institutions. However, this dispersion isn't as significant a hurdle as you might think. Efforts by the GOP to do something like this with the Patriot Act are hardly news to anyone, and additional government programs like ECHELON and TEMPEST strongly suggest the impressive information-gathering capabilities of the government. As such, while an overt "passport system" like Pierce suggests is unlikely to appear, that is at least partly because it is unnecessary.

The other issue of note is his parting shot that anything is permissible in the fight against "racism." There are two problems with this. The first is that, quite evidently, not everything is permissible in such a fight. We are long past the date in which Pierce set the Turner Diaries, and we have yet to see significant amounts of repression to reduce racism. While a certain amount of informal pressure, and in some places formal pressure, exists to be "P.C.," the extent to which this is backed up by formal law is limited. For the most part this is restricted to harassment laws of various sorts and hate crime legislation. While I will be the first one to admit that I've never agreed with the logic of hate crime laws (Either we don't like people killing people or we do- the nature of the person is largely irrelevant) I also have to admit that such regulations don't significantly interfere with most people's lives. Secondly (and this is a somewhat silly point, but only somewhat) why is "racism" in quotes? Racism quite nicely sums up what Pierce does, indeed, advocate and as such is a perfectly appropriate term to use here. The quotes are a meaningless attempt to make the term's usage seem inappropriate when, in fact, it's entirely justified.

In any case, after discussing the passport issue, Pierce lays it aside and discusses a new mission for his protaganist: he must travel into Maryland to fix the transceiver being used by another terrorist cell. As you might expect, this goes only so well.

Unit 2 is reasonably close to two other units, but all three are inconveniently far from the other nine Washington-area units- and especially from Unit 9, which was the only unit with a transmitter for contacting WFC. Because of this, WFC had decided to give Unit 2 a transmitter, but they hadn't been able to make it work.

The reason for their difficulty became obvious as soon as they ushered me into their kitchen, where their transmitter, an automobile storage battery, and some odds and ends of wire were spread out on a table. Despite the explicit instructions which I had prepared to go with each transmitter, and despite the plainly visible markings beside the terminals on the transmitter case, they had managed to connect the battery to the transmitter with the wrong polarity.

I sighed and got a couple of their fellows to help me bring in my equipment from the car. First I checked their battery and found it to be almost completely discharged. I told them to put the battery on the charger while I checked out the transmitter. Charger? What charger, they wanted to know? They didn't have one!

Because of the uncertainty of the availability of electrical power from the lines these days, all our communications equipment is operated from storage batteries which are trickle-charged from the lines. This way we are not subject to the power blackouts and brownouts which have become a weekly, if not daily, phenomenon in recent years.

Just as with most other public facilities in this country, the higher the price of electricity has zoomed, the less dependable it has become. In August of this year, for example, residential electrical service in the Washington area was out completely for an average total of four days, and the voltage was reduced by more than 15 per cent for an average total of 14 days.

The government keeps holding hearings and conducting investigations and issuing reports about the problem, but it just keeps getting worse. None of the politicians are willing to face the real issues involved here, one of which is the disastrous effect Washington's Israel-dominated foreign policy during the last two decades has had on America's supply of foreign oil.


This passage is interesting in that it implies that Pierce's Aryan supermen are too stupid to follow simple directions, but this is of course passed off with a sigh. Doubtless if it had been African-American characters with this problem, we would have been treated to a lengthy discussion of their natural inability to use electronics. I'm just as happy we got to miss that. Before we can dwell too much on stupid white people, though, we are treated to another discussion of the corruption running rampant in the U.S. Government of Pierce's dreams, and the blame for it is placed squarely on the shoulders of Israel. Now, on the one hand, U.S. aid to Israel is substantial and this has alienated a number of Arab states, and Israel hasn't always been the best ally, but the logic here is bizarre in the extreme. Pierce seems to be arguing that being dependent on foreign oil is just fine, so long as Jews aren't involved. I have few doubts, given Pierce's beliefs about African-Americans and Jews both, that were the situation different he would be criticizing the government for relying upon Arabs. Sorry, Pierce, but you don't get to bitch about everything.

Now, I said earlier that the description of Unit 2 seemed to demonstrate a flaw in Pierce's supermen but, as it happens, he's got that covered:

I wondered how such an inept and unresourceful group of people were going to survive as an underground unit. It seems that they were all people that the Organization decided would not be suited for guerrilla activities and had lumped together in one unit. Four of them are writers from the Organization's publications department, and they are carrying on their work at the farm, turning out copy for propaganda pamphlets and leaflets. The other four are acting only in a supporting role, keeping the place supplied with food and other needs.


So, the problem isn't that they're useless, but rather that their uses are a little different from Turner's. I'm so relieved. This also continues to drive home a point that Pierce makes frequently- it isn't enough to just kill people you don't like. You have to also tell a story about it. So, propaganda is now, and will remain, a key theme in the Turner Diaries.

Despite the incompetence of Unit 2, and Turner managing to drop a battery on his own foot, our intrepid terrorist eventually manages to return to his own hideout and is taken care of by the lovely Katherine. At some point during their conversation Turner dozes off but, really, I suspect his falling asleep at inconvenient moments is something that Katherine is just going to have to get used to.

And if you think that's a cheap shot, then read this:

I undressed, got a towel, and opened the door to the shower. And there was Katherine, wet, naked, and lovely, standing under the bare light bulb and drying herself. She looked at me without surprise and said nothing.

I stood there for a moment and then, instead of apologizing and closing the door again, I impulsively held out my arms to Katherine. Hesitantly, she stepped toward me. Nature took her course.

We lay in bed for a long while afterward and talked. It was the first time I have really talked to Katherine, alone. She is an affectionate, sensitive, and very feminine girl beneath the cool, professional exterior she has always maintained in her work for the Organization.


There is much absurdity to enjoy here. First, the notion that Turner didn't realize the shower was occupied. It seems more than a bit unreasonable to think, given the quarters, that he wouldn't have knocked first, or heard her in the shower. Secondly, there's the comment that "Nature took her course." What is "natural" is a major theme in the Turner Diaries but, as always, Pierce has a funny view of natural. Unless humans have no more control over their mating than dogs (Which are known for having amorous intentions in regards to people's legs) I don't think what happened can be summed up as "nature taking her course." Finally, Katherine is described as really being a soft, gentle, feminine person beneath her psycho terrorist exterior. I may not speak for all men, but I think many of us can attest that the layers usually go the other way. Slag- help me out here.

I am, of course, not referring to my Sainted Girlfriend here, but rather to certain other individuals I have had the misfortune of dating.

The point of all this, though, is that Pierce must emphasize that Katherine is a "real woman," meaning soft and delicate. Since he not only envisions a hierarchy among the races, with white people on top, but also a hierarchy among the sexes, with men on top, his actions here are absolutely necessary. Sorry, girls- even after the Aryan revolution, you're still going to be second-class citizens.

We also finally get to learn a bit about Katherine's past:

Four years ago, before the Gun Raids, she was a Congressman's secretary. She lived in a Washington apartment with another girl who also worked on Capitol Hill. One evening when Katherine came home from work she found her apartment mate's body lying in a pool of blood on the floor. She had been raped and killed by a Negro intruder.

That's why Katherine bought a pistol and kept it even after the Cohen Act made gun ownership illegal. Then, along with nearly a million others, she was swept up in the Gun Raids of 1989. Although she had never had any previous contact with the Organization, she met George in the detention center they were both held in after being arrested.

Katherine had been apolitical. If anyone had asked her, during the time she was working for the government or, before that, when she was a college student, she would have probably said she was a "liberal. " But she was liberal only in the mindless, automatic way that most people are. Without really thinking about it or trying to analyze it, she superficially accepted the unnatural ideology peddled by the mass media and the government. She had none of the bigotry, none of the guilt and self-hatred that it takes to make a really committed, full-time liberal.

After the police released them, George gave her some books on race and history and some Organization publications to read. For the first time in her life she began thinking seriously about the important racial, social, and political issues at the root of the day's problems.

She learned the truth about the System's "equality" hoax. She gained an understanding of the unique historical role of the Jews as the ferment of decomposition of races and civilizations. Most important, she began acquiring a sense of racial identity, overcoming a lifetime of brainwashing aimed at reducing her to an isolated human atom in a cosmopolitan chaos.

She had lost her Congressional job as a consequence of her arrest, and, about two months later she went to work for the Organization as a typist in our publications department. She is smart and a hard worker, and she was soon advanced to proofreader and then to copy editor. She wrote a few articles of her own for Organization publications, mostly exploring women's roles in the movement and in the larger society, and just last month she was named editor of a new Organization quarterly directed specifically toward women.


And, so, we're treated to another lengthy stretch of unsupported accusation. The intruder who killed Katherine's roommate was, of course, African-American and, of course, subsequently Katherine learned the "truth" about Jews and history. I have a difficult time refuting any of this, insofar as Pierce makes no actual points. I might as easily say, "I learned the truth about William Luther Pierce two years ago- he is a compulsive masturbator whose writings will result in the downfall of the Sizzler restaurant chain." There we go- I'm now on an equal footing with the Turner Diaries and, of course, I feel dirty as a result.

Finally, to end out the chapter, we reach a sort of cliffhanger: the future activities of our terrorist "heroes:"

Apparently Revolutionary Command has decided to take the offensive against the political police before they arrest too many more of our "legals" or finish setting up their computerized passport system.

George was given the word after he was summoned by WFC for a second briefing yesterday. A man from Unit 8 was also at yesterday's briefing. Unit 8 will be assisting us.

The plan, roughly, is this: Unit 8 will secure a large quantity of explosives-between five and ten tons. Our unit will hijack a truck making a legitimate delivery to the FBI headquarters, rendezvous at a location where Unit 8 will be waiting with the explosives, and switch loads. We will then drive into the FBI building's freight-receiving area, set the fuse, and leave the truck.

While Unit 8 is solving the problem of the explosives, we have to work out all the other details of the assignment, including a determination of the FBI's freight-delivery schedules and procedures. We have been given a ten-day deadline.

My job will be the design and construction of the mechanism of the bomb itself.


And so, very soon, we will get to see Turner begin waging war on the government, rather than simply talking about it.

This brings us to the conclusion of yet another chapter of the Turner diaries. So far we've been introduced to a corrupt United States, have met the racists-with-hearts-of-gold, and have received an excruciating introduction to terrorist tactics.

Join us next time when Turner finally helps murder many, many innocent people. And if that's not enough for you, return for when Turner's new-found love shows him who the boss really is: "...Katherine made me strip and hosed me down in the service pit before she would even let me go upstairs..."

Soft and feminine my ass.

See you next time.

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