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Friday, September 30, 2005

More Riddles

Betsy Newmark pretty much expressed my bafflement when she wrote this about Judith Miller's behavior:
So, she's been a martyr for press freedom even though it was completely unnecessary. If there isn't something more to this story, then she and the New York Times are grandstanding fools. I do not discount that hypothesis. Or perhaps there is something more behind the story.
The really irritating thing is that grand jury proceedings are secret (for good reasons), and we may never learn the answer to this particular riddle. Lots of good comments over at Betsy's. All I have is questions.

Now here's a very important riddle - one which we aren't going to solve. Howard of Oraculations wrote about the most important post in the blogosphere for the next three years, and it's about John McCain. You need to go over there and read it. Then think about what he is saying, because Howard is right.

The single indication we have about John McCain is McCain-Feingold, which is flatly and boldly unconstitutional. I hope I will not be forced to answer this particular question, but it is quite likely to occur.

Fueling The Flames

Apparently Bush's call to conserve fuel has produced some interesting results.

Tommy of Striving For Average has risen above his viral misery to produce his own newscast on the issue.

Liberal Larry proposes a new anti-war demonstration. Drive until you drop, that's his recommendation. Anything that hurts the country hurts Bush and helps the Progressyves!

Riddle For You

A guy asked me this at work today:

What is greater than God,
Satan's desire,
Possessed by the poor,
Needed by the rich,
And fatal if eaten?

I got the answer. Then he told me that most kindergarteners could answer the question, but most Stanford students couldn't. So think dumb. The answer is in the comments. (Honor system).

Liberals Vs Leftists

Dr. Sanity points out that Gandhi's ideas, if followed during WWII, would have produced a tragic world:
I must return to the quote I keep on my sidebar that is attributed to Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Gandhi was a good man, but when it came to the holocaust, he proposed that nothing should have been done. If we had followed his lead, how many millions more people would have died? How many today would live under the boot of the Nazi philosophy?

War is a terrible choice. No reasonable person could believe that it is benign or intrinsically "good" to wage war. Yet, it is sometimes a choice that reasonable people need to make simply because there is evil in the world and it cannot go unchecked--not if you truly care about other human beings.
Gandhi was a good man. Hitler was not. Yet this good man could not recognize who Hitler was and what would have to be done in order to stop him. Moral pressure, such as civil disobedience, only works against regimes that are susceptible against it. When did the concept of the "lesser of two evils" drop out of our cultural vocabulary? Buddhism abhors violence, yet Minh-Duc of State Of Flux is a Buddhist and supports the goal of the war in Iraq. In one of his recent posts, he reviews the growing acceptance of the Iraqi constitution and writes:
These events may be strange to those who doubt the benefit of democratic process. But for advocates of Democracy, this is easily understood. The political process moderates extremists, forcing them to be pragmatic and make compromise. Bottom line, extremists can be coopted by democracy. Democracy promotion is not a eutopic as critics claim, but rather it is a pragmatic (and only) tool to combat extremism.
You can hold the most elevated ideals and merge those with a critical and pragmatic strategy to improve human life. Rationality is not exclusive of idealism. Only idealism fused with pragmatic attempts to facilitate ideals can create the conditions that promote peace and human freedom.

Carl at No Oil For Pacifists takes on the underlying philosophy of the immoral pacifists of our day by rebutting the contention that moral certainty is to be distrusted:
Those taking political positions have an obligation to be fully informed. This necessarily requires both an appraisal of the facts and logic of others and the willingness to re-assess should circumstances change. But, thereafter, certainty isn't a sin; that's a nihilistic corollary of faddish postmodernism....
It's a great post. The same people who argue for relativism rebut their own case by claiming that Sheehan has moral supremacy because of the death of her son (for a cause with which she does not agree). They don't see the contradictions in their own beliefs. Pedro The Quietist is surpassingly good at revealing their intellectual barrenness. Try this post for a beginning.

What lies behind the relativists, the appeasers and the perfectionists is that they wish to accept no responsibility for any bad outcome, and taking any action would implicate them morally in the results. They want to be held harmless for life's tragedies. That is not possible. They are willing to accept being sorrowful victims, but not willing to accept being flawed rescuers. They can accept defeat, but not victory. What they advocate is the abandonment of all human rationality. I hate their philosophy. It can only exist because of the achievements of all those who did not accept it.

All too often, what these people are really thinking is "it will not happen here". Relatively few of them are really willing to accept being a victim to avoid harm to others. Do you think Cindy Sheehan would have stood before the tanks of Tiananmen Square? I know she would not have done that. She is not willing even to recognize the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that Saddam Hussein killed. She does not care about those victims - they are not real to her. All she cares about is the death of her son. It is possible to empathize with her sorrow while rejecting her deductions.

The extreme leftists of our day are mostly narcissists lost in the towering and crumbling edifices of their own egos, and they can afford to be that way because of the moral nature of their own society. They are safe because of the actions of others. They are fed because of the productivity of others. They have rights because of other people who are willing to die to defend those rights. And they continuously sneer at and belittle the very people and beliefs in which their own existences are grounded. To recognize what they have gained from this society would force them to figure out how they should pay it back, and that would be most uncomfortable. Almost all of the extreme leftists of our day are morally contemptible. They paint their opponents as evil in order to prevent having to recognize their own moral responsibility for making things better. They espouse perfectionism as an escape from their own responsibilities.

Life is imperfect. If you create a vaccine against an emerging illness and administer it to half the population of the US, hundreds of human beings will die from adverse reactions to the vaccine. You know that before you launch such a program. If you don't develop the vaccine and the disease sweeps through the population, millions may die. I claim that there is a shared responsibility for both outcomes. A rational human being must learn to deal with that, and seek to mitigate the harm of either outcome.

It has been reported that hurricane Rita killed about a hundred people, and most of those died from the evacuation. That's life. It makes sense to examine how those deaths happened and figure out how some of those risks could be lessened in a future evacuation. It does not make sense to announce that attempting to avoid a disaster is too dangerous.

The middle way of our time between the despotic ideologies of the right and the left is classic liberalism. Classic liberalism recognized man's ability to choose a better course. Classic liberalism wanted to expand individual freedoms in order to allow that ability scope in building a better society. Classic liberalism embraced the idea of individual moral responsibility for oneself and others. Classic liberalism sought to create freer societies so that free individuals could direct the evolution, by consensus, of their own societies. Classic liberalism won out in the United States, but i is not an irrevocable victory. Classic liberalism recognizes the right of the individual to seek his own path as long as he allows others to do the same. Classic liberalism endorses and promotes competition in belief systems and ideologies conducted within the framework of a representative society.

Classic liberalism won out in the United States, but it is not an irrevocable victory.

The extreme leftists of our day don't embrace liberal ideas. They embrace fascism wrapped in a cloak of Marxism. It's a terrible, crazed mutation that will kill us all if we allow it to win. They are nihilistic utopians who are not willing to try to build a society based on their own ideas. Instead, they seek to destroy the society that exists. They are deranged and dehumanized robots who fear their own flawed humanity so deeply that they cannot stare into the mirror. Most of all, they are the enemy of all classic liberals everywhere.

Mover Mike Warns Of Danger To Seniors

I had no idea about this - Mover Mike warns that some seniors who have HMO plans could be dropped from their plans if they sign up for the new drug benefit:
Before signing up for Medicare's new prescription drug plan, check with your current plan! You could end up with no health coverage, except for drugs.
I heard a public service announcement on the radio yesterday telling seniors to sign up. So pass the word. SacBee:
The potential for confusion is huge in California, which has the nation's highest enrollment of Medicare beneficiaries in managed care plans - 1.3 million people. Their coverage could be lost if they sign up for a drug plan offered by a different group.

Health plans want to get the word out to members that they could accidentally unenroll themselves by signing up for one of the 18 stand-alone prescription drug plans to be offered in California. A key point they want to emphasize: Those who are satisfied with their managed care plans don't have to do anything to get Medicare's new prescription drug coverage.

If, however, they sign up for a drug plan unconnected to their health plan, "it's going to bounce them out of their HMO," said Joan Parks, director of Sacramento's Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program, also known as HICAP.
VA already provides better benefits, so if you are covered under VA you don't need to sign up. The Medicare HMO's are supposed to add the drug benefit, so you don't need to sign up at all if you have one of those. For more information try the FAQ at Medicare Rights Center.

I did find this information at Medicare Rights Center which seems to confirm what the SacBee article is saying:
If you are dissatisfied with your HMO, for any reason, you have the right to switch to another HMO or disenroll from the HMO and return to Original Medicare on a monthly basis throughout the year. (The lock-in requirement that was to take effect in 2002 has been postponed until 2006.)

To disenroll you can either:

* Sign up for a new HMO (you will be automatically disenrolled from your old HMO when your new HMO enrollment becomes effective);

* Write a letter to your HMO stating your intent to disenroll; or

* Fill out form 566 at your local Social Security Office.

You will be officially disenrolled on the first day of the month after you disenroll. Until you are officially disenrolled, you should continue using the Medicare HMO to obtain coverage for your health care.
How confusing. After roaming through the official Medicare site, I discovered that if you have a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Cost plan (which I believe are HMO umbrellas designations), then your plan is supposed to tell you in October what you will be getting from them in terms of drug coverage, so don't do anything until November (but you have to do it before January!).

One of the problems with accidentally disenrolling yourself is that you may be attending the wrong doctor to receive benefits under the new plan, I believe. Because different HMO's will be advertising and selling their own drug plans, it looks like if you are in an HMO plan and you sign up for another HMO's plan your coverage will automatically be switched.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Stiff Drinks

Really. It's devastating. Mr. Stick Figure Goes To Washington, an instant and darkly funny classic by WuzzaDem.

And Howard of Oraculations covers the UN's overwhelming desire to take control of the infrastructure of the internet. As Howard says, this would be the end of free speech on the internet. This is an issue for international freedom, human rights and a huge national security issue for the US.

There is one and only one possible response, which is "UP YOURS".

And Carl of No Oil For Pacifists writes on NY's rejecting the "we deserved it, please hit me again" camp by ejecting the IFC from Ground Zero. Carl doesn't say it, but Debra Burlingame is giving an object lesson to Cindy Sheehan as to how to mourn the dead.

The Anchoress does turn a cold and revealing eye upon the mindset behind those who are using Cindy Sheehan in the belief that somehow this will lend them moral credibility. Cindy is now doing it for money, and The Anchoress quotes a Cindy supporter:
Megan Hanford, said it makes sense that Sheehan would start charging for appearances. “She can’t work while she’s traveling the country,” Hanford said, “and she’s lost any income that her son might have brought her.
Oooooh. Never wave that flag at a former feminist liberal:

Are you telling me that this able-bodied 48-year old woman is now being portrayed as the poor woman whose sole support was her 24-year old son, that she has “lost his income,” and that now that he is gone, she has no means of support? Is this (undoubtedly self-declared) feminist actually suggesting that Cindy Sheehan - a modern woman in a liberated age - is the equivalent of a poor Old Testament Jewish mother who needed her son’s support to keep her housed and fed? That’s sure what it sounds like!
Well, yes, that is indeed a duck quacking and walking like a duck. If Mark Twain were alive he would be fisking this exercise in maudlin narcissism pretty severely. Cindy Sheehan is playing out a Victorian drama with only herself in the starring role. She can find no ease in this and we can find no virtue. Unlike The Anchoress, I wish it would stop.

The Netherlands And Floating Houses

A pretty interesting Spiegel article. The Dutch are planning to build entire towns of houses that have a hollow foundation - basically a pontoon. They are anchored to steel columns sunk deep in the earth. If water rises, the houses float up:
At first glance, they seem quite unremarkable. Two storeys high, semicircular metal roofs and yellow, green or blue facades - hardly any clues let on that these are The Netherlands' first amphibious houses. The cellar, in this case, is not built into the earth. Instead, it is on a platform - and is much more than a mere storage room. The hollow foundation of each house works in the same way as the hull of a ship, buoying the structure up above water. To prevent the swimming houses from floating away, they slide up two broad steel posts - and as the water level sinks, so they sink back down again.
And they have plans for whole office buildings too:
One of the leading architects in this relatively new discipline of maritime architecture is Koen Olthuis. His aptly named Waterstudio.nl office has already designed a number of contemporary houseboats with a parking deck for the car and lower deck storage for a motorboat. Now, his team is even coming up with plans for office buildings a hundred meters in height that "swim." The key to making this idea a reality is a patented technique whereby the foundation of the construction can be transformed into a float. A foam core is encased in concrete, with steel cables securing it against the pull of potential currents. Individual pontoons, whether for residential blocks or chicken coops, can be joined to one another like Lego blocks. As a result, a maritime settlement is born.
Seriously, some of the lower-lying areas in New Orleans might profit from something like this. It's also fun to think about.

Dutch Euthanasia Guidelines

Update below!

I skimmed through this. The Netherlands is about to update its official guidelines for euthanasia:
A letter outlining the new directives was expected to be submitted to parliament for discussion by mid-October, but the new policy will not require a change of law, Dutch Health Ministry spokeswoman Annette Dijkstra said Thursday.
Proponents and opponents agree the change is doubly important because it will provide the model for how the Dutch will treat other cases in which patients are unable to say whether they want to live or die, such as the mentally retarded or elderly people who have become demented.
That sounds a bit dire. There are opponents within The Netherlands:
The commissions report around 2,000 people are euthanized in this country of 16 million each year, using a mix of sedatives and a lethal dose of muscle relaxant. But independent studies suggest the number of unreported cases is higher.

Cases of euthanasia for "people with no free will" — such as infants and severely demented or mentally retarded people — were left in a legal gray area by the law because they were so controversial.
The real deal is that although there is a commission to review cases of euthanasia, its decisions are not binding on prosecutors. So it seems as if euthanasia of the seriously ill will become more and more commonplace. Surely one can treat pain. In some cases the treatment might involve sedation strong enough to induce death eventually, true. This change in policy seems as if it is more involved with cost and inconvenience.

Extrapolating from a population of 16 million to our own (295 million), the reported number of 2000 would become 36,800. That's a lot of deaths, but one would guess that more will die with this policy change.

Update: Perhaps this DU thread (posted today!) can express the mindset behind the idea of why it's good to kill retarded kids. Part of the original post:
There is perhaps a single predictable time of life when taking crack-cocaine is sensible, harmless and both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. Indeed, for such an occasion it may be commended. Certain estimable English doctors were once in the habit of administering to terminally-ill cancer patients an elixir known as the "Brompton cocktail". This was a judiciously-blended mixture of cocaine, heroin and alcohol. The results were gratifying not just to the recipient. Relatives of the stricken patient were pleased, too, at the new-found look of spiritual peace and happiness suffusing the features of a loved one as (s)he prepared to meet his or her Maker.

Drawing life to a close with a transcendentally orgasmic bang, and not a pathetic and god-forsaken whimper, can turn dying into the culmination of one's existence rather than its present messy and protracted anti-climax.

There is another good reason to finish life on a high note. In a predominantly secular society, adopting a hedonistic death-style is much more responsible from an ethical utilitarian perspective. For it promises to spare friends and relations the miseries of vicarious suffering and distress they are liable to undergo at present as they witness one's decline.

A few generations hence, the elimination of primitive evolutionary holdovers such as the ageing process and suffering will make the hedonistic death advocated here redundant. In the meanwhile, one is conceived in pleasure and may reasonably hope to die in it.
Thank you, I think not.

Let's See Now

More publishing problems - will this work?

Indonesian Bird Flu (H5N1) Update 4

Effect Measure is a good blog that is covering H5N1 from a public health standpoint. Check it out, particularly the stuff about the CDC.

Forbes is reporting 63 suspected cases in Indonesia, up from yesterday's 57. Japan is sending a medical team to help at the reference hospital in Jakarta. Is the rapidly growing case count due to better identification because tests are actually being run? Probably. But it still shows the degree of the underlying problem. Also, another zoo in Semerang, Indonesia has been closed to the public because birds there tested positive.

Indonesian health officials are testing the family of two children which died of bird flu-like symptoms. The sister of the two children is now sick with similar symptoms. The two were never seen by doctors or tested. They did have exposure to chickens who died. Is it a coincidence that this was also in Semerang? See the CurEvents.com thread for discussion.

The way these cases break out is this. The first child, a 15 year-old (boy?) became sick on the 15th and died on the 20th of September. The second child, a girl 18 months old, is reported to have died on the 24th of September. Now the 8 year-old girl is sick, and it's a good guess that she was helping to care for the 18 month old girl who was ill. Do you see why people are getting very nervous about possible human to human transmission?

Dr. Niman of Recombinomics comments on the reports in Semerang.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Delay's Indictment Constitutional?

Update: Southern Appeal looks at Texas law and the specific code sections, and thinks the indictment will stand as it is. Excellent blog. End update.

I'm certainly absolutely ignorant in this area, but I had a vague feeling that a person had to be actually indicted for some specific charge before he or she could be brought to trial? Amendment V:
Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Is this unconstitutionally vague? The indictment doesn't seem to actually accuse Delay of anything specific. It names three persons (the two previously indicted plus Delay), and then it goes on to say that "the defendants herein, with the intent that a felony be committed, did enter into an agreement with one or more of each other or with a general purpose political committee known as Texans for a Republican Majority PAC" etc.

It does name various specific political contributions and presumably illegal deeds of the two previously indicted, but it never gets down to actually specifically saying that Delay himself did anything. There are specific charges against the other two defendants, but nothing against Delay.

I've read the thing four times now. Can Delay be constitutionally brought to trial under this indictment? It does not actually state that Delay conspired with the either of the other two or the PAC. I'm no constitutional lawyer, but for the requirement of an indictment to serve as a constitutional protection it must actually mean that a specific allegation has been presented and returned as valid by the grand jury. I do not know that the language is specific enough to qualify as having done that. "We think he had something to do with it, or may have" is about all that this amounts to.

I haven't been following the details of this story at all, but now I am suspicious that this is a politically motivated prosecution.

Ed Koch On Cindy Sheehan

Ed Koch (RealClearPolitics) writes:
Many Americans, myself included, now see her as a person who has come to enjoy the celebratory status accorded to her by the radicals on the extreme left who see America as the outlaw of the world. These radicals are not content to be constructive critics. They are bent on destroying this country.

Some of them want to turn America into a radical socialist state. Others hope to create a utopia. But regardless of their agendas, how can Cindy Sheehan's supporters defend her shameful statement, “This country is not worth dying for.”
After that Ed starts throwing the huge punches - quoting Cindy Sheehan in her various interviews.
According to Wikipedia, Sheehan wrote, “Casey was killed in the Global War of Terrorism waged on the world and its own citizens by the biggest terrorist outfit in the world: George and his destructive neo-con cabal.
Koch quotes Sheehan's Hardball interview:
MATTHEWS: All right. If your son had been killed in Afghanistan, would you have a different feeling?

SHEEHAN: I don‘t think so, Chris, because I believe that Afghanistan is almost the same thing. We‘re fighting terrorism. Or terrorists, we‘re saying. But they‘re not contained in a country. This is an ideology and not an enemy. And we know that Iraq, Iraq had no terrorism. They were no threat to the United States of America.
We don't. Koch wants people to speak out against the Sheehan agenda.

McCain And Sheehan

When I read that McCain had met with Cindy Sheehan my first (ill-natured) thought was that it was part of his campaign for the presidential nomination. Sheehan came away calling him a warmonger, and McCain said he had believed some of his constituents were at the meeting. Perhaps I am being unjust in suspecting that this was a political move:
"He tried to tell us what George Bush would have said," Sheehan, who protested at the president's Texas home during the summer, told reporters. "I don't believe he believes what he was telling me."

McCain, an Arizona Republican, also seemed disappointed after the meeting, which he said had been misrepresented as including some of his constituents. Only one person in her small delegation has ties to the state, and that person no longer lives there.
If so, it may have been a good move. See this DU thread:
8. Yes, and he still has balls. I'm not a fan of McCain: He's an evil republican... a member of a political party that seeks to roll back human rights, coddles powerful corporations and advocates torture.

As far as I'm concerned, a good republican is like having Dracula as a legislator.

Having said all this: There are capable leaders among the ranks of the Republican party. McCain is one of them. I could sleep well with a McCain presidency
I am not sure I would ever sleep well if I believed I had Dracula as president, but this move did play well. A ferocious argument breaks out on the thread, but McCain has his defenders.

Indonesian Bird Flu (H5N1) Update 3

Update: Here's a rather dire financial projection of the effect of an H5N1 pandemic, thoughtfully provided by Ilona of True Grit. I think it is too dire, because we should be able to lessen the effect of a flu pandemic if we prepare for it. It should motivate everyone to do that, however. End Update.

. This doesn't sound good:
At least 57 people were being treated for suspected bird flu in Indonesia, where the disease has already claimed six lives, officials said.

OF the total, 20 patients were under observation at Jakarta's Sulianti Saroso hospital for infectious diseases, a doctor there, Ilham Patu, said.

The latest suspected case, a 23-year-old man from the capital, was admitted late Tuesday.
Overall that is an increase of 15 suspected cases from two days ago. What concerns me are reports that cases are testing positive and then being dismissed and moved to the negative column. See Testing Problems for background. See Influenza Surveillance in Indonesia:
For each patient enrolled in the study, a throat and lower nasal swab are taken, and isolates are identified using monoclonal antibodies for typing Influenza A or B, and using Hemagglutination Inhibition for serotyping them according to the antigens provided.

Lower nasal and throat swabs obtained are also analyzed for the presence of Influenza virus using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and lower nasal swabs are also tested using Direchgen Flu a + b ® rapid kits.
PCR from swabs will not necessarily show positive from H5N1, because the virus doesn't appear to be replicating that well in the throat. Blood work showing antibodies (which develop later) would be more reliable. Now see this report in the CurEvents.com translation thread of a girl with positive bloodwork being released from the hospital and cited as being negative for H5N1:
Jemima Napitupulu, 9 / F, initial hospitalised at Cempaka Ward, SSIDH 210905 (21st Sept 2005). +ve Serology but –ve PCR (Indonesian) released 270905. Pending further testing in Hongkong. Full address Perumaban Kranggan Permai, RT 011 RW 015, Jaya Sampurna, Bekasi, West Java. Ragunan visitor, date unknown. Suspected contact with birds.
After hospitalized at Saroso hospital, 9 suspects[1] of bird flu patient may return home. Their test result is negative.

Nine of them are Raka Detyo Alif Purnomo (8 yo), Jemima Napitupulu (9 yo), Johana Tanial (2 yo 4 mo.), Elizabeth Evita (1 y 5 mo), Mrs. Erwin atau Mugi Rahayu (26 yo), Dodi (15 yo), Alfa (2yo), Ravi (2yo), dan Kalim (23 yo).

"Second test by research department of health ministry shows negative, they can be home by tomorow." said. Dr. Ilham Patu at Saroso Hospital Wednesday 29 September.
This is disturbing. They are being treated with Tamiflu, which will change test results. I think the actual infections might be grossly underreported. See also this autopsy report. One encouraging sign is that the deaths are dropping as the case count appears to be increasing. This may indicate that early treatment with amantadine and Tamiflu works.

See also this:
Yemima Napitulu, 9, the Bekasi citizen, was stated positive birds flu was based on results of the laboratory of Research And Development serology (Research And Development) the Department of the RI. Yemima Health that was registered on behalf of Jeremiah beforehand had visited the Gardener the Ragunan Animal. Currently, he was still being treated in Cempaka RSPI Sulianti Saroso isolation space and his condition increasingly improved.

Therefore, at this time RSPI Sulianti Saroso was treating three patients of birds flu. They were Yemima Napitulu, Anik Setyorini, and Gayatri pearls.

That was said by the Chairman Tim the Extraordinary Incident (KLB) birds Flu, Sardikin Giri Putro was accompanied by the Team Leader Information and Surveillance KLB birds Flu, the Patu Inspiration, Tuesday (27/9).

"Was based on results of the serology laboratory, the three patients were stated positive." But produced by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) the three of them the negative of birds flu, said Sardikin.
If they are doing PCR from swabs that is not too surprising.

This article lists the symptoms of bird flu and the treatment:
Symptoms of Infection

* In humans: high fever (body temperature more than 38o Celsius), coughing and sore throat, infection in the upper respiratory system, pneumonia, eye infection and sore muscles
* In poultry: blue-colored comb, foot ulcers, sudden death

Treatment for Infected Patients

* Oxygen for patients with breathing difficulties
* ID for hydration
* Medication of 75 mg Oseltamivir for seven days
* Amantadin injection during the early hours (48 hours) of infection, for the next three to five days with a dosage of 5 mg per kg of body weight each day, divided into two dosages. If body weight is more than 45 kg, patients will be given 100 mg, injected twice a day
It's noticeable that the article's list of "at-risk" people doesn't correspond with the first cases in Jakarta, which were in none of the high-risk categories. Dual treatment with amantadine and Tamiflu may be working to save people's lives if administered quickly enough.

The Mess In The Press

Where to start, where to start? I suppose with Dan Rather getting ever more confident in asserting that the Bush AWOL story was true, even though the supporting evidence produced was fake, and then claiming that CBS News wouldn't let him pursue the story:
"Straight-up, no chaser, no," he said. "One, CBS News doesn't want me to do that story. They wouldn't let me do that story."
Now, that would indeed be a story. Major network suppresses news that Bush was AWOL during the 70's! Dan, why don't you run with that one? Speak truth to power without fear or favor, Dan!

Would that it were only Dan. But it isn't. Jeff Jarvis whales into Tim Russert for calling Broussard on his "fake but accurate" moment:
On this week’s Meet the Press, Russert replays Broussard’s emotional appearance for him and then goes after him on the facts. The woman who died was in a nursing home where the owners have been indicted for neglecting and not evacuating their residents. So, Russert says, that’s not the feds’ fault, huh? Russert gets up on a factual high-horse but Broussard puts him right back in his place, explaining that he learned what he said from his staff and that he certainly did not cross-examine his colleague about the mother he could not rescue, who had just died. That does not make the story of neglect of the entire city of New Orleans by government at all — all — levels any less vital.
Russert keeps riding his horse. He wants Broussard to somehow say that by getting facts of this story wrong, his criticism of the feds was thus invalidated, was not “fair” (and what a schoolyard word that is in this context).
Except that hardly describes the issue. The mother died on the day the storm hit. The feds do not go in beforehand to evacuate people, so those who died in the nursing home can't be blamed on FEMA. Broussard told a very detailed story that turned out to be very untrue, and that story was used to shift blame from the locals to the feds. Given that he is a local official, surely that is relevant? Given that Rodrigue says he never told anyone the facts Broussard retailed on the show, surely this is even more relevant? Surely this tends to indicate that Broussard's devotion to truth may be somewhat lacking? Surely this is a significant issue relating to Broussard's credibility in general? Jarvis writes this:
No, sir, our job is to get more than the facts. Anybody can get facts. Facts are the commodity. The truth is harder to find. Justice is harder to fight for. Lessons are what we’re after.
Well, in this case the fact-based lesson is that if you don't want your Grandma to die alone in such circumstances, you'd better make sure that her care facility has a real disaster plan. This is hardly a useless truth for the millions of family members who have a person in such a care facility. If you go looking for truths without grounding them with facts, you are just as likely to mislead yourself as your readers or viewers. Trying to tell the real story is not good enough. You have to find out what the real story is and then tell it. .

Jarvis is being truly idiotic, but his mindset does explain why the press goes on drearily retailing nonsense. Let's not forget CNN's performance in shoring up Saddam Hussein's regime or the Jordan and Foley claims that our military was deliberately killing journalists. Let's not forget the failure to produce evidence for this, either. But still they claim the story is "true". Let's not forget the skewed coverage of Iraq. Let's not forget the truths which are not being told. Beth of VRWC posts an email she received from one of her readers on active duty in Iraq:
I think you would be amazed at the morale of the young military people here. I know I am. I’ve been in for over 28 years and I have seen good and bad. These youngsters are getting the job done in a way I would never have imagined. They go on convoys, get shot at or have IEDs go off, then they return still in high spirits. The trick here is to convince the bad guys they have been beat. The idiots at the peace rallies are what’s really hurting since the stated goals of the insurgents is to break down public support for the war in the US. I heard the other day that 52% of the people back home think we are losing. I would be worried if it was 1995 and this was the case, but Bush doesn’t govern via polls like Clinton did. That’s one thing we all appreciate about the president; he sticks to the plan.
Why do people think that nothing good is happening in Iraq? Could it be the news coverage? Why does no one in the press report this truth as Beth does?
Let me just take a moment to salute our senior enlisted serving; we hear a lot about the amazing young troops out there, and I’m in awe of their resilience and strength–they really are heroes. We don’t hear a lot about the senior enlisted over there though; of course, that’s because there are fewer of them in the military, period. But the high morale and dedication to the mission is absolutely a reflection of the outstanding leadership demonstrated by the senior NCOs.
This is absolutely unreported. But it is of paramount importance for our nation. We have to keep these people, and we have to understand how we got these people in the first place. See the story of Raven 42. This stuff doesn't happen by accident. .

The Anchoress links to Dick Meyer of the CBS, and Dick Meyer doesn't share Jeff Jarvis' devotion to truth over fact. He believes that the MSM, in general, is and should be devoted to pursuit of facts. The Anchoress responds:
Trying to produce stories without access to hard facts, and trying to feed an insatiable monster of news consumption, the media presented rumor as fact, hammered it home with the high drama of on-air anchor meltdowns, and in the process created an atmosphere wherein the most egregious race cards were allowed to be played, and blame seemed to be allotted more by ideology than genuine incompetence.
As for the print media, is much of it any better? They do have superior tools to gather facts, but they don't appear to be using them in general. There are superb examples of reporting in the press, but they are becoming increasingly fewer. All too many times, even the print media has resorted to calling the same few resources on a story. They retail handouts from political parties or from special interest groups without bothering to verify the details. They don't report on facts - they report only on agendas.

The bloggers have had considerable success in fact-checking the media largely because they do attempt to pursue facts and they pull from a wider variety of sources. The large ones can use their readership. The smaller ones use public records. They are, amazingly, often doing a better job of reporting on what's happening than the traditional press. That is a sobering truth that indicates that something is terribly wrong with traditional journalism in the US, and I think Jeff Jarvis just provided a sterling example of what that something is.

Dick Meyers of CBS wrote:
The MSM may be equally guilty for showcasing debate, sound-bite food fights and on-demand editorializing. But really, that happens mostly on a slice of cable television, talk radio and op-ed sections. Most of the press is spending most of its time trying to get facts.

And the notion that such facts can be mass produced with perfect quality control as a freely distributed commodity for Jeff Jarvis and Dick Meyer to bloviate about is a corrosive myth.
But what is not true is that "most of the press is spending most of its time trying to get the facts". They simply aren't. Dick Meyer seems to be a good person, but unless he is fact-checking the reporters themselves, he doesn't know the quality of their efforts. When I try to research something, over and over again I find terribly shoddy reporting that takes place in a fact-free zone created by the press. In essence, they are reporting on each other's stories or on the statements of other organizations and they do so under the impression that they are on the "right" side.

A couple of factual examples:
Washington Post managed to completely avoid reporting that Montgomery County Public School's sex ed program had a lot of religious information in it and that it constituted a violation of the First Amendment. And OxBlog does the same.

CNN still refuses to confront the truth about its role in creating the Iraqi war. This is a tragic story of journalism at its most reckless and abusive. It's pretty bad that a woman as badly impaired as I am has a better memory than an entire news organization.

Prominent journalists have made no secret of the fact that they believe it is not their job to report the facts on Kyoto and global warming, but to get the American public to support Kyoto, regardless of the facts. See Right Wing News:
"To capture the public imagination," global warming scientist-activist and former global cooling false prophet Stephen Schneider once said, "we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

Former Boston Globe editor Ross Gelbspan urged a Washington, DC audience in July 2000: "Not only do journalists not have a responsibility to report what skeptical scientists have to say about global warming. They have a responsibility not to report what these scientists say." In a similar vein, Time science editor Charles Alexander told a Smithsonian Institution conference: "I would freely admit that on [global warming] we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tell me more about facts? I don't question Dick Meyer's personal integrity. I do question the integrity of the press as a whole. They do not rebuke their own for lying; they rebuke their own for telling the truth. The prevailing belief in elite journalistic circles is that their job is to "do the right thing", not to tell the truth.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Funny Anecdote

Every time I read this story of Dingo's I crack up again. Don't miss this story of a mouse begging for pizza and the long arm of the law's response.

Why Spinning Is Often Political Suicide

Political atmospheric effects change quickly, and they shift in proportion to the intensity of the original storm. I was somewhat surprised to read the WaPo's editorial entitled "Louisiana's Looters":
THE NATION is at war. It is mired in debt. It has been hit by floods and hurricanes. In the face of this adversity, congressional leaders have rightly dropped proposals for yet more tax cuts, and some have suggested removing the pork from the recently passed transportation bill. But this spirit of forbearance has not touched the Louisiana congressional delegation. The state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000 per person in the state. This money would come on top of payouts from businesses, national charities and insurers. And it would come on top of the $62.3 billion that Congress has already appropriated for emergency relief.

Like looters who seize six televisions when their homes have room for only two, the Louisiana legislators are out to grab more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully. ...
This left me wondering if the press isn't smarting from having been duped on several LA stories. Now that the truth has come out about them they seem to be almost hostile to LA's politicians. Granted, the 250 billion is an excessive request - but we are going to have to spend an awful lot to build up a flood prevention system for whatever will be left of New Orleans. I think the "looter" analogy is a low blow, and indicates genuine anger in the pressroom.

DU was all afire about the anti-war march, and some of them reacted quite strongly to the release of the Rasmussen survey. Over the weekend they had convinced themselves that they now had the majority of the US on their side. They don't seem to understand that people can both be opposed to the war but believe that a sudden withdrawal is not going to be a productive step. Quite a few DU'rs make the distinction in this thread:
OP: Most Americans (54%) believe that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq will make things worse in that troubled nation. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that 20% disagree and say that troop withdrawal will make things better. These numbers are identical to the results of our August survey.

41. Was Viet Nam worse after we left? I don't think so.

42. Actually......... Vietnam did get a lot worse after we left. Communist forces completely overran Saigon. It was a bloodbath.

3. It is entirely possible to believe that the US is an occupying force and still believe that withdrawing all US troops will make things worse in Iraq. One only needs to look at other "exercises" in imperialism (think of all the African states that began as colonies) to see that total and abrupt withdrawal is socially, politically, and economically devastating to the oppressed region.
I'm not sure what to do -- I'm not that smart -- but I also believe that total, rapid withdrawal is the wrong thing to do FOR IRAQ. We created this mess; we need to figure out the right way to fix it.

48. 85% say there's a god; so fucking what?
Personally, I think the rabble is right on this one; were we to leave right now, it'd be a nightmare. The repeated point I like to make is that popular opinion is important for elections and the broad sweep of assumption, but it's not fact.
And finally, I think Schroeder may have overreached in Germany. This Spiegel article is harsh:
The results of the German elections eight days ago are clear: German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's party got 450,000 fewer votes than the political camp supporting his opponent Angela Merkel. But he's still claiming the chancellery for himself. It's a political circus that threatens to make Chancellor Schröder into the lead clown.
He has staged the first putsch in German post-war history, a putsch against reality. On the evening of the election, he announced that he had no intention of allowing Angela Merkel to take the helm of a possible grand coalition between his own party and the CDU.

At last Tuesday's press conference, they literally glowed with self-proclaimed honesty, purporting to be the loyal servants of the election outcome. The numbers, they said, leave them with no choice but to claim the chancellorship for Schröder. ...

Their audacity brings to mind a phrase coined by artist Josephine Meckseper: "artificial political paradise." Schröder booked a long-term stay in that paradise long ago.
Putsch is a very strong word in Germany. I think Schroeder just outsmarted himself. The article goes on and on. It criticizes Schroeder, his personality, the drive to change the rules and count the CDU and the CSU as two different parties, etc, and stops just short of accusing Schroeder and Muentefering of plotting to seize control of the state. You have to understand German history in the 1930's to comprehend what an intense attack this article comprises. If it is any indicator of German opinion, Schroeder just castrated the SPD and the party will pay a bitter price in the future.

All of this reminded me of a post at Sigmund, Carl and Alfred's last week on the perils of too much spin in politics:
Using media and PR to spin disagreements, rather than deal with them, is a recipe for disaster. Americans are smarter than that. They will agree to suspend reality and allow themselves disbelief for $7.50 and two hours of time. They will not accept the relevance of court jesters in their lives once the movie ends.
That is quite similar to a passage in the Spiegel article, by the way.

In his post SC&A referenced a post by Dr. Sanity regarding political hysteria. Both Europe and the US face the same problems, no matter how much we want to ignore that. We have to balance growth against caring for the vulnerable, goodwill internationally against dealing with the rise of some very frightening political ideologies, and our domestic priorities against dealing with global instability. None of these are false issues. They cannot be evaded or explained away, and attempting to rephrase and reform reality will probably not work for either party in the US. It may be hard for politicians to sit down and figure out what can be done to deal with the real issues, but at some point it becomes a much safer strategy. We may have reached that point here in the US.

There is a mood shift across the entire western world. I don't know where this will end, but you can read the news from Sweden and see it, you can read the news from Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Italy .... Everywhere, the old political paradigms are suspect and there is a groundswell of disatisfaction with the "consensus". This is bad news for the Kerry wing of the Democratic party, because their mindset is European. Is there enough of the Democratic party that is neither Marxist or Euro-lite to form a new consensus? I know there is in the Dems of the state parties in the south and middle states, but I am not sure that they are permitted to have much influence nationally.

Because of all this, you will see an incredible fight within the Republican party leading up to 2008. Unfortunately, the Dems have failed to take on the real issues, which has shifted the leading edge of change to the Republican party. Capturing the agenda flag within the Republican party is now the only hope for those who need real change on the ground. Among those people are the bottom economic 30% of the population, who are really suffering from the rise in gas prices and the resulting inflation in food and basic commodities plus the erosion of the job base and wage deflation. Competition from illegal aliens is part of that.

It sounds stranger than strange even to me, but I think the next Supreme Court nomination may represent Bush's chance at taking the political pot for the Republicans. The Americans who were paying attention (many more than you would think) liked what they saw of Roberts. If he can put forward a candidate even close to that caliber, the Democrats will find themselves forced by political forces to mount an attack that will hurt them terribly. If they don't, they will be castigated by the left wing of their own party. But if they do, they will hurt themselves with middle America in a way that will have long term consequences.

The Democratic failure to put forward real, feasible proposals to deal with current issues is paying a bitter fruit. They have left themselves at the mercy of passionate rhetoric and undercut their support in the moderate, unideological portion of the electorate. Now this has turned and is working against them. Any move to the center has political costs with the angry 10 percent, but the more they rely on rhetoric the more they undercut themselves with the rest of the electorate.

Oinking Along - The Citizens Report

Howard of Oraculations went to a football game and came back all charged up. Abandoning his normal dainty tactfulness of speech, he highlights the failure of the citizens of Bozeman, Montana to convince their local elected officials to give some of their federal bacon back. Not only did they refuse, they were offended!
Commissioner Steve Kirchhoff said he resented the "political slight of hand" the issue was creating for the commission. "I don't like people telling me where my priorities should be," he said. "I don't think anybody is trying to skirt over a national tragedy."
I will let you know how my local pork-busting efforts proceed. We have about decided to get ugly and circulate petitions at the churches. There is nothing that makes a GA representative or senator's heart quail in fear quite like getting petitions from churches. I ask you, does Georgia ( pronounced Jaaehajahwa locally, and don't rush through it ) really need federal money to buy more land around Kennesaw National Battlefield Park?

See Matt Duffy, who is actively attempting to work it. I have never encountered an issue that inspires such instant agreement from a huge range of voters yet is pure death when you make a phone call to your legislators. Isaakson does seem to be more responsive. Matt writes:
I've gotten the distinct impression from both Candice and from Tom Price's chief of staff that these aides don't appreciate my intrusions. They can't seem to understand why I'm bothering them or why I expect more of a response than a form letter assuring me that they share my concerns about the budget.
Man, I hear ya. Emails are getting no response. You have to call. Numbers here. Porkbusters here. Folks, it's time to put Hogzilla on a diet:

He's gotten too big to live with.

Update: Dingo wrote about Don Young and Alaska's bridge to nowhere. Of course, it can't be sacrificed so that we have money for the hurricane victims. You know - all those towns that aren't there anymore, the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and all the roads that need to be repaired? Doesn't matter....

Indonesian Bird Flu (H5N1) Update 2

It's possible that the other shoe has dropped in Indonesia. Many of the hospitalized cases in Jakarta are associated with a particular zoo, which has now been closed. The question which has been puzzling many is what was different about the infected birds at that zoo? Given the extremely close proximity in which humans and birds live in Indonesia, exposure to infected birds at the zoo seemed unlikely to be an additional risk factor.

Then consider this. In July, a man and his two daughter died of H5N1. One daughter was the first flagged case, followed later by the other two. He was a government official. Rina Dai (worked at the airport) became ill and died, followed by her nephew becoming ill later. Now we have a girl who has tested positive for H5N1 and was hospitalized on the 21st. Her two brothers are now ill.

There were cases in Vietnam in which human to human transmission was by far the most likely explanation for infection, but I believe that the clusters shown in these Indonesian cases with one case and then a delayed onset in other people put that beyond a doubt. This doesn't mean that H5N1 is now efficiently transmitting from human to human. But If it is transmitting at all, given the situation in Indonesia, it will naturally evolve for more efficient transmission.

I would also like to remind everyone that people have died without expressing H5N1 in their saliva. The infections seems either to be gastrointestinal or to be harbored deep in lung tissue, so swab tests for H5N1 are unlikely to be reliable. See autopsy report. Both WHO and Australia are sending stocks of Tamiflu to Indonesia, so I guess they have their own suspicions. The Indonesian cases are popping up over a wide area and on different islands, so it is not as if this thing can be contained. There are tons of infected birds, and since all testing has confirmed that wild birds also harbor the disease it is unlikely that culling can stem the animal/human vector.

Roberts Confirmation Debate In The Senate

To read the Congressional Record, you can access the 2005 index by date here. I'm following the debate over Roberts in the Senate with some interest. Yesterday it led off with Frist, of course:
The qualifications they expect us to look at for a Supreme Court Justice are unambiguous. They expect an individual who is qualified, an individual who will faithfully interpret the Constitution, an individual who will check politics and personal views at the door of the Court, an individual who will approach every case with a fair and open mind.
That's an attempt to frame the debate. I agree with him, but I doubt all of the senators will. Specter talks at some length about the recent spate of confusing decisions in the SC. He hopes Roberts will be able to bring more consensus to the Supreme Court. Specter also comments that he believes Roberts has a broad view of the Constitution and is not an originalist. He then reviews the history of confirmation hearings:
It wasn’t until 1955, with the nomination of Justice John Marshall Harlan, that nominees have appeared regularly before the Judiciary Committee. Only since 1981, following my own election in 1980, have the hearings taken on a little different approach as to what the nominees will answer. Justice O’Connor declined to answer many questions. The next nomination hearing was that for Chief Justice Rehnquist, who was a sitting Associate Justice. Initially Justice Rehnquist declined to appear, then was advised that if he wanted to be confirmed, he would have to appear. It was a contentious hearing. As the record shows, Chief Justice Rehnquist was confirmed by a vote of 65 to 33. He did answer a great many questions, although he did not answer a great many questions.
People forget that the battle here is not just between the pros and cons for Roberts, but a struggle over the entire confirmation process and what powers the Senate has over the Supreme Court. I strongly recommend reading Specter's comments for that reason. Specter's letter about the Commerce Clause has been inserted in the record; Congress does not wish to be bound by federalism. Specter also claims that Congress is contemplating legislation to give itself standing to fight cases challenging its legislation in the federal courts:
It seems to me that it might be a good occasion for Congress to exercise this authority to grant standing to Congress. Why should we rely upon the litigants to defend the constitutionality of these enactments which we pass very carefully and very laboriously, as we did the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 or the Americans with Disabilities Act? That is a move which might have material implications on reasserting the balance of power and the separation of power between Congress and the Court.
These issues are the ones which will be most significant in the next nomination, and I suspect this is why Specter wanted Bush to delay the next nomination. Specter wants to televise Supreme Court proceedings!
I ask unanimous consent, although I don’t know if I need to, to introduce a bill at this point, and it is right in line with the issues involved in the Roberts nomination. That is legislation that will call for televising the Supreme Court of the United States.
And is it me, or is Specter making a veiled threat with this?
The Congress has the established authority to set the date when the Supreme Court starts its session. We have legislated that it should be the first Monday in October. We have the authority to establish the number of Justices—nine. We all recall the famous court-packing effort by President Roosevelt in about 1937. We could increase the number as we would choose.
And let's not forget that Congress sets the justices pay! Leahy's speech starts here. You can skip the first page (he doesn't know the population of the United States) and go directly to the meat:
I took Judge Roberts at his word when he gave the committee assurances that he would respect congressional authority. His steadfast reliance on the Supreme Court’s recent Raich decision as significant precedent, contravening further implications from Lopez and Morrison, was intended to reassure us that he would not join in what has been a continuing assault on congressional authority.
Heh. I don't remember it that way. I'll have to look up the transcript, but I doubt that Roberts committed himself to follow Raich (medical marijuana). The Bill of Rights was originally passed purely to check federal power, and that includes Congressional power. The left no longer likes that idea. It's questionable whether much of the right subscribes to it either. There were two decisions that the average American distrusts last term - Kelo and Raich. Both decisions diminished individual freedom and enhanced federal powers, and Congress as a body approves of both. Remember that.

Leahy continues:
I expect Judge Roberts to act in the tradition of Justice Jackson and serve as an independent check on the President. When he joins the Supreme Court, he can no longer simply defer to Presidential authority. We know we are in a period in which the executive has had a complicit—and I believe compliant— Republican Congress that has not served as an effective check or balance. Without the Court to fulfill its own constitutional role as check and balance, excess will continue; the balance will be further tilted.
Interesting. Senator Milkulski (MD) started out in a very interesting manner:
This vote is crucial. A Senator is only called upon to make two decisions in our career that are either irrevocable or irretrievable. One is the decision to go to war. Once we vote to go to war, to put our troops in harm’s way, we cannot say a day later, Oops, we changed our minds or, 6 months later, cut off the money. Once they go, they go, and we have to stick with them.
Is that a direct rebuke to Leahy? In his questioning of Roberts, Leahy brought up the question of whether Congress had the ability to withdraw its consent to war. If so, it is very interesting. She will vote no because she wanted assurance on specific points (abortion, "nondiscrimination", etc) and didn't get it. She is bsing on the Voting Rights act, but I believe she is being quite sincere on the abortion issue.

Maybe I will pick up later on this. I'm very curious as to how this battle over Congressional power vs. the Constitution will play out in the next nomination.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Blogger - it worketh not and neither doth it spin!

Hey, I just wanted to see if I could post anything at all. It's been eating my posts all day.

The Left, Right, And Liars

Update: Carl at No Oil For Pacifists votes for opposition, observing that the left veered away from the JFK liberalism to a very different set of goals. End update.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred posted about the odd alliance between our extreme left, the extreme right, dictators and tyrannical philosophies. I think it is a very important post. He is trying to cover a lot of ground in as short a space as possible, but he manages to touch on some very important points:
American religious activism first came about as a result of the persecution of Christians in many repressive regimes. The truth soon became clear- the left would not take up the cause, for any number of reasons. As a result, the religious right mobilized. Their first unlikely ally were progressive and liberal Jewish groups, who understood quite clearly what religious persecution meant.
This is very true, and it is one of the oddest things about the current landscape. The American Jewish community has always been a very small group relative to the rest of the population, but it has also been consistently on the side of progress and human rights. It's politically incorrect to say it now, but it was significant in the abolitionist movement (which was also religiously based) , was on the forefront of the labor rights movement, the civil rights movement and played a big part in the women's rights movement. I can say from living in the Bible Belt that the evangelical churches have a high respect for the Jewish community on a number of different levels. They respect their biblical position as the chosen people of God, but they also have a great respect for their ethical voice.
The left have become a part of the Arab world , complete with conspiracy theories and visceral hatred, and the justification of the most heinous of violence. They demand rights without addressing obligations and have little tolerance for those with different ideas. It is acceptable to call for the death of an opponent, and no one objects. There is no debate- only name calling and calls for the destruction of those they cannot agree with or those who get in their way.
For proof of this contention, all you have to do is look at the fulsome praise for George Galloway from the extremist wing of the left. Along with that the left in Europe and America has become almost reflexively anti-Semitic. I find it very hard to distinguish between the extreme left and the extreme right these days. They both admire dictators, they both seem terrified by the idea of individual freedom, most especially freedom of conscience, and they both seem fueled by contempt and hate. Only the names differ.

SC&A begins with the following statement:
Freedom and rights do not originate or function in a vacuum. They are only some of the necessary ingredients of the complex recipe that comprise a functioning and productive society. As with any recipe, it is the interchange and interaction of necessary ingredients that produce the desired result.

Alongside those basic freedom and rights, there must also be an exchange. In exchange for those rights and freedoms, there must also exist law and order, social and cultural norms for all and not just the privileged few, and most importantly, there must be be a sense of obligation and duty to society. If any of those things are lacking, and the emphasis remains on the 'self ' and individual 'rights,' that society will self destruct.
This is true, but it almost seems to have dropped out of our political consciousness. Individual rights and freedoms really don't conflict with social and cultural norms, unless rights and freedoms are construed to require active approval and endorsement by society for every path an individual wants to take. Crimes (which are inherently violations of other individual's rights) are of course outside of this rule.

What I am speaking of here is the dropping of the concept of "tolerance" for the concept of "endorsement". It is no longer enough, in our wacky culture, to say that people who espouse strange religions, believe ardently in the redeeming and communion-like nature of promiscuous sex, campaign for polygamous marriage, etc, should not be actively discriminated against. Now discrimination is defined as expressing disapproval of their choices and speaking publicly about their bad consequences

That isn't freedom. It certainly doesn't make for a healthy society. It destroys public debate. If you look at the extreme left and the right in this country, neither one believes in freedom. I suppose that's because the great mass of people don't subscribe to their views, so they know they can never gain control in a free society. What's left but destruction and anarchy? This is the goal of the extreme right, the extreme left, and the environmentalist anarchists. They are all lying their heads off and they are all desperately trying to prevent other people from being allowed to counter their lies.

The left may claim that the right is intolerant, but is it tolerant to keep military recruiters off campuses and exclude them from job fairs? The left wants to smash any black conservatives (as does David Duke!), destroy Israel and get rid of Jewish academics (as does the Aryan Nation!), eviscerate women who aren't appropriately jingoistic about male chauvinism (the right wants to make them all subservient), silence their old religious allies like the Catholic church (never an ally of the extreme right, always an enemy), and even eliminate free speech. I hardly think it is a coincidence that the extreme right has the same goals. These people are often dismissed as being silly. They are that, but they are also silly in a vicious, physical way.

I am not speaking of liberals when I use the term "the left", but a group that has abandoned liberal ideology altogether. And I am not speaking of conservatives when I use the term "the right", but of groups that believe in a racialist, supremicist ideology. Both of these groups have an absolutely obsessive, knee-jerk hatred of the concepts of personal responsibility and live-and-let-live tolerance. I suppose they are fellow travelers for a time because they know they can't succeed alone.

All the rest of us can't succeed if we let them control public discourse. The most important right we have is that of free speech. Free speech is always going to offend someone. Too bad. Mass graves and burning crosses offend me. You can't avoid those without having free speech. You can't maintain free speech unless you exercise that right. So, as Tommy of Striving For Average has suggested, make it your business to offend someone today. It's the patriotic thing to do.

Bird Flu (H5N1) Update - Indonesia

Today Bloomberg conveyed the cheery news that patients under observation for bird flu in Indonesia were dropping:
Indonesia's suspected bird flu cases among humans declined to 21 as some patients tested negative for the virus and five people will be released from a Jakarta hospital after showing signs of recovery, a doctor said.

Jessica, a two-year-old girl who died last week, tested negative for the H5N1, a deadly strain of the avian influenza virus, said Sardikin Giriputro, a director at Sulianti Saroso hospital, one of 44 hospitals in the country which have been designated to treat bird flu patients.

Twenty-one patients, including two new ones who were admitted yesterday, remain under observation for avian flu because they were exposed to live chickens or birds shortly before developing bird flu symptoms, Giriputro said.
Later on they also list five dead in Indonesia. They're wrong on both counts. Another patient died, bringing the total to six, and hospitalized cases are up to 42:
There are 42 reported human cases of bird flu across Indonesia but only 10 patients have been tested positive of bird flu, Minister of Health Siti Fadillah Supari said here Monday.

Six of the ten people infected with bird flu have died recently,the minister said.

Supari said bird flu cases have been reported from at least eight provinces in the country, with Jakarta having the highest case number of 28.
Not so good. There are real questions about how good testing for H5N1 really is. See this autopsy report, which notes that the virus doesn't seem to be replicating the upper respiratory tract, so swab testing won't work very well. Anyway, 12 of the patients are associated with Ragunan Zoo. It's hard to know exactly what is happening. Plenty of sick people have been turned away from hospitals in Indonesia. It seems as if they are only hospitalizing the very ill.

The first case in Indonesia was in July. A father and his two daughters died. Then RD, a woman who worked at the airport, died. Her nephew has now been confirmed as having H5N1. See this Recombinomics commentary:
There is considerable concern over false negatives or misdiagnosis. Rini Ignoble's (Rini Dina's) nephew, Paradise initially was H5N1 positive by PCR, but is now being discharged and is H5N1 negative, He will be the first discharged positive patient. Thus, collections from patients after the H5N1 has been cleared from serum will fail to detect the infection. Similarly, misdiagnosis is common. Karwati was initially diagnosed as having typhus, which was changed to Dengue Fever when she vomited blood and was bleeding from her nose. This presentation sounds similar to the index case in Thailand, who subsequently infected her mother and aunt.
It's hard not to see some H2H in this. I don't think anyone really knows what's going on, but Australia (very close to Indonesia) is quite worried and is providing 50,000 courses of Tamiflu to Indonesia:
INDONESIA was struggling to contain an outbreak of bird flu and had been slow in distributing drugs to counter the disease, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today.
The Federal Government has increased the amount of anti-flu medication Tamiflu it is sending to its northern neighbour from 10,000 to 50,000 courses as Indonesia confirmed its sixth death from bird flu.

Asked if he was happy at how quickly the first batch of 10,000 courses of Tamiflu had been distributed, Mr Downer said: "I think it's been a little slowly, a little more slowly than we would have liked.
In theory, if you consistently catch severe strains beginning to go H2H that produce high death rates, a milder strain of H2H H5N1 should evolve that is less of a threat to humans. I suppose that is all we can hope for now.

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