Monthly Archives: April, 2011

Joanna Russ

My Boat

What a week! First Pheobe Snow, and now science fiction goddess Joanna Russ has died.

She was one of the best and most original writers of the 70′s, and will be missed.

I found one of my favorites of her short stories on Google Books. When I first read it I didn’t catch her Lovecraft references, but I always loved the story for its fantasy of outsider kids achieving a transformation into their best selves. Perhaps that’s what makes children so brave, their dreams of who they’ll be when they grow up–

My Boat by Joanna Russ.

Darn! The above link connects to Google Docs, but if you can sign in, ‘My Boat’ is there– not perfect format but very readable. Good luck and enjoy.

Do Cellphones Cause Brain Cancer?

No clear answer on that, but the New York Times Magazine has an excellent article on the science of epidemiology, and the difficulty of finding a common cause for relatively rare diseases. You can read it here.

Children and Radiation

The Hindu reports that the special adviser to the Japanese prime minister has resigned over new standards raising the allowable radiation exposure for schoolchildren in Fukushima.

The standard set for schoolchildren’s exposure to nuclear radiation in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture has caused a political furore. In prime focus is an expert’s disapproval of the “high” permissible limit set for annual exposure, at 20 millisieverts, for outdoor activities at school.

Citing this limit and the government’s alleged track record of ad hoc responses to the continuing nuclear radiation crisis, Toshiso Kosako, special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, resigned on Friday night. However, the Japanese government on Saturday downplayed this development and said Prof. Kosako “misunderstands the situation.”

I think ‘ad hoc’ is Latin for duct tape. The Japanese government has raised the acceptable limit of exposure for workers in an emergency.

The Health Ministry recently raised the legal radiation limit that workers can be exposed to in an emergency from 100 to 250 millisieverts.

This is clearly not based on science, but necessity, and today’s news reports that 2 workers recorded exposures close to the new limit.

It’s very ’70′s and not politically correct to point out the dangers of radiation, especially to children, but this story is not going away. For the sake of the future, we must stop creating new nuclear hazards and safely deal with what we already have.

Common Dreams has the numbers and essentially, the Japanese authorities have declared it acceptable for children to be exposed to levels of radiation that would normally only be allowed for adult nuclear plant workers. This is why the arguments that there’s no danger to the public have to be challenged. The real harm may not be seen for decades, but the time to act is now.

Maybe He’ll Repent

I heard a commentator on the radio yesterday say that the Vatican usually takes six years just to open its mail, and the beatification of Pope John Paul II only six years after his death is extraordinary.

The unresolved child abuse scandals continue to haunt his tenure, and that of Pope Benedict, but the Church will has its own ways that the World can’t understand.

The Church has adherents all over the world, including many in high office…

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, long-term dictator and human rights violator is coming to Rome for the celebration.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has arrived in Rome for the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II.

An EU travel ban forbids him from visiting member states but the Vatican, where the ceremony will take place, is a sovereign state and not in the EU.

Mr Mugabe, a Roman Catholic, has been allowed to transit through Italy.

Despite the travel ban, Mr Mugabe went to Rome for the funeral of John Paul II in 2005 and for UN food agency conferences in 2008 and 2009.

The sanction on Mr Mugabe was imposed in 2002 over human rights abuses.

If Robert Mugabe has a change of heart, and returns to Zimbabwe with a commitment to reform and democracy, I’ll call that a miracle.


Today’s Providence Journal has a story of guilt and the grace of not seeking revenge…

PROVIDENCE — In a heart-wrenching address to the magistrate who would sentence the man who killed his son, rabbi and lawyer Arthur Schaefer said it mattered more to him what the defendant did after he got out of jail than how much time he spent in it.

In a steady and almost gentle tone, Schaefer said he didn’t come to court seeking revenge, but rather some way to make the death of his promising son Avi have some kind of meaning, a way to make the world a better place.

A story like this makes it clear what the world lost when Avi Schaefer was taken away by careless disregard.

Read the rest here.

A Math Problem

I have a copy of Moby Dick that I haven’t read yet, so it will be a long time before I get around to Ayn Rand. I do hear a lot on the radio about the movie release of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and its disappointing performance at the box office.

I feel your pain, guys. ‘Serenity’ just about earned its expenses back, though it’s doing good on cable.

Smart people, even ubermenschen, sometimes miss the obvious.

If you despise the masses, how are you going to persuade the masses to buy tickets at upwards of ten bucks each? For a movie praising the elite, the few, the solitary? When your audience is made up of rugged individualists sitting alone in a half-empty theater? And you expect to make a profit? Do the math.

The Dark Roots of Orly Taitz

Like unwanted facial hair that keeps on sprouting, Orly Taitz is back in the news with her birther conspiracy theories– now embellished to fit changing circumstances.

I’d like to know why the press is side-stepping the question we all want to ask. Does she, or doesn’t she?

Can Orly Taitz prove she is a natural-born blonde? Although her defenders will try to debunk each separate finding, the preponderance of evidence suggests that she is trying to conceal her natural color. Why? We can only assume the worst.

The following sources have asked to remain anonymous because they are afraid of Chuck Norris, so with respect for their personal safety I will protect their identities while publishing their allegations–

An immigrant from Moldova said she saw a lock of Orly’s baby hair that her mother saved in a box and it was light brown. Science tells us that babies’ hair gets darker as they grow up. It would be highly unlikely that Orly’s hair changed from brown to blonde.

An expert beautician who watched the interview on MSNBC was quoted, “It’s definitely a dye job. I think she’s got extensions too.”

A former patient claims that while immobilized in the dentist chair she had nothing else to look at except Dr. Taitz’s face, which was inches away, “Her roots were starting to show at the temples, her hair is dark, with some grey, and she fluffs it out with a ton of hair spray.”

A source who refused to be quoted directly claims he recently sold her a blonde wig.

While it’s true that many women (and more men than admit it) color their hair, Dr. Tait’s political activism leads to more ominous interpretations. I don’t yet have any, but as soon as I make some up I’ll post them.

This is for real — I just saw on that Orly Taitz’s site contains malware. I went to her site while researching this post and shortly after a pop-up window tried to install an antivirus without my invitation. I hit control-alt-delete, hope that stopped it.

UPDATE- Bill from Portland, Maine has a quote from President Obama–

“I was actually born on the planet Krypton and sent by my father, Jor-El, to save Earth.”

This contradicts the evidence that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, unless the relativistic effects of faster-than-light travel make it possible for him to arrive in Kenya before he was born on Krypton. It’s a complicated issue, but fortunately Orly Taitz is an attorney and she can explain how this pertains to Constitutional law. She is a woman of many talents and really big hair.

Show Your Papers

Daily Kos thinks that President Obama’s release of his long-form birth certificate is a smart move because Republicans who are not tanked up on tea see the birther issue as bad for the credibility of their party.

The President’s own statement is that our country is facing urgent problems, and this issue is enough of a distraction to need putting to rest.

Of course, it will not be put to rest because it was never about place of birth or the Constitution. It’s about a man with brown skin and a funny name, whose father was from Kenya and whose mother was unconventional. It’s about race-mixing and a fixed race that didn’t come through in 2008, when McCain was supposed to win. McCain was on deck, he had the right pedigree– that’s how it’s supposed to work.

When Barack Obama was elected, it was a message to the entire world. America, for all its flaws and failures, is a democracy. Any eligible citizen can run for office, even run for president. Despite our troubled racial history, we showed the world that Americans are equal in fact as well as in law.

And now we have the loudest voices in the Republican Party demanding that the President show his papers. The Republican politicians who should have stood up to this, who should have set an example of reason and civility, have been timid and afraid to offend their fringe. They deserve to have Donald Trump win the nomination, they paved the way for him. I’m disgusted with all the politicians who tip toe around ‘what people believe’ as if the truth doesn’t matter. It’s time for the adults in the Republican Party, if they can find the courage, to show leadership.

The whole world is watching, and today we are not looking so good.

UPDATE: A smart take on why there will never be enough ‘evidence’ to appease those who want to believe. You can’t cure stupid.

PERSONAL ANECDOTE: I used to have panic attacks and experience a convincing sense that something was really wrong. If I checked and confirmed that the iron really was turned off, then I’d worry about the gas stove blowing up. You can’t fix irrational anxiety with reason. Maybe I should have got some Xanax. Whatever.
Anyway, the instant shift in focus from one crazy conspiracy theory to the next just backs up the fact that this isn’t a rational issue, it’s a hysteria afflicting a group of believers who are convinced something is wrong and are looking for a narrative to make sense of a changing world. A lot of them are waiting for the Rapture too. People are entitled to their beliefs, but when beliefs replace facts in politics we are in trouble.

UPDATE II: Convincing evidence that Barack Obama is an alien from the planet Slzrd. Wait– that might be satire… good thing I deleted it. People might think I’m credulous.

Trickle-Up Medicaid

No time to write a detailed post with citations and links. I’m working today, facilitating gummint health care.

Most of the people I serve are elderly on Medicaid, though I’m lately seeing Medicare and VA clients as well.

Because the older generation, those in their 70′s and 80′s, have secure health care, people in my generation are not sitting around the kitchen table agonizing about Mom and Dad’s medical bills. That leaves us free to agonize about our kid’s college expenses and our own retirement.

Because Medicaid pays for home health aides, fewer people are going into nursing homes, and those who do are often there for rehab and get better and go back home.

Our Medicaid dollar is spent on local employment, providing jobs– in many cases to mothers of young children or caretakers of parents, who need flexible hours. And there’s the purchasing power to buy generic drugs at the best price– a lifesaver for people on a fixed income.

It’s a very imperfect system, and there’s always room for improvement, but the benefits trickle up from elderly parents to middle-class working children with children of their own to raise.

Phoebe Snow

She had a lovely and distinctive voice, she was a dedicated and loving mother, she’s one of the sounds of our youth.

Phoebe Snow has died.

She could have been a superstar, but she left the career behind to care for her daughter, Valerie Rose, born with hydrocephalus. She had soul, on and off the stage.


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