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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Since I didn't note my 200th post last time...

I've decided to post a video that expresses perfectly how I've felt the last few days. While it isn't heartbreak over the end of a relationship, it is heartbreak over the end of a large part of my life. Yesterday, I put even more focus on my work than normal just to try to distract me from the hurt I was feeling, with only limited success. I'm doing better today, and I'll continue to have good days and bad days, but here it is. Enjoy the music.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Of apologies and regrets: Alabama legislature apologizes for slavery

Yes, you read it right, Alabama's state legislature has apologized for slavery, but the state Senate and House wrote different versions. If the two ever agree (I'm sorry, I need to catch my breath after laughing that hard; Alabama politicians agreeing on something?!), I suppose that, by the time it's all done, there'll be a slew of spending bills attached to it as riders.

Now that I've gotten the lighthearted cynicism out of the way, I have a few serious thoughts to add on this subject. Some people are afraid that this may open the way to lawsuits against the state. I happen to think that's full of shit, but in today's cartoonishly litigious society, that's not entirely impossible. No, my opposition to this is that the apology is several decades too late. The year is 2007. How many people are still alive who were victims of slavery, a practice which ended in the United States in 1865? What good will it do to the victims of slavery for their descendants, several generations removed, to be given an apology due not to those descendants, but to the victims themselves? I know, well, that is, I know as well as any American born in the last century, how awful slavery must have been, how inhumane and unforgivable it was. I am sickened by the fact that this is among the most shameful parts of this nation's past. I think that there was a time when an apology would have been meaningful to the victims of slavery. I just think this is a case where it's too little, too late, and issued by the wrong people. I realize that this is a topic for debate, and some may disagree, but this is what I think.

Friday, April 20, 2007

I've finally found a hero I can believe in: Richard Berman

I wish I were even half as eloquent and as effective a libertarian as he is. He merely believes that people should not be protected from themselves and should not be abused by those who cynically claim to have their best interests at heart, and I wholeheartedly agree. On this simple basis, I believe that Richard Berman is one of the greatest men alive today. To watch a 60 Minutes profile of him, follow this link. I offer my most heartfelt support for this great man.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A break from the serious, and into the seriously fucked up:

I was going to go with an Al Qaeda Baseball Camp spoof, but I liked this one more.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335

I'm sure by now that all four or five people who read my blog are aware of the attention I have given to the Duke Lacrosse Case, where three young men, whose factual innocence is now patently obvious, and has been for some time. Some might even argue that it has bordered on monomania, though to those, I cheerly offer my middle finger. While it is true that I have been deeply concerned about the fact that, in the first decade of the Third Millennium C.E., innocent men can be railroaded and brutally ass-raped by the American justice system to the extent that these young men were, I'm even more deeply concerned about the additional implications this case raised. If these three young men just barely managed, with all of their resources, to avoid their false conviction for a crime that never occurred, what does this say about the average person's chances, especially in states where grand jury testimony is not recorded, as is the case in North Carolina? Furthermore, what does it say about many, if not most, of the criminal justice systems of the several states, where district attorneys, attorneys general, and even judges are elected officials and may be tempted to commit this type of extreme abuse of power in a bid to keep their jobs? These are the questions that have haunted me for the better part of the last year, and I will be haunted until these issues are resolved to the point that this, if not entirely eliminated, becomes extremely rare.

In Gideon v. Wainwright, the SCOTUS ruled that, by virtue of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, the state is required to provide lawyers for all defendants in criminal cases. In a small majority of states, this has meant the creation of a Public Defender's system. In my state of Alabama, well, this is newsworthy, and post-conviction representation is questionable at best for death row inmates. Were it not for the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama and other charitable organizations, plus the less-organized pro bono work done by individuals, my state would be much worse off, even as bad as it currently is. On a wider scale, the plight is taken up by the member organizations of the Innocence Network, of which the Innocence Project is easily the best-known. Other groups do this work as well, but I'm sure by now you get a rather disturbing picture. I ask you not to look down on my state, at how fucked up Alabama can be, but rather, to look in your own back yards, dig around, figure out what's broken there and try to fix it. I have little doubt that you will be as disgusted and disturbed as I was.

I believe, however, one of the core issues is that of an elected justice system. This has a great potential, realized in many known and probably more unknown, cases for justice to be perverted or denied outright to the accused. Put another way, a measure of job security, using evaluations other than that of the voting public, leads to clearer thinking on the part of prosecutors and judges and a greater chance of a fair administration of justice. Toss in proper oversight, including harsh punishments for rogue prosecutors and judges, and I think we can end up a much better nation than we are now. Forgive these musings of a tired mind, but I think it's food for thought.

Friday, April 13, 2007

It fucking well figures...

You are Death

Change, Transformation, Alteration.

People fear this card, but if you want to change your life, this is one of the
best indicators for it. Whatever happens, life will be different. Yes, the Death card can signal a death in the right circumstances (a question about a very sick or old relative, for example), but unlike its dramatic presentation in the movies, the Death card is far more likely to signal transformation, passage, change. Scorpio, the sign of this card, has three forms: scorpion, serpent, eagle. The Death card indicates this transition from lower to higher to highest. This is a card of humility, and it may mean you have been brought low, but only so that you can then go higher than ever before. Death "humbles" all, but it also "exults." Always keep in mind that on this card of darkness there is featured a sunrise as well. You could be ready for a change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

And more accurately, thank G-d for Jon Stewart.

I wrote the title for this post in respect for Mr. Stewart's religious beliefs. Enjoy the show.

I never thought I'd say this, but thank god for Michelle Malkin.

I know, it's truly shocking that I would say that, but I firmly believe it in this instance. She may be a wingnut from the right and may have written one of the most disturbing ideas I've ever read, but when she's right, she's right. In fact, she gave me an idea: Why not take Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh, put them on a deserted though well-stocked island with Mr. Shabazz, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan, and just drop supplies to them every few days so that the rest of us, most of whom are reasonable, decent people could go on with our lives without their hatred. Just a thought... Oh, and I had a video to share too. But before that, I also have a story from the Kansas City Star. Take a look at both, and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

No more Imus in the Morning:

I think by now, all of us have heard and been disgusted by what Don Imus said about the Rutgers womens' basketball team. What he said was, at best, a joke made in the poorest of taste, and more accurately, deeply demeaning to women and African-Americans. Should he make overtures to the African-American community, he should be at least afforded the opportunity to make amends for his words. However, that does not mean that he is undeserving of the consequences he has faced. His career is, at his age and after his statements, over. My only hope is that the charities to which he contributes do not suffer.

Now that I've said that, I have some questions. How many lives were ruined by him calling the obviously intelligent and well-grounded women "nappy-headed hos"? How many good people had their names dragged through the mud, their freedom placed in jeopardy, and their careers destroyed with his one comment? If what Mr. Imus did was so terrible and he was so deserving of his fate, why then has Al Sharpton, who has ruined innocent people's lives, perhaps most infamously during the Tawana Brawley incident, been allowed to continue his work as a community leader and activist? Where is justice for his victims? To date, Al Sharpton has not even apologized to Steven Pagones. Where is his justice? Mr. Sharpton claims to be a man of justice and of the cloth, a man who, allegedly (and in the face of stacks of evidence to the contrary) is a man of God, a true Christian. To Mr. Sharpton, I quote a verse he apparently has never heard of, Luke 6:41: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Mr. Sharpton, why beholdest thou indeed the mote in thy brother's eye, motherfucker?

Friday, April 06, 2007

The birth of a new blog:

I guess the title says it all. I have created a new blog on Blogger, called TechnoAgrarian Musings, and it will have all of my thoughts on environmental topics, including but not limited to alternative fuels and thoughts on organic farming. Since I don't actually have any land to work with, I'll focus more on the technology of it, and whenever I have anything to say on anything, if I found it elsewhere, I'll cite the source(s). I won't be abandoning this blog. As you know, I have plenty more to say on a variety of topics, and for that, I'll use this blog. I'll still be farting fire, and hopefully, some people will feel the heat. :) Also, this does not indicate a significant shift in my politics. Rather, it reflects a maturation of a different facet of my philosophy and thought processes. Also, it reflects the fact that I now have too much to say on this one topic to keep it mashed in with my random musings on this blog. . I welcome all to join, and to bring others who are interested.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More thoughts about biofuel production:

This is probably more relevant to home-brewed ethanol production, or at least more easily accomplished in this setting, for both fuel and... entertainment purposes, but here are a few ideas I had about some of the wastes from the fermentation process. Since, unless someone is just figuring it out or they're completely barmy, this will be occurring in a dedicated building, and since the fermentation process produces significant amounts of carbon dioxide, why not duct the waste air to a rooftop garden? If there is an engineering solution, perhaps allow the fans to be powered by the heat generated by the fermentation, but if not, other non-polluting energy sources would be good. Eventually, a compost heap could be created on the roof from the waste plant matter, and any excess compost could be lowered to the ground via a chute or a simple, human-powered pulley system. And, again, since this will be a fairly warm building, the composting process will take less time than it might otherwise in certain climates. I'm just thinking of ways to minimize the ecological impact of ethanol production, and perhaps, to find a way to make a single organic farm into a concept that could eventually be used to send people to colonize the stars... Yes, I have heard of the Biosphere, but they clearly fucked up, and part of that may be that they tried to be too cute about it. Perhaps if they had asked farmers as well as scientists, or perhaps if they had made proper use of their scientists, it may not have been such a spectacular failure.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Some questions about biofuels:

I've been reading up on this subject for quite a while now, and my favorite site is Journey to Forever. Frankly, if there's a better website out there on this topic, I haven't seen it. However, I do have some lingering questions, and if anyone who visits this blog regularly knows anyone with the answers, I'd be interested to find out. The questions are as follows: To create ethanol from any raw feedstock (cane sorghum, sugar beets, etc.), how many units of water are required to produce a unit of ethanol? After distillation, can that water be reclaimed and used for other purposes (drinking, etc.)? How many BTU's per unit of ethanol are required for the fermentation process? Are there non-petrochemical denaturants or stabilizers for ethanol? Would a mild gelling agent reduce vapor loss of ethanol, and would this cause more problems for an internal combustion engine? Is there an environmentally-friendly bactericide to prevent losses of stored biodiesel? Finally, which engines can run on butanol, which can be made with both cellulose and starch/sugars? I'm strongly in favor of biofuels, and I can envision the day when the United States becomes a net exporter of fuel and energy, much like the Middle East is today, only with much better human rights. I just don't know all the answers.

It's a good thing I'm not the President.

When I first heard about the British hostages taken by Iran, I wondered if, in this day and age, if terrorism could, in fact, be considered tantamount to a weapon of mass destruction. If so, the taking of hostages would certainly qualify. Since the use of weapons of mass destruction invite responses in kind, the next question would be how exactly to respond. Were I the President, I would at least be sorely tempted to name off Tehran, Mashhad, or Qom in negotiations, and ask their leadership which of those cities they'd like to lose for the next 10,000 years. Nevertheless, I hope calmer heads will prevail and that Iran's leadership will finally display some of the sanity that's been almost completely absent from their government since 1979.

Faulty logic in opposition to the Iraq War:

There are plenty of valid and good reasons why the Iraq War is such a bloody nightmare, and there are at least as many reasons for us to get the hell out of there. However, one reason that I see cropping up repeatedly among the left is that the money could be better used to afford universal health care. I'm sorry, but for one, the mathematics don't work. Since estimates of the annual cost varies, I'll go with a number I've seen used on Snave's Blog, $125 billion per annum. The 2004 budget for the Veterans Administration, which, to be fair, includes services in addition to the better-known health benefits, was $60 billion, yet deplorable conditions were found at the outpatient center even at the flagship Walter Reed Medical Center, and this is far from uncommon. Multiply that by the population of the United States, and you come up with a number far greater than $125 billion. Also, if the government was willing to allow that kind of neglect dating at least as far as the previous administration for those who have sacrificed the most for this country and their widows and orphans, what makes anyone think they'd do any better for the average citizen? For an answer to that question, I think we only need to look to our neighbors to the north. Socialized medicine, as good as it sounds on paper, invariably turns into a nightmare whose expense easily dwarfs that of the Iraq War. As a result, I will never support this type of program.

So, assume the Iraq War ends today, and the government now has an additional $125 billion to spend. What should be done with the money? I can think of a few ideas. The first priority should be to put that money towards the national debt, and to find ways to greatly streamline the federal government so that money can also make this nation solvent once more. This will benefit both us and the generations to come.

However, if you don't want to do that, there's another favorite of mine: research into alternative fuels and trebling fuel economy. I even have a preferred method for that. NASA has been using the same space shuttle design for 30 years or thereabouts, and they haven't come up with a workable replacement. At this point, NASA has become so mired in red tape that even minor changes to their technology require a tremendous investment in time and money. As a result, I think the government is clearly not the answer, or at least not the answer directly, to this question. Instead, I cite the Ansari X Prize as a shining example of competition spurring rapid advances in technology. State a goal, put out a fat reward for whomever achieves it first, and let the chips fall where they may. If it's big enough, it will even generate its own press. To that end, the people behind the Ansari X Prize are now in the process of drafting rules for an Automotive X Prize, with the most recent draft having been released on April 2, 2007. Actually, I prefer the X Prizes because they are privately funded, but if they want, they should follow as closely as possible the example of the Ansari family. Just a thought...