Friday, 30 September 2005

Margot's Mini MiniTrue

Updating a previous post, Margot's MiniTrue Minions over at Webdiary have been busy airbrushing out the comments I referred to in that post.

But being Margot's Minions, they left this one in :
Rod Finch, Hugh Mann, Zoe Brain, we're soon forming a cheer-squad to wave and cheer at public Webdiary events - please apply when you see the next event announced. The cost of the Pom-Poms is not covered, I'm afraid, and you'll have to send a photo in of yourself in the soon coming Webdiary t-shirt to apply for a place in the squad...

Posted by: Jack H Smit | 25/09/2005 7:52:14 PM
Referring to posts by people who are now... Unpersons, and comments that now no longer exist.

Go read it quickly, before this Orwellian falsification of the historical record on Webdiary continues.

The Ancestral Brain

From the ABC (the US one this time) :
All brains originated from a single common ancestral brain that emerged at least 700 million years ago, according to a recent analysis of brain studies.

The finding suggests this mother brain for all creatures with a central nervous system - such as insects, birds, animals and humans - evolved only once before each species underwent its own evolutionary course.

"What we see today in humans, insects and all other multicellular animals with a central nervous system are probably just variations of one ancient scheme," says Dr Rudi Loesel, who conducted the analysis published in the journal Arthropod Structure & Development.
I'm sure everyone reading this has a recent subscription, but I'll continue anyway.
The researchers don't know what the creature that contained the mother of all brains looked like.

Some scientists speculate it could have been a segmented flatworm, while others think it was a more complex creature.
Due to all the candidates being soft-tissue creatures with little or no fossil remains, the inventor of the brain will remain unknown, and a matter for speculation.

If you think that the development of the brain leaves a lot to be desired - and looking at Michael Moore, who can argue against that - bear in mind that Sex was invented at least 500 million years ago, and as I've recently found out, there are still a few bugs in the system there too.

Thursday, 29 September 2005

For Those with a lot of Disk Space

Try this download. Be warned, the server's fairly slow so it could take some time.

China's Forthcoming Space Twofer

From Space Daily:

Liftoff next week? Or possibly later in the month :
China's second manned space flight could be launched as early as next week, according to one report Sunday by state media.

Xinhua news agency said the two-man flight could be launched during the week-long holiday starting on National Day on October 1.

But a China News Service report from Hong Kong said Shenzhou VI would take off for a five-day flight from the Jiuquan launch center in the northern region of Inner Mongolia on October 13.
The China News Service report said the launch was scheduled for 11:00 am (0300 GMT) on October 13 but the time could change due to weather and ongoing preparations.
Hu's on board? Actually no, it's likely Zhai and Nei :
China's state-run press on Wednesday named the likely astronauts to pilot the nation's second manned space flight tenatively scheduled to be launched during the first 20-days of October.

"At present, the team of Zhai Zhigang and Nie Haisheng has the biggest possibility of undertaking the task of piloting the Shenzhou VI," the Shanghai Morning Post said, citing unnamed space experts.
"At present the Shenzhou VI is still undergoing the testing of its systems, but it can be confirmed that the launch will happen in the first 20 days of October," the paper said.

The timing matched the "likely" date of October 13 that was reported on Sunday by the China News Service.

And in the "Obvious in Hindsight" department, NASA's chief admits that building the Shuttle they did was a mistake. So was deliberately making the ISS dependant on it.
The US space agency NASA lost its way when it focused on the space shuttle and Space Station, NASA chief Michael Griffin has told the USA Today daily in a story published Wednesday.

"It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path," Griffin said. "We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can."

Asked whether the shuttle had been a mistake, Griffin told the daily: "My opinion is that it was. It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible."

Asked whether the space station had been a mistake, he said: "Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in."

Griffin announced September 19 that the United States will send four astronauts to the moon in 2018 in a major return to its pioneering manned missions into space.
Well, readers of this blog would have found out in excruciating detail exactly how screwed-up the Shuttle situation was in an article I wrote in August 2003. Over two years ago.

North Korean Central News Agency Insult Generator

Via Hak Mao, the Database of North Korean Propaganda provides a handy Insult generator so you don't actually have to listen to the DPRK's broadcasts.

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Recent Articles of Note

Apropos of a previous post and the comments therein, Victor Davis Hanson takes on the Reality.. and Sham.. of Diversity in Academe.

Arthur C. Clarke opines on Space Elevators :
As its most enthusiastic promoter, I am often asked when I think the first space elevator might be built. My answer has always been: about 50 years after everyone has stopped laughing. Maybe I should now revise it to 25 years.
Though personally I think a "Jacob's Ladder" of successive Rotorvators in ever higher orbits is more practicable.

Christopher Hitchens gives the "objectively pro-Fascist" Anti-War movement a serve :
There are only two serious attempts at swamp-draining currently under way. In Afghanistan and Iraq, agonizingly difficult efforts are in train to build roads, repair hospitals, hand out ballot papers, frame constitutions, encourage newspapers and satellite dishes, and generally evolve some healthy water in which civil-society fish may swim. But in each case, from within the swamp and across the borders, the most poisonous snakes and roaches are being recruited and paid to wreck the process and plunge people back into the ooze. How nice to have a "peace" movement that is either openly on the side of the vermin, or neutral as between them and the cleanup crew, and how delightful to have a press that refers to this partisanship, or this neutrality, as "progressive."

The BBC's science credentials are questioned - by the Guardian(!) :
...his is not a cultural issue, and this is not about alternative science versus western medicine. It is about the far simpler issue of a proper media organisation presenting made-up marketing rubbish as if it was scientific fact.
As opposed to made up political rubbish as anything other than the purest propaganda.

Tuesday, 27 September 2005


You are a

Social Liberal
(63% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(41% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

Personally, I consider myself well to the right of centre here in Australia, and self-identify as such. I suspect the test is callibrated for the US.

Monday, 26 September 2005

In the Mail

The following came in the mail today, after an exchange of e-mails with the publisher:
Please find enclosed your complimentary copy of Imperial Ambitions by Noam Chomsky.
Timely, urgent, and powerfully elucidating, this important volume of previously unpublished interviews conducted by award-winning radio journalist David Barsamian features Noam Chomsky discussing America's policies in an increasingly unstable world.
I hope you find Imperial Ambitions to be a stimulating and interesting read. If you mention it on your blog or site please let me know so that I can forward the author a link.

Holtzbrinck Publishers

Both sides of politics have a worrying trend: to turn into mutual admiration societies, where each side is so convinced of their own rectitude that they never read a conflicting opinion.

I have the highest of respect for Noam Chomsky's intellect, just as I have an abiding loathing for his role as apologist for Pol Pot when the Killing Fields were at the height of their operation - and worse, afterwards, even when it was obvious to everyone what had been going on.

I read P.J.O'Rourke for entertainment, and for affirmation that indeed, the Lefties are a bunch of clueless Moonbats. But I don't learn much from him, however much I enjoy his wit and insight.

I have higher hopes for Noam Chomsky's work, for one thing, my blood pressure has been a bit low, and could do with some raising. But the very best part is the last line of the publisher's letter. Chomsky's fault so far has been to see the many faults of the USA, some grievous, some trivial, and from them deduce that the US is the source of all evil, thus everything in opposition is automatically good. He's at his best when criticising the US for every pecadillo, no matter how minor (and some of them are rather worse than that). He's at his worst when ignoring the atrocities and excusing the mass murders of anyone remotely opposed to the USA.

Maybe, just maybe, he might consider an alternate viewpoint. One from the ass-end of the world, where we've suffered from US agricultural subsidies and, frankly, some considerable US arrogance (Of course Australians are known for their self-effacement, shyness and modesty). But where we don't unreservedly condemn Hiroshima, while excusing the Rape of Nanking. Where we make a distinction between sometimes grievous lapses from a state of grace, and utter and unalloyed Evil.

And I'll try to put aside my prejudice, and read the book with a critical but unbiased eye.

As for the publishers, they get it. They want to increase the book's sales, and they figure the best way of doing that is to get publicity. Any publicity. Anything to get a "buzz" going, a grass-roots debate. They recognise the power of the blogosphere here, it's one thing it really is good at. So they're not just sending it to the usual suspects who will give it uncritical aclaim, they're even sending a copy to a relatively small political blog on the other side of the planet.

Alas, it seems a lot on the Right refused the offer. Pity. Seriously, Noma Chomsky is a man of great intellect, we should be engaging with him, not ignoring him.

The enemy should never be ignored.

Any gems amongst the dross should be found, exposed, and highly prized (if only for their scarcity value). And any great piles of foetid, steaming used food should be exposed for what it is too. Assuming I find any. Bets, anyone?

The review will be appearing in early October. I'll try to make it Just, and maybe even a little Merciful, as I hope any reviewer would treat a work of my own. And monster of ego and arrogance that I am, evn I don't consider myself to be in Chomsky's intellectual league, no matter how muddle-headed and plain wrong he may be.

I'll try. Really I will.

Sunday, 25 September 2005

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Or perhaps poking fun at the "Intellectually challenged".

That was the feeling the Evil Pundit and I had when discussing Margot's webdiary over coffee, when he dropped by today at my invitation on his way back to Sydney.

It was inspired by this fabulous, fantastic post on Margot's Webdiary, and as remarked on by Tim Blair.

This piece of self-aggrandising pompous puffery was so egregiously conceited, it cried out to be commented on. So we, and many others did, confident that the air of self-congratulatory smugness amongst the comment "editors" there (for all comments have to be passed for Political Correctness) would be impervious to the most outrageous hyperbole.

We were right.

As proven Here
Margo that is easily the best post on Webdiary ever. I really mean that.

And here.
I can say without fear of contradiction that Margo's singlehanded pioneering of the 'peerless newspaper' is up there with Al Gore's invention of the Internet.

And here by Hugh Mann
This article is a work of genius that will stand as the quintessence of 21st Century journalism for generations to come.

Bravo, Margo!

And here
I'm sure Jack is right. Webdiary has become the journalistic equivalent of Mecca. Margo you have built and they will come to pay homage to you the messiah of political news and views for the masses.

Only thing left to do is discover the fountain of youth so that you and Webdiary may survive all millennia.

...and probably a few more instances by now.

And they swallow it. Uncritically. They are so far up themselves, they don't know whether to use a toothbrush or loo paper.

But even we found it vaguely shaming, that these people should be so unbelievably convinced of their own righteousness, that the possibility of sarcasm never crossed their mind. Too easy a target for Lampooning by far.

That Ace Parodist and butcher-of-sacred-cows par excellence, Iowahawk, made his own inimitable contribution, below :

Margot's Palmistry

But frankly, they do a far better job of Lampooning themselves than any outsider could hope to. Sad, really.

Friday, 23 September 2005

Return to the Moon in 2018?

Lunar Return Plan

From Space Daily :
Plans by the United States to return to manned space exploration, with the Moon as the first step in 2018, reflect a desire to maintain US leadership in the scientific world and, some day, to set foot on other planets in the solar system.

The US space agency on Monday unveiled a 104 billion-dollar project to send astronauts to the moon by 2018 with a design inspired by the Apollo program of the 1960s, which put the first men on the lunar surface.
The details sound somewhat like those in a hypothetical plan I mentioned back in February. Here it is :
The recent launch of the Ariane-5 ECA from the European Space Agency caused me to have another look at its performance. It compares very favourably to a Saturn 1B, (though not to a Saturn V Apollo Moon Rocket). ESA thus has the lifting capability, using 3 Ariane-5 ECA's, to send up the components for a crewed lunar mission. One to carry the lander, one to carry a "kicker" booster to take the mission to the moon and back, and a command/re-entry module for the crew.
Lest you think I've got some kind of "inside track" (apart from me being a sometime Rocket Scientist that is), well, there are only so many ways of doing things.

The NASA plan has several great merits: by using one or more (my bet is more) "Cargo Boosters" which don't have to be crew-rated, existing reliable hardware with known vibration proerties can be used. Maybe an Atlas V Heavy. Add a crew-rated booster with a relatively low capacity, maybe even a modified Soyuz booster, and you have minimum-cost and minimum-risk. Put the uncrewed vehicles in a proper parking orbit, and should one of the launches fail, you have quite a few months to send up a replacement.

Lest you think the idea of the US using a Russian-sourced booster is too outrageous, well, the common core of the later Atlas series already uses the Glushko RD-180 engine.

Such a plan could easily be upscaled to have multiple or larger "kickers" and more complex landers. Mars, anyone?

Thursday, 22 September 2005

Katrina The Gathering

This post will be a bit puzzling to anyone fortunate enough not to have been caught up in the Collectible Card Game that started the craze, Magic The Gathering

Click on the picture to see the rest.

Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Tolerance and Acceptance

I just had two interviews over opportunities to do a PhD.

One of them - the one I really wanted to do - was doing research on the prevalence of Transsexualism, as a precursor to more work on the effect of TS on career choice.

The other was in Computer Science.

So, I made my way to the department of Gender Studies, and had a very nice interview with a very warm-hearted and genuinely helpful doctor of Arts. Transsexuality? Perfectly accepted, whether "passing", "andro" or "Oh My God A Man In A Dress".

But.... if you weren't politically Ultra Progressive, if you didn't worship the ground Monbiot deigned to walk on, and took part in the morning Voodoo ceremony sticking pins in an effigy of Karl Rove... difficult.

Then when I said I was a pragmatist, scientist and engineer by nature, interested in quantitative analysis, hard numbers wherever they could be found, evidence and proof, the scientific method, and generally of The Other Side (Her words, not mine).... then she sadly suggested that I'd probably find things too difficult. It's not that I'd just be an outsider, after all, TS women are used to that from their girlhood, but that people with power over me would misuse that power to downgrade my marks, out of the highest of motives. Nothing I could do about it.

C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" is alive and well here. Maybe the political views could be tolerated, but not the Rationalist philosophy.

Diversity, tolerance and so on is practiced in the faculty of Arts. You are allowed to diverge, you can be Maoist, Trostkyite or Mainstream Marxist. You can be Post-Modernist or Radical Deconstructionist. You can vote Radical Green or Socialist Workers Party. They are Fanatically tolerant of GLBT, but say you're a liberal (ie conservative in Australia) voter and worse, a Kantian Realist, and you're anathema. I think a genuine Straight mainstream Christian would be burnt at the stake. Thank God I'm an atheist (with tendencies to commit Buddhism).

I must emphasise that the professor talking to me could not have been more supportive , helpful, and generally warmhearted. She did her best to give me the best and most honest guidance she could, and I'm in her debt. She even went out of her way to search for alternatives for me, looking up names and numbers, a wonderful human being. Given the situation, her advice was exactly right, aboveboard, and rigorously ethical and intellectually honest. I wish I could have studied under her.

Perhaps I'm overstating the case. But those were the Vibes I was getting (and now, I'm able to detect such things with high accuracy, a wonder in itself). I'd be an outsider, and an allergic reaction would occur. Nobody's fault, just the way things are.

Then I went for a similar interview over at the Computer Science Department. There, they didn't care what I looked like, certainly never considered my politics, but they did care about the quality of my thought. The professional "runs I had on the board". Also my worth as an individual human being, not a cypher or representative member of any particular category.

After the interview, we had sandwiches is the Refectory with some other Profs and Admin staff, and the head of the Department stopped in to say hello and give me the once over, as we swapped lies and gossiped.

It was like.... coming home. Where I belonged.

Yes, the situation in the Faculty of Arts is exactly the opposite of what should be happening. Universities and Arts departments in particular are supposed to encourage diversity, and debate. But the situation has been like this for some time.

Fifty years ago, the intolerance was against Blacks, and Jews, and Catholics, and especially those Un-American (or in our case Un-Australian) Commies.

Now it's still against Jews (Zionazi tools of oppression etc etc) but everyone else gets a free pass. Apart from those who aren't "Progressive". And those still propagating the Chauvinist Dead White Male oppressive notion of "objective truth". Oh yes, and Christians too, they're right out.

Now I'm agin "Creation Science", "Pyramidology", and other such superstition, but Jeez Louise, if my Rationalist views are so wonderful, they should be able to stand a little competition and debate. Even by Fundies. Even by Scientologists. Heck, even by Fundamentalist Muslim Flat-Earthers. Certainly I've learned a lot from those few Ultra-Leftists like Prof Norman Geras who are true to the core of Marxism, while being willing to abandon such idiocies as the "Labour Theory of Value" and "Dictatorship of the Proletariat". I still differ from Norm on methods, but we're in agreement on the goals. I'm a Right Wing Death B*tch, a NeoCon and proud of it, but my blog has links to some very, very "Progressive" sites that happen also to be Rational and Humane. And to some people far to the Right of me, some even Fundies, but who are decent people of goodwill and humanity, even if I disagree with them on just about everything.

But those whose views won't stand up to scrutiny or rational debate have to find refuge in exclusion. It was so with the late and unlamented White Supremacists. It's the same now for those who genuinely believe that Bush is quite literally the AntiChrist.

They live in a world where everyone shares the same worldview, where the only debate consists of everyone trying to prove that they are "More Progressive than thou".

Post-Modernist philosophy sees everything as a social construct. Although there's an element of truth in this, and as someone with Buddhist tendencies, I can see that the "world as illusion" may be true at the core, everything is seen purely in terms of a personal power struggle.

The Theory of Gravity is just a male oppression foisted on the general populace in accordance with their sterile conservative world-view, and if we all wished really hard Tinkerbell would come back to life and we all could fly.

That we can't just proves that the Zionist Conspiracy that actually rules the world is too powerful at the moment.

Thus any dissent from the Democratic Majority (who are instructed by Authority what to think) has to be a personal attack, a power grab out of the basest of motives, any questioning of existing dogma is not just Heresy, but actually a manifestation of Evil. There is no room for Diversity, unless it challenges the Societal Status Quo, whereupon it becomes compulsory.

I wouldn't mind that, the toddlers can go play in their own sandbox as long as it doesn't interfere with the grownups who are trying not just to keep the world running, but understand it, and search for meaning behind it. But the trouble is, these people have carved up branches of knowledge and laid claim to them, excluding outsiders. It's because I'm not some emotionless, spiritually bereft robot that I'm complaining. Poetry, Spirituality, Sociology and "What it means to be Transsexual" are far too important issues to be assigned to those who are Anti-rational and engaged in nothing but power games.

There are some who actually do good work, despite that environment. But you have to be willing to conceal your inner self until you've accreted enough power to be invulnerable. Well, I'm sick of concealing myself. That's a price too high for me to pay, no matter what good might come out of it. "I've done my time in Hell". I'll try to be diplomatic, but I won't go along with The Majority just because to stand out is to get trodden down. My decision, and I can't complain about it. But I won't stay silent and pretend the situation doesn't exist, either.

But anyone who's ever met me knows that. Some things don't change.

Never mind, as they say in the classics, (and as the Facial Feminisation surgeon Dr Ousterhaut has proven when confronted with some very rough raw material), "This too shall Pass."

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Monday, 19 September 2005

Piracy, and Global Warming

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, ye scurvy swabs.

But these days, Pirates talk in Swahili, or Bahasi Indonesian, or Mandarin....

From the ONI WORLDWIDE THREAT TO SHIPPING for September 15th :
MALAYSIA: General cargo vessel (PAULIJING) was stormed by Malaysian marine police on 23 Aug under suspicion of being the vessel (NATRIS), which was reportedly hijacked on 17 Nov 2003 while off Batam Island, Indonesia. The police arrested the crew of 20 Chinese nationals and detained the vessel after a 17 hour pursuit, in which the captain of the (PAULIJING) ignored the sirens and loudspeaker hails from the police, and maintained his original course at a speed of 10 kts. At 0320 local time, after the vessel was out of heavy shipping traffic, Malaysian special operations and special marine unit forces boarded and took control of the ship with no resistance. The seizure occurred after a tip from the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center, which had been tracing the vessel for five to six months, with the owner preferring to have the vessel apprehend while in Malaysian waters.
Per 30 Aug reporting, the Belize Registry, under which the (PAULIJING) is flagged, says it followed international regulations to prevent “phantom ships” when it registered the vessel. The current owner stated the vessel was bought legitimately and denies any wrongdoing. Additionally, records show that port state inspections in India and China in 2003 and 2004 failed to notice that the ship was the missing vessel (NATRIS). Maritime officials did not specifically criticize the Belize Registry; however, they expressed a general concern that a vessel, which had been reported stolen, could be legally registered and carry on trading.

There is reported active violence against shipping, a credible threat to shipping, or the potential to develop into a direct threat to the safety of shipping in the following areas:
A. NORTH AMERICA: No current incidents to report.
1. JAMAICA: An unidentified tanker was boarded 08 Sep at 2235 UTC while moored to a buoy in position 17:52.8N, 077:06.2W, Old Port Harbor. Four robbers, armed with knives and hooks, were detected onboard the vessel by the alert crew. Crew raised alarm and robbers escaped empty handed in an unlit speedboat. Harbor authorities were informed (IMB).
2. JAMAICA: An unidentified bulk carrier reported attempted boarding 25 Aug at 0225 UTC while anchored in position 17:48.5N, 077:06.5W, Rocky Point anchorage. Three persons in an unlit speedboat attempted to board the vessel via anchor chain. Alert duty crew raised alarm and boarding was averted (IMB).
C. SOUTH AMERICA: No current incidents to report.
D. ATLANTIC OCEAN AREA: No current incidents to report.
E. NORTHERN EUROPE-BALTIC: No current incidents to report.
1. TURKEY: On 11 Aug, Turkish courts charged a suspected terrorist with plotting to use a speedboat packed with explosives to attack Israeli cruise ships. Reports quote the suspected terrorist, a Syrian national, as saying “I wanted to attack Israeli cruise ships in the open seas without harming Turkish civilians. I have no regrets.” On 05 Aug, Israel’s transport ministry diverted four Israeli cruise ships bound for Alanya, Turkey, after Turkish Police discovered the alleged plot while investigating a suspicious apartment fire. The apartment fire, located in Antalya, Turkey, aroused suspicions after a sharp smell of chemicals began spreading in the vicinity of the fire. Police said they found incriminating evidence, including the suspect’s passport. As a result of the recent Turkish anti-terror efforts, the Israeli Counter Terrorism Bureau downgraded its Turkey terror warning (LM, FP, REUTERS).
1. NIGERIA: An unidentified container ship was boarded 02 Sep at 0200 UTC while drifting in position 06:05N, 003:24E, 19 nm off Lagos. Four robbers in a wooden boat, armed with long knives, boarded the vessel. Alarm was raised, crew mustered, and robbers escaped (IMB).
2. NIGERIA: An unidentified tanker was boarded 25 Aug at 0140 UTC while undergoing STS operations in position 06:18N, 003:22E, off Lagos. Three robbers, armed with long knives, threatened duty crew, stole ship’s stores, and escaped in a
speedboat (IMB).
3. NIGERIA: An unidentified general cargo ship was boarded 22 Aug at 0245 UTC while anchored in location 06:20.7N, 003:20.3E, Lagos anchorage, Nigeria. Two robbers boarded the vessel and tried to assault duty a/b. He managed to raise alarm and crew mustered.
Robbers stole ship’s stores and broke seals of two containers before escaping (IMB).
1.SOMALIA: An unidentified fishing vessel was reportedly hijacked 16 Aug while fishing off the Somali coast, south of Kismayo. The fishing vessel, reportedly owned by a Chinese company, was seized by six unidentified gunmen as it was fishing inside Somali territorial waters. Abdullahi Sheikh Fartag, spokesmen for the Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) militia, which controls the main southern port of Kismayo, condemns this action.
He warned that if the vessel is not released unconditionally, his militia will attack the hijackers, and rescue the crew. A Kismayo journalist reported witnessing several gunmen unloading a cargo of fish, lobster and shark fins 60 km south of Kismayo, near
Koyame. The journalist reports the gunmen stated the cargo was from a fishing vessel their colleagues are holding along with its 10 “Indochinese” crewmembers. On 26 Aug, Taiwan reported that three deep sea fishing vessels were hijacked off the port of
Kismayo and their crews held hostage on 16 Aug. ONI Note: Given the similar date and location, the Chinese fishing vessel hijacking report and the three Taiwanese fishing vessel hijacking report are likely interrelated. Further reporting from 06 Sep indicates the hijackers have lowered their ransom demands from $500,000 per vessel down to $50,000 per vessel. Other reports out of Taiwan and the Philippines state the hijacked vessel’s names are (ZHONG I 218), (CHENG QING FENG), and (SHIN LIAN FA 36). A total of 48 hostages are reported held, three Taiwanese captains and 45 crewmembers whose nationalities include Indonesian, Chinese, and Filipino. (LM, REUTERS, IMB,
2. SOMALIA: The general cargo ship (SEMLOW) was hijacked 26 Jun while underway in position 04:47.6N, 048:12.0E, off Hobyo.
Hijackers are demanding $500,000 to free the vessel and ten crewmen. The vessel was under charter of the UN World Food Program (WFP) and is carrying 850 MT of rice, donated by Japan and Germany, destined for Bossaso, Somalia. On 12 Jul, the UN WFP
director warned the pirates that if the vessel, crew, and cargo were not released within 48 hours, then the WFP would blacklist the area of Haradheere and Hobyo for the next 10 years. Mohamed Abdi Hassan/Afweyne, the leader of the group holding the vessel, denied they were demanding ransom but rather simply guarding the seas against
illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste, and impounded the vessel because of improper documentation. Per 01 Aug reporting, the hijackers said they were going to release the eight Kenyan crewmembers, but were going to keep the Sri Lankan master and Tanzanian crewmember in captivity. Per 10 Aug reporting, the pirates have failed to release the vessel and crew as previously negotiated, and it is feared the talks have broken down. As part of the negotiations, the vessel was to be allowed to return to a Somali port by Aug 9th, and the rice onboard to be distributed throughout the central region, vice its intended destination to the north. Per 17 Aug reporting, the hijackers are unloading the rice themselves for local distribution/sale in the town of Haradheere.
As a result, it is reported the price of rice had dropped sharply and some businessmen in Mogadishu are sending lorries up to purchase the cheap rice. Muhammad Shaykh Ali, the self proclaimed district commissioner of Haradheere, denies any rice has been offloaded and sold. The UN/WFP believes the majority of the rice is intact and unsold per 19 Aug reporting. On 23 Aug, Muhammad Shaikh Ali announced that the crew from the (SEMLOW) will be prosecuted for illegally entering Somali waters but neglected to neither provide details of the law nor explain why the crew would be tried under it. Both Ali and Afweyne explained the vessel’s owners and the WFP are wasting their time by using intermediaries with no power to release the ship, referring to the fledgling transitional federal government. A Kenyan press report stated the hijackers placed a new ransom demand of only $100,000 US dollars on 04 Sep. Vessel was reportedly released 14 Sep and is in route to the port of Elmaan, just north of Mogadishu. As part of the negotiation, the rice will be handed over to the Somali Transitional Federal Government to be distributed to communities in central regions of Somalia. ONI NOTE: This is likely the same militia group responsible for the attempted boarding of M/V (TIMBUCK) and successful hijacking of a LPG tanker back in April (see 20 Apr ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping report paragraphs 5.H.3 and 5.H.4). After 18 days of captivity, the LPG tanker and crew were released unharmed upon receipt of ransom payment. All vessels should heed the IMB warning to stay as far away as practical from the eastern coast of Somalia, particularly in the area off Haradheere and Hobyo. (IMB, REUTERS, BBC, LM, ONI, LL).
3. INDIA: An unidentified container ship was boarded 06 Sep at 2050 local time while berthed at Cochin. Several robbers boarded the vessel and stole ship’s stores and escaped. Local authorities were informed (IMB).
4. BAY OF BENGAL: General cargo ship (EUGENIA P) reported attempted boarding 25 Aug, 1300 local time while underway in position 21:36N, 091:19E, 30 nm off the coast of SE Bangladesh.
Several persons in two fishing boats approached the vessel in an attempt to board. Crew raised alarm, activated fire hoses, and fired one rocket flare. Master took evasive maneuvers and after 35 minutes, boats moved away. Master reported the fishing vessels, as well as additional vessels, trailed his ship until dusk, after
which the master was able to lose the pursuers under the cover of darkness (IMB, Operator).
5. BANGLADESH: Tug boarded 25 Aug at 0100 local time while underway near Chittagong anchorage. Seven robbers, armed with long knives and jungle bolos, stole stores and escaped. Later, the Coast Guard arrived for investigation (IMB).
1. SOUTHERN RED SEA: An unidentified bulk carrier thwarted an attempted boarding 31 Aug at 0130 local time while underway in position 15:01N, 041:53E, about 150 miles NW of Bab El Mandeb TSS.
Pirates attempted to board a bulk carrier underway from starboard side. Master took evasive maneuvers; crew mustered, directed searchlights, and activated fire hoses. Pirates then tried to board from the stern, but aborted attempt at 0215 local time
2. JORDAN: Three Katyusha rockets fired 19 Aug from the port of Aqaba. One rocket narrowly missed the (USS ASHLAND) and hit a dockside warehouse. One rocket hit a military hospital, and the other one hit near an airport in Eilat, Islrael. One Jordanian soldier died and one Jordanian soldier was injured in the attack.
On 22 Aug, Jordanian security forces announced the arrest of a Syrian national, residing in Amman, who is believed to be a prime suspect for masterminding the attack (BBC REUTERS).
1. IRAQ: An unidentified LPG tanker was boarded, robbed 27 Aug at 0230 local time while anchored in position 29:43.7N, 048:39.1E, by buoy no. 3 and 5, Khawr Abd Allah. Three robbers, armed with machine guns and steel bars, smashed the bridge window and held second officer and master at gunpoint. They fired a shot at the master, narrowly missing his shoulder, and forced him to open the safe. Robbers took the cash, threatened the chief engineer, and escaped at 0315 local time, stealing the ship’s stores too. Master reported incident to coalition forces who asked him for details on the attack. Master advised ships not to anchor in this area during night hours (IMB).
2. IRAQ: General cargo ship (CEY PIONEER) was boarded 21 Aug at 1945 UTC while anchored in position 29:43.6N, 048:39.3E, Um Qasr-Khawr Abd Allah Channel while awaiting berthing. Two boats slowly approached the vessel from the port side. Three watchmen and the officer on watch started flashing search light and torch lights at the approaching vessels. Meanwhile, four robbers armed with machine guns and knives, boarded unnoticed from the port side and overpowered the watchmen. Robbers gathered up a total of seven crewmembers and forced them into the master’s cabin at gunpoint.
By this time, the master had escaped down to the engine room.
Robbers assaulted the hostages and threatened them with guns and knives and ordered them to open the safe. As none of the hostages knew the combination, the robbers forced the crew to offload the safe onto their boat. The robbers escaped in a 2 m dark green speedboat at 2020 UTC (IMB).
1. INDONESIA: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 12 Sep at 0330 local time while anchored in position 03:17S, 116:23E, Pulau Laut anchorage. Four robbers broke open bosun store and stole ship’s stores and escaped (IMB).
2. INDONESIA: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 11 Sep at 0415 local time while at anchor near Tg. Mangkok, Sebuku Island. Robbers, armed with long knives, held the crewman on duty and stole ship’s stores (IMB).
3. INDONESIA: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 29 Jul at Jakarta anchorage (reported 13 Sep). Alert crew sounded alarm after detecting for robbers onboard. Robbers escaped empty handed (IMB).
4. INDONESIA: An unidentified tug was fired upon 19 Aug at 2030 local time while underway in position 02:37.1N, 108:57.0E, off Natuna islands. Pirates in a fishing vessel, and armed with guns, approached the tug as it was towing a barge. Gunfire caused damage to navigation equipment and accommodations. Master cast off the barge, took evasive maneuvers, and proceeded to Singapore.
No injuries to crew. August 25 reporting indicates the Indonesian Navy has rendered its assistance to help recover the barge of scrap metal (IMB, LL).
5. INDONESIA: Tug (ZARA) and barge (ZARA 3) hijacked 16 Aug at 0200 local time while underway in approximate location 01N, 104E. Pirate threw one crewmember overboard, who was later rescued by a nearby craft. He reached shore and reported the incident to naval authorities in Tg. Pinang. Per 22 Aug reporting,the barge was transporting oil platform spare parts and a joint search operation between the Malaysian Marine Police and Indonesian Navy is underway. Sources said the ship owner in Sibu has yet to receive a ransom demand (IMB, LL, REUTERS)
6. PHILIPPINES: Ferry (DONA RAMONAON) experienced an explosion 28 Aug while in the port of Lamitan on Basilan Island. A homemade device was reportedly placed next to liquefied petroleum gas tanks. The bomb caused a fireball that injured both passengers and soldiers with cuts and burns. Thirty injuries were reported, with three being severe. Per 30 Aug reporting, local officials have blamed the Abu Sayaaf terrorist group for the attack (LL, REUTERS).
7. VIETNAM: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 19 Aug at 2000 local time while moored to a buoy at Ho Chi Minh City port (reported 13 Sep). Two robbers, armed with knives and swords, boarded the vessel. One of the robbers tried to attack duty crewman, who then ran away and raised the alarm. Crew mustered and robbers jumped overboard, escaping with ship’s stores. Police investigated the following morning (IMB).
8. VIETNAM: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 04 Aug while moored to a buoy at Ho Chi Minh City port (reported 13 Sep).
Robbers broke store locks and stole ship’s stores (IMB).
9. VIETNAM: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 31 Jul at 1900 local time while moored to buoy no. 39 (reported 13 Sep).
Four robbers, armed with long knives, boarded the vessel. Duty officer and crew gave chase after detecting the trespassers.
Robbers escaped with ship’s stores in a small boat. Port control informed (IMB).
10. VIETNAM: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 10 Jul at 0200 local time while moored to a buoy at Ho Chi Minh City port (reported 13 Sep). Two robbers boarded the vessel during cargo operations with barges alongside. They broke open forepeak store and stole ship’s stores. Duty officer raised the alarm and robbers escaped (IMB).
1. CHINA: an unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 30 Jul while at Xingang port. Robbers boarded the vessel during cargo operations and stole ship’s equipment (IMB).

Incidentally, this is a complete refutation of the Flying Spaghetti Monsterism Theory of ye Global Warming. Contrary to their chart (below), there are far more Pirates on the Seven Seas than ever before.


As to why I'm not doing the "Arr" bit, well, I doubt Anne Bonney, Mary Reade or any of their ilk ever said "Arr" in their lives. But I will say "Ni Hao Wo-duh Ming T'zih Zoe" just as Ching Shih might have said. Arr. (Blast! just slipped out!)

Sunday, 18 September 2005

A Belfry of Moonbats

From the site Democratic Underground:
Moonbat One :
Yesterday I was pondering this question with a Unitarian minister.

We were pondering the sense of evil that seems instilled in the actions to control New Orleans, and then moved to talk about the battle between good and evil that is taking place as Bushco fronts for forces that seek dominion and oppression.

I showed her information about the founding of Skull and Bones, and then we really were struck by the enormity of the struggle. She said that she was having to re-assess her beliefs on the nature of evil in human form. She hadn't believed in Satan. Now she's not sure.

Moonbat Two :
It's obvious, it's got to be, it can ONLY be, that a Dark force constantly protects the Bush bastard. All of the crap he's pulled, all of the destruction that he's caused...and yet NOTHING touches him.

So I can only think that a dark force keeps him safe, because Junior's from the dark side.

Anything else just seems to defy all logic, like you said, if somebody would have done HALF of what Junior's done they'd have been tarred and feathered a long time ago.

Moonbat Two again :
You're correct. His power also comes from him being basically a street thug and having countless street thugs surrounding him, and they're incredibly successful at threatening and intimidating anyone that gets in the Bush bastard's way.

You know, a million people with pitchforks could turn up at the WH, what are they going to do? The Bush bastard would bring the army and Blackwater out onto them.

It's very frustrating, he needs to be struck down, he should be struck down he's blasphemed enough...he needs to be stopped, because like the true Sociopath-Psychopath that he is, he's a complete menace to all decent society.
"He Needs to be struck down..." hmm, I think the author of that might just get a little attention from the US Secret Service. They're the people who try to nip assassination attempts in the bud.

Or maybe the US should be invaded by some outside force to get rid of him. Moonbat Two again :
That is my ULTIMATE dream. I feel that the ONLY hope to get rid of these MONSTERS is with "outside" intervention shall we call it. It'll have to happen at some point, because the world, 90% of the WORLD hates these MONSTERS and they see them for WHAT they ARE, and that's a danger to ALL forms of life on the planet.

But most of them definitely prefer the Antichrist meme. Moonbat Three :
he's the antichrist....or at least he's holding a place for the antichrist until he gets here.

I used to say this in I'm not so sure its a joke.
Though there may be hope for this one, his descent into total Bush Derangement Syndrome isn't complete. But talking about Moonbat Two...
I NEVER used to believe in that stuff...until Junior came along

He's worshipped like Jesus Christ himself, he's held up as a great Christian. Yet EVERYTHING Junior does is the opposite of what Christianity is about...can ANYBODY name ONE Christian thing that this bastard has done?

Also, the Bible says not to worship False Idols. And in the last book of the Bible it says that the Beast brings about "floods and disease amongst the people and the animals"...many things prior to what has happened in New Orleans fell into place between 2002-2004 and those things made me start thinking that PERHAPS there is something to this Anti-Christ stuff afterall...and I'm an agnostic as well.

The Anti-Christ is known as "the Great Deceiver" he has a tongue that "blasphemes and speaks great lies" he turns "man against his brother" he brings about "famine and disease" and he starts a 27 year war, the worst most bloody war the world has EVER seen.

For a start, if one were to want to start a 27 year war, then a war with the Muslim world would be it, because there's billions of Muslims and unlike others wars *, they're happy to die in the form of suicide that war could be ENDLESS.
And he did it with his diabolical Time Machine too, travelling all the way back to 1993 and the WTC bombings....

But others at least are more sane. For example, the Sainted Mother Sheehan, Icon of the US Left, who recently said :
If George Bush truly listened to God and read the words of the Christ, Iraq and the devastation in New Orleans would have never happened.
George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power.
Occupied New Orleans. Right. And the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina wouldn't have happened if George Bush had TRULY BELIEVED.

Well it said so on Michael Moore's site, so it must be true.


What's more boring than a magazine consisting of nothing more than book reviews? An article reviewing said magazine.

Nonetheless... here it is.

Democratiya is, as I said, a collection of book reviews, and from a far left viewpoint. But unlike most of its ilk, it dares to truly dissent from the usual fashionable nonsense.

From one article by Harry Hatchett :
Turn to the Politics section of a large bookshop in London and you will have no trouble finding 'exposes' of the post-September 11 world, and the Iraq war in particular. Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Michael Moore and Tariq Ali dominate the shelves, each offering a variation on the same theme. And for the past three years the op-ed pages of western newspapers, particularly those of liberal bent, have been home to thousands of columns opposing the war. If one relied only on the traditional media for intellectual stimulation then a very simple political division emerges between a left opposed to the armed removal of the Saddam Hussein regime and a right who supported George W Bush's invasion and occupation policy. No-one could be blamed for presuming that for someone to identify themselves as a liberal or a socialist was to identify themselves as anti-war.
True enough, as many on the right have pointed out. The Left is led by objectively pro-Fascist Moonbats these days.
...A Matter of Principle brings together 23 voices of critical support for the liberation of Iraq from both sides of the Atlantic. The editor, Thomas Cushman, Professor of Sociology at Wellesley and Editor of The Journal of Human Rights, has provided evidence to the broader intellectual community that despite the dominance of the liberal media by anti-war opinion, there have always been (at least) two sides to the argument. For those on the left who have wondered, perhaps in private desperation, if there was anyone on their side, the book is proof that an anti-tyranny and pro-democracy left still exists.

But Cushman's collection is not a manifesto of this pro-war left and nor is it a 'reader' designed to arm young supporters with crib notes for student union argument. In truth, the pro-liberation left is not a movement, or a party, and it is debatable whether it can even be referred to as a collective. A Matter of Principle is rather a detailed snapshot of the state of the evolving discussion within multiplex pro-liberation left.
For "evolving discussion" read "resistance". These are the voices that have dared to spark a Civil War within the Left, a war for the Left's soul and conscience. These people actually believe the usual guff about "Freedom", and "Democracy", and "Human Rights" that all sides of the political debate espouse, but few actually do anything to advance.

Should they become ascendant, then even Right Wing Death B*tches like me may start to consider that some of the other Leftist claptrap that they're saying might actually contain a germ of truth. Because they will have shown their credentials, and their courage, in speaking truth to Power: the Power that rules the Leftist Roost today. We'll have to examine our own beliefs with a critical eye, and make sure that we too have actually done something useful, and not just spouted platitudinous phrases along with the majority.

Just a matter of Individual Taste

From the AFP via the ABC :
Taste is in the brain of the beholder and varies, sometimes dramatically, from one person to the next, according to one of the world's leading sensory neurobiologists.

"No two people will ever smell the same thing in the same way," Patrick MacLeod, the president of the Institute of Taste and former director of the sensory neurobiology laboratory at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, said.

"When we perceive an odours, the exact nature of the sensation that is produced depends as much on the observer as the object."

Vision, hearing and tactile perception are far more uniform across the species, meaning that human beings see, hear and touch more or less the same things.

But when it comes to odours and taste, one man's wine-of-the-gods can be another man's plonk.

Mr MacLeod says this and other recent findings in sensory neurobiology up-end a lot of received wisdom and a fair amount of established science.

They also carry profound implications for a host of consumer-oriented industries ranging from food and wine to perfumes and household products.

The search for a taste or odours that will please everyone, if Mr MacLeod is right, would seem doomed from the start.

"Almost everything we have done up to now in the study of taste has been called into question. We have to start over," he said.

Several factors account for diversity in the human sense of smell.

The human genome contains 347 olfactory genes - fully 1 per cent of the total - while there are only four, for example, for vision.

At least half of those genes are polymorphous, meaning that "they have a great potential of variation among themselves," Mr MacLeod says.
Mr MacLeod's research is chock-full of counter-intuitive tidbits, beginning with the fact that homo sapiens do have an excellent sense of smell.

"The human sensory system for odours has attained maximum sensitivity," he said.

"A single molecule can provoke a response in a single cell that is then transmitted to the brain.

"As the molecule is the smallest unit possible, there can be no improvement."

Mr MacLeod has also shown that teeth provide the brain nearly half of the information it receives related to taste, and that the nose collects most of the rest - via the mouth.

The tongue is rather useless.
Oh, I don't know about that... I can think of several highly recreational uses for that particular part of the anatomy.

One of the first and most dramatic changes I noticed during my little metabolic odyssey to parts unknown (or at least, unexplored by me), was in my sense of smell.

Suddenly, quite literally overnight, the aromatherapy counter at the local supermarket became, if not exactly a place of pilgramage, a really nice place to be around. Before, I'd often walked past, and unless I noticed the sign saying "armoatherapy products", it might as well have contained cornflakes. Now though, I just have to stop, and gently appreciate it.

On the other hand, the cleaning aisle is best ventured through while wearing a gasmask. It really is that bad.

It was this more than anything else that made me realise that the changes that were happening were not just to my body, but to my brain. Like every other change, there was nothing I could do about it, I just had to accept it. Like every other change, it would have been nice to have had some control over it, or some say in the matter, and really quite terrifying that I didn't. But, like every other change, it was objectively an improvement, one I would have gladly chosen - had I been given the choice.

(Hat Tip - The Evil Pundit of Doom)

Saturday, 17 September 2005


Woke up at 4am for a 5am start - driving to Sydney for a 0915 appointment with a Facial feminisation surgical specialist from San Francisco who just happens to be in the area. My research shows he's the best in the world, and I couldn't let such an opportunity for a, er, face-to-face consultation go by.

(Note to Americans - Canberra and Sydney may be close together on the map, but Australia is the same size as the USA, and the two cities are actually 300 km apart. About 200 miles in your terms)

Home at 3pm, then a few hours of playing with Andrew, then a bath, then a TS social function that in some ways was a bit of a wake for the 4 TS women who suicided in Melbourne over the last week. I'm the only one who cried though, that's because I'm new to all this. Others were just as upset, just used to this kind of thing. I've read that about 50% of people attempting transition fail in this way, simply because of unbearable social ostracism. Sometimes by their family, sometimes just society at large.

Did I ever mention that transition is hard? I've had it far easier than anyone I know, but it's still the hardest thing I've ever done. OK, also the most fulfilling, and in some ways the most fun. Just Not Easy.

Anyway, too shattered to post very much, off to bed for me, and back with the pithy comments later. And two very good blogs to add to the blogroll... here's a quote from one of them :
Occasionally, something goes right, really right. Then all members of the lab gather round, squish into the viewing angle of someone's screen, and say in unison "Ooh, pretty". But that's not too frequent. More often, it takes weeks of prying and testing for Mother Nature to reveal one of her secrets. Once she does, it is my job to not believe it, until I've tested every possible other option.

Friday, 16 September 2005

Brain May Still Be Evolving

Evolution of the Female Brain
(Click to enlarge)

From the New York Times :
Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, leading to the surprising suggestion that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution.

The discovery adds weight to the view that human evolution is still a work in progress...
No Kidding?
The new finding, reported in today's issue of Science by Bruce T. Lahn of the University of Chicago, and colleagues, could raise controversy because of the genes' role in determining brain size. New versions of the genes, or alleles as geneticists call them, appear to have spread because they enhanced brain function in some way, the report suggests, and they are more common in some populations than others.
The Chicago researchers began their study with two genes, known as microcephalin and ASPM, that came to light because they are disabled in a disease called microcephaly. People with the condition are born with a brain much smaller than usual, often with a substantial shrinkage of the cerebral cortex, that seems to be a throwback to when the human brain was a fraction of its present size.
They report that with microcephalin, a new allele arose about 37,000 years ago, although it could have appeared as early as 60,000 or as late as 14,000 years ago. About 70 percent of people in most European and East Asian populations carry this allele of the gene, but it is much rarer in most sub-Saharan Africans.

With the other gene, ASPM, a new allele emerged 14,100 to 500 years ago, the researchers favoring a midway date of 5,800 years. The allele has attained a frequency of about 50 percent in populations of the Middle East and Europe, is less common in East Asia, and is found at low frequency in some sub-Saharan Africa peoples.

The Chicago team suggests that the new microcephalin allele may have arisen in Eurasia or as the first modern humans emigrated from Africa some 50,000 years ago. They note that the ASPM allele emerged about the same time as the spread of agriculture in the Middle East 10,000 years ago and the emergence of the civilizations of the Middle East some 5,000 years ago, but say that any connection is not yet clear.

Dr. Lahn said there might be a fair number of genes that affect the size of the brain, each making a small difference yet one that can be acted on by natural selection. "It's likely that different populations would have a different makeup of these genes, so it may all come out in the wash," he said. In other words, East Asians and Africans probably have other brain-enhancing alleles, not yet discovered, that have spread to high frequency in their populations.
There is so much about our species that we haven't discovered yet.

Meanwhile this particular Brain appears to be doing her own evolving, in a somewhat unusual but highly enjoyable fashion.

Thursday, 15 September 2005

An Amazing Triplet

Triplet, before, during, after

At the risk of boring people to tears with narcissistic photos, here's one that shows a triplet of views, before, during, and after transition. Its value is that it illustrates graphically the scope and pace of the change. (Click on it to enlarge)

The leftmost photo (which has appeared on the blog before) is of Alan at his graduation, in April 2004. It's a reasonable representation of what I used to look like immediately before the weirdness happened. It's what I looked like until the beginning of May 2005.

The centre photo was taken towards the end of June 2005. This was after the first mad month, where changes happened at such a inexplicably rapid pace, and with no apparent cause. It illustrates just how much my shape had changed, with dramatic weight loss and re-distribution of body fat to the hips. The thickening of head hair, and reduction of skin and hair oil content can be seen too. What can't be seen is the change in eye colour, the skin softness, the skin sensitivity, the increased nasal acuity, the psychological changes... Note that this is before I had my first laser treatment, so there's the perennial 5 O'clock shadow still there. It's about halfway from the time that the first symptoms appeared, and the time I commenced Hormone Therapy. Three weeks of rapid change, two weeks of normal hormonal change, and with another 6 weeks of hormonal change to come before any therapy or outside intervention. All my metabolism's own work.

The right photo was taken on 11th September 2005, after 5 weeks of HRT, and 6 weeks of "going fulltime" with a female appearance. Again, you've seen it all before in previous posts.

Looking at it with the benefit of hindsight... I have to wonder how I ever managed to cope. Not with the change from the middle to the right, which was over 11 weeks. But with the change from the left to the middle, which was over 5, and most of that within the first 3.

Still got an awfully long way to go, but objectively speaking, I really have come a long way.

Watch the Cross in the Middle...

Another optical illusion, where the brain manufactures an image that isn't really there.

Concentrate your mind on the cross in the middle, and soon you will see a rotating green spot appear - and at least some of the purple spots fade out of existence, often with green after-images.

Hat Tip, to the redoubtable and always readable Ninme

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

Karl Rove's Secret Weapon

From the Age :
Controversial American documentary maker Michael Moore is considering making a movie about the US government's lapses that surrounded Hurricane Katrina.

The MSNBC website quoted a source close to Moore as saying that the issue "has all the elements that made Fahrenheit 911 such a powerful film ... the political outrage, the human suffering and the incredible footage".

"There is much to be said and done about the manmade annihilation of New Orleans, caused NOT by a hurricane but by the very specific decisions made by the Bush administration in the past four and a half years," he wrote.

"Do not listen to anyone who says we can discuss all this later. No, we can't.

"Our country is in an immediate state of vulnerability.

"More hurricanes, wars, and other disasters are on the way, and a lazy bunch of self-satisfied lunatics are still running the show."
And it's All Bush's Fault! He personally destroyed New Orleans because... because... well, just Because!

Given the stunning success of Fahrenheit 9/11 in alienating the middle ground, such overblown and fact-free propaganda will no doubt be worth a few percentage points to the Republicans.

For a simplistic but still reasonably accurate alternate view, see LiberalScum. Personally I've always seen Liberal Idiotarians more as the Dregs myself... it's the Paleocon Idiotarians are the Scum.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Yet Another New Icon

ZoeOK, so I'm narcissistic. It's just that it really is the most accurate (and least grainy) pic of me that exists at the moment. Slightly gamma corrected and cropped.

That's the photo, not me, my gender correction and cropping will be some time in the future. I hope to look rather better by then, too.

Monday, 12 September 2005

An Alternate View of the World

Rarely, I get cogent, courteous e-mails from people whose views differ markedly from my own. My comments policy is to allow comments via e-mail, and to publish any I think worthwhile, no matter whether I agree with them or not. Here's a recent one, from reader Brandon Freels :

The city transit system was being used for evacuation because
those busses could transport more people and had air conditioning.
Also, commercial transport stopped entering and leaving the city as
of the Saturday before. That means no plane or train or bus would
take you out of the city. After the flood, those school busses were of
little use since they and the roads were mostly underwater, just as
the food in submerged groceries was ruined.

AND it being the end of the month, many of the poor were living
from paycheck to paycheck, and many of those people wanted to
leave and their employers said "If you leave, you will not come back
to a job." Having lived in areas of the USA where you can get
tornadoes and earthquakes, if you ran away every time they
announced a disaster, you would never spend any time at home. If
they left and this didn't happen, there goes their security.

As a quick reminder, this flooding occurred not because of Katrina
itself. There were even reports that New Orleans had survived the
hurricane. However, Katrina caused the underfunded levees to
break and that is where the real disaster lies. The Bush Crime
Family with their Homeland Security and Patriot Act have gutted
many of the civil programs to help the American people for their
illegal war in Iraq.

Everything that they do can be summed up as follows: The Bush
Crime Family and Republicans care more about things and
possessions than they do people.


Sunday, 11 September 2005

A Zoe in her Lair

The DL photo of me is very flattering, and not really a truthful representation of what I really look like. So here's a "warts and all" picture of a Zoe in her lair.

A Zoe in her lair

Not a pretty sight. Yet. But for a true contrast, here's a picture of Alan at his graduation (Master of Information Technology with Distinction). Oh My God.... I really used to look like that....

Alan at his MInfoTech Graduation


We Will Never Forget

A 5.3 Mb Audio File

Hat Tip : Courtney, the audio engineer who produced it right after the events of that terrible day.

Others have different views.

We have a long way to go before winning this war.

Saturday, 10 September 2005

Six Five Four Degrees of Separation

Updating the previous post about HSV Swift, here is a report, with pictures, from her XO (Executive Officer) of what they found at the mouth of the Mississippi.
As we headed up further we started to see the outer villages. The villages were built in between levies. One levy held back the Mississippi, the other a lake or floodable land. Then in some cases, like New Orleans, portions of the villages are below sea level. During normal rain they just pump out the water. In this case the pumps could not keep up and were knocked out.

Entire villages were lost along with the parish seat.

Industrial loading facilities were severely damaged. A giant gantry crane used to ship coal into barges had fallen crashing into other structures.

Houses, offices, garages and other structures were gone, only their foundations remaining to mark where they were. Small boats were broken, some sitting on a neighbor's lawn, others broken into kindling. There were areas strewn with so much rubble that you could not tell what ever had been there before.

Then we saw the Pogie boats. These are 50-ton power tugs used to push flotillas of barges. Two of them had been picked up and placed on the highway like scattered toys. Again, the Pogie boats could probably be in perfect working condition if they could be re-floated. This was a double blow, jobs lost on the boats and with the roads blocked; it will be a while until this parish will be restored, if ever. This was perhaps the best illustration to me of the power of this storm.
As for the XO....

From the Virginia Pilot :
Lt. Cmdr. Phil Pournelle, the Swift’'s executive officer, said he’'s impressed each day by the boat’s capabilities. The relief effort has showcased both boat and crew.

Walking aboard the boat for the first time, Pournelle said, “I thought I’'d stepped onto the Starship Enterprise. Every day, I find new capabilities for the ship, but more importantly, I find out more about what the crew can do. We have a lot of technology and very intelligent, creative sailors.
Lt Cdr Pournelle is the son of Jerry Pournelle, the SF and Computer Technology writer. Lt Cdr Pournelle is also on a mailing list I subscribe to.

Several Large Hat Tips to Chris Deboe again

Thursday, 8 September 2005

Music Memed

From A Small Victory, and others.

1. Enter the year you graduated from high school in the search function here and get the list of 100 most popular songs of that year (eg just enter 1975)
2. Bold the songs you like, strike through the ones you hate and underline your favorite. Do nothing to the ones you don't remember (or don't care about).

1. Love Will Keep Us Together, The Captain and Tennille
2. Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Campbell
3. Philadelphia Freedom, Elton John

4. Before The Next Teardrop Falls, Freddy Fender
5. My Eyes Adored You, Frankie Valli
6. Shining Star, Earth, Wind and Fire
7. Fame, David Bowie
8. Laughter In The Rain, Neil Sedaka

9. One Of These Nights, Eagles
10. Thank God I'm A Country Boy, John Denver
11. Jive Talkin', Bee Gees
12. Best Of My Love, Eagles
13. Lovin' You, Minnie Riperton
14. Kung Fu Fighting, Carl Douglas
15. Black Water, Doobie Brothers
16. Ballroom Blitz, Sweet
17. (Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, B.J. Thomas
18. He Don't Love You (Like I Love You), Tony Orlando and Dawn
19. At Seventeen, Janis Ian
20. Pick Up The Pieces, Average White Band
21. The Hustle, Van McCoy and The Soul City Symphony
22. Lady Marmalade, Labelle
23. Why Can't We Be Friends?, War
24. Love Wont Let Me Wait, Major Harris
25. Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stevie Wonder
26. Wasted Days And Wasted Nights, Freddy Fender
27. Fight The Power, Pt. 1, Isley Brothers
28. Angie Baby, Helen Reddy
29. Jackie Blue, Ozark Mountain Daredevils
30. Fire, Ohio Players
31. Magic, Pilot
32. Please Mr. Postman, Carpenters
33. Sister Golden Hair, America
34. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Elton John
35. Mandy, Barry Manilow
36. Have You Never Been Mellow, Olivia Newton-John
37. Could It Be Magic, Barry Manilow
38. Cat's In The Cradle, Harry Chapin
39. Wildfire Michael Murphy
40. I'm Not Lisa, Jessi Colter

41. Listen To What The Man Said, Paul Mccartney and Wings
42. I'm Not In Love, 10cc
43. I Can Help, Billy Swan
44. Fallin' In Love, Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds
45. Feelings, Morris Albert
46. Chevy Van, Sammy Johns
47. When Will I Be Loved, Linda Ronstadt
48. You're The First, The Last, My Everthing, Barry White
49. Please Mr Please, Olivia Newton-John
50. You're No Good, Linda Ronstadt
51. Dynomite, Bazuka
52. Walking In Rhythm, Blackbyrds
53. The Way We Were / Try To Remember, Gladys Knight and The Pips
54. Midnight Blue, Melissa Manchester
55. Don't Call Us, We'll Call You, Sugarloaf
56. Poetry Man, Phoebe Snow
57. How Long, Ace
58. Express, B.T. Express
59. That's The Way Of The World, Earth, Wind and Fire
60. Lady, Styx
61. Bad Time, Grand Funk
62. Only Women Bleed, Alice Cooper
63. Doctor's Orders, Carol Douglas
64. Get Down Tonight, K.C. and The Sunshine Band
65. You Are So Beautiful / It's A Sin When You Love Somebody, Joe Cocker
66. One Man Woman-One Woman Man, Paul Anka and Odia Coates
67. Feel Like Makin' Love, Bad Company
68. How Sweet It Is, James Taylor
69. Dance With Me, Orleans
70. Cut The Cake, Average White Band
71. Never Can Say Goodbye, Gloria Gaynor
72. I Don't Like To Sleep Alone, Paul Anka
73. Morning Side Of The Mountain, Donny and Marie Osmond
74. Some Kind Of Wonderful, Grand Funk
75. When Will I See You Again, Three Degrees
76. Get Down, Get Down (Get On The Floor), Joe Simon
77. I'm Sorry / Calypso, John Denver
78. Killer Queen, Queen
79. Shoeshine Boy, Eddie Kendricks
80. Do It (Til You're Satisfied), B.T. Express
81. Can't Get It Out Of My Head, Electric Light Orchestra
82. Sha-La-La (Makes Me Happy), Al Green
83. Lonely People, America
84. You Got The Love, Rufus
85. The Rockford Files, Mike Pos
86. It Only Takes A Minute, Tavares
87. No No Song / Snookeroo, Ringo Starr
88. Junior's Farm / Sally G, Paul McCartney and Wings
89. Bungle In The Jungle, Jethro Tull
90. Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance), Leo Sayer
91. Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Elton John

92. Misty, Ray Stevens
93. Bad Blood, Neil Sedaka
94. Only Yesterday, Carpenters
95. I'm On Fire, Dwight Twilley Band
96. Only You, Ringo Starr
97. Third Rate Romance, Amazing Rhythm Aces
98. You Aint Seen Nothin' Yet / Free Wheelin', Bachman-Turner Overdrive
99. Swearin' To God, Frankie Valli
100. Get Dancin', Disco Tex and The Sex-O-lettes

"I'm not in love" is probably the best musically of the 3 I've marked as "favourites". "Cat's in the cradle" meant a lot to me, as children were always very important. There I was, 17 years old, and with a maternal instinct already so strong I'd do anything to be a parent.

But Janice Ian's "17" really struck a chord.
"Dreams were all they gave for free
For Ugly Duckling girls like me."
Except she didn't know the half of it. There's a lot of girls out there who at 17 don't have curves, but facial hair. And you know what? It really, really, really sucks. Worse than anyone no afflicted with it can possibly believe.

In 1975 there were no good options. Now there are, and something can be done about it so such transsexual women can lead a normal, female life. I'd envy them, except that the first half of my life, as a male, wasn't too bad, and I have a wonderful little son, who I wouldn't have had had I transitioned earlier. How awful the price I paid was, I'm just starting to realise, as the hormones do their work, and I finally experience just how good, natural and right it feels to be slowly getting the body I should always have had. Back in 1975, Society wasn't as accepting, and the technology was nowhere near as good.

So although I look at the fabulous photos of girls who have had their awful birth defect corrected before age 20, that was never possible for me. Born 30 years too early.

But assuming the technology had been available, was living as a male for so long worth it? Not just Yes, but Hell Yes. Motherhood - or as close as I could get to it - was always far more important to me than Femininity. And it wasn't too bad, I didn't know of anything different, so wasn't unhappy. I met and fell head-over-heels in love with a wonderful woman, and although our relationship has changed and sadly diminished, the love and friendship is still there. Had this peculiar metabolic oddity not struck, I still would have been trying to be male, just so I could be a normal Daddy. But it did, and here I am. Pretty happy, and getting both a little bit prettier and a little bit happier every day. Still years to go though for the physical changes to complete. The psychological ones ditto, I'm still getting used to the idea of being "Zoe". Defintely a work in progress.

Music is so tied up with memory and emotion, that even the names of tunes can conjur up visions of the past that have a powerful impact, even 30 years later. For someone trying to clear layer upon layer of self-protective self-deception, years worth of deliberate forgetting, just perceiving harmonic vibrations in the air, the dance of molecules colliding in patterns, can be a useful aid. Even if you don't particularly want it to be, as the memories can be heartbreakingly painful. There's a reason why they were forgotten.

During the first few weeks of my metabolic oddity - I won't call it a "hormonal storm" any more because now I'm on Hormone Therapy, I know that no amount of hormone weirdness alone could have caused such rapid changes, we're talking something like 3 months of normal Hormone change in just 2 weeks and there's still no good explanation - anyway, I really didn't know what the heck was going on in my mind.

Think about it, all you guys reading this. How would you feel if you suddenly, very suddenly, started feminising, losing weight at a pound a day, getting changes to your skin, your perceptions, your whole body? One hypothesis I had was that I was actually a male who, in a desperate attempt to save his sanity, was trying to convince himself that he'd had a constant urge to be female, because it looked like he was going to become she whether (s)he liked it or not.

But now that hypothesis is disproved, and has been for quite a while. I'm taking to transition like a duck to water, I was quite literally born for it. I'm still discovering memories long buried - as a child I played with toy cars, as all boys do. But my favourite was Lady Penelope's Pink Rolls Royce. I constructed (and still do) plastic models. The first one I ever bought was an "Angel Interceptor" from the "Captain Scarlet" TV series, because I wanted to be just like the girls who flew them. Those memories, and God knows how many others, had been safely buried for 40 years.

And as for the women reading this - imagine if you too had been imprisoned in a male body? OK, no monthly curse, but also no motherhood, no dating, no... everything. All I have to show for it is a 4 year old son, a wonderful boy who plays with me on the computer, and is bright, and mischievous, and my little son who I love so much. And a 25-year marriage that has already changed into something else. Quite what, we don't know. This is just so unfair to my partner, I don't know how she can stand it. How would you feel if this happened to your husband, or boyfriend? So say a little prayer for all the spouses of transsexual people, because they're the ones who get all the suffering and none of the benefits. A few, a very few, manage to cope. All too many, perhaps the majority, become so terribly hurt that they lash out at the cause of their suffering, trying to inflict the maximum amount of emotional hell on the person they see as the source of all their psychic agony. The rest just let their relationship die a tragic but natural death, and move on.

We shall see. One day at a time. If anyone can cope, she can. I hope. Wish us luck, but her in particular, no matter what may happen.

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

A Prophet is not without honour...

A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.
Matthew 13:57
From Channel Nine News :
A high-speed catamaran built by Hobart shipbuilder Incat Australia is being used in the rescue and relief efforts in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The 98m HSV Swift left the Incat shipyards in 2003 and is now operated by the US Navy as a fast supply vessel and troop transport.

It has seen service in the Middle East and South-East Asia after the Tsunami disaster and it is part of the military hurricane relief effort called Joint Task Force Katrina.

Swift has joined many vessels and aircraft of the US Air Force, Army, Navy and National Guard to rescue survivors, deliver supplies and repair communications infrastructure.

Incat Group chairman Robert Clifford told the Hobart Mercury he was pleased to see one of Incat's vessels being put to good use in assisting with the relief efforts.

"I look forward to the day when our Australian Government has available similar craft for use in Australian waters," Mr Clifford said.

Swift has a helicopter deck capable of day and night landings at sea, a helicopter shelter and a mission deck with the capacity to load a range of heavy vehicles and equipment.
Mr Clifford lives more in hope than expectation. It won't be the first time, and is unlikely to be the last, that Australian High Technology has been enthusiastically adopted overseas - but not here.

Hat Tip : Chris DeBoe

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Cthulhu the King

Elvis CthulhuThis is wrong on so many levels. A plush Cthulhu, dressed as Elvis.
"Beat me Tender,
Beat me Blue,
Then come eat your fill
Ea Ftaghn Cthulhu,
Render, Maim and Kill"

Monday, 5 September 2005

Not Monty Burns

No, that's Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer who, according to the Sydney Morning Herald said :
"I'm going to f---ing bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again," the declaration quotes Ballmer. "I'm going to f---ing kill Google."
Last time I heard words like that, they were in "The Godfather Part II". But that was said by the crime boss of an evil underworld empire that held a monopoly on organised crime in large segments of the US. There couldn't possibly be any relation to such an august and freely competitive firm as Microsoft.

No, this is C. Montgomery Burns. Just as evil, but with far more class.

Sunday, 4 September 2005

New Orleans - Old Politics

From the Washington Post, a paper not known for it's pro-Bush views :
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."

Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.

Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."
Then there's the Mayor ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool.

This shows just one of the fleets of school busses that could have been, and should have been, used to ferry those without transport to pre-arranged places of safety. The resources were there. They just didn't get used.

From the Mudville Gazette :

New Orlean's "Hurricane Plan". Scan it for about 10 minutes and you'll see it's a damning document insofar as city management there is concerned. Judging from recent comments by a few of the folks named as responsible in that plan they didn't know it existed - there's no other explanation for the absurdity of some recent statements and "demands".

Ray Nagin, in a radio interview, said: "I need reinforcements. I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. Now get off your asses and fix this. Let's do something and let's fix the biggest goddam crisis in the history of this country."

He castigated the government's failure to help those stranded in the city by Hurricane Katrina, echoing a mounting wave of criticism of the slow federal response to a long-predicted catastrophe.

"This is a national disaster," he said. "Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get it here to New Orleans."

That wasn't in the plan. Actually, the buses were in the plan. They were here. This was in the plan too:
Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the Mayor of New Orleans in coordination with the Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, and the OEP Shelter Coordinator.

The SOP, in unison with other elements of the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, is designed for use in all hazard situations, including citywide evacuations in response to hurricane situations and addresses three elements of emergency response: warning, evacuation, and sheltering.

The busses were there. The plan called for their use. The people in charge of implementing the plan.... skeddadled to Baton Rouge and blame Bush for all their woes.

Oh well, keep this lesson for later, we have too much to do in keeping people alive right now. But lynching would be appropriate later, and I don't mean figuratively. I mean hand them over to the people who were put in danger by their incompetence. Let them decide.

Saturday, 3 September 2005

Oh, the Humanity!

From the Times-Picayune, via EU Rota
February 17, 1995

An Army Corps of Engineers "hit list" of recommended budget cuts would eliminate new flood-control programs in some of the nation's most flood-prone spots - where recent disasters have left thousands homeless and cost the federal government millions in emergency aid.

Clinton administration officials argue that the flood-control efforts are local projects, not national, and should be paid for by local taxes.

Nationwide, the administration proposes cutting 98 new projects in 35 states and Puerto Rico, for an estimated savings of $29 million in 1996.

Corps officials freely conceded the cuts, which represent only a small portion of savings the corps ultimately must make, may be penny-wise and pound-foolish. But they said they were forced to eliminate some services the corps has historically provided to taxpayers to meet the administration's budget-cutting goals.

June 23, 1995

A hurricane project, approved and financed since 1965, to protect more than 140,000 West Bank residents east of the Harvey Canal is in jeopardy.

The Clinton administration is holding back a Corps of Engineers report recommending that the $120 million project proceed. Unless that report is forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget, Congress cannot authorize money for the project, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's office said Thursday.

On June 9, John Zirschky, the acting assistant secretary of the Army and the official who refused to forward the report, sent a memo to the corps, saying the recommendation for the project "is not consistent with the policies and budget priorities reflected in the President's Fiscal Year 1996 budget. Accordingly, I will not forward the report to the Office of Management and Budget for clearance."

July 26, 1996

The House voted Thursday for a $19.4 billion energy and water bill that provides $246 million for Army Corps of Engineers projects in Louisiana.

The bill, approved 391-23, is the last of the 13 annual spending measures for 1997 approved by the House.

One area in which the House approved more financing than the president requested was for flood control and maintenance of harbors and shipping routes by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Flood control projects along the Mississippi River and its tributaries were allotted $303 million, or $10 million more than the president wanted.

June 19, 1996

The Army Corps of Engineers, which builds most flood protection levees on a federal-local cost-sharing basis, uses a cost-benefit ratio to justify a project. If the cost of building a levee is considered less than the cost of restoring a flood-ravaged area, the project is more likely to be approved.

For years, the Jean Lafitte-Lower Lafitte-Barataria-Crown Point areas couldn't convince the corps they were worthy of levee protection. But the use of Section 205 and congressional pressure has given the corps a new perspective, Spohrer said.

But even so, when the Clinton administration began to curtail spending on flood control and other projects a year ago, the corps stopped spending on Section 205 projects even after deciding to do a $70,000 preliminary Jean Lafitte study, Spohrer said.

July 22, 1999

In passing a $20.2 billion spending bill this week for water and energy projects, the House Appropriations Committee approved some significant increases in financing for several New Orleans area flood control and navigational projects.

The spending bill is expected on the House floor within the next two weeks.

For the New Orleans District of the Army Corps of Engineers, the panel allocated $106 million for construction projects, about $16 million more than proposed by President Clinton.

The bill would provide $47 million for "southeast Louisiana flood control projects," $16 million for "Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity hurricane protection," $15.9 million for the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Lock on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans and $2 million for "West Bank hurricane protection -- from New Orleans to Venice."

Most of the projects received significant increases over what the Clinton administration had proposed. The exception: general flood control projects for southeast Louisiana, which remained at the $47 million suggested by Clinton. Local officials had hoped for double that amount.

February 8, 2000

For the metropolitan New Orleans area, Clinton's budget was seen as a mixed bag by local lawmakers and government officials. For instance, while Clinton called for $1.5 billion to be spent at Avondale Industries to continue building LPD-17 landing craft, his budget calls for significantly less than what Congress appropriated last year for Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity hurricane protection and for West Bank flood control projects.

From the New York Times of 13th April 2005, also via EU Rota:
Anyone who cares about responsible budgeting and the health of America's rivers and wetlands should pay attention to a bill now before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The bill would shovel $17 billion at the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and other water-related projects -- this at a time when President Bush is asking for major cuts in Medicaid and other important domestic programs. Among these projects is a $2.7 billion boondoggle on the Mississippi River that has twice flunked inspection by the National Academy of Sciences.

The Government Accountability Office and other watchdogs accuse the corps of routinely inflating the economic benefits of its projects. And environmentalists blame it for turning free-flowing rivers into lifeless canals and destroying millions of acres of wetlands -- usually in the name of flood control and navigation but mostly to satisfy Congress's appetite for pork.

This is a bad piece of legislation.
A slightly cleaned up comment over at Bradblog (the blog that stated that only Kerry supporters deserved aid):
Dear BradBlog,

<expletive> you.

Bush called the Governor - a democrat no less - and told her to declare a state of emergency the day before the hurricane hit. He did the same thing with Texas and Florida and Alabama, thereby freeing up federal emergency aid funds before the storm. He triggered the National Response Plan, which provided for a cabinet level task force, the day the hurricane hit. There are seven <expletive> cabinet secretaries, and their departments - that’s one half of the entire federal government - on the case. Bush also addressed the nation at 3:00 PM, three hours before your diatribe about his lack of an address to the nation. As usual, the networks (other than CNN and FAUX (ha ha)) couldn’t be bothered to cover it. So it’s Bush’'s fault you didn'’t hear the address, I suppose.

You know why FEMA doesn’t run the national response system? Because FEMA isn'’t a warmaking or security agency, it'’s a handout and coordination agency. Post 9/11, the national response system was brought under closer control of the National Security Counsel and the Homeland Security Counsel, to allow better, faster, more global response to disasters. That’s why seven <expletive> cabinet secretaries are on the case, not just the several thousand FEMA employees. That’s why HHS is putting together massive pharmaceutical packages to stave off cholera, plague & diptheria, rather than letting FEMA go around and beg for aid. That’s why the Secretary of Homeland Security is out front, rather than a guy from a sub-cabinet level agency. That’s why DHS and a major command of DOD, NORTHCOM, are working on the problem. And for what it’s worth, FEMA had a chance to work on the integrated national plan, and basically begged off. Contrary to what Drum’s poster claims, they didn'’t get subsumed, they chose instead to remain as independent as possible. They decided that they did well with response, but probably didn'’t belong in the national security planning arena - they thought that was more the business of DOD and DHS; the NSC and HSC.

Normally, I live in D.C. All the feds I know are being canvassed, and asked to volunteer for a long deployment to the affected areas, where they will give up their comfy digs around the beltway, and probably live in tents, without air conditioning, decent food or water, in order to help out. Should we perhaps also stand down the DOD, FAA, and FDA, and direct them to respond? I’'d argue that there is a country to be run, half the federal government is working on the problem, while the rest of it will work double time to make sure national security, safe air travel, food safety, and the economy don'’t run into a brick wall.

Just because you haven'’t a clue about what is happening in the real world, just because you don'’t see the wheels turning, doesn’'t mean that things aren’t happening. I am certain that had Bush spoken sooner than he did - yesterday at 3:00 PM, three hours before your comment - you would have no doubt criticized him as taking political advantage of the situation. There is no winning for anybody who disagrees with you or your type politically, and I'’m sick of it. You aren’t worth talking to, because everything is filtered through your pathetic lens of Bush hatred. A sparrow does not fall from the sky in your world, but for a fiendish Bush conspiracy, Halliburton pollution, and Rove-led plot.

<expletive> you, and the rest of you sorry <expletive>s that will use any excuse for some political gain, or to vent your dissatisfaction with your pathetic life at the President, whether he’'s at fault or not. I'’m sick of your half-witted attempts at reasoning and commentary.

And for the record, from 1850 to the present, we’ve averaged roughly 6 Cat 4 / Cat 5 hurricanes per year. Since the early 1990s, we'’ve averaged roughly three such hurricanes per year. Take your global warming / Kyoto theory, and shove it up your a<expletive>.

And while you’'re at it… <expletive> you.
And from the Cannonfire Blog :
The Lone Star Times of Texas begins its latest pile of tripe with the following words:

You know the Left is cracking up when natural disasters bring out the politics in them instead of concern for their fellow man.
That's what those right-wing bastards want, isn't it? Now that their Fearless Leader has well and truly loused up, they want the left to play it nice. They want us not to politicize this disaster, even though W politicized 9/11 shamelessly.

Well, screw that.

Bush is at fault, and we must remind the world of this fact relentlessly.

If the conservative pundits take offense at that message, good. That just means they're worried that our words will have an impact.
Bush caused this catastrophe by fiddling -- or GIT-tarring -- while New Orleans drowned.

That's the message you need to hear, you barbaric, Jesus-addled, Limbaugh-tomized red-state hicks.

And you will sit there and listen to it and say NOTHING in response. We blue-staters are sick to death of your arrogant lies and smears and fake science and supernaturalistic yawpings and ludicrous self-deceits.

You literally cannot continue to exist unless we blue-staters give you money. The situation is that simple. You have been leeching off of us for years, and now you depend on our charity for your very lives.

So if you Jesusmaniac simpletons really want that cash, you will just sit there and SHUT UP and not say ONE DAMN WORD in your defense.


You don't like that message? Then don't take our money!

If I read ONE MORE article in which a science-hating red state pundit attacks progressives, I'm going to take the money I was going to donate to disaster relief and spend it on a nice Thai meal. And I'm going to suggest that all other progressives do likewise.

I left my own comment there.
OK, Bush is to blame.
For single-handedly causing Global Warming, Global Cooling, Global Climate Instability, AIDS, and the Black Death. Katrina was just a fiendish plot to kill all the blacks in the USA, and to make oil for his greedy multinational buddies from the rotting corpses.

I freely confess to being a mindless dupe who has sold my soul to Karl Rove, and take complete responsibility for using my Evil Jewish Kabbalistic powers to steal the election for my NeoCon Zionazi masters. And I did it all the way from Australia too.

I am a leech, a Neocon, and not fit to live.

Now that's out of the way, where's your money? And I want the US Red Cross Receipt Number too, not that I don't trust you or anything. Far from it, I know that as a Liberal and Progressive you have far more common humanity than my own miserable and unworthy worthless Neocon self.

My own receipt number is 1555-1161-1-253162-252544

Australians have already donated $7.6 million to the USRC, but of course, that doesn't count as we are but tools of the Republican party, wholly owned and controlled by Halliburton and the International Zionist Conspiracy.

Again though, I want to see your receipt number.
I'm not holding my breath though, as some people are so full of love and compassion that they never actually have to do anything to actually, you know, help. They leave that to the hate-filled heartless grown-ups.

Oi Ve. And I'm not even Jewish.