Strong opinions, weakly held

Month: December 2002 (page 2 of 8)

The Eli Lilly bandit

Somebody inserted language in the Homeland Security Bill shielding Eli Lilly from lawsuits regarding their vaccines. TomPaine.com will give a $10,000 reward to the person who outs the person who did it.

Joe Strummer, RIP

Clash guitarist Joe Strummer has died of a heart attack.

The 2002 Perl Advent Calendar

I just wanted to say that I find the Perl Advent Calendar to be a beautifully geeky thing (via More Like This).

The pregnant wife at the airport article

The Coffee, Tea, or Should We Feel Your Pregnant Wife article is currently the hottest item in the blogging world. I first saw it yesterday, linked to from the Interesting People mailing list, and I’ve since seen plenty of links to it elsewhere. Is this story true and accurately reported? I have no idea. Obviously it’s one person’s first hand account of something that happened to them, so it’s going to be told from their point of view, which is fine. The point is that, having flown over the past year, I find the story completely plausible. What I find most interesting about this story is not that it outrages people, but that it surprises them.

Most (white) Americans really don’t have much interaction with the police, unless they get in a car accident, or get pulled over for a traffic violation. It therefore comes as quite a shock that the police are known for lying to protect each other, exaggerating about the misbehavior of people accused of misconduct, and generally acting as though everyone they deal with is a criminal. Something tells me that if you printed out this story and gave it to a bunch of black people to read, they’d hardly be surprised at all. So when I read all of the commentary offering this tale as proof of America’s sudden and rapid decline, I have to laugh. I’m not saying that all policemen are bad, or even that most of them are. What I am saying is that the nature of the job and the people they have to deal with on a day to day basis tends to encourage behavior that most freedom-loving people would define as repugnant, and tends to produce abuses exactly like the ones described in the article. If the events in this story had taken place at a police station in some inner city after a routine traffic stop and bogus car search, chances are nobody would have even noticed or cared.

(I’m going to be flying out for Christmas. I’ll be sure to post here if my civil rights are violated in any way.)

That stem cell thing

Researchers have successfully grown new, working kidneys in mice using embryonic stem cells. Pretty darn amazing.

That reminds me

There’s a tech column at the Washington Post that talks about the lack of innovation in the world of email applications. I’m glad to see that more people are noticing that since Microsoft took over the world of email, time stopped for innovation in email. The article doesn’t mention Chandler, which offers at least a glimmer of hope.


Tonight there’s a movie about abstinence tonight on MTV, called Everybody’s Doing It. The movie is silly, but it depicts the problem I have with abstinence education, which is that it’s offered as an alternative to other programs, rather than as a supplement to them. As the movie points out at the beginning, abstinence education programs prohibit any discussion of contraceptives outside of their failure rates. That’s just not a realistic approach.


As we prepare to go to war with Iraq, bad, bad things are going down on the Korean peninsula. A candidate running on what amounts to an anti-American platform just won South Korea’s presidential election, and North Korea is thumbing its nose at America and the UN. It doesn’t bode well for the US foreign policy program that South Koreans are feeling more charitable toward their neighbors to the north than they are toward the United States. It’s pretty clear that one of the key reasons for North Korea’s renewed defiance is that they feel that South Korea has their back. A few months ago I would have said that I thought Iraq was still a greater threat than North Korea, but I don’t think so any more.

So Much for the Plan to Scrap Old Weapons

Remember Donald Rumsfeld’s ambitious plan to get rid of obsolete weapons programs and modernize the military? So much for that. Actually defending the country is only one of the purposes of the defense budget. For all the crap we hear about smaller government and Republican belief in the free market, here in the real world, the defense budget is the broken window theory writ large. Building aircraft carriers we don’t really need, aircraft that may or may not ever work, and other crap for the military is a way for Republicans to pay off their donors and more importantly for all of the Congressmen to shovel money toward the people in their districts who need jobs. If someone in Congress came out tomorrow and said that we should spend billions of dollars a year to hire professionals to reduce world hunger, or improve the education system, or guarantee health care for all Americans, they’d be shouted down by Republicans as a filthy communist. But if it’s to build jet fighters that cost $200 million a pop, it’s all good. It’s sickening when you think about it.

TIA creeps away

I don’t find it surprising me that a lot of the information about the Total Information Awareness program is disappearing from its Web site, because it was deeply disturbing. Declan McCullagh reports that the Web site is shrinking over time. First, information about some of the staffers disappeared. Since then, both the wierd illuminati logo and slogan have been taken down, along with some of the pages on the site.

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