More on the end of the world

So apparently there’s an email going around saying someone heard from their friend who bumped into someone from CNN who was recently at the Pentagon … (you get the drill) … that there’s going to be a terrorist attack tomorrow, June 11. I didn’t receive it myself, but I read about it on snopes, along with the usual, perfectly rational debunking.

And yet … there’s one detail in there that gave me pause to wonder. I was surprised when they announced that the NYSE would close tomorrow in honour of Reagan’s death. Has the NYSE ever been closed for such a reason before? If not, this gives some small amount of credence to the rumour.

Honor Roll

I’m sure everyone caught the fuss over Ted Koppel’s reading the names of the US soldiers killed in Iraq. 721 of them, there were. There was something about this story that was making me itchy beyond the usual ‘Can you believe the corporate censorship’ knee jerk reaction. After thinking upon it for a while, I realized that I’d seen this done before. The News Hour has been running what they call the “Honor Roll” for a while. They read the names of the war dead at the end of the News Hour and there’s been, as far as I know, no flap about it.

I dropped them a line to ask about it. Here’s what they said:

Thanks for your interest. We read the names of those service members who
have died in Iraq when the names become available. It’s not who died that
day or even that week, just the most recent names that have been released.
Also, names aren’t released everyday, so our Honor Roll is not run everyday
either. So you may hear on the news that four or five soldiers have been
killed in Iraq, but we do not run any names – this is not because we are
being censored or have discontinued the practice, we are just waiting for
officials to notify next of kin before they start releasing identities out
to the media. Sometimes a whole week will go by with no Honor Roll, and then
we will have an Honor Roll with over 20 names on a day when there were no

I hope I was able to answer your questions. If you are curious, we do keep
an online archive of the Honor Roll.

Online NewsHour Staff

I didn’t watch Ted Koppel, but I have seen the Honor Roll a few times on the News Hour and it always fills me with great sadness.

Defining the Language of War

The ugly turn in Iraq (if a war can get uglier) has set me to thinking about who the hostages are and how they fit in to the semantics of war. The hostages that aren’t soldiers can’t – I think – be considered Prisoners of War because they’re civilian employees, regardless of what role they actually play on the ground. Since they’re not POW’s, they’re also not subject to the Geneva Convention rules for Prisoners of War. This would include the “private security forces”, though I wouldn’t call them private security forces, I’d probably call them mercenaries.

In Guantanamo Bay, we have “illegal combatants” who also aren’t subject to the Geneva Convention – that’s why they were so classified. Jessica Ryan and her crew were considered POWs; they were enlisted folks, not civilian employees of Haliburton or any other company contracted for reconstruction in Iraq.

The hostages aren’t illegal combatants or POWs. One might argue that folks like Jessica Ryan and Thomas Hamill, were already hostages of the policies of the Bush administration, after all both Ms. Ryan and Mr. Hamill ended up in Iraq because of economic despair.

Paul Bremer said on national television that “We will not negotiate over hostages.” About the same time, Donald Rumsfeld stated that the troops in Iraq who’d been scheduled to go home will now have to wait. And layoffs in corporate America continue with Dupont announcing that they’re cutting six percent of their work force.

Who’s a hostage? Who’s a POW? Who’s an illegal combatant? And who decides?

The point of acupuncture

A controlled (though obviously not double-blind) clinical trial reveals that acupuncture can help to relieve chronic headaches (BBC News). It’s good to see that alternative therapies are getting some scientific review, and it’s certainly a cheaper (and arguably safer) means of treating the problem. The British Medical Association even suggests it be available under universal health care.

Personally, I think the question of whether acupuncture has any real benefit remains unproven: this could easily be the result of a placebo effect. This doesn’t make it any less effective, of course. But I’d be more impressed if it showed benefit for a complaint which isn’t purely self-reported and could be subject to directly measurable improvement.

48 Disenfranchised Hours

“King County has received notification that you no longer live at the address indicated on your voter registration. We have placed your name in our inactive voter file until we hear from you.”

Because it’s long and full of bureaucracy, I’ve posted the true story of my brief but harrowing stint as a ‘disenfranchised’ voter here. The short – but as of yet unconfirmed – story is that if you are going to insist on spending an extended time abroad, you should try to avoid being called for jury duty.

Also, here’s a handy link to online voter registration. Just in case.

The toilet: tool of terrorists

Passengers on transoceanic flights to the US are no longer allowed to queue for the toilet at the behest of Homeland Security. Frankly, if you can’t go for a piss when you want on a 12-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, the terrorists have already won. As reported in The Age: ‘the chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, Warren Bennett, said the decision bordered on American paranoia. He said it would place “enormous stress” on flight crew.’ I worry more about the stress on the passengers.

Just how far is this paranoia going to go? Does every country need to roll over and accept every ludicrous demand from the US? At least the Brazilians are getting their own back.

Revisionist History on the Web, again

First, Time magazine surreptitiously pulls an article from their website where Bush Sr describes why invading Iraq was a bad idea. Then, Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary pulls the newly-published definition of McJobs following complaints from McDonalds.

This is worrying, and not just for the obvious political reasons. There’s no doubt the Internet has revolutionized the way we as a society disseminate and ingest information, and is an improvement on the days of journals and libraries. But at least in the print media there is an automatic audit trail when documents are edit after the fact of being published. You can see an article clipped from a newspaper, or the black ink of redaction in a classified document. But on the Web, documents can disappear, and the seams mended without a trace. In the Time case, even the reference to the Bush Sr article in the table of contents was deleted! Unless somebody notices, documents deleted from the web are simply gone from the collective consciousness. (Do you really think researchers and historians will be using anything other than electronic media in the next decade or so?) It’s chilling to think that history is changing before our eyes to an extent we probably don’t even know.

The Best Imitation of Myself

Andy Warhol said that everybody gets 15 minutes of fame. Since I became aware of that statement, I have been haunted with the pressure to make sure I didn’t “squander” it uselessly. I think ultimately I’m hoping to stretch it out long enough to make some cash and then maybe even become a decent trivial pursuit answer. (Not in the Kato Kalin sort of way mind you… I said “decent”) It’s good to have dreams no? Well, thinking about the 15 minutes scenario every now and then always pauses me to reflect on maybe what could have been or should have been or the road less travelled sort of thing… (we could call it RobertFrost-itis I suppose) so, with the exception of 6 minutes in a Donny Osmond video, I was curious to see how well my remaining 9 minutes were being “saved”. Not an easy task to accomplish but thank god for the internet right? (without which, how would you be reading this anyway?) I’m sure everyone has done this at least once, where you type in your name into a google search and see what pops up as “you”. Well, as it turns out my name is not uniquely my own. There they were the other “me”s. A doctor or two, a tennis player, a travel editor (who has been dubbed the “travel detecctive”), a kid who plays drums in a high school marching band, and some guy named Warren but was nicknamed “Pete” (How the hell does that happen?!) Sort of like a mini vacation for the soul, there were these other lives all right there hanging out as possabilities and choices missed or not taken (yeah, that part is a stretch but if you can’t go with that, then this article really doesn’t have much of a point now does it?). It is somehow comforting to think that I have made progress and advancements in the medical and labratory science or have been alerting people to frequent flyer scams, shredding it up the guitar with 10 pounds of aquanet in the lion mane of my hair (didn’t I mention him before? yeah… there’s one of those out there too) and so on… it somehow makes the days of sitting about the house eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s seem less like slacking off and more like a well deserved rest from all of my worldly activities. It is good to know that my 9 minutes are still safely stored away and who knows maybe I’ll get to borrow a few from those other guys… not like they’ll miss ’em or anything.

Where’s my goddammed soup?

I know you wouldn’t think it to know me, but I am a wuss when it comes to being sick. And it’s weird, right? Because usually, I’m tough as nails. Nothing phases me. I’m a stoic. Through and through. Straight-faced. Deadpan. Dry witted.

Ok, that’s not true. I take many a cake for grousing. (And while I’m not going to explore the origin of that expression, but what kind of birds do complain? Do grouses grouse? Or does their call just sound whiny? They didn’t have any, that I noticed, at the zoo, so I can’t say for sure.)

But, yeah, I’ve got me a little cold. And I’m milking it for all its worth. This is a trait I learned from my father, believe it or not. He may have been a Ranger, but when he got a bug, everyone was walking on eggshells not to bug him. So that’s yet another way I take after him. And it’s good for me in developing my whole curmudgeonly persona, I think, to complain about the miseries of my viral infections.

So I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I want to stay home, under the covers, and whine. I might even think about calling my mother and whining at her for not being here to bring me chicken soup. Because if you’re going to be sick, you might as well take some pleasure in it, and make the woman who brought you into the world feel sorry for not making it a perfectly wonderful and disease-free place, right? I don’t know. I need to go to work. But I feel like crap. Chills. Congestion. Light-headed. Generally in a bad mood. Tired. Sore. Somebody just put me out of my misery.

Except, I know that in the grand scheme of things, I’m fine. I’ll recover. Probably in a day or two because I’ve been zincing myself to high heaven. But still. I get sick so rarely that when I do, I want to do it with verve. Panache. Some kind of bang at least. So I complain a lot. Because that is just so out of character for me. Sigh. Maybe I’m just jealous of Cliff and his detached retina. Or maybe I’m just a wuss. I keep asking myself how I’d survive on a boat for a week or more in Alaska if I’m whining about a head cold, but on the other hand, maybe I whine because I’ve not suffered enough in other ways. So does that mean I’m trying to toughen myself up, become a stronger and better person by going fishing next summer? Or am I just kidding myself? I guess that remains to be seen.

I’ve been reading this book about fishing on a scallop boat, one my father recommended after I first mentioned my hare-brained scheme, and I think his plan backfired. I’m more jazzed about the whole idea than ever, even despite the dislodged teeth and stiches and severed limbs described in the book. So I’m thinking that, assuming you’ll all still love me as much as ever with a prosthetic arm and caps on my teeth, that at least I’ll be better off a year from now when I get my next cold and say “This is nothing compared to being 50 miles offshore with a half ton of salmon that I need to pack in ice even as I’m bleeding profusely.”

You all can only hope.