Monthly Archives: October 2007

wildfires again

Karen, Ben and I are all safe. My work has been “prevacuated” and it’s kinda stinky in my neighborhood, but otherwise we’re unaffected. Lots of friends have been evacuated, though, and the sheriff says it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s odd to have victims listed at the medical center down the street, or an evacuation center set up at the stadium a few miles away.
In related news, the Red Cross has a good idea, the online Safe and Well list. Anyone in a disaster area (!) can list their name on the site, plus where they are (evac’d, with friends…) and how to contact them.

If you’re interested in ongoing (non-TV) coverage, there are updates at the cat dirt sez blog and at the San Diego Union-Tribune’s fire blog.

Nate Ritter has been twittering with live updates and posting photos to Flickr. KPBS is updating a Google Map with fire information, too.

82nd Airborne Division, Anthropologists Brigade

No, it’s not an Eddie Izzard routine. It’s the U.S. Army assigning social scientists to combat units in Afghanistan, and it’s awesome:

[Tracy] is a member of the first Human Terrain Team, an experimental Pentagon program that assigns anthropologists and other social scientists to American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her teamís ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations ó in one case spotting a land dispute that allowed the Taliban to bully parts of a major tribe ó has won the praise of officers who say they are seeing concrete results.

Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division unit working with the anthropologists here, said that the unitís combat operations had been reduced by 60 percent since the scientists arrived in February, and that the soldiers were now able to focus more on improving security, health care and education for the population.

That’s more like it! Actually talking to (and listening to) people in the countries we “liberate”, who woulda thunk it? Let’s just hope it doesn’t become so successful they have to institute a draft for anyone with an anthro degree…

exposing treachery in the justice department

You’ve probably seen this already. (I hope you have, because I’d personally make it front-page news all over the country.) The New York Times ran a story yesterday that exposes a secret Justice Department brief endorsing torture, written after the same department publicly denounced the same tactics.

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzalesís arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. … The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

This is sickening on so many levels I don’t know where to start. Congress is already demanding to see the secret opinions so they can hold hearings, so hopefully this can be brought into the light swiftly and dealt with harshly. I really don’t want to discover that we’ve become the kind of country that does otherwise.

the Global Spin calling card

I recently made a few calling cards for use at the Mars Society convention. I kinda like them, and they come in handy when I want to encourage random people to go to Global Spin:

new and improved(?) calling card

Anyone interested in one of their own? I’d be happy to make up a PDF with your name and address and send you instructions on how to print them.