Archive for October, 2004

To be continued later…

October 28th, 2004 No comments

It’s less than a week away from the election and I’ve barely written much about what’s going on. That’s hardly a reflection of how much attention I’ve been paying to the political process over the past few month.s

As next Tuesday draws nearer, I become increasingly resolute in my decision that I can’t tolerate another four years of George W. Bush. It’s not a matter of my strong desire for John Kerry to become president as much as it is a realization that if we don’t have someone less conservative in office we’ll take decades-long step back in this country’s progress. That’s why what follows is mostly a littany of wrongs, rather than a rally cry for the one most apt to wrest power from the little man who was awarded power by a court rather than the people.

From social matters to the economy to the central themes of security and international policy, Geroge W. Bush has it all wrong. His policies reflect an ideology of black and white, good and bad, Christian or non, in a world where sometimes gray is acceptable. It’s all too easy to make a decision and stick with it: you only have to think once, the rest is all followthrough.

In light of his Bible-based decisions, the country is controlled by an administration wearing blinders, charging forward off the path at full speed, with something we’re not even sure exists holding the reins.

The country we live in now is moreso a contrast to the idyllic America we grow up to believe in: one of freedom, honor and an almost reverential respect from our wordly peers. Over the past year and a half we have chipped away at that status. While we certainly do not lack the ability to achieve that status once again, we bemoan the fact that we lost some of it in the first place.

The president’s speeches of recent remind me of the movie The Wizard Of Oz more than anything. At the end of the movie, the wizard’s voice comes from above: powerful, mysterious and seemingly truthful. But the wizard has the aid of modifying his voice, having the command of his audience, and most of all hiding behind a curtain. And when the truth is known, a frail man with no superior powers is revealed to the dismay of those who believed in him. That’s where the allegory ends. In the movie, the wizard still has the ability to solve the ailments of the people who sought his assistance despite the lack of the facade that made him appear strong.

George W. Bush is nothing without that facade. He’s the faceman of a team of zealots, pushing values of superiority, greed and fear into the world for their own political gain. Without that facade, George is a small-minded man blind to facts and disinterested in topics other than creating fear while simultaneously attempting to fill the void that fear has created.

I don’t think he’s necessarily an evil person by nature – perhaps that is something left to his staff – but an incredibly naive stereotype of the typical “macho” male that the stereotypical American public craves. His demeanor is one of a mildly sentient puppet whose interests lie outside the show he’s being controlled to perform.

In a situation where the leader doesn’t have the mental capacity to lead based on truth and rationale, he’s left with turning to something that was created so that other people didn’t have to think about what is right and wrong: the Bible. I don’t mean to tear apart other people’s beliefs, but I can’t help but think that deriving so much of your morality from an ancient text is more detrimental than beneficial. Why not use the progress between when it was written and today to modify and improve its teachings rather than rely on it as the absolute answer to everything.

Ok, I do understand that a large amount of people do just what I said. But, I don’t think our president does. Yet that’s the gap that so many people won’t allow themselves to see. Many permit progress and contemporary influences to modify their morals, yet don’t have the strength to separate themselves from someone who seemingly espouses the same values but in a much more “devout” way.

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Tornadoes, hurricanes and letter-bombs, oh my!

October 11th, 2004 No comments

While doing my daily check of the US Homeland Security Department’s threat level on (it’s your homepage too, isn’t it?), I saw a link to the FEMA for Kids site. Yes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has created a site to teach kids all about disaster. Apparently fire drills, tornado drills and watching TV news just isn’t enough.

Apparently you should take your kids away from the tv, video games and books and plop them in front of the computer to learn about all the bad things in the world. What better way to get some quality Internet learning in than to read about other people’s tragedy and the possiblity of your inclusion in a future tragic event! If your child wasn’t afraid of the boogey man before, fear not, he or she will be afraid of the chemical weapons instead.

Listen to this paragraph from what I think would make a great bedtime story and/or in-class reading:
Chemical weapons were poisons that could be put in the air or the water or on surfaces. Many chemical weapons did not have a smell or a taste. Biological weapons, she went on, were organisms or toxins that kill or injure people, animals or crops. They can be bacteria, viruses or toxins. Radiological or nuclear weapons used radioactive material to harm people.
Yes kids, you might be attacked by chemical agents and not know it. How do you know if you’re being attacked by such a thing? Well, you really don’t, so you best be very afraid just in case.

If it’s not bedtime yet and you want to work a little culture into your child’s life, maybe show him or her this artwork. I’m sure your second-grader would love to see pictures of homes getting plowed over by a tornado, or maybe even a school getting hit by a tsumami (you’ve heard of kids getting off for snow days, but now it’s every kid’s dream to have off for a tsunami day!).

If disaster, death, and the fear of mommy and daddy not being around when disaster strikes (at least they’ll be prepared with their phone numbers!), maybe some light-hearted games would be their thing. You can dress a snowman up with disaster-kit flashlights and radio included, or even help FEMA Freddy through a disaster-ridden maze (watch out for downed power lines and homes ripped in half).

For the musically inclined, there’s a FEMA rap. If understanding what a government agency does after a disaster happens is too much for your child after he realizes mommy and daddy might die and their toys might blow away from the tornado, this rap includes the word “mitigation.” Apparently the word is also slated to be added to third grade curriculums in most states, as proposed by Tom Ridge.

If your child is having trouble relating to this all, maybe Robbie and Julia can help them identify. In fact “Robbie and Julia like playing at recess and riding their bikes. They like to wear jeans and get dirty and go to birthday parties.” Lots of kids do that. But, “Because whenever Robbie and Julia go out, natural disasters seem to follow.” That’s too bad for them. It seems some people just have bad luck and are more doomed than others. It’s important to have your children understand that this is true and that some people really are just more inclined to have puppies die and inhale anthrax. In this case, twins are even moreso inclined.

Some kids really like to go out and get the mail each day, especially if they know their favorite magazine is coming. And every knows how much children like vacations, even educational ones with destinations like government buildings in Washtington D.C. But, make sure your child knows the risks of doing such things, as vacations and getting the mail can be very dangerous. “Targets for terrorism include government buildings, large airports, big cities and national landmarks. Terrorists might also target large public gatherings, water and food supplies, and utilities such as electric plants. Terrorists might also spread fear by sending explosives or chemical and biological agents through the mail.” Maybe mommy and daddy should get the mail from now on, but only after they’ve put on their gloves. And maybe their teacher should reconsider that field trip to the power company next week.

It’s great for a child and his or her father to have some bonding time. In this day and age, let’s forget about bird houses and tree forts and move on to something more family oriented: terror shelters! Thank god FEMA gives children instructions on what is absolutely necessary for creating a chemical-attack-proof shelter:
How do you seal up a room if you are told to shelter in place? You should have duct tape, plastic sheeting and scissors. Have an adult turn off air conditioners, vents and fans. Find an interior room, hopefully a room that does not have windows. Seal around doors and windows with duct tape and plastic sheeting. Take your battery-powered radio with you so you know when it’s “all clear.” You will only stay in this room for a few hours at the most.
If you stay in longer than that, you will die. And so will your new puppy, Raggs. If you don’t hear the “all clear” after a few hours, feel free to rip the seals open and wander about to see if it’s “all clear” on your own, as chemical and nuclear attacks are only hazardous for a matter of minutes and the radio people probably forgot to tell people it’s safe because they forgot to bring a microphone into their own terror tents.

If you should become trapped outside in an event like this:
DON’T move round or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
Tap over and over on a pipe or wall so that rescuers can hear where you are. Shout only as a last resort when you hear sounds of rescuers and think someone will hear you. Shouting might make you breath dangerous amounts of dust.
Try to think of things that make you happy and stay calm. Rescuers are ON THE WAY!

Dust is bad, don’t breathe it. Dust commonly has dangerous chemicals in it and breathing it could kill you, and your puppy. Oddly enough, thinking of your puppy while trying not to breathe the horrible puppy-killing dust will make everything better. Whatever you do, don’t try to think about mommy and daddy at this time, because they aren’t with you and can’t do a thing to help. They’re someplace else breathing in their own puppy-killing dust and they don’t care about you.

Now, I do realize there are some pretty common disasters that children are regularly talked to about in school. They even have descriptions on the site. But now, National Security emergencies are on the list of “bad” things. Despite having instructions, descriptions and common terrorism scenarios elsewhere on the site, the terrorism disaster page has the following warning “[Terrorism] is a scary thing. Before you go any further on this page, you need to have permission of an adult. Check with your parent or teacher (if you are at school) or another adult to make sure you have the OK to learn more.” Terrorism is now akin to porn, cigarettes and 800 #’s.

This site even suggests putting your disaster emergency kits in a backpack. Maybe beside the bed? Then, you can be disaster-prepared every night before bed and reminded that disasters may come while you’re sleeping. Does that make it harder to sleep? Probably, but at least you’re safe!

If all this doom and gloom is too much for your children, there’s a list of six things to make them feel better. Some are more true than others:
1. Disasters don?t last very long. Soon, things will be back to normal. Yup, chemical attacks, radiation, hurricanes etc. last a short time compared to how long their afternoon naps seem. Oh yeah, and because the mail only comes once a day, mailbombs can only happen with the same frequency. Unless mommy or daddy gets one at work. They get mail all day there.
2. You can get a new routine if you can?t go home for awhile. You will settle down into a new place and you will meet new friends. What happens to the other friends? Don’t ask. What happened to your home and puppy causing you to not be able to go there? Don’t ask. In fact, living in a school gymnasium for a month can be exciting and somewhat of a novelty. I mean, no one ever complained about waking up and playing dodgeball with the other disaster victims now, did they?
3. Look to your parents or other adults for help when you feel scared or confused. They will help you understand what is happening. Don?t be afraid to ask questions like: How long will we be in the shelter? When will I go back to school? However, children should be told to expect answers like “I have no clue what’s going on, son. In fact daddy’s a chemical engineer and isn’t too sure what chemical it was they sprayed on us and your puppy.” or “We’ll be able to leave the shelter when the air-raid sirens stop going off every night and Allah allows the remaining infidels to live.” or “You can go to school when it’s rebuilt from the rubble it was turned into and the city can find new teachers to replace the ones who were in it when the dirty-bomb went off in the cafeteria.”
Sometimes it helps to write about your experiences or to draw pictures about what has happened. You can describe what happened and how you feel. The FEMA for Kids Web site can post your projects. That way all the other children can make sure they’re just as afraid of you. Maybe other children have better ways of visualizing death and destruction and seeing this can help you understand exactly how serious this is and how scared you should be. Who needs to draw puppies and sunny days anymore when you can learn to draw airliners crashing into buildings, schools built on a large hill to keep from being flooded by tsunamis, or flag-draped hearts reminding us that mommy and daddy used to not be afraid to drop us off at school everyday.

5. It?s OK to cry during a disaster, but remember, it will GET BETTER. Just don’t cry when you get a cut, or when the kids at school make fun of you, that’s what babies do. Of course it will get better, but only after mommy gets through therapy and learns to operate her new motorized wheelchair and finds a new daddy to help her feed herself. Or maybe after enough Cipro gets in from Canada to help grandma and grandpa fight off that nasty skin-blistering rash they got from opening that package they thought was from aunt Rita in Idaho.
6. You may be able to help out. Children of all ages can help in the shelter by babysitting other children or cleaning up or serving food.
You can even help with sandbagging or cleaning up your house after a tornado or hurricane or earthquake.
But not after a chemical attack, they don’t make child-size contamization suits. But maybe you can watch the other kids while mommy and daddy pick through the rubble. In fact, disasters are great times for children to learn to grow up and take on responsibility. If you weren’t sure about being old enough to babysit before, you can try it out now with little Billy and Susie, their parents were walking the puppy (Raggs) when the tornado came through and are “in another shelter, probably, across town.”

Get ready, get set…DISASTER! If the need should arise to actually head to a shelter, FEMA suggests the following:
You may have to leave your house during a disaster and may sleep somewhere else for a while. It?s smart to put together your own Kid?s Activity Survival Kit so you will have things to do and share with other kids. These can all be stored in a backpack or duffel bag. Just make sure you can carry it easily. Some suggested items for your Activity Survival Kit:

A few of your favorite books – You may not be able to watch tv because the hurricane knocked down the transmitter tower.
Crayons, pencils or marking pens and plenty of paper – For drawing pictures of the disaster you experienced so children all over can feel it themselves and share your fear.
Scissors and glue – But make sure they’re safety scissors, we can’t have sharp-tipped ones when you’re running away from the flood that’s just ruined your farm.
Two favorite toys such as a doll or action figure – as the rest will have blown away with Raggs the puppy.
One or two board games – It’s hard to play GameCube when that small plane flew into your city’s power plant.
A deck of cards – For playing solitaire. The rest of your family lost their arms in the explosion that put you in the shelter in the first place.
A puzzle (One with lots of pieces is good — it takes a long time to do!) – Because while disasters only last a short period of time, the aftermath of seeing so many people die will last a lifetime.
Small people figures and play vehicles that you can use to play out what is happening during your disaster — such as ambulance, fire truck, helicopter, dump truck, police car, small boats. – Don’t forget the HAZMAT trucks that seemed to be all over the place on the way to the shelter. Also, make sure they are all waterproof for the flood scene.
Favorite stuffed animal or puppet – Maybe the one mommy used to play with you with, just like old times.
Favorite blanket or pillow – Because sleeping on rubble isn’t that comfy. Although, how much sleep will you get when all your toys blew away and your some of your friends might not be in your class anymore when you go back to school.
Pictures of the family and pet – To remind you of the good times when you all could be together, instead of some of them “watching over you from above.”
A “keep safe” box with a few treasures that make you feel special. – Like kids used to feel before the government caused widespread irrational panic, even amongst children who have no way to understand how uncommon disasters may be.

Yup, thank you federal government for making disaster so accessible to small children. FEMA and Tom Ridge have done an excellent job putting a whole new spin on the innocence of childhood.

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Oops, did I say that?

October 5th, 2004 No comments

When asked about any connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, Rumsfeld said, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.”

But a short time later, Rumsfeld released a statement: “A question I answered today at an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) regarding ties between al Qaeda and Iraq regrettably was misunderstood.

“I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.”

Hmm. Was it misunderstood, or just misstated. Misunderstanding puts the blame on the person interpreting it, while misstating it puts the blame on the person stating it. How’s this for something even better: he realized he admitted the truth and that would mean the administration was incorrect and we can’t have that. Why would anyone say there’s no hard evidence of a connection when he has as many facts as he purports to have in this press release? Maybe because he really does believe there is no connection, but can’t let you know that. Hence, the press release correcting the accidental slip of the truth.

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