Christmas In NYC........
Here's the slideshow...I'll post more as I get them...
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees grabbed center fielder Johnny Damon away from the rival Boston Red Sox, reaching a preliminary agreement Tuesday night on a $52 million, four-year contract.
Details of the deal were still being negotiated and Damon must pass a physical, a baseball official said on condition of anonymity because negotiations were not yet final.
Damon's contract with the Yankees includes a partial no-trade clause, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported.
Moving from Fenway Park to Yankee Stadium will mean a change of style and scenery for the long-haired, bearded Damon -- a fan favorite in Boston for his scrappy play and scruffy look. But New York owner George Steinbrenner bans beards and long hair.
"Sad to say bye to some of the greatest fans in the world. Unfortunately they had to see this day, but it's time for me to move forward," Damon told WBZ television in Boston. "They were coming after me aggressively. We know George Steinbrenner's reputation.
Mission and Objectives
Spirit of America's mission is to extend the goodwill of the American people to assist those advancing freedom, democracy and peace abroad. We provide support to those on the front lines: American military and civilian personnel and people who call to Americans for help in their struggle for freedom and democracy.
Our objectives include:
Increase the reach, scale and impact of the informal humanitarian activities that take place on the front lines in troubled regions.
Contribute charitable goods that can have a positive, practical and timely impact in the local communities where American personnel are involved.
Establish connections and strengthen bonds between the American people and those in countries struggling for freedom and democracy.
Operation Snapshot: A Picture IS worth a thousand words
Cost of 40 Polaroid Cameras sent to the troops in Iraq: $400.00
Seeing the faces of Iraqi children enjoying their photos: Priceless
You have to think that if mass media could read more emails and see pictures like these, we'd hear more news stories of the good things that our troops are doing in Iraq. These photos and update on the success of Operation Snapshot make it all worthwhile:
Thank you so much. I was completely amazed. I am always thankful to get out of this office and out into the field. This, by far, was the greatest adventure yet.
We convoyed out and drove to a local Iraqi Army Station, from there the IA Soldiers took on us a foot patrol out to a local school not far from their area.
Yes, it was a little tense, but once we arrived at the school the children started to come from everywhere. The team I was with was delivering backpacks and I toted along with my backpack full of Polaroids and film.
The pictures were the hit of the day. I showed the Iraqi Soldiers how to take pictures and just let them go with it.
Again, thanks for all your support.
ABC News: Iran Leader Calls for Israel's Destruction
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran’s hard-line president called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks will destroy the Jewish state, state-run media reported Wednesday.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it.
“There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world,” Ahmadinejad told students Wednesday during a Tehran conference called “The World without Zionism.”
“Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury, (while) any (Islamic leader) who recognizes the Zionist regime means he is acknowledging the surrender and defeat of the Islamic world,” Ahmadinejad said.
Ahmadinejad also repeated the words of the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called for the destruction of Israel.
“As the imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,” said Ahmadinejad, who came to power in August and replaced Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who advocated international dialogue and tried to improve Iran’s relations with the West.
"Good news! On Thursday (December 11th), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, who recently called for Israel to be wiped off the map, moderated his position. In a spirit of statesmanlike compromise, he now wants Israel wiped off the map of the Middle East and wiped on to the map of Europe.
"Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces," Ahmadinejad told Iranian TV viewers. "Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true," he added sportingly, "if European countries claim that they have killed Jews in World War II, why don't they provide the Zionist regime with a piece of Europe? Germany and Austria can provide the regime with two or three provinces for this regime to establish itself, and the issue will be resolved. You offer part of Europe, and we will support it."
Big of you. It's the perfect solution to the "Middle East peace process": out of sight, out of mind. And given that Ahmadinejad's out of his mind, we're already halfway there."
"Chew this around and spit it out: Five hundred million Arabs; five million Jews. Think of all the Arab countries as a football field, and Israel as a pack of matches sitting in the middle of it. And now these same folks swear that if Israel gives them half of that pack of matches, everyone will be pals. Really? Wow, what neat news. Hey, but what about the string of wars to obliterate the tiny country and the constant din of rabid blood oaths to drive every Jew into the sea? Oh, that? We were just kidding."
This movie shows a quick succession of multiple products of Titan's surface from the Cassini orbiter and the European Space Agency's Huygens probe. It shows Cassini imaging science sub-system images, radar images and visual and infrared mapping spectrometer images of the Huygens probe landing area. The rest of the movie consists of mosaics from the descent imager/spectral radiometer. The camera system on the Huygens probe mimics the descent profile of the probe starting at about 144 kilometers (89 miles), looking eastward throughout. It displays the Titan surface in true color. The sequence ends with a true-color surface image. The radar images of the Huygens landing site were taken by the Cassini orbiter radar instrument during the Titan flyby on Oct. 28, 2005.Huygens Descent Sequence
The artist's concept shows the European Space Agency's Huygens probe descent sequence. The animation shows the Huygens probe's entry, descent and landing, with the descent imager/spectral radiometer lamp turned on at the end.
The probe was delivered to Saturn's moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft, which is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. NASA supplied two instruments on the probe, the descent imager/spectral radiometer and the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer.
November 27, 2005
Asscociate Executive Director, JAXA
We are sure that Hayabusa has accomplished the great feat to collect sample soils from a celestial body other than moon. I am heartily proud of those brilliant youths of this country. Below is a live coverage of “The Longest Day”.
That day, November 20th, I was studying the data from Hayabusa that flew as far as100km away in safe hold mode from ITOKAWA just like dreaming a nightmare. But Hayabusa team was not even allowed time to dream a nightmare. It took them a whole week by restless work to get it back to the original gate position.
At around 10:00 pm, Nov. 25th, Hayabusa started descending from 1km in altitude. The climax was coming for the 5th time. Each job done was not a joy any longer. They were not in that kind of mood any more. The goal for them was nothing, nothing but to get sample from the surface. The control room was filled up with their determination to fulfill the mission task. Each operation job sensitively swinging from joy to sorrow on each event until only yesterday was being just calmly carried on. No doubt, Japanese space exploration has entered the new stage just in a few days-----was my vivid feeling I had at that moment. Around 6:00 am, Hayabusa, under guidance by optical navigation system so far, was switched to vertical descent phase to maneuver Hayabusa sent down to “MUSES Sea” along with the direction of the gravity. Entering this phase, remote control from ground basically did not work any longer as scheduled. Hayabusa operates itself on its own. Well, this ability was originally given to the vehicle by human beings, though........
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 29 (OneWorld) - Despite enormous wealth and various federal and social welfare schemes at work, the United States is failing to help millions of its people trying to get out of poverty, according to an independent United Nations rights expert.
"Resource constraints have limited the reach of the assistance programs and social discrimination has aggravated the problems in many situations resulting in poverty clearly seen as a violation of human rights," Dr. Arjun Sengupta declared after visiting the United States last month.
"If the United States government designed and implemented the policies according to human rights standards much of the problem of poverty could be resolved," he added.
Dr. Sengupta, an expert on human rights and extreme poverty of the world body's Commission on Human Rights, said he chose to visit the United States because he wanted to illustrate that extreme poverty was not only prevalent in developing countries, but a phenomenon that is found in most nations in the world, according to U.N. officials.
"The case of the United States was particularly interesting as it presented an apparent paradox: as the wealthiest country on Earth, with higher per capita income levels than any other country, the United States has also had one of the highest incidences of poverty among the rich industrialized nations," Dr. Sengupta said.
* 38 percent of the persons whom the Census Bureau identifies as "poor" own their own homes with a median value of $39,200.
* 62 percent of "poor" households own a car; 14 percent own two or more cars.
* Nearly half of all "poor" households have air-conditioning; 31 percent have microwave ovens.
* Nationwide, some 22,000 "poor" households have heated swimming pools or Jacuzzis.
"Poor" Americans today are better housed, better fed, and own more property than did the average U.S. citizen throughout much of the 20th Century. In 1988, the per capita expenditures of the lowest income fifth of the U.S. population exceeded the per capita expenditures of the median American household in 1955, after adjusting for inflation.1
Better Off Than Europeans, Japanese
The average "poor" American lives in a larger house or apartment than does the average West European (This is the average West European, not poor West Europeans). Poor Americans eat far more meat, are more likely to own cars and dishwashers, and are more likely to have basic modern amenities such as indoor toilets than is the general West European population.
"Poor" Americans consume three times as much meat each year and are 40 percent more likely to own a car than the average Japanese. And the average Japanese is 22 times more likely to live without an indoor flush toilet than is a poor American.
The Census Bureau counts as "poor" anyone with "cash income" less than the official poverty threshold, which was $12,675 for a family of four in 1989. The Census completely disregards assets owned by the "poor," and does not even count much of what, in fact, is income. This is clear from the Census's own data: low income persons spend $1.94 for every $1.00 in "income" reported by the Census. If this is true, then the poor somehow are getting $0.94 in additional income above every $1.00 counted by the Census. Indeed, the gap between spending and the Census's count of the income of the "poor" has grown larger year by year till, now, the Census measurement of the income of poor persons no longer has any bearing on economic reality.
In summary NASA's conclusions are:
1) Both a deflection mission (of the type required for Apophis) and a scientific/transponder mission to Apophis can be performed sequentially, if required, between the key radar apparition in 2013 and the Earth close approach in 2029. There is therefore no need for a scientific/transponder mission to refine the Apophis orbit at this time.
Note: B612 assumed that 10-12 years would be required (end to end) to plan and execute the first asteroid deflection mission. NASA's 7 year estimate allows a potential pre-deflection transponder mission to be delayed until after the anticipated 2013 radar acquisition.
2) In 2021 when a deflection decision would have to be made, the size of the 2029 error ellipse (even without a transponder mission) will yield a maximum impact probability of about 20% (one chance in five), sufficient to justify launching a deflection mission if required.
Note: NASA agrees with B612 that a precursor transponder mission is appropriate prior to mounting a deflection mission. Nevertheless NASA also concludes that by the time a deflection decision would have to be made in 2021, the error ellipse will have been reduced sufficient to yield a maximum impact probability of 20%, twice the required minimum assumed by B612. This conclusion assumes that the Arecibo radar will be available and successfully acquire Apophis at each opportunity through 2021.
NASA also states that these conclusions do not preclude scientific missions to Apophis at an earlier time, and that in fact the specific characteristics of the 2029 Apophis encounter provide a unique opportunity to investigate NEOs. Any such proposals would be handled via the existing Discovery program, according to NASA.
B612 observations and general comments:
1) Radar tracking plays an extremely important role in being able to rationally determine the future likelihood of a NEO impact and potentially in planning for a deflection mission when required (as evident in the Chesley analysis). Yet the availability of NEO radar capability in the future is highly uncertain, even precarious. This is especially true of the most valuable NEO radar facility, Arecibo.
2) The Apophis potential impact is a highly unusual, even unique case. Due to its close encounter with the Earth in April 2029, and its Earth-like orbit, a relatively inexpensive low-technology deflection technique will suffice to divert it from an Earth impact in 2036, should that condition eventuate.
3) In the typical NEO impact scenario however, a much more sophisticated, costly and advanced technology mission would be required. Moreover, a low cost, quick mission to place a transponder on such an object would not be a viable option. Apophis is not typical of the NEO impact threat and should not be seen as such.
4) All parties to this exchange of ideas acknowledge having learned a great deal in the process of working through the issues. However, absent B612 Foundation raising the question, the current understanding of the Apophis circumstances might not have developed. This is not an acceptable scenario. If instead, a specific US Government agency were assigned the responsibility of protecting the Earth from catastrophic NEO impacts, that agency would perform such an analysis as a routine matter for all potential NEO impactors.
B612 Foundation therefore recommends:
1) That reliable NEO radar capability be assured in order to support early warning of pending NEO impacts and rational deflection mission planning. (National Science Foundation)
2) That the development of advanced space power and propulsion technology capable of providing access to and deflection of the general NEO population be initiated. (NASA)
3) That the responsibility for protection of the Earth from future NEO impacts be assigned to a capable US Government agency. Such responsibility should include, inter alia, early warning capability, deflection capability and related policy development authority. (US Government)
Young Singers Spread Racist Hate
Duo Considered the Olsen Twins of the White Nationalist Movement
Oct. 20, 2005 — Thirteen-year-old twins Lamb and Lynx Gaede have one album out, another on the way, a music video, and lots of fans.
They may remind you another famous pair of singers, the Olsen Twins, and the girls say they like that. But unlike the Olsens, who built a media empire on their fun-loving, squeaky-clean image, Lamb and Lynx are cultivating a much darker personna. They are white nationalists and use their talents to preach a message of hate.
Known as "Prussian Blue" — a nod to their German heritage and bright blue eyes — the girls from Bakersfield, Calif., have been performing songs about white nationalism before all-white crowds since they were nine.
"We're proud of being white, we want to keep being white," said Lynx. "We want our people to stay white … we don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle. We just want to preserve our race."
Lynx and Lamb have been nurtured on racist beliefs since birth by their mother April. "They need to have the background to understand why certain things are happening," said April, a stay-at-home mom who no longer lives with the twins' father. "I'm going to give them, give them my opinion just like any, any parent would."
April home-schools the girls, teaching them her own unique perspective on everything from current to historical events. In addition, April's father surrounds the family with symbols of his beliefs — specifically the Nazi swastika. It appears on his belt buckle, on the side of his pick-up truck and he's even registered it as his cattle brand with the Bureau of Livestock Identification.
"Because it's provocative," explains April of the cattle brand, "to him he thinks it's important as a symbol of freedom of speech that he can use it as his cattle brand."
Songs like "Sacrifice" — a tribute to Nazi Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy Fuhrer — clearly show the effect of the girls' upbringing. The lyrics praise Hess as a "man of peace who wouldn't give up."
"Does he deserve a fair trial?" this was the question that kept surfacing every five minutes…he wasn’t the least fair to his people and he literally reduced justice to verbal orders from his mouth to be carried out by his dogs.
Why do we have to listen to his anticipated rudeness and arrogant stupid defenses? We already knew he was going to try to twist things and claim that the trial lacks legitimacy or that it’s more a court of politics rather than a court of law, blah, blah, blah…
"Why do we have to listen to this bull****?" said one of my friends.
"I prefer the trial goes like this:
Q:Are you Saddam Hussein?
Then take this bullet in the head."
Since my democratic election as president of the Palestinian Authority in January, my government has done all in its power to advance the Road Map and live up to our commitments: My government has initiated serious reforms of our governing institutions; we have consolidated the official security agencies; we have declared a policy of non-violence and negotiations and we have worked hard to secure and maintain a cease-fire to which all factions signed on.
Unfortunately, Palestinians cannot pursue the Road Map alone. Implicit in the idea of the Road Map is that Israel and the Palestinians are partners in the journey to peace. Yet the Israeli government has not fully cooperated with my government, created obstacles in the face of a full and unconditional return to the negotiating table, and acted as if Israel can resolve the Middle East conflict unilaterally. In addition, the Israeli government has taken steps that undermine the Road Map.
For example, during Israel's Gaza disengagement, my government was asked to ensure that Israel's evacuation took place peacefully and without disruption. I am proud to say that we succeeded: not a single Israeli settler or soldier was attacked or fired on. We were told that our behavior would be a "test," and that if we did our part, Israel would reciprocate by allowing Gazans to breathe the air of freedom and begin rebuilding their shattered lives.
Yet, this has not happened: Gaza's airport and crossing point to Egypt remain closed; its waters are off-limits to our fishermen; its borders are completely sealed and movement into or out of Gaza is virtually impossible; and no safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank exists. Because investors rightly fear that without access to the outside world, Gazans will not be able to rebuild a functioning economy, they have been slow at investing.
This is not the vision that President Bush and I had for the Gaza Strip back in May: We wanted to see a free Gaza Strip, open to the rest of the world, where Palestinians can be free and where our economy can prosper. But as long as Israel maintains its stronghold over the borders, water and airspace of the Gaza Strip this will never come to pass.
Similarly, this is not the vision that we have for the West Bank. Palestinians have been assured that "Gaza first" would not be "Gaza last." We were told that we would soon enjoy an expansion of our freedom in the West Bank. We were told that Israel's evacuation of the Gaza Strip would not come at the expense of deepening the settlement activity in the West Bank. Instead, Israel has accelerated its settlement expansion in the Palestinian heartland. In fact, the 26 months since Israel announced its plans to disengage from Gaza have witnessed the highest rate of West Bank settlement construction in all the occupation years. Israel has also continued construction of the Wall -- deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice -- depriving more and more Palestinians their freedom and livelihood, and closed off access to East Jerusalem, Palestine's religious, cultural and political capital.
I am not afraid of the Palestinian people. On the contrary, I have abiding faith that my people will pursue the path of tolerance and peace -- indeed, poll after poll shows that a majority of the Palestinian people wants a negotiated two-state solution to our conflict with Israel. I have managed, in the nine months since my election, to create a climate of peace and not a climate of violence amongst Palestinians.(??????WHAT???-ed.) Yet this climate of peace needs the help of the U.S. and the international community: For without sustained pressure on the Israeli government to sit down and negotiate, Israel will only bolster those within Palestinian society who do not share the majority's desire for peace. Every time Israel launches a violent attack on our cities, commits a political assassination, or confiscates more Palestinian land, the voices for peace grow weaker. By refusing to negotiate with my government and by insisting on pursuing unilateral actions, the Israeli government is nourishing that minority within Palestinian society that sees violent struggle as the only answer.
Open Letter of the Association of Space Explorers 19th Annual Congress, Salt Lake City, UT 14 October 2005
The Association of Space Explorers (ASE), meeting in its annual congress in Salt Lake City, Utah from October 10 - 16, 2005, has taken special note of the series of unusually devastating natural disasters that have occurred around the world during the past year. While natural disasters of many types cause death, destruction and disruption of society around the world every year, the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, hurricanes Katrina and Rita in September 2005 and the Pakistan earthquake in October 2005 have been unusually devastating. These unusually large events have, in our opinion, spotlighted the inadequacy of societal preparation for and response to these large natural disasters. In most cases it is clear in retrospect that the mitigation measures were inadequate not due to lack of understanding, but due to failure to effectively act based on well understood fore-knowledge of the disaster potential.
Yet we astronauts and cosmonauts are particularly concerned by a far more threatening natural disaster for which the world is totally unprepared; namely the future impact of a near-Earth object (NEO) with the Earth. While such cosmic impacts between NEOs and the Earth are infrequent their magnitude is often far greater than any other natural disaster, with an upper bound resulting in global, rather than local or regional devastation. Historically the largest of such cosmic impacts have lead to the virtually instantaneous extinction of a majority of the species alive on the planet at the time of impact.
NASA has been spending about $4 million a year to meet a 1998 Congressional mandate to chart (by 2008) at least 90 percent of the near-Earth asteroids that are more than 1 kilometer in diameter. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been overseeing the effort, called the Spaceguard Survey, which has to date discovered more than 790 of an estimated 1,100 or so of these huge, rocky objects. The impact of a 1-kilometer asteroid would release the same amount of energy as 70,000 megatons of TNT or, equivalently, as 1,400 of the largest thermonuclear weapons ever detonated. The subsequent Sun-dimming pall of debris lofted high into the atmosphere would envelop our planet for months, threatening all of human civilization.
The need to be on the lookout for such an immense catastrophe is clear enough, as more than one Hollywood blockbuster has made widely known. The capability of the current search effort, however, is inadequate to address the danger posed by the far more populous cohort of smaller near-Earth asteroids, those down to about 100 meters in diameter. Such objects can cause serious local or even regional destruction. The impact of a 100-meter-diameter body would release the equivalent of an 80-megaton bomb and thus could devastate an area the size of a large city, for example. And a several-hundred-meter body could cause a tsunami rivaling or exceeding last year's horrific Indian Ocean event.
Objects in this range of diameters are discovered only incidentally today by the modest equipment that has been dedicated to finding their larger siblings. A recent addition to the list of small asteroids that have a small but real chance of striking the Earth is a 330-meter-diameter asteroid named 99942 Apophis (formerly known as 2004 MN4). It has a 1-in-32,000 chance of impacting in April 2035 and a 1-in-12,000 chance of striking in April 2036. So there's no need to become alarmed at this stage. Yet one of these smaller asteroids is far more likely than their larger counterparts to constitute a danger in the foreseeable future. They are also easier to deflect away from Earth using space technology. The problem is that today astronomers have discovered such a low percentage of the smaller near-Earth asteroids that a strike with no warning whatsoever is far and away more likely than our having enough time to undertake an effort at deflection.
First, consider the technology-development front. It happens that NASA was, at least until recently, headed in just the right direction for building hardware that could deflect an object away from a collision with Earth. Prometheus is a NASA program to develop cost-effective deep-space propulsion capability by utilizing high-performance ion or plasma engines powered by a small nuclear reactor—just what would be needed to give a menacing asteroid the necessary shove. The nuclear-electric propulsion portion of the program now seems to be on hold with priority shifted toward developing a small reactor for future work on the lunar surface.
Just prior to the arrival of Michael Griffin as the new NASA Administrator, an asteroid-deflection mission was in the final throes of consideration as the first operational test of the Prometheus technology. This mission would have demonstrated the use of an "asteroid tugboat" to deflect near-Earth asteroids, a concept that we and two other members of our group spelled out in Scientific American in November 2003. However, this proposal, along with the Prometheus program, was put into limbo in a reshuffling of NASA priorities.
Be afraid. Be somewhat, slightly afraid.
Last week's panic over bird flu skipped right past the current fashion of intelligent design. Senate Major Leader Bill Frist minced no words in blaming natural selection for the impending deadly human contagion: "It's like pulling the lever on a Vegas slot machine over and over again. If you pull enough times, the reels will align and hit the jackpot. But in this case, the jackpot is a deadly virus to which humans have no natural immunity."
Well, yes. The virus would have to mutate in its animal host to develop the possibility of casual human-to-human transmission. It would have to survive and reproduce until it reached a human host. It would also have to retain the virulence of bird flu in the few humans that catch it today, yet somehow not snuff out its own spread by killing its carriers.
This does indeed amount to a giant long shot. Jeffrey Taubenberger, a civilian Army pathologist who recreated in a lab the 1918 Spanish flu, says today's bird flu would have to accumulate specific mutations on each of its eight RNA segments. Presumably a powerful selective pressure would be required to drive the virus down this path. If so, it's hard to imagine the virus not also discovering the adaptive benefit of less human lethality, which would aid its spread.
For this, we can give thanks to the Lord for a nature that operates on principles of unintelligent design.
How a catastrophe with low probability of occurring became a focus of Washington's attention can be explained in one word: Katrina. Unlike the universe, politicians operate on psychological principles. George Bush gave the press conference last week he wished he'd given in the year past about the danger of New Orleans being submerged in a hurricane. He even cited John Barry's book about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic -- the same Mr. Barry whose earlier book on the 1927 Mississippi flood was widely cited in the aftermath of the New Orleans debacle.
You're seeing an administration more than usually needy to get its "I told you so" chits in hand. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has stated, quite accurately, that the U.S. is unprepared for a worst-case pandemic. But when pressed on the odds, he said, "From all I hear from scientists and physicians it is relatively low, but it is not zero."
Declared Julie Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control, in more interviews than you can count last week: a global pandemic is "not a matter of 'if' but 'when.'" But note that she was speaking of any flu pandemic, not the mega-killer of recent Washington scenarios.
Her own experts say a medium-severity bird flu outbreak would kill, at most, 207,000 Americans. In a normal year, flu kills 36,000. The 1918 flu, which is now believed to have been derived from bird flu, killed nearly 700,000 in a population one-third the size of today's, but notice that many of its victims died of secondary bacterial pneumonia that now are treated with antibiotics.
Yes, it's just conceivable that a virus could evolve that spreads easily and kills in the tens of millions -- though it's far more likely that an easy-spreading virus would be one that had evolved not to kill. Bird flu, in the first place, is carried hither and yon in ducks because it doesn't make them sick. Cataclysms of many kinds are always possible. But the principle of unintelligent design gives us comfort that such cataclysms are vanishingly rare because otherwise we wouldn't be here. The universe defaults to order because non-order is too unstable to persist. Why don't the creationists give God for credit for that?
In his book "Catastrophe," Richard Posner, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, writes: "The number of extreme catastrophes that have a more than negligible probability of occurring in this century is alarmingly great and their variety startling."
This is a delicious invitation to worry about everything. In all likelihood, however, each of us will die of something mundane, and in any case we'll all die. Very few policies recommend themselves as the answer to worst-case disasters, except perhaps a policy of space exploration to make sure mankind is not forever dependent on this planet and this solar system.
Panic is certainly not a sustainable response. Mr. Bush didn't tell families to stock up on Dinty Moore and Parmalat, enough to hunker down for an eight-week flu siege. After the duct tape and plastic sheeting nuttiness in the wake of the al Qaeda attacks, this suggests he's learned a lesson about using signals to help Americans put given risks in a realistic perspective.
Instead, stuck for something to do, Washington is turning bird flu into an opportunity for overdue progress on the vaccine industry's lawsuit problem. And China is being pressured to cooperate on disease control. Its agricultural sector, wedged weirdly between peasant husbandry and agribusiness, has become a hothouse for virus mutation. Progress here really might someday stop a global plague.
Almost everything about last week's flu panic goes to show why "intelligent design" simply makes a bad argument -- because it relies on the baseless assumption that complexity is evidence of design, a notion belied by everyday experience. Our economy achieves its complexity precisely because no one is in charge. Our politics creates order for 300 million contentious citizens in ways more supple and efficient than any authoritarian could impose.
That's why we're likely to get a policy response to the flu panic that's more rational, and less extravagant, than the scary talk that gives rise to it.
For the mighty BoSox have struck out. The lack of a number one ace pitcher or decent bullpen combined with mediocre defense and ridiculously sad runners-left-on-base numbers equals an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the very beatable Chicago White Sox. So for me, baseball season is officially over. Yeah, it would be nice to see the New Yokr Spankees get beat down by whomever else is left, but hey, it would only be a consolation prize this year. I still have my 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox Schwag, which will always be dear to me, but it looks like this was the last gasp of air from the Original Cowboy Up! Idiots. Manny will likely be gone, as well as Renterror, Johnny Caveman, Millar and probably Wells too. I won't be surprised if there are barely any left from the 2004 squad by next season.
So with that being said, time for me to concentrate on more serious matters, like THE UNDEFEATED NASHVILLE PREDATORS AND THE NOT-UNDEFEATED-YET-VERY-MUCH-STILL-ALIVE-ALTHOUGH-WE-REALLY-NEED-TO-WIN-THIS-WEEKEND TENNESEE TITANS!!!!