20 years since Bhopal, still no justice

Next Friday is the 20th anniversary of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, and there is a global day of action scheduled. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, read this, then sign the petition.

Colour me yellowy orange

As I read this article [simon] on the opportunity the Lib Dems have of becoming “second party” in the UK, I increasingly felt like wow, maybe it’s finally time to join up. Then I read this:

They [the lib dems] are instinctively permissive, even if their brains tell them to be watchful about what they permit.

which, basically, is me. I don’t always listen to the brain, though.

What if America was Iraq?

Thought-provoking reading, by a Professor of History, which might give you some idea of what life is like in Iraq right now: What would America look like if it were in Iraq’s current situation? [null]

The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number. …

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and Federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the Secretary of State (Aqilah Hashemi), the President (Izzedine Salim), and the Attorney General (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if no one had electricity for much more than 10 hours a day, and often less? What if it went off at unpredictable times, causing factories to grind to a halt and air conditioning to fail in the middle of the summer in Houston and Miami? What if the Alaska pipeline were bombed and disabled at least monthly? What if unemployment hovered around 40%?


No answers, just a lot of rhetorical questions which, if you’ve got any imagination at all, paint a very depressing picture…

I say Piraha, you say Piraha, Piraha, Piraha, …

Linguistic determinism gets a boost [lambda]. And here’s the sound-bite everyone’s gonna be biting:

Hunter-gatherers from the Piraha tribe, whose language only contains words for the numbers one and two, were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration, revealed the study.

Partway Gay

Partway Gay – a Washington Post article about fluid shifts in sexual orientation/behaviour in American teenagers, particularly girls [via bash].

Outside of conservative religious circles, the common understanding for years has been that homosexuality is largely genetic, based on physical attraction, and unchanging. Though an easy model to understand, if not accept, it has a major flaw: It is derived almost exclusively from male subjects. Recent studies of relationships among women suggest that female homosexuality may be grounded more in social interaction, may present itself as an emotional attraction in addition to or in place of a physical one, and may change over time. Young women also appear to be more open to homosexual relationships than young men are.

Well, dur. Roll on the day when human beings stop trying to judge, categorise or even explain sexual preference, and just accept that we’re all people, and some people love some other people, and that’s all we really need to know. This world is a scary enough place as it is without being told who you can or can’t be nice to.

The Nuclear Winter Religion

What do alien life, nuclear winter, passive smoking, and global warming all have in common? Well, according to Michael Crichton, they’re all religions [gamma].

His point relates to the process of science in general, and how it gets compromised by exposure to politics and other social “realities”. Very interesting stuff.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world.

Once you abandon strict adherence to what science tells us, once you start arranging the truth in a press conference, then anything is possible. In one context, maybe you will get some mobilization against nuclear war. But in another context, you get Lysenkoism. In another, you get Nazi euthanasia. The danger is always there, if you subvert science to political ends.

Parts of this remind me of this short article by Brian Eno, which introduced to me the word “propagenda”, and which happens to be stuck on my wall at home.

And while I’m writing, and since Lysenkoism was mentioned above, I’d just like to say how much I enjoyed Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Live of Ivan Denisovich, which I’ve devoured over the last few days – compelling and vivid stuff. Much more enjoyable, in fact, than Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, which after twenty years of anticipation, was a really dull disappointment. I guess I’ve been spoilt by the likes of Bruce Sterling for Jules Verne to hold much wonder for me. Shrug…

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