Archive for the 'Serious News' Category

First Female POTUS?

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Only four days into her reign as John McCain’s “soul mate,” or “Trophy Vice,” as some bloggers are calling her, on the ticket known as “Maverick Squared,” Palin, the governor of Alaska, has already accrued two gates (Troopergate and Broken-watergate), a lawyer (for Troopergate), a future son-in-law named Levi (a high school ice hockey player, described by New York magazine as “sex on skates”), and a National Enquirer headline about the “Teen Prego Crisis” with 17-year-old daughter Bristol.

from Todays NYTimes Maureen Dowd OpEd

And the French think they are so chic having a sex symbol as the WIFE of the President. With Sexy Sarah a chicken bone away from the Red Phone, we might all be in for a rootin’ tootin’ straight shootin’ surprise…..

We Invented It, We Should Own It

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Invented by American computer scientists during the 1970s, the Internet has been embraced around the globe. During the network’s first
three decades, most Internet traffic flowed through the United States.

In many cases, data sent between two locations within a given country also passed through the United States.

Engineers who help run the Internet said that it would have been impossible for the United States
to maintain its hegemony over the long run because of the very nature of the Internet; it has no central point of control.

And now, the balance of power is shifting. Data is increasingly flowing around the United States, which may have intelligence — and conceivably
military — consequences.

from the New York Times

Although the “Internet” and the technology that made it possible was largely developed in the United States, that was eons and many generations ago in cyber-time. More recently, today’s internet, the WWW, was “invented” in Switzerland and is truly a world without borders – but lots of walls.

American dominance of the virtual worlds of the Internet, like American dominence of the Real World, is a delusion of grandeur, doomed to evaporate in the cold, clear light of the 21st century. Live with it. We may not own or control the Internet, but we still Rule it, by dint of our ingenuity, creativity and insatiable curiosity.

How Many Million Cracks?

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WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain spent the summer arguing that a 40-something candidate with four years in major office and no significant foreign policy experience was not ready to be president.

And then on Friday he picked as his running mate a 40-something candidate with two years in major office and no significant foreign policy experience.

from the New York Times

Brilliant pick, from where the Dowbrigade is sitting. Undoubtedly McCain will pick up a hefty percentage of the women who took the collective dis of Hillary personally, and as an affront to women. Of course, this is a minority of all Hilliary supporters – those who supported her for ideological or purely practical reasons have shifted their support to the relatively benign Obama.

But among those true believers who feel that what ails the American body politic is an overdose of testosterone poisoning, voting for Palin, especially with a spectral John McCain growing older by the week and slumping at her side, is going to make sense. Hell, Vegas is probably giving even odds he doesn’t last out his first term. And there just might be enough of these sisters to sway a close election, which this is shaping up to be. As incredible as it may seem, the Democrats may somehow have found a way to blow another Big Game, in danger of becoming the Buffalo Bills of American Politics.

Hillary, despite all of her enthusiastic bombast, is obviously convinced Obama is doomed, and has plans for a triumphant told-you-so return to the stage in ’12. But now the Republicans, whether or not McCain is forced to make a one-term pledge, will have an experienced female QB on the bench, ready to go into the game to counter Hillary. A younger, prettier female coming off of four years of high-profile photo-ops. Brilliant.

Personally, experience has shown the Dowbrigade that women are better at just about everything than men, except Football and Writing. For some reason, almost all of our favorite football players and writers are men. Call us a chauvinist. But we have no doubt that women would do a much better job of running the world than men, not that it would be much of a challenge considering how we’ve bolloxed up the past 3,000 years through Patriarchial mismanagement.

On the other hand, this conviction could not induce us to vote for Condelezza Rice for President, for example, or Margaret Thatcher, or Sarah Palin for that matter. We knew Pinky Bhutto from Winthrop House dining hall, and we wouldn’t have voter for her either,  God rest her soul, even had we been born in Pakistan.

We are so over the Hill, we can’t even see her in the rear view mirror. Given that the Bill is yet to be paid, we’d have to say their race is run and their day is done. But we’ve been wrong before.

So who is the Dowbrigade supporting this time around? As we tell our students when they ask us this question, as a registered Massachusetts voter, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. Our electoral votes were signed sealed and delivered long ago. However, who one supports, especially as psuedo-pundit, can make a difference. The truth is we are waiting to see who the Natural Law Party nominates, now that John Hagelin is President of the United States Peace Government.

Stay tuned…..

Urban Myth No More

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China Arnold, 28, showed no reaction when the jury's verdict was announced, then lowered her head.DAYTON, Ohio – A mother was convicted yesterday of killing her month-old daughter by burning her in a microwave oven, with jurors rejecting a defense attorney’s claims that there was evidence that someone else was responsible.

Prosecutors said Arnold intentionally put her baby in the microwave oven and burned the child to death after fight with her boyfriend.

Arnold’s cellmate testified that Arnold confessed to putting the baby in the microwave and turning it on because she was worried her boyfriend would leave her if he found out the child wasn’t his.

from the Boston Globe

We always thought this was an urban myth, but now that we think about it, the myth version was a woman who put her dog in the microwave after a bath to dry it more quickly. Never underestimate the depraved ingenuity of a technically human being, male or female, trying to avoid true paternity.

What Inflation?

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As the Dowbrigade has been noting for some time now, it is clear that the Federal Office of Management and Budget has been cooking the nation’s books for years.

We noted almost four years ago that prices at the pumps, checkout counters, showrooms and e-Sites have been going up a lot faster than the officially recognized 3-4% per year. We wrote then,

Although we don’t have an advanced degree in economics, it is obvious to any fool with half a brain and less than a million dollars to spend that prices in the US are rising faster than the officially reported 1.1%. Gasoline is almost two dollars a gallon, the T just went up 25%, we spend more at the supermarket every week (when did milk get so expensive?) and the hidden surcharges and stealth fees in our bills are gutting our budget every month. (Dowbrigade, March 2004)

Now, although we still don’t have an advanced degree in economics, we DID take courses in the field as an undergrad AND as a grad student, as we have long been convinced that no one can really hope to understand what’s going on in the modern world without a sound understanding of basic economic principles.

Despite that fact, and the intuitive certainty that some statistical prestidigitation was taking place, we didn’t have a clue as to the actual mechanisms being employed until we read Kevin Phillips article Hard Numbers: The Economy is Worse than you Think, from the current issue of Harper’s Magazine. He explains, in language anyone with a sound understanding of basic economic principles can understand, the different statistical scams that successive administrations have instituted to downplay inflation and unemployment, both of which, according to a number of neutral economists, are actually hovering between 8 and 10%.

Ever since the 1960s, Washington has gulled its citizens and creditors by debasing official statistics, the vital instruments with which the vigor and muscle of the American economy are measured.

The effect has been to create a false sense of economic achievement and rectitude, allowing us to maintain artificially low interest rates, massive government borrowing, and a dangerous reliance on mortgage and financial debt even as real economic growth has been slower than claimed.

St Petersburg Times

The scams range from computing the value of homes by asking homeowners to estimate how much rent they could charge rather than taking real estate market rates (rents rose half as fast as house prices over the past decade) to leaving people who had “given up looking for work” from the unemployment statistics.

Meanwhile, the current elephant in the living room is credit card debt. As Americans absorb the increases at the gas station and in the supermarkets, they are not adjusting their spending accordingly – they are accumulating the resulting monthly deficits on their credit cards. The limits on these cards, lifted regularly during the boom times, will eventually be reached, and the resultant insolvencies will be a devastating one-two punch to ordinary citizens already reeling from depreciation and or loss of homes and investment portfolios.

Most of those affected are still in denial, or hoping that the empty bank accounts at the end of the months are temporary abberrations soon to disappear. But they have a nagging feeling bogging down their brains which is reflected in the historically low consumer confidence numbers being reported in the past few weeks. What happens when millions of cards start popping back out of ATM’s or being refused at Wal-Mart or Piggly Wiggly is anybody’s guess, but it isn’t going to be pretty.

Hopeful News Item of the Day

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MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain’s king has appointed a woman believed to be the Arab world’s first Jewish ambassador as the country’s envoy to Washington.

Lawmaker Houda Nonoo said she was proud to serve
her country “first of all as a Bahraini,” adding she was not chosen for the post because of her religion.

“It is a great honor to have been appointed as the first female ambassador to the United States of America and I am looking forward to meeting this new challenge,” Nonoo told The Associated Press by telephone.


from the AP

Bravo for Bahraini Houda NoNoo, but Alec Trebeck is calling – he wants to buy back a vowel.

Afghan Dog Fights Enrage Taliban, Not US

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bombing at an outdoor dog fighting competition killed 80 people and wounded scores on Sunday, an Afghan governor said. It appeared to be the deadliest terror attack in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Unlike in the U.S., where star Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for his role in a dogfighting operation, dog fights are a popular form of entertainment in Afghanistan.

German shepherds, bully kuttas and Afghan mastiffs do not fight until death but rather until one dog pins another or one of the fighters runs away. The dogs have clipped ears and tails and carry the scars of battle.

The events can attract hundreds of spectators who cram into a tight circle around the spectacle. The sport was banned under Taliban rule.

from the AP

Let me get this straight. We lock Michael Vick up in the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth for organizing dog fights, and then we send thousand of troops to die in Afghanistan defending the right of our Afgan allies to organize dog fights.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The Party’s Over

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The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies
Barak Obama is not a black version of John Kennedy. He is a pathetic but apparently successful attempt to repackage tired political hackery as this season’s hot new reality show. And yet, he is not what is wrong with American Politics.

Hillary Clinton is a nakedly ambitious, calculatingly manipulative career politician who wants to create a dynasty by keeping the presidency in the hands of two families for nearly 30 years. And yet, she is not what is wrong with American Politics.

John McCain is an authentic war hero who now wants to lead an American permanently at war with all who resist the American Way, for thousands of years if necessary, making the Hundred Year War flash by in comparison. And yet, he is not what is wrong with American Politics.

George Bush has been easily the most disastrous president in modern American History, squandering decades of goodwill and consensus building within and without our nation, shattering the emerging unity of progressive democracies and savaging the American economy for the enrichment of the narrow sliver of socio-economic stratum from which he hails. And yet, not even he is what is wrong with American Politics.

What is wrong with American politics is our outdated, terminally corrupt and putrefying political parties, which have grown like cancers within the body politic, choking the life from its once robust physique.

The enduring genius of our system of government is that it was established, and continues to operate, on a set of timeless principles embodied in the oldest functioning Constitution on the face of the planet. This document has withstood the test of time because it does not try to solve the issues of the day, or reflect current thinking on the inevitable conflicts of interest groups which occur within any authentic democracy.

Rather, it was intended to be an enduring paradigm for the peaceful interplay of interest groups which is at the heart of modern democracy. As times changed, the issues of the day and the interest groups involved in them would change, but the system, with its checks and balances, would endure.

When a group of individuals with common interests in one or a group of issues of the day, they band together in an orginazation to promote those interests. These groups are called political parties.

Unlike the underlying structure of the US government, they were never meant to be permanent. Quite the contrary – by their very nature they were meant to be transitory. They were meant to be spontaneous and ad hoc, and as interests, demography and development changed, new parties would be born and old ones would wither away.

And thus it was during the early years of the Republic. Some of the most memorable parties in our nation’s past lasted only a few election cycles. The famosisimo Federalist Party, which was formed by Alexander Hamilton and controled the government until 1801, only really lasted 24 years (1792-1816).

At around the same time, the Democratic-Republican Party, also called the Republican Party, but not to be confused with the modern-day GOP, founded by Thomas Jefferson, outlived the Federalists by a few years (1792-1824) before it lost power, split, transformed, and changed its name.

Other notable names had even shorter existences. The Whig Party withered away after 22 years (1833-1856) and both the Know-Nothing (American) Party (1912-1916) and the Bull Moose (Progressive) Party (1912-1914) made it through a single election. The Liberal Republican Party (1872) and the Constitutional Union Party (1860) lasted less than a year.

Today newly formed parties don’t seem to stand a chance. They are short lived, puny and powerless compared to the major parties. Remember the Citizen’s Party (1979-1984), the Vegetarian Party (1948-1964) or the American Worker’s Party (1933-34)? Neither do we.

We do, however, remember the Natural Law Party (1992-2004), which we actually voted for in three presidential elections because their candidate, Dr. John Hagelin, a physics professor at Maharishi University and MIT, promised to deliver world peace through Transcendental Meditation and Yogic Flying, which we have always wanted to try.

This is what political parties should be all about. The excitement of forming something new, of sweeping away the old, of constant renewal through throwing out the soiled and patched-up plans of the previous generation, and starting from scratch with a fresh piece of paper on the political drawing board.

But for over 150 years the American political panorama has been dominated by just two behemoths, the Republicans (b. 1854) and the Democrats (b. 1820′s). They are now ancient, by historical standards, and have become much more of an impediment to than an implementation of a modern functioning Democracy.

Old parties are dominated by old men, and the adage that power corrupts holds just as true for political parties and their leaders as it does for kings.

The major American political parties have become institutionalized to the point that they are incapable of acting as agents for real change in the political system, which clearly is failing us in this, our hour of need. The insidious and incestuous coupling of political parties with centers of economic power has reached the point, after 150 years, where they cannot be separated.

Feeble efforts at campaign reform, like the McCain-Feingold Act, are doomed to failure because the clannish cadres at the cupolas of capitalism and the political parties have merged; they share the same values and interests, and they act in almost unconscious concert.

The fact that the two major party candidates in the last presidential election belonged to the same Yale University secret society 40 years ago, as did the heads of dozens of major American corporations, is NOT serendipity.

Because the cancer of Special Interests has spread too widely and penetrated too deeply into the major parties to be excised, these parties need to die. At present, they are staying alive thanks to transfusions of young, relatively uncorrupted blood. But they are capable of giving nothing in return, and will eventually and inevitably infect the donors, who will develop an antipathy or active antagonism to the political process as a result.

Barack Obama, we repeat, is NOT The One. He is a clever repackaging of the same tired old Democratic Party pseudo-populism, a political philosophy which should have died with the industrial revolution. Because he is young and good-looking, because, unlike most other candidates since JFK he can give a humdinger of a speech, and most of all because Democratic voters are so desperate for real live human alternative to the animatronic robots they keep foisting on us, he seems to be the front runner. Besides being a fraud and a cruel mirage, Barak Obama is a Republican wet dream.

But it really doesn’t matter who wins this election. We are more convinced than ever that The One will not emerge from either the Democratic or Republican parties. Whoever wins this election will be faced with intractable problems, and saddled with so many promises and debts that he or she will be unable to effect change on the level needed to right the course of the ship of state.

The American public, groping its way by instinct, is aware that the major parties are bankrupt. The 22% approval rating for Congress is a much better measure of the public esteem for the parties than the interest in the presidential race, which is powered by the vain hope that the victor will actually be able to change anything.

Unfortunately, things will have to deteriorate way past where they are now before a majority of Americans get desperate enough to abandon the doomed relics of parties past and start thinking about how to design a functional, transparent, participatory political party in the internet age.

Despite our curmudgeonly and cynical attitude, the Dowbrigade is a dreamer at heart, and a believer in the dream of democracy. To us, the Democratic and Republican parties are the most significant impediments to a rebirth of Democracy in this country. We truly believe that a better model is waiting to emerge, and that The One is waiting to lead it.

We just wish that he or she would hurry up.

Snap Killings – Lottery of Death

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DEKALB, Ill. (AP) — Steven Kazmierczak had the look of a boyish graduate student — except for the disturbing tattoos that covered his arms. Professors and students knew him as a bright, helpful scholar, but his past included a stint in a mental health center.

The 27-year-old Kazmierczak also had a history of mental illness and had become erratic in the past two weeks after he stopped taking his medication, said university Police Chief Donald Grady.

from AP

At least since Lizzie Borden allegedly (she was never convicted) took a hachet to her father and step-mother, the American press has fixated on and glamorized snap murders – incidents in which previously unexceptional, seemingly normal individuals suddenly snap and commit acts of uncommon violence and sociopathic savagery.

It would be interesting to study the origins of this kind of killing: have they always existed, or are they a product of modern urban culture? What seems clear is that the public fascination with the phenomena is rooted in the deep-seated fear of the familiar suddenly becoming threatening – the same fear that popularizes movies about alien infections, demonic possession or Stepford Wives.

Except that in this instance the danger is very real and very deadly. Although the statistical probability that someone in your classroom or office will decide to come in strapped like Rambo on any given day is infinitesimal, it is not zero, and that is enough to keep some people awake at night and add to the background level of primal fear, instinctual unease and environmental paranoia already rampant in the atmosphere.

One of the reasons we are increasingly uncomfortable is that, whatever their origins or causes, these berserker attacks seem to be increasing in frequency. Whereas in Lizzie Borden’s time notorious cases arose every decade or so, in the past century, after the state-sponsored killing frenzies of the WWs, sudden, private sector killing sprees seemed to crop up every few years.

Post offices were so often the scenes of such inexplicable massacres the term “going postal” entered into the American lexicon.

Now, hardly a semester goes by without a horrific attack on some campus, in a kind of macabre academic lottery of death.

As a rational academic and a God-fearing sinner, the Dowbrigade has two very different gut feelings about these snap killings.

On the one hand, what we know about the practice of modern pharmaceutical psychology and the chemical causation of psychosis has convinced us that the common clue in all of these cases – “he recently stopped taking his medication” – is the key to the killings.

The human mind, for all its indomitable resiliency and adaptability, can be a fragile vessel. Given the pressures and unnatural postures minds are forced to endure today, and the paucity of spiritual support, it is a wonder more minds do not snap. After tens of thousands of generations of slowly evolving as wandering tribes primarily eking out from nature the resources needed to survive, in less than a hundred generations we have morphed into urban micro-nodes in a global cyber-organic network, completely disconnected from our environment and constantly consuming objects and ideas neither necessary nor necessarily conducive to our survival.

No wonder people snap.

Actually, under normal conditions, people do not snap, even when they go mad. Shakespeare’s glorious descents into madness (think Lear or Macbeth) paint a more typical picture: gradual loss of one’s grasp on reality, hallucinations, especially audio (hearing voices), fixations, increasingly erratic behavior. Traditionally, societies developed a series of mechanisms to deal with these warning signs; talking, praying, sleeping potions, exorcisms, cold baths, sanatoriums in the countryside.

In extreme cases, the mad were locked away in asylums or attics, or simply killed, overtly or through neglect.

But today, modern psychiatry claims to have banished these archaic and inhumane treatments, in favor of scientific therapy, usually a combination of “talk therapy” and medicine. Because time is money, and it takes a lot longer to train and prepare a good shrink than it does to manufacture and market a good pill, these days the emphasis is on the drugs. The interests of the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry may also play a role in this.

Thanks to modern medicine millions of Americans who would otherwise be neurotic, disruptive or severely disturbed are instead able to lead productive, “normal” lives, working regular jobs, having families, paying taxes and participating in our cultural, economic and political life.

The problem is that these drugs just mask the symptoms of mental illness and bandage over the serious psychological problems which afflict these folks. Many of these walking wounded are seriously psycho, and would normally have ground to a halt or behaved in ways that demanded attention, if not for the drugs.

Think of the mind like a motor. When something goes wrong, a nut comes loose or a wire gets disconnected, it normally rattles around or shuts down until you get it fixed. These powerful pharmaceuticals allow the motor to keep functioning while broken, taking the mind to places that minds do not ordinarily go. Not good places.

One of the side effects of these drugs is that they make many users feel like “zombies”, lethargic with fuzzy thinking and muffled emotions. Imagine not being able to fully wake up, or to sense things with the strength and clarity you used to have.

So they stop taking their medication, and within 72 hours are trapped within a full-blown psychosis, delayed and intensified by the drugs, complete with voices, visions, compulsions and unstoppable urges, previously sealed up like malevolent genies in bottles of capsules, now uncorked.

And this is the rational, scientific explanation. On the other hand, despite an intense antipathy to everything associated with the religious right, the recent spate of snap killings has almost convinced us of the existence and active intervention in the waking world of the Devil – Lucifer, Satan, Mephistopheles, call him what you may.

It is the sheer malevolence of these attacks which points us in that direction, as if the killer had sat down and asked himself “What is the absolute most horrible, sadistic, evil thing I could possibly do?” and “How can I absolutely assure myself of a first-class ticket to hell, and how can I take as many innocents with me?”

It is difficult for us to imagine even the most demented or damaged human being honestly asking those questions, let alone acting on his answers, without some demonic intervention. Crimes of passion, crimes of greed, even crimes of indifference or plain cussedness, all those we can understand in human terms.

To a thinking, feeling human being struggling to fit this phenomena into our world-view, the unexpected, inexplicable evil of these snap attacks, like the miracles and saved souls on the other side of the ledger, require us to look higher, or lower, than the limits of the human soul, for answers.

Dowbrigade Living on Radioactive Waste

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Several large properties in the East End of Watertown, including a nearly 12-acre swath of land at Greenough Boulevard and Arsenal Street that was once used to burn depleted uranium from a Watertown Arsenal nuclear reactor, are undergoing close scrutiny to determine how badly contaminated they are and who is responsible for cleaning them up.

The status of the former uranium disposal site is in limbo, as state and federal agencies haggle over who should make the land safe for public use.

from the Boston Globe

Are you kidding us?!!? That 12-acre swath of land at Greenough Boulevard and Arsenal Street is FOUR BLOCKS from the Dowbrigade’s Fortress of Solitude and Rest Home, from whence we pen this post.

And now, after three years we discover that we are living atop a nuclear waste dump! And that the area in which we live is undergoing “close scrutiny” to see how badly contaminated it is! And we thought the reason the walls glow at night is that the previous tenants had used that luminescent “Glowz” paint.

The Watertown Arsenal is a huge red-brick conglomeration stretching almost a half mile along Arsenal St. in Watertown, which abuts Cambridge on the east and the Charles River on the south. Part of the wave of urban arsenal construction during the buildup to WWII, it is being converted piecemeal into retail and high-tech rental space.

We had always envisioned that era as a patriotic jamboree of American industrial stockpiling, with endless rows of jeeps and lorries, neatly packed and stacked gas masks and maybe an occasional Sherman tank or amphibious half-track waiting for the call which eventually came and went. This is the first we have heard about the existence of a WATERTOWN ARSENAL NUCLEAR REACTOR!

We have long been aware that the neighboring People’s Republic of Cambridge was a nuclear power. The research reactor at MIT, a squat white dome tucked behind Central Square on the MIT campus was both a scary reminder of the isotopes among us and a noteworthy driveby on the tourist’s tour of Cambridge, between the excretionary Stata Center and the corner in Cambridgeport where the Toasted Toga Taco House once stood. The joke, back in the day, was that if the Northeast power grid ever went down, at least Cambridge would have lights.

But who suspected that a stone’s throw away, stuffed under the radar by the nefarious military industrial complex, was a working military reactor producing weapons-grade plutonium waste.

Or that this highly radioactive waste was being BURNED IN AN INCINERATOR, with the ensuing smoke and ash left unfiltered to drift down on the neighborhood and contaminate people, pets and the places they live.

We thought the operant debate was whether to bury our radioactive waste for 20,000 years under Yucca Mountain near Bumfuck, Nevada, or find some obscure third-world cesspool desperate enough for US protection or pandering to take it off our hands. Or somehow shoot it into the sun (our personal favorite). Little did we know that another alternative existed – just throw it in an incinerator a few blocks from Dowbrigade headquarters!

Taken on top of the developing story that our august employer is in the process of constructing a Biosafety Level-4 lab, where scientists will fool around with microscopic killers such as Ebola, plague, and anthrax right across the street from the Boston Medical Center, which just happens to contain our dentist’s office, we are feeling less and less secure these days.

Now, we are trying not to panic with the implications of this news. We are desperately looking for a lighter side of this situation. So far, the best we can come up with is this:

Since our governor seems so determined to bring legal gambling to Massachusetts, perhaps the state will give us odds as to the relative likelihood of succumbing to radiation poisoning as opposed to some mutant strain of the plague.

All kidding aside, folks, is anyone else concerned about the recently revealed Watertown Nuclear Reactor, and the radioactive waste in our gardens and yards? Or are we being needlessly paranoid again?

Frankly, we love living in Watertown. It is quiet, family oriented, and a mere 20 minutes from our office by car or bicycle. Our neighbors are all Armenians, which is fine as long as we don’t bring home any Turkish taffy. Our garden is thriving. In fact, we have a fat, juicy tomato on our nightstand right now, serving as a nightlight.

Photo of the Day

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Journalist Kenji Nagai was shot and killed by a soldier.

It doesn’t get much more real, or more deadly, than this. Japanese reporter Kenji Nagai lies in the street, mortally wounded, trying desperately to catch a final shot as his life flows out of his busted body and a young soldier sprints over his prone form.

To the Dowbrigade, a pajama pundit to the core, a picture like this serves as a reminder that, all citizen journalism and alternative media aside, there is a categorical difference between a blogger or a commentator and a practicing professional journalist. We in the ‘sphere would do well to remember that without brave and crazy men and women like Kenji putting their lives on the line every single day, we pundits would have nothing to pontificate on from the comfort and safety of our digital cocoons.

Sista Hoods Spell Cyber Salvation

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digidivBoston’s plan to blanket the city with wireless Internet connections is set to pick up speed this month as companies jockey to play a role and a pilot WiFi project gets underway in a square-mile area of the Grove Hall neighborhood.

But the ambitious plan to create an “open access” wireless Internet environment citywide has hit some speed bumps, including the absence of major donors, delays in launching the pilot project, and blogger protests about Web filtering at WiFi hot spots.

Reeve would not say how much has been raised already, but she conceded that Boston has yet to line up the “key bucks” funders, such as companies, universities, or hospitals, it is hoping for.

The city has signed up about 20 families to give feedback about their ability to access city services, such as paying parking tickets or applying for food stamps, online . Some area residents have been loaned computers through a “taking technology home” program so they can take part in the program. “We do have a strong desire to address the issue of the digital divide,” Reeve said.

from the Boston Globe

The Free Wi-Fi contingent in Beantown is to be congratulated for their vision and humanitarian spirit. The Grove Hall area, where they are running their pilot project, is one of the most benighted of Boston, featuring endemic poverty, high unemployment and widespread gang activity. Just the sort of place that could really use a boost in legitimate economic activity and educational opportunity.

But is it any surprise business and academic sponsors are not lining up to throw money into this pot?

What we have here is a sort of “anti-redlining”, just as destructive, in its way, since it dooms to failure a project with the potential to improve millions of lives on both sides of the “digital divide.”

What is missing from this “Worst First” approach to technological bootstapping is that it fails to provide a Fair and Balanced access to the new technology.

In this kind of development, the haves and the have-nots need to be brought along together, hand in hand. Instead of launching in Grove Hall alone, they should have started in two spots, one from each side of the divide. Say, Grove Hall and the MIT/Kendall Sq. area. Then, maybe Chelsea (largely Latino) and Wellesley (Hillaryville). Then Mattapan and Harvard Square. You get the idea.

Furthermore, if this is a public system it would be in the public interest to encourage partnerships between the neighborhoods matched up from opposite sides of the digital divide. Make bandwidth and access speed in the high-tech areas dependent on the penetration and usage in their cyber “Sister Cities” or perhaps “Sista’ ‘Hoods”. Partnerships could expand to include workshops, joint projects, job training, and cyber-swaps of all sorts.

This way the business pull and corporate clout in the high-tech neighborhoods could find the funding the pro bono approach is missing, and at the same time pull their pre-cyber partners into the 21st century.

Two by two, like animals entering the Ark, the neighborhoods of this multi-faceted city could march into the digital age together.