Couple of news item worth listening to.

On the way into work yesterday there were at least two stories on NPR that I thought more folks should hear about. The first is about some pissed off people in Washington who are upset over dangerously high levels of lead contamination in their drinking water.

Lead in Water – Part I

News of dangerous levels of lead in Washington D.C.‘s drinking water sparks an outcry from the community—especially because city water officials knew about the problem and did little to warn the public. In the first of two reports, NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling explains that weak federal laws regulating drinking water are to blame.

We have Detroit city water here in Canton and we’ve got one of those Brita water filters installed on our tap in the kitchen, but this still leaves me wondering what the water quality here is truly like. Considering how the EPA has allowed this condition to continue for so long I find it somewhat ironic that one of the big news item in Michigan lately is how we may return to emissions testing on our cars because the EPA thinks the air in Michigan is too dirty.

The other news item that was interesting was about how enrollment in Comp Sci classes is diminishing as stories about tech workers losing their jobs and being unable to find new ones continue to spread as jobs are outsourced overseas.

Fewer Students Enroll in Computer Science Programs

A new survey shows a dramatic decline in enrollment in computer science programs at U.S. universities and colleges across the country. Some professors and business leaders worry about America’s ability to remain competitive. NPR’s Laura Sydell reports.

I must confess that I kept thinking “Good” when listening to this story. Seeing as I’m a technical professional who’s been forced into a non-technical position I’ve been looking for a new job that would move me back into my field of competence. On top of that I personally know technical people who have been out of work for awhile now including our own Eric Paulsen so a little tech worker shortage can only be a good thing in my eyes at this point. I can certainly see how in the long-term this might be something to be concerned about, but it’s hard to be too upset about it when you’ve got so many tech workers not working at the moment.

Atheist, Agnostic or Believer? has an article up on a new book called Doubt: A History by Jennifer Hecht which traces the force of skepticism.

The article contains a small quiz you can take to determine your ‘Scales of Doubt’ to see what kind of atheist, agnostic or believer you are. There are 13 questions which you answer yes, no or not sure to.

Me, I answered ‘no’ to all 13 questions which makes me “a hard-core atheist and of a certain variety: a rational materialist.” No big surprise there. The book itself looks pretty interesting and I think I’ll add it to my wishlist.

BushCo coming under greater scrutiny over WOMD claims.

On the way home today I was quite pleased to hear two reports on NPR on the fact that, to date, we have yet to uncover a single solid piece of evidence to show that Iraq actually had any of the weapons of mass destruction Bush used to justify his war.

The first article is a report on how the U.S. is shifting it’s focus on the search for WOMD. Included is an admission by Lt. Gen. James Conway about how surprised he is they haven’t found anything yet that is causing some problems for the administration.

The second article related to this has NPR’s Michele Norris talking with former CIA and State Department analyst Larry Johnson about his views that the Department of Defense deliberately skewed the facts to convince the Bush administration to go to war with Iraq. Gee, ya think? Credit to Michele for doing a good job playing the Devil’s advocate in this interview. She asks quite a few questions that mimic many of the arguments Bush’s supporters have tried to use to defend the administration.

While we’re reviewing the claims made by BushCo about WOMD I’d like to point to a a small summary over at the Whiskey Bar that Scott pointed out to me in a comment to a previous rant from me about all of this.

Lastly, kudos to NPR for now offering their stories in Windows Media Player format as well as Real Audio. I hate “Real Network” products and I already have WMP9 installed so this allows me to hear their news story without installing a product I hate.

Justifying going to war in the most simplistic way possible.

No, it wasn’t just my imagination yesterday morning when I thought I heard a news report on NPR about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld trying to justify a preemptive strike on Iraq by comparing it to a hypothetical situation where the moon might be hostile.

Sec. RUMSFELD: And of course, the advantage of not acting against the moon would be that no one could say that you acted. They would say, `Isn’t that good? You didn’t do anything against the moon.’ The other side of the coin of not acting against the moon in the event that the moon posed a serious threat would be that you then suffered a serious loss and you’re sorry after that’s over.

Is anyone else just stunned by the ridiculously simplistic nature of this argument? The above sound-bite was Rumsfeld’s attempt to explain why the U.S. shouldn’t have to provide detailed evidence of Iraq’s intentions. Not that he’s alone in that line of thinking, Vice President Dick Cheney sums up our justification to preemptively strike Iraq as follows: Iraq has chemical weapons. It’s seeking nuclear weapons and its leader is Saddam Hussein.

Well hell, if that’s all the justification that’s needed to launch a war then there are dozens of countries we should be gearing up to wage war on. Personally, all this talk of going to war with Iraq leaves me with the feeling Bush Jr. is trying to prove his worth by finishing what his dad started. Almost as if the administration feels it needs to do something to make up for the fact that they still haven’t captured Bin Laden and his cronies and are worried the public is going to notice that fact soon. Our allies in Europe are all balking at the idea of a preemptive strike on Iraq, with the possible exception of Britain and even they aren’t embracing the idea whole-heartedly. China is against an attack on Iraq and not one of the Arab nations is keen on the idea either. As for Saddam, he’s naturally making claims that the threat of an attack from the U.S. doesn’t just target Iraq, but the whole Arab nation as well. True or not, it plays well in the Arab press. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told students in Alexandria, Egypt. “I said to the U.S. administration, ‘If you harm the Iraqi people while the Palestinians are still suffering, it would only fuel the anger of the Arabs.’ No leader in the Arab world would be able to stop people expressing anger at such a move.” I have no reason to doubt him on that point.

I don’t know about anyone else, but all this war mongering makes me long for the days of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal when the only crisis at hand was whether or not the President had gotten oral sex from an intern. Maybe if Bush was busy getting a little extra “bush” on the side he wouldn’t be so frustrated and wouldn’t feel the need to run around starting wars all over the place.