Byrd's Brain

Thursday, October 31
Explore the pre-Christian celtic origins of Halloween.

Wednesday, October 30
Fuel Economy Worsens
When it comes to fuel efficiency, we are headed in the wrong direction -- according to a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to the Associated Press, 3.5 percent of 2003 passenger vehicles -- just 33 of the 934 2003 year models -- can drive 30 miles or more on 1 gallon of gasoline. Compare that to 5.5 percent of 2002 vehicles, or 48 of the 865 models released last year, that get 30 mpg or better, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. We are going in the wrong direction.

Amazingly the EPA report declares that "Buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle can help strengthen our national security by by reducing our dependence on foreign oil." That statement couldn't be more true, but it comes from the Bush administration. The administration that refused to increase the mandated fuel economy of cars, won't sign the Kyoto global warming treaty and which wanted to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Bush probably doesn't know about this report. Nobody told him. It came from the EPA so he doesn't care. He'll find a way to spin it in his favor.

Half of all oil used for gasoline in the U.S. is imported. In the U.S. we use about 20 million barrels of oil per day, two thirds of that is used for transportation. "Petroleum imports cost (the U.S.) about $2 billion a week -- that's money that could be used to fuel our economy." (Source: 2003 Fuel Economy Report.)

Office of Global Internet Freedom
Why do I doubt that this has a free speech goal as its basis? I'm jaded. Bushie says one thing, does another and gets away with it. So I expect everyone else to be speaking out of both sides of their mouths too. You would think that their jaws would get tired.
The legislation is garnering tentative support from human rights observers and Internet privacy watchdogs, who say they back it as long as the United States does not engage in its own "filtering" of the Internet for use as a propaganda machine, a strategy that officials flatly deny (...for now?..r.b.) wanting to employ.

Tuesday, October 29
On-Line Bill Paying
Do you pay bills on-line? Do you have some payments deducted directly from your checking account? Do you do this because it is convenient? Or are you hesitant to pay bills electronically? Are you concerned about the security of your accounts and the privacy of your information? Have you resisted and just like to write checks and drop them in the mail because it is the easiest method for you track where your money is going? Well the times are changing. Companies are beginning to add service charges for those accounts (NYTimes requires membership to read the article) that are paid by snail mail. Studies have shown that companies save about $1 per bill that is paid electronically rather than mailed. So since companies can save money with technology they are going to bill you if you cost them money. If you insist on snail mail, in order to avoid fees, your only choice will be to switch to other companies that gladly accept traditional forms of payment. Who is in charge here? Companies are forcing a cultural shift and consumers will be forced to go along with it or they will pay for the privilege to resist.
In a move to cut administrative costs and save on paper and postage, some have started billing customers a few extra dollars a month for paper statements.

Leading the charge are telecommunications companies like Primus and MetroPCS. Some lenders and insurance providers, like State Farm Insurance and USAA, are charging a few customers for monthly paper statements. Credit card issuers like American Express are adding paper fees to merchant accounts, and online services that initially mailed statements, like NetBank and Ameritrade, the online brokerage firm, have begun charging for them, setting a standard for some new businesses that want to do the same.

These companies say consumers should be ready and even eager to go paperless...(if you were eager wouldn't you being doing this already? I think the companies are the eager ones.r.b.)

Companies say that they need to cut costs and that consumers need to adapt.(of course the reason is money, not customer service.r.b.) Many corporations invested heavily in the online billing programs, which allow their customers to save on postage and paperwork. It seems only fair, some businesses say, to bill online to help themselves as well. A number of studies and surveys show that the average company saves about $1 a bill by moving from a paper-based system to an electronic system.

The charges for bills are rarely made across the board, with companies tending to aim at certain groups, like people who are technology savvy or their least profitable customers. Credit card companies, for example, are forcing small businesses to pay for paper bills, although they may someday extend the surcharges to individuals.

American Express this year started charging its small merchants $10 for mailed invoices. Jim Gillespie, who coaches real estate agents from his office in Temecula, Calif., said he quickly, but reluctantly, switched. "The thought of getting digged $10 a month — my initial reaction was, `You've got to be kidding,' " he said. "For small-business people who are not technology savvy, this has got to hurt them. They have to go out and really learn a new skill set.

You have to wonder who is in charge here? It isn't me. Is it you?

E-Mail Ownership
Who owns your e-mail? Does your ISP own your e-mail? Stop paying on your account and you might find out. Nancy Carter argued that had violated the law by collecting e-mail messages addressed to her and using the files as a weapon to force her to pay a disputed bill. The post office returns undeliverable mail. Shouldn't an ISP be forced to return mail when an account is closed or disputed? Seems reasonable to me. If you have an account with AOL you will be in the same situation as Ms Carter, "[AOL] accounts that have been suspended may continue to receive e-mail without notification to senders that the account is inaccessible to the owner."

Monday, October 28
Random Links
You are where you live. Check out the demographics of your neighborhood at Claritas. Are you a "Bohemian Mix" or "Towns and Gowns" or "Young Literati"?

Do you have a complaint about a company? Was there bad or no customer service? Read about others complaints with the same company at Post you own complaint. Your complaint will also be sent to the offending company.

Accountancy Board
To deal with cracking down on accountancy fraud the SEC, under Bush's direction, created an Oversight Board. This board is to oversee the accounting at publicly traded companies. The name that had been publicly touted as the likely chair of the Board was John Biggs, outgoing head of TIAA-Cref, a huge pension fund. He has a no nonsense reputation and lifelong accounting experience. He was favored by Democrats and Consumer groups. After lobbying by the accounting industry. Yes the accounting industry, the very people who are to be watched by this group! The SEC passed over Biggs and appointed former federal judge, FBI and CIA director William Webster. Webster is an honest man, with a distinguished career, who has spent his much of his life battling crime. But he has no accounting or financial experience. Even under Webster the oversight Board may now turn out to be a joke.
Harvey Goldschmid, a Democratic SEC commissioner, publicly rebuked his chairman by calling the selection process "inept" and apologised to the country. He also predicted that the new board will begin life under a "dark and ugly cloud".Guardian Limited
Makes one wonder whose side Bushie is on. I don't think with this move that he is concerned about my welfare. Once again he, through his appointee, has moved to protect the business status quo. And he has done it under the cloak of reform. Masterful.
And the press has barely made a peep about this. How much have you seen about the SEC's big new budget. The big new budget that Bushie said was needed. Not much. The increased SEC budget is 40% less than Bush had promised. Again you haven't seen this fact in the press much either. The SEC budget was increased over last year's amount, but not by as much as was needed to do its job. Bush gets credit for the increased budget, but it is not enough for the SEC to do its job. Again, masterful.

Saturday, October 26
Vidal: Bush Let 9/11 Happen
Gore Vidal posits in 'The Enemy Within' - published in the print edition of The Observer, and discussed in the Guardian, that Bush needed a cataclysmic event in order to garner public support for invading Iraq. The way to get that public support was to let the 9/11 attacks occur and use the public outrage to confront terrorism and eventually Saddam.
At the heart of the essay are questions about the events of 9/11 itself and the two hours after the planes were hijacked. Vidal writes that 'astonished military experts cannot fathom why the government's "automatic standard order of procedure in the event of a hijacking" was not followed'.

These procedures, says Vidal, determine that fighter planes should automatically be sent aloft as soon as a plane has deviated from its flight plan. Presidential authority is not required until a plane is to be shot down. But, on 11 September, no decision to start launching planes was taken until 9.40am, eighty minutes after air controllers first knew that Flight 11 had been hijacked and fifty minutes after the first plane had struck the North Tower.

'By law, the fighters should have been up at around 8.15. If they had, all the hijacked planes might have been diverted and shot down.'
Good question. Vidal raises this and other questions about the Administration's reactions and motives.

If you read my earlier post and the report on Rebuilding America's Defenses,developed by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in 1992, then you'll know that Vidal's accusations are not totally farfetched. Enough seems planned in advance, years in advance, to make one wonder if something isn't going on behind the curtain. Can we really believe what we are told? Should we believe what we are told? Isn't the basis of the U.S. to question authority? Our Constitution protects dissent because it is a healthy counterbalance to the establishment -- in this case the Bush administration. As a nation we haven't been questioning enough. We are sheep and will let Bushie lead us to slaughter. It is easier to accept then to ask the hard questions -- in this case scary questions.

Bush has a hard on for Saddam and is going to drag the U.S. unilaterally into a war. Why?

Friday, October 25
Condos At Sea
Some people just have too much money. How about buying a condominium on a ship. That is the commercial premise of Residensea This ship is a floating apartment building. Buying a home on board is just the thing to do with that few extra million dollars that you have sitting around.The on-line brochure describes the apartments.
The Homes at Residensea
The World's 110 private residences have spacious living and dining areas; two or three bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom; completely equipped kitchens and a terrace with optional jet pool. All residences are exquisitely furnished and have advanced audio and video equipment in addition to Internet access and fax capability.

Priced from US$2.25 to $7.5 million, these residences have elegant, stylish interiors that incorporate beautiful fabrics and furnishings combined to create aesthetically pleasing, yet practical homes. Residents may select from seven standard floor plans and several interior design concepts developed exclusively for The World by four internationally renowned signature designers: Nina Campbell, J.P. Molyneux, Luciano Di Pilla and Architects Yran and Storbraaten. Please refer to Doing It Up In Style Aboard The World Of ResidenSea section for further information on our acclaimed designers and their styles.

In addition, many of the 2- and 3- bedroom apartment homes are available for rental when the owners are not on board. The residences range in size from 1,114 to 3,242 square feet (103.5 to 301.2 square meters) and are available in design styles of four renowned international designers. All are fully furnished and feature the comforts of home including complete kitchen, washing machine/dryer and private veranda, and are fully equipped with the finest accessories including Wedgwood china, Christofle flatware and Frette linens.
How nice.

Wednesday, October 23
Root Server Attack
Certainly yesterday's denial of service attack directed at the 13 internet root servers was just a warm up for future, more robust attacks. Yesterday's attack apparently was the first to target all 13 root servers. The attack stopped within an hour and at this time no one knows where it came from. They may not be able to trace it.

The internet is the perfect terrorist target too. One can attack servers around the world, from anywhere in the world. And you don't have to die doing it. Conceivably, one can attack and unplug and move on and never be traced. Society has become dependent on the internet, ironically increasingly so have terrorists. If they attack the internet they will hurt their communications too, but the terrorists will get over it a lot faster than will a damaged global economy.

If you want to hurt the global economy. If you want to disrupt communications. You attack the internet. Everyone is beating their chest and saying that the attack yesterday was stopped and caused no damage. That's great (I can still blog), but a more prolonged and more massive attack than yesterday's would cause harm. We would sure find out which industries, such as banking, had become reliant on the internet. Maybe yesterday's attack was a warm-up exercise.

Tuesday, October 22
If Woody Harrelson Were President
Woody Harrleson is in a show in London. While there he penned a piece for the Guardian. If only politicians could be as direct as he is and get elected. He is right about what should be done and he makes it seem so simple. Ever wonder why things are always sooo complicated?
what I'd do in Bush's shoes. Easy: I'd honour Kyoto. Join the world court. I'd stop subsidising earth rapers like Monsanto, Dupont and Exxon. I'd shut down the nuclear power plants. So I already have $200bn saved from corporate welfare. I'd save another $100bn by stopping the war on non-corporate drugs. And I'd cut the defence budget in half so they'd have to get by on a measly $200bn a year. I've already saved half a trillion bucks by saying no to polluters and warmongers.

Then I'd give $300bn back to the taxpayers. I'd take the rest and pay the people teaching our children what they deserve. I'd put $100bn into alternative fuels and renewable energy. I'd revive the Chemurgy movement, which made the farmer the root of the economy, and make paper and fuel from wheat straw, rice straw and hemp. Not only would I attend, I'd sponsor the next Earth Summit. And, of course, I'd give myself a fat raise.

Iraq War Will Only Dilute Antiterrorism Efforts
A war with Iraq at this time will only serve to dilute our antiterrorism efforts and to inflame anti -U.S. passions. Do we really want to do that? Do we need to do that? Can this be a sane policy? This same query is discussed in that "ultraliberal" Time. The article's conclusion is no different from mine, but the language used is more chilling than mine has been.
Will those roots be watered by a war with Iraq? Optimists within the Bush Administration argue that the removal of Saddam Hussein would open a space for the development of true democracy across the Arab world, one that would offer for the first time a real choice between corrupt authoritarian regimes on the one hand and millennial Islamic extremists on the other. But many experts are skeptical. French offiCIAls otherwise wholly supportive of the U.S. are worried that, as one puts it, "some of the headway made against Islamists is lost by American diplomacy that has alienated most of the Muslim world." It is not that the extremists love Saddam. "Frankly," says a French source, "they don't give a s___ about Iraq, and they openly disdain Saddam as corrupt. But anything that happens in Iraq will just be used as further justification for terrorism." But if American soldiers are welcomed as warmly in Baghdad as they were by the people of Kabul, the effect of a war on the recruitme nt of terrorists might be different. Even if things turn out well in Iraq, Islamic terrorists will still be around, still able to kill and maim. Says Omar Bakri, who is based in London and is the leader of the radical Islamic Al-Muhajiroun youth movement, "The message was so clear in Bali—it is a war against the disbelievers' camp." A French investigator puts the terrorists' chilling beliefs in stark terms. "They really, truly don't care about which Westerner they murder," he says. "Just so long as an enemy is dead."

Friday, October 18
Paternity Leave
Both children are napping. This is my last workday home with the family. I took four weeks off from work in order to be with our newborn son, help my wife adjust to caring for two children and spend time with our daughter. Our son will be a month old in a few days. He has been great so far. He hasn't been what we had feared. We feared the he would have his sister's newborn temperament. As we remember those days we mostly think of her crying. She never seemed to want to sleep and certainly not alone in the bassinet. No, when our daughter slept it was usually in one of our arms and after a long period of serious rocking or walking. In the middle of the night I used to hold our daughter while dancing slowly to Annie Lennox' cover of "A Whiter Shade of Pale". It was a favorite of mine at the time and had the right rhythm for rocking. Too, after I returned to work, in order to make sure that my wife got some sleep, I would hold our daughter in the evening while I watched television. I saw most of a season of West Wing this way. My wife slept until midnight, when I would go to bed and she would take over the childcare duties.

Our infant daughter had a built in altimeter. She had an uncanny ability to know when you sat down. If you were holding her and sat down she often cried. If your wife was sleeping and you didn't want her to wake up hearing the baby cry it meant that you held the baby girl a lot. While on your feet. That also meant that in the early morning I would often walk through the house. This was during the fall and winter so I was able to peer at the stars through the windows as I walked by. I learned about different constellations and when various planets were visible in the night sky.

We love our daughter dearly, but she was a challenge in the first 3 months. Perhaps some of the challenge was our fault as new parents. Perhaps we coddled her too much. Perhaps we should have let her cry just a little more before we picked her up. Perhaps we should have let her sleep in our bed instead of insisting on the bassinet in those first months. Perhaps we should have rocked her a little less. Maybe she got used to all of the attention, walking and rocking. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Our children were different the moment that they were born. Immediately after our daughter was born the midwife placed her on my wife's chest. Our daughter began nursing instantly. She needed no instruction. She wanted to waste no time. She took to it like a duck to water. Immediately after our son was born he too was placed on my wife's chest. At first he just laid there and looked around. With a little coaxing he began to nurse. He was in no hurry. He hadn't been in a hurry to be born either. He was born 10 days late. Our daughter was born the day after her due date. She didn't want to delay her birth too much.

Unlike his sister, our son sleeps a peaceful 14 hours a day. He rarely cries and when he does it is for a discernable reason. He is either hungry or needs a new diaper. When he sleep he is content to be in the bassinet or on the sofa. When he is awake he is alert and fun to watch. Sometimes when I hold him and he falls asleep I will keep holding him in order to bond with him.

It is strange. By this time in my daughter's life my wife and I knew a lot about her. We spent every awake moment with her. Much of the time we were holding her. This meant that we knew her very well. When you hold an infant for hours at a time every day for a month you get to know things about them. How they smell. The faces that they make. How tolerant they are of a soiled diaper. How they hold their hands. Are they folded in front of them, at their sides or above their heads? Do they like to sleep on their back more then their sides? Do they like back and forth or up and down rocking. We knew our daughter's preferences. We had bonded rapidly. We had to. She forced us to.

On the other hand, with my son he and I have only just begun to bond. I haven't had to rock him asleep. I haven't had to hold him from midnight to 4 a.m. in order to soothe him by walking around the house. He sleeps at night except when he is hungry -- my wife takes care of that bit -- and then he generally goes back to sleep. I hold him at times when he is awake during the day and I will hold him at times when he is asleep, but the total time that I have held him is probably 15% of the time that I held my daughter at this stage in her life. It would have nice to have bonded more quickly with him, but perhaps we have been blessed. We can savor each of the moments that we spend with him. We can pause and reflect and watch his development. That has been and will be nice.

We are glad that his temperament is different than was his sister's. We are glad too that the "easier" child was born second. Had our children arrived in the reverse order. Had our first child been a contented sleeper and our second a crier who needed rocking, we would have thought that something was seriously wrong with the child who cried. We would have looked for broken bones. We would have known for certain that we were doing something wrong. Instead it seems we were broken into parenting by our lovely daughter, who always had a mind of her own, so that we can appreciate our contented son. The fact that he has been an easy baby is doubling important for his sister. It means that we can spend time with her.

Our daughter loves her brother, but misses "mama". That has been the hardest part of having a second child, our daughter's emotions still run high. She would like to hold hold brother a little more than we are comfortable with and she would like mama to hold her whenever mamma is nursing her brother. When she can't have her way she gets sad. That make us sad too. We explain everything to her. We hope that she understands what we say. We think that she does, but she is only two years old, so much of the conversations is necessarily one sided. She can't express her feelings and reactions very clearly to us. She is accepting the changes in her life well. But things are different.

My wife is nursing our son. Our daughter is awake. I just brought her down from her room. She is telling her mama that her brother needs more "milky" and petting the hair on the top of his head.

Thursday, October 17
Sniper Witness Lied
What a LOSER. The witness, who supposedly had seen the sniper, lied. He was inside a store at the time of the shooting and couldn't have seen what he claimed he saw. The police will press charges against the idiot. Looks like he'll be getting more than his 15 minutes of fame.

Weapons Lab Sale: Bizarrely Incestuous
The British government is planning on partially privatizing its weapons research by selling a stake in a top secret defense lab. The likely buyer of QinetiQ is the Carlyle Group. The Carlyle Group is
one of the biggest venture capital groups, a leviathan that commands respect and inspires awe in equal parts. Chaired by former US Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, the group's tentacles spread far and wide.

John Major, George Bush Sr and his former Secretary of State, James Baker, are on its payroll. Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and ex-Bundesbank president Karl Otto Pohl are among its advisers. Besides the bin Laden family, which has disowned Osama, it has managed funds for Prince Alwaleed and the likes of George Soros...
Yes, the President's dad is on the Carlyle Group payroll. A war here or there might get rid of a family enemy and could be personally profitable for the Bushes.

Arms Bizarre
There is a little irony in the fact that Briton is attending an Arms Fair -- a weapons trade show -- in Jordan. Iraq and Iran will also have representatives in attendance.
The British army, British arms companies and a British government agency (not to mention, of course, Prince Andrew and the defence minister, Lord Bach) are this week buying, selling, doing deals and sharing information at a Middle Eastern showcase for all kinds of weapons, from small arms to landmines, battlefield tanks and fighter jets.
Maybe British weapons merchants can sell something good to Iraq that can be used to kill invading British and American forces. This is all just too bizarre.

North Korea Has Nukes
The fact that North Korea has nuclear and "other" weapons has to make you wonder how many other countries do too. It turns out this nuclear program was enabled through help from Pakistan.

Wednesday, October 16
Is The Sniper A Nut or a Terrorist?
Is there really much of a difference? The effect on the public may be the same, but yes. If it is a nut they are doing this just for their jollies. If it is a terrorist then they would be doing this solely to scare. The first shootings were in the late afternoon on October 2, but the al-Zawahiri tape was not released until October 8th, so the tapes could not have precipitated the shootings. This is in contrast to the Kuwait shootings and the Bali bombings which may have been undertaken due to information on the taped statement.

10 Unhealthiest States
The 10 least healthy states:
1. Mississippi
2. West Virginia
3. Tennessee
4. Michigan
5. Louisiana
6. Texas
7. Kentucky
8. Illinois
9. Missouri
10. Arkansas

The top three healthiest states:
1. Montana
2. Hawaii
3. Minnesota
It seems that eating everything deep fried may not be such a good idea. Who was to know?

Tuesday, October 15
Bush: Fight Wars Simultaneously

According to The Times, Bush, "insisted that the resurgence of Osama bin Laden’s terror organization would not deter him from action against Iraq as he pledged to fight the War on Terror “on two fronts”.
"America acknowledged that opponents of a war against Iraq would seize on the bombing to let President Saddam off the hook but Mr Bush insisted that America would fight the War on Terror “on two fronts” and that Iraq remained firmly in America’s sights."
Say goodbye to any economic recovery.

Monday, October 14
Osama bin Laden is Dead

We've seen videos of higher ups in Al Queda. Last week we were regaled with audio tape of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Then today a written statement is released by Osama bin Laden. Why a written statement and not an audio or video tape? Is he afraid that something more than a written statement would expose his hiding place? Doubtful. These wouldn't be any more traceable than a written document. Is he severely injured or ill and he doesn't want his followers to see him? Maybe. But then he would still release an audiotape. His voice would inspire his followers. Instead we get a written statement. The statement could have be written by anyone. Osama hasn't been seen or heard in a year because he is dead. But even if he is dead, Al Queda in some form survives.

Is Osama Prime Time Again?

Has the recent spate of terrorist attacks -- Bali, Kuwait and the French Oil tanker -- moved Al Queda back to the forefront for Bush? Can the U.S. really prosecute an active war against terrorism and a new war against Iraq two at the same time?

Saturday, October 12
Bomb Blast in Bali

Now there have been bomb blasts in Bali. At least 118 people were killed. The terrorists have been busy today. Will this push more countries to support Bush?

Iraq Backs Off on Inspector Deal

You would almost think that Saddam wanted an attack. He has a history of backing off on deals. He had a "shifting" understanding as to when and where the last round of inspectors could go. He probably does have something to hide. But as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, his actions only play into Bush's hand.
"Iraq, ignoring rising global pressure for thorough inspections of its weapons programs, has backed away from agreements reached last week on minimum conditions for the inspectors to carry out their work, diplomats said on Friday.

In a letter that became public on Friday, Iraq did not meet a specific request to confirm agreements it made last week in Vienna with Hans Blix, the leader of the U.N. weapons inspection team, insisting on further discussions of even basic logistical arrangements.

Diplomats said the Iraqi rebuff irritated France and Russia, veto-bearing members of the Security Council that have been resisting Washington's demand for immediate authorization to launch a military attack if the weapons inspections fail."

Getting Ready for War and Smallpox

Bush sure isn't wasting any time getting that guy who tried to get his Dad. He got his resolution and now the war is a "go". This from Fox News:
In moves suggesting new Pentagon preparations for war against Iraq, key Army and Marine Corps battle staffs are being sent to Kuwait and officials said Saturday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is likely to order extra germ warfare protection for hundreds of thousands of troops.

Although no final decision has been made, Rumsfeld is expected to give the go-ahead soon for smallpox inoculations, according to a senior defense official who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

Terrorism in Finland

Will the terrorist blast in Finland, outside of Helsinki, cause neutral countries to move into alignment with the Bush administration? Could this be used to leverage support for a war against Iraq?

Friday, October 11
Call Girl Daughter

And you thought that your family had troubles? From Nick Denton I found this BBC story of a man who hired a hooker. She turned out to be his daughter and now his wife is divorcing him.

Wednesday, October 9
Bush Fundraising redux

The economy may be in freefall and we may be launching a war, but Bush always has time to raise money. As the Washington Post noted, "the White House cast aside any claim of official business as Bush participated in three overtly political events: a $1 million fundraiser and a rally for Tennessee Republicans, and a dinner in Washington for big donors to the GOP."

Monday, October 7
Battlefield Science Fiction?

Stuff in the report on Rebuilding America's Defenses reads like a screenplay for a science fiction movie like the Terminator. It promotes a type of cyberborg soldier. The report was developed by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in 1992. On page 62 the report describes the U.S. soldier of the future:
"Future soldiers may operate in encapsulated, climate-controlled, powered fighting suits, laced with sensors, and boasting chameleon-like 'active' camouflage. 'Skin-patch' pharmaceuticals help regulate fears, focus concentration and enhance endurance and strength."
What are these people thinking? What country is this? The U.S.? Suddenly we have no constitutional rights. The military is to be comprised of soldiers who are drugged to be obedient, strong and fearless? Basically, people are no better or worse than robots in the view of this report. This shows a galling lack of respect for individuals. Apparently whatever helps the collective is okay. Expecially when the collective is the ruling elite.

These people are running our government now. Yes, I would like to believe that all is for the best, but when people with ideas like this have the President's ear it is time to be vigilant. Once soldiers are drugged who is to say that they won't be used to control unruly rabble at home? And wouldn't be good to control the rabble by drugging them too? Maybe that idea seems crazy now, but once you embark on that slippery slope ideas that were once farfetched become commonplace.

Another quote from page 14, makes you see that they were just waiting for an excuse to go after Saddam. Remember, the report was written in September 2000. The plan for years has been to force a "regime change". Septemtber 11th just gave Bush the cover needed to push for Saddam's ouster.
"While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

Voters View Economy as The Issue

According to a NYTimes poll, voters do get it. Iraq is a distraction that won't help the economy, while the shape of the economy is the paramount issue.
"A majority of Americans say that the nation's economy is in its worst shape in nearly a decade and that President Bush and Congressional leaders are spending too much time talking about Iraq while neglecting problems at home, according to the latest New York Times /CBS News poll … "

"The number of Americans who approved of the way Mr. Bush has handled the economy — 41 percent — was the lowest it has been in his presidency. Many people said they worried that a war in Iraq — which most Americans view as inevitable — would disrupt an already unsettled economy … "

" … .(T)he Times/CBS News poll suggests that no matter what is happening in Washington, voters are more concerned with the economy and domestic issues than with what is happening with Saddam Hussein, presenting the Democrats a glimmer of hope as Congress prepares to vote on the Iraq resolution and adjourn to campaign … "
The NYTimes is "members only",but you can read about the poll at The Note.

Pluto: Not Really a Planet?

Pluto may not really be a planet. Forget what you have been taught. Pluto may just be an object within the Kuiper Belt. Whatever that is. l wonder what else we have been taught that will turn out to be wrong?

We know that much of the U.S. history that we were taught was slanted. For instance, the white man's insteractions with the Indians was glossed over and the effects of "manifest destiny" were never explored. It just meant the the U.S. got more land. The how or why were never questioned. But as we have grown older and learned more about U.S. history we have been able to shrug off these oversights because they relate to history. With history many of the facts and details are fungible. It all depends on how the story is told.

But science? Science is supposed to be our bedrock. It is supposed to answer all of our questions. It is just the facts. It is pure objectivity. What does it mean when the science changes? How fact based is science if a "discovery" is based on a false presumption?
“It’s pretty clear, if we discovered Pluto today, knowing what we know about other objects in the Kuiper Belt, we wouldn’t even consider it a planet,” Brown said.

So Pluto isn't really a planet. It is just a planet by default since we called it a planet once.


I have never believed that candidate debates should be the exclusive forum of Democrats and Republicans. Sure you may need to limit the participants in some way, such as requiring that they be the candidate of a recognized party. But that should be it. Voters should have an opportunity to hear many candidates, not just those with money from the two major parties. In California the Greens are trying to break in on the Rep/Dem Governor's debate. More power to them.

Saturday, October 5
Is Multitasking Beyond Bush?

Bush's goal is to get Saddam at all costs. First, this singleminded preoccupation distracts the public from issues related to the failing domestic economy -- that is just short of a freefall. (This effect is likely intended by the Administration. An ignorant public is a happy public.) Second, it prevents Bush from dealing with other international issues. (This may also be intended. A victory in Iraq may be marketed as a victory, unlike the endless war on terrorism, which may have no big victory that can be pointed to. Did we get that Osama guy yet?) These blinders, that Bush apparently wears by choice, may end up isolating the U.S. further. We may alinate our one staunch ally -- Britain. Bush's recent rebuff to Tony Blair's push for the resupmption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks has exasperated Blair. As reported today in The Guardian:
Mr Blair has told colleagues that, with war looming in Iraq, he regards it as essential to deal with one of the main causes of Arab resentment against the west. But the Guardian has learnt that Mr Bush has blocked the initiative and has made it clear to Mr Blair that he does not want such talks to be held in the near future.

Over the last fortnight Mr Blair has made two public calls for a revival of negotiations aimed at securing a final Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. He told the Commons, recalled last week to debate Iraq, that "we need a new conference on the Middle East peace" and "a massive mobilisation of energy to get the peace process moving again".

On Tuesday he told the party conference that "by the year's end, we must have revived final status negotiations and they must have explicitly as their aims an Israeli state free of terror, recognised by the Arab world, and a viable Palestinian state based on the boundaries of 1967".

Mr Blair has staked a great deal of political capital on his relationship with Mr Bush. But Downing Street and the Foreign Office are exasperated by the American leader's attitude. According to officials, in spite of the setback, Mr Blair is to continue to pursue the idea of peace talks over the next few months.

Mr Bush's rebuff highlights a fundamental division between the US and Britain over the Middle East: the US sees dealing with Iraq as the priority whereas Britain sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the priority, either to be tackled first or, at least, alongside Iraq.

A Whitehall official, describing the US and Israeli attitude towards a resumption of talks as "cool", said: "The lack of progress is poisoning everything in the region."

Sadly, Bush's preoccupation with Saddam is only furthering our isolation internationally and creating enemies of those we should be befriending in order to fight terrorism. If we don't work to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict our (rightful) support for Israel will only lead to more hatred of the U.S. Finally, this focus on Iraq is causing and will continue to cause further damage to the economy. Without any positive news the economy will continue to stagnate and in time fall to new depths.

It is a pity that Bush can't multitask. A President has to be able to do more than one thing at a time. Oh excuse me, Bush sure can fundraise. (Another day another $1.1million and another million last Friday.) I guess that when he wants to, when there is money to be made, the President can focus on more than one thing at time. Actually, in his fundraising speeches he is focusing on Iraq. He doesn't need to multitask. Clearly, he has found a way to make money from the war.

Thursday, October 3
World's Funniest Joke?

A year long study has concluded. This is the world's funniest (highest rated) joke:

"A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head.

"The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: 'My friend is dead! What can I do?'

"The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: 'Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.'

"There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: 'OK, now what?"'

This according to Salon.

Wednesday, October 2
Clinton in Blackpool

Bill Clinton gave a speech to the Labour Party at its convention in Blackpool. Being Clinton, he couldn't resist eating a late night meal at a local McDonalds.

In his speech, Clinton praised Tony Blair's efforts to get Bush to utilize the UN and according to the Guardian, emphasized that ".. we have to stand against weapons of mass destruction but if we can we have to do it in the context of building the international institutions that in the end we will have to rely on to guarantee the peace and security of the world and the human rights of all people everywhere."

Tuesday, October 1
The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend

Along the liines of the Arab(?) proverb, that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, apparently the U.S. shipped biological weapons to Iraq in the 1980's. This was done when the U.S. opposed Iran because of the hostage crisis. And since Iran and Iraq were enemies, clearly Iraq was our friend.

"The United States, under President Ronald Reagan, shipped three strains of anthrax, six strains of the bacteria that make botulinum toxin and three strains of the bacteria that cause gas gangrene' to Iraq. These activities occurred in the 1980s as the United States was supporting Iraq after the hostage incident with Iran." The article and related materials is on Kuro5hin.

Was it these same weapons of mass destruction that were used by Iraq on the Kurds? Is it these same biological weapons that we want to destroy? We gave them to Iraq, so we can take them back, right?